One of the things I've recently jumped back into is the game, Magic The Gathering (aka Magic or MtG). Now for the past couple of years I've been playing the Xbox Live MtG game Dual of the Planeswalkers. You see the gameplay of Magic is simple and it's easy to play. The online game I've been playing was a quick fix for the gameplay. The other thing you do in MtG is build your deck to your needs and desires. This is lacking the online game until recently and it's only a shadow of the real experience.
For those who don't play the game I suggest taking a look at the game. Pick up a two player starter and try it out. The game is a simple and has efficient mechanics that has lots of add on rules provided by the cards you pick and play. Now I am not going to get into the game mechanics in full in the this post but here is the short run down.
You are a planeswalker, someone who can cross the various dimensional realms and who draws energy (aka Mana) from the lands around them. They use this energy to cast spells. Some spells are great artifacts, some are enchantments, and some are creatures that you call to fight for you. There are a few more types but that's the simple gist so far. You have 20 life points and you summon your creatures and cast your other spells to take on your opponent and beat them up. Your deck of cards is your library from which you draw your spells and access to the lands and their Mana.
Geek and Sundry has a neat show that has folks play magic and they show off some of the basics while they play.
Still wana read this post? Then come on in and here about this little deck I built.
My favourite colour to play in MtG is Blue. When I first started playing back in the day, 14 year old Dozer fell in love with Blue. He fell in love with counter spells and locking down opponents creatures. It was a smart colour that required some level of creativity to get the most out of the colour. I would play my small flying pin prick damage creatures, and lock down my opponent's creatures one by one. I prevented their larger plays and they cursed my name as they suffered from the wilily machinations of my selected spells.
When I started MtG back up I obviously looked back at the Blue decks that Wizards of the Coast put together. One of the cards that I had played with a few times on the XBLA MtG games was Traumatize. Cutting a player's deck in half was brutal. All that work in prepping and balancing the right cards was really put the the test when you got smacked in the face with this spell.
I feel that the card forces players to work outside of their comfort zone and adjust their game. MtG and many other Collectable Card Games have a common pitfall of a few number of cards that have such an effect on the game that they can make and break a game. Decks are built around these limited cards and players learn to exploit victory due to the management of these select special cards... MtG is better then most in the biz but too many players rely on their one off super power card and fail to learn to actually play.
When that card or those select cards end up tossed from a Traumatize, Tome Scour, or Mind Sculpt you'll watch as the players plans falter. One major portion of the game is the deck building. When you remove that they see their efforts ruined. Some players end up loosing in a downward spiralling scramble, never able to recover. Others try to put something together as they quickly adjust as they see their world fall away. The best players truck on, adjust and kick my ass. I love 'milling' (the style is named after an Artifact called a Millstone), it cuts off my opponents at the knees and if it goes well my creatures will have minimal opposition or my opponent will simply run out of cards (which is a loosing condition in MtG).
Now when I started up Theros was not on the board but I did find a intro deck to work off of, named Dimir Dementia, it focused on really fucking up your opponent's plays while taking advantage of those new obstacles. The cover card, seen through the cover of the box was called Consuming Aberration and it was awesome. It really took advantage of players with larger Graveyards (the discard pile in MtG).
I had a thought. How awesome would a Consuming Aberration would be when it had Strength and Toughness equal to half of a player's deck. Dropping a 50-40 card library to half would jump up this monster another 20-25 in both Strength and Toughness.
Of course it did other things as well but this combo looked way to good for me to ignore. So I started to look around for other cards that could work in the same way. With the consuming Aberration being a Blue/Black creature I had already decided to stick to those two colours. Lucky for my outside of Blue my favourite colours are White and Black so I was familiar with some of their tricks and was already researching for other cards that would play nice with my new 'mill' deck idea.
My search found my next card in the deck. I'm still trying to find a better name for the deck but at this time it was still un-named. I was lucky that in the same set there was an uncommon card called the Wight of Precinct Six.
Once more this card took advantage of large graveyards filled with creatures. With all the creatures ending up in the dump from my deck eating spells, this little guy got pretty fat pretty quick.
It would quickly allow me to start physically threaten my opponent. Putting pressure on his creatures and keeping him worried that this cheep as sin creature was just across the pitch waiting for him to leave the door open.
By turn 5, this Zombie was more then a 1/1. It had some extra spunk to it and as I got around to stripping my opponent's library more and more creatures would eventually end up part of the trimming.
Breaking / Entering was the next card I stumbled on. For the same cost (albeit a Blue and Black mana) as a Mind Sculpt, I got an extra card thrown out. This card was the crux of the basics of the my Dream Eater deck. I had four cards (which you can have up to four copies) that killed decks in numbers of 5, 7, 8, and half with two creatures that benefited from the effect those four spit up. I was looking, after a bit of singles shopping from Wizard's Tower (one of my friendly game shops), at twenty four cards chosen. Add in twenty four lands split between multi coloured lands and the basics, and I was already at forty eight cards picked in a sixty card deck.
Duskmantle Guildmage who with a bit of extra mana turned my cheaper cutting spells into damage dealing spells. The dream was to always pull the cards first ability (That made players loose life when then had to put a card into the graveyard) with Traumatize. I've done it now a few times, but Traumatize is already costing me five mana (3 colourless, 1 Blue and 1 Black) adding another three mana to the cost made it an expensive but very effective mid game dooms day weapon.
Instead I've been using the Guildmage with my cheeper costing spells. For five mana, I've cut my opponent for eight cards and eight damage.
With only twenty life to to spare, loosing more then a third of your life can really hurt you. Your bad day just getting worse and only victory will make it better.
The three other cards I found were: Psychic Strike, a counter spell that cut a few cards. Pilfered Plans, allowing me to draw some more cards and still cut my opponents library. Grisly Spectacle was the last one I realized would give me an edge in my matches.
I was able to really hurt my opponents library but they would still be able to drop a creature. With all of their assets getting tossed, they would focus plenty of effort on the creatures that did survive the culling.
Some of these creatures were such a pain in my ass and really beat me down when they could. Grisly Spectacle was my solution to that monster card that just had no right to live unchallenged. With my two creatures that grew on those graveyards I was still missing a large meat shield or big time cutter.
Now I let those creature grow and thrive before I kill them with a four cost instant and watch as all that effort crumbles costing my opponent's even more hardship as they gut their libraries.
So that was it. Time to pick my multi-colour lands, the type of tournament I was aiming for, and balance the deck. It's been adjusted over time and my main opponents have started to beat me more and more often as they come to learn my tricks and how to adapt with their own decks.
Now that Theros is out with it's second set Born of the Gods I started looking at a few more cards that could add some tricks to my deck. I found a few nice options or alternatives to my staples... I also found Phenax, God of Deception.
Right there and then he changed my game. Phenax makes everyone of my creatures dangerous to my opponent's libraries.
Of course he's a god but was there anything else that could top this guy?
Well a few twists and turns: Evanescent Intellect is a cheap enchantment that allows me to pay some mana, tap a creature and slim your library. Mindreaver when targetted by some of my spells can start to cut your deck. Now the Siren of the Silent Song is the best of the three listed here. It's cheep, works passively to remove cards from your deck, and can fly for two damage when the need strikes me.
Yet none of them have been so good for me to go out and pick up a few copies. I did pick up a few Mnemonic Walls with there ability to fish out of my graveyard spent spells when they show up on the pitch. It can really just add to that opponent's frustration when you know they are counting the number of copies of those dick spells that remain, only to witness another chance for that spell to come back for another turn.
Now I just opened my first planeswalker but after looking up on how they work I decided if there was a planeswalker with my name on it.
Ashiok is cheap but he starts with only 3 loyalty. (This means, he's vulnerable to damage) Lucky for me his abilities are bloody well awesome and the +2 ability is brilliant.
Fetching a lost something you miss only to see it on my side of the table. I do fight some folks who can return their graveyard to their deck but Ashiok's ability to exile the whole pile will really kick the teeth of a player who's hoping to undue all of my damage.
Of course I still need to get one and find a place for it in my deck...
Choices, choices, choices. Theros and Ravnica had really given my a whole slew of tools to play with and I'm eager to see what the set in May will showcase.
Cheers - see you across the table