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Thursday, October 9, 2008

History of Magic: The Houses of Kush

Recently, I was involved in a conversation centered around what people thought was the best Magic set ever. One particular answer really struck me. It was his opinion that Ravnica was the best set ever made. Now this opinion is arguable and is probably a popular opinion among many, but it wasn't the answer itself, but the reason which struck home with me. He felt that this was the best set, because wizards had finally acknowledged enemy pairs for deck construction.

Now clearly this is a post revisionist player. Long before there was Izzet, Boros, Golgari, Orzhov, and Simic, Wizards had told us a different story. This was the time before the great rules revisions, between Revised and Fourth when there were only 5 expansions to Magic. There was a story of a one eyed stranger in the city of Estark in the nation of Kush in the southwest portion of the Aerona continent of Dominia. It was the time of festival, when mages from all across the land came to compete. Most mages, like this stranger, were hanin or "without house", and came to festival to watch the arena battles. They also hoped to pledge to one of the great houses in hopes of becoming house fighters. Most had a meager magical ability, some as few as a single spell, but the houses offered the opportunity to gather mana, and learn new spells.

Magic at this point was far more simple. Most players used only single color or allied dual color decks for battles, because they were easier to pilot. More advanced players, like the house fighters of Kush, had found that enemy paired decks offered more power and flexability. These were the advance concepts demonstrated by the Houses of Kush. Ingkara, Fentesk, Bolk, Kestha, and the lost house of Oor-teael. These names are listed in the same order as their Guild counterparts listed above.

These were the power concepts which led magic from it lowest times to the 6th addition revision. Before their was a stack, DCI, or story lines in sync with the card sets, there were the Five Great Houses of Kush. The Fighters of Bolk, lead by Kilen, and later by Naru wielded the combined powers of green life and blacks death. Use of spells like Fog, Scryb Sprites, War Mammoth, Dark Ritual, Drudge Skeletons, Howl from Beyond, Pestilence, and Weakness were common place even amongst their lowest rank of fighters. Fighters who had proven their abilities to be of an uncommon caliber made use of spells like Channel, Desert Twister, Hurricane, Tsunami, Wanderlust, and Animate Dead. They held creatures like Thicket Basilisks, Black Knights, Hypnotic Specter, Sengir Vampires, within their control like so many chess pieces. Their most accomplished fighters wielded the things of dreams and nightmares alike. They summoned creatures like Lord of the Pit, Nightmare, Nether Shadow, Royal Assassin, Sorceress Queen, Cockatrice, Elvish Archers, Force of Nature, and Fungasaur then battled to control that which they had summoned.

Even though the times of spell duels had come to an end, and the ancient powers of the lotus and the moxen were already becoming the stuff of legends, it was very much a wild time. Walls still matter, because any creature which could, visited the red zone with regularity, and spells which could fundamentally alter or out right destroy your mana abounded. Rare spells were really rare, because even the most season of players had collections reaching only 1000 plus cards, and most people played with what they had, trading only within their limited community. Online brokers were still far of in the future. It was a good time, and should not so easily be forgotten. So too, now you will remember that before there was Golgari, there was Bolk.

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