Playing Magic with Geek Friends
August 17, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

So all of your friends have either just started playing Magic: the Gathering or have picked it up again or else admitted to having played it continually for twenty years now, and eyes are glazing over as they discuss bomb rares and 2-for-1s and mana flooding and drafting. You're not sure if you actually want to immerse yourself in this but you can't know for sure without, well, immersing yourself in it. We've all been there. Thankfully, Felicia Day's Geek & Sundry channel has a show for you - Spellslingers!

Host Day[9] (a.k.a. Sean Plott) explains the basics of how to play, what types of cards do what, and general strategy over a series of games with internet celebrities, with great production values and a lot of good humor.

Episode 1.1: Blizzard's Rob Simpson
Episode 1.2: NASA's Bobak Ferdowski
Episode 1.3: Comedian Jesse Cox
Episode 1.4: Actress Michelle Boyd
Episode 1.5: Felicia Day Herself
Episode 1.6: Mythbusters' Grant Imahara
Episode 2.1: IGN's Greg Miller
Episode 2.2: MMA Fighter Josh Barnett
Episode 2.3: Hyperbole and a Half's Allie Brosh
posted by Navelgazer (71 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gah I want to love magic but this show showes exactly why I can't. It is great that Sean has come to Wizards with this idea but it is so divorced from the reality of the game.

Most people don't want to play magic with preset decks full of half decent cards, You can "get in" very easily but the transition is dumb. No-one is going to play these decks at a non beginner level and Wizards are never going to support cheap decks because they need their whales to make money. In my experience if you want to play seriously or compete at Friday night magic you need to burn $60/month at the very least on cards. I don't have that kind of cash to go to drafts / buy each expansion
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:57 PM on August 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah, love the game but only casually and without investing money. Hearthstone is so much more the perfect game for a casual fan of this sort of thing.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually really only play Commander (EDH) these days, because I don't like the money-sink aspect and Netrunner is more my jam right now, but I'm going to be teaching a total neophyte Commander tonight (there are five of us out at a cabin this weekend and we have enough decks for all of us and she's the only one who doesn't play) so I looked these videos up again and saw that the wonderful Allie Brosh is in the latest episode and thought a post would be worthwhile.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:14 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


love magic but this show showes exactly why I can't

Magic is a GREAT game and parts of its community can be great too. These folks are not what it's like and represent a poor sales pitch. These are the guys Insult The Comic Dog picks on.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2014


God, Magic. How I explain it is it's more business model than game.

It's good to see more Allie Brosh though!
posted by JHarris at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Find someone who owns a Cube! It's a fun draft format where you don't have to buy anything.

But yeah, with a collectible card game, you're not going to be able to really play in a competitive setting without buying cards. There some tricks to make it cheaper (eg: never buy packs; just buy the cards you need individually.). And there's also a huge casual following. If you don't need to play competitively then it can be pretty cheap if you find like-minded people to play with.
posted by ODiV at 2:19 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I've been enjoying Spellslingers quite a bit so far. It scratches a completely different itch than, say, the Channel Fireball videos.

I'm not sure what it is about Hearthstone, but I just haven't gotten into it. Their online client is infinitely more slick, but it's just not for me.
posted by ODiV at 2:31 PM on August 17, 2014


I've made my feelings on M:TG and its money-reliant dynamics clear on here before. I'm just kind of amazed that the game has lasted this long (there are college-age Magic players who were not even alive yet when I gave up the game), given how all the things that I like about Magic have been absorbed by other games (i.e. Dominion, Smash Up) that don't require their player base to basically re-buy the entire game just to stay current.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I play quite a bit of Magic but I don't play Standard (the tournament format that only uses the most recent sets) and as a result my "buy-in" costs are quite low.

Mostly I play Commander (a casual format mentioned up-thread) and Cube (a custom draft format). Typically only a few cards come out each new set that interest me for one or the other of those, so it's pretty cheap.

If you want to attend tournaments and you want to do well in them, it can get pricey, but it's possible to play the game in more ways than that.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 2:37 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]



you need to burn $60/month at the very least on cards

How [do] I explain it is it's more business model than game.

I have two sons who are into Magic, and I understand this business model very well. Also I love a lot of the artwork on the cards. But it's too expensive to be sustainable.
posted by sneebler at 2:37 PM on August 17, 2014


Navelgazer: is it easier to stay casual with an LCG like Netrunner? My problem with MTG is the cost sink to be competitive. I'm having trouble understanding if LCGs alleviate that problem or make it worse by ensuring that you will pretty much always be buying a large pack instead of second-hand one offs.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:39 PM on August 17, 2014


Netrunner is, in my opinion, a much smaller investment. If you want to have absolutely everything, it'll cost you around $15 every month or two.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:40 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


While I've always loved M:TG in all it's variants, I especially miss the style that was popular among my friends but I rarely found anyone outside our group who got it:

We didn't build small efficient decks to win (though I have done plenty of that and used to be a ranked member of the Duelist's Convocation), we built decks to make these epic, overly-complex games that would often last a day or two. We would have anywhere from 3-6 people in a game, and decks were generally three colors and about 6 inches tall. We usually did this on the floor with plenty of music and beer, in a circle that would widen to encompass most of the room as creatures were added until someone played Wrath Of God or some other "reset button". We usually started with 50 points so nobody would be out before the game would have a chance to develop.

It was the antithesis of how the game was meant to be played but we didn't care.
posted by sourwookie at 2:43 PM on August 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


sourwookie: you've just described EDH (Commander.) It is an official format now.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:47 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Navelgazer: I'll google it, but do you have a link to a concise description? Do the guidelines address music and beer?
posted by sourwookie at 2:51 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love Day9 and I imagine M:tG. Maybe I will watch this.

But I don't actually want to get into Magic.

Hearthstone is my game. It's way more convenient and cheaper. I could never play Magic Constructed at a competitive level. Too many hurdles; you have to build your life around it. In Hearthstone, I can run the same strategies as the pros and play them on the ladder if I'm good enough.
posted by grobstein at 2:57 PM on August 17, 2014


(never mind Navelgazer, it was easy enough to find. looks fun! have a great trip!)
posted by sourwookie at 3:00 PM on August 17, 2014


Here you go!

That link is from Wizards, though, so I'll give you the real rundown:

A while back, a bunch of competitive players got tired of the small-super-efficient-deck format and wanted to play around with all the crazy stuff they had that would never go in a tournament deck, and so, in the hotels after a day at the tournament, they'd play free-for-all games late into the wee hours based on using Elder Dragons (fun, beefy legendary creature cards with weird abilities that were too unwieldy for tournament play) and 100-card "Highlander" decks (that is, aside from lands you can't have more than one of any card.) These games were insanely long and complicated and silly.

Wizards picked up on it and made it official. So...

You pick one legendary creature. It can require any number of colors to cast, but for this, the standard is 3. That is your Commander. It sits in your "Command Zone" and can never be truly destroyed. You can cast it for it's casting cost, and if it dies it will return to the command zone, to be recast at +2 colorless for each time it's re-entered the command zone. Commanders will usually have abilities to capitalize on this.

Beyond that, your rules are that you can have only one of each spell-card, nothing in your deck can have any mana casting cost aside from those on your commander card (so no blue cards with red triggered abilities if you're not in both blue and red) and there's a line-item mulligan and everuybody draws on their first step.

Oh, and you start with 40 life and can also lose if another player's Commander itself does cumulative 20 damage to you.

I've never played it without Music and Beer being a major component. It's not in the official rules, but come on, here.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:02 PM on August 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


It doesn't have to be expensive:

http://www.woogerworks.com/
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:09 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hearthstone is a super game that should not exist. Everything about hearthstone is ambiguous to lame- Cards are too basic & there are way too few cards, the RNG is way too high, the meta game is constantly lame, the ladder & pro scene is just a joke. But, on the other hand - you can play hearthstone without spending a penny. If you want to be competitive at the highest levels maybe w $100 and a lot of time, but no game does not take a similar amount of time.

I'd love to try and play magic like that - but do you see anyone in this series turning up at magic events? You can pay geek celebrities to do anything but you cannot do that as a casual player unless you are like 12.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:11 PM on August 17, 2014


Whoa, thanks! Now I just have to get my old friends to move back to town!
posted by sourwookie at 3:12 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've got the opposite problem, AFPFTNF. There are no serious constructed events running where I am and pretty much the only games I can find are either super casual pick-up games or sealed limited (open 6 packs, make a deck with what you have) that the local game store runs. I'd no doubt get blown out of the water in a competitive game, but it would be a nice option.
posted by ODiV at 3:16 PM on August 17, 2014


Magic: The Gathering is one of the few things that makes me sad that I was born a decade late and that it was this game I walked in on in fourth grade in the school library instead of D&D. I didn't and don't have the mind to enjoy the game, but I weirdly ended up buying enough starter decks from various releases to reach around 700 cards over the years. My fondest memory of the game is that my family from the US to Austria the same year I got exposed to the game in the US and my classmates and I in Austria would spend ages rules lawyering over the translations without any references.

Anyway, I never bought boosters, I think, since I've never been a collector and I somehow assumed starter sets were the "bulk purchase" and somehow I never really got that deck building was almost more of the game then what happened at the table (I would just grab a random deck of cards and mulligan a lot at the beginning- can't imagine how the players who got it suffered when I played). It did get me buying imported Inquest magazine in Austria, from which I got the hint that deck building was part of the game (since I had no idea how to construct an effective deck myself), browsed the prices and really wanted to get the common cards they listed for some cheap "killer" red deck. The art and flavor text was cool, though.

It also introduced me to RPGs and included some cool quickstarts like the one for Vampire: The Masquerade and a previous edition of Earthdawn all on CD (didn't have a computer at home with a CD-ROM drive), but I didn't really understand them, couldn't convince anyone to play, didn't know anyone who played or admitted to having played, and filled the space where I would have wasted a lot of money on RPG supplements with full-color video game guides to JRPGs, books like Huygen and Poortvliet's Gnomes, an acquaintance of my parent's descriptions of the stuff he got up to in Ultima Online (I kind of suspect he would have known there was a way to have that sort of freedom and more around the table and wish he had mentioned it), and the cheesy stuff appearing in Baldur's Gate's instruction manual ("The Inn at Candlekeep is known for its cheese on toast heated over the fire, beloved of those on the road").

I ended up playing my first tabletop RPGs as an adult and, being a good lurker and triviahead online, now know a fair amount about all the various rule sets and settings in tabletop RPGs, but it still feels theoretical compared to what those exposed at adolescence got from their free time and easier ability to organize .

tl;dr M:TG does not provide anything like the same kick and appeal as the earlier related fad of D&D and I'm sad to have missed that earlier fad.
posted by Gnatcho at 3:33 PM on August 17, 2014


Is there an official M:TG tournament variation that only allows players to use cards that are at least ten years old? Because I'd be all over that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:40 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dunno, my cards all date back to the early 90's. Maybe they've come full circle and now none of the current hot cards can handle them?

Probably not.
posted by sotonohito at 3:57 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Both the Legacy and Vintage formats allow (almost) all cards from Magic's history. Many of the old cards are pretty expensive now because of restricted supply and the popularity of Legacy.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 4:03 PM on August 17, 2014


I started buying cards again six months ago, but aside from the app version, haven't got around to playing a game yet. Can't wait to, though.
posted by drezdn at 4:24 PM on August 17, 2014


Lessee, I've got a crapton of Arabian Nights, Legends, Antiquity, The Dark, Fallen Empires, not much Homelands, and a scattering of Ice Age.

Then I quit.

Also, and one thing I deeply regret, is that I was friends with the guy who was the purchasing agent for a regional book/music/video store in charge of (among other things) RPG's and suchlike. Therefore he got samples of all the new stuff, and one day he got two starter packs of this new thing called Magic the Gathering, they were alpha edition decks and the game hadn't yet been released. He asked me to take the decks and give it a shot to see if it seemed like anything interesting. I fiddled around with them, decided it really didn't seem all that interesting and then...

I GAVE THE CARDS BACK!

Two alpha decks, mint condition when I gave them back, and he didn't mean for me to return them, I just didn't think Magic seemed like anything interesting or worthwhile (I have a very bad track record of predicting popular things) so I gave him the cards so he could pass them on to someone more interested than me.

Then, about a year later, I was a full bore Magic nerd spending most of my disposable income on the game.

I always regretted that.

Anyway, I could probably make a really nifty vintage deck that'd suck ass and get beaten in a flash today.
posted by sotonohito at 4:32 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


sotonohito: "I dunno, my cards all date back to the early 90's. Maybe they've come full circle and now none of the current hot cards can handle them?

Probably not.
"

Ice Age was 95. If the stuff you have was before that, then it's probably still worth something, and you should just sell it and retire.
posted by pwnguin at 4:36 PM on August 17, 2014


I much prefer the non-collectible nature of FFGs LCGS format to the CCG money pit that is Magic. Netrunner is the big hit, but doesn't play anything like Magic. Warhammer:Invasion is much more Magic-like. They are done making cards, as they've moved on to a warhammer 40K game, so you could get all the cards they're ever going to make.
posted by Windopaene at 4:46 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am an old person who remembers Ice Age being this exciting new expansion. Haven't played Magic in basically two decades at this point, having stopped around middle school — the game wound up being too much about deck construction for my tastes, which is also part of why I could never really get into turn-based strategy video games like FF Tactics.

On the other hand, Yomi came out and I just love it so very much because it's pretty much the exact opposite of Magic in all the ways that mattered to me as it turned out.

I do still respect Magic in a way, though. There's something pretty clever about the idea of inventing a collectible card game when you're the first. Plus the game seems to have remained at least reasonably balanced over the years, or so I hear.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2014


For me Magic will always be the game that appeared while I was at university, and for a while, everyone had a deck in their pocket, and you played Magic between lectures and casually traded. Nobody bought boxes of cards, no internet price lists, and the occasional card popping into circulation that nobody had ever seen before.

You can't go back.
posted by xiw at 5:06 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's getting arguably more balanced in terms of gameplay with the recent sets, particularly with limited (open the cards you are going to use for the tournament that day to construct your deck), as well as standard (usually 5-7 sets to build your deck from before the tournament). However, there is still an active tournament scene using older cards where $2500 decks are not uncommon. Limited formats remain quite fun and accessible if you have $15-30 blow for an evening (and you get to keep the cards), but I feel bad for people trying to get into the older formats from scratch.
posted by fraxil at 5:09 PM on August 17, 2014


Yeah, I like the Living Card Games, especially once Fantasy Flight gave up on "rarity" and just put three of each card in the booster. It removes the uncertainty and the endless chasing of that one card....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2014


Sadly, I don't love the Cthulhu game, and now I have no one to play Netrunner with....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 PM on August 17, 2014


I've always been too poor to play magic. Instead I watch MtG drafts online, and it scratches the same itch that roguelikes scratch for me: decision making in a semi-random situation with no rerolls, so you have to be merciless, flexible, accepting, forward thinking, and analytical. (I also play Scrolls occasionally now, which basically gives me all I wanted... except Hearthstone is kind of doing a number on the number of players).

When I say I watch drafts, I mean that often I just watch the draft stage. The eventual games played with cards drafted is often not as interesting to me.
posted by tychotesla at 5:35 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Commander is my jam - I have a B/W Teysa the Taxm'am deck that I update every few months when the stars align and we have enough sitters or spousal good will that we can all get together and play. I love that deck - just the right amount of meddling in other people's business, a rattlesnake-like defense that makes going after me a waste of time, and enough stupid toolbox tricks to roll with the punches.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:09 PM on August 17, 2014


Windopaene: "Netrunner is the big hit, but doesn't play anything like Magic. "

Honestly, I consider that a feature. There's three components of Magic: The Gathering:

1. Deckbuilding. Buying cards and putting together a deck that's strong (but legal).
2. Strategy. Knowing the game rules, and the strategy behind your deck.
3. Tactics. The skill of handling the exceptions, when your opponent gets you 'off book' to borrow a term from chess.

netdecking removes the skill behind #1, leaving behind only the money factor. A good estimate for a tournament winning standard deck is 150 dollars. Most players have more than one. That seems low in comparison, but keep in mind there are 3-4 new releases a year, each of which can end up weakening your deck's chances, or at the very least, require you you purchase more cards to swap in to keep up. And every year about a quarter of the card pool cycles out of Standard, after which your deck value may not hold.

To a certain degree, #1 influences #2. If you've played one red aggro deck, you've essentially played them all. Some decktypes have a reputation for being 'effective but dumb,' but most have a pretty obvious win condition you should be building towards. There's a phrase 'the deck plays you' that mostly universally applies.

Which leaves us with tactics. This is basically what players think of as 'skill' in the game. The difficulty here is that tournament MtG decks are designed to win quickly. The Allie Brosh v. Day9 game was 10 turns; especially strong aggro decks can win on turn 4 on average. This reduces narrows the window for applying judgment harshly.
posted by pwnguin at 6:21 PM on August 17, 2014


In contrast, Netrunner feels cheaper to own. It's around 15 bucks a month for a full playset of cards. The singles market is not well established, but since you get a set of 3 of every card, I figure 5 dollars is the highest a single would ever go for, meaning the mathematical cap on a a pair of decks is around 500, and I'd expect it to really be closer to 20 bucks, since you can get cards in bulk for 25 cents.

Deckbuilding is still important, I think. But there's a lot of deckbuilding rules to limit the chances of degenerate decklists that win in 2 turns. There's also a huge amount of hidden information, and neither side regularly has enough resources to do everything they would like. So every turn consists of a bit of calculating to see which things are feasible, and then some estimating about which things your opponent has done.

Questions you will think about every game of Netrunner:

'Is that new facedown card an agenda, or a trap?'
'Can I even get in?'
'If I do, can I afford to do it again next turn?'
posted by pwnguin at 6:21 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Commander is the only constructed format I play (Stangg represent). But I think that limited formats are really Magic at its finest. Draft is probably the most skill testing, but Sealed Deck is the most fun and the most accessible. Every time a new set comes out, basically every store that sells magic cards will run a tournament with a $25 entry fee where everyone gets six 15-card packs of cards from the new set and has to make the best 40-card deck they can from that pool. Everyone then plays in a big swiss-format tournament with the winners getting extra packs. It is basically the most fun you can have playing Magic, and it is an entirely level playing field.

The new set, Khans of Tarkir, comes out on September 20.
posted by 256 at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2014


especially strong aggro decks can win on turn 4 on average. This reduces narrows the window for applying judgment harshly.

My first ever tournament, in the days of Moxen and Black Loti, my round against then world champ Zach Dolan had me out in 2.
posted by sourwookie at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2014


A good estimate for a tournament winning standard deck is 150 dollars. Most players have more than one.

I mean maybe I'm in an alternate universe on this one, but I would bet that most players have zero tournament winning standard decks. The vast majority of M:tG players are casual, last I checked. Of course there are huge tournaments, Pro Tours, the Grand Prix, etc, but there are also a hell of a lot of LGS pick-up games and kitchen table players.

I haven't looked into it, but is there a competitive Netrunner scene at all with large tournaments?
posted by ODiV at 6:52 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


odiv: yes.
posted by kavasa at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2014


I never played Magic, just a fair bit of Pokemon with the neighborhood kids back in the late 90s, but man have I gotten into Netrunner lately. I bought a complete collection at a significant discount from a friend who was moving away and have just started buying the new sets as they come out so it seems cheaper to me than it would to someone truly starting from scratch. Still, an initial outlay to get caught up and then $15/month or so to have every single card seems pretty doable and when you have all the cards, you can play with all the decks, as opposed to buying singles and needing to stick with the strategies that you have the cards for.

Another benefit of Netrunner that's linked to the LCG format is that the designers have been really careful to avoid introducing "game breaking" cards or combos. They know that everyone can have any card they want, so they can't rely on making the broken card super rare. I feel like this has kept the game saner than things I've heard about M;tG and other CCGs.

I haven't looked into it, but is there a competitive Netrunner scene at all with large tournaments?

Yes and it has been growing really fast. Two 128 player tournaments filled up at GenCon this weekend. I've been following regionals reports a little bit and it seems like they can reliably draw 60-80 people in medium->large cities.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:59 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


ODiV: there is. I haven't gotten into it yet, but I know I'm a hell of a lot more likely to enter one of those tournaments than ever even look at an MtG one, and I'm playing MtG as I type this.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:59 PM on August 17, 2014


especially strong aggro decks can win on turn 4 on average. This reduces narrows the window for applying judgment harshly.

My first ever tournament, in the days of Moxen and Black Loti, my round against then world champ Zach Dolan had me out in 2.


Yeah, a lot has changed since then. There was nowhere near enough playtesting and mathematical testing given to cards that were printed back in the beginning. It's funny, if you come across a pile of cards from the alpha release now, about 95% will be unplayably bad and the other 5% will completely break the game in half.

In the formats where cards from the whole history of Magic are still legal, it's actually possible to get off a turn zero win (in that, if you go first, I can win the game on your first turn without ever playing a land).

In the more recent Standard formats though (where only the most recent 2 years worth of cards are legal), the designers have put a lot of work into ensuring that turn 3 wins are generally impossible and turn 4 wins require pretty much optimal draws.
posted by 256 at 7:01 PM on August 17, 2014


I read this and thought, "Where was this when I was in high school wanting to get into Magic?"

And then...

"Most people don't want to play magic with preset decks full of half decent cards, You can "get in" very easily but the transition is dumb. No-one is going to play these decks at a non beginner level and Wizards are never going to support cheap decks because they need their whales to make money."


Uh, yeah. That reminds me: Newbies can't GET into the games with people who already play, and everything was far too advanced for me to learn to play from people, apparently. Which makes me wonder how anyone started it in the first place, much like the ol' "you can't get experience without a job, but you can't get a job without experience" conundrum."
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:23 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was an oddly comforting post to come across tonight--I recently moved to a new city where I know almost nobody and am missing my friends immensely, especially a coterie that met about every other week for our card game, kind of like bridge was for those New York School poets (in I Remember, Joe Brainard mentions learning bridge solely for the purpose of having more time to talk to Frank O'Hara, but that's nerdy on a whole different level). So tonight, wandering around this new town I stopped into a coffee place for a snack and heard the barista talking candidly about playing Magic with their friends, I'm asked for their number and if I could join them playing sometime, we talked about playing casual games that were usually pretty slow and mentioned both playing angels, pretty cool and random if I want to sound like I'm about fourteen which is probably the age I stopped playing MtG the first time, I'm usually not that forward but strangers had been approaching me all day and talking about random crap (you can take the lady out of New England but you can't take New England out of the lady as the old platitude goes). So to end this ramble, I'm glad I started playing Magic again a few months ago with some friends, it deepened our friendship in a way that digging deep in niche culture does; and I'm looking forward to some new friends to play with.

TL;DR-- What's your favorite flavor text? Mine might have to be Chub Toad.
posted by gem tactics at 8:24 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


TL;DR-- What's your favorite flavor text? Mine might have to be Chub Toad.

Has to be Lhurgoyf.
posted by 256 at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2014


Inspiration

Lava Ax
posted by sourwookie at 8:49 PM on August 17, 2014


Not sure if it's my favourite, but Goblin Offensive's is pretty good.
posted by ODiV at 9:06 PM on August 17, 2014


BTW, if you only watch one, watch the Josh Barnett episode.
posted by 256 at 9:21 PM on August 17, 2014


New player here. Regarding cost: I think it's all about the people you play with. I've sunk maybe $100 into the game. I have a bunch of cards from 2014/2013. Enough to build some interesting decks of each color. That's what my friends have done as well. So we build interesting decks and try to destroy one another. It's all fun and all casual. We're not having an arms race on who can buy the most/best cards. Though we do buy cards to round out the rough edges on our favorite decks. My friend and Magic Nemesis has a killer sliver deck that I can't seem to beat.

The reason for Magic's popularity is what pwnguin said. Magic is like three or four games in one. The collecting, the strategy, playing, trading. I've found multiple aspects of the game super fun.

Finally...

STOP IT WITH THE NETRUNNER TALK PEOPLES. I WANT TO PLAY SO BAD BUT DON'T NEED ANOTHER HOBBY!!
posted by hot_monster at 9:34 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


ODiV: "I mean maybe I'm in an alternate universe on this one, but I would bet that most players have zero tournament winning standard decks. The vast majority of M:tG players are casual, last I checked. Of course there are huge tournaments, Pro Tours, the Grand Prix, etc, but there are also a hell of a lot of LGS pick-up games and kitchen table players."

The local game store here basically runs MtG tournaments 3 nights a week, and their store policy is no pickup games during tournaments. There's some casual EDH on saturdays (legend has it one of the format's originators is a local), but that's about it.

But there's still a pay-to-win mechanic in non most casual formats. If you want to run multicolor decks, you're best off with dual lands, which are typically rare. I got out before the plainswalkers, but I get the impression they're not cheap. Even if you're not playing someone with more expensive cards than you, the thought knaws on you that your deck would be much better if you could afford 60 bucks for a playset of Thoughtseize.

256: "In the more recent Standard formats though (where only the most recent 2 years worth of cards are legal), the designers have put a lot of work into ensuring that turn 3 wins are generally impossible and turn 4 wins require pretty much optimal draws."

It varies between sets. Designers aren't perfect, after all. If 3 is impossible (it isn't) and 4 requires The Hand, how common is a turn 5 scoop?
posted by pwnguin at 9:40 PM on August 17, 2014


This post makes me want to go root around in the storage locker and find my mirage decks. I remember when weather light was the new hotness. You think sliver decks are worth anything?
posted by Carillon at 10:48 PM on August 17, 2014


Yeah, I think we must just be in different circles then, pwnguin, if your store is running 3 tournaments a week and most of the people playing in them have multiple top-tier standard decks.

What I've seen is people will often have an Intro or Event deck augmented with their limited pools, random pack purchases, and trading.

A turn 5 scoop (concession) happens, sure, but a turn 5 win in standard? Now I want to find some numbers to crunch, but my gut says not all that common. Modern, sure. Standard?... Those tend to drag out a bit longer than that, don't they?
posted by ODiV at 10:53 PM on August 17, 2014


Carillon, mirage and weatherlight didn't hold much value, but if you have sliver decks that means you kept playing into Tempest block. Tempest is still one of the best blocks to date and retains a lot of monetary value. One uncommon in tempest, Wasteland, is now selling easily for $40-$50, so definitely check out your collection.
posted by captain cosine at 11:55 PM on August 17, 2014


ODiV: "Standard?... Those tend to drag out a bit longer than that, don't they?"

I don't really play MtG, but after watching some of the videos, I did some googling, and Izzt Artifact looks pretty strong in M15. Ornithoper+Ensoul Artifact give you a 5/5 flyer ready to attack on turn two. Chief engineer lets you play out a Scuttling Doom Engine before turn 6. And if you shrapnel blast it, there's 11 damage. This exemplar seems pretty decent. And probably pricey.

Obviously control and spot removal will slow it down, but left unchecked a turn 3 win seems possible, and a turn 5 win seems about average. Which might be slow, considering this deck can swing for the win on turn 4 or 5. On the plus side, it's cheap to play, until the next rotation.
posted by pwnguin at 12:06 AM on August 18, 2014


Uh, yeah. That reminds me: Newbies can't GET into the games with people who already play, and everything was far too advanced for me to learn to play from people, apparently. Which makes me wonder how anyone started it in the first place, much like the ol' "you can't get experience without a job, but you can't get a job without experience" conundrum."


I got into magic at university, a friend introduced me (and most of the people in the flat) to the game. I started off playing using his decks, then went out and bought a starter pack, which I initially would only play against another friend who'd bought a starter pack. We opened boosters, the decks got better, I understood the game better, the decks got better, we traded together, the decks got better. It was always a lot of fun, but it relied entirely on

a)promiximity, in that we were living together and able to play a lot and understand each others decks and respond to them
b)Similar access to cards, so we had decks of similar power levels (my more experienced friend had the edge, but this faded over time)
c)Being happy not to go hyper competitive.

I have about 10 decks these days, varying from good to a mess. Each of these decks is quite fun to play, and reasonably well tuned, but none of them have been net decked or optimally tuned to win super quick. I always like deck building from the principle of: "here's a goofy idea, lets see if I can make it work!" which is why, by the way, I don't really enjoy hearthstone, or rather deck building in HS. There aren't too many goofy combinations in HS (I've seen a few, but they're difficult to manage and often require access to legendaries), so I feel like I'm just tuning better versions of 9 different decks, which honestly just bores me. Also the lack of multiplayer makes playing with friends a bit less rewarding as with more than 2 of us the others have to do something else.

If I do play with other people, I play sealed or draft, which removes the money requirement (or rather puts us on a level playing field). You could easily spend an obscene amount on this hobby though, and I'm glad I don't anymore. I never liked standard because decks existed that could win stupidly quickly, and I didn't want to compete with them because it didn't seem fun to me.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:22 AM on August 18, 2014


Semi-related: Also produced for Wizards of the Coast but with perhaps more storyline and character is the awesome Friday Nights series by Bionic Trousers, the folks who are also behind Loading Ready Run, the (without checking Google) longest-running online sketch comedy troupe. They're also the ones responsible for helping create the Wacky Draft for the 2013 MTGO Community Cup where restrictions like "You must draft the card with the best-dressed creature in the artwork" were in play.

It's really only because of watching the "Friday Nights" videos that I ever even considered getting into Magic. I started with M13 and due to finances stopped just after Theros. But I really want to get into it again and create a Lady Planeswalker (self-link, featuring a MeFite!) group for Minneapolis. I tried to get into "Spellslingers" but even after watching LRR draft and parts of the Community Cup last year, I couldn't really enjoy it.
posted by TrishaLynn at 4:00 AM on August 18, 2014


In contrast, Netrunner feels cheaper to own. It's around 15 bucks a month for a full playset of cards. The singles market is not well established, but since you get a set of 3 of every card, I figure 5 dollars is the highest a single would ever go for, meaning the mathematical cap on a a pair of decks is around 500, and I'd expect it to really be closer to 20 bucks, since you can get cards in bulk for 25 cents.

One of the great things about the Living Card Games is that there is pretty much no "aftermarket" at all. Rarity only sort of exists -- it's been eliminated from the expansions, and it's just a question of whether you are going to buy an extra starter set or two to give you a full range of all the cards FFG is pretty good about keeping the sets and expansions in print, so, unless you are collecting the cards (which the production is not designed to encourage), you can pretty much get all the cards for a fairly small outlay and then keep up for a small monthly fee. If that's too expensive, you target your purchasing by delaying a month or two on purchases and watching the forums for ideas on which sets you might want to get for the cards that will be the most use to you.

I've never played Magic, but I played a fair amount of Vampire and Shadowfist back in the day, and it was a little demoralizing having one player with the income and inclination to buy a ton of cards to put together the most brutal decks possible (especially since the rest of the group was much more casual). Of course, this made the occasional win with a whimsical deck all the sweeter.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:43 AM on August 18, 2014


Magic: The Gathering is one of the few things that makes me sad that I was born a decade late and that it was this game I walked in on in fourth grade in the school library instead of D&D.

from Junot Diaz's Brief And Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao:
And in case you think his life couldn’t get any worse: one day he walked into the Game Room and was surprised to discover that overnight the new generation of nerds weren’t buying role-playing games anymore. They were obsessed with Magic cards! No one had seen it coming. No more characters or campaigns, just endless battles between decks. All the narrative flensed from the game, all the performance, just straight unadorned mechanics. How the fucking kids loved that shit! He tried to give Magic a chance, tried to put together a decent deck, but it just wasn’t his thing. Lost everything to an eleven-year-old punk and found himself not really caring. First sign that his Age was coming to a close. When the latest nerdery was no longer compelling, when you preferred the old to the new.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:36 AM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Finally...

STOP IT WITH THE NETRUNNER TALK PEOPLES. I WANT TO PLAY SO BAD BUT DON'T NEED ANOTHER HOBBY!!


You don't need another hobby, you need Netrunner as a hobby.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 9:05 AM on August 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Uh, yeah. That reminds me: Newbies can't GET into the games with people who already play, and everything was far too advanced for me to learn to play from people, apparently. Which makes me wonder how anyone started it in the first place, much like the ol' "you can't get experience without a job, but you can't get a job without experience" conundrum."

I convinced a friend to learn it with me so I had someone to beat, I mean play competitively with.

I always like deck building from the principle of: "here's a goofy idea, lets see if I can make it work!"

My favorite decks where the kind where you just turned all of your opponent's creatures into sheep or a "Voltron" deck where you attempt to assemble a giant flying, trampling, flanking behemoth that takes all of your opponent's life points in one attack or a goblin team that doesn't do any damage but just keeps destroying your opponent's lands. I didn't win many matches (unless you count an upside down table as a "win" - which I do).
posted by dances with hamsters at 9:37 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


You don't need another hobby, you need Netrunner as a hobby.

ALL THE OTHER HOBBIES ARE STUPID

KNITTING? I SAY PFAH TO YOUR KNITTING
posted by mightygodking at 2:19 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Big changes are on the way.

TL;DR: No more core sets after M16, blocks changing from 3 sets to 2, Standard format will be 3 blocks at a time.
posted by ODiV at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2014


So there's going to be a lot fewer cards in the Standard format card pool, for a lot less time.

If a card's singles market value is determined in part by how long you may compete with it, then you're looking at a reduction in value. Same goes for block constructed. It'll be interesting to see how the singles market prices change, if distinguishable from noise. If prices fall, then draft formats are also less enticing for those who engage in rare drafting.
posted by pwnguin at 5:37 PM on August 25, 2014


I did some googling, and Izzt Artifact yt looks pretty strong in M15. Ornithoper+Ensoul Artifact give you a 5/5 flyer ready to attack on turn two. Chief engineer lets you play out a Scuttling Doom Engine before turn 6. And if you shrapnel blast it, there's 11 damage. This exemplar seems pretty decent. And probably pricey.

Obviously control and spot removal will slow it down, but left unchecked a turn 3 win seems possible, and a turn 5 win seems about average. Which might be slow, considering this deck can swing for the win on turn 4 or 5.
[...]

Hm. I have never played Magic, but I know some things about it. So I could well be wrong here, but... wouldn't high-power cards used in concert that might bring about extremely early wins if the player [P1] were lucky enough to draw them on turn one or two unless the opponent [P2] happens to have just as luckily had specific counters, and had the foresight to include them in his deck on the off chance P1 was ready for and used that ploy... isn't that a symptom of bad game design?

Dominion is a game I've read a lot about. It's not real similar to Magic, but it does share some common elements. I'm reminded of one of my least favorite cards in the game, Treasure Map, which I always inwardly groan when it comes up. It's one of the "swingiest" cards in the game; if it's available in supply for that board, then the players usually drop what they usually do for their first four turns and get two Treasure Maps apiece. Because the first player to draw two Treasure Maps in a single hand will probably win -- not always, but if this happens to someone on Turn 5, the other players might as well throw down their cards.

But in Dominion at least, all the players have a similar opportunity to pick up Treasure Maps, and because they're visible in a common supply that all players build their decks from, players who choose to try to respond to that (maybe with a strong trasher, to amplify his own TMs or use a different high-powered strategy, or start bombing the opponents with junk card attacks).

A lot more of Magic comes, from this casual observer's eye, from you opponent's deck, which you don't have any information on at the start of play. So, play looks a lot more like Rock, Paper, Scissors, but not just in the good way of their being circular strategies with none dominant, but in the bad way of each being identical to each other except for personal preference. One could them claim that reading one's opponent is important (as in RPS, where it's the entire game), but against total strangers players don't have much to read.

Well, it's just what I'm thinking. I don't say it's irrefutable, tear it down if you want, I'd like to see how enthusiasts respond to it.
posted by JHarris at 6:38 PM on August 25, 2014


Its more like a first to 20 game of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Vulcan with timing rules that sometimes allow you to play your move second, or throw a second hand out to guarantee victory that round.

Card advantage is the fundamental theory behind MtG card analysis. Out of the box, both sides are only allowed to draw one card a turn, so players look for ways to gain a minor advantage before trading 1:1 ala checkers. The canonical example is Necrataal, which destroys a creature, but also gains you one. A 2/1 isn't a huge bonus, but left unblocked it'll win in 10 turns by itself.

The Izzet (Blue/Red) deck then. An ornithopter is a 0/2 flyer, which means if your opponent doesn't have any fliers, it can attack for... 0 damage. It's a silly card who's main benefit historically was that it costs 0 mana to play. Ensoul Artifact makes it a 5/5. The risk you're opening yourself up to is a 2:1 trade, when your opponent plays a card that destroys creatures or artifacts. If they're clever, Izzet's opponent will wait until an attack phase to actually kill it, in case the opponent over commits (or undercommits).

The thing that makes MtG somewhat interesting is that card timing is resolved by a stack. This is important because there is a mechanic that counters spells (its mostly exclusive to blue). Without a stack, you have no way to undo the effects of a card previously played as a Counterspell would require. Counterspell is a 1:1 card, so you save it to prevent things like that Necretaal. But the stack itself makes the game interesting in a variety of other ways. For example, in response to Ensoul Artifact, a red deck could play a Shock, killing the target Ornithopter with 2 damage before it becomes toughness 5. A white deck could Swords to Plowshares, killing it and gaining its owner 0 life, before it becomes strength 5.

Still there is a rock paper scissors affair between the aggro, control and combo decks. This metagame is likely an unavoidable consequence of the constructed format. The only thing that even ameliates it is the sideboard. The sideboard is a set of 15 cards available in games 2/3 of every match from which you can swap cards. That card that hoses your weakest matchup, but doesn't do anything otherwise? Sideboard fodder. Because decklists, including sideboards, are static throughout any given tournament, you must think about how to select and use the sideboard against your likely matchups. It's feasible because although most decks are 'rogue' that don't conform to common netdecks, rogue decks are usually not very strong.

Anyways, the metagame is why people tend to say past a certain level of experience, the deck plays you. The tactical moves are mostly obvious -- kill your opponent's biggest threat, attack when you have the advantage, and favor card advantage as a measure of who's winning more than life totals.
posted by pwnguin at 8:10 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hm. I have never played Magic, but I know some things about it. So I could well be wrong here, but... wouldn't high-power cards used in concert that might bring about extremely early wins if the player [P1] were lucky enough to draw them on turn one or two unless the opponent [P2] happens to have just as luckily had specific counters, and had the foresight to include them in his deck on the off chance P1 was ready for and used that ploy... isn't that a symptom of bad game design?

These aren't really high-power cards used in concert. They're low power cards that synergize really well. If you draw them independently then you're kind of out of luck. There are a lot of cool synergies within the Red/Blue Artifacts archetype, but I don't think it's even making a dent in Standard right now. I think Ensoul Artifact is seeing some play in Modern Affinity which already has a lot of artifacts. If you can manage to put together Red/Blue Artifacts in M15 Limited then it's really fun to play and pretty powerful though.

P2 doesn't need to be ready for this specific ploy. P2 has her own deck and her own strategy going for her. A turn 2 5/5 flier is scary if P1 manages to get that on the board, but there are so many single cards that can deal with that combination. It's not as if P2 needs a card in her deck that says, "Destroy Ensouled Artifact". All she needs is something that returns a creature to it's owners hand, destroys a creature, exiles or destroys an artifact or enchantment, the list goes on.

That's all a little more example-specific than you probably wanted. pwnguin's already mentioned metagame and how that presents a more general rock/paper/scissors kind of atmosphere. It's worth trying to watch a few pro-level Standard games, though I'm not sure if there's a good stream or YouTube channel that would cater to people not already familiar with the cards. Just having a quick look right now and they're not super easy to follow I don't think.
posted by ODiV at 10:22 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


And yeah, pwnguin, it should be interesting to see what this means for Standard and pricing. There will still be tournaments where people will want to play the best decks, so I'm worried about supply going down from a shorter limited season, but demand not falling as well. It's not like I buy a lot of singles or live somewhere with an actual competitive scene anyway.

I'm kind of looking forward to a Standard that is always around the same size (5-6 sets) instead of the larger variation that we have now. Also, I think I'd prefer drafting the new way. We'll have to see how it shakes out.
posted by ODiV at 4:01 PM on August 26, 2014


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