By The Numbers: Week 11, 2017

Surprise surprise, the Packers can get a win without Aaron Rodgers! It was the lowly Bears, but we outgained them on the ground and they have one of the better rushing offenses. This is good news going forward. Apparently Hundley finally had some big throws and the whole team is starting to connect with him. I suppose we shouldn’t have expected it to happen immediately, but I think we might have turned the corner. I wouldn’t want to face one of the NFL’s elite teams at this point, but at least we can take on the middling ones. At some point soon we’ll be playing the Browns, so that’s a gimme. At 5-4 we’re still on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs go, but that isn’t to say that we’re out. More good news: Rodgers has been in the building and is rehabbing already. He can’t return for another four weeks minimum, but if the rest of the team can keep the season afloat, there’s still a chance he comes back and we get into the post season once again. I’d hate to see that particular streak end. Let’s take a look at my picks for last week:

Packers 21, Bears 10 – Correct
Lions 27, Browns 3 – Correct
Steelers 35, Colts 20 – Correct
Jags 24, Chargers 13 – Correct
Saints 30, Bills 14 – Correct
Jets 21, Buccs 20
Vikings 27, Redskins 20 – Correct
Titans 21, Bengals 10 – Correct
Rams 30, Texans 16 – Correct
Falcons 21, Cowboys 17 – Correct
Giants 20, 49ers 13
Patriots 27, Broncos 21 – Correct
Panthers 30, Dolphins 12 – Correct

Wow, only two wrong this week. I didn’t pick the Thursday game though, but I would have picked the Seachickens to win that anyway, so a pretty damn good week overall! Let’s make picks for the upcoming games:

Steelers 27, Titans 21
Lions 30, Bears 17
Jaguars 21, Browns 3
Packers 27, Ravens 20
Cardinals 21, Texans 13
Dolphins 21, Buccs 20
Rams 30, Vikings 27
Chiefs 30, Giants 10
Saints 31, Redskins 19
Bills 21, Chargers 7
Broncos 24, Bengals 14
Patriots 32, Raiders 20
Eagles 38, Cowboys 20
Seahawks 28, Falcons 27

We’ll see how it goes. The Ravens aren’t a terrible team but they aren’t doing so hot, I think we might be able to take advantage of that and get another W in the column. Being 6-4 would be nice, all things considered. Go Pack GO!

By The Numbers: Week 10, 2017

This just in – our backup quarterback isn’t that good. I guess that really isn’t news, but it’s surprising to me that a supposed “good” quarterback in college and one who looks pretty sharp in preseason games (which are arguably still more intense than college games) can completely suck during regular games. I know my team is beleaguered by injury, but that’s nothing new. The whole league is having these sorts of issues, and the Packers always have injuries at key positions throughout each season and still somehow manage to cobble together enough wins to make it into the post season. This year it doesn’t feel like that will happen. We’re tied with the Lions for 2nd place in the division at 4-4. We were 4-1 before Rodgers went down with his injury. The Vikings are now 6-2 with no real quarterback, but the rest of their team isn’t also destroyed, so I guess it goes to show you don’t necessarily need “the man,” yet for our team you do. Sigh. I miss football. I watched last weeks game and it looked for a minute like the team might come alive. The defense produced turnovers. The offense made some last minute touchdowns but it was too late at that point. Garbage time doesn’t win games. We face the Bears this week, and though they aren’t doing so hot either, they’d still like to kick us while we’re down. I’m not holding my breath for a victory here either. Let’s check out my picks for last week.

Bills 27, Jets 20
Texans 28, Colts 14
Jags 21, Bengals 16 – Correct
Saints 28, Buccs 10 – Correct  – final was 30-10
Rams 30, Giants 10 – Correct
Panthers 27, Falcons 24 – Correct
Eagles 20, Broncos 13 – Correct
Ravens 21, Titans 7
Cardinals 24, 49ers 10 – Correct
Seahawks 30, Redskins 20
Chiefs 30, Cowboys 23
Dolphins 21, Raiders 14
Packers 21, Lions 13 

An even split week. 6-6. I did almost correctly predict the score for the Saints/Buccs game, so that’s a plus. I guess I’ll have to find my final score at the end of the season and then grade myself each year. Anyway, I spaced making this post yesterday, so I missed the Thursday night prediction. Regardless, let’s get on with the picks for this week!

Packers 21, Bears 10
Lions 27, Browns 3
Steelers 35, Colts 20
Jags 24, Chargers 13
Saints 30, Bills 14
Jets 21, Buccs 20
Vikings 27, Redskins 20
Titans 21, Bengals 10
Rams 30, Texans 16
Falcons 21, Cowboys 17
Giants 20, 49ers 13
Patriots 27, Broncos 21
Panthers 30, Dolphins 12

Hoping the Packers can finally get a win with Hundley under center. If we can maintain a record somewhere above .500 we might get Rodgers back and grab a playoff berth. Time will tell.

The War Report: Gobbs!

There are five colors in Magic: The Gathering, and of those my least favorite has to be Red. Sure, there are some of the mechanics and certain cards that can be pretty good, but overall without a splash of some other color, Red tends to do everything the other colors can do to a worse degree. A while back I was thinking about the composition of my EDH decks. I have one 5-color, one 4-color, a couple of 3-color, several 2-color and only two mono-colored decks. The 5 and 4 colors were made as sort of an experiment and ended up working out okay. 3 color was dictated by the commanders I wanted to build (Markov and Kaalia). Two color seems to be the sweet spot for me, and Orzhov (white/black) tends to be my favorite though I do enjoy Dimir (blue/black) and Izzet (blue/red). My mono decks were built with certain strategies in mind (mono white voltron and mono green ramp/beatdown). Overall, I’ve enjoyed the creation of these decks, but I was feeling like perhaps I should explore my least favorite color a bit more, just to see if I could make it work all by its lonesome.

My first though was building a mono red Dragon deck, but given the option to run Scion or the Ur-Dragon, it seems like a bad call. Most of the good Dragons are red sure, but it still seems like I’d miss out on some good ones in other colors, plus I wouldn’t have the same amount of ramp, counters, etc. Enter the next product release from Wizards: Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins.

Goblins are the number one mono red deck variant according to EDHREC. The number one Goblin commander is Krenko, Mob Boss. Guess who’s gonna pick up the duel deck as a starting point to build out a Goblin EDH deck? I’ve already built it out and found a couple of different win-cons to go along with it, and despite being mono-red I think I’ve found ways to make it work effectively. Let’s take a look.

Krenko is a shoo-in for the best Goblin commander, despite being several other mono red options. A 3/3 for four, he starts multiplying the amount of Goblins on the board very quickly, and you can abuse the amount of Goblins (or creatures) in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the tricks we can pull out while running a Goblin tribal deck:

Goblins can make us mana, can cause tons of damage, can be sacrificed for single target removal, and as an added bonus, enchantments like Impact Tremors can do some serious work as each new creature entering the battlefield does 1 damage to EACH opponent, so just imagine tapping Krenko when you already have ten Goblins on the board, and he makes an additional eleven (counting himself) which in total causes 11 damage to each opponent without much effort at all. Some of the other bits and bobs that I’ve thrown into the deck will work with a similar synergy.

Here’s a sampling of the creatures in the deck, mostly all being Goblins (the lone Dragon is the exception), and providing more towards the themes I’ve already suggested. One allows you to sacrifice a Gob for red mana. Others have power/toughness equal to the number of Goblins or creatures I control. One has a cycling cost that ends up doing a large chunk of damage based on the Goblins on the board. Overall, Goblins want to make tons of copies of each other (which I why I’ve included Kindred Charge), have sac outlets and generally attack non-stop until someone is dead, even if it’s themselves! Aside from the go-wide win condition, I also came up with an alternate win that might just be evil (and amazing) if I can pull it off:

These are the pieces, and though I originally thought it might work with just two of them, my roommate pointed out to me that I needed the third piece. So basically, I wanted to figure out a way to get several extra turns to be able to close out a game. There are several options in red to do so, but they either require combat damage done to a player, exertion, or other mechanics that will complicate things. It seems that there are three variants to Final Fortune, in that red has three different spells that cost RR and will provide you with an extra turn, but then you will lose the game. Clearly, we don’t want the extra turns unless we can win, but that’s a pretty big gamble and I want more than one extra turn. Enter Isochron Scepter. It’s an artifact that can imprint Final Fortune onto it, effectively allowing you to cast that spell each turn for 2 colorless mana. This means on each of those extra turns I can tap it again and again allowing for infinite turns. However, the end step will kill me on the second turn. Enter Sundial of the Infinite. With it, I can spend 1 colorless mana to end the turn, and if done before the end step, I can wipe the losing condition from the stack. So, with this in mind, I need all 3 pieces for infinite turns, but I can use just Final Fortune and the sundial for two turns in succession without losing. As such, I figured I should get some tutors in the deck as well to try and fish out this win-con (not easy to do with Red!)

The main tutors here are Inventor’s Fair which can be sacrificed to tutor up an artifact, and Gamble, which can tutor up any card, but you have to discard one at random. I have several other draw spells and effects in the deck, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull out one or more of the pieces traditionally, and then tutor up the last bits. I also included cards like the Goblin Matron (tutor up one Gob) and Goblin Recruiter (tutor up as many gobs as I want) to help thin out the deck. Hopefully tutoring will be effective as will the card draw engine. At the end of the day I want to go-wide, but having a backup plan is essential.

That’s all for today’s edition. I’ll report back after this deck is built and tested. I can’t wait to swarm the battlefield with Gobbs!!

State of the Game: Warframe and More

I’ve been managing to get some decent playtime in over the past week or so, and though I’ve already touched on some of the games I’m about to talk about already in individual posts, there has been some progress made and that’s exciting to me, because I’ve had a bit of gaming malaise recently. Hello run-on sentence! So not only have I been progressing through Bioshock Remastered and playing some of my MOBAs and whatnot, I also picked up a game that was on sale for $1.50 and is actually pretty decent. Finally, or firstly perhaps, I’ve been playing a game I hadn’t touched in at least a year:

Warframe has been around for a long time, and I’ve toyed with it more than once. A couple of years ago during one of the NBI’s, I earned a prize which ended up earning me some platinum for this game. At that point I downloaded the game on PC and went to town. I played for a bit, actually enjoyed it but was probably more enamored with something else at the time and it ended up sitting unplayed as many games do. A few years later, Destiny was out and I had just picked up a PS4 and a copy of the game. I had some friends that wanted to group up and run through the game together, but a squabble between myself and one of the guys ended up where we never played together again. That’s why Destiny sat unplayed for a very long time until I finally finished it off earlier this year. Destiny doesn’t really have anything to do with Warframe per se, but at the same time the parallels between the game are there. This was noted by Isey recently, and some discussion about the game started up when he was disappointed (but still finished) Destiny 2 and discovered that Warframe was a similar game he could sink his teeth into. Having read and agreed with his judgement on things several times in the past, I figured that I should avoid picking up Destiny 2 and instead put my efforts into playing Warframe again. For one, it’s free to jump in and play so I don’t have to drop $60 to be potentially disappointed, and it also happens to be something I had already played in the past. I’ve also been craving shooter experiences, and enjoy the RPG mechanics tacked on. Jeromai has also fully endorsed Warframe in a recent post, and it just seemed like it was time for me to dive back in.

I had a second stint in Warframe after my Destiny group fell apart, where I convinced my friend’s brother to download the game on his PS4 to play with me in lieu of Destiny. We played a few hours together before he lost interest and again the game sat unplayed. Still, I had started with the Volt Warframe and leveled it to around 13, while having similarly leveled guns and a starter sword. I really had no clue where I had left off and didn’t really remember what I was supposed to be doing, not to mention there had been several updates that probably changed a bunch as it was, but I started re-familiarizing myself nonetheless. It turns out that there was a promotion that if you have Twitch Prime, you get free access to the Frost Prime Warframe, Soma Prime gun, and Scindo Prime axe. It also turns out that as an Amazon Prime member, Twitch premium membership is included, so all I had to do was link my accounts and bam:

The Frost Warframe which is like the “standard” edition would have been pretty much on par with the Volt frame I had been running. The “Prime” variants are souped up versions that have better base stats and stronger abilities along with the ability to slot extra mods into them. The new weapons were big upgrades too, but after using the axe for a few missions I didn’t really care for how slow it was. I’m thinking I eventually want to grab some nunchucks or dual wield some blades but for now I’ve gone back to the base sword until I find more blueprints and materials. Somewhere along the lines a new mastery ranking system was added and I went through the first couple, each of which seems to unlock various bits and bobs for your account. The tests see you having to fight AI in a sort of holodeck area using various parts of your loadout. Once the waves are cleared you earn you mastery rank:

I was going back and forth between wanting to pick up my progress on the PS4 or going back to the PC. It’s too bad I can’t link my account and play on either platform and share progress. I suppose I could be really crazy and play on both accounts, but I don’t have that kind of time. My hesitation to pick things back up on PS4 was because the most recent update adds some open world bits to the game and though I’m probably not at the level to participate, I wanted to see it as soon as possible. But I read somewhere that the PS4 update was coming soon, and I saw this the other day:

So probably before the end of the month the expansion will hit the console, so I’m just going to stick here. I’m used to the control scheme and I’ve already put more time into it than the PC version. As of now my Frost Prime is nearing rank 9, so I’ve almost caught up to the Volt. I’ve cleared most of Mercury and it seems that though I remember clearing other planets that they are all still locked up, so I’ll be clearing for a while. Hoping to get the materials together to experiment with other frames and make some new weapons in the process. I’ll report back more on this as I progress!

The game I picked up for $1.50 is called Anomaly 2. It’s the sequel to Anomaly: Warzone Earth (which I believe also had a couple of expansions). I played the original back in the PS3 days and just happened upon it and well, it was a steal and I have a problem. The game is a sort of tower defense and RTS hybrid but what makes it unique is that it’s really “tower offense.” You play a commander with various abilities and run around the screen in real time. Your units will follow a designated trail and towers controlled by the AI try to stop you. Your commander heals and buffs the units, keeping them alive to push through to whatever the objective is. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s rather entertaining.

Lastly, I’ve been working my way through Bioshock. I don’t know why but it feels like I’ve damn near beaten the game, but I’ve only put in a little over 6 hours. I do know that I’m progressing towards what feels like the final showdown, and things have been fairly smooth going, though I have found a few tricky bits, and some of the groupings of big daddies with splicers and turrets have killed me. Still, I’ve found a good group of plasmids and weapons and feel like I’m coasting along. I imagine it has somewhere around a 10 hour average completion time, so I should be done with this one soon. Some shots of recent events:

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So my goal for now is to finish this off and then move onto the sequel. I’d like to be done with the Bioshock games so that I can strike a few titles from the backlog. Warframe feels like a game I can play for a while as well, so I’m going to continue with it until it gets boring. Otherwise, I’ll mess around with some of the other more session based games I’ve had in the rotation, but it feels good to finally be making some progress! Until next time, happy gaming!

Thoughts on The Dark Tower

Recently a couple of my fellow bloggers had written posts about The Dark Tower, and now that I have finally seen said movie, I feel like I should jot down some of my thoughts on the experience. First, a little background:

I discovered the Dark Tower series somewhere between when the fourth and fifth books were written, which would have been in the early 2000s. I had a job where I was able to read in my downtime, so I grabbed The Gunslinger (book 1) on a whim, and burned through it rather quickly. I had already read a few of Stephen King’s novels at that point, along with seeing several movie adaptations of his work. The Gunslinger stood out to me as something different than his usual faire, and after completing it I hungrily devoured books two (The Drawing of the Three) and three (The Wastelands) before hitting a bit of a wall with book four (Wizard & Glass).

The filling in of Roland’s past in the fourth book was sort of boring to me. It’s important exposition nonetheless, but I just felt it was kind of a slog to get through. It was around this time though, that in real life Mr. King was involved in an accident and there was rumor that he might retire from writing altogether. Fans clamored for the conclusion the the Dark Tower series though, and eventually he did finish, writing the last three books in rapid succession. Once the last three books were released I picked them all up and read through each and the conclusion was worth the wait. Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susanna and the culmination of The Dark Tower finished things off and I felt that it was one of the greatest series of all time. I’d put it up there with Lord of the Rings.

So clearly, I am a fan and have read all of the source material. My colleagues who already wrote about the film (along with critics, etc.) noted that they went into the movie with little to no knowledge of the books or if they did read them it had been a long time. This didn’t color their opinion of the film, and honestly I went in with low expectations because I had already heard it was a poor adaptation. With this in mind it was impossible for me not to feel that this was a shitty attempt at making something visual out of these novels.

Within the last couple of years I remember hearing about a potential TV series for the books, and that would have made more sense. There is so much source material that you aren’t going to cram all of that into a single movie. At the very least, they should have just made this first movie follow the events of book one and go about making 6 more movies, and even then it probably wouldn’t have done the story justice, but it would have been better than whatever you’d call this.

The director/writers clearly knew about the source material. They clearly dropped little tidbits that would cause you to remember bits of the books. This could have been a little side tale that wasn’t in the books though, because despite referencing the material they didn’t really make much clear. You’re just thrown into a story that doesn’t make a bunch of sense (though with knowledge of the books you can sort of infer and interpret things that you probably couldn’t without having that knowledge), it moves quickly and it ends so abruptly that you’re left with a sense that the producers ran out of funds and just called the thing done. Even a 3 hour long version wouldn’t have done The Dark Tower justice, and I’m disappointed with the effort.

Sure you can sprinkle in The Crimson King references, the skin-people were I assume the “wolves” from the Calla, very little was made of Ka or Ka-tet, though the whole gunslinger’s motto was a nice touch. The portals were interesting, the Man in Black didn’t feel like the Walter I knew… there was absolutely no mention of Eddie or Susanna who were integral to the story; it just stinks. And though they left things wide open to continue with another movie, I just don’t see how they could undo what they’ve already done. All in all, it’s just not a good movie, despite the performances being well done, the special effects working and whatnot. I’m sure people who never read the books will find it to be interesting enough, but if you read the books you’ll probably want to avoid this stinker.

Here’s hoping that TV series gets the green light so we can get some real detail. I love this series and hope it gets the screenplay it deserves.