One thing that can be said about Old School Magic is that it’s a terrible financial decision to make it a hobby. Another thing is that given the amount of money it can potentially cost, you have to love it to stick with it. I certainly do. And it seems most other Old School players do as well. And there’s the whole white border versus black border thing. I’ve bought black bordered cards where I could have bought reprints for much cheaper. It’s a funny thing if you stop and think about it.
When I first got into the format last spring, I relied on Revised, Fourth Edition, and Chronicles to build my decks. At that time I was satisfied with playing with all white borders. And I still play with a ton of Revised. As a kid, I had mostly Revised cards so when I first got into the format that was what I wanted most. I didn’t even know Revised were (faded) reprints when I was a kid. They were simply just Magic cards.
I remember being aware of what I wasn’t aware of though. With no access to the internet, I couldn’t look anything up online – not that there was much info online either. I knew there were a ton more cards out there just waiting to be discovered. It gave the game a very mysterious aura that attracted me. Me indulging in Old School today and prioritizing black borders is me finally getting to discover all those cards I would have loved to have collected when I was six or seven. I feel like I’m diving right into the origin – a Garden of Eden of Magic where it all began that I only heard slight whispers of. I think that’s the case for most players too. I think that’s why we strive to get the original printings of cards.
Last spring I bought some Beta Merfolk of the Pearl Trident because they were cheap. I had a Revised Merfolk as a kid. When the Beta Merfolk came in the mail it was actually the first time I saw black bordered cards in person from the original core set. I thought they looked really strange. I was used to faded colors and white borders and it was much darker. It didn’t take long, however, before I was totally infatuated by those richer colors and blacker borders.
The main deck that I’ve been playing for a while now is a mono black. When I first put it together I wanted to have four Sinkholes in it but I didn’t own any. I needed to buy them. I could have gotten Unlimited Sinkholes for somewhere around $10-$15 a piece, I think. Instead, I paid more just for black borders and then a little extra for round edges. I took a few months to buy all four as I waited for decent prices to pop up. I finally finished the playset by buying the last one at GP Providence in October.
The most expensive Sinkhole of the four I bought was $33. Not too bad. If they were over $100 each I probably would have gone with Beta instead. And if those were over $100 I probably would have settled with Unlimited. And if Unlimited was over $100 I’d probably just suck it up and pay because there’s no other option after that. There are no Revised Sinkholes. I don’t know why but $100 seems like a natural cut-off in my mind. Maybe because of the three digits. If my salary was, say, five times the amount that it is, I’d probably let myself go higher. I bought the Library of Alexandria and the one Juzam which were both well over $100 but I had to make an exception for those bad boys since they don’t have cheap white border versions. And when it comes to dual lands I think I’ll be going past the $100 threshold. I still haven’t bought any duals yet but I will.
I have another deck that I’ve been experimenting with that has four Revised Birds of Paradise in it. Birds of Paradise is a card that I absolutely love because of the artwork. It’s also a just a very useful card when you have no dual lands yet. Unfortunately, Alpha Birds run up around $1000 a piece. Completing a playset of Alpha Birds is not feasible for most people. Beta Birds usually run between $300-600? and I think Unlimited Birds run somewhere between $50 and $80? I’m not sure.
The interesting thing about the Alpha Birds is it has text unique to the Alpha version. It says “Flying// Tap to add one mana to your mana pool…” as opposed to “Flying Tap to add one mana of any color to your mana pool…” which the Beta and Unlimited versions have in order to be clear about what type of mana it produces. Also the two “//” are weird. This makes me want the Alpha version even more. It’s closer to the origin from which all Magic sprang forth from. Too bad it’s not really an option. Unlimited will certainly suffice because it doesn’t have the slanted “T” in place of “Tap” like my Revised Birds which is still a step closer to the origin.
In North America Reprint sets are allowed for the most part. Because of this, it’s possible to throw a deck together cheaply and quickly right before a tournament. I think this is good for people who discover the tournament and want to indulge right away like I did. It also helps to buy cheap versions of cards if you’re not sure how they’ll work out in your deck. However, I think in the long run, it’s worth putting time, effort, and money into a deck that will be used often. That commitment makes you appreciate the deck so much more. Standard players rotate cards and throw in whatever will make them win. There’s no commitment to deck building for the sake of playing cards you love. Old School is the antithesis of Standard. Old School is played in taverns and prizes are not money, but jank cards signed buy all the participants. It’s perfect. It’s festive in a way. Like a holiday or something where everyone’s happy to be together and celebrate.
Since I have the mono black deck to use which I’m very slowly “upgrading” I’m also very slowly building that deck with the Birds of Paradise in it. It’s an R/G deck which needs Taigas, Berserks, a couple Sylvan Libraries, a Wheel of Fortune, among a few others. I don’t think that deck will be done until sometime in 2018 or 2019. In the meantime, the deck building is very enjoyable and exciting. I can’t wait to buy a Taiga which will be my first dual land.
Keep on slinging, friends.