Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.6 Kaladesh Edition

-Tomorrow’s the day, folks. MTG’s Kaladesh will finally be released to the nerdy masses. I, for one, absolutely can’t wait. The power level of this set seems to be slightly above average and is already drawing comparisons to the Kamigawa block.

-The Masterpiece subset is amazing looking. I’m already having copper foil dreams of Masterpieces, although with my luck, a dream is as close as I’m going to get to one of these. A�The odds of pulling one of these babies? 1 in every 4 boxes. Zoinks.

-So if my luck is just so awful, then why am I excited about them? Well because it adds excitement to opening a box. Also, I’m cheap and with all the MTG financiers opening box after box hunting for the elusive Masterpieces, the value of the mythics and rares in Kaladesh will take a hit, making it easier for budget-minded people like myself to load up on the best cards in the set. A�Sucks for the people looking to turn a profit on their box(es) but great for the players.

-The general consensus is that Chandra (the red Mind Sculptor) is the best card in the set. I agree but still wanted to give you my other top picks. Fleetwood Cruiser is fantastic and one of my favorite vehicles. A�4 colorless gives you a 5/3 runaway car with Trample and Haste and requires no Crew on the turn it enters the battlefield. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Smuggler’s Copter are my other two favorites. Both of which are extremely powerful. A�Verdurous Gearhulk and Cataclysmic Gearhulk are the two of the best creatures in the set. Verdurous can essentially become an 8/8 trampler for 5 mana if you use its ability on itself. Cataclysmic is a walking boardwipe and the best part of all is that it’s an artifact creature so it can be your artifact pick and you can save another one of your creature when it’s ability triggers. Finally, my favorite card in the set is….Kambal, Consul of Allocation. This guy is pure burn hate and I love it. A�Although he isn’t an Eidolon of the Great Revel, he doesn’t bite his owner like Eidolon does, and gives life while stinging your opponent. This guy will see a lot of play in Tiny Leaders and also other Commander decks. I expect him to see some play in Standard if Black-White control becomes a thing like I think it will.

Alright, that’s another Rapid Fire in the books..good luck with your Kaladesh boxes, I hope all of you get what you’re looking for. As always, thanks for reading!

Currently Playing…Vol.17

Street Fighter V (PS4): A�First things first; I have always been a Capcom guy. A�Yeah, yeah, I know that I have been slightly (highly) critical of their policy of releasing the same game over and over with a few tweaks and calling it “Super”, “Ultra”, or “Arcade” but that never stopped me from picking up one of their titles and greatly enjoying it. A�Whether it was playing and getting destroyed by Shawn or waiting until he went home and showing the CPU that I was still the boss, I’ve always put hours into each Street Fighter title. Which is why this is a tough review. Let’s get right to it:

Grade: F

Yes. A�An “F”. A�Why? It’s simple. Capcom released a very bare bones, incomplete version of a Street Fighter game. A�No single player arcade mode, no single player “VS” mode, the graphics are polished but not all that different from last gen’s SF titles, and, well, as Shawn so eloquently put it “Damn, eSports kids”, in reference to this game clearly being designed with online gaming in mind. I suppose it’s my own fault as I could have read the reviews and A�most likely saw that this game was poorly made, but I prefer to stay away from other reviews so I can give an unbiased one of my own for you guys.

The good news is that Capcom just released an update (9 gb?!!!) that adds the ability to fight CPU characters in VS mode. However still no Arcade mode unfortunately..I guess me and the rest of the suckers who bought this crap version of Street Fighter will have to wait for Super or Ultra Street Fighter V. A�Avoid this game, you’ll thank me.

My Completely Ignorant NFL Preview (NFC)

(Editor’s Note: A�George McQuarters is still on his summer vacation. A�It must be nice to be retired. A�I know, I’m as close to retired as a person can be while still being employed, but we always covet what we can’t have. A�The grass is always greener than 2 bushes or something like that. A�As a result, we are going to take the seaon off from picking games and just give you my picks for the divisions an Super Bowl.)

[spoiler title="TDLR"]Giants maybe?, Cardinals, Packers, Panthers. And because I'm a huge fan of schadenfreude, Giants over Pats to complete the trilogy sweep.[/spoiler]

So, can we still call this article a preview when it is being published after week 2 of the season is already finished? A�This is my website and I’ll do what I want. A�Besides, the rest of it is still relevant. A�I’m no less ignorant than I was at the beginning of the season other than the fact that I know that the Steelers are 2-0.

A preview?  Two weeks into the season?
A preview? Two weeks into the season?

NFC East

  1. New York Giants – Remember when the NFC East was called the best division in all of football with the best rivalry games? A�Yeah, this is not that version of the National Football League. A�I’m picking the Giants by default because Chip Kelly will have his team gassed by game 3, Dallas lost Romo for a considerable part of the season, and Washington is cursed until they bite the bullet (pun intended) and change their name.
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – So, 9-7 could win this division and the runner up could be 6-10 or worse. A�I have no faith anymore that Chip Kelly can be a competent National Football League head coach. A�I was confident that the guy in Oregon was just keeping his clipboard warm until everything blew over, but Chip seems determined to make this thing work. A�All the best, Chip. A�Should have just taken your paddlin’ and you could have been the toast of college football uniforms.
  3. Dallas Cowboys – So, more fantasy football because nothing people love more than hearing about another person’s fantasy football woes. A�I had Gronkenstein the year that he blew out his knee. A�Last year, I had Tony Romo to start the season and he broke his back (or shoulder, something, whatever, what’s important here is that he was one of the reasons that I lost in week 2), so I started to think that the curse was alive and well. A�Turns out to be one of the best things to happen (get well soon, Tony) since I picked up Blake Bortles and rode him all the way to the title.
  4. Washington (redacted) – I think I wrote this two years ago, but I don’t understand why this stupid team just doesn’t change their name already. A�The fans will buy the new merchandise after grumbling for a little bit about honoring Native American heritage or some nonsense. A�That’s a windfall. A�Plus, after a few years, you can run throw back days and resell the old jerseys to make even more money. A�I’m not a marketing guy by any stretch, but this feels like a win/win.

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals – I’ve kept an eye on Arizona since Larry Fitzgerald started playing for them. A�I also like that their field can be wheeled outside of the stadium to get sun. A�Other than that, I’m not sure that I have a reason to pick Arizona over Seattle for the division. A�Hey, it’s good to go out on a limb every now and then, right?
  2. Seattle Seahawks – Before the Seahawks started to get good again, I actually forgot that Seattle had a football team. A�I was sitting and talking with a friend about football and he said, “Seattle”. A�I replied, not joking, with “Seattle?” A�He said, “The Seahawks.” A�”Hmm, they’re still a team.” A�The Seahawks are good again, but some of the shine is starting to wear off of the turd and they’ll be back to relegation status soon enough.
  3. San Francisco – When your team is making headlines because your back up quarterback has started what could grow into a revolution (and just to be clear, I support his stance and actions) instead of on the field actions, it’s not a good omen for your team finishing high in the standings. A�I wish Mr. Kaepernick and his allies all the best, but the 49ers are going to stink on ice.
  4. Los Angeles Rams – So, the Rams got sick of their cute and young but vapid wife (LA), decided to try an older and more sophisticated woman (St. Louis) only to realize that wouldn’t work because she’s in love with another (baseball), and came crawling back to the bimbo who is now older and not as pretty (California is in the middle of record drought and wildfires). A�Hey, I suppose the prospects are better in LA, because you know she’ll get work done. A�Okay, I’ve taken this metaphor as far as I can.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – The Packers are the Pats of the NFC right now. A�As long as they have Rodgers (!) on the team, you can’t count them out for anything. A�Add to that the fact that this is one of those divisions where you can write off the other three teams sight unseen and this is an easy pick.
  2. Minnesota Vikings– I knew that Teddy Bridgewater was injured. A�I’m a little worried because I think the next quarterback on their depth chart might be Sean Salisbury and he’s a bit old to be playing quarterback. A�Then again, I also know that Adrian Petersen is still on this team (note: A�AD is now injured, too) and capable of carrying them to a .500 record.
  3. Chicago Bears – Da Bears…stink. A�I have an online friend who is from Chicago and his Facebook posts keep me in the loop when it comes to Da Bears and Da Bulls. A�His thoughts on the season are not positive, so I guess you could say that I’ve got a bit of insider information here. A�Worldwide leader, look out!
  4. Detroit Lions – Megatron retired in a very Barry Sanders like move. A�What does it say about a franchise that it’s brightest stars would rather walk away from the game that they love than be subjected to the misery of having to play on that team. A�I guess that one notable thing is that Detroit has joined Seattle as a team that I forgot existed. A�And, this one plays at least once on national TV every year.

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers – I admit it. A�I like Cam Newton. A�In spite of his NCAA violations (I will always side with the individual over the allegedly corrupt organization), dabbing and celebrating (I will always side with the victim over racists), and hissy fit at the end of the Super Bowl last year (we always want our athletes to be super competitive, except when we don’t), I think he’s a decent individual and a good quarterback. A�Keep on proving them wrong, Cam.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers have a strong running back and their quarterback is starting to get hype for something other than stealing crab legs from a local grocery store. A�They don’t have that dunderhead from Rutgers as coach anymore, so that’s a step in the right direction.
  3. New Orleans Saints – The Saints are back to the Aints again. A�Sean Payton just doesn’t seem to have the same fire for coaching since winning a Super Bowl and getting suspended for a season. A�Drew Brees is getting older and thinking about all of the commercials he’ll be able to do just like Peyton Manning.
  4. Atlanta Falcons – The Braves stink. A�The Falcons stink. A�The Hawks…are still a team in the NBA, right? A�Atlanta is starting to feel like the new Cleveland now that the Cavs ended the streak up there.

Currently Playing…Vol.16

God of War 3 Remastered (PS4): Usually I skip any “remastered” version of a game (which is ironic because the other game I’m going to talk about is remastered as well. HAH!), but since I don’t currently own a PS3 and never played GOW3, I figured I’d give into the cash grab. I’m a huge GOW fan (I own every one in the series, besides the PS3 version), and from what I’d heard this game was amazing. A�I strolled into Gamestop (I go once or twice a week), and grabbed a preowned copy off the shelf. A�While I was mulling over if a used copy was worth $25, another customer walked up to me holding GOW3. He was about to trade it in (re: get lowballed) and wanted to know if I was interested. $10 later we both walked away happy. I saved myself $15 and he probably got about $5 more than what they would have offered. Ok, great story, but what about the game? Well right away the graphics jump out at you..the game is gorgeous. A�It’s essentially the same gameplay though, solve puzzles, kill things, fight giant bosses, upgrade weapons and Magic,..etc. I think some people were turned off that not much changed, but to me, this series has been gaming perfection, so if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. A�The story has the same general premise as the others; kill Zeus. The boss fights last longer than the older GOW titles in my opinion and feel more epic. My only complaint is the QTE’s (quick time events). There seems to be more of them, and while not especially challenging, they can be annoying after awhile and take away from the fast paced combat. A�All in all, it’s a typical God of War game which means that it’s pretty close to perfect. Now would I run out and buy it if I already owned the PS3 version? No, I’ve seen the side by side graphics comparison and while the remastered edition is slightly more polished, I don’t think it’s worth spending the extra cash on a remastered edition…unless you can get it for $1 0.

Grade: A-

Ducktales Remastered (360): I actually used to own the original NES version of this game. It was a childhood favorite of mine, and to be honest, ranked right up there with Mario as far as platforms go. A�The remastered edition still holds its own and is just as fun as the original. A�The levels and bosses have been A�redesigned so it feels like a new game even if you played the original. A�The graphics make you feel like you are in an episode of Ducktales, and are obviously a vast improvement over the original. You control Scrooge McDuck as he travels the globe in search of artifacts and treasure, while attempting to stop Magica DeSpell from taking Scrooge’s #1 dime and hatching her evil plan. A�Some reviewers have said that this game doesn’t hold against newer Mario titles, and while I agree for the most part, I feel that the only things that held this game back are the massive amount of cut scenes that the developer added to make the story flow, and the overall length of the game. A�While there are hidden areas to find and explore it feels like Ducktales can be beaten in a night and the cut scenes are really, really annoying after awhile (even if you can skip them, which you will find yourself doing A LOT). A�To be honest, Ducktales Remastered would have been graded higher without the cutscenes. Still, this title is worth picking up if you get a chance and are looking for something light hearted to play or just looking for something to play with your kids.

Grade: C+

 

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Part 2 – Console)

(Editor’s Note: A�Anyone else want to share? A�Oh, Noob, you’re not finished yet? A�Well, aren’t you the little chatterbox. A�Please, continue.)

I have played slightly more of a variety on console. A�Chris picked up a PS4 a couple of months ago and we played some MK and call of Duty on that. A�I enjoyed the latest MK and even had fun shooting at Chris and his stupid bot teammates. A�It actually made me consider getting one for myself, but then I remembered that it is summer and I only make enough to pay bills and go on five vacations. A�I know, I know. A�Feel sorry for me. A�If you feel badly A�enough, I can open a Kickstarter.

I have played a lot on the Wii U. A�While the boys and I haven’t continued our adventures in New Super Mario Bros. U, we did finally get a chance to rent Pokken Tournament. A�Unlike Pokemon Go, which feels like an extremely polished beta and fell slightly short of expectations, Pokken Tournament is everything I had hoped it woudl be and maybe even more.

That’s saying something. Pokken Tournament was one of my most anticipated games of the year. Under normal circumstances, a Pokemon fighting game would not excite me so much. A�I’ve seen too many of these offshoot type games come and go to know that the only reason they get any attention at all is because of the brand name. A�Nintendo, especially, is famous for green lighting extremely questionable games for their properties.

Remember Pokemon Dash? Of course you don---oh, you do? Well, then, I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry.
Remember Pokemon Dash? Of course you don—oh, you do? Well, then, I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry.

This is not one of those games by any stretch of the imagination. A�Instead of keeping the development of the game in house, they partnered with the makers of Tekken. A�Granted, the aforementioned Pokemon Dash was the result of collaboration with an outside company. A�However, there is a big difference between Namco and whatever out of business company produced that abortion of a game.

Oh, and before you accuse me of a love in with Namco and Tekken, I need to assert that Tekken is not even my favorite game in the technical fighting genre(?) A�Is that even a thing? A�Or, did I just make it up? A�I don’t know. A�It sounds like a thing. A�Let’s treat it like a thing because it makes the next paragraph that much easier to write and I don’t have to go into a long back story. A�Even though we all know that’s what I love and I pretend that you all love it, too, in an attempt to convince myself that it’s all worth it.

So, in what may be a first, a short explanation. A�Once upon a time, there were two polygonal fighters that revolved more around actual fighting strategy than throwing balls of fire at the opponent. A�One, of course, was Tekken. A�The other was Virtua Fighter. I don’t know if the games were meant to be direct competition to one another. A�But, that’s what we do as gamers. A�We bring competition where there should be none. A�After all, look at the Hearthstone phenomenon. Bazinga!

Oh, you've spent the entire game playing strategically and following a carefully crafted gameplan? Here, let me cast a bunch of completely random spells that invalidates all of that and reduces the game to a series of dice rolls and coin flips. Hmm, well played.
Oh, you’ve spent the entire game playing strategically and following a carefully crafted gameplan? Here, let me cast a bunch of completely random spells that invalidates all of that and reduces the game to a series of dice rolls and coin flips. Hmm, well played.

Well, in the great technical fighting game battles of the 1990s, I was firmly in the corner of Virtua Fighter. A�In fact, Virtua Fighter 2 is probably one of my top 10 games of all time. A�I say probably, because I haven’t actually ever extended my list officially to 10, but off the top of my head I can’t think of 5 other games that I like better. A�Hopefully that establishes my credentials as a non fanboy of Tekken. A�With all of that being said, Namco does make a decent fighting game and they did a heck of a job with Pokken.

They could have just made all of the Pokemon play the exact same and just give them different voices and one or two attacks that fans would recognize. A�They didn’t. A�All of the Pokemon play as different fighters with different strategies. A�This adds a variety and replayability because you want to try to master all of the different styles. A�The game also makes use of the buddy feature common to many fighting games where you pick a companion Pokemon to fight alongside your main character. A�Overall, a great game and I can’t wait to play it more and have a more detailed review in November when the boys and I cover the game for Pokemon month.

Pikachu, I choose you! ...to beat the crap out of other Pokemon!

Pikachu, I choose you! …to beat the crap out of other Pokemon!

Aside from my introduction to Pokken, I have actually been catching up (slowly but surely) on my XBox 360 list. A�I have advanced quite far in the story on both Fallout 3 and Skyrim. A�I haven’t even been using a walkthrough for Skyrim. A�Those who know me and have read my articles know that is quite the achievement for such an open world game. A�I still get distracted by the carrot on a stick side quests, but I’m moving right along. A�At this pace, I should be done with the main questline right about the time that they release the remake on the XBox One 360 Redux Master edition in 10 years.

Finally, of course, I played some Portal 2. A�The play through was nothing short of amazing and the game is still special to me. A�This time was more special, though, because they boys joined me for the journey. A�Both Liam and Aiden were able to get a kick out of the humor and Quinn was blown away by the sometimes twisted physics of the portal gun. A�I started an article about why I’m so attached to this game that I will play it time after time over other games that I haven’t yet finished. A�Maybe I will post it when I’m suffering one of my legendary bouts of writer’s block.

Well, that’s about it for my console summer. A�I still have two other articles to write about mobile games (where I’ve spent most of my time in the Digital Playground) and tabletop escapades. A�I haven’t done as much On the Tabletop, but I have gotten back into Magic and started to put together my Hordes armies, so there will be plenty of pictures. A�Until then, keep on gaming!

Currently Playing..Vol.15

  • Dragon Quest Heroes -World Tree’s Woe and The Blight Below (PS4): A�As a fan of anything Dragon Quest (I almost bought the little blue slime stuffed pillow..true story), I couldn’t resist this title on the Pre-Owned rack at Gamestop. A�I plunked $24.99 of my hard-earned cash on the counter, rejected the employee’s awkward attempt at upselling and sped home, eager to start a new Dragon Quest adventure. A�If I may veer off the beaten path for a minute..is it me or is the Gamestop upsell crap a little annoying? A�Do you remember when the upsell just consisted of “Do you want to insure your disc for an extra $2.00?” Now it’s “Do you want to insure your disc? Picking up any controllers today? Placing any Pre-Orders today?” I always bite back my sarcastic response of, “Oh yeah!!! I completely forgot about a controller! Because they are so godamn cheap and clearly an impulse item! A Pre-Order! Yes! Let me plop down cash on a game that isn’t even out yet y’know just in case there is a looting incident and the 127 copies you will have in stock sell out! Oh and I get some silly-ass t-shirt and free downloadable content that will be available for free anyways on the next printing of the game? Well sign me up!!”

Ahem. What am I writing about? Ah yes, Dragon Quest Heroes. A�To my surprise this isn’t a traditional DQ (Yeah, us people in the “know” call it DQ..hmm…why do I want ice cream now?…), no, this game is more like Dynasty Warriors. A�You form a party of 4 warriors and basically tear through hundreds and hundreds of monsters. It’s like a beat ‘m up mixed with an RPG and sprinkled with a small bit of strategy..a very small bit. A�The story is that, unlike the traditional DQ game, humans peacefully coexist with monsters. That is until some Count Chocula lookalike, no wait, I can do better, The Count from Sesame Street lookalike shows up and casts a spell driving all of the monsters crazy (yes, I am proud of of that Sesame Street reference) causing them to attack humans. A�This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as his plan goes as he wants to destroy the humans, destroy The World Tree, release darkness upon the world, and essentially just be a bad egg. Along the course of your quest, you meet up with fellow heroes from different dimensions and they join your cause. A�FYI, A�Aurora is the stronger of the two starting characters and as for the rest of your party Bianca, Terry and Yangus are beasts. Most people who have played this game seem to agree with me. A�Okay so that’s the story so how about the gameplay? Well it’s fun, you mindlessly bash the snot out of monsters using weapons you find, buy, or craft. You level up as you would in any RPG and as your level increases you are granted skill points which can be used to boost your attack, defense, intelligence, and can also be used to unlock your characters’ special abilities and spells. A�Sounds pretty neat, right? Well, yes it is, for awhile..then the levels get repetitive. Basically there a few different types of levels; you guard on object (I.e a gate, a person, or a World Tree root) from the hordes of monsters, a boss level, or a level where you have to destroy all the monsters on the map. Yes, the levels themselves are aesthetically different but the core mechanic stays the same and tends to turn this game into a bit of a bore. I have about 30 hrs into it, and I just don’t see myself playing it too much longer. Don’t get me wrong, in small spurts this game is pretty fun, but anything longer than an hour at a time and you’ll find yourself yawning too.

Grade: C

My Completely Ignorant NFL Preview (AFC)

(Editor’s Note: A�Two years ago I picked the playoffs at the beginning of the playoff season. A�I only got two games wrong, but one of them was the Super Bowl, so I was a last second interception away from getting that one right. A�I didn’t do as well last year and might have even been outshined by a coin that goes by the name of George McQuarters. A�Nevertheless, as with previous years, I have done almost no research for this article other than listening to the Sports Guy and Cousin Sal a couple of times on my commute and I saw one half of one preseason game.)

[spoiler title="TLDR:"]Pats, Chefs, Bungles, Colts I guess?, And because I'm a huge fan of schadenfreude, Giants over Pats to complete the trilogy sweep.[/spoiler]

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – Yes, they have no Brady for the first four games. A�Sure, we just learned that Gronkenstein will be out for at least the opener. A�None of it matters. A�Never mind making a deal with the devil, Belichick is Satan himself and this team will continue to win 10+ games and own this terrible division for the rest of eternity. A�Eff the Pats.
  2. Miami Dolphins – Only because I can’t pick the other three teams in this division to be relegated to a lesser league similar to what the Premier League does, I have to put them in some order. A�The Dolphins played in the one half of one preseason game I watched and I still think Ryan Tannehill could be a decent quarterback with help. A�Unfortunately, the Dolphins are not equipped to make good football decisions, so he’ll be out of the league in a couple of years and they’ll be selling the ever popular rebuilding year that turns into a decade of misery. A�Even so, I’m pretty sure they can fake their way to 8-8 and the ever popular “we have next year”.
  3. New York Jets – Speaking of decade of misery. A�Sure, they had some successes with Fat Rex and the “Sanchise” (what a cruel joke that turned out to be), but overall it’s been just more irrelevance for yet another New York team. A�As a resident of Massachusetts, that should give me great joy. A�I’m a transplant, though, so the joy is vicarious through my father in law who cares much more about this sport than I do.
  4. BuffaloA�Bills – I watched the “Four Falls of Buffalo” last year with a friend. A�It was sad and inspiring all at once. A�I grew up in Erie and, due to the NFL home team rules, we got all of the Buffalo games. A�I saw the whole thing unfold game by game and year by year. A�I also saw evidence of a fantasy football draft where a player took Tyrod Taylor on purpose. A�It clearly affected me in a profound way because I’m still talking about it and I can’t get the image out of my head.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chefs– Andy Reid is still the coach and Alex Smith is still the quarterback. A�But, I seem to remember that this team had a good defense and a good running back, even though I couldn’t name a single one of those players if my life depended on it. A�In the NFL of my and my parent’s youth, a good running game and defense won you games. A�I’m not sure about this hotsy totsy free wheeling version we have today, but when all else fails, misplaced nostalgia is always a good way to look stupid.
  2. San Diego Chargers – This is another division where the 3 teams besides the divisino winner are more or less interchangeable. A�Sure, they all wear different colors to distinguish themselves, but they are like those kids in the college aerial pictures where they all stand together to make something and moms everywhere swear they can see their kid. A�My point is, who the hell knows or cares who will be #2 in the AFC West?
  3. Denver Broncos – Because of our impeccable timing, the Broncos had already played and won their first game when this was written. A�It is being posted after all but the 2 Monday games have been played, but at least it is not the NFC article, which will be posted after all the first games have been played. A�Spoiler alerts abound for those in an alternate universe who are reading this one time. A�However, I have the sneaking suspicion that their 7th round quarterback won’t work out as well as another certain 7th round quarterback who shall remain nameless. A�The scourge has been lifted from the land and there is no reason to be the one to unleash it. A�Point is, Manning (even a terrible Manning) to what’s his face is quite the drop off and might take some time for success.
  4. Los Angeles (or are they back in Oakland?) Raiders – The Raiders are another successful team from my youth. A�As we saw with the bills, though, misguided nostalgia only goes so far and the ghost of Al Davis still haunts this team. A�Until they prove otherwise, I will just assume that they have drafted Darius Heyward Bey in the first round every year.

AFC North

  1. Cincinnati Bungles – I don’t have any compelling reason to pick the Bungles over the Steelers other than in an attempt to reverse jinx them. A�The Steelers were driving to beat the Broncos in the playoffs last year with a contest winner starting at running back and the Bungles did their best to lose their only playoff game…to the Steelers.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers ahve gone from not even having a shotgun package in their offense when I was younger to running a spread pass happy offense with 2 of the top 5 receivers in the league. A�Oh, they also have a good running back. A�Even so, some of those guys get in trouble or injured yearly and that always keeps the team from achieving Pats like success. A�Oh well, it is still good to be a Steelers fan.
  3. Baltimore Rats – It’s certainly better to be a Steelers fan than a Rats fan right now. A�Even though they have “elite” quarterback Joe Flacco, they were terrible last year. A�I don’t see any indication that they have done anything to fix that this year.
  4. Cleveland Browns – It is always better to be a Steelers fan than a Browns fan. A�No more Johnny Football. A�Instead, they have a rejuvenated (again we’re going with this storyline?) RGIII. A�The only difference that I see is maybe their quarterback won’t post as many drunken Instagram photos. A�Will that translate into a better team? A�Hopefully not, because as a Steelers fan, it is too much fun picking on the Browns and their fans.

AFC South

  1. Indy Colts -How bad is the NFL when you can disregard nearly 90% of the league as a potential threat before the season even starts? A�What’s worse is that entire divisions can be ignored. A�Ever since Peyton left the Colts, that’s been the fate of the AFC South. A�Who cares who wins this division? A�They’ll just lose in the wild card round.
  2. Houston Texans – I spent 2 or 3 seasons on the Texans bandwagon. A�I kept thinking that they’d be able to ride their defense and a mediocre quarterback to a title similar to how Denver did last year. A�They never did and now I see why. A�They are simply one of the nameless, faceless AFC South teams, doomed to obscurity.
  3. Tennessee Titans – Seriously, does anyone actually know the difference between these teams? A�They remind me of the old WWF (wrestling, not pandas) jobbers that they’d trot out to face more established wrestlers to ensure that the storylines weren’t ruined before the big pay per view. A�The Titans are Iron Mike Sharp, Rest in Peace.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Since nobody cares about these teams, I will just take this space to tell one of my long winded and maybe not so relevant stories for which I’m famous. A�While listening to Simmons and Sal, they both agreed that Blaine Gabbard (That’s not even the Jags QB name. A�He’s Blake Bortles.) is not very good at football. A�”Hey,” I shouted at my phone, “that’s my fantasy football championship quarterback that you’re demeaning there!” A�And, therein lies the allure of the league for 80% of fans.

Join me tomorrow (and pretend that we live in one of the alternate universes where the first week hasn’t happened yet) for the NFC portion of the preview.

Standard Shakeup

Well gang it’s that time of the year again. A�The leaves are changing color, well here they are anyways, summer is slowly slipping away and Wizards has decided to raid your bank accounts with their latest release, Kaladesh. A� As the title suggests, I’m not going to talk about the newest entries into the world of standard, but instead let’s discuss the staples from Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins that will be saying adios amigos on 9/30.

Collected Company: A�Let’s start off with the big dog of the bunch, Collected Company. A�Obviously it’s the lynchpin of the standard meta powerhouse, Bant Company. Well to be honest it’s the lynchpin to a lot of powerful decks. I’m looking forward to seeing the meta after this rotates. Will its absence be enough to completely take Bant out of the Top 8? A�My guess is no, not with Archangel Avacyn, Reflector Mage and Spell Queller still being legal. A�Although there are other Bant staples that are rotating too, but more on that later. A�Now CoCo will be the bane of modern players instead of a multi-format monster.

“Flip” Planeswalkers: A�Yes, A�Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Liliana, Heretical Healer, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Kytheon, Hero of Akros will be leaving us in a few weeks. Kytheon wasn’t played much when he first came out, but with the current Human meta, he became pretty popular. Both Nissa and Jace appear regularly in Bant decks and frequently in Jund (Nissa) as well. It will be interesting to see what happens to their value after rotation. Remember Jace was hovering around the $90 Mark for awhile, but fell to $20-$30. He still sees some action in modern so I don’t expect too much of a plummet unlike the rest of the flip walkers.

Enemy Painlands: With these lands leaving, it shakes up all decks going forward. Yes, it was annoying to keep taking 1 damage to get some color mana but they don’t enter the battlefield tapped which makes them much better than what we are left with as their replacements; Manlands and the duals from Shadows of Innistrad, both of which enter tapped. Too bad Amulet of Vigor isn’t standard legal eh? A�However, Kaladesh will contain enemy fastlands, but to me the painlands are slightly more useful in the mid-game. Eldrazi decks will also feel the pain, well not feel the pain in this case, heh, as the painlands also served as a source of colorless mana. A�I foresee Eldrazi decks falling out of the Top 8 but still having a presence in modern.

Languish: Ah, the boardwipe favored by black control/Delirium players is outta here, although Kaladesh has some interesting options to replace Languish with.

Kolaghan’s Command/ Atarka’s Command/ Dromoka’s Command: These pick 2 utility spells will be missed. Kolaghan’s Command is arguably the best of the bunch and is a regular inclusion in modern Grixis. Dromoka is popular among Bant players, so it’s yet another hit to the most played meta.

So in closing, if you’re a Bant player, you will be unhappy on the 30th, if you’re not or you’re not afraid of change, Kaladesh is looking like one of the most innovative and powerful sets in a long time. It’s going to be an interesting block.

Currently Playing…Vol.14

Call of Duty Black Ops 3 (PS4): A�Despite currently having a hectic work schedule that doesn’t leave as much time as I would like for gaming, I decided that a PS4 was at a low enough price point and worth the investment. A�I A�also decided to go with the Call of Duty Black Ops 3 bundle, as I’m a fan of the shooter genre. More so the zombie/ sci first kind as opposed to military style games. However last year Shawn brought over Modern Warfare 3 and despite being unable to complete the first mission (go ahead, laugh, I’ll wait……………….done?), we had a decent time laughing at how awful I was. With that in mind, I decided to improve my skills with a next gen Call of Duty title. A�I really wanted to like this game. I really did, but it just felt like more of the same. Yes, the visuals were improved compared to the older titles on X360, but once you get past that, it’s essentially the same as the others. You run around shooting bad guys, hopefully in the head (gotta get those trophies ya savages), complete missions..etc..rinse and repeat. There is a zombie mode, but it’s lackluster at best and not enough to make this game interesting for me.

Grade: Yes I’m grading games now, kind of a TLDR thing, don’t want to read my insightful reviews, then just skip to the grade. A�Ok, so without further ado…C

Shovel Knight(PS4): As you may know, I’m a huge retro gamer, I still play my Neo Geo just as much as my PS4. A�With that said this game blew me away. The game was designed to look like an NES game, complete with 8 bit graphics and classic platformer/Action RPG gameplay (it reminds me of the 2nd Legend of Zelda). A�You play as the Shovel Knight who’s main weapon is…say it with me, a shovel. It allows you to find hidden rooms, collect treasure, and beat some monster ass. You travel to different realms hunting for special weapons, completing quests for villagers, all in the quest of defeating the evil sorceress who has corrupted a handful of knights who serve as level bosses. Sounds easy right? Whack a baddy with a shovel, find hidden stuff, beat the heck out of some magical chick. Slow down there tiger, the difficulty ramps up about 3-4 levels in, and some levels/bosses can be frustrating. I actually had a pretty hard time defeating the boss of the Lich Yard, the Specter Knight, and that’s only a few levels deep. A�It never feels impossible though, which is a good thing as PS4 controllers are expensive and I don’t want to break mine in a Shovel Knight-induced fit of rage. All in all just a great game that I can’t recommend enough.

Grade: A

What I did on my Summer Vacation (Part 1 – PC)

(Editor’s Note: A�Welcome back, class. A�Today, we will share what we did over the summer. A�Oh, Noob has his hand up, so we will start with him.)

Well, it’s September. A�Summer is winding down. A�My wife and kids all started back to school last week. A�I started back today. A�What better time than now to reminisce back and write one of those lame essays about “what I did this summer” that were always the first assignments in elementary and middle school. A�I’m actually writing four of these. A�This one will focus on PC gaming. A�Two others will talk about console and mobile games and the final will deal with my tabletop exploits.

I am starting with PC because it allows me to open with a long and meandering story that may more may not have anything to do with the overall point of the article. A�It is one of my favorite things about writing for the page.

I am currently restricted to my ancient Acer laptop after yet another electronics disaster. A�I have had computers get stepped on, tripped over, fall off of the couch and chairs, and one even fell down a flight of stairs. A�I sat on my tablet. A�I also dropped it out of my bag onto the parking lot after repairing the screen. A�That happened even though I got smart and started putting it into a case. A�Oh, but it wasn’t in the case because I took it out to clean the case and then didn’t have time to put it back in. A�What could go wrong? A�In that same parking lot, I watched as my month old phone got run over by a car. A�The point is that I have bad luck with electronics. A�I have bad luck with vehicles, too, but that is a different story.

If I was ever stupid enough to do this, I'm positive that this is how I would die.
If I was ever stupid enough to do this, I’m positive that this is how I would die.

This last laptop lasted me longer than any other one had by several months. A�I had no reason to believe that it would not continue to perform for months, if not years. A�Sure, I had to replace the screen and two hard drives, but the thing kept going. A�And then, one day, it didn’t.

That’s how it happened. A�It was working fine as I watched some stupid Hearthstone streamer as another. A�It was shaping up to be a fine day of relaxation. A�But, wait, what’s this? A�The computer does not appear to be charging. A�That’s okay. A�Maybe there’s a loose connection in the cord. A�No. A�Okay, well, I’ve had this problem before and it was just a quick solder job. A�I’ll pop on Youtube just to see how to disassemble–

Oh, my. A�Oh, well, that’s complicated. A�Okay, that’s fine. A�It won’t be a quick fix. A�Just take my time and it will be no problem. A�Well, to make a long story short (I know, too late!), you know that the story ends with the computer being non-operational. A�More specifically, I severed one of the ribbon cables. A�that might have been an easy and cheap fix, too, but by that point, the computer was in so many pieces that I just gave up. A�I’ve also learned my lesson. My next computer will be a desktop.

Just so we're clear, Twitch, I blame you.
Just so we’re clear, Twitch, I blame you.

So, as a result, I’m restricted to my old laptop that has somehow survived the five plus year purge of electronics. A�The thing is a tank. A�t overheads and is only really good for web browsing and word processing, but it works decent for those two things. A�That brings us, finally, to the reason for this lengthy explanation.

The laptop may not be able to run many of the Steam games I own. A�So far, it has been unable to download the card images for xMage with any reliability. A�Heck, it sometimes has trouble playing Twitch streams. A�One thing it can play, though, is Hearthstone.

Hello, Darkness (no, Hearthstone, that's it), my old frenemy.
Hello, Darkness (no, Hearthstone, that’s it), my old frenemy.

Chris will give me crap about this because the number of times that I’ve texted him to tell him that I uninstalled Hearthstone only to come crawling back. A�Heck, one of my articles just before the summer hiatus talked about my hate/slightly less intense version of hate relationship with the game. A�So, I deserve the abuse. A�All of that notwithstanding, the only PC gaming I’ve done all summer is Hearthstone. A�I can therefore report that, even though they’ve recently released a new adventure since the last time I covered the game, not much has changed.

In fact, the game has become even more face-centric and control decks exist only in legend, whispered by Mt players as proof that their game is superior. As a dyed in the wool blue mage, I consider myself among that group. A�The interaction of different archetypes and the ability to win games through different strategy on a consistent basis is what makes MtG a vastly better game. A�still, when I’m feeling SMOrcish and I just want to point that arrow at the opponent’s face, Hearthstone is there for me.