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Ravnica: City of Guilds by Cory J. Herndon (Book Review)

My first substantial introduction to the world of Magic the Gathering was through the comics written by Matt Forbeck for IDW Publishing. They introduced me to the planeswalker thief Dack Fayden through some really fun adventures across the Multiverse. Since then, I’ve taken up the game itself, and now I play fairly regularly and follow tournament coverage as well. Naturally, my interests would also lead me to other Magic fiction, specifically the novels, and I’ve read a few of them in the last couple of years, the most recent being Cory J. Herndon’s Ravnica: City of Guilds.

The first of the Ravnica Cycle trilogy, this novel follows a lieutenant of the League of Wojek, Agrus Kos, as he undertakes a murder investigation that draws him into a conspiracy that will shake up the entire world of Ravnica. As a fan of the setting, I really appreciated Herndon’s detailed descriptions of Ravnica and its many citizens, which really helped to bring the world alive in my mind. I’m not familiar with any of the characters here, but that’s the thing about Ravnica: City of Guilds, you don’t have to know anything about Magic the Gathering to enjoy it, though that does help.

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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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Adventures in Magic the Gathering: GPT Nagoya (Modern)

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.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: BFZ Final Spoilers

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.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: BFZ Spoilers Sep 14-16

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.

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Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Eps 13-14 (TV Show Review)

Sleepy Hollow’s mid-season premiere got off to a rocky but interesting start about 3 weeks back or so, though I find that with Moloch gone and done with, the show has lost a little bit of its appeal as well since things aren’t so “2 minutes to midnight” anymore. There’s a lack of urgency to things, and though the mid-season premiere did well by further exploring the weirdly fun world of the town of Sleepy Hollow by introducing angels into the mix, I also find that the show is kind of plodding along now, with little thought to a longer story.

The recent two episodes, “Pittura Infamante” and “Kali Yuga” do one thing well: they take the rocky relationship between Ichabod and Katrina and then try to smooth over their many differences while also showing more cracks between Ichabod and Abby. Both are reflective of the loss of a common enemy that brought the three of them together, and that’s where the episodes really focus. However, it is all far too… mundane and the clear lack of an over-arching plot for the tail end of the second season is really hurting the show, as far as I can tell, since the characters and stories are just plodding along, doing the basics necessary of them.

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Comics Picks For 07.01.2015

No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!

This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.

As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Fast-Shot Comics Reviews 07.01.2015

I skipped outon the previous week since there was a very small number of comics released, and I wasn’t really interested in reviewing more of them than I already did. So, welcome to the first good and proper edition of this new feature, and have a blast!

The picks for this week are: Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #3, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2, Operation: SIN #1, Detective Comics #37-38, Justice League 3000 #12-13 and Vampirella #7-8.

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Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Ep 12 (TV Show Review)

The mid-season finale last month proved to be a major game-changer. The show had been building up to this one big epic confrontation between the heroes and the villains and it all finally happened as Moloch succeeded in manifesting himself on Earth and began to bring about a merging of Earth with Purgatory, over which he held dominion. But then, something really incredible happened, and it was all for naught because the great demon overlooked something quite… human, which proved to be his terrible downfall.

And that brings us to this week’s episode, “Paradise Lost“, the mid-season premiere of a great show. In this new episode, we find out what happened to the heroes after their big confrontation with Moloch, and how the span of time since then has changed them all. Moloch is gone, good and proper, and so a semblance of normality is returning to their lives, but an evil like Moloch doesn’t go out all the way and Team Witness’ bad time is about to get a whole lot worse because there are many more dangers out there now, now that many of the denizens of Purgatory have fled to Earth and have begun to cause mayhem.

Note: This review contains spoilers for the mid-season finale, episode 11.

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Constantine Season 1 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

And… that’s it. All the new and recurring shows that DC Entertainment was going to be putting out this Fall are finally here. We started off with Gotham, continued on with The Flash and Arrow, and now we have Constantine. My previous experiences with John Constantine extend only to the 2005 movie with Keanu Reeves and the recent New 52 comics, specifically Constantine and Justice League Dark. As such I’m not a long-time Constantine fan since I’ve never read Hellblazer, but I do like the character, and seeing him get adapted for live-action television is a great feeling after the failure of the previous adaptation.

Debuting Friday night on NBC, Constantine‘s first episode did a lot of apparent heavy build-up of the character and his supporting cast, but it failed to make a lasting impression on me. The premiere feels like a bunch of random scenes strung together without any real payoff. Yes, the show has some really cool moments and nods to various other comics characters, but it simply not as strong as DC’s other recent shows, all of which have been much more memorable from the get go. It simply feels like a stock horror/demons show rather than something uniquely DC.

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