Today, I have the great honor of opening a Spectral Chaos booster. Spectral Chaos is an unreleased Magic set, designed by Barry Reich in the early 1990s, which is now being released as a fan art project by Micah at RagingRiverMtg. All the details can be found on that site. The backstory of the project and the expansion is a bit complicated, so I suggest you go and read a bit there if you are not familiar with what’s going on here, before returning.
I got the cards as a gift and they are not for sale.
I have also not looked at the spoiler at all, ever, so I don’t know anything about the cards contained here besides a few which I’ve seen spoilered or previewed on different blogs and video channels. That said, let’s dive into it! Just like MG at the old blag, I’m not so much for video, so to make this into a somewhat live experience, I will mostly record my impressions as I open the booster and look at each card in turn, edited later for clarity. Let’s go!
Fuck yeah! I’m going to play this Island in so many Old School events it isn’t funny. And yes, since Spectral Chaos was intended to be played as a stand-alone expansion, it does include basic lands in booster packs.
This is cool. Like that Kavu from Invasion, turning a land into a plains or an island. A bit of mana fixing, a bit of color screwing, a bit of nonbasic hate. Would be surprisingly playable here, I think.
It’s not giant, but it’s a fine limited card. Too bad it doesn’t have trample too. I think I will use this card as the prize card for some tournament with n00bcon/winc0n connections, should I ever host one. :)
Fuck. Here is some real power. Land, ritual, Serendib, anyone? Also look at that art! John Bauer is a Swedish artist from the late 19th century, responsible for much of the classical images of trolls and deep Scandinavian forests. Lovely to see that being used here.
Okay, so like a vastly more complicated Xenic Poltergeist? No weird Time Vault tricks, no killing opponent’s artifacts, just pure combat. Nah, not so exciting, even if it does of course predate the other one.
Strange effect, but somewhat feels very old school. Symmetrical, doesn’t do very much, cares about how many creatures you have in modifying the casting cost, but then affects the opposing ones as well, which is a bit counterintuitive. The art by Alphonse Mucha is I guess from his Slav Epic series, as it isn’t his trademark art deco style? I went and saw that one once when I was at a Grand Prix in Prague. :)
Nothing to see here, just the first Equipment 8-10 years before Mirrodin. Equipping for free during upkeep is an interesting twist that could work well. Also I suppose there are more Equipments in the set, since this is very much a non-obvious design in that space? Tapping to boosting something else instead of just modifying power and toughness.
This is a real powerhouse. A basically unblockable beater on curve in OS, and then some marginal late-game utility. It’s even a walrus. A walrus. What’s not to like? And the trivia tidbit is great.
Although bothered by the lack of comma, wow, a legend! And a lord. But doesn’t boost anything else? And has a boring ability? Sure, it’s reminding me of Shambling Strider which is sweet, historically, but the name and type line sets higher expectations than this. Although the trivia makes up for a lot of it.
Now this is a card. First off, this kind of graveyard synergies is very very rare in early sets. And what an ability. An on-curve beater that’s a better-than-Dark Ritual when it dies? Insane. Red would play a Grizzly Bear, just as an Ironclaw Orcs with no drawback. And consider things like Bazaar of Baghdad. Turn one Bazaar, discard Mana Beetle, mox, Juzam. Also fun that a card named “Mana Beetle” feels very green to me, but here it is, mostly red with a smattering of black.
Good to know it isn’t a spell. But it’s an artifact land! Another sign that the legacy of Spectral Chaos stretches into Mirrodin. It is also insanely powerful, first tapping for any mana, then tapping for UUUU but saccing. And why on earth does this have a connection to Orcs? And no real use of its artifact status, except making it easier to kill — which, on second thought, is definitely balancing it a bit.
Okay, a color-shifted Fork with additional 1 in its cost. Probably makes it completely unplayable, although the RR of Fork is its main hurdle. But Twincast has seen very little play over the years. Of all the cards to make a fixed version of, Fork isn’t on my top 10.
I love the title line, but I don’t have the card that makes these, so can’t really comment. Sweet idea though.
Alright, the mythic. But decidedly unexciting. Although it does feel very old school.
So what’s the conclusion here? The project is amazingly well done, preserving and recreating a piece of untold Magic history. Looking at the cards feels like falling into a psychedelic dream, an alternate universe in which these chaotic cards were actually printed. Just look at those borders! I am truly blessed for being able to play a tiny part in it.