In May of 1997, there was a new set being released for my favorite game. It was Weatherlight, the set that would kick off a new, ongoing narrative in Magic‘s storyline, and I was super excited. As it happens, I was on vacation with my friend in Hawaii at the time, and one of the things we wanted to do while we were there was to attend the Weatherlight prerelease.
Back then, prereleases were done on a huge scale. Individual stores didn’t host them — they were in giant rooms with dozens of tables, and everyone played in one huge tournament. This was also before “spoiler season” was a thing; we knew almost nothing about what cards were included in the set besides a few teasers in Inquest Magazine or Duelist. I had been to the Mirage prerelease previously, so I kind of knew what to expect. We were given six Weatherlight boosters to build our decks, and I still remember three of the rares I opened: Thundermare, Lava Hounds, and Lotus Vale.
Today’s prereleases are quite a bit different from the events I attended in the late 90’s, and while it’s still fun to open six boosters and battle with friends, I sometimes become nostalgic for the times when I had to open packs to see all the new cards that were in a new set. Imagine my delight when Wizards announced that the first Iconic Masters sealed event would essentially be an old-style prerelease at HasCon in Rhode Island. Very little was known about the set; we’d just have to get there, get our packs, and find out which cards were inside. My wife and I bought tickets as soon as they were available and made plans to fly across the country to experience the “Magic” of playing with Iconic Masters before anyone else.
We flew to Boston at midnight on Wednesday and took the train to Providence for the Friday event. We would only be at the convention for one day, so we tried to make the most of our time at the event and on the east coast. Once HasCon started, I went to the 25th anniversary panel first thing on Friday morning and learned about some of the new Iconic Masters cards. I would have preferred to go into my sealed event completely blind, but there was still plenty to discover about the new set.
When the event started, I opened my six packs and pored over the cards, trying to figure out what Iconic Masters was all about. I had one dragon in my pool, but no other iconic creature types. I did, however, get a foil Grove of the Burnwillows to add to my collection, which was a nice surprise.
Looking over my pool, red-green ramp seemed like the way to go. Iconic Masters features plenty of common mana-generating artifacts, including Star Compass, Guardian Idol, Manakin, and Mind Stone, so I resolved to ramp into giant Duskdale Wurms and Bogardan Hellkite, and maybe even end the game by casting a huge Fireball. I also saw some intriguing cards around the room: the person next to me opened a Mana Drain, which had been revealed to much excitement at the panel. I was glad to see the Praetors from New Phyrexia and the Champions of Kamigawa dragons, all of which are excellent in Commander.
After I finished building my deck, I set off to find people to play against. There were plenty of cool things happening in the nascent format. I heard that someone won with the Channel/Fireball combo, and I was delighted to see that Bogbrew Witch, Bubbling Cauldron, and Festering Newt were all reprinted at common and uncommon. (I have a soft spot for cards that reference other specific cards.) I only wish I could have spent more time playing with the cards I’d opened that day; we played single-game matches, and I won two of the three games I got to play.
What were your first impressions of Iconic Masters? Tweet @Card_Kingdom and let us know what excites you most about the new set!
Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Cryptic Command” by Jason Rainville