Welcome back to The Wizard’s Tower! I say that to myself too as I’ve been absent from all things Magic for a while. I’ve been pretty overwhelmingly busy with so many extra responsibilities that I’ve had very little time to even think about any hobbies I have. Fortunately, things have slowed down a bit and I can finally get to this post that I’ve been trying to get to for a couple weeks. This will be a two part series only because I don’t have quite enough time to make it through writing about the whole magazine in one sitting. Fortunately, there is enough content that neither part will be too short. Part 2 isn’t far from being done so expect it sooner than later!
I recently received a package in the mail from Greg (@oldschoolmtg on Instagram) containing the first issues of The Duelist, Scrye, and InQuest. He lent them to me for some blogging material. Pretty awesome! Back in December I wrote a post on what was called The Duelist Supplement which was an issue released in between the first and second issues. That would be a good post to check out after this one if you want more Duelist reading material. I’m not sure why they called it a supplement instead of simply issue two. Anyways, let’s take a look at Duelist issue one!
1993 was a big year for Arabian themed media in the western world. Disney’s Aladdin was released as well as the first Magic expansion set Arabian Nights. Here on this Duelist front cover pretty awesome and cheesy art. Is that Aladdin’s evil twin tossing magical cobras at us? You can see from what what the cover advertises that there will probably be some pretty interesting articles. At the moment of typing right now I haven’t read any of it yet. I’ll write as I read. I think I’m most interested in reading the article that the cover titles as “Wild versus structured Magic environments.” I’m really curious to see how they defined what “wild” Magic was in 1994 – the days when regular Magic was only what we today call “Old School Magic cards.” And, in a sense, all “wild.”
First thing we have to do is look at the inside of the front cover. What in the world?? The “Have You Seen These Men?” ad is so strange. If you can’t see the smaller text below it, it reads: “If so contact your local ATFPTDP office immediately.” ATFPTDP? What? Below that in smaller text it reads: “This announcement was paid for by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Paint Thinner, and Deviant Pornography.” Okay, so it’s an acronym. Must be a joke.
Here on the first page we have a little introduction to the literature of Arabian Nights. You can zoom in and read it if you want to. It’s a bit hard to read with the psuedo Arabic font over that busy background.
On the next page we get the contents. As you can see there are quite a few pages to go through.
The picture doesn’t quite capture it, but the text on the left is a labeled as an “inaugural address from Peter Adkison”, the president of Wizards of the Coast at the time. In short, he says how excited he is about Magic, what to expect with The Duelist, and short thank you section. On the right of the contents is a similar note from Lisa Stevens, the vice president of Wizards. Her section is interesting as it encapsulates an important aspect of what we have today in Old School. She says, “For me, the fun in playing Magic: The Gathering isn’t in the winning – though I hate to lose. Instead, the fun is learning to adapt to the cards that have been dealt me.” She explains how she plays a five color deck which she enjoys more than a one or two color deck. About that she says, “no two games I have ever played with this deck have gone exactly the same way. Finding a strategy that suits the cards and the occasion is much more fun than playing with a small, predictable deck that will whip the socks off your opponent.” I like that. That’s how I feel as well which is why I often play a mono green deck. You can never be great with mono green but you can always have so much fun. There are a ton of green cards that are incredibly fun to play. Lisa ends with a great line on the nature of her five color deck: “It may not be much of a power deck, but it holds its own against all comers and, perhaps more importantly, holds my interest in this fascinating game over and over again.” She’s a true Old School player at heart.
This next section is pretty cool if you’re into history. It doesn’t have much to do with Magic but instead the actual Arabian Nights collection instead.
Here’s a short article by Richard Garfield himself. In the first section, The Philosophy of the Expansion Sets, he explains the difference between expansion sets and core sets. Something we all understand today but not so obvious back in early 1994. In The Story behind Arabian Nights Garfield mentions his biggest inspiration for the exansion: The Sandman comic issue 50 titled Ramadan. After that, he gives some clarification on a few confusing cards.
We then go into a pretty big interview with Garfield. I’ll post each page and let you read through it.
Super interesting interview. Up next we have an article called “Five Player Magic” which is about, you guessed it, multiplayer Magic!
Next up is the best part of the whole magazine. The articled titled “Circles of Protection: How to use them, how to beat them.” Let’s see how to use them!
When I say this is the best section of the whole magazine I mean that it’s probably the funniest part. Since the publication of this issue the MTG community has worked out what cards are most effective and those which are not. Read through the article and you’ll see that back in 1994, reading this would probably be pretty convincing on the efficacy of the Circle of Protection cards. An interesting suggestion towards the end reads, “If you put three Circles of Protection in your deck, the second and third Circles will be useless cards, or 5% of your deck. This investment often ensures, though, that your opponent will be sitting with a deck in which 50% of the cards are useless.” So basically, if you have 3 Circles in your deck your opponent will only be able to use half of his or her deck. Funny though because while that may be true if you draw the one or two Circles needed for that early on, and your opponent just happens to have the right colors corresponding to the colors of your Circles, the chances of that happening are extremely slim. So it’s not as simple as 5% of your deck being useless and 50% of your opponent’s decks being useless. But hey, the early days were strange. And I’m glad they were.
Now we have suggestions on how to play against Circles of Protection.
Next up is a pretty long interview with Anson Maddocks. If he didn’t go the direction of fantasy art he could totally have been a 90s teen movie cool guy. I’m just about at the limit of free time I have for today but I’ll leave you with this interview.