Monthly Archives: June 2016

THE MANA DORK—The Thrill of Competition by Jesse Mackenzie

by June 29, 2016

The Mana Dork

It’s been about a year since A Muse N Games introduced the Competitive Commander events during Friday Night Magic, and about six months since I decided I’d try to build a deck and win a flight of Competitive Commander.

So let’s talk about Competitive Commander, the differences between it and regular Commander, and maybe we can get you down to the store to try it out this weekend!
*or maybe next weekend as this week is July 1st and the store is Closed 😉

Brainstorm

WHAT IS COMPETITIVE COMMANDER?

Commander its, at its core, a social format, and often—but not entirely—a casual one. Some groups like to play as cutthroat as they can, building the best decks and using the most powerful cards to consistently win as early and often as they can. These groups are playing Competitive Commander.

Importantly, Competitive Commander groups have established in their Social Contract—a concept I’ve written about before—that they expect to play extremely competitive games with extremely powerful decks. Very little feels worse in Commander than games where the decks’ power levels do not match, so as always, establish the power level of the game you want to play before you shuffle up. Talk to your playgroup about the cards and strategies you’re using—“I’m playing Karador and I have a bunch of un-fun denial cards like Gaddock Teeg in my deck, is that okay?”—before you begin the game.

Bitter Feud

WHY PLAY COMPETITIVE COMMANDER?

Because your decisions are always interesting.

Competitive Commander is often called “Legacy lite,” or “100-card singleton Legacy,” and I can see where those comparisons come from. Competitive Commander decks sometimes share cards with Legacy decks, and the tense, tense decision trees that sprout when you get one of your combo pieces and need to make sure it isn’t removed are similar to Legacy.

But I feel that those comparisons are unfair in their own way.

As in most things, restrictions breed creativity. This is why Commander as a whole can never be truly “solved” as a format—the colour-identity and singleton restrictions force players to find new and creative ways to stay ahead in mana production and card draw, in which tools to use when and why.

Competitive Commander players want the Legacy-style thrill of that razor’s-edge walk, making sure they never make the wrong decision, but they want to walk that edge creatively, under Commander’s restrictions and Commander’s trademark variability. And that is something I can respect.

It is extremely fun holding both a Cryptic Command and a Jace’s Archivist, looking at the combo player across the table, and trying to decide if you can safely play the Archivist or hold back mana for the Command, in case the combo player tries something. And it is so satisfying knowing that whether you make the right play or the wrong one, you will have become better at Magic in the process.

(Pro tip that doesn’t come from my experience at all: the combo player is always going to try something… )

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

WHAT TO PLAY—COMBO, STAX, AND CONTROL

Contrary to what you might think, Competitive Commander is not a place where you only see combo decks that refuse to interact.

When deckbuilding for Competitive Commander, it’s important to know that the traditional rock-paper-scissors cycle of aggro, midrange, and control decks (explained very well here—an article I highly recommend reading!) is replaced by combo, stax, and control.

In Competitive Commander, combo decks take the role of aggro decks, attempting to race to a win before anyone can stop them. Control decks remain the same, stalling and waiting until they can go for the win. And stax decks (a slang term for decks whose primary strategy is resource denial—preventing you from getting mana, cards, or casting spells) functionally replace midrange decks, putting painful effects on the field and then breaking out of them in one-sided ways.

To give you an example, here is the Teferi, Temporal Archmage deck I’m currently sitting down with at the competitive tables.

This is a stax deck—once I’ve cast Teferi, I play cards like Winter Orb, Imi Statue, and the unforgivably-brutal Stasis to lock everyone out of the game. Then, I use Teferi’s -1 ability to generate tons of mana for myself, until I eventually (hopefully) (occasionally) win, using The Chain Veil with Teferi to generate infinite mana and casting either Blue Sun’s Zenith to mill out my opponents or Laboratory Maniac to win by drawing my library. The rest of the time, I’m playing a typical mono-blue control game, making sure nothing hurts me while I execute my gameplan.

I’ve been slowly upgrading it over time—it started at about $200 US. But it has threatened to win at every table I’ve sat down at. And that has certainly been satisfying.

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard

Well, that’s it for my thoughts on Competitive Commander for now. If you’re interested in exploring further and looking for a budget introduction, Yisan the Wanderer Bard is a good choice, as he can very consistently tutor anything he needs out of his deck. Here’s an excellent online primer for building Yisan on a budget.

See you Friday!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He totally cast the Jace’s Archivist in that example. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on Magic!

THE MANA DORK — You Say You Want An Evolution by Jesse Mackenzie

by June 15, 2016
The Mana Dork
Previously, I’ve talked about when to let go of a Commander deck. (Not that I’ve entirely let go of Shu Yun — such a cool general, such a great colour identity, so handsome, much wow — er, anyway.)
Today, I figured I’d talk about when to come back to one.

Continue reading

THE MANA DORK — BATTLE-READY by Jesse Mackenzie

by June 1, 2016
The Mana Dork
 
It’s time to get up on my rarely-used soapbox. This week, instead of offering Limited puzzles or telling Commander stories, I’m going to offer my opinion on one of Magic’s latest developments.
 
Zendikar Resurgent
 
Recently, in his Making Magic column, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater told us about “Planeswalker Decks”, the product that will replace both Core Sets‎ and Intro Decks and help introduce new players to the game.
 
I highly recommend reading Rosewater’s full article, but for context, here’s the short version. Each new Magic set will have two preconstructed Planeswalker Decks associated with it, featuring the following cards:
  • a new mythic rare planeswalker card balanced for casual play,

  • two rares that tutor for the planeswalker and have a specific effect,

  • three uncommons that get better when you have the planeswalker on the battlefield,

  • four planeswalker-flavoured commons,

  • and a mix of other cards from the current block. 
Planeswalker decks will also include two boosters from their associated set, and will retail at current Intro Deck prices. All of these cards will be Standard-legal upon release.
 
Chandra, Flamecaller
 
First things first: I think this is a super-exciting product and I can’t wait to see what Wizards does with it. 
 
On top of pushing planeswalkers further forward in the game’s marketing — helping Magic stay relevant in today’s character-driven pop culture landscape — I like that Wizards will be designing cards not pushed for tournament play. Cool, splashy planeswalkers (and planeswalker tutors!) that won’t have their prices inflated ‎by Standard demand is good for the game.
 
However, it’s definitely not what I was expecting. 
 
Rather than following the Intro Deck form factor, I thought they were going to release a boxed product a lot more like Duel Decks Anthologies or the Deck Builder’s Toolkit. And honestly, it’s a product I’d still like to see.
 
Clash of Wills
 
‎Picture this: a $35 “Battle Box” that contains ten pre-constructed 60-card decks, one for each colour pair. The decks are balanced against each other, and contain the “default”-costed and -flavoured effects and creatures you see in Core Sets and Welcome Decks — your Cancels, your Mind Rots, your Grizzly Bears and Serra Angels and Shivan Dragons — along with a single copy each of Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa, in new cards not pushed for tournament play.
 
Wizards would define the cards within the Battle Box as always Standard-legal, and would include a couple of inserts that explain the rules and guide new players on remixing the Battle Box cards to create new decks.
 
Rush of Knowledge
 
‎This would accomplish a few things:
  • introduce new players to the game with a variety of preconstructed decks and the freedom to remix them;

  • provide a solid, self-contained, boardgame-sized experience ‎for people who are interested in Magic but worry about the prices;

  • ‎divide the game’s “default” effects into their own product, pushing Wizards to create more interesting/flavourful effects in the expansions (hat-tip to a friend for pointing this one out); and

  • have enough non-basic-land cards to function as a cube‎.
Essentially, an official Battle Box would mimic the Netrunner Core Set (or Hearthstone’s Core cards) in terms of function and pricing, and would provide more direction for new players on how decks work and interact with each other.
 
Nissa's Chosen
 
There are two problems with a Battle Box as outlined above: they don’t encourage new players to buy more Magic product‎, and they aren’t as Planeswalker-focused as Wizards would like introductory Magic products to be.
 
We can solve the first problem by including booster packs, like in the Deck Builder’s Toolkit. The Planeswalker problem is a little harder, but with a particular focus on art direction and branding (naming the decks “Nissa’s Hunters”, “Chandra’s Inferno”, etc.), we can solve that problem as well.
 
‎What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on how he’s definitely still going to buy those Planeswalker Decks, they sound really cool.

Eldritch Moon Prereleases – July 16th 2016

by December 20, 2016

EN_MTGEMN_LR

July 16th is the prerelease of the next Magic the Gathering set and we will be holding prereleases at midnight, noon and 5pm. You can purchase tickets in advance for $35 in store or online until Wednesday July 13th at 8pm. July 14th and 15th as well as at the door the price will be $40 (all prices are taxes in)

Links are below to the 3 events for online purchase.

midnight –https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eldritch-moon-midnight-prerelease-tickets-25824354339

Noon- https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eldritch-moon-noon-prerelease-tickets-25824414519

5pm –https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eldritch-moon-5pm-prerelease-tickets-25824476705

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