Now that Wizards is producing annual commander content for us, it’s that time of the year when it feels like Christmas come early for our global community. By the time you read this the C14 product will be released, you’ll likely have the precons in your hot little hands, and you’ll likely be building with your new toys, windmill slamming minty-fresh cardboard onto playmats and swinging for lethal.

Sadly Uncle Kaka has not yet had a chance to:

  • Crack open his box of pre-cons
  • Nor slap the daylights out of anyone with Goblin Welder combat damage
  • Nor play instant speed planeswalker shenanigans.

I have had the chance to be sick as a proverbial dog with measles. Con-plague is really the worst.

Last time the GDC crew got together for a podcast session (hopefully that will be up and ready for you all to listen to very soon), I mentioned that PAX was going to be in Australia from Friday, October 30 to Sunday, November 2. I managed to get myself on-site to get a chance to check out some of the Commander 14 product for you all and also to see the first showings of the Magic the Gathering strategy board game.

Unfortunately the strategy board game was not able to make it out to PAX AUS, so I do not have any new news for you all on that front. I was able to capture a recording of the Magic panel on Sunday (for anyone who follows my twitter feed @TheKakaStorm, you have likely already some of this). Please pardon the audio quality; I caught this on a smartphone and I’ve done my best tweaking the audio for clarity and volume.

[podcast title=”PAX Aus panel”][/podcast]

If you can’t listen just now, I have some shots here to tide you over until you can. The panel started with some of the detail we were already familiar with regarding Commander 2014, including the ‘CommanderWalkers’ and some of the reasoning as to who and why they were chosen, along with some of the development decisions behind them. From there, they announced and showed spoilers from Duel Deck for 2015 – Kiora vs. Elspeth, including reprints of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Kiora, the Crashing Wave.

Returning to topics more Standard in nature, we then got a peak into Fate Reforged and the naming of the final set in Khans block –  “Dragons of Tarkir”. I don’t want to take too much away from the photos and the panel recording, but I would hypothesize that we’re going to see some serious return of the Eldrazi, as well as some interesting times to come as far as Magic’s storyline. Most importantly however, we’re going to see a continuation of multi-colour decks in Tarkir, but we’re moving away from the gold card shtick and seeing the revival of hybrid mana cards in a wedge format. What this will mean for us in the Commander scene, I don’t know; perhaps more legends that will be awkward to use as a general, or more discussion on hybrid mana legality; what happens next remains to be seen.

After the Sunday panel (and a delicious German sausage feast, including a litre stein of cider), we were treated to a chance to watch the C14 preconstructed decks being opened and put into action. A five way multiplayer match was engineered with Aaron Forsythe piloting his baby the green deck, a gentleman from IGN piloting the black deck and three other lucky PAX attendees piloting blue, red and white.

The white deck made a terribly blatantly obvious threat of itself and was taken out first, despite its heinous swarms of token dudes. The black deck was mana flooded for the bulk of the early and mid-game. The red and the blue lists were durdling about, occasionally doing things and other times not at all. I am certain this was partially due to unfamiliarity with the decks, and also crowd participation in the decision making for the players. This is quite evident in the frequency that “kill the blue player” was voted and actioned on, even when other players were clearly the threat. In the end the blue and black decks fell, leaving Daretti to finish off Aaron’s green deck.

You might now be wondering if all I did all weekend was hang around the Wizards booth and sling cardboard. I’ll tell you what; it would have been damn easy to do just that. As one would expect, there was plenty of action for the new player, the casual player and the advanced player like myself. Regrettably, the strategy board game wasn’t on site; however, we did get a chance to check out Duals of the Planeswalkers 2015 (for which the expansions have just come out if you are into DotP). There was a solid dedicated play area to sling cardboard. Most interestingly for me, they gave you the chance to duel with some of the Wizards employees.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I took Mr. Forsythe up on his offer to duel any and all comers on a ‘pick-your-format’ basis (next time I am totally going to try to remember a Vintage or Legacy deck). As we’re a Commander site, of course my format of choice was Commander….. albeit 1v1. Over the course of the weekend Aaron and I had the chance to duel twice. First, we pushed the bleeding edge of power decks with Arcanis the Omnipotent vs. Bladewing the Risen); then, for round two, we ran out more casual fun decks (My Riku no-combo/extra turn storm vs. Kor Jadeen).

I can quite happily say that these were both fantastically fun matches for me, especially the intricacies of the play in the Arcanis/Bladewing match. The hero of that game was my lone Ice Age Snow-covered Island (those things are bad-asses) feeding a Phyrexian Metamorph wearing Lightning Greaves, which was a clone of his Rime-Scale Dragon. Assuming Aaron’s decks are a good example of the standard at Wizards, I am quite content that we’re in good hands for future commander releases.

Because Aaron Forsythe was on site I was also able to score some one-on-one time to have a quiet chat with him and Hasbro’s brand manager in Australia, Wil, (and I’d like to say a huge thank you to the guys and girls who made this all happen at Reboot PR, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro). We talked about our format and other elements of the Magic product, as well as formats we all do enjoy. I ran through a selection of questions provided by the whole GDC crew, and was also able to record the whole thing. Audio from my chat with Aaron will be being featured soon on the site, so stay tuned; there is some awesome stuff in there.

Uncle Kaka and Aaron Forsythe

PAX of course had plenty of other things going on, from Virtual Reality headsets, gaming hardware, and board games to peripherals, gaming bits and pieces, miniatures and panels -so many things that I’d need literally a week to get to them all. But Magic ruled my day.

Most importantly don’t forget, if you ever make it down to a future PAX Aus – be good because the mightiest enforcer of them all is out patrolling…. Enforcing justice in the night…. Wombatman…..