The War Report: Kefnet Slings Spells

The God-Eternal series that released with War of the Spark was inspiring, and better than their previous forms by a long shot. I never really used the Amonkhet Gods in any of my decks, but this time around they were all worthy inclusions into many decks. I slotted the Boar into my Jodah deck and Oketra slammed into zombies. I didn’t pull Bontu out of my box, but he’ll get picked up and used eventually. Kefnet was the only god that didn’t seem like he would be better in the 99 of another commander’s deck, no he seemed worth building around entirely. I’ve never really built a mono blue deck before, and as some of my friends have already done so I know a couple of tricks but wanted to make something that was my own. Let’s take a closer look:

God-Eternal Kefnet is a flying 4/5 for four CMC. That’s huge right there, as most cards this cheap will usually be a 3/3 or so and not have nearly as much relevant text. His main ability is that you may reveal the first card drawn each turn (even on opponent’s turns, keep this in mind) and copy it while reducing it’s cost by two generic mana. This means you can cast spells twice, because you draw the card and only cast a copy, and it also allows you to save some mana in the process. This means we can include cards that are normally a little bit suboptimal like a three mana draw two spell, but will actually only cost us one mana when casting the copies. There are other ways that we can abuse this ability, but the most important part of the plan comes via top-deck manipulation. I’ve tried to keep this deck fairly budget but there are a few cards that are necessary evils.

Top-Deck Manipulation:

Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top have both gone up in price recently. They are the money cards here, but they are absolutely needed to be able to abuse Kefnet’s abilities to the maximum potential. Being able to rearrange the top few cards of your library, scry cards to the bottom or otherwise choose your fate will allow you to set up spells that can be copied while Kefnet is on the board. This will also help you to dig for your win-cons, and I’ve included a few that should be able to keep this deck competitive or near it.

Win Cons:

There are a few combos that are included in the deck, and the first will make you infinite mana. I’ve covered this before, but by using Dramatic Reversal imprinted onto an Isochron Scepter, you can produce infinite mana with a basalt monolith, gilded lotus, or whatever you need. With said infinite mana, you can do a number of things, but one option is to unload the pain on everyone with a Walking Ballista. Add infinite counters, and remove those counters to ping everyone to death. Or, you can use the mana to cast a large Blue Sun’s Zenith to draw your library and win with Lab Man or the new Jace. Conversely, you can use BSZ to target other players and mill them out, you’ll just have to be able to re-draw BSZ once it’s back into your library.

The other pairing for Isochron Scepter is the new Narset’s Reversal. It is an instant that will return a spell back to its owner’s hand, while allowing you to copy said spell for free. This means we can do some twisted shit with extra turns! As such, I’ve included a number of extra turn spells, and again these are the money cards that you can’t really avoid to make the deck work the way I intend. Basically, with Narset’s Reversal imprinted, you can cast an extra turn spell and then respond with the Scepter activation, returning the card to your hand but also casting a copy of it. You can then cast it again and rinse and repeat. Each new turn you’ll be able to untap your lands, so you’ll essentially have infinite mana too. You can then just create a loop of sorts, gaining life with Aetherflux Reservoir and then blow people up with it.

Lastly, the deck is set up well to go wide with tokens, and so I’ve included a few ways to create them. If you can get one or more of these on the battlefield for a few turns, you should be able to make one of those infinite turn loops, or just cast a bunch of cheap spells to create a bunch of tokens, and in the case of Metallurgic Summonings, you can later sacrifice it to recur all of your spells from the graveyard to set up for an explosive turn.

Removal Package:

Outside of a ton of counterspells (mostly budget), these cards are here to deal with big threats. Turning an Eldrazi Titan into a 3/3 vanilla creature will piss your opponents off. Or you can turn their whole army into 1/1’s so that a big swing doesn’t hurt so much. Have a ton of mana? Capsize can help you remove a bunch of threats and keep your opponents busy recasting spells.

Other Utility:

Otherwise, I’ve included cards that will help you to draw more cards on other player’s turns so you can get more free casts (or at least card draw), and ways to make spells cheaper. Baral, Kefnet and Jace’s Sanctum on the board at once and you’re casting most spells for one mana. There is some tutoring with cards like Mystical Tutor, Long-Term Plans, Trinket Mage and Spellseeker, also Fabricate. And you can turn off all of those fancy duals your friends play with by dropping a Back to Basics on the board. Good times.

I think Kefnet has the power to be great, and I’ll be putting this together with real cards soon. Mono Blue is evil, and I want to join in on the fun!

I Am Forsaken

It’s been a minute since I reported on my Destiny 2 progress, and well, there hasn’t been much. It’s actually been almost a month since I completed Expansion II: Warmind and almost immediately I dove into Forsaken. I had a good session, and then I got sick, and didn’t play much of anything for a couple of weeks. Then I went ahead and got distracted by a new release, World War Z and I just finally got back to playing Destiny 2 again last night. Anyhow, Forsaken picks up where we left off, and now Cayde wants you to meet up with him for some mission in the Tangled Shore. First though, we’re treated to a video of Cayde presumably being killed by a mysterious figure (pictured above) and then it flashes back to you going to meet him. Foreshadowing is tricky, especially if he isn’t actually dead, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Flashing back to the current time frame, we meet up with Cayde and wade through some enemies before being more formally introduced to this new villain who leads some rather potent looking Fallen Generals. It appears that eliminating them will be the first hurdle before getting revenge for Cayde, though at this point it’s still unclear if he’s actually dead.

After a couple of missions in this new quest chain, we’re given a new class quest that is supposed to allow us to unlock some new powers. We’re supposed to follow a signal to IO, wherein the planet is “speaking” to us and leading us on a new journey. We’ll see pulsations like this a few times while on this moon, culminating with a fight with the Taken to unlock a new portion to our skill tree for all three sub-classes. However, you only get one seed at this time with which to unlock said branches, but I assume there will be ways to get more seeds later.

I’m still the most partial to the Gunslinger sub-class, so I went ahead and opened the “Way of a Thousand Cuts” which allows you to throw a volley of explosive knives in front of you. Not as long range as our normal golden gun routine, but seems like it kills groups much more effectively. There are additional tiers to this new branch, but you have to earn experience with the ability before those unlock.

Eventually we meet Spider, who is a fence of sorts in the Tangled Shore. He’s not a very trusting guy though, so before giving us the information that we’re looking for, he sends me out to do a bunch of bounties for him. I managed to completed both the class quest and these bounties last night, and am now set to go on the offensive, with the new mission given to me sending us to go at attack those generals head on. It’s not a lot of progress, but it is progress nonetheless. Hoping to get some more time in over my days off and I’ll report back once I have something more substantial.

World War Z Impressions

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I had pulled the trigger on World War Z, after having read elsewhere that it was likened to Left 4 Dead. I was a bit skeptical at first mainly because video games based on movies are rarely a good thing, let alone video games based on movies based on books. However, this doesn’t really correlate with the movie or the book, save for the setting of the real world being overrun by “zeke.” Yes, they went ahead and used a different word for zombie, yet again.

Similarities between World War Z and Left 4 Dead can surely be seen, as it is a game that is level based, and you’ll see various “special” zombies that do things differently than your standard zeke. The co-op campaign pits you and three other players against the zombie hordes, though there are objectives to complete along a fairly linear path. At certain points you’ll encounter huge waves of enemies, and these aren’t the slow plodding zombies of some games, no these guys are fast and pissed off. Specials like the “Bull” or “Stinkbag” can really put a hurting on you, with one charging in to pick you up and slam you on the ground until one of your partners guns him down, while the other releases some toxic gas when it dies, blinding you temporarily. Really, the way the zombies move and the way they climb on each other like ants to scale walls are the only similarities one can make between this game and its movie counterpart.

The game plays like a third person shooter, but does not have cover mechanics. You can attempt to use stealth by crouch-walking and using silenced weapons, but I found that it was just as effective to wade into groups and slash away with my knife. You’ll take more damage that way, but you also save ammo. Each episode is broken down into sections, so you’ll be at that particular location for a few chapters before moving onto a new part of the world. So far I’ve cleared all but the final level which is Tokyo. New York, Jerusalem and Moscow were all increasingly difficult, but we managed to clear them nonetheless. I convinced my best friend to get a copy of the game, as it was reasonably priced at $40, and co-opping our way through it has been entertaining. You would think that only four episodes isn’t really worth that price point, but we have only cleared the “starter” difficulty level (one skull) and there are a total of five difficulties. Much like Killing Floor 2 that we played quite a bit a couple of years ago, there is a progression system that allows you to eventually clear those higher difficulties.

There are two ways to progress in World War Z. Firstly, there are a number of classes that you can choose to play as, and each of them earns XP individually. This means not only is there the option to play these levels again on a higher difficulty, but also to level up additional classes. I really didn’t know what to expect from the game so I didn’t know which class would work best for my personal playstyle, but I ended up playing the “Fixer,” which is basically a support class. It starts with a scout rifle, silenced pistol, and a supply bag that you can drop for your allies so they can refill their explosive ammo. I figured playing something more supportive would mean my teams would be better balanced, and since I’m only playing with one person I know, you can’t rely on randoms to try and make a balanced team. In most of my games most players were using the Gunslinger or other more offensive classes, while my friend was playing a tanky role so we did end up fairly balanced anyway due to our efforts. As you earn experience you’ll unlock perks that can change the way your character plays. For instance, I started off with the supply bag, but eventually got access to “masking grenades” and then later put a point into a perk that makes the masking gas lethal to zombies. This allows me to contribute more to the horde fights, while most players were ignoring my supply drops. The perk tree is pretty long, so I imagine things will change up again before long.

When it comes to weapons, you will earn experience for them by killing with them. As a weapon levels up, you’ll be presented with upgrade options and can take your pick as to how you want to customize your gun. I leveled up an Assault Rifle first, and put a scope on it which gave more power and accuracy. On the Bullpup I went for an extended mag modification. Use a weapon more often and you’ll level it up faster, but having extra goodies on multiple guns is good because you don’t know what you’ll end up with. Apparently on the higher difficulties there are more zeke, they have more health and there are less supplies spread out along the map, so you’ll want to have more than one modified weapon.

Outside of the co-op campaign, there is also a multiplayer side containing several extra game modes. Things like capture the flag, king of the hill and deathmatch are present, but instead of bigger games with only players, these game modes pit small teams against each other, but throw zombies into the mix. For instance, I played a round of deathmatch and the two teams ran into each other quickly and started fighting. The goal of this mode is to get to 50 kills before the other team, but there is also a time limit — if that runs out the team with the highest score wins. After fighting for a while, a notification pops up that states “critical noise level reached,” and at this point a horde will swarm your position. You’ll have to fight off zombies and other players at the same time, but can also try and stay out of sight and let the zombies do some of the work for you. I believe if you die to a zombie the other team gets a point, but I’m not certain. That would make sense.

Looking forward, the dev team has already outlined their roadmap for the summer. All of the above updates are supposed to be free, and so far there are no microtransactions present, but I can imagine the “new weapon variants, new character skins and new character accessories” to be something they might monetize since everyone else is doing it. The new Tokyo mission is something that should have probably released with the game, as each other episode has 3 missions each and Tokyo only has 2 at present. A new special zombie is a nice add, and an extra difficulty level is probably going to be needed sooner than later. Rotating game modes are also a good idea, and I’ve heard they are also working on a wave-based survival mode as well.

Overall I’d say that World War Z is a game that feels like Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor had a baby. It mixes elements of many successful games that I’ve had a blast playing. I see this being in the regular rotation for the foreseeable future. If you’re on console, I’d recommend grabbing this immediately. If you’re on PC, you’ll have to get it via the Epic Games Store… so if you don’t have an issue with that, have at it. A worthwhile purchase for $40.

TWR: The Value Proposition – War of the Spark

The newest Magic: The Gathering set, War of the Spark, released this past Friday, and for the third year in a row, I’ve purchased a box of booster packs around this time of year. This time around, I don’t really have an LGS without making a trip out of town, so I opted to utilize Amazon, which Wizards of the Coast recently partnered up with for people like me to have easier access. The main downfall to this is the fact that you do not get the Buy-A-Box promo card, and since I didn’t have an LGS to go to for the pre-release, I didn’t get any date-stamped promo cards this year either. Apparently the purchase price for the box was supposed to be lower on Amazon, but I don’t really think that’s the case, unless I missed somewhere that box prices went up? Whatever the case, I’ve written about the past two box openings with a break down on how I did, so I thought I’d keep with tradition and do it again.

I actually pre-ordered my box back in April, but the set didn’t release until last Friday, and initially it appeared that I wouldn’t get my order delivered for nearly a week past that date. Thankfully, once the box shipped on Friday, the delivery time was updated to Saturday, and it was awaiting me on the porch when I got home from work that morning. Above, I sort of “live-tweeted” my box opening experience with pictures of most of my best pulls. You can see visuals if you read that thread. Let’s get on with the goods, and the card breakdown in the box.

Multi-color:
10 Rare
42 Uncommon

Colorless:
1 Rare
4 Uncommon
19 Common

White:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
12 Uncommon
67 Common (1 foil)

Blue:
1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare
13 Uncommon
70 Common (1 foil)

Black:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
12 Uncommon
66 Common

Red:
1 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
12 Uncommon (1 foil)
66 Common (1 foil)

Green:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
14 Uncommon
65 Common (1 foil)

Miscellaneous:
36 Tokens
6 Non-Basic Lands – Emergence Zone, Mobilized District, Interplanar Beacon, Gateway Plaza
37 Basic Lands – 1 foil Swamp

The breakdown for this box is a bit misleading, since a majority of the cards in the set are Planeswalkers and a bunch of them are uncommon and still pretty damn useful. So I think the value is skewed a little bit given that some of these cards are bulk, and yet they’ll still find homes in decks where you usually only see one or two uncommons/commons become staples. I did pretty well with my pulls, getting most of the chase cards, but I didn’t pull Feather, which I was really hoping to get my hands on to brew. However, with the large amount of Planeswalkers I have on hand I’m thinking of making Atraxa superfriends first. I’ve had her for some time and was going to do an infect build but I think instead I just might roll with the walkers instead. Whatever the case, I ended up with a bunch of great cards and I’m excited to tweak my existing decks and make new ones. Cards like Massacre Girl and the new Gods have me excited. Speaking of the Gods, let’s take a closer look at the Mythic Rares I pulled:

I managed to pull all but the new Bontu, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with him anyway. Ilharg is intriguing as a build around, but I think I’m going to slot him into Jodah instead, as cheating out big Eldrazi is the name of the game in that deck. It will also lose most of its Planeswalkers if I go that route with Atraxa, so I’m going to be looking for a few replacement cards that I just might find from the set. Oketra is slamming into my Zombie tribal deck, while I think I’m finally going to build a mono blue deck around the new Kefnet. Rhonas looks more like a finisher for a green beatdown deck, so I’ll probably put him somewhere that I already have a Craterhoof Behemoth for redundancy. Finally, the only non-God mythic I opened was the new Liliana, and she is a beauty. I really want to put her into my Zombie deck because I have two other Lilianas already in the 99, but I feel like this would be better for superfriends. As it stands, the possibility of building Atraxa means needing to re-evaluate where I have my other Planeswalkers, however I think I sold off most of the ones I had before now, outside of those in decks.

This set has reinvigorated my love for building decks and collecting these cards. It was definitely worth the money. I’m sure I’ll have some new brews to write about soon enough, so until then, I bid you farewell.

Thoughts on The Exploding Kittens Expansions

If you aren’t familiar with The Oatmeal, you should correct that. His webcomics have been great and going strong for nearly a decade. I’ve followed him on social media for years, and I’ve always enjoyed his wit, sense of humor and intelligent discussion throughout. I remember hearing about a Kickstarter for some game that he was creating a few years back, but didn’t look into it further until more recently.

My girlfriend and I spent some time last year playing various board and card games with our son and it has become a fairly regular event in our house. After playing the games Oregon Trail, Boss Monster, and the Super Mario Card Game (as mentioned in the previously linked article) we looked into other family oriented games we could play with him that would also keep us adults engaged. Exploding Kittens was on my radar, and at some point he brought it up too. So we picked up a copy of the base game for him around Christmas time last year and played on a few occassions. It’s fun, and funny to boot. The game is played with cards, and is essentially Russian Roulette but with exploding cats instead of bullets. All of the cards feature art and jokes from The Oatmeal, along with having some ridiculous designs. The base game includes a deck and instructions, and it’s pretty easy to jump into. You’ll get a hand of cards and some special ones that allow you to defuse exploding kittens. Each turn you can pass and then draw a card, or play as many cards from your hand as you want. It seems holding onto some cards is a better idea than immediately dumping your hand, but in some cases you’ll need pairs of cards to have any moves. You’ll do things like peek at the top few cards of the library or shuffle it, attack other players (forcing them to take extra turns), or steal cards from them. It has just enough variety to not get boring too quickly but it is fairly simple and limited. We had some fun with it but it was clear that we were going to move on sooner than later until we discovered that there were expansion packs for the game!

Our son’s birthday just passed a couple of weeks ago, and we picked up the two existing expansions for the game for him. Imploding Kittens added a handful of new cards that shuffle right into the deck, and this means some new mechanics were introduced into the game. As a bonus, there is a pack-in “Cone of Shame” that is a hilarious addition. You know when you take your pet to the vet and they have something done and they have to wear those cones around their neck so they can’t lick their wounds? Well, this is the human version of that, and I laughed my ass off when my girlfriend had to wear it. Basically, if you forget the turn direction (they did add a reverse card, and just like in Uno, it can confuse people) you get to wear the cone of shame. The big addition was the imploding kitten itself, which is resistant to defuse cards, but it doesn’t kill the first player to draw it — instead they get to put it face up into the library as they see fit.

Streaking Kittens is the secondary expansion, and its big addition is the “Streaking Kitten” which allows you to hold an exploding kitten in your hand as long as you also keep the other card, but if it gets stolen you’ll still go boom! There are some additional cards that I can’t recall off the top of my head but it adds a bunch more variety and makes the game feel more complete. If you’re into card games and like explosions, I’d recommend these! I’m pretty sure you can get them all for under $40, so it’s a good value for up to 5 players.