With Guilds of Ravnica‘s Izzet-themed cards just released, I wanted to spend this week talking about Magic‘s most powerful card:
Oh. From the look on your face, I can see I’m going to have to explain myself. Don’t worry; that’s what this blog post is about.
Let’s flash back to 2006 or so (I’m hazy on the exact year). A roughly 16-year-old Matt is becoming bored with Yu-Gi-Oh! and looking for a new card game to try. Heroclix scratches his gaming itch, but it’s not the same. In Heroclix, there’s no unknown information outside dice rolls. There’s less tension than there is in a good card game.
Matt and his younger neighbor attend Wizard World Chicago. In the con’s gift bags are some sample Magic decks.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a comic convention, but for the most part, they entail standing, walking, more standing, and more walking. Eventually, you get tired. You sit down and examine your haul. I don’t remember the exact details, but I would imagine that at some point, we cracked open our sample Magic decks and attempted to play a game. I’d imagine we had fun, because we ended up buying theme decks before the end of the day. Specifically, I ended up buying this one:
(Note that some of these details are hard to remember and likely smushed. I’m putting the story together in a way that makes sense to me and that flows narratively. I heartily expect my neighbor, Trevor, to respond to this and say, “That’s not how it happened!” But it’s close enough to serve my purposes.)
At first, we played with the cards we had. We didn’t build or tinker with decks; we didn’t have any other cards to build or tinker with. But it turns out shops that sell Heroclix also sell Magic, and so we looked into getting more decks and more cards. We didn’t buy boosters (Why would you buy a booster when you could buy an entire themed deck?). Trevor eventually settled into playing and loving goblins. I tried a variety of different decks, including White and Green offerings from Time Spiral and Darksteel.
But I kept coming back to that Izzet deck, because winning with it felt so much like assembling a contraption. And the number one standout card in that deck, the card that could just pick Trevor’s goblins apart if given the chance, was Gelectrode.
Now, I used the words “given the chance” above, and I think those words are important. Summoning Gelectrode was not an auto-win. For one thing, the weird often had to sit in play for a turn before rail-gunning Trevor’s goblins down. I learned that maybe I wanted to keep Gelectrode in hand until I could protect it via Runeboggle or Convolute. Much further down the road, I added Battle Rampart to the deck to make sure Gelectrode could do its thing as soon as it hit the field. I began playing around finding and summoning Gelectrode, and I began updating my deck to further that strategy.
I started by buying another Izzet Gizmometry deck. The thinking was that I wanted more Gelectrodes (and Electrolyzes) specifically, so why not just buy more of the deck that I knew had them? I did branch out a little bit, purchasing an older Blue-Red theme deck from Scourge. That deck didn’t provide much to work with, however, outside Carbonizes. At this point, I went to college and stopped playing for just a little bit. By the time I came back to Magic, I’d discovered cards shops where they sold individual cards. I immediately bought the following:
- 4 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Gelectrode
My Izzet deck began becoming as efficient as possible. I figured out that if my spells were cheaper to cast, I could cast more spells, allowing me to activate Gelectrode more times per turn. Trevor, who had found a dedicated Magic group at his own college, began beating me into the ground with new cards and strategies. He recommended even better cards, like Kiln Fiend and Delver of Secrets, that I could put in my deck.
And I did. I upgraded from Train of Thought to Ponder, Izzet Boilerworks to Steam Vents. Eventually, Trevor introduced me to Modern. I didn’t have the budget to upgrade my Izzet deck in time for our first big tournament (those Scalding Tarns, man), but I decided to do so before Grand Prix Minneapolis in 2014.
But my Magic journey wouldn’t have started without Gelectrode. And for me, that’s what makes it Magic‘s most powerful card. It’s the card that introduced me to synergy. It’s the card that introduced me to deck building. It’s the card that introduced me to metagaming and strategy and creativity and all the other things that make Magic what it is, outside the rules themselves. And you can draw a direct line from my love of Gelectrode to the decks I play today, and the friendships I’ve made as a result.
So you can bet I’m excited about Guilds of Ravnica. More Izzet cards mean more cards like Gelectrode, more cards that a new player can find and figure out a strategy for and fall in love with. Because that’s Magic‘s real power: It makes us fall in love with it. And if that’s Magic‘s real power, then Gelectrode is Magic‘s most powerful card.