MTGYOU- Origins Art Draft

origins draftHey gang!  I’m back and I’ve got something special for you today. One of the things that I do in amongst all my other MTG musings and mutterings is periodically taking the time to stop, open up a pack, and really sit down and examine the art on the cards.  I know that I often just skim on by the art and often miss things, so to take a moment and really appreciate the art on the cards can be really refreshing and fun.  Then, after checking out all the art I then go through and pick which one I would select first if I was going to draft based on the art on the cards.  The nicest part about all of this is that likely everyone has their own opinion and taste when it comes to the art on the cards meaning that there is lots of really good discussion.  So, sit back, relax, and let’s enjoy an Art Draft!

Dark Dabbling
Infectious Bloodlust
Akroan Jailer
Thornbow Archer
Pharika’s Disciple
Ringwarden Owl
Bellows Lizard
Topan Freeblade
Returned Centaur
Skysnare Spider
Runed Servitor
Bounding Krasis
Demonic Pact

Dark Dabbling lives up to the name, but generally feels a little lacklustre.  The art is exactly what you would expect from a Black card, and most certainly comes from Liliana’s early work with Necromancy, but the art seems to be lacking a little.  Yes, Liliana is very prominent and the potion of Green stuff looks to be pretty sickly, but it is the surroundings that let me down.  It just seems so bland a non-descript.  Often times the best pieces of art have some sort of interesting detail in the background and this is just one more spooky old castle.  Now, I do like the hand that is neatly tucked off to the left of the book, and if you look real close the book is detailing how to use some sort of joint to help make the green concoction, so those are kind of neat, but I was really hoping for more. The real saving grace with this one is how Liliana is looking over her shoulder at us.  She is clearly wondering who exactly is intruding on her and she hardly looks impressed.  So, while the art in the background is a bit tame, I do like the details put into Liliana and the details in the foreground.  This wouldn’t be my first choice most times, but it is very respectable.

Infectious Bloodlust looks like a Red card.  The critters on the card are all red and everything screams that this is a Red card except the name doesn’t really seem to jive with the Art.  This card looks neither Infectious nor does it look Bloodlust-y.  What I get from this little upside down gremlin is that he and his buddies are up to some sort of mischief rather than being truly bloodthirsty. I feel like the art would have been better on an Act of Treason type card rather than this.  As an aside, am I the only guy who thinks that this little upside down guy might be the same dude from Rakdos Cackler?  They look awfully similar.  Despite the similarity, I still think the card art and the name don’t really match and as a result I would have this quite low on my pick order.

Akroan Jailer is pretty ho-hum too.  I mean, he’s just a dude standing there with his torch essentially tapping down your opponent’s thing. He’s pretty bland at first look, but if you look closely, the detail on his armour around his waist is pretty intricate.  However, because the background around him is so dark our eyes are pulled to the rather beefy dude holding the torch and not his armour unless you are intent on looking pretty closely. Here’s  my real question:  Can you explain to me how this guy is just a 1/1? I mean, this rather imposing dude has the same stats as a Elvish Mystic or an Elvish Visionary, and neither of those guys are imposing, muscular dudes.  No, I’m just confused how this hefty tank of a guy is a mere 1/1 while those scrawny Elves are just the same.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Anyway, he’s a guy…with a torch.

Thornbow Archer is a pretty classic looking Elf.  A tall, graceful, tree top living Elf should look something like this and the bow fits just right as well. This is a pretty simple and pretty classic among Fantasy tropes but it is the subtle colouring that I like best.  The Green hues on the tree and on his clothing tell you quite firmly that these elves are B/G.  So, while this is not exciting, the classic look and feel of the art appeals to me.

Pharika’s Disciple is an up close look at a centaur.  Yup. There she(?) is.  Why exactly does she have deathtouch?  Oh, right, if you worship Pharika you get the poison cane.  But otherwise she looks nothing like most deathtouch creatures in the not so distant past.  So, while the the centaur look is a strong one, this is among my least favorite cards in the set…At least from the art standpoint.

Disperse has got some fresh new art and it looks cool. The art that was on this card from M14 may have been the accepted version of the card, but this new art is super sweet. The guy is literally dissolving into mist and going to disperse, thus the name. This new art is among my favorite in the set and would be moving to the front of the line for sure.

Ringwarden Owl is just a fancy version of Hedwig. Cute as he is, I’m not a big fan. I do appreciate the Mage Ring in the background, and the lighting is pretty sweet, but my focus is on the rather bland owl in the foreground. He could have been made so much cooler, but take away the card frame and this would be a lovely oil on canvas piece for the walls of my parents home.

Bellows Lizard is equally unexciting. A big red crocodile is pretty unexciting. If you like it, that’s great, but he’s pretty underwhelming in my mind. Also, how is this rather large crocodile a 1/1 when the owl is a 3/3?  I would be much more frightened of the croc getting a hold of me than swatting down Hedwig. Whatever. Not a huge deal, but a bit of a head scratcher.

Topan Freeblade is one of my favorite cards because it can be such a ridiculous threat and just beat down so early and so hard. But the art is slightly on the strange side. The lighting behind our creature makes it very difficult to get a real good look at her and the perspective is very in tight and looking up. Don’t get me wrong. I like this art because it is so different and interesting to look at, but every time I look at her I feel like I’m going to be blinded by the sun behind her back. Also, one aspect I’ve grown to like is that initially your eyes are drawn to her blade she is holding out front, but don’t forget the second blade she is wielding behind her head/shoulder. That second blade will get you every time! This goes to the front as one of my favorites too.

Returned Centaur is pretty blah. Grey background. Black and grey centaur. I mean, it looks like the name, but I’m not rushing around looking for this card art and I’m not picking this first.

Skysnare Spider is a pretty frightening spider. I guess my opinion is helped by the fact I don’t much like spiders in most cases anyway. However, when a spider is the size of this one I have to say I am extra creeped out. The prey of this particular spider looks to be of a pretty good size meaning this is one massive spider. Also, what makes this extra scary is the fact that it clearly gets the drop on its prey from up above which is one nasty surprise. I think I like this art more than most because it is an action shot. Most of the other cards in this pack have been stationary photos of the creature or spell, but this one is in mid action catching its prey. Also, that is one big, gross spider with the green accents and that can’t be something good. So, this card gets a good ick factor and is a chill action shot which sets this apart from the other cards in this pack.

Runed Servitor is just a creepy moving box. It kind of looks like a face hugger from the Alien movie franchise. I saw that movie as a kid and the face hugger still gives me the creeps now.  The card is perfectly playable in draft, but the art does little to make me want to pick it an art draft. Thanks, but no thanks.

Quite honestly the best thing about Bounding Krasis is the creature type. Come on, who doesn’t love fish lizard as a creature type? Now, the art on this is good. I like the creature and he looks in keeping with the other krasis critters the Simic seem to breed. The background looks like it could be Ravnica meaning that they have been true to where this guy is from and it just “feels” right. Even the colors look right. No. You know what sinks this guy is that flavor text. It’s the part about being as destructive as a tidal wave. On a 3/3? So, what is Lorthos then?  No idea, but if this is the criteria for a tidal wave I don’t like what comes next. Way to go flavor department on spoiling a rather good piece of art with a silly quote that doesn’t make sense. The quote doesn’t make it unpickable, it just hampers it enough that I’m less inclined to pick it first.

Demonic Pact is a cool card that makes use of some rather new design space. That said, the art doesn’t match with how cool this card is. The art shows Liliana with all her Runes that light up when she is using her powers, and you can see the hordes of zombies behind her in the background, but it looks like it could have been an alternate art for another planeswalker card and not this super cool designed card. I’m not going to slag the art, but I don’t think it really does this card justice.

Top five cards
Topan Freeblade
Skysnare Spider
Bounding Krasis ( bad quote and all)
Demonic Pact

In my mind today the top two contenders are the Freeblade and the Spider. I think my vote today is for the spider because I like how the art captures this massive spider in action. I think the action shot  separates this from the other cards enough to have it be first pick. I also think the artist did a great job of capturing the size of this thing to make  the stats match up with the art. I think that sort of continuity really helps to strengthen the art on the card because everything lines up from art, to stats, to the quote. Everything comes together on the spider and makes him pick number 1 for today.

Thanks very much for stopping in to have a read. Let me know what you think. Do you agree with my choices? Do you face other cards that you like better on account of the art. Let me know in the comments below or by hitting me up on Twitter @bgray8791. Thanks again and have yourselves a great mtg day.

Bruce Gray

Casual Variants of Multiplayer Magic

Magic DogsI have to admit, the Magic community is really pretty terrific.  By and large most people you meet and interact with while playing Magic are genuinely nice, helpful, and just friendly.  Let me share with a little anecdote.  Not too long ago I was trying to think up some new twist I could bring to our next Casual Magic night because we got into a bit of a rut.  We all love Multiplayer Magic, but the games take so long and if someone gets skunked on land they find themselves quickly eliminated and having to sit and watch the others play.  That really isn’t all that fun, so I was trying to come up with some way to mitigate this issue. When I was drawing a blank I turned my attention to the Magic Community and reached out on Facebook for suggestions and was rewarded in short order with tons of great suggestions.  Today I thought I would share some of those fun options so that you could use them the next time you play around a kitchen table with your friends.

Pack Wars– This is perhaps the easiest of all the Casual variants and it takes very little in the way of set up.  Essentially all you need is a booster pack and some land and you have all the ingredients for a game.  People have said for a long time that just cracking a booster pack is a waste of time.  You rarely get a solid return for you money spent, once open it is just 15 more cards, and really is a very short lived experience.  However, you can draw that experience out by opening your pack and just shuffling in some land and playing a game!  Typically you would want 3 land of each colour and then the spells are whatever you open, meaning you have little to no strategy, curve, or any other technical element to your game.  However, it does cause you to think on your feet and adapt to the situation and making due with obviously substandard cards.  The best part is, it could be any two packs…not even from the same set…and everyone is on the same respective level (unless they open some silly bomb).  I gave it try with a buddy and we laughed ourselves silly with the sheer ridiculousness of some of the cards we played…and really at the end of the day it really is all about having some fun.

Howling Mine– One of the main complaints with Multiplayer Magic is that it takes so long because everyone runs out of cards.  It’s true…I have routinely seen games grind to a halt as everyone ends up in Top-deck mode praying that they rip some awesome bomb off the top of their deck.  However, a great strategy to ensure everyone has enough cards and speed up the game is to give everyone a Howling Mine effect.  This means everyone draws 2 cards instead of the usual 1. This really speeds up matters and ensures everyone can play with the cards in their deck instead of just sitting around top decking…drawing a dud…and then passing the turn.

Archenemy– Not all that long ago Wizards had a product that essentially pitted one deck against two others.  The idea being that the one deck was super powerful and that the other two were more marginal, but could team up to beat the superior deck. So, why do you need a particular product from Wizards to play this?  The answer is…you don’t.  Playing 2 or 3 on 1 is a great way to even out the playing field, so find that buddy with the super powerful deck and have him play solo…and then the rest of you get to see if you can take him out.  It sounds really fun because if you are the solo guy, you want to see just how awesome your deck is against multiple opponents.  If YOU get the win solo…damn…you be DA MAN! For the guys teamed up on you, you get a chance to dismantle THAT guy…you know…the guy who almost wins. Even if it is in a handicapped situation, there is no better feeling than beating that guy.  A nice variation on this is to build the deck that the player who will be solo together as a group, so you all know just how awesome it is.  There is a lot of fun to be had in group deck construction.

Two-Headed Giant– This classic team games pits 2 vs 2 and each pair of 2 players take their turn at the same time.  This ends up being a wildly fun and exciting way to play.  It can be played with constructed decks if you like, but is just as much fun in a limited environment.  The ability to sit and discuss strategy with your team mate is one of the highlights of this format and helps you to explore a variety of different strategies.  This one also shows up from time to time at pre-releases and such, making it a little more mainstream and sometimes competitive, but even there is generally regarded as being a fun and friendly format.

Dice-y Free for all– One way to mix up your multi-player free-for-all game is to have each player roll a die to determine which other player they will be attacking this turn.  Sure, it takes a little longer, but in the end it usually avoids one person getting ganged up so badly that he gets blown out the game.  Remember, you are here to play Magic…not blow someone out of the water…and giving each person the chance to not get attacked and develop a bit of a board only makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Chaos Draft– For those who love to draft…why draft boosters from the same set/block?  There’s no set rules come Casual Magic night…so everyone show up with different boosters and just see what you get.  The randomness and unpredictable nature of the Draft environment makes for tons of fun as one guy brings in a pack of Modern Masters, and the next guy brings in a pack of Dark Ascension…and let the mayhem begin.

Mass-Chaos– One of the major complaints with multi-player free-for-all games is that they take a lot of time. You spend forever sitting there waiting for everyone else to finish their turn and twiddling your thumbs, all the while hoping you don’t get hated out of the game ASAP.  Well, one way to speed the game up significantly, and create all sorts of mayhem and chaos, is to have everyone at the table take their turn at the same time.  There’s no waiting for the turn to come around…you’re going at the same time as the guys sitting beside you.  Now, resolving spells, attacking, blocking and the like is pretty complicated, but between the bunch of you I’m sure you can figure out a system to make it all work for you guys.  This seems like the most insane and disgustingly fun format I have ever encountered and really want my play group to give it a try.  I can only imagine the arguments, shenanigans, and ridiculous scenarios that will get cooked up with this format…bring it on.

Awarding Points– My buddies and I have grown tired of having players sit and posture in a multiplayer game.  Anyone can durdle…heck…I’m one of the best at it.  However, to create an incentive to being more aggressive, we award points for having taken out other players at the table.  At the end of the game, the player who has the most kills is actually declared the winner, even though he’s not last man standing.  This absolutely speeds up the game and makes people play much more aggressively, but you need to watch out for the “cherry picking” as one guy does all the work to KO one player at the table, only to have his point stolen from him by an opportunist who swoops in and delivers the final blow to take the point.  In either case, there is no doubt that this gets people moving and out of their defensive posturing shells.

So, there we have a number of suggestions to help spice up your next Casual night.  These could be a breath of fresh air for your playgroup and be options that you guys opt to maintain as house rules for when you play.  Maybe you give them a try and find out that you don’t much care for some of these variants. That’s fine.  There’s no wrong way to play Magic so long as everyone is having some fun and slinging spells. In either case, give them a try and see what you think.

What do YOU guys do when you sit around your kitchen table to play?  Do you use one of the variants that I’ve listed above or do you have your own house rules?  This is a great time to share these ideas with Conspiracy here and the new Core Set just around the corner giving us an influx of great new cards to liven up casual games further. Let me know what you think. Hit me up with a tweet and let’s hear what other people are doing out there in the wide world of Magic.

Thanks for reading and remember keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray


MTGYou #66 – Drafting& PAX& Eldrazi& Zendikar


In Our Main Phase:

This week on the MTGYou podcast we welcome a new member of the team, Michael Taylor. Michael has been playing Magic for 20 years. We talk briefly about his favorite format, limited draft along with a number of other topics including PAX, Battle for Zendakar spoilers and more…

Read moreMTGYou #66 – Drafting& PAX& Eldrazi& Zendikar

MTGYou #40 – Demystifying Conspiracy

In our Main Phase:

Conspiracy is the newest game in town (at least until M15 is released). But it seems that newer players may be a little intimidated by it. So that you are not afraid to participate in a conspiracy, were talking about what to expect, and what you can do with the cards once they are drafted.

Here is a video from the mother-ship about Conspiracy:

This week’s Clique You

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