Forgotten Heroes: Braingeyser
- Sancho Napora
Long before Blue Sun's Zenith, Gadwick, the Wizened, and Finale of Revelation, there was the original blue draw X spell. This week Sancho examines another Forgotten Hero whose eruptions used to be so feared that it had to be banned and restricted in various formats and put onto the Reserved List.
So how would you feel if a Reserved List draw spell that was one of the first cards in Magic to be restricted could be yours for less than five Euros? Sounds just great, until you realize that the card in question is Braingeyser. The blue sorcery is one of the forgotten heroes of Magic that has long ago been relegated to obscurity buried under decades of unbridled power creep.
Of course, at less than five Euros you will still only get the choice between a beat-up English version from Revised Edition or a Foreign White Bordered copy. At the time of writing, both an Italian and a German version that the sellers have rated as near mint can be found for that price. Even if it is no Ancestral Recall — and by golly it's not — it is still a Reserved List card with a great history and a lot of sentimental value to many older players. It does indeed still see some action in less widely played formats such as Old School where it is also restricted.
When Law and Order Came to the Wild West
My old kitchen table days began during the Revised Edition era. We never played with the original wild west, anything-goes deck construction rules, where any deck was legal, as long as it had a minimum of 40 cards in it. When my friends and I entered the world of Magic, the game had become a civilized place where your deck had to have at least 60 cards —and being kitchen table players some of our friends could easily double that without a care in the world.
You also couldn't play more than four copies of any card besides basic lands and there was even a list of twenty cards that were restricted to one copy of each. Only eight of those powerful cards were usually ever seen played on the waxed tablecloths of the dining tables we gathered around. Eleven of the remaining twelve were removed from the core set even before we began playing (Power 9, Berserk, and Gauntlet of Might) and the last one was Arabian Night's Ali from Cairo which made the list due to its interaction with a card from Legends, a set we never saw up for sale at our local game store.
Banned, Restricted, and Never Printed Again
Our adherence to the restricted list found in The Magic: The Gathering Pocket Players' Guide and later incarnations picked up from The Duelist (the official Wizards of the Coast magazine) explains why I only ever owned a single copy of Braingeyser. Apparently I never opened another one beyond my first one, and with the card being restricted, I saw no reason to acquire more copies unlike certain other rare cards. But boy, has that one copy seen much love and play.
Naturally, with our power level not allowing for too much degeneracy, my Braingeyser was mostly used to fill up my hand. But at times it could also work as a finisher in my janky mill decks or even more effectively in conjunction with Black Vises which were too good to find use only in my land destruction decks.
Hydras, Angels, and Fireballs
Braingeyser was restricted from the beginning of 1994 before there even was such a thing as formats in Magic. A couple of years later, when the proto-Legacy Type 1.5 was introduced, it was automatically banned in that format too. This banning lasted until 2004, when the card was also finally removed from the restricted list in Vintage along with the similar Stroke of Genius. Draw X spells were simply no longer considered dangerously powerful in Magic's most powerful formats.
The first release of Magic had a total of thirteen cards with X in the casting cost ranging from some of the most famous Magic cards such as red's Fireball and the often more devastation Mind Twist in black all the way down to white, which as so often since had to make do with the completely useless Guardian Angel. Besides Braingeyser blue got the X spells Volcanic Eruption, Spell Blast, and Power Sink, which used to be a playable card when it was still an interrupt. Of all the X spells from Alpha, only Braingeyser and Rock Hydra ended up on the Reserved List, both of them proving that the official reprint policy is not merely about limiting access to the most powerful cards ever made.
Heirs and Descendants of Braingeyser
Today players have access to much better card draw spells with X in the casting cost whether it is to target themselves, to target any player or to make all players draw X cards. Not even in Commander where deckbuilding often requires you dig deep for redundancy is there any demand for Braingeyser. EDHRec rounds up and says that Braingeyser is in one percent of decks registered on the site, though it is actually much closer to half a percent. Blue Sun's Zenith sees twenty times as much play in Commander, Prosperity is three times more common to encounter than Braingeyser, and even Mind Spring which is a strictly worse version of Braingeyser is played in twice as many decks according to the site.
Braingeyser may have been the unfairly strong in the early days of Magic, but today it is all but forgotten. If you nevertheless have enough mana to spend on a draw X spell, you better put it into a Stroke of Genius, Sphinx's Revelation, or Blue Sun's Zenith. The added benefit that comes with those cards being instants rather than sorceries is easily worth it. While Braingeyser will never be a thing again except in the fringe world of Old School, its legacy lives on through its descendants and in the stories that old mages tell of battles won and lost.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.