TWR: Looking Ahead to War of the Spark

Today marks the final spoilers for the upcoming Magic: The Gathering set, War of the Spark. I have been watching patiently the past few weeks waiting for this day to come so that I could show off some of the cards I find most interesting from this set, but also to gush about a few of them that I’m most excited for.

First off, here’s what we know. The set will feature 36 Planeswalkers, and there will be one in every pack. It releases May 3rd, and box pre-orders are already available. We also know that the following card is the Buy-A-Box promo for the set, and it’s a rather nice card:

Tezzeret is one of the better Planeswalkers in the set, and yet this version is only going to be available if you buy a box or buy a single which could end up being pricey. He’s got some nice abilities, and will slam right into most artifact focused decks in these colors. Also, we know that there is another Mythic Edition, and you can check out the details here. Since the focus of this set is on Planeswalkers, I figured I would take the time now to go over some of those I like the best.

Planeswalkers:

You’ll notice above that some of the Planeswalkers shown here are uncommons. This is the first time we’ve seen uncommon Planeswalkers, where they are usually given the Mythic or Rare slot in most sets. This is how you get away with cramming so many into a single block, with the Mythics or Rares being the best/most powerful walkers, and the uncommons being lesser known and less powerful versions. Another new feature is the static abilities given to all walkers in the set. Each one will do something once you get it on the board, and then in the case of the Mythics and Rares, you’ll have the standard + and – loyalty abilities. In the case of the uncommon walkers, you get the static effect and only a minus ability, but they are still somewhat useful even if you don’t have an ultimate to abuse. In particular I can see Sorin slotting into my vampire deck, Teyo wants to be in my wall deck, and I’m sure others will find their way into my decks as well.

God Cycle:

The four Amonkhet Gods have made their re-emergence, but this time they’re all Zombies in addition to being Gods. This actually feels pretty good for Zombie decks, particularly Oketra who creates Zombies every time you cast a creature spell — which you’ll do plenty of in most Zombie tribal decks. Kefnet feels like a solid mono-blue deck that I just might build, copying all of the spells! The others are fine additions too, but nothing too exciting for me personally. I will say this version of Bontu is much better than the original.

New Lands:

Some new lands make their appearance with War of the Spark, with some having niche appeal and others being more broad. Emergence Zone and Blast Zone could both find places in many decks. Interplanar Beacon wants to be in Superfriends decks, while Karn’s Bastion can too, but also wouldn’t mind infect or token decks either. We also get a new man-land in Mobilized District, and those seem to be popular in certain circles.

New Artifacts:

There are a couple of new vehicles coming with the set, and both of them are pretty good. I just might slam them into my Shu-Yun deck. God-Pharaoh’s Statue is some nice stax, but a bit costly… but artifact decks can abuse things to get it out earlier. Firemind’s Vessel is a decent mana rock, if not a bit slow. I really like Bolas’s Citadel, it’s janky but looks fun and easy to abuse.

New Legendary Creatures:

Hype alert! I’m stoked for Feather, the Redeemed and have already brewed a deck for her. It’s janky fun, but I think it might actually be pretty good, even with a low budget. I’m also looking forward to slamming the new Krenko into my OG Krenko deck, just to add some more flavor. The new Neheb looks decent, we get some lands-matter deck hate in Tomek, and the new Lich is a solid Golgari card. Massacre Girl could be decent but I’m not as hyped for it as some others I’ve seen.

Everything Else:

There’s a bunch more that excites me, but I can’t go over each and every card. Another new cycle, the “Finales” are all pretty decent, but I rather like the green one as a finisher and the blue could be good in decks that want to draw cards. There are some decent new removal options, other ways to Proliferate, new aristocrat cards, and other tricks that look awesome. I’m planning on getting a box of this set, it’s the best one I’ve seen since last year’s Dominaria (outside of supplemental products, in which Ultimate Masters was pretty damn good). I’ll try to do another value proposition post after I’ve opened said box. I do this about once a year, and it seems that I got a ton of value out of the box of Dominaria, but only did okay with Aether Revolt. Hopefully this set will bring good fortune along with it. I’ll be back soon with my Feather build. Until then.

The War Report: Gideon’s Signature Spellbook

Last year, Wizards of the Coast introduced a new product line called “Signature Spellbook.” Most of us assumed this was a replacement product for the “From the Vault” series, as the two products provide reprints of older cards. In the case of the vault products, they always had a theme such as “transform” or whatever, and this meant only reprinting cards that made sense for that particular theme. In the case of the Spellbooks, WotC was able to pick iconic characters from Magic’s lore, and reprint a nice set of cards that were already indicative of the character, but with all new art. Each spellbook also includes one additional card — a foil version of any of the cards in the pack. This means you’ll get a total of 9 cards, and if I remember correctly it was priced somewhere around $20, which I found fair. Last year the first spellbook released, and it was all about Jace. This meant the original Jace Planeswalker was packed in, along with 7 other cards that were his signature spells. I picked one up just because I wanted some alternate art counterspells and a nice Mystical Tutor. In the case of this new product, I have a similar desire and will definitely be grabbing this product, which is due out next month (supposed to be released alongside War of the Spark). Behold, Signature Spellbook: Gideon:

The obvious two best cards included here are Path to Exile and Rest in Peace, and I’ll gladly pimp out my Zur deck further by adding those in (he already has the Jace spellbook cards that I could use in the deck as well). Blackblade Reforged is a great sword that I have in my voltron deck so that one will get used as well. I too believe that I have True Conviction in a deck or two, so I’ll find a spot for it. Otherwise, there are some edge cases here. I don’t see myself using the Planeswalker. Worship, Martyr’s Bond and Shielded by Faith are fine, but not great. I still rather enjoy the artwork, and sometimes you sit on cards like these for a while and then end up finding a use for them. It also means that I’m getting extra copies of cards that I can use in future builds, so I definitely see the value in this product and can’t wait to see who they give the treatment to next. I assume for black we’ll get Liliana, Chandra for Red and Nissa for Green, but there are so many cool spells that we’ll get new artwork for I’m sure it will be worth it. Maybe not worth the wait though!

Warmind Complete (Destiny 2)

It took a little more time to get through Expansion II: Warmind mainly because the light levels required to complete the content jumped a bit between missions. I’m not sure exactly where I left off after finishing The Curse of Osiris, but I know that I had to get to light level 310 before I could move onto the new territory. As such, I took my time going through some adventures that I hadn’t cleared, some public quests that opened up after gaining access to some new planets, and I even played some Crucible and Gambit. I found that this time around I did pretty decently in pvp matches, but this time I chose to do a free-for-all mode so I was able to kill anything that crossed my path. Gambit is a new mode that was introduced with Forsaken, and it’s a PvPvE game type. You’ll be on a team and there is an enemy team, but you are in separate instances of the same level. You’ll kill enemies at certain points on the map in order to summon a boss monster that you need to kill before the other team. So it is competitive, but it’s most a PvE thing. However, portals will open and allow you to invade the enemy team’s instance, and if you get kills their boss monster will be healed. This play pattern continues in a best of 3 fashion. If you happen to get to that third round, you’ll no longer need to summon the boss, it is instantly spawned and you must race the other team in taking it down. Overall it was a pretty fun experience and I’ll do it again.

Once I met the light requirements, I started on this next campaign. Long story short, you are pointed in the direction of the “Warmind” which is a huge A.I. on Mercury. Or was it Mars? One of those places. Zavala fears that this machine would bring about more destruction that it’s worth, but it seems that the Hive are also trying to end the universe by summoning a worm god thing. It’s up to you to go through the tedium of getting pieces necessary to help get the Warmind back online and allow it to help you defeat the Hive. That boss battle was a bit of a chore, but overall I kept up in light level well enough between the missions that I didn’t have to try over and over again. Once completed, the Warmind tells you that he’s going to guard the universe from any and all threats. Zavala still seems nervous about having awoken this machine, and then you all go about your business as if nothing had happened at all.

I didn’t mind the story parts or the inclusion of these expansions on my way into the new expansion, but they weren’t as epic feeling as “The Red War.” I have a feeling that Forsaken will make up for that, and I can finally get caught up on the current storyline. As I finished Warmind I found that I was at nearly 340 light and just rolled over level 34. The cap is 50, so there’s still a ways to go, and I have no idea what sort of light levels 50’s have. Whatever the case, I’m still enjoying my journey through the game and I can’t wait to dive into Forsaken. I’ll check back in when I have more to share!

State of the Game: Recent Free Things

I’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a few years now, but outside of a few key titles, there is little that I get overly excited to receive for free. For a time, I used to write about my experiences with these free games each and every month, but to be honest, there are months when I don’t have time to play them all or I have no interest in any of the titles. There has also been a recent change to the service, in that the Playstation 3 and PSVita systems are no longer supported, so we only get a couple of games per month, where there used to be times when we’d get cross-play PS3/Vita games and sometimes they were decent. Nonetheless, I took some time over the past week to check out some of the recent things we’ve seen through the service and thought I’d share some short thoughts on each. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Conan Exiles:

One of the offerings from this month, Conan Exiles is a title that I didn’t give a second thought to. The Survival Sandbox genre saw its height a few years ago, and I honestly never really got into any of the games despite picking up a few. As such, this wasn’t a game I was ever going to buy, but I tend to try out the free stuff given to us each month anyway. The first thing I noticed when firing up the game was that it doesn’t look very pretty. The character creation has some pretty ugly models, apparently there’s some nudity options which seem irrelevant, and the overall look of the game was muddy and overall unattractive. The introduction didn’t do anything for me. I honestly only ran around for ten minutes before uninstalling. It appears that it’s the same old shtick, but I assume there are things that set this particular survival game apart from the others, I just couldn’t be bothered to find out what those things were. I didn’t even take screenshots to share because it was that bad. I’d skip this one.

The Surge:

I was a bit more interested in The Surge on the other hand. It looked like a pretty decent Souls-Like but after learning that it was created by the same developers as Lords of the Fallen I wasn’t as enthused. I tried the latter at some point (wasn’t it free via Plus as well?) and felt that it was lacking compared to the Souls games, and didn’t play too much of it. This is still a case of a company copying a successful formula, but whereas with Lords it felt like a cheap, poorly made rip-off, in the case of The Surge the game feels like its own beast. I think the Sci-Fi setting is perhaps the reason for it not feeling like a cheap copy, but whatever the case is I actually enjoy this game.

You start off on a train to some sort of research facility, and it turns out your character is in a wheelchair. You venture further into the facility, where you get to choose your class, but it’s not so much a class as a couple of different job titles. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I went with the Lynx, which was tagged as being speedy and whatnot. I assume with the heavier class you might have different stats or abilities, but for now let’s move on — that’s what I did. You get a surgery which attaches this exoskeleton to you (though it looked quite painful since there was no sedation and quite a bit of nuts and bolts entering flesh) but the robots mistakenly say there is an issue with you and throw you in the trash pile. From there, it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, as you are thrust into a scrapyard fighting sentient robots and talking to very few humans. The combat is action oriented and uses targeting and a variety of button presses to do things. You’ll get gear and implants that give you various abilities. It feels like its own thing, and it’s quite fun. I’d recommend checking this one out!

Path of Exile PS4:

Path of Exile obviously isn’t a new title, but it was just recently ported to the Playstation 4. Being a free-to-play title, this is available for anyone to download right now. I decided to download it just to see how an action RPG like this might perform on a console. My only other ARPG experience on a console was Diablo 3 on PS3, and I absolutely hated it. Action RPGs have been around for a very long time, and typically they are played on PCs with mouses, with click-to-move and click-to-attack mechanics that tend to not lend themselves well to play with a controller. I also have a long history with this title in particular, but only based on years, not time played. I helped to back it when it was in development, throwing some cash at Grinding Gear Games in order to play it early. I liked what I saw, but at some point I got on the Diablo 3 train and didn’t really play any other ARPGs for a long time. I’ve gone back and checked on PoE a few times since then, but haven’t ever done too much. So anyway, I downloaded and played for a bit the other day, and I have to say that this actually feels like a damn fine port!

Graphically the game looks great and it runs really smooth. I’ve seen games like this with a lot of action going on, on-screen at one time, bog down on consoles just because the processing power isn’t the same as PCs that released at the time of the console’s released. So this long later, you can imagine that the PS4 is a toaster compared to even my few year old gaming PC. Whatever the case, things look and play well. The controls are pretty intuitive, and it wasn’t too bad moving with a joystick as opposed to clicking a mouse. Instead, now you’ll be spamming that basic attack button but it feels pretty much the same. The menus are probably the only frustrating part, mainly because this game uses them quite often. You’ll want to manage your inventory, you’ll want to slot abilities into your weapons, to apply different effects, crafting, and navigating that huge skill tree. It feels like the game you already know, but stays fresh if you aren’t a grizzled veteran. I’d check it out if you’d rather play with friends on your console.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition:

This one came out a few months back but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. A typical First Person Shooter, Bulletstorm came out several years ago. I remember when it originally released it wasn’t met with the best reviews, and playing it for a bit now, I understand why. Graphically, it looks alright, and feels like its running on the Borderlands engine. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it has graphical similarities. It’s a sci-fi shooter, with some hoorah bro nonsensical story line. It’s forgettable to say the least, and not intriguing enough to even pay attention to. This was a game that I went into feeling like I wouldn’t really care, and that turned out to be the case. The gunplay is fine. There are some cool parts where things slow down and you do some action movie stunts but overall it’s a pretty “meh” experience. I’d pass. I’ve uninstalled it.

Call of Duty 4 Remastered:

This was one of the freebies for Plus last month, and was honestly one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. I haven’t played much but I did check out both the campaign and the multiplayer. Unlike newer Call of Duty games, this one’s multiplayer didn’t have all of the skins and extra bullshit that has been shoehorned into the series over the years. Killstreaks were simple. The maps are still pretty memorable. I remember playing this on my PC for hours on private servers with differing rulesets, and though you can’t exactly do that now,  you can experience one of the better games in the series and that’s a plus to me. Playing through part of the campaign brought back a lot of memories as did murdering other players in multiplayer. I don’t think I would have ever paid for this, because it is pretty much just a visual update to a game that was already played years ago, but for free, it was a nice diversion.

That’s it for this round up. Happy Gaming everyone!

The Curse of Osiris Cleared

Similar to the cycle from the original Destiny, Destiny 2 had two smaller expansions that came out before a meatier content update. These are basically DLC questlines that will give some gear and experience on your way up. In conjunction with the base game, you’ll easily be able to hit level 30 in order to enter the proper expansion, Forsaken (or The Taken King, in the case of the last game). We already know there is a season pass for Forsaken, so I’d assume that means more smaller DLC packs like this one during that time, and perhaps we’ll get one more big expansion before the developers move onto something new (unless they actually take this game more seriously than the original, and plan to keep it alive for years like a proper MMO. None of these Looter Shooters have done this so far, as evidenced by the sequels coming out as of late. I’d like to see one actually raise the level cap further, give us more ways to spend skill points, and have more persistent bits of the world. We’ll see if that comes to fruition or not.

The Curse of Osiris expansion is all about one of the oldest Guardians, Osiris. His goal seems to be to conquer the Vex, a mechanical race that has created a place called “The Infinite Forest” which is a reality-creation engine. Sounds wacky, and also sounds waaaay more advanced that the stuff we saw in Terminator or The Matrix. Apparently Osiris figured out a way to create copies of himself to explore the various pathways in The Infinite Forest, and has been searching for an alternate reality where the Vex are defeated. You get sucked into the fray when Ikora turns up with the shell of Osiris’ Ghost.

Throughout the quest chain, you’ll fight the Vex on different planets and within The Infinite Forest. The quest starter is on Mercury, but soon you’ll be back on Earth, fighting on moons and ultimately you’ll find out that you need to destroy Panoptes, the creator of the algorithm that controls the reality engine. Fights along the way net much better gear than we’ve seen to this point, and it was nice to get new vehicles and trinkets.

Eventually the solution to the Vex problem is found, and you’ll go head to head with Panoptes. Overall the expansion’s difficulty was in line with my light level so it wasn’t too difficult, but I enjoyed the story and blowing stuff up as usual.

Osiris appears to have aged a bit through his Infinite Forest travels. Poor guy looks a little run down. I’m not sure if he ties into more of the story later on, but if not he was still memorable enough. I’m now moving on to Expansion II: Warmind, and it already looks like it’s going to be on par. I’m really looking forward to Forsaken though, and hope to be there by next weekend. I’ll check back in soon!