Tag Archives: Magic

Tabletop Game of the Year 2020: Magic the Gathering

Introduction

The tabletop game of the year 2020 should not be a surprise. I don’t remember if I gave it away in the last article, but I suppose I did by omission. Chris and I have recently shown an interest in Commander. Those who frequent the page know by now that I play Magic the Gathering Arena nearly daily.

Though I’m getting better, it’s more accurate that I swear at MTGA daily.

Heck, I even diligently posted notable card articles throughout the year. Continued to buy sets (including far too many cards of Zendikar Rising) in spite of the fact that I haven’t played paper Magic the Gathering in at least a year. So, yes, if you have read the page at all, it will come as no surprise that Magic the Gathering is our tabletop game of the year 2020.

Similar to the mobile game of the year article, I will present the top 5 reasons for the choice. While I could give 10 or even 20 reasons, I will keep it at 5 (7, tops!)

#5 – Commander

I’ve been saying for several months now that I’m a Commander player who never played Commander. Sure, I goldfished a deck here and there on xMage. But, I never got into a regular playgroup and Chris and I never really dabbled in the format all that much. The closest we got was a few games of Tiny Leaders a few years ago.

That all changed last month. Well, not all of it. I still haven’t played a game of paper Commander. I goldfished each one of my decks that I now own. How do I own decks, you might ask. I’m glad you did. I purchased a Commander gift box from Channel Fireball that contained two of the prebuilt decks and some other goodies.

Then, I bought a super epic mega bundle of Zendikar rising that contained two other decks. I’ve already told this story. For those of you who haven’t read that post, the short story is that I now own 3 Commander decks. Chris, perhaps inspired by my purchase and definitely inspired by the cool cards in the set, bought a box of Commander Legends. He’s built a couple of decks, too. Now, we wait the time that we can get together and play and record.

#4 – Nostalgia

Regular readers of the page know that I’m not much of a nostalgia guy in general. I often scoffed in my teenage years when they kept trying to make Woodstock work again. I cackled audibly when the last one flamed out in violence. Talk about missing the point.

Nerd nostalgia, on the other hand, always works on me. Chris said something the other day about Commander feeling like when he first started playing the game with his buddy. I don’t have that same feeling yet with Commander. However, there are times that I’ll see a card in Legacy or Vintage and it will take me back to my freshman year in college when I learned how to play the game by borrowing a friend’s deck. So, like comics, as long as there is that attachment, I’ll keep coming back for more.

#3 – Finally a Viable Digital Alternative

Chris adamantly fights against our digital overlords. I stood by his side for as long as I could before finally caving last year. I’m now all in with the next generation consoles. I mean, if I can get the latest tech for 400 or 500 bucks? I’m wiling to trade off the physical medium. They mostly just take up space in my closets at this point. I don’t have a room like Chris does to show off the artwork.

How does this relate to Magic the Gathering? Well, my longest holdout against digital was our favorite collectible card game. MTGO still required real currency to buy digital cards. The economy of the game was the exact same but you didn’t get to keep the cards if the servers ended up getting shut down. xMage costs nothing. However, you have access to all cards. It’s great for messing around with limited strategies, but feels stupid for any type of constructed since there’s rarely any jank.

MTGA fixed that with the wild card system. I can buy cards with gold that I gain by playing the game and finishing quests. Most cards that I can’t find, I can craft using wild cards. No actual money is needed to play the game. Best of all, there is plenty of jank. Disclaimer: I have spent money on the game, though. I told you I’m all in.

#2 – Kids

Look at those happy kids playing soccer in a group without masks.

Kids are usually higher on my lists. However, similar to Dungeons and Dragons, I haven’t been able to hook the older boys on Magic the Gathering. Liam prefers Pokemon. Once upon a time, Aiden played Yu Gi Oh and as recently as a couple of months ago, he organized the cards again. So, while I don’t consider them completely lost causes, it has been a struggle to get them interested.

Quinn, on the other hand, loves Magic. Christine calls him my little buddy and it’s not far from the truth. He and I have even played the board games Arena of the Planeswalkers on more than one occasion. Every now and then, he takes out his dinosaur deck that he created to tinker with it a bit. Part of the reason I stay in the game is to keep his interest until he’s old enough to play with some strategery.

#1 – The Game is Just Healthy Right Now

Many, including myself, have decried the power level of the game. However, having played MTGA repeatedly over the last year and a half, I can say that the power level of Standard and Historic are right about where they want them. You get to play with powerful cards, but you don’t often get blown out in games.

I joked earlier that I swear at the game and that’s not entirely untrue. I do still get frustrated by the perpetual issues of mana screw or flood. But, those games are honestly few and far between. Plus, the developers have gone a long way to trying to fix them with new ideas like higher conditional fetches and flip lands.

Or, whatever they’re calling these things.

Of course, oldbies will argue that the game is completely different from when they played. This always progresses to the game is not as much fun as when they played. I argue this is part of the health of a game that lasted over 25 years. You want to play old school? By all means, do it. Let us poorer nerds have our overpowered Standard so we can pretend we’re as cool as you.

The Verdict

Hopefully I’ve made my case for Magic the Gathering as our tabletop game of the year 2020. While there have been times that I thought I might stop collecting, I’ve always come back. I’m glad that I did. The game is fun. It has a vibrant and growing community. Next year, they are releasing a set based on Dungeons and Dragons. What more could I ask for?

Zendikar Rising Notable cards: Miscellany

Introduction

Time for Zendikar Rising notable cards Miscellany. This most recent set of articles has taken significantly longer than anticipated. Maybe not longer than expected, but certainly longer than anticipated. Yes, dear friends, we are well into that annual tradition of back to school. When time is at a premium and that premium time ends up being time spent on the couch watching “Cobra Kai” or “Community”.

I end up striking last, a bit on the soft side, and show too much mercy. Still, for some reason, I relate to Johnny.

Yes, you could argue that if I cared so much about this web page and the content, I would make time while sitting on the couch. And, you’re right, to an extent. I do care about the web page and the content. I wouldn’t continue to pay 12 dollars a month to keep the domain if I didn’t. However, as this is currently just a hobby, well, it just is what it is. And, yes, with an attitude like that, it will most likely remain just a hobby. I’m comfortable with that. Let’s talk Zendikar Rising notable cards miscellany.

Multicolored (Nahiri and Omnath, et cetera, oh my!)

Honorable Mention (Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients): At the beginning of spoiler season, after I was done making a fool of myself by saying that the new Jace is broken af in Legacy and possibly Vintage, I texted Chris about this card. Fear not True Believers, I was not silly enough to call this one broken (or even overpowered) in any format. I simply said, “The new Nahiri looks fun, too.” And, that’s what these articles are all about.

Honorable Mention (Kargan Warleader): I often mention that, while I’ve never played Commander, I look at the game through a Commander lens. I have played a few games of Tiny Leaders against Chris, though, and I enjoy the concept thoroughly. One of my first TL decks was an Alesha, Who Laughs at Death warrior deck. This card would fit nicely there.

Omnath, Locus of Creation">Omnath, Locus of Creation: I don’t usually include actual broken cards in these articles. You can read previous ones to understand why. However, when it feels like WotC is just pushing the power level of Standard to new and ridiculous heights, I am 100% here for it. I watch Legacy and Vintage primarily to watch stupidly broken cards and combos. The difference between them and Standard is that I might actually get to play these stupidly broken cards thanks to MTGA.

Verazol, the Split Current">Verazol, the Split Current: Remember earlier when I said that I fancied myself a Commander player even though I’ve never played a single game of Commander? Well, this card is right up that alley. Technically, it could be a Tiny Leader, too. However, I really want to have the 99 card deck to see if I could truly do some stupid stuff with this card.

Colorless (A One Beast Party and Stupid Fun)

Honorable Mention Stonework Packbeast: I’m not entirely sure why, but as soon as I saw this jank, I knew that I had to include it in this article. I mean, it’s jank. It incorporates one of my favorite new mechanics in the set. Let’s go.

Lithoform Engine">Lithoform Engine: I texted Chris when I first saw this card, “Lithoform Engine is a potentially fun card. Bad, but fun.” He agreed. Well, if we’ve learned anything, that’s right up my alley. Can’t wait to play this dumb, bad, but potentially fun card.

The Verdict (Zendikar Rising Notable Cards Miscellany are just that)

There are some fun cards in this article. A few of the cards might even be competitive. Heck, there’s even a broken card that has caused one banning in standard. Similar to the rest of the set, it just depends on what you’re looking for. I know some people are crapping on this current era in MTG history, but I think they truly are threading the needle as well as can be expected. Sure, the competitive scene might not be as healthy as the past, but honestly, it’s kind of silly that they have a competitive scene for a children’s card game.

Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition

Introduction

Well, we are finally getting around to our Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition. Apologies that it’s arriving a bit late. I’m back in school and the beginning of this school year has kicked my butt. You should be happy that I’m back to gaming after all that football the last two articles. Heck, I was only able to recently resume my workout routine and that’s just because we have remote Wednesdays at my school. We’ll see if it persists to Friday.

I mean, heck, I was just finally starting to see some definition in these muscles. Don’t want to lose that!

So, yesterday, I was outed to a colleague that I play Magic: the Gathering. I have installed it on my work laptop. I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but there you have it. Well, we had a Zoom meeting yesterday and I was playing some MTGA. Wow, this entire paragraph could get me reprimanded. Oh well, in too deep now. No going back. Long story short, she saw me playing the game and playfully acted shocked at my audacity. That has nothing to do with the set. I just thought it was a humorous story.

Before I get onto Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition, let me remind you that these aren’t necessarily the best cards. You might not even consider them good. Hell, some of the cards might offend you personally. But, it’s my page. I’m going to pick the cards the way that I want to pick them.

White (It’s my party and I’ll be the fun police if I want to)

Honorable Mention (Practiced Tactics): The new party mechanic is mostly here, I assume, to prepare for the Dungeons and Dragons crossover set that is coming next year. Whatever the reason, I think it is a neat idea with much utility. I’m just glad that I mostly play on MTGA and don’t have to manually keep track of my party.

Journey to Oblivion – I wish that they had given this flash. It’s still good if you can discount it, but I just love the imagined look on my opponent’s face when I cast a flash spell that exiles. Oh well, guess we can’t have it all.

Tazri, Beacon of Unity – Chris and I were texting the other day and I said something about fancying myself a Commander player. Now, mind you, I haven’t played a single game of Commander and only a few games against him of Tiny Leader. Still, I’m intrigued by the format and hope to get a playgroup together when this pandemic is over.

Blue (Tatsumaki Senpukyaku)

(Dis?)Honorable Mention – If you get the reference in the header, then you will understand the theme of my blue choices. This card intrigues me. I’m not sure if it is a misprint or they are just messing with us. If you don’t kick it, it does nothing. I mean, it adds to the number of enchantments you control for spells that rely on that. But, there’s better ways to achieve that. What a dumb card.

Into the Roil – This article is coming so late this time that I’ve actually had a chance to play and play against some of the cards. I haven’t played this one specifically. However I have it in the stupid ramp deck that I grabbed to complete a quest in MTGA. It’s just a “fun” effect and the kicker draws you a card!

Jace, Mirror Mage: Chris texted me this card early in the spoilers. I texted back, “That’s going to be broken af in Legacy”. I’m pretty sure I was wrong about that. Hey, I’ve never claimed to be a professional at any of this. If I’m right, though, I’ll take all the credit and this paragraph will disappear from the article faster than you can say, “SAD!”

Black (The Orzhov have taken over)

Zof Consumption – Chris and I were just texting. I noticed something over the last few expansions and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me. I won’t tell you how the conversation started. It is definitely not safe for work. Maybe not safe for any environment. In any case, lifelink is becoming more and more a part of black’s color identity. I first noticed it with Vito, the Rose Thorn or whatever. That’s only because it is an annoying card to play against.

Ghastly Gloomhunter – While the earlier card isn’t strictly lifelink, that’s where our conversation ended. That these cards don’t have lifelink, but they have an effect very much like it. This card has lifelink and more and more black cards are coming out with that keyword. I don’t know why that bothers me. I do know that this card has a stupid name. That’s really the main reason I picked it. I want a job naming cards.

Nighthawk Scavenger – Chris texted me this one, too with the message, “It’s kind of like Tarmogoyf.” I texted back, “But it dies to lightning bolt.” We both got a good laugh from that because his friend who is more competitive than we ever are said the same thing. I guess you had to be there.

The Verdict (Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition are underwhelming)

Other than Jace, there isn’t much to get excited about. And, Jace might not even be all that exciting. I mean, there are some neat drafting strategies. Maybe I’ll mess around on xMage some once the set releases there. Because I’m mostly trash at drafting and I’m not sure how popular sealed is on MTGA, that’s the place that I can do my trash drafting without losing much in the way of resources. I think Chris was right when he said that Zendikar just isn’t that exciting anymore. We’ve been back three (!) times now and maybe the setting is just getting old.

Magic the Gathering JumpStart First Impressions

Introduction

I’m only giving my JumpStart First Impressions. I’ve only played through two trial runs of the set on MTGA. I noticed that it was live yesterday and was so excited that I texted Chris. I waited until today to play, though, since I had to do weekly quests. The TLDR is that the set is fun if you play it as intended.

You didn’t hear much from us over the last week. You also won’t hear much from us the week after next. Next week, I will do my comics reviews. Last week, we were in Vermont at a friend’s vacation house. Next week, we are doing our annual Cape trip.

Captain Trips ain’t so bad if you just wear a mask, folks.

Getting back to JumpStart, what do I mean by it’s fun if you play it as intended? Well, as Chris and I have discussed via text, there are some cool cards in the set. As a result, speculators are buying up the set for resale. I mean, it’s a free country and you can do what you want. However, this goes very much against the spirit of the set. Trust me, I will shun you for it. Now, with that nastiness out of the way, let’s talk about my JumpStart first impressions.

The Great

Fun concept – I’ve been frustrated with Magic the Gathering for the last few years. I’ve been working so much that I haven’t been able to get out and draft with real people at all. Chris and I have done a few sealed matches together and those have been fun. However, we haven’t been able to get together as much as we’d have liked. Now, with Covid, we hadn’t been able to get together at all for a couple of weeks. Christine asked why we hadn’t tried since things have settled a bit in our state, but I didn’t have a good answer.

What does that have to do with anything? Well, since when are we above non sequitur here at 2GG? However, this isn’t that. Because I haven’t been able to draft as much as I’d like, it’s made me frustrated. Drafting on MTGA takes some time that I don’t always have. JumpStart remedies that by allowing me to pick two packs, smash em together, and go. No fuss, no muss.

The Good

It’s Still Magic – When Chris and I were texting about JumpStart, he said something about fixing in the decks that would help against mana screw. While that is true, mana screw can still happen. One game in particular from my trial runs, I got screwed pretty hard on mana. However, my informal analysis is that mana screw will happen less on average than in a typical MTG session.

Well, I mean, mana screw is a metaphor. But, I guess this is cool, too.

The reason this is in the good and not the decent section is that there are good synergies in the various packs. I played Doctor Wizards in the first run. Talrand got me at least 5 drakes. I’ve never gotten that many when trying to build a deck around the card. The second time I played Berzerking The Skies or something like that. I didn’t see much in the way of berzerking, but I did fly over my opponent for the win.

The Decent

Speculators – I already touched on this earlier. Those who are regular readers of the page know that Chris and I are no fans of speculators. Sure, some of that is I’m a bit jealous of them and their ability to make money off of the misfortune of others. A recent example is that Chris texted about rumors of Twin being unbanned. So, speculators went and bought them up at a high rate. I wish I’d been able to spike that and make some extra cash.

Relating this back to the topic at hand, it seems that speculators are buying out boxes of the set and driving up the price. 200 bucks for 24 packs of cards is pretty steep. Especially since I still need to buy Ikoria product. However, JumpStart might be a fun way to try to get the boys playing Magic again. And, now I’m a speculator, but for a very different reason.

The Verdict

My JumpStart First Impressions are that the game mode is as fun as I had hoped. The only thing I didn’t like about the MTGA version is that I didn’t get a chance to flip through my deck to see what was in the deck. Actually, I guess there are a few things that I didn’t like. Secondly, you don’t get to keep your cards. You do get two cards as a prize, but you don’t get to keep your deck. Finally, it costs gold or gems each time you play. I thought it might be a promo thing where you paid your admission and then could play through various combos. No such luck. But, the good heavily outweighs the bad and I’m probably going to end up overpaying for a box. Thanks for reading about my JumpStart first impressions. Hope you see yo in the game!

Theros Beyond Death Notable Gruul Cards

Introduction

Welcome to my Theros Beyond Death notable Gruul cards article. Last time, I went over the Esper colors. Those are my favorite colors and my favorite two and three color combinations. As a died in the wool blue mage, I absolutely hate red. I do like forcing Gx in cube drafts but, other than that, I don’t have much use for green, either. With all of that being said, there have been some green and red cards that have caught my eye in the set.

I’m not terribly proud of this next admission, but it is relevant to the topic of discussion. I spent the last hour or so swearing at Magic the Gathering Arena opponents who seem to always be able to draw and play exactly the card they need when they need it. Mind you, I’m not opening that discussion. I just wanted to say that I was playing on MTGA.

They are allowing players to play with the World Championship decks from this weekend. It’s a cool event for cheap gamers like me who would never get a chance to play a competitive deck. I chose the Jeskai Fires deck. So, I am capable of playing red. I just don’t like to. With all that being said, lets look at some Theros Beyond Death notable Gruul cards.

Red (Bolt you for lethal? I think we can do a bit better than that.)

This card is sneaky fun, in my opinion. You get a two turn Act of Treason. Then, depending on the board state, you get a turn of removal. Finally, you get almost guaranteed board sweep unless your opponent is playing low attack and high health creatures. In any case, I would play this card for the giggles alone.

I’m a big fan of Through the Breach effects. This gives you that, plus a potential big body itself if you should ever end up getting devotion. I’m pretty sure this is one of the first cards that I texted Chris about and it was all about that Through the Breach text. That card is just so much fun to play in cube. I’d like to test if it is just as much fun in a deck built around it.

Green (You Want Infinite Mana? Because This Might Be How You Get Infinite Mana)

Magic the Gathering has been kind to shirtless green dudes the last few years. First, Oko threw the entirety of the multiverse into chaos. He become the first card in a while to get the ban hammer in almost every format, both competitive and casual. Now, this guy shows up. I’m obviously not saying that he is as powerful as Oko, but he could cause a bit of a ruckus with the right friends.

Speaking of friends, there’s this guy. Chris texted me a picture of him when he was spoiled. I don’t remember my exact response, but it definitely contained some curse words. Again, I can’t promise that this card is any good. In fact, in most formats, it probably isn’t. However, in Commander, this guy plus that dryad up there has got to be some kind of game winning combo. I’m too lazy to find it. Maybe one of you can.

The Verdict

Thanks for reading my part two, Theros Beyond Death Notable Gruul Cards. As promised, I’m not as excited about these cards as I was about the Esper cards. Still, there are some fun red and green cards. I just will never play them unless they come to one of the MTGO cubes and get picked up by xMage. Uh, I mean, unless I invest some case into MTGO and play the cube there. Now that I’m somewhat back in the habit, join us in a couple of days for the colorless and multicolored cards.

Theros Beyond Death Notable Cards

Introduction

Note: This is only the Esper edition of Theros Beyond Death notable cards. It is also two weeks late. Those of you who have been with us for any time at all know this is all very on brand for 2 Generations Gaming. In spite of our best efforts, we are often late and incomplete in our assessments. So be it! Enjoy anyway!

Welcome to my Theros Beyond Death notable cards article. As you know from my previous articles on the subject, these are not necessarily the best cards. They might not even be the most popular cards. They are simply cards that speak to me for some reason or another.

What’s this? Actual gaming content on our gaming web page? Yeah, it took a bit longer than anticipated, but I’m on a regular schedule again updating the page. There will be a plethora of gaming and comic content for the foreseeable future. Look forward to that! Now, let’s get on to Theros Beyond Death notable cards.

White (Stupid Combos? Isn’t that usually Green?)

When I first saw this card, I texted Chris, “This card has to be broken, right? Then again, I’m bad, so I might just be wrong.” He did some searching but didn’t find anything in Standard. I still contend that someone somewhere is gonna break this one.

Honorable Mention – Another (actual) infinite combo? What is happening with white lately? It used to be that their infinite combos were impossible to pull off. Now there is one definite broken card and possibly another if I’m right about Sentinel’s Eyes. I mean, I know I’m not, but it won’t stop me from hoping.

Blue (Forget Countering Your Spells, I’m Just Going to Exile Them)

Those who know me best know that I am a blue mage at heart. I complain often about the fun police but that is only because I want to be the fun police. If I can’t counter a creature, then I want to destroy it. If I can’t counter a spell…well, there’s rarely a time that I can’t counter a spell. This card just adds extra salt to that counter by exiling the card.

An enchantment? With flash? That exiles? Another way to look at it is that it is a permanent instant that prevents the casting of one of your opponent’s most powerful spells. Either way, those are two great tastes that taste great together. They taste like salt. You didn’t think I was going to say victory there, did you? Goodness me, no, this thing is way too slow.

Black (If I Can’t Exile It, I’ll Destroy It)

You are probably noticing a theme here. Honestly, if you’re not, I’d be worried. It’s not that tough of a pattern. This one is even less powerful than the blue enchantment at the same mana cost, which seems weird. Then again, WotC did print Oko, so mana cost clearly doesn’t mean a thing.

My main decks are generally UB. The reason for this, as mentioned above, is that I like to play the fun police. If I can’t counter your spells, then I just want to remove them. From the battlefield, from your hand, from your graveyard. Just get them the hell out of here.

The Verdict

There are some fun cards in the Esper colors in this set. I have updated my UB control list on Arena. So far, it hasn’t been as much fun to play, but that usually just means that I need to play more to figure out how things work. Join me next time for the Gruul version and then colorless and lands after that. Thanks for reading!

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.”

My 2 Cents on Penny Dreadful

(Editor’s Note: It’s been a while since I’ve done a terrible pun for a title and one of these editor’s notes. Just a little bit of nostalgia on this Friday morning.)

Introduction

I am always on the lookout for new ways to play Magic the Gathering. I’m not much of a competitive player, though I will join the occasional draft online and have even considered going to one of our LGS for actual human interaction while doing so. The thing keeping me from doing so now is that I’ve taken on another job and work 16 hours a day in addition to writing for the page and now releasing videos and podcasts. Don’t worry about me, dear reader, I do it all out of love.

When I first heard about Commander, right around the time I was opening my Return to Ravnica product, I pulled a Vorel of the Hull Clade. While not much of a Spike, this confluence of events opened part of my brain that I don’t often visit. This card, so cheap, 99 other cards, the evolve mechanic, blue mana, green creatures…oh my. You could probably abuse this card terribly in that format. I did stick to my not so Spikey roots because I didn’t go in search of Legacy and Vintage legal cards that would break it completely, but I did put in every evolve creature and proliferate card that I could find. I considered a doubling season, but they were too expensive. Chris and I played a game and I blew him out pretty convincingly.

One of the few times I’ve played competitive Magic against actual people, I learned about Tiny Leaders. While Vorel would make quite the Tiny Leader as well, I instead focused on the new hotness at the time, Khans of Tarkir and M15. I made two decks, a warrior focused deck with Alesha as my commander and a green “sort of” ramp style deck with Yisan, the wandering bard. Both decks are fun to play and given more time, money, and opportunity to play them against people, I might tune them a bit better.

More recently, I heard about a format called Penny Dreadful. It was sold as “not really dreadful, actually a lot of fun”. Easily persuaded by such salesmanship, I went on a search for this particular format. Magic the Gathering? With cards that only cost a penny? Less than a dollar for each deck? This sounds like my kind of format.

Wait, what? Only a penny?

Technically, it is all cards that are listed on MTGO for 0.01 tix at the release of a new set. The format isn’t standard, but the price list is determined using the release of a new set. While that might seem limiting because, it is by definition limiting, there are still a ton of cards available in the format. By the count on the following list, there are almost 10000 available cards.

There are old cards. Yes, as far back as alpha! There are new cards. As mentioned above, the list gets updated with the release of a new set and Rivals of Ixalan is in there. There are cards of all rarities, even Mythics. There are legendary creatures. There are Atogs. There are slivers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any planeswalkers. But, there is such a wide variety of cards that you’d be hard pressed not to find a deck that you would enjoy playing. And, at less than a dollar (really, less than 50 cents probably), who cares if you don’t like the deck.

There’s even fake delver!

Ashiok is only a penny?

As I quickly learned, you have to be careful with the search terms at the Scryfall page. I clicked the link that took me to the Penny Dreadful list and then proceeded to just press buttons, thinking that it would keep the format while searching for cards of those colors and type. This led to a confused, though brief, conversation with Chris because I looked for UB initially and Ashiok showed up as one of the cards. I know that Ashiok isn’t played very much, but only a penny? No, turns out ol’ Ash is 4 dollars and, alas, not legal in our poor man’s pauper.

As an aside, if you are searching for anything and want to verify if it is legal in Penny Dreadful, you need to include the f:pd search term in your search. Maybe you are more internet savvy than this old man, but if you aren’t, that’s just a little PSA for you.

Okay, back to the cards that are legal. As I was doing the searches and listing all of the cool card types that were legal, my brain started doing it’s thing where it combines two things that may not be completely related. With Legendaries, we could have Penny Commander. Since there is such a wide variety of cards, why not Penny cube? I’m sure all of these things have already been done, but my mind boggled with the possibilities.

Zombies Reincarnated?

One of the first decks I ever built after getting back into the game was one to counter a deck that Chris pounded myA� face in with during our previous meeting. He had a life gain deck that outraced whatever I had played and I tried to think of a way to get to him without attacking his life total. As I researched ways to win the game, my devious plan began to take shape. Go ahead, Chris, gain all the life you want. I’m going to eat your library.

That deck is posted here. I won’t vouch for the competitiveness of the deck or even that it is any good at all. As I said, I built it several years ago. While my deck building prowess might not be that much more advanced now, it was almost nonexistent then. Still, for some reason, when faced with this new format, I searched blue/black first. Many of the cards that showed up in the search were those cards that I used way back when. This deck might not be viable in any actual format, but against other dollar store decks? Hmm, I wonder. Plus, as I mentioned before, it’s less than a dollar to build!

Stay Tuned…

I haven’t actually built or tested the deck yet. But, I have a vague idea and plenty of time over the weekend to search through cards, find potential combos, and attempt to make my fellow Magic the Gathering players miserable. Because, as we all know, Magic is terrible as a two player game, but solitaire, it can be a lot of fun. I should be back within a week or two to report whether the format, as promised, “isn’t dreadful at all”.

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!

Impressions of Ixalan

Introduction

I was in Wal*Mart with Aiden a couple of weeks ago.A� That’s how most middle age dad stories start.A� Gone are the days of, “Oh, man, I was so drunk…” or “And that’s when the goat walked by!”A� I’m not saying that it is better or worse, just different.A� Oh, and much better.A� 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.A� Who the hell knows at this point?A� 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.A� Ever since, because it is so convenient, I find myself at that store at least once a day on average.A� 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.A� 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.A� With almost no hesitation, I bought it.A� 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.A� 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.A� He responded with, “Never heard of it.”A� I explained it a bit to him and said, “I really like what they’re doing with casual Magic.”A� 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.”A� 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.A� I think they might have listened to some of the players who started to wonder out loud what the audience for prereleases were.A� 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.A� 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.A� 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.A� They give away a free deck, teach players the fundamentals of the game, and have a much more friendly atmosphere for newer players.A� 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.A� 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.A� 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.A� The price point was great for getting as many cards as you did and the game mode itself is fun enough for multiple plays.A� 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.A� I haven’t looked closely at the cards, but they look to give bonuses like card draw or stats and keywords for your cards.A� 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.A� 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.A� I hope that they plan on continuing to do this type of thing, but I’ve been wrong before.A� I really liked the Arena of the Planeswalkers game, too, even if the set up was a bit convoluted.A� They only made a couple of them and then stopped.A� 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.A� If that game “suffered” from not being close enough to Magic, this one doesn’t have that problem.A� It’s exactly a Magic game with this other piece grafted on top of it.A� 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.A� 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.A� 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.A� I will get the boys together next week over vacation to play it and then give my actual thoughts about the game.A� I don’t think it will happen next week as we are trying to get the podcast up and running again.A� If nothing else, it will be an annual tradition to talk about Star Wars.A� So, look for my review of Explorers of Ixalan in two weeks.