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THE MANA DORK — Using the Metagame Clock

by August 5, 2017

the mana dork metagame clock

Using the Metagame Clock

HOUR OF RED

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is in the books, and we’ve got a second victory in a row for budget decks, which I’m tremendously happy to see.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s Ramunap Red list took down the tournament, with Ramunap Red decks as a whole forming five of the top eight and about 30% of the decks that made it to Day Two. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen budget-ish “Red Deck Wins“-style aggro decks with a presence in Standard — the last time was in 2015, that halcyon era before those $600-$800 four-colour ORI-BFZ decks. And, I mean, look at those prices. When was the last time you saw a sub-$200 deck Top Eight a Pro Tour?

As is tradition, Wizards works on a two-year timeline (roughly), and it looks like their efforts to make Standard more affordable — including the Masterpiece Series cards and seeding RDW cards and budget answers in the last few sets — are paying off.

Now if only they’d do a better job with the Planeswalker Decks

metagame clock clock of mens

USING THE METAGAME CLOCK

So, I had a problem in my Commander meta, and then I solved it, and the solution created more problems, so I’m solving those now, and since the minutiae of my life are fascinating to everyone I figured I’d share this process with you.

Specifically, I’m making use of the Metagame Clock to solve this issue, and the Metagame Clock is an important Magic concept that I haven’t talked about here which you may find useful.

So.

Most of the time, when I’m playing Commander with my friends outside the store, I’m playing with two folks who we’ll call Aggro and Control.

Aggro plays a variety of decks, but the main one is a terrifying Alesha re-animator. Aggro swings at you, and it hurts, and then Alesha pulls some card out of the graveyard that says “When this creature enters the battlefield, destroy target opponent’s hopes and dreams,” and then all my sunshine lollipops and rainbows are crushed and broken and Aggro’s still swinging because they dealt 21 commander damage to my will to live.

Control typically bounces between Kruphix and Sen Triplets, but even when they’re playing a Boros deck they still somehow find a commander that says “Pay 2 life: Search your library for target silver bullet and somehow have it in your opening hand, oh and also have like a million lands on the battlefield, how y’all doin’ “. And somehow those lands are never tapped when I’m T-minus two turns from winning the game.

If it is difficult to tell from my hyperbole, I was struggling.

Normally, I like to measure my success on any given Commander night by the number of times I threaten to win. Winning itself is difficult in Commander, with its 25% win percentage on average, but if I’m at least threatening to win in every game — if there’s a point at which only a counterspell or the right removal will stop me — and my opponents had a good time playing against me, I’m pretty happy.

(Take note of those two criteria for a successful game — 1. Threaten to win, and 2. Make sure my opponents have fun. We’ll come back to them later.)

But I wasn’t even doing that. I was durdling in the corner until someone else won. Or I was amassing a pretty great boardstate until someone dropped a wrath effect and then won. Or — and here is my great weakness — I was once again obsessed with making voltron work, and I’d build up to the point where I could one-shot Aggro or Control, and then the other one would play literally any bounce spell and I was done.

I was falling victim to the Metagame Clock.

The Metagame Clock (1, 2) is like Rock-Paper-Scissors, but for Magic: the Gathering strategies. (And many other games, too.)

If you don’t have the time to read those two linked articles in full — although I really do recommend them — the short version looks something like this: Aggro > Control > Combo > Aggro. When built well, aggro decks will generally beat control decks, control decks will generally beat combo decks, and combo decks will generally beat aggro decks.

I gave my friends those very apropos names for a reason — they’re super-apropos. I’m 90% certain Control develops a twitch in their left eyelid if they don’t have blue mana open, and while Aggro uses a variety of strategies that don’t always employ the battlefield, most of them involve me dying to damage in short order.

So I needed to pay attention to the Metagame Clock. If I wanted to have a decent shot at winning in a world of Aggro and Control, I needed to enter the dreaded realm… the realm of Combo.

metagame clock food chain

So I did.

I built those decks keeping in mind the points Douglas Buel makes in the first linked article above about playing multiple positions on the Metagame Clock. Apostlestorm is a combo deck… unless I’m playing against control, in which case I can tutor up Mirror Entity and go wide like an aggro deck. Food Chain Zegana is a combo deck… but if I see a lot of open blue mana, I can just pull out Rogue’s Passage or Thassa and make with the stomping. Volrath is a “combo” deck — I often one-shot people — but if conditions outside the City of Traitors aren’t favourable, I can bide my time discarding my opponents’ worst nightmares and then re-animating them. And so on, and so on.

And I began winning.

Now, I wasn’t winning all the time, but I was winning enough. More than enough. I was pleased with my new found success! Finally, a taste of sweet victory alongside these good times with my friends!

Right?

Right…?

Whenever I won, I noticed that the experience was… unsatisfying for Aggro and Control. Rarely was it a hard-fought battle full of counter-magic, steeled nerves, and tales to remember. Instead, I became something they were racing against. Can they amass enough resources and round the corner in time, or am I just going to pull out Drift of Phantasms into Food Chain and make infinite mana again?

And those were the good games. More often — too often — it was, “I cast Aetherflux Reservoir. Game 2?”

Not good. I mean, winning is good. But I’m not just here to win. That’s not what Commander is about. I’m here to have good times with my friends. And if my friends aren’t having good times, that’s not a win.

So, what’s the solution? I need to meet two criteria, remember — I should threaten to win, and I should make sure my opponents have fun. How do I do that while paying attention to the Metagame Clock and remaining in the world of Combo?

Metagame Clock primal surge

James LaPage presents four possible ways of dealing with this in his excellent Metaworker column “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor“. I had Tinker-Tailored my way into being a decent combo player in my meta. Soldiering now was unacceptable. Sailing, too — I like my friends! I needed to Tinker-Tailor my way into being more fun to play against.

The solution here is to find decks that still win the game, but allow for more counterplay and points of interaction. “Just winning” is boring. Successfully fighting through a hail of counter-magic, or being foiled by the perfect top-deck, my friend’s only hope — now that’s a story!

So I’m working on two decks now — a Marath, Will of the Wilds deck built around Primal Surge and Epic Struggle, and a Wydwen, the Biting Gale deck that will win with either Doomsday, or a bunch of Specters pecking you to death and discarding all your cards. These are still combos, but they require more of a battle to make work, and there’s plenty of ways Aggro, Control, and whomever else I play with can interact with them.

I’m not going to take apart my other decks — they’re at a power level and of archetypes that I’m happy with. But I think switching it up in this way will result in more fun for all.

This is a living column. I don’t know if this will work. But it sure seems like it might. And I wanted to share this process with you, because what I did here — look at my meta and then myself through the Metagame Clock and the Tinker/Tailor/Soldier/Sailor metric in a constant process of self-examination — is, I think, second only to open communication in its effectiveness at solving problems in one’s Magic life.

And that’s a fascinating thing, I think.

Metagame Clock Board Game Camp

ENOUGH NAVEL-GAZING, MACKENZIE, MAKE WITH THE EVENTS

Alright, alright!

First things first, the August board game camp is coming up. I spoke about how board games helped me in this column two weeks ago, but I can’t say enough — this is going to be a wonderful experience for your kid. Take a look at the program, talk to Scotia at scotia(at)amusengames.ca, I think you’ll like what you see.

Sunday is our Open Board Game Day and the Hour of Devastation League. If the hot crucible of competition isn’t to your liking, show up on Sunday and we’ll make sure you have a good time!

That’s it for now — see you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He may or may not still be inordinately proud of making “Apostlestorm” a real thing. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

Jank Forge: Boros Minimum Security

by July 28, 2017

The Jank Forge: Boros Minimum Security

Boros Minimum Security tapping cardboard jank forge

Welcome to the Jank Forge, a place where budget, odd, and undiscovered decks are made! Today, we’re going to have a look at a Modern deck that just recently got a new card as well as a severe price reduction in one of its key cards: Boros Minimum Security.

Non-creatures:
2x Chained to the Rock
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Path to Exile
4x Mana Tithe

Creatures:
2x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
4x Eidolon of Rhetoric
4x Leonin Arbiter
4x Ash Zealot
4x Harsh Mentor
4x Aven Mindcensor

Lands:
4x Sacred Foundry
2x Wooded Foothills
2x Windswept Heath
7x Mountain
7x Plains

The point of Boros Minimum Security is to slow down your opponent down and beat them down with your creatures. Now, with this mindset, there are a couple different uses for some of these cards that you might miss out on if you treat this like a traditional prison deck. It’s much more proactive than regular prison decks, so it’s more like a like a minimum security prison.

Boros Minimum Security thalia guardian thraben Boros Minimum Security thalia heretic cathar Boros Minimum Security ash zealot

The first change you’ll notice is that your creatures want to turn sideways every chance they can. Unlike other prison decks, this deck is meant to be very aggressive in its ground game. Cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Ash Zealot, and Aven Mindcensor are really great at combat and they can start hitting pretty hard if left unchecked. Eidolon of Rhetoric is also pretty great during the late game because it dodges a fair bit of removal like Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push (50% of the time) and Anger of the GodsSweltering Suns.

boros minimum security mana tithe

The other change you’ll notice is the rather slim pickings for non-creature spells on tap for this list. These spells are meant primarily for dealing with the creatures that aren’t dying in combat. Chained to the Rock may seem like an odd choice but it’s pretty great early game since you can tap out for a two-drop then get rid of your opponent’s two-or-three-drop on your turn. It is also an awesome top-deck later on since it won’t give your opponent a land which would help thin out their deck. Finally, Mana Tithe is an amazing trick that will throw your opponent off their game because they won’t be expecting it.

Now, let’s talk sideboard. As with any deck, the final sideboard is going to be highly dependent on what is present in your metagame, but I can provide some decent suggestions. For the token match-ups, you’ll probably want to swap the Chained to the Rocks with either Anger of the Gods or Sweltering Suns (I personally prefer the latter). Burn matches will probably make you want to make a similar choice, but swapping for Boros Reckoners instead. Dryad Militants can come in against Storm decks to back up your Eidolons and Zealots. Grafdigger’s Cage is a must against the dreaded Dredge match-ups, as can Watchers of the Dead if you want more creatures. Finally, Affinity already hates Mentors, but you can back that up with either By Force or Abrade (which doesn’t get as much love as it should).

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

THE MANA DORK SPECIAL EDITION – The Young Dork

by July 19, 2017

young dork

THE YOUNG DORK

I remember sitting at the kitchen table, staring down at the hexes in wonder.

young dork catan 1

Each hex was a colourful landscape — a mountain, a sea, a green field like the one outside my house, a yellow field like the ones outside the city.

My father was dropping little discs with numbers onto the hexes. 5, 3, 2, 9, even a 12.

“What do the dots underneath the numbers mean?”

“How likely those numbers will come up,” my dad replied. “How many ways are there to make 2 with two six-sided dice?”

I thought for a moment, “Just one, right? With 1 and 1.”

“Good job!” he said, punching me lightly in the shoulder. “Now how many ways are there to make 8 with two dice?”

This was harder. 4 and 4, 5 and 3, 6 and 2, 7 and… wait, there wasn’t a 7 on a six-sided die! And then you had to work it the other way around, for the other die. so 2 and 6, 3 and 5, 4 and 4…

“Six!” I cried.

He nodded, smiling. He was separating out the components for each player now. It would be a while before we had plastic bags for each player’s starting components.

“But the 6s and 8s only have five dots underneath them. Shouldn’t they have six?”

He looked at the numbered discs with the universal expression of a parent who’s just been asked one of Those Questions. “I think it’s just a probability thing,” he said. “Like a ranking.”

“Oh. Okay!”

young dork catan 2

He placed a bunch of roads, houses, and cities in front of me. Small, brightly-painted wooden bits where, in my mind, hundreds of tiny people were playing out lives of commerce and exploration.

“Now, where should you put your settlements to start?”

“12!”

“Why is that?”

“It’s the highest number?”

I knew I was wrong when he shook his head. /p>

“Look at the board. You’ll get resources from the board when you roll the dice and the numbers come up. You can only get resources from hexes your settlements are next to.”

I looked at the board.

“Is that why the 6s and 8s are red and have the most dots? They’re the most important because they come up the most often?”

“Yup! Well, they don’t come up the most often. 7 comes up the most often.”

I started working that one out. 4 and 3, 3 and 4, 5 and 2, 2 and 5… and then I interrupted myself.

“But there’s no hex with a 7.”

“When you roll the 7, you move the Robber,” he said, placing a dark figure on a hex full of sand dunes. “The Robber shuts down a hex and you get to steal a resource from somebody else.”

“That seems mean.”

He nodded, with a slight shrug. “It’s just a way to represent bad luck. Bad luck happens to everyone. But you don’t have to put the Robber on a hex next to somebody. You can just put it somewhere else if you want.”

(Which I would do for years afterwards when I hadn’t previously been Robber’d, but that’s beside the point.)

“What is this?” I asked, holding up a cardboard card.

He looked over. “That shows you what you can build. And what you need to build it.”

I started reading. And calculating. Roads cost one brick and one lumber, so I needed to make sure I was near hills and forests, but cities gave more Victory Points, and they needed ore and grain (but why three grain? Were they building thatched roofs? Why are there more roofs than walls?), so I had to make sure I was near those, too, but the 6s aren’t near there, which meant probabilities were lower, so should I pick a corner with a 5 and 3 and the resources I want over a corner with a 6 and 2 with resources I could trade? And, and…

And then followed a lifetime of board gaming.

IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHY I SHARED THIS STORY…

A Muse N Games is running two boardgame camps this summer, for kids ages 9-12. The first one is running right now, but registration is still open for the second one, August 21-25. For $125, your kid gets five days of boardgames, RPGs, arts and crafts, snacks, and more, all supervised by experienced teachers.

It’s something I wish I had when I was younger. Boardgames, along with D&D and Magic, helped a lot with my reading and math skills. It meant I never really minded mental math problems or difficult chapters in my school work since I had already handled much tougher stuff trying to beat my dad in Catan or The Great Dalmuti or miniatures games or whatever else came our way. And they were just fun.

young dork kids

I can’t recommend or support it enough. If you’re interested, drop by the store or e-mail Scotia at scotia(at)amusengames.ca for more information!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic (most of the time).

Judgement Day: Kamigawa Block

by July 15, 2017

kamigawa block tapping cardboard

Judgement Day – Kamigawa Block

Welcome to Judgement Day; a series of articles that looks at popular opinions within the Magic community and finds out if they are rooted in fact or simply mass hysteria. Today, we’re going to look at a fairly easy target: was Kamigawa block as terrible as everyone thinks it was?

kamigawa block champions kamigawa block betrayers kamigawa block saviors

For those who weren’t around then, Kamigawa block was a block set on the Japanese-inspired plane of the same name. Story-wise, it focused on the heroics of a band of characters trying to stop the end of the world at the hands of an angry spirit dragon who was trying to get his baby back from an old man’s mirror (it makes more sense if explained in more detail but that’s not what we’re here for).

With themes of Spirits, Arcane spells, and tons of legendary creatures, Kamigawa came in during a very interesting time for Standard. It came in just after the notoriously degenerate Mirrodin and at a time when Magic was fast and heavy. It was then followed up by the Ravnica block, which focused heavily on multicolour play, something that the Kamigawa block lacked. In general, players didn’t like the higher cost and lower impact of the cards in Kamigawa block, but that’s not to say that the entire block was a write-off.

kamigawa block kabuto moth

First, we’ll look at Kamigawa block the way it was first introduced to most players: Limited. The Limited format for Kamigawa was kind of like a so-called “battleship Magic” meta, but without the battleships. Almost everything cost more than what most players are used to. Want a 1/2 flyer that can tap to give +1/+2 to a creature? That’ll be 3 mana for Kabuto Moth please. Want to destroy a land? You’ll need 5 mana for Feast of Worms. How about Unsummon? Consuming Vortex is just like that, except it costs twice as much (quadruple if you splice). Now, you may be thinking that this sounds like a bad time for everyone and, it kind of is if you have the wrong mindset. If you went into Kamigawa Limited expecting the same experience as Mirrodin Limited, you were going to be very disappointed and I think that that initial disappointment is part of the reason that Kamigawa gets such a bad rap for its Limited environment. It had a lot of solid, albeit insular, mechanics such as Arcane and Spirits and it is a generally fun time.

For Standard at the time, Kamigawa had some pretty solid additions as well. Katsuhiro Mori drove his Ghazi-Glare deck to win the 2005 World Championship and a good section of it was from Kamigawa. Another popular deck was UG Meloku control, which was mostly Kamigawa as well. Finally, there was the rise of Owling Mine near the end of the block’s time in Standard, which was also a popular deck that relied a fair bit on cards from the block. So, despite being so reviled, Kamigawa gave rise to a bunch of popular decks that some still have a fondness for even now.

kamigawa block ebony owl netsuke

Finally, let’s look at the lasting impact the Kamigawa block has had on the Eternal formats. There are so many cards that have become staples in one way or another that it wouldn’t be possible to make them all into one list without going on for too long and making my editor hate me. To start, we have a card that’s so good it’s either been banned or there are calls for it to be banned in every format: Sensei’s Diving Top. It made such an impact on Legacy that its recent banning killed one of the top tier decks when it left. Then there’s Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker also has powerful decks built around him, as does Glimpse of Nature and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Several popular hate cards were introduced in this block as well, with the likes of Pithing Needle, Kataki, War’s Wage, and Threads of Disloyalty first seeing print here. Finally, Commander got a bunch of staple cards from this block, just a few of them being: Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Time of Need, Hero’s Demise, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea.

I feel like Kamigawa block has gotten a much worse reputation than it deserves. I think that if it had been released at a different time, it would have gotten much more love. It’s only crime is that it got stuck in the middle of two very powerful blocks and it was just “good”. It was the peanut butter in a ham sandwich; great somewhere else, but bad in the place it was put.

If you’re looking to try out any Kamigawa block cards you can do so on Mondays at 7:00 pm at the store or try out some Commander during our Friday Night Magic at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Legacy might be your jam and we will be hosting a Magic Legacy Quarterly with 100% of the entries paid out in store credit.

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

Tapping Cardboard: Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems

by July 7, 2017

hour of devastation hidden gems tapping cardboard

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems

Now that the Hour of Devastation is upon us, everyone is getting hyped about the obvious cards like The Locust God, Kefnet’s Last Word, and Liliana’s Defeat.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Locust God Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Kefnet's Last Word Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Liliana's Defeat

While those cards are getting all the hype, a bunch of cool cards are getting thrown by the wayside. Let’s have an Hour of Revelation *wink* and look at some underappreciated cards that might prove to be Hour of Devastation hidden gems.

Back in M14, there was an uncommon that was alright in draft and completely ignored outside of that. If only we could have glimpsed this set back then and seen that there was going to eventually be a better version. First up on the list, we have Strategic Planning!

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Strategic Planning

To start, I’m going to state that this card is no replacement for Anticipate, but it doesn’t need to be nor was it built with that in mind. Anticipate goes in the control-type shells, the ones that need to respond to threats at instant speed. Strategic Planning goes into graveyard-based decks that were missing a way to put things in their graveyard without sacrificing an important card that they needed in hand. With Embalm and Eternalize being decent mechanics and some reanimation shenanigans existing in Standard and Limited, this card will probably find some sort of home in both formats. The one downside, for now, is that Contingency Plan does the job better, but it’s cool to know that a decent replacement will cover that spot after rotation.

Before the Hour of Glory, the lessons of the trials were sometimes painful. Afterwards, they became much dourer. Next on the list of Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Tragic Lesson.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Tragic Lesson

The obvious comparisons in Standard right now is with Pull From Tomorrow, although this is more like Pull From Later Today since it doesn’t scale, and Catalog, which just isn’t very good. That being said, however, this can be hit by Torrential Gearhulk, which is something that some players may seriously take into consideration when updating their decks. This also doesn’t force a discard if you don’t want to or have a land with an ETB trigger (like Sunscorched Desert or Sandstone Bridge). Will this change the format? No, but it’s a good option for a few decks that like a couple extra cards in hand but don’t want to spend a lot to do that.

Everyone now knows about the three new gods of the plane, but there is a hidden fourth god. One that unseats a legend of the game and has so far flown under the radar. Hour of Devastation hidden gems number three: River Hoopoe, Usurper of Storm Crow.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems River Hoopoe

Outside of being an upgrade to the iconic Storm Crow, this little bird is just great on its own. Early game, it’s an annoying flyer that can sneak in some damage or chump some smaller creatures. Late game, it provides a great mana sink that can easily help turn a game around. This little card will make a bigger impact on Standard than I think many people are giving it credit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this card around a few FNM tables in the coming weeks.

Casting a good creature is a sure-fire way to win a game of Magic. If that’s the case, casting the same creature card multiple times must win you the game faster, right? That must have been the logic behind giving us this next card, again. Our fourth on the list Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Unsummon.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Unsummon

For those of you how never played when Unsummon was in Standard prior to this, it’s kind of annoying. It’s a single mana to throw off your entire tempo game plan if it is dropped early enough. Trust me, dropping a one-drop just to have it bounced back to your hand immediately is not fun at all. On the other side of the spell, it’s a great way to instantly restrict an opponent and force them to play the game at your pace. I can hear a lot of people saying “but Select for Inspection and Clutch of Currents exist and they don’t see play!”. Well, this hits any creature at any time, which is a marked upgrade from both of those cards. If you’re lacking some cheap removal, this is a great option.

There now exists a card no one asked for and nobody seems to want. A non-lord lord for a tribe that barely exists that has the whole community mocking it. Finally on our list of Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Crested Sunmare.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Crested Sunmare

Ignore the fact that it says “Horse” anywhere on this card for a second as well as the entire first line. What we’re left with is a 5/5 for 5 that makes 5/5s if you gain life and that’s pretty dang good on its own. Just throw this in with any lifelinking creatures (looking at you Sacred Cat) and you’ve got yourself a pretty neat little engine. If only there is a creature that could make this even better… oh wait! Kambal! That’s a thing, right? And there’s Authority of the Consuls too! Hmm… This sounds like a deck in the making…

Orzhov Horse-Based Lifegain

Sorceries/Instants:
4 Authority of the Consuls
3 Blessed Alliance
3 Fumigate
4 Never / Return

Creatures:
3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
4 Crested Sunmare
4 Gifted Aetherborn
3 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
4 Lone Rider
4 Sacred Cat

Lands:
2 Blighted Steppe
2 Concealed Courtyard
2 Shambling Vent
12 Plains
6 Swamp

Sideboard:
2 Drana’s Emissary
2 Fatal Push
2 Felidar Sovereign
1 Fumigate
2 Grind / Dust
3 Harsh Scrutiny
3 Scarab Feast

And those are some of the hidden gems within the Hour of Devastation! If you have any comments or suggestions for future articles, or if you want some help with a deck idea, feel free to email me at deckdesignsbyjay(at)shaw.ca!

There is still time to register for our Hour of Devastation prerelease at Midnight, Noon, or 5:00 pm on Saturday, July 8 or 6:00 pm on Sunday, July 9. You can do so online or in-store!

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

Hour of Devastation Game Day

by July 6, 2017

Hour of Devastation Game Day
Hour of Devastation Game Day is a Standard format tournament with swiss rounds and a top cut.

Details

Date: August 5, 2017
Start Times: 12:00 pm & 5:00 pm
Entry Fee: $6 (taxes included)

Prizing

Hour of Devastation Game Day Promos

Abrade Game Day Promo Card — One for each Hour of Devastation Game Day participant (while supplies last)
Adorned Pouncer Premium Game Day Promo Card — One for each player in the Top 8 of an Hour of Devastation Game Day event
Mastermind Playmat — One for the winner each Hour of Devastation Game Day Event

Hour of Devastation Game Day Abrade Hour of Devastation Game Day Adorned Pouncer

Hour of Devastation Game Day at A Muse N Games will feature two Standard events at 12:00 pm and 5:00 pm on August 5th giving you two chances to win some great promotional cards or even prove you are the “Mastermind” with the official Hour of Devastation Game Day playmat from Wizards of the Coast. The events will feature swiss rounds and a top cut for the best of the best to compete in. While it is a competitive event, we welcome newer players to come try out their hand in some organised play with a great atmosphere at A Muse N Games. Be sure to bring out your friends who may not have tried in-store play before and introduce them to organised play! Let people know on Facebook your coming on our event pages for our noon event or our 5:00 pm event. Be sure to come by our store to ask any questions about the Hour of Devastation Game Day or any of our other events

Leading up to the event you can try out your new Hour of Devastation cards in your Standard decks on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm at the store to make sure you’re ready for the competition. If you are looking for a more casual event check out our Hour of Devastation League designed to introduce new players as well as experienced players to have fun in a more light-hearted atmosphere.

Magic Hour of Devastation League

by August 6, 2017

Hour of Devastation League

Hour of Devastation League Kickoff is on Saturday, July 22 at 2:00 pm. Regular League meetups will be on Sundays starting July 30 at 2:00 pm and run until the finale on August 13.

To enter the league, a player gets 3 packs of Hour of Devastation for $20.

  • Players will open three booster packs and use those boosters to build a 30-card deck
  • The Hour of Devastation League will last three weeks. (Players may enter the league at any point during the league)
  • After every 3 losses, or once each week, players can add an additional pack of Amonkhet or Hour of Devastation to their card pool for $6 (taxes included)
  • Matches consist of a single game. Each player gets one free mulligan at the start of the game
  • Players can bring their Hour of Devastation League decks and play games throughout the week in addition to getting together on Sunday afternoons for league day!
  • Prizing will include various promos, foils, and other goodies, depending on total players involved in the Hour of Devastation League

Hour of Devastation League is a great way to get started into playing Magic the Gathering if you’re a first time player or a great way to introduce your favourite game to a friend who has never played or is just learning. We provide a great atmosphere for new players as the staff as well as other players will be around to assist with deckbuilding and helping teach the game. Everyone has the same deckbuilding restrictions so you do not have to worry about being blown out by players with $200+ decks that are tuned perfectly for the meta. Every deck has a lot of flavour and exciting new strategies can be found playing in the Hour of Devastation League. Feel free to come by the store to ask any questions about the league or Magic the Gathering in general!

THE MANA DORK – Magic Announcement Week, Literally Everything Amazing Ever

by June 21, 2017

This last week was Magic Announcement Week, where Wizards of the Coast announced the next six months or so of products — including the initial celebrations for Magic’s 25th anniversary next year! And, holy crap, was there a lot of stuff announced!

Magic Announcement Week The Mana Dork

Magic Announcement Week also featured some news for how Magic releases will change starting in 2018, as well as a new Banned & Restricted announcement. So let’s have at ‘er!

Magic Announcement Week Pithing Needle
IT’S THE CORE NECESSITIES, THE SIMPLE CORE NECESSITIES

First things first: core sets are coming back!

In his column last week about the Magic Announcement Week, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater announced that core sets will be making a return, starting with what is currently called “Core 2019” next year. He explains that they serve a vital purpose in Magic — they’re a home for everything useful in Standard that’s difficult to reprint in Standard-series expansions, like generic answers, and creatures that can give decks new life. He also says they’ll be revamped significantly — although just what that means is up in the air.

He also explains that small sets, as well as the concept of blocks, will be going away — instead, Magic will simply do three large sets a year, plus Core sets. He says that small sets unnecessarily complicated draft environments, and that they were always less popular than drafting 3x of a large set.

Personally, I’m a fan of all of this. While I loved two-set blocks for how quickly they pushed us through environments, never feeling boring or dull, I think that going to a “Three-and-One” model will chew up design space less quickly, and give more of what more players want more of more often. It should be tremendous fun, and I can’t wait.

Magic Announcement Week Treasure Trove
UNTAP, UPKEEP, NEW UN-SET

Plus a whole slew of other new products were announced during Magic Announcement Week! You ready? Deep breath:

  • August 25, 2017: Commander 2017
  • September 29, 2017: Ixalan
  • November 10, 2017: Duel Deck: Merfolk v Goblins
  • November 17, 2017: Iconic Masters
  • November 24, 2017: Explorers of Ixalan, From the Vault: Transform
  • December 8, 2017: Unstable
  • January 19, 2018: Rivals of Ixalan
  • March 16, 2018: Masters 25
  • April 27, 2018: Dominaria
  • July 20, 2018: Core 2019

To explain some of these: Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan are the two sets in Ixalan block, featuring pirates battling dinosaurs. (You heard me right.) Iconic Masters is a Masters set built around “iconic” things in Magic — speculation is rampant, but it’s quite likely we’ll see cool angels, sphinxes, demons, dragons, and hydra. Explorers of Ixalan is a new boardgame-like product featuring four pre-constructed decks (zero new cards) and game tiles of some kind; Unstable is a new Un-set (!!!), Masters 25 is an as-yet-unexplained Masters set that celebrates 25 years of Magic history, Dominaria is a new large set that sees the game return to its first and largest setting after more than a decade (!!!!!), and Core 2019 has been explained above.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement… but I think the absolute best coming out of Magic Announcement Week might be the new Un-set. For those who might be newer to the game, there were two previous Un-sets — Unglued and Unhinged — where Magic took itself less seriously and released entire sets full of comedy cards. Who could forget classics like Hurloon Wrangler, Jalum Grifter, My First Tome, Greater Morphling, and Un-all star Cheatyface? And now you’re telling me there’s going to be a new one? Holy! The hardest part is going to be avoiding spoilers!

Magic Announcement Week Aetherworks Marvel

A MARVEL-OUS DEVELOPMENT

Just a quick note on this one — for those of you who were wary of a Standard where the best card won you the game on a coin flip, Wizards has taken the still-unusual step of banning Aetherworks Marvel from the format. Temur Energy builds will still be a thing, doubtless, but they will no longer feature Marvel spins in an attempt to find Ulamog or an expensive Planeswalker.

… which of course means that the format is now wide open, and you should absolutely be bringing your brews to test at our Tuesday Standard nights!

Magic Announcement Week Dueling Grounds

AMONKHET SOME LEAGUE GAMES IN

Before I let you all go, I have to shout out Amonkhet League Part 2 at the store. Seriously, to whoever came up with the League format: thank you.

By now, you’re at least a little familiar with the way League works: buy 3 boosters, build a 30-card deck, add a booster every week and/or every 3rd loss, play whenever there are League folks around.

But what a simple description doesn’t capture is just how joyful it is to play with what you bought in boosters. It brings me back to childhood kitchen-table Magic, where you’re just trying to jam this cool rare you found and win some games with it. No watching the metagame, no buying expensive singles, no $15 or $30 outlay every week — just boosters and hanging out.

And speaking of which, the atmosphere for League at the store is fantastic. If you’ve always been intimidated by Draft or Sealed play, League is just right for you — everyone is relaxed and willing to help. Cannot recommend it enough.

There’s just one week left for Amonkhet League Part 2, so if you’re going to jump in, do it this Sunday!

BEST CAMP EVER!

We’ve got a slew of things coming up at the store — regional championships for A Game of Thrones, Monthly Game Day, and Hour of Devastation pre-releases — but I have to, have to, have to plug the incredible Board Game Camps being offered this summer.

The camps will be on at the store July 17-21 and August 21-25, from 1 PM to 5 PM. For $125, your gamers-in-training will get five days of supervised board games, RPGs, arts and crafts, and a snack! (I’m jealous. Can you tell? I’m actually jealous I’m not a kid right now.)

There are 10 slots available per camp, so register now! If you register before June 30 for the July camp, or before July 15 for the August camp, you’ll get a $25 gift certificate for use in the store!

See you there!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games who was clearly born too early. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK—Tools of the Trade: EDHREC

by June 3, 2017

We’re in a bit of a lull here at the Mana Dork—we’re working on the Amonkhet Planeswalker Deck Challenge behind the scenes, and Amonkhet League 2 launches this weekend—so for today, I figured I’d take the time to walk you guys through one of the tools I use when building EDH decks!

Wizards maintains an official database for every Magic card ever printed, called Gatherer. But Gatherer has a few drawbacks. Among other things, you can’t find out what other people are using in their decks—you can’t build off of the collected wisdom of the online EDH community.

That’s what EDHREC is great at.

EDHREC analyzes decks that have been posted to TappedOut or DeckStats to find out which cards people are using with which commanders. It then aggregates all that data into a set of card suggestions for that commander.

In plain language, EDHREC tells you what the most popular cards are for any given commander or it can tell you which commanders work best with a certain card.

What this does is provide you with a ready-made list of suggestions for the latest legendary creature that has caught your eye, stretching all the way back to the beginning of the game!

To see how it works, let’s look Athreos, God of Passage, the commander for a deck I’ve spent a lot of time tuning lately, my Athreos Apostles combo list.

The first thing that comes up are “signature” cards for Athreos—cards that are used for Athreos more than any other BW commander.

These are useful for most builds of Athreos—you’ll probably be sacrificing or blocking often, since you’re likely to get your creatures back, so Harvester of Souls and Dictate of Erebos are fine choices for any build.

But we want to go deeper. Let’s filter Athreos lists by Shadowborn Apostle—this lets us only see suggestions from lists that feature everyone’s favourite token non-token creature:

Nice! This is handy!

But let’s go one step further. My Athreos Apostles list combos off with Thrumming Stone—what if we only look at lists that have both Apostles and Thrumming Stone?

Helloooo, what’s this?

We’ve found a card that I don’t currently have on my list. Secret Salvage. And it’s in 100% of the decks that have both Apostles and Stone? Surprising!

Secret Salvage came out in Aether Revolt, and I initially dismissed it. Because my deck relies on leaving as many Apostles in my library as possible when I combo off, I don’t really want more than one or two in my hand at any given time. And paying five mana to get a whole bunch in my hand seemed… steep.

But I missed a key turn of phrase: “any number of cards”.

I don’t have to fetch all 34 Apostles with Secret Salvage if I don’t want to (and by the way, you should play Magic with 34 copies of the same nonland permanent any chance you get, it’s amazing—I also recommend Relentless Rats!). I can fetch just enough to make sure my hand has some gas when I hit the combo turn.

Five mana is still steep, but if I’m sitting there with six lands and thumbs a-twiddle while everyone else is Doing Things™, it’ll seem a fine price to pay.

TRIBAL DECKS

But that’s not EDHREC’s only trick. It’s got a couple more up its sleeve.

If you love tribal decks—and who doesn’t?—EDHREC has a section that aggregates data for tribes instead of individual commanders.

This can be extremely handy if you’re actually me in real life and you’ve spent literal days hitting EDHREC’s “Random” button to find an interesting general. Who cares about the general? Build a tribe! I have elves on the docket, I think, and I’m definitely going to be visiting EDHREC’s Elves page for ideas while I build it!

CUSTOM SUGGESTIONS

Here’s EDHREC’s most impressive trick, though—suggestions customized specifically for your list.

What you see above are EDHREC’s suggestions for my Athreos Apostles list. As you can see, most of them are about improving the mana base—and rightly so, since I haven’t put a lot of the fancier lands in my deck. (If you’ll recall, I’m a big advocate of basic lands.) But if I want some consistency—which I do, because a combo deck requires consistency—I should definitely consider it.

Custom suggestions will only work once you’ve uploaded a decklist to TappedOut.net or DeckStats—I recommend the former—but once you’ve done so, it will be a tremendous help.

HOLY CRAP I WANT TO SEE A MAGIC DECK WITH 34 OF SOMETHING, WHEN ARE YOU AT THE STORE

I’m glad you asked!

In the world of Magic, I’ll be there this Sunday for the kickoff of Amonkhet League Part 2. It’s all the fun of kitchen-table Magic with all the new friends you make from organized play! Buy in for $20 any time in the next few weeks, play League games with other League players any time you’re in the store, and earn special prizes!

If Magic’s not your agenda, make sure you swing by for the Netrunner Regional Championships on June 10th! AMNG has a great Netrunner community that provides some stiff competition when the cards are shuffled up, so it should be a great time!

And finally, AMNG is also running a special Father’s Day Ticket to Ride Tournament on Sunday June 18—and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to meet the illustrious Mana Dork the Elder while you’re there!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He is probably going to get thoroughly crushed at Ticket to Ride. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

Hour of Devastation Release Weekend

by July 19, 2017

Hour of Devastation, the latest Magic the Gathering set, will be here on July 14th, 2017! Here is what we have scheduled for the release weekend:

Friday, July 14

Noon: Hour of Devastation Draft
Players receive 2-packs of Hour of Devastation & 1-Pack of Amonkhet, 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!

3:30 pm: Hour of Devastation Draft
Players receive 2-packs of Hour of Devastation & 1-Pack of Amonkhet, 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!

6:30 pm: Hour of Devastation Sealed
Players receive an Hour of Devastation Prerelease kit (while supplies list). These includes a Foil Promo, Spindown Counter, 4-Packs of Hour of Devastation and 2-Packs of Amonkhet.
Entry fee $36
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 pm: Commander
Both casual and Competitive pods as usual.
Entry fee $6
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 pm: Archenemy / Planechase Commander
Entry fee $6
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, July 15

Noon: Hour of Devastation Draft
Players receive 2-packs of Hour of Devastation & 1-Pack of Amonkhet, 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!

4:00 pm: Hour of Devastation Draft
Players receive 2-packs of Hour of Devastation & 1-Pack of Amonkhet, 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!