The War Report: Boros Goodstuff

It’s Dominaria Week, and that means a ton of new brews will be popping up online revolving around the new legendaries. I have several brews that I want to share, along with possibly an update across the board for other decks that got upgrades via the new set. With that said, I have a bunch of MTG related posts that you’ll see coming down the pipeline for the next week or so, and that probably means less gaming posts but posting something is better than posting nothing, right?

Having pre-ordered a box of Dominaria, I received the exclusive buy-a-box promo card, Firesong and Sunspeaker. I spoke about this card recently, but took the time over the weekend to find a build that feels pretty damn good for it, while remaining budget. The Boros color combination is joked about for being the weakest pairing in Magic, and this card doesn’t single-handedly fix that but the deck looks solid on paper. Will have to test it a bit to see how well it performs, but it appears serviceable. Here’s the commander in case you are unfamiliar:

Firesong and Sunspeaker are fairly straight forward. A 4/6 for 6 mana, that causes your red instants and sorceries to gain lifelink, and your white lifegain spells get an added burn component. Sounds simple enough, but it can get somewhat complicated. Let’s take a look some examples:

Anger of the Gods is a red sorcery that deals 3 damage to each creature. Because your red spells get lifelink with F&S on the battlefield, this means you gain 3 life for each creature the spell hits, included F&S (who will live through the damage). Ritual of Rejuvenation causes you to gain 4 life. If F&S is on the battlefield, you’ll then be able to deal 3 damage to target creature or player (you get to draw a card as well). This is the kind of card I’d never play, but a 3 mana gain 4 life deal 3 damage and draw a card spell sounds pretty nice! Things get more complicated when you play a multi-colored spell, like Lightning Helix. The spell itself deals 3 damage to target creature or player, and you gain life. This is both a red and a white spell, so the 3 damage you deal will also cause you to gain 3 life. Gaining 3 life will then allow you to cause 3 damage, but you’ll basically end up with multiple triggers off of a single card.

Cast Lightning Helix >> deal 3 damage >> trigger F&S for red gain 3 life >> deal 3 more damage >> gain 3 life >> trigger F&S for white deal 3 damage. So for two mana you’ll gain 6 life and deal 9 damage. 

This deck wants to be a spellslinging deck despite being in colors that aren’t that great for it. As such, I’ve included quite a bit of “good stuff” — that is to say that it’s some of the better cards in the colors but not necessarily all on theme. The main goals are to build around dealing damage and gaining life, and there’s a number of win-cons that can be used in the process. Let’s just jump into some of the notable additions so you can see where I was going with the build.

Creatures:

So we’re stealing some of Oloro’s tricks here, but theoretically you should be able to keep a fairly high life total throughout a game, and use that life total to win with cards like Felidar Sovereign. You can gain infinite life with the Famished Paladin/Resplendant Mentor combo, you can flatten someone with a super large Serra Avatar, and you can get some big mana to help with your X burn spells using Neheb. Balefire liege is a lord for white and red creatures but also has F&S’s passives on it as well. I’ve also included Young Pyromancer, Crested Sunmare, Flamewright and Blaze Commando for some token generation to help protect us (or potentially win with go-wide strategies). I’m sure it’s starting to come together for you by now, but let’s look at the supporting spells (besides the ones I showed you earlier).

Spells:

So I’ve tried to keep with the theme of the commander with our bevy of support. You’ll be destroying things and gaining life, or gaining life and doing more damage, or getting tokens off of triggers, etc. If you can get to 50+ life, you can win with Test of Endurance or use 50 life to blow someone up with the Aetherflux Reservoir. All of the big X spells or board wipes do damage or cause you to gain life, which in turn will do that some more. Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction are particularly good, because they do large amounts of damage to targets, meaning you gain that same amount of life per target. Hit ten creatures with Star of Extinction, and you’re gaining 200 life. That’s just crazy.

Overall I don’t think this deck is going to be very competitive, but I think it will be fun to pilot. It’s under $150 total investment so not bad, but you’ll have a tough time getting the commander if you didn’t buy a box. Currently holding close to $20 value and that could potentially go up.

TWR: The Value Proposition – Dominaria

The official release date for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Dominaria, isn’t until April 27th (this upcoming Friday) but because I pre-ordered a box of the set, I was able to pick it up this past weekend during the pre-release events. This isn’t the first time I’ve purchased a box, as when I was newly returning after a decade-plus break I picked up a box of Aether Revolt, which was the first set to release after coming back. In hindsight, Aether Revolt probably wasn’t the best set to buy a box of, mainly because it was before several changes took place. I should also notate that this box was a gift from my wonderful girlfriend who spoils the shit out of me. Thanks my love!

There are a few things that are different this time around. The standard rotation changed up a bit over the course of the last year, where the sets that are rotating out take longer to happen. Wizards also decided that instead of multiple split up sets during the course of the year (like the Kaladesh/Aether Revolt and Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation cycles) there will be larger sets a couple of times a year and the return of the Core Set. This means that Dominaria is a larger set than Aether Revolt was (269 cards as opposed to 184) and as a result the break down of cards that I received was more favorable. This was also the first time that you could pick up a pre-ordered box during the pre-release window, and getting cards early is always great (that’s the main reason why I usually go to the pre-release in the first place). A discount was given for pre-ordering a box this time around as well as the buy-a-box promo card being exclusive and unavailable in packs.

The card itself isn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but Wizards has been exploring different concepts lately, like adding keywords to spells. Giving your red damage dealing spells lifelink is an interesting idea, as is giving your white lifegain spells a small damage dealing component. Boros has been weak in EDH for a long time, and though I don’t think this magically makes things all better, it’s still a Boros commander I wouldn’t mind building and will likely do so. If nothing else it’s a cool card to have in the collection and I’m glad I got the box as I managed a bunch of great pulls! Since I broke down the box I purchased last time, I felt like I should do so again just to make some comparisons and sate my own curiosity. Here’s the numbers for Dominaria:

Multi-color:

2 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
15 Uncommon

Colorless:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare (1 foil)
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
37 Common

White:

1 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
18 Uncommon
63 Common (1 foil)

Blue:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare
14 Uncommon
64 Common (1 foil)

Black:

3 Rare
14 Uncommon
61 Common

Red:

4 Rare
12 Uncommon
66 Common (1 foil)

Green:

4 Rare
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
65 Common

Miscellaneous:

36 Tokens
14 Non-Basic Lands – Woodland Cemetery, Sulfur Falls and Cabal Stronghold
37 Basic Lands – 1 foil Island
1 Buy-A-Box Promo – Firesong and Sunspeaker

So comparing this box to Aether Revolt, we can draw a couple of conclusions. Both contained 540 cards but of those I ended up with different numbers. Tokens and Basic lands will be the same, though I ended up with 7 foils as opposed to 5 the last time. I also opened up more Mythic Rares this time, with a total of 5 instead of 3.  I guess the trade off there is that I ended up with less rares this time, 29 compared to 34. Overall though I feel like the value of this set is better than the last few, though I’m not speaking monetarily. From a gameplay perspective I jammed a bunch of great cards into existing decks, and have already brewed up two decks helmed by Dominaria commanders and still want to build Firesong and Sunspeaker as well. Speaking of money though, I earned back about half of the box price with one card and that turned out the be the most valuable card in the set. I’ve been really lucky when it comes to this stuff, and had a good feeling going into this deal. That’s not to say that I got every card that I wanted, there are still a handful I’ll have to buy singles of but I think I made back the cost of the box at least, and that doesn’t always happen (definitely didn’t happen with Aether Revolt!). Like I did the last time, I’ll just share my Mythic Rare pulls now, but I’ll have some more articles about the builds I’m making with the new cards soon enough.

Mythic Rares:

Of the Mythic Rares in the set, I got a few of the good ones. Jhoira is a pretty busted card, but my roommate has already built a deck around it and didn’t pull it during the pre-release so we’re going to be doing a trade. He did pull the Weatherlight as his Mythic Rare though, so we’re trading those straight across. History of Benalia is a card that spiked due to its viability in Standard, so it’s value is pretty good. I slammed it into a new brew. Karn, Scion of Urza was the most valuable card in the set and I found a place for him as well. Darigaaz is one that I’m not using and probably won’t. I could slam him into the Prossh deck I’m building due to being on color but it’s just an expensive card and not very synergistic. Lastly, Naru Meha is a new Wizard lord that I’m throwing into my Inalla build just because it has a nice ETB effect and will buff my other wizards so why not?

Overall I feel that this was a good buy. There are so many great cards in this set that buying a box is a sure bet and if you’re playing the paper game, you probably should get one while you can. They have amazing and busted uncommons in this set so the power level is absurd. I’d buy another box if I didn’t already have mostly everything I want. Highly recommended and worth every penny!

Pillars of Eternity: Blind Playthrough

Despite owning Pillars of Eternity for a long while, I’ve just recently gotten around to trying it out. I’m a big fan of isometric RPGs — both the action and party based varieties, and have been since the early days of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Obsidian was involved in the creation of some of these old school RPGs, and their experience shows! This isn’t the action RPG variety, but rather the party based kind, where the action is more strategy based than how fast you can mash buttons. Most gamers will know all about this sort of game, and most RPG fans probably ran through this title more than once by now. Pillars of Eternity 2 is already on the horizon as well, so this was a good time to dive in and try to strike one of the deeper games off of the backlog list. I have plenty more to go as far as the backlog goes, and plenty more to explore in Pillars as well. I’d like to notate that despite knowing about the game and knowing that it was similar to cRPGs of old (along with reading good things around the blogosphere) I’m basically going into this playthrough blind. I’m going to attempt to not look up anything and just play through naturally.

After firing up the game and watching a short into movie, I was greeted by the character creation screen, and I was surprised by how feature full it was. The cRPGs of old that I keep referencing made use of AD&D rulesets and so the character generation would reflect that and though this feels similar, there are races and classes that aren’t D&D specific. The stats and skills for each character feel fairly original as well, but that old school feel is still present. It’s just a prettier version of the tried and true, and sometimes that’s all the Old Guard needs. I was taken aback initially by the amount of race and class combinations possible, but assumed that it wouldn’t really matter as you tend to pick up a fairly balanced party in these types of games. I ended up settling on playing a Druid.

I went heavy on Intelligence because I figured if this game was anything like other modern RPGs I’ve played (such as the Dragon Age series), having a bevy of spells at your disposal is rather useful, and sitting in the back with your main character while your AI controlled party beats on things tends to be the best approach. However, it seems that the druid is more about shapeshifting into bigger animals (I chose boar form) and diving into the fray. Whatever the case, the choice doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference as I suspected.

The story unfolds in a similar fashion to most isometric titles, with some in-game dialogue scenes, and then other more animated cutscenes. The graphics are crisp and the animations tight and the lighting effects are excellent. Combat flows well, though I have to get used to only being able to cast spells a certain amount of times per day… but it’s such a throwback and tugs on the right nostalgia strings nonetheless. Apparently you’re a traveller who’s sick and trying to find out what’s going on, but there’s a shroud of mystery that has yet to be lifted. I’m still fairly early on in the campaign, travelling a modest distance to this point.

Earlier this evening I reached Magran’s Fork after being turned away from the Gilded Vale, but I did pick up a wizard buddy. We were clearing the zone when a pack of wolves overwhelmed us and I called it a night. Overall I’m really enjoying this title, it feels really good to have the nostalgic feel in a modern title that still shows its roots. The Dragon Age and Mass Effects were true to their roots in a similar way but still upped the graphics and brought the gameplay in the 3D realm so they were good but this is good in a different way.

It’s refreshing.

The War Report: The Master Thief

I’ve been wanting to build a mono-black deck for some time now. Mainly I wanted an excuse to purchase some of the cards that are excellent in the color, like Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to name a couple. I also already have mono-red (Krenko), mono-white (Sram) and mono-green (Yisan) covered. I’ll eventually get around to making a mono-blue deck as well but for now that’s on the to-do list. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of commanders in mono-black that rank high on the tier list, and those ended up being ones that I wasn’t overly interested in. One commander that I’ve always found intriguing and eventually decided to make my mono-black commander is Gonti, Lord of Luxury:

Gonti is a 2/3 for 4 mana with deathtouch. That alone is pretty decent, but his ETB trigger allows you to look at the top four cards of any opponent’s library and choose one to exile, which you can then cast at will and use any color of mana to cast it. So basically every time Gonti hits the battlefield I get to steal something from an opponent and don’t have to worry what color it is. That’s a great ability and though I’ve used Gonti in other decks to add some spice, I felt like he was good enough to build a whole deck around. So what’s our goal? Mainly we want to abuse Gonti’s ability as much as possible, which means adding ways to recur him, bounce him back to our hand to use again, and we’re going for being able to make big mana to spend on X spells to finish out games. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that black can really make a shitload of mana:

Most of the big mana producers are lands, but most would only really be effective in a mono-black deck, mainly because they rely on having basic swamps or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make all of your lands into swamps. Cabal Coffers is the best example, as you pay 2 colorless mana and tap it to gain black mana equal to the number of swamps you control. Clearly these two cards play well together. Cabal Stronghold is a new version of the same concept, though it costs 3 mana to use the ability and only gives you mana equal to the number of basic swamps you control, so Urborg’s ability doesn’t help it out. It’s still nice redundancy, as is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx which gives mana in the color of your choosing equal to your devotion of that color. I’ve also added Crypt of Agadeem which gives more mana equal to the number of black creatures in the graveyard. Further redundancy comes from Magus of the Coffers and Nirkana Revenant, which both mimic Cabal Coffers in creature form. Lastly, each time a creature dies with Black Market on the board = a counter on the enchantment. You’ll get black mana for each counter on it during each precombat main phase. If you get a few of these on the board you can make some crazy amounts of mana! But what are we using the mana for?

These are the main three spells we’ll want to target when we can make explosive amounts of mana, though being able to make a bunch of mana can be helpful in other ways. Torment of Hailfire probably won’t end a game but it’s painful to have to go through the process multiple times. Exsanguinate is a finisher for sure, as you do damage to all opponents and gain a ton of life in the process. Lastly, a new Dominaria card, Josu Vess costs quite a bit to kick, but when you do pay the kicker you get 8 2/2’s with menace along with Josu himself who is a 4/5 with menace as well. Outside of making big mana and having some finishers, your main goal will be to abuse black’s ability to recur creatures, and abuse their ETB abilities to try and control the board state, along with stealing people’s stuff! Here’s some of the best ETB creatures I’ve included:

You’ll see that the main theme here is removal on creatures, either by forcing opponents to sacrifice their creatures or being able to destroy targets. Disciple of Bolas will make you sacrifice your own creature but lets you draw cards and gain life. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can do some big chunks of damage if you have the devotion, and Abhorrent Overlord and Grave Titan create tokens on entry. Lastly, a new Dominaria card called Torgaar Famine Incarnate causes an opponent to lose half their life at least and will definitely slow down life gain decks. The best news is that these creatures can be further exploited by using sacrifice outlets to then bring them back from the grave yard to use again and again. Let’s look at how we can do so:

Graveyard recursion is pretty damn strong in black. Cards like Oversold Cemetery and Palace Siege will get you a card from your graveyard back to your hand each upkeep. Sheoldred will do the same but also makes opponents sacrifice creatures in the process. Hell’s Caretaker and Whisper will both allow you to sacrifice creatures to bring others back, and others here will return others to the battlefield just off of their ETB. Mikaeus is great in this deck because most of the creatures are non-human so they’ll get +1/+1 along with undying so if they do go the graveyard they come right back and the ETB’s will trigger again. Another trick is to bounce your own creatures, using things like Skull Collector and Erratic Portal. One forces you to return creatures to your hand each upkeep, the other is a paid ability so you can say target Gonti, returning him to your hand and then play him again to get another ETB trigger. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Otherwise I’ve added fun things like the cards above. Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat will help to do some chip damage as you’re sacrificing creatures or forcing your opponents to. You can force your opponents to do so with cards like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact. I’ve also included Panharmonicon and Strionic Resonator so we can double up on some of our ETB’s and that’s about it. I’ve added a bunch of spot removal spells and a few board wipes along with some decent mana rocks to help things along. That’s about all there is to the deck but I think it will be a fun one to pilot!

Becoming Prey

PSN had a flash sale this past weekend and a title I’ve had my eye on for quite some time was heavily discounted. Prey, which is a remake of an older title by the same name came out last year or maybe the year before, and it looked right up my alley. A Sci-Fi FPS with horror elements? Count me in!

The storyline follows your character who is a science experiment of sorts. Initially you think that you’re living some sort of normal life, but as the story unfolds it is revealed that you have been living inside of a lab and most of your memories of your prior life are gone. Some weird alien beings that can mimic every day items (and some that are more monstrous) start appearing and initially you’ll have a wrench to defend yourself… sounds very similar to Half-Life now that I’ve written it down.

The graphics are top notch and the game runs smoothly. The combat is a little wonky when it comes to using the wrench, but eventually you’ll get a proper gun and then things feel a little better. You’ll still want to use your wrench for the smaller enemies because they jump around so frantically that you’ll just waste ammo trying to shoot them. In survival horror fashion, you’ll need to conserve your resources because they don’t exactly grow on trees. Nor are there trees in space. Like most games these days, there is a crafting system, and you’ll need to scour each nook and cranny of the station you are on, mainly because you’ll find crafting stations and use these materials to make things like medkits and bullets.

Overall I’m enjoying the game thus far, and wanted to share that I had started it. I’ve shared some screenshots of my time with the game so far, and will report back once I’ve completed it.

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