Thursday, December 22, 2016


I recently watched this documentary on the making of the new Doom game, and I found it to be pretty interesting.

A great deal of the doc focuses on things that seemed to come really, really late in the development process and most of them have to do with how the game feels.

I find this interesting, especially since a great deal of Magic design now seems to be about trying to get that "feel" and trying to get the mechanics to mesh. I've often been against this, but as I learn more about designing games, I have come to understand that it's a goal worth striving for.

I still think mechanics should override things like flavor, push comes to shove, but more often than not the two can merge well and it is definitely worth making the effort.

Having played Doom, I can certainly attest to that. The developers knew they wanted you to be in a perpetual motion, get-in-there and blow shit up mindset and they had good mechanics to justify their game. Once they figured out why that should be the case-the justification for it-everything else just locked into place. It took a lot of effort but it totally shows: Doom is one of the better games I played this year and part of that reasoning is that everything in the game supports the notion that you're there to kick demon ass and chew gum and you are all outta gum.

But Magic is trickier. I know that people were nerdily giddy this year when, at Pro-Tour Eldritch Moon you had Tamiyo and Emrakul facing off in the finals and WotC had to consider that a pretty cool thing.

However, is it a good thing? I'm not certain that engineering cards that are so deliberately good that we see storyline conflicts play out in real life is a positive. The situation that 2016 has left us with looks to be a Standard that people aren't very happy with.

That said, I have to admit that the attempt to merge these things does matter and when it pays off, as it did in Doom, you get something really special.

I don't know how much gaming I'll get in over the holidays, so this will probably be the last post until Jan 3. But by then, Aether Revolt previews will start AND I should have some good games in with Ironhide, so there will be things to report.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Overburden

Of the suggestions Matt proposed to me, Overburden was the one that I liked the most. As a bonus, I happened to own three copies which meant testing it wouldn't require a large outlay of money. And my money > less of my money.

Playing against Lauriel, though, the problem became pretty clear: This is a Humility deck and everything that isn't Humility and Orim's Prayer probably doesn't have the impact on the game that I want it to.

On the other hand, when I had Overburden out on turn 2, I got the reaction that you always want when you play a card that someone isn't familiar with: Oh, no.

And whenever that reaction comes up, that's a Good Thing. I want to play decks that do that, because I'm usually operating a little off the beaten path.

So I'll keep testing it but that card is on a short leash.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Good News, Everybody: Soldiers Are Still Soldiers

Under Humility, that is. I asked a buddy of mine in Arizona who's a Level 2 (3? sorry if I'm getting that wrong) judge and he told me that Humility doesn't effect creature type.

That means Gempalm Avenger: Your role is secure.

I got in a few rounds of multiplayer Magic with Matt and Caitlin a couple nights ago and while I found myself in charge of both matches, I wasn't exactly in control of them. Pushing a win condition wasn't easy and I had to sacrifice a bit too much in the early game in one case.

So it's possible that other cuts should be identified and made. Matt has already suggested that Aether Storm should be replaced and that's not a terrible notion. Of his suggestions for a replacement, Overburden seems like the potential toughest to deal with. Land drops are one of the ways Magic paces itself and messing with that seems really good.

Kusari-Gama also looks really interesting, too. However, I am dubious of the overall costs vs what Gempalm Avenger does for me. That just feels like a more efficient use of mana vs the equipment--except in multiplayer situations. However, even that seems excessive, since I can generate as many tokens as I like. Just run 'em at them, you know?

Still, I've got some options to explore and this deck is making a case for doing so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


How 'bout something more old school?
4 AEther Storm
4 Humility
4 Orim's Prayer
2 Seal of Cleansing
2 Mobilization
4 Compulsion

2 Martial Coup

2 Gempalm Avenger

2 Condescend
3 Truth or Tale
3 Circular Logic
3 Miscalculation
1 Dismantling Blow

8 Plains
8 Island
1 Coastal Tower
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
1 Adarkar Wastes
4 Flooded Strand
1 Daru Encampment
The plan: stall out any creature based strategies with Aether Storm, Humility and Orim's Prayer, while generating as many 1/1 soldier tokens as possible, via Mobilization, Kjeldoran Outpost and Martial Coup. Then use Gempalm Avenger to pump the soldiers and win.

There is, at the moment, one small hole here. When I built Ironhide (named for the Transformer) I'm pretty sure that rulings on creature type weren't necessarily part of Humility's concern.

So the first order of business is going to be to ask some judges about how Humility affects creature type. If there is no impact, Gempalm Avenger still makes sense. The timestamp of Gempalm's ability will not be overwritten by Humility so until end of turn, I'll be set. If there is, then it'll be time to look into other spells.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Snow Day

Sorry: it snowed in Portland today and that meant that nobody really did anything.

Including me: I didn't strive for Magic. I strived to play XCOM 2.

I can't say that I'm sorry. Snow days in Portland are rare but when the come around, I'm going to take advantage.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Too delicately balanced for comfort

So I've hit a roadblock.

Noah put it well, "They do a lot for enablers (for Madness) but they don't do much with Madness."

Bingo. There's a pretty narrow list of cards to use that are worthwhile and I'm using them. Except for lands, which I've changed for the better, no question about that.

But even when I look at cost appropriate enablers, I don't really see something worth swapping out. On the one side, that's good: this deck has set up a performance standard and is meeting it.

I played a few games against Noah and played well, winning a matchup against an Aetherworks deck, losing one against a Modern Blue control deck. Asking Noah after the match if he saw something that I had played incorrectly, he assured me that, given the information on the table, he thought I'd done alright.

On the other hand, it means that there isn't much room for me to innovate. There aren't really kinks in the armor to smooth out.  There are a couple questionmarks, to be sure: Reckless Wurm I'm not sure of but cutting red seems extremely unwise, because Fiery Temper is such a good card.

I may just have to give this deck a rest (from the blog, at least). Other cards will come along-other ideas will be presented. I'll keep this deck in my "to play" rotation so the visibility stays high.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Doomtown: Reloaded, Requiem

The Doomtown LCG is ending soon; word is the last expansion for the game will be released in October and as of this writing, there is no plan for it to be picked up by another publisher.

That's unfortunate, because this is a hell of a game. Yes, the learning curve was quite high, but once it leveled out, the rest of the game came pretty easily. It had an interesting blend of the familiar and the new and few games I've played have as successfully evoked the atmosphere they were going for.

Multiplayer games especially felt like the high noon shootouts of old west movies. They were tense with a lot of buildup and then bangbangbang! Did you guess right about the time to pick your battle? If you did, that felt pretty sweet. If not, it became pretty clear where the stumble was-usually picking a fight you didn't need to.

However, the game had some issues and I'd like to talk a little bit about I think went wrong.

First; playtesting. In the first year of the game, especially in the last half of 2015 and into very early 2016, expansions were arriving every month. That is a lot of product to sift through.

And it lead to some cards that felt awkward or weird or nonsensical. Which leads me to the next point.

Second: unruffled feathers. I remember there was an early expansion that gave Dudes (the characters in the game) keywords of "Confederate" and "Union". The significance of this? They couldn't be on the same team at the same time.

That's it.

Since there was no reason to use them cooperatively, nor a reason to use them to counter each other, then perhaps they were just powerful? No. And if there's one thing Doomtown isn't lacking for it's Dudes to play. So the impact on the game that made players have to take into consideration those keywords was nothing.

So many features of the game, ostensibly new mechanics that were introduced, just didn't matter. Didn't change the status quo, and didn't reach back to make an old card interesting, nor pay off in a near future set. 

That is not a good thing for a new mechanic and it's the kind of problem that many Doomtown expansions had. But when they did we got...

Third: confounding expectations. For certain kinds of mechanics in Doomtown, the player would perform a Pull to see if they succeeded. To Pull, the player would simply announce the ability they were activating (say, the creation of a gadget) and then reveal the top card of their deck. If the value was greater than or equal to the number required for the Pull, the activation was a success. Certain modifiers would come into play at that point: a Dude could have a Mad Scientist value of 3, which would be added to the value of the card-so if I needed to hit a 7 with a Mad Scientist value of 3 and drew a 5 or greater, I'd succeed.

This all got turned upside down with the introduction of the Kung Fu mechanic. Which worked like this:
To play a Technique, you must choose a dude with Kung Fu and pull. If the pull is lower than the dude’s value (remember this is the dude’s printed value plus Kung Fu rating value), it succeeds. If the pull is equal to or higher than the dude’s value (once again, including Kung Fu rating), it fails.
What? Why do we have to add the Kung Fu value to the printed value? Why not just provide a Kung Fu number and then subtract that from the value you needed to hit? It would be a clever mechanical way to distinguish that ability and it would be an easy thing to remember.

In a game like Doomtown where mechanics already were difficult to remember- movement and how jobs worked, being most notable- adding in extra math and issues for value was needlessly complicated. Plus, it would allow for good Kung Fu Dudes at higher values so you would have a broader range of values to work with.

Messy implementations of mechanics like this are impediments, not benefits.

It's because of things like this that I feel Doomtown had difficulty sustaining an audience. It's too bad, because there is a really interesting game under it all that could have had time to shine. Magic was equally messy in it's early years too and people, I think, often overlook that because what we talk about now are the powerful successes that make Legacy and Vintage interesting.

But even with that, Magic almost imploded on itself in it's early years. I would have liked to see Doomtown make a similar escape.