By The Numbers: Week 8, 2016


Another week is in the books, and we’re approaching the mid way point of the 2016 season. I’m not incredibly thrilled by the performance of my team, the Green Bay Packers, but there are some positive points. Our defense has been pretty good, but not as lights out as it was at the beginning of the season, mainly due to the injuries in the secondary. We have 3rd string corners and safeties starting games, and though they show promise, they aren’t our starters for a reason. The defensively line and linebackers have been steady and performing well so that’s great. Offensively there aren’t the injuries in the passing game like there was a year ago, but our running back situation is grave, though gimmick plays with Cobb and Montgomery have been working for the time being. We just came off a pretty dominant victory but that was against the Bears, who are pretty much garbage this year. Moving forward we face off against the Falcons, who also have something to prove. Last year they went 5-0 before nosediving into a losing season. This year they started hot again, but have lost the past 3 games IIRC, so they want to win. I’m expecting this game to be a challenge, not only because it’s a road game, but because the Falcons are always a team  you can’t completely write off. We’ve also struggled against good teams this season, so it’s likely this will be a tough game. I suppose we shall see. Here are my picks for week 8:

Jags 21, Titans 17
Bengals 27, Redskins 20
Patriots 31, Bills 13
Cardinals 24, Panthers 10
Jets 23, Browns 16
Lions 30, Texans 20
Chiefs 21, Colts 20
Seahawks 19, Saints 13
Raiders 28, Buccs 20
Broncos 31, Chargers 24
Packers 27, Falcons 24
Cowboys 34, Eagles 20
Vikings 30, Bears 10

The War Report


It’s been a long while since I introduced a new column to the blog, and with my recent return to Magic, it seems fitting to chronicle the things I’m doing with the game. Some of the columns I’ve written in the past or continue to write tend to focus on a single topic, so this was an opportunity to open up a new one and talk about another of my nerdy passions. As I don’t play Magic as often as I would like, this column won’t have a schedule of any kind, and will only be touched upon when I have something new to report. This should be fairly regular though, as I intend to continue playing with my friend, and also look forward to attending a Friday Night Magic tournament soon. The above linked post will give you a primer on my history with the game, along with what I’ve got in the works currently (also some handy links for those of you playing the game).

As I mentioned in that post, I managed to pull together a pretty significant amount of cards for a relatively inexpensive sum, but that doesn’t mean having a killer deck right away. I purchased starter kits, boosters and then some singles and threw together two decks that I thought would be halfway decent. It turns out, one of them actually was. My friend and I finally got together to do some play testing, and I put forth the stronger of my two decks, a Black/White life building set. In it, I packed white cards that provided life gain, black cards that benefit from life gain (adding special effects to creatures when I would gain life), and a powerful artifact called the “Aetherflux Reservoir.” The latter card would allow me to gain life quickly via the use of spells, and hopefully go for a kill shot. My friend brought a Green/Blue deck to the table that was actually pretty good, but my half-assed deck still gave him a run for his money.

He told me that we should play a best of three to get our bearings around these decks. I needed some playtesting done to find weaknesses with the deck, and I surely did. Game one went fairly smooth. I managed just the right balance of board control, hand control and whittled him down until I could go for a kill shot. It seemed that the weakness of my deck was not exposed. Not yet, at least.

In game two, we saw a repeat of game one for quite some time. At one point I managed to get to 36 life, and had him down to 6. However, I found the failing of the deck. I didn’t have enough powerful creatures coming out often enough to win. He mana starved me by destroying a few of my swamps, and slowly started to gain board control. I stayed alive for a long time, but eventually he had enough creatures on the table to overrun my defenses. I conceded, but the match was not over.

Game three was for all the marbles. I managed a decent start, had plenty of mana, but was then starting to get flooded without enough creatures to help. I wasted my one board clear option early on, so by the mid game he simply killed me. There wasn’t a point where I wasn’t staying in it though, so I can tell that the sustain is working. I just have to find the combination that will get me kills.

I also tried out my Red/Blue deck against his Green/Blue, and my Black/White against his other deck, which was Red/Blue. His Red/Blue definitely trumps mine, but I have really been focusing on the Black/White so that would explain it. He’s also been back playing the game for a while, and the last time he played was more recently than I, and he still has cards from both eras. It’s only a matter of time before I catch up and build some killer decks, but for the time being, he has a distinct advantage. I still had a blast playing though!

Once I came home after our matches, I knew where to focus my efforts. It seemed that I created too high of a mana curve in this particular deck, so I know I need to remove at least a couple of lands. I also need to remove some of the cards that I thought would work better than they did, and find extra copies of the cards that were really killer. I scrounged Toad and Troll the other night and notice that plenty of the cards that I wanted extra copies of were available for mere cents, so I dropped a $20 on singles, and will have some additional power for the deck. Once I get those and really get things honed in, we’ll have to do some more playtesting. I’m hoping to receive the package before the weekend and do just that.

I’m impressed at how the game has changed but has also stayed the same. Much like series such as Civilization, each new entry adds and subtracts from the base formula, but the addictive qualities are ever-present. I’m very happy to have rekindled this lost hobby. I will be back with another report soon, probably after I revamp my deck. I’ll provide a decklist and strategy as well, especially if the playtesting goes well. Until then.

By The Numbers: Week 7, 2016


My work schedule has been in a flux the past couple of weeks, so for the past two weekends I was working on Sundays, so I missed a lot of football. Needless to say I’ve kept up on the ins and outs of my team, but have let other stories pass me by. Thankfully two weeks ago was my team’s by week (and remember, I took the week off from this column as well) so I didn’t miss anything working on that Sunday. But this past weekend was a big game that I really wanted to watch, but am now glad that I did not. Losses happen, and for the past few seasons, the team has had some slumps in the early-mid season. Things usually pull back together by December and then a playoff run ensues. Regardless, the Packers were trounced by the Cowboys, and the two rookies leading that team are such a huge value for the money they’re making. Let’s hope dumbass Jerry Jones puts Romo back in around December and throws any hope of winning something meaningful out the window. As for my team, well we have a bunch of injuries just like every other year, but this time it’s mostly on defense, and the defense has been sound (save for this past game, due to the injuries) whereas the offense has been struggling, despite having decent runners and our best receivers in the game. It doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m not losing faith. I’m not going to jump on the “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?” bandwagon. The struggles made sense last year. This year, something is off. I think they’ll still get it sorted out, and a good time to do so is against the struggling Bears. But, they have a knack for beating us even when they have a down season, so I’m not counting them out. Here’s hoping for a good game that results in another W for the Pack. Here’s my picks for the week:

Packers 27, Bears 23
Rams 20, Giants 10
Bengals 31, Browns 7
Redskins 24, Lions 21
Raiders 28, Jags 14
Saints 21, Chiefs 17
Bills 20, Dolphins 9
Ravens 19, Jets 6
Vikings 30, Eagles 20
Colts 26, Titans 13
Falcons 34, Chargers 21
Buccs 21, 49ers 13
Steelers 27, Patriots 24
Seahawks 28, Cardinals 26
Broncos 31, Texans 13


A Return To Magic


I have a long and varied history with Magic: The Gathering. Having mistakenly (or perhaps just out of curiosity) purchased packs back in the early 90’s during my Comic Book/Card collecting days, I hadn’t heard of collectible card games just yet. I was probably ten or eleven years old when the game was first released, and I know during that time I was probably buying Beta or Unlimited cards (which could potentially be worth some money at this point). Having no knowledge of this game, these cards were fairly useless. Eventually I would buy something other than a booster pack (probably some sort of starter deck) and find the tiny rule book enclosed within. Learning the game wasn’t something I was all that interested in doing though, so I remember playing the game with a few friends using our own rules, and then the cards were tucked away for a few years.

boosterbox_iceageFast forward to high school, where by chance I happened upon other nerds who were playing the game, and actually following the rules. I watched in awe as some pretty amazing things happened on those lunch breaks. It reminded me that I had cards lurking in a box somewhere, patiently awaiting my return to the game. Those cards were promptly found, and after much pleading with the parents I made special trips to a nearby hobby shop to purchase more on the rare occasions that I had money to spend. Many moons later, after pulling the boosters and singles together along with making trades with my cohorts, I had some pretty respectable decks, during the Ice Age and Mirage blocks. Towards the end of high school though, I cared less about the game, fell out of touch with people I played with and my interests shifted in other directions. Most of my cards were sold off. I didn’t think I’d play it anymore.

96343Jumping ahead once more, to a year or two outside of high school. A few friends of mine expressed some interest in the game. I mentioned my past knowledge and experience and offered to take them to that same hobby store I visited years earlier. Watching them buy up cards in a frenzy was too much of a temptation, and I found myself buying cards again as well. There had been several different sets that had released in the interim years, and a recently released 7th edition saw reprints of many cards I was familiar with. The boosters from recent blocks helped me flesh out several new decks and my collection swelled past its prior limits, mainly due to having more disposable income. I played rather casually for another couple of years, during the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. But again, the time came when friends were less interested in playing, and perhaps we didn’t know that the game would continue to thrive for years. We didn’t know about various rule sets that could have potentially shaken things up and though it would have been wise to just hold onto these cards for my eventual return, I once again sold them off and wiped the game from my mind.

the_current_magic_online_logoI was aware of the existence of Magic Online around that timeframe, but it felt silly to me to purchase virtual cards. Of course I hadn’t fully moved over into the digital world, due to things being quite a bit different 15 years ago. Magic Online and the thought of “owning” virtual cards doesn’t seem quite so silly anymore, but I wasn’t willing to do it back in the day. It would have been a nice way to play the game with new people but my shortsightedness got the best of me once again.

In the early 2010’s there were several iterations of a Magic video game version released on the PS3 (and probably elsewhere). I almost bought a copy a few times, and then finally pulled the trigger on Magic 2013. These Duels of the Planeswalkers games had some shining moments, but I found that the AI was annoying to play against, and I never felt like I had total control over my decks. The loss of tactile sensation was also a problem. There’s nothing like opening up booster packs to find a super rare and awesome card. There’s nothing like sitting across from your opponent and beating them face to face. The video game couldn’t replicate these feelings in such a way that I found it enjoyable. Despite the fact that I played Hearthstone rather voraciously just a couple of years later and enjoyed my time with it, I just couldn’t play digital Magic. Perhaps my prior feelings about Magic Online weren’t unfounded after all.

A competitor to Hearthstone emerged most recently from the granddaddy of CCGs. Magic Duels was Wizard’s answer to the F2P digital CCG model, and in some respects it was a fine game. It felt much like the earlier Duels games, but was essentially played just like Hearthstone. It failed to hold my attention, despite knowing that Magic is a better game than Hearthstone in many ways, I just need to hold those cards for it to have the same appeal.

Present day. I met a girl. We committed. She has a roommate who plays the game. He has a similar checkered past with it as I do. He hadn’t played in years, and was sucked back in by a friend. He’s already rebuilt his collection. Pouring over his cards brought back so many memories but also reminded me that I hadn’t touched it in nigh 15 years and so much had changed. It was much to take in, but in doing so I felt the urge to rebuild my own collection again. Thankfully he had already done so, because he was able to provide some insight to things that had changed. My first instinct would be to attempt to rebuild my collection from memory, as in trying to gather up all of those long gone cards that would probably cost me some money, but might also be impossible. Reprints happen, but I’m sure many of those cards are hard to find. Well, it turns out that there are different types of rules that apply to the game that I was unaware of, though they were probably implemented after my tenure so long ago.

You can read about Formats here, but I’ll give an abridged version. Basically the main types are Standard, Modern, Legacy and Vintage. Standard includes the last two blocks and the standard set. However, the core sets of the past — Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, and 4th-2015 editions — are no longer made. Some of the cards from those sets are reprinted each block though, so familiar faces still make their way into the format. Modern goes back quite a ways, I think ten years or something. Legacy is all the old stuff from my high school days, and Vintage allows most of the broken cards from the original version of the game. Each set of rules limits which card sets you can pull from, and gives a sort of focus that we didn’t have back in the day. I had old cards mixed with newer cards all of the time, and that probably would have been considered Modern at the time. It’s actually probably better to have a more limited pool just to have a meta of sorts, and as new mechanics are added it’s nice to have a couple of blocks to choose from for interesting interactions.


I’ve already purchased a nice chunk of cards to start a new collection. My older and wiser self has also decided that I’ll never sell them off again. This time I’m going to hold onto them for that inevitable return. Anyhow, this time around there were several options to start off a collection. I chose to pick up a “Deck Builders Toolkit” from the prior block, which provided a bunch of lands, some randomized cards from the set and a couple of boosters. I also grabbed a starter box for the newest set Kaladesh, which came with 10 boosters and more land, plus a health counter. I grabbed a couple other boosters, and most recently picked up Planeswalker deck that also came with boosters. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-600 cards at my best guess, all for under $100. So yeah, it’s a pretty manageable hobby if you don’t go crazy like that all of the time. My new found nerdy friend also pointed me in the direction of Troll and Toad, which is an online marketplace where you can buy singles, and they’re actually pretty reasonable. My package of singles just arrived and that’s where I picked up this bad boy:


I also picked up some Ultra Pro Matte sleeves for protecting the cards while playing, which isn’t something I had done in the past. Might as well protect the investment. Deck building is definitely still one of the more rewarding parts of the hobby, and I am very much looking forward to honing a few decks into winners. I have yet to actually play, as this is all fairly recent, but I will report back with how things go when I get to that point. Do any of you guys play Magic? Thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

PSA: Couch Podtatoes

What’s up everybody?

I feel like it’s time to put this out there into the public space. I have really, really enjoyed this hiatus from podcasting. When I started the show I was unemployed. Add work, school, and a girlfriend to that mix, and it felt like staying committed to doing the thing once a week was becoming tedious.

Eri and I both agreed that we were having too much trouble getting people involved. It became increasingly harder to get guests onto the show. We tried several rotating co-hosts and that worked for a time, but then their schedules got in the way. Eri and I had conflicting schedules living on opposite sides of the world. It became difficult to coordinate so we were already considering a change. I was going to keep the show going in it’s current format, take on a new co-host and she would just become one of the rotating co-hosts. It sounded great until I took a couple of weeks off to just clear my head and get away from it all. I barely even blogged or got on Twitter in those couple of weeks. Unplugging became easier as the time went on. Sure, there was that nagging sensation in the back of my head that said “you need to blog. you need to figure out the podcast. you need to make more YouTube content. why aren’t you being productive?” I chose to ignore this. The voice grew quieter over time.

I’ve had lulls in the past. This run is probably one of my most prolific, having ran a blog, podcast, community events, and really getting involved in the gaming community. There’s always a trade though, and for a time it felt like I spent more time living this virtual life as Izlain, than my own, real life. I still stand by the notion that I’m not going to let this blog completely die off. But I’m willing to let the podcast go, at least for the time being. The two week hiatus turned into a couple of months, and I finally decided that the time gained from not producing content has been more valuable to me, and some of the stress I would put on myself to create has been lifted.

So yes, Couch Podtatoes has seen its finally curtain call, after running for 99 episodes and a little over two years. It was a fantastic run, I had a lot of fun and the memories will always be cherished. For the time being, the Libsyn page is still up, so if there are episodes you would like to save, you should do so. I have told Eri to go ahead and cancel the membership at her leisure, so I’m not sure when they will come offline. I have every episode saved as well, so if you happen to need a copy of one, let me know.

This doesn’t mean I’m done with podcasting though. Honestly I really love it. I just needed some time away to recharge. I’m toying with ideas for a new show already, but am unsure if I’ll just be going it alone or if I might get a friend involved. It’s likely to have to do with nerd culture still, but I might get away from the limiting market of just talking about gaming. I think I’ve said most of what I’ve needed to say on that topic. Branching out could provide new inspiration. I’m not going to commit to anything just yet, but I will let you know when that time comes.

The Twitter account for the show will remain. I will likely announce any new projects via that and my own personal account. And of course, I’m going to keep blogging. Thank you for your support over the past couple of years.