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Ferret's Retro Corner #6: Alpha/Beta/Unl Artifacts
By David McKenzie
Welcome to Ferret’s Retro Corner. This is going to be the last in my series of cards about the first printings of Magic. We’ve already covered the coloured cards, so let’s move onto the colourless cards. The lands are pretty straightforward, because this was before lands did anything more than give mana. As a result, I won’t even talk about them. Everyone knows what basic lands do and Dual Lands do what a combination of two of them do.

However, Artifacts are another story. Back then they had four different types: Continuous Artifacts – artifacts that have an ongoing effect (unless they’re tapped), Mono Artifacts – artifacts that have to be tapped to be used and can only be used once a turn, Poly Artifacts – artifacts that can be used multiple times a turn, and Artifact Creatures – I think we all know what they do. A lot of these artifacts were never printed again after this printing because they were extremely overpowered. A few saw a couple more reprintings, but are still long gone. The rest are still around, but we wish they were gone.

So, put on your Glasses of Urza and take a gander:

Card Title: Ankh of Mishra
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Ankh does 2 damage to anyone who puts a new land into
play.

Want to speed the game up? Throw this down on turn two. Perfect for your weenie deck.

Card Title: Basalt Monolith
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 3
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Tap to add 3 colorless mana to your mana pool. Does not
untap as normal during untap phase; you may spend 3 to
untap. Tapping this artifact can be played as an interrupt

If you can figure out a way to untap this without the mana cost, this card can produce lots and lots of mana. Fortunately, it’s only colourless mana and we’re still a few sets away from Antiquities…

Card Title: Black Lotus
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Adds 3 mana of any single color of your choice to your
mana pool, then is discarded. Tapping this artifact can be
played as an interrupt.

The ultimate mana accelerator. If you have no idea what card this is, you’re playing the wrong game.

Card Title: Black Vise
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: If opponent has more than four cards in hand during upkeep,
Black Vise does 1 damage to opponent for each card in excess
of four.

Drop this on turn one of a multiplayer game and you will see many people feel good – about killing you as quickly as possible. Restricted for a reason.

Card Title: Celestial Prism
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 3
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 2: Provides 1 mana of any color. This use can be played as
an interrupt.

If you’re playing a multicoloured deck this card is handy, but back then there were better ways of doing it.

Card Title: Chaos Orb
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Flip Chaos Orb onto the playing area from a height of at
least one foot. Chaos Orb must turn completely over at least
once or it is discarded with no effect. When Chaos Orb lands,
any cards in play that it touches are destroyed, as is Chaos Orb.

I remember getting an extra-large one of these in InQuest. I tried to proxy it and put it in a deck. It didn’t work.

Card Title: Clockwork Beast
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact Creature
Cost: 6
Pow/Tgh: 0/4
Card Text: Put seven +1/+0 counters on Beast. After Beast attacks or
blocks, discard a counter. During the untap phase, controller
may buy back lost counters for 1 mana per counter; this taps
Beast if it wasn't tapped already

The first of the Clockwork critters. Nice mechanic, but there are better Artifact critters.

Card Title: Conservator
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 3: Prevent the loss of up to 2 life.

A good way to prevent a couple of damage – too bad you can only use it once.

Card Title: Copper Tablet
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Copper Tablet does 1 damage to each player during his or
her upkeep.

Use this in multiplayer to help speed things up.

Card Title: Crystal Rod
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Any blue spell cast by any player gives you 1 life.

One of the “Lucky Charms.” If you want to gain some life while wasting your mana, go ahead.

Card Title: Cyclopean Tomb
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 2: Turn any one non-swamp land into swamp during your
upkeep. Mark the changed lands with tokens. If Cyclopean
Tomb is destroyed, remove one token of your choice each
upkeep, returning that land to its original nature.

Handy if you’re playing Black and have Swampwalk creatures or if you just want to ruin your opponent’s ability to cast non-Black spells.

Card Title: Dingus Egg
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Whenever anyone loses a land, Egg does 2 damage to that
player for each land lost.

With all of the land destruction in print at this time it was quite fun. If you’ve got the life to handle it, cast it before Armageddon.

Card Title: Disrupting Scepter
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 3
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 3: Opponent must discard one card of his or her choice.
Can only be used during your turn.

Every turn, you can make their hands a little bit smaller. Good way to make enemies early in the game.

Card Title: Forcefield
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 3
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Lose only 1 life to an unblocked creature.

Perfect defense against beefy critters.

Card Title: Gauntlet of Might
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: All red creatures gain +1/+1 and all mountains provide an
extra red mana when tapped.

Perfect if you’re playing monored. Be careful, because it helps your opponents as well.

Card Title: Glasses of Urza
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: You may look at opponent's hand.

Want to know if your opponent is holding a counterspell? Sure you do. A handy card that’s still in print after all these years – and still hardly put in anyone’s decks.

Card Title: Helm of Chatzuk
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: You may give one creature the ability to band until end
of turn.

Wow. Banding. I wonder why they never use it any more…

Card Title: Hive, The
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 5
Card Text: 5: Creates one Giant Wasp, a 1/1 flying creature. Represent
Wasps with tokens, making sure to indicate when each Wasp
is tapped. Wasps can't attack during the turn created. Treat
Wasps like artifact creatures in every way, except that they
are removed from the game entirely if they ever leave play.
If the Hive is destroyed, the Wasps must still be killed
individually.

Create your own little flying army in only a few turns. Also handy for dealing with pesky Dragons coming over to cause you discomfort.

Card Title: Howling Mine
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Each player draws one extra card each turn during his or her
draw phase.

Always a crowd pleaser.

Card Title: Icy Manipulator
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: You may tap any land, creature, or artifact in play on either
side. No effects are generated by the target card.

An extremely useful card. Taken in and out of print a couple of times.

Card Title: Illusionary Mask
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: X: You can summon a creature face down so opponent
doesn't know what it is. The X cost can be any amount of
mana, even 0; it serves to hide the true casting cost of the
creature, which you have to spend. As soon as a face-down
creature receives damage, deals damage, or is tapped, you
must turn it face up.

Too confusing to be useful. I wonder if it works on morph creatures?

Card Title: Iron Star
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Any red spell cast by any player gives you 1 life. Can only
give 1 life.

Lucky Charm for Red – see Crystal Rod

Card Title: Ivory Cup
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Any white spell cast by any player gives you 1 life.

Lucky Charm for White – see Iron Star.

Card Title: Jade Monolith
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: You may take damage done to any creature on yourself
instead, but you must take all of it. Source of damage is
unchanged.

Just the thing to keep that creature that you really like from dying.

Card Title: Jade Statue
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact Creature
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: 3/6
Card Text: 2: Jade Statue becomes a creature for the duration of the
current attack exchange. Can be a creature only during an
attack or defense.

Nice way to have a creature still around after Wrath of God makes the others go away.

Card Title: Jayemdae Tome
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 4: You may draw one extra card.

Who wouldn’t want more cards? Not as cool as Ancestral Recall, but still pretty handy.

Card Title: Juggernaut
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact Creature
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: 5/3
Card Text: Must attack each turn if possible. Can't be blocked by walls.

Beef for Artifacts. Slap an Invisibility on him and make him unblockable!

Card Title: Kormus Bell
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Treat all swamps in play as 1/1 creatures. Now they can be
enchanted, killed, and so forth, and they can be tapped either
for mana or to attack. Swamps have no color; they are not
considered black cards.

Are you a Black player that gets so jealous of Green’s Living Lands? Well, fret no longer. Now, you can turn your Swamps into little soldiers to smash your opponent to little pieces!

Card Title: Library of Leng
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: There is no limit to size of your hand. You must skip the
discard phase of your turn. If a card forces you to discard, you
may choose to discard to top of your library rather than to
graveyard. If discard is random, you may look at card before
deciding where to discard it.

A nice way to deal with discard decks, or a good way to deal w/ the fact that you have 10 cards in your hand after casting Ancestral Recall.

Card Title: Living Wall
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact Creature
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: 0/6
Card Text: Counts as a wall.
1: Regenerates.

Nice creature with really gross artwork.

Card Title: Mana Vault
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Tap to add 3 colorless mana to your mana pool. Mana Vault
doesn't untap normally during untap phase; to untap it, you
must pay 4 mana. If Mana Vault remains tapped during
upkeep it does 1 damage to you. Tapping this artifact can be
played as an interrupt.

Often seen on turn one with people not afraid to take a few turns of pain while getting out some early beef.

Card Title: Meekstone
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Any creature with power greater than 2 may not be
untapped as normal during the untap phase.

Just the thing to keep most beefy creatures neutralized.

Card Title: Mox Emerald
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 1 green mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact
can be played as an interrupt.

Card Title: Mox Jet
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 1 black mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact
can be played as an interrupt.

Card Title: Mox Pearl
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 1 white mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact
can be played as an interrupt.

Card Title: Mox Ruby
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 1 red mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact
can be played as an interrupt.

Card Title: Mox Sapphire
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 0
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 1 blue mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact
can be played as an interrupt.

The Moxen. 55% of the Power Nine. Just think of what would have happened if they weren’t restricted.

Card Title: Nevinyrral's Disk
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Destroys all creatures, enchantments, and artifacts in play.
Disk begins tapped but can be untapped as usual. Disk
destroys itself when used.


Named after Larry Niven. Seriously. A nice panic button for any colour, but as we have learned it works best for Black because they have no enchantment removal.

Card Title: Obsianus Golem
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Artifact Creature
Cost: 6
Pow/Tgh: 4/6
Card Text: n/a

Vanilla. Even artifacts get vanilla.

Card Title: Rod of Ruin
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 4
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 3: Rod of Ruin does 1 damage to any target.

Tim in a Box.

Card Title: Sol Ring
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 2 colorless mana to your mana pool. Tapping this
artifact can be played as an interrupt.

More mana than its casting cost. Restricted for a reason. It actually got reprinted one more time than the Moxen and Black Lotus. WotC eventually came to their senses and stopped after that.

Card Title: Soul Net
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: You gain 1 life every time a creature is destroyed, unless
it is then regenerated.

Lucky Charm for dead creatures. Handier than the other ones, but still just takes up space in your deck.

Card Title: Sunglasses of Urza
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 3
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: White mana in your mana pool can be used as either white
or red mana.

A good card when you’re playing Red/White – otherwise, don’t bother.

Card Title: Throne of Bone
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Any black spell cast by any player gives you 1 life.

Black’s Lucky Charm – see Ivory Cup

Card Title: Time Vault
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Mono Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Tap to gain an additional turn after the current one. Time
Vault doesn't untap normally during untap phase; to untap
it, you must skip a turn. TIme Vault begins tapped.

Back when it was still worded like this the card seemed so simple – and easy to abuse. Thanks to a few clever edits by WotC, it’s been “fixed.”

Card Title: Winter Orb
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Continuous Artifact
Cost: 2
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: A player may not untap more than one land during the
untap phase of each of his or her turns.

A good way to slow a game to a hault – in some decks, that’s exactly what it does. Pure annoyance in a box.

Card Title: Wooden Sphere
Color: Artifact
Card Type: Poly Artifact
Cost: 1
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: 1: Any green spell cast by any player gives you 1 life.

Green’s Lucky Charm – see Throne of Bone.

Well, there you have it. The 302 cards that started it all – well, technically, there were originally 295 in Alpha, but that’s why there was a Beta. Five colours that were relatively balanced, but thanks to a handful of cards things got out of hand. Most of the cards that were shown in these articles are long gone and we’ll be lucky to see one in store, let alone in a game. I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

In the future, I plan on doing more “Retro” articles about the expansions that followed.

Until next time, have fun and remember that it’s only a game.

-Ferret

Read More Articles by David McKenzie!

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