Thursday, August 29, 2013

Coming into Kaijudo from Magic

Magic players, there's a sweet new game called Kaijudo on the block that will breathe some fresh life into your gaming excursions. It is easy to learn, cheaper than Magic, and fun! I also feel it is very skill-testing and contains less feel-bad variance.

One major plus for me is its similarity to WoWTCG, which contained a few elements that I really liked. For Duel Masters fans, Kaijudo is pretty much a revamp of that game.

For deckbuilders, it's a lot of fresh territory, given that deckbuilding is still a fast and loose practice with little discipline or general know-how.

It's a much simpler game than Magic, but I was surprised by how challenging it was to play anyway. 

It has a bit less variance. You won't get screwed by your mana, and you'll never topdeck a useless land. There is one variance-driven mechanic called shield blast, which might turn people off given its similarity to miracle. However shield blasts are a major part of the design and not just a one-off mechanic. The game is built with them in mind, and thus they are balanced to be fair. They can be played around, and you should play around them. 

Best shield blast in the game. (It plays better than it looks…) 
The worst "variance" offender is a single card: Bottle of Wishes. And it is, in my opinion, less annoying than Bonfire of the Damned and certainly not as good.

Spin the bottle! Weeee!
Notable ways in which Kaijudo's mechanics lower variance:

1) Any card can be played as a land.

2) You don't need specific numbers of certain colors to cast cards; you only need ONE of that color. Multicolor cards are punished by the pure fact you need two colors to cast them, while single colored cards are exceedingly easy to cast. Multicolor cards enter your mana tapped, another reason to minimize them in your deck.

3) Attacking the opponent's "life" lets them draw more cards, giving them more resources to fight back. If this weren't the case, really aggressive decks would run over slower decks. But in this way, each step forward comes with a bit of a drawback. They managed to balance the format enough for all deck speeds.

4) The top of your deck won't matter quite as much, given that none of your cards are "dead" (no land cards, and every card as a dual purpose). You have to be more careful about the cards you play as lands, which will determine what you can do in later turns.

There is one way variance is slightly increased: there are no mulligans. But honestly, I am comfortable with that level of "variance." I don't believe, even given the choice to mulligan, decks would mulligan. The extra card is much more valuable, given that it functions as both land and spell, and you only start with five cards in hand.

I may complain about drawing a "bad hand," but it usually works itself out. In Magic, a bad hand means I am not casting anything because of a land imbalance. In Kaijudo, it means I have to play cards as lands that I'd rather not, but most of the control is in my hands and not the deck's. The "bad hand" effect worsens in decks with more ambitious color combinations (i.e. four or five colors). But I am perfectly okay with this deckbuilding trade-off.

On occasion, you'll open with a hand of too many high-drops and get stuck not casting your cards. But…more often than not, that's because of a deck design decision. An aggro deck will never run into this; a midrange deck will very rarely run into it. Your ramp/control decks? Well they signed up for it. They're running Cruel Ultimatums.

Personally, I've yet to blame variance on any of my losses. Usually I just screw up in some way, if not multiple ways.

That said, Magic is still the better game. It is nigh impossible to top Magic. But I find myself getting bored of it sometimes. Kaijudo is a nice change of pace, and I like it better than the other new kids on the block (SolForge, Hearthstone). Of course, I'm still playing SolForge, and I'd take a Hearthstone beta key if I could! I just like Kaijudo better. It is also a big improvement over the other "children's card games," Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon.

Kaijudo is fun and rewarding. It's also unexplored in many ways, and breaking new territory is an inherently interesting thing to be doing!

OK, so how do you learn / start to play this game?

The rules are ridiculously easy to learn, and I can run through them right now. Familiar with Duel Masters? You probably know 90% of these rules.

If I don’t mention / clarify a rule, assume it works exactly like Magic.

Constructed decks are minimum 40 cards, with 3 copies max of each card. Limited decks are 30 cards, with unlimited copies.

Begin the game by putting five cards face down as "shields" (can't look at them) and then drawing five cards for your hand.

Phases are in this strict order: 1) Untap. 2) Draw (minus first turn of the game). 3) Play a land. 4) Play cards. 5) Attack. That's it. You cannot break the order. You cannot, for instance, play cards and then play a land. There is no second main phase. There are no instants.

As I said about mana, you only need to have ONE, say, blue card anywhere in your mana to cast any mono-blue cards in your hand. You simply need to tap the required amount of lands to cast it. You do not even need to tap the blue mana to cast a blue card; all your lands are like Reflecting Pools. To cast a multicolor card, you need both colors in your mana. Multicolor cards enter your mana tapped (it says so on the cards themselves!).

Creatures attack one at a time, instead of declaring one big attack step. Each creature has an option: it can either a) attack the opponent or b) attack a tapped creature. Attacking the opponent means attacking an opponent's shield card. You get to pick which shield, but normally that's irrelevant.

What happens when you attack an opponent's shield? Well, they look at it (not reveal, look). And usually, they put it in their hand. But sometimes, it says "shield blast" on it, and then they can cast that card for free. (So kind of like miracle.) If they don't want to cast it, they just put it into their hand. Sometimes, multiple shields break at once. In those cases, they look at BOTH. If they're both shield blasts, they choose the order they want to cast them.

If you attack an opponent who has no shields, they lose the game. And you win the game. Good job.

When two creatures engage in combat, the creature with the greater power wins. The creature with the smaller power dies. If they have the same number, they trade. It is actually that straightforward; damage doesn't stick around at all.

What about blocking? Some creatures can do this, not all. A blocker can get in the way of an oncoming attacker, whether it is going for shields or another creature. A blocker taps to block, so it can only block once. There is no double blocking. Note that since a blocker taps to block, it can be subsequently attacked by another creature.

There is no hand size limit.

If a player's deck runs out of cards, that player loses immediately. They don't need to "attempt to draw" first.

One mechanic needs some explaining: evolution. Evolution creature cards are played on top of other creatures in play, often of a specific creature type. They're treated as a single entity. The card underneath follows the evolution card on top, no matter what. It dies? Both cards go to the graveyard. It gets bounced? Both cards get bounced. Note that evolving a creature gives it haste.

Quick Translations (Kaijudo term = Magic term):
Banish = Destroy
Spell = Non-creature card
Rush = Aggro
Light Water Darkness Fire Nature = White Blue Black Red Green
Civilization = Color

And that's it, pretty much. For the rest, just read the cards. Or ask someone who knows what they're doing.

I recommend going to if you want a little practice. They have a free browser game. Sign up, and you can play against an AI. (This is what I did initially.)

You can also see if your store has Kaijudo events. Or you can buy a couple starter decks and teach a friend. Or you can teach a lot of friends and just try drafting it (which I saw some adventurous people do at Gen Con).

If you want some competitive decklists, try here. Mono-Red is a very cheap deck ($20-30) and competitive. I play Megabugs, which is around $150. There are more expensive decks, but you might want to work up to them. My article on my deck is here.

If you're looking for a good generic resource, I recommend this Wiki. There are, really, only four complete sets out of the game (the first one is full of reprints), with a new one coming up called Shattered Alliances, which introduces enemy-colored multicolor cards.

If you have any questions feel free to message me on Facebook or Twitter.