The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Squee, Goblin Nabab | David Monette

Magical Thinking: Mercadian Masques

Welcome back to Magical Thinking, a look at the cards and art of Magic: the Gathering through the eyes of a casual fan, set by set from the beginning. Today we start a brand new block, the Masque block, with its titular set: Mercadian Masques.

Released in October of 1999 Mercadian Masques saw a serious reigning in of power compared to the cards of Urza block. According to legend, the card designers were brought in by the heads of WOTC and warned that it was their job if they ever made a set as broken as the Urza block ever again. So, as tends to happen, they over-corrected and made a much weaker set this time around. At least that’s the prevailing wisdom. We’ll see how bad these cards are first hand.

As for the story, this block returns to our pals in the Weatherlight crew, who have crash landed on the plane of Mercadia. They now find themselves caught up in the war between the spiritual Cho-Arrim and the greedy and grasping Mercadians. Will the Weatherlight crew ever return home? Lets find out.

Apparently, she had a VERY good time. Although I’m not sure why she’s being depicted as being arrested by merfolk here and not a White race.

Two of the major creature themes in Mercadian Masques were the Rebels and Mercenaries. Rebels are the white creature type, and we see the first of them here. Between the two of them Rebels are widely considered better, and we’ll see why in a bit, but for now enjoy this big guy. I don’t think there are many White Ogres in Magic, but there’s this one at least (He had Ogre added to his creature type later on).

I think the creature quality is beginning to improve a bit. I mean a 2/2 for 4 that can’t be damaged is pretty good. Throw some buff spells on this guy and he’s good to go.

Another new creature type here are the Spellshapers, whose gimmick is you can discard a card to cast a specific spell based on the Spellshaper, as if they are shaping the spells into another one. In this case disenchant. Not a bad ability.

Hey, we found out what happened to Sir Robin after Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I wonder if Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film is also in this set?

Here is the main gimmick of the Rebels; Some of them have the ability to call in more Rebels from your deck, and the mana range is one mana higher than they are. So they can call up someone potentially stronger than them…

And then that Rebel can call up another Rebel of higher mana…

And so on in that fashion. We’ll come back to this later when we get to Black and the Mercenaries, but so far White has the better deal. Black will need something strong to compete (They don’t get it).

Oh boy, the Mongers. Another new creature type alongside the Spellshapers, except they are terrible. Their gimmick is that they have an activated ability that ANY player can use. And odds are if you’re playing this thing on curve your opponent will be using it first. Not only can your opponent use it to protect their creatures, they can also make your creature immune to colors so you can’t play enchantments or buffs on them. So yeah, the Mongers are terrible. And also weird. I mean why is this guy a humanoid Unicorn? Where’s a red bull when you need one?

Now there’s a face that says “I’d rather not be here right now”. That is the face I make at the end of a six hour shift pushing carts and my feet are killing me. The struggle is real, Balloon Peddler.

This seems like a really powerful card to me. I mean this is still the era where creatures are not great, but this seems like an auto-include in any Blue control deck. You can steal their best card out from under them, and even disrupt their combos. Wasn’t this supposed to be a weaker set?

A scorpionfish Merfolk. That’s actually really cool. I wish we had more weird looking merfolk like that.

AND IIIIIII WILL ALWAYS LOOOOOVE YOUUUUUUU

…What? The Bodyguard? No one remembers that one? I’m old.

Well doesn’t he look pleased with himself? This feels more like a Black card to me though.

Wow, what’s next Wizards? A Bamboozle card? How about a Flim Flam spell?

(Actually there is a card called Bamboozle. But more on that when we get to Odyssey).

I feel like making this guy a 3/3 was underselling them. I mean, they’re a cross between a T-Rex, an Orca whale and a sumo wrestler. That’s a lethal combo right there.

I swear if there’s a tickle fight card out there somewhere…Okay, no, we’re good. But seriously, Shoving Match? Although this does make for some hilarity if you ask me. Just imagine dragons and genies and Eldrazi shoving each other around.

I think Ali Baba is gonna need some gloves for this one (I keep meaning to make Ali Baba taking out walls a running joke but I keep forgetting).

And to think, this once qualified as a big creature in Magic. I have a 6/6 for 3 mana in my current Blue deck in MTG Arena.

Now this guy is a Merfolk, but I like to think he’s just a really buff Veldakin. Also how do they get off making someone this beefy a 1/1. Come on now!

And here we get to Black and the Mercenaries. As you can see their gimmick is like the Rebels, only reversed: They can only bring in other Mercs that cost less than them, so you don’t get the same kind of escalation that Rebels get. So why even bother? Also, once again we got another piece of art that’s wasted on a 2/2.

This one is better. Unfortunately that poor guy found out this bad boy was heavily armed. Get it? I know you’re there, I can here you unsubscribing.

This card was timeshifted into Timeshift (More on that later) and so I have a copy of this card IRL in my mono black evil eye deck. The idea being I turn all my creatures into eyes so they can all attack at will.

Special guest monster designer Sigmund Freud apparently. Come on, look at that thing. Someone must have gotten an email over that one.

Ugh, I don’t even have anything to say here. That is just nasty. Of course, I love it when Black gets as gruesome as possible.

Ah, the moldy cottage cheese fairy, a lesser subset of the tooth fairy family. If you leave moldy cottage cheese under your pillow he comes and burns your house down. Obviously not a lot of demand for his services.

So basically you play this, and then the game becomes horrible because you and your opponent just spend all your mana each turn to make the other discard their entire hand. I mean, discard is already the least fun deck type to play against and now we’ve made it even worse.

The neat thing about Mercadia is that on this plane the Goblins are actually handsome and intelligent and are running Mercadia. Of course, they still seem to fill the same niche card wise: Blowing themselves and other stuff up.

Wow, and I thought Maggot Therapy was gruesome. Just look at this thing. What’s up with its eyes?

Yeah, I hope you keep some mana free when you play this, or this is basically pay four mana for your opponent to spend 3 to kill this next turn. Also, “Monster?” Yeah, that’s a creature type that’s gonna get a lot of use.

Oh my God I love his tiny little hammers. Best card in the set.

“Hurry up, we’re running late to the Rob Liefeld signing. I’m his biggest fan!”

Hey, remember when I said Goblins were intelligent on Mercadia? Well Squee is there too, and I guess the local Goblins assumed he was in charge and made him a general. I’m sure this will go swimmingly and not end in multiple war crimes.

Now that looks like it hurts. Also useful if you are running a similar deck to an opponent and can match their creature with your own copy.

A lot of Green cards in this set feature the Wumpus here. More on him later, but this does seem to be a great way to get a lot of land fast.

It’s not in the desert though. Also, this feels like a color break for Green, since they shouldn’t be able to just destroy permanents.

Man, Mercadia has some really big worms, doesn’t it? I’m not sure those are actual in-game creatures but for once I’m not complaining.

And here we have the legend themselves. A pretty powerful card at the time despite the terrible drawback. But then again you may be banking on your opponent not running creatures or having none in hand. It can happen.

This might be Magic’s first Satyr. Not really in keeping with Theros’ Satyrs, are they?

Wow, this is like anti landfall right here. This may be the worst drawback I’ve seen on a creature yet. 0 stars.

Wait, that’s not even just opponents. If ANY player plays a land. You can bounce it on your own by accident. Wow this is bad.

I like how this Monger doesn’t even merit a secondary creature type, she’s just a Monger. Apparently Mongers are weird green haired four armed ladies or something. I’m sorry, what is a Monger supposed to be? I am very confused.

Wow, that looks like it hurts. My jaw is aching just looking at it. Also, what’s in the mouth, giant class orbs? Bubbles? They look nasty whatever they are.

Yes, now you too can recreate that famous kids in the Hall sketch and let the monkeys loose. Kids in the Hall? No one? Oh look it up.

And here it is, the closest Magic will ever get to making C3PO…. wait did I make this joke already? Well I’m making it again.

Yeah, the gimmick lands this set were depletion lands, where you could get more mana out of them initially, but when you ran out of depletion counters they were spent. I imagine it could be pretty broken with proliferate.

Tower of the novelty sugar bowl more like it.

Well, with that last joke expertly landed (In a ditch, and now on fire), we conclude our look at Mercadian Masques. Next time we return to Rath and catch up on our old buddy Crovax with the next set of the Masque block, Nemesis. Until then though, Stay Magical.

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Jessie Staffler

Jessie Staffler

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Creative Writer looking to make money writing. Prefers to write stuff based on fantasy, Sci fi and horror