Planechase Anthology: A Celebration of Magic's History

Posted in Feature on November 14, 2016

By Nicholas Wolfram

Nicholas Wolfram fell promptly in love with tabletop and video games when he was only two years old, and he has been writing about them since he figured out how words worked. Now he puts together words about Magic, which he started playing way back in 2000.

Magic has built up quite a bit of history over the past 23 years. With dozens of known planes inhabited by countless creatures, the story of Magic runs deep and wide. Some players have been playing Magic for years, and the story is an ocean they have no problem diving into. For other players such as myself who have barely scratched the surface of the story, it can seem almost impossible to breach at times. Fortunately, Planechase Anthology offers an approach to the Magic story that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their existing familiarity.

As a chaotic and unpredictable trip through the many planes of Magic, Planechase Anthology will offer veteran players a nostalgic trip through Magic's history (and possibly a glimpse into its future) and newer players a crash course on the settings we've seen throughout Magic's lore.

What's in the Box?

To understand the appeal of Planechase Anthology, first you have to understand what you're getting. Here's a quick rundown of everything the shiny box contains:

  • Four ready-to-play 60-card decks from Planechase (2012 Edition), each with eight rare cards (for the exact decklists, check out the Planechase 2012 product page)
  • 86 oversized Planar cards, including 78 plane cards and 8 phenomenon cards
  • Four slide deck boxes
  • Oversize slide deck box
  • 35 double-sided token cards
  • Special edition planar die
  • Four Spindown life counters
  • Strategy insert
  • Did I mention the box is shiny?

After a few minutes of ritual unboxing, you're ready to hit the table with up to three of your buddies for some four-player mayhem.

A different way to play Magic

If you've played any of the other Planechase versions before, you should be pretty familiar with how Anthology works. Out of the box, the game is ready for two to four players to throw down in a game of free-for-all Magic with one big twist: you're actively walking across the many planes of Magic throughout the game, and each plane has its own rule-shifting effects. The dynamic lands of Zendikar may help you search for basic lands, or the harsh world of Phyrexia may have you sacrificing your nonblack creatures. Each turn, the active player has the opportunity to roll the planar die in an attempt to either take further advantage of the current plane or move to the next plane. You never know where you'll be headed next until you're already on your way!

Immerse yourself as a planeswalker

Having never played Planechase before, I'll admit that I was skeptical going into my first play session of Planechase Anthology, but it only took a few turns for me to be completely sold. As an avid board gamer, I tend to shy away from games with increased random chance unless they have a strong reason to pull me back in, and the gameplay flavor that comes with Planechase Anthology is exactly the kind of reason I look for.

We all know that the premise of Magic is that we as players are powerful Planeswalker battling it out by using our mana resources to cast spells, but I have rarely felt that way during a game. However, during Planechase, I fully felt like an unstoppable Planeswalker dashing across the entirety of the Multiverse as I cast enchantments and summoned creatures to do my bidding. The rolling of the planar die only helps to exemplify the natural chaos that comes with battle. Sometimes it would turn the tides in my favor just enough for me to take away board control from an opponent, and sometimes it would wrest that control back from me and hand it to a new player. Regardless of whether a new plane was my boon or my bane, each reveal was tense and exciting. But this additional level of immersion in the game wasn't the only appeal for me.

As I mentioned earlier, Planechase Anthology manages to collect tomes of Magic history and lore and pack them into one compact Magic experience. As someone with only cursory knowledge of this lore, it was an intriguing trip to take across the many planes of the Multiverse. Planes familiar to me that I haven't seen in a while such as Dominaria brought a warm sense of nostalgia, while planes I have heard of but never personally visited in gameplay such as Kamigawa gave me a glimpse at some of the more colorful locations I may have missed along the way. The art and abilities of locations we have yet to see in a set (such as Jace's home plane of Vryn) paint a vivid picture of what that locale is like, so even new planes can quickly seem familiar. Making the deep background of Magic easily accessible means the game offers a lot more captivation than your average game of Magic.

After the games are done

While the included Planechase rules and decks offer hours of dynamic game time, eventually that itch all Magic players get is going to hit you: the need to customize. There may never have been a Magic player who acquired a preconstructed deck without soon feeling the need to make it their own with a little fiddling. And Planechase Anthology offers a lot more customization than most Magic bundles.

The four decks that come in the box are already finely tuned to accomplish their goals, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. For example, with Maelstrom Wanderer and a number of other cascade cards looking for free spells in the "Chaos Reigns" deck, I know I'll be adding in Rashmi, Eternities Crafter for more free casting. And with a boatload of enchantments-matter cards in "Savage Auras," I'll be throwing in Opalescence (one of my old favorites) to make them matter a little more. As always, the deck customization that can be done with these decks in endless!

While tweaking preconstructed decks is always fun, the customization that really makes Planechase stand out is the Planar cards themselves. These are at the core of what makes a game of Planechase so chaotic and thrilling, and there's no reason they need to stay confined to what comes with Planechase Anthology. One of my coworkers is eager to bring these cards to his next game of Commander to make the board just a little more unpredictable. I might bring them next time my friends and I draft Kaladesh to amp up the craziness. These cards do a great job of throwing a wrench in everyone's engine, so it's fun to see how they play out in the many formats of Magic.

Planechase Anthology is an outstanding way to celebrate both the story and gameplay of Magic. With some wild new twists hitting the battlefield every time the plane changes, the game has you constantly adjusting your strategy and keeps you from resorting to your normal bag of Magic tricks. I can't wait to play again!

Be sure to pick up your own copy when Planechase Anthology releases on November 25, 2016.

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