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Next Ironroot Chef: Battle Séance


The second elimination battle in our journey for the next Ironroot Chef is here. Last time, Matthew Nielsen fell in his first lost, leaving just Emma LaBelle undefeated throughout the contest. Just before that, Roberto Moser narrowly stayed in contention by defeating Russel Lee.

Now the contest looks at another knockout round with Moser and Nielsen squaring off in Flavor Stadium. With stakes this high, it was obvious which ingredient should get top billing, and the chairman delivered in spades:

With everything on the line and each competitor pulling from the knowledge of both a win and a loss, there's no way to divine what will happen next.


This is Battle Séance!

Competitor Roberto Moser

Islands: Innistrad #255; Forests: Innistrad #263; Plains: Innistrad #250; Swamps: Innistrad #258

Extract from “A Medium’s Guide to Séance: Practices and Regulations in the Province of Gavony”

as approved by the Church of Avacyn

Thraben, Gavony, Innistrad

Séance is an ancient and powerful practice that can be extremely dangerous if not performed correctly. This guide will provide all the indications Mediums, or Death Speakers, are required to know and abide in order to perform Séance rituals in accordance with the principles of the Church of Avacyn.

Section 1: On Séance and its nature;

Séance shall never be performed as an act of necromancy. Those who practice the art of Séance have to be of pure heart and peaceful soul, for a Ghostly Possession can lead the weak and the wicked to perdition.

Séance shall always be considered as an act of respect, so as to favor a safe Spiritual Visit that can be helpful for the participants. Depending on the nature of the ritual, love, and compassion can be mandatory requirements for Séance participants.

Section 2: On the motivations of Séance;

Participants may want to approach Séance for various reasons. It is the duty of the Medium to always verify that the intentions of participants are of good and honest nature. The following is a list of motives for Séance rituals, as approved by the Church of Avacyn:

  • Erinnerung (Remembrance): the participants want to commune with a Dearly Departed, their motivations are honest and their sole intent is to Remember the Fallen; for to Honor the Fallen is a very just motive, no more than two pieces of gold shall be requested for the ritual;
  • Vergebung (Forgiveness): the participants come to the medium carrying the Burden of Guilt and desire forgiveness for an action they committed against a loved one; their wrongs have been regretted and their hearts desire absolution from the dead and Peace of Mind for themselves; for this is a just motive, but is caused by wrongs actions, no more than four pieces of gold shall be requested for the ritual and the Medium shall report to the Cathars any grave crime he learns about;
  • Befriedung (Pacification): the participants want to bring solace to a Restless Dead, for the geist of a beloved person haunts the living; if not performed with pure heart, the ritual can be dangerous for the Medium, who shall perform the Séance to ensure the dead can be ensured its Blessed Sleep and Rest in Peace; for this is a selfless motivation, the Medium shall not request any compensation from the participants, but he will be compensated six pieces of gold by the Church of Avacyn;
  • Aufdekung (Uncovering): the participants want to delve the Secrets of the Dead, for a beloved person has died keeping a secret they seek to unveil; this is the most dangerous Séance ritual authorized by the Church of Avacyn, and the Medium shall bear the purest heart when attempting to See Beyond the veil of Death; for glimpsing at Visions of Beyond is of great danger, twelve pieces of gold shall be requested for the ritual.

Section 3: On geists and their motivations;

Séance may lead to communion with geists of various motivations. It is the duty of the Medium to know and recognize their reasons and act accordingly. The following is a list of manners and behaviors of the geists, as originally studied and described by Spirit Keeper Georg Nikolaus:

  • Gesegnete Geister (Blessed Spirits): the geists are the benevolent souls of kinder (children) and kleinkinder (infants); it is the duty of the Medium to grant them Serenity and peace, ensuring them their Blessed Sleep;
  • Mitternaechtliches Spuken (Midnight Haunting): the geist is unwillingly tormenting the living; because the path back to the world of the living can be murky and bewildering for the dead, a geist may not realize that it’s terrifying its own loved ones; it is the duty of the Medium to ensure the geist its Blessed Sleep;
  • Klagender Geist (Moaning Spirits): the geist sings a silent lullaby of eternal suffering, but it poses no threat to the living; however, its presence is of discomfort for the living; it is the duty of the Medium to silence its Murmurs from Beyond and ensure it its Blessed Sleep;
  • Verweilende Seelen (Lingering Souls: the geists dwell in the torment of their final moments of life, willingly bringing terror and sufferance to the living; it is duty of the Medium to protect the living and ensure the geists its Blessed Sleep;
  • Flichbeladener Geist (Accursed Spirit): this geist is of great danger for the living and attempts to torture and torment those who possess the gift of life; the Medium should avoid contact and report to the Church of Avacyn.

Section 4: On preparation and paraphernalia;

Séance rituals should always be performed in the dead of night, for Midnight Rituals are more likely to facilitate the peaceful coming of a spirit in the world of the living.

Various types of Séance rituals can require various components and paraphernalia. A Medium shall learn to master the use of the Crystal Ball for divination practices and to facilitate the communion with the unliving.

The use of various candles is recommended, for Candles' Glow is known to facilitate the summoning of geists who bear suffering in their restless souls.

For Erinnerung and Vergebung rituals, the Ashes of the Fallen can be used as a powerful catalyst to welcome spirits in their journey back to the world of the living.

Séance rituals can be performed in any Gavony Township, provided the Medium is authorized by the Church of Avacyn. Rituals can also be performed in isolated district and Moorland Haunts, with the authorization of the local militia. Séance rituals performed in Isolated Chapels or within a Cavern of Souls should be supervised by a Cathar or a Priest of the Church of Avacyn, for these places can catalyze dangerous presences and host uncontrollable phenomena.

Competitor Matthew Nielsen

Spoiler alert: Folks have died in the Magic storyline.

With that out of the way, we are gathered here today in hopes of reconnecting with the heroes who have gone on before us. We hope that those who have given themselves for the Greater Good of the Multiverse might come to us with some last advice for these troubled times.

“Where is here?” you ask. Well, as Planeswalkers, we have many options and can change if needed. If you seek a specific person, it is best to return to the places he or she fought for, but the history of the Multiverse is long, and some places can no longer be reached. Fortunately, the dead also congregate at places devoted to their memory and the memory of the past.

Hall of Triumph

I have spread the Ashes of the Fallen before us. Let us join hands and focus . . .  Wait! I can hear them now! Can you feel the presence of the Dearly Departed all around us?

Chandra, your parents want you to know they are very proud of you. So does your former abbot . . . But no, neither has any advice for you . . . They say you never listened to it when they were alive, so why would you do so now? Hey! That’s hot! Don’t burn the messenger.

Jazal Goldmane
Ajani? I am sorry, but those who kept their spark in death cannot be reached in this fashion. I know, I know. Heliod’s a jerk, and so is Erebos. But wait, your brother though . . . He’s impressed you’ve achieved so much while using his axe wrong . . . 

Gideon? None of the dead recognize a Gideon . . . But wait, Kytheon though . . . Yes, your old friends are here . . . Oh, you want advice for Zendikar . . . Ummm . . . The Eldrazi don’t tend to leave much of a soul . . . But there’s this goblin who has some interesting theories about the hedrons.

Now Koth, you come seeking advice in your fight against the Phyrexians. Of course your old friend Venser is here, but also . . . Well, many perished fighting the Phyrexians the first time, and it sounds like quite a few of them have advice they’d like to share. Especially this Gerrard guy . . . So many pithy quotes.

Venser, Shaper Savant

And last, you, Player . . . Whom do you desire advice from? You may have little personal connection to the dead, but with the right focus, we can draw their attention. Perhaps you wish to use this ancient sword (Hero's Blade) to commune with the khans of old . . . 

 . . . Or maybe this cane to consult a great artificer . . . 

Even if we don’t have the right object, a reenactment of events can draw their attention as well:

Whew . . . All done . . . Wait, a few more former heroes are eager to talk, but as they are perhaps best known for their final words, I’m not sure I’d recommend their advice.

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 Séance.

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The Judging

Nate’s Judgment

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).

Since issuing this challenge, many have asked whether I am the one hoarding all the Séances. The answer is yes, I am he (not really)!

Roberto Moser

Candles' Glow
A noble brew. Your guide to conducting an Innistrad séance is thorough and well-written. Like all brewmeisters who walk in here, I'll reiterate to you that the list matters first and foremost. To that end, you have some great flavor hits in here—some motivated by the artwork (Burden of Guilt), some by the flavorful card name (Murmurs from Beyond), and some as an abstraction of the theme that serves to illustrate the scene you're setting (Candles' Glow). Great stuff. You went deep on your card choices, and I'm giving you big boldness points for that.

I have a problem with the creatures in this deck. They're Spirits. Isn't the point of a séance to bring non-Spirits back the dead in spirit form? The séance creates the spirit experience. Perhaps you meant to set this in that Beetlejuice realm where the dead go when they die. The double-dead? If so, that wasn't clear. I understand the desire to stay on theme regarding spirits, but this seems to be the laziest way to go about it.

Still, it’s an excellent deck, if imperfect.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the theme: 3

Matthew Nielsen

Feldon of the Third Path
I believe this to be the first true masterpiece of the Next Ironroot Chef competition. Well done! The deck tells a clear, flavorful story. You have your legendary heroes. They are martyrs for their causes, sacrificed for the Greater Good. They come back from the dead to give counsel to Planeswalkers in dire need of spiritual wisdom in their struggle to fight the big bad guys. The choice of legends is nice, especially Feldon, for whom death and return are deeply personal.

My favorite aspect of this deck is how cleanly the story would play at the table. Planeswalkers are not creatures and don't return from the dead via Séance. They are alive and in need of help. The legendary creatures are the ones coming back to talk. The two character archetypes are neatly separated both in flavor and in gameplay. Big points for boldness there. You could've missed this angle and still gotten a decent score. But I always want that extra gear for the story, and the unique PW–legend relationship via Séance does that for me.

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the theme: 3

Stybs’s Judgment

Adam Styborski @the_stybs

Adam is the Content Manager for Gathering Magic. He's 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.

Competitor Roberto Moser

Crystal Ball
I'm seeing your style of story-meets-card-names-in-running-text. While it isn't my cup of tea, it's abundantly obvious as your trademark. Like other chefs before you, the quirks and style you carry are shining through. I appreciate that.

While you have attention to detail, I have to note your form wavers ever so slightly. I enjoyed the through of a guidebook for spiritual contact being written on Innistrad, a plane defined by matters of spirits and monsters entirely. What I wanted to see was a better connection between the Spirits and why we're contacting them. Where's the wisest, oldest priest to teach whoever is reading this? Who has come to the sanctuary of Avacyn seeking contact with the dead?

Your creative might and theme cut a clear path, I just wish it was a touch bolder:

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 2

Adherence to the theme: 3

Competitor Matthew Nielsen

Koth of the Hammer
Like your competitor, your clarity of style and vision are apparent. I'm pleased with your approach, blending the mechanical callouts and flavor of cards to piece together what the Séance is doing.

But for all your purpose, I began to feel it was a gimmick gone too far. I liked the flavor of today's character heroes exploring what their past has to tell them. Even the humor of Gideon using the opportunity to ask for an edge against the Eldrazi feels right given his blunt modus operandi.

But the player . . . me? Why not let me choose an accouterment of an artifact and legendary creature that matters to me to complete the deck? You had a golden opportunity to let the recipient of your dish put the final garnish on in a symbolic note that what we individually want to know from those gone by is to each our own.

You were so close to perfection for me, if only you had let us choose what that meant for us:

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the theme: 3

Voting closes midnight Thursday, and the first winner will be announced Friday (12/25/2015). 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 email 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.

Order Oath of the Gatewatch at CoolStuffInc.com today!

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