Tag Archives: Ixalan

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


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.


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.

Feeling a Draft (RIX, RIX, IXN – 4/1/2018)



A couple of days ago, I got inspired to go online and do a Magic the Gathering draft. I wish that I had taken notes, because after I realized that it would have made a great article. I still think, even without notes, that I can make it into a decent article. Instead of getting into the weeds too much, I can just talk about some general “ideas” that came from the experience. Hopefully, in the future, I will keep better notes and I can refine my writing to more accurately reflect my thoughts during the draft.

One of the things I do remember is that early in the draft, I texted Chris and said, “I’m drafting and I’ve gotten all of the vampires and cleansing rays.” He asked if it was standard. I replied that it was and he said, “Well, you’ve already won.” I agreed and it turned out to be true. I won the first match, though it was closer than anticipated, took a bye match 2, and then had to drop because Easter plans with the in laws loomed. Therefore, we unfortunately don’t know the ultimate fate of this deck, but I’m just going to live in the fantasy that I went easy 3-0 and collected my “no prize”.

I’ve never actually won a no prize. By extension, does that mean that I’ve actually won?

P1P1 – Snap Pick Bishop of Rebirth

Oh man, how lucky am I? First pack, I opened a Bishop of Rebirth. When I did a two man draft against Chris, we opened this card. I hadn’t anticipated at the time that it could be a bomb. Having somehow drafted it and played it against him, I now see that it very much is and can change the tide of a game very quickly. Of course I’m going to pick that one first and then worry about the rest later.

3-0, here I come. This Bishop of Rebirth is going to…wait, what is this? As you can see from the picture above, that’s not Bishop of Rebirth. That’s Bishop of Binding. It’s not a terrible card, but is definitely isn’t Bishop of Rebirth. Oh, crap.

Remainder of Pack One

So, what do you do when the bomb you thought you drafted turns out to just be Mentos and Coke? Well, if you are me, apparently, you just draft vampires. Seriously. I started down that route and realized about halfway through the pack that vampires were wide open. Not only that, but I did a test to see if anyone else was paying attention. I saw a Cleansing Ray early int the pack and thought about picking it to protect my vamps, but there was another card that I wanted, so I went with that.

Much to my surprise, the Cleansing Ray came back around. I definitely took it that time because now it was the end of the pack. What is going on with this draft, I wondered? Vampires are wide open and Cleansing Rays are not being drafted. Clearly, my opponents are not paying attention or they are focused on other strategies. I guess we’ll see.

Come to me, Ugly. You will not show up later on in these matches to destroy me.

Packs Two and Three

I just continued to draft vampires. I was also at the point where I just hate drafted every single Cleansing Ray that I saw (there were a total of five that I drafted). I think it was after the third ray that I texted Chris and we had our conversation. I ended up with 3 Conquistadors, a Legion Lieutenant, a couple of Oathsworn dudes, one or two Queen’s Commissions and other ways to make tokens for lifelink and a way to bring back the Oathsworn dudes, a Skymarcher Aspirant, and those are just the cards that I can remember 4 days out. Plus, I was able to get some removal. It really was a beautiful deck and I wish that I had been able to get a screenshot of it.

The Match

As I already mentioned, I was only able to play one match because I got a bye Round 2 and had to drop Round 3. The match wasn’t as much of a runaway as I anticipated. Game 1, I got the Legion Lieutenant to stick late in the game and finally ran him over. He was able to remove my only fliers in game 2 and stick one or two of his own for the win there.

He also removed my lieutenant early in game 3, but I was able to neuter his fliers effectively and control his ground game enough to hold on until I could give another one of my vampires flying and get through his blockers for the win. It was intense and I almost timed out, but felt good to get back into drafting.

The Verdict

Guess who’s back? Back again?

While I had a miserable experience drafting the latest Masters set, which Chris and I talked about on the podcast this past week, this draft went much better. I may be playing the results a bit here, but I think that I’m going to continue to draft in Ixalan for the next few weeks until Dominaria starts and then I can’t wait to see what experience that set provides in terms of drafting. It’s probably my favorite (and most accessible for me) way of playing the game and I’m glad that Wizards continues to support it in a big way.

Feeling a Draft (2-3-18 RIX, RIX, IXN)


I mentioned in a previous article that the 2 Guys Gaming got together this past weekend. We played some of the old X-Men arcade title on Chris’s new Christmas present, the Pandora’s Boxx. We played about a dozen matches of Dragonball FighterZ. In fact, that’s what the last article was about. We also talked about playing some Magic the Gathering. Well, neither of us has a deck that has been updated (or even tuned) for a couple of months, so we’d have to figure something else out.

Inspired by this impending get together and with 20 dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I went to Wal*Mart to grab four packs of the latest MTG set. I figured I could combine them with two packs from my Ixalan fat pack (I’ll never get used to calling it a bundle) so that Chris and I could do a 2 player draft draft. What the heck. It had to go better than my disastrous xMage cube draft that I tried.

I also took the opportunity to open the rest of the packs from the fat pack. I have to admit that it was a weird feeling. For no particular reason, I had been hoarding them plus the packs from my booster box since I bought them months ago. I didn’t get anything worth value. Certainly nothing along the lines of the shiny Chandra that I opened from that set and promptly sold on eBay for 75 dollars. I got a new Vraska and a Wakening Suns Avatar in the last pack. So, a couple of fun cards that maybe I’ll do something with eventually.

The Draft

I thought the format we were using was Winchester, but apparently it isn’t. It is a variation of that, too. I can’t remember where I found it, so I will just briefly describe it here. We shuffle all of the packs together, put them in a pile between us, and one person starts by dealing out 3 cards face up and one card face down. The person who didn’t deal picks one card, the person who did deal picks two, and the last goes to the person who didn’t deal. Continue until all cards are drafted. Build a 40 card deck and battle.

The reason that I went with this format was that I couldn’t figure out the math of the Winchester format. It felt like players would end up with different numbers of cards and that didn’t seem to make sense to me. I have not actually tested this theory, so maybe there is balance in the format that I’m not seeing. This format ensures that both players end up with the same size pool from which to build their deck. It does take some of the intrigue away from drafting, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t pay all that much attention to what Chris drafts and what his plan is, so it’s all a surprise to me when it comes to playing the games.

I would hate draft that card, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s something you need. But, I’ll draft it anyway because strategery is one of my strengths!

It didn’t feel like there were many bomb rares or mythics in the pool. We did open a Huatli, which is just as bad on paper as I thought it would be when I did my Rivals of Ixalan preview article. While we were drafting, nothing else jumped out at me. I ended up going off board because there were very few blue cards and none of them were really worth drafting and went with Abzan. It was actually more WB with a splash of green for Hunt the Weak and Hardy Veteran. Chris put together a Naya deck with a heavy dinosaur theme. He ended up with Huatli, poor guy.

The Deck

I said earlier that I didn’t see any bomb rares or mythics. As I was typing my deck into Tapped Out for the screenshot, it immediately recognized what I wasn’t able to see until I drew the card during the second game. Bishop of Rebirth is a draft bomb rare and don’t you forget it. Overall, the deck was good. A little creature heavy for my play style, but once it got cranking with that Bishop, there’s no stopping it. Add in removal for days and it should add up to a win.

The Games

So, yeah, about that win. I lost game two to some bad luck. I drew 2 of my three forests before drawing a single plains so that I could play the various white cards that were rotting in my hand. I ran Chris over in game 2 initially with my dorks before he recovered and stabilized. We played at a stale mate for a while until I could get my Bishop of Rebirth on the field and just remove all of his stuff while bringing mine back.

The last game was one of those epic affairs for which we will hopefully eventually become famous. We again went back and forth with me gaining the upper hand and what I thought was a two turn win when I drew my flying creature. He top decked a “pacifism” and I had to play some mind games with him to keep him from killing me for a few turns. I finally got rid of his big ugly and tried to stay alive long enough to get my Bishop out there. After the game, which he eventually won, I saw that the Bishop was two turns away. Oh well, he won this round fair and square.

Until Next Time…

I’m researching some other 2 player draft formats. One thing that we could do is just do a 6 pack sealed match, but I actually prefer the strategy of drafting, even if it doesn’t contain all of the intrigue due to the fact that cards are “known”. There are some other formats that do introduce that the unknown into the draft. Who knows? Maybe we will try one of those formats next time. Then again, we have something that we enjoy, it works for us, and why fix what ain’t broke.

Noob’s Impressions of Rivals of Ixalan


Well, it’s that time again.’ Chris texted a couple of weeks ago saying that his interest in Magic the Gathering was growing once again. I texted back, somewhat jokingly, “Just in time for the new set.”‘ The second set in the Ixalan block, Rivals, is very close to being released.’ In fact, the prerelease might even be this weekend.’ Or next weekend.’ Or it was last weekend.’ 2 Generations Gaming, always on the cutting edge!

Regardless of when the prerelease happens (It was last weekend.’ The set releases tomorrow.), it happens during a month when I’m not getting paid.’ One of these years, I’m going to get smart and just squirrel away 30 bucks for the January set prerelease.’ Ah, but I digress.’ As Chris is showing more interest in the game, there are rumblings of the original 2 Guys getting together to game, and I actually played a disastrous game on xMage the other day, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at these cards and see if I’m going to spend hard earned money on them.

Spoiler Alert: I will.
Note: Not actually my picture, but only because I’m too lazy to go upstairs and stage my own collection.

Those of you who read my latest Hearthstone article know that I set my preview of that set up slightly differently from my usual “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” format.’ I highlighted certain things that I found interesting about the set.’ Since that seems to work pretty well for a preview, I will continue with that format here.

The Mechanics (Or, What Does “Raid” Mean Again?)

One of the best things about a new Magic set is seeing what new mechanics they are adding to the game and what old ones they are recycling from previous sets.’ One of the more recent examples has been scry.’ Scry was a part of the game, but it recently fundamentally changed and became an evergreen for blue mostly.’ Then, it changed the actual rules of the game by being included in the new mulligan rule.’ For a player like me who is into the wonkier elements of the game, that was a really cool evolution to watch.

There are still dinosaurs, pirates, merfolk, and vampires from the first set in the block.’ The recycled mechanics that I can see from glancing at the spoilers are enrage, explore, and raid.’ Of those, I’m most interested in raid.’ That one debuted in the Tarkir block and you might think it odd that I’d chose a more aggro mechanic over the other decidedly control oriented ones.’ I can’t explain it. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Besides, look what they gave my beloved Blue.’ Not sure how you’d make it work, but I live for this weird stuff.

The new mechanic for the set is Ascend.’ According to my’research‘and some 3rd grade reading comprehension, when you control 10 or more permanents, you get the city’s blessing for the rest of the game.’ This ascension gives some cards that you might play a bonus effect.’ I’ve mentioned in a couple of my recent articles that I’m glad that Wizards of the Coast is willing to treat Magic the Gathering as a game.’ I get it that we humans like to make our games into serious competitions that we then discuss in very serious and important terms for hours on end.

However, and Chris and I (and perhaps some of you out there) struggle with this quite a bit, these are just games.’ We all grew up playing them.’ Very few of us made any kind of living from them.’ Now, it seems like every kid with a webcam and a microphone thinks that they are a “pro gamer”.’ There are leagues forming.’ It sounds ridiculous and it might be ridiculous, but I imagine people said the same thing about professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey back when those players were associating and leagues were forming.

The point that I’m finally getting to is that even companies like Wizards of the Coast have gotten into the act by promoting their tournaments on Twitch.’ So, it’s nice that they haven’t sold out completely to their competitive players.’ It looked for while, mainly around the Tarkir block, that they might do just that.’ But, they caught the power creep, backed off, and even started to cater more to the casual crowd.’ I’m not saying that Ascend won’t be competitive.’ In fact, they might have designed it exclusively with competition in mind.’ All I’m saying is that this filthy casual loves the design and I can’t wait to play around with it.

This card, in particular, looks to have definite competitive flair.

The Planeswalkers

After the mechanics, the next thing that I like to watch out for are the planeswalkers.’ They aren’t often the best cards in a set, but they are fun cards and they are a different card design from pretty much anything I’ve ever seen in any game.’ The loyalty mechanic adds new and interesting strategies and even, in some cases, fundamentally change the way the game is played.’ Plus, it’s just cool to open one of these guys.’ The planeswalkers in this actual set are new ones.’ It appears as if they are listening to players who were sick of seeing the old guard of Jace and company.

The first comment on Mythic Spoiler for this card starts, “This card is bad.”‘ It very well might be.’ In fact, I agree with every point that the comment makes.’ However, anyone who does any sort of searching on the web page knows that doesn’t matter one bit to me.’ Is it fun?’ Again, probably not, but would I still try to build a deck around it if I happened to pull one from a pack?’ For a third time, no.’ Pretty picture, though.

Okay, now this is more like it.’ The card does what RB wants to do.’ It discards, steals creatures, sometimes kills them, and deals direct damage.’ I don’t usually play RB because, ew, Red, but if I did, this would be a card that I could get very excited about.’ The card is good and fun for at least one player.’ Now for the payoff.’ Would I attempt to build a deck around the card if I pulled it from a pack?’ Absolutely.’ And the first attempt would be absolutely horrible.

Notable Cards

Now for the obligatory mention that this will not be a list of the best cards.’ I’ve already made it abundantly clear in this article that I care nothing about competitive play.’ I will just pick one card from each color that jumps out and speaks to me.


This one immediately jumped out at me as I was reading through the white cards, but I did go through the rest of them to see if anything else might be cooler to me.’ I did take a close look at Sphinx’s Decree because I love playing the fun police, but that card also punishes my playstyle, so ultimately, it wouldn’t be fun for anyone.’ This one, on the other hand, exiles cards and buffs another vamp.’ It is very easy to remove, but that little bit of extra oomph from the plus stats has my brain dancing.

White Honorable Mention

Just because the keyword vomit makes me think of the card that I made for Chris.


This is a blue card with a heavy dose of red. Similar to the card I highlighted earlier with Raid, this one draws cards, which is what Blue does.’ But, it also gives plus stats and basically requires you to attack every turn.’ Those are both what red does.’ Very cool card designs in this set overall.

Blue Honorable Mention

I told you I live for this weird stuff.’ If this thing had flash, it would absolutely be my favorite card. It also might be broken as hell.


Okay, I’m not immune to big, dumb, shiny creatures as this pick shows.’ It’s a potential bomb mythic in draft and sealed, which I generally tend to avoid for these picks because I want to go a bit off the beaten path.’ But, this guy is just insane.’ Look at that ability!’ Each turn, you just ping one of your opponents creatures and they are basically racing you to 6 mana at that point.’ Just brutal.

Black Honorable Mention

Well, a big dumb idiot and a little dumb idiot.’ It just so happens that in black in this set, Wizards has made their idiots interesting.’ Flash?’ Deathtouch?’ Immediate board effect?’ I love all of those words individually and together, they have me thinking UB.’ See, I haven’t lost my way.


What in the name of Robo Rosewater is this card?’ I mean, it isn’t quite at Defcon 1 levels of the random magic card tweeting bot, but it defintely has that je ne sais quoi flavor that makes me wonder if someone took the day off at the office and just grabbed this one from the old Twitter feed.’ Some kind of WR life gain deck?’ Who knows, but I love it.

Red Honorable Mention

What has gotten into them over there in the WotC offices?’ Blue cards that do Red things?’ Red Cards that do Blue and Green things?’ I mean, I guess this one is more in line with something like Cathartic Reunion or that other card that is escaping me at the moment that makes you discard to draw.’ I’m sure there are a couple.’ But, that mana ramp is cool and on more than just this one card.


Another card that borders ever so closely to the old Robo Rosewater territory.’ In a ramp deck, late game, there are just dinosaurs hitting the board, fighting other creatures, clearing the board, setting up for a possible lethal on the next turn.’ Again, maybe a bulk uncommon, but I could have so much fun with this thing.

This is the first card from the set I think that I texted Chris about when I saw that it was being offered as some promo.’ He had texted me about it earlier and that must have stuck with me and triggered something when I saw the card.’ It would be fun in a ramp stompy deck and I would laugh uncontrollably if someone were able to bounce it out after their hatchling died.


Another big, dumb idiot.’ Virtually worthless in any format other than maybe EDH, but it would just be one of those WTF cards that has you doing a bunch of crazy stuff on your turn every time you were able to cast it.’ Off to xMage to build this terrible EDH deck!


A silly restriction?’ A ridiculous (and maybe ultimately stupid and pointless) payoff?’ A mention of Jace in the flavor text?’ Where do I sign up?

The Verdict

I have to say that I wasn’t anticipating getting back into main Magic any time soon.’ I’ve been very satisfied with the off shoot Magic games and other games that I’ve been playing with the boys.’ When Chris mentioned that he was feeling the itch again, it got me thinking.’ I also had a free spot on my “daily” article routine that was right around the prerelease/release of the set, so I figured that it wouldn’t hurt anything to take a closer look at the set.

I’m glad that I did.’ It feels like it has just the right amount of jank to get me interested and deck building again.’ Once I pick up my box and bundle combo of the set, then I can have a huge pack opening party with the boys.’ I know that they love to open cards as much as I do, so it will be fun to get their thoughts on the cards, too, as we go along.’ Well, I guess I’m right back into the cardboard crack.

Impressions of Ixalan


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.

The Good

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.

Cold? Another Shining reference? Nah, the cold never bothered me anyway.

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.

What better way to hook ’em than with free? Even Heisenberg knows that.

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!

The Bad

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.

The Verdict

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.

Recapturing the Magic


I did an article a few weeks ago about the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set after playing it with Aiden and Quinn. While we still haven’t had a chance to play all four of us, we did simulate the experience recently. I played as both Bolas and one of the Gatewatch decks. What I found is that the encounter is tuned for 3 players to face the dragon. Not a huge surprise, but fun to see how precise Wizards has gotten in tuning the game. There are still powerful cards and decks in all formats, but they have come a long way since the overpowered Tarkir block and Standard is the most open that I’ve seen in the 3 or 4 years that I’ve been watching. In either case, once we get a chance to play the game as it is intended with all four of us, I will give another impression. This article is about the latest expansion, Ixalan.

The Good

Chris and I have been texting a bit back and forth about the recent sets. Nothing really jumped out at us from Kaladesh or Amonkhet, even if he was excited about the theme of Amonkhet. I think I might have mentioned it in my last article, but it didn’t even look like Ixalan would get me back into the game. Then, a few things happened. One, I stopped collecting comic books again. I enjoyed the stories and the community that I was starting to build, but I just couldn’t justify the cover prices anymore, especially at the rate I was buying the books. That freed up some money for other nerd pursuits. Then, I ran the idea of the set by Liam and he said, “Cool!”

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

So, I took that saved comic book money and I blew it on a booster box and Fat Pack (now called a “bundle”, I think) for Ixalan because that’s how I roll. Primarily, I’ve been a collector and that usually gives me the most bang for my buck. I get a majority of the cards from the set for my binder and usually enough to add some cards to the couple of decks that I still have.

Granted, I still have to open the product. Some of that is neglect on my part. It took me forever to open my Amonkhet packs. I might even have half of a box that wasn’t opened. I know for a fact that we have Dicemasters left to open from the box that I purchased for the draft that we did a few months ago. Most of it, though, is that Liam was so excited for the cards that I wanted to open them when he had a chance to help us. He’s been in play, which has been intense over the last two weeks because it was showtime, but now that’s all over. In addition, I’d like to capture some content for a YouTube channel that has been criminally ignored for the better part of 2 years.

Actual footage from our YouTube channel. Actually, this would get more views.

So, this whole review is a bit disingenuous. When has that ever stopped us? I can definitely say that it is a good thing that I’m back into the game of Magic, even if I haven’t actually played against Chris in several months. He, too, has seen his interest in the game grow through his online business selling cards, so it might only be a matter of time before we get together for one of our infamous nerd nights and bust out the Magic cards.

The Bad

Knowing very little about the set, I can’t really give much in the ways of honest impressions, as I said earlier. However, I will say that no matter my chosen nerd hobby of the moment, I tend to go overboard. I was spending almost 200 dollars a month in comics for most of the year. I bought a box of Dicemasters and Heroclix to prepare for a podcast episode that was supposed to be made several months ago (and finally hopefully will this weekend). I always buy a booster box and fat pack of every Magic set (including going back in history to the first Mirrodin set when I started getting back into gaming all those years ago) and I’m now trying to resist purchasing an XBox One, even though it would make for good gaming partners with Kevin, maybe Chris, and the boys.

Tom gets me.

So, it is bad that I’m back into Magic. It isn’t as bad as if I decided to start buying comics again. I think I might have even said as much to Chris during one of our conversations. Something along the lines of Magic might have been expensive, but at least it was only 200 dollars every couple of months instead of every month and the cards have more utility than the comic books. The comic books are easier to display, but who the hell do I have coming to my house to look at my comic book collection? At least with the cards, I can play the game against my kids even if Chris and I are too busy to hang out.

The Ugly

You know, I put together this format early in my blogging career…wait, can you call it a career if you’ve never made a dime from it? Nevertheless, this format worked well for my Steelers page because there’s almost always at least one good thing, one bad thing, and one really terrible thing that you can take from a sporting event, if it is properly framed. However, being critical of creative projects is a much trickier proposition and I don’t always have something terrible to say about them. I understand that people often put their hearts and souls into the creative pursuits and therefore try to find the good in them. Usually I can stretch to find a bad, but “The Ugly” is usually just me explaining myself or making an awkward joke.

Worst. Critic. Ever.

Maybe I will try a little harder to find things that I don’t like for these reviews. Maybe I will better research a product before posting a review of it. After all, Googling “Ixalan spoilers” isn’t exactly the epitome of responsible journalism. Maybe I will tweak the format to more appropriately match my overall optimistic and sunny demeanor. After all, it is based on a 50 year old movie and probably not speaking to the demographic that we should be courting.

The Verdict

Pirates and dinosaurs were enough to get me interested in Magic again. I can’t speak personally on the overall quality of the set, but having watched a few Twitch streams recently, I do think that the Standard meta is healthy and that Wizards has recovered nicely from the stale experience that the overpowered Tarkir block brought. It’s a bit bad for my budget that I’m into Magic again, but not nearly as bad as comic books were. Overall, I’m excited about the game again and that’s a positive.