Thoughts on The Exploding Kittens Expansions

If you aren’t familiar with The Oatmeal, you should correct that. His webcomics have been great and going strong for nearly a decade. I’ve followed him on social media for years, and I’ve always enjoyed his wit, sense of humor and intelligent discussion throughout. I remember hearing about a Kickstarter for some game that he was creating a few years back, but didn’t look into it further until more recently.

My girlfriend and I spent some time last year playing various board and card games with our son and it has become a fairly regular event in our house. After playing the games Oregon Trail, Boss Monster, and the Super Mario Card Game (as mentioned in the previously linked article) we looked into other family oriented games we could play with him that would also keep us adults engaged. Exploding Kittens was on my radar, and at some point he brought it up too. So we picked up a copy of the base game for him around Christmas time last year and played on a few occassions. It’s fun, and funny to boot. The game is played with cards, and is essentially Russian Roulette but with exploding cats instead of bullets. All of the cards feature art and jokes from The Oatmeal, along with having some ridiculous designs. The base game includes a deck and instructions, and it’s pretty easy to jump into. You’ll get a hand of cards and some special ones that allow you to defuse exploding kittens. Each turn you can pass and then draw a card, or play as many cards from your hand as you want. It seems holding onto some cards is a better idea than immediately dumping your hand, but in some cases you’ll need pairs of cards to have any moves. You’ll do things like peek at the top few cards of the library or shuffle it, attack other players (forcing them to take extra turns), or steal cards from them. It has just enough variety to not get boring too quickly but it is fairly simple and limited. We had some fun with it but it was clear that we were going to move on sooner than later until we discovered that there were expansion packs for the game!

Our son’s birthday just passed a couple of weeks ago, and we picked up the two existing expansions for the game for him. Imploding Kittens added a handful of new cards that shuffle right into the deck, and this means some new mechanics were introduced into the game. As a bonus, there is a pack-in “Cone of Shame” that is a hilarious addition. You know when you take your pet to the vet and they have something done and they have to wear those cones around their neck so they can’t lick their wounds? Well, this is the human version of that, and I laughed my ass off when my girlfriend had to wear it. Basically, if you forget the turn direction (they did add a reverse card, and just like in Uno, it can confuse people) you get to wear the cone of shame. The big addition was the imploding kitten itself, which is resistant to defuse cards, but it doesn’t kill the first player to draw it — instead they get to put it face up into the library as they see fit.

Streaking Kittens is the secondary expansion, and its big addition is the “Streaking Kitten” which allows you to hold an exploding kitten in your hand as long as you also keep the other card, but if it gets stolen you’ll still go boom! There are some additional cards that I can’t recall off the top of my head but it adds a bunch more variety and makes the game feel more complete. If you’re into card games and like explosions, I’d recommend these! I’m pretty sure you can get them all for under $40, so it’s a good value for up to 5 players.

TWR: Light As A Feather

Now that War of the Spark spoilers are said and done, it’s time to take a closer look at the cards that we can use in our EDH decks, along with new legendary creatures we can brew around. I tend to build at least one new legendary creature per set, but there are times when that varies. Some sets in recent years had better cards for the 99 of other decks, and in the case of this Ravnica block, there have been plenty of new commanders I’d love to build in EDH. As such, here’s a new brew from the latest set, featuring quite possibly my favorite card being printed:

Feather, the Redeemed is apparently a character that appeared in an older Ravnica set, but didn’t have its own card until now. As with most characters in the MTG world, they typically end up being a legendary creature at some point or another. Feather is a character I hadn’t heard of before, but I really like this card. Boros as a color pair has always been a bit on the weak side, and typical Boros commanders usually rely on combat and combat tricks to do their thing. White and Red are also the worst at card draw and land ramp, so the pair has been at the bottom of the barrel for a while. Recent additions in the past couple of years have made a difference — cards like Smothering Tithe can really help out this color pair. Anyway, back to Feather. She’s a 3/4 flyer for three CMC which is a pretty decent start. I enjoy low costed commanders because they come down early and have the ability to be recast several times in a long game. What makes Feather really interesting though, is her paragraph of text that says anytime I target one of my creatures with an instant or sorcery, it then goes to exile instead of my graveyard, and I get it back to hand at the end of that turn. This does mean you can also cast instants on other people’s turns and get them back at their end step, so there is some flexibility here. The only problem I saw initially was that these colors tend to have good removal but not as much utility outside of combat tricks, however there are a ton of good cantrips (a card that does something but also says “draw a card” on it) in these colors, and that’s how we can get some card advantage, not to mention the baked in advantage this ability brings. Let’s take a look at some spells we can try to exploit:

This is a smaller sampling of what’s included in my build, but it covers the major tricks we want to cover. Cantrips include Crimson Wisps, Defiant Strike, Expedite and Gods Willing. These cards will all replace themselves by instantly drawing you a card, but then will also come back into your hand for later use. You should be able to cast these spells over and over and get major value, and no one is going to waste a counter spell on these because normally they’re garbage cards that no self-respecting EDH player would use. Speaking of, this deck ends up being pretty budget because of this fact, with plenty of cards floating around a quarter or less. We have some other tricks though, where we can use cards like Expose Evil or Spawning Breath, both of which spawn tokens we can use to ramp/draw cards, and these cards can too be cast every turn. There are some go-wide burn spells included as well, though you’ll want to make sure to throw a point of damage at one of your creatures if you want to get the spell back to hand. I’ve also included a few ways to blink our own creatures, mainly so that we can avoid our opponent’s removal. There’s a white counterspell that might come in handy some day, and Seize the Day can get us an extra combat every turn if we do end up wanting to go sideways more often. As I said this isn’t all of the cards, but it gives you an idea of where I’m going with this. Next up, what creatures do we want in this spell heavy deck?

The main focus of the creatures in this deck is to compliment the spell heavy build. This means cards like Guttersnipe and Firebrand Archer that do damage to our opponents when we cast spells. This also means token generation for casting spells, ala Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor. This also means including some cool Heroic keyword cards that I’ve never really found a use for, and most of them too create more tokens or other shenanigans. Lastly, we have Mirrorwing Dragon and Zada, both of which will copy spells if you target them, meaning you can cantrip off of zada and then draw multiple cards at once, for like a single mana. Good stuff man. I don’t have a really clear cut win con here, it’s just a value engine and hopefully you drain people down low enough to swing with a bunch of tokens for the win. I really don’t have a bunch of other tricks up my sleeve either. You can check out the full deck list here.

Clash Royale: Trophy Road

The next big update to Clash Royale arrived earlier this month. The April update brought with it a new spell card — Earthquake — and general changes as usual. The big portion of the update is the way the ladder now works, and how matchmaking has changed a bit in the process. Dubbed “Trophy Road,” the new ladder is pretty much the same as the old ladder, except now you get rewards along the way while pushing through each arena. For those of us already past 4000 trophies (aka where the ladder actually starts) we were able to follow the trophy road from arena one all the way up, and collect a ton of rewards. I ended up with a bunch of extra gold, trade tokens and unlocked the new spell card just by collecting all of the goodies.

It seems that now when you get a win in a ladder match, you’ll still earn roughly 30 trophies and move up in rank. However, losses are mitigated quite well (net loss ~15 trophies), and it seems my entire clan has elevated to higher levels than they had before. I had previously made it to Challenger III, but I’m already a full 100 trophies beyond my prior best, and I think I might actually be able to push up into Master before the reset. Whatever the case, after the reset, we lose 75% of our trophies above 4000, so I’m likely back in Challenger I if I don’t push further in the next couple of weeks. We won’t get season reward chests anymore either, but do get to unlock the trophy road rewards again after the reset.

Speaking of the ladder, my ladder deck is nearly maxed out. I currently only need two more Electro Wizards to have all 8 cards at max level. As you can see I’ve also put some star points into a few cards, and I’m not too far off from being able to do so again. I still love this deck and it hasn’t changed in quite some time, but I do get bored playing it all of the time. The reason it works is because Hog and Loon are effective ways to take buildings down, but they are both vulnerable so I’ve included answers to the worst threats. The deck still struggles sometimes against 3 Musketeers and Golem decks, but usually ekes out wins regardless. It works well in other game modes as well, along with clan wars, but because I don’t have to worry about putting gold into it anymore I’ve started playing around with other options.

I’ve been trying to find a good Pekka, Royal Giant, or Mega Knight deck, and have experimented with them all. I have a Golem deck that is solid and another deck I’m going to share shortly, but I really wanted to make one of these other decks work. As such, I have a few experimental builds but I straight up copied this RG deck from my clan leader and it actually works pretty damn well, despite also including Pekka in the deck. Bonus, he’s used some of the same cards as I have, so I already have some max level cards, along with being close to maxing out RG itself. I’m not sure it will replace my ladder deck anytime soon, but it’s fun to toy around with.

Here’s a deck that I’ve created myself. I picked up the “Giant Double Prince” idea from from the classic deck battles, but then decided to run a deck around Goblin Giant instead. I pretty much chose cards I wasn’t using but still found strong. It is a little weak against air swarms, but you can combo things like Ice Wiz and Zap to take them out. It works well against other meta decks as well, but I’m still mainly playing it in 2v2 battles. I like it, just need to get some card levels before it’s really going to be any use to me. Now that I’m not focusing everything on one deck anymore, I have the time to test and grow.

Just thought I’d share some thoughts on the new update. The game is still going strong!

TWR: Looking Ahead to War of the Spark

Today marks the final spoilers for the upcoming Magic: The Gathering set, War of the Spark. I have been watching patiently the past few weeks waiting for this day to come so that I could show off some of the cards I find most interesting from this set, but also to gush about a few of them that I’m most excited for.

First off, here’s what we know. The set will feature 36 Planeswalkers, and there will be one in every pack. It releases May 3rd, and box pre-orders are already available. We also know that the following card is the Buy-A-Box promo for the set, and it’s a rather nice card:

Tezzeret is one of the better Planeswalkers in the set, and yet this version is only going to be available if you buy a box or buy a single which could end up being pricey. He’s got some nice abilities, and will slam right into most artifact focused decks in these colors. Also, we know that there is another Mythic Edition, and you can check out the details here. Since the focus of this set is on Planeswalkers, I figured I would take the time now to go over some of those I like the best.


You’ll notice above that some of the Planeswalkers shown here are uncommons. This is the first time we’ve seen uncommon Planeswalkers, where they are usually given the Mythic or Rare slot in most sets. This is how you get away with cramming so many into a single block, with the Mythics or Rares being the best/most powerful walkers, and the uncommons being lesser known and less powerful versions. Another new feature is the static abilities given to all walkers in the set. Each one will do something once you get it on the board, and then in the case of the Mythics and Rares, you’ll have the standard + and – loyalty abilities. In the case of the uncommon walkers, you get the static effect and only a minus ability, but they are still somewhat useful even if you don’t have an ultimate to abuse. In particular I can see Sorin slotting into my vampire deck, Teyo wants to be in my wall deck, and I’m sure others will find their way into my decks as well.

God Cycle:

The four Amonkhet Gods have made their re-emergence, but this time they’re all Zombies in addition to being Gods. This actually feels pretty good for Zombie decks, particularly Oketra who creates Zombies every time you cast a creature spell — which you’ll do plenty of in most Zombie tribal decks. Kefnet feels like a solid mono-blue deck that I just might build, copying all of the spells! The others are fine additions too, but nothing too exciting for me personally. I will say this version of Bontu is much better than the original.

New Lands:

Some new lands make their appearance with War of the Spark, with some having niche appeal and others being more broad. Emergence Zone and Blast Zone could both find places in many decks. Interplanar Beacon wants to be in Superfriends decks, while Karn’s Bastion can too, but also wouldn’t mind infect or token decks either. We also get a new man-land in Mobilized District, and those seem to be popular in certain circles.

New Artifacts:

There are a couple of new vehicles coming with the set, and both of them are pretty good. I just might slam them into my Shu-Yun deck. God-Pharaoh’s Statue is some nice stax, but a bit costly… but artifact decks can abuse things to get it out earlier. Firemind’s Vessel is a decent mana rock, if not a bit slow. I really like Bolas’s Citadel, it’s janky but looks fun and easy to abuse.

New Legendary Creatures:

Hype alert! I’m stoked for Feather, the Redeemed and have already brewed a deck for her. It’s janky fun, but I think it might actually be pretty good, even with a low budget. I’m also looking forward to slamming the new Krenko into my OG Krenko deck, just to add some more flavor. The new Neheb looks decent, we get some lands-matter deck hate in Tomek, and the new Lich is a solid Golgari card. Massacre Girl could be decent but I’m not as hyped for it as some others I’ve seen.

Everything Else:

There’s a bunch more that excites me, but I can’t go over each and every card. Another new cycle, the “Finales” are all pretty decent, but I rather like the green one as a finisher and the blue could be good in decks that want to draw cards. There are some decent new removal options, other ways to Proliferate, new aristocrat cards, and other tricks that look awesome. I’m planning on getting a box of this set, it’s the best one I’ve seen since last year’s Dominaria (outside of supplemental products, in which Ultimate Masters was pretty damn good). I’ll try to do another value proposition post after I’ve opened said box. I do this about once a year, and it seems that I got a ton of value out of the box of Dominaria, but only did okay with Aether Revolt. Hopefully this set will bring good fortune along with it. I’ll be back soon with my Feather build. Until then.

The War Report: Gideon’s Signature Spellbook

Last year, Wizards of the Coast introduced a new product line called “Signature Spellbook.” Most of us assumed this was a replacement product for the “From the Vault” series, as the two products provide reprints of older cards. In the case of the vault products, they always had a theme such as “transform” or whatever, and this meant only reprinting cards that made sense for that particular theme. In the case of the Spellbooks, WotC was able to pick iconic characters from Magic’s lore, and reprint a nice set of cards that were already indicative of the character, but with all new art. Each spellbook also includes one additional card — a foil version of any of the cards in the pack. This means you’ll get a total of 9 cards, and if I remember correctly it was priced somewhere around $20, which I found fair. Last year the first spellbook released, and it was all about Jace. This meant the original Jace Planeswalker was packed in, along with 7 other cards that were his signature spells. I picked one up just because I wanted some alternate art counterspells and a nice Mystical Tutor. In the case of this new product, I have a similar desire and will definitely be grabbing this product, which is due out next month (supposed to be released alongside War of the Spark). Behold, Signature Spellbook: Gideon:

The obvious two best cards included here are Path to Exile and Rest in Peace, and I’ll gladly pimp out my Zur deck further by adding those in (he already has the Jace spellbook cards that I could use in the deck as well). Blackblade Reforged is a great sword that I have in my voltron deck so that one will get used as well. I too believe that I have True Conviction in a deck or two, so I’ll find a spot for it. Otherwise, there are some edge cases here. I don’t see myself using the Planeswalker. Worship, Martyr’s Bond and Shielded by Faith are fine, but not great. I still rather enjoy the artwork, and sometimes you sit on cards like these for a while and then end up finding a use for them. It also means that I’m getting extra copies of cards that I can use in future builds, so I definitely see the value in this product and can’t wait to see who they give the treatment to next. I assume for black we’ll get Liliana, Chandra for Red and Nissa for Green, but there are so many cool spells that we’ll get new artwork for I’m sure it will be worth it. Maybe not worth the wait though!