Hey everyone! It’s been pretty quiet here for a while but not anymore today! We have an awesome guest post by Dean Costakis about playing Magic in the early days and how he stumbled upon Old School after a dream. Really awesome story. Dean plays with the Magical Hacks group in the South Carolina area.
TWENTY-THREE YEARS IN THE MAKING
Few combined words in the English language evoke such powerful imagery as “Bayou Lightning” does for me. When I close my eyes, I perfectly envision the moment I gazed upon what was, at the time, the most glorious deck recipe I had ever seen unassumingly nestled opposite the “Veggie Deck” on page twenty-three in the May 1995 issue of Inquest Magazine. Up to this point, Revised comprised the entirety of my collection and the totality of what I had played against. As is the case for many, in May of 1995, life beyond Revised and Fallen Empires was like the surface of Mars – indirectly observed. A whisper on the wind. A fragile recollection of what someone’s cousin’s friend had. So, as my eyes scanned the Bayou Lightning build list, I noticed there were many cards I had, but so many I did not. Elves of Deep Shadow. Berserk. Juzám Djinn. Island of Wak-Wak. I had no idea what any of these cards did but had immediately determined that each was capable of unleashing the furies of hell upon my opponents more sharply than Uncle Istvan’s axe. I needed every single one of these cards and I needed them yesterday.
Few facts of life are more brutal upon a fourteen-year-old’s wanton desires than the law of supply and demand. After flipping to the price guide in the back of the magazine to examine what each of these cards actually did, I received a sobering slap in the face by the number firmly positioned next to Juzám Djinn. Forty dollars! After running a few mathematical calculations and double-checking my work, I determined this was equal to mowing eight lawns – a goal absolutely achievable over the course of a summer. However, an important question that I had not yet thought to ask myself was: where in the hell do I buy this card?
For the better part of two years, Saturday mornings began the same way – my friend Erek and I would ride our bikes to our local game shop for the weekly Magic tournament. Whereas he would slap down the five-dollar tournament entry fee, I wanted to spend the morning on “the hunt”. Each week, I would wander up to the glass case to inspect the singles. No Juzám. Damn. After each fruitless attempt, I spoke with fellow players, asking to survey their binders with high hopes of finding a Juzám Djinn and other elusive components of the Bayou Lightning deck. In retrospect, this activity is how I caught my first glimpse of many of the cards outside of the Revised Edition. After many months of heartbreak over my inability to procure even a singular card, the soul-crushing reality that I needed even more cards in addition to the single Juzám spelt the demise of my mission to piece together this deck. Though I moved on and slowly started to acquire other powerful cards that I would haphazardly shove into a deck for the “wow factor” – such as Mirror Universe and a Beta Mox Jet [for which I remarkably traded a Limited Edition U.S.S. Enterprise from the Star Trek CCG, but then sold to my friend Erek for one hundred dollars when I quit a few years later, which he ultimately lost] – I never forgot about the Bayou Lightning deck and it served as the beacon which, unbeknownst to me, would lead me [back] to Old School some twenty-one years later.
IT’S LIKE I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU ANYMORE
Old School has been in my blood since before it had a name. Having purchased my first Revised starter deck in Summer 1994, it and every other set that was out by the end of the year were all I ever considered to be “real” Magic. I wanted no part of 4th Edition and the text gore that was the copyright line. Ice Age featuring its cartoony images such as Norritt was even worse, I had decided. The more sets released featuring new art and borders for which I had an overwhelming distaste, the stronger my resolve to avoid them and stick with the “old cards”. Armed with a stack of blue and red Revised cards, I valiantly attempted to fend off an onslaught of new spells and creatures from Ice Age and Homelands against which I simply could not compete. Summarily defeated [repeatedly], I accepted that Magic as I knew and loved it was dead and, over the course of late 1996 and early 1997, I begrudgingly sold my modest collection.
HOW I GOT HERE I HAVEN’T A CLUE
One morning in April of 2016, the cries of my one-year-old daughter woke me from a dream I was having about Magic. I do not recall the details of the dream, but it struck me as odd considering I had not played or thought about the game for a decade and had not owned a single Magic card in neigh on twenty years. However, like a hot brand, the dream left a mark in the shape of the Magic logo squarely on my prefrontal cortex. At that exact moment, I wanted “old” cards in my possession to reforge my connection to a significant component of my youth. Though I thought about how great it would be to play a game of Magic the way I remembered it, I knew there was only one person on the planet with whom that would ever happen – Erek – whom, after several attempts to convince him otherwise, was content to leave Magic in the past.
I imagined myself as the old man on the front porch, dreaming of days gone by as I sit in my rocking chair – the world around me changing into something unrecognizable. I have been known to make instinctual [read: irrational] decisions when it comes to recapturing elements of my youth. One thing I should mention – I place immense value on past events as I feel they helped shape the course of my life by guiding me to where I am today, and I see no harm in retaining or recapturing a few small artifacts from my youth to revisit that journey. After several days of grappling with my dream, I sat down at my computer to search through card lots on eBay. I stumbled upon a three-thousand card lot which included Unlimited, Revised, Arabian Nights, Legends, Antiquities and the Dark, placed a bid, and subsequently won. Upon receiving the card lot, I quickly took inventory of what I had and searched the Internet for a price guide, ignorant to the fact there was a thriving Old School community waiting to be discovered. During my inventory, I distinctly recall running a search for “old Magic decks from 1993 and 1994” and seeing “Old School Blog – remember when it was simply called Magic?” Click! The next several hours washed away as I was enveloped in a sea of sweet, nostalgic bliss. It might seem an odd comparison but discovering the Old School community was akin to receiving a long-awaited diagnosis to an illness I had for most of my life. I was relieved and thrilled to learn there were many people in my same situation not just celebrating, but playing an ancient format frozen in time. After the initial excitement subsided, memories of the Bayou Lightning decklist immediately resurfaced. I scoured the Internet for hours in a desperate attempt to locate “my” deck until, finally, I stumbled upon a post on Reddit which linked to an archived copy of Inquest Issue #1. Steeped in disbelief, my eyes gazed upon a digital version of a magazine I hadn’t seen in twenty-one years. I knew the Bayou Lightning decklist was waiting for me on page twenty-three. Click. Click. Click…
Being an adult with an income – and access to the Internet – has its benefits. After all this time, I was able to methodically buy the components of the Bayou Lightning deck over the course of roughly three months. I hesitated slightly when staring at the three-hundred and twenty-five-dollar price tag on a Juzám but was unabashedly overcome by the notion that “my time” had finally arrived – the first of countless justifications. My order was now processing.
By the time I had amassed all components of the deck, I had discovered Skype Magic. After getting several games under the belt, it occurred to me how natural it felt to play again. In a cruel twist of fate, it also occurred to me how awful the deck was! Not once during the span of twenty-one years did I think the Bayou Lightning deck would be anything short of deadly. I mean, why would I? It was published in a “major” magazine! Believe me when I say this deck would have lost to an army of Kobolds with no Taskmaster. Fortunately, through Skype play, I met some incredible people whose passion for the game ran as deep as mine. In the more-than-two-years since my Old School “rebirth”, the Bayou Lightning deck has undergone a collaborative renovation. It has become a formidable foe and even took runner-up in a regional tournament of twenty-two players. At some point during the last year, the black-bordered bug bit hard. I decided to cash in on the value that my two-year-old pile of cards had accrued and ventured into the morass of Beta acquisition, which is where I find myself at present. With seven white-bordered cards remaining, I am closing in on the end of a twenty-three-year journey towards making the Bayou Lightning deck my own.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Each of us is living out a shared childhood dream: “I cannot wait until I am an adult and can buy the cards I want!” I used to think that more times than I can count. I could have never anticipated that it would actually happen, or just how much it would mean when it did. During a phase in our lives when free-time is preciously limited, the Old School hobby has created an opportunity to hit the pause button and harken back to a simpler time with fewer responsibilities and more face-to-face social networking. To this day, the literal texture and figurative flavor of each card still has the ability to reconnect me with the past on-demand. I am forever grateful to be a part of the Old School community and am excited for the future of a format steeped in the past.
Photos by: My sweet wife whom lovingly tolerates my obsession