Put Your Money Where Your Sealed Is: A Closer Look At Magicshop
Maybe I've reached that point in my Magic writing career where I look back at old articles too much. My past several articles have mined areas that I've been to before. After writing two articles dealing with Really Bland Cards of Kamigawa (er...Saviors of Kamigawa), I felt a serious need to shift gears.
I've written two articles about Magicshop, but the last hasn't been since March, 2003. That's a really long time to go without talking about a subject love, so I am interjecting now. Feel free to read the old article, and get brought up to speed on all of the ins and outs of Magicshop.
I was really in a Magicshop mood this past week. I decide to head online to read what I could about Shop. I figured that somewhere out there, someone had to be doing Shop - maybe someone has written about it. Shop is such a great idea that someone had to be thinking about it.
My search found nothing. As such, it seems my duty to write more about Shop... So let me give you the basic premise.
In Shop, every Magic game you play matters. The card pool that you have carries over from match to match. As you win and lose, your card pool changes through ante. It also changes by buying new packs of cards.
You begin Shop with virtual dollars, and you use virtual dollars to purchase product. You then build a sixty-card deck with your product. As you play, you gain or lose points based on your performance. The point system determines your level; the higher your level, the more cards you'll have access to purchasing. You also gain more (or less) points for defeating people with different levels.
Every game gives you virtual money. If you win, you get more virtual money. Virtual money can be spent to add Sealed product into your card pool. At the beginning, you can only use Type Two product - but as you progress through levels, you can buy older and older cards.
Okay, now that we've done an abbreviated rundown, (see the previous article for all of the rules and nuances), it's time to head into the meat of today's article. You see, what I intend to do is show off an actual Shop environment. Using a few IRC friends, we are going to create a Shop, and in doing so, show you how to set up your own.
At the end of this article, you can find an Appendix showing what levels can purchase what. It's an updated version of Appendix A from the previous article.
My Shop Deck
I begin my forays into Shop with twenty-five AbeDollars. (We're calling them AbeDollars instead of virtual money for purposes of this experiment. That's the perk of being the writer.)
Unlike normal environments, in Shop, your lands are a part of your card pool. As such, smart players pick up a pair of Starters as part of their initial buy. Normally I'll go for expansion starters, but these past two sets have made me rethink that strategy. There are so many mechanics in each set that are block-dependent. Who wants to crack something that helps Snakes, refers to legendary permanents, or has Affinity? When good cards require permanents in play, like Irradiate, then maybe I need to look elsewhere. I decide to start with an 8th Edition starter.
Now, I am not actually buying cards. What I need is a random card generator. Enter Apprentice! (Note that I do not like the Magic Suitcase generator that much - too many duplicates.) I am going to use Apprentice to create my Core Starter (or Tournament pack, or whatever they're calling it these days). Here it is:
Throne of Bone
I make a mental note of the best cards in my starter: Volcanic Hammer, Dark Banishing, Obliterate, and Dehydration as my removal, Elite Archers, Abyssal Specter, Aven Cloudchaser, Hunted Wumpus, Wind Drake, Puppeteer and Gluttonous Zombie as my good creatures.
Opening an 8th edition starter costs me ten AbeDollars, leaving me with fifteen. I decide to grab another starter - but this time, I move into Champions. There may be a few cards that will have less value for me, but I think the set, as a whole, is pretty strong. Let's see what I can crack.
Iname, Death Aspect
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
Kami of Lunacy
Counsel of the Soratami
Kami of Fire's Roar
Kami of the Painted Road
Kami of the Waning Moon
Kami of Twisted Reflection
Lifted by Clouds
Order of the Sacred Bell
Right away you probably notice the broken Tatsumasa. That's the best card I've cracked yet! Other good cards include Hanabi Blast, Ronin Houndmaster, Nezumi Cutthroat, Glacial Ray, Hinder, and Hideous Laughter.
Remember, this is a sixty-card deck we are making, so three colors will see play in my final deck. It's appearing as if Red will be my main color.
I spent another ten dollars on my two starters. Here is the land base I opened in the two starters:
11 Island (one foil)
I have five AbeDollars left, so I have several options here: Typically, you want to crack a booster for $3 and add those cards to your card pool. On the other hand, it may be worth picking up a land pack and getting more basic lands for my card pool. I take another look at my cards and I currently see Red getting played, potentially with White and Black as well, although I haven't really analyzed the cards too much so far. That'd give me 25 lands, which is acceptable, so I pull the plug and pick up a booster. Just for fun, I go with a Mirrodin booster for three AbeDollars.
Now, I suspect that picking Mirrodin is a bad call. I have to get good cards to make up for it, since there's a lot of potential for an awful lot of wasted cards. However, I'm creating this for demonstrative purposes, so I go with the Mirrodin booster. Take a look at the rare I cracked, and you'll see I did pretty well for myself.
Oblivion Stone is obviously great, and makes my deck much better. There are a lot of great cards, like Arrest, Skyhunter Patrol, and all three White uncommons. I wish that I could have used the Irradiate, but that's not to be.
My Initial Shop Deck:
Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
Kami of the Painted Road
Kami of Fire's Roar
Kami of Lunacy
Throne of Bone
The deck is heavy on creatures, with twenty-six creatures and eight removal spells. One card, Pearl Shard, is neither. Of my twenty-six creatures, nine have some form of evasion. In the sideboard, I can bring in enchantment removal, two cards that kill off X/1s, and several other options.
I like my Tatsumasa/Oblivion Stone combo. If I have out the 6/6 Dragon token and then Stone everything away, I'll still have a bunch of land and the Dragon's Fang, with which I can remake the Dragon. This will also work with Obliterate, but I won't have the mana to remake the Dragon (unless I float six mana - but seriously, how often is that going to happen?).
I have $2 Abe Dollars remaining, for the purchase of my next pack. It's time to head into the games, so let's go.
Playing Shop: Match #1 - gr8ter
We'll be playing round robin, so I start out randomly facing gr8ter.
Gr8ter wins the virtual Apprentice roll of the die to determine who goes first. I ante Cruel Deceiver, while my opponent antes Kodama's Might. He leads with Forest, Swamp, Sakura-Tribe Elder, sac for Mountain. On his third turn, he drops a Feral Deceiver. For my part, I slap down a second-turn Drudge Skeletons and a third-turn Severed Legion. I have a lot of Black mana, and a Forest, but no Red mana in sight. It's not too big of a deal, because the only Red card I currently have in hand is Obliterate, and I'm not playing that any time soon anyway.
He hits me for three from the Deceiver and plays Kumano's Pupils. I attack with the Legion and leave mana to regenerate my Skeletons. I play my fourth land, a Swamp, and drop a Crossbow Infantry.
After several turns, I am down to ten and my opponent is at twelve. I have yet to see my opponent play a single Black card, nor have I seen a card from any set other than Champions. Did he get all Champions cards? I have out the Skeletons, Infantry, Legion, and I just played Giant Cockroach. My opponent has the Pupils, Deceiver, and Hana Kami. That's when my opponent essentially windmill slams down Jugan.
Yes, he is the worst of the dragons, but when you are facing a 5/5 flying beater, you can't be picky.
I need to draw removal or Tatsumasa and mana quickly. I don't and Jugan finishes me off.
I ante Oblivion Stone (!) and my opponent antes Yamabushi's Flame. I go first and mulligan down to six cards with a one-land hand. My opponent also mulligans. I play land, land, land before actually playing a creature. Unfortunately, the only creature I have that I can play is Viashino Sandstalker, so I attack for four. My opponent just has out Child of Thorns, which he attacked with, so it's tapped. (At least I know he picked up a Betrayers booster pack.)
I toss out the Sabretooth Tiger a draw. He keeps the Child back while playing a highly annoying Honden of Life's Web. Luckily, I have the Aven Cloudchaser in hand, and I play it, then swing with the Tiger. My opponent plays He Who Hungers, but my sideboarded Rend Spirit handles him easily. The momentum has shifted, and after a few turns, I win the game.
Although the first couple of games had drama, this one was not even close. I ante Giant Cockroach, while my opponent ante Kodama's Might. Is it the same one, or does he have two?
My opponent gets Tribe-Elder, which accelerates into, I kid you not, Horobi, Death's Wail. Were all of this guy's rares legendary flying spirits? This time I have no Rend Spirit - or any removal whatsoever, for that fact. I take four, then another four. I am trying to play a defense, but it's all ground and feared stuff. My opponent throws out Gibbering Kami.
I manage to topdeck Pearl Shard. I have to kill Horobi with it, though, because I'm at eight. I thought about going to four and killing the Gibbering Kami, but I'm playing against Red and Black, so I decided to go to six from the Gibbering Kami and take out the big guy. It didn't matter either way, because my opponent then played Devouring Greed, sacrificing a lot of Spirits, for eight life and the game.
After the match, I have to adjust my deck. I lost Giant Cockroach and Cruel Deceiver, but I gained Yamabushi's Flame. I toss the Flame into my deck and move the Den-Guard into the deck from my sideboard. I throw a random card (I think it was Raise Dead) into my sideboard.
I gained $0.50 in AbeDollars from just playing, although I lost. I have $2.50.... But the cheapest pack is $3, so I can't buy another pack until after the next match. My opponent got $1.50 - the fifty cents for playing and a dollar for beating me. He also got two points for beating someone at the same level. I would have lost points, but I am at zero. He probably got a Saviors pack or something.
Playing Shop: Match #2 - Salamander
Game One: My ante is Aven Cloudchaser while my opponent antes Air Elemental. Apparently, someone else also thought to get some 8th Edition. I win the die roll and go first.
I have a nice hand, with all three colors of mana plus several early creatures. My opponent does not. I play Bladewarden, Nezumi Ronin, and Mothrider Samurai. My opponent plays Catalog. Okay, I keep beating, and play Kumano's Pupils. My opponent plays...
My opponent lost the last round with a Wrath in his deck. Wow, would I like to win that in ante.
I am shocked, and now my opponent has stabilized at 15 life. That's not a good sign at all. I follow the Wrath with a Kami of Fire's Roar. It's one of my worst creatures - but it is the only creature I have left, although I have some removal. Maybe the Kami will go the distance?
My opponent plays a Swamp, showing me his third color. He then plays....
Crystal Freakin' Shard.
Crystal Shard and Wrath of God. How am I supposed to win this thing? Obviously, I don't. I think I end up taking eight damage from a Thieving Magpie, while other creatures joined the fray and killed me. I killed several, but I never drew kill for the Magpie, and he outdrew me massively to win the game. I lose my only maindeck enchantment removal.
My ante is Yamabushi's Flame. Figures; I haven't even drawn it yet, and I ante it. My opponent antes Remove Soul. I lead with a Cutthroat and start swinging. After a couple of turns, my opponent manages to find a Black creature to stop it - a Gravedigger. He returns some creature discarded from a Catalog.
By the time I play Kami of Lunacy on my sixth turn, I'm a bit mana flooded. I Glacial Rayed his only flyer a bit earlier - a Somber Hoverguard played early due to an artifact land and a now-sacrificed Chromatic Sphere.
My opponent plays a Wind Drake. I can't let my Kami be stopped, so I Dark Banish the Wind Drake. We have a powerful ground stall, and this is my opportunity to swing through. My opponent never draws another flying creature, and only slows me one turn by bouncing my Kami with a Boomerang.
I take this game quickly. I can't remember what I even anted, but I know that I got a Bonesplitter. I remember I was beating with a Samurai in each color, so I must have had Nezumi Ronin, Ronin Houndmaster, and Mothrider Samurai in play. The game was fast, and I ended with the Laughter in my hand. In case he Wrathed me, I was able to reciprocate.
Intermission - Buying More Cards
After wards, I replace the Cloudchaser with the Boneshredder. I receive two points for defeating him, as well as a buck fifty. I use three dollars to purchase a booster pack. I decide to try for Skullclamp in a Darksteel booster. Here's what I open:
Emissary of Despair
Yes, that's right; I'm the idiot who opened Ravager. I also have three Arcbound creatures. I'm not sure that I have enough artifact creatures to run the Ravager and the Stinger, but the Fiend is a Fear creature with the ability to steal counters from opposing creatures. That's not bad at all. Here's my deck modifications, with comments:
- +Emissary of Despair - I'll take another flyer, thank you very much.
- +Dross Golem - I'm happy to have another Fear creature.
- +Leonin Bola - Tremendously powerful.
- +Arcbound Fiend - I ultimately decide to play with the big fear creature.
- -Kami of Fire's Roar - Simply too weak.
- -Leonin Den-Guard - Again, too weak, but a decent enough sideboard card.
- -Kami of the Painted Road - Just not good enough.
- -Auriok Bladewarden - Just doesn't give me enough.
I also change my sideboard up. Most of the cards pulled go into the sideboard. I also make sure that Echoing Calm is sitting pretty.
I lost some evasion when I lost Aven Cloudchaser - but I have added three cards with evasion, so the net change is to add two. It's time for the final match.
Playing Shop: Match #3 - sumthinzup
My ante is the newly-acquired Arcbound Fiend. My opponent antes a Pyrite Spellbomb.
My opponent goes first. I drop a second turn Cutthroat, and expect to get some damage against my opponent, who has a clean board. Then he plays Bottle Gnomes, which stops any ideas right there.
Many turns later we are still in a stalemate. My opponent has several defense creatures, including the highly exasperating Arachnoid. He has no flyers, but his artifacts can stop my fear guys. I am holding up things on my end with Elite Archers, Crossbow Infantry, and Pearl Shard in addition to a few other creatures.
I have one flyer, but it's my Slith Ascendant with one counter on him. I could attack into the Arachnoid, then kill it with my Archers and Infantry.... but that'd leave me open for a counter attack that would do some damage. Since I'd lose my only flyer doing so, it doesn't make sense.
It doesn't make sense, that is, until I topdeck my newest secret weapon: Emissary of Despair. I attack, my opponent blocks, and I kill his Arachnoid with my longstrikers. I then play Emissary of Despair.
My opponent is playing at least four colors. He has used Kodama's Reach and Sylvan Scrying to develop his mana base, so I have to be prepared for anything. Fortunately, he has no immediate kill for my Emissary. He attacks me, and after blocks and the use of a Pearl Shard, I take seven damage, putting me at eleven. I then untap, and draw Bonesplitter. I play the Bonesplitter, equip my Emissary, and attack while my opponent has four artifacts. He sacrifices the Bottle Gnomes so that he only has three - but then he takes seven, so he really loses four life that turn.
He does manage to kill the Emissary when he is down to five life. However, by then I've drawn another flyer that finishes him.
I have anted a Hanabi Blast, which I've yet to even draw. My opponent antes a Trinket Mage.
This game was never close. I get a slow hand, but I have my Oblivion Stone. I bait my opponent into playing several permanents, I play my Stone, take a turn of beatings, then Stone away my opponent's side of the board. I stabilize at eight life and never look back. I have removal for the few creatures he has left, and I have more than enough creatures to take him out quickly.
I gain another buck fifty and two points. This leaves me with $2.50 AbeDollars. If we were to play more Shop, all I'd have to do is play another game in order to get enough money to purchase another booster.
You'll note that my ending deck was much different than my beginning deck. I lost several cards to ante, some of which hurt, like the Aven Cloudchaser. I gained ante cards as well, especially Bonesplitter, Pyrite Spellbomb and Yamabushi's Flame. Some of the ante you gain will not be immediately useful; I cannot play Remove Soul. However, after more antes gained, and more cards opened, I might be able to play Blue soon.
One of the things that I love about Shop is how the game evolves over time. Your deck will change and morph greatly as you play. You'll lose cards you love in ante, but you'll gain some real winners.
All of the guys who volunteered to build decks and play out a few matches really enjoyed the format. Hopefully I've created a spark in you, just ad I have in them. All of the issues that people have with Magicshop are easily dismissed when I point out that you can play without actually buying cards by using a simple card generator like Apprentice.
Every single card that I opened up I already own. I could easily create my card pool with the cards that I own, and we could play in real life. If I open up a card that I don't have, I can borrow it easily from a friend.
It's easy to play on Apprentice and IRC, which is where we met and played. You'll need a central system to ensure that people do not cheat, and then people can play anytime they want.
You can even play on Magic Online, although the system will need a bit of tweaking.
Obviously, I love Magicshop. I've written articles about it, but they were always focused on the rules. It's time to focus on something else. I hope that this view of the game thrills you like it does me.
Appendix - Updated List of Cards Playable and Purchasable
Please note that the following is a recommended list of cards available. Feel free to modify the values to suit your group if you'd rather.
Level 1: 8th Edition, Kamigawa Block, Mirrodin Block $3/pack, $10/starter
Level 2: 7th Edition, Odyssey and Onslaught Block $4/pack, $12/starter
Level 3: Invasion, Masques Blocks and 6th Edition, $5/pack, $14/starter
Level 4: Urza's Block, Tempest Block and 5th Edition $6/pack, $16/starter, Mirage Block $5/pack, $14/starter
Level 5: Ice Age, Alliances, and 4th Edition $6/pack, $16/starter, Homelands and Chronicles $3/pack
Level 6: The Dark, Fallen Empires. $4/pack, Revised $6/pack, $16/starter
Level 7: Legends $7/pack, Antiquities and Arabian Nights $10/pack
Level 8: Unlimited. $10/pack, $25/starter
All Levels: Land packs (3 of each basic land) for $3.