Magic The Gathering
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.
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.
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.
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?
I am annoyed with the MTGA community on a few fronts. The first I have spoken about in most of my MTGA posts about the “money is for nothing and your kicks for free” entitlement attitude on the beta forums. The doomsayers explaining that if you can’t get most things for free extremely quickly that the game will fail horribly. Keep in mind this is the same, extremely slick game I have been saying is amazing. This is the probably the best representation of the decades long, arguably one of the most popular card games in existence successfully ported to digital format. I think they will be safe to charge reasonably, and I feel like the game is already too generous with the speed and scale it gives away cards and gold to buy more cards. I have stopped reading doomsayers posts about the economy in general on the boards.
The second, more annoying thing is that people quit fast in MTGA. It seems like the instant I play a card that poses a modicum of a challenge the player gives up – often instantly. I can’t believe the lack of competitive spirit of taking on a challenge to see what you are able to do in the face of adversity. In MMO terms, it would be like the main tank dying on a pull and everyone logging out of the group instantly when it happens. It drives me bonkers.
The main reason for the frustration is I frequently come back from the abyss in games. Heck, just yesterday I was down 20-1 against a Blue/Black deck with Merfolk. He had 8 creatures in play and I had zero. They were all 2/2 and 3/3. The play before I was down to one health I exiled a 2/2 Merfolk that granted all his Mer-creatures +1/+1. Then he knocked me down to 1 health and played more creatures – but all of them were 2/2 or less now. My next turn I played all enemy creatures get -2/-2 and cleared the board. He is now ahead 20 health to 1 with a clean board. I play a 2/2 card that spawns a 1/1 creature at the end of every turn (mine and his) and since I have enough land cards that temporarily boosts the summoned creatures to 3/3. And soon as that lands he quits.
I would call it a one off but yesterday I was on a roll and in 15 games I had people quit early – at the first sign of trouble – close to 50% of the time. I have said it in an earlier post and I’ll say it again – I never quit early. If I am getting outplayed that badly then my opponent deserves to win with their combinations and checks. I have lost badly on draws, and decks, but the truth is I built my deck in such a way that it is good against all opponents but it too big to be efficient. I have several win conditions and can handle most of the decks I face if my cards come out right. And for that I need to stick it out and get the draws.
Perhaps my opponents have built decks with such narrow win conditions that when I throw a wrench into their plans they just assume they don’t have a chance and quit. Still, that seems like a big limitation in the brand and format if that is true. Or they just build bad decks. I know my deck isn’t meta, and isn’t a guaranteed win – but it can handle most of what is thrown at it and the way it plays is really fun because it is different from game to game – and I really enjoy that. I’ll share the deck in detail in the future.
I wonder if the in person card version/variant is the same? Do opponents quit soon as you show a challenge to them – is it a part of MTG proper or just an unintended consequence of the new online field of battle?
I wrote about Beta Fatigue back in 2009. For me, then, it was the start of the changing process of how Beta tests went from actual bug hunting and shaping games to public marketing stunts. We have become even worse with beta phases lasting several years while “testers” pay for the honor of supporting a beta cycle. Heck, I was once a part of a group that was paid to beta test. Yes, you rea that right. Paid. The organisation was tasked with stocking beta testers who actually gave focused feedback. (The testers didn’t get paid, but the company did.). Still – that kind of engagement, where beta testers could lose their spot if they weren’t being productive and helpful is a better start than what I see in betas today. You can tell on the beta forums for Magic The Gathering: Arena a very vocal group who are trying to sway developers to basically give everything away for free because those individuals have zero intention of actually ever paying a cent. The idea that they would have to pay for any part of a game in 2018 is appalling. That is the sole focus of this loud group it seems – get the game as free as possible so they don’t have to invest in or support the company financially. Those that speak against them are attacked as employees of the company or rich whales that want a monetary advantage.
So much for civil discourse. Still, I am on a similar side of that but for other reasons.
The new Beta fatigue is more damaging in my real upcoming world example. I love the game, MTG:Arena. I have played around 1000 matches. I have several decks I love, tons of cards to build more, and over 20,000 gold (around 20 packs worth) that I haven’t spent because I have no need to. The game is slick, fun, challenging, and has a bright future.
Except I probably won’t play it.
I can’t imaging having to play another 1000 games just to get back to where I am today. I love where I am. I’m in a great spot. I am invested and have invested a TON of time and energy into it. But starting from square one on “launch” day just do do everything and collect everything I already have will not happen. Having this realisation over the weekend I almost logged out and was done – but then I realised that no, this is my time to play. When they wipe everything I have done and accomplished to date, when the “final” beta wipe happens is when I will be done with the game. And it is a shame because I won’t be supporting them financially after all (and they do deserve it). Before you get mad at me for that last line – the truth is, the game could be out right now. It doesn’t need to be in beta. They are choosing to leave it there and have people invest hundreds of hours (and dollars, the payment system is live. When the final wipe happens no one gets refunds of cash but gets refunded the crystal currency to start fresh). The game runs well enough and with some avatar tweaks and basics the game is ready for prime time.
The only option I can see that would change my mind would be if I were able to pay for the option to keep my beta progress. Have a supreme collectors edition. I’d pay well over $100 to keep my deck and current progress. That would also keep me playing, and paying in the future. Unfortunately, as of now, I will just be a beta player – who did help shape the game, but will not be a part of it when it moves to live status. Which may be 2 years from now, with how many other betas have run recently.
Total lie. FAKE NEWS!
I was just commenting on the Magic: The Gathering forums that I am completely happy and satisfied with the pace of gold and pack accumulation as a free to play player. I felt it was important to balance out the view of what seems to be a vocal lot that if you can’t get everything for free, immediately, and that will somehow make it lose out against competitors such as Hearthstone(!) because of the “ease of acquisition of cards in that game”.
I’m not drunk. I quit Hearthstone because they release must-buy expansions quickly to enjoy the game. This is more proof that developers SHOULD NEVER EVER LISTEN TO THEIR PLAYER BASE. EVER. Well, not when it comes to monetization, anyway. Let them vote with their wallet. This post feels silly to write because I am in a silly mood. I haven’t posted much lately because I’m not playing much. And what I am playing is either so old news (the new player experience in LOTRO is not a hot topic these days), so old (Walking Dead: a new frontier was released in 2016. Wasteland 2 was 2014) that I feel it pointless to write uh, pointless articles. (Shush you who say that’s why the come here in the first place!)
The game I am most consistent with is Magic The Gathering Arena. I play four wins a day. By doing this I already have over 10,000 gold and oodles of wild cards – but I have no desire to build any new decks or try anything new. I am very happy with my deck. So I play the game to have fun, and while doing so am racking up in game currency that I have nothing to spend on. To be fair it really isn’t much of a surprise to me that the mother of all card games (is it the mother? Who would the father be? Pokeman? Should I be using gender neutral identifiers in that situation?) is the most fun of the card games I have played. There is so much to see and do.
Further compounding the “how does this game make money” conundrum is that I already have collected half of the entire card collection – just by playing and collecting free packs. To be fair, up until a few days ago I would buy packs every 1000 gold but now I am hording it. In anticipation of Horde vs. Alliance. I might actually play Horde this time since I am getting good practice at it. (To be fair, every new expansion I say I am going to play Horde this time..).
In the Ebbs and Flows of blogging I am definitely in an ebb mood – and I know that is pretty common for many bloggers while the pros blog away with great writing, interesting insights, and groundbreaking news. Will see what the summer brings in terms of content and gaming. I’m in airport about to fly to Europe, putting a pool in this summer, and already have two weeks planned away. I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there between my four matches per day.
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 finally got my closed beta invite to Magic The Gathering : Arena. I say that like I was always entitled to it and it was just a matter of time (I am, and it was, right?) but good old RNG worked in my favor in their last round of 100,000 invites. I quickly loaded it up, logged in grabbed a nature themed preset deck (I like nature. In real life. I have no clue if Nature decks are good.) and of course completely was slaughtered and confused. It is a beta, there is no tutorial yet, and my whole experience with MTG is duel decks my son bought and I played three times.
I did forget to add I enthusiastically read all of Izlain’s WAR REPORT posts but without historical reference I hadn’t understood a whole bunch about them. Safe – and happy – to say, after a few hours with MTG: Arena I already have a high level of comfort with how the game works. Yes, it’s completely intimidating and there are so many hundreds of cards and combinations that sorting through it all is extremely daunting. Thankfully I enjoy a new challenge, card games, and learning new things. All at once.
The good of the game is that every card comes with an explanation. Some are challenging because without the context of the game phases, etc. it is hard to fully understand but what it is REALLY good at is highlighting a card you can play – whenever you can play it. Games ported to PC like this is a great training tool on how to play the game. It has things such as auto-tap land cards, auto-pass turn, etc. etc. The best part is you can turn any and all of these support features on or off depending on your comfort level. One – the auto-pass turn – actually tips off your opponent that you don’t have spell cards so that is the type of training well best to turn off.
Like many games there are levels and ranks and similarly to Hearthstone the early levels you do not lose ranking for losing. In the second level (which I finally am at) you lose progress towards your next level but do not lose the level itself. Things aren’t entirely clear as I have been playing all ranges of levels (assuming that for the closed beta phase they are more interested in getting games and data in than much else) and I am quickly learning about some really freaking cool decks (that I don’t have a chance against) that are clearly custom made by really strong MTG players. I don’t mind losing if I am learning.
I have received a lot of packs and opened them all – but I honestly have no clue (outside of Pathfinders, which the Duels deck my 12 year old taught me to play on explained all about) what a good card is or a bad card, or how to best build a deck from scratch. There is decades of information here and too much to learn in a few hours. Sticking to the base decks and trying all of them (based off of daily rewards / challenges ie: play 12 black or red spells means I pick the black and red deck to learn).
Most matches are done pretty quick, but the one above (which I only played to get some photos today) went the long run. He had a cycling deck and I misplayed my lands – I had good counter spell and creature cards but never enough land to tap them on his turn, meaning he was able to play spells and status cards and grind me down. From the above to the below:
He kept playing draw cards that took down my life 2 at a time and added 2 to him. I always played creature cards that used my land so I couldn’t counter them effectively. If I played it slower and smarter I could have won. This is part of the learning curve that I have to embark upon. The good news (for me) is that there seems to be a lot of other, new players in the beta as I am winning enough matches that I feel good about continuing to try. Assuming matchmaking has a part to do with this as well, as the true vets climb the ladder.
I have an extra key from a second email for the stress test next week, if you are interested – let me know. That will also get you into the next phase of beta after the stress test.
It’s fun. Wish it was on mobile, but probably too much important information to share on a small screen at this time. There is so much good complexity and nuance to the cards and sets I bet you could literally play this game for years before mastering it at all – but you can still get your wins along the way to feel good about the curve. Would be curious to hear about a seasoned MTG veteran’s take on the game.