Thursday, March 28, 2019

We Bite

Named after the classic Misfit's song, We Bite was developed well before the vampire tribe became a thing in Magic. The goal was to make a War Elemental deck-and I thought that the best way to manage that was to have a bunch of smaller creatures, larger ones that create static sources of damage like Obsidian Fireheart (which I love SO MUCH), and effects like Seal of Fire that can be used in response to War Elemental's trigger.
Quick rules thing: With a Seal of Fire out, one can cast War Elemental, and when the check 'did an opponent take damage this turn' goes on the stack, one can use Seal's ability to do damage. If you wait to do that, the War Elemental will not only have its 'enter the battlefield' conditions satisfied, but you'll get to place two counters on it, too!

There's a subtheme of discard to help with that damage, using Kris Mage, Chain of Plasma (you only have to get Fiery Temper off once and nobody triggers it again) and Hazoret, with Stigma Lasher there to prevent the problem that any mono-red deck has: lifegain.

Let's see what we got!

2 Stigma Lasher
3 Kris Mage
4 War Elemental
2 Blood Knight
2 Mogg Fanatic
3 Obsidian Fireheart
4 Hazoret the Fervent

4 Seal of Fire

4 Chain of Plasma
4 Fiery Temper
4 Fireblast

2 Forgotten Cave
20 Mountain
2 Smoldering Crater

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lightning Punches

Let's finish this off.

I have a couple Naya Charms and that does multiple things this deck wants: either recursion or a fog effect, with the added bonus of being able to take out a small creature. Savage Twister also seems like a clear winner, since I can clear the board in cases where Pyroclasm might not do the trick and since mana hasn't been an issue, I expect to be able to board wipe if needed. Finally, another Commune with the Gods, because I have to find my combo pieces. All these cards either to give me more time or dig deeper; sure, the counterspell matchups are difficult but nothing is perfect. 

I continued looking at enchantments in my colors that would allow me to draw cards but they either weren't worth it, or were auras that would go on creatures and thus unsuitable here.

Final listing:

3 Thraben Inspector
3 Skyshroud Elf

4 Pandemonium
4 Saproling Burst
4 Gift of Paradise

2 Seed Spark
2 Naya Charm

6 Mountain
3 Rith's Grove
4 Plains
9 Forest

3 Farseek
2 Pyroclasm
4 Commune with the Gods
4 Cathartic Reunion
2 Replenish
1 Savage Twister

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Rise of the Combiners Thoughts

Link to the RotC spoiler list, for reference.

My friend Jason came down last weekend and we opened up four boxes of Rise of the Combiners. We played a whole lot of sealed, most of it incorrectly, so hopefully you can not only learn from our mistakes but glean something from the other thoughts.

First; it's more expensive.

In Wave 1, you could open two or three boosters per player and just play the game. This is particularly helpful when wanting to teach someone, because the threshold of complexity wasn't that high.

Since the Transformers game has players go through their deck rapidly, they get to see the cards over and over. Familiarity is a good thing when teaching a game.

To play sealed in RotC, you need to open five booster packs, and then build a deck of twenty five battle cards.

This is because there are so many 'dead' cards. The enigmas, for example; not a single one of them is playable in sealed and since it only has green icons on it, that card needs to be eliminated from the deck. In every game, it was easy to immediately cut anywhere from 3 to 5 cards, right off the bat-there isn't a situation where they can or should even be considered. This isn't a great look for Sealed.

On top of that, players now have to build decks. That increases the difficulty when trying to teach people how to play. It isn't insurmountable and almost all CCGs have this quality but it's different than Wave 1 and that isn't a good thing.

Unfortunately, it took Jason and I a box and a half to figure out how we should be building decks. This is likely our fault but I'm glad we figured it out. Our games of sealed became much, much more entertaining after that.

Second; the gameplay has become more deliberate. Green icons are extremely useful, and the new keywords of Brave and Stealth mean that there's a little bit of a pushback from the Wave 1 gameplay of 'smash those robots together!'.

That's not a bad thing: it's easy to understand what the new keywords do and the green icons encourage players to pause and evaluate what's in their scrap pile. This slows down the game, nudging players into thinking out lines of play.

So far, though, Rise of the Combiners hasn't amped the complexity up so high that the "smash robots together" feel is lost altogether, and that's also a good thing. When a turn based game takes about thirty minutes, it's important that players don't get bored waiting for their opponents to do something and Rise of the Combiners still felt brisk enough that I was analyzing things and engaged, not waiting around.

Finally, a word about the art. The battle cards can vary: drawing from decades worth of comic lore might save money on art assets but it can also mean a wild swing in quality, style, or tone between cards. That's not a dealbreaker for me but it is worth pointing out.

The quality of the character card artwork, however, is worth a special mention: These characters look amazing both in robot and alt mode. They are super cool and are great modernizations of classic characters.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More, Not Less

I liked this story on how the people who make and promote Magic are trying to get more people, especially women, into the game. It's a testament to how much things have grown and changed, when, just 14 years ago, this same game was suggesting that the audience was 13+ yo males, as referenced here, in an art style guide.

This is a good thing, of course. There's no reason why a game or the environment that game is played in, should be unwelcoming to anyone.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Last Punch

I don't think I'm breaking any news here by suggesting that Replenish is a good card.

What I didn't expect to happen was for Replenish to change the way I approached games due to its interaction with Cathartic Reunion.

Brawl vs lifegian
Now, different combinations come alive and questions like "Should I discard a Pandemonium to try and assemble my combo in the graveyard?" come up. Replenish has opened up some new lines of play, which has been both interesting to wrap my head around and good for my win percentage!

It also ups the complexity level, which means I'm going in the tank a lot to figure out what my play should be. The challenge in this instance is that I don't want to ignore what my opponent is doing or has done while I figure out my best play.

I have a lot of cool interactions now: against control decks, I can try to run out all of my pieces to draw countermagic in hopes of getting a timely Replenish in.

Against combo decks, I can try (however unlikely that is) to race them by dumping my combo into the graveyard and going for the kill on turn four.

So I have outs against other archetypes and I don't think I've done anything particularly detrimental to my 'general creatures' based matchup.

Along those lines, I'd worry more about the two-ofs of Pyroclasm and Seed Spark, but they're also easy to ditch to Cathartic Reunion and honestly, they've been pretty clutch. Pyroclasm always helps keep small creatures off the board, Seed Spark eliminating a key piece of an opponent's deck while giving me more time in the form of saproling speedbumps. It's been pretty good.

So far, I've found that I really like where this deck has ended up. It's got more resilience to it and I think I've sped up the timetable where the combo comes online. Maybe not by a lot, but enough that I can tell it's a better deck.

I like the challenge Brawl has presented to me, migrating from a creature-forward deck to one emphasizing the combo. Sure, it's become more linear, but that is a result of focusing it into doing one thing instead of two.

However; what's been not working out has been the Herald of the Pantheon. I like the card but I already have lifegain and mana is never an issue. In a game with Noah, I had the win until he cast Gaddock Teeg. I spent the rest of the game scrambling for removal and couldn't find it in time.

I hate to say it, but I'm 4 cards short...

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Old School Still Has It

After a long stretch in tight corridors, cramped, weird rooms, sewers, zombie dogs, esoteric puzzles and B movie dialog, RE2 gives you this, right before the endgame.
RE2 moonlit train
It's the transport train you board to take you down to the evil underground laboratory (is there any other kind?) where you'll learn the secrets to the final mysteries and hopefully, escape Raccoon City forever.

I think it's a really pretty shot. A relief from the gloom with a beautiful moonlit night. The full moon allows for a nod to scary movie tropes, while still letting the designers show off a little.

RE2RE doesn't do this mostly because it doesn't have to. Because everything already looks amazing, other incongruities start to stand out, such as a hallway in the police station where it's always raining, even after you've left the building to cleared skies-it doesn't matter. If you go back, the hallway on the second floor is always raining.

However, RE2RE does fix Claire's mission in two ways: First, by using story mechanics to remove most of the escorting, and second, via technology that has improved the AI of the escort. So when I did have to take Sherry from one point to another, she kept up with me. This make's Claire's story more fun to play through and helps keep the pacing and atmosphere consistent.

All in all, the classic game still stands on its own, but RE2RE is exactly how I'd want to see a classic redone. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


I participated in a release day draft for Transformers: Rise of the Combiners event and this is what I built (but first, a link to the spoiler list, so you can see what I did):

1 copy:
Rapid Conversion
Escape Route
Mining Pick Mar 1 draft deck Armored Plating
Press the Advantage
Evasive Maneuvers

2 copies:
Spare parts
Surprise Attack
Noble's Blaster
Enemy Combat Analysis
Primary Laser
Enforcement Batons
Bashing Shield
Pep Talk
Erratic Lightning

3 copies of Field Repair

4 copies of Cooling Vents

Air Raid
Dead End
Megatron, Arrogant Ruler

Looking back, I see what I should've done though: my draft pool included two Bolt of Lightning, a Leap of Faith and a Universal Network Access, along with two Vandalize.  I I had cut Dead End and run five star cards, I think I would've had a better deck.

Similarly, if I'm cutting Dead End, then cut Megatron for the Grapple I was passed and fill in with the best star cards (UNA, Bolt, Leap) then again, possibly a stronger deck. Megatron was REALLY good though.

But as always, play skill matters. In my first game, I was still finding the rhythm of the TCG again. It had been months since I had played and I don't think I made the best choices due to some rust in the gears. Couple that with trying to use the new green battle icons properly and yeah, I made some mistakes. Heck, having to note the cards I'd flipped and decide which to pull, if any, was not a simple task.

Game two was an absolute nail biter but my opponent had wisely drafted a heavily defensive deck and I just couldn't quite get there fast enough.

My third and fourth games went better for me; I felt more focused and had a better sense of how my deck played out, so I was able to look at what my opponent was doing and focus on the weak points in his strategy.

The fifth game I managed to pull out but the sixth I lost on time and I lost that game because I didn't attack my opponent's weak point. He was running the new Skywarp and, despite him telling me his deck was "One seventh zero icons", instead of going for his support cards I kept trying to knock out Skywarp. If I'd focused instead on Ironhide and Sludge, I might've won out. I still might've won if time had not been an issue but that's life.

In addition, I missed some of my green icon and character attacking triggers. Some of that is about the new mechanic, some of that is about my own inexperience.

Final Thoughts
So far, I like where Rise of the Combiners is going; the new mechanics add depth in positive ways, expanding the strategic element without making things too complex. The foldable cards, so far, are strong enough to endure a bit of use which I also appreciate. They feel sturdy!

The rules clarifications section needs some work. The use of FAQ and Rules Roundup pages at Facebook is clunky. While those posts help promote the game, they aren't easy to search through and getting answers to questions like "can I interact with Characters in the K.O. area?" has been very difficult for me to find. We just need databases set up for things like this.

The use of the green icons do slow the game down a little. However, I believe that this is because it's a new mechanic we have to pay attention to, and less because it's a massive drag on the combat portion of the game. The games I played still went at a brisk pace and felt engaging. I look forward to playing more games!