Thoughts on The Banner Saga 3

I’m not a huge Crowdfunding/Early Access fan, but I have participated in both gaming ideas. I’ve purchased somewhere in the ballpark of a dozen Early Access games, and have seen most of those actually make it to a released state (whether or not I actually kept playing it that long). In that sort of light, Early Access sounds pretty great despite the fact that you can find plenty of terrible tales about money hungry devs that don’t finish their work. On the other side of the coin, I’ve only participated in Crowdfunding twice, using Kickstarter to back the upcoming MMO Crowfall, along with the title we’re talking about today, The Banner Saga 3.

The first two games in this series, created by indie devs Stoic Games, were also Crowdfunded, and though I bought and played through both of them, I missed out on being able to back them, so I rectified that this time around. I backed the game back in 2016 I believe it was, and it has finally released!

I started up the final chapter of the journey the other day, and I’ve already enjoyed it thoroughly. Your mileage may vary. I said it best on Twitter:

That’s really all that can be said. The game still has amazing hand drawn art, it still plays like The Oregon Trail. There are still choices, there’s still tactical combat in between the lulls in action. And the story is still intriguing and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends. But if you didn’t care for the original nothing has really changed so you should probably skip it. Here’s some screens of my initial session, which could contain some spoilers.

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If you are a fan of the series, The Banner Saga 3 is on sale now on PC and Console. It’s totally worth the asking price!

TWR: Commander 2018 Full Spoilers

I wrote about a few of the spoilers for Commander 2018 earlier this week, and now the decks have been spoiled fully. I wasn’t seeing much to be excited about then, and I’m still feeling pretty indifferent about the new set at this point. There are a couple of new cycles that seem okay, and some individual cards that I wouldn’t mind for other decks or as build arounds, but for the most part there isn’t a single one of these precons that I can’t wait to get my hands on, and that makes me sad. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t buy the product, because each deck will come with staples and a handful of cards that I’ll want, but it’s also probably wiser to just buy singles. Some of the reprints are handy, but there isn’t anything that’s an expensive card being reprinted that makes me want to jump on that particular deck. Overall it’s a lackluster product and I’m surprised given Wizards’ track record this year. Dominaria was amazing. Battlebond was spectacular. Ever Core Set 2019 had some chase cards in it. Commander 2018 is the worst thing to release this year. But don’t let my doom and gloom bother you, perhaps there’s something there for people that I’m not seeing, and if you’re a new player in the format these are still a great way to get a bunch of cards on the cheap so you can play with your friends. First up, let’s look at the new cycles.

New Cycles:

The first new cycle is a storm cycle. The Storm keyword hasn’t been used much over the years, but it usually revolves around how many spells you cast in a turn, then you copy the storm spell for however many spells cast before it. Rather than being that keyword, this cycle functions a little bit differently. Each of these storm cards counts how many times you’ve cast your commander that game, and then you get copies of the spell equal to that. It’s the same sort of mechanic but made to work via EDH. Of these my favorites are Skull Storm and Genesis storm, the former being a finisher in the right deck, the latter being some nice tutoring.

Lieutenant isn’t a new thing, we had these in past commander products, but there are one for each color at this point, and that’s a nice feature. Each of them will give you a boon as long as you control this creature and your commander. I’d say the blue and green versions are probably the best but each could find a place in many decks. Next up, let’s look at some of the individual cards that I think are worth finding homes for in your decks.

White:

The Heavenly Blademaster is a nice creature. A 3/6 flying double striker, it gives an anthem to your other creatures equal to the number of auras and equipment attached to it. That’s powerful in a deck that’s dealing with auras and equipment, but probably not good in a voltron deck because you won’t have other creatures to benefit from the anthem. Magus of the Balance is a nice land destruction tool that isn’t as harsh as Armageddon. Lastly, seeing some of the miracles reprinted is nice, and Banishing Stroke is a good one, putting a permanent on the bottom of its owner’s library for one mana if you happen to be able to cast it for its miracle cost.

Blue:

Another miracle, a reprint of Saheeli’s Artistry (which is a really good card from Kaladesh) and a new card sharing its commander’s name: Animatou’s Augury. This one exiles 8 cards from the top of your library and ramps you by one land, then for each non land type you can cast a spell for free. It’s expensive and can whiff, but when it goes off that’s a good card.

Black:

Yet another miracle reprint, and three cards I really like. Sower of Discord is Saskia’s ability on a different creature. It’s also a demon, so it fits well in my Kaalia deck. Moonlight Bargain is some nice card draw in black, but a little on the expensive side. Night Incarnate is a nice board clear and is cheaper if you evoke it. Great for Meren and other reanimators.

Red:

Blasphemous Act is a commander staple for red. Enchanter’s Bane looks to be a new one. It’s an Enchantment that deals damage to another enchantment’s controller equal to that enchatment’s cmc. So if someone drops a propaganda on you, drop this on their propaganda, and good times will ensue.

Green:

Green feels like it got the most love this time around. Nothing here is absolutely amazing, but there are some good useful cards. Graveyard hate, commander tax reduction, recursion, enchantments matter and some big creatures. Looks good.

Multi-Colored:

Some interesting new cards and some reprints in multi-color. I really like the new Legendary Ninja, and it’s an interesting thought to build Esper Zombies. Many white zombies were introduced back in Amonkhet so it’s probably doable but probably not that effective. I’ll stick with Dimir Zombies myself. Some interesting cards here but still nothing spectacular.

Colorless and Lands:

More reprints in this category. We’re getting the slow fetch lands, a new scry land, and some others. Duplicant is a staple to a degree, and unwinding clock goes well in decks looking to combo with artifacts. Otherwise nothing amazing.

And that’s that. If I end up picking up some of these and finding some new brews I’ll be sure to share but as of now I’m not overly impressed. A shame really, as this is supposed to be the best time of year for us EDH players. Anyway, you can see the full decklists here.

Blogging is Dead! Long Live Blogging!

I’ve signed up for “Mentor” status for this year’s Blaugust/NBI event, and as such it’s up to myself and fellow mentors to try and steer new blogging participants in the “write” direction (I see what you did there). Some of us that have signed up to be mentors have been doing this whole blogging thing for a long time, and others for only a couple of years. I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t matter how long you do a thing, you can still learn new tricks and still be hit by writer’s block. As such, I’d like to share some of the things that I have learned and hopefully this will help someone to get started or be inspired to keep going.

First though, I’ve stolen this compiled list of this year’s participants from Wilhelm, and I must say it’s a nice looking list, containing both members of the Old Guard along with a good amount of new blogs:

  1. A Green Mushroom
  2. Aeternus Gaming
  3. Ald Shot First
  4. Ash’s Adventures
  5. Athernes Adventures
  6. Aywren Sojourner
  7. barely readable diary
  8. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  9. Bio Break
  10. Book of Jen
  11. Calamity Jess
  12. Can I Play Too
  13. Casual Aggro
  14. Contains Moderate Peril
  15. Deez Wurds
  16. Fresh Eyes in Gaming (not yet live)
  17. Gamer Girl Confessions
  18. Gaming Conversations
  19. GamingSF
  20. Geeky Dad Fitness
  21. Going Commando
  22. Gray’s Cozy Nook
  23. Heattanu’s Game
  24. I’m Not Squishy
  25. Inventory Full
  26. JVT Workshop
  27. leaflocker
  28. Mailvaltar – MMOs and other stuff
  29. Me vs. Myself and I
  30. Moonshine Mansion
  31. Municipal City
  32. Murf Versus
  33. Nerdy Bookahs
  34. Neverwinter Thoughts
  35. Nomadic Gamers, Eh!
  36. Pizza Maid
  37. Princess in a Castle
  38. Professorbeej is Awesome
  39. RandomX
  40. RunningShoes.tv
  41. Scarybooster
  42. Shadowz Abstract Gaming Blog
  43. Shards of Imagination
  44. Simply Janine
  45. StarShadow
  46. Stropp’s World
  47. Tales of the Aggronaut
  48. The Ancient Gaming Noob
  49. The Path They Walk
  50. ThisThingIsNeat
  51. Through Wolfy’s Eyes
  52. TroytlePower
  53. Why I Game
  54. WoW Alt Addiction

That’s quite the list, and here we thought that blogging was a dying art!

Jokes aside, blogging has been “dying” for years. When I first migrated over to WordPress.com people were talking about blogging being dead, and that was 11 years ago (WordPress just notified me that my anniversary was a few days ago, having migrated back in 2007). Honestly, there is a smaller amount of blogs out there now as opposed to back then, but the Internet has changed. YouTube wasn’t the phenomenon that it has become, streaming wasn’t a thing yet, and though Podcasting was still an option then it wasn’t on my radar nearly as much at that time. As it goes, everyone has their preferred method of content consumption, but just because little Timmy only watches YouTube videos doesn’t mean you should give up on writing because Timmy’s older brother Johnny prefers reading. Also, there aren’t any rules that say you can’t do multiple things if you have the time. I used to maintain this blog and also run a podcast while simultaneously streaming and making some YouTube videos as well. Don’t be afraid to dabble until you find your preferred creative outlet!

I’ll agree with Wilhelm that WordPress.com is probably the best option for a budding blogger. It’s free, you get plenty of customization options and the stat tracking is good. There’s also plenty of storage space for your screenshots and other pictures, which help to make your blog posts more dynamic. I have zero experience with Blogger or Tumblr though, so I could be biased. Still, I would advise against spending money as paying to blog seems silly until you are established and know that you’re in it for the long haul.

Finding your audience is another matter, as most people go into this idea of blogging thinking that they’ll write about this one thing and paint themselves into a corner. My school of thought comes from the late 90’s when I got my start, when I was part of the E/N crowd. E/N = Everything/Nothing and means that you can literally write about anything that you want. I’ve had comments over the years about guides or adventures I’ve written about being appealing, but some people like when I give a more personal touch and write about my life. Your audience will grow primarily by having a good output moreso than the content you’re writing about. If people know that you’re going to have out a post every day, or a couple of posts a week, they’ll come back to consume that content regularly. If you only post once every 6 months you probably won’t have much of an audience, so keep with it!

That’s not to say you need a schedule. I’ve maintained an output of about 15 posts per month for about a year, so about one every other day. Wilhelm and others post every weekday and some post every single day. Find what works for you and try to stick with it. By the end of Blaugust you will have found a way to make 31 posts, one a day, so you should be able to tell if you like that sort of schedule or if you’d prefer to dial it back a bit. My real life schedule is hectic so I don’t have the time to write every day (Blaugust is a challenge every time) but you might. To each their own.

That’s the advice I have for you today. Now I’m going to try and figure out what I’m going to write about next month. Happy writing!

Finding Inspiration Where There Is None

It’s prep week for Blaugust Reborn, which is also sort of the NBI event for this year as well. Mentors were asked to get something written up to inspire the newbies, and it’s funny because I have had a case of writer’s block for the past couple of weeks. I dug around through old posts and found one that I originally used as a guest post on my Sister’s blog (though she doesn’t seem to be writing much anymore either). The post in question was about finding inspiration to write, and it’s very fitting at this moment due to my own difficulties as of late. It was never published here, so I suppose getting it migrated over for posterity is also a good thing. I haven’t changed any of the content of the post otherwise, so I’m thinking I might be able to write another updated version of this later in the week and see how much different my thought processes are now as opposed to then. With all that said, let’s get to it!

Originally Posted January 15th, 2015

We’ve all been there.

You’re staring at a document — you opened it with the intention of writing something, anything really — and now is the time you realize that you have no idea what to write about. Those fleeting thoughts you had before you went to sleep the night before should have been scribbled on the bedside table, but you were too lazy to commit them to paper. Your late-night muse long gone, you have to find some other form of inspiration.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, a short story, poetry, or a blog post. Writing is tough.

Let’s share some of my background, perhaps to give my words more weight. I have been blogging for ten years. The Couch Podtatoes Podcast is my brain-child. I’ve also been in more than one band (though only one where we played live shows), and lent my lyrical skills to the task. I don’t have lists of books I’ve written or anything else to share on that front, but suffice to say I’ve spent much of my adult life writing.

It may be different to compose blog posts on a regular basis as opposed to writing a literary masterpiece, but I do believe that the techniques I have learned and used translate quite nicely. Coming up with new show ideas for the podcast or lyrics for a song can be just as challenging, just as rewarding, and each requires a certain amount of polish, creativity and must be done within a certain time frame. All of these facets add up to the penultimate accomplishment, even if that goal is just for today, and you have to start anew tomorrow.

Now that I have matter-of-fact-ly lumped all creative endeavors into one category, let’s get down to some tips for finding your muse, when none seems to exist:

1. Inspiration is hard to pin down, because it usually strikes when you least expect it. In years past I might have written an idea down on a notepad; these days I just make sure to make myself regular notes on my smartphone when the ideas come.

2. If the ideas aren’t coming naturally, try researching the topic further on the Internet, or simply browse randomly. I have written hundreds of posts that were inspired by others’ writing.

3. Stay focused on the task until it is done if you can, but don’t be afraid to take a break or let your mind wander for a while. It’s likely you will come up with something when you don’t stress yourself out about it.

4. Listen to music, watch TV or movies, and view artwork. Others who have found their muse can brush off on you. I tend to write more fluidly when I have music playing in the background.

5. If, for whatever reason, the above doesn’t work for you, you might consider putting that project on hold. Sometimes your mind has new ideas it wants to get out first, and it’s okay to come back to an old project later. Some writers don’t release their best work until the middle of their careers. There’s nothing wrong with scrapping that which won’t work.

That’s about all I have for today. Happy Creating!

TWR: Commander 2018 Spoilers

Spoiler season for the next Commander product starts today. The Commander 2018 decks were slightly spoiled last week, when we learned the themes of each deck along with the color pairings. It was rumored earlier in the year that the new generals would be Planeswalkers as they did in the 2014 product, but then it appeared that it would be something else. It turns out that the rumors were true, and each of the four decks are helmed by a new commander Planeswalker. Only one of these is making a second appearance, Saheeli Rai who was in the Kaladesh set. The others are new Planeswalkers to my knowledge. As it is the first day of spoilers we haven’t seen much from the decks, but as I have had a bit of writer’s block lately, I figured I’d use what we do know as a jump off point. So let’s start with the new faces of the decks:

I apologize for the shitty picture quality, better quality pictures don’t tend to show up until later on in the spoiler cycle. So this first new planeswalker is called Aminatou, and is a new Esper general. Esper is a great color pairing, but I’m unsure how to feel about this one. I guess it’s sort of a chaos theme, as you can mess with the top card of your library, flicker one of your permanents, but the ultimate is strange. For -6 loyalty, you get to essentially shuffle all nonland permanents to the left or right for all players. Stealing someone else’s big board is nice but what a confusing board state to resolve. I’m not sure what else will be in the deck but I don’t really care for this Planeswalker.

Estrid is our Bant general, another decent color pairing. You can untap enchanted permanents, create an aura at will to give totem armor to a permanent, and then throw 7 cards in your graveyard and get all of the auras back onto the battlefield. I like enchantress themes but this one seems kind of meh. I mean, being able to throw auras on stuff and then untap it is great, I suppose with a Chain Veil you can do some stupid stuff with this deck, so I’ll hold my opinions until we know more.

Saheeli is making her second appearance since Kaladesh, but this version of her seems a bit less busted. Making tokens is good for protection, making spells cheaper based on controlled artifacts seems okay too, and being able to make a ton of copies is alright but still underwhelming.

Representing the Jund color pairing is Lord Windgrace. If nothing else, this guy is probably the best deck just because you can use both The Gitrog Monster and Omnath, Locust of Rage in it due to the colors. This means a shit load of lands matter cards can be used together and I like that. This guy plays into the strategy by allowing you to discard a land to draw two cards, return lands from your graveyard and then destroy 6 permanents and get 6 tokens. That ultimate is a pretty good wipe and 6 2/2’s isn’t bad either. At this point this is the deck I’m most interested in, but again we’ll have to see how the rest of the deck looks.

They didn’t give us many other spoilers, but let’s take a look at what we have seen so far.

This guy is likely one of the sub-generals in the Saheeli deck. Bad colors for most token decks, but giving all tokens haste is nice. You’ll get some 2/1 tokens each turn as well, so that’s not terrible.

So draw 3 cards and get a 3 mana generating rock for 6 cmc. Not bad. But, it can be stolen from you if they don’t block. A decent political card but not really worth it in my book.

Echo Storm is interesting. It allows you to copy artifacts, which can be nice but then also basically storms off of the amount of times you’ve cast your commander. In theory it sounds like you could do some busted things with this card, but I’d prefer to see it in action before I make my mind up about it.

A commander-only land, this one is interesting. Your commander will get a +1/+1 counter or a loyalty counter on it just for tapping this land the same turn you cast your commander. It’s also a colorless mana source, so why not use it? Decent.

A 2 mana artifact that allows you to draw a card for two mana. Not really worth it in my book.

This one is kinda lame unless you’re running an artifact deck but it’s clear that with enough mana you’ll be able to tap and untap this one for some shenanigans.

Improvise is making a comeback! This spell will let you thin out your deck and potentially grab a few artifacts in the process, but nothing super special.

I’m assuming this one is also a sub-general for Saheeli. I also foresee some busted things happening with that ability, and it’s pretty versatile as well. Izzet players rejoice.

Quite possibly my favorite card that was spoiled today. The Treasure Nabber will steal you Sol Rings and other mana generating artifacts for a turn, which in turn should help you spend big mana. This guy will be joining my Krenko deck once I get my hands on him.

Last but not least, another Legendary knight but in red, which means it won’t be played in any knight decks. If you can get through with combat damage, you’ll give your enemies 1/1 tokens that can’t attack you, meaning this is a political piece. When Varchild dies, you’ll get all the 1/1 tokens. It’s okay but nothing special.

That’s all for today’s spoilers. I may revisit this again when there is another sizeable chunk or just wait for the complete spoilers. See anything you like?