Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Outbreak Tablas: Peter"

"Outbreak Tablas: Peter"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. MD

The night held so much terror for those on the Island. It started around midnight when Peter and Ruby heard the shots that were being fired in the subdivisions. Then there were the people running to the sea side , screaming out of fear. Clutching their children and precious belongings while running toward the city center where the police station should be. 

Peter knew that some were probably heading toward the bridge. A 2 lane bridge that separated the town from the Northern part of the island. He had often wondered why that place had a very active red light district. It was probably because a lot of roads literally and figuratively end there and the owners were always willing to pay for new meat especially if they would be paying on the cheap. Ruby here was one of the girls he got from the place. The abandoned day care center would be a perfect place to consume her services , she offered to him once they got out of the bar. 

Peter found that it was easy to break into the building and he was not the one to go to the nice motels that now littered the island. He wanted the business done quick. He remembered this place to be a waiting shed where he brought women before.Then it got well lighted , courtesy of the beloved Governor who placed his name there. He loved the place and thought it was like an instinct for fish and other animals to mate in one spot. Only he was not here to continue the species. He was just here to release some tension. He was getting a lot of heat from his Commanding Officer lately and this was about the only time to do it. Day Zero was not scheduled on the island for a couple of weeks or so he thought. Ruby here won't be able to do the ministrations she was doing on him while she was a zombie. So he was taking advantage of her natural talents now. He knew the all the signs and knew what was going on before Ruby even noticed.He was just too close to satisfaction now that he did not want to stop. 

"What was that?" Ruby said , stopping at a crucial point. The luminescent Rose tattoo on her massive breasts showing in the darkness as she lifted her head. She had heard the gunshots.

"Don't mind that now!" Peter said a bit irritated. Like a pro Ruby just shrugged it off and continued her job. He was done in a matter of seconds. He promptly zipped his pants , got his gear and suited up. Ruby was fumbling for tissues in her bag to wipe herself when a hand broke through the window that was directly behind her and grabbed her hair. She was pulled back instantly , the glass splintering in her wake , the sounds of the shards falling on the ground breaking the silence. 

Peter began Tsking. He found that it was such a waste of talent but the Undead do need to feed.With Undead already outside he knew that someone screwed up in the labs. Subject Zero must have been released too early or they were not able to grade its Virulence correctly. Hence the fast and uncontrolled spread.Either way he knew that they had to prepare because all hell was breaking loose on the island. If he knew the Old Man and Tessa correctly they might have been done with it already.He had to stay quiet and wait for his chance to get out of here.

The Sun was way up when he peered out into the open again. Thanks to a pheromone that an Adam gave him(with much bribing) none of the Undead outside sensed him and they were quietly milling around. Aimless as they were they stopped when they first heard the gun fires that afternoon.The lot of them turned theirs heads toward one direction and he saw where they were going. They were heading for the bridge. Ruby whose torn blouse let her massive assets hanging was among them. Poor girl. 

Peter decided that there was no rush. In a couple of minutes those shambling ghouls would reach their destination.

He now heard sporadic gun fire from the Bridge. Someone was making a last stand. The question was how long they could make that stand when there was more and more of these monsters every minute. He assumed that the owners of those bars on the bridge had a small weapons cache for frightening off Rivals and Unruly customers but he was not sure how they could match up to things that came right back up when you did not shoot them in the head. He did not want know or even cared.

Peter knew why the Day Zero Project chose him for this mission. He grew up here.He knew the place more than any briefing could tell his team mates His family once ruled this island and he made sure that all those close to the clan were sent off some place safe for the next couple of weeks. He could imagine that a lot of mistresses and unwanted people were left in the households. He had planned that those staying on this island would be in safe  , defensible areas. He was not so sure how the defenses would hold up now. Some of the areas would just be receiving supplies this week. Damn who ever screwed up.He was calculating the potential political losses if some of the top players were killed here. At least he could say that almost all his relatives minus all the undesirables or embarrassments were now safe in the States or doing an extended shopping spree in Hong Kong. In the following weeks they would be back and his family would be in power again. They would have all the resources to rebuild.The Day Zero Project would see to that.

He could envision his Uncle coming back to the island , his painted grief and his solemn vow to do everything it takes to put everything in order. Peter of course would not take any credit for all this. His family would. No one knew how deeply he was involved in the project after all. They just knew him as some goofball technician.

He brushed the thoughts aside. He had to go back to the Condo his team was using. With the Zombie mass going toward the bridge it was a simple way of picking his way out from zombie stragglers. With mixed emotions of excitement and anger Peter set out into the afternoon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Reaper of the Wilds: Death Causing Visions"

"Reaper of the Wilds: Death Causing Visions"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I could see the signs near the wilderness of Theros: "Enter at your own Risk , Here be Gorgons."

Gorgons are a normally dangerous bunch , they turn you to stone or eat you. Both of which are not really something that is high on the things that you want happening.In real life you probably don't want to hand around them but this gorgon is really someone you want on your side. 

Reaper of the Wilds is a really great creature to have , it is worth the 4 mana because of its 4/5 frame. It is gifted with abilities that would make it a great addition to EDH decks.Imagine being able to scry 1 whenever a creature dies.This one particular gorgon gives you visions in the presence of death.It could be one of your own creatures dying in the battlefield or your opponents being blocked or sacrificed. Any death at all. 

And there will be a lot of death when gorgons are involved. This one in particular has an activated death touch . meaning if does block anything you are assured of a Scry 1. At 4 mana nowadays you seldom see anything bigger than a 4/4. Even the high casting Dragons usually start out at 4/4. The Reaper is a handy blocker in the early turns and gives you card advantage the more things that it kills for you.

And should someone decide to try and take it out of the equation the Reaper also has activated Hexproof , an ability that is exceedingly being given to green creatures(or in this case Black/Green).  There has been talk that green is now taking over as Magics dominant color and with cards like these I could see why.

Scrying for 1 seems like nothing but it is this little card advantage that would set you on a better path in defeating your opponents. Scry filters out your deck and allows you to set the next draw. If you don't need what you see then it goes to the bottom of your library  , if the card you see is the one you need then you just keep it where it is and draw it the next time you can.

The Reaper also works great with other creatures that require creature sacrifice and give off other effects like Thoughpicker Witch (Exile A Card from Library) and Viscera Seer( Scry). And when there are creatures that are being sacrificed why not add something that allows more creatures to die...Grave Pact.

With the 4 mana enchantment in play ,any creature you control will force others to sacrifice creatures as well. In an EDH environment that could at least be 3 other creatures. This triggers Scry 1 for 4 times!!! 4 cards into the future. Black surely has something really powerful here and with enough creatures you could scry and reach all of your combo pieces without the need for tutors.

With so much death comes so much power. I shudder at the possibilities. Until next time may the Reaper grant you that which you seek the most.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Theros Pre-Release:Aki's Reminder"

"Theros Pre-Release:Aki's Reminder"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

The Theros Pre-release in my book was a really great one.I attended the one run by Mindstorm games in Padi's point SM North on a rainy Sunday. I learned a lot of things and was able to play weeks after my board exams. I only won one pack in the entire 4 rounds but it was a very satisfying tournament nonetheless.

Eventual 4-0 man Marco Serafica Sweeped me with a White/Green deck that abused Bestow on Centaur Battlemaster and White's flying creatures. As much as I hate losing in the first rounds I got to hand it to the guy for having a really well built deck.

My second match with the 12 year old Aki Manaloto was the reason I enjoyed this Pre-release so much. This kid had style  , skill and humility. 

Running a Red/ Green deck with Polis Crusher and Titan of the Eternal Flame as Mid-Late range threats and Akroan Crusader and Leafcrown Dryad as early threats , I was able to beat him in our first game with a  Bestowed Creature Equipped with a Prowlers Helm and suddenly pumped with a Feral Invocation.

The 2nd game saw me going to town with a Mix of Akroan Crusader  , it's tokens and Satyr Hedonists in the early goings. I was able to reduce his life to 2 and then it got interesting. He was able to cast the PR card for Blue , The Shipbreaker Kraken. He was able to make it Monstrous , tapped all my creatures and swung for 10. Another swing and I was dead. It got more interesting.

We took so much time in the 2nd game that there was only 10 minutes left before the round ends. 
This 3rd match would see us both mulligan to 4 cards. I was at a disadvantage this time around as I found that I would not be able to summon creatures so easily. Aki on the other hand was able to summon a Prescient Chimera , I was able to dispatch it with a Time to Feed on my Polis Crusher. The succeeding turns were deadly as Aki showed me that he had 3 of these flying Chimeras. He cast 2 and kept on swinging for the win.

It was a very exciting match for me . we were laughing as we mulled. We were kidding and we were talking about deck ideas. He was asking questions and told me that he read some of my articles. I was all about ready to quit playing Pre-releases all together because after After Avacyn Restored I have not been winning anything or getting things in my pack that made my heart pound.

The match with this 12 year old kid reminded me of how much I was missing the point. Yes , it might have been about the cards or winning but it is about always being curious , about always being hungry to win and accepting loss when it rears its ugly head.It was about being happy just being there. I finished 1-3 in the Theros PR but I don't think I could totally stop playing in them now. As older players we sometimes think that we are just the one's who could offer a lesson to the new players.Sometimes its the new ones who teach us more. Thanks for reminding me Aki.

"The 6th Shadow"

"The 6th Shadow"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

There is a place near our ancestral land that is rumored to be a portal to a different place. Many supernatural disturbances have been reported there like the appearance of strange beings or very large animals. This place is the Imburnal , it is a simple drain pipe that crosses underneath the road to the other side.A single lamp post marks the area during those times. The only lamp post for some distance all around.

My experience happened when I was 13 years old during a summer vacation. After a really great time in the town plaza I was with My Tita Bing and Uncle Rey  , my cousins Vincent and Jimbo walking merrily back to our house in Dapawan. The rice fields on both sides were swaying slightly with the wind. We were chatting noisily and had arms on each others shoulders. We were walking in step with each other.

From the distance there was some lightning  , sure signs of a summer rain. We even commented that we would sleep much better with cooler weather.We continued to chat until we reached the Imburnal.It was there that I noticed something strange when I looked at our shadows. To the right was a shadow and it had no head. No freaking head!!!

I started to count us. There were only 5 of us. And there was a 6th shadow with no head to the left. I asked my Tita Bing to look and she freaked out. We were all freaking out and decided to make a run for it to the house where we said nothing. We were so freaked out and we hoped that the 6th shadow did not follow us home. I said a prayer and had a very shallow sleep despite the cold weather.    

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Saving Destiny's Daughter"

"Saving Destiny's Daughter" 
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.
       Sarah could not help but notice him. It was as if a cloud of darkness hovered around him wherever he went. He was wearing his usual black around campus , people nowadays think that’s trendy but she knew that Carlo had been wearing black since the day he was born. A devotee to black as one student mentioned. 
      Shadow nudged her hand to break her train of thought. “I don’t trust that one” the wolf said as he pointed toward the black-clad boy with his nose. “He seems to be always up to something.”
     “Come on Shadow , you know better than to judge a book by its cover.” Sarah said as her vision followed Carlo as he kicked a can hurtling towards the open field , the can made a plomp sound as it hit the ground 20 feet away. She heard a whistle blow. “That was some kick” someone behind her said.
    “Oh hello, Patrick” Sarah said with enthusiasm. Patrick was in Sarah’s chemistry classmate and always had a soft spot for her. The only visible thing she wanted to be around with was the gray wolf. It wasn’t unusual for wolves to be tamed but this one seemed to have a very particular attachment to Sarah. Patrick was very curious as to what caused this bonding, recently he postulated that it was about pheromones, that Sarah is producing a pheromone capable of charming lesser creatures. Since he could not test this hypothesis in a distance he opted to befriend the lonely girl, only as he got to know her more and more everyday his interests became less and less scientific until he totally dropped it and just became interested in her. Period.

    Iris drew his gun out of thin air. His portal powers allowed him to store hundreds of weapons at at time with their accompanying ammo. This mission only called for one gun. From this perch over the tallest campus building he could see her talking to a pale , skinny , guy who even at this distance seemed to be so tense. It’s the shoulders Iris reminded himself. Tense shoulders give you away all the time. He refocused his power at her. Looking at her through the sight of his gun. Time to do the deed and collect the fee. He did sense that she had a great power within her but it was totally asleep , the wolf on the other hand had been awakened , his employers did tell him that the wolf would be a hindrance to his plans. He preferred to kill in close proximity to his subjects, he loved the look on their faces as life slowly drained away from them, but Shadow denied him that pleasure now. He was almost tempted to shoot the annoying wolf first but that would give him away and the target to flee to safety. No, he had to shoot her first , one in the chest ought to do it , the employer explicitly forbade him to shoot her in the head. He never bothered to ask why, you don’t survive much in this business if you ask too many questions. All he needed to know was what she looked like and her name and he would do the job.
          A red glow, emanated from his kneeling body, sweat dropped from the side of his face unto the ground. He would use his power to make it look like a heart attack, she may look healthy but they would surely find a lone hole in her heart when they did the autopsy, with no bullet trace since the path it would create would be closed by his powers. He took aim and steadily pressed the trigger, sending one lone red bullet toward the maidens heart.
          Shadow heard the crack of the gun first. A sound no one could have heard but him. The Art tower! The wolf thought. It could only have come from there. Beside him, somebody fell over, blood spurting forth like water. He heard her scream. It was Carlo sprawled on the road.
         “That boy!!! He was not there when I aimed”, Iris said to himself.“How could he have  gotten there so fast?” And  he came to the conclusion almost immediately. Another portal user. As fast a he was but inexperienced. His employers were not expecting such a complication. He was a bit disappointed in them and himself.
        There was no time for a second shot since the wolf had already been alerted.  And with a speed that had astonished Iris the wolf had found out where he was. The door to his right burst open. The wolf with its fangs  shown and its fur bristling. It charged toward him at lightning speed and as it pounced he sprayed it with a deadly pheromone that brought it down but not before biting his left hand and dragging him along for the fall over the towers side. The Wolf had shifted his body so that all his weight would rest on the assassin. The wolf reasoned that at least this one won’t be bothering Sarah ever again.

Iris was smiling. Such a tricky thing this wolf had tried to pull. It had wanted me to die and with such deliberate intent too. He could not help but laugh at this whole thing. He had discovered another Portal user. A Powerful Murdering wolf all in a span of 2 minutes. The mission just got more interesting. It was so amusing that he was not in a mood to kill right about now.
He liked the feel of the wind as he plummeted down but he had other jobs to do and this one had to be finished. There will be other times to deal with the other Portal user and this wolf. Iris blinked out of existence and Shadow fell down quite magically on an old discarded bed mattress where Sarah had found her later. Pride hurt but physically well. Shadow had lost the scent of the assassin but it will be forever stored in his brain. He would know him.


The lights hurt his eyes. He hated lights shining directly above him. His eyes refocused on the pretty face in front of him, then he remembered her and what he was supposed to be doing.
          “I didn’t know asking you out could be so life-threatening Sarah.” , He started, his voice a bit hoarse as he spoke.
          Sarah watched over him the whole night and was obviously at the end of her strength. She managed a weak smile for him. He did have a morbid sense of humor after all.
          “You’ll be ok. The Doc said that the bullet missed a vital artery, only by an inch. I mean if you moved a bit closer you could have been dead by now.”
          Carlo touched his bandaged shoulders. He knew that the bullet passed just below his scapula, very easily breakable bone and very painful or so his teachers taught him. And Sarah was right, a little it closer and that stupid little thing could have hit his axillary arteries. Very messy, he has seen a guy stabbed there once when he stayed in Tondo, didn’t even get the chance to bring him to the hospital. The thought of blood calmed him somehow, but he wanted it , he wanted blood on his hands for whoever tried to do this to Sarah. Look at her he told himself, why would someone want to kill a sweet soul like her? Unless Sarah had a secret life that she wasn’t telling anyone but as far as he could tell, Sarah lived in a big ass house with no one else but her wolf. Has very few friends , one of them was Patrick who just entered the room with a tray full of food. He set it down on the table beside his bed and with tears in his eyes sprang to hug him. “Oh thank you for saving my best friend! I didn’t know what would have happened if you weren’t there to take the bullet for her.”
          “Hey buddy , if I didn’t have injuries I know what I could do just just about now….” Carlo said with a snarl and with that as if Patrick came to his senses pulled back and composed himself. Sarah giggled. “I’m extremely sorry about that , I mean Sarah has always been very good to me and I really do….care for her. So I didn’t want anything like that happening to her.” Patrick still held that reverence for Carlo as a worshipper held reverence for a saint.
          “It’s ok really” Carlo said trying to get up. It was Sarah who gently stopped his rise, her hand on his naked chest.
          “The doctor said for you to rest. Besides, you cant do much with your injuries for awhile so why don’t you let me take care of you.”
          Carlo looked at Sarah’s soft looking hands on his scarred chest. The girl flushed and took it off. Carlo stood up and revealed that he had a lot more scars on his back than on his chest. “Where are my clothes? I can’t go out just wearing my boxers now can I?”
          Sarah went to a drawer and handed his neatly folded clothes to him. I bought you a new polo, the other one was too bloody. “Looks nice” he told her and promptly dressed up. Sarah and Patrick could only watch as he put on his new blue polo, Patrick cringed a bit knowing how painful his injuries were but he didn’t seem to mind. Sarah was sensing power from him. She could not tell what it was but he was using it right now. Carlo was focusing his portal powers to block the nerve impulse transmissions so as to deaden the pain. It always worked.
He was on his way out of the door when he stopped and hesitated. He turned toward Sarah and took something out of his front pant pocket. It was a folded ticket. The design was that of fleeting ghosts, spirits rising vertically as if to reach heaven. “The Spirit Room” was the lone print on it. Sarah has heard of it but she was never been invited to it ever.

“Be there.” Carlo said without any inflection in his voice and turned to go out of the door. Sarah was left with more mystery about this man who saved her. She smiled.

Authors Note:

While we were still in Medical school , my friend Anne showed me a story about Sarah entitled Daughters of Destiny. I found it interesting and encouraged Anne to write more. This was supposed to be an ongoing collaboration where Carlo and Iris , both portal power users from the stories I wrote would meet with Sarah.
My friend Anne is now a Pediatrician and after reading this and passing her diplomate exams the writing bug bites her again. I hope it bites her hard. 
 Original Concept: Daughter of Destiny" and Characters Sarah and Shadow by : Anne Marie Joy Tablarin
 Original Characters : Carlo and Iris from June’s Multiverse

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Nemesis of Mortals:Pushing Grave Affinity"

"Nemesis of Mortals:Pushing Grave Affinity"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     In EDH/Commander there are lot of people and a lot of cards that love having a full graveyard.A grave full of creatures is something that the Golgari love as exemplified by the current Guild Master , Jarad. He becomes stronger with each creature that you have in this pile. The Lhurgoyf , Splinter fright , Boneyard Wurm , Golgari Grave Troll and Bonehoard are all buying in on the concept too. There are other cards however that love a full graveyard because they have what I call Grave Affinity. They cost much lesser for each creature in your graveyard. Innistrad's 10/10 Ghoul Tree took advantage of this unofficial mechanic and was smashing faces way earlier than it should.

Another Grave Affinity Monster emerges from the Plane of Theros and would find itself welcome into my Jarad EDH deck. The Nemesis of Mortals.

The name alone is already cool but it does not speak of what this card actually represents. It is the actual Nemesis of planeswalkers. After all it is their life that it ends.Originally costing 6 mana , because of Grave Affinity and 4 creatures in your graveyard this snake becomes a 5/5 creature for 2 green mana! The Monstrosity 5 activation is a whopping 9 mana! Grave Affinity takes care of that as well. All is takes is 7 creatures in your graveyard and you have a 10/10 creature for 2 green mana. With the Golgari mage making full use of spells like Mulch or Grisly Salvage you could have the Monstrosity cost cut down and activated in no time.

However I find that the lack of trample makes this card easy to defend against. A measly 1/1 soldier could stand in its colossal path and stop it in its tracks. Not quite the image I wanted to picture in my head but it does speak the truth. Despite being a big brute as well it is easily taken cared of by a well timed spot removal which would ruin an aggressive players day.

Unopposed though it means the end. There are a lot of things in magic that could grant that.And protect it from removal too.

An Unblockable , Shrouded 10/10 creature for less just 4 mana with the graveyard affinity condition met?Isn't that the kind of monster a lot of us want to have? Jarad does. We have one now as well.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Mistcutter Hydra: Blue Mage Killer"

"Mistcutter Hydra: Blue Mage Killer"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Blue Mage or Control Magic players exude a certain coolness about them and this is borne by the fact that they have all the answers that they will ever need right at the palm of their hands.They can say no to your every spell. Return any creature. Deny you. Draw so much better than you. They are in control and they know it from the very start. I am sure that I will derive a certain amount of pleasure when I start to see little beads of sweat form on a Mono Blue players forehead when they see this bad boy.

Yup , the Mistcutter Hydra was born to end lives. The lives of Blue Mages to be exact. You could think of this Hydra as a precision bomb that could be set early or let loose in the later parts of the game to do its damage.It would just laugh at Blue's normally powerful control magic.I could already picture many Blue Mages squirming in their seats as they see a Green mage tap for so much mana for the X cost of this creature.They would not be able to counter it. Once it lands on the Battlefield it has haste and protection from Blue. They would not be able to bounce it in Standard or in EDH. Blue creatures would just stand helpless as this hydra cuts through the Blue Mist and deals its massive amount of damage.

This one card I believe will force Blue Mages to splash a second color for removal in standard such as White or Black. Theros has provided plenty of removal for these colors. In EDH I see it as a threat to Simic , Azorius and Izzet Mages although these colors still have a great chance in dealing with it.

"We have you in mind Mistcutter Hydra..."
Black Mages or White Mages will not be afraid of this hydra because of their easily available spot removal but because of its Haste I see this as a great potential finisher for decks that already have board control most specifically it would fit great in a Simic Control deck that can pump it's X while being able to counteract any threat when it attacks.

Despite the great abundance of counters and removal in Theros , Mistcutter Hydra will keep Blue in check in any format for years to come.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"The Man in the Blue Shirt"

"The Man in the Blue Shirt"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. MD

While doing my rotation in the San Lazaro Hospital I experienced something that I still remember to this day.

I was assigned in the ward , which one escapes me at the moment. I was asked to stay in an examination room that held a single bed in front of the Nurses station. I was busy doing ward work like inserting IV's and updating charts. This room is where the Junior Interns would stay if they were on 24 hours duty.It had to do with the room next door which is the busiest ward room on this floor due to the constant flow of patients.

It was around 7:30pm when I felt hungry so I went to the nurse station and told the nurse on duty that I would just go out for a quick bite. When I returned to the ward I noticed that ahead of me was a bald man in a light blue shirt. The man passed in front of the nurse station and turned left to the room that was assigned to me.I was thinking that this man might have come back for an abstract or an inquiry about something. I waved to the nurse and turned to the room. There was no one there.

I hurriedly walked out because I already knew what it was but still seeking a rational explanation. I asked the nurse if she saw the man in blue. She saw no one.

Thinking that it was an evening visitor for one of the patients I went to the ward room that was right next to mine. There was no one in blue in the room. No one was bald. Most of them were female. The hospital is room of these walking spirits. Needless to say. The nurse on duty was not surprised to see me slumbering away in their station until the morning.

"Underworld Cerberus:Not Today"

"Underworld Cerberus:Not Today"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

Persons traversing the road to the Underworld would find the familiar three headed dog guarding the way, fierce and unyielding. He guards the dead from the living and the dead from coming back. Of course in the world of magic we all know how porous this world from beyond the grave really is.
Reanimators abound in the EDH format that abuse all of the creatures in their graveyards. This card proves to stop each of them in their tracks.

The Black/Red , 5 mana costing Underworld Cerberus is a show stopper for all sorts of reanimating shenanigans. Af if there was not enough Reanimation hate they even decided to put on one a 6/6 body that is sure to deal damage when your opponent is running short on creatures with its first ability. Only 3 or more creatures could block it. One for each of its deadly heads!

The ability that hoses reanimation dreams is the 2nd one where Underworld Cerberus makes cards in Graveyards unaccessible. Spells and Abilities could not touch them. Your Obzedat's Aid could make any permanent come back from the grave but the Underworld Cerberus would say no to it. Comes into play abilities of creatures like Eternal Witness becomes void because there would no legal target. So instead of recycling a card you just get a 2/1 blocker on your side of the board. I would say that that is quite unfair. Many players who hate all these Graveyard tricks would surely rejoice. Necromancers on the other hand would still be able to deal with the 6/6 hound but when they do there is still a price to pay.

The Underworld Cerberus's triggered ability when it dies is that all players would return all creatures from his or her graveyard to his or her hand!!! The Underworld Cerberus is exiled so this ability could only be used once but reanimators would still be at a distinct disadvantage because their whole game plan is to put monsters where they could summon them for the cheap price of their reanimation spells. No such luck. I could see Underworld Cerberus as a really great addition to Rakdos , Lord of Riots EDH decks. In concert with a Sire of Insanity it offers a really crippling blow to all your opponents. While the Sire of Insanity is pretty great on its own , you never know when someone would draw a Reanimate Dead and control the board with a series of Reanimation. 

I must add that the last ability of Underworld Cerberus is quite a double edged sword.When all the creatures are returned to their hands some players would have access to Mana ramping , creature killers and card drawers. Not to mention big creatures that they could actually cast if it is in the later part of games. To counter act this it is always best to have the Sire of Insanity already in play so that this slight disadvantage is avoided. Black/ Red control has a new 6/6 body with way too many good abilities to pass up.

So what does Underworld Cerberus say to those who abuse the grave? Not today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Outbreak Tablas Survivors: The Enclave"

"Outbreak Tablas Survivors: The Enclave"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

(My name is not important. I have been sent here to find the survivors of the Tablas Outbreak. While the island is now mostly uninhabited. I have been able to contact a group that has been living on the top of a mountain.The controversial Forlales Fraction that had been vilified in the news all over the archipelago for having survived while others died. I now speak to Estrella or as she is known Estring , who stands as the unspoken leader of the fraction)

"I am assuming that you are here to know more about my husband Captain Forlales? What do you want to know that has not already been twisted by the tabloids in Manila? They call my husband a deserter. A traitor to his own country men. They called him a coward. Is there anything that I missed there?"

(I shake my head and tell her that I am more interested about the enclave's survival here in the mountains. Estring seems to calm down a bit but in her eyes you could see the determination that she would not rest until her husbands name was cleared).

"If you want to know how the enclave survived then we would have to go back to the beginning and the misunderstanding that lead to my husband being branded as such a horrible man."

"When the Yawa ( The Undead as they are called here) started to appear by the dozens. My husbands detachment in Bagontor Hill were the first to respond. He had tried to contain the contagion by setting perimeters in the reported hot spots as normal procedure dictated. The Yawa was something out of our nightmares , they were things that you never ever thought could be real. How then do you stop things that continued to grab at you while you were shooting them? You would shoot a limb off and both the Yawa and severed appendage would continue coming at you? Back then people was not so sure that shooting them in the head like so many zombie movies show would actually work. In fact in those times the most effective way is shoot them at the back of the head. We were not even sure if it worked. Tablas was in chaos because radio contact was being lost one by one."

"How do you stop an enemy that came out from every rice Paddie? Clogged up every small street until you are forced to go into swamps and mangroves to get away? When the Bagontor hill was over run and only a few of his men remained defending the islanders my husband decided that he would come here on this mountain. He tried to signal those people on the Bridge but between them were hundreds of these things. He took pictures as proof."

( Estring handed me a digicam , its power cord still attached. Electricity still being at a premium the enclave decided that they could spare a few ounces of gas from their generator for this little interview. I turned it on and saw in one the multitude of Yawa from Bagontor hill and the Bridge. There must have been hundreds of these things. There was no way to get through to the bridge to save those people. The rest of the pictures were taken at the back of the army truck. Captain Fradejas and was was left of his men drove off with hundreds following them. One picture showed a soldier hitting a Yawa on the head with his rifle barely dodging hands that tried to pull him from the sides of the truck. I had seen proof enough and handed the digicam to Estring. She continued)

"We all knew that all of the people on that bridge died.The papers said that they died while facing Yawa on all sides while the military on the island ran away into the night.As you can see in the pictures it would have been madness to go to that bridge and my husband was anything but mad."

(Estring pauses for a moment to catch her breath)

"This place that you see here now is an old place where they used to bring prisoners and people under protection from the government. Many provinces have these. My family and I knew of about it because generations of us were the caretakers. When news of the Governor dying in Romblon broke and that Romblon itself was being overrun we decided to stay here as well. Carrying as many as we could bring. These are the handful of people that you see here now. Times were not easy and people succumbed to diseases or even their own stupidity."

"My husband went here with about 10 or so of his men.He knew that there was only one way in or out and that gate needed to be defended and fortified.It was a steel gate made to withstand fire.On either side was a sheer cliff that lead to the river below. The designers of this place made sure that this was a safe place for anyone.My husband felt that the main gate leading to this complex was not reinforced enough. The reason was simple ,When he arrived he was a mere few hours ahead from hundreds of Yawa that they had attracted during their escape. The truck was parked sideways along the gate and positions were taken on all sides. One of his men suggested merely pushing all of the Yawa to the sides. Bamboo poles were fashioned and handles embedded in them for better control.When the Yawa came we were ready. There must have been hundreds of them. They consisted mostly of the surrounding barrios. It was a thick mass of moaning and shambling blackness. Every man , woman and child was defending that gate. My husband was on top of the truck shouting commands to his remaining men. No shots were to be fired.Conserve ammo. Use only when some of the creatures are threatening to overcome the gate. 10 of the people we rescued were armed with the bamboo poles , one of my husbands men commanding them. The Yawa closest to the sides were being pushed to the river a pair that was jokingly known as "Pushers". A pair would push the zombies from the center to the sides , these were called Ushers,like the one's in church yes. The plan worked and we are still here.The ammo from Bagontor hill was never used.It was not an easy existence but as long as the gate was closed and manned none of them could get us here."

(I asked where Captain Forlales was ,why she was the one speaking to me in his stead)

She motioned for me to follow her toward the now teeming camp.Children playing and crying. Mothers washing clothes and cooking. Men carrying harvest and tending animals in areas designated for them. She brought me to the innermost part of this complex which was inside a great cavern. At the far end of the cave we climbed steps that were carved in the stone itself until we reached a small room , a wide opening facing out to see the wide green forests below and perfect to watch the sunrise. In the middle of this room was a simple cross sticking from the ground. Medals were pinned to the wood. Estring motioned to her late husband.

"He always loved this room. He loved watching the sunrise from here though he was up way before it. He said that he will not rest until we see a much better sunrise than what we have now. After he had scoured the countryside with his men armed only with Jungle Bolos and Shovels. He had hugged me and told me that all of the Yawa are gone from this area. He had cleaned the place. The perimeters are established and well defended. Tomorrow will be a better sunrise he told me. He sat with his back on that wall over there and closed his eyes. He never opened them again."

"Now you tell me sir if my husband deserved to be called a coward and a traitor? Tell me why he is hated while he should be honored? Tell me why the Government has put out his face as a symbol of hate in our battle against the Yawa?"

(I had no answer for Estring.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

"The Strongest Elspeth"

"The Strongest Elspeth"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

She had a hard time using her spark. She could traverse the planes but it felt so hard that she did not want to do it any longer. She wanted to find peace but she woke up in this room that seemed to go on forever. Her eyes began to focus in the darkness and she saw from the far end a place she never wanted to see again. She saw the once mighty Castles of Bant beginning to crumble from abandonment. The decay that the plane of Grixis carried when these 2 Shards of Alara collided was seeping into the once tranquil plane. Elspeth closed her eyes and breathed the air around her. This air was familiar too. The smell of metal and blood was strong in her nostrils. She could still sense the presence of Phyrexia in the plane once known as Mirrodin. She did not know why she was here. She only knew that these 2 planes reminded her of her failures. She was unable to save them. Bant Fell. Mirrodin Fell. She was followed by failure wherever she went. She began to sob.

She felt the other minds begin their own descents into sadness as well.

"Who is there?" Elspeth asked the gloom. The answers came in rapid succession.

"We are you and you are us"
"We are Elspeth...
...Knight Errant"
...Sun's Champion"

Elspeth knew who she was and who they were instantly. They were all her. Her past  , present and future all existing in this room of 2 planes. She heard a power thrum that spread from where she stood. She instantly knew that there would be no way out of here and the only way was to get through her other selves. Knowing who she was  , Elspeth braced herself for the fight of her life.

I have waited long for the 3rd reincarnation of Elspeth so that I could write this Planeswalker Mirror fight. To  compare the 3 Elspeths  , Knight Errant and Sun's Champion have an edge over Tirel because of early token creation.The former could create tokens without compromising their loyalty counters. In a battle of these 3 versions the key would be get creatures on the board early and able to deal damage to the weakest opponent. Elspeth Tirel is in a distinct disadvantage because the life she gains does not add to her loyalty counters. Since Knight Errant and Sun's Champion could create early board domination they would be the first planeswalkers to survive.In the ensuing battle the Sun's Champion could make tokens much faster but the victor will be decided by the Knight Errants' 2nd skill.

The Sun's Champion looked at her opponents. She knew the tricks up their sleeves but she did not know in what way that they would use them. She began to summon 3 Soldiers to her side. She felt herself glow a little bit more as if she was becoming more real in this existence. She saw that the Knight Errant was glowing much in the same way but she was only able to summon a lone Soldier on her side. Elspeth Tirel was also able to summon 3 Soldiers but in contrast she seemed to have weakened. As if summoning hurt her and she was fading. The Sun's Champion realized that the way to defeat her other selves was with the amount of soldiers that could be summoned. The Knight Errant  also realized that they could easily take care of Elspeth Tirel. 

Elspeth Tirel fell on one knee. She could not believe what amount of her life force summoning took. She knew she would be gone before she could recover. The first wave from her other selves sent 4 soldiers. 3 was able to kill her loyal subjects and 1 wounded her. She knew that her healing magic was useless and the lone soldier from the Knight Errant stabbed at her heart and she faded.

The death of the first Elspeth was felt by the last remaining 2. They both clutched their chests in pain and gasped at the same time. The Knight Errant was the first to recover and with her skill made her Lone Soldier receive the might of giants and the gift of Flight. The Sun's Champion was not able intercept the flying champion. Her Soldiers attacked the 1st of the three. She felt the slash of 3 swords but was not weakened. The Knight Errant on the other hand seemed to be fading and hope grew in her heart. She was not able to realize in time that even though the Knight Errant only had one champion she has enabled it to bypass her defenses. The Sword that decapitated the Sun's Champion glistened with her blood. In this place Heliod could not reach out to save her. In this place only one Champion will emerge undisturbed.

The Knight Errant began to weep at the loss of her other selves.It all seemed so senseless. She knew that they were destined for far greater things. She vowed that she would never rest until she found who devised this room. Elspeth felt the enchantments around the plane disappear. Though it felt like she was peeling her skin she began to open a rift of white mana. She was preparing for her travels in the Blind Eternities seeking knowledge about what really transpired here. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Swan Song: Keeping the Balance"

"Swan Song: Keeping the Balance"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

My first reaction when I saw this card was not really a good one.I was still in the euphoric high from knowing that Magic will support a strong enchantment themed block in Theros , the way that they did for Artifacts in Mirrodin. I was envisioning enchantments left and right. Heck there was a ton of them in this set.

The Artifacts were enchantments , some of the creatures were enchantments and the gods themselves were enchantments. It was a great way to build around that theme. Of course magic had to balance this strong potential. In Mirrodin there was a lot of Artifact hate from all colors and they also reprinted Annul. Now they made this card, Swan Song. 

At a mere 1 blue mana to cast it can hose any enchantment from legacy to standard to EDH.In a world where some of the strongest strategies revolve around enchantments this 1 particular card can make all these strategies moot. It could also take care of any sorcery spell(Mass Removal , Discard spells ,Ramp spells , Reanimator spells) or in matches with other blue mages counter any instant! How is that for a strong card? The 2/2 Flying Bird token it gives is not actually a drawback. Countering a Mass Removal Spell or a god before it hits the battlefield gives a far better advantage to you. People with enchantment heavy themes would always be on the look out for that 1 untapped blue mana producing land. Blue mages will always be bluffing. I expect this card to rise in value.I expect a lot of frustrating games in standard. It is not really my kind of card but there will always be a place for some control mage deck for this one. 

"Curse of the Swine: It's a Piggy Party "

"Curse of the Swine: It's a Piggy Party "
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

"Ambaboy" is a tagalog slang that roughly translated means "That is so messed up." It literally means "The Pig". Baboy means pig in the language. Then again you are not reading this for a language lesson but the card I am going to talk about today really is fitting of the term "Ambaboy".

Curse of the Swine was designed to invoke the imagery of Circe turning Sailors into Swine. Imagine an EDH game battlefield full of monsters ranging from 4/4 to 11/11 ready to push you to the underworld on the next turn. You draw this card. You refuse to smile. You cast the card for 2 Blue Mana and X , targeting and exiling every Darksteel or Blightsteel Colossus that your opponents have. In exchange for removing all of that power from their side you give them a 2/2 Green Boar for all their troubles of casting it or cheating it into play. It does not seem like a fair exchange but a 2/2 creature is much easier to deal with than dying to an 11/11 Infect monster. 

"Awww...Such a cute little 2/2 piggy..."
In an environment that always needs removal this will be a big asset for any blue deck. However there are certain weaknesses inherent in the card as well.

#1 This card does not solve the trouble with Hexproof creatures. Well there is a reason why blue EDH decks have Evacuation , Cyclonic Rift and Wash Out.

#2 It is not an instant.Sorcery Speed is good but Haste creatures would still deal damage when they come in.You have to for your own turn to you exile unless you already have a Leyline of Anticipation in your deck that makes this card more awesome.

#3 Reducing creatures to 2/2 Boars does not mean that you will not lose the game. If you are already at a low life total the effectivity of Curse of Swine is diminished. Giving 5 2/2 Boars to an opponent still means 10 points of damage that could kill you. 

"I smell lechon..."
As a defense card Curse of the Swine is awesome. Combine it with a Pyroclasm  , Roiling Tremblor
or Volcanic Fallout when you are running an Izzet deck and you are all set. When you opponents are finally out of creatures after sweeping them again and again then you could finally appreciate how "Ambaboy" this card really is. 

"Outbreak Tablas: The Bridge of Lies"

"Outbreak Tablas: The Bridge of Lies"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

(My name is not important. I was sent here to learn about the survivors of Tablas.It has been a hard mission since there are only a handful. Materials about them are also hard to come by but there is one that gave me a lot of interest. Among the ruins of a bridge was found this diary. It was the last stand on the island written by a man named John Forlales)

"Mayungot ey kag mga Yawa!!!" (The demons are near) I heard someone shout in clear Odionganon. I saw them running toward this now heavily barricaded bridge. This was the only way out of town and could only accommodate 2 lanes of traffic. We were standing at the far end of the bridge watching as the rest of the town proper burned. On this side there were at least 20 armed men. These weren't the kind of weapons that gave you confidence though , A couple of Armalites and a bunch of hand guns that looked like they were kept in someones baul for a long time. 

These people have called the undead the Yawa. A term that meant demon. A pestilence. And this was what the undead looked all across the island. They were the Yawa of this day and age. When young people use the term the Older folks would give them a good slap , when the adults said it they usually received a stern look.  It is amazing how people still cower in fear from their mothers.I doubted if any of the elders are still alive now though.

The outbreak here was fast and brutal. Someone suggested that we should hold the bridge so that the undead onslaught would not continue toward the northern tip of the island. I could still see the military barracks in the distance. It was on a hill that looked more defensible than this stone bridge that we have barricaded with tables and cabinets and sofas.Anything else that people could find really. All radio contact was gone with the barracks and the last gun fire was heard a few hours ago. No one seemed to have survived there as well. So far the outbreak was still confined in the southern part of the island but I knew that it would only be a matter of time before the Yawa consume everything and find this bridge. They may look slow but they are very efficient in what they do. 

This place used to be the Red light district of the island. Both sides of the bridge were lined with structures that stood on stilts or were being supported by struts embedded deep within the sloping stone walls. The river passing by below into the sea seemed like a relaxing view and also afforded a great place to vomit once someone had a few bottles too many. In a matter of hours the other side of the bridge has been completely deserted. The northern side was the only considered safe zone. I should add that before completely barricading here we have saved countless others. Let them escape to the northern end where hopefully there would be enough boats to  get them to safety. The 20 brave souls who remained here so that the others might continue and hopefully alert the authorities about what was  really going on here. Romblon was only a couple of hours away and might not be affected by whatever was here on Tablas.

I remembered the farewells. There were tearful good byes as Fathers kissed Wives and Children.Parents hugging new born sons and daughters. Pleas from people to leave the bridge and  I just join them to the journey north. These men were heroes in my eyes. Despite the temptation they stood here with me. They were former bouncers and discharged soldiers. They saw the importance of the bridge and so they lied.
I heard all the lies that people said when they knew what would really happen next. A resigned measure to encourage others no matter how bleak everything seemed. "Once things are OK here we will follow you" One lied , "We just want to make sure that none could follow us" another said.
The small convoys of jeepneys , tricycles and pedicabs went on. Many people on foot trudged on. A renewed sense of hope on their faces because at least on this side they would be safe.

Someone thought of blowing up the bridge. The plan called for an excursion to the south side to the mining district and the houses of some fishermen who were thought to hide sticks of dynamite for their illegal fishing activities. The plan was rendered moot however when the dogs on our side began a slow wailing howl that is normally reserved for horror radio programs. Then we saw them. There were dozens of them slowly shambling their way to where we were. First among them was a female ghoul , her head to her side, her exposed neck showing the that tore through it. Her blouse was torn exposing her right breast which swiveled with every step she took. There was a rose tattoo on it.

"Nong , buko ba si Ruby Kato?" (Nong isn't that Ruby?) someone said pointing to the lead ghoul.

Nong shook his head in disbelief. "Uya ey si Ruby" (Ruby is gone). Ruby was his only daughter. Most of the men knew Ruby as a fun-loving ,kind- hearted person who left to find her friend.The sadness in their faces were all too clear. 

Nong suddenly stood up and addressed everyone. 

"Haley kag mga Yawa. Buko tayo hadlok sa kanila.  Ipakita nato kag ato tapang. Uya't makakarayon hali sa atong tulay!!!!" (The Yawa are here. We are not afraid of them. Let us show them our courage! No one will pass our bridge!!!)

There were several grunting responses from the men and safeties on their weapons were being released. The men took positions among the barricades. It all seemed unreal but we will have to see if we could hold this bridge.

While people were facing the oncoming Yawas I was able to glance at the direction where our little convoy went.I offered a silent prayer for their safety. I saw a child in the clearing wearing nothing but a sando that was 2 sizes big for it. It was slowly walking toward us and it was gray.

If you are reading this please remember us. 

- John Forlales

"Stormbreath Dragon: Here be a dragon..."

"Stormbreath Dragon: Here be a dragon..."
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

In a set like Theros where Gorgons and Giants and Hydras are the norm I did not expect to see a dragon in the set.Kind of like that time in Kamigawa where you did not expect to see any Angels because they did not seem to fit in the bigger picture of things so when I saw this dragon as a part of the Monster crew I felt a bit happy.

Stormbreath dragon could be considered a weaker dragon because of its 4/4 build  ,I could hear Dragon Tyrant calling him puny all the way from the ether.However summoning him for 5 mana is very easy as compared to the more powered dragons who have 5/5 or 6/6 frames. 

He does not have comes into play abilities but he does have an edge against control players. He has protection from White who normally have the most powerful 1 mana cost spot removal in Swords to plowshare and Path to Exile. White normally has the best flying creatures so he is virtually unstoppable against white creatures. He also has haste to boot which makes him an instant threat when he lands on the 5th turn or in EDH as early 3rd or 4th.

His edge against control players however comes from his Monstrosity 3 ability. He spews lightning and deals damage equal to the number of cards in each players hands. People who always have a full set of cards due to long term plans and card advantage will feel the full brunt of this attack which makes Stormbreath Dragon a threat and may probably be the target of an early Voyages end when he first comes into play (especially when life points are already critical for an opposing player). A 7/7 Dragon that damages an opponent without even attacking seems like a better choice than waiting to cast the bigger dragons. The activated monstrosity ability could take at least 2 normal turns but then again if Stormbreath Dragon could attack unopposed for those 2 turns then it could be a very short game for your opponents.  

I imagine people who have blue or white in their EDH decks to have a heightened sense of awareness of this dragon. He probably ionizes the air just a bit when he arrives. He may not be able to discard any of those cards your opponents hold but he will make them pay for the full hand that they do have. The best thing is he doesn't even need to physically harm them. You could just do it every end of turn until all the lightning consumes the battlefield. Leaving behind the burnt cinders of your enemies.

What a happy thought....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"If A Kaiju Really Attacked Manila..."

"If a Kaiju really attacked Manila..."
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

A few days back my brother told me that he had just watched Pacific Rim for the first time and he instantly regretted not seeing it in 3D when it was still showing in the local theaters. I was reminded of how awesome that movie was and a blog that I buried for awhile because of my board exams.

I instantly liked this film when I saw the trailers. I liked it even more when in the prologue they mentioned that Manila was one of the cities that were first attacked by the Kaiju. There was a lot of yehey's and fist pumping in the movie house (oddly if that really happened a lot of the people in same cinema house would be dead). 

So it got me to thinking , what would really happen if a Kaiju went here? A monster that stands as tall as the buildings in Makati and when killed encompassed several city blocks. 

If this scenario ever happened I am sure that a lot of us would be goners. Dead. Buried. Unless the Philippines has some experimental prototype weapon that they are not showing us then I believe that this would be the Apocalypse for the entire country. A monster the size of the Kaiju could just keep on trampling all over the archipelago for years terrorizing any shoreline and basically making a lot of ports non-viable for trade or travel. Imagine that , the Philippines would be virtually uninhabitable!!! Who would want to live in a place where a 100 foot monster could rears its head any time it pleases and not be stopped by our antiquated Tanks , Planes and Ships? No one. Even now we wait for modernization and even now there are promises but no results. My bet is if we even decide to build our own Jaeger , most of the funds would go to an unknown NGO and non-existent parts would be reported as purchased.And when the Jaeger is off to fight it falls to pieces the moment a gust of wind hits it.

What about foreign aid you say? In the end a Jaeger saved Manila but after the loss of many lives. Politically I do not think that a lot would come to our aid. I sincerely doubt America would commit her fleet to us here even if we are her strategic ally here in the Far East. She is busy trying to build a weird relationship with her creditor China.

Japan might be able to help us because of their proximity. what threatens us  , threatens them as well after all but mostly if they believe that the threat is contained in our area and does not consider going North then I believe that they would just stand by and wait. They would debate over it but they would wait.And let the whole lot of us die in the process.

The same could be said about China. The big bully near our own backyard. Having rid of one enemy and acquiring resources like Spratly's by not doing anything will be priceless and they would probably just watch the Kaiju ravage our major cities in their china phones with TV. 

Our neighboring countries would be the same. They would shore up their defenses. They would prepare for the inevitability when the Kaiju has finished with us and turn towards them. There will be no aid. Who knows if they will even open their doors for the evacuees that would come from the sea.
The reason for this is simple. If they were the one's needing our help our country would have nothing to offer. 

So there you go. We would have a desolation that would span the surrounding oceans. No life would exist except the simplest forms like amoeba or the hardiest of folk who would have nowhere else to go. 

There is one hope though. And there is one thing that our country has a high rate of , Tuberculosis cases. I just hope that when the Kaiju stays a couple of minutes in our soil and gets a strong whiff of our air its alien physiology would have no means of coping with the advanced strains of M. Tuberculosis in our smog.I hope that it actually dies from the very same thing that is killing our own countrymen. Then we would withhold treatment until it croaks.

Yup I have lost faith in a many good things but what I do know is that there is always something  , no matter how small that could make a difference.