fredag 24 april 2015

Summer time

"We were originally planning to change the card mix in September, but... well... some stuff happened and we didn't."
 - Kathy Ice. Card Collector Confidential, Scrye Magazine, Feb 1995.

Imagine if you will. Ireland, a game store in the late summer of 1994. Magic has celebrated its one-year anniversary. Players are cracking boosters from the newly released The Dark, dreaming about opening the legendary Leviathan. A couple of novice mages have just built their first decks from a few packs of "Gathering". Spells like Clone and the flavor of the Oi-Oi Troll capture their imagination, as they are yet to find out about Doppelgangers or Juzams.
And Power Sink is an interrupt.
At another table in the store, two old sharks who have played the games for many months are slinging with their finely crafted decks. Decks with price tags of tens or hundreds of dollars even at the time. New playmats are used to protect their cards. A similar scenario plays out at their table.
And Mana Drain gives mana burn.
Now, if you were to trade the cards in the first picture for the cards in the second, that would seem like a very unfair trade at a glance. After a second look, it still looks very unfair, though the other way around. Those "Revised" cards that could be found in Ireland in the late summer of 94 will make even Alpha look overprinted and cheap.

Summer Magic, or Edgar, is a set shrouded with rumors, legends and conspiracy theories. Wizards of the Coast officially denied the cards existence until October 1996, when they were described as "near mythical", stating that a few cards just had gotten misbordered. In 2003 they spoke of it again, then calling it a cancelled shipment of Revised. There's no official information about how many cards were printed, how many were released, or even why the set came to be. There are some theories though.

In April 1994, Revised was released to a rapidly growing base of Magic players. It was the most printed set of Magic by a wide margin. The set had some big issues though. People complained about the washed out colors, the "two-dimensional" edges, font issues (like missing apostrophes), and incorrect artist credits. The set had some more blatant errors as well, most famously that Serendib Efreet got printed with the art and green border of Ifh-Biff Efreet. Additionally, wizards had grown more concerned about the backlash suffered from occult references in the game. Something needed to be done.
Like airbrushing the pentagram away from the demon's forehead.
In the summer of 1994 there was a drastic shortage of Revised product. Some people say that Cartamundi's production suffered from a heat-wave in Belgium from June 27th to August 7th. Some say that the factory only had a single cutting and collating tool, which was used for Fallen Empires and Jyhad at the time. Another source blame problems with the sorting machines. Others yet state that the shortage was due to the production of what should have been the first shipment 4th Edition.

A popular theory states that Summer Magic was in fact no test print nor tiny run, but instead put the size of the run around 120 million cards. Richard Garfield reportedly confirmed this while he spoke at ConQuest in November 1994. When the cards eventually were shown to WotC, they deemed the quality of the set insufficient and burned the entire print run. Almost.
A subtle hint on Summer Magic from the Magic the Puzzling book? If nothing else, it's very puzzling ;)
The set that was supposed to fix the issues of Revised had brought plenty of new errors on its own. They got the artist credit on Onulet correctly listed as Anson Maddocks, but they instead spelled Néné Thomas first name as NéNé. The washed out colors were overcompensated, and the cards looked too dark instead. They fixed most of the apostrophes in the card titels, but missed out on Gaea's Liege and Will-o'-the-Wisp. Sure, they fixed the blatant green border on Serendib Efreet, but Hurricane got a blue border. And they still listed Jesper Myrfors as the artist on the Efreet. And Drew Tucker on Plateau.
Pick your poison.
The story goes that WotC decided to burn all the cards and keep the failed run a secret. Before the cards were burned, they put out large bins of Summer Magic cards and told employees that they could pick any cards they needed for their decks. And that could have been the end of Summer Magic.

The packs looked identical to Revised though, and somewhere along the line there was a mixup. A tiny amount of product, most sources state 4 cases, were accidentally released to the public under the guise of Revised boosters. The booster boxes were then reportedly distributed in Tennessee, Texas, and Ireland. One of the cases ended up at retailer Troll and Toad, who famously wrote a big green "E" on the boosters to distinguish them from Revised.
E is for Edgar.
So, how rare are the cards really? Well, using the Clone as an example, for each Alpha Clone, there are about three Beta, 15 Unlimited and 200 Revised Clones. For each Summer Clone, there could be over a hundred Alpha ones. If you have a playset of a dual land from Summer Magic, you own no insignficant percentage of all the copies of that card in the world. I'd heard that even the most hardcore of collectors wouldn't attempt to complete a set of Summer. Just trying to find the cards can drive even the most connected and whealthy Magic connoisseur crazy. The most complete set I'd heard about before writing this post was the guy who sold his collection to ABUgames in 2009. He had assembled over 300 cards, including 30 rares, and had spent years on the set before giving up. I'm much more of a player myself, using my Clone in my crappy Biovisionary deck and whatnot, so in order to get some good info on collecting Summer Magic, I went to Daniel Chang.

Daniel Chang is one of the most acknowledged traders of high end Magic rarities in the world. If you want a booster box of Arabian Nights or mint graded Alpha Power, he'll get it for you. If you want Jesper Myrfors to paint a reinterpretation of Obsianus Golem for you, he can probably set it up. So when I wanted to know about the business of collecting Summer Magic cards, Daniel seemed like the go-to-guy. I sent him an email, and he was quick to set up a Skype meeting. So did anyone actually complete a set?

Well, he had a complete set himself for one. Daniel estimated that there were actually eight or nine in existence. As for how many copies of each cards there were, he could give some qualified guesses. "My guess, and it's more of a fact than a guess but I can't give my source, is that some cards from the common sheet are more rare than some of the rares and uncommons. And there are uncommons that are more rare than certain rare cards." Daniel stated that, as far as he had seen, the two main sources of Summer cards had been Ireland and Seattle itself. Many of the cards in circulation had come from employees at Wizards, and as such, they had been more prominent to pick up the rares. "Many collectors ask how many cards there are, but it's impossible to know. I would guess around 20-40, maybe even 50, of the rares. The uncommons are probably between 30-200, and the commons are about the same. That might sound like a lot, but even compared to Alpha which had 1100 of each rare and I don't know how many thousands of the uncommons, it's incredibly few."
So this might be the most crazy set of duals in the world. First time they are shown on the web btw :)
Clone was my first favorite card, and the first card I owned myself that was highly sought after by my playgroup. I remember getting offered stacks of cards for my Revised copy, including multiple duals, without wanting to give it up. I may not be a classic collector (I would e.g. much rather have cards I can play with than graded ones), but I do appreciate the history and rare gems from the early days of Magic. I like playing on a 1994 Khalsa-Brain playmat, learning about banding from the Alpha rulebook and getting hints on how to use Circles of Protection from The Duelist #1. The Summer Magic set is probably the most prominent source of Magic legends from the mid nineties. The set tells a story about how a much smaller WotC tried to keep up with the explosive growth of Magic players and the struggles of creating high quality Magic sets. The cover up and lacking information about the set combined with its extreme rarity makes it an exciting piece of Magic history.

If we were to legalize another set in 93/94, Summer Magic would be at the top of my list. It would be pretty damn cool to get my Thunder Spirits destroyed by a blue Hurricane.

An extra thanks to Daniel Chang for the info on Summer collecting and the pictures of the graded Summer cards. Daniel will be launching the his vintagemagic website (www.vintagemagic.com) this Summer, and the crew will be attending their first Magic Grand Prix in Las Vegas May 28th to 31st. If you want to contact them, you can check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vintagemtg or email Daniel at daniel@vintagemagic.com.

11 kommentarer:

  1. Awesomeness as Always!
    I just won my first Summer card on ebay, i would love to someday get to play with an Birds of Paradise from Summer but seems out of my range at the moment // Jhovalking

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Thanks!
      Haha, yeah, the iconic summer rares have pretty insane price tags. At least you have an awesome playset Alpha birds ;)
      Which card did you get at ebay?

      Radera
    2. Dwarven Warriors.

      Radera
  2. This was a really interesting post mg! The duels looks insane! :D Yeah, which card did you get? I think you sholud keep spending your money on Edgar so I can keep the Alphas on SvM for my self! ;)

    //kungmarkus

    SvaraRadera
  3. Great article as always.

    Any thoughts on expanding this site to include some type of forum for questions, deck tech, and community involvement?

    There are other resources out there like Reddit and Facebook, but they do not have real momentum. Everyone visits this blog, so it would be awesome for visitors to interact with one another.

    I'm located in Orlando Florida, just a few miles from the HQ of CoolStuffInc.com. There aren't many resources online to build local tournaments, but there has to be some players in the area who would love this format.

    It would be great to network with other readers of this blog, set up informal games & tournaments over Skype, video calls, etc.

    // Avid reader & fan from the U.S.!

    SvaraRadera
  4. Another amazing post! The comparison of those first 2 pictures is excellent. Keep it up!

    //Danny

    SvaraRadera
  5. Thanks a lot!

    @Michael: Yeah, I've actually been thinking about that. My roommate and I (who also play the format) both work in IT, and we discussed it as a potential hobby project to build a more interactive site for the community. We probably won't have time to start anything until autumn though, and it is a pretty big project, so I can't give you a good estimate of if and when it will be done. The fact that you and others from the community express interest in it makes it more exciting to start working on :)

    SvaraRadera
  6. Excellent article! Thanks!

    -Hans

    SvaraRadera
  7. I am one of the few people that does have does have a set of summer magic and about 150 extra cards. I got them from an ex-WOTC employee back in 1996. I am currently working on my second set but it's not looking hopeful.

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. I also live in Seattle by the way.

      Radera
  8. The prices for summer cards have been hard for me to find. Or have conflicting prices.

    SvaraRadera