I was in Wal*Mart with Aiden a couple of weeks ago. That’s how most middle age dad stories start. Gone are the days of, “Oh, man, I was so drunk…” or “And that’s when the goat walked by!” I’m not saying that it is better or worse, just different. Oh, and much better. Getting drunk just leads to poor decisions and hangovers and goats stink.
So, Aiden and I were in Wal*Mart for some reason or another. Who the hell knows at this point? They put a Wal*Mart in town locally that then donned a cape to become a Super Wal*Mart (which are technically just regular Wal*Marts at this point and the regular Wal*Marts are K*Marts or Ames or some nonsense, I don’t exactly know) a few years ago. Ever since, because it is so convenient, I find myself at that store at least once a day on average. That’s not to say that I go there every day, but the days that I do go there, I go multiple times, so it probably totals at least 365.25 times in a year.
Okay, time to get serious about this. For whatever reason, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking through Wal*Mart with Aiden and I stumbled on the Explorers of Ixalan box set. With almost no hesitation, I bought it. We have played the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set (as mentioned in a few articles on the page) a few times and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be good to pick this one up, too. Due to the craziness of the holidays and end of semester, we haven’t been able to play it, but I have looked through it and will give my impressions of what I know about it so far.
I texted Chris to tell him that I bought the game. He responded with, “Never heard of it.” I explained it a bit to him and said, “I really like what they’re doing with casual Magic.” It has taken them a while, but it feels like they are finally embracing the casual player in more ways than just, “Hey, look, we have a semi-casual event every week called Friday Night Magic that plays exactly like the professional events, but worse because you haven’t committed your every waking moment to building meta decks.” Players like me who have absolutely no interest in Standard or Modern and only limited (ha, ha) interest in draft and sealed were left out in the cold.
That started to change with some of the prerelease events. I think they might have listened to some of the players who started to wonder out loud what the audience for prereleases were. I took my kids a couple of times because I thought they would be less stress and more fun than a typical event (even FNM), but the competition was still fierce and the barrier for entry was still high. We haven’t been back since, but I’ve watched the events change and they’re making them a bit more varied and noob friendly from what I gather. Perhaps I’ll attend the next one to see if that’s true.
Aside from that, they have also started to run some new events that introduce players into the game. They give away a free deck, teach players the fundamentals of the game, and have a much more friendly atmosphere for newer players. I won’t go out as far as I have in the past to say that they were losing revenue, but both Chris and I (casual players, me much more so than him) were speaking like we’d never play another hand of Magic again. I doubt that we’re the barometer for that sort of thing, but I did start to wonder out loud if the game was suffering a little bit from ignoring that part of the player base.
Well, if recent history is to be believed, they aren’t ignoring us anymore. The Archenemy game put together 4 decent decks to play against an uber powerful deck in the same way that the WoW TCG had it’s raid decks. The price point was great for getting as many cards as you did and the game mode itself is fun enough for multiple plays. Looking at Explorers of Ixalan, it appears as if they were testing the waters with the Archenemy box and that they expanded it with this set.
In addition to the traditional card game, this one has a territory acquisition aspect in the form of cards. I haven’t looked closely at the cards, but they look to give bonuses like card draw or stats and keywords for your cards. So, in addition to fending off three other players (since it is a free for all not a 2 headed giant game), you also have to plan your strategy for how to approach the tiles in the game. Choose carefully and be the first to find the lost city!
Personally, I think that this is a great addition and makes this game unique among Magic the Gathering. I hope that they plan on continuing to do this type of thing, but I’ve been wrong before. I really liked the Arena of the Planeswalkers game, too, even if the set up was a bit convoluted. They only made a couple of them and then stopped. I think it might have just been because the game played too differently from Magic, so Magic fans didn’t like it too much and it was a bit too complicated for non fans to get into the game.
So, while I worry that this might be a one off, I don’t foresee it falling into the same category as the board game. If that game “suffered” from not being close enough to Magic, this one doesn’t have that problem. It’s exactly a Magic game with this other piece grafted on top of it. Still, the possibility exists that this doesn’t sell and that Wizards will kill this arm of Magic before you know it.
I have no idea what the company’s thoughts are on games that don’t provide a return. I’m sure that Hasbro will be willing to let this division be a loss leader for a while similar to how Disney let Marvel comics division do the same. However, the mouse has come knocking and there’s a chance that this might end up just being a one off and I’ll have none of this to look forward to ever again.
This looks like a fun way to play Magic the Gathering. I will get the boys together next week over vacation to play it and then give my actual thoughts about the game. I don’t think it will happen next week as we are trying to get the podcast up and running again. If nothing else, it will be an annual tradition to talk about Star Wars. So, look for my review of Explorers of Ixalan in two weeks.