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Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Return to Ravnica

Note: This is the final part of a 6-part series. At last, we Return to Ravnica for our retrospective.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Introduction

When Wizards of the Coast notified us that we were going back to Ravnica for the next three sets, my initial reaction was excitement. Then, I thought about it and had a brief text discussion with Chris and we both came to the same thought almost simultaneously. That seems early. I don’t think that either one of us thought that it was a bad thing. We just both got over the initial excitement at nearly the same time and concluded, “Why Ravnica again?”

As you may have guessed, the story doesn’t end there. Do our stories ever really end around here? We almost always seem to have more to say if you just give us time. I, especially, suffer from what Stephen King used to refer to as diarrhea of the word processor. Chris is much more vocal about his opinions, so you’ll have to tune into the podcasts and videos to hear what he thinks.

Besides, you really need them all to get the true 2 Generations Gaming experience.

At the very least, the announcement got me feeling nostalgic. Initially, I was going to do a top 5 or top 10 Magic the Gathering sets. Then I got the crazy idea to rank all of the sets. I finally settled on this retrospective to look back on all of the sets since I got back into the game. Initially it was going to be a 5 part series, but now you hold part 6 in your greedy little hands. I told you to just give me time and I’ll find more to say. Enjoy!

Some Quick Notes About Core Set 2013

This was my first exposure back into the game. I was wandering around Wal*Mart before the redesign and I noticed that they were still making Magic the Gathering cards. Though I didn’t buy them at that time, but the next time I was in the store, they suckered me in with their “Deckbuilder’s Toolkit” set which more or less spoke to the noob in me who hadn’t played the game in nearly two decades. I brought the set home, opened it, and was hooked almost immediately. At that point, it was mostly just a collector’s hobby since I didn’t know anyone else who played. My kids were too young, Chris hadn’t started playing yet, and my wife and I were too busy with babies to even consider playing against one another.

This photo is a lie. Either these people are all on drugs (the baby included) or they are delusional from a lack of sleep.

I still thought about the game and what was possible. Several cards made an impression on me. First and foremost was Talrand, Sky Summoner. At heart, I’m a blue mage and the card represents everything I want to do with Magic the Gathering. If I had known about Commander back then, that would have been the first deck that I mad scienced into existence. Instead, I learned about Krenko and that started my love/hate relationship with goblins in the game. More recently, I just learned that Door to Nothingness is in that set, too. While that is probably to most definitely a terrible card, that never stopped me from trying to make something out of nothing.

Why Should We Not Go Back to Ravnica?

I’m a bad news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the reasons that I came up not to go back to Ravnica. The first reason is pure selfishness. Having missed out on most of the game due to my absence from it, I feel personally slighted by this decision. Instead of taking us back to one of the planes that I missed (see the last section for more), they are bringing us back to Ravnica.

I’m about to borrow a phrase from my kids for this one and I’m not above acting childish. It works for our President.

Furthermore, it just seems like overkill at this point. This is the third visit to Ravnica in 13 years. I was able to brush up on some of the lore and I will talk more about it the “Why” section. In short, it’s a great story. But, what more can the have to tell about Ravnica right now? Perhaps that’s why they’re professional writers and I’m a struggling self published author.

The final point is one that Chris made on the podcast. With Red and by extension Red/Black being so powerful right now, a Ravnica block might only strengthen that. The block is two color focused. In the past, Rakdos has not been one of the color combinations that they’ve given a high power level. What if they decide to change that this time? Are we going to live under the tyranny of an extended RB reign for the foreseeable future? I hope not, but fear we may.

Why Should We Return to Ravnica?

I’m not sure that I made a compelling argument against going back to Ravnica. Truth be told, I’m not all that against the decision. I really like Ravnica. It’s the time that both Chris and I got back into the game, so it holds sentimental value to us. It will be fun to see if we really can go home again.

Since Presque Isle (aside from family, of course) is the only reason I can ever find to go back to my actual childhood home town.

I mentioned lore in the previous section. Over the weekend, I was able to look back at the “Player’s Guide” booklets that they include in every Fat Pack (because that’s what they are WotC, I don’t care if you changed the name) for the Ravnica block. I forgot how much I enjoyed that story. The guilds get the most focus and for good reason. By giving the color combinations names, people are able to relate more to them. The proof of this is that they are used as descriptors for decks in the tournaments that I watch. It’s just more interesting to hear Mardu (I know that’s Khans, but it’s the same idea) Pyromancer instead of RWB Pyromancer.

With the guilds, there have been new mechanics during each visit to Ravnica. Will that continue, or will they reprint some of the old mechanics? If they do the latter, that might be a slight point against the return. Will they reprint all of the mechanics so that they are all Standard legal at the same time? That might actually be a valid argument for the return. Maybe don’t listen to me. I’m often a fan of chaos, especially in Magic the Gathering.

Finally, what other cards or card types could be reprinted. Chris is a fan of the shock lands. When he said that, it made me think of the bounce lands and the possibilities of having them standard legal again. I’m not usually a fan of reprints, but both of those land types make the head spin with the possibilities. Even if they don’t reprint cards, they can bring back old favorites with new abilities. Going back to Ravnica could be a good thing indeed.

Where Else Could We Return Besides Ravnica?

…in no particular order, which I guess is just a list of 5, but everyone likes Top “X” lists, so there you have it.

Alara: Inspired by Chris, I went through and tried to think of some planes that I’d rather visit than Ravnica. This led me to think about recent sets and what I enjoyed about them. One of my favorite recent blocks was Tarkir, but it would be even sillier to go back there than Ravnica. So, instead, I went back a little bit further. Alara is three color focused, similar to Tarkir. Those color combinations are named and the set seems to rival Ravnica’s popularity in some circles. I think that a Return to Alara would be nice.

Ice Age: This one is a purely emotional decision. Chris and I started playing the game during this block. Maybe that’s a stretch. I go back a bit earlier than Chris, but we discovered on the comics podcast that we both frequented the same stomping grounds way before we ever officially met. Besides, who doesn’t want snow lands and Skred back in the game?

Antiquities: Chris mentioned this one in the podcast. He said that it felt like a natural extension to the Dominaria set. I didn’t admit it at the time because I didn’t want to sound dumb on the podcast, but I freely admit now that I didn’t know what he meant. I don’t remember my time in the game during the first Antiquities set. However, having now looked at the card list, I can see what he was saying. It’s a classic set with some classic cards and if WotC is feeling nostalgic, then why not take it all the way back?

Kamigawa: This was my one big idea. First, I have an abnormal attachment to the set due to many of the cards being used in one of the storm decks that I built a couple of years ago. Also, some of the cards are in the cubes that I draft. They are just fun cards. Finally, I thought since they have been doing recent sets based on ancient civilizations, why not an Asian theme? Well, I’m going to hold on to this suggestion for the future. With the release of the Chinese planeswalker decks, I might have been on to something.

Well, not only could I not do a Top 5 in order, but I can’t even think of a fifth to round out my list. If any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear about them and discuss. Leave a comment, write an email, or Tweet at us!

Conclusion

While there are other times during Magic the Gathering’s history that I’d rather visit, I’m not mad about going back to Ravnica. The story is fantastic, the mechanics are almost always at least fun, and I get to revisit my Vorel of the Hull Clade Commander deck to see if I can improve it with the new cards. Who knows, there might even be stuff for my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck. As always, we keep on the sunny side of life here at 2 Generations Gaming.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Dominaria

Note: This is now part 5 of a 6 part series. I have decided to make Return to Ravnica it’s own article.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Introduction

Welcome to part 5 (of 6 now) of my retrospective on Magic the Gathering since Scars of Mirrodin. It’s been a fun trip for me to look back at all of the sets and it reminded me why I love the game so much. Not that I needed the reminder, but familiarity breeds complacency. Every now and then, it’s appropriate to reminisce on the good times that you’ve had.

Relationship advice from your Friendly Neighborhood Noob of All Trades.

Noob’s History with Magic the Gathering

I’ve probably mentioned this several times, both on the web page and in the podcast, but I wasn’t initially impressed with Dominaria. Chris sent me a text with a link. The link was an early and unauthorized leak for the set. After making the joke that someone was definitely going to lose a job over this, I clicked the link. Before I tell you my initial impressions (Spoiler Alert: I already did in the first sentence of this paragraph), let me set the scene.

I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering since the beginning. I don’t have any cool Alpha or Beta collecting stories to tell, but I got into the game when I met someone in college who played the game. When I left school the next year because I met my future wife and moved to be near her, I tried to teach her the game. It wasn’t something that interested her and I didn’t find anyone else who played the game. When combined with the fact that I hadn’t fully developed my commitment to collecting, I moved on to other interests.

I miss my Ice Age cards. Hopefully someone gave them a loving home.

I won’t go into the whole story of how I got back into the game. Just know that it involved an initial missed connection at Wal*Mart, a sheepish admission, and 2 other dudes. Let your imagination chew on that one for a while. Once you’re ready, I’ll continue. Back with me? Okay, let’s continue the story.

As someone who played the game from the beginning, but took a nearly 20 year break from the game, I was excited to be going back to the beginning of the game. It gave me a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. When I finally saw some of what we were getting, it was uninspiring.

Dominaria First Impresssions

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the set that was supposed to take us back to the beginning of Magic the Gathering. We were supposed to be transported back 25 years to our college, teenage, or even childhood years to reminisce about all of those games of Magic the Gathering we played against friends and family. Instead, after clicking the link to the spoilers, I was transported to just another mediocre Magic the Gathering set. Where was the history? What about the recognizable names? Why not even a reference to Black Lotus?

Heck, I’d even take a Grizzly Bear for old time’s sake.

I should have known better. Any time I take Wizards of the Coast literally in their descriptions, I end up letting myself down. I can’t blame them directly. They are in the business of advertising. As a result, they are doing everything they can to sell their product. It’s not their fault that I fall for it every time and over hype myself.

It happened with Masters 25. It could be any card from Magic the Gathering’s 25 year history. With that one simple statement, off my imagination went. What could possibly be in that box that I’m (or Chris and me together) are going to buy? They recently unbanned Jace. Could it be a defective box containing only Jace the Mind Sculptor, allowing me to live out my dream of retiring on sales of Magic the Gathering cards? It could be literally anything! (Disclaimer: It cannot be any card on the reserved list.)

It could even be a boat!

Both early spoilers and comments from the community cured my hype. One comment in particular stuck with me. “Remember,” the person wrote, “Island is a card that was printed in Magic the Gathering over the last 25 years.” That brought me crashing back to earth. Sure, there are great cards, but there are also not so great cards and even terrible cards, too. I braced myself for Dominaria being another let down.

Final Verdict on Dominaria

The one card that became my focus of the set was the new Karn. Karn Liberated is one of the best cards ever printed in the history of the game. Along with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, It is the backbone of Modern control decks, not that any of them exist anymore. Karn, Scion of Urza might be a good card and I’ve never argued that it isn’t, but it’s a shadow of his former self, in my humble opinion.

Aside from that card, nothing jumped out at me from that initial spoiler reveal. As a result, I wasn’t looking forward to Dominaria. It wasn’t until Chris started to look closer at the set through the remainder of the spoiler season that I started to see the potential of the set. He made the point that as the set filled out, it started to look and feel like classic Magic the Gathering.

Mox Amber quickly became one of his favorite cards, though he had to explain his thinking to me about it’s potential power level.

In addition to getting a new Mox for the first time since Scars of Mirrodin, the set gave us a potential Tron/Storm killer in Damping Sphere. The also introduced saga enchantments (Phyrexian Scriptures hasn’t proven to be as popular as I hoped, but it’s still my favorite) and as a result, a mechanic known as historic. In a set that lives for flavor, that’s quite possibly my favorite inclusion.

Initially underwhelming, overall Dominaria is a great set. Chris and I have gone back and forth a few times on whether it is the best set in the history of the game. Obviously, having missed a great deal of the game’s history, I can’t make that claim. What I can say is that it is probably my favorite set since coming back to Magic the Gathering. That’s it for now. Join me, hopefully tomorrow, as I finally (for real this time!) wrap up this series with the Return to Ravnica block.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Kaladesh to Rivals of Ixalan

Note: This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Introduction

After revisiting Zendikar and Innistrad in the first four sets of the new block structure, WotC felt inspired to bring us to three new planes in the next 6. First, we went home with our favorite firebrand. Then, a dragon became a god in the desert. Finally, they must have given a 7 year old kid a 2 liter bottle of mountain dew and a set of sharpies before releasing him into the R&D office. Because Ixalan is a magical tapestry of pirates and dinosaurs woven together with vampires and merfolk.

Pirates and dinosaurs?! What more do you need?!

As with all of the Magic the Gathering sets, there are things that I like and things that I dislike about these six. Because I want to stay positive, I tend to focus on the things that I like. Overall, that was easy to do with this block of sets. There is a lot to like about the current state of Magic and I’m optimistic about the future of the game. Join me as I tell you why.

Kaladesh/Aether Revolt

As I mentioned above, this is the first new plane introduced for a couple of cycles. In addition, as I eluded earlier, this is the home plane for Chandra Nalaar. As a result, we finally got a great planeswalker card for her. When it was spoiled, some referred to it as Chandra, the Mind Sculptor. While I hesitate to agree with that sentiment, it is a good card and it has seen play as recently as this past weekend PT.

Plus, I pulled a foil from my first pack and sold it for 70 bucks on eBay a couple of days later. So, I’m not going to complain about the hype.

Kaladesh is also home to the mystical force known as aether. It is used for magical purposes, but also incorporated into constructs to simulate technology. This latter use of aether introduced a new type of card to the game in the form of vehicles. While their introduction excited me as all new mechanics and card types do, they weren’t the feature of the plane.

Kaladesh is also home to everyone’s favorite token, the thopters, but shockingly, they don’t represent the epitome of this marriage of magic and technology either. Sure, many (perhaps all) of the denizens of Kaladesh utilize thopters in every day life. And, I come here not to bury the thopters. I come to praise them. But, they don’t come close to the cool factor of the giant loveable magic fueled robots, the Gearhulks.

What happens when you fuse the soul of a Snapcaster Mage with a hunk of metal and zap it with some Aether? Oh, this isn’t a riddle. You get this guy.

Two final points before leaving Kaladesh for the deserts of Amonkhet. First, do you love infinite combos in standard? Because, thanks to Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, we got an infinite combo in standard! It was fun while it lasted before WotC banished Guardian to eternal formats. Finally, I mentioned in my previous article that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see the Eldrazi coming. Granted, I might not have been paying attention here, either, but I was able to fortell the coming of Nicol Bolas.

Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation

This pair of sets had a similar feel to Theros. I’m not as much of a fan of Egyptian mythology as Greek. Still, I find anything based on ancient civilizations fascinating. I once made the joke, after buying a Dremel multi tool, that ancient civilizations were able to build such remarkable structures without such modern amenities. Clearly, they were better men than me. But, I digress.

How is this just like Theros then? Well, you have the return of gods to the game. Just like Theros, each of the gods has a like god from the actual pantheon of Egyptian gods. The big difference is that our favorite (possibly) immortal dragon, Nicol Bolas has taken up residence on the plane as the big boss man, er, god.

Where there’s Bolas, Ugin can’t be far behind and vice versa. Perhaps there will be a reckoning on Ravnica?

Three mechanics introduced in the sets are absolute flavor wins. The first two are embalm and eternalize. Both involve the afterlife of a creature. As we all know, that’s a major theme in Egyptian mythology. Those were neat to see included in the sets. The third gave both Chris and I “WTF” moments initially. I thought the cards were either a joke or misprinted.

We’ve had cards that flip upside down. They have “fused” and “melded” cards together. There have been double sided cards. That format has been the most resourceful for them. They’ve used it on creatures, planeswalkers, and even lands now. So, the concept of a card becoming another card is not new to the game. It’s just that the latest iteration of the concept initially looked…let’s say, odd. I know you’ve seen them, but look at them again with an innocent’s eyes.

I seriously thought the cards were misprinted. It’s just such a jarring design.

Ixalan/Rivals of Ixalan

I already made the joke about the development of the set earlier. Don’t misunderstand me. I actually loved the concept of dinosaurs and pirates. Can’t forget vampires and merfolk, but they’re not nearly as cool as the others. Funny enough, I also already referenced one of the other major developments of the set in the previous section, double faced lands. Certainly not as exciting as pirates or dinosaurs. Not even really as exciting as the less exciting vampires and merfolk. Still worth a mention.

Let’s talk about the dinosaurs for a minute. There are your normal run of the mill dinos. You know the ones, The velociraptor who bags your groceries at the super market, as long as it isn’t chicken. Then there’s the old lady T-Rex who hangs out on the park bench and eats the pigeons. And we can’t forget about the dilophosaur children who attack the bus driver every morning and never actually make it to school.

Adorable.

Then, you have your Elder dinosaurs. You might wonder why the old lady from the previous paragraph doesn’t get consideration for elder dinosaur. Well, quite simply, it’s because she isn’t epic enough. Elder dinosaurs don’t sit on a park bench! They have word vomit for keyword text, or increase your hand size to inifinity, or kill everything on the board, or exile cards from your opponent and give them to you, or…have trample? Okay, so that last one doesn’t seem quite so epic. But, I assure you, it is!

Or, they are uncastable and have little to no impact on the game if you do happen to get to 9 mana.

Lastly on the plane of Ixalan, and most important to a filthy casual player like me, is the hybrid board and card game that Wizards of the Coast released. I’ve gotten to play it a couple of times with the boys and it is a fun way to introduce people to the game of Magic the Gathering. Even as a more seasoned player, I liked the addition of the strategy of the board game element. I’m glad that they will be doing more of this.

The Verdict

All three of the new planes brought innovation into the game. As Chris and I discussed on the podcast yesterday, the two set structure tends to make the second set weaker. It isn’t as much of a problem in the 3 set blocks because you expect one of the sets of the three to not be as strong. But, in a 2 set structure, that means that half of the block is weak. It’s just simple math.

Nevertheless, as I said in the beginning, I like to focus on the positive. There’s plenty from each of these sets that I enjoyed. It may not sound like it on the podcast, but I’m mostly optimistic about where Magic the Gathering is right now and where it is going in the near future.

I have only Dominaria and the Return to Ravnica block to cover before I’m done with this retrospective. I wasn’t sure exactly how, or even if, I would pull this off and it’s a bit of a relief to be at the end. It’s been a fun look back at my time in the game. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it, too, and will come back in a couple of days for the final article.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Theros to Dragons of Tarkir

Note: This is part 2 of a 5 part series.

Introduction

I’ve already explained the rationale behind this series of articles in the previous article, found here. Picking up that thread, Return to Ravnica got me back into the game and Scars of Mirrodin and ultimately Innistrad cemented my interest in the game. Theros and Tarkir made me fall in love with the game. Both of my recent prereleases were attended for these sets. Chris and I fed each other’s addictions. It’s always during those times that our interest in the game is the strongest and this was no different.

Theros Block

Core Set 2014 – 2011 was Titans. 2012 was Mages. 2014, well 2014 holds a special place in my heart. Sure, a big, dumb 6/6 that let’s you rez your little dummies is fun (Sun Titan) and a tiny dummy that can summon you an army of even tinier dummies (Jade Mage) are both fun, but what if all of your dummies could work together? 2014 introduced me to slivers and what has become a life long quest to make slivers work in a deck.

I never got it to work consistently, but I did bother Chris one game with this guy and a few of the plus one guys. And, we all know that bothering Chris is my favorite MtG mini game.

Theros: This is awesome. A couple of blocks ago, I got gothic horror for my MtG experience. This time, I’m getting ancient Greek and Roman lore. I studied math and philosophy in college. My wife studied classic as part of her education degree. We went to Greece for a vacation to celebrate her graduation. This set speaks to me on a primal level. As an added bonus, this is about the time that I actually started to think about Magic as a strategy game. With mechanics like heroic and monstrosity, I could no longer ignore the siren’s call of synergy.

Born of the Gods: Just like the previous two blocks, the middle set was the smallest of the three. Also, like my previous looks back in those blocks, I was smart and I saved some to talk about for the smallest set that might not have that much to discuss. In reality, I just forgot about them in the previous section, so I’ll talk about them here. First, I forgot to mention “Bestow”, a mechanic that allows you to cast a creature as an Aura, which then detaches and becomes a creature again when the creature it attached to dies. Makes perfect sense, right? Nope, I explained it poorly. See Nyxborn Eidolon for some cool art and an example. Finally, what is a Greek themed set without gods?

Mogis is probably my favorite from this set. Still trying to make a deck work around him.

Journey into Nyx: Cripes, I forgot another mechanic in the last set as I was trying to make up for missing the earlier two mechanics. Inspire triggers whenever the creature untaps. Satyr Nyx-Smith is a neat example and it leads me right into the mechanic of this set. Strive lets you cast multiple copies of a spell and choose different targets for each copy. Ajani’s Presence always teased me as a possibility for a heroic deck, but the Strive cost is a bit too steep for an aggro deck. Probably by design, I imagine. We are still a set off from creating game breaking cards. Spoiler Alert. This set also contains my favorite card from the block and scry engine for my empires deck that I talked about in the last article, Sigiled Starfish.

Tarkir Block

Core Set 2015: Through it all, trying to remember everything, and I still forgot Chris’s favorite mechanic from the set, Constellation. Well, I was trying to be true to my with the game and constellation never spoke to me. So, what cool stuff is in 2015? Not much, which is why I took up space mentioning constellation. I mean, it does have probably the best named card ever, Hot Soup, and Waste Not, which was designed by the MtG community. And sure, Sliver Hivelord is pretty cool, too. Other than that, it was a pretty standard set and right about when I started to tire of Core sets.

It seems like I wasn’t the only one who was tired of them, either, because Wizards announced that Origins would be the last core set and later reversed that decision. But that’s in the next part.

Khans of Tarkir: My other prerelease came during this set. I brought the boys along for this one because I always want to include them in the things that I enjoy. That proved to be a bit of a mistake because they were a bit too young for what ended up being a much longer day than expected. I also chose poorly for my prerelase kit and went against my nature with Mardu. Both the clan and the cards were telling me to go aggro and I tried control. It met with failure. I lost the first two games and then Aiden wanted to leave, so we dropped. It was so miserable that we haven’t been back. That’s not entirely true. The last part is true, but it’s not necessarily because of this experience. It’s just that life gets busy.

Fate Reforged: I don’t remember exactly what was happening during this set. It was right around the time that I had one of my breaks from the game. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the set. I actually loved the story that was being told about time travel and bringing the Dragons back to the plane. I’m not usually a fan of time travel, but when dragons are involved, I will temper my skepticism with some healthy, “Awesome!”

And it paved the way for them to print one of my favorite cards ever.

Dragons of Tarkir: I was back in the game by the time this one rolled around. Maybe it was just the business of the new semester that kept me away for Fate Reforged? I know for a fact that I was back in for Dragons. I remember that I wrote an article about attending the prerelease with my kids and decided against it. The set, though, was so much fun.  When you put dragons in the name of a set, you had better come with the dragons. It is not a stretch to say, “Here there be dragons” in Tarkir anymore.

The Verdict

Theros was an undeniable flavor win. The ancient Greek lore spoke to the math, philosophy, and classics nerd in me. Besides that, we had fun playing the block. While looking through the set to write this article, I texted Chris, “Theros was just a solid block.” He agreed and we talked about how much fun it was. I then, as I often do, speculated how much fun it would have been to draft the set. Granted, I did a prerelease, but drafts are a completely different strategy. Who knows? Maybe one of these days I will put together a Theros block cube with all of my spare cards.

I had a different reaction to Tarkir. It focused on multicolor like Return to Ravnica. Unlike Ravnica, the clans were three color instead of two color. Having never played during Alara, the concept of three color decks intrigued me. I also learned a great bit about the MtG color wheel. The three colors of Alara were three allied colors while the three colors of Tarkir were two allied colors and one enemy color. That all changed when the dragons came back, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Up next is the end of core sets. Is it really, though? We also take a trip back to some recent planes before going to 3 new and exciting ones. The final part will talk about the set that took us all the way back to the beginning and set the stage for the Return to the Return to Ravnica. Be sure to keep reading and I hope these articles are bringing back as many great memories for you as they have for me.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Scars of Mirrodin to Avacyn Restored

Note: This is part 1 of a 5 part series.

Introduction

Why Scars of Mirrodin? Chris and I are going to talk about Magic’s return to return to Ravnica on the podcast this week. After their most recent revisit to their old home, it’s clear that the R&D guys at WotC are feeling nostalgic. This nostalgia has inspired me to take a look back at my history with the game. While I have been playing the game since the beginning, it is only since Scars of Mirrodin that I’ve been actively engaged in the game.

Plus, Mirrodin introduced poison to the game and that’s everyone’s favorite mechanic. Am I right? Guys? Guys?

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Return to Ravnica was my actual reintroduction into the game. I then worked backwards to fill in my collection with older sets. It wasn’t until the Zendikar block that boxes became prohibitively expensive, so I stopped at Mirrodin. This article started as a Top 10 list since Mirrodin. Then I was going to rank all of the sets.

Why isn’t this a ranking? I decided not to do either because; (a) that’s a lot of sets and (b) more importantly, rankings are stupid. There’s plenty from all sets that I both enjoy and don’t. Besides, I started this web page to be a different voice from everything else out there. Instead, I’m just going to tell my Magic the Gathering story and how it has evolved over the last 5 years or so. Hopefully it succeeds and that you enjoy.

Scars of Mirrodin Block

Core Set 2011: We know them. We love them. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Wizards did try to kill them after Origins and now they’re back. Someone somewhere has a soft spot for the dependable and comfortable core sets. This one was neat because it had the Titan cycle (Primeval Titan is my favorite) in it and all of those cards are awesome.

Even this guy who doesn’t see much play is pretty awesome in cube drafts.

Scars of Mirrodin: These sets are a very different style that I’m used to in a Magic the Gathering set. In addition to being more colorless focused because of the artifacts, poison and phyrexian mana are included. Most mechanics tweak the rules a bit, but they work fully within the confines of the game. Occasionally, a mechanic might add a new twist to the game. Both poison and phyrexian mana break the game in fundamental ways.

Mirrodin Beseiged: Being the smallest and middle of the three sets, there isn’t much memorable, as least for me. One card did jump out at me as I was looking through the binder, though. I pulled more than one of Phyrexian Rebirth and got obsessed with trying to build a token deck around that card. It never happened, but maybe I have a new project for the coming weeks.

The lore nerd in me alone is excited to write a story for that artwork.

New Phyrexia: This is it. All hope is gone. The fight is over. Mirrodin has lost and the Phyrexians have remade it in their image as New Phyrexia. This is reflected in the cycle of Praetors (here I’m true to my blue roots and want to build around Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur) in this set, incredibly powerful creatures that are the envy of all Commander players, yours truly included.

Innistrad Block

Core Set 2012: 2011 gave us Titans, appropriately named big dummies that could be used to make your opponent miserable. 2012 brought us Mages, 2/1 creatures with a mana activated abilities. I mean, I guess that’s just as cool as 6/6 creatures who can ramp 2 lands per turn. Not really, but they also gave us the Empires cards. I used them to make a deck that made Chris miserable for a game a few months ago.

Because I’m the happiest playing MtG when I can durdle my opponent into a stupor.

Innistrad: Okay, this is more like it. While Mirrodin was cool and it added some interesting things to the game, it was a bit too alien for me. As a fan of fantasy and horror who played several campaigns through the D&D setting Ravenloft, Innistrad speaks deeply to me. Vampires and Werewolves, and Ghosts, oh my!

Dark Ascension: I was so focused on sharing my excitement for the set that renewed my love for Gothic themes in fantasy settings that I forgot one of the best parts of the Innistrad block. Double sided cards! Sure, you have the Legacy meta defining Delver of Secrets. But, what about Loyal/Unhallowed Cathar that changes color identity when it flips?

Don’t forget about this thing, either! It’s a weapon that turns into a demon!

Avacyn Restored: Forget for a moment that I can’t pronounce Avacyn. Look, I’ve heard it pronounced Ah-va-sin many times by many different sources. My brain still wants to make it Ah-vah-kin for some reason. What’s that got to do with anything? Nothing, I just needed to get that off my chest. In addition to the titular angel, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, there are three others that play a pivotal role in the lore. Also, the Planeswalkers (Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage) are the first ones that I noticed that aren’t the usual five.

The Verdict

Mirrodin changed Magic the Gathering in several ways. I have heard the argument more than once that they were game breaking and not at all in the spirit of making the game more fun. While I won’t either agree nor disagree fully with that sentiment, I will leave you with this. We haven’t been back to Mirrodin in any way, shape, or form, so that might tell you something. Heck, they even took us back to Zendikar and people hated Eldrazi more than they hated the Phyrexians.

Innistrad restored some of the balance of the game, lore wise. Instead of weird and alien creatures trying to subjugate other weird and alien creatures, we had vampires, angels, werewolves, spirits, and demons. It was a much more familiar setting and one with which I was far more comfortable. I can’t say that I would have quit Magic if Innistrad hadn’t been more traditional, but I do know that my joy in the game would be greatly diminished.

Make sure that you don’t miss the next part when I will discuss the Theros and Tarkir blocks. You may have noticed that I skipped the Return to Ravnica block. That’s because I’m saving that one for last since it connects so well with the next sets coming out and they are the reason for this look back in order to move forward.

Hearthstone Road Trip: Destination Witchwood

Introduction

It’s that time of year again. Blizzard has released a new expansion for Hearthstone. I did a quick preview of the set about a month ago when it was announced. Before that, I wrote a bit about the new things that we could expect with the new season. You don’t have to read either of those to understand what’s going on in this article, but it would be great if you did!

One of the rumors about the new set was that it would take place in Duskwood. I said at the time that I didn’t exactly get a Duskwood vibe from the design of the set teaser and that has proven true. However, I do give you some credit, internet. You did get the woods part right. Just the wrong bunch of trees. Also, whoever first posited that the “Year of the Raven” was going to involve dark and spooky themes, I say “Kudos to you!”

And a hearty high five on top!

I already talked about the new mechanics in my previous article. Echo is fun, but so far I don’t think there’s anything that is truly broken (yet, more on that later). Rush is much preferred to charge as that mechanic will hopefully become Wild only over time. Granted, there are classic cards with charge on them, but good old Blizzard could just send them to the Hall of Fame or easily change the wording on the cards. Even and Odd decks are cute and I think there might be something to Odd quest warrior. In addition, odd paladin makes that class even more annoying to play against. But, that’s not really our thing here, so on to what we do best. Playing games and having fun.

The Cards

Neutral

This isn’t necessarily a keyword, so it wasn’t covered in the preview. It also came as a bit of a surprise when I saw it as I hadn’t been watching the spoilers for this set very closely. But, I like the mechanic of this card. It isn’t the only one that swaps attack and health each turn that it is in your hand. It is just the one that I have seen used and used myself most effectively. It’s relatively cheap and can remove big stuff right away if it is in 6/2 mode. All in all, an interesting addition to the game.

Honorable Mention

A 3-mana removal spell in this meta? Only bad thing is that if you aren’t able to target it (with hero power or other cheap spell), the opponent can silence it. Still, playing it just to frustrate your opponent and make them check the history to see what was just played against them makes it all worth it.

Druid

Naturally, this card makes me think of Twilight Drake. For one more mana, it has taunt. Both of those points are relevant. As soon as I saw this card and a few of the other new cards, I started thinking about a druid odd taunt deck. I’ve heard rumblings about such a deck existing, but I have no idea if it is actually any good. Then again, I’ve never cared too much about winning. I just want to have fun with the game.

Honorable Mention

She’s five mana and can be played in my Odd Taunt Druid deck that I’m trying to make happen. Also, and this isn’t relevant to that deck. But,A� if you can get her to stick, you could play Ultimate Infestation, then Kun, and then another Ultimate Infestation all in one turn. I don’t know how practical that is, but it sure would be fun to watch.

Hunter

This is the kind of card that I love. On first look, it looks great. Upon further inspection, it looks pretty terrible. Upon even further inspection, it settles into a decent situational card. You can use it to make an army of 4/4 minions with rush or even charge. You can use it to attempt to blow your opponent out of the water with a whole bunch of 9/8 lions that leave 2/2 hyenas in their wake (if they ever die). It’s just a potentially wacky card.

Honorable Mention

I know what you’re thinking. That’s a terrible card. And you’re right. It is an awful card. But, look at that! A 6/6 rat?! That thing’s huge!

Mage

I am bit biased towards this card because it is the gift legendary that I’ve gotten on two of my accounts so far. Moreover, I’ve been able to play it a few times. Once I got Aya Blackpaw and another time I got Stalagg (or was it Fuegen?). Stay tuned for more! I could steal this card with Rogue, play it, Shadowstep it, play it again, and get both of them for the meme Thaddius dream.

Honorable Mention

Similar to a few other cards on the list, this one invokes feelings of another card. It’s a slightly worse improvement on arcane missiles. However, in a meta where everyone is playing 1 and 2 mana cards with only 1 or 2 health, throwing around one mana fireballs seems like a decent thing to be doing.

Paladin

A card that makes Quest Paladin viable! Not really, but I did see someone on low level ranked playing the deck and it ran all over my pile of Mage cards that I’ve been using to try to finish the quest. I have packs upon packs of standard legal cards, but I’m trying to save them to open them for a YouTube video. See, guys I do care. As far as this card, this isn’t an example of a broken Echo card, but it does come pretty close.

Honorable Mention

Hearthstone has bulk rares, too! Just like their big brother Magic the Gathering. The difference here is that you get useful dust from the card in addition to the hollow empty feeling of what the card might have been after opening it from a pack.

Priest

In addition to the earlier “that’s busted, wait that’s terrible, no actually that’s a decent situationally” card that I mentioned above, this is my other favorite type of card. It’s a card that does new things that we’re not used to in the game. Like the other type of card, it might just be terrible. Then again, it just might be brilliant and it hasn’t found where it wants to be yet. I can’t wait to find out.

Honorable Mention

This was a toss up between Squashling (but I didn’t want to mention two Echo cards back to back like this), Quartz Elemental (which could be fun in an Inner Fire deck, but ultimately isn’t all that interesting), and this card. Other than those reasons above, I chose this card because I like the Priest theme of using your opponent’s cards against them. Sure, rogue has those cards, too, but rogues are thieves on the outside. This confirms my suspicions that any priest in any fantasy setting is secretly a thief.

Rogue

Not a good card, but it is a Legendary minion that you can play multiple times in a turn (at least 3 on turn 10 and maybe more given coins), and it gives you a body and a card every time. Hearthstone understands that if they can’t give us great cards every time, at least they can give us fun cards.

Honorable Mention

This was a tough one and for the opposite reason of the priest honorable mention section. That one had too many good cards to choose. Rogue got some really awful cards in this expansion. I suppose that’s to be expected since they got Kingsbane last time and that card bordered on completely busted. As far as Tess goes, she doesn’t make Thief Rogue viable, but she does make it fun, in that unnerving Yogg kind of way that we all love.

Shaman

In Knights of the Frozen Throne, we got new hero cards for all of the classes. This hearkened back to the old WoW TCG where you got to choose your hero for your deck. This time, we just get poor old Hagatha. She’s got a decent battlecry, and a passive battlecry (which is always cool), but it pales in comparison to Valeera’s DK power. I choose cards because they are unique, not because they’re good.

Honorable Mention

What if they had made this 1 mana and given it Echo? Would it have been the broken Echo card that I know is coming sooner or later? I don’t think so, but we are definitely getting closer to it. What if it is still the exact same, but with Echo? That’s pretty broken, but you do potentially sacrifice your next turn for it. These are the things that keep me up at night.

Warlock

A 7 mana almost guaranteed board clear and you get a 4/4 minion out of it, too? I don’t usually pick good cards (and I might not have here), but this card seems crazy to me. This card is almost guaranteed not to see play because Cubelock seems pretty stable as a deck right now. So, nobody will ever suspect when I play this card on them. Muahahahahaha!

Honorable Mention

Another echo card that exists only to annoy your opponent? I’m sensing a bit of a theme here. This is kind of a weird card because it feels more like a Priest card than a Warlock card, but I’ll allow it. It’s just such a stupid and fun card that I could see playing two turns in a row against some silly aggro face deck just to prolong their misery.

Warrior

This isn’t a good card. This isn’t even a fun card. I mean, it has rush and that interesting twist of gaining +3 attack on the turn it’s played. This is maybe a decent Arena card. What gives with this pick? Well, that just goes to show you how terribly Warrior was treated with this expansion. If Rogue was awful, Warrior is off the charts terrible.

Honorable Mention

I seriously cannot come up with another Warrior card for honorable mention. This is not me trying to be cute or provocative. The Warrior cards are that bad. If you haven’t seen them yet and don’t believe me, just go look. There’s nothing good, nor interesting, nor fun. It’s just a pile of frightening garbage.

Shudderwock

You may have been surprised to not have seen this card in the Shaman section. It’s a crazy card that does crazy things. Seems like it would be my kind of card and I’d have been able to find some place for it. Well, I did. As with any new Hearthstone expansion, there is a busted card with busted interaction that makes a deck that does ridiculous things. This one is no different.

I had heard rumbling about this deck and how stupid and noninteractive it was. I played against it once and it seemed weird, but not overpowered. Then, I decided to do something that I haven’t ever done. I took all of my dust and I crafted the cards necessary to create the deck. Playing it only once was enough for me to see that it is the special kind of stupid that Hearthstone can be known for. I misplayed the deck and I was still able to win because the card is so silly. It just becomes an almost infinite series of interactions that can’t be countered by the opponent, not even by conceding. I have a feeling that something might be done about this card soon.

The Verdict

There are some decent cards in this set. There are also some possibly fun cards that might inspire me to make a few decks to try out during the season. Other than that, there isn’t much here. Overall, the set is quite disappointing and while it might change the meta a bit and bring back some old deck archetypes, I don’t see there being huge changes overall.

The few streams that I’ve been able to watch this week verify that. Kingsbane Rogue is gone and Druid is more of a taunt variety. However,Cube and Control Warlock still seem to be a big part of the meta along with different varieties of aggro Paladin and I don’t see those going away any time soon.

First Impressions of MTG Arena

Introduction

I used to be invited early to beta tests for new games. I invested a couple of times in somewhat top of the line gaming laptop computers, so I had the specs that game designers coveted. Test the game in the highest resolution with the highest FPS, and really put it through the paces. Since all of those computers have met with tragic ends after only months of use, I’ve gotten smarter and gone with a budget laptop that will allow me to do the bare minimum as far as gaming goes and is more focused on work. I can get a better gaming desktop for cheaper and I won’t be carrying that everywhere I go, so less of a chance of it falling down the stairs or being run over.

Still, with the recent push to mobile gaming, for many games specs aren’t as important. Either that, or it is later in the beta invites for MTG: Arena. Because, somewhat surprising, I received a closed beta invite to the game sometime last week. I do know that they were attempting to do a stress test on their servers, so maybe they just did a flood of invites. Whatever the reason, and for better or worse, I’m in the game.

The Good

Regular readers of the page know that one of my saying that has become cliche is that I say “It’s….” followed by some game as explanation for why something is good or bad. I almost always follow it up with some explanation, but at this point I feel like it is expected, so at the risk of being hack writer guy, I’ll start there. MTG: Arena is good because, well, it’s Magic the Gathering. Sort of. That’s not to say that there are elements of the game missing.

Before you ask, no Force of Will and, especially no Storm Crow (yet)…

Everything that makes Magic unique among card games and separates it from Hearthstone, the main digital card competitor, is there. I worried when I first saw the game that they were trying to make it too much like Hearthstone. They did…sort of. More on that later. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to Hearthstone. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy it (not all of the time), but it can be a fun diversion.

It’s just that Magic is different and it always has been. One of the things that I don’t like about Hearthstone is that there is no interaction between players, really. You interact with your opponent’s minions and occasionally throw a fireball or pyroblast at their face, but you can’t interact or interrupt their turn other than secret cards and those aren’t targeted.

I’m here to report that the turn structure is still there. There are still two main phases, a combat phase that allows you to choose attackers and defenders, and an upkeep and cleanup. Those last two aren’t defined by the game. They happen automatically. Through it all, the game still has instant spells that you can cast at any time, even during your opponents turn.

Glory, glory, say blue mages. Draw, go, is a viable strategy in this new Arena.

I saw someone on Twitter say that the game is barely Duels 2.0. Maybe it is because I never played that particular game other than against the AI, but I don’t have that same impression. Sure, Arena is similar in many ways to Duels, but Arena feels meatier. It felt more like playing Magic the Gathering than Duels ever did. That’s what I like about it and that’s what will keep me playing. It’s not perfect, though, not by any stretch.

The Bad

I mentioned earlier that when I first saw screenshots for the game, I worried that they were taking too many cues from Hearthstone. Once, during a conversation with Chris, I even confused him by calling it MTG: The Hearthstone Update. It’s virtually impossible to get into digital card games without being compared to Hearthstone in some form or fashion, even for a 25 year old game like Magic. Hearthstone is just king of the hill of digital card games.

They definitely took clues from Hearthstone. There is an emote system that is set up almost exactly like Hearthstone’s. The backgrounds, while not yet interactive, have a similar feel and vibe to the tables that Hearthstone has. Aesthetically, my brain couldn’t figure out if I was playing Magic or Hearthstone because the look of the games is so similar.

See for yourself…

Additionally, the cards have animations and sounds. I understand that they need to separate this property from the more serious MTGO and that they’re trying to grab some money from players who only play Hearthstone. It’s a strange dynamic that MtG players will often cross over into Hearthstone, but there has yet to be many prominent Hearthstone players who have become competitive MtG players. So, I get it. They just seem to be trying a little bit too hard to emulate what they think makes Hearthstone different instead of highlighting what Magic does well.

The Ugly

Right now, the only mode that is offered is Standard. That’s it. I get that it is going to take them time to program all of the interactions of older cards and who knows how long something like that can take. However, there’s no draft mode, which is odd. There’s no commander and I don’t even see any indication that they’re going to update with the new Brawl mode that is being introduced with Dominaria. Come to think of it, I didn’t even see any mention of Dominaria in the game, either. Maybe I overlooked it. I will look again when I play.

First, if they want this to be viable as a Magic product, it has to update with or very close to new set releases. Nobody is going to play last year’s standard when this year’s standard will be available in paper and on MTGO. Secondly, as a fan of limited and eternal formats, standard only is not going to keep me entertained or engaged for very long. They could find themselves with another dead digital property on their hands.

…and not so shiny objects, and shiny non objects…let’s face it. I’m easily distracted by… well, easily distracted covers it.

The Verdict

This mish mash of Magic and Hearthstone is a little bit too much Hearthstone and not quite enough Magic the Gathering for me right now. As I said, I enjoy Hearthstone, but I don’t want it in my Magic. Those aren’t two great tastes that taste great together. Once upon a time, Chris and I experimented with a Hearthstone “rules” Magic the Gathering where you play from a mana deck each turn. It was supposed to remove mana flood and screw, which are two things that we (and many players) hate about the game. It did, but it wasn’t Magic, so we haven’t done it since.

Perhaps it will take some time and since it is closed beta, they aren’t at a finished product yet. Maybe with more games, more cards, more opponents the game will grow on me and it will become part of my regular rotation. After all, it took several years and many hundreds of games before I accepted Hearthstone as part of my daily gaming routine. MtG: Arena might just be on that trajectory.

I did say to Chris that this game seems to be their answer to Hearthstone. When I downloaded the client in anticipation of my beta invite, it was very small. So, not only have theyA� made it look and feel like Hearthstone, they have optimized it for mobile. So, I suppose that this parting statement sums up my feelings about the game. Again, to Chris, “If they do port it to mobile, I’d probably play it over Hearthstone.”

MtG Road Trip: Destination Dominaria

Introduction

Chris and I got together this weekend via Skype to record the podcast.A� We discussed many things current Magic the Gathering.A� Our two main topics were our thoughts about the Masters 25 set and a preview of Dominaria, the set coming out next month.A� I already talked about my thoughts on Masters 25 and the dilemma I was facing regarding the set.A�A�Spoiler Alert:A� I didn’t buy a box of Masters 25.A� I bought an XBox One instead.

Without stepping too much on our discussion, I did want to do a companion preview piece for Dominaria.A� One of the things that we didn’t touch on too much in the podcast is that the reason we can discuss the set is that there was a huge leak that came out of Wizards of the Coast.A� Initially, we thought that it was all of the cards from the set.A� Now, though, we realize that it is about 150.

If you’re thinking that we aren’t usually ones to speculate knowing only a bit more than half of the cards from the set, you are correct!A� So, what did we talk about for over half an hour?A� Guess you’ll just have to tune into the show to hear it all.

That, folks, it what we call a teaser.

New Format! (Brawl)

One of the most popular formats in the game is Commander.A� If you don’t know what commander is, you choose a legendary creature that becomes your commander.A� You then must build a deck with 99 additional cards.A� The stipulations are that you can have only one copy of each card and all cards must be the same color identity as your commander.

The format is fan created and not officially sanctioned as a competitive format by Wizards.A� Additionally, at least one off shot called Tiny Leaders had grown out of the format.A� These two statements have come to a head with the recent announcement that Wizards is sanctioning a commander type format that was inspired by this set.

The format is called Brawl.A� Similar to commander, you may choose a legendary, your deck can only contain one copy of each card, and the cards must follow your planeswalker color identity.A� Unlike Commander, the cards must be standard legal.A� That adds an interesting new angle to the format that will hopefully bring new players into the game.A� One of the problems with eternal formats is that they are expensive and intimidating for new players.A� By limiting the cards, Wizards is giving players a chance to try something without having to make a huge time and money commitment.

Mechanics

So far, there haven’t been any new mechanics introduced in the set.A� As with most sets, there are recycled mechanics.A� Also, there have been modifications to other keywords and card types that may change the game in new and interesting ways.A� Let’s take a look at both of these in turn.

Kicker – This is an old keyword that allows for an extra effect for more mana.A� Some of my favorite cards in the cube drafts that I’ve done have had kicker and I really enjoy this keyword.A� It makes your opponent have to think more and plan around the additional possibility presented by the kicker.A� In some cases, it is almost like being able to cast two cards but only having to use one card slot in your deck.

For one more mana, you get a more powerful Ball Lightning. For two more mana, you get a permanent Ball Lighting. Still dies to lightning bolt, though.

Hexproof (from quality):A� Normally, hexproof just gives your creature protection from all spells or abilities controlled by your opponent.A� This new variation simply gives your creature hexproof from a something specific.A� The two cards that I first noticed with this on them had Hexproof from a color, which I found interesting because in the past, it has been protection from color, which also prevented you from casting those spells on your creature.

Haha, your opponent can’t dismember him. You can. I mean, if killing your own creatures is your thing.

Legendary Sorceries:A� Legendary has been a keyword in the game since the beginning.A� Traditionally, it has been there to give creatures a special quality, namely that only one of them was allowed to be on the battlefield at one time.A� That birthed the EDH, or Commander, format in which players build decks that are made up of only one copy each card in their deck.A� Now, if you have a legendary creature on the board, you can cast a legendary sorcery, which could potentially have a profound effect.

Or, it could be a weird perversion of an older (and IMO much better) card.

 

Saga Enchantments:A�A�Another introduction to the Magic universe with this set is Saga enchantments.A� Like the old cards that leveled up with mana, the card becomes more powerful as the game progresses.A� Unlike those cards, these enchantments level up automatically during your turn.A� I’ve always liked the idea of being able to change a card during the game while it’s on the battlefield or in your hand.

Morph, flip cards, split cards, and kicker are always mechanics that get me excited about the possibilities.A� Leveling cards take all of this to a new, uh, level (sorry about that).A� It brings one of the things that I enjoy about playing role playing games and brings it into Magic the Gathering.A� It also gives me something to do in my cube drafts when I’m flooding out.A� Nothing but a Joraga Treespeaker and forests in my hand?A� Use that mana to make more mana!

May be wrong, but this seems like it could become a modern or legacy sideboard possibility. (Is that enough qualifiers?)

As a result, I like the idea of Saga cards.A� Just like the legendary sorceries, I have no idea how many (if any) of them are going to be good.A� But, and this is more important to me personally, it looks like some of them will be fun.A� Being mythic, I doubt I’ll pull them from a pack.A� If I do, though, Chris better watch out because I’m going to try to build a deck around it.

The Planeswalkers

Each new set also brings with it new planeswalkers.A� In keeping with the theme of history with this set, we are getting some names that are familiar but that we maybe haven’t thought about for a few years.A� One of them, in particular, is well known and loved.

Jaya Ballard

It’s a red planeswalker that does red things.A� It’s almost as if Wizards wanted to do a Chandra card for this set, but didn’t want to do a Chandra card for this set.A� So, they made this card, named it Jaya instead of Chandra, and called it a day.A� Honestly, though, I’m not the best judge of red cards.A� I just can’t get into that mindset at all.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Now, this is more like it.A� As a blue mage through and through, this card speaks to me.A� It draws cards and untaps lands.A� It messes with the opponent’s tempo by removing things but not making it easy to recast them.A� I really like this card and I’d love to build a commander or Brawl deck based around him.

Karn, Scion of Urza

This is the name that I was talking about earlier that was well known and well loved.A� Karn is a modern staple in Tron.A� Personally, this is the first card after having gotten back into the game that I was truly impressed by seeing it played and the powerful effects that it can have on a game.A� Poor, poor Karn.A� As I said to Chris, they couldn’t just reprint the old card, but it feels like they nerfed this poor guy into the ground similar to how Blizzard deals with problematic cards.A� I mean, it’s not terrible.A� Compared with the old card, though, I’m starting to see now how old MtG mages feel when they see updates to older cards.

See You In April!

When Chris first sent me the link to the spoilers for the set, I was a bit underwhelmed.A� Similar to my reaction to M25, I had put big expectations into this set.A� We were going back to the beginning of Magic the Gathering.A� What could that possibly mean?A� Apparently, it means that we are going to be disappointed.A� At least at first glance.A� Then, when I looked at the set again and got to see it through Chris’s eyes, I started to see more potential from the set.A� I’m sufficiently excited.A� I want to draft this set.A� I want to build several Brawl decks.A� And, I want to buy and open some product.A� Come on April!

Hearthstone Road Trip: Destination Witchwood

Introduction

Last week or the week before, I did a quick post about the new season in Hearthstone.A� A few times I said that I refused to speculate myself, but I did mention a rumor that I heard that made sense to me. Someone made the connection between each Hearthstone season and the sorts of sets that we could expect from them.A� Their conclusion was that the Year of the Raven would be one of dark and mystical forces.A� While that part seems to be true with at least the first expansion, that’s the only rumor that has so far been true.

The extension of this thought was that Hearthstone might be travelling to the World of Warcraft zone Duskwood.A� I had my suspicions that wasn’t true that I wrote in the article.A� Admittedly, my only evidence for my theory was that the gem in the center of the card just didn’t put off much of a Duskwood vibe.A� Still, I’ll take a victory lap when I get something right.

Enjoy them.

Instead, we are going to a forest in (near?) Gilneas known as the Witchwood.A� Even having played World of Warcraft obsessively for almost 3 years and then off and on for another 5 or 6, I had to Google Witchwood to make sure that it wasn’t just some Hearthstone version of Duskwood.A� Sometimes Hearthstone adds to or modifies WoW lore in that way.A� They didn’t this time.A� This is honest to goodness WoW lore that they’re using this time, albeit, a somewhat obscure one.

So, what do we know about the Hearthstone version of Witchwood.A� Surprisingly, even though the expansion isn’t due until April and most of the major card reveals are still a week or two away, we know quite a bit from what has been released.A� Let’s explore the spooky forest, shall we?

Even/Odd Decks

One of the things that the Hearthstone team has been consistent is that they want to use Hearthstone to explore ways to make the game unique by doing things with the digital format that you can’t do in paper.A� I mean, I like Magic and I like playing Magic on the computer, but that’s all it is.A� It’s just Magic on the computer.A� Even the new game, Arena, which is supposed to be more user friendly and attract some of the Hearthstone crowd into Magic, is just Magic on the computer with a different wrapper.

That’s not true with Hearthstone.A� Once upon a time, Blizzard did have a paper World of Warcraft TCG and I still enjoy playing it from time to time.A� When Hearthstone came along, they stopped supporting the paper cards.A� I feared that Hearthstone might just become WoW TCG on the computer.A� The fear was initially supported by them recycling card art and mechanics from the game.A� But, the fear was put to rest when Chris tried to make a paper version of Hearthstone and found that it would be too bogged down by all of the RNG inherent in Hearthstone.

The point of this all is that the Hearthstone developers have been successful in their attempts to make the Hearthstone experience unique.A� That’s not to say that all of theirA� ideas have worked.A� You need look no further than these cards to realize that.A� As I said to Chris when he asked me about them, “The idea is interesting, but the execution so far is pretty terrible.”

I’m not the only one who thinks so.A� I was watching a streamer the other day who was trying to put together decks for the even and odd cards that had been revealed using the cards that are available in the game so far.A� He made sure to repeat several times that the card pool was incomplete and that there might be cards from the Witchwood expansion that could strengthen the decks.A� But, so far, none of the decks even looked to be fun.A� Certainly none of them would be viable in any competitive format, except maybe the mage deck that used the card that upgrades your hero power at the start of the game.

Mechanics

Echo – I recognized this one from Eternal.A� It doesn’t work exactly like it does in Eternal, but it is has some similarities.A� In Eternal, when you draw a card with Echo, it creates a copy in your hand that you can then cast.A� With Hearthstone, the card is copied when you play it and then you can cast it over and over again.A� For instance, if you had the Phantom Militia card which is the only one to have been spoiled so far, you could cast 3 2/4 taunts on turn 9 or 10.A� Depending on what cards they put the echo mechanic on, it seems like it could be much more broken than the Eternal version.

Rush – The designers have been saying for a few expansions now that they think the charge mechanic was a mistake.A� It really became apparent when Patches the Pirate was such an oppressive card in Standard and they realized that it would most likely continue into Wild.A� There was one other card that had charge but could only attack minions, so they must have taken inspiration from that one for the new mechanic.A� I realize that charge is common to all card games in one form or another, but it is especially annoying in a game like Hearthstone because it is one that is, according to the designers, predicated on board control and trading.A� Rush brings that aspect back to the game while still having minions that attack right away.

Solo Adventures

The release schedule for Hearthstone used to be two sets and an adventure released each cycle.A� I might be wrong about that.A� But, there were adventures released that allowed players who didn’t want to pay money and didn’t play enough to get gold for packs to get dust or cards.A� They did away with adventures recently, which I thought would have a deleterious effect on the game.A� Honestly, as with most decisions, it hasn’t had much of an effect at all that I can see.A� Perhaps those players who relied on them to increase their card collection more than I do would argue otherwise.

They are still releasing adventures.A� It’s just that the focus of them has changed.A� With Kobolds and Catacombs, they put together a solo adventure mode that allowed you to pick one of the established classes and build a deck through randomly offered cards.A� The mode also gave “loot” in the form of additional cards or game effects.A� It is a fun mode, but that’s all it is.A� There are no rewards for defeating all of the encounters and the boss.A� That’s a bit disappointing because even a tiny bit of gold for your first time with each class would be nice to have.A� Oh well, no big deal.

They’ve expanded on this idea with Witchwood.A� It is similar to the Kobolds and Catacombs solo mode in that you fight against a predetermined number of encounters.A� Also, after you defeat an encounter, you get loot cards to improve your deck.A� Where it differs is that youA� choose from one of the four new classes in the above picture instead of the established classes of the game.A� I’m pretty excited about this idea because I generally enjoy the single player modes of card games.

I’ve logged probably twice as much time in Eternal’s single player modes as competitive.A� I’m stuck on an encounter in HEX, but I did enjoy it while I was playing it.A� I don’t spend nearly as much time in the single player mode in Hearthstone compared to the competitive modes, but I do still enjoy playing through this game mode.A� I just want some rewards is all.

The Verdict

I’m not sure what to think about the odd and even decks.A� I like the idea of trying new things.A� But, this idea just seems bad overall.A� The new mechanics are cool.A� Echo seems like it is just waiting for the right card to be abused to a horrifying degree. A�Can’t wait for the first noob to try to point a rush minion at my face and “Whoops” him. A�More of a solo mode that is fun can only be a good thing.A� It also leads to the possibility of even more going forward.A� Stay tuned for the official 2GG preview once all of the cards have been spoiled.

Quoth the Raven

Introduction

A few days ago, I noticed a post on Instagram about the new Hearthstone “year” and was surprised.A� I don’t know why I was surprised.A� I knew that it was about this time that they started their version of Standard and then it would have been around this time that they had their first rotations.A� However, unlike Magic, a game that I am almost always aware of new sets and rotations, Hearthstone is more of a hobby.

Bear in mind that Magic itself is only a hobby and you will then understand the priority that Hearthstone is not for me.A� I am back to playing a bit each day to complete a daily quest or two.A� I watch the game on stream because it is an easy game to just veg out to while I’m writing or doing school work.A� Every once in a while I get delusions of grandeur and think that I’m going to grind to legend one month.A� So far, I haven’t pursued that particular goal.A� With my current schedule, I don’t think that I will anytime soon, either.

So, to make a long story short (I know, too late!) I had no idea that the rotation was imminent.A� Once I saw the Instagram post, I decided to do a little bit of research on what was imminent for the “Year of the Raven.”A� Needless to say, true to form, Blizzard did not give much information other than the name and the cards that were rotating into the Hall of Fame.A� Sure, I could speculate.A� Since I’m not a Hearthstone acolyte and I haven’t played WoW consistently for about 5 years now, any speculation on my part would most likely be wildly inaccurate.

When has that ever stopped us before?

The Good

Once upon a time, Molten Giant was part of an OTK warrior combo that quickly got nerfed via the Warsong Commander nerf.A� They had to further nerf Warsong Commander when OTK Patron Warrior became a thing.A� The final nail in the coffin of this card came because of the stifling nature of handlock and the fact that they often could cast all giants for very cheap or even free, as was the case for this card.

I was a huge fan of the old Handlock decks because they fit right into my playstyle.A� It was a control deck that required several different decisions to be made on every turn.A� I wasn’t the best Handlock player, though, and I understand why the deck became so dominant when played by players who are much better than I am.A� This card needed to be nerfed if it was to continue into the future and shake up the standard meta.

I mentioned in my discussion of the latest round of nerfs that I liked that Blizzard wasn’t ignoring their eternal format as I was afraid they might.A� Some of those decisions were directly related to the Wild format.A� This decision is the same.A� Because there are more tools to deal with a pre-nerf Molten Giant, they’re giving it a chance to see if it can find a place in the meta.A� I don’t know if this will allow old Handlock to shine again, but I’m holding out hope.

The Bad

Out of the three cards that are being put into the Hall of Fame, this is the decision that I understand the least.A� While this is a frustrating card to play against, I don’t often see it in Standard decks at all.A� I play against it all the time in Wild already because I play against a bunch of Mill rogue and occasionally see them in a Freeze or Quest Mage deck.

I’d have rather seen Doomguard in this slot and I’m not the only one.A� I’ve seen more than one discussion in Twitch chat (yes, they do happen sometimes) and on message boards about how annoying it is to play against Warlock with Doomguards, cubes, and Skull of the Man’ari.A� Warlock may or may not have been as oppressive as everyone thought when they nerfed priest (mostly) with the last patch, but I do know that I have seen a lot of Warlock being played on stream.A� I’m astounded that Doomguard is not in this spot.

This leads me to believe that maybe they are releasing a standard card that does a similar thing or would cause this card to be busted wide open.A� I know that Blizzard seems to shy away from pushing a mill strategy, even though some players want to see that in Hearthstone.A� I understand why Blizzard would not want it.A� Without a graveyard and the possibility of interaction, cards that are burned are gone.A� It’s just not a fun strategy for the kind of game that Hearthstone is designed to be.A� Hopefully, Blizzard hasn’t decided to make mill viable in Standard.A� The fact that this card is moving to Wild only makes me think that they have.

The Ugly

This is perhaps the single most frustrating card to play against in the game.A� Since the only win condition is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero, adding immunity to the game messes up all calculations and delays that victory by at least one turn.A� Since mage also has very powerful minion removal, the ability to gain life through Artificer now, and the ability to have more than two Ice Block in their decks, a sure victory often becomes a defeat that nothing could have been done to prevent.

So, I understand that reason for moving this card to Wild.A� However, they just gave a few new cards to Rogue that give them immunity for a turn similar to this card.A� So, I don’t completely understand the decision.A� Granted those cards work slightly different from this one and they can be played around (especially the secret that only grants immunity after damage is dealt and it doesn’t prevent the damage) easier than this one.

As a result, in addition to moving this card to Wild, perhaps they should have also adjusted this card so that it works more like that card or something.A� I honestly don’t know how they would change the card other than to make it like the rogue card, but that seems like a lazy way of doing things.A� A quick look at the most recent Wild snapshot shows that Mage decks that use Ice Block are only considered Tier 2, so perhaps Blizzard knows what they’re doing.A� So, I’m skeptical, but I guess that’s why I don’t design card games.

The Verdict

There are other things that they have announced.A� First, that we here at 2 Generations Gaming are most excited about is the announcement of a tournament mode.A� Yes, we can start to network and advertise the web page with our own tournaments in Hearthstone!A� When Chris told me about it, I was beyond excited.A� When we first started having the idea for the web page, I always wanted to do a tournament for Magic and we’ve even had discussions about that, too.A� Things are really starting to come together.

Two other cool things for filthy casuals like us is that they are altering some of the more difficult quests to finish and making them easier.A� This will mean less time invested in getting my gold to buy my packs that I will never open.A� Finally, the new Druid hero is finally here and she is easy to get.A� Win 10 Standard games over the season and you will have Lunara instead of Malfurion.A� All great stuff.

As far as the new set, I don’t have much to say right now.A� I refuse to speculate because I’m mostly ignorant to both Hearthstone and World of Warcraft at this point.A� Anything that I might say or think will be simply guessing and even though I made the joke earlier, I’m not usually one to engage in wild speculation on what Blizzard might do.A� As we saw with my analysis of Ice Block, it is sure to be incorrect.

However, I have seen some speculation from others who know better than I do.A� First, someone said that the year of the Kraken seemed to deal with mystical and god like powers.A� Then, the year of the Mammoth dealt with large creatures and effects.A� Therefore, the year of the Raven will deal with dark and dreary themes.A� This made them conclude that the next expansion might have something to do with Duskwood.A� There was another image out there that made theory seem plausible, but I don’t exactly see Duskwood in that icon at the middle of the teaser.A� I suppose that we will see.A� Continue to visit for more of my analysis as we get closer to the release.