Thanks for reading my “First Impressions Pokemon Sword/Shield” article. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Pokemon video game other than Pokemon Go. The last one that I purchased was Pokemon Sun and I only played through the first island on that one before Quinn took it over from me and probably beat the game. No, I just checked with him and he hasn’t beaten it because “something, something the Tapus”. I have no idea what that even means.
However, since there’s a new Pokemon game coming to the Switch (?!, more on that in a bit), I thought this would be a good time to focus on Pokemon for a couple of weeks as a preview to the game. I hope to even record a podcast with at least Liam to preview the game as he probably knows more about it than I do. I did do a bit of research on Bulbapedia about the game, so I’ll give some of my impressions in this article.
Nintendo Switch: The first thing that I noticed and surprised me is that the game is coming on to the Switch. Now that I think about it, Liam probably told me this at some point. It’s just not information that I internalized. However, this changes everything. I thought it would be a 3DS game again and we have two 3DS systems. We only have one Switch. There’s going be a battle daily for who gets to play their Pokemon game come November.
Gyms are back: So, guys, apparently gyms are back? I never played either of the Let’s Go games. I found out that they were a different design from traditional games. Granted, I should have known by the name and the fact that Nintendo likes to live by the motto, “If it’s not broke, let’s break it and see if it makes it better. If not, we can always go back to the original and nobody will fault us for our decision to break this thing they loved.” And, it works every single time for them.
Battling is back: Hey guys, battling is back in the game, too. The Let’s Go series worked more like Pokemon Go where you encounter Pokemon and can only catch them. Now, it will be like the older games where you randomly encounter and battle Pokemon. I mean, that just makes sense. Since battling is 99% of the game, I don’t understand the decision use Pokemon Go encounters with the main series. But, like I said, we will forgive them come release.
New Evolutions: I know a bit about the new types of evolutions that they’ve been releasing in the games. Mostly, I only know them from the card game. Again, as I mentioned in my first cube article, we don’t play the card game much, either. However, I do watch the stream and have seen cards with GX and such on them. I don’t know how it affects game play in the video game. Perhaps Liam will enlighten me when we sit down to record.
I’m always excited when a new Pokemon game releases. I rarely ever play them, but it is one of the series that I’ve been interested in since the beginning. My children have helped to keep me interested in the game by collecting cards and playing themselves. I’m a little worried about the switch to the, uh, Switch. But, Nintendo usually knows what they are doing. And, who knows, they might even port it to the 3DS at some point in time. I doubt that will actually happen now that I given it some consideration. They seem to be consolidating so that the Switch is their only console. Oh well, I can dream.
However, I am excited about the games. I usually buy the one that Liam doesn’t. Therefore, I’ll have more information about that during the podcast. Thanks for reading my “First Impressions Sword/Shield” article. Let us know what you think about the new games and if you’re planning to buy one of them in November.
Note: Just to give some context, this review comes shortly after Magic the Gathering Arena switched over to the Mastery system from the weekly quests system.
If it seems like it’s been a while since there has been any gaming content on the page, that’s because it has. I have been working over the last few weeks to get caught up on my comics reading so that I can provide newer content. As a result, most of the recent articles have been reviews of older comic books.
I wrote in my last article that I’m now caught up and next week’s reviews should contain reviews of current comic books. This week I wanted to take a break from comics and get back to what started the page in the first place. Since Quinn is showing an interest in Magic, a new set just came out, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a comprehensive review of Arena, I figured MtG was a good place to start that pivot back into gaming.
The Good (Magic the Gathering Arena is fun!)
I wrote in my notes, “You got Hearthstone in my Magic! You got Magic in my Hearthstone! Two great tastes that go great together?” Because, at my heart, I’m a dad and I abuse dad jokes whenever I can. I think when MTGA was first announced, I even called it Magic the Gathering Hearthstone edition.
I realize now that I’m looking at these two screenshots that I’m selling MTGA short by comparing it to Hearthstone. Sure, they both have interactive backgrounds and an emote system, but that’s about where the similarities end. The animations in MTGA are so much better and more intricate. MtG’s gameplay is so much more in depth and rich than Hearthstone.
I was watching a Kibler stream where he played some ridiculous Angels deck against Day9. They both had nearly 100 angel tokens on the field. Kibler, laughing, said, “You wonder why they don’t have this on mobile? Here’s why.” I admit to asking why in the past. My phone would probably spontaneously combust trying to render that many animations at once.
Magic the Gathering Arena is so much more than just a rip off of Hearthstone. I am ecstatic to have been wrong about that. In my opinion, MtG is so much better than Hearthstone and I would much rather play this game for random gold and packs than Hearthstone. I do still play Hearthstone but only after I’ve finished my time in Arena.
The Bad (Magic the Gathering Arena is Standard Only – for now)
Look, I understand that they need to start somewhere and that Standard makes the most sense. I also get that the game is buggy and suffers from slowdown even now with only standard sets programmed. Still, I’m a Vintage player at heart and I’d love to be able to hoard my wild cards to put together a deck that I’d never play in a million years in paper or even on MTGO. It’s a pipe dream at best, but maybe I’ll live long enough for them to (a) properly optimize the code and (b) transfer all cards into the game.
After all, they’ve announced a new format specifically to address the fact that older cards have already been coded in since the game has been in beta since Ixalan. They’re calling it Historic (?), which seems like a really dumb name. Also, given their recent lack of success in creating new formats, I don’t give this one much chance of lasting very long. Then again, I’ve been wrong before.
The Ugly (Magic the Gathering Arena rewards aren’t as much fun?)
Like many games that want to keep you on the treadmill, Magic the Gathering Arena has daily quests. They used to also have weekly quests. By winning 15 games in a week, I could collect 3 free packs. Apparently, someone decided that was too generous and they changed over to this Mastery system, which gives rewards based on gaining experience through daily quests and your first three wins of the day.
I put this under the ugly section mainly because of my reaction to it. I was not happy with the initial announcement and became less enamored with the idea once I saw it in action. However, as with most things in life, it would appear that Wizards of the Coast knew better than I did. I’ve been playing Arena more now than I ever did under the old reward system. Well, played WotC, well played.
The Verdict (Magic the Gathering Arena is good)
It should come as no surprise that someone who enjoys Magic the Gathering would enjoy a PC game based on Magic the Gathering. Well, the surprising part here is that I despise MTGO. I don’t like playing it. I don’t like watching streams that play it. I enjoy watching Hearthstone so much more and it is mainly for the cartoon graphics and silly animations. Those, therefore, are the main reasons that I keep coming back to Arena and streams that play Arena.
The game isn’t very polished at this point. There are bugs and slowdown from a lack of optimization. However, it is Magic the Gathering. That part I mostly enjoy. I’m still suspicious that RNGsus hates me and loves my opponents. But, I will continue to play as long as they support the game. Look out for me on a virtual tabletop near you.
What is Thaumcraft? Thaumcraft is a Minecraft mod that I played pretty extensively last year. It introduces magic into Minecraft. You could craft wands (since taken out for some reason) and cast various spells. When I played it last year, I became more or less immortal. I lost that save game, so back to the drawing board. Download Thaumcraft here.
I know. Minecraft May is infringing upon June. That’s okay, though, since time is relative and ultimately arbitrary. I mean, time itself isn’t arbitrary. It marches inexorably on into the oblivion of our own deaths and the inevitable heat death of the universe.
However, as entropy has deemed us lucky enough to live in a time and place in the universe where the motions are more or less predictable, we have chosen to use that arbitrary predictability to base our measurements of time. So, May, June, whatever, I want to play and write about some Minecraft.
A Note on this Thaumcraft review
I wanted to play through the mod before posing this article. And, if you’re a regular reader of the web page or a someone who appreciates irony, you will know that this is where I admit that I didn’t play. That’s only partially true. I set up Thaumcraft a few days ago and did play twice today.
After consulting the internet (I know, dangerous) for a brief introduction to the mod, I loaded up a game. I knew that in order to be successful, I had to find some crystals and sleep one night. That unlocks the spell book that guides you through the rest of the magic. I’m not sure if there’s any way to “discover” the crystal/sleep method other than with the pop up that you get when you do mine some of the crystals, but I wanted to get into the mod in order to review any changes.
Well, best laid plans and all of that. The first time I played, I found crystals, but was unable to craft a bed before getting blown up by a creeper. The second time, I was able to craft my bed, but no crystals are near my spawn point. Therefore, the review is based on my experience from last year.
The Good (Thaumcraft is polished)
Thaumcraft is not a mod that is a full reskin of Minecraft. To be honest, I’m not sure how popular those are. I remember back in my DOOM days, people would completely redesign the game from the ground up and create an all new game. I’ve seen a few Minecraft mods like that, but they must be an enormous undertaking as they are few and far between and don’t seem to last very long before being abandoned.
Thaumcraft is also not a mod that just adds a few new items to the game. I’ve also seen those types. Like the old Sims 2 packs that my wife and I would download, these mods give you a couch or a lounge chair or a bathroom set or all of those things. I’m not interested at all in minor cosmetic changes to a game. Well, except The Sims.
Thaumcraft is that rare in between mod that changes the game just enough to make it interesting…more interesting. I love Minecraft by itself. I can’t count the days that I spent staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning exploring a mine that I dug 8 hours earlier. But, it is fun to see what the community thinks the game needs. Magic and technology are the two big factors that I always wanted. Thaumcraft gave me that and in a very polished way.
The Bad (Thaumcraft isn’t always user friendly)
Despite being a mod that mostly just works, it isn’t always obvious what you’re supposed to do. I get that Minecraft is supposed to be about exploring, but if you happen to get dropped in an area with no crystals, then you have no idea how you are supposed to proceed and the mod might just feel completely broken from the beginning. I don’t know how likely that is, but it happened one out of two times for me, so it’s somewhat likely.
Also, when playing last year, I had to cheat a bit to find the silverwood tree to make a wand that was necessary for something or another. Wands are no longer in the game, so this might not be an issue anymore. I don’t know because I couldn’t advance in the game. This is a small thing and might stink of millenial whining, but it is something that I don’t exactly love about the game.
The Ugly (Thaumcraft is no longer supported)
I understand that people move on and that it can be time consuming to work on these projects. I also understand that the internet is an unfriendly place at times and people don’t always speak with their best voice. But, it bums me out that the developer isn’t working on Thaumcraft anymore. I’m glad that it is still out there in case anyone else wants to work on it. I also am happy that it more or less works. Who knows? Maybe I’ll work to develop it more.
The Verdict (Thaumcraft is still one of the best)
It is no longer being developed. For some reason, you don’t need wands anymore. It isn’t the most user friendly experience. In spite of all that, I’m still excited to get back into the mod and build my immortal armor again. Look for my video series, starting tomorrow, as I become the most powerful being in the Minecraft universe. Well, in my Minecraft universe.
You may be awaiting my reaction to the NFL Conference Championship Games. The honest truth is that I have none. I didn’t watch either game. I know enough about the outcomes to know that the Super Bowl is again a contest that I have little interest in watching, so the annual Lucas-Mullen anti-Super Bowl party can go off without a hitch. Besides there are other football leagues, like the USFL. Wait, what? Didn’t they fold over 30 years ago? Read on, faithful friends!
Instead, I’m going to take some time to announce a project that I’ve been thinking about reviving. It’s something that I messed around with back in the dark ages of the internet. It is football related. It notoriously happened in the spring. Yes, if those easy clues (and the dead give away in the title) weren’t enough of an indication, I will spell it out. I’m bringing back the USFL.
Why the USFL?
I don’t want to be that a-hole, but let’s face it. I’m that a-hole. Why not the USFL? Other than the AFL, it was the most legitimate football league other than the NFL. Sure, it had problems. Big problems as I’m learning by listening to the audiobook, Football for a Buck by Jeff Perlman. But, as commissioner and limited demigod of the league, I can avoid all of those problems and write my own narrative of the league.
While I don’t have a definitive “This was my introduction to the USFL” like Perlman, I did know about the league as a kid. I have vague memories of certain players and teams, if not actual games. It was an oddity from my youth similar to the World Basketball League.
I certainly never considered that I’d be the one to attempt to simulate the league not once, but twice. Then, the internet came along. I learned about a computer game that would simulate football games like the old electric football games. I saw that a fan web page had put together rosters for the 1983, 1984, and maybe even 1985 USFL teams.
During its first iteration, the USFL Distant Replay only made it through the 1983 season, but it was quite an endeavor. Having learned some HTML (yeah, this was a while ago), I put together a web page for the main league and all of the teams. I don’t know that I will be able to maintain that level of dedication, but I want to give the league another go.
I don’t want to get predictable, so I won’t respond with “Why Not Now?” Except, I sort of already did, didn’t I? But, rest assured that I didn’t want to do that. It’s just that I’m a dad. The dad jokes sort of come with the territory. I can’t help myself.
Just like the why the USFL, the why now isn’t terribly complicated. I noticed a few months ago on social media that Dave Koch sports was having a sale on their football game. I also picked up their hockey and basketball game, too. I haven’t yet spent money on the baseball or golf games.
Well, I used the football game to play around with a theory that I heard that the Patriots would be just as good or better with Aaron Rodgers but that Tom Brady wouldn’t make the Packers any better. I’m not sure how much I believe, but it did speak to my irrational Patriots hate, so I went along. Results were inconclusive. Playing the game brought up the memories of my misadventures with the USFL. The game has rosters available for the league. I heard about a book written about the USFL that I’m currently listening to while I do my night job. It just all sort of fell into place.
Okay, I’m Sold
That’s probably not true. I’m a terrible salesman, confirmed by my job working in sales at a local TV and appliance store. Still, I hope there is some interest in the league still and my attempts to not only bring it back, but allow it to flourish into a viable little brother to the NFL. As I said, I won’t be able to dedicate nearly as much time as I did before. Still, it should be a fun time and stay tuned for the launch of the USFL Distant Replay (take 2) sometime soon!
In my last article, I wrote about my experiences in the paper version of Yu Gi Oh! That reminded me that I had learned of a digital game available on Steam. My lab assistant from last semester also played the game a couple of times before class. Since this week’s podcast centered around Yu Gi Oh, I figured it was a good time for me to finally try the game myself and give my impressions. I have just finished playing through the tutorial and a couple of the “quizzes” for about an hour.
Note: I have not done any PvP dueling yet, so I can’t discuss things like matchmaking. However, as this web page makes perfectly clear, I’m not much of a competitive gamer, so if you’re coming here for that analysis, you’re in the wrong place. I can talk about how much fun I had playing the game and whether or not the game will make it into my daily rotation of digital card games.
The Good (Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is Polished)
I’m not sure how long the game has been available, but it is a well designed and polished game. Given the target audience, I didn’t expect much. I thought it might just end up being a Hearthstone clone. This isn’t an unreasonable expectation. Many digital card games coming out are using the basics of Hearthstone as their template. It has slowed down a bit, but Hearthstone was a force on the level of Fortnite not too long ago. It makes sense for games to emulate it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yu Gi Oh! is a completely different experience from other those games. First, the game appears to try to mimic the experience of the show for fans. The board is not simply a top down view like other card games. It’s a small touch, but different enough to make it noteworthy.
Add in decent voice acting for the characters that almost made me feel like I was watching an episode of the show. The game has a very different feel to it from other card games. On the strength of the game design alone, I recommend people try it. However, those aren’t the only things that make it worth your time. Like many card games, it is initially very noob friendly.
There is a quick tutorial that deals with the basics of the game, monster summoning and spell/trap cards. While the tutorial is short, it is helpful. I think I’ve mentioned more than once that I never quite understood Yu Gi Oh! to any satisfactory level. This tutorial changed that. There are also quizzes to help you understand more of the game. Even better, the quizzes give you prizes to help advance in the game.
The Bad (Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is a digital card game)
Admittedly, this isn’t much of a “bad”. You might even argue that it isn’t a bad at all. Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is a digital card game. Okay, we are in agreement. As such, we have to take the bad with the good. I’m only including the bad to stay on format. Why? Is it even that great of a gimmick?
The tutorial is short. Maybe for some of you that’s a good thing. As a longtime novice in the game, this worried me. Also, I enjoyed the spectacle of the tutorial. Hmm, maybe I would like the show, but probably not. As a card game tutorial, it was fun. As a full length show, not so much. But, I digress. My main point is that I wish the tutorial was a bit longer.
Another point of contention follows directly from the idea about the show probably not being very good. I had to walk away from the game for a few minutes. When I came back, I started to notice the background music. Rarely is that a good thing. It wasn’t this time. The music is annoying.
Two weak “bad” points about the game and I still nothing about why it is “bad” that the game is a digital card game. Patience, I’m getting there. After finishing the tutorial, the main game opens. On the right hand side, there is “news”. Part of the “news” was a welcome pack of 3 packs plus an ultra rare card. Only available for 7 days! Sure, it was only 99 cents, but this constant push to get people to pay real money for digital goods is annoying to me. Plus, the packs only contained 3 cards.
The Verdict (Yu Gi Oh Duel Links is Fun)
I reiterate that I haven’t played any PvP duels yet, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the game. What I saw of the interface I liked. I could only come up with two minor bad points and the one thing that irritates me about all digital card games. There is no ugly as far as I could see. Usually, those show up pretty early in the experience. I can say with confidence that I will be playing more of this game. I’m not sure yet if it will make it into the rotation as a regular, but maybe I’ll sign the boys up and we can play a few games of digital Yu Gi Oh!
I don’t remember how or why we got on the topic. I know that it started as a text conversation with Chris. We talked about the new Pokemon Go crossover game for the Switch, moved on to Street Fighter collection, and ended with some unnecessary Fortnite bashing. It was about then that we came to the conclusion that we may be getting to old for the current generation of video games.
I think I’ve known about this issue for some time. I never considered that it might be a symptom of something larger until Chris and I talked. Now it all makes sense. We just have to fast track the plan of converting the podcast to 2 Old Guys Gaming. We can complain about kids these days, eat dinner at 4 in the afternoon, and argue with Gamestop clerks about out of date coupons. Come to think of it, we already do 2 out of three of those things.
A Note About Repetition in Video Games
On the podcast, we talked about two topics that I want to clarify. Both were addressed but, as usual, I have more to say. The topic of repetition came up a few times in the context of current shooters. The one quote that stuck with me was from Chris’s dad who said something along the lines of, “Now you’re shooting zombies. Now you’re shooting aliens. Now you’re shooting bugs.” I immediately pushed against the argument that repetition is the enemy of games.
The point that I made and reiterate for the sake of clarity here is that repetition is the backbone of video games. Due to the restrictions of the power of any given system and the storage of media, the game play of most games is limited in the things you can do. Some of my favorite games like Mario mentioned in the podcast and Minecraft are considered boring and repetitive by many. When we, and anyone else, complain about repetition, we are complaining about the type of repetition in the game and that it isn’t anything that we’d want to repeat over and over.
A Note about Trash Talk in Video Games
Chris and I fully sounded like two old guys shouting at clouds on this podcast. As I edited it, i kept hearing, “but it’s different” and it caused me to wonder how it was different. I finally came to a similar conclusion as I did in the podcast. Trash talk was different then because it was in person. Furthermore, you mostly just trash talked people you knew. Maybe they weren’t friends, necessarily, but you saw them around the arcade. Now there’s some anonymous chump telling you things about your mother you never knew. Also, like I said in the show, the other person always had the option to forgo the video game and just punch you directly in the face if you went too far with your mouth.
Staying Current with Video Games
I promised myself after buying an original PlayStation only to see the price drop a few weeks later that it would be the last time I’d pay full price for a console. It is a promise I’ve kept except for buying a Wii U a few years ago to keep the Santa delusion alive. Seems reasonable, right? What does that have to do with getting old? Well, one of the comforting lies we tell ourselves to make getting old more bearable is that it imbues us with wisdom.
The thing about it is that my commitment to being current has gotten less and less, well, committed. I mentioned on the podcast that the PS2 was the last console that I bought relatively early in its life. My wife got me an XBox 360 for Christmas one year. I bought an XBox One only this year and really only for Minecraft. I just bought a used PS3 last year. I don’t own, nor do I see myself buying unless maybe to play against Chris, a PS4. I might buy a Switch, but that’s different and will be covered at a later time.
Get All These Shooter Video Games Off My Lawn
I’ve been trying to figure out when my hate for shooters appeared. In fact, DOOM and Hexen are two of my favorite gaming franchises of all time. It became a running gag in my house that I’d ask of every electronics gift I received, “Can you play DOOM on it?” The new version of DOOM was a driving force in my decision to finally get an XBox One.
I think it goes back to when the games became more military focused. Without going into too much detail, I’ve never been a fan of war as entertainment. So Call of Duty and World at War and Battlefield and Battlefront and Black Ops–and some or all of these might be the same game which shows my ignorance–just don’t appeal to me in the slightest. The fact that I’ll still play Gears of War and games where you shoot zombies acts as further evidence to support this theory.
The current generation of shooters is well beyond my capacity to understand. I mean, I get the point of the games. I just don’t understand the point of the games, if that makes any sense. PUBG was a novelty. Fortnite was an unnecessary inevitability and now the whole landscape is lousy with these games. No thanks, no way, no how. I will gladly concede that I’m too old for this stuff, to paraphrase Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon.
Conclusion (or is it a Eulogy in this case?)
Mourn not for me, new generations of nerds. Not that you will. Those who benefit from progress rarely consider those that came before. I never considered nor mourned for the old guys who used to play Pac-Man and Donkey Kong for high scores when Super Mario, Metroid, and Zelda became the games of choice. As I’m sure that they never mourned for the folks who grew up with Pong as the pinnacle of technological advancement.
I will wait on the sideline for retro to be “it” again. I know that there is always a segment of the population that will always consider retro to be “it”. But, they are usually the old farts who have been left behind. Then we just have to hope that the youths get bored of the new hotness and our old ways will be there waiting.
It’s that time of year again. Blizzard has released a new expansion for Hearthstone. I did a quick preview of the set about a month ago when it was announced. Before that, I wrote a bit about the new things that we could expect with the new season. You don’t have to read either of those to understand what’s going on in this article, but it would be great if you did!
One of the rumors about the new set was that it would take place in Duskwood. I said at the time that I didn’t exactly get a Duskwood vibe from the design of the set teaser and that has proven true. However, I do give you some credit, internet. You did get the woods part right. Just the wrong bunch of trees. Also, whoever first posited that the “Year of the Raven” was going to involve dark and spooky themes, I say “Kudos to you!”
I already talked about the new mechanics in my previous article. Echo is fun, but so far I don’t think there’s anything that is truly broken (yet, more on that later). Rush is much preferred to charge as that mechanic will hopefully become Wild only over time. Granted, there are classic cards with charge on them, but good old Blizzard could just send them to the Hall of Fame or easily change the wording on the cards. Even and Odd decks are cute and I think there might be something to Odd quest warrior. In addition, odd paladin makes that class even more annoying to play against. But, that’s not really our thing here, so on to what we do best. Playing games and having fun.
This isn’t necessarily a keyword, so it wasn’t covered in the preview. It also came as a bit of a surprise when I saw it as I hadn’t been watching the spoilers for this set very closely. But, I like the mechanic of this card. It isn’t the only one that swaps attack and health each turn that it is in your hand. It is just the one that I have seen used and used myself most effectively. It’s relatively cheap and can remove big stuff right away if it is in 6/2 mode. All in all, an interesting addition to the game.
A 3-mana removal spell in this meta? Only bad thing is that if you aren’t able to target it (with hero power or other cheap spell), the opponent can silence it. Still, playing it just to frustrate your opponent and make them check the history to see what was just played against them makes it all worth it.
Naturally, this card makes me think of Twilight Drake. For one more mana, it has taunt. Both of those points are relevant. As soon as I saw this card and a few of the other new cards, I started thinking about a druid odd taunt deck. I’ve heard rumblings about such a deck existing, but I have no idea if it is actually any good. Then again, I’ve never cared too much about winning. I just want to have fun with the game.
She’s five mana and can be played in my Odd Taunt Druid deck that I’m trying to make happen. Also, and this isn’t relevant to that deck. But,A� if you can get her to stick, you could play Ultimate Infestation, then Kun, and then another Ultimate Infestation all in one turn. I don’t know how practical that is, but it sure would be fun to watch.
This is the kind of card that I love. On first look, it looks great. Upon further inspection, it looks pretty terrible. Upon even further inspection, it settles into a decent situational card. You can use it to make an army of 4/4 minions with rush or even charge. You can use it to attempt to blow your opponent out of the water with a whole bunch of 9/8 lions that leave 2/2 hyenas in their wake (if they ever die). It’s just a potentially wacky card.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s a terrible card. And you’re right. It is an awful card. But, look at that! A 6/6 rat?! That thing’s huge!
I am bit biased towards this card because it is the gift legendary that I’ve gotten on two of my accounts so far. Moreover, I’ve been able to play it a few times. Once I got Aya Blackpaw and another time I got Stalagg (or was it Fuegen?). Stay tuned for more! I could steal this card with Rogue, play it, Shadowstep it, play it again, and get both of them for the meme Thaddius dream.
Similar to a few other cards on the list, this one invokes feelings of another card. It’s a slightly worse improvement on arcane missiles. However, in a meta where everyone is playing 1 and 2 mana cards with only 1 or 2 health, throwing around one mana fireballs seems like a decent thing to be doing.
A card that makes Quest Paladin viable! Not really, but I did see someone on low level ranked playing the deck and it ran all over my pile of Mage cards that I’ve been using to try to finish the quest. I have packs upon packs of standard legal cards, but I’m trying to save them to open them for a YouTube video. See, guys I do care. As far as this card, this isn’t an example of a broken Echo card, but it does come pretty close.
Hearthstone has bulk rares, too! Just like their big brother Magic the Gathering. The difference here is that you get useful dust from the card in addition to the hollow empty feeling of what the card might have been after opening it from a pack.
In addition to the earlier “that’s busted, wait that’s terrible, no actually that’s a decent situationally” card that I mentioned above, this is my other favorite type of card. It’s a card that does new things that we’re not used to in the game. Like the other type of card, it might just be terrible. Then again, it just might be brilliant and it hasn’t found where it wants to be yet. I can’t wait to find out.
This was a toss up between Squashling (but I didn’t want to mention two Echo cards back to back like this), Quartz Elemental (which could be fun in an Inner Fire deck, but ultimately isn’t all that interesting), and this card. Other than those reasons above, I chose this card because I like the Priest theme of using your opponent’s cards against them. Sure, rogue has those cards, too, but rogues are thieves on the outside. This confirms my suspicions that any priest in any fantasy setting is secretly a thief.
Not a good card, but it is a Legendary minion that you can play multiple times in a turn (at least 3 on turn 10 and maybe more given coins), and it gives you a body and a card every time. Hearthstone understands that if they can’t give us great cards every time, at least they can give us fun cards.
This was a tough one and for the opposite reason of the priest honorable mention section. That one had too many good cards to choose. Rogue got some really awful cards in this expansion. I suppose that’s to be expected since they got Kingsbane last time and that card bordered on completely busted. As far as Tess goes, she doesn’t make Thief Rogue viable, but she does make it fun, in that unnerving Yogg kind of way that we all love.
In Knights of the Frozen Throne, we got new hero cards for all of the classes. This hearkened back to the old WoW TCG where you got to choose your hero for your deck. This time, we just get poor old Hagatha. She’s got a decent battlecry, and a passive battlecry (which is always cool), but it pales in comparison to Valeera’s DK power. I choose cards because they are unique, not because they’re good.
What if they had made this 1 mana and given it Echo? Would it have been the broken Echo card that I know is coming sooner or later? I don’t think so, but we are definitely getting closer to it. What if it is still the exact same, but with Echo? That’s pretty broken, but you do potentially sacrifice your next turn for it. These are the things that keep me up at night.
A 7 mana almost guaranteed board clear and you get a 4/4 minion out of it, too? I don’t usually pick good cards (and I might not have here), but this card seems crazy to me. This card is almost guaranteed not to see play because Cubelock seems pretty stable as a deck right now. So, nobody will ever suspect when I play this card on them. Muahahahahaha!
Another echo card that exists only to annoy your opponent? I’m sensing a bit of a theme here. This is kind of a weird card because it feels more like a Priest card than a Warlock card, but I’ll allow it. It’s just such a stupid and fun card that I could see playing two turns in a row against some silly aggro face deck just to prolong their misery.
This isn’t a good card. This isn’t even a fun card. I mean, it has rush and that interesting twist of gaining +3 attack on the turn it’s played. This is maybe a decent Arena card. What gives with this pick? Well, that just goes to show you how terribly Warrior was treated with this expansion. If Rogue was awful, Warrior is off the charts terrible.
I seriously cannot come up with another Warrior card for honorable mention. This is not me trying to be cute or provocative. The Warrior cards are that bad. If you haven’t seen them yet and don’t believe me, just go look. There’s nothing good, nor interesting, nor fun. It’s just a pile of frightening garbage.
You may have been surprised to not have seen this card in the Shaman section. It’s a crazy card that does crazy things. Seems like it would be my kind of card and I’d have been able to find some place for it. Well, I did. As with any new Hearthstone expansion, there is a busted card with busted interaction that makes a deck that does ridiculous things. This one is no different.
I had heard rumbling about this deck and how stupid and noninteractive it was. I played against it once and it seemed weird, but not overpowered. Then, I decided to do something that I haven’t ever done. I took all of my dust and I crafted the cards necessary to create the deck. Playing it only once was enough for me to see that it is the special kind of stupid that Hearthstone can be known for. I misplayed the deck and I was still able to win because the card is so silly. It just becomes an almost infinite series of interactions that can’t be countered by the opponent, not even by conceding. I have a feeling that something might be done about this card soon.
There are some decent cards in this set. There are also some possibly fun cards that might inspire me to make a few decks to try out during the season. Other than that, there isn’t much here. Overall, the set is quite disappointing and while it might change the meta a bit and bring back some old deck archetypes, I don’t see there being huge changes overall.
The few streams that I’ve been able to watch this week verify that. Kingsbane Rogue is gone and Druid is more of a taunt variety. However,Cube and Control Warlock still seem to be a big part of the meta along with different varieties of aggro Paladin and I don’t see those going away any time soon.
I used to be invited early to beta tests for new games. I invested a couple of times in somewhat top of the line gaming laptop computers, so I had the specs that game designers coveted. Test the game in the highest resolution with the highest FPS, and really put it through the paces. Since all of those computers have met with tragic ends after only months of use, I’ve gotten smarter and gone with a budget laptop that will allow me to do the bare minimum as far as gaming goes and is more focused on work. I can get a better gaming desktop for cheaper and I won’t be carrying that everywhere I go, so less of a chance of it falling down the stairs or being run over.
Still, with the recent push to mobile gaming, for many games specs aren’t as important. Either that, or it is later in the beta invites for MTG: Arena. Because, somewhat surprising, I received a closed beta invite to the game sometime last week. I do know that they were attempting to do a stress test on their servers, so maybe they just did a flood of invites. Whatever the reason, and for better or worse, I’m in the game.
Regular readers of the page know that one of my saying that has become cliche is that I say “It’s….” followed by some game as explanation for why something is good or bad. I almost always follow it up with some explanation, but at this point I feel like it is expected, so at the risk of being hack writer guy, I’ll start there. MTG: Arena is good because, well, it’s Magic the Gathering. Sort of. That’s not to say that there are elements of the game missing.
Everything that makes Magic unique among card games and separates it from Hearthstone, the main digital card competitor, is there. I worried when I first saw the game that they were trying to make it too much like Hearthstone. They did…sort of. More on that later. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to Hearthstone. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy it (not all of the time), but it can be a fun diversion.
It’s just that Magic is different and it always has been. One of the things that I don’t like about Hearthstone is that there is no interaction between players, really. You interact with your opponent’s minions and occasionally throw a fireball or pyroblast at their face, but you can’t interact or interrupt their turn other than secret cards and those aren’t targeted.
I’m here to report that the turn structure is still there. There are still two main phases, a combat phase that allows you to choose attackers and defenders, and an upkeep and cleanup. Those last two aren’t defined by the game. They happen automatically. Through it all, the game still has instant spells that you can cast at any time, even during your opponents turn.
I saw someone on Twitter say that the game is barely Duels 2.0. Maybe it is because I never played that particular game other than against the AI, but I don’t have that same impression. Sure, Arena is similar in many ways to Duels, but Arena feels meatier. It felt more like playing Magic the Gathering than Duels ever did. That’s what I like about it and that’s what will keep me playing. It’s not perfect, though, not by any stretch.
I mentioned earlier that when I first saw screenshots for the game, I worried that they were taking too many cues from Hearthstone. Once, during a conversation with Chris, I even confused him by calling it MTG: The Hearthstone Update. It’s virtually impossible to get into digital card games without being compared to Hearthstone in some form or fashion, even for a 25 year old game like Magic. Hearthstone is just king of the hill of digital card games.
They definitely took clues from Hearthstone. There is an emote system that is set up almost exactly like Hearthstone’s. The backgrounds, while not yet interactive, have a similar feel and vibe to the tables that Hearthstone has. Aesthetically, my brain couldn’t figure out if I was playing Magic or Hearthstone because the look of the games is so similar.
Additionally, the cards have animations and sounds. I understand that they need to separate this property from the more serious MTGO and that they’re trying to grab some money from players who only play Hearthstone. It’s a strange dynamic that MtG players will often cross over into Hearthstone, but there has yet to be many prominent Hearthstone players who have become competitive MtG players. So, I get it. They just seem to be trying a little bit too hard to emulate what they think makes Hearthstone different instead of highlighting what Magic does well.
Right now, the only mode that is offered is Standard. That’s it. I get that it is going to take them time to program all of the interactions of older cards and who knows how long something like that can take. However, there’s no draft mode, which is odd. There’s no commander and I don’t even see any indication that they’re going to update with the new Brawl mode that is being introduced with Dominaria. Come to think of it, I didn’t even see any mention of Dominaria in the game, either. Maybe I overlooked it. I will look again when I play.
First, if they want this to be viable as a Magic product, it has to update with or very close to new set releases. Nobody is going to play last year’s standard when this year’s standard will be available in paper and on MTGO. Secondly, as a fan of limited and eternal formats, standard only is not going to keep me entertained or engaged for very long. They could find themselves with another dead digital property on their hands.
This mish mash of Magic and Hearthstone is a little bit too much Hearthstone and not quite enough Magic the Gathering for me right now. As I said, I enjoy Hearthstone, but I don’t want it in my Magic. Those aren’t two great tastes that taste great together. Once upon a time, Chris and I experimented with a Hearthstone “rules” Magic the Gathering where you play from a mana deck each turn. It was supposed to remove mana flood and screw, which are two things that we (and many players) hate about the game. It did, but it wasn’t Magic, so we haven’t done it since.
Perhaps it will take some time and since it is closed beta, they aren’t at a finished product yet. Maybe with more games, more cards, more opponents the game will grow on me and it will become part of my regular rotation. After all, it took several years and many hundreds of games before I accepted Hearthstone as part of my daily gaming routine. MtG: Arena might just be on that trajectory.
I did say to Chris that this game seems to be their answer to Hearthstone. When I downloaded the client in anticipation of my beta invite, it was very small. So, not only have theyA� made it look and feel like Hearthstone, they have optimized it for mobile. So, I suppose that this parting statement sums up my feelings about the game. Again, to Chris, “If they do port it to mobile, I’d probably play it over Hearthstone.”
Last week or the week before, I did a quick post about the new season in Hearthstone.A� A few times I said that I refused to speculate myself, but I did mention a rumor that I heard that made sense to me. Someone made the connection between each Hearthstone season and the sorts of sets that we could expect from them.A� Their conclusion was that the Year of the Raven would be one of dark and mystical forces.A� While that part seems to be true with at least the first expansion, that’s the only rumor that has so far been true.
The extension of this thought was that Hearthstone might be travelling to the World of Warcraft zone Duskwood.A� I had my suspicions that wasn’t true that I wrote in the article.A� Admittedly, my only evidence for my theory was that the gem in the center of the card just didn’t put off much of a Duskwood vibe.A� Still, I’ll take a victory lap when I get something right.
Instead, we are going to a forest in (near?) Gilneas known as the Witchwood.A� Even having played World of Warcraft obsessively for almost 3 years and then off and on for another 5 or 6, I had to Google Witchwood to make sure that it wasn’t just some Hearthstone version of Duskwood.A� Sometimes Hearthstone adds to or modifies WoW lore in that way.A� They didn’t this time.A� This is honest to goodness WoW lore that they’re using this time, albeit, a somewhat obscure one.
So, what do we know about the Hearthstone version of Witchwood.A� Surprisingly, even though the expansion isn’t due until April and most of the major card reveals are still a week or two away, we know quite a bit from what has been released.A� Let’s explore the spooky forest, shall we?
One of the things that the Hearthstone team has been consistent is that they want to use Hearthstone to explore ways to make the game unique by doing things with the digital format that you can’t do in paper.A� I mean, I like Magic and I like playing Magic on the computer, but that’s all it is.A� It’s just Magic on the computer.A� Even the new game, Arena, which is supposed to be more user friendly and attract some of the Hearthstone crowd into Magic, is just Magic on the computer with a different wrapper.
That’s not true with Hearthstone.A� Once upon a time, Blizzard did have a paper World of Warcraft TCG and I still enjoy playing it from time to time.A� When Hearthstone came along, they stopped supporting the paper cards.A� I feared that Hearthstone might just become WoW TCG on the computer.A� The fear was initially supported by them recycling card art and mechanics from the game.A� But, the fear was put to rest when Chris tried to make a paper version of Hearthstone and found that it would be too bogged down by all of the RNG inherent in Hearthstone.
The point of this all is that the Hearthstone developers have been successful in their attempts to make the Hearthstone experience unique.A� That’s not to say that all of theirA� ideas have worked.A� You need look no further than these cards to realize that.A� As I said to Chris when he asked me about them, “The idea is interesting, but the execution so far is pretty terrible.”
I’m not the only one who thinks so.A� I was watching a streamer the other day who was trying to put together decks for the even and odd cards that had been revealed using the cards that are available in the game so far.A� He made sure to repeat several times that the card pool was incomplete and that there might be cards from the Witchwood expansion that could strengthen the decks.A� But, so far, none of the decks even looked to be fun.A� Certainly none of them would be viable in any competitive format, except maybe the mage deck that used the card that upgrades your hero power at the start of the game.
Echo – I recognized this one from Eternal.A� It doesn’t work exactly like it does in Eternal, but it is has some similarities.A� In Eternal, when you draw a card with Echo, it creates a copy in your hand that you can then cast.A� With Hearthstone, the card is copied when you play it and then you can cast it over and over again.A� For instance, if you had the Phantom Militia card which is the only one to have been spoiled so far, you could cast 3 2/4 taunts on turn 9 or 10.A� Depending on what cards they put the echo mechanic on, it seems like it could be much more broken than the Eternal version.
Rush – The designers have been saying for a few expansions now that they think the charge mechanic was a mistake.A� It really became apparent when Patches the Pirate was such an oppressive card in Standard and they realized that it would most likely continue into Wild.A� There was one other card that had charge but could only attack minions, so they must have taken inspiration from that one for the new mechanic.A� I realize that charge is common to all card games in one form or another, but it is especially annoying in a game like Hearthstone because it is one that is, according to the designers, predicated on board control and trading.A� Rush brings that aspect back to the game while still having minions that attack right away.
The release schedule for Hearthstone used to be two sets and an adventure released each cycle.A� I might be wrong about that.A� But, there were adventures released that allowed players who didn’t want to pay money and didn’t play enough to get gold for packs to get dust or cards.A� They did away with adventures recently, which I thought would have a deleterious effect on the game.A� Honestly, as with most decisions, it hasn’t had much of an effect at all that I can see.A� Perhaps those players who relied on them to increase their card collection more than I do would argue otherwise.
They are still releasing adventures.A� It’s just that the focus of them has changed.A� With Kobolds and Catacombs, they put together a solo adventure mode that allowed you to pick one of the established classes and build a deck through randomly offered cards.A� The mode also gave “loot” in the form of additional cards or game effects.A� It is a fun mode, but that’s all it is.A� There are no rewards for defeating all of the encounters and the boss.A� That’s a bit disappointing because even a tiny bit of gold for your first time with each class would be nice to have.A� Oh well, no big deal.
They’ve expanded on this idea with Witchwood.A� It is similar to the Kobolds and Catacombs solo mode in that you fight against a predetermined number of encounters.A� Also, after you defeat an encounter, you get loot cards to improve your deck.A� Where it differs is that youA� choose from one of the four new classes in the above picture instead of the established classes of the game.A� I’m pretty excited about this idea because I generally enjoy the single player modes of card games.
I’ve logged probably twice as much time in Eternal’s single player modes as competitive.A� I’m stuck on an encounter in HEX, but I did enjoy it while I was playing it.A� I don’t spend nearly as much time in the single player mode in Hearthstone compared to the competitive modes, but I do still enjoy playing through this game mode.A� I just want some rewards is all.
I’m not sure what to think about the odd and even decks.A� I like the idea of trying new things.A� But, this idea just seems bad overall.A� The new mechanics are cool.A� Echo seems like it is just waiting for the right card to be abused to a horrifying degree. A�Can’t wait for the first noob to try to point a rush minion at my face and “Whoops” him. A�More of a solo mode that is fun can only be a good thing.A� It also leads to the possibility of even more going forward.A� Stay tuned for the official 2GG preview once all of the cards have been spoiled.
One of the reasons that I finally ordered an XBox One after so long of living in the past (well, really, I always live in the past when it comes to video games) is that a deal came along that I simply could not ignore.A� Chris texted me about it because he knew that I was looking.A� I also suspect that he secretly might be working for Microsoft and that’s how he can afford such a luxurious lifestyle.A� Granted, he did buy a PS4, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that a secret Microsoft employee would do to make it seem like he’s not working for The Man.
The bundle that Chris told me about was an XBox One with Forza, the Forza Hot Wheels DLC, GTA V (Five), and another game that I can’t remember right now.A� Well, the main reason that I wanted an XBox One was for cross platform Minecraft.A� I could buy the game (again), and would have.A� However, I noticed that Wal*Mart had the exact same bundle available with Minecraft instead of Forza.A� I like Forza, but I have not played it even a fraction of the time I’ve spent with Minecraft.A� That sealed the deal.
It still took me a week or two to order the system.A� I wanted to have ample time to play it and my break (this week) was still a couple of weeks away.A� By the time I got around to ordering it, the other game (that I can’t for the life of me remember), was sold out.A� They were offering Destiny 2 instead.A� No big deal.A� The game that I really wanted was Minecraft.A� As I discussed in my last article, GTA is always just big, dumb fun.
In my discussions with Chris and Kevin about Destiny 2, I mentioned that I had heard mixed reviews of the game.A� I’m learning more and more that might not actually be the truth.A� Because of the proliferation of voices due to the internet and social media, we tend to hear and read things that may actually be popular opinion but become part of the zeitgeist due to repetition.A� What’s the saying?
In spite of the negative comments that I heard about Destiny 2, I bought the bundle.A� I suspect that they might have just been because people like bashing Activision whenever they can.A� It started (at least I started to notice it) when they invested in Blizzard a few years ago.A� I find it funny that one of the little guys who were just trying to make good games when I was a kid have become the 900 lb. gorilla in the room and a big bad simply because they want to give developers money to develop good games.A� I will never understand the psyche of nerds today.
In my GTA V (Five) article, I talked about the story in this section.A� Those of you who are regulars at the page know that I often talk about the story with games.A� I understand that not everyone is into good stories, but I feel like enough of us are that they keep trying to appease us with decent to good stories.A� Again, take this with a grain of salt because I don’t remember the source, but I heard the argument that some of the best narratives today are in video games.A� Actually, I just remembered where I heard it.A� Christine and I have been binge watching the MTV Scream show and a character made the point.
Ignoring the source, I do think that they have a point.A� Since the graphics of games have gotten so good and realistic, they can’t really be used to sell a game anymore.A� As a result, there are more or less two ways to sell a game.A� First is with gameplay and the second is by writing a compelling story.A� While Nintendo has decidedly gone in the direction of gameplay, many other developers have chosen to hire better writers.A� Heck, one developer makes its money solely on “Story Mode” games.
I appreciate both methods and am still a huge fan of Nintendo.A� However, as I get older and my time is at more of a premium, I find myself playing and replaying those games that offer the story.A� If there’s any question about that, I have played through Portal 2 twice, once by myself and once while the boys watched to show them the story.A� I discovered it again the other day when I was trying to hook up a controller to the computer for Minecraft and started playing through it again.A� It wasn’t at my favorite part of the story yet, so I didn’t finish it again, but it’s only a matter of time.
Again, similar to GTA V (Five), I’ve only gotten to play a bit of the game the other night before passing out on the couch.A� Whereas I only got a little bit of the way through the tutorial missions there, I am about 2 hours into Destiny 2.A� In that time, I can confidently say that the story is going to be good.A� It’s not a terribly original story and might actually be the only story that these types of games are producing at this point, but it is a good start and I can tell that it should keep me interested in the game for a bit.
I’ve never been a fan of first person shooters.A� Well, that’s not technically true.A� One of the first games I ever became obsessed with was DOOM and then Hexen after that.A� I got Quake for the Nintendo 64, but I didn’t play that much.A� By that time, I had moved on to 3D platformers because of Mario 64 and Spyro the Dragon.A� I also really liked sports games, especially MLB The Show for the PSP.A� It wasn’t that I didn’t like FPS games, it’s just that there were so many other games out at the time and what felt like a glut of first person shooters.A� I think this was around the time that all of the military games were being released.A� Because I wasn’t a social gamer at the time, I had absolutely no use for them.
Sure the game has some interesting mechanics.A� I like the “ghost” for each character.A� It’s sort of like your own personal GLADoS, only not as funny nor sarcastic.A� Also, at least with the type of character that I chose, there is a mystical element to the game similar to that from Hexen.A� However, at the heart of the game, it is just a typical first person shooter and not a revolutionary one like (broken record time) the Portal series.
When I was talking to Chris about the game, he mentioned that it was one of those “always online” games.A� I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but now I do.A� During the game, it seemed like other players were able to join me during different parts of the game.A� I first noticed it when I was playing through and I saw that someone needed me to revive them.A� Shocked that someone else was in my game, I missed the chance and apologize if that was you.
This in and of itself was not ugly.A� I actually didn’t mind having the help and needed it because I died twice during that part of the game even with the assists.A� But, I was also talking to Kevin about the game and he mentioned that the “always online” part of the game extends to personal lobbies that you might make to play with friends.A� Those lobbies are always open and other players will come in to grief you and your friends while you’re trying to play the game.A� I generally avoided PvP realms in World of Warcraft because of the griefing that people would do.A� I just don’t understand the appeal.A� So, if that’s something that actually is a problem in the game, I want no part of it.
Similar to my Grand Theft Auto article, this one is based on limited experience with the game.A� As a result, my opinion may change and I can revisit this in a month or two if I find that things are radically different then.A� As of right now, I very much enjoyed my time in the game.A� The story is engaging, the gameplay is just different enough to keep me interested and I don’t exactly have many other games that are occupying my time right now.
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