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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Mono Red Sligh: An A2A adventure.


One of the most influential deck principles of all time, Sligh is the grand daddy of every other variant of Red aggro and burn ever made. From the humble Goblins beat down and Red Deck Wins, to the more complicated ideas like Virtual Card Advantage and Big Red, all red decks, and maybe all aggro decks owe its existence to this simple formula.

So as anyone knows that follows me knows I've built this deck before, in fact I build it alot. Why build it again?

Because at the end of the day it's fun! I enjoy playing red, and I really love Balduvian Horde. Which will be mentioned below.

The deck did surprisingly well for what it was, and managed to push most decks to a third game. Despite this, I only got two wins, with one game being due to forfeit. 

Still, the games in their own right were fun. I faced a multitude of aggro and midrange decks in their own right, each one running some variant of blue. Naturally of course. You really can't overcome the blue card advantage. Which was probably the biggest weakness in the deck.

The Good

Balduvian Horde

Peace was never an option

I can't believe how much this card has been shit on in it's time. While the drawback can at times be detrimental, in mono red burn it's almost negligible. 

Then you get a literal red Juzam Djinn. It's easy to see why this was the chase card for Alliances, and why its art was used for so many promotional material back in the mid 90's.

Speaking of Red versions of other things...

Rogue Skycaptain

A red Serendib Efreet with a more expensive, but less painful drawback. What originally was the replacement for the foil Horde turned out to be a great creature in it's own right, and I'm glad it did. I never once had it change control.

Gorilla Shaman

The cutest tournament staple, mox monkey is a force to be reckoned with, and might be the strongest creature in Alliances. Every deck I faced even splashing red ran him. Anything else I can say about him has been said elsewhere already.

Ball Lightning

Nothing new here. I just want to say how pleased I am at Ball Lightning's performance. 

The Bad

Ironclaw Orcs

There is alot of people that would claim I lost my mind on this. After all, he was the original sligh deck, and he has the coveted gold border treatment. I just feel better options exist then him. Dwarven Soldier could synergize with Dwarven Lt. Varchild's War-Riders are much bigger. It's not Ironclaws are bad, as much as they are simply not good. Everytime I played them, they were fine, but honestly did very little outside a turn 2 drop.

Brass Man

Another addition from the original sligh deck. Brass Man is best when paired against another weenie deck. However against anything else, he was a lack luster inclusion. One damage for 1 mana each turn was a serious issue in the early game. Just like the Orcs, his crime wasn't that he was bad as much as he simply wasn't good. I honestly wonder if Orcish Conscripts or Goblin Sapper would have been a better choice.

The Ugly

Wheel of Fortune

I don't think I ever casted my own Wheel once, and any time my opponent casted Wheel or Twister, I won. Its honestly making me question the wisdom of running it in burn.

Black Vise

The one of was me not entirely being sure of the legality of it in the format. Better safe then sorry, but had I known, I would have run 4.

Conclusion: The deck went 2-4, while also losing a bonus game played with someone in my pod. Like a universal problem with burn, it can run out of gas before it can secure the late game.

While all the games were hands down fun in their own right, it is admittedly rather lackluster playing the same deck with different skins like that.

It has however inspire another deck idea I currently have, that hopefully will go over better.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

For the Trees: A Summer Derby report.

"Come, my friends. The Ents are going to war. It is likely that we go to our doom. The last march of the Ents."--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Last year I had held a vote on what deck I should run in that years Summer Derby, and unfortunately to my surprise the joke selection won, which was treefolk. Unfortunately I didn't get to enter that Derby, and as such, didn't run it. 


Being a man of my word, I decided this year I would run the deck instead, and do to similar situations as last year, I threw together a deck at 3 am before a flight while strung up on sleep depravation and energy drinks. The results speak for themselves.

However, the deck was admittedly fun, and after a few successful test games, I went into this with probably more self confidence then I should have. I would ultimately win one match against goblins, and end up skipping one game in the second batch, making the final score 1-6-1. 

As with the last deck review I've made, this will be talking about The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of the deck, as well as various musings of it. 

Bottom row is board

The Good

Tough creatures: With the exception of Gaea's Avenger and Birds of Paradise, every creature in the deck had a toughness of 5. This allowed burn to be either ineffective, or expensive to be used as removal. Swords on average turned into a Healing Salve. Further more, they allowed for good ground stalls. Honorable call out to Argothian Treefolk. His ability to ignore artifact damage really commanded respect.

Avoid Fate: The Clutch Card of clutch cards, the green Twiddle. Avoid Fate was so helpful, and so useful, I found myself main decking it on game 2 every time, without exception. I can't believe how much this card gets slept on. 

Aspect of Wolf. Man I love this card. Between the art, the effect, and whatever else, it commanded a presence anytime I dropped it. I think the next time I am dumb enough to run Mono-Green, I'm going to drop four of them into the deck, and hope for the best!

I could actually try that in 95, include things like people of the Woods, An-Haava Constables, and so forth.

The Bad

Birds of Paradise: I think my logic with this was I could put an aspect on it, and it would fly. However you should never run Birds of Paradise in mono-green. It at best chump blocked a Serendib/Serra for a turn before going into taking damage phase. All times I had it I wish I had an elf instead.

Lifeforce: Wasn't once useful in the two games I sided it in. Both times players just played around it. I wish I ran a Thelon's Chant instead, honestly. 

Maze of Ith/Strip Mine. In a four Strip Format, these were either used extremely quickly or blown up. While I do love both of these cards very much, this shows just what was already known. 

The Ugly

Gaea's Avenger: For a creature I had so much faith and potential in, it was a let down. I once had it as a 3/3, but outside of that, its nothing more a 3 drop 1/1. 

Lack of flier hate. Probably the biggest lack of oversight in all of this was that. No Hurricanes, no Desert Twisters. Nothing. The best I could hope for was over swinging, and with Serra, I couldn't even hope for that. 

Lack of Tranquility: When one of the many game breakin Enchantments dropped, I couldn't do anything but hope to draw a Disk. These included my arch enemy known as Moat, and the dreaded Abyss. While I did eventually receive some really nice Tranquilities, I had already played my first match, and I felt it would be poor form to slip them in after the fact. 

Gaea's Liege: I'm running a 4th edition one. What's the deal with that?!

One day I'll turn Library of Alexandria into a forest!

Conclusion: Mono-Green definitely has some potential. Everyone commented how much a problem the big beefy creatures were, and Gaea's Liege is awesome in its own right. Green also has some really interesting tech, and is the only color in the format with true ramp. Aspect of Wolf and Berserk seems spicy enough I want to run it at least once.

Treefolk might need a revision to try another line of it. One that includes the likes of Tranquility and Hurricane! Even a Web would have changed so much.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Banned 7: Invoke Prejudice. Magic's biggest myth and legend.

What can be said about this card. The cream the crop of all Magic controversies in the entirety of Magic's 25+ year history. It's a card that is surrounded by myth and legend, as the title would suggest, and so is it's artist, the reclusive Harold McNeill. I personally never met Mr. McNeill. I never saw it, or met him. Everything I've heard about him have been from second hand sources, or read from other places online. Now with that disclaimer on the way, lets get this started. 

 The First myth involving this card is the 'Klansmen': Those of my readers who aren't Americans, the Ku Klux Klan was a fraternal organization largely based on racism against Blacks, Latino's, natives, and Catholics. Originally founded by Nathan B. Forrest as a fraternal organization in the days of the Civil War, they grew in numbers during the Reconstruction Period. Their trade mark outfit, white robes, originally were formed to make them look like ghosts. Over time, they grew violent, and lynched more then a few freed slaves and northern carpet baggers. Officially the original klan was disbanded during the Reconstruction Period, after state militia's and even the federal government got involved with removing them. In 1915, D. W. Griffith's ground breaking movie "The Birth of a Nation" was released. The movie portrayed the Klan as knight like figures, being defenders of southern hospitality and innocent women. While the movie was by no means accurate, it was one of the first 'Epic' movies, containing multiple acts, big scores, and top notch cinematography, and is considered by many to be the first 'modern film'. This created a reneawed interest in the group, and a new Klan was formed, this time preaching isolationism, and national identity. The end of the 20's it boasted over a million members in numerous chapters across the United States. While lynchings are said to happen in this time, and prejuidice certainly did, its main goal was goading Americans desire for isolationism at the time of the 20's and 30's, and had become a early lobbyist group. However, it was found by the media to be nothing more then a pyramid scheme, with the top members being more degenerate and curropt then those they were allegedly fighting against, and the numbers quickly shrank to between 10-20 thousand members nation wide. Since then, the numbers have continue to shrink. The few "active" chapters are located in isolated places in the South, where they drink and complain about losing to this day. Just for the record, I do not endore the Klan, nor am I, or have ever been, a member. I just find the study of American subcultures and organizations fascinating. 

With that little history lesson out of the way, lets get to the subject at hand. According to McNeal, those aren't Klansmen. Klansmen don't wear black, they wear White or Red depending on rank. Instead he invoked the idea of Spanish Inquisitors who wore black cloaks while 'interrogating' for a 'confession'. He specifically showed the subjects in the paintings hands to be black to distance himself from any accusations, at least that's what I've read. It could be an artistic choice, and he said that long after the fact. More importantly, I've never seen a Klansman, in real life or in media, carrying a fucking battle axe. In this same regard, I've never seen an Inquisitor in drawing or film either (excluding a certain Sci-Fi franchise obviously). That one figure seems to invoke the conventional trope of the masked executioner.

 The Multiverse ID of 1488: In my surprise while writing this, that quietly in the last year Invoke Prejuidice's multiverse ID has been quietly changed from its infamnous number to something completely different. If find this both hilarious and sad, because it was legitimately an accident. When the cards were first put into gatherer. they were entered alphabetical order by color and set release. Example being Multiverse ID for 1 is the Alpha print of Ankh of Mishra, 2 is Basalt Monolith. In this vein 666 actually makes the unlimited printing of Lich, 1111 is Helm of Chatzuk, and 2012 is Sand Silos. There are some that complain the cards 'above and below' Invoke Prejudice don't have the ID of 1487 and 1489, and I assure you, these people have the IQ of room tempature. 1487 is In the Eye of Chaos, and 1489 is Juxtapose. Acid Rain is 1470. While I would love to shit on WotC for delibaretly choosing a number for a card descrbing prejudice, and it wouldn't be the first time I unironically called out Wizards of the Coast for racism, but this is honestly just a hilarious coincidence. For thos who want to know, 1488 apparently has something to do with the 14 words, a mantra said by white supremacists that I can't be arsed to look up right now, and Hitler's name starting with H, the 8th letter of the English alphabet. Invoke Prejudice ID is now 485302. 

McNeill is a neo-nazi: This one might actually be true. He certainly enjoys Nazi aesthetics in his art, and his most damning picture is the portrayal of Adolf Hitler as a christ figure, complete with a crown of thorns. This should piss me off, both as an American, and a Catholic, but his right to draw this is protected, and I must respect that. Which is to bad, because I absolutely love his art style. Sylvan Library might actually be one of my favorite pieces in the entire game, due to just how old worldly it looks. It could have came from a Medieval woodcarving. Ray of Command and Death Ward are well enjoyed favorites of his as well, and shows you just gow much possibility in style he could have. I dislike his CoP set in Tempest, because of how similar they each look. I have one other piece I actually really love, which I will get to later. When I asked a few of my sources about him, one person simply said 'he is a complicated human being'. I can't verify that he's a neo-nazi, or if he was in the early 90's, that he hasn't changed his ways, which is certainly possible. I can only say, without ever meeting the man, that I enjoy his art, and I'm glad it exists on Magic cards. 

Impact on the format: This card was the most banned by the 7, with Northern Paladins banning it outright (but letting an approved proxy with different name and art take its place). The other six were extremely discouraged. Other groups like NEOS simply said IP needed to be heavily altered in order to be used. However Eternal Central said that none of the cards are banned, for their historical importance. I applaud EC for sticking to their guns. I feel this card, which was probably the most played outside Oldschool in 2020, is rather lackluster in the format. I can honestly say I've never seen it played it any game that wasn't EDH.

I wonder if this alter counts.

Or perhaps this one? With actual klansmen

In fact with this rule, several groups came together to print "politically correct proxies" of these cards, some having entirely different names. In fact, seeing these were more interesting than Invoke Prejudice ever was, and while I never bought any of them, I did consider it for historical reasons.

Cardboard for a cause did my personal favorite: Invoke Pony.

I don't imagine this effect with that name at all. You can see them all here: 


(The rest of those cards are admittedly very pretty).

I think this cards legacy is going to be outside playing it. A year later, Twitter drone's are still complaining about this card. 

I'm going to finish this with a final statement.

The above art, which is drawn by McNeal belongs to the card "Dazzling Beauty" from Mirage. It was commissioned by then art director Sue-Ann Harkey, and allegedly is based on an ex-lover of McNeill's. While I admit that last part is nothing more then a rumor, the rest are facts.

Harkey was a very cosmopolitan liberal in the 90's, McNeill is well McNeill. They put aside their differences, for the sake of professionalism. Did he stick to his guns, and draw some aryan woman in a wheat field or the Alps? No, he drew a Nubian goddess in the desert.

I love this piece. I love the 90's "head floating in the sky", I love how abstract and desolate everything around her looks, I love the shadowy figure. There's so much left to the imagination with this piece, it's as if it is telling a story. I like this piece more then any other McNeill piece, in MtG or not.

Has public discourse disintegrated so much that you can't separate private life from the professional one. Do people honestly have so little worries, so little going on in their lives, that they openly are offended by a card that was printed (for many) before they were even born, and only seen when one intern felt salty.

I remember one judge, who shall remain nameless, that in one corner bashed this card, but in the next was selling this playset at a premium price. Of course he blocked me when I pointed this out to him.

This card, went from being a relatively obscure fact piece, to being the poster child of the culture war in MtG, and is probably the best example of the Streisand Effect ever in MtG. Long after the game falls into obscurity, this card will be remembered and famous, along Black Lotus and Tolarian Academy for its historic importance. 

In fact people have started running these cards as defiance against the people who said you shouldn't. A literal 'fuck you're.

Wizards of the Coast, if your goal was to get less people to run these cards, you just did the opposite.