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  • posted a message on Innistrad 3 story and lore- Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow
    I really enjoyed this. Much better than last week's, for sure. It's fascinating to see new glimpses into Arlinn's past - maybe we'll get a brief flashback next week of her former challenge to Tovolar? In any case, their fight has more weight to it than usual because, unlike in most Magic stories of late, the main hero and villain have such an intimate history together. Whatever the stakes for the world of Innistrad, this conflict is deeply personal. When they clash, it feels like this is truly a fateful moment, as if both their lives have been leading up to this. The consequences for Innistrad are secondary, even, next to how personal this fight is to Arlinn. She has become my favorite heroine of the post-War of the Spark story, and Tovolar my favorite villain.

    Unfortunately, the side characters are less interesting. Even Teferi, a legacy character and one of my personal favorites in all MTG canon, is irrelevant here. My main gripe with this chapter is that his slowing of the sunset didn't really change or affect the story at all, and thus it didn't even need to be here. It didn't even do anything, really, except save the lives of some human redshirts that we the readers care nothing for. It felt like the author only included that bit because she was handed a list of plot points from WotC that included "Teferi slows the sun." Teferi, Chandra, Kaya, Adeline - all extraneous.

    But Arlinn and Tovolar (and Arlinn's wolves!) shine as good characters, and that is enough to carry the story for me.

    I can honestly say I can't wait to see the conclusion next week.
    Posted in: Magic Storyline
  • posted a message on Innistrad 3 story and lore- Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow
    Okay, this one had some problems, so I'll start with the bad.

    -The pacing was wonky, and at times it was apparent the author was cutting corners (the truncated journey to Thraben, for example, as well as the heroes' brisk entry into Markov Manor.)

    -Yet at other times the story was needlessly dragged out. The detour to the Betzold House - the very namesake of this chapter - was wholly unnecessary and could have been edited out. That entire thread was just a sidequest within a fetch quest, calling to mind the most pointless excesses of The Rise of Skywalker.

    -Similarly, Kaya does not need to be here at all, and the Beltzold Manor tangent seemed to exist purely to give her something to do.

    -Sorin's opposition to Arlinn and co., and particularly his seeming indifference to the plight of Innistrad, is never explored and thus feels out of character. Now, Sorin's attitude didn't bother me at first, because I was curious to see how he would explain and justify himself. But we're given nothing; his deeper frame of mind isn't even hinted at. Innistrad has fallen out of balance, and this ought to be a source of great concern to him. He seems to resist the heroes just to provide momentary (and in the end, meaningless) conflict.

    - The discovery of the key was resolved so fast that it felt mundane and anticlimactic. Sigarda just showed up and swiftly, painlessly, solved the heroes' quest for them. Nothing was sacrificed. Nothing even felt risked. Nothing new was revealed. This whole chapter turned out to be just a sidequest to retrieve a McGuffin that in the end was just handed to the heroes with minimal effort.

    -This story could have - and should have - done at least a little bit to further build up the main threat of Tovolar and his werewolves. Instead of just zapping our heroes from location to location, this would have been a great chance to glimpse some carnage from the increasing werewolf attacks. Yes, this is Gavony, but maybe we could hear the howls of the Dires in the distance or rumors of the rising carnage, so their threat feels like it's growing, even if just in the background. Instead, this chapter does nothing to build up the main conflict of the story, which wouldn't be such a problem except that we only have two or three chapters left.

    Now, the good:

    - For all the issues I had this time around, I'm still enjoying this author's voice. I like the cold, dark atmosphere she paints, and the way she instills in me a sense of eeriness and disquiet. Her writing style suits this world well, and I hope she returns for Crimson Vow. (Furthermore, she keeps a skilled thumb on Chandra, preventing her from ever ruining the mood - which was always a risk on Innistrad.)

    -Arlinn continues to be a good protagonist. I can feel the weight she carries, her gnawing fear and doubt. It helps sell the gravity of this story and makes her feel particularly human, particularly real.

    -Liliana's dismissive line about the zombies made me smirk. That's exactly the kind of humor that works in this setting. Liliana wasn't even present, yet with just that one sentence the author shows just how completely she understands the character.

    -The constant mentions of the Travails and the havoc they caused was welcome. The events of the last Innistrad block were indeed catastrophic and world-warping, and I'm glad to see their lasting effects touched upon.

    All in all, I'm continuing to enjoy this story and can't wait to get back to the main thread. I just think this chapter could have been written in a way that made it feel less like a box-ticking fetch quest, and more relevant to the primary conflict.
    Posted in: Magic Storyline
  • posted a message on [MID] The rest of the cards
    @Olivia's Midnight Ambush:

    Oh dear. It all goes wrong. Either Tovolar wins, or he is defeated but the vampires sweep in to claim the spoils from the mortals.

    Nice cliffhanger, Wotc. I'm really liking this story.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on Innistrad 3 story and lore- Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow

    That was good, and much needed. It spells out exactly what the Travails were, updates us on the Emrakul situation, and informs us on exactly how much time has passed since we last saw Innistrad.

    That Gisa letter at the end was gold. I'm sad about Thraben, but they played the dark humor angle very well. Gisa and Geralf are great characters, but since they often perform the role of villainous comic relief, it's important to keep them dark, or else they will just become harmless and silly. Fortunately, Gisa still seems to retain her edge, in her endearing, psychopathic way.

    The cringy Halloween puns at the end, I could have done without. Come on, Wizards, you know literally no one in your target demographic finds those even ironically cute or funny. Stop it.
    Posted in: Magic Storyline
  • posted a message on Innistrad 3 story and lore- Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow
    Tovolar is a fantastic villain. There is a kindness to him, a gentleness that makes him even more terrifying. It's a chilling thing to see him through Arlinn's eyes - a violent and imposing figure on one hand, who all the same understands her, accepts her, and cares about her, even as he embodies the monstrosity she fears in herself. You can see how deeply he haunts her, and the fact he says so little gives each of his words that much more weight.

    It's been a while since we've had a Magic antagonist who was genuinely intimidating, or entwined with the hero/heroine in such an intimate way. Tovolar comes across as a well-balanced character - both a thoughtful, nuanced monster and a fearsome, looming threat. I suspect he'll prove memorable.

    I'm invested in this story now, and in Arlinn's journey.
    Posted in: Magic Storyline
  • posted a message on [MID] Lier, Disciple of the Drowned— IGN preview
    Is this a reference to Runo Stromkirk's mysterious, pre-Avacynian sea god?

    I remember many fans speculated about the sea god being behind the events of the previous Innistrad block, before Emrakul showed up. I would love for it to become relevant to the story someday.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on [MID] "Mask of Griselbrand"— Javier Botet preview
    Oh Griselbrand, you old rascal. You are missed. All that buildup, just to meet one of the lamest villain defeats of all time. You deserved so much better - but at least your card was awesome. And at least your legacy lives on a decade later.

    I will use this card, and drink a toast when I do.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on [MID] FleshTaker — Zopilote García
    Oh, Yawgmoth loves this.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on Innistrad 3 story and lore- Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow

    Now this is more like it.

    I've been frustrated with the writing quality of Magic fiction of late. The Strixhaven story in particular was a clumsy, painful read, riddled with such drab prose and awful dialogue that it turned me off from the entire setting, and I began wondering what was the point of caring about Magic's story anymore if Wotc was just going to let high-school level writers turn in slipshod work. Craft matters. Delivery matters. Emotion matters. Good writing can elevate even a mediocre story concept (Guidpact, Dissension); poor writing can ruin even a great one (War of the Spark).

    But this, at least, is a step in the right direction. It's not Elliot (whom I still consider Magic's best writer over the past four years) or even Wexler, but this first chapter was evocative enough and I enjoyed it. My eyes widened in an "Oh s***" reaction when the tables turned on Klaus. Arlinn and Agatha's interaction was genuinely poignant and prickled me with notes of real dread. I can feel the cold growing, the darkness encroaching, and the weight of the stakes for Innistrad.

    I'm happy to say I'm looking forward to more.
    Posted in: Magic Storyline
  • posted a message on Magic Showcase 2021
    While on one hand I'm thrilled to see Kamigawa back... what really frustrates and angers me is the way they botched the writing system.

    In the Kamigawa novels and official Wizards fictions, the writing system on Kamigawa used, as far as we can discern, actual kanji. This was even a significant plot point in one of the tales, where the written character for nin (as in "ninja") depicts the brushstrokes for "heart" below the brushstrokes for "blade" -- just as it does in the real world. This also makes collecting the Kamigawa cards in Japanese especially rewarding, as you can see how the names are written in kanji and, if you know Japanese, what those names actually signify. One beautiful wordbuilding touch is that on the Japanese cards and in the novel, the Soratami have all their names written in katakana, signifying their apartness from the rest of the world.

    Kamigawa was full of these cool linguistic touches like that. The idea that Kamigawa mortals read and wrote in a script mirroring actual Japanese gave the world a whole extra dimension, a second lens through which it could be understood, experienced, and appreciated.

    But these new neon signs don't say anything. This is just another generic made-up fantasy script like Magic has on all its other worlds. To be sure, some of the old Kamigawa cards also featured art with purely-fictional script, but those always appeared to be arcane runes associated with the spirit world. These are city signs, trying to evoke the general shapes of kanji and kana, but failing to be anything but ugly and meaningless.

    At least the Neon Dynasty logo did it right.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on Magic Showcase 2021
    Bolas already went to Kamigawa around 65 years ago, just after his resurrection. He went on a rampage through the Myojin of Night's Reach's holdings, destroying all her shrines and turning her followers against her, as she was the one who originally brought the Umezawa bloodline to Dominaria. She fled Kamigawa, and Bolas chased her across the Multiverse before finally cornering and defeating her somewhere offscreen.

    Night's Reach still lives, and she's out there somewhere in the Multiverse, but she's just a shadow of her former self (as it were).

    Perhaps we'll see her again.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on Magic Showcase 2021
    The Brother's War novel will have a re-release to go along with the set, perhaps? Hardcover edition?

    Think about it: What better way to pump new juice into a flagging storyline than a revisit to a tried and true classic, released again for a new generation of players? Especially as Phyrexia starts looming again over the story.

    The best thing about The Brother's War Expansion is that Urza and Mishra will cease to be just names from "way back in the old lore." Players who weren't even alive during the Artifacts Cycle/Weatherlight Saga will get to experience and connect with their epic story firsthand.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on Commander Collection: Black
    Not only is this the first Yawgmoth quote we have on a card -- this is, if I'm not mistaken, the first depiction of Yawgmoth that we have in his world-scouring death cloud form (Vindicate and Last Stand don't count). This looks to be Yawgmoth as he emerges at the climax of Apocalypse, his shadow casting death over Dominaria.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on [MH2] Braids, Clattering Augur, and Kaldra Compleat— Instinct3 preview
    It doesn't even need to be the original Kaldra - the card is literally just all of Kaldra's artifacts on a germ. Instead of the old Kaldra having been compleated, it could just be a new, compleat Kaldra.

    Or maybe Kaldra, even if destroyed, is simply reborn every time his artifacts are united, and this time they've compleated him.

    Let's be real - even if it's a retcon, it would far the worst or most ridiculous Mirrodin retcon ever. The entire original Mirrodin canon is already in tatters.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
  • posted a message on [MH2] Vindicate and "Lazotep Minister"— Naver Café previews
    Radiant's death scene! Wow.
    Posted in: The Rumor Mill
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