So the ongoing PAX Prime 2015. That’s something that has been happening for a few days now. Now, my interest in PAX Prime is limited only to what news I can get about Wizards of the Coast and Magic the Gathering, so naturally, the ongoing Magic the Gathering World Championship and the much-hyped (with good reason!) Battle for Zendikar Preview Show are something I’ve been keeping an eye on. I’ve seen most of the day 1 competition so far, and its been exciting to a degree, but the BFZ Preview Show is where the real fun is at and that’s what I’m gonna talk about in this write-up.
Hosted by Wil Wheaton and Ashly Burch, the show kicked off last night and over the course of the roughly 40-min show, we got tons of information about the upcoming set (and block), which also included some fantastic new cards that are bringing back old mechanics while also giving new twists to them. Having just finished watching the entire Preview Show, with guests such as Doug Beyer of the Magic creative team, Mark Rosewater of the design and development team and Graham Stark of the Friday Nights fame, I can say with all honesty that it was an amazing experience. When the Battle For Zendikar set rolls out on October 2nd, it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun!
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!
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.
A new year means a new reading challenge of the “25 Series I Want To Read” variety. You can find a list of authors and series (the original post for the challenge that is) over here. In the past two years that I’ve been doing this, I kinda-sorta completed the challenge in 2013, and I definitely completed it last year. It is a really fun challenge to do, and allows me to pick and choose from a wide variety of genre greats and genre debuts (relatively speaking), which is one of the many reasons that I do it all. Plus, as a consequence, it also exposes me to a wider variety of fiction out there and gets me to connect with it all on a very different level, even series that I’ve read before becoming a blogger.
One of the first books I’ve read this year is the first Planeswalker novel for the Magic the Gathering setting from Wizards of the Coast, Agents of Artifice. This is pretty much an intro novel to the setting, and it definitely has a lot of typical Ari Marmell flavour, which I’ve experienced before in his Widdershins novels from Pyr Books, as well as his Darksiders novel from Del Rey. Following the Planeswalkers Jace Beleren and Liliana Vess, this novel explores the wonderful plane of Ravnica and is a fairly good read, though not without its flaws.
My only prior experience with card games is the old set of playing cards that used to come in the WWF and Cricket varieties. I still own dozens of cards in both… genres and I always get a great kick out of looking at them every few months when the fancy takes me. But I never played with those cards, not really. They were mostly just for collection. Plus, trading card games was never a major sport in India when I was growing up, and still isn’t, far as I can tell. Back in college, a friend once broached the idea of learning Magic the Gathering with his cards, but that never really went anywhere, though I remember that he used to own something like 500-600 cards or so in a custom-made box. Now that’s some dedication.
I bought a Boros Battalion intro pack for Gatecrash back in 2012 while attending my second Middle East Film and Comic Con in April of that year. My curiosity with the game had finally compelled me to go and buy that intro pack, but unfortunately I didn’t do anything with it. Not until October 2014 when I decided that it was time to play the game finally. I needed a new outlet for gaming since I hadn’t been able to play World of WarCraft for a number of years and my sort-of-aging laptop couldn’t play regular games for long either. And now I’m fully into Magic the Gathering. I’ve assembled what I hope is a damn good deck, and have also played in two high-level competitive events. And it gives me a really great feeling. It is like World of WarCraft all over again, except that instead of working on tweaking an MMORPG character, I’m developing a card gaming deck.
Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.
With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
The twelfth and final book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Erin M. Evans’ fourth and most recent Brimstone Angels novel, Fire In The Blood, the cover for which is done by Min Yum. I just posted my review of the novel, so you can head over to the post before this one to check it out, but suffice to say that Fire In The Blood happens to be the best novel in the series so far and that the ending of it gives me a lot of hope for the next novel, which Erin is currently in the process of writing and which will be called Ashes of The Tyrant.
The first of the twelfth and final set of comic covers I pick this year is for Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3 by Jim Zub, Max Dunbar, John-Paul Bove and Neil Uyetake with the cover by Sarah Stone. The second is for Hexed #5 by Michael Alan Nelson, Dan Mora, Gabriel Cassata and Ed Dukeshire with the cover by Dan. The third and final cover is for Secret Six #1 by Gail Simone, Ken Lashley, Drew Geraci, Jason Wright and Carlos M. Mangual with the cover by Dale Eaglesham and Jason. Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Hexed and Secret Six are three of the most recent and also best comics of 2014, and that’s aptly reflected by the internal and external content both, and it really gratifies to be able to share these great covers with you all.
So without further ado, hit the break to see all the covers in their full glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels series has proven to be quite a good one as it has progressed. These novels feature the tiefling twins Havilar and Farideh as the main characters, with a great cast of supporting chracters, each of whom is different from the other. And as great as the characters are, the plots themselves have been fairly engaging on a minimal level. I love reading the adventures of these two, with Farideh struggling to learn more about her warlock pact with the cambion devil Lorcan, and Havilar falling in love with a fellow young adventurer Aubrin Crownsilver, and both of them managing all of that while also taking down the bad guys one by one.
In the recently released Fire In The Blood, the fourth novel in the series, we pick up from where we left off at the end of The Adversary last year. The characters have all made their way to the city of Suzail, the capital of the Cormyr empire where Aubrin happens to be a noble, and even one with a half-strong claim to the throne itself. Things have been pretty rough for everyone, and Erin M. Evans revisits the concept of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Each character has to face a great many personal challenges as they are assaulted by tons of things on all sides, and have to figure out what they really want out of their lives and the events around them. Goes without saying really that Fire In The Blood is a pretty damn good novel and is certainly the best in the series so far.
The Adversary is the third novel in both the Brimstone Angels series and in the crossover The Sundering series which was the big event for Forgotten Realms last year. Massive upheavals on a multiversal scale aside, the novel also featured some major changes to the status quo when Lorcan’s sister Sairche tricked Havilar and Farideh into a bargain that sent them forward in time almost a decade, time which they lost and never recovered from. But that wasn’t everything of course and as The Sundering progressed in the other novels, with many old heroes returning all over the multiverse, the tiefling twins also took their place in the grand scheme of things with a climactic twist that changed them completely. The Adversary also made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 2” list at the end of last year, a deserved spot.
This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.