Agents of SHIELD is a show that has had a rather roller coaster ride since it debuted in 2013. It got off to a really shaky start and didn’t get better until well into the first season, around the same time that the phenomenal Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie came out. The first season ended on a good note, and then the second season last year beat most of my expectations with how good it was and how it introduced the Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was an excellent move on the part of the showrunners.
And now, after Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten more dangerous, because people with powers are being feared all over the globe, and because the misguided actions of Skye’s mother have released the Terrigen mist to spread all over Earth. New powered people are popping up everywhere, and it is up to SHIELD to keep them safe, and perhaps even put them in the field against those who would harm them. That’s the basis for the new third season of the show, which steps up the action and intrigue to a whole new level, and is the better for it.
Magic the Gathering Prereleases for me are always an awesome and fun experience. I haven’t attended as many as I would like ever since I started playing, only 3 not counting this past weekend, and I have fond memories of all of them. Opening the first packs of a new set, the anticipation of pulling a cool new card, building your sealed deck, figuring out all the synergies you have at hand, and then battling it out against your opponents. More than Drafts, I really enjoy playing Sealed, and the Prereleases are the best time to be playing Sealed I feel.
This past weekend, I was really fortunate to attend two Prereleases after a really long time, not since Fate Reforged Prerelease actually, and I had a ton of fun. I attended the midnight session at the LGS closest to my home since the group meets in my building complex, and then the following day I went to the big LGS about 10 minutes drive-away, and both sessions were great. The anticipation of pulling Zendikar Expeditions, not to mention several of the cool rares and mythics, it was good this time, and it delivered as well, which was certainly great!
A couple days ago I talked about how I would update my existing Abzan Aggro to fit the new Standard format once Battle For Zendikar releases on October 2nd, just about 10 days or so away. I’ve been playing the archetype since I got into Magic last October, almost a year now, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. But, I also like to play other decks, and in the last several months I’ve experimented with archetypes like Sultai Midrange, UW/Jeskai Heroic and also GW ORB, the latter of which is a GW aggro deck utilizing the Outlast, Renown and Bolster mechanics from the Khans of Tarkir block and Magic Origins.
With the new post-rotation format however, I want to experiment with something a bit different, such as Naya Aggro. I’m a GW player at heart, so branching out to other colours such as red or blue isn’t so comfortable for me, but with the spoiling of certain cards from Battle For Zendikar, red is looking very appealing on several different levels. Gideon’s Reproach, Scythe Leopard, Outnumber, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and the new fetchable dual lands are a great reason to branch out I think and that Naya provides a really nice shell for these and other existing cards that fit into this archetype.
On October 2nd, Battle For Zendikar will be released in the wild, and we will all then be experimenting with the new Standard Format, trying to come up with the best new brew to take down a tournament, whether at a competitive level or even just for casual play at local stores. One of the decks in the last year that has proven to be a major contender at both levels of play with incredibly consistent results is Abzan Aggro, which became a force with the release of Khans of Tarkir and with the help of cards such as Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino, the latter of which has truly changed the Standard format in a short time and has also made inroads into Modern.
With every new set release, the first thing people do is look at updating existing deck archetypes. With Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey Into Nyx and Magic 2015 going out of Standard in 10 days, Abzan decks are losing quite a few toys such as the Scrylands, Fleecemane Lion and Thoughtseize. It is a big change of course, and with all the new fancy things we are getting in Battle For Zendikar, here’s my take on how a new Abzan Aggro deck would look like for the first few wees, until someone breaks out a radical list at the upcoming Pro Tour or a Star City Games Open or a Grand Prix.
So that’s all of that. Spoiler season is now over and people are going to get pretty busy with brewing, whether it is new decks or updating existing decks to fit the new Battle For Zendikar Standard format. It is a very very exciting time for sure, and I myself have a couple brews ready, though I think that they need a lot of work still. Either way, that’s all the fun is, and to wrap up the season, it is time to get to the final two days of BFZ spoilers.
This is going to be a bit of an odd post in comparison to the previous ones that I did since for those I had a fairly limited number of cards to go over. But this week, Wizards dumped roughly half the set, mostly the commons and uncommons, online at the same time, and so that’s a lot of cards to cover. I’ll be going over only those that I find interesting enough to rate a mention here. So let’s get to it.
Last week was the first official week of spoilers for Battle For Zendikar, though we had already seen quite a few cards previously at the yearly PAX Prime event last month. Wizards of the Coast kicked things off in great order for the first week, revealing excellent cards like the new Planeswalker cards for Kiora and Ob Nixilis, or enemy manlands, some more Zendikar Expeditions promos, and an assortment of other cards of all types. There was a lot of good in those spoilers, and though there were a few duds for me, nevertheless it was a pretty exciting week, and now we get into the second week of the spoilers.
In all, we’ve seen a little over 40 cards so far this week, which does go some way towards alleviating my concerns about the slow-rolling of spoilers. We still have two more days to go, so this is definitely a much better rate than last week. So far, we’ve seen lots of new full-art basic lands, we’ve seen the uncommon cycle of mono-lands, some more cool mythics, and more allies and colorless spells and more. Things seem to be really kicking off now for Battle For Zendikar and with prereleases being just 9 days away, this is a very exciting time to be in. So let’s see what all we got this week.
About a week ago, I ran a post in my Adventures In Magic the Gathering series that talked about the various (or, most of) cards revealed for the upcoming block (and set) Battle For Zendikar, during the Magic the Gathering Worlds Championship during PAX Prime. There were some rather huge announcements during these previews, not the least of which was a reveal of the new cards for iconic characters like Gideon and Ulamog, but also tasty tidbits for collectors such as the Zendikar Expeditions promos and the new rare lands cycle for the set. And then in this last week, we’ve barely gotten any spoilers, likely due to the fact that Wizards of The Coast frontloaded so much during PAX, but now we are back in spoiler territory, so let’s kick off.
This is only week 1 of spoilers, as counted on the Wizards website, so we still have a long way to go, especially since so far we know only about a third of the entire set. But at the same time, many of these spoilers were really good, especially the new Kiora planeswalker and the new Wrath effect. Or all the cool new allies. Or even the new lands cycle to be found in the set (making it one of two, though only one is actually brand new), though the entire cycle is undoubtedly split between Battle For Zendikar, and its sequel set for next year, Oath of The Gatewatch. So let’s get to them!
Author Bradley P. Beaulieu is one of my favourite writers in recent years, thanks to his 2012 debut The Winds of Khalakovo from Night Shade Publishing. It was a pretty good year for the publisher, and we got lots of great debuts at the time, not the least of which was this incredible Russian-esque fantasy from Brad, which told an epic struggle between several noble families navigating the politics of the land. It was a very refreshing read for someone like me who grew up reading the more traditional fantasy settings, and Brad’s style in particular was one of the selling points as well. I have yet to read the third and final novel in the trilogy but after having just read Brad’s latest, I certainly itch to read more of his work, so soon perhaps.
Twelve Kings In Sharakhai is the first novel in Brad’s new series, The Song of The Shattered Sands. It is a very different novel in almost all sorts of ways, and that distinction certainly helps in the enjoyment of the book, though that is by no means the only thing. The setting is far grander this time, I think, for it deals with the past having an effect on the present and what that can mean to the future. The sins of old come to bite back, and it is up to a young girl named Çedamihn to challenge the authority of the Twelve Kings and have her vengeance on those who have wronged her and her family.
Towards the end of last year, Jean Johnson brought her Theirs Not To Reason Why military space opera series to a close in a grand fashion with Damnation, the fifth and final novel in the series. In this series, she introduced an amazingly detailed setting where our hero was a psychic soldier who takes on the entire known galaxy and reshapes it to battle a menace that no one else could even fathom. It was a fantastic series and by the time I was done reading it, I wanted to read more. But the series was done, and all that was left was the promise from Jean that this year we would go back in time to the First Salik War, the interstellar conflict that put Earth on the big stage and which ultimately segued into the events of Theirs Not To Reason Why.
The hero of The Terrans is a former regional politician named Jacaranda MacKenzie who is selected to be the political ambassador of humanity’s first deep foray into the rest of the galaxy, as the United Planets Space Force launches a massive first contact project on the back of several precognitive visions experienced by numerous powerful psychics. Yep, psychics affirming a first contact mission. We know from Jean’s previous series that this setting is populated by numerous psychics of various abilities, and that is something that she does a great job of in this new series, introducing us to many of the pros and cons of such people, especially within the context of a first contact mission.
So the ongoing PAX Prime 2015. That’s something that has been happening for a few days now. Now, my interest in PAX Prime is limited only to what news I can get about Wizards of the Coast and Magic the Gathering, so naturally, the ongoing Magic the Gathering World Championship and the much-hyped (with good reason!) Battle for Zendikar Preview Show are something I’ve been keeping an eye on. I’ve seen most of the day 1 competition so far, and its been exciting to a degree, but the BFZ Preview Show is where the real fun is at and that’s what I’m gonna talk about in this write-up.
Hosted by Wil Wheaton and Ashly Burch, the show kicked off last night and over the course of the roughly 40-min show, we got tons of information about the upcoming set (and block), which also included some fantastic new cards that are bringing back old mechanics while also giving new twists to them. Having just finished watching the entire Preview Show, with guests such as Doug Beyer of the Magic creative team, Mark Rosewater of the design and development team and Graham Stark of the Friday Nights fame, I can say with all honesty that it was an amazing experience. When the Battle For Zendikar set rolls out on October 2nd, it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun!
Tales of Honor is the adaptation of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novel series and is written by Matt Hawkins, who is one of my favourite writers in the biz, and is drawn by Linda Sejic, an artist I don’t have much of an experience with, but love her work nonetheless. I’ve read a couple issues of the previous Tales of Honor volume, and even the recent FCBD issue, not to mention that I read the first novel recently as well, so I’m pretty well-versed with the setting and the characters, and going into this new arc, that’s a good thing since I can orient myself that much quicker.
Tales of Honor: Bred To Kill #1 picks up sometime after the recent war with the People’s Republic of Haven in the Basilisk system, and it has Honor coming back during some downtime from her job as the Captain of the HMS Fearless in order to discover the whereabouts of a missing relative. As the start to a new arc, Hawkins and co-writer Dan Wickline quickly establish the titular character’s “need to knows”, and move on with the meat of the story, which proves to be fairly interesting, and the corresponding art by Linda stands out as well, easily on par with some of the other top-notch stuff I’ve seen of late from various creators, including Linda’s husband Stjepan who is at the top of his game right now.
DC’s Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman got off to a really great start last year, but somewhere along the way, it kind of lost its momentum with some really odd stories that seemed to be shoehorned in, for no reason at all. And that’s kind of why I felt turned off from the experience of reading the comics, and even writing the reviews, because I didn’t want to review what I saw as less-than-expected. There were some good stories in the middle, sure, but mostly, it was all just rather boring.
Thankfully, issues #33 through #35 provide something of a revival in that respect. Some of the recent stories have been really good, and I think that it is this arc, Vendetta, that puts it all into perspective. Written by Josh Elder, this arc is all about a fateful encounter between Diana and Ares, set against the backdrop of a racial civil war in a war-torn African country. It feels simplistic at first, but it has a great message, and that’s the true value of it. The art by Jamal Igle, Juan Castro, Wendy Broome and Deron Bennett is also fairly decent, though it could use some improvements.