Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Magic - Building a Standard Deck (Budget Red Deck Wins)

While traveling for the holidays, I decided to check out a Friday Night Magic event at a game shop near where I grew up.  Unfortunately, when I looked into FNM venues, it seemed that none of them featured any drafts, and I had never played standard in a sanctioned event.  Determined to attend an FNM at a new place, I opted to put together a cheap deck just to give it a shot.

I had wanted to build a hyper aggro deck for a while, so this setup seemed to be the perfect opportunity to make it work.  As this is the first competitive deck I've really tried to put together, I thought I'd describe the design process in some detail.  I'm not much of a deckbuilder, but it might be a nice jumping off point for further discussions, and it might be fun to see the evolution of a novice deck designer.

The basic premise is simple: Overwhelm your opponent early in the game, forcing damage through with quick, efficient creatures, sprinkling burn spells as necessary.  In line with that strategy, the deck needs to focus on mana-efficient damage.  We want each mana that we spend to deal damage almost immediately, and we need to avoid drawing lands as much as possible - we want to be able to dump our hand in the first few turns and draw only spells beyond that.  If we even reach the midgame, a win may already be beyond reach.

To blast through the first couple turns, we need all of our spells to be cheap - two converted mana cost or less - otherwise we run the risk of being unable to do much of anything early on.  Combine that with the need for fast bursts of damage, and we have a narrow gameplan.

Since we want to burst out of the gate, we definitely need several one-costing creatures.  Rakdos Cackler seems like a good choice, as it gives us two power for one mana; Firedrinker Satyr fits the bill, too. We're planning to drop a bunch of creatures in the first few turns, so Foundry Street Denizen may even deal more damage than a Cackler on turns two and three, depending on the plays we have available.  Legion Loyalist is great because it can smash through on turn one, plus its Batallion effect makes for more efficient attackers later on (with the added bonus of nullifying creature tokens from Pack Rat, Master of Waves, and Elspeth, if the game goes that far).

We want to follow that up with powerful two-drops.  Ash Zealot is a fantastic choice for two hasty damage.  Burning-Tree Emissary can make the Denizens huge for only two mana, as you can chain them on turn two (and then have even more power on turn three).  Another two-power-for-two creature, Goblin Shortcutter, can force some extra damage through an opponent's blocker, so it seems like a nice addition.  A two-drop that can bring more than two power to the field is pretty important, and Gore-House Chainwalker seems like a nice fit.

With a little army of efficient one- and two-costing creatures, we need some more ways to boost their damage.  Titan's Strength is a great choice, as it not only pumps but the extra Scry can help avoid unwanted land draws.  As a red, offensive-only Giant Growth, Rubblebelt Maaka's Bloodrush ability is an excellent combat trick.  Madcap Skills is a bit of a risk, as most Auras are, but it not only gives three extra power, but it can take a blocker out of the fight, too, so it has a pretty big payoff.  And, of course, Lightning Strike is just a solid burn spell, and it can eliminate most early-game blockers in the format.

Putting all those spells together makes for a pretty solid main deck, and none of those cards are too expensive, so it's a lot cheaper to throw together than a deck with Sphinx's Revelations or Nightveil Specters.

Main Deck
3 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Foundry Street Denizen
3 Goblin Shortcutter
2 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Rubblebelt Maaka

4 Lightning Strike
4 Titan's Strength

4 Madcap Skills

18 Mountain

Sideboarding is another benefit of my first real excursion into standard.  I had never really thought much about designing a sideboard for any constructed decks I've put together (mostly because I primarily play casual, and it's impossible to have sideboard options for every random matchup I could have), so this gave me a nice chance to think about how to prepare for specific matchups.

This deck's single biggest worry, I think, is lifegain; if our opponent is able to gain life, even if just enough to stay alive for one more turn, we may be dead in the water.  Skullcrack is therefore an important part of the sideboard, as it can inhibit Revelation's ability to buy more time (while also giving a way to sneak past Master of Waves' protection in some circumstances).

The next biggest problem is blockers.  Seismic Stomp seems useful, too, particularly when dealing with weenie decks, as it gets blockers out of the way of our relentless assault.  Some additional burn spells give us a little less longevity, but they can clear out some of the peskier early-game creatures.  Shock and Electrickery are thus useful additions, too.  To round out the anti-blocker suite, Act of Treason can both open the path for our side of the board to wreak havoc and increase our damage output by stealing a powerful creature - a nice option against a deck with some really problematic creatures.

2 Act of Treason
4 Electrickery
2 Seismic Stomp
4 Shock
3 Skullcrack

Trial by Fire
Last Friday, I took this deck to an FNM, where a total of 28 people registered.  While it wasn't the biggest event, I know that some of the participants are pretty competitive, so I figure it was probably a decent example of your average FNM environment (which, of course, is almost purely speculation).

My overall record for the five rounds was 3-2.  Here's how it performed:

In round 1, I played a blue-green flash deck, which fell to our deck 2-1.  Even with Prophet of Kruphix, the only real threat in my opponent's deck was Polukranos, World Eater because a 5/5 blocker by turn four plus its Sylvan Caryatid backup stop our aggressive creatures without much trouble.  Act of Treason can turn the hydra against its master, nullifying that threat, and nothing else posed much of a problem, so I think our deck was pretty well suited against this one.

Round 2 brought a red devotion deck that slaughtered ours 0-2.  Boros Reckoner really ruins our day, especially when a couple hit the field on turn three thanks to Burning-Tree Emissaries and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.  Again I think Act of Treason is our best option, but I ended up mana flooded in game two, bringing the match to a close.  He also splashed white to play Chained to the Rocks, which effectively slowed our early game to allow the Reckoner blowout.  It's probably worth thinking about the mono-red matchup in some more detail and adjusting the sideboard accordingly.

I thoroughly trounced a black green deck 2-0 in round 3.  Both games were incredibly quick, and I only saw a total of three nonland cards in his list.  Abrupt Decay kills all our creatures, but losing a dude doesn't slow our gameplan too much, and his defensive creatures were too slow to stop once we get going.  His deck may have been terrible, but whether it was or not, it didn't give enough resistance to influence deck design.

In round 4, I faced the mono-blue devotion deck and ultimately won 2-1.  Lightning Strike clears Nightveil Specter and Skullcrack can handle Master of Waves, so I think we're in a good position against mono-blue post-board.  We lost game two because we couldn't answer Master without losing our entire board presence, allowing our opponent to whittle us down.  I probably misplayed somewhere along the line, but I still think that matchup is pretty solid.

It all came tumbling down in round 5, though, with a quick 0-2 loss.  Fleecemane Lion turn two, Unflinching Courage on the Lion turn three, and Boros Charm to give him double strike on turn four is pretty much the worst possible scenario for our deck - gaining 10 life puts our opponent pretty solidly out of our range.  The biggest problem here, I think, is that I just wasn't prepared to deal with this kind of deck.

The overall future of this deck is good, though.  A 3-2 record isn't bad (particularly for my first ever standard event), and I think the main deck is pretty solid.  The sideboard needs some work, as Electrickery doesn't seem to be too useful (it's probably best for the mirror-match or for wiping Master tokens, so a couple copies are likely worth having), and I never even considered using Seismic Stomp except against the Reckoners, where I think Act would've been a better choice.

Basically, while the sideboard definitely needs to be tweaked, I think this performance serves as a proof-of-concept for this particular deck. It's nice to see a deck that costs less than $20 compete with some of the dominant archetypes in the current metagame, and I'm excited to see how this particular deck evolves in the future.

For now, I have some deck tweaking to do.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Game Review - Contrast (XBLA, 2013)

One of the great joys of the gaming world is discovering some under-appreciated title and enjoying the hell out of it before any of your friends.  I like to keep an eye out for new releases that aren't accompanied by the multi-million dollar fanfare that big game companies bring to the table, and I especially like to give smaller developers a vote of confidence with my wallet.

Naturally, when I saw Contrast’s release yesterday, I was intrigued.  A game that combines clever manipulation of light and shadow with a gritty noir art style?  Of course I’m in!  While it starts strong, however, the game fails to build any serious momentum, so though it’s fun and interesting, it’s not very exciting.  Here’s why:

Contrast gives you control of Dawn, the best friend of a young girl named Didi.  It opens with Didi’s mother tucking her into bed for the night, only to have Didi immediately escape her room to go watch her mother’s performance at a local cabaret.  What ensues is a somewhat cliché story about hard times and desperate men, which is awfully disappointing because the plot could have been much more engrossing.

But that’s ok, because Dawn is invisible to everyone but Didi, and Didi and Dawn are the only characters the player ever gets to see; all other characters are represented only by the shadows they cast.  That is an incredibly cool storytelling device, and it makes the otherwise lackluster storyline a lot more entertaining.

That visual element gets mixed into the core components of the gameplay, too.  Dawn has the unique ability to transform into a shadow on a lighted wall, allowing her to interact directly with other shadows and maneuver through areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.  As such, the majority of the game revolves around the manipulation of light and shadow.  It’s a really nifty mechanic, allowing for clever puzzles and surprising interactions with the environment. 

The game’s biggest flaw is the lack of difficult puzzles.  I didn't find any of them to be very hard at all, although there were a couple that took a while because I couldn't quite figure out what the game wanted me to do (the source of the worst kind of puzzle frustrations…).  The end result is a mere 3-5 hour experience without a whole lot of challenge, which just seems way too short for the $15 price tag.  It was fun while it lasted, but it was much too brief.

In the end, Contrast feels like a beautifully-packaged proof of concept.  The wonderful art style and animation (save for the shadows’ hands – they all look like they’re wearing Mickey Mouse’s gloves) coupled with subtle music develop a wonderful atmosphere, and the voice acting is solid, even if the script is a little stereotypical.

With all that said, there are a few plot pieces that appear in the latter half of the game that hint at a complex back story, but those ideas aren't really developed.  They either seem like bizarre twists just for the sake of having a twist (i.e., twists that don’t really serve a narrative purpose), or they could be intentionally setting up DLC or a sequel.  I have no idea if there are already plans for new content in the future, but even if there will be another adventure somewhere down the line, it kind of feels like a cheap shot to leave those threads hanging.

Contrast is a beautiful game based on a clever mechanic.  It’s interesting to see it in action, and it requires the player to approach the game world in a somewhat unusual way, which makes it fairly entertaining.  It’s awfully short, it’s pretty easy, and it has virtually no replay value, so the price of admission seems a bit steep, but it’s worth a look if you like puzzle games and are hankering for a neat new mechanic.  It may not win any awards, but it’s a decent way to spend an afternoon.

My Rating: 6/10 – decent.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Magic - Black Devotion Template

At major Magic events over the last couple weekends, Master of Waves focused blue devotion decks have been blowing people away in Standard.  The success of these decks combined with my assumption that devotion will continue to be relevant throughout the remainder of the Theros block has inspired me to start testing devotion in some other (cheaper) colors.

On the table right now is a black devotion template.  Using only cards from Theros, I'm hoping this list can serve as the template for a block-constructed deck once the full block has been released.

As usual, I'm building this deck only from cards I actually own.  I'd like, for example, to run several copies of Hero's Downfall in place of Lash of the Whip for much cheaper, much more effective removal, but I only have one of the former.  I'd also like to run a couple copies of Insatiable Harpy to help deal with evasion and Whip of Erebos to recur my enters-the-battlefield devotion effects.  I'd also love to have a couple copies of Rescue from the Underworld for further ETB shenanigans; alas, I have none.

Here's the current list.  It's a little heavy on the upper end of the mana curve, but hopefully I can fill some of the gaps mentioned above and the next couple sets will provide a bit more for surviving the early game.

2 Abhorrent Overlord
3 Baleful Eidolon
4 Disciple of Phenax
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Insatiable Harpy
2 Keepsake Gorgon
4 Mogis's Marauder
1 Nighthowler

1 Hero's Downfall
Lash of the Whip
4 Pharika's Cure

4 Read the Bones
Sip of Hemlock

1 Whip of Erebos

23 Swamp

At this point, the basic strategy is pretty straightforward: Build up my devotion by dropping permanents until I can hit Gray Merchant or Mogis's Marauder to deal tons of damage.  The Overlord is an alternate win condition, plus a sac outlet so I can recur the ETB effects if I can't win with some burst damage a bit earlier in the game.  Read the Bones helps control my draws and look for what I need, with Pharika's Cure offsetting the life cost.

To form a more effective baseline for future modifications, the changes I'm hoping to make within Theros are:

  • Add more Hero's Downfall, removing Lash of the Whip
  • Add another Whip of Erebos, probably removing a copy of Read the Bones
  • Add another early-game creature or two, removing either Pharika's Cure or Nighthowler
I intend to play a few matches with this setup to see how it goes, with particular care going towards tweaking the overall speed (this may end up being too damn slow) and seeing whether Nighthowler and Insatiable Harpy are even useful.  Either way, I think this deck will be pretty fun to play, so here's hoping it's somewhat effective, too!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Magic - Let's Talk About Theros

Holy crap, I'm excited about Theros.

I was able to attend my local Friday Night Magic last week after missing both the Theros prerelease and release events, so it was my first opportunity to play with Magic's new Greek-themed set.  And I have to say - Theros made one hell of a first impression.

The Set
Sure, a lot of my excitement comes from the fact that I ended up winning the FNM draft (my first such win), but the set brings pretty sweet mechanics and feels incredibly well-balanced.  Although the Theros metagame certainly hasn't stablized, no single deck archetype appeared dominant.  Aggressive decks were a bit stronger than slower controlling decks, but I think that's just because the set is new and people don't quite know what they're doing.  In the coming weeks, I expect several dramatically different styles to emerge victorious as players get more comfortable with the set's powerful keywords.

In addition to being a surprisingly flavorful set (see Underworld Cerberus and Rescue from the Underworld) with some fabulous art, Theros is incredibly fun to play.  Each color has powerful common or uncommon removal capabilities (directly, like black's Sip of Hemlock, by fighting, like the green Time to Feed, or through combat tricks, like the uncharacteristically blue Triton Tactics), and there are a few big nasty creatures in each color, too.  As a result, it seems possible to build strong control decks and strong aggro decks in virtually any color combination; I think the metagame for Theros will be pretty exciting.

The real high points, however, are the awesome set mechanics.  Each is strong, and they all affect gameplay in significantly different ways, giving the Theros a very robust feel.

Scry is a returning mechanic that allows the player to look at the top N cards of his or her library.  After considering the options, the player is then able to put any number of those cards back on top of his or her library and the rest on the bottom.  Scry is a powerful tool for controlling the flow of the game, as it allows you to filter lands when you're looking for answers or a game-winning blow, or you can use it to guarantee land draws if you need to hit your next land drop.  It serves as pseudo card advantage, and it's a great weapon in any sort of deck.

The Mechanics
My favorite of Theros' mechanics is probably Bestow, which gives a number of creatures an interesting alternate ability.  Similar to Gatecrash's Bloodrush, Bestow lets you cast a creature as an Aura enchanting another creature.  It then grants that creature's abilities to the enchanted one, buffing the existing creature.  The biggest threat, however, is the fact that a creature cast using its Bestow cost will revert to a normal creature if its target disappears - destroying the enchanted creature leaves the Bestowed creature on the battlefield.

Following with the Greek theme of heroes, monsters, and gods, Monstrosity lets your big baddies get even bigger.  Paying the Monstrosity cost on a creature (which can be done at instant speed) will add some number of +1/+1 counters to that creature, providing some fearsome combat tricks or just a way to dump unused mana in the late game.  When many of these creatures become Monstrous, they also trigger further effects, like destroying a creature or preventing creatures from blocking for a turn.  Monstrosity turns some of your beefiest creatures into long-term investment plans, paying dividends well into the game.

To combat the set's monsters, the Heroic mechanic allows smaller creatures to engage in David and Goliath style combat.  Heroic triggers any time you cast a spell that targets one of these fearless creatures you control, and the ability provides some additional benefit, like +1/+1 counters or drawing a card.  These effects occur after any type of spell you cast, including a Bestowed creature, allowing you to draw ridiculous value from auras and battle tricks.

Finally, the gods of Theros are empowered by your Devotion to their color.  As a measure of your fidelity to a color, your Devotion is simply the number of times a mana symbol of that color appears in permanents you control.  Devotion has a number of powerful uses, from turning your otherwise passive but omnipresent gods  (like Nylea) into imposing creatures to gaining life (like Nylea's Disciple) or draining your opponent's life (as the Gray Merchant does).

Those five elements give Theros incredible depth and make it a fantastic set to play.

The Draft Deck
To give an idea of how Theros plays out, here's the deck that I ended up using at FNM:

1 Akroan Crusader
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Cavern Lampad
1 Ember Swallower
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Fleshmad Steed
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Returned Centaur
1 Tymaret, the Murder King

1 Hero's Downfall
2 Pharika's Cure
2 Spark Jolt
1 Titan's Strength

2 Portent of Betrayal
1 Rage of Purphoros
1 Read the Bones

1 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Scourgemark

7 Mountain
10 Swamp

It was a moderately aggressive deck, with many cheap creatures doing most of the work, but the bigger things like Ember Swallower give something to look forward to in the late game.  I used a little bit of everything in this deck, mostly allowing the various Scry spells to help me find the particular pieces I needed at any point in a game.  Read the Bones is unbelievably powerful, particularly while Flamespeaker Adept is on the board to take full advantage of the Scry.  Cavern Lampad did a lot of work, both while an aura and while a dude, and the Gray Merchant got me out of a couple tight spots.

All-in-all, I was able to dabble with all of the set's mechanics a bit and, with the exception of Monstrosity, I put them to good use.  I found that Scry is just an awesomely powerful mechanic, especially when attached to some basic removal spells.  I expect to see much more coherent decks as people get used to the set, though.  I'm looking forward to building decks that feature each of the other mechanics a bit more prominently in the coming weeks; it should be a great time.

The End
It seems like this set is all about getting tons of value out of your cards, and it's incredibly fun to play.  I highly recommend that everybody with the slightest interest in Magic give it a shot.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Magic - Dragonshift!

Since I opened my first copy of Dragonshift during the Dragon's Maze pre-release, I have wanted to build a nasty Izzet deck with Dragonshift as the main win condition.  During my various Dragon's Maze shenanigans, I managed to acquire a full playset, which makes the dragon deck even more appealing.

The final straw came from seeing my favorite Magic Online streamer, callmechalk, build a pretty cheap (and surprisingly effective) Dragonshift deck, so I've given in and ordered my first set of singles online (it's not a huge investment, though, as some friends had given me a monetary gift with the provision that I only spend it to order cards).

Anyway, here's the deck, with primary credit going to chalk for smashing face with a very similar deck online.

Goblin Electromancer
Young Pyromancer

Battle Hymn
Think Twice

Faithless Looting
Krenko's Command
Molten Birth

7 Island
12 Mountain
Sulfur Falls

The basic strategy is pretty straightforward: Generate a bunch of tokens using the Pyromancers, Krenko's Command, and Molten Birth; use the Electromancer to make those spells cheaper, then Overload Dragonshift to end the game in a hurry.

Cards like Think Twice and Faithless Looting not only help find pieces of the combo that you need, they do double duty with the Pyromancers, making tokens when flashed back.  Battle Hymn raises the funds necessary to blast Dragonshift, and Shock cheaply generates tokens through Pyromancers while serving as early-game protection from pesky creatures.

While this deck is generally aggressive, looking just to get 5 or 6 tokens in play to overwhelm your opponent in one attack, Teleportal serves as a slower late-game win condition, if you can get to the point of having ten creatures in play (and you're desperate).

Teleportal is probably weakest link, followed perhaps by the Electromancers or Shocks, as those don't contribute as directly to the game plan, but I think it works pretty well as is.  Plus I don't have anything that seems to fit better, so I'll run with this for now.

As for the dual lands - I included some copies of Sulfur Falls primarily because they're pretty cheap right now; the more recently printed Steam Vents is nearly three times more costly.  I think Steam Vents are really only preferable if your starting hand has only nonbasic lands, as in that case, the Falls are guaranteed to play slowly.  Otherwise, I think Vents would be unnecessary, so I can justify the cost.

For an added bonus, this deck is currently Standard-legal, at least for a couple more weeks.  Get in there and dominate Friday Night Magic while you can!

To close it out, I want to plug callmechalk again, both for his fun stream and for the deck inspiration (and most, if not all, of the list, I honestly can't remember exactly what his Dragonshift deck runs).  Check him out if you're into Magic Online streams.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Magic - Bruna the Aura Collector (EDH)

As I have gotten more experience with the EDH format, I've wanted to start using a somewhat less standard deck.  The two decks I've used to the point (Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius) follow a relatively simple formula: play big nasty creatures and try to capitalize on the commander's gimmick.

Instead of building a deck that emphasizes beefy creatures, I decided that I wanted to use Bruna, Light of Alabaster as my commander.  The game plan is thus very different - buff Bruna enough to get one-hit kills on my opponents.  Running an aura-heavy deck should make Bruna a significant threat the moment she hits the field, and removal isn't a problem, as she's able to grab auras from my graveyard.

This strategy is significantly more technical than the other decks I've built, so it's going to require a lot of tweaking to get right.  (It doesn't help that I don't have too many excellent blue or white auras...)

When choosing cards for this deck, I tried to keep three basic things in mind:

First, and most obviously, I need to run a bunch of things that pump Bruna.  Along with auras, I've included some other enchantments (like True Conviction) and a few creatures that synergize with enchantments (like Mesa Enchantress).  Since I'm expecting Bruna to draw a lot of hate, I've also included a couple ways to give her haste or hexproof (Swiftfoot Boots does both) to help mitigate the damage.

Second, Bruna's converted mana cost of 6 makes her a rather late addition to the battlefield, so I need to make sure I survive long enough to get her into play.  To keep with the enchantment theme, I've tried to include passive deterrents to attack (Sphere of Safety fits well, but other effects like Dissipation Field and the much less enchanted Norn's Annex seem good, too) in lieu of powerful blockers.  I figure this is the biggest hole in my current gameplan, but we'll have to see how it works out.

Third, I need to cycle through my deck to grab as many auras as possible, and I need to make sure I hit land drops (because I expect to be spending a lot of mana to revive Bruna repeatedly).  Tossing auras into my graveyard isn't a problem, as Bruna can fetch them from there, so I've included a number of ways to cycle cards out of my hand to run through my deck (I think Merfolk Looter is the most efficient), plus some general deck stacking (like Petals of Insight).

I think the whole thing comes together reasonably well, leading to a deck that is pretty cohesive.  I have a couple ways to deal with some of my biggest threats (exiling my graveyard totally castrates me, so I'm running things like Stony Silence to block some common graveyard hate).

Here's the current build:

Bruna, Light of Alabaster

Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Elgaud Shieldmate
Isperia, Supreme Judge
Kor Sanctifiers
Luminate Primordial
Merfolk Looter
Mesa Enchantress
Murder of Crows
Spectral Gateguards
Stoneforge Mystic
Urbis Protector

Banishing Stroke
Sphinx's Revelation
Think Twice

Divine Reckoning
Heed the Mists
Petals of Insight

Azorius Cluestone
Azorius Keyrune
Fieldmist Borderpost
Mask of Avacyn
Norn's Annex
Swiftfoot Boots

Angelic Destiny
Cloak of Mists
Dissipation Field
Divine Favor
Drake Umbra
Eel Umbra
Eldrazi Conscription
Ethereal Armor
Ghostly Touch
Green Scarab
Holy Mantle
Honden of Seeing Winds
Indomitable Will
Knightly Valor
Mind Control
Murder Investigation
Oblivion Ring
Orim's Prayer
Psychic Surgery
Righteous Authority
Sigil of Sleep
Spectral Flight
Sphere of Safety
Spirit Mantle
Stony Silence
Traveler's Cloak
Tricks of the Trade
True Conviction
Volition Reins
Way of the Thief

Venser, the Sojourner

Azorius Guildgate
17 Island
22 Plains

Assuming I can survive the first several turns, this deck seems like it'll be a solid threat, and I think it'll be a lot of fun to play.  There's still some fat that could be trimmed, as I've included some cards that don't fit with the above considerations or deal with direct threats (or at least, they don't deal with threats very well), but I don't think I own any cards that would fit into the theme more comfortably.   I also need to get some more powerful auras (I'd definitely like to replace things like Divine Favor).  Maybe some other changes will become clear as I test the deck a bit.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Hiatus is Over!

Oooooooook.  The last couple months have been crazy busy for me, with some work-related travel and a number of other personal developments.  Although my schedule is still pretty hectic, it’s also a lot more predictable now, so I’m going to try to get back into the groove of things.  Here are my plans:

No More Monday Magic (at least not weekly)
For the next few weeks, I'm not going to be posting a regular Magic blog, mainly because I don't have much to talk about.  Seeing that a core set is currently in season, I don't have any crazy new deck ideas and my usual play group isn't doing a whole lot.  I do have a new EDH deck that's probably worth discussing, so I'll post that deck list on Monday, but after that, I probably won't talk much about Magic until the next set is released.

Reviews Taking Over
With Magic taking a break and my relatively busy schedule, my main writing focus will be reviews for the games I'm playing.  I've been dabbling with a bunch of random games recently, so I hope to be able to churn out some quality reviews in the next few weeks.

Plus A Regular Streaming Schedule!
My biggest goal, though, is to maintain a semi-regular streaming schedule.  I haven't quite decided on the schedule yet, but I'm hoping to stream at least three times a week.  I am definitely planning on streaming on Sundays, so you can look out for that tomorrow.  I'm thinking Mondays, Wednesdays, and/or Thursdays; I'll make the schedule pretty clear once I've set it.

And that's where I am.  I'm looking forward to putting out some new content in the next few weeks.  Until then, tschüss.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Achievement Report - July 6, 2013

As expected, I've spread my gaming love around quite a bit this week.  Here are the happenings:

Bean Dive
I mentioned last week that I'd be participating in TrueAchievement's annual Bean Dive.  Out of fear for Team Lazy Eye's position in the GTASC, I've hastily done just that (and in the process missed the opportunity for a bunch of Games on Demand titles that were on sale this week...).  Here's what I started:

Dark Souls (PC) - yeah, I already have the Xbox version, but I got this one on the cheap during a Steam sale.  It can't hurt to have two copies of a soul-crushingly hard game, can it?
Crash Course 2 - a free game released a couple months ago, the rampant server issues had prevented me from ever playing it.  For some reason, it let me in last weekend, so I'm not complaining.
Renegade Ops - I picked this up during a recent Deal of the Week, as I've always enjoyed twin-stick shooters.  After playing for about 15 minutes, I don't yet have a strong opinion on it.
SEGA Vintage Collection: Monster World - this one is undoubtedly the disappointment of the bunch, as the Monster World games have definitely not aged well.  A tedious grind is ahead of me with this game...
Spartacus Legends - another free game.  I've never been too keen on fighting games, but the gimmicks in this one might be enough to keep me interested for a while.  Who knows?
Disney Universe - an equally valid title would be "LEGO Disney," as it follows the same formula as the LEGO games.  I'm a fan of that silly style of platforming, though, so I think I'm going to enjoy this one.
The Cursed Crusade - I grabbed this game because the synopsis sounded interesting and it was heavily discounted.  I'm not too impressed, but at least it doesn't seem like it's going to be a huge investment.
Rayman 3 HD - another special deal acquisition, I bought this one because I adore Rayman Origins.  Origins was the first Rayman game I'd ever played, so I wanted to give an earlier iteration a shot; seems like it'll be fairly fun.

A pretty pathetic Bean Dive compared to what some people are doing, and its effect on my completion percent was barely noticeable (it dropped 0.91%).  It's fun to contribute to the site-wide statistics, though, so I'm glad to have been a part of it.  Maybe next year I'll have a more exciting showing.

It finally happened.  Nearing the end of this week's scoring period, Team Lazy Eye was at the bottom of the bracket.  We valiantly fought to push our way out of the danger zone, but in the final minutes, the team in last place (Carved Out of More Pork) zoomed ahead, bumping us down far enough for elimination.

We made it to the top 48, though, so we (barely) accomplished my goal of being in the top 50.  Maybe we'll have better luck next year.

Anyhow, beyond the Bean Dive, I spent most of my Xbox time on three games:

I continued playing Disney Universe and Crash Course 2, earning many of the achievements in each.

I also spent some more time with Nier, although I didn't do much aside from additional crafting material farming.

In the end, it wasn't enough to keep us going, but it was a fun competition while it lasted.

StarCraft II
I played a fair amount of StarCraft this week, too, knocking a good number of vs. AI matches out.  I still have a ways to go on that front, but progress is progress, eh?

Rogue Legacy
In the middle of last week, I bought Rogue Legacy.  It is one hell of a game, and I sunk a good chunk of my spare time into it this week.  I don't want to say too much about it now, as I'm drafting a review for it, but if you're interested, I streamed my first playthrough.  Check out the VODs on or YouTube.

And that does it for this week.  Now that the GTASC isn't on my radar anymore, I don't really have many concrete gaming goals for the next week.  I'll also be much busier in general for the next few weeks, so I may not have a lot going on until the end of the month.  Either way, I hope to have something to talk about this time next week.  Until then, tschüss.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monday Magic - Game Review - Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (XBLA, 2013)

With the upcoming release of Magic’s annual Core set, we also get a relatively new treat from Wizards of the Coast: a new version of the Duels of the Planeswalkers game.  While Wizard’s premier Magic Online is generally the best place for computer-based Magic, but its minimalist interface and microtransaction model may prove hostile for newer players.  DotP bridges that gap, giving a sleek design and a much user-friendlier electronic Magic experience.  And each iteration of DotP has been better than the last; 2014 is no exception.

For those familiar with the series, you know what’s coming: new decks, new cards, and a new gameplay mode.  This year’s new mode is Sealed, which finally allows you to build your own decks from scratch, albeit with a limited card pool.  There are also unlockable titles and personas (in-game avatars of sorts) in addition to traditional achievements, so some fun new challenges await.

For those unfamiliar with the series, let me back up a bit.  Magic is a very deep and strategic customizable card game that pits your deck against your opponent’s in the quest to be the last player standing.  I unfortunately can’t comment on the efficacy of the in-game tutorials, as I am already familiar with Magic’s mechanics, but there are a series of tutorials (and pop-up messages the first time something interesting happens during a match) to help teach the basics.  It’s a fun game, and I’d certainly say it’s worth learning.

I can, of course, comment on everything else.  DotP is essentially an excellent Magic simulation.  The state of the game is clearly laid out in front of you, with your hand displayed at the bottom of the screen, and cards and abilities that you’re able to play are highlighted.  You can easily pause the normal turn progression to consider your next move or examine the cards on the battlefield (you can zoom in on every card in play or in your hand to read the text more easily).  It manages to streamline a lot of the gameplay while having options to allow experienced players to fiddle with some intricate details if they want, so it seems easy to adapt to your particular familiarity with the game.

But there are a few hiccups.  Selecting some cards on the field can be a little unintuitive, but some practice with the control scheme makes it second nature.  Awkwardness with choosing how to spend mana is perhaps a more vital flaw, but the game’s assumptions about the best way to spend mana tend to be pretty good; I rarely found myself needing to assign mana differently than the default option. 

Maybe the sexiest thing, though, is the fact that a few of the big bomb cards have animated illustrations.  When you zoom in on some cards, the pictures will wriggle or pan, giving really cool effects to some of the biggest creatures in the game.  While not game-changing, it’s a really cool touch.

To be fair, what happens during a match is basically the same as previous iterations of the DotP formula; the meat of the game comes in the form of preconstructed decks and the relevant game modes.

As with other DotP titles, 2014 brings along a campaign, complete with a relatively thin storyline and some moderately interesting cinematics.  This game has you teaming up with Chandra Nalaar, the preeminent red mage, in her quest to find Ramaz.  There’s not much there beyond a simple excuse to visit a variety of Magic’s well-known planes (Alara, Zendikar, Innistrad, and Ravnica are all there) to battle with cards drawn from the last several years of Magic.  The cinematics won’t blow you away (Chandra’s face is a bit on the uncomfortable side of the uncanny valley), but there are only a couple of them, and they aren’t really that important at the end of the day.

Progressing through the campaign will pit you against a variety of “encounters,” which are enemy decks that will play the exact same cards each time you face them, and several duels with other planeswalkers.  A few of the encounters are neat, employing strange tactics or starting you with some weird deficit, but most of them are just straightforward battles; once you get the hang of what’s going on, it’s easy to choose the best deck for the job.  By the end of the campaign, I was just blazing through most of the encounters anyway, so they felt more like speed bumps than exciting duels.

You’ll come across a major planeswalker representing one of the planes after completing three encounters.  These duels proceed as normal games, your deck against theirs, so battling planeswalkers is where you’ll really be playing Magic.  As in previous DotP games, each deck follows some specific theme, this time including a big Eldrazi deck, a sliver deck, and an annoying Dimir deck that insists on returning cards to the top of your library…  Defeating a planeswalker unlocks their deck for future use and also allows you to challenge one of the primary planeswalkers (Garruk, Chandra, Jace, Ajani, and Liliana) of Magic lore in a bid to earn their deck as well.

The basic campaign system is fine, although I would have liked to have seen more of the clever encounters (or just fewer encounters) and more planeswalker opponents.  There are a total of 10 decks to unlock, and they’re fun to play, even if they are a bit limited – there aren’t any decks with non-standard win conditions (so no mill), but they do a decent job of spanning the heavy aggro to heavy control spectrum.  Winning a match with a deck unlocks a new card that you can add to it (up to 30 new cards per deck), allowing some degree of customization even if you still can’t build a deck from scratch for the campaign.

Another disappointment is the overall difficulty – I approached the whole campaign on the hardest setting, and it seems like the only change is that your opponents manipulate luck.  Even then, nothing is terribly difficult for an experienced spellslinger, so easier settings for newer players probably won’t be too tough, either.

All-in-all, the campaign is pretty fun, so the complaints aren’t too serious.

Following in DotP tradition, there’s also a challenge mode, which sticks you in the middle of a game and tasks you with winning during that turn.  Very few of the challenges in this game require complex tricks, though, so they’re generally pretty easy.

The highlight of the game is the sealed mode.  Sealed gives you a set of booster packs (each containing 15 random cards) and then allows you to build a deck from those cards.  You can then progress through the sealed campaign, using your newly-constructed deck against six opponents.  It’s an incredible mode because it finally allows you to build a deck from the ground up, a feature previously unavailable in DotP.

And it’s fun.  The card pool mostly comes from the upcoming set, although there are some cards from earlier core sets shoved in there, too (probably – the new set hasn’t been completely spoiler yet).

It is, however, not unlimited.  At the outset you can only start two sealed decks, and opening additional sealed slots costs $2 each.  It’s sad that we still don’t have complete freedom in designing new decks as we please, but it’s a nice step in the right direction.

Of course, there are also multiplayer modes, allowing you to use the game’s preconstructed decks against other players, or you can test your sealed decks in online battlefields.  My only gripe on that front is the lack of obvious matchmaking ratings – it seems like you just match up with another player, not necessarily one who is on a similar skill level.  The result could be rather discouraging for newer players, particularly as time wears on and the servers are populated primarily by dedicated players.

Overall, my only other complaint is that special game modes from previous versions weren’t included in some fashion, even if only as offline custom games.  I would love to see some of these decks used in archenemy or planechase, but I certainly understand that they’d drop modes to keep from making earlier DotP titles totally obsolete.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is a great next step for casual electronic Magic games.  Although not as expansive as veteran Magic players may want, the sealed game mode brings much more freedom to the game, making it feel more like playing tabletop Magic.  While it has its disappointments, the biggest flaw is that it’s over too soon, as the slick presentation and effective execution make it almost as fun as shuffling a deck yourself and giving it a go.  At $10, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in trying Magic and seasoned players, and it’s at least worth a look for everyone else.

My Rating: 9/10 – awesome. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Game Review - DarkStar One: Broken Alliance (Xbox 360, 2008)

During my formative years as a gamer, I would gobble up any game I could get my hands on, good or bad.  I spent untold hours exploring dozens of virtual worlds, but as the gaming industry evolves, some genres become less common.  A great example is the flight simulator; I loved the X-Wing series of games, but I haven’t seen a really good flight sim in well over a decade.  I jumped on DarkStar One: Broken Alliance for just this reason, but it sadly doesn’t break that trend.

DarkStar One puts you in the Kayron’s jumpsuit and follows the eager young pilot’s first excursion.  Driven by the discovery of unusual circumstances surrounding his father’s death, Kayron’s quest to find a saboteur takes him across the galaxy and, as tends to happen in RPGs, draws him into every conflict he encounters.

The melding of flight sim and RPG elements is pretty cool.  Instead of progressing linearly through a series of missions, you’re able to explore different systems and sectors at your leisure, with the main quest making up only a small portion of the available content.  You also get RPG-esque upgrades for your ship, making leveling up an integral part of the gameplay.

But that’s basically where the coolness ends; everything else is disappointing.  Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

The control scheme is terrible.  It’s pretty clear that this title is a console port of a PC game, as the complex controls you might expect while piloting a spaceship are severely limited by the relative lack of buttons on a console controller.  For thurst, you have three options: forward, backward, and stopped.  Those three options alone wouldn’t be problematic, except that you also have the option of matching the speed of your target, opening a ton of other velocities.  Your control over your speed is limited in a fairly silly way.

Combat is also annoying because you can’t do a whole lot.  Standard flying maneuvers like barrel rolls are extremely awkward if they’re even available, so I found battles would reduce to stopping so I could more easily target the highly evasive fighters I encountered. There are a few fights involving larger capital ships, but those are also heavily fighter-centric.  Every battle ends up playing out the same way, which gets incredibly repetitive.

One saving grace is the element of exploration.  There are over 300 systems to explore across several alien factions, so DarkStar One offers a large galaxy for you to discover.  Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no incentive to venture too far off the path – each system consists of a trading station, some neutral trade ships, and possibly an asteroid field and research station (which won’t interact with you at all), and lonely empty space.  That’s it.  Aside from admittedly beautiful planets floating in the distance, there’s nothing to see or do in the majority of these systems.

To make matters worse, pirates will ambush you a lot, and you can’t do much of anything (like docking with trade stations of hyperjumping to a new system) until you kill them.  Bouncing from system to system becomes a tedious exercise in killing a handful of pirates and visiting the trade station before moving on to the next one, and there are very few rewards for doing so.  It feels like a pointlessly big galaxy, with lots to explore but nothing to discover.

Quests are rather repetitive, too.  Despite having a number of different objectives, nearly all of them reduce to “go here, kill this, come back.”  Main storyline quests are a little bit better, as a few will send you to the surface of a planet for a somewhat different experience, but those missions have a different problem – a couple of those missions lead to disorienting and borderline nauseating areas, so they lose whatever benefits the diversity provided.

And there are no compelling reasons to complete those storyline missions.  The narrative is incredibly boring; I felt no real desire to see it through after a couple hours of play.  Perhaps more damning is the fact that it hints at intriguing complexities by mentioning bitter wars and political conflicts between races, but it never develops the history of this galaxy.  You’re left with an “everybody hates everybody” scenario with no justification, making for a very shallow experience.

Despite the dated animations, the presentation is decent.  For most of the game, you’re dealing with distant ships and planetary backgrounds, the lack of small details in which is pretty hard to screw up.  The cinematics are clearly using less-than-modern graphical capabilities, but they’re still solid.  Voice acting is a little awkward, but it’s also not horrible.  The fact that the rather mediocre presentation is overall the best part of the game says something rather disappointing about the game as a whole.

To be fair, I enjoyed the first couple hours of jumping from system to system, recklessly dispatching pirates.  It wasn’t until the lack of depth became apparent that I started to get frustrated with it, and then the game continued for another 10+ hours.  Completing this game is far more a test of stamina than an entertaining romp through a sci-fi universe.

DarkStar One: Broken Alliance starts relatively well but rapidly fizzles.  It becomes incredibly tedious and generally uninteresting, leading me to find it hard to recommend it to much of anyone.  If you’re desperate for a flight sim, it’ll help satiate that need, but your time and money are still probably better spent elsewhere.

My Rating: 2/10 – terrible.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Achievement Report - June 29, 2013

This week was not nearly as frightening as last week.  Our team pulled out of the gate pretty strongly, securing a safe position early on.  Still, I had a respectable showing throughout the week.

On another note, I started writing a review for DarkStar One, and I discovered something interesting: I actually have a hard time talking about games I don't like.  I know a lot of people find it easy to rant about bad games and rave about good ones, but it seems like I'm a little lacking the ranting skill. I'll see if I can work on that one.

Following last week's progress, my first accomplishment this week was completing DarkStar One.  As I mentioned last week, the achievements are incredibly tedious and generally very boring, so this wasn't a hugely entertaining process.  Now it's done, though, so I'm thankful for that...

The only other game I really played this week was Wednesday's new XBLA release, Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014.  Being a Magic veteran, I had no problem blowing through the campaigns on the highest difficulty setting, spending only about 10 hours in-game to earn all the achievements.  For players new to the game, I imagine that the learning curve could be pretty high, but I would still think that it wouldn't take more than 15 hours to complete.  Plus it's pretty fun, so I highly recommend it for achievement hunters.

Kingdom of Loathing
I'm chugging through my latest Bad Moon run.  It's going pretty slowly (as expected and by design), but it may start speeding up a bit in the next week, as I've spent a fair amount of time leveling.  Either way, it'll probably be a couple more weeks before I move on to something else.

A leisurely BM run gives a great opportunity to grind some things out.  I spent a bunch of extra turns in A Large Chamber to earn the Evil's Okay in My Book trophy (although I haven't purchased it yet), and I'm using this run to do a 100% Blood-Faced Volleyball run (which I screwed up the last time I tried it).

A trophy quite a bit out of the way of a normal ascension run.
An intentionally slow run is great for accomplishing secondary KoL goals, like tedious trophies or earning swagger for usually non-PvP players (Hardcore runs are great for that - break your Hippy Stone early in the run, then stockpile fights until you hit the limit or approach the end of your run; that way you'll minimize the effect on your play, and because you're in Hardcore, you don't stand to lose anything in defensive fights).

StarCraft II
I played a bunch of StarCraft matches this week, working primarily on two particular achievements:

So. Close.
I've worked towards the 250 Terran wins vs. AI, bringing myself within 30 wins of earning that achievement.  Once that one's done, finishing the wins vs. Elite AI achievement (I need 106 wins for that one) won't be quite as annoying, as I don't hate playing the other races as much as I hate playing Terran...

Chug-chug-chugging away!
When I play big team games (3v3 and 4v4), I tend to play random to make progress on this achievement.  I find that the big games are a little less strategic and a little more cheesy, so I don't think I have nearly the disadvantage that I'd have when off-racing in 2s or 1s.

I'm making good achievement progress in SC2, currently sitting at 5520 achievement points overall.  Of course, there's still a lot to do (I have barely touched 1v1, for example), so I wonder if I'll be able to earn all the achievements, even after Legacy of the Void...

I also signed up for ggtracker to get some detailed analysis of my play over time.  The site requires you to manually upload replays (I haven't seen any obvious options for automatic uploads), but it spits out a number of cool stats and it's prettier than sc2gears (plus more easily shared).  I don't see any point in uploading vs. AI replays, so my profile is a little sparse right now, but it could be a pretty cool tool in the future.  I'm excited about it.

And that does it.  This coming week will be interesting for gaming, as there's a holiday and TrueAchievement's annual Bean Dive phenomenon.  The Bean Dive is an incentive for players to pop an achievement in every game they own but haven't played.  Named for the resulting dip in completion percentage, it's a great opportunity to find really exciting games that might otherwise stay on the shelf for a few more months.  I like it, and it probably means that I'll be playing a wide variety of games before next Saturday.  Until then, tschüss.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monday Magic - Possibility Storm Revised

I've had several chances to play with my Possibility Storm deck, and I've identified a couple major flaws.  The biggest is that my deck is terribly weak against strong ramping abilities leading to massive creatures or spells.  If you can sneak a Darksteel Colossus or a similarly big creature into play before I can get the Possibility Storm/Curse of Exhaustion combo running (usually turn 4 or 5), I'm pretty much screwed.

I went up against a nasty Elf deck that managed just that, and I think biggest flaw is that the low end of my mana curve was designed to deter creature aggression or set up profitable trades; if my opponent's not attacking with his or her creatures, mine can't do anything.  As such, I have replaced some of the low-costing creatures with more burn spells so I can stop a player from sitting back on tricky creatures in the early game.

Another problem was generally running out of gas.  I had one game where I managed to get my combo off, but my opponent's board state was slightly better than mine, and he was slowly able to whittle me down.  The above changes will help (more burn will help me clear the board or end the game), but I've also dropped some of the ramping spells I had before.  The ramp never really seemed necessary, and it just gave me crappy spells to grab with the Storm, so they've gotta go.

One more problem is the fact that my enchantments become dead weight once my combo is on the board.  I'd love to play a couple copies of something like Faithless Looting so I can cycle my enchantments out of my hand, but I also want to keep the total number of spell types low to keep from getting caught with only one card of a particular type left in my deck (which means Storm will prevent me from ever playing it).  It may be worth inserting a few Sorcery burn spells and Faithless Looting, but for now, I want to stick with Instant-speed burn and see how that matches up.

I also had the fortune of getting a few extra Curses of Exhaustion from a friend, making the total shutdown combo a bit easier to pull off.  All in all, I think the Possibility Storm deck is becoming a powerful option.

Anyway, here's the current form of the deck:

1 Ashmouth Hound
2 Blistercoil Weird
2 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Chancellor of the Forge
2 Goblin Arsonist
2 Melek, Izzet Paragon
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nivmagus Elemental
1 Somberwald Vigilante
1 Utvara Hellkite

2 Annihilating Fire
4 Incinerate
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Punish the Enemy
2 Thunderous Wrath

2 Boros Cluestone
2 Boros Signet

Curse of Exhaustion
3 Possibility Storm

2 Boros Guildgate
4 Island
13 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Sulfur Falls

I can't wait to see this newest version in action!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Achievement Report - June 22, 2013

Oh boy.  I've been rather busy this week, so I haven't had as much time for gaming, and our team faced elimination going into the final hours of the GTASC.  Fortunately, a couple of us were able to snag several hundred points in the last few hours, so we managed to survive, putting us in the top 50 overall.  Here's what happened:

Most of my gaming this week has been focused on DarkStar One: Broken Alliance.  While the basic setup isn't too bad, the game itself is terribly, terribly tedious and repetitive.  The achievement list adds further pain by requiring you to visit several hundred locations (about half of which will great you with a small group of hostile pirates), and you'll engage in the same little skirmish every time an enemy shows up.  It's also setup so that you can't easily run from battles, so you have to go through with every one of the mind-numbing fights.

I've spent a total of about 20 hours on the game, and I'm still probably 5 hours or so away from finishing it up.  It's not hard, just terrible.

In the last couple hours of this week's scoring period, I switched over to Home Run Stars in an effort to maximize my TA Score to time ratio.  A little over half this game's Gamerscore isn't too bad, as you'll get a bunch of it just for completing the game (which can admittedly be pretty challenging near the end).  Earning gold medals and completing all the game's FameStar challenges seem like they'll require some dedication, though, so the second half will be a bit more demanding.  Still, I estimate that a full completion will take fewer than 6-8 hours, so it doesn't seem too bad overall.

Kingdom of Loathing
My original plan was to complete a quick Way of the Surprising Fist run to grab the Good Will Punching trophy, but I overestimated the total value of random crap I'd accumulated for that purpose.  After dumping 300 dense meat stacks, nearly 100 massive gemstones, and a ton of other stuff, I still hadn't earned the trophy.  I ended up spending a couple extra days farming GameInformPowerDailyPro magazines to get it done, but I've now officially earned all the trophies associated with Surprising Fist runs - I probably won't ever do another one.

My six most recent additions.
Given that the next few weeks will likely be hectic for me, I opted to transition into another Bad Moon run (this time as a Turtle Tamer) so that I'm not hurt nearly as much if I miss adventuring for a day or two.  I may use my schedule for the upcoming weeks as an excuse to do a couple of these Bad Moon runs, depending on how things go.

Aside from the above, I haven't done much gaming.  I played a few StarCraft II matches, but no more than five, so they're not really worth describing in any detail.

Like last week, I may not have a whole lot of gaming time this next week, but I've already made a good dent in serving my team for the GTASC by continuing DarkStar One.  Still, I hope I'll be able to make significant progress in some of my gaming goals by this time next week.  Until then, tschüss.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Magic - EDH with the Dracogenius - Niv-Mizzet as Commander

Following my last EDH blog, I was excited to start concocting another deck.  I wanted to avoid any color overlap with my existing deck (Varolz, the Scar-Striped, black and green), as it already had most of my good EDH-worthy cards in those colors and I don't want to have to switch cards between decks if I can help it.  Those restrictions ultimately brought my choice down to two creatures: Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius and Isperia, Supreme Judge.  I ultimately chose the Dragon over the Sphinx because he gives a more reliable (and safer) way of asserting card dominance.

The deckbuilding proceeded essentially as before: I included all the big nasty rares that likely would never see regular constructed play, and I tried to maximize the use of spells that affect "opponents" or "opponents' creatures" to get the best possible results.  I tried to stick to the card drawing theme by including a bunch of spells to give me tons of options (Mind Unbound and Enter the Infinite being the biggest ones), some spells to restrict my foes (Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur), and a few things to help me abuse those powers (Beacon of Tomorrows for extra turns, Elixir of Immortality to keep from milling myself to death).  Throw in the most annoying counterspell in Magic (Time Stop), and you have a pretty reasonable EDH deck.

Here's the setup:

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Diluvian Primordial
Djinn of Wishes
Flameborn Viron
Flayer of the Hatebound
Harbor Serpent
Hypersonic Dragon
Invader Parasite
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Keiga, the Tide Star
Kuldotha Ringleader
Mindclaw Shaman
Molten Primordial
Myojin of the Seeing Winds
Nivix Guildmage
Rage Nimbus
Ripscale Predator
Scourge of Geier Reach
Slumbering Dragon
Sphinx of Uthuun
Stormtide Leviathan
Tyrant of Discord
Valakut Fireboar

Cyclonic Rift
Essence Backlash
Rock Slide
Street Spasm
Time Stop

Alpha Brawl
Beacon of Tomorrows
Cerebral Eruption
Cone of Flame
Devastation Tide
Enter the Infinite
Fire Tempest
Into the Maw of Hell
Lava Burst
Meteor Shower
Rolling Temblor

Dreamstone Hedron
Elixir of Immortality
Feldon's Cane
Izzet Cluestone
Izzet Keyrune
Izzet Signet

Curse of Echoes
Mind Control
Mind Unbound
Numbing Dose
Volition Reins
Warstorm Surge

Ral Zarek

18 Island
Izzet Guildgate
19 Mountain

I was able to play one game with this deck a couple weeks ago, and although I think it ended up a bit weaker than my Varolz deck, I like it a lot more.  Instead of just being built out of a solid mechanic (Scavenge), this deck makes sillier plays throughout the game, making it more fun to use.  That's based on only one test run, though, so I'll need to play with it a few more times before I really settle on an opinion of it.