Random Magic stuff

In a bit of a card mood today.  Not sure why.

Probably because the Knights v Dragons duel decks released and I got my own recently. (Have I mentioned counting down to this set?)  Also finished up a few M:TG books lately, so may as well toss up some reviews…

Knights vs Dragons

Pretty solid set over all – I do love knights and dragons…

I was glad there wasn’t too much overlap between this deck and the deck from the dragonfire archenemy set except for a few Dragon Whelps and 1 rare.  What I was the most disappointed in not seeing?

Seriously, how do you leave him out?  Yeah he might not be that competitive or great, but he fits so tightly into the flavor, it just doesn’t seem right for him to be left out.  Still, even without him, the decks do maintain their flavor pretty well, though now and then a couple of cards thrown in for balancing purposes can take you out of it (how do knights get a hold of an oblivion ring? honestly). I was disappointed that the knight deck wasn’t more of a “white weenie” format with a focused synergy between the creatures, but since M:TG had recently released that in the Elspeth duel deck, I can see why they didn’t want to repeat themselves.  The biggest flavor loss was the dragon deck.  Dragons are generally late-game creatures, so a deck revolving around them has to have some low cost creatures thrown in to keep the player alive till the theme comes forward.  The dragon archenemy deck had the same issue, so I was hoping for a greater theme focus in this one.  Even if Wizards won’t release some cheaper, weaker dragons, at least they can put in low creatures that feel dragonish.  Cinder Wall?  Really?  Why not Wall of Fire which you can imagine a dragon creating with its breath.  Fire-Belly Changeling was definitely in the right direction.  (Blood Knight could have been fun as a knight who decided to help the dragons…)  The goblins that fill the deck are… ok, I’m just tired of them.  That’s at least 3 pre-constructed decks (1 focused on goblins, dragon-archenemy, this one) we’ve had.  How about something different?  Like… Viashino?  They look like little dragons and we’ve gotten a few extra red ones with the alara block.  Look at the number we can pick from.  Or maybe some red lizards.  Or salamanders!  Part of me is curious whether they even considered these alternatives or if goblins are just the auto fill in for red.  (I actually blame the card Dragon Fodder for it all.)

Otherwise the decks are a lot of fun for casual play or if you and some friends want to try some gimmicky format.  It’s definitely the best buy for casual or beginning players, but I doubt many experienced pros will be picking it up.  I’d give it… 4/5.  It would have gotten a perfect 5 out of me if I didn’t have those damn goblins again…

Onto some Magic books I’ve read lately…

Path of the Planeswalkers

Just a compilation of the first few planeswalker webcomics Wizards has been hosting on their site.  It’s not too bad (and has Nicol Bolas – always a plus) but… sometimes the timing and narrative efforts are a bit off.  Each story consists of 3 parts with each part being 5-8 pages (not counting title).  So we’re looking at around 20 pages per story.  However, sometimes there is more story, than pages available, and more than once the art is insufficient to express what is being conveyed.

Things are steadily improving, however, so the 2nd volume should be much improved.  This one… about a 2.5/5 – less if the new planeswalkers just don’t interest you.

Alara Unbroken

I’ve read a few of the tie-in novels to Magic’s sets… and often been disappointed (I’m still kind of bitter about the Time Spiral block novels).  Even my favorite one – the Ravnica novel trilogy – had an entire book that was nothing but filler.  Thankfully with Alara, they decided to cram the story of the entire block (all 3 sets) into 1 novel; and it is much improved.  The story clips along at a good pace, though sometimes a few moments seem to go too quickly (by my estimation, the entire Alara plane must be 5 miles in diameter).  Still, I’d rather take a slightly rushed plot than a filler one.  Not enough Elspeth for my taste but well done.  I’d definitely recommend this one to anyone who wants to know the lore behind any magic set.  3.5/5 (was going to be 4 but Ajani’s character growth did start dragging).

Agents of Artiface

Man this book pissed me off.  Why?  Because the first half of it is filler!  No joke, we spend a good portion of the novel following two characters on a journey to reveal… one of the characters is actually someone else.  Sure some might say that the journey gave us character time & growth, but the person who changes, changes so drastically that all that growth is canceled.  When you can read the opening chapter (to get the gist), then skip to the destination, and cut out at least a third of the book, that just pisses me off.  Especially because there’s so many other places in the novel where we could have spent that time exploring of character & plot instead.

If this book didn’t feature an entertaining climax, I’d rank it a lot lower than 2/5.

the Purifying Fire

Maybe I was still mad at the previous planeswalker book, but this one was a delight.  First of all – there’s no waste in this book.  Second, it stars Chandra and I’m always in favor of redhead babes.  Then my other favorite planeswalker (lore wise – and not Bolas) shows up.  Yeah the ending is a little predictable, but thankfully it is swift and the timing of it is perfect.  This is a book where the journey is definitely the most important part and thankfully it is a pretty rich and entertaining journey.  4/5 – Heartily recommend it to fans of the lore of the multiverse.

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