Monday, March 26, 2018

The Seven unforgiveable sins of WotC

Wizards of the Coast, as many of you have seen before, went from being a minor start up, to a successful independent, to finally a multi-billion dollar company. Naturally, this took a good business sense, some luck, and some unforgivable sins.While this could be looked at from the game as a whole (I can write a book on the consequences of moving from the OGL 3.5 to 4.0, and the fall out that followed), this series will pertain largely to M:tG.

It will be a series of articles on issues like Fetchlands, Planeswalkers, Mythic Rares, NWO, and so forth. Each article will contain sources, the reason for these decisions, quotes, and even images.

Naturally, due to the amount of research that these articles will require, don't expect them to come out all at once, and no, I'm not moving away from my more popular 'card theme'd' articles.

I feel instead these issues need to be written down, to be addressed, for better or worse, and to be known. I understand my blog is a small blip on the radar, but perhaps someone more known then me will take it to themselves to write these things better then I could, and to get these issues (both past and present known).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hilarity in Absurdity: Riven Turnbull

"Political violence is a perfectly legitimate answer to the persecution handed down by dignitaries of the state."--Riven Turnbull

I personally believe that one of the most endearing thing about M:tG is just how funny it can be. It's a game where a zombie, some goblins, and an avatar of self can join forces in a bands, where a snake can carry a lance, and you can invite up to four Uncles over for a jamboree.

It's also funny on some head scratchers of cards. Old school is a treasure trove of cards that make you scratch your head, say 'why?' and either laugh or be angry. Sorrow's Path is probably one of the most classical versions of this, and easily the most referenced, but numerous other cards have odd abilities, strange stats, or weird art, last week I talked about the outliner Uncle Istvan, and his popularity due to it being so strange, but today I'd like to mention another outliner who's a long standing personal favorite of mine, Riven Turnbull.

Yet not the strangest card in Legends by any stretch.

Riven Turnbull, like all Legends legends, did get a pre-revisionist description of him which basically called him a political fire starter, and that is all the lore (which is clearly on the Flavor Text) written about him. So without any lore, we need to look at the card itself, complete in a vacuum.

Art: Drawn in a style unlike most of RKF's art, it shows this man burning what appears to be a legal document. In his other hand, he is holding a short sword, and a skull rests between them both. The only other visible item is simply a window with night behind it. This shows the man operates largely in the cover of darkness, like many anarchists, since one must be hidden. The best part of this art, is the runic scripture on the parcel (which you can't really make out on the card itself), and the smoke, both are good details. The window in the back is also a nice touch, which given the age of the art, it could easily been left black and it would have been fine, but instead, it gives the art some color and depth.I sort of which RKF did a few more pieces in this art style, instead of his AWESOME trademark, but that might ruin this one.

Totally not a fire hazard.

Art: 4/5

Playability: Riven is certainly playable, if you like big creatures with the ability to cast Dark Ritual. I mean, he's an advisor, who's a 5/7, but we will get to that in flavor. He is a big legend, one of the biggest legends in legends (especially if you don't include the Elder Dragons). Only 8 Legends have a higher Power of 5 in the set, while 0 have a toughness higher then 7 (not including Dakkon Blackblade naturally). With a combined total between the two of 12, the only things with a higher p/t combination are the Elder Dragons themselves, and most creatures in the format can't reach that high either. He also has no drawback, and even a ability (even if it's extremely non-sequitur and pointless). At best he's a 5/7 vanilla with no drawback outside of being a Legend. He also, as a rule, gets a bonus point for being black, due to being immune to Hellfire, Terror, and boosted from an opponents Bad Moon. With this, he's an average 3/5. Purely stat wise, he's just an uninteresting beater, with the mentioned ability.
Playability: 3/5

Fun Fact: Another strange large legend from Legends in the same colors that taps for mana is Princess Lucrezia

Coming soon-ish

Flavor: The Bulk of our conversation. This guy must put Hercules to shame. In Legends, the idea was certain artifacts or magic can make creatures bigger, particularly humans. We see none of this in the art, of on the card. So we must assume him to be nothing more then a brute, and in this case, he's as powerful as Mahamoti, and as tough as an Elder Dragon. Me and my older brother once listed the things he could 'fight in the Arena' and survive against.
It includes:
--Urza's crowning achievement and a millenia of genetic engineering (plus Urza himself)
--Almost every dragon in the game
--Numerous other heroe's including all of the Weatherlight, Volrath, each Paragon of the Guilds (including Rakdos), Gideon.
--Numerous Villains including Baron Sengir, Kaervek, Lim-Dul, Memnarch, Volrath, 
--Almost every god currently in the game (Mogis being the one exception).
In Oldschool, he can kill a Hungry (and even fed) Sengir Vampire, Serra Angel, an entire Pirate Ship, Demonic Horde, a Sea Serpent, every non-dragon in Legends, a Clockwork Beast.  In other words, he's a boss. I'm convinced he generates black mana simply because other mana is afraid of him, and he's black because he is fearless (like a certain Pirate I like).

That's an impressive list of opponents for someone who's profession is advisor. It's hilarious in many ways.

His flavortext implies him to be a political activist and rebel, neither which fits much into either colors description, but he could also be a schemer, since he is an advisor, which would fit into both color's descriptions perfectly.

He's assumable a little versed in Magic, since he can add a B mana. Yet he's a 5/7, which shows he doesn't skip gym days.

So is the flavor good? Fuck if I know, it's not even cohesive, but fuck, is it memorable.

Also that flavor text ripped right out of Ayn Rand, is certainly memorable, but not all that characteristic of black (but I see how it could fit blue).

Flavor ?/5. I'm not honestly sure how to objectively rate this one, it's a mess, but it's what I love about it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Aisling Leprechaun: Tis be magically delicious

Happy St. Patricks day!

Protip: Run Green Ward

Did you know I'm Irish, well Irish American, it's true, but like most Americans, I'm mostly a mutt. Still, enough about me, I'm here to talk about the most Irish of Magic cards (no not famine), but Aisling Leprechaun.

Pronounced 'Ashling' Leprechaun, it's miraculously not only the only Leprechaun in Old School, but the only Leprechaun in all of M:tG. Yes, in the last 25 years, of revisits, genre stealing, a digging a hole right into the barrel, not a second Leprechaun has ever been printed, which in itself if pretty amazing. Second, the word 'Aisling' is Gaelic for 'dream' or 'vision', and as the last century, has become a female given name.

So what is a Leprechaun? Well a leprechaun in Irish folklore is a small, solitary creature of mischief who's primary occupation is shoe repair, and who hordes all the gold he makes. When this gold is opened, it's so amazing it makes a rainbow (thus the gold at the end of the rainbow). Sometime in the 19th century, the leprechaun became a tongue and cheek image of Irish caricatures, which is something it's remained ever since. In fact, in old Ireland, the leprechaun wore colors depending on what part of Ireland he came from (or sometimes just red). Naturally, are little leprechaun here wears green.

So what does this Gaelic amazement do, well what do you expect him to do, he turns things green. Every creature that encounters him gets a wee bit o' the Irish and becomes permanently Green. How does this work as an advantage, well I will get to that, because of the Holiday, I will evaluate a good away to make him effective.

Art: Hoover never disappoints, and once again he doesn't on this. Sure, it's a simple drawing, but that's part of its (lucky) charm. It actually looks better in the foreign print, with it's more considerable vibrant art, just compare to the image we have at the top.

"as I was going nowhere..."

Yeah, thats a leprechain, being sneaky and small (look at the flower right behind him). For this, the art gets a 5, but it's Quinton Hoover, you shouldn't expect anything less then a 5 for most of his work.

Playability: There are better one drops in green, even in this format, and while turning things green is neat (and flavorful), its usefulness is limited, partially due to how little interact with green in this format (the first pro-green creature came out in Mirage block). However, he does combo hilariously well with Green Ward (or Sword of Feast and Famine if you are into that thing), can be used in conjunction with COP:Green, and is a 1 drop fairy for that 95 Fairy tribal deck you don't want to build. So for his strange niche, I'll give him a 3. Sure, I might be being generous, but that's what its all about today?

Flavor: Something encounters him, and is forever a little Irish. It's flavor is it's only endearing part, but man, is that some tasty flavor. It's like a blood pudding washed down with some Guinness. It's honestly the cards best quality, and for that, another 5.

Until next time, May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows your dead!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Uncle Istvan: When is popularity worth being weird?

"My guess is that the people putting together Fourth Edition included Uncle Istvan because, “Hey, he’s Uncle Istvan! Everyone loves Uncle Istvan! Oh, man, he’s awesome!” I’ll admit to liking this card when I first saw it, too, and I know people are going to tell me how much they love(d) this weirdo, but I don’t think cards like this are great for the game"--Aaron Forsythe, Random Card Comment of the Day #23 10/27/2010

He's going to block for you

There you have it, Aaron Forsythe (former?) head of R&D bad mouthing Uncle Istvan, and his status as an outliner. In the full comment, he ignores design philosophies of the time ('It came out after Legends but acts like it doesn't exist'), insteading choosing to shill for newer cards or 'ones that accurately represent the game'. Actually for the sake of posterity, here is the full quote:

"I included Uncle Istvan on the Time Spiral “timeshifted” sheet because he’s so off-kilter, out of the color pie, and abnormal creatively that he’s memorable--a reminder of how odd some cards were all those years ago. The people that put him in Fourth Edition, I believe, did so because they thought he was a good, representative card that should be an ongoing part of Magic. Sheesh.

Things that are wrong with this card:

1) He’s named like a unique character but isn’t legendary. That sin is forgivable in pre-Legends sets, like with Arabian Nights’ Ali Baba and King Suleiman, but not here. The Dark came after Legends, yet pretends it doesn’t exist.
2) He’s named like a unique character but isn’t rare.
3) He’s an insane dude holding a bloody axe and he’s 1/3.
4) He’s a very black creature with a very white ability. That ability kind of made sense on Wall of Shadows in Legends, but not here.

My guess is that the people putting together Fourth Edition included Uncle Istvan because, “Hey, he’s Uncle Istvan! Everyone loves Uncle Istvan! Oh, man, he’s awesome!” I’ll admit to liking this card when I first saw it, too, and I know people are going to tell me how much they love(d) this weirdo, but I don’t think cards like this are great for the game.

People latch on to outliers because they’re outliers (see: Squirrels, Beebles). I’m okay with outliers as long as they make even a bit of sense. But ideally people’s favorite cards--the ones they talk about and show their friends--are ones that accurately represent the game, stuff like Serra Angel or Sarkhan the Mad. Now that’s a crazy dude I can get behind."

Is this a fair assessment of the card? No, it is not. Sure, the Uncle isn't legendary, but The Dark came out right after Legends, I'm almost certain this issue never even crossed anyone's minds. Instead he's something that has become all to rare in this day and get, he's memorable. Plus, as more then one person has said over the years 'he's not legendary, because everyone has that crazy uncle'.

Sure, he's only a 1/3, but going by the old assestments, 1 power was an unarmed human in peak physical condition, which means he's as strong as a human can hope to be, and a 3 toughness was that of an elephant, which meant he is no wimp. So the 1/3 is very fitting.

So what makes him memorable? Well first, he's a very well known American Horror Trope, basically the near unkillable psychopath, in the vein of Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Mike Myers, and so forth. It makes sense, since The Dark features numerous horror references, it's no surprise that this one is one, and for a long time, he was the only card to hold this trope. If you wanted you ax weilding maniac, you had to go to him. This also explains his 'non-black' ability, to endure an almost super human amount of harm. Plus, him being unkillable by creature damage in itself is entertaining. He might have no idea what an Eldrazi is, why the pretty boy Gideon is getting involved, or the complexities of a Wurmcoil Engine, but he can block them all day. Plus, the color pie can, and should be bent occasionally, especially on examples like this.

Then you have his creature type. As printed (excluding the Time Spiral one) he's 'Summon Uncle'. Yes, Magic had some strange creature types through most of it's history (Imagecrafter use to be a lot more enjoyable). Uncle, is actually one of the more entertaining one, and I know I'm not the only one who said 'I'm going to make a family deck' (that included Sisters of the Flame and Brothers of Fire). Throw in Grandmother Sengir and viola, family reunion.dec (with Feast of the Unicorn being the sit around dinner).

Then you have the art. This one is a treat, showing a demented angry hobo, living in the woods, with bones hanging off his clothes. He has a crazy beard, and a bloody axe, and the dark fog of the woods. In reality, it's a great piece, one that still gets fan art drawing of it to this day, and Daniel Gelon even made another portrait of him for the anniversary artbook.

"Wanna stay over for dinner?"

His update in the art book
In fact, miraculously his popularity hasn't diminished over time, in fact, him being in Time Spiral managed to help it thanks to modern and Innistrad.

There are photo's of cosplayers and alters all over the Internet, which show this crazed rednecks popularity.
My favorite alter though.
 He even got a miniature through 'Heartbreaker Miniatures'

The most expensive mini in the set.

Sadly, there is almost no lore on the guy. He is mentioned in the Ice Age book by name once, and he appears as a curse in the pre-revisionist novel 'Dark Legacy', which was a (now) non-canon book based on the Dark.

Regardless, its easy to see why, despite lack luster stats, he's so popular. It's because he's more then a swingy creature, or a build around me EDH general. He's a card, with a story, with atmosphere, with humor. I hope Mr. Forscythe can read this, and realize, why he's a memorable card, even a decade after his last printed, and why people love him, because we could sure use more cards like him in this day and age.

Also, next time you bad mouth a classic, don't plug in some random recently printed card.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

City in a Bottle: How will you rub it?

After Strip Mine, City in a Bottle is easily the most controversial card in 93/94. For most of it's life, it was actually extremely useless, since it only effects cards with the little scimitar in the middle on the mid right of the card.

However, a rule change for the card changed that, to call cards originally printed in Arabian Nights, and oh boy, did that change the field a lot. The rise of 93/94 also didn't hurt the cards sales, which currently sit around 100-120 USD. I traded the two I own when the price spike happened, and now that I'm involved in the format, sort of regret it (but I'll buy more I'm sure).

Now, it's no lie, City in a Bottle, in the context of this format, is extremely powerful, in fact, I'll go over each color it hits, and what cards it hits from it. Remember, in it's current oracle text, it only hurts permanents, not all cards, like how it is printed. I will also only be talking about cards that see major, or fringe play. So no Camels or merchant ships will be mentioned.


Ali from Cairo, Kird Ape, Mijae Djinn, Ydwen Efreet
Rukh Egg, Magnetic Mountain


Drop of Honey, Erhnam Djinn, Ifh-Biff Efreet,
Cyclone, Ghazban Ogre, Singing Tree, Wyluli Wolf


Jihad, King Suleiman
Moorish Calvary

Flying Men, Old Man of the Sea, Serendib Djinn and Efreet, Unstable Mutation, Sindbad


Coumbajj Witches, Guardian Beast, Juzam Djinn, Oubliette, Sorceress Queen

Erg Raiders, Hasran Ogress, Khabal Ghoul, Stone-Throwing Devils.


Lands: Bazaar of Baghdad, City of Brass, Desert, Diamond Valley, Island of Wak-Wak, Library of Alexandria,. (Almost every land in the expansion).

Major: Ring of Ma'Ruf, City in a Bottle (it becomes a dead draw).
Minor: Brass Man, Dancing Scimiat, Alladin's Lamp, Jandor's Saddlebags.

Just here, I've named over half the cards in the expansion. This doesn't include the occasional shower like Flying Carpet or Jandor's Ring.

In fact, that list has 43 cards, all of them noticeably powerful (some of them outright iconic in the format). Serendib Efreet and Juzam are considered the best. Erhnam literally has two decks named after him in Magic's sorid past (erhnam and burn em, Erhmaggedon respectively).

Unlike it's two cousins, City is probably the strongest hate card in the format, hitting beat down strategies, combo pieces, and control decks evenly. In reality, against the right deck, it can be outright impossible to overcome, and that is just one, imagine your running your mono black control deck when bam! Goodbye Juzam and Oubliette. Blue/Red Aggro? Bye Flying Men, Unstable Mutation and Serendib!

Like running a deck based on Garfields wedding party? Well too bad!

So we've established it's powerful, so I'm going to attempt to examine the good that comes from this card, and the bad.

The Good:
Deck Variety-City in a Bottle forces players to play a wide variety of cards in their decks, not just the best cards from the best expansion in the format.
Strong Hate- The card is an  amazingly strong hate card, that can stop a variety of tactics as mentioned above.
It's limited--Its useless against cards not originally printed in AN's. So not every deck in the format it hurt by it. 

The Bad:
It hurts budget players-This card is the reason I didn't build Mono-black aggro for the Winter Derby. I realized that it'd hurt the deck so strong I'd have no realistic way to play around it. Other cheap strategies get nerfed by this as well. Given the lax rules of cards in the States, it hurts even wider, including Chronicles Erhnam's, Revised Apes, ect.
Cheap-It's cheapness (in both relative price and in mana cost) means you always need to strategies against it, even if your opponent doesn't own it.

I'm not sure if the good outweights the bad, or vice versa, but it's in some ways a good thing the card exists, otherwise nothing would keep the format in check. I think it's a bigger issue in Swedish/European then in the states, simply due to the inclusion of FE.

So the question becomes, what do you do about the card:

Restrict it:

The idea of restricting it to one per deck has come up, which actually hurts it, because you lose consistency with the card. It's the equivelent of restricting Gloom for the mono-white match up. However, the strength of this is it keeps the card in the pool, and while a total of 78 cards are hurt by this one, it's inconsistency at one makes it a much more interesting pull, and keeps it from being over oppressive.

Banning it:

Personally, since Old School is already an extremely limited, but largely casual format, that no card should be banned, not even this one. I understand Ante cards (man did I love Rebirth though), I disagree, but can begrudgenly agree with Shahrazzad. However, banning a card due to 'power' is both abhorrent to the ideal of the formats, and the history of the game itself. Banning it, isn't the answer.

Shutting it off:

In 94, Artifacts turned off when tapped. While this solution isn't as good as it seems (it would untap and turn back on), it does make some interesting answers for it, including Phyrexian Gremlins. However, this is mostly a temporary solution. It won't fully solve the issue, but it's a solution.


I hate Errata, I hate the Errata on Chaos Orb, I will hate if they errata Factory (and probably ignore it). Errata is never the solution.

I wish I had a consensus for the best solution. I know a recent survey said for it not to be banned, and a recent survey suggested it shouldn't be banned. Personally I feel a solution isn't necessary, and while extremely powerful, isn't that the most important thing of the format? I might not own power, but I wouldn't call for it's banning, and this is no different. I wouldn't call for the restricting of Factory because it can kill Kird Ape, nor Time Vault because it works with Twiddle, so why should this be any different?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mirage: The end of the first Golden Age, and the bridge that got us there.

Add caption

Mirage, in my humble opinion is the last hurrah of the 'old school' age of MtG. While according to most, it's not (the argument usually ends it with Ice Age, or at least Alliances), I have a different argument.

Mirage, Visions, and Weatherlight all are old school, in the sense they are designed under the same philosophy as it's predecessors, but much more polished then the earlier expansions.

So first, lets define what is a bridge. A bridge is occasionally used as a metaphor to describe a thing from what was, to what is, a good example is WW1 is often said to be a bridge from the way wars were fought, to how wars are fought (in this day, that's another can of worms, but bare with me). In this regard, Mirage block is the same, a clash of old design philosophy, and the design philosophy that would dominate the game for the next decade (and maybe longer).

Let me elaborate:

The Old

Enchant Worlds: Mirage is literally the last expansion to feature Enchant Worlds. Though they exist of the Tempest design sheet, none of them say play, making this the last expansion to ever include the Super Type.

Out of house artists: Although this technically goes to Tempest, Mirage block was the last expansion to feature a great deal of classical and out of house MtG artists, and the results show. Just look at the gatherer card list to see an amazing amount of variety between the arts, from oil paintings, too images that would look in place on a comic book. While the art direction would still have some bit of variety for a number of years, none quiet got to it like this one did.

Banding and Rampage: While they were also present in 5th edition, this was the last stand alone block to feature these much fanfare mechanics. Another is poison counters, which came back with the mechanic Infect some years later, and cumulative upkeep, which came back, albet a bit different in Cold Snap.

One of the last banders, and one of the best.

Graveyard: Mirage block is the last set with Graveyard order mattering. While many of these are present in the Weatherlight expansion, and it's 'graveyard mattering' theme, a number appear in Mirage and Visions as well, including the once popular Shallow Grave.

Flavor Text: Although a bit weak in this argument, Mirage and visions were the last set to feature copious amounts of Flavor Text. Bonus points about Jenny Scotts 'Love song of Night and Day', which was an original poem written while designing the African settings.

You'd never see simple, but effective flavor text on a card like this today.

Powerful Color hosers: Mirage is arguable the last block to feature powerful enemy hosers, with the added bonus many of them also inconvenience other colors as well. Elephant Grass is a great example, it hurts everyone, but stops Black in it's tracks.

Walls are Special: Mirage block was the last block to make major emphasis on walls in card text. 

The New:

Art Direction: While the art direction is extremely liberal and authentic compared to today's standards, this was the first setting with a cohesive direction. Sure Ice Age had 'cold', with some vague norse/germanic theme, but not much else. This could create actual nations, instead of arguments over whether Balduvia is Nordic (see the art of Balduvian Barbarians), or Gaelic (See the art of Horde). "Hell, the conjurer is a god damned alien, so what about that". Instead, the art featured respective kingdoms that were recognizable without hampering the artist too much. (Zhalfir is obvious arabic, the more African looking is Femeref, ect). Some people might bad mouth her, but I'll give Sue-Ann Harkey her credit where credit is due, she might not understood the game, but she truly took the art to a level that it hadn't been at before. (She is largely credited with not only the feel of the set, but the idea of an african setting to begin with).

Magazine Ad's also got more elaborate and abstract during this period.

 Limited: Mirage was the first set with limited in mind. Granted this was for Rochester drafts buying starter decks, but it was still designed with it in mind. This would become a big argument for ills plaguing the game now, but in this set, commons still had value. So it's hardly it's fault.

CIP Effects: The '187' creatures first appeared in this block, eventually becoming a standard on which all creatures are judged. It's often said, in this day, that a creature that doesn't immediately impact the board, with the exception of 'Goyf, is simply unplayable, and it's not uncommon for a set to feature numerous CIP effects across multiple colors and rarities.


Multiple use cards: In this day and age, it isn't that uncommon to see cards with multiple modes, however, before this, it was almost unheard of. Sure Antiquities, Fallen Empires and Legends had a few creatures with multiple effects, but that was usually pretty obvious on their intention. However, this set introduced the first 'Charms', spells with three different, but minor effects, and the Guild Mages, cheap creatures with different abilities depending on the ability you chose to pay for.

Strong Multicolor theme: Yes, Legends, Ice Age, and Alliances all had multicolored cards, but this was the first set where they actually served themes, instead of just being featured. Sure Ice Age almost managed to hit this, but sadly missed the mark. Instead, Mirage block managed to give these, especially enemy pairings, cohesive identities, some of which looking back now, are just strange.

Flash: This was the first set to experiment with the concept, feature the likes of King Cheetah, Benalish Knight, and Winding Canyon to feature the mechanic, as well as the 'instanchantments'.

While great design space, the new blood soon decided just to give them flash.

  As you can see, many elements of old and new are present in the block, for better or worse (mostly better). Unlike Tempest, which would change the game forever, this instead showed both what the game was, and what it could be, in a magical short time. Even the tournament scene, with both type 1 and type 2 having an absurd amount of deck variety and play ability. While Tempest would be the start of what would become 'combo winter', this saw a good balance of aggro, combo, and control decks in a way that would irritate second party sources in these times.

The final thing, is the change of the story. I mentioned how the flavor text is said in the past tense on Mirage, something that would disappear soon.

In previous stories, while certain characters were prominent, it was less about them, and more about the setting. Under Mark Rosewaters ideals, he came up with a team of heroes to follow, and swiftly lost control of that team. (That is a story for another time). This would become a major focus on story telling through the cards, by telling not settings, but of characters. I'll admit, I love the Weatherlight, I like Kamahl, but the best story was one that lacked major characters, Ravnica: the City of Guilds. While the book was disjointed from the cards themselves (they were made in almost complete isolation from each other), its fine for what it is. If you ignore it, the setting on the cards, told by the cards are like that of an older set, just settings, a theme, and a few prominent characters to give the world some depth.

With the Weatherlight Saga, you get a heroes gallery, and a rogue's gallery. It's not about the Planeswalker, but it's about them, but at least they stayed consistent until the story was over (unlike the Brady Bunch, ehem, Jacet... I mean Gatewatch who had gone over at least one major retcon to all characters involved. The Weatherlight marked the begining of this style of story telling, it's even in the ad:

"...the new beginning for Magic"

 This would ultimately become a major theme, first the Weatherlight and Urza, then Kamahl, then Glissa Sunseeker, and then the New Walkers.

So should it be considered old school? Yes. It's the culmination of several years of trial and error, and while not everything we loved about M:tG in it's early days, it's certainly pretty damn close.

However, it shouldn't be embraced by any of the old school community, simply because of how many good cards are present in the block. So many game changers were released in this set, it's almost mind boggling, and while few cards are expensive, many cards are powerful, Cadaverous Bloom, Elephant Grass, Dwarven Miner, Doomsday, Kaervek's Torch, Flash, Neekratal, Uktabi Orangutan, Rogue Elephant, River Boa, Undiscovered Paradise, Celestial Dawn (aka Bleach), Impulse, Memory Lapse, Squandered Resources, Early Harvest, Empyrial Armor, that's just off the top of my head. Including this block, even with IA block would literally push out everything but the best cards of 93/94, and while that amount of chaos sounds entertaining, it would get stale fast.

Mirage is half the reason Combo Winter started to begin with. 

So the next time you want some old flair for an EDH deck, don't forget to check out Mirage block. While not the pure blood of MtG, it was a good hurrah of the end of the first golden age of M:tG.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Island Sanctuary: the budget Moat

Yeah, I ran 4th ones, you want to fight over it?

Yes, Moat is fucking expensive. It's also arguable not just one of the most powerful enchantments in old school, but one of the most powerful enchantments in Magic.

It's importance to the game can't be understated, but we aren't here to talk about Moat, but it's beta older brother Island Sanctuary.

 According to legend, this is one of the 5 alpha cards that were designed at the last minute with no playtesting. The others being Birds of Paradise, Sedge Troll, Word of Command, and Stasis (it's best friend).

It's my understanding like Birds, the art was originally commissioned as an Island, but like the bird, too much distraction took place on the art (if someone knows if this information is incorrect, please tell me).

While it's draw back is a bit on the heavy side, it was still a very commonly played card in it's day, which makes me wonder why isn't it still getting the same fan fare in the format in this day and age.

While it could be argued that the decks are simply better tuned in this day and age, I disagree, it's obvious this card functions just as well now as it did two decades ago, especially in this format.

I would like to argue, however, that Island Sanctuary is actually better now, then it ever was.


The art is really, like it's always been amazing. Less suited for a Magic card, and more for the album art of Deep Purple, Rainbow, or Led Zeppelin, the art is functional in it's memorability, but isn't bound by the simplicity of most of Alpha's artwork. Instead, it's complex in both it's appearance, and it's effects, yet not over complicated like many modern pieces in MtG. There is a fine level of complexity to the art that isn't overbearing. If legend is true, it's easy to see why it wouldn't just be relegated to 'Island' because it deserves so much then the art of a basic land.

More important, it has the infamous 'Poole Island' in the art, which is much loved by everyone.

 I give it a simple 5/5. In fact, I'm surprised this piece wasn't used more prominently in promotions of the time, but I guess when you have the minotaur, what else do you need?

The only piece I can find of the art. Tell me this wouldn't look good with 'Deep Purple' on it sitting at a record shop.

Playability: The bulk of the conversation, I will say right now, with maybe the exception against Merfolk, Island Sanctuary is better then Moat. Now, some of you will disconnect, say 'Jeez, no wonder he didn't win the Winter Derby, what a faggot', for those of you who didn't, let me explain my reasons.

--Moat costs twice as much as Island Sanctuary in mana, and 100X it in dollar price (assuming cheapest price for each, rough guestimate).
--Island Sanctuary only effects opponents, and for those like me who enjoy the politics of chaos games, doesn't stop the other players from being attacked. Where as Moat effects all players (including you) equally.
--Island Sanctuary's drawbacks are optional. After a Balance or WoG, don't skip that draw, since you won't need to anyway. Plus, with the copious amounts of ways to draw cards, its draw back isn't that severe anyway.

Now for Moat
--Moat possesses no drawback once in play, and it's effects can be felt immediately, unlike Sanctuary which requires another turn before becoming active.
--Moat gets flavor bonuses for both being a Moat to compliment your castle, and for having Flavor Text, something Island Sanctuary never possessed.
--Moat can stop Islandwalk (minor, but relevant), especially in the fish matchup.(For postering, the full list of natural Islandwalkers are: Devouring Deep, Goblin Flotilla, Segovian Leviathan. Lord of Atlants, Fishliver Oil, War Barge and Sandals give Islandwalk.). Given only two of these see any major play, arguable three in the states, it's easy to see why I don't view that as much of an issue.

Looking at this points, Moat is still a fantastic card, that short of running fliers, needs no strategies to build around, where as IS is more powerful when designed around, and is that more lethal because of it. You can build around IS in more effective ways, to maximize it's potential.

However, admittedly, skipping a draw during the draw step is a huge draw back, and isn't for everyone.

Still I give the card a 5/5, due to it's importance as a legitimate budget option for prison, it's ability to turn on and off as needed, and the fact it's a one sided effect.

Flavor: While I never understood the concept fully of not drawing a card (I guess hiding on an island keeps you away from your library), the rest of the card works well. Since the Island is isolated, only those who knows where it is (Islandwalkers) and those that can fly, can even hope to get to you. Hell, Pirate Ship can fire at you from the coast, but even they can't board you. In this regard, I give the flavor a 4/5.


In white/blue you can run Merfolk Assassin to kill off any would be Island Walkers.
You can also use Magical Hack (both to change the effect of Islandwalk, as well as turn an Islandwalkers into a forestwalker).
Remember this effect is one sided, allowing you to attack with non-fliers without to worry about retaliation, even if it removed, since it's a floating effect.
If going a white/red tactic, you can use it with Earthbind and Gravity Sphere to stop pesky fliers all together, making sure war is conducted where it belongs, on the ground (and if played right, destroying that pesky abyss in the process).
 Remember, the draw back says skip a draw, allowing you to still draw on your draw step with howling mine (or utilizing an opponents Howling Mine).
You can use the ability defensively against the Underworld Dreams match up.
The card in some ways combo's well with Knowledge Vault as well.

I hope this article allows this fantastic gem to truly get it's just desserts from the community.

Next time! My opinion on City in a Bottle, and once and for all, should it be banned?