TWR: Zendikar Rising Spoilers

It’s September already, and with that comes the major fall expansion for Magic: The Gathering. This time around it’s a return to Zendikar, and with Zendikar Rising‘s release coming later this month, I thought I’d take a look at the spoilers and share some of the new cards with you. I formatted this post a little differently in that I’ve highlighted some features of the set, and then otherwise just lumped mythics and rares into categories rather than splitting things up by color. I didn’t bother with uncommons and below, mainly because there wasn’t much of interest there for me, and I’ve only highlighted the mythics/rares that I found to be the most interesting. Lists of the entire set can be found in a multitude of places if you’re interested in looking.

So this is another set that doesn’t have just one “buy-a-box promo,” instead it has a series of box-toppers. That is likely to be the new method going forward, as we haven’t seen a singular promo card for a while now. The proliferation of the collector booster and now with the inclusion of “set boosters” along with the whole draft booster boxes that are what we would consider “normal” seems to be the new norm. It’s confusing for sure, but what I can tell you is this: Draft booster boxes are the standard box buying experience. You’ll get one or two box toppers depending on which option you select. Otherwise you can expect 36 packs of normal and borderless/showcase cards (which is now the norm for sets as well). The Set booster is new with Zendikar Rising but doesn’t change a whole lot. I believe it’s less packs per box, yet there is a slot in each pack that *can* contain a randomly selected card from “the list.” That list is 300 or so cards not part of the normal set, but essentially reprints that could be worth something, or could be lame (like a wayfarer’s bauble). Then there’s collector’s boosters, of which a box contains somewhere in the ballpark of 20 packs. Each pack has more rare slots and foils, also can contain the box toppers, and you’ll get box toppers with the purchase. So basically, if you want to approach this as a normal set, you can ignore all of this and buy a draft booster box. If you want to increase your odds of getting more box toppers or other “cool” cards you can try your luck with the other stuff.

New Commander Decks:

Another new part of this set is the two commander precons that are releasing alongside the standard set. We’ve known this was happening, but were unsure of how it would come about. Now we have some extra details. Both of the decklists can be seen in full here. There are 3 new cards per deck, one of which is the face-card commander in foil. The other two are exclusive to this product, but nothing amazing is coming from it. This means there are a lot more reprints though, which could up the value. Current pricing suggests the lists are worth between $80-100, but we aren’t sure what they’ll sell for. The community seems to think that they’ll be priced lower than traditional commander decks, but we shall see. From what I’ve gathered, there isn’t a lot here to make me want to pick up the decks, but for some it will be a boost to their collections.

Sneak Attack:

The first deck is called Sneak Attack and is a rogue tribal deck. This is actually the first real commander that cares about rogues, and there are quite a few good rogues throughout Magic’s history, most of which are already included in the deck. It looks pretty solid, and could be tweaked to be a mill focused deck as well, if you chose to go that way. The new cards aren’t great but they fit in with the deck.

Land’s Wrath:

Land’s Wrath is the other precon, and it does less for me. I’m not really into naya, I don’t like making lands into creatures, and the new cards are kind of meh. Check out the list for yourself to see if it’s for you.

Box Toppers:

So WotC announced earlier in the year that they would be reprinting fetch lands. Everyone thought the logical place for that was in either Double Masters or Commander Legends, but then they released the list of box toppers, and there ya go. As I explained earlier, you’ll get 1-2 of these cards with a purchase of a box, and then have extra chances at finding them in collector boosters. However, we have like 4 different cycles of lands and a smattering of singular ones so you might not even get a fetch at all. Seems like a lackluster way of reprinting some of the most in-demand cards in the whole game, but I have to admit I REALLY like the artwork for these.

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Mythics:

And now onto the better cards in the set. Overall I’m not very hyped for any of these cads, although there are a few I can see as easy additions to some of my decks. There are also a few new legendary creatures that could be fun to build around, but nothing on the hyper competitive side from what I can see.

About the only card legendary card that will likely see play in more competitive formats is the new Tazri, which basically does similar things to old Tazri, and can probably continue on as one of the higher tier generals. I like red creatures here for easy extra combats and mana, while the Ancient Greenwarden is a Crucible of Worlds and a doubler on landfall triggers. The black demon is pretty spicy too, as for only 2 mana you can greatly speed up the game.

Rares:

I’m really into this new Akiri, and also the new cleric, Orah. Akiri gives much needed card draw in Boros, and as I already run an equipment based deck in Jeskai, this one will slot right in. Extra card draw in those colors is always wanted. Orah is screaming to be made into cleric tribal, and I’ve actually brewed a few lists in Orzhov that featured a bunch of clerics, so I think this needs to happen. It’s likely that an aristocrats strategy will be employed, as you can use Teysa Karlov and sacrifice outlets to create loops with this commander. Start off with a high cmc cleric that dies, and then return another lesser CMC cleric to the battlefield. Rinse and repeat, then use something else that returns the high cmc cleric and bob’s your uncle. I think there can be some exploitative ways to build the deck. Some of the other cards here are interesting too, but those two speak to me the most.

And that’s about all I have for today. Happy pack-cracking when the time comes!

Quick Look: Fall Guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was a title that came out of nowhere for me. I honestly probably wouldn’t have looked twice at it, were it not for being part of the Playstation Plus free games this month. It was also a new release, which is the first time we’ve gotten a brand new game via the service for quite some time. Regardless, I typically try out most of the free games and 9 times out of 10 I’m done with them after a quick look. However, this game has a bit of staying power, in that I’ve played it several times over the month, even getting a few rounds in with my son.

Fall Guys sits in a weird place. It’s a multiplayer elimination style game, which mostly reminds me of Ninja Warrior or Wipeout which were obstacle courses that people would attempt to get through, and those that did make it through would then be judged based on their time — fastest gets first place. In this game, it’s the same sort of principle, however you play to be the last man standing, and individual rounds are timed or have a maximum amount of people who can qualify. If you run out of time during one of the team games, and your team has the worst score, then you’re out. If you fail to qualify before the set number of people do, then you’re out. There are various rounds and types of courses that you’ll experience, each picked at random. The overall collection of rounds is called a “show” and after each game you’ll get placed on a leader board where those eliminated will be popped off. I believe there are a total of five rounds, but I have yet to make it past a fourth.

As you can see, the game utilizes “cute” graphics and 90’s pastels and neons. Generally speaking it’s not really about the graphics, but I suppose keeping it light and fluffy was the way to go, as hyper realism probably would take away from its charm. Really though it’s a physics based game where falling down happens a lot, due to people running and/or jumping into you. You can grab other players too in order to get ahead or try and push them off of edges. Anything goes with these dastardly dudes.

I’m not exactly sure how many actual courses/events there are, but I’ve seen quite a few of them. Some of my favorites just involve running through the gambit, but I also enjoy the spinning platforms and the tiles that disappear from under you, where you’re constantly jumping from square to square like Q-Bert. I’m really not partial to the team based ones, where you’ll play soccer, try to hold onto your tails, or try to keep balls in your quadrant. Depending on a team and then losing sucks.

In between games you’ll earn rewards, the purple stuff being an in-game currency and the pink stuff being your experience. As you level up you’ll unlock color palettes and skins for your character, and you can also buy other bits and bobs from the in-game store. It does not appear that there are any sort of micro transactions, so that’s a plus. The skins and colors are all pretty basic though, so I assume at some point more will be added in or perhaps there will be some reasonably priced DLC. Honestly I don’t see much of a point in the customization but that’s the world we live in these days.

That’s really all there is to say about the game. If you have Playstation Plus you should grab it up for free while you can. If nothing else it can be a fun little romp for your friends, but I doubt it will have a long term lifespan for many.

TWR: Commander Collection Green

The year only has a few months left in it, but that’s enough time for Wizards of the Coast to squeeze in a ton of products — some we’ve known about for a while, like Commander Legends and some that were announced but little else was revealed. Today we’re able to advance our knowledge of one of these products a bit further. Introducing Commander Collection: Green.

A product that I feel most closely resembles the Signature Spellbook series, the Commander Collection series will assuredly provide needed reprints and fancy alternate art for powerful cards in the color, and more specifically, those that are legal in Commander. The spellbooks were awesome, and I have picked up the three that have released, while assuming that there will be at least two more, as Green and Black have yet to be represented. Ditto this product, I’ll assume going forward that we should get at least four more encompassing the game’s five colors. We now know that this product will release in the beginning of December, and while it is similar to the spellbooks, one key difference emerges: There is a “premium” version, which contains the same cards with the same artwork, but all of them are foil. Who knows what retail will run for that, but given the price gouging happening with all of the collector and VIP products over the course of the year, I assume the premium version will be a bit pricey. The regular version will hopefully retail in the ballpark of $30-40 which seems fair given the contents. Speaking of the contents, let’s get to that:

So I understand the inclusion of Command Tower and Sol Ring since those are staple cards that go in nearly every EDH build, but honestly I think they could have been other cards instead. Since the theme is green, they made a thematically green artwork for both of these cards that are cool (I’m all about the alternate art stuff to stand out from the crowd) but I still think a Nature’s Claim or a Song of the Dryads might have been the better cards to include. Otherwise we have some really great gems here. Worldly Tutor hasn’t been reprinted in ages, ditto that for Sylvan library and though I own them I’d like more copies that are guaranteed (rather than digging through packs or paying a lot for the singles). Bane of Progress is a great card, as is Seedborne Muse, and though I’m not huge on Omnath, he is a signature green commander. Freyalise is an interesting include, mainly because she’s only had 2 printings so I suppose she could use the reprint but I also don’t think she’s that important of a card in the color. Sure, my mono-green stompy mid deck uses her to throw out some dorks or for removal but she’s still sort of run of the mill. A mono Garuuk might have been more on point. Either way I’m not complaining, I love the new art and I think this is a solid product, I just hope it isn’t pushed out of my price range by the time it comes around.

Spoilers for Commander Legends have begun as well, so I’ll have more thoughts to share about that product soon. I also have a bunch of other drafts in the works, just needed some downtime as of late. Until then.

TWR: Double Masters Spoilers

The World of Magic: The Gathering is a strange place. Not only does Wizards of the Coast seemingly pull new product ideas out of their asses, but some of their newer offerings are beginning to feel a bit like a cash grab. The secondary market is making things worse to be fair, but creating products that appeal to a wide audience and then selling them at an already high MSRP (which technically doesn’t exist for them anymore, but they’re still selling to distributors at particular price points for particular products, while those distributors then mark up to sell to an LGS, who then marks up to sell to you) lends itself to that concept. We’ve seen a pattern of core sets and normal standard rotation sets along with supplemental products for years, but the inclusion of themes and collector’s boosters have artificially inflated the prices of some boxed products. They’ve even taken a chunk of the secondary market for themselves by releasing products like Secret Lair which are just new-art reprints of sought after cards which they sold for what typically ended up being more than the cards were worth. I occasionally splurge to get some bling for a favorite deck, but when said bling becomes prohibitively priced (packs and sealed products that are randomized are gambling, after all) with a risk attached, I’m probably out. I’ll save some coin and buy singles.

So this pattern has persisted as we’ve been seeing these supreme collector’s items with each new set, and though secret lairs have slowed down for a while, we then had a hubbub about shortages in printing of Jump Start, which was already in high demand before release. This is all old news, by the way, but I have yet to comment. So this set is considered an “unlimited print run” which means as long as there’s demand, they will continue to print. WotC has already said that there will be more of Jump Start coming down the pipeline, but that didn’t stop some eBay from grabbing up the product, and then marking up the boxes because of the shortage. Reportedly, some customers even had orders cancelled stating that they didn’t have enough product on hand (despite taking preorders) and then immediately relisted for more money. This set in particular is on par with a standard set though, so it’s not worth the $200+ that people are charging for a box, while you can grab a box of Core 2021 right now for $99. As such, people are stupid for falling for these price gougers, but also it’s sad that it’s happening. Enter the next elephant in the room:

We haven’t had a “masters” set in a couple of years. The last one was Ultimate Masters, and it was hailed as one of the best masters sets in years. I rather enjoyed the reprints I was able to get my hands on. Despite the fact that we have Commander Legends coming later on this year which is specifically made for EDH players, masters sets have always provided needed reprints for eternal formats. As such, I was excited for Double Masters despite the fact that it’s a terrible name. When we started getting promos, it became clear that there were a large number of needed reprints of cards that have become really expensive to buy singularly — this set has proved once again that the idea works, but they didn’t stop at simple reprints, instead there is something more for that collector with deep pockets (maybe you?).

Typical masters sets have more expensive packs than those in standard sets. This is presumably because there are more “chase cards” that are worth more money, despite the fact that reprinting cards costs exactly 0% more for WotC to produce compared printing new cards. There is usually something “premium” to draw you to one of these sets, and though it wasn’t a masters set, I’d argue that Mystery Boosters did this right. They reprinted OG art and added a foil in each pack and those foils were cards that were separate from the normal list of cards in the packs, along with being the first foil printing for those cards. That’s a cool little “gamble” while you’re really chasing the other cards in the set. Whatever the case, masters boxes are only 24 packs instead of the 36 packs that come in standard sets. So we’ve accepted paying more and getting less, and it’s probably too late to go back on that. But I remember sets back in around 2017 that were like $7 a pack instead of $4 a pack, while more recent sets were +/- $10 a pack. Typical box price of Ultimate Masters was between $200-250. This set, mainly because people know this is “limited print run” has already begun to spike, and boxes are over $300. The only real difference? Well, nothing really. There are two rare slots per pack, that’s something I guess. They have the box toppers, but I’m actually unsure if those are even part of buying a box of Double Masters due to another product that was also announced, which is this sets’ “collector booster.”

The VIP Edition is one pack of cards. It’s something like 33 cards, but you’re getting a chunk of full art lands (which are also reprints), still get foil commons and uncommons, and then you get box toppers. To be fair, the box toppers are awesome, and the ability to grab full art, showcase, or alternate art cards in regular packs in nearly every set this year has been pretty cool. But at the same time, the VIP booster costs like $100 for 33 cards while for $300 you get 360. Which is ridiculous to think you’re paying $1 per tiny piece of cardboard. Whatever the case, I’m really happy to see the reprints here. I need cards like Dark Confidant, Blightsteel Colossus, and a couple of the swords. I need a Mana Crypt and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I’m hoping the prices plummet enough to grab some singles, but with box prices what they are I can’t justify the gamble. Anyway, rant over. I do want to share the box toppers because they’re gorgeous, but otherwise that’s all I have for today.

Boxtoppers:

Mythics:

Rares:

Fancy Lands:

(Only in the VIP edition)

Izlain out.

Farcry 5: The First Region

Ubisoft, much like EA and some of the other big video game publisher/developers have had their fair share of mistakes made over the years. I don’t really purchase too many of their titles as a result, because quite simply their cookie-cutter game design that allows them to churn out titles year after year tends to lead to boring experiences. I’m talking about the Call of Duty‘s and Assassin’s Creed‘s of the world. However, I am not immune to their charms at times, having purchased a handful of Call of Duty titles, and though I don’t enjoy Assassin’s Creed, I’ve always been somewhat curious about the Farcry franchise. I recall people talking positively about it in the past, and I’ve seen a video or two that made it seem somewhat appealing, but until now I’ve not legitimately played a single one. That changed recently, due to a sale on the Playstation Store, where the fifth (and latest in the numbered series) game was on sale for only $15. There were options for complete DLC editions and whatnot, but not knowing if I’d even like the game, I managed my risk. I also have a little less disposable income as of late due to the purchase of my car, so I’m trying to play through some games I already own, and only pick up cheap options otherwise. Nonetheless, I’ve started the game and have played it pretty regularly over the last week, managing to complete one of the game’s three regions. I say complete loosely, due to the sheer number of things you can do in a given region, but I did a large portion of what was on offer, and I assume at some point later in the game I could go back and do some cleanup. So as I’ve pretty much gone into this experience blind, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the series, this game in particular, and my personal story with it.

I neglected to take any screenshots during the tutorial, but the set up is basically this: You’re a rookie in the Hope County Sheriff’s department in Montana, where a religious cult has been terrorizing the locals. You’re heading in with U.S. Marshals to take on this threat. Things go okay for a while, then shit hits the fan, and as you attempt to obscond with the cult’s leader, his people go crazy, climbing onto your helicopter and literally sacrificing themselves in the chopper’s blades to cause a crash landing. Some of your comrades are captured but you manage to escape. From here, this little island serves as a tutorial area, getting you used to the game’s mechanics. The above graphic describes the majority of activities that you’ll take part in through the rest of the game. I’m not sure if it’s really “emergent” AI, but things seem to happen randomly enough, and as you complete the above tasks enemies get even stronger, or more variety of enemies will appear. For example, you’ll start with roving bands of cultists that will attack if they see you, to then having actual hunters tracking you down, to then having airplanes gunning for you. It’s never to a point of being too hard, but it definitely can get annoying at times.

For the most part, if you’ve played any open world games, you’ll be familiar with what is on offer here. There is a character customization option, but you never see yourself unless you utilize photo mode — but there is the option to co-op through the game so I suppose there is a reason for all of the random skins and clothing articles. Everything can be bought with in game currency, some pieces can be found in the world, and of course there is a premium currency which seems unneeded but I suppose whales will be whales. The perk system has a lot to choose from, but some choices seem more obvious than others. Getting the grappling hook and parachute are great for getting around, while the lockpicking and extra holsters obviously make sense. Other options seem to be less useful and are just passive bonuses, but I suppose this depends on your playstyle. There is a limited crafting system that works pretty similarly to The Last of Us, and you’re really only making explosives with the materials you’ll collect. Weapons are varied enough, but the “customization” is the same set of scopes, silencers and larger magazines on every gun, and there are more pointless skins. It feels kind of hollow, but it works well enough.

You’ll spend a lot of time staring at this map, and this is zoomed out to the size of the region. There are two other regions that are equally sized, and it surely takes a while to get from point A to point B on foot. As you complete missions, rescue people and generally blow shit up, you’ll eventually get captured by a group of cultist hunters, which will introduce you to that region’s leader, in this case John Seed. The Seeds are the cult’s leaders, and they seem just unhinged enough to be “crazy” but are also composed enough to keep order over their people. After escaping the first time, you’ll eventually piss off John enough to get captured again, this time with a longer sequence carrying on to escape. Eventually you’ll fill up your “resistance points” bar and John will call you out for a confrontation.

The world feels big, and for the most part it feels lived in. There are some areas of wilderness, but there’s always someone wandering around nearby. As with most games of this type, there is a fast travel option, where you can open the map and instantly teleport to a previously visited location. I used this sort of option in games like Skyrim almost exclusively, as it eventually became tiresome to trudge about the map on foot. That feels the same way here, but fortunately there is a grand scope of vehicles that you can pilot to get around quickly enough. I do think that the inclusion of fast travel can be a sort of immersion breaking, but its necessary if you ever want to feel like you’ve accomplished something. I’m happy that the vehicles make it feel easier to get around without breaking that immersion… in fact there were points where I was in an intense firefight and the next thing I knew I was in a plane and facing off against aerial opponents. There are times when things feel mundane, and then others where the game gets its hooks into you. I’m not in love with it, but I haven’t grown tired of playing it either. So that’s something.

The main storyline is sort of drab and predictable, but some of the side quests were particularly interesting. One quest saw me hunting humping bulls for their testicles, which is a true to life delicacy in some parts of this country. Rocky Mountain Oysters as they are called, sound revolting to me, but apparently these people really wanted some balls in their mouth. Another mission I did for a kooky conspiracy theorist had me running around for these mysterious orbs that were supposed to be of alien origin, and in most cases made the animals around them aggro and strong. I was actually killed by a mob of turkeys and it was fairly entertaining. That same dude actually built some sort of teleportation machine using these parts, and I’m not sure if he actually went somewhere or was just vaporized, but either way I was able to grab a weird science weapon and his shoes after the fact.

There is a bit of force patriotism in the game, which I suppose would be okay if we weren’t quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world. The game also has its fair share of bugs, which I assume is par for the course when these types of games are churned out as quickly as they are. One bug in particular stuck with me, as I was supposed to destroy this cult truck that was causing havoc on the streets, and as I’m following it and shooting, it literally disappeared. After some searching I found it on the map, considerably further back from where it disappeared. Then as I waited for it to appear from around a bend, it was literally flickering in and out of existence. I just kept chucking explosives at it, and somehow it still exploded and credited me with the kill, but there was no physical evidence as it had flickered out of existence again. Not game breaking, but definitely not a great look. So far though, after defeating John seed and moving onto the next region, I’m ready to reload and check out more. I see myself finishing the game, but I doubt I’ll bother with DLC and the like. Farcry 6 is already on the horizon, set to release next February, so I don’t see myself needing more of this, when I could just jump into that. It’s likely it’s on next gen systems as well, so maybe that will be an improvement in more ways than one.