LCG News!

Wow, folks! Just, wow! Things seem to be getting a little bit crazy in the Living Card Game world at the minute, with FFG announcing the end of one of their most successful LCGs, Android Netrunner just days after the announcement of a new co-operative card games, Heroes of Terrinoth!

Android Netrunner

The news that Netrunner is ending is quite the shock, I have to say. I’d always been under the impression that it was one of their biggest product lines, and thought that would be too much to let it go. While the article, Jacking Out, makes it sound very much like the decision was made by FFG, and the game was just at the end of its natural run as a product, there are other quotes scattered around related news articles that refer to “the unfortunate news about the Netrunner license”, which makes it sound more like they’ve lost that license, rather than anything else. A lot has been made in the past of FFG wanting to focus more on their in-house IP, which we’re now seeing with the second-edition-style of Terrinoth games such as the RPG, so I can see why they’re looking at things like the Warhammer license and perhaps choosing not to renew (though what exactly happened there, we don’t know!) Star Wars is doing well for them, and I think A Game of Thrones will continue to be an earner, as well. But it still feels a bit odd that they’re just letting this one go, especially so soon after the rotation period.

Android Netrunner

I’m going to be sad to see Netrunner leave the stable, even though I stopped following the game after rotation. I’ve had a lot of fun with this game over the years, and I still remember the excitement of that very first game I had back in the summer of 2013. When I used to live in my flat, I had neighbours out the back who would hold a massive birthday party around the 4 July weekend every year, which would invariably go on into the small hours – Netrunner proved to be my coping mechanism for that, as I’d just settle down to a night of watching the Naked Gun trilogy, and (initially) sorted out my entire card pool into each faction (up until this point, I’d kept them sorted by expansion). Year after year, that 4 July weekend would be when I’d go through the card pool once again, and see about mixing up my decks for the coming months. It sounds a bit strange, but I came to really enjoy these times, all the same! Netrunner was the game with which I somehow managed to infect my entire local community with the LCG bug, and led to one of only two official tournaments in which I’ve competed. I don’t want to turn this into some kind of eulogy for the game, but I’ll be sad to see it go.

Heroes of Terrinoth

Going back to in-house IP brings us nicely on to the news from earlier in the week, where another co-operative card game has been announced: Heroes of Terrinoth. This game looks like it is strongly influenced by the mechanics of FFG’s Warhammer Quest card game, something that turned out to be a one-shot before the license went away back in 2015. While I wanted to like it, ultimately I wasn’t really a big fan of that iteration, I have to say, which makes me a little wary of saying this, but I’ve been waiting for a Terrinoth LCG for what feels like centuries!

It feels at first glance a bit like Arkham Horror LCG, with heroes coming from a specific class. However, with eight quests in the core set, and a focus on dungeon-delving to slay the monster and grab some loot, I think this is more akin to Descent: the Card Game, than anything else! Maybe that’s just me being immersed in these games from the start, though…

It’s definitely got the potential to be a lot of fun, at any rate, something that I think has been the hallmark of the first batch of Terrinoth games such as Descent. While FFG has looked more at the tribal feel of the setting through factional games like Runewars and Rune Age, I think it’s interesting that they’re returning to the hero-driven style with this new game. It seems to be an aspect that a lot of people appreciate – and I’m guessing that if they had introduced another factional-based game, it would have the potential to be too similar to Legend of the Five Rings. Building a deck as a hero rather than a warlord has that classic RPG feel, which I suppose is another of the hallmarks of Descent-era Terrinoth games. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this game goes next, and if the tribes such as Uthuk Y’llan or Daqan Lords will make an appearance. It could be telling that the announcement article mentions the setting as Mennara, the entire world of which Terrinoth is only a part, so perhaps we’ll branch out beyond any of the other games FFG has yet produced?

While it isn’t another LCG, I’m guessing that the distribution model will be very much akin to it, with campaign boxes bringing more quests and the like, and potentially class-specific upgrade packs to further kit-out your decks. A huge negative for the Warhammer Quest game was its lack of replayability, but with eight quests off the bat, this should at least be better in that regard.

It’s worth pointing out, incidentally, that all mention of the deck-building card game Rune Age has been removed from the products pages now. You can still find it if you search for it, of course, but I wonder if they’re planning to quiety do away with that one now that they have the LCG on the horizon?

There’s also the State of the LCG article up on the website, which looks into how the Netrunner announcement will potentially affect the other games on the roster. L5R is naturally a big component of this right now, and while I’ve not been paying attention to the latest of the living card games, it does seem like this is perhaps their principal thrust for the time being. The approach of releasing all six packs for a cycle across six weeks, rather than the usual six months, I find really interesting, as it was always something of a contention for the games I used to follow really closely, waiting for that one sweet card that I knew was in pack six, and having to stand by while seeing other factions getting awesome stuff. Warhammer Invasion was always a pain for this, but to a lesser extent, I’ve also seen it a lot with Lord of the Rings, when a card would come out in pack six that would have made the experience with quest #3 so much easier!

It’s interesting to read how the designers think the other LCGs are doing right now, and seeing their priorities for the future. Arkham Horror and A Game of Thrones also seem to be pretty big for the company right now, and seeing the designer insight for all four of the games here was really interesting as showing just how unique each game is now being encouraged to be. While it strikes me as a little funny that A Game of Thrones seems to be morphing a little into its first edition, it’s cool to see such attention to the story being given in Arkham Horror. It’s also kinda fascinating to see the differences that each game is trying, with stuff like the Return to the Night of the Zealot box for Arkham Horror that seems to function almost as a Nightmare Deck deluxe, and the intro decks for each House in A Game of Thrones.

Lord of the Rings still troubles me a little, though I think there is still the potential there to keep going for a while. We’re poised on the brink of the Ered Mithrin Cycle, of course, which is exciting as it feels like we’re going back into the heartland of Middle Earth after being away for so long, but there’s a part of me that wonders, will this be the end? I think a lot of players have been guilty for a long time of thinking the end is nigh, but with the launch of the new digital edition, it does seem that this is more of a possibility now. With seven full expansion cycles, not to mention all of the Saga expansions and standalone decks, would this be the right time to draw the game to a close? The glimmer of hope, for me, is seeing Caleb’s thoughts about implementing campaign play with the game now that the main six-part Saga expansion era is over. Not that we should be reading so much into it these days, but perhaps something like a Return to the Night of the Zealot box could be coming, marking a return to some of the older scenarios to make them into a more cohesive campaign. I think it’s really exciting to see them return to some of the encounter sets from the Core Set in the upcoming deluxe expansion, so maybe this could be a thing once again?

Anyway, this has been a very long and rambling post about Living Card Games, so I think I’ll stop here. I’m curious to see what other people think, though, so do feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Magic Lessons

Hey everybody!
In celebration of the return of Spellslingers to Geek & Sundry, I thought I’d publish this quick blog about a couple of decks that I’ve been using to teach the game of Magic to my girlfriend Jemma. We’ve been playing a few co-op games already, but I was keen to get this to the table as one of my favourite card games, although wasn’t entirely sure how. The results of these lessons are still a bit sketchy for the time being, but hopefully things will prevail!

I’d initially thought about introducing the game with Standard decks that are based around one of the tribes of Ixalan – I’ve already got a Vampires deck built, and have since built up Merfolk (really fun – watch out for that to be featured here soon!), Dinosaurs (both Dino Soldiers in R/W, and the big beasts themselves in R/G), and Pirates (just B/U), along with two further tribal decks; Wizards (from Dominaria) and flying birds of doom (U/W from the current Standard).

However, some of those things are potentially too confusing, so at the weekend I put together two 40-card decks that used cards from across the period when I was really getting into the game: Tarkir block, and both M15 and Origins core sets. The first deck closely replicates one of my all-time favourite decks to play, B/W Warriors!

Creatures:
Mardu Hateblade (2)
Dromoka Warrior (2)
Herald of Dromoka (2)
Arashin Foremost
Mardu Hordechief
Sunscorch Regent
Hand of Silumgar (2)
Chief of the Scale
Chief of the Edge

Enchantments:
Infernal Scarring
Raiders’ Spoils
Abzan Runemark (2)

Instants & Sorceries:
Coat with Venom (2)
Rush of Battle

Artifacts:
War Horn
Prism Ring
Hewed Stone Retainers

Lands:
Plains (8)
Swamp (6)
Scoured Barrens (2)
Evolving Wilds

MTG Scoured Barrens

The Warriors deck is fairly inexpensive – of course, it’s made up from cards that I already had in my collection, but it costs under $7 to construct via Card Kingdom, according to tappedout.net – and synergises well with itself overall. I’ve included the Sunscorch Regent as I wanted a big finisher type of card, but more than anything I wanted to show a variety of cards and, overall, the variety that is inherent throughout the game!

I’ve steered clear of a few of the more complex Warrior cards, as I was trying to be mindful of the keywords and rules concepts within the deck. As it stands, Vigilance and Deathtouch are quite key here, but then they were key to the deck anyway. Double Strike also features through Arashin Foremost, which in retrospect could be quite tricky to grasp. Rush of Battle was another key card for the deck, and introduced Lifelink – fortunately, that isn’t too difficult to deal with. Finally, Raid is on a couple of cards, but as the effect is printed on the card, it doesn’t really matter too much.

But what about the second deck? For this one, I chose Blue-Green, one of my favourite colour combinations that doesn’t involve Black, and went with a much broader theme of making creatures huge. Prowess was a natural include as far as rules goes, so the card pool was widened somewhat to include enough cards with this effect.

Creatures:
Druid of the Cowl (2)
Beastcaller Savant
Umara Entangler
Saddleback Lagac
Soulblade Djinn
Paragon of Eternal Wilds
Paragon of Gathering Mists
Jhessian Thief
Vedalken Blademaster
Armorcraft Judge
Lotus Path Djinn
Ridgescale Tusker

Enchantments:
Temur Runemark
Elemental Bond
Military Intelligence

Instants & Sorceries:
Lifecrafter’s Gift
Awaken the Bear
Dragonscale Boon
Gather Courage
Anticipate
Titanic Growth

Lands:
Forest (8)
Island (7)
Thornwood Falls (2)
Evolving Wilds

MTG Soulblade Djinn
I was looking to create a sense of balance within the decks at first, and had included the green dragon from Fate Reforged, Destructor Dragon, but as it turned out I think that was one creature too many – I’m not that great at building Prowess decks, as I invariably want to include too many creatures! Having already got the Ridgescale Tusker in the deck, I think that’s as big a creature as I need. This is another deck you can put together for under $7 via Card Kingdom according to tappedout.net, so the whole experience should be pretty cheap and straightforward if you fancy recreating any of these decks!

The deck does take a little more work than the Warriors deck, however, as there is some element of timing for when to play certain cards. We’re not talking combat tricks here per se, just the sequencing between cards that place +1/+1 counters, and cards that interact with those counters. For example, the sequence of Ridgescale Tusker putting counters on each creature, followed by Lifecrafter’s Gift that puts counters on each creature already with a counter on it, before Armorcraft Judge drawing you cards for each creature with a counter on it.

As it happens, Jemma took the Warriors deck – “lots of little men who support each other to fight” – while I was left with “a handful of creatures that want to be made huge”. It was a good choice, on reflection, as the U/G deck definitely had the tougher time of things.


Magic Lessons

A lot of people on the internets will tell you, when introducing somebody to the game, to stick with just vanilla creatures, and even to avoid Instants and Sorceries for the first few games, instead just duking it out between the creatures you’ve summoned. Stick with mono-colour, avoid all the complicated stuff, and just get the basics down.

I disagree with that approach to some extent, as part of the joy of playing Magic comes from that variety that I mentioned at the start, and the combination of cards working together to produce the deck. If you scale these things back, you lose some important parts of what makes the game so much fun, and I think you risk introducing the game as being quite boring.

“So it’s just, my creature kills your creature, until somehow we manage to kill each other?”

“No no, it’s actually a lot more fun than this! We can play other cards to influence the game, and create combos between creatures and keywords and effects!”

So why don’t you just include some of those cards from the outset?

I do agree, though, that you should absolutely stay away from Counter magic when teaching the game. If you’ve got a player trying to figure things out, and all you’re doing is cancelling their stuff, that is just a recipe for disaster. Similarly if they have the Control deck – at even the more basic level, it requires some skill at the game to know what to allow and what to counter. I think you should try to ignore the Stack as much as you can – of course, explain when cards can be played, but try to avoid talking about “in response” and the like. The few Instants that I managed to cast, I played effectively as Sorcery cards, and not as combat tricks in response to blockers being declared – that can be confusing and feel almost like the person doing it is cheating.

(However, I often use pump spells and other combat tricks almost as deterrents, and will pump the team with an Instant in the pre-combat main phase. It works particularly nicely with Boros decks, I’ve found!)

Something I think that can be quite subtle, and that a lot of people seem to overlook, is to make sure you play correctly when teaching, almost as a demonstration. Sure, let the other person order their lands above their creatures or whatever (Jemma actually had her lands on the left, and creatures on the right, which made me itch a little). But make sure your own board is clear, the lands are organised, the enchantments and artifacts are together, the creatures are together, etc. Tap and untap correctly (I’m terrible for just “slightly turning” a card when I tap it…) and generally be a good example of how to actually play!

Keywords
Okay, so sure, keywords can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what they mean. For the B/W deck, there was Deathtouch and Vigilance, and while I took care to ensure Deathtouch instances always included the explanation of that keyword, Vigilance unfortunately was not explained on the card. Similarly with the U/G deck, Prowess was always explained wherever it appeared, but there were instances of Flying and Trample that were not explained, so could cause problems when trying to remember. However, with perhaps the exception of Prowess, all of these keywords feature across a very wide range of Magic cards, so I think it’s really important that you get used to them from the start.

These keywords are also really quite symbolic of the colours they appear in – Vigilance in White, Trample in Green, etc. It’s important to see that these flying creatures can’t be blocked by non-flyers, so you need to come up with another plan. It makes the game much more interesting than just a case of throwing generic 2/2s against generic 3/3s. Magic isn’t about that, so why give that impression?

A note about Double Strike though – if I’d thought some more, I would probably have left that card out, so instead chose to explain it as basically doubling the damage dealt, and was careful not to block when doing so. You don’t need to be explaining the finer points of First Strike damage to somebody on their first ever game.

MTG Druid of the Cowl

Interactions
A lot of the joy and excitement that I get from this game comes from the interactions between cards, and colours, and I especially enjoy seeing those interactions work across block sets, as well. By only including basic creatures and basic lands in a starter deck, you remove so much of that from the game, and run the risk of making the game seem incredibly bland and unimpressive. At the very basic level, even a simple pump spell can make things seem more interesting.

I think the most complicated these introductory games became was when Jemma had a Hand of Silumgar with an Abzan Runemark attached, along with Chief of the Scale and Raiders’ Spoils out. That simple 2/1 Deathtouching Warrior was now a 5/4 Deathtouching Warrior – and then she played Rush of Battle to make it a 7/5 Deathtouch Lifelink Warrior! In contrast, I managed to draw 14 lands almost consecutively, and only had a Vedalken Blademaster out.

Needless to say, I lost both of our games…

Should you throw games when introducing somebody new to that particular world? A lot of the advice Warhammer players dish out is that yes, you should. By all means try, and deal out some damage, but don’t play at your normal level and smash face. Well, I think the same thing is true for introducing Magic to people. Don’t try to win too hard – not difficult for me with the U/G deck I was playing, but if I’d been playing the Warriors, I would perhaps have kept back some of the pump spells to make sure I didn’t overwhelm the board and demolish her.

I think it’s important to give a new person a good overview of the game, and allow them to play some cards, but it’s equally important to show them that it isn’t going to be a walk in the park. You don’t want someone to think, “Oh, that game’s really easy!” after a couple of games. So by all means, I’ll attack with that massive beast creature that I’ve just dumped some +1/+1 counters onto and pumped with a Titanic Growth. I might even throw some trample in there. But I’ll also make sure to block with my mana dorks, and put myself behind sometimes. I’m not trying to win a GP, I’m trying to get another human being into playing this game with me!

MTG Sunscorch Regent

Did it work?
On reflection, the Warriors deck is perhaps a little over-powered, in that it works extremely well. In theory, the Blue/Green Prowess deck should allow you to make creatures enormous, and could be really strong as well, but I think it needs more refinement if that were to happen.

For the first game, we played with open hands, and I was providing perhaps too much advice and guidance, such as who to target with certain cards, which creature to play at which point. I was doing so as fairly as possible, as I wanted to impart some of the strategy and stuff. It also helped that I was land-flooded and she could see that I wasn’t being nice, but that I couldn’t actually play anything to respond. For the second game, we went with the standard approach, although Jemma did still ask questions about if a certain play was possible. Warriors are fun, and the deck is very tight-knit, but it did become quite confusing for her when trying to remember who was buffing who, and how they were doing it.

However, for someone who freely admits she is no good at the strategy, she made some really strong plays during that second match, which I think vindicated my choice of not using just generic decks to play the game. When we’ve been playing Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror before now, she has made very good calls on what we, as a team, should be doing, but I think the fact that she was suddenly playing against me in this game made her feel like she couldn’t deal with it. Persistence showed she can, though, and so I hope we’ll get to play some more soon!

Have you tried to teach someone Magic? How did it go? I’d be interested to read your comments below!!

Spellslingers is back!

Oh my goodness, it’s back! After what feels like an absolute age, Spellslingers is back on Geek & Sundry! Last seen during Origins back in 2015, we’ve finally got season 4 up on youtube, and it’s glorious!

I’m sure plenty of people are going to be slightly less than happy that it continues the theme from last season of having the more newbie players on the show, but I suppose we can’t always get Luis Scott Vargas on… At any rate, seeing this video has made my day, so sit back and enjoy!