Saturday, September 25, 2021

The four casting cost Legends rares

I hadn't noticed this before, but I dawned on me when I got 3 All hallow's eves at the latest Camel Trophy. Somehow, the 4CC Legends rares have been cards that I've always had a fascination for. They just do such interesting things. And even though I also was attracted to rare things like a mox or a black lotus, they never quite had the same mystical quality for me that Legends rares had, so I thought I would write my own little tribute to the 4cc Legends rares that have been a big part of my magic life over the years. 

First off, the first one that grabbed my fascination: 

Just to remind you, when I started playing in the Netherlands in 1994, there were very few legends cards that you could buy. There were almost no stores that had boosters older than Fallen Empires in stock. 

Living plane grabbed my attention because the first guy to teach about playing more seriously had a deck with this card. At first I didn't really see it, because how would you win with a deck with no creatures? But when I played against it and then saw my "Magic Sensei" Marc played it against other people on a gaming convention, it struck a chord in me. In the earlier versions, he would play a red/white/green version with some ice storms and stone rains, and then he would turn bolts and swords to plowshares into land destruction spells as well. A later version of this deck (just after ice age came out) utilized Fiery justice and Stormbind to pretty much lock an opponent out of the game. When he wasn't destroying lands, he would attack with his lands, doing a lot of damage so the deck was also pretty quick. After I watched him play an afternoon on a gaming convention (he played for ante) and took home a big pile of cards back to the hotel, even winning against a fully powered U/W control deck, I knew I wanted to play a version of this deck myself. But how on earth would I find 4 living planes? That was pretty hard, but by the time I had 3, I could play a prett y solid version of this deck, and it pretty consistently beat all the players in my local playgroup over and over again. 

There was however, a problem, which would lead me to the next Legends rare in my career. There was someone who would put up a pretty good fight against my Living plane deck, which was painfully obvious when he in one of the games played mox pearl, mox sapphire, balance. And he then crushed my because I had no way to come back from that with no lands. And he would do that some more in our casual games, which lead me to think about how I would be able to play land destruction and make it impossible for someone to break out of that. That's when I first spotted the next 4cc rare that I would go back to over and over again in the next years (even though others came by that I built decks with):

Nether void was one of those cards that I thought would solve my problem. And when it did, it did so in spectacular fashion, leaving my opponents squirming because there was absolutely no way to power your way out of this. I played this card on some tournaments as well, where in one game I had to point out to my opponent that playing 3 dark rituals would not really work here, because they also had a cost of 4 mana each. I've tried several versions of decks with land destruction in different color combinations. And even though some of them were pretty good (the green/black version with sinkhole/ice storm and a couple of Juzam djinns did pretty well. In retrospect, I also should have added Erhnam Djinn, but I didn't think of that at the time. It was also the only deck in which I successfully used Oath of Lim-Dul before the Mirage block came out. Then I also played a couple of versions with winter orb and time elemental before I went on to the next 4cc rare, because I kept being run over by weenies with this land destruction deck. I was by then also more interested about winning in other ways than destroying my opponents' lands. Which lead to my first deck with: 

It took me a while to get a hold of this card. One of my friends had one, and someone in the local gameshop had one, but those were the only ones I knew off and there was no functioning internet that would make it easy for me to get one with a few clicks. This was also the first time I heard about something called a Weissman deck. Even though the decklist was almost complete on some message boards, I didn't know were to look. I did know moat was in that deck, so I had to have one. Or two, maybe, as the Weissman deck was rumored to have 2. It took quite a lot of trading and convincing before I finally got my hands on my first one. And the first time it was in play, it felt amazing. My opponents creatures would just stand there, useless. This was the first time I started to understand the concept of card advantage, the usefulness of stopping multiple cards with just one. It was also the time when finding information about magic cards became a bit easier because the Duelist and Inquest magazines were becoming available in the Netherlands. I think this was somewhere in the spring of 1995 but it could have been a bit later. This was also when I first started playing tournaments more regularly and noticed that decks with a lot of quick flying creatures would get in the way of my control deck with moats and usually some combination of flying creatures, usually Serra Angels, because they were just the best fit. I wanted something to get rid of that, and turned to another 4cc rare to fix my problem. 

The Abyss did wonders for my deck. I would play with Moat/Abyss combinations main deck, usually 1 or 2 moats and 1 Abyss main deck (for a time, one is all I had because there simply weren't any more available in the stores I traded and bought cards. Abyss was also an expensive card over here at the time, not much less than a very played mox. A very played mox would set you back about 120 guilders at the time, while an The Abyss was about 80, just to get some idea of how valuable the card was at the time. This was the time I was buying my expensive cards (funny if you think about how much they cost now..) with the money from my newspaper job and other assorted jobs that didn't pay well. Fortunately I didn't drink or smoke, so I could spend all my money on cardboard). I had to work about 6 evenings to be able to buy an Abyss, but it was very much worth it. My deck with Moat/Abyss and Tetravus for a kill card was amazing in several tournaments. I had to borrow the Tetravus from my good friend Rene, because I didn't have one. I've had a couple of tournaments were I had 7 swiss rounds and win 6 of the matches 2-0 and 1 2-1. I thought it was amazing and even though other cards were also important in my wins, nothing beat seeing both Moat and Abyss lying next to each other on the table. 

Winning is nice, but it gets a bit old after a while and then I started looking for other more interesting (and harder) ways to win games. I noticed after a while that I also didn't need winning as much as when I had just started playing to actually enjoy the game of Magic. For a while, my good friend Rene and I thought about breaking land equilibrium. He had managed to get a hold of a couple of English versions, and like most of the time with Legends rares in 1996, this meant he had all of the known versions in the region. I ended up trading 3 Italian ones over the course of several months and I still have them. I haven't played as much with them as I wanted though and plan to make an OS deck with them somewhere in the near future. 

Rene was more insistent on breaking the card and he got his wish just after Urza's saga came out. He built his vintage deck with 1 (yes, one) land in it. A single Tolarian academy. The rest of the deck was filled with mana artifacts and he would just drop a land Equilibrium somewhere in the first couple of turns, then play balance and his opponents would usually just sit there for a couple turns and then scoop. Especially when he also played his Nether Void, a card Rene had started to appreciate after seeing me play with it. I thought the deck was hilarious. And it was also pretty good, Rene ended second on a pretty competitive vintage (it was called Type 1 then) tournament with it. I still think it was amazing idea and he had tuned it remarkably. Unfortunately, soon after that tournament pretty much all mana artifacts became restricted in Type 1 and that sort of destroyed the effectiveness of this idea. To this day, Rene's deck idea makes me smile because he took one of those weird legends cards, and then just tried and tuned around it until it worked. And when it did, it was so much more awesome than just beating your opponents with Serra Angels and Hypnotic Specters :) 

In the meantime, I was flipping through my cards and found another creature that caught my fancy and I started building around this guy, another 4cc Legends card:

It was mainly hell's caretaker and Tetravusses, but I had missed how great Triskelion would have been in that deck, so I cannot claim to have invented something like The Machine by myself at the time. It did contain 4 white boarder Tetravus and some other big creatures (like colossus of Sardia) that I would put in play after I had ditched them with Jalum Tome and a single Bazaar of Baghdad. I thought that card was crap ( I was infected with the card advantage is everything idea) but thought it was funny to play in a deck like this. It was pretty good in the concept, but I didn't want to admit it. The thing was a joke to me. When the deck worked, it was great. I would just sit there and make more and more creatures. Usually though, it didn't work that well, because the Hell's caretaker had this big bulls eye on it's forehead, so it would leave play before it could do anything. Since most of my opponents were playing with white and Swords to plowshares was reprinted in pretty much all the sets, this deck lost more than it won. But when it did... I would just have this great big grin on my face that would last the rest of my day. So I was very happy to complete my playset of Legends Hell's caretakers last year, and now I sometimes play with 4 AQ Tetravus and 4 LG Hell's caretaker. And it feels wonderful when it does work, it hasn't lost that special feeling when you get to activate this weird 4cc 1/1 guy. 

The next 4 casting cost Legends rare I only started to appreciate after I had been playing OS with Swedish Rules for a while. In fact, the 4 copies of it I own have been in my trading binder for the longest part of the time I've had them. I played with them a couple of times after I had found my 4th one (For about a year I had only 3 copies without being able to find a 4th one) and then sort of lost interest in the gimmicky feel of dropping big creatures. Eureka had increased my appreciation of Scaled Wurm from Ice Age, though :) 

So when I quit playing in 1999, the Eureka's had been in my trading binder for more than a year, and then they stayed there for 5 years before I invented the Ancient format after 8th edition came out. But there were so many other decks for me to play in Ancient that they never came out. For a while, we had been mixing Ancient and the French version of OS in Eindhoven and I thought about playing with them again, but didn't. I almost traded them away for unlimited dual lands (i didn't have more than 7 of those at the time, and Swedish legal tournaments had just started to become a big thing in our country at the time) but the trader offered me so little for them ( I think it was like 30% under the lowest going market value) while pricing his UL duals about 25% over market value that it felt like being ripped off. I was so offended I took them out of my binder then and there and decided to just keep them and make a deck with them. And I'm glad I did! I have played several versions of Eureka and it is sooo much fun. I have been tuning the deck some, but my most favourite version is the one I played in a Dutch OS tournament (I think it was in one of the giant tournaments by Joep Meddens) in which I used a lot multi-color Legends (next to a shivan and a mahamoti djinn) to kill my opponent with after I could pull of a Eureka. One of my matches is on the Timmy Talks channel: Eureka vs Counterburn. I still love this deck and love playing it. It's obviously not the best deck, but the Eureka has definitely found a place in my MTG-heart. There's not a lot than can beat the feeling of attacking with a couple of gold legends with Concordant Crossroads in play after your opponent taps out and you get to play a Eureka. 

Next up are some other 4cc Legends cards I also like a lot, though I've played with them a lot less: 

Arboria is one of those cards that you just keep trying with. I've even tried this card with stuff like rod of ruin, but obviously the best way to go about it is Millstone/Island sanctuary (or combine it with Moat, one of the other favorites). I've also tried with Prodigal sorcerers. These decks usually don't perform as well as I would like. I think in one tournament I lost all of my matches with an Arboria Variant. I had fun, don't get me wrong, but it's just not a very good card :)

Next also a card that I haven't played much with, mostly because my experiences with it in a bit more competitive environments is so ghastly: 

I've played master of the hunt in several decks with a lot of green obviously, and tried with versions where the one copy I have (I just had to have one, even though I didn't really understand at the time why I traded for it. Now I know: it's a 4cc Legends rare, and therefore it does something weird with my brain :)) replaced a Erhnam Djinn in an armageddon deck. I would make a couple tokes and play armageddon, or use the tokens to block, or stuff like that. But it would almost always suck. Badly. Maybe I just haven't found the right deck for it. 

The next one I have wanted ever since I first saw one, but it would take about 20 years before I finally would get my hands on it. I've noted in one of my earlier posts that I was happy to acquire this one during the corona pandemic, I suppose I wanted to get one to sooth my bad feelings about being in a lockdown. 

I haven't played with it yet, but it makes me happy to just look at it. I'm sure that when I'm able to tap it (maybe in an OS brawl or something) I will be smiling the entire evening. 

The next one I also wanted, even though I decided to never buy it. It has just such amazing art, and the idea behind it, a Pixy Queen, is just so amazing. You just start making stories in your head looking at the card. 

But the price was ridiculous, so I was telling myself I wouldn't spend $100 on a card that does nothing and is obviously worse than Master of the Hunt. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to. Peter has had one for years now, and decided to give me the card as a birthday present and for all the times I gave him a ride to OS tournaments. Now it sits happily in my binder with playing cards and I enjoy looking at it every time I get to the page where it sits next to master of the hunt :) 

There was one 4cc Legends rare that also caught my fancy after I had discovered how much fun the Eureka deck is and how enjoyable it was to play that deck, and this was a card with some of the coolest artwork in Legends, I think: All Hallow's eve. Unfortunately, by the time I decided I would like to play it, the price had already gone into the ridiculous territory. So when I could buy 3 italian ones for a good price (well, by today's standards I suppose) from one of the OS regulars from Belgium, I decided it was now or never. 

I shelled out the cash and just built my first couple of decks with it. And I enjoy the card thoroughly, even though I'm missing some cards to make an optimal build (like more Bazaars of Baghdad. And that is definitely not going to happen. Jalum Tome and mind bomb work also). I'm currently in my 4th build in which I also play Hell's caretaker and even though the deck is obviously not as good as a Moat/Abyss control deck, I do have a lot of fun playing it. And the art, it's just wonderful. It gives me just as amazing a feeling as the other 4cc rares. I mean: scream counters, what's not to like? It feels different than cards from later sets. Legendary. Wondrous. Amazing. Different than all the other card mechanics, with weird and wonderful artwork. I love the 4cc Legends rares. Unfortunately I don't have all of them, but every time I see one, it feels that bit extra special and adds something to OS games that already are great by themselves. 

Thanks for reading, thanks to all of the OS community. I would have quit Magic a long time ago if it weren't for you guys. Thanks again and see you at a tournament soon! 

Honorable mentions:

There are some cards that unfortunately don't have the right casting cost for this piece, but I also like playing with because they have the same cool Legends feel as the others.  

I've played with both (the serpent generator even in an Abyss only version of my control deck without moat, and that has also won me a tournament back in the day) and the Sword of the ages in a deck with fatties where it could function as sort of a time walk. It would just be in play, you would attack with 2 big creatures, than sack the sword and win. I know. Both of them are not that good, but they're special to me in a way. I suppose the whole Legends set is.