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About 15 years ago I picked up a game called ‘Magic: The Gathering’ This was about 1997, or 98. I was in Jr High. At that point the game had been out for around 5 years, it originated in 1993. If you don’t know anything about the game, it’s a card game played with 2 or more players. Each player has their own custom 60ish card deck. When I picked up the game there were more combinations to make a unique deck than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. No kidding.

There are five colors that people use to make decks, and they build off a payment system. Using up the Mana (ie: inherent magic) of the corresponding land to cast spells and creatures.

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Plains = White Mana, it is order and tranquility. Angels, humans, and Knights are big in this. As are protection spells.

Islands = Blue Mana, and this is the color of the wizards. Pretty much anything water related goes with blue, and fickle spells are common.

Swamps = Black Mana, this is the color of corruption, and death. Zombies, ghosts, and other monsters belong to this color.

Mountains = Red Mana, these are the dragons and goblins. Fast acting, and destructive is the order of the day.

Forests = Green Mana, and like you can guess, it represents nature. Beasts and elves are very common, and the spells that Green uses usually boost creatures.

The goal is to take your opponent(s) from 20 Life to 0 before they do the same to you.

Now, this blog isn’t really about the history of the game, but my experiences that I’ve had with it.

One of the things that attracted me to the game was its portability. All you really need is 40 to 60 cards to make up your Library (deck). How awesome is that? You can put that in your back pocket and go anywhere! Side note: There was a print advertisement that exemplified just that. I know I saw it in a magazine, but I can’t find any record of it on the internet. It was of a person standing facing away from the camera. In the back pocket of their jeans was the top of a Magic deck. It got me intrigued. So to that end I set out to get more information about it.

One of the other things that got me was the artwork. All cards have a color picture on the top half that depict whatever the card says, but it’s more story orientated. Even the grim ones are fantastic.

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I remember I purchased a Black deck off a guy in my math class for $10. That’s actually common. I knew a friend or two that played and I learned the game through them. Pretty easy once you get the hang of it but it can be difficult to learn. Mostly because of the amount of things that can happen.

After I began playing casually for a while and got the hang of it, I moved up to play in “tournaments” I use this term loosely because it was still mostly for fun. Actually, it was in a comic shop run in the back of a carpet store in Agawam. I know, bizarre. But I had a lot of fun, and I could ride my bike there.

I got a bit deeper into the lore and found myself liking certain aspects more than others. The designers over at Wizards of the Coast developed their own mythology in the game. It wasn’t just a rehash of other fantasy elements anymore, it had it’s own storyline and characters. Awesome! Two species in particular caught my attention: Slivers and Phyrexians.

Slivers are a animal species much like bees. I always figured they were directly inspired by the aliens in ALIENS. But, beyond that, they make each other Sliver in play stronger with the simple phrase “All other Slivers get…”. It makes them very hard to beat when they all have the same terrifying abilities. Side note: I’m actually playing a Sliver deck now.

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The Phyrexians, on the other-hand, are intelligent. Lead by the monster Yawgmoth, they are part machine, part alive. Cyborgs….or the Borg from Star Trek. The main storyline when I originally played was the preparation of the Phyrexian Invasion. I mean, this story took place over several expansions and a good number of years. They are monsters who’s plan is to make ALL life “perfect”, being like them.

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I don’t now why I took a fascination to these two groups, but I did. Still do. They are just cool.

Eventually, the comic store shut down, and I got a bit older. Didn’t think sitting around playing a card game was “cool”. Or it got too expensive. Something. Doesn’t matter. I didn’t play for a long time, through most of high school and after.

More recently, I got back into the game with the help of friends. At B&N I talked to Jason, who is deep into the game. And he’s really good at it. He’s my go-to for rulings and help with anything. I think it came up with me trying to make plans to hang, but he had a tournament to go to. And I mean a real tournament. Like with cashy prizes. I remember being shocked that the game still existed, it had fallen off my radar, and impressed. I wanted to go and watch, I wanted to play again.

Then I found out that Mike and some of his friends played. It was settled, I was going to play again. It was daunting. There were so many new mechanics to learn, and the card art had changed! It was almost like a completely new game. Most of the mechanics that I had learned were gone. And so were the Phyrexians and Slivers!

I’ve tried making many a deck in the meantime, and when I first got into it, they didn’t really work. I’ve gotten better.

Then they released the new Mirroden expansions. Scars of Mirroden, Mirroden Besieged, and New Phyrexia! This was awesome news to me. I also found that Wizards of the Coast were releasing “Duel Decks” which pitted character vs character, or species vs species. Also they were releasing premium “Theme” decks, and Slivers were part of it!

The newest block is all horror characters, with the Magic: The Gathering twist. Which I love, vampires, ghosts, zombies, and werewolves!

So now, I’m back into the game, fully. I’m running a New Phyrexia themed deck, a Red/Blue deck, and I’m working on a werewolf themed deck. I have a few boxes of cards sitting on my bookshelf in my room, a few decks just laying around. I love this game, I just play it for fun, but it’s a blast. I feel competent enough to teach other people how to play, and hopefully get them to love it.

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I’ve recently gotten into Green Lantern comics. Mostly because I knew only the basics of the character (and not even the first Green Lantern). With the release of the movie coming soon I decided it was time to get see what the fuss was about. And why even make the movie.

I started with Green Lantern: Secret Origin, and I was impressed. Geoff Johns is an amazing writer. He really brought the character to life. The storyline idea of writing to his brother was brilliant. Seeing a bond between Jordan and Sinestro was smart. Also, Jon Stewart’s appearance was a great nod to the future, especially because this is the Lantern I know of.

Then I read Sinestro Corp Wars vol 1 and 2. This is the cream of the crop here. The writing is spot on. The ending will blow you away.

But all this leads into Blackest Night, along with Rage of the Red Lanterns and Agent Orange, which were good, and some really cool concepts here, but just a prelude.

The problem, though, is that everything seems to lead into Blackest Night, and I do mean everything. There are so many connections to everything else DC related that it’s hard to get a grip on it.  Flash’s return from the dead, while an important story piece, is something I was not aware of.

I think I loved Secret Origin the most, but because it is an origin story, and I do love those. And DC does them excellently.

So beyond all this, I am excited for the film now, and I even went as far as to get a Power Ring (from Toys R Us) keychain. It’s pretty sweet, it a little too big for my fingers.v

Also, I am thinking on a Green Lantern costume for Halloween/NYCC11. I think it’d be fun. The idea is to make it light up a bit, the ring and the chest symbol. I will keep this updated with my progress.

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Sinterklass the Red

So, this is going to seem a little ridiculous, but Santa Claus is a Istari. Like Gandalf.

To the facts:

Both are thousands of years old. Both are “elderly chaps, big grey beard(s) pointy hats.” Also, Santa is “never late….nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to” being midnight on Christmas.

This is the semi-joking version of my theory.

In reality, Both Santa and Gandalf are amalgamation of mythological characters, cheifly: Odin of Norse mythology. This is where the elderly bearded thing comes from.

In Middle-Earth, the Istari (or Wizards) generally wandered the world, helping mankind (and Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits) This seems to be exactly what Santa does. Wizards have incredible powers, and can do amazing things. Santa very much does this every year.

Older myths of Santa, when he was still mostly Dutch, said he rode a small cart pulled by a goat.  Very much like Gandalf’s Cart. Also, Santa is good with animals. Much like Radagast the Brown. So, perhaps in the 6,000 years since Middle-Earth, Radagast stayed and became something else.

I’m sure Tolkien didn’t want to make an direct correlation between the two, but it is there if you look for it. But there is a lot of correlation between Tolkien’s works and mythology.

This is just a little theory that I have come up with this Christmas season.

Also, if we’re going with Middle-Earth beings, then Santa’s Elves are not Elves. Elves are tall and fair, not short, and stout. So to that end, Santa’s “Elves” would most likely be Hobbits or even Dwarves. Dwarves are good workers.

Santa Claus in tengwar:

Merry Christmas all.

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