Monthly Archives: July 2013

Loosing to the great green weenie

So last night I went 1-2 in matches and 3-5 in games. Not a great night in terms of wining actual games. However, in terms of learning things, it was a great night. The two matches I lost were against green ramp decks, meaning early game mana accelerated big creatures. The third match I won only because my opponent got mana screwed. The fact was, my great idea for a mono blue trauma deck was in reality not a good idea. The deck was too slow and reactive, and could not deal with a massive early game onslaught. Given a chance to develop, it works fine, but unfortunately it needs 6 mana to work properly and in the current meta game that it too late in the game. So now I am going back to the drawing board.

I started out this morning thinking about building an aggro ramp deck myself, but a lack of cards and a general disinterest in playing green shot this idea down. So I started looking through the decks I have and came across a Red/Black deck I built last year and promptly forgot about. The theory behind the deck is simple, 20 creatures all with special abilities making them difficult to block and 16 removal spells to keep my opponents side of the field depopulated. What attracted me to this deck this morning was the mana curve of the deck. All but 4 of the cards in the deck could be cast on 3 or less mana which should make the deck fast and reliable. It however did not have optimal cards in it, the deck looks like I was planning to play it in a Block environment rather than Standard. So I stripped out the meh cards and adding in more efficient cards. For instance, I took out all the artifacts and replaced them with large flying creatures. My preliminary deck looks like this.

Creatures 20:

  • 4 Tormented Soul (B)
  • 4 Stromkirk Noble (R)
  • 4 Vampire Nighthawk (1BB)
  • 4 Kessig Wolf (2R)
  • 2 Thundermaw Hellkite (3RR)
  • 2 Sengir Vampire (3BB)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Shock (R)
  • 4 Searing Spear (1R)
  • 4 Doom Blade (1B)
  • 4 Death Wind (XB)

Land 24:

  • 4 Dragonskull Summit
  • 4 Rakdos Guildgate
  • 8 Mountain
  • 8 Swamp

Things I am thinking about. The sideboard will have to wait until I have had a chance to play this deck. Otherwise, I am considering placing Faithless Looting, Wild Guess or Sign in Blood for card advantage. I am also considering replacing Shock with Brimstone Volley or possibly Thunderbolt, these two cards do more damage, but also cost more mana and/or are limited in some way.


Sideboarding my deck

I built a mono blue mill deck, which I posted last week. I am thinking about taking it to Friday Night Magic at the Rogues Gallery at some point. To be competitive I need a 15 card sideboard, which are cards I can switch into the deck after the first game of a match. Usually sideboard strategy is based on the idea of having cards to optimize against common meta game decks. The hard part of this is being plugged in enough to recognize what decks are common in your meta game and identifying cards that will help you against those decks. Since I play only casually, I have no real clue as to what the meta game looks like, so I am going to try an alternate little used sideboarding strategy. I an going to use my sideboard to completely change how my deck works. This is my deck, which I have dubbed the Trauma Deck.

Creatures 18:

  • 4 Galerider Sliver (U)
  • 4 Seacoast Drake (1U)
  • 4 Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
  • 4 Clone (3U)
  • 2 Jace’s Mindseeker (4UU)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Tome Scour (U)
  • 4 Traumatize (3UU)
  • 4 Cancel (1UU)
  • 4 Negate (1U)

Artifacts 4:

  • 4 Millstone (2)

Planeswalker 2:

  • 2 Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)

Land 20:

  • 20 Island

As you can see, its primary purpose is to run my opponent out of cards before he can run me out of life. It also opens a second front with a flying creature assault, this is designed to give me a Plan B to win the game and force my opponent deal with two simultaneous strategies. My purposed sideboard is.

  • 3 Divination (2U)
  • 3 Trained Condor (2U)
  • 3 Air Servant (4U)
  • 3 Disperse (1U)
  • 3 Spellblast (XU)

My plan is to remove Jace, 1 Mindseeker, Tome Scour, Traumatize and Millstone from the main deck after the first game of the match and replace them with the sideboard cards. What this does is converts the deck from a Mill-Aggro deck to an Aggro-Control deck. The idea being that my opponent will sideboard against the Mill aspect of the deck, not expecting me to remove it from the deck. Then for the third game I can use whichever strategy worked best against this particular opponent.

Most influential Game Book

I was reading through a thread about this topic on Two things popped out at me, first there was a very distinct divide among those who posted. There were the gamers who felt one of the early books for D&D or AD&D was the IT book and then there were those who felt Vampire: The Masquerade was THE book. This line seemed to be very generational, those who started playing prior to 1990 or so fell into the first category, while those who started after, tended towards the latter.

While I disagree with the V:tM choice, I do see the reasoning. The game did cause a resurgence and probably ushered in the Silver Age of gaming. Those who favor this choice argue it was the first of its kind RPG where the focus of the game shifted from dungeon crawls to personal stories and dramatically changed not just how we played but how the games were designed as well. The game also attracted a lot of new players, including women in much larger numbers and may have saved the hobby from what would have otherwise been a feckless decade of D&D imploding on itself.

The problem here is V:tM did not significantly change anything about the hobby. It really did not attract anyone new to the hobby, who would not have otherwise been inclined to play anyway. LARPing has been around for far longer than V:tM and there was far more crossover from the SCA then V:tM LARPing every produced. As for the types of players and how we played, I’d say nothing changed at all. I mean seriously, the game has a mechanic for sucking the blood out of an elder vampire for the purposes of increasing your own power, how is this not “Kill the monster and steal his stuff!”?  Witnessing these games, I saw the very same archetype players as those who played D&D. Combat monsters, Rules lawyers, Role players, and Explorers were all present and accounted for. Further, even with a classless rule set, the players were still playing niche character types like warrior, thief, healer, spell caster. No, this game really did not change much with the hobby outside of making goth as a thing last longer than it should have. If this game had never come into being, something else would have replaced it.

The single most influential gaming book ever published was the AD&D1E Dungeon Masters Guide. This was a must have book for everyone who was playing at the time and continued to be the must have book until the 2nd edition came out in 1989. This book gave us our first insights into how Gary Gygax ran his games and he taught us things we didn’t even know we needed to learn. The book gave us advice on world building, resolving problems with situations not specifically covered by the rules. It gave us idea for magic items and dungeon design and how to properly encourage good behaviour in players and discourage bad behaviour. Even when we are not playing AD&D or HackMaster, I still refer to this book for advise. Had this book never been published and had never been the basis of so many games and accessories, influenced so many GM’s, players and game designers, the hobby would be very very different today.

MTG Millstone Deck

So after last weekends mild success with milling my opponents deck, I decided to have a look at building a Mill deck. Lo and behold, milling cards was a theme for Blue this time out. I laid out this deck as a preliminary Millstone deck. The Mindseeker, Tome Scour, Traumatize, Millstone and Jace all force my opponent to discard cards off the top of their deck.  Cancel and Negate are there to protect Jace and Millstones from being targeted by removal. All the other creatures in the deck do two things for me. First they provide me with a second method of winning the game through basic creature attacks, all the creatures save Jace are flying or have the potential to fly, making them difficult to block. Second they provide me with the ability to defend against creature decks.

Creatures 18:

  • 4 Galerider Sliver (U)
  • 4 Seacoast Drake (1U)
  • 4 Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
  • 4 Clone (3U)
  • 2 Jace’s Mindseeker (4UU)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Tome Scour (U)
  • 4 Traumatize (3UU)
  • 4 Cancel (1UU)
  • 4 Negate (1U)

Artifacts 4:

  • 4 Millstone (2)

Planeswalker 2:

  • 2 Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)

Land 20:

  • 20 Island

I am thinking about adding Windreader Sphinx for some card advantage and perhaps Trading Post for utility. I am also considering going two colors and adding White, for more balanced creature array and some utility spells. Another consideration is more land or non land mana producers. The mana curve on this deck is wonky and I am afraid it will start too slow and stall out allowing my opponent to develop his strategy. However, before altering the deck, I want to see how the baseline plays.

MTG 2014 Core Pre-Release

Today I went to Rogues Gallery in Round Rock were they had a MTG 2014 Core Pre-Release tournament. Players bought 6 booster packs and then were given 30 minutes to construct a deck from the mess of cards provided. Before going, I scanned over the spoiler list so I had a good idea of good cards to look for, concentrating on Green, Red and Black. I always concentrate on those colors in sealed deck play because they tend to be the most destructive and have the best balance of creatures. Sadly, my booster packs ran afoul of my preparations.

I pulled two cards that dictated the two colors I was to play. The First was Jace, Memory Adept and the second was Sengir Vampire. Both of these cards were by far the best cards I had, so Black and Blue it was.

13 Creatures:
1x Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)
1x Merfolk Spy (U)
2x Coral Merfolk (1U)
1x Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
1x Clone (3U)
1x Tenacious Dead (B)
1x Festering Newt (B)
2x Shadowborn Apostle (B)
1x Syphon Sliver (2B)
1x Undead Minotaur (2B)
1x Sengir Vampire (3BB)

10 Spells:
2x Tome Scour (U)
2x Sensory Deprivation (U)
1x Divination (2U)
2x Time Ebb (2U)
2x Vile Rebirth (B)
1x Wring Flesh (B)

17 Land:
9x Island
8x Swamp

So I went 2-1 in the tournament. I lost my first match 0-2. My primary problem during the first game was my deck stalled out mid game. My opponent had a butt ton of creatures out and was fixing to over run me, so I scooped. The second game, I got Jace out, but I forgot to use his milling ability until the next turn, this turned out to be a loosing mistake. Two turns later she was able to get rid of Jace  and I was unable to run her out of cards before I ran out of life.  The next round I got Jace out twice and milled his deck to nothing, at the end I was 1-1 in matches and 2-2 in games. My third opponent was able to defeat me in our first game with an unopposed Serra Angel. In the next two games, Jace hit the table and I milled her deck out. At the end I was 2-1 in matches and 4-3 in games. I got a couple of extra 2014 boosters out of it, over all it was a fun afternoon. Thanks for the great games Ashton, Lance and Diana.

New project…maybe

I am not a big fan of internet ads. I don’t hate them really and I do understand that many things on the internet are paid for either completely or partially through ads, Google and FaceBook being the shining stars of this type of thing. Anyway, as I was saying, not a big fan. I use Adblock Plus and Noscript to block out ads from my web experience. I also use the ad blocking host file which redirects all the common ad domains to local host. Doing this speeds up my internet, makes my web browser considerably more stable and protects me from malware.

I was thinking today as I was making the odd adjustment to my Raspberry Pi web server that I should do something interesting with all those redirects from my host file. Setting up a light weight web server on Linux is trivial and writing some basic php or javascript to do something interesting instead of showing ads would be an interesting challenge. Of course the first thing that popped into my mind was porn, I could set up a javascript to display a random porn picture. If I got really ambitious, I could even set up a control panel so the user can pick what type of porn he is in the mood for that particular day. Hmmm.

Experience point theory

For as long as I can remember, my thoughts on how many experience points (XP) D&D/HM character should get has been divergent from mainstay gamers. My mentor in all things D&D, Jerry Stoddard, only gave out the exact amount of XP earned by killing creatures AND he used a little known rule from WAY back that said if the PC was of a higher level than the hit dice of the monster killed, you had to divide the XP by the characters level. So an orc worth 10 XP at first level was only worth 1 XP at 10th. What this made for was really bloody slow progression. We played every week three years and my highest level PC was 5th level, it is my belief that no PC ever made 10th level on one of Jerry’s games. Imagine being 4th level needing needing 3000 odd XP to get to 5th and the GM just awarded you 326 XP for the whole nights game. Don’t get me wrong, those were some great games, Jerry was a great GM and I loved those games, but progression was just too slow.

So When I moved to Bozeman and started my own game, I wanted to make sure there was some reasonable progression. I started with to assumptions, first I should be able to obtain 10th level playing weekly games for 1 year. Second, characters should be going up a level every 3-6 games. I then sat down and averaged the XP it took for each of the 4 basic classes to level and divided those numbers up so lower levels took 3 games to level, mid levels took 4-5 games to level and higher levels took 6 games. This skewed weirdly because of the way XP increased across the levels and I realized it would be a rare year where 52 games were actually played and 45 games was much more reasonable for 10th level. So instead of characters levelling every 3-6 games, I made the base line 3 games for 1st and 2nd level, then the number of games required to level would increase by 1 for each level. So it takes 3 game to make 2nd level, 3 games to make 3rd, 4 games to make 4th, 5 games to make 5th, etc. This made it so the average character would make 9th level around the 45th game and 10th around the 55th game. Pretty close to my original intent. From then on everyone got a static amount of XP based on the number of games we had played in this campaign.

This system worked pretty well, some players felt this was too slow, but the real problem here was no one was getting points for doing anything special or particularly smart. This lead to a hodge podge of giving bonus XP for various things and resulted in players trying to do mildly entertaining antics in hopes getting some small XP bonus. Years later when we started playing HackMaster, we were introduced to the idea of Most Valuable Player award. Basically all the players vote on who did the best during the game, with the GM as tie breaker. The MVP was then awarded a 25% XP bonus for the game. I also added the GM Award, an award for the GM to give out another 25% bonus for things he viewed as exceptional or entertaining. So a good player who played well consistently would level significantly faster, but over time most everyone gets some bonus points.

Game of Thrones

Several months ago I bought the first season DVD set of Game of Thrones. After the first episode, I knew I was going to hate it and I did. I forced myself to watch the whole season, first because I tend to give TV shows 3 episodes before I judge them harshly and second, I spend cash on this shit and by god I am going to watch it to the bloody end. I almost stopped watching after Ned Stark was executed, but I bulldozed through. So here are my thoughts on this show;

1. Apparently George R.R. Martin can not write a normal sex scene to save his life. The closest thing we have is prostitute on dwarf sex, it goes down hill from there, to include rape and incest.

2. Apparently George R.R. Martin is compelled to kill off all his good characters leaving only the complete pricks.

3. Apparently George R.R. Martin can not let anything good happen to any of his characters, again, he seems compelled to torture them with miserable lives and everything they do to make things better, only makes it exponentially worse.

Seriously, by the end of the first season there were zero characters I cared about, all the sex scenes were of the EEWW variety and I felt like cutting my wrists because everything happening in the show made me feel bad. So I am sorry, but all you people who are claiming the is the best TV EVAR!, there is something wrong with you, please, go see a doctor, because this shit is really bad.

Thought experiment

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To See and be Seen

Today I visited my eye doctor for the first time in three years and he told me the same thing all doctors tell me, that I am getting old. That was not really what agitated me while I was there. What annoyed me was finding a decent set of frames. I do not care for wire frames, they are simply not very durable and once they get bent up, even if professionally bent back into shape, they are never the same. I like plastic frames, they are as a rule much better at taking abuse and tend to be cheaper. The last time I got glasses I let myself get talked into wire frames and immediately regretted it.

This time around I swore, either plastic frames or fuck everyone, I will re-use my old from from 1995. The problem came not from finding a pair a basic black plastic frames, but from the styles I had to choose from. Apparently hipsters like black plastic frames, what they don’t like is basic. They have these things in all kinds of shapes and styles except for anything I found vaguely workable. I finally found a pair marked US Army, I am sure this frame is targeted at soldiers who need something TriCare will pay for, they even came in a PezWitch approved color of grey.

I have said this before, I hate hipsters, the ruin everything they touch.