Dragons of Tarkir

Last Saturday, I have participated in the Dragons of Tarkir launch event at a local comic book store. Last time I have played Magic the Gathering was in high school and I was not planning to get back into the game any time soon. Collectible card games are an insane money sink and I’m already spending way too much of my disposable income on tabletop miniatures and video games. Adding a CCG to list of my nerdy activities at this point would be foolhardy. But it happened.

Some friends of mine were going to the event, and were signing up for the tournament so I figured I might as well join in. Since it was more of a spur of the moment for me, I went in completely blind. My friends prepped for the event by reading card spoilers and trying to figure out useful synergies between cards. I just showed up and said “give me whatever color deck is on top of the pile”. So I ended up with a Silumgar box:

Dragons of Tarkir

Dragons of Tarkir Tournament Box

Silumgar combines black and blue cards, and uses a brand new mechanic known as “exploit” that has some interesting synergies across the entire card range. When you play a creature that has this rule, you sacrifice another creature and trigger the exploit effect. The black and blue cards also include a number of creatures have effects that trigger upon their death and plenty of spell cards that allow you to retrieve dead creatures from the graveyard (ie. your discard pile). So your deck is based on creatures that die all the time, but never stay dead, combined with removal and annoyance cards that are staples of black and blue colors (things that deplete enemy’s hand, steal their graveyard, clear all creatures from the board, etc..). I call it the “maximum asshole” deck, because if you play it right, the opponent will usually want to flip the table at the end of the game.

Granted, I wish I knew all of that before the tournament. The format was sealed deck, limited I believe. When I got my box, I had about 15 minutes to build a 40 card deck out of the contents of the box. As you can imagine, this might have been a lot less stressful if I actually did any research beforehand. But I did not, since I’m a dumb idiot, so I completely fumbled through my first few matches. Granted, my opponents were incredibly nice, and were happy to teach me as we played. I managed to learn enough to actually win my last match.

Most of the folks I went with were in the same boat as me: they were familiar with the game, but have not played it for over a decade. We figured that this event would be a good way for us to start fresh. We would all end up with starter decks with current generation cards, and none of us would have unfair advantage of having large collection of tricky, rare cards they have accumulated over the last twenty years or so.

After the tournament we all agreed to set up a spending limit to prevent rapid escalation. The idea was to make our friendly games fair and balanced. We did not want to feel compelled to out-spend each other in order to stay competitive within our group. It did not work that well…

I believe this Loading, Ready, Run episode is pretty much exactly what happened to us:

At this point we are all about $50 into the rabbit hole, and there are no signs of stopping. I already ordered one “fat pack” and I spent days browsing spoiler sites, and buying singles. So I guess I’m a Magic player now. May god have mercy on my soul.

I have to admit that the artwork on the cards is pretty amazing. I remember it always being pretty good, but these new editions are absolutely gorgeous. The Silumgar deck has a really striking, sinister flavor to it and I love it. It very much reminds me of the Middle Earth: The Lidless Eye flavor, and I mean that as a compliment. I have very fond memories of being evil in that game.

Do you play Magic? What kind of a deck? Any advice for a fledgeling black + blue player? Do you indulge in any other CCG? Tell me about it in the comments.

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9 Responses to Dragons of Tarkir

  1. Jason *StDoodle* Wood UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    On no! I played “back in the day” myself, meaning for me the late 90’s, from around Unlimited to roughly Fallen Empires. Then my brother dragged me back in a year or so ago; thankfully, I “sobered up” rather quickly. I managed to play from just before Theros was released to just after the first expansion for it (which I can’t remember off hand), so about half a year(ish).

    The thing that “sucks” about M:tG is that it hits so many chords: it has some of the best mechanics of any game I’ve played, great art, a *cough obsession-inducing* collectible aspect, interesting back stories and worlds, etc. But once I stepped back and looked at the math, I realized that if I kept spending the way I was… well, let’s just say I did the math, and figured I could buy a brand new console every year, a really decent gaming computer every-other year, 2 or 3 decent-priced boardgames and 1 or 2 new-price video games each month, and be at about the same level of spending. But my current finances can really only support one or the other. That wasn’t a difficult call.

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  2. Everlag Google Chrome Linux says:

    Give commander a try. It’s a ‘casual’ format and you could pick up a very decent starter for 40$ with the preconstructed decks. Effectively everyone you could play against at a tournament has a commander deck so it makes random games after a round much easier.

    The power level has a significant variation but many people with an extremely powered deck will probably have another that they’ll lend to those asking for a game.

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  3. Max NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox OpenBSD says:

    Last time I got back into MtG was roughly from Mirrodin to Lorwyn, also we also used plenty of older cards. My main deck was also an asshole-black-blue deck (it started out purely black) focused on depleting the opponent’s hand. Over time I became less fond of that, but I had already sunk quite a bit of money into it. The thing is, you’re effectively trying to prevent your opponent from playing the game, which kind of sucks when you play casually. Your Schadenfreude may vary, of course ;)

    Anyway, its tempting but I don’t plan to get back to it any time soon. If I’m going to take up another nerd-hobby it’ll be a pen & paper RPG.

    By the way, what drains more money, Warhammer or Magic? My impression from the outside is that tabletop games have a much higher entry price, but you’ll eventually waste more money on Magic. Seriously, the guy who came up with the concept of booster packs…it should be illegal to be so clever!

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  4. Alphast Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Meeeh. I tried to come back to Magic, some years ago, after an absence of some 15 years or more from the game. I played Commander format (as hinted in the comments above, it’s the only way to play without complete ruination). I sort of liked it, but since I was playing Legend of the 5 Rings CCG at the same time, I quickly abandoned Magic. L5R is so much more fun, in my opinion, and strategically deeper, that playing Magic got boring pretty quickly. Funnily enough, due to mostly financial reasons, I stopped playing L5R as well last year. I started again a couple of weeks ago, so I can feel for you, Luke. Discovering all the cards you are actually lacking is pretty daunting…

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  5. Philipp GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I heard about it long before but it never really sparked my interest since my generation was into Pokemon cards in middle school. Last year, my girlfriend suggested that we could get us a duelling deck and just play for fun without ever getting any booster packs. So far it worked but only because we decided not to mention it in front of our nerdy friends (not that we had any other) and generally avoiding any contact with anything MtG except for our own deck. While it is a pity that I never could use the line “actually my girlfriend got me into MtG” on any of the G4tortypesm (not risking the hordes of trolls that tend to come when somebody uses the word) it is definitely better than having no money for anything except MtG.

    On a related note: Sorry Luke, I had to remove your blog from my RSS reader, also I had to take… other measures. Don’t worry, I told the hitman to make it painless since I actually did like you (<– this is a joke. I assume everybody gets it but I'm careful on the internet with such things)

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  6. Tormod Haugen Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Did play back in the days, too. Was at the end of third and through Ice Age. Did try to jump back in “recently” with Shards of Alara or something with a white/green/blue built around getting a boost when attacking with only one creature.

    Had to give it up when people started putting cards from the next (and all the previous) series into their decks. Either that or go broke.

    @ Philipp: Where’s the kickstarter for that hitman? I’m in for about half of what I’ll save on MtG cards by not reading more about it. (<- also a joke, internets).

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Jason *StDoodle* Wood:

    Yeah, I just realized that there are like two more expansions coming out this year. Ow, my poor, poor wallet. :( That said, I think it is possible to get away with just buying a fat-pack per edition and then bunch of loose singles to have an OK deck for friendly play.

    @ Everlag:

    The Commander thing is almost a separate game, though, right? 100 card pre-made decks with no dupes, none of which are strictly compatible with standard play, no?

    @ Max:

    Yeah, Wahrammer has steep prices per models but eventually you get to a point where the spending levels off because you end up having all the models you need (unless you decide to start another army). Of course that’s bad for Games Workshop so they always update the army books, tweak the rules, add new units and etc. There is a power escalation in the game, but it is not as pronounced as in Magic, which is deceptively inexpensive to get into. You can spend $30 on a fat-pack and have a playable deck: with Warhammer that’s like an average price for a standard 10 model box set, which is probably kike a third of a unit. The hard cover rule books routinely go for upwards of $70, and you kinda need those to play.

    The current rumors say the game is about to get even more spend extensive. Last 6 months or so they have been doing a huge campaign for their fantasy line that is basically lead-up to the new edition of the game coming this summer. It involved a lot of special edition, “while supplies last” models which are around for about a month, and then disappear. Usually they bring them back later in limited quantities, at double the original price point trying to induce scarcity. A lot of people are worried that this is going to be their new business model from now on.

    There is one rumor floating around that claims that the 9th ed will only have two factions (good or evil) with a few core units each and GW will keep adding to their rosters game via monthly or bi-monthly limited expansion sets. These are rumored to be complete box sets that include all the models and rules you need to field that unit.

    Which is a terrible idea IMHO. I think we are all going to keep playing the 8th edition if they do that.

    @ Alphast:

    I used to play Middle Earth: The Wizards in High School, and that too was way much deeper than Magic ever could be. It’s an excellent game. Too bad it has been out of print for years now.

    @ Philipp:

    The dueling decks are a great idea, though I hear they are seriously unbalanced. My brother and his girlfriend did a similar thing, and found out that one of the decks would always win. This was later corroborated by watching Youtube vid two MTG pros playing two back to back games with the same set, and making the same observation.

    And thanks for the clarification re: hitman. I know it was said in jest, but I agree that this is not a good climate to make these type of jokes on the internet. At least not since last Augus. :(

    @ Tormod Haugen:

    This time around the white/green decks use the “bolster” mechanic which puts +1/+1 counter on the weakest creature on your side. Some cards have have ridiculous bolster values (like 5 or 6) which means you can end up buffing all the creatures on the board. Half of them have special rules that trigger when they have tokens on them. I was playing with my brother’s girlfriend the other night, and she pulled a bolster / buff chain so insane that she ended up hitting me for like 37 damage on like turn 7.

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  8. Everlag Google Chrome Windows says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    Commander is basically 100 card singleton casual. It links nicely with standard in that many cards that rotate out of standard could be pretty good in commander.

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  9. Max NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox OpenBSD says:

    “There is one rumor floating around that claims that the 9th ed will only have two factions (good or evil) with a few core units each and GW will keep adding to their rosters game via monthly or bi-monthly limited expansion sets.”

    Wow…that seems like an excellent way to suck the personality out of all the different factions. What could go wrong?

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