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.

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