Not every set of Magic the Gathering is worth playing. My interest lays less on being devoted to this hobby of CCGs and more on where the narrative is headed. The story-based focus has been at the forefront for years now, and I can thankfully ditch the expensive side of the hobby and simply enjoy the tale.
After War of the Spark, the story concerning the desert gods from Amonkhet came full circle (died) and lest Hazoret returns, I’m biding my time to see what the next expansions offer.
When I heard about a partnership with TOHO Studios, my interest peaked at what’s going to happen. Planeswalkers Vivien Reid, Lukka and Narset will no doubt be important. Plus, you can never go wrong with giant monsters! Ikoria fulfills my fondest desires with the trample mechanic. The two recent additions–mutate and companion–might break standard play, but I’ll rely on reports than experiment to find out myself. For now, I can also go full on Kaiju with alternate art cards in my play deck on those kitchen table games with my buddies.
As my unboxing video shows, I got extremely lucky with pulling not one but two of the few most talked about cards.
Just what I thought the teaser I saw on April 1st (tweeted out on March 31) with a huge footstep in rock by Wizards of the Coast was a joke, nope, they were deadly serious with the next set of Magic: The Gathering cards. This Renton, Washington based company got in touch with Toho Studio‘s to offer a tie-in to their Gojira property in the form of alternate art cards! The good: they are legal for game play, with the titular character available in one of the three designs as a buy a box promo. The bad: the remaining 15 cards to finish this set are only available in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Collectors Boosters.
For the best picks, please arrive at your local comic book store early. Each title offered is while supplies last.
Today is Free Comic Book Day and May the Fourth Be With You! It’s not every year where the several major geeky events take place. This particular one is a somber one as Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew passed away. This gentle giant of a man will be missed. #RIP.
Fans of Star Wars should take a moment, if they have not already, to remember Mayhew, this weekend. I may need a tissue when I read the comic featuring Chewie and Solo in an all-new adventure in a galaxy far, far away. The style has me thinking it’s on par with the Resistance animated series, and that’s okay.
For this particular weekend, it’s also Wizards of the Coast‘s official War of the Spark release and Open House Weekend where card game enthusiasts can either partake in the latest set or learn how to play.
My plan is to enjoy a bit of everything. The morning will be picking up the comics, the afternoon will be a few rounds of the card game (drafting the set or playing with free packs; I haven’t decided yet) and the evening plan is a viewing of the definitive fan-edit of Empire Strikes Back a good friend says he has.
In no particular order, my picks are:
(W) Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, Jody Houser
(A) David Rubin, Ibrahim Moustafa (CA) Chun Lo
Tales from two diverse worlds!
In Stranger Things, Eleven and the Demogorgon have disappeared from Hawkins, IN. Steve and Nancy try to cheer Mike up, encouraging him to get the adventuring party back together again.
Then, in the world of the Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer series, Madame Dragonfly takes the reader on an EC-style tour through her mysterious Cabin of Horrors to witness two groups of brand-new Black Hammer heroes from the past!
As a casual Magic the Gathering player who has been paying attention to the backstory on the cards, the novel War of the Spark: Ravnica intrigued me. The author, Greg Weisman is best known for his work in producing Disney’s Gargoyles and Young Justice. His vision gave us characters to love. With his original work Rain of Ghosts, the world around the Florida keys is wonderfully flavourful and his narrative approach makes the two books easy reads.
In Ravnica, the struggle is real. While I could not put down the Rain series, I had to start pausing and spend each day reading a few chapters. He is working in a universe not of his design. Wizards of the Coast hired him in their bid to return to publishing fiction and he should have insisted on focussing on a handful of characters he is genuinely interested in instead of the other way around.
The story jumps from multiple points of view and I prefer the one with Teyo the Shieldmage first and Liliana the Necromancer over all the others. With more than a dozen planeswalkers descending upon Ravnica to take down Nicol Bolas, the huge amount of characters involved are simply overwhelming. Thankfully, each chapter has a name of the person it’s focussing in on so I can jump to the parts I want to read.
The numbering system may seem odd to newcomers to the Magic the Gathering game, but for others, the nineteen signifies the number of editions of the core set it has gone through since this game’s release 25 years ago. Ideally, I would have liked to see an M25 reference. It’s shiny since it’s a silver year, and to make the foil collectables released this year would have made this returning player happy.
At least the pre-release weekend showed players of all types are hyped for this product. Plenty of boxes were opened and the range of early release cards included a shiny Liliana planeswalker card and a Nicol Bolas. I did not get that box. I played against another who did, and he was beaming. Sadly, my pulls sucked. I got nothing spectacular to brag about during pre-release. However, since one favourite was Tezzeret, Artifice Master (which nobody got at the store I went to play at), I found my fortune after the event. I acquired the said Necromancer and one of the Elder Dragons (see below for picture).
I was tempted to take part in another game on the following day but had to weigh in on cost and if I wanted more cards than I know what to do with. I am more active with (playing the Beta version of) Magic Arena. I suspect this set will appear online very soon, in both this platform and Magic Online, with very little fanfare. Bugs still exist within this game and they are minor. I would rather get more cards to use there. The booster box was bought on a whim since I wanted to get the promotional card that came along. My den does not have a dedicated filming studio space, otherwise, I would have recorded a box openings to post on YouTube.
At least I can report the weekend had some hilarious moments. To witness reactions is why I attend gaming store functions over playing online, at home. With this set, players can get ground to death with a mill deck, a concept I fondly love using back in the early days of this game.
The Millstone (I find the artwork in this version far more intimidating than the original) helped me win. My six pack draw was light on the creature cards, so the balance was not there to keep me alive in other games. I needed more discard and denial spells to prevent artifact destruction to make this deck work. I do believe this meta will make a comeback.
Added to the game are more Horses. The Vine Mare is perhaps the best. Although rotation is coming soon, at the end of September, I will have to try my hand at a horse tribal deck with Crested Sunmare at its core. I’m sure other players will be experimenting with this too, and the box opening netted me half the cards (I needed multiples). As many deck tech experts have said, players are better off buying the singles needed for the decks than a booster box or two. Those folks who like the lottery system are there to experience the joy of pulling a $40 card from a pile than just shelling out for a pay-to-win experience. Given the trending values of these cards at the time of writing, opening a $90 USD box will not always net a return on investment. In Canadian dollars (paid $138 after taxes), I definitely did not get a return. I lucked out in Dominaria pre-release when I found Karn, Scion of Urza in my packs!
As for whether the horses will become big in tournament play, that’s hard to say. The Goblin Chainwhirler from the last set was huge and leapt in value because of its abilities in the metagame. The big question on some player’s minds will be what will be the defining card(s) for M19?
With at least half the cards reprints from the previous sets, I am not seeing anything standing out. The horses may have a slight impact. However, I’m not playing to find those killers. I enjoyed pre-release for the social camaraderie than to learn what cards are good. Friday Night Magic is one method to test decks, but I wish my store did not run them tournament style.
I believe this set serves as an entry point for anyone wishing to come back to playing, either at a local game store or at the kitchen table level even more than prior sets. Cards from the past five sets have been put in M19, making the final value (for those who bought them) ultimately not worth it. These core sets also get revisited every few years so new folks can hop on board with specific sets instead of buying every release that comes every few months. With the new goblins in this set and the return of the Death Baron, I think I have everything I need to further develop fun tribes to go battling with. I did not get any with my booster box purchase so they will have to be bought individually.
Sorry Lily and Tez; For now, you two are just there to look pretty in my binder.