Solforge Draftcap no. 5

I don’t have an intro, let’s just jump into it shall we?

Pack 1: This is not the most exciting first pack. Uranti Heartseeker does basically nothing. Fervent Assault and Rite of the Grimgaunt are both nifty spells but aren’t that exciting to me at this point. Crypt Conjurer is just a big body with marginal upside in draft.Esperian Steelscale is not that good and pushes me towards A/U which isn’t really where I like being in this format. Oratek Battlehammer seems good and I haven’t played with him, so he’s the pick.

01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 2: This pack, while not underwhelming, isn’t quite what you want to see. Both Seal of Tarsus and Chistlehearth Archer are fine cards but given the Battlehammer I already have I want to lock in Alloyin. Ether hounds really shines in the decks that want it but is less than stellar in the decks that don’t by the way. My only two choices are really the Tower Scout or the Tundra Watcher,which are both subpar. I think I’m underrating Tundra Watcher based upon comments others have made but I haven’t really been inclined to challenge that assumption or had it challenged. Tower Scout doesn’t have the same dearth of stats and has mobility, so I take him.

02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 3: Razortooth Stalker is far and away the best card here. The robot is fine but needs pump to shine, the yeti is just bad and Steelwielder Medic is clunky. 

03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 4: Instigator is insane with his good stats and super relevant ability and one of the main reasons to go A/T at all in draft, so it’s a snap pick here. Crag Walker is the second best card but Primordial isn’t bad in the right deck.

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Pack 5: This is what you’d expect the end of a pack to look like. Metamind Explorer doesn’t do enough as a card. Windcaller Shaman at least has a better body and an ability that isn’t irrelevant, even if he is a must level. Take the shaman.

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Pack 6: Well this is stacked. Instigator, Burnout and Citadel Guard are all cards that stand out to me. The other half just isn’t on the same power level. That being said, Guard is my pick and I don’t think it’s that close. Already having one Instigator and no pay off makes the second one incredibly greedy. Burnout is good, especially since I don’t have any spells but it doesn’t beat out Guard.

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Pack 7: Cerebral Scout and Apyocramcer do varying degrees of nothing. Talin Stampede is a finisher, albeit not a great one. Nargath Bruiser and Filedmarshall are both good, they impact multiple lanes and play to the board. While Bruiser might be the better card, I want my Battlehammer to actually trigger its Allied ability so I take Fieldmarshall.

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Pack 8: I don’t want a second Windcaller Shaman. Sparkbrand Asir can get in those last points of damage but it’s not something I actively want. Firemane Steed gets massive, which isn’t nothing but it’s first two levels are fairly bad. Tremorcharge is a very versatile spell and the pick.

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Pack 9: Cypien Shieldwarden is highly institutional but that does mean there are times when he can pull his weight. Stone Brand is just bad, I don’t want a pump spell that only targets Defenders. Cinder Colossus is a fine pick up for the Instigator plan.

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Pack 10: Forge Guardian Alpha is close to everything I could want and reasonably expect out of a card. it’s Alloyin and it combos with Instigator.  Uranti Warstoker is just bad in comparison.

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Pack 11: Thundergale Invoker is cute, he can enable some cool stuff but without a mobility lord he’s not that impressive. Cloudcleaver Titan is a fine card, moreso now with his health buff. Flamestoke Shaman is still solid. Jet Pack is still really good, it’s close to being a second copy of Instigator and can just finish the game on any creature. Seal of Anvillion is the second worst seal cause it only buffs attack. Jet Pack is a windmill slam.

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 12: Runestorm Primordial is the worst Consistent creature by a healthy margin. Cinberbound Barbarian is really good, all of hte bound cards are very powerful and there’s little that I take over them in general.

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Pack 13: Seal of Kadras is the wort seal since its first two levels basically don’t do anything. Glacial Crush is always a nice card to have access to. Oratek Battlebrand is really powerful and easily the pick here.

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Pack 14: I’ve never been in a position to actually figure out if Cypien Steelgraft does enough, but I’m inclined to say no. Sap is one of the better ways A/T has to respond to stuff like Seal of Deepwood and makes the cut for it.

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Pack 15: Neither of these cards are any good but Scout might give me more incidental value than Peacekeeper.

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Pack 16: Digitize is so hard to get any value out of. Urnati Icemage can be good, but with no Warlord, Wallbreaker or Glacial crush it isn’t this deck. Spiritfrost Shaman passes the vanilla test and has an ability that’s pure upside, easy pick.

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Pack 17: Anvillio Enforcer really drops off in quality if ou can’t abuse his armor. Nanoswarm is good, but I can’t think of that many creatures whose abilities I want to turn off in draft. Jet Pack is sweet as always but a second one is a tad questionable. Steelskin Spelunker got a buff and is now not embarrassing to play. I’ll give him a chance.

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 18: This is a close one. Both Forge Guardian and Shaman are exactly where I want to be as already established. Forge Guardian gets the edge, however slight, cause of Allied trigger considerations. And because I got ahead of myself, there’s no picture of this pack.

 

Pack 19: Onxyium Marauder is incredibly underwhelming without the Allied trigger. Aetherforge Oracle has a fine body but his ability is incidental. A second Jet Pack seems pretty good with 4 Defenders so I’ll take it.

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Pack 20: Ugh, this is exactly the opposite of what I want. Two spells that are fairly poor. I take Digitize cause of allied considerations.

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Pack 21: Power Torrent is bad, it doesn’t do enough to justify a card. Cinderflame Mystic is solid, A second Citadel Guard is exactly what I want and gets in no question.

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Pack 22: A third Forge Guardian doesn’t seem right, but I could be wrong. I don’t really want to take more spells at this point either. So that leaves Crag Walker or Umbruk Lasher. It’s basically a question of whether a point of health or a point of power is more relevant. I’m inclined to thin that the power is so I take the walker.

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Pack 23: I don’t want more spells and Wallbreaker Yeti is a good creature, easy pick.

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Pack 24: I still don’t want spells so Fireman Steed gets in.

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Pack 25: Fine, I’l take a spell, Conflagrate is better enough than Kadras Colossus that it’s not as awkward as it could be.

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Pack 26: Borean Stormweaver is a solid card. Metatransfer is something I like maybe more than I should. But there’s a Cinderbound Barbarian in here, so nothing else really matters.

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Pack 27: Ironbound Reinforcements is awesome and doesn’t beat out the rest of these cards.

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Pack 28: While Brawler is a fine underdrop, technognome is good in its own right and I just want to shore up the Allied triggers.

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Pack 29:Frostshatter Strike is a powerful spell and it’s the best card here. I don’t want windcaller shaman due to the number of must levels I already have. This is cutting it close on having too many spells but it’s a risk worth taking.

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Pack 30:  And rewarded, kinda. Peacekeeper is not only a creature but Alloyin so I can’t ask for more.

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This has powerful stuff going on, it isn’t the most consistent deck by a wide margin. There are a fair number of draws that can just straight up kill me. Here’s a summary of the games:

Game 1 was against an aggressive N/T deck that I managed to stabilize against with big Defenders and Jet Pack’d for the win at the beginning of PL 5.

Game 2 was a mirror match. Only my opponent was a lot slower and I was a lot luckier as I leveled a bunch of cards off of Warhammer and Battlebrand to end the game mid PL 3.

Game 3 was against an U/N deck that had Sporelor and Seal of Deepwood a.k.a. the deck to beat in the format. I folded like a wet paper towel and died at the beginning of Pl 3.

Game 4 was against a spell heavy, aggressive A/U deck. This was the closest game of them all due to the quality of threats he was playing. The problem for him was a combination of luck on both of our parts and my late game just being better. Won the game in earl PL 4.

Overall this deck performed better than I expected, the bad draws didn’t show up that often and hte sie of Citadel Guard and Forge Guardian was enough to stabilize from those stumbles. All and all it was fun.

Next week…not sure. Till next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future’s Silver Lining: the Era of Popular Cultural Democracy

There are plenty of reasons to be depressed by the course of the future, but we’re not here to talk about that stuff.  Instead, we’re going to talk about one of the more positive aspects that modern technology has produced in the massive proliferation of content. It is now easier than ever to produce things and share them with the world. On the flipside, this also means that it’s easier than ever to consume stuff. It’s an interesting new paradigm, so let’s not waste time and jump into what it means.

First, let’s look at how this came about. The advent and growth of the internet have been a great boon to content creators getting their stuff out there. In addition, there are just so many tools for out there to make your work better. The result is that there’s more stuff, of a generally higher quality out there than at any previous point in history. Naturally, this means that one has ability to be far more selecting in what they consume.

This is the basis of cultural popular democracy, an interweaving web of content, its creators and consumers. Now there’s a reason why I use the term ‘popular cultural democracy’; the scale of things involved means that everyone’s interests can be satisfied in a more particular way. An example of what I mean can be seen with American Sci-fi TV in the 90s, also what one could call the Golden Age of Star Trek. While there were other shows, none of them had the same presence.* Star Trek is by and large a wonderful franchise but it’s also incredibly idiosyncratic,  there are only so many stories you can tell while staying true to what Star Trek is actually about. Now there’s a much wider range of visual scifi to enjoy, just not necessarily on tv anymore; although why that specifically is the case is a different discussion. The point being, there are others out there who like what you like and are making what you like. That’s only one aspect of it though, there’s also the actual consumption.

Up until now I’ve been primarily talking about content creators and the space they operate in, with only a tangential reference to people who actually consume all of this content. In short, everyone is a critic, everyone gets a vote. The phrase ‘everyone is a critic’ is often used disparagingly in reference to someone complaining unconstructively or by as a defense by those who are unwilling to accept the imperfections in their work. Here it simply means that everyone has a voice that can be heard, every view, every comment, every favorite, every retweet, share, reblog…it all matters. You no longer just support something by ‘voting with your dollars’ you do so by the sheer act of consumption.**

The biggest problem with this setup is that like anything that invites mass participation is that people can be terrible. In fact the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory and the past few months** have shown that people are in fact terrible. On the flip side, things like Patreon show that many people are in fact awesome. The quality of people isn’t quite the issue at hand though, the issue is criticism. It’s important for two reasons. First, nothing is perfect, there’s always room for improvement and refinement. Second, criticism is a way to talk about this stuff in an intelligent manner that pushes for improvement; everything also has its merits after all. Either extreme is unhelpful, although I imagine having fanbovys is a lot better than having trolls and haters.

If it wasn’t clear by now, this system is ultimately a net positive but it’s also a precarious one. This is part of the reason that issues such as net neutrality and cheap high speed internet matter.

This brings me to my last point, even if it is a bit tangential: the problematic aspects of media. I’m going to start by just linking you to this blog post, because it says what I would say but a lot better.  Go ahead and read it, it’s not long and I’ll wait.

Done reading? Cool. Now with that in mind, I’ll add to it. In general, the things that you love are the things that you want to talk about, and the natural conclusion of these talks is criticism. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s how things improve. Furthermore, this isn’t a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with this. Content creators and their work isn’t immune from criticism.

Well that’s all I got for this week. Next week is a Solforge draftcap. Till next time.

 

*The only big thing I can think of that was concurrent is Babylon Five, which had a terrible airing history. Everything else I know of lasted for 1 season. You could make a case for X Files but that’s still only two-ish choices so it doesn’t really disprove my point.  Not to mention that given how these series have become cult favorites, it’s not out of the question to speculate that if the internet had been around when they aired, word of mouth might have kept them alive longer.

**This isn’t entirely true. Torrents were used as market research to determine which anime to dub. This isn’t terribly relevant since I’m not really talking about corporations.

***I’m not just referring to Gamergate here; a bit more anecdotally is PewDiePie disabling comments on his stuff cause of abuse also comes to mind.

A Secret that doesn’t End with You

I’m going to let you in on a secret, you ready for this?

*dramatic pause*

Okay here it is: by and large it doesn’t matter what you like. Nor does it matter what someone else likes. You don’t need to, nor should you, lash out at someone else for deviating from your orthodoxy.

One of the problems with modern* nerd culture is how we identify with the media we like and perhaps more importantly with the media we don’t like. There’s an internalization of liking something. Now having discovered this new awesome thing, it’s only natural for us to want to spread the word and get other people to enjoy it. Part of it is good hearted; part of it is seeking validation. If I like this thing and if others like this thing then it must mean that’s objectively good and I’m right for liking it. This is only one half of the equation though; the same thing more or less happens with media we don’t like.

The problem that stems from this is pretty straightforward: it breeds interactions that aren’t pleasant, that can be anything from mildly annoying to downright mean. It’s a no-win situation of a rabbit-hole of negativity.

Of course I’m not saying that you should never express your opinion.. You should be aware of the context of a situation you find yourself in and act accordingly.  There are times when you can geek out about something, times when you can have civil yet critical discussions of a work’s merits and times when you don’t need to say anything.  In short, don’t be a dick.

Furthermore, it’s important to not tie personal validation to fandom. Diversify, expand your horizons. There are so many things out there just waiting to be discovered. Pigeonholing yourself is nothing more than selling yourself short.

Now you, the reader, may have noticed a shift in pronouns in these last few paragraphs. Part of this is a purely grammatical issue, at best it be incredibly awkward. The far more salient reason though is to help establish where I’m coming from. The thing about this mindset is how pervasive and easy is to adopt that mindset. It’s the mindset that I had, and on some level still have. Altering your worldview like this isn’t easy, but it’s worth the payoff. The view in question is so limiting and ultimately toxic.

We can be better, we should be better.

Next week, I talk about living in the future and cultural democracy

*I’m just going to operate under the assumption that this is a modern phenomenon due to the existence of the internet and social media even if the trend existed in some form or another from earlier in time.

 

Review: The Resistance/Avalon

The Resistance and Avalon are essentially the same game with a different flavor and a few other tweaks. Any actual differences I’ll note in the review but discussing them separately is pointless.For ease of writing I’ll be referring to the game primarily as the Resistance if for than no other reason than it came out first. 

What is it?: The Resistance is one of, if not the, modern archetype of a social game wherein the group seeks to root out hte traitors among their midst while the traitors see to sabotage the group.

Great what does that mean: At the beginning of the game, everyone is dealt a loyalty card which assigns them to one of two teams, rebels or spies. The spies get to know who the other spies are while the rebels get no such information. The crux of the game plays out over five missions. Only a subsection of the group goes on each mission, their composition must be approved by the group. Spies are trying to get onto missions in order to sabotage them, rebels have to keep spies off of the missions, best of 3 wins.

Scaling: 5-10. I tend to dislike games that go above 7 since too many people results in some people being incidental to the game.

Differences between the games: The main difference is that the Resistance is vaguely cyberpunkish in theme while Avalon is Arthurian legend. Aside from that is the variants that both of them offer. The Resistance uses a deck of cards that confer special abilities while Avalon assigns special roles that have special effects throughout the game. The latest Kickstarter has added a roles expansion for the Resistance as well as some other stuff. Unless you only plan on using roles or want to mock up your own variants, Avalon is fairly redundant now. I personally prefer the roles since they don’t seem to have the same

What’s Great: The rules are fairly simple, the emergent gameplay is easy to grasp and get into. The interplay between people can be fun and the logic puzzles that emerge are fun. The time investment isn’t huge either.

What’s not so great: Since there’s not much of a game here, it’s all about the people, which means the quality of the group is of the utmost importance. This is important because the game itself is less than elegant. It’s unbalanced, with each variant either warping the game or just moving around the win percentages. Also, the rule of 2 failures needed in larger games for mission 4 is incredibly inelegant, but I’m probably just miffed that it caused me to lose my first game cause it wasn’t explained well. It’s not a game you play cause it’s well balanced, you play it for the experience though.

Production Quality: Fine, the components don’t get used that often so wear and tear isn’t really an issue anyway

Overall: 2/5. Like I said, this game is really context sensitive and is rather unbalanced. But if I can get the right group together, I will play this game in a heartbeat.

Gamergate and the Irony of this Blog

            When I started this blog in the summer of 2012 I didn’t really think about the name. I needed something descriptive and iconic so it would stand out in readers’ minds. I also wanted something broad so I could have flexibility in what I write about while still staying on topic. It seemed like a fine, innocuous title at the time. The “problem” is that since then there’s been this increasing tendency for people other than straight white males wanting to be vocal about wanting to be treated with basic human decency.

The response has been, to be concise, shameful. It seems like whenever a new Tropes vs. Woman video goes up or some non-story spreads across the internet and a reactionary collective of dudebros spring up across the internet and it ends with harassment and death threats. Until it dies down and we wait a few months until it starts up all over again. Of course each time this happens there’s progress made; but that doesn’t change the reality of this macabre ritual that plays out every few months.

I’m not exactly keen on writing about this kind of stuff for a number of reasons. The first being that I’m not sure what value my writing would have; there are any number of far more skilled writers who are tackling this stuff. The second reason, which is interconnected to the first, is that I feel like there’s value in just writing about “gaming and other nerd stuff” without anything else, a closed reading for lack of a better term. The first reason only goes so far, given the issues at hand and the nature of content consumption, there’s little reason to point at someone else for this instead. The second reason is just silly, there’s no reason why I can’t talk about issues around gaming and a fair number of my blog posts already do that anyway.

This isn’t even getting into the daily torrent of abuse, the little incidents every day that define this culture. Honestly, I’m able to ignore it, because it’s not directed at me, because I’m a straight white dude, because I can soothe my conscious by the fact that I personally do not engage in such behavior. A luxury afforded to me by the blissful ignorance of privilege.

This blissful ignorance doesn’t stop there though; it also extends to a benefit of the doubt of people I interact with. It’s a benefit of the doubt that I’ve been disabused of more than once. I get the same feeling every time it happens,  it elicits a mixture of annoyance and disgust and disappointment. It makes me wonder just how far off the mark the title of another gamer guy is in actuality. It’s disheartening. It’s even more disheartening when I think about how that these feelings are the end of it; I don’t have to worry about it going any further than that.

The one group identity that I choose, an identity whose common space ultimately boils down to leaving behind the world that is for worlds that could be, is seeped with hatred. As a community we lack the empathy to be open to everyone. At the end of the day, we’re the worse for it. It makes me embarrassed in a way that no other potential shame of being a gamer could.

But like I said before, things are getting better. Even if the blog title is ironic now, I’ll keep it as a thumb in the eye to the reactionaries. Inch by inch, they’re losing and one day these sentiments really will belong to just another gamer guy.

Review: Star Realms

What is it; A new deck building game made by another group of magic: the Gathering pros. This one has a sci-fi theme and is a lot more confrontational than others though. And it has an app that’s playable on basically everything that isn’t Linux.

Great, what does that mean: it’s a game like Dominion or Ascension or Puzzle Strike but you’re trying to kill your opponent instead of getting more points than them. It still has a lot of the deck building conventions, you start with a deck fo ten cards split between money and the second resource of the game, in this case combat. You buy things from a changing center row and use combat to kill your opponent and their permanents, in this game called bases

Scaling;2-6 players. I’m given to understand that you need an additional copy of the game for each pair of two players due to component limitations. Looking over the multiplayer rules they seem to be more robust than other deckbuilders so going above 2 doesn’t seem as bad. Also given what the game focuses on, my main complaints about other deckbuilders with more than two people are structurally ameliorated with downtime being less of an issue.

What’s great: This game is simple. In a vacuum i think this is the easiest deck builder to teach someone completely new to the genre and they won’t implode on their first play. The allied mechanic means that it’s closer to building a specific deck or archetype compared to a generic pile of goodstuff cards. A fair amount of the ‘awesome stuff’ factor has been shifted to beating down your opponent, so turns play out relatively quickly barring analysis paralysis problems.

What’s interesting:  The first player advantage is mitigated by the first player only drawing three cards. A lot of cards can be trashed/banished/scrapped as it’s called in this game once they’re in play for an effect. The first tweak is partly needed cause you can’t use a tiebreaker system but also makes me wonder how well it works compared to different life totals on an academic level. The second aspect is a neat element of lenticular design. The value of those abilities is going to change depending on your understanding the game.

What’s not so great: While the sci-fi setting is different, the most that can be said about the flavor is that it’s better than Dominion. While the overall game is fairly resonant, the individual cards and factions are first and foremost  a demarcation of mechanical abilities. Not only that, but there’s a fair amount of bleed that makes a fair number of cards little more than generic role fillers.The allied mechanic is strictly linear.

App stuff: The app is fine. It does everything a certain level of competence that’s acceptable. It does everything you want and it’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that it’s become so popular.* My main two gripes are in the campaign and the online play set up. The campaign is fine for the most part, but suffers from having too many scenarios stack the deck against you instead of playing around with the rules for interesting gameplay. The online play set up suffers from no timed option, which means i can’t just make a game and have a guarantee of playing it out then. In addition, finished games wont’ clear for days and the personal info page is a tad threadbare. On the positive side though, it’s “play all” button won’t play cards that require you to make a choice so you can’t trip yourself up.

overall: 4/5.  I debated between a 3 and a 4 for this one. At the bare minimum it’s good enough that i actively want to play it; it’s mechanics are solid and the games themselves are fun. A few of my complaints are little more than aesthetic gripes and the deeper problems are things that can be addressed with expansions.

Feel free to comment, next week is another mystery post for both of us, so that’s exciting. Till next time

*The Ascension Online fiasco and the dearth of new content for the game for ~a year didn’t hurt either.