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Sick days and Magic: the Gathering

As some of you may know, I've been off work for a few days with the norovirus. (Medical TMI BBC link) In fact, I've had it twice, once 2 or 3 weeks ago, and once this week. One of the interesting things about this is that you're meant to avoid people for 48 hours after symptoms end, to avoid infecting them. So this has resulted in me having some days at home when I'm feeling fine (or only slightly queasy), but can't go in to work.

This has meant I've had time for a few things that I'd like to have more time to do. One of them is working on my isometric tactics engine, which I appear to have pledged to make open-source and provide to the Lemmasoft game-making community, as part of the 5 Years of Lemmasoft Forums Celebrations. I've made horrifically little progress since all the time I had over Christmas, when I basically wrote the preliminary, untested version of most of the engine; since then I've been very slowly trying to fix all the bugs I knew I'd be creating by writing untested code in a language I'm not that familiar with.

But progress on that has been slow, even with these few days off. One of the reasons for this is the evil that is Magic: The Gathering Online. It's far too tempting, knowing that another casual game is just a couple of clicks away...

When I first considered getting into MTGO I made a deliberate decision that I wouldn't end up with a "collection" of M:tG cards split between physical and virtual cards: I prefer playing "paper Magic", so I'd keep the investment in my MTGO account to a minimum. I've more or less succeeded in that, only really using MTGO for booster drafting, which is a fascinatingly skill-testing Limited format to play Magic in.

At one point last year, I had a bit of time at home, and created myself an online Standard deck of tap and untap effects (using three different pingers). Yesterday I decided to update this deck for the current standard format. I already had the 4 copies of Mangara of Corondor, who's a deliciously evil card to untap; but unfortunately, I lost most of my untap-effects, as all of Tidewater Minion, To Arms! and Magewright's Stone are from Ravnica-block, which is no longer Standard-legal. Only Puppeteer remains from the old version of the deck. To join it, Lorwyn block provides Stonybrook Angler, which is just a poor man's Puppeteer; and Thousand-Year Elixir. Which... as it turns out, is a terrifyingly good card.

So I made the decklist for the new deck, based on my old one, and then went to the MTGO trading rooms to find the new cards I'd need. I spent a total of 9 tickets (= $9), getting 3 copies of Arcanis the Omnipotent (who's back in 10th Edition!), 4 Thousand-Year Elixir, a few oneoff cards like Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile and Pentarch Paladin, and a few miscellaneous commons; and then jumped off to the MTGO Casual Decks room.

The thing I love about MTGO (that is also its greatest danger) is that you really can find a match at any time of the day or night. Particularly for Standard or Lorwyn-block casual decks, it's literally a matter of seconds to find a casual opponent. I played about 6 games yesterday with this new deck, which is more games than a typical paper deck might get in 3 months after I build it. And it turns out that Mangara of Corondor is just as good as he was before; Arcanis the Omnipotent is awesomely strong; Rings of Brighthearth is a delightful and powerful card; but what makes the deck really zing is Thousand-Year Elixir. It removes the inherent one-turn liability of having so many creatures with tap effects, and lets you use Mangara (or Arcanis!) twice the turn they come out.

The deck did quite well. My favourite match was one against a money-stuffed black control deck, using cards such as Damnation, Korlash, Profane Command, Thoughtseize, Underground River, Ancestral Vision and so on. It looked like the game was his quite early, with multiple Shriekmaws taking out my guys who could have blocked Korlash, and getting me down to 3. But a topdecked Arcanis (with an Elixir on the board) gave me both 3 cards and a chump blocker, and the 3 cards included Brigid who shot down the Shriekmaws. Shortly afterwards I fired off Mangara, untapping him three times with an Elixir and two Puppeteers to RFG Korlash, two Epochrasites and an Icy Manipulator, leaving his side of the board empty. He responded with a 4-for-1 Damnation, which I couldn't really argue with. But the game ended up going to me. Arcanis is too strong to leave around, even if he is also the deck's largest creature and so ended up having to go on the attack quite often - it's quite comical attacking with a guy who taps to Ancestral. I felt quite pleased when my deck full of 50p jank rares beat one like his which was worth at least £30.

When I sorted my new cards after I got back from the Morningtide prerelease, I was somewhat intimidated to discover that I had 8 distinct piles of cards, each one representing a deck I wanted to build. The single Johnniest card I had was one Thornbite Staff, which is delightful combined with any number of other cards such as Lightning Crafter, Moonglove Changeling, Visara the Dreadful, and on and on and on. But I haven't built the Shamans/Thornbite deck yet.

I did take the opportunity that the days off provided to build some others. I've built the Wizards deck, "Twizzle", which uses my Sigil Tracer and three Diviner's Wands, along with a mixture of other Wizards and things. It's got a variety of cool synergies, but I don't know if it'll work or not. I finally found my old Vedalken Orrery deck, so I've rebuilt that along with a number of Lorwyn's "opponent's turn" triggers like Faerie Tauntings and Dreamspoiler Witches. I've taken my oold red-black first-strike-flyers deck, "Wyverns & Friends", and rebuilt it as black-white to use Plover Knights. I wanted to keep the red for the Sabertooth Wyverns, but the one thing the black provides that goes really well with first-strike creatures is Maddening and Nettling Imps. And I picked up enough cards for my planned Leyline of Singularity deck that it's now hit critical mass, and I'll be building that soon. I still haven't built the Treefolk, Warrior, Rogue, Illusion, or Runed Stalactite decks either, but I do have more cards for each of them. (There are a few cards I'm after for some of these decks: Kjeldoran Gargoyle would be a perfect top-end for the WB flying-first-strikers, and I could use one more Runed Stalactite and a couple of Kithkin Greathearts... so if anyone reading this has any of these spare, let's trade.)

So, um, come to GamesEvening, and play Magic with me!


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
my dad would love you - he's been a big magic player for years altho he only plays draft tournaments now as his magic collection got insanely large so he decided to sell it all :(

(i might suggest magic online to him )
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )