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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
May 19 2007 6:55am
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ROGUE PLAY

by Nafiz Erman

Episode X: "Through the Gate"

Welcome dear readers to the 10th edition of Rogue Play, which will be another special edition; "Through the Gate". As I said, this will be another special edition. I thought that while waiting for Future Sight to be online, it is the the perfect time to present you another online game which you may find interesting.

First of all let's clarify one thing; I know that you're asking yourself this question: "What is this all about? Another online game's advertisement on a Magic site?" Well let me start my article by answering this question.

We all believe that Magic is the best TCG game ever created, don't we? But let me warn you; believing and knowing are two different things. I know that it is the best TCG game, because I played many others in the past and still do play some. Playing other games gives you the opportunity to compare them to each other. And only this way, you can say that one is superior to the others. This is one of the reasons that I am going to present you another online game. So you can see the differences. So you can see why Magic is Magic and others are... uhm, well... others!

Also one other reason is that Stargate Online is really worth a try. The game is the newest game in online gaming scene, it is only 1 month old but the player base is growing everyday. Which makes it more interesting. Some other online games are very old and one can have doubts about joining one of them because of many reasons. There will be tons of new rules to learn, hundereds of cards to go through and so on. But here it is different. As I said, the game is very new, the player number is still too low compared to MTGO and there is only one set of cards to go through. And the rules, which I will talk about, are not that complicated.

So without losing more time, let us go through the gate and jump into this new and strange world.

WHAT IS STARGATE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

I am absolutely sure that almost all of you know what Stargate is. But there might be one or two readers out there somewhere, who don't know what it is, and therefore I have to give the following information.

First of all everything has started with the well known Stargate movie made in 1994. In a summary, I can tell that the movie was about an interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, that leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra.

The movie was a huge success and shortly after, the television series called SG-1 has started. Now SG-1 is in its 10th season. And this TCG is about that successful television series; SG-1(which is also the name of the first set of Stargate Online). For more information about SG-1 television show, click here.

STARGATE ONLINE TCG

Now let us step through the gate! In Stargate Online TCG, you'll guide a team of characters on journeys to other worlds, overcoming obstacles, defeating adversaries, and completing missions along the way.

 

         

 

You'll start every game commanding 4 team characters. At the start of the game after your 4 team characters were played and your 12 missions(will be explained later) were placed seperately in your mission pile, the rest of your cards are shuffled to create your deck and from it you draw an opening hand of 8 cards.

 

Your deck contains both hero cards(the good side, cards with the Stargate symbol at the top left corner. Take a look at Jack O'Neill) and villain cards(the bad guys, cards with the pyramid symbol on them like this Apophis). Most of the time your hand will include a mix of both, but during your turn you can only play your hero cards whereas your opponent is trying to stop you with his villain cards. During your opponent's turn, he is now trying to accomplish missions with his hero cards and you try to stop him with your villain cards.

 

Let's examine the cards a little bit closer. The most important part about a Character card is his skills. Each character has a rating in the 4 different skills used in the game. These are the symbols and the numbers to the left of their pictures. From top to bottom, the skills are Culture, Science, Combat and Ingenuity.

There are 2 different types of characters in the game. The first one is Team and the second is Support. The Daniel Jackson card you see here and the Jack O'Neill card above are team characters. These are the cards you can select for your starting team of 4 characters. They will explore the galaxy, complete missions and eventually win you the game.

The support characters are representing the individuals your team comes across during their journeys. They are played like we play enchantments in Magic and help your team accomplishing the missions. And they are not removed after a mission is completed. The villain player must play certain cards to get rid of them or they'll stay until the end of the game(like we play Disenchant to remove enchantments).

Here are some Support characters from the game

Now let us examine the missions. There are 3 different ways for winning the game in Stargate TCG and two of them are related to missions. So we can say that the missions are the most important cards in the game. Selecting the proper missions for your deck is essential.

Each deck contains exactly 12 missions. They represent the places you'll send your team and the goal they are trying to achieve. Mission cards are not shuffled into your deck! They form a different pile and at the start of your turn you take the top mission card and put in on the table and so the first journey of your team begins.

During your turn, you are the hero player. Your goal is to complete missions like this one you see;  Investigate Disappearance. Your opponent is the villain player and during your turn his goal is to try and prevent you from completing missions.

To complete a missions you assign characters who possess the skill it requires. In this case it is Culture. Look at the Daniel Jackson card above. It has 3 Culture(the yellow book symbol). So you can assign him to this mission. Invastigate Disappearance requires 3 Culture and by assigning Daniel Jackson you meet this requirement. But this is the part where the villain cards interfere.

There are 2 types of villain cards; Adversary cards(like the above Apophis) and Obstacle cards.

Obstacle cards represent the unexpected trials and challenges a team faces as it travels through the galaxy. An obstacle could be anything from a strange disease to hostile natives or to governmental red tape back on Earth. 

Obstacles are like instants in Magic. They always raise the difficulty of the current mission and most of the time they also have a one time effect. This Parasitic Insects card for example can be played while there is a Combat or a Science mission on table. If it is a Combat mission, this obstacle raises its difficulty by 2 and if it is a Science mission, then it raises the difficulty by 1.

Adversaries by the way, represent individuals that oppose a team, such as Goa'uld System Lords, Priors of the Ori and other major enemies. They are in a way similar to the support characters of the hero side, because they also stay on table after played(under some certain conditions which are irrelevant right now).

Now let's see all these theorical information on action.

 

This is the beginning of my turn. The 4 characters you see are my team; Teal'c, Vala Mal Doran, Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell. I played a mission which is called Expose Blackmail. By the way, at the beginning of the game, you shuffle your mission pile too, so you don't know what's on top of it. Expose Blackmail requires 4 Ingenuity to accomplish and it seems that I have good chances of completing this mission. 
Also let me remind you that the game screen is much bigger than this but I only took this particular part to show you. Normally you have many other things on the screen, one being your hand of course, but those parts of the screen are irrelevant right now.
The cards as you see, are shown only as half in Stargate Online. This in my opinion is the one and only big minus this game has. To see the full card, you have to click on it. And if you're new to the game and don't know all the cards, this causes some serious slow play. Anyway let's continue and see what happens.

First I assigned Vala Mal Doran to the mission. My opponent passed. Then I assigned Daniel Jackson. They both have a total Ingenuity of 5 and the original difficulty of the mission was 4, so normally I should have succeeded. But life is not that easy of course.
My opponent played an obstacle called Blood of Sokar. This obstacle raised the difficulty of the mission by 2 making it 6. I still have some unassigned characters and some power left(power is mana in Stargate. I will talk about it later).
Let's see how things turn out.

Now you see a bigger portion of the screen. I have two support characters on table and my opponent has one adversary. Fortunately for me, his adversary cannot be assigned to this mission because it doesn't have Ingenuity skills. 
First I assigned Teal'c to the mission. But my opponent played a complication. A complication can be any card in your hand. You just play it  face down for 1 power to raise the difficulty of the current mission by 1. And after my move, my opponent played a complication raising the difficulty by 1, to a total of 7(look above Blood of Sokar, the complication is that, a face down played card). I still lose this mission at the moment.
But I have a support character called Khonsu in front of me which has 2 Ingenuity skills(and a very good game text which you cannot see now) so I assign him to the mission.

I assigned Khonsu to the mission too. My opponent passed and I succeeded!

This is the scene after a battle for the mission ends. My 3 team characters who were involved in this mission are stopped as you see. I am not limited to play only 1 mission per turn in Stargate. But the characters who get involved in one mission during the given turn are stopped and they cannot take part in a second(or even third) mission you may want to play during that turn. Therefore it is always better to use support characters first rather than the team characters. In the above situation I'm left with only Cameron Mitchell active after the mission.
Now another important thing. You see a symbol on the mission card where previously was a picture. That is a glyph. Earning glyphs is one of the three ways to victory in this game. If you can earn seven glyphs in a game you win the game. But the glyphs are actually much more sophisticated than that. Look at my stopped Daniel Jackson. It has a yellow symbol at the right top corner. That is a previously accomplished mission. And he has the glyph of that mission(also my Teal'c has another one as you can see).

So now you saw the very basic way of playing the game. Unfortunately(or perhaps fortunately) it is not as simple as I showed you. There are many tactics, strategies and some more action going on during a game.

Now I will also talk about some other things in general. The card you see here, Walter Harriman, is now the most expensive(most expansive in Stargate=$6,00 by the way) and highly sought after card. What does it do? Let's read it together.

At the start of your power phase means your upkeep in Magic. Power is mana in this game. You start the game with 3 power. And so does the villain player. Look at Walter Harriman's cost, it is 3. This means you can play him during your first turn. After you succeed on a mission, during your next turn you then start with 4 power. So it is 3 + the accomplished missions so far. But remember! If you start your turn say with 7 power, so does the villain player. You may play more expensive(power-wise) cards but the villain player plays also better cards to stop you!

So back to Walter Harriman. This card basically lets you look at the top 2 missions of your mission pile and choose one. And to be able to select which mission to play in which order, is the key to victory in this game.

I said before that you must have exactly 12 missions in your deck. Unfortunately you cannot select 12 Combat missions for example and play. You must have 3 of each type of missions in your deck. Meaning 3x Culture missions, 3x Science missions, 3x Combat missions and 3x Ingenuity missions. Some players build decks to be able to do well in all types of missions. But the lesson I learned so far is that this isn't such a good strategy.

Please look at my team above for one second. Look at their Science(the green bottle) skills. Three of them is zero and one is 1. You see? I am totally skipping Science missions! But this is a very risky move. There are many science obstacles and adversaries strong in science who are more than willing to punish you for doing that.

And this is the part where Walter Harriman shines. He helps me to select missions. And with his help, I (almost) never play science missions at all! And this ability makes him the most expensive card in the game.

And why do I skip a type of mission? To be able to be more stronger in the other 3 of course! Instead of dedicating a certain portion of my deck to a specific mission type, I fill that part with more cards for the other 3 types of missions.

   

There are two other types of cards in Stargate. One is called Gear. You may think of these cards as artifacts in Magic. The one you see here is a good one for example. 
Remember that my team characters get stopped after completing a mission? Well normally they cannot be used in the second mission I may want to play during the same turn. This card, Transport Rings, helps me cheat this rule. For 3 power, I can ready a stopped character. Meaning I can use that character again in the same turn. Neat isn't it?

   

And this card here is an EventEvent cards are exactly the same as the instant cards in Magic. They have absolutely the same impact on the game. Normally you hold an Event card  in your hand and the moment your opponent thinks you will fail the mission, you play it as an element of surprise. This one here, called Quick Study, boosts a character's Ingenuity skill. And if it is a SGC character, like Daniel Jackson or Jack O'Neill you saw above, it gives +2 instead of +1. Again a very useful card.

This here is the full screen. To fit it into here, I had to resize it and it doesn't look great now but otherwise it would have been a huge screenshot. Now you see my hand. All the villain cards I have in hand during my hero turn are blurred. In this screenshot they all are villain cards. At the left bottom corner you see my avatar and my opponent's avatar. I will zoom to that area in a moment and talk about it.
At the middle left corner you see a Stargate symbol and a number of 5 and above it a pyramid symbol and a number of 1. This shows the remaining power both players have left. As I'm the hero player in this screenshot, I have 5 power(mana) left whereas my opponent has only 1.

Now this is the lower left corner of the screen. What do we have here? You see 3 icons and some numbers next to them. They are representing the 3 ways of winning available in game and tell you how close you are to each one of them.

The first icon is a glyph. I told you that the moment you earn 7 glyphs, you win the game. Take a look at my score. It says 6/7. This means at that moment I have 6 glyphs out of 7. This means if I am going for a glyph win, I need one more. My opponent on the other hand is 1/7. And this shows that I was very successful with my villain cards to stop him accomplishing his missions. He almost always failed.

Skipping the second icon, the third one is a pyramid symbol as you see. That is a very rare win condition which is called villain win. This win condition requires a very specific deck type and I will not discuss it here now.

Now the second icon is representing experience win. Now scroll a little bit up to the full screenshot above. Take a look at the mission there. On the right bottom corner, there is a number. That number represents the experience you get from that mission if you can succeed. So if I can succeed at that mission I earn a glyph and the experience points as well. Experience win is the most common win method in Stargate. Now how to win via this method?

When you start the game, you don't pay for your starting team. You just play them. Like we play Leyline of the Void if we have it in our opening hand. In Stargate, playing the team characters happen even before the game starts. Again, you don't pay anything for them. But there is a catch. All the team characters have a cost number at the top left corner. Look at the 2 team characters below for a second and look at their costs. At the start of the game you add all your 4 team characters' cost onto each other and this is the limit of experience your opponent needs to have, if he wants to win via this win condition.

Now my team is, as you can see above, Teal'c with a cost of 4, Vala Mal Doran with a cost of 5, Daniel Jackson with a cost of 5 and Cameron Mitchell with a cost of 3. Add them onto each other and you have 17. Now look at my opponent's second win condition just above. It says 1/17. That 17 is the total of my team characters' costs. And look at my second win condition. It says 19/16. This means that my opponent's team's total cost was 16 and I accomplished missions with a total of 19 experience so far and thus I won.

         

This version of Jack O'Neill as you see has a cost of 2. In Stargate, there is one very simple rule. The better the team character is, the lower the cost of it. So if you make a team of 4 characters with a cost of 2 each, the total will be 8 and this means that your opponent can win the game even on turn 1. So you want to raise the total as much as you can. And this one of the challanges of deck building in Stargate.

 

This team character, called Charles Kawalsky, has a cost of 6. 6 is the highest cost we have right now for team characters. But if the cost for a team character is so high, you can also guess that it isn't a very good card in general. 
Compare Charles' stats to Jack's. You already see the difference. But the real difference is the game text. This version of Jack, just like the Walter Harriman card I mentioned above, allows you to look at the top 2 missions and select which one to play. A clearly very good card. Charles here on the other hand, does not have a very good game text. And this is the reason he has a high cost and Jack a lower one.

Your team is one of the most important parts of your deck(perhaps even the most important part). If you want to add a good card like the Jack O'Neill above to your team, then you must add at least 2 characters with a cost of 6 into your team. Meaning to have a truely powerful team character in your team, you have to have at least 2 useless characters too.

By the way in Stargate, we have C for common, U for uncommon, R for rare just like we have in Magic. But then we have UR meaning Ultra Rare(the Jack O'Neill above is a UR), S for Starter (meaning cards you can only get with preconstructed decks), D for Digital(there are cards with video-clips; they cost like 10 times more than their normal version because you can watch a particular part of SG-1 on a card!!!) and P for Promo(there is one promo card with an alternate picture right now).

MAGIC vs. STARGATE

Now this is the best part. I'm at the moment playing both games and I think I have enough experience and knowledge of both games to compare them to each other.

1- Magic is the oldest TCG game(correct me if it isn't). Magic is almost 15 years old. This is a very big plus to Magic. There are 1000's of cards so far in Magic and this fact alone makes it superior to all the other TCG games not only to Stargate. If a game is so old, it shows how successful it is.
Magic: 1 - Stargate: 0

2- No other game has more card combinations like Magic has. The moment WOTC releases a new set, there are always many cards which have a huge impact on every type of format in Magic. Stargate on the other hand, has only 1 set so far and it would be funny to talk about "depth" in Stargate.
Magic: 2 - Stargate: 0

3- Speaking of card combinations, we can also speak of combos and combo decks like Dragonstorm we have right now. There isn't such a deck in Stargate at the moment. Of course there are good card combinations in Stargate too but I wouldn't call them combo.
Magic: 3 - Stargate: 0

4- Magic actually is a paper game and Stargate's paper version will be released in the near future or is about to be released these days.
Magic: 4 - Stargate: 0

5- Stargate Online as of now has a much better interface then Magic Online. The game lobby, the main screen, collection screen, the main game screen which you saw above are clearly better than Magic. And I'm afraid it will be even much more better when V3 comes out.
Magic: 4 - Stargate: 1

6- There is a very good "tutorial" in Stargate Online. It explains every detail of the game. One can clearly understand the game's every aspect after playing those tutorial games. Also Stargate Online has the "Tips" option available which are helping new players a lot. So Stargate Online is much more beginners friendly compared to Magic Online.
Magic: 4 - Stargate: 2

7- Stargate Online has a "skirmish" mode where you can play against computer. Clearly a much more better option than "Solitaire" we have in Magic Online. So if you have a new deck, you can test it against computer first and see if it's working or not. And computer has 4 different decks with 2 different difficulties. Clearly something very well thought of.
Magic: 4 - Stargate: 3

8- Stargate Online never crashes!!! The game almost has no bugs. We will see what will happen when they have more and more players playing the game but right now this is a very big plus for Stargate Online.
Magic: 4 - Stargate: 4

9- Speaking of player base, no other game can be compared to Magic in this criteria.
Magic: 5 - Stargate: 4

10-  Stargate Online is A LOT cheaper to get involved in. I mean this actually is a very important point. In every set of Magic, there are cards with a price more than $10 or even sometimes more than $20(how much does Hallowed Fountain costs?!). I'm talking about one card here! To get a playset, you imagine how much you should pay. And I'm only speaking of the standard format's cards not some Orim's Chant or Meddling Mage. Not even Black Lotus or other power 9 cards! To have a tourney-worth deck in Magic, unfortunately you have to spend a fortune. Just the mana base costs more than $100!!! Do you want to play a three colour deck with all the Ravnica dual lands? Good luck to you and your wallet. The most expensive card in Stargate costs like $6,00 and you don't need more than 1 of that card.
Magic: 5 - Stargate: 5

11- On the other hand, playing Magic for fun is very cheap. So if you don't have the intention of playing competitive Magic, money is not an issue in Magic. In Stargate however, there is no difference between competitive play and casual play. They all cost almost the same.
Magic: 6 - Stargate: 5

12- Speaking of competitive play, you don't have to have a rares only deck in Stargate to succeed. There are very good commons and uncommons and with a good balanced deck you can do wonders. In Magic however, this is only an utopia.
Magic: 6 - Stargate: 6

13- Stargate as I said many times before, is a very new game. It can be a huge success. But it can fizzle too. Be aware of that before you start playing it.
Magic: 7- Stargate: 6

14- Magic has 3 main types of decks; Aggro, Combo and Control. And there are decks in between like Aggro-Control too. Stargate's deck types are not that rich as of now.
Magic: 8 - Stargate: 6

15- When you register for Magic, you get a starter deck and 1 ticket. When you register for Stargate, you get a starter deck, a promo card and 2 boosters. Boosters have the same price in both games. Registration for Magic costs $9,99 and for Stargate something like $14. Including the 2 boosters and that promo card which goes for $3 in the secondary market, Stargate's offer is much more better.
Magic: 8 - Stargate: 7

16- Having cards only shown as half during game as you saw above, is a very big minus to Stargate.
Magic: 9 - Stargate: 7

17- Trading... In Magic we have at least bots. So anytime during day or night doesn't matter, you can get the cards you need. Also there are resellers like MTGO TRADERS, where you can buy the singles you need instead of trading with mindless bots or opening boosters for new cards. Stargate doesn't have such a thing. There are no resellers at the moment and trade is done in a trade screen where you post the card you want and the card(s) you offer in return. If someone likes your offer, the trade's done. If not, you stuck with the cards you don't want in your binder forever or try to get rid of them for a cheaper price.
Magic: 10 - Stargate: 7

18- Speaking of trade, there is NO way you can be scammed during a trade in Stargate. That is a perfect protection. Well done!
Magic: 10 - Stargate: 8

19- To enter a tournament in Stargate, you have to pay 5 EPS(event passes). This is more than we have in Magic. But as long as you don't finish the tournament as the last, you get a booster pack back. And if you can finish in top 3(which I never did), there are even bigger prizes. Magic also gives prizes but let's imagine that there are 32 players in the tournament and you finish 31st. Horrible isn't it? Well you still get a booster which will help you smile again!
Magic: 10 - Stargate: 9

20- Speaking of tournaments... Your rating starts at 1500 in Stargate. Mine is now 1533 by the way and this is something important let me tell you!!! But there are tournament sharks just like in every game, who has ratings higher than 1700 now(like 1900+ in Magic). So you're a beginner and want to participate in tournaments but want to avoid those sharks. No problem, join a "new players tournament" where only (as the name says) new players are allowed to join. Again, a very well thought option.
Magic: 10 - Stargate: 10

21- There are too many keywords in Magic. There are only a few in Stargate which makes it easy to learn the game. I'm not a fan of keywords, I think that they only help making the game harder to understand and to play, so this point will go to Stargate.
Magic: 10 - Stargate: 11

22- I already mentioned the player base. Another addition to it. If you have a Magic deck in your pocket and go to your local game shop, you will definately find someone to play. Stargate? It's just new. No one or only a couple of players even know that it exists.
Magic: 11 - Stargate: 11

23- Magic is very set in it's way. But we don't know where Stargate is heading. Or even if it will continue or not.
Magic: 12 - Stargate: 11

24- MTGO community has its share of annoying and abusive people. The Stargate community on the other hand is much more friendlier. It appears that the ratio of scumbags to nice people gets higher the more noticeable is a game in mainstream culture.
Magic: 12 - Stargate: 12

25- The guild system(the clans in MTGO) in Stargate is horrible. There isn't even a seperate chat screen for the guild members to chat. Even if you join a guild, you still are on your own. Very badly done.
Magic: 13 - Stargate: 12

Okay that's all I can think of right now. I'm sure I'm missing something but these 25 points in general will give you an idea. My personal feeling? I tell this to the Stargate community too and I will tell it here to the Magic community as well. I see no harm in playing both games at the same time. I enjoy both. Because they're both different games.

For example I also play(ed) Lord of the Rings Online. But after I started playing Stargate, I stopped playing LOTR completely. LOTR and Stargate have many similarities regarding gameplay and Stargate is just superior to LOTR in many aspects. Playing similar games makes no sense to me at all. But as I said, Magic and Stargate are totaly different games.

So... What did we learned in this article? We definately learned the basics of Stargate Online if nothing else. We also compared 2 online TCG games to each other(from my personal perspective of course). The result?

Magic is by far the best game ever created. No doubts on that. But Magic Online? Hmm... You make your own decision on that but let me tell you that Stargate Online is offering a tough challenge to Magic Online.

By the way this is the link for Stargate Online.

If you think it seems interesting so far, then I suggest you to download the client and play the tutorial. If you like it, you can play pratice games in the casual room even without registering. So it is free. This option is also available in Magic Online. And after a while you decide. If you like it then register and start playing and if you don't like it, simply uninstall it.

Thanks for reading.

Take care.
Nafiz ERMAN, a.k.a. Lord Erman

PS: A quick reminder. The deadline of the first Custom Card Contest we have in our forums is drawing near. Make sure to post your cards before it's too late!