The War Report: Changing of the Guard

Back when I first started getting into EDH, I wrote a post about a newly created deck of mine with Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer at the helm.

With Molimo being a */* based on the number of lands I controlled, the main theme of the deck was to ramp fast and ramp hard. I included a ton of ramp spells and creatures and basically you wanted to get Molimo on the table, pump him up to 21/21 and then make him unblockable with Rogue’s Passage to kill off players with commander damage. It’s a basic enough idea, and mono green has some nice beefy creatures and interesting effects that rounded out the deck. It wasn’t competitive by any means though. Sure, it would out ramp most decks it went up against, but that rarely meant winning the game. Usually I’d get in some damage but would be eliminated or set back by board wipes, etc. With that said, I decided to update the deck, but not change it entirely. Here’s the new leader:

Ghalta is one of the new Elder Dinosaurs introduced with Rivals of Ixalan. He’ll have a spot in my Dino tribal deck, but he fit the mold for what I was trying to do with Molimo and can utilize much of the existing deck, including Molimo himself, who I kept in the 99. Ghalta is a 12/12 trample, so he starts off big and stays that way, whereas Molimo at minimum is a 7/7 but can end up huge in the late game. However, Molimo costs 7 mana, whereas Ghalta costs 12 but can theoretically cost 2 mana if you have enough other creatures out with power totaling 10 or more. Ghalta also gets around commander tax, which is the extra 2 colorless mana needed to cast your commander after they have returned to the command zone that multiplies each time. In essence, a 10/10 Molimo on the board means you can cast Ghalta for 2 green mana, and that’s huge. Give this bad boy double strike and you can eliminate a player in a single swing! With that said, we’re still ramping hard, and we’ve still included a good amount of card draw. Where I have changed things up with this build of the deck is I’ve included a number of +1/+1 counter shenanigans.

Counter Enablers:

These enchantments are some of the better ones when it comes to +1/+1 counters. Primal Vigor affects both counter and token production, while Hardened Scales just adds one more counter to any number of counters being place. The only thing that I’d like in addition is Doubling Season, but at around $60 if I get one of them it will go straight into my Superfriends build and that’s that. The creatures presented here end up providing counters for their friends, and in some cases that helps with mana production, especially since all creatures with counters produce mana if Rishkar is on the board, not just the creatures he put counters on. Path of Discovery uses the new explore mechanic, which can either get lands into your hand or counters on the creature entering the battlefield.

Counters Matter:

Hydras are the big shoo-in when it comes to creatures that enter the battlefield with counters on them. Each has differing mechanics (tutors, creates tokens on death, etc) but they all tend to enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters based on the amount of mana you pay to cast them. Have Primal Vigor on the board? Well then you get double the counters. You can get some pretty big creatures on the board with the right set of circumstances. The Elementals/Walking Ballista that I’ve included also have some interesting things you can do, such as pinging for damage or damage prevention. One even allows you to move counters from itself onto other creatures!

Notable Inclusions:

This last group is kind of a catch all, but things that were important to the deck. First up we have a protection package with Asceticism (Hexproof + Regenerate), Sandwurm Convergence (Fliers can’t attack me and token generation) and Prowling Serpopard (Creatures can’t be countered). Then there’s some big mana generation with Cryptolith Rite (all creatures tap for mana) Zendikar Resurgence (lands tap for double mana + card draw) and Regal Behemoth (same effect as Zendikar Resurgence as long as you’re the Monarch). My recursion package includes Eternal Witness, Genesis, Deadwood Treefolk, and Praetor’s Counsel, and there’s a bit of removal with Acidic Slime and Thrashing Brontodon. Lastly, the land Oran-Rief is on theme, as you can tap it to give a +1/+1 counter to any green creatures that enter the battlefield on a given turn. It also taps for green.

That’s about all the commentary I have to make. You can see the full deck list here. I think this deck will perform faster and work more consistently than the previous build, and I like being able to completely change around a deck but still have a core group of cards present. It makes for an easier brew, but also keeps costs down and refreshes an otherwise dead deck. Like my last post where I found a way to meld several brews into one, I’m going to keep revising decks as I go along and eliminate the ones that aren’t any good (or are no longer fun).

State of the Game: Backlog Goals

Despite having a pretty regular posting schedule these days, I still don’t touch on all of the things that I’m doing in my day-to-day life. I play other games besides the ones I write about, have thoughts about various titles or my progress on projects, and still mess around with my Magic cards. I also do that thing called “living” so there’s much more going on than might be alluded to here on the blog. It’s been a while since I did a round up post so I thought I’d take the time to do so today. Besides working on Everquest II and making my way through the backlog, I’ve got some specific updates and then some thoughts to round things up. Let’s get started.

I’ve made steady progress with Clash Royale, the only mobile game I play with any regularity. The last time I wrote about it, Supercell had just added another arena. The Electro Valley arena became Arena 11, pushing Hog Mountain down to Arena 10, and making the Legendary Arena #12. At that time, I was placed in Arena 11 due to my trophy count, so that was a nice little boost. I have since pushed my way into the Legendary Arena and also upped my King level to 12. Hitting 13 is a long ways off, mainly because it’s going to take 80k points to get there and I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20k at the time of this writing. My highest trophy count is 3914, which happened recently. I pushed into Legendary status a while back but then fell back down into Arena 11, and pushed my way back up to 12 where I have stayed for the last month or so. Getting to Challenger status isn’t too far off.

 

My two main decks are above. I used to only focus on one deck, but I have found that having a couple to choose from is nice to break up the monotony. I tend to use my Hog/Loon deck the most, especially when trying to work my way up the ladder, while I use the Golem deck primarily in 2v2 matches, but I have a feeling that it might be more consistent as I get up into the Challenger scene.

 

I finally got my hands on a Mega Knight (actually upgraded him to level 2 already as well) since my last post, which was the last card I needed to “catch em all” at that point. Since then the Royal Ghost released and I recently got one of them out of a chest. The most recent card is the Magic Archer, which we just got to check out in one of the Challenges, but he hasn’t released just yet. He’ll be the only card I need once he comes out. Overall the game is still a blast to play and I do so daily.

I’m still plugging away at The Order 1886, which has been a pretty fun title, but a bit more challenging than those I played through recently. There are some stealth bits that require you to not be detected, and if you are it’s instant-death which is rather frustrating. Regardless, I have worked my way through the 6th chapter and progress is steady. I want to complete this one before really starting on something new, as I have been trying to keep focused on clearing out my backlog. I have some ideas for where I’ll start next, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Over the weekend my girlfriend and I did some errands and while we were out I spotted a couple of older MTG starter decks that I picked up on a whim. At $15 a pop they tend to have alternate art or Planeswalkers at the helm, a preconstructed 60 card deck along with a couple of booster packs for whatever particular set they are from. I picked up the Nicol Bolas Planeswalker deck from Hour of Devastation, along with a starter deck from Eldritch Moon (a few sets back, before they started doing Planeswalker decks for each set). I really only picked them up because I wanted the Nicol-Bolas Planeswalker and the alternate art Noosegraf Mob that came with the starter kit.

The face cards are on the right there, Noosegraf mob is a card I needed for the Alesha deck I’m building, and Nicol Bolas for another EDH build I’m working on. I ended up pulling some nice additions out of the booster packs – Unesh will slot into my Sphinx deck and Tamiyo is another Planeswalker that will go into the deck with Bolas. Nice pulls!

I also resubscribed to the Humble Monthly service again for March, as Dark Souls 3 + DLC was the featured game. Steam is having a Lunar New Year sale at present, and this game was on sale for $15, but via Humble I was able to get it plus DLC for only $12. This is great for the wallet, but unfortunately I still haven’t completed the first two games in the series, so this is just more fodder for the backlog!

Speaking of which, I am having trouble deciding what to start next after I complete The Order. I have Alien: Isolation which I started just to check out and only played for about an hour, I also have Shadow Warrior 2 which I spent a few hours on but didn’t complete. There’s Monster Hunter World which I would like to dive into, along with the aforementioned Dark Souls trilogy. The latter few would be a significant time investment, but still worth doing. I also have plenty of other titles that are collecting dust, so it’s going to be a tough choice! I’ll write about The Order again once I’ve completed it, and perhaps by then I will have decided what to do next.

That’s all for this wrap up. Until next time, happy gaming!

Everquest II: Ascension

This post has been a long time coming. I felt like making smaller incremental posts was a bit silly, because I haven’t been devoting the sort of hours you normally would to an MMO. I don’t have the time that I used to for starters, and I also promised myself that I would continue on my streak of finishing off games from my backlog — so time is split. It’s fine though, I can afford one MMO subscription and I recently paid for my third month and basically cleared one expansion’s main questline at this point. Kunark Ascending released a year prior to the current expansion, Planes of Prophecy. It was recommended that I finish the signature questline from KA prior to heading into the new expansion’s content for one reason: Ascension. There are four Ascension classes and each can be leveled up to 15 (it was 10 at the time of KA’s release but the cap was raised with PoP). I have some baubles to help with the leveling effort, and apparently you get some books once a day so I am now at a point where I have to try to commit to logging in each day, if for no reason other that to pick up these free books.

My father explained all of the mechanics to me a while back but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details at the moment. I just know that I have to do things in a particular order or risk being stuck in the boat he is where grinding out the last bits of experience for the Ascension levels will be a pain in the ass. I’m going to follow his advice, just need to get a refresher course first. I stopped once I had finished the signature quest last night, so I’ll report back on my progress there as I get back into it and check out the new expansion finally.

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I’ve written about some of my exploits throughout KA in my past couple of EQ2 posts, and above you’ll see the scope of things — from landscapes to dungeons to other planes of existence. The storyline seemed to follow a ploy by one of the gods to take down her father Innoruuk. You were a pawn in this, doing various errands for different factions, interacting mostly with Iskar and Sarnaks, culminating in a battle with a God’s (or demi-God?) pet who is a raid boss level. She kicks your ass and the quest is over, and then you unlock the Ascension trainers. Honestly I didn’t read a lick of quest text except for the ones in the above screenshots. It was still fun, and I really enjoyed the Kunark levels, also that the new zone filled in the Kunark map and touched on all of the old school EQ1 zones that I remembered. In the end though, this was just a stepping stone. Despite doing all of that content I only netted about 11% of a level, but apparently the XP starts to flow once you start on the new zones so I’m looking forward to finally hearing DING! again.

I’m going to try and get started this week, so hopefully I’ll have some impressions of the new content for you by the weekend. Until then, happy gaming!

The War Report: Consolidation

My deckbuilding has slowed down a bit in the past month or so, mainly because one of the members of my dedicated playgroup moved out to Vegas and playing 1v1 just isn’t the same when EDH was designed to be a multiplayer game. That said, I have been focusing on perfecting my existing decks and trying to figure out what order to build the others in. Sometimes you can get an upgrade here and there for a couple bucks and that’s better than spending $100+ on a new build (saving money) but I also started out building too many at once so a few of them definitely needed some work. Perusing my list of decks over on MTG Goldfish I found at that time I had completed 13 decks but also 13 that were brewed and in some cases I had already set cards aside for them. I realized that building each of those decks was going to take a long time because each requires a sizable investment, meaning I’d only be able to finish one at a time.

Recently I put in an order to Card Kingdom, mainly for picking up some upgrades for my Kaalia and Reaper King decks, but also to finish off one of my brews, Simic Merfolk. Having made that trade for Kumena with my roommate last weekend, I couldn’t wait to finish that one up (plus it was a minimal price point). After putting in the order I was browsing my under-construction decks and had an epiphany: I could combine two different deck ideas into one simply by changing the commander! I also realized that I could refresh an existing deck by changing the leader (and making some tweaks) but that’s a story for another post.

There were two separate tribal ideas that I had brewed around the time the Commander 2017 sets were coming out. The pre-constructed decks were all tribal themed and I was on the same sort of kick, but I wanted to use other tribes not represented by WotC. I created an Orzhov Cleric deck led by the partner commanders Ravos and Tymna and a Boros Solider deck helmed by Tajic. I’ve been looking through my cards quite a bit recently due to trying to tweak my existing decks and I stumbled upon Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

Because of her ability, she falls under the Mardu (Red/White/Black) color identity, and that just so happens to encompass both Orzhov (White/Black) and Boros (Red/White) so I could theoretically take cards from both of the decks I had built and slam them together. The positive here is that I already had a handful of cards set aside for both of these decks, so I wouldn’t have to order many to finish it up. The negative was that the other decks were doing different things individually than they would be trying to do as a single deck. I wanted to be able to shorten the list of decks I’m working on though, and found that enough of the cards from each had synergy together that this could still work! Alesha is an interesting commander that I never really took a look at despite owning her for quite some time. A 3/2 first strike isn’t much to brag about, but the ability to pay either 2 white or 2 black mana to bring any creature with power 2 or less back to the battlefield each time she attacks is a great built-in recursion engine! Granted, 2 power creatures are a dime a dozen and 2 power isn’t going to win you games, but “hate bears” are a thing, especially in these colors.

Grizzly Bear is a card that has existed in Magic: The Gathering forever. A vanilla 2/2 creature for 2 mana, these types of cards have been represented in basically every set and every color over the years. “Bears” have evolved to mean basically any creature that is a 2/2 for 2, and sometimes the definition has expanded to included any creature that has power 2 or less, or is a 2/2 but they now tend to have abusable abilities. “Hate Bears” are usually 2/2’s with these sorts of abilities, and they sometimes cost two mana, sometimes they cost more but they tend to be cards that will elicit a groan from your opponents. Let’s take a look at the cards I’m going to be recurring with Alesha, and how those cards can be used to affect the gamestate.

Many of these Legendary creatures could be their own EDH decks, but I’ve chosen to retain some of the cards from each of the decks I had previously brewed, and also add some new cards to go along with the game plan under our new commander. Ravos himself is a recursion engine and a lord, which is redundancy for the game plan. Tymna and Tajic just happen to fit as they both start with 2 power, though Tajic can get much bigger if we swing with the right amount of creatures. Other cards like Kambal, Masako, and Thalia help control the board, as each will provide benefits like allowing my tapped creatures to block and my opponents’ creatures to enter the battlefield tapped. I can destroy things with ETBs (Ravenous Chupacabra, Avalanche Riders), I can cause damage to those who cast spells (Harsh Mentor), I can draw cards (Mentor of the Meek) and tutor out lands (Weathered Wayfarer)… these low power creatures pack some punch. And if they die I can just bring them back again! It’s a creature heavy deck, so we want all of our creatures to be useful in the place of spells, but I have added some spells to help support the troops.

Here we’re going for cheap removal, and some excellent effects like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact, which will discourage targeted removal as when my creatures die, opponents have to sacrifice their own. I’ll also have sacrifice outlets that will allow me to kill and recur my own creatures while making them sacrifice as well. Phyrexian Reclamation is more recursion redundancy, and Assemble the Legion can make a shitload of tokens given the chance. Reconnaissance is a neat trick as well, allowing you to pull the recurred creatures out of combat at will, so if you pull them from the graveyard with Alesha you don’t have to worry about them being stuck in combat and dying again!

For Artifacts I mainly went with mana rocks, but this little guy is a cornerstone in this deck. It causes creatures with power greater than 2 to not untap, which means I’ll be able to attack at my discretion, and my creatures will still untap! Evil, I know. But fun nonetheless.

I’m not sure how this one will perform, but I look forward to testing it out!

Joining The Order

Having finally completed the Bioshock trilogy, I had to start looking at other games in my backlog that I felt would be easy to strike off of the list. With most of these story-driven shooters, you can expect a completion time of around 10 hours, so I knew clearing them from the backlog would be much easier than some of the RPGs that I have collecting dust which can take 50-100 hours each. As such, the next game I selected to playthrough is The Order 1886. It’s a couple years old at this point, but was a game that I highly anticipated prior to its release. I have owned it for probably a year at this point, picking it up on some random sale. I’ve been wanting to play it for a while but needed to finish the project I was already working on. At this point I have started it up and played for a few hours, clearing the first few chapters.

The game has a very cinematic feel akin to experiences like Uncharted or The Last of Us. Cut scenes meld into game play and vice versa, bouncing back and forth without a noticeable change in graphic quality.

The game is split into chapters that feel appropriate in length. It’s one of those titles that autosaves between plot points and you’ll want to clear a chapter before quitting for the night. The storyline revolves around The Order, which is a paramilitary force that specializes in taking out rebel scum along with Lycans, which seem to be a plague on Whitechapel.

You’ll be working your way through said city, using cover shooting tactics and a variety of gadgets and weapons that seem very high tech for London in 1886.

Eventually you’ll meet up with Tesla (yes, that Tesla) and see a bunch of cool things that he’s working on. His rivalry with Edison seems to be a joke here, but I found it pretty hilarious. The real-world element makes the game feel more grounded. The gun play is still pretty standard, with enemies being bullet sponges to a certain degree.

I thought this was a pretty cool easter egg, finding Sackboy from Little Big Planet hidden amongst other debris. Not sure if that was just an ode to another Playstation game of if the same company made both games, but cool nonetheless.

At this point I fought off a ton of rebels and made my way through the city to a point of distress, where a huge amount of lycans had taken over a building. I assume the next step will be to head inside and take them out. So far I’m enjoying the title, and I’ll return once I’ve completed it to share my final thoughts. Until then.