TWR: Throne of Eldraine Complete Spoiler

Spoiler season for the upcoming Throne of Eldraine expansion has come to a close, and that means I can discuss some of the better cards I’ve seen come with the set. When I originally talked about the set I noted that I wasn’t too excited with much that I had seen to that point, but eventually some decent cards popped up and I knew that I would want at least a few. On that note, I found a nearby LGS that does the prerelease events, so it’s looking like I’ll be going to that next weekend, and I’m looking forward to that mainly because I haven’t been to one in about a year or maybe more. I like the prerelease kits, they come with new dice, a promo card with the date on it, and a few packs to get you started with the set. New cards before the set even releases is great. I still am not very hyped for this particular set, but as I noted in my last post about the subject, I am looking forward to some of the sets coming out next year, and that will be here before you know it.

The somewhat standard product release is changing up a little bit this time around. It appears that there will still be normal booster packs, the themed boosters, and planeswalker decks. However, the new Brawl decks release along side this product, and another new type of pack is being sold as well. Collectors packs are supposed to contain the full art cards that previously were only part of the mythic editions. It doesn’t appear that there will be one of those this time around, but you can buy these (no doubt more expensive) packs to get some of that nice art. The trouble is, well there are some shitty cards getting the treatment. This does however mean that you’ll likely be able to buy singles of these versions of the cards so if you want the nicer copy of particular card that should be doable.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The buy-a-box promo is actually rather good for this set. A new 5-color general for us commander players, and one that really only needs infinite mana to win the game. He might actually be one of the faster cEDH decks if built properly. I’m sort of interested, but also sort of don’t care. Still, a better card than we’ve seen for a while, but not enough to get me to buy a box. I might grab a single if it’s not outrageous. Next, I’ll go into some of the better cards in the individual colors. Again, with my hype levels being so low, there aren’t too many to talk about.

White:

One of the best cards in the set, Hushbringer is great for hatebear/stax strategies and I can’t wait to get a couple of these for existing decks. Deafening Silence is another stax piece, Happily Ever After is a convoluted win-con but still seems doable. The Archon could work well in some decks as would the Charming Prince, I mainly highlighted them as they are interesting cards.

Blue:

Emry is one of the other best cards from the set. It’s mainly good for artifact decks, but can get you into some loops pretty easily. Gadwick is an interesting card that wants to be a commander but also wants to be in a wizard deck. The mirror enchantment is a great way to get interesting effects from other people’s decks into your own. The mirror artifact is pricey but can be cheapened, and can snowball into some nice card draw. The folio is more group hug oriented, but can be used to mill as well, so a very political card.

Black:

People who like building rat decks rejoice, as the Piper and Witch both support the tribe/strategy. Murderous Rider is a Hero’s Downfall on legs, but also recurs itself. Our twisted elf noble is another strong aristocrat style card, while Syr Konrad benefits from the strategy as well. Rankle looks janky but fun. The Cauldron could be something amazing but it’s pretty convoluted. I like some of these cards more than others.

Red:

Another one of my favorite cards from the set comes with Torbran. He instantly adds 2 damage to any damage source you control. This means if you’re hitting with 5 1/1 goblins, they’re now doing 3 damage each. Combine that with effects from cards like Impact Tremors, and you’re speeding up your damage quite rapidly and red already wants to do damage fast. I see him going into my Krenko deck, while I also really enjoy the new legendary equipment and see that slotting into my voltron deck. Other cards here have some value in particular decks but are less exciting.

Green:

People were losing their shit over The Great Henge. I think it’s okay but not spectacular. The aura is another nice way to eliminate a commander by turning it into a do-nothing 3/3. Not as good as Song of the Dryads but it’s still not bad. I also like Return to Nature, which is flexible removal for a cheap CMC.

Multi/Colorless/Land:

The new land cycle of the castles are pretty bad. There’s another mono colored land cycle that I didn’t bother to highlight, but they are essentially tap lands unless certain conditions are met. I do think Fabled Passage is pretty good, it’s another Evolving Wilds type card, but can have the upside of the land not being tapped. Not as good as the one recently printed in Modern Horizons, but still on a similar level. There are a couple of decent artifacts and one new vehicle (it’s not great) in the set. Most of the multi-colored cards are pretty bad too, but I do like the new mana dork treefolk and the gruul colored spell that lets you play cards through until your next turn. The Boros enchantment is good in conjunction with say Assemble the Legion, with both you can create a bunch of tokens pretty fast.

Overall there aren’t too many cards here I really want. I think outside of the prerelease I’ll probably buy a handful of singles and call it done. Here’s hoping I get something good at the event.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Spoilers & The Next Year of MTG

We’ve known about the next Magic: The Gathering expansion, Throne of Eldraine for a little while now, but as is customary in the month leading up to a set’s release, we’re entering into spoiler season for it. I saw a few whispers about a Twitch stream that certain community members were given access to, and shortly thereafter we were learning that Wizards of the Coast would be attempting again to push the Brawl format. Most people, myself included, had already written it off as dead, but with the additions to Arena, they have been pushing the format again between paper and digital. I’m not sure if there will be Planeswalker decks, or if these are going to be more comparable to the Guild Kits from the Ravnica block, but whatever the case, a new product is launching with Throne of Eldraine and we’ll see Brawl preconstructed decks for the first time. Here are the face commanders for these sets:

Brawl Commanders:

If you are unfamiliar, Brawl is a Commander variant in that it follows the same color identity and singleton rules, but instead of being 100 card decks they are only 60 cards. They also have a rotation that matches standard, meaning you can only play with standard legal cards. So no putting your Commander deck cards into your Brawl decks. I think it’s a silly limitation and part of the reason I stopped playing standard is because rotation can be expensive. In EDH, you can wait for a set to rotate out and get a good deal on singles you want. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game. And when it comes down to it, I’m not overly impressed with any of these commanders enough to warrant building a new EDH deck around it. I think the Bant and Esper creatures are more interesting than the others, but I’m sure people playing knights are excited to access to a new color with a new general. Friends of mine seem to be most interested in Korvold, and I’ve seen what sorts of shenanigans you can pull with him but I find it uninteresting. Deck lists were already released for these, though I don’t believe all of the cards have been spoiled just yet. They don’t really seem worth the time, but I’ve heard they are going for $20 a piece so not a lot to invest if you want to build around one.

New Mechanics:

Throne of Eldraine is adding a couple of new mechanics, and though they are kind of interesting and their take on fairy tales aren’t bad, I just haven’t really seen much yet that I’m excited for in the set. I don’t think I’m burnt out on the game because I’m still always brewing, building, writing and thinking about the game. One problem is that I don’t really play much, but even with all of that on my plate I still don’t find much to be excited for. So the new mechanics are Adventure, Adamant and Food Tokens. Various cards from the set reference food and creating food tokens. Some, like the Goose above, will allow you to create food but also to sac food to the goose itself to get a different effect. Otherwise, Food tokens are much like Clues or Treasures before them, but instead of drawing you cards or giving you mana, instead you gain life. I guess Oloro players rejoice, but it just seems like a tacky limited-only thing. The same really goes for Adamant. It’s great for mono colored decks I suppose, because it typically requires you to cast the spell with only one color of mana in order to get a bonus effect. That’s pretty meh, and I haven’t seen one that seems worth it yet. Of course, spoilers have only just begun. Lastly, with Adventures you get the new card frame at top right above. There is a spell side and a creature side to these cards. You can cast the creature normally for its CMC and be done with it, or you can cast the adventure spell (which can be either instant or sorcery) which is then exiled rather than going to your graveyard. You may then cast the creature half of the card from exile for it’s normal cost. I can see ways this could be really good, but the creatures spoiled that have adventures on them haven’t been great.

New Planeswalkers:

A couple of Planeswalkers have been spoiled so far, including the return of Garruk. Apparently Will and Rowan from the Battlebond set are supposed to be around as well, but we haven’t seen them just yet. Garruk looks ok, but I’m not sold; older versions are better. A brand new walker in Oko has appeared as well, and he references those damn food tokens too. I’m not into this guy either. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a hangover from War of the Spark.

In other news, we were treated with the schedule of releases for the next year of Magic: The Gathering. I first saw this information over on Hipsters of the Coast.

 

So, we know that beginning in quarter one of 2020, we’ll be returning to an older plane with Theros: Beyond Death. I’m pretty excited for this one as I wasn’t playing when the original Theros set released but I have purchased many cards from the block. I’m curious to see what sorts of new Gods them might come up with. In quarter two, we’ll be heading to another brand new plane, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Apparently there’s something about building monsters in this set, but I’m not sure if that will be like the fusing of creatures in Unstable, or if it will be more like the meld cards. Whatever the case, the new planes tend to be more exciting than the old. Core Set 2021 will likely have some gems, but overall core sets are dull. Finally, in quarter four we’ll see another old favorite in Zendikar Rising. I didn’t play during either of the Zendikar blocks, though the latter was still standard legal when I came back to the game in 2016. As such, I own a ton of cards from these sets, but I’m disappointed that we won’t get more Eldrazi.

Whatever the case, 2020 looks like a good year for MTG. I’m looking forward to new things to come!

The War Report: A Magical Vacation

I’ve been on vacation for a week now, and it’s been pretty swell. Last Sunday was my final day of work before the paid holiday, and smack in the middle of my time of was the trip to Las Vegas for Magic Fest 2019. I managed to play a lot of Magic: The Gathering over the course of the week, and thought I’d share some words and pictures to commemorate the events.

So as I said, I got off of work last Sunday morning, and still won’t go back to work until Wednesday early am. From there I had a couple of days of rest and relaxation ahead of me. My sister and her husband-to-be came over to visit us on Tuesday, and that meant we’d play some MTG in between catching up conversations and pizza (yay pizza, by the way). I had finished up my Yuriko build that I wrote about the other day, and really wanted to try that out so I ended up playing it vs. her Teysa Karlov and his Jodah, Archmage Eternal decks. He ended up beating us pretty readily with an early turn Sneak Attack into an Utvara Hellkite that we couldn’t answer. Yuriko still looked to have potential but it’s the only game I had played with her since finishing the build. I wanted a win and we only had time for one more game, so I pulled out my Zur the Enchanter deck which I had never played against them (it’s considerably higher powered) and pulled off a quick win.

Wednesday was prep and pack for Vegas day, so I ran some errands and gathered up my stashed recycling, coinage and bills and got those all turned in for cash for the trip. I left for Vegas on Thursday morning at 10am. I arrived by 2 pm. Unfortunately my friend who had reserved the room at our hotel wasn’t able to get off of work, so he left later in the afternoon and didn’t arrive until almost 9 pm. Needless to say I had to find a way to kill some time. Luckily our other friend who had moved to Vegas a couple of years ago had a place for me to hang out, and I did just that. We had some food, drank some beers and played some 1v1 Commander.

We ended up playing three separate games, and I won two of them. He’s had some money troubles and sold off a large portion of his collection. This meant he only had a total of three EDH decks and that would prove to be more frustrating for him than us as the weekend went on. Yuriko performed much better in the game at his house, and nearly won but he had a well timed Empress Galina that kept stealing my shit and pissing me off. My Zur game was a win, as was a game with Jodah. Later I would leave him behind (he had work in the morning) to go meet up with my ex-roommate to check into the hotel. We weren’t ready for bed yet, but at this point the first day of the convention was winding down, so we ended up ordering a pizza (yay pizza again!) and playing a few rounds. We got four games in before he was falling asleep with cards in hand. I won three of those games, probably the most fun of which was with Jodah, where I managed to drop Emrakul, the Promised End for 5 mana and basically took over the game. We crashed out looking forward to attending the convention in the coming days.

On day two, after waking up and getting cleaned up, we decided to play a few games in the room before heading over to the convention. Our other friend didn’t get off of work until 2pm, so we figured we’d hit the con and then go swoop him up to do something. Once we were at the convention center, we quickly learned that the venue was at the same hall as last year, so everything was very familiar this time around. Some things changed though, in that this year the cornered off area with the orange table cloths was called the “command zone” and we had to check in to get our passes to access the area at will.

Beyond just the pass giving us access, we also received a alternate art foil Sol Ring, four commander on-demand passes, and a 100+ deck box with Channel Fireball livery. I slammed the new Sol Ring into my Zur deck immediately as I’ve been pimping that deck out for a while now. We ended up wandering the hall for a while and checking out the vendors and things, and then ended up back in the command zone where we sat down and played some 1v1 waiting on other players. It seems that this wasn’t the best method, as we waited for a while and didn’t see lone players LFG or have anyone invite themselves to play with us. We decided to do some on-demands and found pods to play with that way, and had a bunch of fun. As soon as we had sat down to play our friend was bugging to come pick him up, but we ended up hanging out for a while before doing so.

We ended up back at the hotel room after picking up our friend and getting some dinner. We drank and played cards for a few hours, but later in the evening my ex-roommate had the commander party to attend. He ended up getting the Populate C19 Precon and since that was the one I wanted and he wasn’t as interested, I ended up buying it off of him. He got some Liliana sleeves as well, but I put those on my Varina deck since that’s the only place I have any Liliana cards. I sleeved up the precon and set it aside. We had plans to get the others the next day.

On day three we spent more time in the room than anywhere. Our third wasn’t in a spot to really do much at the convention so we decided to do some day drinking and play some games in the room before we went to go grab lunch. We went back to the hotel and played even more before we headed to the convention center for the last time. Between the two of us with money to burn, we wanted to get all four of the precons and only one was had at this point. I also wanted to get either a t-shirt or a playmat as a souvenir to commemorate the occasion and ended up with a new lightning bolt playmat that featured Magic Fest, the Channel Fireball, MTG and WotC logos on it. We ended up pooling our prize tix from the on-demands and I was able to pick up the Flashback precon as well. He ended up buying the other two at good prices, mainly because he traded in some valuable cards he wasn’t using for credit towards them. I was happy with the new purchases and we headed back to the room to finish our last night out playing more cards and drinking some brews.

Overall the convention was fun, the trip was memorable but I think I overdid it with the extra day. It turns out that one can only play so much Magic and be away from home for so long before wanting to do something else. I left early on Sunday morning despite originally planning on staying the day. I missed my family and wanted to sleep in my own bed. I still had a good time, but I think if I do this again next year some things will have to change. I’m hoping to maybe get my sister and her man to get interested in the trip and make it with me… would be really nice to have a pod of 5 before even heading to the con. We’ll see, I might end up just doing the Los Angeles convention next year instead, as it’s much closer and I’m sure the room prices would be about the same. Whatever the case, I’m glad to have done it, and I’m glad that I ended up with two extra days off after arriving back home. It’s back to the grind soon, but I’m glad to have had this opportunity again.

Quote of the Day: Diversity is Important in Game Design

Game design is a tricky thing, and you can ask any developer and I’m sure they will agree. Usually when talk about game design crops up, I find it on other gaming blogs, bigger news outlets or rants on social media. Typically games are dividers, in that when something with more diversity is created, they are fans that rejoice and there is almost always some pushback. Whether it comes up in the form of the age old PVE vs PVP debate in MMOs, or how there are powerful black women taking center stage of the newest FPS, we’re never going to all agree. Finding a balance of “what already works” and what can be done to “increase diversity” can be tricky, but game developers at least, seem to be starting to “get it.” I was perusing the Magic: The Gathering page the other day and came across this article about the importance of diversity in game design, and the writer, Mark Rosewater, touched on some great points. I encourage you to read the whole article, but wanted to highlight a few passages:

The trick to getting everyone to love something is to have some breadth in what you offer. For example, I often talk about how often when designing Magic I’m thinking about all the different kinds of players there are. There are drafters and Standard players and Commander players and Modern players and Vintage players and Pauper players and a whole host of other formats. There are players who focus on two-player play and others who focus on multiplayer play. There are Timmies and Tammies, Johnnies and Jennies, and Spikes. There are the Vorthoses who live for the flavor of the game and the Mels who thrive on the mechanical artistry. There are collectors and traders. There are cosplayers. There are people who experience the game and/or express their feelings for the game through podcasts and videos and blogs and articles. And every time we make a set, we must be aware that all of those different kinds of players exist. We help each of those different types of players fall in love with something by making sure we provide things catered to them

Sounds like the exact way MMO design has turned out. I guess you could say that MTG is sort of an MMO as well, with millions of players across paper and digital platforms, but clearly this is an apples to oranges argument. Next, from the “DESIGN THE COMPONENT FOR THE AUDIENCE IT’S INTENDED FOR” segment:

This lesson talks about the dangers of designing to please too many audiences. To do your best game design, you have to understand what audience each component is aimed for and then maximize that component for that audience. Also, included in this idea is that it’s okay if a different audience doesn’t like that component. It’s not being made for them. (A quick aside that if that component is actively insulting to another group, for example, showing them in a bad light, that is a problem. You shouldn’t make one group happy by actively denigrating another group.)

The reason this lesson is key for understanding the importance of diversity is that the people who belong to the group in power probably are used to having a high percentage of representation. Lowering their representation to allow you to have an opportunity to showcase others is sometimes met with criticism because you’re lessening their representation. They’re taking the status quo as a baseline. Lowering that baseline can sometimes be seen as an attack because you’re taking something away from them.

My counter to that is that your game needs to be reflexive to the needs of everyone playing and not just the most dominant group. For example, Commander as a format didn’t exist for many years. As such, we didn’t design with it in mind, but as we started to see interest in the format, we began incorporating it into our designs (even making a product specifically for the format). By doing so, we increased awareness of Commander which, in turn, led to more people playing the format.

I’m a fan of this sentiment. Think about when the devs of Wildstar catered to that core vocal group and didn’t care about anyone else playing the game? Remind me where they are now? It goes to show that by being more diverse, you can create better worlds, better stories and overall better games. I hope this is the sort of philosophy developers adopt in the future, and we’ll see some awesome stuff as a result.

TWR: C19 Spoilers – The Madness Deck

Spoiler season for Commander 2019 has finally finished, and as such I can go over the final decklist. The Rakdos-colored madness-themed commander deck is led by Anje, and though she seems pretty good for the mechanic I’m not overly interested in it. I was surprised that there are quite a few cards in the deck that I would like to own though, but that’s due in part to them not being madness-centric. I should also note that some of the spoilers that were missing from some of the previous decks that I covered have finally showed up, probably because they were included in more than one of the decks so I’m sure WotC didn’t want them spoiled early. First up, the alternate commanders:

Alternate Commanders:

Chainer is a character that has existed previously, but I’m not too interested in this version. The recursion is nice and giving recurred creatures haste is a boon as well, but that’s all he does and it’s not that interesting. Greven is a little better, as you can sac a creature to draw some cards and lose life, and then he gets +1/+0 for each life lost, so perhaps a good voltron commander. Having menace is some nice evasion as well, so he’s probably the better Rakdos commander here, and he enables the madness theme, but so does Chainer in this form. K’rrik is pretty awesome, but I’ve already talked about him. There isn’t another multicolor commander in this deck due to it being the only one that isn’t a wedge deck, so mono black is it. I guess there are a couple of other legendaries included that you could build as well, but they don’t seem to be on theme.

New Cards:

Of these cards, the two I like the most are the Bone Mizer and the new curse. Curses have been a thing for a while, and many people have found ways to make curse based decks, and I’m sure those are annoying to play against. The new one has already been broken with some recently released cards where you can essentially pay life to gain more life and draw out your deck. Whatever the case it’s not bad by itself. I really like the Bone Mizer though and want a copy for my zombie deck. It already relies heavily on discard and recursion effects, and having the option to discard creatures, spells or lands in order to get tokens, card draw or mana is nice. Honestly you can’t lose with that card. Some of the other new cards are pretty good too, and Aeon Engine already has Uno memes dedicated to it.

Notable Reprints:

The new art for Solemn Simulacrum is quite nice. Ob Nixilis is a great Planeswalker addition to any collection. I’ve been meaning to grab a Geth for quite some time just to have, and Magus of the Wheel is one of the better wheel-on-a-stick cards. Lastly, Geier Reach Sanitarium is a little bit of group-hug, but card draw on a land is never a bad thing. It’s great for colors that need the help in that department!

Missing Spoilers:

As I mentioned there were some spoilers missing in previous posts, and these are them. Bloodthirsty Blade is an interesting way to staple the goad keyword to a creature, and because it was in more than one deck it didn’t get revealed until the end. The same goes for Mire in Misery and Voice of Many, thought the latter was spoiled the next day after being missing the first. Mire in Misery is some new enchantment removal for black that is a color that struggles with it. However, being conditional, it’s still not very good. It’s precon good, but not EDH good, if that makes sense. The Voice of Many is fine in creature heavy green decks, Emmara being one token themed deck I can see really benefiting from it. Nothing too exciting though.

Overall I am still only interested in buying the Populate and Flashback decks. They have the most value for my buck. I might buy a few singles from this deck only because they are likely to be at their cheapest point due to this reprint, but none of them are very expensive to begin with. It’s sort of a lackluster year, but I have trouble saying it’s worse than last year. I hope come 2020 we get another awesome year like we did in 2017. We’ve been spoiled and subsequently let down.