Last weekend I played in 3 Pre-Release events, finishing 4-1 in each event. It was good times with free Helvault stuff (oversized AVR legend cards, Demon/Angel flip tokens, and spindown dice for those who didn’t go), good friends, and, of course, new cards.
None of my three decks had blue or white cards in them, which surprised me considering how much I predicted AVR to be a nutty white-centered bombfest. It is, at least for sealed (and probably for draft too), a very balanced format, much like Innistrad-Dark Ascension. Great commons and uncommons take down the rare/mythic bombs (although that GW hexproof angel is still disgustingly good over pretty much everything). Thunderbolt and Eaten by Spiders keep the angels in check, and Barter and Blood might as well be a Wrath of God. The green soulbond guys (like Druid’s Familiar)and red humans (especially with Vigilante Justice) go uber aggro well before a white or blue player can set up their halo head air force.
I played green-black, red-black, and green-red, and both of the green decks included a fantastic uncommon that some have viewed as an allusion to sexual assault (aka rape). That card is Triumph of Ferocity:
Triumph of Ferocity goes the distance…hardcore. First, it is an ongoing ability to draw an extra card each turn (albeit conditional) for three little mana – only one being green – so it’s super splash-able (as are many of the really good green cards in this set). Second, it’s condition is super easy to achieve in green – play a 2-power creature on turn 2, drop Triumph on 3 (you’re probably drawing on turn 4) then play Druid’s Familiar and you’ve got a 6 power on board at minimum for more card drawing next turn. Third, the key words on the card are, “or tied.” Who cares if your opponent plays his 2/1 the turn after you play Triumph and all you have is a bear? Draw that card, baby!
Triumph just puts you 10 miles ahead of your opponent with its insane card advantage, in a color that usually has none. Some people might view it as a ‘win-more’ card, arguing that you have to already have a beast on board to take advantage of the engine, but that just simply isn’t the case. What if you have a Flowering Lumberknot but don’t have a buddy to bond with it yet? Well chances are that 5 power is going to be well beyond enough to help draw it some friends. I had a few instances where I had a big creature trapped under a Spectral Prison, so I couldn’t do anything but let it sit there until I drew a spell to target it off. It might not have charged at my opponent’s face, but the muzzled creature did something just as good by fueling me with more fire in the form of an extra card each turn. In other words, Triumph of Ferocity can turn a stale board position into a one-sided slobber-knocker.
However, some folks have gotten fired up over more than just the card’s insane impact on a game. There has been much controversy over the card’s art – complaining that the art depicts Garruk in a dominating position over a submissive Liliana that has been interpreted as a precursor to sexual assault. In fact, the complaints were numerous enough that Elaine Chase, Brand Director at Wizards, publicly apologized for it on her Twitter feed.
Obviously, sexual assault is not a joke, and I can understand that people who are/were almost/know/related/etc. victims of sexual assault will certainly see the specter of such a heinous act in places others would not. I am by no means trying to make light of this serious crime that plagues our society.
But I’d like to add my own analysis of the card art to the mix, and point out a few contexts that I think will show that the matter has been blown out of proportion. (Full disclosure: I’m a dude, so if you’re going to just toss aside my perspective because I’m not a woman, well just stop reading here and go read some more Ann Coulter, since you’re clearly not willing to hear out anyone with rational thought).
Let’s take a closer look at that card art:
1. Put the card in context
First of all, for those concerns about the depiction of a dominant male figure over a submissive female figure, the art has to be taken into context of its place in the set and its storyline. Most of us players know that Liliana and Garruk have been struggling against each other for some time, and the battle has grown intensely during the Innistrad block.
Liliana has cursed Garruk (thus his flip-card planeswalker in the Innistrad set), which has obviously pissed him off a little. So it should not be surprising that there is a card that features Garruk and Liliana going at it (I of course mean fighting each other). It also should not be a surprise that as part of that theme there are two similar cards, one in each of the planeswalkers’ colors, depicting them attacking the other. Here is Liliana’s Triumph of Cruelty:
If it isn’t clear from the art, the full cards support the notion that they were designed to be opposite abilities around the same theme. While the art in the black Triumph is not as dramatic as the green one in that Liliana isn’t shown about to physically smash Garruk in the face, we still have a submissive Garruk being agonizingly groped by a bunch of zombie hands. If Triumph of Ferocity is rape, then Triumph of Cruelty is gang rape by a necrophiliac. Let’s put the two arts together:
In context it’s very simple: in one frame Garruk appears to be winning the fight, and in the other frame Liliana has the upper hand. Both arts depict one planeswalker in peril at the hands of the other. People who are concerned with the art on Triumph of Ferocity are taking the card out of context and only looking at it as if it existed independently of all other Magic cards. After all, Magic is about two planeswalker wizards beating the shit out of each other with minion creatures and spells. It’s not about two wizards that have a good time in the forest and then go to Chucky Cheese together afterwards.
2. Liliana isn’t submissive
The controversy stems from the notion that Liliana is shown submitting to a dominant Garruk, and that she “clearly” has no way to escape an imminent assault (of any kind). Based on common self-defense techniques and analyzing the art itself, it is actually Garruk who is in trouble here.
First of all, Liliana is certainly not defenseless. She has a fireball in her hand – a hand that is connected to what looks like an unencumbered arm. Liliana is likely about to toss said fireball into Garruk’s face, which would instantly swing the fight back into Liliana’s control. Below I’ve placed this theory as an overlay onto the art:
Stupid Garruk, by the time that right arm comes down, his face will be on fire and Liliana will have unleashed another hoard of zombie hands to hold him down while she prepares another spell.
Second of all, Garruk has left himself open for a simple, yet effective common self-defense technique. In every self-defense training class men, women, and children alike are taught to do one specific action when they are being held down by a man: kick him in the nuts. It may not be Christmas yet, but Garruk is about to about to see the Nutcracker. Liliana’s leg/knee is dangerously close to a wide-open crotchal area. Garruk has taken a wide, open assault stance rather than defensively positioning himself to prevent a devastating blow to the land down under.
Needless to say, after Liliana gives him a swift kick, Garruk’s wolves won’t be untapping any lands any time soon, if you know what I mean. Again, let’s go to the mark-up:
I have shown you two obvious ways that Liliana can and will escape this alleged beatdown. As a result, there’s no reason to believe that she is in a submissive position here. Really, if we should be upset about anything it should be over how horrible a fighter Garruk is, allowing himself to be vulnerable as to leave no doubt in my mind that he’s about to eat it, and eat it hard.
3. Late to the party on this one
I admit this is a terrible argument, and I’m only saying it because I know it’s on many of our minds: Where have the ‘haters’ been throughout Magic’s history? Magic (and the fantasy genre in general) is full of depictions of submissive female figures, but also just as many depictions of female triumphs and heroines.
I understand that the fantasy genre is generally biased towards the desires of men, especially in how females are depicted, and I know that it’s a major concern for many gamers, male and female alike (thus why this argument sucks). But where were you all on cards like Earthbind? Why is this card not still an issue?
It’s not wrong to ask society to treat women less as submissive sex servants and more as equal members of the human race. I get that, and I support the ideal. I just think this card has been viewed severely out of context, and that some key aspects (like how Liliana is about to smash Garruk in the face with a fireball) have been ignored. We should be conscious of how we depict different genders, races, religions, etc. and if nothing else this card has reminded us that people are watching out for this kind of stuff, so we have to be aware of how others might perceive our actions, even when we intend no offense.
Then again, we could just draw more monkeys doing the nasty on cards instead.