Review: Pokemon X & Y

Pokemon X and Y (Gen 6) aren’t good games. I don’t mean they’re bad games in the way that all Pokemon games.* I mean they’re bad games in ways that aren’t specific to the franchise as the game relies upon the 3DS’s features to push it over the top. Those feature being the graphics, which are admittedly gorgeous and the online functionality. Games are more than their mechanics though, they’re about creating experiences. This is what these games excel at; it’s what they’ve always excelled at. Let’s not waste any more time and jump into it.

Gen 6 isn’t hard, it’s mind numbingly easy. While the games have never been hard, there are certain things in this game that exacerbate the problem. First, there’s the issue of the game just throws powerful stuff at you. While your starter has traditionally been very good, you also get a Kanto (Gen 1) starter, a Lapras, a Lucario that can mega-evovle, and that’s just off the top of my head. Sure you could not use them, but in the case of the starters that’s boring. It’s a problem accentuated by the ease of which you find powerful mons in the wild. This in and of itself isn’t a problem, being given powerful options is fun. This does lead into the second problem.

The opposition is playing at a serious handicap. Their pokemon aren’t of the same caliber in the abstract. It’s not until the Elite Four that the designers even deign to give the opposition a full roster. Compounding this, the AI seems to have regressed** to the point of selecting moves at random. The least egregious part of this is that the levels of opposing trainers are off. While the change to the XP share in which it gives all of your pokemon xp instead of just one, requires less grinding to keep your party on even levels. It shouldn’t, least on an instinctual level, result in your team being on average five levels higher, but that’s what happens. I played the game with little foreknowledge (the most I knew was that one of the Gym Leaders was Fairy) and was never seriously challenged until I did the super rounds at the Battle Maison, but that’s post game.

While the game is easy, it’s also incredibly small. Kalos as a region has you going from point A to point B in a straight line with little deviation. There’s little exploration, the HMs are used almost exclusively to get items laying around in the field. And since the game is so easy, a feeling that bothering to collect these is a waste of time. The dungeons and Gyms are equally straight lines without the barest pretense of puzzles; getting some of the better TMs is the most interesting thing you’ll do.

This sense of being in a small world doesn’t just stop at the limited exploration, there’s just not a lot to do. There are a few to interact with, most of them being in the obnoxious to navigate Lumiose City, but that’s not much. The Friend Safari, this version’s equivalent of the Safari Zone, isn’t unlocked till post game. If there are Contests, I missed them completely. The Battle Chateau is a neat concept, but in practice it’s a money piñata.

All that being said, it’s still Pokemon and the basic formula still works. The fact that the game isn’t challenging means it’s relaxing to play. I like the group dynamic in this generation with multiple rivals and acknowledging that people would be interested in different things. I like Team Flare in concept; they’re James Bond villains with Malthusian motives. I wasn’t keen on how shallow the Gym Leaders and Champion were; but I’m comparing that the torrent of material from Gen 1 that makes me feel this way.

The game really relies upon its online features though, to make it an experience. Wonder Trading is fun, and a good way to stack the lottery in your favor. The GTS is super useful. O Powers make you want to play with your friends. If you can do that, then the game is a memorable experience. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, then the game is just ok. The result is that the game is only two years old and it hasn’t aged well and by the time Gen VII comes out its main value will be in grinding legendaries or some such if you can’t get a group together.

Pokemon X & Y show that a game is more than a mechanics. It’s how it uses those mechanics to create an experience for the player. It creates memories for its players but means that the game has a short shelf life. Next time, I’ll be reviewing John Scalzi’s The Last Colony. Till next time.

 

*In short a series of design decisions such as having ‘all pokemon being good in game’ the way the type chart works and other factors means that by and the large the games have never been the most challenging or well balanced.

**I skipped Gen V but Gen IV had the AI actually be a challenge in terms of move selection

Nozdormu is Representative of Hearthstone’s UI Problems

Hearthstone is a game that I have a love/hate relationship with. I enjoy more or less stock CCG gameplay in a f2p model and it’s popular enough that I can easily key into discussions about it online to get an idea of things like the metagame. There are also a lot of things I absolutely loathe about this game, chief among them are the UI and assorted elements. Nozdormu is a perfect encapsulation of my problems. Let’s not waste any time and jump right into it.

First, it’s important to understand the design decisions that were made to have Hearthstone look the way it does. The short turn timer, the animations, the ability to poke stuff on the battlefield, layout of hand and board and so on are all meant to keep players engaged and make the game good for streaming. These decisions have clearly paid off to some extent, but there are drawbacks. Take the turn timer for instance, it punishes the people who have things come up such as answering the door or running to the bathroom, people who don’t think quickly, people with various tech problems and who don’t have the requisite manual dexterity. That’s not the only thing though, Animations are often gratuitous and some of them are grating, to be charitable. The obfuscation of cards in hand and that you can see what your opponent is looking at means that you’re rewarded for knowing what everything is, and being able to see what everything is. Hearthstone’s graphic and UI design are ableist, exclusionary in a way that I honestly can’t think of another videogame that does so in the same ways.

Nozdormu exacerbates all of these issues. He’s a legendary, big flashy effect that you can only have one of in a deck, whose text reads “Players only have 15 seconds to take their turn.” Not only that, but it adds a layer of dust to the board. This isn’t a competitive card, it’s a joke that showcases what digital design can do and is a unique effect, what Legendaries should be. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the problem inherent with the card. Nor does it address the fact that Nozdormu is a part of a combo/control deck. Now if you’re not familiar with how it works, you can probably guess. It uses animations, either youthful brewmaster or joust, in order to stagger animations to the point where your opponent can’t do anything on their turn. It’s an unintended exploit that’s been around from the beginning that’s only being dealt with because of the efficacy of joust.

Nozdormu may be egregious, but it is still an encapsulation of problems that Hearthstone has worked into its system. These problems probably can’t be fixed in this game, but they are problems that future games should take heed of it and not correct. Next week, I’ll be talking about Fury Road and disability. Till next time.

 

Some thoughts on Solforge Set 6

Apologies for the lack of a post last week. Real life and writer’s block meant that putting out any sort of quality post wasn’t in the cards.

Solforge’s latest expansion, Darkforge Rising and it’s mini expansion Factions United have been out for a while now and I figured I’d share some thoughts about it as a set and the draft format. For some background, I’ve been playing since the game first came out, the only money I’ve spent on this game is from the kickstarter and play somewhat completive. I don’t have the card pool to build a lot of tier one decks and I’m happy enough just drafting every three days. That’s being said, let’s jump into it.
Long-time readers, or people who just looking through my archive, will note that I used to do monthly draftcaps. I’ve stopped doing partially cause the process was mildly annoying, but more because this draft format isn’t fun. This is better than Set 4, where the N/T Assault deck was the best deck to draft, miserable to play against and not terribly interesting to play with, but that’s not exactly a high bar. Part of the problem is the titular Darkforged, a cross-faction tribe with a straightforward, linear mechanic. It makes drafting a game of chance in whether you decide to go in on the Darkforged, which is fine. I like that there are archetypes and that the nature of Solforge’s draft system means that you have to be willing to take risks and accept that sometimes the packs just won’t open your way. The problem is that this is present in every draft cause the darkforged are in every faction. Not only that, but the cards are very linear and very simple designs. If you get a critical mass of the right types of darkforged, then the games just feel very similar. If you don’t then they’re more interesting but can increase the feeling of variance in draft if they don’t show up in your hand. In terms of tribal mechanics this is preferable to the abomination deck from the last format.
My other main problem with the draft format is that Voltron strategies are a real theat. ‘Voltron’ for those who are unfamiliar with the term, refers to an old anime series that had combining mecha. It’s become a piece of MTG slang meaning to stack up a bunch of pump on one creature to make a giant monster. In Solforge this is a legit strategy due to the nature of removal in draft as well as how creature combat works out; although in what form and how prevalent varies from format to format. This format it seems easy enough and diverse enough. Which is legit, it’s also the mode of play that I find the least interesting. I love long, grindy games where you’re eking out incremental advantage. Which is still possible in this format, but it’s nowhere near the default mode of play.
Now despite my gripes about the draft format, I still think this is an overall good expansion due to the options it gives constructed. Not only that, but it gives a number of good unlegendary options. The Darkforged are a fine foundation for a deck. Take nine each from two factions and you’re already 60% there to making a deck. Zombie Dreadknight has given Zombies a shot in the arm, and it’s entirely possible to build an unlegendary version of that as you don’t need things like Zimus or Tarsus. I haven’t seen the Patron cycle in play, but they seem like a good boast in the arm to mono-faction, or nearly mono faction decks. I haven’t seen much else or many of the legendaries, but their designs are what I expect from legendaries: relatively unique. Also I think that has to do with my lack of playing in things the constructed queue or unofficial tournaments. The random queue only has so much, and I did see some cool things during Forgemaster Weekend.
Finally, there’s one more thing to talk about regarding this set. The whole concept of the Darkforged and the factions coming together to fight them is a flavor fail. While SBE has been good at setting up the world and telling stories on individual cards or evoking ideas of what the setting is like through groups of cards, it’s been less than stellar at anything more than that. The campaign was nice, but hasn’t been updated in months and the lack of flavor text means that the mechanics and card names only go so far. SBE is great at resonance and implied flavor, it’s terrible at actually putting it front and center to appeal to a Vorthos, or whatever they want to call that archetype for their game. I’ve stopped caring about the flavor, since there just isn’t enough to get invested in, but it’s still worth pointing out as an area of improvement.
All in all, I’m still having fun with Solforge. No set is perfect after all. Right now I’m just looking forward to the new client and all that entails. Till next time.

Violence in Videogames as seen through Fallout: New Vegas

Violence in video games has been something that’s been talked about since videogames have become a thing. It was used as one of the key examples of how videogames were inherently immoral and corrupting those who played them. While those arguments have fallen to the wayside; a sign of videogames maturing as a medium is that you now have people who play games looking at violence critically. I recently read two articles, which you can find here and here, about the topic and it got me thinking about how violence is used from a design perspective and the limitations thereof. Let’s not waste any time and jump in.

There’s the question of why Fallout: New Vegas? The answer is pretty simple:: it’s the game I’ve been playing a lot of recently. Not only that, but it is a game that is often praised for its narrative elements and part of that is how it uses the options of violence to provide characterization.

New Vegas starts with your character, known only as the Courier, getting jumped while o the job and left for dead. It’s only through sheer perseverance and luck that you survive. Once the opening cutscene ends you are given the character creation options. You can choose your race, gender, name all of which have at best minor impact on the game. The next part of the process has far more mechanical weight with your stats, skill specialization and traits.

Stats are important for the game’s mechanics, but their impact on visible actions taken by the player are limited. Skills on the other hand, are far more important as they determine what you can and can’t do. They determine how effective you are at various features of gameplay as well as serve as the primary means of passing checks in conversation. Traits are completely optional and allow you to add a level of personalization, such as being a night person or needing to wear glasses along with things that can alter the way you play the game. Of these three, skills are the most important in terms of impact and their delineation is informative. Many of these are straightforward: Repair determines how well you can fix things, Speech is how well you are at talking and so on. A majority of the skills are delineations of how you want to enact violence.  The logic behind this makes sense; a player will want control over the predominant activity in the game. Not only that but someone who uses energy weapons is different from someone using a rifle and is different from someone using their fists. These decisions invite you to create a character archetype at the very least. These archetypes can be further fleshed out by the player in a way that the game itself can’t acknowledge, but are still important to the player. In my current playthrough of New Vegas, I am using mods in order to solidify the archetype of my character, which you can find here and here.

In comparison the non-combat skills are either far broader or relate to a narrow field in practice.  Science represents omnidisciplinary mastery, Repair is to fix anything from a gun to robots fall into the former category. Lockpick, Survival and Medicine fall into the latter category. This leaves Speech and Barter, which are worth discussing in their own category. Speech doesn’t do anything beyond letting you pass skill checks while Barter impacts your dealings with merchants as well as be used in conversation checks. These two skills stand out because they’re social skills they show how competent you are in social situations. The fact that Speech is just one skill and not multiple skills shows that the developers didn’t want to elaborate on the social system. Speech being one skill means that it’s a measure of general social competence whereas if there were more than two social skills they would represent your ability to handle a multitude of social situations differently or the same situation in different ways. (The exception to this is the Terrifying Presence perk)

All in all, this shows that there is a big emphasis on how you kill things upfront in the game mechanics and streamlining of many other functions. This trend continues with the perks. More than a few of them continue the trend of fitting your character into an archetype by giving you increased damage of some sort. Others make some part of the game easier, with some using skill or stat requirements to add a layer of characterization. There are two sets of perks that are worth focusing on: Black Widow/Lady Killer and Cherchez La Femme/Confirmed Bachelor. These perks not only establish your character’s sexuality, which comes up in some conversations. The real incentive to taking these perks is the 10% damage you get towards the relevant sex. This juxtaposition shows what the devs prioritized.

So the devs focused their attention on violence and how to be efficient, this raises the question of why? First there are the obvious legacy answers. Fallout is a franchise that took its aesthetic from films such Mad Max and A Boy and His Dog as much 1950s scifi, it’s a bleak post apocalyptic setting in which the use of force is an accepted necessity of survival. New Vegas in particular is also drawing upon Western tropes. There is also an issue of technical limitations, there’s only so much deviation that could have been done given that this is the same system that was used to make Fallout 3. This explanation only goes so far though.

Game design has gotten really good at combat; Dungeons and Dragons started out as narrative layer to a wargame. Since then, we have collectively become good upon iterating on combat design to make it better. The reason for this is threefold. First, the narratives that are often told in games have violence as an accepted part of life and that problems can be solved with violence. Second, combat allows for game design to create something that’s challenging and has replayability, or it should at any rate. Putting this point another way, the actual game is the combat system and everything else is little more than flavor text. Third, combat is easier to program. All of these factors explain the current order of things but don’t go beyond that. While looking at violence in videogames in relation to the patriarchy to be useful, it isn’t the only way to take that discussion.

If one wants games in which violence is an option, not the only option, then it makes sense to have an idea of how to do this. It is worth repeating that any piece of entertainment is the culmination of design choices, both conscious and unconscious; for any of this to matter designers need to think of new things and in new ways. While some games allow for stealth or nonlethal playthroughs, those aren’t really what I have in mind. Instead, enhanced social mechanics and interactions are things that I find much more interesting and seemingly hard to implement.  Looking back at tabletop games again, how to handle social interactions is a tricky question. Ignoring the school of thought that holdVis that all social interactions should be purely roleplaying on the grounds of being impossible to replicate, there are still numerous ways to represent social aptitude and social interactions with no answer that rises above the rest outside of personal preference. Going forward, it certainly makes sense to look at what tabletop games have been doing and modeling system after those.

There are certainly technical limitations with this approach though. Social interactions in tabletop games work because the GM is able to react to the players in a way that a videogame can’t. On some level we accept this, being railroaded isn’t an inherent evil so long as the game you’re playing is fun. The tracks are just narrower. Of course it’d be disingenuous to not mention that this calls for a different skill set, which has an impact on the human side of development at some point, but beyond that I can’t comment.

The use of violence in videogames is constricting in the types of games that can be made. This isn’t in question, but it’s still useful to look at how violence is used in roleplaying games as a means of characterization. It is equally useful to posit what can take the place of violence and how to implement that, even if it is only a first step towards actualization.

Next time I’ll be discussing ableism in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Till then.

The Emergent Politics of Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed first came out in November of 2007 and has spawned a franchise with 7, soon to be 8, games in the main franchise, a dozen side games, and a number of other tie-in media. It is a massive franchise that is to many a moribund, lumbering part of the videogame landscape. Its overarching plot concerns two groups: Assassins and Templars, who have been fighting in the shadows for all of human history and working with various Great Men for their own ends. In addition to that, there’s an Ancient Alien conspiracy involved as well. In short, it’s a delightful setting that hits a lot of my buttons in the right way. Given how many installments this franchise has, looking at it as a whole and the emergent trends within it becomes interesting, so let’s get into it.

First, it’s important to give some more meaningful context to just what it is I’m talking. The first Assassin Creed, or AC for short, was set during the 3rd Crusade and had the Knights Templar, a Christian monastic order who have been the source of numerous conspiracies theories, locked into a secret war that is as old as humanity itself with the Assassins, a Muslim sect who gave us the word assassin. They’re fighting over artifacts from a Precursor civilization, known as the First Civ and this war has lasted long after the Crusade, up until the current day. The games following that have focused on different time periods as well as a continuation of the modern day plotline.

This is all pretty straightforward but raises the question of am I talking about emergent stuff? As I mentioned above, this franchise is huge, and has had multiple creative teams working on it. At best, this means poor communication creates a less cohesive whole; more realistically this means that different people have different interpretations and opinions of how things should work that get canonized. Also, these games aren’t very smart, or rather, they don’t set out to be. They’re part historical parkour part muderfest; these games are open about being theme parks.

Now, this raises the fair question of just what they have been fighting over for all human history?  In theory, the Assassins are dedicated to the enlightenment and liberation of all of humanity, the titular creed is “nothing is true, everything is permitted”. In short, they’re anarchists, revolutionaries. The Templars on the other hand, are convinced that they need to control humanity and through their guidance can lead humanity to better heights. In short, they’re technocrats, the Establishment.  Given this kind of setup, AC by definition is some flavor of punk.

This is especially true in the earlier installments. AC1’s targets are the ruling members of both sides of the Crusades who are by and large war profiteers. The modern day Templars have formed Abstergo, your typical cyberpunk megacorp. AC2 has the Italian Assassins be primarily drawn from the lower classes: sex workers, thieves and mercenaries. It is revealed that most of the 20th century, with the exception of the Lenin in the Russian Revolution, was orchestrated by the Templars; Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were Templars who thought that industrialization would be the perfect means of control.

While the setting is punk, the games are less so. AC1 is more focused on two hidden monastic orders fighting one another and are somewhat disjointed from the rest of the world. AC2 on the other hand, is a bit of a mess due to the main character of Ezio Auditore di Firenze. The first problem is that Ezio is the son of the wealthy merchant, he’s a part of the Establishmetn and while he gets along with thieves, sex workers and the like, he also gets along with the Medici. Second, Ezio isn’t really concerned with being an Assassin; he just wants to kill Templars because they murdered his family.  The games shy away from actually embracing these punk origins in favor of more generic conspiracies fighting one another.

This is inevitable given how the games approach history. If no small part of the appeal is supposed to be interacting with the Great Men of history, then that is going to predispose the narrative to embracing the Great Men theory. In turn, narrative necessity means that the Assassins need to ally with some of these Great Men. The ultimate result is that it moderates the Assassins from being anarchists into generic good guys who have a cool catchphrase. They become a part of the system and cannot destroy it.

This is coupled with the fact that anarchism or any sort of ideology that the Assassins should theoretically support hasn’t really done all that well historically and you don’t want every game to be a tragedy. Again, this idea is tied to the Great Men presentation of history; by focusing on these big shifts you ignore local shifts or shifts in societal norms.

This moderation of the Assassins isn’t enough though, in a lot of ways the first two games have been pushed to the sidelines as much as possible. It seems that the writers looked at AC, realized that there was a problem in moderating the Assassins, didn’t stop to think about their own assumptions that lead to happen and decided to take the series in a different direction. Instead of being revolutionaries, they’re morally ambiguous good guys who aren’t that different from the Templars. Considering that the Templars include Hitler, that’s an interesting claim to put forward.

By pushing for the two sides to not be that different, that’s exactly what happens. You have two conspiracies who are really good at wiping out branches of the other side and getting their team on top. It creates a false moral equivalence between the oppressed and the oppressors by just presenting them as the same thing. Of course, talking about how the two factions are just different shades of grey who could work together if only they stopped killing each other requires me to discuss AC’s metaplot and the First Civ. The short version is that there was the First Civ, who used humanity as slaves. They were also trying to stop the world from ending and between their efforts to stop that and humanity having enough First Civ DNA to use their tools to rise up against them. The end result is that the First Civ is wiped out and leave a bunch of their stuff around that humanity ends up using. A First Civ survivor has been able to use these tools to manipulate people and is probably the reason for why the Assassins and Templars have been fighting for all of history. So it turns out that the real answer is some sort of mythical moderate position that lacks any substance. It ultimately means that the Templars, an organization that is devoted to establishing and maintaining all of the world’s ills, is basically right, but maybe they should put a human face on it.

So how is surprising and why does it matter? It’s not surprising; we’re talking about one of the biggest AAA game franchises right now after all. Made by a major publisher and focus-group’d to seeming perfection. And it’s exactly because it’s such a big franchise and because of the subject matter that talking about this is relevant. History isn’t some objective and immutable record, it’s a collection of stories that tell us where we came from, but these are stories that are fought over constantly. This is why we have histiography, basically the study of history.  The presentation of history in pop culture, and this ultimately liberal moderate wistful thinking is nonsense.

That’s all I got for this week, next week is a surprise for both you and me. Till next time.

 

 

Monetization of Mods is a Terrible Idea

Valve recently tried to monetize Skyrim’s mod scene by allowing modders to charge for their mods*. This proved to be disastrous as it turned the modding scene, a functioning collectivist system that is one of the main selling points for Bethesda’s games, into an app store with Valve’s known nonexistent quality control that turned into a vicious race to the bottom. As a result, the program was scrapped in a few days. While this will undoubtedly come up again(I would be surprised if the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls game wasn’t more tied-in with the Steam Workshop so that it really would be an app store) the issue for the time has faded from the public eye. What prompted me to write about this was that Extra Credits** did an episode about this that I wanted to respond to. Let’s not waste any time and get into it.

First, let me explain my background. Bethesda games always get me interested. Morrowind is one of my favorite games and I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit looking through mods. The same is true, albeit to a lesser extent for Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I’m also not a big fan of Extra Credits for a number of reasons. Their videos are too short to really go into detail, which by default makes the analysis surface level. As a result it doesn’t really do much. They’re not being presented as a springboard for discussion, and I’m not wading into youtube comments to test that, but they’re not really saying much either to feel like you’re learning. At best it can give you fodder for thought but that only goes so far.

Their basic argument is as follows: since this is going to come up again, we should actually think this through. They break this down into the question of whether this is good for modders, would this be a good shift for the community as a whole, would paid mods be good for players, will paid mods be good for developers and would paid mods be good for Valve. I’m going to break down my response to each of these points individually.

‘Would these be good for modders’ focuses on the fact that it’s better for modders for to be paid for their work. This is at best a naïve argument and at worst one made in bad faith. I”m a firm believer in everyone should be paid a living wage for their labor, that doesn’t really apply here. The fact that modders aren’t paid is something they understand from the beginning and accept. Everything doesn’t need to be commoditized; some people are happy with their hobby being a hobby and don’t want to go pro. The idea that modders should be paid for their work implies that they’re getting a fair deal, which they’re not. Not only were they only getting 25% profit, but that only happened once a mod had been purchased a certain amount of times. Until that point it was 100% to Bethesda; a fact conveniently omitted in the video. Ultimately, this turns the modder into an independent contractor, a more formalized and exploitable appendage in the videogame industry. An industry that is well-known for its poor working conditions.

The other part of their argument is based upon the notion that Bethesda taking part of the cut is supposedly fair because of licensing and IP. This entire line of argument is nonsensical as it’s predicated upon several faulty assumptions. First, there’s the idea that turning a modder into an independent contractor is a good thing. Second, is the idea that making mods are on the same scale as making a game. Third, there’s the idea that this arrangement is anyway fair. Since they used the number 75,000, I’ll use it here; in order to make 75,000 dollars off of a mod that costs a dollar you need to sell in the order of 300,00 copies. To put that into perspective, on May 21st, 2015, Skyrim peaked with 34,104 players. Even if every player bought a copy of this mod, that’s $8,526. I have no idea how the 75k/a year figure is even remotely realistic or what it’s trying to prove. Most mods aren’t these massive projects like Darkest Hour or Arsenal of Democracy**, they’re maybe the size of some DLC package or smaller. Of course, this entire line of argument is based upon the idea that because Bethesda has put in the time to cultivate these products, they can turn what was essentially free advertising into an additional revenue stream and people should be thankful that Bethesda isn’t taking as much as they could in the name of protecting nebulous concepts.

“Would this be good for the modding community” is answered in a way that conveniently sidesteps any real issues that did or could emerge.  They open this segment by talking about a host of legal problems that will emerge as modders use things that they don’t have the license to use. Most of these things should be irrelevant to the modding community, it doesn’t matter if they put Lord of the Rings into Skyrim or added something from the Witcher. What does matter is using other mods as a foundation. Mods aren’t things that are independently developed; it’s a sprawling interconnected web. How many mods work because of the Skyrim Script Extender? How many mods build off other mods and use their assets? How many mods are just assets to be used by other people? The answer: a lot. Not only that, but right now you have feuds over people not attributing others or giving credit when they do build off of other mods if they requested that. These issues quickly escalated once money was introduced as you had certain base mods becoming monetized and things built off of them were not or vice versa. You had people download mods from the Nexus, reupload them to Steam Workshop, claim them as their own and charge money for them. Monetization long term would have destroyed the modding community. There is no community because you’re no longer collaborating on something open; every other modder just became your competition.

The second part of their argument, which for some reason isn’t in the previous segment but provides the illusion that there would still be a community, is how this would theoretically enable modders to do this fulltime if they want. This allure of money will supposedly grow the modding “community”, as people will be drawn to this new money-making opportunity.  This seems unlikely for three reasons: 1. This requires the influx of people to already be competent modders, since there won’t be pre-existing assets they can draw upon like there are now. 2.How many of these people will put in the time investment to even try and make a profit? 3. Given how unlikely it is to actually make a living under the model we’re discussing, why should modders rely on that and not Patreon? How many artists, writers and other creatives have been able to support themselves with Patreon? Answer: a good number. Again, it’s worth repeating that by making modders independent contractors they become a part of the video game industry and end up doing this work for bad pay in the hopes of being hired into an unstable industry with poor working conditions.

“Would this be good for the players” is answered in a way that is again disconnected from the reality of the situation. Surprisingly, they linger on the point about how one would have to pay for utility mods as that’s a perfect example of why this entire scheme is horrible for the players. A common complaint is that companies will released unfinished games and just leave the problems to be fixed by the mod community. This statement was of varying degrees of truth before, now that you’re paying for mods, it means that you are paying extra to make the game functional. I’m curious how the price of a game is no longer the price of the game, just the entry free to a license so I can start to spend more money to make the game functional is better for me. This also ignores the reality of mods in that they’re a bit of a crapshoot. Mods being free is integral to how they’re used as they’re a crapshoot. Leaving aside the issue of quality of content for a moment, mods are modifications to the game, they’re not a part of the game and this means that they can break the game. Sometimes that break isn’t obvious and it happens hours down the line, but you accept the risk when you download a mod. Sometimes that break isn’t that big and sometimes it eats your save. This issue becomes even more pronounced when you have multiple mods running. This isn’t an issue that can be fixed through the professionalization of modding, it is literally a structural issue with mods.

Somehow, this will cause the quality of mods to rise. This isn’t impossible, but it’s highly unlikely when you consider that modders can no longer stand on the shoulders of other mods anymore. In the pursuit of money the following things will happen: big and ambitious projects will be finished, mods will be higher quality with fewer bugs and will be launched as close to launch as possible in order to maximize profit. There is absolutely no way for all of these things to be true, especially since working solo on such projects isn’t doable so modders will team together…into what amount to development studios on an incredibly precarious funding structure; at this point you’re better off learning how to design mobile games honestly. It’s important to think of modders as independent contractors/dev studios in this model because it quickly reveals the rest of the problems. A lot of games are just not that good, what makes mods any better? What’s to keep someone updating a mod so it remains compatible with the game in light of patches and expansions? What’s to keep a mod from being Early Access? Abandoned Early Access? What’s to keep a mod developer from any failing that an indie dev has?

‘Is this good for developers’ is the most coherent part of this video, although that’s awfully faint praise. This is mainly by virtue of the fact that they recognize the power and issues that game developers face in monetizing mods and spend most of the segment asking questions that clearly weren’t asked when this program was conceived and implemented. While this might be mistaking the forest for a tree, but I found the issue of DLC to be another example of them not understanding what modding actually is. Not all games are equally modable and the Workshop doesn’t have to support games that rely upon DLC. They did not stop being unthinkingly pro-corporation in three minutes and ask why any of this is the case. On the subject of their paradigm, it’s also worth mentioning what they don’t talk about. In theory, this experiment was bad for Bethesda since it generated a big amount of negative publicity and torched goodwill. A big reason to buy a Bethesda game was because of all the mods you could use; now that they’ve demonstrated a willingness to shift that arrangement in their favor, the disaffected player has no recourse t register their displeasure by not giving them money. It’s also fair to say that any damage done almost assuredly isn’t significant to do any meaningful harm and there will be enough buy-in from the community for this to work when they try it again.

‘Is this good for Valve’ is a question that they flippantly answer yes with an image of an avatar of Valve carrying sacks of money. It’s a silly question with a silly answer that is actually worth discussing in its own right. Steam has become basically become the industry standard for pc gaming, even if you can buy it elsewhere you need to have Steam to run it. This is another way for Steam to make money in a way that they want as much liability as they do with Early Access. It’s good for them because it can’t be bad for them.

Overall, the monetization of modding is a demonstrably terrible idea that would only grow the industry by turning modding into the development periphery. EC’s claims to the contrary primarily based upon ignoring what actually happened in favor of a pro-corporate optimistic agenda. Till next time

 

 

*’Mods are modifications to the game that add new content such as quests, items, unofficial patches and graphic changes

**An internet group devoted to explaining the game industry and game design. You can find them at youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz

***Mods of Hearts of Iron 2 that became actual Paradox games.

January Solforge draftcap

Pack 1: This is a fairly interesting pack. Netherscale is a great way to try and get the poison deck rolling. Scarab is a fine card for an Esperian deck. Oratek Explosions hasn’t really impressed me in draft as being anything other than a Heavy Artillery. Windreaver is one of the best cards to open, as is Broodqueen due to their sheer power level. Mimicleaf is just bad. I’m not in the mood to try making the poison deck and I’m feeling lucky enough that I can make Dysian happen, so Broodqueen. Windreaver is a safer pick and comparable in power level, but I did that in my last draft and want some diversity. Even if youcan’t proc the allied trigger Broodqueen does work.

01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 2: And punished. Conflagration is a fine spell,  Explorer isn’t terrible but it’s not good either. Battlesuit is pretty bad. Razortooth Stalker is one of my favorite commons and Oracle is fine as well. I take Stalker and regret not taking Windreaver.

02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 3: the RNG us just mocking me now. Siphon is bad if you’re not Dysian and Ghastly Renewal is pretty bad. Ambusher is good at trading but is fairly interchangeable beyond that, Titan is a bit more unique and a good card in its own right.

03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 4: Spirit Torrent is bad, as is Ghastly Renewal. Mystic turns into a beater with minimal investment and is an easy pick here.

04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 5: Ooze blocks twice, Kadars Colossus is one of many big level 2 creatures and is fairly interchangeable. Ooze is the pick.

05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 6: Glacial Crush is a relevant card. Cinder isn’t what I want unless I”m in Oratek. 2nd Stalker is good and points this deck in a solid direction.  Spiritleash is I card I like when I”m Onxyium or Dysian given the density of small creatures you can get. Colossus is still meh and I probably don’t value Seal as highly as I should.

06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 7: Steed is fine,the mobility and the fact that it gets massive are relevant. Host doesn’t do enough of anything. Fiend affects multiple lanes. Sparksoul is jmeh. Fiend is the pick easy.

07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 8: Brute is very powerful by virtue of what he can do to the other creature you play than himself. Sorrow Harvester is bad unless you’re an abomination deck…which you can’t do anymore. Crypt Slime is ok. Titan would be nice to have a second of down the line.

08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 9: Asir is such a marginal card. Wallbreaker is passable on the vanilla test and has a relevant, albeit, levelgated ability. Death Current has never impressed me.

09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 10: Zombie is a creature, gets massive at level 3 and just does more than spiriteash.

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 11: Stampede doesn’t do a ton in this deck, or in general. Tremorcharge is pretty good, since it makes the Stalkers harder to deal with. Second Titan with Brute is nice. Brawler is a good aggressive card/underdrop. Harvester is the worst card in the pack Shambler is good, but a small step below the others. I take Brawler.

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 12: Spiritcleave is somewhat conditional removal. Pact isn’t doing much in this deck. I still don’t want Colossus. Beserker kills just about everything. Harvester is still bad. I take Berserker.

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 13: Shaman and Ambusher are the only two cards worth talking about and Shaman is strictly better.

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 14: Manticore is good, it picks stuff off, it puts pressure on the opponent. Organ Harvester is also a card I like, but I want to be more aggressive. Spider basically doesn’t do anything unless you’re ahead.

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 15: Carg Walker is exactly what this deck wants.

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 16: I basically never pass an Ebonbound,or any of the bound cards for that matter. While Brawler and Titan would be nice, I think I”m more likely to get them later than a Warlord.

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 17: I would happily take a Brawler or a Fiend but I have no spells and Conflagrate is a good one.

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 18: Wow, this is terrible. Primoridal is the only playable here.

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 19: Mystic is the only playable.

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 20: Chant, while not being amazing in what this deck wants to do, is at least a different effect, which isn’t nothing.

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 21: Burnout wins here cause i just want spells that let my creatures get in.

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 22: Rotfiend is the most powerful card here, although I would be happy with anything but warrior.

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 23: Brawler, not close.

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 24: Crush does the most here.

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 25: Asir gives me slightly more flexibility.

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 26: This is interesting, Evoker primarily makes my Stalkers more of a problem while Infernal Visage makes Brute and Titan more of a problem. I think Evoker has just a bit more upside though.

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 27: I would happily take this entire pack, but I can’t. So I’ll take the Barbarian.

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 28: Again, I want all of these sans the shock. Drake has more upside for this deck.

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 29: Well that’s a plummet in quality. Asir does the most.

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 30: Happily take another Crag Walker.

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round 1 was against an A/N deck that didn’t seem to draw that well and lost the tempo game in PL1 due to a Conflagrate on my part. 1-0

Round 2 was against an U/T deck that just ran over me.1-1

Round 3 was against an A/U deck that was just better. 1-2

Round 4 was against  an U/N deck that couldn’t handle a Stalker in PL2. 2-2

Well that went about as well as expected. Till next time.

December Solforge Draftcap

New month,new draftcap. While Imprisoned Herald came out a few weeks ago, I held off on doing a draftcap cause I figured I’d rather learn something about the format first. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Pack 1: Borean Windreaver is a perfectly fine vanilla creature, and its ability is very powerful. Frostang Maiden is okay. Onxyium Phantasm is clunky to begin with, the Allied ability is fairly relevant and the format is fast enough now that the utility strikes me as fairly small. War Merchant is solid. Sytgian Lotus is a good start to A/U Upgrade, which I’m not a fan of. Nexus Gunner is comparable to War Merchant, and I think Gunner is slightly better. I take Windreaver as it’s the best card by a good margin.

01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 2: Glacial Crush is fine ‘sideboard’ card but there’s no compelling reason to take it here. Sparktail Manticore has impressed me, it’s good at picking stuff off and it levels fine, with it’s level 2 being particularly good. Featherfang is solid but only stands out if I want to lock in Uterra. Spiritsower Acolyte is meh, and only stands out if I want to lock in Nekrium. Cinder Mystic is about as good as it’s always been, which is to say fine. I opt for the Manticore, I don’t have a great preference for faction pairings.

02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 3: Stouthide Stegadon is fine, sometimes you get to eat something for free. Anatomie and that whole cycle can be good but getting the critical mass of them for a payoff is really hard. Organ Harvester is a good answer to threats. Ice torrent is unplayable. I go for Organ Harvester, let’s see if i can’t make N/T Ambush happen.

03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 4:  Seal of Kadras doesn’t do anything for two levels and I’m not in Alloyin so I can’t cheat the first two levels. Crag Walker is a good aggressive card and it’s low health isn’t that much of a drawback. Xithian Crusher is the closest thing to Stonefist Giant we have in draft at the moment, just less risk/reward tied to it. I take Crag Walker, I think it does more with less investment required.

04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 5;  Perdition Guard is a big level 2 and bad other levels and ruthless wanderer needs a critical mas. I take Guard, I don’t want the Wanderer influencing real picks and cards like Guard have a purpose.

05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 6: Catacomb Spider is a win-more card at best. Razzortooth Stalker needs to get one hit in and it becomes a threat. Ashuarian Flamesculptor is notable for being Consistent with some random upside at times. Seal of Kadras is still bad. Spiritfrost Shaman is solid vanilla creature that can give reach at times. Nargath Warrior is just unexciting. i take Stalker.

06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 7: Staggershock is much like Anatomize but a lot more upside to it by virtue of just killing stuff. Xithain Rotfiend is a good underdrop/threat. Uranti Elementalist is a nice trick on a body. Nyrali Ambusher is fine. Firemane Steed has gone up for me, he’s annoying and then he gets huge. I take Rotfiend.

07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 8: Nyrali Symbiote is good with pump or just in fighting creatures that fail the vanilla test. Spider and Seal are still bad. Ambusher is a good underdrop. Ambusher is the pick.

08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 9: Misery Demon is not what I had in mind when I said N/T Ambush, the small body doesn’t make up for the life drain. Thundergale Invoker is gimmicky. Portal Shade is fine on the vanilla test and it can generate additional value? Done, pick it easy.

09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 10: Xithian Host is bad, I don’t have anything that cares about Abominations to justify it. Shaman is solid and an easy pick.

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 111: I would be rather happy with a second Stalker. Violent outburst seems terrible outside of a way to get in those last few points of damage. Staggershock is the same as before. Uranit Icemage isn’t consistent enough in draft to pay off. Cinder Mystic is the same as before. Ashuarian Brawler is a good underdrop/aggressive card. I take Stalker, I feel like my underdrops are shored up enough that I can afford to not Brawler at the moment.

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 12: Wallbreaker yeti is good at 1 and 2 on its own but the level 3 really wants to hit a Defender. Talin Stampede doesn’t do much. Elementalist is the same. Firelit Hunter is what I had in mind when I said N/T Ambush. Grave Geist is as solid as always. I take Hunter for more potential upside.

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 13: Conflagrate is pure value and I don’t have any spells yet. Steed is fine but I want ways to interact with my opponent outside of playing creatures. Gloomspire Wurm is bad as is Seal.

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 14: I don’t want a second Guard so it’s either Glacial Crush or Tremorcharge. Half of my creatures at the moment are Tempys so I opt for Temorcharge.

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 15: Firemane Steed is a card, Gloomspire Wurm isn’t. Take the Steed.

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 16: Group Meal impacts multiple lanes and mucks up combat math in my favor. Runestorm Primoridal is the worst Consistent creature by a good margin. Second Manticore is fairly tempting. Uranti Warstoker doesn’t do anything when it’s the only Yeti and doesn’t do much in general. Ice Torrent is bad and Tarsian Pact doesn’t do much. Group Meal is my pick.

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 17: Calamity Fiend makes up for his less than stellar body by messing up someone else’s. Cloudcleaver Titan is comparable to Stalker. I don’t want a 2nd Harvester. Zombie Titan is solid. I still don’t want Warstoker. I take Fiend.

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 18: i’m not the biggest fan of Death Current. Wallbreaker is a good as a sideboard card against Defenders. I don’t want a 2nd Steed. Ossuary Spirit gets massive at level 3 but there are other things I want to be doing. I take Yeti.

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 19: Yeti Warcaller and Ghastly Renewal don’t do anything. Fell Strider is a legit good card and easy pick.

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 20: 2nd Crag Walker easy.

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 21: Renewal still doesn’t do enough.  I wouldn’t object to a 2nd Ambusher. Nyrali Ooze is fine, it blocks twice. Tarsian pact is not what this deck wants. Legion Titan can be good but you’re probably winning those games already. Ebonbound Warlord is very strong and I rarely pass any of the -bound cards, so easy pick here.

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 22: Dirge Banshee comboes with Windreaver but with only one way to move it I’m not the most excited about it. Borean Stormweaver is good, he gets massive and has a relevant ability. Kadras Colossus is forgettable. Instigator is an aggressive body. I take Stormweaver.

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 23: Cinderbound Barbarian gets the pick. Chant of Dragonwatch can be good but not as good as Barbarian.

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 24: I like Infernal Visage when I have other creatures that care about being in the side lanes already. Grave Geist is a good addition to the deck.

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 25: misery Demon can act as reach, so I take it.

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 26: Spiritleash is hard to get value out of in this deck. Umbruk Lasher doesn’t need it’s Allied trigger to be good and is a fine addition to the deck.

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 27: Duskspire Zombie isn’t what this deck wants at all. Seal of Tarsus and Spiritcleave are pretty close and I go for Seal since it’s more flexible.

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 28: I like Embrace more than Chant because I don’t want the games to go long enough where Chant shines.

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 29: Spiritcleave does more than give me another means of marginal reach like Sparkbrand Asir does.

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 30: Cinder Mystic is just the better card,so easy last pick.

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round 1 was against a nekirum/uterra deck  who had answers for my Stalkers. i put up a good fight but scooped at the beginning of PL4. 0-1

Round 2 was against an Alloyin/Tempys deck that was able to level Iron Maiden and i couldn’t kill them fast enough. Game ened at hte end of pL 3. 0-2

Round 3 was against an Uterra/Alloyin deck that could never catch up to me. Game ended in PL3. 1-2.

Round 4 was against an Uterra/Tempys deck that didn’t much of anything.

Till next time

November Solforge Draftcap

It’s a  Solforge draftcap,let’s jump into it

Pack 1: Overwhelming Force can be powerful, but an Alloyin spell is about the last place I want to start a draft. Mimicleaf is just bad. Byzerak Spitemage is a good way to answer threats or gives you a bit a reach. Lifeblood Dryad is a build around me card  that has a fair amount of pay off if you get it to work. Crypt Conjurrer is underwhelming in draft. Tomb Pillager is fine on its own, has Consistent and offers me the ability to thin out my deck, so I’ll take him.

01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 2: For better or worse I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to faction pairings, i’d rather just take the most powerful card and not force anything since I’m not really keen on taking a risk like that. So while this pack does offer me the chance to lock down either Uterra or Alloyin I’m not really interested in the cards themselves. Lysian Hydra is a fine pump target, as is Spiritorge Sentinel. Zombie Titan is solid with a minimal drawback. Phalanx Squadron really wants his ability to trigger, otherwise he’s a mediocre creature and triggering that ability is hard. Seal of Tarsus is fine, i’m not a big fan of it and I probably underrate it to be honest but at this point I’d rather take creatures at this point regardless, so Zombie Titian.

02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 3: Cypien Augmentation is a powerful card, although I think it’s at its best in A/T since you have more ways to cheat through its level 1. Shimmerfang Serpent will kill a lot of things unless they have armor. Tanglesprout is a solid underdrop. Legion Titan is unplayable. Tanglespourt easy.

03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 4: I could take scatter the seeds and hedge my bets for a go wide plan, Vyric’s Embrace is a fine 1 for 1 removal spell but hte effect is kinda interchangeable. Twinstregth impacts multiple lanes at the cost of being somewhat situation. I take Twinstrength since its the most powerful.

04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 5: And this is what the dregs of a pack look like. Dissolve is a conditional kill spell, Gloomspire Wurm is just bad. I take the Wurm since I can banish it with Pillager and I’d rather have a bad creature than a possibly unplayable spell.

05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 6: Ravenous Hydra is terrible, the lack of native regen means that ti’s only good when you’re ahead. Umbruk Lasher is a fine creature without the Allied ability but doesn’t do a ton. Seal of Deepwood is a win condition in it’s own right. Fangwood Bear is also fine. Esperian Steelscale is incredibly fragile for a low payoff. Xithian Crusher is an average level one for an above average level 2 and 3. I just take Seal to lock that down.

06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 7: Posioncoil can be fairly annoying for the opponent, Overgrown Spineleaf is a fine vanilla creature. Vyric’s Embrace has gone down in my pick order since I already have two spells. Spirit Reaver and Gloomspire Wurm are both varying degrees of bad.I take the Spineleaf.

07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 8: Tanglesprout is still a good underdrop. Nyrali Ambusher is a fine aggressive card. Brambleaxe Warrior is a nice way to get some reach. Xithian Host is pretty bad. I take the Ambusher since it levels betters.

08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 9: Batterhide has Consistent and isn’t terrible on his own. Tarsian Pact is too low on the numbers and  lacks targets. Crushter isn’t as good as the power o a Consistent card.

09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 10: Glowhive Siren has a lackluster level 1 for a perfectly solid 2 and 3 and some incidental lifegain. Spiritbloom Dryad is a bad underdrop with bad art. I take the Siren.

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 11: Dissolve looks even worse here as I’m further in the draft and have no poison. Ghastly Renewal is too low impact. Lysian Hydra is still fine. Nightgaunt isn’t as good as he used to be and really needs pump now in order to shine whereas it used to be that playing him by himself could be a problem. Catacomb Spider is also too low impact. I’m still nt interested in Vyric’s Embrace. I have a Seal o deepwood and Twinstrength, I’m taking the Nightgaunt easy.

11

 

 

 

j

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 12: Spring Dryad can be incredibly powerful, but it needs the right support, which I have none of yet and there’s o guarantee any will show up. Nyrali Ooze blocks twice if nothing else. Umbruk Lasher, Ravenous Hydra and Scatter the seeds haven’t changed value for me. I take Ooze to hedge my bets.

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 13: Savage Oath is a good finisher and hits mot of my creatures. I don’t really want a 2nd Siren. Brightskull Phantasm is fine on his own and if the ability ever triggers then it’s pure upside. I take Phantasm but it’s close between him and Crusher

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 14: Gemhide Sprout basically doesn’t do anything. Dryad is the most powerful card but that’s not saying a ton here.

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 15: Deepmoss Raptor has the second largest level 2 in the game o the top of my head and a fine level 3. The best argument for Spider is that I can banish him with Pillager but that doesn’t strike me as a winning plan when I can just take a better card.

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 16: This is not a Dr. Frankenbaum deck. My opinion of Siren, Titan and Ambusher haven’t changed because of my drat picks. Graveborn Glutton is an awesome source of inevitability. Duskspire Zombie does combo with Seal of Deepwood but I already have two creatures that do that and the card isn’t that great on it’s own. i take Glutton.

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 17: Chistlehearth Archer is a nice answer to mobility. This is not a Spirit Wanderer deck so Ruthless Wanderer is out. Seal of Tarsus is reasonable, since it’s not like I’m overflowing with spells. Still not interested in a Duskspire Zombie. Umbraglim Mantis is a lot like Phantams but with a sightly worse body. I take Seal cause I need an answer to things like Seal of Deepwood or other massive threats.

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 18:  Chistlehearth Hunter is solid but I can’t take advantage of him unless I”m already ahead. I take Mantis and I’m pretty happy with it.

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 19: 2nd Twinstrength seems better than 2nd raptor as Spirit Torrent is terrible.

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 20: Dryad’s Boon has never really impressed me. It’s hard to get a big enough gain on your creature to pay off in my experience. I take hte Hunter since it’s a creature.

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 21: Sorrow Harvester does not belong in this deck, Organ Harvester is a good way to just kill problematic cards, few strings attached. Venomous Netherscale is solid. I don’t want a 2nd Hunter. I take organ Harvester.

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 22; Xithian Direhound has the most impact since it usually ends up being a 2 for 1 in your favor and you get to shrink your deck. Mending Spring is unplayable and my opinions on the other cards stand although I would like to pick up a Brambleaxe Warrior, just not at the cost of a Direhound.

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 23: Spiritleash is good but I only have an Ooze to use with it. Branchweaver Druid impacts multiple lanes and makes the hunter better, easy pick.

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 24: Xithian Rotfiend is a big threat with a reasonable drawback. Ether Hounds is really only good in a go wide strategy.

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 25: Catacomb Spider is less terrible.

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 26: Weirwood Ranger is fine, he’s basically the new Grove Huntress. Byzerak Frostmaiden seems rather underwhelming without mobility. I’d take a second Rotfiend over a second Ambusher. Xrath is fine but with only two zombies his value is somewhat diminished. Shimmerfang doesn’t seem as good as the other cards. I take Rotfiend.

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 27: While the creatures are all fine, I’m inclined to go with the Spiritcleave so I have another way to deal with problems.

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 28: Again,these creatures aren’t great so I take Spiritleash since Im short on spells and i’ts just the most powerful card anyway.

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 29: All of these cards are terrible, Legion Titan slightly less so.

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack 30: Spiritleash gets the edge cause it seems like it’ll be more useful than a second raptor.

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well that was a draft. i almost definitely made mistakes here. This is probably one of hte more skill testing drafts I’ve done given how much it was around the margins. I can’t say I’m all that happy with how it turned out, but that’s Limited for you.

Round 1 was against an Alloyin/Tempys deck that was just solid. 0-1

Round 2 was against  an Alloyin/Tempys deck that bricked in PL3. 1-1

Round 3 was against a Nekrium/Uterra deck that had a Broodqueen and curved out perfectly and ran me over. 1-2

Round 4 was against a a Nekrium/Uterra deck and I had terrible draws. 1-3.

Well that went about as well as expected. Till next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.