Ben Calica

Ben is the owner of D20 Games.

A planeswalker in every Pack?!? Really? War of the Spark is a Firestarter

War of the Spark

War of the Spark

PLANESWALKERS

Although not a named mechanic, per se, Planeswalkers are clearly the stars of this show. There are an unprecedented number of planeswalkers in War of the Spark, and players will undoubtedly encounter them in more Booster Draft and Sealed Deck games than ever before. In recent history, planeswalkers have only appeared at mythic rare, so even if you’re a seasoned veteran, you might have run into them only sparingly.

The uncommon planeswalkers have only two abilities, and neither of them increases loyalty. Unless you find some other way to increase their loyalty (see “Proliferate,” below), these planeswalkers may have a small amount of time on the battlefield.

In fact, every planeswalker in this set has an ability that doesn’t involve loyalty at all. It could be a static ability. These abilities are always “on,” functioning no matter whose turn it is and no matter if you’ve activated any of that planeswalker’s loyalty abilities. Tibalt shuts down life gain as long as he’s on the battlefield.

Liliana, Dreadhorde General

It could also be a triggered ability. These abilities trigger whenever their condition is met, again no matter whose turn it is and no matter if you’ve activated any of that planeswalker’s loyalty abilities. Liliana is happy to convert your dead into new cards, day or night.

The rules governing planeswalkers haven’t changed in this set. If you can get an opposing planeswalker to 0 loyalty, it will be put into its owner’s graveyard. Damage dealt to planeswalkers causes them to lose loyalty. You can attack them with your creatures. If you do, your opponents can block as normal. Some spells that deal damage may be able to target or otherwise hit planeswalkers. If a spell or ability says “any target,” it can target a creature, player, or planeswalker.

AMASS

There’s one new keyword in War of the Spark, and it’s on the side of evil: amass. Remember Bolas’s little operation on Amonkhet? It was all designed to create an army of undead elite the likes of which Ravnica had never seen before. Known as the Dreadhorde, this army is now amassing on the streets of our fair city. Uh-oh.

Relentless Advance

Amass empowers you to creature your own Zombie horde. Here’s how it works. When instructed to amass, ask yourself one simple question: does annihilating this world spark joy? Then, another question: do you control an Army? If you don’t already control an Army creature, you create a 0/0 black Zombie Army creature token. Then put a number of +1/+1 counters on one of your Armies equal to the number after amass. So, on an empty battlefield, Relentless Advance will give you a 3/3.

Dreadhorde Invasion

The Dreadhorde invasion we started continues with Dreadhorde Invasion. If you do control an Army, you don’t create any new tokens. Rather, you’ll put those +1/+1 counters on an Army you control. If that 3/3 (technically, that 0/0 with three +1/+1 counters on it) is still around, Dreadhorde Invasion’s triggered ability will add one +1/+1 counter, and your horde has grown to 4/4.

Zombie Army Token 1

Amass was designed so you’d control one Army at most at any given time. But there are several ways around that. You could copy an Army you control, or maybe you control a creature with all creature types. If you happen to control more than one Army when you amass, you choose one of them to get all the +1/+1 counters. Although players can respond to the spell or ability that instructs you to amass, once you start to amass, no one can interrupt you. This is true even if you’re creating a new Army—no player can do anything while the Zombie Army creature token is still 0/0, before it gets the counters.

Even though the +1/+1 counters represent the growing numbers of Eternals joining your ranks, the Zombie Army creature token is still a single creature. It has two creature types: Zombie and Army. There are some great bonuses for Zombie tokens lurking in this set, including on Dreadhorde Invasion. Remember, they work with any Zombie token, not just ones created by amass.

PROLIFERATE

War of the Spark features one prominent returning keyword: proliferate. Some fans may recall proliferate as a tool that spread destruction and decay. It was a Phyrexian innovation, after all. With all the planeswalkers and +1/+1 counters bouncing around, proliferate stands ready to serve a slightly different role in this war.

Flux Channeler

To proliferate, choose any number of players or permanents that have one or more counters on them. This can be any kind of counters: +1/+1 counters on creatures, loyalty counters on planeswalkers, even unusual things like time, charge, or doom counters. Counters that players get—including energy, experience, and poison—are all fair game. For each of the chosen players or permanents, give it another counter of the same kind it already had.

Remember that when you proliferate, you only put counters on the players and/or permanents you want to. If a creature your opponent controls has a +1/+1 counter, you can proliferate without fear of pumping it up.

There has been one small tweak to the proliferate rules this time around. Previously, if a player or permanent had more than one kind of counter, you’d choose one to add. Now, you just get all of them. Although unusual, this is most likely to happen with players. Say one of your opponents has both an energy counter and a poison counter. If someone proliferates, they will get both counters (one of each) or they’ll get neither, depending if the player who proliferated chose to include them.


(April fools)Wizards adding unusual requirements for Magic Players to attend events

Earlier this year, Wizards introduced so changes for those of us scheduling events that actually made a lot of sense.  They let us start setting age limits for the events. (It used to be that if an event was sanctioned for Magic or D&D, that those events had to be open to all players.) Seems pretty inclusive, but what that meant was that we couldn’t do a kids only event and prevent an adult for attending, or if we wanted to do an after hours, grown-ups only event, stores wouldn’t be able to do that.

However, Wizards has been making some other decisions that have been somewhere between confusing us and, honestly, making us pretty upset. This latest on is clearly in the confusing category, with a little in the latter.  Apparently some internal research they have done has indicated that a better metric for determining appropriate levels of developmental maturity has to do with physical growth over chronological growth.   I guess it has been known for a while that girls are more mature at an early age then boys and that often is connected with early growth spurts.

As a result, we are waiting for a package coming from Wizards that is a 6 foot plus stand-up that includes a measuring tool for us to use to determine who is allowed in the adult/mature events vs. the less developed.  For those who come from groups that tend to shorter stature or who have genetic dispositions in that direction, there is a section on the Wizards site to apply for exempted status.  The cards will apparently take between 2-3 weeks to arrive, but we will be able to look it up on the Wizard website so it shouldn’t cause too much disruption to attending the events.

I want to make a personal comment on this.  It is not what I would choose and I could ignore the requirement I would.  I think it is utterly foolish, first to trust this kind thing, no mater how convincing the research seems, and then to create such an elaborate plan without testing it locally somewhere first.  It’s truly unbelievable.

Update-Gone Fishing..But the store is in good hands…

[Important!! We are in the finals for 2 categories in the Best of Alameda.  Thanks for voting! And please vote again to get us there!]

So for the next couple of weeks I’m gonna take one of these things where you stop working for a bit…I think they are called vacations? 😉  But the store is in the hands of my lovely employees so everything is (mostly) as usual.  A few notes though:

  1.  Two headed giant for both this weekend and next weekend(Feb 16that and 23rd) will be the always popular Fat Pack War, where each team picks a random pack that matches with a Fat Pack/Bundle and they make their decks out of the two sets of 5 packs they get from that.  This is always big fun! $25 pp, start time to get packs/build decks at 4pm.
  2. No Modern on Tuesday this week.  7pm Modern magic tournament on Tuesdays has been building up very nicely, but with me out of town and our usual judge with other commitments, we don’t have anyone to do the late shift on the store this week (Feb 19th).  We’ll be back to this next week.
  3. Singles buying.  The team will do their best with singles purchasing, but since I’m usually the final word, particularly on big purchases, we’ll be waiting on doing most of those till I get back after the 24th.

My goal is to come back with rested brain and recharged for doing some new stuff at the store.  In the meantime, remember to find fun and friends in every game you play.

Ben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need Yer Best of Alameda Votes Jan 31st!!

Hey Folks,

We are up for two categories in the Best of Alameda this year.   Under Lifestyles and Families there is Best Children’s Store and Best Place to take the kids.  These things actually mean a lot to us, both to help get business and because everyone likes to know they are appreciated once in a while. 😉  It doesn’t take a lot of votes to make a difference with these things, so if we’ve done well by you, we’d be grateful if you take a couple of minutes to vote.   (I always forget these things, so whoever nominated us, thanks in the dark!)

http://www.alamedamagazine.com/Alameda-Magazine/Best-of-Alameda-Ballot/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravnica Allegiance Set overview..

Ravnica Allegiance

Ravnica Allegiance is the second set in our (re)return to the planet wide city of Ravnica.  This set brings the other 5 guilds back into the mix, each with their own color combination and special powers. (It also brings back the last five of the fetch lands…special lands that lets you go find one of two paired lands from your deck for the low, low cost of one life point) 

Emergency Powers

Azorius:  Blue and while combine with the Senate of the law.  The Azorius special new mechanic is Addendum.  These are Instants that have a special bonus surprise in the box if you cast them during the time you could cast a sorcery.

Frenzied ArynxThe Gruul (Red & Green) ‘s new mechanic reflects their aggressive ways.  Riot gives you the choice to either bring in a creature in with haste so they can attack right away, or a +1 counter. 

Zegana, Utopian SpeakerSimic (Blue & Green), the clan of growth has traditionally been all about tossing on the counters, and the new Adapt mechanic is all about adding on counters and once in a while throwing in an extra power or two for all creatures with counters on them. 

Imperious OligarchThe Orzov Syndicate (Black & White) brings in Afterlife, a mechanic that brings one (or more) 1/1 flying spirits when the creature dies.  

Rafter Demon

Finally, we have the Mad Clowns of Rakdos (Red & Black).  Their distributingly  named Spectacle.  When these spells are cast in a turn after an opponent has taken damage they get extra abilities.


Thanksgiving: Don’t shop on Black Friday?!?!

We are Closed for Thanksgiving…Open at 12 on Friday the 23rd.

Black Friday =Family Friday
Every year. I do my traditional Thanksgiving thing, and stand up against the marketing Tsunami  and become a foolish business guy. 

I’m not going to be part of the industry that has done such an amazing job of implanting in our minds that it is SHOPPING time, that we have forgotten that this is a day where our family/friends have often traveled a big distance, are together and don’t have to go to work.   Don’t go shopping on Friday (or Thursday night, etc).  Not in the stores, not on line, none of it.

Go play!!!  Sure, I’m the board game guy, so that’s my auto suggestion, but go for a walk, hike, de-dust the football (and stretch first..those of us who’s memories of being 12 are a few times older then being 12.)  But go goof with each other, and have some (gasp) fun!  Relax, go back to the leftovers a bunch of times when no one is looking. Or just chill out.

I’m not saying we don’t want and need yer business.  We absolutely do.  Competing with the near cost prices of Amazon means that every sale from customers who appreciate that we are creating a home for community more then anything else is absolutely key for us.  (So save some of your gift money to spend with us).  But it does mean that I’m not going to make my sales last 45 minutes so you have no choice but to leave the house in order to get them.  We’ll be doing sales all weekend, but we’ll base them on how many we need to sell at that price so, you can come in this weekend, or next week, etc.

Our big thing is to make sure that we listen and can point you to things that will actually be fun to play and make people happy.  (And no fake reviews either.  Ok…that was a little shot at Amazon…couldn’t help myself.)

So come and see us.  We’ll have a bunch of fun store specials we will tweet out each day, and those who know me well, know that we take care of our customers.

A few interesting special things that just came in.

D&D Core Rule book Limited Edition at $199.99* (But since we know that almost anyone who wants this already has the books, you can trade in your old books for up to $60 off the set, depending on condition) (We have 5 of these in stock)

Also one our all time fav games, Betrayal on the House on the Hill got the Legacy treatment, and we have these in stock too.

Guilds of Ravnica Set

Back to the city word of Ravnica, with it’s 10 guilds (pairings of two colors).  This set is all about making the colors work together, so there is a ton of mana fixing, including the return of the shock lands.

Here’s what you need to get a head/catch up to the game.

The following is directly from the Wizards of the Coast description of the mechanics of the new set.

Magic Core 2019 Set

Core sets return with Core 2019 and it seems that the rule of 5’s is firmly in place. Five Planeswalkers and 5 elder dragons bookend a 280 card set that is all about the action.  Dragons, Elves, Zombies, and Nicol Bolas…(wait, is it the planeswalker or elder dragon?  Ah, what the hell…lets make it both!), this set may cover the basics, but basic, it ain’t.   Prerelease the week of July 7th, Release the week after.

 

About Magic Open House Sun, July 1st

Full Art Promo Guttersnipe
Promo Guttersnipe while supplies last

Magic Open House is mainly about bringing in new players to introduce to the game, and D20 Games is a great place to do it.  On Magic Open House day, Players can stop by  for fun, casual play that includes learn-to-play Magic events, free Welcome Deck tutorials for new players. It is a light and fun event.  And if you are one of those new players, you are super welcome.  Magic is a great game, (there is a reason that it’s stuck around for 25 years.)  It does take a good mind to master, but once you get the basics, it’s all in the cards.  (How to play magic) (More How to Play Magic)

(Depending on who shows up, we’ll do a mini how to play magic class at ~11)

Players who participate in any aspect of the event (bring a friend, play in the tournament, or buy one of the Intro Decks)  receive a promo card, and the new players will receive a Welcome Deck. A casual League-style Standard tournament at 12 noon.  Entry to that event will be $5 and everybody will win a pack, PLUS a bunch of extra promos that I’ll scatter around to reward the brave new folks and thank those experienced players based on how much they are doing to help the new players feel welcome.(Experienced/regular players…this is a chance to pay it forward, and we need ya to help make new players feel invited and welcome.)

Image result for core 2019 intro decks

BONUS—Get a chance to buy one of the new Core 2019 Intro decks two weeks early!  Supplies are limited.  And we’ll throw in an extra booster pack with any other intro or challenger deck bought that day.

 

So why is Yugioh Banned at D20 Games, anyway?

I just got an email from someone looking for a place to have his 12 year old son to come and play Yugioh, and I was about to tell him the tale of why it is banned at the store, and why I recommend steering him away from Yugioh when I realized that it’s been a long time since I told the story and it was probably worth putting it where everybody could see.

Yugioh is one of the big collectible card games, and was a pretty big part of the store when I acquired it back in 2011.  We would get 40-60 people coming in on Sundays, and it represented about 1/3 the business of the store.  But I gave it a partial ban in 2012, followed by a complete ban after we had the big break in that almost killed the store.

The day D20 was broken into

So Why Ban Yugioh?

So with all due modesty, I’m a good guy, and have a firm but gentle touch with people, including tweens and teens. (I used to teach Karate to kids.)  I can pull people aside and talk to them about behaviors that are not ok without shaming them or making them feel angry or resentful. And I spent a lot of time getting to know the community, participating and getting to know the individual players.  But our Yugioh days contained 90% of the trouble we had at the store. It seemed any deck or cards left attended would be stolen the moment someone’s back was turned, we had a huge amount of issues with people taking advantage of others in trades, bad language and people getting really angry, sometimes to the point of fights over games.

After the break in, I went to a big conference of game store owners from around the country and was shocked to find out that the problems we had had were present at stores as far away as Philadelphia, and were only with Yugioh.  I spent a long time trying to figure out why this was…it was just a game, after all.  Finally I came to a theory, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I became convinced it is correct.   There seems to be a fundamental design flaw in the game end’s up not only fostering, but training bad behaviors.  Those have become part of the tone/culture of poor behavior/ethics that riddles the Yugioh community.

Yugioh-Magic “fixed”?:  Yugioh was invented by a guy that was an old Magic player.  He hated the idea of what’s called set rotation. (Basically, only the last couple of years of cards are used in the most common competitive format.)  He wanted all the cards that were created in his game to be used all the time. The problem with that has to do with the nature of collectible card games.  See the cool part of these games is that there are basic rules, but the new cards get to introduce new rules that change the game.  That’s really great, but as you get more and more rules, if you aren’t careful, you get combos of the card that just came out with a card from 5 years ago that becomes powerful enough to break the game.   Games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon spend a huge amount of time looking out for these kinds of combos, but Yugioh doesn’t do quite as good a job.  Add that by having all the cards available to play with, after a few years the game started to be defined by these game breaking combos.  What it meant was the best decks don’t just win, they utterly crush not so great decks.

Badly training the Young; So here is where things start to go wrong.  Imagine you are a 8 or 9 year-old, taking your first deck to go play with your buddies at school.  You don’t just lose, you get crushed.  You go home to your parents, tears in your eyes from the humiliation.  If your parents have means, they come to a store like we used to be and buy better cards so they don’t have to see that look again.  If not, the kid has several choices.

  • “This game is stupid, I’m not playing it anymore”.  Probably a good choice, but kids aren’t usually wired that way.
  • Trade for better cards.  This seems good on the surface, but the cards they need are worth many, many times what the cards they have are worth.  So they end up learning, at a pretty early age, to take advantage of less knowledgeable players.  This is something we deal with directly in all of the collectible card games, and when a kid gets taken advantage of, they can either decide to talk advantage of the next person or to never make anyone else feel as bad as they do now.  It is one of the fundamental building blocks to becoming an honest person or not.
  • Stealing: See the deck that beat them in the kids backpack….

This isn’t the majority of kids that end up down a bad path, but it is enough that starts to seriously influence the ethics of the community.   There are a couple of additional things about the game that complete the story.

  • Lotto Packs.  All collectible card games have the “oh, what’s in this one” aspect that has been part of collectible cards since baseball cards.  It’s true of Magic, Pokemon, etc. But Yugioh is an extreme with this.  It was well known that of a box of 24 packs had about 8 that were were worth anything at all.  It was totally common to watch people open packs, look for the ultra rare and throw the rest of the pack out if it wasn’t there.  With this level of gambling mentality, it affects how people view the ethics of trading.
  • Turn one win fury:  With all the combos that could win the game running around, it becomes almost a coin flip to see who finds their combo first.  If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your deck and your opponent gets his combo out first and locks you down, people tend to get, shall we say, cranky.  This is why we had so many near fights during tournaments.
  • “Dealing” trading cards:  Because the cards that make these auto win combos are so critical in playing, they become fairly valuable.  Add this to the culture of it being ok to take advantage of other people during trades, and you get people that are acting almost like the not so great version of dealers with the valuable cards.
  • Unclear Rules=different kind of players. The unspoken truth of the kids who really learn to play Pokemon and the Magic players is that it tends to attract fairly intelligent people.  Trying to figure out how to make different rules work together is a super interesting and challenging thing to do.  The rules on the Yugioh cards can be so difficult to understand and obscure that instead of people figuring out their own cool things, they hear from someone else how that new cool deck work.  That means that you get a fairly large percentage of the community that plays just for the chance to beat each other, or to try and make money off their wheeling and dealing for cards.   There is often a more aggressive group of players that joins then what you would imagine would be attracted to playing a non gambling card game.

Not all Yugioh Players are bad, but enough: I’m not saying that this affects everyone, or even the majority of players. But it does change the tone of the community, the ethics and how they treat each other.  I believe this enough that even though Yugioh was a full third of my business, I made the decision, as both a store owner and a father to ban the game utterly from the store.  This was not something I did lightly or without a great deal of thought and consideration. Not only no sales, but no Yugioh cards are allowed at the store, and I actively do my best to encourage kids away from playing the game. I’m sorry for the good folks who like the game, but after 5 years, I have never regretted it, and to answer a frequently asked question, will never bring it back to the store.  (I could use my access to sell it online and make a decent profit, but once I believed it was a bad influence, as a dad, I couldn’t do even that.)

But my kid wants to play Yugioh: For parents who’s kids (frequently Pokemon players who are looking to move on) are getting interested in Pokemon, I would strongly suggest gentle urging towards Magic instead. (You can bring them in and I’ll provide parental support.  I may be the Peanuts “wah, wah” parents to my own kids, but for other kids, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20.  I can use that bully pulpit to help with this so they don’t just end up seeing it as forbidden fruit.)   Magic was the first of the games, and has the good stuff of the collectible card games, (social interaction, really using your brain, etc.) without that level of negative side effects. Probably the best feature is they can do what is called limited play. (Basically show up and do events where they play with the cards from the packs they get as part of the event.  Everyone starts even, and it is a chance for them to play with the packs they collect.  There are even team events that can be played with a buddy or even parent.)  You still want to make sure they trade fair, and are get interested in the playing, not just opening packs, but it’s a good choice I have no problem recommending.  Tell you the truth, I hesitated talking publicly about my observations about Yugioh, because I didn’t want that to get generalized unfairly to the rest of the collectible card games.

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