Four Magic Cards: Part 3

Four Magic Cards: Part 3

In my last post, I talked about when I first started getting into eternal formats. I started with Merfolk and went on to build Bant. Let’s rewind just a little bit and talk about my first eternal deck, Merfolk.

In those days, the go-to starter deck for legacy was Merfolk. You got cheaper eternal staples like Daze and Aether Vial*. You got more expensive staples like Wasteland, Mutavault*, and the big one, Force of Will. And the rest of the deck was more or less free.

*Do we still consider these to be staples?

For those of you who don’t remember what it was like back then, let me talk about what I mean by the deck being almost free. The Lorwyn-block core of the deck had been printed quite recently so cards like Silvergill Adept and Cursecatcher were easily available. They were practically still draft-chaff and could be had in the range of five to ten cents each. I think I remember paying a dollar for my play set of Lord of Atlantis (currently $4.00 each, TCG Median).

I’ve always been fortunate to be part of a good legacy community. Lots of players with lots of cards has meant that I’ve never missed out on playing due to card availability. So I borrowed all of the “expensive” cards for Merfolk. Those were, at the time, Force of Will, Wasteland, and Mutavault. Vials are expensive now, but I think I paid three bucks each for mine.

There was one card missing. A card that many people could not lend out because they were playing. That card was Standstill.


So it’s about this point that you ask yourself why I’m talking about the high price of cards and mentioning Standstill. Even then, Standstill was not very expensive. In fact, I’ve found my old PayPal receipt and I can tell you exactly what I paid for it (around $7.50 each). But Standstill represented something. Standstill was a commitment.

When you’re borrowing everything over ten bucks a card and the rest of the deck can be purchased in pocket change, nearly $30 for a playset is an expensive card. That $30 represented a commitment to the deck. I was not going to be that guy who borrows a deck every week. I was going to build the whole dang thing. I was going to be a legacy player!

In addition to being another cornerstone moment in my life as a Magic player, Standstill granted me two things. First was a glimpse into the rules, not as played at the kitchen table, but as played “prison style.” Second was one of my favorite in-jokes of all time.

First, the rules. The group that I played in at the time (and that I play with now), has always prided itself on being very good with the rules. While all of our weekly events are run at Regular Rules Enforcement Level but we often enforce closer to competitive when playing each other. The same goes for more casual games.

To a new player, the stack comes across a complex monster. But once you’ve learned it, proper care and feeding of the stack comes second nature. When I say that Standstill opened the door to a higher understanding of the rules, the stack is what I’m talking about.

As someone who has played Standstill, or has a solid understanding of the stack can attest, there is a right way and a wrong way to “crack” Standstill. The easiest way to express this would be with an example of each. In both of these examples, I have a Standstill in play with Force of Will and a blue card in hand. My opponent has just cast a spell.

Right: The Standstill trigger goes on the stack. Assuming no responses to that trigger, I sacrifice my Standstill, draw three cards, and may then respond to the spell that my opponent has cast.

Wrong: I get excited about my new, expensive, Force of Wills. “In response, I Force!” My Force of Will puts Standstill’s trigger on the stack, draws three cards, and may then respond to my Force of Will.

When I started playing, I “cracked” Standstill incorrectly. A lot. Learning the correct way and learning it “the hard way” is what got me interested in exploring the rules and introduced me to a whole new plane of understanding how Magic works.

And now, the in-joke:

As I’ve said and will continue to say, I love my legacy group. While we’re hard on the rules, we keep things light. We frequently joke with each other while playing.

One day, I’m playing Merfolk against Jeremy. I don’t remember what Jeremy was playing but it had counterspells. It was probably a Counterbalance deck. I have my favorite greedy opening of Mutavault into Aether Vial followed by Island into Standstill. Jeremy reaches out his hand to pause the action.

“Sec… thinking…”

A few seconds go by then a few more. And as I’m wont to do, I get bored. I look down at my Standstill and notice, perhaps for the first time, its flavor text. I’ll save you the scrolling:

Take your time.

I can’t contain myself. I turn the card around, push it toward him, and point to the flavor text.

“It’s okay, Jeremy. Take your time.

Jeremy bursts into laughter.

As these things do, this became an in-joke in our little community. For a few weeks, everyone read Standstill’s flavor text as they cast it. This reading would be met with “Okay I will!” as a player thought or “Nah, I don’t need to!” as a player quickly countered it.

These days, Standstill has fallen by the wayside. Even in Merfolk, which now favors threat density over the possibility of drawing extra cards. But Standstill will always hold a little bit of a special place in my heart as the card that really committed me to playing legacy.

Since I was already going through old receipts and I figure some people may be interested, here are the prices for the more expensive stuff that I purchased for Merfolk. Ironically, Standstill seems to be the only card in this entire deck that has gone down in value since 2010. (Prices are per card)

  • Wasteland – $17.75 (eBay, February 2010)
  • Mutavault – $14.34 (eBay, July 2010)
  • Tropical Island – $60 (eBay, November 2010)
  • Tarmogoyf – $45 (LGS, date unknown)