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!

By The Numbers: Week 2, 2017

Week 1 is in the books, and it was a good week for my Green Bay Packers! I wasn’t overly worried because the Seahawks have lost some of their weapons from years passed when they defeated us, but outside of the infamous Fail Mary game, they have still managed to pull out some upsets (the championship game a couple of years ago was really frustrating). The whole first half being scoreless isn’t something I think anyone could have predicted, but it bodes well for the defense who really performed well throughout the game. I was shouting at my TV when Mike Daniels created the fumble that would set us up for our first touchdown, and I loved seeing the free play from 12 men on the field generate another touchdown to Jordy Nelson. A great game for sure, but now we have to prepare for week 2, and that means heading down to Atlanta to face off against last year’s NFC champs (who beat us in the playoffs to go to the super bowl… we’re so close to getting back but keep falling just shy of where we want to be). Atlanta barely made it past the Bears last week though, so I think we should be able to produce. I’d like to see the offense get off to a better, faster start, and for the defense to continue to trend up as well as it did this first game. On with the picks (in before the game starts tonight)!

Bengals 24, Texans 20
Ravens 21, Browns 10
Panthers 24, Bills 14
Cardinals 30, Colts 27
Titans 21, Jags 20
Chiefs 27, Eagles 13
Patriots 30, Saints 24
Steelers 31, Vikings 13
Buccs 20, Bears 10
Dolphins 27, Chargers 20
Raiders 35, Jets 3
Broncos 28, Cowboys 21
Rams 27, Redskins 18
Seahawks 35, 49ers 13
Packers 31, Falcons 20
Lions 30, Giants 7

The War Report: Revamping a Precon

Back at the beginning of this year, my playgroup and I decided we wanted to try our hands at Commander/EDH. The logical choice to get started was to pick up a preconstructed deck, and there were plenty to choose from, having all of the sets from 2016 back to when Wizards started to release them and officially support the format. Some of those decks would have been very expensive or unavailable, but we collectively decided we’d order some of the 2015 decks off of Amazon. I picked out the Call the Spirits precon led by Daxos, The Returned.

I played this deck straight out of the box for a few sessions before deciding to try and enhance it. Being new to the format and with a very volatile in-house meta at the time, I’d say now that my additions were haphazard and not necessarily on-theme. I still managed to win some games, but our playgroup had a couple of precons and our third managed to make some underpowered decks of his own creation. As the meta continued to shift, we all got much better at building decks from scratch, and soon it felt like Daxos was not up to snuff. After tweaking it excessively, I felt like it was “done” though I wasn’t overly thrilled with playing it as some of the other decks I had created just felt more powerful and more fun.

Recently my budget for Magic cards took a hit. Instead of being able to basically go hog-wild, I have to be a little more thrifty with my investments. As such, I have taken to looking for ways to build budget decks, or otherwise improve existing decks to get the best bang for my buck. This means spending $20 here and $40 there instead of outright buying a deck for $80+. Still, I can and have found ways to make improvements and have a good time with cards I haven’t played in a while. As it stands now, I have 3 decks in the works, and having received that Wizard precon that I mentioned in the last War Report, I have some things to work on. That doesn’t mean that all of my decks are done either, because Ixalan is bringing some new cards that I can see going well in some of my decks, and Iconic Masters is around the corner which could bring some additional power and drive down prices of some cards because of the reprinting. More to come on that when it happens, but I’m getting off topic.

I started looking at Daxos and realized that I could do some cool things with him, and that the way I had modified the deck was actually detrimental to the theme. There were better options and I started to research them. His ability is a powerful one — he can create */* creatures where * = the number of experience counters I have — these are created for 1WB each. Experience counters come pretty easily — With Daxos in play you cast an enchantment spell and there you go. This means the deck should revolve around enchantments, and though the precon did a good job of this, I found that there were some great options not included. Here’s the decklist as it came out of the box (with cards I removed crossed out):

1 Underworld Coinsmith
1 Karlov of the Ghost Council
1 Burnished Hart
1 Bastion Protector
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Monk Idealist
1 Mesa Enchantress
1 Nighthowler
1 Corpse Augur
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Ajani’s Chosen
1 Doomwake Giant
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Celestial Ancient
1 Celestial Archon
1 Herald of the Host
1 Banshee of the Dread Choir
1 Thief of Blood
1 Treasury Thrull
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Silent Sentinel
1 Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Ancient Craving
1 Gild
1 Dawn to Dusk
1 Righteous Confluence
1 Open the Vaults
1 Deadly Tempest
1 Death Grasp
1 Sol Ring
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Thought Vessel
1 Crystal Chimes
1 Orzhov Cluestone
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Grave Peril
1 Banishing Light
1 Cage of Hands
1 Karmic Justice
1 Vow of Duty
1 Fallen Ideal
1 Seal of Doom
1 Vow of Malice
1 Aura of Silence
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Shielded by Faith
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Underworld Connections
1 Daxos’s Torment
1 Marshal’s Anthem
1 Dictate of Heliod
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
1 Black Market
1 Necromancer’s Covenant

As you can see, I’ve removed a significant chunk of what came with the deck. I didn’t include lands in this list because I left the mana base as is — it was decent enough. These cards weren’t removed all at once, but most of them were placed in other decks or are sitting in my under construction pile. A few of the cards have strictly better replacements, but that isn’t to say that everything I removed was bad, just that some of the cards would be more suited for other decks I have built (or am building) and I felt that it was better to go all-in on the enchantment theme. The obvious thing to do would be to add a bunch of enchantments to the deck, and though I did that, you still need creatures, artifacts and other spells to help things along. The precon came with some enchantment creatures which I didn’t know existed until I played with the deck. However, there are many that weren’t included that are powerful, and if most of the creatures in the deck were enchantment creatures, then I would be getting experience counters left and right. Let’s take a look at what I added:

There are some fucking fantastic enchantment creatures that were a thing during the Theros block, along with a bevy of Gods that count just the same. I only included one God, Athreos, because he was the most on theme with what I am trying to do, but also added a bunch of white and black creatures that will trigger Daxos’ experience counters but also have great abilities on their own. Limiting the amount of spells played or cards drawn per turn is just stupid good, and I also added some cards like Auramancer that give a little bit of graveyard recursion. Lastly, the Tree of Perdition was thrown in as I didn’t have a use for it elsewhere, and it happens to combo with another enchantment from that set. Speaking of, let’s talk about enchantments that I added:

The combo in question is fairly obvious when you put the two cards together, but Tree of Perdition can be used to lower someone’s life total to 13, and then they will lose the game if you have Triskaidekaphobia on the board. An unlikely win-con, but a potential player elimination tool nonetheless. Many of the enchantments packed into the deck were good so I kept quite a few, but added things like Authority of the Consuls and Ghostly Prison for a little tempo control and/or pillowfort action. Others add more utility such as being able to draw more cards or gain some life here and there. Lastly, let’s look at my changes to the non-enchantment spells:

Here I tried to add all around utility. A couple of board wipes, some spot removal, and some tutors. Fun stuff like Torment of Hailfire could be very effective late game, and being able to steal a nice creature from someone else’s graveyard can come in handy. The main win condition here is to go wide with spirits created by Daxos, but to do so, you must be able to withstand (reset) the board state and play out a bunch of low cost enchantments (and enchantment creatures). Once you have 6 or 7 experience counters you can start pumping out 6/6 or 7/7 spirits for 3 mana a pop. They don’t have evasion which can suck, but that’s why you want to optimally clear the board and then start pumping them out. Tutors can help pull the wipe you might need, or the Tree/phobia combo to eliminate someone. Through play testing this deck seems far superior to the precon, and most of the cards that I purchased for the revamp were under a buck each. For $30-40 you should be able to do something similar to your Call the Spirits deck. Happy gaming!

By The Numbers: Week 1, 2017

Wow, I just realized that I hadn’t made my inaugural post for my annual column talking about my favorite professional sport: NFL Football. As the first game of the season is already in the books and (YAY) the Patriots already lost a game, I suppose I can’t really talk about that. What I can talk about is my expectations for the season, and then make my picks as tradition dictates. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I might as well keep it going, right?

The Packers invested heavily in the running game during the draft. There were some other various picks, but no names that really stuck out to me by their reputation. At the end of the day, we needed some true running backs to compliment Ty Montgomery, who transitioned from receiver to back last year. He should be able to continue to get the job done, but tends to rely on clever schemes rather than just pounding the rock down D linemen’s throats. The big splash for tight ends in free agency was surprising, but warranted after losing Cook from last season. He did some good things but apparently decided to hit the road. Now we have last year’s super bowl winning TE Martellus Bennet, along with another all-pro that I can’t remember the name of at this current juncture. I think the short yardage gain game is going to go in our favor this year, and having those big bodies in the end zone means more points scored off the arm of Aaron Rodgers. I think we might finally be back to Super bowl form, having missed the last 6 years (or is it 7?) not winning one since the 2010 season. I think we can get back and I look forward to the season’s journey. Here are my picks for week one:

Bills 27, Jets 9
Falcons 33, Bears 7
Ravens 20, Bengals 14
Steelers 27, Browns 10
Lions 30, Cardinals 27
Texans 17, Jags 14
Raiders 24, Titans 13
Redskins 21, Eagles 20
Colts 23, Rams 20
Packers 30, Seahawks 20
Panthers 31, 49ers 14
Giants 21, Cowboys 17
Saints 24, Vikings 19
Broncos 35, Chargers 7

The War Report: What to Do with Arcane Wizardry?

EDIT (9/25): I decided what to do with this deck, and you can read about that here

The only new Commander 2017 product I was really into was the Edgar Markov led Vampire deck. I’ve spoken about this a time or two already, so I don’t think I need to repeat myself. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t see value in the other decks, it just so happened that I already had a Vampire deck in the works, and being able to play a 3 color commander opens up more opportunities (like the White Vampires coming in Ixalan… a couple of those are sweet auto includes!).

I had passing interest in the Cat deck, mainly because it had a few cards that would benefit my Sram-led, Voltron-themed deck. I also had passing interest in the Wizard deck because it has some interesting cards along with a Grixis color scheme which I have yet to build a deck out of. Wizards seem pretty cool too, though finding a killer win condition was a little more difficult. I had no real interest in the Dragon deck, outside of Ramos who would be a cool 5-color commander that doesn’t require tribal synergy.

Having a lady that supports your bad habits is fantastic. She called me when I was at work the other day and said that she had found the precons at Target (they must have finally put them up on display!) and was asking which ones I wanted. Turns out they didn’t have the Vampire deck (but I already have that one) but they had all of the others. I was torn between the Cat and Wizard options, but I eventually picked Wizards and when I came home there it was.

At this point I’ve opened the deck and sleeved it up. I haven’t altered it in any way. Honestly I think I’ll probably play it as-is to see what the power level is like, but I don’t think it will stay that way for long. I don’t really care for the intended commander of the deck, Inalla.

Eminence is a powerful tool, but I just think the hasty tokens aren’t that great in conjunction with Wizards who are less likely to attack, and more likely want to just tap for an activated ability. Having haste enables that, but it just seems like it would have been more appropriate in like the Cat or Dragon decks. There is the added bonus of being able to tap 5 wizards to ping an opponent for 7 damage, but it seems like you’d just be leaving yourself open to die, unless of course that 7 damage would count towards commander damage which I’m unsure of.

It does turn out that there are several other legendary creatures packed in that I find much more appealing as a commander, and they still fit the Grixis color scheme. I just don’t know which one to roll with:

Kess and Mairsil are both new cards, and Marchesa is a reprint, but a popular commander choice. Kess has the graveyard focus and is screaming to be made into a spellslinging recursion deck. Mairsil wants things to go into the graveyard as well, but he then exiles cards and steals their active abilities. That seems cool enough, but then how many of those abilities are going to translate into a win condition? Lastly, Marchesa has Dethrone and gives this ability to all other creatures I control. Definitely don’t have to stick with a Wizard theme in that case, but I don’t know what sort of theme to go with. Big beaters? Fliers? Trickery? The same can be said of all three of these. I enjoy their abilities more than Inalla’s, but I don’t know what to do with them.

I’ve been scouring EDHREC for the last few days since I ended up with this precon and don’t know which route I want to go. Originally I thought Mairsil was the go-to option, but now I’m seeing the pros and cons of each and am torn with which direction to go. I suppose I will try the precon out since tomorrow is our weekly gathering, and that might give me some more insight into which route suits me.

I’ll be back to report on this once I have made a decision.