TWR: Dominaria, Legendary Focus and Brawl

The next main set coming out for Magic: The Gathering is simply called Dominaria. The original plane from the beginnings of MTG, we have finally come full circle back to where it all began. Spoilers for the set were “accidentally” released a bit early, but we’re now in the official spoiler season for the set, and with it there have been some themes revealed and other special announcements.

The set releases on April 27th, featuring 269 new cards with a heavy focus on the Legendary super-type. Traditionally the word Legendary appears in front of the type of card you are playing with, and 99% of the existing Legendary cards are either Creatures or Planeswalkers (as the new legendary Planeswalker rules errated all existing Planeswalkers to be legendary). There are some legendary lands and artifacts, but that was the extent of it. This is important to EDH players like myself, as Legendary Creatures are the only ones able to be the Commander of your decks. With Dominaria, there was promised to be at least one Legendary card per pack, though they also added some additional types, like Legendary Spells. They have also added a new keyword called Historic, which now affects several types of cards. Legendary cards, artifacts and another new type of enchantment called a Saga. Sagas are like most enchantments, they are paid for and hit the board until they are dealt with, but they have an ETB trigger, then upkeep triggers that do different things. It was also announced that pre-orders for booster boxes have started, and the price is very tempting at $85 a box. The Buy-a-Box promo this time around is also an exclusive, meaning you can’t get the promo card anywhere else, which is a first. Here’s the card:

It’s not the most amazing card ever, but it is a new commander in boros which is sadly under-represented in most cases. I like the ability to make spells have lifelink, and I think I might actually brew a deck for these minotaurs. The added bonus of being able to Lighting Bolt creatures or players every time you gain life from a spell is nice too.

Another recent announcement had to do with a new format that Wizards is trying to start up. It’s called “Brawl” and it’s an EDH variant. Normally I get excited when I read about EDH variants but most of them are officially supported by Wizards, and thus they don’t get cards printed specifically for them. Kitchen table rules are a thing though, so we’re seeing Wizards themselves trying to add their own twist on the format. Here’s the rule breakdown:

  • Each player’s deck is exactly 60 cards. Other than basic lands, no card may appear in a deck more than once. Each card must be legal in the Standard format; cards banned in the Standard format can’t be played in the Brawl variant.
  • Before the game begins, each player designates one legendary creature or planeswalker card in their deck as their commander. This card begins the game in the command zone and the other 59 cards are shuffled up.
  • The mana symbols that appear on your commander dictate what cards may be in your deck. Mana symbols that don’t appear on your commander can’t be in the deck. For example, if the Dominaria card Firesong and Sunspeaker is your commander, your cards may have R, W, both, or neither, but no B, G, or U symbols may appear anywhere in your deck. This includes the card’s text box as well as its mana cost; for example, Pride Sovereign from the Hour of Devastation set can’t be in your deck if your commander has only G in its cost and rules text.
  • Each player begins the game at 30 life rather than 20. If you’re playing a multiplayer game (which we recommend for Brawl!), each player draws seven cards again on their first mulligan and the player who plays first draws a card on their first turn.
  • As long as your commander is in the command zone, you may cast it from there. Doing so costs an additional two mana for each time you have cast the card this way this game.
  • If your commander is countered or leaves the battlefield, you may put it back into the command zone instead of putting it anywhere else it would go.
  • The Brawl variant has no other rules for playing, winning, or losing the game. Have fun!

Here’s what I like about it: You can use normal everyday Planeswalkers as commanders for your Brawl decks. Under normal EDH rules you can only use the ones that have “this Planeswalker may be used as your commander” as your general. I’d actually be for this change in normal EDH myself, as there are a ton of Planeswalkers that are all Legendary now and that would open up a slew of new commander options.

Here’s what I don’t like: Everything else. Having a limited card pool just like Standard sucks. I moved away from Standard because I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t play with the 25 years worth of cards that are out there. I also don’t like decks that are sub-100 cards. These decks will be 60 cards, and that’s not enough in my opinion. I’m even more turned off by the decks you build for pre-release events that are only 40 cards. I also think that this could potentially fracture not only the EDH crowd but also the Standard crowd… I mean we have a shitload of formats already I don’t think we need more. You can see the whole Brawl article here, but that’s my two cents.

Thoughts on the SNES Classic

We’ve known about the SNES Classic since it was announced last year, and like the NES Classic before it, I knew I had to have one. When the NES Classic released the year prior, I had a tough time finding one like most people. It turned out that Nintendo didn’t really expect (or purposely decided to under-produce) the demand so these beauties immediately sold out and people started selling them 3rd party and really gouging on the price. Despite retailing for $60 I ended up getting mine for double the price. I was still happy with the product, and wrote about it here.

The SNES Classic was priced a little bit higher with an MSRP of $80. This is probably due to the fact that this time around they included the second controller, whereas with the NES I had to purchase a secondary controller separately. Nintendo must have heard the message loud and clear this time around, as they seem to have produced more of these consoles. My girlfriend picked me up this one on Amazon for $106, which is still over the MSRP, but not marked up nearly as much as the original.

The two consoles are essentially the same size, both fitting in your hand and both are set up pretty similarly. They both output to HDMI and use a micro USB power adapter. They are interchangeable so in my case I used the existing power supply and HDMI to swap between the two as I see fit. The other cords I’ll likely use for when I lug them around. Packed in are 21 games, and there are some great titles here:

Contra III: The Alien Wars
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy III (VI)
Kirby Super Star
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Mega Man X
Secret of Mana
Star Fox
Star Fox 2
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Super Metroid
Kirby’s Dream Course
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Super Castlevania IV
Super Punch-Out!!

The interface is identical to the NES Classic as well, so users will find it easy to navigate right off the bat. You still have save game states which is great for those challenging games that used to induce rage due to the lack of saving. There are a number of titles here that I’ve never played or completed due to never owning an SNES (I was a Sega kid) so I’m looking forward to checking them out. Over the weekend the fam and I played some Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and I checked out a couple other games. I’m not a huge fan of Kirby, Donkey Kong or Star Fox, but I’d love to play through Zelda 3 and FF6 as I’ve never played them all the way through. I’ll report back when I’ve played through a title or two, but if nothing else I’m glad to have another console in the collection!

The Enemy Within – Episode 4

There isn’t much else to say about this series that I haven’t said. It plays like its predecessors, it continues the story from the first season, and you can affect individual characters more deeply than in other Telltale games (or at least it’s better tracked here). By the end of this episode I had positive results with all of the characters except for Waller, and she was only mad because I sided with John Doe, and honestly at this point I can’t remember exactly what the climax was because I played this episode at least a week ago.

What’s most interesting here is that I set John down the path of being a “vigilante” like Batman. He vowed that we would both clean up the streets of Gotham. I don’t remember anything like this in Joker’s origin story, but I would assume that he will be picking up that moniker sooner rather than later. How Joker will end up being a vigilante I’m not sure, he’s always been a villain to me so I’m not sure how this will pan out. What I suspect is that he will be crushed when Batman tells him that he works alone and will be hell bent on taking out his frustrations on Batman as the Joker — or at least that would help this story to line up with the overall canon we all know. As I noted last episode, this episode had even less major choices in it, and here are the two that they tracked:

Despite Mr. Freeze being a villain I showed a little mercy as Waller’s crew was basically going to kill him. I doubt that will change things between us, but I figured Batman wouldn’t be that cruel hearted to ignore his pleas. After the big climax event of the episode, I let John go off to find Harley himself as she managed to run off. That’s all there was for big choices this time around and that isn’t really indicative of what’s happened throughout the whole episode but it is what it is.

The 5th and final episode of this season isn’t out just yet, but I imagine it will be soon enough. I’ll return then to finish off this blog series. Stay tuned.

Shadow of the Colossus (2018 Remaster): Complete

Over the weekend I put some more time into this classic title and was finally able to complete it last night. All in all it wasn’t a very difficult game, but for its time it would have been a tad more difficult, only because we weren’t as apt to Google game walkthroughs. For the most part I was able to figure out the puzzle of each colossi, but there were a couple tricky ones (particularly the last boss) that required some research to complete. One thing I forgot to show off the last time I posted about the game was the fact that there is a gallery of comparison shots and it really shows off how much better this version of the game looks. Hearing this from someone is one thing, seeing for yourself is another:

Such a huge difference when the pictures are put side by side! It’s night and day, really. The remainder of the bosses I had to defeat continued to ramp up in difficulty, but as I said it wasn’t anything too terrible. I don’t think I had to take a break and come back later save for on the final boss, as in most cases I quickly dispatched the colossus and moved onto the next. Here are most of them, falling in battle, along with some other generally nice looking screens:

Spoiler alert, your horse falls into a chasm helping you get to the final colossus, and a moment of silence was had for its loss. After the final colossus falls, there is a long drawn out epilogue that is half watched and half played. If you haven’t completed the game yet, I’d avoid the rest of this post.

If you’re still here, I’ll explain what’s happening in the pictures above. Basically there is a group of shamans or druids or something like that which were revealed a couple of fights prior to the last boss in a short cutscene. They are travelling to the shrine where you began your journey, but its not clear at that time what they are planning to do. After defeating the last colossus you aren’t immediately teleported back to the shrine. These folks arrive first, find the dead girl on the altar, and start mumbling about things when you do finally teleport back. When you arrive it’s clear that something isn’t quite right; the shadowy figures you’ve seen throughout the game are also appearing now to everyone else. You rise like a zombie and move in to attack the priests. A fight ensues, you’re stabbed, it doesn’t kill you, then you are covered with the shadowy substance and it is revealed that an evil demon was broken into 16 shards and those shards placed within the colossi, and now he’s possessed the character you’ve played the whole game. You briefly get to control him and attack the people, but they end up escaping across the bridge and destroying it on their way out. Of course, now that you’re dead, your lady friend has awoken. More happy news, your horse didn’t die, but it clearly broke its leg and is now hanging out with your friend. Roll credits.

A strange ending to say the least, and not really much of a wrap up. The priests sealed this temple with some sort of spell to keep the demon locked away, but now this chick and your horse are left behind with no other people in sight. Seems like you cursed her to a doomed existence. I guess we’ll never really know.

You can get a copy of this title for $40 right now if you’re interested in trying it yourself. I’d recommend it.

The Enemy Within – Episode 3

In Episode three, the story continues with Bruce still embroiled in his dealings with The Pact. But, another familiar face enters the fold and complicates things to say the least. Despite my amorous circumstances with Catwoman in the first season, I didn’t treat her so well this time around and left her feeling betrayed as a consequence. In the first season there was a major story arch where Bruce’s reputation was tarnished and it took careful thought with your reactions in the game to redeem that once pristine status. With this new season there is the inclusion of relationships with individuals that shifts between each episode, so its easier to track and make your moves to benefit you later. For instance, in the last episode I left Harley Quinn hostile towards me but because I was mindful of this I managed to work my way back up to being less skeptical, and that progress is tracked much more quickly this time around. Things have turned around with everyone for the most part, and that seemed important while aligning with my goals.

There have been progressively less major choices as a result of this shift in their tracking mechanics. I have already noted that this is less than the previous episode and the following episode records less — meaning that the interpersonal relationships are a more important focal point in this game. Having experienced it both ways I think I actually like this system better overall but either will work and depending on the subject material that may play a role.

These choices are still pretty indicative of the way the interpersonal relationships turn out. Clearly telling Tiffany that I’m Batman and bringing another Fox into the fold left her feeling honored, and 2 strikes against Catwoman (not warning her and letting John throw her under the bus) affected her Betrayed feelings. I didn’t fall in line with most players on these choices, but I’m okay with how the story has turned out so far and I’m unlikely to ever replay the series so my set of circumstances are fine. It’s been an entertaining ride so far!