MTG Arena

I have had the opportunity to play the new Magic: The Gathering online client MTG Arena. I will say it is a fun and engaging experience. There are some things I like and some things I dislike about the system.
To begin, in Arena you are given a decent amount of cards to start and they are formulated into introduction pack type decks for you to use from the first moment you sign on. These decks are fun and can be a great way to learn the game. In addition, there are booster packs available for you to open and edit the decks provided or make new ones yourself. However, this is one of the main problems with Arena. In order to upgrade your decks, you must either pay for packs, or win packs by grinding games online. There is no trading (currently) in Arena, and thus, in order to make a deck to the specifications you want, you need to pull the appropriate cards from your packs. There is a wild card system in place where one of the cards in your pack may be a wild card, thus allowing you to turn it into any card of the same rarity (which is a one-time use), but they do help with securing playsets. The ability to purchase packs for cash also skews the game in favor of those willing to spend the cash in most cases. The cards are still randomly slotted into the packs, so there is no guarantee you will get the cards you need. I have thoroughly enjoyed grinding games and watching my deck get better incrementally as I pull new cards and it has made the opening of digital packs a much more exciting experience. I prefer it to simply going online and buying cards from an online vendor to have them traded to me. That being said, I can see the in game economy getting out of whack pretty quickly, once players start to secure bona fide decks since there would be no real separation from the participants playing some form of the intro decks. Winning, not just playing, games or completing the challenges are the only way to earn packs or coins, so at some point the underpowered decks will find it more and more difficult to upgrade.
When it comes to game play, the graphics and mechanics engine is great. The animations, look and feel realistic and music score make it a truly engaging experience. Set stables such as; Hazoret or Glorybringer have full animations that come out of the cards, planeswalkers have voices, and the combat graphics make the game far more engaging than something like MTGO and are much closer to the dynamic feel of Duels of the Planeswalkers. The turn mechanics are also very good and are set up to expedite gameplay. The game automatically yields to the opponent if there is no possible play, taps mana for you upon castings spells and will skip phases of combat if nothing can be done. The key here is this can all be turned off manually if you want to, but leaving it on does not come with the risk of clicking through an important phase by accident.
So something that I do hope is expanded upon in the future is the number of cards available in Arena. Currently, there is a limited card pool that does not even encompass standard, the oldest set in the system is Amonkhet. Also, the current set up for draft is extremely infrequent and thus really holds back the system. I am sure this is something that will be added after the Beta, so for now, I will not gripe about it too much.
The thing I may be looking most forward to is finally being able to play this against my friends with Macs and even counsels in the future, since this was designed on an engine that can be used across platforms.
All in all, I have enjoyed the Arena Beta and am looking forward to see how it develops in the future and post Beta. I do hope the potential economy issues are fixed in its next iteration, but nevertheless, I think this is a great step forward for online play.
If you get paired against OsoGladiator, that’s me!

See you on the sand!

Going Tribal

So we will soon have 4 new tribal commanders and 4 decks to play with them. So rather than speculate on which tribes we will get, or if they decks will be balanced, or even what colors they will be. I thought it would be fun to explore one of my favorite tribes.


I sincerely doubt that Zombies will be one of the tribes that we end up seeing in the 2017 printing of commander product. They are already a very well supported tribe, and other than perhaps receiving a five color commander there is not much more they need; in comparison to many of the other tribes in magic, I am looking at you Minotaurs. They also were shown a lot of love recently in the ripped from a horror novel plane of Innistrad and with the mummified servants on Amonkhet.

So why Zombies? For me it has always been a fascination with the lore of zombies, they have always been one of the most fearsome beasts of the old horror genres. I feel with the amount of pop culture screen time they have received of late, they have lost some of their fervor, but to me the slow, methodical, and relentless aggression was always much more troublesome than any of the werewolves, vampires and other creatures that the heroes of my youth used to face off against.

So how to get that idea, that relentlessness, that ever growing threat to appear upon the battlefield of Magic? Well the game designers at wizards have given us quite a few ways to slowly drag down your enemies with the hordes of the undead. Cards like Diregraf Captain and Plague Belcher give us a way to make ever opponent pay for wrathing or killing parts of our board; draining each opponent one life at a time. Having sacrifice combos in conjunction with that drain like the Phyrexian Alter and Grave crawler can also be a sure way to win. Other creatures like Diregraf Colossus or Unbreathing Horde grow stronger the more Zombies you control, and you even get credit for those in the graveyard. Finally there are cards like Empty the pits and Army of Darkness to grow your horde quickly.

Currently my favorite commander to run them with is the Siblings, Gisa and Geralf, although with the coming of hour of devastation I may look to The Scarab God to take their place. I have also toyed with the idea of having Sidisi, Brood Tyrant take command to add green to the mix. I can post my list later if there is interest; it is a bit different than some of the other ones I have seen floating around.

So there you have it, that is my favorite tribe for commander, or I should say in all formats.

What is your favorite tribe? Do you have a certain tribe you would want to see in this year’s release?

Let me know!

Edit: I included the Zombie Tribal Deck I built below, feel free to check it out.

Creature (32)

Land (37)

Enchantment (8)

Instant (3)

Planeswalker (2)


Artifact (14)

Sorcery (3)

Mirrorpool and EDH

Magic the Gathering and Wizards of the Coast like to give us hidden gems for EDH all the time that are just waiting to be discovered. Then again, there are cards that are just asking to over perform. Mirrorpool is one of those cards.

With the ability to be a utility land in any deck, this card can be an secret weapon, yet I very rarely see it across the table. Mirrorpool has a couple of obvious uses, giving good value off of good spells. But when used to double a spell like that makes tokens when a card like Purphoros is out, it can end the game in a hurry, especially for only 3 mana.

The second ability is no joke either. Think about copying utility creatures like Consecrated Sphinx to gain card advantage or having an Oloro on the battlefield and in the Command zone. This card can break games wide open.

This is one of those cards that is often over looked, but can very easily turn into a game ender. It also is rarely a dead card since at the worst, its a land that that taps for colorless and at best you can twin cast your game winning spell when the first is getting countered.

There is an argument to be made that it might be too slow, however since most people do not have a way to remove a land, it can be an easy way to sneak in a win even if it has to make it around the table.

What are your thoughts on Mirrorpool?

Image is used for reference only and is the product of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast.

Proxies, Stand ins and Gold Boarders

So have you ever sat down to play a game of Magic and been surprised to see your opponent was playing a proxied card? In general I tend to think it is bad form to not notify your opponent(s) ahead of time that you will be using cards outside of the regular tournament legal varity. Admittedly this has never really been a problem with the write “Force of Will” on an island proxies. I have however, run into individuals that use printed proxies.

These proxies tend to be direct copies of the card, magic back and all. Now, as a player who has collected or paid for cards it does bug me when I am not told of a card being fake ahead of time. This also extends over to the gold boardered cards from the World Championship Decks. I think these cards were fun to play with the championship decks for fun or practice, but not to be used against unsuspecting opponents.

I should be clear, as long as its discussed ahead of time, all is fair. I have run into a few playgroups now who use proxy cards, without notification or notice and it was just surprising. So am I in the minority? Is this something that many playgroups do? Or maybe just for certain formats like commander?

Let me know your thoughts.

Dealing with competition in casual MTG

Making sure you enjoy your hobby is important, but it is also important to make sure others enjoy theirs too.

Whenever you sit down to play a new game you always face the social question of how competitive to get. Some people can be finely tuned to this; maybe there was a plethora of team sports growing up and have built up a mental fortitude to stressful situations, maybe they are supremely confident with their abilities, or maybe they truly don’t care who wins and they are there for the good old entertainment.

So how do you manager another player’s competitiveness? Now in the tournament setting this is much easier. You have signed up to play to win, and although you may find yourself beating someone who got mana-screwed, or facing a slaughter yourself, it is expected that at the end of the match a you’ll shake hands, say good game, and get on with your day. This can be different with Casual play or even FNM. Friday Night Magic has casual players as well as spikes, where as other formats, such as commander, also have extremely varied play styles and play levels.

Now, there is no way, short of asking, to truly know what level of experience, competition level or how tuned their deck is. So how do you manage your competitiveness to be appropriate so that both players have fun. This is where a little self reflection is needed. I know I have certainly been guilty of taking our hobby too seriously. Taking things personally when I shouldn’t have, making things overly competitive in a casual setting. Here is where you must learn to be a gracious loser and an even more gracious winner.

When someone beats you it is important to realize you don’t win every game, even if you are the superior player. Take a look at the pros winning percentages, these are arguably the best in the world, and they do not have 100% winning percentages, they do not even have close to that. Also, if you are not losing games then you are not playing tough enough competition. This will end with your skill set stagnating. You should be losing games. So how do you maintain being gracious loser. First suggestion… Don’t flip the table. But seriously, losing sucks, it does, accept that it sucks and expect to lose sometimes. That way when you do you can be gracious. When you lose make sure to be sincere in your “good game” hand shake. Stay and discuss the game with your opponent, make sure not to just say the things you did wrong. This can make it sound like you are short-selling their ability, and instead saying the victory came from your mistakes. It very well might have, but if nothing else they capitalized at it. Make sure to be comfortable complimenting them on this.

On the other hand, winning can seem easier, but it is even more important here to be gracious. I mentioned before, losing sucks. You know it, I know it, your opponent knows it. So when you win, again, it is good to stop and say good game. If it was a landslide victory you can always comment on the things you noticed that lead to it. Maybe they got mana screwed, maybe their deck just didn’t draw the cards they needed, it happens. Maybe you got a nut draw or just straight out played them. Regardless, it is a good sport, who looks for a way to compliment and respect his/her opponent even in a sound victory. So be gracious. If they are a new player and ask you questions, offer advice. Be a good example of the player you want to play against.

We play a game that is meant to be fun, part of what makes it fun is playing competitively. You don’t have to stop playing competitively to make sure your peers are having fun. This game is about social interaction, it is about helping yourself and your opponents enjoy the game. See ya at the table.