Monthly Archives: January 2017

THE MANA DORK -In Defense of Magic’s Story

by January 24, 2017
 
Long, long ago, my father and I used to play Magic. He had a Blue-White fliers deck, and a classic Black discard deck with Dark Rituals, Hymns to Tourach, and Hypnotic Specters. I’d build whatever I could out of his leftover Green and Red cards, and we’d play each other.
Hypnotic Specter
(“Do you know why this Hypnotic Specter is strong?” “… You can cast it after Dark Ritual?” “Not just that — it takes cards from your opponent’s hand. It takes options away from them. They can’t counter your spells if you took the counterspell away.” “OH!”  — 9-year-old me, learning about the metagame clock and card advantage instead of, y’know, how to catch fish and fix things.)
I got so into the game that my dad picked up one of the earliest pieces of Magic lore ever published — Tapestries, a collection of short stories by leading fantasy authors of the time. It didn’t delve much into Urza, Mishra, and the Brothers’ War, but the authors did have an absolute field day with the idea that you spent the game summoning creatures and then just… leaving them there. The book was filled with classic fish-out-of-water stories and bildungsromans with a fantasy flair.
Tapestries gave me my first taste of lore — that intoxicating concoction that turns a collection of numbers and game mechanics into an elf. Into something I can care about.
I tore through the stories and chased them down with the flavour text on every card in our collection. I caught glimpses and facets of Urza and Mishra, like shards of light from a jewel’s reflection. I watched the Kjeldorans war against Lim-Dûl in the italicized text on every soldier I cast.
Kjeldoran Skyknight
When my father stopped buying cards, I took a break from the game as well, though not for long — I was back six years or so later, in time to see Kamahl’s story of rage, and then of redemption. Then came Mirrodin’s struggle against Memnarch, and Toshiro’s battle against Kondo and O-Kagachi, with Kamigawa’s war against itself in counterpoint.
Then another ten years gone, until Sarkhan traveled back in time to save Ugin, and I traveled to a brand-new games store on Portage Avenue to attend a draft and support a friend’s new business.
In all that time, the lore captivated me — though not so much how it was packaged in novels. I found actually playing the game preferable to slogging through 50,000 words of action I wasn’t taking part in, and kept up on the lore through research in my downtime.
So imagine my reaction when I returned, and discovered that Wizards was now publishing Magic’s story directly to the web in digestible little short stories and vignettes every single week. “Joy” understates it.
And then — and then — in 2015, we saw the Origins reboot, and each of our (now-)iconic Planeswalkers got origin stories and motivations. Again, that alchemical moment, when these powerful, modal enchantments became something with faces I could care about.
In 2016, the Gatewatch. A team of these icons, traveling planes and battling foes in a way Magic hadn’t seen since the days of the Weatherlight.
It was with the Gatewatch that I saw the criticism mount.
Imprisoned in the Moon
To hear some of the commentary online, you’d think the Gatewatch dooms us to years of plain, careworn comic-book super-feats and gosh-darn-it Boy Scout do-gooderism. Stories with no stakes and no growth — only cool explosions, cooler monsters, and pushed, tournament-level mythics with first names instead of descriptive ones. Woe, oh woe were the purists when Emrakul was revealed as the villain in Shadows block. Weep, oh weep did the devoted fans with every “Ashaya” and chess-playing Eldrazi Titan. The Internet rang with dismay.
Clearly, Wizards is just pandering. Or setting things up for the movie. Or sacrificing artistic merit for the sake of selling a product. Or giving in to the Tumblr crowd. Or something. Whatever explanation is popular this week. It changes depending on who you ask.
Yahenni's Expertise
If you cannot tell — personally, I think that thanks to the weekly-short-story model and the Gatewatch, Magic’s story is the best it’s ever been.
I know we’re all nostalgic about Urza and Mishra and Yawgmoth and the Weatherlight and Venser and Elspeth, and nostalgia is wonderful and all, but look: here and here are the two most recent stories by Chris L’Etoile, a writer from BioWare’s legendary stories that Wizards brought in specifically to work on Magic. And then there’s Alison Luhrs, showing off here and here and here and here and here, a Wizards employee with a background in playwriting who’s turning out some of the company’s finest work — especially with Yahenni, a Kaladesh character you have to meet.
Go on. Read them. It’s worth the time, trust me.
When you’re done, I want you to read this story and pretend that you know nothing else about Magic.
Yes, I just made you read about Jace. But look at that story again — if you take away all of Jace’s appearances in Alara and Zendikar and Return to Ravnica and all the core sets, if you just look at that story and the ones that came after it, Jace is a fascinating character.
Origins Jace is what happens when you take Memento, the Hunger Games, and every Cold War double-agent spy thriller and blend it all up. Out comes an exasperated nerd who could be the brainy sidekick on the radio in any action movie — except this is Magic, so this sidekick gets pushed to the forefront occasionally and told he has to save the day. Or at least not die while he comes up with a plan.
It’s a novel take. Maybe I’m benefiting from not having been around for seven or eight years of Jace in core sets, but I’m entertained, and I can’t wait to see what happens when he returns to Vryn.
And when it comes to the Gatewatch — ensemble-cast media spellbinds us, like it always does. Marvel has propelled itself to juggernaut status based on how skillfully it has used its ensemble casts, to give you an example, while DC tries and tries again. Frankly, you’re not going to break the surface these days if you don’t have a broad cast that people can connect with, and the Gatewatch is precisely that.
I now have characters with weekly adventures I can invest in, delivered in an accessible way, and I cannot tell you how happy I am. Sure, George R. R. Martin delivering 2,000 words of Innistrad intrigue would be great. But today, I will take Alison Luhrs telling stories of Orzhov machinations on Ravnica just as gladly.
Dark Intimations
Finally — finally — if nothing else I’ve said here compels you, consider this: Nicol Bolas, Magic’s greatest antagonist, is coming back in Amonkhet. Revelations are at hand. Years of lore will be connected in ways we don’t expect.
Don’t you want to see what happens next?
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IS FREE GAMES DAY — AT THE STORE, AT LEAST
Sunday, January 29th is Free Games Day at A Muse N Games! Bring some friends and bring a game, or try one from the store’s extensive demo library! Staff will be on hand to help you if you have any rules questions, and there’s no charge to participate, so come on down!
On the Netrunner side of things, we’ve got the Netrunner Store Championships on Saturday January 28th. Bring your decks and a $15 entry fee and try to reveal — or hide — those corporate Agendas to win glory and fame (and some sweet prizes!).
Outside of that, there’s organized play every day — Modern on Monday, Standard on Tuesday, D&D, LCGs, and now Frontier on Wednesday, drafting (now with Aether Revolt!) and X-Wing on Thursdays, boardgame shenanigans, Sealed, and Commander (casual AND competitive!) on Fridays, more drafting on Saturdays, and D&D Expeditions on Sundays!
See you at the store!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games and completely unapologetic about how much he likes Jace and the Gatewatch. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

Aether Revolt Release Week

by January 19, 2017

Aether Revolt Logo
January 20th, 2017 the latest Magic the Gathering set is unleashed! Bringing more Aether, more Energy, more Vehicles, and an all new Mechanic, Revolt! Join us for the Aether Revolt release week!

Here is the Magic schedule this week that’s affected by the  Aether Revolt Release:

Thursday January 19th:
Draft 7pm: By popular request this draft will be wacky! Players can choose any three packs from our current in stock selection to draft with. Entry fee cost of 3 packs +$2 entry fee
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

 

Participate in any events on January 20th, 21st, or 22nd and receive a special foil promo Quicksmith Rebel.

Friday January 20th:

Noon: Aether Revolt Draft
Players receive 2 packs of Aether Revolt & 1 Pack of Kaladesh, and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

3:30pm: Aether Revolt Draft
Players receive 2 packs of Aether Revolt & 1 Pack of Kaladesh, and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

6:30pm: Aether Revolt Sealed featuring Prerelease packs!
Players receive an Aether Revolt Prerelease kit that includes Foil Promo, Spindown Counter, 4 Packs of Aether Revolt and 2 Packs of Kaladesh.
Players will enjoy 4 rounds of swiss.
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

7:30: Commander
Both casual and Competitive pods as usual.
Entry $6 per player.
Prizing: Casual Players each receive a Booster Pack for participating.
Competitive Players – prizing to the winner, prize TBD based on players entering. (8 or more players and a revised Dual will be up for grabs

9:30: Archenemy / Planechase Commander
Entry $6 per player.
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

Saturday January 21st:

Noon: Aether Revolt Draft
Players receive 2 packs of Aether Revolt & 1 Pack of Kaladesh, and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

3:30pm: Aether Revolt Draft
Players receive 2 packs of Aether Revolt & 1 Pack of Kaladesh, and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

Sunday January 22nd: 

2:00 pm: Aether Revolt League
Players receive 2 Packs of Aether Revolt, 1 Pack of Kaladesh, and construct the best 30 card deck that they can!
After every 3 losses, or once each week, players can add an additional pack of Aether Revolt to their card pool for $6 taxes in per pack.
There is a weekly league meet-up Sundays from 2pm to 6pm. League players are welcome to play games in store any time the store is open.
Aether Revolt League will wrap up on Sunday February 19th.
Entry Fee: $20
Prizing: Various promos, foils, and other goodies, depending on total players involved in the league.

THE MANA DORK — The Revolt Will Not Be Televised

by January 12, 2017

 
Hello everyone! I hope your winter breaks were wonderful and relaxing, and that the Aether Revolt spoilers were the nicest-ever nutmeg in your holiday ‘nog.
We’ve got the Pre-Releases happening this Saturday, and Sunday so here’s everything you need to know!
Whir of Invention
NEW MECHANIC: IMPROVISE
 
Aether Revolt tells us the story of the Renegades’ struggles against the Consulate in their attempts to free up the supply of aether for the people of Kaladesh. Both sides have to get clever, canny, and creative in order to outsmart their opponents — and what better way to do that than to have a mechanic all about being clever, canny, and creative with artifacts?
Improvise lets you tap your artifacts to help cast a spell with Improvise — each artifact can tap for a single generic mana in the Improvise spell’s generic mana cost.
Improvise shares a lot of similarities with a previous mechanic, convoke — but note that Improvise does not help reduce coloured mana costs! Only the generic mana cost of a spell can be reduced by Improvise. So you can’t tap that adorable little Servo or that Implement of Invention for blue, unfortunately, as much as you might want to.
That being said, anything that reduces the cost of a spell is still a strong mechanic worth paying attention to. On average, I’d rate Improvise cards as if they costed 0.5-1.5 mana less than the printed cost on the card — and even less if you’ve got eight or more artifacts in your deck!
(Also, don’t forget you can tap artifacts that don’t normally tap for Improvise — if I get a Panharmonicon or an equipment like Torch Gauntlet in my Sealed pool, you can bet I’ll be tapping it to help cast an Improvise spell!)
Fatal Push
NEW MECHANIC: REVOLT
 
The Renegades have all lost something at the hands of Tezzeret, Baral and the Consulate. And like every angry person who’s been backed into a corner, they fight back more viciously as a result. Cue the Revolt mechanic.
Cards with Revolt check to see if a permanent you control has left the battlefield this turn. Lose a creature in combat? Revolt triggers. Sacrifice a Servo so Yahenni survives a boardwipe? Revolt triggers. Flicker something with Felidar Guardian? Revolt triggers. Bounce your own things to hand with Baral’s Expertise and re-cast one of them so you can get the Revolt trigger on it? You guessed it — Revolt triggers.
(In older formats — crack a fetchland? Revolt triggers.)
Make sure to save Revolt cards for your second main phase each turn, if you can — combat is one of the easiest ways to make sure you lose a permanent. And I’d keep an eye out for things that sacrifice themselves in your Sealed pool — there are many more than average in Aether Revolt, and they will each do a good job of enabling the Revolt mechanic. If I’ve got a couple of Revolt cards that I really want to make sure paid off, I’d like to have at least 6 things that sacrifice themselves, just to make sure I have a certain amount of reliability.
Yahenni's Expertise
A NOTE ON “EXPERTISE” SPELLS
 
Aether Revolt features a cycle of very strong “Expertise” spells associated with legendary creatures in the set that each do a thing, and then let you cast something for free.
I’m seeing some confusion online about precisely how they work, so I figured I’d clear it up here.
Here’s what happens when you cast an Expertise spell:

 1. Cast the Expertise. The Expertise is on the stack.

 2. Choose the free spell you will cast. Determine all targets and parameters of the free spell (note that X costs will be 0).

 3. The Expertise resolves and goes to the graveyard. The free spell is now cast and at the top of the stack.

 4. The free spell resolves and goes to the graveyard.
Important ways in which this is relevant for your Sealed pool —

 A. The servos from Sram’s Expertise will be on the battlefield in time to pay any Improvise costs on the free spell, or to sacrifice for the free spell.

 B. The creatures and artifacts you bounce with Baral’s Expertise will not be on the field when the free spell resolves and therefore cannot be the targets of the free spell or help pay for it with Improvise. However, if one of them was yours and it fits the criteria, you may now cast it as the free spell you get from Baral’s Expertise.

 C. If you attempt to cast Yahenni for free off of Yahenni’s Expertise, Yahenni will not see the creatures die from the Expertise and will not be buffed accordingly.

 D. You can cast a card you drew from Rishkar’s Expertise for free with that same Rishkar’s Expertise.
Hope this helps! If you have any questions, be sure to ask the Judge at your Pre-Release flight — they’ll be happy to help you.
Sweatworks Brawler
 
SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! ANNOUNCING A SUNDAY PRE-RELEASE!
 
For the first time, A Muse N Games is hosting a Sunday pre-release event! (Kermit arms flailing)
 
Here are the Facebook events for each pre-release flight:

Make sure you book your spot as soon as possible, as they fill up quickly! (note from Scotia – Prereg ends tonight at 10pm Wednesday Jan 11 in store and online)

– – –

That’s it for me — I’ll see you at the tables!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor for A Muse N Games. He is totally Revolt-ing. Tune in every two weeks for the Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!