One of my favorite things about Old School Magic is the offbeat cards. From the perspective of today, looking back at the early years of Magic, Wizards of the Coast certainly had some growing pains to work through. And through that stage came awkwardness, surprises, and a handful of really cool, unique cards. Magic was, in the purest sense, its true self and we got to take part in it all. I’m talking about things like Chaos Orb, zero costing artifact mana, blue direct damage, Serendib Efreet reprints with Ifh-Biff Efreet art and green borders. These things we would never experience in a modern Magic setting. It’s much too mature now. The formative, adolescent years are long passed. If we go back, like we all have with the format, we can relive it – or live it for the first time. Arabian Nights is great for this. Arabian Nights is an expansion that would only have happened in 1993 or 1994. Today, specifically, I want to look at a certain marid; Old Man of the Sea.
Summon Marid. Marid? What in the world is a marid? I don’t know. Never in my entire life have I used or heard anyone else use that word. Whatever a marid is, that’s what this Old Man is. He’s not human apparently.
A quick google search shows me that the term marid might be familiar to people who play Dungeons & Dragons. Further, I found that the term marid is simply another word for djinn.
In the Arabian Nights expansion each color got both a djinn and an efreet. White was the exception as it got King Suleiman, the djinn and efreet killer. But if a marid is a djinn, then blue technically got an extra djinn in this expansion. And blue already had a djinn: Mahamoti Djinn.
Looking today at the oracle text for Old Man of the Sea, the Old Man has actually been changed to a djinn! No fair! Blue gets all the djinns! I bet Wizards originally considered the Old Man a marid in order to not give blue another djinn. Makes sense.
So why is the Old Man a marid (or djinn) and not simply just an old man or summon geezer or something? Well, let’s look at the original story. I haven’t read it but it’s in the One Thousand and One Nights anthology like most of the Arabian Nights card’s origins are. The Old Man shows up in the seventh journey of Sinbad the Sailor. He jumps on the shoulders of weary travelers and makes the traveler take him where he wants to go. He seems to ride the traveler until they die of exhaustion. In the story of Sinbad, however, Sinbad does not die. When the Old Man jumps on his shoulders Sinbad offers the Old Man wine and gets him drunk. The old man gets too drunk to stay on Sinbad’s shoulders and falls off.
Apparently djinns can get wasted. Who knew?
There should have been a sorcery card called Wine of Sinbad that destroys a djinn or efreet. How cool would that be?