So, this blog post is a continuation of the previous one, so again, if you haven’t looked at that one first, you may want to in order for it all to make sense. Alright then, let’s continue.
So, tokens are what they are. I won’t say much more about them aside from that they’re really quite nice and more complicated than they seem. Certain spells specify whether or not they affect tokens or nontoken creatures, and other spells affect creatures based on their CMC, or Converted Mana Cost, of which tokens have 0, because no mana was spent directly to create them. Similarly, tokens all have a specified color that they belong to: black and green wolves, red goblins, black vampires, white soldiers, and so on. Color is important with regards to devotion as a mechanic, as well as protection. My friend Dan commonly plays a card that gives protection from two specific colors to an equipped creature, and if I had tokens of those colors, they would be unable to block or defend against the protected creature.
The cool thing about tokens, though, has always been how I interpret playing them. I have a bunch of trading cards from other card games around and I like to use those as stand-ins for the actual token cards. Danny Haren from the St. Louis Cardinals, in baseball card form, often becomes a red and green elemental for my Lord Windgrace commander deck. CC Sabathia tends to end up being 1/1 elves, as well. I have Pokemon cards that can substitute for plant tokens, generated by a lot of cards from Lord Windgrace.
To put it simply, I like substituting for cards with other cards, giving them different names, and playing a bit of pretend. It’s fun to make stories out of them and pretend that they really are a certain way when they’re not.
In Magic: the Gathering, which is the subject of this current blog post in case you’re not interested in reading any further, creature cards are divided into many different categories, one of which defines whether or not it is a token. Token creatures are considered generic, so as to represent a generic knight, elf, warrior, goblin, orc, dragon, etc. etc. In certain games, I might have an army of tokens on my side of the battlefield, ready to wage war against my enemies.
Tokens have the same power and toughness as each other within the same category. For example, an elf token might be a 1/1, which means all other elf tokens generated by the same source have the same statistical levels to them. Tokens are an essential part of understanding how Magic works, as even though certain color combinations have a higher propensity to make tokens (I’m looking at green and white in particular), every color has access to it in the color wheel. The tokens differ depending on the card, and that’s all that matters to them. A card may generate a certain number of goblin tokens that are all 1/1s, and none of them will differ from each other.
The reason I’m discussing tokens in this blog post is not for educational purposes, although it was a good launching point for what I’m about to discuss. It’s important to understand the nature of tokens before actually diving into what kinds of tokens I usually have available and in my decks. Rather than boring you with endless diatribes about how token play wins games, I’ll instead just talk a bit more about tokens before turning this into a two-parter, because I’m noticing that the word count is rising on its own!
More on tokens in the next blog. See you then.
Sometimes, when buying Magic: the Gathering cards, I pick up what’s called a fat pack, which is the nickname given to a group of ten packs stuffed together in a long, horizontal box. It’s useful for when you need to buff up your collection of cards and want something new on top of that. I buy them sometimes to have space to put all my cards in, while also increasing the value of my collection by buying fresh cards, without any of the wear and tear of buying cards online and having them shipped to you. Sometimes I prefer the latter method, but other times I have to stick with the classic way of things, and that’s the fat pack.
Fat packs are these grand, elaborate items that sell for about $40 MSRP. They come with ten packs, a big box, a die, and some other goodies. I like the large dice that comes with the fat pack because I get to collect them, and the bigger they are, the sturdier and more useful they are when it comes to deciding who goes first in a game, or counting complicated life totals in commander. In the latter format, life totals can get out of control and absurd, so it’s totally reasonable to see that happening.
I mention this because today, after getting my haircut, I walked next door to the Gamestop and purchased a fat pack of Magic 2020, not the most recent set but still a good set nonetheless. It’s one that has a lot of value in it despite the fact that it’s no longer that relevant as the “newest set.” I’m hoping to find stuff to pump into my commander decks, as I have plenty of decks that could use the cards available there. Let’s hope I get something good!
A ping is when you deal a small amount of damage with a particular item or card or weapon or whatever method at an enemy. Pings are known to be small and usually inconsequential, hence the name “ping.” It’s supposed to sound extra basic, like it’s something you hear off in the distance but can barely make out. A light sound, and then it’s gone. The naming convention makes sense in this case.
No, this blog post won’t actually be about ping pong or anything like that. It’s about a nickname used in the context of playing Magic: the Gathering sometimes. If I have a creature that deals one damage with its tapped ability, that’s something I can ping with. It’s mostly inconsequential, because there’s at least 20 life in a standard game and 40 in a commander game, but it exists enough for it to be counted and tabulated.
The other day, while playing an especially long game of EDH free-for-all with Dan and Alex, I beat Dan’s deck with a ping. It felt great and hilarious to end the game with such a small, seemingly pointless move, but it worked and it ended the game pretty much here and there. One damage can really separate a win from a loss, in the end, so it’s worth keeping that in mind when you forget to ping someone for damage. It could always backfire if you don’t plan far enough ahead.
This is also the same game where Dan asked if we knew the rules for infect in commander, which was pretty funny to us because the rules are no different in commander than they are in any other format. I guess that’s what he meant to highlight to us, that it’s the same even if you expect it to be different. Either way, it made us laugh.
No, not using playing cards this time. Still playing Magic: the Gathering, just like normal. Playing Magic is a blast, but being able to draft in person is completely different from drafting elsewhere. It’s like night and day; on the one hand, drafting online is fast, easy, and you can pick up and stop whenever you want, but on the other hand, drafting in person allows you to counter each other’s strategies in a way that’s not possible online, while drafting against computers. There’s competition in drafting against each other, and although I don’t exactly have a set plan in drafting to make matters easy, I love being able to think through my picks in that way. Plus, you never know what cards people are going to play against you when you finally get to play against them. You might have a vague idea, but there’s no way to completely predict a person’s deck, given the randomness and complexity of drafting a limited set with 254 possible cards inside. It makes drafting so much more of a mental exercise.
Earlier today, while talking about something completely different, I referred to Magic: the Gathering as “mental exercise” to Alex (as a way to persuade her to let us play magic before going to the gym, which she wasn’t a fan of, unfortunately). I definitely think it’s like that; apparently, it’s one of the most complicated games ever created, and I can understand why. The sheer number of cards and mechanics and keywords and interlocking plays is maddening and frankly impossible to keep track of entirely. You have to memorize so much in order to truly call yourself a master of magic, or a judge, in other people’s cases. Being a judge would be an interesting job for someone to have, as a volunteer exercise of course.
Infinity. Not about Infinity War, we’ll be talking about “going infinite”: a process in Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone that involves getting enough rewards from each limited run that you are able to keep going without paying for more gems or other in-game currencies.
Allow me to explain. In a previous blog post, I discussed what “limited” runs are. Sealed, draft, and more. In Hearthstone, there’s a mode called “The Arena” which is very similar to drafting, except you don’t keep the cards you collect there and you draft from picks of 3 each time. In the arena, you can pay either 150 gold or $1.99 to enter, and every time you enter, the price stays the same. When you wrap up a run, after 3 losses or 12 wins, whichever happens first, you get rewards at the end, including gold and dust and packs. The gold you can use to then purchase another arena run, thus going infinite. If you’re the kind of person who’s talented enough to always have an arena run going, it’s because the gold you earn from your runs succeeds the gold spent to play arena.
In magic, while doing sealed runs, I went infinite for awhile. Probably about 5 runs in a row. Not very long, but my sealed runs would consistently reach around 6 to 7 wins, thus earning about 2,000 gems, the requirement to enter a sealed run. Again, it’s going infinite because you’re always earning enough currency to enter another time.
The reason I’m discussing “going infinite” here is because it’s a really cool process, and if you do well enough, you can really just continue playing as much as you like. You can always have a limited run going regardless, depending on how good you are and how good the cards were that you got. It’s up to chance, in some ways, but it’s also up to you. I like to think the impetus is on you more than anything else.
While playing Magic: the Gathering, it’s customary for Alex and I to set things up first. We take the magazines and plants off of the center table, and then we put pillows down on my side, by the TV, for me to sit on. Angus walks over and, as is custom, he brushes against us and the magazines and they spill over as we pet him vigorously, because he loves attention while we play magic. He always gets excited whenever we sit down together and start to prepare our things for card playing. His face perks up and he starts to pant, like he’s outside in the steaming heat.
Next, we unroll my massive Dark Confidant playmat, which I got in 2014 and which was signed by the artist, Scott Fishman, at a magic convention in Worcester-Boston. He signed it with a little fish next to his name, which is how I remember what his name is. It’s written in silver sharpie. When we went, Dan, Alex (different Alex this time), and I all got playmats from the same guy and for the same purpose, but I think I’m the only one who still uses his playmat. I think Alex sold his, and Dan uses a different one whenever he plays. I don’t even own a Dark Confidant card, but having the playmat makes me feel like I do, at least in some sense.
Alex (the first one, not the friend one) is looking to get a playmat for herself one of these days. We’re in the middle of researching the right one for her, and I think she’s looking for one with Deathpact Angel or Angel of Despair on the cover. I think either of those options would look amazing on a playmat, so to imagine them lighting up against my Dark Confidant playmat would be amazing. Darkness versus light, good versus evil, all that jazz. You know how it goes by this point.
Today, I’ll be discussing drafting in Magic: the Gathering, a format that most of us are pretty unfamiliar with. Drafting is the process of looking at packs of cards, choosing cards from the pack to build a deck with, and using your deck against other players who have other decks.
The picture included at the top here is not emblematic of what drafting looks like, but it’s the only (appropriate) picture that appeared when I typed “draft” in the search box for pictures!
Let’s break this process down. There are two major types of drafts: limited and sealed. Limited involves three rounds of passing around packs, with one pack per round. People sit around a table, each person opens a pack, and then they choose one card to add to their “deck” and then pass the rest to their right. And so on and so forth. The process continues until there’s nothing left, and then you open another pack and continue doing it again. The cards you acquired during this process are enough to form a 40-card deck, which you then have to pit against other players. If you win games against them, you’re given sweet rewards to bring home with you. It’s a ton of fun to compete.
Sealed is a bit different. In sealed, you open six packs and everything is fair game for you. The cards are then yours. What you do with the contents of those packs is up to you. Sealed decks are usually a lot more competitive than limited decks, and the quality of cards is higher because you are given literally everything you need from the start. I generally prefer sealed to limited, because I like being able to have a stronger deck to compete with, but it’s also more expensive to start playing because of the six pack minimum.
Originally, I was going to write about the Boros Legion, the overzealous crusading guild in Ravnica, but then I realized I could also write about the legion in another respect: the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft. There are so many legions! Legions upon legions to discuss.
The Burning Legion in World of Warcraft were the central antagonists of the second most recent expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion. They’re an endlessly respawning army of demonic forces, and they are practically unstoppable. The conflict in this expansion is that they were invading our home world again, and this time they were hell-bent on annihilation. This expansion solidified WoW as an absolute titan of the gaming industry and allowed them to reclaim some of their old glory. Legion propelled subscriber numbers and boosted player interest and hype, with the introduction of the Broken Isles, legendaries, artifacts, and the exclusively max-level Suramar questing experience (which, if you read my blog regularly, I wrote about a few weeks ago). Legion revitalized my interest in WoW and got me hooked again for practically the entire length of the expansion, minus a few spots. I remember focusing super heavily on completing the mage tower challenges at the end of the expansion, trying my best to unlock the hidden and exclusive artifact appearances before they went away for good.
The Boros Legion is interesting because they’re primarily “good” guys. I bought the Boros guild pack recently, and it’s absolutely crushed all the other decks when it curves well. I’ve enjoyed playing with it a lot. The idea of playing a “white weenies” deck (strong, small white-colored creature cards with exceptional synergy between each other) has always been fun for me, and I like blasting people’s faces in with flying angels. Thankfully, that’s what the Boros are all about: ruthless aggression and flying assaults.
I spoke about Magic: the Gathering in another post recently, but today I’ll be diving a bit deeper into another part of it that resonates with me.
Pulling packs in Magic: the Gathering is one of my favorite, small wonderful joys. It’s fun because of the randomness that comes from it, and it reminds me so much of the loot boxes I spoke about in another post on here recently. It’s a kind of gambling, in the sense that you are spending money without knowing exactly what cards you’re going to get from the pack. You spend $4 per pack, and then whatever you get has to equal $4 in value in order to be deemed worth it. But to me, as a simple card collector, I don’t care as much about the money as much as I care about the experience and the collecting of cards. Maybe it’s not as cost-effective as I would like, but it makes the experience interesting and less stressful. I’m not as concerned about getting even as I would be if I cared only about the price of cards.
This all being said, I do care about the money to some extent. For example, a couple days ago, I went into Gamestop while Alex got her eyebrows waxed next door, and I pulled an Arclight Phoenix in a pack. It’s a mythic rare, meaning it’s even harder to find than a regular rare from a pack. I don’t know the exact odds of pulling a mythic but they’re especially difficult to find. The card is worth about $20 currently, and I have no intentions of selling it at the moment. I plan on slotting it into the Izzet guild kit deck I get and improving it further. Right now, it’s pretty damn powerful, so improving it more will just make it even more oppressive. I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do.