Ok, continued adventures in Shandalar! This stage of the game is about frantically wandering the world looking for loot and towns with good quests or cards, while madly trying to avoid the enemies, any of which have a fair to good chance of killing you with a deck like this.
Those two temple looking things are basically goodie boxes -- think the tribal villages in Civilization. Very occasionally they'll do something unpleasant to you, but more often than not they're helpful. They are the backbone of the early game deck improvement plan.
The guy on the horse is an Elvish Magi, an enemy green creature. I'm not too worried about him because creatures won't leave their native lands; as a green creature he won't go far from the forest. There are no friendly creatures that roam the wilderness -- if it shows up on the world map and moves, it is an enemy.
Let's see what we get in the goodie boxes.
First we get this. This isn't what you're really looking for, but it isn't bad. I spring for one more blue amulet in case I want to teleport anywhere.
This is more interesting. An evil genie!
In cases like this, the creature is more powerful than an early game wandering monster, but the rewards are usually better, and the big deal is that you have no ante. Normally when you face a monster you get cards if you win, but lose some if you don't. Here there's no risk: even if I get my face smashed, I don't lose any cards. So I take on the genie.
So here we are at the start of the game. Both of us have seven cards in our hands, since, uh, that's what you start with. (These days if your hand sucks you can re-draw with one fewer so we might not all start with seven. In '97 you couldn't do that, you could only redraw if you had all or no land, which sucks for me, since I only have one land in my hand and would definitely take six if I could.)
Anyway, you'll notice I have the famous king of the Ancient Jews on my side, King Suleiman. It's a cool bit of flavor since mythologically he imprisoned a thousand and one genies, ridding the world of their evil. Cool! Pity he kinda sucks. You can see the 1/1 down in the lower left of his picture: this means he has one attack and one defense. He actually has a cool special ability that kills genie-type creatures, but unfortunately it only works on creature cards, not players, so it won't work on our opponent even though he is theoretically a genie. The card isn't very useful, but it is a cool freebie.
A little more information for those who don't know or can't remember Magic: You can play one land per turn. These lands give you the basic resources to play your other cards. Each provides one "mana" of the appropriate color, and you can use each one once per turn by turning it 90 degrees, called tapping it. All your cards uptap at the beginning of each of your turns. You start with seven cards, and draw one each turn. My hand here is bad because with only one land, I'm stuck unable to play anything until I draw more, and who knows how long that will be.
It takes me a few turns to draw any more lands while I slowly whittle him down with The King and he doesn't do much. Then when I'm still stuck on one land...
Eeew. Time Elemental. You can see from the 0/2 down at the bottom that the elemental is not a combat superstar (0 attack, 2 defense). In fact, his rules include that if you attack or block (defend) with him, he dies and you lose 5 life! But his second ability is killer. The 2 and two water droplets mean that it takes two blue (the droplets) and two colorless (any color of mana) to use, so four total. The little flippy card symbol means he needs to tap it. But in exchange for this, he can return any of my cards to my hand! (Enchanted doesn't mean anything right now, but it'll come up later.) If he uses this every turn on my forest, I'm basically screwed since I can only play one land per turn.
Well, that sucks. I can only serve with The King again and hope he blocks rather than being a good player and just locking me out of the game.
Fortunately, the AI proves its own worst enemy, and decides to prevent the one damage from The King by losing his elemental...and taking 5?
Anyway, eventually I draw some more lands!
A first island lets me get out Giant Tortoise, and a second lets me get out Prodigal Sorcerer. Unfortunately the two 1/1s eat a split fireball, and he manages to deploy a Phantom Monster. The cost to play a spell is in the upper left. On the fireball, the firey symbol means a red mana, and the X means it can take a variable amount of mana, which can be any color. In this case he payed 3 for X, allowing him 1 for 1 damage to The King, 1 for 1 damage to the Sorcerer, and 1 for splitting it to a second target (as per the text of the spell, it is ok if this is confusing, I hope it'll become clearer as you see games played.) The line where the fireball says "Sorcery" tells you what kind of spell it is. Sorceries are powerful but slow spells that are one use -- you discard them when you play them. The Sorcerer, the Phantom Monster, the Tortoise, etc. are all creatures, which means they have "Summon" as their type. Creature stay in play and can fight until they die.
That phantom monster is worrying since it'll do 3 per turn to me and the tortise will just do 1 to him, and he's at 12 to my 10. Luckily I draw a land on my turn to deploy Clay Statue. When a creature attacks, it deals its power (the first number) in damage to the player unless they block. If it gets blocked, the creatures deal their power to each other. Creatures heal at the end of the turn. Normally I could block the 3/3 Phantom Monster with my 1/4 tortoise and neither would die (tortoise deals 1 and the monster can take 3, monster deals 3 and tortoise can take four) but the Phantom Monster has a special ability called Flying, which is written on the text box but also indicated by the little wing at the bottom of the picture. If a creature has flying it can only be blocked by creatures that also fly, so I'm stuck taking 3 from the Monster.
Then he does something unpleasant...
Yeah, we totally have cards of the same quality, really. Ancestral Recall is one of the best cards ever printed; it is in fact blatantly unfair. You can see that it draws three extra cards and costs only one blue mana. Drawing three cards these days costs four total mana. Also it is an instant. Instants are like sorceries in that you use them only once, but they can be played any time. This is a huge, huge advantage.
At this point my screenshot program stopped working and I didn't realize it, so I missed a bit. Basically I played the Water Elemental from my hand, he hit me to 1 with the monster but was low enough himself that I'd kill him unless he played a blocker. Sadly he played a giant Mahamoti Djinn (5/6 flying!) and ate me for breakfast.
Oh well, that was a lot closer than I expected!
I wander the world some more, picking up goodie boxes and checking out towns for cards to buy. Sadly none of them have anything very exciting, but I slowly manage to trim the green and red out of the deck until it is only blue and white. (I plan to poll you guys on the deckbuilding in the future when I can have a real plan, but for now I basically just need to go with whatever cards show up, so there aren't any real choices.)
You can also get quests from townsfolk. Most of them involve killing monsters, which I'm not up for yet, but sometimes you get lucky and someone asks you to take a letter to another town. Amulets are fine so I take this one, but what you're really looking for is mana links -- each one of those you get increases your life total.
Ok, I've got a third update in the pipes for tonight (a second battle!) and then I'll play a little more to get the next update ready, which will probably be tomorrow after work and seeing 300, unless I feel motivated to stay up late tonight. While I'm writing the third part, some feedback:
First: If you don't know/have forgotten how to play, are the spoiler bits helpful, or is it too confusing anyway? I don't want to give too much more text to them, but if they aren't helping I'll figure something out.
Second, to everyone: Obviously blue will be my main color, and it'll be a while before I can really go for a strategy other than just "good cards durr." But I'll want a secondary color in the mean time. Right now it is white by default, but I can try to nudge it in another direction if that's what the public wants.
Oh, and I got this random loot, which might influence your decision...