An amateur Magician's ravings about Magic and random crap.
Wizards has officially launched their official app for Magic, chock full of all sorts of interesting goodies. The app just showed up in the iOS App Store in the past couple days, and it’s expected to land in the Android Marketplace any day now.
You can download the app off the App Store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/magic-the-gathering-toolbox/id491192015
Anywho, I’m going to work through the different components of the app and babble some thoughts. Let’s start with the Life Tracker.
First, some groundwork. I’m using an iPhone 4S on Verizon, with the phone plugged in, running on WiFi. I’m curious to see how quickly the app sucks the life out of my battery, how it does on 3G, and a couple other things, which I’ll probably try to test out later.
This is the screen you get when you fire up the app. First impressions, I can get down on them putting a cool picture and whatever they’re trying to push at the time on the front of the app. It’s not too intrusive, and definitely serves a purpose from their perspective. The problem? I took this screenshot on February 1st — the prerelease has come and gone. So, either this is just a stock graphic that they’re going to have to keep updated, or they didn’t build in a mechanism to update it outside of the App Store, or both. I would think if they wanted to do this, they would have made it just plain text and have some sort of Web service that could pull down the text they wanted to display at a given time, but whatever.
Another thing to mention about the loading screen is that it did take a noticeable amount of time to fire up, and this is on a 4S. Running this on a 3G or 3GS would probably be decently painful. I’m not sure if this is just because it was the first time starting the app or what, but it’s worth mentioning that part of the reason I took the screenshot at that point on the loading bar is because it had sat there for a significant amount of time.
Anywho, after it finally loads, this is the screen you get:
Snazzy, right? I’ll go into all of these eventually, but for now, let’s jump into the Life Tracker.
This is the basic screen you get when you start the Life Tracker (except I took the screenshot after I had already fiddled with names… Normally it would say Player 1 and Player 2). A quick rundown on what the buttons do:
- The upper left corner has the Card Lookup button.
- The buttons in the upper right allow you to reset the Life Tracker and change Game Options
- The yellow button with the house on it takes you back to the main screen
- The plus sign over the 20 is how you (GASP) increase life totals. The minus sign beneath is how you lower them.
- The crossed swords in the upper left of each player’s block lets you change player settings, which I’ll talk about in a second
- You can start the clock in the middle by tapping it
- The Last Event button at the bottom brings up a list of saved games, if you have any.
Let’s go down the list and see what Wizards has cooked up:
First, it’s pretty handy that they make this easily accessible from the tracker itself instead of having to go back to the main screen to access it. Beyond that, the card search is a feature unto itself, so I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s pretty cool. You’re tapping straight into Gatherer, which is good. On the flip side, its sorting and filtering options are a dumbed down version of Gatherer. I would have liked to see this take some hints from MagicCards.info, but it’s still usable.
The “reset game” button is pretty self explanatory, so let’s jump straight to Game Options.
The first two options here are pretty simple to understand. They basically both restart the Life Tracker, but depending on which option you choose, a log will be saved or won’t. If you choose to save the log, you can find it in the Last Event section of the main Life Tracker screen, which I’ll show in a minute.
Next come the interesting “Mode” options.
- Two-Player is more or less designed for kitchen table, you and another dude. You can add additional trackers if you need them, but it’s basically just a life counter for you and your opponent.
- Tournament is basically Two-Player mode but with the clock turned on. Supposedly it allows keeping track of notes about the gamestate too, but I had trouble finding where.
- Commander is suited for, well, Commander. It automatically turns on trackers for number of times Commanders have been cast as well as the amount of damage Commanders have done.
- Custom is probably the coolest part of this section.
By tapping the cog next to the button, you can set up a custom set of how you want the life tracker to be laid out whenever you pick the Custom Option. You can rename it, turn the clock on or off, change the default starting life, change the default number of players, and set up to 4 default trackers (such as poison, deck size, commander stuff, etc). I personally will probably use this more than the other options.
I skipped a few buttons, but we’re going to assume you are not a single-celled organism and can figure them out for yourself. Hitting the crossed swords next to a player on the man Life Tracker screen will reveal something like the screenshot above. From here, you can:
- Change the background of each player
- Add additional players
- Handle times when you need some randomness in your life
- Turn on additional trackers, such as Poison, Deck Size, etc.
After adding some trackers and an additional player (and changing background colors! whoo!), the tracker looks something like this:
- You pick which player you want to fiddle with at the top then the bottom switches to show their info. This is contrary to two-player mode where the top is player one and the bottom is player two.
- For an OCD person, the counters drive me insane. When you switch from, say, life to poison to deck size, it repositions the order they show up on the right. I’d rather poison and health always switch in position one and the rest just stay put, but it’s not a huge deal.
- The storm counter seems like an afterthought, and it’s pretty clunky. It reminds me of Cockatrice’s funky counter mechanism
Clicking the Last Event tab at the bottom brings up a screen similar to this, though if you haven’t saved any games, it’s likely empty. I went ahead and saved a game to illustrate. Tapping on that game shows a screen like this, which details all the changes you made to the tracker while the game was going on, in reverse chronological order:
While I think this is pretty cool, I’m not certain it’s 100% necessary or if it will get used much. Still interesting to have.
That covers the basics of the Life Tracker. Overall, I think it’s got a nice degree of gloss and that it works pretty damned well. I’m not sure it’s OMG AWESOME enough to pry me away from just keeping track of this shit on pen & paper, but still, there’s plenty of kids out there that will put this to good use. There are a couple of quirky bits (especially the storm counter), but all in all, no big complaints.
Next, I’ll take a look at the Deck Builder. Stay tuned!
So, I wanted to take a look at the deck I ended up playing at the DKA prerelease, as it played pretty well.
Here’s what the list ended up being (rares and mythics bolded):
1 Typhoid Rats
1 Silent Departure
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Thought Scour
1 Tragic Slip
1 Black Cat
1 Highborn Ghoul
1 Invisible Stalker
1 Avacynian Priest
1 Bonds of Faith
1 Cackling Counterpart
2 Tribute to Hunger
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Reap the Seagraf
1 Tower Geist
1 Nephalia Seakite
1 Grasp of Phantoms
1 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
1 Farbog Boneflinger
1 Drogskol Reaver
I’m mostly just going to focus on Dark Ascension cards (and their interactions with Innistrad cards), because by now I figure most people know what’s good from Innistrad and what makes it good. No need to rehash what’s already well accepted.
Let’s start at the top with my DKA mythic, Drogskol Reaver:
This guy was one of the reasons I splashed white. As you can tell, I had lots of removal and tempo to keep myself alive, so being able to last long enough to cast him wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I still debated playing it or not, and despite winning games at least partially on his back once or twice, I’m not sure if I would make the same decision again. With my only real mana fixing being a Traveler’s Amulet, I very well could have ended up with a 7 CMC blank in my hand for the majority of the game. The Thought Scour and Forbidden Alchemy bailed me out a couple times when I really needed a Plains, but overall, it probably wasn’t the best move to keep him in.
Beyond whether or not he makes sense in this deck, it is a pretty powerful card that can do some real work for you if you can manage to cast him. I doubt that he’s viable in standard, but I’d have trouble not first picking him in a draft just because he can potentially win the game on his own. He affects the boardstate in such a meaningful way, your opponent better have an answer quickly or they are simply done. I wish he had one more power, but all in all it’s a decent card and definitely falls into the bomb category in limited.
Next up, let’s look at the interesting little trick that’s possible with Grimgrin and Gravecrawler:
I’m obviously not the first person to realize the interaction here, and I honestly never managed to get it going like crazy in the prerelease. However, my roommate and I played with our prerelease decks on the kitchen table a couple days later, and when I managed to pull them off, whoo boy was it a good feeling. Sac, cast, sac, cast, sac, cast, swing, kill your only blocker, sorry about all that damage. Crazy good.
Beyond the unlikely combo of having these two in drafts (or even sealed), both cards are first pick worthy, in my humble opinion. Grimgrin should be self explanatory as he just ends games if you can resolve him. Gravecrawler gives you inevitability, but though I’d be willing to pick her (him? it?) first, I wouldn’t necessarily do it without second guessing myself or taking a good long look at the rest of the pack. I wouldn’t be upset to take a Gravecrawler first, but I’d gladly take a Slayer of the Wicked or Brimstone Volley first.
Next up, Farbog Boneflinger.
The card in and of itself seems pretty innocuous. It’s a Dead Weight for a turn that leaves a decent body behind. It’s also relevant that it is a Zombie, the implications of which are pretty well documented at this point. I’m not sure first pick with this fella, but definitely early in the pack is justifiable.
One of the most humorous interactions with this card I experienced at the prerelease was thanks to Cackling Counterpart.
My opponent had me a bit on the ropes with a couple durdles with equipment, though I had managed to hold him off without taking too much damage for a while. He then drops a Hellrider, which would obviously give him a big advantage on a reasonably stalled board. I let the creature resolve, but at Beginning of Combat, I cast Counterpart on the Boneflinger, targetting the Devil, then flashback Counterpart to do it again, killing the Devil before the pings come from all of his attacking durdles. It was a bit of a clunky maneuver and definitely not one I would be like BRO YOU GOTTA TRY THIS WHENEVER YOU HAVE THESE TWO CARDS, but I was proud that I found a way out of the sticky situation that left me with a much stronger board presence than him, winning the game shortly thereafter.
The rest of these I’ll go through pretty quickly, as their value is pretty straightforward:
Just a super good card. A sort of Ambush Viper with wings that can take out more or less every two drop in the game. I can imagine scenarios of using this guy to turn on Morbid, Tragic Slipping their last remaining guy, then blowing them away on the swing back. These are the things dreams are made of.
I love this card as much as I love Grasp of Phantoms, possibly more. I love that Grasp can be flashed back, but holy fuck it costs a lot to do. Instant speed on this definitely makes it alright for flashback to be missing. I honestly think that these are the types of removal that are worthwhile in this format, with Undying, Moorland Haunt, and all the other “lol removal” tricks running rampant. Vapor Snag has already made waves in Constructed, and while I’m not sure this card can make it in that arena, it definitely has a big impact when you cast it in Limited.
Mini Forbidden Alchemy with wings and a strong P/T. Just such an incredibly good card. It played well with Cackling Counterpart more than once as well. I wouldn’t feel bad first picking this.
I would describe this card as “OK”. It served a role in my curve, gave me a Zombie to turn Gravecrawler back on, and gave me some fodder to untap/buff Grimgrin. I wouldn’t rule it out of a B/W tokens deck in Limited if the stars align (splashing blue for the flashback), but overall I’m not doing backflips over this card. Handy, won’t feel bad if I’m in UB and it’s one of a couple good cards in a pack, but I’m not going to find myself in a situation where I’m like “FUCK I WISH I HAD A REAP THE SEAGRAF RIGHT NOW”.
A cool card, but at the end of the day it doesn’t do much. It helped me find answers a couple times, and I’d gladly take it middle of a pack (maybe even 4th or 5th), but overall it is what it is: a cantrip that can turn on some graveyard shenanigans if you’re lucky.
And finally, my favorite card from DKA:
There has been a fair amount of ruckus around this card, and I’m not the only one that loves it by a long shot, but man, I just love the card from top to bottom. It’s so rich in flavor (haha, yes, I know), I love the art, and what it does is nothing to scoff at. Morbid is a lot easier to turn on with DKA in the picture now (more sac outlets, Undying changing combat dynamics, etc), and being able to kill any creature for B is just incredibly good. I probably will pick this card higher than I should just because I love it so much, but don’t let my enthusiasm fool you into thinking it’s not that good. Despite all the fervor, it is definitely a good card and should be taken fairly early in the pack. Remember you’re only going to get one DKA pack, so seeing another one in the later rounds of the draft is out of the question. I’d definitely think long and hard about passing this one.
That’s all! My LGS is doing its first DKA draft this weekend for the launch party, so I’ll probably have another follow up like this come Saturday morning. I’m really excited about DKA right now, and I can’t wait to play around with it some more.