Rereading Centurion, issue #7

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Time to continue the dive into old Swedish magic magazines. This time, from March, 1996. Homelands had been released last fall, Alliances was still just a rumor. What was happening in the Magic world at the time?

Well, straight up, we learn that for the upcoming issue, we would have a report from GothCon and its Nationals qualifier, a report from the Black Lotus Professional Tour (that is, PT1), and an article about Necropotence, “the latest trending card”. But for this issue? The first major article is a report from a Grand Melee tournament held at a convention in Stockholm. It’s a huge multiplayer game with 35 people, where you attack left, affect the players 2 steps in each directions with spells, the rounds are taken somewhat synchronously (one out of every five players were playing at each time), and, quite importantly, Enchant Worlds were global effects. How this works with timing, the story doesn’t tell. All in all, the game took eight hours, and the stories are glorious. Somebody sends a Kudzu around. A couple of players to my taste play Timetwister, Tormod’s Crypt and Argivian Archaeologist to deck people. Somebody else plays Howling Mines and Mana Flares to be friends with his neighbors. Somebody else ran Energy Flux and Blood Moon and Mana Barbs and was promptly killed. Unsurprisingly, the blue-white control decks were the most successful, and in the end, the organizers had to ban Abyss and rule that every creature got +1/+1 each upkeep to put an end to it.

To continue the less serious vibe, there’s an article on Throat Wolves, which are an old Usenet meme, I suppose, about cards which turned out not to exist. I did not know about the meme at the time, so the whole thing felt a bit pointless to me then. Here they are updated to Homelands. They all have Double First Strike, which isn’t doublestrike (something that wouldn’t exist for a long time still) but rather Firstest Strike. And it’s full of interesting jokes like cards with holographic print (how could they every imagine doing such a thing!).

Then comes some of the meat of the issue: a 5-page article about so-called Serendib decks. It’s RUG aggro with Unstable Mutations and Giant Growths and probably Berserk, thus a lot more creature-based than our 93/94 Arabian Aggro decks. First, catering to the budget crowd, there is a list with a wonderful 6/6/5 mana base, made possible (they claim) by 4 Barbed Sextants. Ambitious, to say the least. A much better approach would have to leave the budget version straight UG and splash later.

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the budget list

And there’s sadly no complete list for the power deck presented. Of interest is that they quite correctly prefer Scryb Sprites over Flying Men, even though City in a Bottle seems to be a non-factor. They also recommend no offcolor moxen, and also running a Nevinyrral’s Disk (unclear whether sb or main). And one or two Power Sinks. That is an underused strategy even now. Also Storm World as an answer to The Abyss.

Argothian Pixies is mentioned, but as “generally worse than Elvish Archers”, which is also deemed too weak for this deck, mostly because of Fireball. Juggernaut dies to everything, to nobody’s surprise. Ornithopter isn’t good even with Unstable Mutatins. Thanks. Oh, and Recall is too slow. Something to remember.

Over to the price list. There’s a rumor somebody in Gothenburg bought a Beta Lightning Bolt for $10; other than that, we don’t get any indication of Alpha or Beta prices, sadly. Time Vault is worth $30-40, half as much as Forcefield or Gauntlet of Might. The most expensive cards in Homelands, the newest expansion, are Primal Order at $12-16 and Autumn Willow at $10-12. In general, I don’t think much has changed since last issue.

Oh, there’s also a price guide for Doomtrooper, the most expensive card being Mortifikator Crenshaw at $11-17, except the promo Nepharite Warlord for $30.

In the calendar of upcoming tournaments, we learn that you have to qualify for the 1996 Swedish Nationals for the first time. I know this, since one of those qualifiers was my first sanctioned tournament ever. But that is a story for another time.

There’s also a really strange qualifying system in place where the top 30 in each of four qualifier makes it through, but only if you haven’t played any qualifiers before. Yes, you only got one shot. This should make the last qualifier very easy, I suppose, unless everybody games the system and nobody wants to play the first one. Also that is 30 people regardless of number of players. Weird stuff was going on, all at once, everywhere.

We also learn that the club SPIF in Helsingborg “has activities almost every day”. So much room for them.

Now it’s time to go full on meta: a review of Scrye #1. It somewhat amazes me Scrye isn’t older. After a bunch of information on new games like Spellfire, Jyhad and Sim City (the card game), there follows a bunch of reports from different US stores. “Some of the more sought after cards are Gaea’s Liege, Mindtwist, Island Sanctuary, Will-O’-The-Wisp, Black Lotus and Goblin King with prices in the $50 to $100 range.” Wait, what is this? Alpha Lotus is $25 in the price list. The entire magazine clocks in at 32 pages. Oh, of course. Dan Hörning is trolling the audience, and, consequently, me, 22 years later. They bought the magazine two years earlier, in mid-1994, which he dutifully reveals at the end of the short article.

Then some riddles! How do you make a Maze of Ith into a Juzam Djinn? (Doesn’t really work, but nice try: Living Plane, 2 Giant Strength, Wanderlust, Deathlace. Still is affected by enchantment removal, land destruction and more, but that has to count, I suppose.) How do you make Elves of the Deep Shadow into Castle? (That’s the final one, setting up the joke. The answer? Play Castle. Bolt the elf.)

A short note explains that some players intend to play the best Type 2 decks against each other, 10 games of each, 7 of those postboard. Wow. Playtesting is actually a new concept? In 1996? No wonder the decks were so bad back then.

An article about the Kult CCG, newly released, is probably not very interesting to you.

But then, another short report from “the first event in WotC’s Black Lotus Professional Tour”. The first prize was $12000. A removed from the $50000 you get today. And top 16 gave $500, compared to $5000 today. At least some things are not worse now. More will be said about this tourney in the next issue. The most interesting thing is a note that “a similar series will be held in Europe, organized by the WotC Belgium office”. That never happened; instead we just got a pro tour a year, usually, and even that took a little while to become reality.

Four pages of general advice about organizing a tournament could be relevant even today. Wait, one if the first points is that people will ask about the telephone, so make sure to have access to one, or at least know how to give directions to the nearest pay phone. Yeah, alright. More: somebody should be a “rules guru” or have access to the latest WotC list of errata (can be found on the internet). No mention of actual judges. A tournament should start as early as possible — something I am still missing in old school tournaments today. Direct elimination is recommended if you are tight on space. And if possible, arrange a side event parallel to the top 8. Also, this traditionally has a Bazaar of Baghdad as the prize. Oh, those were the days. Also, 4 or 5 dollars is a fair price of admission to the tournament.

Another curiosity is an ad for a tournament in Fisksätra in the outskirts of Stockholm, where a large part of the ad is a somewhat convoluted description of how to reach the site. “Walk across the bridge until you see a large sculpture, then turn slightly to the right.”

And the final article is about how to build decks in Doomtrooper, a game I’ve never tried. More about that in another issue, I believe.

That’s it for this time. Maybe next issue won’t take quite as long to review, but don’t get your hopes up.

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