söndag 21 september 2014

The Fire of Sri Lanka

"This is just an expansion, so I'm not going to worry about balance. People will just play it for flavor, and when they get tired of it, they will stop playing with it."
 -Richard Garfield, Email to Dave Pettey, late 1993

Arabian Nights turned out to be a wonderful expansion; not the least considering it had the shortest development time of any set, a development team of only four people, and a design team of one. There are many gems among the 78 different cards, and the stories are plentiful if you dig a little. Today, we dig.


Serendib Efreet is awesome. It is so good it supports strategies on its own, and strong enough that you should look for reasons not to play it in blue decks, rather than look for reasons to play it. The card was actually banned in extended in 1995, as it is a bolt-proof moat-jumper for the cost of a Devouring Deep. It may not be as iconic as Juzam, but then again, what is? The card itself has a colorful history of reprints. The most famous color is probably green.

"Current Errata: none". All is well. Nothing strange about the green blue card.
With some educated guesswork (based on print runs of the known early sets combined with information from WotC News in The Duelist #3), we can estimate that there exists about six Serendibs with the image of Ifh-Biff Efreet for each one with the correct Anson Maddocks image (including the foreign editions). On that same note, only one in eight of the cards with the Ifh-Biff image are actually Ifh-Biffs, which makes its status as a "tribute card" a little off. Imagine if 87% of all the Avalanche Riders (Darwin Kastle's invitational card) would have the image of Sylvan Safekeeper (Olle Råde's invitational card). One might assume that the art of Ifh-Biff Efreet don't depict Richard Garfield's sister though, just as Erhnam Djinn probably don't depict her husband Herman, so it might not be as big a fuzz (Ifh-Biff was Richard's nickname for his sister as a child, and Erhnam is an anagram of Herman). The red djinn/efreet pair, Mijae Djinn and Ywden Efreet, are also anagrams of married friends of Garfield (Jamie and Wendy). But what is a Serendib then? Clearly an anagram of 'inbreeds', but that seems a little too crude to be the correct answer. Ignoring an obvious wikipedia check, our first clue comes from the French revised version of the card.

Flavor text!
It's been a few years and my French is rusty, but I would translate the flavor to something like "As I recall, the island of Serendib is 80 parasangs in length and 80 parasangs in width; and on the island is a mountain which is the highest in the world". So, an island in Asia with a big mountain. I'll give you a moment to guess.
..
..

No, I didn't get it either. It's Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon by most, and Serendib in the Arab world. The "montagne qui était la plus haut de tout de la terre" line is a slight exaggeration. I assume that they refer to Mount Pedro, which according to wikipedia stands at a little over 2,500 meters (for any non-metric readers, that's about half a parasang). The quote in the flavor text is attributed to 1001 Arabian Nights, trad. Mardrus. It's from the sixth voyage of Sinbad, where he gets shipwrecked and ends up on Ceylon. It was supposedly a very nice place to visit, even for non-Sinbad travellers. The word 'serendipity' itself, meaning "fortunate happenstance", actually hails from the country's name. And after all, it is surprisingly sweet to play the Efreet :)

White-bordered Serendibs with the correct image are pretty uncommon, at least when compared to those with the wrong image. The German and French versions are fairly cheap though, but even a fair price for an English wb Efreet with the original Arabian Night's picture is actually higher than the GDP per capita for Sri Lanka (well, actually higher than the GDP per capita for the majority of the world's countries). It is on the short-list for one of the most expensive magic cards in the world.
 
Borders and image correct, but still the wrong artist credit ;)
This wb version was printed around July 1994, and was never intended to be released. An estimated 4 cases of the set containing this card was accidentally distributed in September 1994 and April 1995. These four cases would presumably contain around 10 copies of this card, which makes it astonishingly rare. There is a popular conspiracy theory stating that the total print run of this set was in fact about 120 million cards, but that almost all of them were burned at the printing company Carta Mundi due to the colors being too dark.

So, there's some single-card history on Serendib Efreet. It's a sweet card with lots of history, and I'm starting to feel like building a monoblue suicide deck about now :)

12 kommentarer:

  1. Haha awesome mg! 8D

    /axelsson

    SvaraRadera
  2. Agree,awesome as Always! I Love the card Serendib Efreet and i was actually for 4 weeks vacation in Sri Lanka earlier this year, beautiful country that I recommend you to visit if you get the chance //Jhovalking

    SvaraRadera
  3. Thanks a lot! I really like the card, and I did find it pretty funny when I realized that Serendib is an accidental anagram for 'inbreeds' while the other Djinn/Efreets are anagrams for married couples ;)

    SvaraRadera
  4. The short-lived "Adventures of Sinbad" TV show also had a reference to Serendib, but in their case they used it as the name of a person. None of the characters seemed to be aware that it was also the name of a place. ;)

    Nice post!

    SvaraRadera
  5. Do we know why there are no white Djinns/Efreets? Were they just of of cool ideas and got white King Suleiman instead? 8)

    /axelsson

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. As I recall, white was considered to "ordered" a color to support the chaotic djinns and efreets flavorwise :)

      Radera
  6. Great new look on the site! Another great article - one of my favorite creatures. Used to love the green version as a kid, and they were one of the proudest cards in my collection. Now I've grown to appreciate the original in all its correctness (have a playset of these now).

    - Greg (http://www.reddit.com/r/oldschoolmtg/)

    SvaraRadera
  7. Hi! Is the wb eng serendibs from the summer magic? does anybody know the big differense between sep 94 and april 95? how many booster/starter boxes (displays) does at case contain? (case=lastpall?)

    SvaraRadera
  8. Case is 6 booster boxes.
    I guess the long time span comes from the fact that it was distributed to UK and Ireland in different shipments from Carta Mundi.

    SvaraRadera
  9. I am an old school player that took a very long time off. I have forgotten more than I remember. I can't recall what is so special about this creature that deals damage to you every turn!

    SvaraRadera
  10. I am an old school player that took a very long time off. I have forgotten more than I remember. I can't recall what is so special about this creature that deals damage to you every turn!

    SvaraRadera