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MJ's Ultimate Cosplay: Sweet Sixteen Vote

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The first installment of this series, if you missed it, talks about my motivation behind this project and asked for nominations for cosplays that might embody the spirit of Magic. Basically, I’m indulging myself in an immersive crash course in modern cosplay that, I hope, results in an amazing MTG costume. My main goal is learning, a close second is excellence in execution, and after, that I would love to have the costume featured publicly somewhere. Cosplay is booming as a cultural phenomenon, and I’m glad. Final Fantasy, League of Legends, Diablo, and every anime under the sun are extremely visible. Magic should be, too.

Also, I need a reason to get in shape.

“Dear MJ: Please stop eating onion rings and Sourdough Jacks at 2:00 A.M. Thanks.” —Nicol Bolas.

Magic is hard to distill down to one image or character. Some have told me it really can’t be done, and perhaps that’s true, but I’m still going to swing for the fences. Richard Garfield costume aside (I look awful in bowties), there has to be a decent visual solution to this puzzle.

Time for our fighters to duke it out! Today’s theme is Vorthos tribal, and it promises to be a real slugfest.

Voting

Elf Battle: Nissa Revane vs. Llanowar Elves

I’ve been known to say, “All Elves must die.” But outside of Magic, I have serious elf love: I remember dressing up as Arwen for a premiere in Seattle, and Link is one of my favorite video game heroes of all time. I was infatuated with Legolas for years, the magnitude of my lust proven by the size of the poster of him hanging directly over my bed . . . A red sun rises . . . mmm, yep. So, my hatred of elves in Magic is pretty much just that Wilt-Leaf Liege derailed my discard brew on Magic Game Day 2010. Plus, they’re depicted rather annoyingly in the novels from Lorwyn forward. Nissa is, in fact, the worst offender because she traipses around Akoum brandishing some kind of sprouting weapon (I pictured it as a stalk of asparagus), oblivious to the fact that Sorin is eating all the goblins in their party.

But despite all of that, elves in Magic have a pretty rad sense of style, and I liked Nissa’s devotion to her homeland. She, like Glissa, has a fierce warrior persona that appeals. Llanowar is similarly warlike, and their punk-Rihanna-steam aesthetic is actually really hot right now. We have great references for both—huge Nissa wallpaper, and Elvish Champion and Llanowar Sentinel—to help create the full Llanowar ensemble. I see an opportunity to do LEDs on both these costumes—in Nissa’s staff and in the eyepiece on Llanowar. Plus, both have body paint and prosthetic learning opportunities. Nissa’s look lends well to accessibility (who doesn’t love an environmental evangelist elf?), and Llanowar Elves is obviously among the most iconic images in MTG. Is an elf the right choice to fight for Magic in the cosplay arena?

[poll id="261"]

Angel Battle: Platinum Angel vs. Basandra, Battle Seraph

As much as I wanted to include Serra Angel and Razia, I couldn’t for very specific reasons. Serra is of course possibly the biggest MTG icon, but to do her homage, I’d want to use the Alpha art as reference, and that doesn’t give us much to go on for a cosplay. While Razia was a fan favorite on Twitter—she is rockin’ some serious ’80s-style metal butt floss!—were I to build that costume faithfully . . . well, in the words of Ace of Base: “Don’t turn around!” . . . ‘cause you’re gonna see my thong song. Yeah. No. Moving on: I love me some redheads. Dark Phoenix, Laura Prepon in That ’70s Show (now viewable in Orange is the New Black . . . albeit as a brunette), Peggy Bundy from Married with Children. Basandra is the hotness, and she’s wearing an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, very detailed loincloth bikini. I’d be doing a lot of sit-ups to pull that one off. Platinum Angel’s art is just sick. She’s unique and recognizable; dudes get tats of her. Artifacts players around the world shower her with affection. I love some Angels, and I hate some. I hate Linvala and Sublime and Glory’s Rise. I love Tariel and Twilight Shepherd and these two.

Obviously, the big challenge with cosplaying an angel is the wings. So, doing one of these high-impact, stunning ladies would give us the chance to really learn about that engineering. Wings are a defining feature of angels, and that would be my primary tech focus on these cosplays. Both ladies also have nice armor-detailing opportunities as well, along with interesting weapon accessories. Huge reference pics of both are available, so getting in there for the tasty bits would be no problem. Should Magic give us wings in this cosplay challenge?

[poll id="262"]

Wizard Battle: Meloku the Clouded Mirror vs. Nin, the Pain Artist

A close cut here was Delver. The idea of a double-sided cosplay intrigues me, but I decided to save that one for when my skills have grown. I also considered including an iconic spell such as Brainstorm, Ponder, or Counterspell, but deciding on a characterization of these abstract action cards was just too “out there” for this first cosplay. So, we come to Soratami and Vedalken. I have a soft spot for Nin because one of my most beloved alter commissions was from someone who wanted a full-art Nin holding a Stuffy Doll. Even though I was fairly new at altering, I was really happy with the end result. The cool depths of Nin’s eyes are just amazing, and I think her art hints at a . . . uh . . . stimulating backstory. Hey, that’s a great fanfic idea! I have a different kind of affection for Meloku since he’s from my homeland of Kamigawa (nudge-nudge). No, seriously, isn’t he everything you’d want in a wizard? Cool, calculating, avant-garde style, a brilliant mind? Yeah, smokin’ is what he is.

Decent reference pics exist for both; plus, Meloku has his own statue . For Nin, we’d need to do a little fashion-design workshop to imagine the rest of her dress, but that could be fun. Soratami ears and Vedalken arms are great opportunities in prosthetics, both have interesting pieces of jewelry, and needless to say the makeup on both these mages would be bonkers. These are two of the most difficult costumes shown in the bracket, and I love that both are super-exciting for such different reasons. Meloku has serious hairstyling and fabric-sourcing needs. Nin has four arms and very specific accessories. Should a deviant wizard cast our Magic cosplay spell?

[poll id="263"]

Human Battle: Jeska, Warrior Adept vs. Captain Sisay

Ah, the pathos of the human storyline in Magic! While rarely the most traffic-stopping of creatures, homo sapiens in all five colors generally are imbued with a little more narrative than say . . . a baloth. Planeswalkers, phooey! Every good Vorthos knows the real stories are carried by our human heroes. Here, we have two very iconic ladies whose histories in Magic are burgeoning with flavor. On one hand, we have the daring Captain Sisay, an integral part of the Weatherlight arc and the Phyrexian defeat on Dominaria. On the other, we have Jeska, who became Phage and then a planeswalker, sacrificing herself to start the Mending.

These ladies are iconic in a Magic-geek kind of way, which in my mind makes them quite appealing. You know them better if you’ve been playing awhile and even better if you read some of the books. Look at the wallpaper of Jeska, and you can see she has quite a bit more detail than is apparent in the dark-hued card art. Love that she’s done by my friend rk Post! Sisay has a simple but dynamic outfit, also with nice detail, especially on her pauldrons and belt. And hello, Commander! Both ladies give us opportunities to work with materials like leather and deal in subtle skin tone changes—in Jeska’s case, I might have to shun the sun for several months, while in Sisay’s case, a bottle of spray tan (or a Hawaiian vacation) might be called for. Should a human inspire our charge into cosplay?

[poll id="264"]

Fur Battle: Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni vs. Mirri, Cat Warrior

I have worn a fur suit before. It was back in my acting days, working in Seattle. I had a gig as an extra for a reality practical-joke type show called Trigger Happy TV (U.S. port of the Brit version). Basically, they’d stage some elaborate pranks around Sea-Town and film people’s reactions. I was in a dog suit, in an alley, playing a dog who’d been arrested for leaving a giant turd on the sidewalk. That suit was possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever worn, and I do not envy team mascots nor Chuck E. Cheese.

But I am more than happy to suffer furrily for Magic! Mirri, like Sisay, is a veteran of Weatherlight and a storyline hard-hitter. Also, well—Thunder . . . thunder . . . thunder . . . Thundercats! Ink-Eyes doesn’t even have a Salvation page, but she’s a notorious brawler—making appearances in Standard (in her day) and more recently in Cubes. Cat and rat suits are high-difficulty, high-reward. Opportunities abound here for learning about crafting edged weapons and animal heads. I could see putting LEDs in Ink-Eyes’s eye sockets and having my sightline out of the mouth instead. Mirri is depicted on a ton of cards, giving us a lot of fodder to draw from for costuming. Those of you who know me might remember I’m always giving Ajani a hard time, but I’m really not catist. I like Black Cat. I could be down with Mirri. Ink-Eyes, like Meloku, has her own statue, and I have said statue in my Magic dungeon. Should a furry friend be Magic’s cosplay ambassador?

[poll id="265"]

Phyrexian Battle: Glissa, the Traitor vs. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Yes, yes, I know there are other more famous Phyrexians, but they’re fugly. And yeah, repping MTG with a Phyrexian would be a bit . . . narrow. But they’re showstoppers, right? Who cares if con attendees get the compleat picture? Not these ladies. They appeal to me because there’s a ton of visual interest that isn’t context-dependent. Anyone would see these costumes and say, “Wow, that’s something . . . ” even if those people didn’t know MTG. They’re like the high-fashion choices of this sweet sixteen. Even if you prefer jeans and tee shirt, and you think runways and Zoolander are weird, you can look at a McQueen or a Gucci and appreciate the artistry, right? Well, I hope so.

Glissa in her traitorous incarnation affords us the benefit of having two options: the Rahn or the promo Argyle version. Both are great playgrounds for experimenting with armoring and metallics, texturizing, and body paint; plus, Glissa’s arm-saw thing and claws are badass. Elesh Norn’s color scheme is inherently arresting, and she gives us a real headpiece situation to deal with. The idea of Elesh slinking through a convention hall, towering ivory over the durdles, and leaving a red river of rippling silk in her wake is pretty alluring. Should a Phyrexian compleat our cosplay?

[poll id="266"]

Boy Battle: Erebos, God of the Dead vs. Snapcaster Mage

Well, I’m no Tiago Chan, but I wouldn’t mind wearing a giant arm cannon. I am, after all, a huge fan of the MegaMan franchise. Perhaps I could somehow figure out how to not only light up the arm cannon with LEDs, but also to make it a fatty Super Soaker for impromptu mage water-gun fights. Erebos has style up the wizz-wah, and I dig his color scheme. And no, there’d be no nip-slips involved—I’d either adjust his fabric drape or just put a big prosthetic pec on myself.

Erebos, like Basandra, has a whip—extra points. But I can’t deny the utility of Snapcaster. The competitive side of me does find value in the possibility of cosplaying a tournament staple. I could do a female version of these characters—or I could just crossplay it. I like it either way. We could figure it out later. Erebos has heavier requirements on the makeup side, and I’d have to eat less steak and more celery, but like the Phyrexians, he has a flamboyant charisma. Snapcaster has a decent amount of armor to work on, and he has special-effects opportunities in the arm cannon. And a monocle thing. On Erebos, I’m thinking that sticking real burning incense into the headdress would recreate those little columns of smoke from his eyes/headpiece. Can you burn incense in a convention center? Should a sartorially-intriguing boy blaze our way into cosplay?

[poll id="267"]

Shaman Battle: Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief vs. Mayael the Anima

I’ve never been able to get over Drana’s look. If we were talking Twilight, she’d be the Alice. In all honesty, I can probably do a pretty spot-on Drana—she seems like my kind of gal—“I’m you’re huckleberry,” stare, confident, almost athletic body consciousness. Mayael, in contrast, is an enigma. I don’t usually gravitate toward Final Fantasy, Yuna-esque ladies, and Mayael definitely has a touch of that in her Aria art. Mayael’s aspect is definitely more aggressive than Yuna’s, however, and I think her raw power and passionate acceptance of that power is what I love about her.

Luckily, we have a lot of references for Mayael: Argyle’s textile-porn depiction on Mayel’s Aria; the haute couture elvish version on her Avatar; and, of course, that stone-cold fox gaze in the Chan original, complete with Christmas poinsettias. Drana has details that go for days: insect wings form her open skirt, her oddly colorful cloak, and the chitinous shoulder formations and horns give us sculpting opportunities—and then she unexpectedly pairs it all with latex/pleather. She’s like the rock goddess of MTG Vampires. Should a Shaman inspire our faith in cosplay?

[poll id="268"]




Till next time, may Magic be the blue taco and fourthmeal of your creative mind.

-MJ


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