TWR: Thoughts on Ikoria Mechanics

The next Magic: The Gathering set is called Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and is a new plane filled with giant beasts (among other strange things). Preview season has kicked off, and that means a multitude of things. First off, there’s always a post on the Mothership about the new and/or returning mechanics of the set. You can read that over there, but I’ll be going over them individually along with adding some of my own commentary. Additionally, various YouTube content creators will also be unleashing a ton of new videos centering around these new mechanics, new card previews and discussions about the set. We’re also getting the brand new Commander 2020 sets releasing alongside of Ikoria, so even more spoilers are coming down the pipeline than usual. As was discussed in a post towards the end of last year, when we were looking forward to what 2020 had in store for the game, we’ve already known about Commander 2020, the additional Commander decks being released besides the other major set releases, and the Commander Booster Box set (that doesn’t even count how good Mystery Boxes were for Commander players) coming towards the end of the year. Needless to say it’s “the year of Commander,” and we’re in full swing. As such, I am planning on making separate posts with spoilers for the Commander 2020 precons along with the main set, but I do want to just focus on mechanics for this post. One caveat to keep in mind though: despite spoiler season still rolling out on the normal time table, there has been a delay in the actual release date for these new products, pushing them back about a month to May. This is probably for the best since many players have taken hits to their income, but hopefully many of us will be back to work come that time. With all of that said, let’s get into the mechanics of Ikoria.

Returning Mechanic: Cycling

One of the more interesting past mechanics that is making a return is Cycling. Cycling is a neat ability stapled onto a variety of cards that allows you to pay a mana cost, discard that card from your hand and then draw a new card. Decks that typically want to run a lot of cards with cycling are those that care about drawing cards, so the Locust Gods and Nekusars of the world. I personally only run cycling cards in my Locust God deck, but I’ve had a building interest in turning my Doomsday Zur into an Astral Slide version that wants to cycle a lot. I have a feeling with an influx of new cycling cards coming with this set, that deck might get that much better, or perhaps there will be more options to build in other colors. We already know there’s a cycling focused precon and it already looks pretty spicy. I expect a high number of cards to have the ability itself, along with many new “cycling matters” cards like the one spoiled above. If you can cycle to get draw value but also gain other effects, it can be pretty busted.

New Mechanic: Keyword Counters

Counters have been a thing in Magic for a long time, the most common form being +1/+1 counters, although -1/-1, infect and loyalty counters are getting up there in frequency. Never before has a creature been granted flying via a token though, and that’s where this is a unique mechanic although only really broken in certain circumstances. So normally creatures would be allotted flying from another creature only if that creature remained on the battlefield. Giving a sense of more permanency, these counters mean that even if the originating creature giving the keyword dies, the remaining creature with the counter still gets the benefit. They’re semi-permanent enchantment auras, and that’s pretty cool. But what if you can move counters from one creature to another, or perhaps even remove these types of counters to draw cards or something else exploitative. They’ve already said these counters won’t stack, so proliferating them isn’t powerful — until they print a card that turns this ability up to ten. Whatever the case, a combo has already been discovered with a creature that gives returns a creature without a counter on it who dies to the battlefield with a flying counter on it, but if you have Solemnity on the board that basically reads: if a creature you control dies return it to the battlefield. Pretty cool stuff.

New Mechanic: Mutate

Mutate seems to be WotC’s way of trying to revive the meld mechanic from Innistrad while simultaneously bringing the mashed up creatures of Unstable to standard play. You’re essentially putting two creatures together to get a mash up of keywords, and sometimes when mutating a creature you’ll get additional effects upon doing so. The main consideration when thinking about mutating creatures is what that extra ability might be, and how you’d like to stack the creatures, as you’ll only get the power/toughness of one of them, dependent on which you put on top. In the example above you’ll see what I mean, in that you either get a 5/4 with the additional Vigilance keyword, or you’ll get a 2/4 that gains reach and the mutate ability. However, you can only mutate creatures that have the mutate alternate casting cost, so the Cloudpiercer above is needed to make the meld. It’s an interesting idea but sort of gimmicky and even though I know one of the commander precons will attempt to build a deck around this concept, I think it will fall flat sort of like the morph deck did last year. It’s just kind of silly when you only have to Swords one target to kill two creatures.

New Mechanic: Companion

Companion is another new mechanic being introduced, and it’s already produced waves in the community. There is a partial cycle (known to this point at least) of these cards in color pairings of hybrid mana. They each have a stipulation built into them to allow you to use them in your decks, but they don’t count towards your deck’s card limit. This means you can essentially build 101 card Commander decks with these, and it’s an extra spell in your command zone (almost as if WotC decided to try some Oathbreaker design space). However, before the set has even been released, the Izzet companion card has been banned in commander. The rules committee apparently agreed that the other companions weren’t too broken but this one was. I’m not going to go further into it than that, but it’s still a crazy idea in the first place. The Spike Feeders put up a video where they discussed these in-depth and I thought I’d share that next:

While giving us a new way to include more cards (virtual sideboard, or Oathbreaker style spells in the Command zone) into our decks is a design space I’d like to see more of, these cards are pretty restrictive in their deck building requirements so it’s not quite there yet for me. I feel like I could embrace this more if there were a larger number of companions or cards that use this outside of the game wording to where we could have a virtual sideboard and could then utilize wish style spells effectively. But that’s skirting rules that have been a part of EDH for a long time, so perhaps no one will want to push that boundary. I for one would love sideboards and the ability to use wish effects to target those cards. Anyway, as I said I plan to make posts to preview the main set along with the precons so stay tuned for that!

Know Your Role


During this Blaugust a number of people, Belghast the creator included, have decided to come up with writing prompts to help others out with the arduous task of writing a post every day for the month. I attempted to help in my own way by creating the Gamer To-Do List, and have had another idea kicking around inside my head for a while now. So here’s another writing prompt for those of you out there looking for some inspiration:

Do you find it difficult to play a role outside of your typical class choices? This can be in an MMO, MOBA, single player RPG or any other game that uses class as a distinction for gameplay.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair of me to throw this out into the nether without first answering it myself, so here’s my take on it.

My first ever character created in an MMO was a Shadowknight in the original Everquest, which would mostly fall under the “Tank” archetype. Before my time with MMOs, I typically played Thief type classes. I remember making an Assassin in Baldur’s Gate and my main in Diablo II was the Necromancer, both of which would be considered “DPS” by today’s standards. Along the way, I’ve played many an RPG and many an MMO, and yet the one constant remained: I love tanking, and I love throwing up the big numbers.

Fast forward to the MMO I’ve spent the most time with, Everquest 2. I tried every class at one point or another, but my initial main ended up being a Paladin. My secondary character who ended up becoming my main was a Brigand. Noticing a pattern yet?

I’m currently playing ESO as well, and my main is a Templar, built mostly like a Paladin.

It’s pretty clear that I really enjoy Tanking, and I really enjoy DPS. But then I think to myself, “I would really like to try playing a healer, or a pet class, or a caster/utility/support to level cap.” The trouble is, I naturally play in a style that is straight forward. I enjoy the leadership role that a tank falls into. I enjoy absorbing tons of damage and making the rest of my team look good. I also enjoy being the stealthy backstabber who puts up big numbers and rules the DPS charts. It’s not that I haven’t tried, though.

In Rift, I mained a Cleric. However, Clerics in that game at the time were considered the best tanks, but also did a damn good job of healing. I played both roles throughout some of the dungeons and even did some ranged spell DPS in the battlegrounds. Rift is clearly a game that gives you options, whereas others are more limited in build paths. When I played WoW during WotLK, I did manage to play both spell DPS and a pet class in my Warlock, but when I went back to the game more recently, I rolled a Paladin, because it’s part of my comfort zone.

It doesn’t matter how hard I try to be that cleric or that wizard, I always fall back into the roles of Tank or Melee DPS, and I feel like those are my inherent roles.

So what do you guys think? Do you have trouble getting out of that comfort zone? Do you always play healer even though you long to try a different class? I’m not sure why it happens like this, but I think our personalities have a lot to do with our class choices. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or feel free to write a blog post retort.

No matter what class you’re playing, have fun, and happy gaming!

#classes #gamemechanics

RE: About League and HotS

Belghast has written a post coinciding with the launch of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s entry into the MOBA market. He doesn’t say as much, but I have a feeling that his post was spurned in part by a comment I made on Twitter the other day, in which he and a handful of others chimed in on the discussion.

I actually called Strife baby’s first moba long before using it in reference to HotS, but I retract that comment, because Strife definitely has more levels of complexity than Blizzard’s game, including item builds and last hitting, though it holds your hand through the process more so than games like League of Legends or Dota 2. I should also notate that my Twitter handle was changed because of a comment made by Liore in said tweet-fest, in case you were wondering.

Last-hitting and item builds seem to be the two areas of contention for Belghast, and are the points he focuses on most in his post (these are also points he made on Twitter prior to his blog). I’m not foolish enough to think that my counter points are going to change his mind or his character; he’s not a PvP-oriented, competitive guy, and that’s fine by me. We have had our differences of opinion on the topic of PvP more than once, but I respect him and his writing enough to say so. This is in no way a personal attack, nor is it an attempt to convert anyone’s way of thinking to match my own. I only aim to point out some fallacies in his post, or at least present a different point of view.

Let’s start off with HotS. I’ve written about it twice before. In the first post I found while digging through the archives, I was anticipating the title but also expressed my strange relationship with Blizzard and its games.

A newly released video detailing some of the features of Blizzard’s upcoming MOBA “Heroes of the Storm” has me really wanting to try it out. I remember when it was first talked about and went by Blizzard All Stars or whatever, I figured it was just another cash grab by the mega company. I have a weird relationship with Blizzard. I loved the Warcraft and Starcraft RTS games, and loved the early Diablos, but then when WoW came out I was entrenched in another camp (Everquest). I remember having negative things to say about Blizzard at the time, none of which were really founded in legitimacy. WoW is a great game, I’ve played it since and I no longer feel the need to be a fanboy to one company or another. I have also recently been playing their newest games – Diablo III, Starcraft II, and Hearthstone. Funny enough, I played Hearthstone only so that I could make negative commentary, and then ended up loving it.

I still play Blizzard’s games and enjoy them. Opposite of the Hearthstone reaction, I went into HotS expecting greatness only to be disappointed (though I should point out that my love of Hearthstone waned quickly due to some of their poor design choices). In the second post I wrote about the game, I had just participated in some Alpha gameplay and found that the distinct lack of depth killed the game for me.

It was no secret that I had been anticipating this day as a MOBA enthusiast, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this game is not going to dethrone either of the other “big ones,” but will probably be popular with people who haven’t touched other MOBAs. The main reason for this separation into “camps,” comes down to one word: Depth.

One bit that I will give Blizzard credit for is that they have attempted to remove some of the toxicity from the MOBA environment in that they have decided to pool the team’s XP so that no one falls behind, they made the objectives more of a priority than team fighting or last hitting, and removed item builds so that people have less to be confused about. They also made adjustments to things like your KDA so that the scoreboard after a match doesn’t reflect poorly on anyone. However, in doing so they removed some of the key elements that provided depth in gameplay, and that didn’t sit right with me.

I had at least that many kills by myself, but the game doesn’t give you kills and assists in separate categories, it combines them into takedowns. Do towers and other buildings go in there too? I don’t know, but I do know that 25 Takedowns sounds a lot less awesome than 25 kills, 0 deaths, 2 assists. I know that this is a purposeful design choice so that everyone feels like a winner, like they contributed, even though the are providing significant less DPS or support than others. Mouthbreathers get Takedowns. In the words of Jim Jefferies:

You might not be a winner at everything, you might not be a loser at everything, but you won’t find out what the fuck you’re good at if they tell you you’re fuckin’ good at everything.

I’d say that pretty much sums up where I stand on the HotS front. I have been a longtime fan/player of League of Legends though, and as such I recognize mechanics and elements of design that others who haven’t really played the game might not. Belghast points out some portions of League of Legends (but that would also carry over to some extent to most other games in the MOBA genre) that irk him, and then provides reasons. I’m here to point out a few things that I think were overlooked or misrepresented in his post. Let’s start from the top shall we?

The big problem I had with League was the fact that it felt like I was not only competing against the players on the other team, but also competing against my own team mates for resources.  The concept of last hitting feels so divisive that I am shocked it exists in any team based game.  The fact that a team mate can either purposefully or accidentally snipe the last hit on a minion and gain all of the gold just seems like a horribly selfish tactic to introduce into a supposedly “team focused” game.  While I feel like the higher tiers of competitive play more than likely focus on the team effort and winning games, the low tier players tend to focus entirely on making themselves look good.  The best way to that end result is to feed heavily in lane and go on a murder spree, which means the other player in that lane is going to be starved out of resources and won’t be able to help the team later in the game.

I feel like Belghast doesn’t understand the point of last hitting. In LoL, last hitting a minion results in gold for the player making the killing blow. The meta of the game dictates that a single player takes the top lane, another the mid, two take bottom, and one goes to the jungle. This means the only lane where said contention for resources will happen is the bottom, where the carry and support will be spotted. The support’s job is to keep the carry alive, and allow him the last-hit gold (though improvements to support items sometimes encourage last hitting by the support). In all other lanes, the players are by themselves and have no competition for last hits, aside from their lane opponent, who can and should interfere as much as possible (in games like DOTA, you can even deny gold by killing your enemy’s creeps). When you look at the scoreboard, seeing which side of a lane has more cs (creep score, the amount of minions that person killed) is a good indicator of who is winning the lane. Winning your lane is imperative for the rest of your team, as a losing lane puts pressure on other parts of the map. However, this isn’t the only metric for judging skill or the only factor that contributes to winning or losing the game. Having a jungler that will help losing lanes, a mid laner that roams, or a top laner that will teleport to other parts of the map to help out all play their part. So just as HotS encourages team play by removing the extraneous factors, League encourages it by providing options. At the end of the day, any and all of these issues are countered with practice, and it’s hard to expect anyone to get better at playing/understanding without practicing.

The problem is doing the item build system well, requires you to have actually research your champion and what sorts of things they need.  What I want is a more universal path to “this item adds more awesomeness” so I struggle to find items to build that make sense for whoever I am playing.  Now on champions I have played a lot like Garen, WuKong or Darius I have finally figured out how I want to build each of them for my own play style.  The problem being this was something that happened over lots of trial and error.  Quite frankly I don’t want to have to devote the processing cycles to figure that out, I just want a sequence of choices that add some flavor but in which there is no real “wrong” choice.

Again, I’m confused by the conviction of Bel’s words, but lack of overall understanding. The item system in League is very straight forward. If you have never played a champion (with a pool of 120+ it’s easy to see this happening), Riot was nice enough to provide “recommended items” and you cannot fail by using these. It’s that simple. Build what is provided to you, and you will have the stats needed for any situation. Knowledgeable players in the game will also recommend items you might want to pick up based on who you are playing, so listen to them. Also, it’s rather easy to visit sites like MOBAFire or LeagueCraft and quickly search for build advice before you jump in a game, and make personal item sets for specific champions that will replace Riot’s built in recommended items. A small amount of effort, and problem solved. Just remember, Magic based champions require ability power for damage, Physical champions take attack damage, and armor/magic resist and health are great on tanks. These are all RPG basics people.

In conclusion to this, I will say that the levels of depth that I crave/love are ones that turn other people off, and that’s fine. Belghast makes his points, but makes it clear that he’s just not someone who likes competition. Competition drives me to do the research and put in the practice to get better. Competition drives him to a simpler game. I suppose the niche HotS is filling is great for people in the same boat, but I can’t help but feel like it’s an insult to the genre. Now that the game is launched I’m going to give it more of a shot, but I’m not holding my breath expecting my opinion to change.

For some more related reading, check out these posts by Syncaine:

HotS: A New Low For Blizzard
HotS: Shut Up Newbie
Last-Hitting in a MOBA is Like XP in an RPG; Don’t Leave Home Without it

To me someone not liking the actual gameplay of last-hitting is like someone not liking questing in an RPG; at some point it’s not so much the game as it is the player needing to find something that better fits them. Just like an RPG doesn’t need ‘fixing’ by removing quests, the MOBA genre doesn’t move forward by removing last-hitting, at least not without a suitable gameplay replacement.


#mobas #leagueoflegends #heroesofthestorm

Couch Podtatoes Episode 7: Sandbox Roundtable


This week we’re doing something completely different than what we’ve done in the past. Those of you who have been listening since the beginning will note that we usually have two types of episodes: Those with just me and J3w3l, and those where we have a guest. Once a month the guest is Doone and on those episodes we tend to discuss a topic that he brings to the table. I’m by no means the first person to think of having a group discussion on a podcast, but that’s what this episode is all about. As a result, to keep the show to a reasonable length, I decided to drop Idiots on the Internet and the community spotlight. These features are by no means going anywhere, but it was conducive to keeping to the subject at hand. The discussion topic this time around was on Sandbox games, be it single-player, multi-player or MMOs. I wanted to do a Q&A with everyone, but you know me, I couldn’t resist throwing my opinion in there at times. I’d like to thank Roger of Contains Moderate Peril and Missy of Missy’s Mojo for joining us in the discussion. Ironically Missy and I broke our podcast cherries together on Roger’s podcast a couple of months ago, so it was nice to have a reunion of sorts.

The discussion starts right after a short intro, and there are no interruptions in the Q&A. Enjoy, and feel free to comment about the content!


Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Show Notes

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 7: Sandbox Roundtable (runtime: 1:05:47)

The Sandbox Roundtable (starts at 0:00)

Host Contact Information:

Blog: Me vs. Myself and I

Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Guest Contact Information:

Blog: Contains Moderate Peril
Twitter: @moderateperil

Blog: Missy’s Mojo
Twitter: @missysmojo

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

#couchpodtatoes #podcast #gamesdiscussion #gaming #blaugust