Clash Royale December Update

I’ve been playing Clash Royale for a couple of years now, and each December brings a large update. Last year, it was the addition of a new arena along with new chest options (with the big Clan War update happening a couple of months later). This year, we have a few new features that change up the game pretty significantly. Supercell put together a couple of videos that break things down, and since the update is now live, I’ll provide some of my own feedback afterwards. Check out the videos:

I’ve checked out the new features, and can confirm that having been King level 13 for a while now, I did end up with quite a few star points with which I can upgrade max level cards. At this juncture, I only have a max level Balloon and Zap, and the points I had accrued I used for leveling up my Balloon twice. Zap will have to wait a bit.

Currently, if you upgrade a card one star level you get a gold border around it, but I leveled my Balloon twice so I’m not sure what the difference is between 1 and 2 star levels. In-game the star level 2 Balloon appears with gold colored patches and gold lettering. I have seen what I assume to be star level 1 cards, they have a different colored level marker above units’ heads; red as opposed to blue for my level 2 Balloon. These are simply cosmetic differences and nothing amazing.

The other major feature released with this update are “Global Tournaments.” These seem to be a tournament that you don’t have to organize (unlike the tournament system that existed prior, where you would have to sign people up to have it go off). On the main screen, the bar is listed near the middle and you can play at will. You’ll earn medals for wins, so crowns don’t really matter. You have 4 losses, and can compete until you hit that amount, but earn prizes based on the amount of wins you accrue. What’s a little strange though, is that you earn “free” rewards for hitting particular milestones on your way up the leaderboard, but then there are “bonus” rewards that you must pay 500 gems to unlock. Current pricing on that many gems is $5, so it’s not a huge investment to get some extra rewards but it’s probably not worth the money unless you are placing high enough on the leaderboard. To boot, there are “exclusive rewards” for those who place high, but that probably won’t be you or I.

There have also been some tweaks made to the trade token system, and this is one part of the update that I’m unhappy with. Prior to this update you were able to trade with clan members as long as the person offering the trade had a trade token. Trade tokens were introduced a while back, and come in common, rare, epic and legendary flavors. You can trade 250 commons, 50 rares, 10 epics or 1 legendary per token. Anyone who had the cards requested was able to trade with you. Now, they are requiring each party to have a trade token, so if you want rare cards, you have to wait for someone to earn a rare trade token and be willing to trade the particular card you want for whatever it is they want. Before you could basically blindly trade with people who wanted cards you cared nothing about, and only really pay attention to the trades you wanted to make. This benefited me in maxing out my Balloon and Zap, while getting rid of cards that didn’t matter as much. The trade off was supposed to be that you’ll earn more trade tokens since the update, but in a couple of days I haven’t noticed a difference. We’ve been earning the majority of our trade tokens via Clan Wars, and the only other way I’ve had them was by buying bundles that come with them, so I don’t see where we’re really getting an increase, unless you’re counting the “bonus” rewards that I have to pay gems for. I assume we’ll probably see further tweaks to this system after community feedback, because trades should be happening more often than they do, particularly when you’re requiring a token from each party to do so.

Some other minor features include Emotes being on sale for Gems, meaning those of you who have the patience to save up can grab some emotes if you haven’t already dumped some cash on them in the special offer bundles. Emotes are kind of a dumb idea, but I still use them nonetheless. You can also speed up some features for gems, like card requests and quest reset timers. This is nothing new to the mobile genre, but still a nice bonus if you have some banked gems and can’t stand a particular quest or want to speed up your card progression.

Overall I’m happy with the direction the game has taken. I may spend some time with other mobile games, but Clash Royale has definitely held my attention for the longest period of time. I’m also looking forward to Supercell’s newest game Brawl Stars, and will report on that once it’s released. I’m pre-registered, so I should be among the first to know when that happens.

The War Report: Aminatou Blink

When new sets release in the Magic: The Gathering universe, I tend to focus on building some EDH decks around some of the new legendary creatures of the set, but sometimes (as with Guilds of Ravnica) there are only a handful of new legendary creatures and only some of them interest me as commanders. As such, there are times between set releases that I have to dig into the past for inspiration. There are still a ton of viable legendary creatures out there, and many of them deserve to see play even if they’ve been out for a long time. Many of these legendary creatures aren’t viable in any other format to boot. So for this edition of the column I’m looking at one of the Planeswalkers from Commander 2018 that I hadn’t yet built a deck around. I’m talking about Aminatou, the Fateshifter:

Of the Planeswalkers-as-Commanders introduced with this set, Aminatou was at first glance not something I was interested in building around. However, she came with Yuriko in her deck, so I picked it up anyway so I could build around a sweet ninja commander. Having this card on hand I decided that I should at least see if I could find something interesting to do with it, and decided that I wanted to focus on her blink ability and to find ways to exploit it. Her card selection ability is nice for setting up miracles as well, so I have included a light miracle sub theme. Let’s look at some of the cards we can have some fun with by blinking them:

Blink Targets:

All of these creatures have an enters the battlefield effect that are prime targets for blink effects. Not only will you get the original trigger off of the first cast, if this creature dies and is recurred from the graveyard you’ll get the trigger again. Or, if you use Aminatou’s ability you can then blink one creature per turn for instant value. As such, I’ve included additional ways to blink for when you don’t have your commander on the board or to blink groups of creatures at a time.

Other Blink Effects:

These cards allow us to blink one or more creatures under different circumstances. Brago is essentially a backup commander due to being a great blink enabler. With cards like Flickerwisp you can also blink enchantments, so Oath of Teferi can be blinked to blink again, or you can target Disinformation Campaign to draw cards and make opponents discard. There’s a ton of fun to be had here by blinking everything just to get a ton of ETB effects. One issue we might face though is ramping up to be effective, so I’ve included some special cards to help us out there:

Ramp

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, just some creatures that will get you land with their ETB, which can be targeted with blink effects, and one spell that is essentially Land Tax in sorcery form. I may add a Land Tax as well after I test if more is needed. Besides this there are plenty of mana rocks and a Panharmonicon to help us get extra triggers off of the ETBs.

Miracles:

These are simply the best miracles in these colors. We can pump out a bunch of Angels as a finisher, do a mass recursion to get a ton of ETB effects, bounce all non-land permanents to owner’s hands, grab an extra turn, or put all creatures on the bottom of libraries. These can be easily manipulated with Aminatou, as her +1 allows you to draw a card and then put a card on top of your library, guaranteeing that a miracle is the card you draw next turn, thereby allowing you to cast it for its miracle cost. Nice!

Otherwise I’ve included a pretty standard removal package, and enough lands to get things done on a budget. The deck is currently valued at about $190, and includes several cards from her precon as well, so consider this a budget upgrade to the base deck. You can see the full list here.

Thoughts on SEGA Heroes

Within the last couple of weeks, SEGA released a new game for mobile devices called SEGA Heroes and as I had pre-registered for it on Google Play, I was notified that it was available. I enjoy match-3 games that incorporate other mechanics into them — titles such as Puzzle Quest or Ironcast have entertained me for countless hours. Having something like this on my phone is a boon because I can play in my downtime at work or when I’m out of town. I did try a game similar to this one earlier in the year called Legend of Solgard and though it was entertaining for a time, it had some severe time gating that slowed progression down to a crawl and I just couldn’t keep doing it. SEGA Heroes on the other hand, seems to have found the right balance between accessibility and making money via RMT. The game is also interesting because they are doing something in the vein of Nintendo, by slamming characters from all of their unique IPs into one game.

Like most games, it starts you off with a tutorial, where you’ll meet Ax Battler from Golden Axe, and a character from a Sonic the Hedgehog game, while learning the mechanics. It’s match 3, and each color corresponds to a character’s color. So if you match 3 blue gems, you’ll cause Ax Battler to attack in this scenario. There are a bunch of heroes though, but they all fall into one of four colors: Blue, Red, Yellow and Green. There is a fifth color, purple, which fills a bar and each time the bar is filled you get bonus attack damage and some bonus effects on your abilities. Each hero has a basic attack for matching 3, but if you match 4+ you will create a star gem on the board, and when you match that the hero will use their “star skill” which is more powerful. Additionally, each character has a bar underneath their picture, and when that fills you can tap their photo to use an ultimate attack.

You’ll unlock various heroes as you progress, and there are various sorts of progression in the game. Each time your account levels up, you can also level up each hero for some gold. Each hero is made up of “shards” and finding those shards in the world or buying them for the shop is how you can upgrade a one star hero into a two star and so forth. Some heroes are considered common and some epic. You can also upgrade their individual star skills and ultimates with reagents found in the world (and the shop).

Speaking of the shop, it’s pretty straight forward. You can buy chests and bundles and the in game currency (gold) or the RMT currency (diamonds). You can buy hero shards and reagents, and you’ll get some free chests each day. As you level there are other features that start to open up. Besides the campaign, there is a PvP arena, and events where you can earn more reagents/shards. There are a couple more features I haven’t opened yet as I’m only account level 13, but I would assume some are more difficult challenges. One mode is called survival so I imagine that to be endless battles until you die. Whatever the case, there is enough varied content here and characters from IPs I love that I’m engaged for the time being.

Overall it’s a fun little title and I have enjoyed myself with it. It might actually stay in my regular phone rotation, or maybe I’ll burn out on it, but I’d recommend check it out if you enjoy match 3 games!

Torchlight Frontiers: Alpha Report

The weekend before last I was invited to an early Alpha test for Torchlight Frontiers. This Alpha invitation came along with an NDA, but it was only mentioned that you couldn’t post pictures or video of the game, but they didn’t say I couldn’t write about it, so here we are.

I jumped in on that Saturday and got down to business. As of now, there were only two character classes to choose from, a mage type and a melee class that is a steam punk robot of sorts. There was the first “frontier” to explore, this one dealing mostly with Goblins. Apparently each of these frontiers will feature different mobs but also different sorts of resistances you’ll need to success, and this is where their “horizontal progression” stems from. You’ll have to gear up differently for each frontier, which means you’ll have to have different gear sets for each area of the game. Or so that’s how it’s been presented thus far.

Graphically you can tell this is still a Torchlight game, though it does seem to be more of a hand drawn art style rather than a low poly one like the original two games. I liked the look of the game, the areas were interesting and there was a decent variety of mobs. There were plenty of other people running around killing things too, and this feels like the closest thing to Marvel Heroes that we’ll have now that Marvel Heroes is gone. I wasn’t a huge fan of that particular title, but I did play it a bit and it has that same feeling of playing alone but having a bunch of other people running around the same area do similar things. I imagine there will be grouping and public events too, but we’ll see.

Server stability was the only real issue I had. When I would run into others there was some lag, but it wasn’t anything too terrible. I honestly don’t know if it was the server or my Internet, so I’m not going to knock them for it.

My overall opinion of the game is that it looks solid, but I didn’t really put that much time into it. I’m sure in further Alpha tests there will be more to check out. I didn’t really care for the classes on offer and hope that there are some more interesting ones next time. I did like the idea of your own fort where you can get new vendors and things so you have a home base of sorts. This would be optimal for storing all of that gear you’ll need for different areas of the game. It would be nice to have guild functionality as well so that you could meet up with friends and do things together with your base as a starting point. I’m sure we’ll see more developments as time goes on, but for now it looks like a promising title.

TWR: Ultimate Masters Spoiled

Ulitmate Masters releases early next month, and it was just recently spoiled. When we first found out about the set, there was some community backlash because of the increased price point, but we have already seen lower than MSRP pricing for box pre-orders at LGS and online retailers. They also spoiled the box toppers which I showed off earlier in the month. That sneak peak of the set was enough to color me interested, with some amazing reprints coming and simply too many good cards that I’d love to get copies of. However, with the ridiculous $300+ price tag for a box, I figure I’ll only buy a couple packs and then buy singles as the reprints should drive the price down on some of the better cards.

People figured out that because the 3-booster blister packs were being sold at box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, they could actually buy the same 24 packs for a lesser price than buying a box, but then they would miss out on the box toppers. I’m in love with these new super art cards but I can’t justify the expense so I’ll likely never have one. I’m okay with this, and am going to roll the dice on a few packs just to see if I can make my money back. Anyhow, the rest of the set is public information now, so there’s a few cards I wanted to highlight that weren’t given the box topper treatment. Despite the fact that there are some multi-colored and hybrid mana cards in this set, none of them are particularly good so I skipped those. Let’s take a look.

Colorless and Land:

Holy shit! Phyrexian Altar hasn’t been reprinted in a long time and is a great card! I really wish they would have reprinted Mana Crypt instead, but this is a damn good artifact as well. Eldrazi are getting some love too, with this set containing some of the best Eldrazi along with a couple of their tribal spells. These aren’t great for every deck, but if you want an Eldrazi theme or a good finisher, they can work great (mostly in EDH). The couple of lands I highlighted here are also interesting, one essentially being a ashnod’s altar but provides black mana, and the other is a land that replaces itself if it happens to hit the graveyard, which is pretty cool.

White:

The Wall of Reverence is a shoo in for lifegain decks but would also be a nice add for Arcades, where it becomes a nice beefy attacker and will also keep our life total high. Heliod’s Pilgrim is a nice tutor in the right decks, and Containment Priest will fuck over token decks. Cool utility.

Blue:

 

I didn’t see a lot to love in blue outside of these two cards. I’ve been wanting a Glen Elendra Archmage for some time but it’s a bit pricey at the moment. Counterspells on creatures are a nice touch and it’s a wizard to boot. Dig through time is just a nice spell all around, especially if you can cheat its mana costs — I have one in my Jodah deck for this reason.

Black:

Black had a strong showing. Buried Alive and Entomb are the two best graveyard tutors for decks that want this effect. Unburial Rites works right along side them to allow you to cheat big fatties into play on the cheap. Shriekmaw has been a staple for some time now, especially in decks with recursion. Songs of the Damned was a surprise for me, but I actually really like it for big mana mono-black decks.

Red:

Gamble is red’s only solid tutor, and copies of it are still in demand. Anger is a nice haste enabler for decks that need it. Seize the day is another extra combat card, but these are nice to have when playing red.

Green:

Fecundity is a nice enchantment for sacrifice themed decks. Card draw is always a good thing. Ditto ramp, with Kodama’s Reach being one of the best (alongside cultivate). It’s not expensive but still a great card. I’m happy to see Pattern of Rebirth here too, as that will slot right into my Karador deck.

Overall the set looks great. I won’t be able to buy as much of it as I would like due to the higher price point, but fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get something good out of the packs I do pick up. Then singles will round things out. Good stuff to look forward too, for sure!