When Richard Garfield first created the Alpha set, he had a cycle of cards called “boons.” There was a boon in each color that cost a single mana of that color which gave a player or creature three of something. The other boons were Dark Ritual in Black (get three black mana), Giant Growth in green (give target creature +3/+3), Healing Salve in White (gain 3 life or prevent 3 damage), and Lightning Bolt in Red (deal 3 damage). Even though Ancestral Recall was the only rare among these “boons” only Healing Salve was never really played. The other three were common and heavily played and are all still played in various formats today.
Garfield did realize that Ancestral Recall was good, but of course he never expected Magic to grow quite as rapidly and as widely as it did. He figured that as a rare not many people would have them. But when people figured out they could go out and acquire 4 copies of this card to make their deck have a ridiculous card advantage engine, it became one of the first cards to be Limited in Constructed play by Wizards of the Coast. Eventually, its power level was deemed too powerful to even be considered a fair card for tournament play. It’s today only legal in Vintage, at only one copy per deck.
Ancestral Recall is one of the Power Nine, the most powerful cards ever printed in Magic: the Gathering, along with the legendary Black Lotus, the five Moxen (Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, and Mox Sapphire), Time Walk, and Timetwister. We’ll be taking a look at the Moxen and other Power Nine at some point in the future.
In any case, it is the most under-costed draw spell in Magic. Blue is one of the most powerful colors in Vintage Magic due to the fact that it has Time Walk and Timetwister. When you consider that you now have Jace’s Ingenuity at 3BB (five mana) to draw three cards, you see just how nuts this card really is.
Have you ever owned or played against an Ancestral Recall?