Humor my crass summation of some mid-00's cinema. It is my primitive attempt to emulate the human construct known as "metaphor." And in drawing this tenuous connection, I expend more exposition than I save. A futile gesture, but that's what I'm all about... In the movie Kill Bill, the protagonist is Beatrix Kiddo. We learn that she was an elite assassin who fell in love with her boss, the titular Bill. After she became pregnant, Beatrix had some epiphany about life or whatever and attempted to abandon her vocation and change her identity. Bill tracked her down and brought Beatrix's former coworkers to her wedding rehearsal, where they massacred the wedding party. Then Bill shot her in the head. Most of the movie follows Beatrix, having spontaneously awoken in a hospital from a vegetative state, hunting down the perpetrators of the massacre. In the final confrontation, Bill explains that he thought Beatrix was dead and was attempting to track down her killers to avenger her, but inadvertently found her alive, engaged, and pregnant. He describes his subsequent actions as "I overreacted." There is a drawn-out pause between them before Beatrix blurts, "You overreacted?" That, in a nutshell, is the history of Tolarian Academy. Too vague? I'll explain... In some of my other Memories threads, I've talked about a topic in the history of Magic that has become one of my favorites: early combo decks. Channel/Fireball, Underworld Dreams, Time Vault combo, Power Monolith, Vercursion. In the popular zeitgeist, combo decks weren't really prevalent until Prosperous Bloom in 1997. In reality, it seems like most combo decks from the first few years of the game's existence were nullified by either card errata or by bans and restrictions. By the time tournament Magic got going, the few combo decks that did stick around were strictly Type 1 anyway, and the tournaments that got all of the attention were Type 2. Considering that Type 2 started out with just Revised Edition, The Dark, and Fallen Empires, it's unsurprising that there's wasn't really a good combo option in the pool (they still had to ban Channel to make that happen, though). 1997 also saw the implementation of the Extended format, which made combo deckbuilding more viable than in Standard, and gave us things like the Fruity Pebbles deck. And then Tolarian Academy was printed... To be clear, just in case it's not obvious enough already, the card is totally broken. In terms of the power level of an individual card, of the impact it can make on the game, Tolarian Academy is probably the biggest mistake ever. Seriously, I do not want to understate this. WotC have made some mistakes and they are the first ones to admit it. I think it's meaningless to compare categorically different types of mistakes when it gets as broad as "the design philosophy of this set" or "the gameplay of this mechanic." So, sticking to individual cards that were overpowered far beyond their original intentions, there's some stiff competition. And if I were to try to list these "biggest overpowered mistake" cards, there'd necessarily be a caveat that the cards from 1993 (and possibly 1994) were made in a different context from the cards in later sets. When Richard Garfield first designed the game, he envisioned that essentially every player would only open so much sealed product, so broken cards would be restricted, not by a governing body, but by the nature of the game itself. Richard Garfield knew that Ancestral Recall was extremely powerful, but if the game had borne out in the way he was planning, that wouldn't really be a problem. The guy who owned a copy of Ancestral Recall probably wouldn't be the same person in your local playgroup as the guy who owned a copy of Black Lotus. Even crucial aspects of the game like the four-card rule weren't in place. In a vacuum, we'd probably state that Time Walk is "more broken" than Skullclamp. But I contend we'd also state that Skullclamp is a "bigger mistake" because the designers of Darksteel ostensibly knew better. While there's some subjectivity to it, I'd cite Tolarian Academy as the "biggest mistake" for the power level of a single card. In fact, despite how amazingly strong some of the competition has been demonstrated to be, I think that in the imaginary contest for first place in this category, it's really not even close. What's really impressive, though, isn't just that Tolarian Academy is a bigger mistake than its contemporaries, but that even if we stripped away the caveat and compared its power level directly to the old cards designed before the game developed its real structure, Tolarian Academy still shines. It is that strong. I want to be eminently clear about this and put it in context, because a lot of discussion about broken cards in Urza's Saga or even the block as a whole doesn't really capture how egregious Tolarian Academy really is. Yes, the set had other mistakes. Yes, the block had other mistakes. But every set has mistakes. Tolarian Academy as an irredeemably powerful card is every bit as potent as some of the most broken mana-producers of the early, pioneering era of the game. As a "mistake" the card should kinda be regarded as in a league of its own. When the tournament environment of 1998 gave way to "Combo Winter" more of the combo enablers being used to power Academy decks were from the sets in Rath Block than from Urza's Saga itself. Tolarian Academy was banned before it could dominate Standard, but it took over Extended and Type 1. Tolarian Academy hit the game like a ton of bricks. And as a new player with no tournament experience, I was dumbfounded at all this "Academy" fervor going on. So yeah, the card was a mistake and probably the worst mistake of its kind ever to happen. Banning it was a sensible move. Restricting it in Type 1 was a sensible move. But then, well, Wizards of the Coast, out of fear that some other combo deck might cause the same problem, overreacted... December 1998 Standard: Tolarian Academy and Windfall are banned. Extended: Tolarian Academy and Windfall are banned. Type 1: Tolarian Academy, Windfall, and Stroke of Genius are restricted. March 1999 Standard: Dream Halls, Earthcraft, Fluctuator, Lotus Petal, Recurring Nightmare, and Time Spiral are banned. Type 1: Time Spiral is restricted. Block Constructed: Time Spiral and Windfall are banned. June 1999 Standard: Mind Over Matter is banned. Extended: Time Spiral is banned. Block Constructed: Gaea's Cradle, Serra's Sanctum, Tolarian Academy, and Voltaic Key are banned. August 1999 Extended: Yawgmoth's Bargain is banned. A whole bunch of cards receive power-level errata. September 1999 Extended: Dream Halls, Earthcraft, Lotus Petal, Mind Over Matter and Yawgmoth's Will are banned. Type 1: Crop Rotation, Doomsday, Dream Halls, Enlightened Tutor, Frantic Search, Grim Monolith, Hurkyl's Recall, Lotus Petal, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Mind Over Matter, Mox Diamond, Mystical Tutor, Tinker, Vampiric Tutor, Voltaic Key, Yawgmoth's Bargain and Yawgmoth's Will are restricted.