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