It is that time of year again when your aging friends and relatives send out their holiday cards. If your extended families are anything like mine, they also include multiple pages about how their year has gone. For most of my relatives, this missive was another opportunity to note how much worse their life is than yours, all while informing you about the weather where they were for the year.
Then one year, one of my cousins broke the mold, writing a letter that parodied these letters. I had a great laugh and attempt to mimic that letter every year. I won't bore you with the details of this year's letter, but instead share with all of you, my Magic friends, my Magic-al year of 2017.
Welcome, welcome, welcome to my Holiday Update! 2017 has been a busy year in my house, so let's get started!
The start of the year always brings great promise. For 2017 it was Aether Revolt. The set looked pretty exciting with cards like Exquisite Archangel, Paradox Engine and Yahenni, Undying Partisan. In practice, it just didn't click for me. Exiting Archangel just didn't catch on. Paradox Engine proved to be a parado X: a card I thought was great, but I don't really enjoy combo decks, so it was rarely used. Yahenni has proved to be a great friend to bring to a party, but not someone who creates the moments you remember forever.
My first love of 2017 was King Macar, the Gold-Cursed. Getting him behind the wheel of a vehicle certainly got my motor running! I loved the idea of using vehicles to tap him, giving me gold and exiling my opponents' cards. Macar has proved to be underwhelming, winding up as more fools' gold than golden idea. Once we have seen all the vehicles come out for Ixalan block, I hope to get under the hood of the deck and improve the horsepower in Macar!
2017 continued my Fascination with royalty, as I opted for a major upgrade to my favorite monarch of 2016, Queen Marchesa. The Monarch has proved itself to me as a great ability for Commander games, but running an entire deck around trying to draw an extra card at the end of my turn was proving underwhelming. I gave the deck a full change, swapping out several cards and opting to add more "good stuff." I've enjoyed the Queen's companionship more since the upgrade, but a part of me wonders if I'm still just enamored by the shiny bauble that is the Monarch. I do so enjoy seeing my opponents wearing a paper crown…
By the end of March, I thought my love affair with Conspiracy: Take the Crown had ended, but I was oh so wrong. I built a Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck because I hadn't built a Commander deck in Rakdos colors yet, and Grenzo seemed decidedly different than other Rakdos commanders. This would be the start of a love affair with the master of the underground that continued all through the year! I discovered I loved the idea of mucking about in the graveyard and controlling the bottom of the library. Grenzo would prove to be my favorite deck of 2017 and it wouldn't be close. Playing the deck has been fun. Trying to manipulate the bottom of the library has been great. Flipping multiple cards blindly from the bottom has been a blast. Cradling your library in your hand, then sliding the bottom card off and slamming it face up on the table in one fluid motion reminds me of a time when I was a little boy, playing War for hours. Every flip evokes a cheer or laughter or some emotion from me and the other players!
Grenzo has seen a shift in focus to encourage more turns with multiple blind flips, but through it all, Grenzo has been my go-to friend when I'm hoping for some crazy fun.
Early May brought several of you to my home to enjoy Brucon! I wrote an article about the Social Contract that had Brucon as the backdrop, but Brucon itself proved to be the highlight of my Magic year! Having 12 friends who traveled from various points around the northeast to come to your house and play Commander, Conspiracy, and Cube was a great experience. It was everything I loved about travelling to conventions and Grand Prix without the cost of a ticket! The games were memorable, and the conversations were great. Planning for Brucon 2: Unstable Bugaloo is in the works. Keep your eyes out for further details!
Just a couple months later I was guest rather than the host, as I made my way to the Big Apple for much Magic! After a day I now refer to as "Meat and Merriment in Manhattan," I found myself in Queens playing Commander with online friends I had never met and others I had. The decks were wild! Everything from fully tuned, high-powered decks that could handle any Commander deck, to awesome foil decks loaded with alters that were things of beauty you just wanted to flip through afterwards. I won some games and lost more games, but everything was fun. Omar was a wonderful host with tons of food and drinks. I played some of my decks and some of my opponents' decks and just had a great time.
It was wonderful to hear about the Magic scene in New York, a city where table space in stores is only found at a premium. They have shifted to becoming adept at finding public spaces and organizing events on the fly.
Commander decks were once again the gifts that keep on giving for multiplayer Magic aficionados. Every year the set brings plenty of cards that belong in decks you already have and inspire my deckbuilding desires out of dormancy with all the delectable delights! Theme decks are something I tend to enjoy, so seeing all the cards that encourage that style of deck made me happy. So many of the creature themes that just weren't powerful enough found cards to give them a boost into respectability. Path of Ancestry will be sitting in most of my theme decks from now on! I managed to get in a game or two with the decks in their original form, but I couldn't wait to pull them apart and create something new!
There are plenty of cards in these decks that haven't seen the respect they deserve yet, but given a little time I'm sure they will start creeping into our games more and more. Fun cards like Disrupt Decorum demand players alter their plans to play around it. Goad was a great mechanic in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, so I was happy to see it return here.
Commander 2017 also provided me with my favorite article of the year, The Cat With a Rat. I had a chance to preview the Hungry Lynx from Commander 2017 and was inspired. Meaghan Arbital did a great piece of art as we spoofed Cat in the Hat. I earned a new respect for Dr. Seuss writing that article! Just the introduction took as long as most of my articles to write! Hungry Lynx is a great card that didn't really catch the eye of most builders as it offers a little too much upside to your opponents. I'm still looking for the right political deck for this card, but don't be surprised to see it show up in games against me in 2018. The card is far too much fun to just ignore!
Gencon was my final Magic trip of the year, but what a great way to finish things off! I stayed with a group of avid Commander players, and one other person who loves games generally, so we had tons of Magic games both at the convention and at the hotel. On top of that, I was introduced to a handful of different games that proved to be palate cleansers! I saw so many friends and met several readers, so right off, it was a fun trip! I won more games than I should have, including a game that involved Grenzo flipping 13 cards in one turn to steal a win. The trip ended with a wonderful dinner for 20; saying goodbye is always made easier with a delicious steak!
Finally, the year ended with Unstable! I got the chance to show off a piece of the Dogsnail Engine contraption! The fun on social media as the eight other pieces were matched up and the card was discovered. I started the Unquirer, a spoof news site that let five of us write fun pieces of fiction over the five weeks before Unstable was released. Getting a chance to work with Rob, Andrew and Gem was a treat. Working with Brandon reminded me of a time long ago when we worked together on the Muse Vessel.
I believe Unstable is the best Magic release of the year. The cards have proven fun, the commanders promise to offer bizarre games and the draft format looks to offer interesting games for quite some time. I have drafted it twice and look forward to another draft in the coming days! Add in the beautiful lands and tokens in every pack and it is clear I'll be buying plenty of Unstable through 2018!
I hope each of you have enjoyed a year filled with Magic cards and Magic moments. I hope you find the time to Revel in the Riches that 2017 as brought to each of us!