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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

The Outer Worlds: Complete

So it wasn’t something I was expecting to do so soon, but The Outer Worlds was good enough to get its hooks into me so I played it through before I realized it. I didn’t really read reviews about the game so after completing it I had some questions. I should mention that there will be spoilers in this post, including my personal epilogue which vary from your own. With that said, I’ll continue with some generic screens from the end of my playthrough.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So one of the screenshots in the above gallery shows the system map, which contains a cluster of planets and some other points of interest, and you’ll notice that there are some planets that appear with a lock over them. These never became accessible during my game, and that seemed curious. Why include planets you can’t eventually visit? I understand level gating or time gating things for the sake of story and wanting particular events to occur in a certain order. But having worlds that cannot be accessed, and then not having any sort of time table on DLC that might allow for visiting said planets is a bad look. Why wouldn’t you just leave those off, and instead add them to that map when said DLC released? Is this perhaps the sign of a rushed game? It’s clear that The Outer Worlds took inspiration from the Bethesda formula, but they instead made a fairly linear game with only a small amount of side quests. The story was engaging and I had fun playing it, and I can see the ability to play again in a different way in order to get different story bits but I don’t see how that would much change the overall narrative. As such, the 25 hour mostly complete time combined with places on the map you can’t visit screams to me that the game was pushed out before it was fully done. Or a DLC plan went awry, because you’d think you wouldn’t be able to go back and do the DLC if you already completed the game, as there is a point in the narrative where you can only move forward and aren’t able to do anything else after the epilogue screens. I’ll share my personal epilogue with you now.

Epilogue:

I think I missed a screen or two but you get the gist. I appreciated the fact that the game wasn’t overly open-world, with planets having smaller maps that encompassed some larger areas and smaller ones too, with instanced dungeons and such. I feel like they still could have added a ton of quests and things to do though, that would have given the game more life. I suppose if you’re the completionist type you’ll go for all the trophies which will result in additional playthroughs, plus there are other difficulty levels that could make for more of a challenge (though there were some tricky parts here and there anyway). For me personally, I’m shelving it and will perhaps come back to it given DLC or sufficient passing of time to want to experience a different story in the same world. I’ve already picked Borderlands 3 back up and am trying to push through that one to the end, which will definitely take more time.

With all that said, I still recommend the game. It was a fun tale in an alternate universe and I enjoyed my time with it. It does have the flaws I’ve mentioned but I’d still say it’s worth the price of entry. It’s currently set to release later this year on PC if you’ve already waited this long, and would prefer that version.

The War Report: Double Masters

Today some big news came down from the mothership. The majority of releases and plans for Magic: The Gathering for the rest of 2020 was already pretty much laid out: We knew about Core Set 2021 coming in the summer, Zendikar Rising in the fall, and the Commander-focused booster set coming towards the end of the year. Other supplementals like Spellbook: Chandra and some similar product focusing on green cards along with the Jump-Start product have already been announced as well. I honestly didn’t think anything else could be crammed into the year, but that changed this morning.

So at the end of 2018, the last masters set “for a while” was released. Called Ultimate Masters, it was one of the best masters sets to release in a while. The original Modern Masters sets along with Eternal Masters were all well received and packed a bunch of value, while Iconic Masters and Masters 25 were perceived as flops. I had good luck with all of the masters set packs I purchased over the years (starting with Modern Masters 2017) but I do see where there were less “good” cards in those sets. So WotC decided to go out with a bang, releasing Ultimate Masters and saying that the product line would go on hiatus. A year and a half later, here we are getting an announcement for a new masters set, called Double Masters. It’s a pretty uninspiring set name, and honestly could have been spruced up a bit, but when you read on you’ll see the reasoning.

Double Masters

Release Date: August 7, 2020

  • 332 cards
  • 24 packs per booster box
  • 15-card booster packs, with two rares and two foil cards per pack! (And, yes, those foils can be up to two additional rares.)
  • Two non-foil showcase box topper cards included in each booster box
  • Available in English, French, German, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese

Double Masters will be available on Magic Online starting August 6 (ONE day early!) for $6.99 per booster. It will not be redeemable.

This bullet list gives us a ton of information without saying much at all. It’s a pretty standard set size, along with having the standard lower pack count than a main set release, which should lead us to believe they will retail for $250 or so a box given the typical $10 a pack price point. Since WotC has done away with MSRP, it’s anyone’s guess how much actual pack/box prices will end up, especially if we’re still dealing with COVID-19 complications for production and shipping which leads to shortages and artificial inflation. This happened with Ikoria/C20 products despite WotC delaying physical release by a month. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t have an LGS and got scalped buying product online, and those who couldn’t find the product they were looking for a box stores. I was fortunate to get C20 at my local Wal-Mart for normal price ($40 each), and pre-ordered a fat pack of Ikoria for a normal price off of Amazon, but it did affect some nonetheless. Where we start to see the pattern change, is in the pack contents: Two rares and two foils per pack, so the potential for up to four rares in any given pack. That’s not gonna drive the price up at all, will it?

While the Mystery Booster product did give us many important reprints that brought the price down on some more expensive cards, many of those cards have already leveled off, and some cards that I bought within the last few years have recently spiked by 100% or more, so the need for reprints is ever present. Masters sets have always been a good device for providing reprints and bringing down some of the ridiculous prices that cards can garner, but because of the reserve list, some cards will simply never be reprinted and will never be affordable. Thankfully the PlayEDH Discord community is proxy-friendly, but WotC is not building financial sustainability when cards become prohibitively priced and Timmy on the Internet is just going to print out copies from his home computer. This, like Mystery Booster and other masters sets before it, has the ability to provide needed reprints in a more affordable manner, along with building security for the company from pack sales. I’ll still buy this product even if it doesn’t have my most wanted reprint, but we want more quality sets like Ultimate Masters and less of whatever Masters 25 was.

Two reprints were officially spoiled, though the set doesn’t release until August, and we’ll get the proper spoiler season in July. As is becoming a standard thing, box toppers (full art alternates) are included and we’ve seen two of them, though I’m not sure if there will be more added to the pool. Blightsteel Colossus definitely deserves a reprint as it’s been creeping up in price for a while, but Doubling Season was reprinted not long ago in Battlebond, so I think there were better options (I still want another reprinting of Mana Crypt dammit!). Either way the art looks nice and they’re good cards to have. I hope the rest of the set has a good amount of cards on this level, and it should have a large pool or rares since we’ll be getting two a pack. Thankfully there should be less chaff to dig through.

WotC made sure to get in the fact that there wouldn’t be fetch land reprints in this set, but they said they are coming this year. I imagine they won’t come with Zendikar Rising because it’s a standard set and I don’t see them putting those lands in the standard environment, so my money is on the commander booster set, where they can immediately say the reprints of those lands are not standard legal. More on this set when we get to spoiler season in a couple of months.