The War Report: Lazav Toolbox

As is the norm around here, when a new set for Magic: The Gathering comes out I try to be on top of spoilers and in turn, brews that can come up with those new sets. There are several new legendary creatures coming with Guilds of Ravnica, and one of those immediately stood out as something that I knew I’d want to build around. I own a copy of the original Lazav, who came out in Guildpact (I think?) and he was always a character I enjoyed the look of. He definitely does Dimir things, in that he can copy creatures that are headed to opponent’s graveyards and become them, whether they are a lowly 1/1 or a massive Eldrazi. He also had hexproof, so getting rid of him was tricky. The new version of Lazav is a similar design, but also a bit different. Take a look:

A 1/3 body for two mana (Dimir). I like where this is going. His ETB makes use of the new keyword, Surveil, which allows you to look at the top card of your library and then either put it back or put it into your graveyard. His activated ability costs X, which is equal to the CMC of the creature in your own graveyard that is copied, and he gets all the cards characteristics, from P/T to it’s rules text, along with remaining a legendary creature and it keeps Lazav’s ability, so you can copy something else at any time. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s break things down into what we should focus on when building a Lazav, the Multifarious deck.

  • Graveyard matters. Surveil is a great tool for getting cards into your graveyard.
  • Looting. There are a bunch of great cards in blue that allow us to draw cards and then discard cards, filling our hand and our graveyard simultaneously.
  • Targets. We want things that Lazav will benefit from copying, but also that aren’t too expensive, as our goal is to throw things into the yard and then copy them with Lazav.
  • Tutors. Not in the traditional sense, we want the cards that throw things into our graveyard.
  • Recursion. When you’re focused on filling your yard with cards, we’ll also want to bring some of them back, and there’s plenty of ways to do this.

So these are our subthemes. Let’s take a look at what I’ve included in my initial build:

Surveillance:

Besides Lazav himself, these cards all have the Surveil keyword and should compliment the rest of the deck’s build. Doom Whisperer is a great body along with a self-milling machine. You should be able to churn through to find what you want rather quickly with him. Enhanced Surveillance will also help as it lets you look at two additional cards when you surveil. Mission Briefing is some recursion along with having the keyword, and Notion Rain surveils and draws you some cards at the same time. Nightveil Sprite surveils on combat trigger, and can easily be copied if you want Lazav to get some extra surveillance in. Lastly, though he doesn’t have the keyword, Taigam basically does the same thing, getting you a card to your hand and two in the graveyard each upkeep. Next up, other loot cards that will synergize to help fill our graveyard.

Looting:

There are a ton of options when it comes to looting, which is a term to describe mostly symmetrical draw/discard cards. From creatures like Looter il-Kor to Wharf Infiltrator, they’ll get you a card and you can discard something juicy for Lazav to target in the graveyard. Windfall and Jace’s Archivist will dump your hand, the table’s hand and you get to draw a bunch of cards. Ancient Excavation will do the same to just you. Generally, these cards will help you to churn through your library to get the cards you want into the graveyard.

Tutors: 

There are only three tutors here, and they are Demonic, Vampiric, or Mystical. The reason being is that we don’t really want to cast most of these cards from hand, particularly the high CMC ones. We want to target creatures from our library and dump them into the yard for Lazav to copy. Entomb and Buried Alive work best, but Dimir House Guard can be transmuted to pull out a couple of our creatures as well.

Recursion:

Recursion is pretty straightforward in this deck. Oversold Cemetery and Sheoldred will get you a creature back each turn. Whisper and the Doomed Necromancer require sacrifice to recur, and the other spells can help you get cards back in a variety of ways. These are best used when a creature has an ETB that you can exploit over and over like Ravenous Chupacabra or Fleshbag Marauder. Also a nice way to get something back someone used a spell to remove.

Select Targets:

A cool thing to note when using Lazav’s ability: when a card reads “when ____ enters the battlefield” or “when ____ comes into play” you don’t have to resolve those effects. Lazav is copying something, and thereby not entering the battlefield, so you can avoid some nasty side effects and get big creatures on the cheap as long as he copies them from the graveyard. So cards like Leveler, Hunted Horror, Hunted Phantasm, Eater of days, and Nyxathid don’t have any downside despite being big creatures and costing a small CMC. You can also target the Vector Asp to get its ability to have infect, Invisible Stalker to gain hexproof and unblockable, etc. Keep in mind, you can copy an unblockable ability, then after the declare blockers step, copy a bigger creature and still get in unblocked. It’s a nice trick.

One Win Con:

Besides poking people down with commander damage or infect, here’s a pretty solid win-con. You need Necrotic Ooze to either be on the battlefield or copy it with Lazav. It/he then gains all activated abilities of all creatures in all graveyards. Then, you’ll want Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin in the graveyard so that you can activate BK’s tap ability to create a vampire token. You can then activate Grimgrin’s sac outlet to sacrifice the token, untapping the Ooze/Lazav and gaining a +1/+1 counter. You can literally do this infinite times, then copy an unblockable effect and boom. Game over.

There are some other odds and ends I didn’t discuss here, but you can check out the full deck list over here.

Sony Announces Playstation Classic

Sony broke news of a Classic console coming out just a couple of days ago.

I’m usually the first one to jump on things like this. When the NES Classic was announced, I was hyped. Unfortunately it was plagued by under production, and sold out quickly. I didn’t finally get my hands on one until they did a second production run and I had to pay scalper prices, but mission accomplished nonetheless. When the SNES Classic was released there must have been a bigger production run because I was able to get my hands on one for a smidge above MSRP. It was actually my girlfriend who got one for me, and later she also gifted me a Sega Genesis retro console that’s pretty awesome too. So clearly, I’ve been trying to recollect my lost childhood in recent years. You would think that I would be ready to swoop up the Playstation Classic as well given this history, but I’m less enthused. Let me tell you why.

Sure, I think its a great idea for those who never played games on this classic console, and I’m sure there will be some titles on it that I wouldn’t mind playing again. Unfortunately at this point the titles they have revealed don’t do much for me. For an MSRP of $99.99 (these things keep creeping up, don’t they?), it’s kind of expensive compared to the others, and it’s only going to be packed with 20 games. Here’s what they’ve revealed so far:

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Final Fantasy VII, it was the first FF game I played all the way through, it was the first one in 3D, and it broke a lot of ground. It’s the reason I sold off my Sega Genesis to buy a Playstation. But I don’t think I could play it again. I tried about a decade ago and already it felt dated and difficult to play. I never played JumpingFlash! and don’t care, I didn’t care for the Ridge Racer series, I always preferred Gran Turismo. I detest Tekken and 3D fighters (except for Soul Calibur) and Wild Arms was a JRPG my friends were super into but I just didn’t get it. The problem I’m seeing here is that they are packaging the most desirable titles with some lackluster ones, and unfortunately the company has put out so many versions of some of these games you probably already own some of them. We haven’t seen the full list yet, but I already have FF7 and Final Fantasy Tactics playable on my PS3. They’ve put most of the FF titles on Steam, so I own FF9 over there. I bought the Resident Evil Anthology when #6 released, so I have copies of the PSOne versions already. All of the Grand Theft Autos have made appearances elsewhere. We just got a Crash Bandicoot remake for PS4. The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary compilation from earlier this year has all of the PSOne titles on it. I really don’t think they’re going to put something on here that I can’t already play somewhere else, so that tells me this product isn’t for me.

The thing with having owned every Playstation Console is that they have all had some sort of backwards compatibility. The PS2 could play PS1 discs. The PS3 brought us the Playstation Store and allowed for downloads of PSOne and PS2 classic titles. The PS4 has continued this tradition, though doesn’t seem to care to make downloadable PS3 games, but I have held onto my PS3 so that doesn’t matter. Basically, if you aren’t too young to remember the PSOne, you’re probably not going to need a Playstation Classic. That’s my two cents. How do you feel about it?

TWR: Looking Forward to Guilds of Ravnica Part Two

The full spoilers for Guilds of Ravnica are out, and I’ve readied a selection of cards from the set that I’m most excited for. The majority of these cards are in the Rare or Mythic slot, with only a couple of uncommons being decent enough to warrant a look. It’s also looking like the most interesting cards in the set are mostly multi-color, which makes sense given the 2-color pairings for guilds and their best cards being a combination of the two. As such, we don’t have any 3+ color combination cards, because this set focuses on five of the ten guilds from Ravnica. This also means that though there are outliers, many of the cards that are mono colored aren’t that great, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s start with the big category!

Multi-Colored:

Outside of the Mythic Masterpiece Planeswalkers, there are only two new ones for this set. The new Ral, and the new Vraska. I’m interested in Vraska for my Jodah deck, because I have one of her older versions in it already and this one comes with an emblem, which was the point of me adding them to that deck in the first place. There are also new versions of legendaries that we’ve known in the past, those being Tajic, Lazav, Aurelia, and Niv-Mizzet. Upon first glance, they all seem like worse versions of prior incarnations, but at the same time they fit the set just fine. Tajic isn’t as beefy as he was in prior sets, but he’s cheap and gives all other creatures indestructible which is perfect for Boros aggro themese. Lazav still copies other creatures, but now instead of targeting anything he can only target things in your graveyard. You also have to pay the cmc of the copied card, so we’ll want to be strategic in using him. Aurelia is a flat out worse version. I like the new Niv-Mizzet, and think he’ll slot nicely into my Locust God deck. Otherwise we have a grouping of spells and creatures that are just flat out good. I love Etrata and Memnonic Betrayal, they both fit well into established Dimir themes. I won’t go on and on but I could find places for all of these cards in decks I own… and I think Lazav might be a good card to brew a deck around.

Colorless & Lands:

This being a mostly multi-colored set means there aren’t many interesting artifacts. Chromatic Lantern is getting a much needed reprint, it was starting to creep up near $20. It will be nice for EDH players to have a cheaper price point. There is also a new cycle of mana rocks, one for each guild that cost 3 to play, and tap for either color. They also have the ability to be sacrificed in the late game to draw two cards. Similar to the signets, these cards will likely see play in EDH. We’re also seeing reprints of the Guildgates — there are plenty of “gates matter” cards in the set too, but I don’t see that really being a thing because gates are generic tap lands and not played by me or most people. However, we are getting reprints of the Shock lands, which for a full set currently would run you in the ballpark of $150. I’m sort of sad because my girlfriend gifted me a full set early this year, but I’m happy that I can now potentially get more out of packs and they’re great for deckbuilding.

White:

Not a ton of white additions to the list, but I do like those that I’ve listed here. Bounty Agent is some nice removal on the cheap, as is Crush Contraband, allowing you to Exile both an artifact and an enchantment. Citywide Beat is a great answer for Arcades and toughness matters decks. Light of the Legion is a 5/5 flying Angel with mentor, but also gives out +1/+1 counters when it dies, which could be interesting. Lastly, Dawn of Hope should be great for decks like Oloro, where lifegain can net you some card draw. It also can create some tokens as needed. Good for different deck strategies.

Blue:

I’m not overly thrilled with blue, but I do like the surveil mechanic that’s definitely a Dimir thing. Mission Briefing is supposed to be the “fixed” Snapcaster Mage, in that it does the same thing but is a spell instead of being on a body. Disdainful Strike in an interesting new counterspell but probably not good enough for EDH. Thoughtbound Phantasm is a card that really only works in a deck heavy with surveil mechanics, but interesting nonetheless. I like Defender cards with fun subtext. The Adept is a nice way to cheat out expensive spells from your hand, and Drowned Secrets is another tool for mill decks.

Black:

Black has a few options I like. Doom Whisperer is a 6/6 flying trample that allows you to pay life to surveil. What an engine. I’m likely throwing that in Kaalia. Midnight Reaper looks good for both Zombie and Knight tribal decks, dealing you a damage and netting you a card everytime a creature you control dies. Gruesome menagerie is an interesting recursion card in the right deck. Blood operative works with surveil as well, but is also some graveyard hate. Probably worth a slot in a vampire deck. Mausoleum Secrets is a new tutor that will work well with surveil as you will be putting cards in your graveyard early, and should be able to grab up something costly with it.

Red:

Not too thrilled with red. I like a couple of the new goblins, the Cratermaker can one shot a colorless permanent, likely an artifact but also can kill big Eldrazi. The Legion Warboss has mentor and also gets you a 1/1 goblin each combat. Electrostatic Field is great for spellslinger decks, but otherwise meh. Experimental Frenzy is interesting, but I don’t know where it would go. I guess if you are typically out of cards, it does help with that but doesn’t allow you to play cards from your hand so it’s tricky.

Green:

I’m really unimpressed with green this time around, but that’s probably because I’m not a Selesnya or Golgari player, because some of those multi-colored cards with green in them are pretty good. I’m included a big Hexproof beast here because I think it could work in certain decks, the revival spell is great in decks with a lot of multi-colored spells, and the defender is actually decent but the indestructible cost is a bit high. Again, sort of meh on this color.

So there you have it. The new set is out on October 5th, but I intend on going to the prerelease on the last weekend of this month. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the topic by then.

By The Numbers: Week 3, 2018

What a shitshow that Packers/Vikings game was. Things were going great until about 7 minutes left to go in the game, at which point I looked over at my girlfriend and said “I think it’s safe to say we won this game.” At which point the refs decided to intervene. Not only was there a really shitty pass interference call on us, but there was a pretty bad no-call on them just prior to that. Later, up by 8 points, Clay Matthews got to Kirk Cousins at literally the same time he released the ball, which was picked off and should have put the game away in our favor. Instead, they called roughing the passer and the interception was negated. From there, the Vikings went on to score a touchdown and a two point conversion to tie. Aaron Rodgers managed to get us down field in something like 40 seconds to put Mason Crosby in position to win the game. He made the 50-something yarder but was iced by the Vikings who called a time out just before the kick. He missed the second attempt. The game goes to overtime. The Vikings could have put 3 on the board but their kicker misses. We don’t do anything. They have another opportunity to kick from 35 yards and their kicker misses again as time expires. Tie game. I guess on the plus side, we are still undefeated this season, with a 1-0-1 record, but so are the Vikes. It shouldn’t have gone down like that though, the Packers should be 2-0 right now. But it’s early in the season, so whatever, time to move on. Let’s grade my picks for week 2:

Ravens 27, Bengals 21
Panthers 24, Falcons 20
Redskins 20, Colts 10
Texans 14, Titans 7
Buccs 23, Eagles 21 – Correct
Chiefs 28, Steelers 20 – Correct
Jets 17, Dolphins 14
Chargers 26, Bills 13 – Correct
Packers 20, Vikings 17
Saints 30, Browns 7 – Correct
49ers 21, Lions 17 – Correct
Rams 33, Cardinals 10 – Correct
Jaguars 27, Patriots 24 – Correct
Broncos 28, Raiders 14 – Correct
Cowboys 21, Giants 13 – Correct
Bears 24, Seahawks 21 – Correct

Another 10-6 week, making my overall record for the season 20-12. Not bad, but could have been better. Some of those picks I’m surprised I got correct, and some I thought were definitely correct ended up not being. Also got some partial scores right, but I’m not going to start counting that kind of stuff unless I get one spot on, then that will be an extra point at the end of the season. Here’s my picks for week 3:

Jets 21, Browns 13
Saints 27, Falcons 21
Packers 28, Redskins 10
Eagles 20, Colts 14
Vikings 32, Bills 10
Raiders 20, Dolphins 17
Ravens 24, Broncos 20
Bengals 17, Panthers 13
Rams 30, Chargers 20
Cowboys 14, Seahawks 13
Bears 23, Cardinals 16
Patriots 30, Lions 10
Buccs 27, Steelers 10

We’ll see how I do next week. Hopefully a little bit better as the year goes on and we get a feel for the real contenders and pretenders. See you then.

Quick Thoughts: Games on the Cheap

Generally speaking, there are far too many games released in a given year to play them all. Sometimes you have to spend your limited expendable funds carefully, and that means skipping some titles in favor of others. What’s great about our current gaming climate, is that typically a year or so after a game releases (or stops releasing DLC) it typically has a “Game of the Year,” “Complete” or “Ulitmate” edition. This bundle will save you money, because a) you didn’t pay full price for the base game and b) you now get all DLCs included for either the same asking price or less. Give it a little more time, and you can usually catch these bundled titles on sale and save even more money. You won’t be on the cutting edge, playing the newest, hottest games on release, but in the case of most titles, you’re not missing anything by playing them late. In most cases I’d argue you’re smarter that the guy who pays $60 at launch for a title and then pays $10-20 per DLC on top of that. Nevertheless, I have found a few titles I’ve wanted to play in recent years but hadn’t gotten around to, bundled as I’ve mentioned and on sale to boot. It was very difficult to resist a copy of each of the games I’m going to discuss, and yes that means I purchased them once I saw the price was right. Let’s jump in, shall we?

I absolutely wanted to play Horizon: Zero Dawn when it released. The first time I saw it at E3 I knew it was a title that would be up my alley. I’m at a stage in my life though, that some games that I believe will be enjoyable aren’t always. I’ve also been trying to cut down on spending on games due to the fact that so many either collect dust or disappoint me. But for $10, I knew I needed to grab a copy, particularly because the Complete Edition came with bonus goodies and the game’s lone expansion The Frozen Wilds. I have not been disappointed by this title, and the inexpensive nature of the purchase doesn’t affect this — it’s a damn fine game. You play as Aloy, a young girl outcast by a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world where robot creatures roam the landscape and tribes of humans fight among themselves.

There’s a lot to digest in the early portions of the game. It’s clear that “the Old Ones” died off for some reason or another, and somehow, robots have formed into various beasts (perhaps a form of evolution or created by the dead ancients). You’ve been taken in by Rost, an outcast from the Nora tribe. He has sheltered you, but as a little girl you don’t really understand why the tribe won’t talk to you. On one fateful day, you end up falling into a cave that is a ruin from the old days, and find a “focus” which looks eerily similar to a bluetooth ear piece, but is definitely more useful. It provides information on the environment and things within it, becoming an excellent tool. Wanting to rejoin the tribe, Rost agrees to train you for “the proving” which is a ritual that allows tribesmen to become “braves,” and for outcasts to rejoin the tribe. The meat of the game is a third person shooter style, with some stealth elements, RPG progression, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s open world to a degree, though you’re held back for a time as you grow up, complete the proving, and become a “seeker.” Having that title allows you to leave the sacred lands of your people, and find answers. At certain points you are given “choices matter” styles of conversation prompts, and are allowed to choose your path. I assume these actions have consequences, but not many have shown up yet. I’m still in the early portions of the game though, so perhaps some of these will come back around. Overall the game looks great and plays great. It’s a title on the level of games like those made by Naughty Dog, where the graphics are top notch and the game play and story matches its beauty. I’m in love with it, and definitely look forward to what comes next.

I bought the original Titanfall for PC. In the past year I’ve decided to boycott Origin though, as I prefer my PC games to be linked up through Steam. As such I wasn’t going to buy the sequel on PC (and have already purchased a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisiton for PS4 so I can avoid having to use the additional platform). That might sound stupid to some, but I don’t mind playing EA games on the console, whereas I’m annoyed with the company on PC. So here we are. Titanfall 2 looked amazing when I first saw it — it’s more of the same, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. However, I just didn’t pick it up on release and hadn’t though about it for quite some time. Seeing the Ultimate Edition on sale for $8 though, and I was sold. This being a multiplayer game, there was worry about whether or not people would still be playing it, but unlike its predecessor, this one has a single player campaign, so I knew at least I’d get to experience that. So far, it’s been okay. Very similar to Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played in the past, just with the benefit of being a better game than CoD.

Being a Titanfall game, you get the requisite boots on the ground action along with the mechs that you pilot. There’s still wall running and double jumping, fast and furious gunplay and of course, MECHS! It’s a blast to run around, jumping and sliding and calling down your titan to fuck shit up. I have yet to play the multiplayer but I did check out the menus and saw a pretty healthy population despite being fairly late when I was playing. I think because it sets itself apart from other shooters on the market it has managed to keep a following. I’m glad that not everyone is off playing Battle Royale games and still appreciates a good ol’ fashioned FPS. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this one soon.

The last game isn’t a bundle deal, but is a remastered version of a game I first played on PS3. Burnout Paradise was a fantastic title that came out of nowhere for me. I believe it was my sister’s (now-ex) husband who showed me the game, and I only played it at his house and didn’t get too much out of it. I just remember thinking that it reminded me of Need For Speed Underground, which was one of my favorite NFS titles of all time. The remaster here takes the original game (and appears that the DLCs are present, so perhaps this is a bundle after all) and polishes it up a bit. The intro movie is still clearly PS3 graphics, but once you get into the game it looks a bit better than its OG version, and definitely runs at a higher frame rate.

You start the game with a crappy car and have a semi-open-world to explore. Like the Need For Speed games, you can roll up to points on the map that will start up a race, or can battle with random NPCs on the road. There are also stunts and collectibles along with challenges where you can pit your high scores against those on your friends list. It’s the same experience as before, but due to my limited time with the game in the past, I can now delve further into it. I managed to upgrade my license and open up a few new cars in my first session, and I look forward to getting down with more racing — it really is a blast.

As I said, I’ll likely have more thoughts on these games as I progress. At this point I would say they are all worth your time, even if you don’t get them for as cheap as I did. Each scratches a different itch, and I’m pleased with the expenditure.