MTGS Mini #4: The Allure of Blowing Things Up

MTGS Mini is the format we'll be relying on for the next two weeks. People don't like to write much during the holidays, and as a result sites like and... well... ours end up with less material for the front page. However, instead of giving you two weeks of MTGS Classics, you'll see two weeks of MTGS Mini, a far more easygoing format. So sit back and relax while we relax... our standards. If this isn't your thing, take a break and we'll see you in January! Smile

The Allure of Blowing Things Up
by Tom Fowler

It was 1993. My friends and I were in college, with most of them ending up at a different school than I did. (Free life lesson: it helps to know what you want to major in before you actualy go to college. Had I chosen my eventual major initially, instead of wasting time with another one, I would have gone to the same school they did.) We still got together when we could, but the D&D games were getting less frequent.

Then my friend Anthony told me about this card game he’d been playing. “It’s like D&D,” he said, “except it’s all on cards.” I thought that sounded like the most rubbish idea I’d ever heard. The appeal of playing D&D (and any other role-playing game) was elevating your character beyond the two-dimensional paper upon which he was scrawled. Why would I want to do something that was the opposite of what made D&D such a good game?

He insisted on bringing his cards over to show me, and so he did. He brought two decks with him: one was White and Green; the other was Black and Red. Remember, this was 1993, so both decks were at least 120 cards and housed most of his good spells of the appropriate colors, plus some awful cards that seemed good at the time. I started out with the W/G deck as he explained the game to me. I also read through the Unlimited Edition rulebook (with Bog Wraith on the cover), which took all of about three minutes.

We played a few games, and I was not having a good time. The W/G deck didn’t really do anything proactive. I could play Fog when he would attack with his Shivan Dragon. I could play Healing Salve when he would toss a Lightning Bolt at my face. And if I were particularly lucky, I could draw a Circle of Protection for Red or Black and really put the screws to him. None of it felt like I was actually doing anything, though. Sensing my lack of interest, Anthony suggested we switch decks.

Suddenly, I was doing things, and the game was interesting. That’s a nice land you have there – Sinkhole it. Wow, a land that makes two colors – have a Stone Rain. Yeah, that White Knight might be a problem – until this Lightning Bolt blasts him back into the Sissy World whence he came. This was a lot better; I was doing things. He would play things and I would smash them. He would play wussy healing spells, and I would cast Fireball. He was putting Elves into play and I was summoning demons.

In the span of a single game, Magic went from rubbish to a lot of fun.

And it was all because I got to blow things up.

Today, a lot of the classic destruction spells are gone. Some of the early ones, like Sinkhole, did their job too cheaply to remain in print. Others have been obsolesced by later printings of similar cards. Let's take a look at some of the great smashing spells of the game which are no longer with us today.

Sinkhole: Destroying a land for BB was too inexpensive and powerful. This has remained a favorite over the years, though, recently getting new life in Chris Pikula's 2nd-place Legacy deck at Grand Prix Philadelphia.

Swords to Plowshares: Hands down, this is the best removal spell ever printed. And while it doesn't directly smash things, it does eliminate virtually any creature, and at a cost which simply can't be beat.

Pillage: Sadly, this classic has given way to Demolish. In addition to being more expensive, Demolish lacks the elegant name that Pillage has. Is elegance out of place on a smashing card? Nothing says you can't be civilized while you're blowing things up. It was my hope that this would return to being a basic set staple with 9th Edition, but it was not to be.

Demonic Hordes: Now we're talking. This card is doubly awesome: it smashes things, and it's a DEMON. Summoning demons has always been cool, but it was cooler in the early days of Magic, when naive and ignorant people thought the game was really about witchcraft and sorcery. Not only did Demonic Hordes blow things up, but they gave the finger to idiots the world over.

Part of me still plays the game because I like blowing things up. Yeah, I enjoy the competition of playing in tournaments – everything from FNM to PTQs and the occasional Grand Prix I can drive to – but there’s a very basic fun involved with just smashing the things your opponent plays. Winning is great, but you can’t always win. And when you can’t win, you should smash.

Heck, even if you can win, you should smash while you’re doing it.


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