Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Whippoorwill: Horrors of the East Coast.

"It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer's struggling breath If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body"--H. P. Lovecraft. The Dunwich Horror

The Whippoorwill is a medium sized bird native to east coast of North America. It has a natural camouflage that makes it hard to see with the naked eye, and a rather distinct cry in which its named after.

Growing up in the mountains of New York, the bird was no surprise to me, but it was a surprise when I saw one in on a Magic card. Its effect (and the fact it didn't fly) perplexed the younger version of me. I eventually did some research and found that in old Indian legends, the Whippoorwill was a singing warned of imminent death. When the settlers of the New World arrived, they took this legend as something else, that Whippoorwills eat souls while singing. 

This made it into the mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, with them featured into a number of stories, most infamously The Dunwich Horror. A number of other writers use it, either in horror like fashion, such as the Whip-poor-will by James Thurber, in which the distinct song of the whippoorwill drives a man to madness, in which he kills himself and his family, or to establish setting, like in Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

In Magic, Whippoorwill is a small 1/1 for G with a rather pleasant (and unfortunate) piece of art and a fairly unique ability (especially in green). 

Playability: At a 1/1 for 1, it's already established its baseline credibility. It's a bird which does give it tribal synergy with Soraya. Its unique ability is it exiles a creature, with no possibility of regeneration, damage prevention, or redirection. It literally eats the soul of the creature in question. I sort of wish it worked like Hurr Jackel, and was just a tap ability, but instead costs 2 green. There is a few neat applications to the ability, such as using it while chump blocking a Sengir to keep it from getting a counter, stopping a Ruhk Egg or Su-Chi from having their effects. Still, while neat, it is certainly limited. 3/5.

Art: There is nothing particularly offensive about the piece outside the art showing the bird flying in the air, with the card not having flying. The art, which was drawn by Douglass Shuler, is unlike most of his pieces, but is fine in it's own right. The contrast between light colors of the background with the darker color of the branches and the bird give it a feel as if it's from an old zoology book. It's one of the art pieces that really strive from the Darks unique tone. It's a simple piece, that looks good from a distance and leaves a distinct impression. 3/5.

Flavor: The bird doesn't have flying. Even the old Anthologies player guide makes a reference to this. This being said, the rest of its mechanics work great. Its ability guarantee with almost guaranteed success of giving the soul its reward is amazing, which is also haunting and amazing flavor text. However it doesn't fly, which gives it a 4/5.

10/15= 3/5. An average card. While its special in it's own way, its mediocre outside of some neat applications to it, in a color with many amazing 1 drops.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Sisters of the Flame


Witches and Warlocks, men and women in the shadows making dark deals with evil, and seeking forbidden knowledge for their own purpose. 

The word witch or wicca is over a thousand years old, coming from the Old English "wicce", and was originally a masculine, and could be applied to both genders. It differentiated from a wizard or a sorcerer by the means in which the magic was formed, as a wizard would use tools and formulas, a witch would generate magick from within oneself or from another otherworldly presence. 

The concept of witches and sorcerers have persisted throughout written history in some form or another, whether it be advanced civilizations (even into the modern times), or stone age hunter and gatherers, they all seem to fear and revere some evil person lurking in the dark.

The Dark's Sisters of a Flame represent a coven of witches, playing on many contemporary pop cultures sources of the time. I had wrote an article early in this blog about 90's Goth culture and its influence on Magic: the Gathering, as well as Wizards partnership at the time with White Wolf Games. Naturally there is an overabundance of this is The Dark, which I would describe as Magic's experiment in horror. It would make sense for this set to have several cards representing witches and other assorted practitioners of these arts, one of whom is our coven here. 

Playability: At 2/2 for three, she meets the bear minimum of an ogre, which is the rating of playability in limited. Sure she has an ability, to add red, which makes one of the few three drop mana dorks. Sure its two red to cast, but in reality that isn't that hard to do. In reality, she suffers, even when having a unique effect in her colors. A mono-red deck will either want to hit hard and fast, in which case, her ability is almost pointless and she lags behind her competitors. Big Red could use her, but would rather just run artifacts to ramp into. A multicolored deck would rather ramp with an elf or Mana Bird, than play this considerably less splash able creature. In reality, they don't have a home to run it. 2/5

I wonder if this was a goth in Seattle as well.

Art: Sisters of the Flame looks as if it came from an old music video. The minimalism and contrasting colors make a certain photogenic look to the piece. The characters herself, looks rather witchy, with what can be assumed to be wearing a black cloak, and a simple necklace of an idol. Hair, which is either faded black or grey, shines an almost unnatural blue in the moonlight. Her body is illuminated by a fire, and the smoke is clearly behind her. The best part about this art is how cold it feels. It reminds me of those late autumn nights without a cloud in the sky, sitting at a fire deep in the woods. She however stands, simply staring at the player. It's an art piece that shows so much, but also so little, thanks to creative coloring and amazing atmosphere. 5/5.

Flavor: So a coven of witches (since the name is plural) is a 2/2. Makes sense. They burn their enemies to give you red mana. I like it. Sure the flavor might be a little boring, but not everything can be as exciting as a Shivan Dragon. I think all things considering, it works ok. It's just boring. Like that 8th nutter butter. 3/5.

10/15= three out of 5. Sure the card is boring as hell. Its mediocre as can be, doesn't have a home in any deck, but that art. Who can deny how good that looks! It sells the card.


 Banshee, the creatures that bring insanity to all that hear them, got a simple titled card called Banshee in The Dark. Given the macabre theme of the setting, it only makes sense that this infamous mythical creature from European folklore would appear in the set.

In reality, that description above is more associated with American Pop Culture. In old Irish Folklore, a banshee was a mourning woman who foretold the death of a family member. The idea of them driving people to madness came sometime in United States pop culture in the last hundred years or so.

The result of the card is well, lack luster, and if not for it's outright amazing art, and it's rather potent ability, would be otherwise a an extremely forgettable card. Honestly, when I was much younger, I saw it, and thought "this card sucks" and I honestly don't think I have ever run it in a deck. However, there is always the possibility for this to be good.

Playability: A 0/1 for four mana is a terrible place to start. While it is admittedly in black, a color of short term ramp and protection from terror/banishment. At one toughness however, it isn't going to live long. Even with the lack of pingers in modern old school, it can die to a Holy Light, a Pestilence, and numerous other sources. Because of this, it's shelf life is extremely low, especially at 4 mana. Now for the 'good'. Dealing targeted damage as an activated ability is a great ability, even if it also deals damage to you. Look at Orcish Artillery. The effect "Deal half of x (rounded down) to a single target, and X (rounded up) to you." is risky, but very potent, when built around. The fact the effect isn't restricted to a particular color of mana like many similar effects in black means it can be splashed. This allows it to combo perfectly with white. Two cards in particular exist that work with this, both in white. The first one is the classical Circle of Protection: Black. Each time you activate the ability, just pay an extra one to prevent that damage to you. The other card is the infamous Spirit Link, which would allow to gain a few points of life, as well as negate the damage that was done to you. The ability is still very mana intensive, and would take 6 mana and a second card to just deal 3 damage. However, since direct damage in black is as rare as it is, this isn't actually that bad, still the set up for such a low reward grants it a 2/5.

Art: The best part of the card by a considerable margin, Banshee, like most of Jesper Myrfors art, is amazing in this set. While from a technical standpoint the art is fair, it's the atmosphere that sells the piece. The faceless cloak, the outreached hands, the window in the back. All these things sell the card itself, and make you want to play it. Sure, the card itself might not be good. However the art is amazing. My only issue is, it doesn't depict a woman (as far as we can tell), and the entity looks more like a spectre.  Still, I won't let that detract from the score. 5/5.

Flavor: Since this clearly is depiction a Banshee of the American variety, I will judge the flavor on that. The 0 power can mean the banshee is incorporeal, unable to physically interact with the world around him. I'm not sure why a might stone changes that, but that isn't here nor now. The mechanic also makes sense, since the banshee sits next to you, you will hear it louder than it's supposed target. I guess summoning a banshee could be difficult, but I still don't understand why it costs 4. I think the flavor would be more on point if it could only hit another player. Still, it works. Flavor: 3/5.

10/15: 3/5. An average, mediocre card. The game needs draw back effects like this, that have the potential to be great however. After all, cards like this, that make the mind think and force the imagination are what drove players to buy packs, and keep us playing today.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Pentagrams and Magic: the Gathering

Its kind of funny actually, that a symbol so common in pop culture (even more so in the 80's and 90's) would appear so little in a game about Magic. However, much like so recent actions by WotC, in the early 90's they decided to be moral judges, and not only ban future depictions of demons and satanic elements in the game, they edited two pieces of card art.

The Pentagram, as a symbol, is either a symbol of protection, or a symbol of demons, depending on who you ask. Between metal aesthetics of the 70's, and the moral panic of the 80's and 90's, pentagrams (and with it inverted crosses) became a fairly fashionable accessory among a number of alternative subcultures. I once already wrote about how goth subcultures influence early Magic, mainly The Dark, but it would make sense for Pentagrams to appear on the cards. 

As far as I can tell, three cards openly depict pentagrams, and while I admit I'm not certain of this (and there may be more), these cards are Demonic Tutor, Unholy Strength, and Pentagram of the Ages. 

When Jesper Myrfors took over the reigns as art director before the launch of the game, he had a great deal of integrity when it came to the art. As far as I know, he edited one piece of art, Living Wall, though what was edited off of it, I'm not certain. Duelist #3 refers to Myrfors as the former art director, and assuming that it takes a month to go to print and be distributed, I will assume the first time he quit was sometime in the Summer of 94. Again though, this is just an assumption based on observations. The revised prints of Demonic Tutor and Unholy Strength both had the infamous pentagrams intact, but the summer print run (called Edgar) had the pentagram on the forehead of the demon in Demonic Tutor, had these images removed. As well as the much more famous print of Unholy Strength in 95's fourth edition. According to an interview with Hipsters of the Coast, Sandra Evingham, who would be Magic's second art director, edited the print of Unholy Strength "unfortunately leaving Doug's character with no context." It can be assumed she removed the Pentagram from the head of the Tutor as well. 


However another pentagram was featured in the early days of Magic. Ice Age contained the artifact 'Pentagram of the Ages'. Pentagram of the Ages takes a more protection stance on the idea of a pentagram, and it shows in its ability, being able to prevent all damage from a source. Now Ice Age came out right after these decisions, and if Pentagram had only been in Ice Age I wouldn't be writing about it. 

Yet Pentagram was available in standard through out the 90's, being reprinted in 5th edition, and well as Classic 6th. It almost shared standard with Grinning Demon, the first demon printed after the lifting of the no demons policy.  I'm not saying something isn't hypocritical about this, since Pentagram of the Ages both saw little tournament play, unlike Unholy Strength and Demonic Tutor, as well as it wasn't associated with demons/Satanism like the other two. However a blanket ban on the image should apply to all uses of the symbol. Regardless, I doubt we will be seeing Pentagram of the Ages reprinted anytime soon.

Fun Fact: All three pieces were drawn by Douglas Shuler.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Banned 7: Cleanse

"Fight my enemies LORD! Attack my attackers! Shield me and help me."  

--The Bible, Pslams 35

"Suprise them with disaster"

Cleanse is paradoxically one of the easiest ones to understand why it's banned, as well as one of the strangest. After all, assuming Teferi doesn't count as a black creature, race and the color of a creature are entirely different aspects. Colors in Magic are more of a philosophical aspect of ones self then anything to do with race, with a few fantastical exceptions.

Cleanse as a card represents the destruction of evil, a common and long standing fantasy trope. However some have the argument for the card it represents 'racial cleansing'. Then I ask, will Cleanse kill Teferi without Deathlace? Does Northern Paladin represent the evil of Klansmen? Does Extiction represent Genocide?

What about Virtue's Ruin, or Cleansing, or fucking Mass Calcify. What about the Burning of Xinye, isn't that equally culturally insensitive? The answer is obviously no.

What I'm saying this is obviously a non-issue thats being used as a scapegoat, even more so then other cards on the list. It's harmless, and the fact I'm writing this article is ridiculous. It also sets up a dangerous precedent. What is keeping the card above from being banned? Or the ones listed? I could fill out an entire list of cards that could fall under these guidelines.  

Playability: Cleanse, like most color hosier destroy effects is a pure sideboard card. A potentially one sided Wrath of God is good in certain situations, and given how popular black decks were (and are) in the format, it certainly has it's niche. It can also be run in a Chess deck along side Touch of Evil to destroy numerous of your opponents creatures. While its a nice sideboard card, and in certain types of decks, an interesting card in others, that is it. Playability 3/5.

Art: Foglio does an amazing job with his very distinct art style on this piece. The art clearly shows numerous demons, each one different from the last, being sucked into a righteous  light. His cartoony style works well for the panic in the demons eyes and body language, and the liberal use of washed out colors make for a good show on the light itself. Then you have the leader, his throne of bone, and the flag. All nice little touches. Honestly I think the faded look of English Legends cards did this piece no justice, and I always run my lone Italian one when I throw it in a deck. Art 5/5.

PS. I'm still convinced that is the Disturbed Guy.

Flavor: As a common fantasy trope, Cleanse simply destroys all evil. It's far from the only card like it in the format (thinking of Holy Light), or the game. While I wish it destroyed all Black permanents, fitting the cleansing aspect better, the card actually follows the art well. Destroying all creatures, and only creatures are being destroyed in the process. In this regard, I give the card a solid 4 on flavor, for matching the art with the card in functionality. 4/5.

12/15= 4/5. A solid card that would look good in a pack and has a 'wow' factor at first glance. The art helps leave a mark on the memory, and all around, a solid card. 

Impact on the format if banned: While I personally always run 1 in my mono-white sideboards, it's use is limited. In fact, between WoG, Balance, Moat, and even StP, white just has better options in it's arsenal. The theoretical impact of its ban would be a 2/5. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Banned 7: Pradesh Gypsies

 "See Pat, WotC finally realized the raw power of Pradesh Gypsies and banned it"

--Me, to my twin

"A mysterious people indeed. Their origins are as secret as their traditions"

--Lord Magnus of Llanowar

Out of all the cards that got banned, this one was the most personal. Me and my twin had been making jokes and, ironically as the kids would say it, running Pradesh Gypsies in green decks for almost as long as we've played Magic. His mono-green deck, which is currently in my possession even has a Legends copy I bought for him YEARS ago tucked in their, waiting to give that creature -2/-0. How you might ask? Well, I'll get to that later. 

Now I love strange cards that represent underwhelming or mundane things. Field of Flowers, Slate Street Roughian, Icatian Money Changer. All amazing in their 'huh' ways. Imagine how useful a field of flowers is to a sociopath wizard able to summon dragons.

Pradesh Gypsies is probably one of the strangest green creatures in all of Magic. It's play ability is almost non-existent, its mechanics is open to debate, both from a mechanical and flavorful aspect, and it's printed type 'summon gypsies', has no tribal support. In reality, the banning is the only reason a majority of players even know about the card. The funniest part is, it isn't a Legends exclusive. It instead was printed all the way until Classic 6th edition. Yeah this card was standard legal until 2001, with that glorious Hoover artwork.

It's my understanding that Gypsies/Gypsy is considered by some to be a derogatory term of the Roma/Romanian people, nomads largely based in Europe, but can also be found in the good ol' US of A. Being a traveling people have giving them an mystique involving the super natural, and it's true that the people in question have a long history of various performances, as well as fortune telling and other mysticism to eek out a living. 

I guess, the idea of a real world ethnicity in Magic: the Gathering. However, I've also heard from some, that certain Gypsies, personally the ones that hold that title with some type of badge of honor, that they've been removed from Magic. I can not speak one way or the other on it's banning, but I will say, a Gypsy is a common slang term in the rural US for a vagabond or nomad, with no ethical connotation involved.

Playability: A 1/1 for 3 does not bode well for any card, in any format, ever. Then it has an underwhelming ability to give one creature a -2/-0, at the cost of 1G and tapping it. Even its current creature type has no tribal support in the formats I review. Honestly, it earns a solid 1/5 for playability, which hurts me to say.

Art: Hoover always impresses, and this is no exception. While not his most sophisticated art piece, it's a fine piece none the less. With distinct bold colors. The subjects, three people and a horse, could simply be wandering through the woods, or setting up for a stag film. Whatever it is, it's a fairly unique art piece as far as Magic goes. If there was one complaint, it's the clothing seems a little to contemporary for a fantasy card game. Also there is the old urban legend that the girl is topless, but if you look closely at the piece, in the lower left corner, you can see just a bit of strap, which suggests she's wearing a topless dress. Art 4/5

"You ready for the horse show?"

Flavor: Oh boy, where do I start with this? Well, I guess I'm not stranger to controversial statements, so lets go head long into this. I always assumed, growing up, that the creature you targeted was distracted, to gypsy dances and performances, and got a loss of power. Some European friends have suggested since this cards banning that instead, the gypsies are stealing things. This works, if they are, stealing the sword from your knight (no idea why the Paladin can still punch out tundra wolves though), but not on your opponents Craw Wurm. I assume the two mana is a cost for services rendered regardless of the interpretation. Still, its a strange mechanic, and really doesn't fit into a green creature anyway. 2/5.

Overall 7/15, rounded down, 2/5. While the card is, in its own ways, iconic, and certainly strange, it's also a bad card. Not a card you want from your legends pack, but I'll run it anyway, because I'm bad at this game. 

Finally, impact on the format if banned. Literally none, as no one was running this before hand. 

Next up: Cleanse!

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Banned 7: Jihad

In June 2020, WotC did the unprecedented and banned seven "offensive" cards, after an article from a salty temp came out about WotC hiring practices. The article ended with a small scalding review on the now very infamous "Invoke Prejudice". 

How offensive either of these cards is debatable, with that one obvious exception. 

Jihad has two descriptions, with one being a holy war against the enemies of Islam. Which is probably the definition that got this card banned. However, it's also been used as a personal spiritual struggle against sin. Its obvious which one this card is invoking, but I wasn't aware of the other description until I started writing this, and found it neat.

If I can say anything on this, its that at least WotC was consistent, also banning its brother Crusade. 

Playability: Jihad, at 3 white, has one of the more intensive color requirements for any crusade effect in the format.  However, its effect is rather potent. It gives a whopping +2/+1 to all white creatures.

For an example, White Knight goes from being an impressive 2/2 with Pro. Black and First Strike, to an amazing 4/3 with First Strike, and Serra becomes a 6/5 with flying and vigilance.

It does come with a flavorful drawback that if your opponent doesn't have a card of a color of your choice in play, its sacrificed. 

There's only a few real round about ways to get around this, the most realistic hoping your opponent has an enchantment you can conveniently ignore in play. My older brother use to run it with Laces in Shandalar, changing a basic land into a color. 

I personally run it as a sorcery speed combat trick (my same stance with creature enchantments) that have the possibility of hanging around. I ran it in 'Offensive White' for the Northern Paladin Gauntlet for a few times, and with one exception, it was an asset anytime it landed. 

Still the cost and drawback on this can be fierce, and its global effect can hurt in certain situations.  

Playability 3/5.

Art: Snoddy is great at drawing crowds. His piece for Balduvian Horde might be one of the most iconic of the era. Jihads art, while not as iconic, is certainly just as impressive. The show of numerous Arabian warriors in battle show just exactly what a Jihad is, in all its glory. Small details like patterns, contrasting colors, and even the teeth on the horse, would normally make a piece seem busy, but here it works well.

The washed out colors are a nice touch, and help make the card memorable. If I had any complaints, its there is a bit to much going on in the art, however it's not the worst offender of this by any means. I think the best part of it, is it looks like something drawn in that time period, which is important for establishing the cards as 'tomes' feel Magic wanted in its early days.

The fact he also drew Army of Allah is just a bonus. 

Art 3/5

Flavor: The flavor sells the card. You declare a Jihad on an enemy and a color. As long as that presence is still there, the Jihad is still on. Naturally, when the Jihad is declared, it has a double edged sword, as your opponents creatures get excited as well, and fight just as harder. When victory is achieved, the Jihad is over and the card is destroyed. In reality, its an amazing flavorful card, with the simple issue being why does it get destroyed to disenchant, but that is hardly this cards fault. 

Flavor 4/5. 

10/15. 3: Average card. Sure their are better cards to want out of your Arabian Nights pack, much better cards. However, its the cards like these, with the obvious high risk, high rewards that made magic so great and magical. 

Finally, for the seven, I will be including a part called effect, how, if they were theoretically banned in Old School, how much of an impact it would do to the format.

Jihad Honestly doesn't see a ton of play, and while I'm proud of the one I own, I acknowledge its not a particularly good crusade effect. Sure I'm known for being a bit liberal with my rating on cards I enjoy. However, in a world with Crusade, this card just isn't as effective, or as good. However, it's nice to see, and can honestly turn the tide of any battle when played right. It would be a shame for such a neat card to be reduced to trade binders and collector boxes.

Effect on the format if banned: 2/5.

I had this realistically happen one game, and it was awesome!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Akron Legionnaire: The biggest white Champion

White creatures always come in three varieties. Small, extremely well costed, aggressive creatures, questionable utility creatures, and finally big "champion" creatures.  The most famous, and arguably most powerful champion in white is Serra Angel, however numerous other creatures exist in the format. 

Hand of Justice, Personal Incarnation, Elder Land Wurm, and finally Akron Legionnaire. Hes a long standing personal favorite of mine. 

Recently I included him in my deck "offensive white", and while I didn't cast him once, I loved playing him regardless. So how well does he do in our much love limited card pool.

Playability: Sitting at 8 power, Akron Legionnaire is actually the strongest mono-white power in terms of raw power in the format. The four toughness however is well within Psionic Blast range.  Now the advantage to this is, he's white, so there are numerous ways, both global and local, to pump his toughness.  This has the natural flaw of requiring other cards though. In this regard, the GCU made him a Soldier, which gives him a synergy with Icatian Lieutenant. However sitting at 8 mana, he is very expensive. He cost as much as a Elder Dragon, and one mana less than the 9/9 Colossus of Sardia. However he only costs two white, making him somewhat splashable. Finally, he has one of the strangest draw backs in the entire game. I well get to that in Flavor though. As is, I give his playability 3/5.

I can't gush enough about Mark Poole's distinct art style in the early 90's. The coloring of his pieces were always great. The coloring on this piece is no different, and allows him to pop. The Legionnaire himself has some pretty awesome, if fairly impractical armor. The Tunic on the piece is particularly awesome. Then the colors of the background. Art is definitely a solid 4/5.

Flavor: Oh boy. Judging from the card itself, it's a mess and a half. Sitting as an 8/4, suggests this Giant is a massive creature, in size and strength. Being stronger then a Elder Dragon isn't that unlikely, and weird P/T on creatures is the trademark of Legends. His draw back is the strangest one of all. Why non-artifact creatures? Does he bring fear upon his appearance? I have a long theory this card was originally Akron Legion, which would they only attack with war machines, and when the art was only one figure, it was changed to Legionnaire. This however, is only a theory, with no proof. 

The Legion does appear in the Jedit Ojanen books, but the book was written years later after his last printing, and the Akron Legionnaire's in that book work for Shauku the Endbringer, and have little in common outside the name with its Legends counterpart.

This doesn't help me with the flavor aspect. In reality, the flavor of this card is a hot mess. I'm going to have to give this a 1/5. It's among the strangest white creatures in the game. 

Flavor 1/5.

8/15. (Barely) 3/5. His art is amazing, and his 8 power is awesome. He makes my inner timmy cheer, but he's not a great card by any measure. Still, not the worst guy in the format by any definition. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Wizard of the Coast does Airstrip One

"Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."-George Orwell, 1984

Historical revisionism has become a major topic in the last decade, in what seems to be every facet of civilization.

It would seem Wizards of the Coast decided to jump on the band wagon and ban 7 cards with a promise of additional cards in the future.

While I made many bets on which cards will be next cards to be banned (I got 5 points on reparations, for the certainty, 10 on Arrest, and  30 on the high bet Mass Calcify), it's not what was banned, but why they were banned. 

See there is a bit of a back story here. It started on June 8th when a "content creator" named Zaiem Beg wrote an article called "The Wizards I Know". In the article, Mr. Beg talks about hearsay of WotC being racist. Most of it can attributed to stuff that was already known, WotC is a massive company in a very niche market, and the whole industry largely works on nepotism and favoritism. He however ends the article with a complaint, which has nothing else to do with the article itself, about the card Invoke Prejudice. 

This card was rather obscure for a long time, and was full of awesome trivia. Through pure coincidence the Multiverse ID of this was 1488, its artist, while professional, has some controversial, beliefs, and finally the art itself has been accused of depicting Klansmen (actually inquisitors).

Instead of ignoring this article by a relatively minor content creator, or trying to improve their corporate culture (I understand that easier said then done), they made what has been one of the strangest, and strongest knee jerk reactions MtG has ever seen. 

A few days later WotC announced seven cards banned in all formats, as well as their depictions on Gatherer, with the promise of more bans to follow.

These cards are as following:

Stone-Throwing Devils
Pradesh Gypsies
Invoke Prejudice 

Now I will give Wizards credit where it is due. At least it banned both Jihad and Crusade equally (I'm not sure how Army of Allah got passed them though), and they finally recognized the power of Pradesh Gypsies. However, they didn't give any reasoning to why these cards were selected. Apparently Stone-throwing Devils is a common derogatory term in Palestine. Gypsies are an real world ethnicity, but outside those, and the obvious one, the rest are truly head scratchers.

Soon several other search engines, including Scryfall, followed suit. Removing the "controversial" pieces of cardboard from their databases. Tcgplayer deleted the cards from their site, as did SCG. However, SCG is, as of this writing, still selling the cards on their ebay store. Not very ally of you SCG.

Speaking of Ebay, people have been reporting auctions of the card, which has resulted in the listings getting deleted, but judging from what I seen, it hasn't been very effective. 

However this brings us to Old School. Though I've been banned from High End Magic for some time now, I at least heard they put a ban on the cards being sold in the group, and from what I heard a number of other sale groups as well, with threats of bans.

This has also come up to the Old school community as well. I can not speak for rule set up or community, but asking around has yielded some results. The communities 95/OG Type 2/Scryings have said none of these cards are banned. NEOS has all but basically banned Invoke Prejudice, saying it can only be played if heavily altered. The Northern Paladins said none of the cards are banned (except IP), but asked you to think of the repercussions of putting them in your deck. The big one however, Eternal Central, has said it won't honor the bans, and the cards shall stay as is. 

I wonder if this is a good enough alter

Meanwhile the RC has respected WotC decision and all cards are banned in EDH, which only one of these cards saw regular play. As for Old School, several of these cards are staples. Crusade is a corner stone of whites color identity. One party has even tried making functional reprints with different art and names. While the cards were very pretty, I didn't support it based on principle (but no reason you shouldn't).

Where we come from here I'm unsure. There have been talks that all of McNeill art could be banned. There are many staples in both old school and EDH that he drew, including Sylvan Library, Circle of Protection, and Nether Void. People have also called to ban for Terese Neilson art as well.

Now some people say "oh it's just the bad versions of the cards that are banned". Except that Crusade got a blanket ban, despite three different art for the card existing. If they ban more cards, it will be a blanket ban.

Personally, if just IP was banned, I'd lol, say good riddance, and move on with my life. However, you can't just allow the destruction of history. I personally might not care for Invoke Prejudice, in fact, it's not my style of card, but I'd never want to destroy its history, or demonize some for playing it. The rest however, with possibly the exception of devils, are a stretch. I, obviously, don't support the bannings, and will continue to run them in any deck I see fit.

Finally where should you go? If you want a search that won't buckle, might I recommend Its interface is admittedly a bit dated, but I have used it for years, and it even has a deck creation tool. As for a group that's safe to sell or buy, might I recommend Old-School MTG finance Discussion & Reserved List Marketplace. It's open and fair.

Sources: (Ths Wizards I know) [announcement on EC]. 

Functional reprint series.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ikoria: The End of an Era.

On 5/18 Lurrus of the Dream-Den has been  banned, not just in legacy, but something that has never happened before, type 1/Vintage as well. For the first time ever, a card has been banned on the grounds of power level from Vintage, a format that has an assortment of powerful cards, including the power 9, Sol Ring, Library of Alexandria, every card from Urza and Mirrodin blocks, and so on. 

Now, Lurrus wasn't just banned in Vintage, he was also banned in Legacy, which makes sense, Legacy is Vintage-lite, which has a ban list instead of a restriction list. Four cards in total had been banned across three formats, Lurrus being banned in both Vintage and Legacy, Zirda, the Dawnbreaker also in Legacy, and finally Drannith Magistrate and Winota, Joiner of Forces. Now if you include Lutri, the Spellchaser, who was banned by the Rules Committee when spoiled, you have five cards banned across four formats.

I don't believe in the history of the game, any card had ever been banned before it's release to the general public. I know Memory Jar had an extremely early emergency ban, but that card was still released. However we aren't here to talk about Lutri, or the Rules Committee. They aren't technically part of WotC, and as such, have some leniency, although these days its getting hard to tell how far removed they are from Wizards. However, Lurrus isn't banned in EDH which contradicts the statements "Commander is played with vintage legal cards." However given the number of times I've been seeing silver bordered cards and ponies at LGS tables, I'm sure that rule has only been a suggestion for some time.

"We recognize that it's a rare occurrence to ban a card for balance reasons in Vintage rather than restricting it, but this is a unique case where restricting Lurrus wouldn't affect its usage as a companion, which is the primary motivation for making this change."--Ian Duke

Honestly, when I initially drafted this, I had assumed Standard/Type 2 would have a ban card, and did four cards in four formats, since banning cards in Standard since Kaladesh has become the chic thing to do, within the last year four cards have been banned formats, one of whom, Oko, Thief of Crowns, has sort of become the poster child of unbalanced Magic cards, being banned in four formats,Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Brawl. I have a feeling Lurrus is soon going to take that down. Currently Lurrus sees play in a multitude of formats, in fact, he is seeing play in all of them. He replaced Liliana of the Veil of in Modern Jund, he has burn decks running Mishra's Bauble. It chaos. In fact 87% of decks in the recent modern challenge ran Lurrus. This however isn't due to the nature of his graveyard retreivel  mechanic, which while good, isn't broken. Instead it's his companion mechanic that's the issue here.

Years ago I read an article about a mechanic Mark Rosewater designed while working on Tempest, which he dubbed 'the forbidden mechanic'. In his own words, it was the most powerful mechanic he ever designed, even more so then the 'free' mechanic in Urza block. It basically was a mechanic that would guarantee a card in your starting hand. He said the cards would have been minor, and you would have to jump through a hoop, but he still determined removing that much variance would be detrimental to the game, and the mechanic was quickly scrapped. 

It seems almost like he forgot this lesson. Companion is by design, a guaranteed extra card in your hand, except it can't be tucked or discarded, or interacted with at all. While the deck building requirements are admittedly interesting, they aren't by any means even. Lurrus simply requires you to have no permanents (not cards) with a CMC greater than 2. Zirda simply requires every permanent to have an activated ability. There are some that have creature type restrictions, cards in your deck only have odd/even converted mana cost, and one that requires you to have 20 more cards in your deck. They look fun in a vacuum, even possibly for another game entirely. 

"We don't not make things we think will be enjoyable in newer formats because their is the potential of them being good in older formats"--Mark Rosewater 5/9/2020

The biggest issue seems to be a lack of play testing, which has come up more frequently, as WotC tries to release an ever increasing amount of product. However their are two larger issues to this as well. First is the issue of Magic being 27 years old. Vintage and Legacy don't make much money for WotC, if any. I don't blame them for not play testing how well a card interacts with a Tolarian Academy or a Black Lotus. Basically Legacy is getting the same treatment in post Pioneer world, as Vintage got when they started pushing Legacy, and if the game survives, in ten years they will being doing that to Modern. Further more, the majority of the player base will never encounter some of these cards anyway. So while, in a perfect world, they would have the resources to work on every format, I don't blame them too much in that regard. After all, this isn't the first card that generates obscene value with a Black Lotus. 

The second is a long term loss for a short term gain. In recent sets, their have been an increased release of powerful chase cards. Oko, Field of the Dead, Once Upon a Time, and Underworld Breach had been banned in multiple formats, with Underworld being banned in Legacy, being dubbed by some as a strictly better Yawgmoth's Will. Naturally these cards exist to push packs, in an otherwise lack luster set. Avoiding any conspiracy theories about Oko and virtue signaling, Oko was still pushed hard, being such an oppressive presence when he hits the board, it could be nearly impossible to recover from, well without your own Oko. The mentality has become "If a card becomes problematic we will just ban it, after we sell the product". This makes for both a terrible standard environment, in which playing it even locally on any level but competitive is all but impossible, and a insecure environment, where no player can be sure their investment will hang around. A standard deck can cost several hundred dollars, and when you only get to run that for a few months at most, it leaves a bad feeling for the player in question. 

It use to be cards being banned in standard was a rare affair, and would occasionally conflict with already established products. I remember you could run Stoneforge Mystic in standard, as long as you played the event deck as is out of the box. My favorite story to this as follows. My twin one Friday calls me up and asks if I would be interested in playing in standard FNM. This being a rare occurrence I took him up on it, since he rarely plays. So what did he do? He bought a starter deck at Wal-Mart, the Nissa Kaladesh deck built around Energy Counters. The common in the deck, Attune with AEther had been banned. He said "who bans a common?" and left the event. It was the last time he ever went with me to a FNM event. This is just one example, but I'm sure it's happened to others. 

The next mechanic in question is Mutate. Despite another blow in the death knell of enchantments (especially local enchantments), its a rules nightmare. Besides the issues that stems from stacking cards on top of cards, there's the issue how it works with clone effects. Since at least 6th edition, a clone effect copies a card as printed, unless the card says otherwise. The best example I can give to this is how Vesuvan Doppleganger is always blue, or Quicksilver Gargantuan is always a 7/7. Things that don't get copied is counters, any temporary or permanent changes to the power or toughness (like Sorceress Queen or Riding the Dilu Horse), text changes, color changes, or any other temporary changes. It's my understanding that isn't how it works with a mutated creature, and if you copy it, you copy all the changes onto that creature. This doesn't just include the changes brought upon by the mutated creature, but any additional non-counter permanent changes to the creature as well. Since it "changes the characteristics of the creature". This isn't the case with Mutate, as copying a mutated creature mutates all characteristics as well. This I understand, copies changes made to the card from other sources as well (but I admit, I'm not certain of this). 

This mechanic becomes a rules headache, in addition to a number of other issues that have come up with the rule (such as blink effects), and is hard to keep track of on paper. It isn't however, hard to keep track of on Arena, like another card in the set. 

 Yeah that effect works well in paper, as do most random effects. They work even better online though. I think the way this mechanic works is a hint about WotC and designing for a digital client. There is a Chinese Whisper I've heard that phasing is making a comeback in the next core set, and while I usually don't share rumors, especially on my public blog, I do find this interesting. It's been said that phasing would work well on a digital client, because the memory aspects would be automated. I think it's interesting to watch for that, since there has been at least one card with Phasing printed in recent years. Combine this with WotC seemingly abandon of older formats entirely, and you have  

While it's still to early to be certain, but I have a bad feeling about the direction this product is going. I wish I was more well versed in the comics and sports card bubbles, because what I know, Magic is starting to resemble their end. With an ever increase in pushing limited premium products to artificially create scarcity. Whether it be alternative foil all-star cards, chrome and ghost covers, or borderless alt-art foils with pop culture icons on it, it's the same. 

I think WotC will continue this route until the cardboard market nukes itself, and then will move to a digital exclusive product. However, it's very possible, and I hope I'm right, that I'm wrong. I enjoy the social aspects of the game, and that's my favorite aspect of it. 

Standard cards currently banned in at least one format total: 10

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mana Denial in Scryings by Stan Sterkendries

(This article is a guest article by Stan S. It's about a format I have yet to formally play called scryings. A hyperlink is below).

Some people want to win it all, or build great works of creativity.  And then there are those who just want to watch the world burn.  Me, I accepted long ago that it’s more realistic to just make my opponent’s lands burn, and that brings us to the topic of the day: mana denial in old school formats.  Or, more precisely, mana denial in the new Scryings format.

If you’re not aware of what this format is, you can find its list of legal cards here. Basically, the boys and girls in Sweden added more than 100 new cards to the Swedish legal card pool, and created an extremely diverse and interesting addition to the existing Swedish format.  As of today (May 13 2020), there doesn’t seem to be a definitive deck to beat, although various strategies around Sacred Mesa and River Boa seem to have emerged and/or are emerging.  Land tax decks seem to have gotten a significant boost from the ‘printing’ of Jokulhaups, Undiscovered Paradise and Zuran Orb, and some brave souls are endeavoring to make reanimator a thing.  One aspect of old school magic that seems to get relatively little attention in this format is good, old fashioned mana denial.  This article defines manadenial as preventing the opponent from getting the proper amount and colour of mana out of his lands.  The format has artifact and creature mana, which means cards like Goblin Vandal can take out mana sources too.  But in this text we’ll focus on attacking the lands.

Before we evaluate the new ‘printings’ in this set, it’s important to note that Scryings is more than a clone of the Swedish format plus some new cards.  The addition of these cards has made some existing cards a lot better in this new metagame.  I already mentioned Land Tax, but there is another card which in my opinion gets a lot better in this new format.  Magnus added a lot of incentives to tap out and/or untap all of your lands in this set.  A Wildfire Emissary, pump knight or Sacred Mesa isn’t nearly as efficient when you can’t sink all of your mana into it.  Reusing Hammer of Bogardan costs you a hefty eight mana every turn, and if you want to optimally use Dwarven Miner (which will get its own paragraph later on in this article), you want to whack a land every turn too, which costs you three mana every time.  Thawing Glaciers comes into play tapped, and gives you tapped basic lands, and the hyper efficient beater Waterspout Djinn requires you to return an untapped Island to your hand.  Tapped ones won’t do.  In such a format, Winter Orb can be a deadly predator to the unprepared opponent.  Keep this card in mind when you’re brewing.

Next up, let’s talk about the new additions to the format.  If you want to attack a manabase, there’s the pinpoint accuracy approach, and there’s the sledge hammer strategy.  Jokulhaups and Pox fall into the latter category.  Both of these sorceries require you to build around it, and will reward you with a crippled opponent who struggles to cast his spells if you play your cards right.  Losing at least a third, or all, of your lands and mana critters, and artifact mana too in the case of Jokulhaups, will make short work of mana intensive strategies.  If you don’t intend to play these cards, be prepared to face them, because people will be trying to break these strategies.

A card which has been used together with Pox is Desolation.  This thing is deadly in a game of attrition, but you need to build around it.  Bear in mind that if the opponent disenchants it during his own turn, he won’t sacrifice a land.

Next up are the more pinpoint strategies.  Staying in Black, Choking Sands is an interesting addition to the format for the dedicated land destruction enthusiast.  Generally speaking you’ll want to play Sinkhole over this though, unless if you’re the maniac who wants both obviously.  Dealing two damage to remove a nonbasic land is sweet, but three mana really is a lot more than two, and the ‘non swamp clause’ really hurts it.

Pillage is another three mana addition to the format.  This card is extremely versatile, being able to destroy both lands and artifacts makes sure you’ll always hit something good with it.  The double red makes this card somewhat clunky in many decks though, more often than not you’ll want one or two of these in your main deck, if you’re not running monored more than that will be too much.  Still, a good card.

Creeping Mold is Pillage’s fatter younger brother.  It will also hit enchantments, but four mana really is a lot.  Not bad if you’re running a lot of elves, but you usually want to do more than destroy one noncreature permanent for that mana cost.  Still, if you can make it work, good for you.

Orcish Squatters gets its mention just for completeness’ sake.  At five mana, you want more than a boltable creature that needs to attack to do anything.  It’s cute and hilarious if you can get it to work, but don’t base your manadenial strategy on this guy if you want to win consistently.  Still, old school magic is a game of creativity as much if not more so than of skill, so don’t let my skepticism of this card dissuade you from brewing with it.

Political Trickery is an interesting card.  It’s not suited to wreck an opposing manabase, and will only rarely allow you to colourscrew an opponent.  But you’ll always be able to rob him of his best land, and this format has some really good lands.  I’m sure most players will find a good use for a borrowed Maze of Ith or Library of Alexandria.

Dwarven Miner is in my opinion the best manadenial card in this set, and one of the best cards included in general.  It’s a small red creature, which makes it very vulnerable.  You’ll need to protect it.  But if you get to untap with it, wonderful things start to happen.  Whacking just one land with it before it gets bolted or plowed will already put you ahead, as soon as you manage to activate it twice, you’re pretty far ahead.  Hitting a dual per turn, an annoying Maze of Ith or Mishra’s factory, that Library of Alexandria he was hoping to use to grind you out, or that Workshop which was bound to be used to do broken stuff, all of this becomes possible.  Three mana per turn is a steep investment in the midgame, but the pay off can be oh so sweet.

Our final entrant isn’t really a manadenial card at all.  Primal Order doesn’t destroy lands, it doesn’t even tap them down.  It doesn’t invalidate them like a Blood Moon does either.  But it will punish the heck out of an opponent who plays too many of them.  This four mana sideboard card is a serious clock against an opponent light on basic lands.  Not ideal in a metagame filled with budget decks, but if you want to punish opponents for running nothing but duals and factories, look no further.  Those x damage per upkeep can really add up.  Be careful though, this effect is symmetric.

So, there you have it.  The mana denial strategies in this wonderful new format are plenty, and they’re good.  Have fun trying them out, and if you feel I missed something, be sure to let me know.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Homage and Refences.

"Homage: Special honor or respect publically shown."

Recently, in the ever increasing bastardization of the game, WotC announced that we would be getting official alters in the form of Godzilla cards. Now, there's a big difference between putting the image of another existing IP, and making a homage to it. If these were simple homage's to the Kaiju of lore, I wouldn't mind, in fact, I wouldn't be paying attention to any of this, for the most part. However, I don't like the bastardization of elements I enjoy, and have enjoyed for the majority of my life. The sanctity of the IP should be respected, even loved.

While I love alters, I was never a big fan of crossover IP alters. Legends being Marvel Superheroes and anime characters for whatever reason never sat well with me, but since those aren't my cards, and because I love an artistic endeavor, I always tolerated them.

Now, homages aren't anything new. Ask Larry Niven about his disk. Library of Leng, Elven Riders, Dwarven Song, the list goes on so much. Homages are just as much apart of Magic as anything else. In fact, Magic was always a game of homages and tropes.

Now, in recent years, the proverbial envelope has slowly been pushed towards this in the last five years? Maybe it's been more, I honestly have a hard time remembering. It was certainly slow though. Now excluding the Jumbo Robot Chicken card, the first set of cards that came from a different intellectual property were from Hascon. These were three silver bordered cards that included NERF, D&D, and Transformers. All Hasbro properties. I actually had planned to go to Hascon, partially to get these, because it was just so unusual. Me and my brother figured it would be a one time thing. Oh were we wrong.

Since then, there has been several D&D Next products featuring Magic: the Gathering settings and characters, a special My Little Pony product, that got a terrible reception from the fan base, and finally, two Silver bordered sets, which are more akin to homages and references to other Magic products then straight up a different IP.
This has become blurred as well

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Elvish Archers

"Remember when this guy was a great two drop?"-Saikuba, Gatherer Comment.

Designed back when off-color abilities got bumped up in rarity, Elvish Archers was for a while considered a great two drop. After all, First Strike is a great ability, and in the color of combat tricks can help take out Juzam's, Erhnams, and even a blocking Shivan. 

I recently built a deck experimenting on first strike and combat tricks, and the archer was front and center of it. After all, in it's time, it was considered a green staple, able to take on many other two and three drops people were realistically dropping in 93-94. 

So how does it fair to the high tuned decks people are running in 2020? Why don't we find out.


Playability: A 2/1 for two is considered mana efficient since it's power is equal to its mana cost. First Strike is a good ability, and allows it to trade with the likes of knights. It can even kill a Hippy, if it encounters the flying bastard. Its converted CMC is two, but it's a 1G, which unlike the knights, is splash able. This gives it an amazing ability to be built into a multicolored deck. Numerous combat tricks, and several aura's can be used to help it. These include Giant Growth, Bloodlust, Rightousness, and Unholy Strength to name a few. Unlike the knight, it can be pinged, which might not seem like a big deal, but in a format with Pestilence, Icatian Javeliner, and the might Tim, that's a huge liability. Finally, in green, is no lords or crusade style effects. I feel if Elvish Champion or even Kaysa had existed in the format, I could justify giving it a 4, but as it is, its playability is 3/5.

(This rating also applied for A40, where it is a 1/2).

We wouldn't get a proper elf lord until 1999

Art: Anson Maddocks never fails in his art. His art always had a very dark and gritty feel, and the Archers is easily one of his best. The slim muscles, the pale skin, the tattoo, the bow, his depictions of elves are different from the high polished looking elves that were popular in fantasy at the time. The background elements of green and yellows functions very well. There vague enough to capture the imagination, while functioning as a good setting for the Elf. Normally I reduce a point when a plural creature depict a single creature, but Maddocks piece is just to perfect to do that to. 5/5

Flavor: The First Strike actually comes from the fact that it's an archer. Although very quickly the flavor mechanic of being an archer became pinging attacking or blocking creatures or as well as creatures that block flying creatures. However in the context of of what a bow does, it works. Sure, it doesn't work on Knights, wolves, or people with lances, but the flavor in Magic is never perfect. The two power also comes into the context of better weapons. The real icing though, is the amazing flavor text, which features a reference to the Battle of Thermopylae, where the line "we will fight in the shade" is attributed to King Leonidas of Sparta, when the Persian arrows blackened the sky. This bumps the flavor to 4/5.

12/15=4/5. Sure, there's certainly better creatures to throw into your deck. Without tribal support, it's just a 2/1 with a combat ability. The knights outclass it, across the board, as does Kird Ape, and arguable Drudge Skeletons. However, it's a solid creature, and an icon for a reason. Next time you throw together a green deck, try it out. It'll earn it's spot.  

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Wayfarer: A M:tG Short Story (Chapter 1)

Every morning started the same. Hr woke to the roosters, he crawled over his siblings, wiped the sands from his eyes, and greeted the day. He walked out, to see the first rays of dawn, and he might feed the chicken, or let the cattle loose or dress the horses or if you were lucky, he would get to check the perimeter, which was his favorite job, because he could drag it out all morning long.

It had been ten years, as of last month, since his father had left Benalish City. Ten years since he left the luxury of bread smothered in butter and fresh food cooked deep in spices. However to the young man, every morning felt like a lifetime. He hated it.

"Son, get a move on it, I want you to help your sisters feed the chickens and carry the milk. Then after breakfast, you are to work until sunset on the timbers. I want to see a mountain by sunset."

Too tired to argue, he went with his two sisters. The older one, just two years his junior, had started to bloom in a lovely young woman. It sadly, had come with an attitude as well. The younger sister, was about nine if his math was correct, because she was born on the stead shortly after the move. As far as he was concerned, she wasn't a Benalkin. However, she was blood, and he did love her, even if he thought lesser of her then the other sister.

The older sister, Alesha Croger, had developed something of a 'bad streak', and she would lack on her chores to chase adventure, and the younger sister would gleefully follow. So he was more akin to to a warden, making sure the two did their early morning work, then about helping them. Though they never were kind enough to not request his muscle when he was following them.

He would carry the bags of seed, the buckets of milk, and even, if needed, hold the cow in place, if the cow wasn't cooperating, but that wasn't common. The two girls would gossip among each other, talking in whispers and giggles. He couldn't imagine what exactly they were gossiping about, they never went anywhere.

As the morning started to rise, the sky went from black, to purple to blue, and he knew, breakfast would be ready soon. "Hey girls, any idea what mom is cooking for breakfast?" Alesha shrugged her shoulders "how am I suppose to know, I've been with you this whole time." "I heard her tell Juscon to go with her to the coops, and since we still have some of that pig left, along with some potatoes in the basement I'd guess eggs with ham or bacon jerky, with a side of potato. You know, what we always have!"

The two laughed, as they moved their buckets from the last set of cows, and shooing them off to the field. "Who is supposed to watch them today?" "No one, dads letting the bull out with them, said he'll need some calves for winter, they'll be able to watch them for the time being". "Dammit!" he cussed as he picked up the buckets "Shouldn't you be doing this you milk maids?" "Oh but we're too delicate. How would we become respectable women if we were to work too hard!" More giggles commenced from both of them, as he hulked back to the house "Yeah, only because you two can't be trusted to do your work on your own. I have my own shit to do."

"Please, you're the laziest of all of us" said Alesha "you just want an excuse to go 'do the perimeter' and catch an extra hour of sleep behind the barn". He scowled, knowing that she knew complicated things, and he wondered if she had told their father. It might be why he sent him on these morning tasks. Were they actually a warden for him?! There was no time to wonder about it. He could do that later.

"Gabriel, may you protect over us. May you bless our food, as you've blessed our harvest, and slay evil as it comes near us, and may you give us strength equal to that of your Angelfire. Amen".

The patriarch ended his prayer, the bread was broken, and the meal officially started. The bread was old, preserved in the basement safe from sun light. It kept it free of mold, but not from going hard/ It was dry, tasteless and hard.

"Mother, where is the butter?" moaned Joscun. He was a year younger than the second sister, still a child, but a surprisingly hard working one. Then next to him were two twins, both only five, who followed about the father, as he did whatever tasks he felt he needed to do for himself.  "Alesha hadn't churned any in some time, nor has Alexa, which is distinctly one of their jobs". The mother was once a woman of distinction, and while she now lived as a peasant, her attitude was still that. She gave a cold scorn at the two daughters, and it could be felt to everyone at the table. "I'm sorry... I'll...I'll make sure it gets done! I promise me and..." "NO!" yelled the matriarch "YOU WILL GET THAT TASK DONE! Alexa will be tasked with doing some spring cleaning and laundry here." "But mother" "DID I STUTTER!" The two sisters hung their heads in shame and said in synchronicity "No ma'am." "...and when your done with the butter, help your sister with the laundry, it's been a long winter..."

"This is why I married your mother" a deep light hearted chuckle came from the other side of the small table. The father was a large man, with big forearms, and a stomach just as large. He wasn't always so large, but since finding the farm, he's eaten well. He claimed he might have eaten more while in Benalia, but he didn't eat nearly as well. He dunked the bread in his milk, waiting for it to grow soft before chewing into it. "Honey, since you'll have so much time today, why not taking the cauldron and making a stew. You know the type I like."

"Why don't you make your own stew..." she mumbled. She might complain, but whenever he requested a meal, she made it, no matter how unpractical it was, or how much time it takes to prepare, she cooked it, for at the end of the day, she loved him. That much was true, and it showed.

"Joscun, you're tasked with getting me water, I'm going to need lots of water, please finish quickly". The father chuckled as he finished his meal "please, it can't wait until he's done, the day is young! Gabriel, I really need you to start on that wood, it might be early spring now, but it will be Winter soon, and we got lucky last winter, it was temperate. Don't forget your sword, the saw, the ax, the hatchet, and most importantly, water. Take my water skin with you also, can't be to careful".

"Father" said Gabriel with a smile "who's watching the sheep". "Well the twins". Everyone stopped. Never before, since the two young boys had started to walk, had they left the mans side. "They can walk, they can talk, they can sit on the hill and watch the cattle. If danger was to arise, I won't be that far away. I'm going to do some repairs on the house." He looked at the two children, who's eyes had lightened with a gleam of purpose. "Can I trust this important task to you two?" "Yes Sir!" they said.

The two got up, grabbed toy wooden swords, and ran out the door. "See why can't you all be that enthusiastic! Especially you Gabriel. Now, everyone, you have your tasks!" He stood up "Gabriel I'll come check on you sometime past high noon, and I'll bring you food, as for the rest of you, your mother is in charge of your tasks, and as you know, she's not as forgiving as me... haha..." his laugh could be heard as he disappeared.

Everyone got up, to their tedious tasks. They shambled to them, lack of enthusiasm would be an understatement. Gabriel got his stuff, a necklace of great personal importance, his sword, his hatchet, the saw, the ax, his and his fathers water skin, and a stolen bit of jerky from breakfast. He then proceeded to the well, to see Joscun working the well. Though Joscun was admittedly young, he was a runt, and a mothers boy. He had little in terms of masculine skills, instead working with the mother on various chores. Their father claimed the poor winter in which he'd been born was the reason for his lackluster mannerism, and had hoped he would outgrow it as he had gotten older.

"Boys sometimes come out a little queer in the beginning, but then grow out of it. My younger brother was a runt, but by the time we were men, he could kick my ass... o' course we were in the service, maybe I'll let him get conscripted..."

That memory rang in his head as he watched the boy struggle to simply get water from the well. "Hey, fill up my skins will ya'" "Do it yourself..." he spat as he grabbed the large bucket, and struggled to carry it back to the house. "Damn wimp" he mumbled "One day I'll kick his ass" he bitched as he pushed down the lever. The cool water rushed out of the spout, pouring all over the skins. It was rather wasteful, more water probably spilled out into the sod then in the skins.

Not that he cared, quiet frankly, he hated it. The hard work, the blistering sun, the isolation of the stead, the dry stale bread. He was old enough to remember living in the Eternal City of Benalia. He day dreamed about what was, and what could have been, often. The lumber work dragged on slow, the temperature increased, and before he knew it, his shadow had indicated it was high noon.

His father said he'd check 'after high noon', but he would probably not show up at all. He figured as good a time for a respite as any. He rested onto the back of the saw'd logs, and grabbed the necklace. It was a wolf with seven teeth, with special shines included onto it. Though he admittedly didn't know how it was made, he knew it told his family lineage, with each blood line among Clan Croger, having slightly different designs of shines and glares. The secret behind the making of each family seal was fiercely guarded secret among an order of artisans, that according to his grandfather, had served the empire since the times of Torsten Von Ursus.

He had been wearing it in secret since they day they left. He could never understand why though, why leave the comfort of luxury. Why change exotic foods, buttered bread, sweet juices for the foods of commoners. Sometimes he closed his eyes, and thought about those days. He'd think of memories of his friends, carelessly playing in hallways and streets, of stealing fruits from the vendors. Of warm beds, and of leisure. It was the life.... if only but a dream.

"Taking a wee nap, are we? Well was it worth it?"

"I was only... only resting my eyes."

"Well open your damned eyes, it's dark, you've been resting your eyes for how long? Ah I guess it's no problem, no harm no foul, after all, I should have checked on you, its okay, just glad you're okay, we was worried about you when you never showed up for some stew."

His eyes shot open, the thought of food overcame the want for rest, and he saw the monster he called his father towering over his slumped form.

"Yeah thought that would wake you up. We saved you a bowl, but it's going to be cold, hope that doesn't bother ya to much. Your mother insisted on cleaning the cauldron. before it got dark. and well, we were hungry. I just assumed you were up here working diligently and lost track of the time. No big deal though, I remember I was "

"Yeah... I'm sorry, help me up?"

The two latched hands, and in the glint of the new moons, the wolfs teeth shined.

"Why you still wearing that relic around kid? I told you, we ain't Benalkin anymore. We no longer citizens of Benalia City. Instead you should take pride in our home here in the wilderness of the Kb'Briann Highlands. I'd like you to inherit this land, after all, you're my oldest."

There was something that clicked, something primal, within his soul. His father started walking towards the stead "come on, before one of your siblings steal your stew, I made sure to save ya some bread to, can't have stew without it."


"Excuse me? You say something?"

"No, I'm not going to inherit this place, I want to go back to Benalia",

"Kid, the heat must have made you go daft. You're still young, you don't know what you want."

"I... I want to taste warm bread with melted butter and cinnamon! I want to eat exotic foods from countries I never heard of, and drink fine wine, not things you made from what spoiled in our basement. I want to be surrounded by beautiful women, and have purses heavy and thick".

"The way you're talking, it's not the only thing you want that's heavy and thick. Did your soul get mixed up with your brothers!" He laughed hardy and said "come home, I will open a bottle from my collection, we can talk it over your dinner."

"No I don't want that rock hard bread! I want real food!"

"Don't bad mouth your mothers cooking or I'll beat you all the way home"

"I'd like to see you try you old man! I'll, I'll leave! I will!"

"You'd just do that, leave your siblings, your parents, at the start of the harvest? What kind of coward are you! Where would you even go!"

"I'd go home! It's only across The Domains! I have a sword, I can read and write! I have all I need"

"Don't be a fool, you're no wimp, but you overestimate your abilities kid. Think about it, your sister is better at the sword then you! You'd honestly not even last a week. You'd wind up a bandit at best, and at worse, a slave. Now this is your last warning, come on or by Gabriel I swear..."

"What?! What will you do!"

"You think you're that strong, go ahead, walk out, see what happens. I'll see ya tomorrow night! I almost guarantee that."

He turned around, spat on the dirt, collected his sword and his largely untouched water skin, and stormed towards the nearest civilization he knew.

"Son... wait!"

He heard his father rush towards him. Perhaps he was going to offer him a hug, for luck, and good tidings. He turned around, his arms outstretched. He instead found a hand pull down his necklace.

"This will offer you no protection! Now get lost! You'll be back."

The two walked in opposite directions, no words were said, no goodbyes, no prayers. Gabriel insisted he would never return.