Magic Memories: Academy Rector


The Tentacled One
So far, with these Memories threads, I've started...

2 for artifacts
1 for a land
2 for blue cards
3 for black cards
2 for green cards
1 for a red card
1 for a gold card

Well, something pretty obvious is missing there. It wasn't my intention to leave white out, but I suppose I'm not surprised. It's not a secret that white has been my least-used color in Magic. It's not that I hate it, but taste and circumstance made it generally a fifth wheel for me.

When I was in junior high, back in either 1998 or 1999, I had a monowhite deck at the after-school game club and it was either lost or stolen (I always suspected that it must have been stolen, but never found out either way). Back then, my collection was so small that this was devastating. The pool of white cards that I had to work with was, for a while, smaller than for the other colors, and so I tended to ignore the color for deckbuilding. This had a cascading effect: as my collection grew, I was building more decks with the other four colors and so I was trading for chase rares in those colors and not in white. I didn't eschew it completely, but I just didn't focus on it as much.

Perhaps because of this or perhaps in addition to it, I never really felt like white thematically resonated with me as clearly as the other colors. It seemed like so much of it overlapped with green. I did use it as a support color, and eventually I got a lot of mileage out of certain individual white cards, such as Auratog, Land Tax, and Abeyance. And I did begin to favor white/blue/black control decks. Esper, it came to be called. That's still one of my favorite color combinations. But my use of white did lag behind, relative to the other colors.

I didn't deliberately save white for last in creating these Memories threads, but once I noticed that I'd hit every other major category, I had the thought, "Well, what's my favorite white card? Might as well start a thread on it." The answer: Academy Rector.


The Tentacled One
The two enchantments that I've most frequently fetched with Academy Rector were both released in the same set as Academy Rector itself: Urza's Destiny. In principle, Rector is a versatile toolbox card. It could be used to find any enchantment. But the vast majority of the times I've used it have been to fetch either Yawgmoth's Bargain or Pattern of Rebirth. I have noticed that the prevalence of Standard/block gameplay has an effect on casual deck construction, and I'm sure that's part of it. Another factor is that Yawgmoth's Bargain is one of the most powerful enchantments in existence.


The Tentacled One
One interaction I remember from high school involved Academy Rector and Nantuko Husk, along with at least one more creature, which was usually either Birds of Paradise or Veteran Explorer. The plan was to get Nantuko Husk through unblocked (or give it trample with a spell). Then the player would sacrifice Academy Rector to Husk, use Rector to get Pattern of Rebirth and attach it to the other creature, sacrifice the other creature and use Pattern of Rebirth to get Symbiotic Wurm, sacrifice Wurm to Husk, and finally sacrifice the insect tokens generated by Symbiotic Wurm. This would make Nantuko Husk, at minimum, a 20/20 creature. And that usually meant lethal damage. The one time I remember this trick being attempted against me, I was holding Unsummon and my opponent didn't anticipate it, so in response to the last insect token being sacrificed, I bounced the Husk. Poor guy's best friend was standing right behind me, giggling while looking at my hand, but he was so focused on sacrificing his whole board that he didn't even notice.

But I saw the same combo used against other people and it usually worked!


The Tentacled One
The Pattern-Rector approach has come a long way since the days of Symbiotic Wurm, and there's plenty more to be said about the combo potential of Academy Rector and Pattern of Rebirth. But Symbiotic Wurm could still be a very good creature in a casual deck with Academy Rector, thanks to a different enchantment: Recurring Nightmare. While Rector does cost more mana than Recurring Nightmare, so you aren't saving mana by using Rector instead of just casting Recurring Nightmare directly, they can still work together in the same deck if the conditions are right. Both Academy Rector and Symbiotic Wurm thrive in a deck that sacrifices its own creatures to fuel powerful effects, and Recurring Nightmare only needs to be one of the options in such a deck. If you don't have Recurring Nightmare, you could sacrifice Academy Rector to something else and find Recurring Nightmare. But if you do have Recurring Nightmare, you could sacrifice Academy Rector to use it, bringing back something big from your graveyard and using Rector to fetch a different enchantment, like Pattern of Rebirth. Other options include Sylvan Library, Pernicious Deed, Defense of the Heart, Aluren, Oblivion Ring, Eldrazi Conscription, and Survival of the Fittest. And while I haven't used it yet myself, there's a new card that could become one of my favorites for this sort of thing: Sandwurm Convergence. Just look at that thing...



The Tentacled One
Oh hey, totally forgot that I already wrote an entire article about Academy Rector, way back in 2008. It was for the "Type Fun" blog that Al0ysiusHWWW and I used to maintain. Later, when we were getting more serious in our focus on Legacy tournament decks, Nick (Al0ysiusHWWW) wanted to purge the blog and recreate it as something Legacy-specific. I archived much of the old "Type Fun" posts here at the CPA...

Here's one I wrote specifically about Academy Rector:
Here's one about Pattern of Rebirth, which includes Academy Rector:


The Tentacled One
I have a lot more that I'll probably share about Yawgmoth's Bargain. Over the years, I had multiple decks that used Academy Rector to fetch Bargain and then set up a combo finish. Yawgmoth's Bargain was a very important card to me for a variety of reasons, and some of that is really more of a topic for a different thread. But yeah, I used the two cards together a lot. In that "Type Fun" article that I wrote about Academy Rector, I called Yawgmoth's Bargain "arguably the most powerful [enchantment in Magic]." But that was back in 2008. Since then, Academy Rector has gotten a new toy, which if not superseding Bargain entirely, at least gives Bargain a run for its money.

There's a definite difference in playstyle. Most Bargain decks, even if they hope to put Bargain on the table with Academy Rector, have considerable mana acceleration, to such an extent that hardcasting the six-mana enchantment isn't unreasonable. If a deck can consistently pull off enough mana acceleration and can reliably find Bargain (a card that is restricted in Vintage), then forgoing Rector entirely and just rushing out an early Bargain is ideal. But at a whopping ten mana, Omniscience pretty much needs to be cheated onto the battlefield, a task for which Academy Rector is well-suited. Show and Tell also works, being one mana cheaper and not requiring one to find a way to kill one's own creature, but giving opponents more opportunity for counterplay. In Legacy, both methods are sometimes used in the same deck. A few years ago this was unusually popular in the Seattle area, and I faced off against decks using Academy Rector to fetch Omniscience.


The Tentacled One
Even though Yawgmoth's Bargain was banned in Extended, Type 1.5 (later Legacy), and Vintage, the card actually survived in Standard, where Rector Bargain decks were allowed to run rampant. Here's a "Sabre Bargain" list...

4 Academy Rector
4 Grim Monolith
3 Voltaic Key
3 Tooth of Ramos
4 Soul Feast
4 Vampiric Tutor
2 Yawgmoth's Will
4 Dark Ritual
4 Skirge Familiar
3 Yawgmoth's Bargain
3 Renounce
6 Swamp
5 Plains
4 Peat Bog
4 Phyrexian Tower
3 Remote Farm

4 Duress
4 Phyrexian Negator
3 Perish
2 Disenchant
1 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Massacre

Cabal Therapy never appeared in the same Standard format as Academy Rector. The preferred sac outlet for the Rector was Phyrexian Tower, although Renounce could serve in a pinch. The plan was to use Rector to cheat Bargain into play, then pay life for cards, drop artifacts and Dark Ritual for small mana boosts, cast Skirge Familiar, discard extra cards to Skirge Familiar for mana, sac extra permanents to Renounce for life, pay more life for more cards, cast as many copies of Soul Feast as possible, use the life from Soul Feast to draw more cards, and eventually cast Yawgmoth's Will to cast spells from the graveyard, including Soul Feast for what is hopefully lethal life loss to the opponent. This deck tended to go for third-turn kills.


The Tentacled One
In 1999, a friend I used to trade with a lot took a fancy to my playset of Necropotence (I think he wanted to play Necro in Extended) and tried to sell me on Yawgmoth's Bargain as a better version, but I didn't go for it. Later Nick (Al0ysiusHWWW) got those copies of Bargain. From late 1999 through 2000, he had a black/white Bargain deck. Serra Avatar was his go-to kill condition. This was the beginning of "Necro vs. Bargain Wars." My best deck was a Necro deck. His best deck was a Bargain deck. We'd binge playing Magic against each other all weekend, sometimes pitting our best decks against each other over and over for hours. In the summer of 2000, Nick's dad took us on a road trip through the midwest, and we spent a lot of the time playing Necro against Bargain in the back of a van, with cards laid out on pillows on our laps. We tinkered with our decks over that span of time, not fine-tuned for that particular matchup, but exploring general possibilities, so the advantage in this matchup oscillated haphazardly. For most of this time, my monoblack Necro deck was able to get going a bit faster, with more creatures and more control elements. But once Nick got going with Bargain and Ivory Tower, he could gain so much life that I couldn't kill him. I vaguely remember an arms race of various tools we tried against each other. He could throw up Academy Rector as a roadblock to my attackers, then try to go off with Bargain. So I tried to blow up his board with Nevinyrral's Disk and beat him to death before he could set up a big life gain loop. But he could take out my Disk with Seal of Cleansing. I don't remember if Academy Rector was a participant in Necro vs. Bargain Wars for the entirety of the run: Nick changed his deck many times and might have eventually cut the card for some other approach. The rivalry between the decks eventually sort of faded away as the gradual accumulation of changes caused the decks to diverge and move toward other purposes (Nick's Bargain deck was broken up to create new decks and my Necro deck became a blue/black prison build with Zur's Weirding). Eventually, I wound up being the one with the Bargain deck. I don't have a decklist recorded for my Bargain deck, but it was similar to a list that Nick was tinkering with, which he posted here at the CPA back in 2004...

4x Yawgmoth's Bargain
4x Academy Rector
4x Skirge Familiar
4x Burnt Offering
4x Dark Ritual
4x Ivory Tower
4x Orim's Chant
4x Vindicate
3x Drain Life
2x Spellbook
2x Death Grasp
1x Feldon's Cane
4x Caves of Koilos
4x Tainted Field
2x Peat Bog
2x Remote Farm
1x Plains
7x Swamp

I couldn't say whether my deck was better or worse than this one. I had Culling the Weak and a few more creatures, fewer copies of Bargain, more artifacts (Sol Ring and/or Mana Vault), more basic lands, fewer nonbasics, and none of the Invasion Block cards. I was using graveyard recursion of some sort, but I forget whether it was Ill-Gotten Gains or Yawgmoth's Will. I think there was a playset of Lotus Petal and a singleton Lion's Eye Diamond too. But the general concept was the same: Burnt Offering on Rector to cheat out Yawgmoth's Bargain, then use Skirge Familiar to power big Drain Life chains.


The Tentacled One
While I did get a lot of mileage out of Burnt Offering/Sacrifice/Culling the Weak on Academy Rector into the Yawgmoth's Bargain + Skirge Familiar combo, I think the stronger version would have been to ditch the Skirge Familiar in favor of another enchantment, also fetchable with Rector: Cadaverous Bloom. I didn't begin toying with Cadaverous Bloom as an Academy Rector target until later on. I do think it has some applications for casual play that are fine. Ultimately, for sheer power it loses out to Yawgmoth's Bargain. And while turning life into cards with Bargain and cards into mana with Cadaverous Bloom or Skirge Familiar is a neat trick, it is more practical to simply fill a deck with lots of mana acceleration. This makes it easier to hardcast Bargain in the first place, and then instead of needing another combo piece to turn cards into mana, just let the cards turn themselves into mana. Historically, in Vintage there used to be decks with this as their primary gameplan.


The Tentacled One
There was another Rector-based deck that I had for a while, but this part takes me on some tangents. I think that's fitting for this sort of thread, so I'm not going to let it stop me...

Firstly, one of my favorite decks, probably my very favorite deck, that I had in high school was a Necro-Donate deck that I called "Here, Hold This" or "HHT" for short. That deck is bound to come up in some of these threads because I played it a lot. Some people identified it as a "Trix" deck. While I don't object to the breakfast cereal deck naming system overall, I caution that it can be misleading. Historically, "Trix" decks were used in Extended tournament play and functioned as fast combo decks, relying on Mana Vault, Dark Ritual, and sometimes Mox Diamond to rush out Illusions of Grandeur + Donate. My deck was a bit different. Largely by coincidence (my deck evolved bit by bit from a multiplayer Necro control deck relying on Zur's Weirding, but at some point I did netdeck and see a few good ideas that I wanted to incorporate, specifically Demonic Consultation and Force Spike), it was extremely similar to slightly slower, more controlling Extended Necro-Donate decks, such as the "Dance Dance Donate Illusions" deck outlined by Josh Bennett. The players who favored the more controlling Necro-Donate decks were critical of the "Trix" crowd for the fragility of the faster version. But the tournament deck that my deck ultimately came to closely resemble was obscure and it was the "Trix" version that was popularly recognized. Probably very few people, even if they were playing Extended back then, remember this stuff, and they'd just call both decks "Trix." Whatever. Ultimately, these tournament decks were short-lived. Dark Ritual and Mana Vault were banned in 2000, then Necropotence and Demonic Consultation were banned in 2001. Back then, I was still using my Necropotence + Zur's Weirding multiplayer prison deck, which I think had two copies each of Donate and Illusions of Grandeur. I didn't have a dedicated Necro-Donate deck until 2002, but I kept it around much longer than the entire tournament run of Necro-Donate decks in Extended. One reason was that I didn't need to scrap the deck for parts, when I later went on to focus on other projects. That's one reason the lands in the decklist I used for the article in 2004 were all basics: I was using my nonbasic lands in other decks.

I think HHT ultimately perished in 2007 or so when Nick took nearly all of my decks apart. I haven't reconstructed it for old time's sake, although I have thought about that. I suppose I might as well. Not like I need those cards for anything else. But there was a time in 2005 when the deck had some of its cards poached for something else: this "Vintage" Rector-Donate deck...

4x Duress
4x Cabal Therapy
4x Academy Rector
4x Illusions of Grandeur
4x Donate
4x Dark Ritual
3x Seal of Cleansing
1x Yawgmoth's Bargain
1x Yawgmoth's Will
1x Balance
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Frantic Search
1x Sol Ring
1x Mana Vault
1x Lotus Petal
4x Gemstone Mine
4x Dromar's Cavern
1x Polluted Delta
2x Bad River
2x Underground Sea
1x Scrubland
1x Tundra
1x Adarkar Wastes
4x Island
4x Swamp

This brings me to another tangent. For a while, I explored the concept of what I guess I'd call casual unpowered Vintage decks. I didn't own a lot of cards that were worth big money and I didn't own any "Power 9" cards. There were unpowered Vintage tournament decks, but they relied on stuff like Null Rod or Gorilla Shaman, focusing on being able to quickly provide countermeasures to the broken stuff that "powered" Vintage decks were capable of. I didn't find those decks very interesting. But because of the CPA and some of the players at one local game store, I had become aware of a concept among veteran players, generally ones who had started playing Magic even before I had, of Vintage rules as a kind of default setting for casual deck construction. I think most of the people who espoused this either had been playing long enough to remember the Type 1/Type 2 split in 1995 or, failing that, had been playing long enough that they remembered the time when Type 1 and Type 2 were the only defined formats. In their minds, because "Type 1" had been the default initially, things just stayed that way. So even for casual games, unless there was prior agreement on other conditions, they assumed that decks would obey they Type 1 banned and restricted lists. I was introduced to the game in a very different way, and had a very different attitude. I started out not knowing anything about "formats" and then when I did learn what they were, I didn't have any context for why they were what they were. Mostly, I didn't own enough cards to even worry about it. Then when a card I was fond of using was banned from tournaments (Frantic Search was banned in the old Type 1.5 in September of 1999), I was soured to the whole concept. A kind of "This card is in my deck and I like it and your stupid tournament rules are stupid" response. Hey, I was 13. Whatever. But later, I came to appreciate the nuances of the situation, and I was interested in creating Vintage-legal decks for casual gameplay. Rector-Donate as a fully powered combo deck had been a minor player, probably a rogue deck, in Vintage earlier, and I still remembered it. So I temporarily switched from Necro-Donate to Rector-Donate.

The idea with this deck was to sacrifice Academy Rector to Cabal Therapy, use that to get Yawgmoth's Bargain, pay a bunch of life, then cast the Illusions of Grandeur + Donate combo. If that primary sequence didn't work out, I also had the option, either alongside or instead of employing Bargain, of using Academy Rector to fetch Illusions of Grandeur instead. Rector also served as a dangerous blocker against creature-based decks, because if it died in combat, I didn't even need Cabal Therapy. I didn't keep this deck around for too long, but I did use it here at the CPA in a three-player game against Spiderman and Istanbul. In that game, no one did much of anything and I hardcast Bargain, then drew enough cards to execute Donate kills on both opponents. There was some bitterness in the reaction to my ending the game in this way, and some discussion followed. This led to the CPA Tribal games, so it is clear that I totally learned my lesson. :confused:

Now, I bring all of this up because it was an Academy Rector application that I actually used and it stuck with me. But there is the whole tangent of the fallout from that one game. And I think that's an important topic...


insert avatar here
The stunning thing about Academy Rector is that the card is pretty good, on the reserved list, and still only worth $26. Every card and their mother are worth more than that. Why?


The Tentacled One
That's a good point. Best guess: Reserved List "buyouts" affected speculation on Reserved List cards, but the effect sort of diminished moving forward by set release, because the oldest, rarest cards that already had high price tags were targeted first. Since Urza's Destiny was at the very tail end, it didn't get hit as hard. I call this my best guess, but I don't really buy into it myself. I think the attempted buyouts and the market speculation surrounding them weren't really that big of an impact.

Heh. They're only $26 for cards. Magic collectors are crazy.


The Tentacled One
You guys, I just remembered that Sandwurm Convergence is now a thing again. This could make for a very obnoxious casual deck. I don't know whether to use Academy Rector or Enduring Ideal for the setup. Rector is way faster, but Ideal can go off on the subsequent turn and fetch, say, Dovescape. That would be hilarious.


insert avatar here
I had no idea what Sandwurm Convergence was, so I had to look that up. It looks like a better Moat, with a worse CMC. I might include that in my Naya EDH deck... together with that Rector. I have Starfield of Nyx in that deck.

Regarding buyouts: non-RL cards from later sets are worth more, even if they're bulk outside EDH. Rector is still a very good card with an unique effect, although I doubt it's still played competitively. But compare the price with some random card from Masques or Onslaught... look at Mana Echoes, that cards is just as expensive. It doesn't make sense. It seems to me as buy outs are starting with the oldest cards or something.


The Tentacled One
I had no idea what Sandwurm Convergence was, so I had to look that up. It looks like a better Moat, with a worse CMC. I might include that in my Naya EDH deck... together with that Rector. I have Starfield of Nyx in that deck.
I mean, against a sufficiently large board (of non-flyers, but that would be the norm), Moat could save you while Sandwurm Convergence, even if it were cheap enough, could not. I suppose that it would pair up nicely with Starfield of Nyx. Forgot about that card...

Regarding buyouts: non-RL cards from later sets are worth more, even if they're bulk outside EDH. Rector is still a very good card with an unique effect, although I doubt it's still played competitively. But compare the price with some random card from Masques or Onslaught... look at Mana Echoes, that cards is just as expensive. It doesn't make sense. It seems to me as buy outs are starting with the oldest cards or something.
I think you have a point and I'm mosty speculating with the buyout thing. I do think that the people who perpetrated the attempted buyouts did move from older sets through to more recent ones, and started finding it more difficult to affect the market as they were running into sets with higher print runs. If you have access to some capital and the market price on Arabian Nights cards is low enough, you can try to buy up enough of a certain card to drive the price up. But with a similar amount of capital, it's much harder to do that to a card from Ice Age, as there are way, way more copies floating around. At one point I heard the claim that the price-spikers, who had successfully driven prices up on RL cards from early sets and made some cash selling them at the new price point, were running into more trouble with Mirage and later sets. They hit severe diminishing returns relative to what they'd gotten out of sets from 1994 or so. And supposedly a single big-time merchant might have enough sealed product from that set, let alone singles, on-hand to mess up their market manipulation if the big-time merchant unloaded a bunch of it.

But I don't even know if market manipulation has anything to do with it! I don't know how big of a role it plays and heard most of the information I know on the subject third-hand. I don't personally know the people who have attempted RL buyouts (and if I did, I'd probably beat the crap out of them). For all I know, it's not that big of an impact compared to EDH. Although I'd have thought Rector would be a good card in EDH, so it's a little odd that it isn't in more demand. :confused:

Another consideration is that Academy Rector definitely is viable in Legacy. Nic Fit has waxed and waned over the years, but is really not a bad deck. Rector is also employed in Aluren decks. And really, the decks using it primarily for Omniscience are proabably underplayed. It still sees some Vintage play as well. While it may not be a tournament staple anymore, it's what I'd call a competitive card.

Oh, as far as later sets go, I think it's a mixed bag. You mentioned Mercadian Masques for instance. The only cards in that set commanding higher price tags than Academy Rector are Rishadan Port and Food Chain, both of which have more tournament presence and (despite being from a post-RL set) have never been reprinted anywhere ever. The only other card in the set that's even close (and still definitely cheaper than Rector) is Bribery, and that card is a sideboard silver bullet.


The Tentacled One
The stunning thing about Academy Rector is that the card is pretty good, on the reserved list, and still only worth $26. Every card and their mother are worth more than that. Why?
I was reminded of this thread and popped in for a quick look, then I saw this post again. So yeah, five years later Academy Rector has climbed above $90.
Yeah, I'm surprised because it seems like it should be pretty strong in EDH, fetching big, splashy enchantments and acting as a Moat or just a rattlesnake card in general.