lördag 14 juli 2018

Argivian Excavations

It is no secret that Argivian Archaeologist is the greatest white Magic card ever printed. It was the most expensive mono-white card in 1994, the era of weird brokeness if there ever was one. Back in the days, one of these nerds held a price tag of two Mishra's Workshop, or a small handful Bazaar of Baghdad.
As noted by the flavor text, the archaeologist searched incessantly for remnants of an earlier, more powerful era. It is amusing that the cards he dug for in 1994 are starting to resemble real antiquities these days. Relics from a very different time, before the era of the web, streaming and smart phones. Hell, three years before it saw print there was a Soviet Union. Its release date is about as far away from today as it is from the Moon landing. Life imitates art.

A few days ago I was home at my parents house outside Gothenburg. My wife and I just got the keys to our new apartment - a proper, adult apartment with storage space and rooms and stuff - so it was finally time to clear out all the random boxes with my name on from my parents' basement. A disorganized swarm of things ranging from preschool in 1988 up until 2003 when I joined the military service. Things I hadn't touched in 15 years or more. This may be as good a time as any to do an archaeological dig on things from 1993-1997. Lets see what advice our Argivian counterpart would give us.
Ah, Pamela Anderson. The Marilyn Monroe of the mid 90s. And a sack of early 90s gaming magazines. Ain't had no Twitch, but instead printed advertisements poorly disguised as industry news. Luxury we thought. In most of the magazines, used game stores promoted trading in old games to get a hold of some hot releases. What would our friend the Archaeologist suggest?
Trading stuff, eh? Gauntlets of Chaos is another one of those "actually-not-that-terrible" cards from Legends. I've tried it in the wish-board of my Adventure Island deck as a catch-all against powerful permanents. Trading away a Sindbad for a Serra Angel, a Forest for a Library of Alexandria, or a Mox for a Jayemdae Tome. It does cost five mana up front followed by another five to do the trade, compared to the far more reasonable four we spend on e.g. Control Magic. But the Gauntlets are colorless, and in particular the trade wont be foiled later by a well-timed Disenchant. Also, with the Archaeologist in play, this is a very controlling engine. There is pretty much no wincon the opponent could drop that we aren't able to steal, including things like Mishra's Factory, and then just dig up the Gauntlets for another go. It's even instant speed.

Digging deeper in the sacks of nostalgia, we find these guys:
Mg alters anno 1995.
Creating your own cards were slightly more involved before we had a basic sense of power level and programs like Magic Set Editor. Back then we had to settle with what we found in the house and a dadaistic mindset. The Archaeologist have a simpler suggestion as Magic transformation goes.
At first glance, this may just seem like a basic combo that gives the Archaeologist "1WW, T: Put a +1/+1 counter on target non-artifact creature". That is all well an good I suppose, but the real power here is that the Transmogrant gives your Disenchants, Divine Offerings and Dust to Dusts the ability to destroy any creature. As a small bonus, it can also save your creatures from The Abyss.

How about this one:
The Drakar och Demoner Monster Box! Drakar och Demoner ("Dragons and Demons") was pretty much synonymous to role playing games in Sweden in the early 90's, much in the same way Dungeons and Dragons was in English speaking parts of the world. I was a game master for almost three years, around age twelve to fourteen, and we played relentlessly. Our band broke up perhaps mostly due to social stigma as we grew a little older, and I never returned to RPGs. It was a fun period though. When I found it my mom recalled memories of trying to get into our old home during Fridays and Sundays as piles of increasingly large shoes littered the hallway. We were a gang of a dozen plus warriors, and puberty started to take its toll on our feet.

So what Monsters may we be interested in digging up here?
A slightly more conservative player might suggest Triskelion and Tetravus. But hey, if we have infinite Raise Deads for WW, lets go for something spicy. This dude slays Juzam all day and kills the opponent in just a handful attacks. It is also a solid wall if that is what we need.

Further down in the sacks, we find a box of cards. Did not expect this. I assume it is pretty much only bulk...
...but what do you know! Some actual playables!
That's like $50 in pre-modern durdle. Score for the archaeologists. Lets check out that Alliances booster as well.
Pamela in the background, as was the custom.
Whelp. Sol Grail is the rare, which such a common rare that it is in fact noted as an uncommon at most websites these days. Alliances was the only set to feature different tiers within its rares until the introduction of mythic rares many years later. Sol Grail is one of the few R6 cards in the set, making it three times as common as most other rares in Alliances. Same principle for Feast or Famine btw. It is an U6, making most sites stock it as a common.

Maybe I shouldn't have opened it. Well, maybe I shouldn't use bleach and ammonia as a breakfast shot either, but how else would I experience the highs and lows of the human condition?

And there are some nice flavorful cards here. Lat-Nam's Legacy is kinda the fixed Brainstorm, which in turn is the fixed Ancestral Recall. Solid legacy on that one. And Lat-Nam's Legacy brings us to this guy:
The first Lat-Nam card, and a great partner for the Argivian Archaeologist. If you have these two and a mox in play, Argivian Archaeologist get "W, T: Draw a card". Not too shabby. I explored this to some extent in my old Antiquities Road Show deck.

Digging further among junior school books and crafts projects, we come across this on the back of a wood cut:
I clearly bore my nerdiness with some pride around 1995. Also had a vivid obsession with Pittsburgh Penguins btw, but that may be outside the scope of this blog post.

When we're talking about physical crafts and steady hands, one card in particular leaps to mind.
The Archaeologist approves. Given a steady hand, this gives the Archaeologist "3WW, T: Destroy target permanent". Maybe the most solid combo of them all, and we get to show off our dexterity skills.

What's next?
This was a fun find. These are the sets from my first properly active period in Magic, spring of 1995 to summer of 1998. Note that Legends and The Dark are the Italian versions btw, those were somewhat available in Sweden in 1995. After Tempest Block (or "Rath Cycle" as it was called), I took a fairly long hiatus from the game. I came back in full force around 2004 and haven't looked back since. I also dabbled a lot with the Star Wars card game up until 1998. It was fun, but a combination of complexity creep, power creep, and simply running out of source material made it fade to obscurity.

So what's the most obscure artifact from 93/94? Tower of Coireall? That may be overkill. Let's take something fairly obscure that was reprinted in Chronicles instead, as we after all have the booster wrapper on display up there. How about Living Armor?
One of the few drawbacks with Argivian Archaeologist is that it dies to Lightning Bolt. But not with this piece of fashion. Just pay four mana to turn your Archaeologist (or Sage) into a bolt-proof 1/4. Or how about going to town with a 6/7 Shapeshifter? With our Argivian counterpart we can rinse and rebuild the armor for just two white mana. I am fairly certain that there is some weird combo to be found here with Transmutation as well.


Wading through all the cases and bags took me a full day. In the end, I had two smaller boxes left with stuff to keep, and four large black trash bags to bring to the dump. Memories I saw one last time before the furnace of time got to claim them.
For this last picture, I could offer Bottle of Suleiman. Taking a chance discarding things and hoping that it will help rather than hurt.
I don't think I'll miss these things too much. I lived well without them for fifteen, or thirty, years after all. But finding my history of the nineties in trinkets and piles of notebooks was a sentimental journey. It was fun to take a step back in time. In many ways, it makes me appreciate what we do with old school Magic even more. Searching for that sense of wonderment that once brought us to the game, bearing our heads in respect for the game that could once mark us with social stigma. The world has certainly changed, and us with it. It is thrilling to see where we go next.

3 kommentarer:

  1. Tell me you didn’t take Pamela to the dump.

    1. A few of her survived for future generations ;)

    2. You will make a great father.