Monthly Archives: May 2017

THE MANA DORK – Native Planeswalkers and Legendary Creatures

by May 17, 2017
Native Planeswalkers and Legendary Creatures

Well, that’s a wrap! Pro Tour Amonkhet is in the books, and surprising absolutely nobody, Mono-Black Zombies won the whole wait whaaaaaaaaaat

It’s true, though. Gerry Thompson, rocking his sweet Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sleeves and deckbox, piloted this list to his first-ever Pro Tour win. No Gideons, no planeswalkers at all in the mainboard — and speaking of which, his entire mainboard consisted of cards that were $6 or less per copy when Amonkhet released! He cruised through much more expensive decks, the sheer consistency of his zombs swarming over Temurworks Marvel and Mardu Vehicles lists with ease.

It was refreshing to see. Pricy, greedy combo decks have been running the tables in Standard play for the last few months (though thankfully we still saw a LOT of creative homebrews at the store!), so having a traditional, inexpensive aggro list take Pro Tour Amonkhet says a lot, I think, about the viability of new brews, and how you can win an event without reducing your wallet to weeping openly and listening to “Hide and Seek” on repeat.

I mean, like, it’s a great song. But I’ve definitely heard Imogen Heap singing in the back of my head when I looked at the price on some of those four-colour Saheeli combos and older Mardu Vehicles lists.
Mmm, what’d you say?
Mmm, that you only meant well
Well, of course you did
Mmm, what’d you say?
Mmm, that it’s all for the best…
Anyway.
– – –
So, I have a question. Why do so many players want to see “native planeswalkers” in each new Magic set?
 

It puzzles me. “Native planeswalker” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. If you’re going to define a character by their ability to hop dimensions and bend the fabric of space-time, why stick them at home? We should see them when they’re out exploring the Multiverse. We should see weird characters we don’t understand yet, faces and abilities that are a gateway to more mystery.
But lately, what we’ve seen — and here’s the part that I don’t understand, what I see people asking for — are a series of homebodies.
Beginning from the Magic Origins reboot and ignoring planeswalkers who existed previously, we’ve met Arlinn Kord on Innistrad, and Saheeli Rai and Dovin Baan on Kaladesh. “Native planeswalkers”… who could have done their jobs just as well if they were legendary creatures.
(Notably, neither Arlinn nor Saheeli leave their planes at all during the course of their stories. They are “planeswalkers” who do not planeswalk even once! Heck, Rashmi did more planeswalking than Saheeli did, inside the Planar Bridge!)
Now, I love their design as characters. Arlinn is a powerful and bad-ass older woman, Saheeli is a charming and daring inventor, and my feelings about Dovin Baan have been mentioned previously. I am glad they are here, and I am happy to see what they have brought to Magic’s stories.
But to be honest, though, they could have been legendary creatures and done largely the same thing. And we could have had more space for weird and fascinating planeswalkers from other worlds, walking previews of Magic’s future with a face and name.
Like Ashiok.

Ashiok is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, perhaps the most recent perfect example. Ashiok doesn’t even have a face. It’s just smoke, and horns, and nightmares, and what happened to my library oh Ugin no no NONONO —

Ashiok is mystery. And terror, in this case. Ashiok saw play in many Standard lists of its era. Ashiok is a perfect hook for a future world (“What do we know about this place? … Ashiok is from here? Welp, I’m scared now…”). Ashiok simply existing is exciting, because it represents so much that we do not know about the wide, wide Multiverse.

Ashiok is exactly what I think a planeswalker should be.

I’m not just concerned about planeswalkers, though. I’m also concerned about what the desire for “native planeswalkers” has meant for legendary creatures.

Starting again from the Origins reboot and skipping the Eldrazi Titans for now, most of the legendary creatures we’ve seen have been side characters, also-rans, and supporting cast members. The “mentor” cycle in Origins, Zada and Jori En and Noyan Dar on Zendikar, Thalia and Odric and the twins on Innistrad, and so on. The only legendary creatures here who I think got an appropriate story treatment are Rashmi and Baral, both on Kaladesh.

It used to be that legendary creatures were the pushed, center-stage, face-on-the-poster chase cards everybody got excited about. The cards that changed the game. Back in the day, I saw people get hyped for Kamahl, and Phage, and Bladewing the Risen the way they now get hyped for non-Origins-5 planeswalkers.

(Quick note: “pushed” is slang for “a card Wizards has deliberately made very strong for its mana cost in order to help ensure it sees play in high-level tournaments”. Taken from “pushing the envelope”.)

These days, legendary creatures largely exist as nods to us Commander players, and hooks for the occasional short story. Rarely do they break into the Top 8 of Pro Tours.

Why has this changed? Why did it have to?

Look at Ulamog up there. Perfect example of what I think legendary creatures should be doing in Magic. Perhaps a divisive example, as not everybody is a fan of the Eldrazi Titans, but nevertheless perfect for this discussion.

In Ulamog we see a very pushed legendary creature present in many top-level lists as a game-ending all-star. The Temurworks Marvel lists from Pro Tour Amonkhet often used Ulamog to finish games. You are scared when Ulamog comes down, as so very little in Standard can answer it.

And critically, people opened Battle for Zendikar boosters looking for Ulamog. Others bought and will buy Ulamog as a single — which is much more profitable for the LGSes that keep the game alive. Ulamog drives sales and thus makes the game healthier as a whole. And it does so without having loyalty abilities.

Ulamog is exactly what I think a legendary creature should be — or, perhaps more clearly, Ulamog is performing the mechanical and marketing functions I think a legendary creature should perform. (Maybe we don’t need 10/10 indestructibles for 10 with two removal spells as a cast trigger all the time. But you get what I’m saying.)

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll cut to the chase cards.

I think those mystifying calls for “native” planeswalkers are the result of two things: Wizards putting an enormous spotlight on planeswalkers, and players subconsciously treating ‘walkers the same way they used to treat legends because of that spotlight.

I think this is compounded by the regular presence of pushed Gatewatch planeswalkers in Standard. People will naturally want to see characters from new planes mixing it up with Chandra, Jace, and the rest. As a result, we have players calling for “native planeswalkers” that could just as well be legendary creatures, simply because planeswalkers are the most pushed card type and people want new things.

I think this is why we’ve been seeing so many Standard environments where Gerry Thompson’s ‘walker-less maindeck is a notable aberration, rather than a regular sight.

I think the game would be improved if we used some mechanical strength and some marketing muscle on legends more often. Legends can serve as the face of a set just as well as planeswalkers, they can carry just as much of the story and key-art load on their shoulders, they have the same uniqueness drawback — and importantly, they can free up space for more interesting and creative planeswalker designs, since the ‘walkers no longer have to do as much work selling the set.

… and for the sake of maintaining my credibility throughout the above arguments, we shall ignore the amount of time I’ve spent in previous columns gushing about Commander, because I’m not biased at all. Never. Nope. Nuh-uh. Pure, unbiased journalism and punditry right here, folks. The Mana Dork — Your Trusted Source For Reasonable Magic Opinions.

Please?


OKAY FINE, MAYBE I AM BIASED, BUT AT LEAST YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HUMBLE ME FOR IT AT THE FOLLOWING STORE EVENTS

On the Magic side of things, Amonkhet Game Day is this weekend! We’ll have events on both Saturday and Sunday, with registration at 11 AM, gameplay at noon, and prizes for participation, Top 8, and winning the whole thing. Come on down!

As well, the GPT Farewell Tour is coming to a close, with just three events left — GPT Vegas Limited on Friday May 26, GPT Vegas Modern on Sunday May 28, and a final GPT Vegas Limited on Friday June 2. These will be your last chances to earn byes for GPT Vegas and win our sweet GPT Farewell Tour playmat, so make sure you sign up!

Outside of Magic, we’ve got the Netrunner Regional Championships on Saturday June 10, the Star Wars 40th Anniversary X-Wing Tournament on Sunday June 11, and a special Father’s Day Ticket to Ride Tournament on Sunday June 18!

There’s tons of stuff happening at the store — we’d love to see you there!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He’s actually super-biased, don’t believe what he wrote up there. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

Amonkhet Game Day

by May 14, 2017

Amonkhet Game Day is a standard format tournament with swiss rounds and a top cut.

Details

Date: May 20-21, 2017
Registration: 11:00 am
Start Time: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $6 (taxes included)

Prizing

amonkhet game day prizing

Promo cards—one for each event participant
8 rare, premium promo cards—one for each player in the Top 8
1 first-place playmat—for the winner of our Game Day event

THE MANA DORK — The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

by May 7, 2017

The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

“What possible circumstances could render these draconian measures necessary?”
— Dovin Baan

We took a bit of a break for Amonkhet’s release (and a couple of soapbox moments), but we’re back with the final installment of the Aether Revolt Planeswalker Deck Challenge.

Here’s the idea: I believe that the Planeswalker Decks, as currently constructed, are a solid product with which to introduce new players to Magic… but they could be so much better. They could be built with more competitive cards, greater synergy, and an eye towards a strategy that better fits one of Magic’s established deck archetypes, rather than simply featuring a mechanic from the newest set.

For my first step in testing this out, I competed with the Ajani Planeswalker Deck in Aether Revolt Game Day at A Muse N Games, using only the contents of the deck and included boosters. I posted a result of 1-3 — with my single round win coming as a result of facing off against a homebrewed combo deck that was intimidating in function, but failed to fire in the games we played. While the result looks good on paper, I felt incredibly outclassed on the battlefield, as my Silkweaver Elites regularly went up against Torrential Gearhulks and Winding Constrictors.

I then brewed a Dovin Baan-themed deck, following all of the rules both formal and informal that Wizards follows with their Planeswalker Decks — with the exception that I would include many more complete playsets, and did not have access to the unique commons, uncommons, and rares that proper Planeswalker Decks come with.

Finally, I competed in a Tuesday Night Standard event at A Muse N Games with the Dovin Baan deck.

So, how did I do?

ROUND 1: TEMUR TOWER
My first match-up was against “the saviour of Standard”. Temur Tower decks were posting some good results in competitive events, breaking into the well-established two-deck metagame of Mardu Vehicles and Copy Cat combos. How was my pure control deck going to do against a more modern, midrange-y, value-based control deck?

It began in tension. We played land drops and Shielded Aether Thieves, and eyed the battlefield warily from behind our carefully-sculpted hands. I was digging hard for an Aetherstorm Roc or a Long-Finned Skywhale, something that would let me go over the top of their defenders. They were digging hard for a Dynavolt Tower so that their deck could come online.

I hit their first Dynavolt Tower with an Ice Over… and promptly realized the weakness of the card. Ice Over doesn’t actually tap down the permanent it enchants, nor does it prevent triggered abilities (or some activated abilities) from happening. Not only would my opponent get at least one use out of an Iced Over Dynavolt Tower that was untapped, it would continue to build energy for them.

After a long, hard battle, they eventually won off of activations from their second Dynavolt Tower. I had taken them nearly to time, however, with a bare handful of minutes left for Game 2… which they won quickly with a couple of early manlands.

Round Record: 0-1. Games Record: 0-2. (I’m a Hedron Crab!)

ROUND 2: GREEN-BLACK CHITTERING HOST

“Dude, what is this? You won a Standard event the other night with RW Dwarves! You broke the metagame! Why aren’t you playing that now?” — a passersby, to my opponent

“Man, I just wanted to play with Chittering Host. Chittering Host is cool.” — my opponent

My opponent was not wrong. Chittering Host is indeed cool. It is also… menacing… to face off against. There were some minor delirium synergies in the deck, but at its core, this was a classic “Rock”-style deck that swarmed the board with small creatures and sought to resolve a Chittering Host for an alpha strike.

Game 1 saw me hold off some of their beaters with a couple of early Shielded Aether Thieves (seriously, those guys are bros), until I eventually — finally! — resolved a Skywhale and protected it. I ground out the win by flying over the top with the Skywhale and clogging up the ground with Aether Thieves and various answers.

Unfortunately, I would make a critical mistake in Game 2. I was beating down again with a Skywhale and had a Baral’s Expertise in hand, while their board grew and grew and grew. Nervous, I cast the Expertise to bounce a couple of tokens and value creatures… and not the Westvale Abbey that had been sitting on my opponent’s side of the battlefield since Turn 3 or so. They recast some small creatures, sacrificed their board, and immediately began swinging with Ormendahl, Profane Prince for the game.

Game 3 ended with another critical mistake on my part — I kept a greedy hand instead of mulliganing it away. Chittering Host chittered all over my cold, dead bones in short order.

Round Record: 0-2. Games Record: 1-4. (I’m a Calcite Snapper!)
 

 

ROUND 3: RED-GREEN PUMMELER

Okay. Alright. I didn’t face off against Mardu Vehicles tonight — the matchup my deck had mostly been built for — but I’m about to shuffle up against RG Pummeler, another aggressive deck that relies heavily on artifacts. This is good. This is a good thing. I’m ready for this. I was made for this.

Game 1: I was not made for this.

Game 2: I have answers! That’s two Pummelers down! Thank you Fragmentize! Now I just need to hit a Long-Finned Skywh — oh, dear, that’s their third Pummeler… oh, dear, that was my face.

Round Record: 0-3. Games Record: 1-6. (I’m a Wandering Tombshell!)

CONCLUSION AND MOVING FORWARD

I should get better at playing Magic.

In all seriousness, though — this deck felt so, so much better than the Planeswalker Decks I tested. Pushing Temur Tower to time and almost winning a second game over a GB Rock variant may be Pyrrhic victories, but I will take them. I felt like I always had answers, and a line of play towards a solid win condition, instead of feeling completely outclassed by Turn 5 — like a Ford Pinto trying to race a Lamborghini.

I will admit to perhaps some bias — since I built the deck from scratch, I knew its lines of play and outs quite well, as opposed to having to learn the deck while I play it, as I did with the Planeswalker Decks. But I feel that this is minor in the grand scheme of things. I’m still inclined to wonder how much of the 0-3 round result is due to the power level of the various cards and how much is simply due to my play mistakes, as detailed above.

Going forward, I’ll change up a couple of things — I will keep the $11 limit for the 59 non-planeswalker cards in the deck, but I will likely change the distribution of rares, uncommons, and commons, and I will buy two booster packs to add to the deck, just like the regular Planeswalker Decks.

We will see how it works. I’ll be continuing the experiment for future Magic sets — albeit in fewer columns, since I don’t want this space to become the Planeswalker Deck Dork! — until I feel like the Planeswalker Decks are at a good place in their construction.

Until then — onward, to glory! And by glory, I mean getting viciously beaten in Standard games, all in service to my audience.

 

DO YOU DARE TO COMPLETE THE TRIALS OF AMONKHET? AND ALSO POSSIBLY A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY?
 

The Trials of Amonkhet are underway at the store — complete various Magic challenges with various friends in various formats to earn shiny lazotep d20s and d4s! Make sure to ask at the store for details.

And in July, the Fantasy Flight Store Championships are happening! Compete in official Fantasy Flight Organized Play events for Star Wars Armada, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, and Star Wars Destiny for sweet prizes and the respect of your peers!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Do not ask him what was in the hand he kept. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!

Star Wars Armada Store Championships 2017

by May 12, 2017

Store Championships are your chance to play in a tournament with prestigious prizes to your community of players. This is the first opportunity during each Championship Series for players to compete for the title of Champion. In addition to the exclusive prizes and title of Store Champion, winners receive a bye at a Regional Championship.

Date: July 2, 2017
Registration: 11:00 am
Matches Start: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $15 (taxes included)

Store Championship Kit

Participation: Each player receives an alternate art GR-75 Medium Transports ship card.
Top Eight: Each player receives a set of acrylic evade tokens.
Top Four: Each player receives a double-sided range ruler.
Top Two: Each player receives an acrylic objective token.
Champion: The winner receives the Store Champion plaque and receives a bye at a Regional Championship.

Preregister by May 31st and be entered in a draw to win an alternate art General Dodonna.

Preregister in store or online below:

Star Wars Imperial Assault Store Championships 2017

by May 13, 2017

Store Championships are your chance to play in a tournament with prestigious prizes to your community of players. This is the first opportunity during each Championship Series for players to compete for the title of Champion. In addition to the exclusive prizes and title of Store Champion, winners receive a bye at a Regional Championship.

Date: July 9, 2017
Registration: 11:00 am
Matches Start: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $15 (taxes included)

Store Championship Kit

Participation: Each player receives alternate art Unshakable Upgrade cards.
Top Eight: Each player receives a set of acrylic terminal tokens.
Top Four: Each player receives an acrylic point dial.
Top Two: Each player receives an acrylic printed Junk Droid token and extended art card.
Champion: Winners receives a Store Champion plaque and receives a bye at a Regional Championship.

Preregister before May 31st and be entered in a draw to win an alternate art The Grand Inquisitor card.

Preregister in store or online below:

Star Wars X-Wing Store Championships 2017

by May 14, 2017

Store Championships are your chance to play in a tournament with prestigious prizes to your community of players. This is the first opportunity during each Championship Series for players to compete for the title of Champion. In addition to the exclusive prizes and title of Store Champion, winners receive a bye at a Regional Championship.

Date: July 23, 2017
Registration: 11:00 am
Matches Start: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $15 (taxes included)

Store Championship Kit

Participation: Each player receives an alternate art Engine Upgrade card.
Top Eight: Each player receives an acrylic range ruler (range 3).
Top Four: Each player receives a set of acrylic range 1 and range 2 rulers.
Top Two: Each player receives an acrylic Agent Kallus token.
Champion: The winner receives a Store Championship Plaque as well as a bye to a regional championship.

Preregister and be entered to win an alternate art Push the Limit!

Preregister in store or online below:

Star Wars Destiny Store Championships 2017

by May 13, 2017

Store Championships are your chance to play in a tournament with prestigious prizes to your community of players. This is the first opportunity during each Championship Series for players to compete for the title of Champion. In addition to the exclusive prizes and title of Store Champion, winners receive a bye at a Regional Championship.

Date: July 29, 2017
Registration: 11:00 am
Matches Start: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $15 (taxes included)

Store Championship Kit

Participation: Each player receives an alternate art The Best Defense card.
Top Eight: Each player receives a deck box.
Top Four: Each player receives a playmat.
Top Two: Each player receives a spot-glossed plastic character card.
Champion: Winner receives the Store Championship plaque as well as a bye to a Regional Championship.

Preregister before May 31st and be entered into a draw to win an alternate art Mon Mothma

Preregister in store or online below:

Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Store Championships 2017

by May 13, 2017

Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Season Store Championships at A Muse N Games in July!

Click on your game of choice below for more information on the tournaments including prizes, itinerary, and registration.


July 2

July 9

July 23

July 29

Amonkhet Standard Showdown

by May 7, 2017

Amonkhet Standard Showdown starts May 6th at A Muse N Games!

Amonkhet Standard Showdown

Entry Fee $6. 3 rounds of standard action with Amonkhet Standard Showdown booster packs from Wizards of the Coast up for grabs. Events start every Saturday (with the exception of May 20th for Amonkhet Game Day) at 3:00 pm.

Amonkhet Standard Showdown booster packs consist of 2 rares or mythic rares, 1 Amonkhet full-art, and 1 premium card from a currently legal Standard set (it can be any rarity, and it can be a full-art land). It is worth noting Masterpiece Series: Amonkhet Invocations will not appear in these booster packs. Prizing distribution will be determined based on the number of entrants.

The Amonkhet Standard Showdown events are a great way to show off your latest deck builds using the new Amonkhet set and/or any standard legal cards. Along with our Tuesday night Standard days, these events give you weekly opportunities to play in a fun and competitive atmosphere.

Dungeons and Dragons at A Muse N Games

by May 3, 2017

In response to player feedback, effective May 1, 2017 A Muse N Games is making some adjustments to the  Dungeons and Dragons games we host.

Games on Wednesday at 6:00 pm will now have a $3 entry fee (taxes included).
Games on  Sundays at 11:30 am will now have $5 entry fee  (taxes included).

To help improve the player experience, most tables will be limited to 5 players, with a few exceptions at 6. As spots are limited, we will also be implementing online pre-registration so you can ensure your spot on any given night (coming soon). Dungeon Masters will also be able to collect stamps each time they DM and can redeem 16 stamps for a free D&D Adventure book! A DM will receive 1 stamp on Wednesday nights and up to 2 stamps on Sundays.

Interested in trying Dungeons and Dragons for the first time? Come visit our store as we will be giving away First Time Player passes that will allow you to try out D&D for free on one of our nights. Bring some friends or family who has never tried it out and share one of our favourite ways to adventure! Children 12 and under are also allowed accompanying a parent or guardian.

We listen to our players and value their feedback. We understand that players haven’t had the best experience at a sprawling 7 or even 8 player table. We understand that it’s frustrating to come prepared to play at a high-level table, only to find yourself drafting a low-level character because that’s the only space available. These adjustments allow us to incentivize our DMs, and also allows us to start planning ahead so players can start playing on time when they show up for D&D rather than waiting up to 30 minutes while tables are organised.

Thanks to all of our players and our tireless Dungeon Masters!

Below is our current schedule for high-level games being run on Sundays. At the moment, we are accepting first come, first serve registration at the store. Reminder to arrive at least 15 minutes early to make sure there are spots available as each table will be limited at 5 players. There will still be more table for walk-ups and lower level players that show up on time.

Date Module Level Range Length Dungeon Master
May 7 Pool of Radiance Resurgent 5-10 4 hours Curtis
May 14 TBD 5-10 4 hours Curtis
May 21 It’s All In The Blood – Pt1 11-16 4 hours Curtis
May 28 It’s All In The Blood – Pt2 11-16 4 hours Curtis
June 4 Assault on Maerimydra – Pt1 11-16 4 hours Curtis
June 11 Assault on Maerimydra – Pt2 11-16 4 hours Curtis
June 18 Durlag’s Tower 11-16 4 hours Curtis
June 25 Durlag’s Tomb 11-16 4 hours Curtis
July 2 Reeducation 11-16 4 hours Curtis
July 9 Reclamation 11-16 4 hours Curtis

This schedule is designed to level up players towards a big D&D day on Saturday, July 15th!
It will be an 8-hour epic session for only the bravest of adventurers!

Date Module Level Range Length Dungeon Master
July 15 The Mysterious Isle + Eye of Xxiphu 17-20 8 hours Curtis