Image Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

I already wrote articles for Marvel and DC in the 1990s. Well then you might think, that’s it. You’re all done. Oh, you silly person. You have clearly forgotten the indy comic book scene. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You need to establish your mainstream cred first before you branch off into the lesser known aspects of a culture. To be honest, you probably didn’t say any of that. But, as long as we are being honest, I didn’t even know of any comic companies other than Marvel and DC until I got introduced to Image Comics.

I got introduced to Image when Image introduced themselves to the world. Yep, I was there from the beginning. I knew nothing about the story of disgruntled Marvel and DC talent leaving the companies to start their own company. I just walked into the comic book store and saw these shiny new books. Sure, they were more expensive than the Marvel and DC books, but, shiny.

And we all know how I feel about shiny.

Which of these shiny new books did I buy? Initially, all of them. Every single one. That’s not an exaggeration. Understanding that the number 1 is a very special number in comic books, I got every first issue of the Image comics that came out. For some books, those were the only issues that I bought. Others, I kept buying in hopes that they’d grow on me. Not many did. There were only a few that I collected on a regular basis.

Image Comics in the 1990s

First was Pitt. I like Dale Keown’s art and I collected the book mostly for that. Chris and I have talked a few times about the book and I mentioned how it was one of the Image titles that I kept collecting and even replaced in my collection a few years ago. More recently, I had to admit to him that I’ve only ever read the first issue. Shame! Shame the nerd!

But, that art,. Like I’m the first nerd to be bamboozled by a pretty face.

The second book that I collected regularly (and continue to collect to this day) is Spawn. There seems to be a lot of hatred for Todd McFarlane in the community, but Chris and I both agree that he is one of the artists who helped to usher in the modern era of comic book art. Like many of the early Image books, his writing isn’t as strong as the art, but the Spawn story is fun enough for me to keep reading. Also, as he has grown, he’s been more willing to give up writing duties to more established writers and that has helped.

Finally, we come to probably my favorite comic book ever created. I had never heard of Sam Kieth before his work at Image, but I have become a life long fan. In fact, I recently also became a fan of John Layman as a result of Sam Kieth doing the art for his mini series Eleanor and the Egret. This all started with a comic book about a homeless man’s delusions of being a hero. The Maxx was unlike anything that I’d ever read in a comic book before. Considering the current comic book environment, it was just ahead of its time.

Image Comics in TV and Movies

We’ve already established that unlike Marvel and DC, I discovered Image through the comic books. However, it did not take long for popular culture to catch up and put the independent guys on televisions and movie screens. In some ways, these movies and TV shows helped to usher in a more modern era in much the same way that Image Comics pushed the comic book industry. Chief among the ones that I remember are the Spawn and Maxx animated series and the Spawn movie.

I just found out that a DVD exists of The Maxx. Time for a search.

HBO commissioned the Spawn cartoon, allowing for all of the dirty bits to be included. While it has been too long for me to remember specifics, I do remember that I enjoyed the cartoon very much at the time. A quick search confirms that assessment. The show won an Emmy at the time. Not to be outdone, Hollywood hitched their wagon to the Spawn money train and released a movie.  Again, I don’t remember specifics, but I don’t remember it being very good. It wasn’t bad, either, just one of those forgettable movies from my childhood. One thing that it did was show that comic book movies could be successful. We are a bit spoiled today, but there was a time when all comic book movies were as bad as current DC movies. (*cheap shot*)

Finally, I want to talk about The Maxx animated series. This one was on MTV during the first wave of people complaining, “Remember when MTV showed music videos?” The cartoon was just as weird and wonderful as the comic book. Additionally, it was part of an animation revolution that reverberates today.

The Verdict

I haven’t gone back to revisit these comic books as I have with some of the other entertainment that I enjoyed in my teenage years to see if they hold up. When I read The Stand again (well, I listened to the audiobook) a few months ago, I made the comment to Kevin that the story is so multilayered that I’ve been able to find a new way to enjoy the book; once as a teenager, once as a twenty something, and finally as a 42 year old father. The exact same can’t be said for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the Dragonlance novels that I’ve reread, but I do still enjoy them both just as much as then.

I even picked up my old 2099 books in anticipation of recording the podcast with Chris tomorrow. While not as entertaining as some of the others, it’s still been a fun trip down memory lane. Reading them has made me think about reading Spawn and maybe even The Maxx with new eyes. Part of me is afraid that it will ruin the memory as Chris and I will discuss happened with him and the 2099 series when he read it recently.

Besides, if this is to be believed, I’ll have all new The Maxx to enjoy soon ™ enough.

DC in the 1990s

Introduction

In my previous article, I mentioned that Chris and I are going to talk about our affection for a forgotten decade in comics, the 1990s. Some of you out there might argue that they were forgotten for good reasons. Both Marvel and DC lost a lot of their most promising talent to independent books due to their archaic rules and sometimes draconian treatment of talent. Comics, like sports cards, were overproduced. This reduced potential future value and upset speculators. Personally, I don’t care much about that. If I can get my hands on a book, I don’t care about your future value.

I also mentioned in that article that we would not be able to travel to That’s Entertainment, but we would be able to record. Plans changed yet again. Chris’s schedule opened up so that we could go to the store, but mine was more restrictive, so we haven’t recorded yet. Fear not! We will be sure to get together over the weekend and scratch that comics discussion itch for you next week.

I promise you. It will feel this good.

DC on Television

Like Marvel, I was introduced to DC comic book heroes through television. Of course there was the live action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. Like The Incredible Hulk, if you were alive in that time period, you watched those shows. It wasn’t like today where almost everything is on demand and you can consume entertainment at your leisure. There was this thing called appointment viewing where everyone watched the show at the same time and then talked about it the next day around the water cooler. At least I imagine that there was a water cooler as I often hear that as a saying, too.

What might be surprising is that I originally discovered Batman through television, too. Well, you might think, that’s not so bad. I loved (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, *insert your favorite Batman series here*) too. DC might not be able to make a decent movie, but their TV series are pretty good. Ah, youth, so innocent and sometimes naive.

You never forget your first.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As a child of the 70s, who came of age in the 90s, my first and defining Batman was Adam West. But, I have an excuse. My father loved the show. He wanted to share that love with his sons. I took that love very much to heart. When the Tim Burton Batman movies came out, my father warned me, “This isn’t anything like the TV show. Historically, Batman can be a bit dark.” I responded by not seeing the movie until it was on cable. Boy, did I show them! They responded by killing the series by making a decent sequel and then two terrible follow ups that seemed to try to split the difference. It did not work.

DC Comics in the 90s

Eventually, I loved the Tim Burton films and heaped the proper scorn on the other two movies in the franchise. My Batman was no longer the blue and grey suited “dad bod” of Adam West. Joker wasn’t a benign practical joker with hand buzzers and squirty flowers. It was a black suited solitary Dark Knight fighting against a sociopathic murderer in spotty clown makeup who still wears a squirty flower, but with acid.

Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This shift in attitude and my status as a casual collector meant I only collected Batman and one other DC book. Luckily, it was during the Knightfall story and I collected them all. Unluckily, during one of my moves I didn’t want to move the comic book collection. I also erroneously assumed that I’d never collect comics again. Well, you win some and you lose some.

The second DC hero that I paid attention to at the time was Superman. DC decided to radically alter both of their most popular heroes. Killing Superman (spoiler alert) was such a big deal that they talked about it on the nightly news. That doesn’t seem like much in this era of the 24/7/365 news. Then it meant more. Stations only had three hours dedicated to news. Time was precious. Everyone wanted to see how they would kill the Superman.

I remember the story being good up to the actual death. DC followed it up with “Rise of the Supermen”. I collected those books, too, but the only one I enjoyed was Steel. If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, I recommend picking up the trade. Sure, they redid the story in Batman vs. Superman, but it was a shadow of itself in that movie.

The Verdict

I think that I was more into DC comics back then. The Death of Superman was enough to get me and Kevin to convince his dad to drive us to the local comic book store so that we could get the books on the day that they released. This is while we were both on vacation visiting him in Maryland. The Batman story was less interesting to me, but I did prefer that over almost everything that Marvel was doing at the time other than their 2099 books.

Sure, both stories that got me into collecting DC books in the 1990s were gimmicks meant to sell comics. Well, I never said that I was above falling for gimmicks. Next week, when I talk about my history with comics in the 2000s, you’ll see that both companies got me again with gimmicks. But, heck, the stories were good and I’m glad to have been able to experience them as they unfolded.

 

Marvel Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

Chris and I are going to record the second episode of Comic Hunters this week. We might even be in the same room for the first time since the relaunch of the podcasts. We are going to the local comics superstore, That’s Entertainment, a trip that has now been a month in planning. After, we will most likely record the show.

Update: As often happens, our plans have changed. We are not going to That’s Entertainment. We are still recording. However, we won’t be in the same room.

Our topic for this show is going to be our affinity for 90s comics. We touched upon this topic in the first show. I was so excited and inspired by the unexpected revelation that we may have met before we met (listen to the show and it will make sense) that I wanted to travel back in time to revisit that era of comics that means so much to the both of us.

And we don’t even have to negotiate with Libyan terrorists to make the trip.

Marvel Comics in the 1990s and Me

It’s been a while since I’ve had to take the nerd walk of shame. I believe in being open and honest, though, so it has to be said. First, some background. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unabashed Marvel zombie. My favorite heroes are often from Marvel, I’ve been enjoying Marvel movies since the original Spider-Man franchise (yes, even number 3), and it is most often a Marvel event that gets me back into collecting comics.

You can probably guess where I’m going.  In case you don’t, let me explain. Everything I said in the previous paragraph is true. I’m not lying about being a huge fan of Marvel properties. What isn’t 100% accurate is that comics sparked my interest. In fact, the reason that I liked Spider-Man was because of the Saturday morning cartoon and my original Hulk was Lou Ferrigno. That doesn’t make me unique, but it isn’t quite the lifelong fandom that I’ve portrayed in the past.

I had no idea darkness awaited me in those funny pages once Kevin finally got me into a comic book store.

Once I got a taste of comics, I was hooked. That all happened when I was in high school and a store opened up a quick bike ride from my house. Kevin and I rode up there weekly to buy new books. In just a short period of time, I amassed quite the collection of comics. I’d be lying again if I said they were mostly Marvel books. You will see in the other two articles that I have planned for this week that I was much more into the DC and Image titles at the time. Still, there were some Marvel books that made it into my rotation.

Obscure Marvel Heroes and Me

Sure, I knew about Spider-Man and Hulk. I also quickly learned about Captain America, Iron Man and The Punisher. I collected none of those books. That’s not to say that I was a total comics hipster. After playing the X-Men arcade game, I started collecting most of the mutant books. I’m not sure how obscure it was at the time, but I was also a fan of Ghost Rider due to Mark Texeira’s art. That led to me collecting the Rise of the Midnight Sons mini series and the books that followed. I suppose that this isn’t doing much to bolster my non-hipster cred.

Especially since most people probably think of the Capcom fighter Darkstalkers when you mention Nightstalkers.

My true loyalty was to the unsung heroes of the Marvel Universe. The ones who show up every now and then to provide background color in epic two page spreads. They are the the heroes that are sometimes called the “B” or “C” or sometimes even the “Z” team. If you thought that Nightstalkers was a deep cut (and honestly, that might be the deepest cut of the ones I’m about to mention) then we aren’t going to get much shallower. Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange were my must collect books after the X-Men titles. Sure, those guys are all superstars now, but that’s mostly due to changing demographics and a conscious attempt by Marvel to play to those changes. Back then, they were fringe characters at best but certainly not the headliners that they are today.

Marvel 2099

Aside from that, the best part of Marvel in the 90s actually happened one hundred years in the future. Not to be outdone by the launch of Image comics, Marvel experimented with their 2099 lineup. By this time, I was very much a collector and understood the potential value of the number “1” on a cover of a comic book. Honestly, that’s the only reason that I started collecting the 2099 books.

Okay, the covers were another incentive, but that has more to do with me being easily distracted by shiny objects.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the books. Very much. It went from getting the first issues (which you’ll learn later in the week I also did with the Image books) to buying them on a weekly basis to really enjoying the writing and the art. I’m finding that, unlike many nerds, I’m not as married to tradition as they might be. I liked that the 2099 heroes all had their own world in which to play. It was enough like our own to lend it plausibility, but different enough to give it a different feel and history.

When I got back into collecting, one of the first things I did was attempt to replace as much of my 2099 collection as possible. I thought I did a good job, which I have since filled in more. That’s it. I’m done. I’ve got all of the 2099 books. Spider-Man, Ravage, Doom, X-Men, limited Hulk series, and the 2099 Unlimited. Nope, I quickly learned. There were at least Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider books, too. When I learned about Ghost Rider, I remembered it from the original collection. Oh well, a collection is never complete.

The Verdict

For my money, if only the 2099 books came from the 1990s, I’d be a happy person. The world was so well realized and spoke directly to my teenage self. Of course, there are other stories, characters, writer, and artists that have come from the period, too. As I wasn’t as much of a fan of Marvel comic books then, I have been a little late to the party and it always surprises me how much great talent came from that time.

Chris and I will talk more about the actual artists and writers that came from this often overlooked period in the history of comics. We will touch on the issues that may lend to its status as one of the more underrated eras in comic books. People laugh and sometimes cringe when you bring up the 90s as the period that killed the industry. That might be true. But, from those ashes, we stand on the cusp of a potentially new golden age.

MTG Monday Night Modern Vol.2

A few weeks ago I decided that I was going to make my triumphant(?) return to a Monday night Modern event at one of the local game stores near me. I won’t name them because they haven’t thrown us a sponsorship along with a lifetime supply of gaming goodies. C’mon! You know I’m in this for the free stuff! I kid! I kid! Ahem.

The one part of going to game nights that causes me anxiety is picking which deck to play. I basically went back and forth between Bogles and Storm for the entire week before. Bogles is annoying and one of those Tier 2 modern decks that sneaks into Tier 1 from time to time, while Storm is more fun to actually play with and can lead to some quick kills if your opponent doesn’t recognize the important cogs of the deck but I did have the “Weird Paradise Mantle” combo in the deck and always felt slightly sheepish playing it. In the end, after talking with (at?) Shawn (Modern isn’t his thing), about which deck I should play, I decided to go with Bogles.

Having played at the same spot many times, I know who the regular attendees are and which deck that they tend to play. Unfortunately, Lantern Control is one of those decks that always seems to be present. I can’t stress how much I HATE Lantern Control. I loathe it. Ensnaring Bridge is such a piece of ******* ****. You know a control deck is too controlling when Shawn, king of the blue mages, hates it too. I fully support a new rule that says if your opponent brings Lantern Control to a game night, you are well within your rights to take that deck outside, light it on fire, and then piss on it to put the fire out. I had joked with Shawn about having crap luck and knowing that I would have to play against someone who was running Lantern Control….

Round 1: Lantern Control. Yup. Very. First. ****ing. Round.
My opponent, who was actually the judge of the event, was a really nice guy. I think people at these game nights tend to think that they are going to be paired up with “Serious Sam” and just get down to business with no friendliness. He was very formal to begin with but once he plopped down a Codex Shredder only to be met with a stream of expletives from the other side of the table, he relaxed and joked around a bit with me which made playing this piece of crap deck bearable. The first game was actually close because he had trouble getting his hand empty and I had stopped pumping up my Bogles and was just swinging with 1/1’s. I was able to get him down to 8 life before he was able to get that last card out of his hand and then lock me, and the game, down. The 2nd game went worse for me, he started with the necessary pieces in his hand and basically had me locked down by the 4th turn. Just to be a dweeb about it, I made him play the entire game out instead of conceding. God, I hate this deck.

0-1

Round 2: Druid Combo
From Lantern Control right to an infinite combo deck! LA DEE ****ING DA!

I made several misplays in the first game and he beat me without even getting the infinite combo of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies out on the table. For those of you not familiar with the combo, Devoted Druid taps to add 1 green mana to your pool but also has the ability to untap if you put a -1/-1 counter on him. Vizier of Remedies basically prevents your creatures from getting -1/-1 counters. Yep. Infinite Mana to do fun things like use Duskwatch Recruiter to search endlessly through your deck until you hit the stompy favorite of your choice and play it. In this case my opponent went with Walking Ballista, which gets infinite counters on it, which in turn does infinite damage to me. I don’t think I even hit him once in this game. Complete and utter blowout.

0-2

Round 3: Elves
Ok, I’ll be honest, this isn’t an official match. My buddy and I both had byes this round and decided to play each other instead of wandering around aimlessly for an hour waiting for the next round to begin. Against Elves you know you have to take it down quick by either outracing it or remove the little guys immediately once they hit the table. Since I was running only 2 copies of Path to Exile in my deck, (mistake), I had to outrace it. I lost the first game but won the next one and we left it as a tie.

0-2-1

After our match, we both decided to pack it up and call it a night, we both were in the running for last place as he had gone 0-2 as well and wasn’t really happy about it. Most likely we would have ended up paired with each other in the last round anyways. I wasn’t surprised at all that I had not done well. Modern is like swimming with the sharks. Some nights you eat and some nights you get eaten. Hindsight is a cruel mistress and I realized that if I had brought my Storm deck I would have done slightly better against Lantern Control since I had burn spells along with Guttersnipe. So basically, I could have just used all of my one mana cantrips and pinged away at my opponent with ‘Snipe’s ability. Most likely I would have still lost but damn it, I can dream of putting up a better fight than I did.

For those of you who are curious, these were the decks that were played that night:

Eldratron, Burn, Elves, BG Elves, Jund x2, Lantern Control x2,
Druid Combo, and my bitch ass Bogles.

I believe a Lantern Control deck won the whole shebang. #banthebridge

Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing many more stories of getting absolutely pummeled at Modern nights with you all!

Comic Haul! (Midtown Comics) 6/14/18

Hey gang! I’m back to tell you all about my latest haul from Midtown Comics. As always, the comics are rated between 1-10 and more importantly, there are spoilers below. You have been warned. Seriously, don’t whine to us if something gets spoiled. Spoilerific reviews ahead.

Still there?

Let’s do this.

Justice League #1 (Cover B? C? I dunno..it’s the Jim Lee variant)
Here we go! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this issue ever since it was announced that Scott Snyder was taking over JL. Fresh off of Dark Knights Metal and JL: No Justice, you would think that this issue would slow down just a bit so new readers would get acclimated to the characters, but no! Action right from the first page! I can’t stress how good this issue is. Scott Snyder’s script is on point as usual and the artwork is absolutely gorgeous with every panel being as detailed as possible. The Justice League faces a universe altering threat tied to the hole in the “Source Wall” from Metal as Martian Manhunter reflects on his role on the team as well as his past. There are a few funny moments in the book like when the Justice League is telepathically connected trying to figure out who does the best “Batman” voice. Really solid start to the Snyder era. (10/10)

Batman #48 (Cover A and B)
This issue fell a little flat for me. Joker takes over a church and kills everyone in it just to get Batman’s attention. Why? So he can ask Bats if he can be his best man. This is basically a Batman comic where Batman says two words and the Joker has 99% of the dialogue. I think my issue here is that in a couple of key moments, Batman acts way out of character. What are the odds that Batman is going to be caught off-guard and allow Joker to put a gun to his head, have a short monologue, and then allow him to pull the trigger? I was fairly certain that the main power that Batman possesses besides his brain, is his martial arts knowledge. And as if that’s not confusing enough, at the end of the book, Joker asks Batman to pray with him. And Batman kneels down next to him instead of knocking him out, or even restraining him, no, he kneels down to pray with the Joker. Is Joker suddenly Catholic?? He didn’t think for a second that its probably a trap?!? And lo and behold a bomb then detonates to the surprise of no one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Tom King has a much better grasp of his version of Batman than I do, but all in all, it just seemed too out of character for me. The next issue is advertised as Catwoman and Joker one on one so let’s hope this story gets a little better going into #50. (5/10)

Immortal Hulk #1 (Cover A)
Admittedly, I’m not a huge Hulk fan and for the most part have fallen out of touch with the character. After brushing up on my Hulk history, I ordered the new 1st (not so much) issue of Hulk. I had been looking forward to this issue because it was announced that it would have more of a horror vibe to it. I’m a huge bronze age horror junkie so I was really hoping this would have the same feel to it. First of all, thank you Marvel, for including the legacy issue number underneath the new one. For collectors like Shawn and myself, this is really helpful for cataloging purposes since collecting an entire run can get confusing with all the reboots that tend to happen. This book definitely has a darker vibe to it, with Bruce Banner being the Hulk once again, and apparently turns into the Hulk, even if he is “dead”, when the sun goes down. The artwork is really decent, and the story in this issue was tragic but fairly simplistic. Overall an interesting take on the Hulk and I’m adding the title to my pull list. (8/10)

Amazing Spider-Man 800 (Reg. Cover and H.Ramos Connecting Variant)
Here it is, the 800th(!) issue of Spidey, and holy hell it’s a doozy! 80 pages of intense action and plot twists as the Red Goblin storyline wraps up! This issue was simply incredible. Tons of references to classic stories, several jaw-dropping moments like Venom agreeing to help Spidey, to the point of lending him the Venom symbiote to even things out with Red Goblin, even friggin’ Doc Oc lends a hand, and the death of a longtime character. This issue hit it out of the park, and is absolutely worth the price tag. I liked it so much that I bought 2 copies, the regular and the Humberto Ramos connecting variant. (11/10)

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Return to Ravnica

Note: This is the final part of a 6-part series. At last, we Return to Ravnica for our retrospective.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Introduction

When Wizards of the Coast notified us that we were going back to Ravnica for the next three sets, my initial reaction was excitement. Then, I thought about it and had a brief text discussion with Chris and we both came to the same thought almost simultaneously. That seems early. I don’t think that either one of us thought that it was a bad thing. We just both got over the initial excitement at nearly the same time and concluded, “Why Ravnica again?”

As you may have guessed, the story doesn’t end there. Do our stories ever really end around here? We almost always seem to have more to say if you just give us time. I, especially, suffer from what Stephen King used to refer to as diarrhea of the word processor. Chris is much more vocal about his opinions, so you’ll have to tune into the podcasts and videos to hear what he thinks.

Besides, you really need them all to get the true 2 Generations Gaming experience.

At the very least, the announcement got me feeling nostalgic. Initially, I was going to do a top 5 or top 10 Magic the Gathering sets. Then I got the crazy idea to rank all of the sets. I finally settled on this retrospective to look back on all of the sets since I got back into the game. Initially it was going to be a 5 part series, but now you hold part 6 in your greedy little hands. I told you to just give me time and I’ll find more to say. Enjoy!

Some Quick Notes About Core Set 2013

This was my first exposure back into the game. I was wandering around Wal*Mart before the redesign and I noticed that they were still making Magic the Gathering cards. Though I didn’t buy them at that time, but the next time I was in the store, they suckered me in with their “Deckbuilder’s Toolkit” set which more or less spoke to the noob in me who hadn’t played the game in nearly two decades. I brought the set home, opened it, and was hooked almost immediately. At that point, it was mostly just a collector’s hobby since I didn’t know anyone else who played. My kids were too young, Chris hadn’t started playing yet, and my wife and I were too busy with babies to even consider playing against one another.

This photo is a lie. Either these people are all on drugs (the baby included) or they are delusional from a lack of sleep.

I still thought about the game and what was possible. Several cards made an impression on me. First and foremost was Talrand, Sky Summoner. At heart, I’m a blue mage and the card represents everything I want to do with Magic the Gathering. If I had known about Commander back then, that would have been the first deck that I mad scienced into existence. Instead, I learned about Krenko and that started my love/hate relationship with goblins in the game. More recently, I just learned that Door to Nothingness is in that set, too. While that is probably to most definitely a terrible card, that never stopped me from trying to make something out of nothing.

Why Should We Not Go Back to Ravnica?

I’m a bad news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the reasons that I came up not to go back to Ravnica. The first reason is pure selfishness. Having missed out on most of the game due to my absence from it, I feel personally slighted by this decision. Instead of taking us back to one of the planes that I missed (see the last section for more), they are bringing us back to Ravnica.

I’m about to borrow a phrase from my kids for this one and I’m not above acting childish. It works for our President.

Furthermore, it just seems like overkill at this point. This is the third visit to Ravnica in 13 years. I was able to brush up on some of the lore and I will talk more about it the “Why” section. In short, it’s a great story. But, what more can the have to tell about Ravnica right now? Perhaps that’s why they’re professional writers and I’m a struggling self published author.

The final point is one that Chris made on the podcast. With Red and by extension Red/Black being so powerful right now, a Ravnica block might only strengthen that. The block is two color focused. In the past, Rakdos has not been one of the color combinations that they’ve given a high power level. What if they decide to change that this time? Are we going to live under the tyranny of an extended RB reign for the foreseeable future? I hope not, but fear we may.

Why Should We Return to Ravnica?

I’m not sure that I made a compelling argument against going back to Ravnica. Truth be told, I’m not all that against the decision. I really like Ravnica. It’s the time that both Chris and I got back into the game, so it holds sentimental value to us. It will be fun to see if we really can go home again.

Since Presque Isle (aside from family, of course) is the only reason I can ever find to go back to my actual childhood home town.

I mentioned lore in the previous section. Over the weekend, I was able to look back at the “Player’s Guide” booklets that they include in every Fat Pack (because that’s what they are WotC, I don’t care if you changed the name) for the Ravnica block. I forgot how much I enjoyed that story. The guilds get the most focus and for good reason. By giving the color combinations names, people are able to relate more to them. The proof of this is that they are used as descriptors for decks in the tournaments that I watch. It’s just more interesting to hear Mardu (I know that’s Khans, but it’s the same idea) Pyromancer instead of RWB Pyromancer.

With the guilds, there have been new mechanics during each visit to Ravnica. Will that continue, or will they reprint some of the old mechanics? If they do the latter, that might be a slight point against the return. Will they reprint all of the mechanics so that they are all Standard legal at the same time? That might actually be a valid argument for the return. Maybe don’t listen to me. I’m often a fan of chaos, especially in Magic the Gathering.

Finally, what other cards or card types could be reprinted. Chris is a fan of the shock lands. When he said that, it made me think of the bounce lands and the possibilities of having them standard legal again. I’m not usually a fan of reprints, but both of those land types make the head spin with the possibilities. Even if they don’t reprint cards, they can bring back old favorites with new abilities. Going back to Ravnica could be a good thing indeed.

Where Else Could We Return Besides Ravnica?

…in no particular order, which I guess is just a list of 5, but everyone likes Top “X” lists, so there you have it.

Alara: Inspired by Chris, I went through and tried to think of some planes that I’d rather visit than Ravnica. This led me to think about recent sets and what I enjoyed about them. One of my favorite recent blocks was Tarkir, but it would be even sillier to go back there than Ravnica. So, instead, I went back a little bit further. Alara is three color focused, similar to Tarkir. Those color combinations are named and the set seems to rival Ravnica’s popularity in some circles. I think that a Return to Alara would be nice.

Ice Age: This one is a purely emotional decision. Chris and I started playing the game during this block. Maybe that’s a stretch. I go back a bit earlier than Chris, but we discovered on the comics podcast that we both frequented the same stomping grounds way before we ever officially met. Besides, who doesn’t want snow lands and Skred back in the game?

Antiquities: Chris mentioned this one in the podcast. He said that it felt like a natural extension to the Dominaria set. I didn’t admit it at the time because I didn’t want to sound dumb on the podcast, but I freely admit now that I didn’t know what he meant. I don’t remember my time in the game during the first Antiquities set. However, having now looked at the card list, I can see what he was saying. It’s a classic set with some classic cards and if WotC is feeling nostalgic, then why not take it all the way back?

Kamigawa: This was my one big idea. First, I have an abnormal attachment to the set due to many of the cards being used in one of the storm decks that I built a couple of years ago. Also, some of the cards are in the cubes that I draft. They are just fun cards. Finally, I thought since they have been doing recent sets based on ancient civilizations, why not an Asian theme? Well, I’m going to hold on to this suggestion for the future. With the release of the Chinese planeswalker decks, I might have been on to something.

Well, not only could I not do a Top 5 in order, but I can’t even think of a fifth to round out my list. If any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear about them and discuss. Leave a comment, write an email, or Tweet at us!

Conclusion

While there are other times during Magic the Gathering’s history that I’d rather visit, I’m not mad about going back to Ravnica. The story is fantastic, the mechanics are almost always at least fun, and I get to revisit my Vorel of the Hull Clade Commander deck to see if I can improve it with the new cards. Who knows, there might even be stuff for my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck. As always, we keep on the sunny side of life here at 2 Generations Gaming.

Aging Out of Video Games

Introduction

I don’t remember how or why we got on the topic. I know that it started as a text conversation with Chris. We talked about the new Pokemon Go crossover game for the Switch, moved on to Street Fighter collection, and ended with some unnecessary Fortnite bashing. It was about then that we came to the conclusion that we may be getting to old for the current generation of video games.

Get off my lawn.

I think I’ve known about this issue for some time. I never considered that it might be a symptom of something larger until Chris and I talked. Now it all makes sense. We just have to fast track the plan of converting the podcast to 2 Old Guys Gaming. We can complain about kids these days, eat dinner at 4 in the afternoon, and argue with Gamestop clerks about out of date coupons. Come to think of it, we already do 2 out of three of those things.

A Note About Repetition in Video Games

On the podcast, we talked about two topics that I want to clarify. Both were addressed but, as usual, I have more to say. The topic of repetition came up a few times in the context of current shooters. The one quote that stuck with me was from Chris’s dad who said something along the lines of, “Now you’re shooting zombies. Now you’re shooting aliens. Now you’re shooting bugs.” I immediately pushed against the argument that repetition is the enemy of games.

The point that I made and reiterate for the sake of clarity here is that repetition is the backbone of video games. Due to the restrictions of the power of any given system and the storage of media, the game play of most games is limited in the things you can do. Some of my favorite games like Mario mentioned in the podcast and Minecraft are considered boring and repetitive by many. When we, and anyone else, complain about repetition, we are complaining about the type of repetition in the game and that it isn’t anything that we’d want to repeat over and over.

After all, I once heard Minecraft as “you mine stuff and then craft things” early in it’s life cycle and that’s exactly it.

A Note about Trash Talk in Video Games

Chris and I fully sounded like two old guys shouting at clouds on this podcast. As I edited it, i kept hearing, “but it’s different” and it caused me to wonder how it was different. I finally came to a similar conclusion as I did in the podcast. Trash talk was different then because it was in person. Furthermore, you mostly just trash talked people you knew. Maybe they weren’t friends, necessarily, but you saw them around the arcade. Now there’s some anonymous chump telling you things about your mother you never knew. Also, like I said in the show, the other person always had the option to forgo the video game and just punch you directly in the face if you went too far with your mouth.

Staying Current with Video Games

I promised myself after buying an original PlayStation only to see the price drop a few weeks later that it would be the last time I’d pay full price for a console. It is a promise I’ve kept except for buying a Wii U a few years ago to keep the Santa delusion alive. Seems reasonable, right? What does that have to do with getting old? Well, one of the comforting lies we tell ourselves to make getting old more bearable is that it imbues us with wisdom.

And, we’ve got a lot of old morons out there.

The thing about it is that my commitment to being current has gotten less and less, well, committed. I mentioned on the podcast that the PS2 was the last console that I bought relatively early in its life. My wife got me an XBox 360 for Christmas one year. I bought an XBox One only this year and really only for Minecraft. I just bought a used PS3 last year. I don’t own, nor do I see myself buying unless maybe to play against Chris, a PS4. I might buy a Switch, but that’s different and will be covered at a later time.

Get All These Shooter Video Games Off My Lawn

I’ve been trying to figure out when my hate for shooters appeared. In fact, DOOM and Hexen are two of my favorite gaming franchises of all time. It became a running gag in my house that I’d ask of every electronics gift I received, “Can you play DOOM on it?” The new version of DOOM was a driving force in my decision to finally get an XBox One.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Yes, that’s an inkjet printer touch screen.

I think it goes back to when the games became more military focused. Without going into too  much detail, I’ve never been a fan of war as entertainment. So Call of Duty and World at War and Battlefield and Battlefront and Black Ops–and some or all of these might be the same game which shows my ignorance–just don’t appeal to me in the slightest. The fact that I’ll still play Gears of War and games where you shoot zombies acts as further evidence to support this theory.

The current generation of shooters is well beyond my capacity to understand. I mean, I get the point of the games. I just don’t understand the point of the games, if that makes any sense. PUBG was a novelty. Fortnite was an unnecessary inevitability and now the whole landscape is lousy with these games. No thanks, no way, no how. I will gladly concede that I’m too old for this stuff, to paraphrase Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon.

Conclusion (or is it a Eulogy in this case?)

Mourn not for me, new generations of nerds. Not that you will. Those who benefit from progress rarely consider those that came before. I never considered nor mourned for the old guys who used to play Pac-Man and Donkey Kong for high scores when Super Mario, Metroid, and Zelda became the games of choice. As I’m sure that they never mourned for the folks who grew up with Pong as the pinnacle of technological advancement.

I will wait on the sideline for retro to be “it” again. I know that there is always a segment of the population that will always consider retro to be “it”. But, they are usually the old farts who have been left behind. Then we just have to hope that the youths get bored of the new hotness and our old ways will be there waiting.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Dominaria

Note: This is now part 5 of a 6 part series. I have decided to make Return to Ravnica it’s own article.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Introduction

Welcome to part 5 (of 6 now) of my retrospective on Magic the Gathering since Scars of Mirrodin. It’s been a fun trip for me to look back at all of the sets and it reminded me why I love the game so much. Not that I needed the reminder, but familiarity breeds complacency. Every now and then, it’s appropriate to reminisce on the good times that you’ve had.

Relationship advice from your Friendly Neighborhood Noob of All Trades.

Noob’s History with Magic the Gathering

I’ve probably mentioned this several times, both on the web page and in the podcast, but I wasn’t initially impressed with Dominaria. Chris sent me a text with a link. The link was an early and unauthorized leak for the set. After making the joke that someone was definitely going to lose a job over this, I clicked the link. Before I tell you my initial impressions (Spoiler Alert: I already did in the first sentence of this paragraph), let me set the scene.

I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering since the beginning. I don’t have any cool Alpha or Beta collecting stories to tell, but I got into the game when I met someone in college who played the game. When I left school the next year because I met my future wife and moved to be near her, I tried to teach her the game. It wasn’t something that interested her and I didn’t find anyone else who played the game. When combined with the fact that I hadn’t fully developed my commitment to collecting, I moved on to other interests.

I miss my Ice Age cards. Hopefully someone gave them a loving home.

I won’t go into the whole story of how I got back into the game. Just know that it involved an initial missed connection at Wal*Mart, a sheepish admission, and 2 other dudes. Let your imagination chew on that one for a while. Once you’re ready, I’ll continue. Back with me? Okay, let’s continue the story.

As someone who played the game from the beginning, but took a nearly 20 year break from the game, I was excited to be going back to the beginning of the game. It gave me a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. When I finally saw some of what we were getting, it was uninspiring.

Dominaria First Impresssions

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the set that was supposed to take us back to the beginning of Magic the Gathering. We were supposed to be transported back 25 years to our college, teenage, or even childhood years to reminisce about all of those games of Magic the Gathering we played against friends and family. Instead, after clicking the link to the spoilers, I was transported to just another mediocre Magic the Gathering set. Where was the history? What about the recognizable names? Why not even a reference to Black Lotus?

Heck, I’d even take a Grizzly Bear for old time’s sake.

I should have known better. Any time I take Wizards of the Coast literally in their descriptions, I end up letting myself down. I can’t blame them directly. They are in the business of advertising. As a result, they are doing everything they can to sell their product. It’s not their fault that I fall for it every time and over hype myself.

It happened with Masters 25. It could be any card from Magic the Gathering’s 25 year history. With that one simple statement, off my imagination went. What could possibly be in that box that I’m (or Chris and me together) are going to buy? They recently unbanned Jace. Could it be a defective box containing only Jace the Mind Sculptor, allowing me to live out my dream of retiring on sales of Magic the Gathering cards? It could be literally anything! (Disclaimer: It cannot be any card on the reserved list.)

It could even be a boat!

Both early spoilers and comments from the community cured my hype. One comment in particular stuck with me. “Remember,” the person wrote, “Island is a card that was printed in Magic the Gathering over the last 25 years.” That brought me crashing back to earth. Sure, there are great cards, but there are also not so great cards and even terrible cards, too. I braced myself for Dominaria being another let down.

Final Verdict on Dominaria

The one card that became my focus of the set was the new Karn. Karn Liberated is one of the best cards ever printed in the history of the game. Along with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, It is the backbone of Modern control decks, not that any of them exist anymore. Karn, Scion of Urza might be a good card and I’ve never argued that it isn’t, but it’s a shadow of his former self, in my humble opinion.

Aside from that card, nothing jumped out at me from that initial spoiler reveal. As a result, I wasn’t looking forward to Dominaria. It wasn’t until Chris started to look closer at the set through the remainder of the spoiler season that I started to see the potential of the set. He made the point that as the set filled out, it started to look and feel like classic Magic the Gathering.

Mox Amber quickly became one of his favorite cards, though he had to explain his thinking to me about it’s potential power level.

In addition to getting a new Mox for the first time since Scars of Mirrodin, the set gave us a potential Tron/Storm killer in Damping Sphere. The also introduced saga enchantments (Phyrexian Scriptures hasn’t proven to be as popular as I hoped, but it’s still my favorite) and as a result, a mechanic known as historic. In a set that lives for flavor, that’s quite possibly my favorite inclusion.

Initially underwhelming, overall Dominaria is a great set. Chris and I have gone back and forth a few times on whether it is the best set in the history of the game. Obviously, having missed a great deal of the game’s history, I can’t make that claim. What I can say is that it is probably my favorite set since coming back to Magic the Gathering. That’s it for now. Join me, hopefully tomorrow, as I finally (for real this time!) wrap up this series with the Return to Ravnica block.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Kaladesh to Rivals of Ixalan

Note: This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Introduction

After revisiting Zendikar and Innistrad in the first four sets of the new block structure, WotC felt inspired to bring us to three new planes in the next 6. First, we went home with our favorite firebrand. Then, a dragon became a god in the desert. Finally, they must have given a 7 year old kid a 2 liter bottle of mountain dew and a set of sharpies before releasing him into the R&D office. Because Ixalan is a magical tapestry of pirates and dinosaurs woven together with vampires and merfolk.

Pirates and dinosaurs?! What more do you need?!

As with all of the Magic the Gathering sets, there are things that I like and things that I dislike about these six. Because I want to stay positive, I tend to focus on the things that I like. Overall, that was easy to do with this block of sets. There is a lot to like about the current state of Magic and I’m optimistic about the future of the game. Join me as I tell you why.

Kaladesh/Aether Revolt

As I mentioned above, this is the first new plane introduced for a couple of cycles. In addition, as I eluded earlier, this is the home plane for Chandra Nalaar. As a result, we finally got a great planeswalker card for her. When it was spoiled, some referred to it as Chandra, the Mind Sculptor. While I hesitate to agree with that sentiment, it is a good card and it has seen play as recently as this past weekend PT.

Plus, I pulled a foil from my first pack and sold it for 70 bucks on eBay a couple of days later. So, I’m not going to complain about the hype.

Kaladesh is also home to the mystical force known as aether. It is used for magical purposes, but also incorporated into constructs to simulate technology. This latter use of aether introduced a new type of card to the game in the form of vehicles. While their introduction excited me as all new mechanics and card types do, they weren’t the feature of the plane.

Kaladesh is also home to everyone’s favorite token, the thopters, but shockingly, they don’t represent the epitome of this marriage of magic and technology either. Sure, many (perhaps all) of the denizens of Kaladesh utilize thopters in every day life. And, I come here not to bury the thopters. I come to praise them. But, they don’t come close to the cool factor of the giant loveable magic fueled robots, the Gearhulks.

What happens when you fuse the soul of a Snapcaster Mage with a hunk of metal and zap it with some Aether? Oh, this isn’t a riddle. You get this guy.

Two final points before leaving Kaladesh for the deserts of Amonkhet. First, do you love infinite combos in standard? Because, thanks to Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, we got an infinite combo in standard! It was fun while it lasted before WotC banished Guardian to eternal formats. Finally, I mentioned in my previous article that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see the Eldrazi coming. Granted, I might not have been paying attention here, either, but I was able to fortell the coming of Nicol Bolas.

Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation

This pair of sets had a similar feel to Theros. I’m not as much of a fan of Egyptian mythology as Greek. Still, I find anything based on ancient civilizations fascinating. I once made the joke, after buying a Dremel multi tool, that ancient civilizations were able to build such remarkable structures without such modern amenities. Clearly, they were better men than me. But, I digress.

How is this just like Theros then? Well, you have the return of gods to the game. Just like Theros, each of the gods has a like god from the actual pantheon of Egyptian gods. The big difference is that our favorite (possibly) immortal dragon, Nicol Bolas has taken up residence on the plane as the big boss man, er, god.

Where there’s Bolas, Ugin can’t be far behind and vice versa. Perhaps there will be a reckoning on Ravnica?

Three mechanics introduced in the sets are absolute flavor wins. The first two are embalm and eternalize. Both involve the afterlife of a creature. As we all know, that’s a major theme in Egyptian mythology. Those were neat to see included in the sets. The third gave both Chris and I “WTF” moments initially. I thought the cards were either a joke or misprinted.

We’ve had cards that flip upside down. They have “fused” and “melded” cards together. There have been double sided cards. That format has been the most resourceful for them. They’ve used it on creatures, planeswalkers, and even lands now. So, the concept of a card becoming another card is not new to the game. It’s just that the latest iteration of the concept initially looked…let’s say, odd. I know you’ve seen them, but look at them again with an innocent’s eyes.

I seriously thought the cards were misprinted. It’s just such a jarring design.

Ixalan/Rivals of Ixalan

I already made the joke about the development of the set earlier. Don’t misunderstand me. I actually loved the concept of dinosaurs and pirates. Can’t forget vampires and merfolk, but they’re not nearly as cool as the others. Funny enough, I also already referenced one of the other major developments of the set in the previous section, double faced lands. Certainly not as exciting as pirates or dinosaurs. Not even really as exciting as the less exciting vampires and merfolk. Still worth a mention.

Let’s talk about the dinosaurs for a minute. There are your normal run of the mill dinos. You know the ones, The velociraptor who bags your groceries at the super market, as long as it isn’t chicken. Then there’s the old lady T-Rex who hangs out on the park bench and eats the pigeons. And we can’t forget about the dilophosaur children who attack the bus driver every morning and never actually make it to school.

Adorable.

Then, you have your Elder dinosaurs. You might wonder why the old lady from the previous paragraph doesn’t get consideration for elder dinosaur. Well, quite simply, it’s because she isn’t epic enough. Elder dinosaurs don’t sit on a park bench! They have word vomit for keyword text, or increase your hand size to inifinity, or kill everything on the board, or exile cards from your opponent and give them to you, or…have trample? Okay, so that last one doesn’t seem quite so epic. But, I assure you, it is!

Or, they are uncastable and have little to no impact on the game if you do happen to get to 9 mana.

Lastly on the plane of Ixalan, and most important to a filthy casual player like me, is the hybrid board and card game that Wizards of the Coast released. I’ve gotten to play it a couple of times with the boys and it is a fun way to introduce people to the game of Magic the Gathering. Even as a more seasoned player, I liked the addition of the strategy of the board game element. I’m glad that they will be doing more of this.

The Verdict

All three of the new planes brought innovation into the game. As Chris and I discussed on the podcast yesterday, the two set structure tends to make the second set weaker. It isn’t as much of a problem in the 3 set blocks because you expect one of the sets of the three to not be as strong. But, in a 2 set structure, that means that half of the block is weak. It’s just simple math.

Nevertheless, as I said in the beginning, I like to focus on the positive. There’s plenty from each of these sets that I enjoyed. It may not sound like it on the podcast, but I’m mostly optimistic about where Magic the Gathering is right now and where it is going in the near future.

I have only Dominaria and the Return to Ravnica block to cover before I’m done with this retrospective. I wasn’t sure exactly how, or even if, I would pull this off and it’s a bit of a relief to be at the end. It’s been a fun look back at my time in the game. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it, too, and will come back in a couple of days for the final article.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Origins to Eldrich Moon

Note: This is part 3 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2

Introduction

This is the time in Magic the Gathering history when the game was supposed to change forever. They made an announcement that there would be no more core sets. Admittedly, I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of various communities, but I never heard a huge outcry during the announcement. Granted, as a collector, I mourned the loss of those sets, but I’m not sure that many others did.

Aside from that, they reduced the number of sets for each block from 3 sets to 2. In response to this announcement, I did hear quite a bit of murmuring from the crowd. Perhaps it was a bridge too far so soon after the abolition of core sets. As we’ve discussed several times, some portions of the nerd community have become resistant to change. Furthermore, they are quite vocal about it.

Actual quotes from Star Wars fans after every new movie.

Magic the Gathering Origins and Competitive Play

In the previous two articles, I’ve included the core set with the block. I change that here for two reasons. First, with the core sets being discontinued, WotC assured us that there wouldn’t necessarily be “blocks” of sets anymore, even though there were for the next six cycles. Second, since Origins was supposed to be the “last” core set, they promised something innovative for the set.

As with most of WotC’s promises, this wasn’t entirely true. While there were some new things in the set that I will talk about briefly, at it’s heart, Origins was a core set. I think in my article about it, I called Origins the “corest of core sets”. I don’t blame them. Core sets existed for a reason. If you’re going to have core sets, then it should fulfill that purpose. Just don’t promise that you’re going out with a bang and then offer a slightly exaggerated whimper.

Okay, enough of my own “Grumpy Cat” impression. As I said, there are things that I enjoyed about the set. Before I get to those, I will just write a quick note about competitive. I’m not a competitive player by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t aspire to be one either. I do enjoy watching Magic, though, and this set was very kind to competitive players.

Plus, as an added bonus, it gave us the earworm, “I ain’t no Hangerback girl”. Just me? I can live with that.

My Thoughts on MtG Origins

Finally, we get to my positives from the set. Not to give too much away, but they’re what you have come to expect from a filthy casual such as myself. I might be mistaken here, but it’s the first time that I noticed that WotC made the story front and center in the game. I know that there has always been lore. It’s one of the things that we love about Magic. But, this is the first time that I saw them pushing that story on their web page and through the cards. That story focused around five main Planeswalkers and their journey through Magic history.

Speaking of those Planeswalkers, they lived up to the promise of “something different”. None of them start off as Planeswalkers. Instead, they are cast as younger versions of themselves. Then, through a mechanic associated with their color identity, they “gain their spark” and flip to become a Planeswalker. There has been at least one other flip Planewalker since, but this was like nothing that I have ever seen in the game before this set. I don’t know if they have plans to do so, but I would love to see more cards like this in the future.

Of course, I have to stick to my roots and use our friend Jace as the example.

Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch

I have to admit that I was surprised when they announced this group of sets. While the first Zendikar block might have been popular at the time, the only thing that I ever heard from players was how much they hated the Annihilator mechanic. Wizards of the Coast even publicly admitted that Annihilator might have been a mistake. I think I wrote in my previous article that we haven’t been back to Mirrodin, mostly likely because of infect. But, now, we’re back in Zendikar with an even less interactive mechanic? Okay. Let’s do this.

Yes, the Eldrazi are back. No, they don’t have Annihilator. Most of them don’t have Annihilator. Okay, none of them have Annihilator, but Ulamog is hungry and he wants to eat your deck. In keeping with the colorless theme, this set has colorless colored cards. Yeah, I know. For a game that prides itself on its adherence to logic, that might be a tough circle to square. Hear me out on this one, though. I mentioned earlier that WotC was choosing to incorporate lore more into the game. The Eldrazi are colorless creatures that consume all in their path. Zendikar is a rich source of resources. It makes sense that as the Eldrazi consume Zendikar’s resources, there would be those that were in the process of being converted.

This card has two colors, but is still colorless! Madness!

Maybe I thought too much thought into that. I’m sure that I put too much thought into it. Okay, I’m positive that I thought about that way too much. But, it was a fun train of thought for me and who knows? Maybe I’m on to something.

Back to the sets themselves. You can’t just have colorless spaghetti monsters (Actually, she’s not even here. More on her in the next section. Spoiler Alert.) destroying all in their paths. Well, you could, but that’s not much of a narrative. In addition to the old mechanic of landfall to symbolize the land itself fighting back, there’s also a mechanic called converge that pumps the ability of cards based on the different types of mana used to cast them. Multicolored v. colorless. Great flavor win!

Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon

If it was a surprise that we returned to Zendikar, it was a relief to go back to Innistrad. I said several times in my previous article that Innistrad was right in my wheelhouse. If you haven’t read that article, I will summarize here. Having grown up with fantasy and fantasy horror, Innistrad reminded me of times playing the D&D campaign Ravenloft with friends as a teenager. The addition of flip cards, the lore win of graveyard interaction, and a strong story overall cemented Innistrad as one of my favorite blocks. I’m glad to be back.

Okay, but what are those shadows over Innistrad? Who knows? Who cares? It’s probably just witches or giant bats or something like that. It’s certainly not a giant spaghetti monster that has come to consume this plane that we all love. To be honest, I had no idea during the first set that there would be Eldrazi on Innistrad. I mean, I did find it odd that Emrakul was missing from Zendikar, but I wasn’t paying full attention to the story at the time. I was just happy to be back on Innistrad.

It appears that there may have been clues if I had been paying attention.

You got Eldrazi in my zombies! You got zombies in my Eldrazi! Two disgusting things that go great together? I admit that it was a complete surprise when the reveal of Eldritch moon showed that much of the madness on the plane was courtesy of Emrakul’s influence. I wasn’t sure how the crossover might work and felt skeptical that it would be any good. I’m happy to have been proven wrong. While not as strong as the other Innistrad sets, in my opinion, Eldritch Moon delivered enough fun to be a solid filler set if nothing else.

The Verdict

The “new era of Magic the Gathering” as ushered in by the end of core sets and the switch from 3 set blocks to a less rigid construct for sets got off to a mostly successful start. While Origins was, at its heart, just another core set, it did introduce some cool new things into the game. My favorite from the set was the flip Planeswalkers. I hold out hope that we will see more, but to this day they are unique to Origins. Kudos to WotC for keeping things unique.

I never got to play the original Zendikar. I wasn’t even able to collect it as boxes were pushing 300 dollars at the time that I was trying to put together sets. It was nice to be able to see some of what I missed without having to deal with the annoying Annihilator mechanic. I’m not as much of a fan of the Eldrazi as maybe Chris is, but I’ve developed a soft spot since these sets for the big lugs.

Emrakul, in particular, has a goofy triggered ability that I enjoy.

The revisit to Innistrad wasn’t as much fun as the first. Guess you really can’t go home again. The Eldrazi only partly played a role in making the Innistrad not as fun. I actually enjoyed the story and some of the weird creatures that came as a result. It was just too much of a good thing perhaps. That’s what I fear from a Return to Return to Ravnica. This will be the third time on the plane in just over a decade of time. What could they possibly have that will make it worth it? I suppose time will tell.

3 down, 2 to go. Next time, we visit the 3 newer planes introduced recently; Kaladesh, Amonkhet, and Ixalan. After that, it is Dominaria and Return to Ravnica to finish the series. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this as much as I’ve been writing it. See you in a couple of days.