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The Next Ironroot Chef: Battle Splinter Twin


Our journey for to find the next Ironroot Chef continues. This week, @RobertoMoser faces off against Ironroot Chef @AntTessitore in a battle that will be sure to leave you hungry for more.

It’s time to see what these two chefs have brought to the table—and if our judges liked the taste.

Splinter Twin

This is Battle Splinter Twin!

Roberto Moser

Specific cards: Islands (Ravnica: City of Guilds #294), Mountains (Return to Ravnica #268), Forests (Ravnica: City of Guilds #304)

The following decklist description contains spoilers.

I’m a movie geek. I love good movies, great twists, and enthralling themes portrayed by great directors. And I love Commander.

Splinter Twin
So whenever someone casts and activates Splinter Twin, there’s a very specific movie that always comes to my mind: The Prestige.

Directed by Christopher Nolan and based on Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name, this amazing movie tells the story of a rivalry between two stage magicians in nineteenth-century London.

Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman (Grizzled Wolverine), is obsessed with the Teleport trick his rival, Alfred Borden, has been performing.

Borden’s performance is absolutely perfect, and Angier becomes obsessed with discovering the catch behind such an unexplainable display of magic. However, Angier tries to perform the act, his Cunning rival always seems to outperform him.

The first scene we portray in this deck is the desperate state we find Angier in: his Obsessive Search for an explanation is driving him insane. His opponent is nothing but a Trickster Mage, but he is somehow able to repeatedly perform a flawless act of teleportation in front of an enthusiastic audience. Angier embarks in a Compulsive Research to discover Borden’s secret, but with little results. Our hero is desperate for a Fighting Chance, a possibility to match Borden’s ability on the stage.

I think Chemister's Trick, Illusionist's Gambit, Magical Hack, and Perilous Research perfectly capture the essence of the scene: on one side, a blatant trick, a well-studied ruse that Angier is unable to see, despite having it displayed in from of his very eyes and, on the other, the dangerous search that is tearing Angier’s mind apart. “Are you watching closely?”

Chief Engineer
Suddenly, a clue: Angier embarks on a Quest for Ancient Secrets and travels to America to visit Nikola Tesla himself. The Chief Engineer lives as a Reclusive Artificer in his mansions, where he crafts machines of unprecedented power.

Now, this scene is really amazing because we find out that Tesla is played by none other than the Goblin King himself, the late David Bowie. So Magic: The Gathering players in the audience can have some fun, joking that Angier’s search has actually turned into a Quest for the Goblin Lord.

The whole scene is just spectacular: We witness Tesla’s proficiency as an engineer, when a Lightning Storm greets the frame with thunderous magnificence. This scene is what Izzet players’ dreams are made of: From a little Lightning Bolt to a devastating Lightning Cloud, from a spark of Electrickery to the shining beauty of Tesla’s Lightning Coils, the audience is left in awe, speechless, witnessing the marvels of Tesla’s Arcane Laboratory.

And now I can’t shake the image of the great David Bowie as a Goblin Electromancer out of my head.

Anyway, we soon discover that what looked like a Laboratory Maniac is actually a very conflicted scientist who indeed managed to create a Teleportal but who’s also very afraid of his own Diabolic Machine. What he created is in fact an instrument capable of teleporting something or someone, but it also creates an exact copy of what it teleported—a Gemini Engine that threats the very laws of nature. At first, we see the effects of the machine on Angier’s top hat: as if someone were casting Copy Artifact over and over again, the original hat remains, while multiple copies appear elsewhere, all identical to the original.

Natural Order
Tesla is very assertive on the nature of the machine. We thought he was a U/R character, but he shows his green nature in a very touching scene: The machine must be destroyed, as it is an affront to Natural Order itself. Tesla’s brief speech gives us a glimpse on the Dual Nature of the character. His Blast of Genius in unparalleled, but his creation goes against the laws of nature. Stroke of Genius, Research // Development, and Epic Experiment perfectly portray the scientific mind of the character. But Nature's Claim, Harmony of Nature, and Nature's Will depict Tesla’s conscience and his well aware spirit.

Unfortunately, Angier won’t listen: This is his Last Chance to outperform Borden. Only with Tesla’s incredible invention he will be able to perform the perfect teleportation act. There is no denying that using this machine to teleport himself is a Risky Move with Unexpected Results: Should he use the instrument over and over, spawning a Clone after another? What will happen to his conscience and his very essence? Is he willing to Gamble with the very laws of nature? What will be his Final Fortune?

Things get very dark here. Rite of Replication gives us an idea of all the clones Angier might have to deal with. Clone Legion portrays the nightmare scenario Angier can see ahead of himself: What if one of the clones tries to oppose his creator? Can he survive this hideous Mirror Mockery? Should things turn sideways, will he have the strength to fight, and maybe even kill, his own Spitting Image? Is this going to end in a Mirror Match that will surely result in one of the Angiers dead? Even worst, Supplant Form and Stolen Identity paint us the grim scenarios that Tesla had envisioned when testing the machine.

That is all not to mention that, giving the actor, we might have the whole final act of the movie ending with nothing but a giant Wolverine Pack storming the streets of London.

All these doubts poison Angier’s mind during his journey back home—especially the thing with the wolverines.

Epic Confrontation
When he arrives in London, Angier is hell-bent. He is willing to take a Wild Guess, just so he can Rise to the Challenge and match Borden’s performance. Whatever is going to happen, this will be the final Epic Confrontation between the two illusionists.

I won’t get into every single detail of the ending because the final act of the movie is filled with amazing twists. But, unfortunately, there are no legions of wolverines.

One thing we find out, however, is the very reason Tesla’s machine in The Prestige is the true embodiment of Splinter Twin as a card: Angier devises a trap to automatically kill all the clones the machine is generating. In the name of the art of illusion, he’s willing to kill “himself,” drowning his clones in a pool from whence there’s no escape, moments after their creation. Even worse, he doesn’t know whether he or his clone will be the next one to suffer this horrible demise of Suffocation. So we witness the repeated sacrifice of an Endless Swarm of Hugh Jackmans.

I think Trap Essence and Essence Scatter perfectly depict this downward spiral in the identity of Angier. I know they do not really interact well with tokens, but they surely provide a grim look in the Tortured Existence of the character, willingly destroying his very essence, one trick at a time. “Would I be the man in the box, of the prestige?”

Much like Splinter Twin, Angier uses Tesla’s machine to create an ephemeral copy of a living being, destined to die from the moment it was born.

But what story would be complete without an adequate stage to perform it? Let’s talk lands!

Izzet Boilerworks
Thespian's Stage is where our adventure starts, while Madblind Mountain and Temple of Mystery capture the madness-fueled search of Angier and the unknown places he is willing to visit.

Izzet Boilerworks, Alchemist's Refuge, Desolate Lighthouse, School of the Unseen, Steam Vents, Temple of Epiphany, and Urza's Power Plant perfectly set the stage for the most important scene in our deck: the visit to Tesla’s laboratory and the activation of the machine. And, considering David Bowie is the man living in Tesla’s lair, Goblin Burrows seems to be a mandatory inclusion.

The cloning machine and the trap-pool devised by Angier are mentioned with Breeding Pool, Mirrorpool, Reflecting Pool, and Simic Growth Chamber.

Finally, since most of the story takes place in urban environments, Richard Wright’s basic lands from Ravnica: City of Guilds and Return to Ravnica provide a very good look into nineteenth-century London.

As a closing touch, I think Riku of Two Reflections would be an excellent commander for the deck—not only he is a proficient Human Wizard, but he is also the perfect experimenter when dealing with clones. And I think it is interesting that Riku captures something from both Angier and Tesla: He is a brilliant U/R magician, ready to clone living creatures for value, just like Angier, but he’s not willing to clone himself and has a green—somehow nature-bound—identity just like Tesla.

If you feel Riku represents Angier more than Tesla, I recommend you enchant your commander with Splinter Twin and start making copies of him, turn after turn. Sure, they will immediately die, but if you could fool the audience “ . . . even for a second, then you can make them wonder. And then you . . . Then you got to see something very special. You really don’t know? It was . . . It was the look on their faces”.

Ironroot Chef Ant

I am really into Heroes of the Storm right now. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it's a videogame in which you pick from a wide variety of characters with different abilities, get matched up with four other players, and then enter a ring against a different team of five for a five-versus-five brawl. When I first saw that Splinter Twin would be the secret ingredient this week, I immediately thought of one of my favorite characters in Heroes: Cho’Gall.

Cho and his brother Gall are literally a two-headed giant. One player controls Cho (a combat hero) and is in charge of movement. The other player controls Gall (a mage hero) who is along for the ride. Whenever Gall casts a spell, a shadowy hand erupts from Cho’s body in a visual that reminds me of the Splinter Twin art every time I see it.

Cho’Gall is literally a two-headed giant, and so I thought what better way to play up Splinter Twin than by having a pair of Two-Headed Giant decks that represent actual twins trapped in the same body?

Specific cards:

1 Forest 1 Avacyn Restored #242 (James Paick)
1 Forest 2 Avacyn Restored #243 (Jung Park)
1 Forest 3 Avacyn Restored #244 (Eytan Zana)
1 Forest 4 Innistrad #262 (James Paick)
1 Forest 5 Innistrad #263 (Jung Park)
1 Forest 6 Innistrad #264 (Eytan Zana)
1 Mountain 1 Avacyn Restored #239 (James Paick)
1 Mountain 2 Avacyn Restored #240 (Adam Paquette)
1 Mountain 3 Avacyn Restored #241 (Eytan Zana)
1 Mountain 4 Innistrad #259 (James Paick)
1 Mountain 5 Innistrad #260 (Adam Paquette)
1 Mountain 6 Innistrad #261 (Eytan Zana)
1 Island 1 Avacyn Restored #233 (James Paick)
1 Island 2 Avacyn Restored #234 (Adam Paquette)
1 Island 3 Avacyn Restored #235 (Jung Park)
1 Island 4 Innistrad #253 (James Paick)
1 Island 5 Innistrad #254 (Adam Paquette)
1 Island 6 Innistrad #255 (Jung Park)

Cho is all about summoning other twins, two-headed monsters, and pairs of matching tokens to fight for him. He employs magic that will double his rage and token generation, and he is all about causing chaos on the battlefield.

Specific cards:

1 Swamp 1 Avacyn Restored #236 (James Paick)
1 Swamp 2 Avacyn Restored #237 (Adam Paquette)
1 Swamp 3 Avacyn Restored #238 (Jung Park)
1 Swamp 4 Innistrad #256 (James Paick)
1 Swamp 5 Innistrad #257 (Adam Paquette)
1 Swamp 6 Innistrad #258 (Jung Park)
1 Mountain 1 Avacyn Restored #239 (James Paick)
1 Mountain 2 Avacyn Restored #240 (Adam Paquette)
1 Mountain 3 Avacyn Restored #241 (Eytan Zana)
1 Mountain 4 Innistrad #259 (James Paick)
1 Mountain 5 Innistrad #260 (Adam Paquette)
1 Mountain 6 Innistrad #261 (Eytan Zana)
1 Island 1 Avacyn Restored #233 (James Paick)
1 Island 2 Avacyn Restored #234 (Adam Paquette)
1 Island 3 Avacyn Restored #235 (Jung Park)
1 Island 4 Innistrad #253 (James Paick)
1 Island 5 Innistrad #254 (Adam Paquette)
1 Island 6 Innistrad #255 (Jung Park)

Gall is all about doubling the pleasure and the fun. Everything Cho can do, Gall can make better. What's better than one spell? Two spells obviously!

Both decks make use of the Avacyn Restored/Innistrad mirrored lands, as a simple way to further the Splinter Twin theme.

The Vote

Below, you can read the judges’ scoring to see how Nate and Stybs cast their ballots. However, this is your chance to score the winner of Battle Splinter Twin.

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The Judging

Nate Holt

Nathan Holt @walktheplanes

Nate’s the host of Walking the Planes, a documentary series about Magic: The Gathering with a healthy dose of sketch comedy (for value).

Challenger Roberto Moser

A thorough tribute to a beloved film! You went deeeep on references to The Prestige. I'm kind of amazed you went in on Commander given how much research you'd need to do to keep the theme of the film prescient throughout—and not even the entire film, but a specific set of scenes surrounding the Tesla/Angier characters. Big points for boldness there. This is film geekery at its finest.

As much as I like The Prestige, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed to see a straightforward interpretation of someone else's story. This feels like the IRC equivalent of a cover song. I wish you could've used The Prestige as a jumping-off point for inspiration and then woven your own tale. I'm nit-picking here, but I must do so at the highest levels of IRC competition.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the theme: 3

Ironroot Chef Ant Tessitore

Like Roberto, you found inspiration in another story. But you took your inspiration in a quirky, unexpected direction. Rather than relying on loading your deck(s) with homages to Cho'Gall, you reimagined his story from a broader perspective. I don't think we've seen a 2HG submission in IRC history (have we?), nor do I think we've seen someone pinpoint a format that aligns with the themed ingredient as perfectly as this. Well done. You are a true IRC visionary.

As far as boldness goes, I was disappointed in the lists themselves as being little more than references to literal twins, clones, and copies. Roberto's list goes into great depth and detail to tell a complete story. I wanted to see more of your vision of Cho'Gall's journey played out through the environment around him.

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 2

Adherence to the theme: 3

Adam Styborski

Adam Styborski @the_stybs

Adam is a casual player at heart and weekly columnist for MagicTheGathering.com. He also travels the country for Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage, and he shares his Pauper Cube everywhere.

Challenger Roberto Moser

Ah, Roberto, I see what you tried to do. You're thoughtful, considerate, and thorough in telling the story of The Prestige through a Commander deck. The trickiness, and plays on tricks in general, is just the kind of hocus pocus with purpose stage magicians have used for years. You put on a massive show and flourish just to distract the audience from the reality of what they're seeing.

Splinter Twin reminded you of The Prestige, but I'm not seeing the flavor of the card.

Your deck is wonderful, and I'd probably pick it up to play given the chance. But like I admonish all those before you, I want to see the flavor of the card stand out. The singleton nature of Commander combined with the large deck size means conveying the flavor of one card is incredibly challenging. I love a lot of what you did here, but I'm disappointed it was a tame rehash of a story I'd heard before.

My scoring reflects the effort you put in while chastising you for veering off into a one-for-one of a story I'm not so sure that fits, particularly when you took an entire standalone article of length to get through sharing it:

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the theme: 1

Ironroot Chef Ant Tessitore

Ant, you continue to surprise me. Whenever I think you've run out of tricks, you find a new one to unleash. The flavor text, "I know just the person for the job," speaks to precisely how players get to enjoy Cho'Gall in Heroes of the Storm. The two-heads-in-one—two personalities sharing one space—expresses what having one's Splinter Twin must feel like.

Then I read your decklists and was let down.

Does each half of Cho'Gall really double down on the other? I wanted to see each side of Cho'Gall uniquely present himself, but instead, I got a gag gift of two-headed and copy cards. You nailed the theme with a creative tie to the ingredient, but my score reflects the lack of true seasoning and spice your decks dished out:

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 1

Adherence to the theme: 3

Voting closes midnight Thursday, and the first winner will be announced this Friday, January 29. Follow @IronrootChef on Twitter for the final score and victory announcement and to share your ideas for secret ingredients. Chairman Holt will continue to use your suggestions to challenge our chefs to the core.

And if you think you have what it takes to challenge the chefs, send an e-mail to IronrootChef AT gmail DOT com with all of your flavorful qualifications. We’re looking for new Ironroot Chefs and competitors, and you could be the next to take a shot at impressing the judges.

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