By The Numbers: Week 3, 2019

Well, I went ahead and spaced out on the fact that it was Thursday all day yesterday, until I started seeing football stuff popping up on social media. I managed to never miss a Thursday night pick last year, but only three weeks in I missed. Honestly it’s been kind of nice just relaxing when I have time off instead of having to crank out blog posts. It’s also nice to be in a good place as far as not feeling guilty about not posting or not playing games or whatever. Sometimes I pressure myself too much over my hobbies. Nonetheless, I have some grading to do for last week, and then I’ll make some picks for this weekend. I should note that I would have picked the Titans to beat the Jags anyway, so it would have just been a point against me regardless. Anyway, on with my scores:

Panthers 27, Buccs 24
Cowboys 30, Redskins 14 – Correct
Titans 20, Colts 17
Seahawks 23, Steelers 13 – Correct
Bills 24, Giants 20 – Correct
Patriots 50, Dolphins 3 – Correct
Texans 24, Jags 21 – Correct
Packers 28, Vikings 14 – Correct
Lions 20, Chargers 10 – Correct
49ers 20, Bengals 13 – Correct
Ravens 31, Cards 20 – Correct
Chiefs 35, Raiders 21 – Correct
Saints 33, Rams 24
Bears 24, Broncos 17 – Correct
Eagles 27, Falcons 23
Browns 14, Jets 13 – Correct

This week’s score: 12-4
Season score: 23-9

Not a bad week, I actually think I would have gotten at least one more of these correct were it not for the fact that I thought the Panthers would bounce back after a week 1 loss, and I don’t think the Rams would have done so well in their game against the Saints had Drew Brees not been injured. Whatever the case, I’ve been doing well to start off the season. Let’s make some picks for week 3:

Eagles 21, Lions 14
Patriots 35, Jets 13
Vikings 24, Raiders 10
Chiefs 24, Ravens 21
Falcons 27, Colts 20
Packers 28, Broncos 12
Cowboys 31, Dolphins 7
Bills 26, Bengals 9
Buccs 20, Giants 10
Panthers 23, Cards 17
49ers 24, Steelers 21
Seahawks 30, Saints 14
Texans 20, Chargers 17
Rams 21, Browns 20
Bears 17, Redskins 13

Clearly, having missed the pick on Thursday, I won’t count it in my points, unless someone makes a compelling argument as to why I should instead include in in the loss column. I’m fine either way, honestly. Just want to be held accountable. I think my team is looking good two weeks deep, and I think the Broncos should be another win. We haven’t started off this hot in a few years so it’s exciting. The defense is good for once. We still have an HOF Quarterback. I think we might actually go places this year, but I’m still not holding my breath until we’re well into December. Fingers crossed we make it that far without major incident.

TWR: Brewing Around Partners

I’ve been sitting on a couple of partner commanders for a couple of years now. I bought the Saskia Commander 2016 precon that came with Tymna the Weaver and Tana the Bloodsower and though I played the deck as it was for a little while, I eventually broke it up to make Saskia into a weird ball lightning deck before later changing her to an infect commander. Tymna found her way into another brew of mine that centered around Alesha, but Tana was relegated to a binder never to see play again (not to mention that the decks I’ve mentioned to this point aren’t seeing play or are broken up). Knowing that the partners have some powerful decks people have come up with, I was looking into another competitive option so that I’m not forced to play Zur every time I want to play cEDH. Arguably the most powerful combination, Tymna + Thrasios builds typically rely on the “Flash Hulk” combo. You can google that last term and find viable lists abound. Vial Smasher decks look solid too, and was the other build I saw most of when it came to partners with Tymna. Finally though, I came across a “Bloodpod” primer that showcased a deck centered around Tymna and Tana, and these are the cards I already owned. It turns out that I owned a good chunk of the list too and though I didn’t want to out right copy it, there isn’t a lot of room for change either. Mainly, I figured that there were some budget versions of cards that I could swap out, and thereby make it a little easier to build overall, despite having a value similar to that of my Zur deck. Most importantly, it isn’t trying to win via Laboratory Maniac and actually wants to turn creatures sideways, which is fun. It’s also pretty stax oriented, another style I enjoy. Backstory aside, let’s take a look at our partners:

Tymna doesn’t look all that great at first glance, being a 2/2 for 3 with Lifelink. However, if you can manage to damage an opponent, you’ll get an extra draw during your second main phase. If you manage to damage multiple opponents, you’re drawing more cards. That’s actually pretty amazing, and with her low CMC you can start doing this early. Tana supports the other side of our plan, in that she too wants to get in for combat damage, but also produces tokens for us to use sacrificially, or to spread our damage around to multiple opponents for more card draw via Tymna. Also, being able to create tokens and draw cards while under stax effects means we’ll be ahead of our counterparts for the majority of the game.

So what’s our game plan? Well the original Bloodpod deck was named as such due to the above two cards. Blood Moon is a card that hoses many multicolored decks, particularly if they are running mostly non-basic lands. It does ruin our non-basics too, and with only a few basic lands that can hurt, but it shouldn’t be an issue if we already have out our commanders and can keep drawing cards and creating saprolings. Birthing Pod is a nefarious card that allows you to sacrifice creatures in order to tutor up other ones, and there are several ways we’re going to utilize it. Essentially, the deck wants to throw down some early stax/tax effects and then pod into a victory combo. The original deck was made a few years back though, but newer versions have come out and I’ve managed to take some ideas from multiple decks and put them together. Some things to note: I don’t have the mana base that most lists do, but found a more budget friendly way to go that should still be effective. I also don’t own some of the most expensive cards, so I’ll be showing you some budget options for those as well. First up, the stax pieces:

I’d argue that more stax pieces are artifacts and enchantments than creatures, but it seems there are plenty of good hatebears for the deck as well. These cards are all purposefully picked in order to slow your opponents down and allow us to get ahead. Combo/Storm decks need to cast more than one spell a turn, so shutting that down as an option is good, as is forcing them to pay taxes on top of CMC. Shutting off the abilities of artifacts and creatures or making them come into play tapped sets people back turns. We also have the all important graveyard hate stapled to Leyline of the Void and Anafeza the Foremost. Magus of the Moon is a second Blood Moon. Grand Abolisher protects us on our turns. You see where this is going. So our gameplan then is to have more mana, more card draw and a faster tempo than the rest of the table. We’re only running 34 lands, which are a combination of Shocks, Pain lands, and others that allow us to create mana of any color, with very little utility. Mana rocks are present in Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox and Sol Ring, but otherwise we are depending on multiple early dorks to really accelerate our plan. Here’s our dork package:

We can make most of our colors with the above elves, along with making an explosion of green mana if we get priest of titania and a couple more elves on the battlefield. Birds of Paradise and Deathrite Shaman can fix for us. So after we have out some decent ramp and some stax pieces to put us solidly ahead, we can work on our wincon. This can be helped with a solid tutor package:

Yisan is basically another Birthing Pod, while Fauna Shaman is a budget version of Survival of the Fittest. Eldritch Evolution only works one time, but can grab you something needed, while the other more traditional tutors can pick up pieces that we need for our combos. What do we need for combos? I’m glad you asked:

So, here are some combo pieces that will win us the game. Kiki-Jiki along with Splinter Twin are two ways to allow us to infinitely ping down our opponents in conjunction with Goblin Sharpshooter, as such:

Splinter Twin + Goblin Sharpshooter + any x/1:

  • Twin on Sharpshooter #1.
  • Tap #1 to create #2.
  • Tap #2 to kill a dork. #1 and #2 untap.

Loop:

  • Tap #1 to create #3.
  • Tap #2 to damage face.
  • Tap #3 to kill itself. #1 and #2 untap.

We also have loops from Birthing Pod/Yisan that count on creatures like Felidar Guardian, Karmic Guide and Village Bell Ringer, all of which can essentially be tutored with Buried Alive and then reanimated with either the Karmic Guide or the couple of reanimation spells present in the deck. For example:

Birthing Pod + 3drop + 4drop + 2mana -> pod 3 into Felidar Guardian -> Flicker Pod -> pod 4 into Kiki-Jiki

The deck can be a little convoluted, but you should be able to win either by infinitely pinging, or making infinite Guardians with haste that you can hopefully win the game with. Instant board wipes could be an issue, but with the recursion you should be able to get one of these going. If nothing else, you can stax lock the board and win via normal combat damage. I think the deck can be very competitive and I can’t wait to start building. It’s probably going to take some time to get the capital together for the cards needed but I think it’s going to be worth it just as much as building Zur was.

Thoughts on Heavy Rain

Back in July, I wrote a post about a surprise hit for me, Detroit: Become Human. It happened to be a free release via Playstation Plus that month, and I decided to try it on a whim. I usually try out the free games each month, but oftentimes they simply aren’t for me and they get uninstalled. No harm no foul, considering no money spent (unless you count that $60/year fee, but it’s awesome value no matter how you look at it). It turned out that this was a game that would hold my interest, which isn’t something that happens very often to me anymore. Besides the base game, the Plus offering included a digital artbook, soundtrack and a copy of the company’s first Playstation title, Heavy Rain. We already went back in time a little bit with Detroit: Become Human (released last year), but end up going even futher back to 2010 with Heavy Rain and to some degree, it shows. This is the same style of game, but it’s not nearly as pretty. The controls are a little clunky as well, but the story is good, and that’s really what matters in this genre. Actually, part of what I said about Detroit: Become Human applies to this game as well:

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Unfortunately, with games like these requiring you to be on the ready to quickly press buttons at any moment, so taking screenshots ends up being sort of difficult. As such I tried to include some pictures that show of some of the neat features of the game, but those that wouldn’t really spoil anything. But, the game is nearly ten years old, so if you haven’t played this you probably don’t have any interest. Whatever the case, there is an intriguing story here that I’d love to spoil but I won’t. Suffice to say that you can play as four different characters, and each have their own part to play in the story, along with interacting with each other before the game is over. There are branching parts based on your decisions, and clearly there were places where I could have chosen to go another route, but unlike Detroit, you don’t get the branching graph that shows you exactly how things could have gone. Obviously that was something that was thought of later on in the company’s game repertoire.

A true detective story, Heavy Rain is doing its best work while trying to convince you who the killer is. I really didn’t suspect the character who ended up being guilty, but as the story unfolded I wasn’t disappointed with it. I suppose there are other ways things could have ended up, but I don’t really see the point in playing through a thousand times. I made my choices and I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t intend to go back for more. The same happened with their other game, and I don’t feel bad about it.

One other note: I didn’t realize that Beyond: Two Souls (2013) was also produced by Quantic Dream, and it was also a free Plus game a while back. I went ahead and downloaded that one and intend to play through it soon. So expect more about that later on this month.

By The Numbers: Week 2, 2019

Now that was a nice first weekend of football! Not only did my team, the Green Bay Packers manage to grab a win, I was more impressed by our defensive in a mostly defensive game. The Smith brothers are no joke it seems, as they combined for a couple of sacks and a bunch of hits/hurries. We weren’t bad in the run game, and I didn’t see many long passes getting anywhere. I’m not going to say they’re elite just yet, but I can’t believe how much better they look compared to last year. The offense was sputtering far too often, but I attribute that to the fact that Aaron Rodgers and most of the starters didn’t play preseason snaps so the chemistry is off. I’m sure next week we’ll see something better offensively. There was a picture perfect drive that took 1:35 to complete, but outside of a that the only points put up was a field goal in the 4th quarter. I suspect we’ll see more action next week, but it has to start with the run game, certainly. I actually watched several other games this weekend because my game was on Thursday and on Sunday after work I was in the mood to watch more. I caught parts of a few games, but I was pretty impressed by Dallas as well, and I hate saying that. Still, they looked good but the Giants haven’t been too hot for a few seasons so that could be why. There were a few blowout scores I wouldn’t have seen coming, and in the end the Patriots beat the Steelers in this sort of fashion as well. I caught the Saints/Texans game on Monday night but didn’t stay up to watch the Broncos lose to the Raiders. The former was a great game with a bunch of lead changes in the 4th quarter, but the Saints pulled out the victory. Anyway, let’s score last week’s picks:

Packers 35, Bears 27 – Correct
Rams 24, Panthers 20 – Correct
Redskins 21, Eagles 17
Bills 20, Jets 10 – Correct
Vikings 27, Falcons 21 – Correct
Ravens 30, Dolphins 7 – Correct
Chiefs 35, Jags 21 – Correct
Browns 17, Titans 10
Chargers 20, Colts 13 – Correct
Seahawks 23, Bengals 14 – Correct
49ers 21, Buccs 20 – Correct
Cowboys 21, Giants 9 – Correct
Lions 20, Cardinals 16
Steelers 28, Patriots 26
Saints 31, Texans 17 – Correct
Broncos 24, Raiders 13

So I ended up going 11-5, which is a good enough score to get into the playoffs. Most of the scores were way off, but I did sort of predict the Ravens blowing out the Dolphins, though it was by an even larger margin. Sad times. I really thought the Browns might come out swinging with all of the shit talking that’s been going on, but then they just proved to be as bad as ever, losing to the so-so Titans. The Lions – Cardinals game ended up being the lone tie of the week, and the only one of the season so far. And for those of you still laughing at the Browns, just imagine how the Steelers felt having the same 30 point deficit against the hated Patriots? Whatever the case, it was an exciting football weekend and I’m looking forward to Thursday night already. Let’s make some picks for the upcoming weekend:

Panthers 27, Buccs 24
Cowboys 30, Redskins 14
Titans 20, Colts 17
Seahawks 23, Steelers 13
Bills 24, Giants 20
Patriots 50, Dolphins 3
Texans 24, Jags 21
Packers 28, Vikings 14
Lions 20, Chargers 10
49ers 20, Bengals 13
Ravens 31, Cards 20
Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Saints 33, Rams 24
Bears 24, Broncos 17
Eagles 27, Falcons 23
Browns 14, Jets 13

Going to go out on a limb and assume the Browns will pull it together. Otherwise pretty predictable things. I suspect the Packers will catch the Vikings off guard, despite having some footage to study of the new defense. If the offense can get going sooner and the defense plays a similar game, we just might get ahead into first place in the division early into the season, and that would be sweet. We’ll see how I do, will check back in next week.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Spoilers & The Next Year of MTG

We’ve known about the next Magic: The Gathering expansion, Throne of Eldraine for a little while now, but as is customary in the month leading up to a set’s release, we’re entering into spoiler season for it. I saw a few whispers about a Twitch stream that certain community members were given access to, and shortly thereafter we were learning that Wizards of the Coast would be attempting again to push the Brawl format. Most people, myself included, had already written it off as dead, but with the additions to Arena, they have been pushing the format again between paper and digital. I’m not sure if there will be Planeswalker decks, or if these are going to be more comparable to the Guild Kits from the Ravnica block, but whatever the case, a new product is launching with Throne of Eldraine and we’ll see Brawl preconstructed decks for the first time. Here are the face commanders for these sets:

Brawl Commanders:

If you are unfamiliar, Brawl is a Commander variant in that it follows the same color identity and singleton rules, but instead of being 100 card decks they are only 60 cards. They also have a rotation that matches standard, meaning you can only play with standard legal cards. So no putting your Commander deck cards into your Brawl decks. I think it’s a silly limitation and part of the reason I stopped playing standard is because rotation can be expensive. In EDH, you can wait for a set to rotate out and get a good deal on singles you want. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game. And when it comes down to it, I’m not overly impressed with any of these commanders enough to warrant building a new EDH deck around it. I think the Bant and Esper creatures are more interesting than the others, but I’m sure people playing knights are excited to access to a new color with a new general. Friends of mine seem to be most interested in Korvold, and I’ve seen what sorts of shenanigans you can pull with him but I find it uninteresting. Deck lists were already released for these, though I don’t believe all of the cards have been spoiled just yet. They don’t really seem worth the time, but I’ve heard they are going for $20 a piece so not a lot to invest if you want to build around one.

New Mechanics:

Throne of Eldraine is adding a couple of new mechanics, and though they are kind of interesting and their take on fairy tales aren’t bad, I just haven’t really seen much yet that I’m excited for in the set. I don’t think I’m burnt out on the game because I’m still always brewing, building, writing and thinking about the game. One problem is that I don’t really play much, but even with all of that on my plate I still don’t find much to be excited for. So the new mechanics are Adventure, Adamant and Food Tokens. Various cards from the set reference food and creating food tokens. Some, like the Goose above, will allow you to create food but also to sac food to the goose itself to get a different effect. Otherwise, Food tokens are much like Clues or Treasures before them, but instead of drawing you cards or giving you mana, instead you gain life. I guess Oloro players rejoice, but it just seems like a tacky limited-only thing. The same really goes for Adamant. It’s great for mono colored decks I suppose, because it typically requires you to cast the spell with only one color of mana in order to get a bonus effect. That’s pretty meh, and I haven’t seen one that seems worth it yet. Of course, spoilers have only just begun. Lastly, with Adventures you get the new card frame at top right above. There is a spell side and a creature side to these cards. You can cast the creature normally for its CMC and be done with it, or you can cast the adventure spell (which can be either instant or sorcery) which is then exiled rather than going to your graveyard. You may then cast the creature half of the card from exile for it’s normal cost. I can see ways this could be really good, but the creatures spoiled that have adventures on them haven’t been great.

New Planeswalkers:

A couple of Planeswalkers have been spoiled so far, including the return of Garruk. Apparently Will and Rowan from the Battlebond set are supposed to be around as well, but we haven’t seen them just yet. Garruk looks ok, but I’m not sold; older versions are better. A brand new walker in Oko has appeared as well, and he references those damn food tokens too. I’m not into this guy either. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a hangover from War of the Spark.

In other news, we were treated with the schedule of releases for the next year of Magic: The Gathering. I first saw this information over on Hipsters of the Coast.

 

So, we know that beginning in quarter one of 2020, we’ll be returning to an older plane with Theros: Beyond Death. I’m pretty excited for this one as I wasn’t playing when the original Theros set released but I have purchased many cards from the block. I’m curious to see what sorts of new Gods them might come up with. In quarter two, we’ll be heading to another brand new plane, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Apparently there’s something about building monsters in this set, but I’m not sure if that will be like the fusing of creatures in Unstable, or if it will be more like the meld cards. Whatever the case, the new planes tend to be more exciting than the old. Core Set 2021 will likely have some gems, but overall core sets are dull. Finally, in quarter four we’ll see another old favorite in Zendikar Rising. I didn’t play during either of the Zendikar blocks, though the latter was still standard legal when I came back to the game in 2016. As such, I own a ton of cards from these sets, but I’m disappointed that we won’t get more Eldrazi.

Whatever the case, 2020 looks like a good year for MTG. I’m looking forward to new things to come!