I work a lot. Such is life in the restaurant industry. Managing a bar means working late at night (Friday and Saturday) and that means less time for me to enjoy my favorite hobby. Luckily for me, my wife is always willing to flop cards with me. Now my wife is not Pro-Tour caliber, she doesn’t get excited over the latest expansion and everyday things don’t make her think of Magic cards. However, my wife has an EDH deck (Sliver Overlord), she has her favorite card (Avatar of Woe), and will pilot any deck I give her so I can practice. In short, my wife is a casual player, really casual, ranking magic with Monopoly or Clue. She sees it as a game; something to pass the time with on a rainy afternoon. This is easy for me to understand but hard for me to relate with (how can she read Wild Mongrel and not get excited?).
One thing I have found to be difficult for the casual player is the release of new expansions every quarter. Magic is a game that constantly evolves. Each new card brings with it a text block of new rules which can be overwhelming for the casual player. The casual player doesn’t tend to read spoilers or set reviews. Living with a casual player has led me to find a great format for teaching/learning the newest set without needing to learn new cards in advance. I am referring to Pack War (also called Booster War or MiniMaster).
Pack War is really simple: Each player takes one booster pack and three of each basic land. This will give a thirty card deck. The rest is just plain old Magic; normal life totals, phases, and rules. My wife and I keep the cards from the booster face down so we won’t know what is in our “deck” before hand, which adds an extra level of excitement. There are many variations of the Pack War rules. Some people do not allow Mulligans, others have a smaller starting hand size, I have even read about allowing all players access to as much mana of any color they want so there is no need to add land (Fireball = autowin). When my wife and I were opening Shards of Alara we decided to only use two of each basic land since the color fixing was so good. Pack War offers plenty of options for people wanting to play a quick game.
Pack War is a great way to make opening boosters a lot more fun. It is even possible to squeeze in Pack War between rounds at a tournament. It also gives really bad cards a chance to see some play (Feral Contest, Goblin Game). Sure there is a bit more randomness to it, but I think that it adds to the charm. Bojuka Brigand equipped with Kitesail ftw.
My favorite aspect of Pack War is that it is an easy way to teach the game of Magic. I am always willing to teach people how to play and I find Pack War is simple without being overwhelming. It allows us to focus on what the cards do and the basic mechanics of the game. Pack War as a teaching tool is much more effective than using U/W Chapin vs. Jund.
Magic is my hobby and I devote a large amount of time towards it. I research decks, use draft simulators, follow players on facebook, read articles and so on. The casual player is not going to do these things. When Wizards of the Coast decided to print less cards per year, they were addressing concerns from new/casual players. Those players felt that the amount of cards was overwhelming. Those players felt that they were too far behind and out of the loop. Pack War addresses these concerns with its simplicity. Pack War is a way to keep casual players somewhat up to date and it lets us teach the game without having to reference thousands of cards. The next time you get some boosters, set some aside and try out Pack War.
While I was proofreading this article, I really got the itch to battle it out with some booster packs. I went to the closest comic store and picked up their last two packs of Worldwake. My wife and I used three of each basic land and got down to business.
Bojuka Bog is not great in Pack War, but I liked the Angel and the Drake.
My wife’s pack:
Well, obviously my wife opened a great pack. Removal, check. Evasion, check. Chase Rare, check. Looks good. Which card had the biggest impact? It wasn’t old Blue Eyes. It was Brink of Disaster targeting my Graypelt Hunter to stop my early aggro. Caustic Crawler came down a turn later to prevent me from getting a decent block. The Crawler and the Shaman got me into the red zone pretty quick after that. Good stuff. Go try Pack War for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.