So, same as last year, I picked up a box of the latest core set from Magic, because while Throne of Eldarine looks very pretty, I can’t say I’ve seen enough to draw me in past the hydra-turtles. Usually for me that’d be enough, but finances are what they are.
M20 has a very particular theme. Actually it has several, elementals, goblins, birds, wolves, knights, the recurring leylines and cavaliers, a conspicuous return of Theros favourites and temple-lands, and a definite lean towards the commander format, all shine through in the setlist, but there’s a bias here that’s impossible to ignore, especially when you reach the list of red cards.
While each colour has a Planeswalker to represent it, red has three, all of whom are Chandra Nalaar at varying stages of her rise to power. Four of her key spells immediately follow in the set list, and much like with the return of the Theros cards, it rather feels like a nod to Magic’s future, as the upcoming TV series by the Russo brothers is expected to be heavily centred on the pyromancer.
Here was my first draw:
Unusual to grab a land as your first card, but scrying is a useful mechanic no matter the deck, and it does set the colours for my deck… so I was hoping. Unfortunately both of my opponents were keen on white and black, seemingly both throwing in a healthy dose of green just to scupper me. No one went blue… at all, until I started coming up with some beguiling options:
Ok, so I guess I’m building an elemental-heavy deck, I’ll put these with a collection of my red picks, heavy on the goblins to supplement the goblin deck I’ve been assembling. Surprisingly it wasn’t too difficult to assemble a synergistic draft based on the Temur colours: red/blue/green, and something that does what those colours do well. The deck I ended with filled the ground with creatures that support and feed off one another.
Lavakin Brawlers make the Creeping Trailblazer far more daunting, Scorch Spitter and Scampering Scorchers make it cheap and easy to bulk up the bonuses on each, and having drawn a Ripscale Predator and some goblins, it wasn’t too hard to make a rather daunting red-heavy deck, with green and blue supporting heavily.
I’d like to say that I won… we played four games between three players, of which I think we each won a game, but most of my experience was brief moments in which all of my horrible elementals worked together to swing for tremendous amounts of damage… before losing it all after one glorious push and dying horribly before I could rebuild. Overgrowth Elemental helped give me a drop of durability, and those Cloudkin Seers made it easier to keep a hand together and make plans round to round. But it took a genuine balance of good luck on my part and bad luck for my opponents for me to squeeze out a meaningful win.
Feral Abominations held me at bay, giants with deathtouch always blunts someone’s will to dive in to slaughter, and Griffins made it hard for me to slip flying through to their life totals. I was also facing down some green giants like Silverback Shamen and Thicket Crashers that dealt with a lot of my bigger nastier horrors, and while they left the battlefield for trying to get in my way, they took some of my teeth out as they fell.
I like M20, and while I didn’t see many of the more interesting cards come out of my booster box I did pull Gargos, Vicious Watcher for whom I have the perfect deck, and Yarok the Desecrated who I immediately fell in love with for the sake of the mechanics, lore, and the colour combo that suits my playstyle to a tee… and yet still very easily traded away. While Yarok was right for me, one of my opponents pulled this:
Based on the colours I’d just put together, how could I not?
Now, Omnath howls Commander to me, and while I have about half a deck built in front of me, I still have a long way to go. I think there’ll be some awaken spells from Zendikar added to bolster the ranks of elementals from my land pool to make Omnath all the more powerful, maybe some flicker mechanics to have him bouncing in and out, some more land-draw effects to ensure that landfall ability of his comes into play.
I also foolishly passed on the Lightning Stormkin as a friend would benefit from having her in a wizard deck, and I’ll need to keep an eye out for a Thunderkin Awakener, and there’s a host of other mechanics that I’ve been mulling on that could really support a Commander. Apparently the Yarok deck I pitched against myself is already completed… guess I have some catching up to do.
I recently bought a box of M19 boosters with a view to drafting them with some friends. For those of you whom I have already lost, read this then come back, it’ll explain the method of drafting Magic: the Gathering (amongst other games) and the advantages of the format. If you’re back, or if you stayed, let’s talk M19, the latest core set.
Magic’s core sets are comprised of recent and classic cards, usually returning a few basic strategies such as; Slivers, the vile swarming creatures that bolster one another; Illusions, fragile creatures that are remarkably powerful for their cost; and in this set, dragons. Here we tell the story of Magic’s other other big bad, that isn’t the Eldrazi or Yawgmoth, the planeswalking draconic mastermind Nicol Bolas, his early years, the awakening of his spark, and the butchering of his siblings.
Great Scott is a drafting game of invention from Sinister Fish. While at UKGE this year I had the opportunity to secure a copy of Great Scott. Ostensibly I was there to buy for someone else, but at their recommendation I ended up taking a copy home too. I had never before pondered the need for a Diabolical Donkey Destroying Banana Bender, but I have come to an all new appreciation for the device, and here’s why.
Each invention is put together with cards, three concepts and two assets laid out in a particular order to create a coherent and descriptive name, effectively boiling down to a simple formula:
Adjective – noun – verb – noun – noun
Each section is it’s own deck, players take two of each, and commence building by drawing card from a deck, taking one, and passing their hand to the next player. You begin fairly free form, but as the cards are passed around you find yourselves with fewer and fewer gaps to fill, and the pattern you’ve tried to create may suddenly be completed or broken depending on which stack you draw from. Everyone then pitches their idea, describing how it works and what purpose it serves. Everyone picks a favourite and a second favourite, and the next round begins.
Points are accrued from scores on the cards, matching pairs or groups, the commendations of others for a fantastic pitch, and alliteration. So while you may score fewer points by building a Colossal Cactus Burning Bee Booster than an Alarming Albatross Attracting Ape Automaton you may still recover some ground by describing the method by which your huge device might hold back the bee extinction by immolating cacti, compared to the guy who’s mechanical gorilla has led to an albatross infestation.
I love draft games as a format, it’s been a while since I did a Magic: the Gathering draft, but I still love a round or two of 7 Wonders every couple of months. Drafts tend to leave you completely oblivious to begin with, and madly desperate towards the end, so adding the draw step gives Great Scott a little bit more freedom to build an invention you can be proud of, but doesn’t give you sufficient support to make the game too easy.
It’s a sign of a good game that round by round players end up with very similar points, and by the end of Great Scott the point difference between first and last place is quite narrow. There’s a good balance of random and tactical play, and it always leaves you with an invention that is sheer chaos to try and pitch to the crowd. However, it’s this mechanic that does cause a few issues.
For those without a very creative mind, trying to describe their inventions can be difficult, especially for those who perhaps don’t know the less common words like Bitumenising, meaning that points accrued in the commendations phase are often lost. The Aspect cards break down into animal, vegetable, and mineral, and it’s entirely true to say that animals are funnier than most rocks and plants like Diabolite or Elm; there are a few shining examples like arsenic and dynamite, but it’s still a bit of a struggle to derive humour from Bauxite for example.
Really that’s an issue with target market. I still rate the game very highly, it’s good quality daft fun that kills an hour without effort, and even comes with a set of baggies that are slightly too small for any single deck in the box. Ah well, still a nice consideration.
Drafting is a great format for entry level play and veterans alike, it gives all players a functioning deck without the advantages of having spent a fortune on their collection. It’s also a great way to try out a new set, grab some great new cards and get more from your average pack of random boosters.
The “buy-in” for a draft is usually three booster packs of fifteen random cards, average price of about £10. Everyone sits around a table, everyone opens one of the boosters they brought, picks a card from it and passes the rest to the left. This continues until the pack is depleted, then everyone moves onto their second pack, passing in the opposite direction, and again with the third, at which point everyone should have a collection of forty-five cards, from which you build a deck of forty or more cards which includes the basic land cards you’ll need to add. (more…)
Any MTG players in our readership?
Well if you’re not, I recommend jumping on a draft as a great way to learn. With a quick intro to the rules you can use a draft to put together a simple deck and get a few games in with people who are on a similar footing as you. For those who don’t know, this is how you draft:
- Each person starts with three booster packs (15 cards each)
- Everyone opens a pack, takes a card and passes the rest on
- Repeat until all the cards are gone
- Repeat for the other two packs
- By the end, everyone has 45 cards and builds a deck of 40 cards (including lands) and plays
Simple and effective. There’s no spending a fortune on amazing cards, everyone has had the same chances and it’s a great way to learn and play with friends without feeling too keenly for your inexperience.