Tag Archives: Origins

Disappearing Act

(Editor’s Note: Against my better judgement, we are going to run yet another “Magic just hasn’t got the same appeal anymore”, but this one feels different. It just might be the last for a while as I explore other games.)

At this point, I’m not even sure that I can call it a lull anymore. I am simply not interested in Magic: the Gathering right now. i have bought over 200 dollars worth of product over the past three sets and haven’t opened any of it. Furthermore, I don’t have any plans to do so any time, soon. I think that is the most telling indicator that something is different this time.

It’s no secret that Chris and I go through phases. We are often excited about a set and what it can offer us during our monthly game nights. That excitement can last two months and has carried us into the next set. Theros got us back into the game on a regular basis. Khans had us playing Magic in some for or another right through until the end. There was the brief lull around the time of Fate Reforged. More on that later as is might be helpful in explaining the current malaise regarding Magic.

It started in a big way during the Origins spoiler. Neither of us found much promise in the explanation from Wizards that it “wasn’t an ordinary core set.” Hell, as card released, it was the coriest (is that a word?) of core sets. Sure, you got the flipwalkers, but other than that, what about Origins wasn’t a normal core set? Another Wizards promo screamed form the (basic) mountaintops, “This will usher in a new era for Magic: the Gathering!” How exactly has it done that?

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

All of the underwhelming reprints? No, that’s absolutely par for the core set course. Scry is a permanent fixture? Cool idea, but who cares that it happened during this set. Scry was already a big part of the game thanks to Theros. Renown? Oh, please, don’t even get me started. I will sound too much like a jilted lover left at the alter on my wedding day. Before I knew you, I loved you so, renown. Let’s just leave it at that. Every single one of these represents a common complaint about core sets. Heck, even the aforementioned flipwalkers represent unrealized potential. God, do I sound like a teacher or what? Maybe I just sound like my old teachers. Either way, all they really gave us was another overpriced Jace to add to my list of cards I’ll most likely never get to play.

I should say that I haven't played them in reality. Then again, I'm a blue mage, so reality is a bit of an illusion and overrated.
I should say that I haven’t played them in reality. Then again, I’m a blue mage, so reality is a bit of an illusion and overrated.

What about the story? You are probably asking at this point. Wizards made a big deal about that, too. Is that just a huge disappointment, too? Is there nothing to redeem this dumpster fire of a set? Also, weren’t you one of the ones that actually liked Origins? Let me answer those questions in the opposite order in which they were asked. First, I don’t think I ever said that I liked Origins. I had fun drafting a bunch (at absolutely no cost) and doing one sealed match with a play group that never materialized into anything more. But, I never bought anything more than those six packs and one fat pack. I freely admit to being one of the only players that enjoys BFZ, but I was never impressed by Origins.

In regards to the first question, you have a point. Out of all of the promise attached to Origins, the story is actually good and lives up to that promise. Story has never been central to the enjoyment of Magic and it still lags way behind as a reason to play the game, but I’m glad that they have made an effort to make it more central and consistent. Even so, I do have one complaint about the story.

Heck, it might not even be a complaint. It might just be an observation. I suppose it all depends on your point of view. You may consider it a complaint. Whatever it is, I find it odd that the only way to fully experience this renewed commitment to story is by playing the Magic Duels Origins game. Otherwise, you only get bits and pieces through the usual method of reading flavor text on select cards. As a gamer who prefers games with a good story, I’m glad that they expanded the story’s role, no matter how platform specific they made that story.

Honestly, I don't know how else they would incorporate the story into the cards. Maybe if I figure it out, Wizards will offer me a job. Hey, a guy can dream!
Honestly, I don’t know how else they would incorporate the story into the cards. Maybe if I figure it out, Wizards will offer me a job. Hey, a guy can dream!

I suspect that the decision was not a mistake. Even though they tried to make Duels more noob friendly and they mostly succeeded, the game was plagued by release bugs that broke the game to an unplayable state. By offering the carrot of a story in addition to the simplified game play, they hoped to pull in gamers like me who play games for those secondary reasons. Hopefully, if they find new players, they will be able to sell the other Magic: the Gathering properties to these players and increase their fan base even more. By all accounts, it seems to be working.

Now, finally, the explanation as to why things seem to be different this time around and why I may not come crawling back so readily unless it is to play the offshoot games like duels once BFZ releases or Magic Puzzle Quest when it comes out. I said earlier that our lull during Fate Reforged, which is the longest time we went between playing Magic before now, might have something to contribute when attempting to explain what might end up being our swan song from the game.

Neither Chris nor I found Fate Reforged overly exciting when it came to spoilers. We even had a conversation during one of the episodes of the podcast about how we crapped all over the set and it actually ended up being one of the best sets for competitive play in quite a while. Therein lies the problem for me and Chris. Neither of us has any illusion of playing Magic competitively and even actively despise the competitive Standard scene especially during the recent run of Abzan dominating everything. Competitive cards usually mean a high price tag and therefore I won’t be able to collect them.

I was a good idea, along with Siege Rhino and fetch lands. A game of Magic should go to time and feature multiple rounds of reshuffling decks. That is the non-stop action and strategy we've come to expect from the game.
I was a good idea, along with Siege Rhino and fetch lands. A game of Magic should go to time and feature endless durdling behind big, dumb idiots and multiple rounds of reshuffling decks. That is the non-stop action and strategy we’ve come to expect from the game.

While pros almost universally hate the new set, it still feels like Wizards is catering more to the competitive crowd with the new set. The inclusion of chase rare lands drove the price of boxes and fat packs to 125% to 200% of their MSRP. Thankfully, Wizards seems to have issued a reprint and I was able to get a fat pack over at the local Wal*Mart for regular price, but I did slightly overpay for my initial box and fat pack to start my collection set. Look, don’t get me wrong. I understand the economics of scarcity (barely), but paying so much for a piece of cardboard seems like the ultimate exercise in futility.

Hmm, draw 7 cards or two tanks of gas? I could also feed my family for a week. Tough choice, but I'm not signing on that dotted line in blood any time soon, Griseldaddy.
Hmm, draw 7 cards or two tanks of gas? I could also feed my family for a week. Tough choice, but I’m not signing on that dotted line in blood any time soon, Griseldaddy.

I guess the logical conclusion is that Wizards has whiffed, big time, on the last two sets. Pros have been not impressed with the quality of cards and only a few of them have been able to crack into competitive decks. Filthy casuals like me and Chris just don’t see enough here to keep playing or watching for the foreseeable future. As I end all of these articles, maybe I’ll find something about the game that will keep me connected and spending money, but right now I’m content with Duels every now and then and I’m sure Magic Puzzle Quest once it gets released. For now, there are many other games to spend time and money.

Quick Hits: Magic Origins Duels

(Editor’s Note: Please report any one you see playing only basic mountains in their deck. If you see something, say something. Together, we can defeat this red menace.)

I have not been a fan of Magic Origins so far. Initially, I wanted the set to be good. I got back to a point where I enjoyed the game again and I hoped that Origins might keep the momentum going. Then, the spoilers started. Nothing caught my interest as particularly interesting and my interest waned again.

Mono red became stronger in standard with the set. The ridiculous decks proliferated both in the events I watched and also the games I played against people online. I just started autoconceding every time I saw a mountain played by the opponent. I went from indifferent to actively hating the game and my red opponents.

Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn't a coincidence.
Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn’t a coincidence.

Thankfully, two things happened that puled me back from the brink of pulling the plug on Magic altogether. Chris and I expanded the play group with decidedly mixed results. The latest (and by all accounts last) version of the Duels series finally released at the end of last month. This has actually led to an unquestionable increase in my Magic habit without any of the previous negative side effects.

I might have already mentioned that I was so excited for the new game and promised return of features taken from the previous version that I downloaded and installed it on the day that it released. My favorite part of these games has always been the story. Wizards recently announced that Origins represented a new era in storytelling for them. If this game is any indication, then they have succeeded. The story has always been secondary in Magic, but as I played through, I saw the story come into sharp focus through the writing and card art. Five separate characters brought together by similar destinies to create a cohesive tale that will only become bigger with the coming sets.

No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I'd prefer Garruk.
No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I’d prefer Garruk.

I also said in that same article that the inclusion of daily quests did not entice me to log in to the game. That has actually turned out to be false. I log in daily, build a deck to match the quest, and play a few games. The games are actually quick enough that I don’t feel locked into them as I sometimes do when playing a actual game of Magic.

They also borrowed from the Hearthstone model and allow you to buy “packs” (only 6 cards in each pack) with gold earned from quests and victories. Opening these packs has exposed me to cards that I thought were interesting before and might make for cool combos, but never actually got to play them. An example is the new Jace and Sphinx’s Tutelage or the new Liliana in a sacrifice deck. That led me to try to come up with some new and different deck ideas to try.

I only have one complaint about the game, but it is a big one. Past versions of the series, but not last years, have included puzzles based on board states similar to the ones that Gathering Magic(click the link for an example) does weekly. I actually just learned about the Gathering Magic ones a couple of weeks ago and spent thewhole weekend trying to figure out the Elemental one. I did, by the way, and the one for last week, too. I will take a look at this week’s in the next day or two.

Took me a while only because I didn't read Stratus Walk very well.  Hey, I'm a math guy, not a reading guy.
Took me a while only because I didn’t read Stratus Walk very well. Hey, I’m a math guy, not a reading guy.

So, it’s a bit of a bummer that they got rid of that feature. I would replay the game several times over in an attempt to complete the puzzle. At least in the last version, they also had achievements to chase, too. All of that kept me plenty busy once I finished the story. The potentially good news is that Wizards has said that they will keep the game updated via patches when each new set releases. The possibility exists that they could patch the puzzles back in, too. Here’s to hoping.

My thoughts:

  • Decent story. Well worth playing the game once just for the story.
  • Almost Magic gameplay. You get the cards, but it is for a casual/new experience, so some of the more intricate rules are diminished or eliminated altogether.
  • Free to play with a gold/daily quest system very much like Hearthstone. I haven’t spent a dime in the game and already have a sizable and eclectic collection.
  • Replayability, if you aren’t interested in the “competitive” games is severely limited.
  • No puzzles again. Holding out hope that they patch them in at some point.
  • Can’t import your collection from previous versions.

Overall, it is a fun game, completely free, and as close to actual Magic as such a casual game allows. Download it, play through the story, and have fun for a few days. There are far worse ways to spend your time.

Making Friends

(Editor’s Note: Two straight articles about Origins sealed, new deck ideas, plus a possible new play group. Not bad for a set that neither one of us really likes all that much. The MtG universe is indeed a strange one.)

Neither Chris nor I are remotely sociable creatures. We’re both content with a small circle of friends, so two Mondays ago was a bit uncomfortable for the both of us. We both expressed our discomfort in the days and hours leading up to the get together, discussed a plan B just in case the other guys were douche bags, and marveled at the complex where the host lived. Perhaps an explanation is in order.

We both agreed that if you are going to play cards by yourself, this is probably the way to go.
We both agreed that if you are going to play cards by yourself, this is probably the way to go.

Chris and I have both written about our recent waning interest in the game. We have branched out into other tabletop games and I have discussed liquidating my collection. Chris went one step further and listed his cards on craigslist. He found someone local to buy the cards. They texted back and forth a few times about possible games. Initially, I worried about expanding the group for obvious reasons. When nothing materialized, I relaxed that things would just blow over.

There was a distinct possibility that we'd end up across the table from this guy.
There was a distinct possibility that we’d end up across the table from this guy.

Then, Chris texted me asking if I wanted to play some Magic the following Monday. The guy had a box of Origins and wanted to do a sealed Swiss tournament. As I do, I replied, “Yes” and then went back to worrying about meeting new people. Thankfully, we took a day trip to Cape Cod, so I was able to keep busy and forget about it over the weekend. Monday, as it tends to do every week or so, came and I started to hope that things might come through. If not, I frantically tried to come up with any excuse to get out. This impulse fought against not wanting to leave Chris hanging. Ultimately, loyalty won and we found ourselves driving to a super secret gated community in the middle of nowhere. I joked that if I heard banjos, I was out of there. I suppose that I could have made the Jim Jones/David Koresh (are those really the most recent suicide cult references? Wow) joke, too, but those are more difficult to pull off tactfully.

Much funnier than suicide cults. I'm a bad person.
Much funnier than suicide cults. I’m a bad person.

We sat for a while at a house across the street and joked some more about hidden snipers and cannibalism until the guy pulled up in his Nissan Z something or another. A quick anecdote about the car. This passenger apparently asked if it was some kind of sports car or something. we all got a considerable chuckle out of the poor kid’s ignorance and humiliation. Ah, male bonding, you never change.

Nissan something or another. I know next to nothing about cars.
Nissan something or another. I know next to nothing about cars.

Chris and I played a few games against our host while the other two guys played some Tiny Leaders until the other two showed up for the sealed tournament. At first it appeared that our worst fears might be realized because the guy played mostly infinite combo decks built with some of the best cards in Magic history against our cards we own decks, but things eventually settled down. We both dropped not so subtle hints as he stormed out on me turn 2 that we weren’t exactly having fun. I have no problem with those decks in a competitive setting, but casual? Please, keep it in your pants.

His deck revolved around this. I could have removed it, but didn't. He proceeded to storm out. I watched the other two guys play their game while he metaphorically rubbed one out.
His deck revolved around this. I could have removed it, but didn’t. He proceeded to storm out. I watched the other two guys play their game while he metaphorically rubbed one out.

We eventually got our six, worked out the details of payment, grabbed our packs, and went to deck building. I didn’t get much of note, but I opened a Nalaar parents card and Thopter Spy Network that pushed me in that direction when building my deck. We paired off. I went 1-2, dropping two games after winning the first. All three games were competitive, so I am definitely getting better at judging sealed pools and playing the game. I misplayed once or twice, so that’s still something that needs to be fixed because I’m tired of scrubbing out of these events.

My deck. In keeping with my Johnny nature, I might have tried to do too much.

Overall, though, the positives of the evening outweighed the negatives and I’m glad that we went. I got to play against live competition and didn’t get completely blown out. Chris brought a really cool Naya deck that I had a blast playing. Chris and I actually started to talk about Magic again. We even workshopped the Naya deck during the games and on the ride back to his apartment. I learned about Pucatrade and might make an account. I’m absolutely open to making this a regular thing. Maybe not every month, but every other month would be cool.

The experience has made me less apprehensive about going to one of the local FNM draft events. I should be able to put up a respectable showing and might even meet one or two cool people there. Either way, it got me back into paper Magic. The computer versions are fun, but no substitute for playing across from another person. For all of those reason, I’m grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the next time.

Quick Hit (MtG: Origins)

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

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

Grumpy cat always knows exactly how you feel.

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

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

Now, finally, for my thoughts:

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

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

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

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