Entering The Planes of Prophecy

As promised, I was gifted a copy of the newest Everquest 2 expansion, Planes of Prophecy by my Dad as an early Christmas gift. The purchase was made last night, and I took the opportunity to jump in game and get started. The first order of business was to make my decision on who to use my level 100 boost on.

Having spent some time playing around with my Wizard earlier in the week, I had grown quite fond of the character and even leveled him a bit through his 30’s. He ended up being the character that I used the boost on, and then I received a bag of gear along with some of the other goodies provided in one of the upgraded editions. The instant level to 100 netted me a bunch of achievements based on levels, and granted me 320 AAs, which was about 200 on top of what I already had. I used one of the server side builds for now just to get the points assigned, and then finished off the other character development choices and was ready to go. Or so I thought.

My Dad was online, and started familiarizing me with other things that were new to the expansion, along with giving me a laundry list of other things I would need to do in order to really get started in the new zones. First off, we headed to the Plane of Magic, where he took me to a vendor that gives you more new gear that is supposed to be semi-raid gear from the previous expansion. I equipped that gear and my stats were through the roof compared to anything I was used to. Seeing millions of hit points on a cloth wearer was shocking!

Next up was grabbing the new Mercenary that came bundled with the expansion. Apparently this ugly little troll/goblin/thing is an Inquisitor and from what my Dad tells me he’s pretty awesome.

Not very cute though. Some of the other goodies included a familiar that can be leveled up and provides a buff, along with some rather cool looking mounts and other things like a vendor cabinet that reduces all broker fees to zero. I didn’t get to do much else in the new zones, because as I said there are some things I need to do before I can really get started. But I did get a couple of good shots of our entry:

We headed back to the guild hall afterwards, and I realized that I needed to redo all of my hotbars and make sure I had the best versions of my spells set up. Apparently I can start off in the Plane of Magic right away, but then I’d be missing out on Ascension levels and other things that were added previously. I guess there is a signature quest line that I need to complete on one character before I can skip it on others, and some faction grinding to do so I’m not KOS somewheres. Essentially a bunch of information was dumped on me in a very short amount of time so I’m just going to take his word for it that there are some pre-requisites to do and then I can level through the new zones. I’m actually pretty excited and looking forward to getting started!

While we were in the guild hall he showed me some of the new additions he had made; new amenities that are helpful and some other ways to instantly teleport to zones that didn’t exist the last time I had played. The guild buff is nice, and being able to expedite travel is good too. He also made me an officer, so if anyone is playing the game on the Maj’dul server, I can offer you guild membership if you are interested!

There was a stack of in-game emails that came my way and will be starters for new quest chains so I’ll have more to figure out and to get started on. It’s likely that I’ll be able to put in good amounts of time before long, as I’m off from the 24th until the 2nd of January.

So I’m back in Norrath, and it feels good.

The War Report: UnStable

This month, the big release in the Magic universe was the new “Un-Set;” this one called UnStable. Like it’s predecessors UnHinged and UnGlued, it’s a set full of silver-bordered cards that aren’t tournament legal and are basically ridiculous versions of regular Magic cards. Why would you want to buy cards that can’t be used in sanctioned events? Well, that is a multi-faceted question and answer. See, there are reasons to buy this set but it’s not to make money (I have one of the most expensive cards that is a whopping $7.50). Magic is most commonly played at the kitchen table, and as such it’s a game that can be as casual or as serious as you want to make it. Un cards are silly versions of Magic cards you already know and love, with some extra ridiculousness added on top, and they’re really just for fun. This is why they aren’t legal in tournaments, but you honestly wouldn’t want these cards in sanctioned play because some of them are seriously busted! Throw out everything you know about Magic, because these cards break the rules!

There are several unique and desirable cards that you might want in your collection, and the real chase cards seem to be the full-art lands which are beautiful. Another new addition this time around are foil tokens, some of which are full art on the reverse side with no text or borders, and they simply look amazing. If nothing else, you will have these types of cards that can be used in your Standard/Modern/EDH variants and up until the middle of January, all silver-bordered cards were declared legal in EDH so my playgroup decided it was something we should pick up. The guys already had some cards from the older sets (and picked up some UnStable) and already splashed some into their EDH decks. I hadn’t jumped on board just yet, but we discussed doing a sealed event ourselves, so we all purchased 6 packs of UnStable and are creating 40 card decks from those packs, like you would do at an LGS. Let’s take a look at some of the cards I pulled and the unique cards you might find interesting from the set:

Money Cards:

I was fortunate enough to pull some of the most expensive cards from the set, though I’m not really into the whole economy of the game. I’ve made some lucky pulls over the last year + and have acquired several expensive cards that were worth more than the packs I paid for (not to mention those I bought from websites like Card Kingdom, which have since increased in value). You never really know how the market will fluctuate though, and since I’m not selling anything it’s not as if the monetary side of things really matters. But still, I do get a sense of “getting my money’s worth” from pulling cards that are worth more than the packs themselves. Urza, the Planeswalker card above is one of the most valuable cards in the set, as is the Sword of Dungeons & Dragons. Super-Duper Death Ray isn’t normally worth much but I managed to pull a foil version so it’s worth a couple bucks. Basically those three cards are worth almost what I paid for my 6 packs, so I consider it a worthy investment with them alone.

Full-Art Lands:

The big draw are these amazing full-art lands. I managed to pull two mountains and plains cards, along with one forest and one swamp. I didn’t pull an island yet, but I’m thinking I might pick up a few more packs before the print run is over just to get some more. They look so much better than any lands ever printed in my opinion, so I wouldn’t mind pimping out a couple of my EDH decks with all full-arts from this set. These run a couple bucks a piece, so it’s almost worth it to just acquire them in packs, as one comes packed in each.

Interesting Mechanics:

There are some crazy mechanics in this new set, some of which we’ve never seen before. There are host creatures and augment cards, which essentially act as meld cards which we’ve seen before, but basically the host creature enters the battlefield as normal with some sort of ETB effect. Later, you can pay an augment cost on the other card (Ninja in this example) and “attach” it to the host creature. In our example here, you’d have a Ninja-Man, which really isn’t that silly, but combines the two cards into one. So whenever our Ninja-Man does damage to a player, you get to draw a card. Of course there are plenty of options throughout the set so you can get some whacky combinations. There are artifacts and other cards like Kindslaver that allow people from outside of the game to interact, which is cool if you have people watching the game (probably better if they understand how to play though). Lastly, they have added contraptions as a secondary deck that you use while playing UnStable, and it’s a mini-game of its own. Certain cards will reference creating contraptions, at which point you’ll add that to a sprocket (which are printed on the backs of the contraptions). Eventually you’ll have to crank your sprocket, and then the contraption will cause an effect. This can probably be honed to great effect, though we are playing by sanction rules, so you just get to use what you have, duplicates included.

Tokens:

As I said, some of the tokens are pretty nice. I pulled a few that I would have never used, but ended up being able to trade for those I could use. I traded away two Saproling tokens for a Goblin and a Vampire, both of which will go into their respective EDH decks. Having nice looking foil or full-art tokens is awesome and feels like an upgrade for those decks, despite not having any sort of real impact. I’m looking forward to our little sealed event, and potentially utilizing some of these cards in my EDH decks while it’s still legal to do so. I’ve included my sealed 40 card deck list here for posterity:

My Deck:

Sword of Dungeons & Dragons
Border Guardian
Steel Squirrel
Steam-Powered
Numbing Jellyfish
Mer Man
Crafty Octopus
Wall of Fortune
Animate Library
Time Out
Spy Eye
Chipper Chopper
Kindly Cognician
Novellamental
Magic Word
Over My Dead Bodies
capital offense x2
Hazmat Suit (Used)
Hoisted Hireling
Zombified
Ninja
Big Boa Constrictor
Swamp x7
Island x10

Contraptions:

Division Table x2
Sap Sucker x2
Jamming Device
Boomflinger
Thud-for-Duds
Twiddlestick Charger
Refibrillator
Dispatch Dispensary
Tread Mill
Buzz Buggy

That’s all for this edition. Until next time!

By The Numbers: Week 15, 2017

There are only 3 weeks left in the season, and sitting at 7-6 isn’t the best spot imaginable. The Packers haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention yet though, so there is still hope. A major factor for this hope is that Aaron Rodgers has been medically cleared to return to play, and will be the starter this week against the Panthers. They’ve been doing well for themselves this year so it’s not going to be an easy matchup by any means, and then there’s the Vikings and Lions games to come, the former who has basically locked up the division title, and the latter who is still fighting for a playoff spot the same as us. There was a graphic I saw somewhere that said outside of the Packers winning their final three games to end the season at 10-6, they will also need two (of five) scenarios to happen. These involved the other NFC leaders, the Seahawks, Falcons, Panthers, Vikings and Eagles. Some of those teams need to drop some games, and others need to win. It’s convoluted, but at the end of the day the only thing we can control is winning games, and that starts this weekend. Let’s see how I did last week:

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

Ouch, I thought I was doing pretty well at making my picks for the last few weeks, but I got all kinds of wrong this time around. Oh well, it’s not like someone is giving me an award for making picks, it’s just for funsies! Let’s make some picks for next week and move along, shall we?

Broncos 24, Colts 14
Bears 21, Lions 17
Chargers 28, Chiefs 20
Ravens 30, Browns 20
Cardinals 21, Redskins 13
Eagles 27, Giants 10
Bills 24, Dolphins 20
Packers 30, Panthers 21
Jags 31, Texans 13
Vikings 30, Bengals 19
Saints 35, Jets 7
Rams 27, Seahawks 24
Steelers 27, Patriots 26
Titans 31, 49ers 20
Cowboys 23, Raiders 17
Falcons 27, Buccs 21

Fingers crossed that some of those scenarios that will help us out occur this weekend and get the ball rolling. It’s another run-the-table type of season, but we’ve needed to do this before and have done so, so I think we’ll make it back for the 9th year in a row. Time will tell!

Thoughts on Character Boosts

In this age of MMORPGs, most have become so large that new players might not want to get started from scratch, and some old timers might want to skip through newbie content with an alt, or perhaps skip a couple of expansions that they missed. Took a break from your favorite game? We’ve got you covered! Introducing: Character Boosts!

Of course, savvy internet denizens such as yourselves are familiar with the terminology. You took a break from your MMO of choice, “never to return” and yet here you are a couple of years later, thinking about rejoining that guild or those friends but alas: you’re under-leveled. You know you could just buy the new expansion and slog through the old content to catch up with your friends, but by then they’d already be raiding or playing some other game altogether. It’s happened to us all. For a while, you could plunk down some cash and pay for a boost to level your character and catch up with you friends on day one, instantly. You probably wouldn’t have the same sort of gear as them, but after a zone or two you’d all be wearing the same shit and life would go on. More recently, boosts have become an add-on pack-in with expansions probably for this precise reason. An added benefit is that boosts no longer empty your wallet to the same degree unless you want to boost multiple characters. Optimally, you’d want to use a level 90 or level 100 boost on a character that is low level, because insta-leveling a character only a few levels under the cap seems like a waste.

There was only one time in the past where I used a boost:

Yeah, back before Legion released there was a bunch of hype leading up to it and I was suckered in. I figured I’d boost a brand new class and just play through the new expansion and ignore the slog. It turns out that I didn’t really like the experience, and felt like maybe I should have but more thought into the process. I didn’t really care for the Rogue’s gameplay, and I didn’t feel like he was all that great solo, and as such I didn’t play too far into the expansion. I was subbed though, so I started to level an alt but I ended up deciding I wasn’t really up for that and let my sub lapse. It was a good experience in that I got to see some new content and I had a little fun with it, but more importantly I learned what not to do when using one of these boosts. Which leads me to an upcoming decision:

As I mentioned recently, I ended up having the opportunity to get the new Everquest II expansion as a gift and was considering a return to Norrath. My dilemma was the same as I described above, where I haven’t played the game in a couple of years, but also one where I have a couple characters that aren’t too far from cap. I can clearly experience the last couple of expansions with them as a result, but I want to join guildmates who are already past those bits and would like to use the pack-in boost to join them. That means I can use the boost on a low level character that I already had, who is level 33, or I could create something new and boost it to 100, by passing everything but also having a new character to learn.

I downloaded the game and started tinkering. Unfortunately there is a lack of character slots on the free account, so I went ahead and subscribed. I was already planning to do so while I played the new expansion, and this way I could properly take my time and figure out what to use the boost on. I have my characters down to these currently:

Izlain is my main, a level 94 Brigand where I left off the last time I played a couple of years ago. Thalinos, my 90 Paladin used to be my main until I found that tanks weren’t in as much demand as dps (at least at the time), he hasn’t had much love since that was the level cap. Fohs is my 33 Wizard that I’m considering heavily for the boost, as I enjoy nuking things. The final two characters are the new creations that haven’t been played much. I can say that I’ve played both the Defiler and Illusionist classes to a point in the past, but never at the high end, though I know that I enjoyed both and would like one to get past the leveling slog. I’m torn though, because I don’t know if any of them will be all that good solo, don’t know which will fit in best for group needs, etc. The good news is if one of these gets boosted and they aren’t that great, I don’t have a problem with running one of my other characters through some new/old content to get them to the new expansion, I’d just prefer to do that after I’ve played the boosted character a while. So we’ll see. I have a few days yet to make a decision, so I’ll probably play them all a bit more to see which I enjoy most.

Overall I think boosts can be a curse and a blessing. I’m hoping to enjoy using this one more than the one I used in WoW.

The War Report: Upgrading Feline Ferocity

I managed to make a little bit more on my last paycheck than normal, so I was able to squeeze out a little bit extra fun money and picked up some cards the other day on a whim. I was out and about already, and was actually thinking of picking up a few Unstable packs for funsies, but I ended up seeing a lone Commander 2017 deck lying there, lonely and forgotten. It deserved a new home, so I grabbed it. Behold, our fearless new leader:

Being a C17 product, the featured commander of the deck has the Eminence ability, meaning he packs some utility despite residing in the command zone. It’s a great tool for Edgar, and I’ve already talked about how I’ve revamped that deck back when these released in August. Since then I made or brewed multiple decks with the Arcane Wizardry deck. This was the last of the precons that I wanted, as the Dragons have been overdone in my playgroup. Since the deck sort of revolves around equipment the natural choice is to build this into a voltron deck, but since I already have Sram doing a great job at that style, I didn’t want to follow the trend. As such, I’m sticking with a go-wide win strategy that tends to work well with tribal builds, but I’m going to stick with the equipment-matters subtheme. Some of the cards here work so well with equipment without necessitating a single swinging minion. It did lack a clear cut win condition though, which I think is something all of the precons this year had suffered from. Still, the tools are here and we’re going to use them. I’ll show you how I made some upgrades on a budget, but kept the heart of the deck alive. This could of course go much further by modifying the land base and replacing some cards with strictly-better versions, but for budget and time’s sake, I’ll show you a quick way to make this deck your own without spending a lot of dough. Here’s the original deck list: (removed cards crossed out)

Feline Ferocity:

1 Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith
1 Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
1 Alms Collector
1 Balan, Wandering Knight
1 Stalking Leonin
1 Hungry Lynx
1 Qasali Slingers
1 Jazal Goldmane
1 Jareth, Leonine Titan
1 Kemba, Kha Regent
1 Leonin Arbiter
1 Leonin Shikari
1 Raksha Golden Cub
1 Seht’s Tiger
1 Spirit of the Hearth
1 Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Phantom Nishoba
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Sunspear Shikari
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
1 Temur Sabertooth
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Traverse the Outlands
1 Divine Reckoning
1 Rout
1 Hunter’s Prowess
1 Soul’s Majesty
1 Cultivate
1 Harmonize
1 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
1 Kindred Summons
1 White Sun’s Zenith
1 Condemn
1 Wing Shards
1 Crushing Vines
1 Relic Crush
1 Bloodforged Battle-Axe
1 Hammer of Nazahn
1 Argentum Armor
1 Grappling Hook
1 Quietus Spike
1 Staff of Nin
1 Sword of the Animist
1 Sword of Vengeance
1 Heirloom Blade
1 Herald’s Horn
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Hedron Archive
1 Hero’s Blade
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Mirari’s Wake
1 Abundance
1 Zendikar Resurgent
1 Curse of Vitality
1 Curse of Bounty
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Stirring Wildwood
7 Plains
6 Forest
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Blighted Woodland
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Command Tower
1 Elfhame Palace
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Grasslands
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Krosan Verge
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Opal Palace
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tranquil Expanse
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Vivid Grove

As you can see I didn’t remove too much. With the land base present I only removed the strictest tap lands because I feel like they slow things down and there are several ramp spells that rely on pulling basic land cards so I replaced them with basics. Otherwise, I added some nice cat cards that weren’t present in the precon, and adjusted some spells along with adding some win conditions. Let’s check out the additional cards:

Brimaz is the only card that is really an expense, at about $12-14. Everything else is pocket change, and you should be able to pick all of them up for under $30. Here’s my reasoning for the additions: The few cats that I added stay on theme, being able to utilize Arahbo’s eminence ability but also do cool things like summon more cats or beef up cats, or even make your cat spells uncounterable! I added in a tribal themed equipment that I’m surprised didn’t make the precon, and added some more card draw with Rishkar’s Expertise and give my equipments flash with Sigarda’s Aid. As for the win cons:

You can obviously go wide if you get the right combination of cats and equipments on the field. Several of the creatures benefit from being equipped, and you should be getting in some chip damage from early on in the game. One goal will be to have several creatures out that can attack, and play Beastmaster Ascension during your first main phase, then attack with seven creatures simultaneously to get the +5/+5 affect which should be eliminating an opponent from play. You can also use Overwhelming Stampede before combat for a similar effect. I may later add in Triumph of the Hordes for redundancy as the infect is usually enough to defeat even the healthiest of opponents. You also have a voltron subtheme here, and tools like Rogue’s passage can sometimes be enough to win via commander damage, but I think if you want to go that route you should probably run Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith or Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist as they benefit more from voltron strategies. Conversely, you can actually play Arahbo and then kit him out to swing for lethal commander damage too, but my playgroup rarely wins that way.

I think these small improvements will be better than the precon itself but I already see where I could easily spend a few more dollars on this to make it more efficient and honed in. For now, we’ll call it a budget upgrade and move on. You can see my full deck list here.

Hope this gave you some ideas at least. Happy Gaming!