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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Aether Revolt Banned & Restricted Update

For every major booster set release for Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast releases a special news update called the Banned & Restricted Announcement that seeks to inform the larger playerbase community on whether or not the powers that be have decided to ban, unban or restrict certain cards for the major sanctionable formats. Usually these announcements come just a week before the official paper release of the respective sets and outline how these formats might change. However, this past Monday some of this got thrown out the window for something that’s a real shake-up.

Coming in a full week early, the Aether Revolt edition yesterday of the B&R announcement has seen three premier cards banned from the Standard format, and two cards banned from the Modern format, with the other formats receiving no changes. The Standard bannings have shaken up the community in significant ways, and that is mostly what I will be talking about here, and touching on the Modern bannings as well. Overall, while I feel that all the bannings are deserved, there’s much to unpack here and it is not a clear-cut scenario at all.

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News: Dawn of War III Tie-ins From Black Library and Titan Comics Announced

Remember the golden year of 2005 when Relic Entertainment unleashed the phenomenon that was Dawn of War? I do! As a fan of the comics and novels for several years, Dawn of War was the perfect game for me for a number of reasons: I love RTS games, I love Warhammer 40,000, and their love-child was definitely going to be great. That was my working theory when I started playing Dawn of War and I was floored. Everything about the game, whether cutscenes or story or mechanics or gameplay or design or whatever, it was all top-notch. One of the most cathartic gaming experiences of my life. The games that followed, especially Dawn of War II: Dark Crusade just improved on that and I couldn’t be happier really. If there was any sore spot at all however, the tie-in novels from writer C. S. Goto were the anomaly. Tortorous and convoluted stories that seemed to do strange things with the lore, they are among the most unpopular of novels published by Black Library to date. But that’s all going to change, and here’s why.

Exactly five months to the day, Relic Entertainment announced that it was working on Dawn of War III and released the above trailer to the masses, causing a storm in the video game circles everywhere. The previous games are regarded highly, are considered among the best of their genre, and are tied to a fairly well-liked setting. And just in the last couple days we have received some more news about the game, namely that Black Library has hired author Robbie MacNiven to write the tie-in novel, and that Titan Comics will be doing the same for the comics medium. Cue more excitement and gushing and fangasming. Check after the break for the official announcements.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Previews Week 3

The second week (third week for Kaladesh because of PAX) of spoilers usually has very little exciting stuff to reveal. Most of the good stuff comes out in the first week, often on the first 2-3 days themselves, and then it is all mostly some promising rares and uncommons, maybe a spicy mythic or two. The first big wave of spoilers for Kaladesh certainly proved to be very interesting, and it is clear that there are some really powerful cards in store for us when the set releases next week.

The beginning of the final week of Kaladesh brought us the most surprising news of the year: the Masterpiece series and the Kaladesh Inventions. A range of 30 premium foil versions of artifacts from across Magic‘s history, it seems that these are the new norm for sets moving forward. And not only that, but we got tons of exciting cards that are sure to shake up not only Standard, but also make a splash in Modern and Legacy! So let’s see what’s all in store for us as the Kaladesh preview season ends.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Previews Week 2

Wizards of the Coast kicked off their previews for the upcoming set Kaladesh in great style at the PAX West convention, bringing us some fantastic new planeswalkers, new mechanics, and some really fantastic new cards that are sure to shake up the Standard format, and beyond. Against the backdrop of the Magic World Championship 2016, which was won by seasoned grinder Brian Braun-Duin (congrats, Brian!), the previews presentations were amazingly well-choreographed and it was certainly a unique experience as far as I’m concerned.

The second week of previews didn’t disappoint either, I must say. Not only did we get one more Planeswalker, we also got the planeswalkers for the Planeswalker Intro Packs, which have replaced the regular Intro Packs of old, and we saw some great new powerful cards that reintroduced characters who have been missing for some time. The world of Kaladesh looks as vibrant as the first round of previews suggested, if not better, and I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on some of these cards. So let’s get to it then!

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh at PAX

Ever since about the end of May, it has been a rollercoaster few months. It is as if the spoiler season hasn’t really ended. First it was the spoilers for Eternal Masters. Then soon after that it was time for spoilers for Conspiracy: Take The Crown. And then, just a few days ago, it was time for Kaladesh, the upcoming set for the game, releasing by the end of the month. Taking place at the PAX convention over the weekend, we got a ton of spoilers for the new set, which is all set to shake up the Standard format, and even more.

Kaladesh is going to mark a very significant point in the history of the game since it will be the first set to bring us players firmly into the new era of two-set blocks which started with the Battle For Zendikar block last year, and progressed with the Shadows Over Innistrad block this year. Whether it be the planeswalker Saheeli Rai or vehicles or the new Energy resource, Kaladesh is chock-full of awesome cards and awesome mechanics and I can’t wait to get my hands on these cards and get on with some spell-slinging with friends. Read the rest of this entry

Adventures In Magic the Gathering: The Modern Metagame

More than any other year in the last several years, the Modern format was put under an especially harsh scrutiny, owing to the January Banned & Restricted Announcement from Wizards of the Coast. Coming out just before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, this announcement decreed that two key format staples Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom were banned. Such is the price to pay for having a Modern PT. Unfortunately, during the PT, Eldrazi decks of various builds dominated the tournament, and in the months following, they were everywhere. It was a display of performance almost unmatched in the format’s history, necessitating a ban of the archetype staple Eye of Ugin in the next B&R update, as well as the announcement that Modern would no longer be a PT format.

Now, we are about five months from that day, and the modern meta has shifted considerably since then. There was the brief rise of Abzan CoCo as a powerful deck, but that phase too has passed. Now, the utter dominance of a single deck has given rise to a more diffuse dominance, where no one or two or even three decks are clearly at the top. Various new strategies have come up, challenging the top tier decks for their crown. And this diversity was highlighted this previous weekend in the Grand Prix tournaments held in Guangzho (China), Lille (France) and Indianapolis (USA). Here’s how the meta broke down.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon Spoilers Week 2

The first week of spoilers from Eldritch Moon proved to be fairly good. Lots of interesting, flavourful cards were revealed and while there were a good number of misses, there were plenty of hits as well, particularly Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Tamiyo, Field Researcher among others. The whole cosmic horror feel of the set is coming across well in all the cards, and that’s definitely a plus, since Shadows Over Innistrad dealt with it a bit tangentially whereas Eldritch Moon is the full and final realization for it. The plane of Innistrad is definitely doomed…

…unless Liliana, the Last Hope can save the day as she believes she can. We finally have the new card for Liliana, and it is definitely something that you have to see to believe (more on that below). We also got to see some more cool cards this past week, which help fill out the slots in various decks that needed them, such as spirits, which have gotten a big boost, and even zombies, to a degree. Werewolves still look to be a below average tribe though, and that’s mighty disappointing, given how much a signature element they are of the overall feel of the plane, and that last time they were much more competitive. Here goes…

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon Spoilers Week 1

Time flies in the world of Magic the Gathering it seems. It feels as if it was just yesterday that I was doing the spoilers for Shadows Over Innistrad, and now here we are, the first of official spoilers for the sequel Eldritch Moon already over. Spoiler season is one of the most anticipated aspects of a new set release for the game, and as many a time before, this past week hasn’t been all that disappointing. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the spoilers however, here’s the trailer for the set.

Since the reveal about the big bad of the set, and indeed the entire block, being the Eldrazi Titan Emrakul, it has certainly been an interesting ride. The reveal isn’t particularly that big since the powers-that-be were pretty hamfisted with the signals and following on from the Battle For Zendikar block, it isn’t that exciting a reveal either. However, putting that aside, some of the flavour of the set that has come out has been incredible, with some cool new mechanics, and a lot of the rares and uncommons look like they have serious potential. Not to mention the mythics, so let’s dive straight into the meat of the spoilers!

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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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Lore of Tarkir: Spirit’s Return Part 1

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.

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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 Prerelease

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!

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