Monday, February 23, 2015

Character Insight No. 133: Vic Fontaine

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review Vic Fontaine from Deep Space Nine.

Vic Fontaine.jpg 
 (Vic is a smooth and always sharply-dressed man) 
Vic Fontaine is a hologram on one of the most popular programs used by the DS9 crew, a program which simulates 1962 Las Vegas on Earth. Fontaine is the owner and entertainer in a club called Vic's Las Vegas Lounge, and he serves as a Guinan-like character for a crew that does not have a Ten Forward lounge, or at least not a sympathetic bartender in the case of Quark.  He provides another necessary relaxation or escape outlet during the stressful Dominion War seasons for the Deep Space Nine crew.

Vic was modeled after 20th Century entertainers like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Indeed, Frank Sinatra Jr. was initially approached to play this role, which would have been a nice touch, but he declined because he only had interest in playing an alien character on Star Trek. Even without evoking the actual bloodline, the vocal jazz abilities of Fontaine accurately depict the entertainers of the period.

One theme which Deep Space Nine does not pick up as much as TNG or Voyager is the advancement and autonomy of artificial intelligence. Although Vic shows up much less than the EMH and Data, his programming includes high levels of perception and intuitiveness, as well as the ability to control when he is turned on and off. 

That enables some serious character self-awareness and development, making Vic almost like a real crew member rather than a hologram. If anything, these themes could have been investigated more, as it's one type of holodeck use we can almost always approve of at This Week in Trek. 

Quote from His Way:
Vic Fontaine: If you're gonna work Vegas in the '60s, you better know the score. Otherwise you're gonna look like a Clyde.
Major Kira: A Clyde?
Vic Fontaine: A Harvey, you know?
Lt. Commander Worf: Harvey?
Vic Fontaine: A square. You know what a square is, right?
Chief O'Brien: It's one side of a cube.
Vic Fontaine: Well, I guess that answers my question.


Fontaine helped some of the other real crew members overcome significant hurdles in their lives. He gives advice to Odo when he wants to start a romantic relationship with Kira, and his setup of these two leads to a positive outcome where Odo may have bumbled it by himself. Vic also helps Nog regain confidence to face the real world again after he withdraws from reality when dealing with the loss and prosthetic replacement of his leg in a Dominion War battle.  
Thus, Vic is an effective barkeep counselor role which the Deep Space Nine crew needed during the toughest times of the show. This is a rare example of a great late-season addition to balance the direction where a show is headed, and Vic even gets to sing off the Deep space Nine crew in the show finale.

Quote/Song from What You Leave Behind:
Vic Fontaine: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is a very special night for some friends of mine. They've been together a long time. But like the man said... nothing lasts forever. So gang, this one's from the heart.  

James Darren played Vic Fontaine, and he retired from acting shortly after DS9. Darren was involved in many 1950's and 1960's TV shows, but his other most famous role likely was as Officer Jim Corrigan on T.J. Hooker.
Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Character Insight No. 132: Thy'lek Shran

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review Thy'lek Shran, an Andorian commander from Enterprise.
Shran, 2154.jpg
 (Andorians should really be used more in the next iteration of Star Trek, considering how cool they look) 

Shran serves in the Imperial Guard for the Andorians, and he is the commanding officer of the warship Kumari. That provides Shran with many opportunities to run into Captain Archer and the Enterprise throughout the four seasons of this show.
Unlike prior Star Trek series, Enterprise actually features Andorians in several episodes. At the time of Enterprise, the Andorians and Vulcans are engaging in hostilities with one another. As a result, Shran first meets Captain Archer and T'Pol when he imprisons them while looking for a secret Vulcan sensor array for spying on Andorian space. Archer accidentally helps Shran uncover this array, leading to a partnership and friendship that is highly valuable for the Enterprise crew moving forward.

The next year, Shran insists on Archer to be a neutral arbitrator of a Vulcan-Andorian dispute, which helps the Vulcans gain more respect for the humans. Shran also assists the humans when the time comes to investigate and then destroy the Xindi superweapon after the Xindi begin attacking Earth. Shran and Archer also use their ships and combined forces to repel a Vulcan invasion force long enough to prevent a significant battle at Andoria that could have shattered peace in the quadrant irreversibly.

From Proving Ground:
Commander Shran: The last time we met, you helped my people avert a war. I don't like unpaid debts.
Captain Jonathan Archer: We keep doing each other favors.
Commander Shran: Isn't that how alliances are born?

That tentative peace is also threatened when a Romulan ship disguised as a Tellarite vessel destroys Shran's ship the Kumari a few months later. However, once again Archer helps Shran find the truth and stop the Romulan subterfuge, although it requires a memorable hand-to-hand combat duel between the two commanding officers before that happens. The last time we see Shran is during the finale of the show, when Archer helps him once again, this time in rescuing his abducted daughter following Shran's retirement from the Imperial Guard.

Shran is an enjoyable character who has a fun bit of rebel to him, even though he turns out to be an unexpected close ally to Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew. Similar to the critical Weyoun character played by the same actor in Deep Space Nine, the character of Shran becomes a key cog in the story of three factions, with the humans rising up to become the unifying force in this circumstance to establish the Alpha Quadrant's mighty new Federation.  Without such a strong acting performance in the initial appearances, this character likely does not end up being as important as he turns out.

Jeffrey Combs played Shran, and he played many roles on Star Trek with the most notable being this role as well as Weyoun of the Dominion. He still acts today, and he will appear in the new Fox show Gotham next week in the episode Red Hood for those who want to see his latest performance.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Character Insight No. 131: Alexander Rozhenko

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review one of the most hated characters of Star Trek, Alexander Rozhenko of TNG and Deep Space 9.
Alexander Rozhenko, 2370.jpg

 ("Children on Star Trek, aren't they so much fun!?!?!") 

Alexander is the son of Worf, who was conceived when ambassador K'Ehleyr had a brief encounter with Worf during a mission on the Enterprise to defuse a potential crisis with the Klingons. Although Worf did not intend to recognize him as a son when he finds out about him a couple of years later, K'Ehleyr ends up being killed and he is forced to recognize and raise the son, at least when his own human parents cannot take full care of Alexander. 

That brings yet another child character into the world of the Enterprise, one which challenges the viewer nearly as much as Worf himself. Anyone who is or has been a parent can relate to some of these struggles:

From Reunion
Alexander Rozhenko: Where are the other Klingons?
Lieutenant Worf: There are no others on board.
Alexander Rozhenko: Why?
Lieutenant Worf: The Federation and the Klingon Empire were enemies for many years. No other Klingons have asked to serve in Starfleet.
Alexander Rozhenko: Why?
Lieutenant Worf: A warrior does not ask so many questions!

Indeed, Alexander struggles with theft and lying after coming aboard, but with the help of Worf and a friendship with Deanna Troi, he eventually stops being a miscreant. Perhaps most ironically, he becomes even closer friends with Deanna's mother Lwaxana, which makes for perhaps the most annoying duo in Star Trek history. Even Worf doesn't like that development.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with Alexander's character is that a lot of his character development happens on the holodeck, the place where he builds his friendship with Lwaxana. He also regularly runs a Deadwood sheriff and deputy program with his father Worf, although of course this leads to a silly holodeck malfunction episode. Almost as much fun as tecnhobabble!

When it wasn't the holodeck, it was time travel, as a future version of Alexander travels back 40 years in time to try and convince Worf to train his son as a warrior to thereby avoid the fate caused by Alexander becoming a diplomat. But this time travel changes the timeline anyway, according to Star Trek writer mumbo jumbo, so Alexander can follow in his father's eventual ambassador footsteps without dooming Worf to death. Apparently. 

During Deep Space Nine, Alexander has lost his close relationship with his father. So he joins a Klingon crew for the Empire and slowly learns how to be a respected warrior, which causes Worf to reconcile his relationship with Alexander. Happy endings for everyone.

There's little doubt Star Trek writers, for whatever reason, seriously struggle to write good stories around children characters.  As a result, Alexander was an interesting concept for story and character development that turned into an annoyance rather than a crowning achievement of writing.

Various actors played Alexander. James Sloyan had the most notable history, appearing in the movie Xanadu before Star Trek, but this role was also the last notable one for child actor Brian Bonsall who was in Family Ties before his appearances in TNG.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, February 2, 2015

From Pro Tour to the PTQ Circuit (from May 2005)

Adding this to the blog as I do not know how long TCG Player will maintain archives of  10 year old MTG articles.


Today I would like to present a two-part article that will hopefully help in your pReparations for block constructed season this summer and the current London sealed PTQ season. I am far better in constructed than limited, but I want to share the hardest deck build I have seen all year after going over my pro tour experience at Philadelphia.

Three guys from our Columbus Ohio shop, The Guardtower, qualified for PT Philadelphia, so we had almost three full months to work on the format. We started with a fast R/G spiritcraft deck but quickly realized it did not hold up against any other aggro or control deck in the format. We broke the gauntlet down to Snakes splashing all colors, White Weenie (Tallowisp and legendary), and Gifts Ungiven based control decks. We also investigated the Sway of the Stars control deck, a nice 4-5 color Honden deck, and mono-black control. Although I felt like control was the best path to victory, I ignored my better instincts and decided to run the deck I had the most practice with, G/B/r Snakes. I will not debate our team's card choices, as that is not the scope of this article. I also think we did not build the best color combination for future tournaments (see Meloku) and leaving out Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro was unintelligent. Here is the deck we used for the Pro Tour:

Main Deck

1 Godo, Bandit Warlord
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
3 Kodama of the North Tree
3 Kokusho, the Evening Star
3 Orochi Sustainer
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Seshiro the Anointed
2 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Creatures [19]
3 Hero's Demise
4 Kodama's Reach
4 Sosuke's Summons
3 Time of Need
4 Umezawa's Jitte
Spells [18]
13 Forest (306)
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
6 Swamp (298)
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]

15 ?
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Round 1 vs. Tim Aten (GBUw Gifts Control)

I do not know if it was lack of sleep or Pro Tour jitters, but I end up keeping some lands and Seshiro on the draw hoping to find better cards. I drew Ink-Eyes, Kokusho, and some land and Tim responded by only playing Cranial Extraction on Kokusho the Evening Star. Despite my superb start, turn 6 Seshiro the Anointed, I actually drew well enough to put pressure on Tim's slow hand. On the turn before lethal damage would come across, Tim resolved Gifts Ungiven to find his infinite Ethereal Haze combo.

Game two started with turn 3 Kodama's Reach against a turn two Sakura-Tribe Elder from Tim. I decided to run Cranial Extraction on my fourth turn and debated between Gifts Ungiven and Soulless Revival. I hoped he would still be relying on the combo, so I named Soulless Revival and saw a hand of two land, Kodama of the North Tree, Gifts Ungiven, and Kokusho the Evening Star and a deck with no combo. Apparently Columbus did not agree with TOGIT on sideboarding strategy. His Gifts Ungiven on my end step found some legendary creatures and I could not keep up for the rest of the game. Our team has been disagreeing about what to name, but I am beginning to think Gifts Ungiven is not a bad choice.

Round 2 vs. Mattias Jorstedt (Snakes)

This mirror match was not all that exciting, but we had a great conversation over the Slaughter on the table. Game 1 he Accelerated with Orochi Sustainer and Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro. Two Sosuke's Summons and a Seshiro the Anointed later, I was easily knocked off.

Game two was pretty similar though I killed his Sachi with a Hero's Demise to try and slow him down. I had Seshiro in my hand but it came down one turn too late as his Snake tokens were allowed to attack once with his Seshiro on the table. Then, as I remember, he had Time of Need that became legendary snake lord number two. Not having acceleration stinks, but his hands were so good it would be hard to keep up. This match seemed to prove Sachi's worth in the deck, so keep that in mind if you choose to run Snakes in the PTQ season.

Round 3 vs. Conrad Duncker (GBru Control)

Another type of mirror match; however, I have the advantage because the Snake engine is simply quicker than the extra removal and legends. Game 1 was won by the creature advantage I had with Sosuke's Summons.

Game two we drew many of the same legends or Time of Needed for the appropriate answers until he had an extra legend on the table called Godo, Bandit Warlord. That was plenty to win the game and send us to a single elimination game. I sped out Kodama of the North Tree and Kokusho the Evening Star. He dropped Kodama as well to remove mine and followed it with Godo who found Tatsumasa the Dragon's Fang to play with. I played Sosuke's Summons and Umezawa's Jitte on the next turn, holding back mana for Hero's Demise and swinging with Kokusho. The race was on as he lost Godo on his attack step to my Hero's Demise and he followed that up by making a blue 5/5 dragon token out of the equipment. I found a timely Orochi Sustainer to return Sosuke's Summons and swing with a Jitte-equipped snake token. Not having an immediate answer to Jitte, Conrad joined the poor group of players who walked away from Philadelphia with no money. I felt a little bad for him in reality because I know how I would feel at 0-3, but I also felt like he (like myself) was running a slightly sub-par version of his deck.

Round 4 vs. Shuuhei Nakamura (GUR Frat PAddle)

I was feeling fine, one Benjamin in my pocket and still alive in the 1-2 bracket. Then I read my pairing for round 4 and said, "what the heck is Nakamura doing in the 1-2 bracket…didn't I watch him in the finals of the last constructed Pro Tour?" I knew he was playing the PAddle deck but still had not quite figured out how it worked having only seen strange things like Konda's Banner on Meloku the Clouded Mirror beside me in previous rounds.

Game one I had a quick start with turn four Kodama, but it did not hold up against his Meloku and Jitte. The game was very close despite me not finding an answer to his Jitte, so I felt confident bringing in more removal for the next two games.

Game two I had played turn four Kokusho, turn five Nezumi Graverobber and Sosuke's Summons, turn six Kokusho number two for the win. Shuuhei returned the favor in game three though.

I thought I had a great opening hand with turn four Kokusho and Rend Flesh and Hero's Demise backup. He played turn four Keiga the Tide Star which I blocked with my Kokusho on his fifth turn hoping to bait out more legends to kill with my removal. Well he had more than a few legends. Turn 5 Meloku found Rend Flesh, turn 6 Meloku found Hero's Demise, but there were no answers for turn 7 Meloku, turn 8 Jugan the Rising Star, and turn 9 Jugan the Rising Star (making a lot of 3/3 flying illusions to combat).

Realizing I am completely outclassed by the Japanese master, I wish him luck and remove myself from the game and tournament. As most of you already know, I was just the first victim on Nakamura's eight match winning streak and race into ninth place. I do not think I will ever find a harder opponent in the 1-2 bracket of any tournament, but I felt good because I came pretty close to knocking him out.

Well, until I realize he won about $3400 more dollars than me on the weekend, but I'm not going to complain too much. Getting $100 for a 1-3 finish and playing against three well-known Pro Tour players was a good experience and I look forward to qualifying again. Which of course leads us to the second half of this article; trying to qualify for London!

The following day, I played in a PTQ for London. This was essentially a Grand Prix with only one invite, as 260 players (over half of them pro) found their way into this sealed deck event. I opened a very hard build I would like to share with the community to spark discussion and perhaps help you qualify for future Pro Tours. Here was the set of cards I opened split by color with more playable cards at the top of the list (in my opinion):


Waxmane Baku
Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
Innocence Kami
Blessed Breath
Kami of Tattered Shoji
Kami of Ancient Law
Split-Tail Miko
Devoted Retainer
Terashi's Grasp
Kami of the Honored Dead
Kitsune Palliator
Takeno's Cavalry
Quiet Purity


Mistblade Shinobi
Soratami Rainshaper
Callous Deceiver
Gifts Ungiven
Hisoka's Defiance
Teardrop Kami
Graceful Adept
Wandering Ones
Hisoka's Guard
Phantom Wings
Minamo's Meddling
Lifted By Clouds


Pull Under
Throat Slitter
Soulless Revival
Stir the Grave
Kami of the Waning Moon
Nezumi Ronin
Wicked Akuba
Kami of Lunacy
Hired Muscle
Blessing of Leeches
Waking Nightmare
Yukora the Prisoner
2 Psychic Spear


Devouring Rage
Frost Ogre
Soul of Magma
Ember-Fist Zubera
First Volley
Glacial Ray
Genju of the Spires
Akki Blizzard-Herder
Goblin Cohort
Desperate Ritual
Sokenzan Bruiser


Kodama of the North Tree
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
Strength of Cedars
Gnarled Mass
Orochi Ranger
Orochi Sustainer
Kodama's Might
Humble Budoka
Serpent Skin
Honden of Life's Web
Dripping-Tongue Zubera
2 Moss Kami
2 Harbringer of Spring
Joyous Respite
Vital Surge
Feast of Worms


General's Kabuto
Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai

Before you take a look at the deck I built, seriously consider how you would build this set of cards. I was forced into green because I had seemingly twice as many playable cards in that color than any other. I saw a lot of synergy in the white cards and decided two solid colors with a small removal splash would work the best. Well here is the deck.

The Deck I Built - G/W/b - May 7, 2005. 1 Kodama's Might
1 Orochi Sustainer
1 Orochi Ranger
1 Humble Budoka
1 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
1 Serpent Skin
1 Gnarled Mass
1 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
1 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
1 Kodama of the North Tree
1 Strength of Cedars
1 Honden of Life's Web
2 Moss Kami
1 Blessed Breath
1 Kami of Ancient Law
1 Split-Tail Miko
1 Waxmane Baku
1 Kami of Tattered Shoji
1 Innocence Kami
1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
1 Throat Slitter
1 Pull Under
8 Forest
6 Plains
3 Swamp

I did really poor with this deck, finding myself a tourist in Philadelphia after a 0-1-2 finish. My only complaint with the deck was how slowly it played. I dropped by the Pro Player's Lounge on the way out, which was the best part of my pro tour experience (not counting the payout structure). A couple teammates agreed with my build during the PTQ, but I still do not know if it was correct. If I built the deck again, I think I would run G/r/b to add more removal and allow time for my green beatsticks to come out and play. What mistakes did I make? How would you build the deck? I hope the discussion following this article will help, as I am no limited mastermind to say the least. Until next time, good luck in Regionals and PTQ's.

David Fitzgerald, The 888 Collective

Green Deck Wins - Trinity Green Triumphant! (from March 2005)

Adding this to the blog as I do not know how long TCG Player will maintain archives of  10 year old MTG articles.


Hello to everyone out there. While extended season is winding down in the wake of this weekend’s grand prix and PTQ’s, I still wanted to present the deck and story behind how Trinity Green took over the Detroit PTQ. A little background here is probably a good idea. I am a senior in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University and will be moving on to grad school next year. Regardless I have played the game since 1995 and competitively in the Columbus and Midwest area since 2001. Last extended season when the banning of Tinker changed the format, I had to change my deck to something new and I tried Trinity Green. I picked up the deck the night before a PTQ and proceeded to 7-0 the swiss the next day before losing in the quarterfinals. I had more success with the deck last season, but nothing more than top 8. My roommate Thomas Wood qualified for the Columbus PT, so we worked on Red Deck Wins and Trinity for a long time leading up to the pro tour. Despite my urgings to play Trinity, Tom switched decks the week of the tournament to RDW and then proceeded to go 1-4 or something horrible like that. Then in comes Extended season. We have made small changes throughout the season, but the core has been the same since Grand Prix Boston. Tom won another PTQ with Trinity in Boston after just missing day two of the Grand Prix, so I have continued to persevere through some bad weeks and some bad play mistakes until this weekend. Despite making the worst mistake I have made in over a year of constructed Magic, I still found a way to win with my favorite old deck. Without any further ado, let me present my winning decklist:

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
4 Living Wish
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Viridian Zealot
3 Call of the Herd
1 Eternal Witness
3 Masticore
4 Skyshroud Poacher
3 Deranged Hermit
3 Plow Under
17 Forest
3 Rishadan Port
2 Gaea’s Cradle

4 Wall of Blossoms
3 Naturalize
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Dust Bowl
1 Masticore
1 Genesis
1 Nantuko Vigilante
1 Eternal Witness
1 Silklash Spider
1 Biorhythm

OK so now a little more on how the deck has developed and the results. I know what a lot of people say, oh this deck has no chance against Desire or Aluren. Well that assumption is completely wrong, and it is all due to Chalice of the Void mostly. This single card has win more games since we put it in the main deck than anything but Hermit and Squirrel tokens. We started with Tangle Wire in the deck, but we found that Chalice of the Void was just better for the local varied metagame. The only matchup we were afraid of was goblins, but even that matchup is winnable if they do not have the nuts draw. Well I already told you that Tom Wood made a top 4 of a PTQ and then two weeks later won a PTQ with the deck, but here is how I have fared to give you a better example of how the deck does against the field:

1/29/05 PTQ in Columbus 2-3
L to RDW 0-2, W vs. WW 2-0, L to Affinity 1-2, L vs. Goblins 1-2, W vs. RDW 2-0.

2/13/05 PTQ in Cleveland 4-1-2
L vs. G/W Cataclysm 1-2, W vs. Rock 2-0, W vs. Affinity 2-0, W vs. Reanimator 2-0, D vs. Rock 1-1-1, W vs. Enchantress 2-1, D vs. Tog (mistake) 1-1-0.

2/19/05 PTQ in Detroit 4-3
W vs. Desire 2-1, L vs. Aluren 1-2 (mistake), L vs. R/G Goblins 0-2, L vs. Rock 1-2, W vs. Life 2-0, W vs. RDW 2-0, W vs. Fecundity Saprolings 2-0.

2/26/05 PTQ in Indianapolis 4-3
W vs. Life 1-0, W vs. Gro-A-Tog 2-1, Desire 1-2 L, Aluren 2-1 W, RDW 0-2 L, Opposition 2-0 W, and Desire 1-2 L.

Overall I was not impressed after the good results the deck had put up last extended season and this year early with my teammates. In Cleveland and Detroit I made critical mistakes which cost me Top 8 berths, so I was determined to play the deck better this time around. One more thing of note was that I found a funny looking St. Patrick’s Day hat the night before the tournament at Wal-Mart, so I decked myself out in full leprechaun style: green sunglasses, silly hat, green shirt and hoodie, green deck box, green sleeves…you name it, it was green. My poor opponents had to stare at some goofball like me in that all day, but the comedic value alone was well worth what I paid at Wal-Mart. So now let’s get on to the actual tournament results. I apologize in advance as my notes are sketchy at the very best, so I will not be able to give too many details of the play-by-play, but I hope to show some helpful facts about playing the deck.

Round 1 vs. Nigel H. playing Aluren
I had played against this same crazy guy two weeks ago in Detroit, and my horrible mistake which cost me that match was not playing Chalice of the Void at the first opportunity, choosing to play Living Wish instead. We joked about the last time and then we began the day. Game 1 I did not have the nuts fast draw, but I did get Viridian Zealot on the table with mana open to stop an Aluren at least once. I play some guys and I finally have enough mana to drop Deranged Hermit while my opponent keeps setting up slowly. He plays Aluren on his turn and passes. I have more than enough to kill him, so on my turn I swing with my whole team. Then I had the worst turn in my last year of tournaments, but I will share the embarrassment. Before blockers he is at 4 life and he drops a Wirewood Savage. I could have responded right then and there and made him go off without the Savage, but I let it resolve and he blocks my Zealot. Remember I have lethal damage ON THE STACK. Anybody with any experience at all knows what fatal mistake I made then: I sacrifice the Zealot. He goes off in response, which I completely deserve. I was so angry I wanted to drop out of the tournament right then and there, but I knew I would be looking out for mistakes better after this obvious one. Game 2 had no real excitement as Nigel drew all four Alurens and no real business. Game 3 he was just a turn quicker than me, so I’m off to the best possible start. Nigel apologizes for winning again, but I know he deserved it more than I did. 0-1, 1-2
SB: -4 Living Wish, -1 Skyshroud Poacher, -3 Call of the Herd, +3 Wall of Blossoms, +3 Naturalize, +1 Nantuko Vigilante, +1 Eternal Witness

Round 2 vs. Jacob G. playing Desire
Jacob is a very good local player, and I did not know what he was playing. It became very apparent after a turn two Sapphire Medallion. I already have Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary on line at this point and I begin disrupting him with a Plow Under. The next turn I play Viridian Zealot and Eternal Witness while keeping one of his lands tapped with a Rishadan Port. The next two turns I Plow Under twice more and that was enough to win. Game 2 I lay the ridiculous Chalice of the Void for two with another Plow Under the next turn which is enough for Jacob to scoop up the cards. 1-1, 3-2
SB: -4 Living Wish, -1 Deranged Hermit, -3 Call of the Herd, +3 Wall of Blossoms, +1 Eternal Witness, +1 Masticore, +3 Naturalize

Round 3 vs. Samuel J. playing Teen Titans
This deck was launched from my home shop The Guardtower in Columbus Ohio, so there have been plenty of local players trying this deck in recent weeks. Game 1 he plays turn 1 Careful Study discarding two lands after a mulligan. Turn two he plays Careful Study discarding Reanimate and another land. I sit amazed at my good fortune and proceed to play Skyshroud Poacher which I use to go get Viridian Zealot and Deranged Hermit for the win. Game 2 went a little better for my opponent as he Reanimated a Bosh Iron Golem into play on turn two. I already have Naturalize and Eternal Witness in my hand, but I decide to play Chalice of the Void for one and pass the turn. Samuel swings me down to 14 life with the Bosh and then passes the turn. I play Naturalize and Eternal Witness. He responds on his turn by playing nothing, so I play Deranged Hermit and proceed to win the match. 2-1, 5-2
SB: -3 Plow Under, -3 Call of the Herd, +3 Naturalize, +3 Wall of Blossoms

Round 4 vs. Di Shi playing Aluren
He watched my loss to Nigel in round 1, but he did not know exactly what my deck did I think. Game 1 I double mulligan and never recover as Aluren does exactly what it is supposed to do. Game two involves some serious shenanigans, but he gets Aluren on the table and tries to combo out. I respond to the announcement of Cavern Harpy with a Naturalize and Di’s subsequent Raven Familiar does not find another Cavern Harpy. Now around the time of middle of my next turn, we realize he did not return a creature when Cavern Harpy finally made it into play. The judge was called and a warning handed out, but Di was allowed to return Raven Familiar to his hand. At this point I did not care as I had a Viridian Zealot on the table thanks to Skyshroud Poacher and Deranged Hermits followed for the win. Game 3 I kept a one land hand with 3 mana accelerators, Wall of Blossoms, and Chalice of the Void. Thankfully Di cannot go off on turn 3, so I am allowed to drop all my creatures followed by Chalice of the Void for two. He Vampiric Tutored up a Pernicious Deed a couple turns later, but I forced him to sacrifice it the turn he played it with Viridian Zealot which left my hand of Deranged Hermit and Eternal Witness in good shape to win the game. 3-1, 7-3
SB: see round 1

Round 5 vs. EDT playing Gro-A-Tog
This was a very interesting match. My first turn was Forest and Birds of Paradise, which incited a Meddling Mage to name Pernicious Deed on his second turn. I agree to ban the card from this game and he groans the next turn when I drop Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. He goes have a quick draw with Psychatog and Quirion Dryad joining the battle. He also played Fire/Ice to kill my mana creatures. At this point he has no cards in hand but 3 Islands and a Mox Diamond in play. I have a choice between playing a sacrificing Viridian Zealot to stop his Mox or a Skyshroud Poacher and Llanowar Elves. I choose the Poacher and regret it as he topdecks Gush into an Armageddon on the next turn. The mistake did not cost me though as I had a Gaea’s Cradle left in my hand which allowed Poacher to find a Deranged Hermit which turned the game around just enough to stabilize. I win the game sitting at 1 life. Game two was less exciting, but EDT had turn 1 Meddling Mage followed by Psychatog on turns 2, 3, and 4. He named Rofellos with the Mage and I punished the decision with a Skyshroud Poacher. He topdecks Engineered Plague and makes another mistake by calling Squirrel. I poach out a Deranged Hermit which leads to a judge call that affirms the squirrels survive as long as one Hermit is in play. I proceed to poach out two more Hermits to make 3/3 Squirrels and that is enough for the victory. PS – Against Trinity, always call Elf first with Engineered Plague. 4-1, 9-3
SB: -3 Plow Under, +3 Naturalize

Round 6 vs. Paul N. playing White Weenie
Looking around the top tables, Paul could not have drawn a worse matchup. He does get Mother of Runes and Meddling Mages into play both games, but even naming Masticore was not enough to stop me from victory. His only other loss on the day was to another Trinity player, so he is just very unlucky. 5-1, 11-3
SB: -4 Chalice of the Void, -3 Call of the Herd, +4 Wall of Blossoms, +3 Naturalize

Round 7 vs. Brian B. playing U/G Madness
My opponent shows up two and a half minutes late and then tries to get a draw out of me for another 5 minutes before starting to shuffle. I have to play as a draw will knock me out of the top 8 due to my tiebreakers, while Brian has great tiebreakers and can draw in. We play a long and drawn out first game where the only notable play was swinging a Masticore right into a fresh Roar of the Wurm token I had neglected to realize was untapped (slips of paper for tokens stink as a sidenote). I proceed to lose the Masticore due to running out of mana, and the game falls to him with 20 minutes left on the clock. A judge decided to start watching our match at this point and we play the second game that I win easily in front of the judge. Brian begins to ask for a draw again, but I tell him again I cannot afford a draw and that I have come here to make top 8 and play for the win, not settle for Amateur Prizes. He laments that the loser will not win anything and then shuffles up. He mulligans and pile shuffles. He thinks again and then mulligans, to which the judge watching responds “you do not need to pile shuffle.” Brian is obviously irked at this comment, but shuffles up and we finally get going with 7 minutes left. We play at a considerable pace and he scoops once I get superior board position over his lackluster hand. I did keep a remarkable 1 land hand on the draw again this match, and for the second time I won with that hand. He was lucky to almost pull a draw, but I moved on into the Top 8. On a sidenote, he ended up with amateur prizes anyways.
6-1, 13-4
SB: -4 Chalice of the Void, -1 Viridian Zealot, +1 Eternal Witness, +4 Wall of Blossoms

Quarterfinals vs. Lloyd playing U/R Welder
Game one he double mulligans and proceeds to play two Sun Droplets. That is all though as I have turn 3 Plow Under which I proceed to repeat 2 more times for the victory. Game 2 he Careful Studies a Duplicant into the graveyard on turn one with Goblin Welder on turn two. I cannot get to six mana to play Masticore and shoot Goblin Welder before he sets up a Crucible of Worlds and Mindslaver lock with Tangle Wire and Sundering Titan for backup. Game 3 he plays turn 1 Goblin Welder but I play turn two Chalice of the Void for one. This was the third time I had kept a one land hand game 3 and won with it. He never recovers and I easily move to the semifinals. 7-1, 15-5
SB: +3 Naturalize, +3 Wall of Blossoms, -3 Plow Under, -3 Call of the Herd
(The other quarterfinals saw Trinity Green defeating another U/R Welder deck, Kiki-Jiki Control defeating RDW, and Temporary Solution defeating something unknown)

Semifinals vs. Steven playing 5-color Tradewind Kiki-Jiki Control
Steven is a great local player, so I knew we were in for a good match. I will sum up game 1 by saying an hour and a half later, I finally drew my Gaea’s Cradle to shoot down his 8-counter Spike Weaver. He had 25 turns to draw Armageddon or Tradewind Rider and I had just as long to draw Gaea’s Cradle, but in the meantime I set up the Genesis and Masticore and Eternal Witness lockdown to keep going while disrupting his Kiki Jiki and Eternal Witness silliness whenever it popped up. I do not know if he played the game perfectly, but Masticore was good enough to win. I probably activated his shooting ability 40 times this game. Game 2 was much more uneventful as I played meaningful cards before turn 4 this time and won easily. 8-1, 17-5
SB: +3 Naturalize (for Aether Vial), +4 Wall of Blossoms, -3 Plow Under, -4 Chalice of the Void

Finals vs. Jesse playing Trinity Green
I had been talking to Jesse and so knew he ran Sword of Fire and Ice. In the mirror match this card is amazing, so I offered him the travel award and he offered me the slot and we both walked away happy. This was his first ever PTQ so I probably could have outplayed him, but I chose to take the guaranteed slot and move on to my first Pro-Tour.

In retrospect on this season, I am very happy that I chose to stick with the deck I knew all season. I really think knowing a deck and playing well is rewarded fully in this format. I definitely saw some luck in not playing Goblins all day, but Trinity can beat anything in this format. I would like to mention a couple more things before finishing this long article and report for those who want to play Trinity in the last couple PTQ’s of the season. I know my finals opponent and another Trinity Green player who made top 8 in Denver last weekend played Tangle Wire and Sword of Fire and Ice in their decks, but they cut the consistency of the deck down by removing one of every other good card in the maindeck or Wall of Blossoms from the sideboard. I would rather run a more consistent deck and having 12 mana-producing creatures is an absolute must-have since hands without a mana producer are nearly always mulligans. Tangle Wire used to be in our deck, but Chalice of the Void is necessary in the maindeck since it makes the matchups against Desire, RDW, and Aluren much more winnable. The only card I would consider cutting for Sword of Fire and Ice would be Plow Under, but that card is a last defense against Rock and is almost never a dead draw (late game it stalls the opponent from topdecking a useful card). The sideboard is very well tuned and even Dust Bowl carries its own weight when Living Wishes come into play. If you are looking for a really fun deck to play for the remainder of the extended season while staying very competitive, I recommend tapping the Elves and poaching out Hermits. Best of luck in all your PTQ’s!

-Dave Fitzgerald, The 888 Collective

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Character Insight No. 130: Saavik

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review another recurring character from the early movies, Lieutenant Saavik from The Wrath of Khan,The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home.
Saavik TWoK.jpg
 ("Kirstie Alley is the best Saavik, or maybe the second best") 

Saavik is first seen in the beginning of The Wrath of Khan undergoing the Kobayashi Maru test, with Admiral Kirk and his crew serving as mentors to the class of cadets. Like everyone else, she fails and questions the logic of the unwinnable test. 

Saavik: I do not believe this was a fair test of my command abilities.
Kirk: And why not?
Saavik: Because...there was no way to win.
Kirk: A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?
Saavik: No sir, it has not. 

Nonetheless, Saavik is the best in her class, which leads to her assignment to the Enterprise as a navigator during the Khan mission.  Despite being half-Vulcan, she cries during Spock's funeral, a real moment that hammered home the impact of that moment. However, the actress who ad-libbed that moment, Kirstie Alley, could never come to successful contract negotiations to reprise this role. That led to a couple quirks making this character unique in Star Trek history.

The first quirk is that two different actresses played this role in major performances, a rarity in Star Trek. Robin Curtis was chosen to take over the role for The Search For Spock, and she admirably provided her own spin on the character without trying to force it to be like Alley's Saavik. One of the notable changes was led by Leonard Nimoy's work as director of the next two films, as he wanted the Vulcan side of Saavik to be more clear than the emotional side shown by Alley's Saavik. 

That helped Curtis carry a critical scene where she helps the young reborn Spock get through Pon Farr, a scene which could have easily gone too cheesy to lose its effect. It is posited that original scripts of The Voyage Home confirmed she was impregnated by Spock in this process, which is why she gets left on Vulcan before Kirk and company time travel in the stolen Bird of Prey, but this confirmation was left on the cutting room floor. Just one of many interesting aspects of this character.

The second quirk is that the ongoing struggles to bring back Kirstie Alley led to a couple more re-writes of later scripts. The most important of these was the changing of the minor villain traitor role in The Undiscovered Country movie from Saavik, as originally written, to Valeris. Granted, Kim Cattrall played the Valeris role well, but the original series movies would've had a much better story arc had Saavik either birthed Spock's child or turned into a traitor after being the bright up-and-comer in her first two movies. 

The second rewrite was during the TNG episode Cause and Effect, where Alley's Saavik was to appear as first officer on screen beside Kelsey Grammar as Captain Morgan Bateson, which would've been a callback to their Cheers days. But once again, it just couldn't happen.

One other quirk is that Saavik was the first female Vulcan to have a name that started with S instead of a T, but that happened likely because the character was originally written as male.

Saavik was an interesting addition to the case for the movies that failed to live up to full storytelling potential thanks to contract negotiation failures. Even Star Trek is not immune to such annoying real-life failures.

Curtis only had minor roles through 1999 outside Star Trek, the most notable coming on the soap opera General Hospital. Alley is still a significant actress today, having had roles ranging from Look Who's Talking to starring roles in more recent TV series like Veronica's Closet and Kirstie.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...