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Picks of the Week, 6/28/2015

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Magic Origins previews have begun in earnest, and the set already looks to be sending Core Sets out with a bang. This is a set that is absolutely oozing with flavor, and has a number of cards that are exciting for players of all flavors. This week, we celebrate some of the most exciting things about Magic Origins, as well as other flavorful decks and games. This week Adam and Carlos touch on angels and demons, fairies and phantoms, and much more. Spend your Sunday with Team Gathering Magic and check out a few of our favorite games, stories, and media this week had to offer.

Picks of the Week: June 28, 2015

Taste the Difference

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit biased about the return of Ironroot Chef to the Magic sphere.

What I’m enjoying most about the “competition” is how it’s pulled in some amazing feedback and ideas already.

I’m excited to play a small role in where the series goes from here, filled with wild decks and flavorful creations. That it: Shameless plugging is over.

Games That Grow

It’s easy to write off games that play badly once. We’ve all done it after giving something a go then literally letting to go from there. Some games, like Magic, come in waves where the flavor of the month – or year – will assuredly pass. With other games it isn’t always so clear.

When Diablo 3 was released in 2012 it was to both record-setting sales and quickly waned attention. It was a stellar game, but the divisive and gameplay-destructive auction house loomed over all but the top-end players. Like with many games, players provided extensive feedback. Community managers interacted, and guided the players down discussions of topics the developers had to understand.

Then, Reaper of Souls was released. It transformed Diablo 3 from a staid, maligned grind to a joyful dive into repetitive action gameplay. I played the original and quickly stopped. When I learned what the expansion was bringing I gave it a try again, a tall order of trust after finding the game I had been looking forward to for years utterly disappoint me.

I was hooked. It was better than improved: It was an entirely new game that reminded me why I sunk so many hours into Diablo 2.

And Blizzard didn’t stop. First came a patch that added what other publishers sell as downloadable content. The upcoming patch for Reaper of Souls is as big as many full-blown expansions are. This video that quickly covers everything coming is almost 20 minutes long, and Rhykker doesn’t dilly dally going through it:

If you’ve tried Diablo 3 before and recall it’s terrible itemization, repetitive endgame, and in-game auction house that took all the joy out of slaying the demons of hell over and over, it’s time to take another look.

How Original

Brian David-Marshall is someone I’ve come to listen to more carefully than most other Magic players. While Soulblade Djinn is simply “prowess that pumps all your creatures” it’s his handy list of first impressions at the end I found enjoyable: I mostly agreed with the excitement if for different reasons:

  • Rhox Maulers? A nifty common that’s a total upgrade to my favorite Stampeding Rhino in Pauper cubes.
  • Starfield of Nyx? Yeah, I guess Opalescence can come out to play. There’s going to be someone that jams Gods and fixing into a FNM deck.
  • Nissa, Vastwood Seer? Like BDM, I’m going to jam her into a Commander deck so fast I’m seriously worried about bending the card in haste.

Magic Origins really can get here soon enough. Wow.


Carlos Gutierrez is an Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, an engineer-in-training, and a Commander and Pauper enthusiast. By day, he works as a STEM educator, but he spends his weekends hitting all his land drops and trying new board games, puzzles, and video games.

You can find all of him sharing Commander craziness, baked goods on Twitter, and complaints about graduate school at @cag5383.

Magic Math - Consistency

Combo decks are a thing that I've never been especially adept at. I love the idea of a game-breaking combo that generates an overwhelming advantage, but the actual mechanics of playing them is something I've always struggled with. This is particularly true in Modern where, despite there being a myriad of actual combo decks, the strategies tend to fit into one of two categories: fast, fragile combo decks, or slow, resilient combo decks. One of the biggest dividers between these strategies is consistency. How frequently does your combo just do nothing and lose to itself? How realistic is it for you to beat one or two pieces of relevant disruption?

It's easy to pick up a deck like the Griselbrand plus Goryo's Vengeance deck in Modern and just lose the first couple of games you play by whiffing on Goryo's Vengeance or getting your Through the Breach beaten out by Path to Exile. You could also get two or three turn two Goryo's Vengeance kills in a row. Whether we like it or not, those early experiences color our impressions of a deck, and give a skewed perspective of how powerful or consistent a deck may be.

This week, Frank Karsten is ready to show you what's going on behind the veil. Forget whether the deck "feels" consistent or not. Set aside your personal experiences and take a look at the numbers. How likely is Collected Company to hit? How good is Spoils of the Vault? These are important questions for some of the pure combo decks of the format, and now you can use this information to make better decisions both as the pilot or opponent of combo decks in Modern.

Lindsey Stirling

Let's get this out of the way. I'm not a fan of loud noises and flashing lights. Feeling the bass pounding in the pit of my stomach while people scream and lights flare is an overwhelming and nauseating experience for me, and is one I tend to go out of my way to avoid. With full knowledge of this, I picked up tickets for my girlfriend and to see Lindsey Stirling, a self proclaimed rave fairy whose show is a crazy mashup of classical violin and dance with electronic dance music. This seems like the kind of bad idea that, while well-intentioned, cannnot possibly turn out well. I have never before experienced noise that is so loud it overwhelms all of your senses. All that sound was distorted, your vision would start to blur. You could fell the vibrations in every part of your body, and the air began to taste and smell of sweat, metal, and artificial smoke. It's more than a week later and I still feel like I'm recovering.

Somehow, it was still an absolutely spectacular show: unabashedly quirky and unique, with boundless energy and a fantastic message. Depression, fear, and judgment are things that can be overcome. What is most important is passion, enthusiasm, and hard work. She doesn't preach, but lives her life as an example of what can be done when you make the choice to be relentlessly positive, set aside doubts and fears, and embrace what makes you unique.

There are two videos below that my girlfriend and I picked out together. The first has been a longtime favorite from back when we doing undergraduate studies. That video has always been a fun concept that's stuck with me, and it was awesome to see a live take on it that took the same idea and expanded on it to make an fantastic concert experience. The second video was a surprise bonus for us at the end of the show that has a fun, thematic tie in with my last pick for the week!

Le Fantôme de l'Opéra

Fun fact: The Phantom of the Opera is the first movie Becca made me watch with her. I never really watched musicals as shows, movies or otherwise. I joined the show band in high school because I wasn't sure what else to do with my time, and because most of my friends were in the choir. When she found out that I'd never really had a musical experience, she had to remedy the situation promptly. During our next day off, she drove out and we watched her favorite show. Years later, I still don't really get the whole musical thing, but watching that show was still a formative moment for our relationship.

Consequently, I was enormously excited to find Le Fantom De L'Opera. This is a game that combines our love of mysteries and need for two-player games with a fun Phantom of the Opera theme. The game is built on the same engine as other Mr. Jack games, which I will admit I have no experience with. The best way I can describe the game is as a fast-paced, heads-up game of Clue with draft elements. One player plays as the Phantom while the other is the inspector. The characters in the game are based on characters out of the show, and one character is randomly selected to be the Phantom. As the game progresses, both players will take turns moving characters around the opera house using unique powers to isolate or consolidate groups of characters to gather information about who the Phantom might be.

We've only played a handful of times, but the game appears to have a surprising amount of depth and complexity for a relatively simple set of rules. Games are generally pretty quick, the theme is cool, and as a result this is definitely something that I would recommend for gamers and fans of the show alike.


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