Kaldheim!

Following on from my catch-up with Magic a few weeks ago, today I thought I’d talk about the set that really caught my attention when I started to make some tentative steps at returning to the game. Kaldheim came out in February this year, and is a Norse-inspired set along the lines of Theros. The story heavily involves the planeswalker Kaya, who is one of my favourites as the only planeswalker in black/white, though as far as story goes, I’m not entirely sure what is supposed to happen on the plane. There are a lot of Vikings, clearly, and other cues from Norse mythology that link in quite well to the overall theme.

While the block structure is a thing of the past, WOTC has linked together the sets of a Magic “year” through a couple of themes, notably the tribal theme established in Zendikar Rising’s “Party” mechanic, and modal double-faced cards, where you choose which side of the card to cast as you play the card. In Kaldheim, all the nonland double-faced cards are Gods, which is quite fitting! The tribal organisation here is based around the ten realms of Kaldheim, which are analogous to the ten two-colour pairings. There is some development here of each realm, such as black and red (Immersturm) being a realm of fire and demons, though there isn’t really a great deal of development that you can do when you only have one set to showcase the entire plane.

The new mechanics of the set are Foretell and Boast. Foretell works in a similar way to Morph, where you cast the card face-down for 2 generic mana, and can later be turned face up for its Foretell cost. Morph cards were always creatures, even as face-down cards, but Foretell cards are exiled and so can’t be interacted with (except, I guess, by Eldrazi? I’m kinda new!), and you won’t know if it’s a creature or a spell that is about to be turned up. Boast is an activated ability that will only trigger if the creature attacked this combat. So it’s a slight drawback in that the creature has to survive that combat first!

Snow is back, first time in a main set since 2006 and Coldsnap, with more snow-covered lands as well as snow-covered dual lands, which is very nice! Snow creatures and other permanents (and non-permanents!) also feature, this time with a distinctive, frosty border! Nice!

I’ve been buying quite a few packs of Kaldheim, and a bundle. I’ve been investigating the different types of booster packs now available, and I really do feel out of my depth in this game right now. There are draft boosters and set boosters and collector boosters and some other types, with different cards that have different frames, that I don’t really follow all of the ins-and-outs, if I’m honest. Is there any need? Well the amount of content coming out seems to have had an effect on Standard becoming a bit cheaper, thanks to the number of packs being opened. But it feels a bit like the somewhat casual player – even the slightly-more-than-casual player like myself – might just be overwhelmed by the whole thing. I mean, it took me a weekend to work out everything, and I’m not sure I really get it, even now!

Anyway. Having bought up all these packs, I’ve been able to build a black and white deck that features the new Angels, or Valkyries as they’re called here. I opened three copies of Firja, Judge of Valor, a legendary angel cleric (party!) who triggers off the second spell, which is an intriguing mechanic. I haven’t built a Magic deck in a very long time, so this could be entirely awful, but I’m excited for new cards, so we shall see I suppose!

Creatures (20)
Firja, Judge of Valor (3)
Vengeful Reaper (4)
Hailstorm Valkyrie (4)
Cleaving Reaper
Doomskar Oracle
Starnheim Aspirant
Skemfar Shadowsage (2)
Elderfang Disciple (2)
Bloodsky Berserker (2)

Artifacts (2)
Valkyrie’s Sword (2)

Enchantments (11)
Valor of the Worthy (2)
Rampage of the Valkyries
Firja’s Retribution (2)
Ascent of the Worthy
Rune of Sustenance (3)
Rune of Mortality (2)

Land (27)
Snowfield Sinkhole (3)
Shimmerdrift Vale
Great Hall of Starnheim
Plains (7)
Snow-Covered Plains (3)
Swamp (8)
Snow-Covered Swamp (4)

The first thing you’ll probably notice here is that there are literally no spells. Well, no instants or sorceries, at least! This wasn’t by design, but purely accidental as I was building the deck and found nothing that I really wanted to include. This is very much a first-cut though, and could definitely do with refinement. I think it also speaks to the fact that I was doing it only with the cards that I had opened, without any real attempt to buy the singles that I wanted or needed. There’s also the element of sticking to just the Kaldheim set, of course, and the restrictions there. Strixhaven is an enemy-colour set, and there are a number of black and white cards in that set for the Silverquill college that I think might be a good fit, but I’ve not really investigated that set in great depth just yet. Of course, if we’re going to plumb the depths of my overall collection, I’m sure that the opportunities would be endless to get a really interesting deck ticking over! Might have to do that, at some point!

The basic plan for the deck is just to go wide with these angel creatures and smash into my opponent. There are some useful abilities and interesting things that might be possible, but I don’t think I’ll be making full use of any of them for the time being. Firja’s ability to draw cards when the second spell has been cast could be handy, paired with some graveyard recursion to get those others back from the discard side of the ability. There is some, for sure, but not a massive amount! Creating Angel tokens should be nice, though I do seem to run the risk of just having hundreds of creatures out with nothing really flashy – it could be a very blunt and obvious deck to play! I’m sure I’ll have a tinker with it though, and see what else I can come up with!

I do find it interesting to note how, in a recent video, the Professor was talking about the overwhelming quantity of new product coming at us this year, and made the comment regarding how can anyone be expected to remember the ten realms as a shorthand for the colour combo, as they do for the Guilds of Ravnica. While we’ve spent three entire blocks on the plane of Ravnica now, and so it can be reasonably expected that the guilds are quite well-known, I think he does have a point when Kaldheim only came out six months ago, but I had no idea the black/white realm was called Starnheim, and would forever refer to the deck as Orzhov.

I wonder if we’ll ever come back to Kaldheim? I suppose, if the story allows, why wouldn’t we, but we seem to have been dashing about so much lately, and we’re set to continue dashing into 2022, that it’ll be interesting to see whether there is ever the room to come back. Magic seems to be in an interesting place right now, where it is old enough that there is a nostalgia that can be banked on – returning to Zendikar, Ravnica and Innistrad, to say nothing of Dominaria, is always going to be a huge draw for people. Giving us new planes, such as Kaldheim and Strixhaven, Ikoria and the upcoming New Capenna, feels a bit like the design team trying to get away from the whole Gatewatch thing. But the constant new stuff seems to be just diluting the overall feel of the game, somehow. Added to that, the branching out into other IP does feel a little bit like the game is lost, maybe?  

At any rate, I am finding things interesting with Magic right now, almost as an outsider-looking-in. I haven’t played it for a very long time, of course, so even given my history with the game and my fairly substantial collection, I do feel a bit like I’m on the sidelines. Maybe that’ll change as life continues to get back to normal, though!

What a weekend!

Kill Team: Octarius has gone up for preorder, and it looks pretty sexy, I have to say. I’ve put my order in at my local store, so I’m hoping I won’t be in for any disappointment in a couple of weeks. I do like the look of the box – even though I’m not an Ork fan, I think it looks like a cracking game and I’m very excited to get my hands on it!

It’s also been really interesting to see the news that Kill Team will be supported, going forward, with new ‘seasons’, for want of a better word, every three months. That feels almost too much, if they’re all going to be launched with a big box like this, but maybe the big box route is how GW is modelling their business now. Seems like they’re getting to grips more with the idea of actual pre-orders rather than adding a week on to your delivery time, with how they’re doing this made-to-order thing if they sell out. In my opinion, that’s how they should be producing every “event box” from now on.

However, there’s nothing to say that some of these ‘new season’ boxes won’t be strict repackages of existing stuff. Will they be able to produce so much new stuff to such a schedule? Why not just stick some Sector Imperialis terrain in with some Battle Sisters and some Tau Pathfinders, and job done! No massive design outlay, there!

Word on the street, of course, is that the release model will mimic Warcry and give us fairly unique, new teams that will have normal 40k rules, but will be primarily for Kill Team. Furthermore, the next box is already rumoured to be Sisters vs Tau. Given that Sisters have had a lot of releases recently, something just tells me that the release model just isn’t going to be purely new teams, but there will be those elements ported over from 40k where it makes sense. I guess we’ll see, of course, but yeah, it feels a bit off to say that we’re getting yet more plastic Sisters good stuff.

I would love to get the odd special box every once in a while, though – perhaps along the lines of Pariah Nexus, where the KT box is used to launch a new plastic unit from an existing army? Eldar, maybe your time is coming?

Speaking of what’s coming, the new codex road map for the rest of the year has been revealed, showing Black Templars as coming up, with a new Primaris Emperor’s Champion being shown off as well. Tyranids seem to be a strong option for their book coming, with a lot of people expecting Imperial Guard as well, though a persistent rumour of an Imperial Agents book has got me quite intrigued!

I guess time will tell! I’m looking forward to getting some of this good stuff – September seems to have become my traditional time of the year for really reconnecting with 40k, so after a lot of time spent with Warcry and Necromunda, I’m sort of hoping to have the hobby time to devote to maybe getting some Necrons painted!

Oh, and apparently this is a thing! I’ve been tentatively getting interested in Magic for a while now, and this weekend was watching a few of the Professor’s videos when I came across this – Commander decks themed for 40k, apparently coming out with a full set themed around Lord of the Rings. Weird! In his video, the Professor talks about diluting the world of MtG, and I have to say that I agree. I love 40k, of course, and while I don’t really play much these days, I still love Magic. But I love them as separate entities, and have no wish to see them mixed together. I’m sure it might be fun to get Primarchs as Legendary Creatures, or whatever, but ultimately I feel like this is going to be detrimental to the game. Sure, collectors will probably buy them, I may even be tempted myself, but I wouldn’t want to mix them into my collection of Magic cards. Worlds don’t need to collide!

Finally, this arrived today! Very much looking forward to getting my teeth into it!

June Retrospective

Hey everybody,
It’s already time for another retrospective, and we’re suddenly already halfway through 2021! That soon happened. June has been something of a slow month for my blog, because I had the fairly huge event of my second daughter being born on the 18th of the month! Freya came into the world only a couple of days early, although completely unplanned as she couldn’t wait to join the world, so was delivered on the bathroom floor 😳 She’s been doing great though, and her big sister Phoebe is hopefully going to be a big help to us all, despite being only 21 months old, herself 🤣

I’ve been reading quite a bit, and was able to schedule a couple of book reviews to make sure that my blog didn’t just shut down for a few months as happened with the birth of the Firstborn. Master and Apprentice was a little disappointing, but I’m aware that I seem to be almost routinely bashing the new canon stuff, so I need to try to be better and approach these books a little more positively. Hopefully when I get round to stuff like the Alphabet Squadron series, I’ll enjoy them as much as I did Alexander Freed’s Battlefront novel.

I’ve really been on a bit of a Horus Heresy bender, though, partly because I’ve grown tired of continually making statements here along the lines of “I just want to read five more books in the series this year” and “I just want to make it to x, that’s only 4 books to get through”. I’ve been going back to read some of those anthologies that I skipped over back in the day, thinking I just want to read the actual story, and I’ve also been progressing forwards, getting to book 32, Legacies of Betrayal.


This is a bit of an odd duck, to me, being a collection of lots of short stories that previously saw release as audio books, or as part of the BL Advent Calendar that usually has shorter-than-normal stories. It kicks off with Brotherhood of the Storm, which is a novella prequel to the excellent Scars, and one story that I enjoyed quite a bit, even if at times it felt a bit superfluous. There are some interesting shorts in here that give us a tiny insight into how the war is going, such as Strike and Fade showing a group of Salamanders ambushing some Night Lords on Isstvan V while the dust settles. Veritas Ferrum is a short prequel to Damnation of Pythos, and shows the Iron Hands rescuing the Salamanders before they escape the Isstvan system – the sort of story could (should?) have been included as a prologue to the parent novel, but anyway. There are a couple of World Eaters stories by ADB that were quite good – I particularly enjoyed Heart of the Conqueror, which showed the internal conflict experienced by the ship’s Navigator – aware of the fact the Legion has turned against the Emperor, who she sees as a kind of saviour/patron figure, she kills herself and thus pulls the flagship out of the Warp. The stand-outs though, were Censure, which showed us the Ultramarines vs Word Bearers on the irradiated world of Calth (I had no idea that Kurtha Sedd was a character before the box set!) and Kryptos, which featured the Raven Guard/Iron Hands stealth assassin team from Angel Exterminatus. These stories were of a more traditional length, and were able to give a more proper development to the actual storyline they had.

So it was a curious book, overall, having a lot of short, forgettable, dare I say pointless little side stories, but at least I’m ploughing through – only another 23 books to go! 😳

There was some very exciting news about Arkham Horror LCG at the start of the month, with the change to how they’re going to publish cycles from now on, and last week we had the news that there’ll be a revised core set doing the rounds, which will feature a complete playset of the player cards, as well as some of those cards from later expansions to give new folks a better experience right out of the box. Otherwise, it’s still the same 5 investigators (albeit with new art) and they’re going up against the Night of the Zealot as before. I find it interesting that they’re choosing to do this, full playset of cards etc, as it seems to be indicating the shift of the LCG model away from what it has been, and instead making it more like the board game that it pretty much was anyway. I think it’s really exciting, especially if they can pepper the year with stand-alone scenarios to keep the attention on the game, rather than just relying on one, potentially two release events in a year.

Of course, there’s a part of me thinking perhaps this could be signalling the end of the game, as Call of Cthulhu went to a similarly concentrated release schedule of deluxe boxes only before it folded. But even if that were to happen, I think I’m pretty confident that this game has got enough content and playability in the existing cycles that I’ll be playing it for years to come!


Speaking of playing with old stuff, I suppose Lord of the Rings can now be counted as an older game that has finished! I’ve recently had some time to have a few games with this old favourite, playing the first three scenarios in the Angmar Awakened cycle. I was initially planning this for Christmastime, of course, but better late than never, I suppose!! I’ll post something next month going over these, anyway!

June has been pretty much all about rediscovering Magic the Gathering, after I’d found some cards in the attic that I have no real memory of buying! I’ve written a couple of posts where I’ve caught up with the recent sets, here and here, though I’m still trying to be a little circumspect with it, not flying off the deep end with buying cards left and right! I’ve got a couple of deck ideas that I want to share, too, so stay tuned for more on that front!!

However, the biggest game news from June came from Necromunda, when I was finally able to play a real game with James, my Delaque vs his Orlocks. That was a lot of fun – I knew I’d enjoy it, having previously solo played the game at the back end of 2020, but it was a whole load of fun with another person, and we’re planning to get more games and hopefully a campaign in once Freya is settled and the kids are sleeping through the night!


As a consequence, I’ve picked up the new Hive War box set! I knew I wanted more Delaque models anyway, and after playing with the zone mortalis stuff, I think it was clear that the Dark Uprising stuff, while excellent, wasn’t going to be enough for a 3×2 board. The cost of more Delaque and more terrain would be around the £58 mark at my local store, where I could also pick up Hive War for £71, netting me more Escher for just £13, as well as the new book and stuff. So that was pretty much a no-brainer, I thought!

The set is actually quite nice as a starting set, coming with enough terrain to play some games, but I’m pretty sure that even GW themselves tell you it’s only intended as a starting point, and you will get more out of it with more terrain. Which is fine, after all! The rule book, specific to this box, has got the basic rules in it, as well as some “starter” gang rules for all six House gangs, allowing you to build a gang using the box only and these rules. It feels pared-back, but this is the point of this box, remember!

When the Hive War box came out, we also had plastic weapon upgrades for Escher and Goliath (the original two gangs, remember), which seem to be a blend of weapons from the Forge World weapons kits for both gangs. I’m really hoping that, when House of Shadows comes out soon, we’ll also have plastic upgrades for Delaque, so I’m holding off from building too many more gangers for the time being! As I mentioned at the start of the week, though, I’ve started to poke my nose into House Escher, so I could well be making a move there in the coming weeks!

I feel like Necromunda is in a very exciting place right now, as we’re poised on that brink of “what’s next?” once the Delaque get their book.

That pretty much sums things up for now, anyway! I’m hoping that I can do a proper catch-up of the hobby goals sometime in early July – I had planned a mid-point check in for this blog, but I think I’m running a bit long here already. But stay tuned for that!

A little night Magic… (part two)

Hey everybody,
Following on from my last Magic catch-up earlier in the week, it’s time to finish up my look at what I’ve missed from the last couple of years. I left things at Jumpstart, which was released last summer – which was followed by Double Masters, which looks like a phenomenal set for reprints, seeing a lot of expensive cards being reprinted almost like the intent was to simply increase supply. Classic Commanders like Kaalia, Sen Triplets and Riku, as well as more recent stuff like Atraxa and Breya. Jace the Mind Sculptor also reappears, alongside the Swords, and the Filter Lands from Shadowmoor/Eventide.

This was followed by Zendikar Rising, a Return to Return to Zendikar set. This is a set of adventure and exploration, apparently, and returns specifically to the feel of the original Zendikar block, without the Eldrazi. As far as story goes though, we’re in the post-BFZ era, where the plane has been ravaged by the titans. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s get into it!

Zendikar Rising is the first set to see Set Boosters, which are different to Draft Boosters in that they’re not designed, well, for Draft. Instead, you get a different distribution of card rarity, and we have the introduction of something called The List, 300 cards from the game’s past which are not Standard legal, but offer a chance to get reprints (though at random).

In terms of set mechanics, there is a new Party theme which grants boons based on the creature types you have in play. Modal Double-Face Cards are a new type of double faced card that players can decide which face to cast (they don’t transform). These cards eventually proved to be the theme among the sets of the Magic “year” (it seems they’re not calling them Blocks anymore).

I adore Zendikar, the art is some of the best in the game, and I went through a phase of buying as much of the lands from that block that I could, which I’m quite pleased about. I’m also a fan of the Party idea, as I like the idea of assembling a proper type of Fellowship for my games. I think this is definitely a set that I need to look into soon!

Commander Legends is a draftable Commander set, which I just don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. There are 165 new cards, and almost 200 reprints. Drafting a Commander deck just seems odd – you’re drafting a 60 card deck, picking two cards at a time. You still have the colour identity stuff, though it is no longer a single-card deck. Weird. I don’t quite get it – though it is always handy to have Commander cards in circulation.

Commander meets Draft. Weird.

The next set is Kaldheim, which brings us to February of 2021. We’re getting there, folks! Kaldheim is Magic’s take on Vikings, and it kinda works. Much like Theros and Amonkhet, we get some fairly decent God cards which is always nice. Kaya is front and centre of the packaging, which is perhaps a reflection on WotC’s attempts to compensate following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 (remember, they decided cards like Cleanse and Crusade were “culturally offensive” because they destroy black creatures and pump white creatures, respectively). Kaya is a fairly badass character in her own right though, and being a big fan of Black and White as a colour combination, I’ve appreciated her as the BW planeswalker since she first arrived in Conspiracy 2. Her role in the cinematic trailer makes it clear, in case there was any doubt, that she is amazing, anyway.

I’m getting too political here, let’s rein it in!

Kaldheim is somewhat tribal themed, with Giants and Dwarves, Angels (Valkyries) and Elves showing up. There is a huge development on Snow as a theme, moving on from 2006’s Coldsnap to have Snow on instants and sorceries as well as creatures (and of course, lands). I’m a big sucker for this, anyway – snow and fantasy games always reminds me of Runebound, one of my all-time favourite board games!

In addition to more modal double-face cards, and the second return of Sagas (again, something I like!) we have two new mechanics: Boast and Foretell. Foretell is a bit like Morph, which allows you to exile a card for 2 generic mana, and later play it for its Foretell cost. Boast is an ability that can only be used if the creature with said ability attacked that turn. All very interesting stuff, for sure.

I’ve really been sucked into the whole Kaldheim thing, and have actually been buying cards again – specifically for this set. I’ve been buying boosters and stuff, including Set boosters as well as Draft boosters, and have begun the process of creating a BW Angels deck. There’s a lot more to be said on this topic, so stay tuned for a blog coming on this, soon!

Something very strange has been happening with Magic though. They’ve announced that there will be sets released with themes from outside of Magic as we know it – called Universes Beyond – and they’ve released in paper Time Spiral Remastered, a single set that distills the essence of the original Time Spiral. Why? Who knows. Weird.

The first Universes Beyond set is coming sometime next month, and is set in the Forgotten Realms. I’m actually quite excited to see Drizzt on a Magic card…

The most recent set to release is Strixhaven: School of Mages, which came out in April and seems to be Magic’s take on Harry Potter. Well, not exactly, though it is described as “the magic school genre” – so that’s clearly a thing! The set is an enemy-coloured theme, spells matter theme delight – I think I’ve read somewhere that it’s the first set specifically devoted to enemy colour pairs since Apocalypse in 2001. Anyway, Strixhaven is a magical school that attracts only the best and the brightest. Among these are Will and Rowan Kenrith once more, who are really establishing themselves now in the lore of the multiverse.

Modal double-face cards are once again here, tying all of the sets of the “year” together, and we have a focus on instants and spells. Magecraft is a new ability word that triggers when casting instant and sorcery spells, and there is a new keyword that ties into the theme of the set, Learn. The keyword lets you either discard a card and draw a card, or to reveal a Lesson card from outside the game and add it to your hand. Lessons are a subtype of instants and sorceries that allow you to focus on a specific type of gameplay, their biggest thing being that you can “fetch” them with Learn cards. Seems a little one-shot-wonder to be of any real impact, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get more to support this type of thing in years to come.

Confession time: I’ve also been buying some Strixhaven cards. I’m a sucker for BW right now, and have been plotting another deck around the Silverquill college. There are five colleges in Strixhaven, each named after the Elder Dragon that founded it. Nothing to do with Harry Potter, whatsoever. Anyway – stay tuned for more on this deck, once I’ve figured out just what I’m trying to do with it!

Strixhaven brings us to the end of this two-part run-through the recent years of Magic sets! After the D&D set (in a similar move, Strixhaven is an upcoming sourcebook for the RPG, I believe), we’re going back to Innistrad once more, though I don’t know anything about that other than the set names appear to have been announced. I think I’ve got my work cut out for me in getting to grips with Valkyries and Ink-mages though, so I’m gonna leave it there for now!

Hopefully the challenges that parenthood has in store won’t interfere too much with me getting some more blogs written in the near future, so do check in soon when I hope to waffle on about my new favourite colour pairing of white and black in the most recent MTG sets!

A little night Magic… (part one)

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about cardboard crack on this blog, but following on from my discovery of some cards in the attic, which I mentioned very briefly in my May update, I thought I’d do a little bit of investigation into what I’ve missed in the few years since I last cracked a pack. What else am I going to do with my paternity leave, right?!

So let’s just remember that the last set that I was anything like present for was War of the Spark, which released in May 2019. Oh wow, so since I last shuffled up a deck of cards, I’ve had two children… wow! Since that time, I count six full sets have been released, the most recent of which is Strixhaven. But I’ll get to that later.

2019 saw a new core set, M20, the second of the new core sets to be released since they had been abandoned after Magic Origins back in the day. The core set was roughly based around Chandra Nalaar, although there doesn’t seem to have been much in the way of actual story for the set. Fair enough – it’s a core set, after all. Gimme the reprints I need!

After M20, the next set was Throne of Eldraine, which I do remember coming out as being something of a fairy tale set. Apparently it’s a top-down design based on Grimm’s tales and Arthurian legend. Sounds interesting! The storyline seems to be based around a conflict between the Knights and the Wild Peoples, with Garruk turning up to kidnap the resident king, but his kids manage to rescue him and ignite their sparks. The kids are Will and Rowan Kenrith, who I seem to recall came as partners in the Battlebond set.

There is a new card type in the set, called Adventures, which are spells stuck onto creatures. The video above shows how they work, but honestly, I just don’t get it. It’s not really like there’s a link between the two aspects on the card – the Adventure portion doesn’t seem to make the creature you can cast any bigger or anything, it’s like they had too many cards they wanted to fit in, so stuck 30 of them onto creatures and made up this weird thing.

Otherwise, Eldraine seems like an interesting enough set, and maybe I’ll look into that some more at a later date…

Moving on!

2019 also saw something called Secret Lair, which appears to be a very expensive booster game where you can get older cards reprinted. I’ve heard some pretty negative stuff about this whole thing, though, so suffice it to say I won’t be looking into these things.

Moving into 2020 now, the first set of the year was Theros: Beyond Death. A return to Theros, how delightful! The set is mainly focused on the Underworld of the plane, however, which the above trailer seems to show really well. Elspeth isn’t dead, or maybe she is but she’s beyond death now (eh? eh!) and we’ve also got Ashiok running around, one of my all-time favourite pieces of creepy-weird art from the game. There’s also a new Theros god, Klothys the god of destiny (in red/green, weird). We’ve got mono-coloured gods, the original five returning, plus five demigods, who I’m pretty sure we’ve seen previously as dual-coloured creatures. These demigod cards are more like their prequel versions? I don’t know.

The big news, to me, is that the set uses Sagas once more, the legendary enchantment type introduced back in Dominaria. Nice!

Despite COVID breaking out, we still had set releases almost as normal. Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths was next up, and is a set that I’ve previously mentioned as sounding interesting to me. It features the Tarkir wedges once more, and we have some pretty crazy-huge creatures (well, it is the land of behemoths!) The set is one of those for which I’d picked up some cards somehow without really realising! So I think I need to get in on this and see what it was all about!

This set is all about massive monsters, with a vaguely kaiju air to it. Narset is back as a planeswalker, by the way, in her original Jeskai colours as opposed to the blue/white of her last Tarkir incarnation. One of the big themes of the set is Mutate, a kind of “build your own monster”. Cards with this keyword can be cast for their Mutate cost, where they are attached to a non-Human creature, either above or below that target, and the two (or more!) creatures become one – that is, they’re considered to be the creature on top (for CMC and power/toughness) but with the abilities of all the other creatures below it. Interestingly, if the creature is flickered, then it comes back to the battlefield as individual cards.

There’s also the neat little keyword Companion, which is featured on some cards and instructs a deckbuilding limitation (such as all cards need to be a certain CMC or something), but allows you to include that card in your sideboard and then cast it – almost like a mini version of Commander. Originally, there were no particular rules around this, but later it was revised to cost 3 generic mana to cast your chosen Companion.

Having at least some of these cards has made me excited to start thinking about building decks with something of an Ikoria theme, so we’ll have to see if parenting duties will allow for that to happen!

We got the summer core set, M21, as well as a supplemental product called Jumpstart. This has been fascinating me since I’ve now taken the time to actually look into it and see what I’ve been missing. A massive set of over 500 cards, most of which are either reprints from the history of the game, or else ported over from M21, with just shy of 80 actual new cards. It’s not just new cards, but a new way to play – the boosters have 20 cards in them, and the idea is that you buy two, shuffle them together, and you play! The packs all have basic lands in them, but it’s kind of a case of just throwing together two random packs and hoping for the best, as there’s no way to plan a deck because of the random nature. It’s really quite fascinating, I have to say!

A MTG version of Smash Up? Interesting. It’s been a while, obviously, since I’ve seen a video with the Professor, but I feel as though any MTG product that he speaks well of must actually be worth looking into!

This blog seems to be running long, so I’m going to close up for now. I’m going to continue to catch myself up with the game that I’ve missed later this week, so stay tuned for more!

May retrospective

Hey everybody,
Well this has soon come round again, hasn’t it? Doesn’t seem like five minutes since the last retrospective blog, does it now?! I’ve not actually been posting all that much on here throughout May, unfortunately, and I doubt that June will be very busy at all, given that we’re eagerly awaiting the birth of baby number two, but I hope that I’ll be able to do something. At any rate – it’s not the time to look forward right now, it’s time to look back!

May has seen the temporary culmination of my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, with three heroes joining the ranks of the rest of the models that I’ve painted up for the army. Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, Vokmortian, and the Mortisan Soulreaper have been a nice way to finish things off, I think!

I’ve got somewhere in the realm of 1400 points painted up now, which is very exciting, though I do think I need to get more basic troops done before I can call this army done. I’m hoping that the new edition of Age of Sigmar will bring us some more models, as I’d really like to get a unit of those archers, if nothing else!

So the start of the month was almost consumed with Age of Sigmar and getting the Bonereapers into shape. I’ve also got some more games of Warhammer Underworlds in, which has been really nice, including with the original Shadespire set.

It’s been really nice getting to play the game, and I’m hoping that I can pick up some of the Direchasm expansions when the world returns to normal and they’re actually available to buy again… fingers crossed!

It’s not all about the Mortal Realms, though, as I’ve also made a return to the grim darkness of the far future. Specifically, with the Sisters!

Sisters of Battle

It’s been far too long, of course, but I’m really glad to have finally made an effort with these ladies. I’ve gone for a custom scheme, though intend to play them as Order of the Sacred Rose – I’ve written at length on my plans for the army, here and here, so please do check those blogs out!

I very nearly had a game of 40k the other week, though my buddy JP had a drunken night and figuring out the rules for a system we’ve barely played was not to be! I’ve got a game of Necromunda lined up with James next weekend, which should be good because I’ve only ever played it solo up to now! So gaming is slowly coming back on the radar, even if it will be curtailed while I look after a newborn again!


Jemma and I have started to watch the MCU again, working our way through Phase One during May. There’s probably a lot more to talk about with these things, although at the same time I feel like there isn’t really a great deal that I can add that has already been said. Two Iron Man films, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers movie. I do find origin films to get a bit same-y after a while, and this is very true of the MCU, where you get to feel like they’re just giving us yet another superhero who comes into his or her power (actually, I guess they’re just male) and fights the bad guys, gets beaten down, comes back stronger and saves the day.

There is a definite élan to the first Iron Man, which updates the action from Communist China to Afghanistan during the War on Terror superbly well. Indeed, that’s one of the great things we see during the series as a whole, the way that they’re updated and made relevant, almost. For sure, they all exist as pure escapism, and they’re all just great adventures that you can sit back and bask in the effects without needing to really think. But I do find it quite fun to watch the development of Iron Man, the one that started it all.

The Avengers is also an amazing film for the fact it managed to pull together so many A-list stars and not feel like it favoured one too heavily. It was nice that we’d been having hints and shadows of SHIELD since the very beginning, but that film very definitely exists in a SHIELD world. It’s almost ten years old, and I still can’t quite believe they managed to pull it off!

Phase One has got some great stuff in there, though. I think it’s possibly because of the fact that they’re starting off, and so all the big names are being established. Things are definitely getting more niche in some of the post-Infinity Saga stuff that we’re hearing about! There’s a lot to enjoy in this first act, I found myself in particular enjoying Captain America more than I remember, and Jemma was appreciative of Thor as a sort of classic fantasy movie merged with the conspiracy-theory stuff based here on Earth. Things definitely began to get unwieldy after this, although I do think Phase Two managed to keep a fairly decent lid on things until it all seemed to go nuts in Phase Three. But that’ll be for another blog!


Now then. I was up in the attic recently, trying to choose my next book, and I came across a stack of unsorted Magic cards, which seem to have been my last purchase from maybe 12-18 months ago? Feels like it might be longer, though I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it brought back a lot of memories, and I have been doing a bit of tinkering with some things, in the hope that – as I said before – real-life gaming may well be on the cards once again.

They’re mostly from Ikoria, though some M20 in there as well. I need to get to grips with what I’ve missed since I was last interested in all this stuff. Was it War of the Spark, last time I paid attention? Can’t remember… It’s been a long time, anyway, though seeing these things, and flicking through them, and even the smell – it’s all triggering those fond memories, and it’s got me wanting to build decks again! Let’s hope that it won’t all be for nothing, though…

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you can expect to see some more Magic blogs here, as I attempt to catch up with what I’ve missed!

Playing Magic: Cult of Rakdos

Hey everybody,
It’s been a long time since I have talked about Magic on my blog, but it’s been something that I’ve been drifting back towards in recent days, so I’ve been looking over some of the decks that I’ve had built over the years. I’ve written quite a few of these “playing Magic” blogs, focusing on a few of the Ravnica guilds such as Dimir and Orzhov, but not yet on the colour combination that I perhaps enjoy more than any other: red and black! So it’s finally time to get to “my roots”, as it were, and talk about the Cult of Rakdos!

Rakdos Lord of Riots

Rakdos is unlike any of the other Guilds on the plane of Ravnica, in that they’re a sort of madcap band of circus-folk who are all bound by their hedonistic worship of the demon, Rakdos. The black and red cult has appeared now in three different sets, starting with Dissension in original Ravnica back in 2006. The guild mechanic here was Hellbent, an ability word that gave additional or enhanced effects to a card if you have no cards in hand.

Return to Ravnica gave us Unleash, a mechanic that allows you to choose when casting a creature to place a +1/+1 counter on it. If you do, it then cannot block, but is obviously buffed for as long as it remains in play. (Indeed, a counter placed from any source will prevent the creature from blocking). As far as the link to Rakdos goes, it’s fairly thematic, given the fact that the creature will only be concerned with attacking.

Finally, Ravnica Allegiance has given us Spectacle, which is a sort of re-imagined version of the ability originally chosen for Rakdos – if an opponent lost life this turn, you can cast the spell for its Spectacle cost rather than its casting cost. It’s also thematic for being so similar to the ability of the guildmaster himself, Rakdos Lord of Riots.

Rakdos

So let’s get down to my deck!

Creatures
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Spike Jester (2)
Goblin Deathraiders (2)
Rakka Mar
Kiln Fiend
Hellrider
Rakdos Cackler (2)
Rakdos Shred-Freak (2)
Gore-House Chainwalker (2)
Rakdos Drake (2)
Exuberant Firestoker

Instants
Staggershock (2)
Shock (2)
Showstopper (2)
Virulent Swipe (2)
Rally the Forces

Enchantments
Lightning Talons (2)
Deviant Glee (2)
Madcap Skills
Anthem of Rakdos

Artifacts
Rakdos Keyrune (2)
Rakdos Signet
Rakdos Cluestone
Veinfire Borderpost

Land
Rakdos Guildgate (4)
Rakdos Carnarium (2)
Blood Crypt
Swamp (7)
Mountain (8)

There are a couple of things that I’ve considered changing about this deck, but I’ve had pretty decent luck with it so far that I’ve not really done anything about it just yet.

The bulk of the deck is of course Rakdos-centric, which is a lot of attacking power and Haste creatures. A lot of people don’t value Enchantments much, because of the fact that they die with the creature they’re attached to, but I do like to have some in my decks for the abilities they can grant. And I do recall one particularly memorable game where I had the Hellrider deal just one point of damage to my opponent, which let me bring Rakdos himself out, and the pair of them consequently won me the game while equipped with Deviant Glee and Lightning Talons, respectively! By contrast, the only artifacts included in the deck are concerned with mana-fixing, which is probably something that isn’t going to be a problem with the majority of the cards included, but they’re also really on-theme, so I find it hard to argue with that!

I mentioned Hellrider being a useful way to ensure Rakdos comes out, but there are a couple of direct-damage spells (of course!) that can help to ensure I’m able to deal damage to my opponent if need be, as well as the Exuberant Firestoker who, for quite a while, was almost cut from the team. However, even with creatures that have Trample or Flying, I need to make sure I can get the big guy out as much as possible. There are plenty of ways to pump him throughout the deck, which can win me the game if need be – Rakdos with Lightning Talons was a 9/6 Flying & Trample demon badass, but with Virulent Swipe he can be an 11/6 Flying/Trample/Deathtouch nightmare! Add in a Rally the Forces and he’s giving out 12 points of damage in the air – Trample ensures at least some of it gets through, and First Strike will kill off any chumps before they get a chance to kill him as well. If Anthem of Rakdos is added into the mix, there is the potential to one-shot a player! He can be such an incredible threat, it’s worth adding in the additional insurances to make sure he can be cast!

Exava Rakdos Blood Witch

Of course, the deck isn’t entirely about the Lord of Riots. He’s not an expensive card to buy, normally, but his availability has decreased significantly since I first got into the game, it has to be said. So the deck was never going to be a showcase for my favourite cult leader. We’ve got Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, who acts almost as a focal point for the Unleash mechanic, allowing me to play those creatures on the turn they come out as she gives anything with a +1/+1 counter Haste. There are plenty of creatures and plenty of direct-damage spells that I can still stand a very good chance here, even if the Lord of Riots is stuck at the bottom of my deck. I don’t need him to win, but he’s really great when he hits the table!

I’ve talked before about encouraging the aesthetics of the deck in having cards in the same frame, and so on, and here I wanted to keep that sort of look of the deck as having the pre-M15 frame. I should probably try to make another deck from the new Rakdos cards in the new block, as I’ve got quite a few that I think might go together to make a decent re-imagining of the classic combo of black and red. Might be a blog for another day soon!

Rakdos

Outside of the Ravnica cards, I’ve gone pretty wide this time in the deck, including stuff from original Zendikar block, and even Shards of Alara. I feel it’s worth mentioning here the Borderposts that I’ve included in the deck – I’ve come across a lot of hate for these cards online, as people seem to condemn anything that isn’t a fetchland as worthless. However, it’s worth noting that you can pay 1 generic mana and return a land to your hand to play the card, rather than paying the three-mana casting cost. Turn one, then, being able to play the post provides some immediate fixing on the same speed as a Guildgate. Again, I’m aware that Guildgates are hardly the go-to lands but, playing against a lot of land removal allows me to keep my colour fixing in artifacts like these and the Keyrune etc.

Of course, it’s basically an aggro deck, so there are a lot of creatures involved, with a lot of combat tricks to buff them (and keeping the Kiln Fiend happy!) I’ve been thinking of more stuff like this going into the deck, to have more value coming from casting spells – Guttersnipe springs to mind, of course, but as I’d said before, I’ve had decent success so I’m not in too much of a rush to change things for now. I also have only 9 instant cards in the deck, which I don’t think is enough to consider building a spells-matter strategy into it at this point.

Rakdos

It’s a lot of fun playing these sorts of decks, I find, as you usually don’t find yourself playing for very long, so can get in multiple games and, thus, get to see a lot more of the deck.

There are a lot of great cards that can find a home in a deck like this, although they do tend to lend themselves to a certain type of card as time goes on. I’ve found myself having collected a large number of Magic cards over the years, and so find it a lot of fun to physically go through the collection and build decks that include all manner of weird and wonderful cards and effects. It’s also one of the reasons that I think this game is always going to be around for me – I might not play it anywhere near as often as I used to, but it’s something that has been a big part of my life for quite some time, and will doubtless always remain there, ready for me to come back to it when life allows! I suppose that’s the beauty of the game, in that a deck like Return to Ravnica-era Rakdos (and we’re talking 2012 here) will always be fun to play, no matter what has happened in the game. There’s another reason why I keep coming back to Magic – that timeless quality of it just being a really good game!

A catch-up!

Hey everybody!
It feels like it’s been a while, doesn’t it? After celebrating my blog’s sixth birthday, it seems like other things have come into play, and I’ve not had a great deal of time for much else… well, let’s see, shall we?

To start with – check it out! I’m calling these chaps done for now – last weekend, there was a painting competition at my local Games Workshop (that is, a competition that was held via facebook, given the current climate). The brief was to paint an infantry unit at minimum squad size, and while there are perhaps a couple of details I could improve upon, I still like the fact that I’ve managed to get these done! The start of my Blood Angels – so let’s see what comes next, eh?

In the meantime, I’ve decided to resurrect this old project, and have been putting some details on to the chap in the middle there with the plasma gun. They’re real nice models, as you can see, and while the trim there is quite fiddly, it’s nevertheless really gratifying when these things start to come together like this! Of course, it’s going to make it difficult to keep going with the entire platoon, for sure, but it’ll be worth it!

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#nowReading #Warhammer40k

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This week, I’ve started to read The Emperor’s Legion, the first book in the Watchers of the Throne series by Chris Wraight. I’m only about a third of the way through it, but already it’s gotten me really hooked! I’ve felt a little let-down with some of the 40k novels that I’ve read lately, so it’s really nice to finally be enjoying one again! The book has three point-of-view characters, one of whom is a Silent Sister, and one a Custodian Guard. I’ve been considering building up the Custodians that came with the Battle of Prospero box back in the day, and I’ve also thought about getting on with the Sisters of Silence that have been built since 2016!

Yet again, lovely models!

Let’s move away from plastic now, and instead take a look at some paper products! Arkham Horror LCG is something that I want to keep playing, but haven’t really had a great deal of time for since baby Phoebe came along last year! I did manage to get through the entire Dunwich Legacy campaign before her birth, though, and it’s certainly whetted my appetite, and while I’d been buying all of the cycles without playing, the most recent cycle, the Dream Weavers, was the first one that I didn’t get. I was actually thinking about calling it a day with the Circle Undone, but now that we’re off to Innsmouth, I’m thinking I may need to invest in this one, as well!

The expansion feels like it’s a bit of a return to some aspects from the classic board game, with blessings and curses, and flooding locations!

As the Lord of the Rings LCG appears to draw to a close with the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, the fourth pack of which arrived last week, I think it’s time to get back into this game above all, and get playing more once again. I’m hoping that I can persuade Jemma to join me on this venture, as well – husband and wife against the shadow of Sauron, what could be better?

I’ll be sure to update you all with progress, at any rate!

Magic the Gathering is something that I’ve definitely moved away from in the last year or so. I think War of the Spark was the last set I bought cards from, and haven’t actually played the game for a long time! However, Ikoria has caught my eye because (a) it has massive creatures, and (b) we’re seeing a return of the Tarkir shards! There’s a massive creature in the Mardu colours (red, white and black – my favourite!) that is a “dinosaur cat nightmare” – I mean, what’s not to like?!

The Shards also get Ultimatums, there are new tri-lands with the land types so that you can tutor for them; the Tarkir dual lands are back, and we even get a new Narset planeswalker card! There are a lot of nice cards in this set, and a lot of them would fit nicely into decks that I remember playing and enjoying from back in the day. I need to fight the impulse to get some of these cards!! But they’re so nice…

Oh, Ikoria is testing my resolve not to buy more cardboard crack!


Finally, let me go off-topic now, and fill you in on what I’ve been doing in the couple of weeks since my last blog. I’ve started work on another blog – though don’t worry, I’ll still be sharing my ramblings with you all here! I’ve been learning French once again, after having gone sixteen years since I did my A levels, and thought it’d get me into doing a lot more with it, as I try to put everything that I’m learning into practice! So I’ve started a blog as I try to make sense of it all, which can be found here, if you’re interested in that kind of thing!

No longer Standard: Time Spiral

Hey everybody!
We’re going back in time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and another look at one of the classic sets from Magic the Gathering. Today, it’s time to return to 2006, and Time Spiral block!

Time Spiral

Time Spiral is the fortieth expansion set for Magic the Gathering, released on 6 October 2006. It is the first set in the Time Spiral block, the twelfth block set for the game. The set was notable for being the first to include a whole sub-set of cards, much like we’ve seen in recent years with Masterpieces – this time, it was a set of 121 “time-shifted” cards, which were reprints of cards from Magic’s history, using the older card frame but with a black border, and featuring a purple rarity symbol. The idea behind these cards was to represent the past invading the present, as there have been some horrible things happening to Dominaria on the whole.

Two hundred years previously, Phyrexia invaded Dominaria, but was eventually defeated, leaving the plane in ruins. It’s a thrilling tale, if a little on the bonkers side, and definitely something I’d like to feature here on the blog once I’ve managed to get my head around it! One of the important things to know is that Teferi managed to save his home by phasing it all out of reality, as you do, and has now returned to find the rest of the land a salt-sown wasteland. It’s time to get help from his fellow planeswalker Freyalise and sort things out!

Consequently, there is an element of despair to the artwork across this set. The basic lands look really quite grim and forlorn, with rotting forests and desolate plains, swamps filled with the rotting Phyrexian hulks and so on. We also get some factional warfare in the return of Rebel cards, which represent the three factions from the plane of Rath, first explored in Magic‘s third block, the Tempest block (part of the Weatherlight Saga, of which Time Spiral block is considered a continuation). Again, this is a really intriguing storyline, so I don’t want to go into it here, but suffice it to say, there is a real sense of eking out a living in the shadow of the apocalypse, something I always liken to the Midnight expansion for Runebound – while evil didn’t win on Dominaria, it was defeated at such a cost as to leave utter devastation in its wake.

Mechanically, the set gives us a massive eleven keywords, including eight returning keywords from historical sets (that time/nostalgia theme again), two brand-new keywords, and a keywording of Flash. The two new mechanics are Split Second and Suspend, two quite flavourful mechanics that seem to have become quite commonly-seen in formats like Commander, for reasons I’ll go into now.

Split Second is a keyword found predominantly on Instants and Sorcery cards that basically stops the Stack – while the card with Split Second is on the Stack, other spells cannot be played in response, though mana abilities, triggered abilities and special actions can still happen. A common way around Split Second is to un-Morph a creature such as Willbender, who can counter a spell when he is un-Morphed in this manner. It helps that Willbender was included in the set as a time-shifted card, too! Perhaps the most famous card with Split Second is Krosan Grip, though the keyword does occur in all five colours.

Suspend is a mechanic that proved confusing when it first appeared, due to timing issues of when such things could be played. Suspend is keyword that almost acts like an alternative casting cost: rather than paying the card’s mana cost, you can pay its Suspend cost and exile it with a number of time counters on it; when the final counter is removed, it is then cast. It can be confusing because cards with Suspend cover almost the entire breadth of card types, but you must be able to cast the card at the time you exile it – so you can’t Suspend a creature card in response to having to discard a card, say, unless you have an effect in play that would allow that (and Time Spiral gave players just such an effect by keywording Flash, such as with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir). Furthermore, some Suspend cards don’t actually have a mana cost, but must be cast via Suspend – they aren’t considered to be “free” to play. An example of this is perhaps one of the more notorious Suspend cards, Living End. The Professor has an example Modern deck based on this card, which you can take a look at here:

Returning keywords and mechanics were plentiful, due to the nostalgia theme. Of course, having so many keywords in a set means there’s a lot to keep track of, and I think having Storm return in the set feels like a step too far!

Time Spiral storage lands

An often-overlooked part of the set, in my mind, is the Storage Lands. These are a cycle of allied colour dual lands that can tap for colourless mana when they appear, but you can pay 1 and tap them to add a storage counter to them. In later turns, you can pay 1 and remove X counters to add X mana in any combination of the dual colours. Cumbersome, for sure, but with effects like Proliferate from subsequent sets, these lands can fit into decks where counter-manipulation is part of the strategy for a nice additional bonus.

Planar Chaos MtG

Planar Chaos was released on 2 February 2007, and brought a few more keywords to the party, including Kicker and also Vanishing, which works almost like a reverse Suspend mechanic, in that it enters the battlefield with a number of time counters on it, and when the counters have gone, it leaves. A revised Fading, a lot of these cards are creatures who have effects that trigger when they enter and leave the battlefield, which can be quite useful if you can find a way to remove tokens quickly.

There were, in addition, a subset of 45 ‘planeshifted’ cards that are meant to function as part of the set, rather than being reprints of older cards. In Planar Chaos, these cards represent an alternate-reality present rather than the past catching up with the present, and consist of colour-shifted cards – the focus here is on cards that grant a colour an ability it wouldn’t normally have, but still denoting a path the colour could have had from the beginning – perhaps the most infamous being Damnation, the black boardwipe spell. Of course, there is a link for each card to the colour they are printed in – while boardwipes are generally the province of White (and, to some extent, Blue), it does fit into the Black theme of direct removal.

Pretty much all of these cards can be considered colour-shifted reprints, such as the aforementioned Damnation (in black) for Wrath of God (in white), or Brute Force (in red) for Giant Growth (in green); colour references in some may be shifted around to fit, but broadly speaking they are direct call-backs. However, they aren’t technically reprints, but new cards. As such, these cards were considered part of the main set, and so have a more general distribution.

MTG Planeshifted Cards

These alt-reality cards are reflected in the story, where Teferi allies with the half-elf Radha and the artificer Venser to attempt to close temporal rifts that have been opening across Dominaria. In order to close the rift above Shiv, Teferi loses his Planeswalker spark, though this will later prove to be a temporary loss.

Planar Chaos also introduced a cycle of Legendary Dragons in the three enemy “wedge” colours that form something of a mirror to the cycle of Dragons from Invasion (in the allied “shard” colours). These Dragons are notable for being the only way to play Commander in these colours until Tarkir block finally went deep into the wedge colours.

Planar Chaos dragons

There’s a pretty interesting article up on Channel Fireball from earlier this year, where author Josh Silvestri describes Ravnica/Time Spiral Standard as the best Standard, though precisely how much Ravnica contributed to that decision is possibly an interesting article of its own!

At any rate, Planar Chaos was followed by the third set, Future Sight, on 4 May 2007, and in keeping with the time feel of the block, included a subset of 81 ‘future-shifted’ cards that are printed in a completely different border, and often include extremely weird mechanics. The idea behind the future-shifted cards was to represent cards that could be featured in later sets of Magic – much like Time Spiral reached into the past for its time-shifted reprints, Future Sight was reaching into the future for a glimpse of what might be to come with these “pre-prints”.

The border on these cards was one of the most controversial changes in the game, supposed to represent the possibility that the card frame might change again (as it had in 8th Edition), although Wizards have since confirmed that the Future Sight border will never actually be used. It’s almost a similar story with the plethora of keywords introduced in Future Sight. In addition to pre-existing keywords such as cycling, dredge and hellbent, we saw Lifelink, Shroud and Reach become keyworded. The fun begins, however, with the catalogue of entirely new keywords, over a dozen of them, some of which have indeed become actual keywords on cards in present-day Magic.

Delve returned in Tarkir block as the mechanic of the Sultai, allowing you to remove cards from your graveyard to help pay for a card’s cost, while Poisonous was later re-worked as Infect in Scars of Mirrodin block; these are the most successful of Future Sight‘s possible new keywords. Gravestorm (allowing you to copy a spell with Gravestorm for each time a permanent was put into a graveyard this turn), Aura Swap (allowing you to swap an aura on the battlefield for one in your hand), Fortify (equip for Land cards), Fateseal X (the “hate scry”, allowing you to look at the top X cards of your opponent’s library and put any number on the bottom) and others have not yet returned, although sometimes I think it might be fun if they did bring one of these back!

Famously, Future Sight also features a couple of cards that include references that basically had no meaning within the scope of the game at that point. Steamflogger Boss with its allure of being able to assemble contraptions is probably the one that always leaps to mind, but at the time even the famous Tarmagoyf had reminder text that referenced the still-to-come Planeswalker card type.

In the storyline, the planar rifts continue to wrack Dominaria, with Freyalise giving up her own spark and her life to close the rift linking the plane with the alternative Dominaria (the one full of Phyrexian nasties). The only solution appears to be sending Karn, the only planeswalker known to have traveled through time itself, back to stop the original rents in reality by preventing the archwizard Barrin from casting the spell that obliterated most of Tolaria back in the day, when he was attempting to prevent the Phyrexians from moving on Urza. Finally, the planeswalker Jeska arrives seeking her mentor Karn, and her anger at the situation unwittingly allows her to bring back another of Magic‘s formidable enemies, Leshrac. But that’s a story for another day…

Time Spiral block

Time Spiral block is quite fascinating to me, dealing as it does with this after-the-apocalypse sort of storyline. It forms almost a lynchpin between old Magic and new Magic – the next block was Lorwyn, which of course brought us the original five Planeswalkers that formed the basis of the new heroes and stories. Names like Teferi and Freyalise would still loom large, for sure, but now it was all to be about Jace and Liliana, Ajani and Chandra. Interestingly, Future Sight was actually supposed to feature the new Planeswalker type of card, but the set already had so much going on, and the new type of card wasn’t going to be ready in time.

There is the sense of Magic‘s history that comes out of the set which, when you look through the list of subsequent expansions, is largely quite absent. Up to this point, the game had previously had a storyline that was set on the plane of Dominaria, told through multiple sets and featuring a cast of heroes and villains that had become quite well-established, if not well-rounded. Following the new card frame in 8th Edition, the game jumped around some planes, taking in Mirrodin, Kamigawa and Ravnica before stopping off once more on Dominaria for this block, before moving off into the multiverse and exploring such amazing places as Zendikar, Innistrad, Theros and Alara. It wasn’t until the 25th anniversary of the game last year that we finally had a return to the plane, and caught up with Teferi, Jhoira and the others. It’s almost like the design team wanted to swing by the original plane just one last time before they headed off into the vast potential of new and different planes.

For that, it’s almost a bittersweet set. I really like it for the flavour, whether people think the block has any power or not. There are a whole load of interesting cards in this block, and it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look beyond the handful of cards that keep coming up time and again in Commander or Modern.

Playing Magic: The Orzhov Syndicate

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these “playing Magic” blogs, but in light of the fact that I’ve started to collect some cards again, and seeing as how we’ve just experienced another return to the plane of Ravnica, I thought it’s about time I wrote up a blog showcasing the Orzhov deck that I’ve been talking about in a number of my previous blogs! So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Orzhov Syndicate

The Orzhov Syndicate is a bit like the idea of a corrupt Church organisation, not all that far removed from real life, where the leaders are more businessmen than clerics, and who have a very temporal power through their control of all manner of deals. Indeed, one of the Guild-specific land cards in the original Ravnica block is Orzhova, the Church of Deals. There is a strong theme whereby even in death, a person’s debt is rarely paid, and so the Guild features a lot of ghosts and shades, with a few keywords that have come in over the years that play on that idea.

The original keyword mechanic for the Orzhov Syndicate was Haunt. Widely considered to be a terrible mechanic (head designer Mark Rosewater himself considers it “a mistake”), a card with Haunt will be exiled rather than placed in the graveyard, “haunting” another permanent on the battlefield. When the card it is haunting is itself then put into the graveyard, that action will trigger the Haunt effect of the original card, basically getting a second use out of it before both die.

During Return to Ravnica block, Orzhov had the mechanic Extort, which allows you to pay an additional white or black mana whenever you cast a spell, whereupon each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total lost. Commonly referred to as “drain and gain”, it’s a great way to ensure cards have impact for you the whole game, and it’s the mechanic around which I’ve built my deck that I’ll talk about shortly!

During the latest Guilds of Ravnica block, the new Orzhov mechanic is Afterlife X, which creates X 1/1 Spirit creature tokens when the card with Afterlife X dies. I suppose you can think of this as a cleaner Haunt, or at least, a cleaner implementation of the idea of Haunt! It’s also extremely on-point for the idea of never quite paying off your debts to the Syndicate!

Unlike my Dimir deck, my Orzhov deck is all about the Guild, and goes heavily into the theme of Orzhov, using cards only from Ravnica and Return to Ravnica blocks.

Orzhov Syndicate

I’ll be the first to admit, this deck can be clunky as hell. Because of the fact that I’ve got the self-imposed limit of only including Guild-specific cards in the deck, it’s really difficult to reliably make the deck win. I’ve also included some cards in there for the sheer theme alone, and ordinarily wouldn’t consider using if I were trying to make the deck more playable. But it’s a lot of fun to build decks that are dripping with theme like this, so there is definitely that in its favour!

Creatures (25):
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Kingpin’s Pet
Treasury Thrull
Syndic of Tithes
Syndicate Enforcer
Souls of the Faultless
Maze Sentinel
Basilica Guards
Sin Collector
High Priest of Penance (2)
Tithe Drinker (2)
Orzhov Guildmage
Vizkopa Confessor
Thrull Parasite (2)
Crypt Ghast
Pontiff of Blight
Vizkopa Guildmage
Dutiful Thrull (2)
Basilica Screecher (2)

Instants & Sorceries (5):
Purge the Profane
Executioner’s Swing (2)
Obzedat’s Aid (2)

Artifacts (4):
Orzhov Signet
Orzhov Cluestone
Orzhov Keyrune (2)

Enchantments (4):
Gift of Orzhova (2)
Shadow Lance
Blind Obedience

Land (22):
Orzhov Guildgate (3)
Orzhov Basilica (3)
Orzhova, the Church of Deals
Plains (8)
Swamp (7)

Orzhov Syndicate

There are 15 instances of Extort as a keyword in the deck, though thanks to the Pontiff of Blight, every single spell being cast has the potential to gain Extort – and in case you were wondering, multiple instances of Extort on a card do indeed stack, so there is definitely the potential for some serious drain and gain shenanigans going on there!

Of course, Extort isn’t the only thing going on with the deck. There is a certain element of Control, thanks to stuff like Blind Obedience (a card I normally dislike playing due to the amount of hate it can attract) and the High Priest of Penance forcing some difficult choices to be made by any would-be attacker. The lifegain potential in the deck is high, due to the multiple instances of Lifelink outside of Extort, though one of the big areas this deck falls down is a failing to weaponize that. I’ve talked more in-depth on weaponizing lifegain in my Ayli Commander deck blog, though, and I think if I were to travel outside of the Ravnica block cards, it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a really punishing version of this deck.

Ultimately, this is meant to be just a fun deck that is really dripping with theme, and one that brings back fond memories for me when I was first getting into Magic the Gathering, watching Spellslingers and enjoying the interactions of the cards, as well as seeing just how much fun you can have playing this game!!