April 19, 2017 / by Margot Martell

Well, I promised the shop owner, Lando, that I’d do a prerelease primer for Magic: The Gathering’s latest set, Amonkhet, so here it is you savages.

Amonkhet is a gorgeous Egyptian-themed Magic world full of deserts, mummies and symbology devoted to Lex Luthor Nicol Bolas. But most of you probably know all of that, and you’ve likely all seen the complete spoiler at this point, and if you’re familiar with the kind of Magic-related writing I do, you likely understand that I’m not really here to talk to you about strategies or strongest colors or bomb rares to relish in your prerelease pool.

No, no friends! I’m here to announce the launch of the latest Raygun social media entity, We Rate (MTG) Gods.* It’s a hot, up-and-coming Twitter feed** devoted to ranking all the glorious gods of Amonkhet based on strict and scientifically rigorous criteria to help you determine which one of Amonkhet’s five deities would make the best pet to bring home from your local god rescue. Gods will be ranked on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the least-good and 10 being the goodest. LIke I said, it’s very scientific. I could go into the incredibly technical details of how we developed our patented*** God Scale (TM), but I’ll save you the jargon-y lecture so we can get straight into the rating process! Let’s get started, shall we?

God #2: Oketra the True
Oketra the True Oketra the True (Invocation version)
Oketra is a pretty not-little kitty cat with 27 words in her text box! That’s some very advanced vocabulary you’ve got there, Oketra! But would such a wordy kitty make a good pet for you and your family? Let’s break it down below

PROS: Clearly box-trained (you can tell by the artwork), hypo-allergenic (again, you can tell by the artwork), probably not too much of a shedder, also v pretty
CONS: Many stories tall (so you’d need a big backyard or some HEFTY vaulted ceilings to house her), only poops out stupid warriors instead of adorable cats, probably makes some really nasty hairballs (refer once more to artwork), difficult to pet b/c large, flow-y robe

GOD RATING: 11/10 it’s hard to say no to an immortal bipedal cat

GOD #2: Kefnet the Mindful
Kefnet the Mindful Kefnet the Mindful (Invocation version)
Kefnet is a 90-foot-tall crane-thing with some v intimidating wings and a very tall staff made for bonking dunces in the math classes he’s clearly teaching as a side hustle. Kefnet has 33 words in his text box, which is 32 more words than a dumb birb really needs if you ask me (flying is the ONLY word a birb needs and I WILL FIGHT YOU). I’m gonna tell you right now that Kefnet would not make a great house pet, on account of being gigantic and also birbs are terrible, but I’ll break it down for you below just in case you don’t want to take my word for it.

PROS: NONE
CONS: Birbs have to be written into your will (inconvenient!), a Kefnet-sized birb cage would cost a large fortune, math is dumb, his robe is v plain and boring, feathers everywhere, birb poo everywhere, birbs are seriously terrible

GOD RATING: 2/10 would not recommend as a pet tbh

GOD #3: Bontu the Glorified
Bontu the Glorified Bontu the Glorified (Invocation version)
Bontu wants you to believe she’s a big scary crocodile but the reality of the situation is that some heartless jerk flushed her down a toilet in Queens when she was a wee-little god-croc and she’s been desperately searching for a forever home ever since. Bontu has 33 words in her text box but unlike that horrible birb monster Kefnet 33 words is a v appropriate amount of words for a giant cuddly crocodile god who is impeccably dressed and whose Instagram photos always look great with her trademark moonlit filter.

PROS: Giant crocodile, great as a home security system/pet combination, v stylish, not a picky eater, likes baths
CONS: Scaly exterior is not great for pets, robe is dry-clean only

GOD RATING: 12/10 she’s a v good crocodile I would def recommend adopting yrself a Bontu

GOD #4: Hazoret the Fervent
Hazoret the Fervent Hazoret the Fervent (Invocation version)
Hazoret is a dog-god and a doggone good one at that. She has 28 words in her text box and that is THE PERFECT AMOUNT for a PERFECT ANIMAL. FUN FACT: Hazoret is half-god half-border collie half-golden retriever and all delightful puppy love all the time and I feel like you don’t need me to explain why she’s great but I’ll do it anyway as that’s the job I’m here to do.

PROS: GIANT DOG, v good at fetch, always excited, loves neck scritches, housebroken, v floofy underneath her v stylish dress
CONS: ARF ARF ARF (that’s dog speak for NONE)

GOD RATING: 14/10 WHAT A GREAT DOG/GOD SHE IS

GOD #5: Rhonas the Indomitable
Rhonas the Indomitable Rhonas the Indomitable (Invocation version)
Rhonas is a big cuddly snek and if you don’t believe sneks are cuddly well you’re right but also he threatened me if I didn’t say he’s cuddly SO YES ACTUALLY RHONAS IS V CUDDLY (please don’t hurt me, large snek-god friend). Rhonas likes long slithers on the beach and is prone to flicking his snekky tongue when excited or happy (it’s kind of like purring except waaaaay creepier tbh). Rhonas has 31 words in his text box and that’s cool because 31 is a prime number and I’m kind of just vamping for time here out of fear of snek-god retribution if I don’t make his description as long as his god-piers’ descriptions.

PROS: Makes his own new coat every year via molting, omnivorous, fond of prime numbers, hypnotic glowing green eyes that can be used as a night light when you have to go pee at 2 a.m., other snek things I guess
CONS: THERE ARE MANY BUT I’M NOT ALLOWED TO SAY THEM B/C SNEK COERCION

GOD RATING: 10/10 b/c even at their worst and most threatening sneks are five times gooder than birbs (this is fact)

GOD #6: Sacred Cat
Sacred Cat Sacred Cat Token
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Sacred Cat’s creature type is “cat” and not “god” as THAT’S JUST A RUSE to throw you off of the true ruler of Amonkhet (which is this cat) (Whose name is Judith Light****, in case you were wondering).

PROS: JUST LOOK AT HER
CONS: NONE

GOD RATING:
SACRED CAT/10

So there you have it, folks – your comprehensive guide to this weekend’s Amonkhet prerelease. I’ll be judging all four flights we’re running this weekend (Saturday and Sunday at noon and 5 p.m. – make sure to sign up in advance for a sweet $5 discount on your entry fee), and esteemed Wizards of the Coast employee/spellslinger Chris Peeler will be taking on all challengers and handing out prize packs all day Saturday. Cycling is a great limited mechanic and gods make the greatest pets of all (except Kefnet because AGAIN I SAY BIRBS ARE TERRIBLE), and I cannot wait to see you all there.

Yours deliriously,
Margot

*Not a real Twitter, and definitely not owned/created by myself or anyone else at Gamma Ray Games
**Seriously it’s not a real Twitter feed it’s a dumb gimmick I’m using as a through-line joke for this rant
***We def did not patent the God Scale, sorry for the lil’ fib U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
****Not verified as Sacred Cat’s name, but you can’t tell me it isn’t the perfect name for her

July 08, 2015 / by Margot Martell

Dear readers, who also happen to be wizard people, hello! I am writing to you from A PIT OF FIRE. I AM ON FIRE. REGATHA IS BASICALLY ALL FIRE ALL THE TIME OH GOD IT HURTS PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

I apologize profusely for my long absence from this blog. You see, one night in July 2013, shortly after my last post, I went on a bit of a bender, and got lost in the Blind Eternities while planeswalking away from local Seattle law enforcement (I wasn’t relieving myself on that fire hydrant; that’s slander. SLANDER I TELL YOU).

Once I sobered up and oriented myself with the nothingness, I spent some time stumbling from plane to plane, partially in search of fellow Magic philosophers, mostly in search of aspirin because OH GOD HANGOVERS WHILE DRIFTING THROUGH THE BLIND ETERNITIES ARE THE WORST. Aspirin apparently does not exist in the Magic multiverse. I have had a headache for the last two years. It has been mightily unpleasant, to say the least.

Fortunately, I was able to meet some fellow philosophers on my journey to relieve my eternal hangover. I became fast friends in particular with one I encountered on Rath — fast indeed, because she grew up among heart slivers — a planeswalker named meat hooks.

Yes, dear readers, meat hooks is a sliver. Probably the smartest sliver I’ve ever met! She will be writing the rest of this post for me, as I’m currently struggling to remain conscious, because, as I mentioned earlier, I AM CURRENTLY ON FIRE IN A PIT OF FIRE ON A PLANE PRETTY MUCH MADE OF FIRE. meat, you’re a doll. Well, okay, you’re actually a sliver, and not of the doll-like Metallic variety (meat can be a bit too literal for my tastes sometimes…). Thanks so much for assisting in this Magic Origins prerelease primer while I attempt to use my magic to keep the very core of my being from being set ablaze!

Hello, readers! My name is meat hooks, and, as Matthew mentioned, I am a sliver. But I am also a planeswalker, a feminist, a philosopher, and avid slinger of red spells in this game we all adore!

With that in mind, I’m here to help you choose your prerelease pool, but not by the metrics many other Magic writers might recommend. Power level of overall card pool? Who cares! Expected monetary value of rares within that color? Sliver Hives are collectivist and reject capitalist economic ideas out of hand (or, erm, hook, really)! Color preference based on any number of personal predilections? That’s fine, I suppose, but we as a community can do better! I’m here to help you choose your prerelease pool based on the most important factor: how feminist the planeswalker’s origin story/overall world is!

For those among you who are not avid Vorthoses like myself, I’ll be providing summaries of each Magic Origins planeswalker’s, erm, origin story, before jumping into the reasons why you should or should not choose to align yourselves with that ‘walker during prerelease. Let’s dive in, shall we?

White: Kytheon Iora/Gideon Jura
Kytheon, Hero of AkrosGideon, Battle-Forged

TL;DR origin story:
Kytheon Iora and his Irregulars (aka friends/soldier bros) are vigilantes on the streets of Akros (a city in Theros); Kytheon gets arrested for stealing food for his family/friends; Kytheon learns hieromancy (law magic) from some dude named Hixus while in prison; Kytheon saves Akros from some harpies and cyclopes using said law magic; Kytheon gets tasked by Heliod (Theros’s Zeus impersonator/gigantic asshole primary god) with killing a zombie titan thing made by Erebos, the god of death; Kytheon kills said zombie titan; Kytheon kills his Irregulars, accidentally; Kytheon planeswalks to Bant; (later) Kytheon Iora becomes Gideon Jura, because Bant has angels and inexplicably Christian names and shit, yo.

Is Kytheon/Gideon’s origin story feminist?
Not explicitly, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from pointing out how Akroan society/general Theros mythology is full of patriarchal assholes, so kinda?

Does Kytheon/Gideon’s origin story pass the Bechdel test?
I think there is one woman featured in the entire story, and she doesn’t even have a name. So, NOPE.

Should you play white at the prerelease?
If you like laws and burly dudes with tragic, classically Ancient Greek origin stories and overpowered common and uncommon creatures, yes!

Blue: Jace Beleren
Jace, Vryn's ProdigyJace, Telepath Unbound
TL;DR origin story:
Jace Beleren lives on Vryn and has no friends because everyone thinks he’s a freak; Jace is a telepath, so basically he IS a freak; Jace accidentally lobotomizes a bully because mind control is a helluva drug; Jace finds a teacher named Alhammarret, who is also a telepath AND A SPHINX!!; Alhammarret is a bad dude-sphinx who is using Jace to keep up an endless war on Vryn that isn’t well-explained or particularly detailed in the lore; Jace makes Alhammarret forget how to breathe during a MIND DUEL; Jace loses most of his memories during said MIND DUEL and winds up planeswalking to Ravnica; Jace goes to find Emmara Tandris, because apparently she likes orphans or something.

Is Jace’s origin story feminist?
Unclear, but I think we can safely determine that it is very anti-Sphinx.

Does Jace’s origin story pass the Bechdel test?
There are only three women in it, and none of them ever interact explicitly. So, NEGATORY MORNING GLORY.

Should you play blue at the prerelease?
If you like bounce spells and drawing cards and a light artifact sub-theme, yes!

Black: Liliana Vess
Liliana, Heretical HealerLiliana, Defiant Necromancer
TL;DR origin story:
Liliana’s brother is dying because Dominaria has always been a shitty place to live; Liliana talks to a man who is also apparently a raven (who might be Nicol Bolas??) while searching for some healing plant; Raven Bro reminds her she is full of dark magic and heck-of powerful; Liliana kills a bunch of witches while searching for said healing plant because she is heck-of powerful; Liliana gets into a fight with her mentor Lady Ana over using dark magic to heal people; Liliana kills her brother and brings him back to life as a tortured soul/zombie/demon thing; Liliana planeswalkers to Innistrad; Liliana lives a hojillion years until the Mending happens; Liliana makes a demonic pact with the help of Nicol Bolas in the interest of living a hojillion more years; the fourth demon is named Kothophed and he gives her eternal life but warns her that one day he’s gonna go all Rihanna on her over her debt, which is her soul, or something?

Is Liliana’s origin story feminist?
A robust feminist worldview accounts for the possibility of female villains and/or anti-heroes, and also Liliana is strong as hell, so yes!

Does Liliana’s origin story pass the Bechdel test?
Liliana and Lady Ana argue about Liliana’s brother, but it’s not romantic or sexual and they mostly discuss necromancy, so I’m gonna say: YES!

Should you play black at the prerelease?
If you like overcosted spot removal, zombies and really cool but probably not playable enchantments, yes!

Red: Chandra Nalaar
Chandra, Fire of KaladeshChandra, Roaring Flame
TL;DR origin story:
Chandra’s parents run an underground Aether smuggling ring, because the consuls of Ghirapur (a city on the plane of Kaladesh) are militant dickheads; Chandra isn’t great with machines, or book-learning, or most intellectual endeavors, so her parents enlist her as an Aether courier; Chandra’s first delivery is interrupted by some Ghirapur guards because there would be no drama in a successful delivery; Chandra starts shooting fire from her hands, because she is a pyromancer, and anger makes her catch on fire; Chandra torches a big machine factory in Ghirapur, destroying a bunch of robots and pissing off the consuls; Chandra and her parents flee to the countryside of Kaladesh, where she keeps setting things on fire; the Ghirapur military catches the Nalaars; Chandra’s parents die and she gets captured; Chandra planeswalks after exploding some bad military douches moments before she is to be executed; Chandra tries to explode some more people on Regatha, but they’re not explodable because the plane is BASICALLY JUST ALL FIRE (see Matthew’s story, above); Chandra is like Batman now, except poor and not a man named Bruce Wayne and less about bats and more about fire.

Is Chandra’s origin story feminist?
All of the women are fierce, the bad men get exploded, and Chandra gets to become the fiery lady version of Batman, so YES YES YES!

Does Chandra’s origin story pass the Bechdel test?
Chandra pretty much only ever talks about how she can set things on fire, regardless of who she’s talking to. Plus the other two strongest characters in the story are women so: DING DONG! BECHDEL TEST PASSED!

Should you play red at the prerelease?
If you like solid creatures and solid removal and solid late-game finishers and setting your opponents on fire, yes!

Green: Nissa Revane
Nissa, Vastwood SeerNissa, Sage Animist
TL;DR origin story:
Nissa Revane has night terrors about the darkness within Zendikar (read: Eldrazi); Nissa leaves her tribe of the Joraga so her mother doesn’t get exiled along with her; Nissa realizes her visions are of the soul of Zendikar; Nissa realizes her dumb friend Mazik has tailed her; Mazik and Nissa go on crazy adventures while following the soul of Zendikar, wherein Nissa realizes she’s basically the Zendikari version of Toph Beifong (but not blind); Nissa kills some vampires using her nature magic (read: earthbending); Nissa and Mazik locate the darkness within Zendikar (read: ELDRAZI, again) at the top of a cliff in Akoum; Mazik runs away with Nissa’s Zendikar-soul-pet-thing, which is presumably Ashaya (?); Nissa planeswalks away from the Eldrazi’s oppressive darkness and ends up on Lorwyn; Nissa befriends some Gilt-Leaf elves, including the head Daen in charge, Dwynen; Nissa gets invited to go on an eyeblight hunt, before realizing “eyeblight” usually means “helpless boggart goblin”; Nissa becomes an enemy of the aforementioned Gilt-Leaf elves; the Great Aurora arrives to transform Lorwyn into Shadowmoor; the Great Aurora tries to make Nissa into a powerful Lorwyn god-being-elf-thing (??); Nissa’s all like “LOL NOPE” and planeswalks her elf self back to Zendikar, because apparently the Eldrazi are less scary than horned elves and the northern lights.

Is Nissa’s origin story feminist?
Strong female protagonist with awesome only-you-can-save-your-world mission, sweet-ass connection to all living things, sick bow/spear/sword hunting skills. DARN TOOTIN’ IT’S FEMINIST.

Does Nissa’s origin story pass the Bechdel test?
She only talks to Dwynen for like four seconds before she peaces out of Lorwyn, but they do kill a couple goblins together and talk about her lack of horns instead of boys or whatever, so soft yes?

Should you play green at the prerelease?
If you like ramp spells and fatty creatures across all rarities and not much else in the way of card diversity, or if you ship Toph/Nissa (Topha? Nistoph?), then yes!

So there you have it: your complete feminist decision matrix for which color to choose at the Magic Origins prerelease. I’m going to turn you back over to Matthew now, as I promised him I’d call my sister Valerie to see if she could help ease his pain. She’s a frenetic sliver; we’re hoping we can phase him out of the fire!

Take care, everyone! May your prerelease pools be intersectional and filled with red spells bomb rares!

OH GOD EVERYTHING IS STILL BURNING PLEASE SEND HELP–oh hi everyone. I hope you found meat’s discussion regarding the Magic Origins prerelease to be informative and educational. I’m sure I would have found it to be exactly that, was I not too busy being on fire and whatnot.

Until next time,
Matthew “ALL I KNOW IS BURNING” Martell

July 12, 2013 / by Margot Martell

Friends, Romans, countrywalkers, lend me your eyes! Because you probably can’t hear a blog post. And if you can, that means you’re either a.) synesthetic, b.) using some sort of text-to-speech program or c.) on a ton of drugs, and I’ve got some serious issues with all of those.

I’m here to talk today about some of the standout cards from Magic 2014 Core Set — Blue Gets the Shaft Like You Can’t Even Imagine OKAY FINE THAT’S NOT THE ACTUAL EMDASH-SEPARATED DESCRIPTION OF THE SET BUT IT’S VERY CLEARLY THE SUBTEXT HERE.

Ahem. Anyway, because I like easy symmetries and weak themes, I’m going to spend this blog post talking about 14 cards from M14 that I think are worth drafting, trading for, investing in, etc. Please do bear in mind that a lot of this is purely speculative, and I will not be held responsible for you forking out several hundred pocket clams for Archangels of Thune if they eventually end up in the dollar bin (though let’s be honest, they’re a silver bullet in modern Birthing Pod lists so they’ll probably retain decent value).

Since there’s a pretty significant disproportion between colors, I’m just going to run down the list alphabetically (you can tell I’m not being biased with this particular organizational schema because a white card tops the list and there’s no blue cards in the top three).

Oh, and for those who don’t know/don’t care (SHAME ON YOU), Evolution — the biggest fighting game tournament of the year — is this weekend. And in honor of that TOTALLY HYPE occasion, I’ll be revising my FGC tier card rating system from my last set review for this article. Tiers are as follows:

SAGAT TIER – Completely bonkers and OP. PICK SAGAT HE’S TOP TIER.
Akuma Tier – Pretty damn insane, but not quite as godlike as SAGAT TIER.
Bison Tier – Solid normals, lots of bad matchups. A thoroughly decent card all around. Also, PSYCHO CRUSHER.
Chun-Li Tier – This isn’t Third Strike, so Chun Li stands for C-GRADE. Passable, but often just barely.
Dan Tier – The SHIT TIER of this review. Poor lil’ Dan…

(more…)

June 20, 2013 / by Margot Martell

Have you ever played Dark Souls?

Dark Souls is one of the most incredible video games I’ve ever beheld. It’s gruesome and stark and hopeless and so ego-crushingly difficult it’s almost a wonder it was popular enough to warrant a sequel.

Run-of-the-mill enemies can kill you in two or three hits. With bosses, a stray nick from their weapon is often just lethal. Levels are designed with the express purpose of crushing you under boulders, hurling you into bottomless pits, smashing you against spiked ceilings.

Everything about Dark Souls is brutal. The architecture of every facet of the game has a singular, monomaniacal purpose: to completely and totally fuck your shit up.

The tagline for the game is, simply, “Prepare to Die.”

Full Disclosure: I have yet to play Dark Souls myself. My love of the game comes merely from watching it be played many, many times.

I would tell you that I don’t want to sound obtuse with what I’m about to say, but if you read my previous post, then you know damn well that I am absolutely, undeniably obtuse.

So here’s the obtuse statement of the day: Competitive Magic: the Gathering is a lot like Dark Souls. It’s exhausting; it punishes the smallest mistakes; grinding is a bleak, miserable process, and every loss is crushing.

But the mark of a talented Magic player — perhaps even more so than technically tight play or a penchant for correctly deciphering constructed metagames or the ability to read opponents — is an unwillingness to quit. To play Magic not despite your innumerable losses, but perhaps in fact because of them; that is a skill only the most talented of players have.

This isn’t just poetic bullshittery I’m spewing at you right now; the best players in the world all average to about a 60 percent win record. The best players in the game still lose just shy of HALF of their matches. And this is very likely the thing that makes them better than the rest; they’re willing to lose almost half the time in order to find success and enjoy meaningful wins.

In other words, the best players in Magic history have always been the ones who are the most prepared to die.

Wrapter is NOT afraid to die.
This is Josh Utter-Leyton. He’s arguably the best player of 2013 (and actually player of the year). His win percentage is just over 60 percent.

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May 22, 2013 / by Margot Martell

I am at home in filth.

Not in the sense that I’m dirty. I’m not a slob. I hate being sweaty and I hate grime and trash, and I’d never let my apartment devolve into literal, physical filth. By all accounts, the bachelor pad I share with my roommate is delightfully free of grossness, and I hold that as a point of pride.

But I am at home in filth. I fear sterility; the idea of perfectly manicured lawns is truly frightening to me. I’m drawn to Seattle precisely because of its dinginess. I find comfort in the litter-laden streets, in the droves of homeless people, in the light haze of smog that permeates both rainy and sunny days. That is the filth I’ve grown so fond of in the seven years I’ve spent in the Emerald City — the filth that reminds us all that nothing is perfect, that wear and tear is natural, that blemishes are beautiful in their own way.

In that sense, I must say I was quite unimpressed by this last weekend’s trip to Portland for GPPDX; Portland was decidedly not filthy.

Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places, but the City of Roses just felt a little too well-kept for my tastes. The streets were largely devoid of refuse; the punks and the bums and the general riffraff were quarantined to very specific, out-of-the-way locations; the people were quiet and well-behaved. Perhaps what they mean when they say “Keep Portland Weird” is: keep Portland less city-esque than every other city.

Put a bird on it!
But at least they know how to put a bird on it?

I promise I’m going somewhere with all of this, so just bear with me. I’ll talk about Magic: the Gathering for a bit now so you don’t all leave in disdain.

So, this weekend for me as a Magic player. Well, I made top 8, so that’s pretty awesome.

… not of the main event. But it was still a top 8.

I made top 8 of the free DGM Mini Masters tournament that was included with registration for the main event if you showed up early enough Friday morning. And I did so precisely because a friend and I accidentally practiced the format the weekend before.

Gamma acquired a box of Japanese Dragon’s Maze during release weekend, and I naturally bought a bunch of packs because I’m a whore for weird foreign things. A friend of mine ended up crashing at my place for a few days the week before the GP, and she wanted to crack said packs with me, so we decided doing Mini Masters was going to be far more fun than simply opening and sorting them.

So I went into this completely fake format with six different pools worth of experience, making me strangely favored against the field, since I knew the four-color special with infinite Cluestones was completely and totally the right way to go.

So I built said four-color special (UWRB), and I somehow, more or less inexplicably, finished 8th out of 307 participants. I ended up losing to the Ral Zarek, double Unflinching Courage, double Warleader’s Helix, Progenitor Mimic UWRG special because he mimicked my Ascended Lawmage. It was pretty brutal, but my friends and I all agreed he very much deserved the win — not because his deck was the stone nuts (it was), but because his wizard beard was far superior to mine. Apparently he’s a Tacoma-ite (IS THAT EVEN A WORD????), so hopefully I’ll see him again soon and worship at the altar of his Merlinliness.

(Quick aside: that is the most strangely homoerotic sentence I’ve ever written.)

Gaaaaaaaaaaay

As for the main event… well, I scrubbed out. Hard. My final record was 1-3 drop. After reviewing all my options, I settled on a homemade four-color monstrosity that was high on raw power but a little low on consistency (you can view the list here). In keeping with the Buddhist undertones of this particular tournament report, I’m going to deliver my mostly uneventful match-by-match recap in the form of four haikus. Because I fucking can.

Round One vs. Brandon Remley
Faced UWR Twin
Many creatures were exiled
I died to a Geist

0-1 in matches, 0-2 in games

Round Two vs. Tyler Loomis
A Grixis homebrew
Attempted to grind my mind
The mind persevered

1-1 in matches, 2-2 in games

Round Three vs. Taylor Harris
Played against Scapeshift
I never drew Countersquall
Was promptly melted

1-2 in matches, 3-4 in games

Round Four vs. Michael Woods
Faced down Gruul aggro
He drew many Tarmogoyfs
I drew only one

1-3 matches, 3-6 in games, drop

And that was the end of my tournament. I was mostly devastated, but I had three friends who were X-0/X-1, so I stuck around to cheer them on, as well as to play a 2HG sealed event with my friend Jen, who missed the main event after unfortunately contracting food poisoning the night before. The 2HG tournament was also disastrous, as Jen was still recovering from a rough night of food intoxication and I was just playing like a total donk. We punted an unlosable round 3 because we didn’t take the four seconds it would have required for us to re-read Guardian of the Gateless. It was incredibly embarrassing.

Fortunately, three of my friends made day two at X-1, X-1 and X-2, respectively. My friend Travis’s only losses on the day were to Paul Rietzl and John fucking Finkel, so I’d say Team Gamma performed pretty exceptionally on the whole. We crunched the numbers at one point and determined the team win percentage for day one was something like 63 percent. That’s pretty respectable by most standards.

This is a photo of a man you do not envy.
Travis McKinney, I do not envy you in this photo.

I capped off day one by taking a cold shower — wherein I curled myself into a ball for five minutes as the water crashed over me — before hitting the bars for the night. I realize now it was something of an unconscious homage to the Buddhist film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.

From Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring
MFW I scrub out of a big tournament.

In the film Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?, the viewer learns about the nature of filth. A significant portion of the movie is devoted to exploring and ruminating on the ontology of shit. My favorite quote from the film relates to precisely that issue:

I became a hermit to free myself from the dust and the dirt of the world, looking for perfection. But I realized that it was impossible without loving the garbage and the dust of the world, even life’s passions.

This is truly how I feel about life most of the time. The idea of personal cleansing — of metaphorical self-immolation in order to burn off personal impurities — can be ever so tempting sometimes, but the actualization of that notion comes at the real cost of no longer being able to fully wrestle with vile, base pleasure.

Until mid-March, I had spent the last two and a half years of my life working a job I absolutely despised because I had no sense of direction and no understanding of anything outside of work. Except Magic. Magic: the Gathering was my means of escape; it was the thing I did to interact with friends, the game I played to feel validated as an intelligent human being — since I certainly wasn’t feeling that sort of fulfillment from my dead-end job.

I was laid off from said job on March 19. Some would argue the loss of such a long-term, time-occupying life fixture would be accompanied by a profound, overwhelming sense of sorrow and directionlessness, but for me it was quite the opposite. My layoff prompted an understanding that my purpose was renewed. For the first time in two and a half years, I had something to aspire toward. I finally had a real goal, a tangible raison d’être. The socioeconomic poverty of unemployment instilled in me a feeling of spiritual richness I had long assumed I’d never feel again. In many ways, the five weeks I spent unemployed felt more like a dream than reality.

The night before the Grand Prix, seven Gamma Ray regulars (myself somewhat obviously included) decided to go to Henry’s (the Henry Weinhard restaurant) in downtown Portland for dinner. Suffice to say, when you take seven people who regularly congregate on Capitol Hill and foist them upon a bizarrely sterile city, the conversation flows in fascinatingly fucked up directions. We discussed goat blowjobs; how a certain bisexual male friend had terrible taste in men; what we would list as “previous accomplishments” were we to top 8 the Grand Prix; and so, so many other things I can’t even fully recall because I was too busy laughing hysterically to trouble myself with the details.

After 1,000 days without mirth, I laughed until I cried. The experience was cathartic in a way and on a level I’d never experienced before. And I realized during that dinner that Magic — the activity I had used for almost three years as a means of escape from the mostly miserable reality that was my life — had become so, so much more than simply a scapegoat for my sadness and personal frustrations; Magic had become my home. Gamma Ray regulars are my family; Gamma and the Raygun are my shelters; and Magic will always feel like an old friend.

This was all brought home to me by a message I received from one of my best friends, Kevin Kwong, shortly after scrubbing out of the Grand Prix. I had contacted him to whine about my poor performance in the main event, expecting something resembling sympathy re: my run-bads, and instead I was presented with the following response:

“Dude, don’t be like that man. Look on the bright side: you have a sweet new gig. You’re hanging out with friends, playing your favorite game. You’re young, you’re healthy. Just relax, have a good time. Losing sucks, sure. But you can’t let it get to you.”

This pep talk plus the Buddhist waterfall shower was precisely what I needed to put me back in my place. I wasn’t really tantrum-ing or tilting after my poor GP performance, but I was undeniably defeated.

And he’s right. I had just been hired on for a great new job. And I was with all of my best friends. And even as I was losing horribly, I was playing my absolute favorite game.

Kevin’s reality check and the amazing, hilarious, unforgettable dinner I shared with my best friends the night before really brought home the absurdity of my mood at that time. Who gives a fuck that I did poorly? Pros scrub out all the time. Luis Scott-Vargas is probably the most technically proficient player active in the game, and he’s only day 2’d one pro tour in the last YEAR. Sometimes you run bad; you get mana screwed or mana flooded or you draw the wrong spells or you face your worst matchup all day. But who really gives a shit? Even when you’re a hardcore spike, there’s so much more to Magic than winning.

And in that sense, I actually feel like I won the GP despite going 1-3. Congrats to Sam Pardee for his actual win, but I don’t believe for a second that his friends are better than mine. And there’s no way in hell his local game store is better than Gamma Ray. Gamma Ray is a conglomeration of a bunch of people who are best friends who have no basis for being best friends. But they’re best friends precisely because they all met at an amazing place, playing an amazing game they all love. I’m hard-pressed to believe there’s anything better in the world than just that.

… oh, right. I also traded in all the slag in my binder for a prize payout of my own that weekend:

VALUE.

Everything I’ve ever abandoned or given up on in life, I’ve abandoned or given up on because it just didn’t feel right anymore. Relationships, hobbies, classes, jobs — I’m a man guided by feelings and emotions. I quit Magic for SIX YEARS because it ceased to be a meaningful thing to me. But I’m back now, and I realize — thanks to the connections I’ve made through this phenomenal game — that it’s without a question the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.

There’s an old Buddhist proverb that goes something like this:

“The Buddha left home because he no longer felt at home. The Buddha returned home because he was always home.

I quit Magic nine years ago because Magic no longer felt like home. I returned to Magic three years ago because I realized Magic was always home. And I absolutely cannot imagine that feeling of home changing any time soon.

Matthew is Gamma Ray’s resident Magic snob. Follow him on Twitter and Google+!

April 25, 2013 / by Margot Martell

Hey folks,

It’s the Drunken Planeswalker again. Sorry you all had to read my love letter to Ral last week… suffice to say I now may or may not have a restraining order placed on me, so you won’t hear me talking about him (publicly) again.

What I DO want to talk about today are the 10 guild champions who have been chosen to compete in Survivor: Ravnic—I mean, the Implicit A-maze-ing Ra—I mean… well, ugh, the Dragon’s Maze. What a terrible name.

BUT HERE’S THE TWIST: I’m not going to grade them on a one-to-five scale like some ACTUAL LEGITIMATE MAGIC WRITER. Instead, I’m going to be ranking them using a tier system a la the Fighting Game Community. S tier/top tier is, well, top tier. A tier is very good. B tier is passable but not impressive. SHIT TIER is exactly what it sounds like.

Alright, we clear on that? Let’s get going. I’m going to review the champions alphabetically by guild, because I don’t want to seem like I’m playing favorites or anything (spoiler alert: I totally am).

Azorius: Lavinia of the Tenth

Lavinia of the suspension of fourth amendment rights

So… Restoration Angel is still legal, right? Well that’s pretty goddamn unfortunate. Also is this Soviet Ravnica or something? Is the Azorius police force the KGB? Detaining the meek with no right to a fair trial seems a bit extreme, if you ask me.

Anyway, I guess this card is good. And also a bit fascist. But if that floats your boat, then you’ll probably enjoy sleeving up Lavinia once it’s standard-legal (because let’s face it, it’s a five drop that isn’t named Thundermaw Hellkite, Batterskull or Baneslayer Angel, so it’ll never be good enough for Modern). Incidentally, thinking Lavinia is a “fun” card also means you probably like punching kittens and puppies, but I’m just speculating here.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: A (???) TIER

Boros: Tajic, Blade of the Legion

Tajic, Blade of the Freehand Artistry

So… he’s indestructible… but he dies to Dead Weight? And Death Wind? And Stab Wound? Okay, so the -X/-X Doom Blade argument is stupid, I know. But I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed here. I’m sure he’s going to be the bombiest bomb in draft/sealed, since an unkillable 7/7 for four mana is one of clearest definitions of VALUE in limited, but I can’t see him seeing play in constructed until at the very least after Innistrad rotates. And even then I’m not entirely convinced this card is better than Firemane Avenger, at least in the abstract.

That said, I’d like to be wrong about this. Tajic is super flavorful and really cool and his sword is warped enough to give Rob Liefeld the spins, so I’m giving him a thumbs up on radness, even if he isn’t necessarily up to muster for constructed play.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: ???? TIER

Dimir: Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker

Mirko Vosk, Not Even Comparable to Tog Drinker

Fine Wizards I see how it is DON’T EVER GIVE US A PLAYABLE DIMIR CREATURE FOR CONSTRUCTED OR CUBE I GET IT PSYCHATOG WAS A MISTAKE AND EVEN THOUGH SHADOWMAGE INFILTRATOR IS LIKE BARELY CUBABLE NOWADAYS YOU’RE JUST PROVING INFLEXIBLE ON THIS MATTER AND— …

(20 minutes later)

Oh… oops. I must have hyperventilated and passed out. Sorry about that. I just want more constructed-playable Dimir creatures. And their non-existence makes me a bit pouty.

That said, I can already tell I’m going to be flipping a lot of tables after losing to Mr. Vosk in limited. If you assume that you’re going on the grind plan for the kill, then this guy is effectively three-turn clock for five mana, and that’s what we like to call a Windmill Slam First Pick™ in essentially every single limited format ever in the history of Magic.

So yeah. Slam it. Force Dimir. Or just splash Dimir in your Boros deck, for all I care. This dude is nuts (both literally and figuratively) in limited.

Limited Verdict: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

Golgari: Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Varolz, the Pinstriped

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh yeah. Now THIS is a sweet guild champion. By now we’ve all heard about the sweet Modern deck that pairs him (I presume this is a male troll? Unclear…) with Death’s Shadow, so let’s talk about some of the cool things he can do in Standard.

For starters, he has the Sam Black seal of approval, since he has the words “sacrifice another creature” on him; so he makes all your Tragic Slips super live, he techs crazy well with Skirsdag High Priest, he goes hog-wild with Blood Artists, etc. But beyond that, I’m more interested in the second half of that clause, which describes how he’s absurdly difficult to kill. Varolz plus any other creature means Supreme Verdict is just a sad joke, and spot removal (barring Slip) is a super loose proposition against him. The first place I want to try him is a GB Zombies deck that uses him to pop Geralf’s Messengers at will and loop Gravecrawlers for many, many regenerations. He also makes your Dreg Manglers waaaaaaaaay easier to scavenge after they’ve slithered in to do their hasty bolt’s worth of damage, and that is what I call VALUE (can you tell by now that I REALLY like value????).

Oh yeah, he’s probably really insane in limited too. First-pick him and move on with your life.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: A TIER

Gruul: Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Ruric Thar, Who Serves the Horde????

Oh boy, reach on a big green fatty! We’ve never seen that before!

… but seriously why doesn’t this guy (guys???) have trample? I guess I can’t complain too much though; Ruric Thar is a big stompy creature that provides Gruul with everything they’ve ever wanted in a guild champion. I mean, being Unbowed is way less cool than being a Hate Seed, but I suppose that isn’t too much of a slight against this two-head ogre.

Side note: I’ve been watching a lot of Venture Bros lately, and I can’t help but imagine Ruric Thar as the two-headed council member from the Guild of Calamitous Intent. You’re welcome for that, by the way.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, slam this guy in limited, because BIG STUPID FATTY THAT DOES MEAN THINGS TO OPPONENTS. As for constructed playability, I’m honestly not sure? Maybe he’s good enough to be a high-end finisher in a Naya or Jund Midrange deck? The built-in anti-Sphinx’s Revelation clause seems reasonable for Standard at least.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: LOW A/HIGH B TIER

Izzet: Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek, Whose Sight is Far and Reach is Short

This card isn’t constructed playable… IZZET? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL I’M SO FUNNY.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. But no seriously, this card isn’t constructed playable. Six mana for a 2/4 just isn’t a good return on investment if you ask me. Forked Future Sight on instants and sorceries is a sweet effect, but Oracle of Mul Daya this is not.

For that matter, Six mana for a 2/4 isn’t a good return on investment in limited, either, so I think poor Melek will seldom make the cut for decks in basically any format. Props to WotC for finally making a “Weird Wizard,” though.

Limited Verdict: SHIT TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

(… it’s funny because he multiplied his shit-ness by two!!!)

Orzhov: Teysa, Envoy (Envy) of Ghosts

Teysa, Envy of GOOOOOOOSOTASDAFASDFSDDF

Seriously, this card was far cooler when it first appeared with its original typo’d title. But when I think of playable seven-drops featuring white mana symbols, I think of Angel of Serenity and Elesh Norn, and Teysa is envious of both of those. Protection from creatures is whatever, and I’m sure she’ll be a fine curve-topper in Sealed and Draft, but a 4/4 for seven that dies to Supreme Verdict AND Mizzium Mortars just doesn’t cut it for constructed if you ask me. If I want 1/1 flying spirits in an Orzhov deck, I’d much rather just cast Lingering Souls.

Limited Verdict: PROBABLY LOW A TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

Rakdos: Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Exava, Hollowed Blood Witch

Isn’t this an enemy from the Dark Souls DLC? Or a Cirque Du Soleil performer from one of my nightmares? I don’t even know…

Ahem. Okay, so, a 4/4 for four mana that has first strike AND haste. Okay, yeah, sure. I’m sold. Slam it in draft, etc. Pretty sure it just can’t compete in constructed right now thanks to beaters like Hellrider and Falkenrath Aristocrat being legal, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that she’ll see play once Innistrad block rotates in October. Making your Rakdos Cacklers into top-decked Goblin Guides is probably enough of an upside for hyper-aggressive Rakdos archetypes to justify her inclusion in those decks post-rotation.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: B (????) TIER

Selesnya: Emmara Tandris

Emmaraculately Huge Disappointment

I feel like Emmara needs to crawl back into whatever George R.R. Martin novel she popped out of and quietly die in a corner there like the rest of his characters. At seven mana, she just does not strike me as remotely playable in basically any format. She’s clunky and vanilla as a limited curve-topper, her effect is hopelessly underwhelming in standard, and in Commander she’s just straight up worse than Avacyn, Elesh Norn and a large number of other fat Green/White legends. Kudos to her for pulling off that Galadriel look, though.

Limited Verdict: SHIT-MINUS TIER
Constructed Verdict: STILL SHIT-MINUS TIER

Simic: Vorel of the Hull Clade

Vorel of the Azeroth Clade?

WHO LET AN ALBINO DRAENEI INTO THE SIMIC COMBINE????

I’m pretty sure this guy is “fine” in limited because at the absolute worst he’s a Horned Turtle, and his upside is pretty disgusting once you get the whole evolve/scavenge engine going with him. Mostly I’m just disappointed that he’s a Human Merfolk and not a legendary Lizard Frog. Absolute flavor fail there.

In terms of constructed, I just don’t see him being quite good enough for Standard play. He’s slow, clunky and underpowered on his own, and his synergistic upside requires way more effort than Zegana’s. He’s probably gonna be the nut-high in Commander, though. Sorta-kinda-Doubling Season on a body as a commander seems pretty sicko.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: B TIER
Commander Verdict: TOP TIER

So there you have it—my take on all of the guild champions, just in time for all your Dragon’s Maze prerelease party times. May you all open sweet sealed pools and X-0 your prerelease tournaments!

CONCLUDING BONUS VERDICT: Magic cards are cool and all, but really you should all just pick Sagat for prerelease.

OTHER SUPER DUPER EXCITING NEWS: I’m delighted to announce that at this weekend’s Saturday prereleases at the Raygun Lounge, we will have Wizards of the Coast R&D member Ben Hayes on site as our first-ever spellslinger! Attendees will be able to play against him and win prizes, so even if you couldn’t make it into any of the prerelease flights, you’ll still want to swing by and say hi!

April 19, 2013 / by Margot Martell

My dearest Ral Zarek,

I know we haven’t yet been formally introduced, but I want you to know you’re the one for me.

No, seriously, I’m gonna gay marry the hell out of you.

Ral Zarek, the magnificent Izzet silver fox

I mean, let’s be real here. You had me at hello. And by “hello,” I mean -2: Lightning Bolt. And then there’s that look in your eyes, which is just so electric. Plus, I’ve always been keen on silver foxes.

Now listen, I know I’m probably not your usual type. I mean, I’m a Simic mage, and you’re buddies with that shifty Dracogenius Niv-Mizzet. My liege Zegana shudders with distaste at the very mention of his name. And yet, my love for you just feels so real! And the taboo just makes it feel that much more romantic, you know? We could be Romeo and… Julian? What I’m trying to say is, you are the Capulet to my Montague. The whatever the hell that lady in West Side Story’s name is to my whatever the hell that man in West Side Story’s name is. I’ve never been great with analogies, but you get what I’m saying.

My involvement in the civil turmoil of Ravnica has left me feeling just like so much Dead Weight, but just the thought of you sends my soul soaring like a Storm Crow! Just think of all the things we could do together! With your +1, we could tap down disapproving naysayers and spread the word of the great Geist of Saint Traft (who will naturally be our marriage officiant)! We can accelerate into our guild leaders a turn early! We can travel to Alara and tag-team the monsters of Jund with Ajani!

C-C-C-C-C-OMBO!!!!!
BOLT IT HELIX IT BOLT IT HELIX IT REPEAT

You’re a god among men, Ral. You’re Ravnica’s Zeus. Or, well, actually that’s probably just Izzet Staticaster, but you play well with him too! I want us to make a beautiful RUG gayby together! So sure am I that this love is real, I’ll do whatever it takes to convince you that we should be together. Plus, you and I both know it will be LOADS of fun when we twiddle each other’s… well, you know… Rods of Ruin.

So how about it, Ral? Take a chance on a Simic mage like me? Here, I’ll make you an offer. Let’s flip five coins. Every heads means one extra turn we take together. I’ve heard you’re a gambling man. So I must ask then: Are you in?

Yours longingly,

The Drunken Planeswalker