TWR: Jumpstart Previews

It seems that 2020, despite being a pretty shit year by real life standards, has actually been a pretty great year for Magic: The Gathering. Not only did we get Theros: Beyond Death early on, we then got Commander 2020 and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths released at the same time (which was planned, as some of the cards contained in the precons were also from the new set so that made sense. Those products’ release dates were pushed back, and because of that it’s not been long and we already had Core Set 2021 spoilers with a release this week, and another new set called Jump Start that is coming down the pipeline soon. We also still know about Commander Legends and Zendikar Rising coming later in the year, and that’s if they don’t spring any more surprises on us. Whatever the case, I realize I just went over the Core Set 2021 spoilers a couple of days ago, but since we have already seen the full set for Jump Start, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Jump Start is a set that is aimed at new players, much like the core sets are. What seems to be different here is a smaller selection of new cards, with a huge swathe of reprints, some being pretty juicy. There’s not a ton of new cards that are very exciting, and honestly there’s only some reprints that even affect me, but newer players can bolster their collection rather quickly with these two sets, and veterans can most likely pick up some reprints of things they need for a bit cheaper due to the extra printing. I’ve broken down the cards into colors, highlighting the new cards for each, along with some of the more important reprints (cards that have creeped up in price and should be looked for to grab for a discount).

White:

New Cards:

Honestly I can’t say that there is anything here that I am dying to have. Quite honestly, most of the new cards are pretty meh for me personally, but I know a handful of people who are excited by some of the new cards so I still thought it was worth sharing. You can check them out individually and see if there’s anything that appeals to you.

Reprints:

On the reprint side of things, I’ve actually wanted a copy of Linvala for a long time, and she was getting a bit expensive, so this probably means grabbing her as a single shouldn’t be too difficult. Otherwise there are some decent staples being reprinted, notably Path to Exile and Cathars’ Crusade.

Blue:

New Cards:

The new blue legendary Bruvac has mill players losing their minds. There’s already a two card combo with him that essentially allows you to mill one person out entirely, or perhaps that could be you if you’re going for the labman/Jace/Thassa’s finish. Otherwise there’s some jank here that I’m not entirely amazed by.

Reprints:

Rhystic Study has needed a reprint for a long time now, as it’s been increasing in price for a while and is basically a staple in any deck running blue. Get your copies while you can! The others are just some cards that were a few bucks and should probably come down in price a bit.

Black:

New Cards:

I rather like the Witch of the Moors. It’s kind of high CMC but the effect is worth it in decks that want these types of effects. Tinybones is the other new Legendary creature people have been going crazy for, but I don’t think it’s as great as its made out to be. We’ll see how people break him before we really judge.

Reprints:

A ton of good reprints here! I own most of them, but this is a great time to get a copy of Sheoldred which I’ve wanted for some time. Otherwise you’re looking at a ton of cards that are useful in many different black decks that had all seen an increase in price. This set, if nothing else, is bringing down singles prices for the masses.

Red:

New Cards:

I’m somewhat interested in the new Goblin, as I do like making adjustments to Krenko when I can. He’s not the most exciting, but he does buff the team and sometimes that’s good enough. I also like the Chaos Rider for my burn deck, but otherwise the rest is pretty ho hum.

Reprints:

Speak of the devil, Krenko himself got a reprint in the set, along with some other red staples for the EDH format. I own all of these cards already but sometimes having an extra copy or two is worth it. If I wasn’t already buying a box of Core 2021 I might consider a box of this set as well just for value.

Green:

New Cards:

Green seems to have gotten the least amount of love in this department, but there are some decent cards here. Green doesn’t seem to need much help these days, so there’s that.

Reprints:

Some great reprints to be had in the color though. Craterhoof has gotten really expensive, which some of these other cards aren’t too bad but should still come down in price a bit. I’d like a copy of Selvala, only because I don’t own her and she seems pretty good from what I’ve seen.

Colorless/Lands:

New Cards:

I skipped over multi-color because there was like five cards in the whole set and they were all reprints and not very good. When moving onto this category, we get a new cycle of lands that are essentially dual tap lands, but instead of being locked into two colors, they are locked into one and you get to choose the other color. It’s decent for fixing, and probably only really useful in a 5 color deck, but it’s still better than a straight up guildgate, in my opinion. I’ll have to see them in action to really make a determination on their worth.

Reprints:

A couple of decent artifact reprints that were becoming a bit of money. Then we get some reprints of some decent specialized lands, with Riptide Laboratory being of most interest to me simply because I don’t own it. Still, overall a good selection of reprints in this set, so if you are looking to expand your collection, this is probably a good place to do it.

TWR: Core Set 2021 Spoilers

Magic: The Gathering’s next set just saw its prerelease weekend, and will release for retail this coming Friday. Once again we’re back to the summer months and that means a new Core Set. Core Sets were a thing for a long time during Magic’s history, then went on a hiatus for a couple of years, and then came back strong. We saw a bunch of goodies in Core 2019 and Core 2020, but both of those sets paled in comparison to what’s coming with Core 2021.

This set also marks the first time that a core set received the collector booster treatment, which seems to be the new standard for all sets. We have normal boosters, theme boosters and collector boosters, along with boxes of each and the ability to still open up alternate art/border cards in normal packs. So far I haven’t bothered with buying any collector packs, and theme packs are mainly for people just starting out so I avoid those as well, but I’ve still managed to pull some showcase cards regardless. So here’s what we know about the set, let’s take a look at a selection of cards that I’ve found interesting.

Buy-a-box Promo:

Normally I’m not too interested in the buy-a-box promo cards, and honestly this one is more of the same. A big change did come down with this card being spoiled though, as it is part of the first set to include the creature type “dog” and as such all “hound” creature types were since errata’d to say “dog” instead. Dog tribal might be a thing now, if you’re into that sort of thing. Cat tribal was already a thing, but now with this commander you can do some sort of combination tribe. If that’s your thing, have at it. I’ve preordered a box but have found that when I’ve done so in the past off of Amazon I don’t receive the promo card, but it is what it is.

New Planeswalkers:

It’s been a while since we’ve seen more than a couple of new planeswalkers in a set, and this time we get one for each color. Basri is the only “new” planeswalker, while the others you’ll already know from past sets. However, all of them are pretty decent additions to certain decks, and I would really like a copy of that Teferi, as would most people I’d assume. Garruk also looks pretty nice for my mono-green deck as does Liliana for my zombie deck. Either way, new planeswalkers are always nice toys to play around with.

Shrine Cycle:

I’m not really into this, but once this cycle of shrines was spoiled, people were jumping on the shrine tribal bandwagon. Much like gates-matter decks (typically helmed by Golos as he can tutor for them) this would require all six of these shrines along with the five others that existed in Kamigawa, and even then I don’t see it as much of a deck, nor do they really feel like a win-con in themselves, just value engines that take far too long to get out onto the board to really make a difference. In Battlecruiser jank decks can work, but if you want to play decks with any sort of consistency, this is probably not the route you want to take. The Green and Blue ones are probably decent enough on their own but even then they’re not amazing.

Reprints:

There are a bunch of good reprints in this set and I think that has probably brought the hype levels up a bit. I’ve only singled out a few, but right off the bat you have a reprint of OG Ugin, which is already pretty expensive and sought after. Next is Grim Tutor, which hasn’t seen a reprint in probably 20 years and was a super expensive card as a result, and though it’s not as good as Demonic or Vampiric Tutor, it’s just a step behind and better than most other options. Azuza is a card that’s gone up in price a bit, and Heroic Intervention was getting pricey for a while as well. I really like seeing the reprint of Fabled Passage, and I think they should continue with it and Prismatic Vista so that we can have strictly better Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse cards. Or just an additional two fixing lands per deck. With that said, let’s look at the new cards I found most interesting:

White:

Honestly white didn’t do so hot in the new card department, but they did get some nice reprints so it’s probably a trade off. A new dog adds to the tribe, while Nine Lives is a funky enchantment that you could theoretically give away and cause someone to lose the game with. Mangara is card draw, but its so conditional it’s likely people just don’t attack you, but you’ll probably get a few draws off of their additional spells per turn. Finally, a cleric that taps to make Angels, which could be pretty decent in the right deck.

Blue:

Blue did a little better with new cards. Teferi’s enchantment gives extra card draw and a ton of decks will run it. Barrin is good in wizard tribal for shenanigans. See the Truth is great if you can recur/cast it from the graveyard. And finally, a couple of new counterspells that could be decent fits in many decks.

Black:

Black sees a few interesting new cards, my favorite being Vito, who is Sanguine Bond on a creature, and will help with consistency in many aristocrats decks. If you have a bunch of deathtouch sources, the Blightfang will definitely help do some damage. The standard bearer is pretty good too if you know a bunch of stuff is going to die (board wipe) and you can flash it in to draw some cards. Lastly, Witch’s Cauldron is a decent sac outlet that will draw some cards, and that’s sometimes the best thing to do during a turn.

Red:

I’m really loving some of the new red cards. Double Visions simply let’s you copy spells for free. The two new goblins are instant adds to my Krenko deck, as they both have amazing abilities that I think can be exploited. Fiery Emancipation is also pretty amazing, in that it triples damage, so it’s going straight into my Torbran deck where it will find the most use. The dragon is kinda meh, but if you have a deck that uses them it might be a good fit.

Green:

Not a lot going on in green, but I did really like the Elder Gargaroth, as it’s an undercosted 6/6 with three keywords and attack/block triggers. Simply busted and it’s going into my mono-green deck post haste. Garruk’s Uprising is a better version of cards that do the same thing, if you’re playing big green beaters, it’s going to draw you cards and also give your creatures trample, which is amazing. Jolrael is an interesting new commander that will probably see some play but I’m not super interested.

Multi-Color:

I highlighted cards here that I think will see play, but honestly the only one I’m interested in is the new Radha. I already run both of her other versions in my Gruul deck, but I feel like she might actually be worth running as the commanding in place of Klothys, and that’s my plan as soon as I get a copy. Otherwise some generically decent cards on display here.

Colorless/Lands:

Only one new land was introduced and it’s only good if you’re playing any of the creature types listed on it. It’s also only good for adding +1/+1 counters, so unless you’re already doing that theme it’s probably not worth a slot in your deck. The new Chromatic Orrery however, could find itself in multiple decks. I know it wants to go into Golos immediately, as it will allow me to cast things for free with a simple tap of the artifact.

Overall I think the set looks really good and I’m glad I have a box on the way. I’ll have to discuss another set that is releasing shortly as well, called Jump Start, that I didn’t think I’d bother writing about but it turns out after spoilers there are somethings worth mentioning. I’ll be back soon.

Borderlands 3 Complete

Somehow or another it’s been quite a while since Borderlands 3 was released, and I bought it upon release so writing this post several months later feels a little strange. I love the series, and as a fan who has played through the trilogy I can say that this game had the most bells and whistles, while still holding true the standard formula. The animation and gameplay felt smoother, the gun mechanics were on point, and overall the story was still pretty good. It wasn’t as good as the Handsome Jack story from the second game, but I don’t think you’re going to top “butt-stallion” anytime soon. Whatever the case, my friend and I started the playthrough together and also made a pact to not play it outside of when we played together, unless it was on another character. As such, we did get through a good chunk of the game, but for some reason we got distracted by other things, COVID happened, and well the game just sat. I finally brought it up that we needed to get together and finish the damn thing, but at that point he had let his Playstation Plus subscription lapse, and it turns out it’s required for online co-op play. He didn’t seem interested in paying for it again, so I resigned to finishing Borderlands 3 off by myself. During quarantine, it turns out he had the same thoughts and managed to get a bit further into the game and when we touched bases I had to do some work to catch up. So I did.

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I spent an evening rapidly playing through story and side missions, and before I knew it, I was nearing a similar point in the game as him, and I finally convinced him to resubscribe to plus so we could finish the game off together. It took two more sessions to finally beat the main story, but the game technically isn’t over there. As tradition dictates, completing the base game unlocks “true vault hunter” mode, which is essentially new game + and allows you to level up to the cap, though the original cap is 50 and we were like level 42ish when we finished, so I think we’d max out before beating the game a second time. There were a ton of other activities in this game though, mainly having to do with finding claptrap parts, radio logs, hunting rare creatures and then there’s mayhem mode to boot. You can also queue up for dungeon runs and things with people online, so I suppose we could spend a few more hours with the title. This isn’t including DLC, which typically adds new areas, a new story to follow and sometimes level increases. Two of those are already out and I think a third is coming soon. I’m not really thinking that I’ll bother, but if he wants to and time permits, maybe we’ll splurge on the season pass and have some more fun with it.

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I discovered photo mode late into my playthrough so many of my screen shots were less than perfect, but I managed to capture some cool moments. There were plenty of those, my favorite probably being the quest that dealt with “Pain & Terror” who were voiced (well, in Pain’s case) by Penn & Teller. This lead into a Max Max like sequence of following around a huge base on wheels, shooting at parts to disable it, and then boarding the behemoth and killing Pain & Terror. It was great fun and unexpected because I’ve literally not seen any spoilers for the game despite its age. Whatever the case, I had a blast with it and we’re likely to jump into it again before long, but I just wanted to commemorate the occasion. I’ve managed a pretty good streak of completing games as of late, and look to keep it going.

The War Report: Semi-Competitive Gitrog

While we were on quarantine, we ended up with extra money. We also had a lot of time on our hands so my lady and I did online shopping for most of our needs, but some wants too. I had been pining over missing out on the Mystery Boosters that went on sale at the end of last year, due to the fact that I had to pinch every penny to get us moved into our house. With the little bit of extra money laying around, she gifted me not one, but two boxes of the set, and I was very excited to dig into them. The main reason I wanted a box of the set (but two was even better) was because of the inclusion of Mana Crypt in the box, and at first it seemed like people were pulling at least one from every box. I thought for sure between the two boxes I would have pulled one, but alas it was not meant to be. Still, I got a bunch of foil versions of cards I was using, extra copies of important cards like Demonic Tutor, and some cards that I had considered buying over the years, but didn’t, usually because of higher price tags. All in all I was happy with the packs, but one creature stood out to me as one I should try to build:

The Gitrog Monster isn’t new by any means. Releasing with the return to Innistrad a few years ago, he’s been cEDH viable for a long time. The typical deck revolves around lands, but in the sense that dredge and lands work hand in hand with his abilities. So yes, lands do matter in this deck, but not in the sense that we’re playing a landfall deck. Seeing that the flash/hulk combo piloted by several different commanders became the meta after a time, so Gitrog took a backseat, while the banning of flash a couple of months ago most likely makes him more prominent again. Whatever the case, I’ve never built a lands matter deck, and I also hadn’t to this point put together another high powered deck besides Zur. I have brewed bloodpod, but it still hasn’t been thrown together yet. So when we look at Gitrog, two things stand out: First, we have to sacrifice a land each upkeep to keep him into play, but he draws us a card in return. Then if we can sacrifice or discard or mill lands from the top of our library, we can definitely do some fun things.

The Combo:

The combo Gitrog is famous for involves a few key pieces. First, you’ll need Dakmor Salvage either on the battlefield, in your hand or in the graveyard. Next, you’ll want your commander on the battlefield with a discard outlet. Note that we’ll want this discard outlet to be free and repeatable, so no untapping elements are necessary. Depending on your setup, you’ll either sacrifice the Dakmor Salvage from the field, discard it from your hand prior to the Gitrog trigger, or if it’s already in your graveyard you’ll sacrifice a different land. Because dredge is a replacement effect, at the beginning of your upkeep you’ll sacrifice a land to Gitrog, but then instead of drawing a card off his second trigger, you’ll replace the draw with Dredge 2, per Dakmor Salvage’s ability. This means you put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard and return Dakmor Salvage to your hand. You can then discard it again to get a draw trigger but replace it with dredge and you can then draw your entire deck. However you might not be able win with this ability alone, so for added consistency we have Kozilek included in the deck because once he hits the graveyard while you’re doing your dredge trick, he will then shuffle himself and your graveyard back into your library so you can keep going off. Obviously with a discard outlet like Ayala’s Influence, you’ll be getting an army of 2/2 bears in the process, and can simply find your Finale of Devastation for the win. Otherwise, the typical win con sees this loop finding you a lotus petal or dark ritual and then producing infinite mana by infinitely casting it. You can then use that mana to wipe the board using Assassins’ Trophy or similar removal cards over and over again, and then loop into Finale or Exsanguinate to win. There are a few ways to do it, but the main gist of it is that you’ll want to hold off on casting your commander until you have a way to start dredging, and then find Dakmor Salvage as soon as possible.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and a lot to keep track of. In the couple of games I’ve played with it, I’ve managed to pull off wins, but I don’t know that I had ample enough competition. I tried to hold it back from being a straight copy of the deck in the cEDH primer, but it relies on much of what is on that list. I put some custom tweaks in, and having played it I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t feel the need to go into specifics, you can see my deck list here, and you can read the primer over there. If you’re into cEDH, this one should already be on your radar.

Life in a Post-COVID World

To say that the worst is behind us would be wishful thinking.

There’s debate that the virus will continue on, or perhaps go a bit dormant during the summer months only to come back with a vengeance or mutate by the fall. Opponents of this viewpoint tend to believe that this is an elaborate hoax, or perhaps that the numbers have been blown out of proportion. We were told to wear masks, then we were told to shelter in place. Many people (including those I know on a personal level) have decided that our rights were being hampered by the stay at home order. People complained about nearly everything while we were on lockdown, and now much of life has returned to normal. Or so we thought.

Some racist piece of shit killed a guy for no reason. Apparently there were other similar stories that I hadn’t heard of, but the end result is still the same. At the end of the day, the Black Lives Matter movement happened a few years back, but it seems that nothing has changed. Protests have sprung up around the country and despite living in a small town we still had our own. Apparently some businesses were smashed up and looted. Videos of similar violence and illogical behavior can be readily viewed online.

I don’t have a stance here. I think it was a good idea for us to shelter in place. I’m thankful that the government came through with stimulus money and additional unemployment money. I’m thankful my job didn’t go out of business. I’m thankful no one I know personally was infected and generally speaking most of the people I know ended up coming out better off financially at the end of lock down. I didn’t think my rights were infringed upon, in fact I felt it was my duty to stay home and not risk infection or spread. I don’t think racist cops should be allowed badges, and I don’t think anyone deserves to die with a knee in their neck. But I also don’t have any sort of idea what can be done about any of these things.

I went back to work last week. The last week of quarantine was a busy one, as I did some car shopping and ended up with the car of my dreams. It’s not new, but it’s the car I have always wanted. I was cautiously relieved to go back to work. It’s nice getting back into a normal routine, despite the fact that my work hours suck. The biggest hurdle now is having to wear a mask while performing my work, but I am starting to become accustomed to it. I’m thankful to still have a job, but I do miss the break already. You’re nuts if you didn’t prefer getting paid to do the things you enjoy without any other requirements.

I’ve be playing games still, along with some purchasing some new hardware that I want to go into more detail about, but I thought I’d jot down some things in the meantime because it’s been a while since my last post. Me and my best friend got back into Borderlands 3 after I completed The Outer Worlds and it has been a blast. I’m not sure how we got sidetracked away from it, but I have enjoyed getting further into the game. We’re both in our 30’s now, so I’d say we’re beyond the halfway point, but from my prior knowledge of the series I tend to beat the game before hitting level 40. To hit the level cap usually requires a second playthrough which I’ve done in the past, but I’m unsure if we’ll end up doing the same thing again. I also know there are two DLCs out for the game already, but I’m not going to bother with them if my friend doesn’t pony up the cash as well.

I hit a wall with the FF7 Remake. It’s such a good looking game and I like how it hits me in the feels but the goddamn combat is annoying at times which has kind of turned me off of it for the time being. Going to focus on BL3 and perhaps get back to it afterwards. I also picked up copy of Battletech on Steam a while back and grabbed Gran Turismo Sport which I’ve wanted for a while, but it’s now a “greatest hits” title so it was only $20. This month’s free Playstation Plus games are also more interesting for a change, one being Call of Duty WWII which I’ve not played but that era of game seemed to be one of the best for the series. The other title is Star Wars: Battlefront 2, which I know got shitty reviews but it’s free to I’ll give it a whirl. I enjoyed the original so we’ll see what happens.

With work being a thing again, I’ll most likely be back to minimal posts, but I’ll try to stick to a couple a week as time permits. I have a lot to share so I’ll be back soon.