Tag Archives: Magic the Gathering

Magical Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Deck building is a major part of Magic: the Gathering. You can throw a deck together, based on a theme or a cool synergy, and it might work. The best decks take thought and research, combining strong synergies with cards that can handle whatever you’re up against. The strongest decks I’ve ever played were carefully put together and refined through hours of playing. This is planning, pure and simple, and it’s Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win.

Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You know how some decks are amazing at creating 1/1 tokens, or gaining life, and then there are decks with high win rates? The decks with high win rates are built to win, first and foremost. This is all about knowing your goal, but it’s also about creating a plan to achieve that goal. Some of these strong decks might create tokens or gain life, or do whatever they do well, but never lose sight of controlling the board, which is vital for victory.

Spock detecting large quantities of win in this sector. Magic Life Lesson #4

Lessons from Industry and Life

At the start of this year, we went back to our business plan for Rising Phoenix and gave it a lot of thought, which led to an overhaul of how we publish, what we publish, and how we market our publications. We knew it was vital to our business to have a strong plan, informed by lessons we’ve learned since we got started, viability, and our goals. Without it, we’d be all over the place, but, with the plan, we have something to gauge new projects by and goals to work towards. We won’t always get it right, we will make mistakes, but we’ll keep refining our plan based on the lessons we learn, and that will make us stronger. Just like refining a MtG deck after a few games or when you get new cards.

A Simple Plan (Not the Band)

A plan doesn’t need to be complex. Whatever you need to do, from studying for an exam to raising funds for your next RPG spending spree, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify what success looks like. How much do you need to know to ace your exam? How much do you need to raise to afford those minis?
  2. Chunk the work needed to gain success down into manageable bits. If you need to study 100 pages, how many can you handle in a 45-minute study session? How many study sessions would you need to learn all 100 pages?
  3. Begin working according to your plan. Track your progress as you go.
  4. Modify your plan to ensure you meet your goals. Do you need to cut pages from your study plan? Do you need to work more overtime to afford that core book? Make changes to how you’re going to achieve your goal, not to the goal itself.

The ICBM acronym might be a stretch, but planning works. Don’t roll through life without a plan — figure out where you want to be and go for it, fists flying!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic the Gathering is a great game, and it has plenty to teach about life. Today I want to talk about goals.

You win a game of Magic by getting your opponent’s life total to 0. Nothing new about that. There are other ways to win, such as if your opponent has to draw a card from an empty deck, but, for the most part, it’s all about that magical number, 0.

It’s easy to miss the point here. You can play to “beat” your opponent, forgetting that you’ve got everything set up for a lethal play. Taking your opponent down to 0 is the goal, any distraction from that goal is an opportunity for your opponent to win. Strong decks and strong players keep this in mind.

You’ll see people forgetting this in MTG Arena often. When your opponent has a significant advantage, but doesn’t go for the win, then they’ve forgotten the win condition. That can buy you time for a life-saving or game-winning play.

Knowing your goals will get you ahead, in Magic, and in life.

Magical Life Lesson #3 by MaxieLindo on DeviantArt

Magic Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

By figuring out your goals, you can eliminate anything that distracts you or stops you from achieving it.

As an example, I’ve been wanting to do regular posts here again, and blog about Magic, but I didn’t want to kill my productivity. I figured that short, 300-word posts would give me a chance to achieve my blogging goal without taking too much time away from writing RPG content. My priority — my number 1 goal — is to write new RPG books. Knowing this goal helps me manage my time and gauge how well I’m doing, so I budget time for blogging appropriately.

We’re halfway through 2019, so it’s a great time to look back at the year’s goals and see how you’re doing. Cut any goals that aren’t working out, create new goals where needed, prioritize them, and the rest of the year’s your chance to shine.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Magical Life Lesson #2 — Practice Lots

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering on and off for around 20 years now, but I only started to understand many aspects of the game recently, after playing hours of Hearthstone and MTG Arena.

With online play, you can get in more games against a wide variety of players in a single sitting, so you learn quicker. If you’re open to learning, do some reading (or YouTube watching), your growth can spike quickly. The rest is all practice, lots and lots of practice.

And the same goes in life…

Magic Life Lesson #2 — Practice, Practice, Practice

Here are two covers I designed myself, using stock art:

Covers, Then and Now

I studied design as part of my degree, so you could argue that I knew what I was doing back in 2012 with my first RPG book cover. I won’t hold it against you if you disagree. Fast forward seven years to the present and my cover for Horde is far more solid, works better from a distance, and communicates what the game is about.

Practice alone won’t get you to where you want to be. In his book, Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin talks about how practice needs to be intelligently done. Pick something you need to work on, and focus your practice on it. You don’t go into a game of Magic with a set of random cards and hope to win, you plan your deck, try it out, and refine it after a few games.

Figure out one thing you want to improve about yourself, practice that skill until you nail it, then move to the next thing. Rinse and repeat. Don’t give up.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Magical Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

One Card to Rule Them All

So I’m playing a life gain black and white deck against an arguably better version of the same deck. I’m at 9 life, my opponent’s at 765! He or she has four creatures that could nail my coffin shut, and I can block three of them. But, for multiple turns, only two creatures come at me, so I block with my two 1/1 bats, spawned each round by Regal Bloodlord. A win doesn’t look possible, and I could throw in the towel — something common on MTG Arena — but I press on.

Then I land Adjani, Strength of the Pride. I activate his +1 ability and reach 40 health. My opponent goes all in on the attack, but at this point I’ve got the extra creatures to block. I kill off all but the three biggest guys, then pop Adjani, destroying my opponent’s advantage for good. Still far above 750 life, my opponent quits the game.

Draw Engine Fail

Earlier the same day, I played against an elemental deck with Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Risen Reef featuring prominently. My opponent’s forces were stacked heavily against me, but I waited for the assault that never came. In the end, I won because my opponent drew their last card off Omnath.


Magic Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up

by Emezie on DeviantArt

Never give up, success could be just around the corner. I’ve seen this again and again in RPG publishing, where one book might struggle to sell and another can fly off the shelves. You can do all sorts of things to help sales along, but you’ll never make it in the industry if you’re not creating new content regularly.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.


Patiently Persistent Petitioners — A MTG Mill Deck

In Magic: the Gathering, playing a mill deck offers you a unique advantage. Most players are not expecting you to go for their cards instead of their life total. A good mill deck relies on the ability to control the board and survive long enough to pull off a powerful mill combo. You can’t win by milling one or two cards a turn, you need to build up to the big mill that robs your opponent of the remainder of their deck.

Meet the Patient Petitioner.

I’ve been working on this deck since I started playing MTG Arena, and it’s been loads of fun to play. Played right, it can be tough to counter.

The Cards

4x Scrabbling Claws
2x Blink of an Eye
8x Persistent Petitioners
3x Thought Collapse
3x Verity Circle
3x Waterknot
3x Watertrap Weaver
2x Sleep
2x Patient Rebuilding
1x Weight of Memory
1x Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp
2x Mass Manipulation
24x Island
2x Reliquary Tower

Total: 60 Cards

The Strategy

There are three main goals of the deck: controlling the board, drawing cards, and milling the opponent.


Sleep and Waterknot not only offer control, but synergize well with Verity Circle to give you card draw. Verity Circle offers an expensive control option on its own. Mass Manipulation is by far the most powerful control card in the deck. Play it when your opponent has their most powerful creatures on the board and they’re likely to give up then and there.


Patient Rebuilding is the backbone of the deck, drawing cards while thinning out your opponent’s deck. Scrabbling Claws is an excellent piece of tech for thinning pesky graveyards that contain resurrecting creatures or instants that power cards in play. It also offers limited card draw that effectively targets specific cards in the opponent’s graveyard. Ultimately, you’re looking to combo Sleep and Verity Circle with Reliquary Tower to fill your hand with Persistent Petitioners…


Four Persistent Petitioners, with their second ability, effectively mill a fifth of most decks, which, when combined with the whittling effects of Patient Rebuilding, Weight of Memory, and Thought Collapse should bring you to victory.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to tweak the deck. Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Let us know in the comments below.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter. Or come play some HearthStone with me and chat about game design.

Wizards of the Coast, Magic: The Gathering, and their logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the United States and other countries. © 2009 Wizards. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrecting Your MtG Collection

I’m a big collectible card game fan, but I have piles of Magic the Gathering decks and swaps lying around that I’d love to get more life out of. I also have a bunch of friends who don’t collect Magic cards, but who might still be interested in playing if I can kit them out with a deck or two. Here’s my simple solution for resurrecting your MtG collection.

Resurrecting Your MtG Collection
Art Credit: Tan Ho Sim

First up, gather all your decks, ideally in deck boxes. Build more decks with the rest of your cards — it’s okay if they’re not tournament winning decks. The point is to have a bunch of different decks, so play around with as many variations as you can think of.

Now, line the decks up on a shelf, in order of what you figure is worst to best.

Invite friends over to play. Each player gets one deck from a group of decks sitting next to each other on that shelf. When you’re done playing, put the decks back in order from worst to best.

In this way, your decks get sorted as you play, making it easy to grab a bunch of comparable decks for a level playing field.

More Ideas

That’s my idea, but there are tons of ideas out there:

  1. Play solo games, which are a great way to test out a new deck concept.
  2. Build your own booster packs and play booster draft.
  3. Make a collage. Seriously! My bro cut out all the art from his commons and covered his door with them. It was awesome.
  4. Gift extra cards to friends who don’t play. It’s a great way to get new players into the hobby, but be warned — making a crappy deck for your friend is a good way to get them frustrated. Build something that can win amongst your group of friends.
  5. Pass your extra cards on to your local gaming store. If they sell commons then it’s one way to say thanks to them and keep your favorite store going.

Have any other ideas for resurrecting your MtG collection? Share them in the comments below.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Mindfulness – Grant’s Kitchen

Our guest writer today is a good friend of mine who I got to know over many games of Magic: The Gathering® and discussions on craft beer. I learnt a lot from him, so I’m glad that he could share some of his knowledge here with you.

Hello and welcome to my new column here, Grant’s Kitchen. There are a huge number of people who play “kitchen table Magic,” but most articles are for the competitive player who is looking to take down big tournaments. My plan here is to talk about the sorts of things that more casual players want to talk about. So you won’t find detailed meta-game breakdowns or play by plays here. But you will find commentary and ideas to bring back to your local play group.

“Be mindful, youngling!”

To start off with let’s look at the concept of “mindfulness.” This is being mindful of your plays, and paying attention to what the other players are doing, and how they might respond to you. One of the biggest mistakes beginning players make is to get wrapped up in their big play. You can get so enamored planning for your big win that you miss the clues that herald your defeat.
Picture this: You are each at 2 life. Your opponent has three 3/3 creatures, and you have a single Archetype of Aggression in play. You know that card will grant all your creatures trample, and so you play Savageborn Hydra for 10. You have a 10/10 double strike, trample hydra, ready to crush all comers next turn. You’ve got this! And then the next turn comes around, your opponent swings with his three creatures and you die. Whoops! If only you had cast a slightly smaller hydra AND the little Llanowar Elf that was also in your hand. Then you could have chump blocked with your elf, traded your architect and blocked with your hydra. The coast would have been clear the next turn and victory would have been yours.
This is mindfulness. Magic is a complicated game, and it is easy to miss small details. But if we try and keep those details in mind and pay attention to what the opponent is up to we can have a better chance of victory.
Another way to use mindfulness is in multiplayer games. While in a two player duel, rushing out the gate and smashing face is usually a great idea. In a multiplayer game, with politics in the midst of everything, it can be deadly. Being an obvious front runner can spell an early doom for you as the other players gang up and take you out. Being aware of the relative power of each player while subtly advancing your own plan for victory is the key. Be a friend to everybody, until the time comes for your ultimate victory.
There is a lot going on in any game of Magic: The Gathering®, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Just take a few moments, and pay attention to both your plan and what your opponents can do to stop you. This will both increase your chances of victory and your enjoyment. The more you can foil your opponents, the more fun you will have!

Grant is an avid casual Magic player and drafter who has been playing since the release of Dark Ascension. He loves value, drawing cards, and his Zedruu Commander deck. When he’s not playing Magic he is probably brewing or drinking beer. You can follow his beer related adventures at http://beersensei.net


Wizards of the Coast, Magic: The Gathering, and their logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the United States and other countries. © 2009 Wizards. All Rights Reserved.

This site is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by Wizards of the Coast LLC. This site may use the trademarks and other intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast LLC, which is permitted under Wizards’ Fan Site Policy [link]. For example, MAGIC: THE GATHERING® is a trademark[s] of Wizards of the Coast. For more information about Wizards of the Coast or any of Wizards’ trademarks or other intellectual property, please visit their website at (archive.wizards.com).

Dwarves and Cheap NPCs

April 11th is Tabletop Day.

Tabletop Day 2015

Go join a game near you, find out more on TabletopDay.com.

Inspired in Japan
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, by Lafcadio Hearn, is a great read if you like your horror with a distinctive Japanese flavour.

Avernos Unearthed
As tough as their mountain homes, the hardy dwarves make their stand against the coming darkness. But it is a losing battle which they wage against the forces of the Abyss, as their numbers slip ever more rapidly into decline.

I love dwarves, I enjoy playing them and I feel I really understand them as a race, so I’m very glad to present them to you this week on the Avernos Wiki

Rising Phoenix News
Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook and to subscribe to the blog for the latest updates.


Campaign Journal
If you play Magic the Gathering, even half as much as I do, then you probably have a bunch of cards like these.

Magic Marketing NPC 1

In the spirit of Reuse, Reduce and Recycle, I turned mine into NPC cards.

Choose a side. I picked the sides that had cool characters and monsters .

Use correction tape or stickers to make some writing space.

Magic Marketing NPC 2

Add some text with a marker. I chose 4 points; Name, Race and Apparent Occupation (not class, because my “paladin” might actually be a rogue posing as one), Demeanor (how the character behaves) and Speech Quirks (how the character talks. Are they soft spoken or haughty? Do they have a lisp or do they tend to drone on and on and …)

Sleeve them. Shuffle them. Use them.

The final product looks pretty good. And they work well with my NPC Strategy Cards too, simple sleeve them together.

Magic Marketing NPC 3

That’s all from me until next week.
Tell Thrilling Tales

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Icon 2011 – A Brief Glimps

Already almost a week in the past, Icon 2011 was loads of fun. I only managed the Friday, but there were plenty of familiar faces and I got to try my hand at convention level Magic The Gathering for the first time.



I’ve played Magic on and off since high school, and I was a little worried that I’d be up against serious players that were years younger than me, but those expectations were thankfully shattered. We played booster draft and although I only won two rounds, everyone I played was super friendly and each game a load of fun. I’d guess that most of the guys (and they were all guys) were between the ages of 20 and 35 or so, and more than patient when it came to questions about the rules. If I learnt anything playing at Icon it was that you just need to go and play, don’t make assumptions about other players, rather go and have fun.



Positive feedback on my module, Storm of Souls, which ran in the morning. I didn’t watch any of the role-playing or get involved beyond writing my module, but judging by the number of people around on a Friday I’d say that role-playing games are a great reason to take leave, or that role-players are generally unemployed.

I managed to score some of the controversial D&D Fortune Cards (3 boosters in total of Shadow Over Nentir Vale) and must say I don’t think they are as bad as everyone feared. Firstly, you only need one booster to use them in your game, so 6 boosters will cover a party of 6 players. You can then build a deck with as little as 10 cards (there are 8 in a booster), allowing you to customise your deck to suit your characters fighting style and strengths. I haven’t played with the cards yet, but the advantage to the player is pretty small, considering that you only ever have one card in your hand at a time per turn. To me the main advantage (to the GM as well) is that players will probably tighten up their tactics to maximize the effects of the cards, which means faster combats. My main criticism is that only the rare cards have proper illustrations on them, which I think is sad coming from a company that produces games like Magic the Gathering. Secondly, I picked up 3 swaps in my boosters, which will make me less likely to buy these cards again, unless I find someone who’s willing to trade or the cards see a lot of use at the table. Still, I’m excited about seeing my deck work at the table, and I’ll let you know when I give it a test run.



I went to my first ever Icon looking for Spider-Man comics, and won a door sized Mary Jane poster because of it. I was also introduced to Warhammer 40,000, which led to role-playing games, so comics for me will always be where it all began. Comic books are still well represented at Icon, and if I had had more time and money I would have filled out my X-Force collection, or my Amazing Spider-Man collection, or my… well, you get the picture.


Warhammer and Warhammer 40K

I got a lift to the Con from a friend who was just bitten by the Warhammer bug, but unfortunately there was no action on Friday except for a demo game of Warmachine, which seems to be hugely popular. I must say though that, after spending a week packing up my home, Warhammer is one of the most difficult hobbies to cart around. It’s almost like being the logistics guy for your own horde of Orks (in my case), and is likely to end up with more than a handful of carefully painted miniatures hitting hard floor at one time or another and a huge load of stress, so I don’t blame them for not showing up on the Friday.



Big things are happening in the LARP world, and I’ll leave that for another post, save to say that you need to give it a try. The LARPers are great people and LARPing in South Africa is growing stronger all the time.


If you were at ICON 2011 let me know what you got up to, leave a comment and share your experience.

Magic – World Mechanics and Story Device

This week saw the premier of the final Harry Potter movie and the launch party for Magic the Gatherings 12th edition. It’s almost like magic is everywhere, and really, it is at the very core of the fantasy genre. Magic is an integral part of fantasy and fantasy gaming, from magical creatures to spells and worlds formed by raw magical energy. In this article I’ll look at magic in terms of world mechanics and as a story device.


Defining Magic

I could look specifically at magic in this article, but then write a similar article on mutation and super powers that wouldn’t add anything new. Rather, let’s group magic, super powers, psionics, amazing technology and everything else that is “abnormal” and call them “world mechanics”. I’m using broad strokes here, but let me explain. Mouse Guard is a game (and comic) with little magic. Mice can talk, but they possess no powers as such or magical artefacts. Mouse Guard’s “world mechanics” are interesting because we can play as mice in a world terrifying to mice. Dungeons and Dragons, on the other hand, lets us use magic to fight magical creatures, and we can become powerful beings that can take on terrifying dragons through the levelling up mechanic. If you think about it, levelling is a type of magic, you would never gain such abilities in real life even with dedicated training. Thus the world mechanics for D&D represent a world that is full of magic. So, I’m going to use “world mechanics” and “magic” interchangeably in this article.


Magic has Boundaries

Magic needs to have boundaries, without these boundaries players will feel cheated and confused. Can my wizard become invisible if he casts an invisibility spell? Boundaries (rules) set this out for you. The boundaries then, like I said above, define the world at the same time. Frodo’s ring had power to corrupt, so we understand that in The Lord of the Rings magical items may have a risk involved when they are used.


Magic breaks Boundaries

Firstly, as a story element, magic breaks boundaries. Magic lets your characters and NPC’s do things that they would not normally be able to do in the real world. Flight, as an obvious example, is only possible through magic. Because of this, you need to think outside of reality and be creative when designing your sessions and include encounters and NPC’s that bring the reality of the game world into focus and let the players experience that world. It’s no good running a fantasy game where everything is normal by everyday terms, and I’d argue that a normal day even in terms of your fantasy world would be too boring for your players, but there needs to be an obvious difference between the two worlds. A note of caution though, sometimes subtlety really pays of with regards to the differences in your fantasy world and our own, you do want it to all be believable in some way.

Furthermore, magic gives you a reason to break the mould with you game, within reason. In a recent game I introduced a series of earth-nodes that needed to be used in sequence, and did not let players move as they wished between the nodes. I explained this difference as a consequence of the spell plague, which the players were happy with and I could then stagger encounters out between the different nodes. Because magic and the mechanics of your game world represent the weird and wonderful, take inspiration from the setting and let your creativity flow.


Magic is often Limited

Magic has its limits, which is important to remember. If any world mechanic is limitless, it becomes worthless in a way. If everyone can fly, you will need ways to cut that ability at some point and you need to work out the repercussions of giving everyone such an ability. In my opinion, magic becomes more interesting if there is less of it. In the Lord of the Rings, there are only a handful of magical users, which makes characters like Gandalf and Saruman stand out amongst the rest, magic is thus strange and valuable.

Potter Fans at the Premier
Potter Fans at the Premier

At the end of the day magic represents a great device for telling the stories we love, that’s why so many people fell in love with the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings and so many other fantasy stories. Use magic well and your games will be that much more interesting and captivating.


If you watched the last Harry Potter, or played MtG during the release party or have any other thoughts about magic, leave a comment. Let’s talk geek 🙂