Sunday, October 14, 2018

Rating Magic: The Gathering Sets: Odyssey

For some reason, a lot of this card was
misprinted as being a Wizard creature --
which it's not. Unfortunately, the wiki I
found this out on isn't very forthcoming on
some details. Was this an early print run
that was fixed later? Did it just always
happen? But hey, I like trivia, so here's
some for both of us.
So, at long last, the major over-arching story that Magic: The Gathering has followed since the release of Weatherlight is over.

PS[S]YCHE! It's just kind of taking a break during the beginning of the "Otaria Saga" (as I'm going to all the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks, because they both take place on the in-series continent of Otaria -- this isn't an official name the way the block names are or the term "Weatherlight Saga" is), but in a way, the implications have continued to have effects on the greater Magic storyline to this day. But also, I'm not sure that a whole lot of people are turning to these articles for the Deep Lore Analysis.

Odyssey was the first set to really go ham on one of the now most-common and -beloved Magic design aspects, and that is the use of the graveyard as a resource. (Quick shout-out to that guy I reference too much, Jessie "roundthewheel" Eubanks. Followers of Deep Space Spines -- his blog about the Star Trek novels -- might be aware that he just recently started getting into Magic by way of his siblings. So I feel like it's appropriate to give shout-outs to new players in articles pertaining to the sets that introduced new beloved strategies. But that's enough of that for now.

[view the entire set here!]

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Was Howard the Duck (the 1986 Film) REALLY That Bad? A Defense (Sorta)

It's been a while since I've done one of these articles wherein I (sort of) defend one of the most-hated things ever. Let's talk about Howard the Duck.

You might know of Howard the Duck for his Marvel comic series, originally created by Steve Gerber (as a spin-off of Adventure into Fear), where he dealt with being a talking duck in a human's world. It was full of humor and biting social criticism and was generally considered pretty well liked, even being pretty influential on underground comics. Odds are much better, however, that you know of Howard for the rather infamous 1986 George Lucas-directed film, which is widely considered to be one of the worst in history. We're all fascinated by things we are told are bad (I, for one, love "bad" media). Sometimes we find a hidden treasure! So I'm here to tell you why you should give Howard the Duck (the movie, I mean) a second shot.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rating Magic: The Gathering Sets: Apocalypse

From the very earliest days of my playing Magic, there was something that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me: the concept of "enemy" colors. I started with Portal, so the whole thing seemed pretty arbitrary. Most strategies could work well together, it's just that there happened to be cards like Flashfires or Sacred Knight. I liked thee idea of pairing off the "enemy" colors. Maybe this is why Apocalypse seemed so cool; those pairs finally got some support (at the time, I didn't know about the Mirage block's enemy-color multicolor cards). Apocalypse finally made these pairings viable. In that way, it may be one of the most important sets for the game's development since, like, Legends. No longer were these colors necessarily "enemies," even if hosers continued to be printed -- now they were, as I remember an old Magic book describing them, "natural foils." When two whose styles foil the other team up, the results can be astounding -- certainly less entropic-sounding than a team-up by "enemies," anyway. Apocalypse is, in short, a very good set which does exactly one thing very well.

[view the entire set here!]

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rating Magic: The Gathering Sets: Seventh Edition

So, Seventh Edition may not be the greatest thing to ever happen to Magic or anything, but it's a super nostalgic set for me, along with Sixth Edition, because I remember there was a Wizards of the Coast store at a mall when I lived in Chicago -- I think Woodfield. As you'd expect, they had really cool-looking displays for the time. Shopping malls are bizarre in a rather unique manner, so even aside from my anti-capitalist tendencies nowadays, I would probably be unimpressed nowadays. Not to mention I get kind of scared of heights now, and I don't know what triggered it, and I recall that store not being on ground level, so that would probably do a number on me, too.

This is about the cards, though. Seventh Edition is pretty solid, but falls victim to a lot of the typical flaws of core sets. Go figure, right?

[view the entire set here!]

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rating Magic: The Gathering Sets: Planeshift

The Invasion block is a return to form for Magic overall, not just in terms of card quality. Unlike the Masques block, there is a very definite order and theme to what is going on in Invasion and its follow-ups: multicolor all day every day. Planeshift is pretty predictable in that way, but hardly bad for it. It also features an enhancement of the three-color theme from Invasion, fleshing it out a bit more to try and make the cards playable as more than just finishers (such that the five legendary dragons were such). This... would be great for formats people built later, but at this point in the game's history is probably unnecessary.

[view the entire set here!]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

An Introduction to Magic: The Gathering's Colors (Part 1)

Since I'm writing about the Invasion block in my Magic: The Gathering retrospective, which deals in color pairs and dealing with the concept of "ally" and "enemy" colors, I feel like I should do something that's been long overdue and explain Magic's colors to you, so you too can start profiling characters according to what colors you think they are! Oh, yeah, and just have a basic understanding of what they're like -- how they play, common character traits, etc.

Basically, this is one of those articles where I try to make up for how much I keep making all my Magic articles be primarily for a Magic-playing audience as opposed to for everybody. Hey, who doesn't love a good expository essay? Answer: anti-intellectuals, but who even cares about them? Oh, and I suppose people who have never read a good one, had to write too many in school, don't like reading long-form stuff in general, folks who can't read too much for too long due to health reasons, people who prefer other types of long-form writing...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rating Magic Sets: Invasion

Due to my completely wrecked sleep schedule lately, this article is about a week late from when I wanted to post it and it's displacing another article for a day, but I'll be posting that on Monday to try and even things out.

Playing multiple colors is a very common practice in Magic, maybe more so than in any other TCG (replace the term "color" with similar mechanics from other games as needed). In the earliest days, though, multicolor support was garbage. Very few cards actually existed to take advantage of your using multiple colors, and lands that provided multiple colors of mana were pretty rare (in fact, I think all of them were rares at that point, to make things a bit more literal). Multicolored cards generally did not have power levels commensurate to the difficulty of casting them (i.e. something that costs two mana with one each being of a different color is harder to cast than something that costs one mana of one color and one generic mana, or two mana of one color), aside from the ones that were game-breakers or combo pieces (e.g. Cadaverous Bloom).

Invasion finally fixed that and helped make some multicolor strategies actually viable.

[view the entire set here!]