Magic as Garfield Intended: Smells Like 1994


The brain is weird. How it handles smells, in particular, is pretty interesting: They're processed by the emotional part of the brain first, then trigger the memory side. What this means is that smells can make you remember your emotions. A sandy beach triggers the memory of a summer vacation. A certain cleaner can remind you of elementary school hallways.

A smell that you can't quite place, that gets stuck in the back of your nose and won't shake loose, reminds you of that Thanksgiving at your aunt's place nearly 30 years ago when you were annoyed that the same smell stuck in the same spot all day long. Or is that just me?

Then there are old Magic cards.

Sure they look different and feel different, but they also smell different. Some hold that smell 25 years on, but there's nothing like the scent off a freshly opened starter deck to bring back memories of games long gone with friends and family you really should call more often.

You kids don't know what you're missing.

Memories came flooding back as I opened the packs of my new Old School collection. The smells, the cards, the wrappers; I even had a 90s alt-rock mix playing in the background just to get into the mood (Nirvana's "In Utero," also 25 years old, is still a fan-damn-tastic album).

To recap from last time, I'm trying to capture the spirit of Magic back in the day when collections were limited to what you cracked and could find nearby. I started with a $100 budget, which would have bought a ton of stuff back in the day, but in 2018 dollars got me this:

  • 1 4th Edition Starter ($50 and still available via Troll & Toad)
  • 2 4th Edition Booster Packs — French ($25 via eBay)
  • 1 Chronicles Booster Pack ($12 via eBay)
  • 2 Fallen Empire Booster Packs ($10 via eBay)
  • 1 250-count card box ($2 via LGS)
  • 1 pack of gum ($1 via LGS and to be consumed after my first win)

Each month I'll give myself a $10 allowance to modify the deck in ways I might have done back in the day. If I can find packs cheap enough, great. If the local stores have singles that'll help, awesome. If I can trade into some good stuff, neat.

But, to start, what I crack is what I brew. Basics included (heaven help me).

So let's get crackin' down olfactory lane:

4th Edition Starter

I'm ok with how this is starting. Knowing I'm going to have to run three or four colors to start there are plenty of cheap threats here that could be fun—[[Mons Goblin Raiders]], Erg Raiders, [[Naf's Asp]], a little pump with Unholy Strength, and a Bad Moon if I can get enough Black creatures. The Channel stands out, though. If I can pull a Fireball I could be living the Channel/Fireball dream...

Ack. That's an ugly manabase and the packs I'm cracking aren't going to offer much help.

4th Edition Boosters

There's the Fireball! Toss in a few more cheap threats—more Tundra Wolves, another Goblin, Grizzly Bears. Despite a couple of strong entries, Blue's not looking good.

Aw yis, another Unholy Strength, Giant Strength, Divine Transformation all help pump. A second Wild Growth and a Llanowar Elves puts Green as a lock. At this point, it's looking like 4-color jank.

Note the double Flood. Randomizing wasn't quite nailed down back in the day...

Chronicles Booster

Concordant Crossroads is the money card, ladies and gents, but it may not make the cut—if I'm running three or four colors I need to slow my opponent down, not speed them up. Two out of three Tron lands is nice—it helps give me more mana but doesn't help push anything. Kei Takahashi is fun, will have to find a home for that guy.

Fallen Empire Boosters

Goblin Grenade! Thallid! That [[Moneychanger]] I was kidding about in part one that I now have to play because I said I would!

Another Thallid! Man, Green is shaping up nice! Icatian Infantry is a seriously underutilized card with the ability to band or first strike. Another Goblin for Grenade fuel.

Ya know, this ain't half bad. I mean, it ain't half good either, but that's the way it was back in the day. There are a couple two-fers which will help with variation—Mons Goblins, Wild Growth, Unholy Strength, Thallid—and enough cheap guys to keep mana expectations low (because they'll have to be). There are some good sideboard options as well—Divine Offering, Circle of Protection: Blue, Detonate—so a full 75 is doable. It's unfortunate that I have more Plains than anything else; of the four colors I'm running it's the weakest. Will have to work on that with next month's allowance.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce:

4-color ¯\_(?)_/¯

The game plan is simple: Pray. A lot. Get cheap creatures out early and build into the bigger threats like the [[Night Stalker]], Earth Elemental, or the Thallids doing their thing and sporing all over the board. Or maybe luck out and draw into the parts for an early Channel/Fireball. Like I goldfished. Yay!

The variance here is all over the place. The deck is barely not a singleton deck, but I'm already seeing room for cheap growth: Green is off to a great start, Black has some promise as well. The Mana Flare is scary since it also empowers the opposition, but YOLO.

So now it's time to play. Let's see how it goes!

Jason Kenney (@WritingJay) has been a casual Magic player since 1994. After a long hiatus, he came back to Magic in 2014 and discovered Old School MTG in late-1996. He’s admin of the Old School MTG Discord Server and runs with The Wretched in Richmond, Virginia.

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