The War Report: Brewing Simic Merfolk

As I mentioned in my last report, I picked up the Merfolk vs. Goblins Duel Deck and used this as a base to build my newest EDH deck. I tried out said deck, and was impressed with how well Krenko and his mono-red Goblins did during our weekly game night. The first game I didn’t get to do much, and never did get my third land drop before I was eliminated. The next two games I played he came out fast and wasn’t stopped, and I feel it’s one of my more competent creations competitively speaking. I did find that the Isochron Scepter + Final Fortune + Sundial of the Infinite combo isn’t viable in the deck, so that’s been pulled and worked into my Kess deck that is still under construction. With that said, I was sitting on a 60 card Merfolk deck that wasn’t going to see play anytime soon. I started to think about things I’d want to do with them and finally broke open the deck to see what I could build.

A mono-blue merfolk deck isn’t in the cards. My roommate plays a deck that is basically mono-blue merfolk with a splash of black so he can run Sygg as his commander. My though was that since Ixalan brought about some new Green and Simic (Green/Blue) merfolk, I should build a Simic deck and keep it mostly tribal. I’ve been looking to build different color combinations here and there, and I have yet to do anything in blue/green so here we are. Apparently there were a few Simic merfolk already in existence, or those that use hybrid mana (one came with the pre-con), so it wasn’t difficult to find some great cards to play with. It did take me a while to decide what commander to use, but in the end I chose this one:

Some of the other options I have also included in the deck, as I felt that her abilities were the most fitting to my playstyle. Alone she isn’t fantastic, but having built-in “no max hand size” along with a card draw ETB effect isn’t bad. Plus she’s a variable power/toughness that will be huge if you have enough creatures on the battlefield and then utilize some X cost draw spells to help keep that going. Truth be told, there aren’t too many good green Merfolk. They’re mostly from Ixalan and none are great, but the mixed colored ones are nice and I get the added ramp and control from green as well. Plenty of blue and green card draw to boot. I’m feeling like the main goal will be to go wide but also to keep drawing cards and maintaining board control with counterspells and the like. I added a few cards that can function as win-cons, but I didn’t have a clear one in mind when I was building. I will want to play test this a bit to see what sort of theme forms or see if it works out as is. A rough draft of sorts. Let’s look at some of the creatures I included:

Lords:

There are several more lords for merfolk than there were for goblins. Some are a little more janky than others, but for the most part they each give +1/+1 to merfolk, oftentimes with an added benefit. The horror is one of the only off-theme creature in the deck, but gives +1/+1 to all blue AND all green creatures so my Simic merfolk get double bonus, plus all creatures untap each opponent’s untap step so I can utilize tap effects more often.

Utility:

The rest of the merfolk do something nifty, and I have redundancy so I’m only showing a few of the cards here. Some provide extra card draw, there is a merfolk tutor, one that provides an extra turn, makes my blue creatures unblockable, and the other off-theme creature is a shapeshifter that creates tokens each turn. I feel like ramp and card advantage are going to make a big difference in the deck, but I’ve provided similar spell support as well:

As I said, I tried to stay on theme to support the creatures I have included in the deck. I have added plenty of counterspells along with bits of removal to get rid of pesky spells or creatures that my opponents are casting. There is various card draw, and board removal if things get out of hand or I need to fight from behind. As far as win-conditions go, I’ve added Rite of Replication, Triumph of the Hordes, and Overwhelming Stampede. The first will allow me to make copies of a lord on the battlefield which can turn the tide of battle quickly.  The second two add power and trample to a going-wide swing, but Triumph of the Hordes also gives my creatures infect until end of turn, and that’s usually going to end the game for one player. I’m hoping that the synergy between all of the cards goes off the way I expect. I think I should be able to out ramp and out draw most decks, thereby always having open mana to cast spells and always having cards in hand. I will adjust as needed if this doesn’t work out as I expect it to.

I’ll report back later once I’ve built and tested this one.

The War Report: Gobbs!

There are five colors in Magic: The Gathering, and of those my least favorite has to be Red. Sure, there are some of the mechanics and certain cards that can be pretty good, but overall without a splash of some other color, Red tends to do everything the other colors can do to a worse degree. A while back I was thinking about the composition of my EDH decks. I have one 5-color, one 4-color, a couple of 3-color, several 2-color and only two mono-colored decks. The 5 and 4 colors were made as sort of an experiment and ended up working out okay. 3 color was dictated by the commanders I wanted to build (Markov and Kaalia). Two color seems to be the sweet spot for me, and Orzhov (white/black) tends to be my favorite though I do enjoy Dimir (blue/black) and Izzet (blue/red). My mono decks were built with certain strategies in mind (mono white voltron and mono green ramp/beatdown). Overall, I’ve enjoyed the creation of these decks, but I was feeling like perhaps I should explore my least favorite color a bit more, just to see if I could make it work all by its lonesome.

My first though was building a mono red Dragon deck, but given the option to run Scion or the Ur-Dragon, it seems like a bad call. Most of the good Dragons are red sure, but it still seems like I’d miss out on some good ones in other colors, plus I wouldn’t have the same amount of ramp, counters, etc. Enter the next product release from Wizards: Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins.

Goblins are the number one mono red deck variant according to EDHREC. The number one Goblin commander is Krenko, Mob Boss. Guess who’s gonna pick up the duel deck as a starting point to build out a Goblin EDH deck? I’ve already built it out and found a couple of different win-cons to go along with it, and despite being mono-red I think I’ve found ways to make it work effectively. Let’s take a look.

Krenko is a shoo-in for the best Goblin commander, despite being several other mono red options. A 3/3 for four, he starts multiplying the amount of Goblins on the board very quickly, and you can abuse the amount of Goblins (or creatures) in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the tricks we can pull out while running a Goblin tribal deck:

Goblins can make us mana, can cause tons of damage, can be sacrificed for single target removal, and as an added bonus, enchantments like Impact Tremors can do some serious work as each new creature entering the battlefield does 1 damage to EACH opponent, so just imagine tapping Krenko when you already have ten Goblins on the board, and he makes an additional eleven (counting himself) which in total causes 11 damage to each opponent without much effort at all. Some of the other bits and bobs that I’ve thrown into the deck will work with a similar synergy.

Here’s a sampling of the creatures in the deck, mostly all being Goblins (the lone Dragon is the exception), and providing more towards the themes I’ve already suggested. One allows you to sacrifice a Gob for red mana. Others have power/toughness equal to the number of Goblins or creatures I control. One has a cycling cost that ends up doing a large chunk of damage based on the Goblins on the board. Overall, Goblins want to make tons of copies of each other (which I why I’ve included Kindred Charge), have sac outlets and generally attack non-stop until someone is dead, even if it’s themselves! Aside from the go-wide win condition, I also came up with an alternate win that might just be evil (and amazing) if I can pull it off:

These are the pieces, and though I originally thought it might work with just two of them, my roommate pointed out to me that I needed the third piece. So basically, I wanted to figure out a way to get several extra turns to be able to close out a game. There are several options in red to do so, but they either require combat damage done to a player, exertion, or other mechanics that will complicate things. It seems that there are three variants to Final Fortune, in that red has three different spells that cost RR and will provide you with an extra turn, but then you will lose the game. Clearly, we don’t want the extra turns unless we can win, but that’s a pretty big gamble and I want more than one extra turn. Enter Isochron Scepter. It’s an artifact that can imprint Final Fortune onto it, effectively allowing you to cast that spell each turn for 2 colorless mana. This means on each of those extra turns I can tap it again and again allowing for infinite turns. However, the end step will kill me on the second turn. Enter Sundial of the Infinite. With it, I can spend 1 colorless mana to end the turn, and if done before the end step, I can wipe the losing condition from the stack. So, with this in mind, I need all 3 pieces for infinite turns, but I can use just Final Fortune and the sundial for two turns in succession without losing. As such, I figured I should get some tutors in the deck as well to try and fish out this win-con (not easy to do with Red!)

The main tutors here are Inventor’s Fair which can be sacrificed to tutor up an artifact, and Gamble, which can tutor up any card, but you have to discard one at random. I have several other draw spells and effects in the deck, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull out one or more of the pieces traditionally, and then tutor up the last bits. I also included cards like the Goblin Matron (tutor up one Gob) and Goblin Recruiter (tutor up as many gobs as I want) to help thin out the deck. Hopefully tutoring will be effective as will the card draw engine. At the end of the day I want to go-wide, but having a backup plan is essential.

That’s all for today’s edition. I’ll report back after this deck is built and tested. I can’t wait to swarm the battlefield with Gobbs!!

State of the Game: Warframe and More

I’ve been managing to get some decent playtime in over the past week or so, and though I’ve already touched on some of the games I’m about to talk about already in individual posts, there has been some progress made and that’s exciting to me, because I’ve had a bit of gaming malaise recently. Hello run-on sentence! So not only have I been progressing through Bioshock Remastered and playing some of my MOBAs and whatnot, I also picked up a game that was on sale for $1.50 and is actually pretty decent. Finally, or firstly perhaps, I’ve been playing a game I hadn’t touched in at least a year:

Warframe has been around for a long time, and I’ve toyed with it more than once. A couple of years ago during one of the NBI’s, I earned a prize which ended up earning me some platinum for this game. At that point I downloaded the game on PC and went to town. I played for a bit, actually enjoyed it but was probably more enamored with something else at the time and it ended up sitting unplayed as many games do. A few years later, Destiny was out and I had just picked up a PS4 and a copy of the game. I had some friends that wanted to group up and run through the game together, but a squabble between myself and one of the guys ended up where we never played together again. That’s why Destiny sat unplayed for a very long time until I finally finished it off earlier this year. Destiny doesn’t really have anything to do with Warframe per se, but at the same time the parallels between the game are there. This was noted by Isey recently, and some discussion about the game started up when he was disappointed (but still finished) Destiny 2 and discovered that Warframe was a similar game he could sink his teeth into. Having read and agreed with his judgement on things several times in the past, I figured that I should avoid picking up Destiny 2 and instead put my efforts into playing Warframe again. For one, it’s free to jump in and play so I don’t have to drop $60 to be potentially disappointed, and it also happens to be something I had already played in the past. I’ve also been craving shooter experiences, and enjoy the RPG mechanics tacked on. Jeromai has also fully endorsed Warframe in a recent post, and it just seemed like it was time for me to dive back in.

I had a second stint in Warframe after my Destiny group fell apart, where I convinced my friend’s brother to download the game on his PS4 to play with me in lieu of Destiny. We played a few hours together before he lost interest and again the game sat unplayed. Still, I had started with the Volt Warframe and leveled it to around 13, while having similarly leveled guns and a starter sword. I really had no clue where I had left off and didn’t really remember what I was supposed to be doing, not to mention there had been several updates that probably changed a bunch as it was, but I started re-familiarizing myself nonetheless. It turns out that there was a promotion that if you have Twitch Prime, you get free access to the Frost Prime Warframe, Soma Prime gun, and Scindo Prime axe. It also turns out that as an Amazon Prime member, Twitch premium membership is included, so all I had to do was link my accounts and bam:

The Frost Warframe which is like the “standard” edition would have been pretty much on par with the Volt frame I had been running. The “Prime” variants are souped up versions that have better base stats and stronger abilities along with the ability to slot extra mods into them. The new weapons were big upgrades too, but after using the axe for a few missions I didn’t really care for how slow it was. I’m thinking I eventually want to grab some nunchucks or dual wield some blades but for now I’ve gone back to the base sword until I find more blueprints and materials. Somewhere along the lines a new mastery ranking system was added and I went through the first couple, each of which seems to unlock various bits and bobs for your account. The tests see you having to fight AI in a sort of holodeck area using various parts of your loadout. Once the waves are cleared you earn you mastery rank:

I was going back and forth between wanting to pick up my progress on the PS4 or going back to the PC. It’s too bad I can’t link my account and play on either platform and share progress. I suppose I could be really crazy and play on both accounts, but I don’t have that kind of time. My hesitation to pick things back up on PS4 was because the most recent update adds some open world bits to the game and though I’m probably not at the level to participate, I wanted to see it as soon as possible. But I read somewhere that the PS4 update was coming soon, and I saw this the other day:

So probably before the end of the month the expansion will hit the console, so I’m just going to stick here. I’m used to the control scheme and I’ve already put more time into it than the PC version. As of now my Frost Prime is nearing rank 9, so I’ve almost caught up to the Volt. I’ve cleared most of Mercury and it seems that though I remember clearing other planets that they are all still locked up, so I’ll be clearing for a while. Hoping to get the materials together to experiment with other frames and make some new weapons in the process. I’ll report back more on this as I progress!

The game I picked up for $1.50 is called Anomaly 2. It’s the sequel to Anomaly: Warzone Earth (which I believe also had a couple of expansions). I played the original back in the PS3 days and just happened upon it and well, it was a steal and I have a problem. The game is a sort of tower defense and RTS hybrid but what makes it unique is that it’s really “tower offense.” You play a commander with various abilities and run around the screen in real time. Your units will follow a designated trail and towers controlled by the AI try to stop you. Your commander heals and buffs the units, keeping them alive to push through to whatever the objective is. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s rather entertaining.

Lastly, I’ve been working my way through Bioshock. I don’t know why but it feels like I’ve damn near beaten the game, but I’ve only put in a little over 6 hours. I do know that I’m progressing towards what feels like the final showdown, and things have been fairly smooth going, though I have found a few tricky bits, and some of the groupings of big daddies with splicers and turrets have killed me. Still, I’ve found a good group of plasmids and weapons and feel like I’m coasting along. I imagine it has somewhere around a 10 hour average completion time, so I should be done with this one soon. Some shots of recent events:

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So my goal for now is to finish this off and then move onto the sequel. I’d like to be done with the Bioshock games so that I can strike a few titles from the backlog. Warframe feels like a game I can play for a while as well, so I’m going to continue with it until it gets boring. Otherwise, I’ll mess around with some of the other more session based games I’ve had in the rotation, but it feels good to finally be making some progress! Until next time, happy gaming!

Bioshock: Remastered

Let me give a little background on this particular title before I get into my impressions. Bioshock originally released back in 2007, so by gaming standards it’s pretty old. I remember the first time I was able to try it, my friend had a copy on his Xbox 360. I played through the first couple of hours of the game, had an impression that it was pretty cool, and that was the extent of it. I never did pick up a copy of the game, and though the next two games in the series would eventually be given away for free via Playstation Plus, I never really played them either due to the fact that I wanted to complete the first game before touching them. A few years later, the remastered editions were announced, and it turned out if you bought the originals on Steam, you would get an upgrade to the remastered editions for free when they released (this happened with Skyrim’s special edition as well). Before the release I ended up grabbing the trilogy on sale so I think it cost me $10-20 to get these remastered versions of the game. I figured having them all and having the updated graphics would allow for a premium experience on my PC. I want to say the free upgrade happened within the last couple of years, and yet these titles sat unplayed. I rectified that recently.

As I mentioned a few times over the year, my girlfriend has expressed interest in watching me play certain games. It has mostly been horror experiences, but she tends to get bored if there isn’t a lot of action. Unfortunately, most horror games lack a combat mechanic, and use that as a tool to make the player feel helpless. In Bioshock, it’s not so much of a horror game, but very atmospheric and there is of course plenty of combat to be had. After firing it up and playing for a couple of hours she seemed rather entertained, and I had forgotten how cool the game really is. Of course, having the ability to play it on max settings and everything looking gorgeous helps, but it does have an interesting storyline, a cool area to explore and unique bad guys and mechanics that I haven’t really seen done in other games. Rapture is truly captivating, and I have been enjoying my time.

It’s unfortunate in this day and age that we are able to get games so cheap and there is such an abundance of them without enough time to play each and every one. I have been getting into the habit of trying out more of my unplayed titles in the backlog and just deleting the ones that I don’t really like. I’ve freed up quite a bit of space on both my PC and PS4 hard drives by doing so, and I feel less guilty about having so many games still lying there unplayed. The good news is that some of the games take less time to complete (or they go in the trash bin) so I have been making some progress as far as that goes. Certain games I’ve acquired over the years just don’t do it for me, feel wonky, or don’t hook me like I would have expected and deleting them from my life relieves some of the pressure I have to complete them all. The bad news is that many of these titles are RPGs that take weeks to complete, so the backlog won’t be empty any time soon. But having more expenses as of late has meant not buying games unless they are absolute must haves, and still my wishlist has grown without me making any purchases. It’s likely I’ll wait until the fall sales and maybe pick up a game or two but I’m not buying games year round like I used to. I’m hoping these efforts help me to finally finish some of these experiences!

Sorry for the aside, back to Bioshock! So it’s such an old title that I’m sure anyone who ever wanted to play the game has done so. I can say that the remastered version does feel prettier and runs great but my memory of the original is hazy so I can’t tell what the real difference is. I’m just enjoying the game and trying to make my way through it, so I suppose there isn’t too much else to share. If you have been on the fence about it and having played, you can likely get it on the cheap, and as I said the sales are coming. I’d recommend it if you like atmospheric shooters that are story-driven and something you can play through rather quickly. The collection is cheap so why not play through them all? I’m hoping to knock them out quickly so I can move onto the next task. Here are some shots from the early portion of the game, and I’ll report back when I’ve completed it:

Thoughts on Brawlhalla

I remember coming across Brawlhalla in the past, as it was an Early Access or Beta title on Steam for a while now. As something that looks and plays much like the Super Smash Bros. line of games from Nintendo, it wasn’t a game that I thought about playing on PC, so I likely saw it in the discovery queue and hit “not interested.” Early Access titles are very hit or miss and usually it ends up in a developmental slog before finally releasing some years later. Sometimes EA games can be gold, and feel like completed games while in their Alpha or Beta states. Other titles are less fortunate, and end up being piles of trash until they are finally released or the devs go MIA. In this case, the game was announced in 2014, has been in an open beta state for a couple of years, and officially released last week. While I haven’t played the PC version, it turned up on the Playstation Store, and having played some of the Smash Bros. games in the past, I knew I’d enjoy this one.

The last Smash Bros. game I played was on the original Wii console, and it was a blast, but I never had anyone to play with. If I recall correctly, you could still play online in that version of the game, but I eventually sold off my Wii and haven’t played this style of game since. I do have friends via PSN that would be interested in playing this game though, so I downloaded it and convinced a friend to do the same.

If you aren’t familiar with Super Smash Bros., it is a fairly basic 2-D fighting platforming game. You control one of a few dozen characters (called “Legends” in this particular title) in a small arena. 3 other AI or players will control other Legends and you fight it out. The platforming elements involve several levels of the game, running, jumping and trying to keep from falling to an early demise. Simple one-button combos unique to the Legends are your bread and butter, and you have a set amount of lives. You will do damage to the enemy players until eventually they fall to their death or you knock them out. Certain power moves will allow you to launch enemies into the nether, and unless they time their triple jumps just right, they will fall and lose a life. Last man standing wins. There are several game modes, including 1v1, 2v2 and some experimental and rotating modes. The network functionality works great, it was easy to queue up for a match and get going. There are only a few Legends available to start, I assume there is some sort of in-game currency that you can earn to open up new ones, and I’m sure there’s RMT to support the devs and speed up this process. Each Legend has a unique set of weapons available to them, and some differing moves, but overall they control similarly. Basically there is a light attack and a heavy attack button, and if you press a direction simultaneously you will perform that move. So up + light attack does one thing, while down + light attack will perform something else. Items will periodically drop from the sky allowing you to get a sword or some guns and changing up your moves. That’s really all there is to it, but there is some depth in the simplicity that veterans will pick up over time.

I recorded my first game against live people, a 2v2 match where I was playing the Legend called “Cross.” He looks like a Roaring 20’s Gangster, and he performed well enough for me. We won the round and I got a good feel for the game:

For a free to play title I rather enjoy it. I’m not sure if the RMT is fair, but I’m sure the game is fun to play without spending any money. If it ends up being something I play on the regular then I’ll probably throw the devs a few bucks. If anyone wants to get a round in, look me up on PSN: Built4Sin82.