Monthly Archives September 2013

Theros Casual & Commander Review: White

Theros is a weird set. Over the last few years, Wizards has really pushed limited formats but that comes at a cost of complexity in cards. But this also means a lot of cards that are only playable in limited and not even something I would consider fringe playable at the kitchen table. Theros’s Voltron-inspired design makes for some odd choices that just don’t seem to quite click just yet but I’m hoping it will come together in the next two sets.

Like all of our Casual & Commander reviews, I will be looking at each card individually and comparing it against all the cards in Magic’s history to see which ones make the cut to the kitchen table and which ones should just be tossed into your Bulk box now. First up is white.

Theros Casual & Commander Review
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Multicolor, Artifacts & Lands

Battlewise Valor

Simple pump spell with a dash of scry isn’t bad, and the addition of Heroic makes this card a little more exciting than Mighty Leap. But it still isn’t terribly exciting. What a way to begin!

Cavalry Pegasus

As mentioned in our Heroes vs. Monsters review, Cavalry Pegasus is a new human lord… and a flying horse. In limited, this is good but outside of it, eh.

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Portals of the Week

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Portals of the Week

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Chefs NOT Wanted: the New Food Network Paradigm

Food Network doesn’t really care if you can cook. I don’t mean to be overly cynical, but that shouldn’t come as any great revelation. This has been the case for some time, but the network doesn’t seem to be hiding it as much anymore. The network which used to almost expertly balance its talent between personality and ability seems to have tipped the scales in favor of the former, with little regard for the latter.

I should begin by saying that yes, I recognize that there is a Cooking Channel, and that the balance of programming has shifted to make Food Network more about food and entertainment. Both are owned by the Scripps Network and it is certainly a smart programming move, similar to the TBS/TNT split between comedy and drama. I get it, but here’s the problem. TBS and TNT are in roughly 85% of homes, and Food Network is available in 87%. The Cooking Channel is available in just over 53%. Kind of hard to create a brand split if most people aren’t able to watch regardless of the programming plans. (If you’re curious about the stats, check out this article from late Aug 2013)

Until the Cooking Channel becomes more available one would think that the Food Network would at least try and keep things balanced, but no. The imbalance has cropped up in several places though many will probably – and rightly – point to the ubiquitous Next Food Network Star as exhibit A. The use of “star” in the title suggests that the show is more concerned with cultivating pure celebrity than it is establishing the next great tv chef. But this isn’t a lesson in language intentionality so we’ll let that go. The more damning evidence comes in how that show has evolved over the years with the ways it measures and tests “talent”.

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Numenera: Meeting the People

Numenera - People - Aeon Priest

Last time, I went over the geography of the Ninth World to explore the setting of Numenera. This time, I wanted to look over what sort of people and creatures inhabit the Ninth World. Living amidst the remains of a billion years of previous civilizations is a strange prospect and it means that the people of Numenera are both used to and mystified by the strange technology they find lying around their world. The things you can find in the wilderness or cities of this setting may fill the same narrative niches as goblins and cultists and ghosts but they are very different.

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Revisiting the Dungeons and Dragons Animated Series at 30

This week, the Dungeons & Dragons animated series turns 30 years old. Thirty years since the kids first set off on that magical roller coaster ride that brought them to “The Dungeon Master”. To say that this show wasn’t exactly beholden to the world of D&D is an understatement, but rather it used the game like you would a spice, sprinkled throughout the show to provide flavor to the fantasy setting.

It also can’t be understated how 80s this show is – something which anyone will notice upon popping in the first episode. For those of you who aren’t familiar – here’s some quick highlights:

  • A group of kids at an amusement park go on a roller coaster that takes them into “The Realm of Dungeons and Dragons” where they meet “The Dungeon Master”.
  • The kids are each given a weapon (and thus a class) to defend themselves and work to find their way home, while also performing side quests along the way to help people. Come to think of it, the overall plot is like a less techy Digimon.
  • Throughout the series the party battles Venger (an evil wizard) and Tiamat a five headed dragon.

If you aren’t sold yet on the show you should know that Peter Cullen and Frank Welker provide the voices for Venger and Tiamat respectively. That’s right – Optimus Prime and Megatron are involved.

To celebrate this magnificent and ridiculous show; I’m going to do a re-watch of the entire series, with recaps and commentary. Crazy right? But I might as well do something productive with all this free time I have.

The recaps won’t start till next week, so if you’d like to be involved – you have time to grab the DVD set and follow along. The show is available on DVD on Amazon at a ridiculously cheap price, which seems to be your only option. So grab a copy, and get ready – because next week we’re hitching a ride into the realm of D&D, with all the awesome 80s synth music we can handle.

This is either going to be awesome…or terrible.

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Numenera: Exploring the Lands

Numenera - Lands - Obelisk of the Water God

When I did my one-hour review of Numenera, I had to skim through some of the densest parts of the books to fit an overview in. This included the Setting and Creatures sections, which were not apparently essential to understanding what the game had to offer, though they looked interesting and imaginative. Now that I’ve had some more time to go back and look through these sections, it’s clear that the game designers managed their goal of merging science-fiction and fantasy well.

It’s maybe handy that I’m finally getting around to A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time  series, as I’m reading through Numenera because there are some handy connections. Like the Ninth World, the lands in Robert Jordan’s series live amidst the ruins of a former time that they don’t really understand and that seems crazy. Through glimpses into the past, we know that people before the Breaking had hovercars and laser guns just as people in earlier eras before Numenera likely did.

The difference here, though, is that the Ninth World is distinctly sci-fi in it’s themes and outlook. There are some heroes to celebrate and monsters to slay, but the hooks and adventures provided focus more on exploring and understanding. The unknown regions of the Ninth World feel more like the “new worlds and new civilizations” of Star Trek than the wild regions of Conan’s Hyperborea, as one example of contrast. It’s a hard thing to explain the feel of this game (a hallmark of Monte Cook) so I’ll just outline it by showing off the book instead of groping more.

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Arena Review: Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters

My love of Duel Decks isn’t a well kept secret. I know, it sounds absurd to say that I love these little pre-constructed decks that draw across the planes of Magic, but I really do love them! With the September releases acting as a preview for the upcoming set, Heroes vs. Monsters is a good, old-fashioned battle of giant creatures. While Sorin vs. Tibalt soured on me as time went on (well, mostly just Tibalt – even I can’t get him to work), Izzet vs. Golgari are both intact in my deck box because they’re so much fun!

Suggested Ages: 13+
Suggested Players: 2 players
Contents:

  • Two ready-to-play 60-card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens
  • A strategy insert
  • A Magic “Learn to Play” guide

Retail price: $19.99 available at Amazon.com

Duel Decks is a series of decks that Wizards releases biannually in the spring and fall. In the spring, they are based around a duel of two planeswalkers from the previous block, while in the fall they act as a preview of the upcoming fall release. In the case of Heroes vs. Monsters, both decks are drawing a great amount of inspiration from the upcoming Theros set.

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Portals of the Week

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