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I've never sided with Caesar in Fallout: New Vegas but I'm guiltily playing his deck in Magic: The Gathering

 Caesar prepares to judge someone with his thumb.
Caesar prepares to judge someone with his thumb.

I thought I'd want the deck with Dogmeat as the Commander, because obviously I love Dogmeat. I even went to all the trouble of boosting my Luck score and wandering back and forth across the desert to find the Café of Broken Dreams so I could recruit him in Fallout 2. (If you attack Dogmeat there he's defended by his true owner: Mel Gibson. Fallout 2 is a silly place.)

But here's the thing. The version of Dogmeat on the Magic: The Gathering x Fallout cards is explicitly the Fallout 4 version of Dogmeat, complete with goggles and bandana, and I'm no fan of Fallout 4. Sure, Nick Valentine was my best bud, but my top two Fallouts are the original and New Vegas, and Fallout 4 is wahaaay down the list.

It's worth mentioning that each of these Magic decks comes with two Commanders to choose from, so while Dogmeat is the default Commander for the Scrappy Survivors deck there is a second option. Unfortunately, that second option is Preston Garvey.

I decided to go with the Hail, Caesar deck instead, even though in three playthroughs of New Vegas I've never sided with Caesar's Legion once. While I appreciate Caesar's dedication to the historically accurate pronunciation of Roman names, he's a bigot, a slaver, and a poster boy for all those annoying "hard men have to make hard decisions" dudes. That said, his deck also has Butch from Fallout 3 in it, and Tunnel Snakes rule.

Unlike the Warhammer 40,000 crossover decks, the Fallout ones aren't tightly themed around specific factions, but broader themes related to the setting. Hail, Caesar has the military types who think the Big Guns skill can solve all problems, including noted Caesar-hater Boone. The well-named Science! deck has techy characters like Rex, Cyber-Hound and Nick Valentine, while Mutant Menace has anyone rad-related, from OG villain The Master to Raul, the ghoul voiced by Danny Trejo in New Vegas, and the Mothman from Fallout 76. Scrappy Survivors, the Dogmeat Deck, is all about scavenging the old world to build the new, which is why it gives you Moira Brown and Veronica.

Scrappy Survivors seemed popular among the group I played with—at a table of four, two players had Dogmeat as their Commander. The other played the Science! deck with Dr. Madison Li in charge (their alternate choice was Liberty Prime), while I played Caesar. His deck brings back the Squad mechanic introduced in the 40K crossover, which lets you summon additional copies of certain cards for two extra mana each. You can make as many Gary Clones as you can afford, and I used it to bulk up my force with bonus Wasteland Raiders. Once I played Caesar himself, his ability to create extra soldiers every time you attack pushed me into aggressive play and gave me a growing army of disposable goons to back it up, which was all in-character.

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

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Fallout x Magic: The Gathering
Fallout x Magic: The Gathering

Meanwhile, one of the Dogmeats fell early to the other Scrappy Survivors deck. It really is a dog-eat-dog Wasteland out there. Dr. Madison Li put together a force of flying vehicles none of us could counter—despite having ED-E, Lonesome Eyebot in my deck, who can fly, as well as Boone, who has the Reach ability to let him snipe fliers out of the sky, I didn't draw either all game. But neither the mad science air force nor the Legion's army managed to win the match. Instead, the last Scrappy Survivor piled every buff and piece of equipment possible onto Dogmeat, creating an unholy Dogzilla who got more powerful every time he attacked thanks to the Pip-Boy 3000 letting him "pick a perk" and gain a +1/+1 counter each time. How he got that Pip-Boy to stay on his paw I'll never know.

I would have tried to pit my entire horde against the over-leveled mutant dog, except for a well-timed Single Combat card that deleted all but one creature every player owned and prevented us from playing replacements for an entire turn. Neither I nor Dr. Li had any individual card that could stand up to the hound who was, by the end, a 19/17 monstrosity with Hexproof, Trample, and Double Strike. We could probably have stopped him from getting that point, at least before he squeezed the Champion's Helm on and gave himself Hexproof, but neither of us really wanted to shoot a dog. Even as Caesar, even knowing it was the inferior Fallout 4 incarnation, I held off on gunning for my loyal dog friend.

Skeletons in a milk bar, from the Fallout x Magic: The Gathering card Casualties of War
Skeletons in a milk bar, from the Fallout x Magic: The Gathering card Casualties of War

That's the fun thing about these crossovers. While a subset of old Magic heads moan about "Fortnite-ification", Magic's setting has always been such generic fantasy I've rarely felt much attachment to the characters on its cards. Give me a Fallout, Lord of the Rings, or Warhammer deck and I immediately have strong feelings about, say, the White Glove Gourmand, who lets you swap dead people for healing Food tokens. Or Ian the Reckless, who can damage you as well as enemies just like when I foolishly gave him a burst-fire weapon all the way back in the original Fallout.

Maybe next time I'll switch to the Hail, Caesar's other Commander, Mr. House, and be a bit more ruthless. His ability lets you gamble, paying mana to roll dice each turn and create a 3/3 robot for every 4+ you get. Everybody knows robots don't have feelings.

Please don't remind me about Nick Valentine being my best bud.