The War Report: Discovering Commander

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House rules are a thing when playing any game. Magic: The Gathering is no exception. Back in the early days, we used to play by our own sets of rules, and would usually determine those rules at the beginning of our play session. Friends and I would set higher life totals, play with larger than 60 card decks, or play 4-person team battles. Game types like these were eventually sanctioned, and game modes like Two-Headed Giant and Commander were born. The folks over at Wizards of the Coast have also introduced sets like Conspiracy, or smaller starter decks that can fight against each other, for beginners and more advanced players alike.

Knowing that there are various different standards for play, my current group of players elected to stick with the Standard format, which is a limited number of card sets that are the most recent. This excluded ultra powerful and exploitable cards from the past, and also shuffles old mechanics out while ushering new mechanics in. Essentially, it’s like a season of the game, and in the next season the meta will switch up given these ever changing mechanics. This also meant I had less cards to collect during my initial investment, which I appreciated. However, some of the guys I’m playing with have some older cards, and have insisted on playing with some of there decks that “just barely rotated out of Standard” but still seem to be kind of over powered. It’s been fine, we’ve let it slide and that’s the great part about house rules, is that there isn’t a judge pointing out the illegality of things.

Some of the other games modes have always seemed interesting, and despite having had Aether Revolt release recently, my group has been craving more variety. The problem is that we all have bought some packs, but none of us have amazing decks from what we’ve put together. Orders of singles have been made, and we are working on getting our Standard decks back up to par, but we still have had the urge to try something different. I brought up the fact that we should try Commander, and everyone was in agreement. Apparently it’s a very popular mode, and it will be first real foray for the most part, excluding the similar game type that friends and I used to play back under house rules. We’ve also talked about dipping into Modern, which gives you about ten years worth of cards to play with, but that is going to be a huge deck building project in and of itself!

This past weekend the group got together to test some of our newly minted decks that have been augmented by Aether Revolt. I had some success with the decks that I put together but recognized some weaknesses and I have some singles on the way to flesh out the decks on hand. I tore into one of my decks to put together another deck, but I still have 5 decks to work with. I also built a deck around one of the new planeswalkers, but I was underwhelmed by its performance. I think it’s either back to the drawing board for that one or perhaps I’ll just move on. Part of the fun is collecting, so I don’t mind the purchase. When we were done playing for the evening, I asked them what they had planned for next weekend, and they were both free, so I proposed a move to Commander, and that we would have something ready by next weekend. All in agreement, we set about thinking about what we were going to build.

It turns out that just like the normal sets that are released regularly, there are sets for Commander that are released once a year. Turns out that the Commander 2016 decks came out back in October, so the set only recently saw an expansion. We toyed with the idea of building our own Commander decks from our existing collections, but after taking a look at my options I was less than impressed. I decided to take a look at the pre built decks that came out in 2016, and nothing really struck my fancy, but looking over the 2015 packs, I found a deck that I couldn’t live without. It’s called Call The Spirits, and centers around this Commander:

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You can see the full deck list (and individual cards) by clicking the link above. It’s a really strong looking set, and I see cards that don’t exist in Standard magic that should be a blast to play with. I know one of my friends bought a different Commander 2015 deck, and I think the others are building their own. Either way, it should be fun seeing how much different things end up. So what makes Commander so much different you might ask? Well, I’ll try to keep it simple.

  • Decks consist of 100 cards instead of 60.
  • Only one copy of each card can be put into the deck (minus lands). AKA Singleton.
  • May play with any card ever created, minus a few banned cards.
  • Commander dictates the colors  your deck may consist of.
  • Commander sits in command zone, can be cast any time you can cast creatures. When it dies it goes back to command zone. May be cast again for (2) extra mana.

That’s really all there is to it. It should be interesting to see how this deck works out, and if I can potentially make some of my own for this new game mode. I’ll report back when I know more!

By The Numbers: Superbowl 51 Edition

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So the amazing run came to an end. 8 games of magic, followed by a soul-crushing defeat. I seriously could not believe how terrible the first half of the NFC Championship game went. It should have been a little closer, had the FG not been missed, and if Ripkowski didn’t fumble the ball in the red zone, I think it would have been 10-10 early, and the moment wouldn’t have been so hard to turn around. Even at 17-10, getting the ball back in the second half could have tied the game and we could have had the shootout that everyone expected. Even when we played the Falcons in October and lost by a point, we at least kept up. I honestly don’t know how every phase of the game went their way, including some horrible no-calls on penalties that might have helped a little… any help at all would have been appreciated. I couldn’t watch after trailing so horribly in the 3rd quarter. Sure, some points got put on the board eventually, but it was over at half time.

The Falcons are looking good to win the Super Bowl at this point, and I hope they do just so Brady on the Patriots don’t get another ring. All I know is that the Packers put on a good run, when most of us thought the season was over at that 4-6 point. I’m happy we got to the playoffs. Happy we got to the Championship game again, but I can’t stand how our defense just can’t seem to get it done when things matter most. Sure, we were bombed and depleted, without our starting corners for most of the season, with plenty of other nagging injuries at most positions. But how do we make the magic happen over and over just to look like the Browns in the Championship game? It doesn’t make sense. But it is what it is, and we have to move onto next season. Another round of low draft picks, more draft and develop, and hopefully some of those injured starters get back, stay healthy and we can make another run next year.

What my main concern is though, is that Aaron Rodgers is a year younger than I am. He’s got 5-6 years of prime playing time until he’s going to start thinking about retiring, or his body will give out on him. Peyton got his 2nd ring before retiring, let’s not wait for that year to get Rodgers his 2nd. Something needs to be done. 8 straight years in the playoffs but only 1 ring to show for it isn’t good enough. See you all next season.

Falcons 33, Patriots 27

 

The War Report: The Value Proposition

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In my last entry, I spoke about how I had gone to the card shop and picked up a box of boosters for the new Magic: The Gathering set, Aether Revolt. I thought that for the money, this was one of the best ways to get a large selection of cards. With 36 packs in a box, that’s a total of 540 cards. There are 184 cards in the set, but with the rarity of some cards, buying more packs theoretically increases your odds of getting some of the rarer cards, including inventions, which I ended up getting out of one of the packs (but have since found out that these cards aren’t standard legal, which kind of sucks!). You would think that picking up that many cards would be detrimental, due to the fact that it’s about double the amount of cards in the set, but because of the way the game is played, it’s advantageous to have a lot of cards. Having up to 4 copies of any one card means that buying a box can net you multiple copies of good cards that you’ll need to build decks. Having extras also bring up trade opportunities with friends. Either way, there are many options to acquire cards, you just have to choose which method works best for you.

That was the question that kept coming to mind as the set’s release date approached. Previously, I had entered back into the world of MTG during a time when 2 blocks had already been finished, and Kaladesh was still the newest set, but only part one of a block. This release, Aether Revolt, finished off the Kaladesh block, and rounds out the 3-block standard format.  Because I had multiple sets to work with, I decided that picking up some of the starter sets (Planeswalker Decks) and boxes (like the Booster Bundles) was the best way to get a collection going. From there, I bought handfuls of boosters at a time, mixing and matching from the available sets. From there, I used sites like Troll & Toad to order singles when I knew what I was working towards with my decks. I did miss the original launch of Kaladesh (and the older sets) though, so I didn’t have any pre-established collection to work with. Theoretically, I could have just purchased singles that I wanted to improve my existing Standard legal decks. You could too. Or you could take a path similar to what I did previously. Or, you could buy a box.

I can’t break down what money I spent or what I received with my prior experience. I can estimate that I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 on cards, probably around $300 if you count all of the accessories like deck boxes, card sleeves, dice, tokens and a carrying case (these things aren’t necessary but essential if you want to protect your collection, and have some handy ways to deal with game mechanics). That was obviously an expensive way to amass my collection, but it was more of an initial investment. At this point I don’t have to buy more protective gear nor do I have to buy from multiple sets. At this point, it’s just buying stuff from the new set. And considering I got 540 cards out of one box for $100, I’d say that was a good start. It seems that buying a box nearly eliminates the need to buy further boosters. Really, you’ll get all of the common cards (and for the most part, 4 copies of each) plus you’ll get a few dozen uncommons, rares, mythic rares and foils. The only cards you can’t get in boosters are the unique Planeswalkers and a few other cards that are included in their decks, and there are usually 2 of those per set, so you’re looking at an additional $30 for those, but you’ll also get more copies of cards you might need as well. From there, you can buy singles of the rarer cards and copies of others you might need, and you’re good to go. So it seems like the best route to take, and I did just that.

To provide some further analysis, I broke down the 540 cards into categories, mostly to sate my own curiosity.

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Black
47 commons
16 uncommons
6 rares
1 foil

Red
52 commons
16 uncommons
5 rares
1 mythic rare

Blue
51 commons
15 uncommons
4 rares

Green
54 commons
15 uncommons
7 rares
2 foil

White
51 commons
13 uncommons
3 rares
1 mythic rare
1 foil

Artifacts
92 commons
11 uncommons
5 rares
1 alt art promo
1 foil

Vehicles
9 commons
6 uncommons
2 rares
1 mythic rare

Multi-Color
17 uncommons
2 rares

Mythic Rares:

exquisite-archangel heart-of-kiran-aether-revolt-spoiler 1109300

With this breakdown in mind, there are a total of:

356 commons
109 uncommons
34 rares
3 mythic rares
5 foils
1 alternate art  – this is the promotional card that comes with buying a box

This is likely to be the spread when buying a box, or buying a similar amount of booster packs individually over time. If you want to get more Rares and above, you’ll have to buy singles. That isn’t a problem with stores and online merchants, but sometimes cards are expensive, so you might be spending a lot more money on individual cards. For instance, the nifty super rare invention I got out of a pack sells for $60 by itself on Troll & Toad. Other cards sell for $20-30 a piece. Most are more affordable, and I’ve spent upwards of $10 or $15 on a single card, so it really depends on how deep  your pockets are, and if you’re the gambling type. If you want to gamble, buy more packs. If you want what you want, spend the money on singles. Or do what I do, a little of both. Objects are only as valuable as you make them.

Taking on The Taken King

It’s been a little while since I talked about my progress in Destiny. Most of you who are used to me and my on again off again nature with any one particular game probably thought I had given up on it, but no that isn’t the case this time. I’m still plugging away. Currently sitting at level 29, around 150 light, and have just started off the Taken King quest lines. The game is still holding my interest, but I don’t play it every single day. I still have other titles that I’m playing here and there as well, but I’m determined to at least level one character to 40. Will I do the end game grinding? Maybe… maybe not. Will I level the other two classes (currently working on Hunter) to 40? Well I do have a boost that I’ll likely use on one of the other classes. My Warlock is level 7 (from my first little spurt of time with the game) and I created a level 1 Titan. So far I’ve enjoyed the Hunter enough, and I don’t know that the other classes really differ enough to warrant going through all of the content again. I also haven’t touched the Crucible yet; perhaps PvP will keep my interest for a while before the sequel inevitably makes this game obsolete.

After the last post I wrote about Destiny, I was about level 17 and thought that I was nearing the end of the vanilla content. I was right. Within the next play session I had completed the original game, which did appear to have an ending of sorts, but was easy to open back up as they continued the story line. Next, it was on to the House of Wolves story line, and that saw more time on Earth, the Reef, and Venus. It culminated in another piece of Legendary gear, and by the time I had done that, various bounties and finished any side quests, I was about level 27.

Tonight I jumped into the starter quest for the Taken King. I assume that running through this questline will get me to level 40 (perhaps before I finish, because leveling has been a fast clip). The Rise of Iron content is probably mostly end-game stuff. I will see this through to its end for sure, but then it might be time to move onto another title from the backlog. We’ll see how much I still want to play once I’m there. Overall I’d say it’s a great game, and I’ll get into the sequel sooner, if it comes to pass. I know that waiting til the game was nearly completed was a good call for the pocketbook, but with a game like this where they are planning a sequel rather than making a persistent world and just adding it like a traditional MMO, it’s probably better to play along as the stuff comes out. Thankfully it’s not a game where the level cap is larger and the whole game is a slog. If more traditional MMOs were more intriguing like this game, maybe I’d play some of them. I have a feeling though that this game does have that slog at the end, particularly if you want to raid and do all of the end game stuff. So that’s probably where I hang up my hat. We shall see.

Anyway, here’s a selection of random screenshots from my adventures thus far. I’ll report back once I’m into the newest expansion.

The War Report: Aether Revolt

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What’s up everyone? It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my recent obsession with Magic: The Gathering, which is really an old obsession that was revitalized in the last few months. The reason I haven’t had much to report is because I wasn’t playing the game quite as much. I built 5 decks that were standard legal, and had honed those down mostly to where I wanted them, just to realize that in a month the new set to finish of the Kaladesh block, Aether Revolt, would be releasing. At that point my friends and I sort of said that we would just wait for that day and then get back into it.

Yesterday was the release of the new set. Aether Revolt builds upon the ideas presented in Kaladesh. That set was very Artifact focused, along with adding in Vehicles and the mechanics Fabricate and Energy to an already complicated game. AR brings two new mechanics called Improvise and Revolt. Improvise is more artifact love, because artifacts on the battlefield can be used to pay for the casting cost of cards with that mechanic listed on them. So, if I have a card with a casting cost of 1 blue & 6 colorless, I must have an island to play the blue cost, but could theoretically use 6 artifacts to cover the colorless casting cost, and keep other mana around for other uses. It’s a neat trick and I’ve had some success building around it. Revolt is a new bounce mechanic, in that if you have any sort of cards that can bounce something, or if you have anything on the battle field die or otherwise enter the gave yard, the new card with Revolt on it will get counters. Basically, if you have a bounce (target card leaves the battlefield and then reenters the battlefield) you can play that, then play a card with revolt and it will get +1/+1 or +2/+2 (whatever it says on the card). It’s not something I’ve used yet but I have some ideas how it could work. Apparently a new white creature card in conjunction with one of the Planeswalkers I have from Kaladesh has created a new infinite combo that will win you the game. I plan to try that out.

After work yesterday I drove out to a local card shop and picked up a Booster box for the set. 36 packs, and a 1 in 4 chance to snag an invention, which are the super rare cards from this block. I didn’t get one, but I was happy with what I pulled out of the deck. When all was said and done I amassed a handful of Mythic Rares, a ton of regular rares and some decent uncommons. Even some of the commons this time around are pretty good. We also decided to have our own mini-tournament, which we played in Limited (sealed deck) format. This is the thing that happens when you go play at a pre-release event or a Friday Night Magic tournament. My friends have gone to this, I have yet to do so. I’d like to do pre-release stuff for the next set later this year.

Anyway, we all bought some cards last night, and we decided to roll with 6 packs each. We open those packs, and then make a deck of 40 cards, then played best of 3’s against each other. Next thing I knew it was 2 in the morning, but hey, it was fun. I ended up doing fairly well, despite having zero experience with this format. I beat one of my friends 2-0, then he played my other friend and lost 2-1, and I played the same friend losing 2-1 as well. He took the cake as he usually does, but it was fun all around. I feel like I have a good grasp of the mechanics of the set, and I’m looking forward to upgrading my constructed decks and making some new ones. My interest has been revitalized, and I’m thankful that new sets come at a time when your interest starts to wane.

So I’m sure I’ll have some new deckbuilding ideas and more reports from the field to share with you guys soon. Until then, happy gaming, where ever you find yourselves!