Currently Playing…Vol.7

nblade

Ninja Blade (360)-I think the only way I can accurately describe Ninja Blade is by saying that it’s a cross between Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and an action movie. The story is as follows: You play as a ninja, Ken Ogawa, who is a member of an elite special forces team that the Japanese government has called in to try and destroy an infection of Alpha worms that is slowly taking over Tokyo, turning its residents into monster worm creature things. The graphics are decent (although a little on the dark side), the controls are easy to get a hang of, and the gameplay is fun…when you are actually playing that is. My only complaint is that there are just way too many of those damn “push <insert button letter here> now” QTE (Quick Time Event) challenges. Unfortunately it’s a huge piece of this game. This is where the action movie comparison comes into play. After pushing one button, a scene plays out, usually followed by a prompt to quickly hit another button, which is then followed by another scene..etc. After awhile, it feels like you are not playing the game at all, you’re just a monkey hitting a button (hopefully) fast enough to move the movie along. If you didn’t hit it fast enough, or pressed the wrong one, then the scene rewinds until you actually press the correct damn button fast enough. It’s not like you lose a life or anything, it just rewinds. It’s too bad that they went so heavy on this mechanic, as the game could have been so much better than it is. That said, it’s still a good action/adventure game with a Devil May Cry-like combat system, neat abilities like running along walls and super speed, multiple swords to choose from, and absolutely massive bosses that will make your jaw drop. Fun (sad) fact: In 2009, Ninja Blade made Gamepro’s “Top 5 games that no one is playing” list.

 

Lessons from the Kitchen Table Vol.3: Get out of that Gaming Rut

Most of you have been there before: the dreaded game rut. Everything you own sucks. Why the hell did you spend all of that money on a library of games that you have zero interest in playing?  Why did you buy all of those booster boxes of (insert CCG title here)?  Hey, hey, calm down,  it’ll be alright! I’ve been there myself, quite a few times actually.  (Although hopefully game ruts are a thing of the past now  that Shawn and I run this website and produce the 2 Guys Gaming podcast.  This job forces us to try ALL of the different games out there in order to write articles for you guys and gals. ) Earlier this year I found myself in the mother of all gaming ruts. All of my usual “go to” games were now boring and extremely unappealing. It felt like a chore just putting a disc into my 360, and when I did I found myself playing for only a few minutes before I would hit eject, put in another disc, play for ten minutes or so, hit eject again…rinse and repeat…until I finally would just shut off the Xbox. My rut didn’t just apply to video games either; even MTG became repetitive and stale. So how did I beat the rut? Well looking back, it actually wasn’t that difficult to do. First thing I did was stopped looking at my Magic collection. The more I looked at it, the more depressed and frustrated I became because I wanted to recapture the interest in the game that I had even just a few weeks earlier and that spark just wasn’t there. The only way I can possibly describe that feeling is that it’s like quicksand; the more you struggle and fight the faster you sink. By taking a break from even looking at the cards it felt like I had removed a source of frustration. I then started to research current CCG’s to get a feel for any game currently on the market that might be down my alley. Unfortunately, nothing really stuck out to me, so I started to look at discontinued CCG’s. I’m a penny pincher when it comes to games, so this is always a viable option for me since all product associated with a discontinued game is cheap as hell. And as I found out, discontinued doesn’t mean the game is crap. I ended up with 3 games bouncing around in my head: Rage, Marvel VS, and finally World of Warcraft TCG. Just like that the rut began to weaken. After talking with Shawn, he mentioned that he had actually purchased a box of Warcraft starter decks awhile ago and just had them sitting in a closet. That’s all I needed to hear, I went to dacardworld.com and purchased a booster box of the expansion set, War of the Elements (for only $18!!!!).  After playing the game a few times, the “CCG wall” of the rut crumbled and I could see daylight. I found myself scouring the internet checking out deck lists and strategies. The game is so well-designed and fun that even in death, that still to this day people actively play it and write articles about it. It was only pulled off of the market because Blizzard decided to go with a bare bones digital version of the game, that we know as Hearthstone.

Ok, so one wall of the rut down, one to go. But you might be saying to yourself, “Blondie, I don’t even play CCG’s, ya nerd!” Ok, ok, point taken, so how did I beat the video game rut? I managed to crawl out of the rut by doing a few different things. First, I unplugged my 360. It was symbolic in a way. I was unplugging the source of my boredom. None of the games were doing it for me so why would I have it connected? In its place I plugged in my Playstation 2 which had been previously collecting dust on a shelf in my game room. Ok, so I replaced the console that was boring me with another console that I hadn’t played in a long time. What now? I turned to eBay to find some games that I hadn’t played yet. The kicker was that they couldn’t be games in the genres that I usually favor. So no shooters and no 2D fighters as that would just be like playing the same games that I already had. So I picked out Dragon Quest 8 and Odin Sphere. Usually I tend to not buy as many RPGs as fighters and shooters because of the time commitment involved, but in this case, I was desperate. Games are essentially my only hobby, so without that satisfaction of sitting down after a rough day of work and just unwinding with an hour of gaming, I was slowly becoming miserable.  After playing DQ 8 (Dragon Quest not Dairy Queen), I felt the depression lift..I couldn’t get enough of the game, the gameplay was decent as well as the story. Once again, I found myself on eBay hunting down other Dragon Quest games. I ended up purchasing DQ 4, 5, 6 and 9. There was now a huge crack in the last remaining wall of the rut. Then I popped in Odin Sphere. The wall exploded. If you have never played Odin Sphere finish this article and go buy it. Now. You will not regret it. But I digress as this isn’t a review for Odin Sphere. (Seriously though, it’s an amazing game.)

Ok, so let’s review how I beat my video game rut. I removed the source of my frustration (aka my 360), plugged in another system that I hadn’t played in a really long time, went and found some games in a genre that IS NOT one that usually I dabble in.  Now let’s review how I broke out of the CCG rut.  I removed the source of my frustration (aka my MTG collection), researched other games that I have never tried before and picked one out.  See the pattern? When you find yourself in a rut, take a step back from your normal gaming habits and think outside of the box.  It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try games that you ordinarily wouldn’t give a second look to.  Whether it’s a game in a genre that you usually pass on, or a discontinued card game.  Who knows you might find something worthwhile. I know I did.

Mardu Aggro Assault

marduAnother week, another deck list..This is actually the very first Khans deck that I constructed, and I like you guys juuuust enough to share it with you ;).  Once I figured out the mana ratio for a tri-color deck, it’s consistently performed well and above all else, is pretty fun.  it plays fast and has a couple of ways to bring you victory; either by overwhelming your opponent with creatures with haste or by using the Purphoros, God of Forge/ multiple token creature burn combo.  It’s also loaded up with enough burn spells and straight up removal to keep your opponent’s side of the board clean.  I hope you have as much fun playing with this deck as I do.

The Deck List (60 cards):

The Creatures                                                      The Spells

2x Foundry Street Denizen                            2x Mardu Ascendancy

2x Spike Jester                                                       4x Hordeling Outburst

2x Hellrider                                                              2x Mardu Charm

1x Purphoros, God of the Forge                 2x Lightning Strike

1x Krenko, Mob Boss                                        2x Lightning Bolt

1x Zurgo Helmsmasher                                   2x Go For The Throat

2x Hellspark Elemental                                   2x Terminate

2x Butcher of the Horde                                 1x Mortify

2x Rakdos Shred Freak                                    2x Doom Blade

The Lands                                                                2x Crackling Doom

2x Dragonskull Summit

2x Clifftop Retreat

1x Akoum Refuge

1x Tainted Field

1x Isolated Chapel

2x Nomad Outpost

1x Evolving Wilds

5x Mountains

5x Swamps

4x Plains

 

Graveyard Shift

(Note:  I am continuing the Entertainment Compendiums week-ish long Halloween celebration with a themed deck list.  I’ve already posted my zombie deck, so here is my first attempt at graveyard/deck manipulation in the form of Sultai.)

Spells (16)

Bitter Revelation (2)
Diabolic Tutor (2)
Dutiful Return (2)
Reclaim (3)
Strength from the Fallen (2)
Taigam’s Scheming (3)
Wreath of Geists (2)

Creatures (26)

Abomination of Gudul (2)
Bant Sojurners (3)
Dreg Mangler (2)
Drudge Beetle (2)
Embodiement of Spring (3)
Kheru Dreadmaw (2)
Nemesis of Mortals (4)
Sanctum Plowbeast (2)
Shambling Attendants (2)
Sluiceway Scorpion (1)
Sultai Scavenger (2)
Thrashing Mossdog (1)

Land (23)

Dismal Backwater (4)
Evolving Wilds (4)
Forest (2)
Island (2)
Opulent Palace (2)
Plains (2)
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb (2)
Swamp (2)
Thornwood Falls (3)

The deck is a bit beefier than the standard 60 cards.  That’s only because I didn’t want to cut it down to 60.  Also, the Evolving Wilds are sort of like a bonus.  They are there both as ghetto fetch lands and also as a way to power the “delve” cards without exiling creatures.  I ultimately don’t care that much about creatures except for the Nemesis and tried to grab some with deathtouch so that their trades will clear minions from the board.  Nemesis can be such a tough card to remove and there are four just in case it does eat some removal.

The Bant cards came as luck would have it from a flea market purchase and I thought to drop them in there as blockers and also to cycle the deck/hit the graveyard as Nemesis food.  So far I have only goldfished with the deck, but it has played well in this latest iteration.  Have fun working the graveyard shift!

Top 5 Khans of Tarkir Cards

Time flies doesn’t it?  Seems like just yesterday we were all eagerly awaiting the next round of Khans spoilers.  Now Khans of Tarkir has been on the table for a month and even though I initially doubted the quality of the set (I’m so negative), I have to admit that for the most part it has lived up to it’s hype. With that said, I wanted to share with you, our loyal readers, my top 5 favorite cards from Khans.  Here we go:

 

srhino1. Siege Rhino:  BAM! You see that?! No waiting ’til the end of the article to see what the number one card is! How could this guy not be number one? He’s a 4/5 trampler that smacks your opponent in the face for 3 and gives the 3 to you when it enters the battlefield. The kicker? Most burn spells won’t take him out and he only costs 4 mana.

 

 

mascendancy2. Mardu Ascendancy: I’m a huge fan of this card. Both of its abilities are powerful and can change the complexion of a game quickly. It’s designed to absolutely overrun your opponent with goblin weenies and from personal experience it does it’s job well. It’s 2nd ability of giving all of your creatures +0/+3 if you sacrifice it means that your little army of beasties can survive a well-timed Anger of the Gods.

 

mantisr3. Mantis Rider: It’s the cornerstone of most Jeskai decks for a reason. An aggro 3/3 flyer with haste and vigilance for 3 mana. If your opponent doesn’t have an answer for it right away then this little guy can cause some big trouble. I’ve won a game with just having 2 of these guys pumped up with the Spear of Heliod on the board.  Sure, it crumbles to most burn spells, but more often than not you will  do some damage before that happens. It also gets bonus points because I love the artwork.

 

butcher of the horde4. Butcher of the Horde: Out of all of the spoilers, this guy caught my eye first. He’s a 5/4 flyer for only 4 mana. As if that’s not a good enough deal, he also has the ability to gain lifelink, haste or vigilance until the end of the turn if you sacrifice another creature. Those little goblins your Mardu Ascendancy is cranking out? Sacrifice ‘em and let the good times roll.

 

fetches5. Fetchlands:  Yes, I know. Not one card.  But these lands are the core of the block and deserve to be in everyone’s top 5 somewhere. I didn’t realize how important having the right type of mana at the right time was until Khans was released and I started constructing 3 color decks. These lands make sure that you have the mana necessary to ruin your opponent’s day.

 

Honorable Mentions: Mardu Charm,  Clever Impersonator, Savage Knuckleblade, Mindswipe, Deflecting Palm, Jeskai Ascendancy, Sarkan the Dragonspeaker and Rattleclaw Mystic.

Noob’s Guide to Khans of Tarkir

(Note:  I also want to make this into a Youtube series, but I wanted to test it out here first.  Be on the lookout for that.)

What is Khans of Tarkir?

Khans of Tarkir (further referred to only as “Khans”) is the latest expansion set for the trading card game Magic:  the Gathering.  It was released to much fanfare on the weekend of September 26, 2014.

What is the big deal about Khans?

I will discuss three aspects of Khans, in the following order; Morph, fetch lands, and wedges.

“Morph” is a mechanic that allows you to cast a creature as a “morph” 2/2 creature for 3 colorless mana.  Some morph creatures have an effect when they are turned face up.  The colorless mana cost allows you to cast the creature even if you haven’t been able to draw the required mana combination.  It also adds intrigue and strategy to the game as your opponent tries to determine the nature of the card while it is morphed.  However, the creature, while morphed, is only a 2/2 and therefore very easy to remove.

The other two, fetch lands and wedges, are features that have been asked for by the Magic playing community.  Players asked for fetches back because they are integral to certain strategies in the game.  Wizards of the Coast reprinted them from the Alara block.  This made the players understandably happy because another reason for the request of fetch lands was that the originals are very expensive for two reasons.  First, they are rare.  Second, the word is that foreign speculators and manipulators bought up many of the original fetch lands to inflate the price.

Wedges are a three color strategy to building decks.  The Alara block also centered around three color decks.  The difference between the themes of the two sets is that during Alara, the three colors were one main color and its two allied colors and during Khans, the three colors are two allied colors and their naturally opposed color.  You can see my soon to be posted “Noob’s Guide to Magic:  The Gathering Mana Wheel” and the gif below to get an idea of what I mean.

wedge

 

Story/Lore

The stories are one of my favorite developments of gaming.  Instead of simply running from one end of the screen only to find that “your princess is another castle”, you are often now treated to a movie quality story.  Magic has a one of those constantly evolving stories that continues into Khans.  Tarkir is a plane that has seen all of the dragons hunted to extinction and 5 clans now war over territory and resources.  These five clans are the story behind the wedges.

The Clans – These are summarized from the lore book in the Khans of Tarkir Fat Pack.

Abzan (Colors:  White/Black/Green):  They use the endurance of the dragon through their ability Outlast, which allows you to use mana and tapp the creature to add a +1/+1 counter on to that creature.

Jeskai (Colors:  Blue/Red/White):  The cunning of the dragon is evident in their ability Prowess, which allows a creature to gain +1/+1 until the end of the turn when a noncreature spell is cast.

Sultai (Colors:  Black/Green/Blue):  The Sultai are as ruthless as the dragon with their ability Delve, which trades cards in your graveyard as colorless mana to reduce the casting cost of powerful spells.

Mardu (Colors:  Red/White/Black):  The Mardu bring the speed of the dragon to the battlefield and use that speed to trigger their Raid ability.  This ability allows different effects on the battlefield after having attacked.

Temur (Green/Blue/Red):  The strength of the dragon is the the cornerstone of their ability Ferocious.  Similar to the Mardu, Temur can trigger different abilities if they have a large creature on the field.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Noob’s Guide to Khans of Tarkir.  I will try to record and upload it to Youtube.  Also, be ready for more Noob’s Guides coming soon!

 

Currently Playing…Vol.6

 

pxzoneProject X Zone (3DS) I’ve had my eye on this game ever since it was first announced. A strategy RPG with Capcom characters? Sign me up! Being cheap, I patiently waited until I could get it for under $20. Last weekend my patience paid off and I was finally able to find a used copy for only $15. I have to say, after having played it for a few hours, I was disappointed. It feels a bit slapped together. The storyline makes no sense. At all. In fact after the first 5 levels, I just couldn’t take the story anymore and rapidly hit A to fly through the cutscenes to get back to the actual combat. All of these characters from Street Fighter, Tekken, Darkstalkers, Resident Evil, Dead Rising..etc, who exist in “different dimensions” just happen to know each other?! Here’s an example: At the beginning of one of the Prologue stages Chun Li (Street Fighter) shows up, then Hsien-Ko (Darkstalkers) shows up, and then Frank West (Dead Rising) appears. Chun Li: “You’re Frank West from the Colorado incident right?”. Frank West:”Yes, you’re Chun Li, agent of SIN, right?” Now Chris and Claire from Resident Evil show up, “Hey aren’t you Frank West from the Colorado incident? And you’re Chun Li, an agent of SIN”. Wait,what?! What the ****?! And it’s not just this interaction; for the most part all of the dialogue is pretty uninspired and fails to carry the half-assed plot. It really feels like Capcom/Sega just wanted us to ignore the weak story and just focus on the fact that you can form teams of all of these cool iconic characters. If this was a Capcom 2D fighter and not an RPG, that wouldn’t have been a problem. But with an RPG, one of the things that separate a great RPG from a not so great one is the quality of the story. Ok, so storyline aside, the game play is actually not bad. Like a traditional strategy RPG, you form a team of characters and you take to the battlefield to beat on your opponents by performing super combos, “X-over” combos…etc. It’s actually pretty fun BUT the game does get slightly repetitive. I found myself getting bored after the first hour/ hour and a half. Bottom line: Unless you are a huge Capcom fan, I’d just rent this from Gamefly.

He is the one who sacks

(Note:  Due to the missed deadline last week, I am switching my normal schedule of “On the Tabletop” on Tuesday and “Digital Playground on Thursday.  Today, I will Break Madden in the digital playground and Thursday I will pit DC vs. Marvel Heroclix on the tabletop.  This change is also necessitated by the fact that I will not own the Heroclix until tomorrow.)

As with most information over the last four years, I learned about Breaking Madden from a podcast.  It was either a slow news cycle or they were trying to lighten things because of the heavy news out of the NFL.  Either way, Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen did a segment on the series a couple of weeks ago.  If they were trying to add more fun and humor to a suddenly morbid sports world, then they succeeded.  I laughed through the entire segment, went to visit the page, and mentioned it to Chris during our nightly Facebook conversation.

Always on the lookout for new and fresh entertainment options since jettisoning cable, I still wasn’t sure that Breaking Madden would become regular viewing for me.  Last year’s Super Bowl was an absolute abortion from the first snap, but do you wonder how bad it could have gotten if the Seahawks were 7 foot tall, 400 pound behemoths against 5 foot, 160 pound stick men Denver Broncos?  Of course you do and so do I, but is that really enough to sustain over the long run?  The Seahawks will destroy the Broncos even more, probably to the point where the game can no longer tally the score because the name of the series is Breaking Madden after all.

Aside from a title that pays homage to my favorite television show and the promise of an even bigger butt whipping in the Super Bowl, Breaking Madden did not seem to offer enough to warrant more than the few laughs elicited by the podcast segment.  Then came the piece de resistance, the coup de grace, the “insert inappropriate French saying that clearly doesn’t mean what I think it means” of the segment.  This Super Bowl of epic proportions broke Madden to such a degree that I need to keep watching now to see if it can ever be topped.  Before I discuss that, though, and you go to the page to see it (and you will because nothing I say to describe it will do it any justice.  You have to see it to fully experience the joyrror – a term that I just coined to describe both joy and terror), I will give you some background on the games and my experience breaking them.

In case you don’t already know, Madden is the increasingly realistic NFL game from EA Sports.  Thy have also made a NASCAR, NBA, NHL, MLB, and golf game.  Their slogan is, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.”  Even with the focus on realism, it is still a computer program and subject to bugs and glitches.  As the years have passed, the glitches have become less game breaking and more graphical or situational, but part of the fun of video games is finding the weird exploits and glitches.

I remember a football game, probably on the Atari 2600, that allowed you run through your own end zone to circle back onto the opposing end zone for an easy touchdown.  Playing Monday Night Football on my Commodore 64, I discovered a similar issue where during kick returns, you could run your player 10 or 20 yards behind where he caught the ball and then rush to and up the sidelines for a touchdown every single time.  If you ever played Mutant League Football, you know that you could win every game without scoring a point by tackling the opposing quarterbacks until they exploded and the other team had to forfeit.  Madden, and EA’s other sports titles, have heralded a new age in realism in computer sports games.  As a result, it became more of a challenge to find those oddities like Bo Jackson being able to run twice as fast as every other player in the game.  More often than not, you have to manufacture those results through manipulation of the settings in the game.

I don’t have much experience in that aspect.  Sure, as the Noob of All Trades, I play against the game on Rookie level and turn the more boring penalties down to make the games as easy and quick as possible.  As a result, most of the glitches that I’ve witnessed in the game revolve around a polygon arm or leg reflected across the wrong axis or a ball being magically attracted to a receiver’s hand due to a faulty collision system.  I haven’t figured out how to replicate the strange happenings of Monday Night Football or the Atari game that allowed you to wrap the whole screen.  I’ve certainly never been a part of the bizarre behavior in Breaking Madden.

I said that I would never be able to describe it to give you the appropriate level of joyrror.  The guys on Hang Up and Listen used the word totem, an offering by the game to the player that it had been well and truly broken.  Earlier I described the game as an abortion.  I worried about using that word for obvious reasons, but it is the only appropriate word given the outcome.  During the game, an abortion appeared at midfield.  It looked like the game birthed a half Seahawk/half Bronco fetus like figure at the 50-yard line.  The thing is an absolute abomination and it stalks my nightmares to this day.  My curiosity proved too strong.  So may yours.  You have been warned.

Life has gotten in the way and I have to catch up on the latest episodes to see what comes next.  Breaking Madden has definitely found a place into my schedule as regular viewing.  I recommend that you check it out, too, just avoid last year’s Super Bowl.  In addition to the monstrosity at midfield, the page should be investigated by Amnesty International for crimes against humanity for what the virtual Seahawks did even though they are computer models.

W.O.W TCG Monster Mage Warrior Control

 

augh

Wait?! What?! A W.O.W deck?!  Here at 2 Guys Gaming we refuse to let the World of Warcraft TCG die.  Not only is it superior to Hearthstone (I hear the nerd rage already.), it’s now cheap as hell too! How cheap? Well, I picked up a booster box of the War of the Elements expansion for $20 a couple months ago.  I actually made my money back  just by selling one loot card that I pulled.  Anyways, my point is that if you are not currently playing this game, or haven’t even tried it, do yourself a favor and buy a starter deck ($5) and give it a shot.  (Kicks soapbox away)  Ok, back to the deck list:

Overall Strategy

Pretty simple strategy really, just use Flash Freeze, Intercept, Behead, Menace and Terrifying Shout to keep your opponent’s side of the board locked down/clear, while your minions hit the opposing hero in the face.

The Deck (60 cards)

The Hero: Augh (Monster Mage/Warrior)

The Minions

2x Neferset Champion

1x Lockmaw

2x Pythisss, Herald of Frost

2x Pygmy Firebreather

2x Neferset Runecaster

2x Dun’zarg

1x Neferset Shieldguard

1x Mok’drul

The Abilities

4x Flash Freeze

3x Polymorph Pig

4x Behead

4x Intercept

4x Menace

1x Spell Ricochet

2x Dauntless Defender

2x Ice Lance

4x Terrifying Shout

1x Burning Rage

1x Monstrous Heal

1x Merciless Strikes

The Quests

3x Traitors!

4x A Bird in Hand

3x Spirits of Auchindoun

2x The Last Barov

4x The Fall of Neferset City

 

Good Ol’ Gruul Bloodrush

 

gruul

Today, I present to you, our faithful readers,  a Gruul (G/R) Bloodrush deck.  I’ve had decent results with it (more wins than losses), but more importantly it’s fun to play.  Which therefore means it’s good enough to share with you guys.  None of these cards cost all that much either, so it should be relatively cheap for you to construct.

Strengths: It plays fast, and can be pretty aggro since your creatures pump each other up.  If your opponent doesn’t have removal, things can get ugly fast.  This deck has a solid mana base with some mana dorks (Burning Tree Emissary and Zhur-Taa Druid) sprinkled in to move things along.

Weaknesses: For once I’m going to have to say that it doesn’t have any specific weaknesses. That’s not my way of saying that it’s some world beating deck,  it’s just competitive against all deck types.

The Deck (60)

Creatures (26)                                                  Spells (10)

4x Burning Tree Emissary                          2x Ground Assault

4x Skinbrand Goblin                                     2x Magma Jet

2x Savageborn Hydra                                   2x Mugging

4x Zhur-Taa Druid                                          2x Titan’s Strength

2x RubbleHulk                                                  2x Flame Slash

2x Fanatic of Xenagos                                 Planeswalkers (1)

4x Ghor Clan Rampager                            1x Chandra the Pyromaster

2x Zhur-Taa Swine

1x Ogre Battledriver

1x Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

 Lands (23)

4x Rootbound Crag

4x Gruul Guildgate

8x Mountains

7x Forests