Saturday, June 1, 2024

A handful of Arabian Nights (deck profile)


"The more one has, the more one wants"--The Arabian Nights Entertainments

When developing decks for Four Horsemen, I usually go off the beaten path to develop a deck built around a central concept or theme. While some of these are mechanical themes in nature, others are entirely thematic. This one runs a gambit between the two. 

While thinking of what I could do, the thought "What if I build a deck using only cards from one expansion?" I quickly decided I would do Arabian Nights, as that the stereotypical 'strongest set in Old School', decided (or more didn't have time to make good proxies) I would only use cards I owned, though reprints weren't off the table. 

With this, I set off on an adventure into making the deck, settling on a 4 color midrange deck. 

Sorry for the poor quality of the photo

Theres a surprisingly strong number of creatures in the deck. Erg Raiders and Serendib Efreet came into play as early aggressive beaters with Unstable Mutation. Erhnam and Serendib Djinn make for some strong midrange decks. Oubliette, Witches, Desert, and to a lesser extend Abu make for decent removal (I dont think I ever played Alladin's Ring). Finally Wyluli Wolf, Island of Wak-Wak, Oasis, and War Elephant make for decent creature support. 

The strongest aspects of the deck, was how aggressive it was. It hit strong and fast but had little in the late game. Even without possession of Juzam, the deck was surprisingly good in the early game. However, when it petered out, as it had a tendency to do, it had no late game. Between the drawbacks of creature's in the deck, I was often killing myself as quickly as my opponent. 

Due to the simplicity of the deck, I won't do the usual good/bad/ugly with this deck, but I will mention a few stand outs:

Island of Wak-Wak was an all star, but everyone already knows this. 

Oasis: The fact this land can't tap for mana hurts it so much, but preventing one damage is surprisingly short. 

Erg Raiders is surprisingly underrated. I should do a review on it. 

Serendib Djinn is so strong, but so dangerous.

All in all, I'll give the deck a 3/5. Maybe I'll try to build it again with full proxies. Utilizing Ruhk Egg with Diamond Valley sounds too spicy not to try, and well draw backs cost me life, which turns it around. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Lim-Dul's Grave Rave

 Graveyard ordering mattering was an interesting mechanic, and I lamented a little when they decided it no longer mattered on the tournament level, so much I found out ways to abuse it, and force your opponent to keep their graveyard in check. As far as I know, using a single Phyrexian Furnace will force your opponent to keep your graveyard in order in legacy (and EDH) to this day. 

Crops this bad usually end in famine.

When this strange "old school type 2" format was announced, I quickly settled on wanted to design a deck that utilized this mechanic. The card pool ranged from Revised to Mirage, a two and a half year card pool, and with the obvious offenders banned or restricted, there was a question on two things, what to put in my graveyard, and how to fill it. The two obvious ones were Ashen Ghoul and Nether Shadow. Both of these creatures could come back from the graveyard at their own leisure, as long as conditions were met, and with the other creatures in the deck, those conditions were far from impossible. With this in mind, I also included Death Spark. While certainly requiring some forethought into how to be used, one or two well used Death Sparks could deal an average of 6 damage per game, with one game going into double digits. Finally a card that needs no introduction, Hammer of Bogardan was an obvious choice from day one, and the two in the deck did their work. 

Next was how to fill my 'yard, so the rave could take place. A pet card of mine was none other then Lim-Dรปl's Paladin. While not an amazing card, it's a decent card in its own right, being able to replace himself when I choose not to do his upkeep cost, and forcing a bolt from my opponents to deal with the otherwise annoying card. Wheel of Fortune was an obvious one, and was always a good sight to see. Finally my other big one was none other then Ring of Renewal. Thanks to both old school as a whole, and Fallen Empires 40, this card has gotten a considerable amount of love in recent years, and I made the controversial decision to try this over the most familiar (and safe) Jalum Tome. I will say, it helped a lot, as most time I used it I discarded a creature or land with it. Finally, the single Ritual of the Machine made for a very potent sac outlet, allowing me to steal a creature (with traditional black restrictions on removal). It always forced an answer from my opponent. 

Now that I knew how to fill my Yard, the question became how would I utilize it. An early picked Hell's Caretaker was taken from the deck, and instead I opted for a single Dance of the Dead (the only one I own sadly) and an animate dead. I comboed these with the lovely Skull of Orm, which allowed me to recur my two reanimation enchantments. Colossus of Sardia and Dance of the Dead was a potent combo, and had I had a second one, I would have put two Dance of the Dead's in the deck with two CoS. Finally I utilized Soldevi Digger as a mana sink, allowing me to get back cards that didn't help me in the graveyard, and also to help my graveyard stay manageable. 

The two other creatures in the deck are a single Eron the Relentless, a long time favorite of mine, and the above mentioned Colossus of Sardia. Both did their job well, and outside of what I mentioned above, I have nothing particular to say about them. Finally the single Factory just seemed like an obvious staple, and I ran it. 

Now it wouldn't be a black/red deck without a great deal of removal. The obvious choices were three burn spells, Lightning Bolt, Death Spark, and Hammer. Ritual of the Machine worked as pseudo removal. Mind Twist, without obvious fast mana (my deck ran no Rituals, and no Vaults), is a surprisingly fair card, and while I was always happy to see it, it never was a complete blowout that the card is famous for. Fumarole and Strip mine were put in the deck to hit problematic lands, and being able to naturally two for one is great, and 3 life is better then the 5 damage from Ashes to Ashes. Ashes to Ashes I don't believe resolved once, and I typically sided them out, but I have had good results with them in the past in other formats. Finally Soul Burn and Shatterstorm. Both of these were duds, with Soul Burn being somewhere in the ok variant, but I don't think one gained my more then 2 life, and I don't think I ever casted Shatterstorm effectively. 

Finally I only contained two cards to keep me from dying, a single Maze of Ith (which was restricted), and good ol' Zuran Orb. Cheaters Orb is a great card, and we all know about Maze.

Finally comes the Sideboard. This sideboard could be described as "I'm terrified of Circle of Protections." It includes two Ghostflames, a Dystopia, and two anarchies. Combine this with two Blood Moons, 4 Pyroblasts, and 4 Guerilla Tactics, it was a surprisingly well rounded build. 

The Good

Its amazing just how much Death Spark shined in the deck. Who though a mana sink like Death Spark would generate so much value. It was a good value engine, and only a few times did it wind up sitting dead in the graveyard, but with a playset in the deck, that wasn't that bad. 

Wheel of Fortune, like many others, has been talked about since time in momemrum. However it was such a good yard filler in this that I have to mention it. Plus who doesn't love drawing seven cards?!

Lim-Dul's Paladin has always been a pet card of mine. I've always thought the art looked like Ronnie James Dio. The card is very interesting, as it came out in that period where they were trying to give black/red interesting ways to get around Circle of Protection. I've always wanted to try him in a sabeutor deck, and one day I might. However in this deck, his discard was an excellent way to get creatures in the graveyard. Then when I was done, if he didn't eat a removal spell, he would draw a card, which this deck had issues with from the start. He typically did 4 damage once, and is naturally immune to Maze of Ith. 

Skull of Orm was such an engine. I had my doubts with only two enchantments (both reanimator spells) in the main deck. However, being able to recur those cards, if for nothing else then to remove creatures toward the top of my graveyards, was a great mechanic. I also once used it to recur Dystopia after I sacrificed it to not pay its upkeep. This value engine was so good, I'd almost call it the MVP, if it wasn't for the next part. 

Ashen Ghoul (and Nether Shadow) were the work horses of the deck. While other cards were certainly helpful, these two self-replacing cards were the ultimate power of the deck, and without them, the deck would never have worked. 

The Bad

Shatterstorm was a weak card and a disappointment. It was sided out in every game I could. Honestly, Shatter would have been better, and I think Disk would have been too. I guess it was just too slow and expensive. 

Ashes to Ashes was the same boat as the card above, but I used it once. It was just slow compared to other cards in the format. At least I got to cast this a few times. Still, I probably would have been better with Dark Banishment. 

Ghostly Flame was never added to the deck. Not once, and I heard a rumor at this time, the card doesn't technically do anything due to rule changes, but I haven't looked into it. Still I probably went into anti-white to much. 

The Ugly

Thawing Glaciers should have been put in the deck, but since they were in another deck, I didn't see them while deck building and forgot about them until I already registered my deck.

Same goes with Shatter of Mox Monkey over the mentioned Shatterstorm above. Alas next time I'll know better. 

Chadsters Land Destruction deck forced me to use Guerilla Tactics as an instant speed burn spell.

In conclusion, this deck was one of the most complicated decks I've ever built. It required a great deal of planning and mental energy every game, however I'm glad I built it. 

As a bonus, here is, in all its glory, the one on one match between me and the Chadster himself. Its hosted on his Four Horsemen channel. It is posted here with permission. I hope you enjoy. (He actually is partially responsible for the name, as he called it Lim-Dul's Dance of the Ghoul),

1996 Type II | Lim-Duals Dance of the Ghouls vs RG Land Destruction #oldschoolmtg #oldschoolmagic (

Sunday, January 7, 2024

White Weenie "Doubleton" pauper a Four Horsemen experiment.

 White Weenie is a classic archtype in Magic. Probably one of the oldest decks in the game, it's plan is simple: play efficient creatures and attack. One of the early aspects of white weenie, and one of my favorites, is banding, which despite some interesting aspects, was never quiet on strong enough creatures to make it worth the trouble. 

When the doubleton pauper tournament was announced, I dwelled on what to build for a night, before deciding I wanted to try out a white weenie deck. I knew from the start it was an uphill battle, with red being the strongest color in general in the format. It would be even stronger in this format, with powerful removal like Pyrotechnique, Fissure, and Chain Lightning. Combine this with powerful cards like Brothers of the Fire and Blood Lust, you have a strong color, often combined with blue for its efficient fliers and Unstable Mutation. 

However mono-white had good things in its own right. Trample and Banding is a match made in heaven, and a lower power format, cards like Moorish Calvary and War Elephant really get to shine. Shield Wall makes for a strong counter to the burn, and Morale and Army of Allah make for some aggressive attacks. 

The drawback of the decks include it being weak, with few evasive creatures, and the color as a whole topping out at a 3/3.

The Good: 

Moorish Calvary

As a 3/3 for 4, Moorish Cavalry is already on curve with many common in Old School. Add trample, and he's as aggressive as War Mammoth. In a format of low removal, Moorish Cavalry did its job remarkable well, especially when paired with a bander. In fact, the only real crime was I only owned one to run.

Army of Allah

A card that needs no introduction at all. Army of Allah is a card so good, and so fast, I've considered running mono-white in regular 4hm and have used it in OS proper. Anytime I had this resolve, it put me in a solid lead. Honorable mention to Morale as well, which while not as strong, as always welcomed.

Knights of Thorn

The Knights of Thorn had one really solid thing going for it, protection from red. With red being the strongest color in the format, that little 3 letter word honestly made all the difference. His banding wasn't bad either, but hardly as good. 

The Bad


This is a pet card I've tried in vain to work numerous times. Besides the awesome Pete Venters art, its a solid effect. A off color Orcish Oriflame, however it is symmetrical, which is where its problems stem from. If (and when) I was winning (which I wasn't often), Mightstone was a boon, the definition of a win more card. However anytime I was losing, I'd hesitate playing this, and sometimes not play it at all. Sadly, with this being one of the weaker formats, I don't see myself running this is much decks in the future outside the most casual of builds. Alas, too the long box it will stay.

Amrou Kithkin

An 11th hour addition to the deck when I realized that I could have won a test game if I had an Amrou Kithkin in play. Since white only had a single flyer, and no other major forms of evasion, it doesn't look bad on paper. However, almost every time I played it, it was a 1/1 for 2. Rarely did it end up being unblockable, and more time then not it was banding fodder or a chump blocker. The sad thing is I think I took out the blacksmith for it. 

Holy Light

Perhaps the most disappointing card in the deck. Holy Light was a poor combat trick, a poor form of removal, and an all around spot waister in the deck. It did once kill something when I also double blocked with a Pikemen and Tundra Wolves. Most times it was just a damage preventer, but alas, live and learn amirite?

I don't have an 'Ugly' category for this deck unfortunately. It did its job just a little short of what was expected. I did however, get the urge to run banding out of my system for a while, and that is always good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Pondering Delif (lore and cards review)

"Where is it written that beasts must cause pain?" -Delif, Ponderings

There is few characters as much as a deep cut as Fallen Empires very own Delif. Appearing on exactly two cards in the entire game (his cone and his cube), he's one of the only Fallen Empire characters to never have appeared outside the set. Technically Jherana Rure appears on the flavor text of the 5th edition version of Necrite. Furthermore, any of the material written about Fallen Empires back in 1994 don't feature anything about him (including Duelist Magazine). This means all we have to work with, is these two cards. So who is the enigmatic Delif? Well, my own personal theories as well as what we can assume from the settings of Fallen Empires, Delif is a philosopher, and perhaps an artificier that lived in ancient Icatia. He may have been a pacifist given his quote on Delif''s Cone. Outside of this, anything else is fair game. Was he from the golden age, before the temperature began to cool, or was he thinking all of these during the final days of the empire? Was it even an he, or a she? None of these things matter as far as the cards are concerned, and we can't possibly figure it out without treading into the dangerous marsh that is fan theories. So we are stuck, unless a designer of the set wishes to chime in, on these two cards. 

Flavor: Delif's two artifacts have similar functions, they prevent damage through some mythical mysterious means, and use that energy to either gain you life, or regenerate a creature. The effects are certainly unique to these two artifacts, as every other 'saboteur' ability appears either on an enchant creature spell, or on a creature. That's really it. For this simple flavor they work and are easy to understand. 3/5

Art: Mark Tedin rarely disappoints. Both pieces are uniquely his, but cone is the better of the two. Man there is so much going on in it, the lightning, the protruding spikes, the metal bars. It's a great piece that evokes mystery. The fact in the background a mountain also absorbing a strike of lightning can make one wonder, if that another Cone in the background, and if so, just how big are these cones.

Cube while a fine piece itself, lacks the grandeur compared to the cone. It does however show a cube dissolving, which I long theorized how it exactly regenerates creatures. It does have good color composition of green on a pink and purple background, and does, in some ways, look as if the background is organic, though that is up to interpretation.  If anything, Cube's biggest problem is compared to Cone is it is boring. It is however serviceable in its own right.  

In this regard I give Cone a 4/5 for art, and Cube a 3/5 for art.

Playability: In Fallen Empires, there was a push for the 'Saboteur' mechanic, as they described in the Duelist #3. The mechanic is when a creature is unblocked, you can prevent all damage it would deal to do some other effect. While not technically introduced in Fallen Empires (Merchant Ship and Floral Spuzzem predate the set), it was the first set to really explore with the concept. These cards are clearly designed around this thought process, and are designed to compliment the mechanic since you can stack them with the already activated abilities. So you could in theory put a counter on the cube with Ophidian while also drawing a card, or making your opponent discard a card with Mindstab Thrull. In this regard, neither are all that playable. I did try using cube with some ninja's (outside Old School obviously) and with Ornithopter (in the context of Old School). It's the two mana that kills it, if it was just two mana on one cost, it would be almost playable. However the fact it requires four mana, even over the course of several turns, make it unreliable and difficult to use. Cone, while in theory free, will usually just net you a small amount of life, on average three, or you will be better off not gaining the life and doing the damage. The only time this might be a case is if your opponent is running something like Eye for an Eye or other reflection/redirection effects and you want to instead prevent the damage. However that is such a situational effect, it might as well not even be viable for discussion. In reality, because of this I'm giving both of these a 2/5 on playability. I'd give Cone a 1, but it is a 0 cost artifact, and that is always good, even in a format with numerous 0 drops. 

I do wonder how these will do in that new Fallen Empires format people have gone insane and started playing.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Making use of banding

 Me: *shows Benalish Infantry* "Now this is a real magic card"

9yr old: "That was a real Magic Card" (Everyone laughs)

"So what does it do"

Me: "It bands"

9yr old: "Awesome"

Tilly: "Yeah it was awesome" (Does his turn)

9 yr old: "It bands a card from the entire game!"

(Everyone laughs.)

Banding, one of the most maligned and misunderstood mechanics in the game. Some of that is understandable, some not so much. This exchange above is one of my favorite memories involving the mechanic, but there are many, most of which is someone asking me 'how does banding work?' or 'what is banding?' or some other variant of that. The other ones include using teams of banders to kill off creatures (including an Emerakul) or arguing that it is a good mechanic. With its ranking of 10 on the Storm Scale, its doubtful we will see it return (even though half of phasing has returned, and is now considered an evergreen mechanic).

Originally designed by Garfield as a means to break creature stalemates, it honestly survived until 5th edition. Making it through the entire 'Old school' era of the game, and into the 'Golden Age'. It also makes the mechanic pre-modern legal! It's also my favorite combat mechanic in the game, but I see few (if any) people even bother with it.

As any long time reader of mine knows, I'm a huge fan of the mechanic, and even wrote its removal from the game as the 'Second Deadly Sin of WotC'.

"Banding has no business being as complicated as it is"--a friend

It is a complicated mechanic, but I don't think its anymore complicated then protection, it certainly has less corner cases then abstract mechanics like Morph or Regeneration (which never worked right with the stack anyway). We will ignore some of weird mechanics and rulings in the last decade that make some of the weird cases around banding  seems rather innocent in comparison (the metaphysical third side of a card anyone?).

How banding works: Banding allows your creatures to fight in teams. Well its a bit more complicated then that, but that's the basic concept. In reality, banding has two modes, and offensive, and a defensive mode:

The offensive mode, one creature without banding, and multiple creatures with banding may was attack in a "band". While in the band, they share no abilities, so unless all your banders have flying, you can be blocked with a non flying creature. This holds true to all evasive abilities, including shadow. This has been a problem with the mechanic since its inception, and is one of the classic criticisms of the mechanic.

The defensive mode doesn't form a bands, but allows all your creatures to block in as if in a bands, and allows you to divide up damage as you choose. Some pretty insane block situations can happen through this if allowed.

Interesting combo's/tech with banding:

Maze of Ith

After being blocked and assigning damage, you can use Maze of Ith to remove the creature you assigned damage to from combat. The damage isn't removed from the creature, and it doesn't receive the damage. 


You can use the damage prevention of Protection to support damage prevention with banding, which surprisingly isn't as obvious as you would think.

Valor Made Real/Entangler/Blaze of Glory

When defending, if you have one creature in the blocking band with the ability to block multiple creatures, you can block multiple creatures with the band. This could in theory allow you to block with your whole team, to a considerable favorable position. Combines especially well with the likes of Siren's Call. Sure Valor Made Real isn't legal in any other formats that people who read my blog play, but Blaze of Glory and Entangler are. 

Trample and banding

When attacking with multiple creatures in a band, trample damage will go over any blocking creatures, as it normally would. In theory, you can assign your non-trampler to deal damage to the blocking creatures, potentially allow your trample damage to cross over to the player. Note, this also does apply for first strike, so if you have a creature with first strike and trample, it will have to do its damage first, which may prevent you from trampling over.

Five best creatures with banding

Errand of Duty

An instant speed creature is a great asset in on itself. Giving it banding though can turn an unfavorable conflict into a favorable one. In this sense, Errand of Duty is an abstract combat trick that might hang around. 

So while not a creature, it comes close.

Shield Bearer

Ah one of the first cards that ever got me to think. Shield Bearer's greatest asset isn't its P/T, but its color. Being white adds to its versatility, as it benefits from Crusade and its other various effects. 

While being a soldier doesn't benefit it to much, it does have synergy with Soldiers in Onslaught block, as well as Icatian Lieutenant in Oldschool 95. If only it was immune to bolt on its own.

Benalish Infantry

A 1/3 for three looks bad on paper, and it is, but this card shows banding untapped potential. This is a card that performs better then it looks on paper. The three toughness adds a surprising amount to combat math, and the additional point of power isn't so bad either. 

Not to mention it being white, and a soldier, as mentioned above.

Kjeldoran Knight

The ability to pump mana into his toughness is where he shines. While the pump knight ability for pumping his power is respectable as well, this article is about how well it works as banding. I wish it was like the other pump knights, and was a 2/1 instead however. They probably felt Banding was strong enough for a 1/1 for 2.


Admittedly a bit bias, this card was one of the first cards I wrote about. 

Another overcosted underpowered bander, but a decent utility creature none the less. As the other above examples, he benefits to being a soldier, and white. It's first strike can force a pump knight to pay into one, or command an arrow head.

Five best creatures without banding to compliment the mechanic:

Bushi Tenderfoot

The only non-premodern/old school legal card in the article. Bushi Tenderfoot is a surprisingly hard card to flip, but Bushi Tenderfoot can get a really good deal when in a bands. Its probably the easiest way to flip Tenderfoot.

Marton Stromgald

Though the classical technique to keep him alive is to pair him with Maze of Ith, a bander can be used to help keep him alive as well. This has an additional benefit of pumping the bander (as well as any additional creatures you have involved in combat), resulting in favorable blocks on your end.

Deftblade Elite

The ability to prevent damage is where half of this guys greatness with the mechanic comes in. His real power is his relatively unique ability to force defending creatures to block in the bands. Making him a pseudo removal. This has a number of crazy stories around me abusing this, my favorite one having my entire team (thanks to Baton of Morale) swinging and killing an Emrakul (to my old school readers, that's a 15/15) without losing a single creature in the process.

The Wretched

In reality this applies to any creature that has an effect of when they deal damage or block/blocking, but this one was the first that came to mind. Take a walk on the darkside by trading a lousy bander, and stealing something much bigger then himself. Others include Krovikan Vampire, Seraph, Vampires (and Spirit Monger I guess), and of course, Charisma. 

General Jarkeld

If you ever REALLY want to fuck with combat math, use the General with two different banding teams on the attack, and switch how some of them are blocked. Just make sure you have a judge on hand. Not the most effective, but a whole lot of fun.

Honorable Mention: Mother of Runes

A good card that is much better then the entire banding mechanic. However, she obviously works with it well.
Card that give banding

So now that you've read the list, you might be thinking "I'd like to experiment with this mechanic, but do cards grant the ability?". Yes, and actually eleven-ish (actually twelve lol) cards grant the ability. Which is more then I remembered when I started writing this. 

"Bands with others" lands

The never ending controversial bands with other lands from Legends are the first on the list thanks to the virtue of the above cards. Bands with Others is a mechanic that organically appears on 0 printed creatures (but one token). It works like banding with a restriction, in this case, your green legends can form bands with other legends. (Before Magic 2010 it worked differently). You can use Mountain Stronghold with the above Martin Stromgald to help keep him alive as well. This one works delightfully well with Stangg and his twin.

Baton of Morale

Probably the best and most cost effective of all the banding granting abilities. Baton of Morale is easily an interesting case, especially in formats I don't normally write about like EDH. In Old School 95, it has it's merits, but only at the casual level. 


Featuring ironically enough a guy from a certain Salty 7 card. Foglio's art is certainly the most memorable aspect of the card. At three mana, the cost for an enchant creature is hefty, and while banding is certainly strong, I don't think it justifies the potential loss in card advantage and three mana to cast.


The only combat trick that grants banding. It's probably the best of the bunch, making for a surprise block formation (or even attack), and cantrip during the next upkeep. It's a surprisingly versatile card, and I recommend everyone trying it at least once.

Fortified Area

The only enchantment that gives the ability to multiple creatures at the same time. It's actually pretty good in a wall deck along side the Glyph's and Rolling Stones, if you're into that kind of thing.

Helm of Chatzuk

I've heard of this card actually doing really well in A40. This honestly is a fair cost for the mechanic, and while being a once per turn effect, is a fine card in its own right. Now if we could only find out who Chatzuk was.

Nature's Blessing

Probably the most steeply costed on the batch. This one is interesting, because it is one of a handful of cards in the game that will grant a keyword ability permanently. Though at times, you might be better off with just the +1/+1 counter.

Soraya the Falconer

One for the EDH players everywhere. It should be mention she currently says Birds, not Falcons, so your Aven's, your mana birds, and Storm Crow can all get pumped up from her. The ability to add banding is honest just an icing, and yes, I forgot she existed when I started this.

So there you have it, my musings on my favorite mechanic. Now theres more ways to use this for sure, such as Gaseous Form and Sandskin, but damage prevention is damage prevention. I honestly feel banding was a mechanic that was killed off before its time to prosper, however, it's legacy can be felt even today. The 'kor' mechanic (in all it's broken delight) was inspired by banding, and according to urban legend, all the Tempest ones originally had it (along with the infamous banding sliver). Soul Bond and Partner, are two mechanics that was introduced much later in the game that attempted to reinvent the concept as fighting as a team. Even a card in Urza Saga had half of the banding ability. Alas, some things are to good to last I guess.

So what's your favorite interaction with the mechanic? Do you enjoy it? Did I get a ruling up here wrong? If so, please let me know. Until next time, I hope I've inspired you with something to build.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Ornithopter: The Unlikely hero

"Our condolences to everyone who's ever died to an Ornithopter"-Ice Age rulebook.

Who would have thought in 1994, that a free creature with 0 power would become one of the most enduring, most iconic creatures in all of Magic?

Antiquities seems to have many iconic cards, and many tournament staples per volume compared to a lot of it's contemporaries. However Ornithopter stands out on its own, from the early days of tournament play to now, Ornithopter still sees play. From Academy decks, to Affinity, to Ninja's, and even now with Hammer time. 

There's not a lot of cards that can say that. Even in EDH, Orni isn't an uncommon sight. Its had a consistent history of promo and standard reprints, and even appears in the illustrious gold border.

How does this lovable 0 drop fit in Old School though? Where the various tricks aren't present. Was Ornithopter as big a presence in 1994, or was it simply a oddity and a fascicious joke?

Playability: Ornithopter is one of 4 free creatures in 94/95, the other three being kobolds. In premodern that number is still less then 5. They say the best price is free, and Ornithopter is exactly that. However what sets Ornithopter apart from many of its competitors, is Ornithopter can attack, and has flying. This alone sets it above the three kobolds. While an argument could be made that them being red makes them compatible with Gauntlets, and that their tribal support makes them better then the colorless, tribeless Ornithopter. I disagree, versatility is a cards ultimate strength. In the context of Old School, Kolbolds are limited to a weaker version of Goblins, while Ornithopter, thanks to its artifact typing can fit in a myriad of strategies. They work as a 0 drop creature for Ashnod's Alter, a sac outlet for the likes of Transmute Artifact, Sage of Lat-Nam and of course Orcish Mechanics. However, you can also use it with combat tricks, including the likes of Blood Lust, Giant Growth and Berserk. It can also, be enchanted. One old trick is giving it a Firebreathing while Flare or Gauntlet is out, allowing for a huge surprise hit. Now naturally these tactics aren't at the most competitive, but if you were looking for that, you wouldn't be reading this blog, would you. Tactics in 95 and Premodern include the infamous Enduring Renewal, and you can even use it with Goblin Bombardment in premodern. I say, as far as creatures are concerned, Ornithopter is definitely on the upper half of the scale, and dare I even say, great. Playability 4/5.

Art: This is probably Weber's best piece in the game. Where as her art has been criticized for having to much going on, or being very simple, this is a perfect balance of both. Front and center is the Ornithopter, in clear view. However its the whole piece that sells this. The faded artist stamp, the old parchment paper, the various sketches, scribbles, and writing, faded just enough to be illegible. It looks like something out of Da Vinci's notebook. It sells the card, and makes you feel like you're holding something truly ancient in your hand, especially if you are holding a Antiquities one. 5/5 art.

Flavor: Unfortunately there isn't much to say on the flavor of this. It may be invented by Urza, but later printings suggest no artificer has failed to invent the Ornithopter. In fact, the 5th flavor text says Urza simply improved upon a much earlier design invented by the Thran. However, the flavor of the card functions as it is, and that is more to say then most. 3/5.

A rather humble Urza

Conclusion: 12/15=4/5. Ornithopter is the type of card every good card game needs. A deceptively good card that might look bad, or even useless at first glance. However, behind it, to those who think, lacks a world of potential and opportunity. Its almost thirty years of various tournament success is a testament to that.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Wayfarer: Chapter 3

 She unrolled the map with a glittering smile, and put it over their laps.

"This is The Domains" she said pointing at the map "we found you.. about... here, and we should be about here now... near the bottom of the Highlands".

He looked amazing, he knew the world was big, but seeing it, in such a form was fascinating in it's own right. He had never looked at a map before, not once. 

He once, when he went to town to sell the harvest with his father, met a strange man with dark skin who claimed to be from the Fire Islands.

"Where's the Fire Islands?" He asked in a combination of excitement and perplexity. 

He was taught in his time how to do the basics of reading, and he could sign his name, but his prowess of literature was rather limited. There were so many words he wasn't entirely sure how to pronounce or even read.

"Its not here unfortunately. This is only a map of the Domains", she said with a sigh "The world is much bigger than this continent. I haven't seen much of it unfortunately, but I'm hoping one day I will. I want to see every corner of this as a healer, and help everyone I can as I do." 

"So where are you from?" 

"I'm from Oneah" she says pointing at a island on the southern half of the map. He studied it, an island of plains surrounded with sparse forests and mountains. 

"We are a peaceful people. Every once in a while, the goblins come from the mountains, and we hire mercenaries to fight them off, but outside that, violence is very rare. We believe peace is the highest form of philosophy. It doesn't always work that way, but we have endured".

"With violence."

She takes a deep breath and sighs, as if knowing any response would cause an argument she would rather avoid. 

"Here is Benalish City" she said pointing as a small dot on the upper half of the map. "Isn't that where you said you were going? Well if you were, you weren't even heading in the right direction."

"Wait really!?"

"Afraid so, we found you heading toward Suder River, judging from the direction your body was facing. Your lucky we found you when we did, I'm sure some predators would have taken an liking to you, assuming some clan didn't find you first."

He simply lowered his head and sighed.

She frowned for a bit, looking at his disappointment in himself. 

"Hey, let me tell you what I know about Aerona and The Domains!"

The remainder of the day she told him what she could about the map, and everything she had heard. She told him about the savage elves of Llanowar who tattoo and disfigure themselves, about the ageless tree of Pendlehaven. She went on about the rivalries of the Brassclaw Orcs and the fierce Hurloon Minotaurs, and how you should never trust a Brassclaw Orc, and their infamous cowardice. She talked about the fierce warriors of Keld, and how they not only tower over other men, but some have towered over even Ogre's. The giants of two heads of Foriys, and how she once read a mad wizard created them. The numerous villages of the Sursi Mesa, and how knights ride on flying horses called pegasi. 

Sadly she was young, hardly a scholar, and there were many questions she couldn't honestly answer. 

"So where are we heading?" he finally asked.

"Oh, that is easy, we are heading down this creek into the Suder River, from their we are heading toward this veldt, there's a small port town and a arena there. Our 'fearless' leader is hoping to find a boat to Estark, from there we are to collect a bounty. I personally think the plan is insane, but he hired me to do this, and well, it seems like a good excuse to see the world. My father wanted me to simply stay in an apothecary in Benalia, but there is so much of the world to see! I want to see it!"

He could relate. The many long days on the farmstead he often wondered just how is life behind his corner of the world. Surely it wouldn't compare to the glory of the city, but it would still be nice to see.

"How the time flies, it's getting dark."

To his surprise, she was right. The sky had already turned a bright orange, with his of pink and purple on the clouds. He had seen it many times before, but somehow the serenity of it was different, in an intangible way he couldn't fully comprehend.

The carriage slowed to a stop and the strange man stuck out his head between them. 

"Come on, I'll show how we prepare camp" she said with a smile.