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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dragoborne CCG - Introduction

Dragoborne is a new CCG by Japanese company Bushiroad, released on August 4, 2017 with 3 “Trial” preconstructed decks, Shadow Legion, Mystical Hunters and Alpha Dominance, soon followed by the 1st set (with randomized boosters), Rally to War on August 17. Another set, along with 4th Trial deck is scheduled for release on November 10.

Core mechanics

Luriel rolled 1s on his dice and thus decided to be rather aggressive than trying to use these dice to help him protect his Forts. He used the dice to Dragocross his creatures and played Ambush cards in order to have some kind of defense against STsung's attacks.

The most significant feature of the gameplay are its dice. At the start of each of their rounds, players roll three colored Dragon dice and then decide to either assign them to forts with a banner of matching color as damage buffer against enemy attacks (Dragoshields) or as creature buffs, increasing that creature’s main stats (Dragocrosses). The dice rolls are fairly well incorporated with the rest of the game and feel integral to the game mechanics, so, even if they increase the game randomness, it can be skillfully managed by players and, actually the mechanic spreads the overall randomness of the game into several “pillars” that the game stands on (above and beyond shuffling the cards in the deck).

Another significant feature of the game is the three fort system and the limit and location of creatures on the board. A player can only have two creatures in play at a single fort, totaling 6 creatures on board at a given time. Which incentivizes players to prefer attacking to bunkering themselves and it makes the game much more dynamic. The forts are also the central win condition. Each player begins the game with two face down barrier cards at each fort that are put into that player’s hand as soon as the fort is damaged. If a player loses all fort barriers, that player’s forts are destroyed and thus loses the game. A key mechanic, Fort Burst triggers when a card with the ability would be put into a player’s hand because of fort damage, quite often interfering with opponent’s attack plans. Therefore Fort Burst is another of the “pillars” that spread out the overall randomness. Putting the extra cards in your hand while losing objective can turn the game around and is a balancing factor in the game. To damage a fort barrier, any amount is enough, so all creatures are accentuated and even tiny creatures can be useful in late game states.

And the last significant feature of the game is the ambush system. A player may prepare an ambush at each of their forts. Ambush effects trigger when the card’s conditions are met—usually when a battle takes a place at that fort.

Late stage of the game where STsung (brown sleeves) can't win the game anymore.

These three mechanics combined create a unique game experience, where even if apparently a player would be able to win that round, the game may yet be turned around by the defender. Despite that, game fashions a relatively high amount of open information, making it easier for skilled players to predict the course of the game.

Resources

Starting setup of the game. Each player starts with 3 banners (resources) of a chosen color.

Unlike most other CCGs the players begin the game with three usable resources and may gain one more each round. That increases the game’s pacing and allows for more card combinations to be played early in the game.

Cards are split into five colors and when played, those cards require to be paid by at least one resource of the matching color, but there is no other restriction. So a player may opt for a three colored deck easily, also increasing the number of card combinations possible in decks, while at the same time significantly decreasing the impact of having mismatched resources and cards or other arbitrary color limitations that we can see in other CCGs.

Combat

Combat system comes after the opportunity to summon creatures and creatures aren’t restricted from attacking or using their abilities immediately. Creatures have a Power stat that sets the amount of damage they can do to other creatures and Dragoshields and Endurance stat that sets the amount of damage it can take and survive in a single turn. Creatures attack one by one, and defenders battle with them in duels that exhaust them. So a creature may sacrifice itself against a strong defender while a bunch of goblins dismantle the fort.

Apart from creatures, there are spells that provide immediate or short-lasting effects. The only opportunity to cast spells is before the attack phase, so players need to plan ahead when using these cards.

Summary

The game is easy to learn, but harder to master. Anyone can summon a few creatures and then swing with them, but it needs practice and experience to learn how the pace of the game works and how to force an opponent into the pace the player’s deck works best at. For example, a player may opt to destroy an opponent’s fort as soon as possible, but the opponent then gains up to two creatures that can attack without fear of leaving their keep undefended and a Dragon die to Dragocross any creature, free of consequence.

More info can be found at the official site at https://www.dragoborne.com/index.

Luriel

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Czech Vintage Series

During one weekend there were about four different events I wanted to participate. Unfortunately two of them were on Friday so I couldn't participate in them (MKM Series Hamburg, Slovak Nationals). On Saturday though there was Czech Vintage Series event in our country, in Brno.

Before the event I had no idea what to play but then I saw Akash Naidu's tweet about a 4c Leovold deck and I asked for a decklist. He sent it to me later, I changed it a bit (not in a good way, probably) and tried playing a bit with it online. I liked what it was doing. I sleeved it up and took it to one of our Vintage sessions. I still liked it after that session so I was set for the event.

In the morning we got up and met in the subway train. During our trip by RegioJet train we played more games. I lost two games to Blightsteel Colossus, once I managed to bounce it with Jace. In general I had the upper hand against Grixis Thieves. I mentioned the train because of another reason though. Traveling around this country with train was very expensive for a long time. When a private companies' trains and buses started to operate here, suddenly, we could travel cheaply and enjoy a way higher standard of services.

When we arrived to the local game store we saw the owner putting together a Dredge list. I had the feeling I'd faint so I tried to get something to eat which was obviously too difficult at the LGS (=pub) and ventured outside to get something to eat so I would survive the day. After I came back I started checking cards for sale (and on sale) and chatted with the other players there. I loaned some cards, sold some random Vintage cards and then after a group of players from Ostrava arrived we started playing.

Round 1 - Landstill

I was paired against a good player on UW Landstill even though the latter I found out later. He started with Library of Alexandria which I wasn't really that glad to see since my deck lacked threats I could just throw at him. I also had Library of Alexandria though so we were kind of even. There wasn't much going on, my sources were kind of messed up because I couldn't play Leovold for a long time but in the meantime managed to draw Kambal. Unfortunately I couldn't play Kambal and Mana Drain in one turn so I continued drawing cards. My opponent managed to resolve Standstill also in the game and me resolving something didn't seem likely. At last I drew some Islands and decided to break Standstill, unfortunately on my turn. I played Kambal and we had a little counterwar. I won it but it was clear to me that Kambal may not live long enough since the Landstill deck certainly featured some Swords to Plowshares.

I explained what the card, that I resolved, does and my opponent wasn't very happy about that. The game went on for a long time, in the meantime my opponent played 2 Standstills and drew 3 cards of them (I needed to deal his manlands) each time and was looking for Swords to Plowshares. When the right time came and I finally assembled all three colors I wanted to pressure my opponent with Leovold who already lost quite some life to Kambal's ability and to his attacks as well. In the counter war over Leovold my opponent went down to 3 life. Even though my Elf didn't resolve it was clear that my opponent needed Swords to Plowshares and me not having counterspell for it (I had some Mental Missteps). He tried to dig for Swords but then realized that he would die to Kambal's ability and conceded.

In game two I kept a hand that featured two restricted cards - Monastery Mentor and Black Lotus. I also had a land and permission. I wasn't on the play so I wasn't sure if Mentor would make it. My opponent started with Library of Alexandria again though and I was very glad about it. I played Black Lotus, land, Monastery Mentor with Flusterstorm back. It resolved. My opponent tried to get rid of Mentor, I countered that and then I played some cantrips and won the game later.

Round 2 - Tezzerator
Game 1 was very close. At first I didn't really know what I was playing against since my opponent played just some lands and cantrips. When Mana Crypt showed up with Volcanic Island and Underground Sea in play I suspected Grixis Thieves and also Notion Thief. My original plan before the Crypt was to play Ancestral Recall on me but obviously that would have to wait since I needed to get that Notion Thief out of my opponent and somehow get rid of it. My opponent played during my end step so I played my Ancestral Recall, it resolved, drew bunch of cards and tried countering it since I drew another counterspell and also Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Notion Thief didn't resolve. My opponent followed with Dack Fayden which to my discontent resolved. My opponent started looting and later also played Time Vault that I couldn't counter nor destroy. It was time to look for any counterspells that could counter Voltaic Key. I landed Jace and started looking for an answer. During the time I couldn't find anything my opponent also played Sensei's Divining Top to help him look for the card faster. Later on he found a tutor and played it. He played Voltaic Key and there was a little counterwar over it. Fortunately for me I won but it wasn't over since I didn't have any counterspell left and there was still probably Yawgmoth's Will in my opponent's deck. Few turns later I drew Mana Drain and the turn later my opponent looked for another card and played Yawgmoth's Will. I played Mana Drain and he conceded. That was close.

In game two my opponent played turn 1 Time Vault and Voltaic Key. I only had Mental Misstep so I tried countering that. I managed that. Unfortunately for me my opponent played Tezzeret the Seeker on turn 2 and I conceded. I wasn't looking forward to game 3.

Game 3 was very similar to game 1 with the exception that I had Fragmentize and Flusterstorm in my deck and I have to say that I was very glad I had access to those cards because they decided the game in my favor.

Round 3 - PO Storm
I've seen my opponent play the last round when he was facing Oath. He was on TPS and killed his opponent in a rather strange way which in the end was actually the best way how to win the game. I knew what I was up against and was glad about it since the deck couldn't beat Kambal neither Leovold. I just somehow needed to survive till the time I could play either card. So no hands with Library of Alexandria or no counterspells!

I mulled accordingly and wondered how fast my opponent would be. They played a mox, land and Duress which wasn't that awesome but I had multiple counterspells that I could actually play. One thing was sure, I wouldn't be able to play Mindbreak Trap anymore. My opponent tried resolving Yawgmoth's Bargain that I countered and then tried to play a ritual twice. I countered both attempts and then landed Leovold. My opponent conceded.

In game two my plan was similar. Survive till I could cast Kambal or Leovold. I cast both and my opponent conceded.

Round 4 - Eldrazi
I knew that my opponent is on Eldrazi and didn't like it in a bit. I terrible lost game 1.

In game two started well for me. I got rid of early threats and discarded my opponent's Reality Smasher, being the last card in hand. Unfortunately for me my opponent drew Thalia, Guardian of Thraben followed by another few creatures and it seemed I'd die in two turns. I drew Monastery Mentor which was in theory possible to turn the game in my favor. I just needed to avoid Reality Smasher number 3 or Thalia, Heretic Cathar. My opponent landed drew and played Thalia, Heretic Cathar and I was very sad. A game that went in my favor just ended and it was my opponent winning it after a series of good top decks.

Round 5 - Shops
As I feared I was about to play against a Shops player since we were about to play the theoretical finals, there was no other I could play and I didn't look forward to that match since I was very likely going to lose.

In game one there isn't much I can do to stop Shops from just beating me with anything it plays. I put up some resistence but unfortunately Walking Ballista is something that simply said 'no'. My opponent missed lethal twice though so with some luck I could manage to win game two? Unfortunately it wasn't to be since I faced Trinisphere from round one and more rather annoying cards followed. I had artifact removal but I also needed my opponent to blank at least once and that is something that didn't happen and I died.

After the event I realized that I should revise my sideboard and prepare myself for Shops and Eldrazi. Those are decks that I didn't really expect at this event (I thought that it was more probably that I would show up with Shops). The two Flusterstorms I had in the sideboard seemed redundant though. The card I'd probably fancy more instead would be Swords to Plowshares or Fragmentize. I'm not sold on Grafdigger's Cages. I kept them in because of Oath being played way more in paper but if I would play more Fragmentizes I shouldn't really need the Cages. Dredge nowadays plays Gurmag Angler and Hollow One and that is something the Cage cannot stop either. One of the changes I made was replacing Sylvan Library that was originally in the list by Mana Drain. I knew that this wouldn't be a good change but it still seemed that I would put that in better use than Sylvan Library. The deck needs a card draw and I wasn't really sure what to add. I thought about Gush but that would mean draw 2 cards for 5 mana since with this deck you don't really want to return two Islands to your hand. There's also Night's Whisper that was performing very well in Esper Mentor I played at MKM Series, I'll probably try that next time. Thoughtseize is a card that I wasn't sure how powerful it would be and it proved to be a really strong card and I wouldn't play without it. So if you will be thinking about trying this out, don't cut Thoughtseize.

Here's the decklist for which I thank Akash Naidu. It was fun to play with it!

Decklist

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ixalan Prerelease

The prerelease weekend I was about to go see my friend Lowman02 in Frankfurt but unfortunately it didn't work out because he was needed elsewhere and thus I stayed in Prague. My previous two weeks were rather nightmarish for me and the last one was even worse because I felt sick all the time and couldn't eat. Depression hit hard and when I learned that I won't be able to spend few days with Lowman02, all the remaining energy I had till that time just vanished. I spent two days in bed practically not doing much except for playing some Magic on MODO but even that was rather depressing. I had no will to win the games I played. I had a lot of work to do and it would have been nice if I could use my days off for it, but I couldn't find the will to do so. During one of the days I realized that I could review the new Planeswalker decks from Ixalan (which was one of the things I was supposed to do). So I relaunched Magic Online so I could access the free trial. I picked Huatli's deck and waited for a game. I faced Jace's deck and got totally crushed by 5 power Merfolk. I played few more games and fell in love with those Green Merfolk, Dinosaurs not that much. I recorded few videos and wrote the review. I successfully killed some time with this. When wondering how to make the Huatli deck better because I wanted to talk about that in my video review I checked the Ixalan Spoiler and found out that there are actually good Dinosaurs in red. The best would be to play Green-Red Dinosaurs with possible White splash. I recorded the video review and then I realized that while doing this I got interested in seeing how Ixalan actually looks like.

Dinosaurs do not stand a chance against Merfolk, their synergy and their bombs.

Our original plan with Lowman was to attend the prerelease event in JK-store, since I wasn't going to Germany I wouldn't participate in the prerelease there but I could still go to one of ours. Since I still felt pretty depressed I asked another player for a game of EDH. Earlier that day I brought competitive Breya Reanimator to the table which wasn't a good idea so I put together some Sidisi, Brood Tyrant list out of cards I had with the addition of Craterhoof Behemoth that I had to buy. I cut the combo from the deck and wondered if the deck can work. The deck worked fine, the pilot though managed to throw away most the lost games. I faced a mono white planeswalker deck with Djeru, With Eyes Open which was the worst combination I could ever face - mono white running planeswalkers. This deck totally cracked me up. It was designed well, a nice working deck but it was a reminder of all what I hate in Magic and wondered if a set full of dinosaurs, white vampires, pirates and green merfolk wouldn't have the same effect on me. See, I don't usually care about Magic story since I'm more interested in mechanics of the game but there are certain limits to something I can withstand lore-wise. I seriously hate the idea of the four tribes I mentioned. With doubts and still with the terrible feeling about Planeswalkers ruining my day, I went to sleep.

This reminded me of Golden Axe...

In the morning I got up wondering if I should eat something since I didn't eat much in the past two weeks. I was weak. I went to the local game store and on my way there I bought a sandwich that I ate and didn't immediately become sick which was a good sign. When I came to the store I met few players with whom we talked a bit about Ixalan and then it was time to find our seating.

After some announcements we were allowed to open our packs and build decks. When I was opening mine I noticed that I opened 3 black rares which all were very good (one questionable) so it was clear that I wanted to play black. I ended up with black-white Vampire deck because it seemed to do something other than swinging and contained 2 really good rares - Ruin Raider and Dire Fleet Ravager. Here's the Vampire deck I sleeved. I wasn't really sure if it could deal with Dinosaurs.

It did not even come to my mind that I could be playing a Vampire tribal deck! And here I was top8ing with Vampires!

Since I had more than 20 minutes till the end of deckbuilding after I sleeved my deck I went through the rest of my pool and produced another deck. This time I produced what I don't like - Naya Dinosaurs. The deck didn't seem that bad either though.

Round 1
I played against Naya Dinosaurs. In the first game I managed to curve out and finish the game before I'd face too many big Dinosaurs.

In game two my opponent didn't miss a land drop and from turn 5 he was landing very big angry dinosaurs that were quite problematic for my deck that was stuck at 4 lands and couldn't draw a fifth one which I also needed to play removal or my 5-mana bombs. My opponent went down to 3 but then unfortunately for me played a Green Avatar that totally stopped me in my advance. All I needed was a removal that I had 3 copies of in my deck post board or a flyer. I didn't draw either and when my opponent was up at 16 I lost the game. In game three everything went fine till I started drawing just lands. When I started to put up some resistence my opponent facepalmed himself, asked me for my life total - 4 - and played Unfriendly Fire killing me.

Round 2
Next round I encountered a Grixis deck. The deck featured fast and aggressive Pirates with few Dinosaurs and 5/5 Trample Haste at top of its curve. I was able to go wide and win the damage race (since also some of my creatures have Lifelink). In game two I was unable to do anything and I thought I'd terribly die to all the aggressive creatures. My opponent got flooded though and I managed to get to five mana where I started to play my 5-drops. One was crucial because it was pumping my lifelink Vampires that started to gain me life (I had 5 life when I played this) and it was up to my opponent to either trade or just let the damage through. At first he took some damage but later started blocking unable to draw something that could block power 3 and 4 creatures and survive it.

Round 3
I played against a player that I know is a good player that plays primarily singleton formats. I wondered what he was on. He was on UB Pirates as I suspected after facing a 1/2 Flying Pirate. He produced 5 Islands and not much else - some creatures I didn't really care about. While my opponent was color screwed I was drawing cards with Ruin Raider which cost me quite some life which I regained fast with my 1/1 Lifelink pumped tokens. I won a bit later. In game two I managed to draw my 2-drops and won relatively fast.

After this we played few games of Legacy - Miracles vs Death and Taxes which was very enjoyable.

Round 4
I played against Naya Dinosaurs. The deck was obviously slow and didn't feature too many low curve creatures. Even Looming Altisaur could be considered a low curve creature in that deck. My opponent though had some creatures discounting Dinosaur spells which suggested the deck would probably be full of huge creatures. My opponent sat behind 4 walls and played the Enchantment that turns into Gaea's Cradle (missed, which was a relieve). It flipped and I wasn't really looking forward to what would jump at me with all that mana available. I faced then Belligerent Brontodon and a 6/6 Trample Dinosaur. I terribly lost.

In the following game I boarded in everything I could to deal with big creatures. I had 2 copies of Skittering Heartstopper that I didn't particularly like but they could get the job done and also 1 copy of Legion's Judgment that was good against any creature in the deck as it seemed. I played some creatures and dealt some damage before I was staring at those awesome walls yet again. When I finally drew something that could fly my opponent played Shining Aerosaur that unfortunately wouldn't trade with my creature and avoided Legion's Judgment that I had in my hand. Things didn't look good for me. For a while the Aerosaur was dealing some damage. When I finally drew a removal my opponent played Bellowing Aegisaur that I couldn't let stay in play. So instead I killed this creature. Some time later I finally drew an answer to 3/4 Aerosaur and hoped my answer would get the chance to do some job - Deathless Ancient. My draw was good but my opponent produced Belligerent Brontodon and attacked with everything. I wasn't particularly happy about 0/3 and 2/4 creatures running at me while my creatures were at best 2/2. I blocked the Aerosaur with my 4/4 Flyer and tried to trade with as many 0/3 as I could. I went down to 2 life and didn't feel particularly favored at that moment. I was still clutching the 4 power and more removal in my hand so I destroyed the Brontodon and hoped for a miracle. I drew a Vampire which was a third Vampire. I had to chump in the following attack but during that time I could also bring back Deathless Ancient. I played it on my turn and hoped it would stick because the 2/4 would kill me. My creature stayed in play and I could possibly swing with it if I drew something else to block the 2/4. My opponent though for several turns earlier in the game kept 5 mana open so I wasn't feeling like running into Bright Reprisal (he also had Gaea's Cradle). When I finally had 3 Vampires in play again I swung with my 4/4 that died. I replayed it next turn and started swinging and I won the game a bit later.

I wasn't looking forward to game 3 but fortunately for me it went well. I was the beat down and needed to avoid some life gain and big creatures. I almost managed both but only because I had the means to sacrifice my creature being targeted with Pious Interdiction thanks to Costly Plunder and because I had Legion's Judgment for the first big Dinosaur. Even though I had everything I needed the game was way closer than I expected. I won though to my opponent's disappointment.

He was a really friendly fellow and it was nice to play against someone nice. He will need some experience and play more but will eventually be a good at Magic. He will probably remember this match since he 'got utterly crushed by me' as he told his friend^_~.

Round 5
My next opponent was on Naya Dinosaur as well even though he was more RG slashing white while my last opponent was playing GW splashing red. My opponent started with few defensive 0/3, 1/4 creatures and obviously wanted to stall till the time he could start casting his bigger threats. I played a creature after creature and unfortunately couldn't really attack or rather get through those creatures. It seemed that we would stare at each other for eternity. I just waited for my opponent to recklessly attack and I hoped I'd survive it somehow. A trick or two would certainly get rid of my whole board. At one point my opponent said that he's too lazy to count and turned all his creatures sideways. I blocked so I would kill as many creatures as I could. My opponent played a pump spell giving also trample on his biggest Dinosaur but that dealt just 18 damage or so and I survived with 1 life.

I was simply waiting for a miracle to happen...it happened my opponent decided to attack with everything not dealing lethal damage in the process thanks to my little 1/1 Lifelink Vampire tokens!

I played Call to the Feast and brought back Deathless Ancient that died in my opponent's alpha strike. I hoped I could survive a turn and start gaining some life while also attacking with the 4/4 Flyer. I survived since my opponent's top deck was a creature that was 0/3 followed by some lands. I gained some life and eventually won the game.

I don't remember much from the other game but I obviously won. I boarded in 1/2 Deathtouch creatures and Legion's Judgment because after my previous round I really felt the need to get rid of multiple big dinosaurs and 2 removal spells in my deck wasn't enough.

Later, I wondered if my deck would have been playable without my rares. Ruin Raider was stellar. Fun fact during each of the games it showed up and didn't immediately die it dealt me 16 damage on average. Dire Fleet Ravager was a card that helped me win all the games and I felt the effect was really strong which probably also meant that my deck without the rares needed a bit more to be good. Fun fact number two, this card's CIP ability dealt on every 6 damage (which means I was successful early attacker as I originally thought I would be). Majority of the players were on some Naya Dinosaurs but the top tables were mostly UB-based tempo decks.

After the event concluded we went to eat and get some coffee with my future second head for 2HG. The food, coffee and a little bit of break from the overcrowded store was good. We then returned wondering what we would play. Our decks were Naya Dinosaur and Grixis Control. Our decks were good for 3-1 but unfortunately our decks couldn't beat green avatar nor our own color screw. When the deck was doing what it was supposed to be doing everything went well. It was lots of fun and I thank Vitek for playing with me.

We collected our prizes, divided our pool and left knowing that on Monday we can start playing on Magic Online.

I arrived home afterwards wondering if lowman02 was among the living once again. When my client fired up I saw his Tradewind Rider avatar being online. We played some games of EDH and then I just passed out getting up at noon the next day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Magic the Gathering Arena

Few days ago at 10pm of my time I joined many other people on Wizards of the Coast Twitch account to watch Magic the Gathering Arena - the new Magic game from Wizards of the Coast. Everyone expected something bad and I hoped that Wizards of the Coast can show us something really good and promising.

When I watched the game I was in awe. The game looks very well and is fast. It took me a while to figure out what is what, and what means what but soon I saw a game of Magic played in an Hearthstone-like arena where Dinosaurs were fighting Pirates.

Since there are many digital card games we as players already got used to certain things being present and we also expect how the game should look like in a way. Arena gives us all that.

Many people I talked to were telling me that this is just another Magic Duels. I tried to explain to them that this is totally different. While we can see animations and some things brought from Magic Duels this can be something much bigger and something that can evolve in a way we want if we let WotC know.

The first thing that Magic players didn't like about Duels is that it didn't use a full rule set. Arena has that and this is a huge difference. You can do anything you can possibly do in the paper version in the new rules engine of Arena. Yes, obviously there will always be the problem with loops and such.

This game also will allow us to play 'real formats'. With this I mean that there is no limit to cards in your deck based on rarity. Many of those players that think that Duels is not worth playing also do not even know about this. In paper we can play 4 copies of a card in a deck. In Magic Duels this applies only to commons. Uncommons are limited to 3 copies, rares to 2, mythics to 1. Also Magic Duels never got all cards from a set. It got a certain number of cards and usually the complex and strange cards weren't included (including Hangarback Walker). Some cards would simply be too powerful, some wouldn't be played and some may have been too complex. In Arena we will get the whole set as in paper or on Magic Online. We will be able to play Standard and that will also be the focus of this program.

Another thing that Arena does and neither MODO or Magic Duels can is that one can change the type of control one wants over the game. It seems that there is something like a full control mode which practically passes priority in every step and phase similarly to MODO with stops everywhere. Without full control one can cast spells and let Arena pay for them, pass priority in strange steps/phases etc and other things that we don't usually need to do. Those are things that can make the game more watchable, more approachable to new players and easier to learn. There are many benefits to this because it can bring also all the different players together. A more casual player may not know how everything works and probably won't need to have control over all those things. Players that are more technically skilled may want to use that (it will probably also require the other player to click more). Anyway this is something very unique and if done well, this can have a really huge impact on the player base. It will open doors to many new players that could be afraid of the rules.

What else Wizards of the Coast is planning? They plan to allow us to play limited formats. I doubt that we will be able to play a real draft or sealed deck because that would mean that we wouldn't need to draft on MODO or in paper. Something needs to be different and I can imagine drafting in a similar way to arena in Hearthstone. We don't know anything about this though so all we can do is talk about it, guess, be right or wrong but no one will tell us how close our guesses are.

The other thing that people want is Magic Online to be accessible on other platforms as well. Magic Duels is running on different platforms but no cross-platform play is possible. Arena is being developed on PC but it runs on Unity engine. This means that we may see Arena on other platforms. We will see it on other platforms with time, which can't probably be said about Magic Online. That hardly runs the same on two different PC configurations.

If you'd like to be part of the development of Arena, sign up for beta at playmtgarena.com. The beta access will be given in waves and if you have a Wizards Account and Duels linked, will participate in Ixalan prerelease online or paper, you might get a priority access. We will have a chance to give feedback and help Wizards of the Coast see what we want.

The game itself will be free-to-play. We should be able to acquire all cards through playing the game. There will be ranked for both constructed and limited. How limited will work in f2p game is a question since Duels of the Planeswalker sealed cost 2USD.

I also expect that playing Arena will be easy on a touchscreen. Playing Magic Online on a tablet for me was always very frustrating experience unlike playing Hearthstone, Magic Duels or any other new digital game.

I tried to take a video of me trying to play on a Lenovo yoga laptop

Arena also shouldn't mean the end of Magic Online. Magic Online should be more focused on other formats than Standard. It should also provide us with interesting formats to play like Cube, Throwback Constructed and Flashback Drafts. It should also become the place for casuals and pros. New sets will be normally added to Magic Online.

While I'd like to believe that Magic Online will be here with us forever I can also see that if Arena becomes the norm, it could slowly replace MODO. I can't imagine playing Vintage on this or any combo deck, but well who knows what will happen to Magic in few years time? Magic is evolving and after playing the game for over two decades I've seen it change a lot. I don't like this direction but this game is still the best designed trading card game in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to Arena. I really want to try it, play the beta and give my feedback to WotC. I expect that I won't like the game because I do not like flashy, animated stuff and 3d graphics, sound effects and music. I like to play Magic, the game I know from paper, and I'm not interested in all those nice things. There are probably not so many players like me and I understand that many people are not drawn to Magic Online just because of the way it looks like but they most probably will like Arena. I think Magic Digital can have a bright future and this could actually bring many more players to the paper game. It is up to Wizards of the Coast to figure out the economy and how they want to earn money from this so it wouldn't 'ruin' the other environments (Magic Online and paper).

Honestly I'm really afraid for the future of MODO but so far I've seen a lot of work done on the client. Everything is getting better. I am relatively new player, I've played Online just for few years. During that time though I had so much fun that you can't even imagine that. I could play the game I love. I could play any format, I could play competitive, casually. I could explore formats, build different decks, try anything I wanted. I could create content. Without it you'd probably never heard of me. I also met many people on Magic Online and spend a lot of time with them. Some I met then in real life, some I have yet to meet. I can't imagine living without Magic Online now and for that I am very grateful the software exists. I will hope it won't just cease to exist.

My thanks goes to WotC for making it, keeping it working and trying to make it work the way it should.

I will wish Wizards of the Coast luck with Arena, honestly it looks wonderful and if they managed to integrate all the rules in it, it can be truly awesome - something I doubted being possible.

S'Tsung

Magic: The Gathering Arena alpha game play

Nationals (Day 1)

This weekend for some Magic players meant that they would attend Nationals. Our country - Czech Republic - is one of those that had Nationals set for this date and that is why my weekend was rather busy.

My plan for Nationals was pretty similar to WMCQs. I would go there with a deck, see what the format looks like, have some fun, meet players I haven't seen in a while and go home happy full of experiences.My expectations were something like 2-3 drop, not wanting to draft.

When people started asking me for cards and decks (I loan them) I decided that my deck of choice would either be UW Monument or BG Delirium/Aggro. That is why I kept these cards and loaned the rest. A week before Nationals it was 100% clear that my deck wouldn't really do much at Nationals since it isn't well matched against Temur nor Ramp which obviously became very popular. I was reluctant to change a deck on last minute as that is something I do not like to do, but since my preparation for Nationals was rather brief, in the end I decided to change the deck. The question was what deck I could possibly put together after I loaned so many cards.

Someone suggested that I try to play UB Control, Temur Black or Ramunap Red. I was sure I didn't want to play the red deck but I could possibly play UB Control or Temur Black. So with a little bit of a friend's help I put both decks on Magic Online and started playing. I played against Temur Energy and it was a very frustrating experience with both decks. UB Control was good against Ramunap Red and Ramp, but these two decks would most probably be on the different ends of the tables at Nationals (because one preys on the other). I didn't really feel in control of the game. The deck runs some counterspells and removal but it can't draw the right cards in a way more traditional deck can. It is way more tempo based and requires knowledge of the format. It is a good deck and have won a GP but I would be a rather bad pilot of it since my knowledge of both the tempo and metagame wasn't great.

So I switched to Temur Black which seemed as a very strong deck. I asked a player to whom I loaned the cards I needed for the deck to give them back and then tried playing few matches. I decided to go for the Black version because I saw what the UB God was doing in the control deck. I expected people to come up with ways how to deal with it, but it seemed possible that many wouldn't be prepared for it and well I always had the possibility to board that out and I wasn't a big fan of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Also I learned what the card actually does and when. When I switched to Temur Black I actually had my own creatures in a graveyard so that did wonders with my own creatures that died earlier (4/4 Torrential Gearhulk is not that cool if all it can replay is Grasp of Darkness without a target or Censor also without a target, anyway it was still overpowered).

During these matches in the late night before Nationals I learned some things that I didn't know, one of which was that Rhonas is Indestructible and has Deathtouch. I made a fool of myself few more times in similarly silly situations (if you can imagine me trying to kill Rhonas and failing at that) but those were very important to me. I learned about those things before Nationals. They wouldn't happen again during Nationals.

Since MODO helped me with my triggers I also had a fairly good idea what cards do something (like when they trigger and what the triggers do). I just didn't know how I'd be doing that in paper, I was a bit disordered at the event. My opponents were nice though and waited till I managed to put everything in order.

Having the deck online didn't help me much with having deck in paper so it came down to me looking for a long forgotten RGu Pummeler deck which shares a big amount of cards with Temur Energy. I made Temur Energy out of it and fetched a Swamp, Blooming Marsh, Tireless Tracker and Dispossess from my BG Constrictor deck. I wrote down my decklist and wondered if someone would provide me with Glorybringers and Chandras that I loaned to several other players so I couldn't play with mine. After asking several players switching from Temur to something else I got all the cards I needed and I'm very grateful that they brought the cards for me. During the night when I was trying to play with Temur Black online I was also looking for cards for other players. It was a total chaos in my room and I was looking for cards I hardly heard of.

In the morning we got to the site with Patrik who provided majority of the cards I needed. I loaned him bunch of cards as well for his totally awesome and funny deck (see screenshot above). We ordered breakfast, put our decks together and wrote decklist. I was glad I did it, because I realized that I forgot to include the Scarab Gods.

Round 1
I played against BR Midrange and easily won game 1.

In game two my opponent was on play and after he toasted my creatures landed Chandra, Torch of Defiance which didn't help matters better. I had no Glorybringer, no other means to deal with her and thought I'd die. At that time a coverage team decided to take a picture of me so that is how I look like when things go wrong.

I top decked a Chandra of my own though and with the collective help of the said planeswalker and my deck I managed to get rid of the opposing Chandra. Then we ended up in a top deck war. Glorybringer threatened to kill me but then I drew The Scarab God and things started to look good even though I was down to 1 life or something similar (and my opponent had like 18 life or something).

Round 2
I played against Temur Energy. I tried to destroy all the 'smaller' creatures like Longtusk Cub and make my Bristling Hydras bigger than my opponent's ones. I won easily most probably my opponent was somehow screwed. Well, dealing with creatures that can get Hexproof is tricky anyway.

In game 2 my opponent seemed to have me but then I produced Glorybringer which made it better for me. My opponent had his own but didn't realize that Glorybringer cannot kill another Glorybringer. Also he didn't realize that Rhonas has deathtouch which helped me get rid of a Bristling Hydra I couldn't deal with otherwise (I could just trample through it). Thanks to this I won the second game as well.

Round 3
I played the most awesome match of the event. I played against Tomas Langer who in the end became the National Champion. We were paired against each other at table one and I soon found out that he was on GW Ramp which wasn't something I wanted to play against. When my opponent didn't play a 3CMC ramp spell though things got better for me so I tried dealing as much damage as I could and keep enough attackers in my and after Fumigate would deal with my board. I wasn't particularly sure how to divide the damage and what amount of damage I need to get through. I won game 1 though after my opponent drew many cards but was unable to get to any Eldrazi or Fumigate in time. Actually it was Chandra's ultimate ability that won the game. I had two Harnessed Lightning cards in my hand and I really needed my opponent to play something. He did. He played World Breaker dealing with my Lumbering Falls that I wanted to target next turn so I was happy (I didn't have enough to animate my land and play the burn spells).

In game two everything seemed very similarly. All I needed was to find a land to be able to play Negate. Unfortunately for me...I didn't draw the land nor Attune and I lost the game.

In game 3 things were a bit better for my opponent (meaning that his deck was still laughing at him). Fumigate came a turn later, he couldn't produce a creature that mattered and I could win. I just needed one more blank on his side. He drew a creature. I didn't have any removal in my hand and didn't draw it either. I still could win though. I still needed either removal, Negate or a fifth land so I could play Glorybringer and win before my opponent would gain life. Unfortunately I didn't draw either of the cards, Fumigate killed my board and I died soon after to Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger.

It was an awesome and memorable match and my opponent was very kind to me.

Round 4
I faced a friend of mine playing the same deck who actually got prepared against opposing Scarab Gods. My opener was good and relied heavily on my mana dork surviving. The Servant of the Conduit survived so I just landed my rares and my opponent had a difficulty keeping up because he didn't have that mana dork available and was simply behind.

In game two things didn't really look good for me and I expected that game 3 was inevitable. My opener contained both Longtusk Cubs that I didn't board out (I kept two in). My hand wasn't particularly good but gave me the possibility to take the game into a different direction - one which the mirror player wouldn't expect. So I played the cats and hoped they could deal with bigger threats and gain some energy (didn't happen). When things didn't look good and I gave my opponent the chance to stomp me to death I drew The Scarab God. Since I was drawing lands and my opponent was mana screwed my God could actually do something if it would survive till my upkeep. It did. I eternalized one of the Cubs that died earlier, scried into land (put on bottom) and drew a land. Next turn I would keep a land on top because it would allow me to use the Gods ability twice and I could deal with the opposing God. My opponent indeed played his own God but unlike me he was still mana screwed. He had enough energy and enough mana to eat my God out of the graveyard though so I wasn't really glad about it. My creature survived though so I ate two more Longtusk Cubs. Later my God was targeted with Harnessed Lightning which surprised me. I won a bit later with my army of 3 Longtusk Cubs.

Since my opponent was upset about the outcome of the game and was unwilling to accept that he could have actually managed to keep tempo in game 1 and win game 2 I didn't ask him about the Harnessed Lightning nor told him that he may have made a mistake. I signed the result slip and waited for him to decide whether he wants to drop or not. It was time to eat something so I could survive few more rounds.

Round 5
I lost (mirror match, got mana screwed).

Round 6

I was quite high on the list of 3-2 players so my pod was quite good. I drafted a black-red aggro deck which unfortunately lacked some Manticores as my finishers (or the 3/3 Afflict 2 creatures that can pump themselves). Nevertheless I was content with my deck and was ready to play a game. I thought that 2-1 record with this was actually likely, but I knew that I was tired and that winning a single game might be a problem.

Pairings were posted with like 35 minutes delay due to players in a pod being originally seated next to each other. That waiting drained all the remaining energy from me...or rather what was in my system keeping me alert dissipated and I really wanted to sleep.

I faced a player that I know from Online and terribly died to his 1/3 Feral Prowlers and bunch of Walls that I just couldn't deal with. I was waiting for some of my higher CMC cards but they never showed. The match didn't go that badly, my draws were poor.

Round 7
In this round my brain decided to shut down and my opponent had to think I'm an idiot. He knows me though so I suppose he figured that I was just too tired to play Magic. I won game one even though I missed lethal twice and sacrificed few of my creatures in total nonsense way (my opponent flooded).

Game 2 my opponent got a better draw but was mana screwed. During the time though I did not manage to kill him and I missed a trigger on one of my creatures which meant I didn't deal additional damage I needed to get through. I think I don't need to mention that I lost the match because of this. I certainly made way more mistakes on the road but this one is the one that lost the game.

In game 3 I had the chance to win the game still in a relatively even game but In Oketra's Name wrecked my board. I think there was a way for me to win, it could have featured killing my own Earthshaker Khenra or just pinging my opponent all the time. No matter what my brain was unable to process information well and I lost the game later. I felt seriously embarrassed and ready to drop, but I needed that one more win not to feel totally badly.

Round 8

I won^_^.

After the event was over I went over to the Judge Booth to say 'hi' to the judge sitting there. I encountered there a group of players trying to figure out a rules question. I read the question and tried to figure out the answer too. I also asked if I can try to answer some questions and get some goodies. I got them right! My questions were easy though. Anyway I learned few things and I also learned that my understanding of some things actually got better, most probably thanks to MODO. When thinking about one question a MODO prompt showed up in my head 'Choose which replacement effect you want to use'. I realized that thanks to this I can answer the question and correctly even (I know MODO is sometimes wrong about stuff).

This is what I got as a reward! Sweet foil tokens from Eloneth, Ultimate Price that seemed to be the only playable promo among the cards I could choose from and Zur that looked the best out of the remaining Judge promo cards (guess I was the only one who picked a card based on how it looked like). I was very content with this and it was also a very nice change from trying to figure out how to attack or block with my RB aggro (at which I totally failed).

During the day, we could also defeat Garruk (Roman Pivec cosplaying Garruk) and win a pack. So I took my Temur Black deck and tried winning against Modern Mono Green Stompy. I played creatures, Garruk played creatures. I kept removal for when my opponent would alpha strike and possibly kill me with Aspect of Hydra (and Rancor). I wouldn't be able to do anything with Vines of Vastwood but at least I could try. I was lucky to draw Rhonas in the meantime which meant I could start sending that card into that wall of green creatures and occasionally kill one of them. Later I drew Whirler Virtuoso which meant I could just fly over and pump my Thopter tokens for the win. I talked a bit with Garruk and the coverage team and then it was time to leave the site. Klara was doing the coverage with Lobo and with the help of Mirrari (a Hearthstone player you may actually know) and we should thank them for the good job they did!

The event was very well organized and I really have to give thumbs up to the TO. Everything was well done, I really enjoyed it and it far surpassed my expectations. So I hope more events will be like this and the players will appreciate it.

I headed then to the bus station and went home. There I unsleeved my draft deck so I coul use those sleeves for PPTQ the next day and eventually went to sleep. It was a good day. One I would have good memories of.

Here is our metagame breakdown for those interested.

Temur Energy 27 15,6%
Ramunap Red 18 10,4%
Black Temur 12 6,9%
Zombies 12 6,9%
Mardu Vehicles 12 6,9%
Jeskai Gift/UR/UW Gift 7 4%
RG Ramp 8 4,6%
UW Approach 7 4%
BG constrictor 6 3,5%
UB Control 5 2,9%
UR Control 4 2,3%
RG Pummeler 4 2,3%
GW ramp 4 2,3%
BG Energy 4 2,3%
UWR Approach 3 1,7%
White eldrazi 3 1,7%
WW/Humans 3 1,7%
UW monument 2 1,2%
Black Eldrazi 3 1,7%
Eldrazi vehicle 3 1,7%
Other 26 15%