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Next Ironroot Chef: Battle Granny's Payback


It's a holiday week in the United States, and visiting families is a common occurrence. Of course, family meet ups can go awry, too. With two contestants vying to avoid elimination as the next Ironroot Chef, our chairman chose a clever mix of dishing up justice with the seasonal feeling of the week: Granny's Payback.

For Russel Lee and Roberto Moser, it was time to get payback for their losses before fading like memories of old.

Granny's Payback

Whose cuisine can be supreme? This is the first elimination bout for the Next Ironroot Chef!

Competitor Russel Lee

“Grandma, play Magic with us? You can borrow one of our decks.”

Craw Wurm
“That’s okay, sweetheart, I found my own. I hadn’t thought about Magic in ages. We played as a family for a few years when it first came out. The last set we got cards for was Visions. Grandpa, bless his heart, was a hoarder, which works in your favor,” she said, smiling as she opened an old shoebox and pulled out some tattered, heavily played cards. The look of awe and confusion on the face of her grandchildren was worth every second while she sleeved the deck she made for that moment.

“We didn’t have sleeves to protect our cards. Dual lands were just cards that tapped for two kinds of mana. Nobody played with Moxes. Why bother when you could just play lands? Cards like Demonic Tutor, Library of Alexandria, and Mana Drain were uncommons. Come to think of it, so was Force of Will, but nobody cared about that. It was too expensive to cast.”

“But, you cast it for free,” one of the kids said, puzzled.

“Of course, but it took time to catch on. We were busy with Craw Wurms—I still love that card, Lightning Bolts, and Fireballs. We couldn’t be bothered with over-costed Counterspell,” she laughed. “Magic has changed immensely over the years. I can barely keep up with what you two keep playing. I like the old cards better. Though I did get something new online the other day, just for fun.”

“What is it?” they asked eagerly.

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” she said, finishing sleeving, shuffling, and offering the deck to be cut. “Mind if I go first?”

“Not at all,” they chuckled.

Mox Emerald
“Thank you, dear. Here goes. Underground Sea, Mox Emerald, Mox Sapphire . . . I never did finish my set of Power. Your turn.”

Misty Rainforest?”

“We didn’t have cards like that. Anything else?” She smiled. “At the end of your turn, cast Ancestral Recall to draw three cards and then Mystical Tutor for Channel. Okay? Draw for turn. Play Tropical Island, tap Underground Sea and Mox Emerald for Demonic Tutor. Cast Time Walk with Mox Sapphire and Tropical Island. My turn again?”

“Yeah. Your turn, Grandma.”

“Thanks, sweetie. Draw for turn. Play a Forest. Tap Forest and Tropical Island for Channel. Pay 7 life for 7 mana, tap Mox Emerald for Granny's Payback.”

“W—what?” both kids read the card and blanched.

“How old am I?”

“Uh . . . sixty?”

“Not quite. My birthday isn’t until next month, so I’ll gain 59 life. Turn it into mana, tap Mox Sapphire and Underground Sea, and, since I didn’t see any red mana, Braingeyser you for fifty-nine.”

“That isn’t fair!”

“No, but there’s a lesson in it.”

“What’s that?”

“Not all cards are Black Lotus, but there’s power in age—even imitators like Brainstorm, Vampiric Tutor, and Merchant Scroll. Would you like to play again? I’ll borrow one of your decks this time.”

“Can we play that one?”

“Some day.”

Editions: 4 Underground Sea (2 Limited Edition Beta, 1 Unlimited Edition, 1 Revised Edition); 3 Tropical Island (1 Unlimited Edition, 2 Revised Edition); 2 Volcanic Island (2 Limited Edition Beta); 2 Bayou (2 Revised Edition); 3 Forest (2 Limited Edition Beta, Variant 2 and 1 Limited Edition Beta, Variant 3); 3 Island (1 Limited Edition Beta, Variant 2 and 2 Limited Edition Beta Variant 1); 2 Swamp (Unlimited Edition, Variant 3); 1 Black Lotus (Unlimited Edition); 1 Mox Sapphire (Unlimited Edition); 1 Mox Emerald (Limited Edition Beta); 1 Mox Jet (Limited Edition Beta); 1 Channel (Limited Edition Beta); 3 Fireball (1 Limited Edition Beta, 2 Revised Edition); 3 Braingeyser (1 Unlimited Edtion, 2 Revised Edition); 1 Time Walk (Unlimited Edition); 1 Demonic Tutor (Limited Edition Beta); 1 Brainstorm (Ice Age); 4 Granny's Payback (foil Unhinged); 4 Lightning Bolt (2 Unlimited Edition, 1 Revised Edition, 1 Limited Edition Beta); 4 Craw Wurm (Limited Edition Beta)

Competitor Roberto Moser

Editions: 4 Forest (Limited Edition Alpha #280); 2 Island (Limited Edition Alpha #282); 4 Plains (Limited Edition Alpha #285); 4 Swamp (Limited Edition Alpha #291)

They woke me up in the middle of the night. These little punks wanted a decklist. I hate decklists.

You better show me some Due Respect, little punk, or you won’t get no decklist.

Now Silence, you little hooligan.

You just sit there, stay quiet, while I find my Glasses of Urza.

Learn from the Past
Take Care of the Elderly (before They Take Care of You) is not a deck. It’s the celebration of the elderly women in our community—of their Holistic Wisdom and all the valuable lessons we can learn from them.

Granny's Payback is a beautiful card and the true soul of this deck. At first glance, this card depicts a proud, elderly woman who knows her life is a wonderful journey of experiences and wisdom. Her age is not just a number: She treasures every year of her existence with the fair acumen of a true sage. Learn from the Past? She surely does—every day.

But this card gives us so much more. You might not notice at a first glance, but this proud woman doesn’t just Dwell on the Past. She’s not simply contemplating all the beautiful memories she cherishes. She knows her age brings responsibilities. She knows she has to take matters in her hands, Dispense Justice, and put all her wisdom into practice. She doesn’t want to just live a life of Quiet Contemplation. Her eyes do not just linger on distant memories. She is the Retribution of the Ancients in the flesh. And she’s down to teach kids a lesson.

Did I say you could start talking? Who do you think you are, little punk? Show me some Humility, you disrespectful brat! Do you want me to use my Rod of Spanking, kid? You sit back in your chain and shut your mouth, while I find my Feldon's Cane.

As I was saying, the deck is a tribute to these powerful and self-accomplished women, who inspire us every day. In the decklist, you can find some of the most successful old ladies in the history of Magic: The Gathering. They surely made their nephews proud—maybe by punching some sanity inside young generations’ minds, but who am I to judge?

Grandmother Sengir
Grandmother Sengir is quite possibly the perfect card for the deck: a strong and proud woman of immense power. She is completely insane, but she wears her insanity with the beautiful smile of a life worth living. One look into those beautiful eyes will leave you Cowed by Wisdom . . . and fear—but mostly wisdom.

Lambholt Elder has double value: She teaches you to never judge a book by its cover, and I have a feeling she packs quite a punch behind those wrinkles. Her friend Martyr of Ashes also reminds us that vulnerability in an elderly person is not a symptom of weakness, but a true symbol of power. Be afraid, little punks. Be very afraid.

Jeskai Elder stays on theme of strong and independent women. She lived a life of contemplation and wisdom, but she is always ready to put her wisdom into action. When she wields her chain whip, you know she is bringing Harsh Justice to the disrespectful younglings. And so does Pendelhaven Elder: She might seem inoffensive, but she surely means business, when there’s someone to protect in Pendelhaven.

Enlightened Tutor shows us an apparently peaceful approach to teaching. Her kind smile reveals a wisdom that is a true treasure to her nation; her power is in the secrets she keeps. Don’t mess with her if you don’t want her to use her magic-stone-screwdriver on you.

Sorine Relicbane, a Soldevi Sage heretic, is literally hell-bent on revealing secrets: When the truth is hidden, nothing can stop her—not even a disrespectful kid who doesn’t want to learn the lesson.

Deepwood Elder is living proof of the importance of duty. She is vigilant and restless, showing that you can age quiet well in the Deep Wood of Mercadia, and not just in the Jeskai Temples.

Magus of the Unseen
Speaking of aging well, let’s not forget Magus of the Unseen. Beauty in life isn’t everything, but I’m pretty sure she can teach a lot of your girls how to take care of their skin. And she lived through the Ice Age of Dominaria, so I’m sure she’s way tougher than she looks.

Argothian Elder reminds us the importance of growing wiser: She truly embraces the Elvish culture and makes sure new generations remember the values of their people. Sharpen your ears and listen closely, ’cause this woman has seen the Brothers’ War and is not afraid and vulnerable as you might think.

Speaking of culture and community, Wizened Cenn just screams responsibility and sense of community. Her wise eyes witness with fair justice the passing of generations, her Accumulated Knowledge the culmination of a lifetime of experiences.

But knowledge is nothing if it’s not put into practice. Cheap Ass teaches her nephews the importance of economics, reminds us all that saving for the future is always better than spending today. To her, the “payback” in Granny's Payback is not just figurative. She’s going to have those kids pay back—cash.

We dwell into uncharted territory with Mother of Runes. While we can’t tell for sure if she’s also a grandmother, she surely teaches a lessons on the value of family, whatever your family is.

We also have the beautiful flavor of Abbey Matron. She is probably some kind of nun, so she probably wouldn’t qualify as a grandmother, but I just can’t resist her Gaze of Justice as part of the deck theme. Her expression teaches us all to always be Humble and respectful in front of the elderly.

And finally, a personal favorite, Old Fogey embodies the true spirit of the deck: a ruthless and merciless criticism toward anything new, fueled by years of experiences within Magic: The Gathering. In the everlasting words of Abraham Simpson, “The Good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to gain wisdom to find fault with everything he’s made!” Old Fogey reminds us exactly that. And also that you can live a full Magic: The Gathering life, even if you are a tyrannosaurus.

Who you talking to, you scoundrel? Have you done the whole deck tech already? Oh, when I was your age, I was lucky if I was allowed to explain a single card! Oh, kids these days.


Can I just say, real quickly, that the lands have been chosen to give a sense of passing of time? So you have Ancient Den and Ancient Spring, but there’s also a tranquility subtheme, with Tranquil Cove, Tranquil Garden, and Tranquil Thicket.

And, of course, the basics have to be from Alpha. If there’s something clear, here, is the fact that you can’t beat the original.

You shut your mouth and eat your Hot Soup.

Yes, sorry.

And get off my Khalni Garden.

But I’m sitting in the living room.

Have you seen my Spatula of the Ages?

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 Granny's Payback.

{six different polls, each with an end date of midnight 11/26}

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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).

Russel Lee

Let me get this out of the way: Your short story is great. I was genuinely amused as I read it. But, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The story of a deck must come from the list itself and not rely on supplemental materials to convey its flavor. The story is a bonus. What we have here is too much icing and not enough cake.

What I see: a run-of-the-mill Vintage list with Granny's Payback and Craw Wurms. Am I missing anything? I get that the cards are old. There're a billion old Magic cards. If "old cards" is your theme, you could've been more original in your expression of that theme.

Creativity: 1

Boldness: 1

Adherence to the theme: 2

Roberto Moser

A clean execution of a clear theme. The creatures are a collection of Magic's old fogeys. The artifacts are the bric-a-brac they rely on in everyday life. The spells are a reflection of their wisdom and their general grumpiness. Nice job! I especially like that you included Unhinged cards to honor the spirit of Granny's Payback, but not just any Unhinged cards: ones that help paint your picture (Cheap Ass, LOL).

I think you could've included some bolder choices. Everything in this list makes sense. To become a Master Ironroot Chef, you need to add just a pinch of something that takes the theme to another level, something that makes me go, "Huh?" And then it sinks in, and I get it, and my taste buds explode.

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 2

Adherence to the theme: 3

Adam’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.

Russel Lee

Contrived stories. I'm a judge who’s firmly in the camp of letting cards—not a post-hoc explanation—tell me what's going on. When I see the deck, it's a pile of old cards with a sore thumb sticking out: Granny's Payback . . . in foil no less!

One of these is so incredibly unlike the others it's a lesson too easy even for Sesame Street.

I appreciated your story immensely. Calling to the wisdom of the older with an effect that can only come from longevity of experiences (their age) was clever. But I didn't buy that Granny had a deck of all these cards or would keep an old deck to the rules of today's Vintage banned list. The resurgence of formats like Old-School Magic felt like a better fit for a Granny that kept up, albeit quietly, with Magic.

The challenge of Ironroot Chef is to find cards that convey an experience, through art, flavor, and function. Your deck hardly gave me anyone, and I'm sorely disappointed.

Your score is more generous than the chairman's score, but it's a strong disadvantage for you.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 2

Adherence to the theme: 1

Roberto Moser

Unlike your competitor, your deck sings its tale loudly. It's a clear adventure into the domain of the old, with a mix of the mundane-made-wacky by sheer juxtaposition together.

But like the chairman noted, it lacked a punchy flavor to pull me in.

I appreciated nods to grandmotherly tropes, but I sorely wished the overall theme was tighter. Using the count of cards to convey what's important is one tool I appreciate in competitors, but here, everything was just an even dash of one-ofs.

Adding pizazz with one-ofs and using more of specific cards to crafts cohesion is where I'd point you for any future attempts. Consider less focus on, again, a post-hoc story that includes mentions of cards and instead piece together the taste of creativity using the cards and flavor text they come with.

Your score reflects your strong effort but leaves room for improvement that you can pull off.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 2

Adherence to the theme: 3

Voting closes midnight Thursday, and the first winner will be announced Friday (11/26/2015). 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 culinary challengers to the core.

Next week, we’ll feature the first winners round of the Next Ironroot Chef showdown. What card will they face off with? What flavor will our enigmatic chairman call upon for a creative card pile?

Follow us as the search for the next Ironroot Chef continues!

The Battle for Zendikar is here. Order singles, booster packs and more at CoolStuffInc.com today!

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