The War Report: Locust God Brew

As I did with Amonkhet before it, I decided that there was at least one new Legendary creature from Hour of Devastation worth building a deck around. I was lucky enough to pull a Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun from the lone fat pack I bought of the previous set, and it was really the only legendary creature I wanted to build a deck around and have done so already. The Minotaur from that set is pretty decent too, but I wasn’t excited about it, just like I wasn’t excited about HoD’s Scorpion God. However, this new set came with a few decent cards to add to existing EDH decks of mine, and I couldn’t wait to build a deck around The Locust God:

He’s not a cheap god by any means, but we intent to fix that by putting in a solid amount of card draw and some decent ramp. Blue and Red aren’t the best ramp colors, but they allow for decent card draw, and I’ve thrown in a good amount of mana rocks to fix things. We don’t have to worry about commander tax with The Locust God either, because when it dies it returns to your hand. The real benefit though is the fact that any time you draw a card, you get a 1/1 flyer with haste. If you can’t manage to get extra draws, you at least have the main draw phase along with the ability to loot built into the card. So most turns you should be netting at least a couple of these flyers, but that sounds like it would take far too long to get anything done. So let’s look at card draw effects that will help speed up our army of insects:

Blue provides the majority of card draw effects, but they are present in red, and there is of course some artifact and creature help. I’ve made sure to include some self draw, X draws and other effects that allow me to draw more cards all the time. Wheel effects happen to be very powerful in this deck as well, so I made sure to add some of those. Discarding your hand sounds detrimental, but being able to draw another full set sometimes comes with hidden benefits, and no matter what you’re generating more insects to swing with, each turn.

  

Outside of using these sorts of effects, I’ve also included some powerful enchantments that can multiply their effects:

Being able to draw additional cards per turn, or multiply the amount of cards drawn is powerful in conjunction with the insect production of the God. Outside of this, I’ve also added several different counterspell options and some burn spells for removal or to finish off a low life player. I also added in staple dual lands along with as many of the cycling lands I could find, due to the fact that late game those cards can net additional creatures, but also sometimes come in handy to discard if you are mana flooded. In the event that you start cycling through your deck a bit too fast, I’ve included cards like Commit // Memory and Temporal Cascade so you can get your graveyard shuffled back into your library. So what about the creatures, you may ask?

A sampling of the creatures in the deck, each has its own purpose but flows with the theme of the deck. Some make spells cost lest to cast, others help with card draw or wheel effects. One helps shuffle your graveyard into your deck, some ping for damage on card draw or ETB, and a couple of mages who will fish up other artifacts. Finally, we should discuss win conditions, outside of the obvious card draw and over run with 1/1 flyers.

There is a potential infinite combo here with Ashnod’s Altar, Skullclamp and The Locust God. Not coincidentally, I included both Trinket and Trophy mages to help fish these pieces up. Sacrificing an insect token to the Altar gives two mana with which you can use to equip the Skullclamp to draw two cards, creating two new insects, which nets infinite mana and infinite 1/1’s. Alternatively, you can use the combo of Enter the Infinite and Laboratory Maniac to draw out your library and win the game:

Lastly, if you prefer (or don’t pull the right cards) you can use cards like these to make your swarm overwhelming and get a good old beat down win:

There are a bunch of other small interactions between cards in the deck, and this is my first combo deck where I might be able to finally get that win where everyone is still alive with high health totals and can’t do anything to stop me! You can check out my full deck list over on MTG Goldfish, and I’ll be back with more brews as I complete them.

Diving into FFXV

I’m only a few hours in at this point, but I have to say this is one of the best Final Fantasy games that I’ve played. Sure, it’s completely different than its predecessors, but that’s to be expected. The core story and feel of a Final Fantasy game is present, and as such it truly feels like a “Final Fantasy for Fans and First Timers” as the opening scene states. As a sort-of fan — I can’t really say I’m diehard because I haven’t played every single iteration of the series (though I have touched most and completed a handful) — I can say that I enjoy the hell out of this one.

Honestly all of the blogosphere’s talk of Final Fantasy XIV and the new Stormblood expansion had me teetering on the purchase of the game. I did try it a long time ago during a two week trial and though I enjoyed it to a degree, I didn’t feel like I was in the mood for really diving into a new MMO (I was toying with several others at the time). I was seriously contemplating the purchase nonetheless, as there is a new starter edition for $20 that is just the base game (all I’d need to get started) or I could opt for the whole collection for $60. As I teetered on that precipice, I realized that I have owned FFXV for several months and only played it one time, so I should dive into that rather than spend more money on another game. I’ve been talking about sticking to just clearing the backlog and not making new purchases (though there are a couple of games like Gran Turismo Sport that are on the horizon and are must-buy), so I’ve stuck to that for a bit. Hopefully I can actually scratch some titles from the list.

One cool aspect of FFXV that didn’t really exist in prior iterations is the fact that the Kingsglaive movie that released shortly before the game really does tie the story together. Yes, it’s a little spoilery I suppose, but having watched it prior to playing the game it helps to tie the story together — there are even cutscenes from the movie right in the game. As such, I have progressed through part of the main story to the point where I reached a harbor where I was trying to get onto a boat to proceed when the bad guys of this particular title attack the city and kill the king (your father). You head back, see shit going down and then proceed on your journey to meet up with your soon-to-be wife. However, it’s unclear if that’s what will happen, as the marriage was supposed to be between your family and the family who attacked your town, so everything is sort of up in the air. There is a story to be followed, but like most open world games and RPGs, there are side quests galore and plenty of distractions. I can suspend my disbelief long enough to do some fishing, camp, and generally be helpful to everyone, but it does take away from that sense of urgency you are supposed to have. It’s a common issue people point out all the time, but it doesn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the game.

Another bit that I rather enjoy is how your companion/friend Prompto randomly takes pictures throughout your play through and periodically when you rest you get to see his snaps. It makes the game feel more alive than it already does, and gives your companions some character that is rarely seen. Overall I’m enjoying it very much and can’t wait to see what happens next. In the event I’m still feeling like I want more Final Fantasy, perhaps I’ll give FFXIV a whirl, or maybe I’ll play that new remaster of FFXII, as that’s one of the titles in the series I never played. Time will tell. I’ll be back with more updates soon, but for now here are some random screens (partially mine, and partially prompto’s shots):

 

Thoughts on the Steam Controller

During the summer sale on Steam, Valve decided to put their hardware offerings on discount, and I’ve thought about purchasing a Steam Controller for a while now. Honestly, I dislike the Xbox controller very much, and always have. I know that is probably the most commonly used controller for PC gaming, but my distaste for it meant that I ended up buying a Logitech controller that was sort of a hybrid of an Xbox and Playstation controller. It has the same A,B,X,Y button layout as an Xbox controller, but instead of the skewed sticks, they are in-line like the PS setup. It was a fine controller and still works, but it is wired and the D-pad is shit. I found that I didn’t use it all that often, but some games simply feel better with a controller rather than keyboard/mouse.

I realize that you are able to use Playstation controllers on PC, but the last time I tried that you had to keep it wired, and I assume that is still the case so it’s not optimal. The Steam Controller is made for PC gaming, and made for Steam specifically (where most of my game collection is found outside of consoles) so I figured it was a good investment, and for $35 (on sale) it’s cheaper than buying most of the other AAA controllers on the market.

The controller finally arrived the other night, and I finally got around to giving it a whirl. It came packed in a nice box that you can see above, and here’s what comes inside:

I swear at some point I read that you are required to have the Steam Link to use the controller, but that isn’t the case. The Steam link is similar to an Nvidia Shield or other streaming device that just puts the display from your computer onto a TV in another room. Great concept, but not needed for me, so I just got the controller. It is battery powered and comes with a USB dongle that enables wireless usability. Installing the batteries was easy enough, and I assume if you use rechargables, you’d be able to charge them via the USB cord, but I could be wrong about that. Outside of installing the batteries, there was no other setup required, just plug in the dongle and start up steam. It will update the firmware automatically and then you’re good to go.

Big picture mode is not required though it makes navigating Steam a bit easier with the controller. Overall I like the construction of the unit and the feel of it in your hand. It feels like a great controller. In practice, it takes some getting used to.

I started off by checking out steam controller supported games in my library, and the first one I tried wouldn’t work with the unit. The second game I tried worked well, but it was a platformer and only used the one stick and buttons. The trackpads feel great, but they are hard to use in the case of FPS games. I tried one, and it didn’t feel very good to move the camera with a trackpad. Apparently you can push on the trackpad and swing the controller in various ways to help with the camera control, but I didn’t really figure that out until watching a video later on. People rave about the controller being great for any game, but I feel like it’s best saved for slower paced games or more simplistic ones. Those that require twin sticks will definitely require some practice, but I want to put in that practice because I made the investment. We’ll see how that develops over time.

My final verdict? It’s worth the sale price. It feels and looks great. Most games that you would traditionally think about using a controller for (fighting, shmup, beat-em-ups, side-scrollers, and platformers) are going to benefit. Those that use twin-stick camera and movement controls might irritate you at first, but I think once you get past the learning curve it can be great. I’d buy it if you dislike Xbox controllers and want something built for the PC.

The War Report: HoD and EDH Updates

The Pre-release weekend for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Hour of Devastation, just passed. Due to some financial difficulties I was unable to attend, though I did see what my friends procured from the event, and it was a bit underwhelming. We’re all members of a Facebook group dedicated to EDH, and I saw all sorts of people posting pictures of their awesome promo cards from the weekend — we’re talking foil Scarab Gods here, while my buds got a couple of crappy artifacts. Well, they are okay cards but I’d prefer some of the others I saw posted. Still, I was bummed that I didn’t get to go, and hope to go to the next. I’ve been reading articles about the set all over and the consensus is that it’s not a very “good” set. The expected value is lower than any set in years, and most are pointing to a handful of chase cards though I think that’s the case for most sets to be honest. Despite these facts, there are some great cards that I’m excited to add to my EDH decks, and for that I’ll buy at least a handful of packs and then probably buy the singles I’m not lucky enough to pull. The set officially releases on Friday, so I’ll probably pick up a Fat Pack and call it a day. For now though, I’d like to go over the cards I’m excited for and then touch upon some updates to decks that I’ve already talked about (and some that I have not).

These are the three cards I’m most excited for. The Locust God is going to be made into an EDH deck and Izzet is a color combination I have yet to build. I’ve actually already put the thing together, and have many of the pieces, just have to wait for the release so I can get my hands on this guy and finish it off with some singles. The Scarab God is also begging to be used in my Dimir Zombie deck, though I was torn whether or not to use him or just add him to the 99. Gisa and Geralf is my current commander, and though I love the graveyard recursion per turn especially when paired with Rooftop Storm, it seems that the X scry + damage per turn along with being able to make 4/4 zombies while removing cards from any graveyard seems to be stronger. Lastly, Razaketh is going straight into my Mardu Angels & Demons deck, which actually just saw a couple of recent upgrades that I’ll discuss in a bit. He’s a beast that can be cheated into play and also tutors for extra goodies. So good!

   

My B-tier list features a couple of cards that look awesome but haven’t yet found a home. I am planning an Oloro led lifegain deck that I feel the Crested Sunmare is a shoo-in for. Overwhelming splendor will also likely end up in that deck, because it slows the game down allowing me to build up life for various win conditions. Hell, even Torment of Hellfire could be useful, but I feel like that belongs in a different deck, but which one I don’t know. There were a few other cards I thought about mentioning here, but they are maybes and only if I decided they were going to fit into an existing deck or could be a build around.

Next up, I’d like to talk about some of the decks I’ve just mentioned, and maybe shed some light on other decks that I’ve built and have been playing. I try to share all of my decks because I know people who build decks find joy in dissecting others’ work, but also to keep a reminder around of what I thought was good and how I’ve grown as a deckbuilder. So like I said, that Razaketh is going into my Mardu Angels and Demons deck, and it’s actually just been upgraded. A while back I mentioned my playgroup picking up the Commander Anthology, and that we were going to pick up another, and that has happened. Just yesterday I paid for my second deck, and now I’m the proud owner of Kaalia of the Vast!

Honestly, when I built the deck I built it with her as the commander in mind, but she was $35 by herself and the deck was selling for around $100. That’s ridiculous. Instead, I got a better deal by splitting up this reprint and she’s actually worth more money than before because this reprint is a foil. Regardless, she makes the deck work even better, as you can cheat in the ridiculously expensive Angels and Demons in the deck. It turns out though that I bought nearly all of the same angels and a couple of the same demons, though I have many that are better includes for the deck than the precon. However, the precon came with a bunch of Dragons and some useful spells and mana rocks that will be used in other decks, so it’s not a complete wash. I did add these cards to my existing deck as well:

Anger is great in a graveyard to hastily use Kaalia, or anything that I play, most of which doesn’t have hast. I like the kicker on this otherwise normal artifact removal spell, and Reiver Demon is a nice board clear especially if you cheat him in. I dropped a couple cards that I felt weren’t bringing a lot of value in my time using the deck, and also dropped Tariel (the former commander) into the 99. I will have to make room for Razaketh, but I’m sure that will be easy enough.

The first deck I bought from the Anthology was Freyalise, and I have since removed her and a couple of cards to add to my Molimo Ramp deck. I think there is one HoD card that I want to add to that as well, but it’s not really imperative. With her remaining deck pieces I added a couple of other Elves and made Ezuri the new commander. I think it will still work well enough, but I’m not a huge fan of Elves in this game (or any game for that matter) so it’s likely I won’t play that deck much.

My Zombies deck has seen some revisions, and will receive another once HoD releases when I swap in The Scarab God as a new commander. Otherwise I think it’s done. My Orzhov Enchantments deck has been done for a while, and I think Molimo and the elves are good to go as well. My Temmet deck has also seen some revisions, most recently by adding in a couple of Populate options, and I think it’s finished as well. Reaper King which I don’t believe I’ve mentioned seems pretty well rounded out of the gate, people in my play group have even said it’s the best one I’ve made. Lastly, I just put together “Sramtron” which I mentioned recently, so I’m hoping that one works out well. All in all I’ve come to love the deckbuilding aspects, it just sucks that it can be such a money pit.

Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough for one post. Toodles.

Finding Life’s Balance

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about my personal goings-on, and since I’m lacking anything else of substance to write about I figured I’d do so now.

I’m partially inspired by Belghast’s recent post about needing a break. I’ve never been on any sort of regular schedule, and his ability to go for years posting every day is admirable, but as he noted in his post, sometimes you start to feel like it’s a job, and that’s no good. Also, it seems that more you post, if it feels forced, the content isn’t really all that great. I’ve had plenty of times during my twelve and a half years writing this blog that I wasn’t putting out the greatest content. Recently I’ve read over some of my older blog posts and have found some gems, where I was really hitting my stride and there was a bunch of community feedback as well. Lately, I’ve been talking about games and Magic, and though most of my audience is familiar with the former, I seriously doubt many are interested in the latter.

That comes down to the notion that I write for myself, not for an audience. However, writing for myself still brought about an audience, and that was multiplied through my involvement in the NBI, along with having run a podcast for a couple of years that helped to feed the blog. From what I know, the NBI didn’t happen this year, and my Podcast has been dead for almost a year. It’s clear that both of those facets had an impact on my traffic and involvement with the community, because blog stats show that I’m back to pre-NBI numbers and the decline has an effect on the desire to continue.

This isn’t an “I quit” blog post. Despite having written those words before, I always end up coming back, and I have faithfully posted a minimum amount of posts per month since my full-fledged return to blogging about four years ago. Granted, my return coincided with a period of unemployment, so I had more time to devote to writing, and in turn more time to devote to creating and running a podcast for two years. At this point I don’t have the same amount of time, having a full time job along with other life responsibilities, a girlfriend and a weekly Magic group. At the end of the day, my time has to be split between many things and I can’t focus on everything all the time. This means less time for gaming, so there’s less to write about and so on. It’s a cycle that has been on-going for my entire blogging career, and generally I don’t mind spending less time on it, though I still want to keep it going.

Going forward, I think some changes are in order. First of all, I have paused my Humble Monthly subscription. The service is a great value, but I keep getting games I already own or games that I’m not interested in to the point where it feels like it’s not really worth it. I’m just piling games onto the collection where they won’t get played. I may unpause if the next early unlock is worth my time, but otherwise I think I might be done with it. I’ll still be getting free games from my Playstation Plus subscription, so it’s not a total loss. As such, you can count those monthly posts out. I will be keeping my War Report (MTG) and State of the Game (gaming roundup) posts going, on no particular schedule, because they are long running and I feel like they serve their purpose. Of course there will still be filler posts in between when something comes up that is worth writing about.

There is something on the horizon that might change up the amount of free time I have. I have also been in talks with a friend about the whole Podcast thing, as I really want to start a new one but it’s been something I’ve procrastinated about. If the big change happens, it’s possible that it will come to fruition, finally. I should also have more time to devote to my hobbies, which include gaming and writing, so you may see more activity from me in the coming months. If not, you can expect the handful of posts that I’ve stuck to for the past few months. Needless to say I’m not going anywhere, just wanting to be open about what is to come.

I’ve also spent some time cleaning up the blog a bit. There were some dead links on my sidebar and I’ve added some new bits to the top navigation, which will allow you to see my major columns without any of the filler. I’m only leaving the Couch Podtatoes stuff up for the time being until I figure out the next podcast, and then those bits will be updated. Perhaps if I get back to paying for hosting, I’ll upload the old episodes so they are back online again. Time will tell.

I spent more time cleaning up my Steam and Playstation libraries. I’ve gone through and deleted a bunch of games I’m simply never going to play. There were a lot of those — games that I picked up on sale with the intention of playing but never got around to it. I used to get hung up on making sure that I beat every game I purchased; at this point it’s easy for me to realize that I’m not going to play something, or that I simply don’t like it and away it goes. With nearly 350 games on Steam, it’s clear that those that have been beaten can be removed from my hard drive, and those that won’t ever be played should also be parted with. There are games that I want to play through that will stay, but I’m going to make efforts to start clearing them out because it’s time to stop spending the money and not actually enjoy the games I’m buying. I’m also spending more money on Magic than I’d like to admit, so that cuts into gaming funds, so perhaps this will keep me from buying new games and just play the ones that I have. So perhaps a new series about clearing the backlog is in order. We’ll see what I come up with.

Just wanted to touch bases with everyone. Glad to see that some familiar faces are still around, and I hope that you all find enjoyment in your free time. Happy gaming!