Monday, March 26, 2007

Cycle 2: Ancestral Recall, Dark Ritual, Giant Growth, Healing Salve, Lightning Bolt

Okay, last time I promised to write about a lesser-known cycle from the original set (Alpha, Beta and Unlimited editions) that included the card from the "Power 9" called Ancestral Recall. Although the cards themselves are all very well known, the fact that they are a cycle is somewhat less well know, as their relationship is not necessarily obvious at first.

Here's a photo of the Unlimited Edition versions of the five cards in this cycle (a compilation of five photos from actual cards I have, or have had, in my Store):

And here's a description of the five cards. See if you can identify what they have in common (there's three answers to this question).

Ancestral Recall: Instant; target player draws 3 cards; casting cost U.
Dark Ritual: Instant; add 3 Black mana to your mana pool; casting cost B.
Giant Growth: Instant; target Creature gains +3/+3 until the end of the turn; casting cost G.
Healing Salve: Instant; gain 3 life, or prevent up to 3 damage from being dealt; casting cost W.
Lightning Bolt: Instant that deals 3 damage to target Creature or player; casting cost R.

Do you have it yet? Here they are...All five cards are Instants (actually Dark Ritual was originally an "Interrupt" but that term was done away with awhile back, and so all older versions have errata to make them Instants). All five cost a single mana of their given color. And all five have the number 3 in them.

Yep, the original thinking for this cycle was "let's have a set of spells that all cost one colored mana and do something typical of the color involving the number 3." So, Lightning Bolt, from the chaotic Red domain, deals 3 damage, while Healing Salve, from the orderly White domain heals 3 damage. And so on.

Ancestral Recall was deemed way too powerful. In a game where cards represent Spells, and casting Spells is how you win, being able to draw three cards for a measly one Blue mana was just a giant boost. At first they thought they'd take care of that by making it a Rare card while the others were all commons. But, finally, reason took over, and the card was dropped from the set entirely after Unlimited Edition. There have been variations on this card throughout the history of the game. For example: Brainstorm in Ice Age allows you to draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library (for U); Ambition's Cost in 8th Edition, a Black card that allows you to draw three cards, but you lose three life (for a casting cost of 3B). The closest is the new card from Time Spiral called Ancestral Vision - a card that, for U, is Suspended for 4 turns (it's removed from the game for that period, then takes effect after 4 turns have passed) then allows you to draw three cards. Ancestral Vision is, essentially, a time delayed Ancestral Recall.

Lightning Bolt was also eventually deemed too powerful, but it survived until the 4th Edition. The closest you'll see now is Shock, a common card first introduced in Stronghold, and added to the core set in 6th Edition, that deals 2 damage for R.

Dark Ritual has been reprinted many times. For a long time, it would get remade as a common card every time a new major set came out (one with its own basic lands). So there was a Dark Ritual in Ice Age, in Mirage, in Urza's Saga and in Mercadian Masques. It made it through 5th Edition before being dropped from the core set. One important change that got made to this card after the Alpha/Beta/Unlimited days is that the "add 3 black mana" got redone as "add BBB" - using three copies of the symbol for Black mana. Why? Because Sleight of Mind and similar cards allow the caster to change all occurrences of a color word in a Spell, resulting in people casting Dark Ritual and then changing (or having changed by an opponent) the color of the mana produced by Dark Ritual. But Sleight of Mind does not affect mana symbols, so that's no longer a problem.

Healing Salve has also seen many incarnations. It survived all the way through 8th Edition (the current 9th Edition is the only core set to not have it). It also had a version in Mirage and Urza's Saga. It has also been rewritten. The newest text reads "Choose one - target player gains 3 life; or prevent the next 3 damage that would be dealt to target Creature or player this turn." Actually, that first bit is a significant change from the very first version, that would only give the caster 3 life, not "target player."

Giant Growth is the only one of this cycle to survive all the way to 9th Edition. It made an appearance in Ice Age as well (joining the aforementioned Dark Ritual and Healing Salve). It has also inspired similar cards, like Monstrous Growth (a Sorcery that would give target Creature +4/+4 until the end of the turn for 1G).

Okay, that's all for now - next time I'll take a look at another cycle that I've discovered recently in the Scourge Expansion that I like.

And, finally, a Store update for those of you who have been missing them: Lot 6 is FINISHED! Yes, that's right, the over 6000 cards I bought way back in November have all finally been put up for sale. Most are in the new store at but some made it into the eBay store. Lot 7 is also all up finally. One of the coolest cards there was a Foil Llanowar Elves from 7th Edition. And A large chunk of Lot 8 is right now up for auction, including an unopened pack of Revised Edition among other goodies. Also up for auction right now is a copy of Captain America #25, the issue you may have heard news reports about that features the (apparent?) assassination of the Red, White and Blue clad hero.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire

One of my favorite aspects of the game of Magic are the "cycles" that the designers build into the game. A "cycle" is a set of 5 cards that are are related to each other in some way, one in each of the five colors of Magic (White, Green, Red, Black and Blue). My current plan is to make my next several posts highlight some of these cycles, because I find them interesting - and hopeflly you will as well.

Arguably the most famous cycle was introduced in the very first incarnation of the game (the Alpha Edition). Individually they are the Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby and Mox Sapphire. Collectively they are referred to as the Moxes, or Moxen if the speaker is feeling clever.

Note: the photo is a montage of four actual card photos from my Store, plus one
unabashedly borrowed from - can you guess which one?

Each mox is an Artifact with a casting cost of zero - meaning that it costs nothing to put it into play. Each can then be tapped to add one mana of a specific color (Red for the Ruby, White for the Pearl, Green for the Emerald, Blue for the Sapphire and Black for the Jet) to your mana pool. Normally mana comes from Lands that you put into play, but you're generally limited to placing one Land per turn. Since mana is what's used to cast the spells in the game, the Moxen are a great way to get cheap (zero casting cost, remember) and fast mana to start casting bigger spells faster.

The Moxen are five of what are known as the "Power 9" (the other four being Timetwister, Time Walk, Ancestral Recall and the grand-daddy of them all, the Black Lotus). These are the 9 most sought-after cards in the game. They were all deemed too powerful, and were taken out of the game after only three editions (Alpha, Beta and Unlimited), and have not been reprinted since. Since those Editions were only printed in English, and had limited print runs (still early in the existence of Magic), and these were all Rare cards even then, they are EXTREMELY rare now, and sell for hundreds of dollars apiece. Unfortunately I don't have any available right at the moment - although Lot 4 had one each of four of the Moxen from Unlimited as well as a Mox Pearl from Beta. So I have had the privilege of dealing with them before.

Ancestral Recall, another of the Power 9, is itself also part of a cycle that I will talk about next time. Although the five cards in the cycle are pretty well known, the fact that they make a cycle is less so - the relationship among them is rather subtle in comparison to most cycles.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MtG: Pithing Needle - Saviors of Kamigawa Rare Mint Magic Card

One of the cards I got in Lot 8 (see previous post) was a rare card from the Saviors of Kamigawa set called the Pithing Needle. This was a card that I hadn't heard of before (remember I haven't really played Magic since 1997 or so), and so was pleasantly surprised when I went to list it in the store and discovered that its quite the hot property!

Here's the card's description, from my listing:

Pithing Needle: Artifact; as Pithing Needle comes into play, name a card; activated Abilities of the named card can't be played unless they're mana abilities; casting cost 1.

This is a nasty little card that can be used to effectively shut down an entire opponent's deck if it depends on their using a specific card's ability. At the very least it's useful for preventing that blasted Prodigal Sorcerer from pinging you to death one life point at a time! I've done a little research into the card, and it was hot right from the start - people were paying upwards of $20 for the thing when the set first came out back in the middle of 2005. Some predicted that the card would turn out to be overrated, and that the price would drop into a more reasonable range later.

Well, two years later, and even with Saviors no longer being the fresh set on the block, Pithing Needle continues to sell for anywhere from $15-$25 (as I write this, the cheapest in a Store on eBay is $22.99). I've got mine, a brand new, Minty fresh-from-the-pack card, up for $24, right in the middle of the pack, price-wise.

I should mention if you're looking for common cards from Saviors of Kamigawa, you can find them at my online store - just do a search for "Saviors" and you'll see all the cards available.

Busy at The Sundry

Things have been extremely busy of late around here, but I figure as I'm now on Spring Break I don't have too much excuse for not at least getting a Blog entry up.

Since last I wrote, I've added hundreds (if not thousands) of cards to - despite the fact that I have, to date, had exactly one customer. To address this issue, I plan on starting some more marketing, to include some Blog entries aimed at drawing people in. Look for some product highlights in the days/weeks to come. Hopefully they will be educational/interesting as well as blatant attempts at getting hits off of search engines :-)

Also new has been the recent acquisition of a LOT of new cards. While Lot 6 is still a work in progress, Lot 7, Lot 8 and Lot 9 have been acquired. Lot 7 was actually several purchases from several different sources, but all had one thing in common. They all consisted of unopened, factory-sealed booster packs of Magic cards. This has two major advantages for me as a store-keep. First of all, I know they're going to be in great shape. Unless major trauma happened to the pack itself, I don't have to worry about scratches or whitening on the cards from play, or from just being handled a great deal. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), I am guaranteed to get a "normal" distribution of Rare and Uncommon cards. For the last several years, a typical booster pack contains 11 common cards (10 + a basic land card for the Core Set packs), 3 uncommon cards and 1 rare. Randomly inserted in these packs are "premium" cards, more commonly called "foil" cards due to their shiny metallic highlights. These are augmented versions of normal cards in the set, and have odds of appearing in a pack ranging from 1 in 70 to 1 to 100 or so.

So, when I opened these packs, I got all sorts of goodies, including lots of foil cards, including some foil rares - the rarest of the beasts, as it were. These unopened packs included cards from the Core Sets of 7th Edition, 8th Edition, and 9th Edition, as well as the expansions Nemesis, Legions, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, Time Spiral, and Planar Chaos (the latter of which was just released in February, so they were brand new). Some of the cards I got in there sell on eBay for over $10 apiece (a few over $20), so if/when they sell, they should turn a handsome profit.

Lot 9 I am a little less pleased with - and I've only myself to blame. For some reason I got into a bit of a bidding frenzy for a while, and bid on this auction that in retrospect I probably shouldn't have. It included an unopened booster pack from every expansion from The Dark through Coldsnap, as well as every Core Set from Revised through 9th Edition, and also some unopened pre-constructed decks (decks consisting of 60-75 cards that are of a known distribution, not random - you can open the box and begin playing with the deck as is, without needing anything else). 59 items total (48 booster packs and 11 decks). Now, a Revised Edition unopened booster pack goes for around $20, as does a pack of The Dark. And the Urza's Saga, Urza's Legacy and Urza's Destiny packs all go for around $10. But most of the others go for, if you're lucky, around $5. I paid $290 + shipping for the whole batch. So, in theory, if I were to get $5 for each of these 59 items, I would come close to breaking even. I opened the packs that were valued under $5 hoping for great cards that would bring in more individually than as an unopened pack, and the higher valued ones I'll try to auction or sell unopened. Hopefully I'll not lose money on this one.

Finally, Lot 10 was from a wonderful guy in Louisiana who was selling a lot of 4 copies of each common card (except one) in the Unhinged set (a joke set like Unglued that I have mentioned in a previous post). I had not owned any Unhinged cards before, so this was a perfect way to get my feet wet, as it were.

As of about an hour ago I paid for what I promise will be the last of the new inventory for a while (with one possible exception I'm not ready to talk about as yet, suffice to say it may be as good as Lot 4 was). I haven't decided whether to lump these in with Lot 7, or dub them Lot 11. They are a whole bunch of brand new cards from a guy who, as far as I can tell, opened up several boxes of assorted booster packs, took out the cards he wanted (or could bring in a good price individually) and sold the rest as one big lot. So I won 444 common cards, 127 uncommon cards and 31 rare cards from the Mercadian Masques expansion, as well as 27 Stronghold rares and 20 Tempest rares. These are, reportedly, in fresh-out-of-the-pack, unplayed, mint condition - exactly what I would have gotten had I bought the booster packs myself. But these were a lot cheaper than buying the boosters would have been.

WHEW! Things just keep on hopping! Keep your fingers crossed for me, and hope that more traffic comes to my two stores ( for most of my common cards, and Don's Magic and Sundry at eBay for uncommons and rares, and a few commons). Subtle how I get those links in there, huh?