Hello fellow Koth of the Hammer fans!
From summoning Earth Elementals in Dungeons and Dragons to playing a Gargoyle Earth Elementalist in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup and loads more, earth has always been my favorite element. It's just so much fun! It feels right!
In high school and college I hated sciences, as the more I learned the more I disliked them. Take Astronomy. I loved it as a kid. Made my parents buy a telescope, watched the PBS night-gazing show, and loads more. But once I realized what higher level Astronomy was, I went away quickly. I did the same with other sciences, and was quickly bored by highly level Chemistry, Physics, and Bio.
But Geology was different. I took it in college and loved it, and kept taking more and more. I considered a Geology minor and spoke with the faculty about adding it to my political science. There was always something here that made Geology more real, more grounded, and more fun than the others. Could I see myself looking over these astrological charts to find evidence of planetary objects? Nope! But could I see myself working in soil and rocks and checking them out in the lab? Yep!
I've just always been that person. I get you Koth!
Geomancer's Gambit gets Koth too! This is world changing magic. Take the Earth Elementalist in Crawl mentioned briefly above. It specializes in shaping the dungeon to suit yourself. You can create kill holes, find secret areas, and create fast tunnels from stairs from one floor to the next, so when you've grabbed the nasty object at the bottom of the dungeon and have to run up quickly while being chased by Hell Lords, it's a lot easier to do. It changes the world.
I love science fiction games too, and I love the rock-like species in them. My favorite race to play in the now defunct Star Chamber was my precious Silica, which was a rocklike race that embraced both the living (with Life tech) and the making of big things (with its Cyber tech). You can read more about Star Chamber here.
Just recently, a new expansion for Paradox's Stellaris game was released that allowed you to play Lithoids. I gave it a spin that day, and I, of course, leaned into my Silica-loving roots and recreated the Silica Empire with their Hands pushing the universe. In fact, I also created all of the other races in the game (well, the ones I hadn't already created) and forced them to start so it's authentic. My current allies are the Omior Collective and the Zhikanii Syndicate against the Kej and Ixa and their Human vassals. If you had told me going in that the Zhikanii were our forever friends, I would have thought you crazy, but the Humans and Kej have never liked us, the opposite of what you'd expect. (You can follow my exploits online here.)
In my previous Stellaris runs, I also would add in other races from sci-fi video games that would be cool to run into, such as the Androsynth from Star Control, the Klackon from Master of Orion/Magic, the Kilrath from Wing Commander, and lots more. That also included a few from Star Chamber - the Omior and the Clave Clans were in already. I also kept in my old races that I won the game with because it's fun to run into yourself.
Given my love of rocks and my current rebirth of Silica and Lithoids over at Stellaris, it makes perfect sense to look at rocks and their cards here! Again, the muse cannot be silenced. I have to write about rocks. I can't think of anything else.
Today, I want to take a look at the best use of rocks and earth magic in Magic: The Gathering. What do I consider iconic? Good art? Flavor text? Name? Mechanics? Where are they blending them together nicely?
The problem mechanically with rock as Red's element is that rock is more defensive in nature compared to fire and lightning, where Red is definitely not. I think that they've Limited themselves by leaving that element in Red but emphasizing Fire and Lightning instead.
Fire/Lightning feel Red. They are here fast. They leave almost as quickly, and left a big impact that will change their area. Rock? Stone? Earth? Not really as much in flavor of the color.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
See how these are defensive minded cards? It's not that you can't use them or that they don't have value - They do. It's just that for Red, just that they don't fit the norms expected of the color - to be the aggressive, attacking, dealing damage version of Red. Rock's use in the game seems to be more that the normal iterations of Red. It's not used as much for those reasons.
If you wanted to change that, then you could do three things. You could keep this flavor and just slide it to another color, such as Green, and give Green stone/rock/earth. As Green loves the life that comes from the earth, it makes flavor sense to connect the two, I think that's fine, and some spinoffs of the game (Master of Magic as an example) did just that.
You could also just leave it in Red and use it more to flesh out the color. Or you could have more rock/earth themed cards, like a rock themed direct damage spell, such as a Lightning Bolt variant called "Spear of Feldspar" or something.
Red used to be more about pumping up their defense and cards like Granite Gargoyle play into that nicely.
Ready for my top ten? Let's look!
Honorable Mention #1 - Stonewright
Man, Stonewright is so cool! He oozes the flavor of the mountains and can use rocky fists as people punching weapons of death and destruction. You can drop him early, and then smash away. Also note that he is a good example of when the firebreathing ability of Red from cards like Shivan Dragon and, well, Firebreathing, isn't connected to fire, but other mechanics. Stones go! He's a fun name, art, concept and style.
Honorable Mention #2 - Torrent of Stone
Even little rocks and such will kill you. No one wants to run into a Stonestorm. If a Sandstorm is deadly, think how much worse a storm of rocks would be! Ouch! Buildings would collapse. Civilizations would fall. Worlds would end.
The art and concept rock, and this also shows how you could just recast direct damage spells in rock instead of fire and lightning.
By the way, can we please get a card called Stonestorm? That would be awesome. Thanks!
10. Obsidian Battle-Axe
Fun rocky name? Resonant flavor text? Use of the real-world obsidian without devolving into fantasy tropes? Check, check and check. What's not to love here? Nothing! It's a great and fun card, and your Warrior loving self will always approve.
Seriously, several games and worlds have made obsidian into their weird super-steel that doesn't look or feel like the actual material. Knock it off! Obsidian shouldn't be your mithril placeholder because you want your world to have some sort of uber-metal to be Tolkienian. Just use real world metals like Corinthian Bronze or Damascus Steel and call it and move on.
9. Ancient Stone Idol
Look at that statue. It's just perfectly carved in rock. The cascading water in the back is just awesome as a fitting backdrop to the statue. The idea, concept, and mechanics here all work well. And the art is amazing, so this thing has made it to my Top Ten list with a big shout out to the artist, Josh Hass.
8. Wall of Earth
Wall of Earth is super secretly one of the best Walls you've never heard of as this common is all the way back in Legends. Take a look. It's a nasty, 0/6 Wall you can drop on turn two. If you go first, barring haste, your foes will have to attack into it. Barring evasion, they are going to run up against your 0/6 Wall for a long time. It'll get you to the mid-game and turn five or 6 before someone will have a dork that can crack it reliably.
These are the best two mana defenders by the highest defense:
7. Stonehands and Granite Grip
Stonehands is just a fun idea for you. It's basically a double tap in the butt and then you can inflate the front like Firebreathing or other effects in the color will embrace. You can rock that flavor all day long. I also love the flavor text on it. You can trust in the power of stone! Lovisa Coldeyes gets it!
Shout out to the Granite Grip, that oddly shows everything but your hand getting granite'd. I enjoy the Stonehands way of doing the effect better. It's set out in the Ghitu area of Urza's Legacy and thus is in the same set as Ghitu Slinger and the Avalanche Rider. Thus it's flavor text is true, but also demonstrates the setting.
6. Earth Servant
Who wants to serve Earth? This guy! I enjoy how this Earth Elemental feels lore Earth-like than others. Increasing his toughness as you have more and more Mountains for him to draw strength from is a very Elemental thing to tap into.
Previously, you had boring dorks like Earth Elemental that were vanilla or just generic. But this lover of Koth is sweet and feels it.
5. Stone Rain
I have chosen to lead this one with the choking Stone Rain image from this from the first set, and even here, you can feel how apocalyptic this feels. It gets worse. Look at some of these images, and flavor text:
The Portal Second Age version has amazing art by Doug Chafee, as well as a fun quote. But I prefer the quote of the Tempest Stone Rain which I think accurately portrays the perils of this card well. Stone Rain is iconic and shows the power of rock and stone.
4. Sandstone Warrior
Take a look at that thing! This Warrior of Stone that is clearly made of the rock is ready to brawl. He's amid a rocky area, and his card and art are killer. The card itself was amazing as twinning the pumpable ability with first strike is just lethal and threatens almost all dorks out there. Now, I'm not a fan of the flavor text. I also hate what the reprint did to this card.
Get ready for a flavor foul that's truly bizarre.
This ugly thing is the 9th Edition appearance of him. Now he's a Human? With a Dragon? It that dead or a pet he uses to breath the fire? I don't see any wounds to show it was recently killed, but that could be blood on its face from death. Why change the card that much? That's just...off. Always play the Tempest version!
3. Rockslide Ambush (et all)
Of this series, I think Rockslide Ambush is the winner. Check out that cool art! All of those people bent to launch a Rockslide, and that's very realistic and something you see in fantasy and gaming all the time. I also like how you can't even see the target in the art. It doesn't matter! I enjoy the many people bending as one to be able to move a single rock. This is a reprint of Spitting Earth for the low-fantasy P3K but I'd love to get a reprint in black border somewhere. Anywhere.
2. Greater Stone Sprit
Marrying the mechanics of Stone Spirit and Stonehands is this flavor hit out of the park. It's just such a fun card! The fun flavor text is cool too! This riffing off each other was common in Time Spiral block. You had Cyclopean Giant that combined the only two Cyclopean cards in the game thus far, Cyclopean Mummy (when this dies, exile it) and Cyclopean Tomb (turn a land into a Swamp).
By the way, Cyclopean Giant is a duplicative joke. Cyclopean does not mean one-eyed. It means gigantic. Much like the words, "Titanic" come from the "Titans" in the myth and means large, and "Gigantic" comes from "Giants" with the same idea, "Cyclopean" comes from "Cyclops" and does not mean one-eyed, but just big. Thus, Cyclopean Giant is just Gigantic Giant, for those in the know.
(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cyclopean Like all definitions, this is fluid, based on usage, and if people use it to mean one-eyed, then that will be its definition in a few years. Inflammable, which actually means able to catch fire quickly now usually means the opposite. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inflammable)
Anyways, I digress.
What hit my top spot?
I think that Rhirhok and I are on the same page here.
"Good ol' rock. Nothing beats rock."
It was true then, and it's still true today. Nothing beats Rock.
1. Rock Slide
True! still love this so much! The card is awesome because it's incredibly flexible. Anything that's bringing the heat (or blocking the heat) is subject to a Rock Slide. I love it in multiplayer where you can deal enough damage to kill things that just died. I turned it against a 5/5 that blocked and killed a 3/4, and then killed some unblocked 2/1 and 1/1s and a few other blockers, and took out two full teams! As long as they don't fly, Rock Slide will take them down.
Need to drop them down from the sky? You are in Red after all!
And there you go! What did you think of my rock inspired list today? Did I miss anything? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to see me look at the other elements? Just let me know!
As always, thanks for reading!