A Magic: the Gathering Cookout (and Archenemy Review)

June 28th, 2010 by Ed Grabianowski

Wow!!

This weekend, I got together with friends and Vikings to play some fun, casual games of Magic, grill and devour sausages and drink a fair amount of beer and Mountain Dew. We gave the new Archenemy multiplayer format a whirl, and as you can see my wife also discovered the bizarre special effects my digital camera is capable of.

I’ve been slightly burned out on “serious” Magic since Grand Prix D.C., so a day of fun casual Magic with good friends seemed like just the thing.

It was a bit overcast and rained on and off all day, so we didn’t set up in the back yard under the apple tree as originally planned. My vegetable gardens didn’t mind the rain though.

Neither did Robot Viking spokesmodel Ruby, who spent the day alternately splashing in her pool and eating grass.

While Meg, my wife, grilled hot dogs and hot links (mmmmm), James and Ryk played their first ever game of Magic using some of the intro decks that came with a pre-order of the PC Duels of the Planeswalkers game. What I found really interesting was how Ryk, who has a ton of D&D experience, related deck styles in Magic to character roles in D&D (red as striker, blue controller, etc.). And how James, who is a classic “instigator” when he plays D&D, brought much the same playstyle to his Magic game.

Since rain and Magic cards don’t work well together, we moved things into the garage, which had a nice breeze blowing through. This also had the benefit of keeping us in close proximity to the well-stocked mini-fridge.

It took several tries to get a picture of all five of us using the timer on the camera.

I could probably skip the Archenemy review and just use this photo. We are clearly having fun, and that’s all you need to know, right? Ok, I’ll be more detailed. Archenemy is fun, but it has its flaws. It can be hard to find the right play balance, depending on how many players are up against the Archenemy and what decks they’re using. When the Enemy used the deck that came with the deck of schemes, and the players all used various random pre-constructed decks, that seemed to give us a pretty close game. If someone used a tournament constructed deck, it could really throw the balance off. And even if the decks are balanced, some of the Enemy’s schemes can heavily tilt the playing field if they’re drawn early in the game.

On the positive side, the schemes and the “many versus one” format really capture the flavor the designers were after. We determined that a game of Archenemy is not successful unless someone says, “F&#@ you!” to the Enemy at least once. Archenemy games are also more focused than Planechase games (last year’s multiplayer format). Planechase has a greater tendency to result in wacky game states and bizarre, inadvertent combos. In one game, I drew about 20 cards in one turn and had something like 25 creatures on the battlefield (which caused everyone to immediately kill me, by the way). That sort of thing doesn’t happen as often in Archenemy (whether you consider that a pro or a con is up to you).

More camera effects. That Gold Myr and Arcbound Slith really have something special together.

Later, we moved inside and watched the frustrating U.S. World Cup game against Ghana (which we had DVRed earlier) and played even more Magic. It was really the best possible way to game — just hanging out with good friends, playing for fun, with plenty of food and beverage at hand. I can’t wait to do it again.

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5 Responses to “A Magic: the Gathering Cookout (and Archenemy Review)”

  1. Comment by Gavin O'Brien

    Whenever I started to doze off that night after nearly 10 hours of Magic, I’d find myself tapping mana and playing cards behind my eyelids. Don’t know how Ed managed to play so much Magic for a week without swearing off it forever. Heh.

  2. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    That’s funny, whenever I started to doze off, I imagined myself eating more hot links.

  3. Comment by Ryk Perry

    Mmmmm. . . Hot Links . . .

  4. Comment by mordicai

    Weirdly, I have the exact same card table.

  5. Comment by Megido

    I’m so bummed I missed it. =( Definitely gotta make the next one. Cherry picking be damned!