Author Archives: AJ

Adventures In Magic the Gathering: The Modern Metagame

More than any other year in the last several years, the Modern format was put under an especially harsh scrutiny, owing to the January Banned & Restricted Announcement from Wizards of the Coast. Coming out just before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, this announcement decreed that two key format staples Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom were banned. Such is the price to pay for having a Modern PT. Unfortunately, during the PT, Eldrazi decks of various builds dominated the tournament, and in the months following, they were everywhere. It was a display of performance almost unmatched in the format’s history, necessitating a ban of the archetype staple Eye of Ugin in the next B&R update, as well as the announcement that Modern would no longer be a PT format.

Now, we are about five months from that day, and the modern meta has shifted considerably since then. There was the brief rise of Abzan CoCo as a powerful deck, but that phase too has passed. Now, the utter dominance of a single deck has given rise to a more diffuse dominance, where no one or two or even three decks are clearly at the top. Various new strategies have come up, challenging the top tier decks for their crown. And this diversity was highlighted this previous weekend in the Grand Prix tournaments held in Guangzho (China), Lille (France) and Indianapolis (USA). Here’s how the meta broke down.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon Spoilers Week 2

The first week of spoilers from Eldritch Moon proved to be fairly good. Lots of interesting, flavourful cards were revealed and while there were a good number of misses, there were plenty of hits as well, particularly Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Tamiyo, Field Researcher among others. The whole cosmic horror feel of the set is coming across well in all the cards, and that’s definitely a plus, since Shadows Over Innistrad dealt with it a bit tangentially whereas Eldritch Moon is the full and final realization for it. The plane of Innistrad is definitely doomed…

…unless Liliana, the Last Hope can save the day as she believes she can. We finally have the new card for Liliana, and it is definitely something that you have to see to believe (more on that below). We also got to see some more cool cards this past week, which help fill out the slots in various decks that needed them, such as spirits, which have gotten a big boost, and even zombies, to a degree. Werewolves still look to be a below average tribe though, and that’s mighty disappointing, given how much a signature element they are of the overall feel of the plane, and that last time they were much more competitive. Here goes…

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon Spoilers Week 1

Time flies in the world of Magic the Gathering it seems. It feels as if it was just yesterday that I was doing the spoilers for Shadows Over Innistrad, and now here we are, the first of official spoilers for the sequel Eldritch Moon already over. Spoiler season is one of the most anticipated aspects of a new set release for the game, and as many a time before, this past week hasn’t been all that disappointing. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the spoilers however, here’s the trailer for the set.

Since the reveal about the big bad of the set, and indeed the entire block, being the Eldrazi Titan Emrakul, it has certainly been an interesting ride. The reveal isn’t particularly that big since the powers-that-be were pretty hamfisted with the signals and following on from the Battle For Zendikar block, it isn’t that exciting a reveal either. However, putting that aside, some of the flavour of the set that has come out has been incredible, with some cool new mechanics, and a lot of the rares and uncommons look like they have serious potential. Not to mention the mythics, so let’s dive straight into the meat of the spoilers!

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Teen Titans: Earth One Vol.1 (Comics Review)

The Teen Titans are one of the most prominent of DC’s superhero teams, primarily because it is based around legacy superheroes such as Wonder Girl and Robin and other young heroes like Starfire and Beast Boy. Over the years, the Teen Titans have carved out quite a niche for themselves, even transcending the comics with shows like Young Justice and Teen Titans Go! which have proven to be popular as well. So it was no surprise that when DC began to roll out its series of Earth One storylines for its premier heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, that they’d delve into the Teen Titans as well.

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol.1 repositions the team in a timeline that is very different from the current comics storyline. This is a trend that follows on from the other Earth One graphic novels, where the characters and their stories are reinvented and have their own continuity separate from the main comics-verse. Written by Jeff Lemire and art by the Dodson Duo, it is an interesting read that brings together some classic characters such as Raven, Cyborg, Beast Boy and others, but it also falls short by a significant margin because the story can be incomprehensible at times.

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Warcraft: The Beginning (Movie Review)

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s then you were at the forefront of the big boom in the video game industry when it comes to Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games. There were some downright amazing games in those days in this genre, particularly Age of Empires, WarCraft, StarCraft, Command & Conquer, Homeworld and countless others. The mid-to-late 90s were a great time to be an RTS fan. Many of these games left a lasting impression on me, having to do with both story and gameplay, and I remember them all fondly. If there are two games here that particularly struck a chord with me however, those are WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness and the original Homeworld, and I’ve been a fan of both ever since I got my first copies of either, about 18 years for the former and 15 for the latter. Good lord, I feel old now.

My interest and fascination WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness eventually led to me becoming a near-die-hard World of WarCraft player, and I was absolutely stoked when news came out that the series would be getting a movie franchise. And that in itself has been a long, long journey. After many false starts, Warcraft: The Beginning is finally here and it is a movie that absolutely captures the heart and soul of the 22-year old franchise. One big caveat for any WarCraft fan is that the movie plays fast and loose with the established lore, and that there are some significant changes made for the cinematic audience, but if you look beyond that, then you see something that just totally fits the aesthetics of the overall franchise.

Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie, WarCraft: Orcs & Humans, and some of the concurrent novels, both old and new. Proceed at your own peril.

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Captain America: Civil War (Movie Review)

Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the second movie in the Captain America series, is very much the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man and The Avengers come very close, but The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced mix of action and intrigue that superhero movies in general would do well to emulate. And it gets even better in comparison with its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a very lackluster and subdued affair with a boring villain and a boring plot. As such, the studio’s latest, Captain America: Civil War had a lot to live up too, and while it didn’t disappoint, it also left much to be desired.

Captain America: Civil War builds forward from the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from last year, and takes the overall story of the MCU forward in a plot that sees conflicts develop between the team members, conflicts that were hinted at in The Avengers and which are now magnified from several angles. As a pure action movie, Civil War does not fail to entertain and is right on point. But as an adaptation of the infamous Civil War storyline from the comics, it is unsuccessful and unsatisfactory.

Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie and even some for the original comics the movie is adapted from, so read at your own peril.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Women of Shadows Over Innistrad Part 1

Over the last few years, there has been a growing concern about where Magic the Gathering is headed in terms of its representation of women and also how the game is becoming more inclusive for women. The conversation isn’t just limited to the two two genders that we are familiar with, but it goes beyond that into the nuances of non-binary genders and sexual identity and so forth. And all of that is just scratching the surface. In recent months, we’ve seen the game take some big steps forward, whether that be in the story, on the cards, or even as part of the community, which has been rather fantastic to see as a new player. Not to say that there haven’t been any missteps, but on the whole, there is ample positive development.

This column today is all about the women of the upcoming set Shadows Over Innistrad, which little over a week ago and which features two of the game’s most iconic characters, the Archangel Avacyn of Innistrad, and Nahiri the Lithomancer of Zendikar. Unfortunately, they are both also the villains of the story for this block, but if we dig deeper, we find a lot of nuance and subtlety that isn’t on the surface. And these ladies aren’t alone in leading the charge either, because there are mortals and immortals alike who are prominent in the new set. This column will be part lore, part commentary, and I hope you enjoy it.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Rares of Shadows Over Innistrad

In my last Adventures In Magic the Gathering column, I went over all the mythics for the upcoming Shadows Over Innistrad set, which is due for release tomorrow, the 8th of April. The new expansion has a ton of great cards in it, and a lot of that awesomeness is concentrated in the mythics for the set, though there are ofcourse some duds there too. The same goes for the rest of the rarities in the set, which is par on course for every single set. The rares and mythics are usually the workhorses of the Standard environments for a particular set, while the commons and uncommons shape up the Limited scene for the same, though there is some cross-over definitely and it creates an interesting challenge for deck construction.

For today’s column, I’ll be going over some of the more exciting rares from Shadows Over Innistrad, cards that I’m personally intrigued about and want to play with in a Standard deck, and also a few that I think have been complete misses. This is not an exhaustive list, so please keep that in mind. With the return to Innistrad, we are seeing a return of tribal archetypes in the form of werewolves, vampires and humans, and all these deck ideas have given me a lot of thought on where to go for my next Standard deck. I’ve been playing Abzan Aggro for well over a year now, and with the rotation in two days, my deck is no longer going to be viable. I haven’t settled in on a particular deck as yet, though I’m leaning towards a vampires deck most of all, and a lot of the cards I’ll be discussing in the column are just right for that deck.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Mythics of Shadows Over Innistrad

There’s been a lot of buzz in the Magic the Gathering community-at-large this month. About three weeks ago, we started to get the first wave of spoilers for the upcoming set, Shadows Over Innistrad, which will see players return to the world of Innistrad, where some sort of eldritch madness has gripped the angelic defenders of the plane and turned them against the mortals. Even the great Avacyn, the so-called Angel of Hope of Innistrad, has been affected, and she leads her sisters against any and everyone. Wizards of the Coast has done a damn fine job of marketing the new set, and as part of that, they have also released some great mythics which well and truly fit the flavour of the plane, and more besides.

Shadows Over Innistrad is a pretty interesting set because of two things: first, it has higher than the average number of mythics for a large set, and second, it has higher than the usual number of planeswalkers for a large set. With the reintroduction of the double-faced cards in the set, we are getting more mythics than we did in the last few large sets, eighteen in all, and at the same time we are also getting a whopping FOUR planeswalkers. Just absolutely crazy. Read on after the break to see what cool toys we are getting in two weeks’ time.

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Daredevil Season 1 (TV Show Review)

Daredevil is one of Marvel Comics’ workhorse superheroes. He is a street-level character who usually deals with criminal realities on the streets rather than having the grandiose adventures of the kind that the Avengers and X-Men, though he has certainly participated in a few shared high-rides in his long history. A little over a decade ago, the character got a major push when we got the 2003 Daredevil live-action movie starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Ferrell and Michael Clarke Duncan in the lead roles. While the movie had some potential to it, it unfortunately flopped and the character’s live-action future was binned. That is, until the rights to the titular character and a few other associated heroes and villains reverted back to Marvel Comics almost three years ago.

This reverting then led to Netflix picking up the slate for a shared-universe TV series and last year we saw the first fruits of the same with the first season of Daredevil, with Charlie Cox taking up the torch from Ben Affleck in the titular role as we saw how the Man Without Fear got his start in his fight against crime in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York, and indeed in the rest of the city as well. Comprising of thirteen spectacular episodes, Daredevil effectively broke new ground in lots of different ways and brought together an amazing cast of actors who gave it their all, cementing Daredevil as a major superhero once again while also shining the spotlight on his various friends and enemies.

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering: Oath of the Gatewatch Spoilers Week 2

Last week I talked about a whole bunch of spoilers from the first week of the official spoiler season. There were lots of cards that were spoiled during that time, and they definitely set off a frenzy among the playerbase, since a lot of the rares seem to be really powerful, especially the Eldrazi cards. Ulamog’s brood is rather absent this time around while Kozilek’s brood is taking center-stage, but the Zendikari are also getting stuck right in, and it is definitely a great time to be playing with these sets.

Moving on from cards such as Linvala, the Preserver or the Oath cycle of legendary enchantments or the new manlands or goblins and what not, we have some more really exciting cards in the week 2 roundup. A lot of the best seemed to have been saved for the last, and I certainly don’t mind that. And now that we have the full round of spoilers from Oath of the Gatewatch out, it is also looking like the rares from this set are much more powerful than the rares from Battle For Zendikar, which is quite an interesting difference. So let’s get on with them!

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering: Oath of the Gatewatch Spoilers Week 1

It is finally that time of the year now. Despite all the controversy surrounding the massive amount of leaks for the upcoming set, Oath of the Gatewatch, in November and December of last year, we are finally in the official spoiler season mode, and things are looking pretty damn great. Sure, it is hard to match up to the mythics and the Expeditions that were leaked already, but there is still something about getting to see all the new rares and the mechanics and the commons and uncommons that will all go on to define both Constructed and Limited formats. And that’s where a lot of these cards really shine.

These spoilers are all from the first week of official spoilers, which was from 28th December to 1st January. In this period, we also got some confirmations of previous spoilers, many of which I talked about a while back, such as Sphinx of the Final Word, Sea Gate Wreckage, the new uncommon cycle of dual lands, and a small handful of others. However, there were also a ton of new cards, and many of them are really spicy, such as Jori En, Ruin Diver and Stoneforge Masterwork, Immolating Glare, Linvala the Preserver among others. Let’s get on to them!

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