My very good friend Justin Norris can lay claim to the idea that he’s the original member of my original EDH group (I say my
because the Alaska group was playing the format before I was), since he’s the one who contacted me while I was still in Alaska and said,
“Heard you’re moving to Virginia, come play with us!” He was certainly the most dedicated member of the group for the entire three
years I lived in Virginia, first in Yorktown, then in Suffolk, taking that Sunday afternoon drive across the Monitor-Merrimack when there was probably
sleeping or studying to be done.
Justin emailed me his latest list a few weeks back (his earliest decks back in the day involved putting a bunch of lands into play and watching me
Armageddon them away—I’ve since learned to be a better friend) with the disclaimer “…has yet to taste defeat.” I
don’t know about all that, but I’m tempted to run his list for all eight weeks of the next Armada Games EDH League, and if I don’t
win, demand that he refunds my entry fees.
Justin’s also a fan of much of the music that I am, to include the heavier stuff. I only mention this because it segues into a musical aside.
Regular readers know I’m a huge Dream Theater fan (although he’s since left the band, founding member Mike Portnoy is second only to Neil
Peart among the rock drummer pantheon). I was listening to their cover of Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,”
which is in heavy rotation on my current playlist, and it occurred to me that there are many covers but few (this being one) that are better than the
original. Here are my top six:
Dream Theater, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” (original by Elton John)
DT is simply off the charts musically. This is a great song to begin with, and they just crush it. It’s on their album “A Change of
Seasons,” on which they also cover some other stuff (“Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple being also kind of ridiculous, although maybe
not better than the original).
Bruce Dickinson with Godspeed, “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” (original by Black Sabbath)
There’s a 1994 Black Sabbath Tribute album called Nativity in Black, and this is simply an amazing song done amazingly. Bruce Dickinson is up
there with Geoff Tate amongst the greatest rock vocalists, and his raw power on this track will make you pay attention the whole time. The time
signature/key change late in the song always gets my blood pumping.
Metallica, “Turn the Page” (original by Bob Seger)
Let’s face it. Back in 1976, when we heard “Night Moves,” we thought Bob Seger was pretty cool. When he did it, “Turn the
Page” was okay. Metallica creams the track, making us realize that a guy that we thought was somewhat tough is actually a wuss.
Kronos Quartet, “Star Spangled Banner” (inspired by Jimi Hendrix)
Kronos Quartet is a traditional string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello), who plays, well, everything. My wife and I actually got to see them
on our honeymoon in Firenze, Italy in 2005, when they were playing just a few doors down from the B&B in which we were staying. That night, we
heard them play a fair amount of music from both the Middle East and stuff from Bollywood. Their second encore was one of the most pleasurably bizarre
things I’ve ever heard: a nearly identical sonic recreation (with just the four instruments) of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of our
national anthem—complete with feedback and everything. It was in parts fairly cacophonous, but completely jaw-dropping. I’m not sure if
they ever recorded it for a production album, but these days you can find anything for download.
Queensryche, “Scarborough Fair” (original by Simon & Garfunkel)
Geoff Tate is in my opinion the greatest vocalist in the history of rock. His operatic range and powerful voice make him a pleasure to listen to doing
almost anything. The Queensryche version of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic is nothing short of amazing. It starts very quietly with nothing but
what sounds like a 12-string and snare drum, almost a martial beat, and three verses in explodes into what makes us love Queensryche in the first
place. Find it; download it.
Def Leppard, “10538 Overture” (original by Electric Light Orchestra)
I really hate to admit this one because Def Leppard sucks. Chuck Klosterman has a great quote about why in his book “Fargo Rock City,” a
gift to me by none other than Mr. Theodore Knutson. I’ll tease you with that and make you actually read the book to find out what Klosterman has
to say. Anyway, the original by ELO is a great song in the first place, Jeff Lynne’s thoughts about what society might be like if we were all
numbers instead of names. They made it in like 1973, so the production value is pretty low. Def Leppard covered it on their 2006 album
“Yeah!” (I hate that the Google search “Def Leppard discography” actually happened on my computer), and I’ll have to say
they really knocked it out of the park. I think that much of it is the 30+ years of better production technology. At least for today, Def Leppard sucks
just a little less.
Justin has engaged in a little flattery with his deck, riffing a bit off of my new Phelddagrif, complete with the old Intet, the Dreamer mana engine.
Speaking of which, I need to put that damn thing back together. I have that great altered version of Intet, and it’s a shame to leave it sitting
on a shelf.
CREATURES (32 – Including Rafiq)
Acidic Slime: This guy is so good that the only negative thing I can say about him is that I’m sorry he’s an Ooze and not a cooler creature
type. There’s a Beast version (without the deathtouch and destroy a land ability) in Indrik Stomphowler. I’d run both.
Admonition Angel : I’m not really sure about this because it’s eventually going to get blown up and bring back other peoples’ stuff,
but I guess you can use it to take out some of your own goodies (like Avenger of Zendikar!) in case someone Wraths the board.
Avenger of Zendikar: It’s just silly to not play this if you’re playing green.
Baneslayer Angel: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Remember when this was a $50 card?
Clone: Cloning Avenger is saucy.
Coiling Oracle: Still my vote for best two-drop creature.
Deep-Sea Kraken: Unblockable and will come out early. Suspend and then wait for the inevitable.
Emeria Angel: I get this guy with all the landfall going on, but I played him for a short time and was underwhelmed. Underwhelmed is a word I expected
Word to want to correct, but apparently it’s real.
Eternal Witness: Okay, so I’ve recently caught up on Fringe up to the latest episode, and I still can’t decide if Anna Torv is
really hot or not.
Frost Titan: If you put a dollar in the pot for every time someone remembers they have to pay two for targeting him and take out one for every time
they forget, you’ll make money, especially if that ‘they’ is me.
Kitchen Finks: Justin says, “
Okay, this is silly, but it is really nice to have a KF in play + a Greater Good + Venser (I know, it reads like a Hustler story …”I
can’t believe this happened to me…”). One of the gentlemen I was playing with laughed when I played KF. He wasn’t laughing for
long after I sacrificed him to GG (draw three, discard three for card quality, and LOLZ), return KF (with -1 counter), gain two life, and then
phase him out with Venser. End step, he comes back (sans the -1/-1 counter). I gain two life, rinse, and repeat
.” What Justin says is true, but with GG and Big Venser in play, I’m thinking there might be even more shenanigans to be done.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence: Linvala is the Empress of Sofa Kings.
Noble Hierarch: I’ll say that “other side” Olivia is smoking. Maybe it’s the red hair and the attitude.
Primeval Titan: True Fact—you can buy SCG out of foil Prime Times for $1319.78. I’d be willing to bet that if you want to pick up all 22,
Pete would even cut you a break.
Sakura-Tribe Elder: It could also be the Olympic medal in Marksmanship. Girls who wear leather and guns go great together.
Serra Ascendant: You’d be surprised (okay, maybe you wouldn’t be) about how many calls we get to ban this card. I’ve seen it come
down turn 1 and annoy some people but rarely more than that. It’s definitely a great QPR (quality-to-price ratio) but hardly format-warping.
Solemn Simulacrum: I’d support an alternate-art, promo version of this card.
Steel Hellkite: I’m playing this guy; I know other people are playing him, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him hit and
activate. Maybe I’m not paying attention.
Sun Titan: Other than the Elders (Yavimaya and Sakura-Tribe), Justin doesn’t seem to have too much to bring back with this. I guess fetchlands
are good enough.
Trygon Predator: Justin plays this guy because six or seven years ago, he routinely got kicked around by it.
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre: I’m starting to think that I like better stuff that triggers when it enters the battlefield, not when you cast it.
Still, even if you reanimate/Lurk up this dude, he’s indestructible.
Woodfall Primus: There is no doubt that this is my favorite creature that costs 5GGG.
Wurmcoil Engine: I’ve played this guy and been mostly unimpressed. Perhaps I’m just miffed because I don’t have any of the
lifelink tokens. In fact, I only have one of the deathtouch ones.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant: Drop this on the table and people will fear you. Get the emblem, and they’ll fear you even more.
Gideon Jura: I keep hearing people tell me they like Gideon in the format, but I don’t see it. I loved him in the Mythic Bant deck, but I’m
still doubtful about him otherwise.
Venser, the Sojourner: After playing this Venser just a few times, I’m ready to move to Vermont and make a commitment to him.
Darksteel Ingot: Unnecessary when you have Elspeth’s emblem. And if I see someone on Rock Band call their group “Elspeth’s
Emblem,” I’ll know where it came from.
Mimic Vat: Reanimation for every color. I wouldn’t mind so much, except blue gets it too.
Sensei’s Divining Top: Yeah, yeah.
Sol Ring: Is it me, or does Anna Torv look a lot like Laura Prepon (not that I mind)?
Sword of Light and Shadow: If I have to choose between the Swords, I like protection from blue and red better than black and white. The reanimation
angle of this is nice, but I’d like it more if Justin were running more dudes with enters-the-battlefield triggers.
Awakening Zone: Makes guys that make your Gaea’s Cradle better.
Greater Good: Should be called Greatest Good.
Lurking Predators: Having 31 creatures (since Rafiq isn’t in the library) means Justin will whiff two out of three times, especially without
Scroll Rack to control the top of the library. Play 50 creatures, dude!
Marshal’s Anthem: I like this more the more I play it.
Mirari’s Wake: Hey Matt Cross! I’m still going to blow up your Wake every chance I get.
Austere Command: Good players like having choices, and the Commands give choices.
Nature’s Lore: Justin mentions that it’s just better than Rampant Growth for two reasons. First, you can get a dual land, and second, the
land doesn’t enter the battlefield tapped. He’s certainly put me onto some new tech. Now to find those foil Nature’s Lores.
Recross the Paths: Who knew Clash (not just The Clash) could be so good?
Skyshroud Claim: Still no foils in stock. Curse you, Bleiweiss!
Blue Sun’s Zenith: As I was rejiggering my Thraximundar deck, I considered putting in this, and I decided to leave in Read the Runes instead. If only
it were an instant…oh wait. It is. Read the Runes out, Blue Sun’s Zenith in.
Chord of Calling: Convoke, and the fact that you can get a creature of any color, makes it better than Green Sun’s Zenith.
Congregation at Dawn: Waiting to live the dream of Lurking Predators’ trigger going on the stack and being able to play this.
Desertion: Deserting BSC would also be quite a dream.
Krosan Grip: I tend to get into KGrip paralysis, not blowing up something because I know something else better will come along later. In the League,
there’s the point for destroying a Sensei’s Divining Top, so this generally gets held for that.
Mana Drain: If I could make this a Judge promo, I would.
Overwhelming Intellect: In the format of giant dudes, being smarter is obviously better. Seems more and more as though you might not want to think
about playing BSC.
Fracturing Gust: If I’m playing good enchantments, I think I’d rather play Cleansing Meditation. I know it doesn’t take out artifacts
but seems terrible to have to waste your own Greater Good and Mirari’s Wake because someone’s stuff is getting out of hand, since those are
the things that will help you deal with them.
LAND (38—no real comments)
Maze of Ith
Simic Growth Chamber
Temple of the False God
I know there is a significant similarity between Justin’s deck and my Phelddagrif, but I wanted to give a large shout out to a guy who in
hindsight was one of the important figures in the early development of the format. His friendship, loyalty, and love of Embracing the Chaos are well
worth talking about.