Yorke on Games #35 – Side Quests

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It’s the holidays: that time of year when the pace of life slows down considerably, as your peers go on vacation and family takes center stage. Because regular routines are thrown into disarray, drafts might not fire regularly (especially since players seem to have solved the Ixalan draft environment about three weeks in—thanks, One With the Wind). On top of that, 2017 has been a pretty rough year, so avenues of escapism are needed more than usual. And so you might find yourself desperately looking for something to fill the existential void between late December and early January.

Thus, today I’ll be discussing some new ways to play casual Magic that require fewer players, using some of WotC’s neglected supplementary products, some ingenuity, and a spirit of exploration.

Greetings, weary traveler. Could I interest you in a Side Quest?

Side Quest #1: Explorers of Ixalan

Requires: 4 players with around $15 each

Explorers of Ixalan is a board game plug-in for potentially enhancing any multiplayer game of Magic. It’s basically Planechase lite. And it was released last month to little if any fanfare, as the hype train was fully steaming toward the release of Unstable, a ‘fun’ set (and after being called in to arbitrate a particularly acrimonious rules debate involving Entirely Normal Armchair, I know just how ‘fun’ that set can be). Now, for around the price of a purely hypothetical draft, you and three friends can plant your scout tokens on that uncharted territory, experience a new variant, and come away with some guaranteed value from the precon decks (Time Warp, anyone?).

How to Play:

  1. Buy Explorers of Ixalan.
  2. Each player chooses, in random order, one of the 60-card preconstructed decks therein (it is theirs to keep).
  3. Play free-for-all multiplayer games using Explorers of Ixalan, starting at 20 life, until one player has 3 wins (i.e., all other players are eliminated).
  4. The first player to reach 3 wins gets to keep the game tiles, box, and other non-deck components therein (congratulations!).
  5. For extra spice: after each game allow players to add a booster pack to their deck to improve it, and add/remove any number of basic lands.

Side Quest #2: Planechase Anthology

Requires: 4 players with around $30 each

Planechase Anthology was another criminally under-advertised supplementary product released in the past year or so. It contains the Plane cards, which produce the best simulation of weaving through the multiverse like a drunken Planeswalker that has ever been created. These allow you to have a more random, casual game of multiplayer Magic than even the Commander format does. If that appeals to you, and if you’re attracted to the chase reprints contained in the precons (Bloodbraid Elf and Shardless Agent are always in high demand), then this might be the side quest for you.

How to Play:

  1. Buy Planechase Anthology.
  2. Each player chooses, in random order, one of the 60-card preconstructed decks therein (it is theirs to keep).
  3. Play free-for-all multiplayer games using the Plane deck, starting at 20 life, until one player has 3 wins (i.e., all other players are eliminated).
  4. The first player to reach 3 wins gets to keep the Plane deck, box, and dice therein (congratulations!).
  5. For extra spice: after each game allow players to add a booster pack to their deck to improve it, and add/remove any number of basic lands.

Side Quest #3: Secret Santa MegaDraft

Requires: 5+ players, $0 each

Sometimes—just sometimes—you want to take a break from throwing money at WotC’s endless line of products and just enjoy the cards you already have. Does putting a fun use to the bulk rares in your binder seem like fun to you? Would you like to express your personality by hand-crafting an all-Sliver pack, a pack consisting solely of removal spells, or a pack containing only cards with a casting cost of 1? Look no further! The Secret Santa MegaDraft has you covered.

How to Play:

  1. Each player makes 6 Secret Santa packs with their own cards, and wraps them in wrapping paper or tin foil.
  2. Secret Santa packs must contain 1 rare or mythic rare card, 3 uncommons, and 11 commons (any sets are okay, but no basic lands); there must be two cards of each color (WUBRG); all cards must be unique.
  3. Mix all Secret Santa packs, and randomly distribute 5 packs to each player for drafting; place the leftover packs in the prize pool.
  4. Players draft the packs, build 60-card decks, and play their matches as per a usual draft.
  5. The player who wins the draft gets to keep all the prize packs (congratulations?).

Once per year, I host one of these tournaments just to keep things fresh, and it consistently delivers amusement. This year, one guy showed up with 5 identical packs, a fact we only discovered mid-draft. Another made a pack of cards with one-word titles. Another jammed in as many Thallids as humanly possible in his draft set in order to force a terrible Saproling theme deck to be constructed.

Allow me to demonstrate with a little Pack 1 Pick 1 exercise. What do you choose here?

Breaking Point
Take Up Arms
Dark Deal
Mockery of Nature
Prickleboar
Book Burning
Rottenheart Ghoul
Wailing Ghoul
Aven Envoy
Matca Rioters
Workshop Assistant
Dedicated Martyr
Coastline Chimera
Vastwood Gorger
Dispel

Or here, in my Pack 2?

Second Harvest
Hewed Stone Retainers
Grizzled Angler
Angel of Renewal
Ambush Krotiq
Shambling Goblin
Mire’s Malice
Evolving Wilds
Divination
Boiling Earth
Hired Heist
Sabertooth Outrider
Reckless Imp
Lithomancer’s Focus
Shard of Broken Glass

Pack 3?

Skarrg Goliath
Dwarven Strike Force
Sinuous Striker
Stichwing Skaab
Patrol Hound
Rubblebelt Maaka
Evolving Wilds
Blaster Mage
Desert of the Mindful
Hekma Sentinels
Fa’adiyah Seer
Aven Trooper
Fledgling Imp
Zhur-Taa Swine
Faerie Macabre

Pack 4?

Guile
Cloudblazer
Juggernaut
Quicksand
Duress
Prickleboar
Arrest
Unburden
Archaeomancer
Murder
Crocanura
Boulderfall
Sandblast
Anticipate
Blisterpod

Pack 5?

Force of Nature
Resurrection
Sengir Vampire
Juggernaut
Dark Ritual
Fireball
Unsummon
Disenchant
Kird Ape
Craw Wurm
Giant Growth
Prodigal Sorcerer
Terror
Power Sink
Samite Healer

For this Secret Santa draft, I ended up going for Gruul tokens with a Bloodrush subtheme. I managed to get two copies of Second Harvest, to combo with my Slime Molding, Box of Free-Range Goblins, Dance with Devils, Blisterpod, Giantbaiting, and various assorted Thallids. I went 0-3, wearing novelty reindeer horns, and had an absolute blast doing it.

Laughter. Free time. Trying new things. Isn’t that the spirit of the holidays, after all?

Happy holidays, from all of us Yorkes on Games.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re about to go beat Santa down in a game of Archenemy.

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