Swedes, Swedish, Beta and other priorities

I think it is around two years ago, I started writing on this blog post. Back then it was about going Swedish – or at least being able to assemble a deck or two living up to the harsh reprint policy of the frozen North. 

I called it “Becoming a Swede”, but I never really got around to finishing it. I am not sure why, really. Maybe just because I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to write about. The subject matter may have been a bit too narrow. Maybe? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that in Denmark we spent a lot of time mocking Sweden and the Swedes. Many a joke has to do with something stupid going on in our neighboring country. Or their language, their politics, their culture, whatever sport we best them in (handball is the only one I think) or basically any other minimal difference – real or imagined – we are able to find between them and us. 

Denmark and Sweden are true arch enemies – it is on a Serra Angel vs Sengir Vampire level I tell you! We have been for quite some time. These days it is primarily through friendly mockering and pointing fingers, but it wasn’t always so.

And that is important. I am not sure there are as many mean jokes about Denmark and Danes in Sweden as there is about Sweden and Swedes in Denmark. Of course I am not entirely sure, but it seems to me that most Swedes are above such stupidity. 

Why, then, are we so prone to try to be better than the noble Swedes? I guess it is because through humor we have a chance to get back at them for beating us and downright humiliating us in wars through a couple of centuries back in the 16th-17th and 18th century. They beat us bad. All the time. They even took a third of our land mass in 1660 and paved the way for the glorious Danish Empire to become the small nation-state we are today. 

Not cool, Sweden, not cool.

Our only way of getting back at them, I guess, is ridicule. It may not be heroic, but it is better than trying our hand in a military showdown (which Denmark would, by the way, lose horribly today too, not much has changed there). It is the Danish way: act like you’re boss, ridicule everyone around you and cross your fingers no one picks back at you…

Anyway! That is it for the history lesson today. If you want to know more about this captivating piece of military history and neighboring brawl, look no further than here: Wikipedia.  

When it comes to cardslinging in the oldest of schools, no one mocks the Swedes. Actually, we aspire to be like the Swedes. As a Danish historian of war, this is quite the cultural shock or even a kind of personal dilemma – it may actually be at the very heart of why I have never finished this post before now. 

Because all the hundreds of years of “friendly” neighboring mockery has marked me. I am not to be called Swedish. At least not out in the open, walking around on the streets. But when I want to play Old School like the true masters, I want to be like the swedes.

Playing Swedish

When I first ventured out on a quest to build an old school Magic deck some five-seven years ago, I said to myself: “Emil, this is stupid, but seeing as you have many of the really expensive cards, you can build a deck if you just add some 4th Edition cards and a handful of Chronicles reprints.”

I long mocked the players who thought that Swedish was the only way to go. For several years I stated that I would never upgrade my Revised Duals to Unlimited ones: “No reason to go full reta… Swedish” was my creed.

And now these sit in my binder. 

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it did. My only excuse now is that I will certainly not achieve the 40before40-challenge of getting 40 Unlimited Duals by the time I am 40 years old. I will be going for the big 4-0 next year in April, and there is no way I will acquire the remaining 16 Duals before then. But still! How did I end up buying all these Duals, when I already had completely functioning copies of the cards? 

I have never even played a Swedish-only tournament and probably never will! Okay, maybe I will, but the likelihood is not that big. There are no Swedish-only tournaments in Denmark, and as for at least the coming three-five years I will probably not be able to go abroad to play. 

Why, then, is my collection of Old School cards now divided into around 800 Swedish-legal cards and around 250 non-Swedish-legal? 

I simply don’t know. It is not for some kind of investment aspect, that is for sure. Especially because I fully intend to keep all the Swedish-legal cards I have until I expire. Maybe except for a couple of Unlimited cards, but we will get back to that in a minute. 

It has gone so far that now I have convinced myself that I need to own all staple playables in a Swedish-legal edition. Of course this is a revelation that is easier to be hit by, once you have the means to build all the decks, you want to play – albeit with some Revised and German black-border cards along the way. I know I am very privileged. But it also means that I will not be expanding my collection much in the coming years, simply because the cards I want now are so insanely expensive, and most of them are some way down the list of “playables”.

But how did it come this far? How am I buying a set of Beta Ice Storms, when I already own a set of Swedish-legal copies (Unlimited). Why use the money on that, when there are certainly still cards I need, that I don’t have in any edition? I am not sure.

Or maybe I do know. Or at least have an idea.

It has a lot to do with aesthetics. The cards from Alpha up until The Dark look different than newer cards. The artwork is what I think Magic cards should look like. 

My aesthetic aspect of collecting does not extend to the condition of my cards. I primarily own very worn cards, because I can’t afford nice looking copies. And actually – because of the history-aspect – I somewhat prefer worn copies of Beta cards for example. Pristine beta cards seem off to me somehow. It seems unnatural that pieces of cardboard so old could be so great looking. It’s probably just my inner jealousy talking.

There is something about the art as well as the way the cards have been produced. The color saturation on most editions up until Revised is just great. Vibrant colors, cool art, the right frames and to some extent – especially when we talk Alpha – the cards are pieces of history themselves.

That is also one of the reasons why I don’t like playing with Fallen Empires. And the reason why I think it is a great idea to leave Revised out of the (Swedish) Old School pool of available cards. I know both Revised and Fallen Empires were released in 1994, and thus – it is often argued – could be part of the 93-94 ruleset. But I am not talking 93-94 I am talking Old School. And I am always willing to die on the hill arguing that cards from Fallen Empires simply don’t have the Old School feel. The special vibe. The Mythological sense to them.

In the later months or even years, I have been aware of another reason why I have come to vastly prefer only playing Swedish Legal cards, and why am trying to upgrade as many playables as possible to Beta. I am not afraid to say it: I think it makes me look cooler. 

Is that cool. No. It really isn’t. And it is important to mention that I would never judge anyone on their cards. I don’t care what you are playing with or how much you have altered them or whatever. But when it comes to my own cards. It is a different story. I want the expensive, rare ones!

I often complain about the fact that it is now possible to buy a gold-plated Lamborghini. Or that the sales of luxurious yachts have never been higher than today. Or similar stupidity that wrecks the world for some amount of temporary amusement for the way-too-rich. But I am probably the exact same, albeit on a very much smaller scale.

Even though I adore the aesthetics and history of a Beta card, and I really do, some of my adoration for said card is probably also bound in the fact that it represents a greater value than it’s cousin from Revised. Of course it is. And mostly, it is so much rarer. I think it is cool to think that I am probably one of the only people in the world that is able to slam four Alpha Verduran Enchantresses into a deck. Not only because of their value – they still don’t stand a chance against Beta power for example, and I could probably not even get a nice looking Beta copy of Chaos Orb for the playset – but because of the immense scarcity of Alpha rares. 

It is somewhat difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is, but of course this it is what drives most of us in the eternal hunt for the next big hitter in our collection. I guess we are back to the status thingy…

Going full reta… Black-border

Okay, so this is of course the next logical step. And even though I should know better, let me just state here that I will never go full black-border. Duals, Power, some of the other Unlimited hard-hitters and a couple of other cards, I will simply never be able to buy with black borders. Unfortunately.

Because what I have come to realize in the last year is that I don’t like Unlimited that much. Even though the color saturation and all what I just wrote above is on point, and I would even argue some cards are better looking with those crisp white Unlimited borders. They simply just don’t do it for me. I want worn black borders on my cards.

Which is a shame. Because they are expensive. 

I came to realize that I don’t want to buy more Unlimited cards when I was in the market for Swords to Plowshares. I already own a set of Revised and a set of German black-bordered ones, so I am set to play with Swords. But as mentioned above, I have come to feel that I need to own the most staple playables in a Swedish-legal version. But not any Swedish-legal version – preferably one with black borders.

Which means that I have now compiled a list of around 100 cards I “need” in Beta version. Spanning from Giant Growths and Ironclaw Orcs over Fastbond, Swords to Plowshares and Hypnotic Specter to Four Time Vaults (good luck ever finding the money to buy those, Emil!). 

That may be a bit idiotic. Nay, probably even more than a bit. What this basically means is that my journey towards more playable Swedish-legal decks gets a lot longer. An Unlimited Swords to Plowshares is less than a tenth of the price of a Beta copy. Which – if my calculations are correct – means that it will take me roughly ten times as long to get my hands on a playset of Swords now that I will only accept the sweet black-borderes ones. Until I stumble upon this considerable amount of dough, I will simply be unable to play Swords in a Swedish setting. 

A bit more than a year ago my eyes were opened wide at the possibility of having tons of fun playing Ankh of Mishra. In the deck I played at LIC 4.0 back in November 2022, the only card I needed to be able to play like a real Northerner was the Ankh. Ever since, I have been trying to keep away from buying Unlimited copies of the card. The (maybe rather flawed) logic still is that I would rather play something with black borders, even though the card is German, than play the next-to-best option in Unlimited Ankhs. 

Now I am two steps closer to finalizing the deck as two Beta copies of Ankh just landed in my GLS store the other day.

It all comes down to priorities, and how you balance the need for playing a deck, or playing a deck looking exactly how you want it to look. 

I have never really seen myself as a collector. My affinity for worn cards is way too prevalent to earn such a stamp. But I have always wanted to make my decks look a certain way. When I played a lot of storm and Charbelcher combo in Legacy I acquired all the cards in foil versions. I even got my hands on a couple of Beta Duals and the single Taiga needed for the Belcher deck was Alpha (I have since sold all these beauties. Alas…), just to make my deck look exactly how I wanted.

A couple of years back, a large proportion of my Old School collection was foreign black-bordered German cards. For example the holy trinity of Howling Mine, Black Vise and Ankh of Mishra. I loved how my decks looked back then, but when I upgraded the Black Vises to Beta there was no turning back, I almost always play those three cards as a trinity and thus I had to upgrade all of them. I had to get the Howling Mines. And now it is time for Ankhs. Because I want my deck to have a certain expression.

Old School decks are works of art – or at least somehow expressions of the player playing them – as well as history. Even if you don’t play altered cards, you will often – consciously or not – make a lot of choices when assembling your cards. Many of us are artists with a certain expression in mind, when we decide which version (edition, condition, alteration, signatures etc.) of a specific card we want to buy and play or what general expression we want our deck to give. Whether it be foreign black-bordered, all signed, only cards from Legends or whatever else, the design – not just what cards and how many of each you play, but the overall design – of your deck may be important. I know it is for me. 

The interesting thing here, is that this is also one of the reasons why I don’t care much about what other people are playing. Of course I enjoy looking at and playing against rare, beautiful cards. But sometimes it is also a treat to play against a deck, where there is a clear red line or a clever theme between the cards or in the alteration of the cards.

And so, of course, it is also important to prioritize acquiring the right cards. Even though it may take a lot longer than acquiring the available/cheaper cards.

2 thoughts on “Swedes, Swedish, Beta and other priorities

  1. Hi Emil,

    first of all I want to say I am always happy to read each of your posts because I love the casual tone and I feel I’m at a similar place in life.

    Then, I hope you have Chaos Orb Beta in your list above the 4 Time Vaults, should be “cheaper” and go into more decks.

    GL with your hand for swedish BB cards!


    1. Hi Philipp,
      Thanks for reading and commenting! I love to hear that all my ramblings strike some tone out there 🙂

      Yeah the Beta Chaos Orb is above the Time Vaults. Some number of seats above even. Chaos Orb is the last of the non-power9 restricted cards I need in a Beta Copy. And its white borders is starting to look silly. I hope to strike som luck in a lottery at one point, so I will be able to acquire a black-bordered Orb that I can wreck! 🙂


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