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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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Comics Picks For 10.12.2014

Almost a month after the last time, I finally had a Magic 40 week! And not just any plan Magic 40 week, but one where I managed to read three graphic novels as well!

For this week, the surprise hits were Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1 from Vertigo Comics, Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #6 and Spider-Man & The X-Men #1 from Marvel Comics, Justice League #32-36 from DC Comics and The Valiant #1 from Valiant Comics. The comic (yes, the only one!) that proved to be rather disappointing, even unexpectedly so, was New Suicide Squad #5 from DC. Apart from that, a good run continued on several other titles like HexedJohn Carter: Warlord of MarsBatman: EternalBirthrightPrometheus: Fire and Stone and others.

The three graphic novels for this week were: Grimm Fairy Tales: Code Red Volume 1, which is set during the recent Age of Darkness crossover event from Zenescope Entertainment, Mighty Avengers Volume 2 from Marvel, which is an effort by me to catch up on this mostly-good title, and Supergirl Volume 1, which is an older Supergirl title, pre-New 52.

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 10.12.2014

This segment is proving to be quite interestingly popular in certain corners, and I still am taken with how it allows me to cover so many more comics than I would otherwise be able to. It is suitably time-intensive as well, which can sometimes wear on me when I have so much more to do, but not such a big deal. Plus, choosing which comic to feature here, while a challenge, is also quite a fun process in and of itself, so that’s something as well.

The picks for this week are: Brides of Helheim #3, Chastity #4-6, Dredd Uprise #2, Hexed #5, Spider-Verse Team-Up #2 and Prometheus: Fire and Stone #3-4. Lots of catch-up on the reviews this week, as you can see!

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Comics Picks For 08.10.2014

This week turned out to be even less productive on the reading front than the previous one, mostly because we had some guests over this weekend, and I was busy entertaining them for the duration of their stay rather than focusing on my reading as is usual. As such, I only got done through 24 singles and a single graphic novel. But thankfully most of them were good, so there’s that at least, and I’m still reading more now than I was reading last year.

The surprise hits of this week were Birthright #1 from Image Comics, Charmed Season 10 #1 from Zenescope Entertainment and Batman #35  from DC Comics. The comics that disappointed me this week were Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1 from Marvel Comics, Caliban #7 from Avatar Press, and The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #2 from Valiant Comics. Of the other titles, the ones that I really loved were recent ongoings like New Suicide Squad #3X-O Manowar #0 or even Death Vigil #4.

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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Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson (Book Review)

Largely because of how good Full Blooded was, the sequel Hot Blooded had an easy time of making it to my “Most Anticipated Books of 2013” list. Reading Full Blooded made me want to take more of an interest in mainstream urban fantasy, and on that front the sequel to Amanda Carlson’s debut delivered quite nicely. Jessica McClain was awesome all the way through, and while there were some faltering steps in here, it was still a great read, and I’d definitley recommend the series.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson (Book Review)

Full Blooded wasn’t my first urban fantasy read of 2012, not by a long shot, but it was definitely one of the most fun such books I read in that year. So much so that I made it a point to read more urban fantasy novels in 2013 (and 2014!), including some of the more… traditional types of urban fantasies that have become mainstream in the last decade or so. Full Blooded was a downright surprise, I can tell you that, and it also made me a fan of Amanda Carlson’s work, which has been quite satisfying an experience on all levels.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Banished by Liz de Jager (Book Review)

I haven’t had much of a chance to read debut novels this year, but I have read a few since this is sort of an unofficial challenge for me, to see how many debuts I can read in a year alongside all my other reading. Debut novels offer something very interesting and part of that is finding out a new voice, a new style, a new character, and a new story and world to go along with all of that. Of course, some debuts are good, some are bad. Some are really awesome, some are really terrible. It really runs the entire slider scale. And when a good friend and (former) fellow blogger makes it as a debut, then I have even more of a reason to read his/her book.

Banished is Liz de Jager’s first novel, and it is a superbly-crafted urban fantasy tale that takes some baseline genre concepts and then does quite an interesting twist on all of it, something that really works out well by the end. Kit Blackhart has become one of my favourite characters of the year, by far, and a lot of that is owing to how well she is characterized by Liz and the sorts of adventures that she gets dragged along into. And I really loved the whole “two minutes to midnight” feel of the story as well, which provided ample stakes and tension for the reader to latch on to.

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Comics Picks For 19.02.2014

Another very slow week, mostly due to traveling again. And now I’m in India for a cousin’s wedding, so I have big doubts that I will be able to read all that much in the next two weeks at least. Its certainly going to be quite a challenge.

Still, there were some really good entries this week, and I’d recommend almost all of them, barring like two of the issues. Definitely check out Kings Watch #1 if not anything else. More Phantom goodness? Hell yes, please!

Anyway, here’s another edition of this new feature. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Curse #2 (Comics Review)

Boom Studios debuted a new title last month, the supernatural horror tale Curse which features a werewolf among other elements. For a title that I’d picked up on a whim and thus didn’t really have any expectations for, it was surprisingly good with its debut issue. I enjoy a good werewolf story now and then so reading the same in comics form is quite a thrill. But that wasn’t all with the first issue, for it had a lot more going for it than I initially realised, and I had wondered then if the second issue would keep up with that and continue to develop the same.

I really shouldn’t have worried since the second issue, released earlier this week, did in fact build on every single plot element from the first issue. There is a mystery developing here that I find very intriguing and that can’t be said for most other such stories that I read. They often have quite a singular focus so its nice to see that the writers here have branched out to do a whole bunch of different things together. And of course, the art was just as impressive as in the first issue. I love all the contrasts in the backgrounds and the snowy landscapes that we get here.

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Twilight (Breaking Dawn Part 1): The End Begins

I saw the first three Twilight films for the first time some time in the summer of 2011, having borrowed them from a cousin. I had no idea what they were about, other than the fact that the covers had Kristen Stewart on them, as well as Robert Pattinson, the dead guy from Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire. I saw them, and I thought they were decent enough. They could be boring at times, and even outright dreadful, but they were okay nonetheless.

I get why a lot of people hate on the books and the adapted movies, but its not really bothered me all that much. They came, I saw them, that’s it. That’s one of the reasons why I eventually saw the final two films as well. Plus I was interested to know how things would eventually fall out with the characters. I suppose that the best thing that can be said for the books, and the movies, is that they marked a sort of revival for vampire/werewolf fiction everywhere. That’s fine with me.

Anyways, here’s a review of the fourth film in the series, which I saw at the theater, thanks to my curiosity.

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