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M10 Rules Changes Beatdown, I mean Breakdown June 16, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering, Magic 2010.
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If you have been following along you are aware of the rules changes announced recently by Wizards of the Coast. As a relatively new player this is the first major rules change I’ve had to go through, but older players are comparing these changes to what is being referred to as the 6th edition changes.

A brief history as I understand it. Before the 6th edition changes there were more than two speeds of cards (more than sorcery and instant); Instant, Interrupt, Sorcery, Hyper, and Cyber (just kidding on those last two). Damage didn’t use the stack and there were a bunch of different abilities that were awkward and confusing ,like banding, phasing and mana source as a type. So when 6th edition launched all interrupts became instants and damage used the stack. I’ll have to check and make sure there weren’t any additional changes of note.

Flash forward to today and we see a some terminology clarifications and one major game alteration. So lets get to the good stuff first.

Combat Damage Part One
The major change is a new combat system where damage no longer uses the stack. If you are scratching your head as to why that really matters I’ll explain. Under the current system once blockers are declared and each player passes priority damage goes onto the stack before it is dealt to creatures/players. There is an opportunity for players to play spells and abilities before damage resolves and is assigned. The example that everyone is using is Mogg Fanatic. If you attack with a mogg fanatic and it is blocked by a 2/2 when damage goes on to the stack, you can sacrifice your goblin deal one damage to the blocking creature, then when damage that is still on the stack resolves the 1 point of combat damage will kill the blocker. I know this is pretty basic for most players but I wanted to be clear about what is happening under the current rules.

So, under the new rules damage will not use the stack but just happen in a “Damage Event” as the cast of Top 8 Magic puts it. During the damage event all damage will be assigned and dealt at the same time. If there are multiple players with attackers and blockers each player will go around in order announcing what damages is happening, but there is no priority in which to play spells or abilities. So as soon as the defending player declares blockers and both players pass priority the damage event happens. So if you were to sacrifice your same mogg fanatic in advance of the damage event. It would be sacrificed and not in play when damage happens. So the blocking 2/2 would only have received the 1 damage from the sacrifice ability of the goblin.

As I was making my transition from kitchen table wizard to FNM regular I would constantly get beat on combat tricks that used the stack because it took me a while to understand how that scenario worked. Players who had a better understanding of the rules that I would have a huge advantage. Under the new rules damage will work much like I thought it did when first playing the game. I say this because this is one of the reasons the change was made.

The intricate system via which combat is currently handled creates many unintuitive gameplay moments. For starters, “the stack” is a difficult concept…”

New players are also a target for this change as it is assumed they have trouble conceptualizing damage using the stack like spells and abilities.

Another reason for the combat change is said to make the game less complex. There have been arguments on both sides of this reason. Fist the cons – in an attempt to make the game simpler it is actually more complex, because everything else uses the stack and with more special rules there is actually more to know and understand about the game. I don’t disagree that there is more to know about the game and this statement does make sense. However the debate for this argument is that damage not using the stack is intuitive and therefore less complex as a game concept and in execution. While I certainly like damage using the stack, as it provides great strategic combat opportunity, I do think that the game will be easer to explain to new players under the amended rules. I also think that most cases of game play, combat damage with or without the stack, will happen and feel just the same as before. I’m thinking of situations where there are no combat tricks or no blockers. In those situations damage is recorded quickly and the game moves on.

Combat Damage Part Two
The second part of this change is what happens after the blocking player declares blockers. This is only relevant if there are multiple creatures blocking a single creature. So lets review the current system. After blockers are declared and damage is on the stack the attacking player declares how damage will be assigned to multiple creatures. If you are attacking with a 5/5 and it gets blocked by two 3/3 creatures then typically one would assign three damage to one and two to the other.

Under the new rules, because damage doesn’t use the stack, the attacking player now orders the blockers instead of assigning how damage is dealt. I’ll try to explain but if I mess this up it is because I haven’t fully grasped how this works, yet. If I’m attacking with 6/6 and my opponent blocks with a 3/3 and two 2/2s then I get to choose what order to deal damage to the creatures. Assuming all these creatures are vanilla, I’m going to want to dispatch the 3/3 first and the each of the 2/2s. So I’ll order them in this way 1. 3/3 2. 2/2 3. 2/2. Since my creature is a 6/6 it will deal three to the first creature two to the second and one to the third. In a sense trampling over each creature until there are no more points of damage to distribute. The blocker order is assigned after blockers are declared, and, I think, still in the declare blockers step, before combat damage step (or the damage event). My 6/6 doesn’t have trample of course but that is how damage will be dealt to multiple blockers under the new system. Seems intuitive.

This is getting kind of long but this covers most of the major changes in the M10 Rules Changes. There has been a lot written on the web already about the changes so here are some of the things I have read that help me get a feel for how people are reacting.

Patrick Chapin in support of the rules.

Hate the M10 Changes? – Voice it on Facebook

Channel Fireball

MTG Realm

I’ll be back next post to cover the rest of the updates.

Learn to Play Magic: Part 1 (revisited) May 23, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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First lets start with this video:

This intro video does a good job of explaining the general concept of the game while touching on the dork/nerd factor of the game. The guy in the video seems a little intimidating, I think it’s because of his hair that comes to a point in the front like a spike. He absolutely plays red.

Back to the learning. The video does cover general aspects of the game especially what are some good safe cards to buy when getting into the game for the first time. Picking any boosters or pre-constructed decks for a first time player is a good idea. If you are wondering why it is a good idea, let me tell you. There are so many cards in Magic: the Gathering it really blows my mind. I know people who literally know every card and what it does, crazy I know. So the core sets suggested in this video are good place to start because those decks are basically a really good summery of all the cards ever made. There are really dynamic cards mixed with the age old classics.

Next post I’ll have my review of Learn to Play Magic: The Gathering (Part 2), but if you are like me you aren’t going to want to wait for my reviews of those videos to see them. I’ll be biasing this series off of the six videos on the playmagic.com (follow link and click learn to play for the rest of the videos) site as well as a few other features on that site.

So click through, start playing and let me know how it goes.


I initally wrote this post over a year ago and I wanted to say that after reviewing the video there is a better way to aquire cards. Depending on how serious you might be about playing magic, I would start by getting a theme deck for sure (now called Intro Packs). After that get some cards off a buddy or go to ebay and spend about $25 on a complete playset of commons and uncommons of a set. This will get you a lot of “relevant” cards for little investment. Next, find whoever got you into the game and start playing with them. Feel free to hit me up with any comments or questions related to learning how to play magic. If you are in the Pittsburgh area leave a comment and I’d be happy to meet up with you.

Good At This – Magic: The Gathering April 26, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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Yesterday I received a comment linking to a youtube review of Magic. Thought I’d share as it is pretty funny.

Conflux EDU: Basic Landcycling 101 January 28, 2009

Posted by Norm in Conflux, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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I’m happy to see basic landcycling come back. I think this is one of those solid traditional mechanics that is good for the game and decks. Not much else to say about that.

Conflux EDU: Domain 101 January 26, 2009

Posted by Norm in Conflux, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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The above video is a crash course in the Domain mechanic new for Conflux. We’ll see how efficent this mechanic will prove to be. I’m not completely sold on it as it seems like Eventide’s Chroma – an interesting mechanic but a little confusing as a key word. I mean each domain ability is a little different each instance, so it seems like they could have just printed abilities on the cards verses giving them a keyword. 

My Esper Starter deck December 1, 2008

Posted by Norm in Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering, Shards of Alara.
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Another started deck. This time I made for my brother who just started playing magic when he went to college this year. He had about 6 booster packs worth of cards and a deck with an amazing amount of mythic rares, but his deck had no specific focus. So I built around Esper, here is a link to the deck list on essential magic. 

I’ve been wanting to do something with this shard ever since I picked up the intro pack and was totally disappointed. What I did here was basically grab the best creatures in the shard (Tower Gargoyle, Tidehollow Sculler, and Sanctum Gargoyle) and give him enough consistency to win often.

My biggest decision came down to what were my 12 non creature spells going to be. I have some control in the Tidehollow Sculler and creature protection with Metallurgeon, but I wasn’t sure how much destruction/ control to add. Originally I had Cancel in vs Hindering Light but I really wanted to use Light because it gives a card and is one less to play. When I made the deck I only had three Oblivion Rings or else I would have bumped that to four. However after playing a few rounds with him I kind of think the Agony Warp/ Oblivion Ring ratio is pretty good. This deck beat me consistently with other casual decks.

I’m thinking that if we want to ramp this up a little we could add Sharuum the Hegemon and/or Sphinx Sovereign. Because Etherium Sculptor is almost unnecessary in this deck and we’d like to get a little more power in there.  

Any thoughts? Here is the link in case you missed the deck list.

Learn to Play MTG: Mana Base June 16, 2008

Posted by Norm in Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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For those of you learning to play I’m back with a new addition to my Learning to Play Magic Series: Mana base. 

I find myself building more limited decks, especially drafting, than general constructed. So thinking in a smaller setting is actually easier. Although I’ve built decks where speed is the goal and I’ve struggled over one or two lands for the proper consistency. 

Personally I think it is best to start with an educated guess as to how much of each type of land you need and then test your deck. In general for constructed I usually aim for a land base of 24 cards and then see how the deck plays. For limited (or 40 card decks) I religiously stick to a land base of 17 cards. Although depending on exactly what my mana cure is I’ll adjust, but that is a rare moment. 

My plan is usually pretty simple, I count up all the cards in each color and based on how each color breaks down distribute mana sources in a similar ratio. More for one color less for another. Now it is important to consider playing too few or too much of a color. You don’t want to flood yourself in a single source.

The Ferret wrote a great article on MTG.com that gave mathematical breakdowns and when to play alternative mana sources as well as mana fixers etc. Link here

He also mentioned an article by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar who also provided breakdowns and strategic thinking when deriving a mana base. Link to the article here on star city games. 

So good luck and happy deck building. 

Learn to play MTG: Part 6 May 1, 2008

Posted by Norm in Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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Part 6 brings it home with deck building.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the game its time to start building your own decks. The video covers a few different deck styles so you can take their lead or try your hand at your own creation.

Card ratios that are safe 22 land, 20-25 creatures, and the rest sorcery, enchantments, or instants.

Here are a few sites to check out different decklist ideas. I find these helpful if I have a few cards I want to build around and I want to see what other people are doing. Or just check out decks with cards I like. 
Essential Magic
Starcity games – you might need to register to use this service, it is free.

To hear about competitive decks in the format:
I’ve linked to this YouTube show before – Carthwolf’s Deck Builders 
Mtg salvation – has a ton of resources including podcasts. You’ll have to dig around for them because the design of the site kind of sucks. 

Where should you pickup some cards? If you are in Pittsburgh then there are two local shops I go to. First is CCGs on liberty ave in Bloomfield (my local store).  Or Mr Nice Guy Games in Oakmont. Both stores have a nice selection of singles and unopened product. Each store also hosts weekly events for when you are ready to get competitive.

Keeping it casual
The best way to learn is find a group of friends who you can learn to play with. If you don’t have a group check out your local card shop and hangout on a Friday night or other event night, and ask if someone can help you out. Chances are pretty good a few people will be willing to show you the ropes.

Well this ends my biginning series on learning to play Magic: The Gathering. Keep checking back for other posts in the learn to play category.

Learn to play MTG: Part 5 April 24, 2008

Posted by Norm in Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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This is where everything we’ve covered so far starts to come together. This video focuses on the combat phase of a turn and creatures you use to attack and block. The important part of your creatures to understand is the power/toughness numbers on the bottom right of the card. Power is the number of damage points your creature can deal, first number. Thoughness is the amount of damage it can take before going to the graveyard, second number. The cool thing about power and toughness is that those numbers can easily change. Maybe you want to make your creatures bigger and/or reduce your opponents guys.

The video does a good job of covering attacking and blocking.

Keep in mind you can play instants during combat, better known as combat tricks. Say your guy is smaller than your opponents creature but you are holding a giant growth. Attack with your guy, your opponent blocks, then declare, after blockers are assigned, “I play giant growth.” Making your creature bigger and badder. 

I read a good article on magicthegathering.com when I started playing about combat tricks and attacking/blocking. Link here.

One last aspect of the game I want to mention is Zones. Magicthegathering.com has a good Back to Basics section and here is a link to part one that covers game zones (scroll to the bottom). Game zones in a nutshell are different areas of the game where your cards reside. This is a conceptual place than an actual physical place on the table. It is pretty self explanatory except for the stack. The Stack can get complicated so don’t over think it right away. 

Next I’ll be back with my final post in this series. Learn to play Magic: The Gathering Part 6.

New Mechanics in Shadowmoor April 17, 2008

Posted by Norm in Casual, Learn to Play Magic: the Gathering.
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Here are a few youtube videos from Wizards of the Coast on Shadowmoor’s new mechanics originally posted on magicthegathering.com here.

If you are new to the game these are simple videos explaining these new mechanics. 












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