TWR: My First Pre-Release (Ixalan)

This past weekend saw the Pre-Release events for Ixalan take place at LGS’s around the world. Despite having returned to the game about a year ago, and having played plenty in years past, I had never taken part in a single game at a store versus strangers, nor in a sanctioned event. It was something that had been on my mind since returning, but I just hadn’t managed to go yet. The guys in my playgroup have gone to a few that I know of, so they had filled me in on how things go and I was still intrigued. A while back we purchased pre-release kits off of Amazon when Amonkhet released, creating our own makeshift pre-release event. Finally, this weekend I made it to my first official event, and got to see how it works first hand.

Ixalan officially releases on Friday, but at a pre-release you get your hands on a few packs of the new set, get to build a 40 card deck and play several rounds (best of threes) against whoever happens to show up. My friends and I went to the 1 pm event on Sunday and it was pretty fun. I enjoyed having the experience, though I understand that I am more of a constructed player, so I wasn’t going into the thing expecting to win all of my games. I have kept up on spoilers so I knew some of the cards that I was looking for, and did end up getting a few (though none of the good vampires I want for my Edgar Markov deck, boo). Another special treat for attending is a sealed foil rare card that has the pre-release dates printed on it. Sort of a cool way to commemorate things, though it’s random so sometimes you get something less desirable. I ended up with this guy:

He’s not bad, though sort of expensive. I think he would have worked fairly well in an EDH dinosaur deck, but a bit expensive when it comes to a more standard-like format. I think I played him once in all of my games. When we arrived at the store, it was just about start time, so we paid for our kits and went about cracking packs and building our decks. I finished fairly quickly, because after I pulled my best cards from the packs, I had to clear build arounds:

Pirates don’t seem all that interesting to me, but again, I play from the standpoint of wanting to build new EDH decks or add cards to my existing ones. I’m not currently playing standard or modern, so if it isn’t going somewhere EDH related then I’m pretty much over it. It seems that there are more pirates from previous sets than there are dinosaurs (they technically didn’t exist until now, though they did some errata on a dozen or so cards to make them part of the tribe) but I don’t really like the theme. They tend to center around stealing stuff or creating treasure artifact tokens that can be sacrificed for mana. This is similar to the Clue mechanic, but those artifact tokens were sacrificed to draw cards. Regardless, these mechanics don’t seem all that great, and I just built a Grixis commander in Marchesa, so I didn’t want to do the same colors again. I feel like Gishath is a great commander idea, but unfortunately the tribe support isn’t really there just yet — trust me, I already tried to figure one out and it seems to fall flat. I think we’ll have to wait for the second block of Ixalan to get enough dinos to really make a deck. I assume by then there might be some better pirate options as well. But I’m getting off topic.

I pulled the cards above out of my packs and looked through the rest of my cards. I ended up feeling like I had a decent deck formed around Dinosaurs so of course I ran the Avatar as well. I only managed to play him once, and still lost that game, but he’s a fun card nonetheless and more exploitable in EDH. Can’t wait to see if he can be a thing someday. As our rounds started, I played through four separate opponents before the event was done. I didn’t have the best day, but I managed to get a win in the final round. My overall scoring went like so:

  • Round 1: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 2: Went 0-2 (loss)
  • Round 3: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 4: Went 2-1 (win)

Individually the only round that was attrocious was the second. I couldn’t get all three colors of mana out and ended up being killed quickly. In the first two rounds I played against mirror decks, though only one of those players had a Gishath in the deck, they were both playing 3-color dinos. The 3rd round was played against the only guy in the store that was clearly older than us, and he had an Orzhov vampire deck (exactly what I wanted to play but lacked the cards to do so). I managed to win the first game but then lost the second and in the third I should have won but a well timed land destruction spell kept me from being able to play Gishath for the win. In the final round I played against this gentleman’s daughter who had a rough day like myself. She surprised me with a mill strategy for the first win (this is the only game I played Gishath and still lost) but I managed to tie things up and we were amid our third game when the time for the round ran out. Officially there are only a few turns left after that, but since we were the last game still going, the shopkeep let us finish it up. I finally scored my win, and was given a participation pack, along with another pack for it being my first event.

Overall it was a fun experience but I really only was in it for the cards. I think perhaps another time I’ll try again but for now I’m cool with the limited format. What I’d like to do now is go to a random Commander night and see what other sorts of decks are out there. So it looks like Ixalan has some cool cards in it, but overall it’s another set where I’ll buy a few packs and then buy up the desired singles and call it a day.

Thoughts on Star Trek Online – PS4 Edition

So as I mentioned recently in my post about Secret World Legends, I was sort of feeling like playing an MMO again. I’ve also been pretty clear about my love/hate relationship with the genre, so I won’t go deeper into that. Suffice it to say that I saw SWL and downloaded it on a whim. I have yet to play it again though, so just like most games, I wasn’t instantly hooked and playing it on the regular. This will probably be a thing for many years to come, because I am just short on time and sometimes attention span. Thankfully I have some of these more passive hobbies like blogging, where I can relax and not really worry about anything except putting the thoughts onto the page. But I digress.

I was browsing the Playstation Store the other day for something completely unrelated (which I can’t recall at the moment exactly what that was) and came upon some of the Free to Play MMO choices they have. I am constantly looking for free or low cost games I can play with my best friend who is now a couple of hours away — it helps keep us in each others’ loops so to speak. I’m responsible for finding games like SMITE, Paladins, and Killing Floor 2 for us to play (this guy doesn’t even check the free games section for his plus games every month). A while back Skyforge was put up on the store, and before that games like Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter and Star Trek Online made appearances as well. I had actually played every single one of those games on my PC long before they were ported over to the console, but my friend only has a PS4, no gaming PC to speak of, so here we are. I made him download Skyforge but he wasn’t into (that’s okay, I wasn’t really either) and we played Marvel Heroes a bit but it’s been a while. I thought something with a little depth might be fun and keep us playing together more often, without it being a PvP game where sometimes you get frustrated and end the night early. He’s also a big fan of Star Trek, so I thought this might work out well for us and downloaded it a few nights ago. Unfortunately he said he had already tried it and didn’t care for it either, but I remember feeling that way when I played it on PC as well.

For some reason though, it feels at home on a console. This isn’t DC Universe where it was created with a console port in mind, but it still was a well done port. The controls are fluid and easy to manage, and it’s not a chore sorting through menus. Granted, this isn’t the game that has a shit ton of inventory management or real use for a ton of menus, so that bodes well for a port. Still, it has MMO depth but translated well.

I’ve enjoyed the away missions just fine, but the space combat is where things really shine. It reminds me of a cooler version of Pirates of the Burning Sea, which I played for a while when it launched (I don’t know if that’s an insult or a compliment). I mean, that game too had land missions that were wonky and stupid, but blowing shit up in your pirate ship was pretty cool. It did get boring after a while though. I’m hoping my love for Star Trek is enough to keep me interested here.

I imagine you spend a pretty comparable amount of time in both space and on the ground, but I look forward to getting better ships and seeing more epic battles. I can’t imagine what raid or dungeon content would look like in space, though the ground stuff would be predictable enough. Hell, I’m not even sure how grouping and end-game stuff works at this point, but I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later. This was downloaded on a whim, so I didn’t really look into it and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it more on the console than PC.

Speaking of, I believe it’s the same company that made Neverwinter, and I remember not caring for that on PC either. Perhaps I’ll give it a whirl as well. It’s a shame having a gaming rig go to waste while you play shit on your 1/3 cost console, but I guess having fun is the most important part. So far I rather enjoy this MMO, and plan to play it some more — so we’ll have more on this later!

Thoughts on Secret World Legends

This is one of those rare instances where I’ve had a post sitting in my drafts folder for a while and didn’t get around to finishing it up to post. I have a few spare moments now, so I thought I’d do just that.

So a while back I mentioned having downloaded Secret World Legends on a whim, as it is now a free to play title and it’s on Steam so it was easy to get it on my system and start it up. I didn’t spend a ton of time with it so far, and actually haven’t had the time to play it over the past couple of weeks, with having other games like FF15 and Diablo 3 taking up some of my time, and things like Football being back on means less time to game (but more time to drink brews!). I did manage to make it through the tutorial section of the game and I fully intend on getting back to it, but you know me… always wandering.

I was able to run the game on max settings with no problems. It’s not a bad looking game, though some of the early cut scenes are kind of shitty. Some of the animations are wonky. The combat is a bit on the wonky side too, but veterans say it’s actually more streamlined and better overall at this point. I’ll take their word for it, but it’s more action oriented than tab-targeting, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the idea of Wildstar’s combat being more “twitchy” and this feels like a sort of middle ground between WS and more traditional auto-attacking while standing in place MMO combat.

The storyline is what drew me to the game, and that’s likely what will keep me playing it. Regular readers will know that I’m not huge on MMOs anymore, and honestly most of the time I’d rather dig into the past by playing old loves like Everquest than play something new where it’s more of the same but less familiar and thereby less desirable.

I’m intrigued by the way this is set in a more modern day setting and yet still manages to mix in Cthulhu-esque horror. The behind the scenes of the real world subplot has me wanting to find out more. Some more tedious bits see you having to solve puzzles, but many MMOs in the past have done this so it isn’t really a turnoff. It does feel more like a single player game that you can occasionally play with friends (think Destiny) but that isn’t a bad thing either, because I’m terrible and sticking to any sort of schedule when it comes to these games. That’s not to say that I don’t always come back around and want to play an MMO, it just seems I’m always doing it after that game is no longer popular or past it’s new expansion window so it ends up being a solo experience. That or I get sick of it after a few hours, never to return. Maybe some day I’ll actually play through the entirety of another MMO, but I’m not sure this will be the title to get me to do so. There’s another I’ve tried recently but am saving that for another post. So for now, here are some random screen caps, and we’ll call it a day:

As I said, I’ll be back to talk about this other MMO I’ve dabbled with, and perhaps one of these will actually see some regular playtime. If not, there’s always Diablo or the backlog. Until next time, happy gaming!

TWR: My Love it is a Black Rose

A week or so ago my girlfriend was at Target and picked me up another of the Commander 2017 preconstructed decks, this time it was Arcane Wizardy, and I was really unsure what to do with it. I played it once and it felt severely underpowered compared to some of the other precons from the set. I sat and thought about it long and hard — I didn’t want to play it with Enalla at the helm, but some of the other legendary creatures in the deck that were still Grixis seemed much more interesting to play.

I had narrowed things down to building a deck around either Kess, Mairsil, or Marchesa. As I looked around on EDHREC and other resources, it seemed that the latter, Marchesa, was most suited to my playstyle and after putting together an initial decklist, I felt satisfied with using her to lead the troops. It helped that one of the guys in my playgroup had an integral piece needed to build the deck, and he was interested in doing a trade. So I ended up with a very cool card that will help the deck out, and he gained Mairsil, whom he would like to build a deck around. I ended up cutting out a large chunk of what came with the precon, so let’s look at that list and see what I got rid of:

1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Mairsil, the Pretender
1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Magus of the Mind
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Izzet Chemister
1 Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand
1 Havengul Lich
1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Magus of the Abyss
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Decree of Pain
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist’s Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar’s Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Opportunity
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Crosis’s Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Mirror of the Forebears
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Shifting Shadow
1 Curse of Verbosity
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

As you can see, there wasn’t much left after I pulled out most of the wizards and many of the spells. That curse series in C17 is pretty much garbage, so those were taken out instantly. I removed most of the wizards because the tribal theme isn’t necessary for this deck. Marchesa wants to focus on getting +1/+1 counters on her minions so that when they die, they come right back onto the battlefield.  As such, most of the deck is focused around cards that have nice enter the battlefield effects, or that give/benefit from the counters. Let’s take a look at what I’ve added.

Creatures:

Not a huge amount of fuckery, as Grixis can be known for, but there are still some key elements here. Mikeaus is the card I traded Mairsil for, mainly because he grants undying to all other creatures. Between Marchesa’s Dethrone global and this, it going to be tough for my creatures to go down, as they either come back to the battlefield at end of turn due to Marchesa (if they have counters on them), or come back due to Mikeaus’s Undying (if they don’t have counters on them) thereby giving them the counters so that later Marchesa can save them again. I’m looking at trying to overload the battlefield with creatures and not letting them be taken out by boardwipes or the like. Onward to spells!

Spells:

This was pretty straightforward. I added some card draw and counterspells, along with a couple interesting cards in Press into Service and Tezzeret’s Gambit. The former has a rare keyword called Support, which allows you to distribute two +1/+1 counters as you see fit. The latter has the keyword Proliferate, which allows you to add additional counters to things that already have counters on them. I figured these spells and effects would be helpful for the theme. Onward to the other bits!

Artifacts/Enchatments:

I tried to stay on theme, so things like Unspeakable Symbol and Dragon Blood allow me to generate +1/+1 counters. I also added in some card draw with Phyrexian Arena and Greed. I’ve also tried to add some sacrifice outlets, since being able to sacrifice a creature and get it back the same turn seems like great value. Cards like Ashnod’s altar can be instrumental in getting out other high CMC cards out quickly, and enchantments like Attrition allow me to sac a creature to destroy a high threat target. Overall I think the deck looks pretty good, though I may have to tune it a bit after the fact. I know I don’t have anything to protect Marchesa (like hexproof or shroud) though I have ways to add that to the deck if needbe. I know that lately my commanders have been targeted to the point where I couldn’t actually get anything going, so that’s a potential weakness of the deck. I also may have gone a little too spell heavy in a creature oriented deck, but testing will tell. Anyway, that’s all for this time, happy gaming everyone!

Thoughts on the Diablo 3 Necromancer

It’s been a while since the Rise of the Necromancer pack released, and initially I had very little interest in it. Sure, the Necromancer was my favorite class in Diablo 2, and like most people I wanted to see it in Diablo 3, but the Witch Doctor sort of filled those shoes and I enjoyed the class well enough. When Blizzard decided that they were going to continue to add things to Diablo 3 like new zones, a portion of the first game and now a new class it was great to see, but also somewhat disappointing. I honestly thought they would put out another expansion by now, though I suppose the additional zones and features and now this class could count as such, but it would be interesting to see a new Act added to the game.

The Necromancer pack includes access to the new class, provides some other frivolous items like a portrait frame, wings and banner pieces, and a new pet. The pets just run around and pick up gold for you which is nice but not entirely necessary and I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to attack the little bugger running around. Regardless, it seems like a fairly decent value, though I think I would have priced it around $10 rather than $15. Still, breathing new life into a game that is a few years old is nice and it appears that people are still playing it regularly. I’m late to the party this time around, as season 11 started back in July, but I still rolled a hardcore seasonal version of the new Necro:

He looks like a vampire but he really isn’t. Sort of reminds me Geralt from The Witcher as well. As far as the class goes there are some abilities that remind me of the D2 version of it, things like corpse explosion:

It feels much more effective than it did in the prior game however. If you down a large group and fire this ability off it can really start mowing enemies down and creates a chain reaction. The summoning portion of his abilities feel a little more lackluster, but I’m still early in my progression, so perhaps they will improve. The first summoning skill is the ability to procure Skeletal Mages, which were a stable in D2, along with normal skeletons, etc. These are on a temporary timer in this game though, whereas in D2 they were permanent until they died (or they had a much longer timer, I’m not exactly sure). They do some work, killing things much faster than I, but it feels like something you should be able to keep up all the time, so I’m hoping in the later levels that’s the case. I’m not fully aware of all the class can do just yet, but overall it feels pretty fun.

I managed to play for an hour or so last night and decided to play through the campaign for once, just to familiarize myself with the class. I’ll likely jump into Adventure mode sooner than later, because that’s more my speed. If a new season is starting soon I’ll probably rebirth this guy just to be able to run him through a whole season. Earning the rewards is worth it, even if it’s really just more of the same. I will say that they managed to add some bits and bobs that I was unaware of, the last time I played was season 6, so it has been a while. I’ll report more on these as I get more involved.

No matter how many times I walk away from this game, I always manage to come back. It’s elegant in its simplicity and there’s something about zoning out and aimlessly smashing things that tickles my fancy. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this as I progress, so stay tuned!