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The Comboist Manifesto: I Have No Memory: Part 1
By Stephen Bahl
A little over a year ago, I found myself with some awkward downtime at work. To break the monotony, I’d check in on CPA stuff. I quickly tired of re-reading my own old posts, but I didn’t have large enough chunks of time to be writing the kind of articles I was used to writing for "The Comboist Manifesto." Noting the dearth of activity in Single Card Discussion, I started a series of forum posts I dubbed “Magic Memories.” I’d pick a card I remembered fondly and write posts about how I remember using it, why I thought it was cool, what applications I could think of, etc. Sometimes it would only be a few posts, other times I’d cover the entire tournament history of a card as well as my own casual usage of it. Anyway, I guess the series became a mixture of nostalgia, competitive archetype analysis, Magic theory, and tangents that interested me. It has served me well and I fully intend to continue clogging up single-card discussion with my blatherings.

In Magic Memories, I’ve stuck with cards that I actually played at some point. And there are a lot more. While looking for historical information on Fastbond, I came across an article by Stephen Menendian on the “Vintage Magic” website. For stuff like "The Comboist Manifesto" that thing is a treasure trove. The web has a great deal of information to offer about contemporary combo decks, and with a little digging it’s not too hard to learn about some combo decks from the old days, going all the way back to ProsBloom in 1997. But information on combo decks from before that is sparse. I was particularly intrigued by the descriptions of Underworld Dreams combo decks. I’ve been looking at Underworld Dreams for a future Commander deck, and I’ve been aware of the card for a long time because I had it played against me back when I was new to the game. By coincidence, the card has been cropping up in both things I’ve read and in old memories I’d pondered. But it’s not really an appropriate subject for my traditional “Magic Memories” treatment: I’ve never owned or played with the card at any time!

Often, when I post a Magic Memories thread, other CPA members chime in about their own experience with the card. There were also some mentions of not ever having used the card or of not remembering it. So I decided to write this, an article about cards that I have not used. Giving the matter only a slight amount of thought, the formula that I settled on for doing this was to go chronologically through every Magic set that introduced new cards and selecting the new card that most piqued my interest. For some sets, there were several candidates. For others, I struggled to find a card that I had no memory of using and still thought was a cool card. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at how I’ve never played with your favorite card. Or perhaps you’ll say, “I’ve never even heard of that card.” I do not know. Read on and find out.

By my count, there have been 101 different Magic releases that introduced new cards to the game. This is excluding stuff like the “preview” cards from Duel Decks (they used to have one new card in each deck that would later appear in the next expansion) and promo cards (so no Nalathni Dragon). Well, that’s a lot of sets. It also means that this is too long to be comfortable for a normal CPA article. Or maybe for much of anything? I don’t know how much you’d care to read 101 paragraphs by me about cards I haven’t used, but if you want to, now you can! Because of the length, I’ll split this whole thing up into five articles. That seems about right. Here we go...

Limited Edition

Chaos Orb: Most cards from the original core set were reprinted in Revised, and I’ve played with every interesting card in that set. The combination of my passion for Unlimited Edition, my experiences playing the Shandalar computer game, and my interest in competitive Vintage have taken care of most of the cards that didn’t make it into Revised. But Chaos Orb is unique. And for the longest time, I didn’t own one. At some point in the past couple of years, I picked one up, but I never put it in a deck or even tried to toss it onto a battlefield of cards. Some day, I’ll get my chance. Some day, I’ll be able to say, “And then I destroyed it with Chaos Orb.”

Arabian Nights

Guardian Beast: Like almost everyone else on the planet, I can’t claim to have very much experience with Magic’s oldest and rarest expansion. There are cards from this set that I’ve never so much as touched in real life. One card I don’t own, wish I’d bought, and have always been interested in is Drop of Honey. But I played with it a lot in the old Shandalar computer game, and I’ve decided that counts, so Drop of Honey is out. My next choice is a card I recently purchased, but have not actually put into a deck. Guardian Beast is strange. I have dreams of pairing it with Nevinyrral’s Disk.

Antiquities

Tawnos's Coffin: My favorite card I don’t own in this set is Candelabra of Tawnos. I’d like to get my hands on a playset, but so far I haven’t made it a priority. But I played with it in the old Shandalar computer game, as well as on Apprentice in casual games and in testing for Legacy “Spiral Tide” decks. So, as with Arabian Nights, I’ve got to go with my next choice, a card I do own but have not ever played with. Tawnos’s Coffin is one of those cards that seems like it would be a popular favorite if it had ever been printed in any newer set. One of the only ways to exile a creature and have it keep its counters.

Legends

Underworld Dreams: This set is huge, introducing more new cards than any other set in the game. While there are several that I’ve never played with, most of them are mediocre cards anyway. Considering how much I like Wheel of Fortune and Timetwister, it’s a wonder that I’ve never put Underworld Dreams into a deck. Although it was reprinted in some core sets, I’ve never owned a copy. The original Legends version looks extremely cool and I’ll be on the lookout for it now. Considering that Underworld Dreams is a Dark Ritual payload and a strong synergy with Wheel of Fortune, it’s kind of surreal that I’ve never, ever used it.

The Dark

Preacher: I don’t own a ton of cards from The Dark, but it’s not a very strong set anyway and I’ve played with most of the good cards in it. Preacher is the outstanding exception. I’ve dabbled in taking control of things ever since I first got my hands on a Revised copy of Control Magic. I wanted to try out Preacher ever since I first saw it, and that was over 20 years ago. I think, at some point, I’ve played almost every other good card that takes control of someone’s permanents. But not Preacher. That one slipped through the cracks.

Fallen Empires

Fungal Bloom: When I was new to the game, Fallen Empires was dirt-cheap. I own every card in this set. Out of the ones I’ve never played, nearly all of them are weak and overcosted. Perusing the set list, Fungal Bloom stands out as a decent and interesting card that I never actually played. I figured that if any good cards in this set had been left alone by me, it’d be something to do with thallids. And while I do remember briefly playing with some of the thallids themselves, it seems that I missed out on Fungal Bloom.

Ice Age

Stormbind: This was the first set that I actively set out to collect. I saw other people use Stormbind but never experiment with the card myself. Looking at the complete set, it seems like anything that might be better than Stormbind was something I played with, often a lot. I’m not particularly excited about the card, but it seems strong enough to play in casual settings and I played with so much of the set that nothing else I have no memory of even comes close.

Homelands

Giant Oyster: I remembered this one being discussed for the Casual Card Hall of Fame. For other sets, it might be important to distinguish between stuff that’s fun for casual play and stuff that’s overpowered. But Homelands is such a weak set that all of the good cards for competitive play are also the fun casual cards. There’s more overlap. I own every card in the set and I’ve played with all of the good ones and nearly all of the kinda-sorta good ones. Giant Oyster is an easy pick. I think I just didn’t own it back when I was putting blue Homelands cards into my casual decks. Looking back at how much some CPA member seemed to like it, I feel like I missed out.

Alliances

Ritual of the Machine: I had a hard time finding an interesting card that I hadn’t played in this set, and that’s for a set with lots of interesting cards! I guess I was all over Alliances back in the day. And I didn’t own Ritual of the Machine. Perhaps I still don’t. After all, I didn’t go out of my way to complete a set of Alliances. I thought I had almost everything. And like Preacher, it’s a “take control of something” card that I missed out on using. I probably figured it was inferior compared to blue versions of the same effect, and since I played so many blue decks back then, there was no point in bothering with this. Or maybe I just ignored it because I didn’t own it. Not sure.

Mirage

Celestial Dawn: Many years ago, I dreamed of constructing some elaborate combo deck based around this card. I never got around to it. Even today, I’m not exactly sure how I’d use it. Celestial Dawn just seems like a cool an innovative card. Practical applications? Maybe, maybe not. But I never got around to trying in the first place.

Visions

Tithe: Up to this point, I’d like to think that most of the cards I’ve selected are rather obscure. If something was popular and notorious in older Magic sets, I probably at least tried it out on Apprentice or something. So when I looked at the Visions set list, I saw Tithe and thought, “Oh, that card was totally popular back in the day and I never used it.” After all, I had Land Tax! But Tithe had a special niche in tutoring for white dual lands. It was not the engine that Land Tax was, but it was just good value as an instant, appearing in tournament decks and casual decks alike. And I’m pretty confident that it was never in any of my decks. I probably didn’t own it.

Portal

Thing from the Deep: This was my first Magic set. While I didn’t buy a ton of it, I managed to play with most of the good cards originally printed here. Most? It’s really more like all. If some Apprentice testing with Endless Cockroaches in an Aluren deck counts, then it really is all. I got the gift box thing with a book illustrating every card in the set, so that was how I saw the whole set list for Portal long before I'd ever touched most of the other sets that existed at the time. The one card I really wanted but never had was Thing from the Deep. It was a 9/9! I’d later go on to put Polar Kraken in far more decks than was wise. By today’s standards, Thing from the Deep is not really playable. Neither is Polar Kraken, for that matter. But shut up. I think I still don’t have a copy. If I did, I don’t know what I’d do with it. Probably Fling it out of spite.

Weatherlight

Bone Dancer: I don’t own as many Weatherlight cards as I do the sets released around it. I’ve always had a soft spot for its graveyard-manipulation shenanigans. A cool set that I kind of missed out on, but I did eventually play with most of the good cards, and there were a lot. One of the ones that I never used at all, might still not even own, was the set’s inductee into the Casual Card Hall of Fame. I can see why Bone Dancer won that contest. It seems like a cool card. But I’ve never used it!

Tempest

Elven Warhounds: We’re now venturing into sets that came out after I’d gotten some handle on how to play the game. Kind of. I mean, I mostly knew the rules and stuff. So I played with some of these sets when they were new and I even went back and played with them a lot more a few years later. For Tempest in particular, one of our friends from Junior High lived on the same street as Al0ysiusHWWW, and when we were in high school (in 2002 probably) Al0ysiusHWWW got him into Magic, so we had our own regular three-person playgroup within a larger circle of friends. This guy, David, had inherited unopened booster boxes of Tempest from his dad or something, so it was most of what he had to work with. We’d play each other’s decks, so I figure I got more experience than most non-drafters with the obscure cards from Tempest. Pretty sure I played with every single good common and uncommon. And the biggest standout rare I seem to have missed was Elven Warhounds. Man, this is hard. I’d actually started this article listing Winds of Rath for Tempest, but I realized that I’d played that one in Duel Decks. Pretty sure I’ve never, ever used Elven Warhounds, though. And it seems like a fun card.

Stronghold

Mogg Infestation: As with Tempest, Stronghold is a tricky one because how extensively I played the cards in the set, even the rather unremarkable ones. The biggest one I seem to have missed is Mogg Infestation. I see that CPA member "Limited" (erstwhile leader of the CPA forum Dutch Invasion, and not to be confused with Limited format gameplay in Magic) nominated it for the Casual Card Hall of Fame. Much like Tawnos’s Coffin, I think it has cool applications both used on one’s own creatures and against opponents. And I do like goblins. I now have a Goblins deck for the Canadian Highlander format. But I have never managed to get Mogg Infestation into any deck.

Portal Second Age

Talas Warrior: I didn’t play with the second Portal set nearly as much as the first one, but it seems like a weaker set overall anyway. Temporal Manipulation was in some of my old control decks before I traded the card away, so I can’t rely on the functional reprint of Time Warp and pretend that I wanted to build some deck with eight copies of Time Warp or whatever. There aren’t a lot of original cards in this set that I actually like, mechanically. The art, on the other hand, I am in love with. Fun bit of trivia for anyone reading this giant article: Lubov only illustrated cards in this one set and she is my favorite Magic artist of all time. I feel weird like I deliberately selected a very obscure artist just to be cryptic, but seriously, I just love her work. It's a shame they didn't commission her for more sets. Anyway, I looked through the set list and noticed Talas Warrior. Pirates are fun. I’d play this over Phantom Warrior if I had it. The art is cool. The flavor text makes no damn sense.

Exodus

Equilibrium: Historically, I was in the habit of describing Exodus by its powerful enchantments. It has some infamous bombs. Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare, Mind Over Matter, Pandemonium, Oath of Druids, Seismic Assault, Curiosity, Limited Resources, and Equilibrium. Well, that last one I never actually used. It seems like I would have at some point. But I didn’t. I always thought it was a cool card, but somehow I never got around to playing with it myself. The card was a bit notorious for its synergy with the blue “free” creatures in Urza’s Block, but I don’t really think it’s over-the-top. Powerful, but not enough to warp a healthy environment. Suitable, I suspect, for casual play.

Unglued

Volrath’s Motion Sensor: I own every card in this set and played with my favorites, back when the set was still sufficiently novel that people were cool with it in casual play. There are plenty of downright impractical cards in Unglued, more designed as jokes than as anything someone could actually use (Ashnod’s Coupon, Blacker Lotus, Jester’s Sombrero). My most-played cards from Unglued would definitely be the “Double” cycle and The Cheese Stands Alone. Browsing the set list, the most interesting one I never got around to using would seem to be Volrath’s Motion Sensor. It was popular with Handcuffs, but I didn’t build that deck. I did use Ow + Censorship, which was the other infamous combo from this set.

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