Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Making Magic in the Arena - Jumpstart

Jumpstart is one of the innovative and interesting formats I've seen the designers at Wizards of the Coast come up with. This weird hybrid format, combining the focus of pre-constructed decks with the variety that comes from a Limited format like Draft or Sealed.

Though boxes of it are hard to come by and too expensive when they are, largely due to Covid-related manufacturing issues, a version of it has come to MTG: Arena for us to play in the meantime. Is this new way to play all it's cracked up to be? Or is Jumpstart dead in the water?

Let's find out.

Each Jumpstart pack contains 20 cards, including lands, that all fit a singular theme. By combining the contents of any two of the packs, a deck of 40 cards can be created, fully playable without any need on the player's part to sift through the contents of those packs to build their own brew with what they have. The Professor at Tolarian Community College goes into greater detail, but the idea is that new and veteran players alike can "Jumpstart" their game by opening a few packs, jamming them together and getting straight to the gameplay.

And this concept largely works. While come themes are clearly a bit stronger than others, all of them have the potential to both hold their own and synergize with other themes in the set. The addition of the Thriving lands for mana fixing help alleviate the problem of mana screw that players could otherwise experience in a set like this, and even two wholly unrelated themes can still win games.

A lot of pre-constructed products have a problem where they result in extremely slow games, as a combined result of many high-CMC cards and lands the ETB tapped. Thankfully, in the hour of game I played, this didn't seem to be an issue. I was almost always starting to make meaningful plays by turn two. There's even a decent suite of combat tricks and removal to allow for very interactive gameplay and creative combos.

Overall, I hope this is a mode that stays in Arena long term. It might have even persuaded me to look for a box myself once production evens out and prices return to reasonable levels.

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