Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lore: Searching for the Galgothians

 "So what exactly are the Golgothians?"--My brother
"I don't know...."

From their earliest educations, the brothers had known that no human contrivance could stand against the true masters of Dominia.

It's actually funny. While talking about hate cards, I mentioned the Sylex, and how I needed one more to own my playset. A conversation came up with the versatility of the card, and how I felt it was underrated, when he asked 'so what exactly are the Golgothians?'

It was honestly something that never really crossed my mind before, but there is literally nothing on what they are.

Now the Sylex itself has a great deal of history behind it, was used by Urza to end the brothers war (in both pre-and post revisionists stories), was used by Ravindel the Battlemage to blackmail the Sages of Minorad into not interfering with his assembly of the Mox Beacon (causing the original Planeswalker war), being destroyed and thrown into the ocean. It is revealed in the current lore Karn is on Dominaria looking for it, so he can use it to blow up Mirrodin. 

Unlike it's two brothers (the Apocalypse Chime, and City in a Bottle), Golgothian Sylex has a great deal of lore behind it. Even post revisionist lore doesn't explain where it came from, just it was found, and it's written text said 'of Golgoth'.

So, to discover who, or what, were Golgoth (or the Golgothians), we must look at what's available on the card. 

My first thought, was to contact Kerstin Kaman, however, I was unfortunately informed of her untimely passing (which explained why she was in one expansion). This leaves me to study the art on it's own. The Sylex appears to have two handles, be made of brass, and has a painting of a man slaughtering another man. While others watch. There on the end are wheels, which have had a long standing religion effect of reincarnation. The Sylex sits on a table. That's everything I can gathering from the art. It tells little, other then it's very old (a brass Sylex would be). A real world reference would be, a Mesopotamian civilization.

Then we must go to the flavor text: "From their earliest educations, the brothers had known that no human contrivance could stand against the true masters of Dominia." We can gather that the Golgothians aren't a person, since it's done in plural. We also know, they were extremely powerful. However, there is one point that might be over looked. That isn't Dominaria, it's Dominia, the archaic word for the Multiverse. Now even in pre-revisionist lore, Urza was a Planeswalker, and this implies that they would be the masters of Dominia, even when factoring the might power of Elder Dragons, Cosmic Horrors, and Planeswalkers. So what are the Golgothians?

A few theories:

1). The beings of Equilor. Equilor was a plane Urza discovered 'on the edge of time'. In it, was a place that was so old, that even the mountains had eroded into light flat services. The beings there seemed to be able to inform him of everything, and told him his discovery of the plane was simply because 'they allowed it'. The being also seemed to take little not of the fact Urza was a Planeswalker, and while Urza wanted to turn it into a mechanical paradise, but was stopped (with much ease) by the locals at every turn. They were human, or at least appeared to be, but were also ageless (they started their search for enlightenment at -100,000 AR). The idea of them being the Golgothians, an extremely powerful group of people, who can make little of Urza Planeswalker, would be the perfect candidate for an answer, however, nothing says they were either. Perhaps the creation of such a destructive force inspired them to look into the enlightenment. 

Eldrazi: The colorless entities of the Blind Eternities (the space between planes). They are extremely powerful, and colorless. However, there is no evidence about them having civilization, or even Magic. 

Ascended beings: The idea of beings basically being gods, not just of planes, but of the multiverse itself, isn't exactly a revolutionary concept. While the 'origin race' of MtG is often cited as the Thran, it's possible that they had an origin race. The Thran, in lore, were an extremely advanced scientific civilization that to compare again to real world sources, would be as old as those ancient civilization in India mythology. Except with ruins littering the planet, along with extremely dangerous relics. This would propose that this would be the 'origin race' of the Thran, and taught the Thran what they know. Since nothing is written about before the Thran (except maybe the Dragon Wars), we can't be certain.

I hope you've enjoyed this little pondering about the Golgothian Sylex, and the lore behind it. Until next time.

Sir Shandlar of Eberyn: A good defense is a great offense

"Remember Sir Shandlar! Remember and stand firm!"
—rallying cry of the Eberyn militia

The Vanilla Legends are interesting, to say the least. Instead of the flashy abilities with low p/t we get now, they instead offer another idea, their greatness being shown through their p/t instead. This doesn't just extend to physical prowess, if flavortext is to be believed, it also shows their weapons, cunning, skill, and even destiny and magical capabilities. I mean, Riven Turnbull is an advisor who otherwise can literally wrestle a Craw Wurm to the ground with little problem. Some even got basic abilities (no banding though), which brings me to one of my favorite vanilla legends. Sir Shandlar.

Fun Fact: He's the only knight in Magic with a proper 'Sir' title.

Flavor: While literally no lore of him exists outside his own flavor text, it can be seen he's a more than capable fighter with great defense (being a 4/7). This makes him, and his greatness, stronger than a Craw Wurm (remember he's a single human). I'd argue this just doesn't extend to his own endurance, but to the gear he carries, and his skills as a combatant. I mean, who's to say that kite shield or sword isn't magical in it's own right. Like all the 'loreless' legends of Legends, it's hard to say a proper flavor score. So I give it a 3/5.

Art: Andi Rusu is an unsung brilliant artist. His style deliberately used an 'aged' look, making it look like medieval book printing, with a false fade of age. Legends was his most prolific expansion, though he features art all the way until Alliances. For Shandlar, it almost looks like a brass carving. Simple colors but nice details of bronze, white, and rust. Everything is detailed and shaded just enough to help with the look, without it being too detailed to become confusing. The most elaborate thing in my opinion is how 3D it looks, again, helping with the carving look I mentioned earlier. I can't honestly say if that was his intention, but in my opinion, that's what it is. 5/5.

Mechanics: When working on my Gen Con Ehrmaggedon deck, I had an issue. I knew my chances of encountering a Legend was slim, but I wanted to run my Karakas. I looked over 3 Green/White legends, that I felt were strong enough to be worth including. Jasmine Boreal, Torsten Von Urses, and Sir Shandlar.

Seriously? No profession?
Jasmine is actually a fairly costed card. Arguably an Erhnam with no drawback for a mana more. However, in a deck like Erhmagged, that one more mana, can be a tall order. If I was in possession of a Legends copy, I'd probably have done it, but I sadly only own a foil TS version.

Torsten Von Ursus, at 6 mana, is rather fairly costed. However, not only does that make him 'bad', it also makes him boring. He does have the creature type 'Soldier', which I'm sure will include him running along side the Icatian's at some point in my brews, but as he stands, he's just not that great.

Which brought me to Shandlar. 7 toughness is almost impossible to swing over, and is rather difficult to burn out. Further more, without assistance from other cards, it's tougher then almost ever creature in the format. At 4 power, he can take out many staples, including Serendib Efreet, Su-Chi, Juggernaut, Every red creature, Sengir Vampire, Serra Angel and Assembly-Workers. The fringe creatures I may have encountered included the likes of Clockwork Beast, Craw Wurm/Giant, and well you get the idea.

When he came into play, he had to be answered quickly, which usually meant he was going to the retire out on a farm, or he was being terror'd (both which happens). I sadly didn't get a single game against Burn at Gen Con, but I only sided him out once (against a mono-black deck that was putting in a playset of Gloom).

All and all, he did his job, even if it was soaking removal so others my live. Like his flavor text implies. I'd say he's honestly a good card, and unlike the founder of Benelia up there, is actually not to boring do to his unusually high toughness.

In other suggestions, being white, he does synergize with Crusade/Jyhad, and being green, you can keep him alive with Avoid Fate/Death Ward. 

Playability 4/5

12/15=4/5 A solid card in it's own right, and a good reason to try him out.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Zombie Master: the Black Sheep

"As the years went on, Goblin King and Lord of Atlantis made their way into tournament-caliber decks and the hearts of players everywhere, but Zombie Master never enjoyed that level of glory. With tons of copies in print and very little player interest in owning more of them, Zombie Master was put out to pasture after 7th edition, replaced in the mind of players, and later in core sets, by Planeshifts Lord of the Undead"--Aaron Forscythe

The black sheep lord, Zombie Master is one of the strangest, one of the most interesting lords in the game. While all pre-onslaught lords (with the exception of Keldon Warlord) gain +1/+1, and something (usually landwalk), Zombie Master chose something different. Since the set already had a color buff, and it's henchmen are a 2/2 already, it's understandable why it doesn't give a buff.

It's interesting to say, he's one of two creatures in beta printed with the type 'Lord', the other being Keldon Warlord. Lord of Atlantis is called 'Summon Lord of Atlantis' and Goblin King is 'summon Goblin King' respectably. Meanwhile, the two of them seen major tournament play, while Zombie Master remained the black sheep, and was even replaced with Lord of the Undead in later sets, he always had something of a small following.

It should he noted while he now he's  says 'all other zombies', he himself is now a zombie, which means multiples can set up a soft Regeneration loop.

Art: The Art on him is amazing. Jeff Menges draws great zombie pieces, as few and far between those are, and he's the perfect example of how (though Scavenging Ghoul also is a great example). Everything about this, is well, cold. The white of the skin looks lifeless, deathly. Even his face, appears to be in some form of agony. The 'shirt' looks more like wraps, through a cadaver or momification process. Finally the cape and hood, which shows he was, in life, a wizard, or a powerful mage. The sword on the side shows he's capable of fighting. The fact it's all black, doesn't try to be over glamorous as the new zombie lords, instead it's a simple pitch black. The lifeless trees in the background are a nice touch, showing either it's late autumn, or they are dead. Finally, though, and the best part of the piece is the sunset sky. Just before dusk, it adds a small bit of color, that fades the farther it moves from point, with the actual sun arguably being behind the Master himself. It's a small bit of color that adds an amazing touch to a photo that might be otherwise gloomy.  The clouds in the sky are also a nice small touch. It sets an atmosphere, the descending of light, into the night.

It should be interesting to note, some of the color was washed out in the earlier pieces (either due to printing technique or design), the original piece has a bit more color, which is also viewable with the Classic 6th printing.

Notice the reflections or orange and white.

If only the older prints looked like this, I'd give it a full 5. It's more distinct, more defined, and more 'colder', if you will.

The art piece, is pretty good. It's atmosphere sells it, without it, I'd be a 2/5 piece, but the surrounding area, it becomes a solid 4. 4/5

Playability: I'm going to get a lot of flak over this, but I think Zombie Master is better than the other two lord. Sure, Lord of Atlantis got better as fish became a more prolific deck, and Goblin King's hayday came and went, Zombie Master never got that, but I blame that on the lack of prolific Zombies.

Before Ice Age, only two other printed Zombies existed, Scathe Zombie, and the Drowned. Luckily, for the format, the GCU made numerous creatures Zombies, and it's possible to run him in 93/94. Among some of the better ones include 'The Fallen', Frankenstein's Monster, Khabal and Scavenging Ghoul, and if you are into is, Cyclopean Mummy. If you play the 95 variant, you get access to Lim-Dul zombies, who are also 2/3, for three (making them 'efficient' bodies). Speaking of which, he is the strongest of the Lords, as a 2/3 for three. Not to mention Ashen Ghoul and the awesome beater Dread Wight.

The regeneration seem more useful. Considerably more useful than landwalk, and more tactically useful than a +1/+1. Being able to block with your zombies, or having your zombies survive burn and Disc are potent, but what's best, is allowing two of them to regenerate each other. The GCU made him much more potent. If only his zombie brethren were just a little better.

Then Swampwalk is equally as good, because of Evil Presence, and Cyclopean Tomb. I already wrote a review on evil presence, but it's no secret that disrupting utility lands and mana bases are good strategy. This also, makes your zombies unblockable, and this helps them.

I give the playability 3/5, but not due to the Zombie Master himself, but those around him.

Flavor: Like many lords, Zombie master got a boost in flavor with his creature type being updated, and while I still mourn the loss of the Lord creature type, I don't mourn it improved his type since his flavor text says 'now that he's joined them'. While swampwalk is dubious, it makes sense a necromancer can regenerate zombies, which makes that mechanic work. I'm also not sure why he has three toughness, but I'll attribute that to 'magic'.

All and all, flavor 3/5.

11/15, or 3.5/5. Sure, it's not the best tribe in Old School, but it's one of the more interesting. Having a wide variety of different creatures (Zombies (12) outnumber Thrulls(6), Kolbolds(7), and Merfolk(9) (Goblins edge out on 13)). make it certainly a brewers paradise. And with unique effects like Frankenstein's monster, Boris Devilboon, and Khabal Ghoul, it's certainly something worth thinking about. It won't hit as hard as goblins, nor as consistently as Merfolk. However, if your heart is dark, and you want to try to muster death, it's worth an interesting deck with lots of building around.

The 6th edition art. Notice the brighter colors and reflection of the sun.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Patina and old school

As some of you may know, and many of you might not, I'm into classic cards. I started sanding cars to help my family when I was 6, and the hobby has stuck, and while I might not be a professional like most of my family, it's still a major part of me.

So what is Patina? Well the definition of it is sort of broad, but it's usually associated with the natural wear of something, traditionally brass. It's also a common term used when trying to sell a rotbox. While I can sit here, trying to define it, a image is worth a thousand words.

So what does this have to do with Old School? Well recently I experimented with a different format, and for it, I built a deck from my 'childhood', thrulls. Yes, that ugly word. I did better than expected, forcing each game besides mono-white to a third game, and winning at least one match. However, while building I choose numerous well loved versions of the cards I played with. Revised cards with long since dirty borders, scuffed card faces, chipped borders, creased corners. Nothing done deliberately, just wear and tear from a different time. Not much different from the weatherization up above.

He was in not one, but two dioramas growing up.

A long and loyal mox monkey sits between my first coin flip cards.

It's a knight with a gun! Why wouldn't I run it?

Some of the damaged goods in Thrulls.

This is a very worn Eron the Relentless, one of my very first legends, it's been in numerous decks I've built over the years. Many would call this 'damaged' or at least 'heavy played'. However, I'd say it has 'patina'. Numerous of the wear has stories behind it, and while this is a rare example, it still stands as one.

When you talk about damaged cards, you get two camps. One camp, buys them because they are often a little cheaper, while others hold them with great pride, calling it history, and saying they feel 'right'.

When I was building Thrulls, it almost came as second nature, as I built the deck with little on good synergy, but instead what 'felt' right. The old cards I clearly once stuffed into pockets and book bags felt right, and I even started removing much cleaner ones for the damaged goods of old.

Old School and Cars have a bit more in common, then I'd like to admit. Memoralizing and customizations are common (signatures and custom paint for cars, signatures and alters for Magic), they have devoted fan bases, it can be a cheap or expensive commitment, and both have a love/hate for stock patina, whether that be for cars or cards. In fact, patina has gotten so popular, that 'artificial' patina has some out, which is a modern paint job attempting through bleeding and flat paint to replicate the effects of patina, some go as far as the to spray rust onto the car before sealing it with clear coat, and while I doubt we will see artificial damage, there may be a time when the idea of damaged but well loved cards will be just as respected as the grade 9 card.

Image may contain: car, outdoor and nature
My current project btw. Yes that's the original paint, or the 'patina'.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Camouflage: An appeal

Camouflage is one of the strangest cards in the base set. In it, as written, you effectively put your cards face down, rearrange them as accordingly, in an awesome game of bluff. However, as currently worded, it is this illogical mess:

"Cast this spell only during your declare attackers step.
This turn, instead of declaring blockers, each defending player chooses any number of creatures they control and divides them into a number of piles equal to the number of attacking creatures for whom that player is the defending player. Creatures those players control that can block additional creatures may likewise be put into additional piles. Assign each pile to a different one of those attacking creatures at random. Each creature in a pile that can block the creature that pile is assigned to does so. (Piles can be empty.)"
What bullshit am I looking at with this? This, this is a fucking mess! Here's the printed text:

"You may rearrange your attacking creatures and place them face down, revealing which is which only after defense is chosen. If this results in impossible blocks, such as non-flying creatures blocking flying creatures, illegal blockers cannot block this turn."

 So why did they change it? Some of you might be asking. Well, you see, in the early 2000's a children's card game named Yu-Gi-Oh! came out (yeah, never heard of it), and a large part of it's mechanics were playing cards face down. It even inspired some meme's.

So this got WotC for the first time in a decade to revisit the idea of turning cards upside down. The result, Morph.

It's been 15 years and I still don't understand why this don't trample.
It was quickly realized that with Morph, Camouflage had new life, as it could easily turn a group of attacking Morphed creatures face up. It quickly got a hastely written errata, that in my opinion makes the card literally not function. Now if we are going to errata things, can we errata this to work as printed? We will never have to worry about Morph, and it's honestly a fun (and cheap) card. 


Monday, January 28, 2019


"Errata is bad times, though, as it causes confusing situations for people that play with older versions of cards. And this errata would affect lots of cards."--Aaron Forsythe, Classifying Samite Healers, 7/16/2004

Magic: the Gathering has had an extremely long history with errata, dating back all the way to 1993, when a number of Alpha cards were printed with wrong CMC, power/toughness, and in one case, no way to play it. In the very early days of Magic, it was simple, you played as the card was written. This meant Orcish Oriflamme was strictly better in a situation with an Alpha deck (only Alpha cards could be in with other alpha cards), however the distinctions between designs didn't end there. One of my favorite examples of cards having slightly different wording for different effects is Island Sanctuary.

A simple change in description, one says attacks, the other says damage. The difference being with the alpha one, as printed, you can get away without paying Force of Nature, or spam Orcish Artillery. In 94, they started down the long road of errata, which led to things like Raging River being an Enchant World, Cyclone having Cumulative Upkeep, and the back and forth ice hockey game that was 'text on Time Vault'.

One of the most errata'd cards ever to exist.
 Luckily, WotC has largely stopped attempting errata, unless it's something BIG (like the grand creature type update). However, I'm not here to talk about the errata of WotC and it's history, instead, I'm here to talk about well, this:

When those peppers are extra spicy
The poster child for the format itself, Chaos Orb is honestly probably one of the most famous cards in the game. It's effect itself is something of myth and legend, and its notoriety is just as famous. It even got a homage in Unglued, to the long told story that someone once tore one up in a tournament.

It's current text

However, as printed, the card is more than broken. Someone who's been flicking the card for almost 30 years can wipe out several cards with the precision of a laser. It quickly became the idea to 'fix it', with a fan agreed errata, and it became literally universally recognized

Outside of literally one detractor I know, almost all players agree on this line of text. It's easy to understand, it's still within the spirit of the card, and the only down side is, it can't possibly backfire by hitting your cards (it can however miss, which some would say is a backfire itself).

While debates on the rules were actually common (as would be, in a regional based format), all players recognized this as the only errata, until Fallen Star. Fallen Star currently has another strange errata, this time, you choose a number of creatures and put them into a pile, or a row, and drop the card. Again, it loses the chance to backfire on you, as well, the rest of the card functions as intended. However, being a dexterity card, I love the fact it's almost playable now online. I do agree with that text for online play.

Now there is something I like to call errata creep. As few of you know, I also play a game called YuGiOh (or did) and I keep an eye on it from time to time. As said at the beginning of the article, errata can often be detrimental for certain cards, and for people rejoining the game. It also can in turn, come into making a card even more powerful than before.

YuGiOh is one of my favorite examples of wanton errata, because card names are just as important the the function of the card as everything else. Which in turns, either creates renaming of cards (some of which are classics), or the text (x isn't a y card). This doesn't even delve into the mess that is the TCG vs the OCG, or how Europe occasionally doesn't errata cards when the USA does.

So why am I bringing up YGO in an MtG conversation? Well recently several USA play group's have decided to add errata to the infamous 'bands with others' lands. The bands with Others lands are notorious for their lack of mana abilities with the fact they have one function to form legends into bands.

When legends was released, it had a very thick D&D theme to it, and these 5 locations were stereotypes of places a D&D party might meet. They didn't tap for mana, since it was felt banding was that useful of an ability, and the flavor that these locations sh
ouldn't be mana rich enough.

Stangg always discusses a tactic with his twin over a cold one before going into combat.
Recently, I discovered that the brave Knights of the TAPlar have been playing with an errata that they can tap for mana of their respective color for over a year now. The Atlantic playgroup has suggested the same thing, but making them legendary, which adds an additional issue with that mechanic.

Yes, I know she's a throw away legend, and I know she's not going to see much play, but she's there. She has legendary landwalk, it's a legitimate issue changing the actual type of these cards. It's also one I guarantee wouldn't be noticed until someone pointed it out.

I'm not saying I don't understand the desire to make them better, but where does that stop? There is literally no reason to not run this outside blood moon as it is now. I understand you wish they were better, we all do, but when does that stop. How long until Safe Haven and Island of Wak-Wak tap for a blue? How long until Mana Birds have 1 toughness to make it more efficient? Hell why stop their, turning Mind Twist into Mind Shatter will make it fair. How about a 4/4 Hill Giant? We already have manaburnless Su-Chi in half the world? Can I get Camouflage to work as printed instead of the garbled mess it is on Gatherer? I'm just saying, errata is a slippery slope, and if not kept under control, and only to the absolute most necessary, Old School will soon lose it's identity, and will be unrecognizable from it's current self.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Visions: The butterfly effect.

Visions. What can be said about this that isn't presented on the card itself. It allows you to look at cards, and if you want, shuffle that library.

Art: NeNe Thomas I feel never got her due. For an artist mostly famous for drawing scantity clad women and fairies, she has some great pieces in Legends. This one is no exception, with a meditating samurai receiving a ghostly vision in the form of a ghostly woman. While simple, it's colors are good, with a large amount of contrasts, but nothing contrasting to overwhelming. The simple, but distinct features of the two characters are also nice, especially given how small the art was probably when commissioned. While the lack of background is disappointing, it works because any more details would probably be cluttered. It's only a bonus it's one of the few oriental looking pieces in OS, which helps it's distinction. The Art makes a good place in memory, sure nothing amazing, but certainly nothing terrible. 3/5.

Playability: Information is power. Wisdom is power. It took twenty years, but people eventually realized that Natural Selection is really good (especially when used against your opponent). Portent has been used in a similar manner. In reality, very few cards give you top deck information, and none of them dig five cards deep. However, this lacks the ability to manipulate the deck, but in turn, looks deeper. It also lets you shuffle. Someone once said 'Sylvan library is good until every card on top of your deck is crap'. I'd dare say, this can combo amazingly well with Sylvan Library. Other advantages with this, is a turn 1 drop when you don't want to mulligan, to see if your deck is worth keeping (or to try for better luck). Further, I'd say you could in theory try this with Millstone. However, you probably have better options for that. So I'd give it a 3/5. Not an amazing card, it has it's uses, and I'm glad it's there, but not an amazing card either.

Flavor: The flavor hits the nail on the head, particularly about the unpredictability of the future. Since the card is a vision (or visions), it's obvious you're looking into the near future. Now you can attempt to stay the course, or change the future (shuffle). However, the future remains unpredictable, and thus, it invalidates the visions you seen previous. If I have any issue with the flavor, is it's white. However, it's legends, so I'll toss it up to it making sense on paper. The Thomas Gray flavor text is just a nice bones. I'll give the card a solid 5/5 for flavor, particularly in the philosophical sense about the future, but perhaps I'm thinking to much about it.

11/15=3.6/5. It's an average card, nothing special, but nothing bad. A nice addition to have in your box for a brew, or perhaps to try and help a combo go off, but nothing that will win the game by itself. I recommend particularly trying it sometime with Sylvan Library, if for nothing else, than it's shuffle effect (better than taking 8 ;) ).