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.