The War Report: Commander Anthology

A recent release, the Commander Anthology is part of a series of products designed to relive the past of the game. A bundled experience that is playable out of the box for four players, it reprints four previously available Commander pre-constructed sets, that are in some cases pretty rare, and pretty expensive. Having a four player group meant that we could pick this up and everyone would get a deck, but the MSRP is $160, and the decks themselves are worth varying prices. As such, the argument persisted past the release date, as to how it would be fair to pick who gets what, and what each deck is actually worth. You can see the full product list here along with the going rates for each, and see what I’m talking about. Not only is Kaalia worth more as a card, her deck has more expensive cards in it than the others. Freyalise ends up being the second most valuable though Meren isn’t far off. Derevi however, doesn’t even hit $50 worth of card value. It was a difficult thing to divy up, but then something magical (pun intended) happened.

When we were discussing our meet time for the past week, it turns out that one of our members said that he had a surprise for us, so he was really pushing for our fourth to make it. Everyone showed up and it was revealed that he had in fact picked up the Anthology. It turned out though, that he only had to pay $120 for it, as someone at a shop was willing to sell it cheaper for cash money. Score! Access to the product for less cost seemed to put everyone in a good mood, and we were able to amicably decide how to split up the box.

There are the four decks that come in their own thematic boxes, 4 spinner life counters that could come in handy, though we typically use an app on one of the guy’s iPad. Of the decks that are in the box, I was most interested in Kaalia, followed by Freyalise. Two other players also wanted Kaalia, and one other wanted Freyalise and Meren. The last guy didn’t care at all, and we ended up giving him first pick. Due to the price cut, it was agreed upon that Kaalia would be worth $60, and the others worth $30 each. I only brought $30 with me, and that seemed to be all anyone else wanted to spend, so the guy who picked the box up stuck with Kaalia, and our less picky player picked out Darevi. Myself and the last remaining player both wanted Freyalise, but I convinced him that he should pick Meren because he actually wanted the deck and to let me have Freyalise and that’s how it ended up.

We broke into the decks and played one very long game (that was interrupted plenty) that I ended up winning with the Elvish tribal deck. It was fun, and I’m looking forward to taking some of its pieces to put into my other mono-green deck, where I can already see a better commander and some other additions for a straight up elvish tribal deck. We all agreed again before the end of the night that it would be cool to pick up another box for the same price and let everyone get another deck, and I agreed to be the larger purchase this time around, so soon I will have a Kaalia that will be taken apart to use in other ways, but just having her in my Angel/Demon deck will be sweet. I feel that most of her pieces will be well used.

Overall I think the product is great if you either want an instant collection of four decks for yourself, or if you have a dedicated group that wants to get into Commander. Even at $160 it’s a pretty good value, but if you can find a deal it’s even sweeter!

The War Report: Metamorphosis 2.0

The title of this week’s War Report is brought to you by this article over on “the mothership” as it’s been affectionately called. It’s a look at the future of Magic, along with some of the observations made by the design team. Very insightful, and a good read for those of you who happen to be interested in the game. The main focal points of this article point to changes in the way the release schedule works, but doesn’t rock the boat too much:

  • There will be 4 releases per year, but 2 block sets are gone. We’ll get three big releases per year. The additional set will be a revised core set (50/50 reprints/new cards).
  • Planeswalker appearances will be toned down.
  • Less Masterpiece series — the next set will not have them.

I’ve also borrowed this title because there has been a shifting of the sands within my own playgroup, and a wider net has been cast in our hopes to keep things fresh. Magic has been around for a long time, and the 25th anniversary is here bringing with it the promise of a return to a familiar schedule, re-visitation of old worlds and several interesting products. The full announcement can be viewed here, but the main gist of things I will attempt to abbreviate cut and paste here:

September 20, 2017 Ixalan releases September 29 and features Pirate Vraska battling Dinosaurs?!
November 10, 2017 Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins releases Novemeber 10, 2017.
November 10, 2017 The Art of Magic: the GatheringIxalan releases November 10, 2017.
November 17, 2017 Iconic Masters releases. Exclusive preview at HASCON.
November 24, 2017 Explorers of Ixalan is an out-of-the-box multiplayer experience that releases November 24, 2017.
November 24, 2017 From the Vault: Transform releases November 24, 2017 featuring fifteen transforming cards.
December 8, 2017 Unstable releases, a new silver-bordered set release on December 8, 2017.
January 19, 2018 Rivals of Ixalan, the second set of the Ixalan block releases.
March 16, 2018 Masters 25 releases, a 25th anniversary–edition Masters set.
April 28, 2018 (Return to) Dominaria releases April 28, 2018.
June 20, 2018 Core Sets return on June 20, 2018.

Honestly, there are some cool things going on here. We just recently saw the release of the Commander Anthology that brought back some of the strong commanders from past years, and there have already been leaks for the upcoming Commander 2017 sets. There’s a tribal theme going on as well, because the forthcoming Duel Deck release features two of the most iconic tribes that haven’t really been represented in the official WotC commander decks — it’s likely there will be some cards worth looting from that pack. We don’t know a bunch about Ixalan, but there’s dinosaurs n’ stuff… should be interesting to say the least.

So my playgroup has had a shifting 4th member for the past few weeks, and it seems that he is a pretty good player and being everyone else’s prior friend means he melded right in. The only draw back is that he apparently has plenty of cards in his collection, but hasn’t had the time to put together an EDH deck so he’s been playing ours. This is fine, but typically one wants to know the ins and outs of a deck before playing it competitively. I say competitively loosely, because we probably aren’t rocking tournament ready decks but we love kicking the shit out of each other nonetheless. Despite that lone drawback, it has been fun playing 4-player games, and we have all found additional weaknesses to our decks, particularly in the mana curve department. It seems we have all been playing rather slow, but it has worked out in 3 player games. That extra person makes a big difference with how you play the game, so we have all gone back to the drawing board a bit. We’ve also been discussing going to the next pre-release night at the local card store, but also in pitching in on things like the Anthology where we all get something cool but don’t have to buy the whole thing outright. Our group is expanding its horizons a bit and it’s been something I spend a lot of time thinking about. More so than video games most of the time, which is an odd thing. But I digress.

Recently I put together a “fuck you” deck, which is basically built around exploiting the commander’s ability to lock down the board. In practice (only took it for a spin once) I was doing okay, but then got eliminated. I think a few more games will help me determine what help it needs. The problem is that once I play a deck for a couple of weeks I want to build a new one, and the ideas are coming in faster than the money is to pay for this shit. I’m being budget minded and attempting to keep the spending to a minimum but holy shit this is cardboard crack. I’ve already built a deck that I just have to purchase the loose ends for, but also have a couple of other commanders in mind to build towards.

After our last play session, my friend and I were talking about cards that would fit well within my Reaper King deck and he suggested dropping a Sram, Senior Edificer into it. I agreed with him at the time and when I was at home I dug out my copy. It turns out I had two, so I thought to myself that he would make a pretty damn good commander himself. I started doing the research and built out an entire deck centered around artifacts — which also happens to be a great way to play some of the vehicles I have lying around like Heart of Kiran (which I’ve owned for 6 months without finding a use for). The card draw engine is incredible and it’s perfect for a “Voltron” style deck. After putting that one together (on paper) I felt like going mono-colored has some advantages, after having found great success with my Molimo ramp deck and feeling like “Sramtron” looks like so much fun (again, on paper).

I don’t really have much going on with red. Despite using it in both my Angel deck and 5-color Reaper King deck, I’ve stuck with minimal amounts of red. I want to rectify that, because there are some fun looking cards that I have lying around and others that I’d like to own. I thought about going Goblin tribal, but I’m going to wait for the Duel Deck and Commander 2017 releases because I feel like there might be more love thrown their way — even the 25th anniversary masters set is likely to contain some gems. Plus, Gobs are pretty played out from way back when, so I’d like to do something a little more unique with more cards available to me. Dragons are definitely just as played out, and though I’d prefer to play a 2 or 3 colored deck, we already have one of those in the playgroup. Mono-red dragons though, now that could be different. Granted, most of the dragons will be the same most of the time, but knowing the way he plays I should be able to find some different cards to shake things up. I’m thinking a burn sub-theme, but perhaps I’ll find some other tricks as I put it together.

Lastly, I started thinking about mono-black. I don’t know what it is about black, but I want it in all of my decks (and almost have that). Unfortunately many of the more obscure or recently black legendary creatures didn’t really excite me. I also don’t really care about vampires, but it was the next biggest theme in the color outside of zombies and demons. I already have plenty of demons in my angel deck and I have a zombie deck, so those were a no-go. So vampires it is. I think I’m going to go fairly aggro in this deck mainly because you can find various ways to beef up vampires so cheap ones will help out. Black is good at ramping as well, and big finishers like Nightmare can be fun.

Anyway, the state of the game is always changing, but it seems that we are all in it for a long haul. I’m hoping some of our journeys to game shops will expand our group and perhaps create other options for playing, because I tell ya once a week is not enough!

Killing Floor 2 — A Righteous Gorefest

I was actually gifted a copy of Killing Floor 2 last year. I had played the original during one of those free weekends on Steam — as a matter of fact I believe it was during one of those gaming events the blogging community used to take part in. I was looking forward to the sequel because I enjoyed the format of the game. Regular readers will know that I enjoy games that are first person shooters, lobby-based, co-op, and have to do with Zombies. Though Zeds have become a bit of a tired addition to gaming for a while, I still enjoy the Zombie survival game modes that have been around for a decade or more. Most famous are games like Call of Duty that had its separate Zombies game mode, or other titles like Sniper Elite that had spin-offs such as Zombie Army Trilogy. The co-op, wave based survival mechanic is not entirely over done just yet, and not having other game modes tacked on keeps things focused.

Generally speaking, you’ll start off by picking a class which are actually referred to as Perks in this particular title. Each perk or class has a particular starting loadout of gear, along with specific weapons they can buy between rounds that are designed for them. Classes will earn more experience by staying within their weapon group, but everyone has the option of using any gear they see fit. As the perks level up, additional bonuses unlock for that perk, allowing for some nice passive effects. For instance, the class I am currently enjoying most — the Swat perk — unlocks a passive at level 5 that gives him 50% armor for free at the start of the game and that can mean more money in your pockets for that round 2 upgrade.

Game play is standard fare, though I would like to say that the game is beautiful (gory too!) and runs smoothly even on the PS4, and the gun play is top notch. Zed AI is fairly straightforward with each enemy type falling into predictable patters, though the boss creatures are particularly painful. I should note that despite having played this on PC for a bit, it seemed that the player base was rather light so I didn’t get to give it a proper go. It ended up being one of the free games for PS4 this month via Playstation Plus however, so I got on my friend to download it and we have been playing it for the past few nights. We’ve been having a blast, and despite not being all that great at shooters, he has been holding his own. It helps that you have a team of 6, and as long as everyone is paying attention you can all help each other out. Typically no one dies until the boss fight, even on the longer round matches. I assume you wouldn’t want to move onto the harder difficulties without leveling your perks up a bit first though.

I’ve earned a few of the trophies thus far, and most of my screenshots will reflect that, though it’s pretty cool how some of them turned out, because the PS4 automatically saves a picture when a trophy is earned. There are quite a few cool action shots as a result:

I also happened to remember to save a video clip after finally getting a boss kill, and thought I’d share that with you all as well. It’s the entire boss battle, so it’s a few minutes, but it was pretty intense and I ended up being the last man standing (though my best friend was the last to fall before I got the killing blow). We did later fight that boss and take him out before he managed to run away to heal (as he did in the video) which nets a gold trophy. At this point I just have to find all of the collectibles on most maps (have the trophy for one) and play many more matches to have won 25, along with leveling a Perk fairly high. Anyway, here’s the video:

If you have a Playstation 4 the game is free right now, so go check it out. If you are a PC only type of person, I can still recommend the game, but you might want to convince some friends to buy in as well, as it seems the PC crowd is fairly small.

Thoughts on E3 2017

Despite the fact that I knew E3 was coming up fairly soon I didn’t realize it was this weekend and ended this evening with Sony’s Conference. When I realized I had missed a couple of days worth of news I figured I would make my rounds and check out trailers and whatnot. The usual suspects were present as always: EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, and the PC Gaming Show. Most years when I talk about the games coming out of E3 it’s difficult to cut a list down to a manageable size for a blog post, but this year it was difficult to put together this list. There simply wasn’t much announced that was really amazing and the rest of the show was just more information on things we already knew about. I was underwhelmed with the total package, and the sprinkled in bits from YouTube/Twitch personalities along with some cringy e-sports tie-ins did not add to the overall experience. That isn’t to say that I don’t see some games on the horizon that interest me, it just felt like less of them than usual. Perhaps I’m just less enthused with gaming in general as of late. Either way, let’s run through my anticipated games from E3 2017:

The Crew 2

I was hesitant to put The Crew’s sequel on my list, because despite owning the first game and enjoying it, at some point I was locked out of my Ubisoft account so I can’t access any of the games (of which I admit are few) that I own that are accessed via the Ubisoft launcher. And though I purchased most of said games via Steam, you still have to use the Ubi launcher to play them. I did my due diligence as far as trying to recover my account via their various means of support, but that’s basically shit so the games I did own I deleted and the launcher was removed from my system. I will not be buying anymore games from them on my PC. On PS4 however, I wouldn’t have any problems, so I might just go that route. The added elements to this sequel feel like they’ll make the game even more entertaining than it already was, and I’m sure the title would feel great on console anyway.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

I didn’t think Wolfenstein The New Order would resonate as well with me as it did. Original trailers made it look rather hokey and generic, but after playing through DOOM I was still craving that old-school shooter vibe so I gave WTNO a try. I loved it. It had everything I enjoy in a single player shooter and played liquid smooth on my PC. I have no doubts that the sequel will also play amazing and bring back the feels.

The Evil Within 2

Admittedly I did not finish the first chapter of this game, and feel that I should do so before I play this one. I’d also say that this isn’t high on my list of must-haves, but I did enjoy the vibe of the original and felt it was more on par with earlier Resident Evil style games. This makes sense due to the pedigree of the creator, but I have to admit that the recently released Resident Evil VII was phenomenal. EW2 will have to pull it’s weight if it wants the survival horror crown.

Quake Champions

We saw Quake Champions announced last year, and I didn’t really think much of it. It’s been quite some time since I’ve played a true arena shooter with any regularity, but I did spend many hours playing Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and later Quake Live, so I do have that itch on occasion. The addition of some interesting layers such as individual champions and special abilities makes me think it will fit right up my alley. I love the shit out of Paladins, and though I know they aren’t an apples to apples comparison, the similarities are there and give me the feeling I’ll enjoy it.

Anthem

A new Bioware game comes with bated breath. Though I didn’t see anything wrong with what little I’ve played of their last two releases (ME:A and DA:I before that) there have been plenty of stories about broken releases and uninspired content for both so I look at Anthem as a possible must-have, but I’m not sure yet. From the trailer I gather that it will be a multiplayer RPG, and it looks like it’s Mass Effect style gameplay. I assume this is EA’s answer to Activision’s Destiny, similar to their yearly battle for profit shares via Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. I’d also assume Bioware took lessons learned from their multiplayer formats for Mass Effect and Dragon Age and hopefully do this one right. Knowing the things we know though, it’s hard to say. I’ll be watching this one for sure.

Beyond Good & Evil 2

A long awaited sequel to a beloved game from early adulthood. I played the original back in the Playstation 2 days and then played it again when the remaster hit on Playstation 3. The cinematics alone show the sheer amount of time that has passed between the two games, we never imagined games looking like that when we were playing the original. Still, no real gameplay yet, so who knows if it’s really going to release? I think we’ll probably see it next year at the earliest. Still one I’m looking forward to!

BattleTech

An interesting looking title that came out of the PC Gamer show, it appears to be a turn based strategy game, but I only saw bits of combat. Will their be base management or other meta games? Time will tell I suppose. Still looks pretty cool even if it is just battles all the time!

Playlink

Sony introduced their Playlink program. An interesting new development, but not the first time I’ve seen apps on our phones try to interact with other devices. Companion apps are nothing new, but games where you get to play the game using your phone as a controller aren’t quite so common. The only one I’ve played was made by fellow blogger Talarian, called Eon Altar. The games they teased were nothing like the aforementioned RPG, but still the idea is a novel concept. I’m hoping something interesting comes out of this line of games.

Gran Turismo Sport

One of the games on my list that isn’t a new announcement, it’s actually supposed to release in Q4 of this year, but it’s very highly anticipated for me. I absolutely adore the GT series and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

It was definitely teased at the end of Nathan Drake’s run of the Uncharted franchise that his daughter would pick up the reigns, and in the trailer we find a grown up daughter ready to follow in her father’s footsteps. It’s unclear if the game will be co-op, but it sure looked that way in the trailer. Though older entries have always had companions, so perhaps it’s still traditional AI. Regardless, Naughty Dog are great at what they do so I’m sure it will be a blast no matter how they tell the story.

Days Gone

This one came out of nowhere and has a very Last of Us sort of feel. I liked what I saw, but who knows what the game will actually play like.

There were many other titles showcased, and of course there are still a couple more days dedicated to Nintendo and I’m sure there are more indies to be announced, but this was the bulk of what I saw that I was the most interested in this time around.

Thoughts on Elder Scrolls Legends

I remember hearing about The Elder Scrolls Legends a while back, and thinking that it was a game I should give a try at some point. At the time, I was sick of Hearthstone and I had tried Magic Duels but didn’t care for it. I also wasn’t back to playing paper Magic just yet, so I was looking for something to scratch that CCG itch without being one of the games I had already tried or lost interest in. There was a beta at some point and the game has been released for a time, but it recently came to Steam which brought it back to my attention. I downloaded the game and gave it a whirl the other night, and despite some similarities to both Hearthstone and Magic, it stands on its own merits in other ways.

You’ll log in and create an account with Bethesda if you don’t already have one. Then you get to pick an avatar from the familiar races of TES lore and set off into the tutorial where the various mechanics of the game will be explained. Like Hearthstone and Magic, creatures have power and toughness and various abilities that trigger depending on circumstances. Some of the names will sound familiar, others will be new in name only having the same effect that you would expect. Like Hearthstone, you will start with one mana and build up another mana each turn. Also like the coin, there is a ring that will provide you 3 charges of one mana (used once a turn), which is actually pretty damn nice. Most of the enter-the-battlefield effects are what you would expect, but I feel like there are more similarities with MTG in this regard; more effects and spells that do interesting things that I didn’t see during my time in Hearthstone (though I’m sure there are plenty of differences between the game I played and what the game is like now).

The major differences that I’ve seen thus far is the ability to upgrade cards which feels more like the RDA’s I’ve talked about recently — though it doesn’t function exactly the same. In Clash Royale, you collect multiple copies of a card to upgrade it for a small in-game currency fee. Here you’ll earn upgrades for card that then change into different versions of that type of card — you’ll have a lizard creature that will change into a version of your choice, either offensive or defensive, for example. Not all cards can be upgraded, and I’m not 100% sure how you earn the upgrades, but it’s a neat idea. Another big difference between this CCG and others I’ve played is the addition of “lanes” and effects those lanes can have. You can play creatures in either of the right or left lanes, but you can only attack creatures in that particular lane. At one point the tutorial shows a “shadow” lane which gives units played in that lane “cover” for a turn, which makes them untargetable. It’s a neat idea as well, and I assume there will be other cards that will affect those lane rules but I have yet to see that. One of the coolest differences (and something I wish existed in MTG!) is the runes that surround your character. Each time you lose 5 life a rune breaks and you draw a card. In some circumstances, the card you draw can even be played for free!

A story is present through the tutorial battles and is apparently something that was recently added to the game, where you can continue this story and play against AI while leveling your account. It’s a good idea to play single player modes to learn all of the mechanics and perhaps earn some cards along the way. Deckbuilding seems straightforward enough, but it more like Magic because you can have a larger deck than the traditional limit of 50 if you so choose. No more having to cut that awesome card, just go over on your deck size!

The store is set up similarly to the other digital CCGs I’ve played. There is a core set and an expansion for the Brotherhood was recently released. You can buy packs for in-game gold or dump a little real money into the game, which I have yet to do but might if I become a little more invested. Prices seem reasonable. Overall I think it’s a very well done CCG and a great answer if you are like me and got sick of what else is already on the market. You can play for free so if this genre is up your alley I’d give it a shot!