TWR: Early Modern Horizons and War of the Spark Spoilers

A couple of interesting tidbits hit news feeds in the past couple of weeks. There hasn’t been the official “big product road map announcement” for this year just yet, but three sets have been confirmed. We already know about Core Set 2020 due out in the summer, and the next normal set to round out the Ravnica and Gatewatch story, War of the Spark. We can also assume there will be a Commander 2019 product, but otherwise the rest of the releases for 2019 are unknown. So when we heard what I’m about to talk about, there was some excitement to be had!

Modern Horizons:

Wizards of the Coast announced a new “modern focused” set that includes cards that will skip standard legality. We’re expecting a bunch of new cards specifically designed for the modern format, but we can rest assured there will be great cards for EDH/Commander as well. Reprints are rumored to be “nothing that’s currently modern-legal” so perhaps they will be legacy reprints? If so that is some potentially awesome news for Commander players along with those playing the other formats. So far we’ve only seen two spoilers, and they are interesting cards:

The Cabal Therapist is definitely a modern focused card. I don’t really see many EDH applications unless you’re doing a lot of “show me your hand” effects to really make use of this creature’s ability. Still a pretty decent card. The Serra Planeswalker is a pretty cool idea, taking a card we’ve known since the beginning and giving it a legendary treatment. It actually looks like a great fit in Kaalia or other Angel EDH decks, just because it’s pretty on theme and can keep you in the game if you get targeted. The set it supposed to release within the next couple of months, and it appears to be the Modern Masters replacement. I hope it brings some powerful cards.

War of the Spark:

The other big news was concerning the next expansion, War of the Spark. There was a teaser video that showed a bunch of Planeswalkers done up as stained glass windows not too long ago, and then WotC told us that every single one of those Planeswalkers will be present in the new set.

Unfortunately they will not look this cool — they specifically said that the stained glass art would not be on the cards in the set. However, there were a total of 36 given this treatment, and it turns out that all of them are cards we’ve seen before. It’s unclear if there will be reprints or new versions, but they did say that there will be a Planeswalker in every pack, much like there were legendaries in Dominaria. I’m torn on the idea. Planeswalkers were supposed to be something you only saw here and there, are are less likely to see play unless they fit a deck’s theme or you’re running superfriends. Some are very powerful — I’m sure most of you playing Arena are sick of seeing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria over and over. I think stuffing this many into a set could take away some of the magic that makes Planeswalkers special. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens there. This set is supposed to be out next month, so spoilers will be coming soon enough. I’ll be covering that as soon as it happens.

Until then.

On the Battle Royale Front

I don’t know how it came to pass exactly, but since no one else in my corner of the Internet is writing about the Battle Royale genre, I kind of feel like it falls to me to do so because I’ve tried most and enjoyed a couple. I wouldn’t say I’m a super fan of this style of game, but I do keep finding myself writing about them when a new contender enters the ring. Generally speaking, the market is over-saturated with games trying to bank on Fortnite or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds‘ success, but there are outliers and new competition cropping up left and right — and some of these are doing things to push the genre forward into realms I personally find more appealing. I’ve written about several games over the past few years, starting with H1Z1 and culminating with the new kid on the block: Apex Legends.

There have been a few news stories recently that kind of sum things up for the genre in the past couple of years. My take: Basically H1Z1 came out of nowhere and created the game mode, someone who consulted Daybreak then went on to create his own game (PUBG) and then the was Fortnite and only Fortnite. The dark ages have finally seemed to pass, with the new forerunner Apex Legends showing the potential the genre has to offer to an adult audience. I suppose you can give Call of Duty some credit too, because Blackout is pretty deece. Regardless, it seems that Apex’s surprise launch caught Epic Games off guard, but they definitely took immediate notice. I’ve read several articles that point out that Fortnite has already seen a ping system patched into the game and “respawn vans” are on the way too. The linked article said it best:

That said, Fortnite is still no slouch. It doesn’t have to imitate Apex Legends. The ping system was fine, but one who continues to watch Epic add Apex Legends features to Fortnite might wonder if they’re starting to just try to play keep up with their new contender. It would be a shame to see them just play keep up, rather than innovate on their style as they had for the better part of 2018.

I agree that it’s kind of sad to see the team responsible for the most popular Twitch game for nearly a calendar year needing to keep up with the Joneses. Why not iterate your own things? You already have the stupid factor, building, and the ability to use dances made popular elsewhere. Keep going with that, and let the kids have their playground. I’ll go hang out with the adults elsewhere, thank you. Pretty soon we’ll see hero abilities and then Fortnite might as well be Realm Royale. Sorry if I sound a little bent, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to talk shit on that game.

Back to the adult world. I’ve been playing Apex Legends pretty regularly and I have to say it’s a blast, particularly with friends, but even with randoms. Polygon has reported that the game has already reached 50 million players, and that’s pretty damn good for a month since launching. At their current trajectory they’ll be more popular than Fortnite before you know it, though that wouldn’t need to happen to prove which is the better game. Honestly the only one I’m really playing is Apex and I’m happy to be doing so. I still think the genre isn’t in the sweet spot just yet, but we’ve already seen these sorts of popularity contests between titles in many genres before it (take the MMO, MOBA and Survival Sandbox booms and busts for example). I still see interesting tidbits that are worth commenting on though, and here are a couple I shared on Twitter the other day, with some excess commentary:

So apparently one of the creators of Dark Souls/Bloodborne wants to make a Battle Royale variant. I think the combat alone would be pretty awesome, and could make for longer matches, though I’d think you might want to either limit the size of the map or the amount of players just to keep things from getting out of hand. Killing mobs in these games takes a while, and though the PvP doesn’t take as long, it could still end up being excessive. I’d play it though. You’ll just have to hope you get some armor and weapons quick before you get cut down, similar to the normal games.

I find this story kind of sad, just because of my nostalgic loyalty to Daybreak (more SOE/Verant). I wanted H1Z1 to be successful. I actually enjoyed their King of the Kill nonsense. We knew the NantG thing was going to bring changes down the pipeline, and I’m sure this is a ploy to get a mobile version up to compete with PUBG‘s mobile offering. Whatever the case, the game has changed names so many times at the point they’re probably doing more harm than good. Perhaps they don’t care and are aiming for an Asian market? Hard to say. Whatever the case I don’t play whatever they ultimately decide to call this game anymore, so it’s just a footnote in history. A shame to create something that has become so popular and then find a way to not reap the benefits. I guess that’s typical of the company though, isn’t it?

That’s all I have for today.

RE2: Leon Campaign Complete

The last time I spoke about this year’s Resident Evil 2 Remake, I had just started the game and was gushing about it’s “new nostalgia” factor. Since then, I have wrapped up Leon’s campaign and started on Claire’s, already nearing the underground passage portion of the game. After clearing the first “chapter” so to speak, I came to find out that they really packed in a bunch of new game plus stuff into this remake. Originally thinking about only Leon and Claire’s campaign, I figured this was a maybe twenty hour game at best.

It turns out that my first run at RE2 took just under nine hours. I’ve probably played Claire for about two, so I should be clearing it in about six more. That’s near that original twenty hour mark I mentioned, and as it turns out there are “2nd Run” campaigns for both characters, along with a “Hardcore” mode that doesn’t autosave and has stronger enemies/less supply drops. I hear there are alternate “real endings” after the 2nd Runs, and apparently you’ll have to do all this stuff if you’re achievement hunting.

I’m not sure what will happen. I’m really enjoying the game thus far, but I’m likely to move onto something else after I finish Claire’s campaign. However, that does leave something to come back to, since those runs are supposed to play out a bit differently and show you the true ending so I think I’ll have to come back to it. I know with Resident Evil 5 & 6, I played through them time and again, partially to earn trophies but also because my best friend and I could co-op through them. When it came to Resident Evil 7, I played alone and I only played through once. I don’t see myself wanting to binge through the game another two times so immediately, but I do see myself checking them out further down the line. I do own the game, after all.

Part of the reason I’m hesitant to commit to extra runs is because I have other games I’m looking at wanting to play. In most of my downtime I’ve been playing Apex Legends, and poke around in other games here and there, but I like to try and keep at least one game in the rotation that I can complete, Resident Evil 2 being that game for the moment. Next I’m looking at buying either Anthem or Devil May Cry 5, the latter of which is getting better reviews at the moment, but both carry a $60 price tag. I’d think completing DMC5 would be faster and it’s something I’d likely move on from after a single playthrough, and Anthem isn’t really a game you complete if it ends up even remotely like Destiny. Whatever the case I’m going to finish Resident Evil 2 before I buy another game. But that should be soon, and I should have something new to gush about shortly thereafter.

Whatever the case, the Resident Evil 2 Remake is fantastic, and you really should pick it up if you’re a fan of the series. The new additions make it feel like a modern game, but it still holds true to its classic roots, and I love that. Highly recommended!

TWR: Ravnica Allegiance Guild Kits

It was announced with Ravnica: Allegiance that shortly after the release of the set we’d see guild kits for the next five corresponding guilds. This happened with Guilds of Ravnica as well, where the other five guilds got their own guild kits. For whatever reason I wasn’t too keen on picking those up, but the new color pairings had more I was interested in. The guild kits are a neat little package. Each comes with a two color 60 card deck containing reprints of cards from the other two Ravnica blocks along with some inclusions from the current set. Also packed in are deck boxes, dice, pins and stickers featuring that guild’s logo and a foil alternate art version of a previously released Legendary creature.

I decided to pick up a bundle of all five that I got for a good deal on Amazon, and they arrived a couple of days ago. Pictured above, you can see the alternate art cards along with the pins. I really wanted to grab these because there are a ton of cool reprints that aren’t necessarily expensive to get singles of, but I like the alternate art cards, and the extra accessories are a nice added bonus. I’m not going to go into specifics about the full deck lists, but there are a few cards I wanted to highlight just because they are awesome additions to my collection and/or cards I had on my wishlist. You can however see the full decklists here.

The dice this time around aren’t as cool as they were for the last five guilds, with some having colors that don’t make sense. The pins and stickers are great though — the pins have already found their way onto my backpack that I use to transport Magic stuff when I go places to play, but I haven’t decided what to do with the stickers just yet. Next, I’ll highlight some of the cards that are going to be immediately useful:

First of all, the new basic lands with the guild themed artwork are amazing. These can be spread about multiple EDH decks as most don’t use that many basic lands. Next, there are the cycles of signets, charms, and keyrunes that are great additions to any collection as they will be used in multiple decks. The new alternate art generals are great too, plus foil so they can replace non-foil versions if you already have them, or can just get you an extra copy for another deck. The following are some cards that I felt deserved a few words, but that doesn’t mean these are the only useful cards in these decks. They just seem to be cards that I think I’ll find a use for in existing decks and projects.

Isperia, Supreme Judge. Isperia is an Azorius Sphinx, and there are plenty of these to be found throughout Magic’s history. I actually brewed an EDH deck around Sphinxes but next got around to building it. Perhaps with the additional ammo that has come from recent sets I may revisit the idea. Either way, this card is at home in control and pillowfort decks that want to discourage you from being attacked. I’m not sure I’d use this card as my general, probably opting for Azor, the Lawbringer instead, but Isperia would still hold a place in the 99.

Rakdos, Lord of Riots. I already have this version of Rakdos in my Kaalia deck, and just want this alternate art foil to replace the basic version. I do think that I can find a place for this extra copy though.

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. I brewed a Gruul deck not that long ago and Ruric was part of the 99. He’s a beast of a creature and I think he’d even make a swell general, but I’m going to throw him into that deck for now.

Teysa, Orzhov Scion. The older version of Teysa is still pretty damn good, and seems to be a viable addition to the newer Teysa deck that I brewed recently. I think that I’ll try it out, if not I think she might slot into the Daxos token deck I am working on. Further testing needed.

Zegana, Utopian Speaker. This is the only alternate art foil that’s actually a new card and not a reprint. This card released with the new set, and given that my merfolk deck is simic, this card slots right in. The +1/+1 counter shenanigans were already a part of that deck but that part of the strategy keeps getting bolstered so I’m going to roll with it. Not sure what I’m going to cut at this point, but I’ll figure it out.

Ghost Council of Orzhova. I like this card for my Oloro lifegain deck. It could work with Aminatou’s blinking theme too, but I think it fits Oloro better. I’ve thought about buying this card for a while, so now I finally have it.

Dovescape. Another great control card in Azorius colors, but could also be something I throw into my Estrid stax deck just for additional control if needed — this sounds like it could work well particularly if I get her chain veil and plus ability combo going for big mana. I should be able to flood my board with tokens.

Pontiff of Blight. I love the extort ability, and this guy gives all of your creatures extort. Not sure where I’ll put him, but it’s going somewhere for sure.

Debtors’ Knell. A great reanimator card, I’ve included this in several brews without owning a copy. Now I do.

Master of Cruelties. I have a copy of this guy in my Kaalia deck, and he can put in some work, along with being able to cheat around his limitation of attacking alone. I think I’ll easily find another deck that can use him.

Birds of Paradise. Surprisingly enough, I don’t own a copy of this card, and it’s a staple mana dork. I’ll have this in a deck quickly.

Zhur-Taa Druid. Another mana dork that does some damage while giving you mana. It seems likely to find a place in a deck.

Borborygmos. This guy just looks like a solid beater that can give out counters. In a deck that cares about counters in these colors, it’s a great way to get ahead.

Protean Hulk. Too bad he’s banned in EDH. The things I could do with this guy.

Vorel of the Hull Clade. I’ve wanted a copy of Vorel for a long while now. He’s got an interesting ability that let’s you double up counters on a creature, artifact or land. This obviously works best with creatures, but there are edge cases to be made. Being a merfolk, I think I’ll be slotting him into my merfolk deck just to be able to do more with +1/+1 counters.

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. He’s kind of like the older version of Prime Speaker Vannifar. They both let you do some tutoring but do so in different ways. I’m not sure what I’ll do with him, but he’s an interesting card. Perhaps a new deck is in order.

Simic Ascendancy. This is one of those alternate wincons that rarely work but are kind of like an achievement if you can get it to. I think I might put this in my merfolk deck, unless I find another deck better suited for it.

That’s all I wanted to highlight today. If you like any of these particular color combinations I’d recommend grabbing that guild kit, because the value you’ll get is worth more than the asking price. I love getting a good deal on ways to bolster my collection, because the brewing is endless in this household.

Unboxing the Amazfit Bip Smartwatch

Having started a new job recently, it turned out that having my cellphone in my pocket at all times wasn’t going to happen. I’ve gone for years without wearing a watch due to having said cellphone in my pocket at all times, and using it as my primary timepiece. Because of this change, I knew I was going to have to go back to wearing a watch, but it turned out that my old watch’s battery had died and I wasn’t into the look of it as much as when I used to wear it. As such, I decided to peruse the web to see what was out there in 2019. Smart watches didn’t exist when I last wore a watch, and there are a ton to choose from. Most people would probably recommend grabbing an Apple or Samsung watch just because they are high end accessories to go along with your high end phone. I’ve never personally been in the market to dump hundreds of dollars on a smart phone, so I’ve never really seen the purpose for one of these watches, particularly when I can just pull my phone out of my pocket.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea of a watch that has more than just “tells the time” features. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, just that I didn’t want to spend a fortune. Before I could really get into research, my girlfriend told me that she would grab the watch for me for our upcoming 3rd anniversary, and that sealed the deal as far as a purchase went. I knew that I still didn’t want to spend a fortune, and I also knew that I would be better off getting something on the lower end just to see if I’d even like the concept. Worst case, I hate it and buy a standard watch again, and best case it’s a good test run prior to grabbing a more expensive/better model. It turns out that she too wants a Fitbit/watch, so she was already saying that when/if I buy a new one she can wear this one. So win/win.

I ended up going with a Chinese knockoff Fitbit that I found on Amazon for $80. The “Amazfit” by the Huami corp had favorable reviews and basically all of the features I was looking for, save for being able to answer my phone or send texts remotely from the watch. Some of the higher end models do this, but require a 4G connection which probably adds to your phone bill, I’d imagine. Instead, this watch will notify me when my phone rings and I can read text messages, I just can’t answer/respond. That’s okay, as it will at least notify me when my ringer is off as I’ve missed plenty of calls/texts that way. My main reason for wanting a smart watch was the fact that they are small and lightweight and I like having a digital screen. This one has customizable watch faces, displays the weather, counts your steps and has a couple of other features such as a timer, activity log and even a compass. So far it has been great for work, and I’m happy with it. I’m pretty much sold on the concept, so I will likely look into something a bit more higher end in the future.

Set up was a snap, though I’m not sure if it’s normal to have to use your phone to update and set up your watch (I imagine those models with cell service can update themselves). It went through its paces, updating the watch’s firmware and whatnot, and then I was able to do some customization and setup via the application on my phone. You can also change some settings via the watch, but there are more options through the app. Either way, there was a lot to play with and learn, and at this point I’m content. If you’re looking for a watch like this that is inexpensive and easy to use, I’d recommend this one. I saw watches as cheap as $30 and some of the high end ones are $500+, but I can’t really comment on any others, this being my first. I know some of the other guys at work have them as well, and they definitely seem to have more features, but this is really all I needed.