The first feature article of "Best Of" Week is a no-brainer. Josh Bennett could make Eager Cadet sound exciting if we asked him to, so it was no surprise that his article previewing Onslaught's Pit Fighter Legends—a topic with some substance—was a true gem.
Enjoy laughing out loud.
—AaronThis article first appeared on September 13, 2002.
That said, what's really important is the numbers, the numbers, children! Any mage worth his salt will tell you that few things are as satisfying as taking away your opponent's life total a third at a time. If the power and toughness don't sum to more than ten, you're wasting your time. Spare me your efficient weenie beatdown. Spare me your sterile control decks. Send me monsters that shatter the earth as they charge into battle, rending the air with their cries of "RAAAAHHHHH!" When the enemy looks to his hand and starts shuffling cards around with that "How am I supposed to stop THAT?" look on his face, that's what it's all about. I still remember my opponent's reaction the first time I dropped a turn-four Shivan Wurm. New heights of creative cursing were reached that day.
The problem with true fatties is that they're usually appropriately costed. Big numbers in the bottom-right breed big numbers in the top-right. Either that or you wind up with something like Phyrexian Dreadnought, which needs some serious shenanigans to get into play. If you want to bypass the hefty mana costs of behemoths like Verdant Force, there are always options such as Reanimate, or Natural Order, or Zoologist, I guess. Rely too much on those, though, and you'll often end up with a handful of uncastables. Better to have the option of getting your goon down "honest."
Enter the Pit Fighter Legends. For just six mana--three of one color and three generic--you get a beastie that'll have your opponent pre-dialing the paramedics. They're not just brutal, they're big and brutal: gigantic, burly creatures whose super powers are closer to mugging than to the ability to speak with fish. Kamahl, Pit Fighter might have been what pit fighting used to be about, but these guys put the "Finish Him!" back in mortal combat. Next to them, Kamahl looks like he wound up in the pits by accident. Take away his fireball-shooting sword or whatever it is, and he gets knocked out by Hapless Researcher, the Magic equivalent of Glass Joe. The Pit Fighter Legends have a little more staying power.
They also have that, I don't know, "facesmashery" about them that sets them apart from more mediocre Legends, like Seton, Krosan Protector. Aren't Legends supposed to be powerful? They're Legends, for crying out loud! Regaled in story and song, after-school special and political cartoon. Tobias Andrion might be able to take out, say, an Anaconda, but he probably won't be fighting armies single-handed. The boys at the pub will share stories about the time Tobias fought two snakes at once, and that's about all the legacy he'll get. That goes double for Ramirez DePietro. People only talk about him to make fun of his eyepatch and frilly pantaloons. Spin a disrespectful yarn about the Giant Idiots, and they'll beat you up like it pays twenty bucks a punch.
Now, I know, they're actually called the Pit Fighter Legends, but all this talk about pit fighting awakens in me a nostalgia not soon quelled. It's either Giant Idiots or I spend the next week of my life tracking down an actual upright of the old arcade game "Pit Fighter" and use brute force to unlock the secret code. You know, the one that lets you play as nineteenth-century German mathematician Georg Cantor? If they can put the Beastie Boys in NBA Jam, that should be a small feat by comparison.
But it seems I'm getting away from myself.
The Giant Idiots have their heritage in the Prophecy Avatar of Will, those eight-mana monsters that handed you a 75%-off coupon when you met certain conditions. The problem was that some of them cost two a little too often, like Avatar of Woe, whereas the Avatar of Might came down on the cheap when it was already too late. The Giant Idiots strike a middle ground while keeping most of the oomph intact. Without further ado, I present the five who will be ruining games at the prerelease and well into the years to come.
Apprentice to the Spirit of the Night and Avatar of Fury, Rorix followed the big men at the abilities buffet, managing to restrain himself long enough to hang on to his girlish figure. Nowadays he spends most of his free time jumping out of a closet marked "Supplies." Unfortunately for him, Rorix has the least "wow" of the crew. His numbers are big enough, but the brevity of his text box conceals just how powerful he is. Frankly, he has to try extra hard to impress the others.
It's easy to forget just how great flying is. It's designed for winning races, something Rorix likes to do. That goes double for haste. Until it's actually happening, it's unexciting--another of those abilities that's understood and ignored. Quite a different story when your opponent is on coffee break and Rorix comes a-callin'. He's quick with a knee to the throat, reminding your opponent how much he likes his throat knee-free. It's also a jump-start to the damage race, an extra turn where your opponent might not have expected it. The clock starts ticking right away, and it doesn't have many turns on it.
Haste also gives Rorix the chance to be a one-shot deathblow. Clearly, an unanswered Giant Idiot is Game Over in a hurry. Rorix can provide the emergency six damage to end an opponent just as he was about to take control.
Silvos, Rogue Elemental
Silvos is another guy who enjoys a bit of face-fist intersection. None too bright, what he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for with persistence. He and Rorix have been known to pal around, talking about how much they like hurting people. They don't use a lot of big words, sticking mostly to the basics like "Bashing is fun" and "And then I bashed him." It's important to pursue you strengths, and like it says in his flavor text, Silvos lives to fight.
Just like granddaddy Avatar of Might, Silvos provides eight no-nonsense trample damage when aimed at the opponent. Better still, he does so at a more manageable price instead of requiring your opponent to be jumping you with four extra guys. He doesn't pack as much luggage in the trunk, coming up with a comparatively-slim five toughness. Regeneration more than makes up for it. Gang-blocking is simply not an option. Silvos takes a thugging and keeps on slugging.
Naturally, eight power worth of regenerator goes well with any number of classic and modern creature enchantments. Curiosity or Unquestioned Authority would ratchet things up to "hopeless" pretty quickly. Add the old-school promo card Arena for a quick in-house on what pit fighting is all about.
Visara the Dreadful
No one would fault you for mistaking Visara for the Avatar of Woe. Both sport huge stats and an evasion ability to help take down the opponent. Both wield murder like they bought the remote control for it. In olden times that kind of efficiency could only be found in someone like Shauku, Endbringer, who showed up with a contract stipulating top billing and plates of red M&M's. Nowadays it's all orders carried out almost immediately. No fuss, very little muss.
There's a reason she isn't called "Visara, the Kind Lady Who Helps Lost Children." She's reminiscent of the T-1000 in that "unstoppable killing machine" way. She'd make a great assassin if she wasn't so large as to actually blot out the sun. 5/5 means you're buying two seats on the airplane, as well as being tricky for red removal to handle. Most black removal won't even consider going after her. Your opponents will be desperate to find their Terminates. Too bad Visara cornered the market, and now hands them out like those awful Halloween toffees.
One caution: Be careful not to play with Masked Gorgon alongside Visara. That is, unless you're feeling merciful. I can't say I'd know what that's like.
Jareth, Leonine Titan
Jareth's got some anger issues from way back he's still sorting out. He was a little miffed about how Savannah Lions used to play fall-guy to Lightning Bolt all the time, and he followed that age-old advice of "Drop out and get big" with the intent of exacting a little revenge. Having no neck seems a small price to pay.
Just like the Avatar of Hope before him, Jareth sees himself in a protective role. Though he lacks the ability to give all attackers a big hug, he more than makes up for it by being nigh-indestructable. That on-the-fly protection is no joke. As if his 4/7 body wasn't enough, suddenly he's The Brick Hithouse. And when he blocks? The Southern Dandy doesn't do it justice. His stats jump to the ridiculousness of double digits. Fourteen is a lot, a real lot. Eleven's no small deal either. Add Fling for an impromptu rendition of "Surprise, You're Dead" by Faith No More.
Also, take note of the still-bleeding head he's clasping in his pumpkin-sized fist. I imagine he's practiced in such surgical removal. Point him at your opponent and ask for a demo. Four damage might not seem like a lot, but when it's four unblockable, unkillable damage, that's worth a second look.
Arcanis the Omnipotent
You might remember this monster from his childhood days, back when he was Archivist. Well, this ninety-eight pound weakling took the Dominarian equivalent of Charles Atlas Home Fitness, and now look at him. He'll kick sand in your face, steal your girlfriend and have cards leftover for still more humiliation. Maybe knock down your house, maybe travel back in time and erase your existence, maybe surprise you with a joy-buzzer handshake. He's just that inscrutable!
True, his numbers only sum to seven, so he's not a fatty per se. He makes the grade thanks to that additional three in his text box. Fenced in by the words "draw" and "cards," it may be the sexiest ability to grace cardboard. I fully expect some of the more control-oriented players I know to get him into play and then forget entirely about winning the game, overworking Seeker of Skybreak and Jandor's Saddlebags to get another hit off the draw-three pipe.
It might be a little premature for him to be calling himself "Omnipotent." Four toughness makes him a little dainty, and it takes ten mana to save him the turn you cast him. Though if I had the ability to draw three cards whenever I wanted and not get punched in the face I'd probably talk a bit of trash myself.
Not much remains to be said about these instruments of brutality. Play them early and often. Speed them up with Fire Diamond, Llanowar Elves and Dark Rituals. Dance them out of your graveyard, hand and library. Just be sure to let them bash heads. It's what they're good at.Josh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.