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Old-School Cool with Garth One-Eye


I love Magic.

It's been a part of my life for over two-thirds of it now, and for a large chunk of that time it's played a major role in said life. I can't even begin to count the number of friendships I've made playing the game and others like it. The memories I've made with the game are some of my most cherished. It even gave me a career and direction to my life in several facets.

Magic changed my life completely, and being involved with it for a staggering twenty-two years now, it's hard not to get a little misty-eyed wish nostalgia from time to time. I can tell you where I learned the game, in a small corner of my cousin's upstairs bedroom after watching my sibling and I play Pokemon. I could tell you all about how enamored I was when a friend introduced me to his brother's Elder Dragon Legends or when a different friend showed me Sliver Queen for the very first time.

Jodah, Archmage Eternal
Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

With many of Magic's recent releases over the past few years, Wizards is taking a gleefully nostalgic approach themselves, bringing back several classic characters. Dominaria saw the return of many of the game's oldest characters, some getting cards for the first time. The myriad of Commander products has also allowed this niche to be fleshed out, breathing new life into long-outclassed creatures. Modern Horizons 2 continues this trend, as it continues to play off of Modern Horizons 1's "sequel to Time Spiral" pitch, with tons of standout references, characters, and bits of nostalgia peppered throughout.

Different cards had different effects on different people. Some were gushing over Gaea's Will being a callback to Yawgmoth's Will, or how Ignoble Hierarch is a silly goblin version of Noble Hierarch. Others poked at the idea of Urza's Saga being an Urza's Saga or the fact that Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar is a real card.

The one that did it for me personally, though, was actually Timeless Dragon. You know that scene in Ratatouille at the end where Ego eats his meal and is teleported mentally and emotionally back to his youth and his mother's cooking? That's how Timeless Dragon felt to me, where I instantly felt like I was back at a friend's birthday party after a trip to the local game store, and cracking an Eternal Dragon from a pack of Scourge. It was a feeling I simply can't even begin to describe when I saw the old frame version show up on screen during the start of Modern Horizons 2 previews, striking at the core of my old player sensibilities.

It's should come as no surprise, then, that when I first laid my eyes upon Garth One-Eye, I was similarly blown away.

There's just something truly wonderful about this card on so many levels. It's hard to know where to even begin. The obvious thing is the cards that he's utilizing, which represent five of Magic's most iconic cards from the original Limited Edition Alpha. Many of these cards, however, are somewhat lost to time on newer players, having been long power crept out of the game, and many will get to experience them for the first time ever here.

He's also rather innocuous at times, being nothing more than a simple 5/5 beater once you've used each of his spells, until he leaves the battlefield and you bring him back. To me this feels like it harkens back to how multicolored legendary creatures used to be: big dumb creatures that often lacked a lot of build-around synergies. Indeed, Garth feels very much more a legend that one builds around with flavor in mind more than function. I may not be as well versed as many others are in Garth's adventure to Estark in the novel Arena, but I can respect and adore the classic feel of nostalgia he brings to the table all the same.

As such, I've crafted two deliciously nostalgic lists for you around Magic's original protagonist. Check out this first one, using only cards from the game's first two years:

It seemed fitting by nature of how Garth plays, as well as what he summons and casts in Arena, that we take it back to classic Magic for at least one list. I thought about doing an Alpha/Beta-only list at first, but as Ethan Fleischer described in his preview article for Garth, the list of cards feels a bit perplexing and dull. Alpha gave us the game we know and love today, after all, but despite having many cards so memorable they have a role in the game nearly 28 years later, many are terrible in comparison.

As such, having an all-ABU deck would lead to filling out decks with vanilla creatures and terrible spells just to round things out. It might make for some fun nostalgia, but it makes for a really rough go of things at a casual Commander night. Instead, I took a page from many classic Magic players and utilized sets only released during 1993 and 1994, which includes ABU, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, and Fallen Empires. Doing this gives us more of a fighting chance against more modern-day Commander decks while still appealing to those classic sensibilities.

In true classic fashion, the list features a ton of rock-solid spells to help deal with your opponents' battle plan as you build up to higher powered creatures. By today's standards, many of them are quite bad. After all, things like Serra Angel, Mahamoti Djinn, and Shivan Dragon are just big dumb French vanilla creatures these days. People get them in their free welcome decks and eventually leave them forgotten in bulk bins never to see the light of day again. But once upon a time they were the pinnacle of what you could hope to see in a game of Magic.

There were a number of powerful legendary creatures that came out in Legends and introduced the world to Gold cards for the first time ever. I'll never forget the time my cousin played a deck using Howling Mines and Ivory Towers to gain life and draw out the game long enough to drop his mighty copies of Sol'kanar, the Swamp King and Dakkon Blackblade and beat me. It was my first time ever seeing cards like those and I was quickly taken in by how powerful they were, their multicolored status (a rarity still when I started in 1999), and the striking artwork of Richard Kane Ferguson.

While the list does feature tons of sweet cards, it does struggle in dealing with another area: the reserved list. Making a five-color mana base using only Old School sets is really hard without using the original ABU dual lands. Even with those, it's tough to build something reasonable, so unless you're playing with the most casual of groups, perhaps consider upgrading to some slightly more modern lands. Yes, it's cheating, but if it allows an entire playgroup to have an all-around more enjoyable experience, then I think it's worth it.

Angus Mackenzie
Juzam Djinn

The reserved list also unfortunately takes away from a lot of otherwise phenomenal cards that we might be able to play. While a few are still included in this list, I tried to keep it to ones that were more easily obtainable while also minimizing the amount. For those out there who might look at this deck and have access to, say, Adun Oakenshield, Hazezon Tamar, or Into the Eye of Chaos, they can make excellent additions to any classic Garth list. Play them if you have them, but don't break your bank trying to make it happen either!

And speaking of the reserved list, I decided to make a second list from around when I started playing, thereby tapping into my own personal senses of nostalgia. I started during the Urza block, which also neatly happens to be the time period through which the reserved list was enacted, with no new cards being added starting with Mercadian Masques. This sets up a pretty clean cut-off and I decided to take it for a spin. Here's that list:

Reserved List-Era Garth | Commander | Kendra Smith

This deck features tons of the cards I grew up with. Not just the ones that my cousins and friends played or the few that I opened in packs, either! Many of these represent cards I would see in copies of Scrye and Inquest magazines once upon a time, wishing I could get them in my deck. Even going through and assembling this list on Magic Online felt reminiscent of the days when I would use the Magic Interactive Encyclopedia that predated both MTGO and Gatherer. How's that for a throwback?

With an even deeper card pool, we're able to dive further and add more excellent additions. If this deck looks more like an enhanced version of the first, that's likely because it is in some form or fashion. Many of the most classic creatures and spells were retained to give it that deeply nostalgic vibe while also adding in a few other choice hits. Lhurgoyf is such a classic that it's still getting fresh references (Hans Eriksson, anyone?) while Morphling (aka Superman) was considered the pinnacle of what a creature could be for a long time.

There're also several classic spells here, with once-defining staples like Grinning Totem and Hammer of Bogardan showing up to bring the beats and steal cards. Quicksilver Amulet allows you to cheat out your fatties, like the era's Verdant Force or Serra Avatar, that much more quickly. Teferi's Puzzle Box can be obnoxious, but it can also simply change the dynamic of the game in interesting ways. Just make sure you take it out if there's Hullbreachers or Narsets floating around in your playgroups!

But this is just nostalgia through my lens and how I saw the game in my childhood years. Many people will have a different frame of reference, and it also changes depending on the sets you use. For example, doing things pre-Mirage only allows for some other cards to show up from Ice Age and Alliances. Maybe even Homelands if you're feeling daring enough. Gotta break out those Autumn Willows somehow, after all!

The best part too is that Wizards is clearly bringing back lots of old classics too, as well as giving us back the classic retro frame. In fact, between Time Spiral Remastered and Modern Horizons 2, it's no doubt that we'll continue to see more of this sort of thing going forward. It's great, since it allows us to get some of the original characters and throwbacks such as Garth or Feldon of the Third Path in the classic frame reminiscent of their characters. It's sure to only build the ways that players can build and craft nostalgia in their own way.

Magic is, after all, a deeply wonderful game because of how we play it. It's many games in one, all starting with humble beginnings. Garth One-Eye is a wonderful nod to those classic days, and a reminder that they're not forgotten. Give these lists a try at your next Commander night, or build your own, and make some new friends and memories that you can one day look back on fondly once again.

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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