New York in March

Next month I’ll be in New York for a week or so and I was wondering if anyone had tips for good places to check out, fun activities and places to visit?

I definitely need to check out a couple Magic The Gathering stockists and maybe play some games whilst i’m over there.

M14 Prerelease

I played Magic for about two years from ages 11-13. It was a simpler time, our decks were basic and built solely from intro decks and a handful of boosters, we perhaps spent £30 on cards. It was a great pastime, huddled around a table in my friend’s mum’s mobile caravan, we laughed, joked and bonded over these little pieces of cardboard. Then we turned 13 and discovered girls, somehow girls didn’t think four boys sitting in an airless sweaty caravan playing with pictures of dragons was cool or sexy. Our weekends evolved subtly from card games to hanging out at skate parks or trying to exploit weaknesses in our parent’s internet filters so that we could eagerly wait ten minutes for a photo of boobs to chug down the dial-up connection.
About two years ago, after ten years of hopelessly trying to understand the female mind and pissing away hundreds of pounds on beer, taxi’s and nightclub entries, myself and my house mate were sitting in one evening and reminiscing. Remember Warhammer? He asked me, I laughed and reeled off a series of anecdotes about that time when this happened, and the time that guy cheated with this. We agreed that we missed pissing about with collectibles and considered starting playing again. Then we remembered the afternoons with our fingers stuck together with superglue, the time our dog ate our tank, when we screwed up the paint job on a model so bad that we had to chuck it. We didn’t know anyone else who would play, games could take hours and prices were daunting. Then it struck us, Magic didn’t need any setup, there was no pinning, no gluing, no heavy boxes to drag about, you simply had a wad of cards wrapped in an old elastic band (I shudder at the thought these days). James rushed into his room and started rustling about, “i think my mum might have chucked them in the move…no…wait…yes!”, i rummaged through my bottom drawer and found a tupperware, covered in dust and forgotten.
In the last two years i’ve played Magic twice a week on average and built several fairly competitive Modern decks. I’d never played in a tournament however, but waking up early on a sunday morning with nothing planned for the day, i thumbed through my Facebook feed and saw that Boundless Realms, my local store, were hosting an M14 prerelease. I’ve been very excited about M14, to the point that i have a booster box preordered, so for £25 with 8 booster packs and a promo Megantic Sliver chucked in, this looked like the perfect way to while away a day. I arrived around ten am and registered with DCi, keen to smash my way up to 924,567th place in the world rankings.
Decks were to be made from the contents of your first 6 boosters, plus any lands required (i excitedly pinched the sexy 8th edition plains in the pool – i say pinched, the other players and owners were bemused at my glee). There were 16 players, with the top 8 winning boosters. Decks were a minimum of 40 cards, so i went with what appeared to be the general consensus of 16 lands, 24 spells. My draw was middling, i had a couple of nice cards but mostly vanilla fare. My rares and mythics were: Devout Invocation, Savage Summoning, Megantic Sliver, Seraph Of The Sword, Tidebinder Mage and Xathrid Necromancer. With nothing of note in Black, no burn in Red and opting against a chancey counter based Blue build, I plumped for White/Green weenie aggro. The Seraph Of The Sword and Devout Invocation had steered me towards white (plus 80% of my builds are white) and i went with green on the strength of drawing 2 giant growth, Manaweft Sliver and Deadly Recluse (probably the most played card at the event).
Round 1 (2-0)
My first opponent was a new player, he had played Duels Of The Planeswalkers for a few weeks so knew the basics and came down to play with his mate. He played White/Green like I did but his inexperience told (he tried to prevent all combat damage on his turn, with an empty board – which I allowed him to rescind) and I won with 28 life in the first game and 24 in the second. We all start somewhere and i was pleased to hear at the end of the tourney that he had claimed his first scalp and finished 15th of 16. The more new players that join the community the better and i was glad that he hadn’t been thoroughly womped and put off.
Round 2 (1-1-Draw)
My second opponent was a seasoned player and did well. The first game finished with a narrow victory to me, i was on 7 life and got the edge through constant attacks with Seraph Of The Sword, her resistance to combat damage and my Giant Growths saw off any defences before eventually overwhelming my opponent. The second game saw me ascend to 24 life and bring him down to 4 with the Seraph and boost combo, along with little gems like Suntail Hawk and Brindle Boar (block him? I’ll sacrifice before damage is dealt). Then he Doomblade’d Seraph. This was a turning point as, at the time, my angel was my only creature in play (having thrown the rest at him every turn to wipe out his defences). Suddenly i had no board, no cards in hand and he enchanted his vanilla black 3/2 with Dark Favor and swung for 6. I drew a forest, my 9th land. He swung for 6 and played another creature. I drew Lay Of The Land. He swung for 8. I drew Serra Angel but it was too late, i blocked his big guy, 2 damage got through. I sat on 2 life, i drew Verdant Haven. We shook hands and laughed, he with relief, I with disbelief. These two games had been exhausting struggles, as we shuffled for our deciding game a judge called 2 minutes. We set up and began, when the timer had gone we were both sat on 19 life, four turns in and with level boards. He told me he was relieved to have taken a draw from me, I agreed, i was ecstatic.
Round 3 (0-2)
This was a humbling, crushing defeat. If i had been in contention for prizes before or deceived myself into thinking that my vanilla weenies were a force to be reckoned with; this shattered any illusions. The first game finished within four minutes. Scavenging Ooze and Woodborn Behemoth took me apart; i pulled out every trick i had, i played Fog, Giant Growth, Savage Summoning into Serra Angel. Nothing i tried paid off, my weenies were just chumps to block the Behemoth and were munched up in death by the Ooze. The second game didn’t go much better, I took him down to 7 life but i had got by every turn on combat tricks, minor life gain and exhausted my hand. Thoroughly outclassed and outmanoeuvred, i realised that setting my sights higher than 8th would be unwise.
Round 4 (2-0)
Still licking my wounds from the previous round and knowing that a defeat here would surely end any hopes of finishing in the prize places, i shuffled up and nervously faced my fourth opponent. In the break between rounds i’d decided to switch out Darksteel Ingot for Rumbling Baloth. The Baloth is vanilla as they come but i’d missed muscle and bodies in my previous game. The Ingot never added to my game, with Manaweft Sliver providing any emergency mana I needed. Playing Red/Black yet lacking low end burn and with just two kill spells, my opponent was always going to struggle. He explained his predicament to me and I sympathised, he’d had a rough draft. I won the first game before he had played a spell and the second saw my Serra Angel with Trollhide smashing face.
Round 5 (1-2)
This was the final round, from my reckoning I was back in contention for prizes but would need at least a draw here to keep clinging in. Game 1 started well for me, playing two Giant Growths on a turn 3 Deadly Recluse attack. My opponent, playing White/Black/Green pulled it back with a few very familiar cards, the same minor life gain that i had fallen back on in countless games brought him back to a respectable position. He brought out Archangel Of Thune, the one card i had been drooling over in the spoilers. On fourteen life each and with Seraph Of The Sword, Manaweft Sliver and two tokens from Hive Stirrings facing Archangel Of Thune, Siege Mastadon and Lifebane Zombie I needed a game winner. I tapped all three slivers for Devout Incantation and overwhelmed him the very next turn. Game 2 started in much the same fashion and i was confidently opening my prize boosters in my mind. Then it all went horribly wrong, Sanguine Bond and minor life gain sapped at me slowly, i was outnumbered on the board and slowly stumbled towards defeat. It was the final game, not only of the round but of the tournament. My record was mixed, my opponent had some great cards and my only hope was a great start and every combat trick i could pull. A judge had begun watching us with mild interest after my crushing angelic assault in game 1 and by the beginning of the final game 3 judges were standing around us; anticipating the tie of the round. We smashed into each other, balanced decks going toe to toe, every point of damage coming at the expense of a valued creature; i pulled every combat trick i had from up my sleeves; Fog, Giant Growth, Celestial Flare buying me a slight advantage. We stood facing each other on turn 8, my opponent on 11 life, i was on 14. Then it happened, Sanguine Bond. He’d already been smashing with his lifelinked Stonehorn Chanter, which had tied up my Seraph Of The Sword for as long as it had been on the battlefield, but as he whittled away my other blockers i was reduced to waiting for a miracle, unable to attack. Archangel Of Thune came in and the pair came in swinging hard, my Seraph blocked the Archangel and i took the unboosted Stonehorn damage. I drew lands and unusuable auras. His minor life gain stung me passively and the judges were theorising possible outcomes, each engrossed in the battle. When he swung with both the rhino and the angel with lifelink and made me lose the life he’d gained i eventually capitulated. My seraph lay down her sword. I extended my hand, we shook, both brimming with nerves and excitement.

My weenies had done their very best and stood their ground against all but the third opponent. With the cards at my disposal i couldn’t imagine a stronger showing and i was proud of how i had played, fully focussed and pulling tricks out of the bag where i would usually have missed a beat. We all stood around the store awaiting the results, read in excruciating ascending order, and then it became clear why the judges had taken such a keen interest in our final game. My opponent finished in 7th, I in 9th. Our third game had been an unintended play off for the final prize places. Our war of attrition, a slow, slogging battle, won on sheer endurance had provided the nerve wracking spectacle befitting of a play off. I learnt a lot by playing with a patchwork deck, compared to my usual mythic playsets, and grew to appreciate why Serra Angel invokes such nostalgia amongst veteran players. Seraph Of The Sword was my pick of the day, a really standout card, prevents enemy lifelink, deathtouch proof and a thorn in the side of a deck without removal. I’ll pick up three more when the set is released.
After five hours of magic and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in my first ranked tournament i thanked the great staff at Boundless Realms and left with my head held high.

How to be: A real Magic playa

Have you ever wandered past your local hobbyist/gaming store and seen two bearded behemoths, grunting and slogging it out over the great cityscape of Ravnica and thought “damn, they cool”. Sweat dripping from their chins as they violently throw a Cancel across the table, they are proud gangsters of gaming. But what if you actually were a gangster of gaming rather than an odorous cellar dweller? Well now you can join the elite with this great guide.

Shout “BOOM” whenever you do anything. Killing a creature? Playing a creature? Untapping a land? Rolling a dice? Moving counters? Make every phase of your game a noisy and flamboyant experience. Other players add two to their mana pool, you add BOOM to your mana pool and bring da pain of a thousand rains. Or something equally redundant and extroverted. Use phrases like that one for extra effect, but not that one, I might trademark it.

Interrupt everything with “yo momma”. Interrupting an opponent by playing an unrelated instant or activating an ability can throw them off. Doing it twice by playing Think Twice and activating it’s flashback can irritate and confuse them, simply shouting “yo momma” every few seconds or in response to any other state based action will yield respect by the bucketload. What’s more playa than implying that you copulated with your opponent’s mother? Nothing. Fact.

Dress gangster. Look at these other nerds, dressed all normal. Dat be cray. Hip it up, wear parachute pants, tanktops and extravagant faux gold jewelry. Keep at least one hand down aforementioned pants at all times. This is essential. You need to give the impression that you are holding your genitals or possibly masturbating, that just defines relaxed. At the very least it will make your opponent uncomfortable or distracted. Use this hand to shake your opponent’s after you inevitably win. Actually don’t shake, what are you, square? Bones it. But use your dick hand, preferably a little sweaty.

Use early 90’s gangster slang, picked up from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Public Enemy videos. This is the epitome of contemporary cool.

Flirt. This will either weaken their defences or make them uneasy. More often than not you’ll be sat across from a hairy, overweight, sweaty bloke whose last third party genital contact was when the doctor pronounced “its a boy”. Leaning across the table and whispering “I’m going to slip your wurm into my O-ring” will really throw them a curveball.

Flash the Benjamins. Flaunt your wealth son, drop that five pound note like a bomb at any opportunity. Use pound coins as counters, use a fiddy as an elf token. If you elected to wear a full shellsuit instead of a tanktop then let the big 5’s slip nonchalantly from your sleeves and slam down on the table. This will make it look like you’re made of money. In fact, sew some notes together and wear them as a coat. Don’t sew too well though, that’s nerdy. Nothing is more playa than wealth.

Keep a ho on da arm. Ensure that you are accompanied by a woman at all times. Any woman will do, though preferably not one who is obviously your sister/mother. This will ramp up your sex appeal and dazzle your opponents before you slay dem with yo mad skills. In fact, use your sister and make constant reference to your blood relation. This devil may care attitude will win you the hearts and minds of any spectators and surely grow your entourage.

Finally, frequently laugh in short “ahah” or “yeahha” bursts. Rappers do this all the time. So you know it’s cool.

MTG Deck Feature: Soldiers

Colours: White
Theme: Soldier creatures
Category: Weenie rush
Win condition: Overwhelming assault from buffed creatures
Deck list:


4x Champion Of The Parish
4x Soul Warden
4x Ballyrush Banneret
4x Adaptive Automaton
4x Crusader Of Odric
4x Field Marshal
4x Preeminent Captain
4x Veteran Armorsmith
4x Captain Of The Watch


2x Brave The Elements
4x Honor Of The Pure


18x Plains

This was the first deck which I thoroughly planned after my return to playing Magic in October 2011. The initial intent behind this was to use Preeminent Captain to “cheat out” Captain Of The Watch and her tokens as part of a 4th turn charge. This 4th turn attack is meant to be the killing blow on an already bewildered foe. This strategy, of attacking with Preeminent Captain and 3 or 4 other soldiers to win in turn 4, is fairly solid. That is to say that if I have drawn Preeminent Captain and Captain Of The Watch the deck will usually win.
Soldiers has evolved slowly and gradually over the past 18 months with newer cards such as Crusader Of Odric slipping in and replacing Veteran Armorsmith among others. I’ve played it against a wide variety of decks and assessed the strength and weakness of it. Against any other type of creature based deck except for Elf tribal, Soldiers ransack and run riot. The attacks in turn 2 and 3 usually clear out the early threats and blockers, especially if Field Marshal is imbuing all with First Strike. Attacking in turn 4 usually sees four 5/4 or higher First Strikes shrieking in, only for a Captain Of The Watch or Crusader of Odric to join the fray at the last moment. Players who survive the turn 4 attack tend to ask “what life are you on”, to which I reply “well, because of the Soul Warden…” and then ask how many creatures I can attack with in the next combat, which is usually 9 or 10. They then scoop. Tricksy decks such as those based around Izzet Staticaster and Guttersnipe tend to have the upper hand over this particular weenie rush deck as momentum is key to Soldiers and taking out a buffing lord can ensure survival after I’ve emptied my hand, by which time the board position has been lost and victory is impossible.

This is the first in a series of articles discussing Magic The Gathering Modern decks.
Any discussion and feedback is encouraged.

A Magic The Gathering tale (all tm’s belong to WOTC)

Lautius knelt down in the grass and ran his fingers through his hair, the earth was cold, the chill resonated through his greaves. It had gotten dark quickly, unnaturally so, and he struggled to make out the markings on the map no matter how close he held it to his face. The Field Marshal replaced his helm and sighed, he had seen far too much of war, he yearned for the fields of his homeland. He was urgently stirred from his reminiscence by a sharp, booming voice on the wind screeching incantations in a foreign tongue. A flash of light followed and a blast of fire crashed to the ground half a mile down the line, briefly illuminating his battle map.
“Status report, i need a goddamn status report” he shrieked.
Through the darkness he heard footsteps approaching rapidly, Lautius rose to his feet and brushed down his cape, now was not the time for informality. A red faced soldier came panting into view, followed by a terrified looking recruit. Both men fell in and smartly saluted their commanding officer.
“Captain Remish, of the fourth watch, sir” bellowed the senior of the two.
“Captain, how lies the right flank?”
The Captain’s voice broke a little as he replied “Privates Coolidge and Rasmussen are both gone sir, Yeates here was injured but should carry on. Sir”
“Goddamnit, i can’t afford to lose men, goddamnit, we need every goddamn soul we can muster.”
“Calm yourself Field Marshal, there will be plenty of time for anger, when we meet our foes.” The voice was high and soft, yet cut clearly through the night air, heavy as it was with artillery and distant screams. The Baneslayer Angel strode into view, emanating a silvery glow, though there was a stern frown across her delicate face. The three men fell into file beside each other and listened with rapt attention.
“We are to make our charge now, one last full measure Field Marshal, can your men handle it?” then, before he could reply, she continued “Alas, you have no choice, Dan The Translucent…” she sighed at the absurdity of the Planeswalker’s title “…believes that we are now at endgame, it is for us to charge now with honour or to hold the line and wait for the verminous hordes to overrun us.”
“Thank you, kind seraphim, from my charts and intel on the ground i have learnt that Ian Of The Massive Squirrels has just one creature to defend with, a common red squirrel. Nath The Traitorous has three malicious looking owls. Unfortunately…” he faltered slightly “…there is insufficient intel on the remaining combatants. Wait, why are you on foot?”
“Effin Gravity Well! I mean, umm, Karli Of The Walking Woods has cast a hex on all creatures of the air. Yet it is unwise to pursue her. Dan believes that her recent charge on James, Smirking One was unsuccessful and as retaliation a dozen fifty foot high elves have begun striding towards her copse of trees. It is better we steer clear of that one. Likewise, your hunger for vengeance against Sam The Flamekin will have to be forgotten, rumour has it that he is engaged in a fierce battle of sorcery with Punty Of Dark Waters. It is best we allow the mages to settle their own squabbles. We have been assigned to charge Nath.”
“With respect, o purest one, surely it is wiser to face the squirrel, those owls do look awfully nasty” Captain Remish spluttered, his eyes firmly on his own feet, shifting nervously.
“Fool, do you not recall Derrick? My sister died fighting a squirrel, it grew to tower over trees and…and tore her wings off before carrying her off to it’s drey. Ian has tricks up his sleeves. The Field Marshal, yo…”
The angel was cut short and nearly bowled over as a knight sat atop a colossal winged lion lumbered past them and headed east.
“…u and the Private will come with me, we are to await the signal and then head for Nath. Vinny the Vengeful Archon…” she nodded in the direction of their acquaintance “will head for Ian and his pesky squirrel. Dan believes that even after a Giant Growth Vinny should be enough for the meddling rodent. Here, take these. I confer upon you True Conviction”
She passed each of the men a pair of glowing, ornate gold swords. A bright star shot through the sky, bursting like a firework high above a boggy area to their west. The sign. The angel strode forward, purposefully, deliberately, the men jogged behind in her wake. Lautius couldn’t remember feeling more alive, so horrifically frightened, yet more awake than he had ever been. Every pore of his body seemed to pulse with adrenaline, this was it, he could see the owls, he would meet his maker soon, see his wife again and the child they lost..
“FOG” came a booming voice.
“Oh for fucks sake Ian, i was gonna do Nath in.”
“Nope, i’m only on ten life, i’m not letting that bloody Archon through”
“Umm, as an instant before my turn guys…13 damage to all creatures”