Superficial Saturdays #6 – AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692 by Marcos Martin

For the 50th anniversary of [arguably] Marvel Comics’s favorite character the House of Ideas commissioned superduperstar artist Marcos Martin to scribble up a number of variant covers, and man were they gorgeous. Jonathan Becker of “Tomfidence” fame brought these to my attention for Superficial Saturdays. Here is my favorite of the set “the 1970s variant”:

ASM692
Comic: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692
Artist: Marcos Martin

Anyone familiar with Spider-Man’s history knows about the Death of Gwen Stacy; Peter’s true love was murdered by his archenemy the Green Goblin in one of the most famous no-win situations in comics. Martin’s homage is just perfect in my estimation. Despite the dominance of negative space, I think this is a very well-composed image.

The use of color in this image is just… brave. I love flat color but this is just extreme. The red of the background is the same as the red of Spidey’s suit is the same as the red of Gwen’s outfit [and if memory serves she was wearing a green coat in the original]. I love how he uses the limited color palette to imply Gwen’s death. She is all white and gray… Like a ghost.

Goes without saying that the line work on this one is just outstanding. And versatile. You can tell that both images are Marcos Martin but he uses a completely different line than we saw in GREEN ARROW #40. Thanks to Becker; just love this one.

LOVE
MIKE

Five Banners Better Than Kalonian Hydra

MichaelJ:

Well BDM was off at the World Championships last weekend so I did a fill-in podcast with the incomparable Innovator Patrick Chapin over on ManaDeprived.

The only problem is… For the second consecutive week, we got Kalonian Hydra for our banner! Boo-urns!

On the bright side, KYT and company replaced the Top 8 Magic entrance music with a piece pilfered from the princess of pottymouthed chick rockers, Liz Phair. Yay! As such, here might have been a possible awesome banner:

liz

Okay, maybe that doesn’t scream “Magic: The Gathering” or even [accurately] that Brian David-Marshall is on this podcast.

How about this one, thematic of NLDB and Patrick’s guest appearance?

NLDB

Yeah, yeah… Not quite as beautiful as the cover design on NLDB… But I tried! (not very hard) Fine. You want to see “didn’t try very hard”?

top8mohawk

So… No. Gotcha.

How about the classics then?

tokens

Or bringing back to NLDB (stole this image from NLDB in part, in fact), and the whole “me and Patrick talking on the phone” aspect?

Phones

Reader / Listener / Beloved Customer:


Hold up, did you just say you did a new podcast, and that it was guest-starring Patrick Chapin?

MichaelJ:

Yes!

Reader / Listener / Beloved Customer:

Whatever dude. Carry on. No one cares about Kalonian Hydra re-run banners or intro music. I’ll be over on ManaDeprived listening to Deck Building and Life with Patrick Chapin thank you very much.

MichaelJ:

Um… Sweet?

Subscribe to the Top8Magic Podcast (usually starring Brian David-Marshall)

LOVE
MIKE

nldb

Superficial Saturdays #5 – CATALYST COMIX #1 by Rafael Grampá

I was actually clicking around some comics websites looking for news updates on some of my favorite Image books [that haven’t come out in forever], HELL YEAH and DANGER CLUB, and I just saw a banner ad for CATALYST COMIX out of Dark Horse (which was more-or-less a cutaway of the below #1 cover).

I thought it was gorgeous… Kind of like a cross between Geoff Darrow (or maybe P. Craig Russell on SANDMAN) and Popeye cartoons.

So here’s the criteria…

  • Banner ad for a [book?] I had never heard of… And who clicks banner ads anyway?
  • Not only was it disruptively engaging, eye-catching, and in my opinion gorgeous…
  • I even wrote a blog post about it!

Success!

Success?

catalystcomix1
Comic: CATALYST COMIX #1
Artist: Rafael Grampá

Though the Popeye-esque chin on that protagonist (?) is what initially caught my eye, my favorite thing about Rafael Grampá’s cover has to be that right boot. They obviously applied computer coloring to his gorgeous, clean, cartoon-esque line work; but that boot. It’s just a huge chunk of black ink. In fact, it’s almost an eff-you to gradient color. I want to say all the detail is perfectly-applied negative space, but it actually looks like white ink (or at least white Photoshop). Love it regardless. Absolute best thing about a pretty great shot.

So (other than admiring that boot) what do I know about CATALYST COMIX?

Um… Nothing?

I know a mite about writer Joe Casey. He wrote one of my favorite comics, CODEFLESH (link is to a review I wrote on my old blog almost a Deckade ago), was responsible for the ingenious and ultimately unsuccessful WILDCATS 3.0, and is a co-creator of the character Ben 10 as a part of Man of Action; but of CATALYST COMIX, I know nothing.

But I thought the cover was engaging enough to pen these ~200 words.

If you are interested in learning more, Dark Horse has a free CATALYST COMIX preview on their website.

So… What do you think? Good enough cover for a Superficial Saturdays with no other knowledge?

LOVE
MIKE

Weekend Update

weekendupdate

Concerning:

  1. The Moral Victory of 16 Thumbs and 7 Toughness
  2. The Destiny of 4 Kalonian Hydras
  3. The Next Level of The Next Level

So I was gone at the Star City Games Invitational in Somerset, NJ Friday through Sunday, and basically missed a whole bunch of stuff. Some of it is important; other stuff, simply awesome. Hence, this after-the-weekend Weekend Update.


Top8Magic on ManaDeprived Update

First of all, thank all of you cats who went over and liked our first podcast on ManaDeprived, “Save or Delete”.

In case you didn’t know, we posted another podcast last Friday.

Let me ask you a question: DO YOU WANT US TO DO THESE EVERY WEEK?

Is that like asking if the world needs more TAUNTING JON BECKER?

Answer in the comments below but I assume the answer(s) is / are em effin’ yes. If so, I need y’all to click over to ManaDeprived and Like the bejeezus out of this. Our first podcast over there got 10x the usual likes of a ManaDeprived podcast, but “The Moral Victory of 16 Thumbs and 7 Toughness” has to date garnered a pathetic 3 Likes. I don’t know what kind of Up North operation KYT has at ManaDeprived but I assume his servers are made out of maple tree twigs and run on a hydraulic system of syrup and snow. Go click over to ManaDeprived and break that thing! Come on BDM fans! Let’s go!

And / or…

Listen here:

Download and listen later…

But most definite, DEFINITELY, subscribe on iTunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/mana-deprived/id489782347


Kalonian Hydra Update

In case you were wondering what happened to those four Kalonian Hydras I picked up [but did not play] for the Invitational, they found a fine home in the Zvi Mowshowitz-designed G/W Elves deck piloted by our good friend William “Baby Huey” Jensen:


William Jensen with YT’s four Hydras!

G/W Elves

4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
4 Kalonian Hydra
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Loxodon Smiter
4 Wolfir Silverheart
4 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Gavony Township
4 Arbor Elf
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Temple Garden
10 Forest

Sideboard
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Ranger’s Guile
3 Garruk Relentless
3 Tree of Redemption
3 Acidic Slime

Huey Made Top 8 of last week’s Standard Open with U/R/W Control but did poorly in the Invitational. He switched it up to the G/W deck for the Somerset Standard Open and crushed his way all the way to second place. I have thought about playing against this deck with a variety of strategies and I think it is both counterintuitive and tough from the control side. At first glance this is the classic deck you crush with Ratchet Bombs and Supreme Verdicts but I don’t think it is ultimately that cut-and-dried. You can’t screw up. You can’t give them operating mana for too long. You certainly can’t let them level up repeatedly with Garruk, Caller of Beasts. I played a Quicken + Planar Cleansing deck in the Invitational and Open specifically to crush Jund decks that had been accumulating Planeswalker-based battlefield advantages but I don’t think that works against Garruk-six. The last thing you want to do is to tap for Planar Cleansing, clearing their board… But leaving them with seven cards in hand (most of which are sweet threats).

I actually think that you want both lots of sweep but need Need NEED permission to fight Garruk, Caller of Beasts here. I would consider siding in Negate just to fight that six. The creatures are not particularly resilient exclusive of dealing massive damage in one big attack. You really need to keep them off their combination of acceleration and card advantage or you are going to eat a Craterhoof, I fear.

Anyway, great weekend for Huey, who made back-to-back Standard and Legacy Open Top 8s.


NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING Update

Are you living under a rock or something?

Biggest of the big that happened this past weekend was the release of Patrick Chapin’s new book NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING on Star City Games. Patrick is one of my best friends and as a writer, an inspiration. He was one of the driving forces that got me off my butt to do THE OFFICIAL MISER’S GUIDE and I wish him all the luck with NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING.

NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING is huge — some 472 pages — but I haven’t been able to put it down all day. It’s beautifully laid out by the ebook elves at Star City Games; the content is one-of-a-kind and often quite hilarious (more on that later in the week). I haven’t read it all yet but I am absolutely loving much of what I have so far. Don’t go out and immediately buy NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING before you buy THE OFFICIAL MISER’S GUIDE or anything silly like that; but if you are in the market for awesome Magic books… This one is pretty awesome. I’m going to be recommending this for years I think. Again, more deets later.

Okay friends!

Lots of stuff to do!

Action Items!

nldb

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #4 – GREEN ARROW #40 by Marcos Martin

I have always had a short list of artists whose work I just go and buy almost unconditionally. My floppies collections past are littered with old issues of CLAN DESTINE, RUNE, and random Euro comix as testaments to an auto-buy devotion to Travis Charest, Alan Davis, Carlos Pacheco, or Barry Windsor-Smith from back in the 1990s. Today no artist rates higher on my personal scale than Marcos Martin.

You can probably see why:

greenarrow40
Comic: GREEN ARROW #40
Artist: Marcos Martin

Martin is an absolute master of sequential storytelling but his covers are pretty striking as well (as I am sure you can see).

In such a simple character image he hits so many notes here. Leather. Light. I feel like I can em effin’ swim in the ink pools of Black Canary’s one piece. And check out the hips on dear Dinah! Hips don’t lie BTW. I am just in love with this cover picture. Probably doesn’t hurt that — thanks to Gail Simone on BIRDS OF PREY — Black Canary is one of my favorite characters.

BDM says that one mark of a good cover is how much story it can imply in that single image. I think — and this is guided a bit by the caption on the right, natch — Martin does a spectacular job. Black Canary has a frowny-face. She is snapping an arrow. Her beau’s name is Green Arrow. Might they be breaking up in this ish?

The cover kind of screams that you should want to find out.

LOVE
MIKE

Paying the Naya Price: The SWOT of Kalonian Hydra

So… This actually happened yesterday:

kalonianhydra
Eep! Can this possibly be right?

I guess when you need a card you need a card; and when supply is low (but hype is not) you can’t really control your price; and honestly, what’s the point of having a little store credit if you aren’t going to spend it? Exactly.

Flores Fact:
I bought my Baneslayer Angels the week after Naya Lightsaber at $55.

You’re welcome, Luis Scott-Vargas!

(Baneslayer Angel currently lists from $12-$15 on Star City, but went as low as $5 at some point).

I guess this is as good an excuse as any to talk about hot new M14 Mythic Rare, Kalonian Hydra.


Kalonian Hydra

SWOT

Strengths:
Strengths are positive attributes that are internal or intrinsic.

Interestingly (at least for a card with this level of hype), Kalonian Hydra is non-exceptional on its own, by itself, when you tap out for it. However if you can untap successfully with this creature in play, it can hammer pretty hard. Eight damage for five mana is generally speaking a big game for a creature. To be very fair it has built-in trample (an evasion ability). One limiting factor of other big — especially five-drop — creatures competing for a limited number of slots is a lack of evasion. The last thing you want is to bounce your huge guy off of an Augur of Bolas that just found a Supreme Verdict. Kalonian Hydra is nigh-guaranteed to get in for some damage due to that trample.

Weaknesses:
Weaknesses are negative attributes that are internal or intrinsic.

Kalonian Hydra has the core weakness of a five drop: It costs five mana. Five mana is one more mana than the Mowshowitz threshold for a card that needs to be able to win the game by itself. It very clearly does not win the game unconditionally immediately (at least not without some hasty help).

Opportunities:
Opportunities are positive attributes that are external / outsite your immediate control.

Kalonian Hydra is almost the quintessence of a big creature that plays well with others. It is awesome with little guys that can power it out (Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Elvish Mystic, et al); especially if they are all best buddies with Gavony Township. Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch has few follow-up playmates with greater synergy and upside. Silverblade Paladin and Ajani, Caller of the Pride make Kalonian Hydra shine (you know, provided you can untap with it on the battlefield).

Threats:
Threats are negative attributes that are external / outsite your immediate control.

Just dies to Doom Blade.

You know what just got reprinted? Doom Blade.

Post Script:

I more-or-less buy cards I need for whatever tournament I am about to play in, which generally includes a bunch of small purchases (note the play sets of Quicken and Planar Cleansing in the above screen cap); but I’ve made two bigger current-card purchases in the last few months that may or may not have been linked to immediate tournament needs. To be fair, I eventually played with my Reckoners; also to be fair, I made back in tournament winnings more than 100% of my Voice of Resurgence outlay the day I made the purchase. Regardless, just thought I’d throw out the current states of my personal Paying the Naya Price:

  • Boros Reckoner: $5-$10; current price on Star City Games: $15
  • Voice of Resurgence: $25; current price: $50

Smile-and-a-wink! 😉

Just sayin’.

#MTGFinance

LOVE
MIKE

New Top8Magic Podcast on ManaDeprived.com!

manadeprived
Click the above to jump to the podcast on ManaDeprived.com


Top 8 Magic #340 – Save or Delete

omgslim

Superficial Saturdays #3 – THE ULTIMATES #4 by Bryan Hitch

I am scratching my head on this one.

This digital image does nothing to convey the power, energy, excitement, and lighting of Thor’s lightning:

theultimates4

Comic: THE ULTIMATES #4
Artist: Bryan Hitch

You’ll have to accept my apologies, I guess.

But I can dial you back to 2002; it was a wondrous time in comics. BDM was getting THE CRAPTACULAR B-SIDES rolling at Marvel so we talked comics at least as much as we talked about Magic: The Gathering on a daily basis. THE ULTIMATES — Marvel’s big bet uniting the artist of the first arc of THE AUTHORITY with the writer of the controversial second arc of the same — was something special… It was the first time I could remember as a serious comics fan when the best book was also simultaneously the best selling book. Covers like ULTIMATES #4 were just inspiring and engaging and perfect for pulling you into a Marvel universe a half-tick off, where Thor was a revolutionary, Iron-Man was a drunken egotist, and Captain America was kindhearted Republican (and Hulk was an asshole).

[I assume] Paul Mounts’s [Paul Mounts being the credited interior colorist] colors jump off the cover and scream Scream SCREAM “pick this the hell up!” It’s you can almost hear the pitter-patter of those innumerable raindrops pummeling their god of storms; deep black gutters on either side, frame broken by the electrically-crackling / nail-driving weapon of mass destruction, boxing in and highlighting those sparkling arcs by their bottomless negative space; one lick of Thor’s hair flipped northward like some defiant Charlie’s Angel head-toss.

I mean you can look at the screen cap and appreciate — I assume — the skill of Hitch’s pencil.

But it just doesn’t “pop” like it should, like it does, like I remember it did in real life.

You’ll just have to trust me. Good, good stuff.

LOVE
MIKE

DVD Extras: “How About Astards-Bay?”

Today was the last ever episode of Top Decks. I’d ask for a moment of silence for the most popular column in the history of the Magic Internet, but instead I will moan and wail about censorship.

The bastards.

Bastards!

This is how “Ten by Ten by Four” opened on the digital presses:

punks

This is how nature* intended:

As I said last week, this will be the final edition of Top Decks. If we had gone two more weeks, it would have been nine years. Nine! Years! The bastards. Can I say “bastards”? It’s my last Top Decks. I’m saying “bastards” at least three times.

/ mic drop

I was actually a bit surprised editor Mike McArtor wouldn’t let me get away with “bastards”; just thought I’d throw this out there that Act 3/3 of “Ten by Ten by Four” was my Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot; on that topic my good friend and former Lead Developer Brian Schneider used the quote “100% ballplayer. 0% bullshit[,]” in his write-up of Dave Price in Year One. Don’t believe me? Go check and ctrl+”bullshit”

bschneid
100% ballplayer. 0% bullshit.

bschneid gets a “bullshit” and I don’t get a three “bastard”[s]? Come on! This was my swan song!

Mike gave me an option of softer curse words; I initially selected “astards-bay” but that didn’t pass muster either. Peruse at your pleasure:

email

Good journey, Top Decks.

LOVE
MIKE

* “nature” = your hero, michaelj

Brought to you by, well, me:
omgslim

What’s Wrong With… Seraph of the Sword?

I decided to invent a new blog category called “What’s Wrong With…” (WWW) which will examine cards that are almost there but for one (or so) fatal flaw(s). I mean it isn’t so hard to identify a card like Kalonian Hydra and be like “Yo, Kalonian Hydra is a big giant monster — RAH!” or Young Pyromancer and be like “Yo, I have a feeling mages might be summoning a Young Pyromancer in beatdown decks, burn decks, and even blue decks” but what is more interesting are the cards that you really want to play… But won’t.

You know the cards?

Feudkiller’s Verdict and so on? I was at one point sure Feudkiller’s Verdict was going to be the bee’s knees. It was more like Andrew Bynum Greg Oden’s knees.

The reason I think this kind of exploration can be interesting is that from a critical thinking standpoint it can force us to think about a little bit of a different universe, a tweak here, a pull there, to try to figure out what would have to be different for a card to see lots of (or any) play.

Today’s victim is Seraph of the Sword.

I had actually been meaning to write about Seraph of the Sword since my first perusal of M14 for last week’s Flores Friday (which ended up being about the aforementioned Kalonian Hydra and Young Pyromancer, primarily).

But it turns out that Seraph of the Sword was also yesterday’s Card of the Day at ye olde Mother Ship DailyMTG.com.

At first I was pretty excited about Seraph of the Sword. I mean It looked like the 3W cousin of Dawn Elemental.

seraphdawn
Seraph of the Sword and Dawn Elemental

Dawn Elemental was a pretty exciting Onslaught Block card… The best Phantom Monster there ever was. For Limited a 2/2 flyer for white is pretty standard for 3W (four mana) but Dawn Elemental gave us a 3/3 with a hell of an ability for four mana. Now of course WWWW is quite a few mana symbols off of 3W, but on the other hand the trade-off was substantial. Dawn Elemental would brook no Silver Knight. It would gobble up any and all Elvish Warriors. Sorry, Goblin Piledriver (or almost any other Goblin). Y’all dead.

Of course it took a particular kind of deck to play with Dawn Elemental due to the prohibitive number of white mana symbols in the upper-right corner. So it was primarily played in MWC. That said, it didn’t take long for such a Mono-White Control deck to make a splash on the second-biggest stage:

starleaf

Derek Starleaf and his Dawn Elementals fought their way into one of the most stacked Top 8s in Grand Prix history. You couldn’t swing a drunken Tyrion Lannister in that Top 8 without hitting US National Champion Eugene Harvey; or notable Pros Morgan Douglass or Alex Shvartsman; or four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor (and Pro Tour Champion) (and THE PRICE IS RIGHT superstar) Mark Herberholz; or Hall of Famer / Dark Confidant / Superman Bob Maher; or beloved former Number One Apprentice Joshua P. Ravitz.

Stacked.

Starleaf didn’t win that Grand Prix, but he did a great job showcasing the angles on and impact of Dawn Elemental. Despite playing four main-deck copies of Temple of the False God, Starleaf put his faith in the WWWW Dawn Elemental, which was an undersized-but-effective carrier of Dragon Scales. Dawn Elemental might not have triggered the re-buy on Dragon Scales, but it wasn’t inviting a one-for-two either, being so hard to kill with damage.

So… Seraph of the Sword is Dawn Elemental 2K13, right? Right? Sadly, no.

So…

What’s Wrong with Seraph of the Sword?

One Word.

seraphcombat
“combat”

Argh!

Combat!

As you can probably guess, as soon as I read that one word (which, by the way, took a couple of reads) I realized that Seraph of the Sword is close to unplayable in Standard, at least main deck. This is going to eat a Searing Spear, Mizzium Mortars, or Warleader’s Helix too often to justify the mana. Remember: Per Mowshowitz, four mana is the threshold where a card has to be able to win the game for you by itself… And Seraph of the Sword, on average… I don’t think it is going to get there.

That said, I think there might be some angle on this card, perhaps out of the sideboard. If you are playing against a deck — probably a creature deck — that doesn’t play damage based removal (or any removal, even better), Seraph of the Sword can be a heck of a stop sign that also gives you a way to win. Unlikely, but probably not impossible.

Oh, go buy some OMGs!

omgslim

LOVE
MIKE