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.

The War Report: Commander Event

This past weekend my roommate and I went to a local game store to participate in a Commander event. We have both gone to Prerelease events in the past and he’s participated in Draft weekends, but this was our first time going to this particular store to check it out. The store we normally go to for cards and Prereleases doesn’t really sponsor EDH events, so we started looking elsewhere. We found another store that is about 20 minutes from home that has an EDH event every Friday and Sunday (at least for the time being) so we signed up and played on Sunday.

The event was set up as follows: Starts at 2pm until 5pm. Three rounds are played. Pods of four are randomly assigned. You only get to use one deck for all three rounds, and the rounds last 50 minutes. At the end of a round if there is no winner, then everyone gets a point for participating til the end, and each player votes for someone besides themselves who they thought played the best. If you win a round I think you got 2 points. We were playing for prizes so the shopkeeper kept track of all these points. I guess if there were a minimum of 8 players, the grand prize would have been one of the 2017 Commander Precon decks. In this case there were only four players, so we were playing for Rivals of Ixalan packs and a special promo card. We ended up with these commanders going head to head:

I was playing The Locust God, my roommate was running Ghave, and the other two guys were playing Reaper King and Zacama. I was surprised to see someone else playing Reaper King, and I was also surprised to see how this guy built his deck… it was really nothing like mine but he admitted he had just thrown it together and that it could use some revision. He still had some interesting ideas. I’m all too familiar with my roommate’s Ghave deck, and apparently the other guys we were playing with had no idea. I almost played my Reaper King deck for the event but am kind of glad that I didn’t because it would have been two of us in the same pod, but at the same time maybe I should have so I could show the guy what it can do. One thing I did learn: I suspected that Zacama was not a good choice for commander for a dino tribal deck and these games proved me right. I’m sticking with Gishath for my dino tribal deck, and putting Zacama in the 99. He’s just too slow to get going and not splashy enough. He truly belongs as one of the 99 in a dino tribal or in his own sort of combo/jank deck.

The first round played was the closest. Me and my roommate were basically racing to see who could get off their infinite combo first, and he did. He won around the same time as the timer was going to expire. In game two, we expected there to be some sort of change in behavior for the other guys we were playing with. They seemed to recognize that my deck could do some busted shit, but they seemed to ignore Ghave despite him winning the first round. Spoiler alert! He won all three games because I was the only one trying to stop him, which in turn set me back on my own progress to win. Frustrating as that was, I suppose it was going to come down to one of us winning from the get go, since the other guys we were playing with had super casual decks that weren’t going to compete anyway. So my roommate walked away with a few packs of RIX and a promo foil of Brass’s Bounty. I somehow came in third despite actually making an elimination in one of the rounds… probably due to the voting thing. I got two packs of RIX (which means I about broke even, as the buy-in was for $8 so I’m not complaining). Didn’t pull anything good from it, but my roommate did and we made a decent trade later.

After the official stuff was over we played one “for fun” game with shopkeeper. I put fun in quotes because he had a hell of an abusive deck that no one stood a chance against, at least with how fast it got going. He was playing Doran, but was really playing a “secret commander” sort of deck.

What I mean by secret commander is that his official commander int he command zone was Doran, but his deck heavily revolved around Gaddock Teeg, Meren and another ghost spirit thing that had built in recursion. This deck was mean, and it was fast. He was constantly sacrificing and recurring creatures with ETBs that made us sacrifice our own creatures of blew up artifacts/enchantments. My roommate switched to his Scion deck for this game, and I had swapped to Kaalia. He was eliminated in like 10 minutes flat, while I attempted to slow down the shopkeep, and the other two guys were twiddling their thumbs. It got to a point where I couldn’t stop this guy and he prevented me from doing shit aside from board wipes and other removal spells so I ended up scooping and so did the rest of the table. Guy had a hell of a deck, but man was it frustrating to play against!

When we got home, I traded my roommate an Ash Barrens and a Seafloor Oracle for Kumena, Tyrant of Orzaca.

He pulled Kumena from his victory packs which is a $20 card (and one that I really wanted to finish up my Simic Merfolk deck) and since there have been a few trades we made in the past that favored him monetarily, he said that he would trade me for some lesser value cards. He really wanted the Ash Barrens that I had, which was something that came in a precon at some point but has gone up in price due to Pauper, and he didn’t want to spend the money on it, and I threw in a $.50 card that he wanted as well. It was a nice pickup, and I ordered the remaining cards for that deck shortly thereafter.

Overall it was a fun experience. We’re looking forward to doing something like this again, and now that I know more of what to expect it should be easier to be more prepared. We’re hoping that more people show up to the next one, or that at the very least we can find someone who wants to join our more dedicated pod so we can play more often again.

Batman: Episode 5

Despite finishing up my playthrough of this title last week, it’s been fun spending some time going back over the events in my mind this week. I love being able to share gaming experiences whether they are bad or good, and in the case of this game, they were pretty good! Let’s run through my choices for the final episode, shall we?

As the episode opens, it seems that Penguin has set a trap for Batman, but I end up going as Bruce Wayne. At Cobblepot Park, we meet the masked menace again, but this time he’s got a trap set and Gotham police are taking the brunt of it. Gordon can’t seem to get close enough to make an arrest, so I offer to go in. Unarmed, I approach Penguin and start up a conversation trying to make a distraction for Gordon, apparently I failed at this, but it didn’t seem all that detrimental to the plot.

Later, there is some exposition between Bruce and Alfred, and he is expressing his regret for not pushing Bruce’s father into a better life, and not telling Bruce the truth earlier, etc. I reassured Alfred, and said that none of that matters, that we have to save Gotham. A very Batman like thing to do I suppose.

Selina is leaving town, but not before stealing some Wayne Tech from me. I confront her, she gives it back, we have a little moment where I tell her she’s more than just a thief, and she rides off into the sunset. Not much of a happy ending there.

During the final confrontation with the leader of the Children of Arkham, down below the building itself in some hidden chapel, Alfred has been captured and is being tortured. In order to set him free I reveal my true identity and remove my mask. The villain would have left with this information but ends up being smashed by falling debris before my secret could get out.

Gordon is now the interim Commissioner, and at the end of the day he is giving an address to the city and I have a choice to go as Bruce or Batman. Given the fact that Bruce’s reputation was shit on this whole series, I went unmasked to try and raise that reputation again.

I’m curious to see how these choices might tie into the new season. I will likely pick that up at some time, but I’m not in any rush. It’ll probably go on sale sooner or later (maybe by Summer?). If I do, you know I’ll have more to share and will do so here. Stay tuned.