Thoughts on Until Dawn

My girlfriend is an interesting character. She has shown no interest in playing video games, nor does she particularly enjoy horror movies, but for some reason she enjoys watching me play horror games. This started when I was playing through Resident Evil 7, and since then when I end up with a new Horror title to play with, she wants to watch. It works for me, and it gives us something else to bond over, even if the game isn’t particularly good.

Last month, Until Dawn was part of the Playstation Plus monthly free lineup, and I downloaded it without knowing when I’d get around to playing it. I had heard decent things about it back when it released in 2015, but it was never a game I felt I had to have. Having actually played quite a bit of it now I can say that it’s an interesting title, but I’m glad that I didn’t pay money for it.

That isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s chock full of cliched horror tropes, the voice acting and character models are fine, and it has some jump scares and gore to boot (plus lots of talk of sex, though that typically means someone is about to die). Despite being full of these cliches, it manages to mix themes from several horror movies that we’ve seen over the years, and there are some interesting sub-layers that I would assume make for a more complete experience.

You remember that movie “The Butterfly Effect?” That is one of the main sub-themes of this title. The Butterfly Effect is a principal that goes like this: A flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a string of events that cause a hurricane elsewhere. This game splashes this concept throughout, and you choices in individual scenarios change the narrative of the game. Like TellTale games and other titles where “choices matter,” it’s apparent that there are likely multiple endings and ways that things can go with this game.

I powered through the first 6-ish chapters and have found the story line to be intriguing, if not a bit vague and confusing. Scenes between “episodes” have a mysterious figure being seen by a therapist. I won’t spoil anything here but the mystery man plays a major role in the story. I’ve made choices and people have died. I’ve made choices and people lived. Various innocuous actions have various consequences. It’s definitely more of an interactive narrative than a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, combat is next to non-existent and there is more time spent chatting and watching cut scenes than actually playing. Of course there are plenty of QTE’s as well, which fans of horror/adventure games will be used to. Honestly, if you play TellTale or similarly styled games you’ll probably enjoy this one. As long as you can get past the terrible teenaged drama these kids bring upon themselves.

As I haven’t finished the game yet I can’t say if the ending will make me want to play through again for a different one, but I will see it through to its end. If you got it for free like I did, you should at least give it a whirl. Otherwise I’d recommend waiting for a sale, as it’s not really worth a full $60. Still a mildly entertaining diversion.

The War Report: Thoughts on Commander 2017

I know, I know, I’m obsessed. This used to be a gaming blog, and though I know that Magic: The Gathering could still be considered gaming, it’s definitely not “video gaming” despite having some titles in the digital space. Regardless, there is more news that interests me coming out of the Wizards of the Coast space than there is the gaming sphere, so here we are with another column of The War Report!

It’s spoiler season, which happens multiple times a year when it comes to MTG — each time a new set or collection comes out there are spoilers for it, as people want to know what they can expect before buying in, and I must say that having the spoilers is nice because you can tell if something you are going to buy is going to be worth your while. Given the spoilers of the last couple of main sets, Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, I knew right away that I wouldn’t be buying too many packs, that most of the “power” cards that I wanted would be easier to just buy singles of and be done with. At this point I have done that for most of the cards I’d like to own from that block. Then once a year a new commander set comes out and we all get to take a peek into the minds of the creative teams at Wizards, and are rewarded with new cards in each set as well.

At this point, we know the exact color make ups, tribes and commanders for the new pre-constructed 2017 sets. Here they are:

5-color Dragons, Green/White Cats, Mardu Vampires and Grixis Wizards. Interesting color combinations, and an interesting new mechanic called “Eminence” which gives each new commander a bonus effect that triggers even when it is in the command zone. Well, this isn’t entirely new, as Oloro, The Ageless Acetic released with the 2013 commander sets and had what is now called Eminence. However, it’s a cool and powerful utility and I think we will see some awesome creative uses for the commanders outside of the precons. Out of these sets, as I mentioned in my last post I’m most interested in Vampires, but I was unsure how things would go having a mardu color-theme. Having seen Edgar Markov however, I’m sold. His Eminence ability is amazing and fits the aggro theme I wanted to use in the mono-black vampire deck I had been planning. I feel like sacrifice outlets and recursion are going to work out great in the deck, and I’m sure there will be some weaker cards that can easily be pulled out. I feel like there are some amazing dual colored vampires (orzhov and rakdos) that will slot right in, and if it ends up that I’m just splashing red, that’s fine — it’s what ended up happening with Kaalia as well.

I feel like the other Eminence abilities are less useful, but some of those commanders are more powerful in their own ways. Time will tell how the decks themselves play out, but I’m excited to get my hands on Markov and to build out the deck in my own way. The guys in my play group are excited as well, one for Dragons and the other for Wizards — no one is too thrilled with Cat tribal, but I’m sure someone will pick it up anyway.

There are some other great cards that are making their way into the decks as well, with some old school mechanics like phasing making their way back to the game. It’s been a great spoiler season thus far, and soon we’ll be looking forward to Ixalan as well. I will report back once I have the deck in hand and can start to modify it!

The War Report: Brewing Vampires

The new batch of Commander pre-constructed decks are coming very soon, August 25th to be exact. Like the sets of precon decks before it, there are several to choose from, and there is a general theme. This year’s theme is tribal decks, whereas last year the focus was on four color partner decks and other years have had things like Planeswalkers that could be used as commanders, etc. Bits of information have been leaked over the course of the year for the new decks, and though nothing has been fully confirmed, we know that one of the decks is 5-color Dragon tribal. Cat and Vampire tribal has also been basically confirmed, and the last deck is said to be Wizards.

Of these, the deck I am most interested in is the vampire tribal. I have actually brewed a mono black aggro deck that is based around vampires, but haven’t spent the money to buy the cards just yet. When I heard that vampires would be one of the new tribes, I figured I would wait and see what comes in the deck before building the one that I brewed. Word on the street is that the deck will be Mardu (red/white/black) which is a strong combination that I’ve used with Kaalia — and that deck smashes. However when it comes to vampires it doesn’t necessarily feel like the best colors for the job.

I picked mono black for my own brew mainly because the majority of vampire creature cards are black. Black also has a variety of ramp, removal and card draw. Honestly, black feels like the best color in a lot of ways, but I am also drawn to Orzhov (black/white) which adds some additional goodies via white spells, but some of the gold cards that are Orzhov are powerful, and there are some vampire options there as well. Black/red does have some vamps as well, but it seems that the mono red vampires are mostly weak, and revolve around madness quite a bit — which is a mechanic only found in one block.

I’m seeing subthemes here, but I honestly need to see what comes with the precon to see how I want to build it out. I can stick with Mardu and change it marginally as I’ve done with precons in the past. Or I can strip the red out and change the commander to Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. He’s the only Orzhov Legendary Vampire. There are plenty of mono black legendary vamps, but no mono red and no mono white. I’m assuming that the mardu precon will provide a new commander card because currently there aren’t any mardu legendary vampires. That’s one bit that keeps me from making any decisions currently, because the precons each come with some new cards that have never been printed before. If the new commander is worth keeping the deck mardu then so be it. If he is not, I may run Vish, or I may just strip out the good black cards and stick to mono black.

At this point it’s hard to say which way I’ll go. I feel like the mono black brew I’ve made could be a strong deck, but I am also intrigued to see what they come up with in a three color. Regardless, the next deck I’m going to be working on is this vampire deck, but that won’t be until the end of the month. In the meantime I think I’m going to focus on finely tuning my existing decks as there are still some Hour of Devastation cards that I’d like to sprinkle in, along with some weaknesses that need to be shored up. In particular I want to change around my zombie deck by making Scarab God the commander (which may end up giving the deck a mill subtheme), add Razaketh to Kaalia, and change some of my equipment/auras in Sram. Reaper King also feels like he needs some changes, because he draws a lot of hate and when he is off of the board it feels like I can’t do as much. So for the rest of the month I’m going to focus on those improvements and then work on vampires once I get my hands on the precon.

How do you go about starting new brews?

Wall of Text Version 2.0

I was going to make this into a State of the Game post, but since I’m writing from work and I don’t have any screenshots or other goodies to spice it up, I decided a wall of text post was in order. I have a bunch of mini-updates about my various activities and thought a random stream-of-consciousness style of post was in order. So here goes.

I’m not sure if you guys caught it, but I made mention earlier in the month of a coming event that would change up my personal life a bit. For the past year and a half (or maybe a bit more) I’ve been dating a woman off and on. Things have had their ups and downs as most relationships go, but we have soldiered on and are stronger for it. She has lived with one of her long term friends for almost a year now, and since she moved in there, I have become friends with her roommates. Her friend’s husband is the one who got me back into Magic, and that has grown into a full on weekly playgroup and has been a blast.

Recently it was brought to our attention that the married couple put in an offer on a house. It’s not far from where they live currently, which in turn is not too far from my current house or my work. The house they are buying is in escrow until September, so this isn’t a done deal just yet, but at one point they approached my girlfriend about her intentions going forward. They wanted her to move with them but wanted to see where she stood, at which point she brought up the possibility of me moving in as well. It’s not the optimal situation in that I would prefer to live on my own without roommates, but it is going to get me out on my own again after living with family for nearly three years, and for that I was open to the idea. Things have progressed nicely in my relationship, and this is the next logical step. As such, we are looking forward to this next chapter in our lives and the big change will come soon.

How does that affect other parts of my life? Well I think once I’m moved and settled, I’ll be able to devote more time to gaming and in turn more time to creative outlets. I’ve kept up the blog but I have a more limited output than in years past. I have other aspirations as well, so I think being settled and having all my shit (and people) in one place will help to give me more time to devote to these things. It turns out that two of the members of my Magic playgroup are interested in giving podcasting (and perhaps other media creation) a whirl, so I may finally be getting back on the airwaves. It seems they are bent on making the podcast about MTG, but I may still be able to convince them to do other bits, or perhaps I’ll make the magic bit only certain episodes and do the rest solo. I will figure out the details soon, but I’d expect to see something new from me on that front before the end of the year.

We got together for our weekly session last night and I was able to debut my newly minted Locust God deck. It performed rather well, and I was able to pull off both the infinite combo with Ashnod’s Altar + Skullclamp, and a beatdown win with Shared Animosity. It was glorious. I played a round with Temmet and Molimo as well but those games didn’t go in my favor. Overall it was a fun night but we all want to play more games more often. It really is cardboard crack.

On the gaming front, I’ve spent the last month really digging into Killing Floor 2. At this point I’ve earned all but two of the trophies: One for reaching perk level 25 (maxing out one of the classes) and one for winning a round on the “hell on earth” difficulty (the hardest one available). I’m not far from being able to do both, and then I’ll have yet another platinum trophy for the collection. Recently they also added a carnival themed summer event where all of the monsters look like carnival “freaks” and they even added a new carnival map. There are some mini-tasks to complete that reward cosmetics — to this point I’ve earned a pig mask. Woo.

SMITE recently patched for the summer as well, which means new summer-themed skins and some quests to do. Quests in this game are fairly straight forward, requiring wins, or a number of kills/assists, etc. but they net various rewards during these seasonal events. Skins are usually only available for RMT. The biggest change though was that the account level cap was removed, so 30 is no longer the maximum level — it’s something over 100 now. The XP curve was leveled out and any XP earned post level 30 was automatically added, so I logged in and was instantly level 49. I assume there will be other benefits for leveling, but for now all I saw was a few new achievements, though they are in-game only and don’t net trophies. I’m at about 60 Gods mastered now, and only need a handful of trophies to “finish” this game off as well though I doubt I’ll stop playing it anytime soon.

Lastly, I’ve been spending my other free time in Final Fantasy XV. I’m about level 15 now, have made it into chapter 3 of the main storyline and have successfully cleared all of the side quests and hunts that are at or below my current level. I’m going the completionist route just because you get more trophies that way, and because the side quests give a decent amount of XP and gil, which makes traveling through the game that much easier. So far I love it. I even picked up the season pass, as a couple of episodic DLCs have released and the multiplayer expansion is coming soon. I’m curious to see how that affects the game.

That’s all for me for today. Just wanted to get some updates in and make another post before the month was over. Until next time, happy gaming!

The War Report: Locust God Brew

As I did with Amonkhet before it, I decided that there was at least one new Legendary creature from Hour of Devastation worth building a deck around. I was lucky enough to pull a Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun from the lone fat pack I bought of the previous set, and it was really the only legendary creature I wanted to build a deck around and have done so already. The Minotaur from that set is pretty decent too, but I wasn’t excited about it, just like I wasn’t excited about HoD’s Scorpion God. However, this new set came with a few decent cards to add to existing EDH decks of mine, and I couldn’t wait to build a deck around The Locust God:

He’s not a cheap god by any means, but we intent to fix that by putting in a solid amount of card draw and some decent ramp. Blue and Red aren’t the best ramp colors, but they allow for decent card draw, and I’ve thrown in a good amount of mana rocks to fix things. We don’t have to worry about commander tax with The Locust God either, because when it dies it returns to your hand. The real benefit though is the fact that any time you draw a card, you get a 1/1 flyer with haste. If you can’t manage to get extra draws, you at least have the main draw phase along with the ability to loot built into the card. So most turns you should be netting at least a couple of these flyers, but that sounds like it would take far too long to get anything done. So let’s look at card draw effects that will help speed up our army of insects:

Blue provides the majority of card draw effects, but they are present in red, and there is of course some artifact and creature help. I’ve made sure to include some self draw, X draws and other effects that allow me to draw more cards all the time. Wheel effects happen to be very powerful in this deck as well, so I made sure to add some of those. Discarding your hand sounds detrimental, but being able to draw another full set sometimes comes with hidden benefits, and no matter what you’re generating more insects to swing with, each turn.

  

Outside of using these sorts of effects, I’ve also included some powerful enchantments that can multiply their effects:

Being able to draw additional cards per turn, or multiply the amount of cards drawn is powerful in conjunction with the insect production of the God. Outside of this, I’ve also added several different counterspell options and some burn spells for removal or to finish off a low life player. I also added in staple dual lands along with as many of the cycling lands I could find, due to the fact that late game those cards can net additional creatures, but also sometimes come in handy to discard if you are mana flooded. In the event that you start cycling through your deck a bit too fast, I’ve included cards like Commit // Memory and Temporal Cascade so you can get your graveyard shuffled back into your library. So what about the creatures, you may ask?

A sampling of the creatures in the deck, each has its own purpose but flows with the theme of the deck. Some make spells cost lest to cast, others help with card draw or wheel effects. One helps shuffle your graveyard into your deck, some ping for damage on card draw or ETB, and a couple of mages who will fish up other artifacts. Finally, we should discuss win conditions, outside of the obvious card draw and over run with 1/1 flyers.

There is a potential infinite combo here with Ashnod’s Altar, Skullclamp and The Locust God. Not coincidentally, I included both Trinket and Trophy mages to help fish these pieces up. Sacrificing an insect token to the Altar gives two mana with which you can use to equip the Skullclamp to draw two cards, creating two new insects, which nets infinite mana and infinite 1/1’s. Alternatively, you can use the combo of Enter the Infinite and Laboratory Maniac to draw out your library and win the game:

Lastly, if you prefer (or don’t pull the right cards) you can use cards like these to make your swarm overwhelming and get a good old beat down win:

There are a bunch of other small interactions between cards in the deck, and this is my first combo deck where I might be able to finally get that win where everyone is still alive with high health totals and can’t do anything to stop me! You can check out my full deck list over on MTG Goldfish, and I’ll be back with more brews as I complete them.