Posted in MTG Girls, Uncategorized

Reflections on Kaladesh

Hello again, my fellow readers. I hope everyone had fun at the Kaladesh prereleases. My fiancé and I went all out for this one, dressing steampunk complete with goggles. He even took the time to paint tiny set symbols and gears on my nails.

I didn’t win my matches due to a rather bleak card pool, but honestly it was probably the best prerelease experience I’ve had. Since my card pool was too shallow for dual colors, I put together a deck in Esper colors that had aggro tendencies. I know what you’re thinking; I was amused too since Esper’s trademark is control. The deck revolved around energy counters and creatures since I pulled very little in the way of removal. I did manage to put Minister of Inquiries to good work until my opponent was forced to remove his own card draw engine for fear of decking out!

The card shop was the best, both in prize pool and player quality. (Shoutout to Common Ground Games, Dallas!) There were quite a few ladies there, and the male players were overwhelmingly classier and more accepting than previous card shops. I don’t normally play there since it’s a bit of a drive, but the place holds a special significance to me since it’s where I played my first prerelease back during Oath of the Gatewatch. Plus, the employees are awesome! I sat next to one of the owners/managers during my games, and he was so chill, not standoffish like a couple local owners have been.

Based on the prerelease games, I was able to make a few observations about the future impact Kaladesh will be having on the various formats. I’ll skip thoroughly discussing the obvious one which is that artifacts are heavily taking over–affinity in standard, say what? Seriously though, even vintage or legacy players have a new toy with Saheeli. Plus, the entirety of dredge players everywhere frantically slotting in copies of Cathartic Reunion. This set really pulled out all the stops when it comes to strengthening deck archetypes.

Which leads me to Boros. Oh, Boros. For so long, I’ve been wanting to make a decent Boros EDH deck, but it’s just not been particularly viable. The best Boros deck I’ve played against had Aurelia as its commander, used a lot of control effects, but still couldn’t outclass my Bruna deck. Adriana, Captain of the Guard was such a disappointment to me since I’d been hoping for a stronger red-white general. Players everywhere can debate it for hours, but Boros struggles with card draw, ramp, and efficient ways to kill an entire table of players. For the first time in MTG history, we may have a good Boros commander. Stay tuned for my next article in which my fiancĂ© will walk us through a red-white deck he brewed using Depala.

Next let’s talk about vehicles. I love them, and I hate them. They’re fantastic in that they’re low-cost and high stats. They’re not so great in that you have to pay a different price for the beatings they deliver. As an EDH and standard player who specializes in control and defense, tapping down my own creatures to get in damage that could get chump-blocked seems less than stellar. In almost every case, you don’t want to tap down your whole board unless you know you’ll get damage through. I’m always a fan of having a blocker or two up, and I prefer to go wide with my damage through several creatures to either pick off an opponent’s board or push through a killing blow. I’d almost rather pay life or sacrifice a creature (this is the EDH side of me talking) than leave creatures tapped out uselessly for a turn. Thankfully, Wizards did mitigate this somewhat by adding “When this creature becomes tapped” effects sporadically across the set.

My final piece to analyze are the gear hulks. Holy crap, they can be terrifying to stare down. I played Noxious Gearhulk in my rounds, and every opponent went from “I’m chill” mode to “Oh crap, oh crap!” mode.  Running through them, white is by far the most ridiculous. It has an effect similar to Tragic Arrogance, a decent body size, and vigilance. I have no doubt re-animator decks in EDH will find some way to abuse this. Personally, I’m somewhat underwhelmed by the black and green ones. Both could likely find a home in decks like Meren where they can be brought back to life and their effects recycled over and over… and over… and over. The blue and red gear hulks are both strong potentials in the right deck. Modern players, you might consider Combustible Gearhulk should he be paired with the right combo pieces. His stats are already on curve for his mana cost; plus, he gives your opponent the unpleasant option of either giving you card advantage or taking damage.

So there are my various ramblings on our first visit to Kaladesh. What are your thoughts on the new set? Did you pull anything fun? Let me know in the comments! Next week we’ll have an article up about Boros and its new potential in EDH. Until then!






Posted in MTG Girls

The Experience ALL Magic Players Deserve

My own personal thoughts on being a female Magic: the Gathering player… I hope you enjoy.

Beginning Magic

I started playing Magic right after Battle for Zendikar released. My boyfriend at the time had been playing since around Ravnica and wanted to get me into the game. He bought me the blue-green intro deck and began teaching me how to play. After awhile, we upgraded the deck until it was a standard-competitive ramp deck with Ulamog as the curve topper. I began to hold my own at the school gaming lounge and the local card shop. Sadly, due to relationship problems, I never got to test the deck’s strength at FNM.

Right away, I noticed an “Oh, how cute” attitude from other players. People went easier on me in trades and games. Nicknames like “Little Lady” and “Sweetheart” got tossed out during matches. I felt like I had to work ten times harder to prove myself. Despite not being the butt of sexual jokes, I still felt I had a harder time being accepted as a player.

Even my boyfriend had his own opinion about my being a female gamer and how it was wrong that guys were nicer to me in trades. Unfortunately, his opinion was skewed toward sexism. He was convinced I used my looks to get good trades. (While that may be true, I didn’t do it on purpose.) He was also a condescending teacher, often questioning perfectly solid plays in games I won. He and I had a lot of relationship issues, and unfortunately, Magic became a real point of contention for us, so much so that I gave up the game for a short while. He treated me like the girlfriend player, sometimes answering questions for me, sometimes insisting I follow his advice, often to my game’s detriment.

Didn’t he get it? I didn’t want special attention in trading. I wanted fair trades for both parties. I wanted the same respect and treatment he got during trading and playing. I didn’t want him stopping games to point out a bad play. I wanted to learn as he had, through trial and error. The thing about Magic is that it’s a personality game as much as rules and interactions. A bad play to one player becomes good when they realize it’s setting up a blowout next turn. A player can take a deck and use it to control the board for hours while another player can use the same set of sixty cards to wipe the table with everyone by turn three. Magic is individualistic, and the best way I learned was by open-hand rounds and analyzing my plays post-game.

Switching Playgroups

My first boyfriend and I broke up right as I started getting into EDH. I began dating a legacy and commander player. With the new relationship came a much more competitive playgroup. I dropped out of standard almost entirely to take on the challenges (financial and mental) of commander. My first deck was led by Bruna, Light of Alabaster, in response to a challenge by my ex who was convinced I couldn’t build and run a good voltron-control commander deck. Together, my new beau and I built one of the most powerful Bruna decks our group had seen.

My new boyfriend is almost more feminist than I am. With that feminism came a new sense of empowerment playing Magic. He never acted as if I was stupid or didn’t know how to play the game. He never treated me like the girlfriend player, knowing I could stand up to any instant or sorcery. Instead of condescending my choices of deckbuilding and playstyle, he explained his point of view but never expected me to do as he said. At the card shop, he didn’t hover during games to point out my mistakes. He and his friends coached me but treated me as their equal, both in game and in trade.

This, my friends, is what every player should experience in Magic. MTG has grown into more than a card game; it’s a community. Everyone that sits down to play should be treated with fairness and walk away with a smile and good feeling. Whether male or female, old or young, experienced or new, everyone deserves this kind of experience.

Being a Girl Player

The worst experience I had as a girl player was the Eldritch Moon midnight prerelease. Two of my four opponents were condescending, one of them even refusing to shake my hand and introduce himself during pre-match shuffling. After beating me soundly in game one, he smirked at me and rubbed in how mana-flooded I’d been. When I stepped out for air to cure my headache, he gloated to friends who were out smoking how he’d beaten me. That’s about the only time Magic has really made me want to cry. Especially when one of his friends flirted heavily with me while telling me his girlfriend wouldn’t care and ignoring how clear I’d made it that I was taken.

I finally had to accept that some boys would always treat me like this. The only thing I could do was turn around and try to beat them at their own game. I was finally able to do so, even though I still make misplays. It was comical to watch the male players who didn’t know me assume I was the least threatening deck at the table only to realize they were wrong.

The biggest problem I see for female players is the gender stereotypes assigned today. Females in Magic are played up so much as if it’s some surprise girls can like and be good at a card game that’s more intensive than Uno. It shouldn’t come as a shock if a girl wants to play at FNM instead of go to the mall, and she shouldn’t be treated any differently before, during, or after her match.

Male players, I’m not blaming you, but in a way, I am. A lot of you are like my boyfriend who constantly helps me succeed as a player. Some of you aren’t. I’m reminded of the time I was in the middle of a commander game, and a guy sat down uninvited and began asking me if I knew what every card being played did. I finished the game with immense frustration since it was obvious he thought I was inept. The thing that made it so frustrating was that he did it to me, the only girl in the pod.

So how do we go about fixing this? I wish I had all the answers, but unfortunately, the snap of my fingers cannot reverse the gender stereotyping that is so engrained in our society. The best thing I can do is ask the male players out there to stop measuring a player’s skills by gender. I notice this every time I shuffle up for a match with my boyfriend and new opponents. Without realizing it, the males always target him as the bigger threat simply because he’s… male? I’ve soundly beaten him in games before; in fact we met when I beat him in Standard! During a round between classes at university, my biggest threat in a game was another girl. Surprise, girls can play Magic!

Wrapping Up

I’m going to go ahead and admit I had some serious writer’s block on this article. My poor boyfriend was on the receiving end of a lot of grousing about how it’s so damn hard to write about this topic. Why was it so difficult for me? It’s hard for me to pin down exactly why girls don’t play Magic because I have such a good time with it. It’s my hobby and one of my favorite things to do. It’s my favorite group activity, and almost all of my best friends have come from the game.

I wrote this article for all the girls out there who don’t have a good time playing Magic. I wrote this for the women players who are harassed and spoken down to at FNM. I wrote this for the girls thinking of getting into Magic. It is my sincerest wish that every player has the positive experience I’ve had in Magic: the Gathering. As a budding feminist and lover of Magic, it’s my desire for girls to start gaining a stronger presence in the game.

My current goal is to Top 8 at a Grand Prix this fall. I want to see girls in the ProTour, and I want to see them at FNM every week. If we stop judging players by appearance, we’ll at least begin making headway toward not being shocked and sour when girls prove they can play with the boys. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Until next time!