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  • No Man is an Island

    It’s a Friday night in 2000, and I’m sitting across from T.J. Impellizzieri. We’re on the Trinity Green mirror. He was ahead, and it was late. He had chipped away at me early. I needed to find an answer, quickly, as two massive boards saw his growing more menacing than mine. The early damage he did mattered. Time was running out.

    My Skyshroud Poacher was hunting away, trying to thin my deck so that I could hit an answer. I activated it again at the end of his turn, and was met with a quick retort “Hey, why don’t you show what you had on top?” I flipped my top card. Masticore. This was going to be my end. That was the out that I needed to win, and now it would be shuffled away. Dejectedly, I found another Llanowar Elf, shuffled, and presented my deck back to T.J. He cut, and then I drew it.

    Maybe I lack vision, but in the moment, there are few joys in life as pure as the perfect top-deck.

    Rofellos, Gaea’s Cradle, and all my mana provided the fuel needed to pick off his army, one by one, machine-gun style, with the freshly cast Masticore. The tide turned, a situation that was becoming hopeless did an about-face, and was suddenly impossibly in my favor.

    I went on to the finals and proved victorious. This was the first tournament that I ever won. The joy of winning an event would serve as its own fuel, to attend countless others, in an effort to recapture that moment and feel it again. But no matter how any future events went, no victory is ever so special as your first.

    I was 17, and while we all had access to the Internet, the kind of in-depth strategy that is readily available from myriad sites nowadays was mostly absent, save for TheDojo.com and NeutralGround.net. This is a kind way of saying that I was mediocre at best back then.

    We didn’t learn online yet, we learned from the players who beat us. Erik Rodriguez was the best player at Mark’s Comics back then. Watching him play was an incredible learning experience. He played the game at a higher level than all of us. His timing, his patience, his deck construction, the psychological warfare that he engaged in, they were all elite. He, and a few others (like Jill Costigan) routinely crushed us. I owe them both thanks for that. You will never learn more from anything in life than from your losses, and from your mistakes.

    The second wave of strong Mark’s Comics players came shortly after E-Rod had moved on. Bryn Kenney, T.J., Dave Kaplan, Gregg Spano, and Christian Grim competed for his mantle. Bryn was the best of us, but the level of competition amongst all was exceptionally high. These were deep waters, and if you intended on winning games, you had to learn quickly. We took our lumps, and we grew.

    Magic has taught me, sometimes inadvertently, crucial life lessons. Learning what it took to win was important. Learning the importance of repetition, testing, and not just asking questions, but asking the right questions, were lessons that had applications outside Magic. Even then, there was so much more than just the strategy of Magic.

    Before the era of Facebook, before everyone had cell phones, before the Internet had truly taken flight, you could still find something new and foreign introduced to you through the vehicle of something that you thought, mistakenly, you knew. I got my first job when I was 15. I worked as a stock boy in a small family-owned shop, and at the end of every Saturday, I’d take a check for $35 home. Minimum wage was $5.15 an hour, and 15 cents went to my Social Security contribution.

    The check on Saturday turned into a bike ride to Doubleheader on Sunday. The local sports memorabilia store had boxes of the most recent Magic sets, and if you angled yourself past Patrick Ewing, Wayne Gretzky, Don Mattingly, and Dwight Gooden, you could buy packs. Urza’s Legacy was the newest set, and I happily spent my pay on nine packs. I hoped to open cards I could use to beat Danny Dinardo, Kenny Jackson, and others the following Friday night, when we’d all go to Danny’s, and play at his parent’s kitchen table. I opened something, and didn’t understand what it was:

    I didn’t know what I was looking at. I did, however, know that I loved it. I was the first of my friends to open what we later learned was called a foil. They were rare and beautiful, exotic birds somehow transported to a frigid locale. They weren’t yet seen en masse. A deck of foils was an absurd notion; how would you ever get them all in time, before a deck rotated out of Type II?

    Pro Tour New York 2000 was held at The Armory, which seemed impossibly large, and yet perfectly suited for the event. While I wouldn’t be playing, I had gone with friends to see what a Pro Tour was like. I met Richard Garfield. We were at what I’d later feel was the apex of Magic, in the heady days of Urza’s block. The newest, coolest, thing was the introduction of foils. It was then that I learned of judge foils. I had never seen one in person (none of my friends had either), and I dreamed of one day owning them. The art direction back then was magnificent, and the foils that had been chosen were special. Serra Avatar, Stroke of Genius, and, most prized among them all, Gaea’s Cradle. I went to the first dealer table I saw, and stared into the showcase to find all these valuable, rare cards. Serra Avatar, $150. Stroke of Genius, $250. Gaea’s Cradle, $350. There was also a mint Beta Black Lotus, but at $400, but it seemed far too expensive. Clearly I would never own one of those.

    Foils were glorious. It was the shimmer of them, caught in the light. Maybe it’s a link to an animal instinct that likes shiny things. Maybe it’s just that they felt like a statement when they hit play, not a financial one, but cards that screamed “This is what the game could be! This is what the game could look like, at its apex!” Original borders, the perfectly understated foil star, the perfect, beautiful fantasy art done by some of the best artists in the world; these cards were without flaws and I loved them.

    There were so many beautiful images turned into beautiful foils (our debt of gratitude to the men and women who subtly introduced that beauty to our lives will never really be fully paid). While Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Karn, Silver Golem, Covetous Dragon, and many, many others all had homes in decks, Masticore was ubiquitous. Paolo Parente’s rainbow of a painting was played in nearly every deck in the format. Masticore was the king of foils.

    I had wanted foil Masticore for a long, long time, and yet who would deal them away? I finally found someone willing to trade me foil Masticores online, on the Magic Online Trading League. A trusting 17 year old shipped off Gaea’s Cradles, non-foil Masticores, and more, and waited patiently. Eventually I received an email informing me that I should stop reaching out to him, that I would never get the cards.

    It was another life lesson, this time about trust, knowing where to place it, and where not to.

    Time passed, and Masticore rotated. Arcbound Ravager pushed me out of Type II, and committed me fully to Type I. For a while, I was able to run Masticore in my mono-blue control deck (aptly named by the community, it was called Blue Bullshit). But even then, Masticore’s days were numbered, and eventually I moved on to playing Mishra’s Workshop decks, forsaking blue, and never owning a foil Masticore.

    Many years passed. October of 2017 came around, and for the first time since 2009, I would not be going to play in Vintage Champs. I wished my friends luck, I dug in at work, and I prepared to catch as much as I could of the matches online on the Twitch broadcast. Nick Coss coined the name Eternal Weekend, and he has turned Vintage Champs into the de-facto global Vintage tournament. While my passion for the format has waned, I felt a powerful desire to be there when I turned the stream on, and saw friends battling. Thank you Nick. It gives me hope that the fire to play again will be lit at some point in the future.

    I sat there at my desk, watching the stream, following up on my work. A friend from Florence reached out to me. Raffaele Ramagli and I had made each other’s acquaintance a few years ago, and we have kept in touch since. I loved hearing from an Italian Vintage player; he was on the ground, and could give me feedback on events I’d never been to, on players whom I knew of there, of others whom I respected, and most of all, Italy itself. As we toil away in our lives, it’s easy to forget that the world is a great big place. Magic has helped remind me of the world’s magnitude, as I speak to those I’m lucky enough to call friends who inhabit their corners of the world.

    I feel embarrassed to write it, as in some perverse way it feels like I’m puffing my chest (which I swear, I’m not), but occasionally I’ll have players I don’t know from other parts of the world reach out to me. Maybe they know me from TheManaDrain.com, the N.Y.S.E. Open, from playing Workshop decks with Raffaele and Vincent Forino, or from my short stint in the first Vintage Super League play-in tournament online. I am grateful every time it happens, as it’s yet another instance in which Magic proves itself to be a bond that transcends national borders, that crosses oceans, that unites hearts and minds.

    Raffaele and I spoke about a lot as we watched the Top 8. Mostly, Vintage. But towards the end of the coverage, as the match against Rich Shay and Andy Markiton worked its way to a decisive game three, I asked him if he could keep an eye out for me for Magic art.

    Those kids from the 90’s have grown up. The kids who played with their Hammer of Bogardans, their Cursed Scrolls, their Morphlings, Masticores, and Rishadan Ports are now adults. We’ve discovered, as we’ve aged, that the time that we devoted to the game is time we may not have to give anymore. Any number of commitments keep us away: jobs, significant others, and for many, children. The time that we have for the game runs short, but there, in the back of our minds, lie burnished memories, shining like beacons of our halcyon youth, demanding never to be forgotten. How could we forget them?

    I had reached out to Paolo Parente years prior, and was given the same information that he gave all who asked; Masticore was a gift to a friend who once ran a store in Milan. He did not remember the man’s name, and he knew that the store had closed.

    It wasn’t much to go on. But the connections that we forge through this game, this thing that holds us together despite all that could divide us, would help Raffaele track down Masticore. He spoke with friends, including Giampiero Ronzo, who gave us our first lead. Antonio Prama gave us more information, leading us further down the path. It led to Alessandro Cattani, who provided the most vital piece of information; an old email address that the owner of Masticore was believed to have used. Raffaele followed up there, and, magically, a response came back shortly thereafter. Gentlemen, I owe you all a debt of gratitude for your efforts. Thank you.

    Magic art, and the pursuit of it, is a strange thing. You will hear whispers of whispers of things, and then nothing. You will work at something for years, to no avail. And then chance steps in, the veil is pierced, and information flows like the waters from a broken dam. You had nothing, you worked for inches. In an instant, you are given miles. It is a surreal experience, and it doesn’t happen often. When it does happen, it ignites the memories from your youth. For a few moments, you have recaptured what you felt when you were 17, playing a game that would prove one of your greatest teachers, with your best friends.

    I had been burned once for Masticore, albeit a lowly foil. Now, the piece itself had appeared before me. A gifted artist had touched that paper, had worked over it, had exercised his brilliance in creating a piece that conveyed strength, and did it with beauty.

    Trust. It was one of the early lessons from Magic; to recognize those who deserved it, and those who do not. Could I trust the owner? Yes. He was a prominent member of the community in Italy at the turn of the millennium. He understood that, in many ways, our names, our honor, are all that we have. However much we could gain from sacrificing those things in an instant, we would lose far more in a lifetime for having sacrificed them.

    I paid him, and I waited. Christmas came, and went. New Year’s approached. And then I got a phone call from my office as I enjoyed my vacation. A package had arrived.

    As I sat there, Masticore in my lap, I wondered how it had all happened. How it was that this was possible. My cadre of Italians, led by Raffaele, joined by Giampiero, Antonio, and Alessandro had made this possible. My good friend Kouji Kobayashi had been invaluable as my counsel through the process. Ben Huang, Will Larson, Paul Akerman, and others, all played important roles. Masticore had been sought after by others. I did not hunt for the piece until the time came when I had friends who could help me. Friends in Italy, Japan, Singapore, and across the United States.

    To all of them, I owe a debt of gratitude. Thank you.

    There’s Masticore, fighting side by side Morphling in Accelerated Blue. There’s Masticore, allied with Rofellos, in Trinity Green. There’s Masticore, clearing the path for victory in B.B.S. There’s Masticore, reminding a man in his 30’s of the joy that a teenager once felt at a draw off the top of his deck.

  • So Many Insane Plays – The “So Do You Wear a Cape?” Book Review

    Enthusiast Titus Chalk has authored a brilliant, page-turning history of Magic: The Gathering sprinkled with entertaining anecdotes, remarkably deep insights, and journalistic treasures. Chalk’s brisk narrative, brimming with behind-the-scenes stories that reflect painstaking investigatory work, traces the broad arc of Magic’s 20+ year history. Chalk sketches the development of the game, its unbridled growth, and the myriad debates and issues surrounding it, from the complaints of fundamentalist parents over the ‘demonic’ elements of the game, to the emergence of the Pro Tour (with its heroes and villains), the business of the game, from its initial financing to its sale to Hasbro (with Richard Garfield pocketing a cool $100 million, no less), to the growth of the secondary market, to the wrangling over the Reserved List. It’s all covered.
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  • Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Dream Halls Dilemma

    Doomsday-the-Puzzling-The-Dream-Halls-Dilemma

    Your opponent is on a very strong combo deck in OmniTell, but you are not deterred. You are also on a combo deck, but one which features more countermagic and disruption. This will be a game of inches, but one that you should win if you plan properly. You took the first game of the match, and your opponent is not about to go down without a fight. You brought in a pair of Dark Confidants and Cabal Therapies for some extra draw and disruption.
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  • Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Double Deathrite Conundrum SOLUTION

    Doomsday-the-Puzzling---The-Double-Deathrite-Conundrum-Solution

    Previously on Eternal Central we featured a free Puzzling challenge titled Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Double Deathrite Conundrum. The solution to this Puzzling can be found below.
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  • So Many Insane Plays – A Short History of Dual Lands

    So Many Insane Plays - A Short History of Dual Lands

    Mana is the foundation of Magic. Although it is possible to design and build decks without mana production, it is extremely difficult. More importantly, the possibilities for mana production define the range of strategic possibilities in Magic. This is why Zvi Mowshowitz once claimed that he began analyzing a format by examining the possibilities inherent in that format’s mana production capacity.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 16: Recuperating from GenCon

    SeriousVintageEpisode16

    For episode 16, Geoff (@ThallidTosser on Twitter) and Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher) renconvene with Josh Chapple (@joshchapple) to go over the sights and sounds and tastes of GenCon (It’s usually best to downplay the smells at any large conglomeration of Magic the Gathering players and sundry nerds).
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  • Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Double Deathrite Conundrum

    Doomsday: The Puzzling - The Double Deathrite Conundrum

    The moment you feared has finally arrived. After stomping two Show and Tell decks, overcoming a UW Control deck with dominating countermagic, and narrowly defeating a RUG Delver deck, you are faced with your most difficult matchup yet: Shardless BUG. It’s the fifth round of a seven round Legacy tournament, and a trip to the Top 8 is on the line. Win here, and you can draw into the elimination rounds, where guaranteed prizes await. Lose here, and you might fall out of contention completely.

    Your opponent, Jimmy the Cat Warrior, is a well known area player, and a skilled opponent. Escaping with a win here will require precision and exact planning. Fortunately, you are focused and determined.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 15: GenCon 2013 Preview

    SeriousVintageEpisode15

    For episode 15 Geoff (@ThallidTosser on Twitter) and Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher) bring back Jerry Yang (@yangtrolls), epicurean and, as we learn, the actual worst Vintage player in the world, to talk about the upcoming GenCon extravaganza. We talk a bit about the Vintage metagame and the applications of Young Pyromancer, then we jump straight into the events and, more importantly, the food of GenCon. If you’re going to be in Indianapolis in a few weeks, you’ll definitely want to listen to this episode.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 14: Vintage BUG and Josh’s Vegas Wrapup

    SeriousVintageEpisode14

    Josh Chapple (@joshchapple on Twitter) makes his triumphant return from GP Vegas to regale us with tales of woe and whoa in Episode 14. Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher) goes over the results of the recent Team Serious Open in Sandusky, including the propagation of BUG decks with Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. And Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser) keeps us all in line.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 10: Rockin’ White in Vintage

    SeriousVintageEpisode10

    In Episode 10 of our #SeriousVintage Magic the Gathering podcast we welcome Josh Chapple (@joshchapple on Twitter) back from his Internet-free hiatus, when he convinced Wizards of the Coast to sponsor a new You Make the Card event. Then he, Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser), and I (@GrandpaBelcher) discuss the prospects of playing white in Vintage. Finally, we get right back to the gin.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 9: Ohio Tourney Results, Being New in Vintage, and Tournament Eats

    SeriousVintageEpisode9

    Episode 9 of #SeriousVintage, Vintage newcomer Eric Butler (@ButlersTweets) joins us to talk about some recent tournaments in Ohio and the “Ohio-style” decks that get played in them. Geoff (@ThallidTosser) and I (@GrandpaBelcher) also find out what it’s like coming from Standard and Modern into Vintage: the pros and cons of the format and what Vintage tournament organizers and aficionados can do to attract new players. Then we talk tournament snacks, including oatmeal creme pies and nut bars.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 8: January B&R Update, Non-Blue Aggro-Control, Team Serious Open, and Cocktails

    Serious Vintage Episode 8

    In Episode 8 of the #SeriousVintage podcast we invite Jake Hilty (@TuringTested) to join us and talk a little about non-blue aggro-control in Vintage. Jake is an aggro aficionado, and recently wrote an article for Mana Deprived on the transfer of Jund to Legacy, along with the banning of Bloodbraid Elf in Modern. Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser) and I (@GrandpaBelcher) will be tossing out questions about non-blue dudesweats. We’ll also talk about the January Banned and Restricted List update, the upcoming Team Serious Open, and cocktails!
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 7: On Gatecrash, North Market, and Workshoppin’ with Twaun: Part Deux

    SeriousVintageEpisode7

    Episode 7 of our #SeriousVintage podcast sees Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser) and me (@GrandpaBelcher) catch up with Anthony “Twaun” Michaels (@Twaun007) after his finals appearance with Twaunspresso Stax at the December 30 Team Serious Open in Columbus, Ohio. We also look at the early Gatecrash previews and review food options at the Columbus Convention Center, specifically North Market.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 6: On Interactivity, Wizards, and Holiday Imbibing

    Here we go with the half-dozenth hour of #SeriousVintage, hosted by Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher on Twitter), Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple on Twitter). In the holiday spirit we decided to give you some of our vast knowledge of Vintage; share with you some thoughts on one of our favorte decks, Wizards!; and then relax with some yuletide potent potables in a #SeriousVintage party.
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 3: Workshoppin’ With Twaun, Serious Open, Sanctioned Vintage

    Welcome to the third installment of the Serious Vintage Podcast, hosted by Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher on Twitter), Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple on Twitter). This was a special episode as we spent some time with Anthony Michaels @Twaun007 on Twitter), an expert on Mishra’s Workshop prison decks in the Vintage format. He’s also an expert on Sandwich Punch, the gentleman’s game that has swept through the Midwest Vintage scene, so we’ll look at that as well, along with sanctioned Vintage and casual Magic: the Gathering.

    Check out all of those topics and more after the jump!
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 2: On Concession, Burning Wish Testing, Serious Eats, and Gin

    Welcome to the second Serious Vintage Podcast! Episode 2 features #TEAMSERIOUS members Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher on Twitter), Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple on Twitter), discussing the politics of concession, a look at some of the lists developed in the wake of Burning Wish’s unrestriction in Vintage, and Serious food and drink talk. Check out all of those topics and more after the jump!
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  • Serious Vintage Podcast Episode 1: On Burning Wish, Return to Ravnica, and Sandusky Food

    Welcome to the inaugural Serious Vintage Podcast! Episode 1 features #TEAMSERIOUS members Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher on Twitter) and Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), discussing the unrestriction of Burning Wish in Vintage, potential playables in Return to Ravnica, Sandusky Food options, and even tackle some questions from Twitter. Check out all of those topics and more after the jump!
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  • Vaulting Through Ohio – Vintage in Sandusky

    Earlier this year the members of Team Serious, that is, my teammates, decided there wasn’t enough Vintage action going on in the great Ohio valley, so they decided to do something about it and organized a tournament at POP! in Sandusky, Ohio (USA) for July 2nd, 2011. Team Serious extraordinaire Nat Moes of Charbelcher fame traveled in from the DC area and took down the whole thing with Wizards.dec. Yep, seriously. You can find all the sick decklists from that tournament here, courtesy of Asian assassin and rap battlemaster Twaun007.
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  • The Alyssa Bereznak VS Jon Finkel Romance

    Jon Finkel, the man, the legend, who’s recently top16’ed at PT Philadelphia, has become the hero and idol of thousands of magic and not mtg-related nerds around the world. But, why?

    Alyssa Bereznak, former writter for Gizmodo (one of the most popular blogs about technology and other nerd stuff), published an article on August 29th 2011 about her date with our World Champion: “My OkCupid Affair With A World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player”.

    The article is wrong and controversial in many aspects and that’s why it has awaken the fury and anger of many nerds around the world and become a top class meme on the net.

    This is a short passage of the article:

    […] At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? “Yes.” Strike one. How often? “I’m preparing for a tournament this weekend.” Strike two. Who did he hang out with? “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.” Strike three. […]

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  • BIG PIMPIN – Force of Will Guru Alterations

    On our recent trip to Annecy for the Bazaar of Moxen 2011 Jordi and I had the pleasure of meeting two of the best alterers in the business, Sandreline and Demonium. In today’s episode of BIG PIMPIN we’re happy to share with you a very cool playset of Force of Will alterations done by the great Sandreline!

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  • Show and Tell Surprise! Adam Crawford Got PWNED

    The following happened during the past SCG Open in Charlotte. Adam Crawford (Sneak Show) VS Kenny Meyer (Zoo Battle of Wits). An epic moment happened during their first game:

    AMAZING!

  • Real Men Play Combo – Oh wait! Something is wrong here!

    Hello everybody!

    We apologize for the lack of posts that we’ve been publishing lately. Both Jason and I have been extremely busy lately, leaving almost no time to writing articles and such. We promise to be back on track shortly. We appreciate your visits daily to check for new updates, articles, etc… Thanks a lot!

    On the mean time, We’d like you to watch this video that was recorded during SCG – NJ. We promise you’ll love it!

    Can anyone tell me where can I buy those “Bacon” sleeves? 😀

  • BIG PIMPIN – The Rick Roll Ritual!

    Courtesy of our Eternal Central partner, artist Ken Meyer Jr., I received this awesome playset of Dark Rituals. From now on get ready to be Rick Roll’ed at any tournament! Because I am gonna Rick Roll you!

    (Click on the image to zoom)

    And after the break something that you might also enjoy 🙂
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  • BIG PIMPIN – Jaco, the Mind Sculptor

    Courtesy of the wonderful alteration artist C. Chandler comes this playset of Jace, the Mind Sculptor transformed into something new and awesome…something BIG PIMPIN!

    Jaco the Mind Sculptor

    Jaco, the Mind Sculptor! Here at EC we’re going to start bringing you more entertaining and unique Magic cards and items in a new section called BIG PIMPIN, so stay tuned for more pimp loots soon.

    Enjoy and have a happy holidays!