A Tribute to Juzam Djinn
- Pietro Cavalletti
Even if Juzam sees very little play outside of Old School, it remains one of the most influential cards printed in MTG history. Join Pietro as he explores the depths of this card, from its art to its flavor text to what made this one of the best creatures in Magic.
If you asked a player with a storied history in Magic to name a few of the most popular cards in Magic, there's a good chance that Juzam Djinn would be in their top 10.
This marvelous beast settled in many hearts during his 25 and counting years in Magic: The Gathering, rarely dropping in popularity despite many "substitutes" that have tried to take his throne. Currently, he's even experiencing a well-deserved moment of glory (and a price spike) thanks to Old School, where he holds the distinction of being one of the absolute best creatures around.
A Brief History of the Djinn
This success is due, at least in part, to the wonderful art of Mark Tedin, with this card being among his absolute best work – at least in my opinion. For those wondering, Juzam's name is a Latin Script spelling of the Arabic word for "evil."
His flavor text was also unforgettable:"Expect my visit when the darkness comes. The night I think is best for hiding all."
According to MTG Gamepedia, this text is part of a poem written by an eleventh-century princess of Andalusia, most commonly known as Wallada bint al-Mustakfi. Clearly this Djinn came before Magic moved away from outside quotations!
Moving on to the cards other major selling point – the gameplay. When Arabian Nights was released, Juzam was a tremendously powerful card: A 5/5 for only 4 mana - and it could come out on turn two with a Dark Ritual. It was especially amazing in a format where the other relevant creatures were cards like Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, Serendib Efreet, and Erhnam Djinn.
Juzam has the same stat line as a Shivan Dragon! Shivan Dragon costs six mana as opposed to four, so clearly the Djinn is bringing some power to the table! Additionally, the drawback for such a cheap powerful creature is merely one life per turn. Not particularly relevant when it kills your opponent in four turns. By todays standards, this stat line may not be so impressive with Shifting Ceratops running around, but it was far and away the best statted creature around back then, and for a good long while afterwards.
Still, there were many ways to deal with Juzam at a low, low cost. Swords to Plowshares, Maze of Ith, Unsummon, King Suleiman, Mishra's Factory+Lightning Bolt, Spirit Link and many more crush the djinn, so there was never a need to ban or restrict this card, which means it was able to shine for its time.
As an homage, an oversized version was printed in 1997, but at that point, the card was already more an icon than an actual playable card.
Many better and more efficient creatures were printed as Wizards explored bringing creature power level up, shifting Juzam from the "playable" column to the "iconic cards" column in players trade binders.
But Juzam's time in the spotlight was not to end in the late 90s. In recent years, with the rise of the Old School format, Juzam has managed to find a home again, where he has made his presence known as the fearsome djinn he once was.
Though, if you want to play him in Old School, your wallet may be the only one afraid, as currently he costs a whopping 625 euros minimum, assuming you're okay with a damaged copy.
I discussed it earlier, but I feel it deserves it's own little section, much like I did for Chaos Orb, so lets take a closer look at Mark Tedin's masterpiece of a Magic card. While Juzam's play definitely contributed a lot to his status, the artwork also does a lot to tell you what this Djinn is about.
The evil green Djinn is holding a tiny human in his hand, giving you a clear sense of how large this genie is. This image has influenced a lot of Magic art lovers, with the artwork featured all over Facebook and Twitter as profile image pictures.
Interestingly, Juzam Djinn was printed with two separate shades of green - one being darker than the other. This difference is not pronounced enough to have a "version 1" and "version 2," but it is pronounced enough that some collectors have collected full sets of both colorations to make sure they don't have to mix and match.
Imitations but Never a Replacement
Juzam Djinn, since his original printing in Arabian Nights, has been on the Reserved List, so there's little need to fear his eventual reprint in the new (and, in my opinion, ugly) card frame.
But that doesn't mean Wizards hasn't tried to imitate the Djinn on other cards. So lets take a walk down memory lane and look at all the djinn-wannabees that have enraged Djinn fans over the years. The first was in Alliances. The printing of Balduvian Horde seemed to be competing with Juzam as it was a 5/5 for 4 mana with 2 specific mana.
Definitely not the same though, as the drawback to the Horde was quite severe, requiring a random card from your hand. This differentiated the horde from the djinn, so it wasn't that similar. The next came with Yukora, the Prisoner from Betrayers of Kamigawa. It had the same stat line, the same cost, and didn't cost you life. Fortunately, the drawback that replaced it was far worse unless you were playing some weird ogre-tribal brew.
The fact that it was black was definitely a blow, but that downside still couldn't match the Djinn. But Wizards wasn't done taking shots at the Djinn. The first true "copy" came with Time Spiral in the form of a sliver - Plague Sliver.
This was a real strike to the heart of all Juzamaniacs. It had the same casting cost, same color, and same drawback. Though, because it's a sliver, it applies that drawback to all your other slivers as well. In exchange, it benefits from all the Sliver synergies, which gives it some extra play.
This wouldn't be the final attempt though. The final attempt is much worse than any of these others, as it's almost a one-to-one reprint, down to the art even! This attempt was the impetus for this article and the reason I wanted to sing the praises of our old hero. I'm speaking of course of the Modern Horizons card Ravenous Giant.
Ravenous Giant is literally Juzam Djinn. It's got the same casting cost, though in red instead of black, the same text, the same state line. It even copies the art! That's just too much for us Juzam lovers – don't you think?
Juzam Djinn Today
Ravenous Giant or no, Juzam Djinn is still an icon and hopefully always will be. I enjoyed players discussing the comments of players in various Facebook groups when Ravenous Giant was revealed. Even new players who've never played with or held a Juzam Djinn were defending the old favorite.
It's fascinating seeing which cards have managed to embed themselves in the minds of nearly all Magic players, no matter when they started playing. If you'd like to see Juzam in person, just attend any Old School tournament and you'll see him on display.
I must say that it was a real pleasure to see him running on tables instead of trapped in binders as an old oddity.
So, the next time you open a Ravenous Giant in your Modern Horizons boosters, take a moment to think of the card this is an homage too, lest you face the wrath of the Juzamaniacs!
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