Quick Hit (MtG: Origins)

(Editor’s Note:  We promised two new articles and Episode 7 of the podcast a week or so ago.  This article was supposed to be 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, but it never happened.  If that didn’t implant an earworm firmly into that part of your brain, enjoy the following video.)

I finally broke down and joined a an Origins simulated sealed pool.  I know, I know.  I have said a few times (once on the upcoming podcast) that I’m just not that into the set.  However, unable to afford the prerelease events this weekend because I didn’t get paid until the week after, and having scrubbed out of my last two three Cube events, I decided to give Origins a try.  Maybe I’ve misjudged it and it really can be fun.  My first impression is an emphatic repeat of my initial thoughts through spoiler season.

nope
Grumpy cat always knows exactly how you feel.

This is not bitterness.  If I’m writing an article about how the new Holiday cube is not as good as last year’s–and I could–you would have a case.  I’ve had an insanely bad experience with the 2015 cube events.  Not with the Origins sealed.  I won my first match in pretty convincing fashion and had to drop from the rest of the event to bring the boys for lunch.  It’s not sour grapes.  I simply did not have that much fun.

Nevertheless, I am a professional (not a journalist, but still), so I will give my thoughts on the set.  Remember that this is only after one sealed match, so have that grain of salt at the ready.  I may put together some standard decks and join a few drafts to see if they offer a more fun experience.  Hell, at the least, it will be a way to cheat two more articles.

Now, finally, for my thoughts:

  • They are selling the core set as mono.  I don’t have a problem with that.  They seem to oscillate between mono and multicolored.  However, I had to build my deck with three colors to get enough playable cards.  Look, I understand that you won’t usually get a sealed pool that allows for a mono deck.  Ideally, you want to stick to 2 colors since mana and mana fixing (especially in a mono set) can be tough to accomplish with more colors.  The lack of playables was a bit of a turn off.  Maybe it was just a weak pool.  No matter what they say, it is a core set after all and the power level of core sets is usually lower.
I mean, who's not excited for this reprint, amirite?
I mean, who’s not excited for this reprint, amirite?
  • Elves are going to be a thing in standard.  I’m not sure how much or what kind of thing, but they are definitely pushing elves in this set.  I only had a limited amount of the little tree huggers, but the synergy was amazing.  Building a deck to exploit that specifically will be easy.  If it will be good remains to be seen.
They make damn good cookies, too.
They make damn good cookies, too.
  • White aura enchantments are very strong.  I know that auras are a part of white’s repertoire, but there are some really good ones in this set.  Along with elves, I thought that white weenies could make a come back.  The auras don’t necessarily that confirm that.  They do give me some ideas for a deck or two.
I might even get to play this guy in a deck.
I might even get to play this guy in a deck.
  • Nissa’s Revelation is expensive, but it is a powerful spell.  I only got to see and cast it once.  When I did, I was able to set up my deck and hand to close out the game very quickly.  With mana ramp and fixing, the card can absolutely affect games in a big way.
It's not quite the green tutors of the past, but it has some juice.
It’s not quite the green tutors of the past, but it has some juice.
  • I never thought much of renown, but it is a cool mechanic.  +1/+1 counters are always fun.  I didn’t like the condition of having to damage the opponent.  Honestly, I never had any problems satisfying the condition and getting the counter.
Granted, this card helped quite a bit in pushing through damage.
Granted, this card helped quite a bit in pushing through damage.
  • I hoped that the focus on mono might break some of the Abzan this and Sultai that decks, but they’re still around for the foreseeable future.  I wend Abzan colors for playables and the deck was stronger than it probably should have been.
This guy was there in spirit.
This guy was there in spirit.

Well, I suppose that the experience wasn’t all bad.  As I’ve said, I’m not a huge fan of sealed.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t have fun.  That, along with my unfavorable initial impressions of the set, wasn’t exactly a great start.

I did a draft while writing this.  That went much worse than the sealed.  The deck was blue/red and heavy on counterspells and removal as blue/red should.  Even so, I can’t yet judge the format as a draft format.  I got mana screwed in the first game and misplayed the second game horribly.

PS – I got blown out by WG renown, so that strengthens my earlier argument.  I will draft more and probably write that article in a couple of weeks.  Chris and I recently did a live sealed and that article is coming later this week.  I’ve got some standard ideas.  If I get a chance to test them, I will write about that next week.  There may be hope for this set after all.

Is the Magic Gone?

(Editor’s Note:  We’ve been AWOL here for about a month.  I know that I said that wouldn’t happen again, but I misjudged the amount of work that this summer class has taken and it got in the way.  I won’t promise that we’re all the way back, but two articles and the latest episode of the podcast should happen this week.  Thanks, as always, for your patience.)

Do you want to build some standard?

No.

Oh…okay.  I suppose you are right.  The standard meta can be a bit stale, especially with such a small play group.

Do you want to build some Legacy?  We always have fun with that.

Not really.

Proxy Vintage Decks?

Okay, how about Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, maybe Time Vault and Voltaic Key to make it truly degenerate.  What the hell.  Let’s put in some storm effects for giggles, too.  Okay, solitaire Magic deck built.  Let’s play with ourselves.

You said it, Quagmire.
You said it, Quagmire.

In case that introduction wasn’t obvious enough, I’m in a bit of a paper Magic rut.  I’m still playing the hell out of the game using the free client that I found, but I have few reasons and little desire to play the cards right now.  I can see why Wizards would want the free client eradicated.  I doubt there are many like me, but I get my fix there and it has absolutely turned me off to spending money on the game.

Guess I will just have to do this the old fashioned way.
Guess I will just have to do this the old fashioned way.

It isn’t solely the fault of free Magic.  There are other factors, too.  More on those momentarily.  I mentioned earlier that I have only “few reasons and little desire” to buy or play Magic cards.  You might have picked up on the fact that leaves an opening to get back into the hobby.  You never truly leave Magic.  Like any addiction, you find yourself falling back into the familiar embrace of those Kird Apes and Black Lotuses (Loti?).  Still, this is as indifferent as I’ve been about paper Magic since before I started playing again a couple of years ago.  The only thing that has me looking at the cards is that Chris met some guys through a Craigslist ad to liquidate his collection.  They mentioned that they liked to play Tiny Leaders.  I took a day or two and put together a couple of decks for the format, stacked the card boxes into the corner (new development:  the card boxes have been moved to the play room, so out of sight and out of mind), and moved on to my newer obsessions.

They are the main reasons for my greatly reduced interest in Magic cards.  I’ve already written about both of them here on the page.  We discussed one of them on the podcast that is due to be released this weekend.  I did an opening video for the other.  I’ve invested more in the two games than I have in Magic over the last few months.  We started the podcast and web page in part to discover new games.  As I’ve said numerous times in response to that is that there have been unintended consequences.  I never dreamed that finding a game that would replace Magic, let alone two of them, would end up being one of those unintended consequences.

Perhaps you can guess what these new games have in common.
Perhaps you can guess what these new games have in common.

I am talking, of course, about Heroclix and Dicemasters.  Heroclix is the super hero miniature game.  It doesn’t surprise me that I have enjoyed this one.  Initially, I had a somewhat indifferent impression of the game.  It was interesting, but my kids couldn’t play it and I hadn’t mentioned it to Chris.  Unlike Magic, which I saw as a collection more than a game, Heroclix didn’t register right away in the same way.

I’ve always been interested in miniature games.  I have looked at them in the local gaming score, priced out various starter boxes, researched what other gamers thought of the two major offering, and even bough a learn to paint kit for the one that I decided would be the most interesting.  For the record, it was the Privateer games, Hordes and Warmachine.  I do have a friend who has Warhammer figures, so I might get some of those, too.

Therefore, when Chris and I played a game of Heroclix, it made sense that I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It gave me my introduction into a genre of games that I’ve been wanting to try for some time.  What surprised me was that Chris liked the game, too.  He’s never been into the fantasy setting RPG games (like D&D) as far as I know, so maybe it was the Marvel connection.  Who knows?  He might not enjoy the other war mini games as much.

What really surprised me is that our interest in the game has overshadowed our interest in Magic.  It’s not just me who has found my enjoyment of our favorite TCG wane.  We didn’t even play Magic this month.  We do have it on the schedule for the next two months, though, so maybe some of the Magic (pun fully intended) will return.  I doubt it will next month, unless through nerd rage, because we’re discussing Origins on the podcast and we both are underwhelmed by the set.  Perhaps the month after when we talk about Ice Age.  That’s when I first started collecting and playing.  Either way, I’m sure we’ll be back.

I mean, who's not excited for this reprint, amirite?
I mean, who’s not excited for this reprint, amirite?

Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that Heroclix is new and shiny.  I’m always distracted by new and shiny things.  I know for a fact that Dicemasters is new and shiny and that’s part of the reason for my interest there.  I never even knew that these types of games existed until I saw it on the web.  I thought I’d give it a chance.  The other reason that I’ve enjoyed the game so much is because my kids enjoy it and we play it together at least three times a week.  Sometimes we play it daily.  Plus, it is actually surprisingly fun game.

I’m not above playing games where the primary act is rolling dice.  I’ve played D&D since I was an awkward preteen boy.  However, that game also involved role play and story telling.  Other than the dice, Dicemasters only has some strategy elements to keep you engaged.  Sure, the strategy isn’t much, but it brings a different element to the game so that it doesn’t just feel like Yahtzee.

Though, rolling 5 energy symbols to get that Captain America feels a lot like natural Yahtzee.
Though, rolling 5 energy symbols to get that Captain America feels a lot like natural Yahtzee.

Even though these games have taken us away from Magic, I’m sure that we will be back.  Chris already said that receiving his order of Theros gods inspired him to build a new deck.  I’ve used my access to digital Magic to brainstorm a few deck ideas myself.  I’m still trying to come up with a good Vintage deck of my own and I’m trying to make a Dragonlord Ojutai EDH deck work.  You are never truly free of the madness.  This might be a tough an long climb back to the saddle.  It also seems less likely to happen with each passing day.  I, for one, hold out hope that Zendikar will ignite our spark (again, pun fully intended) again.  I missed the first trip to the plane and boxes are too expensive now.

Who knows?  Maybe the break will be good for us.  We can see other games and our bond with Magic will be strengthened.  If you love something set it free and all.  Because, in spite of the current issues, I do enjoy the game.  I’d hate to see it suffer the same fate as another long time companion, World of Warcraft.  I finally kicked that habit with some conflicted emotions.  Ultimately, it just wasn’t the same.  It wasn’t as fun.  Magic currently occupies the same space right now.

Dice Masters: A New Addiction

I’ll admit it: I’ve hit the wall as far as Magic the Gathering goes. I know, I know..blasphemy! It’s true though. Lately, no matter how many times I re-tuned a deck, or bought a barrage of singles from eBay I’d ask myself “why?” I only play the game once a month. Is it really worth spending time and money on a game that I play for maybe an hour every 30 days?  The answer has become clear to me over the last few months. No.  Will I still play when asked? You betcha. Will I still buy new expansions? Yup. But the amount I spend will be drastically reduced.  The thing is that when you co-host a podcast about gaming, you can’t just give up any game.  Especially a game that is such a huge part of the gaming industry, and in my teen years was a big part of my life.  “Okay Chris, that’s all fine and good but this is an article about Dice Masters”, you are probably muttering to yourself. Well, with Magic taking a backseat in my gaming life , I’ve been taking other games more seriously, particularly Dice Masters.

Shawn mentioned that he had purchased a couple starter sets of Marvel Dice Masters for him and his boys and that he was impressed by how easy the game was to pick up and how much fun it was.  At first I kind of brushed it off and thought to myself,”Eh, I’ll get around to trying it.” I was currently enamored with Heroclix at that point in time so between that, MTG, and W.O.W TCG, I wasn’t really in a rush to try something new. Especially something that at first glance looks really simplistic and not collector-friendly.

Before the last podcast recording session, Shawn agreed to teach me the game to see what I thought so at the very least it could be fodder for the podcast.  I bought 10 boosters of the D&D set thinking that was enough to play with. Yup. Mistake. You definitely need to buy a starter set if you are new to the game.  We ended up using his AvX starter set for our first game. I chose Human Torch and Spider-Man and he went with Beast and another character that I can’t remember right now. It’s late, don’t judge me.  After a few minutes, I was comfortable with the game, and also. I was hooked. Shawn was right. The game is fun. Really fun.  I kicked myself for not purchasing a starter set myself.  I ended up winning the game thanks to getting lucky and rolling a Human Torch die at full power. I was able to keep Shawn at bay and unable to get anything going on his side of the board. Although, to be fair I think he was sand-bagging a bit in order to let me get a good feel for the game.

Now that Dice Masters had it hooks in me  I found myself scouring the web for Dice Masters forums later that night. I was surprised at what I found.  Although simple on the surface, there are different metas just like MTG. Surprisingly,  control, ramp, and aggro are all archetypes shared by both games.  Being a sucker for a good control deck in MTG, I’ve gravitated towards that strategy for building my DM team.

I can’t recommend this game enough. If you are looking for a fun, quick, low cost game then give Dice Masters a shot. Starter sets will run you $15-$20 and booster packs are only a buck a piece.  It’s not all rainbows and kittens though. Some people have complained about the quality of the dice and the fact that the cards in the booster packs come  a little bent (not creased though, big difference). I think I’ve only noticed a few dice with chipped paint so far and I’ve remedied the bent card problem by storing them in a card album for a day or so.  Works wonders.  Those issues aside, I’m pretty happy that I was introduced to this game.  Feel free to leave your opinions/thoughts on Dice Masters below. Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let us know what you think! As always, thanks for reading!