Can’t afford the millions of cards required to get competitive at Magic? Don’t have space for a collection, or friends with decks? Well why not play Hearthstone?
I kid, I haven’t played Hearthstone either. I hear it’s free, but I look at a multiplayer game that big and I’m immediately put off, and to be honest I haven’t been enthralled by a Blizzard game in decades, the lore is lost on me and their style doesn’t draw me in like it used to when I was younger.
I had been dipping into Mojang’s card-game analogue Scrolls for quite some time, it had some great mechanics, but like everything that they try and do that isn’t Minecraft, it vanished in obscurity. Gwent sits firmly on my to-do list, but it does so along with the rest of the Witcher trilogy which I keep trying to get back into, alongside a few dozen other computer collectable card games that ought to be tried at some point, one day. (more…)
What do you get when you cross an RPG and a CCG?
Well actually the net result is rather clever. In the game by Defiant Development you sit at a table across from a mysterious figure for a game of cards, moving your token along random layouts that offer challenges, threats, conundrums and opportunities. Each round unveils a sliver of a story, uncovering sidequests and fighting your way to the finish line. It’s a rather interesting little take on a classic format that I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale. (more…)
This time, we’re gathering up every thought we could think of, to create a collection of… Well, collectables. Because of just how broad the collectables collective truly is, we decided to limit these collectables, based on two major criteria. A collectable to be considered for this list needs to either be:
- A vast range of different things to get.
- Something you get lots of to get something special in return.
As such, we’re not going to accept really vague collectables, or objects that are put in game with no big reward. We considered just about everything we could think of, from video games, physical mediums, literature, tv series, films – You named it, we’ve thought about it. These are the Top 10 Collectables within geekdom, but this is such a broad subject, get your typing fingers ready, as you’ll likely know of one we totally forgot! (more…)
There’s something weirdly therapeutic about shuffling a deck of cards, and for enthusiasts of all stripes there’s an ever increasing number of games to choose from across a wide variety of genres, so many in fact that I for one do not remember the last time I played a game with the classic four-suite deck. The combination of a randomised deck, the resource-management elements of a hand, and the sheer volume of options afforded by the printed space on cards make them a versatile utility for any game designer.
But with such an array of choices, how do you know what’s right for you?
The structure of decks, and how those structures are reached can vary wildly:
Pre-built decks are the most common by far, and most frequently multiple decks control different elements of the game. For example, in Munchkin the Door deck describes your encounters, and the Treasure deck rewards you for your efforts. In Bucket of Doom (a recent acquisition of mine) players are required to formulate escape plans drawn from the Situation deck using one of their Item cards as the most essential component. Or to take it one step further, in Boss Monster, you have a Dungeon deck with which to built your evil lair, a Spell deck that grants you special powers, and all players are at the mercy of the Hero deck.
Deck building games most commonly feature a single deck around which the entire game focusses, which is slowly divided amongst the players. The DC Deck Building Game is a favourite of mine, in which players begin with only a handful of powers, and must gather more powers, as well as allies, equipment, and even a few enemies in order to strengthen their chances of securing better cards as the game progresses, and work their way through the super-villains. Smash-Up takes a different course, where the deck is built right at the beginning by combining any two of the large choice of factions together, using complimentary tactics to compete for control of the bases.
CCGs (collectible card games) offer players a library of cards from which they can collect and horde, and building a deck from what cards they amass from booster packs and boxes. Whoever can build the best deck wins. This type of game lends itself to victory through study, knowledge, and yes, more than a little cash spent on cards that can assure victory, and this can create a rather elitist type of gamer, or just a bunch of people who really enjoy testing their strategic thinking.
The real beauty of the deck structure is that it is easy to expand upon. As a perfect example, Cards Against Humanity having such a simple structure allows the creators to bring out new decks based on what’s funny to a geographical area (or hand us some lazy British stereotypes, cheers lads) or simply add more material to keep the game fresh. Smash Up gains more factions to mix and mash, and CCG’s expand upon the ever growing market, changing with the time so as to prevent older players gaining too strong an advantage over new players. It never quite works out like that though…
Your only resource is the cards in your hand. Games may differ, changing the way cards are played depending on other elements of the game, but ultimately you can only control what you do with what you have. Card quality can vary, and you can end up with some hands offering you next to no choices, while others grant you significant bonuses in any situation. You’re frequently limited as to how many cards you can hold, and almost always limited on how many you replenish, so managing this precious resource is a tough balancing act of weighing pros and cons of each play, calculating the best order, but leaving yourself prepared for what may come.
It’s little wonder it can take some people an hour to make up their minds.
The random nature of a well-shuffled deck can be a blessing and a curse. Some players may find that the cards they draw just aren’t good enough, or are stuck with the agony of choosing which of their incredible choices would be best used in the moment, only to find another, better situation arise soon after. Magic the Gathering players will be familiar with the terms Mana-Screwed or -Flooded referring to having too little or too much of the essential resource card. Fans of Cards Against Humanity or Dixit will know the sting of picking up “The Perfect Card” the moment they made an inadequate play.
This level of chaos can put some people off playing, but sometimes it’s best just to make the best of what you have and hope for a change of fortunes. And if it never happens you can always blame the cards.
Love it or hate it, Magic: The Gathering is the biggest collectible card game going. Though it suffers major criticisms such as its’ pay-to-win format and a certain amount of elitism that many games ultimately foster, it has a lot of factors that make it a far more interesting and dynamic game than even the basic rules would have you believe. As with any hobby with a social aspect, the best way to enjoy it is with people who’s company you enjoy and who enjoy the game the way you do.
The basics are fairly easy to grasp, Tim did an excellent summary a few weeks back that’ll let you pick up a deck and start playing, and explains many of the terms I use in this article. Building a deck of your own is one of the hardest parts of the game, much like building a character for a roleplay, but it starts in much the same way – a few basic decisions.
There are five colours of mana in MtG, each reflecting a tactical style. Your first deck should reflect your play-style in other games:
Green – The easiest mana type to get to grips with quickly. Green decks accumulate land fast and use it to make big nasty monsters. The little monsters that get left behind often get the opportunity to become massive later, and gain the ability to trample through anything standing in the way of their destructive power. Any of the trickery other colours can be dealt with by destroying enchantments, blocking flying creatures and recovering lost life.
Red – A short term victory or no victory at all! Red excels at damage dealing with little regard to the long term, its’ creatures have high attacking power backed by haste, first- and double-strike to ensure your opponent doesn’t get chance to fight back. You’ll also have a surprising amount of mean tricks up your sleeve like stealing opponents creatures, and massively multiplying your damage output.
White – A white deck plays the long game very well, it ensures you live long enough by massively increasing your life total, protecting it with vigilant creatures, and negating your opponents’ ability to attack. It’s major attack power will often rely on flying birds and angels, or vast numbers of soldiers that overwhelm enemy defences. White decks at their outer-limits become potentially devastating, wiping the board of any obstacle whilst leaving yourself relatively unscathed.
Black – Black decks have vicious strategies that often come with a price. If you’re prepared to lose life, fill your graveyard with your own cards, and generally risk everything early game, you’ll find the benefits to be monumental. You can control a great deal of what your opponent does, steal life from them in large quantities, and generally make life miserable for everyone but you. In the late game you can empty your graveyard onto the battlefield, or pull similar dirty tricks.
Blue – Blue is weird. Blue decks are filled with complex and winding tactics; creatures that fly, or failing that ignore defences altogether; manipulating enemy creatures; manipulating each player’s decks; and generally denying your opponent the ability to cast spells. Blue plays the long game better than White, constantly keeping your opponent on the back-foot while you build towards something… well, weird. Victory for a blue deck is often as alien as their overall strategies.
Most decks are built of one or two colours. A monocolour deck will pursue one tactic relentlessly and highly effectively, but leave it somewhat vulnerable to a more flexible deck. Two colours can compliment each other’s strengths, or offset each other’s weaknesses. For example, Red/Green does big very well, massive monsters that deal a lot of damage, where Red/White can balance attack and defence in fairly equal measures.
Due to the way mana supply is built, three colour decks can often be impractical – even impossible – to play unless you have a supporting cast of cards that support the concept. In fact decks are possible that support all five colours at once, most famously the Sliver deck. Some decks can be colourless, like an Artifact deck, they often support simplistic but insanely potent tactics, like flooding the field with basic creatures.
It’s quite simple to start a deck in theory.
If you only have a small collection then it may be worth rooting through it to find common strategies. This is especially sound planning if you’ve only collected from one or two of the various sets, as each will often offer new or unique strategies, like Bolster from the recent Tarkir block, or Infect from Phyrexia.
If you already have an oversized collection, then your first cards should be your favourites. Say you pull from a new booster a card that you really want to play like a new Planeswalker or some mythic rare card that’s just too tempting not to try. The rest of your deck should build around it, support it, but most importantly NOT depend on it, unless you’re building a Commander deck which can be pretty fun.
Drafting a deck is a great way to get started. The first few cards you pull during the draft will usually determine which colours you pursue from that point on, and of course building a deck from the same set will usually result in supporting strategies.
Filling The Deck
The final deck should include a balance of cards. first and foremost getting the right mana support from your deck. Depending on how many high cost spells your deck has, or abilities that bring mana to your hand, you’ll want an average of one third mana, at the very least one quarter.
The deck should have a balance of spell costs. Most spells should cost between two and four mana to cast, with high mana cost items being kept limited to very few. The best way to check your balance is to draw a few opening hands; if you can cast a spell straight away in most cases then you’re off to a good start, if you can draw a few more cards and cast most turns then even better.
After that it’s time to get into some real games. Some things to look out for: If you rapidly find yourself emptying your hand and ending your turns with lots of untapped mana, you can probably stand a few more expensive cards, or cards that have mana abilities that keep your opponents engaged.
You may never have a finished product, after all M:tG is a constantly changing game that releases new sets on a regular basis to sucker gullible consumers like me to keep buying more. Still it keeps things fresh and interesting for people who play the game regularly.
Any MTG players in our readership?
Well if you’re not, I recommend jumping on a draft as a great way to learn. With a quick intro to the rules you can use a draft to put together a simple deck and get a few games in with people who are on a similar footing as you. For those who don’t know, this is how you draft:
- Each person starts with three booster packs (15 cards each)
- Everyone opens a pack, takes a card and passes the rest on
- Repeat until all the cards are gone
- Repeat for the other two packs
- By the end, everyone has 45 cards and builds a deck of 40 cards (including lands) and plays
Simple and effective. There’s no spending a fortune on amazing cards, everyone has had the same chances and it’s a great way to learn and play with friends without feeling too keenly for your inexperience.