Look, it’s completely off topic for this column, but can I just say how much I loved Guardians of the Galaxy? A lot. I was entertained throughout the whole thing, and there was the perfect mix of occasionally slapstick humor and heroic action. Isn’t it crazy how Chris Pratt’s been in two of the best movies this year? I think it’s crazy.


This being the other great movie, of course. Andy's moving up!

This being the other great movie, of course. Andy’s moving up!


Now, I’m a sucker for emotional manipulation in action movies, but I never thought that would extend to crying in a movie theater over the pathos of a CGI raccoon. Or praising the acting talents of a WWE wrestler not named Dwayne Johnson. Let alone how emotion Vin Diesel managed to wring out of his one repeated line.


Seriously. It was moving.

Seriously. It was moving.


Anyway, you should see the movie. It’s really fun, and even if it only glancingly passes the Bechdel test (two “daughters” who are usually talking about their daddy) it’s surprising how emotionally complex it managed to be. Marvel took this entire unknown corner of their universe and managed to distill something incredibly fun out of it. It’s an impressive feat, and worth checking out.


She’s still a better character than post-season-six Amy Pond. Fucking Moffat!

She’s still a better character than post-season-six Amy Pond. Fucking Moffat!


The thing that still constantly surprises me about Magic is that Wizards doesn’t see the potential market in their creative properties. They spend a tremendous amount of time dreaming up these crazy stories on these weird worlds, and then nine months later they’re off to someplace new. Well, more precisely, they’re usually off to the placeless nether of core set for three months, and then off to something new, but all the same, it feels like a waste. I find it hard to believe there’s no way for them to monetize it in non-comic forms.


This guy doesn’t count. He’s just… awful!


I mean, bully on them for paying an also-ran comic company to put out a ridiculously low-rent comic book about a literally red-handed thief, but I’m talking about something a little more mass market, something perhaps that won’t be purchased solely on the value of the card contained within. Something televised, a media experience that will reach people outside the player base for the game… even if you can’t go full prestige television show for some reason, there has to be the occasional movie or animated show they could wring out of their settings. They’re probably just gunshy because of the Dungeons and Dragons movie, but I’m not talking about doing “Magic the Gathering: the Movie.” I mean more along the lines of a crime show set on Ravnica, survival horror on New Phyrexia, or a kung fu series set on Tarkir.


Wouldn’t you want to watch a planeswalker anthology show?

Wouldn’t you want to watch a planeswalker anthology show?


It’s baffling. This time around, though, the core set is less the unplaced nether that it used to be. Instead of taking place on no plane, or on Dominaria (which may as well be no plane at this point, since it lacks any defining identity), Magic 2015 seems to take place on many of the different places we’ve been before. You see that mostly with the Soul cycle, but it does provide an elegant solution to the question of reprints. The fear with cards like Inquisition of Kozilek is that they would be impossible to reprint, since the name is so specific to the plane from whence they came. Reprinting Inquisition of Kozilek in Theros block would have been absurd, and up until now it’s been just as difficult to imagine seeing such a card reprinted in the specifically anodyne core sets. By spanning the past several planes, Magic 2015 manages to escape from the identity trap of previous core sets, and it’s something of which I would like to see more.


Let alone the distinctive new font and gorgeous card frames, which are also net positive in my eyes.


Annoyingly, despite being a step forward in many different ways, I think I might actually loathe M15 draft. Any format where a three-drop is too slow to be a high pick is going to be frustrating for a player like me, more used to Commander-scaled curves. I mean, there are a lot of neat three, four, and five drops in this set, cards I am excited to play with. Cards like the cycle of off-color uncommons, each one of which has an ability powerful enough to take over a game of limited… if you can survive to take advantage of them. So far, I haven’t.


I am dying to play with this big dumb zombie giant.


Maybe my frustration is being exacerbated by the gambler’s fallacy. When I was at GP Boston/Worcester, playing Affinity, I went on a hot streak before running into the mirror. I don’t know if the average Commander player knows what the Affinity mirror is like, but when you assume equal skill between the players, it comes down a lot to who won the die roll, and who has the better hand. I mulliganed in two out of my three games in that matchup, and I lost it. Then, I proceeded over the course of that day to lose every subsequent game in which I mulliganed. Part of that was deck choice, as Affinity doesn’t particularly mulligan well, and part of that was bad luck. But when I saw this streak replicate itself in one of my most recent team drafts, as I spent the night throwing back hands with terrible ratios of lands, I definitely started to sour on the format.


When a card that can give your team unblockable at will is too slow and too fragile to be useful, the format is too aggro for my taste.


But that’s why I play Commander. I build decks that do things. Preferably many things. My decks tend to have reliable draw engines, strong synergies among otherwise weaker cards, and some way to consistently make my land drops. I build so that I can have something worth doing every turn, and I tend to shy away from cards that meaningfully restrict my opponents’ choices (other than their choice of whether or not to attack me, that is… I’m a sucker for Propaganda). I don’t like beating on a helpless opponent, and I really don’t like being the helpless opponent being beaten on. Magic is amazing because of the broad possibility matrices that develop over the course of a game, and the quicker a game ends the fewer possibilities you stare down.


Especially when the cheapest sweeper in the format is a mythic rare that takes two turns to activate; it’s not all that hard to kill your opponent under that wire.


And unlike Team Drafting, Commander is casual. You can play it over brunch at a local restaurant, spend the morning meeting up with friends and having a blast before jetting out to make it to a matinee of a good movie. That’s how I spent this past Saturday, and it was a heck of a lot more relaxing than my previous Saturday at GP Boston/Worcester. Sure, less risk means less reward in this case, but if you value good times with friends over pro-level MTG success, I think the balance works out just right.


Jess Stirba is now writing for Star City Games in addition to her regular column at Hipsters of the Coast.

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