The War Report: Standard Legal Life Gain Deck

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I’ve come to a conclusion. Out of the few decks that I’ve created from scratch, there is one that has risen to the top. I’ve shared a couple of my original decks in this column before, but those were merely ideas, and in some cases they worked (the Werewolf deck is gimmicky but fun) and others they didn’t (the Trinketeer idea was turned into a 3-color deck and hasn’t been tested much). I never shared the deck I want to talk about today, mainly because it was the first one that I put together, and it has seen many revisions. At this point I consider it done, and it has been the deck I’ve had the most success with by far. Despite being a deck originally based around the Aetherflux Reservoir artifact card, it seemed that utilizing that as a win condition was simply not working. However, since I had built around life gain to trigger the ability of the artifact (pay 50 life, deal 50 damage to target player), I already had a good base down. After some research into existing standard legal cards, I found other win conditions and tweaked the deck to the point where it can stand up to even some Modern and Vintage decks that my friends occasionally play with. For this, I am proud. First, let’s get into the card list:

Black/White Life Gain Deck

Creatures:

x1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis (Planeswalker)
sorin

This is basically win condition #1. Sorin is a fantastic Planeswalker, fits perfectly with the life gain theme, and has a fantastic ultimate, where subtracting 9 loyalty tokens allows you to play X 1/1 tokens with lifelink where X is equal to your life total. I used this ability once to spawn 36 1/1’s. Fantastic. He does cost a bit of mana so he’s definitely a late game play, which is why I’ve added plenty of control and sustain through various means so you can get there.

x1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
kambal

This card is so good I’ve actually swapped it back and forth between this deck and my Black/White commander deck. In commander it’s even more beneficial, but it still does its job in standard games. Being able to do damage and gain life every time your opponent casts a spell is amazing. If nothing else, it usually gets some form of removal out of your opponents hands.

x2 Angel of Invention
angel

One of my favorite Kaladesh cards, the Angel of Invention is a white weenie, but packs a nice punch. I have never created servos with it, always spawn it as a 4/3, but it has flying, vigilance, lifelink and buffs all of my other creatures. It almost always gets destroyed, but has also helped me win games. I just wish it was a 4/4, but I suppose that would be too powerful.

x2 Restoration Gearsmith
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The Gearsmith is a nifty tool to get some of your more powerful (or situational) creatures back onto the battlefield.

x2 Cliffhaven Vampire
cliffhaven

This card was added mainly because it fit my devotion (black/white) but is a healthy flying threat. It will also ping opponets every time one of my other life gain sources triggers. This deck is all about sustain and whittling the opponent down.

x4 Aerial Responder
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If you are playing any standard legal deck and are using white, I don’t see how you couldn’t add this card into your deck. For 3 mana it is such a good card. I’ve included 4 in the deck because it usually draws hate, but typically gets in a swing or two netting some lifegain. It’s one of the most important pieces in the deck.

x4 Fairgrounds Warden
warden

This card has been in from the start, but I had to collect four of them as I went along. At 3 mana for a 1/3 body and the exile trigger, it’s a great card. Excellent for early control, or to get rid of late game big bads. I ran Panharmonicon in this deck for a time just to get double triggers, but eventually took it out in favor of other cards.

x2 Lone Rider/It That Rides as One
lone-rider it

What a fantastic find. This was the type of creature I didn’t pay much attention to until I started searching for lifelink options for the deck. A 1/1 for 2 mana isn’t great, but it having first strike and lifelink means you’ll either get at your opponent for 1 and gain 1, or you’ll be first striking other 1 toughness creatures and staying alive. The real kicker is that I have so many ways to gain life it’s almost impossible to not trigger the transformation effect, which then adds 3/3 to the body and the trample ability to the creature. It’s best played when you can drop him and gain life during your turn so he transforms at the end of your turn. Great card.

x2 Night Market Lookout
lookout

Finding the right mana curve for your deck is crucial. After having run some rather expensive cards, I started toning it down and finally found a good mixture of mana efficient cards that still fit the theme of the deck. This common is rather good, because each time you attack, you hit for 1 along with doing 1 extra damage and giving you a life. Even if you tap the creature to fuel something else (which I don’t believe I have the option to do, but a good example would be a vehicle) the effect still triggers. It’s a nice little drop for 1 mana.

x2 Vampire Cutthroat
cutthroat

The cutthroat is another creature that serves the same purpose as the lookout. 1 mana, 1/1 but has lifelink and skulk. Skulk is nice just because nothing but another 1/1 can block it, so it’s basically free life and damage to your opponent every turn.

x2 Gifted Aetherborn
aetherborn

One of the only new cards I recently added from Aether Revolt, this creature is nice. 2 mana for a 2/3 body, deathtouch and lifelink. Essentially, this guy either gets through and gives you 2 life while doing 2 damage, or your opponent blocks it and their creature dies no matter what life total they have. It’s a cheap win win, and I’m sure you’re starting to see the synergy by now.

x1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
catagearhulk

I’ve only artifacts that are creatures in the deck, so I’ll include those here. The Cataclysmic Gearhulk is one of the mythic artifacts from Kaladesh. There are five, one of each color. This one is a 4/5 with vigilance, but also a semi-board clear when he comes into play. The players get to keep stuff, but if they have multiple stuffs, some stuff is going bye bye. It’s not great but suits its purpose.

x1 Noxious Gearhulk
noxious

By far the better of the two gearhulks in the deck, the Noxious (black) version is a 5/4 with menace, and destroys a creature when it hits the board. Then there’s some lifegain to boot, so it’s a very good card. Triggering this twice with a Panharmonicon was fun.

x4 Filigree Familiar
filigree

Cheap and effective. A 2/2 isn’t great, but lifegain plus drawing a card when it’s dead is a great deal. Let’s move on to spells.

Spells:

x2 Authority of the Consuls
consuls

Definitely not the most amazing card, but I love the synergy and how well it slows down aggro decks. Plus, not everyone packs a bunch of enchantment hate, so it’s possible to drop this on turn one and slow the game down indefinitely. Bonus: more life gain!

x2 Skywhaler’s Shot
skywhaler

Some instant removal, and a bonus scry. Not too expensive, but limits you to killing bigger foes. Probably best used that way anyway, so not really a limitation.

x4 Decommission
decommission

A nice recent addition via Aether Revolt, Decommission is artifact and enchantment removal rolled into one. It also has the revolt trigger that gets you some life as well.

x2 Diabolic Tutor
diabolic

Sometimes you need a particular card. In this case, you can pay some mana and get that card (and sometimes that shuffle will help out your topdecking to boot). I typically save this to grab Sorin or a Fumigate from my library, but have used it for other less powerful cards as well. Situational, but handy.

x2 Fumigate
fumigate

The best board clear white has at the moment from what I know. Expensive, but clears out those pesky creatures and gives you some life. It does kill your own creatures, but sometimes that’s the best move. You’ll get life for your own minions as well, so it takes a bit of the sting out of it.

Lands:

x1 Concealed Courtyard
x1 Warped Landscape
x2 Forsaken Sanctuary
x8 Plains
x8 Swamp

I’ve added a couple dual lands, 1 warped landscape to search for a land, and the regular swamp/plains for mana sources. Overall this deck has performed really well for me. I’m not sure how it would do in a more competitive environment, but let me know what you think if you try it out!

Fire Emblem Heroes

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My relationship with Nintendo is strange. I was an absolute fan during the NES era but shortly thereafter, I was a Sega kid followed by being a Sony player. I did own a DS lite and the original Wii, and I really want one of those NES Classics (but have yet to find one), but it just seems that outside of a few titles Nintendo’s systems have failed to impress. Even the new Switch console that is coming out soon doesn’t really do it for me, but it does have the added bonus of being portable and a console. Still, I probably won’t purchase one of them.

A while back, Nintendo announced that they would be entering the mobile market and though that sounded cool, the original announcement was a couple of titles that would come out on iOS, which didn’t do me any good. For years I have been saying that I would play the shit out of some Nintendo games, were they on Steam or another device I already own. I really don’t want to have to own each and every console, though I do see the point in having both one console and a gaming PC. It appears that this has been rectified now though, as a couple of weeks ago there were options on the Google Play Store to “pre-register” for the new Nintendo games coming out soon. The first to release is you guessed it, Fire Emblem Heroes. Super Mario Run is to follow next month I believe.

Just a couple of days ago, there was a small bit of conversation about how some people couldn’t find a mobile game that stuck for them. They had downloaded many and though some seemed interesting enough, after a few hours to a few days they were tired of the game and uninstalled it. I can’t say that doesn’t sound like me, as for years I was never finding anything to play on my phone that was really worth my time. Up until a few months back when I started playing Clash Royale did I really find a mobile game somewhat addictive. Though some of the timed mechanics are still annoying, it tends to work because you only play the game for a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

This game is now the second game that I would say is really playable and really fun. Where Clash Royale succeeds at providing a solid PvP dueling experience, Fire Emblem Heroes provides a solid RPG formula that I find very appealing. At first glance, I didn’t really know what to expect. I haven’t ever played a Fire Emblem game, but I have heard very good things about them. I’ve always been a fan of grid-based, turn-based strategy games, and this one is right up my alley. If you’ve ever played games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, or even games like X-Com you’ll enjoy the combat system. It reminds me most of Shining Force as it’s 2-D and there aren’t advantages to having the high ground, etc. It also has animated cut scenes for the actual swings you and your enemies take on each other, which is a direct influence for sure.

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When you aren’t battling through the story missions (which start with a prequel that will teach you some of the game’s nuances), there are some other screens you will stare at in an attempt to improve your party in various ways. Loosely stated, the story centers around you, a “legendary hero” who comes to this particular land and is able to use this special artifact that allows you to summon heroes from other realms to do your bidding. Though the main characters have their motivations and the story chugs along, it’s really not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Summoning is as easy as spending orbs that you’ll earn from completing quests and doing various activities.

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Heroes that you summon will have starred ratings, with 3 stars being a bronze hero, 4 being silver and 5 stars being gold. Obviously the better the hero’s rating, the better they will perform in combat and the more abilities they will start out with. Most abilities trigger automatically or add passive traits, but they are definitely useful in combat. Eventually as you move through the missions you’ll open up other “maps” that essentially functions as different game modes. Special maps are special events where you can do one time battles on different difficulty settings and provide extra rewards. Arena Duels are PvP matches which was a good call on the developer’s part, as you’ll be able to lengthen the replay value of the game. I have opened the other maps just yet, but I’m guessing the training tower is to hone skills, and the ??? map with probably end up being some sort of end-game activity. Soon enough though, you’ll have a lot of heroes and plenty to do.

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There is a cash shop as well, as each map takes stamina to fight on. You have a limited amount of stamina, and it though it recharges fairly quickly I’m sure some people wouldn’t want to wait. Arena Duels also take a different time-limited currency, but I have found items you can use to restore it. It’s also true that Orbs don’t drop very fast, so I’m sure paying some money for those wouldn’t be too bad of a deal if you’re really investing in the game. I know I’ve spent a little bit of money on Clash Royale so it’s safe to say I might spend a little on this title too. Overall I think it’s a great first entry into what I hope is a nice catalog of mobile Nintendo games. Give me a proper Mario, Zelda, Metroid or Smash Bros port and I’ll be happy.

The War Report: Accessorizing

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I’d say the major difference between my teenaged self and my current self, despite both being Magic players, is that my teenaged self didn’t really care about protecting his investments. That’s what this installment of The War Report is going to be all about.

Since I’ve picked the hobby back up, I have not been able to stop finding new resources that in part didn’t exist when I was a teenager, and in part I was completely ignorant to. The ability to order Magic cards online either didn’t exist in the 90’s (likely) or I didn’t know about it, despite being a denizen of the Internet since those days. The sheer amount of different accessories that are readily available didn’t really exist to my knowledge back then either, or at least, not to this degree. I know they had binders with card-holding pages, deck protectors and sleeves, all of those were used when I collected baseball and comic book cards. But the made-for-CCG stuff you can find these days is simply incredible and makes my younger self very jealous. Conversely, my present self is jealous of some of the valuable cards the younger one owned. But I digress. Long story short, it’s nice to see recognizable companies like Ultra-Pro still around, and innovating new things we don’t need but surely want.

When I returned to the game, I started off buying a bunch of cards and my next thought was that I should protect the the investment. My initial purchase came with a small box great for holding cards, and I knew that I didn’t want to play with the decks that I created without buying some protective sleeves. Upon some research into the subject, I discovered the wider world of CCG accessories, and I started plotting what to buy next. Sure, it can be considered an expensive hobby, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not. I’ve spent more on this gaming PC than what I’ve paid for my entire collection of Magic “stuff,” so consider that before judging too harshly. All things said and done I’ve probably spent around $3-400 dollars over the course of four or five months. Probably $500, but that’s only a 3rd of what I’ve spent on this PC, not counting software and games, and at about $100/month it’s cheaper than some cell phone bills. I call that a winning formula. I’d also consider that this is still an initial investment so to speak, because many of the products I wanted to discuss won’t need to be purchased again. Moving on.

After picking up a few sets of different colored sleeves, I initially just put those cards into a box for transport, and would stick to that for a couple of months. Eventually I started to outgrow the box, but by then I had purchased another fat pack, which comes with another nice box for storage. At this point both of those boxes are full, so there’s another investment I might need to make, but not an entirely necessary one. Then again, another box that comes with packs is a nice bonus! Once I had a few decks created, it was clear that transport when I went to game nights was going to be an issue. So I picked up some deck boxes, where sleeved cards can be placed to keep each deck in it’s own tidy container. Soon, I wanted to stop carrying these deck boxes in plastic bags, so I invested in a carrying case. Oh, how it looks like I’m always carrying a gun around with me. It was also made clear around this time that having extra 20 side dice and clear glass stones (counters) helped the flow of the game, so I dropped more money on those as well.

Later I would find that it’s rather annoying playing cards on any table cloth. The edges of the sleeves (or even those of non-sleeved cards) catch on table cloths, so I thought it would be prudent to buy a gaming mat. My friend ended up beating me to that punch, and after seeing one in action I knew it was something for me. It’s basically the same thing as my mouse pad, but quite a bit larger and with a cool picture on it. But wait, if you buy a mat and want to keep it from getting too torn up, you can also buy a protective tube to carry it in. Yep, had to have that.

After my last post, I mentioned having discovered the Commander game mode. Well, it turns out that 100 sleeved cards won’t fit in a standard sized deck box. But Ultra-Pro thought of that, and made “pro-100” deck boxes. I even found one that had the artwork for the commander of that particular deck on it, so of course I picked it up. I also picked up some extra plain colored ones for future decks. Seriously, this hobby is addicting. If you’re interested to learn more about these particular items, I’ll provide a list below with links to Amazon for your ordering pleasure.

Card Sleeves (come in a variety of colors)
Standard Deck Box Bundle
20-Sided Dice
Gaming Stones
Carrying Case
Play Mat (with Noxious Gearhulk art)
Playmat Tube
Pro-100 Deck Box (Daxos themed)
Pro-100 Deck Boxes

State of the Game: Progress Report

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I had a few different games I wanted to talk about today, but I don’t think I have a full post’s worth of thoughts to write down on each, so instead we’re back with another State of the Game round up. It’s been a little while, but I should be able to fill this out pretty well. So what games are we talking about this time? Resident Evil 7, SMITE, Clash Royale and Destiny are on the menu. Let’s get started shall we?

Resident Evil 7

I mentioned getting started with RE7 and gave my initial impressions in a recent post, and I have played the game a little while longer since then. When we left off, I had just killed my girlfriend who was clearly not herself, but who then appeared to be herself again during the killing blow. She disappeared after I received a phone call, but it didn’t take long for her to show up again. I knew something was coming because Resident Evil games don’t give you a shit ton of ammo and healing supplies unless there’s a boss fight up ahead, and sure enough my lover appeared once again. This time she managed to cut my hand off, before I eventually let her have a ton of bullets to the face. She appeared dead, but then someone new showed up. I was welcomed to the family, and then attempted my escape. Unfortunately, my game time was cut short that day, but I do plan to get some more time in this week so I’m sure I’ll have more to share before I’m done. From what I’ve read, the game is only 10-12 hours long, so it shouldn’t take long to beat this one and get back to my backlog.

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Destiny

Speaking of my backlog, the one game I’ve been focused on for the past couple of months is Destiny, and I’m nearly level 40. I’ve nearly completed The Taken King storyline. I know there’s more to do in Rise of Iron, and I also know that there are raids and/or more difficult Strikes that I can go back and do. I also know there’s PvP and likely more end game content once I’m 40, but I’m still on the fence about doing the Light grind or about leveling another character. I have a boost, so it’s really only one other I have to level, but I’m thinking that once I’ve completed the storylines I’ll probably put it down for a while. There are too many other games on my list that I want to complete, and though I’ve written off some titles after a short amount of time, there are games I truly enjoy that are just collecting dust. At least I can say I completed the game, the main story, what have you. I won’t feel as guilty and will have at least gotten my money’s worth.

SMITE

I’m still playing Smite several times a week. After completing The Odyssey, there was a new Celtic event added to the game, as a new God from a new Pantheon was added and I guess that’s a big deal. I didn’t really care for the new God, but I did enjoy the event, and I got a skin for her as a result (plus a few chests). At this point I have 41 mastered Gods and I have officially hit level 30. I still need to start playing conquest and play a few ranked games, but I’m nearing completion of the Platinum trophy, and that’s part of why I’ve continued to play as long as I have. That and it’s the only game I play with a couple of my friends so it gives us something to do and time to chat.

Clash Royale

Clash has become a daily thing. The clan gets a chest every few days and we have managed to churn out the crowns and get the full reward each time. I’ve grown my deck considerably, and think I only need 10-20 cards to have them all. Leveling them up is a different story. I have 3 legendaries, but can’t seem to get extra copies of them. I have even more underpowered epics and rares, but things are progressing each day. I’ve made it to Arena 8 and am account level 9, so I guess you can say that I’ve moved up, but I’m starting to rise and fall a few hundred crowns day in and day out. It’s rather frustrating, especially knowing I’ve now spent some money on the game and still don’t have some of the best cards, while others might have lucked out and earned those cards for free. Ah well, it is the nature of the game. It’s still fun, and a great way to kill a few minutes relatively anywhere you go.

Lastly, I downloaded the new games from my Humble Monthly subscription. As usual, there were some extra copies of games I already own, some games I had zero interest in, and that’s about it. I did pay early for next month though, as Total War: Warhammer was the early unlock, and that’s a game I’ve wanted for a while but was waiting to go on sale. $12 for it is a great deal, and it’s not really all that old just yet. I have yet to play any of these new games but I will check them out and be back with another mini-impressions post on that. Playstation Plus games released today as well, and though I know I’ll probably play Little Big Planet 3, the others weren’t as exciting. I also picked up the Alien Isolation collection during the mid-week madness sale ($12 for the whole shebang isn’t bad — and a deal I couldn’t refuse), and Disgaea PC 1 & 2 in a bundle. It’s an old series that came out during the PS2 days but is similar to FF Tactics, so it sounded up my alley.

The backlog grows, and I can’t make it stop.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

I’ve written about TellTale Games’ Walking Dead series before, and there’s finally a new game in the series to discuss once more. The first season of the game came out a few years back on PS3 and was eventually ported to the PC as well. I loved the series, being a fan of the comic and TV show, which all encompass events within the real world, but are separate tales of different groups of people. It is a nice touch that characters we’ve met in the comics and the TV series have made appearances as well, and this game series has followed many familiar faces as well. I went into pretty excruciating detail the last time around, as far as explaining my actions, the general story and finishing off with my choices. Well, I can’t exactly do that at this juncture. The reason being is that not only did I pick the game up a couple of weeks after release, I also only played the first episode when I first loaded up the game. I don’t recall all of the scenes where the major choices took place, as you don’t really know what major choices you are making until after the episode is over. I decided to fire up the game and play episode 2 last night, and though I do remember that episode more clearly, I still don’t really feel the need to spoil things for you. I’d rather just talk about the game, and I’ll share my choices in case you want to compare.

If you’ve played the first two seasons of The Walking Dead games, you can import your save (if you actually uploaded those saves to the cloud years ago, and still have the ability to download them to your system of choice, that is). There is also an option to make the key choices from the first two seasons as you start up a new game, and then you can play with those prior choices coloring the outcome of various parts of the game. Personally, I couldn’t remember the exact choices I made, so I made my best guesses and moved along.

The game plays like other TellTale games, but I had come to a point that they weren’t really doing much for me anymore, and I hadn’t purchased one of their games in quite some time. It was all too samey, and without killer IPs, I couldn’t be bothered (Minecraft and Batman, I’m looking at you as being likely snoozefests). I will note that this title plays very well on the PS4, whereas I was noticing issues with framerate drops with the other titles that I played on my PS3. Its likely performance is even better on the PC, but I have made a tradition of playing these games on the Playstation, so I didn’t want to steer away from that.

Story-wise, we pick up some time after the 2nd season. Clementine isn’t present until a while into the first episode. Instead, we meet a new group of survivors, watch flashbacks to before the zombie apocalypse, and eventually come to find Clementine is a little more grown, and definitely less trusting than she used to be. She’s definitely a survivor, but has grown up with the world having gone to shit, and she’s starting to show it. Eventually shit hits the fan as it always does, and then we pick up in episode 2 shortly after some traumatic events. More of those are thrown on the pile during the second portion of the game.

Overall, it’s still my favorite series from Telltale, and I’ve played nearly all of their games (except for the last recent entries, which didn’t appeal to me). I look forward to seeing this one through to its end, and I’m curious if this series will continue, or if this will be the finale of a trilogy. I suppose time will tell. Here are my choices from Episodes 1 & 2. I’ll be back when the next episode releases. Until then, happy gaming, where ever you find yourselves!

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Episode 1 Choices
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Episode 2 Choices