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> History of Magic: The Gathering
HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART 1
The unauthorized chronicles of Magic: The Gathering

By Leigh Newmark and the IQ Gamer Staff

Posted December 15, 2006  1:45 PM

Thirteen years ago, the only cards you could collect had baseball players on them, and the only game they were good for was 300 Pickup. Then came Magic: The Gathering, and hobby shops changed forever. But while Magic was reshaping the world, it was constantly reinventing itself as well. The earliest days—with cards you had to throw across the table, artifacts that were better than lands and no limit on how many copies of a card could be in your deck—look nothing like the multimillion-dollar international game of today. How did we get here? Everyone talks wistfully about the old days, but when did that Golden Age end and what came after it? How do the years really stack up to one another?
We suppose someone could throw that all into some history book that would properly plod through the hallowed history of CCGs and cure insomnia in one fell swoop, but that’s not our style. So here’s the Mach 5 version of it. Everything you need to know about the rise, fall and constant rebirth of Magic: The Gathering crammed into one planar guide, from the Fallen Empires to the rise of the Apocalypse, every year rated with brutal honesty. It ain’t all been pretty, but it’s been one hell of a ride.

THE GOLDEN AGE

 


1993 ORIGINS AT ORIGINS
Releases Alpha, Beta, Unlimited Edition, Collectors’ Edition (box set), Arabian Nights
Pro Tour Payout $0
Most Valuable Card Black Lotus
Top Deck Channel/Fireball – A Lotus-powered first-turn kill before the four-of-a-kind card limit.
Highlights
• Richard Garfield introduces the world’s first collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering, at Origins in July.
• Alpha introduces the Power Nine and first expansion Arabian Nights releases more dangerously powerful, but exciting, cards made in the heady days of early design.
• The Duelists’ Convocation (later DCI) offers free “Mana” memberships and $30 “Legend” memberships with tangible bonuses, helping early tournaments coalesce into something that can actually be played competitively.
• More than 10 million cards sold by year’s end.
Lowlights
• Laces become the first crap rares.
• Circle of Protection: Black and Volcanic Island miss the Alpha boat, and those cycles aren’t completed until Beta.
• Basic lands randomly replace a card of any rarity in the core set; they’re still better rares than Laces.
What You Didn’t Know
Garfield plays white sorcery Proposal during a game of Magic with fiancée Lily Wu (also honored by Arabian Nights card Wyluli Wolf). The card, with specially commissioned Quinton Hoover artwork, costs four white and “allows Richard to propose marriage to Lily. If the proposal is accepted both players win.”
Rating: 9

 


1994 EMPIRE RISING
Releases Antiquities, Revised Edition, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires
Pro Tour Payout $0
Most Valuable Card Mirror Universe
Top Deck
The Deck – Classic white/blue control based on card drawing, removal and counterspells.
Highlights
• HarperPrism publishes Arena, the first Magic novel.
• The first Magic World Championship is held at Gen Con ‘94.
• WotC publishes The Duelist, the first official Magic magazine.
• Legends introduces gold multicolored cards and, of course, legends to the game.
Lowlights
• “Summer Magic,” printed to fix errors in Revised, is immediately recalled and destroyed due to errors of its own. A few copies sneak out and go for megabucks.
• Each Legends booster box draws from only one half of the set’s uncommon pool.
Fallen Empires is overprinted, leading to product gluts at retailers and bottom-floor prices.
• The DCI hates eggs—Dingus Egg restricted for three months, Rukh Egg for one.
What You Didn’t Know
Zak Dolan, first Magic world champion, won a T-shirt, a Magic-backed poker deck, a bunch of out-of-print boosters and a trophy.
Rating: 5

 


1995 COLD FRONT
Releases Renaissance, Fourth Edition, Ice Age, Chronicles, Homelands
Pro Tour Payout $0
Most Valuable Card Jester’s Cap
Top Deck
Vise Age – Red/green burn featuring Black Vise, Howling Mine and Stormbind.
Highlights
Fourth Edition introduces the new tap symbol, a globally recognized turning arrow.
• The first Magic prerelease event is held for Ice Age in Toronto.
InQuest #0 is launched as a gaming experiment. Monthly editions soon follow. The original tournament format is renamed Type 1 (Vintage), and Type 2 (Standard) is created.
Lowlights
Chronicles reprints of formerly valuable singles crash their markets; WotC responds with the new Reprint Policy limited.
• Dual lands are left out ofFourth Edition; Ice Age substitutes painlands and depletion lands.
• The DCI bans the manual dexterity cards, Chaos Orb and Falling Star, marking the end of the Golden Age as the game becomes more focused on strategy and organized play.
What You Didn’t Know
• The jester in Jester’s Cap is modeled after Richard Garfield.
Ice Age was the first set to use the modern white mana symbol, a slight modification of the original.
• Two members of Wizards of the Coast’s customer service department designedHomelands.
Rating: 4

 
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