Author Archives: AJ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
So, the big moment of the year has finally come and gone. This past Thursday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the 38-year old movie franchise was released to great fanfare and the internet has been abuzz with speculations and discussions ever since. This is the first movie of the franchise that has been released under the auspices of Disney, which bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas some three years back, and is also the first in a new trilogy that will also eventually veer off into several spin-offs, charting a bold new era.
However, we come back to the movie itself. When Disney declared that all existing Star Wars canon outside of the movies and 2-3 animated series was now part of a discontinued universe termed Star Wars Legends, I was mad as hell. I’m a huge fan of the incredible and complex tapestry that has been woven by thousands of people in the last four decades and for Disney to disrespect that in such a way screamed foul to me. But, I was willing to give the movie a chance because when the trailers hit, I was ecstatic. They hit the right note for me and promised so much. And now I tell you whether the movie lived up to those promises.
Note: This review contains massive spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen the movie as yet.
Spoiler season is on us again, and that means that we are going to have a hell of a time. Of course, you might be wondering why I would mention spoiler season since the new set, Oath of the Gatewatch isn’t being released for about a little more a month still, and the official spoilers haven’t even started as yet. The reason for that is the huge amount of leaks that have happened in the last couple weeks or so. It is an unprecedented level of information coming out unofficially from Wizards of the Coast, and that is indeed most surprising.
For the winter sets, the spoilers usually start just around the new year, culminating in the prereleases in the middle of January, and then the official release a week later. And usually, we rarely get any leaked spoilers until the official spoilers start. This time though things are very different. The powers-that-be were waiting until the World Magic Cup to start handing out tidbits it seems, but some unscrupulous persons have already seen fit to, well, spoil that. We got several big set mechanics leaks in November, followed by a bunch of legendary creatures last week, and just last night, we had pretty much the entire run down of the Zendikar Expeditions and the new mythics from the set. Mind-boggling all of it. So let’s get down with them.
The lore of Magic the Gathering is one that I find to be extremely intriguing. I’ve only sampled bits and pieces of the game’s lore over the last few years, and I’ve always been impressed with the inherent challenges that the writers often overcome to tell stories that engage your mind and hold your interest. For the last several months, I’ve been catching up on the lore for the current block, Khans of Tarkir, which deals with time-travel and mad heroes and epic, godly battles and, of course, dragons. Lots of dragons.
So, here’s kind of my first attempt at telling a story of Tarkir where I draw on all of the stuff that has come out from Wizards of the Coast on an official level and combine it with some of my own theories and things I’d like to see. To be specific, this story is set somewhat concurrent, but is also successive, to the latest release from Wizards, Uncharted Realms: Unbroken and Unbowed, which has Sarkhan Vol reuniting with both Ugin and Narset and the conversations that follow as they all try to understand what has happened to the world that they all love and cherish.
Grand Prix Trials (GPTs) and Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifers (PPTQs) are events that I generally don’t attend, for the simple reason that when I can only get one day a month to play for any extended length of time and when these are usually on Saturdays, work day for me, then it is not possible for me to go for these. Or sometimes it will be that I am otherwise tied up when they are on Fridays or am just not in the country. I love going to these though, because there’s usually such a huge number of players at these events, possible the largest attendance I see outside of a Prerelease event, and that entire atmosphere is just too good to pass up.
This past Friday at Battlezone was the GPT for the upcoming Grand Prix Nagoya for next month, and the format was Modern, a format that I am still a complete novice in, despite having been invested in it for close to six months now. Modern is a very different beast than Standard, however, and I love playing the former as much as I do the latter. Especially when there are few Modern events in the region to begin with. I tweaked up my GW Hatebears deck for the event, borrowed the few cards that I could, and then had an awesome time at the event, even though I had a pretty mediocre finish.
The world of superhero television has been quite a abuzz this year. Whether it is the topic of the new DC Television shows like Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow or Arrow and Agents of SHIELD coming back for yet more after seeing some record success, or even the release of the Netflix Marvel shows, 2015 has been pretty damn incredible so far. And it only keeps getting better. Earlier this year we had the first of the new Defenders franchise, Daredevil, which did an incredible job of bringing the blind lawyer and superhero Matt Murdoch to television. Successful enough that it was almost immediately renewed for a second season, which only seems to be getting better with each new piece of information coming out about the show’s production.
But of course, one of the things that Daredevil was meant to do was pave the way for Jessica Jones, the second show in the series of 4 that will eventually lead to a Defenders show. Starring the likes of Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Mike Colter and Rachael Taylor, Jessica Jones has had a great first season, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the show. Sure, it had some hits and misses like most debut shows (especially the superhero variety), but it also did some really mind-boggling things that you wouldn’t have expected. And the stars, and the writing and everything else all fit together into a really neat package that is worth going back for a rewatch.
Let’s not mince any words here. Ever since the show’s pilot got leaked online a few months back, I’ve been pretty damn excited for this. The trailers were promising, though a bit weird, but I had faith in the show and what it promised to deliver, and the leaked pilot did set me up on the positivity train. Well now, now we are in the second week of the show, and all those months of waiting has definitely been worth it. From the people who’ve brought us so many comic-book properties on television in recent years, Supergirl is a great addition to the line-up.
I reviewed the leaked pilot back in May, which you can read here, and it was a pretty good experience for me. As I said in that article, I found the actual pilot to be much better than the trailer let on, and it made me fall in love with Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of the Maid of Might all over again. Supergirl is one of my favourite DC superheroes, and it is great to see such a perfect portrayal here, which easily matches what Grant Gustin has been doing for close to two years now as The Flash. The supporting cast is also working fairly well together, and though there are a few kinks here and there in terms of story and general character-writing, this show has started off great.