The One Ring of Ma'ruf

This was the first really rare card I owned.


Strangely, I can't fully remember how I got it. I want to say that I saved money, sold toys, and then bought it at Card Collector; an old game store in Gothenburg. Of the game stores I visited with some regularity back then, Card Collector is the only one that still exists. It's moved a dozen or so meters from its original location, but is still in the same building, with the same guy behind the desk. It was valued at 350 sek - about $40 - back then.

Even though its origin is shrouded in some mist, I very much remember what it was like to have it. Calling it "the crown of my collection" would have been an understatement. None of the people I frequently played with, at school or elsewhere, had any cards from Arabian Nights, much less a rare oddity like the ring. I think I could describe owning it as a pride of sorts for 12-year old Mg. Whenever I packed my deck, I would put Ring of Ma'ruf face-up at the top so it would greet me whenever I brought the deck out. It was a card I flaunted, as (in the way I saw it) whenever the ring was used it made the game a little more magical.

Sometimes life imitates art.

In Ma'ruf's story, he uses the ring excessively. Ma'ruf distributes his wealth in a way that makes the king and his vizier suspicious. So the vizier get's Ma'ruf distracted, learns of his ring, and steal it. Banishes Ma'ruf and the king, and makes himself ruler.

While I don't fully recall how I got the ring, the moment it was stolen is still etched in my mind almost 25 years later. I remember the place, the people I was with, and the guy who told me. How I refused to trade it with an older guy. How he eventually gave up and walked away. How another man came up, saying "Excuse me, I don't want to be a snitch, but that guy from before stole your card." How I ran without finding him, and how 12-year old me stood on a bridge, tearing up cards in the wind and wowing to not play Magic anymore.

I did return to the game eventually of course. But the story of the ring surely made me older.

Around 07/08, when I set out to acquire the legends of 93/94, Ring of Ma'ruf had a track record on par with Juzam Djinn and Black Lotus in my mind. Finding that its price tag had shrunk to around $12 was, in lack of a better word, melancholic. I bought a couple for my old school deck, but in those days people reacted more strongly to something as pedestrian as an Underground Sea or a Wasteland in the collection.

I kept building though. In my two plus decades of playing Magic, I believe that I've had a deck with Ring of Ma'ruf in over half of them. In this quarter of a century, I've changed a lot. But so has the ring.

In 1994, the ring was played as written. Yes, exactly as written. Yes, every card you owned outside the game was eligible. Yes, even what you are jokingly suggesting is correct. Yes, this was confirmed by WotC in the Duelist.

From The Duelist #4

So what should we wish for?

Ancient Mew is usually the wild card, but The Cigarette Smoking Man seems like the most secret tech. On the other hand, I'm only one stamp away from a free coffee on that NRK card, and I've heard that Plum is considered "The Black Lotus of Colonel Twitchen's Jam Kitchen". Wait, can I regenerate Max Rebo with Elephant Graveyard?

So, these days floor rules are a little more boring. In the Magic 2010 rules update WotC even removed the "Removed from the game" concept and replaced it with the "exile zone". That meant that you could no longer wish for e.g. a creature that had been removed via Swords to Plowshares.  All you got was your sideboard and strange Shahrazade subgame interactions.

As a fun fact of sorts, this "exile zone" rules update was - by some margin - the most debated rule change in the 93/94 community in 2010. Far more people argued for keeping the old rules for for "removed from the game" than argued for keeping mana burn, which was removed at the same time. I don't believe either of those rules are in contention for the top spot of "old rules that would still be be sweet to use in oldschoolmtg", but that is a fully different post.

Current sideboard for Adventure Island. Nine of the fifteen cards are never to be boarded in, they exist for the ring. Perhaps notable, I don't play red cards maindeck, but it is occasionally possible to generate red mana and so the Fireball can be a wincon.

There have been some local play groups that try to mitigate the decimation handed out by the Magic 2010 rules. E.g. EC Rules states that the ring can fetch cards in the exile zone as well as cards in the sideboard. And Gordon Anderson - of pen-ink-matching-suite-color fame - have among others argued that the ring should be able to get any card in the legal card pool.

Let's start with this. Now to bring a small longbox of 300 or so cards for my additional speculative wishing needs.

I suspect that very few players (apart from myself) would actually care if there was a rules update on the ring. I've never played against anyone using the ring except when I've lent out my decks to friends and faced them. Outside my own builds I've never even seen a ring in a top8 deck list photo. Hell, thinking of it, it is possible that I've activated Ring of Ma'ruf more than any other Magic player. I once put Power Artifact on Ring of Ma'ruf not as a joke, but because it was the correct play.

Old tales aside, my personal relationship with the ring has made any update on that particular card in 93/94 a little more convoluted. Being in the sometimes unenviable spot of having a big say on the 93/94 floor rules and restrictions, changing the ring could easily be seen as an egoistic move.

In the old days I was frequently lugging around my blue trade binder when I was to play. The Ring would after all give me access to play with any card I owned at a moment's notice. But today, if I am one of the very few that actually play with the ring, and additionally one of the few with a card pool that could really benefit from an update, how could I in good conscience argue for a return to the ring's written intent without sounding opportunistic?

Maybe it is not meant to be. Or maybe DFB updates the Atlantic Rules or Jaco updates the EC rules or someone else updates some other rules to blaze a trail for the ridiculousness that I yearn.

...

There are fights that you win by not fighting.

You go about your days, playing that ring in something that resembles silence.  Whenever there's a rule discussion about it online, you stray aside, trying to discern a public opinion rather than arguing your cause. Your stories of this particular card are yours, probably not applicable to a grander community.

Without rhyme or reason, someone notices. Last winter, I got a message. "Tell me your finger size, then forget you ever got this message." And lo at n00bcon 11, the Brothers of Fire came up and gave me this.

The one ring.


Ben, I honestly don't know how you discerned the value of this particular ring among all the static. Not only having a jeweler craft it, but understanding that this is more to me than a Mox ring, Lotus necklace, Juzam horns, or anything else as Magic trinkets go.

It is always on the right ring finger when I play 93/94 these days. It taps on the top of my library whenever I need to draw that one-in-forty out. It is subtle. But perhaps, in the future, we'll conclude that spending a card and 10 mana to skip a draw step may be effort enough to grab any card from that binder. As Garfield intended ;)

What's your pleasure?

Kommentarer

  1. One of the greatest posts I've ever read. Thank you for this!

    SvaraRadera
  2. I once got my Magic Puppy into play with one! Though a 100/100 for 0 mana is pretty castable anyways lol.

    I also remain unconvinced that you cannot take any card your own (card now defined as a MTG card in the rules) from outside of the game. The ring does not have the rules updates that the wishes have that force you to pick from you sideboard.

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. The rules are, perhaps unfortunately, the same for all cards that mention "outside the game" these days. It is a game concept, not a card-by-card basis thing.

      Radera
    2. I stubbornly refuse that assessment :)

      Radera
  3. Haha great story and well done Ben - she's a beauty. Especially considering the vivid memory detailed at the start of this post. This particular ring is a bit harder to pinch. And if Elliot spills beer over it you just rinse it off no worries. In the earlier days there seem to have been a lot of older guys running wild and screwing us youngsters over if we didn't trade our one or two good rares away - or maybe it was the same guy that did us all!

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Thanks man!

      And yeah, it was a whole different shark tank of douchebags in the mid 90s. Once a dude actually nabbed my whole deck, though I was a couple of years older then (in my early teens), an it didn't hurt _as_ much as when I got the ring stolen. I must say I'm pretty happy that the rampant cheating and stealing is not a part of the old school experience anymore ;)

      Radera
  4. Great article, thanks for taking your time to write this up.

    SvaraRadera
  5. What a beautiful story. Getting the original ring snatched from you at the age of 12. What a &^#$^%*. That ring you got from the brothers, epic.

    I now want to give the ring a try, especially after reading you did this in a game, "I once put Power Artifact on Ring of Ma'ruf not as a joke, but because it was the correct play."

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Thanks man!
      And thank you for your awesome videos, I've been following them with great interest :)

      Radera

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