Fact or Fiction

A Little MTG Thankfulness

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

It is usually around  this time of year where we all get to stop and reflect on our lives over the past year. While a year seems to come and go so quickly, it always amazes me to think about how much my life has changed from one year to the next. I have been very fortunate this year in many facets of my life and now I would like to express a little thankfulness. I won’t bore you with my personal life, but I did want to share the ten things MTG that I am thankful for as we leave 2015 and make way for 2016.

10- Prereleases: I love these things. I find the prerelease experience to be just about the most fun you can have and the two-headed giant variant is my personal fav. I make a point of attending these whenever possible and the one in January is already on my calendar. At its core a prerelease is a fun tournament that brings out all sorts of different players and not just your local game store grinders which can make it so much more fun. As a father of a young family with not a lot of time to spend haunting my LGS, the pre-release experience allows me to whet my competitive juices, meet new people, have tons of fun with my buddy, and just really enjoy Magic.

9- YouTube: YouTube has been a blessing because it allows me to find so many different content producers, videos, and general MTG news all in one spot. When you are a little limited in the amount you can actually play, watching another (usually more skilled) player can really help you to make up some of the gap that exists between those who play sparingly and those who play more frequently. My weekly consumption of YouTube videos is pretty high and I am very thankful that they exist.

8- Hearthstone: It seems strange to put the competition on this list, but I am thankful for the advent of Hearthstone from a number of perspectives. The first is that it gives MTG players an alternative to sinking a huge amount of time into a tournament on MTGO. With Hearthstone you always have the option to get in, jam a couple of games, and then get out without feeling like you are missing something. Yes, you can jam some games in one of the other play lobbies on MTGO, but that isn’t the same as being to be able to jam some games that matter in a fairly short time frame and feel like you accomplished something. Leagues are step in the right direction on MTGO, but there is likely still a little work to be done in this regard.

The second reason I’m thankful for Hearthstone is that it gives MTGO an honest competitor in lots of regards and that’s awesome. Competition is healthy for the average consumer because it means that companies need to be mindful of what their customers want and continue to improve their product. That means that WoTC needs to continue to improve their online products or risk losing customers to playing Hearthstone. We have seen a number of recent changes to how MTGO works and some improvements to play options as a response to the growing pressure that Hearthstone is putting on the market. Sure, MTGO is very different in many respects, but they can’t simply ignore Hearthstone and that will ultimately benefit players as MTGO will continue to evolve and improve thanks to the growing competition between the two products.

7- Pucatrade: Pucatrade has seen a real explosion over the last year and it is a real benefit to players. When I signed up Pucatrade had made less than a million trades. Today they are nearing 3 million and counting. With over a 100,000 users and more changes to the online trading features of the program magic players are going to continue to see more value from the site. Personally, it means I can continue to trade cards I no longer want or need and look to pick up cards I am interested in without trolling through online vendors and dropping yet more of my hard earned money on cards.

6- The Expeditions: These have a huge revelation for a number of reasons. First off, they are beautiful. Second, unless you are a hardened enfranchised collector they represent you opening up a rather large sum of money that you can trade/sell to further offset the cost of playing the game. Case in point, my friend Dave opened a Verdant Catacombs and turned that into a healthy chunk of change that he could use to buy the cards he wanted to play. The third side effect is that because so many people were looking for the expeditions that record amounts of boxes of BFZ have been opened this fall. As a result, the price of just about every other card in the set is way down meaning that it is cheaper for the rest of us to get the singles we want for that sweet deck we’re building. Anytime this game can be more affordable is a win for the average player and the Expeditions have been a big force in that regard this fall.

5- MTGO: now I did say I wouldn’t go too far into my personal circumstances, but I think it is relevant to mention that I have two young children, a beautiful wife, a full time career and am a busy person. I don’t have many opportunities to go to the local LGS and play Magic nearly as frequently as I would like. That would mean I forgo bedtime with my boys, don’t get to spend time with my wife or take care of any other chores that need to be finished up before the end of the day. However, MTGO mitigates this somewhat by making the playing of Magic more convenient because all I need to do is turn on my computer and I can access all sorts of tournaments and game experiences. It is that convenience that I appreciate more than anything. Is MTGO perfect? No. But given the alternative of not playing it is vastly preferable.

4- Limited: I am thankful for limited formats because I like the mental challenge of building a deck from a smaller pool of cards. I know many players enjoy playing constructed, but I relish the challenge and diverse game play limited offers. From Draft, to Sealed, to Cube it is that experience playing these ever changing formats that is super refreshing and helps keep Magic fresh and exciting for me.

3- Siege Rhino: Only the most omnipresent card in Standard since he dropped in Khans. Abzan is everywhere and this is in every Abzan deck. He’s not easy to cast but a 4/5 trample plus a 6 point life swing at 4 mana is worth the time and energy. Personally, I’ll be sad to see him rotate out in 2016  because he’s my boy, but he’s had a good run and is likely good enough to see play in modern going forward meaning he’ll get a renewed lease on life.

2- Fetch Lands: These have helped make casting tri-coloured spells like Siege Rhino, Crackling Doom, and Mantis Rider a thing and have now pushed mana to the point where 4 colour decks are the norm. The fetches have been hugely influential for Standard and have uses in every constructed format making them highly sought after. I have often stressed that good mana is paramount in any format you happen to play because if you get blanked on one type of land your game plan falls apart. The fetches have helped mitigate this substantially and have been extremely powerful and important cards for all of 2015 and I wouldn’t be doing my job if they weren’t on my list somewhere.

1- Double-Sided Planeswalkers: I was very thankful for these guys this summer when Origins was released because I like the flavor that each of them brought to the game. The way they changed from a Creature to a Planeswalker, and how they each did it, was a very interesting and fun dynamic to have as part of the game. Now, not all of them are equally good, but their abilities and the lore they each brought to the game was fun and exciting. I feel like these were excellent additions to the pantheon of Planeswalkers and I was happy to see them arrive on the scene. Let’s ignore the fact that Jace is silly expensive, the design was good, the flavor was a nice addition, and the cards have a been a fun addition.

Well, that’s it for me in 2015.  Thank you to all of you who stop in and read my little corner of the internet.  I’ve had plenty of fun and spoken to lots of interesting people this year thanks to Magic and I look forward to continuing with what I’ve started in 2016,  So, until then, enjoy the time with your family and a friends and find a little MTG thankfulness in your life.  See you all soon for another Casual Encounter!


By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

@bgray8791 on Twitter