#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!

#467: The Sleeves

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One of my favorite feelings is sleeving a new deck of magic cards. I know that seems probably super nerdy, and it is, but it’s an incomparable feeling, especially when the new deck is teeming with potential and has tons of new cards to play with.

Even if the deck isn’t necessarily new, though, sleeving can be an interesting process. I like to load up Hearthstone on my computer and play it while sleeving up cards and putting in the information for each card onto Tappedout.net. It’s a website that keeps track of mana costs, deck lists, legality, stuff like that. It’s super helpful while building an EDH deck as it has statistics that explain the mana curve, your land base, and the disparity between the two. If you’re interested in making sure your curve is exactly accurate with how your deck should be, you can go on Tappedout and load up your deck and do it from there.

I bought new sleeves the other day specifically so that I would have something to do while I play Hearthstone on the computer, while looking for jobs and other stuff like that. I’m trying my best, after all. Not everyone can say they have the opportunity I have to just lounge in the meantime and figure out my life a bit more.

Being the kind of person that I am, having magic cards is a blessing and a curse. It helps me out while playing games with friends, and it allows me the opportunity to play games at a pace that’s equal to what I’m looking for. Having sleeves makes the whole process of playing magic especially better, too, as you get the chance to shuffle without worrying about your cards getting nicked or bent out of shape in some way.

#186: The Infinite

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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.

#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.

#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.

#135: The Card Expansion

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When I think about collectible card games, the first one that comes to mind is always Hearthstone, and for good reason. First of all, you can’t trade cards in this game, but you just collect them by opening packs. Secondly, it’s available on smartphones and computers and tablets, so it’s incredibly versatile and useful. When you open packs, it gives you five cards, with at least one being rare quality. There are other qualities of cards, though, such as epic and legendary, but those have a less likely chance of appearing when you open packs and they aren’t guaranteed, either.

The reason I bring all of this up is because a new expansion for Hearthstone has been announced, titled “Rise of Shadows.” It features lots of homebrewed villains from the Hearthstone universe forming an evil league to take down Dalaran, the city of magic in the sky. I have no idea what will actually take place in the adventure portion of this game, when the story is actually relevant to the gameplay, but I’m interested regardless. Whenever a new expansion is announced, I always look forward to the spoilers season, when new cards are slowly trickled in and unveiled by the development team through publishers. I always get caught in the hype and am interested in what’s coming next to the game. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype when things are getting exciting like this!

My favorite time is when the legendary cards are revealed, as they usually have the most ridiculous, over-the-top effects and abilities. Those are usually meta-defining and absolutely shape and warp the way the game is played in standard and wild. The past few sets haven’t been that impactful, but with there being a rotation in standard with it being Year of the Dragon now, this new expansion set is bound to change things up.

Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix Providence

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After days and weeks of long preparation and study, I can say that I am one day away from attending the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix Providence event. Of course, my preparation has been minimal and my study nonexistent. But I’d like to think that, after all is said and done, I had an enjoyable experience playing a game that has occupied a good portion of my time in the past year and a half.

Magic: the Gathering (or Magic, as we call it for ease of use) is a Trading Card Game, playable in many different formats, and played with an unlimited amount of people. Generally, Magic players form small groups of fellow players, and trade, play, and draft together. Trading and playing seem like givens. Drafting, however, is an activity that probably requires explanation, as it is what I will be participating in this weekend at the Grand Prix. When I attend the convention center tomorrow, I’ll be drafting with two of my friends, on a team. Typically, I find strategizing as a team much more fulfilling than strategizing alone, as the chemistry that emerges from interacting with teammates who depend on your success makes for more anxiety, and ultimately more potential for unpredictable excitement.

“Drafting” involves opening booster packs, filled with Magic cards, which you use to make a deck. “Drafting” also tends to promote the “limited” format, in that players are limited to the cards they pull. It’s the most appealing structure to people who don’t want to spend tons of money on a structured, play-tested deck in one of the more eternal formats. Essentially, drafting is the most fun for me.

The Grand Prix takes place over two days, from Saturday to Sunday, with those who make it to Sunday having guaranteed to make money. We haven’t booked a hotel yet, but I imagine we’ll find a way to live…somewhere. I’ll be driving with two Eagle Scouts, so I don’t doubt we’ll end up somewhere in the woods camping between the days. How fun!

Tomorrow, I will be drafting with a team of two people, among hundreds of other teams of people. While I don’t expect to win money, I do think it will be a fun time with friends in a large, geeky setting. This will be my first GP, and hopefully the first of many more to come. I’ll hopefully be able to keep you guys updated amid the chaos and ruckus of thousands of people running around trying to trade each other cards and battling with them, too. In the mean time, that’s all for now!

I apologize for not writing often, even though I assume not many of you mind.