#489: The Token, Part 1

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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.

#486: The Fat Pack

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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!

#481: The Land

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Land-based decks are some of my favorite in the world of Magic: the Gathering, and in today’s blog post, I’d like to discuss them a bit more in depth. This is partially inspired by the fact that the last time that my friend Dan came over to play Magic, I beat him twice with my land-based deck. It ended up being a lot more powerful and potent than I thought it would be, during both fights. What happens is, I start the game with some form of powerful land recursion or land generation from my deck, and then I ramp up to lots and lots of mana at once, culminating in a major move that usually wins me the game. Sometimes it’s Multani, other times it’s a really large Torment of Hailfire boosted by an absurdly powerful effect like the one that comes from Nyxbloom Ancient, a card that debuted in the most recent Theros set. (This post is going to seem ancient really soon, as soon as the next set comes out, right?)

Land decks are especially interesting to me because they focus around one of the key components of any deck: the mana base. If your deck doesn’t have a consistent way of ramping up mana, or perhaps they just don’t care about mana ramping at all, they’re likely going to falter in a format like commander, which is the one I’m trying to describe here. The landscape of the format pretty much depends on some form of cheap, reliable mana ramping. Without it, you’re going to be left in the dust by other people who are accelerating much faster into their game plans than you are. Even just including small cards like Sol Ring go a long way. That card is crazy busted by the way and wins games if you get it out early enough.

#455: The Exile

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In Magic: the Gathering, the exile zone is the zone in which you are placed when you are unable to return, unable to come back from. I mean, there are a few ways to get cards out of exile, to be honest, but they’re very very limited and infrequent. They don’t show up in the limited format and you’d have to run them in your sideboard in any sort of constructed format. That’s pretty much how it goes.

So when I was exiled away back home, I originally convinced myself that I deserved it. That I needed this time away to fix myself, to make myself better and help rebuild what I lost over the years of being too comfortable and secure in the apartment, in the dog, in our relationship as a whole. I felt like everything was going well, like my future had been decided already and I could comfortably relax without worrying about what life would be like in five years’ time. Turns out, I was wrong, of course. There’s more to life than we ever expect, and the second we become comfortable in the way things are, they start to show signs of deteriorating. Like all things, this too shall pass. I just need to accept where I am now, in exile, wherever that is, and live and let live. I need to move forward with my life and not waste time thinking endlessly about past mistakes. There were many mistakes that I made, but in retrospect, I didn’t deserve what happened to me.

So much of what I’ve written on here was a lie. I need to eclipse it with truth. That’s my new goal for this blog, to override everything I wrote on here that was false or misleading, to take it all out and not erase it, necessarily, but to make it better.

#231: The Real Draft

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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.

#183: The Playmat

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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.

#174: The Draft

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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.

#164: The Mythic

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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.

#162: The Commander

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Not the commander of a ship, rather I am the commander of an elite, 100-card singleton deck of Magic: the Gathering cards. You guessed it, another blog post about Magic! It’s been on my mind so much lately, so I apologize for writing so much about it.

I recently ordered another commander deck, for the first time in a while. I haven’t played commander in ages, literally years and years ago. This past weekend, my friend Dan said that he held onto one of his old commander decks and that we can play together if I construct one. So naturally, I took that opportunity and decided to make one for myself. I bought a pre-constructed Lord Windgrace deck, which features landfall mechanics and a planeswalker as the commander. It’s kind of exciting to have a planeswalker commander, considering most commanders have to be legendary creatures, not planeswalkers. This one has a special rule allowing it to be used in the format.

So, here’s how the commander format works: you build a deck of 100 unique cards, with one of the cards being your commander. None of the cards are able to be copies; they have to be singleton. You can play the commander at any time and from any position. The format makes for unpredictable, awesome multi-player games because you know your cards won’t repeat themselves, and you have no idea what you’ll be drawing at any one time. There’s a concept called commander damage, which means if your commander deals a total of 21 damage to any one enemy player over the course of the game, then they are defeated. For reference, you start the game with 30 life, as opposed to the usual 20 life in standard games.

Commander is awesome, and probably my favorite casual format in magic. I highly recommend giving it a shot if you’ve never done it before.

#154: The City of Guilds

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Originally, when I wrote yesterday’s post, I had intended for it to be about Magic: the Gathering again, but instead I had the inclination to discuss the one WoW guild that still stays in my mind after all these years. Now, I’ll be discussing guilds in a different context, specifically the guilds of the city of Ravnica.

When Alex and I decided to play magic again, we did so by buying guild kits, these wonderful little packages for about $20 each that contained lots of modern format-legal cards. I bought the Golgari one, and Alex bought the Orzhov one. We’ve smashed the two decks against each other repeatedly over the past few nights, getting our nerd on with the help of Wizards of the Coast. I’ve taught Alex how to play the game with some tips and tricks as well as just general info about how phases work, what combat is like, et cetera.

When I first started playing magic, I liked the Boros Legion the most. That’s the red-white themed guild, full of chump blockers and flying angels with haste and vigilance. They swarm and descend upon the evils of the world, as they are a standing army of zealots. From a gameplay perspective, I enjoy playing Boros because they are aggressive, and games generally end quickly and easily. If you fail in being aggressive enough, you lose, but if you manage to make a stampede of guys at once, it’s unstoppable and enough to take over the game from then.

I enjoy playing the Golgari deck primarily nowadays, as they allow me to interact with the graveyard, and dredge up dead creatures for use later. It’s a blast to play because of that. Alex’s Orzhov is interesting too, though it’s very powerful and full of heavy-hitters that make playing against it an uphill battle.