Random Friday Ramble

I already posted once today, but I thought I should get one more in today due to the fact that I haven’t been writing much of anything lately and want to get my post count for the month up just a bit. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I still feel the urge quite often as a matter of fact, but I haven’t been gaming as much either lately, so that makes it harder to have things to share with you. Sometimes these sorts of posts are therapeutic and allow me to gather my thoughts and thereby come to a decision.

So why am I not gaming as much lately? I want to place most of the blame on my work schedule, but I know that’s not entirely true. It is a fact that I work graveyard/early morning hours, so things like sleep have to be done during the day. We also get released at different times each day, though the average is about 10 am. On days when I’m off early, I think about all of the games I could be playing and therefore writing about, but once I’m home and settled I’m usually no longer in the mood. There are days when errands need ran and/or family obligations take up my free time. Sometimes I have visitors and other times I go to little social gatherings. My social life has improved since moving back out here, but that does detract from hobby time. I’m good with a fairly even split, but lately it feels like real life has taken more of a toll and I’m tired and grumpy most of the time, which is probably a drag for those around me. I’m coming to grip with different parts of my life and the changes that have come along with them, and these things take time.

Another part that makes me sad is the lack of frequency in which I play Magic: The Gathering. A couple of years ago I had a regular play group of 3/4 guys and we played once a week, rarely missing — this went on for at least a year or thereabouts. Then one of the guys moved and we were down to two regulars including myself. 1v1 MTG is fine, but it’s not the format we prefer so this meant going to local game stores to try and find more people to play with. We did that for a while and then it too tapered off to the point where we played maybe once a month. We had our third player out a couple of times and went to Vegas last year, but overall my time with the game is down when it comes to actually playing. I do still find the time to make new brews, keep up on news and new sets, and of course write about it — but it’s just not the same. Thankfully my sister and her boyfriend come to visit on occasion so I do still end up playing here and there, and I did make one trip out to play with my old roommate this year; Vegas is also upcoming again this summer. But outside of these rare gatherings I’m not playing much and I want that to change. I’m seriously considering finding an LGS that I can go to more often. Fingers crossed for me.

I think one reason I’m not gaming as much is because I’m not hooked on anything right now. All of the games I own aren’t doing anything for me at present. I know I have a backlog that I have made some progress through but it’s still a tall task. I was playing Destiny 2 pretty regularly but I’ve gotten bored of it, shy of completing Forsaken. There’s already rumors of a Destiny 3 in the works, so there’s the whole prospect of starting all over again by next year and I’m not sure I even want to. I wanted to grab RAGE 2 so I had something new to play on my PC which has been collecting dust lately, but then it ended up with some bad reviews and I just don’t know if it’s worth my $60. Thinking I’ll wait for a sale there. On the horizon are the Crash Team Racing Remake, DOOM Eternal, and Borderlands 3 that I’m definitely into, but they aren’t out yet so that doesn’t help. I’ve been paying attention to my wish list and Steam, we know the Summer Sale is coming soon, and I see that I could grab Battletech or XCOM2’s expansion on the cheap, but I’m not sure I want to do that either. The Steamworld series just got a new entry as well with Steamworld Quest, and that looks pretty good too for the money, but again, my malaise has been sticking for a while.

Perhaps another purge is in order. Just delete the games I’ll never feasibly see the end of and pretend they don’t exist. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Then perhaps a shorter list will provide some answers. Or maybe I just have to buy my happiness. Whatever the case, thanks for hanging out and listening to me ramble.

TWR: Looking Ahead to Modern Horizons

Although it’s not a normal set, it’s not quite a masters set either. It’s not standard legal, instead skipping right to Modern legality (but this also means it’s great for EDH). Like Battlebond last year, we’re getting a late spring alternate set that comes with a variety of things you just couldn’t jam into a standard legal set. This one comes out in June, and is called Modern Horizons. It was advertised to have all new cards to Modern, so any of the reprints would have to be legacy cards, but we still managed to get a nice mixture of reprints that are nice and new cards that will work in Modern, EDH, and Limited formats. I’d even think Pauper got a thing or two, but I’m not really up on its meta. As usual, there is a Buy-A-Box promo card, this time being one I’m not thrilled about but I’m sure there are people out there that will want it.

Buy-A-Box:

It’s Flusterstorm! It’s a one mana counterspell that forces an opponent to pay one mana or the spell they cast will be countered. The reason people actually want it is that it has Storm, so if someone starts to “storm off” (playing with a storm deck that specializes is casting many spells quickly) you can use this to stop them in their tracks. As counterspells go, it’s fine, but it’s not a good enough incentive to buy a box. Though I think the set itself does have that sort of value — it’s unfortunate that they cost so much more than a normal box ($250 as opposed to $100). This set brings with it some interesting cards, and as usual I won’t be able to comment on them all, but I thought I would highlight some of the new cycles, new legendary creatures (aka new commanders) and EDH playables.

Force Cycle:

The first new cycle we saw spoilers for was the “force cycle” which includes a new force spell for each of the game’s five colors. They are modeled after the excellent Force of Will, which allows you to discard a blue card to cast it rather than paying its mana cost. It’s great for competitive and casual decks alike. The new blue force spell is to Negate what Force of Will is to Counterspell. Still pretty good but not amazing. The green force is pretty good artifact/enchantment removal for free, so you can blow up that Chain Veil that’s about to go off. The black force is good to slow down an aggro or token deck that puts a lot of creatures down in one turn. Outside of that, the white and red versions are pretty terrible but I wanted to include them nonetheless.

Talisman Cycle Now Complete:

Talismans have been around for a long time, and they are basically Pain Lands on an artifact. For 2 CMC you get an untapped colorless rock, or you can take a damage and get one of two colors. Five of the color combinations existed until now, so the cycle is finally complete. Great for most decks that are running multiple colors, they are damn good rocks and auto includes.

New Legendary Creatures:

Next up, new Legendary creatures. I was really impressed with these, and we got one of each color along with a WUBRG and Colorless option. Technically our White and Colorless options count as WUBRG commanders as well, but for all intents and purposes they’ve spread the love around pretty well. I was most interested in Morophon initially, as he looks like a cool commander for changelings and shapeshifters but he also can slam right into Jodah and between the two of them you’re casting spells for free — this makes the creature another omnipotence, which I’ve already got in the deck. Then The First Sliver was spoiled and holy shit! Slivers already looked like a pretty strong tribe, and then this guy comes out with Cascade and gives all of his homies cascade too! What the actual fuck? Too bad he’s already speculated to cost $40 and the older legendary Slivers are more than that.  I’m so-so on Sisay… seems good but I’m just not into that style of commander, the same goes for Bear tribal, Urza and Yawgmoth. It’s cool that they got legendary cards finally, but I don’t really care. Now when it comes to Pashalik Mons on the other had, I completely approve! I have a Krenko goblin deck already, and I threw the recently released new version of Krenko in the deck, but this guy also deserves a slot. I still think that Krenko is the better commander, but you essentially only infinite mana to win the game in combination with this card. So another tool for the goblin deck is coming, and I can’t wait to use it!

EDH Playables:

These cards are all the best ones I saw while spoilers rolled out for the last couple of weeks. Honestly there are only a few here that I really can’t wait to get my hands on, but I can see that some of these are great additions to decks that I don’t play but I know people who do. There are two new swords that are part of a cycle that is also not yet complete, but they didn’t end up putting all 5 that were needed in the set. Out of these two, the Sword of Truth and Justice is really good… Sinew and Steel is less so but could be good in certain decks. Winds of Abandon is a new Cyclonic Rift in white, but it will ramp the shit out of your opponents so you’ll want to be carefull how you use it… Perhaps an Armageddon is in order afterwards. The Ninja at the top is pretty amazing, and there were a handful of others in this set, which means Yuriko just got some new toys and Ninjas are a more viable tribe now. There are some other great cards here, so take a look. Remember, reading the card explains the card!

Lands:

Finally, we have lands. For whatever reason WotC decided it was a good time to bring Snow-Covered lands back, which haven’t seen printing since the Ice Age set. This means there are other cards in the set that reference “snow permanents” and some mana costs or ability costs require snow covered lands to activate/play. Another new cycle are these dual lands that allow you to use them immediately but cost you life. They seem okay for EDH but not so great otherwise. However, you can sacrifice them for card draw so that’s okay. Otherwise we have a fetch land that fetches basics, which is weird but could be effective if you can bring it back from the graveyard and you run enough basics to make it worthwhile. And then we have The Hall of Heliod’s Generosity, which will allow you to return enchantments from the graveyard but you have to be playing white to use it. Enchantment recursion is a bit limited so this is great for enchantress decks. That’s about it for this set preview, I’m looking forward to getting some new tools soon!

TWR: Such Uncommon People Emerge Radically Friends

In case you don’t catch the meaning of this post title, this is a new deck I brewed up using Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice along with a pile of new and old Planeswalkers. That means, we’re talking Superfriends!

Such
Uncommon
People
Emerge
Radically

F
R
I
E
N
D
S

Hopefully that clears things up. I don’t know if that’s clever or not, but I like naming my decks random things if something catchy comes to mind, and there you have it. But enough about the naming convention, let’s look at our queen of the deck, Atraxa herself:

I’ve owned a copy of Atraxa for nearly a year. I purchased her and a copy of Doubling Season at GP Vegas last summer, and this summer’s convention is fast approaching as well. Originally I wanted her to build a superfriends deck, but then I started thinking I’d like to have access to red and wanted to make her into an infect deck instead. I still like the idea of infect for Atraxa, and I wrote about it before, but I never did get around to actually building the deck. As such, she sat and collected dust while I worked on other things. With the release of War of the Spark and the plethora of new Planeswalker additions I just knew I had to go back to my original idea for the commander. The reason infect or superfriends builds are so popular with Atraxa at the helm is because she has that one line of text that reads “At the beginning of  your end step, proliferate.” This means that at the end of your turn, anything with a counter on it, will get an additional counter. So if players have infect counters, or Planeswalkers are on the board, or if anything has a +1/+1 on it, they’re getting one more. Combo this with things like Doubling Season and the Chain Veil, and you can do some fun stuff. First though, let’s look at other ways we can proliferate without relying on our commander completely.

Proliferate Effects:

I’ve added in a handful of creatures that help with our proliferate theme, mainly by proliferating after a certain requirement is met, be it lands entering the battlefield or spells being cast. We have one draw spell that also proliferates, and an enchantment that doubles up with Flux Channeler. Deepglow Skate can be the finishing touch if you already have a bunch of Planeswalkers on the board. Next up I want to talk about the Planeswalkers themselves, but I have a couple of notes: First, I actually threw this deck together strictly with cards that I opened up with my War of the Spark box, along with cards I already owned. Having a Doubling Season and The Chain Veil made this an easier deck to slap together. The mana base is currently shit, and there are some more powerful walkers that I could include in the deck, however some of them have hefty price tags and those have gone up after the release of this set. So this was sort of a budget build for me, but also would still be kind of expensive for one to purchase as singles all at once. So these selections I’m going to show you were either lucky pulls for me, or cards I already owned, so I didn’t have to make a big investment to slam the deck together. As such, it is a little all over the place, but I intend to smooth it out over time.

Planeswalkers:

As you can see, the majority of the Planeswalkers I’m using are from War of the Spark, with the exception of a handful of ones that I already owned and had primarily used in other decks. However, I wanted this to be playable now, and tune it as I go. As it stands it did well in the games I’ve played with it, but that hasn’t been too many. I have some powerful Planeswalkers here that will do some cool things, but I don’t have ones like Jace the Mind Sculptor which has a $150 price tag — but it will win you games. The main idea here is to just throw down some Planeswalkers that will create some tokens and get some proliferation going on so that your walkers are getting closer to their ultimates, you’ll get more tokens, and if you can get some counters down you’ll also get more of those. I managed to have a pretty good game with some of the less powerful ones, so if they don’t get answered immediately you can run away with a game. However, in multiplayer I imagine this doesn’t go as well, but I also know ways that we can shore things up. Perhaps I don’t have enough of a removal package or am not playing enough counters. Maybe I need to shift in other directions as far as my Planeswalker choices go. That’s the beauty of this game, being able to throw something together, find out what works and what doesn’t and then make adjustments accordingly. Not to mention, with each new set we get new walkers and new synergies and soon decks take on a life of their own. But I digress. I’m not going to share any more of the cards here today as I think you get the gist of where this is going. However, I wouldn’t recommend building this sort of deck unless you have at least a few of the better walkers along with Doubling Season and The Chain Veil. Oath of Teferi is helpful too. That’s all for today. You can check the full decklist here.

Thoughts on AFK Arena

It’s been a while since I tried out a new mobile game, and this one happened to pop up in an ad while using another app — it managed to catch my attention. I’m not sure if it was the art direction or what that first caught my eye, but I decided to follow the ad to the store page for AFK Arena and ended up liking what I saw enough to go ahead and download it. I’ve been playing it for a couple of weeks now and I’m happy to report that it’s a nice time waster if you don’t mind “games” that don’t require a ton of input from you. Sure, there are quests and activities that require some clicks and/or setting up, but for the most part the game is pretty automated, and yet still remains interesting.

The majority of the time you’ll be looking at this screen, or similar ones in the sub-menus. The campaign map is a long winding adventure and really the only portion of the game where you really need to do things. Once beginning a campaign level, your characters will appear on the left side of the screen, and enemies on the right. Combat is AI controlled, so all you’ll really do is watch the combat unfold, and RNG + character stats will determine the rest. You’ll get gear and new skills for your characters as you level them up, but they will still use these abilities on cooldown and you don’t have input otherwise. The only part you’ll take in battles is using your character’s ultimate abilities, which charge up over the course of a fight and are clickable once that meter is full. Each character has a unique ability, and sometimes it’s best to hold off on using one that is available only because mistimed abilities can whiff. However, you can still set these abilities to automatic, and in that case you really don’t do anything but watch your minions do battle for you.

Combat isn’t necessarily bad to watch either, as I’ve fought my way through to the campaign’s third chapter and it hasn’t gotten too stale yet. You do open up new characters quite often, so you can choose to switch things up as you go along. Characters also come in a variety of rarities as well, so you may end up with a better version of the same hero and want to use it instead. You will have to level up the characters you want to have on your team though, and each has an alignment that affects combat but doesn’t seem to matter in these early stages. As such, you’ll spend your exp and gold on these upgrades, and as you battle through the game you’ll get gear upgrades that help as well.

The world map appears to be rather large, so there is plenty of campaign to work through. Other activities include the King’s Tower and the Labyrinth, both of which are survival modes on increasingly difficult levels done in different ways. The Tower presents you with enemies, and you do your best to clear them to go the next level — pretty straight forward. The Labyrinth is a little different (pictured above) in that you can choose from two paths each stage, and there are special tiles where you can recruit powerful mercenaries, heal your squad, or revive fallen comrades. Neither are overly difficult, but it should be noted that the Labyrinth resets each day so your progress will be lost each time. There are guilds, and with that come guild hunts, where you fight an enemy continuously, but it slowly levels up and eventually you die. Points are recorded and the guild is rewarded after a set period. There’s also a store of course, and you can buy various heroes and things but I don’t see the point. You get gems at a rapid clip, so I don’t see the need to spend real coin. You’re also rewarded with summoning scrolls that sometimes give you some decent heroes, so I’d just play this for free were I you.

Overall I’ve enjoyed my time with it, and this is such a low maintenance title that it doesn’t feel overwhelming along with the other mobile games I’m still playing. I’ll have more updates on my progress in those games soon enough. Until then.

The War Report: Kefnet Slings Spells

The God-Eternal series that released with War of the Spark was inspiring, and better than their previous forms by a long shot. I never really used the Amonkhet Gods in any of my decks, but this time around they were all worthy inclusions into many decks. I slotted the Boar into my Jodah deck and Oketra slammed into zombies. I didn’t pull Bontu out of my box, but he’ll get picked up and used eventually. Kefnet was the only god that didn’t seem like he would be better in the 99 of another commander’s deck, no he seemed worth building around entirely. I’ve never really built a mono blue deck before, and as some of my friends have already done so I know a couple of tricks but wanted to make something that was my own. Let’s take a closer look:

God-Eternal Kefnet is a flying 4/5 for four CMC. That’s huge right there, as most cards this cheap will usually be a 3/3 or so and not have nearly as much relevant text. His main ability is that you may reveal the first card drawn each turn (even on opponent’s turns, keep this in mind) and copy it while reducing it’s cost by two generic mana. This means you can cast spells twice, because you draw the card and only cast a copy, and it also allows you to save some mana in the process. This means we can include cards that are normally a little bit suboptimal like a three mana draw two spell, but will actually only cost us one mana when casting the copies. There are other ways that we can abuse this ability, but the most important part of the plan comes via top-deck manipulation. I’ve tried to keep this deck fairly budget but there are a few cards that are necessary evils.

Top-Deck Manipulation:

Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top have both gone up in price recently. They are the money cards here, but they are absolutely needed to be able to abuse Kefnet’s abilities to the maximum potential. Being able to rearrange the top few cards of your library, scry cards to the bottom or otherwise choose your fate will allow you to set up spells that can be copied while Kefnet is on the board. This will also help you to dig for your win-cons, and I’ve included a few that should be able to keep this deck competitive or near it.

Win Cons:

There are a few combos that are included in the deck, and the first will make you infinite mana. I’ve covered this before, but by using Dramatic Reversal imprinted onto an Isochron Scepter, you can produce infinite mana with a basalt monolith, gilded lotus, or whatever you need. With said infinite mana, you can do a number of things, but one option is to unload the pain on everyone with a Walking Ballista. Add infinite counters, and remove those counters to ping everyone to death. Or, you can use the mana to cast a large Blue Sun’s Zenith to draw your library and win with Lab Man or the new Jace. Conversely, you can use BSZ to target other players and mill them out, you’ll just have to be able to re-draw BSZ once it’s back into your library.

The other pairing for Isochron Scepter is the new Narset’s Reversal. It is an instant that will return a spell back to its owner’s hand, while allowing you to copy said spell for free. This means we can do some twisted shit with extra turns! As such, I’ve included a number of extra turn spells, and again these are the money cards that you can’t really avoid to make the deck work the way I intend. Basically, with Narset’s Reversal imprinted, you can cast an extra turn spell and then respond with the Scepter activation, returning the card to your hand but also casting a copy of it. You can then cast it again and rinse and repeat. Each new turn you’ll be able to untap your lands, so you’ll essentially have infinite mana too. You can then just create a loop of sorts, gaining life with Aetherflux Reservoir and then blow people up with it.

Lastly, the deck is set up well to go wide with tokens, and so I’ve included a few ways to create them. If you can get one or more of these on the battlefield for a few turns, you should be able to make one of those infinite turn loops, or just cast a bunch of cheap spells to create a bunch of tokens, and in the case of Metallurgic Summonings, you can later sacrifice it to recur all of your spells from the graveyard to set up for an explosive turn.

Removal Package:

Outside of a ton of counterspells (mostly budget), these cards are here to deal with big threats. Turning an Eldrazi Titan into a 3/3 vanilla creature will piss your opponents off. Or you can turn their whole army into 1/1’s so that a big swing doesn’t hurt so much. Have a ton of mana? Capsize can help you remove a bunch of threats and keep your opponents busy recasting spells.

Other Utility:

Otherwise, I’ve included cards that will help you to draw more cards on other player’s turns so you can get more free casts (or at least card draw), and ways to make spells cheaper. Baral, Kefnet and Jace’s Sanctum on the board at once and you’re casting most spells for one mana. There is some tutoring with cards like Mystical Tutor, Long-Term Plans, Trinket Mage and Spellseeker, also Fabricate. And you can turn off all of those fancy duals your friends play with by dropping a Back to Basics on the board. Good times.

I think Kefnet has the power to be great, and I’ll be putting this together with real cards soon. Mono Blue is evil, and I want to join in on the fun!