Media Promos in Old School

Editor’s note: There’s recently been some more sleuthing and it was pointed out that the copyright on the Windseeker Centaur is 1995, which explains why it’s not actually legal in 93/94, despite the book being available in 1994. According to a post to an mtg usenet group in January 1995, people had not received the cards yet as they were still with Carta Mundi.
So I guess that makes it pretty officially not-93/94 playable.

Over in the Old School Discord, one of the players posted a Dragon themed deck that includes Nalathni Dragon and we started discussing the various media promos of the era. I mentioned Windseeker Centaur, a card they’d not heard of, leading me to dig into it a bit more. I thought it was printed in 1996, so certainly not Old School Legal, but lo-and-behold it was actually printed in November 1994!

pic from bugdoodles tumblr

Reading the rules as published by Eternal Central, they clearly omit this sweet red, vigilant, Centaur, while the Swedes full on explicitly state that it’s not allowed. According to MTG Gamepedia, Windseeker Centaur was the first Centaur, and was included as an insert in the novel Whispering Woods, which has a publication date of 1994 November, leading me to believe that this card should be legal, alongside Arena, Nalathni Dragon, and Sewers of Estwark. I have no idea why it’s omitted and not allowed in the two most popular rulesets, but it seems odd to me.

Personally, I could see the Centaur doing pretty well in a Big Red or Zoo deck. A 2/2 Vigilant for 1RR isn’t terrible for the format, and given the general power level of most creatures in old school, it seems fairly on curve. The double red is a bit rough, not not terrible to build around.

Not sure if that’s a flail or a decorative sphere on the spear, but it’s awesome

The art on this card is pretty great, as is to be expected of Anson Maddocks. I particularly appreciate that it’s a female warrior wearing not overly sexualized armor that looks mostly practical. I mean, the obvious breast cups are still strange, but are a very common trope in fantasy art (how else would we know this warrior is a female? :eyeroll:), and are still better than chain mail bikinis and exposed skin that is rife in the fantasy art world. Unrelated to Magic, but I recently read this fantastic post about how revolutionary Warhammer was in it’s early years when compared to the rest of its scifi/fantasy contemporaries, so this sort of art observation has been on my mind. I know that the original designers of Magic worked hard to desexualize women and to be inclusive of persons of color (although I can no longer find the specific article about this era), which I greatly appreciate, and feel like it deserves more attention than it usually gets, but that’s outside of the depth of this post. Back to the look of the card, these media promos were printed with similar tones and saturation as 4th edition, but in black border, so they look great, even if they do have a date line on them.

To conclude this ramble, I’m not sure why the lowly red centaur isn’t included in the major rulesets for the format, because from my limited research of release dates, it certainly seems like it should be. I’d allow it at our events anyway. As always, if any of you mtg historians are reading this, I’d love more details on this decision. We definitely got more information about this, and got to the bottom of it’s legality in the format. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was wrong.

Great Mail Day

A feature that I absolutely love is seeing all of the mail day posts on various social media outlets.  Not only does it show off cool cards, but it also gives insight into the posters’ ideas, plans, and collections.  It’s easy to get caught up in all of the deck pics with full Power and a bunch of black bordered cards and be disparaged by not having those, or feeling a pressure to play those kinds of decks.  The truth of most of the old school world is that there’s a ton of people playing Revised, Chronicles, and 4th Edition cards and having a blast doing so.  But, this post is about mail.  Specifically one package that I’ve been anxiously awaiting for some time now.

Sadly, the ink rubbed off in the envelope, but that says Anson Maddocks Art.  You see, earlier in the year, I came across a fundraiser to help out a fellow Magic player, David, whom I’ve never met, but dude was in need of assistance, and the person who organized the fundraiser had come up with some amazing incentives to donate.  Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim to be entirely altruistic, and I’m sure that loads of us see GoFundMe’s for strangers all the time and scroll passed them, but this one that Kevin had organized, well, it was different.  It wasn’t just a GFM link on FaceBook, no, it was a story about friendships and Magic, written up on a definitively old school looking website.  This spoke to me, and since I had a good job at the time, I sent over some money to these strangers and notified Kevin that I’d done so, in order to be entered into the raffle.  Well, some time passed and I’d basically forgotten about it, but then I received an email from Kevin telling me that I’d won one of the raffle prizes. Not just any raffle prize though, I won the Grand Prize, the Anson Maddocks Visa for Life! Now, I’m not an art collector, and am not overly into autographs or alters, although my opinion on the former has certainly changed over time, but I was definitely excited for this.  I’d entered this before this website existed and certainly before I had started planning any local tournaments.

The contents

That has now changed, what with The Winter Blast coming up in March, as well as some other opportunities in the works, so my mind has been filled with ways to ensure the events are successful, fun, and offer something for everyone.  Spike players will be happy to have bragging rights of winning the tournament and getting some sweet loot out of it.  We plan to reward unPowered decks and spicy decks, to help satisfy the other player types. Chaos Orb flips and another secret challenge will be ways for people to compete without having to worry about their deck/card pool/Magic Skills, so I think that activities are pretty well covered.  Now that I’ve figured out the “what to do”, it comes down to the “how to reward these things” part of planning, and since all proceeds are for charity, I want to ensure that we raise a decent amount of money.  A large chunk of the entrance fee is eaten up by renting the venue, so I’m planning on the side events to have small entrance fees that hopefully will add up to a decent amount of extra for the the Red Door Family Shelter, and this mail day is giving me good ideas.

Wooo!

I did a little research in the old school discord to see what sorts of things folks would like to see as prizes and used that as input into my acquisitions, which should be here soon. You’ll have to wait until (closer to) The Winter Blast to see them though.

Alpha 40

Alpha puppies!

There’s a relatively new kid on the old school Magic block. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say “kid” since it’s actually 25 years old, but I think it’s fair to say that there are more games of Magic happening nowadays with only Limited Edition Alpha cards than there have been since 1993.

I’m not sure how it all got started, but I have a hunch that it started as a funny thing to do, and then the internet got a hold of it and ran with it, as it is wont to do. If you know the actual history, I’d love to hear it. I know that there is the Wizard’s Tournament, first hosted in 2018 in Gothenburg, so I assume there must have been people playing it casually before that. But that was the first I heard about, so that’s my starting point.

At first, I thought it was ludicrous for most of the reasons pointed out by Magnus in the above post. However, it planted a seed. When I got back into Magic, just before Theros, I placed an order for some cards and thought “Jason, you’ve never owned an Alpha card, let’s buy one” so I picked up a Throne of Bone for three Canadian Dollars. Not a playable card, but it was cheap and Alpha. It lived in my binder as a fun thing to look at. Fast forward to 2018, when that tiny Alpha seed was planted and I realized that I’m 1/39th of the way towards an Alpha deck, and so it began.

my first alpha pickups

Anyone who is into Old School, or really any niche collectors even outside of CCGs, will tell you that the hunt is a huge part of the fun. It’s why collectors often sell the things they hunted; once they have it, it’s less interesting, so they’re soon after the next thing. Now, I have no intentions on selling my Alpha cards anytime soon, but damn if the hunt isn’t exhilarating! Granted, it’s easy nowadays to go to any online retailer, add some cards to your cart, enter your credit card details and buy all the things, but that’s not totally fun. Since I didn’t want to break the bank on an Alpha deck, I used a lot of store credit and also hunted for good deals on beat up cards.

Initially, I planned to go mono-black so as to maximize my returns on the Throne, but as I started looking at sweet cards, and thinking back to my early days with Unlimited and Revised, I realized that what I really wanted was a deck that wasn’t quite “cracked a starter deck, cut it down to 40, let’s rock” level, but also no “I bought 18 dual lands, let’s rock” level either. Some happy medium that’s akin to having bought a deck and maybe a few packs, or traded some cards to get a little more consistency out of the deck. Surprisingly, I eschewed my favorite color, White, while unsurprisingly ignored Blue (Islands are expensive!), which left me with RBG. These are three colors that I’m pretty comfortable with and have loads of options. But before that conscious decision was made, I was at a somewhat local card shop and found a beat up Alpha Giant Spider for $2 Canadian and had to have it. That’s how I ended up with Green in my mono-Black deck. As for Red, similarly, I saw someone selling some Disintegrates for cheap, so I scooped those and my RBG deck was born!

initial incarnation

It took me close to 8 months to get to a complete forty card deck, and it’s been absolutely worth it. Due to a strange ebay/shipping/tracking mistake, and my impatience (in my defense I waited more than 60 days before giving up on the card arriving) I ended up with two Alpha Timber Wolves, that bring me smiles and joy every single time I draw them. But enough about the individual cards.

Very first hand

How is playing Alpha 40, you might ask? Plain and simple, it’s a blast. My first games came over winter holiday while in Ohio. I’d made a joke in Discord to someone about “if you can make it to Dayton, Ohio, we can play!” because I didn’t have a laptop with me. Someone else chimed in that they were in fact in that city and would like to play. One night after the kids were in bed, I went out to a LGS and met up with Tylur and his buddy to play some games. I somehow managed to leave the country without my actual old school deck, but had my Alpha 40 with me, so that’s mostly what we played. Let me tell you, facing down Craw Wurms or hordes of Ironclaw Orcs is intimidating in a format where there aren’t really archetypes and answers aren’t necessarily easy to come by. That night, I learned that Fear is a real card, when my T1 Scryb Sprites, which I enchanted on T3, went the entire distance doing 20 damage to my opponent, who was on a mono-green build, with a wall of useless Giant Spiders.

Did not go well for me

The next time I played was at the first Monday Meetup of the year. I got smoked. My opponent has a gorgeous, and lethal deck that is basically a Pink Sligh variant that has 8 Savannah Lions, some similar number of Ironclaw Orcs, Crusades, Swords to Plowshares, Bolt, Fireball, and Disenchants. It’s a thing to behold, and immensely powerful. I think we played 5 games and I didn’t land a single point of damage, and I loved every single game. My opponent was even awesome enough to offer to trade decks for a game so I could pilot it. That’s the real spirit of Magic.

swapped decks

To wrap this all up, Alpha 40 is very expensive, so it deviates quite far from my personal views of “play what you’ve got and have fun”, but there is something special about it. I foresee more economical variants becoming much more commonplace in the coming months, and welcome them with open arms.

Magic as Garfield Intended

Badlands and Good Trades

Editor’s Note: The next Monday Meetup is this Monday, 14 January. Yes, that means back to back Old School, and it means that some folks who work Mondays can now make it.

Our first meetup of the year we decided to explicitly focus on trading, and it did not disappoint. It seems like Mondays are going to settle at around 12 people, which is a nice number, but unfortunately for us, The Bar With No Name was busy last night, so we weren’t all able to get seats right away. No matter though as browsing binders while standing up is easy enough. On to the trades!

Someone picked up some great cards!

I don’t know exact numbers or versions or even what all was traded, but from talking to folks who were present, and my own experiences, the trading was pretty hot. I know that in addition to the above sweet haul, 2 CE and one Revised Badlands exchanged hands, as did a Mirror Universe and some Mana Vaults, with a Yotian Soldier to seal a deal! There were some Tron Lands, and Alpha Fog, Beta Regrowth, and Unlimited White Knights exchanging hands as well. If my Beta Forcefields were in better condition, I might have walked out of the night with a CE Black Lotus, but they were both in the Good range instead of VG, which would have made it possible. Gotta say, even though the trade didn’t happen, it was a thrilling conversation to have.

completed Badlands and Mana Vault playsets, and Soldiers are so underplayed!
Spare Tron lands got me this beauty. Fog is my style.

In addition to the binders being passed around, we did have time to get in a lot of games. I had enough time to play 3 different opponents, starting the night off w/ Alpha 40 and finishing up with Old School Swedish B&R Tron. I’m liking single Strip Mine more and more as time goes on. I started off as a proponent of 4 Strip, mostly because I have a lot of fancy real estate and I want to make sure opponents have a chance to respond to them, but it appears that that’s not as large a concern as I initially thought it would be. A separate Alpha 40 post is forthcoming, but as for the old school games, Arboria/Island Sanctuary Millstone deck didn’t get me this week as I was able to land a Rocket Launcher, but then I got smoked by an Underworld Dreams deck.

And a reminder to sign up for The Winter Blast soon so that I know how many people to expect, currently at 28 out of 48 spots. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Trading Day: 7 Jan 2019

Editor’s Note: Huge shout out/thanks to John Little, http://littlejohnart.com for designing the new banner for the site!  Support your artist friends.

It’s 2019, the holidays are largely behind us now, and we’re looking forward to all that the new year has in store for us. But that’s for another day. Today, I want to talk a bit about trading.

A huge part of the original experience in the early days was “how do I get the cards I want?”. No internet. No ebay. No pucatrade. No online retailers at all.  In small town Ohio, there weren’t many shops selling singles, so the most common way to get specific cards was to trade for them.  At the time, I didn’t even realize that Scrye had prices in them, afterall, why would I buy a magazine when I could use that same money on packs?  With no real idea of the monetary value of cards, trading was a dark art that came down to gut feel, what you’d heard about various cards, how badly you needed the card, and how little you cared about the cards you were trading away.  I remember trading Vesuvan Doppelgangers for Righteousnesses and Castles and being very happy that I could turtle even better.  Now, I’m not going to say that we should all trade for what we want without considering the values of the cards, but I do genuinely miss that simplicity and excitement.

What I am suggesting is that for our first game night of 2019, on 7 January I think that it would be fun for all of us Toronto folks to bring along our trade binders and see if we can all spread some joy as well as get some cool cards for our own collections while we’re at it.  Personally, I know that I have more than a handful of cards kicking around that would be better spent in someone’s deck than languishing in my binder/box.

The schedule for 2019 is still up in the air a bit, but I don’t want to waste any time getting us all back in the same room, playing cards, building bonds, and casting fun spells.

Hark! A Tournament.

Behind the scenes here at geocitiesofbrass, along with working to foster and nurture a thriving Toronto Old School/MTGUnderground community, we’ve been working towards something a little larger.  At last night’s Monday Meetup, we debuted our plans for the first ever Winter Blast!  What is a Winter Blast? you might ask.  Well, it’s basically a day for Old School players from all around to get together, have a tournament, do some silly side events, buy and trade cards, and raise some money for charity.

So, without further ado, http://thewinterblast.ca or you can click on the Winter Blast 2019 link above.   We hope to see a bunch of our regulars and ideally get some new faces out, and maybe even entice some out of towners to come and jam with us.  It’s scheduled as an all day Saturday sort of thing, but it won’t be difficult to organize some casual side events for Friday/Sunday somewhere in town as well.

A Promising Start Towards Toronto Community

Now, I’m not exactly the superstitious type, but I really hope that I’m not jinxing anything by writing this so soon.  Not superstitious but absolutely optimistic and the last two nights have been full of fun, optimism, meeting new people, playing against different decks, and generally forming bonds.

When my regular playgroup first played Old School and came up with this ridiculous website idea, I had high hopes of building something in the Toronto area.  It’s been slow going due to life outside of card games, so I’ve basically only played Old School with those same folks and haven’t expanded much beyond them.  We’ve had 2 or 3 other people come over once or twice, and that’s about it. Don’t misread that as criticism, we play often and it’s a rad group of folks!  Going back to the origins though, I found a blog post about some players in Toronto way back in 2012 playing Old School, which I discovered via the Old School MtG blog and that got me thinking that there must be more players in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who would want to play.  I’ve made some posts in the Toronto and Ontario Old School Facebook groups about getting together to play but didn’t have much uptake on those at all.  Undaunted, I’ve still been trying to jam games, write the occasional post, and engage on Twitter with the fantastic #OldSchoolMtG community.

This week, I’ve had not one but two opportunities to get out and meet fellow lovers of old cardboard to play Magic!  Monday night, I met up a stranger from Facebook at The Bar with No Name, a place that has regular Drafts and has a bit of a MtG theme to it, and after some quick introductions, food and drink orders were placed and we got down to it. He was on a Powered uW Flyers build whilst I started out with my Wolf Tribal deck. We played a few games, all of which he won, and then I switched over to my pet Candleflare deck for a few more games.  Turns out that that deck of mine wasn’t actually a deck anymore as it had been pillaged and tweaked and as such only had 17 lands in it.  Needless to say, I got run over in our four Strip Mine world, but enjoyed it nonetheless.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures that night as I was too caught up in enjoying the moment, but I wish I could have captured the sequence of two Serra Angels in play, swing for 8, Time Walk, swing for 8, because that was so good!

One of the exciting things to happen that night was having other patrons, as well as the wait staff, come over and talk to us about old cards, the format, what formats they play, and their own origins in Magic.  One dude went so far as to go out to his car to retrieve some pre-Shards of Alara decks he had out there, but he never returned to show them to us.

Then Tuesday night, the stars finally aligned for a twitter friend, Owen, and I to actually get out to play!  We’ve been talking about it since June-ish, iirc, but being husbands and dads means that getting out to play cards isn’t always… well, in the cards.  But last night it happened.  We met up at Snakes & Lattes, a local gaming bar/cafe, and we were joined by my old friend Jonesy who lives around the corner, and was able to get out despite also having a little kiddo.  Dads of the Magic community unite!  As with Monday night, drinks were ordered and we quickly decided to just play three person free for all, rather than having one player sit out every match.  Loads of decks came out this time!  I had three with me, the aforementioned two plus my White Weenie deck, Jonesy is on a Troll Disco build, and Owen had mono-black Bad Moon, mono-red Orcs and Goblins, mono-green artifacts, and a final deck that I think was UW flyers, iirc.  Most of the games were really between Owen and Jonesy, although my Wolves did have a decent run vs the more controlly decks.  We got to see an Ifh-Bíff Efreet do a bunch of damage to everyone, a Rocket Launcher get in for some damage, lots of Chaos Orb flips, so many Strip Mines, Guardian Beast and Disk doing their thing together, and generally see old cards having fun.

Angels, Trolls, and Wolves, oh my!

Rocket Launcher!

The last game of the night saw Troll Disco vs Mono Red Orcs and Goblins vs White Weenie, and it was such a wonderful showcase of Old School possibilities. My turn one was very strong, Plains, Sol Ring, Chaos Orb, and I resolved an Argivian Archaeologist on turn 2, really hoping to be able to dig up my Orb a time or two, but sadly the Archaeologist was struck down by Lightning and buried alongside the artifact they never had a chance to discover.  Nonetheless, the next turn saw me resolve Shahrazad, a card that all three of us were excited to see.  So, we three, all at 12-13 life, set aside that game and started the subgame.  My hand was 4 Plains and some removal, so I stuck with it, despite not having any real threats.  Loads of back and forth, Orcish Artillery getting in and doing some serious damage, a Mana Clash that did a combined total of 8 damage between myself and Owen, multiple Disks being cracked, an Armageddon clearing the fields only to be followed up by a Disk to completely reset the subgame.  I mean, this is what Magic is really about folks.  In the end, I managed to win the subgame, taking them both down to 6 life, and eventually sealed the deal with double Crusades in play.

too good to be true

As I mentioned above, lots of dads in the Old School world, which I find very relieving.  For folks without kids, it’s not as easy to empathize and understand how fickle children can be, resulting in it being difficult to make and hold plans.  Of the limited number of players I know, three of our regular players (myself included) have kids, and the two fine gentlemen I met this week also had kids, both of which were basically in the same age ranges as my own kids.  I find it personally very reassuring to have a community of people who I can bond with over sweet old cards while also being able to empathize and share our stories of having children and how that alters our lives.

To bring this back full circle, we’re going to try and get a semi-regular schedule going for games here in Toronto, most likely Monday nights around 9pm, at Bar with No Name.  They don’t have a lot of space or the best lighting, but for the immediate future, where I foresee our numbers being in the <8 players, it should suffice, and unlike S&L, it’s free so long as you buy food and/or drinks.  Keep an eye on the site for the next dates.

My History with Magic, part 1

Since getting into the Old School format, I’ve thought quite a lot on my history with the game, what I like, why I continue to play, what has brought me back to it after selling out, etc.  There are two main answers to these: nostalgia and friendship.  I have a hunch that these are fairly universal in the Magic world on the whole, and particularly true for most of the Old School players.  I’ve never been a good player, but I’ve always enjoyed playing.  It’s a reason to hang out w/ friends and have some focused, social fun.

My introduction to the game was with my friend Nick, while visiting two brothers for some D&D playing while in high school.  The older of the brothers was a year older than me, and had a few decks of a game called Magic the Gathering that he and his brother were figuring out how to play.  We paired up, Nick and the older brother, myself w/ the younger, and proceeded to butcher the rules, and since this was around the time of Unlimited, the rules were rather handwavy anyhow.  Regardless, Nick and I were hooked.  We went to our local game store, The Bookery, and grabbed some starter decks.  I remember opening the deck in the backseat of my mom’s car, and my first rare was a Personal Incarnation, which started my love of white cards.  I tried to collect every white card available, which wasn’t very easy due to the lack of resources available around the Revised time period.  But I still tried.  I crammed my deck with Circles of Protection, Castle, Serra Angels, White Knights, and loads of sub-optimal cards.  I had no idea about card advantage, life as a resource, or any real interaction outside of combat.  Nick, however took to blue and black and quickly figured out the control archetype, which pretty much summed up my early days of playing.  Since I got in at the tail end of Unlimited, and I know this is akin to sacrilege in the Old School community, white borders define Magic for me.

I remember Fallen Empires being released, and splitting a box of it, my first time ever buying a box, with Nick and another friend, Vince.  At first it was exciting, but by the end of the box, it was pretty miserable.  When Ice Age came out, we split a box again, and this time it was exciting!  Icy Manipulator was back, Snow Lands were a thing, which meant black border basics were abundant, and there were new Starter Decks to buy.  I didn’t know then that booster packs were the way to go to get good cards, so Starters were far more interesting.

 

 

 

Around this time, we started hitting up local tournaments around the Dayton, Ohio area, and learned about all the other cards out there.  I, of course, did terribly as I played cards that I liked, and always played too few lands, whereas Nick was figuring out real strategies.  He built a deck around Ornithopter, Enduring Renewal, Ashnod’s Altar, Farrelite Priest, Blessing, and trample creatures.  The first time he went infinite, his opponent went berserk!  He’d never seen an infinite combo either and tried to force Nick to go through the combo as many times as mana he wanted to produce, but luckily the judges were on our side.  Imagine a 20+ year old man screaming and cussing out some teenage kids over a game of cards.  It was amazing.

Shortly after this, I went away to university, and my cards stayed neglected in a box at my parents house.  After university, I was unemployed and needed money, so I sold the collection for $300 USD and a terrible laptop.  I was fine with it then, but as I look back on the cards I know I had, it saddens me.  So, my journey back into Magic has involved me trying to replace the cards I miss, and I’m happy to say that I’m mostly there, except for an Angus Mackenzie and a Word of Command.

I’m fairly certain that this relationship effectively sums up a large number of players’s experiences with the game in it’s early days.  I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who tell me the identical story of selling all their cards and the outcome of the conversation is either one of chasing the dragon (like me), or of incredulous disbelief at the value of some of the cards they parted ways with.

We are currently playing with the Old School 93/94 sets, including Fallen Empires, Revised, and reprint sets, but how I long to play a format that includes Ice Age so I can rebuild that Enduring Renewal combo deck.

Drawing Cards

Long ago, in the early days of Magic, the concept of card advantage wasn’t a thing, and certainly wasn’t exploited like it is in the current formats.  Ice Age introduced us to Brainstorm, a card that now dominates in any format it’s legal in, but before that, there were some competitive decks that began to understand the true power of drawing cards.  Looking at an obvious example from Old School, The Deck, which runs four Jayemdae Tomes, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, Braingeyser, and a Library of Alexandria, it’s a powerhouse of card advantage.  We all know that the blue Power spells are very powerful, as is an early Library, but what about the card drawing artifacts?  The main ones in the format are Howling Mine, Jayemdae Tome, Jalum Tome, and Book of Rass.

Howling Mine is the cheapest to cast, allowing for very early card draw, but it’s also reciprocal, thus speeding up your opponent as well. Lots of decks pair the Mine with Relic Barrier or Icy Manipulator to make the card advantage one-sided, but then the low cmc of Howling Mine is wasted on controlling factors.  Howling Mine seems to work best in decks that punish the opponent for drawing cards with Black Vise.  I’m often hesitant to cast a Mine because I don’t get the immediate benefit of it and I worry that my opponent will draw into an answer on their first use of the Mine.

Jalum Tome comes in one mana higher in cmc than the Mine, but it also requires 2 generic to draw a card, making it essentially cost 5 for that first card.  Not too bad, but it has the downside of discarding a card.  Since Old School doesn’t have a huge amount of graveyard recursion, this means that the user has to be much more careful with Jalum tome than with other draw mechanisms, lest they end up behind.  That said, this one feels very “red” to me, and seems like a natural fit in most decks that run red.  It also works well in creature heavy decks where discarding a 2nd/3rd/4th copy of a creature is less vital than in a control oriented deck where there might be less redundancy.

Jayemdae Tome is the workhorse of the format.  It’s got a four cmc as well as a 4 generic activation cost, but it’s one-sided and has no additional drawbacks.  Paying 8 mana to draw a card seems ludicrous when viewed through the lens of current Magic, but at the time, and thus in this format, it’s basically the bar by which all card drawing cards are judged.  If a deck can afford the mana to use it, it should run it.  Su-chi is also the Tome’s best friend as it translates into “when this creature dies, tap Jayemdae Tome to draw a card”, which is a really good deal.  Opponents are punished by the 4/4 for 4 beater by either damage or giving you a card. Win win!

Book of Rass is a very interesting addition from The Dark that is more expensive than the others, is still one-sided, and is not a mono-artifact.  The downsides to this card are numerous though; 6 cmc, 2 mana to draw a card, and lose 2 life whenever you use it! I don’t think that this card is an instant include in most decks, but for decks that have decent life gain, via cards like Ivory Tower or Spirit Link for example, could make good use of it.  Another build could be one built around Mirror Universe to race yourself down to low life total so you can swap and then finish the deal more easily.

There are other card drawing artifacts that could be used, like Aladdin’s Lamp or Jandor’s Ring but neither of those are particularly playable, in my opinion.  Personally, I lean more towards the two Tomes as being the most useful for most decks, while Book and Mine are both situationally better.