In a small velvet bag alongside my EDH deck boxes, there lies a scratched brass coin, about the size of a quarter, with a smooth and narrow edge that glints a bit when it flips through the air. At first glance it seems undeserving of such an exalted position, being none too flashy and not even a coin you could spend in a vending machine. But sometimes coins mean more than what they’re worth, and sometimes cards mean more than what they do.
This is my all-time favorite coin. A goblin coin. The almighty dollar of Krenko, Mob Boss.
On its heads side, Krenko’s face in profile. Fleshy bulb of a nose protruding to the right; reaching left, the oversized mockery of an elvish ear. A single piggy eye, thick sausage lips, canine teeth bared in a sneer. He’s the boss, he KNOWS he’s the boss, and his goblin mob had better recognize.
On its tails side… a butt.
Far less grandiose, even crude. Nothing fancy, just the outline of buttocks with gangly legs dangling down. This is because goblins are crude, and butts are funny. If you call heads on this coin and lose, it literally moons your ill-fortune. Plus, I’ve found that people love to call “butts” when I toss it. I mean, they LOVE it. There’s goblin impulse in all of us, apparently.
As you may already know, most coin-flip cards in Magic’s history are goblin-related, including the amazing “flip two and ignore one” legendary artifact called Krark’s Thumb. Lots of those cards found a home with Krenko. But that’s only about half of what makes this coin my favorite. For the other half, let’s take a look at some flavor text.
That’s right. Flavor text. We’re going full Vorthos on this one. This little gem comes right off of Krenko himself.
“He displays a perverse charisma fueled by avarice. Highly dangerous. Recommend civil sanctions.” -Agmand Sarv, Azorius hussar
Fueled by avarice.
Avarice is greed for wealth. A lot of the time, that means a greed for coin.
The guy talking in this flavor text is an Azorius hussar, a blue-white knight/policeman in the ecumenopolis (city-world) that we all know and love: Ravnica.
Ravnica’s kind of like the New York of the Multiverse, the biggest city anyone has seen or can name, a skyline the size of a plane. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. You might knock Krenko’s methods, but it’s safe to say, he’s made it. That’s why other goblins rally around him; that’s why the police say he’s “highly dangerous.” And that’s why he’s rolling in the dough.
You know he’s rolling in the dough because his followers are motivated by money too. He finds the money he needs to pay his mob, gets ’em paid, attracts more 1/1 scrubs who wanna make it big in Ravnica just like he did. And the cycle continues.
He finds so many supporters that they double every turn. HE finds them. No littering matrons. No endless warrens to empty a la Time Spiral. This is a pyramid scheme, and our man Krenko sits atop its pinnacle, turning your average Foundry Street Denizen‘s daily routine into “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” That “perverse charisma”? It takes a lot of legwork.
And who’s the guy telling us all about him? Some random court hussar.
I think that’s the part of all this I love the best. Krenko doesn’t feel the need to justify himself. Explaining things is the guilds’ job, and they’re not even very good at it. He’s a one-color Warrior in a two-color world. If anyone has a problem with that, he’ll whack ’em. Towering over other Goblins at 3/3, born into a world defined by guilds, Krenko’s individual personality looms larger than life.
Krenko’s flavor text might’ve been a story that Wizards told, but the coin shows an extrapolation I made. Magic is the game I love best, not just because it’s mechanically interesting (though it IS), but because of the stories any player can tell with it. Magic becomes the game that you – the player! – most want it to be.
My name is Emily, and this is the story I’ve told of a streetwise young tough named Krenko. I tell you this story so you can get a sense of me, of what kind of player I am. I’d love to hear your stories in return.
Tune in every Wednesday afternoon for The Other Side of the Coin, brimming with flavor text and narratives galore. There might even be some price specs and deck techs along the way. We’ll be diving right into the thick of things, with a snippet of flavor text so recognizable that R&D felt compelled to make a card out of it. Leave your guesses below!
Just remember: Sometimes coins mean more than what they’re worth. Sometimes cards mean more than what they do.
See you guys next time.