Kamigawa

Storm The Stormdrain

Ravnica. 

A shining example of what civilization can be, its lively market districts flowing with coin and goods of all kinds. Humans, elves, even a few goblins, lining the cobblestone streets, either carrying their goods to market, or searching the stalls for the next interesting item to add to their collections, oblivious to the scene unfolding in secret below them. 

In the dark, damp sewers, a group of strange elves awaited. Their gaunt, pale green bodies were covered in moss, protected by insectile chitin armor, held together by leather straps. They stood ankle deep in foul sewage, silently waiting. 

Before long, a great procession of mages emerged from the darkness. They wore robes of vivid crimson and blue, accentuated by pauldrons and gauntlets of silver and gold that glowed with elemental energy. 

Leading them was a young man with raven hair. His clothing was sleeker than the rest; trimmed, sharp, almost regal in appearance. On his back, he carried what appeared to be a cylindrical glass container. Inside, a miniature storm raged, rumbling and crackling with electrical power. The gauntlet on his right hand was connected to the container through a large metal cord. As he trudged through the sludge, his disgust was apparent. “How your kind can stand living here is beyond me.” he said to the elves. 

But elves said nothing, even their breaths were silent. 

“Okay then.” continued the mage, “Do you have the artifact?”

Without as much as a gesture from the elves, a skull with slimy green tentacles that wriggled and squirmed out of every orifice emerged from the sludge, carrying an ornate metal pipe to the mage. 

Amused by the strange creature, the mage took the pipe and examined it closely. His fingertips followed the strange groves etched into its surface, pondering their purpose. 

“You have your artifact, Khozzet.” one of the elves hissed. “Return what has been taken from us.”

“I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen.” the mage responded before driving his right hand into the sewage at his feet. There was a loud electrical hum that quickly grew in intensity, then a might crack, as sparks and flashes of electricity jumped across the surface of the sludge toward the elves. They began to quiver and shake uncontrollably, their eyes rolled back, and then they slumped over. 

“Too easy.” he quipped with an almost sadistic chuckle, “Alright everyone, let’s ge-”

Suddenly, there was a great bolt of red and blue electricity that shot through three of the mages that followed him. From somewhere above, a cloaked figure dropped down between another pair of mages. As they prepared to unleash blasts of elemental energy, the figure reached out and grabbed onto the nearest mage, putting her between itself and the fiery blast of another mage, who was quickly dispatched by a blast of electricity. 

The other mage, seeing his companions struck down in mere moments, immediately turned around and ran, stumbling through the sewage. 

“Coward!” Khozzet yelled before turning his attention to the mysterious stranger. “You might’ve beaten them, but you won’t beat me.”

Like with the elves, Khozzet let loose a wave of electricity through the sewer sludge they both stood in. As the bolts crackled and jumped across the body of the figure, they ripped and burned through the cloak. But instead of a burnt corpse beneath, there stood a creature of terrifying stature. It towered over him, like a slender, hulking giant. It wore armor of rectangular plates of ornate scales of black, red, and blue. Covering its face was a sharp, demonic visage. Fangs jutted out from its lower jaw and a forked tongue slithered out from its gaping maw. 

“Was that all?” the creature asked, looking straight into Khozzet’s eyes, almost mocking him. 

In a fit of frustration and fear, the mage pointed his gauntlet at the creature let loose bolts of electricity as he retreated away. But to his surprise, it began to walk toward him, seemingly unfazed. 

As the demon grew closer, the lightning seemed to dance off of its armor. Khozzet cried out as he unleashed even more electricity into the beast, the very air crackling and hissing with energy. The creature grew ever closer, and it reached out and grabbed ahold of Khozzet’s neck, its slender fingers digging into his throat. As stray tendrils of electricity stung at his cheek, Khozzet felt his whole weight be lifted up from the sewage below. The air around him and the creature swirled about as he felt the roar of a storm in his body. With its free hand, the creature grab hold of its mask and removed it. To his surprise, the being that stood before Khozzet was no monster, but slender, almost delicate-looking young man. His porcelain skin as pure as the white marble temples of Selesnya. Along with his white hair, which was tied back into a short ponytail, a pair of long, rabbit-like ears stretched back from his hairline.

The stranger hung his mask to a cord on his belt and then grabbed from Khozzet. “Thanks.” he said with smile before dropping the Izzet mage several feet into the sewage. 

The mage looked up at the mysterious stranger and discovered that he appeared to be floating within a swirling vortex of black cloud. Within it, he saw the telltale flashes of lightning and heard the characteristic rumbling of thunder. The stranger floated away into the darkness, dipping beneath pipes and into one of the many service tunnels within the sewers. 

The mage sat in the river of waste, struggling to process what he had just witnessed. 

Let’s talk about Returning to Kamigawa

Sakashima the Imposter by rk post

Most of us don’t have fond memories of Kamigawa. This is a fact. Most of you who think it’s a cool plane and want a ‘Return to Kamigawa’ were never actually there to begin with. This isn’t me talking: This is something Maro himself has said. Sure, there’s plenty of things we liked about Kamigawa, but overall, the entire block failed on a lot of levels. I’m going to upset some people by saying that, but before we discuss anything else about Kamigawa, before we get into what should be changed or kept the same, before we discuss how a return could be successful, we’ve got to accept that the previous visit wasn’t.

I do want to go back. As bad as it was, it’s a rich world with a lot of unique ideas, and today, if you’re willing to listen to the rantings of an old goblin for far too long, I’m going to go through what of Kamigawa needs to change if it’s going to be successful in the future.

Keep reading

Magic Design History - Card Frames Part 1

Today my mind wandered back to a comment that was once thrown at Mark Rosewater circa Theros, about how every block since Zendikar has had a distinct visual cue that was new and unique to the block. I believe they were talking about Eldrazi, but it might have been Level Up creatures.

This really got me thinking, and in that thinking I realized that with the introduction of the “Modern” card frame, no block has really gone by without some kind of innovation or visual cue. Admittedly, there are some years that were weaker than others, but what I would like to show today is just how much the visual part of this game has been evolving over the last 13 years.

The change from the Scourge template to the one used in Eighth Edition was huge when it happened, many people I knew said they would refuse to continue to play with the new face. In the long run, I believe this was a very good choice. In some ways reading old cards could be difficult, but the time Onslaught block was coming out, I would like to believe they had gotten most of the template bugs out. There was a few quirks, like the White and Artifact cards looking visually similar on the table, but these were worked out during Mirrodin block.

The major stylistic gimmick of the Champions of Kamigawa block was the flip cards. Meant to represent a creature going from one state to another, the cards were split in half, with the art being placed in the center and designed to be two different pictures based on the prospective.

Honestly, for the time, this wasn’t a bad idea in my opinion. It’s hard enough as it is to represent a card with two states, because you want to show the cooler of the two (see Threshold), but that leaves you with a non-intuitive piece if the end state doesn’t match well with the beginning state.

It is important to point that Mirrodin block had no gold card, Magic Design at the time believed it was correct to deprive environments of elements as to make it really exciting when it returned. They would later realize this made rotation have far less effect on decks than they might have intended (see Affinity). What this meant in the larger sense was that we didn’t see the modern template for gold cards until Betrayers of Kamigawa with Genju of the Realm, and that was the only card! With it we got our first look into how modern frames might handle multicolored cards.

Ravnica was a hallmark for many things in Magic’s history; the first real block with Block Planning involved, the introducing ally and enemy pairings names - whoich we commonly use today, introducing hybrid mana and giving us the first use of watermarks in a black-bordered set. It’s the last two that presented themselves via visual cues. With an asterisk next to Genju of the Realm, this was the first time we’d seen a multicolored frame, but with Hybrid, we got a sort of “what if?” for how multi-colored cards could have looked.

I actually believe that had they hit on this color mixing “technology” during Invasion, they would have used this for two-color cards.

This leaves us with the watermarks, the crests of each of the ten guilds of Ravnica. By just fanning out the cards in a pack, you had a visual sense of the guilds and even some of their flavor, taking the Dimir as an example, their crest very much evoked the idea of The Illuminati. This, I think, was one subtle attribute that helped give Ravnica is extremely lasting legacy.

Our next block, Time Spiral, brought us two deviations from the typical card frame; an alternate timeline frame (which I prefer) and the futureshifted frame. As it turns out, the futureshifted frame was also an alternate timeline, as Mark Rosewater has since said that the dynamic difference was actually problematic. Either way, once again, Wizards was flirting with what they could do with the space on the front face of a Magic card.

Our next innovation almost feels like cheating, Planeswalkers. During Lorwyn block we got a completely new and completely disconnected flavor-wise card type and with it came a new face to Magic cards. They were a little weird, the art breaks out of the frame, they had plus and minus signs and no written explanation as to how they worked or what anything meant.

They would become part of every following block, but this is where they first started.

Possibly my weakest argument (spoilers, it’s tied), Alara block played it pretty safe in terms of messing with the card frame when it gave us colored artifacts for the first time (in mass). This was really a very slight change, but worthy in my mind to at least highlight.

While we are on the topic of Alara, some would make the case that each shard should have had a watermark. While a visual to link shard together (besides the environmental art cues) would have been nice, from a flavor point-of-view the shards had no use for an iconic “seal,” as they were introduced with no knowledge of each other.

Next we move on to Zendikar, where this all started. The look of completely colorless cards wouldn’t really be perfected in my mind until Battle for Zendikar. To me, this criticism is not unlike the my earlier point about Mirrodin having a small issue with White permanents and artifacts, further experience fleshed the look out. These cards looked visually stunning the first time you held them in your hand, before the art didn’t bleed into as much of the card as this, it was a marquee mechanic that was completely worth it.

Like I said, I’m not sure what was more bizarre in Rise of the Eldrazi, actually getting colorless frames or Level Up frames. I know which was more successful though.

With that I would like to wrap-up for the night and push the second half of this article to tomorrow. I will be touching on the remainder of Magic’s history with it’s card frames as we hit Scars of Mirrodin block all the way through to Battle for Zendikar!

Until next time, thanks and enjoy.

talking about kamigawa and tarkir

There have been conversations going round surrounding the concept of a Return to Kamigawa, and inevitably the concept of Wizards depicting an Asian plane comes up. I’m going to talk as a South East Asian person about how Tarkir has meant a lot to me.

First and foremost it seems that Central and South East Asian cultures are chronically underrepresented in Western Media. In England, South Asian culture is the dominant point that Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Filipino/Korean people aren’t considered “Asian” and my impression of America is that Asian culture is mostly East Asian - so Chinese and Japanese and Korean. 

The way that Magic plays into this is that Kamigawa seems to be symptomatic of a single country representing an entire continent - a whole plane was entirely based on the dominant Yamato/Shinto culture of Japan with its numerous references to kami, samurai, ninjutsu etc etc. Which is fine, in theory. Magic the Gathering is a product from an American company, predominantly in English and Japanese culture is arguably the most well known in nerd circles due to the proliferation of anime and manga. 

However, I treated Kamigawa with the same kind of wariness I treated the general high fantasy theme of the earlier sets. To me, it seemed like oh, here’s another Western company doing its take on Japanese culture cause that’s the most popular Asian culture in the West. It was well received in Asia, at least as far as I can tell because it seemed familiar. It was a respectful interpretation and I like the flavour of it but it fed in to the feelings of resignment regarding representation in general. I feel a kind of resignment that my chances of my culture being represented in some form in the things I like, is very slim. 

But Tarkir, whooo boy. Tarkir was great because not only did it get the scope of Asia as a continent nailed, but was also very respectful to the kinds of cultures you would see in those countries. Abzan and Mardu are representative of the kind of people you would see in that Mongolian/Nepalese/Central Asian area with the harsh climate, arid landscape and generally crazyass weaponry (look up all the varying designs for the kukri and nepalese armor, it’s kind of amazing). Temur seems to be a nod to Russian/Siberian/North Asian peoples with the general focus on the shamanic and the almost arctic climes of the Temur. The monastic and mindfulness culture of the Jeskai is reminiscent of the Buddhist orders found in China, Vietnam and Thailand. The Sultai with their opulent palaces, snakes, blood magic and general sneakiness in the jungle is very much like the Cambodian, Malaysian, Filipino way of doing things. (If you don’t believe me, read up on the thalassocracy of the Sultan of Sulu and the current dispute surrounding that and it is the most Sultai thing in the world.) 

The thing I’ve heard not just on tumblr but amongst people I play with is that Tarkir felt generically Asian. Yet to me, the most generically Asian plane was Kamigawa. I’m really proud of Wizards for going on a limb and making Tarkir as they did, because not only was it well researched and respectful but it also was creatively depicted. What was even better was the fact that dragons is actually something that is common to a lot of these cultures, so the fact that it was the dragon plane rather than some St George and the Dragon deal is something that makes Tarkir very close to my heart. We should have more planes like Tarkir.

(I also have specific feelings on how I relate to Narset personally, but this post is long enough as it is.)

strymon  asked:

Could an unpopular plane be returned to under the context of it being invaded by a popular antagonist? I would love to see Phyrexians invade Kamigawa.

A fine question for the Kamigawa lovers, if the only way to return was an invasion (by something like the Phyrexians) which destroyed the world, would you be in favor or against it?

In Today’s Magic Story...

Release

  • Ajani knows Mrs. Pashiri, enough to call her Grandmother.  Or that’s just her renegade name, which is still badass.
  • We’re seeing story on Kamigawa.  After this episode, I’ve changed my stance on revisiting the plane: I’m ready to return to Kamigawa.
  • Nezumi child Nashi is precious and must be protected at all costs.
  • Tamiyo adopts children.  This is adorable and I love her even more for it.
  • The kids call Ajani “Mister Cat” and it’s adorable.
  • Tamiyo and the children know not only Ajani, but Narset also.  Tamiyo also knows of Elspeth, either through Ajani’s stories or through actually meeting her.  I think the former is more likely.
  • Shadowblayde and her artifact insect army.  Girl needs her own card.
  • Some backstory on the Inventor’s Fair.  “Unlimited Aether Access” actually means “The flow of aether hasn’t changed we’re just diverting stuff from the Resistance neighborhoods and and giving the inventors access to it”.  Dicks.
  • We know Ajani (probably) encountered Tezzeret on Alara, but if that’s not the case then he heard about him from Elspeth’s tales.  Either way, he has motivation for being here.
  • Tamiyo gives more background into her studies on Innistrad and its moon.
  • We know how Bolas got his hands on Tezzeret.  Tezzeret “died” (we never saw the corpse so he could still be holding on to life), “betrayed” by his “comrades” (ie, agents of Bolas acting on his word), and then Bolas takes Tezzeret to be his pawn.
  • A man of living flame mentioned by Nashi.  It could be just an elemental, but they’re usually more bestial.  Possible Flamekin planeswalker?
  • Nissa the invincible, she who drinks only the strongest, is unfazed by mere poison.
Goblins of the Multiverse: Kamigawa

Most planes of the multiverse are in some way defined by their conflict. Ravnica is about the uneasy peace of man’s nature in society with men with different natures. Innistrad is exemplified by man fighting against monsters that were once men, but who have lost their humanity. Zendikar was one of man against the wilds of nature at first, but soon twisted into a fight against the overwhelming unknowable. Dominaria, for all the weapons of death and destruction, for all the monsters brought in, was always about man against man, and more than that, brother against brother (or sister) as Mishra fought Urza, Volrath against Gerrard, and Kamahl against Jeska. Kamigawa, ultimately, is about the struggle between man and god.


Patron of the Akki by Jim Nelson

Most of what we’ve seen of Kamigawa was during the Kami War, wherein the spirits unilaterally attacked all mortal races. Unlike on Zendikar, Kamigawa’s armies did not become fully unified, and while many of the local goblins fought against the spirits, very few did so alongside other humanoid races. These goblins, called akki, had no understanding of the cause of the Kami War, though they rightly assumed that humans were to blame. Akki thus spent the Kami War in a state of constant battle against everyone and everything. They continued to fight against humans, they were forced to fight against the Kami, and they weren’t exactly friendly toward other akki, either. Akki have the following characteristics:


Akki Underminer by Thomas M. Baxa

Reptilian: Despite general similarities, Akki are unlike other goblins to the point that there is no relevant genetic similarity. While the goblins of every other known plane are mammals, Kamigawa’s goblin population appears to be reptilian instead. Akki have scales, never have hair, and have no need for clothing. While akki do give live birth, this is not unheard of among reptiles. Certain subspecies of lizard give live birth, especially ones that live in high altitudes like akki. Of these, akki share a significant number of physical traits with horned lizards.


Kiki-Jiki, Mirrorbreaker by Pete Venters

Spikes and Shells: Like horned lizards, akki have horns atop their heads and many spikes going down their backs. In addition, while they have what appears to be a thick carapace upon their backs, this shell doesn’t actually go all the way around their torso. Their shells are actually the harder and stronger scales of their back, another similarity to horned lizards. Unlike horned lizards, however, akki scales are intensely fire resistant, such that akki can withstand temperatures upwards and over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


Akki Underling by Franz Vohwinkel

Society: Akki live in the Sokenzan mountains, a line of tall, snowy peaks with significant volcanic activity.  Viciously territorial, akki attack anyone who near their homes that they can’t absolutely identify as a friend, including other akki. Akki live in small family units, banding together to fight outsiders but rarely to encourage interacting with each other. On occasion, a disgraced human will flee to the Sokenzan, and if he can prove his worth the akki will accept him as one of their own. Even among friends, though, akki are notorious pranksters and their idea of a joke is often fatal for the recipient. Due to the difficulty in maintaining peaceful relations with the akki, much about them remains unknown.


Akki Coalflinger by Nottsuo

Shamans: Akki have a strong magical tradition and often have innate magical powers. Though their elemental specializations vary between earth, fire, and ice, akki magic is invariably used for aggressive and destructive purposes. Akki magic also has a tendency to cause significant collateral damage, destroying nearby terrain such that nobody can gain advantage of it.


Akki Drillmaster by Alan Pollack

Akki represent a strange snapshot of improper taxonomy. They act like goblins, live in similar habitats to goblins, resemble goblins in a few ways, but, ultimately, are no more related to other goblins than seahorse is to a horse. Goblins are mammals that appear more reptilian due to thick, green skin and little hair. Akki are actual reptiles, closely related to the horned lizard. Still, as taxonomy has always been an imperfect science, this error in identification doesn’t do any harm.

Tamiyo

Is pronounced ta-mee-yo (not Tammy-o). Tamiyo is from Kamigawa, the Japanese lore plane, and Tamiyo is a Japanese girls’ name.
Technically no syllable gets more stress than the others. This is a general rule in Japanese, unlike in English, where almost all words are pronounced with stress on at least one syllable (and several types of English poetry are based on this!).

In katakana: タミヨ

In kanji: 民代
These characters mean “people” and “change” (with other potential translations like “replace”).
This 民 is the same “tami” as in “soratami,” the moonfolk of Kamigawa (空民).

“Soratami” itself means “sky people.”

民代は空民だ。