Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gatecrashing the Magics

This has been a poor week for blogging - I lost a key person on a critical project, I'm scrambling to replace them, and the boiler at the house died.  A few rough days and late nights at the office  = no energy for interesting RPG posts.  But it's almost the weekend!

On the other hand, the boy and I have been playing a bunch of Gatecrash sealed duels, time permitting. (Gatecrash is the latest Magic: the Gathering set).  We got a booster box and have been slowly cracking it, 6 packs at a time, building sealed decks, and using the same pool of cards for about a week or so by just tearing the decks apart and rebuilding them with different color combinations (or Guilds, if you follow MTG).  I figure it's a good way for us to learn the card pool and get comfortable with limited, before the kiddo tries his first draft.

Apologies for the jargon - I played a lot of Magic "back in the day", like back during Ice Age (an early Magic expansion) and it’s weird but fun the game is still going so strong with totally different generations of kids some 15 years after I moved on to other things.  The kiddo had picked up a few "event decks" with his own money after learning how to play via the iPad game; next thing you know, we had a handful of event decks, and it was only a matter of time before we were tearing into some boosters and conspiring to play a draft at Gencon.  (Event decks are 60 card preconstructed decks, with 15 card sideboards, ready for a play).  The goal is Gencon and slowly building a collection - if we play mostly sealed and draft between now and Gencon, we'll accrete enough good cards to make some nice constructed decks by the fall.  Since any packs we buy just go towards playing sealed at home, we're getting a lot of use out of the cards on their way into the long box.

The current sets are all themed after the world of Ravnica, with a gigantic metropolis and 10 competing fantasy guilds.  If only the boy had caught the Magic-bug a year earlier, we wouldn't have missed out on "Innistrad", a trio of Magic sets all themed on Gothic horror.  :Sigh:  I'm sure I'll draw ideas for new monsters for table top gaming from some of the Magic art; it's really great stuff.

Who else out there in RPG-blog-land is a Magic player on the side, casual or serious?  I know a lot of us mess around with miniatures, and the kiddo and I play some Heroclix and Dungeon Command.  But those games take a long time end-to-end, with setup and play easily clearing an hour or more.  A big thing I've noticed is how easy it is to fit a 10 or 15 minute Magic duel into a convenient time slot - really helpful when you're playing zone defense with three kids.


  1. I played magic during Fallen Empires and Ice Age, all the way up through Weatherlight and all that weirdness. I stopped at some point, then returned and then stopped again and returned one last time. The last few times, I've done it with online CCG simulators (some more free than others, one of them wizards' own product).

    I love the game. It's great fun, and has a sort of engineering problem-solving element to it. It's strange, but the things that work so well in magic are the things that work so poorly in the 3rd edition of D&D (keywords, specific effects, etc.) Just goes to show ya', I guess.

  2. I also played MtG a bit back in the 90s, I think Ice Age was the last stuff I remember. I loved it for a while, but got tired of the "arms race = real world money" element of it.

    "It's strange, but the things that work so well in magic are the things that work so poorly in the 3rd edition of D&D (keywords, specific effects, etc.)"

    I've always felt the same.

  3. I had a Spirit-themed Green-Red deck a couple of years ago based on the Kamigawa set. Most of my friends, however, had decks based on Ravnica, whose concept I thought was pretty awesome (and the combos were powerful as well).

    I stopped playing the game not much after the planeswalkers came out. However, I too sometimes thought about going through the stuff I have and convert some spells and creatures to D&D; I'm sure that would be awesome :)

  4. I'm sure it's been asked a lot, why WOTC has never put out a fantasy source book detailing the many planes they use in their MTG multiverse.

    I was a big fan of Kamigawa, even though I didn't play at the time, and would love to see that as a setting.

  5. I got my first cards during Ice Age and have since then gone on a MtG binge every now and then, most notably during Tempest and Ravnica. Now it seems to be happening again.

    I bought one of those Kamigawa ready to play decks with rats. I've been improving it on occasion when new cooler rats come out in new sets. That's the only one I've kept together for any longer period of time.

  6. Played in 7th Edition and Onslaught up through the first Ravnica block. There's been a recent revival in my group, but as soon as people started buying more cards I knew it was time to bail (last thing I need is more cards...).

  7. Having a neighborhood of kids lets me experience that stuff again - we have 3 dads in the group that have kids that play Magic, and a few more in the neighborhood.

    I was on the fence too until discovering that a fast game fits the busy life style a bit better.

  8. I'm a fairly serious player, although I don't have aspirations beyond "local endboss." I grind Standard FNMs for practice and to win product to fund the habit a little bit (also to hang out with friends), but I'm a Limited specialist these days and drafting is what I actually enjoy. I just haven't had time for the usual weekly drafts, and I don't really have the hobby budget set aside for both paper Magic and MODO.

    (I went on a tear during RtR Limited season, but I haven't had time to draft Gatecrash yet.)

  9. (I have some matches up on youtube if you ever want to see a few draft and Standard matches.)

  10. I'm learning to love Limited. The guild structure of RtR and GC seems to make drafting pretty straightforward, once you know the guild's plan.

    Just looking at the mana base for a typical constructed deck is daunting - it's endless dual lands and play sets of mythics. Blech. I'll wait until we get there organically.

  11. I'm not a huge fan of Standard, but it's what everyone plays here. I typically pick a deck early and grind it until the sight of it makes me want to vomit. Last season it was Delver, probably my favorite deck ever. You lose the ability to pick a deck based on the metagame, but that skill is overrated anyway ... I personally think it's much better to get really good with one deck than to switch decks every weekend based on what you expect from the field, because you're probably wrong anyway.

    This season, it's mono-red aggro, which is an archetype I've played frequently for years, and which has the advantage of containing no shocklands and no mythics. If it weren't for Boros Reckoner, it'd be a great budget option. Fortunately, I picked up my playset as soon as it was spoiled, but it's pricey now.

    In fact, I got really lucky when I initially traded for the deck last season ... I traded 3 regular Deathrite Shamans, a foil one, and a Mosswort Bridge for all the rares, as this was back when Hellrider was about $3.

    Anyway, mono-red is probably the cheapest tier 1 deck right now, and it's paid for itself several times over since RtR became Standard legal. The Reckoners are the expensive part, and you could live without them by subbing in Pyreheart Wolves (although obviously there's a reason all the decks have Reckoners now).

  12. We lucksacked into a trio of Reckoners - in a fat pack, booster box, and random pack. However, since we literally just started playing with GC, it'll be a while before we have the Stromkirks, Ash Zealots, those kinds of things. That's good advice that mono-color is the budget deck approach - the kiddo loves aggro and turning creatures sideways. I could see trying to assemble a red deck for him and a mono black for me until our collection has dual lands - Mutilate seems like a way to deal with Reckoners and Hexproof, and black has a bit of card drawing, too.

    We're trying to jumpstart a local FNM scene at the comic store - 4 of the guys in my group (and their kids) play too - and it'll rotate draft and constructed bi-weekly - so we'll want to build towards something decent for constructed.