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."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Bird Maiden

"Four things that never meet do here unite stand, to shed my blood and ravage my heart, a radiant bow and tresses that beguile, and rosy cheeks and a glittering smile"-- The Arabian Nights, Haddawy

Bird Maiden, at first look, it doesn't do much. After all, it's merely a 1/2 for three. However there is something endearing about the card. I remember a certain school yard friend wrote a screenplay called 'The Adventure of the Bird Maiden" inspired about a Bird Maiden, that managed to survive a two hour long game with ten people we all use to play in the day. It's always stayed well into my mind, and when earlier this year I decided to separate the cards I'd sell to the cards I wouldn't, I put aside my AN playset in a heartbeat (along with a well played 4th edition one).

I must of not have been alone. The (now defunct) Encyclopedia Dominia had an entire entry on Bird Maiden, which described their culture, and said all Bird Maidens were female, males were born human (but had incredible luck in life).

I've seen fan art, cosplays, and numerous other things of this otherwise lackluster creature. She is even on the banner of Geocities of Brass! So what is it that is so endearing? Is it the art, the flavor text, the fact it flies? Lets dive in and find out.

Imagine if she costed R.

Playability: There's often a common misconception that Red doesn't get very much flying creatures. That's a lie, in fact, I'd argue after blue, Red has some of the best fliers in the format. Between Basalt Gargoyle, Shivan Dragon, Rukh Token, Dragon Welp, and Goblin Balloon Brigade, red has a plathora of decently costed creatures of the air (not to mention some outliners like Roc). So the fact she has flying isn't that unique to her. Combine this with being a 1/2 for three, and her stats are lackluster to say the least. However, evasion is evasion, and she works well with a bad idea for 'red skies', utilizing Earthquake. Combine this with the fact her current creature type is 'Human Bird', and if you're playing 95 (or a similar variant) she does have tribal synergy with Soraya the Falconer (granted being required to play two colors). The cost is also splashable, costing 2 generic and a red. However, this doesn't help much with such better options out there, 2/5.

Art: Oh, here is the crown jewel of the card. I am going to get ALOT of flack for this, but this card might be Kaja Foglio's best piece. The art has an elaborate array of colors, featuring varying shades of orange, green, blue, and black on the wings. The outfit our maiden is wearing is very, Arabian, to say the least, at least to common pop culture myth (I don't know how common middrift showing was to be honest). Again, the top and pants feature a great array of colors and details, including what I think is an upside down heart. She is even wearing jewelry! Her, hair has a varying degree of white streaks in an otherwise dark black hair, giving it a look of form and texture. Finally this is all complimented with a backdrop of a flight blue, a few clouds, and a endless desert. The flat colors compliment the maiden, and the clouds give a nice sort of small detail so that corner isn't blank. The fact the horizon is on a diagonal angle is also nice, confirming she's in midflight. This is all finished by an adorable smile that says 'cast me, it will be fun'. If 'waifu's' existed in 94, I'm sure she would have been someone's. 5/5

Flavor: Honestly, there isn't much to say about the flavor of the card. The Encyclopedia Dominia claimed Bird Maidens were lucky and swift, which could explain the two toughness. They live in the endless deserts of Rabiah, which explains them being red. They have wings, so they obviously fly. I do like that the Grand Creature Type Update made them 'Human Bird', which is nice bit of flavor, separating them from Harpies. In reality, it's a simple card in that regard, doesn't do much offensive, nor anything spectacular. I can only give it a 3/5. 

5th edition really does the art justice!