Its been an extremely long time since I played magic, and longer than that since I drafted. Thankfully, this seems poised to change here soon, with the onset of Khans of Tarkir, the newest MTG set to be release in just a few weeks. It seems to be that October is the best time for me to be able to sit down and think about drafting and MTG in general.

one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Magic is how the colors interact. From the very first set I picked up Blue and Red were enemies and White and Green were allies. It was an ingrained portion of the game, and I really don’t remember trying to force a pair of colors to work together if they were not allies. Fast forward to the first time I came back to Magic from hiatus with the invasion block, and this color-alliance was the focus of the game. Invasion and Planeshift worked within the standard confines and dealt in friendly pairs, but when Apocolypse dropped, it turned my world on its head. Cards like Suffocating Blast and Mystic Snake, Flowstone Charger and Consume strength encouraged building decks that I’d never conceived of before, and it stoked my love of enemy color pairs that has flourished since then. Getting back into the game for Return to Ravnica was icing on that cake, with enemy and ally pairs being put together to form the guilds I had missed the first time around.

What had also happened was that MTG design had gotten crisper and more focused. That which I had originally decried as a loss of storyline – the moving on from the Weatherlight Saga – had creates a greater canvas with which to create original and cool stories, like Ravnica. I had also missed the extremely insane Shards block, where the allied color “shards” were prominently featured: Shards being the allied colors of a central color, ie Black-Blue-Red is a shard centering on black. It had left open the design space, simply by existing, of “enemy shards” or wedges as they came to be known. Instead of the multicolor focus being on the allies of a given color, they would instead be on the enemy colors. This has given us Khans of Tarkir, a set that focuses on five tribes fighting against each other for the control of an entire world.

The Inevitable Azban

Abzan

The Brilliant Jaskai

Jeskai

The Inevitable Sultai

Sultai

The Relentless Mardu

Mardu

The Powerful Temur

Temur

Each of these clans evokes an aspect of the long dead dragons, killed by the clans a thousand years ago, as seen on their symbols: Endurance (scale), cunning (eye), ruthlessness (claw), speed (wings) and savagery (claw).

What I find most interesting about these color sets is that the design decided not to center each of the clans thematically around the off color, but around whatever seemed right, the first color in the clans list. This seems to be to get them around having to really design some strange cards, but it throws me off at first.

In addition to the interaction of the colors through the wedges, the set also has six mechanics, which is a hefty amount. One, morph, is carried across all the clans and is meant to, in a manner, portray the aspect of the dragons. This interesting, returning mechanic allows some very cool attacking and blocking games that will be extremely fun to use on the table.

 I originally really dug the Raid Mechanic, as it encourages an extremely aggressive play style to be well rewarded, and I am nothing if not aggressive. It also comes in my favorite three color wedge: Red-White-Black. It has the best removal, the swiftest of creatures and the sacrifice for power theme of Black, so whats not to love!

But Somewhere in Wizards deep, deep dungeons, someone knew that I was about to abandon my beloved Izzet(Blue-Red) so they made Prowess, and man, do I really like it. I’m not a typical drafter, because I enjoy playing spells and doing neat things instead of just turning creatures sideways and winning. Don’t get me wrong, its a fantastic way to win, but I enjoy casting spells way, way more. I’ll genenraly draft 10 spells and 14 creatures instead of the 18+ creatures many decks enjoy. Izzets Overload and the preponderance of Scry and Heroic in both blue and red in Theros really fueled that play style, and I feel that Prowess can do the same in Khans. Thankfully, it also opens me up to Temur and their giant, huge creatures, but they just aren’t the same feeling as casting crazy spells to pump my whole boat and send them flying at my enemy. I’d ideally like to pull something like Dragon Style Twins or Howl of the Horde out of red, Sage of the Inward Eye and Narset could just flat out enable bonkers size attacks. I just see a ton of cool ways to enable, boost and take a Jeskai deck to the top.

Hopefully, my brother and I will be able to play in the Two Headed Giant tournament out here and do decently well, unlike last time. while its always good fun to get to game with my brother its always going to be more fun if we crush the enemy beneath our boot heals. The Preview week is still carrying on over at DailyMTG, so there are plenty more cards to see yet before the Pre-release the weekend of the 19-21st.

Sometimes, its good to reflect on ones self and to look in a mirror and find out who you really are.

For me, it was a lesson I learned in high school, in a philosophy class where I was exposed to ideas and thoughts that had really never been shown to me. I took each part of me, my thought processes and my preconceptions and examined them. Those I embraced, I put back on the stack, rebuilding me. Those I disliked were tossed away like so many cracked and deformed bricks.

What I found out, through that ruthless process, was that I truly enjoyed competition. It doesn’t always have to be with others, sometimes I compete with myself, but often times it is. This is exponentially more so when you get to games. It gets bad when I am trying to best my own time while running, or make sure that I get home faster than I did yesterday, but with games it elevates itself to an entirely new level.

I love games because they are a competition, though there are three different versions of competition within games.

The first is the simplest, and is the competition of one person against either a single or multiple opponents. This is when you are trying to be the master of the game, and be better than your opponents at the game. I love these games because it lets me think in direct puzzle mode, engaging the parts of my brain that are trying to figure out whats the best path to victory against a similarly clever opponent. These games tend to give me the greatest pleasure because the opponent is a living, thinking, intelligent person like myself who is also out to get me down. Warmachine really hits this off for me, with Tabletop games filling in as well. Deckbuilding games and some board games come in here, but they also hit the second concept as well.

The second is harder to get good at, and also harder to get right. This is player against the designer. Many video games play this way to me – Its why I always play on hard. In this version of competition, you’re pitting your skills, knowledge and intelligence against a person who has play tested this game a hundred-hundred times and though that they came up with everything. They know every way to win, and every path to victory you’ll take and most often they know before you do. I enjoy video games in this manner because I can pass judgement on the game designer without knowing or ever encountering him or her based on their game. It is much harder to viciously drub a pleasant opponent and then call them terrible at the game when they are sitting across from you smiling and drinking a beer. This is also the way I view most deck building games. The creators of that type of game were definitely trying to balance the game around something, and I really take a perverse joy in trying to beat the balance to death within the rules of the game while also beating my opponents.

The final version is pretty much the most fun I can have playing games, and that’s cooperative. This version the competition is against the game itself. To me, this is significantly different from a developer competition because you have to work as a team to beat the game with your other players. You have to combine the good sportsman of the first game with the ruthlessness of the second. You have no rules arbiter or referee, and you surely don’t have someone who wants to interpret the rules any way other than for the benefit of the players, so its got to be a hard, hard game in order to be any fun, and hard games are the most fun.

With all that said, I know that while I am competitive, I still let the narrative and casual gamer out alongside the artistic one.  In MTG this means that while I want them to hum and work with brutal precision, I have an insane fixation on strange themes with my decks. This means that I don’t really like mercs in my faction armies in Warmachine, and it means that I love reading the fluff wording during board games. Knowing that I am competitive also helps me suppress it when I need to, though it is hard. It means that I can step back and try to just flow with the game as opposed to forcing, especially in multiplayer games, my style of games on the rest of my friends.

Its important to know where you stand on the spectrum of gamers, and why you stand there. It helps you decide what games you like, and why. It also helps you interact with the other players of a game in a manner that makes both of you feel comfortable, because you can just say what you are without having the opponent get through the vast majority of a game before figuring it out.

Finally, and most importantly, it lets you know how you’ll get the most fun out of a game that you own or play. For me, I have to look at the models and the rules. If the rules aren’t good enough to be competitive, its going to be a little hard for me to embrace, but if they seem clean and clear cut, I’ll be all over it.

So take a few minutes and determine for yourself what type of gamer you are and embrace it. Get all in it. Become it. But control it and turn it off when you interact with gamers who are different from you. Its always better to play games with others than never play a game again.

I’ve been playing a ton of Warmachine lately, but its not all I’ve been doing. Its been too hard to keep up with all my hobbies, but I still get in what I can, when I can. I’ve left a bunch of quick events unwritten, and I’d figure I’d try to put them in quick, Wednesday, digest I’m going to call Bitesize Nerd. I’m going to try to keep them under 500 words, just for brevitys sake and for my sanity. I am having trouble finding the time talking about everything I want to as it is – the last thing I need is to spend another few hours a week trying to write more long articles.

So, First off! Conspiracy!

The summer set of magic is generally one that is lighthearted and fun, something that is not tournament legal yet still has an impact on the players through reprints or some other expansion of the non-standard game. They do a similar thing in the fall, and I’ve really enjoyed them, in theory. A few weeks ago I was able to experience this event as I think it was always intended to be.

Last years Modern Masters showed that people love to draft one off and strange sets designed exactly for that purpose. This year, Conspiracy turned that concept on its head, bringing a set that messed with the drafting mechanic itself. My brother bought a box and quickly drafted it, but then he started constructing a cube out of the drafted box. A cube is a self made set of cards that is meant to be quickly drafted and played, and maintained by its owner. Cubes started out as a way to get the most powerful, absurd combos and cards into play that normally would not see play in a draft, and has blossomed and exploded since then.

The Conspiracube had input from friends, and we all kind of built the card list together. Its a non-standard cube in that it is not singleton, with only one of each card, but is a standard booster style draft with commons, uncommons and rares. When we finally sat down to draft, we had what we thought would be a pretty awesome set, and we weren’t to far off.

The first draft I ended up going with a Red – Blue burn/tempo deck that just wasn’t able to get off. All I needed was 5 mana, and I’d be able to drop a 6/6 Lurking Automaton, backed up by Secret Summoning. Alas, my deck only provided me 4 mana, and I was unable to contest with a pile of Ally tokens and my brothers giant wall of cards.

The second time, I was able to draft a pretty solid blue – something deck, but the other color never got on a roll. I ended up dropping 4  Marchesa’s Emissary on the board with three Muzzio’s Preparations, but was unable to get past that state and one of the guys came over to top to end me, first out of the game!

Whats really cool about Conspiracy, especially in cube, is that unlike normal drafts, it works extremely well when playing with just about any number of players. They mentioned in one of their articles that it works best with 4-5 players per game, which means that a drafting group of 3,4,5,6 and 8 all work extremely well. 7 is strange, but that’s OK – don’t have 6 other friends.

After the first test run of the draft, there was a ton of conversation and dissection of the cube into what was good, bad and terrible. I’;m really excited to play again with the new version we’ve all thrown in to create, and its likely to end up one of the most fun games, let alone cubes I ever play, and man has it got me excited to build my own Ravnica Cube.

Follow me on Twitter, @seethingginger, for even more nerdings and happening!

Bonus MTG Announcement post!

On Saturday, Wizards top Nerd Mark Rosewater (@maro254) unveiled the barest of information about the fall set for MTG and the block that will follow – Likely Warlords of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir. Unlike RTR (Large set, Large set, Small Set) or the Current Theros Block (Large, Small, Small), it will repeat the Innistrad block set mode (Large, Small, Large). In Innistrad this meant that drafting was shaken up when the third set drops, and I think that could be very exciting.

Khans of Tarkir is an all new setting based on the homeworld of Sarkhan Vol, one of the Planeswalkers from the Shards of Alara Block. Though nothing specific was spoiled,  though this pretty badass art by Jason Chan is the cover for all of the adverts as of right now.

Khans Poster

We do know, from the background of Sarkhan, that all the dragons are dead on this plane and were hunted to extinction. Its why Sarkhan has a love for dragons and worships them as semi-gods (from what I’ve managed to glean of his character), leading to all the dragon based abilities on his cards.

Its name gives the set an automatic Arabian/Mongol flavor and I think that’s really, really cool. There have been many original worlds that Wizards and MTG have conceptualized, but I’ve always enjoyed ones that tap into history and myth.  Arabian Knights, Legends, Theros, and even Innistrad, even though I am not a horror fan, had some really great homages to history and literature that made me smile. Khans has, potentially, a vast and untapped tapestry of lore and flavor. I don’t know where they are going, personally, but Mark mentioned in the video interview that they are bringing back something that the fans have been clamoring for, and also that they are doing something never done before that the fans have been clamoring for. 

I’ve been sifting through the rumors, but I can’t really make heads or tails of what mechanics or even broader genre of MTG function this could be: I’m not as in touch with this as I am many other nerd aspects of life, and I apologize. However, the popular Fetchland reprint is getting the most buzz, being something that bars the way into the newly-pushed Modern format. Enemy Color “wedges,” like the Shards world,  is also getting a lot of hype, and I can’t blame them. Just look at the colors of the art above, does that not evoke a Black-Red-White Wedge? Each banner going down the side is all three colors.

Then, We would have:




Thinking about it, all of them seem pretty cool to me, with Red-Blue-White being the strangest combination I’d like to see in play. Each of these would also give me some very cool Generals to play around in with EDH, and I am excited I could get a really fantastic general for my Stax deck.

Looks like I’m hooked for another go round of drafting!

 

Back, in the dark ages of the past (last year), when I was allowed to have as much free time as I desired, because I didn’t have a child, I drafted for a whole block. Return to Ravnica black was a blast, and I enjoyed learning how to draft, especially because I did it pretty much on my own. I picked up a few drafts during the summer, beat some face with Slivers, and then stopped. I loved the coming set, as Greek Mythology is an awesome concept to base a M:TG set on, but there was no way I was getting time out with a newborn.

Now, 7 months later, I was able to get out and draft again. Two entire sets have passed without me drafting a single pack. I’ve heard from some placed that Full Block drafting is the way to go because its the full concept in card, and it gives me hope that that is where I’ll be starting in again.

The draft was small, with 12 people signing up, in 6 man pods. I’d drafted with three of the others before, including a good friend of mine, but the other two were strangers. I had read a little bit about the sets, what they did, and has a pretty solid basis for drafting from last year.

It helped, but not to much.

I grabbed one of the better uncommons, Hour of Need, which put me solidly in blue. The next card was one I hadn’t seen before: Fleetfeather Cockatrice. Passed from my friend in the third pick was the Green/Blue God, Kruphix. Normally, I wouldn’t dedicate myself to a color this early, but with no experience with the set, I had to use something as a guide, or I would just subject myself to to analysis the whole time. none of that! I dove completely into Blue and Green, grabbing what I thought would be the best in each pack for those colors and ignoring the rest. I made a vital mistake, though, by picking to many high cost creatures. Theros had originally been dubbed as a slow grinding format, so I figured I’d err on the top end. bad news for me.

Horizon Scholar

One of those big top ends…

The first round, though, gave me a pile of (unfounded) confidence. I dropped a big giant bastard in Sealock Monster the first game on turn 4, and proceeded to run through him. Second game I repeated with a Sealock monster, but a bit later. I did, however, give it flying. Turns out, a giant flying Kraken is no joke!

The second round, we will say, was a bit rougher. He’d been in one of my last draft pods I’d played before my daughter, when I’d surprised the hell out of him on turn 8 with 24 points of unblocked damage, and he was a pleasant fellow. This time, I was on the receiving end of a withering onslaught of dangerous white heroic cards. It was simply brutal. I managed to stabilize, but he just kept pounding in and beat me to death. between the second and third game, he remembered who I was.  We reminisced, rekindling our (fake) enmity, and got down to the second game.

Where he proceeded to beat my ass again, with almost the same cards that he’d beat me with the game before. I think, if I get to go and draft again, I am going to try for the W/R heroic. Seems pretty good!

In the third round, I played against my friend. He helped me craft my deck, and new that I was a touch top heavy. I think I took the first game, but it was a fluke. He then proceeded to fly through the air and beat me to death in the next two games with the same card, Stormchaser Chimera. I sadly had not taken one earlier on the thought that it was a Spellheart Chimera. Turns out, one is vastly better than the other.

Realistically, my deck just couldn’t cut it. I wasn’t going to be able to get enough cards onto the board quick enough to make a difference to anyone who’d drafted a decent deck. But it was a load of fun, and I ended up with a few cards I can play in EDH when I get to it again. All in all, it really got me wanting to play MTG again, which is bad. Because I have a ton of Warmachine yet to play, just got my bane riders together, and Lock and Load is right around the corner! I have so many new lists to try and combos to build. As my friend said last night: I like to use my brain to solve puzzles. M:TG and Warmachine are some really fun, similar puzzles, and they hit the same buttons. At least in Draft.

Bring on more drafts!

 

The first weekend of February was the pre-release of Born of the Gods. It was the first time with an official Two Headed Giant format for pre-release sealed. My brother and I went into Saturday night hoping to get some good games in. Last time, with the Theros Pre-release, we did pretty well. This time.. We, uh, failed.

So, the change in the format allows for two 6 pack pre-release boxes between the team. 2 Color-skewed packs, 4 Born of the Gods Packs, and 6 Theros Packs. Normally you’d only get 8 packs to build your deck with, and my brother and I thought that these packs would help smooth the process out. Sadly, this was not the case. Instead of helping it created a ton of tension – Every color and every combination was solid.

We took green and black: Both colors had almost thoroughly solid rares. Black removal and green ramp were going to be where it was at.  We had a solid pull, however: Gift of Immortality, Fated Retribution, Purphoros, Hammer of Purphoros, Spear of Heliod, Mogis, Karametra, Nessian Wilds Ravager (Promo) , Flame Wreathed Phoenix, Eater of Hope (Promo), Curse of Swine, Heroes Downfall, Archetype of Imagination: one more,  but I don’t remember it having a great impact on what happened.

Unfortunately, with all the colors being so filled out with the 12 packs, we had a hard time cutting any. I built a black/red fast deck, and my brother built a green/white/blue heroic deck. we had to cut a ton of really good cards, and I think it hurt us a lot that we didn’t drop one color, probably blue. We argued a bit about the cards we wanted in each deck. With each color so rich there was always going to be something good left out. It was really much harder to make a 12 pack deck than it was an 8 pack. Next time, we cut a color early.

our first set, against our friend Dan and his buddy from CA,  ended out pretty poorly because I couldn’t get a second swamp on board. with three sips of hemlock rotting in my hand because I had only the one black source, the new Hero of Leina Tower dropped on turn 2 got real big, real fast, and we had no hope of stopping it. The ordeals and Aura’s targeting it made it really bad. We had a chance here and there, if I’d have been able to either asphyxiate it or Sip of Hemlock it, but we just couldn’t get it in.

Next, we got the bye, which is sad. You come to places like this to get some games and and hang out. My brother and I got to play each other, though, and hang out, which was awesome. However, with the decks built as they are, mine just out-removaled his, and I won most of the matches we played: But he wasn’t built to actually take any decks on alone, so it made sense. I just happened to have the removal deck.

The last set we played was against our friends John and  Ben. Turns out, that not having two mountains is just as bad as not having two swamps. Ben ended up playing Mogis, and we just couldn’t keep up between the 4 damage a turn or sacrificing creatures to appease the god of Slaughter.

We didn’t win a single game, and that was really alright, because I got to hang out with my brother and a few friends, and I did make out with some seriously good Pulls: Mine were Hammer, Mogis, Karametra, Heroes Downfall, Gift of Immortality, and Fated Retribution. I should be able to either put them into commander decks, or trade them off for good stuff, and honestly,  I look forward to starting to draft again in March. 

Until then!

As with the other XCOM articles, this contains my experiences from the game so will contain spoilers
See part 1, part 2, part 3, , part 4, and part 5 in my XCOM: Enemy Within Discussion
This’ll be the last Post for my Classic-Normal Playthrough! You can look through the Best Of Screenshots I took from the whole campaign here!

This is where we fight.
This is where they die!

The end is here. I can taste it. I have plasma, MECS, and the Hyperwave Decoder. With the building of the Hyperwave decoder relay, I am now able to see what type of ship each UFO is, alongside what type and how many of the aliens are on board.My next mission is simple: Intercept and assault the Overseers Ship. Sadly, the Overseer’s ship is fairly anti-climactic. I’ve fought Sectopods and Muton Elites before, and nothing in this wreck scares me all to much. I would go so far as to say that I might have completely crushed out this mission.

It turns out that the overseer has The (an?) Ethereal Device on his ship. Vahlen has some interest in it, so take it home and she starts some tests on it. Turns out, its some sort of Mind-globe that needs a super-psionic solider to access it.We also have to build a specific room for the damned thing, so I start on that immediately. Unfortunately, I don’t have any psionically powerful soldiers with which to use the Gallop Chamber.
Matter of fact, I don’t even have a single Psionic solider. Probably should fix that. As I work up to it, thought, I get sent on a unique council mission to France.

The setup is simple: It is a re-skinned bomb disarm, but with a longer timer. My team is making it across a bridge that the aliens have damaged, all the while releasing water valves to stop the whole thing from collapsing. they give you a more than generous time limit, and each valve gives you 2 more turns.

I was never worried.

I am racing to find the “bomb,” in this instance a convoy truck with a secret weapon inside. Aliens keep beaming down to try and stop me, but they have no chance. Moving and overwatching forward every turn allows me to really put a cramp in their style.

The Yellow Circles are overwatch shots. Poor bastard.

I get to the end of the mission, and out from this container jumps this psychic warrior woman who tries to run, but we calm her down via threats to her life, and she agrees to come back to base with us: With XCOM, she’d get a chance to kill aliens.

I finally get the Psionic Labs done and start testing test her up, along with Undercover, who has the greatest Will stat in the army, and thus a high likelihood of having Psionic potential.

While they are both out of commission being tested for powers, another council mission pops up. Also in France. Annette Durrant, the rescuee from the last mission, has friends that the aliens got to first. Time to negotiate with the aliens for their release.

Once again, this is a moderately unique council mission we have to get to the ship as fast as possible, try and sneak in, and get the hostages out. Of course it never works that simple, and the aliens set up the ships self destruct. We have only turns to plow our way through the ship and set the prisoners free. Thankfully, our troops are up for the task and we bring the three friends home. The Three furies: Alecto, Magaera, and Tisiphone are the trapped soldiers. They voulenteer to assist in the XCOM project now that I’ve freed them. I betcha, if I test them, they’ll all be psionically adept, and they don’t fail me. All three tested positive for psionic abilities once they were ready. Durrant and even Undercover both ended up being gifted as well, and I now havr five squad members who were gifted. I need to get at least one of them up to max psionic level and wearing a psi-armor outfit in order to activate the Gallop Chamber. It worries me, taking them out on missions this close to the end. high level soldiers are valuable, but I have to get them trained up and ready to fight the alien ship that I know is coming afterward. I am careful in my missions and make sure that each one it taken slowly and methodically. I risk no one, but I still have to reload a couple times in order to get the team I want to take to the end game ready.

I am finally ready to use the Gallop Chamber. I send in Durrant, because she really, really wants to kill aliens.

Annette Accesses the Ethereal Device

A ship appears, in her mind.

and a Uber Ethereal shows himself.

It is time.
The Temple Ship awaits.

This is one of the parts of the game that makes me kinda sad. The Temple ship is a really cool fight. Sadly, though, its a set piece fight that does not change from playthrough to play through. While it was fun, it was less than challenging.

I grabbed my Greatest Team: Durrant, Big Red, Grinder, Bullet, Jaws and Undercover. Undercover and Durrant both have Mind Control. This one is going to be a good day.

2013-12-29_00187

We get to the Temple ship, and I know its going to follow a very specific template. I am going to go straight through the ship while the Uber Ethereal tests me, summoning each different type of alien in turn. The first a Sectoids. They prove just about as problematic as you would expect them to, given the tech level I’d achieved. After them, a pair of cyberdisks with drones to repair them. They, too, drop like flies to Bullet, Big Red, and Grinder.

With each new alien species summoned, the Uber Ethereal tells me why they didn’t pass the tests that I seem to have. Secotids are cowards, Cyberdisks have no emotions. Floaters, who’s bodies failed to evolve enough, are next. They, too, are eliminated. As soon as I drop the last one, Cryssalids are summoned. Turns out they are completely incapable of being commaned, but they made damned good weapons. All three are easily overcome. A trio of Thin Men block my way for only a brief moment. Turns out that Thin Men just cannot have psionics. Interesting. Mutons are in the next room. Three Standard and a Beserker. This one takes some brief finagling, including the discovery that a standard grenade will set off a proximity mine. Resulting in 13 instant damage. Pretty useful to take away from this. The Mutons are incapable of independence, and are therefore also failures to the Uber Ethereal.

The next room is where the game has broken down for me completely. The first go round in Enemy Unknown, I stumbled into the two Sectopods. Since then, it has not happened. Its a unique shaped room that is easy to see coming. This run I have three stealth soldiers. Bullet, Undercover and Durrant all set up. Jaws, Grinder and Big Red Prepare to move forward to lay unrelenting fire upon them. Unfortunatly, I guessed wrong as to where Grinder could go, and I alerted the Sectopods to my position. One fires its beam cannon,thankfully missing Big Red, and the other wanders out of sight of the top platform.
2014-01-27_00017

My turn comes and I Fire everthing I have from Grinder and Big Red into the one I can see. Its just not enough, so I have to send Jaws in. One down. The the squad on the lower level, the hidden ones, turn their attention to the remaining enemy. While they aren’t able to scrap it, they come close. I was moderately worried here, because Durrant, the Chosen One, was standing next to the Sectopod. Thankfully, it used its cluster-bomb ability on Undercover and Bullet. This bought me a turn to run out of the area of effect before I got hammered. The Secotopod never had a chance.

2014-01-27_00045

At the end of the room with the Sectopods was a trio of Muton Elites. I took control of one, and killed the other two.
Again, we get to a position that is uniquely identifiable, and I set my squad up to end the game. With the Uber Ethereal lined to be lined in my sites shortly, I send in the ghost units.

2014-01-27_00054
Unfortunately, again, I screw up, and they detect on of the soldiers. The Ethereal moves before I can draw a bead on it. This’ll be the first time I actually fight the aliens in this room. 3 Muton Elites, 2 Ethereals and the Uber Ethereal. Fortunatly, I have a Muton of my own! I take control of another Muton Elite to balance the equation, and after a quick firefight, most of the enemies are down.

And that is when I realized I had a chance to do something awesome. I started running, with a bit of caution, Grinder towards the Uber Ethereal. Undercover gets mind controlled, but she can’t do enough damage in the time it takes me to free her – by killing the normal Ethereal in control of her – to change my plan. I sweep the rest of the room, putting down both standard Ethereals. Sadly, Jaws gets exploded towards the end, but thanks to her second heart, stays alive. I have only the Uber Ethereal left to kill.

Grinders got this.
I pop a few shots into him to soften him up for the inevitable end he’s going to meet: A giant Mecha-fist to the face.
2014-01-27_00109

After that, its all over but the Exploding. I get everyone back to base and take a look at my final scores.

Well, that is it for my play through of Classic-Normal. I really enjoyed the new aspects of the game. The new enemies were challenging, but not overpowering, and the missions were a welcome break from the same ones employed in the first. I think I am finally ready for the Ironman run. I know its not going to be easy, but I am going to try it out!

The Theros prerelease was this weekend, and I had a blast!

I really enjoy the sealed events of prerelease days. The sealed environment gives you access to all the flavor and mechanics of the new set, without having to commit a ton of memory for drafting or standard. Allowing you, in a casual atmosphere, to build a deck that is generally pretty good and can stand on its own with a little good play. It also gives you the thrill of opening a pile of packs and hoping for good stuff. Which I never got.

Ah well! It was still a fun time. I ended up at the local store right about 11:00 for the midnight event, and hung outside with some of the standard crowd before heading in to get going. I met my brother and a pair of friends there, and it was setting out to be good times. I signed up for the blue set, as it seemed the strongest, according to that one article I was able to read before heading out. It seemed pretty reasonable. A fatty 6/6 with a trigger to get it to 10/10 and tap down four creatures looks pretty good. The review also pointed out that blue had a stable of good cards, including uncharacteristic fattys in Shipbreaker Kraken, Bethnic Giant, and Precient Chimera. Appearances can be deceiving, but I was not deceived. Blue crushed the game out for me in the first round, dropped the second to a mirror after changing pair colors, and then picked up again on the final. I started out with a U/R deck in the first go, having Rage of Porphoros, Magma Jet, and Lightning strike, but a few anemic bodies and a couple larger ones, with blue rounding out in the fatty and flying department. My friends convinced me to run the green, but its against my nature, I wasn’t able to cast the spells I wanted, and waiting around for my giant green creatures did me in in the second round.

Speaking of the second round. My opponent was fantastic with his B/U deck. Flyers and removal, with 3 Pharika’s Cure, 2 Lash the whip, and a pile of Stymied Hopes and Dissolves. The Nessian Lion took one game over for me, paired with a Feral Invocation and monstrous to make him 6/6 hexproof and indestructible. I out raced the unblocked Prognostic Sphinx to just edge him out in the second. The third was less entertaining, as he dropped the Sphinx again and took me to town without so much as a whimper.

The Kraken was exactly as advertised, and every time I resolved him on the field, I ended up taking the game. He’s a bad ass in limited, and I expect to get beat by him every draft.

The best part of the prerelease weekend, though, was the Two Headed Giant that my brother and I entered as The Brothers Grim. We went in thinking to get some heroic work done, and appropriately chose green and white: the colors with the most heroic. We opened almost no heroic creatures, and even less triggers though. Instead we went with a, to me, clever strategy. He took all the ramp and fatties in a big, stompy, rampy, W/G deck. Two Anthousa, Vulpine Goliath, Arbor Colossus, Ashen Rider, the works. I took all of the removal, and a ton of B/R weenies. I was just there to clog the field, chump block, and clear the path. We took two of three, again, and ended with a positive record, which was good enough for us. The first game was the one we dropped. It took us long enough to put the decks together that we didn’t have a whole lot of time to shuffle, and with only one game, a lot was hanging on this one opening hand. My brother’s was a little light on mana, but we figured we’d be OK with his pair of rampy creatures. We could have been, as he ended the game with only four on the table, but his three mana producers in the graveyard. The first one we lost to a combat trick, and the others we lost to an ill thought out Anger of the Gods. The next two we took to town against a pair of kids, and a new girl and her boy. But, we emerged victorious, and that’s what counted. We each got a pair of packs, and I got to have a blast with my brother. I look forward to doing the Chosen of the Gods Prerelease in a few months time, and maybe getting a draft or two in in the meantime. Who knows, with a baby on the way!

The Sanctuary faction in Heroes 6 is pretty cool. I will say I was initially all bad mouth on the Sanctuary models, but after using them, I’m really fond of them. Sharks-at-Arms, Naga, Medusa, Water and snow spirits, and Frogmen? The Champion creature, each factions biggest and baddest, is the Kirin, which looks neat, has a huge hit pool, and comes out very fast.

It is much better than Haven, and almost on par with Necropolis in terms of fun factor. The elite naga troopers are pretty terrible which makes me sad though. The big problem is that they are on par with the Haven’s griffon troopers in terms of durability and damage output: which is to say both of them are 0. It is a huge disappointment for both of tthe units, as they are fantastic looking troopers. The upgraded Kenshi/Kensi is a four armed, katana wielding snake man! What is cooler than that? And Haven’s only Non-Humanoid creature is the Griffon, who leaps into the air and diving-assaults people! But both are extremely weak defensively, to the point where core units can break them apart, and their damage output against other elites just isn’t there either. Both have been relegated to the sidelines unless I could stack an enormous amount of them.

Also, My favorite unit, Coral Priestesses, get the hell shelled out of them by the opponent, causing me no end of grief. I only have one or two ranged units, and having one of them burned out by the opponent as fast as possible has been really frustrating.

I’ve made it to map 4, and I’m about to tear Gerharts heart out of his chest, which, for me, is just about as awesome as it gets. I also got to toy around with the Stronghold faction, in the last map, and that got me really pumped to play them.

A Couple Mid-game Observations

Extra Heroes seem redundant unless you need to transport armies. The Enemy armies are just to large for you to be splitting your troops

Chain Lightning seems like a game breaker, but It could just be a factor to try and get the area cleared better and easier.

Water as a spell school is terrible. Air is Amazing.

There are tons of ways to increase your Magic Power stat, but very few to raise you’re Might Power.

There is no good online Resource. Maybe I’ll make one.

Also, on Sunday I traded my perfectly fine, painted bane thralls for unpainted unassembled ones. This’ll be the 3rd time I have done this. I hope this one turns out as successful as the first two.