There are many Old School Magic: The Gathering cards that don’t get too much attention in the modern age. For many of these forgotten cards there’s a good reason. Many are just not very playable or effective in any way. Others, however, are good cards; just not played much because there are better cards to be played in place of them. And thus, sometimes forgotten anyway. Nonetheless, some of these cards are pretty cool sometimes.
One such card is King Suleiman from the Arabian Nights set. King Suleiman is just oozing with awesome Oldschool flavor. I didn’t know about this card in the early days but I’m almost a bit nostalgic with this card anyway.
The art to King Suleiman is so representative of the Oldschool Magic feel that when I look at it, I’m filled with those good nostalgic feelings even though I saw it for the first time only a few months ago.
The art depicts King Suleiman sitting on a throne holding some kind of a snake scepter. The window with the night sky and stars only adds to the perfect ambiance of the picture.
Let’s look at the flavor text because it’s a little weird. It reads, ‘We made tempestuous winds obedient to Solomon…And many of the devils We also made obedient to him.’ – The Qur’an 21:81. Why is it talking about Solomon and not Suleiman? Well, they’re the same person. It’s just different versions of the same name. The Hebrew Bible uses Solomon and some English Qurans use Suleiman.
The ellipses in the quote indicate that part of the verse has been cut out. I looked it up to see what the whole verse said.
The full verse says, We harnessed the stormy wind for Solomon, so that it sped by his command to the land We had blessed – We have knowledge of all things – and We made some of the jinn subservient to him, to dive for him and do other works besides. We were watching over them.
This is a different translation than the one used for the card. Notice how my translation used the word jinn in place of the word devils which is on the card. That’s because a jinn (or djinn) and a devil are sort of the same thing. A djinn is just a devil (or demon) in the context of Arabic folklore, religion, and legends.
Probably the most important part of the verse is We made some of the jinn (or devils) subservient to him.
This is a loaded statement. It’s another way of saying that King Suleiman was a wizard.
Well, in the historic belief in magic, which was widespread for the majority of human existence, magic was usually done by controlling spirits, devils, demons…or djinns!
A wizard was believed to have knowledge of all the hidden things in the universe. This included the physical world and the non-physical worlds. With that wisdom a wizard could control those spirits in the spirit realm to affect things in the physical human realm.
King Suleiman/Solomon was granted incredible wisdom from God according to the stories. So it makes sense that he was given the power to control the djinn. This aspect is not in the Hebrew story of Solomon but there are some medieval European legends of King Solomon being a magic user and using demons to build the famous Solomon’s Temple which makes me wonder if that was inspired by the Quran.
About five years go my friend Nick and I got on the topic of djinns somehow. Not in the context of Magic: The Gathering but in the context of Arabic folklore. We decided that we wanted to try to summon one. I don’t think either of us really thought it would work but we agreed to do it anyway. We agreed to do our own independent research on how to summon a djinn and then meet up again and share our results. We both found plenty of resources and essentially they all said the same thing: here’s how to do it, but whatever you do, DON’T DO IT!
So we met up again both were both a little hesitant to move forward. Nick went to a local magic shop and bought a few candles that were required for the ritual. While he was there he asked the clerk if he knew anything about summoning djinns.
“Of course I do! How do you think I made it through college?”
Apparently all his college work was done by a djinn. I realized that summoning a djinn may be well worth the risk.
Nick and I have a friend who’s a pretty devout Muslim so we asked her about djinn summoning. This was basically the same as asking a devout Christian about demon summoning. Our friend was obviously not supportive and warned us against it.
After all this we decided to get our friend Greg to do the summoning while we watched. You know, in case anything went wrong he’d become possessed by a djinn and not us. Still though, we never went through with it. Maybe if we had a couple King Suleiman cards we could have tapped them to destroy any djinn that might attack us.
So how about King Suleiman in the game of Magic: The Gathering?
He’s a 1/1 creature that costs 1W to cast. His ability reads, Tap to Destroy an Efreet or Djinn.
Besides white, the Arabian Nights set gave each color both a djinn and an efreet. White got King Suleiman in place of a djinn and efreet. In an article on the Wizards of the Coast website, it quotes Richard’s Garfield explanation of why. Garfelid says, they didn’t seem to belong in white–while not always evil, they were never good.
As far as choosing the character of Suleiman for the djinn substitute, well, he’s was pious and faithful so his character dictates the color, I think.
Interestingly, his ability that destroys certain creatures seems kind of off color for white. But if you ask the question what would King Suleiman do? Then destroying djinns and efreets makes sense since the folklore around Suleiman has him able to control them. The other option could have been to take control of a target djinn or efreet until end of turn or something similar to that. At this point in the game, however, controlling an opponent’s card seems to have already sort of become a characteristic of blue with cards like Control Magic and Steal Artifact.
But then there’s Aladdin, a red card, had the ability to control an opponents artifact – so who knows what they were really thinking. But with that too, if you ask what would Aladdin do, well, he’d take control of a magic lamp because that’s what he did in the story. Or in the context of MTG, he’d take control of an artifact. Makes sense if you think about it that way.
Oh, and by the way, efreets are just a more specific type of djinn. I don’t know much more than that but it has me wanting to look more into it now.
I’m not sure how popular the King was back in the day but, like I said, there’s not a whole lot of King Suleimans being played today in the Oldschool community. I’m a little surprised because Juzam Djinn, Serendib Efreet, and Ehrnam Djinn are very common creatures to be played as playsets. And to a lesser extant, Serendib Djinn and Ifh-Biff Efreet are too.
I suppose the King doesn’t see much play because Swords to Plowshares is a much more efficient white card to destroy any creature threats. King Suleiman can only destroy Djinns and Efreets which leaves leaves many creature threats unkillable. Plus, King Suleiman has to be out on the battlefield which means he’s susceptible to things like Swords to Plowshares himself. Not to mention many other cards that can take him out.
I would love to put together a white “Djinn Killer” deck just for fun. I may do it at some point but I only have one King Suleiman at the moment. There are so many playsets I’m slowly putting together for various decks that it could be years before I acquire a playset of King Suleimans. But hey, that’s what’s fun about Oldschool, right?? Maybe someday I’ll do a post about it and I’ll say “hey guys, remember that time I did a whole post on how cool I thought King Suleiman was?”
If you take away anything from this post, make sure it’s this one important fact: The King is alive and well!