By The Numbers: Week 2, 2019

Now that was a nice first weekend of football! Not only did my team, the Green Bay Packers manage to grab a win, I was more impressed by our defensive in a mostly defensive game. The Smith brothers are no joke it seems, as they combined for a couple of sacks and a bunch of hits/hurries. We weren’t bad in the run game, and I didn’t see many long passes getting anywhere. I’m not going to say they’re elite just yet, but I can’t believe how much better they look compared to last year. The offense was sputtering far too often, but I attribute that to the fact that Aaron Rodgers and most of the starters didn’t play preseason snaps so the chemistry is off. I’m sure next week we’ll see something better offensively. There was a picture perfect drive that took 1:35 to complete, but outside of a that the only points put up was a field goal in the 4th quarter. I suspect we’ll see more action next week, but it has to start with the run game, certainly. I actually watched several other games this weekend because my game was on Thursday and on Sunday after work I was in the mood to watch more. I caught parts of a few games, but I was pretty impressed by Dallas as well, and I hate saying that. Still, they looked good but the Giants haven’t been too hot for a few seasons so that could be why. There were a few blowout scores I wouldn’t have seen coming, and in the end the Patriots beat the Steelers in this sort of fashion as well. I caught the Saints/Texans game on Monday night but didn’t stay up to watch the Broncos lose to the Raiders. The former was a great game with a bunch of lead changes in the 4th quarter, but the Saints pulled out the victory. Anyway, let’s score last week’s picks:

Packers 35, Bears 27 – Correct
Rams 24, Panthers 20 – Correct
Redskins 21, Eagles 17
Bills 20, Jets 10 – Correct
Vikings 27, Falcons 21 – Correct
Ravens 30, Dolphins 7 – Correct
Chiefs 35, Jags 21 – Correct
Browns 17, Titans 10
Chargers 20, Colts 13 – Correct
Seahawks 23, Bengals 14 – Correct
49ers 21, Buccs 20 – Correct
Cowboys 21, Giants 9 – Correct
Lions 20, Cardinals 16
Steelers 28, Patriots 26
Saints 31, Texans 17 – Correct
Broncos 24, Raiders 13

So I ended up going 11-5, which is a good enough score to get into the playoffs. Most of the scores were way off, but I did sort of predict the Ravens blowing out the Dolphins, though it was by an even larger margin. Sad times. I really thought the Browns might come out swinging with all of the shit talking that’s been going on, but then they just proved to be as bad as ever, losing to the so-so Titans. The Lions – Cardinals game ended up being the lone tie of the week, and the only one of the season so far. And for those of you still laughing at the Browns, just imagine how the Steelers felt having the same 30 point deficit against the hated Patriots? Whatever the case, it was an exciting football weekend and I’m looking forward to Thursday night already. Let’s make some picks for the upcoming weekend:

Panthers 27, Buccs 24
Cowboys 30, Redskins 14
Titans 20, Colts 17
Seahawks 23, Steelers 13
Bills 24, Giants 20
Patriots 50, Dolphins 3
Texans 24, Jags 21
Packers 28, Vikings 14
Lions 20, Chargers 10
49ers 20, Bengals 13
Ravens 31, Cards 20
Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Saints 33, Rams 24
Bears 24, Broncos 17
Eagles 27, Falcons 23
Browns 14, Jets 13

Going to go out on a limb and assume the Browns will pull it together. Otherwise pretty predictable things. I suspect the Packers will catch the Vikings off guard, despite having some footage to study of the new defense. If the offense can get going sooner and the defense plays a similar game, we just might get ahead into first place in the division early into the season, and that would be sweet. We’ll see how I do, will check back in next week.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Spoilers & The Next Year of MTG

We’ve known about the next Magic: The Gathering expansion, Throne of Eldraine for a little while now, but as is customary in the month leading up to a set’s release, we’re entering into spoiler season for it. I saw a few whispers about a Twitch stream that certain community members were given access to, and shortly thereafter we were learning that Wizards of the Coast would be attempting again to push the Brawl format. Most people, myself included, had already written it off as dead, but with the additions to Arena, they have been pushing the format again between paper and digital. I’m not sure if there will be Planeswalker decks, or if these are going to be more comparable to the Guild Kits from the Ravnica block, but whatever the case, a new product is launching with Throne of Eldraine and we’ll see Brawl preconstructed decks for the first time. Here are the face commanders for these sets:

Brawl Commanders:

If you are unfamiliar, Brawl is a Commander variant in that it follows the same color identity and singleton rules, but instead of being 100 card decks they are only 60 cards. They also have a rotation that matches standard, meaning you can only play with standard legal cards. So no putting your Commander deck cards into your Brawl decks. I think it’s a silly limitation and part of the reason I stopped playing standard is because rotation can be expensive. In EDH, you can wait for a set to rotate out and get a good deal on singles you want. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game. And when it comes down to it, I’m not overly impressed with any of these commanders enough to warrant building a new EDH deck around it. I think the Bant and Esper creatures are more interesting than the others, but I’m sure people playing knights are excited to access to a new color with a new general. Friends of mine seem to be most interested in Korvold, and I’ve seen what sorts of shenanigans you can pull with him but I find it uninteresting. Deck lists were already released for these, though I don’t believe all of the cards have been spoiled just yet. They don’t really seem worth the time, but I’ve heard they are going for $20 a piece so not a lot to invest if you want to build around one.

New Mechanics:

Throne of Eldraine is adding a couple of new mechanics, and though they are kind of interesting and their take on fairy tales aren’t bad, I just haven’t really seen much yet that I’m excited for in the set. I don’t think I’m burnt out on the game because I’m still always brewing, building, writing and thinking about the game. One problem is that I don’t really play much, but even with all of that on my plate I still don’t find much to be excited for. So the new mechanics are Adventure, Adamant and Food Tokens. Various cards from the set reference food and creating food tokens. Some, like the Goose above, will allow you to create food but also to sac food to the goose itself to get a different effect. Otherwise, Food tokens are much like Clues or Treasures before them, but instead of drawing you cards or giving you mana, instead you gain life. I guess Oloro players rejoice, but it just seems like a tacky limited-only thing. The same really goes for Adamant. It’s great for mono colored decks I suppose, because it typically requires you to cast the spell with only one color of mana in order to get a bonus effect. That’s pretty meh, and I haven’t seen one that seems worth it yet. Of course, spoilers have only just begun. Lastly, with Adventures you get the new card frame at top right above. There is a spell side and a creature side to these cards. You can cast the creature normally for its CMC and be done with it, or you can cast the adventure spell (which can be either instant or sorcery) which is then exiled rather than going to your graveyard. You may then cast the creature half of the card from exile for it’s normal cost. I can see ways this could be really good, but the creatures spoiled that have adventures on them haven’t been great.

New Planeswalkers:

A couple of Planeswalkers have been spoiled so far, including the return of Garruk. Apparently Will and Rowan from the Battlebond set are supposed to be around as well, but we haven’t seen them just yet. Garruk looks ok, but I’m not sold; older versions are better. A brand new walker in Oko has appeared as well, and he references those damn food tokens too. I’m not into this guy either. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a hangover from War of the Spark.

In other news, we were treated with the schedule of releases for the next year of Magic: The Gathering. I first saw this information over on Hipsters of the Coast.

 

So, we know that beginning in quarter one of 2020, we’ll be returning to an older plane with Theros: Beyond Death. I’m pretty excited for this one as I wasn’t playing when the original Theros set released but I have purchased many cards from the block. I’m curious to see what sorts of new Gods them might come up with. In quarter two, we’ll be heading to another brand new plane, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Apparently there’s something about building monsters in this set, but I’m not sure if that will be like the fusing of creatures in Unstable, or if it will be more like the meld cards. Whatever the case, the new planes tend to be more exciting than the old. Core Set 2021 will likely have some gems, but overall core sets are dull. Finally, in quarter four we’ll see another old favorite in Zendikar Rising. I didn’t play during either of the Zendikar blocks, though the latter was still standard legal when I came back to the game in 2016. As such, I own a ton of cards from these sets, but I’m disappointed that we won’t get more Eldrazi.

Whatever the case, 2020 looks like a good year for MTG. I’m looking forward to new things to come!

By The Numbers: Week 1, 2019

Well well well, look at the time. It’s September already, and you know what that means, right? That’s right, it’s time for the 2019 NFL season to kick off! As such, the inaugural post for this column will kick off as well (yes, I know I wrote something last month but that was mainly to pad my post count for the month). The Packers are looking primed to go places in 2019, and I hope that I’m right in thinking we might have a higher end offense and defense. The team simply looks better all around, along with having a decent schedule that leads me to believe we can make the playoffs for the first time in a couple of years. The season starts with the Packers facing the Bears at Solider Field — a fitting beginning to the 100th NFL season with two teams around the same age. I am definitely looking forward to this game and am hoping that many of my questions about the team will be answered. With that said, a little refresher on what to expect from this column in the coming months:

  • I make my picks for winners and losers of each individual game week by week. I also take a stab at the game’s final score.
  • I score myself each week in a recap before making picks for the upcoming week.
  • Come playoff time, I make picks on the games prior to that weekend. This all culminates in my pick for the winner of the Superbowl.
  • After the season is over, I do a big summary post where I tally up my correct and incorrect picks, scoring correct ones with a point and getting bonus points for correct scores (which rarely happens).

So far I have improved year over year during the time I’ve been doing this column in this format. I did start it several years ago and used to only provide some commentary on games, and then made picks but didn’t keep score. Things are more interesting this way, even if it is just a competition against myself. So now you’ll know what to expect from By The Numbers — if you aren’t a football fan, you’ll probably want to skip these. Let’s get on with my picks for week 1:

Packers 35, Bears 27
Rams 24, Panthers 20
Redskins 21, Eagles 17
Bills 20, Jets 10
Vikings 27, Falcons 21
Ravens 30, Dolphins 7
Chiefs 35, Jags 21
Browns 17, Titans 10
Chargers 20, Colts 13
Seahawks 23, Bengals 14
49ers 21, Buccs 20
Cowboys 21, Giants 9
Lions 20, Cardinals 16
Steelers 28, Patriots 26
Saints 31, Texans 17
Broncos 24, Raiders 13

I’ll see you guys next week, and we’ll see how I did. Until then, happy footballin’.

Blaugust 2019 Wraps Up

August just flew by, didn’t it folks? For those of you who made it through the slog, congratulations. This is I believe the third or fourth time I’ve managed to do the full gamut of posts during the event, so I’ll pat myself on the back for that. Some items learned during this year’s Blaugust:

  • I didn’t follow the schedule at all. I made one post that was on theme with Bel’s schedule with the developer appreciation bit.
  • I didn’t really mentor anyone, don’t know if that means I should lose the status.
  • I was in my own little world, not mentioning WoW Classic once. Well, now I just did.
  • This year was the most difficult to get out all 31 posts. Having a vacation in the middle of the month made for a mini-marathon just to have posts scheduled.
  • I enjoy blogging, but I cannot keep up this pace. Some days I was reaching for something to write about.
  • Despite many passions, sometimes I don’t feel like writing.

It was a long month that passed quickly and I am glad that the marathon is over. I’ll be returning to my 15 or so post a month schedule that has served me well in the past. I’ll probably go silent for a couple of days unless the bug strikes me sooner. I know there were some drafts I didn’t end up publishing that I may work on, but for the most part I am spent at this point.

That’s really all I have. It was nice to see the community come together again around this event, but once again the attrition will likely set in. Not to sound like a downer, but these are facts. Hopefully some of you stick around for the long haul. I need stuff to read.

Thoughts on Genesis

Periodically I check out the free section of the Playstation Network just to see if anything catches my eye. I like trying new games for free, even if the free to play model isn’t the best way to go about doing things. It’s been a long while since I played a new MOBA, seeing as how Survival Sandboxes and Battle Royales took over that flavor of the month slot for a few years. I guess Auto Chess is a thing now, but it’s awful and that’s all I have to say. Enter Rampage Games and their new title, Genesis.

As MOBAs go, this one seems to fit the standard build. From the main menu you’ll have various sub-menus with stats about characters and weapons and things, along with leaderboards, a storefront with virtual currency and skins along with chat and mail systems. This is all pretty standard faire, and though its not revolutionary, it is pretty slick and intuitive.

Contrary to most MOBAs, there is a story of sorts. I know that League of Legends used to do various text-based story updates for a while, but I never really paid attention. Their cinematic videos were more well received but didn’t tell a story as much as they looked pretty. In the case of Genesis, it is said that our universe was basically expanding beyond the point of no return, a tear in space/time happens and probes are sent through. A whole new galaxy exists on the other side, so the best warriors of our universe are sent over to explore. From there, alien life forms are encountered and it doesn’t really explain how we get to a MOBA setup, but let’s be honest — story doesn’t really matter in this style of game.

What does matter is the gameplay, and as far as that goes, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the genre. Like, the map isn’t exactly the same as in a game such as League of Legends or DOTA 2, but the general concept is the same. There are three lanes. There are neutral jungle creep camps. There are towers. One thing that’s a bit different is that there are specific places on the map where you can place wards (called “observers” here) and you can’t buy them from the store. Another twist is a variety of buffs that hang out on the battlefield such as healing packs, defensive shards and others. Otherwise we’re looking at staple concepts from the genre.

Another feature that LoL may not have but I have seen in other MOBAs, is the ability to purchase items for your character while still out on the map. Other games did it in a way that a critter would run off to buy and bring you back your items, in this case you can just straight up buy items while away from the home base. I don’t mind this, though it can lead to some unfair power spikes during a fight, but I guess the same thing goes for leveling up mid fight and getting a new ability, which I’ve seen happen many times in other games. The game defaults to automatically give you reminders when you have enough gold to buy something and a simple press on the d-pad will buy the item. I spent my time with the first few sessions focusing on the gameplay pros and cons rather than trying to learn new item builds. The game will automatically recommend items to you which is nice, especially being new to the genre. Skills are automatically leveled up as well by default, but these features can be turned off. Personally I’d recommend using the help until you have a better feel for the game. It can be a little wonky if you’re a PC MOBA player and now have to adjust to a controller. One stick controls movement, the other controls skill shots. Skills are used with various button presses, but it definitely feels different than other games I’ve played. Same difference?

Overall I think it’s a pretty fun title. I enjoyed myself for what little time I played. If nothing else it’s free (I do believe it is on PC as well) so you lose nothing by trying it out. Craving a new MOBA experience? This could be the one for you.