The Mimeoplasm by Svetlin Velinov
Now that word is out on the previously-top-secret project The Complete Commander, I can finally introduce the writer who won the grand prize in my fiction contest and received, as part of the prize package, publication in Bennie Smith’s Commander eBook.
This fiction contest necessarily had very narrow restrictions, in order to fit the themes of the book and complement a particular decklist in a particular deck-building chapter. So while I received really great and unique submissions from everybody (even some of my awesome readers!), there were just a ton of “boxes to check” for entries to qualify for publication.
From Chapter 8: Rafiq of the Many in The Complete Commander by Bennie Smith
Ant’s entry demonstrated a lot of rigor and/or experience—it had obviously been proofread and edited before he sent it (as an editor, I always appreciate it when the writer has triple-checked his or her own work), so the copy was clean and easy to read. He’d done a great job of interpreting the decklist technically, proficiently describing what might actually happen in a game of Commander with Rafiq as the commander of a Sliver army. And his story was funny on top of all that. It’s always great when a generally-well-behaved icon like Rafiq can end a tale on the high note of physically assaulting the Planeswalker he serves.
In addition, I was pleased to find out during the publication process that Ant is a hardworking, positive, humble, and kind person—plus, he’s a real Commander enthusiast! I hope you enjoy his version of Rafiq’s (mis)adventures and his interview answers below. Keep an eye out for more of Ant’s work—I have a feeling you’ll be seeing his words in print in months to come.
Ant Tessitore is a whirlwind of creative energy. Whether he is writing fiction or world-building for game campaigns on his blog at anthroplasm909.blogspot.com, Ant is always flexing his creative brain meat. Ant enjoys traveling with his fiancée, listening to NPR, and releasing his inner Rakdos. Follow Ant on Twitter @ANThroplasm.
1. What moment with Magic first got you hooked?
It was 1994, Magic was the cool new thing, and I was six. My mom’s best friend’s son Matt used to babysit me, and he would let me look at his cards. From the first moment I saw them, I was immediately drawn in by the art, names, and flavor text (I had no idea what the mechanics meant), and I’ve been a diehard Vorthos ever since.
Sisters of Stone Death by Donato Giancola
2. What are a couple of your favorite Commander decks? How’d they come into being?
There are two main decks that I use right now:
The Mimeoplasm – This deck is full of crazy stuff. I constantly switch the list around to keep my friends guessing and to play up the fact that he is a giant, shapeshifting Ooze, so you never know what he will be next.
Sisters of Stone Death – This is my favorite (and most Vorthos) deck. I made this as a deck that Vraska the Unseen would play if she played Commander. All spell and creature choices were tied to her by flavor first, mechanics second (Gorgons, Assassins, etc.). If a card would mechanically work perfectly in the deck, but did not match her flavor, I didn't use it, which I think makes the list that much better.
Ral Zarek by Eric Deschamps
3. If you could steal an item of clothing or an accessory off any Planeswalker and it keep it for yourself, what would you choose, and why?
If my friends answered this for me, they would say Jace’s hood because I am rarely seen not wearing a hoodie. However, I’m going to have to go with Ral Zarek’s coiling dragon forearm tattoo. It’s not really an item, but I'm sure it's infused with magical properties, and it looks awesome.
4. Forced into exile on New Phyrexia, which three Magical items do you take with you?
5. What’s your number-one suggestion for improving Magic in a Vorthos-cares area (art, culture, social/community issues, books, comics, etc.)?
I would love to see an expanded universe, similar to how Star Wars has an Expanded Universe outside of the six main films, wherein different authors and designers could create books, comics, video games, TV shows, movies, toys, and other media that are grounded in the Magic: The Gathering Multiverse.
6. You can ask for (and be guaranteed to receive) one artifact as a holiday gift from Karn. What do you ask for?
Fleetfeather Sandals, so that I could quickly run and fly wherever I wanted—and look good while doing so.
7. Say you got the dream job of writing a creative piece (like an e-book) for Magic. Which plane would be your preferred setting, and what would you write into the plot given free reign?
I would really like to write on Dominaria. It was the first plane I experienced, and it has a lot of nostalgic meaning for me. After Time Spiral block, Dominaria is kind of like a blank slate, so there would be so much opportunity to write my favorite plane in a new light while still referencing pieces of the past. For my plot, I would focus my story around an assassin, done in a way that feels fresh and true to Magic.
Juzam Djinn by Mark Tedin
8. Life-or-death question, you have to choose: What’s your favorite card art ever?
For me, the answer to that question will always be Juzam Djinn. That art stands out in my mind when I think back to when I first discovered Magic as a child, and it always brings a smile to my face.
Quest for the Holy Relic
“Walker! Why must you insist on summoning me into situations like this?”
“Nice to see you too,” I said. “You know, most people would appreciate the opportunity to visit other planes as you have.”
“Most people would not appreciate being summoned into near death experiences to serve as your meat shield!”
I ducked under Rafiq’s broadsword as he sliced one of my alien pursuers in two, then smashed another’s skull to a pulp with the hilt of his blade.
“We need to get out of here!” he shouted.
“I need to concentrate,” I replied. “Stall them.”
“I shouldn’t be on this plane. Damn talon-worms . . . ” Rafiq complained, swinging his blade back and forth in great arcs in front of us, keeping the swarm at bay. “There are too many!”
The brief pause in their attacks was long enough for my spell to complete. I grabbed hold of Rafiq’s armor as the Blind Eternities pulled us from Shandalar.
. . .
Rafiq landed in a huff. “Where have you taken us, walker? This is not Bant.”
“Dominaria. I thought while I had you with me you could help with something. I promise it will be worth your while . . . ”
“I no longer require items of monetary value.” replied Rafiq. “As the most sigiled knight on Bant, I seek a more spiritual growth.”
“Exactly why I thought you might be interested. I’m here for a holy relic.”
Rafiq looked up. “Holy relic eh? That’s more in line with my agenda. Be quick about it walker, the air here is too acidic for my taste.”
We came to the opening of a small cavern. The walls of the cave were coated with a hardened saliva mixture that reflected the light as if it were still wet.
“What place is this?” asked Rafiq.
“An abandoned hive.”
“A source has informed me the relic is buried somewhere inside.”
Suddenly I felt an impact at the back of my skull. My teeth slammed together with such force they split through my bottom lip. The world spun, and I fell.
“Walker!” Rafiq was yelling over me. “Walker get up! We are under attack. One of your kind!”
As I came to I could make out a small woman in the base of the valley. She was dressed in a playful array of hooks and chains, her body showing beneath them covered in tattoos. The woman had brought with her a man I recognized as Kaervek the Merciless, a voodoo mage from Dominaria’s past. She was reaching for a sheath at her side when there was a flash of green light and a hooded planeswalker appeared flanked by a large oozing monstrosity.
“Rafiq, prepare yourself.”
“I am Rafiq of the Many,” he stated. “I am always ready.”
The female walker moved her hands through a quick pass of arcane symbols. She reached back and hurled a fist-sized ball of fire toward the newly arrived planeswalker. The ball of flames reached its destination and rapidly expanded, leaving the hooded walker’s ooze pet in a pile of black ashes.
The owner of the ash pile responded with magic of his own. He slammed his palm into the ground and vegetation rapidly grew around him until he was immersed in a deep tropical jungle. An elemental composed of thick thorny vines burst from the freshly formed trees with impossible speed. It broke the ground as it tore toward Kaervek, slamming into his chest and ripping him to ribbons. As quickly as it appeared the elemental returned to its owner and collapsed in a heap of plant matter at his feet.
“You better have something good for me.” Rafiq said as he watched the two walkers destroy each other’s summonings. “I’d rather not end up like that.”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan”
I summoned two new species I had bonded with on Shandalar.
“This one is a predator on its plane. See how it warps the other two into deadly attack forms? And this one can supply the hive with mana.”
“They are so scrawny . . . please tell me they are not the only reason we were almost killed earlier,” moaned Rafiq.
“Quit whining and equip the runed stalactite I gave you so you can assume their form and gain their strengths.”
“Absolutely not. You know how I feel about that thing,” Rafiq replied, tossing the stalactite at my feet before running toward the battlefield. “I fight with honor.”
There was a great crash from within the summoned jungle. An imperiosaur—a gigantic lizard with jaws that could chomp a man in two—erupted in a headlong charge, its eyes locked on Rafiq.
Never have I seen a man run so quickly.
The monster at his heels, Rafiq tore back across the valley toward where I was making my stand.
“What happened to fighting with hono—”
The imperiosaur bit a chunk of fabric off Rafiq’s battle tabard.
The instant Rafiq caught the stalactite he gained the form and strength of my slivers. He turned and met the charging imperiosaur with a flurry of talon strikes, reducing the creature to a bloody pile of flesh.
The female walker was cackling with nihilistic glee as she watched the battle unfold. She had summoned a massive stairwell of tombstones descending into the underworld. Undead began slowly rising out of the pit.
“That cannot be good,” observed Rafiq upon returning to my side. “How do we deal with the zombie hoard?” I could not help but wince at his appearance and the clicking sound in his voice.
I summoned a sliver with a swollen, massive brain.
“This sliver will allow the hive to gain a telepathic power they can use to stun the enemy and allow you to attack unimpeded,” I explained to Rafiq as my army’s heads began to swell accordingly.
“And if the power has no effect on the mindless undead?” he asked.
I called forth a sliver capable of slipping into the realm of shadow.
“This should do nicely.”
At that moment, the hooded green walker emerged from his summoned forest and called forth a large shifting mass.
“A changeling colossus. It will gain some benefit from my slivers. This is not good.”
The colossus stomped toward the female walker, its form continuously undulating, doubling and quadrupling in size.
The woman, laughing, reached into her sheath and pulled out a silver scepter. With a flourish she pointed the scepter at the charging monstrosity and uttered a single word of power. A bolt of force erupted from the scepter and slammed into the colossus, boring a gaping hole straight through its chest.
“Walker—!” Rafiq turned to me.
The scepter wielding mad-woman had turned and leveled her weapon in our direction.
“I know!” I quickly summoned a sliver that released a harmonic chatter, causing the scepter to disintegrate in the red walker’s hand.
Furious, the woman summoned a large demon to her side, its scaled body covered in glowing demonic runes. The demon crouched beside her and whispered into her ear before flying off and driving its clawed hand through the green planeswalker’s gut. The demon circled around and landed beside the woman, licking the entrails from its menacing talons.
“This isn’t good, walker. Bring out your lead belly and let us finish this,” Rafiq said.
“You will need more than that.”
I summoned not only the chimera, but a suit of darksteel plate around Rafiq.
“That armor will make you nearly invulnerable.”
“I like the sound of that,” he replied as he ripped the horns from the chimera and magically bonded them to his helm.
I reached out into the Eternities, thinking back to the final bond I had made while on Shandalar.
As the monstrous sliver answered my call, my summonings began to shudder. A sickening sound of popping cartilage filled the air as my summonings grew threefold in size and strength.
“What power . . . ” rumbled Rafiq as he looked down at my now-tiny figure.
My opponent seemed indifferent as she watched my army grow to the size of giants. She glanced at her demon and smiled, before casting the spell he’d granted her upon his arrival to the plane.
The sun became a pitch-black spot in the center of the sky. A ghoulish screeching sound began to rip through the valley. The sun had become a hole, sucking up all life until the entire battlefield save myself, the woman, and Rafiq, remained.
For the first time, I saw the woman frown.
She cursed to herself, then cast a spell which caused the earth to split apart. The indestructible armor along with the stalactite Rafiq was holding were stripped away and pulled into the chasm. The woman summoned Kaervek back to her side, and with a final flourish placed a curse on Rafiq that drained him of his strength.
“What now,” he wheezed. “I am of no use to you like this.”
“I need to think. Any spell I cast will harm me as long as she has Kaervek to work his voodoo magic.”
Suddenly Rafiq’s eyes went red with magical rage. He looked up at the woman, roared, and bounded straight toward her.
“Save. Yourself . . . ” he managed to reply as he closed in on Kaervek.
I had one choice. As the woman licked her lips, planning to allow her minion to destroy Rafiq, I took what remaining mana I had and cast a spell that would grant Rafiq the strength he needed to survive the battle. Kaervek's magics took effect, and the flesh burned from my body as I forced the spell to completion before my world went black.
. . .
“Walker . . . walker!”
I came to with Rafiq looking down at me.
“You’re not half bad,” he said, smiling. “With the last spell you cast I was able to make short work of them.”
I winced as I sat up, aching everywhere I should have had flesh.
“I hope that holy relic is worth all this,” Rafiq said as he helped me to my feet.
“It will take more than blisters to keep me from the hivestone,” I murmured.
Rafiq punched me in the face.
“Hivestone?! You mean this ‘holy object’ is just some worm-talon relic?” he fumed, standing over me a second time. “I did not sign up for this!”
I could not help but laugh . . . harder than I had in a long while.