PNG Gencon Hands On – Magic The Gathering: Planechase

Magic the Gathering: PlanechaseDo you enjoy Magic?  Millions across the world do, and this September Wizards of the Coast is releasing their newest iteration of the popular card game called Magic the Gathering: Planechase. I was extremely fortunate over the weekend to get a sneak peak of their newest edition while at Gencon.  Before we get right into things, let me give you exactly what you want to know right here, right now.

Magic the Gathering: Planechase will launch on September 4th 2009, and each deck will retail for $19.99.  Here is what you’ll get inside the box…

  • 10 all-new Plane cards
  • Ready-to-play 60-card deck
  • Six-sided planar die
  • Planechase strategy insert with multiplayer rules

Check out my impressions and more details after the jump…

Planechase DecksThe four decks that are being released each go by a specific name.  There is Metallic Dreams, Zombie Empire, Elemental Thunder, and Strike Force.  I have scoured the net to find the colors of these decks and no such information was available so I’m going to do my best to recall what I saw and played so that you have an idea of what colors these decks were made of.

Zombie Empire is most definitely Black.  This is the deck that I played with.  The other 3 players each had a different deck as well.  The second deck was Elemental Thunder.  I believe this is the deck that PNG’s own James Jones played with.  His deck was built around Red and Green.  Next we had a DCI Judge playing with us, and he was using Strike Force, which was built around Red and White. Lastly the other player was using Metallic Dreams.  His deck was built around Blue and Artifact cards.

So with that out of the way, I wanted to get into the mechanics of the game.

Magic the Gathering: Planechase played just like regular magic (for the most part) where each player starts out with 20 life, and a hand of 7 cards.  Where things change during the initial setup is each player has 10 (oversized) Plane Cards that are played in a new area called the “Command Zone”, and a 6 sided die that consists of 4 blank sides, 1 Chaos Symbol, and 1 Planeswalk Symbol.  Each player is allowed to play one Mana, per turn and sorcery’s, instants, and creature cards can be played when the cost is met.

As the game starts, the first player draws and proceeds to play out his turn.  Also on his turn he takes the top Planes card and flips it up.  This card is now in play for every person playing in the game.  The card acts as a global rule set for all players when applicable.  Here is an example… Undercity Reaches

Whenever a creature deals combat damage to a player, its controller may draw a card.

Whenever you roll “Chaos” you have no maximum hand size for the rest of the game.

So the first rule is pretty self explanatory.  While this Plane card is in play, whenever a creature by any player deals combat damage to another player, the controller of the attacking creature draws a card.  This can work multiple times if multiple creatures are attacking.

The second rule pertains to the 6-sided die.  This die can be rolled for “free” during a players turn.  If the desired outcome is not met, that player can pay 1 mana to roll again.  If the desired roll is still not obtained they can roll again for 2 mana, and then 4 mana, etc. as long as mana is untapped and that player has enough.  This can really turn the tide of the battle depending on the players decision.

There are two icons on the 6-sided die that can be obtained during a players roll.  The Planeswalk icon will allow that player to “Planeswalk” away from the current Plane card that is globally in play.  If this happens, the Plane card that is active, gets put back into the bottom of the owners  10 card Plane deck and the player who rolled the Planeswalk icon on the die chooses the top card from their Plane deck and puts that card into play.  Thus changing the global rule on the table for all players.

Sanctum of SerraThe second icon is the “Chaos” icon.  This outcome on the die will initiate a second rule on the Plane card which is listed below the main global rule.  In this case with the example above… When the player rolls “Chaos” that player has no maximum hand size for the rest of the game.

I must deviate for a moment because when we were having the rules explained to us, it was clear that if the current Plane card is in play and a player gets a reoccurring occurrence due to a “Chaos” roll, once that Plane card is removed from the table then that reoccurring rule is then negated and reset.  In the case of the example with Undercity Reaches, I am not entirely sure if this stays till the end of the game, or if it does become void once that Plane card is removed.  My guess is that it does indeed become null and void once that card leaves play.  This happened to James and I when a Chaos rule appeared and we both got Chaos to come up on the die.  When we rolled Chaos, the card in play stated that “If a player rolls Chaos, then that player is immune from being attacked”  Once that card left play we were able to be attacked again.  This leads me to believe that the rule stated in the example does not stay throughout the entire game, as this would require players to remember the rule though no card on the table is relevant to the rule.

What’s great about the starter sets, which we played with, is that they are pre-constructed decks and along with that, the Plane cards are catered to that players deck setup.  This is not vital to winning, but it does help a great deal.  If you are playing a black deck, and another player’s Plane card is on the table , their card might lower the cost of all green based cards by one.  This is not going to help out your deck so its important that you try to get that card changed.  The strategy is brilliant.

We were able to play with 4 players at one table in one large game.  The game is able to be played by 2-4 players at a time.  What I enjoyed the most was the alliances and rivalries between the players as all this was going on.  One player had a lot of creatures on the table, and was hitting other players hard.  Due to that brute showing of power, the other players (including myself) decided that he needed to be taken out, or at least have his army diminished a little.  One player was getting beat in the beginning pretty badly, and due to a poor choice of pity for him, this player ended up coming back in the end and triumphantly beating me by 1 turn.  Its all how you decided to play.  Play nice, and maybe something good will happen.  Play strong, and possibly players will feel threatened by you and gang up.  Play pity, and watch the other player take advantage of your generosity.  It all comes down to the cards, the Plane cards, and the kind of player you are versus the others.Rotting Rats

One more example about how the Plane cards work when the right (or wrong) one comes up.  During my second to last turn, the Plane card on the table stated “If a player is able to reach zero cards in their hand, then they may draw 7 cards from their draw stack”  I had a “Rotting Rats” card on the table which can be “Unearthed” if put into the graveyard.  I had 2 mana left untapped and 1 card in my hand.  I was able to attack with the 1/1 creature and it was killed.  With the 2 mana I had, I “unearthed” the card bringing it back from the graveyard, and when it came back into play I discarded my last card.  Because of that strategy I was able to draw 7 new cards during that turn.  I should mentioned that those 7 cards were nothing that could have helped me stop the next attack, so I ended up losing in the end.  That moment stuck with me even in defeat because the strategy involved was so intricate and deep.  It gave me that feeling again, just like the first time I played Magic the Gathering.

Lastly, I want to delve into a few more of the press details about the game before closing my impressions…

  • Each of the 60-card decks will include 8 rares, and will be composed of cards from throughout Magic’s history – including a preview card from Zendikar.
  • The 10 oversized Plane cards comprise a planar deck. They feature all-new artwork depicting some of the more exotic realms of the Magic multiverse.
  • Each of the cards in the 60-card decks will be black-bordered and tournament legal. This means that these cards are legal for use in any tournaments where the original printings are still legal.
  • Planechase release events will be held September 4-6, 2009. Watch magicthegathering.com this summer for details.
  • Initial Concept and Game Design: Brian Tinsman (lead), Aaron Forsythe, Peter Knudson, and Kenneth Nagle
  • Final Game and Deck Development: Mike Turian (lead), Dave Guskin, Peter Knudson, Scott Larabee, and Mark Purvis, with contributions from Mark L. Gottlieb

I left Gencon 2009 this year with a lot of different games played.  I really made sure to get my hands in anything I could, be it new or old.  I must say, that after all was said and done, Magic the Gathering: Planechase was the game that left the biggest impression on me.  I couldn’t be more thrilled about this next edition of Magic, and can’t wait to start playing when it releases on September 4th

I want to thank Tera Randall from Wizards of the Coast for allowing James and myself to play in the preview event at Gencon.  She was extremely helpful and generous with us over the weekend.  She also helped to provide some of the pictures and details on the game you just read about.  Also, I’d like to thank the staff overseeing the event we took part in.  These people were all very helpful in answering questions about the game, and explaining any new rules to the players there.  We may not have been the most experienced players in that event, but we did learn a lot and were very fortunate enough to play with some of Magic’s best.  A big thank you to all who helped make that event a success and a whole lot of fun.

Part of the PNG Gencon ’09 Wrap Up series of articles.

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5 responses to “PNG Gencon Hands On – Magic The Gathering: Planechase

  1. Pingback: The PNG Gencon ‘09 Wrap Up « Pixels and Grids

  2. I tink that if the ability in the Plane says that is for the rest of the game…..IS FOR THE REST OF THE GAME…..if it dosen`t say so….it isn`t

    • That’s the general feeling I get from that card. I was actually playing in the preview event with Dave and got knocked out fairly quickly. The planar cards were pretty specific about when their effects would end with some of them lasting as long as that plane remained in play. Can’t recall the name of the plane, but it was in the all black deck and if you happened to roll the chaos symbol, you could not be attacked while that plane remained in play. Pretty crazy game altering rules if you ask me. It was a lot of fun and I recommend it if you’re looking for new ways to play Magic.

    • Thanks for your take on that Marco. My guess was in line with yours but you can never be too sure until the official rules are released.

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