Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New 'Currency' on Magic Online - Play Points

Note: If you don't know Cardboard Crack already, make sure to check it out.

As you may now it's been a while that Wizards of the Coast changed the prize payout on MODO and introduced something called Play Points.

Why did this happen? For some time now or rather since Khans of Tarkir the price of booster packs was decreasing. It decreased to 1.5 tix or so at one point which was really ridiculous. Paying 6 tix for a constructed event and winning 11/6 packs was a very huge difference in gain/loss (and that is when the prices of actual KTK cards started to go up). I'm not going to talk about expected value but you can easily see that there is a one time huge difference in what you get (3*11 or 1.5*11) and that if you play regularly and your win percentage is lower (let's say 55%) you can even get to the point in which you 'lose' money by playing Daily Events.

When playing on MODO what I care about is to have enough tix to play and win enough tix to continue playing and to have some spare tix I can use for building my constructed decks. I don't really like DTK so I was playing KTK/FRF. In the past few months I was capable of buying a set (not that I would need it) for 7 tix. For all those KTK/FRF packs I won and cards I opened I bought a whole constructed deck (Junk Midrange, and I still kept some cards like Monastery Mentor). But for someone playing constructed this was rather impossible. Because for 6 tix one could get 11 packs (I'm not a person who would be getting 4:0 all the time). With 55% win rate a constructed player got nothing out of daily events and that is probably why the change has come. Wizards were listening to the players complaining about the packs' price but decided not to lower the redemption fees back to its original fee. When the redemption went up from 5USD to 25USD the prices of sets just went down. It wasn't profitable that much to redeem so way more cards stayed in the system, thus lowering the prices of cards and packs. This had even a greater impact. Before the redemption tax went up one had to wait ages to join a DE, after it became quite simply and did not really require much time. Many players stop playing those events and even SE were firing less frequently. Some did not even fire (Block constructed). Those people probably left because getting packs of less than 2.5tix value were simply not worth it (and I don't even speak about FRF). So WotC was looking for a solution to this problem, since raising the prize payout in packs would hurt even more (more product -> lesser value of it) they had to come up with something else.

Wizards of the Coast introduced Play Points. Something that one wins in constructed events and something for which one can enter events. It has a downside though. It is not tradeable/sellable. I already hated the notion of Phantom Points. Entering a Phantom Event for 10 tix and then winning only Phantom Points did not seem worth it even though I would use that solely for cube. Phantom Points could be avoided if one did not want to play Phantom events but that is not the case with Play Points.

The prize payout and entrance fees are now different, check out WotC page for more info. But in general playing 8-man SEs is way more profitable than it used to be and the prize payout is very close to DEs. Daily Events now cost 12 tix or 120 points which is twice as much and this might turn away some of the players. The prizes in general are higher for someone with higher win rates but for those more casually playing it gets worse and double entry is not worth the risk for some. (Does that mean that more casual players are supposed to play single elimination events??) The prizes consist of few packs and many player points. In SE you pay 6 tix/60 Play Points and you can get 2 packs+140 pts for 3:0. 1 pack and 60 pts for 2:1 and those who managed to win a game get 60 points. In DE for 4:0 you get 6 packs and 360 pts and 3 packs + 180 pts for 3:1. In a two man the winner gets 30 pts and the loser gets 5 (still costs 2tix/20 pts).

So what does this mean? Well, those who actually are good in constructed will get a lot of Play Points they won't need. Those points have an imaginary value of tix but one cannot trade them or sell them. The only way to turn them into money now is to play limited and hope to get something close to what they won or more. Now what if one needs to actually buy cards for a deck? I'm supposed to get them by turning 6 packs into tix and get my cards? Imagining that I need 500tix out of that...For a more casual player this may be even bigger problem. Because if you win at least something you don't get packs but points so you can continue in playing. This is something WotC was emphasizing. One gets the possibility to play all the time and does not need to care much about getting tix somewhere and play (seriously???). They also said that they would still be providing players with packs but getting them is now 'way more difficult' (if one is an average constructed player and does not play limited at all this is near to impossible). If one decides to go play in limited event he or she pays 140 points which equals to the real price or 14 tix which up to now wasn't needed (I know this brings more money to WotC all the time but for the players that got used to the model of not paying 14's not a good news.). The good thing is that the price of booster packs should rise because those won't be distributed in such quantity as before. But that could also mean the rise of single card prices. We will have to see, people are now selling their collections and that showed up on the card prices (they went down - tix went down as well). If the prices of singles go up it will be even more tougher to get your 'hands' on them.

A fairly good limited player should be profiting the most out of this because he won't need to use the play points and should win more in limited events (as the price of packs should rise).

Anyway we will see where all this will lead. I hope that WotC will at least allow us to buy something from their own shop for the Play Points but since Phantom Points were practically useless anywhere else...I very highly doubt that.

It is good that Wizards of the Coast listens to the players and tries to keep their business together (what is the income from MODO, 30%?) but there is still room for improvement especially in the DE. Those where the tournaments one wanted to compete in to get the best prizes. Now it is better to play SEs.

In short, good players both constructed and limited will be rewarded more. For average or worse player it will be harder to build their collection and it will be more expensive to enter an event. For players that are only interesting in playing (and not having any interest in growing a collection etc) it is a better system. Turning constructed prizes into money/tix/packs will be way more difficult because the only way is through limited events or PPTQs and such. This not only costs us money but it will also cost us the active time we spend playing those events. In terms of money for WotC all this is better but in terms of player base I'm not really sure about it and wasn't it WotC's desire to make the player base bigger? They should certainly make the DEs more appealing now.

Seriously why impose such a thing on Magic players? Isn't MODO a place that is known to be full of grinders etc? Because these people can do the maths and as far as I know the majority of Magic players participate in events because of the prizes they can get. If the expected value goes way too down for them they will simply stop playing in those events and this could clearly be seem when the redemption fee went up.

Also I wonder about one more thing...why does not WotC promote Magic Online a bit more (is it because it's one big mess that deserves reworking and now it is definitely the wrong time)? I mean since the revenue from MODO is actually quite big why not try to show it to players? Advert in booster packs is not something that works I guess? Judges get free drafts so they are exposed to it why not do something with the players as well? Showing that something like this exists and that people actually play on it would be enough I guess... (I know that this is difficult especially with target group being completely different from what normally WotC targets, but I think it could generate more money if done right. Wouldn't it be better than to tax all the current players?). But whatever it is not my concern...(my only concern with MODO is that WotC can do anything they want with my account and I really don't like that...).

hm that's about my two cents...I guess? Let's see how all this will work in the near future.

EDIT: It obviously works for Wizards of the Coast. They say that both constructed and limited is played way more than before...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Modern PPTQ

Since this post is not that short as I thought..I decided to create a separate post for it

If anyone interested here is a short report of how I managed to screw up at the Modern PPTQ in which I went 3:3 in the end. I really felt like crap but I managed to follow the game a bit...not much as I had to ask stupid questions like...'whose turn it is? and what step/phase are we in?' And believe me playing Magic in such a state is very difficult especially when you run counterspells^_^ in your deck.

I came 30 minutes early which is quite early for me usually. Many players were there already and where asking other players for copies of Blood Moon and Kolaghan's Command and were then scribbling their decklists. I joined those players and started looking for Thoughtseizes (because I couldn't find them at home and few other cards, Kolaghan's Command etc..). The deck I played is the one I play on MODO - Grixis Control. But I think that I should have played Zoo that day (even though I would certainly screw up fetching my lands^_^).

As a bonus since the judges and TO did the job I would like to share the decks that were present that day. The most played deck was Jund Midrange followed by Merfolk. I honestly expected Merfolk to be the most played deck along with some combination of Twin decks. Grixis colors were heavily present but most of them were in my vicinity (thus not doing that well). The decks that managed to top 8 were Smallpox, Goryo's Vengeance, Junk Midrange, BW Tokens, Affinity, Merfolk, RG Tron and Jund.

Here is the full list:

  • 6x Jund
  • 5x Merfolk
  • 4x Grixis Delver
  • 3x Grixis Control
  • 3x Grixis Twin
  • 3x Izzet Twin
  • 3x RG Tron
  • 3x Affinity
  • 2x Abzan Company
  • 2x Naya
  • Jund Smallpox (winner)
  • Living End
  • UR Tron (Through the Breach)
  • UW Gifts Tron
  • Grixis Gifts
  • Amulet Bloom
  • Boros Burn
  • Mono Red Burn
  • Goblins (poor guys they did not stand a chance)
  • Jund Goryo's Vengeance
  • Storm
  • RUG Twin
  • Naya Kiki
  • RUG Scapeshift
  • Esper Mentor
  • Esper Tasigur
  • Orzhov Tokens
  • Collected Melira (This is probably a mistake or something, I played against one Melira Company and provided this deck to someone else. There was one Junk Midrange present though which was not on the list of decks)

Round 1

I played against Jund. I kept a fairly ok hand but it was soon disrupted with two Inquisition of Kozileks. One discarded Snapcaster Mage and the other one Remand. I was left with Lightning Bolt and Terminate. Soon two Tarmogoyfs followed. I managed to kill them both but what followed was even worse. It was Scavenging Ooze. I could kill it but that would also mean that I would not be able to get rid of Raging Ravine that would hit me for 4 the next turn. My opponent also top decked a bolt so my attempt at staying alive failed. In game 2 I managed to draw only lands and died soon after I played those nonland cards I had in my opener.

Round 2

Next it was Living End. After I played Thoughtseize and seeing my opponents hand I wanted to concede. He seemed not wanting to kill me so killed all my land first and then played Demonic Dread. In the second game I could stall but there was no way for me to deal much damage. That's when I first regretted not playing Delver. After this loss I expected to lose the upcoming round and go home to play on MODO.

Round 3
UR Tron. I played against my own deck and knew that my chances are actually bigger than in the previous matchups. But still in game 1 my draw was rather bleak and what followed were mostly lands (how does that happen with 22 lands in the deck?). In game two I fell asleep or what because I managed not to even think about countering Through the Breach with Cryptic Command and that meant that Emrakul went to tell me hi so I conceded. I facepalmed myself because I expected to lose the game even though I could actually DO something and decided to win some games from this point on so I wouldn't end up last. Since this match I got my own spot at the very last table till the end of the tournament (which came handy actually because I did not need to move somewhere else, that was kinda difficult).

Round 4
My first win was against Merfolk. I wasn't really looking forward to it but after my opponent managed not to counter one of the bolts targeting his Lord of Atlantis with Cursecatcher I realized that I can probably win even if the deck decides to provide me with bad draws. I somehow managed to counter all Spreading Seas (because all day I was playing with one red source...) and kill majority of the merfolk by chumping with Snapcaster Mage and playing occasional Bolt or Terminate. Then I managed to race a lonely 2/2 with my Tar Pit and Snapcaster Mage. In game two I kept a hand that did not seem promising but I was drawing only removal spells from the top which gave me a lot of time to find something I could deal enough damage to my opponent to kill him.

Round 5
5 minutes in and I started feeling very sick. I trembled and could hardly concentrate due to pain but since I decided to play through all the rounds I tried to survive. I played against a friend of mine Jakub Jandak and his Esper Tokens (now more like Esper control deck). In game one we both had very strange hands and we were trading one card for another. When Jakub finally played Gurmag Angler I thought I'm dead. But anyway I tried killing it with Snapcaster Mage -> Terminate (any dispel, spell pierce, spell snare etc would be enough - we were discussing Dispels main deck last time we saw each other). Terminate resolved though and that gave me some hope. I needed something to beat him though and that took ages as that 'something' was Creeping Tar Pit and I just couldn't activate it so it would die to PTE or Murderous Cut. After I won the first game I wasn't even sure if I would be able to finish the second game no matter what. I felt terrible and I knew it would take ages till one of us would win. I got lost somewhere in the middle of the game and couldn't keep up with my plan which was burn my opponent in the face (and still stay alive). When seeing his hand and seeing two copies of Timely Reinforcements I wasn't really happy, but I was glad I did not need to face Kor Firewalker. When it came to the crucial moment in which I could kill him -> play Thoughtseize, discard Murderous Cut, deal 3 damage with Creeping Tar Pit, play Snapcaster Mage -> Lightning Bolt I managed to screw up and not to kill Jakub. It was already end of round (some time before that). Jakub did not procede to his last additional turn in which he would have killed me and conceded. (well ok I could still kill one Lingering Soul and stay at 1 life, meaning I would win the match as I was leading 1:0 but who would have thought about that after actually managing to screw up in such a major way I did a turn ago?)

Round 6
In the last round I played against Abzan Company and in the first game the opponent just showed me the combo from his hand. I was like WTH? Is there a way I can win before he plays the 'scried' Redcap? No. In the second game he did not draw a third land and I killed all of his mana dorks. So it was the third game to decide. There was actually a lot going on but I sided in more removal and Anger of the Gods which helped considerably. Burrenton though was a card I did not really like seeing on the table because if more combo pieces would show up in one turn I wouldn't be able to kill them with my two bolts. But fortunately this creature died when it decided to attack. Snapcaster Mage is not a red card fortunately...

After the tournament my feelings about the deck were mixed. I encountered decks against which I had troubles siding in and I'm not even sure if there is a deck I have a good matchup against. It seems that Twin is actually the best match up for me but anyway all those games are usually grindy and not very easy to win. This deck is nice and I really like it but I'm not really sure if it is the deck for me if I would want to actually try to win (or well that is). I had problems with double red all day and was seriously missing a non-red removal spell. One would most probably do, so I might actually add it. With Junk Midrange decks gone I might actually cut Electrolyze and add Shadow of Doubt to the deck.

Next weekend there is another Modern PPTQ so I might actually look more into this deck and try to figure out if I really want to play it or if I'm capable of playing it. Otherwise I can try that special Junk I play on MODO now.^_^. Sometimes playing good creature after another simply works...
No matter what the tournament was nice and everyone was nice (except those comments that actually made me write the previous post). Being welcomed by a smiling judge was a really nice experience. ^_^ Wish I felt better I could have actually enjoyed the tournament more (and win games I should win^_^)
Thanks goes to those who managed to keep me alive during the whole tournament...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Standard Elves and Warriors

Today I went to participate in Modern PPTQ (mostly because players asked for cards or decks from me/I wasn't really taking the tournament seriously) but I took two type 2 decks with me because I wanted to test if one of those could be viable for the upcoming type 2. In between rounds I grabbed one of those type 2 decks and played against some modern decks (playing a different format decks against each other sometimes (many times) does not make sense but some matchups are very playable and sometimes one realizes how the formats are different, it is not just about speed and power level of the cards. Each format's tier 1 decks are developped in very strange way...a way that it means that those decks become a meta-deck for something. Such decks can be 'easily' broken by something 'odd' for that format if you see what I mean..). The reaction of onlookers were not the ones I would expect (I did not expect any reaction that is). Anyway players were telling me that this or that deck cannot work. Some even said that they tried it themselves but that it didn't work. This is something I don't really like. If I ignore the fact that it is none of their business. And even if this decks won't work I tried to make it work and sometimes this alone helps understand the upcoming meta and the power of cards in the environment (not really the case of these two particular decks, but in general). Trying to build a deck is something that people should be doing at least from time to time. It is something that primarily taught me how to play and how to value cards. Even though we have a card that is reprinted its value in the upcoming format might be different than in the previous one.
Patrick Chapin says that a deck needs to go either big or be fast enough to win. Both the Elves and Warriors can do this. None of these decks is any of those very expensive midrange decks but that doesn't mean they don't have the means to win. Elves go big and with that I really mean BIG. Warriors are simply fast. It is not Atarka red but still quite good anyway. Do not underestimate the power of 2/2 with Double Strike. ^_^

Also I did not build this deck to win a PPTQ with it. I build it so I can play with something different from time to time and to stop thinking to hard about what permanent I should deal with and what card to discard. I'm not also very good at playing aggro decks so this helps me a bit to learn that as well. Even if I would play with this deck only the day I put it together it would be enough for me, because I would see how it works, what it does and I would certainly find out some info, had some fun etc...(people know that I don't usually play aggressive decks or burn, so this sometimes leads to interesting situation. keeping a hand that this against midrange is not good against fast aggro). The change of deck and perspective is a good thing. For example I played control decks or midrange decks in legacy for a long time and then one day I decided to play Zoo out of the blue and you know what? It was the first time I faced Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull from the point of view of an aggro deck. It wasn't a pleasant experience but I won the tournament anyway^^. (I got lucky?^_^)

I put together the first deck (BW Warriors) because one little kid asked me to build a deck for him not costing much (This is a budget deck thus. It costs like 31 tix and 166 USD in paper. This price includes the price of Thoughtseizes) In order to look for all the cards and get them I created the deck on MODO so I could use that as a reference. Later I even bought the cards that I did not have (I sold Caves of Koilos erm..but anyway it cost me roughly 1 tix to complete the deck). This deck might not be anything stellar or competitive but it can win games. It can win games against tier 1 decks (popular decks are usually expensive). One needs to be cautious and has to accept the fact that if wrath effect takes place it usually means game over. But with few Dash creatures it actually still gives a chance and Valorous Stance can help too. (even though the discard is there for the wrath effect NOT to happen). The deck itself works. It might not be what some people like but they can't deny that this deck works. What is the definition of 'deck works?'. For me that is a deck that can put up a fight against tier 1 decks (and thus win sometimes). I also expect the deck to have a strategy that itself can win or synergies that can make the deck win.

Some time ago I was told that this deck can't win against Drown in Sorrow, Siege Rhinos, Sidisi and End Hostilities. But I was sure that with one or two cards that could still be printed this deck could actually work even if it would be just only for a while. Dragons of Tarkir brought such cards. Blood-chin Rager and Arashin Foremost are the cards that made this deck playable for me (Blood-Chin Fanatic is erm fine...). With these cards one can safely attack and get past/through 4 thoughness creatures (Courser of Kruphix) and the damage from Arashin that goes through is very important and also this means that one Siege Rhino just won't stop this deck. Drown in Sorrow might be a problem, but one needs to be able to play it on t3/4. This deck can deal enough damage to squeeze those few damage later even though it looks unlikely and in g2/3 it can discard cards like End Hostilities and Drown in Sorrow. I played against Junk decks and other tier 1 decks and beat them so do not tell me that it is impossible with such a bad deck. The deck is fine, it can't do much about many things, but it is straihgtforward and fast aggro deck and that alone can work at some local tournaments and with bit of a luck it could possibly win a bit bigger tournament. Sideboard plan is important as well. Discard is pretty straightforward, Valorous Stance against all those big creatures and more utility and some other Chief of the Scale or more dash creatures to deal with mass removal like Drown in Sorrow/Anger of the Gods.

So today I sleeved some Elves. I wasn't really sure of the deck's efficiency. But Obelisk of Urd seems ridiculous in a deck in which you can play it and swing for lethal next turn and Shaman of the Pack seems too good not to see play. I did not have any high hopes but I just wanted to try it. One thing is having a deck on paper (or digital form in my case) and playing with it. I usually come up with playable decks even though sometimes I cannot play them correctly. I was prepared to play against anything (be it modern or type 2) just to see how the deck behaves and if it can kill in one swing. As I was short of elves I added Sylvan Messenger and Temur Sabertooth (I haven't seen the card during the games I played - five mana usually seems doable...- for Shaman obviously^^). The Messenger seems to be pretty bad in the deck so that is one card I'd like to revise. I'm not even sure what number of black sources I need. I expected to need hell a lot of them because I really need to play that black mana dork on t1... but what number is right so I wouldn't end up with hands like Urborg + Swamp? Anyway when I was playing with the deck in the LGS people were telling me that the elves don't work. After few games I came up with the conclusion that they DO work. They just need a bit of tweaking and then figuring out how the deck should be played against certain decks. It can deal a horrendous amount of damage and if 18 damage + usually 4-6 damage from the Shaman is not enough than what is? Yup, the deck dies to Languish (same goes to the warriors). But it goes big. It feels similar to the Mono Green Elves deck I played at some coreset Game Day. T4 Craterhoof Behemoth was usually enough to win the game. Obelisk does more or less the same (no trample but still...good enough).
No seriously imagine that you play Collected Company and Obelisk of Urd on one turn. Company often brings Nissa and Elite into play...what can you want more? Does that seem weak or not up to tier 1 decks? I may not be playing type 2 and I know close to nothing about it but after seeing those plays I was amazed. No this is not a deck that one should just trash. I guess the pros will show everyone what decks will become tier 1. But I'm certain that this deck will be able to keep up.
And if this deck won't be any good or whatever (I doubt that) I had the chance to play with Nissa and find out how good she is. Now I plan to put in in Abzan Control/Midrange (yes, this shows that I don't feel like playing any of these decks at a tournament. But when I was actually forced to play those mono green elves I went X-0. And the reason? The deck is simple to play, true to its strategy and efficient in that. Unlike all those midrange decks that try to play good card after a good card and deal with opposing threats in between...). Nissa is the best chump blocker early game available but when flipped she does wonders. She DRAWS cards! o_O. Unbelievable...And just imagine this deck siding in Nissa^_^ When all those elves get destroyed how about to be overrun by forests? ^_^ Anyway this is more of a 'combo-like' approach to elves. The can certainly be played as a straight aggro without trying to play cards like the Obelisk but I like it as it is with those Obelisks and Nissa.

So erm this post is kind of a rant. But I'd like you Magic players to think about deck building and values of the cards (those who it concenrs). Do it before the set comes out. It helps a lot. Waiting for pro players to come up with something is not what you should be doing. Of course you can. But coming up with something of your own even if you don't end up playing it is a great thing and helps a ton. (You don't need to buy the cards or anything, just proxy them and see what they do.) If you experiment a lot and with different decks and cards you will have a good notion of what the cards do and how powerful they are. Since I haven't done that yet I found out that I was struggling with figuring out how certain card would behave and if it would should be considered a threat or not. At the last type 2 event I participated in (came up second) I knew what to expect from Elves when facing them for example. But not knowing that I could possibly lose because I would not expect the deck to be that explosive. I also added cards to my deck according to what I expected people could be trying to build. (I played with Abzan Control) I myself would like to build UW or UR Control deck with Thopter Sky Network and for that I was ready to add more Dromoka's Commands in my deck and play Virulent Plague that I was avoiding. But since it kills all the goblins as well it certainly has its play in the sideboard now. Since the deck was struggling with having enough lands and the fourth one wasn't showing up consistently enough for me I decided to introduce Nissa. I needed to add a bigger number because the first 2 are there to fetch a land and the last one or two could actually flip. She can save some life and get me the land I need. Unfortunately she searches only basic forests which means that she won't fix my mana. Adding Languish seemed as a no brainer. I expected red decks to be played, mono white aggro decks and some elves (against other decks this deck has enough time to set up and win the game). Languish should be ideal against those aggro decks. It costs 4 mana and can kill almost everything. So I thought that this would help, but in the end I was usually siding that card out and either put in End Hostilities or Drown in Sorrow. So I will have to review this card the next time I play. Abzan Charm in 4 copies felt too much as well against slower decks and those playing Deathmist Raptor the card seems ideal but against all those aggressive decks it is a really bad removal if ever and drawing a card for 2 life is not one wants against aggressive deck. I put 2 Den Protectors in the deck mainly because I had them in Sidisi Whip and in that deck they showed up to be good but in this one they were not performing that well. It is a five mana investment or 2 mana chump blocker. Not entirely what I want. But so far they will stay in the deck. No matter what the deck performed well, it was me screwing the games up but this should get better if I play with it more often and that's what I plan to do, because I'd like to participate in WMCQ and not totally screw up. Since my experience with playing Type 2 is not that great I will most probably screw up anyway^_^. But let's hope that I'll have a great time.

Um...end of rant I guess, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Random Photo of the Day

The first photo is from Hloubetin. (Subway station)
This one is from Mustek (Subway station). Thanks Terrerra for drawing this and thus lightening the wall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Magic Duels: Origins

Yesterday, I wanted to finally try the Magic Duels game, a successor to Duels of the Planeswalkers. This game as I noted before in Magic Origins Prelease post will be a dynamic and persistent (if I can use that for in this context?) application. This means that the players won't need to buy a stand alone game each year. The game is free to play but there is content you can buy (booster packs for example). So far the game is available only for iOS but other platforms should follow with the release of Magic Origins this Friday (I couldn't find much info about that though).

After experiencing some troubles with downloading the game (I managed to finish several matches on MODO in the meantime, it was lagging hell a lot). When I finally launched the application I was amazed. The game is fluid! The animations are smooth! The game loads way more quickly and the in game speed is way higher as well. Also it is way easier to 'spot' what part of turn it is and who's turn it is. There is a slight glitch. When there is nothing you can do in a certain phase or step it will automaticly go to the next phase/step (I managed to skip Combat Phase this way few times). All this is a huge upgrade compared to previous Duels of the Planeswalkers' games. The only thing that bothered me from time to time was that the game disconnected and had a hard time reconnecting. (even when internet connection was actually working and MODO reconnected this game did not) That was certainly due to my internet connection but I lost some data this way. So if you encounter a problem with your connection do not click on Play Offline. Just find a way to reconnect otherwise it will discard the last changes (your last game, rewards, achievements etc).

The game is one big tutorial at first (and might feel this way till the end of the campaign). The player is supposed to follow 'the spark' (the highlight on menu icon). This leads the player in the campaign mode. The story of Kytheon turning into Gideon. The game will explain some basics before the game and then it will plunge the player into a first encounter.
There is something named Skill Quests that teach the player about a certain mechanic (or anything else) and then follows a game that lets the player try it. Actually the player has to do it in order to continue in the game. So for example it will explain how First Strike works and then let's you play Kindled Fury on a blocking creature to kill an attacking one and win the next turn with that creature. Or it will tell you to play non-creature spells in order to win the game and you have to figure out what cards to target and win the game. This might be very simple for those who have experience with gaming but might be a bit tougher for those not having any experience with card games etc. I mean this is a good thing but the amount of information that one needs to digest is huge.
Mulligan did not change. There is one free mulligan.

After the player finally manages to go through the first fifth of the campaign (Gideon) he gets few packs and some cards from which he can build a deck. In the previous games one was usually editing a deck not really creating one of their own (unless the player really wanted it). This time the player needs to build a deck from scratch. If the player is not experienced in that he can choose the Deck Wizard (or how it is called. I skipped that unfortunately).

The deck builder looks more or less the same. I did not spot anything new or striking at first glance. Still one needs to click on something, then choose the options and confirm it. That is something I'd like them to fix.
Anyway the player needs to create his or her own deck before 'advancing' to standard 1-on-1 battle or two headed giant. The very first deck will be way worse than what one played with in the tutorials (and will also get normal draws - thus really horrible ones^_^).

But after unlocking more content (or rather getting more coin by completing quests and buying new packs) it gets more interesting. But here is the very first problem of the game. This 'game' contains cards from mostly one set - Magic Origins (the thing is that AI has access to cards from other sets). So even when you get more cards the decks won't get that interesting (at the prerelease it seemed to me that anything else than pure aggro won't work). This is an issue that should be solved sooner or later because more sets will be available. The question is if there will be the possibility to play with older cards not just the new ones. The limitation to 4 C, 3 U, 2 R and 1 M still applies and there is no sideboarding between games. The limitation of cards you can have in a deck is actually good as the power level differences won't be too big. But it also limits the player to build a deck around some interesting rare (or mythic).

There isn't much of a content now. So the only thing one can do is play some games against other opponents, finish the campaign or play two headed giant. Also to get some coin one can complete quests. Anyway when playing online some players will be ahead so those players will be crushing players with no card pool etc. It does not seem that there is some kind of match making system based on rating/cards but well everything can change in the future. The introduction of quests is one of the biggest changes. This is easily understandable since this game is free to play and one needs to buy packs for certain currency be it in game one or real one.

I personally was amazed by this application and if it gets some interesting content (or rather interesting cards to play with) I would rate it very high. This way I can't. One of the other things that was improved is the AI. I played all the DotP games on Planeswalker difficulty and the AI was doing really silly plays quite often. In this game though I was punished for my misplay even in the tutorial which was quite a nice surprise.

Also targeting and playing the game in general feels way better. In Hearthstone for example I have difficulties targeting a hero or a minion in Duels it is better. I also got used to moving a card from my hand to the battlefield, just to find out that this does not work in Duels (same with MODO, I had the same reflex). One needs to tap on the card in order to play it. The problem with targeting an enchanted or equipped creature still remains though. Double-tapping a card to zoom it can be tricky but the icons for abilities and such help a lot - it reminds the player that this or that card has this or that ability. If one does not understand an ability (the ability itself or a keyword ie. exile) the explanation can be found after the card is zoomed in and a 'tutorial' on how to use that ability is often available.

So I think that this is a really great start. With more and more content this can be an awesome game, if this will later allow players to play with older cards it will be great. In this game the AI won't play T1 Mox Sapphire, Island and t2, Island -> Tinker -> Colossus now. But that might come. (honesty I doubt that).

Who will play the game? After seeing DotP 15 community and being quite surprised by them holding tournaments and playing quite actively (and wotc continuing in giving content and actually making the premium content available to everyone. I got the expansion for free as well, not sure if that is the case for everyone - I bought everything so far) I believe that this game will be a success. Maybe not now but in the future. I've seen very bad ratings for this and that is why I wanted to try it out so badly. I would give it a bad rating for content (hell with Origins) but otherwise the game super-exceeded all my expectations and for that alone deserves a higher rating. Previous games were WAY better with non-core sets (expert sets) so I believe this will be the case as well (no, I'm certain about this). Looking forward to Battle for Zendikar. I also think that this client/game will actually make its players better Magic players due to the extensive information given and skill quests.
*thumbs up for WotC*

EDIT: What they should also do this game cross-platform. It annoyed me with DotP. I got DotP on steam, got it for PS3 and ipad ... but each time one needs to pay for it and the data cannot be shared. So it would be cool if I can play on my phone and then switch to my computer. This way also I could play with my friends that don't have the same version of DotP etc.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My Magic Origins Prereleases

New set is coming out this Friday. It is the last 'Core Set' as we know it but it underwent quite a lot of changes anyway.

It has a really nice flavor, it tells us about the 5 planeswalkers' pasts (Jace, Liliana, Chandra, Gideon and Nissa) and that is why we have there double faced Planeswalker cards (one side is actually a creature - before the spark - and the other side is a planeswalker). There are many reprints that actually stand out pretty much. Each planeswalker comes from a different plane and that is why there are cards from those five planes which is quite a unique thing. So you have there cards from Innistrad block alongside cards from Theros block etc. That certainly felt strange during the prereleases I participated in. Also with Magic Origins prerelease/release there will no longer be a Duels of the Planeswalkers game but rather a Magic Duels 'magic client'. It will be a free to play game in which the players will get the chance to unlock everything by just playing. Each few months there will be an update to the existing software containing new set or other content. (unlike a new game being released). The iOS version is out for few days already so you can check it out. But it is only supported by newer models of iphone and ipad.

The set itself seems pretty aggressive to me and from the first experience looks pretty boring. But how boring the set is we will find out when the first drafts will start. After seeing the spoiler I came to the conclusion that I want to pick the white pack. I wasn't the only one who thought of that so I had to pick a different color (already preregistered blue/black). So I went with Green, later picked Black and Blue.

Green-White aggro seemed as the best colors to play and that was mostly what I was encountering it was either GW or RW aggro decks. At least two of the three prereleases GW decks were the winning decks. I played Boros, UR and UR. In all those cases the deck was built around the Thopter generating creatures. The most powerful creature though in my deck was Sigiled Starfish. That card sent 7 land cards in average to the bottom of my library. Without this card I guess I wouldn't be able to end up in the finals. Thopter creating creatures, Whirler Rogues, Thopter Spy Network (got three of those, but played only 2) and Angel's Tomb were capable of pulling off a victory.

After the first two prereleases in which I terribly failed I figured out that without being super aggressive I won't be able to win even if I'll be playing a slow deck (that was my case). When I arrived to the store I was actually looking forward to the prerelease but all those people that came to me telling me how many Nissa's they have and how many people they beat just ruined my day. After opening my pool I was even more saddened because it did not seem as a very playable pool at a first glance. Maybe I expected a higher power level but still I had almost no low cost creatures and the creatures I got usually had a pump effect written on them and cost 4 or more mana. With no creatures in play...that simply couldn't work. I tried to build a deck but I knew this would fail. There wasn't much evasion, no Renown and no good curve. So I got beaten up pretty hard in round 1 and in round 2 as well and I always had to face Nissa. At that time I did not really care about planeswalkers but in the second prerelease I found out that the Walker cards stand out a lot no matter what their abilities is. It's not like they would die to a single attack. So I dropped and hoped for a better tomorrow.

The day after did not start that well either but the deck seemed way better than before and I found out that the only creatures I'm willing to play are those Thopter generating creatures. I had to accept the fact that the format is fast and the creatures are mostly inefficient and not really doing much excepting getting bigger. So in the last prerelease I wanted to play a deck that I'd like at least a bit (UR Thopters). I took a blue pack. In my first pack I opened Thopter Spy Network so I was glad, in the second one I got Liliana so I was even more happy (but I knew I wouldn't play Lili at the prerelease), in the third one I got Thopter Spy Network and so on... I got three Thopter Spy Networks but ended up playing two. I noticed Angel's Tomb so I added that to my deck as well and then I just picked all the creatures or spells that seemed playable (yes, even that horrible sorcery 'bolt' costing 4 mana) and Sigiled Starfish was an auto-include. That card is actually what won me most of the games because without being able to play a creature per turn I would simply die. Since my deck was capable to lose to anything bigger than 2/2 (a 2/3 was a problem and a 4/4 was a huuuge problem) I just had to deal as much damage as I could with my flying 1/1 Thopters and I just had to chump block with anything that did not have flying. Sometimes my opponents had flyers too, that's when Whirler Rogue's ability came handy. My biggest enemy was Somberwald Alpha though (if I don't cound planeswalkers in general). That creatures was a problem (or anything with Trample). And I had facepalm myself about 5 times for playing Thopter Spy Network post-combat!

The deck that got me in the finals was...

    2 Thopter Spy Network
    2 Ghirapur Gearcrafter
    2 Sigiled Starfish
    2 Whirler Rogue
    1 Angel's Tomb
    1 Throwing Knife
    2 Scrapskin Drake
    1 Subterranean Scout
    2 Dragon Fodder
    1 Fiery Impulse
    2 Lightning Javelin
    1 Firefiend Elemental
    1 Boggart Brute
    1 Ringwarden Owl
    2 Claustrophobia
    some mountains
    more islands

The deck itself wasn't that much fun, but seeing my opponents face as they realized that Angel's Tomb and Thopter Spy Network on the table might be a problem was priceless. I even had 12+ thopters in play in some games^_^. (unfortunately no photo).