Wizards of the Coast
I have 5 keys that I will /random off Friday, at 5pm EST.
All you have to do is leave a comment below (and have a valid email address so I can send it to you if you win). I don’t keep email addresses, I don’t have a mailing list, and I won’t use it for any reason but to send you the key.
Based on my readership and number of comments I get here, you have a 90+% chance of winning!
MTGA is a really fun card game, and is very generous with it’s starter decks and rate you get free decks. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I still play daily (to get my daily quest gold).
Keeping this short and sweet so people can be up and running for the weekend!
Well, the new MTGA decks have really kicked my ass. I dropped from a high silver in the ladder placements to right back to entry level Bronze. Turns out, like most online card games, if you don’t keep with the Joneses you get kicked out of the neighbourhood.
Things were getting a bit boring anyway.
The good news with the Kaladesh and Aether Revolt decks is 264 and 184 new cards – respectively – of all new cards, features, and playstyles. The new resource “energy” is another thing to manage and does make an interesting dynamic on card interactivity. So I spent ALL of my saved up gold and bought all packs from the sets and built myself another deck. I also burned through a bunch of my Wildcards when I wanted to duplicate some of the cards I found. Here is my deck:
I know that doesn’t tell you much, but I will break down the important parts and how they interact. But first, I want to explain how I ended up with 78 cards in a 60 card base game.
From what I have learned, in MTG proper you play two out of three matches. You play your core deck – of around 60 cards – and then you have a “sideboard” of cards that you can swap in / add in to your main deck after your first match when you see what kind of a deck your opponent plays. This builds in the ability to counter certain decks but to not face a bloated deck with too many options. In MTG:A this is why people quit so fast (and often) is because they don’t have the cards to beat certain win conditions so at the first sign of them them just give up. Not me, since I can face everything, I hang in there and make the games interesting. The number of times I have come back from “certain” doom with this approach is enough to have me keep playing that way.
In Ladder Constructed gameplay in MTG:A they are single games, so you have to be able to handle all kinds of decks and opponents. Mine does that pretty well, with a 57+% winrate over every colour – except Green, oddly enough.
Onto my deck. Which, I will say, probably loses 9/10 in real competitive play but online in beta mode is doing just fine (thank you).
It’s a Green/Black deck, the same two land types I played on my main deck. First I will go through the “energy” based cards I use – and some cards I use to protect and enhance them.
My deck consists of a lot of easy, low cost cards that if not cleared quickly can become powerful cards. Here, the Longtusk cub is a simple 2/2 card that when successfully attacking a player, generates 2 energy. Which it can then consume to become a 3/3 creature. And then a 4/4 the next time. This card is great because it forces players to block it or it can grow in power (where often, I could let a 2/2 creature do damage to me to use my cards for other purposes).
Another energy using/producing card at a low cost. The “Menace” attribute means that this creature can only be blocked by two or more creatures – which makes it a safe, early attack. Drawing cards is a huge benefit in MTG and it is worth it (especially early) at the cost of one life.
This card has a quick 2 energy generation, but the added bonus of of acting as a land card for the cost of one energy. This helps get low cost cards out quickly, early. The next two cards work in tandem to defend these cards by removing defenders and protecting them.
Channelling a bit of ‘300’ here with the kick, this low cost card remover is great to get rid of those early, low cost cards you may face (I am looking at you, mono-red decks) and has the added bonus of “Revolt” – meaning at a tiny cost you can remove bigger cards as well if you lost a permanent in the round.
This card is amazing to protect your low cost energy producing cards and it is great to watch an opponent burn a removal card only to counteract it.
Getting into a higher cost card this great attacker and defender has two benefits from its interaction with energy. One, and the big one, is that it gains “Hexproof”. Hexproof protects it from direct counter cards from an opponent. For example, if they cast a “do five damage to target creature card” I get the opportunity before it hits to pay three energy and protect it from any direct cards, so that card is wasted on it. Plus it keeps the +1/+1 power gained upon use so it’s another avenue to increase the strength of a card.
Those six cards are the core and crux of my early plays in matches. The second is all about the Walking Ballista – but I will build up the cards that make that card special first.
The winding constrictor is an amazing low cost card that feeds into itself (and additive, the more you have on the board). Energy accumulation is also affected by the +! bonus. To best explain how it works I am going to introduce the tandem low card I usually play right behind it:
Rishkar not only makes every card with a counter on it a potential land (allowing you to play higher cost cards far earlier) the +1/+1 feeds perfectly into the Winding Constrictor. If I play Rishkar right after Winding and clock both Rishkar and Winding as the two receiving the counters, Winding Constrictor becomes a 4/5 card and Rishkar a 4/4. That’s a lot of power for a total cost of 5 between the two. IF I had another Winding Constrictor on the board and clicked the 2 WCs as the recipients of Rishkar’s entry benefit both would be 5/6 cards. That’s huge considering they represent half of the total starting life of your opponent.
The real gem of my deck is this card:
What makes this card so powerful is that at any time – ANY time – you can click on it, remove +1/+1 from it, and do that damage to a creature, planeswalker, or opponent. And because you can consistently add +1/+1 through it’s self mechanic (4 land cost) you have a constant clearing card. The other big benefit to this card that even if your opponent plays a removal card – an exile, or do X damage that would kill the creature, you still get to remove as many +1/+1 as you have before the clear it takes effect. This card is a monster. It does cost 4 land to make it a +2/+2 base (or 6 for 3/3) but if you had Winding Constrictors on the board, that +2/+2 entry is now a +4/+4. The way the last three cards interact with each other is amazing – and best part is even if you don’t have them all together they are powerful individually.
If I have any combination of Wild Constrictors or Walking Ballistas on the board and I introduce this card, the opponent usually quits immediately. It’s a high cost card but with the combination of cards that can act as land cards above (at low cost) I can get this out on the field of play quickly and often.
Those 10 cards make up the bulk of my attack and defence. However, I have had to add cards into my deck to protect myself from often played decks. These cards have good general use as is but critical when facing specific opponents.
How to Counter a ‘Blue” Counter Deck
Blue decks focus on stopping you from getting your creatures on the board, and/or removing them once they are there.
Journey to Eternity means your creature cards get played straight from your graveyard meaning you can “bring back” any card that was put there without having it countered as a card play directly. It’s a very powerful card and when facing a blue deck I sort out how to get it activated as soon as possible. This way if they counter a creature card I play, it is put into my graveyard. Meaning my next turn I can get it on the board without fear of it being countered.
The Cat Snake (amazing concept) can’t be countered and while alive means that your other creature cards you play can’t be countered as well. It can still be removed once played so it is a good idea to hold onto a Blossoming defence while it’s on the board because any blue deck will be looking to remove this as fast as it can.
How to beat a White Vampire or Blue Merfolk deck
We see these decks a lot and they are low cost creature cards that build off of each other. For example with Merfolk, you have unblockable 1/1 creatures. Then they play a Merfolk Wizard which gives all Merfolk +1/+1. Then another, then another, etc. Now those unblockable cards are 5/5 cards suddenly and you can’t do anything about it. The key is to clear them early and often before they can grow into powerful cards, using this one:
It’s a good clearing card and the key is ensuring you don’t play it too early or too late.
How to beat a Scarab God / “Return to Owner’s Hand” deck
Some decks have a powerful creature – such as the Scarab or Locust God – that even if you kill them they immediately go back to the hand of the player and can be played next turn. It’s a really frustrating mechanic and often a player getting those cards out can outlast most decks. This is where Vraska’s Contempt comes in:
Because the card uses the “Exile” mechanic instead of “Destroy” the card is fully removed from play for the rest of the game. I keep a couple of these in my deck in case I run into one of those card types.
So there you have it. This is my current deck in MTG:A that I am rocking a near 60% winrate with and have a winning record against all colors EXCEPT green. Not sure where my luck is with green, but going to pay close attention to how they are beating me to see if I need to add some more cards to the deck.
Even if you don’t play magic, check out the cards – the art is definitely amazing and I appreciate that side of things.
Any questions, thoughts, or comments?
With Dominaria launched for Magic:The Gathering both in “real life” and the digital world I was fortunate enough to have have saved up a lot of gold (free to play currency) to buy 8 packs. I also received three free ones, and through the first few days of winning daily contests and matches I also have received a handful of others (again, through the free to play currency). The update enabled real world currency but I’m not playing in that space yet. And the truth is, the game is extremely generous. I don’t think I ever received the generosity from other card games – especially Hearthstone (which is the one I played the most. outside of MTG.)
I’l share a picture (you will have to click to enlarge) and I’ll pick my favorite card of the bunch and explain why. Fun stuff for Izlain, fodder for most of you!
I am still not up on the Lore of everything in MTG, but whoever that is probably pretty important. That would be my guess.
First pack, first Legendary (two actually)! Marwyn introduces a new race connection – Elves – that she can play off of to gain power. I play green / black as my main and currently don’t have any elves so the interactive play is minimum to me from the get go. The white card is a common ‘wildcard’ which you can exchange when deckbuilding for any common card.
Second pack has 2 ‘Saga’ cards. I haven’t played one (or played against one outside of killing it with a Naturalize card the second it was played) but from my understanding, Saga cards are three step cards that advance on each turn. So playing them once gets 3 things to happen in succession. I am always happy to see green cards.
I already added Nature’s Spiral to my deck but feel Sylvan Awakening is a bit too situation for me to play. Still – more green!
Another Marwyn (you can carry 4 of any / all cards in your deck). The blue wildcard is for uncommon cards.
Two Legendary Creatures in this pull and the Black one would be quite the card to play in a red/black deck – although the cost seems pretty high.
I zoomed in on Grunn here (and yes, that’s me reading Tales of The Aggronaut in the background!) to show the “kicker” mechanic. I am not sure how new that is but it is the first time I have seen them show up on cards – and they are pretty common in Dominaria. Not sure if it is a resurgence or a new mechanic.
Gilded Lotus is an interesting artifact but one that I wouldn’t use until really late rounds (cost of 5) at which point, mana is not an issue for me. So seems counter-intuitive to get a card you can’t play late game that has less impact at that time.
At this point I tipped my vault – and the Mythic wildcard is always nice, as well as the two rare and three uncommons.
Another two legendary creatures and a supporting elf for Marwyn. I can start building my “annoy Syp” deck soon.
The Cabal Paladin introduces “historic” spells to me – will be interesting to see where and how those play out.
Not a single green card in this hand. Totally feel ripped off. Semi-satisfied with yet another legendary creature.
Excited to see another Saga card, but curious as to when it is a good play – clearly not if you are in the lead in creature count. Seems like a board clearing effect with the added bonus of complete exile of them if you can keep them in there an exgtra turn.
Another green-free hand. What are the odds? I suspect I would need to know total cards available to know that. 8 in a deck, 5 colors, X cards total. Some sort of factorial, 8r!5nX? (I don’t remember high school algebra. Completely making that up).
Another elf! I am not truly excited about that as I would need to burn a lot of wildcards to build some sort of a deck to support elf-play, but the thought of a mono green deck is very interesting. Just need a Nissa Planeswalker.
So there was my first couple of days of the new pack set, and as you can see I received many cards, legendaries, wildcards across all colours and play styles. One thing I can’t complain about MTG:Arena (among many others!) is that it is pretty easy to get several packs per week. I hope the economy stays as generous at launch.
The way rewards work in MTG:Arena is twofold – daily and weekly. The daily is a pretty easy to hit challenge by just playing the specified card colors, and the weekly grants you a pack of cards at 5, 10, and 15 wins. What is good about this in the early stage of the game (you can’t spend money yet) is that that 15 wins stays up all week – so it acts like a counter of sorts for how many wins you got for the week. I did over 40 wins last week and am quickly figuring things out.
In this early stage there are no statistics (which would be interesting) and matchmaking at this early stage is clearly more interested in getting you playing quickly than evenly. I don’t even know if they are matchmaking by level at this point. It doesn’t matter because one thing I am learning quickly is that there are so many variables to a successful match that is out of your control – but enough that is IN your control – that you can clearly tell this game has been played and tested for years. However that doesn’t seem to set the learning curve.
Sometimes you just have to fail and fail hard, and then head to google for the answers. I think that is the new, life metaphor we all live by. Yes that was mostly tongue in cheek.
As a noobie I tried a bunch of preset, 60 card decks. They seemed to all be interesting and have their own nuances, but I wasn’t getting better by swapping decks so quickly. I needed to grab a deck and focus on it and become good at it. The answer came to me in the form of a pack of cards. I drew a legendary Pathfinder – Vraska, Relic Seeker. Pathfinders are high(er) cost cards with a health pool based abilities. One that adds to the health, and two that take away from it. They can be directly attacked by creatures and spells in the game as well.
The + health card gets you a nice 2/2 Pirate that needs to blocked by 2 or more. The small, -3 health ability – destroy target artifact, creature, or enchantment is an amazing controlling benefit and the -10 power really changes the state of the game. Armed with my new girlfriend I had to pick a deck that she would fit in. Some comfortable digs. The base deck – The Golgari Exploration (which is a swamp/forest based deck, the same two land cards you need to play Vraska) had to be it. So it was.
It’s a fun deck based on cards and enchantments the have the “Explore” feature. Which allows you to find and play more land cards. From what I have learned it also has a good amount of control cards (clearing out enemy creatures) but I quickly found decks I was weak against. And this is how I started getting better at the game.
A very popular deck I see a lot is a “blue” deck – which has a lot of counter creature and counter spell cards. Frustrating when every time you try and play one of your cards the other player negates it. When you finally get your Pathfinder on the board only to have it negated by a 2 power card it feels like the tables turn. I needed a way to counter that. I found my own, two power card that allows you to retrieve a card from your graveyard (where dead creatures go) so I placed a couple of them in my deck – and have been able to use them successfully. The trouble there is that they have all sorts of “remove / negate” creature cards so I needed a way to look at my opponents deck before bringing a card back. I found one and placed a couple in my deck. Those cards have helped me compete against blue decks – even though I am still very much at the mercy of which of my (and my opponents) 60-70 cards are drawn at any time it is far more fun knowing you have counters to your counters in case it happens.
So now I could deal with those pesky “blue” (island) based decks. Then I kept running into issues with a card called The Scarab God. It was literally a “game over” card for me every time I played against it. It’s a strong 5/5 card that can grab any card from your (or your opponents) graveyard and make a 4/4 zombie of it. Terrifying when you face him, and when you kill him, he has the pesky effect of going right back into your opponents hand next turn. Like a cockroach, you can never really get rid of him.
Or can you? Magic has 2 discard piles. One, the graveyard, cards can be pulled back from with various cards. The other, is the “exile” pile – when a card goes to exile it is gone from the game. So how do I kill the Scarab God, and exile him, all in one turn? Is that possible? Yes it is! And thankfully there are great in game (and on web) resources to find cards to help you with your issues. Enter the low cost, Deadeye Tracker.
There. Now I can kill and exile that card all in one. Building up defenses so at least I know I have the right cards to counter him if I face him. Keep in mind that any card I add has to be a swamp or forest cost card or I can’t play it. In MTG you CAN add more land based cards (tri color decks, etc.) but due to how many cards most people carry that’s a high risk on a card draw. So while I chose the above cards to deal with my issues based on the land cards my deck is based off of there are other cards for other lands (and even other cards for my lands). I tried to find ones that work with my style of deck – and the above card also “explores” on that use – and I have several cards that gain benefits / interact with the explore mechanic.
My last big challenge was enchantments. Often I’d get a strong hand and my opponent would play an enchantment card that would remove my card / creature from play until the enchantment was dealt with. The base Golgari Exploration deck has zero counters for this. I had one on my Pathfinder, but that is a high cost card AND often when I played my Pathfinder that was the card my opponent would enchant. Enter another easy and low cost counter.
And with that card I now have a deck I feel comfortable with countering anything that I have played against so far. This doesn’t mean I win every game of course, but it means there are far less “lose for sure” scenarios. I have the tools to counter my opponents. Each game I learn new ways and face better opponents. I am loving that losing is just another experience for me to consider how or what I could have done differently. And if the answer was “nothing”, then I can search for ways I don’t already know to help myself out in the future.
That part has been almost as fun as playing the cards to begin with.
As a note – I do have an extra code if you are interested in joining in the closed beta. There is zero monetization in the game currently so it’s for fun and testing.
I am still not “good” at the game, but I am becoming “effective”. Quotations used for loosely defined terms. What I mean is that I fully understand what is going on and have been able to create strategies on the fly with the two decks i am comfortable with. I am still not “good” because many of the cards I am seeing are cards I have never seen before – so the learning curve is Hearthstone times a bajillion. There may or may not be rounding errors in that last statement.
I can’t comment on how the economy works (or will work) as you can’t buy anything in this beta (shocker, I know!) You earn gold, cards and packs from playing. There is a daily challenge (play 20 land cards, play X spells of Y color, etc.) and every win plateau grants you a deck. Turns out at 15 wins (for the week maybe?) that free deck pile stops. At least it did for me. There is in game gold, gems (which I am guessing is the currency converter) and the vault. One thing that is kind of fun is unlocking decks and cards gives you a percentage unlock of your “vault”. I finally unlocked my first.
Clicking on the vault showed a whole cornucopia of goodies. Burning color cards! Wildcards! (Wildcards – the three on the right – are tokens you can turn in for rarity cards of the same color so you can customize your deck. I have no clue what kind of goodness this will unravel but of course, we are about to find out!
Well that is my second Planeswalker. The decks I use are the Brazen Coalition which is a quick hitting, fun Pirate deck and the Golgari Expedition – which is an “explore” based deck – nature and death. Vraska – the legendary Planeswalker – fits in that deck perfectly. With excitement I added her to the base deck and began playing, and quickly got into a really fun match. The other player jumped out to a quick lead but I was able to get some explores in and with the help of some Chubacabra’s (low cost death cards) I was able to catch up.
Then the fun hit the fan. The other player played a Planeswalker – the second I have ever played against. The first time it didn’t go well. Then more fun hit the fan as I drew – and was able to play – MY Planeswalker the next turn. Things got crazy and fun, until my opponent started playing enchantment cards that took both my Planeswalker and a 7/7 card I had played out “until enchantment removed”. I haven’t seen a “remove enchantment” card in either of my decks and that was the turning point. I lost but it was close. My opponent only had three health left.
What is good about the way the game works is I was able to use a search function in game (and you can filter by color, rarity, keyword – etc.) and I have access to two types of enchant removal cards on the Nature side (cards I own). I forgot to filter “unowned” cards before they took the server down but that is where the wildcards will come in handy. Even if I haven’t drawn a remove enchantment card I have plenty of wildcards so will be able to build them myself.
The circle of life and learning in games is great. Enchantments whooped my ass and now I found a way to deal with them for next time. This part of gaming I a have always enjoyed. Discovery.
I am on episode 10 of the Critical Role Podcast – that is around 30 hours worth of D&D, audio glory. It has completely taken over my time when I drive to and from work (which used to be reserved for The Economist) – so while I am far less up to date on the global Politics and Business arenas, I know when a good time is to force an Athletics check. Truth be told I somewhat feel less depressed by NOT keeping up on the formal failings of the human race in the world and much happier by the murderous hobo ways of Vox Machina (the party’s name from the series).
As mentioned in a prior post I have been reading the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have also bought (but haven’t started reading) Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and have recently added the Monster Manual. I own most of the source books now outside of adventures. I have purchased all of the material through DnDBeyond.com which makes it searchable and easier to read. I did download PDF versions for free on the Internet, until I sorted out they weren’t supposed to be for free and that I would be getting enjoyment and value out of them so paying is the right thing to do.
Odd pleasure reading for a person who will never end up playing but it has fueled my fantasy thinking. I have even started ideation around and writing down a DM campaign based on a new frontier. It has been fun thinking through how I would design such a campaign and I may tinker around with finishing it up in small, bit sized adventures by size – with all of the tying into a grander plot around a specific geographic location. It is fun to jot down notes and plan around what could be a fun campaign – even if I never run it. Maybe I’ll just make one and put it up for other people to try and get feedback that way. Who knows. I am having fun.
I am on ‘G’ in the Monster Manual and there have been some fun moments on the Podcast where the DM (Matthew Mercer) is describing a monster the party has come accross and it is one that I have already read about in the Monster Manual. In fact, the four I have shown here are those same four and it has been enjoyable when listening to him describe the monsters that I can already pull from memory what they are. That ‘aha!’ moment. Bonus is when I listen how the party chooses to try and deal with them while knowing their tactic they are resistant to (illusion resistance, for example.) I should hurry along in the Manual before he gets to bigger and much badder monsters.
I have particularly enjoyed the sections on Dragons – it goes into great depth about them, their personalities, and how they view and interact with the world. The Podcast is a few years behind so I am not worried about spoilers – and as mentioned they just started a second season but I still have 105 episodes and well over 200 hours of content listening to catch up. I wonder if it would hold my interest that long.
The better part of it though, is listening in great detail on how the DM explains everything, what checks he asks the party to do / not do, and in general how the party forms how they do things and even what they do. It is a great combination of rules and color and since they are all voice actors you get a nice dose of that as well. I feel like I am playing – and learning – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition just by listening along.
And that is enough and will have to do for now.