Thursday, June 12, 2008

Miscellany: Magic the Gathering preconstructeds


One of the great joys of playing the "Magic: The Gathering" collectible card game is constructing your own deck. Really, much of the strategy in the game comes from deck design, but the process can be daunting to a new player who's just learning the rules. It certainly was for me when I first started playing Magic against other people - in my first game, I actually used a tournament pack of randomly assorted cards and land (needless to say, I got my butt kicked pretty often). Even now, I'm still not very good at designing decks.

There's also a certain cock-of-the-walk aspect at play here. If someone has more valuable cards, they tend to mop the floor with people who can't buy a bunch of booster packs, all things being equal. By and large, Magic's Rares and Uncommons simply outclass the Common cards most casual players are stuck with, which works fine for tournaments and gaming events. But if you just want to play a friendly game, this mechanic can be troublesome.

So whoever came up with the idea of selling ready-to-play decks, or preconstructeds, should be given a gold star. They're almost always hooked into the themes and characters of the particular setting (the Kamigawa block - think feudal Japan - had one called "Way of the Warrior" that used all Samurai-type cards to beat people down), and each deck contains specific information on how best to use it. They're also fairly balanced against each other, so two players using preconstructeds can usually expect to have an even match (assuming their playing abilities are roughly equal).

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