(P)Re-release 25 years in the making

There are a lot of cool things about living in Toronto, like it being the most diverse city on the planet, it’s proximity to the Great Lakes, amazing food, and a fantastic Magic Scene. On of the coolest things about it though is that in 1995, the first ever Pre-release for a Magic expansion happened right here for Ice Age. (note: it was not DCI sanctioned, so WotC sees Homelands as the first official pre-release) This happens to be one of my all time favorite expansions because I was finally able to get black border basics for my white deck, and it was the first self contained expansion ever. Sold in Boosters and Starters, included new art for the lands, new art for a lot of cards actually, and had some wonderful functional reprints, and although it didn’t lean into the Snow Matters mechanic as hard as it should have, it was still a fun new twist on the game.

beautiful Chris Rush panorama via Owen

Additionally, this set introduced us to what are now known as Cantrips; small spells that allow the caster to draw a card. Granted, in Ice Age that card doesn’t come until the next upkeep, but still pretty powerful, especially on a zero cost artifact like Urza’s Bauble. It was Gitaxian Probe long before that was a thing.

I was not around Toronto at the time of this release as I was still living in Ohio with my folks, but I do remember going to a Sealed Ice Age event. My first one actually, and it would be ~20 years before I ever played any sort of Sealed event again. I knew nothing of the set, so went in completely blind, along with my friend Nick, and we just played games. I’m fairly certain I did terribly and don’t remember much about the event itself, but I was hooked on Ice Age. Hell, despite having sold my collection in the early 2000s, I kept a Booster Box and Rule Book from this as well as Revised.

advertisement in InQuest #3

Today, 6 June 2020 is just over 25 years since that historic event took place, and I’d been planning to host an Ice Age event today, but then Covid-19 happened, and I made the decision that an online event wasn’t what I envisioned for it, so I’ve put it on hold. I’m quite bummed about it because 25th anniversaries only happen once, but that’s the way of things.

Instead, let’s look at the history of the first ever Magic Pre-release through the eyes of some InQuest employees. From InQuest issue #4, and these pics are courtesy of Greg, thanks for grabbing these pics for me. In today’s always connected, spoiler filled world, it’s almost unimaginable to go to an event and blindly open up a starter and two boosters and have no idea what to expect. The excitement of that must have been amazing.

The organizers of the event really played it up as something special, and particularly Canadian while also showing that Magic was a worldwide phenomenon, not just a game for the US market. The event coincided with Canadian Nationals, and the winner of the Sealed Tournament got a spot in the Pro tour. That winner was Dave Humpherys and I’ve not been able to find any details on what his Sealed pool looked like, but I’d love more information about that.

Some of the most hyped cards in Ice Age were, without a doubt, the Icy Manipulator reprint with Amy Weber art, or Jester’s Cap. The latter became the chase card in the set for quite some time. In modern day Magic, it’s not that uncommon to get to see more of your opponent’s cards, but in 1995, being able to look through their entire deck? Oh my was it a thing! In a time where deck tech was closely guarded at the professional tier, this card was a powerhouse. Sure, it’s six mana to make it happen, but that’s worth every bit in my opinion.

There are many other cards in this massive expansion that could make up a series of posts, such as Necropotence, Dance of the Dead, Brainstorm, Lhurgoyf, Enduring Renewal, Stormbind.. The list goes on.

This is all well and good, but what’s going on with this set nowadays? Well, there’s the ALICE format, which consists solely of cards in Alliances and Ice Age, making it by far one of the cheapest old formats to play. There’s also the “middle” formats, Middle School, Pre-Modern, and Hextended, all of which include this set. And of course, there are various flavors of OS-95 around, which tend to consist of Alpha through Ice Age or Homelands.

I feel like I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop, but keep in mind that Toronto will have another Ice Age event, although I won’t be able to use the sweet title for that event, so I used it for this post instead.

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