The first Orbs

So here I am. Sitting by the computer late at night, sleep amiss, waiting for screams that may not come. Maybe she'll actually sleep this time. Maybe I should try to get some too.

It's been five or six weeks since I last logged on to facebook, which is a simultaneously stressful and calming feeling. There was too much going on at work and home to enjoy the notifications, so I opted to cut it out for some days. The urge to return gradually just vanished. It was not really a conscious move or a statement of any kind, rather a realization that being continously connected took more energy than it gave. It might change in the future, but for now I find myself perfectly satisfied with e-mail and a phone number as the non-physical contact points.

Anyway, sitting awake, looking through the binders. I like the binders and the cards they hold. Tangible stuff, building blocks that would eventually shape my spare time and friendships in ways I could never imagine when they were created in 93/94. Or in 1992.

Some people here may know that I collect Chaos Orbs. A "global set", as one-card collecting is mostly known as. One of the more usual reactions when people hear this is "A global set of only three cards then? Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and only English language. I guess five with IE and CE. Can't be that interesting."

Well, it kinda is. I have learned more about the history of Magic trying to collect Chaos Orbs than anything else I've done with in this hobby. And looking through the binder this night, with the beginnings of something Magic in the next room, three cards jump out at me.

For almost every Magic player in the world, these three pieces of paper mean nothing. For a tiny fraction, the first of the three may be something familiar. For the smallest handful, the second two could actually be the most interesting ones.


Finding these took me years. I could probably talk for hours about these three pieces of paper. The three Chaos Orbs that existed before Alpha went to the printers.

I won't though, at least not right now. Now I'll try and catch some sleep. Feel free let me know if you want to hear more about a particular one of these, and I'll try to make something coherent of the stories I've been told.

I wish you all great summer nights until then.


  1. Tell us the whole story :)
    Do you know why they changed the name from Sphere of Annihlation to Chaos Orb?


    1. I am not sure, but I guess that it just sounded better. A lot of cards changed names to something more evocative during the last days of playtesting (e.g. all the generic creatures like Skeletons, Angel, Zombies, etc got more specific names like Drudge Skeletons, Serra Angel, Scathe Zombies and so on), and many generic sounding cards got more unique names in general ("Destroy Artifact" became "Shatter" for example).

      A pretty fun thing with the Sphere of Annihilation name is however that the concept of the Chaos Orb/Sphere was kept intact after Chaos Orb was printed, and similar cards were tested for a couple of other expansions after alpha was printed. So later playtest versions of the Orange one that were made after Alpha was called SPEAR of Annihilation to make it distinct from the Chaos Orb card but still pay homage to it, and one 1994 version (for an unreleased set) was called Annihilator Orb (the name being a mix Chaos Orb and Sphere of Annihilation).

    2. Sphere of Annihilation is an artifact in D&D made famous by the 1978 module Tomb of Horrors. I have no actual knowledge, but it would make sense that they changed the name to avoid using TSR’s IP.

      If you google ”green demon face tomb of horrors” you can see the mouth where the sphere was located in the adventure.

    3. That's very interesting, thanks for the info! :)

  2. I, too, have disconnected somewhat from FB of late. At the beginning of the year, I was bothered by the habit I'd adopted of checking it constantly (and almost always for negative EV), so I uninstalled the app from my phone such that I have to open the website and type in my password every time to gain access. The result is that I now only check every 1-2 days, and only for a few seconds. You're right that as soon as you distance yourself, the urge quickly subsides. Old School MtG is probably the biggest reason I don't detach from it entirely. Anyway, totally feel you on that front.

    Also, nice balls. I mean orbs. ;)

    1. Yeah, it was a very similar experience. And when I realized that facebook is not the way I prefer to have Old School discussions, it became a pretty easy choice ;)

  3. I've been patiently awaiting any and all Chaos Orb related content.

    Is this the mysterious orange one you have made reference to in the past?

    1. Haha, thanks! And yep, that would be the one :)

    2. Amazing! Thanks!

  4. Hi Mg- i randomly wandered into this blog... and saw the Sphere from the original Menagerie set (with art). If you got it from Joel this past spring it came from my collection (and I got it from Bill Rose when i was at Penn, so the provenance is impeccable, as anything from Joel would be.)

    Collecting all the orb variations is awesome. There are some "Spears" in later Mirage versions, which i think you mentioned in a separate post.

    I never had any gammas, so am working to trade for a few so I can have the very same set of 3 playtest card versions (with art) that you have. Alas I have to limit myself to commons for the time being. :)

    Thanks for sharing! -Doug

    1. Hi Doug (Dixon?),

      Thank you for reaching out!

      Yes, the Orange one came from Joel, though I believe that one was originally his own. Yours was the second copy I'd heard of that I mentioned in this post: (If you have time to check that one out for glaring factual errors it would be very appreciated btw ;))

      However, I do believe that the 4-mana white one with "Magical Disk" art, as well as a later mirage one came from your collection via Joel earlier this year (late March?)

      I am still trying to clarify the stories behind the 4-mana sphere, so if it was originally yours and you have some info to share it would be awesome :D

      Thanks again, not the least for your hand in creating and testing the greatest game in the world :)


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