Friday, February 22, 2019

Stasis: Magic's Art Piece

Rare photo of the original piece.

The bane of thousand newbies

"The card Stasis totally blew my mind—I had never seen it before, and I couldn't fathom just how much it neutered my entire deck and style of play. It reduced me to the role of helpless observer within the game; I simply stared at the contents of my hand and waited for death"--Aaron Forsythe, Sol'kanar vs Stasis 6/8/07

While many cards are famous in Magic, few are as notorious, as polarizing, and as infamous as Stasis. The card is easily one of the most well remembered, and one of the most despised cards from the early days of Magic. Everything from it's powerful effect, to it's unusual and distinct art. You either think the csard is one of the best cards ever printed, a gem among diamonds, or you feel it's something that should have never been put to print, and it's existence is everything wrong with MtG. To show this, it's easily one of the most reproduced single pieces of art in the games history (and even has a rule 34). Magic Lampoon wrote an entire article about a 20 year old Stasis lock finally being broken to do growing economic conditions.

Artist unknown
Alters are also somewhat common (done my MJAlters)

One of my first control decks was stasis. It was the early 2000's, and someone at my school built Tolarian Academy. It was hell, with someone else copying an even better deck bought card for card offline, it quickly became an issue of how to beat it. While lementing on it at a store, one of the owners handed me a 4th edition Stasis, and said 'this could do the trick'. I built a deck after buying all the pieces, and after getting a lock down in a 5 player game, the academy player shouted 'that card should be banned'.

So how did this amazing card come into existence, well that is an amazing and interesting story. The card started life by being drawn by Seattle based artist Fay Jones, as a favor to her nephew, some man named Richard Garfield. The card itself was part of a cycle of five cards that were designed the last minute around unused art (Sedge Troll, Birds of Paradise, Island Sanctuary, Stasis, and Word of Command) by Garfield himself. This lack of play testing could attribute to how powerful the card became, however it wouldn't get it's footing for a deck for at least another year, as other cards were required to compliment it.

At the time of release, in '93, Fay Jones was most likely the most famous artist to have her art on a Magic card. Her art has appears in over a 100 solo and group exhibitions, and includes art in the downtown Seattle transit station, Seattle/Portland/Boise/Tacoma art museums respectively.

So what happened to the original piece? Well, over a decade, Ms. Jones simply told people she had given it to a neighborhood kid. Then an article called 'A life of Cards, from Bridge to Magic' was posted on the website In it, the writer detailed his brief involvement with Magic, in early 94, and how is son met Ms. Jones and Mr. Garfield, and was given the art as a gift. It still sits their, framed, above his bed.

The art naturally gets a 5/5.

Stasis, did eventually get new art on MTGO, and while a nice piece, isn't nearly as memorable or as iconic as STASIS.

From the start, people wanted to try to make such an unusual, but powerful, card work. After all, a card that skips untap steps is extremely potent. It took some time, but thanks to cards like Winter Orb, Serra Angel, Reset, Yotian Soldier, Kismet, Boomerang, and Time Elemental, the first Stasis Decks were born. While clunky and gimmicky, when they worked, they could be downright impossible to overcome.

"Sure you can borrow my deck"

Then Ice Age came out, and with it, came a simple card called Despotic Scepter. This card allowed it to be tapped to destroy a card its owner owns. This card changed the definition of 'ownership' from a rule perspective, but it also indirectly created one of the most powerful decks of it's day (and one of the most powerful archtypes in Magic), Turbo Stasis. The deck ran a set of Black Vise with Howling Mine, numerous ways to bounce, or destroy your Stasis (including DS up there), and a handful of counterspells and removal, including eventually a playset of Force of Will. Matt Place placed top 8 with a version of this deck in the 1996 Us Nationals.

However this wouldn't be the end for Stasis, it continued to see play in extended, with cards periodically being printed to help the deck along until the early years of the millenium. This included Forsaken City, Chronatog, Gush, Thwart, Orim's Chant, and Isochrone Scepter.

No turn? No problem!
Always have a blue mana
Discussion has come up about using it with Planeswalkers, but lets not discuss this.

Many players hate Stasis, saying it's an unfun deck to match against. It's fine, and requires a litmus test of mechanics. Sure getting locked sucks, but that's the nature of the game.

Stasis is the perfect Johnny card, requiring off the wall thinking. It's like a rubics cube, or a car engine. You need to figure out how the pieces work together, and how to make it run most efficently.

"Unlike Stasis, of course, which made me dislike the guy who played it and wonder if I was in over my head with Magic.'--Aaron Forsythe, Sol'Kanar vs Stasis

Playability 5/5

Flavor: The flavor behind Stasis is one of the most interesting part of the card. Inquest games once said 'what does a coyote and mime have in common? If you said nothing, you are probably correct, but that didn't stop it from appearing on one of Magics earliest power cards'. A long theory among fans of the card, is it's an art piece, and since art is meant to be appreciated by staring at it, that is what the card does. As long as the art piece is their, things grind to a halt, and slow down. While not the best theory, it's an interesting one, and helps get the idea across.

flavor: 5/5

Stasis is the perfect card, from design, to art, to memorabilia. Deal with it.

PS If anyone could get me a playmat of the original art, I'd be very thankful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Kjeldoran Home Guard: Cards that tell a story.

"Quote here"

Alliances is one of the strangest expansions to look at, from both a design standpoint and a flavor standpoint. While the idea of cards telling a small story within them aren't anything new (cards I can think that do it well from Alpha include Lich and Cyclopean Tomb, with many others including City in a Bottle, The Fallen, Hazezon Tamar..). Story telling is an important aspect to any fantasy game, and if Magic was good at one thing, it was vague story telling. 

However, as if suffering from growing pains, Alliances attempted with many cards, to tell stories to help establish the setting not just in the art and flavor text, but in the cards themselves. Cards like Varchild's War Riders, Rogue Skycaptain, Veteran's Voice, Wandering Mage, and Stromgald Spy just from what comes to mind. They often have strange, somewhat complicated effects, which look out of place, even at the time.

Here we have one of my favorite examples of a card that 'tells a story'. Kjeldoran Home Guard. In this, we get a rather strong and healthy guard (at a 6 toughness). As the war goes on though, people start deserting, and before you know it, the guard is either dead, or is completely desolved. 

Now the deserters are 0/1, (since they assume-ably left their arms behind) , but can still fall into harms way (block), or be inspired (say with crusade) to fight on anyway, just as an individual until.

This card shows the idea that Kjeldoran's days are numbered, as their forces leave and weaken to the changing world that is coming with the thaw. As we know, they eventually merge with the Balduvians, through a marriage between Kjeld, and Lovisa Coldeyes, merging both kingdoms and creating a new society called New Argive. However, this card shows one of many stories on how it got there, and what it took to do so. 

The art is amazing, again, with Andi Rusu. The flag and cloud behind the guard almost makes the painting looks like a coat, and the marks on the side certainly help for that also. 

I wish I could rate this, but without a proper format (no format includes Alliances) it would be impossible to do. Instead, I wanted to talk about a piece of card design, and how mechanics and story can fit side by side. 

The Northern Paladin: A story (part one)

"The land... it's all gone"...said a soldier as he examined the soil, it's dust fell from his hand in a fine manner, it blowing into the breeze. "I have a feeling all is lost..."

"Chin up soldier, the walker still lives, and so do we, so fight". The paladin looked at the three men, pikemen, the oldest one was barely a man, as they stayed in a loose formation. Next to them, a Benalish hero looked over some crudely drawn maps in the ground. Her mood eternally humorless, she didn't participate in the conversation, she knew how bleak the battle had become. He scowled in her direction, reached to his side, and drank from his canteen.

The water felt good going down his throat, and it relieved him, albeit temporary, from the pain of the heat around them. He wasn't use to this warm climate, and it showed. No, he was from the northern country of Parma, which sat high on the altitude of the world. Most of the year was covered in the seasons of cold, which the worst, even the sun refused to come out, casting the world into several days of darkness. After all, with that cold, who could blame it?

His name was Freshwater, after the surname was given to a grandfather of several generations prior. The legend has it that he purified a corrupted lake after a bitter invasion from the dark kingdoms of Wrenna, and the lake bore its name as well. Since then, his entire line had been Paladin's, some with different orders then others, but all paladin's of nobility and good deed.

He sighed and looked over the blasted landscape. Although he knew much more of magic then the men behind him, he knew his knowledge was rather limited. He was taught largely how to defend and destroy black magic, which he was exceptionally well at. He understood their was powers, far beyond what he could even possibly conceive, and that is what just happened.

"We should head back to the castle" he said, and started to walk. The four followed, the soldiers talked among themselves on how good life was going to be when this was over, that they would be heroes, they'd have beautiful women, plentiful lands, and riches beyond their dreams. The hero and knight felt it wasn't best to interrupt them. He had a horse at the start of it, but it perished some time ago. He thought how long has this been going on, and why did he agree to it?

He tried to count the days that its been going on, no it had to be months. It couldn't have been a year already, could it? This was the hard question. The easy question is why. To his knowledge the war started on two fronts, a black Planeswalker who simply was called 'The Dark One' made an alliance with a crazy artificer conquer The Domains, and Richard Lightbringer, the walker he was indebted to, needed a man who could solve an issue he had. You see, the Dark One, according to Lightbringer, had summoned some Angels, allegedly Serra Angel's, which the Dark One responded with vampires of the Clan Sengir.

Now the paladin wasn't a stranger to Sengir vampires, who would sneak into the lands in the dark times. These vampires were different though, the vampires he encountered were little more than savages, feral creatures of the night, with hideous bald visages, with teeth in their hands, and long claws, who had little in the terms of cunning. No, these vampires were different, they were elegant, they were intelligent, and they were far more deadly. Lightbringer claimed they were gifts from Baron Sengir himself, from a land called Ulgrotha. No matter what lexicon Freshwater had checked, what globe he studied, or atlas he opened, he couldn't find anything about a land named 'Ulgrotha'. 'It must be more ancient then recorded history' he thought, after all, what was history to the immortal undead.

He killed both vampires, it wasn't an easy accomplishment, but his magic had helped him greatly, along with two gifts from the Walker, a set of armor that was said to be holy, and a lance, which helped him little now his horse was dead. Still, it could give him range in a pinch, which is nice.

As they approached the castle the draw bridge lowered, and they were let in. It was a small structure, held together by magic, but as real as a stone castle. The soldiers mumbled and headed into the basement, they would sleep in the common area. The knight, and the hero, both had private quarters. The Knight was gifted one for his long service, while it was decided the hero should have one, given she was a chaste female companion.

"Greetings" a booming voice said, on a throne at the end of the hall sat Lightbringer himself, a planeswalker of much renown, for he believed in justice. When Freshwater first met him, he looked more akin to a god as described in the Book of Tal. Long hard, righteous eyes. He remembered the light that radiated off him hurt his eyes, and required him to look away, however, that was some time ago, and the Planeswalker was looking rather weak, well compared to at least.

He sipped from his cup, it was made of Ivory, and legend had it, contained enchantments that allowed for life. Next to him, a massive sword laid onto his chair, called 'Runesword'. The Paladin once got to weild it after the betrayal, and used it to route a whole cavalry. Their skin seemed to melt at its touch, and they faded into dust, to no longer be part of this world. The power terrified him so much, he hoped to never carry it again. He wore a full set of plate, though nothing to flashy about it, and finally a cape with the symbol of his homeland, again, in letters he had never seen before, or since.

"Congratulations men on the victory, the dark one is destroyed, sadly, we still have to deal with the traitor". The five of them looked at each other, then him, before Freshwater spoke 'What was that, that just happened?' 'A terrible spell I'm afraid, he destroyed all the mana on the land, even his own, and with it, life. A terrifying Spell called Armageddon, one I promised never to cast myself'. There was a silence, and then after a sip Lightbringer said 'the good tactical news is, it also destroyed his lands as well, and has doomed Ezekel the mad to his own fate, a tomb trapped by the artifacts he loved. The bad news is, Al-Hajjar of Rabiah has us outnumbered, and there will be no reinforcements. Further more, the food in the castle, is the last food we have, as the farms were destroyed by the spell as well. I have a few tricks up my sleeves, as I'm sure Al-Hajjar had as well. We are to play a defensive game, as he has to come to us, but know this, this is all we have'.

"Now I did prepare a feast, so clean up, and meet in the hall in an hour."

He walked into his quarters, he was given many amenities as part of his agreement to join. A feather bed, a private bath, and an armoire to hand his armor. If even possessed a fireplace, which could be used on particularly cold nights, but had stayed unused for sometime. He looked at the metal barrel in his room, his bath, which had water that flowed directly to it with a well pitcher, which worked by means he didn't entirely understand, but it was a nice convenience, and he wondered if he could convince his conservative countrymen to adopt such a wonderful idea.

He filled the tub with water, and with some flint, light a small fire of hay and kindling under it, slowly but certainly, the water would heat up, and it would make a relaxing sauna, something he had gotten use to in the hot springs of his home. He carefully removed his armor, setting it in the armoire, followed by his cloths. Despite being middle aged, he still possessed a great deal of muscle, with his physique being equal that to a man half his age. His hand fell to his shoulders, which betrayed his age, along with the many scars around his body. His life as a paladin certainly wasn't boring, and he made something of a name for himself, which is probably why he gotten into this mess in the first place.

He slipped into the tub, and went over the events of the war the best he could. From his recollection, Al-Hajjar and Lightbringer originally were allies. Loose allies, but allies none the less, as they fought against Ezekel and the Dark One. The Dark One was originally the strong man, holding off both forces while Ezekel tinkered with his alchemy and mechanics, apparently trying to make some kind of super weapon. Al-Hajjar and Lightbringer brought in holy warriors from their own cultures, Dervishes, who were warrior monks, and white knights, knight errants and lords who's own righteousness kept them from being harmed. A concordant effort against The Mad Artificer reduced his mechanical army to it's minimum, so he got desperate, using powerful, but dangerous artifacts for mana, which is from his understanding, now his tomb. The Dark One meanwhile tried numerous plans to survive, including becoming a dreaded lich, some sort of undead demi-god, which survived the destruction of his own body. It was at this time, Al-Hajjar showed his true colors, and attacked out leader, and killed with a fierce bolt of lightning, the White Knight who guaranteed our victory.

We gave him a proper grave, and since then, it's been a slow war of attrition. They had just came back from finishing off the dark one, which Al-Hajjar making sure Ezekel would be trapped in his tomb, but with a flash, they noticed the land was dead. This couldn't handle on much more. Lightbringer and Al-Hajjar had suffered numerous counter attacks, and now that the ground was gone, their was nothing left but a head on invasion. Yes... the war... would... end soon...

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.