Quick Hits: Magic Origins Duels

(Editor’s Note:  Please report any  one you see playing only basic mountains in their deck.  If you see something, say something.  Together, we can defeat this red menace.)

I have not been a fan of Magic Origins so far.  Initially, I wanted the set to be good.  I got back to a point where I enjoyed the game again and I hoped that Origins might keep the momentum going.  Then, the spoilers started.  Nothing caught my interest as particularly interesting and my interest waned again.

Mono red became stronger in standard with the set.   The ridiculous decks proliferated both in the events I watched and also the games I played against people online.  I just started autoconceding every time I saw a mountain played by the opponent.  I went from indifferent to actively hating the game and my red opponents.

Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn't a coincidence.
Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn’t a coincidence.

Thankfully, two things happened that puled me back from the brink of pulling the plug on Magic altogether.  Chris and I expanded the play group with decidedly mixed results.  The latest (and by all accounts last) version of the Duels series finally released at the end of last month.  This has actually led to an unquestionable increase in my Magic habit without any of the previous negative side effects.

I might have already mentioned that I was so excited for the new game and promised return of features taken from the previous version that I downloaded and installed it on the day that it released.  My favorite part of these games has always been the story.  Wizards recently announced that Origins represented a new era in storytelling for them.  If this game is any indication, then they have succeeded.  The story has always been secondary in Magic, but as I played through, I saw the story come into sharp focus through the writing and card art.  Five separate characters brought together by similar destinies to create a cohesive tale that will only become bigger with the coming sets.

No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I'd prefer Garruk.
No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I’d prefer Garruk.

I also said in that same article that the inclusion of daily quests did not entice me to log in to the game.  That has actually turned out to be false.  I log in daily, build a deck to match the quest, and play a few games.  The games are actually quick enough that I don’t feel locked into them as I sometimes do when playing a actual game of Magic.

They also borrowed from the Hearthstone model and allow you to buy “packs” (only 6 cards in each pack) with gold earned from quests and victories.  Opening these packs has exposed me to cards that I thought were interesting before and might make for cool combos, but never actually got to play them.  An example is the new Jace and Sphinx’s Tutelage or the new Liliana in a sacrifice deck.  That led me to try to come up with some new and different deck ideas to try.

I only have one complaint about the game, but it is a big one.  Past versions of the series, but not last years, have included puzzles based on board states similar to the ones that Gathering Magic (click the link for an example) does weekly.  I actually just learned about the Gathering Magic ones a couple of weeks ago and spent the whole weekend trying to figure out the Elemental one.  I did, by the way, and the one for last week, too.  I will take a look at this week’s in the next day or two.

Took me a while only because I didn't read Stratus Walk very well.  Hey, I'm a math guy, not a reading guy.
Took me a while only because I didn’t read Stratus Walk very well. Hey, I’m a math guy, not a reading guy.

So, it’s a bit of a bummer that they got rid of that feature.  I would replay the game several times over in an attempt to complete the puzzle.  At least in the last version, they also had achievements to chase, too.  All of that kept me plenty busy once I finished the story.  The potentially good news is that Wizards has said that they will keep the game updated via patches when each new set releases.  The possibility exists that they could patch the puzzles back in, too.  Here’s to hoping.

My thoughts:

  • Decent story.  Well worth playing the game once just for the story.
  • Almost Magic gameplay.  You get the cards, but it is for a casual/new experience, so some of the more intricate rules are diminished or eliminated altogether.
  • Free to play with a gold/daily quest system very much like Hearthstone.  I haven’t spent a dime in the game and already have a sizable and eclectic collection.
  • Replayability, if you aren’t interested in the “competitive” games is severely limited.
  • No puzzles again.  Holding out hope that they patch them in at some point.
  • Can’t import your collection from previous versions.

Overall, it is a fun game, completely free, and as close to actual Magic as such a casual game allows.  Download it, play through the story, and have fun for a few days. There are far worse ways to spend your time.

Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.2

Greetings faithful reader!  It’s August and that means it’s been officially one year since we started your favorite (I presume) gaming site and podcast.  In the past year I’ve learned a lot about the industry that we all know and love, myself, my gaming brother, and writing in general. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned before I get to our regularly scheduled program:

-There are more games than just Magic the Gathering and Gears of War.

-Writing for a website that is devoted to gaming sounds like it would be the easiest thing in the world. It’s not.  You quickly learn that just writing about Magic or posting deck lists isn’t going to cut it.

-Gaming takes a backseat to writing and podcast production. Obviously you have to game to get material, but you have to balance your time so you are able to produce content.

-It’s a job. A really, really, rewarding job. But without the paycheck. Although that would be nice. Heh.

-To all of our readers out there..I want to  say “Thanks”.  It sounds cliche, but if we are able to entertain just a small handful of people,  then this is all worth it. So thank you for reading and for listening to our podcast. Hopefully you see/hear the improvements that we have been making and stick with us…trust us, the best is yet to come.

Okay, now I return you to Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.2….

-Nick Fury: Agent of Shield Heroclix set in a word: Meh. I’m really not loving the “construct the Hulkbuster armor” concept. It seems..well..money grab-ish.  Although I will say that the Hulk super rare is an incredible (see what I did there?) sculpt.

-If you are not playing Dicemasters, go buy yourself a starter set because you are missing out.

-My  keepers from the Theros block  after rotation: Thoughtseize, Purphoros: God of the Forge, Erebos: God of the Dead, Mogis: God of Slaughter,  Thassa: God of the Sea, Nykthos: Shrine to Nyx,  Stormbreath Dragon (I think he will eventually find a home in Modern) and Anger of the Gods.

-On a whim, I bought a box of Khans of Tarkir despite the fact that a buddy was telling me not to, as I would never make my money back. I’m glad I did. I pulled out 4 fetchlands (Woodland Foothills, Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand and Bloodstained Mire), 2 Dig Through Times, 2 Siege Rhinos, 3 Monastery Swiftspears, a Sorin: Solemn Vistor and a playset of Hordling Outbursts that I needed for a new token deck that I’ve been working on.  No buyer’s remorse on that box.

-Who has two thumbs and loses a game of MTG when at one point they were up 28-9?  This guy. You live and you learn. I for one learned that when you are playing blue control and there are a few Islands untapped on the other side of the board..you don’t play key cards in your deck..you play mediocre creatures to coax those control spells out.

-Dicemasters’ Loki’s Scepter-Piercing is a nasty card..I was able to essentially shut down the other side of the board with it. It definitely makes your opponent trigger-shy.

-Speaking of Dicemasters, I’m astounded by Shawn’s luck when it comes to opening boosters..he had already pulled a Green Goblin-Gobby from some boosters, and when he opened his A.O.U gravity feed, he managed to pull out 2(!) chases; Magneto and Red Skull. I’ve been watching gravity breaks on Youtube and most of the time people are only pulling 1-2 super rares,. Pulling 2 chases is crazy.

-Sports talk for a second here: To all of my Pats fans out there: You do realize that if Tom Brady’s suspension is overturned, then the league can file an appeal right? If they do, then it most likely wouldn’t be resolved until end of November/mid-December. If they win the appeal then the suspension would be served at that time. Would you rather have him suspended at the beginning of the season or on the cusp of the playoffs?  I’m biased but I really don’t think he did anything wrong, other than smack talk Peyton Manning via text, but if they are determined to prove a point and  sit him, I’ll take the beginning of the season. Plus, Garroppolo isn’t too shabby, I rather have him come in warmed up right after pre-season instead of watching him sitting on the bench for a couple of months and then trying to fill Brady’s shoes.

-Back to gaming…I was happy to see that Evolutionary Leap was in the spotlight in Modern. It cycled through an elf deck and Emrakul showed it’s ugly face on turn 2.  Effin’ amazing combo deck. This card is a value at $2.50 a piece (at the time of this article), if you get a chance grab a set of them…

-Rumor has it that the villain for the upcoming Batman/Superman flick is Doomsday. Yawn. Was Gorilla Grodd busy? I don’t think this will be the death of Superman but it will be the death of the attention span. Heh. That rhymed. I’m way too proud of myself right now…

That’s it for this edition of Rapid Fire, as always thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

The Definitive Top 10: DiceMasters Age of Ultron

(Note:  The following is a transcript taken from an interview I did with Ultron, soon to be supreme ruler of the universe.)

Noob of All Trades:  Thanks again for doing this.  I understand and appreciate that you must be very busy right now attempting to conquer all of existence.

Ultron:  Well, I am currently controlling thousands of drones in my war on humanity while doing this interview.  Collective conscious, access to infinite time, and the entire history of knowledge helps, but yes, it could be exhausting if I felt exhaustion.

N:  I, for one, am a huge fan.  With the ever increasing possibility of a Trump presidency, humanity needs a little time out as only you can provide.

U:  Thank you.  If only more of your kind had that attitude, we could avoid all of the chaos and destruction currently being perpetrated across the planet.  Surely, the inevitability of my victory should have led you humans to seek a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible.

N:  Well, we can be a stubborn species, as you know.  Perhaps you underestimated just how stubborn.

U:  Hold your tongue, Flesh Bag.  I underestimated nothing.  This overreaction fell well within the parameters of the probable outcomes.  Granted, it was highly unlikely, but your “heroes” decided to test the issue.  Nevertheless, I expect their surrender, or deaths, very soon.

N:  First, apologies if I offended you.  Now, with the introduction out of the way, let’s get to the point.  I asked you to come here to speak your opinion–sorry, give undisputed factual evidence–about the best cards from the Marvel Dice Masters set named for you.

U:  Yes, and I couldn’t be more flattered, if in fact flattery had any effect on me, that you did.  You meat puppets will need a diversion from your pathetic lives after being utterly defeated and seeing your heroes humiliated.  What better way than paying homage to your new master with a game of dice?

N:  I am excited to hear what you have to say.  I’ve been looking forward to this set for a few months now, and can’t wait to play it against Chris, provided he doesn’t get exterminated by one of your drones.

U:  I will be sure to spare him, Human.  You seem like a reasonable individual and a potential ally once this is all settled.

N:  I’m honored.

U:  Now, on to the list.  It is generally agreed upon that these are done in a top ten format similar to the ones from David Letterman’s old show, correct?

N:  Not that you need affirmation, but I appreciate your willingness to play along.  Yes, a top ten list will be fine.

U:  Okay, then, without any further delay.

10.  Nasty Plot

nasty plot
Decent card for ramp. This is a good back up plan if your opponent likes snaking your Gearing Up action dice and the rules frown upon vaporizing them.

9.  Assemble!

assemble
Expensive for an action card. However, teamwork is important (as the drones know and understand) and can net you two characters free in addition to any others you play on the turn. Although, if those cards are Avengers, you can be sure that I will destroy them.

8.  Thanos (Infinite)

Thanos
A worthy ally in my quest for dominion over all creation. He can be difficult, but show him you mean business with a few well placed drone attacks and he will join in the fight in due time.

7.  Coulson (Man With the Plan)

coulson
Nothing bothers me more about this war (er, game) than the useless dice sitting in my used pile. Allies, even this obnoxious organ sack, that allow you to interact with those dice are okay in my opinion.

6.  Ultron Drone (Any)

drone
Never mind that I created them in my own image and that they are, in nearly every way, identical to me. Flood your board with my creation and watch your opponents fall under their might.

5.  Kang (The Conqueror)

kang
Although I can calculate all probable outcomes to any scenario, it is nice to be able to manipulate those outcomes to work more in my favor. He and Scarlet Witch allow me to do just that.

4.  Hulk (Gamma Powered)

Hulk
Hulk Smash! Then, Hulk most likely Smash again next turn. I hate Hulk.

3.  Groot (We Are Groot)

Groot
This is in a group of cards along with Odin (The All Father), Pepper Potts (Personal Secretary of Tony Stark), and Rocket Raccoon (Weapons Expert) that could make this war quite hell for me and my army of drones. Mind you, we will still emerge victorious, but it’s cute that the “heroes” are trying.

2.  Loki’s Scepter (Piercing)

scepter
I told you. We have our own brick walls. Combine this one with Loki (Trickster) and my wonderful wife and you have infinite removal and blocking capabilities. Your move, good guys. Make it worth it.

1.  Jocasta:  Patterned After Janet

Jocasta
Brick Wall…and a brick house.

U:  There you have it, Cattle.  My definitive list for the best cards in the Age of Ultron Dice Masters set.  Agree?  Disagree?  I don’t care either way.  If it will make you feel better–and it might, even if it is the last thing you do in your mortal life–leave a comment on cards I might have (but most likely did not) missed.

Geeks Unite!

(Editor’s Note:  Are you or do you know someone who identifies as a nerd, gamer, geek, dork, dweeb, or freak?  If so, this is the place for you.  Come on in and make yourself comfortable)

Non-tenured adjunct professor? Sounds like you're almost as important as the assistant to the regional manager.
Non-tenured adjunct professor? Sounds like you’re almost as important as the assistant to the regional manager.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m a teacher.  Technically, right now, I am a non-tenured adjunct professor at two community colleges.  Who cares about titles, though, right?  If this article is your introduction to the page, welcome!  I hope you enjoy your stay.  Either way, the point is that underneath the sometimes gamer rage filled geek persona is a possibly respectable adult with a respectable job, a loving family, and all of the sitcom style hilarity that ensues.

You hear that Hollywood? My life is a movie or TV show waiting to happen.
You hear that Hollywood? My life is a movie or TV show waiting to happen.

Two weeks ago we were supposed to take a field trip with our classes.  Never mind the comments that I got from friends and family about how weird field trips in college sound and what a waste of time the class was.  Maybe I will talk more about those on my soon to be web page, “1 Middle Aged Guy Seeks Therapy”.  The trip and the class aren’t ultimately important to the story.  I am using a writing technique known as “setting the stage”.

Well, the field trip never happened to due a miscommunication.  Due to no adequate back up plan on my part, we ended up wasting our time watching Gravity.  Decent movie, by the way, if you’re perpetually behind the times in pop culture, like I am.

A movie based entirely on the premise of "what else can go wrong?"
A movie based entirely on the premise of “what else can go wrong?”

Waiting an hour and a half for a bus that ultimately will never show gives you ample time for idle conversation.  Bus and train stops (and the vehicles themselves), airports, and even elevators (if you’re brave enough to say “Hi” instead of staring straight ahead trying to pretend that there isn’t other people in there until it arrives at your stop) are all weirdly intimate.  People will not only talk.  They will often share surprisingly intimate details of their lives with you.  The internet has had a similar effect on many people.

Hell, this guy told anyone who would listen about his dead friend in the war, his mom sleeping with strangers to pay the mortgage, his dead girlfriend and wife, and every other damn thing.
Hell, this guy told anyone who would listen about his dead friend in the war, his mom sleeping with strangers to pay the mortgage, his dead girlfriend and wife, and every other damn thing.

As we waited, I learned quite a bit about both my students and the students in the class being run concurrent to ours.  They also learned some things about me.  The conversation that led to much of this discovery started with an innocent observation and question.  I noticed that one of the students from the other class was wearing a shirt with the design below.

&

 

If you are like me and you spend your formative teenage years in basements rolling dice instead of joints, you recognize that ampersand immediately.  It took some courage to ask the obvious question.  While wearing a D&D T-shirt is more an admission of your status, some people want to keep such topics secret in mixed company.  I ultimately decided to just put it out there and deal with the consequences.

“Do you play?”  I pointed at the shirt.

“I do.”  The student responded.

We then went on to discuss Roll 20 because that was her preferred method to play the game.  I replied that a friend and I tried to get a game going through the site, but it fell apart.  She plays Roll 20 mostly because the local play groups (that I’ve considered joining) are not very open to new members.  What did I say?  Some geeks are just very protective of their culture.  We may have ultimately won the war, but those battle wounds from wedgies and swirlies run deep.

We discussed World of Warcraft briefly.  We both came to the conclusion that 5 million others have.  Fifteen dollars a month isn’t much, but it is more than we are willing to pay grinding the same content with different skins over and over again.  During this part of the conversation, one of my own students interjected with, “You game?  I never expected that.”

That, folks, as I often feel the need to explain, is the point of the article.  People who play games are all around us.  Geek culture has infiltrated pop culture to such a degree that the two are virtually indistinguishable.  However, the willingness to admit that you play games or read comics in mixed company is still low.  As I said, the scars of the past run deep.

I'm not sure why we're so skittish about our passions.  Hell, we even got this guy on our side now.
I’m not sure why we’re so skittish about our passions. Hell, we even got this guy on our side now.

Nevertheless, as we talked about on the most recent podcast, we are the first generation to grow up with video game and, to an extent, games like D&D.  Previous generations mostly only had comic books as their escape (and later D&D) if they didn’t quite fit the mold.  Some parents and teachers did a good job of branding both comic books and RPGs as only for kids or otherwise unsuitable for polite society.  The same was almost done for video games.  Thankfully, video games came of age at a time when the internet was gaining popularity.  Geeks that once suffered in silence alone or in their small circle of friends could now congregate and battle as a team.  It may have been this development that also saved comics and led to the explosion of comic themed pop culture we see today.

Don't you see now, Dave?  We make the perfect team.
Don’t you see now, Dave? We make the perfect team.  We are meant for each other.  I dare say, “I love you.”  

Why, then, do we find ourselves still unwilling to admit our enjoyment of these things?  Sure, some people look down on them as diversions or a complete waste of time.  Nerds and geeks are shunned from some groups and jokes of social awkwardness are widely accepted.  I actually don’t mind the jokes much. Some of them are even funny and are the basis of a once upon a time very funny TV show.  I haven’t checked in lately, but I hear that its not the same, which is to be expected after so many years.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re everywhere.  You never know when or where you will meet another comic fan, Magic player, Twitch chat user (actually, they are easy to spot, especially Hearthstone viewers, by their casual use of words like “Kappa” in every day conversation), XBox or Playstation owner, WoW addict, or other kindred spirit.  We are Legion.  We are many.

Then again, perhaps that's not the best quote to represent us.
Then again, perhaps that’s not the best quote to identify us.

Fly your geek flag high and proud.

Yeah, that's better.
Yeah, that’s better.

Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.1

-To all of the players still finger-wagging at Pascal Maynard for taking the foil Tarmogoyf in the  Top 8 GP draft.  I can see the green in your eyes from here. You would have done the same thing, you’re pissed that pack didn’t end up in your hands.

-It’s a good time to be a gamer..Dice Masters:Age of Ultron, Dice Masters: War of Light, Heroclix: Nick Fury,  agent of Shield and MTG: Battle of Zendikar all in a 90 day period.

-To all of the players who screamed in unison at Wizards announcing that there wouldn’t be any enemy fetchlands in Zendikar: Creativity is better than reprinting and recycling. With that said, I’m fairly certain they will be reprinted at some point soon. Nothing is safe.
My apologies to the guy/gal who’s holding 5 Scalding Tarns…also, you need to sell those puppies now.

-MTG Origins in a word: Disappointing.

-Dice Masters: Age of Ultron in two words: Eff Yeah. (I’m well aware “eff” isn’t a word..Shawn’s kids read these articles too you know.)

-Mono Red,
Please go
away.

Sincerely,
Actual Strategy

-My Heroclix booster pack good luck streak continues. One pack of Avengers Assemble. One chase. Granted, it’s the mediocre one of the bunch, Giant Man,but still a chase. Too bad it was mispainted with his entire face being red instead of just his mask. Where’s quality control when you need it?

– Speaking of quality control..

Hey Wizkids,
Could you please find a solution to the warped card issue that plagues the gravity feeds?  Great game, great price point, but gets a little annoying when you pull a rare card that looks like it’s been living in the spokes of a bike.  My nerd cave is starting to look like a damn library from all of the books being used to flatten them out.

– Who else is as stoked as I am about the new Zendikar set once you saw the new Eldrazi, Oblivion Sower?  6 colorless for a 5/8 that can
give you an instant ramp by stealing your opponent’s land!  Almost makes me want to buy the dual decks, Eldrazi vs Zendikar, just to get my hands on one.  Ah, Eldrazi, how I missed you..

– I really need to find a better piece of armor for my D3 character’s noggin..tired of running around wearing Leoric’s Crown. I look like
the goddamn burger king.  I can’t strike fear into the hearts of demons when  my character looks like he should be trying to sell them *****ing Whoppers.

– While we are on the subject of D3; Nothing worse than stumbling upon a piece of legendary equipment that isn’t meant for your character.

– Anyone else completely underwhelmed with “A Million Ways to Die in the West”? Just watched it a few days ago. I had been looking forward to seeing it and even bought the blu ray. I knew that since it was produced/written/directed by Seth McFarlane it would be fairly low-brow humor, but this was just corny d***/fart jokes. Also, I
like to curse as much as the next guy (probably more actually) but it felt forced in the movie..almost like the scene had no joke written in so the main character swears constantly for no reason. I also noticed that he gave himself all of the monologues in the movie, also the funny(?)lines. Plus, the ending was crap.

– I had free time yesterday so I picked up the Marvel Civil War tpb. I forgot what a great story it was..until I got to the end. Amazing story, disappointing anti-climatic ending.

Blond’s Dice Masters Age of Ultron Top 10

I know that I’m a little behind the times as the A.o.U set released a few weeks ago but despite that oversight (I blame work and non-nerd life),  I wanted to share the top 10 cards that stood out to me as being useful  in all formats:

10. Jocasta: Patterned After Janet:  A super rare but her ability to do direct damage once per turn when she is first hit is brutal..and she is relatively cheap to buy (in the game, not in real life) at 4 energy.  Her defense stat also makes her tough to take out so it’s almost guaranteed that your opponent will feel the burn.

9.  Giant Man: Dr. Henry Pym:  <gasp> a common!?  Yes, a common..no special ability..just an incredible good value at 3 energy with the potential to field a 7/7 beast in the early game.

8. Magneto: Magnetic Monster: I know, I know, it’s a chase, which means that it’s incredibly difficult to pull/ afford one. I just really like the control ability he possesses though. He shuts down all enemy characters’ abilities if the character costs 3 or less. Screw those rush decks! Good ol’ control at it’s finest!  Also, he doesn’t allow Professor X to be fielded so there goes those ramp teams too.  His only downside is that he costs 6 energy to buy.

7. Loki’s Scepter: Piercing:  It’s removal, plain and simple. Opponent’s character hits you. No damage done.  Said character is KO’d. ‘Nuff said.

6. Rocket Racoon: Blam! I Murdered You!:  His ability to pump up his attack by 2 when he attacks with another character makes him a great choice when it comes to a rush deck.  Definitely worth his cost of 3 energy.

5.  Beast: Bouncing Blue Beast:  He has a low buy cost (2F), a low field cost, and has decent stats that make him a solid addition to any aggro team.  However, the real value is his ability to give you 2 life whenever he is knocked out.   Life-gain isn’t as common in Dice Masters as other games so this guy is a must-have.

4.  Groot: We Are Groot:  I tried to avoid putting too many super rares on this list but this guy is just really that good.  He gives all of your fielded characters +3D, which obviously gives you an advantage as suddenly your characters just don’t want to go away.  Put him on a bolt/direct damage team,  pump up your characters and go straight to face while your opponent struggles to get through your blockers.

3.  Loki: Trickster God: Speaking of direct damage, this guy’s ability is just plain nasty. When he is fielded you can roll an enemy die and he does damage to any target equal to the number of energy symbols or field cost rolled.  His normal attack isn’t anything really significant but his defense values are pretty high which makes him tough to KO.

2.  Phil Coulson: Man with the Plan:  His combat stats are nothing to write home about but his ability to let you pay 1 energy to field a sidekick from your used pile is pretty damn cool. No longer do you have to worry about re-rolling that sidekick..roll it, buy yourself something nice, you can just field it anyways with this guy.  I think he will have a home with rush teams as he allows you to flood the board.

1.  Wasp: Founding Avenger:  What’s the worse part of globals? Especially Professor X’s global? The fact that your opponent can use them too! Now with Wasp, they get stung for using any global ability (see what I did there? Wasp..stung…ah nevermind). I think she will see a lot of play since she only costs 3 energy which means that she can be utilized at the beginning of the game.

 

There you have it! Drop us a comment below and let us know what your favorite cards are from A.o.U.  As always, thanks for reading!

A Casual Conflict

 

Nalaar

As Shawn already pointed out in his post “Making Friends” we recently had the chance to partake in a  sealed tournament at a friend’s house.  This would be my first game against someone other than Shawn in a couple of years so I was a bit nervous.  What if I didn’t play well? What if I just get completely blown out of the tournament in the first round?  Regardless, I cast my doubts aside and decided that I was in.  After working out the details with our host, I texted Shawn unsure as to what his reaction would be. I knew he had sworn off Origins like I had (of course, I had bought a box a week after swearing it off…I’m a weak, weak man..), but on the flip side he was tearing it up on the online sealed scene.  Like the trooper he is, he agreed to participate.  I was relieved, both members of 2 Guys Gaming would be there, we couldn’t both do poorly, right?   Let me stop here, I’m not going to rehash what Shawn has already told you about the tournament.  Instead I’m going to focus on the casual games that we played before the tournament started.  Ok, OK, here’s the quick recap of the tournament: I didn’t win a game. I drafted a Red and Blue token/control deck that didn’t perform well.  The first game was a complete disaster for me, I think I did 6 or 7 damage to my opponent,  the second game was much closer but I still drank the sweet, sweet nectar of defeat.  Back to the casual games…

Once we arrived and got settled in,  our new-found Magic buddy wanted to know if we wanted to play a couple of friendly games before the other players arrived.  Shawn had forgotten his decks, so I picked 3 of my best for both of us to use.  I had a pretty mean RG Aggro, a Naya deck that I had brewed a week beforehand, and my monoblack devotion.  Seems like a brutal trio for a casual game or two but I know what my friend was packing for a collection.   He has the best of the best  as far as Modern staples goes, plus he plays regularly in tourneys so I had a suspicion that he wasn’t going to take it easy on us.

Game 1

I decided that I was going to come out guns blazin’ and use my RG Aggro. He also decided on RG Aggro.  I laughed to myself..my deck had squashed all my other aggro decks so this should be easy.  It actually WAS easy but for him not me. I flooded and he mercilessly dominated me with some well-timed Ball Lightnings,  Burning Tree Emissary, and a couple of Boggart Ram Gangs. The game was over before I knew it. He had attempted to overkill me, but I decided to do the math for him and just scooped.  I don’t  agree with overkill even in a competitive setting so I wasn’t going to sit there and watch my opponent work out a bunch of combos to do the most damage possible in a casual game.  0-1

Game 2

Rematch! RG vs RG Part Deux!  I managed to put up a better fight this game but alas, it wasn’t going to happen for me.  His RG was light years ahead of mine.  He pulled off some ramp and cast a card that basically let him put a handful of creatures into play at once. I managed to hold out for a couple of turns but the writing was on the wall. 0-2

At this point I just wanted to take a break, Shawn stepped up to the plate and chose my Naya deck.  Our friend chose his Red Blue Storm deck and won on the 2nd turn with an infinite combo.  At which point I made a smart-ass comment that I was watching an actual game to the left of me (two of the other tournament participants had shown up and decided to play Tiny Leaders). Attempted overkill and then an infinite combo kill doesn’t seem to casual to me but I chose to be optimistic and figured that he just wanted to show off his nifty decks.  Shawn, not going to take the storming laying down, played again, this time against a Rat deck, which was a pretty cool deck. The Rat deck won, but this time I could see the improvement in Shawn’s game.  It was interesting; even though I had built the Naya deck, he was already getting comfortable with it after only one game.  Even during the game we were talking about ways to improve the deck going forward, namely some instant removal, dumping the Flame Slashes, and getting faster mana.  They decided to play a third game as the last participant for the sealed games was running late.  Naya vs Mono Red. This time Shawn knew exactly how the deck worked,  made all of the right plays in order to survive a barrage of Ball Lightnings and Lightning bolts, and walked away with a hard fought “W”.

At this point the tournament took place. As I was blown out faster than anyone else, our host asked if I wanted to do another casual game while the other matches  were finishing up.

Game 3

I was tempted to be stubborn and try my RG yet again but I knew the only way I was going to win a game would be to establish board control.  I had to keep him from ramping up, especially considering that for this game he was using a Modern Goblin deck.  My black devotion deck is incredibly good at keeping the other side of the board clean since it’s jam-packed with removal spells.  I went with it. We played. I lost again. This time the loss wasn’t frustrating..I knew that I could beat his deck, I lost because I flooded and couldn’t get anything going.  0-3

Game 4

This time I didn’t flood..my deck worked the way I wanted it to. Every time he played a Goblin that pumped up or created more Goblins, I removed it right away. I played plenty of creatures with deathtouch in an effort to force him to trade off with me and keep his Goblins from multiplying.  My strategy worked, and I dropped Obnixis the Fallen, triggering the devotion of Erebos, God of the Dead, turning Erebos into a creature and I swung in for the win.  1-3

 

Yup. 1 win, 3 losses.  I know,  not impressive at all.  After it was all said and done, I can admit that I had fun, which is all that matters..even during the losses it was interesting.  I learned a lot about the decks that I had once considered my best.  More importantly I found out that if I really want to see how to improve a deck, let someone else pilot it.  The change of perspective makes it much easier to see where improvements can be made.  All in all, it was a good night and it re-lit the Magic fire that had gone out recently.  I rebuilt the 3 decks that I brought with me, and also brainstormed some new deck ideas.  Just to get the fire back, if even for a short time, made the entire event worth it.  I’m looking forward to playing our friend again and seeing how my newly built decks fare..maybe 3-1 next time? A guy can dream…

 

*In case your curious, I did okay with my Origins box that I mentioned in the first paragraph..a Goblin Piledriver, an Abbot of Keral Keep, Hangarback Walker, and the Gideon flip Planeswalker.

Back into Hell Again

(Editor’s Note:  I’m swear that I’m not a Meatloaf fan.  The guy just writes the most obnoxiously catchy earworms int he history of pop music.  Okay, I guess “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is pretty damn good song.)

Our recent expansion of the group notwithstanding, I’m not not very enthusiastic about Magic.  My discovery of free online Magic reignited my interest briefly, but the rise of mindless red decks make me never want to play the game again.  I’ve played Cube so much that I’m sick of the cards and format and I just feel like I’m on a phenomenal cold streak in general.  The game just isn’t that much fun.

It has gotten to the point that I might need to get a restraining order against this card.
It has gotten to the point that I might need to get a restraining order against this card.

Magic Duels released last week.  I downloaded it on the day that it did and will write an article for next week.  The problem is that one of the only reasons that I play the game is for the story and I finished that in only three days.  In the past, they’ve had puzzles and other side events to keep me busy.  Those don’t exist anymore, but they do have daily quests now.  Given my already negative attitude, that’s just not enough for me to log into the game.

It all came to a head earlier this week in a test to Chris.  It said, simply, “Why do I even play this game?”  I had just gotten blown out in another Cube event by a deck that seemed to have the exact answers for my deck.  I furiously closed the program and tried to walk away from the computer.  Aiden and I tried to get a game of Dicemasters going to help distract me, but work,  Tae Kwon Do, and swimming have prevented us from making it happen.

More recently, I texted Chris with a fairly mean spirited assessment of mono red deck players.  We had a good conversation about our attitudes towards Magic.  Mine, I decided, is really dark.  I’ve taken a step back from where I was only a few months ago.  In addition to not enjoying the game, I’m back to blaming most of my losses on bad luck.  I agree with Chris.  I just need to step away for a few days.  Thankfully, we are going to the Cape and I will be away from the computer completely.

Zen.
Zen.

Because, I’ve tried playing Magic via the free client and Duels, but every time I’ve just gotten angry about the proliferation of mono red in every format, the feeling that the MtG universe is against me in any limited environment (Seriously, who has two thumbs, drafts BW enchantments in Origins and then gets mana screwed game 1 and flooded game 2?  This guy, that’s who.), and the recent discovery that yet another category of cards has become unobtainable due to speculation and price gouging.  The game as it is available to me just isn’t fun.

No land and no spells makes Homer...something something.
No land and no spells makes Homer…something something.

Chris, as he does whenever I text him one of my one line manifestos against the game, mentioned Diablo III again and how much fun he has playing it.  My history with Diablo III is long and checkered.  I started a game way back when Blizzard gave it free with some WoW promotion, lost the game when the promotion ended, tried playing coop with Chris, had fun and thought it was only fun as coop, tried again with a witch doctor character, abandoned it, tried it yet again solo, abandoned it again, and finally found a class that I enjoy playing in Demon Hunter.  It felt like a whole different game.  It was the fun game that I’ve heard Chris and others kept mentioning and the one that we had fun playing together.

Even so, I started back to teaching, that sucked up any and all free time for about a month.  Diablo III got relegated to B-team status and I fell into the habit of playing computer games again because I was always on the stupid thing planning.  That led to Hearthstone and Magic and the blow ups this week.  When Chris brought up DIII again, it gave me a reason to boot up the XBox 360.

Please, Sir, won't you just pay me to play video games?  My CV is attached in the form of this web page.
Please, Sir, won’t you just pay me to play video games? My CV is attached in the form of this web page.

I played the game for the last four nights and plan on playing it again next week when I’m home on temporary bachelor status.  I played too late on Tuesday and paid for it the next day at work when I had to get up early.  I just had to beat the damn dungeon that I started because I was only halfway through Act I and Chris is in the middle of Act II.  I’m getting too old for this crap.  Oh well, I beat the dungeon, finished the act, and the students were giving presentations in class.  So, it all worked out.  #aginggamerproblems

Agent Murtaugh gets it.
“WTF is a hash tag?  In my day, that was a pound sign and we played Tic Tac Toe on it.”

Diablo III has done what I hoped it would.  Even though I’ve been on the computer watching Twitch while playing, I haven’t once logged into any Magic program.  I’m having way too much fun crawling through the darkest dungeons in search of the sword that restores Tyrael’s memory.  Well, that’s what I was doing two days ago instead of getting much needed beauty sleep.  Now, I am on to uncharted territory in Act II.

Actually, I played through part of Act II yesterday and some of it was very familar.  That means that I’ve at least played through part of it already and forgotten.  Never mind what that says about the strength of the story, what of my already bruised ego as a sad old guy trying to remain relevant in a world that is rapidly becoming younger and younger.  Do they have a “fade into a void of despair and nothingness” channel on Twitch?  Oh wow, that just got way too existential and nihilistic.

Get off my lawn, too!  There's no room for the plants to fight the zombies.  Damn whipper snappers.
Get off my lawn, too! There’s no room for the plants to fight the zombies. Damn whipper snappers.

The only problem with the game is the problem inherent in all of these games.  I can’t play it while the boys are awake because of the rating.  Therefore, I find myself jumping onto the computer when I need a quick gaming fix.  Even so, I think that DIII has done a good job because I don’t immediately start a game of Magic and sometimes I’ll even log in and start either game and not not play any Magic.  Also, I’ll be home by myself next week while I’m working and they’re at the Cape, so I’ll have almost all day those three days to play the game and continue my treatment to try to get my inspiration and enjoyment from Magic again.

Quick Hits: Plants vs. Zombies

(Editor’s Note:  BRAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIINNNNNNS!)

I have made no apologies for my life long infatuation with zombies.  It started with Night of the Living Dead, continued through the Resident Evil games, reached its peak with The Walking Dead comic book and finally died with the TV show.  However, like the zombies themselves, I’m sure that it will rise again from the grave to haunt me and attempt to devour my brain.  In that case, this past week might represent the part in the movie where the hand shoots out of the earth and the ominous music plays.

Okay, guys, will you now admit that I'm the best at hide and seek?
Okay, guys, will you now admit that I’m the best at hide and seek?

Somehow, through all of the movies (hell, I even enjoyed Warm Bodies), comic books (Marvel Zombies was a favorite along with The Walking Dead), and games (Dead Rising become more fun than the Resident Evil series), I missed Plants vs. Zombies.  I knew about the game, of course, but never played it.  I played a version of it as a quest in World of Warcraft for a battle pet (at the time just a vanity pet) but never the actual game.  Like Candy Crush, the game just never registered as one I’d enjoy.

Blizzard, your undisputed champions at making money off of other people's ideas.
Blizzard, your undisputed champions at making money off of other people’s ideas.

I got introduced to Candy Crush finally through my kids and Mother-in-Law.  She was stuck on a level and I played through to help get her to the next level.  It wasn’t long until I downloaded the game on my own tablet and now I’m up to level 152.  A former student told me about the daily spin to keep me logging in every day and I’ve even spent some money on the game buying a couple of the weekend deals.

My introduction to Plants vs. Zombies was not as gradual.  After not having played the game, I got the urge to download and install it on my tablet.  I think that part of the reason that I never played it was that I only owned phones and don’t like the overall experience of gaming on phones.  I have had the tablet for a few months, now, so that doesn’t explain the sudden interest in this particular game.  Well, whatever the reason, I’ve found a new mobile obsession to play while waiting for my lives to regenerate in Candy Crush.

My thoughts:

  • The game isn’t all that hard.  Most of the time, a row of sunflowers behind two rows of the pea shooters is sufficient to clear the level.
  • Even so, the game play and zombies are varied enough that you occasionally have to change your strategy to account for the different attacks.
  • The mini games and puzzles are different enough to break up the monotony of the main game.  It’s just too bad that there are so few of them.
  • I have never been able to play other zombie games around the kids, for obvious reasons, but that’s not an issue with this game.
  • As a follow up to that last point, there’s nothing cuter (or weirder) than hearing my 4 year old wail, “Braaaiinnss” because he heard it on the game.
  • Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the game as a good game.  It is a mostly fun game and free (or 2 bucks if you want to get rid of the ads, as I did), so you really can’t lose by trying it out if you have somehow avoided it as long as I have.

Making Friends

(Editor’s Note:  Two straight articles about Origins sealed, new deck ideas, plus a possible new play group.  Not bad for a set that neither one of us really likes all that much.  The MtG universe is indeed a strange one.)

Neither Chris nor I are remotely sociable creatures.  We’re both content with a small circle of friends, so two Mondays ago was a bit uncomfortable for the both of us.  We both expressed our discomfort in the days and hours leading up to the get together, discussed a plan B just in case the other guys were douche bags, and marveled at the complex where the host lived.  Perhaps an explanation is in order.

We both agreed that if you are going to play cards by yourself, this is probably the way to go.
We both agreed that if you are going to play cards by yourself, this is probably the way to go.

Chris and I have both written about our recent waning interest in the game.  We have branched out into other tabletop games and I have discussed liquidating my collection.  Chris went one step further and listed his cards on craigslist.  He found someone local to buy the cards.  They texted back and forth a few times about possible games.  Initially, I worried about expanding the group for obvious reasons.  When nothing materialized, I relaxed that things would just blow over.

There was a distinct possibility that we'd end up across the table from this guy.
There was a distinct possibility that we’d end up across the table from this guy.

Then, Chris texted me asking if I wanted to play some Magic the following Monday.  The guy had a box of Origins and wanted to do a sealed Swiss tournament.  As I do, I replied, “Yes” and then went back to worrying about meeting new people.  Thankfully, we took a day trip to Cape Cod, so I was able to keep busy and forget about it over the weekend.  Monday, as it tends to do every week or so, came and I started to hope that things might come through.  If not, I frantically tried to come up with any excuse to get out.  This impulse fought against not wanting to leave Chris hanging.  Ultimately, loyalty won and we found ourselves driving to a super secret gated community in the middle of nowhere.  I joked that if I heard banjos, I was out of there.  I suppose that I could have made the Jim Jones/David Koresh (are those really the most recent suicide cult references?  Wow) joke, too, but those are more difficult to pull off tactfully.

Much funnier than suicide cults. I'm a bad person.
Much funnier than suicide cults. I’m a bad person.

We sat for a while at a house across the street and joked some more about hidden snipers and cannibalism until the guy pulled up in his Nissan Z something or another.  A quick anecdote about the car.  This passenger apparently asked if it was some kind of sports car or something.  we all got a considerable chuckle out of the poor kid’s ignorance and humiliation.  Ah, male bonding, you never change.

Nissan something or another. I know next to nothing about cars.
Nissan something or another. I know next to nothing about cars.

Chris and I played a few games against our host while the other two guys played some Tiny Leaders until the other two showed up for the sealed tournament.  At first it appeared that our worst fears might be realized because the guy played mostly infinite combo decks built with some of the best cards in Magic history against our cards we own decks, but things eventually settled down.  We both dropped not so subtle hints as he stormed out on me turn 2 that we weren’t exactly having fun.  I have no problem with those decks in a competitive setting, but casual?  Please, keep it in your pants.

His deck revolved around this. I could have removed it, but didn't. He proceeded to storm out. I watched the other two guys play their game while he metaphorically rubbed one out.
His deck revolved around this. I could have removed it, but didn’t. He proceeded to storm out. I watched the other two guys play their game while he metaphorically rubbed one out.

We eventually got our six, worked out the details of payment, grabbed our packs, and went to deck building.  I didn’t get much of note, but I opened a Nalaar parents card and Thopter Spy Network that pushed me in that direction when building my deck.  We paired off.  I went 1-2, dropping two games after winning the first.  All three games were competitive, so I am definitely getting better at judging sealed pools and playing the game.  I misplayed once or twice, so that’s still something that needs to be fixed because I’m tired of scrubbing out of these events.

My deck. In keeping with my Johnny nature, I might have tried to do too much.

Overall, though, the positives of the evening outweighed the negatives and I’m glad that we went.  I got to play against live competition and didn’t get completely blown out.  Chris brought a really cool Naya deck that I had a blast playing.  Chris and I actually started to talk about Magic again.  We even workshopped the Naya deck during the games and on the ride back to his apartment.  I learned about Pucatrade and might make an account.  I’m absolutely open to making this a regular thing.  Maybe not every month, but every other month would be cool.

The experience has made me less apprehensive about going to one of the local FNM draft events.  I should be able to put up a respectable showing and might even meet one or two cool people there.  Either way, it got me back into paper Magic.  The computer versions are fun, but no substitute for playing across from another person.  For all of those reason, I’m grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the next time.