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.