The War Report: A Magical Vacation

I’ve been on vacation for a week now, and it’s been pretty swell. Last Sunday was my final day of work before the paid holiday, and smack in the middle of my time of was the trip to Las Vegas for Magic Fest 2019. I managed to play a lot of Magic: The Gathering over the course of the week, and thought I’d share some words and pictures to commemorate the events.

So as I said, I got off of work last Sunday morning, and still won’t go back to work until Wednesday early am. From there I had a couple of days of rest and relaxation ahead of me. My sister and her husband-to-be came over to visit us on Tuesday, and that meant we’d play some MTG in between catching up conversations and pizza (yay pizza, by the way). I had finished up my Yuriko build that I wrote about the other day, and really wanted to try that out so I ended up playing it vs. her Teysa Karlov and his Jodah, Archmage Eternal decks. He ended up beating us pretty readily with an early turn Sneak Attack into an Utvara Hellkite that we couldn’t answer. Yuriko still looked to have potential but it’s the only game I had played with her since finishing the build. I wanted a win and we only had time for one more game, so I pulled out my Zur the Enchanter deck which I had never played against them (it’s considerably higher powered) and pulled off a quick win.

Wednesday was prep and pack for Vegas day, so I ran some errands and gathered up my stashed recycling, coinage and bills and got those all turned in for cash for the trip. I left for Vegas on Thursday morning at 10am. I arrived by 2 pm. Unfortunately my friend who had reserved the room at our hotel wasn’t able to get off of work, so he left later in the afternoon and didn’t arrive until almost 9 pm. Needless to say I had to find a way to kill some time. Luckily our other friend who had moved to Vegas a couple of years ago had a place for me to hang out, and I did just that. We had some food, drank some beers and played some 1v1 Commander.

We ended up playing three separate games, and I won two of them. He’s had some money troubles and sold off a large portion of his collection. This meant he only had a total of three EDH decks and that would prove to be more frustrating for him than us as the weekend went on. Yuriko performed much better in the game at his house, and nearly won but he had a well timed Empress Galina that kept stealing my shit and pissing me off. My Zur game was a win, as was a game with Jodah. Later I would leave him behind (he had work in the morning) to go meet up with my ex-roommate to check into the hotel. We weren’t ready for bed yet, but at this point the first day of the convention was winding down, so we ended up ordering a pizza (yay pizza again!) and playing a few rounds. We got four games in before he was falling asleep with cards in hand. I won three of those games, probably the most fun of which was with Jodah, where I managed to drop Emrakul, the Promised End for 5 mana and basically took over the game. We crashed out looking forward to attending the convention in the coming days.

On day two, after waking up and getting cleaned up, we decided to play a few games in the room before heading over to the convention. Our other friend didn’t get off of work until 2pm, so we figured we’d hit the con and then go swoop him up to do something. Once we were at the convention center, we quickly learned that the venue was at the same hall as last year, so everything was very familiar this time around. Some things changed though, in that this year the cornered off area with the orange table cloths was called the “command zone” and we had to check in to get our passes to access the area at will.

Beyond just the pass giving us access, we also received a alternate art foil Sol Ring, four commander on-demand passes, and a 100+ deck box with Channel Fireball livery. I slammed the new Sol Ring into my Zur deck immediately as I’ve been pimping that deck out for a while now. We ended up wandering the hall for a while and checking out the vendors and things, and then ended up back in the command zone where we sat down and played some 1v1 waiting on other players. It seems that this wasn’t the best method, as we waited for a while and didn’t see lone players LFG or have anyone invite themselves to play with us. We decided to do some on-demands and found pods to play with that way, and had a bunch of fun. As soon as we had sat down to play our friend was bugging to come pick him up, but we ended up hanging out for a while before doing so.

We ended up back at the hotel room after picking up our friend and getting some dinner. We drank and played cards for a few hours, but later in the evening my ex-roommate had the commander party to attend. He ended up getting the Populate C19 Precon and since that was the one I wanted and he wasn’t as interested, I ended up buying it off of him. He got some Liliana sleeves as well, but I put those on my Varina deck since that’s the only place I have any Liliana cards. I sleeved up the precon and set it aside. We had plans to get the others the next day.

On day three we spent more time in the room than anywhere. Our third wasn’t in a spot to really do much at the convention so we decided to do some day drinking and play some games in the room before we went to go grab lunch. We went back to the hotel and played even more before we headed to the convention center for the last time. Between the two of us with money to burn, we wanted to get all four of the precons and only one was had at this point. I also wanted to get either a t-shirt or a playmat as a souvenir to commemorate the occasion and ended up with a new lightning bolt playmat that featured Magic Fest, the Channel Fireball, MTG and WotC logos on it. We ended up pooling our prize tix from the on-demands and I was able to pick up the Flashback precon as well. He ended up buying the other two at good prices, mainly because he traded in some valuable cards he wasn’t using for credit towards them. I was happy with the new purchases and we headed back to the room to finish our last night out playing more cards and drinking some brews.

Overall the convention was fun, the trip was memorable but I think I overdid it with the extra day. It turns out that one can only play so much Magic and be away from home for so long before wanting to do something else. I left early on Sunday morning despite originally planning on staying the day. I missed my family and wanted to sleep in my own bed. I still had a good time, but I think if I do this again next year some things will have to change. I’m hoping to maybe get my sister and her man to get interested in the trip and make it with me… would be really nice to have a pod of 5 before even heading to the con. We’ll see, I might end up just doing the Los Angeles convention next year instead, as it’s much closer and I’m sure the room prices would be about the same. Whatever the case, I’m glad to have done it, and I’m glad that I ended up with two extra days off after arriving back home. It’s back to the grind soon, but I’m glad to have had this opportunity again.

The War Report: Overpopulation

After realizing I had already made a “go-tall” token style deck in Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun back when I first got into commander, I thought I should try my hand at this strategy again but in different colors. I was already interested in Ghired for some of the other cards that come in the box that I want to add to other existing EDH decks, but decided I should probably brew him up as well. He’s the only face-card commander I find appealing in any sense of the word, so let’s take a look at him (again):

Ghired is a 5 CMC 2/5 with an ETB trigger that creates a 4/4 Rhino token with trample. He also has the added bonus of triggering populate each time he attacks, and whatever token you choose to copy comes into play tapped and attacking. Give him haste, and you can slam 10 power on the board on turn 5 at the latest. Honestly I wish I could use Temmet in this deck, solely to give that unblockable bonus, but alas he contains blue and that wouldn’t be allowed. So given that populate only copies creature tokens, and it only does it one at a time, we’re going to want bigger creature tokens rather than little ones. We also don’t necessarily want to go wide, but the speed at which you should be able to populate, you will eventually go wide provided there aren’t a lot of board wipes being cast. Still, we want tokens in general to copy so I have included a few ways to make some smaller ones, but for the most part we’re focusing on those that are 4/4 or more. Let’s take a look at what I mean:

As you can see, there are a myriad of ways that we can make some big tokens, from creatures that ETB or otherwise trigger other tokens to be made, to spells that create tokens that you can later populate, or event enchantments that can churn out 4/4’s and 5/5’s like nobody’s business. For the most part, we’re looking for big tokens to target with our populate triggers, so I’ve tried to focus on this theme. If you can get a few populate triggers in a single turn, you could be looking at several 6/6’s or 8/8’s, particularly with the token support package we’ve included (populate and other bonuses).

This support package will make those populate triggers happen, but it will also benefit your population, in that you’ll get extra tokens with an Anointed Procession or Parallel Lives on the board, and then if you can double up on that with Song of the Worldsoul or Growing Ranks. We also have a few anthem effects to make those 4/4’s into 5/5’s or even 6/6’s. Intangible Virtue and Angel of Invention can help beef up the tokens already on the board.

As I said earlier, we really want our new token creatures and our commander in particular to have haste. As such I’ve included Fervor, Fires of Yavimaya and Rhythm of the Wild to give this to them. If we can use our commander immediately we get a bunch of power on the board quickly, and utilizing our populate triggers this can me explosive turns. But we also need to draw cards so enchantments like Colossal Majesty, Elemental Bond, Rishkar’s Expertise and Shamanic Revelation were included. Hour of Reckoning is an on-theme board wipe, while Second Harvest can make an already big board that much larger. In order to help keep up with mana production, I’ve also included Mirari’s Wake (doubles as an anthem) and Zendikar Resurgent (doubles as card draw). They’re pretty much staples in the colors, so I expect you know them by now.

I’m positive this deck will not be overly competitive, but it looks like fun. I hope to pick it up while I’m in Vegas and get some test runs in as it stands in the precon, but this version of the deck is ones I’d aspire to upgrade to.

Developer Appreciation Week: Gearbox Software

Developer Appreciation Week (or DAV) is technically coming to a close, but I thought I’d squeeze a post about the topic in nonetheless. I haven’t really been following any of the scheduled stuff this Blaugust, but as it is I haven’t really needed any help getting topics down. Having to rush and blow through several posts in a day has left me looking for inspiration though. I’m leaving to Vegas on Thursday morning, and won’t return until Sunday night. As such I’ve been writing ahead for those days to have scheduled posts, and well, here we are. From what I can recall I have written a DAV post in the past, and I believe I included a couple of developers in it. This time around I wanted to pick someone different, and with Borderlands 3 releasing just around the corner (and my own personal time spent with the series recently) I realized that I have rather enjoyed much of the content put out by Gearbox Software.

When doing some research to make sure I had my facts straight, it turns out that my relationship with the company goes much further back than Borderlands, thought that’s the IP that I’m most connected to at this point. Nevertheless, way back in 1999 Gearbox developed Half-Life: Opposing Force, the expansion to the original Half-Life. I loved that expansion and played it while still in high school. It appears that I may have touched on some other games that the company developed as well, but my relationship wouldn’t get as serious until early 2010 when I purchased my Playstation 3 and a copy of the original Borderlands. I would go on to buy all of the expansions, level up a couple of characters to maximum level along with beating the end game raids and things. I basically 100% that game before playing it over again with my best friend once he got a copy as well. By the time Borderlands 2 had released, I had it pre-ordered and also picked up the season pass. I bought most if not all of the DLC too, and in some cases it felt less than worth the money, but I didn’t care due to being obsessed with the gameplay and wanting every new experience I could get.

Games like Destiny or The Division couldn’t exist without Borderlands before it. By that note, I don’t think Borderlands would exist without RPGs like Diablo either. Nonetheless, Borderlands solidified the FPS-RPG hybrid as a viable model, something that can be monetized and of which a whole universe can expand. Unfortunately developers typically need publishers, and 2K being the evil corporation here might have something to do with some of the negative press around said monetization, though at this time it has become the norm of the games industry.

The company isn’t without blemish though. Besides the games that I’ve mentioned, they had a fiasco over Aliens: Colonial Marines, but that has been better documented elsewhere. It could also be said that they lost the battle of the hero shooter, as their game Battleborn released near games like Blizzard’s Overwatch or Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins, both of which seem to have seen the most success (Quake Champions is the last game of this nature that I can recall coming out, and even it seems to be more successful than Gearbox’s entry).

It’s likely that we’ll see a return to greatness with Borderlands 3 though, and I fully hope for that outcome. Borderlands does the looter shooter thing right, is easy to jump in and out of with friends, has a humourous and well put together storyline and I just hope for the best for the company’s return to the series. We’ll know soon enough, Borderlands 3 releases on September 13th, which is just a couple of weeks away. You know I’ll be there from the start to dive in head first.

The War Report: This Shirt is Not Black

This Friday the Commander 2019 precons release. By the time this post goes live I’ll already be in Vegas and it actually should already be Friday, but who knows if I’ll have gotten my hands on any of the new decks yet. I fully intend to try and pick up both the Naya Populate and the Jeskai Flashback decks, mostly likely by going to the LGS out there. Whatever the case, there weren’t initially any commanders from the new sets that I wanted to build, but after some careful consideration, I decided on building one that doesn’t even come in one of the decks I want to purchase. As such, I’ll likely grab him as a single and go from there, don’t believe I’m using any other cards from that particular box. The commander in question is from the Rakdos Madness deck, and it’s *drumroll*:

That’s right, it’s K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. I have brewed a mono black deck or two in the past, but I ended up never really being all that passionate about the commander. In this case, I absolutely love what K’rrik can do. A 7 CMC commander is not one you’d usually aim for, but because the 3 black pips are actually phyrexian mana, you can pay 2 life instead of 1 black mana, meaning you can play K’rrik without even having a swamp on the board, just need a couple of decent colorless mana rocks. Besides that, he gives this ability to all of you cards, where each black pip turns into phyrexian mana. On top of that, K’rrik gets +1/+1 counters fore every black spell you cast, and he has lifelink to keep the engine running. I don’t really think it’s necessary to make this into a Voltron deck, but I do think a Tainted Strike and Phyresis are in order to capitalize on big swings and then adding infect. One thing that I think black can do almost better than any color is both make some big time mana (without infinite combo) and make use of your life total as a resource. We’re going to aim to do both, with a splash of good stuff along with a few known but busted win conditions.

Big Mana:

I’ve been wanting to make a mono black deck for a long time, if for no other reason than using the Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo, and it’s on flavor with K’rrik at the helm. Other lands that can help to make explosive turns are both Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Cabal Stronghold. If we can get a few of these out on the battlefield at once, look out. Not only can we capitalize on lands, but also utilizes creatures that do a similar thing: Nirkana Revenant, Magus of the Coffers and Crypt Ghast. The latter also feeds into one of our subthemes with extort (and it’s completely legal because the hybrid B/W symbol only appears in parenthesis and therefore is only reminder text, not part of color identity). Black Market will build up additional mana for you over time, and Bubbling Much can make a big mana turn even bigger by doubling up what our swamps produce. I imagine you can get to a point where you’re probably wasting mana, but without testing I don’t know just yet.

Ramp and Card Draw:

Here we have a selection of ramp and card draw spells, creatures and enchantments. Each card was included to either get you some land or draw cards. Having a ton of mana means we can cast too many spells and be low on cards all the time, so we need to refill that hand as often as possible! Next up, how we can use our life as a resource:

Playing with Life:

I’ve added a selection of creatures that will ping our opponents while give us life. Not pictured here, several creatures with Lifelink that will also help. We can use our life gained in various ways, for instance by casting spells in conjuction with Bolas’s Citadel. Use it for a big Toxic Deluge, or just trade up and down in combination with cards where you pay life and then get life back. In this deck, you’ll have a life total that fluctuates more than normal! I feel like I packed in enough ways to gain life back though, so you shouldn’t worry about using it to do stuff.

Win Conditions:

Outside of just whittling your opponents down with the cards we have already covered, you have a few ways to close games out. Bond of Agony can be used to drain out your opponents as long as you have the highest life total. Ditto Exsanguinate, though it will heal you instead of harm. A big Torment of Hailfire can help to close out a game, and you should be able to make some big mana with this deck. As such, if you can gain enough life, Aetherflux Reservoir is there to blow up your enemies one at a time. If you have K’rrik out and he’s starting to get big due to his counter ability, you can throw on Phyresis or Tainted Strike to eliminate a player. Finally, the cheesy Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo will close out those stubborn games.

All in all it looks like a really fun deck to pilot, is mid tier when it comes to budget (and I’m sure more expensive cards could be included to make it even better), and should still be semi competitive. You can see the full deck list here.

Thoughts on Teppen

Seeing advertisements all over the Internet is a common thing. Be it while browsing websites, seeing adverts on social media, or even within the apps we are already using, these things are everywhere. I happened to catch wind of a new game called Teppen due to one of these advertisements, and initially ignored it. Licensed IPs or no, I won’t always fall for the usual trappings of these targeted ads. After seeing it several more times though, I found myself at the Google Play store page, and well, I downloaded the game.

Being a game featuring many of my favorite Capcom characters, I thought this might actually be a licensed game that could actually be good. It’s supposed to be a card game utilizing these symbolic characters, but it doesn’t play like the typical digital card games I’ve played previously.

So above is the battlefield. As you can see, there are familiar concepts here as you have your hand down below, a mana bar that is more similar to Hearthstone and a life total one either side of the characters who are fighting. What’s different, is that your character isn’t really fighting, more like just waiting for their special ability to charge (the AP meters in the corners) and then you can do some various things including direct damage to creatures or the enemy character. Otherwise, the combat is done via your cards, and are typically other characters from Capcom games that have various power and life points. When placed on the battlefield, an arrow will slowly travel towards the enemy from the unit you placed. If there is another card placed directly across from it, the cards will damage each other. If there is no blocker, then you damage the enemy general. That’s really all there is to it. I’m sure other depth might arise due to having different characters to play as, but overall it was very simplistic and not something I see holding my attention.

After a few battles  you’ll get to the main menu, which functions like most mobile game menus do. There are various currencies used to buy things, “Hero Stories” where you’ll play characters through several missions and learn more about them. Missions are like dailies. There are other various modes that allow for PvP and those that provide additional challenges. I can see that there’s plenty to do here, but with the core gameplay loop being so boring, I couldn’t be assed to go any further.

I just figured I’d share my thoughts about this one to hopefully prevent someone else from wasting their time.