Gleaming the Cube: MTG Style Part 2… Electric Boogaloo?

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The title of this installment is almost as long as the content. I will tell you that this is brief, but the follow up in part three will more than make up for it. So here is something you look at that will give you the giggles…

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What happens when a player that consistently gets their arse handed to them in constructed?

First they want to play cube every time… then they start to question why they are not able to convert that success when it comes to constructed.

It’s an odd, but not unheard of thing to happen.

Some players just draft really solid… because they are don’t have the time to overthink what they are going to do.

As a long time player, I have seen tons of things over the years, and it is the stories of players that for some reason they turn into so kind mutant combo master savant that can generate a third turn kill out of nowhere.

It’s disturbing… it’s brutal… and sometimes… just sometimes… it’s bloody hilarious.

Time and time again I see what happens to those players that are sometimes stymied when it comes to building a 60 card deck, but for some reason are killers in the 40 card deck draft format… Simply put, the power curve for a deck that is only 40 cards is sharper and easier to execute than with 60.

The odds of drawing what you need are much higher when you cut the pool much more sharply. While it is easier to get to cards that you need when you are dealing with such a small deck, and combinations may be easier to pull off in some situations… it still comes down to how you were able to build and how aggressive/smart you are with the cards that you draft.

The great thing about cube drafting is that you don’t have to be awesome to really get something out of the game, and if you have the right people… you will have an awesome time.

Join me next time for the most in depth part, when I explore the types of people that you will find when playing in a cube.

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Reflections and Guardians

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Reflections and Guardians

What could Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have in common with reflecting on the events of my life as I sit here in this all night diner?

Well, to be totally honest, not much… it just got me to thinking.

As many of you know, the major theme of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is that of finding family in those that are closest to you. That you are never truly alone unless you force things t0 be that way, and in the end, anyone can become a hero if they choose it.

The hero portion is not what really spoke to me… it was the themes of finding family, and not being alone unless you make it happen that way… and how it all reflects back to the loss of my Brother and my Father… whom I lost years before either of them died.

To give the right context to this, there must first be a brief history lesson about myself, and those around me.

My father left my mother after she turned down his proposal to marry him when she told him that she was with child. After my birth, and my naming… he challenged paternity, as he was of the belief that since I did not carry his name, but carried hers (not out of the ordinary for Scots to use the mother’s surname for the child when not married), and although the DNA test proved that he was my father, it wasn’t to be, and I never met him. It was revealed to me that he was dead in the Autumn of 2005, via court documents that were sent to my mother in regards to her 20+ years long case.

This was only a few months after the death of both of my Grandparents. One from cancer treatment complications, the other from a catastrophic attack of Guillen-Barre Syndrome.

My Mother would die suddenly in the Autumn of 2014 after a massive cardiac arrest. She had a history of heart troubles going back to the age of 5, when she had open heart surgery to correct a valve problem.

My Brother on the other hand… his was a life affected and ended by bad decisions.

MeandBrandon1982

Brandon (in stripes) and I in 1982.

Brandon, my younger Brother, and middle child, I have another Brother that is 7 yeas my junior, was prone to defiance of anyone that had authority over him, a rebellious streak a mile wide, undiagnosed Bi Polar Disorder, and to add to this, a history of being abused by our first stepfather, and then having more than 15 years spent in and out of prison… would lose his battle with addiction on May 6th, 2016.

He died alone in sitting on a bench at a run down park in a Metro Detroit Ghetto.

Brandon’s cause of death was a overdose of Fentanyl coupled with Alcohol… he was less than 3 weeks away from his 35th Birthday.

On the evening after what would have been his 36th birthday, I decided to finally see Guardians of the Galaxy. I went alone, and enjoyed the movie very much. There was lots of Marvel Fan Service throughout, but after all 5 of the credits scenes were over, and I was on the way back to my car, I realized that the movie spoke to me quite differently than I would have ever imagined.

I like “Star Lord”, had to bear witness to the death of my Mother (Grand Parents as well), as I was in the unenviable position of having to make the judgment call to withdraw care when it was determined that she was brain dead… a position that she herself had been in with her own Mother (my Granny) in 2005.

And like I did with my Granddad, Granny, I read my Ma her last rites, and sat awaiting for her to draw her last breath. It was an agonizingly long few hours… but in the end, she would be in a better place.

I like “Star Lord”, was always told stories about my Father, and he was painted into this great man, that had fought evil, and in the end… it would be revealed, that he was not the kind of person that I would have hoped…and my Granddad, was a lot like Yondu in the respect that while he was not my Father… he was pretty much my Daddy…but even I would never have the guts to call him Mary Poppins… even though Mary Poppins was “super cool”.

And, much like “Star Lord”… I found family amongst a group that I had little fully in common with, but we chose to be with each other.

I went into this movie in the hopes of seeing a great installment of the MCU… but instead, I saw a movie that made me reflect… and to be thankful for the people that I have around me. It made me realize that sometimes life is an imitation of life, and the best art, is a reflection of a life that others didn’t know existed.

As I walked back to my car, I realized that I can’t blame myself for not being able to save my Brother, as he chose the path that he did… and suffered the consequences of that path. Yesterday many of his friends paid a tribute to him in their own way… and I did as well… and we will not forget him… but life carries on, and so we must as well.

For the price of a single movie ticket, a large soda, and some Milk Duds (approximately $238.48) I got something that in the long run is truly priceless. Closure and perspective.

Well, that, and a Howard the Duck cameo.

Gleaming the Cube: MTG Style Part 1 of 3

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This is the first part of a 3 part series on my experiences playing in the Cube Draft format of casual Magic: The Gathering trading card game.

So, way back in February, I was starting to research and play a new to me format of Magic the Gathering… and well, some things in life got in the way of the production.

However, I took some time to keep researching via gameplay and construction… so I will be doing a few short articles that go over my experiences playing with various cubes, and how I feel about it all.

In the coming articles I will get into what I put in my cube, but until then I want to talk a little more about how it feels to get further into the format. lamentcube

Part 1: That first time around and building some cubes.

Back in January of this year, I was introduced to cube drafting. I had not done it before, but I was invited to a friend’s house to give it a try.

It was a cube designed to support at least 8 players, and the power levels of the cube were good, but in the right hands, very steep (splinter twin combo is a bit of a bastard… just saying), but overall, even though I lost, a lot, it was a really fun experience. I even began to draft cards to act as an obstruction, playing to annoy and generate laughs rather than to win.

Fast forward a couple of sessions, and trying a cube that was even more powerful… including use of the “Power 9”… and while I seemed to perform better in that particular cube, I could see how it would be still prohibitive for someone new to the game to even want to try… but it was that observation that led to my first conclusion of what makes cube so fun, and what can also make it a terrible experience.

It’s all about the players.

I have done the cube draft more than a dozen times now, and while I am still new to playing that format, I have been playing MTG since release of Beta, and can say with authority that the sets don’t make the difference that a good group of players can make.

My first time doing a draft, there was one player that seemed fixated on “helping” other players with their matches when he wasn’t playing one of his own… this was rather off putting, but the following week, he ceased doing so… and it was then that I realized that his intention was well meaning, but infuriating at the same time… such is life sometimes.

I draft with 2 different groups. One here and there on Friday nights, and another on Sunday afternoons.

Friday is exclusive drafting, while Sunday we play other formats as well… and while both are fun, I end up preferring the more laid back feel of the Sunday game, as we are all pretty much casual.

This to me is the best way to do cube drafting, as to be honest… casual is way more fun.

So with that in mind, I decided that I would try to build up a “pauper cube”, meaning that the cube would consist of cards that are of the common rarity as the common limit kind of keeps the format more on the simple side of things.

pauper cube

Some of the cards in my Pauper Cube, the light reflection is on a Scryb Sprites.

I built the cube on the basic premise of not using anything above common rarity. Which is easier than I thought, until I started…

And why the hidden difficulty?

I went in with the thought of, I would use the best commons that I could, build the cube, and then play… what I didn’t take into account is that I would have to really think about what I would need to use, and what I would need to cut from each color in order to prevent the colors from being unbalanced.

So, I went with the basic formula of 60 cards of the prime colors, 40 artifacts and 20 non basic lands for a total of 360 cards, and then adding 40 basic lands of each type to make a total of a 560 card cube with mana.

As a result, I would have to pick and choose what I wanted in each color, and the end result was a cube that had some deceptive power, but not so over the top that it would be lopsided.

Thankfully, my pauper cube works out pretty well, all of the matches that we ran were rather close and/or competitive, and it really showed that one of the members of the group is not as far behind in his deck building skills as we thought. It was really pleasantly surprising.

I decided to build a more refined cube a couple of weeks later, and as a result, I called it the “proper cube” and as such, the power level of this cube was quite a bit higher.

proper cubeConsisting of mostly rare cards and higher powered commons/uncommon cards, this cube was much more fun, and still gave some serious competition among all of the players in the draft.

The breakdown this go around was 50 cards of the prime colors, 50 multicolor/gold, 30 artifacts, and 2 non basic lands.

Best part, was that I was able to provide at least 1 planes walker per color, as well as roughly 1 planes walker per 2 color guild color combination. All in all I was able to fit roughly 16 planes walkers into the cube resulting in some interesting matches, as well as win conditions.

Cube so far has been fantastic as a play experience… tune in next time when I break down what happens when players start winning more in draft format than they do in constructed.

Video to check out on this topic, credit to Tolarian Community College

Cube for Beginners

Another Video Suggestion

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While I am working on a more in-depth article, I will direct you to this good selection of videos published by Aether Hub on Youtube.

This selection of lore videos are a fantastic way to get familiar with the back story of the cards and settings of Magic: The Gathering

https://youtu.be/Yn_tT3uOQlI

Tune in soon as I will be doing an article about the Cube format… and a little experiment that I am doing right now.

Planechase Anthology: An Angry Dwarf Perspective

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Casual play in Magic: The Gathering is something that has been near and dear to my heart since the first time I ever drew my first card.

Various formats have come along in the history of this game, and some of them have become official formats that are now supported with proper rules, and even banned lists and products that cater to the format themselves.

The one thing that had always been a common thread in these formats was the idea that all of the players would have to either still be current players, or at the very least, would have to have their own decks.

planechase-unboxedThat is where the recent collectors sets for Magic really come in handy, and in this article I will give my impressions of Planechase Anthology from Wizards of the Coast.

This product is fantastic, and I could just give it a review, and talk about all of the cards, and the ins and outs of how well it can play, and the quality of the product, the packaging, the boxes, and everything that is in between… but I will leave that to the professionals at the end of the article to do that part for me.

Instead, what I really want to talk about is what this kind of game and alternative format brings to the table when it comes to how as a veteran player that has gone from casual to hardcore and back to casual again, views this version of the game, and the merits that it really brings.
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While this box set is not the cheapest thing out there, I have to say that the amount of fun it brings, and the sheer amount of possibilities that this box brings to the table, kind of makes it both worth the amount that you would pay for it ($150.00 msrp, but able to be purchased for much less than that depending on where you would want to buy it from) as well as worth having on hand.

While the box only comes with four (4) decks, it is possible to extend this to up to eight (8) decks if you have the cards on hand, or are experienced in building decks that would fit along with the balance of the decks that are included with the box. I would recommend looking into the Planechase decks that were issued in 2009 as you can purchase them on their own, or build them based on the published deck lists.

The downside of purchasing the 2009 series of decks is that you will get redundant plane and phenomenon cards as they are already in the Anthology box… as well as also hitting a price point of anywhere of $100.00 and up for each of the four (4) prebuilt decks from the 2009 cycle.

img_0431Another alternative is that you can get the complete 86 planes and phenomenon cards for around $60 on it’s own, and then get the “planar” die with matching spindowns for an additional $12.00 or so, making it more affordable, but sacrificing getting the nice box and the decks that come with it.

The reason that I bring this up is quite simple… Planechase is an extremely fun way to play Magic, and if you have the Anthology, it provides a level playing fied for two to four (2-4) players that may or may not play currently… and that is a great thing, as I am convinced that Planechase could easily get someone that used to play, to sit down and let them enjoy the game once more, without having to make the investment of buying their own decks.

As far as play style goes, I had the chance to play a couple of games with my Sunday Funday MTG Madness group, and the game being played with four (4) players really made a difference in how I wanted to approach this weeks article… I was going to give my thoughts on Aether Revolt, but instead, I thought it would be right to throw this article together instead, as my fellow players deserve to have a wee bit of a shout out here.

img_0429In my current Sunday group I play with a family that I have grown pretty close too, and it was through my Youtube series “Unboxing Magic” that got them into giving the game a try, and to a point I think they may have “gotten their evens” with introducing me to the Planechase game.

Scott, Sarah, and their son Zane are all new to Magic, but the amount of fun and the randomness of Planechase has allowed for expansion of their play preferences to go beyond the regular free for all multiplayer game, as well as doing more than Commander/EDH or even Two Headed Giant… but it has also had the added effect of making it so that they are able to expand on the art of thinking about working within the conditions of the battle field as each turn could result in a new in game condition, both with perks, and penalties.

It adds an extra amount of challenge to the game that can get stale if you are not careful, and that is what Planechase Anthology is all about preventing.

Magic: The Gathering has always been marketed, and has been able to pride itself on the idea that the games are not alike, but as someone that has played on the competitive end before, I can speak from experience that with some decks, and with some opponents, you can coast through a match on “autopilot”, but not with this box… it is impossible to coast through a match with this game because of the added mechanics, and this leads to an improved immersion to the game itself, and that alone prevents the boredom factor that can plague the mind of a grizzled twenty year (20) plus player like myself can fall into.

So, to wrap this up… if you have the interest and the means to do it, give this format a try, it is quite fun, and has an extremely high replay value.
To get a perspective from the professionals you can check out the reviews from Tolarian Community College: https://youtu.be/hRdxrl_Wy3c

And from MTG Headquarters: https://youtu.be/iiAQ98LzUhM