Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Mono Red Sligh: An A2A adventure.


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

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

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

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

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

The Good

Balduvian Horde

Peace was never an option

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

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

Speaking of Red versions of other things...

Rogue Skycaptain

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

Gorilla Shaman

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

Ball Lightning

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

The Bad

Ironclaw Orcs

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

Brass Man

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

The Ugly

Wheel of Fortune

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

Black Vise

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 30, 2021

For the Trees: A Summer Derby report.

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

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


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

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

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

Bottom row is board

The Good

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

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

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

The Ugly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder if this alter counts.

Or perhaps this one? With actual klansmen

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Pearled Unicorn: Mediocrity at it best.


"A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing."- Jorge Luis Borges

Hailing all the way from the original playtest sets, Pearled Unicorn is a creature that was dated when it was printed in the early 90's. I can fill a whole article on the vast number of better options white had for creatures in 94, and even more so in 95. However, in a isolated shell (as all alpha cards should be viewed), Pearled Unicorn isn't bad, just mediocre. In an environment where card availability would be extremely limited, Unicorn is a fine comparison to the other "ogre" creatures in Limited Edition (and is much better than the creature that inspired that moniker).  

So why write about the Unicorn? Well I feel there is something magical about this card. Like many other cards I've talked about over the years, most recently Bird Maiden, some creatures are just memorable, despite their mediocrity, and I find these the most fascinating of all. Its easy to see why good cards are memorable, like Serra, and Serendib. It's easy to see why creatures like Tim and Fallen Angel might be memorable, despite their mediocrity. Yet its the cards that are bad, but not outright terrible, that are memorable that are the most fascinating. 

It's also fascinating because how often unicorns were invoked in 20th century fantasy, yet the base set one is merely a 2/2 despite this. It was even the back of some playtest cards. 

Art: Pearled Unicorn is one of the few cards I will say where printing matters on the art. I personally prefer either the Collector Editions, or Alpha/Beta for the richness in the colors of the card. The black border really helps it stand out on the card over the unlimited one. The other printings of the card are either to light/washed in the color department, like 4th edition and revised, or if you're rich, the Summer one is actually to dark. Certain FBB prints actually turn the unicorn pinkish, instead of the pearl color it's supposed to be. Below I'll give a few examples.

Summer edition

FBB, notice the color

Faded revised

Collectors Edition. Notice the colors

As for the art itself, I love it. A few years ago, in one of my very first posts, I talked about another piece he worked on, Wanderlust, and how much I loved the old storybook look it had. I don't feel this one has that same style, instead its a good arrange of contrasting colors. In the art, we have a unicorn in a meadow galloping and kicking up flowers in a meadow, during what appears to be the golden hour. It's very minimalistic in its approach, with the only bright colors being the Yellow/Orange skyline, and the specks or red coming up from the grass. The Grass is dark shades of green and black, and the unicorn is wjite and black. It makes for a good distinct contrast. Like Wanderlust he also has small details, like the the individual shades of grass, the shadowing on the unicorn, and of course the lines on the horn. None of these are done in an overwhelming detail, just fine enough so you see they are there, and thats all. 

If I had any complaint on the art, its the unicorn seems rather mundane, but I guess that works for the card, and that such a nice piece was put on well, a mundane card.  

Ironically enough, just like Wanderlust, I to also enjoy the 5th edition replacement for this art by David Cherry.

The format is better to.

Playability: This card was outclassed both by White Knight, and arguably Mesa Pegasus in the base set. Number of other better comparable options include Thunder Spirit, and The Pump Knights. Maybe even Kjeldoran Knight. It has one thing that saves it from the dreaded 1, and that is its white. White all the support that color has, it raises it to a 2. Still, I wish it was at least a 2/3 like Regal Unicorn or at 1WW and was a white Hurloon Minotaur. It still would be bad, but it wouldn't be completely outclassed like it is. Score 2/5.

Flavor: Vanilla's are always a hard score for flavor. Vanilla is a poor flavor, so it makes sense. As someone who's been around horses,I can tell you, 2 power makes sense, so naturally it would in toughness as well.

Honestly the best thing with this is the wonderful "Through the looking glass quote" by Louis Carroll. I know MaRo has described these classic literature quotes as "edutainment", but honestly they bring class to the game. I read alot of books I probably wouldn't have because of it. 

The flavor is basic, and boring, but that beautiful quote. I'd honestly give this a solid 2/5.

9/15= 3/5. It's a completely average card, which also means it's boring. It is however very pretty and nice. Exactly the type of pack filler the game needs 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Banned Seven: Imprison

The card that got me banned from the stillborn that was the Captain format. Imprison is the most bewildering of the Salty Seven. Obscure, even among old school players, its not a particular common card, is rarely seen in play, and before this had no noriety at all. When I read through the list of cards, this one stood out as odd. I understood the logic behind Jihad, Crusade and Gypsies. I understood the stupidity around Cleanse and Invoke Prejuidice. This one wasn't nearly as clear a year ago as it is now. However the reason I was told, was the person looks like an African Slave. After a logical argument that slaves weren't wearing electric bondage gear, nor does the person in question look necessarily African, I was told to rest the topic. I didn't, and eventually got banned from the various captain discords, just as the format was flatlining, and already assumed dead. Which is to bad. I hate Magic's attempts at crossovers more then anything, and a format that potentially removes them appeals to me. However I still don't see the logic behind this. Would you also ban brainwashing and arrest? What about Oubliette? The idea that it could be banned because it could be perceived as something terrible is stupid, especially in a game with cards like Forced March, Overwhelming Forces, Famine, Engineered Plague, and not even touching the few cards that touch on real life events like Burning oof Xinye. It's a game with numerous racist, xenophobic, and even genocidal factions and cultures. Anyway it might be a year late, but I did make a mock up for this one card with alternative art. It's a nice piece of art by William Blake, and while I admit I took some liberties with the text on the card, I rather enjoy it. You can feel free to use this card as needed, if you so choose. Just print it out.
Playability: At it's surface, Imprison is a very interesting card. While it's probably strictly inferior to Paralyze, it's in its own ways interesting. Playing a cat and mouse game of having to keep mana open to keep a creature useless is a very interesting mind game. The down fall of the card is it only effects tap abilities, and while that's a good amount of activated abilities on creatures, its not all of them. Also the 1 is mandatory, or else Imprison is destroyed. So while its a neat card, it being good is up for debate. With Paralyze being easily available, as well as Mind Whip and Seizures in 95, the role this card serves is just done better by other cards. Sure, its certainly neat, and for that I'll give it credit, but saying its good is a whole different thing. 3/5 Art: You know in their defense, the man in the picture is definetly tan. While I generally like Chris Rush's art, this isn't exactly his best work. It shows a tanned man, in front a orange background, with a black electric bondage mask. There are white streaks of lightning around the subject. I think the main problem with the image is the lack of color. It lacks something that allows it to pop. It's not the worst art of old school Magic, or even modern Magic, but it's not the best piece. 2/5 Flavor: The flavor appears to work like this. You put the mask magically on the creature, and everytime it attempts to do something, you can pay a mana to shock it, which will cause to stop the creature. Otherwise it breaks the mask. The flavor doesn't work perfectly, since it only stops tap abilities. However, most cards don't work perfectly as abilities to flavor. Still, the idea gets across well, and makes for a unique design of a card. 4/5. Final Conclusion: This card is fairly flavorful, but extremely niche. The fact there is better cards that due the same thing is what hurts this card. The lack of availability also hurts. 9/15=3/5. and Average card. Impact: Honestly I never seen this card in play before, which is pretty amazing for 20+ years of play. I think the theoretical ban of this card wouldn't impact the format at all. though I would love to play it some day. 1/5

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Sengir Vampire

 "From my grave to wander I am forced/ Still to seek the Gods' long sever'd link, Still to love the bridegroom I have lost, And the lifeblood of his heart to drink"-- Goethe, The Bridge of Corinth.

The first Vampire, also one of the best.

Vampires are a classical literature staple of horror, dating all the way back to the 1700's in western literature, though urban legends and folklore arguably go back to time immemorial. It would make sense that the base set, in its attempt to cover every fantasy lore, would have one vampire. 

To say Sengir Vampire is a fan favorite is a bit of an understatement. He's still a fairly popular creature even today, both due to nostalgia, and do to the simple fact his ability is cool. Many other vampires have come around since 1993, with many variants on what vampires can do, and many more who can't, but none quiet get the flavor down as well as the original.

The reason I'm writing this, isn't because of the these things, however, but because I been using him this month on my grind to Mythic on Arena. In my opinion, Sengir has aged better then many of his contemporaries. This is due to the somewhat unique wording of his text, counting whenever he deals damage to a creature, not just in combat. Even in Old School there are ways to use this, which I will get into in a little bit. However with the copious amounts of "fight" mechanics printed in red/green these days, Sengir can take out creatures without engaging them in traditional combat, getting that sweet +1/+1 counter before swinging.


One of my favorite stories involves a card called Chandra's Ignition and Sengir Vampire, which took out 5 other creatures (two of them being my own) to end the game with him swinging in as a 9/9. This was during Shadows over Innistrad standard, and I had made a budget Vampire Deck (which Sengir was in standard thanks to the Welcome Pack/deck).

Playability: In Oldschool, Sengir is the classic enemy of Serra Angel, and while not nearly as iconic or as powerful an enemy as Juzam Djinn, its certainly efficient. A 4/4 flyer can command a great deal of respect, but the ability to discourage chump blockers is where he shines. His unique ability to get stronger as he kills things is what sets him apart from other creatures in the format. In 93/94, several cards can help him kill creatures, my personal favorites being Farrell's Mantle and Arena. Combo Arena with the additional Sorceress Queen for guaranteed victory. In Pre-Modern/Middle School this tactic is increased to include fan favorites like Pandemonium and Triangle of War. You can even use Vhati il-Dale for another take on Sorceress Queen mentioned above. While not competitively viable, its a fun interaction that should be taken advantage of from time to time. Plus, he got special in the Beatdown Boxset where he faced off against his other mortal enemy, Erhnam Djinn.

Beatdown Boxset

Outside of this, he's still an effective creature, and one of my favorite replacement to Juzam Djinn. Sure, he's not the best creature in the format, but he's certainly up there, and for that, he gets a solid 4/5.

Art: Man, did Maddocks knock it out of the park with this one. This is tied with Elvish Archers for my favorite art piece by him. Everything from the pale skin, the horrifying teeth, to the vein in the back. The simple use of solid colors is the best part of this card. It's edgy, in a 90's sort of way, but not to edgy, which is what edgy content would eventually become. It's a solid 5/5 art piece. 


According to accepted legend, the hand of a Sengir Vampire is in the art of Deathgrip as well, establishing the lore that Sengir's can drain lifeforce through their hands in addition to their mouth. This is actually shown in the beatdown art for the card, as mentioned above.

Beatdown promo

Flavor: It makes flavorful sense that Vampires get stronger over time, as well as them being able to fly. These are well established tropes of the creatures from popular fiction. Sure garlic, the inability to cross moving water, and dropping bags of rice never made it into the card, but who can expect that? As is, he kills things, he gets stronger. Later vampires would just care if they did damage, but I always felt that made less flavorful sense. Why would your vampire get stronger if his prey managed to escape? Vampires flying is a given, and

Flavor: 5/5. The Flavor of Sengir Vampire is simple, but iconic. Its a perfect card in that regard.

So there you have it. A long time favorite creature of mine, and one of the best creatures in the old school format. While it might be simple, it's in its simplicity that it shines.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The banned 7: Stone-throwing Devils

 "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."- The Bible, KJV John 8:7

Stone-throwing Devils is probably one of the more interesting creatures in old school. A 1/1 first striker in black that was never reprinted, not once. I personally just assumed it was due to it's less then pleasant art and it's off color effect, knights not withstanding. However, when the card was banned, it was if anything perplexing. First people thought it was the obvious bible reference, but numerous other cards with bible references weren't banned, including such tournament staples as Wrath of God and Swords to Plowshares. 

It then turned out allegedly the term is used in a derogatory way in a conflict in the Middle East I'm not touching anywhere near this blog. It's my understanding it's also used in 1001 Arabian Nights, and no one at the time of the card being printed was aware of this fact. In this case, it's a tragic but understandable mistake.

So how good are Stone-Throwing Devils? Despite considering it on several occasions, I never once ran them in my mono-black decks, even in aggro. Instead settling on either Initiates of the Ebon Hand, Will-O'-The-Wisps, or skipping the one drop all together to instead dark ritual into Erg Raiders with Unholy Strength with Dark Ritual.

Playability: As mentioned above, a 1/1 for B in black is rather lackluster. With Black Knight, the pump knights, and a number of other good two drops. With Vampire bats and Wisps being 0/1 for B, but one having a pump ability (even if its limited) and the other coming out with regeneration. Not to mention both fly. Initiates are practically required if you're playing EC. However, a first striker for B isn't bad, if not boring, it can be used with Unholy Strength, as frail as that combo is, and its only crime is being lackluster and boring. For this it gets 3/5. It's not a bad card, it's just not good.

Art: KMJ never disappoints, and this time is no different. While I originally didn't think much of the art, upon seeing a high resolution of it I'm impressed. Particularly of the pink/purple devils themselves. For beings of such little details, they convey a lot. Mainly the malicious delight they take in throwing the stones with their big smiles. The details around them are nice as well, the palace in the back seems to have moss on it, with some liberal coloring, and beneath the wall is some time of foliage, either trees or grass. The best touch is how, intentional or not Meyer's signature looks like graffiti on the wall beneath them. When I started writing this, I honestly expected to give this piece a two, but upon closer inspection, and writing this review, I realize just how good the piece is. It gets a solid 3/5 for me.

Flavor: Like a lot of early cards, a group of small creatures make up a 1/1. They throw stones, so they have first strike, and they are black, because they are devils. Not a whole lot to go with in that regard. The Flavor Text is admittedly neat, if also a little uninspiring, like something you'd see on modern flavor text. The flavor of the card works, but isn't spectacular. 3/5.

Final Score 3/5.

The first time ever, a card gets a perfect average rating. Sure, it's not the best card in the game, but its certainly not the worse. The art works, and is memorable, but isn't super memorable. Its only claim to fame was it being 'banned'. I think that's ironic, giving how little offensive this card is outside of a ill fitting name. Even the impact on OS would be only a little bit of a hickup for mono-black aggro/weenie, particularly formats without Fallen Empires.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Winotaurs: Mooing in January 97


-The Don, upon summoning a Minotaur


-Common statement back in the day to a countered Didgeridoo

Top Row is sideboard

Minotaurs, the black sheep of the red tribal creatures. I remember reading sometime in the early 2000's (though I couldn't tell you where) that one of the designers of Homelands was upset that Minotaurs didn't get a moment in the sun on the competitive level, despite releasing several support cards for the deck.The tribe personally has a long history of fondness from me, mainly because it was one of the first decks my twin made. He wasn't (and isn't) super into fantasy, but he knew what a minotaur was, and he rolled with it. The Don (as quoted up above) also ran a Minotaur deck for many years, and his shop is still the shop I judge all other on (at least when judging the community in it).

Over the years, numerous minotaurs have been released, some good, not so much. It however took a changeling, to get people to notice the abusable card in the making, Didgeridoo. 

With the overnight skyrocketing price of this otherwise dollar rare artifact, I figured it was time to attempt to run my favorite horned tribe. I had long considered running it in OS 95, I felt however the deck was to limited without the inclusion of Mirage/Visions Minotaurs. Sure, Mirage only had one (the champion wasn't printed until Visions it turned out).

I went 2-4 in the format, forcing most decks into a third game. The two wins were against a u/r burn deck, and a mill deck. The first win was against my good friend Stan. We had agreed no sideboards, and I went 2-1 against him. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a great deal of fun. At one point he used Suq'ata Firewalkers to keep my Eron tapped down (and forcing me to keep mana open). The other one was against w/u mill, with one game having me win with 0 cards in my deck (through burn damage). This game also concluded at a 2-1 in my favor.


The Good: Minotaurs are tough. Though all the three damage burn spells in the format usually hurt them, the three toughness helps a bit in combat. Most interestingly I could use Immolation on my own creatures, at one point making a 4/1 First Strike Anaba Bodyguard. Sadly he was only around a turn. Didgeridoo was great, as expected. Outside of that, its mono-red, which is a strong color by itself. Mirage gave me access to Talruum Minotaur, a 3/3 with haste, as well as the legendary Hammer of Bogarden, which needs no introduction.

The Bad: The deck was slow, and the tribal support is lackluster. In the day an argument could be made that Anaba Spiritcaller was somewhat superior because the tribal support pumped themselves, and each other up (unlike Lord of Atlantis or Goblin King). In 2021 AD this isn't the case, as all the tribal lords have pumped each other for about a decade now. The only other tribal support is Didgeridoo and Anaba Ancestor, a lowly 1/1 that can give another minotaur +1/+1 until the end of the turn. This makes it at best a limited midrange/stompy deck, that while effective, is lacking compared to some of it's other contemporary decks.


The Ugly: No matter how much I tried I couldn't find room in the deck for any of my beta Hurloon Minotaur, former face of the game. R.I.P

One game against a control deck, my Balduvian Trading Post was bounced with Boomerang, then Blood Mooned. Not a good way to lose. 

A few MVP's:

Talruum Minotaur


A Hill Giant with haste isn't anything to scoff at. Include the tribal support, and you have the most effective creature in the deck. 

Hammer of Bogarden

I just had to include how important this spell is, even though everyone reading this should know this already. Honorable shout out to Torch as well, which was always my favorite X burn spell (until Banefire at least).

Eron the Relentless

He really did have a gold border, look it up!

One of the first legends I ever owned. Eron holds a warm spot in my heart. He's also an effective beater, especially since he has haste. The Regeneration came in handy once or twice as well, forcing my opponent to use his two beaters to keep him tapped down.



In an alternative universe this had gold too.

This was the center of the deck, and the reason it was made. The card is shockingly good, and was the only reason it got any wins at all. Being able to cast a creature for 3, at instant speed, which technically can't be countered, is without a doubt amazing. The days of putting out a champion at instant speed to kill a blocker sadly aren't being relived atm. Flashing in a Spirit Caller to get that extra point or two was pretty cool, and surprise blockers are always nice.

Final Conclusion: The Deck ran surprisingly well as a red midrange deck. In retrospect I probably would have run a few additional Hammer's, but I only own one black bordered one. I didn't want to run it in gold. 

The deck did have some issues of being slow compared to other red decks being ran, and Wildfire Emissary was just to good for my meager burn. Still, I got the deck out of my system, and now I can focus on other decks, like mill!

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Wayfarer: Chapter 2

She was beautiful. Her bright blue eyes sparkled like sapphires, which matched her dress. Her fair skin was complimented with her curly. golden blond hair. Her figure, as could be seen from the elegant dress, was impressive, and he was determined to introduce himself to her, and things had been going smoothly since.

They had moved into a more private setting, and things had moved quick. She quickly took charge, lightly pushing him into the wall. She pressed onto him and kissed, and then those eyes pierced him.

"You've never done this before, have you?"

"Uhh... no.. no I haven't" he said, rather embarrassed.

"Would you like to continue?"


"I need you to wake up love."

With that, he was thrust into reality with a great shock. He panicked, quickly looking around, trying to collect his bearings. He was alone, with no discernable sight. He went to scream, to shout for help, but his throat was bare.

He grabbed it as it failed to produce his voice, and quickly his panic of uncertainty, was replaced with fear. Who had picked him up, and why? He thought, trying to recollect his memory.

He was walking... he had reached the road, he grabbed his water skin...water skin!

He reached to his side, and found it along with his sword. He sighed, wherever he was, he had survived, and seemingly was in safety.

He sat up, and was overwhelmed with a dizzy spell, and a shock of pain. His body felt heavy, and sitting up was a great effort. He groaned and coughed, and if he could, would certainly have teared.

"Relax now" a sooth voice was heard. A hand met to the back of his head, and at the tip of his lips, he felt cold water. He would have never guessed water could taste so good, could feel so refreshing. It went down smooth, soothing his aching throat, and before he knew it, the water was gone. "You're really lucky, we thought you were no longer among us. You try to rest, there will be food in the morning".  
He laid down, and soon his eyes closed shut.

No further dreams transpired through the night, and it seemed to go in a moment. He was awoken, as the sun gently shown in through the cracks. A aroma of peppered rabbit, boiled stew, and grilled eggs filled the air around him, inviting him outside. Numerous muffled voices could be heard, they were apparently in an argument, or at least a strong discussion, what he could only assume was about him.

He suddenly felt a strong ache in his stomach, as if it was crying out in pain. How long had it been since he ate? What day was it. Soon though his voice of reason had disappeared completely from his mind. He had been overwhelmed with a primal desire of survival, a irrational desire to eat.

He attempted to roll onto his stomach, and to get up, but he failed. His body ached, and he felt weak. He remember hearing a tale of someone who had been the victim of a terrible spell called Drain Life, just enough to barely survive. The man lived out the remainder of his days barely being able to move, had such a fate befallen him? 

No, he clearly was just hungry. Who knows how long it had been since he ate? However he knew there was food, and people, just outside  the canvas. These people, assuming they were such, had cared for him. They could be trusted, right?

He resolved crawling through the wagon, over bags and boxes, until he reached the opening. 

The golden light of the late morning sun had blinded him, if only temporary, as he exited the wagon. However it was enough to force him off his balance, and he fell, face first, into the dirt below him. 

"Looks like he is alive, guess I owe you a drink after all Olivia". 
"Told you!" she laughed "Saisha is the best Samite we could afford. Sure, she was free, but the point stands".

"Yeah I guess so, speaking of which, there she goes running to heal someone else."

Two hands helped him up, and a familiar voice said "are you okay? Please, have something to eat." 

She guided him to the fire where a plate sat, with little bits of rabbit, some left over eggs, and a single potato waited for him. 

"Sorry it's not much, but we didn't plan for a stowaway when we set up provisions." 

"He's not a stowaway, but an honest victim. I told you I couldn't leave him, and I didn't. You don't mind him, he knows he needs me, you just eat."

He starts digging into the food, hands over hands. While the meal was very basic, it at that time was the very best thing he had ever eating. He ate in like a savage, not even finding time to chew, which caused him naturally to choke.

"My God, be careful" Saisha said while handing him a water skin.

"Figures Saisha meets a boy, and immediately has a crush. Reminds me of you at that age."

"Shut up! I ended up with you didn't I? Speaking off, I think introductions are in order."

She turned over to the hero "I'm Olivia, and my fiancé here is Jacob, we are Benalish Heroes."

Olivia stood there with a smile. She, despite her warrior origin, actually had a fairly good smile, with clean teeth. Her hair, was a short auburn color, with dark brown eyes. Her body was toned, with lean muscles. 

Jacob was equally as toned, but much more defined. His smile was crooked, and he possessed a dark 5 o'clock shadow. He had long black hair, that flowed freely behind him. 

Both were clad in black leather armor, a traditional attire for heroes. However, both had been customized to show certain assets. Olivia's trousers hugged her legs particularly tight, and Jacob's armor had been designed with a classical abs look, which even he knew was impractical. Further more, his arms lacked any sort of protection, instead it showed off the muscles of his arms.

The two carried long swords and buckles, but Olivia also appeared to have a composite crossbow by her feet. 

The young woman who had been giving him the water in all this said "I'm Saisha. I'm a Samite Healer on my pilgrimage."

She smiled and looked bashfully down. She wore a modest healers robe, still white and news, and a dress. 

"Yeah, she has to run around and heal people and help people. Something like that" said Jacob. "She has her uses, that's for sure. Speaking of which, if you're going to be traveling with us, you need a use. Otherwise you're just a dead weight and we can't afford that. So I noticed you had a sword on you, even if you aren't particularly good at it, an extra blade is an extra blade. At the very least you can catch one"

"Hey!" Olivia said while smacking his stomach. "Be kind."

"Yes, I can" said Gabriel as he looked up from his plate. "I'm more then capable with my sword".

"That's good... speaking of, we never got your name"

"I'm Gabriel Croger... of Benelia".

"Oh a Croger! What's a noble doing out here in the Kb'Briann Highlands? You're a bit more rugged looking then I'd expect from one of those pretty boys as well."

"My father bought some land out here, sold everything, but I am going back to Benalish City!"

"Well it would seem Anthius has joined us together. We will be heading there, after our job. It's been three days ride since we picked you up, and we were still quiet away from the border. You can try to walk it, and maybe you won't be so lucky next time. The Warrior clans here might be under Benalish jurisdiction, but I don't doubt they'll kill a lone traveler. However, you can travel with us, and when we finish the job, you'll get a cut, if you survive, you'll start your life in Benalish City with a bit of gold on your belt."

"You have a deal" said Gabriel.

"Perfect! Start by cleaning all this up with Saisha. We will be back in an hour or so." He pulled his woman towards him and they laughed. 

They started walking off when he stopped "oh, leave him alone, he will take care of his own stuff". 

He pointed at the other man, who hadn't said a word this entire. He was short, probably shorter than Gabriel. His skin was a pale cream, and his hair was jet black. It was immaculate, each hair was seemingly perfect, slicked back into what could be described as a ponytail, but without a tail. His face was smooth in a clean shave, which complimented the sharp features. His eyes were the most exotic part of his feature, they weren't like any eyes he had seen before, instead they were narrow, and appeared to be simply black, not with the bright colors he was use to seeing.

He held a small cup, and a teapot. Each drink seemed to be taken with extreme caution. His demeanor was stoic, not once in the exchange did he laugh, or to Gabriel's notice, even smile. Instead he simply knelled, drinking his tea.

He wore what could be described as a silk and fur robe. Its colors were white and red, and an insignia he didn't recognize was in black on the right breast. In front of him laid two swords, and what could be described as a long knife. They appeared to be very ornate, wrapped in painted polished wood, and elaborate silk designs. To his side laid a bow and a few arrows. Compared to the blades they were outright crude. 

The man stood up, bowed to Saisha, and started to collect his things. He wrapped them together into a sack, then proceeded to walk up the creek.

"Here before he gets back, help me get this into the wagon."

They hurried, tying up pots, and putting them in the nets that covered the inside of the wagon. They rolled up the tents, collected the various cooking tools, and other assorted objects that laid around. Finally, they filled all the water skins and washed the wooden cups as and plates in the creek.

They had just finished up the last of it when the couple returned. Around this time the man had also returned. He bowed, much more formally to Jacob, and then retired into the wagon, closing the cloth cover behind him. 

"I guess it's time to leave isn't it? We watered the OX this morning right? Right. Alright, ten four, let's move out".

They got in their appropriate places, Saisha and Gabriel sat at the tail of the wagon, facing North. 

"So what's this job anyway?"

Saisha smiled, reached behind her into the wagon, and pulled out a map.

"Let me explain it to you."