Thoughts on Character Boosts

In this age of MMORPGs, most have become so large that new players might not want to get started from scratch, and some old timers might want to skip through newbie content with an alt, or perhaps skip a couple of expansions that they missed. Took a break from your favorite game? We’ve got you covered! Introducing: Character Boosts!

Of course, savvy internet denizens such as yourselves are familiar with the terminology. You took a break from your MMO of choice, “never to return” and yet here you are a couple of years later, thinking about rejoining that guild or those friends but alas: you’re under-leveled. You know you could just buy the new expansion and slog through the old content to catch up with your friends, but by then they’d already be raiding or playing some other game altogether. It’s happened to us all. For a while, you could plunk down some cash and pay for a boost to level your character and catch up with you friends on day one, instantly. You probably wouldn’t have the same sort of gear as them, but after a zone or two you’d all be wearing the same shit and life would go on. More recently, boosts have become an add-on pack-in with expansions probably for this precise reason. An added benefit is that boosts no longer empty your wallet to the same degree unless you want to boost multiple characters. Optimally, you’d want to use a level 90 or level 100 boost on a character that is low level, because insta-leveling a character only a few levels under the cap seems like a waste.

There was only one time in the past where I used a boost:

Yeah, back before Legion released there was a bunch of hype leading up to it and I was suckered in. I figured I’d boost a brand new class and just play through the new expansion and ignore the slog. It turns out that I didn’t really like the experience, and felt like maybe I should have but more thought into the process. I didn’t really care for the Rogue’s gameplay, and I didn’t feel like he was all that great solo, and as such I didn’t play too far into the expansion. I was subbed though, so I started to level an alt but I ended up deciding I wasn’t really up for that and let my sub lapse. It was a good experience in that I got to see some new content and I had a little fun with it, but more importantly I learned what not to do when using one of these boosts. Which leads me to an upcoming decision:

As I mentioned recently, I ended up having the opportunity to get the new Everquest II expansion as a gift and was considering a return to Norrath. My dilemma was the same as I described above, where I haven’t played the game in a couple of years, but also one where I have a couple characters that aren’t too far from cap. I can clearly experience the last couple of expansions with them as a result, but I want to join guildmates who are already past those bits and would like to use the pack-in boost to join them. That means I can use the boost on a low level character that I already had, who is level 33, or I could create something new and boost it to 100, by passing everything but also having a new character to learn.

I downloaded the game and started tinkering. Unfortunately there is a lack of character slots on the free account, so I went ahead and subscribed. I was already planning to do so while I played the new expansion, and this way I could properly take my time and figure out what to use the boost on. I have my characters down to these currently:

Izlain is my main, a level 94 Brigand where I left off the last time I played a couple of years ago. Thalinos, my 90 Paladin used to be my main until I found that tanks weren’t in as much demand as dps (at least at the time), he hasn’t had much love since that was the level cap. Fohs is my 33 Wizard that I’m considering heavily for the boost, as I enjoy nuking things. The final two characters are the new creations that haven’t been played much. I can say that I’ve played both the Defiler and Illusionist classes to a point in the past, but never at the high end, though I know that I enjoyed both and would like one to get past the leveling slog. I’m torn though, because I don’t know if any of them will be all that good solo, don’t know which will fit in best for group needs, etc. The good news is if one of these gets boosted and they aren’t that great, I don’t have a problem with running one of my other characters through some new/old content to get them to the new expansion, I’d just prefer to do that after I’ve played the boosted character a while. So we’ll see. I have a few days yet to make a decision, so I’ll probably play them all a bit more to see which I enjoy most.

Overall I think boosts can be a curse and a blessing. I’m hoping to enjoy using this one more than the one I used in WoW.

The War Report: Upgrading Feline Ferocity

I managed to make a little bit more on my last paycheck than normal, so I was able to squeeze out a little bit extra fun money and picked up some cards the other day on a whim. I was out and about already, and was actually thinking of picking up a few Unstable packs for funsies, but I ended up seeing a lone Commander 2017 deck lying there, lonely and forgotten. It deserved a new home, so I grabbed it. Behold, our fearless new leader:

Being a C17 product, the featured commander of the deck has the Eminence ability, meaning he packs some utility despite residing in the command zone. It’s a great tool for Edgar, and I’ve already talked about how I’ve revamped that deck back when these released in August. Since then I made or brewed multiple decks with the Arcane Wizardry deck. This was the last of the precons that I wanted, as the Dragons have been overdone in my playgroup. Since the deck sort of revolves around equipment the natural choice is to build this into a voltron deck, but since I already have Sram doing a great job at that style, I didn’t want to follow the trend. As such, I’m sticking with a go-wide win strategy that tends to work well with tribal builds, but I’m going to stick with the equipment-matters subtheme. Some of the cards here work so well with equipment without necessitating a single swinging minion. It did lack a clear cut win condition though, which I think is something all of the precons this year had suffered from. Still, the tools are here and we’re going to use them. I’ll show you how I made some upgrades on a budget, but kept the heart of the deck alive. This could of course go much further by modifying the land base and replacing some cards with strictly-better versions, but for budget and time’s sake, I’ll show you a quick way to make this deck your own without spending a lot of dough. Here’s the original deck list: (removed cards crossed out)

Feline Ferocity:

1 Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith
1 Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
1 Alms Collector
1 Balan, Wandering Knight
1 Stalking Leonin
1 Hungry Lynx
1 Qasali Slingers
1 Jazal Goldmane
1 Jareth, Leonine Titan
1 Kemba, Kha Regent
1 Leonin Arbiter
1 Leonin Shikari
1 Raksha Golden Cub
1 Seht’s Tiger
1 Spirit of the Hearth
1 Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Phantom Nishoba
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Sunspear Shikari
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
1 Temur Sabertooth
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Traverse the Outlands
1 Divine Reckoning
1 Rout
1 Hunter’s Prowess
1 Soul’s Majesty
1 Cultivate
1 Harmonize
1 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
1 Kindred Summons
1 White Sun’s Zenith
1 Condemn
1 Wing Shards
1 Crushing Vines
1 Relic Crush
1 Bloodforged Battle-Axe
1 Hammer of Nazahn
1 Argentum Armor
1 Grappling Hook
1 Quietus Spike
1 Staff of Nin
1 Sword of the Animist
1 Sword of Vengeance
1 Heirloom Blade
1 Herald’s Horn
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Hedron Archive
1 Hero’s Blade
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Mirari’s Wake
1 Abundance
1 Zendikar Resurgent
1 Curse of Vitality
1 Curse of Bounty
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Stirring Wildwood
7 Plains
6 Forest
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Blighted Woodland
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Command Tower
1 Elfhame Palace
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Grasslands
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Krosan Verge
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Opal Palace
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tranquil Expanse
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Vivid Grove

As you can see I didn’t remove too much. With the land base present I only removed the strictest tap lands because I feel like they slow things down and there are several ramp spells that rely on pulling basic land cards so I replaced them with basics. Otherwise, I added some nice cat cards that weren’t present in the precon, and adjusted some spells along with adding some win conditions. Let’s check out the additional cards:

Brimaz is the only card that is really an expense, at about $12-14. Everything else is pocket change, and you should be able to pick all of them up for under $30. Here’s my reasoning for the additions: The few cats that I added stay on theme, being able to utilize Arahbo’s eminence ability but also do cool things like summon more cats or beef up cats, or even make your cat spells uncounterable! I added in a tribal themed equipment that I’m surprised didn’t make the precon, and added some more card draw with Rishkar’s Expertise and give my equipments flash with Sigarda’s Aid. As for the win cons:

You can obviously go wide if you get the right combination of cats and equipments on the field. Several of the creatures benefit from being equipped, and you should be getting in some chip damage from early on in the game. One goal will be to have several creatures out that can attack, and play Beastmaster Ascension during your first main phase, then attack with seven creatures simultaneously to get the +5/+5 affect which should be eliminating an opponent from play. You can also use Overwhelming Stampede before combat for a similar effect. I may later add in Triumph of the Hordes for redundancy as the infect is usually enough to defeat even the healthiest of opponents. You also have a voltron subtheme here, and tools like Rogue’s passage can sometimes be enough to win via commander damage, but I think if you want to go that route you should probably run Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith or Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist as they benefit more from voltron strategies. Conversely, you can actually play Arahbo and then kit him out to swing for lethal commander damage too, but my playgroup rarely wins that way.

I think these small improvements will be better than the precon itself but I already see where I could easily spend a few more dollars on this to make it more efficient and honed in. For now, we’ll call it a budget upgrade and move on. You can see my full deck list here.

Hope this gave you some ideas at least. Happy Gaming!

By The Numbers: Week 14, 2017

A morale booster, that overtime win versus Tampa Bay was. Honestly, if we could have gotten the upset over Pittsburgh the week earlier, we would be in a better position now. It’s unfortunate, but even though we got to .500 again, the road ahead is difficult and even if Rodgers comes back the week we face the Panthers, if we don’t win out the season will be for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for him to come back and I would love to win out and still make the playoffs, but there is the chance that even doing so, being at 10-6 might not be good enough this year — despite the fact that we’ve seen a 7-9 playoff team before. I haven’t give up yet though, there’s a near certain win ahead of us this week facing the winless Browns and we could see Rodgers back which makes anything possible. Let’s see how I did last week:

Cowboys 21, Redskins 13 – Correct
Vikings 28, Falcons 24 – Correct
Titans 27, Texans 21 – Correct
Chiefs 28, Jets 10
Dolphins 20, Broncos 10 – Correct
Jags 23, Colts 14 – Correct
Packers 30, Buccs 17 – Correct
Ravens 23, Lions 19 – Correct
Patriots 31, Bills 20 – Correct
Bears 27, 49ers 7 
Chargers 30, Browns 10 – Correct
Raiders 27, Giants 13 – Correct
Saints 27, Panthers 26 – Correct
Rams 32, Cardinals 21 – Correct
Eagles 35, Seahawks 24
Steelers 31, Bengals 20 – Correct

Only three wrong this go round. Seems like I’m getting pretty good at this thing, but later in the season it almost becomes more predictable, if you’ve been paying attention. Like I said, we face the Browns this week so I expect to go to 7-6. Every game is a playoff game from here on out, just like last year and seasons before it. We’ll need some help along the way but things could always be worse. I’m writing this after the Thursday night game is already over, so we know that the Falcons won that one, and I think I would have picked against them so I guess we’ll count that one incorrect. Here’s the rest of my picks:

Bills 24, Colts 13
Cowboys 27, Giants 14
Buccs 21, Lions 10
Raiders 28, Chiefs 21
Texans 30, 49ers 10
Packers 24, Browns 13
Bengals 23, Bears 17
Panthers 21, Vikings 20
Chargers 20, Redskins 19
Jets 21, Broncos 7
Titans 27, Cardinals 14
Rams 30, Eagles 27
Jaguars 26, Seahawks 20
Steelers 28, Ravens 23
Patriots 31, Dolphins 13

We’ll see how I do next week. Until then.

Considering a Return to Norrath

Like the little engine that could, Daybreak Games keeps churning out new expansion content for the old guard of MMOs, Everquest, along with its heir Everquest II. It’s been a long thirteen years since the sequel released and like clockwork, the 14th expansion is upon us. I can usually count on Wilhelm over at The Ancient Gaming Noob to report on these sorts of things, and can get more in depth looks at what’s going on in Norrath from Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full. Their writing piqued my interest to say the least.

Reading up on the new expansion and seeing that there is in fact a level cap increase and some other interesting features (plus the return of more Planes, which I never got to experience in the original EQ, though I’ve been to those present in the sequel to this point) got me thinking about a return to my MMO home of sorts. It was EQ2 that had me addicted to the genre, and as Bhagpuss points out, “After all these years I still can’t find an MMO to compete with EQ2 when it comes to settling down in a virtual world” — a sentiment I can certainly relate to. When I do come back around after a year or two break (and have invariably done so since 2006) it still feels like home and I miss being as addicted to it as I once was. I’ll never be that same addict and the game will never be the way it was in its hey day, but it’s still the one game I can’t seem to stay away from for long.

It seems that the last time I wrote about it was a little over two years ago. I remember having the itch and going back to do some leveling while on a free account, taking my Brigand from level 90 to 94 while clearing out a couple of the expansions between where I had left off the time before, and the current expansion of the day, Altar of Malice. I know that I was in Tears of Veeshan at that time, and shortly thereafter I wrote a post about the announcement of Terrors of Thalumbra, and then my EQ2 stretch was over again for a while. That expansion would have released a couple of months after I stopped playing again, and since then there was also another expansion in 2016 and now the Planes of Prophecy. It seems that it was probably a good time to leave the game, if for no other reason than they didn’t really do much to add to the leveling content of the game. Two expansions in a row and no cap increases, only new zones and other bits and bobs.

Planes of Prophecy changes that. The cap has increased to 110. There is a level 100 boost you can use right out of the gate. My thoughts intensified. I could theoretically boost a brand new or low level alt and immediately experience the new content without the slog of catching up. Granted, my level 94 Brigand and my level 90 Paladin would need to be shown some love, but I imagine that wouldn’t be too bad give the fact that I would still have a couple of expansions worth of content to explore anyway, but could actually check out the new expansion “while it’s hot” rather than years after release.

Turns out my Father has resubscribed and is already in the new expansion (he tends to stay more current with the game than I do). It also seems that members of his guild are returning and there’s a real chance at being able to experience the end game again, which is something I haven’t done since the cap was 90 and we’re talking 5 years ago probably, if not more. He’s also offered to purchase the expansion for me for Christmas, one of the higher priced packages to boot, because apparently some of the add-on loot is highly desirable.

So here I am, two years removed from the game (again) and very much considering a return to the game. As I said, a level 100 boost on one of my existing alts or a new character could be a blast, and would put me right at the beginning of the new content. Then I could take my time with my mains and grind them through some of the older content that would still be new. It would be an interesting experiment one way or the other and at this point I think I’m going to go for it.

I reinstalled last night. I’m thinking I might log in and see where I left off. Maybe tinker around a bit before Christmas comes. The itch has been there and every other MMO I try just doesn’t hold my interest. This one has its ups and downs too, and I’m sure I’ll break away from it again in the future but right now I really feel like going back.

Hello Norrath. It’s been a while.

The War Report: Budget Jank EDH

Recently one of the guys in my Friday playgroup decided to build a budget deck. He’s an expecting father and funds have become more tight for him, so he’s thinking a bit outside the box and trying to see what he can do to get the most bang for his buck. Similarly, I’m in a position where with the holidays and having taken some time off of work plus other expenses piling up, I could use a good budget deck myself. So today I’m sharing a new brew with you that was created with a budget of $50 in mind — this is a similar amount to what my friend has used, and it sounded like the only way I could build a deck from scratch and be able to purchase it in one order.

I was actually in the middle of revamping existing decks, finding small tweaks that I could use in order to either lower the mana curve or exploit some combo further. I started thinking about color combinations that I hadn’t tackled yet, and one that came to mind was Abzan; or Black, Green and White. Unfortunately the amount of legendary creatures in this color combination is limited, but I found one that sounded sufficiently janky to build around: Doran, the Siege Tower. I give you:

Impregnable Fortress

As you can see, Doran is a 3 drop 0/5 which sounds like something you would want to avoid. However, his ability is interesting and can be used in a number of ways. My first thought was that he sounded like a good commander for a Wall deck, which actually happens to be a thing. It sounded like the perfect sort of jank I was looking for, and at the same time once I put the thing together I found that most of the cards were under $1! Most of the time when people build budget decks, they tend to have a couple of limiting factors — the total deck price, and the price per card. My friend who built his at the $50 mark said that he didn’t care what the cost of the individual cards were, just that the total was at or close to $50, so I took those same parameters. This particular commander costs about $9 by himself, so that limits the build but we were also considering not counting the commander cost in the budget. Either way, my deck is sitting a few cents above $50 on mtggoldfish.com, even counting Doran. Here are the only cards that cost more than $1 in this particular build, along with my reasoning for their inclusion:

Cards over $1:

Two of the cards are lands, and their inclusion is pretty obvious. I wanted to have some decent dual lands in the landbase, so there ya go. There are four creatures, a couple of artifacts and three spells otherwise, and they ended up being important for a number of reasons. The walls add some utility, and happen to be very good when paired with Doran’s passive. The artifacts are for ramp and card advantage, and there are a couple of decent spells there, one of which helps slow down attackers, another for ramp and the other is a nice boardwipe with added recursion. All felt like good additions.

Win Con:

The main win condition combos with Doran’s passive. There are two enchantments that help with this win condition. The idea of the deck is to play walls early and often, giving you defense to protect against opposing forces. Then, you can use things like Diabolic Tutor or Plea for Guidance to tutor up one or both of the main win-cons, Assault Formation and Rolling Stones. With Doran on the battlefield (or with Assault Formation by itself), your walls can now attack and assign combat damage via their toughness instead of their power, in effect making them */* creatures where * is equal to their toughness. I have added redundancy with cards like Animate wall, Wakestone Gargoyle, and also added cards like Entangler that allow one wall to block all creatures coming my way. As long as my walls can attack, they are huge creatures for low mana investment or in other cases a single wall can block a horde of incoming enemies. There are also cards like Walking Wall, Mobile Fort, and Prison Barricade that can attack for a price.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this deck isn’t going to win tournaments, and it’s probably tier 5 or lower, but it’s a fun/cheap investment and I think Magic should be played in multiple ways to truly enjoy it — why let cards sit and rot when they can be used? You can check my full deck list here, and I’ll be back with more commentary on this once I’ve built and tested it!