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

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Old vs New vs Alternate/Custom Art

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Alternate art can be awesome.

As a longtime Magic player, I have seen the art work on cards grow and change over the years to a degree to where the illustrations on the cards are beyond anything that I would have imagined back in the summer of 1994 when I first discovered Magic the Gathering.

Back then, it was the works of artists like Christopher Rush, Jesper Myfors, Nene Thomas, and my personal favorite of that era being Quinton Hoover that defined the look of the game with their images for each card.

But like all areas of gaming, whether it be video games, table top, or in this case, collectable card games, technology would become a real asset for the medium.

With the leaps and bounds in digital illustration, and the changes in the printing process, the card art today looks so different. In many ways the art today is better than the art of the cards of old. I know that might not sit well with some of the players from my generation, but lets remove the nostalgia factor for a moment, and I am sure that we can agree that the art now is way more aesthetically pleasing in it’s current format.

One really has to look no further than the art work in the Battle for Zendikar set… as the artwork in that set really gives a feeling that not only could the Eldrazi just jump off of the card, but that they could drag you into the Blind Eternities as well.

Artwork on the cards has evolved, and as such, at least to me, has made the game a little more immersive in it’s presentation.

Here are a couple of examples of the old vs new art styles of cards that were in the Alpha set of MTG compared to their Modern Era incarnations.

Hypnotic Specter

Serra Angel

Shivan Dragon

As you can see with the images above, there has been quite the evolution for Magic The Gathering, however, that is only part of the awesome.

Alternate card art is something special, not tournament legal in some cases, but it is amazing and a great conversation piece when it comes to social play.

Such as this beauty here:

serraangel3 This right here is an example of the custom artwork that has become a fun trend amongst the MTG social circles over the last few years. Showing an emphasis on the overall detail, and quality of the art that can be displayed on the cards, these custom pieces feature alternate art that fits the theme of the card but was not drawn/painted by the original artist.

While alternate art is not new to MTG, as it has been featured in previous years and sets, the borderless cards are much newer to the scene than I had thought.

While not entirely legal in tournament play, these are more for the players that enjoy the more laid back social play aspects of the game.

sliverqueenalt

Some of the most famous cards have received this treatment as well, such as the various Planeswalkers, and even cards from the “Power Nine”, I myself happen to have been recently gifted this alternate art Sliver Queen for an EDH deck that I was tinkering with.

These cards are great to use in social play as proxies for cards that you don’t want to physically use in order to keep their value up, but remember, they are not legal in sanctioned play, and should not be used in place of “legal” proxies that are distributed by the judge at a tournament.

In the next article, we will get into the use of proxies, and why there has been an explosion of proxies on the internet that are sometimes being peddled as the real thing… stay tuned.

 

Ban List Swings Like the Pendulum Do…

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Combos and win conditions, 2 X 2.. DCI decisions blow with the wind, say good bye to Emrakul the Promised End.

After having a little time to digest the changes that are coming down with the 1 week early release of the DCI banned and restricted list, I am left thinking that this was a bit of an apology and an attempt to try to get back the players that have been lost from FNM lately.

While I do agree with some of the banning decisions, I do have to question not only the timing, but the reasoning behind a couple of the decisions that were made… I will break this down to the 3 cards that I found to be not so much surprising, but to a degree overdue.

Emrakul, the Promised End:

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What Wizards/DCI had to say: “Created to be scarily powerful, Emrakul, the Promised End delivered on that promise too well. Emrakul faced too little resistance and ended games too easily. She was the world ending, all-poweful monster she was in the story, which was too much for Standard.”

My take: Emrakul, the Promised End may have been too much for Standard, but are you seriously telling me that banning her in Standard is enough?

All you have done is spared FNM from her wrath, but that will not change the possibilities of Emrakul, the Promised End wreaking havoc on Modern, Legacy, and Vintage formats… considering that she is a 13 drop, that can’t be targeted by instants, and furthermore with the costing 1 generic mana less to cast for each type of card in your grave yard, and the ability to lower her casting further with things like Helm of Awakening, it is actually possible to take her from a 13 drop to all the way down to a 3 drop.

Further, if playing  Green (source for mana speed as well as blending with Aluren), you could possibly get her to the table for free… not quickly per se, but it is possible. This would also extend to stuff like Breaker of Armies, Desolation Twin, and a multitude of other Eldrazi that are currently in Standard.

Smuggler’s Copter:

smugglercopter
What Wizards/DCI had to say: “Simply put, Smuggler’s Copter is too efficient and shows up in too many decks, diminishing the format’s diversity. We wasn’t Planeswalkers, sorcery-speed removal, and a variety of vehicles to be viable options, and believe removing Smuggler’s Copter will allow them to flourish again. Of the top archetypes in Standard, very few didn’t play four copies of Smuggler’s Copter, stifling many creative, fun opion. Smuggler’s Copter was the result of a new card type being pushed too far, and, as such, is now banned.”

My take: Yeah, this was a decently reasonable reason to ban the card in Standard, and DCI makes a good case for it, but there is one small problem with what they are saying here… to a degree, they are banning a card based on how popular it is, and not because it is really all that game breaking.

Yeah, it’s a 2 drop, rare, and when it blocks or attacks you may draw a card, then discard a card… While I could see in some decks that this would be game breaking, it is still a vehicle artifact, and it still requires tapping a creature with a power of 1 or more to turn it into an Artifact Creature… so even though it is a 2 drop, it still requires outside factors to even activate that ability… and it would have to be done every turn… so again, mechanics wise, it is not that hard to remove the Smuggler’s Copter from the equation.

This one totally smack of strictly being a ban based on simply how popular the card is, and not how it would reshape a match.

Gitaxian Probe:

gitaxianprobe

What Wizards/DCI had to say; “Gitaxian Probe increased the number of third-turn kill in a few ways, but particularly by giving perfect information (and a card) to decks that often have to make strategic decisions about going “all-in.” This hurt the ability of reactive decks to effectively bluff or for the aggressive deck to miss-sequence their turn. Ultimately, the card did too much for too little cost.”

My take: COULD THE DCI HAVE DRAGGED THEIR FEET ANY HARDER THAN WITH THIS CARD?

Whew…

Now that part is out of my system, there are 2 questions that I have to ask about this banning.

  1. Why did it take so long to come to the conclusion that Gitaxian Probe is rather broken?
  2. Why is it not also banned in Legacy or Vintage?

Part the First… New Phyrexia was released in 2011, and with it the Phyrexian Mana mechanic where you can spend 2 points of life or a single mana of the corresponding colour to cast spells and activate abilities… in some situations that could be a real game shifter such as with the Gitaxian Probe which is a single Blue Phyrexian Mana to look at your opponent’s hand, and then draw a card yourself.

6 years and not a peep/ruling, and now… Ban Hammer.

Part the Second: The important part of this is that it went through Standard, and has been dwelling in the other formats for all these years without a banning. It is still fully legal in Legacy, Block, and Vintage formats… Black is not an issue so much, but do you honestly believe that Gitaxian Probe is not any more broken when it can be combined with the card pool in Legacy or Vintage?

If the point of banning Gitaxian Probe in Modern is because of the number of third-turn kills that it can result in, how in the blue cheese do you suppose it would be any less devastating in the arguably more powerful Legacy and Vintage formats?

The host over there at the Mana Source put out a video right after the announcement, and the point that he made about Probe being banned was not so much about the card itself, but more about the precedent that it had set… that being an active diminishing for control decks.

To be perfectly honest,  I kind of agree, but I also don’t really like the Mana Source too much (based on the sound of the narrator’s voice… makes everything sound like a question and not a statement), but the information is good.

At the time of this writing, the response from Jeremy at MTGHeadquarters has not hit, and I have not seen anything quite yet from Tolarian Community College or Command Zone, but I am sure they will be weighing in on it soon.