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DRAGON'S MAZE is one of the new ways to introduce players to the world of Magic the Gathering, the ccg that took the world by storm in the early 1990's and has continued to grow, or hold steady, for over 20 years.

Many people don't know this but it was actually me who introduced the UK to Magic the Gathering. A friend of mine who owned a games company had been out to Origins in America and had brought back a couple of MtG decks which he gave me to look at and as he trusted my judgement he asked if I thought it would be good for his company to distribute in the UK. My son and I played it as best we could, remember that the term "to tap" a card hadn't been heard before and neither had such a beautiful and complex card game. The rules were in a miniscule booklet and were many, complex and confusing, but I said to my friend, who had the opportunity for the exclusive distribution rights in the UK, that, yes it would be worth taking a chance on, mainly because it was such a new and unique idea.

That same year I helped TSR organise GenCon in the UK - the first one to be held at Camber Sands, Pontins Holiday Camp. I was asked to make contact with as many games clubs and companies that I could to come along and put on demo and participation games. One of the companies that took up my offer was Goliath Games and they brought along their Abalone game, which proved to be very popular. I also found the phone number of Wizards of the Coast in the USA and I phoned them and invited them to the UK and to GenCon. My surprise was that they not only came over but they came in force, six of them, including Cathy Adkison, Stephen Bishop and Lisa Stevens.

At this GenCon a well known and respected rpg writer came up to me and told me in no uncertain terms that this card game Magic wouldn't last a year and that by the next GenCon it would have been forgotten. I wonder what he would think now. In those days we used to buy decks and boosters, open them up and sort the cards by colour and each of us would select a colour (or sometimes 2 colours) and put together decks to play with. We didn't care about Common, UnCommon or Rare, or whether one card was better than another, we just played and enjoyed it. Then, as if by magic, the black market started and cards became a currency and the business minded people moved in on the game that we had played and loved. Of course I wish I had been caught up in the frenzy of collecting and dealing, I was there at the beginning and should have made a small fortune, but I was too caught up in playing the game and enjoying it and I, along with many friends and family only saw it as a game and not as a business - in a way we were right, but of course financially we were wrong.

So what has all that to do with DRAGON'S MAZE ? Well it has a lot to do with it for me because this is the set that got me back interested in MAGIC the GATHERING as MAGIC the GAME. There are 5 main decks to be bought, Azorius Authority (white/blue), Orzhov Power (white/black), Rakdos Revelry (red/black), Gruul Siege (red/green) and Simic Domination (green/blue). Each of these boxes has a predetermined (the same in each box) 60 card deck plus 2 unopened 15 card booster packs that contain 3 (silver) UCs and either a (gold) Rare or a (red) Mythic rare plus a make-up of mixed colour Common cards. There is also a foil card (we used to call them "shinys") in each Deck and there may also be some in the Boosters. These Foil cards have the same game value as an ordinary card (of the same type) but have a better price on the black market - though to be fair the black market has now become fairly white as cards are bought and sold openly now in stores and at conventions.

DRAGON'S MAZE is for beginner players and as such it has an excellent rules sheet that explains how to play the game in a far simpler way than the original mini booklet. The cards are still acceptable into most decks - I can't state this for competition decks as there are always cards you can use and cannot use for these games - but for playing friendly games it doesn't matter what cards you use as long as you stay within the regulations for building your deck. To begin new or novice players should play one versus one with a deck each, different decks are best to begin with, and you should play a few games without opening the Boosters to get used to the rules. Then either go on to games with more than one opponent - these can often get a little confusing (and personal) - or it is time to open your Boosters and begin to move some of the cards from your pre-det deck and augmenting it with cards from your Boosters.

Cards are generally brought into play by the use of mana - this is a resource produced by Land cards and some other special cards. There are five main deck colours in MtG, Green, Red, Black, White and Blue which use mana of their particular colour. Then there are gold cards usable by any players - these use mana of any colour - and there are also cards that need 2 specific colours of mana - there are even some Land cards that can produce 2 different colours of mana but usually only one or the other. All of these cards are available in the DRAGON'S MAZE set.

DRAGON'S MAZE creatures and heroes are set on the Plane of Ravnica on which there are at least 10 Guilds, (if you go HERE you can register for a Guild) each with their own format and mission fur survival. Once players understand the rules and have a few games under them and they have built decks that can give and take punishment then they can become Planeswalkers - great Mages with amazing powers (cards) at their disposal. Don't misunderstand me, you don't have to win a certain number of games or have the most powerful deck to become a Planeswalker, it is not a title that you gain as a victor, it is a title you can claim once you have traveled between Planes and fought valiantly. Actually I made all that up, although it sounded quite good it could have been true. Planeswalker is just the name given to every Player. It comes from the background stories you can find in MtG paperback novels. No, you do not have to have read or need to read the novels to be able to play or even understand Magic the Gathering ccg.

The two pre-determined decks that I have used are the following. They played as expected for pre-det decks. Some games seemed to be one-sided (for either side - depending on how the cards came into play) and other games went to the wire - often the winner being the player who exhausted their opponent's Library (that's the name for the draw pile - the Graveyard is the discard pile) rather than knocking their 20 (player's each start with 20 lives) lives down to zero.

SIMIC DOMINATION:  10  Forest 12  Island  4  Simic Guildgate  26 lands  1  Archweaver   2  Battering Krasis   2  Beetleform Mage    3  Centaur Courser    2  Cloudfin Raptor    1  Crocanura   1  Crowned Ceratok   2  Elusive Krasis   1  Gyre Sage   1  Murmuring Phantasm
Opal Lake Gatekeepers    1  Sapphire Drake    2  Species Gorger    1  Vorel of the Hull Clade     2 Bred for the Hunt    1  Give // Take    1  Hindervines    1  Krasis Incubation    2  Mutant's Prey   1  Phytoburst    2  Runner's Bane   2  Simic Cluestone 

AZORIUS AUTHORITY:  4  Azorius Guildgate   10  Island   12  Plains    26 lands     Ascended Lawmage   2  Azorius Arrester    1  Azorius Justiciar    2  Haazda Snare Squad   2  Jelenn Sphinx    1  Lavinia of the Tenth    1  Lyev Skyknight   3  Silvercoat Lion
Soulsworn Spirit      2  Stealer of Secrets    2  Sunspire Gatekeepers    3  Wind Drake     22 creatures     1  Arrest     2  Avenging Arrow     2  Azorius Cluestone    2  Lyev Decree   1  Martial Law   1  Protect // Serve   1  Restore the Peace  2  Righteous Charge

Ideal for players who have never played MtG, ideal for teaching MtG to new players and ideal for players who just want to play MtG for fun. Obviously some of the cards will also, at some time, have a monetary value on eBay or through traders. For collectors this is another set of cards to put unused into their plastic pockets and folders.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015