Hello and welcome back to Vorthos is Magic! One thing that always bugged me about Magic even when I first started playing it was its potential disregard for canon of the fantasy genre itself. That is to say that decks that placed well competitively had nothing to do with the creatures or spells depicted in the art or flavor text. Crazy, right? Spells that were efficient and had mechanical synergy with one another outperformed cards that merely looked cool or had inspiring quotes on them. “What kind of world is this?!? Has the world gone mad?” I would scream as I scoop my totally awesome but more importantly thematically appropriate “Knights and Angels” deck off the table while my victorious opponent laughed and laughed.
Needless to say, my first few years of Magic were frustrating ones. Many moons have passed since then, and while my brewing skills still won’t light any grills (as the kids say these days), I understand now much better what makes a deck Constructed playable and what needs to stay on my kitchen table. That being said, something inside me still can’t turn a blind eye when blatant acts against continuity are perpetrated right before my eyes. I suppose I wouldn’t be very good at this if I could.
Some of you might be familiar with the concept of a Flavor Draft. For the uninitiated, essentially the “format” allows for appeals to a panel of arbiters for when flavor has been broken. Here is a brief example:
Mark casts Predator Ooze and asks Aaron if he has any responses. Aaron says, “Yes,” and casts Bone to Ash in order to counter the creature spell. Mark then appeals to the arbiters claiming that since a giant blob doesn’t have any bones to begin with that a spell named Bone to Ash shouldn’t be able to work on it. The arbiters agree, and the spell fizzles.
That’s it in a nutshell, more or less. Essentially, it’s a casual format meant to poke fun at incongruities that can occur in Magic. I like to call them Flavor Breakers, and I love to highlight them at every given opportunity. Here are my Top 10 Flavor Breakers.
Honorable Mention: Kjeldoran Royal Guard & Unscythe, Killer of Kings
I didn’t include this one on the main list because of the many examples I can cite in works of fiction where the king’s bodyguard or close friend betray him to his death—Warcraft 3, The Mummy, and Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar just to name a few. Game of Thrones fans should be well familiar with the concept. (Oops, spoilers!) So the concept isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I just love the image of a king inspecting his men and one of them has this gnarly scythe comprised of bone and evil very obviously hidden behind his back, whistling nonchalantly like a Tex Avery cartoon. “What have you there, soldier?” “Nothing, my liege…nothing whatsoever.”
10. Remove Soul & Soulless One
This pair is pretty low on the list because it’s more of a semantic paradox, not necessarily a breach of flavor. Yes, it says “soulless” right in its name, but any good necromancer will be able to tell you that undead are animated by negative energy that could be construed to be a “soul” of sorts. A grotesque parody of actual life to be certain, but that’s the idea behind undead to begin with. Even abominations created through science such as Flesh Golems or more traditional Constructs have animating forces inside them one could argue would be affect by a spell designed to rip out said animating force. A good rules lawyer could probably still get this one by with a decent argument, but probably not so much with guys like these:
“Coming in M14: Remove Winding Key”
9. Infinite Reflection & Any Vampire Ever
Listen up Twihards, before “She Who Shall Not Be Named” came along and threw the horror rulebook out the window in order to tell a vapid, banal, and downright insulting “story” about a manipulative, blood-sucking parasite and her stalker boyfriend, vampires were dangerous creatures that were regarded with respect as centuries-old literary monsters. Well, maybe not as much as one would hope, but still! Vampires have had strange abilities and weaknesses for as long as people have been telling stories about them, the most well-known of which is being destroyed by sunlight, not sparkling like a freshly polished Ebony Rhino!
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
Another one is that they cast no reflection in mirrors. So wouldn’t this just do nothing on principle? Also, why would this be printed in Innistrad block when one of its biggest and defining qualities it is that the plane is lousy with Vampires? Sorin Markov, one of the most recognizable planeswalkers in Magic’s history is Vampire from this very setting! Well, I should be glad at the very least Wizards didn’t include the often forgotten counting compulsion. I suppose there are enough “The Count” jokes around without it.
8. Linvala, Keeper of Silence & Endless Scream
Follow me on this if you will. The title “Keeper of Silence” makes me think that Linvala is some sort of celestial librarian, as in her job is to maintain a cloistered rectory of scrolls and manuscripts in a secluded monastery on some remote stretch of land. Pilgrims and learned men would travel far and wide for the opportunity to pour over these sacred scriptures and learn what they can about the nature of divinity. Linvala is there to keep an air of somber contemplation to ensure that those deep in thought won’t be interrupted.
It is then, as she stands stoically watching over the stillness of room, that she erupts in the shrieking howl of a mad man—bellowing a thunderous yawp of fury she tries in vain to clamp her hands over her mouth to stifle the earthshattering scream she has no chance of stopping. Then I, the jackass planeswalker that annihilated this placid scene with my poorly timed enchantment, cackle like a lunatic with juvenile glee.
7. Urgent Exorcism & Cloistered Youth | Unholy Fiend
What’s the old riddle? “Those who have it don’t need it. Those who need it don’t have it?” That’s my take on this particular non-interaction. That poor girl needs help to be rid of the dark entity that lies within her waiting to transform her into a living nightmare. Too bad that Exorcism can’t target her! Good luck being a Heinous Horror Hag!
6. Jar of Eyeballs
When I first saw this card spoiled, I could tell it was a continuity error in and of itself given the plethora of different creatures in Magic. Granted, a majority of creature cards don’t take umbrage with this card (being vaguely humanoid), but so many other critters don’t conform to the jar’s assumption of anatomy—especially creatures that don’t even have a physical body. How do you get viable eyeballs from an incorporeal spirit? Or a metal automaton? Let’s not even start to get into walls and ships! I get what the designers were trying to do. They were trying to emulate the classic spellcasting ingredient vibe, like the witches from Macbeth, but when your game features monsters composed solely of a single giant eyeball, you may want to reevaluate your design.
5. Flood & Sea Creatures
I confess, I am not a marine biologist. Shocking, I know, but I am willing to go out on a limb and say that at least some of the creatures featured in blue have a passing level of proficiency in the field of swimming! Especially creatures native to our own lakes and oceans. Now, I know floods can generate dangerous rushes of water with tremendous speed and carry dangerous debris making it impossible for even the best of swimmers to transverse, but can I at least get a wave or two in the artwork? Look at those waters! They are calm, almost serene even. What in that illustration could keep a Giant Shark or even a Lurking Crocodile from crossing the battlefield? I do enjoy the artwork, however, if only because it reminds me of the end of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
“You will see a cow…on the roof of a cotton house.”
4. Frozen Solid & Wall of Fire
3. Feast of the Unicorn & Benevolent Unicorn
This one was brought to my attention by Caleb Durward via a comment on my first Top 10 Gruesome Art article, and I love it. The fantasy junkie and veteran D&D player inside of me wants to rage, frothing at the mouth, at the utter defilement of the unicorn ethos of Medieval European mythology with this pairing, but something inside of me can’t stop laughing at the idea of Rarity devouring Twilight Sparkle.
“A boost to Power you have sought. Eat your friends, you should not.”
2. Silverblade Paladin soulbonded with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
It is precisely interactions like this make me groan in frustration. First, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with paladins should know why this is wrong. I don’t want to break out my Player’s Handbook and recite the Paladin’s Code of Conduct, but suffice it to say paladins suffer not the company of evil characters or creatures—kind of a big deal with them. I can find it very amusing to slap black auras on white creatures or vice versa, but this is a particularly egregious offense within the paradigm of the world of Innistrad itself. If it seems I am picking on Innistrad a lot in this article, I don’t mean to be. I love Innistrad. It is one of the most flavorful and engaging settings in Magic’s history. That’s probably why I have so much to say about it.
Look at it like this: Mikaeus for all intents and proposes is the Pope of Innistrad. He is the Lunarch, the head of the church of Avacyn. He gets murdered and raised as an undead mockery of his former self. Now you have a paladin, champion of goodliness and valor, soul bonding with this wretched creature, a walking blasphemy of everything a paragon of honor stands for. How does that even work? Either soul bonds last beyond death or the paladin is too stupid to notice his boss is a now a rotting carcass dripping with decayed flesh and abuzz with flies.
“Weekend at Thraben”
1. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn & Amber Prison
Emrakul, alien god born out of time and space itself. The very embodiment of the void, the loathsome space between planes. The most powerful and fearsome of the Eldrazi, a forgotten race bent on worldwide destruction and devastation. This entity, this thing, this harbinger of death which spells certain doom to not only Zendikar but even the very multiverse as we know it…done in by tree sap.
“Hey Jaunito, does this look like an Elder God to you?”
Thanks again for reading everyone. Please let me know some of your favorite blips on the flavor radar. Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @Fru17Spr34d. As always, don’t forget to have fun!