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.
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.