Gods, heroes, monters and magic. Sounds like fun to me!

Not an image from Theros... but Elspeth is the planewalker in the center, and she has been said to have a large role in Theros.

Not an image from Theros… but Elspeth is the planeswalker in the center, and she has been said to have a large role in Theros.

I thought I’d have more time to explore Innistrad before information about Theros started coming out, but I was wrong. So I’m going to have to jump ship on the Innistrad posts and focus my attention on Theros. There is definitely not as much known about Theros yet, but that makes it more exciting! There are two parts published from the Planeswalker’s Guide to Theros, but it’s different reading them before the set is released — all the art could be on cards, but maybe not. And all the names and places mentioned could also be found on cards… but then again, I have no idea. It’s almost like a fun game. But one thing that we do know: the gods will actually be cards. So that seems like a good place to start looking at the Vorthos of Theros.

THE GODS

There are five main gods on Theros: Heliod, Thassa, Erebos, Purphoros and Nylea. Each of them match up with a color in MTG. They are said to live in the Land of Nyx, where humans sometimes visit in their dreams. The gods are also believed to be living enchantments, so both enchantments and dreams are seen as gifts from the gods. Enchantments are seen as a special, more divine form of magic, which makes sense since Wizards has said that Theros is going to be an enchantment-based block. The one god card that has been spoiled is Thassa, and she her card type is a legendary enchantment creature, which seems like it could be really cool to play with, but also definitely goes along with the Vorthos aspect of Theros, which is really cool. I’m excited to see what the other god cards are like. For now, I’ll just speculate based on the descriptions of the gods released…

Heliod, God of the Sun —  Heliod is associated with justice, and his domain includes family honor, morality and even marriages. He wields Khrusor, the Sun Spear, and it’s said that he can throw it down from Nyx and hit any point in Theros. Apparently there are legends that say Heliod destroyed a whole city, or Polis, with Khrusor. Heliod’s personality is self-assured and proud, and he has an aura of brilliance. But Heliod is said to be very fickle… “Heliod’s greatest ally today might be the target of his retribution tomorrow.” That doesn’t stop almost everyone from worshipping him at least a little, even if it’s just a wink in the direction of the dawn light in the morning as a sign of respect. The summer solstice is dedicated to celebrating Heliod, and is three full days of feasts, weddings and declarations of devotion.

Thassa, God of the Sea — Along with the obvious domain of the sea, Thassa is also said to be the god of ancient knowledge, introspection and the passage of time. She is discontent with how things are, but isn’t one to act quickly or rashly. She is dedicated to gradual change. She wields Dekella, a powerful bident that allows her to control the tides and whirlpools. But there is a legend that she turned a sailor’s whole family to eels after he stole Thassa’s bident to destroy an enemy fleet. Thassa is hard to anger, but impossible to placate once she is. Tritons are Thassa’s biggest worshipers, but she shows no favoritism to them. Anyone traveling out to sea also makes a point to honor Thassa.

Erebos, God of the Underworld — As Heliod is the god of the sun, Erebos is the god of the shadow. Erebos accepts his role, and even stands behind Heliod. Erebos is the god of death, obviously, but he’s also the god of misfortune, envy, wealth and other vices. Erebos carries Mastix, an impossibly long and powerful whip that is more often used to keep reluctant dead in the underworld than actually inflict pain. Even though Erebos daydreams about the sun, he finds peace in the fact that every mortal will join him eventually. And suffering doesn’t bring him delight, but he knows it brings others understanding of him and his position in the world. His worshipers belong to three groups: “those who exalt death, those who desire wealth, and those who pray for acceptance of their fates.” The first is the most dangerous, the second is the largest, but the third group is closest to Erebos’s heart.

Purphoros, God of the Forge — Purphoros’s domain is over fire, the forge and “restless earth”. “[Purphoros] rules the raw creative force of heat and energy that fills the souls of sentient beings. His energy emerges as chaos, something to be harnessed and shaped by labor and passion.” Because of this, he’s also the god of creation and destruction, artists and obsession. Purphoros’s signature item is really cool — he wields Akmon, a hammer that is insanely powerful. A blow from Akmon can reduce earth to its molten form and when it strikes metal each spark becomes an enchantment. Purphoros inspires those who come into his presence. He creates beautiful items, but immediately destroys them to start again. He always thinks there is something more to be said or created and he is forever stretching the “bounds of mortal imagination”. This can leave him frustrated, though, and he can lash out with raw power and destruction. His main worshipers are smiths, who brought both bronze and iron to Theros, but he is also worships by artists when they’re creating pieces of work and warriors when they’re lighting fires.

Nylea, God of the Hunt — Nylea controls the seasons and the forests. She is seen as the god of rebirth because of her control over the seasons, and the god of predation and hunger because of her control of the forests. She is Theros’s finest archer, wielding the shortbow Exphixis. And although Nylea has no problem with hunting for food, she does not allow hunting for sport. If you don’t ask for her blessing to hunt the animals in the forest, she will hunt you down. Nylea is easy to anger if humans are interfering too much with her realm. She allows Puphoros to unleash fires in parts of her realm, if she doesn’t like what’s going on. Nymphs and humanoid creatures, like Centaurs and Satyrs, worship Nylea for the most part, but humans do as well, especially when they want the seasons to cooperate. There are no temples built in her honor, and she hates sacrifices. In fact, Nylea is very hard to please. But Nylea is not always mean — she is often playful and joyful. She just likes things happening in their natural order.

So there you have it. Theros’s five main gods. In the guide there was another god mentioned: Karametra, god of the hearth (who doesn’t get along with Nylea), so I think there will be demigods, which makes sense since Theros is MTG’s take on Greek mythology. And looking at the gods, you can definitely see the inspiration. I love Greek mythology, so I’m really excited to learn more about Theros.

All for now,
Bale

Which god do you like the best? What do you think of Theros so far? 

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Bale does actually watch TV shows…

image downloaded from wallpaperbest.com

image downloaded from wallpaperbest.com

Ever since I implemented my self-imposed Netflix limitation, I have cut down on the amount of hours spent watching TV. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had the occasional binge session on a sick day, or that I haven’t enjoyed good shows coming out. Because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of good shows out there. So I thought for this week’s non-magic Wednesday I’d share some of my favorites with you guys.

Bale’s top TV shows

The following shows are my favorites of the past few months. I don’t watch much, so there are only a few. But I do highly recommend all of them.

  • The Newsroom (HBO) — When this show first came out last year, I immediately fell in love with it. I was a journalism major in college and interned at two different TV stations, so I had an immediate connection to the show. I loved the premise: quality reporting needs a place on cable news networks. “The Newsroom” takes real news stories from the past couple years and shows its fictional reporting team covering them. The second season has more of an overarching storyline to it, and it’s really good. Season one was about showing how news should be covered, and season two is about showing how hard it can be to get facts right… and, in a way, how news should not be covered. Anyways, “The Newsroom” has definitely found a place in this journalism nerd’s heart, and I definitely recommend it.
  • House of Cards (Netflix) — Before I actually watched “House of Cards”, a lot of my friends told me I’d love it. There was a journalist as a main character, and it presents a critical look at how things really get done in Washington with Kevin Spacey starring as a vengeful senator. But I was skeptical. I don’t really like politics — I have my opinions,  I respect other people’s opinions, I discuss it occasionally and I vote. That’s it. I didn’t really think I’d like it in my entertainment. Boy was I wrong. I started “House of Cards” on a day I stayed home sick from work and pretty much didn’t move all day because I was too engrossed in the story. It’s dramatic. It’s fairly unrealistic. And I hated the journalist character. But I couldn’t stop watching because the storyline was too intriguing. It’s the perfect mix of mystery and revenge. I finished the whole season in less than a week, which definitely means it’s at least entertaining.
  • Game of Thrones (HBO) — The third season has been over for a while, but I never missed an episode. It’s one of those shows that once you’re invested in, you can’t really stop. I have mixed feelings about the series, though, because I don’t really enjoy the books. I read the first one and started the second, but I really don’t like the writing style or George R. R. Martin’s storytelling. The series makes for a much better TV shows than books, at least in my opinion. (Hopefully the first and last time I’ll ever write that sentence.) The books are too episodic, with very little overarching storyline to follow; something that works much better on screen. So even though I have made several attempts to read the series, I’ve decided to just wait for the TV show and enjoy the soap-opera-esque series that way. Although after a certain episode in season three, I almost gave up. I’ll see what season four has in store, though, before I give up entirely. And don’t get me wrong. GoT is a really good fantasy show, which is why I love it. I’m just a little snobby when people start comparing it to “Lord of the Rings” and saying GRRM is as talented as JRR Tolkien. Because that is definitely NOT true. But if you enjoy fantasy, you’ll enjoy GoT at least enough to watch the show.
  • Orange is the New Black (Netflix) — Astro convinced me to give this show a chance. I’d heard good things from other friends as well, but I didn’t really think a show about prison would interest me. At all. But Netflix surprised me again. I haven’t gotten through the whole first season yet, but I’m making steady progress. The best part of the show is the character development. “Orange is the New Black” tells the inmates’ stories through flashbacks, which is a neat way to get to know the characters as they were before they were incarcerated while explaining why they’re in prison. The flashbacks also often give you an idea of why the inmates act the way they do, which is also neat. I wouldn’t say “Orange is the New Black” is the best show ever, but I do really enjoy it so far.

Honorable mentions

These shows are shows I’ve watched and enjoyed, but are purely entertaining. No emotional attachment necessary for these. And all of these can be found on Netflix.

  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — for hilarious fashion, food, interior design and ‘culture’ advice from the early 2000s, look no further. Entertaining as hell, but not the best show ever.
  • Say Yes to the Dress — Wedding dresses and emotional girls. Drama ensues. It’s awesome.
  • Coupling — A British comedy that came before “Friends” that somebody told me was its inspiration, “Coupling” is about six friends and is hilariously raunchy and pretty much all about sex and relationships. If you need a good laugh, give it a shot. (If you’re not easily offended, that is.)
  • The IT Crowd — Another British comedy that is just downright funny. It’s all about a couple of socially awkward guys who work in IT, and the definitely-not-tech-savvy girl who ends up in their department.

So there you have it. My favorite TV shows from the past several months. I wouldn’t say these are my favorite of all time (I just realized Law and Order: SVU never made an appearance), but I really like all these shows, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

All for now,
Bale

What are some of your favorite TV shows? 

I’ve never been more excited for pick-a-pack.

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that's the most important part of a hobby, right?

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that’s the most important part of a hobby, right?

Last Friday was not a successful night. Again, I thought my draft went well, but the matches didn’t go as well as anticipated. But hey, at least I got to hang out with my friends, right? Good thing I wrote my last post before going to another FNM … it was a good reminder that Magic is actually supposed to be a FUN hobby, not something to torture myself with. So I still managed to have fun, even if my record was terrible. (And not entirely because of the bar down the street from my LGS, but it didn’t hurt 😉 )

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I opened a Shivan Dragon, which I was pretty happy about. I had to pass A TON of good removal, including Shock, Chandra’s Outrage AND Volcanic Geyser, but I couldn’t pass up on the dragon. I noticed pretty early that black was also open, so I got a few Liturgy of Bloods, and some other really strong black cards. Going into pack two I was pretty confident I’d be able to get plenty of good playables.

Pack Two — I opened another Scavenging Ooze. I was happy, despite not being able to play it. But again, I had to pass up some really good things I wanted in my deck, including more removal and a Blood Bairn. I’d picked up an Act of Treason in pack one, so I was really looking for some sacrifice outlets. Luckily, I was able to pick up a couple really strong creatures — including a Goblin Diplomats, two Corpse Haulers and two Academy Raiders — in pack two, in addition to a couple Altar’s Reaps.

Pack Three — I got incredibly lucky with my pack: I opened Liliana! I was already in black and I got the black planeswalker. So awesome. And even though she’s not the best, having a planeswalker in limited is very good. I also got some other good creatures to fill out my curve and top end, including some Minotaur Abominations, a Pitchburn Devils and a Regathan Firecat. I also got a Fireshrieker, which makes every creature better. I also passed a pretty late Bogbrew Witch because I didn’t have any of the combo pieces, but I did pick up a Guardian of the Ages.

THE MATCHES

I’ll go through these quickly — nothing too notable happened, and despite it being six rounds, I didn’t actually play two of them.

Match one (0-2) — The first game was close. I got ahead, but didn’t anticipate a main boarded Lava Axe, which ended up killing me. The second game was not close at all. I mulled down to six and kept a two land hand with a two drop and a three drop, but never actually drew a third land.

Match two (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t show up, so I got the win by default. I ended up playing a match for fun. My new opponent was playing a really strong Sliver deck. I won our match 2-1, but she faltered on mana both times, and I curved out perfectly. It was great. The game I lost was frustrating — I wasn’t dead on board, but could have killed one of her three Blur Slivers on board with a Liturgy. I didn’t, though, cause I was at 14 life, so I didn’t think it would really make a difference — even if I killed one all her slivers would still have haste. The next turn she played Battle Sliver and got through a lethal alpha because she still had all those Blur Slivers. Oh well, it was just for fun.

Match three (2-1) — The first two games were won because one or the other of us had mana issues. They weren’t really games at all. In the game I won, though, I got out Liliana on turn four, which was satisfying. The third game was frustrating for me because my opponent was playing a fairly strong U/B control deck with lots of quality removal/ counter spells. Every time I tried to cast a creature I was pretty much unsuccessful. Then he played out Bogbrew Witch, which I used my Liliana to kill — he didn’t have the cauldron, but he had the newts and a Blood Bairn as a sac outlet. Then he cast Opportunity, followed by an Elixir of Immortality that he used, even though he wasn’t really in any danger of dying. As a result, he actually got to cast Opportunity again. There’s really no coming back from that.

Match four (2-0, paired against Steve) — I played well, but my deck just didn’t get there. Game one was long because we both stalled and kept drawing lands, but he got out of it sooner and was able to get rid of basically my whole board (a Corpse hauler, a Firecat and Guardian of the Ages) by using Flames of the Firebrand, attacking and then making me sacrifice my Guardian with Celestial Flare. The game was over pretty quickly after that. The second game wasn’t as good as the first, even though I got Liliana out. Again, I played well (as far as I can remember), but it just didn’t work out. After the match, Steve and I decided to go and drink some beer — neither of us was having a great night and as Nummy’s tweet pointed out, the best thing to do when on tilt from Magic is just drink beer. YEAH.

Match five (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t want to play, so he gave me the match. End of story. No playing for fun this time, since I went down to the bar to hang out with other friends who’d dropped/ weren’t playing the round.

Match six (0-2, technically) — I was pretty good friends with the guy I was paired up with, and since he’d been paired down and needed to win the match to make top 12, I gave it to him. Even if I won, I didn’t have a chance. We played for fun and he got it 2-1, but the game I won was really epic. I played my Shivan Dragon (that I hadn’t seen all night) out THREE TIMES. He kept killing it, but I brought it back with my Corpse Haulers. And when he played his not-as-awesome dragon, I was able to Act of Treason it AND sacrifice it with Alters Reap. It was wonderful.

So even though I had a crappy record, I still had a fairly fun evening. The games I won were good games, and so were most of the games I lost. It seems like I still haven’t gotten the hang of this set, so I’ve been thinking about drafting online. I think it could really up my game, and I might (MIGHT) even stream if I feel like it. I’ve been watching a lot of streams lately, and I think it could be fun. I don’t have a great set up, but I do have everything I need on my computer to stream since Astro and I thought we would at the beginning. Who knows though — I’m running out of steam on my three posts a week schedule already. But drafting online would be a really good way to improve my skills, and if I want to play well at the GP in Oklahoma City, I probably should. I’ll keep you guys updated, of course.

All for now,
Bale

How do you avoid tilting when playing games? Do you watch Magic streams or other game streams online? 

 

Why I keep playing, even when I lose.

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No... but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did... and it was not awesome.)

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No… but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did… and it was not awesome.)

I’ve devoted a bunch of my posts over the past several months to tracking my progress at FNM. Every week, save for a couple exceptions, I wrote down how my draft went, my record and what I’d learned from the night. It has helped me think critically and analyze my playing and that has probably helped me become a stronger player.

But if I wrote my normal recap this week I might get so discouraged I won’t want to go back to FNM on Friday. I might throw my draft deck across my room. And I might just become inexplicably annoyed for the rest of the day. So I’m going to save Astro and my coworkers from that and just not. But I do owe you guys a post about this weekend, simply because I played A LOT of Magic. I went to draft on Friday (obviously) and then on Saturday I decided to play in my LGS’s Standard Sealed tournament. Which meant I spent nearly 16 hours at my LGS over those two days.

On Friday I went 1-3-1 with a deck a U/W deck I thought was fairly strong. I had mana troubles again, but the biggest issue was the fact I only had two or three creatures that could really count as win conditions. I was really good at stalling (hence the unintentional draw), and creating a board presence that was impossible for my opponent to get through, but if I didn’t get my good creatures out all I was able to do was delay the inevitable. Which, as you might have guessed, was very frustrating. My cards of note were Opportunity, Serra Angel, Pacifism and Water Servant. The Pacifism actually tabled for me in my second pack, I was astonished. However, I found out later that the guy to my right was hate drafting white all night — he said he picked up TWO Serra Angels and an Angelic Accord. I was really annoyed, but it made sense: I knew white was open, but I wasn’t getting many extremely good cards because of him. And at our LGS we have so many people hate drafting is not even helpful; I didn’t play him all night, and all he did was make my deck worse. I was especially annoyed when I remembered I’d drafted to the right of him last week too. Who knows what picks I missed out on!

On Saturday I tried my hand at sealed again. The only other times I’ve played in sealed tournaments have been the prereleases. So I don’t really have much experience even with a normal six-pact sealed environment. The Standard Sealed pool was a booster of each set in standard right now, which is eight packs. And I only started playing at the very end of RTR, so there were a lot of packs I haven’t played much with. (Thank goodness of pick-a-pack!) That meant I had to cut down a pool of 100+ cards to only 23. It was stressful, but I managed to make my deck with only a small amount of input from my neighbors. I didn’t want to depend on other people because when I go to the GP in Oklahoma City I won’t be able to at all. Luckily it was really easy for me to pick red as my main color — I had basically all the red removal and some really strong creatures, including Mondronen Shaman. It was between black and blue for my second color — I had more removal in both colors and some really strong creatures as well. Plus, I had Duskmantle Seer and Haunter of the Night Veil, so I knew I would probably splash for those no matter what. I ended up picking blue because I had some good control cards, like Opportunity, but I decided to take out the Seer and just splash black for Doom Blade and the Night Veil. One of the guys building next to me suggested taking out the seer because it could go very badly for me, too. I ended up only going 2-3, but I had a really good time overall.

On both Friday and Saturday I had moments of huge disappointment. I was annoyed at myself because I thought my decks were decent and I just could not get there. I had mana issues both days (out of all the packs I opened, I got zero fixing) and it’s just as hard to play your cards when you’re stuck on three mana as it is when you just don’t draw spells. But I never conceded a game because I tend to think there is a chance I could draw SOMETHING that could help me, and if I play well I could still have a chance. But that doesn’t make the losses any less frustrating. In fact, it kind of makes it worse, because I had moments where I was just convinced I was a terrible Magic player. But I kept playing. I couldn’t help it… I have only dropped once, and I regretted it almost immediately. Every game is an opportunity to learn.

After I scrubbed out of the tournament on Saturday, I stuck around while the Top Eight was played out and hung out with the guy who runs our tournaments. He’s super nice and really helpful. We played a couple matches, and despite the fact I lost most of them I had a lot of fun. After a couple of matches with my original deck, he looked through my pool and swapped the blue out for the black. What he came up with a red/ black control deck with a blue splash for the Duskmantle Seer, Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. We played several more matches and swapped decks to play more. I don’t even remember how many games we played, but it was a lot. And I lost a lot, but since it was not in a competitive situation I didn’t get nearly as frustrated when I didn’t pull any of my blue mana and when we swapped decks he had no color issues. So not fair. But it reminded me that it is just part of the game — when all of your blue mana is at the bottom of the library, it’s kind of hard to draw it.

Playing all of those games and talking to the judge also made me realize that I really am still kind of a MTG newbie. I’d finally gotten the hang of drafting the RTR block when M14 came out, and I’m having a harder time adjusting to the new format than I expected. But it makes sense — it’s my first non multicolored set and the drafting strategies are different because of that.

And when my LGS’s judge messaged me later apologizing for not explaining more elaborately about his changes to my deck because it wouldn’t help me later, I realized how awesome my LGS really is. The people I play Magic with there are one of the main reasons I play every week. Not because I need to be the best, but because Magic people are awesome. My play group is full of wonderful people who genuinely care about each other. They’re helpful, awesome and very good at cheering me up when I’m frustrated.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately, and partly it’s because of my recaps. I want to be improving, and I want you guys to read about successful nights, not failures. It’s increased the pressure I put on myself to win matches, which makes it harder when I lose. As a result, I don’t have as much fun because I’m too hard on myself. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And it shouldn’t be ALL about winning, but also about having fun and enjoying the company of my friends.

So next Friday I’ll try to keep that in mind. After all, if I didn’t like the people at my LGS, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so into the game. So screw you, mana problems and annoying hate drafters… you can’t ruin my fun! My friends are too awesome for that.

All for now,
Bale

Why do you keep playing MTG (or other games) when you hit a losing streak? What brings you back to the game?

Werewolves, geists and ghouls… oh my!

An alpha werewolf. Off the card "Howlpack Alpha"

An alpha werewolf. Off the card “Howlpack Alpha”. Image downloaded from the Wizards Wallpaper of the Week archive.

Last week I wrote about how I definitely wouldn’t want to be a human living on Innistrad. It just seems like there are a lot of things out to get them. There are all sorts horrific creatures living on the plane: werewolves, vampires, skaab creatures, zombies, geists and vampires. Each of them have a region of Innistrad that they mostly stick to, but humans live among them in every place.

Werewolves

The werewolf is a creature of duality, forever dragged between two worlds: it is both monster and man, nature and civilization, rational thought and raw savagery. — Planeswalker’s guide to Innistrad: Kessig and Werewolves

Werewolves on Innistrad are so abundant in the Kessig region that they’ve almost eradicated other supernatural beings from the area. There are geists in Kessig as well, but werewolves are the biggest threat to humans. Some werewolves roam together in ‘howlpacks’, the biggest of which is the Krallenhoard. It’s ranged from 50 werewolves to 200 at different points, and when the people of Innistrad think of howlpacks, they usually picture the Krallenhoard. There are two other notable howlpacks: the Mondronen and the Leeraug. The Mondronen werewolves practice dark, bloody and carnal magic, and as the power of Avacyn wanes, their dark magic has spread. The Leeraug howlpack is the smallest, but the most brutal. They hunt under the new moon, not the full moon and mostly go after children.

Werewolves are humans afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, which can overtake them in one night. There is a ritualistic first hunt during which the human is lured into the wilderness by howls of other werewolves. Throughout the night, the human’s will is overtaken by the desires of his newfound werewolf side. He becomes more and more like a werewolf, and “as he sinks his teeth into bloody flesh, the curse perceptibly takes hold, and he transforms fully into canid form for the first time”. From that point on when the werewolf is in human form he (or she) must be very diligent in prayer and self-control if they don’t want to transform. Innistrad werewolves can’t stop the transformation on full moons, but transformations can also occur with strong emotions or traumatic experiences.

There is much more detail about the transformations and werewolf life in the guide, but I have to move on  if I’m ever going to tell you about the other scary creatures on Innistrad!

The Undead

The geists, zombies and ghouls were explained in conjuction with Nephalia, the seaport region of Innistrad. There is a large population of humans in Nephalia, which means the undead are also more numerous. The tide and ocean also bring in spirits and ghost to the area. The undead are separated into a few different groups: the unhallowed (zombies), skaabs and geists.

The unhallowed are corpses raised from the dead by necromancers, or ghoulcallers. These “black-mana mages” raise the dead from graveyards, or grafs. There are different kinds of grafs, which changes what type of unhallowed the ghoulcallers will raise. There are fengrafs, where cobblers, smiths and other common folk were buried; seagrafs, where fisherman were buried; and diregrafs, the site of gruesome battles. The unhallowed, though pretty much mindless, often revert to their skills from their past to help them kill people.

Blacksmiths attempt to “reforge” their opponents, fallen warriors emit rasping pseudo-cries, and undead murderers reawaken their taste for killing. Occasionally, fallen mages even show a limited ability to weave spells, but this often results in some aberration of the spell’s original purpose. — A Planeswalkers guide to Innistrad: Nephalia and the Undead

The skaab are creatures created by skabaren, or practicers of necro-alchemy. Necro-alchemy is the art of creating life out of death. They the following steps (taken also from the guide) to create the skaab.

  • Corpus Creare, also known as “corpse cobbling,” is the collecting of various anatomical parts from corpses from which the skaab will be constructed. This is usually performed by paid grave robbers or homunculi under the skaberen’s charge. In some cases, even the limbs of beasts are used for the construct; if a human arm is not available, a horse’s leg can suffice.
  • Patin Ligitus, or rune-bonds, are the “binding plates” used to join various anatomical features together. These are plates of copper and/or brass, with silver-inlaid runes scribed on them. They provide an arcane bridge of sorts between disparate parts gathered by corpse-cobbling.
  • Viscus Vitae, or vital fluid, is the key to the skaberen’s art. Viscus vitae is created by mixing a large quantity of lamp oil with the slightest pinch of the dried blood of an angel. Once a perfect mixture of viscus vitae is created, any blood remaining in the corpse is replaced with vital oil, via transfusion. As a result, skaab are often highly flammable.
  • Vox Quietus, translated as “the silent word,” is the final step in creating a skaab. The skaberen whispers a fairly lengthy incantation over the corpse which awakens the creature, but in a much calmer manner that that which is used by ghoulcallers. Once awakened, the skaab is in a calm, “tabula rasa” state, which allows the alchemist to begin the long task of re-educating the creature. In the eyes of a skaberen, the technique used by ghoulcallers is crude, heretical, and provides unacceptable results.

I want to know who would WANT to become a skaberan. They sound very creepy and messed up. And the skaab sound terrifying!

Onto geists. Some geists are malevolent and some are benevolent, but it seems that since Avacyn disappeared they have become more malevolent. And before Avacyn, they were all malevolent, but she was able to create a balance through being a psychopomp for the dead. There are geists aligned with every color of mana. White geists tend to be more benevolent and protectors of their family, but not all of them. Some have guilt remaining from their life, or are out to avenge their deaths. Blue-aligned geists tend to attack the minds of people, causing obsessive behavior or, in some cases, schizophrenia, epilepsy or other mental illnesses. Black geists hunger for power and are almost always malevolent. They can be appeased with offerings, but when they’re not satisfied, they’re responsible for disease and disaster. Red-aligned geists attach themselves to emotions, desires and revenge and can appear in a variety of forms including “blood mist” that “engulf a hapless victim and inflict cuts and welts that are slow to heal.” Green geists want to be connected to nature so they entwine themselves with animals and plants. This can lead to disastrous results though… “If the spirits that inhabit landforms are not appeased, it can often result in blight, crop failure, and famine”.

So basically, no matter what type of geist it is, a geist can wreak havoc if it chooses to. Awesome.

I was planning on talking about vampires today, too, but I’ve run out of time. Plus, I’m sufficiently creeped out after reading about all of the other creatures, so I’ll leave the vamps to next week, along with the demons.

Until next time, Innistrad…
Bale

What do you think about Wizard’s versions of these creatures? 

Different perspectives, different stories.

Astro's copies of "Ender's Game", "Speaker for the Dead" and "Xenocide" she's so generously letting me borrow.

Astro’s copies of “Ender’s Game”, “Speaker for the Dead” and “Xenocide” she’s so generously letting me borrow.

I first read “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card when I was only in fifth grade or so. My parents got the book for my sister and I for Christmas, and I devoured it in a couple days. I throughly enjoyed it, but not as much as my sister who I’m pretty sure, to this day, remembers every single page of that book.

With the movie coming out soon, and trailers floating around, I decided I needed to reread it.

I’m so glad I did; “Ender’s Game” was even better than I remembered it.

Orson Scott Card’s story-telling is wonderful. He provides just enough detail for the reader to build the world, but then he lets the reader’s imagination complete the picture. Everything, from the battle room to the alien buggers, is left up to you to create in your mind. All you have to go off of is a few lines of rough details, and as a kid that was all I needed to capture my imagination. Plus, the main character is a kid, so I connected to the story because I was also a kid. Of course we were living in completely different worlds, but I loved imagining myself in Battle School, and what life would be like if I lived in that version of the universe.

But rereading it now, about thirteen years later, I’m really glad I never went to Battle School. “Ender’s Game” is a much heavier book than I remembered. As a kid I didn’t pick up on the dark political overtones. I didn’t pick up on the subtler questions about morality that Card weaves into his tale. And I really didn’t pick up on how terrible Battle School really was for the kids there. “Ender’s Game” was basically a completely different story for my 23-year-old self than my 10-year-old self. But that just proves what a phenomenal book it is.

There are some books that I remember being good as a kid that I reread and don’t enjoy nearly as much. But “Ender’s Game” has joined the ranks of “Lord of the Rings”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other classics as books that I can reread and get something entirely new and different out of every time. It’s an elite club to belong to. Truly great books don’t just engage one audience; they engage multiple audiences and grow with the reader. Great books can be read at various points in one’s life and become almost completely different stories because of the reader’s different perspectives. It’s a unique quality for a book to have, and “Ender’s Game” is one of the best examples that I’ve come across lately.

But “Ender’s Game” is only the first in Card’s original Ender Quartet. He has several books set in Ender’s universe, but the Ender Quartet is where it all started. After “Ender’s Game” are “Speaker for the Dead”, “Xenocide” and “Children of the Mind”. I tried to read “Speaker for the Dead” as a kid, but I couldn’t get into it. But right after rereading “Ender’s Game” I decided to give it another try, too. I read it in two days, and I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t stop there, either; I had to force myself to put down “Xenocide” to write this post. Out of them “Ender’s Game” is still my favorite, so far. But the theme of the books — acceptance and understanding of other people/ aliens instead of letting xenophobia rule — is much more apparent it the sequels.

“Ender’s Game” tells the story of the first xenocide, a term Card uses to describe the destruction of an entire alien race, from Ender’s perspective. There are other perspectives in the book — Ender’s siblings and the officers of the International Fleet — but it is definitely a story about Ender with the other stories as secondary story lines. It’s those plots, though, that become important in the sequels. I can’t elaborate much more beyond that without spoiling things from “Ender’s Game”, but Card’s books have definitely made me think about xenophobia’s effects on society. (Not really something I picked up on as a kid, though.)

Rereading “Ender’s Game” also got me very excited for the movie. It will either be really epic, or it will be disappointing. But the source material is so strong, I am holding out hope that the movie will be spectacular. I just hope they include everything…

All for now,
Bale

Have you read “Ender’s Game”? What did you think of it. What books have you read became something different when you reread them?

FNM Recap: Aug 9… Sometimes things just don’t work.

Another rough night for me. Still figuring out M14... it's a different beast than RTR block for sure!

Another rough night for me. Still figuring out M14… it’s a different beast than RTR block for sure!

I need to start by saying I thought my deck was fantastic, and I was extremely pleased with the draft portion of the night. Over the past week I’d done a lot of research about M14 limited. I read several articles, watched a couple streamed drafts and listened to hours of the podcast “Limited Resources“. (I discovered listening to podcasts is pretty much the best way to pass time at work.) LR is a very good podcast that I recommend to anyone as obsessed with draft as I am. I just discovered it, so I had a lot to catch up on. The biggest thing: their M14 set review. The hosts took several hours to go through and talk about every single card in M14 and what their impressions of it was. I thought it was very helpful, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with them 100 percent of the time. But it was full of information, and I felt more prepared (by far) than last week. (Not hard, I suppose.)

The draft went really well. I’d decided I kind of wanted to play green this week and I was lucky because it was wide open. The only other committed green drafter at the table was completely opposite me, so we didn’t cut each other off at all. I first-picked a Rumbling Baloth over Silence, which is terrible, a Kalonian Tusker and an Opportunity. Some people questioned it, but my reasoning was straightforward: the tusker is awesome, but getting double green on turn two is hard unless you’re very committed to green. I didn’t want to do that right off the bat. Double green by turn four is more likely, and I felt more comfortable taking that. I didn’t take the Opportunity because I was worried blue would be over drafted — it’s one of the strongest colors in the set and people really like the Opportunity deck. I also knew that by passing it I would be signaling very well to the person to my left, and might actually force him into drafting blue. I’m not sure that is actually what made him go blue, but he did actually end up drafting a very strong blue card-draw deck. And I ended up getting two Kalonian Tuskers anyway, so I was very happy. I actually also ended up with a Marauding Maulhorn as well, so I had four beasts with an Advocate of the Beast. Not bad, considering how few beasts are actually in the format. I also got passed a Megantic Sliver in pack two, which made me very aware that Slivers were probably open. I’d picked up a couple already — some are just good on their own — so I just picked up a couple more. I didn’t force them, but if there wasn’t a better green or red card in the pack, I went with the sliver. I ended up getting a couple very strong slivers, too. I also opened a Witchstalker, which was awesome because it make a great target for my Lightning Talons. I even picked up a Howl of the Night Pack, which can just completely take over games. So overall, I was very happy after the draft and building my deck. I had a couple cards in my sideboard that I was kind of sad not to run, but I figured if my deck didn’t work out, I could always side them in. A good plan, but I never did… even though it might actually have helped me. Oops. (Among that list: A Fleshpulper Giant, a Dragon Egg and a couple slivers.)

Match one got off to a spectacular start. I couldn’t ask for a better start than turn two Kalonian Tusker and turn three Advocate. I was able to put the pressure on him early, and it was great. Unfortunately, my plans were foiled when he played an Enlarge on turn five. He got me down to one life, and so I couldn’t attack all out like I was hoping. And he had the white creature that causes your opponent’s creatures to come into the battlefield tapped, so I was very vulnerable. I couldn’t attack the following turn because I had to block with my creatures that weren’t tapped. Very frustrating. But definitely not as frustrating when he plays ANOTHER Enlarge. I could block all but one of the damage. I wasn’t too discouraged going into game two, though. I knew the chances of that happening again were fairly slim, and he hadn’t actually played too many creatures. I was able to get another turn two Tusker, which was nice. I followed it with a turn three Rootwalla, which wasn’t too bad either. Unfortunately, I never got another land. I also made a pretty big error while attacking into his slivers. He double blocked my Rootwalla with the toughness booster and the vigilance sliver. I could have pumped my Rootwalla and killed one of them, but instead played Thunder Strike on my Tusker to put him down to six. If I’d pumped my Rootwalla, I probably would have killed his vigilant sliver, which might have been the better play. I don’t know if it would have ultimately made a difference since I was never able to play another creature and he had the Master of Diversion so he could tap my blocker every time he attacked, but it might have allowed me to get some more damage through. So all in all, it was a pretty disappointing first round, but I wasn’t too discouraged… just annoyed.

Round two was my only win of the night, even though it started off poorly. I had to mulligan down to five cards on the play, which was painful. It was still a close game, despite that though. My slivers were kind of working for me — I had the red pump sliver and my sliver construct out. My opponent won by casting Act of Treason and getting my red pump sliver. Game two was the opposite — my opponent mulled down to five. But my starting hand was great again. I got my Witchstalker out, and was able immediately put Lightening Talons on him. My opponent never even got the chance to play a blocker, and on turn three I cast another creature so turn four was lethal. Game three was similar, except this time it was my Baloth doing the beating. I felt bad for my opponent — it sucks to lose because of mana issues and unlucky draws, but it’s all part of the game. I tried to keep reminding myself of that throughout the night.

I played the blue drafter at my table during my next match. It was pretty brutal. I never saw the Opportunity, but I did see multiple Divinations. He was playing blue/ black, and I got a good start in game one, but the board state got stalled. He eventually got me with his Water Servant, two Blood Bairns and a Tenacious Dead that he was able to sacrifice multiple times. Game two was a lot more promising and I was able to build up a strong board state with my slivers. But then I stopped drawing anything but lands, which gave him the chance to build up his defense and his board. I top-decked my Megantic Sliver, which would have won me the game straight up, but was so excited I forgot to check his mana. Sure enough, he had Essence Scatter in hand, and my epic Sliver move was thwarted. He got me 2-0, so maybe I should have drafted the blue/ black deck. Oh well. In game I played a Blur Sliver as if it didn’t have haste, which my opponent pointed out later. It probably wouldn’t have mattered since he was at six at the end, but you never know.

The fourth round went a little better just because I lost 2-1 instead of 2-0. The first game was a really good one. It was close, and we both had good attacks. It was pretty much your standard race, but he ended up coming out ahead because of well-timed Time Ebb on my Giant Spider. I dominated him in my second game. I got my Witchstalker out and my Blur Sliver. He didn’t get any good blockers out, so it was over fairly quickly. Game three was not really a good game for either of us. Both of us got mana flooded. Several turns were just us saying “land for turn, OK go”. The board was pretty stalled out, but what changed the tide was when he top-decked his Air Servant. He was hovering at five life throughout this stalemate, so had I pulled my Volcanic Geyser it would have been over. Or my Howl of the Night Pack. Or any number of things in my deck, actually.

My last opponent didn’t show up, so I got the win by default. I took the time to just hang out with my friends, which was nice. And while we were discussing how the night was going, one reminded me that records don’t always reflect the skill of the player. I’m pretty hard on myself when I lose sometimes, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. Your deck just didn’t work out as you planned and unexpected things come up. Like two Enlarges. Or getting mana flooded. It’s part of Magic, and if it wasn’t the game wouldn’t be the same. But I did make some misplays, so I’m definitely not blaming the night on bad luck. I just need to learn how to anticipate longer games better, and not get discouraged or sloppy.

All for now,
Bale

How did your FNM go? What do you think is the most frustrating way to lose a game of Magic?