Wizards of the Coast

Magic The Gathering Arena Deck : In ACTION!

My last post explained some of the intricacies of my MTGA competitive deck. Writing about it is one thing, showing how it actually works is another – so I decided to make a video to see one of my win conditions.

Fun thing(s) about this video:

  • I don’t have a proper mic – I just used earbuds.
  • I have never made a video with a voice-over
  • (I had sound off for the game, sorry!)
  • This was the first, and only take – and I did ZERO editing. Still, it shows the pace of MTG:A better. It was also the only game I played. (It actually worked out in my favor, too!)
  • Hover over the ‘pause’ button in case you want to read the card descriptions. I wanted to be a good opponent still and not take a full 60 seconds between turns – so if you aren’t familiar with the cards a quick pause when I hover over them will show you their descriptions

There you have it! I am not a big video content creator, but if you have any constructive feedback I would be happy to hear it. If you think there is any fun or value in me slowing it down and explaining things in more detail, I would be happy to do some proper post game video editing and sharing cards, explanations, what I am looking for (and against), etc.

Let me know – the video is under 10 minutes long and was actually kind of fun to do =)

My Magic The Gathering: Arena Deck

I will be the first to admit out of the gate that my competitive, ladder climbing MTG:A deck is a straight up, gong show, “WTF were you thinking?!?”mish-mash of play styles and inferior deck building that I am almost afraid to share it. Not because of the ridicule that will most likely be present from Magic The Gathering experts / fans, but because you might actually try to play with it, and pull your own hair out.

But here’s the thing. I love it. And it’s SUPER fun. When things line up. Which seems to be more than 50% of the time still, because I am climbing up the ranks and now up in a Gold One ranking.

Fun is important too, right?

Let me explain why this deck in the first place. I love Green / Black decks. It was the first MTG:A deck I started using and everything about it resonates with me. I typically only play BG decks with each expansion. It’s my jam, so to speak.

Now, let me explain how I deck build. There are two parts to that.

First, I don’t read up on them, google, find the hot decks. I just play and open packs. If I see a card I like in the packs I open, I try to think through how it could work in my current deck. Whether it is better than a current card, has synergies, etc.

Secondly, during my playing, if I find I card I go against that I love/hate I also wonder if it could have a space in my deck.

Lastly, I play the MTG:A “one off” mode ranked. Which means it’s a best of one. Most MTG games, from what I can gather, is a best of three – so you have your base deck and a “sideboard” – cards you can add or subtract after your first game. This allows both players to adjust their decks for bad match ups (etc.) Not in the base MTG:A mode.

So I built a deck that can compete with anything I have ever seen thrown at me. Jack of all trades. It’s very versatile, a bit unwieldy, but has so many win conditions that every game plays out very differently – which keeps the game fun and fresh for me.

I will break down the deck into Lands, Spells, Creatures, Etc. But it is hard to explain how each card works without sharing what the deck does. If I were to name it, in the type of way I see Magic Decks named, but very literally, it would be a Golgari Explore Graveyard Removal Pot Pie. The basis of Explore is when you play a card that ‘Explores’, you get to reveal the top card in your deck. If it is a land card it goes into your hand. If it is anything else the creature card gets +1/+1. The ‘Graveyard’ part is that I have several ways to get my cards out of the Graveyard and back into my hand or onto the field of play. That means that my creature threats are never really gone. the ‘Removal” part is a significant amount of my deck is to remove opponent cards, neutralizing their threats. The “Pot Pie” part is the side that doesn’t really fit, but really throws opponents for the loop. “Pot” is that I inserted a single type of Blue Card, and the “Pie” is that I inserted a single type of White card. Technically my deck is four colors.

Why two separate cards? I will explain those first as it is important. The first I looked for because I needed a way to clear all card types if I get into a jam. My deck allows for the long game but in the long game you can face some pretty powerful creatures.

Settle the Wreckage, from my last game, can put this situation – a clear loss:

He thought he won!

Into this – and I ended up winning

The second, more important card is what I kindly refer to as the “Brad Marchand” card. It’s the card you HATE playing against, always, every time. BUT, if it’s on YOUR team, well, it’s awesome. Here is that card:

Thief of Sanity lets you pick one of three of your opponents cards and use it against them. It’s ridiculously powerful. More importantly, super fun to use. As mentioned before not many 4 color magic decks are built around two specific color cards but this gives me options. Many of them. So how I get around not carrying the specific land cards and having access in regular play – let’s start there.

Lands (and Cards that affect Lands)

For the record, I carry 11 Swamp, 11 Forest, 3 Foul Orchard, 1 Woodland Cemetary, 2 Gateway Plaza, 1 Guildmages’ Forum, 1 Memorial to Folly, 1 Chromatic Lantern, 2 Gift of Paradise.

The Gate cards, Lantern and Gift of Paradise give me access to all colors. Enough so that I am starting to toy with adding other color cards to my deck, but things are working well right now. Memorial to Folly is a Graveyard card that is land based (so it cannot be countered). I rarely have to use it but it’s there just in case.

Creature Cards

My creature cards have a nice mix of low cost cards (to counter quick damaging aggro decks) and cards that interact well with each other.

The Graveyard part of my deck makes things fun. They kill my Ravenous Chupacabra (which is a great removal card for me ) and then I bring it back with the Golgari Findbroker. The Wildgrowth Walker is the key card and I carry 4, as every Explore gives me back health. This is also why I love the Deadeye Tracker as it doubles as a graveyard removal tool (meaning opponents don’t ahve the option to bring their cards back from the discard pile like I do.

Spell / Enchant Cards Interactive

Understanding how explore works, and how returning things from my discard (Graveyard) pile is a big part of how my deck works – it all comes together with the spell cards I carry. These all play nice together with my creature and land cards.

This is where things get really fun. Arguel’s Blood fast and Journey to Eternity are two cards that you can transform (when certain conditions are met) and before that transformation are still very powerful cards. Arguel’s Blood Fast let’s me sacrifice life to draw cards. This balances well when I have WildGrowth Walkers on the board. Journey to Eternity protects a card as enemies don’t want to trigger it. Sometimes I use my own removal cards to destroy my own creature (because I get it right back).

Those two cards, when both are transformed, are an incredible fun combination. Temple of Aclazotz (Arguel’s Blood Fast transformed) allows me to sacrifice one of my own creatures to gain health back. Atzal, Cave of Eternity (Journey to Eternity transformed) lets me bring that card right back TO THE BOARD (not just my hand) – which triggers their card event.

To put that in perspective – lets use my Ravenous Chupacabra. When it enters the battlefield it can remove an opponents creature card for a pretty fair cost. I can then sacrifice it using Temple, and then bring it back to the battlefield with Atzal, triggering it’s removal effect again. Twice in the same turn.

Other cards are fun too. Find // Finality is a good mass clear for low level cards, OR I can bring creatures back from the graveyard. Recollect allows me to bring back ANY card from my graveyard, which is amazing. Gaea’s Blessing is a simple card draw but also protects me from a Blue deck that attempts to discard your whole hand as a win condition.

The final two cards are things that are triggered based on playing cards. Guardian Project is a card draw state (which I looked for specifically since I was often at the whim of my next draw) and Path of Discovery triggers explore on every creature card play (including when they come back from the graveyard.) This creates amazing loops of card draws, pulls, explores, and heals.

Spells – Removal Cards – bringing it all together

The last piece of the puzzle is my suite of Removal cards to keep the battlefield clean of my enemies cards – creatures and enchants.

Duress is a very cheap card that removes a spell from your hand (my choice). Cast down and Vicious offering are reasonable creature removal cards, Assassin’s Trophy kills EVERYTHING (but they get a free land for it) and Golden Demise kills low cost aggro decks. Never Happened has been a life saver for me (removes ANY card from their hand) and of course, when things really hit the fan, we have Settle the Wreckage as an emergency card.

Planeswalker

Planeswalkers are powerful cards with fun and interesting play dynamics. I currently use Liliana, The Necromancer – who isn’t super powerful but plays really well into my deck.

Liliana has a direct attack, another Graveyard retrieve, and the best part about her -7 loyalty move is that I can pull a creature from my opponents graveyard as well. She is the least important card in my deck and I toy with the idea of not using her anymore. The good part about Planeswalkers is that opponents feel like they must get rid of them fast, so it works as a quasi removal tool / focus changer as well.

That’s my deck! Let me know if you have any questions!

Ravnica Allegiance Launch : Magic The Gathering Arena

Time to buy packs!

What the screenshot doesn’t show is that because I have been so happy with my deck, and play daily, that I had saved up enough gold (free currency) to buy 45 packs of the latest expansion on release day. I also had over 20 standard Ravnica packs unopened as I was waiting for the new “bad luck” protection change which was included in the patch. Overall, a great day with a ton of cards

I’m still extremely stubborn and really only play and build black/green decks – it’s my comfort zone and I know how to counter most of the regular opposing color decks that I face out there. I do play any color based on the daily quest, but that’s only in fun mode (which still counts for daily quests) compared to ladder ranked.

Speaking of which, in the last MTG:A season I was stuck in bronze most of the time but with my Golgari Graveyard deck (my own additions to the standard Midrange variety) I have climbed all the way up to Gold 4. That may change quickly as deck building for me is finding cards to deal with how I am losing in game, which is a practiced art that includes lots of losing. The new expansion may create a brand new losing streak for me as I sort through all of that.

I am still only sticking to the “best of one” format that MTG:A started with as I am not a strong deck builder. I am going to start trying to construct my own decks for the practice, off color matches as when I read Izlain’s post on Magic that sounds like a big, fun part of it. The important thing is now that after a year or so of playing beta, and the live format, that I am very comfortable with all the mechanics and know most of the cards out there.

As with most expansions they introduce new mechanics – Green this time around is “adapt”, which ads +1/+1 counters to your cards per adapt level. This gives the opportunity to create really powerful cards if they aren’t removed from the board quickly. Black has a death mechanic called Afterlife that spawns new token creatures when the non-token ones die. Also a mechanic that allows you to spend a lower cost on cards if the enemy took damage this turn.

All in all, the learning curve begins again. Not nearly as harsh as Hearthstone and savvy spenders like me can get a ton of new cards for free at launch. If you like card games on the computer, and aren’t playing this, you really should give it a try. The base decks they provide to you as you learn have remained a competitive entry with varying styles.

2018 I HAS REVIEW – Q4

October 2018

  • Posts: 3 (Really? Just 3?)
  • Games: Magic The Gathering: Arena
  • Other Media:

October was my second lightest posting month and 3 in a month (along with the couple 5s I had earlier in the year) shows my inability to post consistently. Blogging is one of those things I love when I feel like I have something to talk about but struggle with when not – I would be a terrible place if I needed to have dependable, episodic content. October was about blahs and a general post, followed by a rentry into MTGA after the wipe (which I dreaded), and then an inspired post about an old gaming friend who I lost touch with – we were quite close, and he was suicidal near the end, and when we lost touch I worried about him. I still do from time to time.

In October 2017 I was playing Destiny 2 and Warframe

November 2018

  • Posts: 7
  • Games: Perfect World, Torchlight Frontiers, Breach, Magic The Gathering: Arena, Battlefield V, World of Warcraft, Fallout 76
  • Other Media:

In November I cleared out what was at the time, my last batch of Spring Cleaning blog posts drafts. It was a fun exercise. Checking recently, seems as though I may have another batch to do in 2019. We shall see. I had an Alpha based post on the 4-5 I was in at the time, as well as a great laugh at the bloopers from the Fallout 76 terrible launch (and the game continues to plague them, from what I am reading. I started playing (and being excited about) Battlefield 5(V) which I am still playing and being excited about. New free content update drops this week. I , along with many, many others groaned about the general boringness of Blizzcon this year.

In November 2017 I was playing Warframe

December 2018

  • Posts: 1 (FML)
  • Games: Slay the Spire
  • Other Media:

To be fair I had 3 weeks of vacation planned in December and that included a spill over into the first week of January – and two separate countries on two trips. Still, I didn’t put the effort in. My game of the year was Slay the Spire which my game of the year post neglected to mention (outside of the gameplay and screenshots). Never a dull moment here at IHASPC

In December 2017 I was playing EQ2, DDO, Warframe

Overall, not a bad year here statistics wise although I fell short of my 6 posts per month that I’d like to stick to. Good news is, heading into 2019 I have a lot to write about already and I only have two fears heading into February. The first is that with the upcoming Anthem launch IHASPC will become an Anthem blog for the foreseeable future. My other, bigger fear is that it will not – and Bioware will fade as my favorite gaming company.

Once again, thank you for reading, and here is to a happy, gaming filled, healthy, satisfying 2019!

2018 I HAS REVIEW – Q3

July 2018

  • Posts: 6
  • Games: World of Warcraft. Magic The Gathering: Arena, Warriors of Waterdeep,
  • Other Media / Non Digital Games: Blaugust

Summertime is more time outside time, less gaming time, and even less blogging time. I started a series about some World of Warcraft Specs that I thought would be really fun to include/play in the game and had drawn out several for several classes, but I didn’t get past one or two. (Maybe just one, will find out when I do August / September! My focus was on healing and tanking specs for every class to ensure you can play the flavor and role of class that you prefer. At the end of the month I wished the Blaugust participants good luck due to the fact I am at a cottage first two weeks of August and teaching at a hockey camp, so I don’t have time to blog at all for the most part. I spent a lot of time exploring my roster of World of Warcraft characters and tried to sort through how I would launch in Battle for Azeroth and where my focuses would be. I didn’t stick to my plan and even less did I do the armor class quests for the new races. I tried to give away Magic The Gathering Arena beta access as I had 5 keys – only two people asked. I managed to win at getting my Awesome Bear Form challenge before the deadline (And continued to use it through BFA – it is that awesome!). With my continued attention to D&D I ended up downloading a fun mobile game Warriors of Waterdeep, although I stopped playing it shortly after. Didn’t stick.

July 2017 I was playing Paladins, Fortnite, and Battletech

August 2018

  • Posts: 8
  • Games: World of Warcraft
  • Other Media / Non-Digital Games:

At the end of August I was already wondering if I should resubscribe to World of Warcraft. I did, but the fact that I had to second guess myself was telling to me of the quality of enjoyment I was having. I was enjoying the core story of Horde more than Alliance. I HAS PC turned 10 in August and as always, I reflected a bit on my 10 year journey here and what’s next for me. I looked for a guild of like minded people but wasn’t having much luck – so took random invites instead and was fine with that with my solo-ish playstyle. I found and added two new blogs that I enjoy Deez Words and Allunaria’s. I slogged through the low 100s and reflected often about my experiences as a once again, sole World of Warcraft (apparently) blog. I sourced a temp work position through the blog for a test, successfully, and I DID do a second part of my “SPEC ME OUT” series. Awesome rogue specs that I would 100% play for myself.

August 2017 I was playing Fortnite, Destiny 2 (beta), and Paladins.

September 2018

  • Posts: 7
  • Games: World of Warcraft, Telltale Games, WildStar, Cyberpunk 2077
  • Other Media / Non Digital:

I unsubscribed from World of Warcraft in September. Didn’t last long, sadly. Before doing so I grinded out Warfronts to get top end gear for basically just showing up. The ultimate welfare epics. I was sad about Telltale games – I really enjoyed a few of their titles (but the delivery did wane on me). I compared and optimistic view vs a pessimistic view on the 6 month mount subscription announcement by Blizzard. Level 120 in World of Warcraft was checking in, doing the work, but not feeling the love. Kind of like real life. I shared every post I made on WildStar and of course was sad that the game didn’t stick. Sad but NOT surprised – one of those “called its”. Finally I watched – with glee – the announcement and sharing of Cyberpunk gameplay. It was one of the PnP games I played the most in my youth (Rifts, Star Wars, Shadowrun being the other ones I spent my time on).

September 2017 I was playing Destiny 2, Clash Royale, and Fortnite

Q4 is less old but will still share, I really enjoy being able to go back through and see where my head and heart was at the times

When You Say Nothing At All : Quotes

I don’t like going a full week without making a post. This is more of a challenge when you didn’t really do anything or have anything tangible to write about. So, if you hate general posts about a few things, stop reading now. This is one of them.

“Not as bad as I thought”

While not sounding like a ringing endorsement, but was the general consensus about Kansas City. I have been to a lot of cities in the USA but that was my first trip to KC. It was for a conference and I spent Sunday – Thursday in the “City of Fountains” (without seeing a single one, mind you!). Turns out it is a really pretty city. Clean, good food, nice places to have drinks at night. It felt oddly empty, mind you, where we were (near the Power and Light district) and unfortunately there wasn’t a Chiefs game in town and of course the Royals are out of the playoffs. I love seeing live sporting events in new cities I visit. Gives you a real feel for it.  I probably wouldn’t go back there for a straight vacation or anything like that – but if another conference pulls me there I’d definitely look forward to it. Problems with conferences is that you tend to spend 90% of your time in hotels and conference rooms, conferencing. We managed to see some of the city but not nearly enough of it.

“Do you want fries with your airmiles”

I have another doozy trip starting Monday which will also mean less posting. The first leg of my trip is to get from Canada to Perth, Australia. Which is three flight legs. And 29 hours of airports, layovers, and flying. That’s a long day(s). I get a few days in Perth and then it’s a flight to Auckland (7.5 hours), then ChristChurch, then back up to Sydney, then Vancouver, Toronto, and then home. 12 days away with a full 48+ hours in planes and airports. While I am looking forward to my destinations the journey part is going to be long and exhausting.

“Your Go”

I do my daily quest in MTG:A and have been building up some fun decks with the pieces I get. I have been splitting my earned packs between three sets – Dominaria, Ravnica, and Core Set 2019. I have been fortunate to get some legendary cards and my Golgari Saporling deck has been my favorite so far. While I play ranked, I am stuck at Bronze 2 for the most part because I play whatever color combo the quest requires, and it takes 1-5 matches a day to complete the quest. So playing something I have zero knowledge of, like a Blue Black deck means I wing it and focus less on winning or losing and just learn as I go. I mentioned this before but the best way to learn what tools are in the standard decks are to play them (of course) so there is still value there. I play stock decks of every color except for Green / Black which is my wheelhouse. “Your Go” is one of 5 pre-set options you currently can say to your opponent. I do not understand why they don’t have full chat available, with the ability to turn it off. I’d love to chat with opponents. I know it can get dicey that way, but it takes all the social aspect out of it and with proper reporting and mute tools could be a huge boon to a casul, fun player like me. Eventually you will be able to play with friends and why shouldn’t I be able to chat with friends in game while we play? It’s a shame and missed opportunity.

“Well, it’s LFR”

I am back to my subscription countdown in WoW. I am maxxed out on my characters (even though I did start levelling more) but right now I run all LFR wings on my Paladin/Druid and still plug away at Emissary quests. My Subscription will lapse on my next business trip. I was lucky enough to get a BOE drop that sells in the high 300s so that would be 3 months of subscription time for me. It’s not selling fast, however. I will probably keep going if I sell it, or take a break if I don’t. the game is so comfortable to play and the pacing and fluidness of going through the motions is very comfortable. I do need to download an “offline only” game – probably an RPG – so I have something to do besides work on my flights. I do a lot of LFR and do the mechanics properly, and have been getting heck for it. Yes, heck for tanking right. Most people are geared enough and it’s easy enough that you can skip a lot of mechanics and still have success (Taloc Cudgel) and when saying to the group I prefer to do it right, that was the response. Hilarity. I do miss the challenge in MMO gaming and know I can still make it myself in WoW (Mythic+, Raid teams, etc.) most of that is generally out of my time reach.

You probably won’t hear much from me the next two weeks but I’ll definitely pop my head into the blogroll and get some good reading in during my down times. Bon Voyage to me.

Rebuilding : MTGA

I had a LOT of fun with the Magic The Gathering Arena closed beta but was less than enthused to restart after the wipe.

Currently, there are around 1300 unique cards and you can have up to 4 of each. By the time I was done in closed beta I had around 2600 cards – so half way there. Starting fresh, without your favorite decks, is daunting. I predicted I wouldn’t even play again but I did end up reloading. It’s free and a lot of catching up to do.

MTG:A is an amazing card game. It puts Hearthstone (and any others I have tried) to shame. Yes, there is complexity there and nuance but of course with decades old games that happens. This version is so easy to play and learn. If you ever wanted to get into MTG this is the perfect place to start.

The challenge is rebuilding what I once had. I am not entirely enthusiastic about giving them money yet – I want to see how things are structured and while they mentioned they don’t plan for an Open Beta wipe if something “catastrophic” happens they reserve the right to do so. So I am treading cautiously.

I am also playing it like WoW Emissary quests right now – something I don’t really want to do, but I have to to progress. Every day when you play a match you get a free full deck. I am not sure when this stops, but each deck has 60 cards and so far all the decks have been different. If you want to get into MTG:A just log in and play one match a day – even if you lose horribly – and you are building a collection.

There is also a daily quest (or two, or three) that you get once a day and they accrue – exactly like WoW. These also reward money (to buy packs) and pack rewards. So these also must be done. They are often “play 40 green or blue spells” or “play 25 lands”. They often force you to certain decks and colours. It is good to learn these but more importantly to see what opponents are playing.

After that, the rewards aren’t worth the effort, to be fair. So every day I log in for 1-5 matches to clear out the quests and get packs. At this rate, I will be able to play my old decks sometime in the new year. Sooner if I am very lucky (or spend a lot of money, which I won’t do in Beta state). So now between WoW and MTGA I have two daily routines on my computer. Neither make me scream GET IN THERE! but both keep me connected to the games.

And for good measure, I was just invited to a big hyped, interesting Alpha test. Which the fine print says I can’t tell you which one, although supposedly a Dev on their discord said you could say you were in or not – just nothing more than that. I’ll respect the system and not say that quite yet until I can confirm. Unfortunately it is a game mode and style I am not particularly fond of, but Alphas are always interesting to go mess around. Will see what happens.

At least there haven’t been any Hopes and Dreams style interviews yet.

Magic The Gathering Beta Key Giveaway

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).

You can read my MTG:A posts here if you are curious

Keeping this short and sweet so people can be up and running for the weekend!

 

(Aether) Revolting : MTGA

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?

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.