Monday, June 24, 2019

Chandra: The importance of consistent character design.


While a good chunk of my readers pay little to no attention to spoilers, and spoiler season, it's something I've yet been able to give up on, and while the chances of me playing with these cards slowly but consistently diminish, it's still something I check out.

Recently, spoilers of Chandra Nalaar, one of the original Lorwyn 5, and magic's premier pyromancer, has come out, with a set largely set on her past. This included, not one, but three Planeswalker cards, each around her, before her debut in Lorwyn, however, there was something, off about these cards, mainly the way she looked.

(Art: Anna Steinbauer)

This came with many questions on 'why does she look Asian?' After all, Chandra was always depicted with red hair, occasionally freckles, and largely Caucasian features. Now I understand different artists will have different styles, and occasionally styles don't mesh. However, if this was the only case of this, it would probably not have been noticed, or became something of a joke, instead it was followed with this:

(art: same as above)

Both Chandra's clearly have Asian features, which don't fit the decade and a half of art other cards depicting her show.


All these different arts, all drawn over the course of a decade, all have a few telling things in common (even child Chandra), Chandra has pale skin, bright red hair (sometimes that is on fire), she typically wears armor (but isn't a must for the character), and she has goggles (with this being absent on child Chandra).

To further this inconsistency, the box art for the set (Magic 2020) has Chandra looking like a man.

Image result for Magic m20 box art

However, this isn't a recent trend, in fact, its the opposite. Gideon's general appearance and skin tone has changed so much, he's basically a meme at this point.

However with the recent inclusion into digging deep into MtG's past, for content, many characters have gotten cards, with effects that don't make sense to the character (Xantcha was a terrible sleeper agent, that was the point), have effects that defeat the point of cards they are based on  (General Varchild), or literally seem like different characters they simply attached names and art to (Tawnos, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist).

For a company that claims so much about wanting Magic to evolve beyond a TCG, and become a multimedia franchise, they sure don't understand the importance of consistency in character design. Well, at least now, I think for the best example, look at Gerrard Capashen. Despite numerous cards featuring his name, his likeness, and quotes by him, his depiction is ALWAYS consistent, even with the reference to him in Dominaria. In fact, most of the weatherlight crew is depicted accurately, even two decades after their story has ended (Mirri being the one current exception).

However, none of this is as bad as what they did to my favorite coward walker, Serra.

Artist: Matthew Wilson
Artist: Rebecca Guay

Serra had two consistent designs, one from the vanguard, which also appears on the card art for Humble, and the Rebeeca Guay's depiction of Serra, which appears on numerous cards, as well as the Homelands comic. Instead, we get a depiction of Serra, from the Urza Saga card Worship, granted not the Serra as it looks two images above, which is the statue of her, but instead the person worshipping in front of it, assuming Serra is her. Now I have no issue with shit talking Serra, it's like a hobby of mine, but I still like her, and the depiction, showing her as a character who literally worships herself, is a bastardization of probably the most famous female character in MtG.

Character consistency is the most important part of any IP. No one ever depicted Darth Vader with a katana, no one ever made Optimus Prime a a Volkswagon Bus. The only time a character is changed, is the time it shows the fan base to move on (look at Harry Potter). WotC, please get your art department together and consistent.

Tl;dr: Get your IP together wotc.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Farmstead: Home Sweet Home

"When father bought the farm we sold the farm.
Mistook his blood for rustic charm
Sold his ghost as an antique to the city"
There is very few agreements in OS Magic. Most people say power is good, so is Library. Then they say Farmstead is one of the worst cards in the game. With it being two mana for one life, being an enchant land, costing literally 3 white mana to cast, and having a very restrictive ability, it's no wonder Farmstead hasn't been seen since Revised edition, and why it's often labeled as one of the worst cards in the game.
"Kids today can't hold a spade
Rest In peace your weary trade
In the world there is no place, such a pity..."
Is farmstead honestly as bad a card as they say? Especially in this format, where consistent repeatable life gain is difficult? Where Lich can turn it into a draw engine? I, for many reasons, shall look into it to find out.
"Well the barman shakes his head, and fills my glass
says 'we're living in the past, why preserve a dying craft and it's misery?'"
Playability: At 3 mana and a local enchantment, Farmstead has a lot going against it. Enchant lands are particularly the worst, whether your format has a playset of Strip Mine or not. It also doesn't guarantee anything the turn it comes out (unlike many local enchantments), and it's effect is one life. While I did say repeatable life gain is nice (it is). I know life gain gets a lot of hate in modern magic, but one of the most important things about winning is not losing, and this card excels in that department. I'd say sadly, the biggest hurdle for farmstead is, not one, but two cards have done this better, Fountain of Youth, and Caribou Range (if you're playing 95). In it's defense, mono-white often needs mana dumps in the late game, and while I may enjoy it, I can't honestly give it a higher rating then 1/5.
"Come sit down we are lamenting, about yesterdays sad ending.
About the water in my whiskey, the brass passed off as gold/
/of a day when wood was wood, silver was silver, gold was gold,
sweet home was home"
Art: One of my favorite Poole pieces, Farmstead is probably the most 'American' piece of art in the game. It wouldn't look out of place as the set to a 50's/60's American rural television show like Little House on the Prairie or Bonanza. While the piece doesn't show any humans, it does show numerous things that would be seen on a Farmstead. Most prominent are the axe, which rests on a stump, and the house itself, a simple stone cabin with a hey roof. Whats easy to miss is the anvil, which is necessary, even today, for the use of making horse shoes, but in a setting like projected, could be used to make almost anything necessary. It's just a small detail that's easy to miss. Then you have the 'road', naturally worn from the surrounding grass, which suggests frequent passing of feet, free range chickens, as well as cattle (assumable cows). However, the best detail, is the tree in the corner of the image, with a shadow it's given over the 'road'. It's easily my personal favorite part of the piece, and also shows the light source fairly well. The background, which is pines, a lightly cloudy sky, and a few wild birds, fill  in the blanks extremely well. Art gets a 5/5 from me.
"'Son these tools are artifacts, endangered species left it's tracks.
So wrap me up in plastic wrap in the city.
There is no going back for me, this antiques rustic eulogy
shall be sold as folk on the street', such a pity..."
Flavor: Living in old country isn't for the faint of heart. You work day and night, however the results, can be great. This represented well in the idea of gaining a life, but having to spend to get it. The two white mana represents upkeep, strained labor, and risks, it takes to maintain such an operation.
Some of the things you can plop a farmstead on it also notable, for both being strange and hilarious. You can open shop next to the Library of Alexandria, in a Desert, on a Strip Mine (really any lands from Antiquities is hilarious), in the City (of Shadows or Brass), on a Quay, in some dirty ruins, and even an Ice Floe. However, just as flavor would suggest, it's most effective if you enchant it on a plains.
Flavor 4/5.
Final rating 3/5: Sure it might blow, but is it memorable and oddly strange. It's art is easily its strongest selling point, with everything else being mediocre in comp.
"Well I'll never understand, why they long to use those hands, to build a stand that would always stand in old time country,
but settle on white rooms, and hollow doors
paper ceilings, padded floors
luxury boxes where your stored, in old time country"--Erik Petersen, Olde Tyme M'mery
Image may contain: one or more people, sky, outdoor and closeup
RIP the NYStyle Ranch (2006-2018)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ashnod's Transmogrant: The Second Twiddle.

Many months ago, I described Twiddle as the swiss army knife of Old School. It's a versatile thinking mans car, with the ability to surprise even the most convincing foe. It can be used, both aggressively, and defensively, and is as versatile.

Sure, it doesn't have the surprise appeal, being forced to be in play, and it can only target creatures, but outside of these, it's a close second for the most versatile card in the format.

Offensive Uses: Powering up the power of a beater (obvious).
                           Turning an opponents creature into an artifact to disenchant/shatter/Detonate/Divine Offering them. (Divine Offering can also become an amazing life gain spell if you hit the right fatty).
                           Making your Guardian Beast nearly invincible (as long as it remains untapped).
                          Allowing it to be thrown by any of those two amazing two drops from Antiquities.
                          Stealing a creature with Scarwood Bandits/Alladin/Steal artifact
                          Getting a two mana clone in the form of Copy Artifact

Defensive Uses: Keeping a creature tapped with a relic barrier/Phyrexian Gremlins
                           Protection one of your creatures from Terror (since it turns into an artifact)
                           Protection from The Abyss (since it's an artifact).
                           Allowing your Pixies/Treefolk of Argothian variety to block a creature all day.
                           Saving that one point of damage from Bolt for your 3 toughness (or Efreet in response to an ill fated psionic blast).
                           Finally, the mind game of bluffing so your opponent's game is off.

While short, I hope this encourages a few people to try this odd ball card from 4th in their deck.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mana Batteries: Rating them

The mana batteries were a casual popular table card. I've known more then a few old school players (including my older brother) who swore to them. Last years, while most of my cards were in storage I threw together a EDH around Garna, the Bloodflame. Built out of foreign cards I had an what I was willing to buy out of common boxes, it included a consume spirit and drain life, and as a result, a Italian Black Mana Battery.

In this article, I will rate each mana battery, both in the form of playability, and in the form of art. However the flavor is always the same:

Flavor: They are batteries. The rules of conservation states it takes more energy to charge a battery, then a battery can release. In this regard, two mana to generate one mana at a later time makes sense. In fact, the only issue is they can always supply a single mana without charging. For this, they get a universal 4/5.

Blue Mana Battery (#5)

The blue mana battery shows what appears to be rocks in the ocean. The idea is they work like energy collectors. The idea is they sit in the ocean, and collect mana. Amy's piece isn't bad, her work is always very well for larger promotional stuff, but it always falls shy in the cardboard. I largely blame the nature of the small shapes of cardboard. I'll give it a solid 3/5.

Green Mana Battery (#4)

Rush never disappoints, this is no different. His staff had some nice touches on it, like the same symbol as the mana symbol on the staff itself, with the simple background of emerald green. It's a nice piece, but doesn't look much like a mana battery, so much as art piece of another card. While a good piece, it's not good for the card it was on. 3/5.

White Mana Battery (#3)

The white mana battery actually showed up in the old Armada comics, being utilized by a white planeswalkers I can't exactly remember the name of. It based off this art, a large literal battery attached to the land. In a smiliar way to Webers blue battery above. This one, has atmosphere, not usually seen on white related cards. An unusual light/darkness composition, with a single light source, and a dark stormy sky above. 3/5

Plus it's drawn by Anthony Waters, my eventual VAC deck.

Black Mana Battery (#2)

Anson Maddocks is the king of Magic horror art, and this piece show cases it perfectly. A skull, mutilated, with various poisonous berries, bones, a voodoo doll, and even a snake. The whole piece has so much going on for it, that it encompasses everything that is black. Honestly, I could sit here all day talking about all the little details on this simple piece. 4/5

Red Mana Battery (#1)

The relic of Jared Carthilion (the Shadow Mage), the Red Mana Battery was an heirloom. This shows the powerful relic as a relic, it's atmosphere is it. It looks to be sitting on a shelf, with candlelight in the back. If Tedin is good at one thing, it's details and atmosphere. Especially for artifacts, as he has drawn most of the classics.  This is no exception, showing the glow of the mana battery. 5/5

Jarad being burned by the 'mana well'. I couldn't find a proper image.

Green Mana Battery (#5)

Easily the worst mana battery. Green has more than enough ramp, to make this useless. Combine with a lack of X costs and mana dumps, and Green Mana Battery comes at the bottom of the list. 2/5.

White Mana Battery (#4)

In a similar vein to Green Mana Battery, white is usually cheap spells, or easily splashable. However, white often has a need for mana dumps, and with Alabaster Potion and Guardian Angel, there is at least some interesting X white spells in the format. Still not enough to put it past 4.

Blue Mana Battery (#3)


Blue is the most powerful color in the format. While better four mana drops exists, especially in blue, the ability to spend unusued mana into storing mana makes for an interesting tech, and blue can always use more open mana. This being said, Braingeyser, Spell Blast, and Power Sink all make for good X blue spells. Further more, a single charge counter, allows for you to tap out while leaving mana open for a counterspell/mana drain. I will admit, it sits less on the merit of itself, and more on the merit of others, but don't all cards? 3/5.

Red Mana Battery (#2)

The color of X spells, Red Mana Battery is one of the most useful. In a color with little/no ramp outside of artifacts, RMB is the most useful, whether boosting a fireball, a catapult, or an Earthquake, RMB is easily one of the most useful. Further, it can be used for reds other effects, like Bloodlust and firebreathing. 4/5.

Black Mana Battery (#1)


Drain Life, Howl from Beyond, Shade Effects, Regeneration, Word of Binding. That's just off the top of my head. BMB is easily the most powerful card of the cycle. It's only draw back is it costs 4, and expensive commitment, but it's powerful. Just once, kill someone from a charged Black Mana Battery with Drain Life and you'll understand. 5/5

So combining the two, the list goes like this, white (9/15), Green (9/15), Blue (10/15), Black (13/15),  Red (13/15).

Do you agree with my list? Do you disagree? What's your favorite mana battery.

Monday, May 13, 2019

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast.

"Her name is Serra Angel honey...."

It was Gen Con 2008, it was Friday afternoon, and I sat on the top hallway, admiring the above art piece and statue sitting in the hallway, with an image of the card in front. There, a star-y eyed little girl no older then 8 stared up at it, when I heard the mother say those words. I had built a deck for the Standard grand melee event, a red/white vigilance deck, designed for the long haul. I was entering to win, and naturally, the deck graced two Serra Angels, who I hoped would be able to help end possible ground stalls.  Due to a personal issue (a sick horse) I was too late to enter the melee, and had no intention of playing the deck elsewhere (I actually played it for the welcome event that year, challenge people who were brand new to Magic with it). I dug into my pocket, and gave that little girl two foil Serra Angels (remember, Tenth was brand new, and foil Serra's weren't exactly common), with that current art. The mother thanked me, and they walked together into the hotel.

It was a minor kind gesture at the time, but upon further thought, realized she would probably get into Magic, and play it for life, and I smiled. In my 20+ years of playing Magic, I've played against legends (I own a deck box signed by Johnny Magic himself), I've taught and mentored future tournament winners, rubbed elbows with designers, lived through some of the best formats I've ever had, as well as some of the worst tournament experiences ever. I invested in mono-black control during the reign of Caw-blade, seen Raffinity/faeries/even rebels. I was at one of the very first modern events, and played it loyally until 2014, when other commitments kept me from enjoying it (I did miss all of Eldrazi Winter).

I never toured the PT, never entered a GP proper. Either due to cost, or enthusiasm, I'm a local Magic junky. I'm the guy everyone knows the face of. I never wanted to be in the camera, but instead be the man next to it. I wanted to be the legend, the guy the community knew, for his merits, for his commitment to the community itself. I've always believed that Magic needs to survive on a local level, as well as a global one. Me, I'm one of the components that allow it to survive locally. I introduce people to stores (and their owners), I go from circle to circle connecting people, passing gossip, giving idea's. It's what I do, and it leaves a mark. I've lived the last seven years of my life in a small city in the Midwest, before that, I was from Upstate. Some friends occasionally tell me that tall tales of me irritating judges and winning with jank is told among judges and store owners alike, and while I can't verify these claims, I do have one story I can tell.

I was entering a modern event, originally with goblin beatdown, when after lending the deck to a friend, signed up last minute with a Tron brew designed around the proliferate mechanic. It was a pet project that I started before modern even existed, and is at the time of typing this, the longest deck together I currently own. Well a deck check error that required me to go to the back happened (I wrote x2 Everflowing Chalice twice), and while that was being sorted, I overheard 'X? He's here?'. There, a level one ran up, and enthusiastically shook my hand. "I've heard so many stories I can't believe about you, I didn't think you existed". In a gaze of awe and confusion I ensured him I existed and went on with my business. Later that night, someone sent me a screencap from the local judge FB page that said his highlight of the day was explaining to my opponent how Timestop worked, and why he wasn't getting his free turn, or his Emrakul back.

What I'm saying is, I've been in this game a long time, and while I certainly wasn't opening backs in the fall of '93, I've certainly spent the majority of my life playing Magic: the Gathering, in one form or another, and can claim, at one point, I've played every sanctioned format available. I've taught more people to play then I can count, and spent a small fortune on sealed product, as many before and after me have.

While tournament Magic and the scene around it has always been on some level seedy, it's always had a veneer of merit to it. Sure, sometimes people cheat, but the best, earned their position in that station. They've grinded harder, learned the ropes, learned the cards. I believed that, for many years. While fame wasn't what I was after, respect was, and if I played hard enough, I'd end up being just as good as the best. I studied the rules, and discovered corner cases, I learned about layers, the stack, corner cases and glitches involving the stack. I studied cards, memorizing thousands of relevant cards simply by the name/art. Even mundane details like Flavortext and Artists name. WotC, you slapped me in the face today.

Sometime last year, WotC decided to change the tournament racket, and make it less of a game about prestige, and more like a con. If I was more well versed in tournament Magic as a whole, I could probably write a long winded wordy article about that, but I know it went from events held in Hotels and con floors, to large stand alone events that could take up entire convention halls, to well, Magicfest (how's that lawsuit coming by the way?). You marketed for two decades how they wanted Magic to be a game about intellectual skill and merit, to be on the likes of Go and Chess, just for them to decide to change that.

Instead you sign shady contracts with a number of 'pro-players', and set up the MPL (Magic Pro League), which is honestly just a new version of the pro-players club. However, it is considerably more restrictive then it ever was before, and according to a one Gerry Thompson "sign or walk".

"Our contract “negotiations” involved WotC officials purposefully not answering our questions and telling us to either sign or walk. Overall, not the best way to start a new business relationship."--Gerry Thompson, Why I quit the Magic Pro League.
There was already a well known fact that you picked up invitations for the Mythic Championships not based on merit, but on popularity. The argument from some fans was 'it's not a real tournament, it's an advertisement, they naturally pick up popular online streamers to showcase the new platform'. Yet, you didn't pick up Pewdiepie, which throws that narrative into the toilet (you know, having the largest YouTube channel in history and all).
Now I won't go into conspiracy theories (did Autumn win the event because Duke threw the game? I don't care, I didn't watch it). I will go with the fact numerous people, many whom's skill in the game is questionable, was invited to this event, with the grand prize being a million dollaridoos. Fucking hell, you had this big fucking commercial over it, and everything, and changed your entire marketing strategy for it.
Now combined this with the fact you've kicked not one, but two players out of the MPL, one for nothing more than a chinese whisper, and the other, for obviously cheating, but unpersoning him as well, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised about that after what you did to Za....
Whoa, almost got my 10 DCI numbers deleted, didn't I? Don't want that to happen, now do I?
"To further this goal, the MPL is adding sixteen discretionary slots to each of the MTG Arena Mythic Championships for the 2019 season. These discretionary slots will be used to invite a broader representation of the Magic competitive community to high-level play. These sixteen slots are in addition to the existing MPL, prior performance, and direct qualification slots."--Elaine Chase, MPL adds Janne "Savjz" Mikkonen and Jessica Estephan
Wait a minute, WotC, are you saying you are willing to give out special treatment to someone based on factors beyond their control? Ten years ago, I was pretty sure this was called racism, however, in this brave new world, I'm sure it's just the cost of business isn't it? So much for those ethics you preach so much.
I'm not even sure why I'm typing this, I don't play digital MtG (and never will, outside Shandalar). I never was dumb enough to buy e-credits for MtG:O, and I don't have any interest in dabbling with Arena either (which all the local hang outs are starting to feel the burn over, even if they don't realize it).
Look, either the tournaments are an elaborate marketing scheme, to sell a product, in which case, that's what it exists for, or they are an intellectual game of bluff and skill, which that's what it is. It can't be both, because it will not succeed at either.
You can say what you want about Konami, but they have the integrity to laugh in the face of grinders and say 'good for work, here's shiny card' when they win with a 4 digit deck. They openly call the game nothing more than that, and treat it as such. They have the business smarts to unannounced the reprint of a 50 dollar card as a common in pre-constructed deck, and send that deck to every box store in the western hemisphere, leaving speculators and investors high and dry. Hell, for all their short comings, backwords ass game rules, and split second ruling changes, they have a decently functioning tournament structure, and while they might have the worst player base in the world, their is some broken sense of unity among the often maligned and ridiculed YGO players. It's sort of like being in the mafia, they will invite you to dinner, make sure you don't get shaked down, and grab your wallet the moment you let your guard down. I wish I could say the same for the Magic player base, which has become so fractured, I can't even walk into a new shop without carry a dozen different decks, of an equal amount of formats, because I'm not sure what's going to be thrown down infront of me, at any given moment.
Ok it's EDH, is it cEDH, RC, or French? Wait, I was wrong, you're playing brawl? Oh just kidding, no one's played brawl. It's pauper, yeah sure, I have a dec... wait you're playing modern pauper? Why? Old School, awesome! Is it Sweden, EC, CF, or Atlantic? I could go on, but you get the idea. It wasn't always like this though.
Magic can no longer survive on the integrity of it's design. It's clear packs exist to be sold, and low value, but high reward packs are the most profitable. It can no longer survive on it's 'complexity'. Despite that recent article, Magic is more streamlined and simplified than ever, it will get only worse from here. Magic only has it's tournament scene left, and the recent banning of the Tron player almost gives it some credibility, but it's always been not about accomplishment, not about prestige, not even about the integrity of the game, but about profit, and the moment you saw a more profitable avenue, you dropped the previous system like an unwanted puppy.
It's been a long twenty years of Magic. I've changed a lot, I went from a older child buying packs from the local emporium, hobby shops, and flea markets, to a young man building a house. I've played through four major relationships, seven cars, and my entire educational career. In that time, I've written you two open letters, one on a site that no longer exists (about the 8th edition card frames), and one on your own website about the change in the Legends rule, and how it would snowball into a mess of a game ('muh edh' isn't a response, though that wasn't from you). I never got a proper response from either, after all, I'm just a voice in a sea of voices. I never expected a response. However, I need to ask this, why should I continue buying this product? Why should I continue to play outside of drunk nights at kitchen tables? It can't be for integrity of the higher functions of the game, you showed that isn't in the equation. It can't be for the small hope of one day being on the pro-tour, that soon  won't exist in any form in analog (for better or worse).
I recently helped my twin alphabetize and pack away his YGO cards, a game of pride and joy to him. He told me he won't sell them, now, instead, he doesn't need to play anymore (and honestly, with links and other cancer, who can blame him?), but he doesn't have the heart to peddle them off for pennies on the dollar. I imagine doing the same thing with Magic wouldn't be that much more difficult, at least for the formats you support.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


"A sword never jams, never has to be reloaded, is always ready. Its worst shortcoming is that it takes great skill and patient, loving practice to gain that skill; it can't be taught to raw recruits in weeks, nor even months..."--Robert Heinlein, Glory Road
Of all the original cards I used, Runesword remains one of the most fascinating that I owned. Despite it never once winning me a game, being a useful tool, or even staying in play very long, I've always very much enjoyed the card. After all, what child wouldn't like a mystical sword of power. No this wasn't the Zylon Sword that sat in a box, or Flame Sword, or Tawnos's Weaponry. No this was a weapon of POWER, the likes that He-Man. It took a little time, but I realized at 6 mana, this card was to expensive to possibly play, and two much of a glass cannon if it did. That didn't matter I still loved it. Even with the hair in the text box.
Interestingly enough, not all printings of Runesword from The Dark have the hair on it, but I am pretty certain the one I own does.

Playability: Don't let Runeswords text fool you. It effectively gives +2/+0, the ability to keep a troll down, and to remove it forever. If the creature wielding it leaves play (don't let the text on the version above confuse you), it's gone, buried in the yard. This includes dying in combat, and at a cost of 9 mana, it's an expensive proposition. However, a knight (or any first striker) wielding it could make for a good target, since it does get around regeneration, and is one of the few ways to remove a creature entirely from the game. Still, it's to frail, and two expensive to be much use, even with such 'power'.  The restriction to attacking creatures is the final nail in the coffin. 1/5.
Art: Christopher Rush would never disappoint, and this is no different. Though, not by any means his best piece, it more than gets the job done. The lack of objects in the art showcases the blade front and center, which is an obsidian blade with ruins. The bright red background makes a great contrast, not just for the blade, but the whole artifact itself. Particularly on the Dark version above. All in all, a memorable piece. 3/5.

Flavor: The flavor of this card is all over the place. While it's an obvious sword of power, it's mechanics are all over the place. Why does it pump only an attacking creature, is the walker wielding it, or the attacking creature, how come it disappears if the creature does as well. While I believe the idea of it's mechanics is it's eating the soul of the creature (similar to Whippoorwill in the same set), it doesn't change the fact that a unsummon can make this null and void (though the original simply said when it dies). I hate to do this, but 35 on flavor.
8/15=3/5 rounded up. Once again a card that serves it's purpose in the early days of Magic. While not the best card around, it gets the job done, and is interesting enough to spike some curiosity over it's value as a card.
I've always been convinced that is a runesword in the art.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Reflections: what could have been.

Recently, my laptop of many years finally fried, and with it, a project I had been working on for the better part of a year. It started with a simple question:

"how would you make a theoretical OS expansion that could have looked in place during the 95 drought?"
"What does Old School need?"
These were both extremely complicated, and extremely interesting questions I wished to answer. The problem was simple, make a fan setwith an emphasis on flavor first, while trying to find some of the complaints that OS had, around this time Mr. Bard started promoting OS Brawl, and as that happened, EDH followed which gave me a reason to include mono-colored, and even enemy colored legends.
For mechanics, I didn't feel the need to include any new mechanics, instead of I decided to expand on some mechanics that didn't get such treats like Rampage and Banding. I never found a poison counter card, but I even had bands with others and legend specific cards.
Finally I set a few ground rules:
Cantrips can't exist in the set. Even the Ice Age cantrips.
Each legend either must be a big brute, or unusually unique. Each mono-colored legend should embody the philosophy of it's color to it's purist.
Text/color change effects are on the table.
There should be vertical/horizontal cycles, as well as color pairs.
There should be no cgi art. Nor should there be any modern references.
Classical real world sources should be encouraged.

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White ended up with a solid 'town/city' theme to it, however many cards for that have been lost, including an enchantment that turned all your townfolk into soldiers during combat, civic engineer, which regenerated walls, but gave them a -0/-1 counter. and a gossipmonger who could tap other white creatures. Also lost was a 1/1 white creature with plainswalk, a legendary wall, and a riflemen card.
A simple creature with a simple effect. While the WW2 propaganda art ad Paul Harvey might make it seem to contemporary for a fantasy TCG, I'm always glad how simple and elegant this card has turned out.
The set always had a strong knight theme, as seen here. Perhaps this would have been too powerful for a knight tribal deck, or perhaps it should have said an opponent. Either way, the idea is the knight attracts other knights to duel or challenge, including you. At one point, this was simply called tournament knight, but I didn't like the name.
One of the few surviving cards that interact with banding directly, Leadership does nothing for the creature in question, but allows for a multitude of other creatures to get a bonus while under his command.
One of two mono-white legends. I figured a creature who's very presence gets your team to work together would make for a interesting creature. Sadly this design was made years ago for a 'legend a creature' contest, and I been burrowing it ever since.
The white Enchant World. All the Enchant Worlds had a theme of a 'other worldy place" loosely based on real world sources, in this case, it's Limbo, a place where you await the after life. Since artifact creatures don't have souls, they'd be unaffected by Limbo, but everything else would be, allowing the dueling planeswalkers who were there to steal the recent dead and give them no life for their own bidding.
In the case for lords, I wanted to do something different, in the idea of a lord that boosts two different creatures, but disregards and ability. In this one, the Lord of the Realm allows unity between the commoners (the soldiers) and the Nobles (the Knights) for a common cause.
I liked the idea of utilizing two creature who share a special bond into being better fighters together. Livingston's are made for a stunning piece for the card.
Inspired straight from the alpha sheet. this card simply makes a sun rise, stunning orcs and goblins, while killing vampires and trolls.
Ante never got its day in the sun, but I wanted it to. I included a number of ante related cards (two of which survived), including this one here.
The white pair of the Lone Knight, Wandering Knight is a nomadic knight, shown in his ability to gain a landwalk ability of your choice. The beautiful Hoover art (which never graced a card) is just a plus. I feel this design is one of my favorites in the set.
Blue got two aspects to it, a trickery theme (as it should) and a nautical theme (as it should). A number of blue cards have been lost sadly, including a kraken. Here however, is the blue cards in question.
A Magical Hack for creatures, Change Face could disrupt tribal tactics, or even empower your own creatures. Eventually WotC released a card that works like this, so it's not entirely an original idea on my part, but something I wanted to include. Sadly a similar enchant creature spell a lot like Dream Coat was also designed but not saved.
A changeling is a shapeshifted that can change it's appearance, but not it's size. In this case, I made a significantly weaker version of Doppleganger, except it's always a 3/3, occasionally making it better in some regard. This fits with the policy at the time that a expansion card wouldn't be strictly better than its base set counterpart.
The blue lord is probably the funniest, and most useless. However, I enjoy the idea of misguided worshippers making kraken and leviathans stronger.
(fact: I was inspired for the flavor text from the artist who posted it attached to the pic).
The blue ante card, which would allow you to swap it with the card in the ante if your opponent wasn't willing to raise the stakes.
There are three ships in the set, two have banding. The idea is to allow a creature to ride in the ship for a bonus. In this case, the Ferry (which I admit looks like a longship) can sneak a single creature into your opponents port, for an unblockable attack. The Islandhome mechanic is just pure flavor.
Probably the most convuloted design in the set. Lady in the lake tutor's a 'sword' and then can use it to lure in a foolish hero. While no the worst design ever on a Magic card, it's certainly clunky in many respects, which means it fits perfectly into what I was going for.
If Lady is the most convuloted card in the set, this one is the most broken. The Akashic Library is a new age theoretical location on the Astral Plane which concludes all worldly knowledge. Planeswalkers dueling here would naturally be able to get what they need, as they need it.
Some cards simply need simple effects. This is one of them, which can help a blue player fortify his coast, and defend from sneaky islandwalkers.
The second ship in the set and the only surviving blue legend. The Mary Celeste was originally designed for a Halloween contest some years ago, and is based on the legendary Maritime mystery of the real world ship. I never fund the artists name for this beautiful painting though.
A simple design I was inspired by through a fake card I saw as a kid. The idea is with the merchant doing you a favor, you can buy your ships at a discount, while suddenly your opponents cost a bit more then they remembered.
Ship of the Line was probably one of my most redesigned pieces of fictional card board. At one point it blew up lands, it destroyed blue creatures, it had islandwalk instead of vigilance. At the end, I feel this was the best design.
An interesting a powerful draw spell, that is all.
If printed in 95, would be almost useless, but could become very powerful. I wanted a clone effect for an instant/sorcery card. Interrupt was only added until you choose the card in your hand. All other timing rules for the copy must be legal.

There was a fan set called 'Middle Kingdom' way back before my time. It contained a number of different takes on 'Wild Growth', which inspired this one. I decided that the additional damage was for flavor, but could also be used offensively, since I'm designing this with manaburn in mind.

It wouldn't be an old school expansion without some mean color hate cards. While this isn't better then Gloom (honestly, what is?) it does offer more flexibility, especially if your simply splashing white for Swords/Disenchant. I'm honestly impressed how well this card worked out, from the art, to the ability, to the flavor text.
A wight in tradition is a ghoul bound to the place of his burial. Usually a person who's wasn't given a proper burial, the only way to cure the issue of the wight is either to give the body a proper burial, or to destroy the body. I went with this, making a nearly indestructible creature, but given it a proper burial (headstone, Crypt), or destroying the body (badger), will destroy the wight.
I wanted to experiment with the idea of banding also working as a drawback. In this case, it's in the form of a powerful, but expensive removal spell.
(Ruling: The initial target can't be black, any black creatures in the bands will be destroyed by virtue of proximity).
Another design from another set. The idea of a Ghostly Hitchhiker is pretty damned old, dating back to antiquity. I could explain all of the flavor mechanics here, but decided I'll leave that to the reader.

The black legend of the bunch. (The other was a Vorhees style killer called the eternal). Iblis is a Djinn, offering you three wishes at the cost of your soul. However, it's easy enough for a planeswalker to get around this.
Fact: The art is from 'Convocations'. A art book released by Armada comics that showcased drawings of card combo's. This one by the great Jeff Menges is 'The Wretched+Lure'.
The idea of a creature dying to give a bonus isn't all that uncommon in Magic. I just wanted to try it in instant form.
The opposite of Wandering Knight, Lone Knight instead comes in with a built in fear.
Fact: The art is from 'The Gathering' an art book celebrating Magics (20th?) Anniversary by uniting numerous artists from the early days of MtG. This art is actually a reimagining of Black Knight, by original artist Jeff Menges.
These designs are really old (I originally made them on, the outcast creatures had the 'loner' mechanic a decade before Innistrad. In this case, they would get stronger or have abilities as long as they were the only creature you controlled. This one, the most basic, simply gets an unholy strength, making him a strictly better 'ogre', with the draw back being he can only defend you so much.
The black lord, Necromancer naturally pumps up the basic undead. I honestly don't like the flavortext, but it's there, I'll live with it.

The black Enchant World. It's the Mayan underworld, and it's name translates into 'a place of fear'. A wanted an underworld card that effectively made the graveyard untouchable, forcing the dead to stay there. Also if you can, check out Ms. Drums work, most wasn't appropriate for use in this set, but it's all good stuff.
Red somehow ended up all over the place, from military tactics to, the greek heroes, as well as goblins and barbarians. Most of the red cards didn't survive the purge (like all colors) but the ones that did, well they work I guess.
A massive barbarian champion. I wasn't afraid to jump onto sources from other expansions (like Legends), however, in retrospect, it should have been called 'rathi Champion'. I am worried, this design was probably to strong for OS however, and should probably cost more mana.
Fact: This art is also from the Convocations artbook. It's combo is Stone Giant+Uthden Troll.
Another 'Anycraze' original. Apocalyptic Cult has been moved between fan set to fan set of mine since the first one (which was a poorly designed apocalyptic expansion designed for multiplayer games). I'm honestly not sure if that's even the artists name, since Anycraze wouldn't credit the artist, but was what I think I saw when zooming in on the original art piece. Still one of my favorite custom cards of all time.
Originally titled 'Nuke'. This 'Anycraze' original showed how multiplayer cards could work, in the idea of spite for an opponent at the cost of yourself. I included it in here, simply because I like the design, but naturally Nuke wouldn't work for an OS expansion, so I instead took a name from a YGO card.
On the design sheet as a rare, it wouldn't be the only Banding red creature (Nalanthi Dragon). Originally coined for a short lived Hellinistic expansion (that we abandoned as soon as Theros was announced), it sat at the back of my mind. When I saw the amazing work of Vincent Pompetti, I had to use some, and this card came rushing back to my mind.
In the 3.0 book 'Path of the Sword', there is 'Legendary Classes', one of which is the Adamantium Warrior. A barbarian who can slew entire armies. I wanted a legendary Barbarian, and so came Korna. The Regeneration actually comes from one classes ability, where once PER CAMPAIGN, the Adamantium Warrior can shout so fiercely it scares off death itself. Plus RRR: Regenerate isn't exactly unheard of on other cards from the time.
Fact: This art actually comes from the poster in the Dakkon Blackblade comic, and I couldn't find an artist, so I labeled both artists in the comic for it.
Not all cards need to be powerful rares. This common shows off a simple, but flavorful effect that could be game winning in a pinch.
The red lord, and the first lord I designed, it was largely inspired by both the mechanics, and the art of Orc General from The Dark
The red Enchant World, Ragnarok makes all creatures engage in never ending combat. This is improved upon with the ability for it to give everything one half of 'haste', as well as attacking doesn't cause to tap. Pompetti's art works amazing with it as well, showing a dark, foggy battlefield.
One of the earliest designs, to settle the issue of 'better one drops'. This mercenary shows his loyalty to coin, being able to be bought for a measly R. I wish I figured out flavor text for this one, but alas, he's here, in all his glory.
I always loved the idea of orc clans being different by the claws they wear. Its simple, yet believable. Here, is a much stronger orc, living up to his bronze and brass claw cousins, but instead of cowardice, they possess foolishness, willing to engage in any 'worthy challenge' as a false sense of bravado.
Magic needs the occasional card of humor. Goblins digging team, balloon brigade, Uncle Istvan, Norin the Wary, kolbolds, Phil Foglio. Suicidal Kolbold is no different, being a 1/0 that can only be alive with other support.
Fact: The art is also from the convocations art book. It's 'kolbold+Unstable Mutation+Blood Lust+ Berserk'. Bryon Wackwitz must have been a more daring planeswalker than me.
Early on, I wanted to copy Legends and touch on other cultures outside of western cultures. Ironically, several native American inspired cards made it into the expansion, this being the sole survivor. The Thunderbird, according to oral tradition, would fly across the planes, dropping lightning from it's wings. I copied this idea, allowing it to shoot any creature unfortunate enough to be on the ground at the time of it's passing, however, remember, the Thunderbird holds no loyalty.