Dissecting Splice

I watched Splice recently and I have mixed feelings about it.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

It was released in 2009/2010, but I didn’t watch it until now. I thought it was going to be a simple sci-fi type show about genetics, somewhere between Alien and Jurassic Park but it was all that and then some. I don’t even quite know how to start this review.

Hmm… I guess the first thing I want to comment on is the speed of the show. It was moderately slow at first, sped up in the middle and then felt rushed at the end. With no unexpected twists, it was relatively easy to follow and predict. I got every single prediction right, even down to the ending scene. The plot was obvious, but since it wasn’t a mystery or detective show, I didn’t mind that. It was very weird when it suddenly shifted from pure sci-fi to thriller starting with Dren rising from the dead and killing all three males. Even the part when Dren killed and ate a small animal could have been passed off as a genetic trait thing, not a psychopath indicator.

The second half of the show sped up a little once Dren became a small humanoid female instead of an amorphous bird-like creature. That was when it became interesting for me. I was a little weirded out at the cuteness, intelligence and childlike behaviour Dren exhibited. It was hard to stop thinking of Dren as a little girl, and every time I unconsciously did so, the show would slap me in the face with her coiled legs, tail and four-fingered hands. I didn’t even mind her baldness or barely-human facial features.

Even though the pace was moderately slow, I still felt like there was a lot of information crammed into the show, and there’s definitely a lot of design space left to explore. Splice could easily have been a shorter film, with multiple sequels, which may or may not have involved Dren, even though it was killed in the end. I mean, after Clive stabbed it, it could have escaped to recover and come back stronger and more bloodthirsty, not unlike how the Xenomorphs in Alien adapt to their enemies and use their strengths against them. Dren was already shown to have accelerated healing and at least limb regeneration, almost to the point of it being a full on healing factor.

Oh. I see why they didn’t do that. I guess that might have been a little too much of an Alien ripoff.

After the show, I read the Wiki for Spice and found that the director, Vincenzo Natali, said there would probably not be a sequel, even though the ending seems to be a cliff hanger.

BUT WHYYYYY???

There’s so much design space to explore. For example, Elsa’s mutant child could grow, escape and start a whole new species by raping humans. Maybe even suggest that Dren is a very very very distant ancestor of the Xenomorphs. That would push the horror/thriller aspect even further.

Perhaps how about explaining how Dren grew the poisonous stinger back, or even how she he it grew it in the first place, given that none of it’s genetic components have “predatory characteristics”? That stinger is clearly an offensive tool. What about going the “government wants to create a secret bio-weapon-slash-perfect-soldier” theme?

They could have gone off the book too. Instead of turning Dren into a predatory creature with a vengeance in the end, they could have made it a very weird coming-of-age sequel, focused on Clive and Elsa teaching Dren to live as a human. Because, you know, for sweetness and family friendliness.

Okay nevermind, scratch that, that’s too weird.

Or is it?

I’m referencing the scene where Clive and Dren have sex, which was wrong on so many levels. Let’s start with moral incest. Forget that Dren itself is a big freaking moral dilemma and focus on the fact that Clive literally raised her and loves Dren as a daughter. Then we have the whole cross species thing, which takes beastiality to a whole new level. Why do the dirty with one non-human when you could do it with a human plus bird plus rabbit plus kangaroo plus whatever else Dren is made from at the same time?

That is one extreme fetish.

Don’t even get me started on the whole adultery thing. Is it adultery if you do it with a non-human? If yes, does masturbation or sex dolls count? Heck, is it adultery if you screw your wife’s clone? Because Dren’s human DNA comes from Elsa, which makes her a part clone.

I’m bordering dangerously on twin territory now, but before I move on, just let it sit in your mind that since Dren became male, Clive did a tranny.

There’s a whole lot of possibilities with Dren’s mutations. It’s unclear to me if Dren was evolving because of her genes, or if her mutations were the result of a type of rapid evolution in response to her environment. Like Darwin’s ability in X-men, or the Xenomorphs ability to draw genetic traits from their hosts? (I know I keep referencing Alien. I would apologise for that, but that would be a lie.)

Even if they wanted to explore the whole monster thriller genre, some of the mutations were just plain weird. Like her amphibious lungs. Side note: Clive was clearly trying to drown Dren. No argument. Back to the lungs. Why amphibious lungs? Wouldn’t retractable gills be more logical? Or even permeable skin, allowing her to partially absorb oxygen in water, like some amphibians?

The wings and frills on her back were also totally unnecessary. Dren is already a master of movement on land, with aquatic abilities. Giving her sky control is just OP. She doesn’t need to fly when she can already to Hulk jumps. I would have accepted her wings and frills if they were merely a way of maximizing skin surface area for her permeable skin to breathe in water, or even warming herself in the sun, like the dorsal sails of some animals do.

Give her a scorpion tail? Sure. Make her hyper agile and flexible? Awesome. Superhuman strength? Cool. Predatory instincts and a desire for vengeance? A shoe in. Play on the feminism “fear” that women could be just as strong as or even stronger than men? Okay. But wings? No. Wings were just over the top for me.

I guess when it comes to Dren, or bio-engineering, for that matter, the sky’s the limit.

-Jace

Skate Down Memory Lane

Last Saturday, I decided to go skate on a whim. I hadn’t skated for quite a while and the 42km eastern park connector route was beckoning. I didn’t bother to ask anyone to come with me because I’ve lost touch with almost everyone who could have kept up with me and those that could have kept up would probably have been busy or tired or both. Being alone doesn’t stop me from doing what I want, but it does get lonely sometimes.

Sigh.

Anyway, I didn’t think to start taking pictures to write this post until I hit the eastern end of ECP.

01 East End of ECP

There’s a water fountain here, so I stopped for a quick drink before continuing on. The only other water fountains I know along the park connector routes are: one at the Xtreme Skate Park along ECP and one at the Bedok Reservoir. There might be others that I’m not aware of.

02 NSRCC Sea Sports Centre

This was the first landmark when I passed the connection between ECP and Changi Coast Walk, just before turning right into the Coastal Park Connector.

03 NSRCC on Runtastic

I use Runtastic to track my progress, since it so handily has a skate feature and marks each kilometer I cover. I took this screenshot just before I hit the longest stretch of the Coastal Park Connector: the road beside Changi Airport.

05 Changi Airport runway

See? Changi Airport on the left!

06 I walk a lonely road
I walk skate a lonely road…

07 Slalom Leaves

I did have some fun with the dead leaves on the ground, doing my best to slalom through without crushing any. My skills are rusty, so let’s just put it this way: if each leaf was a person, I’d be on a killing spree.

08 End of Changi Airport

Seven tiring kilometers later, I finally reach the end, where the path connects to Changi Coast Track. I guess it’s Changi Beach, but that’s not the official name.

09 Start of Changi Beach

This part is a bit more fun because there’s more people and it always feels awesome to overtake other cyclists and skaters by speeding up at the curves. I’m such a showoff. XD

10 SAF Ferry Terminal

Along the Changi Coast Track, I skated past one of the places I have the worst memories of: SAF Ferry Terminal. Dreaded Sundays of booking into to Pulau Tekong… Suffering through BMT… My last memory of this the start of my 24km route march. That was by far the best route march I’d done, because the end of the march was much more motivating than doing 16km and looking forward only to the 24km march.

11 Oppo SAF Ferry Terminal

Conversely, this is one of the most welcoming views. It’s view opposite SAF Ferry Terminal and we always see it as we emerge from Torturous Tekong, looking forward to the weekend.

Or the end of BMT.

12 Changi Village

At the end of Changi Coast Track, I crossed the bridge to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and Changi Village. This is the place we launch from to get to Pulau Ubin. Now that has some good memories.

I’d forgotten if I needed to turn left or right along Changi Village Road, so I decided to turn right because a) I have Google Maps to help me navigate if I got lost, b) I could always turn back and follow my path tracked by Runtastic and c) I like to be right.

13 Changi Hospital

My decision led me to struggle uphill and I passed this place: Old Changi Hospital. It’s abandoned, but fenced up and monitored by CCTV cameras. I remember this area was where I had my first date with a girl I met on LOLA. She’d wanted to visit a haunted place, so we came here. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out, but at least I now know where Old Changi Hospital is located.

14 Changi Sailing Club

Skating on, I passed the entrance to Changi Sailing Club. Nothing very significant; just taking note of a small landmark. I was beginning to wonder if I should have turned left on Changi Village Road.

15 Loyang Park Connector

But finally! Loyang Park Connector! I added in Raintr33 Hotel behind as a bigger landmark. This meant that I was on the right track. It’s on the corner of Cranwell and Netheravon Road.

16 Cranwell and Netheravon Road

After that uphill battle, I finally got a downhill to cruise.

17 Downhill WHOO
WHEEEEEE

This confirmed what I remembered from the last time I skated along this track and I knew what was coming next…

18 Changi Airbase West

From Changi Air Base, I had to cross the road diagonally to the right, but after that, the Park Connector path was really obvious, and I had no trouble getting to the next stop…

19 Pasir Ris Park Connector

Pasir Ris Park Connector! Here it is on Runtastic:

20 Pasir Ris Park Connector on Runtastic

Okay so I guess I could have turned left on Changi Village then turned right along Loyang Ave for a shorter route. I’ll remember that next time.

At this point, I remembered that I had to turn right into Pasir Ris Dr 3 following the park connector so that I’d go past Downtown East and hit the Tampines Park Connector, but if I did that, I’d be late. I’d intended to hit Tampines Mall area by 7ish so that I could have a leisure dinner and froyo before board gaming with friends at 8.30pm. So instead of taking the longer route by park connector, I opted to continue along Loyang Ave as it was a more direct path.

I didn’t take anymore pictures until I finally hit my destination.

21 Tampines East Zone 8

From here on, it was probably just another kilometer or so before I reached Subway for dinner. This was not a proper circuit, but you can check out my whole path here.

I might make a better path in future that actually follows all the park connectors, but I wanted to complete this within three hours. As it turned out, I already took two hours and forty minutes to complete this route, so if I did the full circuit (which would probably hit 42km), I might take almost four hours on skates.

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Seven

Click here for Chapter Six

“People are slaves to their emotions. Emotions are slaves to me.”
-Monique Lavern

Haley followed Monique down the corridor to a pair of elevators, where Monique pressed the call button.

“We’re going down?” Haley asked in puzzlement. She’d noticed that the building was only about four levels high at most.

“Yes. Most of our facility is underground. We have more space and we have a more controlled environment for our patients that way. And less people escape too,” Monique replied.

“Escape?”

“Oh yes. Before we started going underground, they say that this one guy somehow managed to get on the roof and glide over our fence with a homemade hang glider from bed sheets and poles he broke off from cleaning supplies. I’m not sure how true this is, but isn’t it just brilliant and romantic?” Monique bounced excitedly.

“How is that romantic?” Haley raised her eyebrow, just as the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Both girls entered and Monique waved at the security camera in the corner of the lift before pressing the button for Basement Four. Haley saw that there were fourteen buttons in total: four upper levels, including the ground floor, and ten basement levels.

“Oh yeah, I suppose he’d probably be like, sixty now. Eww.” Monique made a face.

Haley shook her head and the doors slid shut.

“Do you like Zack?” Monique asked suddenly, fixing Haley with a meaningful and piercing glare.

“What? Oh no, not like that. We’re just really good friends,” Haley squirmed a little at Monique’s audacity.

“Alrighty then!” Monique’s bright smile appeared again as she returned to her bubbly demeanor. Haley was a little stunned and thought back to Dr. Michael’s sudden warmth after vetting Zack. Do all shifters have these random mood swings? Then she thought of Zack, the most calm and collected person she knew. No, as long as she’d known Zack, he’d never had a sudden mood swing. At least, not when she was around.

The elevator dinged again and the doors slid open to let cool air slid in from the corridor. It looked like a typical hallway one might find in a hospital: brightly lit, clean, and several doors on either side. Each door had a small window on it. A few people in white uniforms similar to the one Monique wore were unhurriedly going about their business. Another person in a wheelchair that Haley assumed to be a patient was being escorted away from the girls by uniformed staff.

“Come on!” Monique grabbed Haley’s hand and gently tugged her out of the lift. Haley saw that there were two more corridors running down her left and right, similar to the one Monique was leading her along.

“Where are we going?” Haley asked.

“To meet some friends of mine!” Monique bubbled happily.

“I thought you were supposed to show me around,” Haley remarked.

“Well, yeah. But we can do that with my friends. They know more about some places than I do, anyway,” Monique smiled back at Haley reassuringly.

As they passed door after door, Haley couldn’t help but peek into the windows.

“What’s going on in there?” Haley asked Monique and gestured to a man in one of the rooms with his hand on the forehead of a patient lying on a bed. There were several younger people in staff uniforms clustered around the man and they each had a hand on the man’s free arm. They all had their eyes closed, including the patient.

Monique and Haley stopped.

“That’s Professor McNeil. He’s teaching them something. I don’t know what it is, since I’m not connected. Probably some memory thing. Professor McNeil is one of our Architects who live and teach here. Hmm, it’s very serene in there…” Monique replied dreamily.

“What is an Architect?” Haley inquired as they started walking again.

“An Architect is the general classification for someone who deals with memories. Usually, when we ConEx – I mean, mindshift – we’re unable to control what we see in the head of the person we touch. Architects, however, can. They can’t actually control the person, but they can look inwards and call up the person’s memories at will. They say that memories are just neuropathways in the brain, and that recalling a memory is simply a matter of finding the right path. If you forget something, it means the path is broken. The main job of Architects here is to help find and fix broken paths of patients suffering from memory related disabilities, like different forms of dementia and amnesia. Architects are also responsible for our organizing our security personnel.”

Haley recalled the way Dr. Michael dug through Zack’s head.

“Interesting. I suppose Dr. Michael is an Architect as well?”

“Yep! Professor McNeil is a pure Architect, and Dr. Micheal is primarily an Architect with some Mimic abilities. He can create illusions to mess with your senses, both of which are classified as Mimic skills. Professor Michael is also an Architect/Mimic, but he has more than just sensory manipulation.”

“Okay, what are Mimics?”

“Oh Mimics. I hate Mimics, they’re always so arrogant and think that they’re the best of us, simply because that can learn anything they want. Hmph,” Monique pouted.

“You said Zack was a Mimic. He’s not arrogant. He helps people,” Haley countered.

“Hmm… Yes I suppose Zack is alright,” Monique conceded. “Anyway, Mimics are defined by having hypercongnition, the ability to perform mental processes at superhuman speed. Mimics can and usually will branch off to become any of the other three classifications, since they can learn things almost instantly. You’d seldom find a pure, fully trained Mimic. A Mimic’s job here is pretty much jack-of-all-trades. They can work with the Historians on research, they also work well with Empaths for entertaining patients and guests, and can help Architects with solving logistical puzzles.”

Haley was reeling from all the information, but she craved more.

“Tell me about Empaths. That’s what you are, aren’t you?”

“Correct!” Monique clapped her hands joyfully. “I’m an Empath in training. Empaths deal with emotions. We can change the mood of a person by projecting our own emotions into them. The really good ones can do it from a short distance, but most of us have to touch a person. We’re excellent at calming a group down or motivating people or even making someone angry.” Monique giggled. “And we make excellent speeches,” Monique declared unabashedly.

“Yes, you most certainly do,” Haley responded with a smile. Monique was just so likable.

“Our main job here is to interact with the patients. We’re very in tune with how they’re feeling, so we monitor them and make sure they’re comfortable. If needed, we can sedate a patient without using drugs. And, we’re experts in body language. Like, right now I can tell you’re really into all this, even if you’re suffering from information overload.”

Haley blushed. “Sorry, it’s all just so fascinating. It’s a whole new world of stuff I’ve never explored. I’m just really curious, I guess.”

“Oh it’s not a bad thing! Don’t apologize! I enjoy talking and you enjoy listening. Win-win!” Monique squealed. “You really are a Historian yourself. Always curious and mostly quiet. Not to mention your shield. Historians are the only set of people with extracognitive abilities that cannot mindshift. They all have a natural mental barrier that not only blocks people like me from entering, it keeps the Historian themselves from entering the minds of others.

“Remember I said Mimics could learn to be Historians? I meant that they could pick up abilities that Historians have naturally, such as developing a mental shield and holographic memories, which is the ability to revisit a memory and examine it from a different point of view. Of course, it doesn’t work as well if you don’t have an eidetic memory.”

“Wow.” Haley had so many more questions.

“A Historian’s job here is mainly to do research and conduct experiments. Some also help the Architects take care of this facility’s security, since they can’t be attacked mentally. Architects and Historians also usually have reality grounding, meaning they can tell if a memory is true, embellished or an outright product of imagination. They’re also unaffected by a Mimic’s sensory manipulation. See why they’re great for security?”

“I do. But why do you need such tight security?”

“To prevent people from escaping and to prevent people from infiltrating this place. We do have some hardened criminals here for research,” Monique answered blatantly. “They’re here voluntarily, because let’s face it, this place is better than prison. And here we are!”

The girls had reached a door that was labelled ‘Common Room’. Monique opened the door and let Haley go through first. There were quite a few people around their age, some relaxing in front of the TV, some playing board games and some chatting around a coffee table. They all looked up when the door opened.

“Uh… Hi,” Haley said nervously.

“Hey guys! New visitor. Just taking a tour,” Monique called out to the people in the room. Some gave Haley a nod or a wave, but most returned to whatever they were doing. Monique turned to Haley. “Come on!” she said, moving to one of the doors on the opposite end of the room and gesturing for Haley to follow. Haley hesitated, then caught up with Monique.

“Daryl! Ethan! Sasha!” Monique called out to people in the room without breaking stride. The three that were summoned immediately headed to the same door Monique was walking towards. Monique opened it and all five of them piled inside.

Haley looked around. It was a simple discussion room. A round table, six chairs and a white board with markers. Everyone took a seat as Daryl closed the door.

“Haley, let me introduce to you… Beta team. I’m Team Captain!” Monique beamed.

“Um… your cheer squad?” Haley asked.

Sasha snorted.

“We’re not all as high as Little Miss Perky here, darling,” Sasha told Haley.

“Haley is a visitor, but I brought her down here because I wanted to introduce us. She’s an untrained Historian, but her shield is different from a normal Historian’s,” Monique told the group. “Go ahead, touch her!”

At that, Sasha rolled her eyes, Daryl coughed and Ethan’s eyes lit up.

“If you insist,” Ethan joked and reached out towards Haley’s chest. Monique slapped his hand.

“Kidding, just kidding!” Ethan extended his hand to Haley in a handshake. “Ethan Crenshaw, Mimic in training,” he gave Haley a smile that made her heart beat faster. She moved her hand towards his and he took it, raising it up to his face even as he bowed to gently kiss the back of her hand, never once breaking eye contact. Haley giggled.

“Oh wow, you’re good,” Haley said to Ethan.

“I know,” he gave a flirtatious smile and let go of her hand.

“No! I mean,” Haley got flustered. “People like you usually get confused when they realize that they can’t shift into my head, but you were so smooth and didn’t show a change in facial expression at all.”

“I know,” Ethan repeated, his grin growing wider but said nothing more. There was an awkward pause.

“Oh for Heaven’s sake,” Sasha spoke up and extended her hand to Haley. “Sasha Capelia, Architect.” Haley gripped her hand in a firm handshake. Sasha’s eyes widened and she let go.

“Daryl Summers. Historian, like you,” said Daryl with a kind smile, and Haley shook his hand.

Haley’s eyes slid back to meet Ethan’s. In a room full of people who could read minds at a touch, Haley was, not for the first time, extremely grateful for her mental invisibility cloak.

Click here for Chapter Eight

-Jace

School of Paintball (Paintball 2014)

I was invited to go play paintball last Sunday and since it was only $28 a head, I was all for it. $28 is really cheap, especially seeing as how we got at least 200 pellets per person. The last two paintball games I organized at Red Dynasty in 2012 and at Crossfire in 2013 were more expensive and we had less paints and games to play with.

Jia Kiat and I rushed down via cab to Jurong from Tampines immediately after dance practice, so we just bought some bread and munched in the taxi. The whole cab ride was $32 *shudder*, so we split it $16 each. Add that to the $28 for paintball and we spent $44, which is still pretty reasonable for four games and 200 pellets per pax. Totally worth it.

I was very impressed with the planning and organization of this event, because they had targeted to get 30 people and got 31. By and large, that is amazing. I remember the struggle I had to organize my paintball sessions on my own and struggling to fill up the number of players. Respect.

So we were divided into five teams of six players and played round robin. It was awesome because I hadn’t realised I’d get four chances in the field; I thought we were only getting two games a team, because of the time constraints. For all ten matches, we played capture the flag (which I call Extreme Shuttle Run), where there were five flags (represented by cones) placed in the center of the field and we had to get them back to base. We had unlimited respawns (just run back and touch your own base) and no lines, so we could go wherever we wanted on the field.

I learnt and re-learnt a few things. First, defensive strategies don’t work. You’ll run out of pellets and then become a sitting duck. Speed is key here. There is also no such thing as strategy. Sure, you might have a plan, but in the time it takes to organize your team on the battlefield, the other team has already taken the flags. And unless you’re a pro team playing paintball everyday and training for tournaments, paintball is largely individual. In the heat of the moment, all thought goes out the window except “Shoot your opponent, don’t shoot your ally”. And maybe perhaps “get the flag”. There really is no teamwork, even in pairs.

I didn’t get to execute any headshots this time round, but I did have some sweet moments when I dived behind a few obstacles and eliminated someone at close range. Managed to get a few flags for my team, which was awesome, and we eventually placed second overall.

01 Paintball Double Arm Shots
Battle Bruises

Although I came out one of the cleanest, I didn’t fully escape injury. Got a couple of shots in my right arm which were easily covered by my sleeve, and a few shots in the back, although there’s no bruising there. I’m writing this the day after (I took leave) and my muscles are all aching from a good skirmish.

After the ten matches, teams 4 and 5 were tied for third place, so they had a sudden death match. Two players from each team entered the field and fought it out. Since the spectators were banned from giving tips to the players (lest they cause the player to be called out by the referee), it was the quietest and most intense match that day. Jia Kiat was on team 5 and one of the two representatives in the tie breaker game. It was interesting because this was now a game of strategy and teamwork, not speed and aggression. Jia Kiat and his teammate managed to execute a perfect pincer movement, eliminating both their opponents from behind and without getting shot themselves.

There were a few more fun mini-games after that, but I had to shower and go to Lakeside MRT to sell a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

-Jace

Khans of Tarkir Prerelease

Last Saturday, I attended the Khans of Tarkir prerelease at Games Haven (GH), courtesy of my friend Malcolm, who sponsored me as well as Marcus and Nicholas, the brothers who complete our usual Cube playgroup.

Anyway, since each flight was only $25, Malcolm sponsored twelve flights: three for each of us to play, including himself. GH was able to squeeze three flights into one Saturday, so we played the whole day. I couldn’t play on Sunday because I have dance practice in the morning and I would have had to book into camp on Sunday night (I took leave on Monday – today). Coincidentally, something came up on Sunday afternoon after dance practice which further enforced my decision not to play on Day 2. I’ll talk about that in Wednesday’s post.

I wasn’t very interested in this block, partly because I didn’t quite identify with any clan in particular, but also because I don’t follow Daily MTG anymore. I’ve got no time to do so and besides, it eats up too much data on my mobile.

But wedge colours!

And enemy coloured fetchlands!

And wedge coloured cards for Commander!

The one thing I disliked was the fact that WOTC now made 40 prerelease cards, eight per clan, including the clan leader. So instead of knowing exactly what prerelease card you would get, you’d only get one of the eight in the clan you picked. I collect prerelease cards, so this change really annoyed me. But I will persevere.

So, a little summary of this new block in my own words. Tarkir is a new plane to us. It’s inhabited by barbaric, warring tribes called Clans. Each Clan is led by a Khan and is aligned to three colours of Magic. Sound familiar? Yes, this is a gold block, similar to Shards of Alara in the theme of tri-colours, but instead of doing arc colours (two pairs of allied colours that share a colour), this plane is focused on wedge colours (a pair of allied colours and their common enemy colour).

Shards of Alara gave rise to the names Esper (WUB – Artifacts matter), Grixis (UBR – Gravyard matters), Jund (BRG – “Value” matters), Naya (RGW – Power 5 or more matters) and Bant (GWU – Attack and Defense matters). Since then, players have often referred to these arc colours according to their Shard names. But there have never been names for wedge colours, until now: Mardu (WBR – Attacking matters), Temur (URG – Power 4 or more matters), Abzan (BGW – Growing creatures), Jeskai (RWU – Noncreature spells matter) and Sultai (GUB – Graveyard as a resource).

I could Delve (heh) deeper into the flavour of the Clans, but I’m sure there are many better articles, posts and reviews about them. Anyway, since Malcolm essentially had twelve flights, each of us took a different clan each round. The plan was to outcast (not outlast!) one clan per flight (five clans and four of us) and play two clans thrice. Malcolm had decided to play Temur and Mardu and outcast the other three clans because Temur and Mardu had better rare value density. GH had run out of extra Temur sets, so they set aside two cases (each case contains the five clans) and a pair of extra Mardu sets. Guess what they labelled the case?

01 Malcolm Tan Group (MTG)
Malcolm Tan Group ~ MTG

What a funny coincidence XD

02 MTG Inside
Sets for the third flight

This is what we played for our third flight. I took Mardu and did okay, going 2-1 and winning two packs for Malcolm. We were aiming to win a total of 24 extra packs between the four of us so that we could draft twice next week, but we only hit 19, of which I did the best by contributing six packs. *smug*

I didn’t do well in flight one, in which I picked Jeskai. Jeskai was difficult to play because it was tough to balance the number of creatures and noncreature spells to trigger Prowess. But I won’t talk about that. Instead, I wanna share the deck I made for my second flight, because IT WAS AWESOME. I’d picked Abzan this round.

03 Sets for Flight 2
Sets for the second flight

04 Opening Flight 2
Opening flight two – Abzan

Started with a pretty sweet prerelease card, High Sentinels of Arashin. Works wonderfully with Outlast cards and Abzan Charm.

05 Winnings (Split)
Winnings with Abzan deck

I did so well with my deck that I managed to win all three games. Before the start of the third game, I offered to split with my opponent, to which he agreed. Splitting means to share the rewards evenly, regardless of the outcome of the actual game. The prize structure was such that if you had 0 or 1 wins, you’d win one pack, if you had 2 wins, then you got two packs, but if you 3 wins, you got four packs. So splitting only makes sense when you’ve won the first two rounds and you’re paired up with an opponent that has also won two rounds. We each took three packs, played for honor and then I kicked his butt with my awesome deck.

Here’s my decklist.

ABZAN Decklist (43 Cards)
4 Swamp
5 Plains
5 Forest
2 Blossoming Sands
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
17 Lands

1 Archer’s Parapet
1 Longshot Squad
1 Tuskguard Captain
1 Abzan Falconer
1 Ainok Bond-Kin
1 Master of Pearls
1 Mardu Hordechief
1 Wingmate Roc
1 High Sentinels of Arashin
2 Abzan Guide
11 Creatures

2 Savage Punch
2 Abzan Charm
2 Debilitating Injury
1 End Hostilities
1 Throttle
1 Smite the Monstrous
1 Suspension Field
1 Dead Drop
1 Naturalize
2 Feat of Resistance
1 Abzan Banner
15 Other Spells

Sideboard
1 See the Unwritten
1 Kin-Tree Warden
1 Savage Punch
1 Feat of Resistance
1 Tuskguard Captain
2 Highland Game

Yes I did have a total of three Savage Punch and three Feat of Resistance, but I already had 43 cards and only 11 creatures. Not very useful when those cards require creatures to work. I left out the Highland Game because I didn’t need them. Since most decks were slow, I only sideboarded them against more aggressive decks to buy myself time.

I also had See the Unwritten and enough creatures able to trigger Ferocious consistently, but my deck had a low creature density, so I couldn’t play this sweet mythic rare.

Here’s a deck breakdown. Let’s start with my MVPs.

06 MVPs
Abzan MVPs

While Wingmate Roc and High Sentinels of Arashin were respectable bombs in their own right, I consider Abzan Guide to be the best card I had. Not only did I have two copies, making my deck more consistent, it synergized well all the pumps I had. I won most of my games on the back of that card. I actually ended one game with a life total of 46!

07 Removals
Sweet Removal Suite

I had a whole host of removals to choose from (11 in deck, 1 in the sideboard, actually). I really frustrated my second opponent because I always had the right removal at the right time. Suspension Field for his Hydra, Debilitating Injury for his 4/2 Bear, and End Hostilities when he had spewed out his whole hand of three creatures when I had none on the field.

Also, I actually mainboarded Naturalize. With all these Ascendencies running around, I decided Naturalize was needed. Besides, I wanted the dream play of having Abzan Guide (or any bomb) on the battlefield, exiling it with Suspension Field, casting End Hostilities and finally Naturalizing my own Suspension Field, leaving me with a 4/4 Lifelinker and no opposing creatures.

Hey, a guy can dream.

Abzan Charm was awesome in all it’s modes, exiling an opponent’s creature instantly, drawing me more cards late game, and fast +1/+1 counters on my creatures, which activated whatever counter lords I had, won in combat, or just pumped my High Sentinels.

08 Counter Lords
Counter Lords

Speaking of counter lords, I had four different ones. First Strike, Flying, Trample and Reach. All very relevant abilities. I actually had a second copy of the Trample granting lord, but I decided I didn’t need it. Too bad I didn’t have the one that granted Deathtouch, otherwise I’d have the DeathStrike combo. Holla!

But my deck was great as it was; there was so much synergy!

09 MVP Synergy
Abzan Guide + Savage Punch

Check this combo out. I really like the fact that Savage Punch immediately grants and extra +2/+2 to Abzan Guide on it’s own; 6/6 is powerful enough to kill and survive fighting almost any creature in this format. Very decent. Plus, I get to attack with Abzan Guide afterwards? That’s a gain of 12 life points regardless of whether my opponent blocks or not! With all the removal I had, the field was almost always clear when I got this combo, allowing me to get in for 6 damage to the face, making it an 18 point life swing, plus an opposing creature removed. Talk about value!

Talk about a Savage Punch in the face!

10 Counter Lord Synergy
Abzan Charm + Counter Lords

As I was saying, having these creatures on the field is really awesome. Instead of Outlasting my creatures, I’d just save the mana and set up a defensive position to surprise my opponent with sudden Flyers, First Strikers and Reachers. Trample wasn’t actually very useful for me though, since my path was mostly clear. See why I only put one copy?

11 Removal Synergy
End Hostilities into Dead Drop

The last synergistic combo I had was this. Casting End Hostilities filled up my graveyard with creatures and itself, allowing me to Delve for Dead Drop, should my opponent decide to recover faster than I. I really liked this as Dead Drop became a clean up as well as pave the way for my post-End Hostilities creature(s) to smash face.

Abzan really does outlast all others.

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Six

Click here for Chapter Five

“Judge not a man by his thoughts, but by his actions.”
-Professor Adam Michael, in
Understanding People

The door opened behind Haley and I and we turned to see a man in his early thirties enter the office. He wore a uniform similar to the one Monique wore, but with jeans underneath the coat. Haley and I stood. The man did not offer a handshake, so I took that as a cue not to offer mine.

“Hello,” he greeted us. “I’m Dr. Michael. What can I do for you?”

My ears pricked up. We were looking for a Professor Michael, not Dr. Michael. Besides, this Dr. Michael guy looked a little too young to have founded MIND. I said as much.

“My name is Dr. Dax Michael,” he clarified. “Professor Adam Michael is my father.”

“Oh,” I said. “Where is he?”

“My father does not see visitors until they’ve been vetted through, at least by me. Now, what can I do for you, Mr…?”

“Call me Zack. This is my friend Haley,” I gestured towards her and she gave a small wave. Dr. Michael acknowledged her with a nod. “My dad is in the hospital and he’s recovering from a coma. He told me to get him to Professor Michael.”

“Well, Zack, as I said before, Professor Michael does not meet with anyone not vetted by myself. Besides, he’s a busy man.”

“What do you mean by ‘vetted’?” Haley enquired.

“I believe you already know.”

Suddenly it clicked in my mind. If Dad needed Professor Michael to help him with the Historian, then Professor Michael at least must be aware of people like us. More likely, he’s a shifter himself, and since Dr. Michael is his son, Dr. Michael must be a shifter as well.

Dr. Michael wanted to look into our heads. He wanted us to submit to a mental polygraph test.

Two things bugged me. First Monique wasn’t related to either Michael, yet she was a shifter, an Empath. How many more shifters were in this place? I mean, my whole life I haven’t met another shifter outside my family despite the many interactions and overseas trips I’ve taken, and yet I meet non-blood related shifters in one day?

The second thing that went through my mind was, What would Dr. Michael need to vet us for?

I realized Haley and Dr. Michael were staring at me while I’d been having my epiphany.

“Just figured it out, huh?” Haley sniggered. “So much for reading all those detective novels.”

“Shut up, Hales,” I mumbled, embarrassed that I had zoned out.

“Well? Will you both allow me to vet you?” Dr. Michael prompted.

I hesitated, but then I thought, I had nothing to hide. Anyway, I would be in his head just as much as he’d be in mine.

“Okay,” I acquiesced.

“Fine,” Haley chirped. “But I don’t think you’ll be able to do anything. Zack’s been trying ever since we met and he still can’t get in me. My head, I mean,” she added quickly as I looked at her and Dr. Michael raised his eyebrow.

“She has a shield,” I told Dr. Michael. Haley extended her hand towards him and he took it in a handshake. I watched as a confused expression formed on his face, just like my sisters and Monique showed when they first made contact with Haley.

He let go of Haley’s hand and his brow furrowed.

“So it is true. That is most unusual…” He looked at me. “I will be sifting through your memories and background. It will not hurt, but I will require full access to your entire mind. You may tell me to stop at any time, but if I do not conduct a full search, I will not permit you to speak to the Professor. Do you understand?”

“What are you looking for?” I asked. “It seems to be very tight security for a psychiatric hospital.”

“First of all, this is for Professor Michael, not MIND. You are free to enter as visitors without being vetted, but an audience with my father is not possible without a thorough search. And I need to ascertain your intentions are exactly what you say they are, as well as ensure that you’re not hired for corporate espionage or assassination,” he replied bluntly.

I blinked.

“Also, Ms Lavern tells me you’re what we call an untrained Mimic. I’m curious to find out more about you.”

Interesting. I shrugged and extended my hand.

“One more thing,” he said, raising a single finger. “I must ask you not to extend your consciousness into my mind. I understand that since you are untrained, you will not be able to control yourself. I will construct a temporary mental containment around your mind and as long as you relax, it will hold.”

Okay so I wouldn’t get to see the inside of his head. Bummer. Ah well.

“Sure,” I acknowledged.

He turned to Haley and said, “You may stay, but please do not interrupt. This should only take a few minutes.”

Haley nodded and Dr. Michael took my hand.

I actually felt myself being stopped from entering Dr. Michael’s mind, even as I felt his presence flow into my head. It wasn’t like the Historian’s shield or Haley’s mental invisibility. It was more like a flowing wire mesh veil. I prodded it and a hole appeared, but it quickly repaired itself.

“Stop playing around,” Dr. Michael admonished out loud. Of course, he can’t mindspeak if I’m not in his head.

I mentally forced myself to withdraw. It was then that I realized Dr. Michael wasn’t just in the conscious part of my mind. He was literally, forcibly digging through my memories. Immediately, I resisted and he stopped.

“Relax, Zack.”

I made a conscious effort to relax and I felt him sifting again. How was he able to do that? I couldn’t control what I saw in someone’s mind, much less look through their whole life story. If Dr. Michael “heard” that thought, he didn’t answer. It was the weirdest feeling I’d ever felt. It literally felt like someone rummaging around in my head. I have to be honest: my head isn’t exactly the most organized place in the world, so it was more of burglar-ransacking-a-house rather than rifling-through-a-drawer-of-files.

But it didn’t hurt one bit, which was good. It was just… weird. Dr. Michael drew and threw up memories into the conscious part of my mind and I felt him slowly organize my memories into chronological order. I found memories I’d forgotten I’d had! Damn, he was good. He pulled up every single memory I every made, even the embarrassing and personal ones, which I blushed at, but made no comment. It was very professional and I appreciated that. It was as if he’d done it many times before.

That thought hit me hard. How many times had he done this before? Before I could dwell on that, Dr. Michael withdrew from my mind, let go of my hand and walked around the desk.

“Well! You are the empty vessel, huh? Other than that, you are who you say you are. And a pair of sisters, too! You must bring introduce me to them one day. Would you like some candy?” he grinned at me as he opened a cabinet in the side of the desk, which turned out to house a fridge chock-full of various chocolates, sweets and candy bars. He pulled out a KitKat, some Hershey’s Kisses, a long Toblerone chocolate bar and offered them to us.

“Umm… Sure, I guess?” I was craving sugar. I grabbed the Toblerone, broke it in half and gave one half to Haley. His sudden friendliness was a radical shift in his behaviour. Dr. Michael unwrapped the KitKat bar and turned to Haley again.

“Since I can’t ascertain your intentions so I’m afraid I can’t allow you to see Professor Michael. You are most welcome to visit the rest of this facility if you wish; I can have Ms Lavern show you around.”

Haley looked at me and I shrugged as I took a bite out of my chocolate bar. I guess I could see Professor Michael alone while Haley explored. Dr. Michael opened the office door and gestured for us to exit. As we exited, Monique emerged from the adjacent room.

“Ah, Ms Lavern! Would you kindly give Haley a tour while I bring Zack to see Professor Michael?” Dr. Michael asked Monique.

“Yes, sir,” Monique replied and gestured for Haley to follow her.

After a beat, Dr. Michael said, “Come, Zack, my father is waiting for you.” He headed off in the opposite direction of Haley and Monique. I lingered a while longer, watching Haley and Monique’s retreating backs, then turned and caught up with Dr. Michael.

Click here for Chapter Seven

-Jace

Dream Relationship

I had an awesome dream last Saturday night (or Sunday morning, rather) and I remembered most of it. XD

So I was at some sort of event at a shopping mall. I don’t know what event it was and I don’t know any of the shops in the mall, but there were lots of escalators, and for some reason, everyone (including me) was wearing black leather outfits.

It felt like the event was some sort of Army or SAF thing, but I don’t remember any definite details about it. I do remember there were a lot of couples, although not everyone was paired up. I didn’t know most of the people but there were several friends I recognized, some close friends and some random friends that I’d known since I was young but with whom I barely maintained contact.

Anyway, I was walking around with a few other people, forming a sort of loose group. Like, we moved together as a majority, but sometimes some of us would just break away to enter a shop or go to the toilet while the rest of the group moved on.

I hadn’t come as part of a couple but there was a pretty petite girl I knew in the group. She was an old schoolmate of mine that I rarely spoke to and she’d grown into a beautiful young woman. I don’t know why, but we spent most of our time at the event together, chatting and catching up on one another’s lives. For some reason, we ended up becoming a temporary couple. Not just a pair of good friends, I mean we actually decided to pretend we were in a relationship together, just for the day.

The majority of my dream was flashback-esque and in first person, as if I was remembering and replaying my memories rather than experiencing them for the first time. It didn’t matter though, I was actually able to “remember” the feelings I felt.

I remember we held hands while we walked, but we didn’t do that often because for some reason, our fingers always didn’t interlock naturally. It was weird, though we weren’t put off by it. Instead, we walked with my arm across her back and my thumb hooked into the side pocket of her black leather pants. This made our hips always remain in contact and I distinctly remember feeling her warmth as she leaned into me. She was usually on my left and, although she did end up on my right side one time, it felt awkward, so we stuck to her being on my left.

In the time that we were in couple mode, I met a few friends and ex-friends. I watched as one of my close friends kinda got back together with his ex-girlfriend, and someone I used to consider a friend until he got a girlfriend was now single and surprised at who I was with.

Yes I was smug, which is a little mean of me, but the feeling of success was awesome.

My dream did have a conclusion, surprisingly. Before my “girlfriend” and I parted ways at the end of the day, we both acknowledged that our relationship had been fun while it lasted. For all the time we were together, we didn’t kiss at all. It wasn’t exactly a happy ending, but I knew that all good things had to end and I was grateful that I at least had some sort of closure. This was the first time I’d dreamed of an actual relationship, not just getting the girl or having a feeling attraction a physical level.

-Jace