Generational Magic: 30 Years of My 30 Favorite Cards Part 1

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I've mentioned before that I started playing toward the end of 1994. I've had the rare opportunity to have played continuously since then. No taking a break or quitting, no sir. Sure, I've played less often during certain points of my life, like when my boys were young, but Magic was always there.

So, with Magic's 30th Anniversary in full swing and my playing for (almost) 30 years, I really wanted to talk about the different cards I've enjoyed over the years, providing some insight on why I like them and throwing in a good memory or two along the way. So, join me in looking back on 30 years of Magic!

Notes: I won't be including supplemental or format-specific sets, like Commander Legends or Modern Horizons. I also didn't choose cards from core sets 4th Edition through 10th Edition, since they were all reprints. Yes, Revised was reprints as well, but it was all a first for me.

1994: Revised, The Dark, Fallen Empires

The first deck I ever recall building was a Mardu deck two decades before the word Mardu would be dreamt into existence. I had removal for days, and my top end was the little dragon that could. A favorite memory is a game where I defeated my brother in one fell swoop. I was able to store up a ton of red mana through a Red Mana Battery and then beatdown with a explosive 28/3 Dragon Whelp. He, and my brother, blew up real good!

Honorable Mentions

I always thought City of Shadows was nice, because it exiled creatures, especially my opponents when I would take control of them. Clone and Vesuvan Doppelganger were in one of my first Revised starter decks and even though Fallen Empires wasn't the best set, Thrulls were my first real tribal deck.

1995: 4th Edition, Ice Age, Homelands

Wrath of God and Armageddon always have been great reset buttons, but when I saw Jokulhaups, I saw a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, it didn't always work that way, but on occasion, it was so much fun to blow up the world.

Honorable Mentions

Ice Age was the first set my brother and I went all in on, buying a lot of product. Polar Kraken was the big boy on the block, so you had to have him. Primal Order was fun to play against my dual land playing friends, since I didn't have any at that time.

1996: Alliances, Mirage

Varchild's War-Riders was one of the first cards that I thought was a good, but actually wasn't. It wasn't always terrible, but when my opponent slapped a Pacifism on it, the sad face followed shortly afterwards. This realization helped me refine my thoughts of what a good card truly is.

Honorable Mentions

Phyrexian Dreadnought blew that Kraken out of the water. Yeah, you had to figure a way to keep it in play, but "it's a 12/12"! They are definitely color pie breaks, but Hieroglyphic Illumination and Withering Boon were fun, because they would always catch someone by surprise, and still can.

1997: 5th Edition, Visions, Weatherlight, Tempest

Other than being able to draw a ton of cards, I'm not positive on why I liked this card, but I really did. During this time of my Magic life, I enjoyed generating chaos, so I would throw the box in with Sands of Time, Power Surge, or Manabarbs and watch the crazy happen.

Honorable Mentions

Humility was just another crazy card to pair up with Pyroclasm. Altar of Dementia was my first experience along the Mill path.

1998: Stronghold, Exodus, Urza's Saga

By this time, my brother had stopped playing due to his non-Magic life, and our first local game store opened up. Like many of them at that time, it started as a comic store that had Magic on the side. After a couple of years, Magic was just as popular, if not more.

Urza's Saga was a set that I specifically went in on, buying two or three boxes worth. I had decided to collect a near mint set and wanted to get cards that were well-centered. In doing so, I became very familiar with the cards in the set, and the Enchantress helped me see even more that drawing cards is exactly what you want to do in this game.

Honorable Mentions

Reins of Power was just too good with any sacrifice outlet. The other two cards were still me showing my love for messing with the board, even if it hurt me as well.

1999: 6th Edition, Urza's Legacy, Urza's Destiny, Mercadian Masques

Foils were introduced with Urza's Legacy. I wasn't really big into foils then, and they haven't much grown on me. If a specific card speaks to me, then maybe I'll get a foil version of it. At this time, I never considered myself someone who leaned toward blue, but I liked bouncing permanents and Adept did have a nice-looking foil.

Yes, that is Ed Beard Jr's signature on the Plains

As far as honorable mentions, there were other favorites like Replenish and Puppet's Verdict, but back in 1999 Mercadian Masques released the first foil basics, and they were really cool. I know, 30 years later, foil basics are a dime-a-dozen, but at that time you couldn't beat 'em.

2000: Nemesis, Prophecy, Invasion

This card was very flavorful within the storyline, but what made it great was that there were only a handful of cards with the tagline "This spell can't be countered." The dealing ten instead of three kicker was nice, but not always used. I also happily picked up my first foreign language versions. Chinese, in this case.

Honorable Mentions

Rhystic Study was a good card back then, though not quite as revered since Commander wasn't a thing. Overburden was another mess-with-people card and Obliterate was just a better Jokulhaups.

2001: 7th Edition, Planeshift, Apocalypse, Odyssey

There were only a couple of alternate win conditions in the game until Odyssey. I enjoyed playing a poison deck every now and then, but Battle of Wits was something I could really sink my teeth, and cards, into. I've since played it multiple times to half-decent results when it was in Standard and then Modern. There's no hiding when you're playing it though!

Around this time, my family moved an hour away from our hometown and we had our second child, so working on this deck gave me plenty of time at home to share the game with my boys. Keeping the cards out of their mouths for fear of them getting crumpled was a whole other issue.

Honorable Mentions

Chance Encounter was another fun alt-win option, as shown in my previous articles here and here. The enemy painlands were a long welcomed addition for everyone at that time. Remember, there weren't shocks, fetches, or any decent dual lands at this point.

2002: Torment, Judgment, Onslaught

Not much to say other than all upstanding Enchantress players were ecstatic when this card was spoiled.

Honorable Mentions

I tried my darndest to make Hunting Grounds work back then, but it was just missing something. Apparently, that thing was Commander! Solitary Confinement was another great addition for Enchantment prison decks.

Of course, everyone was excited for fetchlands! I remember early in the Onslaught draft format someone even passed me a foil Bloodstained Mire and commented, "It's just a land that grabs other lands..." I blinked, agreed with his statement, and happily placed it in my draft pile.

2003: 8th Edition, Legions, Scourge, Mirrodin

There are now 18 different cards that "counter a triggered ability," but Stifle was the first and best. I thought it was Awesome with a capital "A!" It wasn't too long after the set came out I worked hard to trade for a bunch of non-foil and foil versions. I've since traded away the non-foils, but am still happy to have the foils.

I also used them as mana denial in a Standard UW Control deck before Affinity came on the scene. I was playing against a RG Ponzadeck and won the rubber game by stifling his turn one and turn two Wooded Foothills!

Honorable Mentions

Mind's Desire was another card that was un-fun in Vintage, but really fun in Standard. There was a Gilded Lotus and Twiddle deck that ran it to win with Tendrils of Agony. You could swing a game so fast, but only if you got to your sixth turn, which didn't always happen.

2004: Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, Champions of Kamigawa

To be honest, I know I should be picking Arcbound Ravager here, but I was never a fan of it. I am, like most players, a fan of drawing cards. After playing a deck that highlighted Glimpse of Nature, you can easily see why it was banned in most formats at the time.

Honorable Mentions

Admittedly, there weren't a ton of cards that really interested me at this time. Due to the menace that was Affinity, attendance was quite a bit lower than before. My boys were also just getting into school as well, so I have no doubt my attention was elsewhere.

2005: 9th Edition, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa, Ravnica

Toward the end of the Kamigawa block, I started to test out a reanimator deck highlighting Goryo's Vengeance and Footsteps of the Goryo. Throw in a couple of big beaters, like Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Behold the Unspeakable // Vision of the Unspeakable, and swing!

Honorable Mentions

I'd be remiss to not give a shout-out to the shocklands. They were (and are) great, but I had my eye on a Ravnica common: Brainspoil. Using its transmute ability allowed me to have an effective eight copies of Battle of Wits! So sweet.

2006: Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, Time Spiral

Not much to say here. Another counter triggered ability card. The upgrade seemed great with your opponent not being able to respond, but the extra mana was sometimes an issue, since people would expect a counter at two mana anyway.

Another fun memory was when I got my brother back into the game, even if just for a short time. He had since married, moved to Tennessee, and was raising his family. We had the opportunity to attend the Coldsnap prerelease in Nashville. We had a great time and he was amazed at all the new cards and interesting mechanics.

Honorable Mentions

I really liked Voidslime, but wasn't going to put out the $40-plus for a Champs promo. Not for a married guy with two boys and mortgage Magic player. Quicken was useful at times, and being able to cast Wrath of God or Demonic Tutor as an instant did surprise people.

2007: 10th Edition, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, Lorwyn

I loved the design of this card and worked on joining it with Phyrexian Tyranny. Unfortunately allowing your opponents to essentially draw their deck is not usually a good thing.

Honorable Mentions

Not everyone did, but I enjoyed the twist on the color pie in Planar Chaos, and Imp's Mischief is a prime example. Planeswalkers were, at one point going to ruin Magic as well, but it seems like the game survived them.

2008: Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide, Shards of Alara

It wasn't the same as the current Modern version, but when Ad Nauseam came out, people saw the interaction with Angel's Grace immediately. Me? I tried to build a B/R Seismic Assault deck with it.

Honorable Mentions

Seeing Idyllic Tutor played into my love of both Enchantress and Battle of Wits decks. Ghastlord of Fugue was memorable in one of the last large prereleases that I attended. The specialness of this card wasn't just the event, it was who came with me.

My oldest, who was eleven at the time, and I joined a Two-Headed Giant event. I played a UB control deck, he played an aggressive RG deck, and we rocked! We were 3-0 and begrudgingly dropped after winning (we did concede to our opponents before submitting the slip). My son had baseball training to get to and per my wife, we were not to miss it.

Looking back on it all.... yeah, we should've just kept playing.

End Step

That does it for Part 1 of this two-piece look back at 30 years of playing Magic. Do your top picks line up with mine? Do you even remember these cards?! And finally... can you guess my favorite card of the bunch? Tune in next week to find out, and please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments!

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