Syphilis and CCGs: Magic: The Gathering's Shadowmoor Expansion

Joe Blancato | 15 May 2008 21:30
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Each of us chose a deck and plopped down in a circle. I chose Mortal Coil. To my left was Army of Entropy, then Overkill, Turnabout and finally Aura Mastery, whose player would be attacking me. It played out much as I remember it from sixth grade; at first two people had no mana, two people had too much and I blew my wad killing my first opponent. Once I'd killed Army of Entropy's player, Aura Mastery had enough mana to bring out her huge creatures and ruined my day two turns later. She then turned her sights to Overkill, a deck without many flying creatures, and so he, too, fell. However, she finally met her match with Turnabout's player, who quickly locked down Aura Mastery's big creatures and took pot shots at her as they slung enchantments back and forth. It was the best Magic duel I've seen in years; it was also the only Magic duel I've seen in years, but that's not the point.

Turnabout outlasted Aura Mastery and won, thanks in large part to a mental error by Aura Mastery's player. Since I got taken out so quickly, it gave me a chance to watch how each deck played. Overall, both the white decks, Aura Mastery and Turnabout, seem the most complete out the box. They seem to have stronger individual cards and rely less on combos than the other decks. Mortal Coil, my deck, and Army of Entropy both lack a certain killer instinct -- you either win early or you don't win at all. Army of Entropy's player and I both agreed we could build a really nasty deck by combining elements from both. Overkill comes in at No. 3, powerful enough to deal with Mortal Coil and Army of Entropy's debuffs, but with enough small creatures to avoid a total lockdown from the white decks. All in all, each deck is a great way to get used to the game, and judging by how much we were all tinkering after the tournament, they seem designed to be open-ended.

Shadowmoor's single greatest weakness is the amount of tokens and counters you need to play on the table. We ended up raiding the boss' office to use his dice to mark how many debuffed creatures were running around., and God forbid if you have a lot of creature tokens to deal with. At one point, Overkill's player had 10 phantom creatures, none of which were on cards. The game has obviously evolved to be played on the computer, and given Magic Online's success, it's hard to dispute that. Maybe the type of people who still prefer a face-to-face game are the same people with enough dice in their house to not be hindered by Magic's new requirements, but if this version had been what I encountered when I was 12, I likely wouldn't have bothered.

The whole affair lasted about two hours, and while the game's minutiaa have changed, its spirit hasn't. We were all talking the same 12-year-old shit we did when we were kids, only this time we weren't trying to squeeze in the game between overlong classes. I'm not sure this will pull me back into the game - an unofficial survey has all of us resisting the urge to hit up our local hobby shop - but Shadowmoor definitely does the game justice and is worth a look if you're a fan of the game now.

Joe Blancato is an Associate Editor at The Escapist. While he did catch the Magic bug, he never once caught syphilis. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

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