The War Report: Aether Revolt

mtg

What’s up everyone? It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my recent obsession with Magic: The Gathering, which is really an old obsession that was revitalized in the last few months. The reason I haven’t had much to report is because I wasn’t playing the game quite as much. I built 5 decks that were standard legal, and had honed those down mostly to where I wanted them, just to realize that in a month the new set to finish of the Kaladesh block, Aether Revolt, would be releasing. At that point my friends and I sort of said that we would just wait for that day and then get back into it.

Yesterday was the release of the new set. Aether Revolt builds upon the ideas presented in Kaladesh. That set was very Artifact focused, along with adding in Vehicles and the mechanics Fabricate and Energy to an already complicated game. AR brings two new mechanics called Improvise and Revolt. Improvise is more artifact love, because artifacts on the battlefield can be used to pay for the casting cost of cards with that mechanic listed on them. So, if I have a card with a casting cost of 1 blue & 6 colorless, I must have an island to play the blue cost, but could theoretically use 6 artifacts to cover the colorless casting cost, and keep other mana around for other uses. It’s a neat trick and I’ve had some success building around it. Revolt is a new bounce mechanic, in that if you have any sort of cards that can bounce something, or if you have anything on the battle field die or otherwise enter the gave yard, the new card with Revolt on it will get counters. Basically, if you have a bounce (target card leaves the battlefield and then reenters the battlefield) you can play that, then play a card with revolt and it will get +1/+1 or +2/+2 (whatever it says on the card). It’s not something I’ve used yet but I have some ideas how it could work. Apparently a new white creature card in conjunction with one of the Planeswalkers I have from Kaladesh has created a new infinite combo that will win you the game. I plan to try that out.

After work yesterday I drove out to a local card shop and picked up a Booster box for the set. 36 packs, and a 1 in 4 chance to snag an invention, which are the super rare cards from this block. I didn’t get one, but I was happy with what I pulled out of the deck. When all was said and done I amassed a handful of Mythic Rares, a ton of regular rares and some decent uncommons. Even some of the commons this time around are pretty good. We also decided to have our own mini-tournament, which we played in Limited (sealed deck) format. This is the thing that happens when you go play at a pre-release event or a Friday Night Magic tournament. My friends have gone to this, I have yet to do so. I’d like to do pre-release stuff for the next set later this year.

Anyway, we all bought some cards last night, and we decided to roll with 6 packs each. We open those packs, and then make a deck of 40 cards, then played best of 3’s against each other. Next thing I knew it was 2 in the morning, but hey, it was fun. I ended up doing fairly well, despite having zero experience with this format. I beat one of my friends 2-0, then he played my other friend and lost 2-1, and I played the same friend losing 2-1 as well. He took the cake as he usually does, but it was fun all around. I feel like I have a good grasp of the mechanics of the set, and I’m looking forward to upgrading my constructed decks and making some new ones. My interest has been revitalized, and I’m thankful that new sets come at a time when your interest starts to wane.

So I’m sure I’ll have some new deckbuilding ideas and more reports from the field to share with you guys soon. Until then, happy gaming, where ever you find yourselves!

The War Report: Playtesting

mtg

This past weekend I managed to get some more games in with my friend, and did some serious playtesting. Not only did I find that the improvements to my deck were working wonders, I also found that it seemed that I could make a few more tweaks. The Aetherflux resevoir that I built this entire deck around wasn’t helping. He plays some pretty fast decks, so it was seeming that getting a life total of 50+ was going to be near impossible. That also meant scratching that other card I had thought about adding, mainly because its win condition of 40 life wasn’t going to be all that achieveable either. I also wanted to get copies of some of the singles I had, along with removing some of the cards that sounded cool but weren’t really doing all that much for me (like Angels).

I played two best of threes against my buddy, and used this White/Black deck the whole time. I easily destroyed his Blue/Green deck but that is his less powerful one. His deck that gave me the most trouble before, the Red/Black is fast, but my deck has enough sustain and slow down potential that it actually counters his aggro style. I managed to win that best of three as well. He was a little on the butthurt side, because he had played that deck against other friends and always won. Just goes to show that nearly anything can be countered given the time and resources. I’m also glad that it works against multiple types of decks.

Some additional tweaks have been made since. I’ve made sure that every card now either has some form of life gain, control or allows me to bring units back from the dead. I also managed to find more singles that fall in line with this deck though I wanted to buy another Angel of Invention and those are out of stock right now at Troll and Toad — very unfortunate. Here’s how my deck stands now (changes in bold):

Lands:
x2 Forsaken Sanctuary
x1 Unknown Shores
x1 Crumbling Vestige
x1 Blighted Steppe
x1 Warped Landscape
x8 Plains
x8 Swamp +1

Creatures:
x4 Aerial Responder +1
x4 Fairgrounds Warden +1
x2 Zulaport Cutthroat
x2 Restoration Gearsmith
x2 Lone Rider
x1 Demon of Dark Schemes
x1 Sengir Vampire
x2 Night Market Lookout +1
x1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
x1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
x1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
x1 Thalia’s Lancers
x1 Sujugator Angel
x1 Angel of Invention
x1 Aegis Angel
x1 Serra Angel

Artifacts:
x1 Aetherflux Reservoir
x2 Scrapheap Scrounger
x2 Prakhata Pillar-Bug
x1 Noxious Gearhulk
x4 Filigree Familiar

Spells:
x2 Diabolic Tutor
x2 Shamble Back
x3 Fumigate +1
x2 Skywhaler’s Shot
x2 Authority of the Consuls
x3 Fortuitous Find +2
x1 Campaign of Vengeance
x1 Collective Effort
x1 Gideon’s Reproach

I’ve maintained the same sort of theme, but removed cards that wouldn’t give me some sort of life, and added a few that would. Many of the changes were for cards I already had in my stash, but I did spend another $10 on Troll and Toad for singles. I still want to add another Angel of Invention to the deck, and will as soon as one becomes available.

The next project is making more decks, and then attempting to do this process of elimination over again. I have a Red/Blue that is focusing on artifacts and control/burn spells. I also have a mono-Black zombie deck in the works. Trying to decide what to do with Green, as I have a planeswalker there, but don’t know if I want to do mono or dual colored. More to come as that happens. Thanks for reading!

The War Report: Deckbuilding

mtg

In my last War Report entry, I spoke about how I had haphazardly thrown together a deck and went up against a friend who not only had played the game in the more recent past, but also had a head start in coming back to the game. As such, my decks were no match for his, though they did put up a bit of a fight and a general theme started to emerge. I was centering around life-gain, with a mix of control spells and creatures. However, the main weakness became clear: not enough creatures, and not enough power to end a game despite at one point having a massive life total lead.

I have since spent about $20 on singles and have revamped the deck. I was just using what seemed best out of the cards I had at the time, and now I’ve focused on shoring up the weaknesses. This deck is still not 100% where I’d like it to be, and I’ve already found another card that I need to get in this deck called the Felidar Sovereign, which gives a win condition if you have 40 or more life during your upkeep. It’s another win condition outside of the Aetherflux Reservoir.

I would also like to get more copies of a few cards, and whittle down the amount of singles, but I have several legendaries and cards that play off of one another that it feels like having all of them there is a win/win. Here’s the deck list for my current White/Black set up:

Lands:
x2 Forsaken Sanctuary
x1 Unknown Shores
x1 Crumbling Vestige
x1 Blighted Steppe
x1 Warped Landscape
x8 Plains
x7 Swamp

Creatures:
x3 Aerial Responder
x3 Fairgrounds Warden
x2 Zulaport Cutthroat
x2 Restoration Gearsmith
x2 Lone Rider
x1 Demon of Dark Schemes
x1 Sengir Vampire
x1 Night Market Lookout
x1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
x1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
x1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
x1 Thalia’s Lancers
x1 Sujugator Angel
x1 Angel of Invention
x1 Aegis Angel
x1 Serra Angel

Artifacts:
x1 Aetherflux Reservoir
x2 Scrapheap Scrounger

Spells:
x2 Diabolic Tutor
x2 Shamble Back
x2 Fumigate
x2 Skywhaler’s Shot
x2 Authority of the Consuls
x1 Fortuitous Find
x1 Campaign of Vengeance
x1 Collective Effort
x1 Gideon’s Reproach

For lands I have a couple of the dual lands (give white/black mana of your choice), a couple of lands that give colorless but can be used to create other colors, along with some that allow you to search for a basic land. This means I’m always covered no matter how bad the top decking is.

Creature wise, I’ve focused on shoring up the size and utility. Adding 3 Aerial responders is a nice touch, as they have flying vigilance and lifelink for a cheap casting cost. I’ve also found some legendary creatures that have various effects including being able to search for other legendaries. My big dogs are the angels, and they feel like a great fit. Mainly, most of the creatures have some way to help me gain life, and in some cases also cause damage to my opponent. This helps with the theme of the deck, and goes hand in hand with the main artifact, Aetherflux Reservoir. The other two artifacts are the Scrapheap Scrounger, which can come back from the dead over and over again. Speaking of which…

My spells are mostly for board control, but I have a few others that allow me to search for any card (Diabolic Tutor), or give life and bring things back from the dead. The combination of white and black has allowed me to find these sorts of spells and creatures in each color, so theoretically unless they have a super aggro deck, I should be able to out sustain just about anything. And I have a few fumigates for board clear if necessary, along with spells to bring my own creatures back from death. I can’t wait to try this out, and am supposed to meet up to play this weekend. Will be back with that report next week. Until then, happy gaming everyone!

The War Report

mtg

It’s been a long while since I introduced a new column to the blog, and with my recent return to Magic, it seems fitting to chronicle the things I’m doing with the game. Some of the columns I’ve written in the past or continue to write tend to focus on a single topic, so this was an opportunity to open up a new one and talk about another of my nerdy passions. As I don’t play Magic as often as I would like, this column won’t have a schedule of any kind, and will only be touched upon when I have something new to report. This should be fairly regular though, as I intend to continue playing with my friend, and also look forward to attending a Friday Night Magic tournament soon. The above linked post will give you a primer on my history with the game, along with what I’ve got in the works currently (also some handy links for those of you playing the game).

As I mentioned in that post, I managed to pull together a pretty significant amount of cards for a relatively inexpensive sum, but that doesn’t mean having a killer deck right away. I purchased starter kits, boosters and then some singles and threw together two decks that I thought would be halfway decent. It turns out, one of them actually was. My friend and I finally got together to do some play testing, and I put forth the stronger of my two decks, a Black/White life building set. In it, I packed white cards that provided life gain, black cards that benefit from life gain (adding special effects to creatures when I would gain life), and a powerful artifact called the “Aetherflux Reservoir.” The latter card would allow me to gain life quickly via the use of spells, and hopefully go for a kill shot. My friend brought a Green/Blue deck to the table that was actually pretty good, but my half-assed deck still gave him a run for his money.

He told me that we should play a best of three to get our bearings around these decks. I needed some playtesting done to find weaknesses with the deck, and I surely did. Game one went fairly smooth. I managed just the right balance of board control, hand control and whittled him down until I could go for a kill shot. It seemed that the weakness of my deck was not exposed. Not yet, at least.

In game two, we saw a repeat of game one for quite some time. At one point I managed to get to 36 life, and had him down to 6. However, I found the failing of the deck. I didn’t have enough powerful creatures coming out often enough to win. He mana starved me by destroying a few of my swamps, and slowly started to gain board control. I stayed alive for a long time, but eventually he had enough creatures on the table to overrun my defenses. I conceded, but the match was not over.

Game three was for all the marbles. I managed a decent start, had plenty of mana, but was then starting to get flooded without enough creatures to help. I wasted my one board clear option early on, so by the mid game he simply killed me. There wasn’t a point where I wasn’t staying in it though, so I can tell that the sustain is working. I just have to find the combination that will get me kills.

I also tried out my Red/Blue deck against his Green/Blue, and my Black/White against his other deck, which was Red/Blue. His Red/Blue definitely trumps mine, but I have really been focusing on the Black/White so that would explain it. He’s also been back playing the game for a while, and the last time he played was more recently than I, and he still has cards from both eras. It’s only a matter of time before I catch up and build some killer decks, but for the time being, he has a distinct advantage. I still had a blast playing though!

Once I came home after our matches, I knew where to focus my efforts. It seemed that I created too high of a mana curve in this particular deck, so I know I need to remove at least a couple of lands. I also need to remove some of the cards that I thought would work better than they did, and find extra copies of the cards that were really killer. I scrounged Toad and Troll the other night and notice that plenty of the cards that I wanted extra copies of were available for mere cents, so I dropped a $20 on singles, and will have some additional power for the deck. Once I get those and really get things honed in, we’ll have to do some more playtesting. I’m hoping to receive the package before the weekend and do just that.

I’m impressed at how the game has changed but has also stayed the same. Much like series such as Civilization, each new entry adds and subtracts from the base formula, but the addictive qualities are ever-present. I’m very happy to have rekindled this lost hobby. I will be back with another report soon, probably after I revamp my deck. I’ll provide a decklist and strategy as well, especially if the playtesting goes well. Until then.

A Return To Magic

kaladesh-prerelease

I have a long and varied history with Magic: The Gathering. Having mistakenly (or perhaps just out of curiosity) purchased packs back in the early 90’s during my Comic Book/Card collecting days, I hadn’t heard of collectible card games just yet. I was probably ten or eleven years old when the game was first released, and I know during that time I was probably buying Beta or Unlimited cards (which could potentially be worth some money at this point). Having no knowledge of this game, these cards were fairly useless. Eventually I would buy something other than a booster pack (probably some sort of starter deck) and find the tiny rule book enclosed within. Learning the game wasn’t something I was all that interested in doing though, so I remember playing the game with a few friends using our own rules, and then the cards were tucked away for a few years.

boosterbox_iceageFast forward to high school, where by chance I happened upon other nerds who were playing the game, and actually following the rules. I watched in awe as some pretty amazing things happened on those lunch breaks. It reminded me that I had cards lurking in a box somewhere, patiently awaiting my return to the game. Those cards were promptly found, and after much pleading with the parents I made special trips to a nearby hobby shop to purchase more on the rare occasions that I had money to spend. Many moons later, after pulling the boosters and singles together along with making trades with my cohorts, I had some pretty respectable decks, during the Ice Age and Mirage blocks. Towards the end of high school though, I cared less about the game, fell out of touch with people I played with and my interests shifted in other directions. Most of my cards were sold off. I didn’t think I’d play it anymore.

96343Jumping ahead once more, to a year or two outside of high school. A few friends of mine expressed some interest in the game. I mentioned my past knowledge and experience and offered to take them to that same hobby store I visited years earlier. Watching them buy up cards in a frenzy was too much of a temptation, and I found myself buying cards again as well. There had been several different sets that had released in the interim years, and a recently released 7th edition saw reprints of many cards I was familiar with. The boosters from recent blocks helped me flesh out several new decks and my collection swelled past its prior limits, mainly due to having more disposable income. I played rather casually for another couple of years, during the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. But again, the time came when friends were less interested in playing, and perhaps we didn’t know that the game would continue to thrive for years. We didn’t know about various rule sets that could have potentially shaken things up and though it would have been wise to just hold onto these cards for my eventual return, I once again sold them off and wiped the game from my mind.

the_current_magic_online_logoI was aware of the existence of Magic Online around that timeframe, but it felt silly to me to purchase virtual cards. Of course I hadn’t fully moved over into the digital world, due to things being quite a bit different 15 years ago. Magic Online and the thought of “owning” virtual cards doesn’t seem quite so silly anymore, but I wasn’t willing to do it back in the day. It would have been a nice way to play the game with new people but my shortsightedness got the best of me once again.

In the early 2010’s there were several iterations of a Magic video game version released on the PS3 (and probably elsewhere). I almost bought a copy a few times, and then finally pulled the trigger on Magic 2013. These Duels of the Planeswalkers games had some shining moments, but I found that the AI was annoying to play against, and I never felt like I had total control over my decks. The loss of tactile sensation was also a problem. There’s nothing like opening up booster packs to find a super rare and awesome card. There’s nothing like sitting across from your opponent and beating them face to face. The video game couldn’t replicate these feelings in such a way that I found it enjoyable. Despite the fact that I played Hearthstone rather voraciously just a couple of years later and enjoyed my time with it, I just couldn’t play digital Magic. Perhaps my prior feelings about Magic Online weren’t unfounded after all.

magic_duels_logo
A competitor to Hearthstone emerged most recently from the granddaddy of CCGs. Magic Duels was Wizard’s answer to the F2P digital CCG model, and in some respects it was a fine game. It felt much like the earlier Duels games, but was essentially played just like Hearthstone. It failed to hold my attention, despite knowing that Magic is a better game than Hearthstone in many ways, I just need to hold those cards for it to have the same appeal.

Present day. I met a girl. We committed. She has a roommate who plays the game. He has a similar checkered past with it as I do. He hadn’t played in years, and was sucked back in by a friend. He’s already rebuilt his collection. Pouring over his cards brought back so many memories but also reminded me that I hadn’t touched it in nigh 15 years and so much had changed. It was much to take in, but in doing so I felt the urge to rebuild my own collection again. Thankfully he had already done so, because he was able to provide some insight to things that had changed. My first instinct would be to attempt to rebuild my collection from memory, as in trying to gather up all of those long gone cards that would probably cost me some money, but might also be impossible. Reprints happen, but I’m sure many of those cards are hard to find. Well, it turns out that there are different types of rules that apply to the game that I was unaware of, though they were probably implemented after my tenure so long ago.

You can read about Formats here, but I’ll give an abridged version. Basically the main types are Standard, Modern, Legacy and Vintage. Standard includes the last two blocks and the standard set. However, the core sets of the past — Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, and 4th-2015 editions — are no longer made. Some of the cards from those sets are reprinted each block though, so familiar faces still make their way into the format. Modern goes back quite a ways, I think ten years or something. Legacy is all the old stuff from my high school days, and Vintage allows most of the broken cards from the original version of the game. Each set of rules limits which card sets you can pull from, and gives a sort of focus that we didn’t have back in the day. I had old cards mixed with newer cards all of the time, and that probably would have been considered Modern at the time. It’s actually probably better to have a more limited pool just to have a meta of sorts, and as new mechanics are added it’s nice to have a couple of blocks to choose from for interesting interactions.

20161017_122917

I’ve already purchased a nice chunk of cards to start a new collection. My older and wiser self has also decided that I’ll never sell them off again. This time I’m going to hold onto them for that inevitable return. Anyhow, this time around there were several options to start off a collection. I chose to pick up a “Deck Builders Toolkit” from the prior block, which provided a bunch of lands, some randomized cards from the set and a couple of boosters. I also grabbed a starter box for the newest set Kaladesh, which came with 10 boosters and more land, plus a health counter. I grabbed a couple other boosters, and most recently picked up Planeswalker deck that also came with boosters. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-600 cards at my best guess, all for under $100. So yeah, it’s a pretty manageable hobby if you don’t go crazy like that all of the time. My new found nerdy friend also pointed me in the direction of Troll and Toad, which is an online marketplace where you can buy singles, and they’re actually pretty reasonable. My package of singles just arrived and that’s where I picked up this bad boy:

qelvp1h

I also picked up some Ultra Pro Matte sleeves for protecting the cards while playing, which isn’t something I had done in the past. Might as well protect the investment. Deck building is definitely still one of the more rewarding parts of the hobby, and I am very much looking forward to honing a few decks into winners. I have yet to actually play, as this is all fairly recent, but I will report back with how things go when I get to that point. Do any of you guys play Magic? Thoughts and suggestions are welcome!