Shh, do you hear that? It sounds like the trees rustled over this way, quickly, hide in the underbrush. Now, careful, for today we’ve got to keep on the low-down, lest we become prey for them. Whether you’re a vampire, a beast, or even just an ordinary human, today we’re going to check out the Top 10 Hunters across all pop culture. Video games, Film, TV, Literature, you name it, we’ve got it covered. (more…)
“How To” videos for Magic are in high demand right now, with Arena being featured as a sponsor for a lot of YouTube series right now. Well here’s one I’ve yet to see, one we’ve yet to address, and one that’s actually quite interesting.
The basic rules of Magic are astonishingly easy to learn. Your opponent(s) and you have a life total, and from your deck you draw the resources and tools you need to get rid of the opponents’ life and keep your own, and the last of you with anything left to fight with, wins. For most people that works fine, but some of us have opened a booster or perused set lists and noticed a card along these lines:
Except without a date attached to it, thanks MTG Goldfish… I guess.
Doesn’t matter that your health is firmly in the single digits, your field is practically empty, and your opponents are about to clear you out of the way so they can start the real fight… you just beat them all. How did you get there? Why weren’t they paying attention to where your Hedrons were going? There are dozens of these cards, meaning that there are masses of different ways to win that circumvent the need to pay attention to your life total.
Many of these require you to build your entire deck around them, or offer a backup plan to your major tactic. Take Hedron Alignment as an example, how does it work and how does it help:
It’s a blue card with a simple blue mechanic, Scry which allows you limited control over what card you draw next.
With it in hand, and two untapped mana on the field, your opponent will always wonder if you’re about to counter their next spell, or dismiss one of their creatures, destroying a valuable play; a cruel but valuable psychological tactic that also contributes to the alignment.
Blue decks are very well suited to manipulating the cards, including ways that allow you to discard cards to power better spells, or take some of your deck, remove unwanted cards to the graveyard, and leave the cards you want on top. With these cards somewhere in your deck, it’s not all that hard to put them where you want them.
And with all of those abilities to move and shift cards around with only a handful of cards, you can also create a deck that does other things. Cards that play from exile, feed from graveyard content, or benefit from controlling the content of your hand, which brings me to the card I found recently:
More manipulation of cards, another possible win condition… actually the two could really bounce off one another… I think I need to be building a deck.
These are not the only paths to victory. Some cards function as countdown timers, relying on a certain number of counters being placed on them, others rely on achieving certain states of play, like having twice your starting health total, being able to pay certain mana combinations, or running out of cards altogether.
Finally, there’s one more win conditions that requires no single card to tell you that you’ve won. Nevertheless it still requires a deck dedicated to it. If a player’s deck runs out of cards, that’s (usually) it.
The term Milling refers to a card called Millstone, but has come to refer to any card tat forces players to put cards from library to graveyard, but thanks to far more vicious cards like Traumatise and Consuming Aberration, the tactic has become a viable, if risky thing to attempt. Most players suffer greatly as their best cards pour from their deck and out of reach, while some only grow stronger and gain more options with a swollen graveyard. And if your primary goal is to see your player cardless, it can leave you open to faster, more aggressive tactics, or vulnerable to the bigger creatures amassing on the other side of the field.
That, and no one likes a mill deck. If you enjoy painting a massive target on your back then go ahead.
For fairly simple reasons, this is a pretty video game heavy list. However, other media may get through as well. Critters are small creatures that, typically, aren’t all that harmful. However we decided that there were two lists; one for conventionally adorable critters and one for oddly adorable critters. Today we’re focusing on the latter, where we look at slightly weird critters who you can’t help but smile at, so let’s get all fuzzy in this week’s Top 10. (more…)
Creatures of immense size and power, a Basilisk has become synonymous with power, cunning and intimidation. Whatever serpentine thoughts these slithering snakes have, you know their gaze will be captivating. No matter what you think of them, they’ve been in pop culture for ages, as well as ancient texts. Fear not, for today we’re going to uncover the Top 10 Basilisks in pop culture.
(Foreword: Thanks to Joel for hearing me out on this idea one night and helping develop it. These theoretical card designs were created using mtg.design)
Today’s article is late, that is a fact. Which is not to say that I’m sat staring at a blank page in desperation trying to reach a deadline, no I’m being quite productive. Folder after folder is filling up with 5e character sheets ready for this Summer’s Insomnia, at which I will again play ten games in four days, and as each session is only two hours long, better to get the character sheets ready than to have people prepare their characters at the table.
With such efforts comes practice, and better yet comes an abundance of other characters from which I can copy and paste important content like class features that require a certain amount of abridging to be made palatable to new players who might be daunted by enormous blocks of text. It’s now very little effort to actually fill in the basics, but with that comes a freedom to get experimental, and at I65, I’ll be bringing a few experiments, because we’re playing a few Plane Shift games. And so as not to give away too much, I’ll only be introducing you to one team…
Khef Crop: Amonkhet
Welcome one and all to the trial of strength! Pulling a few rules from the guidelines set out in Plane Shift: Amonkhet article, the group will step into the sandals of the surviving members of Khef Crop, each bearing the cartouches of both the trials of solidarity and knowledge, now they fight their way along the Luxa river, the mighty god Rhonas looming nearby as a beatific tutor and pitiless judge. For these heroes, there is only one class, Initiate, but in each case I have multiclassed like mad and modified a hell of a lot. I’ve also been going by a slightly more old-school approach to character creation, rolling stats in order having already decided on the race. Here are some of the characters I’ve come up with…
The Naga: A mixture of the cleric of strength and a worshipper of Rhonas himself, and a fighter battle-master. The character has spells to lend a degree of utility outside of combat, much of which is healing but still potentially useful, and I added the maneuvre Sidewind, which allows the Naga to make a heavy hitting attack and immediately disengage from combat, allowing him or her to evade the worst of retaliation, or perhaps land somewhere to threaten someone new. The cleric elements reflect the Naga’s ability to overcome the trials that came before, but here is where he or she is most desperate to shine.
The Devotee: Revering the God Pharaoh first and foremost (hey, it’s not their fault he’s a manipulative dragon planeswalker), and borrowing some inspiration from these warlock invocations that I absolutely adore, this character uses the one listed as Blades of Demogorgon and makes it Horns of the God Pharaoh. I also added Torment of Scarabs because this pdf doesn’t have invocations for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything cantrips, this makes Infestation a concentration spell that consumes your bonus action to maintain. The Devotee has a little bit of rogue in them to add greater potency to their weapon attacks, and lend a bit of evasiveness to the famous glass-cannon.
The Khenra: Khenra come in pairs, it is very rare for the jackal-headed folk to be born as anything other than twins, so hey, let’s stay in-lore shall we? Both are a classic blend of barbarian and fighter, and I added an element of an Amonkhet card I liked and threw in some mechanics I knew would work. Consuming Fervour (fervor in the American spelling) steals a little from the Scourge Aasimar, upping the damage of the barbarian Rage, and taking some extra damage back in kind. Well that’s fine, right? You can just end the Rage whenever? Well not if you’ve got a mean spirited DM who decided to make it impossible to end a rage unless your doused in water.
I might change one of these two subtly, possibly lending a complimentary variation of Rage, or perhaps shifting the balance of classes more in favour of fighter than barbarian… TBD.
The Aven: The Aven might end up as the only pure-class character in the crop, but lately I have been making a lot of wizard subclasses, so expect some homebrew materials no matter what. Having an Aven in the Crop makes my designs a lot more three-dimensional, so there should be a few options to make other people fly in there as well so that everyone can enjoy.
And that makes five… leaving one more. So far I have characters reflecting four colours, leaving only white to go…
Well I have to leave something a surprise for the day. And I still have two more planes to work on.
To be one with nature is the way of the druid; whether it’s to be one with their more animalistic side, or unleashing a plant-based frenzy. Druids are a huge archetype in gaming, but today we’re not going to look at whether a character is called a druid. Instead, we’re going to check out and celebrate the idea of a druid. In this week’s Top 10, there’ll be some strange entries, as you may not have thought of them as druids, or they may be a perfect fit to the term. (more…)
Magic: the Gathering is a game best enjoyed with almost any number of people. When you play, you can end up facing a deck that is outright stronger than yours. This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that sometimes, it’s because of one specific card. This one card can change the course of a game, or even end it. As avid Magic: the Gathering fans, we’d like to offer you to have a look at some of Magic’s most powerful cards…
… That aren’t banned!
Before we get into this though, we just wanted to say these aren’t factually the most powerful cards out there. These are some powerful game changers that we’ve either experienced or have knowledge about. There may be (definitely are) more powerful ones out there.
10) Ob Nixilis the Fallen
This card may be more powerful than we’re giving it credit for, but when you consider how easy it is to handle, we didn’t put it any higher. Ob Nixilis the Fallen is a 5 Converted Mana Cost (CMC) 6/6 demon who deals 3 damage and gets 3 +1/+1 counters placed on it when you play a land. Couple this with a card as simple as Evolving Wilds, which is a land that allows you to sacrifice it to search for a land and put that on the battlefield, there’s 6 damage and 6 1/1 counters immediately.
I know the power of this card; at a 6/6, he’s too big for a lot of basic red spells. Black has a few destroys and White has a few situational destroys. Blue can counter it and green can out-size it if they get it early. The real power of Ob is he doesn’t need to lift a finger. You can throw hexproof on him, sit back and just enjoy the absurd size he’ll ramp up to. Trust me, as I have him in my Landfall deck, pairing him with The Gitrog Monster and World Shaper, now THAT is brutality.
9) Battle of the Hydras
Green likes big monsters, green makes big monsters and makes big monsters bigger. It’s monsters like hydras that exemplify green’s ethos, you create a mass of land and fuel an unimaginable horror. Here are three of the biggest and scariest, vote for your favourite at the end:
Think twice about casting spells, especially in multiplayer games, because a Managorger gets out of hand quickly, especially when a red and/or blue deck is in play, and spells are being dropped on the field like it’s raining fire… and rain. It tramples, it costs three mana, and left to sit and stew unchallenged it is a nightmare.
Seems costly, but here’s another Hydra that takes very little effort to spiral out of control, especially with the vast mana output of your average green deck. A pair of Dictates of Karametra means every mana you tap doubles this beasty. Prepare to ask uncomfortable questions like “how many zeroes define a trillion” (it’s 24).
Finally, another costly one, but in terms of explosive growth, Broodmaster’s “Monstrous” ability takes a big monster, and as well as making it bigger, give it some big and scary friends. You can cheaply give yourself a 1/1, but put some backbone into that mana output and give yourself a pack of 8/8 nasties sitting alongside big momma 15/15. Then make ‘em trample.
It sounds pretty feeble to say that a Tarmogoyf can maximise at 8/9 assuming you’ve optimised its potential, and has no keywords that make it more daunting. It’s a 0/1 creature that grows for every card type in every graveyard, meaning it’ll average around a 3/4 (creatures, instants and sorceries are the most likely to end up in the graveyard) but it can grow with a little effort.
But it costs a mere 2 mana… for a creature that averages 3/4… Most “2 drops” are half that, less with a keyword, usually only 1/1 or thereabouts if they have a power of any interest, meaning an average ‘Goyf should cost twice what it does. Now throw the occasional enchantment or Giant Growth onto that horror and it’s an early game bomb that tips the scales heavily in your direction before the game is properly under way.
Previously relegated to the honourables list for being several cards instead of one, and in truth there aren’t many if any that are particularly powerful in their own right. With a few Slivers you have a cruel host that boost one another’s stats and adds keywords like Trample and Deathtouch. The bigger and nastier Slivers can be pulled from the library, make them indestructible, and make every one that comes into play steal something of your opponent’s.
They are the ultimate tribal synergy, lacking the restrictions of allies, more diverse than humans, and packing a punch more deadly than elves. And they simply don’t die… not in game, I mean historically speaking, Slivers just keep reappearing in new sets, these days it tends to be in Master’s sets, but there’s always new Core on the horizon.
6) Deathrite Shaman
Graveyards are a resource in the right hands, that is why the ability to exile cards became a growing necessity. Your undead minions can be returned to unlife, your expended spells are not as lost as they seem, and one short Delve can make an obscenely high cost disgustingly low. And the right card can also feed off the graveyards of others.
Have rid of a creature that you don’t want coming back, and use it to feed your life total. Be rid of that flashback or split card and deal some damage in the process, or just bolster your own resources by getting rid of land that wasn’t even yours. All of these abilities are tragically cheap, and the fact that the Shaman has to tap for it is its greatest limitation. But for the cost, it adds versatility and power in the early game that’s hard to rival.
Everybody loves mill decks right? What says fun quite like watching your entire library pour into your deck while your life remains relatively untouched? Oh boy, do you need to draw more cards to keep your immediate options open? Sure you don’t want to leave your cards in your library where they’re safe? Does writing an entire paragraph in rhetorical questions helping emphasize exactly how bad milling feels?
Traumatize in a mill deck is relatively high cost at five mana, but it very literally cuts your work in half, a single cast halves your opponent’s deck, meaning all those little cards like Mind Sculpts and Manic Scribe have gone from mild problems that have banished your favourites just tantalisingly out of reach (unless your a black deck, but your graveyard isn’t invulnerable), and worse yet, if you’re already under the influence of a Fraying Sanity then that Traumatize is suddenly as good as an instant-win.
4) Snapcaster Mage
Blue is a colour that wants to control the pace of a game. They want to make sure you don’t get your actions off the way you’d want. They may counter your cards, they may return cards to your hands, or outright take control of them. Blue loves to mess with you and watch you as you waste your mana. So then when Snapcaster Mage was introduced, blue players were completely at ease with their control game.
An expensive card to buy, Snapcaster Mage has a lot of power for quite cheap. At 3 mana, you get a 2/1 with Flash. 2/1 isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s the fact it has Flash that makes this so special. At any point, you can cast this and trigger its main ability. You choose an instant or sorcery card from within your graveyard and give it Flashback until the end of the turn. Your opponents rallied back up? Aetherspouts. Your opponents have a powerful card incoming? Cancel. You name it, you can get it if it’s already in your graveyard.
This creature is a great way to keep the magic flowing.
3) Lightning Bolt
The humble tool of red. The humble, painful tool. Let me explain something real quick; one mana can sometimes summon in a 2/2 creature… and a 3/3 at a push. Therefore, Lightning Bolt in turn 1 has a check against pretty much every creature that comes into play on turn one. However, some creatures that cost 4, 5, 6 mana only have 3 toughness. With one red mana, Lightning Bolt deals with them.
Naturally, Lightning Bolt doesn’t have to be cast on a creature. Indeed, players and Planeswalkers are equally doomed. However, it’s worth pointing out that when a Planeswalker is played, the player playing it technically gets priority so can use a Planeswalker ability as soon as it comes onto the field. Nevertheless, it’s still 3 damage which can be flung around with ease. Many creatures aren’t safe and 3 damage is more than a tenth of your life total in a one vs one game… On turn 1. For 1 mana.
Remember that Planeswalker rule, guys…
It’s easy to forget that for some decks, life is no mere countdown timer to death, but as much a resource as mana, creatures, library and the contents of one’s graveyard. Black decks in particular are masters at using every part of the animal, so do not easily dismiss Thoughtseize for digging a chunk out of your life. For a single mana you can pull a nasty tooth from your opponent’s hand.
Most cards of the ilk, like Duress or Divest limit your options to certain card types, meaning that while you can see that big horrible spell or creature that you’d really rather be elsewhere, you may not be able to do anything about it. Thoughtseize has a high price, but it’s still an early game advantage, slows the pace of progress for your opponent, and it’s not like you won’t be getting that life back any time soon.
1) Jace, the Mind Sculptor
… Remember that Planeswalker rule, guys?
This was the topic of some debate between Joel and I when we came up with this list. Once we realised the way that Planeswalker priority worked, we realised this already ridiculous card just topped the list. Oh and to make it better, this card was originally banned, but has since come out of the ban list on every format that it’s playable in. This is mostly due to a couple of blocks coming out with new ways to deal with Planeswalkers.
However, play cards from other sets and you limit your potential to deal with these nasty cards. Sure, you can counter them and sure, creatures can kill them, but let’s not pretend that makes Jace a push-over. With a base loyalty of 3 and with its first ability being a +2, it’s no wonder this guy can survive pretty well. However, if anyone gets to that -12, it’s definitely game over.
Remember that bit where I said “… That aren’t banned!”? I do too, so let’s talk about two fun examples of banned cards that are ridiculous. One of them is the undisputed king of power; the other isn’t a card, but it’s something we really do need to discuss, as it’s a well known part of Magic…
The undisputed most powerful card in all of Magic: the Gathering; the ability to get a lot for absolutely nothing. You get 3 mana of any one colour just by tapping this 0 mana artifact and sacrificing it. There’s a really easy way to describe how powerful this card is…
Remember earlier how we mentioned Lightning Bolt was 1 mana for 3 damage to any target? Imagine on turn 1 playing that card, converting all of the mana to red mana and then doing three of those in one hit. Oh, but then you may have played one mana that turn and you may potentially have your fourth Lightning Bolt in hand. That means, on turn 1, that’s theoretically possible to do 12 damage to your opponent, just because you had this card. Another 8 damage and you win in a one vs one game. Naturally this is an extremely unlikely scenario, but it’s not impossible.
The power of Black Lotus is insane. However, this card is outright banned across the board, with the exception of a Restricted status in Vintage.
Oh – And this card is rare and expensive as hell.
Emrakul the Aeons Torn
The power of Emrakul is legendary… And the only way for her to not be a threat anymore was for her to be banished to the moon.
Anyway, ignoring the actual implications behind the card, this cthulhu-esque creature is effectively the most powerful card of the Eldrazi. These otherworldly beings are absurd with their Annihilator keyword, allowing them to force you to remove permanents from your side of the field, just when they attack. This means that they’re removed before anything else happens, so you can’t even defend with something that’s about to evaporate.
Emrakul did come with a hefty cost at 15 CMC, but that’s not the end of her world. What made her truly terrifying was how easy it was to summon Eldrazi Spawns. Couple this with the powerful and versatile enchantment Doubling Season, Emrakul would have all of her Spawns sacrificed and she comes in, uncounterable. She gives her user an extra turn and she has protection from coloured spells. Basically, Emrakul is power.
However, we were going to add her to the main list, until we discovered she was banned from Commander. Following our own rules, we couldn’t have a card even this absurdly powerful in our main list, as it is banned in a format.
This is our End Phase, for we’ve checked out some of the most powerful cards in Magic: the Gathering. Whilst this list wasn’t grounded in factual evidence, a lot of the above is through our knowledge of the game. Yes, there are more powerful cards out there, such as the whole of the Power Nine, but these are real game-changers. Now, it’s time for you to change our game by voting for next week’s Top 10.
Another week has passed and hoo boy, am I ever exhausted? I think I’m tapped out. Perhaps I’ve spent all of my mana this turn. So tell me, what is your CMC and what are your favourite powerful cards in Magic: the Gathering? Perhaps you play a similar Trading Card Game which has equally absurd cards? Share your thoughts and comments below, or over on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Board game beginners, bring your friends, those who haven’t touched a dice since Ludo, someone who with the bitter aftertaste of Monopoly finally fading. If you can’t shuffle a deck of cards to save your life, this is your month to dip a proverbial toe firmly in the metaphorical water.
Premeet – Sweet
I did not take photos at the premeet again, I was kind of busy having my ass handed to me repeatedly at Magic while downing milkshake, not by Murray this time, but by Kim and her vicious blue-green ramp deck, which I should not have attempted to mill to death… which makes a lot of sense if you’ve played Magic but if you haven’t… well come to GeekOut, we’ll teach you.
It was pretty on theme too, Kim’s Magic addiction is in its first flushes, so taking out an experienced player with relative ease is always going to be affirming. Although I refuse to accept any and all responsibility for any hobby-induced poverty experienced as a result.
We have outlived the quiz! Not our quiz, the other one that was moving in on our territory. So no need to move into the far side of the pub, we get to keep our corner with all of the amenities we’ve become accustomed to, like a projector, tables for the board game library, and room to spread and expand in comfort.
And this month we were also almost back to a full compliment of 30+ attendees, including some new faces alongside the regulars. Amongst those new faces, at least one new adventurer steps into Meadsbridge, and there will be some newcomers who are most certainly returning – if not next month – then certainly in the near future.
It wasn’t all plain sailing this month, we completely forgot the competition, so I guess that’ll have to be a rollover? And we had a mini-parade of mental and medical complaints, but news and updates from all concerned sound broadly positive. We look after our own, your health and welfare are priority one. Look after yourselves and each other first and foremost, then break into the board games and nerdiness later.
Next Month – Convention Season, the 25th of July, conveniently right in time for me to vanish to America for GenCon, and while I’m starting mad prep for Insomnia in August. No Kitacon, no Amecon, so in the absence of my regular national-scale geeky get together, we’ll do our best to capture the moment.
As Wizards of the Coast have already, very kindly, bridged the gap between both M:tG and D&D, this should be nice and easy, right?
But that’s not the point of these articles, a shamelessly self-indulgent stretching of the creative muscles made public for anyone to use, and a bit of mental exercise at the same time. So as we have Planeshift articles for Amonkhet, Dominaria, Innistrad, Ixalan, and Zendikar, and a large guide attached to Ravnica, I’ll have to look to another plane of Magic’s collection to make things a little harder. Theros is too easy, Phyrexia is my favourite plane so probably one of the easiest options for me… (more…)