Tag: ccg (page 2 of 7)

500 Words On Netrunner

Art by Alexandra Douglass

I find myself wondering: is this going to be a thing? I don’t mean Netrunner, that is most definitely a thing. It’s a thing I’ve fallen in love with all over again. I can’t remember why I stopped playing the new iteration of Richard Garfield’s cyberpunk asymmetrical card game of bluffs and gambles and deception and tactical thinking. I think it was due to a lack of local players. I don’t know.

I’m actually wondering if this 500-words-on-a-Friday thing I’ve done twice in a row now is going to be a thing. “Friday 500”? In lieu of full-length reviews? Time seems to be at a premium these days. I have things I’m planning for, work schedules to plow through, and other projects I’m trying to line up to get knocked down, but time always seems to slip through my fingers. I’m going to try and get back on track in a few ways in the next couple weeks so I’m not completely out of sorts when big changes start happening.

Anyway, back to Netrunner. What’s changed since the last time I rambled about it? Quite a bit. I mean, not mechanically – it’s the same game of one player establishing large monolithic constructs full of juicy information (or deadly traps) while the other player pokes said constructs to extract the information and generally undermine all of those carefully laid plans. And it’s still pretty damn fantastic. But now I’ve started going down the rabbit hole of Data Packs.

Let me explain. Instead of randomized booster packs, Fantasy Flight releases 60-card ‘Data Packs’ on a regular schedule. There are ‘cycles’ of packs, all related thematically, with six packs per cycle that release each month for six months. Between cycles are larger expansions that focus on two identities – one Corp, one Runner. The interesting thing about these expansions is that each of them contains 3 copies of every card. You normally only have to buy one Data Pack to get the card you want, and you’re certain to have enough to put into your next deck. It saves money in the long run and keeps the playing field nice and level. It also appeals to the part of my brain that loves putting decks together. The Core Set does not have the same distribution of cards, which is unfortunate, but I think another $30 for a second Core Set is a better investment than spending that much on a single card in Magic: the Gathering’s somewhat cutthroat second-hand market.

How good is this game? Quinns won’t shut up about it. His friend Leigh loves it. Communities and subreddits remain abuzz about it. The competitive scene is going strong.

This game is so good that my long-suffering wife, with a rather well-documented history of disliking games like Magic, plays it, and doesn’t hate it.

She’s even gone so far as to buy me a copy of Neuromancer to help maintain my dystopian cyberpunk-y mood.

It’s a good game, and you should definitely play it.

Derevi & the Bouncing Souls

Art by Michael Komarck

The new year has brought some new products with it, of course, and Wizards of the Coast has presented five new pre-constructed decks for the Commander imprint within Magic: the Gathering. These decks make bringing new people into the format long-called EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) a lot easier. Each deck provides reprints of old favorite cards as well as new and exciting selections that work just fine outside of the format, while others feel exclusive to the unique situations presented by a singleton deck of 100 cards with one set aside.

Case in point: [mtg_card]Derevi, Empyrial Tactician[/mtg_card]. Her ability is tied directly to the ‘command zone’, an area of play within the game that is neither the graveyard nor ‘exile’. Your Commander, or general or whatever you call them, begins play in this zone rather than your hand or deck, and is cast from this zone. Each time you cast the card, you must pay 2 extra mana for every circumstance that’s returned it to the zone. So, if an opponent kills it, or you sacrifice it, or if an ability would exile it, you send it to the command zone, and can bring it back, albeit needing to pay more for it. It creates a very real drawback to bringing your Commander into play every turn.

Derevi has a way around that drawback.

Printed on her card is an ability that allows you to bring her directly from the command zone into play. Her base mana cost is cheaper than this ability, but I don’t think most players will be casting her as they normally would. Not only does the cost of her ability not increase every time she is killed or exiled, the ability can be used on an opponent’s turn. And, whenever she enters the battlefield, or one of your creatures does combat damage to a player, she taps or untaps another permanent card. This could be a land or artifact you need to produce mana, or a pesky thing on your opponent’s battlefield you need out of the way.

I really, really enjoy playing with enter the battlefield effects. There’s a very nasty trick you can play with [mtg_card]Fiend Hunter[/mtg_card] that allows you to exile opposing creatures permanently. The synergy between [mtg_card]Sun Titan[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Eternal Witness[/mtg_card] is incredibly impressive. The deck comes off the shelf with a few cards to enable these things, such as [mtg_card]Conjurer’s Closet[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Mistmeadow Witch[/mtg_card], but being a pre-constructed “jack of all trades” deck, needed some tweaking to really make the most of the mechanic.

For example, the deck did not have Sun Titan or Eternal Witness. When it come to ‘bouncing’ or ‘flickering’ cards to make the most of them, my old friend [mtg_card]Venser, the Sojourner[/mtg_card] comes immediately to mind. [mtg_card]Deadeye Navigator[/mtg_card] felt like a must-include, as its ability is cheaper than that of the Mistmeadow Witch and can be used to either trigger its partner or flicker itself to bond with something new. [mtg_card]Acidic Slime[/mtg_card] and Fiend Hunter not quite enough recurring removal for the deck, so [mtg_card]Terastodon[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Sunblast Angel[/mtg_card] needed to go in. So it went until I had a deck I was comfortable with. You can see the complete deck list here.

It’s a blast to play. With no counterspells and little direct damage, the deck is not overtly aggressive and thus can play it quiet for a few turns, avoiding confrontation as much as possible. There are a few political cards that can incentive your opponents to fight one another more, or lead to negotiations (“Is that creature giving you trouble? How about I take control of it with [mtg_card]Rubinia Soulsinger[/mtg_card] and you smash that guy’s face in?”). I think there are a couple cards I could cut but I’m not sure what it might be missing – perhaps a few more board clears like [mtg_card]Terminus[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Day of Judgment[/mtg_card].

How does the deck look to you? Would you be willing to play it?

The Art of Commander

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

I have a lot of fun with Commander (EDH if you’ve been around a while). It seems to be my father’s preferred format for Magic, and my siblings always have decks with them. It’s been made clear to me that some of my decks have significant chinks in their armor. Both my Zedruu deck and my Jaya deck are very feast-or-famine, it seems, relying on combos that may or may not appear fast enough to respond to threats adequately in some situations. I’ve started to think more tactically about these decks. I want to build decks to have fun, but I also would like to not get completely blown out as often as I have been lately.

Enter Sun-Tzu. The philosophy in The Art of War emphasizes the flexibility, strength, and speed of a successful fighting force. I’ve looked at my current roster of Commander decks, and how their colors and theme and signature creature provide those three points. Sharuum (One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.), Karthus (Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.), and Ghave (Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.) all seem to be winners so far. As much as I like Zedruu and Jaya, their decks often have me quickly devolving into “top-deck” mode, just hoping they yield the exact card I need to get myself out of whatever terrible situation I’ve found myself in. They are also comparatively slow (a shock considering Jaya is mono-red) and Jaya has little synergy with the rest of her deck. So where do we go from here?

I’ve been looking towards the recently completed Return to Ravnica block for ideas, and I have at least a couple potential decks I’ll be assembling and testing in the coming weeks.

Izzet Engine

Speed is the essence of war.

While Zedruu can facilitate a great deal of card draw, making it more likely to pull an answer to a problem I’m facing, it can be difficult to get a donation to an opponent that lasts long enough for Zedruu to bring in the rewards. I have many methods of drawing cards and benefitting from those draws, and a general who gives me a direct, relevant, and reliable benefits from drawing is my old friend, [mtg_card]Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind[/mtg_card]. I’ll have to dismantle both of the above decks to give Niv-Mizzet the tools he needs to blast my opponents, and there’s plenty of room for a variety of planeswalkers, time shenanigans, and even the synergy of Niv-Mizzet working with… um… Niv-Mizzet. [mtg_card]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/mtg_card], to be exact. I’ll probably be assembling this exciting and somewhat frightening lightning-powered engine of destruction this weekend.

Orzhov Alliance

Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without having to fight.

I’ve wanted to put together a vampire EDH deck for some time, now. The good thing about pairing the fiends with Orzhov’s Extort mechanic is that I do not need to engage in direct confrontations to get an edge over my opponents. I was initially torn as to who should take control of the alliance, as I have a soft spot for [mtg_card]Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts[/mtg_card]. However, after some consideration, it seems that [mtg_card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/mtg_card] is slightly faster and has more synergy with the Extort within the deck and lifelink-equipped vampires. I’m looking forward to putting this deck together, as it’s been an idea I’ve had for quite some time.

This leaves me with another slot in a fat pack box for an EDH deck. Perhaps another mono-color deck? I’ll have to contemplate that.

Building a Legacy

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Art by Mike Bierek

Now that I have played an official Legacy event of Magic: the Gathering, I find myself even more interested in this robust format. Specifically, I’m curious about a number of the decks in the format. I saw quite a few at the event, running all sorts of strategies from naked flat-out aggression to well-paced control to insane combinations. I’m not sure which setup is best for me, and I’m looking into a few archtypes to try and determine what will be the most fun for me to play, as well as providing wins.

By no means does this mean I’m done with Light Up The Night. As a low-cost entry into this format, I think it’s still got teeth. It does an obscene amount of damage in a very short amount of time. It may remain my go-to aggro deck for a while, possibly growing into something like Delver or Storm. What follows are some of the other decks I’m looking into; you can click on their titles to read more from the MTG Salvation forums, one of the best resources for deck-building ideas out there.

Remember when I used to disparage net decks? Good times…

Death & Taxes

This is a control deck that I think would throw a lot of people. It’s a mono-white deck that lacks some of the punch of top-tier multi-colored decks, but what it does is rather insidious. It’s various means of battlefield and deck disruption mean it’s incredibly versatile against a great deal of opposing wizards’ tricks. The drawback, other than the obscene price of the Karakas land, is that you need to know both your deck and that of your opponent inside and out, anticipating incoming plays and being prepared for a variety of answers. As I’m still new to the format, it will take a while before I’m at that level of play.


I like decks that don’t necessarily rely on doing a ton of damage out of the gate. Like Death & Taxes, Enchantress seems indicative of versatility. Behind the card-drawing of the two main cards that give the deck its name ([mtg_card]Argothian Enchantress[/mtg_card] & [mtg_card]Enchantress’s Presence[/mtg_card]), any number of enchants can drop to manage the battleground. [mtg_card]Moat[/mtg_card] is the go-to long-term one, but it is expensive. It makes Karakas look like something from a yard sale. However, that may be the biggest hurdle to putting this one together, eventually. I really like the notion of building up a “wall” of shrouded enchantments (meaning my opponents cannot target them), rousing an army of angels thanks to [mtg_card]Sigil of the Empty Throne[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Luminarch Ascension[/mtg_card], and offering my opponent an honorable surrender before calling down the avenging wrath of the heavens.

Or something like that.


This deck combines two things I really like: tokens and equipment. Tokens may not be the crux of the deck, but [mtg_card]Lingering Souls[/mtg_card] is one of my favorite cards. What I like about equipment cards is that they add my beloved versatility to any creature that wields them. Regardless of their role, be it a seeker of cards ([mtg_card]Stoneforge Mystic[/mtg_card]) or the shady voice in your ear ([mtg_card]Dark Confidant[/mtg_card]), they can become a powerhouse with the right equipment. With cards for discarding, enemy deck control, and even the support of the lovely but dangerous [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card], this deck gives me the flexibility, interesting plays, and flavor I’m looking for, and no one card is in excess of $100. Bonus!

If you play Legacy, I want to hear from you. What deck do you play? What’s your most difficult matchup? What would you recommend for a newbie like myself?

The Running Returns

Art by Alexandra Douglass

I’ve mentioned the game of NetRunner off-handedly twice before. Back when I finally got around to sorting all of my old CCG cards, I found I still have my decks for the game. A couple weeks ago, I played the new iteration of the game, and many of its ideas hold up despite the intervening years, even if the game has changed in many significant ways. And it’s kicked some other ideas into overdrive, to the point that I feel I’m on the edge of something very interesting provided I motivate myself to carve out the time and space I need.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The year is 1996. Magic the Gathering had already become a big part of my life, I was heading towards my senior year of high school, and cyberpunk dystopias were now being depicted with true computer-generated graphics, even if the graphics weren’t all that great. Johnny Mnemonic, The Lawnmower Man, and Hackers were all fresh in the minds of those on the edge of the digital frontier, and Wizards of the Coast, no fools but their own, published a new Deckmaster game aimed at this emerging demographic. But rather than simply slap a coat of pixelated paint on Magic and call it a day, they tried something new.

While cribbing notes from R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 game, Richard Garfield also envisioned an asymmetrical play environment. The game has two players. One represents the Corporation, a monolithic capitalist juggernaut bent on turning profits by any and all means necessary, advancing hidden agendas that increase their influence over anyone within reach of their advertisements. The other is the Runner, a hacker extraordinaire hurling themselves into the unknown wilds of security systems to spy on, destroy, or steal anything they can, especially from Corporations. Both players win by scoring a set amount of agenda points, but the Corporation is the only player with said points in their deck. The Runner has to steal them, and that means breaching the Corp’s defenses.

On top of this interesting foundation is the element of hidden information. The Corporation sets up their side of the table with cards that represent their remote servers, using programs for interdiction called ICE to stop the Runner from getting to whatever information they want to protect. Their hand, deck, and discard pile also count as servers, and are also viable targets for the Runner. ICE, remote server assets, the precious agendas – all of these cards are played face-down by the Corporation. The Runner, more often than not, will not know what the face-down card is until the Corporation chooses to pay the cost required to reveal it. The Corporation relies on careful planning, deception, and the intimidation of utter brutality in response to intrusion; the Runner is fueled entirely by intelligence, courage, and more than a little luck.

Unfortunately for Mr. Garfield, NetRunner never really took off the way Magic did. It faded into relative obscurity and was battered around as an IP a bit before Fantasy Flight Games came across it while developing their Android universe of tabletop games. Now, rather than their identities being amorphous and generic, players build their decks around an identity, a persistent aspect that grants a bonus throughout the game and helps drive the focus of their strategy. Are you looking to achieve victory as quickly as possible through the traditional means of scoring agenda points? Do you have a more nefarious aim, such as doing as much damage to the Runner as possible, or making all of the Corp’s ICE extremely brittle? Or is your aim just to watch the dystopia burn?

The game has also changed in that rather than being a collectible card game, it is now what is referred to as a living card game. Instead of randomized booster packs, the game is available as a core set with several ‘data packs’, and each one contains the same amount of the same cards. This levels the playing field for competition, makes it a touch easier to teach, and ensures that as the game ages, older cards have less of a chance of becoming either obsolete or overpowered. In addition, the core set includes a plethora of counters and markers (or as I call them, “FFG fiddly bits” as Fantasy Flight Games loves its cardboard punch-outs) that are a welcome addition, as the old game required you to track things like credits, memory, and so on with coins, jelly beans, or whatever else you had handy. Top it off with some breathtaking art, a comprehensive rulebook, and high-quality cards, and you have one of the most successful resurrections of an older game I’ve ever seen.

I hope to eventually find more local players of the game, or failing that, convert some people I know to it. The future is coming…

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