As this saga of Retro Magic: Arabian Nights comes to a close, Win Target Game takes a look at one of the most ridiculous cards ever to be printed in a trading card game, a perfect example of how Richard Garfield truly did not know what his game would end up becoming…
I have to give Richard Garfield a ton of credit for creating this card. There is no doubt that Shahrazad is perhaps the most fascinating card in Magic the Gathering simply because of its effect. This card is banned in every format for a reason. Seriously, the card tells you to leave your current game of Magic to go and play a separate game of Magic with the remaining cards! Then after that game is over, you come back to your original game and the loser of the sub-game loses half of his or her life, rounded up. Then you still have to finish the original game!
Wow, that’s a pretty awesome concept: having a game of Magic inside of a game of Magic. Can it ever be practically worked out in a tournament setting? Absolutely not. But it doesn’t mean casual players don’t proxy this and try it out just for fun. Heck, if you actually own a copy of this card, why not stick it in a deck for chuckles? Heck, what if you ran 4 copies of this in a deck? You could potentially have a game of Magic inside a game of Magic inside a game of Magic inside a game of Magic!
And thus, the ban hammer came down… and thus, here is the ending of our look at the Reserve List cards of Arabian Nights…
Please keep your Shahrazads sleeved and bindered, please…
While Singing Tree is certainly not the most powerful card in the world, being able to reduce an attacking creature’s power to zero certainly is not bad for a 0/3 creature costing 3G. I think this card is mainly on the Reserve list for collectors’ value purposes, because it’s perhaps a card that wouldn’t be a terrible reprint for a Core Set. It’s an interesting stall card. Though it is only an uncommon, copies of this card can still sell for $20-25 USD (or even more) on the open market, mostly just because it is from such an old set and supply is so limited, especially in decent condition.
If you know this set, and notice that I’m going alphabetically and have missed a card, I didn’t miss it… I’m saving it for last on purpose…
So here we have a 5/6 flyer for only four mana. Doesn’t that have to have a downside? Oh, it does, and it’s a big one. At the beginning of each of your up-keeps, you must sacrifice a land. If you sacrifice an Island this way, Serendib Djinn deals 3 damage to you. Then when you control no lands, sacrifice Serendib Djinn. Now, honestly, if you play this at the right time, this Djinn will win you the game rather handily. So while it has a big downside, it’s not unplayable. It makes you realize just what boss monsters Djinns really were at the time and how much the game has really really changed (mostly for the better, but I miss djinns).
Now you read the title and wonder, what the heck do these two cards have in common? Well, they’re both artifacts, they’re both uncommons, and they’re both kind of not really that fascinating, except for the fact that they’re also both on the reserve list. They are also, for history’s sake, relevant in the study of early Magic artifacts, which besides the obvious Power cards, sort of underwhelming.
“Pyramids” is not exactly one of the most powerful Artifact cards ever printed, but it can potentially save a land of yours from being destroyed (any land in play, in fact) and can remove a pesky enchantment from any land. But it’s 6 just to play, and 2 to use its ability (although that 2 mana paid could be well worth it depending on the target). Still, while it’s kind of a nice idea, it’s just too expensive to cast to really be relevant at all. You’d think something called Pyramids would be a lot cooler… I think Richard Garfield whiffed on this one.
The Sandals of Abdallah are interesting, much more interesting than Pyramids, certainly. Being able to give a creature Islandwalk is not at all bad, especially in the context of the time this was printed. Remember, many of the best decks back in that time ran Islands because of all of the Power cards that were in Blue. The problem is that the Sandals are not really a cheap card to play. It costs 4 just to put on the board, and 2 mana along with a tap to use its ability. It’s also relevant that if the target creature is destroyed before the end of the turn, you lose the Sandals (presumably in the desert sand). Not too great a card, but it’s at least interesting, and was better at the time it was printed.
Old Man of the Sea is an interesting creature that allows you to steal an opponent’s creature. He could steal away some very interesting creatures from your opponent, and he himself is a 2/3 for 1UU. Depending on what he steals from your opponent, it can go from simply being a decent early game Mind Control to putting you at a great advantage. It’s an interesting card to play with and one that if printed today would certainly see some action. Alas, it’s on the Reserve list.
In early Magic, there are many examples of cards that were simply just not very good. Merchant Ship card was never reprinted because, well, it’s not very good. It’s a 0/2 that can’t attack unless your opponent controls an Island. Well, then, why would you attack with a card with 0 power at all, anyway? If you attack with it, and it isn’t blocked (little chance of that, really) you gain 2 life. Oh, wow, 2 life? Also, if you control no Islands (which is a little odd since if you’re playing this card nine times out of ten you will control an Island) you must sacrifice this card. Pretty weak, especially for an uncommon from this set! Still, it’s on the Reserve list, and probably worth having a copy just for collection’s sake.
Once again, this is part one of a double feature. The next card is much more interesting.
There’s a reason that this is banned in both Commander and Legacy and limited to one in Vintage: it’s a free draw every turn that you have 7 cards in hand. On top of that, it also can tap for a colorless mana. On the surface, it makes many people wonder, why is this banned? Truth is, played correctly, you can basically get a free draw every turn. It’s also not a Legendary Land (meaning you could play more than one at a time) which is why it’s limited to a single copy in Vintage. It’s a bit skill-intensive, but Legacy & Vintage are certainly very skill-intensive formats. It’s just too good for a land that comes into play untapped and can also provide you mana if you can’t get the extra card draw. It’s just a really great card. Best part is, it’s not even a rare. That doesn’t help its price, come down, though, as it’s still one of the more expensive Magic cards out there.
Jihad is sort of an early version of Honor of the Pure and similar to Crusade printed in Alpha/Beta/Unlimited. This card is a bit better than those two: as long as your opponent has the chosen color of permanents in play, your white creatures get +2/+1. Against mono-colored decks this can actually be a killer. White weenie becomes a lot more powerful with this on the board. It can swing a game in your favor late in the game when your board position is already set up and you just need that few extra power to deplete your opponent’s life. It’s a card that has found its way into more than a few mono-white EDH deck lists, and could still be quite relevant as a Legacy sideboard option today (if white weenie were a Legacy-viable deck).
Island of Wak-Wak is not one of the more exciting Arabian Nights rares, but being able to tap a land to negate the damage from a flying creature is certainly worth playing against some decks. It was a long time sideboard option, and little more, and certainly not one of the more notable rares in an otherwise very interesting set. This would actually be a card that might be an interesting re-print, as it’s not too overpowered and while few people today would sideboard it, it’s not the worst card to pull out of a pack, even as a rare. But considering its relative mediocre usefulness, staying on the Reserve List will at least maintain its collectors’ value.
Ifh-Biff Efreet is one of the more interesting cards in Arabian Nights. With his ability, either player can pay a single green mana to do 1 damage to each player and each creature with flying. Considering that you can activate this ability as many times as you have green mana to pay, this is a pretty powerful card, especially if your opponent isn’t playing any green mana sources. On top of that, it’s a 3/3 flyer for 2GG. It’s not hard to see why this is on the Reserved list, as it’s actually quite powerful.