Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Jacques Le Vert: Hero of Pendlehaven

Abandoning his sword to return to the lush forest of Pendelhaven, Jacques le Vert devoted his life to protecting the creatures of his homeland.



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Jacques le Vert, or Jack the Green for us anglos, is probably one of the considerably more playable Legends legends, with his home arguable being the best of the Legendary lands. I recently acquired one, and started building an EDH deck around him. With a cut off of Alliances, it was full of removal and beaters! Like any good OS deck should be.



Playability: While a castle effect, even a permanent one, isn't the most amazing ability in the game, it does share some unique qualities, and the fact he pumps himself, effectively makes him a 3/4 for 4, not bad given the time period. The most notable thing, when compared to other castle effects, is he pumps only your creatures, a unique aspect in OS, and the fact he pumps himself, is a notable good aspect. Now a 3/4 for 4 isn't going to turn heads by it's own, but it does put a few classic green creatures out of Bolt range, and as stated above, a toughness boost is always a criminally underrated effect. In 95, you can also utilize him to good effect with Pyroclasm, and he works well with Earthquake as well, assuming the X is a relatively low number. Playability 3/5. 

Art: It's a shame Andi Rusu only did art for a few sets, because he's one of the better classic artists of the game, with a thick story book look. I already gushed over him in the Sir Shandlar article. Jacques stands there on what I must assume, is the English channel (or the Dominaria Equivalent), looking good for his inevitable portrait. The washed out colors, the facial features, the minimal but distinct background features. The art looks like an old worldly attempt to capture the color and cold of the coast on a foggy morning. 

Lets not forget Jacques himself, standing there with his Sword of the Meek, his tunic and armor show he's, at the end of the day, a warrior. The art is easily the best piece part of the card. It gets a 5/5 from me. 

Art 5/5.


Flavor: While both him, and his home, pump creatures, they do it differently. Sadly, most cards that reference him, actually reference his home, Pendlehaven, a tournament staple even to this day. I do like the idea that Jacques Le Vert's mere presence increases your green creatures resolve simply by his presence. I also like the idea of him pumping himself, but if he loses his green (say to a lace), his heart goes with it, and his resolve shrinks as a result. It's like an alignment shift, and it's something I wish came around more in MtG, but alas...

Oddly enough, he's not the only Green Legend that has an effect like this. Kaysa and Meng Huo have a similar +1/+1 effect that effects themselves as well. Just food for thought. 

Flavor 4/5. 


So according to my ultimate rating system, he'd be a 12/15, making him a 4/5. In other words, a good card. Not bad, for a Legends legend, and certainly not the worst Legends legend by any grade. Sure, there are more efficient beaters at 4 mana, there are better lords as well. However, for someone looking to spice up a deck, he's a solid inclusion, and as a gold card, you get style points!

I will end with this quote:

"...in one sordid case, Kaysa—wherein so much life was bid that we had to question the appropriateness of the player's relationship with the card. We found him two weeks later in a hotel room with a jar of peanut butter and a play set of Jacques le Vert."--Geordie Tate, A Magic Journey


https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/magic-journey-2009-11-23 (source).



All Hallow

Monday, October 7, 2019

Cruising on the Fallen Empires!

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"Don't let the Swedes see this"
--William John Thomas II, the Conqueror, on the Duelist article, "The Power of Fallen Empires".


 "Absolute Madman"--Alvin Mason

"No-No! I'm not interested in score ;)"--The Friend of the East.

"Bad"--Mr. Oaks


These are just minor few rants or raves of what I managed to get off of the most insane deck I think I've ever built, and the second largest I've ever built. 

Unfortunately, earlier this week, a friend of mines father died, which prompted me to go south and help him move some stuff. While there, I stopped in at one of my flgs, and after buying several cards, including a Jacques le Vert, when the operator decided to invite me to a OS event, happening up the road, a two hour drive south for me, and after a day of weighing pro's and con's, my friend said he decided he'd like to go, and I decided to check it out. 

So why this 'deck'. Well the format used a points based value system for cards, straight out of Duelists #8, as well as a 8 maximum of any card, as long as the point value wasn't above 20. While mulling over what to build, a sarcastically posted 'This post gets two dozen likes, I'll run a deck of playset of every card from Fallen Empires". It didn't (the group didn't have two dozen people on it) get that many likes, but I was openly encouraged by a few, and outside a few rares I didn't have a full set of (Draconic Sylex(2), Sand Silo's (3), Dwarven Hold (1) Orgg(2), Ebon Praetor(2), Elven Lyre (3), and Icatian Lieutenant (3)). I also decided to run a handful of non-Fallen Empire cards, for the sake of consistency, Jacques le Vert, because I just bought him, and he was in a penny sleeve already, along with Arcades Sabbath for the same reason. A wheel of Fortune and Mind Twist because I enjoy those card. Playset of Righteousness, because it's my favorite combat trick, a play set of Untamed Wilds for fixing. Finally, a playset of Sleight of Mind and Magical Hack, because of all the color hate cards among Fallen Empires. I reached 20 points, added basics (20 of each basic), counting the lands of Fallen Empires, makes 40 additional lands. 


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"Ever build a really stupid deck?"


 So the day comes, I wake up late, fly down 31 cutting through Indianapolis, and reaching the bar early, only to find everyone else is running late. So I buy a wrap, a drink, and start shuffling. My friend built a B/R Land Destruction deck. It had a set of Sinkhole, eight stone rain, a set of Hymn to Tourach, and other good cards.



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Me on the far right showing off my set of Rainbow Vale, with my friend on the left in the checkers.


Game 1 (vs Land Destruction)

 Sometimes helping people work to well. My friend did very well, winning most of the pick up games. I did the best against him, running a small weenie aggro attack against him. However, I couldn't get anything further, and eventually, he would drop a Demonic Horde, or a Hippie. Then it would become an issue. I quietly lost against him, shook his hand, and went to game two. 


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Sitting across for the first round against my friend. my reflection in the window is proof.

Game 2 (Vs Fish)

I went against a Fish deck. It was a quick, poor game, of getting beat down in an extremely quick manner. I moved on, ordering something to eat. 

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500+ cards, all love!

Game 3 (Vs Black/Blue control)


Ever get beat down by Nightmare? I lost to six of them. I did manage to play Icatian Town in this game, and I did start an aggro move.  However, Pestilence did that in. I did do better in this, then the other two games as well.

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It was a slow game, and I had hoped my hunter would hold the Nightmare at bay, until the Assasin came out.

 

Game 4 (Blue/Green singleton/jank). 


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the jank I lost against

This gentleman ran a deck of synergy and beatings. Including Tim and Ship for burn. I don't remember much from this match, other then I lost it. I do remember game one, I ultimately lost to a Thelonite Druid, animating enough Forests to overrun my meager defenses. One of the best decks I ran in the event. At one point, I had multiple Homarids against him.


Game 5 (Mirror Lich/beatdown)

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Lost to this gentleman and his impressive three color lich build. The other deck is pictured.


I actually played a different deck against this initially. However, I insisted to run one game with FE against this gentleman from the south. I lost to both a Lich/Mirror combo, as well as a Force of Nature, which he was running for reasons. 

Game 6 (Vs Alt. 4th).

The host, insisted on playing against the build. He ran a similar deck, a Black/White deck made from Alt. 4th cards he managed to get together. These games were some of the longest, and thus most entertaining, and the only game I managed to get out a Hand of Justice/Icatian Town combo. The games were long, were hard, but in the end, the lack of removal did me in. 


The Road game is the only game I won, a 5 man game of Planechase. One player had run a full power, EC w/u/b control version of the deck, and had locked most of the game with Moat/The Abyss. Next to him was the Alt. 4th deck, who struggled along, me, a flare/big red/burn build utilizing Power Surge, then Fish. 

After a concordant effort, the three players managed to kill the Control build, but Alt 4th left prematurely. The burn player killed fish, only for me to play a Icatian Priest, and swing for thirty two damage with Order of Lietbur. It was awesome.


All and all, it was a good time, had by all, and an amazing Luncheon. It reminded me why I loved Fallen Empires so much as a kid, and why I would want to go back to using the cards regularly when playing OS.


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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Castle: The closest thing we got to Camelot.




"Hang out our banners on the outward walls; / The cry is still, ‘They come'; our castle's strength / Will laugh a siege to scorn."
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth
 
We  are finally getting an Arthurian expansion, after 25 years. Which is why I was inspired to write this, and this will be my only mention of this set.
 
A strong defense is a great offense, or so they say. Fortifications existed from the earliest farming communities, to the age of flight, when it was finally decided to be a technological obsolete tactic. Among all of these, nothing captures the romance of a bygone era like the castle. You can't think of any fantasy setting, especially classically written ones, without some giant castle, usually with a moat, parapets, and so forth. It would make sense, for the base set, to include one, as it's a common generic fantasy trope, and it even almost got reprinted in modern times, but someone asked why a castle would be an enchantment (instead we got the same card called Builders Blessing).


I'm not going to lie, I wasn't allowed to play for Ante when I lost my Castle in a game of Ante to my older brother. When I learned Crusade was a card, I was less interested in Castle, but I've continued to run it over the years, and one day, I'll try it in OS.
 
 
Castle
"Just carry the wall with you"-Me, to Serra Angel (probably).
Playability:  As seen above, the current incarnation is stronger then the original, considerable. Given attacking creatures also get the bonus. This was just one of many functional changed that happened on cards in "Classic" 6th edition. This does hurt a few points it will receive below, however. 

Given in OS proper, there are 6 cards with Vigilance, with 5 of them being creatures, only two can be run in mono white (Serra Angel and Yotian Soldier). If we go 95, we get the Sleigh, Ghost Hounds, and Serra Paladin (which gives another creature vigilance). The two most playable of these, are already mentioned, with Bartel being a fourth (but off color). 

So it being abused with Vigilance isn't that likely. However, it does help a defending bands, giving much needed toughness to the creatures in question. It also helps nullify burn, forcing some of it's most potent removal to go to the face or become card disadvantage.

I think, playability, it's a solid 4/5. Plus, anyone who's used even one with a Serra can realize how good two extra toughness can be. 


Flavor: As stated earlier, it doesn't make sense for attacking creatures to be protected by the Castle. It makes perfect sense when defending creatures are, and while I don't understand why exactly multiple castles work together, I just attributed it to layers of the wall. I'm also not sure why it's an enchantment, besides functional reasons, but that's a common theme among early magic cards/

As promised, the flavor is 3/5. 




Castle
My brother spent years announcing the errata on this card.


Artwork: Castle is a cute, simple drawing, like many of the early art pieces. It has a number of small, interesting details that give it life, though, such as the stonework of the castle itself, with none of it being perfect. The Castle also has depth, with black windows showing the interior exists, but unable to be seen, as if looking from the outside, and parapet's in the background show it's 3D. Other details are the flag, a flag, a drawbridge and gate, but unfortunately not a soul to be seen. Many early art pieces are like that, with the image seemingly lifeless. 

The clouds though are the best touch. As said in other posts, he could have gotten away with just painting the sky blue, but that little extra detail makes the card pop. 

Honestly the art is a solid 5/5. Another simple, but effective and memorable art piece, that one sure isn't to forget.

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A close up to show the small details

Saturday, August 31, 2019

An apology



"Regret is the insight that comes a day to late..."


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Well, earlier this week, I wrote a rather heated article on Brian Weissman, and his performance at Magicfest Las Vegas. I, personally, was in a rush, with various projects on my own end, and trying to get the article out while it was fresh in people's mind, and wrote an subpar post.

The article was rife with hearsay, inaccuracies, and just plain lies, which I had heard in various groups, or made assumptions on, and rolled with.

A day later, Mr. Weissman sent me a formal letter, explaining in his own words, various inaccuracies. We had a good conversation, and I'm now writing this.

Brian Weissman created the first version of "The Deck" in 1994, which quickly spread across Usenet, often with his name attached. The accusations he simply "optimized an existing archtype" are false.

He never won a worlds, let alone in 1996, nor in 1993, 1994, and 1995.

He didn't eliminate Athena in the tournament, but she took her first loss to him.

He wasn't sponsored to be there, and the Vintage Magic sleeves are his own personal lot, which was bought at a great deal from his friend Daniel Chang. Most of his decks are sleeved in them as a personal preference.

His YouTube channel isn't, nor has ever been monetized.

He repeats he was unaware of the etiquette about deck photo's in OS, and apologizes over it. In fact, he claims the photo'd deck was what he wish he ran..


The previous article will be made private, but for posterity, won't be deleted, if anyone wishes to read it, they can contact me and I will send it to them.

I apologies, to both The OS Community at large, and to Mr. Weissman personally. I, like many of us, got swept up in the zeitgeist of the moment.

While this does raise the question, what do we do about cheaters in the community, I think that is a question for another post.

Again, my apologies to everyone involved.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Autumn Willow the MILF

"At first I imagined Autumn Willow as a woman in regal robes. After I read the Homelands background, however, I found the story of her waning power a sad one and decided that a softer, romantic portrayal would be more appropriate. I also chose to paint her as a human figure due to my background in classical and Renaissance art history, periods in which dryads and forest goddesses were depicted as women."--Margeret Organ-Kean


The original Shroud creature (sorry Lurker), and even more so, the first Hexproof creature, Autumn Willow, like many green cards, was, in it's day, on the cusp of tournament play ability. However, Autumn Willow is more noteable then that, with it's classical looking art, of a beautiful, but sad woman, on a 4/4 body, would both perplex, and resonate with players, and she's managed to stay in the minds of those who played her, when she was new, after all, in the first protour collection, she gets three different signature along with her gold border. Not many cards can say that, especially creatures. This puts her in the ranks of the likes of Masticore.


 



Playability: At the start, she's a 4/4 for 6 in green. Not exactly the best start. However, she has a conditional version of shroud, which protects her more then some will admit. It gets around spot removal, as well as The Abyss (since The Abyss targets). Throw in a 4/4 body, which is fairly durable, and it's a solid creature. While it might not be Erhnam, it's a fair, well designed legend, and its no wonder why it managed to see play in three top 8 decks.

As a bonus, in team games, you can allow teammates enchant/target her as well. 

 4/5.


https://magic.wizards.com/sites/mtg/files/image_legacy_migration/mtg/images/daily/features/feature61_autumnwillow.jpg

Art: Homelands, had very little going for it correct, but it's art direction is top notch, and each of it's legends are memorable in their own right (except Grandmother Sengir). This is in part, due to their art. Autumn Willow is no exception, and mark my words, it's one of the best pieces, not just in Homelands, but in the entire history of the game. 

The art shows a melancholic middle aged woman, sitting in front of a willow tree and a lake. She's the personification of mana on the Homelands, and in the setting, she's slowly (very slowly) but steadily losing power, as the influence of the Baron spreads and Feroz's Ban weakens, which is why she made her so sad looking. She will soon be gone, and that which she protects will be defenseless without her magic.

The biggest question on this though, is why a middle aged woman. In classical art, nature spirits and abstract personifications are often displayed as beautiful women. As the quote above suggests, it was originally going to be much more regal, but I feel it wouldn't be nearly as memorable if it was. 

This imagining of the Autumn Willow does the character justice, showing her as one would expect a caring protective motherly figure, would. 

MOK, thank you for the wonder piece, and enriching this game as a whole. 

Fun fact: The model for that card was none other than the beautiful Kaja Foglio.

Art 6/5.

Flavor: As the protector of the Great Forest, she watches over Caravans, protects the anarchistic folk of An-Haava, and commands the faeries of the Forest. This card displays none of that. Instead, it shows a weakened Force of Nature (as a 4/4), who uses the Great Forest to protect herself, except for the help from an Ally (thus the selective shroud). In reality, the flavor can be jarring, especially if you are unaware of her backstory. 

Flavor 3/5.

Total: 4/5. No wonder she's an iconic classic.


"Autumn Willow starring in 'Leaf it to Beaver' as the Beaver."-InQuest Games "What ever happened too..."