Friday, May 21, 2010

Step N: Sort Your Cards

In previous posts, I featured an "unpacking" video of one of the first "starter" Magic experiments. It was of course the original Magic: The Gathering Starter Deck. This is what we had to work with, folks.

Since 1993 (holy cow, Deep Space Nine is the same age as Magic the Gathering), Wizards has attempted to find a better way to "start" the new magic player out on the right path to excellence, enjoyment and eventual psychological addiction (I kid, I kid).

The most promising evolution was the Theme Deck. "We will give you cards, and they will all work together!" Wizards said, and then passed out such awesomeness as Jungle Jam (a tutor card, right out of the gates!).

The basic structure of the theme deck has changed back and forth since then, but today a new product just came out and I feel genuine jealousy for the today's magic beginner.

Today, Wizards released the "Deckbuilder's Toolkit."

Here's a professionally-done unboxing from the always entertaining Evin Erwin

If I strip all my emotions away and look at this Toolkit objectively, one of the best card offerings in this box is probably the playset of Terramorphic Expanse.

After almost 2 decades, still the most frustrating thing about playing a game of Magic is not having the right lands to cast your spells. In the Time Spiral expansion, they came out with the ultimate utilitarian do-everything land fixer in the form of the Expanse, and they've been reprinting it like crazy since then. And the Deckbuilder's Toolkit apparently gives you FOUR of them. BAM. In 1 fell swoop.

Compare this to the Beta Starter, where you might not get enough basic land! Does anyone remember trading for basic land? I don't even remember doing that, but surely I must have at some point. Because you sure didn't get that stuff for free.

Second is probably the Lightning Bolts. Because they are awesome.

Another interesting feature that I just found out today while watching Erwin's video: one of the fold-outs is actually a detailed deck construction manual. It tells you how to make a deck! How to find synergy. How to figure out how much land you need. Typical archetypes to get you going.

No more singleton "I like things" decks…what will the world come to?

This is really a lightning-leap forward in Magic development. And hopefully they keep printing these for a long time. I might even get one, I've played Magic for quite a while and still don't have 4-of many of the better utility cards. Plus Internet says its only $20, which is only a little more than those 4 packs cost normally.

What a country!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Great Little Primer on EDH

A guy by the name of MajinNecro69 has put forth a little intro into the world of EDH. Well written, and featuring a deck general I can get behind: Joihra of the Ghitu. Cheatery to say the least, but probably cheatery in a good way and probably on par with many other EDH generals. Read his thoughts at the Magic Vortex.

When you look through the entire history of magic, you many start to notice some spells you would gladly cast for free mana, at the cost of waiting 4 turns. If it's the right card you don't even have to wait that long…see Deep-Sea Kraken. You don't even have to go back very far, as the Kraken was released exactly one set before Jhoira. In fact, Planar Chaos is home to another suspiciously synergistic card…Aeon Chronicler. What designer thought this dude was a good idea?

Jhoira is of course a sneaky little wizard on flavor grounds as well as mechanics. See her early appearance in the infamous Tinker, which to my disappointment is indeed banned in EDH. Remember with Jhoira, at least you have to draw/find the spell (not a problem)!

Red/Blue is entirely too much fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Fist Full of Uneven Exchanges

Gauntlets are the subject for discussion for tonight.

Okay, well the Gauntlet of Might is a pretty cool card to talk about…but I was thinking of something else.

NO! Not that one either.

Oh, yeah. Here we go. That's the ticket.

Boom! Gauntlets of Chaos. The first time I saw these, I knew they were going in my deck. And they were bad, oh so bad. By the time you get to 5 mana, you want something a little better than a skewed trade of creatures and enchantments. At least in a 2-person duel.

My forays into multiplayer have given me new hope I might find use for this card. In the games I've played it seems there are some really nice pickins', and by turn 5 I definitely have some junk to trade. I've  had some luck with Juxtapose in my Niv-Mizzet deck, I'm thinking a slightly more expensive but less "fair" colorless version is ready for deployment in some of my non-blue decks.

Here's another Artifact similar to the Gauntlets:

Avarice Totem is a little cheaper, more versatile, but also gives your opponent the power to do exactly the same thing to you. Or another player they hate even more. But after taking their stuff, they probably hate you most.

Much like Avarice Totem, the Gauntlets of Chaos have the advantage of activation at instant speed. You can respond to just about any action by doing a quick switchero. And if someone sneaks some instant speed artifact destruction in there somehow, well the Gauntlets have already been sacrificed so no targeting for you!

Certainly, there are better cards out there…but few of them can find a home in a strictly red-black deck. Gauntlets of Chaos sits on the board and becomes exactly what you need, when you need it. They can solve problems regarding:

1. Hard-to-get-rid-of creatures (Iona, Akroma, any General)
2. Hard-to-get-rid-of artifacts (Colossus, Foundry)
3. Even the ever-present hard-to-get-rid-of lands (Academy Ruins, Maze of Ith)

Now is the time I must mention Maze of Ith has one of the coolest judge promo cards ever:

Really, Wizards of the Coast Art Department's not playing around anymore.

The odd bit of enchantment destruction stapled to the end of the rules really shouldn't matter the vast majority of the time. But if it does matter, it will probably be in my favor since most people don't use much in the way of "beneficial" creature enchantments.

The final thought for the Gauntlets: make sure you have a really embarrassing card to perform the trade with. I'll try to come up with something.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back from Sabbatical

Sabbatical is what they call it when teachers do it. It probably needs to be a job, or at least something you get paid for. Nevertheless, I took one.

The Minotaur escaped from its labyrinth, at least for a short while, to play other games and not think about Magic. Or perhaps that was the real labyrinth, and I needed to find my way back to Magic.

Either way, here I am today writing again.

There's been a lot of interesting things happening in the MTG world while I've been gone. But I think there is one bit above all others I need to get out and the open before I talk about anything else.

You know what it is. I know what it is. Let's get the elephant out of the corner.

The Magic the Gathering Puppet video.

Evidently produced by the more experimental element at Wizards of the Coast Marketing, the video is interesting to say the least. Unfortunately, the majority of the blogglodytes out there have had a negative reaction to it.

I, rather, am in the same camp as Youtube user kb39295: "Clearly, this is the best thing ever".

I appreciate a hobby that doesn't take itself too seriously. And if this video helps us Magic Players all laugh at ourselves (as well as our card-slinging comrades), all the better. Some finer points I would like to make:

1. Puppets make every known form of entertainment better and/or funnier.

2. The purple puppet is the screaming id of every magic player on earth. Some of us can hold it back, others let him fly free at every opportunity.

3. I have never been to a Friday Night Magic. But I have been to prereleases, and the video pretty much covered it. You should probably have enough counters, and something to track your life with, both things I have forgotten and luckily could buy at the store.

4. All those annoying behaviors…anyone going to a card store is going to have to deal with it. Better to laugh at the absurdity, than grit your teeth and pretend it doesn't happen.

5. The most important lesson of the entire video…bring a buddy. You don't even have to be good at the game to enjoy the social camaraderie of a good Magic group. Enough said.

Most of the nay-sayers felt the video insulted their intelligence. I say…if this video insults your intelligence…your intelligence probably needs to be insulted. There are many "professional" players who elevate this game to a sport, there are far more players who like hanging out with like minding people and pounding their heads on the table when their game goes south. Everybody. Loses. Sometime.

And "your momma" jokes are right up there with "that's what she said" jokes…never out of style.

So, more posting certainly to come. Perhaps…a revisit to some more gems from my favorite set of all time…Chronicles. Only time will tell. Until next time, may your dreams be scented by the faint aroma of purple polyester imitation-fur and a faint voice "BANESLAYER ANGEL, HOLY $H!+!"