The Eternal March of the Dusk Legion (Deck Tech)

When the Ixalan block was new and the tribes were revealed I knew I wanted to build a deck around the Vampire Conquistadors. That deck was a lot of fun to play and I had plenty of success with it in my local meta and online with MTG Arena during the Beta testing. However, as is the course with any standard meta, rotation hit, a few cards rotated out and needed to be replaced. Over the past few sets the deck has gone largely unchanged from its Ixalan base. That said, I did feel it was time to go into an update and one more chance to get a little more out of the wonderful Ixalan Vampires before they are gone

To start with the deck list can be found here.

Again, one thing that has not changed is that the deck still relies on smaller early game aggressive creatures. Skymarcher Aspirant and Adanto Vanguard are still creatures that put the hurt on early. Those initial hits can be crucial, especially against a meta that has cards like Settle the Wreckage. The Vanguard’s ability can become relevant very quickly and as we all know, it can often be worth 4 life to remove a creature from the other side of the board. We will also be using Dusk Legion Zealot to facilitate a bit of early game card draw as we dump our hand.

Image result for adanto vanguardImage result for skymarcher aspirantImage result for dusk legion zealot

Nevertheless, paying life and chipping away at life totals won’t win most games. In order to add some more depth to this deck, we must go wide. Calling in our Lifelinking Vampire army helps stem the tide of having to pay life for Adanto Vanguard as well as getting our Skymarcher to Ascend. The best tool we have for this is Legion’s Landing. In addition to this we will also have Queen’s Commission and Call to the Feast. This package gives us a free-flowing set of bodies onto the battle field. These can attack, block and muddle up the board as we start to build for the final finishing strike.

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So, there are two the bodies and ascension. Having the bodies allows us to use Pitiless Pontiff to slow down their larger threats. Cards like Radiant Destiney and Twilight Prophet help us exploit our army of vampires. Radiant Destiney gives us the ability to start trading up and gaining some real nice life amounts from attacks with our tokens. To supplement Destiney, we are also going to have Legion Lieutenant to further the payoff for keeping bodies around.

Image result for pitiless pontiffImage result for radiant destinyImage result for legion lieutenant

Twilight Prophet, when ascended, can be enough to finish off a game when the opponents board gets too big for us or if there is just too much there to make profitable attacks. Our other finisher is Sanctum Seeker. Seeker allows us to swing in for lethal without landing hits. Since the Seeker’s ability triggers on attack, we will know if we are going to get the trigger or not before we decide to throw our fighters into the meat grinder. In this case we can set up attacks that can finish off an opponent even if they have a Settle in hand.

Image result for twilight prophetImage result for sanctum seeker

At the end here we will round it off with a bit of removal to get the overly annoying creatures off the other side of the board and we are all set! I chose mortify here and I believe it is the right choice because there are enough enchantments out there were it seems to be worth it.

Image result for mortify mtg

Add in the nice two-Color land package we have in the current standard and we are done!

Image result for godless shrine mtg gathererImage result for isolated chapel gathererImage result for unclaimed territory

Let me know your thoughts!

A Short Trip: An Innistrad DnD Story (Part 4)

This story picks up where the previous left off. To read or reread those stories, please click the appropriate part. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Please share with your friends!

Enjoy!

 

The night grew darker, as if daylight was being suppressed.

“Keep your eyes up Jack, I feel this night is not done with us yet.” Franz was busy binding his wounds while Jack held the reigns.

              As they travel, the darkness creeps in around them. Ever pressing their pace. The lit censor blessed by Avacyn through Helena the only asylum in the darkness.

“Brother, ahead on the road.” Jack whispered, causing Franz to look up from his bandages.

             Ahead, a creature wearing a red cloak seemed to hover inches above the road. This was not like the geists they had seen before however; this was something full cemented within their reality. As they approach, the creature raises its hand to signal the carriage to stop.

“The spirits warned us of the red cloaks.” Jack said looking towards her brother.

Franz was already producing the small bit of wire he needed to send a message to Britta when he heard her voice.

“Of course, we can, I will get the keys presently.”

           Britta’s voice came as a surprise. Helena had been silent, who was she talking to? Jack spun her head around to check the rear of the carriage. She saw Britta dismounting from her position and moving around towards the front. For a moment, Jack sat confused, before seeing another red cloaked figure moving in stride with her. Before Jack could process what was happening, she hears her brother’s voice.

“We travel to Thraben, we carry with us a wolf pup.”

Jack spun around to see Franz’s eyes fixated on the creature in front of them. The hood of the cloak now pulled down; she could see piercing red eyes that seemed to pulsate as if the blood behind them craved to be released. Below the eyes she clearly saw the two large fangs that protruded with every word. Jack pulled the mask of Avacyn down over her face, remembering the old mayor’s words that it could resist even the most ancient vampires gaze. As she climbed down from the carriage, she looks to the creature trailing Britta.

             “Good sir, what can we do for you, we really must be on our way. If it is a toll you require, we will gladly pay and be on.” Jack new there was now toll as the words left her mouth, but she needed to get closer. Her inquisitor training was kicking in, she knew she needed to provoke these creatures into harming either Britta or her brother, this would be the only way their charm could be broken. Franz was already moving to unlock the cage and Britta was reaching in to unchain Helena. Jack, searching for a way to invite combat, saw the clearly ceremonial sword at the creature’s waist. Vampires did not use their weapons and the ornate design of the hilt was clear evidence. She was sure the blade was kept sharp, but such a weapon would be completely unwieldy. As with most creatures of the night, these vampires had more than enough weaponry built into their bodies.

“That is a beautiful sword sir, may I see it.” Jack asked, feigning her interest to the best of her abilities.

“No little one, we simply want our query then we will leave you on your way.” The lies bubbled through the creature’s lips with easy. Its voice ran slow with a thick accent of a land she did not recognize.

           Jack knew she had to take action, leaving this charade to go on for to long could end with them all dead, or at best, with these fiends taking Helena. Another night’s moon and she would welcome being rid of her, but tonight, with the waxing moon above her, Helena was still one of them. She would not leave her to torture and death. With that thought in mind, Jack reaches for the sword.

“Oh common, let me see it.”

           As she does the back of the vampire’s clawed hand cracks across her check, sending her reeling. Blood trickles from her mouth and both vampires lock eyes with her.

“Sir, that was not very wise.” Jack saws drawing her weapon.

           Britta attempting to step between the two puts her arms up in protest. “Friends, friends, why must we argue amongst ourselves,” her tone surprisingly jovial, “there is no need for such violence.”

           Jack used the opportunity to lunge at the creature. Britta being knocked into his arms. Jack’s attack was wild and completely missed. As she spun round to make read for the counter attack, her plan came to fruition. The Vampire took the Paladin now firmly in his way and threw her to the ground near the carriage wheels. Britta’s armor clanging harshly as she hits the ground. A moment of clarity washes over her as Jack sees her eyes blink, and then her head shake.

“A feast it is then little one.” The Vampire steps towards Jack with murderous intent, but before it can fall upon her, its feet are taken from the ground as Britta lifts the creature and spears it into the dirt. Seeing her moment, Jack turns to run at the other creature and Franz.

           From atop the vampire, Britta draws her ancient blade, and thrusts it down into the creature’s chest. Wounded, the beast beneath her begins to thrash, throwing her from atop it.

“In Avacyn’s name I smite thee.” A crack of thunder emanates from her sword as she grips it with both hands and brings it down upon the creature. The creature flies back ten feet and lands squarely in the dirt.

           Jack sees the intent in the other vampire’s eyes as it moves to engage Britta and help its comrade. Kicking off the carriage she puts every ounce of her 130-pound frame into the charge. Barreling into the vampire she finds herself shrugged off with a mouth full of dirt.

“Sir, must you treat my sister that way?” She hears Franz’s voice from the other side of the cage, he has stopped trying to unlock it and is now walking towards the second creature.

“Open the lock.” The vampire says as it stands above Jack.

           Franz moves to help Jack up, and in frustration to its order not being immediately followed, the vampire shoves Franz to the ground. His wound opening slightly as blood begins to pool in his coat. Jack rolls away as she sees her brother’s eyes widen in pain.

“Join the fray brother, you are yourself again.” Her words piecing the night.

           The second vampire looks to her with anger as he realizes he has been deceived. Jack clambers up the side of the carriage towards Franz’s seat, pulling the spear of Avacyn from its resting place, she hurls it at the vampire now standing over her brother. The Spear strikes true, sticking into the creature’s ancient flesh. As the blood splashes over Franz he immediately rises and draws the spear from the creature’s body, ducking under the errant swipes of the vampires claws he rolls a few feet away and readies himself. From a single knee, Franz launches the spear into the vampire second time. The flesh around the wound searing with the holy light of Avacyn. The vampire cries out in pain and rips the spear from its flesh, discarding it on the ground.

           On the other side of the carriage, Britta grabs for her shield preparing to strike down the filth in front of her. Before she can grasp it however, she is thrown into the cage. The armor around her neck is pulled from its place and before she can react, she feels the piercing pain in her neck. As she struggles, she feels herself growing weaker, slowly her fight fades, and blackness overtakes her.

           Franz steps to the vampire in front of him, driving a dagger into the wound opened by the spear. The vampire, seemingly unphased, grasps at his arm, and twists it unnaturally. He cries out in pain, but this momentary distraction is all that is needed. Jack silently leaping from the carriage lands just behind the vampire, with a single motion she reclaims the spear and thrusts it home through the vampire’s chest. As he drops to his knees, Franz rushes to one of the nearby trees. Jack does her best to keep the spear firmly lodged in the spasming creature. Soon Franz in back, with blood still pouring from his wounds his drives a piece of splintered wood into the vampire’s heart. In front of their eyes the creature melts from corporeal form and takes to mist, fleeing with the wind.

“Britta, we are coming!” Franz’s voice is filled with purpose. “Stay with us!”

           Their moment of jubilation is short lived as their minds turn towards Britta. Rushing towards the side of the carriage the arrive as the vampire releases Britta’s unmoving body. Her eyes closed and her breathing weak. Without a moment’s hesitation the siblings spring to action. Franz darts towards the vampire dodging its strikes as he attempts to move to its flank. Seeing the opening Jack hurls the spear once again, this time however, this vampire is ready and side steps the glowing projectile. As it misses its market, the spear almost finds purchase in Franz, but he also side steps at the last moment.

“Is she alright? Let me see her!” Helena’s voice suddenly pieces the night through the covered carriage.

           Jack quickly moves to the side of the carriage. Antique claws rack across her back as she reaches for the covering, she does not retaliate though, instead wincing with pain she pulls the cover from the carriage.  Helena’s eyes dart to the vampire, then to jack and Franz, finally resting on Britta.

“By Avacyn’s light, end this creature.” Helena’s words carry more weight this time, as Jack and Franz feel Avacyn’s blessing flow through them.

           Jack knocked the claws away from her as another swipe came down. Franz approached from the back as he retrieved the spear. The vampire swiped again, catching Jack across her chest, slicing cloth and skin alike. Franz closed the distance with haste, and thrust the spear into its thigh, retracting it and tossing it to Jack. As the vampire swipes at Franz in an attempt to force him back. Jack catches the spear and with a wide arcing strike cleaves the creatures head from its body. As its body slumps down, it too melts into the night and the mists takes to the wind.

           There is now celebration as the two battered victors look to their fallen comrade, her breathing getting ever slower. They crouch down to her, placing cloth and bandage on her wounds.

“Battle dressings will not save her Jack.” Franz says with despair as his sister struggles with the neck wound.

“I can help.” Helena’s voice is calm with purpose. “But I can not help anymore until I have time to recover.”

“Do what you can!” Jack cries.

“Yes, my lady, please help her, we will see you to the city before the next moon.” Franz’s words are confident.

“Avacyn, shine your light upon your servant now, in her time of need, hear my healing words and recover your champion” Helena’s voice rumbles with divine focus.

           As if Avacyn herself came down from the heavens, a shimmering light overtook Britta’s body. Her cheeks swelled with blood once again, her breath seemed to take hold again. Within a moment, her eyes blinked back to life.

“Praise be!” Jack yelled, jumping to her feet. Only to realize she herself had wounds yet to heal. Grimacing jack reaches down to help Britta to her feet.

Franz doing the same, “We thought you left us for the after life.”

As Britta looked to the young girl whose gifts had just spared her. “As did I friend, however it would seem I am still need and will need to wait a little longer for the blessed sleep.”

           As they recovered their weapons and regained their places on the carriage day broke over the horizon. Night gave way to the sun and its radiant protection. As the party pushed forward, the forest soon was in their wake and as the hours passed gates were clear on the horizon. The white guard of the city Thraben soon bid them welcome.

“The young girl, and my brother, they both must see Mikaeus, the Lunarch, right away!” Jack shouted to the guard. “They need his healing touch.”

“They will be in good hands Inquisitor. We will see their ails removed.” The guard captain said, and his men spirited them all to the chapel.

           A few days passed and their wounds recovered, Franz and Jack met Britta near the gates of the city. Her armor restored and her smile vibrant.

“You leave so soon?” Jack asks.

“I must see the lady home.” Britta looks to Helena, now seated in the carriage, its bars removed, and its comforts restored. She wore the regalia of a priest of avacyn, clutching a short scepter in her hand.

          Helena’s eyes catch the siblings and she gives an unabashed wave. Franz nods in kind and tips his hat, as Jack returns an equally ecstatic wave.

“Do you travel alone?” Franz inquires.

“No Inquisitor, we travel with a full score of Parish-Blades. The local captain saw it fit that we not meet the same perils again. Though I would still be eased if you two were to escort us as well.” Her tone was one of jest, but Jack could see in her eyes she spoke truth.

“Ofcours…” Jack’s words were cut off by the raised hand of Franz.

“I am sorry my lady, we are needed elsewhere. Although, I do not think she could have a safer guardian save Avacyn herself.” Franz said as he held his and out. Grasping it with her gauntleted hand, Britta bids him safe travels without words. As she presented her hand to Jack however, she was met with the surprise of arms being thrown around her in a loving embrace.

“We will hopefully see you again,” Jack smiled. “Our business takes us all over, but I am sure we can find out way back to Lambholt.”

Britta looks to Franz, nodding in agreement and gives on last slight bow.

“Until then inquisitors, I wish you well in your fight against the darkness.”

The End.

 

Thanks to the players whose characters inspired this story!

Franz (Zack)
Jack (Garson)
Britta (Maggie)

A Short Trip: An Innistrad DnD Story (Part 3)

Looking for the previous parts of the story? Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.             

            Though the sun was high in the sky, the day was dark. Thick clouds always seemed to smoother its light. The group was making good time though, with at least some sunlight, Jack was able to scan further ahead on the path, allowing Franz to keep the pace more fervent. The morning realization of Helena’s new found gifts was all the motivation they needed to quicken their pace.

“Stop,” Helena whispers from within the covered carriage.

“What is it?” Franz, asks as he slowing his pace slightly.

“I am not sure, a new smell. Meat, I think.” Her sniffs were audible from under the cover. “Possibly people.”

           Jack looked to Franz with a gaze of curiosity. Franz did not want to lose time, but if there was someone out there and Helena could smell them, he knew it might mean they were injured.

“Go check it out, be quick.” Franz nods towards the tree line.

           Jack hops down from her seat next to her brother and lifts the cover to see Helena who points to the left of the road. Jack agilely moves into the trees. It does not take her long to realize there was a fight here. Trees lay felled, and those lucky enough to survive the fight still were splintered. Soon she saw blood and follows the trail. Scanning the ground, the blood gets more abundant, until finally she saw the gleaming plate of an Inquisitor. She runs to him, rolling him over to see his face. The eyes never adjust to look at her, the man who was once there, is long gone. She closes the eyelids and checks the companion he has at his side. A younger man, wearing leather armor and still grasping his censor.

“May you sleep forever brothers.” She whispers under her breath along with a short prayer to Avacyn.

           Jack quickly returns to the carriage and explains what she found to the group. Franz is hesitant and wants to move on with their journey, but Britta insists they stay to see the bodies to rest.

“We do not have time for this.” Franz says, agitated at the thought of spending time digging graves while they still have the advantage of daylight.

“If it was you, you would want us to stop.” Jack says, a slight disappointment of her brothers lack of piety on her voice.

“I can dig the graves.” Britta says, as she begins into the woods after pulling a small shovel from her pack. “Fortunately for you Franz, I am quite experienced at it.”

           Franz shakes his head and guides the carriage as far to that side of the road as is possible. As Jack hops off to follow Britta, he looks to her and says “I am sorry, I do not mean to show the dead disrespect. I only wish to ensure this one does not suffer a fate worse than death.” Jack nods in understanding.

“But this is still the right thing to do, we will get Helena there in time brother.”

           Franz can already hear the digging from just inside the tree line. He begins to scan the road for any other signs of life. Nothing. At least he can hear the birds, that’s always a good sign. Werewolves and Vampires tend to make even the most bardic bird fall silent.

“This isn’t good is it Mr. Franz?” Helena spoke with a wavering tone.

“You’re going to be ok Helena, I have never failed before, we will not fail you.” Franz says with stalwart poise. If Jack were here she would instantly have known his words to be false, however to Helena, holding on to her remaining threads of humanity, his words were a comfort.

           After some time, but a shorter time than Franz expected, Britta and Jack returned. They had with them a few of the items that must’ve been with the bodies. Britta was also wearing new armor.

“Laid to rest, without their armor?” Franz said with an air of sarcasm.

“This is Slayer’s Plate inquisitor, it is not to be buried with the dead, it is to continue on.” Britta said while adjusting the straps. The armor seemed to reform to fit her size and shape. On the shoulders it had inlaid silvered spikes and though it still had stains of blood on it, it seemed to hold its shine in the limited sunlight.

“Here,” Jack said, as she hands Franz a spear, the tip shaped into the symbol of Avacyn.

           Franz looked down and saw that Jack had a censor strapped to her built and took the spear. He secured it in place next to him. Jack and Britta took their positions on the carriage and the party continued onward.

Hours passed with no issues. Jack had just started to become comfortable on the road as the sun began to set. Franz seemed on edge and was becoming restless in his seat. He snapped the reigns and the horse picked up their pace.

“What is it brother?” Jack said, the worry was clear on her voice.

“Something is wrong.” Franz says. “Listen, the birds are gone.”

“More hunting dogs.” Helena whispers from the carriage.

“Britta! Something is coming, be on guard!” Jack yelled from over the carriage.

           Britta adjusted on the ledge she was sitting on and brought her shield to bare. She could not see anything in the tree line. The fading light making sight ever more difficult. As Britta scanned the trees Jack heard the first sounds of their pursuers. Heavy foot falls to the rear of the carriage, just inside the left tree line.

“Britta! On the left!” Jack yelled, being quiet was no longer necessary.

           Britta adjusted to face that direction. She saw the yellowed eyes just in time and managed to raise her shield in time. The claws and the creature they were attached to flew in her direction. Unnatural leaping ability allowed the werewolf to clear the distance from the tree line to the carriage in a single bound. Though she managed to block the claws, the force of the impact through her and her attacker from the cart. As they hit the dirt, she scrambled to get to her feet, but the creature was faster and soon on top of her. It bit down into the side of her neck, causing great pain. Blood spurted from the wound, but before the creature could pull his teeth and complete a killing blow, Britta rolled her shoulder into its head, causing the spikes there to slice into the creature’s skin. It released its grip as it reeled back in pain, the flesh that was cut seeming to sizzle as if burned by acid.

           Jack did not know what was happening. Just as she called to Britta, she heard the sound of metal hitting the ground and two separate cries of pain. One human, one bestial.

“What is going on?” Franz looked to Jack for an answer.

“I don’t know, it is too dark, I cannot see.” Jack says, struggling to see what had transpired.

           Just as she said this, she heard. “ I can help, Avacyn has blessed me with minor gifts.” The voice did not come from her brother however, instead it came from the carriage.

           Jack lifted the cloth to see Helena, with her chained hands outstretched. “The censor; let me touch it.” Helena requested with urgency. Jack obliged and slide the censor through the bars. As Helena laid her hands upon it she muttered a few words to Avacyn and the censor lit up. Its Light now brightening the night in every direction as if doing battle with the darkness itself.

“Stay down!” Franz commanded, locking eyes with Helena as he jumped from the carriage.

           In a swift motion he was over to the creature. Grasping a small pouch on his belt he pulled out a bit of sand. Waving it in an arcane pattern and saying the words of the holy Avacyn he flung the sand at the creature attacking Britta. The creature staggered, dropping back down to a knee, before falling over, asleep.  Fran quickly moved to help Britta to her feet.

“A little help!” Jack’s voice came piercing through the night air.

           As Britta and Franz turned to the front of the carriage, two more werewolves were climbing the rigging, going after Jack. Franz ran to his sister’s aide. Gutting one of the beasts with his silvered dagger. Suddenly glad it was left over from Helena’s fathers old adventuring days. The beast let out a cry, but as it fell it swiped at the inquisitor. He staggered back, with deep gashes now adorned on his chest. Franz grasped the wound as the creature in front of him began to take a more human form, slowly turning back into the man it had once been.

Britta went for her weapon, but before she can move to Franz’s side, a fourth werewolf lunged from the darkness. It went straight for the bars of the carriage, pulling and tugging at them. They start to bend, and Helena lets out a scream. The Paladin of Holy Avacyn was not going to let the beast get to it’s quarry. With the first blow she sliced a giant gash down the creatures back, the magic essence of her family blade opening the wound on its supernatural skin. The beast turned to face her, then before it could strike the second swipe came up, severing one of its paws. The creature astounded by the show of force, paused. This was all the opening Britta needed as she thrust her sword through is open maw. The head began to shrink around her sword, and by the time she withdrew it, the eyes of a human women looked up at her.

           Jack kicked at the werewolf the was swiping at her. She saw her brother was wounded but knew she would need to deal with this first. Seeing the spear secured to the seat in front of her she yanked it from its place. In a single movement of unmatched acrobatics, she flipped from the top of the carriage, landing behind the beast. Before it could turn the spear was already piercing its back. It stumbled, and Franz saw an opening, with the beast distracted, he managed to sneak inside its defenses and raked the silvered dagger across its throat. Blood gurgled as the creature collapsed to the ground. It slowly returned to its human form as well, revealing a younger man, perhaps not even above the age of 20.

“Brother! Are you ok?” Jack runs towards her brother.

“I will be fine,” he wipes a bit of blood from his mouth. “We still have one more to deal with.”

           The magical sleep held the werewolf, as it lay there slumbering, the three soldiers of Avacyn surrounded the creature. On Franz’s signal, they all plunged their weapons into it.

“May the blessed sleep find you at peace.” Franz and Jack looked curiously at Britta as she said the words. “He was once like us and now the beast is dead, he deserves the same peace we would.”

           Jack took a moment to bandage Franz’s wounds as best she could, and Britta covered the wound on her neck with a cloth.

“We need to get moving, the smell of blood will bring more.” Franz said, holding back the urge to wince at the pain.

           Jack climbed back atop the carriage and helped her brother into his seat. She worried the injury was worse than he let on, but there was not much she could do now. If it was indeed serious, the best thing they could do was get to Thraben with haste.

            To be continued…

 

A Short Trip: An Innistrad DnD Story (Part 2)

Below is part two in my series telling the story of a DnD game that took place on the plane of Innistrad from the Magic: The Gathering Universe. To read part one, please go here.

Jack listened closely to the woods and scanned as her brother guided the horses through the narrow paths of the woods. They had chosen to take the woods route rather than travel through the mountain pass. The creatures that dwelled in the woods were a familiar adversary, the blood suckers of the pass… less so.

“The sun is going down,” Jack said, still scanning the trees for any sign of life.

“I know,” Franz responded, he was all too aware of the nightmares that could befell these woods in the dark, but they needed to press on. There was no way they could make it to Thraben in time unless they moved at night.

The sun slowly slipped beyond the horizon and veil of darkness soon over took the forest road they traveled. Though each of them was fine warriors in their own right, no one, no matter how skilled, would be comfortable traversing the forest at night. It was not a brave act to do so, it was foolhardy. They moved as quietly as possible, Franz did his best to keep the horses in line. There was little he could do about the creaking of the wagon. It seemed even young Helena was aware of the monsters that stalked these woods, as she took every possible care to avoid her chains rattling. Jack could barely see, the moon provided some light, but it was hardly enough to make out a few feet into the trees. That would have to do, since she knew it was far too dangerous to light a torch. Just then she saw something in the distance, just up the road.

“Brother, look ahead, there is someone,” she paused, “thing on the road.”

Franz saw the ethereal light as well. There was no alternate path to turn down, he decided to wait for them to pass. Holding his finger to his lips he did his best to slow the carriage silently. In spite of his best efforts, the old carriage gave off the dullest of cracks. However, in the seemingly silent woods, it might as well have been a blacksmith’s hammer striking metal. The eerie light slowly changed direction, heading toward the carriage.

“Be ready for anything.” Franz Whispered to Jack. He then lifted a small piece of copper wire and lifted it to his lips. Jack had seen him do this before, and though it seemed like devilry, she knew her brother’s gifts must have been blessings from Avacyn.

“Do not be alarmed my lady.” Franz turned towards the back of the wagon “We have some company up here, keep an eye out for anything approaching from the rear. You can respond to this message.”

Britta was momentarily shocked as Franz’s voice whispered a message in her ear. For a moment she looked around, failing to find him she soon realized the arcane trickster had more secrets then she perhaps wanted to know. He was an inquisitor after all, they always seemed to walk the line between the light and the dark. She had sworn an oath though, so as long as he did not impede that, he was still her ally.

“Understood.” Britta whispered back, partially wondering if she was succumbing to madness.

Franz and Jack watched as three blue and white specters floated towards the carriage. Their darkness cloaked bodies gave off a faint light and their faces seemed to fade into a blue mist, never truly materializing to be recognized. The seemed to both be apparent in the darkness, while still shrouded by it. They moved ever closer and made no attempt to communicate.

“Wayward ones,” Franz tried to make his voice carry as little as possible while still maintaining an air of confidence. “Where are you traveling, we mean you no harm.”

Jack began to move for her dagger ever so slowly. Franz shot her a quick glance as to say, that will not be much use here. As his sister frustratingly ceased her movement, Franz got an idea. Pulling the copper wire back to his lips he pointed at the closes geist and whispered a message to it.

“You there, we mean you no harm, we are simply travelers who wish safe passage.”

“Travelers… yes… simple… no…” Franz was surprised to hear the voice in his ear, he had not expected that little trick to work.

“Well that is a matter of opinion, but we do not mean you harm and have no quarrel with you. We only wish to pass.” Franz continued. In all his years, he had never actually spoken to a spirit before.

“Perhaps you… can do… something for us…” The spirit responded, every few words seemed to linger, as if the wind itself was speaking.

“We can certainly try, but what could we possibly do for you?” Franz asked, the copper wire still held in front of his lips. The geist were no longer moving forward.

“We want… what you want…” The spirit mustered, “The blessed sleep…”

Franz thought quickly, how they could possibly help them with that. They were already disturbed, already wondering.

“Britta,” Franz spoke aloud, “I believe we have something more suited to your skill set then ours.”

Britta, confused, jumped down off her ledge and began to move around to the front of the carriage as she did, she whispered through the cloth covering the carriage.

“Be silent little one, no one need know you are here.”

She moved to the front of the carriage and managed to maintain her composer as she rounded the carriage to be face to chilling face with not one, but three geist.

“How can I be of service.” She said in a firm tone, speaking to the geist in front.

“The want the blessed sleep” Franz replied on their behalf.

Britta thought about this for a moment. It was her duty to ensure the people of Innistrad the blessed sleep. At least, as many as possible. How though, how could she put someone to rest, whose sleep had already been disturbed.

“Doesn’t Avacyn have any blessing you can perform?” Jack asked, never taking her eyes off the apparitions in front of her.

“You’re a genius Jack!” Britta grasped the pendant of Avacyn that laid around her neck and pulled a little vial of holy water from her belt pouches. She began to sprinkle the holy water on each. At first the water hit and gave the sound of steaming water being thrown on a hot stove, but then, the phantoms slowly began to fade. “Be at peace vigilant watchers of the night, Avacyn’s light still watches over you, and her blessing is still upon you.” The spirits continued to fade and just before they were all but gone Franz sent one last message.

“Thank you, friends, be at peace.” He expected that to be the last of it.

“Beware the Red Cloaks…” One last whisper in his ear, then… only the wind.

The three stood in darkness once again. Britta said a few more words to Avacyn and returned to her perch on the back of the carriage.

“That was different.” Jack said, but it was not a snarky remark, Franz sensed nothing but sincerity in her voice.

“We should find a place to rest for the evening.” Franz said in a matter of fact tone.

They pushed on a little further down the road until they found a thicket that seemed at least somewhat defensible. A felled tree lay propped up by another with bristling vines wrapping around both. They moved the carriage into the thicket and managed to conceal it as much as possible. The horses were given a bit of food and then tied to the trees.

“Is there any food?” Helena asked impatiently.

Jack pulled the cloth up, so she could see them and slipped a bit of trail mix and berries through the bars to her. She shoved almost all of them into her mouth at once and began to chew. As she finished she looked back out and said, “Don’t want have any meat?” Franz thought this was an odd question but decided to respond regardless.

“Not currently, and even if we did, lighting a fire to cook is not a good idea right now.”

Helena looked visibly disappointed and with a scoff said, “Well do you at have a pillow?”

Jack dug through her pack and found a set of fine clothes. She had never even unfolded them. They were not really her style, but ever inquisitor carried some with them, you never knew when you might have to be fancy for a little while. She handed the rolled-up clothes to Helena and asked if that would be sufficient. Helena gave a satisfied nod and carefully, as to not rattle the chains too much, curled up to sleep.

“I can take the first watch.” Britta said. She stood taller than both inquisitors and had her arms and armor on already. Franz looked to Jack and back to Britta and nodded.

“In a few hours, wake me up, and I can relieve you.” Jack said, propping her pack up against the carriage.

Britta climbed onto the top of the carriage and began to scan the area. The darkness was all around her, but she knew the angle Avacyn would protect her. She contemplated the fate of the young girl they were transporting, she hoped they would make it in time. She thought of Jack, the quiet but quick-thinking women who she expected was a match for even the wiliest creature. Then her thoughts drifted to Franz, he was certainly a mystery. He had some darkness to him, she knew that, but he seemed a just man. The scars he wore showed he was a survivor. As her thoughts continued to wonder she realized it had been some time since the others had gone to sleep. Nothing interesting had happened and there was not even so much as a rustle form the woods. With that she decided it was time to get some rest herself. She climbed down the carriage, and as she took off the metal pieces of her armor, nudged Jack awake. Jack opened her eyes and quickly gaged her surroundings.

“Nothing to report.” Britta said as she laid her chain mail down.

“Alright then.” Jack began to gather her weapons and moved out from the thicket.

Rather than climb up on the carriage, Jack decided to go for a walk around the area. She was never that good at sitting still, and this journey had already had to much of that. She began to move around the brush, around the thicket, making sure to keep a sharp eye out for anything out of place. Soon she realized these woods were abnormally quiet. No insects or anything. She continued her scouting. Every so often she would loop back around to the carriage. She was sure she would catch anything sneaking up on it before it got there, but she liked to go back and check nonetheless. Finally, as she scouted a bit back in the direction they had come from, she found tracks. Large paw prints in a shape she was all too familiar with. She searched a bit more, but only found tracks leading away. They were being followed, but why had they not attacked? This would be a question for another time, as she knew better than to be caught out alone by a howl pack. She instinctively retreated and awoke her brother.

Franz began to get up, gathering his weapons and Jack explained to him about the tracks. He lifted the cloth to check on Helena. She lay there, sleeping, her legs kicking, as if running in some dream.

“They sense their own.” Franz said with a sigh.

Franz’s watch went by slowly. He sat perched on the carriage and awaited the dawn. As he waited, the sounds of the forest slowly returned, insects hummed once again, and the singing of night time frogs could be heard. What ever had spooked the gentle creatures of the woods, must’ve moved off he thought. When the first rays of light began to poke through another cloud choked morning, he began to climb down to wake his companions.

The group prepared the carriage for travel and Jack pulled Britta aside to tell her about the tracks. Britta nodded and told Jack she would watch closely for anything following them. As they chatted quietly, Helena piped up from still uncovered carriage.

“Were there hunters here?”

“What do you mean?” Franz asked genuinely curious.

“Well,” Helena began to sniff the air, “it smells like my father’s hunting dogs.”

“There are no dogs here.” Franz says, scanning the woods.

“No not here, they smell… farther away.”

Franz quickly looked over to Jack and Britta, they both shared the same look of worry after hearing her words.

“Can’t you smell them?” Helena asks.

“No,” Franz replied, trying to hide his apprehension. “It must be your keen senses.”

To be continued…

A Short Trip: An Innistrad DnD Story (Part 1)

Recently some friends and I ran an Innistrad based DnD game. Innistrad has always been one of my favorite planes from the Magic the Gathering Universe and to be able to run a game within the world was a lot of fun. Below is the first part of the story, I plan to write and tell the rest soon. As always, please share any comments or feedback, and please share with your friends! Thank you to Garson, Zack and Maggie for letting me use their characters.

                Franz and Jack were used to traversing the woods of Kessig, they had grown up in these woods, and there was no one Franz would rather have at his back than his little sister. Franz wasn’t a large man, but his posture and poise made him look the part. An Inquisitor of renown, he was proud of his sister for taking the first steps down the same path. Despite being siblings, the two carried themselves very differently. Franz was well kept, with his hair pulled back and clean shaven, somewhat of an abnormality for the people of Kessig. He wore the iconography of the Cathar’s proudly and did little to hide his position. Jack, on the other hand, hid her appearance under a dark cloak, all but obscuring her face. Though an inquisitor as well, she kept the title well-hidden, the only sign of her position was a chain wrapped symbol of Avacyn that hung from her wrist. With the light of the sun fighting to give its light through the thick mid-day clouds, the two made their way towards Lambholt. They had been summoned by the Inquisitor Lucius, but for what reason, they did not know.

“Do you hear that brother?” Jack’s words broke what had been a long silence. Franz was well known for his ability to stand toe to toe with the fiercest of beasts, but his sister had natural senses that nearly rivaled that of even an ancient blood sucker.

“No, I didn’t hear anything,” Franz slowed his pace and began to listen to the woods around him.

“Warning Bells!” Jack was suddenly in full sprint with Franz close at her heels. The warning bells of Lambholt were usually saved for when werewolves attacked, but for them to be so brazen to attack a well defended city in the day seemed even madder than their usual tactics.

The two closed on the city, soon having the gates within sight. There were not wolves attacking the city, but instead a horde of the undead. The two ran forth, seeing the cities defenders already pressed by those who had been denied the blessed sleep. A thunderous crack erupted from one of the defenders as bits of ghoul were sent flying.

Wielding the Heirloom Blade of her father’s father, Lady Britta, engaged the horde in front of her. With a single swing, thunder exploded from her sword, dismantling one of the shambling corpses. Without a moment’s hesitation she swung at another, cutting it clean and spilling its rotting entrails to the ground. In a vain attempt, the risen creature swiped and clawed at her armor, leaving little more than a thick smattering of its own blood. Before it could grasp her, Britta brought the sword down on the creature’s head “May the blessed sleep find you.” Her words soft and controlled. Around her the Parish-Blades engaged the dead, attempting to return them to their slumber. The Ballista on the gate towers began to fire, felling and splicing limbs from walking corpses.

“My lady look, in the sky!” One of the warriors announced. His voice filled with excitement. Britta was too focused on her task to look up. As she swung into another of the foul creatures a silvered bolt landed in its neck, splattering her armor in its unholy ichor. As the creature fell she saw the siblings rushing forth from the woods. Jack, loosing arrow after arrow from her short bow as Franz fired and reloaded his crossbow. Jack moved in swiftly, cutting the hamstring out of one of the creatures, giving Britta the opening to remove its head.

Above him Franz saw a winged shadow. “The Goldnight is upon us!” Franz proclaimed and the warriors of Lambholt began to withdraw towards the city. As Jack watched, an angel, clad in a glimmering breastplate and wielding a spear that glowed with radiant light, landed and hewered four of the creatures in two with a single blow. The holy reaper then took to the air again, moving to assist with another group of awoken dead. Franz raised his blades as a cluster of walking flesh shambled towards him. Before he could strike, the creatures were concaved under the weight of another angle’s armored boots. Franz gave a nod of acknowledgment, which the white eyed angel returned in kind before taking to the air again. As the last of the dead were mopped up, a horn sounded in the heavens, and the flight of the Goldnight withdrew, their aide no longer being needed.

“Well fought.” Franz said as he checked his quiver and counted his bolts, “My name is Franz, this is Jack,” he gestured to his sister, who was bent down inspecting one of the corpses. Jack barely looked up and raised a hand in a slight wave before going back to her investigation.

“I am Britta, acolyte of our lady Avacyn, it is good to meet you.” Franz had heard of those blessed with the purifying light of Avacyn, but had yet to witness such power in person, though his face would never show it, it left him impressed.

“Hail, Franz, it is good you have come.” Lucius signaled from atop the walls. “The three of you can meet me at the Mayor’s estate, I will give you details of your summons there.” Lucius was still coordinating the defenders as they swept the fields outside the city to ensure the re-dead were truly so.

“Sir is it alright if I get my armor cleaned first?” Britta spoke up.

“Of course, Britta, we wouldn’t want to have the Mayor put off by the smell.” Lucius said with a chuckle.

After getting cleaned up, Britta lead the siblings to the Mayor’s home. A few Parish-Blades guarded the entrance but allowed them entry. Inside the greeting room sat the Mayor, an older man, whose fighting days seemed behind him. His fine clothes covered what was a grizzled and tough exterior. Standing across the room at the small fireplace was Lucius, still in full battle dress.

“Thank you for coming,” The mayor said, hurriedly, “Please sit, please sit.” The three entered the room but remained standing.

“To business it is then,” Lucius begins, “A few nights ago there was an attack on the city. No, not like the one we just experienced, that seems to be the work of some miscreant ghoulcaller. One who will be dealt with soon enough. The attack I speak of came at the hands of the wolves. One managed to get over the wall and killed two towns folk.” Franz was confused. Surely, they were not asked to come for a simple wolf hunt. There were soldiers here already that were plenty capable of that.

“It is not the wolves that you were summoned for however,” Lucius continued, as if he had plucked the thought from Franz’s head. “You were summoned for the sake of the one the lived.” The Mayor became visibly upset as the words left the inquisitor’s mouth.

“It’s my daughter,” The Mayor manages to get out.

“Yes, the lady of the town was bitten, we believe she may have contracted the foul curse. You are being charged with taking her to Thraben, where the Lunarch can hopefully remove said curse.” Lucius begins to walk towards Franz. “You have two nights before the New Moon, she must reach Thraben by then.” Lucius puts his hand on Franz’s shoulder and in a voice so faint only Franz can hear, says “If you do not make it, do what you must.” Lucius then signals out the door and a covered carriage is brought up. The carriage has been repurposed to transport a potential lycanthrope and has iron bars added to its exterior. A think fabric sheet is slung over the top to conceal the passenger. As one of the guards lifts the material, a teenage girl can be seen. She sits with manacles around her wrists and a chain running from the manacles to an iron loop in the floor.

“Please bring her back to me safely.” The Mayor begs, trying to keep his tone professional.

“Have no fear sir,” Franzs steps forward, “We will get her there with time to spare.”

Franz looks to Britta and exchanges a quick glance, it is enough to know that she understands what must be done if they are too late.

Franz and Britta begin preparing the cart. As they do, Franz asks the young lady’s name.

“My name is Helana.” She says in a proud but perturbed voice. “I am fine, I don’t feel any different.” She speaks as if she is the Lunarch himself. Despite the disrespect, Franz reassures her in kind words, that they will make it in time, and that if nothing is wrong, there is nothing to fear.

As her brother and Britta reassure the young poppet, Jack sees her father signaling from the door. She walks over to find the old man holding a shield and a few other items.

“I wish I could go with you lass, but my old bones would only slow you down. I would trade places with her if I could.” The Mayor held the items out to Jack. Jack could read people like books, their eyes always told her a story. The Mayor was being truthful. He would give his life for his daughter and Jack knew in that moment, Lucius probably had to talk him out of insisting to come along. “Please take these,” he continued. “My adventuring days are over, but if they can aid you getting my daughter to those that can help her, perhaps they may still be of some use.”

Jack inspected the shield. It was a fine armament, made of sturdy iron. Upon the shield lay a mask and dagger. The dagger was inlaid with silver and the mask bore a resemblance to Avacyn herself.

“That shield there, saved me more than once and the dagger is great for sneaking in on the wolf folk, however the mask,” he gestured to the visage of Avacyn. “The mask can deflect even an ancient vampire’s glamour.

“We will get her to the temple in Thraben sir, we will not let her join the ranks of the howl packs.” Jack’s voice was confident and strong. She didn’t speak much, but when she did, she meant the words she spoke.

“Jack, lets go, we don’t want to waste any time.” Franz hollered while climbing into the driving position of the carriage. Jack spun around and jogged down the steps two at a time. Reaching the carriage, she for the first time, set eyes upon their young prisoner. Helena was not much younger than her, and though she looked proud and proper, Jack could see through her veiled expression that she was terrified.

“Hey, were going to get this all sorted, I promise,” Jack says through the caged walls of the carriage.

“You better.” Helena says with an air of authority. Jack smirks at the comment, appreciating the young women’s refusal to be a damsel.

“You can probably use this better than my brother or I can.” Jack assumes, handing the shield to Britta who had pulled herself up to sit on a small ledge on the back of the carriage. Britta taking the shield, looks at Jack and nods. Jack then climbs up to take a spot next to her brother and hands him the silvered dagger.

“Werewolves are your specialty, right?” Franz looks down and takes the dagger before nodding and responding.

“Keep those perceptive eyes astute Jack, this will be no regular trip,” he says, as he snaps the reigns.

To be continued…

Legacy Mono Green Infect (Budget-ish)

So it is almost rotation time and I have been away from deck building for a while with the summer. Thus, I decided to try something different than another standard deck, especially because I am still enjoying a updated version of my The Vampire Conquistadors deck (Updated List Here). I have been working on a few standard decks, so if they still appear viable after rotation, maybe I can write about them.

Anyway, back to the reason you are here. I wanted to brew something I had not worked on before, and for me that meant another adventure into a new format. I had never played legacy before, but had always wanted to give it a try. At first I wanted to find a budget way to introduce myself to the format. Having always held a want for an infect deck I decided to have a go at it. I looked at some of the other decks in the format and their extremely high price tags, and that made me decide to stick with a mono colored deck. Out of the five choices, I decided to go with green, due to its great pump options, especially a few free options. This did mean for going the counter magic of blue, but, it was also good for the pocket book.

To start, I slapped together a super budget list. This Infect Deck sits at just about $50 on TCG Player. There are a few other options out there for alternate versions of a similar deck by other brewers as well if you are looking for ways to tweak this and stay within a modest budget.

Going from there I began to look at ways to make the deck more competitive. I knew I would be facing down a suite of counters and removal that would likely see my first few creatures sent to the bin. So to up my creature count, I of course added the allstar, Inkmoth Nexus. This would be added to the Glistener Elf, Ichorclaw Myr and Necropede.

Ink

Because Infect is looking to alpha strike and not have to wait to long to get the kill, we need the ability to pump up one of our creatures quickly. The ideal way to do this is for free. So the main two options we use are Mutagenic Growth and Invigorate. Both can be paid for via alternate costs, allowing for us to hit for lethal even when an opponent may have thought they were safe. In addition to these two options I added a few copies of the green force of will. Bounty of the Harvest. This can also be cast for an alternate cost, but is a little less ideal than the others since that cost exiles a card from our hand.

Free pumps on our creatures are ideal, but there is another way to do this without cards in hand. We use two lands to be able to give our infect creatures a little more bang. Pendalhaven and Cathedral of War were included in the mana base as a way to increase the potency of our otherwise small threats. One thing to note with Pendelhaven, you will need to use its pump ability first, since it can only pump 1/1 creatures.

This deck is truly a deck that needs to go all in, when something connects we need it to be a big hit if not a one hit knock out, this means bringing in the true all or nothing pump spell, Berserk.

Beserk

We will also need a way to protect our guys once they are on the ground, to do this we are going to use Vines of Vastwood. This is a nice spell for us because it not only protects, but if kicked can also pump an attacker. In addition to Vines, we are also running one none green card in Apostle’s Blessing. This card allows us not only to protect, but potentially by pass blockers as well.

Finally, we need a second way to ensure our damage makes it through blockers if we cannot get past them all. This means a second way to give our guys trample. Rancor is the best and really only option that could round out this list. Not only does it give a solid power boost, but it also gives trample and is reusable.

Ranc

So what do you guys think? Also this deck, even with upgrades, is still a similar or even lower price to some of the modern and even standard decks out there.

I have included a full deck list here.

I am always happy to receive feedback and can be found on Twitter or Instagram @Osogladiator

MTG Arena


I have had the opportunity to play the new Magic: The Gathering online client MTG Arena. I will say it is a fun and engaging experience. There are some things I like and some things I dislike about the system.
To begin, in Arena you are given a decent amount of cards to start and they are formulated into introduction pack type decks for you to use from the first moment you sign on. These decks are fun and can be a great way to learn the game. In addition, there are booster packs available for you to open and edit the decks provided or make new ones yourself. However, this is one of the main problems with Arena. In order to upgrade your decks, you must either pay for packs, or win packs by grinding games online. There is no trading (currently) in Arena, and thus, in order to make a deck to the specifications you want, you need to pull the appropriate cards from your packs. There is a wild card system in place where one of the cards in your pack may be a wild card, thus allowing you to turn it into any card of the same rarity (which is a one-time use), but they do help with securing playsets. The ability to purchase packs for cash also skews the game in favor of those willing to spend the cash in most cases. The cards are still randomly slotted into the packs, so there is no guarantee you will get the cards you need. I have thoroughly enjoyed grinding games and watching my deck get better incrementally as I pull new cards and it has made the opening of digital packs a much more exciting experience. I prefer it to simply going online and buying cards from an online vendor to have them traded to me. That being said, I can see the in game economy getting out of whack pretty quickly, once players start to secure bona fide decks since there would be no real separation from the participants playing some form of the intro decks. Winning, not just playing, games or completing the challenges are the only way to earn packs or coins, so at some point the underpowered decks will find it more and more difficult to upgrade.
When it comes to game play, the graphics and mechanics engine is great. The animations, look and feel realistic and music score make it a truly engaging experience. Set stables such as; Hazoret or Glorybringer have full animations that come out of the cards, planeswalkers have voices, and the combat graphics make the game far more engaging than something like MTGO and are much closer to the dynamic feel of Duels of the Planeswalkers. The turn mechanics are also very good and are set up to expedite gameplay. The game automatically yields to the opponent if there is no possible play, taps mana for you upon castings spells and will skip phases of combat if nothing can be done. The key here is this can all be turned off manually if you want to, but leaving it on does not come with the risk of clicking through an important phase by accident.
So something that I do hope is expanded upon in the future is the number of cards available in Arena. Currently, there is a limited card pool that does not even encompass standard, the oldest set in the system is Amonkhet. Also, the current set up for draft is extremely infrequent and thus really holds back the system. I am sure this is something that will be added after the Beta, so for now, I will not gripe about it too much.
The thing I may be looking most forward to is finally being able to play this against my friends with Macs and even counsels in the future, since this was designed on an engine that can be used across platforms.
All in all, I have enjoyed the Arena Beta and am looking forward to see how it develops in the future and post Beta. I do hope the potential economy issues are fixed in its next iteration, but nevertheless, I think this is a great step forward for online play.
If you get paired against OsoGladiator, that’s me!

See you on the sand!