MTG Mondays(Sort of): The Story of Arabian Nights

“We made tempestuous winds obedient to Solomon . . . And many of the devils We also made obedient to him.” The Qur’an, 21:81 – King Suleiman

Rabiah

Welcome one and all to another tale in the vast expanse that is the Magic the Gathering universe. Today I will tell you the story that is the tale of the Arabian Nights. Also I know this is a Tuesday, I apologise, something came up that I could not avoid, it shan’t happen again.


Arabian Nights has some similarities to the story from the plane known as Terra or Earth, where a lot of you come from. Some people such as Ali Baba and Aladdin appear here and there on the plane itself, Rabiah, has a lot of similarities to your land known as Arabia, I have no idea if that is a consequence of the Thousand-fold Refraction or not, but I would call it food for thought. 

“For my confession they burned me with fire And found that I was for endurance made.”The Arabian Nights, trans. Haddawy – Repentant Blacksmith


To tell you the tale we must go back to eons ago, where the lands of Rabiah were ruled by a race called the Djinni. The Djinni were evil spirits that roamed the land and ruled with an iron fist, though something drastic happened that tipped the balance of power. There was a war between the spirits known as the Jihad. The various Djinni and spirits tore themselves apart and in turn weakened their grip and the power they had on Rabiah. With their diminished power, a new strength grew on Rabiah, the humans. While there are amazing stories from the lands of Rabiah, many were lost, like grains of sand in a desert. Even one as powerful as I can not obtain a lot of knowledge from Rabiah, bar the ones I have already spoken about: El-Hajjaj and Abu-Jafar. I know of two other short tales about the plane: The City of Brass and Fatima, a powerful planeswalker from Rabiah.

The City of Brass:

The City of Brass by Ron Walotsky

What would you say if I told you of a city that was built out of stone and brass. The brass is so prominent that even the surrounding mountains are covered in it. What would you say if I said that because of the searing heat of Rabiah and the structure of the city, the temperature can be twenty degrees hotter than the hottest Rabiahn desert? This is a city in which the Djinni live, as normal folk couldn’t live there or would find it very difficult to. None the less it is still a place sought by many a wizard and magic wielder as it is full of potent mana, but even the mana is so hot it will burn its user. No pain, no gain, I guess. Oh I should also mention that the City of Brass was created by a rage filled planeswalker named Fatima.

Fatima:

Fatima was a planeswalker who was born on Rabiah. She was quite a wealthy and independent woman who enjoyed her freedom, especially in a land that was extremely patriarchal. Fatima’s father was dead but she still had someone to comfort her, a lover named Al-Abi. The special thing about him was that he agreed to never want to marry Fatima which suited her fine as she enjoyed being independent, until one night he did ask to marry her.

Brass Man by Christopher Rush

Fatima flew into a deadly rage and wanted to be away from everyone and everything and that is exactly what she done. Fatima went to the furthest corner of Rabiah and created her City of Brass to be somewhere she could close off and isolate herself away from the rest of the world. The unfortunate enemy especially stopped by: loneliness. Fatima went to work to create citizens for her city and she called these beings, the Brass men. Fatima came to love her creations and they kept her company while she stayed and still stays in the City, isolated from a world that is slow to change.

But alas, that is it. My tales of Rabiah have dried up. For a plane that has a thousand and one exact copies, it can get quite sparse on tales of heroes and villains and dastardly men and do gooders. I hope you have enjoyed the trip through Rabiah as much as I have, however short it has been. I have no doubt that I will be revisiting these lands someday, but for now, I must bring these mystical tales to those, wise enough to bend an ear. So if you are ready to go, then let us continue our story through the wondrous lands of Magic the Gathering.

I hope you enjoyed my writing and as always, thank you for reading!

Unreal Tournament III (2008, Xbox 360)

Name: Unreal Tournament III (2008)

Developed/Published By: Epic Games/Midway Games

Genre: First-Person Shooter

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Players: Single, Online, Local

Age Rating: 18+

Welcome all warriors to the greatest tournament the universe has ever known, Unreal Tournament…but the third one, so that would make it Unreal Tournament III. This video game was released in 2008 and was developed and published by Epic Games and Midway Games respectively. Unreal Tournament is known for brutal, high speed, high octane, ranged combat and this game is no different. The aim of the game is to pit two teams against each other of varying sizes and have them try to complete a objective whether it be kill members of the other team until you reach a certain score or capture the enemies flag a number of times and bring it to your own base to score…This goes back to the old school way of first person shooters, like Quake, Doom and the original Unreal Tournament. 

You have been warned, competitor!


Plot:

The plot to Unreal Tournament III has one big elephant in the room from the get go, it has nothing to do with a tournament in the slightest. The game primary storyline is about an alien war with undead soldiers. 
During the game you take the role of the character Reaper, the leader of a team known as Ronin. Reaper and his team were part of the defence on a vulnerable planet against an enemy called the Skaarj. The Skaarj butched and massacred everyone they could find on the planet. While defending the planet, Reaper passes out after a missile impact. Upon waking he sees a solider dressed in all black executing a soldier. The soldier is wearing the armour of what is known as the Necris. The Necris are led by a woman named Akasha.


Reaper and the rest of his team which comprise of Bishop, Othello and Jester who happens to be Reaper’s sister must help fight back the Skaarj and the Necris with help from various other teams and heroes, such as legendary Unreal Tournament character, Malcolm. Reaper and the rest of his team are put to the test by Malcolm to make sure that they are ready for the day that they find Akasha and put a bullet in her brain by completing missions against aliens, robots and other hardened veterans. They eventually find Akasha and Reaper finally has his revenge and kills her, but his team including his sister have all been killed by an ambush by the Necris. The only person that knew about Reaper’s assault on Akasha was Malcolm, so Reaper swears revenge on Malcolm and that is the end. END OF STORY.


Now onto to the game itself:

If I was to describe it in one word it would be fast. The combat in this game moves a hundred miles a minute and is high octane, which in a game that is steeped in classic multiplayer history, you really need. There are jump pads, vehicles, hover boards (cue the Back to the Future theme) and teleports all scattered throughout these maps and all there to aid you get from one side of the map to the other in no time. They serve to make an already fast game even faster. But with the vehicles and also flying vehicles, the size of the maps can increase a lot. 


The weapons are fascinating and iconic. From the rocket launcher with three rocket rubes to explode your enemies to the deadly shock rifle that would turn your enemies to ash, this game is full of savage weapons that are an absolute joy to use. The design of the weapons changed very little from their first introduction in the original Unreal Tournament, but what I say is if it is not broke don’t fix it. The weapons look fantastic and feel fast, powerful and overall fun to use, so that is a win in my book!


Personally, I think the vehicles are a bit hit and miss, but not because of the design because their designs are pretty flawless but I am talking about their usefulness and how they are not useful in my eyes. While, they are powerful in their own right and they do destroy your enemies in a flash, the minus of using the vehicles is that you stick out like a sore thumb with a big target on your back and the vehicles have very little if any armour so you will do a lot of ‘splodin! The vehicles are definitely a fun mechanic, but enter at your own peril.

The roster of characters are quite diverse and chock full of well…character. From snarling aliens that would love to dissect you with a rocket to terrifyingly cold and emotionless machines that would love nothing more that to erase your existence, I truly believe there is a character in the Unreal Tournament III roster for every player.

The music for some of the stages are just fantastic. They really pump the energy levels up and match the speed of which the game requires of you. They can be atmospheric and sort of spacey at times but nevertheless epic when it needs to be. I especially love the main theme song as for me the main theme song to the game is the platform that you look from to know what you’re getting into and this game is no different. I would expect nothing less from people who were involved in composing music for Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands and Gears of War.

Lastly the graphics. This game looked fantastic in 2008 and it had that Gears of War hue to it throughout. The colour scheme involved in the game consisted of grey, brown and black for the most part and to be honest, I don’t mind that. This wasn’t Mario or Spyro, this was a brutal first person shooter game set in an industrial-esque landscape. Ain’t no one got time to be painting little sunflowers. In saying that, I do enjoy a more vibrant and colourful game, but what we got fits with this game. The character models were great, even though Reaper and his team looked like Gears of War soldiers. I know they were made by the same company, but it felt a little lazy to be honest to basically have a knock off brand Marcus Fenix and the like. I do like the design of the other characters though, the non-human characters.

So that is it, let us score the game:

Graphics: Very good for 2008, a little bit dated now, but come on, it was…13…years…ago. I think the graphics still hold up. 8/10

Sound: Great sounds for the weapons, excellent music, good voice acting. A solid performance in sound. 8/10

Gameplay: Fun, fast and brutal. That is exactly what you want in a game like this. 9/10

Worth: If you are interested in fast paced FPS, this is your game. I think it deserves a play through. 8/10

Story: Meh, the story is a little dull and a bit too long. But enjoyable all the same. I didn’t play the game for the story, let me say that. 6/10

Total: 78/100

I hope you enjoyed my review. If you have any gaming suggestions, please feel free to let me know. As always, thanks for reading!

MTG Mondays: El-Hajjaj

“We have always counted time with sand; this pinch is your meaningless life.”—Nailah, self-proclaimed Queen of Rabiah

El-Hajjaj by Dameon WIllich

Hello wizards and witches from all corners of the earth. I hope you are all doing well in your lives and pursuing your dreams and ambitions whatever they may be. Today we will be talking about an incredibly powerful wizard from Rabiah named El-Hajjaj and how through his training, could have changed the face of Magic the Gathering forever.

As I said, El-Hajjaj is from Rabiah. but what makes him special in terms of being from Rabiah is that he is one of only a handful of people that was not copied a thousand times over during the thousand-fold refraction, when Rabiah inexplicably split into a thousand and one different planes that were the exact copies of each other.

El-Hajjaj was the father of Nailah, an extremely talented and gifted magic wielder who would later be a queen of Rabiah. El-Hajjaj taught Nailah and her lover Raghib in the art of Magic but she would use it for terrible purposes. Nailah had a way of manipulating people and getting what she wanted in the end. Nailah had heard of a prophecy called the Lore of the Ancients about a planeswalker named Taysir which would make her the most powerful planeswalker in existence.

Nailah

During the thousand-fold refraction, there were five copies of Taysir created instead of a thousand. The other unique thing about Taysir was the fact that each of the copies represented one of the five colours of Magic. The prophecy foretold that if the five copies came together then it would create the most powerful planeswalker in the Magic the Gathering universe. This is the power that Nailah wanted.

When El-Hajjaj found out about his daughters evil plan, he went against her, but he failed and Nailah, using her fathers teachings killed him. Nailah then manipulated Raghib to find a ring called the Ring of Ma’ruf for her, she needed this ring to locate the various Taysirs. Raghib used the ring to find the black Taysir and once his task was completed Nailah came to the conclusion that he had outlived his usefulness. Nailah cursed Raghib with leprosy and sent him on his way.

Raghib

Nailah used her seductive and manipulative ways to convince the black Taysir to join her on her quest and she told him to hunt down and kill the green Taysir, which he did and through killing the green Taysir, the black Taysir absorbed his power. The now black/green Taysir realised he was being used and found the red Taysir who was living as a nomad, a wanderer of the land and told him that this was happening. The black/green Taysir gave the Ring of Ma’ruf to the red one and told him to find the rest. The red Taysir found the white one, who Raghib was now a servant of and merged with him and then found the blue one who was a baby and was being protected by the still alive El-Hajjaj who hid the baby in a city in a bottle and had the baby protected by a creature. The red/white Taysir merged with the baby eventually.

The red/white/blue Taysir, El-Hajjaj and Raghib travelled to confront Nailah and finish this once and for all. The red/white/blue Taysir eventually defeated Nailah, though her former lover and accomplice Raghib was sadly killed during the battle. After Nailah was defeated, all the Taysir combined together to form the ultimate planeswalker. In a last ditch attempt, Nailah tried to manipulate and seduce the black part of Taysir to which Taysir answered with a powerful energy blast. Taysir then left the plane and went away from all this chaos. Nailah in her anger created an immensely powerful spell that covered all of Rabiah in a shield of sorts that prevented Taysir from ever stepping foot on the planes of Rabiah again. El-Hajjaj was then killed by Nailah again…or was he? he survived before.

Taysir

So that is the tale of a man who was once a powerful wizard and now he is either dead or in hiding waiting for the day that Rabiah may need him again. I believe that El-Hajjaj was a man that truly wanted to do good in the world, but his daughter whom I can only describe as pure evil had other plans, which was unfortunate. I also feel sorry for Raghib, a wizard who knew Nailah his whole life, tricked and manipulated to fall in love with her, only to be used and not only cast aside when his usefulness ended but to also be cursed with leprosy for no good reason other than that she could, only to be killed by his former lover is absolutely tragic and probably one of the sadder stories I have written in my tome.

I would like to think that El-Hajjaj will show his face again, but in a way I never want to see him again because if he returns that means there is a reason and as a lore keeper, I only want a peaceful life so I can write and tell my tales to the people that want to hear them. So, this is where my tale ends, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading this tale and that it made you aware that even your own bloodline can try and turn your teachings on you and attempt to kill you…twice.

I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter and until next time, I hope all goes well for you and yours. As always, thank you for reading!

Album Review: “Going Blank Again” (1992) by Ride

Album Cover by Christopher Gunson

Band/Artist: Ride (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar: Mark Gardener, Lead Guitar/Vocals/Keyboard: Andy Bell, Drums: Laurence “Loz” Colbert, Bass: Steve Queralt)

Album: Going Blank Again (1992)

Genre: Shoe gaze, Neo-Psychedelia, Dream Pop

Label: Creation

Good day to you all, I hope all is going well in your life at the moment and in the future. Today I am reviewing the 1992 album “Going Blank Again” by British Alternative/Shoe gaze rock band, Ride. This album is the second studio album from the band and it is equal parts trippy and poppy. The album was certified Gold for selling 100,000 units in 2009. Ride are chockfull of talented members including Andy Bell who was a member of Oasis and Laurence Colbert who played with Supergrass and the Jesus and Mary Chain. One thing I do have to mention before we start is the album cover. It is absolutely striking and it is equally delightful to look at and a bit horrifying. It stirs a lot of emotions and I think you really need that in an album cover.

So let us get into this album and see what I think of it.

Leave it all Behind – So far the albums I have reviewed up to this point have a really strong opening and this album is no different. Leave it all behind, sets the scene on what will be a journey or two of sorts. The first journey is through this album and whatever you take from it and the second is a journey through your mind, which this song doesn’t hold back sending you on. From the incredible opening guitar, the relentless drum fills, and the beautiful harmonization of the singing, this is shoegazing as it should be. For me, there is no clear winner on which instrument/vocal work impressed me more. It is a masterpiece of a song and one that I had a lot of joy listening to.

Twisterella – This is a lot more poppy than the previous track and it is certainly something I wouldn’t have expected listening to the first song on the album. That being said, while it doesn’t blow me away, it is still a pretty decent song and quite fun to listen to, especially when you are doing a few things around the house. Quite an upbeat tempo and quite positive sounds are coming off of it. A pretty good song all round with a cool riff.

Not Fazed – A decent song that has some great harmonization work on the vocals which I very much enjoyed. The guitar riff is good, but it doesn’t light my world on fire, let me just say that. The lyrics are quite simple, being only three lines repeated again and again, but they are effective in their own right. A decent song, not great, not bad.

Chrome Waves – This song breaks away from the more rock orientated style that has been going on so far and it is completely trippy. This is exactly the type of song that I would listen to with my eyes closed, laying on my bed and taking a journey, wherever it may lead. The vocals are almost haunting at times, but very beautiful in my opinion. A great song if you just want to relax and reflect on the day you’ve had, good or bad.

Mouse Trap – A fantastic high energy song. I have no problem in saying this song gets me swaying and swinging, a really excellent song from all points. I love how it is almost an instrumental song, and the musicians just do their thing until the singing starts and it quietens down enough just for that nice break until it explodes again. A completely gratifying and enjoyable song from start to finish.

Time of Her Time – This song starts with another poppy beat, but the bass in the background is fantastic, I have to say that straight off the bat. Otherwise, the song didn’t really do much for me, it is a decent enough rock/pop song and as always, the talent is shining through, but it wouldn’t be one that I would put into my playlist. Guitar, drums and harmonies are pretty good, but the bass stands out for me in this song.

Cool your Boots – This track goes back to the trippy and I absolutely adore this track from beginning to end. The heavy rhythm guitar and bass to the trippy lead guitar, just works so beautifully together. The drums know exactly the moment to kick in and be effective and I think for me the drums just slightly beat out the rest of the instruments as individuals. But each element of this song is needed to make it sound as beautiful as it does. I haven’t even spoken about the magnificent harmonies throughout the song that again add in that haunting element. This song is a masterpiece from start to finish but I have to say from the 3:00 mark this song just made my jaw drop and I was in love with it. Delightful song, and one that I will listen to until the end of my time in this world.

Making Judy Smile – This song is a very good shoe gaze song and it has the elements of Britpop to it that is seen here and there throughout the album. This song could have been released in the sixties and I would have accepted that, it has that vibe to it. Great vocals throughout and a groovy guitar riff. A good song but quite simple compared to a few of their other tracks.

Time Machine – This song slows the pace down a bit, but in a great way. From the get go you can just tell this song takes itself seriously and it oozes talent from the first second. I think the song reflects the lyrics, which in my opinion is about regret and being able to fix the past mistakes in your life, which you can’t unfortunately. A serious song, a serious tone, a serious subject and it is seriously good.

OX4 – A pretty good chill out track and it is a wise decision to put this on the end of the album as I think it squares it off nicely. It kind of sums up the whole album, it is sort of poppy and very shoegazey. In saying that, the song works and it works really well. I think the seven minute timestamp may be a bit excessive, but that is not to say I didn’t and don’t enjoy the song when I listen to it. A very good song and ending for a brilliant album.

Final Thoughts:

So what did I think of Going Blank Again. Musically, the album is amazing though at some points I have no idea who the album is marketed for. There are some great rock songs on this that make you want to rock a bit but then it switches to this easy listening shoegazing style and then back again. I don’t know whether I should listen to this song at a party or laying on my bed with my eyes closed. Either way, I think it is a very good album. The drums and harmonies were probably the two things that stood out for me on this album as I think they are both brilliant. The guitar work is astounding in its own right too. Lyrically the songs are meh, and I think they needed to be stronger, but they played their part. A very good album and one that deserves its place in shoegazing history.

Favourite song: Cool your Boots

8/10

Warhammer Lore: Imperial Guard (Astra Militarum)

Enemies of the Imperium, hear me. You have come here to die. The Immortal Emperor is with us and we are invincible. His soldiers will strike you down. His war machines will crush you under their treads. His mighty guns will bring the very sky crashing down upon you. You cannot win. The Emperor has given us his greatest weapon to wield. So make yourselves ready. We are the First Kronus Regiment, and today is our Victory Day.Governor-Militant Lukas Alexander, Commander of the 1st Kronus Regiment

Cadian Imperial Guard in battle

Hello good people, today we are talking about the army that really makes up the Imperium of Mankind, the Astra Militarum or the Imperial Guard in the common tongue. The Imperial Guard are the first line of defence against the Imperium’s enemies and they number in the billions. Thousands of regiments from thousands of planets all fight under the banner of the Imperium to drive back what is in the darkness and when all else fails, the Adeptus Astartes are called in. A nickname for the Imperial Guard is the “Hammer of the Emperor” and that is what they are, the hammer that will drive the Emperor’s enemies, foreign or domestic into the ground and into dust.

The formation of the Imperial Guard started around the time of the Horus Heresy when the Imperium needed all of its people to defend it and stop it from crumbling under the might of the hordes of Chaos led by Horus Lupercal, former favourite son of the Emperor, turned traitor to the Emperor’s light. While the Space Marines legions led by the primarchs were out conquering the stars in the name of the Emperor, the worlds that already fell needed to be kept secure and peaceful and Space Marines were way too overqualified to babysit worlds, so the Emperor called for regiments of Imperial Guard to be created in worlds that were allied to his cause. The Imperial Guard was comprised of men and women who would not only fight but give their lives for the Imperial Truth and the guiding light of the Emperor.

When the Horus Heresy finally took place, not only did half of the Space Marine legions fall to chaos but so too did millions and millions of Imperial Guard. They also brought everything they had including weapons, armour and fleets of ships to burn the Imperium to the ground. While fighting Space Marines was tough and more than a challenge, the loyalists also had to put up with being bombarded by the arguably superior traitor guard artillery and tanks. Former shining worlds of the Emperor’s path were now full of ruin and death and there was no stopping these war bands of marauding savages that were once the most loyal soldiers you could find in the Imperium.

The traitor guard were stopped along with the rest of Horus’s armada and they too escaped into the warp and turned into war bands, worshipping whatever dark god they pleased. The Imperial Guard went under a massive change to make sure that nothing like this could happen again. Similar to the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard was rebuilt from the ground up. The Imperial Guard and Navy were to be two different factions from now on so that if one fell, it did not have access to the other.

Imperial Guard Vs. Traitors

They introduced a new type of officer into the Imperial Guard, these were called Commissars. Commissars were the most brutal, loyal and ferocious officers ever to serve in the Imperial Guard. They do not waver in the face of death and they make sure their soldiers fight until the end, literally. If an Imperial Guard trooper turns to run away from the enemy, a Commissar would shut them in the back to make an example of them to make the other soldiers fear running away. Under the command of Commissars, the Imperial Guard carry out their duties as best they can and then push harder.

The life of an average Imperial Guardsmen is guaranteed to be two things, hard and short. Not only do they have to go through brutal training regimes to become the warriors that the Imperium needs them to be, they are the usually the first ones sent into the most horrifying warzones imaginable. Their enemies can range from fellow humans who are rebelling against the Imperium to monstrous demons and other xenos that want to do nothing but butcher you and all of your kind. And even if you win, you might be put to death by your own commanders because you might have accidently seen something on the battlefield that you weren’t meant to or that wasn’t meant for mortal eyes.

I have at my command an entire battle group of the Imperial Guard. Fifty regiments, including specialized drop troops, stealthers, mechanized formations, armored companies, combat engineers and mobile artillery. Over half a million fighting men and thirty thousand tanks and artillery pieces are mine to command. Emperor show mercy to the fool that stands against me, for I shall not.” – Warmaster Demetrius

Each Imperial Guard regiment has their own uniform, ways of fighting and beliefs that they hold dear. For example, the most famous Guard regiment would be the Cadian Imperial Guard. They are your bog standard soldiers in space, think Starship Troopers if you have to. They are very noble and duty bound Guard and will fight until the last breath. Another regiment would be the Death Korps of Krieg, and what are these soldiers known for? Dying. No really, they believe that if their willingness to fight and die outweighs the enemies willingness to fight and die, then they have already won the battle. These are only two examples of the thousands of Imperial Guard regiments that are scattered throughout the galaxy but it shows you just how vastly different they can be.

The one thing that the Imperial Guard is known for is their armour and vehicles. Sure their infantry weapons are impressive enough against a standard enemy, though if that enemy has armour to speak of, then the famous lasgun will not do much to harm the enemy. But the armour, tanks and artillery can lay waste to entire hordes of enemies in seconds. The other thing, the Imperial Guard has an abundance of armour. Oh sure, your army may have a really cool tank that is heavily armoured and has more guns than anything else, but that is one tank that can be surrounded by five or six tanks that have powerful weapons and are operated by a skilled crew. Oh sure, take out two, three, even four, but I can guarantee, your tank will go down and it will be reduced to a smoldering heap, this is the way of the Imperial Guard.

The brutality of Imperial Guard armour

The Imperium would be nothing without its brave men and women that lay down their lives every single day to fight against tyranny and alien hordes that would see the Imperium crumble and cease to exist. In my personal opinion, I think the Imperial Guard are the worst off army in the entire Warhammer 40,000 universe. They get sent into hellish warzones with barely any armour or decent weapons, they know that they are basically cannon fodder and if they die in their millions, so what? And even if they manage to defend the world and beat the enemy, they might get shot by their own men because they seen something which they shouldn’t have. What an existence…

Blessed be those who serve in the name of the Emperor, for they are the sons and daughters of Holy Terra, and their might shall be known across the galaxy. Shout your praise for the glory of the Emperor and be thankful for your safety, for it is those that fight and die across thousands of nameless backwater worlds that make sure you can see another day.

The meaning of victory is not to merely defeat your enemy but to destroy him, to completely eradicate him from living memory, to leave no remnant of his endeavors, to crush utterly his achievement and remove from all record his every trace of existence. From that defeat no enemy can ever recover. That is the meaning of victory.” – Lord Commander Solar Macharius

So my friends, I shall leave it there. I gave you a very brief history of who the Imperial Guard are and what their role is in the Imperium as a whole. I will be talking more about the various Imperial Guard regiments and battles on a later date so you can get more of an idea of who these people are.

I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!

As always, thank you for reading!

MTG Mondays: Abu-Ja’far

Abu-Ja’far by Ken Meyer Jr.

Hello fellow students in the art of Magic, today we will be regaling the tale of a planeswalker named Abu-Ja’far in the plane of Rabiah. Abu-Ja’far was a storyteller from Rabiah that for some unknown reason had acquired the ability to planeswalk. Abu-Ja’far used this ability to travel to various planes, but it is unknown whether these planes were just the copies of the other thousand planes of Rabiah or whether he travelled further, even to Dominaria.

While Abu-Ja’far did travel far and wide, he was never once detained by any type of guard or authority figure that was suspicious of his activities and there was one specific reason for this, Abu-Ja’far had a horrible, incurable leprosy that was rotting his body and believe me when I say, no one wanted to touch him or be anywhere near his presence.

Sadly, that is all the information I have on this particular planeswalker. I am sure he went to some magical lands, heard and told some extraordinary tales and died peacefully. I say died because nothing more has been mentioned of this poor man, maybe he is still telling tales, but for me, that is all I have for you this week. I think that it is incredible that some people can obtain the planeswalker spark in strange and unknown ways and for one reason or another, they will never be an integral part of the Magic the Gathering universe as a whole.

So that is it from me, powerful acolytes. Maybe in your travels throughout the universe you may meet Abu-Ja’far and if you do tell him the lore keeper would like to bend his ear, from one storyteller to another, I am sure he has some fascinating tales of heroic deeds and dastardly villains.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my writing as much as I have enjoyed writing for you.

As always, thank you for reading!

MTG Mondays: Rabiah

“We have always counted time with sand; this pinch is your meaningless life.
—Nailah, self-proclaimed Queen of Rabiah” – Sorceress Queen

Sea of Sand, Jim Nelson

And a good day to you fellow students of the wonders of Magic, today we will be taking a journey to a far and distant plane and leaving beloved Dominaria for the time being. The plane we are travelling to has not been on the tongue of many a planeswalker for eons and for the most part has become somewhat a forgotten myth or legend. We will be travelling to the arid lands of Rabiah.

What brings my travels here you may ask? Well, it is a mystical land, steeped in history, powerful magic and fantastical creatures big and small. As a student of the ways of Magic, I must conduct my studies wherever the tome leads.

Rabiah, in this tome keepers humble opinion is quite an interesting plane in the sense that it isn’t really just one plane. Rabiah is made up of a thousand and one identical planes that reflect the original Rabiahn plane. This split from one to a thousand and one happened during what is known as the Thousandfold Refraction. What was the Thousandfold Refraction? No one really knows, all that is know is that it is an event in which Rabiah was reproduced a thousand times and each plane was identical to the last. The thought process at the time was that it was a way for the creators of the universe to explain why there would be multiple legendary creatures with the same name out in play at the same time. This was all fixed of course with the introduction of the so called Legends rule.

City of Brass, Ron Walotsky

So what is Rabiah like? Life in Rabiah is tough, but the people there are more than capable of putting up with the searing hot weather and dry sands. The environment is so deadly in Rabiah that where Rabiah touches another plane, the weather from Rabiah would start to have effects on the other plane. The pathway from Rabiah to another plane is strange. The paths are in the forms of desert twisters that roam the landscape. If you and your party happen to be taken in by the twister you will get transported to another plane in the Magic universe. One of the pathways goes back to Dominaria. 

Most Rabiahn cultures would be patriarchal in nature and a lot of the stories and inspirations come from a culture that people on your plane would call “Arabic” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some matriarchal societies in Rabiah, they would just be harder to locate. There is also a plane known as Dark Rabiah and that has some of the most vile beings imaginable to the human mind. It is said that the cruelty, darkness and evil shadow that Dark Rabiah casts is as bad as Phyrexia itself. This is a place I may stay away from on my travels if you don’t mind, student.

With Suleiman’s ascension to power, the djinn and efreets of ancient Rabiah learned humility.Suleiman’s Legacy

So that is all I can tell you about the physical lands of Rabiah my students, but I will be staying in this scorching desert land of raiders, djinns and mystical beings as wondrous as any for a while yet. After my lessons, you too will be an expert in Rabiah.

So to you my students, I will leave you with this and I will say I hope you enjoy my writing and as always, thank you for reading!

Lego Batman The Videogame (2008, Xbox 360)

Name: Lego Batman: The Videogame (2008)

Developed/Published By: Traveler’s Tales/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Genre: Third-Person Action/Adventure

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, OS X, PlayStation 2/3/PSP, Wii, Xbox 360

Players: Single player, Multiplayer, Local

Age Rating: PEGI 7

Greetings fellow block builders and crime fighters to another edition of “block heroes monthly”. Today we will be speaking about legendary dark knight and protector of Gotham, Lego Batman. This Lego inspired, action adventure game was developed by Travelers Tale’s and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in 2008. The game combines two well known and loved franchises, Batman and the Danish construction toys Lego and in my opinion it does a great job at it. The theme doesn’t lose the Gothic demeanor of Batman but it makes it and the universe that is pretty grim and dark more accessible to younger audiences. 

 
Plot: 

Lego Batman is played over six episodes, three episodes for the heroes and three for the villains. In the heroes storyline, Batman and the boy wonder, Batman’s most loyal and trusted sidekick, Robin, must stop criminal mastermind and riddle obsessed lunatic, The Riddler, crime lord and former Wayne family friend, The Penguin and lastly, Batman’s most iconic and ruthless villain, The Joker. Each episode is split into five parts and you have to fight various Batman villains along the way such as Bane, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. The villain campaign is basically the same, except you play it from the villains point of view and their evil plans come to fruition. 


So on to the game itself: 


The gameplay is an action adventure collectathon. There are three things you have to collect during a mission, Lego Studs, Red Bricks and Minikits. The studs are what you use to buy things such as suits, cheats and other characters which I will get onto momentarily. The red bricks or power bricks provide bonuses in the game which can range from extra hearts to bonus bits and minikits are parts of various vehicles throughout the game that you can view in your collection. Every level has its own special minikit construction. During the levels you have to beat up bad guys (or good guys) depending on which side you choose, solve puzzles and do some platforming.

There are some special areas during a level that can only be reached by certain characters; an example would be Bane and his super strength or Batman with his grapple hook. Batman and Robin are special because they also have certain suits they can don to access certain areas such as a sonic Batman suit that can break glass and a Robin magnet suit that allows Robin to walk up metal walls. 


The levels are fairly same old, same old. Once you have done one you’ve done them all and it feels quite repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first episode and had fun playing it, but by the end of it I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I’ll give you a brief run down of a misson:

Begin

Beat up bad guys in the most mundane way ever, tap X (Xbox 360) 3-4 times/bad guy

Solve simple puzzles which involves switching to another character and getting them to do the task. 

Beat up more bad guys

Fight boss

Wash and repeat. 

At the end of almost every level you unlock a new character and/or vehicle for use in the game. These can range from iconic Batman characters to standard police officers and henchmen for the bad guys. There are over sixty characters to unlock and that is through completing missions and buying them with your collected studs. Lastly, if you didn’t collect everything in the mission the first time around, worry not, crusaders of justice as after you complete a mission you unlock the free play for that mission. What that means is that you can go back and do what you want and collect all the things in areas you couldn’t get to before. During the character selection for free play, you pick one character but the game gives you a number of other characters that you can switch to in game. The other characters represent the archetype of each special character in the game such as characters with super strength or that can fly etc. to make sure you can get everything you need in one go on free play. 


Now onto the graphics, they are very stylish. The combination of cartoon style graphics and Lego blocks works on so many levels. It is very interesting seeing places in the Batman world legofied. Travelers tales really did do a great job to make the work look so vibrant and colourful and playful. There are a lot of times that you feel like you’re in a Lego set building or destroying all the constructions. There are a lot of visual gags placed through out also which I thought was great. The character models look on par, and they all have their personality written on their faces and you know what their motive is even though they can’t speak (we’ll get to that). A beautiful, coloured, Lego Batman world that is fun and engaging, yet still has the the gothic theme of Batman. 


On to the sounds and music of the game. Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first, there is no voice acting, not that there couldn’t be, there is none, unless you call “oh” “ee” and “ayy” voice acting, because that is all you will hear from every single character, which gets pretty annoying early on. The fighting and shooting sounds are pretty spot on, but in terms of the fighting, it seems to use those generic punching sounds you would hear on TV shows and the like. it’s okay, it’s marketed towards a younger audience so I am not expecting Mortal Kombat levels of bones breaking and faces being smashed. The guns sound fine too, just your bog standard generic gun sounds. The music is amazing, but that is because they use the music from the actual Batman universe. The main theme is taken from Tim Burton’s Batman made in 1989. The music is great, but I am not certain that it fits into this game. Lego Batman is a little too much on the side of silly to have such atmospheric music. I love the music, but maybe it is in the wrong game. 

So let us get onto the ratings. 

Graphics: 8/10 – Nice, colourful, vibrant. A great meeting of two well established and well recognised universes without taking anything away from either. 

Sound: 5/10 – Music is great, but maybe misplaced. The grunts of characters gets annoying, but the overall sound is okay. 

Gameplay – 5/10 it plays pretty well and is quite smooth but it is repetitive as all hell and I wanted it to be over. It is cool that you get to play a whole host of characters though. 

Worth – 4/10 – Eh, I mean if you’re into lego and batman, then yeah it might be for you, but I am into both and i wasn’t too pleased by it. It is okay if you can find it cheap.

Story – 3/10 – Story was garbage. It was boring and I found myself just skipping cutscenes eventually because I didn’t care. 

50/100 

I hope you enjoyed my review and as always, thanks for reading!

MTG Mondays: Vesuva

It is everywhere you’ve ever been.” – Vesuva

Vesuva, home of the shape shifters

Good day to you all, I hope the mana flowed well in your lives this week. Tell me something, student of the arts, do you like Illusionists? I hope you do, because today we will be talking about an isle on Dominaria that is famous for its illusionists, Vesuva.

As I have mentioned, Vesuva is an island nation that is in between the Orvada Empire, a merchant empire that is a rival to Benalia, and Shanodin, home of the dryads. The nation is home to the shape shifters, a race of beings that can change their form into another being, they can become anyone they want and you can only imagine how dangerous a power like that is, in the wrong hands. Another ability that these illusionists have is that they can create a doppelganger of a person, which is basically a clone or copy of a person, but the difference is that the doppelganger has a taste for murder and death.

The Vesuvans were not spared catastrophe though, even with all their wonderful abilities. During the rift era, when all the planes in the Magic universe were affected by temporal rifts and interfering with the natural order of things, Vesuva was absolutely devastated, and the once beautiful and majestic state was reduced to nothing but rubble and death. The strange thing was, the illusion magic held, and the reflection in the water below showed Vesuva as it once stood, proud, strong, mysterious and most importantly…whole.

Vesuva, ruined. Note the water though.

Not much else is known about Vesuva but what is known is quite intriguing. The island nation, rose to greatness again like a Phoenix from the ashes. Where once was ruin and hardship, glorious buildings now stood as a testament to the will of the Vesuvan people. But something else that peaked my interest is its ruler, the Queen of Vesuva. Now I have very little knowledge of the queen herself, but it’s what’s on her head that sparked my interest, The Helm of the Host. This helm is made of a material called Rathi flowstone, but what is so significant about that you ask? Well Rath is the artificial plane that was created by the Phyrexians to stage their invasion of Dominaria, and flowstone is the material that created the plane.

Forged out of flowstone for the queen of Vesuva.” – Helm of the Host

The Queen of Vesuva wearing the Helm of the Host

Now I am no more than a storyteller and a collector of weird and wonderful tales, so I pay very little mind to idle chatter, but the queen wearing a crown made of the material from a race of beings hell bent on destroying every part of Dominaria? My question is, was the queen “gifted” this crown, or was it a spoil of battle?

So that is the history of the people of Vesuva. Not much is known about these people, but if your whole culture is based on illusion and deception, well, they will only show you what they want you to see and nothing more. A proud people that from my experience had to put up with a lot, or as much as most of the people on Dominaria. To me, they look like a nation that will have great days ahead of them and maybe they will. But that is the chapter on Vesuva and I for one hope you enjoyed it.

As always, thank you for reading!

Album Review: Melissa (1983) by Mercyful Fate

Album Cover by Thomas Holm/Studio Dzyan

Band/Artist: Mercyful Fate (Vocals: King Diamond, Lead Guitar: Hank Shermann, Drums: Kim Ruzz, Bass: Timi “Grabber” Hansen, Guitar for ‘Evil’ – Michael Denner)

Album: Melissa (1983)

Genre: Heavy Metal, Black Metal

Label: Roadrunner (Europe), Music for Nations (UK), Megaforce (US)

Hello metal lovers and welcome to another album review. Today we will be talking about the 1983 Heavy/Black metal album Melissa from the band Mercyful Fate. This is the debut album for the Danish heavy metal band who is fronted by legendary singer, King Diamond. Melissa was released the day before Halloween in 1983 and in my opinion that was perfect timing for it to be put out as the album is all about curses, Satan and witches and a persons journey through this mystical evil. One of the songs, ‘Into the Coven’ even made it to the filthy fifteen objectionable songs that parents used to try and set up a Parental Advisory Label in 1985. This is due to the occult lyrics and overall theme to the song. So let us once again ladies and gentlemen dive into another album and see what I think of it.

Evil – This songs bursts through the gates and attacks the senses straight away. The riff is absolutely badass and coupled with King Diamonds incredible Falsetto voice and the awesome drumming from Kim Ruzz, the the song is wholly badass throughout. I know I keep saying badass, but there is no other way to describe how truly kick ass this song is. The lyrics are so gothic and dark and they completely show the genius that is King Diamond. Lastly, the solo guitar work that goes throughout the song is nothing short of incredible. A fantastic song.

Curse of the Pharaohs – A nice, slow opening, it is like the guitar is inviting you in to its domain and then the entire band kicks in and you can’t help but smile. The lyrics are interesting, they are basically about all the bad things that could happen if you steal from a pyramid and get cursed, pretty cool lyrics in my opinion. The song really picks up about half way through (2:08) and sends you on another journey in the land of 80’s bad ass heavy metal and nothing but.

Into the Coven – A beautiful opening to the song from Hank Shermanns amazing guitar work. By the third song on the album you will be able to note Mercyful Fates distinct sound and it just gets better with each track. King Diamond hits notes that pierce your soul and with the reverb on his voice you could imagine him singing in a church, an evil church of course but a church none the less. The lyrics are basically an invite to join a cult or a coven and become a part of Lucifer’s family. I love how dark and mystical Diamond’s lyrics are.

At the Sound of the Demon Bell – Pretty good opening to the song, I feel a bit of influence from US heavy metal groups at the beginning of this song, but once King Diamond screeches out “Halloweeeeeeen” it brings you right back to Mercyful Fate. I would describe this as one of their more innovative and experimental songs on the track. There are a lot of breaks where the guitar switches up and it feels like a mix of songs sometimes. The lyrics of the song are about the night of Halloween and basically how the barrier between our world and the spirit world are broken and how Satan can now get to earth. Fantastic work by the band and an intriguing journey that left me wanting more.

Black Funeral – The shortest song on the album, and lyrically it is basically a Satanist black funeral for a woman who was killed by King Diamonds…or Satan’s coven. Musically its pretty good, but nothing really sticks out for me too much, I think it just sets the scene of a black funeral and how truly evil these people are. It has to be said thought that Shermann’s solo work near the end is incredible.

Satan’s Fall – Now from the shortest song on the album to the longest at eleven and a half minutes. The song starts off like a very typical but very good Mercyful Fate track. The song has sixteen different riffs on it, so to say that this is a journey is an understatement. It feels like a journey through a mind that has been corrupted by evil and all the strange and dark emotions that a mind like that would go through. Later on in the song, it is like the person has accepted that Satan is their true master and that they reject god in all its entirety.

Melissa – For all intents and purposes, I would describe this song as a ballad and even go so far as to say a love song…but it’s still dark as hell. The match up of Diamond’s voice and Shermann’s guitar work is fantastic and it is divine, I literally can’t think of another word other than divine. As far as I can make out, the lyrics are about the characters love, Melissa, who was a witch and I think she was executed for being so and the main character swears revenge for her death.

Final Thoughts:

While the lyrics may seem tame now with all the talk of Satan and hell and evil and they might even be called “edgy” nowadays, this was it. This was the metal album that told you of a persons journey through evil so profound. I truly believe the whole album is one person’s journey, from just being evil, to finding a group of like minded individuals and eventually giving their whole life over to the price of darkness and whether you like it, you are going on that journey and whatever your outcome, well that is up to you.

Musically, the entire album is mind blowing from start to finish. For me this album is way ahead of its time and I can see even nowadays the influence would have on other heavy/black metal bands. This is what talent looks like. The lyrics are genius, the guitar work is unmatched, the drums are rocking…the bass is a bit lost, but from what I can hear of the bass, it is pretty damn good.

This whole album put a smile on my face. It works in so many ways and on so many different levels. Would it be an album that I put on and head bang to? No. This is an album that I would put on, lay on my bed, close my eyes and go on an intense and very real journey through someone’s evil soul and thought process as they give the entirety of their soul to Satan. Melissa is an amazing album and one of the best metal albums of the 1980’s and I would suggest that if you have forty odd minutes and you appreciate not only metal, but encapsulating story telling, then you won’t be disappointed.

Favourite song: Evil

10/10