Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Future of Space Travel

The recent New York fly over of the Space Shuttle Enterprise reminds me of the test flights conducted back in the late 70’s. I remember some newscaster predicting that if you were under the age of 30, there was a good chance you would be able to experience space travel in your life time, I was perhaps 14 at the time. Today of course, at the age of 48, ever seeing space is a ridiculous notion.

Now that funding for whatever will replace the Shuttle program has shifted primarily to private sector development, we can expect a very slow slog towards probably nothing. Several private companies will vacuum up billions of federal dollars and produce nothing over the next decade. Look at Mojave Aerospace Ventures, they have only managed put a man in low earth orbit, something that was a serious trick in 1964 but not so much in 2004. I suspect Ethiopia could successfully put a man in low earth orbit with a balloon and a lawn chair if they wanted to.

The problem of course is as a country, we simply do not have the will for space exploration and I do not see this changing anytime soon. Our government is moor bound by conservative partisanship and the need to cut spending on everything except the CIA and the Defense Department. The private sector has no interest in space because there is no profit to be made yet. Yeah, yeah, mining asteroids blah blah. Not going to happen in my lifetime. Before we can effectively mine asteroids one of two things must happen, either the minerals we will mine will become so expensive the cost of getting it will be profitable or space flight will have to be so inexpensive that the cost of getting the minerals will be profitable. I see neither of these things happening in my life time. Of course if we had discovered hydrocarbons on the moon, we would have had a base there in 1975, and you’d better bloody fucking believe it would be American territory. But the fact is, the closest deposits of hydrocarbons we are aware of are on Saturn’s moon Titan, and since the shortest possible trip there would be 2 plus years, good luck with that.

Mono Blue Misc

Several weeks ago I posted a deck built out of the left over cards from a couple of preconstructed decks I bought and raided. I gave the deck to a friend who plays magic casually and but is not interested in spending tons of money on the hobby and really, who can blame him. To recap here is the original deck.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Neurok Commando
4x AEther Adept
4x Master Thief
4x Phantasmal Dragon
2x Spined Thopter
2x Frost Breath
4x Negate
4x Mind Control
4x Mana Leak
4x Preordain
20x Island

The strength of this deck is its ability to grab creatures and artifacts from its opponents and deny them the ability to develop a significant offense. He has played this deck successfully several times now, he likes the deck, however it does have several weaknesses. While its mana curve is not horrible, it is a bit flat, with 12 cards outside of casting during the first three turns and nearly half the deck can not be cast if you miss a mana drop during the first three turns.

First up, the Phantasmal Dragon has got to go, for as big a creature it is, it is too easily killed, I’d rather use the Delver of Secrets, 1 drop and flip from a 3/2 flying creature. Yeah it is still inside shock range, but having an attacking 3/2 flier on the field on turn two is too good to pass up. Next, I would replace the Preordain with Ponder. Preordain is out of the Standard block now and only allows you to dig 2 deep into your deck. Ponder allows you to dig 3 deep and costs the same. Finally, I would drop Spined Thopter and Frost Breath for 4 Vapor Snag or Unsummon, Unsummon is easier to get, but Vapor Snag has the added bonus of doing a point of damage to your opponent. This also adds 4 more instants which increases the chances of flipping the Delver on turn 2.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Neurok Commando
4x AEther Adept
4x Master Thief
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Vapor Snag
4x Negate
4x Mind Control
4x Mana Leak
4x Ponder
20x Island

There, now the mana curve is much better, the deck will play faster and more consistent while becoming better focused. The really nice thing here is the modifications will cost around $5. While I would not take this deck to a tournament, I would not be embarrassed to bring it to Friday Night Magic at the local game store.

MTG: The Mana Leak Discussion

It is interesting looking at Magic: The Gathering through the lenses of someone who has not played for more than decade. I was reading this article over at Wizards website about how they are fixing an overpowered card called Snapcaster Mage. One of the problem cards that is commonly abused by the Snapcaster Mage is Mana Leak. Apparently, Mana Leak is a powerful card, to quote the article;

“One of the problems is that Mana Leak is simply a much more powerful card than we would be comfortable printing under modern development rules. Similar to why the Swords are so powerful—their costs were locked in before people really understood how to price Equipment—Mana Leak is a relic of a bygone era.”

Having played MTG in said bygone era, I have to tell you Mana Leak was considered the worst counter spell in the game. Yes, early in the game it could be useful, but was generally a wasted draw by turn 5. Virtually everyone would rather have drawn a real Counter Spell or a Power Sink. I can tell you, I was a consummate Blue player and I never used Mana Leak in a constructed deck. Today, I certainly will, but only because Power Sink is gone and other counter spells are either more expensive or hampered in some way. From my point of view MTG does not have a power creep problem, it has a power drain problem. Cards are getting weaker and less flexible, decks are getting predictable and games are getting longer. I have not decided if this is a good thing or not.

Happy toker day

To all you Daydream Believers, happy 4/20.

GURPS Characters

Since I am running a GURPS Game in a few weeks, I decided to sit down and do up a character in case I needed to help anyone with theirs. The character creation rules were 200 points, no disadvantages or quirks allowed. This is what I came up with, a fairly stock fighter type character. I took the Extra Attack advantage on the premise that the best defense is a good offense and being able to use two weapons would shorten my opponents life span by several turns, even if it meant forgoing the ability to block with a shield, which is the cheapest defense point wise.

Name: HighTower, Race: Human

Attributes [144]
ST 14 [40], DX 14 [80], IQ 10, HT 12 [20]

HP 16 [4], Will 10, Per 10, FP 12

Basic Lift 39, Damage 1d/2d

Basic Speed 6.5, Basic Move 6
Ground Move 6, Water Move 1

Advantages [30]
Ambidexterity [5], Extra Attack (1) [25]

Perks [1]
Honest Face [1]

Skills [25]
Area Knowledge (local) IQ/E – IQ+0 10 [1]
Brawling DX/E – DX+0 14 [1]
Broadsword DX/A – DX+2 16 [8]
Fast-Draw (Sword) DX/E – DX+0 14 [1]
Fast-Talk IQ/A – IQ+0 10 [2]
Knife DX/E – DX+2 16 [4]
Riding (Equines) DX/A – DX-1 13 [1]
Shield (Shield) DX/E – DX+2 16 [4]
Swimming HT/E – HT+0 12 [1]
Writing IQ/A – IQ+0 10 [2]

Stats [144] Ads [30] Disads [0] Quirks [0] Skills [25] = Total [200]

GURPS and other miscellania

I am fairly certain I have been boring everyone to death about Magic: The Gathering, but I blame PezWitch for that. So anyway, in other news, in a couple of weeks I am starting a new campaign. We are officially shifting our game from HackMaster to GURPS. This change is not much of a surprise to anyone I suspect, after all, we have been playing HackMaster for 10 years. You heard that right, this year is the 10th anniversary of my gaming group. This group is officially the longest lived game group I have ever participated in. We have had a few bumps here and there, crappy software for one. When we started, OpenRPG was so bad, we had to stop in the middle of the game so we could all restart the program to keep it from consuming all the memory of our systems. We have also had some bad players, I am not naming names, but I think we all know who I am talking about. I am fairly certain the group has been on the verge of breakup at least twice. But through it all, some of us kept coming and so here we are.

Back to GURPS, on May 5th, I am starting a fresh campaign. We are playing GURPS Fantasy, the setting is Banestorm (The “Official” GURPS Fantasy setting). We played GURPS Fantasy a couple of month ago, sort of a trial run and we learned a few things. The biggest thing was 100 points is no longer enough, the game now scales much better and the points are balanced, but as a result the power levels have changed. This time I gave them 200 points and as with the trial game, I am not allowing disadvantages. I also learned that GURPS is too gritty and realistic (I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek) for there not to be some sort of extra healing ability going on. In the trial game there was no magic healing of any kind and a couple of characters spent to whole series of games on the verge of passing out. So I moved the game to a normal mana area and made magic more available. Hopefully we will get some interesting character mixes.

Oh and by the way, for anyone who does not know, we have moved the game to Saturday night at 9 PM CST. The server, room and password are all still the same.

Magic Strategy: Mana Curve

I have been reading a lot about various Magic strategies lately and I have been oddly confused by many supposedly tournament quality decks. If you have looked at my deck designs you probably noticed I tend to put fours of most all cards and occasionally 2 of. Looking at decks online I noticed a great many decks use 3 of and even 1 of cards. I have also found there is little concern for the mana cost of cards and most deck designers have no problem putting 5, 6 or even 7 drop cards in their decks. As I understand it most modern players expect games to go on for 10 or 15 and occasionally 20 rounds. I have to ask myself has no one explained the mana curve to modern players?

The first thing to understand about strategy is the most important time of the game is the first three rounds, you first 10 cards. The first three rounds are the early game, the time in which you have few resources in play and many cards in hand. During this time you do not want to miss any land drops, you absolutely must play a land every turn, which means at least three of those first 10 cards need to be land cards. This is why everyone recommends at least 1/3 of your deck be land or 20-24 land. If you are playing a mono colored deck you can get by with 20, if you are playing two or more colors, go with 24 or maybe even 26. The second thing about the early game is you want to be able to cast something every single turn, you need to start establishing your game from the very beginning. So of the seven cards left after your three lands, you must have at least three cards that can be cast on three or less mana. Realistically, you’d probably rather have three one mana card in your hand than three three mana cards. By extension, the majority of the cards in your deck should cost one mana. A near perfect early game would be made up of three land, three one mana cards, two two mana cards and two three and higher mana cards. A nice mana distribution in a deck should look something like this.

Picture no longer available


What this translates into the establishment of your strategy very early in the game, mounting small but effective threats and the ability to answer your opponents threats. If done properly, the game will not progress to the 10th round and your deck will function fine on three mana. When I am deck designing, I build my decks for short decisive battles, by the 5th or 6th round I should be mounting my primary offense and the other player should be recognizing his impending doom.

RE: April 1st on the Internet

Each April Fools day I proclaim my disdain for the Internet on April 1st and today will be no different. I wrote this last night and scheduled it to auto-post just so I would not have to open a web browser today. I am going to finish the book I am reading, watch a movie, drink some beer and maybe masturbate. See ya all on the other side.