This is the time of year when most of us do a little review of our lives. What things have we achieved the last year? What are the highlights of the last 365 days? So I’m going to do it from my own perspective in relation to Magic: The Gathering. Keep in mind this is a list of things I have enjoyed and the order is fairly loose.
Here we go…
5. Underground Dojo Keyboard Cagefighters!21
For those of you who might have missed this, this phrase came into being after the big cheating scandal in the last 3 months. A quick overview: One player was seen to be shuffling somewhat suspiciously on the live video stream for the SCG open series. (I won’t name him here, because frankly I don’t think he’s that important.) He was peeking at his opponent’s deck whilst shuffling and then, using slight of hand, he was putting all lands or all spells to the top. Now that all formats have fetchlands, it can happen a lot during a game.
The reason this makes my list is because of the way most of the community responded. There was, in fairness, a little bit where I thought it might go all witchhunty but for the most part there was a reasonably level-headed response. Videos were analysed by the online community. Evidence was collected and highlighted. Wizards moved swiftly and a lengthy ban was issued. The culprit responded with a long Facebook rant in which he accused the online community of being the above mentioned Keyboard Cagefighters. He may be a cheating scumbag, but he has a lovely turn of phrase.
I must add that it is important to deal with accusation of cheating in the proper manner. These after-the-fact accusations worked in this particular case, because there was plenty of video evidence to look at, but if you are at FNM or a higher REL event you should call a judge the moment you suspect there might be something wrong.
4. Khans of Tarkir.
That’s right, I’m picking the last set as a whole. I have drafted and drafted and drafted this set and I have enjoyed nearly all of these games. Even when I’ve gone 1-2 I’ve had fun.
I cannot count the number of times that during deck building I’ve spoken to a friend sitting on my left and found out we are in the same clan. The set is deep. There is quite a few strategies in each clan. The fixing is brilliant. Five Colour Morphs is an actual strategy, but it’s not too strong, it doesn’t work every time. Off colour shards are also not supported, so the set doesn’t feel too big and directionless. At best it’s a gentle nudge for you to stay in the clans.
At the time of writing I don’t know what exactly is happening in Tarkir. Sarkhan turned up back in his old manor and had a few run-ins with his old clan and its new leader, Zurgo. With the help of Narset of Jeskai he was able to use Ugin’s Nexus to travel back in time to the era when dragons were still alive on this plane.
I had so much fun without dragons… Just imagine what larks I will have when those flying beasties turn up in all the clan colours.
3. The new block structure.
This might be higher up in a lot of people’s lists but, seeing as it was just the announcement and we haven’t seen how it will work in practice, I’m not sticking it at the top of my list. But this is very exciting. Tighter two block sets, no tired third set or dull middle set where things were obviously kept back to improve the final chapter. I’m a big fan of the lore and, whilst traditional stories have a three act structure, the way in which the story can move forward more quickly will enable better storytelling.
The core set is also no more. Magic 2016 or whatever they end up calling it will be the last Core set. As a concept in Magic it is cool to have your Core game come out every year, so people can get into it and enjoy a more basic version before the expert sets come out. But in practice it was not clear enough in its objectives. When people ask me how to get into the game, I point them towards Duels of the Planeswalkers. This is where now people should be starting their journey.
“But my cards will be legal for a shorter amount of time!” I hear you say. Well sure that’s a thing but hopefully the market will adjust so that prices reflect that. I’m not certain how this will work in real life and that’s the reason why this incredibly exciting news is not sitting in the first place on this list.
Oh man, I loved (and still love) everything about this. The way they put conspiracy cards into Born of the Gods pre-release packs and then led everyone on a merry dance to discover what was going on. Strange phone numbers and codes to decipher, random things embedded into Daily MTG content on the Wizards website. All this before we even knew about the crazy multiplayer Draft format it turned out to be.
A bit of the negative attention this set got was from Spikes: those players that want to compete on every level. This set was a casual format and therefore of little interest to them. I say this a lot to people about this card or a certain product. I you don’t like it, it’s probably not meant for you.
People tend to be a little blinkered when it comes to Magic products. Take the Duel Decks or the Clash packs for example. An often heard complaint is that the big money card in these decks is one they already have 4 of. Well, it’s probably not for you, then. It’s for the kid who traded for 1 to go in his deck but needed another planeswalker to make it work. He/She won’t even be the intended buyer, but the fact that so many more of that card come onto the market means that it drops into his pocket money bracket.
Back to Conspiracy itself. I loved this, drafting with a bunch of mates, having a few beers and then switching up the pods for a couple of hours of social card playing. This is what I like to do with multiplayer games.
Wizards got this set spot on. And it sold well, which hopefully means they will do something similar again. Failing that I can always horde Conspiracy cards for my Chaos Drafts.
1. Magic is a family game.
“Whut? Your number one thing about Magic in 2014 is that it’s a family game?”
Yep, that’s right. I play Magic every Friday and I take along my 10 year old son. He’s a good player and he does well. Me and him get to play at home in kitchen table games all the time. I love that I get to do my hobby and include him.
But there is more. On the last FNM before Christmas, my wife was going to her work’s Christmas party. I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Magic, because my 8 year old daughter would need looking after. No worries, I’m sure I can forsake one night of playing Magic to endure yet another viewing of Frozen (the movie). That particular FNM was supposed to be Two-Headed Giant, so I went about arranging a partner for my son, so he wouldn’t miss out. However, when my little girl got wind of the two-player nature of this format, she suddenly became interested in coming along. She, somewhat reluctantly, plays kitchen table games against her brother. She uses a Kiln Fiend combo deck. It’s brutal when it works.
So along we all went to FNM. She was amazed to discover she got to open packs and, when she did, she pulled Bloodsoaked Champion, Butcher of the Horde, and Zurgo Helmsmasher, which is pretty much a deck right there. I went with Green/Blue as a support deck. We’ve all been that person at one point. The one who has all the 0/3s and the countermagic, whilst your teammate has the cards that actually do stuff. To my surprise we, or rather she, won our first two matches. The only issue was when she topdecked Arc Lightning: the artwork was a little bit too scary for her, so I had to play it out.
In the final I had a great conversation with our opposing team. I explained to them that it was past my teammate’s bedtime and I was hoping we could split the prizes. Being good guys they were very cool with a split, but disappointed not to get another game in. My daughter talked all the way home about how she had enjoyed it and how she was pleased that in all her officially sanctioned games she was undefeated. When my son was dropped off later and told me (my daughter was in bed by then) that we had actually won the whole event on tiebreakers, that the icing on the cake. He also pointed out that everyone else at the shop was talking about how I was the 3rd best Magic player in my household.
Thank God, my wife doesn’t play or else I would probably end up 4th.
Well, that’s my list. I know people have wildly different thoughts and opinions about this card game, so I would encourage you all to read the list and use it as a jumping off point to start a discussion in the comments section. If you hated one of my picks, tell me why. Don’t just state that I’m wrong and an imbecile. I’ve been married for 10 years, I already know how wrong I am about most things. Please show your workings for extra credit.
Community Question: What were your MTG stand out moments for 2014?
Thanks for reading,