Wizards of the Coast

My Dominaria Pack Openings

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!

 

 

Opening pack 1 of 3! The Freebies for the launch.

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.

MTG Arena : Joy in Learning

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.

I came back and won this match with my new favorite card drawn next turn (shown face up on the draw pile)

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.

Love of my life! A little tentaclely, but I am not superficial.

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.

card images found at https://scryfall.com/

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.

MTG Arena : Hitting My Stride

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.

The glowing purple chest is the vault. I am excited.

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.

OMG ITS LIKE A LOOTBOX

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!

A Legendary Planeswalker HAS to be good, right?

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.

Learning by Listening : D&D 5e

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.