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Great Magic Writing of the Week, April 20

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A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.

To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!


On Things

Blake Rasmussen is moving on to new adventures at Wizards of the Coast, but before he goes, he's got some things to share. Stopping to reflect on his Magical life, modern musings, and coverage experience, Blake meanders his way through his experiences leading up to taking his dream job and becoming the astronaut-cowboy-editor-in-chief of DailyMTG.com.

GatheringMagic.com: Blake Rasmussen (@blakepr") - Things I Think I'm Thinking as I Take a Job at Wizards

When I was thirteen, I sat at a table in the cafeteria back in a corner. It was an assigned table, so I wasn’t hiding from the denizens of my junior high, but I certainly did appreciate not being in the middle of everything. It wasn’t quiet, but it was somehow secluded—at least as secluded as a table could be in a room with three hundred kids and caffeine.

Freyalise's WindsThat semi-secluded table is where I sat with my friends Brian and Matt and learned about Magic. Matt brought some Ice Age starter decks to lunch one day and offered to sell them to us for $10. I had seen Magic before—in the back of a friend’s van on the way to a soccer tournament—but had never played or paid it much attention. But when Matt gave us a quick demonstration of how the game was played and offered to hand them over right then and there, I was hooked.

Now, eighteen years later, I’m going to work for the company that makes the game that has been part of my life ever since that back table in my junior-high cafeteria.


On the Underworld

What is the role of the Underworld in Theros? What's the difference between that and Nyx? Mike Linnemann explores some of the thematic complexities of this plane as we learn more about the Gods and characters that inhabit it. Elspeth is on a journey for redemption, but it's unclear what role Erebos has in that story. Will she find what she's looking among the Fallen in the underworld of Theros

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@vorthosmike)- Nyx or Underworld? Dante's Confused

First of all, Journey into Nyx is the third set of Theros, and it’s one that has a few things going on in the storyline. Xenagos, a Planeswalker, has ascended to godhood, Elspeth was exiled for “causing it,” and Ajani is now there to help her fight back. There’s a dream world, Nyx, and an underworld.

Additionally, Erebos has a larger role in this set.

This descent is redeeming to Elspeth, the hero, who needs redemption. Since all great glory will end eventually, it gives Erebos popcorn for the show. What is confusing is that Erebos, the god of the underworld, is so closely integrated into the storyline at this point considering creative made it a point to say that he is “notable for not being connected to the realm of Nyx, in spite of black's association with darkness.” Technically, he shouldn’t care.


On Fiction

What goes in to creating some of the fictional religions we see in Magic sets? From the Cabal of Odyssey block, the spirits of Kamigawa Block, and the followers of Avacyn and Griselbrand in Innistrad, there are all kinds of different takes on this theme throughout Magic's history. This week, John Dale Beety turns his Vorthos eye towards the history of these themes in Magic, both good and bad.

StarCityGames.com: John Dale Beety (@jdbeety) - On the Fictional Religions of Magic

When I encounter characters on a screen or in the pages of a book, I like to uncover what makes them tick. Who shaped them into the people they are at the start of the story? When did they begin their slow descent into villainy or swift path to heroism?

Then there's the most complex question of all: "what do you believe?"

Every sapient character has a way of living and some sort of creed no matter how buried. In fantasy, particularly fantasies anchored in the Northern European tradition, this often takes the form of religion, but the statement holds true even when religion per se isn't part of the equation. (The most famous atheist character in literature, John Galt, declared, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.")

Religion is also one of the touchiest subjects for a creator to handle. Use of a real-world religion can be fraught with real-world peril, as Salman Rushdie can attest. Magic: The Gathering has had its own (milder) tribulations, some of which I'll cover below as they become germane. One official explanation of why Magic doesn't reference real-world religion is because it interferes with building a self-contained fantasy world, as then Magic Creative Director Brady Dommermuth explained in 2004.*

On the other hand, inventing a religion is also extremely hard work, and even masters of worldbuilding can struggle to make a convincing fictional religion. The late Octavia Butler is one of my favorite writers, and her Parable series (Parable of the Sowerand Parable of the Talents) traces the journey of Lauren Oya Olamina and the religion she creates called Earthseed. I'm immensely fond of the novels, but Earthseed itself—its tenets, its goals, its "Book of the Living"—is the weakest part of the creation. The dynamics of family and religion are far more fascinating than the religion itself.

How has Magic walked the path between the two, going from tangling with real-world faiths to making invented religions an integral part of its worldbuilding? There's a lot of ground to cover. On to it!


On Vintage

Have you played Vintage before? If not, you're in for a treat. Brian Demars sat down and watched a match between two of the formats most avid and talented players at Grand Prix Philadelphia. This week, he's bringing you the action and stepping you through some of the intricacies of Magic's most degenerate format.

StarCityGames.com: Brian Demars (@briandemars1) - Vintage Master Class: Coss vs Mastriano

Grand Prix Philadelphia was a blast. The best thing about not making day 2 at a Grand Prix is that it affords a player like me a lot of opportunity to take in some sweet Vintage action.

Saturday night I got a chance to watch a good portion of the no proxy Vintage side event that took place at the GP. One of the more exciting things I got to witness was an epic showdown between two friends of mine, Paul Mastriano and Nick Coss, during the tournament.

For those of you not familiar with these two players, both are fixtures of the Vintage community and have a long history of tournament success. Paul is a former Vintage World Champion and has won countless Black Lotus all around the USA. Nick is the owner of a website that buys and sells cards and the tournament organizer for Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia (being held October 24-26 this year) and has been a Vintage ringer for as long as I can remember.


On Desperation

What's the difference between a true hero of Theros and a thief? Matt Knicl tells a story where the difference is slimmer than you might think. When the Nyxborn begin to attack, sometimes thieves become heroes and heroes the thieves. When all you have left is desperation, anything is possible.

DailyMTG.com: Matt Knicl - Desperate Stand

When I was caught stealing from the magister's study, I was given two choices. I could join the noble Akroan soldiers, or I could be executed. The magister must have been a wicked man, I thought, for he was sentencing me to death—I just got to choose the timetable.

It's true, I wouldn't have necessarily died in combat, but then the Nyxborn stabbed into my torso, its six sharp claws clenched into my body. My spear had been knocked from my hand and the strange creature that was centaur and kraken and spider threw me over my fellow soldiers into the sealed gates behind. I lay on the ground, my helmet turned and blocking some of my vision, unable to breathe. I might not have been destined to die in combat, but the Fates would be severing my thread just the same.


On The Labyrinth

Are you prepared to match wits with the Spirit of the Labyrinth? Bonnie Bruenderman is ready to give you the chance in this choose your own adventure article. Twists, turns, and traps await in the depths of the Labyrinth. Can you make it through to the center?

DailyyMTG.com: Bonnie Bruenderman - The Labyrinth of Labors

WHY DO YOU VENTURE INTO MY LABYRINTH, MORTAL? MY PRIZES ARE NUMEROUS, MY DANGERS MORE SO. WHAT DO YOU SEEK?

Taking a deep breath, you state your reasons for coming.

"Spirit: I am seeking the prize at the middle of the labyrinth.

"I had heard you protected something of great power and utility here. I seek this prize to defend my home and my family. Abandoned by the gods and beset on all sides by Nyxborn nightmares, minotaurs, and flesh-hungry animals, we are desperate. We have sent our strongest and our smartest to the ends of the earth seeking a solution—anything.

"Each of us carries our gold and has said our river-passing prayer: 'We are already dead. I have nothing left to lose and everything to gain.' That is why I have come."

YOU MAY PROCEED, BUT KNOW THIS: I CAN GUARANTEE NEITHER YOUR SAFETY NOR YOUR SUCCESS. YOUR FATE IS YOUR OWN.


 

If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.


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