Entries from September 2011 ↓

Comics, Messing Around on my iPad, etc.

I don’t remember how I got on this train but I was reminiscing about what was supposed to be my smashing career in comics and / or movies. Most of you probably aren’t longtime-enough readers to know that I was a high finisher in a comics competition a few years ago called Comic Book Idol (I finished third)… Second-place finisher was Jonathan Hickman, who is now a superstar at Marvel Comics, killed the Human Torch, etc.

Anyway, believe it or not I made it into Variety (premier showbiz mag) at the tender age of 27.


Click the above for the story starring YT!

I got plucked out of Comic Book Idol and was immediately signed onto a movie / comics adaptation for a book called Seen. Long story short, I was distracted with other projects (i.e. my Magic writing career was just taking off, and I played in the Magic Invitational), and Seen never got done [by me, anyway]. Earlier this year the same studio / comics company that hired me put out a little film called Cowboys and Aliens.

Anyway, partly inspired by something Justin Treadway linked to on Twitter I decided to download some drawing software for my iPad.

I haven’t drawn — seriously or otherwise — in literally 5-6 years, but I think I am going to screw around and put up sketches and stuff.

So… These aren’t up to pro quality or anything, but maybe we’ll get to an interesting place again. It’s like Nikolai Dante says about fightin’ … The only way to get good at anything is to do a lot of it.

First swipe…

Sketch 2

Finishes


That’s it!

LOVE
MIKE

You Make the Play: pobody’s nerfect

Previously on Five With Flores:
You Make the Play: That Time MJ Made Me πŸ™” was a fun blast from the past, wasn’t it?

I actually wrote most of this follow up before I read any of the responses here on the blog or on Twitter, but I inevitably had to re-write based on the collective wisdom of the overall Five With Flores community of comments.

Speaking of comments, I don’t know what is up with the Facebook Social Plugin. It seems to split in two for every set of posts; I see different sets of comments depending on if I am logged in as myself (i.e. the moderator of the blog) or not. So… No idea why this is splitting at present but I appreciate your comments and hope you bear with me while we figure out how to get it on the optimal track.

Now speaking of ye olde optimal track, how do we approach the problem of the Demigod of Revenge, or to be more proximally useful Demigod[s] plural (maybe):

To recap:

  • We have a Bituminous Blast and a Cryptic Command, and the mana to play either.
  • The opponent (with a Demigod of Revenge in his graveyard) puts Demigod of Revenge on the stack.

What play do we make?

I am going to break down the approach thusly:

  1. Cryptic Command and Demigod of Revenge Basics
  2. Bituminous Blast and pobody’s nerfect
  3. Next Level Cryptic Command
  4. Fortitude and “What’s Next?”

Cryptic Command and Demigod of Revenge Basics

For those of you who either weren’t playing when Demigod of Revenge was legal in Standard (or who didn’t quite understand why you consistently lost with your Blue decks during the same time frame) Demigod of Revenge is a bit of an ock-kay when it comes to playing against Blue. If you are not careful, you are pretty much doomed.

Like this:

Demigod of Revenge [1] (the spell) goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge [2] (the trigger) goes on the stack.

If you approach it like some responders did, automatic-style, like this…

Demigod of Revenge [1] (the spell goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge [2] (the trigger) goes on the stack.
Cryptic Command (Counterspell Demigod of Revenge [1])
Cryptic Command resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [1] goes to the graveyard.
Demigod of Revenge’ [2]s trigger resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [1] AND Demigod of Revenge [2] enter the battlefield!

Now presumably you are dead.

If you are going to use the Counterspell and some other modality of Cryptic Command (Dismiss or whatnot), you will want to do it more like this UNLESS you are going to do Next Level Cryptic Command (section three):

Demigod of Revenge [1] (the spell goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge [2] (the trigger) goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge’s trigger resolves.
Cryptic Command (Counterspell Demigod of Revenge [1])
Cryptic Command resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [1] goes to the graveyard.
Demigod of Revenge [2] enters the battlefield.

In this case you may or may not get attacked by the solo Demigod of Revenge. I think most players in this situation will attack, put you to one life, and pass the turn with fingers crossed. Presumably even if you have an answer to the Demigod of Revenge, such Magicians will have the Ghitu Encampment to lean on.

Now these Demigod players might not even get past the next turn. The hypothetical from the previous You Make the Play indicated that both players had six life. You have a Bloodbraid Elf, and several topdecks that will win the game on the spot. Another Bloodbraid Elf or a Boggart Ram-Gang for a certainty; likely Anathemancer, and so on.

One thing to keep in mind is that, as Sam Stoddard indicated on Twitter, you are likely to win no matter what route you take. But there is nothing that puts a middling Mage on tilt like being “likely” to win… and then not winning (especially if he had the tools to do so).

Case in point, if you went with most variations on the first Cryptic Command “Dismiss” scenarios (as posited by many commenters), you’re dead. Classic “just stole defeat from the jaws of victory” dead.

Seems pretty clear that of the two non-Next Level Cryptic Command possibilities, above, the one that leaves you with one life is better than the one that leaves you dead.

Even if you live, some things to remember:

  • You are now on one. You might kill him next turn, and you still have a Bituminous Blast to defend yourself (Blasting Demigod into a creature can keep the Encampment off you long enough to live, if he hasn’t drawn a burn spell). Volcanic Fallout is not great in any scenario, but cascading into it might lose you the game the next turn.
  • Being on one, unless you draw or Blast into a Cryptic Command, you are pretty much dead to a topdecked burn spell.

Bituminous Blast and pobody’s nerfect

Full disclosure time: I’m not Perfect

I know!

I was shocked to discover that, too!

But no… Not only am I not a perfect player (plenty of beats around that), nor columnist (Inquisition of Kozilek in my Standard-With-Innistrad deck lists this week, COME ON)… But I am not even a perfect blogger!

I really should have laid out what creatures were in our graveyard, and put some time into what lands were in play.

For example, can we answer the question, “can we survive a topdecked Anathemancer”? The assumption is “probably not” but I didn’t explicitly say that we had a certain number of basics in play (or didn’t).

Similarly, what lands does the opponent have in play? It actually changes our math for here in the Bituminous Blast section.

What I was really trying to get at with the two Jund Charms in the graveyard (the Chapin / MJ deck has a sum total of two Jund Charms) was to make life a little easier on you. At the time I brainstormed this hypothetical, I had already decided in my imagination that Cryptic Command was a red herring (turns out it’s not, by the way, on account of nobody being nerfect), and I was really trying to lay out the question of:

  1. Bituminous Blast-into-Cryptic Command, versus
  2. Bituminous Blast-into-Removal

That is, if you look at it like that, there are four Maelstrom Pulses in the deck (plus Bloodbraid Elves that might miss one), and only three Cryptic Commands (because you have one in grip).

When you look at it like this, it is really a question of whether you let the Demigod of Revenge [1] resolve or not. Let’s say you are some em effer who should play the lottery and (with your Cryptic Command in grip), you make the following play:

Demigod of Revenge [1] (the spell goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge [2] (the trigger) goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge’s trigger resolves; Demigod of Revenge [2] now in.
Bituminous Blast Demigod of Revenge [2].
Cascade on the stack.
Cascade into Cryptic Command!
Cryptic Command / Counterspell Demigod of Revenge [1]
Cryptic Command resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [1] goes to the graveyard.
Bitumuinous Blast resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [2] goes to the graveyard.

The opponent is almost certainly kold. We still have Cryptic Command! We can Counterspell Anathemancer, even! If he rips Demigod of Revenge, we can let him have three 5/4 bad guys and just tap them all down.

Well it’s pretty gosh darn spectacular if you run that good.

However if you flip, say, a Maelstrom Pulse (which you have a greater chance of doing than flipping a Cryptic Command both because of Bloodbraid Elf and because you already have a Cryptic Command), then you are in the “getting knocked down to one” scenario.

Lots of players will just shrug their shoulders at this point and be like “I didn’t run good” when, in fact, the math says otherwise.

That said, all other things held equal, I would probably rather have a Cryptic Command in my hand has my only card than a Bituminous Blast, if I am stuck on one life. For instance, one Cryptic Command can tap a Demigod and bounce the Ghitu Encampment if he doesn’t activate it pre combats; and if he does something like leading off on a Blightning or Anathemancer, you can Counterspell that and tap or bounce his potential attackers; whereas you need to actually draw a Cryptic Command or win the lottery (as the immediately above) on your Bituminous Blast in order to survive against an appropriate spell with reach.

Interesting thing is that what I was trying to steer the readership towards was to letting Demigod of Revenge [1] resolve, so that we can have more things we can do. We have already established that you have a greater chance of hitting Maelstrom Pulse than Cryptic Command, so trying to get a Counterspell out of Bituminous Blast errs on the wrong side of greedy (probably). Consider this slightly different Bituminous Blast scenario:

Demigod of Revenge [1] (the spell goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge [2] (the trigger) goes on the stack.
Demigod of Revenge’s trigger resolves; Demigod of Revenge [2] now in.
Demigod of Revenge [1] resolves; Demigod of Revenge [1] now in.

Bituminous Blast Demigod of Revenge [1].
Cascade on the stack.
Cascade into Maelstrom Pulse.
Maelstrom Pulse Demigod of Revenge [2].
Maelstrom Pulse resolves.
Demigod of Revenge [1] and Demigod of Revenge [2] go to the graveyard. Bitumuinous Blast is countered.

Now note that even if you Cascade into Cryptic Command in this scenario you can do something interesting, like tapping or bouncing the other Demigod of Revenge and / or bouncing Ghitu Encampment.

Note that in either of the lottery-winning scenarios described here, you are at six life still with a Cryptic Command in hand; ergo it is very likely you can get in for wins.

I think that the Maelstrom Pulse argument alone makes allowing the spell-Demigod resolve, but we have a different question… Now that we are no longer in the “playing around with the stack” mode, when exactly is the right time to play Bituminous Blast?

I would argue that combat is the best time, but an interesting question is whether we allow the Demigod(s) to attack or not. I would presume, with lethal represented, that most players will attempt to attack with both Demigods (if we let them).

Knowing we are 100% likely to kill at least one Demigod of Revenge (leaving us with one life) will leave the opponent with no blockers. If we Bituminous Blast before he declares one or more attackers, he may change his strategy; for instance, if we flip a Putrid Leech, we don’t have the life necessary to pump the Leech for lethal, which might encourage him to play the “cross my fingers” game and attack with the other. In that case, we are presumably dead to a Lightning Bolt even if we have the Cryptic Command in hand (play Lightning Bolt; we Counterspell + tap Demigod of Revenge; he animates Ghitu Encampment and kills us). However if we flip an Anathemancer, Boggart Ram-Gang, or for goodness sakes Bloodbraid Elf (which in turn would lead to some lottery winning), he has no choice but to leave back at least one Demigod of Revenge… We’ll still win, by the way, but he still has to make that play.

If we wait for him to attack, we are in largely the same situation, but with one life. Consider:

  • Anathemancer: Lethal whether or not he attacks.
  • Bloodbraid Elf: Lethal whether or not he attacks.
  • Boggart Ram-Gang: Lethal whether or not he attacks.
  • Putrid Leech: Non-lethal if he attacks; lethal if we have six life instead of one… therefore better pre-attacks if only because he can make a mistake.
  • Sygg, River Cutthroat: Non-lethal by itself.
  • Cryptic Command: Not necessarily lethal but very likely so (as discussed above).
  • Maelstrom Pulse: Non-lethal but quite good (as discussed above).
  • Volcanic Fallout: Generally bad

The situation would change if we didn’t have a Cryptic Command to force Anathemancer, Bloodbraid Elf, or Boggart Ram-Gang in… But we do. I think we get slightly better results by using Bituminous Blast pre-attacks.

An interesting quandary comes up if the opponent chooses to attack with only one Demigod of Revenge… What do we do now? Do we shoot at the incoming Demigod (as we have Cryptic Command to deal with the other, if luck is with us), or the potential blocker?

Fancy option you might not have seen:
As we have eight life we can actually tap a defensive Demigod of Revenge on our own turn plus our own Bloodbraid Elf in order to try to win the lottery on a Boggart Ram-Gang or potentially Anathemancer. Additionally, because Sygg has three toughness, we can actually flip Volcanic Fallout (which will resolve before Bloodbraid Elf does) in order to deal exactly six damage (1 from Sygg, 2 from Volcanic Fallout, and 3 from Bloodbraid Elf). You probably don’t want to try this; but again, you might not have seen it at all.

Next Level Cryptic Command

I was pretty sure that Bituminous Blast was the best route… But again, pobody’s nerfect and the way I had the hypothetical set up, we don’t know mathematically what the tightest play is…

But it might not matter.

A couple of people including Pro Tour semifinalist Chris McDaniel and podcaster extraordinaire Sam Stoddard suggested what I am calling “Next Level Cryptic Command” … I didn’t see this possibility and it is kind of awesome.

If you Counterspell the incoming Demigod of Revenge (after the re-buy trigger is no longer a threat, of course) and bounce the other Demigod of Revenge, you have a 100% chance of staying on six life for the turn. You get in for three and the opponent has to basically take the same turn over again… and you still have the Bituminous Blast to defend yourself (whatever we discussed about using Bituminous Blast this turn stays more-or-less the same, but the opponent is now on three life instead of six).

I originally rejected any option that involved bouncing a Demigod of Revenge because of the re-buy on the other, but this is actually pretty good.

He almost has to draw a Lightning Bolt (or some proxy thereof) to kill your Bloodbraid Elf now (he doesn’t even get to cast his Demigods), and if he moves to attack you with his Ghitu Encampment (which most Mages will), you can spike the Bituminous Blast and maybe kill him anyway.

Alternately he can play Demigod of Revenge and leave both back (if he only leaves one back you get in with the Bituminous Blast) and hope that you don’t flip into one of the lethal creatures or Maelstrom Pulse / Cryptic Command.

Fortitude and “What’s Next?”

As you can see, a good part of the outcome has to do with what the Demigod player is going to do. Will he have the fortitude to leave back two 5/4 flyers? That is a lot to ask of most aggressive Red Mages (I pointed out to Sam on Twitter that I made semi-defensive plays like this on more than one occasion the year I played DI Demigods). And even if he has the willpower… He might still just die to your Bituminous Blast and the top of your deck.

I don’t know that we can figure on what is 100% the best play with the guidelines as I laid hem out, but there are certainly some clearly better and worse options.

  1. Lazy Cryptic Command players: Y’all are dead.
  2. Bituminous Blast with Demigod of Revenge on the stack: You might mise, you might not, you will end the turn with either 1 or 6 life, but still have the Cryptic Command. You might win next turn.
  3. Bituminous Blast during combat, after attackers have been declared: You will have slightly better results than the previous group because there are more Maelstrom Pulses in your deck than Cryptic Commands. Again, you are possible to end the turn with either 1 or 6 life depending on what the opponent does. You probably don’t want to take it, but you also have the “Cryptic Command my own Bloodbraid Elf” option on your next turn.
  4. Bituminous Blast prior to attackers being declared: You will have slightly better results than the post-attackers group because you get Putrid Leech as an additional lethal attacker if you don’t take a Demigod hit (you can tap the remaining blocker on your turn).
  5. Next Level Cryptic Command: Big incentive here is that you are 100% likely to have 6 life instead of 1, with no luck component from that standpoint. It is inferior insofar that you don’t have a Cryptic Command the next turn so you can’t capitalize on an opponent mistake if he gets lucky [most scenarios where the opponent gets another turn will end badly if he both draws Anathemancer and plays correctly, provided you don’t topdeck another Cryptic Command. If he plays Anathemancer pre-combat, allowing you to Counterspell it and tap his Demigod(s) that is another story entirely (thanks, b)]. That said, any of the Bituminous Blast options are potentially better than Next Level Cryptic Command because if you have six life you can withstand a post-combat Anathemancer and you have 0% chance of winning on the spot.

As such, I think a Bituminous Blast line that allows both Demigods into play but gets fired off before the opponent attacks has the best combination of lucksack potential maximization and Cryptic Command preservation.

Thoughts?

LOVE
MIKE

Complete Innistrad Review (and other housekeeping)

Somewhat Fake-tacular (though, for those who haven’t consumed DI, DI-content-filled) update today.

At the end of last week I did essentially a FULL REVIEW OF INNISTRAD (more or less every card, more or less)… Over at Top 8 Magic with the Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall.

So if you haven’t downloaded the five parts (one for each color, with goofball stuff bundled into Red), hop on over to the first-ish [and still best!] Magic podcast’s home for all of that jazz. Warning: I don’t know if BDM and I actually understand / understood how Tree of Redemption works… But it’s all a riot anyway / five hours or so of good-natured awesome sauce over there:

Local Awesome Sauce

You may have noticed that we went from “not updating for months” to “updating more or less every day” (more or less) over the last week or two [yes, I took the weekend off]. So for those of you who missed what went on last week, here are some helpful helpings:

You Make the Play is (historically, analytics-wise) the most popular kind of update I do on Five With Flores, and this one was pretty hip, too. Expect an article-length, relatively in-depth follow up on that one tomorrow-ish. You can still weigh in on the Facebook Social Plugin (or comments) here.

Speaking of the Facebook Social Plugin, no idea what is going on there so far. It seems like it splits into Parallel Lives and creates two different comments sequences for each post. No idea why the heck it does that, but it is making me turn green, rip my purple pants, jump 40 miles at a time towards New Mexico, etc.

(please bear with us)

Technology πŸ™

Last thing… NEW DECK LIST

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

Pretty surprised we didn’t get any Firestarter on the Snapcaster Mage deck I PS’d into the end of last Friday’s update. Here it is again:

Thanks for visiting!

LOVE
MIKE

Innistrad – Bitterheart Witch and Curse of Death’s Hold

I don’t even remember what I was originally going to write about today, but I just got home from an epic podcasting run with BDM. And by “epic” I mean epic. Like the great game that is life put Enduring Podcast on the stack, turn after turn, hour after hour, for like five hours.

We actually did five separate podcasts, one for each color of Innistrad, reviewing almost every card! We spend an hour each on White, Blue (news flash, Blue is gas), Black, Red + the goofball stuff… and about twenty minutes on Green. Poor Green. By then it was kind of late, but Green is the worst of the bunch and there are only so many ways one can say “Another Werewolf? Next.”

BDM is going to put up the podcasts later today, and I will update this blog post to link to them when those go up.

Anyway, what was interesting to me, more than anything else, was BDM’s attitude towards Bitterheart Witch.


Bitterheart Witch

“I think the card is good,” he claimed. “Well… pretend it doesn’t cost five. There are some pretty good Curses.”

I thought about it for a second and agreed that the card might be good.

“Well, what does it matter if it costs five if we aren’t going to pay for it? Wouldn’t this be great in a Birthing Pod deck?”

I then went on to envision the soul-crushing sequence of Solemn Simulacrum into Bitterheart Witch (drawing a card), into [whatever] (probably Inferno Titan). “In fact,” I concluded: “It’s almost a compliment that it costs five, so you can go and get a six!”

I don’t know that you would play Bitterheart Witch straight up very often; but it is kind of like an Academy Rector. The plan proposed here is to try it as a two-pack out of your Birthing Pod sideboard to deal with particular kinds of cases.


Curse of Death’s Hold… Courtesy of Bitterheart Witch by way of Birthing Pod

Curse of Death’s Hold is a very special spell. While it costs one more mana than the highly influential Night of Soul’s Betrayal, it is 1) not Legendary, and 2) only affects one player. Bringing one in from the Birthing Pod sideboard allows you to search and ramp into the Bitterheart Witch, sacrifice that, and potentially lock down the opponent… all for the price of just two sideboard slots. You can do this even if you aren’t actually Black, utilizing Birthing Pod to get where you need to go, or leaning on Birds of Paradise in a pinch.

When might Curse of Death’s Hold be most effective?

There are certain decks that just can’t beat this card. One unanswered copy fells every Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent, most of the Infectious artifact creatures, and even “turns off” Inkmoth Nexus. No, this isn’t a combo that you will typically want to play in the main… but that’s why we are proposing it from the side.

In another context, Curse of Death’s Hold might just be a card you want to play in multiples. One takes out his Birds of Paradise, but by stacking multiple copies of this non-Legendary creature-hating enchantment, you can grow up to eliminate bigger or more dangerous threats.

A Note About Bullets:

Some players look at one-ofs — including bullets out of a Birthing Pod deck — at least somewhat reactively. That is, they wait for the opponent to play an artifact, almost so they can have permission to go and get an Acidic Slime to can kill it. These players wait for the opponent to put down something and get the specific thing to deal with that thing, and use their selection engine contextually opportunistically.

There is nothing expressly “wrong” with that operating system, but you might be cutting a large portion of your potential advantage out by tutoring that way. Think back to Michael Jacobs’s quote about Urabrask, Inferno Titan, and 20 damage as a combination from Facebook / yesterday. Theoretically a card like Urabrask can function as a bullet (go and get it in play and the opponent has to deal with it before trying to go off with Deceiver Exarch); Inferno Titan is the top of the curve, and can either be the summit of Birthing Pod tutoring in the abstract, or a tool for cutting down lots of small guys… And you do win lots of games with Value RUG-Pod just on value. The admiring way I talked about Patrick’s Hero of Oxid Ridge play in last week’s Flores Friday comes from another place: These guys are not playing their bullets reactively… They are trying to find the fastest, least predictable, way to stick them and win.

Same deal here.

If Bitterheart Witch is in your deck, chances are, if you can try to search her up, you should. She isn’t “just good” but rather, has a job to do. Grok?

LOVE
MIKE

Bonus:

I originally had an idea to combine Invisible Stalker with Strata Scythe. I don’t know if it is still productive to be Mono-Blue [with this sketch] if I have moved away from Strata Scythe (rather than to the low CMCs and high synergies of Black or Red with Snapcaster Mage), but this is where I am right now.

Thoughts?

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

Nobody but nobody just has 23-24 Islands as his mana base. It is possible I am too in love with that. Invisible Stalker + Sword of Feast and Famine just seems so unbeatable though!

You Make the Play: That Time MJ Made Me :(

Michael Jacob.

What can you say about him?

How about: “The real MJ.”

-Lan D. Ho

Master deck designer. Thought-provoking narrator of MTGO videos. Pro Tour Top 8 competitor. Star City Games Premium Columnist. National Champion.

And killjoy.

Before we integrated the Facebook comments on the blog itself, old MJ smothered our collective enthusiasm RE: Falkenrath Marauders with his stoic, Value RUG-Pod driven pragmatism on FB proper…


One might say that the man has a point.
 

Now on the subject of MJ — and even the echo of Demigod of Revenge dredged up during the Falkenrath Marauders discussion — I got to thinking about a bit of an older(er) school situation. Consider this deck, which Jacob used to make Top 8 of Grand Prix Seattle/Tacoma a couple of years back:

Now everyone knows that Michael won the 2008 US National Championships with a Demigod of Revenge deck, but today’s backwards-winking You Make the Play posits playing his Five-color Blood deck against the hellacious Spirit Avatars.

The Situation:
Your opponent is playing a B/R Blightning Beatdown deck. The action has been brutal, but you stabilized by blowing up all his guys with Jund Charm, up until he got in there with a Demigod of Revenge.

Lucky ducky, you had your Cruel Ultimatum to take care of it, and are now sitting pretty pretty.

Life Totals:

  • You – six
  • Him – six

Hands:

Battlefield:

  • You – Eight assorted lands (you can cast whatever you want), and a lone Bloodbraid Elf
  • Him – Ghitu Encampment and four assorted Black- and Red-producing lands.

Graveyards:

  • You – Cruel Ultimatum, Jund Charm, Jund Charm; some guys you used to trade earlier.
  • Him – Demigod of Revenge and some assorted other lands and spells

Your opponent draws his card for the turn, smiles, and plays it:

Demigod of Revenge!

So… How do you approach this turn?

You Make the Play!

LOVE
MIKE

P.S. Got some kind of weird results with the Facebook Social Plugin yesterday. Please excuse our clutter while we continue to upgrade Five (and by “we” I mean YT).

What Awesome Shenanigans Did Star City Pull Off? :)

Following is an unedited screen capture from a well-known (in online marketing and measurement circles, anyway) service called COMPETE. Patrick Chapin* pointed it out to me and (last week) I passed it along to some of our overlords such as Steve Sadin and Mister Orange [guy] with the same question I am, asking you:

Now some of you might not quite grok what is going on in this screen capture, so I will put it another way; that is, “edited”:


(I greyed out last month on account of the data is not mature yet, so it would be worthless to talk about.)

This is a measurement of unique visitors to the beloved Star City Games site; NOT how often existing users use it, nor how much they “like it”, nor how long they sit there watching SCGLive videos of the charming Joey Pasco… It attempts to measure the actual, individual, humans… (and hopefully, ultimately paying customers of either Magic: The Gathering singles, Premium memberships, or like Squirrel-backed sleeves).


mise squirrel amiright?

Something happened.

Or, probably (and more likely), the clever marketing machine that is Star City Games proactively did something to dramatically reverse the declining course of their number of visitors.

“J-Curve” or “hockey stick” changes in performance don’t happen all by themselves. In theory we can attribute some amount of performance seasonally (there are many online retailers that do 50% of their sales, or more, in November and December). But we don’t see that here, and if we equate visitors and buyers (which we honestly can’t), the numbers are going the wrong way, anyway. These kinds of sharp and sustained directional improvements typically result from internal, that is organizationally-driven, process changes. For example, here is a directional Analytics screen shot of the day-by-day traffic of this here website, up to these past few days:


What internal process change did FiveWithFlores make in the last few days?

That something Star City did occurred / was done in January of 2011 that added (or perhaps encouraged the return of) literally tens of thousands of unique visitors to their our user base, and catapulted them Millionaire Playboy Pete Hoefling into an amazingly positive direction.

So… What do you think that was?

I SPENT AN HOUR YESTERDAY FIGURING OUT HOW TO ADD THE DAMN FACEBOOK SOCIAL PLUGIN LIKE MY STAR CITY MASTERS HAVE SO PLEASE USE IT, thanks πŸ™‚

A couple of possibly useful observations:

My first [let’s be honest] second gut reaction was to credit SCGLive. However this different COMPETE shot seems to indicate that 1) the timing is off, and 2) the magnitude of SCGLive unique users cannot wholly account for the improvements (check the y-axis).

Certainly SCGLive is a super sticky service that keeps people on Star City there, and engaged (not to mention happy)… But at least according to COMPETE’s numbers, not enough new, different people to account for the hockey stick, and subsequent re-up. Anyway, I would guess that SCGLive aficionados cross over quite a bit with Star City’s “regular” user base… It’s not like if you took 10,000 from mommy and 5,000 from kiddo you would have 15,0000 uniques.

So…

Like the title asks: What awesome shenanigans did Stat City pull off?

LOVE
MIKE

* Yes, yes, we have our suspicions already πŸ™‚

** Please leave a comment via the old or brand spanking new methods, please.

Flores (last) Friday – Cartoon Network

Last Friday (9/16/2011) was what I consider the first big television night of the fall season.

No, it wasn’t my girl Zooey Deschanel on her new Fox sitcom, or the long-awaited return of an old favorite… But an action-packed evening on Cartoon Network!


(tonight!)

I have been on mono-cartoons on Friday nights for at least the bulk of 2011. I have no clue what is on any regular teevee network on Fridays (though I do DVR Smackdown in preparations for some future rasslin’ site I have been spitballing with some other community members). Anyway, following are my reactions to this week’s first “the biggest night of action”…

While I generally like my “four perspectives” paradigm for reviewing stuff, since there is basically no buy-component to watching a single episode of basic cable cartoons, I will vary a bit for the purposes of this review (hope you don’t mind).

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
“Scorn of the Star Sapphire”

Batman and Green Lantern team up to face Star Sapphire.

What was great about “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”?

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is just so deliciously over-the-top. Every situation on the show is basically the furthest extreme of what you might see in a comic book in terms of scale. At the same time, the universe of Batman: The Brave and the Bold seems to draw on everything anyone who likes comics or comics-related media has ever liked. Case in point, the opening James Bond-esque vignette at the beginning of “Scorn of the Star Sapphire” was a Wonder Woman team-up that included — I spit you not — the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman from the old live-action television show, complete with the old theme trumpeting as the background music during the rescue / beatdown segment. I pretty much adored that.

Plus, there is Batman’s scathing crime fighting quip, “If it weren’t for your tattoos, Tattooed Man, you could be working in that bank instead of robbing it!”

What gave me pause about “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”?

The introductory scene with Caron Ferris and Hal Jordan (testing a prototype Batmobile) is extremely reminiscent of the scene in the summer’s Green Lantern movie (I disliked the scene, and didn’t particularly like the movie) [Hal crashes stuff for seemingly no reason].

I thought Loren Lester as Hal Jordan sounded like kind of a wimp. Hal Jordan is supposed to be a fighter pilot / beat cop (as Green Lantern… his “beat” being all of the Sector). Lester made me feel like I could put down a Green Lantern with “one punch” … Not convincing in my opinion.

The overall conflict — and conflict resolution — seemed pretty goofball. I guess you can count on this show for goofball stories, but nevertheless I thought this one was a mite eyebrow-raising.

Why would someone want to watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold?

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is maybe the funnest cartoon incarnation of Batman, ever. It doesn’t have the depth and complexity of the 1990s Bruce Timm / Paul Dini animated series / Gotham Knights incarnations, but like I said before… If there is something about DC comics or related media (up to and including the Adam West-type stuff) you love, it is in there. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is kind of like the Joyce’s Ulysses of Friday night comic book cartoons πŸ™‚

Watch / Don’t Watch?

Watch.

Generator Rex
(no clue; I don’t watch Generator Rex)

Young Justice
“Targets”

Red Arrow is pitted against dangerous assassins.

What was great about “Targets”?

Red Arrow is probably my second-favorite character in the current incarnation of Young Justice, and he takes center stage. I love his attitude, I love how he fights, and I even really like his voice actor.

“Targets” really dangles a lot of interesting future possibilities in front of us, including Ra’s al Ghul as one of the principal antagonists, and — by the end of the ep — quite a bit of fill-in on the overall Young Justice backstory.

“Targets” does a superb job with its villains, and it is fun for longtime comics fans to see the interplay between Red Arrow and Cheshire (in the comics, Cheshire is the mother of Red Arrow’s child). Even Sportsmaster (an old time villain based on sporting goods… seeing how a wooden baseball bat can get through Alan Scott’s particular brand of Green Lantern) seems pretty cool / formidable.

What gave me pause about “Targets”?

I am used to Clancy Brown — the em effin’ Kurgan from Highlander — as my Lex Luthor. Mark Rolston, by comparison, seems downright effeminate. I like nine things about Young Justice for every quibble like this, but to me, Lex didn’t have the appropriate follow through.

Why would someone want to watch Young Justice?

BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.

Watch / Don’t Watch?

DID I MENTION IT’S AWESOME?

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
“The Purge”

Old George reignites a war against all aliens on Earth.

What was great about “The Purge”?

Nothing really great. Fair amount of enriching world-building… I can see something coming on the horizon… but not “great”-great if you grok.

What gave me pause about “The Purge”?

Logistics, mostly. I mean why do the bad guys even give the aliens they catch a choice? Why not just off them if they have no fear of the Plumbers? Early in the ep it looked like they were taking on Plumbers head-on, even.

When Ben beats the bad guy end boss, why does he power down back into sixteen-year-old human mode so that he can pontificate? Why is it not “honorable” to use his Way Big alien mode to win the fight, but it is okay to use Ultimate Spider Monkey (the sentiment behind this sentence made as much sense to me as it makes to you, and I watched the show)? Does Ben really need to soapbox in that spot?

The Ben 10 universe has some of the highest highs (when it is “on”), but the average ep at this stage is pretty hit or miss, and this one was medium at best.

Why would someone want to watch Ben 10: Ultimate Alien?

I actually adore the Ben 10 cosmology… the different incarnations of the most powerful weapon in the universe… the fact that it / they is / are in the hands of a ten-year-old (now sixteen-year-old) adolescent who isn’t actually the nicest kid in the world. There is a deep idea of redemption, and sometimes good guys get hurt or even killed. Heck, good guys kill (and on occassion, needlessly). The combination of interesting universe-building and an actually surprising level of emotional engagement (for a half-hour cartoon) make it worth tuning in every week. Considering the fact that Ben 10 was at one point one of the most desirable licenses in the US means that I am no the only one.

Watch / Don’t Watch?

I’d say watch, but mostly because if Old George is going to be a central character to this season, if you don’t watch, I fear you will have no idea what is going on.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
“Water War; Gungan Attack”

Inhabitants of Mon Calamari are on the brink of civil war; the Jedi realize they need help from a powerful and amphibious ally to drive out Separatist invaders.

What was great about “Water War” and “Gungan Attack”?

This was a full hour season premiere, with the first half being “Water World” and the second half being “Gungan Attack” … The best thing about these eps (in particular the first one) was the underwater fighting! We have seen swordfights, space dogfights, but never before a large scale underwater fight like this one.

We have a shirtless Kit Fisto, Ahsoka Tano fighting with two lightsabers, and some kind of shark bad guy who apparently doesn’t need weapons. Lots of battle, lots of fun.

What gave me pause about “Water War” and “Gungan Attack”?

You can probably tell from the DVR summary (and the name of the second episode) what the proposed resolution is… and the cavalry that comes a-comin’ is a planet full of Jar Jar Binks. I’d almost not be rescued at all.

Why would someone want to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is absolutely gorgeous. This one was a sight to behold, actually… So different, so inventive. There is nothing else on television like it. Also lightsaber fights.

Watch / Don’t Watch?

Watch

Watch / Watch / more-or-less Watch / Watch – That was pretty easy πŸ™‚

LOVE
MIKE

Innistrad – Falkenrath Marauders

I don’t actually obsess over new set spoilers beyond what I actually have to know in order to write things that make half an ounce of sense, you know, professional-like. However I was visiting DailyMTG on September 15th in order to check the forum responses to ye olde Top Decks The Best Card Ever… Plus or Minus One, and I saw “Card of the Day” Falkenrath Marauders.

If you didn’t saunter over to the mother ship that day, here be it / them:


Falkenrath Marauders

I thought this was an interesting card, so I immediately checked the rarity… Yep, rare. This might do.

Flying, haste guy in Red, for five mana? It gets how big how quickly? What does this card make you think of?

For me, the answer was Demigod of Revenge, a creature so good it bent Standard mana bases all around itself, and grew into a key player in Extended’s All-in Red. Some of you are going to have the gut reaction that Falkenrath Marauders just isn’t as good as Demigod of Revenge and call it a day; I mean all things held equal, Falkenrath Marauders probably isn’t as good. It doesn’t re-buy on a cast, and it is 2/2 instead of 5/4. Check. Roses are red, water is wet, and Falkenrath Marauders ain’t no Demigod.

I agree!

And they — gasp — cost the same amount of mana. How dare Falkenrath Marauders even exist?

Irrelevant.

Huh?

Who cares if Falkenrath Marauders isn’t the equal to one of the best creatures of its kind ever printed? Is that a useful conclusion in the abstract? Does it mean we should never consider a Falkenrath Marauders? I mean a 2/2 for five… Who would ever consider playing one of those?

Falkenrath Marauders’s double-Dervish ability actually closes the Demigod of Revenge gap to a surprising degree… I mean, did you bother to do the math?

  1. First hit in, Falkenrath Marauders is in for two, but becomes a 4/4 afterward.
  2. Now a 4/4, Falkenrath Marauders is nigh-Demigod size, and ends combat a 6/6.
  3. Third attack is for six, putting Falkenrath Marauders on 8/8.
  4. Finally… Actually, look at this pretty simple spreadsheet comparison I set up:



Surprised?

No, F does not equal D. However, that doesn’t mean that F might not find a viable place in the universe.

Aesthetics:
While Falkenrath Marauders doesn’t have Demigod of Revenge’s resilience, and instead of being awesome against Counterspell it is actually poor against Mana Leak. It is also weak to removal… Even a humble Shock will knock it out of the sky on the first attack.

That just means you have to work a little harder to stick it.

I remember when Stupor appeared the first time, and the powers that be restricted Hymn to Tourach. I thought of Stupor as a more expensive, less powerful, Hymn. So for my first Pro Tour, I played the one Hymn to Tourach they let me play in a pretty non-strategic role… whereas eventual champion Paul McCabe embraced the opportunity to play both Hymn to Tourach and Stupor (and two Mind Warps) in his heavier Necropotene deck.

Eric Taylor later won a PTQ with a Mono-Black Stupor Necropotence deck, and I asked him about playing the substandard version. He explained that Stupor was more strategic. You could play for it because you had more discard. And while it wasn’t Hymn to Tourach, it certainly wasn’t a “bad” card. In fact, you could wait until the opponent had two or four cards, and then set him up with Demonic Consultation to empty his hand. Years later, Brian Hacker played one of my all-time favorite matches of Magic to watch, again with a Stupor Necropotence deck (this time in Extended).

Falkenrath Marauders might be Demigod of Revenge’s Stupor. It isn’t as good, you might have to work a little harder to stick it the first time, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to pay you back.

One thing to keep in mind: Demigod of Revenge is next-to-impossible to cast from a colors standpoint. Even Mono-Red decks of the Demigod era couldn’t play Mutavault!

On the other hand: It’s a vampire! Who knows what kind of bonuses that is going to get us?

Where can I see this fitting in?
I would guess this card would be the top end of a Mono-Red or G/R beatdown deck, presumably with some way to get small flyers out of the way. It is also possible that we could see some kind of Blightning Beatdown redux (minus the Blightnings, as far as I know)… If you empty the opponent’s hand before turn five, he isn’t going to have any way to stop your 2/2 the first time, and will have less of a chance to deal with your subsequent 4/4 or 6/6 versions.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player

No, I don’t think this is the best card in Innistrad or anything, but I did think it was interesting enough to spend ~800 words on; especially around the reality of how quickly Falkenrath Marauders can kill relative to good old Demigod.

LOVE
MIKE

Four Perspectives Review: Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis

“Back of the book” summary:

A small African town has been hit with a series of bizarre occurrences, as children are born possessing strange and powerful abilities. With the mutant race dwindling, the X-Men are the first on the scene to investigate the phenomenon. When they arrive, their hopes are raised by what looks to be a concentration of mutant births. But soon they find themselves confronted by the country’s ruthless leader, who has his own ideas of what the children truly are and how to deal with them. Have the X-Men stumbled across a series of new mutant births, or are they dealing with something far more dangerous?

I have not been super into X-Men comics in some years, and I haven’t been a regular consumer of any kind of X-Men comics since Joss Whedon’s launch of the Astonishing X-Men title (illustrated in its entirely by the great John Cassaday) as kind of a follow-up to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Warren Ellis — the man responsible for many of the late 1990s and early 2000s greatest superhero comics, as well as comics-to-film adaptations like Red
— carried on the Astonishing X-Men after Joss launched Kitty Pryde into a super spacefaring bullet, with a succession of strong artists, arc-by-arc, most recently Kaare Andrews in this volume.

I was in particular excited to pick up this book because Andrews was such a celebrated cover artist on Incredible Hulk a few years back. You may know him from some of those iconic covers…


(my favorite was this Rockwell-inspired one, but there were lots of goodies)

Andrews has used a lot of different styles — painterly, cartoonish, exaggerated — but his ability, workmanship, and distinctiveness are pretty undeniable.

Ellis is a writer who has produced some of the greatest comics any of us will ever read — The Authority as a concept, a great deal of Planetary — but the joke is that this writer, who is one of the best at innovative superhero stories, doesn’t particularly like writing superheroes.

… So of course he finds himself piloting a quintessential “superhero” concept team in the X-Men. And not just any X-Men here… He has some of the most popular members in the history of the franchise in Storm, Cyclops, and of course Wolverine on the lineup.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is, I think, a rare opportunity for a writer to really bend a popular franchise to a truly terrible context… No, not a faraway space station or the undersea kingdom of Atlantis (those are actually pedestrian for a squad like the X-Men). Instead, Ellis uses the opportunity to put them into an actual awful place, a small village in Africa.

He uses the opportunity to highlight some real-world problems to an American audience… Stuff I wouldn’t have thought about independently, and because Ellis is so good, he can interweave the socially uncomfortable bits in with dialogue and situational conflicts we might actually want to read. Case in point:

Cyclops (to Storm [who is a Black woman, currently a Wakandan Head of State, and was worshipped as a goddess in the Serengeti in younger years]:

“… I’m walking two White Americans, a White Canadian, a Japanese girl and a White woman of indeterminate ancestry who speaks with a fake English accent into an African country. So if you don’t mind a little more consultation than usual…”

So even if there is a political agenda driving the setting of the book, Ellis’s skill level mitigates how much it might detract from the usual, you know, ultra-violent superhero romp.

Anyway, onto the review…

What was great about Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis?

Honestly, I loved Loved LOVED the thing about Emma Frost’s alleged fake English accent. I just got done watching X-Men: First Class for the third time, so my working image of Emma Frost is the “sullen and bosomy” portrayal by January Jones, which I didn’t hate, but was admittedly not great. Emma is written so over-the-top by some writers (Grant Morrison in particular)… I could just see the Madonna-esque fake English accent fitting for a woman who jokes about her plastic surgery, or getting herself appraised while in diamond form. Such a real-feeling nugget characterization, situated in potentially a throwaway piece of dialogue.

Additionally, the bad guys / reveal to this one harkens back to some Alan Moore / Alan Davis comics from twenty years ago, and longtime comics fans like YT get a kick out of that stuff.

From my perspective, this wasn’t really a “great” graphic novel, though I certainly appreciated quite a bit of it, and would consider it well above average in general.

That said, maybe it wasn’t meant to be great … The “ruthless leader” of the African country sums up the scope of what is going on in Xenogenesis via a thought-provoking bit of monologue over the story’s the final two panels:

“And no one will care. It’s not Chernobyl. It’s not an oil spill, or a hurricane.

“It’s just a village in Africa. Everyone wants to save the world, you see.

“But nobody really cares about M’Bangwi. No one but me.”

What about Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis gave me pause?

The African thing didn’t really bother me at all. I know some readers, once they realized what was going on, would cry emotional manipulation and close themselves off to what was good about the book. “I want the X-Men to be fighting aliens, not for the safety of one African village!” Well, they actually end up fighting some aliens so that isn’t even a problem.

The biggest thing that bothered me is actually some of Kaare Andrews’s rendering. Here is a highlight of the cover:


I mean WTF is up with Emma Frost’s butt?

Like I said before, Andrews has any number of styles available to him. And in this case he chose “gelatinously drooping”.

Emma invented the concept of using your superhot superhero body / underwear-looking costume as a weapon as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Flaunting cosmetic surgery is one of many batarangs in her utility belt. There was even a backup story in Classic X-Men when she explained her “uniform” to a lib-minded young waitress [things from when you are 13 that you don’t easily forget]! I mean… that is the cover!

We are way more used to seeing Emma look like, well this:


Emma Frost by Adam Hughes

Or the aforementioned:


January Jones as Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class

Anyway — that’s what gave me pause. And now that I’ve pointed it out, I bet you feel the same damn way.

Why would someone want to buy Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis?

Like I said earlier in the review, I don’t follow the X-Men slavishly. I bought this one because of the strength of its creative team… So if you were to do the same, I would guess it would be for similar reasons. Or, if you just buy every kind of X-Men everything, you don’t really need any kind of purchasing criteria other than the giant “X” in the corner (so mise).

Buy / Don’t Buy?

Buy, but a fairly soft buy. Your life won’t change if you miss this one, except maybe around a monologue on Nelson Mandela by Wolverine (but I don’t know that I would take my history lesson queues from a superhero comic book).


Teeny tiny ads: You know, so I can be F-U rich enough to join the Hellfire Club

LOVE
MIKE

This Week at Movie Klub: Kick-Ass

For those of you who don’t know what Movie Klub is, it is a klub… err… club that Lan D. Ho and Jon Finkel started a few years ago. Lan, a onetime (and one-time) Grand Prix Top 8 competitor [although a participant in the greatest Grand Prix Top 8 of all time] moved to New York City a couple of years back. Lan originally moved to NYC to make his Magic: The Gathering documentary I Came to Game, and live the real life Big Apple adventure with his friends (Magic and otherwise) along the way. He showed up without a job or anywhere to live (so a somewhat less prepared, though equally handsome Felicity), but brought with him longtime friendships and contacts, and a love of new experiences and slightly-above-average mind that landed him, eventually, a position at Susquehanna International Group.

Anyway, when Lan first moved to New York, he took up “resident gamer” status at Jon Finkel’s apartment (basically you get to live in Jon’s lavish New York luxury apartment in return for being the sixth- or eighth-man to fill out drafts when we are short)… Rough life, I know.

Lan started the once-per-week New York Movie Klub, whose original members included himself, Jon of course, Webb Allen, Dan O’Mahoney-Schwartz, Tuna Hwa, YT, and Tom Martell (plus other awesome people, obv).

Some years later, Lan has located a little south to the City of Brotherly Love, but Movie Klub continues strong, having become the social center of the week for some thirty-plus mostly awesome New Yorkers (and the occasional New Jersey-er) from various walks of life, hanging out at Jon’s every Wednesday.

This week it was my turn to show and I showed the kick-ass movie Kick-Ass.

I knew I wanted to show Kick-Ass ever since I was invited to the New York premiere by then-UGO television blogger Hillary Rothing (@tricia_tanaka), whom I had met over Twitter. The premiere feature Kick-Ass [comic book] co-creators Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. in a Q&A afterwards, where we learned all kinds of reasons why the making of Kick-Ass may have in fact been even more interesting than the movie itself (and the movie is effin’ great).

Kick-Ass is a somehow non-satirical, often hilarious, ultra-violent movie about a kid who decides to become a real-life superhero. He has no StarkTech, no great physical or financial super resources, and no “great responsibility” borne by possession of great power. He is just a kid who likes superhero comics and buys himself a goofy green wetsuit and some surplus police batons… I know that as a teenager who grew up on a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and Marvel zombie-dom, the same kind of fantasy occurred to me more than once, but the protagonist of Kick-Ass, christening himself (ahem) “Kick-Ass” just took that vital step that separates the boys from their, you know, eventual padded rooms.

But his heart is in the right place.

Kick-Ass follows essentially three story threads, the heartwarming, uncomfortably funny, and somewhat Dexter-like birth and colossally unsuccessful early adventures of the aforementioned Kick-Ass; the backstory and development of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, a father-daughter team of actually competent, well-funded, and well armed super vigilantes who befriend him; and the latter family’s arch-rivals, a wealthy drug cartel who eventually produce their own superhero.

Hit-Girl is among the most unique, interesting, and irreverent characters in the history of fiction, an eleven-year-old girl with the fighting prowess of a less scrupulous Drizzt Do’Urden; it is the presence of Hit-Girl that at once makes Kick-Ass such a singular piece of fiction… and simultaneously what made the movie hard to sell to studios in the development process. Not to say too much that might spoil the experience for those of you who haven’t watched it, but she is not only and eleven-year-old murderous sociopath (with a heart of gold), but the only eleven-year-old character in the history of mainstream fiction whose typical dialogue involves “giant cock” and (in the parlance of Arrested Development) the ever-popular “Seaword” [you know, if you grok].

Millar and company, in making Kick-Ass were attempting to create the Pulp Fiction of superhero movies, and I think their particular combination of emotional poignance, inappropriate hilarity, casual bloodletting, and genuinely surprising moments mean they were successful in that. It is in fact one of my favorite films.

Kick-Ass was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed Movie Klub classic (also selected by YT), Stardust. The amazing thing about Stardust, adapted from the Vertigo fairy story by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess is that it is actually better — that is, in my opinion, ends better — than the original… And Stardust has been one of my favorite stories since its late-1990s publication. Vaughn’s most recent film is X-Men: First Class… so I can only assume he likes the comics as much as I do.

General consensus among Movie Klubbers was overwhelmingly positive for Kick-Ass. During my introductory speech, hosting Jonathan Magic asked what the Rotten Tomatoes score was; I didn’t know offhand, but looked it up on ye olde iPhone 4 during the movie, and later responded with 76%.

The best possible recommendation, then, coming from Jon was:

“Then 24% of movie critics are morons.”

Kick-Ass was (among this group) least well-received by former Beckett Magic: The Gathering and Star City Games Premium author Mark Young, who keeps the general Movie Klub blog. You can read Mark’s significantly less enthusiastic review (and learn more about different movies shown) here.

My Four Perspectives Kick-Ass Review:

What was great about Kick-Ass?
So much!

The movie is beautifully filmed. The colors are alive in shot after shot. You can really tell that the people who made this movie, from Big Daddy Nic Cage to original story writer Mark Millar absolutely love the material. There are little winks, like Brian Vaughan’s Runaways being read in a local comics shop to the kinds of banter about whether or not Bruce Wayne is a bona fide superhero or just crazy rich dude that really ring true to IRL comics fans.

Cage’s performance as Big Daddy was visually evocative of Tim Burton’s Batman, but played like Adam West’s Batman. The con-fusion is something that anyone watching the movie might notice, but that longtime fans of comics-to-film and such can appreciate as a kind of micro-Easter Egg.

More than anything else, the character of Hit-Girl, so solitary in all of fiction, is something to behold. She is hilarious and tragic, and simply fun to watch. We debated after the film what Kick-Ass might have been like with a twenty-five-year-old actress in a Hit-Girl-like role… and while some Movie Klubbers might have appreciate Angelina Jolie in such a role, the general consensus is that every action movie since The Matrix has had some kind of Trinity, and it just wouldn’t have been that special.

I might be a little bit biased though… like I said, Kick-Ass is one of my favorite movies.

What about Kick-Ass gave me pause?

The biggest barrier to my potentially showing Kick-Ass was that I had already shown a Matthew Vaughn movie at a previous Movie Klub, and I didn’t want to typecast my own choices; so I suppose that “self-consciousness” would be the biggest thing that gave me pause.

This is a little bit of quibbling, but Kick-Ass takes place in New York (and there are some unmistakably “New York” shots), but it is pretty clearly not actually filmed in New York for the most part (someone at Movie Klub suggested Toronto). I mean NYC just don’t look like that.

That said, if you are one who is sensitive to harsh language — especially coming out of the pie ice cream hole of a murderous eleven-year-old girl — you probably won’t be able to distance yourself from the raw in-your-face-ness of this film to actually enjoy what is good about it.

Why would someone want to buy (or in this case, rent) Kick-Ass?

Besides the fact that it is really, really good, I am pretty sure it streams gratis on Netflix. So if you have a Netflix membership, it’s a free roll!

On Amazon streaming you can catch two of the best hours of filmdom of your life for… let’s see… $7.99:


Unapologetic Ad. Mise.

Buy / Don’t Buy? [rent / don’t rent]

Obviously buy / rent / etc.

LOVE
MIKE

Bonus!

All the movies I have shown so far at Movie Klub: