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.
It has been a while since I’ve done any reviews, largely due to the fact that I’ve barely read 10-12 novels in the last one year or so. Far cry from my regular 9-11 books a month before that. Just been a long period of “don’t really care, just want time off, too much work, ugh” and so on. Getting back into reading hasn’t exactly been easy since it is as if my reading mojo is gone. But thankfully, I’ve started to turn it around of late, and one of the books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently is Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves.
Black Wolves is the first novel in the trilogy of the same name. It follows a multitude of characters in a (low) fantasy setting and deals with the ruthless politics of a kingdom forged by the sword and inherited by weaker successors where the loyalties of good men and women are commodities. It is a very different kind of novel than I usually read, but I have a fair amount of experience with Kate’s diverse works, and Black Wolves doesn’t disappoint. It is a fun and entertaining read, though it could have used some trimming here and there to be a bit more brief.
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.
Dynamite Entertainment is not a publisher to shy away from doing crossovers and events every now and then. Sometimes you have crossovers such as Tarzan and John Carter, or Red Sonja and Witchblade or even Sherlock Holmes and Red Sonja and Vampirella all together fighting against a Hyborean villain of all things. I love reading crossovers and event books, primarily for the reason that they always have an exciting cast of characters where I’m not really familiar with many of them. Tarzan? Nope. Witchblade? Not at first. Vampirella? Not really. And Dynamite has a good track record with these things, so it makes for a much better experience that way too.
And the latest crossover/event from the publisher is Swords of Sorrow, a massive event that brings together heroes and villains from across worlds and timelines in an all-out battle. You have characters such as Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, etc fighting to defend all of reality against Hel, Purgatori, Chastity and others. This could all be easily summed up as a feminist crossover given the incredible number of (great) female characters represented, and both the writing by Gail Simone and the art by Sergio Davila is absolutely top-notch.
For the Super Sunday Series Championship 2015 in the weekend of the 24-25th January this year, Wizards of the Coast ran a slightly different limited format for part of the event: Sealed Draft. In Booster Draft, the way it works is that you draft 3 boosters to build a 40-card deck (including lands), and in Sealed Deck, the way it works is that you open 6 boosters to build a 40-card deck (again, including lands), and then you just play. But Wizards mixed the two together so that you opened 3 packs to build towards a deck, and then drafted 3 more packs to create your full pack and then go play and have some fun.
My previous experience with Limited in Khans of Tarkir block is with Fate Reforged Limited and Dragons of Tarkir Limited. They were decent experiences, but nothing particularly standout, and that’s fine with me since I look at Limited as less competitive and more for the fun of opening packs, drafting, and playing weird decks, which can sometimes work out well or just totally fall flat. So for this past weekend, I suggested the Sealed Draft format to my LGS owner. It is something that no one has played before, so I thought that it would be a great opportunity and an experiment as well. And I like to think that it worked out rather well inf act!
A few days ago I did my write-up of the 4th Middle East Film and Comic Con in which I talked about my experience playing in the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier for Milwaukee. It was a huge event with some 60-62 players, and it also was the biggest Magic the Gathering event to be held in the Middle East, which in itself is a huge achievement for the game in the region. I played the tournament with a funky deck that, while not realistically competitive, was a lot of fun to play in a lot of different ways, especially given the kind of decks I faced off against.
As part of that entire play experience, there were some cards from my deck that were pretty much MVPs. Matches where these cards stuck out on the board, I was able to win most of the time, and in many of the matches I lost, I lamented not being able to draw them (except lands of course, which doesn’t really count!). I’ve talked about my deck before and even some cards that I’ve been looking forward to playing in a competitive tournament, and this was a great opportunity to find out whether or not my excitement was justified. Which it was!
The finale of Game of Thrones Season 4 came at the end of a rather troubling season in general, with the writers making some really questionable departures from the source material and the directors being a bit too convinced of their own infallibility with respect to the final product. Still, as such things go, the finale wasn’t all that bad and it ended on a fairly positive note for many of the arcs that it touched, such as where Arya ends up after she disposes off of The Hound and sets out for herself, or even Tyrion killing his father and Shae both, for betraying hmm in the worst ways possible.
And this all brings us to season 5, which began this past Sunday, and generated an immense amount of controversy from the get go, namely that the first four episodes had been leaked together from sources that HBO had sent them to for review purposes. Hardly generates confidence, that. Either way, the season 5 premiere is of the grim and somber variety. Nothing really happens in this episode other than he viewers getting to touch base with some of the storylines and seeing what consequences past events have wrought on the world of Westeros and beyond. The characters are trying to find their feet once again, and moving forward, things should be… interesting.
The first Middle East Film and Comic Con happened back in 2012, three years ago, and it was a huge success for fans of all types of entertainment media. We all are so familiar with the big conventions that happen in San Diego and Boston and London and other places all throughout the year, and so, having a “local” on a somewhat similar level is a great thing to have, by far. I’ve certainly enjoyed my three years of going to the convention and while there have been some hiccups along the way, as there were this year, the MEFCC is still a great force to reckon with and should things really work out at the top level, then we can make some magic happen I think.
This year’s MEFCC was billed to be bigger than it was last year, primarily on the back of a guest list that included as superb celebrities like William Shatner, Haley Atwell, Gillian Anderson, while also bringing in some top western comics talent like Charles Soule, Andy Suriano, Matt Hawkins, Tula Lotay and Mahmud Asrar. That was pretty much the reason I wanted to go this year, in addition to the fact that I was taking part in a Magic the Gathering tournament at the event, the PPTQ Milwaukee. Here then is my kinda-sorta log of the event, such as it was.
Just a few days ago I did a post in this series where I talked about some of my favourite cards to play from Dragons of Tarkir, cards that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a fair bit and cards that I really like. Having played Magic for as little time as I have, barely five and a half very inconsistent months, I’ve nevertheless found myself getting attached to a lot of different cards and while I started out as a Sultai (BUG) player, I’ve since gravitated towards playing Abzan (WGB) and have stuck with that change as well. Sure, Dragons of Tarkir has seemingly simplified things for me by removing the black from the clan colours, but I still play full Abzan and I have a blast with it too.
This new article is something very different however. For a few weeks now I’ve been working towards building an entirely different deck, one that apparently used to be popular early last year but has since kind of fallen through the cracks with the incoming rotation of Khans of Tarkir last September. The deck is Blue/White Heroic, which counts as its staples a number of cards from the Theros block while supplementing in a few spells from Khans of Tarkir. Just this past weekend, Tom “the Boss” Ross piloted a version of this same deck to a Top 8 finish at StarCityGames Syracuse, and watching him play that deck, I got really excited because some of the amazing combos and finishers. So, that’s what this article is about, the deck named Bant Heroic.
A while back I did a small recap of my small forays into the world of Magic the Gathering CCG and I mentioned how exciting and fun I found the whole experience to be, despite my complete lack of familiarity or even any kind of expertise with the game. But that certainly hasn’t stopped me at all ever since. To date, I’ve done a number of events, including two prereleases (for the Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir sets) and a Game Day, and I feel that I’m slowly starting to become a better player.
And that’s what it is all about, becoming a better player through experience. I make mistakes often, such as deciding when to play lands, or pulling off certain combos or what have you and often it comes back to bite me in the ass real bad. There are so many times when I’ve lost straight games, and even losing to the same person in four different events and all of them without a win to my name. But not so big a deal. Last time I talked about mostly my plays in competitive games. This time, I’m gonna talk about some of my favourite cards from the new set, Dragons of Tarkir, that I’ve been having a blast with.
As I have said before, my “25 Series To Read In 201x” reading challenge is meant to allow me to touch base with trilogies (and longer series) that are out in publication currently and have proven to be big successes while also going back to read some classics, especially a few favourites that I have not revisited in the longest time. For this year’s challenge, one of the series that found its way to my list is the Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, a trilogy that stands as one of the best fantasy series I’ve read to date, for far too many reasons. And going back to it last month proved to be a blast.
The Empire trilogy is set on the world of Kelewan in the Empire of Tsuranuanni. In his Riftwar Saga trilogy, Raymond introduced us to the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan which became locked in a grand war across time and space. In this particular trilogy with Janny, he tells us of the events happening on the other side of the conflict, as the Riftwar novels mostly focus on Midkemia. The books focus on young Mara of the Acoma, the last scion of her family as she struggles to rebuild her family’s fortunes and carves out her own political identity in a world of strict social mores and ruthlessly cunning rivals.