The Magic: The Gathering Deck of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

As an unessay, I’ve created a Planeswalker Magic: The Gathering card based around Olaudah himself, and, (because MTG is short the blue/white pirate cards I was looking for by a large margin) to go with him, an Olaudah Equiano Legacy Deck. (This is a deck containing at least 60 legal cards from any set of Magic: The Gathering released sets. The website was freaking out on me about not having 60 cards, so consider the below Planeswalker the 61st card of this deck.) I thought that making Olaudah a planeswalker would make him more resilient, which I thought really fit him as a person. The purpose behind making him a Magic card, in particular, though, was that he’d be more difficult to “play” as. That’s always a problematic concept when we’re talking about real people, let alone real people who’ve endured slavery, because, as Nic aptly put it, people are shitty, and the likelihood of people being horrible about/to Olaudah dramatically increases by making him, say, a DnD character.

Magic: the Gathering Card, labelled "The Interesting Olaudah Equiano." Converted mana cost of five. Legendary Planeswalker - Human Captain. Abilities include: 1. If any action would cause the loyalty counters of The Interesting Olaudah Equiano to drop below one, prevent that action, and place a Capture Counter on The Interesting Olaudah Equiano. If a third Capture Counter is placed on Olaudah Equiano, remove all capture counters, sacrifice three creatures that are not The Interesting Olaudah Equiano, and take three damage. 2. plus one ability; Exert two creatures you control. You may cast a spell from your hand without paying its mana cost. (An exerted permanent won't untap during your next untap step.) 3. minus four ability; Choose a permanent an opponent controls. Target permanent becomes untapped, loses all counters and abiilities, and becomes a 1/1 Human Creature token until end of turn. And, 4. minus ten ability; If any opponent controls more permanents than you, they must sacrifice permanents until the number of permanents you control matches.
The Interesting Olaudah Equiano.

As I was describing the plot of Equiano’s memoir to my wife, I had to sum up a majority of the plot by simply saying that Olaudah was captured, freed/escaped, became captured again, was freed/escaped, and the process kept repeating itself to the point where I began to think that it had to be an integral component of his abilities in any kind of project. This is where the Capture Counter mechanic came into play. It’s taxing on the player, but nowhere near as taxing as living through these events must have been for Olaudah. I wanted these events to be detrimental to the player, but for that, I’d need to make his final ability so strong as to make up for this mechanic.

I had names for all of Olaudah’s abilities, as the plan was originally to make both this Planeswalker and a regular legendary creature card for him. I wanted to make his -10 ability something tremendously powerful, and I honestly think Olaudah could slay against token decks with this kind of ability; it was originally named “Calculated Miracle”. I still would love to build a pirate commander with him, especially because of this ability, but the current lack of blue/white pirates will kind of keep that dream quelled until new series release more. His -4 ability is something I thought really hard about – originally called “Make Reverent”, it’s meant to be an equalizing force for when the player is in a bind, much like Olaudah’s conversational tactics with people. If, even for a time, Olaudah can make someone a true equal, it can be used to gain an upper hand; maybe that’s in understanding people, maybe it’s in achieving victory, maybe it’s in strategizing – either way, I thought it would be a really cool addition to his ability list. I don’t have a big speech thing for the first ability, the +1, but it’s important to me that you know it’s called “Mixed Blessing”. I love Olaudah’s seeming luck to conjure allies out of thin air, and I wanted to make that manifest. His abilities are really meant for a long con, a slow burn play, and I would love to get a chance to print him out and play this deck.

I wanted to address why this was made as a Pirate deck, as Olaudah would technically be categorized as a privateer. To be entirely honest, this is the closest Magic: The Gathering gets to Privateers. The game is kind of limited in the kinds of directions I was able to take this project, which felt a bit more restrictive than I would’ve liked. Ultimately, though, I tried to make the deck centered around Olaudah’s perseverance, and his ties to religion really inspired a lot of the choices for sorceries added to the deck. That, and his seeming inability to be harmed by the events he lived through, that really inspired a majority of the card choices.

Why does literature matter?

Literature was, is, and will continue to be a living, breathing entity. It shapes, and is shaped by, culture, and so it should matter to those in that culture. It can give readers a glimpse into the past while also providing cautionary themes to be mindful of in the present. But in the way that I care about it most, literature can give hope for a brighter future. If it shapes culture, that is what it must be coaxed to do, and it must constantly be moving forward. Literature matters because representation matters. Literature matters because people matter, and how they feel is relevant. Text, subtext, language – it can all work to make the world safer through bringing understanding and representation through literature.

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One thought on “The Magic: The Gathering Deck of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

  1. I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again: I. Love. This. Deck. High key I would not mind you printing out the card and playing this deck against me. (Let’s see how well it goes against my elf deck >:3c )
    I love the amount of thought you put behind basically every card in this deck. The first time I looked through it, I noticed how well it suit the story immediately. From making it a pirate to the titles of the sorceries (like “Keep Safe” and “Chain to Memories” – absolutely brilliant) I think you encapsulated the story really really well. I also like how you fit simple artifacts into it that STILL relate to his life – like Short Sword. It’s a really nice touch. Also, I’m aware this is probably due to the limited multicolor cards for blue that are also pirate related, but having it white and blue was a really nice touch since white in MTG is the “purity/ holy” color. It’s a good ode to not only his religion, but also the fact that he takes up some white aesthetic throughout his lifetime.
    I imagine it was hard to overcome the restrictions of MTG to make this deck, but in a way, isn’t that a statement in and of itself to how hard Equiano had to push to overcome his hardships?

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