Vorthos In Review: February 2014

JDB discusses a great February on Uncharted Realms, Magic action figures, the encrypted Conspiracy announcement, and his contest winner!

GP Richmond

So . . . who missed me?

Making the jokes so you don’t have to.

It’s been a month or so since I last wrote an article for This Here Site Here, but I’ve had a few things to take care of, like packing up my entire life in Dallas, Texas and moving to Roanoke, Virginia to work full-time at StarCityGames.com. Maybe you saw my news updates or (JDB) tweets or perhaps my smiling mug at the recent SCG Open Series in St. Louis and Atlanta as I honed my coverage craft.

I’ll be at Grand Prix Richmond and the SCG Invitational weekend in Charlotte as well, so say hello if you see me. Chances are I’ll be taking a page out of the Roberto Gonzales’ playbook and sporting a bow tie. I don’t know how many times Hermes has been worn on the floor of a Magic tournament, but the count’s at least two. I’m going to bump it up as often as possible.

Enough about me though. There’s been a month of Daily MTG Vorthos goodness (beyond the release of Born of the Gods, which I reviewed) that I haven’t had the chance to talk about. Think a great February on Uncharted Realms, action figures, and that encrypted Conspiracy announcement. Oh, and yes, and I have a contest winner to name. On to it!

Uncharted Realms, February 2014

This might have been the single best one-month stretch in the column’s history.

First up was Clayton Kroh’s “Emonberry Red,” which was a gem of Magic storytelling. I’ll give you this image of a Fate Unraveler as a spoiler buffer before I go on gushing about it.

Most people familiar with Greco-Roman mythology would have known the story early on for a version of Pyramus and Thisbe, first recorded (though almost certainly predating) the Roman author Ovid. “Emonberry Red” hits all the high points of the millennia-old tale: the lovers separated by family quarrels and a wall, the communication through a crack, the first lover arriving and fleeing a beast that has just made a kill, the ravaging and bloodying of the first lover’s garment, the second lover’s mistaken grief and suicide, the first lover’s pleas to a divine force who answers, and the plant whose white fruits (here “emonberries” rather than mulberries) turn red from the mingled blood of the ill-fated youths.

There are a few differences of course. No god told Thisbe to take her life, as death god Erebos told Pavios. There is no killer beast tragedy in the past of Pyramus such as Thanasis possessed. Most significant of all, the core love story involves two young men instead of a man and woman.

More so than any other setting or time in Magic’s history, Theros has been willing to explore sexuality outside heterosexuality. The card Guardians of Meletis requires a bit of dot connecting, while “Emonberry Red” is more forward. The story of Pavios and Thanasis isn’t merely an attempt to be trendy, though few can deny that times are changing in much of the United States, but is organically connected to the truth of the ancient mythological Greece that inspired the Theros setting.

Much of ancient Greece saw same-sex love differently from the 18th and 19th century Protestantism that strongly shaped American mores. The relationship between Alexander the Great and his second-in-command Hephaestion is among the better documented examples, as is the composition of the Sacred Band of Thebes. In the Greek pantheon, Zeus had Ganymede, Apollo and Zephyrus had Hyacinth (in a story bowdlerized for Mozart’s opera on the theme), and Narcissus had himself.

“Emonberry Red” passed mostly without comment except for notes on the story’s beauty. For the generally socially liberal population of Magic players in 2014, that sounds about right.

Kiora’s Followers” by Kelly Digges is a different type of story, one of a planeswalker’s arrival on Theros and her interpretation as a divine force. As a merfolk, Kiora has far different perceptions of the act of planeswalking from a human; she thinks in terms of swimming rather than walking and tries to express the sensation of water passing through her gills, which has no real equivalent for a land dweller.

Kiora certainly has the attention of several tritons by the end. How loyal they will stay and how angry Thassa will be if she finds out what Kiora’s been up to remain open questions.

Dance of the Flitterstep” by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes explores one of the most disturbing corners of Theros: the Returned. In my Born of the Gods flavor review, I singled out Forlorn Pseudamma, the zombie mother forever searching for her children, as the card that wigged me out more than any other. “Dance of the Flitterstep” tells the story of the Forlorn Pseudamma, the grief she caused to parents in the city of Meletis, and the drastic steps taken to put her and the stolen innocents to rest.

In its own way “Dance of the Flitterstep” was a quiet story suffused with melancholy. The triumph, such as it was, was simple and understated. Not too much gore, but plenty of horror with a note of hope from the spirit at the end—a storytelling style I like.

Last but not least among the February stories is “The Walls of Akros” by Kelly Digges, the new officially in charge person for the Uncharted Realms column. Despite a bit of name soup—ten soldiers is a lot to keep track of in a short story, though lots of bodies hit the floor along the way—”The Walls of Akros” was effective at creating an almost Twilight Zone effect with its mysteriously cunning minotaurs and a dramatic cliffhanger finish.

“The Walls of Akros” also has pitches for two experiences, one for the Game Day experience last weekend and another for the upcoming Magic eBook Godsend, a two-parter by Jenna Helland. I didn’t mind either pitch; on a scale of one to Mac and Me, they’re threes at worst, and the Game Day was good reinforcement. I also need to preorder my copy of Godsend, so I at least found that plug useful.

(This is your obligatory reminder that Magic eBooks, like all other Magic products, must be bought or they will be discontinued. We lost an Innistrad novel in the transition from paperbacks to eBooks. I don’t want to lose any more Magic fiction of reasonable quantity, so don’t forget this first-week purchase!)

Action Figures

The most adorable Vorthos announcement of the past month has to go to the Funko-Wizards of the Coast deal to produce cute, just shy of four inches tall versions of six popular planeswalkers.

Don’t you dare pet me.

The choice of six planeswalkers means either Karn or a double up on one or more colors. In this case, Nissa Revane got the nod, which is interesting since she hasn’t showed up since Zendikar block. She joins Garruk Wildspeaker, Chandra Nalaar, Liliana Vess, Jace Beleren, and Ajani Goldmane.

For those who don’t like their Magic figures super stylized and available in gas stations, Funko is switching things up and making detailed six-inch action figures in what the firm is calling its “Legacy Collection.” According to the press release, the Legacy Collection is new to Funko, and the planeswalkers will be among the first figures released, with a debut in August assuming all goes well.

Magic has tried for action figures before, but I can’t find what became of that February 2002 announcement if anything ever did. If geek is the new mainstream, the mini vinyl toys and more detailed action figures represent another nudge of Magic in that direction.

That Conspiracy Announcement

In another time, the encrypted announcement for the new Conspiracy set would’ve kept folks occupied for a while. As it is, with automated cryptography solvers and Reddit, the Vigenere cipher lasted a couple of hours at most. Nonetheless, for a bit of time on a weeknight, it provided me free entertainment, and it’s hard to argue with that.

The decrypted announcement certainly points to a flavorful set. Not only is it specifically designed for the intersection of multiplayer and drafting, itself a first among official Wizards products, but it contains cards that specifically affect the act of drafting itself, including the already spoiled Cogwork Librarian.


According to the decrypted announcement, there will be 65 new cards in the black-bordered set, but only 52 of the newbies will be legal in Legacy and Vintage; thirteen cards will be illegal in all formats but Conspiracy Draft. This raises a few odd questions. Which cards will be illegal? How will players be expected to keep them straight? Will the Vintage and Legacy banned lists just get thirteen new additions at once?

Then of course is this decidedly non-Vorthos question: will any of them have an impact on Eternal formats comparable to Planechase’s breakout star Shardless Agent?

Signed Card Winner

In my Born of the Gods flavor review, I announced a contest to win one of the foil contributor’s copies I received for contributing to the set’s flavor text. To get entries, I made a little puzzle with lots of clues pointing to the card I intended to give away.

It turned out not to be a very good puzzle.

One of my clues was that I had not critiqued “my contribution” to the prize card in my review. Unfortunately, that nuance didn’t come through. Worse, I’d written about Nyxborn Eidolon, the card I’d intended as a prize . . . just not the flavor text, my contribution.

So nobody guessed Nyxborn Eidolon, but a lot of people guessed a more logical card that I hadn’t discussed at all: Bolt of Keranos.

What’s a Vorthos contest runner to do?

Well, one, admit he messed up by making a clue that’s way too easily misinterpreted. Two, change the prize to the one most people thought they were going for: the Bolt of Keranos contributor’s copy.

Three, stop talking in third person because that’s creepy.

Four, take all the people who entered with a plausible card name, put them in the proverbial hat, and draw out a name.

The winner? Nicholas Grayson. Congratulations, Nicholas! I’ll be in touch to arrange shipping of the autographed foil Bolt of Keranos.

Talk To Me

So how do you think Vorthos did in February? Did you enjoy the stories in Uncharted Realms? Are you excited to add a few vinyl figurines to your collection? How did the Conspiracy announcement strike your fancy? What else did you see around the Internet that was a Vorthosian gem? Talk to me below and share your finds with all the other readers out there.

GP Richmond