Monday, February 27, 2012

Link Roundup: Geek Sites to Explore

Space Pirate Ninjas with Geeky Hobbies are my Target Audience.
Heylo fellow Geeks, Ninjas, Space Pirates, and Cthulhu! Today we're trying something radically different. There are a ton of sites that deserve your attention out there in the multiverse and it is your quest today to explore them (so it's essentially the greatest fetch quest ever). You might look down at this list and think, "Golly gee wilikers Kylak. You forgot *insert site here*." First I'd exclaim, "Do you really talk that way? What century are you from and how did you find this site without internet?" Then I'd give my actual answer which is simply that I'm not listing every site here that I visit (There are way too many... Have you seen my bookmarks? I have folders inside of folders people. I literally live inside the Internet except for when I don't.) Though I will say, if you want to leave a comment with a site that isn't on this list then please do drop that uniform resource locator like it's hot.

The sites below are wonderful blogs that just want hugs (Seriously... no tongue. It's your first day together. Have some decency.). The first three on the list are actually sites that are already close friends with All Geeks Rejoice. *Passes you guys a cold beverage* The rest of the sites are filled with people that I'd love to add to that list of best buds. For each site on the list, I'll give the title, a link to a random post that might be a nifty starting point, and a description of what it's all about. They'll also be broken into sections because why not?

Game Design: Greed in Games
NeetGeek is run by Faylar aka Gerald. He has a mixture of posts on Video Games, Anime, and D&D (you can see why we get along). He's studying game design so there's plenty of articles on that subject as well which is what I've linked you over to today. That particular post is about the concept of greed in video games and why it's necessary.

Gaming Precision
Top 10 Most Badass Female Video Game Characters
Gaming Precision is run by Taylor aka Tay and her staff of fellow gamers. There is some serious Video Game love here with posts on anything gaming. It's also known, in my eyes specifically, as a site that frequently writes features that I've wanted to do in my VG Talk articles and now can't. You beat me to it Tay. I'd shake my fist at you but then I'd just give you a high five afterward anyways. One such article is the one linked above about the top 10 most badass female video game characters.

The Uniblog
Let's Have a Strange and Awesome Fan-Art Hoedown
The Uniblog is run by the Uniblogger aka Crystal (and currently she has two other posters Alexandre and Sara). This is a site that dives face first after a triple back flip into the realm of geek pop culture. Do you really need another reason to check this out? The link here is a minefield of crazy fan-art of everything from Muppet Lanterns (guess which one is the Green Lantern) to Samurai Thundercats.

Critical Hits
Fighters and Flapjacks
Critical Hits is run primarily by TheGame aka Dave but there is a massive flood of staff. All the things you could really ever want from a D&D site are here and thanks to the large staff, there is a healthy variety of article and topics. In this particular post, Dave discusses his thoughts on the Fighter class and the need for classes to come in both simple and complex varieties. I couldn't agree with you more Dave.

Sarah Darkmagic
More of This Please
Sarah Darkmagic is run by Tracy. There are a lot of resources and interesting opinion pieces abound but something that sets the site apart is the discussion pieces about women in D&D and geek culture (both gamers and characters in fantasy settings). One such piece is the recurring articles "More of This Please" where fantasy artwork is applauded for showing women that can kick ass rather than be objectified.

MTG Color Pie
The Top 10 Designed Commander Cards
MTG Color Pie is run by Robby. The site focuses on game design and opinion articles as Robby is a major voice in the MTG community (you know it's true Robby). This particular post is about the Commander products with his top 10 designed cards (not based on playability) and why he chose them. Can you guess his number 1?

Inkwell Looter
Make Mine Markov
Inkwell Looter is run by the artist that goes by the same name around the net. He mixes his unique style and humor with the Magic multiverse to great effect. He's made just about every major token, counter, or emblem from the last few blocks in his own style so check those out because they're incredible. One of those very emblems is the one linked for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad.

Random Curiosity
Black Rock Shooter - Episode 3
Random Curiosity is run by Divine and his merry band of reviewers. Random Curiosity has been around for many moons (originally owned by Omni) and it has pretty much set the standard for episode reviews that so many other sites go by. I could have picked any post but I decided to pick one of Divine's newer reviews.

Colony Drop
Ultra Nihilist Clamp Cartoons that Hate Everybody, Especially You: Blood C
Colony Drop is run by a team of Anime enthusiasts. Colony Drop isn't exactly fond of most Anime blogs and their mission statement is to make one that doesn't suck. They've in fact made something that is the opposite of sucking with this great site where they aren't afraid to speak their mind. This article details why you simply must not watch Blood C. Trust me, they're trying to save you.

This is Kylak signing out to continue exploring the vast reaches of the Internet.

Friday, February 24, 2012

VG Talk #11 Is F2P the W2G for MMOs?

Video Game discussion.

Are free-to-play (F2P) games the way to go (W2G) for MMOs? F2P has not only become the new standard for MMOs but it’s almost the only successful business model if your company’s name isn’t Blizzard. If you’ve avoided the MMO scene then you might want to at least think about how this affects gaming in general. The concept is that while the initial game is free and/or there are no monthly fees, extra content has to be bought. Many video games are starting off as pay-to-play (P2P) at first as a buffer to gain some initial return (those servers aren’t going to pay for themselves) before changing to the F2P model while others are F2P right out of the gate.

Notable MMOs that are F2P:
Champions Online
City of Heroes
DC Universe Online
Dungeons and Dragons Online
Dungeon Fighter Online
Everquest II
Lord of the Rings Online
Maple Story
Perfect World
Ragnarok Online
Rusty Hearts
Star Trek Online

Notable MMOs that are P2P:
Star Wars the Old Republic
World of Warcraft

The majority of the notable F2P games in the above list were originally P2P which is very telling of the trend going on here. Then you have things like EVE Online that don't make either list because it's kinda sorta both (it's technically P2P with a free trial period but you can earn in-game currency to pay for the game which makes it F2P for those that work hard).

MMOs aren’t the only games that are turning to the F2P business model. Games like Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, Minecraft Classic, and the upcoming games Firefall, Tribes: Ascend, and End of Nations are all F2P.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think this will affect all video games or just MMOs and/or PC gaming? Do you prefer subscription based games, games that only require buying a disc, or free games where you have to pay for extra content (including hats)?

This is Kylak signing out and raising a spatula to Urf.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

VG Talk #10 Why the Gaming Industry is Playing it Safe

In a gaming world filled with sequels, a thousand brown and grey multiplayer shooters, and main protagonists that all hate hair and surprisingly look a little too similar (image credit goes to IGN),

it can be easy to think that the gaming industry has simply run out of ideas. That actually isn’t the truth. The truth is that new ideas are risky business. Games are expensive to make and they simply aren’t made overnight. Publishers are afraid to throw money at a project they think won't sell.

A recent example of a development team taking on a risky project would be Team Bondi. You might have heard of a little title called L.A. Noire. The game used new facial recognition technology to implement gameplay where you would interrogate characters and discern if they’re telling the truth or not based on their reactions. Not only would detective work be the key focus of the game but it would take place in a setting that is rarely touched: 1947 L.A.. It was published by Rockstar Games (known for Grand Theft Auto, Bully, and Red Dead) and took seven years to make. The game sold over 4 million copies. So surely Team Bondi went on to bigger and brighter things right? Sadly that couldn’t be farther from the reality of the situation. This article goes into the whole story: If you'd like the short version: working conditions were hell, hours were ridiculous, debt was owed, Rockstar had to step in and fix things which led to Team Bondi resenting Rockstar for taking over creative control, and sadly there's more to it but that's enough to start painting the picture. After a downward spiral of setbacks and debt, Team Bondi had to close down the same year they released L.A. Noire regardless of the financial success of the game.

Here's a list of over 100 studios that have closed since 2006 (many of which attempted to innovate):

Now let's hop into the past for a moment. Anyone remember Clover Studios (one of the many Capcom development teams)? They were the people behind Okami, the Viewtiful Joe series, and God Hand. All of those titles were nothing but new and original ideas that sadly didn't meet sales expectations and the studio was closed years ago. The reason I bring them up is that I don't want to be a speaker of purely doom and gloom here as things did in fact turn around. That studio managed to get a happy ending in the fact that the majority of Clover studios eventually went on to form Platinum Games where they continue to make new and original titles such as MadWorld, Infinite Space, Bayonetta, and Vanquish. The majority of those titles still don't get the attention they deserve but we can fix that.

The bottom line: don't be so quick to blame the gaming industry for playing it safe. Literally tons of studios have tried to take risks and it has rarely been a worthwhile investment to do so. When every title can make or break your studio, you can't exactly be avant-garde in the gaming industry. Making games is more expensive than most people realize and even if a game sells millions of copies, that doesn't guarantee success. It doesn't help that the numbers prove that consumers aren't exactly buying new ideas and instead keep paying for the next Halo: Call of War 9 (Fun Fact - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the upcoming Halo 4 are actually the 8th installment in their respective franchises.)

The good news? You can make a difference. Get out there and pay for those games that are trying something new. Take a look at the lesser known studios like Platinum Games, From Software, Gearbox, Level-5, Grasshopper Manufacture, Double Fine, ThatGameCompany, etc. (and I apologize in advance that I simply can't keep listing every other studio that deserves to be listed) If you're trying to save up and can't buy their games just yet then get out there and spread the word.

*EDIT - Here is an edit added in before I even published the post so I imagine that needs a little explanation. I originally wrote this three or four weeks ago but had it scheduled to post for today (yes, many articles are written well in advance). Then something crazy happened and I had to add it in. It kind of breaks the tone but it falls in line with the topic and so rather than editing the entire post to make it fit, I figured I would just add it in with this edit note.*

Okay, so this probably deserves its own post entirely but I'd just like to point out the success of Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure and their Kickstarter page. Double Fine, the people that brought us Psychonauts, Costume Quest, Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, etc. couldn't get a single publisher to give them the money for a project to make a new point and click adventure game. They knew fans have wanted one for about a decade now so they decided to try out Kickstarter and attempted to raise around $400,000. Within a day they earned over $1million and currently they're getting close to $2million. I think we can all agree that this is just spectacular. They managed to cut out the middle man (the publisher) entirely and create a game fans have wanted. This isn't going to suddenly mean that any studio can attempt using Kickstarter as a means to make whatever game a possibility but it does open new doors and let's hope it wakes up a few publishers with this metaphorical kick to the nuts.

Even more crazy wonderfulness is that Notch AKA Markus Persson AKA The guy who made Minecraft is offering (the key here is offering since they've only exchanged emails so far) to help publish another of Tim Schafer's dream projects: Psychonauts 2. Tim Schafer warned Notch that the original Psychonauts cost around $13million to make but Notch basically said, "Yeah, I can do that." Then there was an update that understandably it would cost about three times as much as the original (for all the reasons you can guess that making a new game in this generation would cost more than one made during the PS2 days). Regardless of the fact that it would be around $39million, Notch has reported it would be a worthwhile investment.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping you help break the trends.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MTG Tips #9 Top 10 Ways to Handle Life Gain

Tips and tricks for Magic the Gathering players.

Some decks just simply gain a ridiculous amount of life and hide behind it. Whether their life total becomes completely out of reach or simply a major annoyance at ending the game anytime soon, there are many ways to handle life gain.

1) Hit harder
Some decks just don't have enough firepower or threats that are massive enough. Find more efficient or heftier finishers or build with synergy in mind so that each spell has a greater effect on the game in the long run.

2) Prevent
Prevent their life gain entirely with spells that just say no: Stigma Lasher, Everlasting Torment, Leyline of Punishment, Sulfuric Vortex, Forsaken Wastes, and Flames of the Blood Hand.

3) Punish
Punish your opponent for trying to gain life: Rain of Gore, Punishing Fire, False Cure, and Kavu Predator.

4) Manipulate
Choose their life total for them: Magister Sphinx, Sorin Markov, Repay in Kind, Biorythm, and Sway of the Stars.

5) Growth
Play cards that grow over time. These are the kinds of cards that become more powerful as the game carries on. There are simply too many to list here so I'll just give some quick examples: Some Hydras and Oozes in Green are able to grow (ex: Primordial Hydra and Predator Ooze), the Sliths and their cousins the Red Vampires of Innistrad grow in power as they hit the opponent (ex: Falkenrath Marauders), equipment that have abilities that gain power overtime (ex: Banshee's Blade and Umezawa's Jitte), cards that store up counters that can be released for a larger effect later (ex: Shrine of Burning Rage), cards that generate tokens overtime (ex: Emeria Angel), cards with X in their costs (ex: Banefire), and cards with activated abilities that can be used multiple times in a turn (ex: Ezuri, Renegade Leader). There are more varieties than this but this gives you a head start at least.

6) Mill
Taking down their life total isn't the only way to win the game. Getting rid of their library does the trick as well.

7) Infect
Thanks to Scars of Mirrodin, poison is back. If your opponent has ten or more poison counters then they've lost.

8) Alternate Win Conditions
Some cards just flat out let you win the game or force your opponent to lose immediately. Some examples: Felidar Sovereign, Helix Pinnacle, Laboratory Maniac, Near-death Experience, Mayael's Aria, Door to Nothingness, and Darksteel Reactor.

9) Combos
Infinite combos and instant-win combos don't care what the life total happens to be at any given time. For example, the casual favorite: Beacon of Immortality + False Cure.

10) Planeswalkers
This isn't always the case for every Planeswalker but most have an ultimate (their final ability) that can pretty much end a game regardless of life total or other factors. Some won't end the game but they'll put a stop to any shenanigans such as Karn Liberated who resets the game in your favor.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping you gain an advantage over their life gain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

MTG Tips #8 Keep your Priorities Straight (The Stack and Priority)

Tips and tricks for Magic the Gathering players.

Be prepared! This is going to be one of the more complicated concepts to learn (as far as basic Magic rules go) but I'm going to try my best to simplify this without making you fall asleep. Today's topics are the Stack and Priority (the dynamic duo that fights off the terrible villain known as confusion). Both of these go hand in hand and many newer Magic players probably don't have a lot of experience with these terms so let's start slowly here (I'll be gentle).

The Stack
The Stack is a wonderful thing that keeps the game in order for us. The easiest way to remember it is: Last one in is the first one out (Some prefer the acronym LIFO = last in first out). What does that mean exactly? Well, everyone loves examples so here's a pretty common one: You play a spell such as Spore Frog (I shall name him Timothy.) but your opponent then plays a Counterspell (Timmy NO!). They played Counterspell last, so it's the first to happen on the stack which is why your spell is now countered (*sniff* I never got the chance to say goodbye... or hello for that matter.). Whenever something is cast, that player must give their opponent the chance to respond. If they were to wait for your Spore Frog to resolve then it would no longer be on the stack and they wouldn't be able to respond to it.

If you're in need of visual aid then just imagine a stack of plates. You put your plate on top and have to leave it there before you can come back and pick it up. Your opponent gets a chance to put their plate on top of yours. You can't pick up your plate if their plate is on top so you can either lay another plate or leave things alone so that you can both pick up your plates one at a time.

Things that can be responded to:
1) casted spells (which is anything except for lands... that includes Timothy *sniff*)
2) activated abilities
3) triggered abilities

Things you can respond with:
Anything that works at instant speed (Instants, cards with Flash, most activated abilities, and some triggered abilities).

Things you can't respond to:
1) You can't respond to the game itself such as the steps of a turn or a player playing a land.
2) You can't respond to mana abilities since they don't use the stack.
3) You can't respond to the announcement of a spell or your opponent attempting to pay the spell's costs. You can respond to the spell but that's it. You can't step into the ring until it's already cast. For example, you can't see that your opponent is tapping lands to cast something and then use a spell to tap out his lands to prevent him from doing that.

Let's end the discussion of the Stack with a more complicated example. Let's say you have a Cunning Sparkmage and your opponent has a Gideon's Lawkeeper. They use the Lawkeeper's ability to tap your Sparkmage. In response, you can use your Sparkmage's ability to tap and deal one damage to the Lawkeeper (effectively killing it).

Priority essentially works with the Stack (much like how Robin essentially works with Batman) but it only comes up during one circumstance: when both players want to do something at the same time.

Example time: You cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor. You want to activate one of his abilities and your opponent wants to cast Lightning Bolt to take out your Jace before you can. You may be surprised to find out that Jace actually lives in this scenario. The key here is: if it's your turn, you have priority first. Thanks to this, you can use Jace's +2 ability which will knock his Loyalty to 5. You pass priority and give it to your opponent where they will cast Lightning Bolt but only be able to bring Jace down to 2 Loyalty rather than outright killing him.

Magic Myth: that an Instant can be cast anytime that you want. That would be false. That may be the easiest way of teaching a new player the difference between an Instant and a Sorcery but the truth of the matter is: Instants can only be played when you have priority.

This is Kylak signing out and getting the guest list ready for Timothy's funeral.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Decklist Ex Machina #14 Budget Starter Decks for New Magic Players

Coming up with fun decklists so you don't have to.

So a friend and I had been discussing that a lot of casual players simply don't have any starting decks that can remotely hang with the big guns at the kitchen table. Intro Packs and other products are typically the equivalent of bringing a toothpick to a field of gatling guns. The Event Decks are a nice start (since they're aimed at letting you jump into Friday Night Magic where people test tournament decks) but they cost $24.99 at just MSRP and they still need tweaking to get the right amount of copies of cards and at that point you're looking toward spending around $30-50 just to modify or fix the list they gave you. Plus, you might find out that you don't actually like the deck or you might be afraid to spend that kind of money in the first place if you're really new to Magic and just unsure what kinds of decks or colors you like to play. I'm here to help.

So below are five different decks, one for each color, where the price of entry shouldn't be more than $5-10 (whether that be online or if you have a nifty card shop with good prices nearby). I purposely avoided Rares or Mythic Rares and I made sure to avoid anything earlier than M11 or Zendikar to make these as cheap and easy to find as possible. As of the time of this writing the options were M11, M12, Zendikar Block, Scars of Mirrodin Block, Innistrad, and Dark Ascension (Avacyn Restored isn't currently out yet and I may or may not update these lists once it's released - *edit/update* - only a single card was added after Avacyn Restored was released). Each has a description on how to play the deck and a short list of Rares and Mythic Rares you could and/or should add to the deck to improve it in the future if it turns out you really enjoy playing it.

White Budget
"Souldiers of Fortune"

24 Creature Spells
Squadron Hawk 4
Ajani's Pridemate 4
Soul's Attendant 4
Suture Priest 4
Immolating Souleater 4
Kor Skyfisher 4

13 Non-Creature Spells
Oblivion Ring 4
Survival Cache 4
Midnight Haunting 3
Sylvok Lifestaff 2

23 Lands
Kabira Crossroads 4
Glimmerpost 4
Plains 15

Soul's Attendant and Suture Priest are ready to shoot your life total through the roof while Ajani's Pridemate reaps the benefits and quickly becomes a monster. Immolating Souleater also comes in handy as another finisher since it can nom on that life total and deliver a haymaker to the face of your opponent. Kor Skyfisher can pull off a lot of tricks by bouncing Kabira Crossroads, Glimmerpost, or even itself to gain even more life. The Skyfisher and the Squadron Hawks enjoy picking up Lifestaffs as a regular hobby for more delicious damage and life gain. Just be prepared to change your life total more often than an OCD person re-adjusts table napkins.

Other Options:
So it's important to mention that Serra Ascendant is pretty much the first thing to go grab and get whenever possible. Ranger of Eos is spectacular because he can search for Soul's Attendants and other goodies which makes the deck run smoother than teflon. Elspeth, Knight Errant produces tokens every turn to trigger that life gain while providing other options. Another possibility is using Mentor of the Meek as a powerful draw engine to ensure victory.

Green Budget
"Upper Management"

26 Creature Spells
Llanowar Elves 4
Viridian Emissary 4
Frontier Guide 3
Leatherback Baloth 4
Grazing Gladeheart 4
Baloth Woodcrasher 3
Pelakka Wurm 2
Ulamog's Crusher 2

11 Non-creature Spells
Cultivate 4
Harrow 4
Primal Bellow 3

23 Lands
Terramorphic Expanse 3
Evolving Wilds 3
Forest 17

Managing mana is what this deck is all about. Most of the cards here fetch lands to trigger Landfall abilities and ramp into playing earthquake-inducing creatures earlier than your opponents will be ready for. This deck probably has the most to gain from adding higher rarity cards since the real high-costing Rock Stars tend to dwell at Rare or higher but Ulamog's Crusher and Pelakka Wurm certainly aren't slouching on the job. Woodcrasher starts off sub-optimally since he has a hard time waking up but if you give him some caffeine (land drops) then he's ready to work. Just imagine laying down a Terramorphic Expanse, blowing it up for a Forest, then casting Harrow, which still leaves you two additional lands ready to be tapped and you've already hit four land drops this turn by doing all of this. Abuse the landfall my friend.

Other Options:
Oracle of Mul Daya is an automatic include here since it brings the Landfall options to absurd levels. Lotus Cobra seems like a safe bet and Verdant Catacombs and Misty Rainforests can replace the current fetchlands. As for finishers, there are tons of rare and mythic rare creatures that can destroy planets and you might as well take advantage of all of that mana you'll have. The practical and absurdly powerful Primeval Titan and Avenger of Zendikar are prime candidates but there's also the hysterical Emrakul, Kozilek, and Ulamog. It's worth noting that Scapeshift might as well have stated "I win" in the card text.

Red Budget
"Burning Calories"

20 Creature Spells
Furnace Scamp 4
Goblin Arsonist 4
Plated Geopede 4
Stormblood Berserker 4
Cunning Sparkmage 4

19 Non-creature Spells
Lightning Bolt 4
Searing Blaze 4
Geistflame 3
Faithless Looting 4
Shrine of Burning Rage 4

21 Lands
Teetering Peaks 2
Mountain 19

This deck hits hard and fast like most hedgehogs apparently do in the wild (Sega told me so). Plated Geopede and Stormblood Berserker are key players on this track team as they're kind of absurdly powerful. The burn spells here are made of efficiency and possibly death. Just remember to save them at first as pseudo-creature destruction or to finish up the game once your creatures get outclassed by your opponent's late-game drops. Shrine of Burning Rage is there as a contingency plan if the game dares to drag on. It quickly grows into ten or more points of damage so get ready to charge your lazer (It's what Dr. Octagonapus would recommend).

Other Options:
Koth of the Hammer and/or Hero of Oxid Ridge would kick the volume up to eleven. Some other nasty drops include Chandra's Phoenix, Goblin Guide, Grim Lavamancer, and Hellrider. Regardless of the number of options, this deck is easily the deadliest at just using commons and uncommons (it comes with being the color Red really) so if you're looking for a deck with the least need for upgrades or just prefer the play style of hitting hard and fast then this is the way to go.

Black Budget
"Table Scraps"

24 Creature Spells
Pulse Tracker 3
Bloodthrone Vampire 3
Viscera Seer 2
Reassembling Skeleton 4
Gatekeeper of Malakir 4
Vampire Nighthawk 4
Blood Artist 4

13 Non-creature Spells
Tragic Slip 4
Duress 3
Altar's Reap 4
Exsanguinate 2

23 Lands
Swamp 23

Your creatures here are nothing more than tasty snacks to be sacrificed as needed but primarily it's the leftovers known as Reassembling Skeleton that your vamps will be dining on repeatedly. You can either sac the Skeleton to Bloodthrone Vampire for damage, Viscera Seer for card filtering, or Altar's Reap for card advantage and just bring it back to do it again as long as you keep enough mana open. Thanks to the ease at which you can put creatures in the graveyard, Tragic Slip becomes a superior Dismember and Blood Artist will appreciate all of your efforts by slowly draining your opponent's health to the very last drop. You've got some blood on your face there. *hands you a towel*

Other Options:
This deck is easily the weakest of the five prior to upgrading but the good news is that is also has the most options for deckbuilding. The preferred option is to turn this into a Vampire Tribal deck but since it has its roots in being based around sacrificial effects, you can get a lot of mileage out of Innistrad's mechanics such as Morbid and Undying (Geralf's Messenger is pretty spiff). Bloodghast and Kalastria Highborn are not only two of the most powerful vampires printed but they also work beautifully in this deck and have synergy with one another. Other "vampires matter" cards such as Malakir Bloodwitch or Captivating Vampire could also help.

Blue Budget
"Clear Skies"

18 Creature Spells
Delver of Secrets 4
Sea Gate Oracle 4
Invisible Stalker 4
Stitched Drake 3
Stormbound Geist 3

19 Non-creature Spells
Mana Leak 4
Think Twice 4
Ponder 4
Into the Roil 4
Darksteel Axe 3

23 Lands
Halimar Depths 4
Islands 19

Clear Skies drops provide soothing relief for most irritated sky symptoms (Endorsed by Ben Stein... Oh, you're saying that was Clear Eyes? I'll just stick to being blissfully in denial.). You are clear for take off with these efficient fliers... yeah I can't even type that with a straight face. I've literally turned into cheese at this point. No... I'm not taking that part out... Sea Gate Oracle, Think Twice, Ponder, Into the Roil, and Halimar Depths make up the card advantage and card filtering to help transform Delver of Secrets. Don't forget that Invisible Stalker can wield Darksteel Axe like a boss (both of which are almost untouchable). The sky's the limit... pffft... yeah... cheese.

Other Options:
I'd recommend dropping the Axe for Runechanter's Pike, replacing the Drake with Snapcaster Mage, and replacing Stormbound Geist with another instant or sorcery though there are other routes to take. Maybe you go crazy and try to utilize something like Gravitational Shift with more flying creatures or maybe you add the beautifully efficient Jwar Jwar Sphinx?

This is Kylak signing out and hoping this helps you get a good head start.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reverse Dungeoneering #9 For the Lazy DM

Improving your D&D experience. For Dungeons and Dragons Players and DMs.

Some players hate being Dungeon Masters and it usually falls down to not wanting to put in the effort for planning out a game. Creating worlds, towns, dungeons, NPCs, villains, encounters, maps, roleplaying concepts, and even the kitchen sink can take a lot of forethought and downtime to design and organize. This article is for the lazy DM that prefers to skip the excess work. Let me help you out. I won’t point fingers at you for being a lazy piece of shit. Not judging at all. This concept revolves around letting the dice decide everything for you.

First you make a table. Let me hand you an example. Let’s say you need to make a town but you aren’t sure what kind of buildings or other things it would have and you don’t want to have to plan that out yourself for every single town the players might come across. So you make a table listing some major structures and then let your players add ideas to that list. Like so:
1) Tavern
2) Inn
3) Shop
4) Church
5) Market
6) Specialty (Mining, Fishing, Port, Farm, Library, etc.)

Let's just say that Sarah added Whore House and Jeremy added Unicorn Ranch to the list. Don't look at me like that, we're all about equality here.

Then you just alter your list to make it easier to roll dice for. You can change it however you like. For example you might change your list to this:
Roll: 1d100
1) Tavern 1-40
2) Inn 41-60
3) Shop 61-70
4) Church 71-80
5) Market 81-90
6) Specialty 91-96
7) Whore House 97-99
8) Unicorn Ranch 100

In the above example, you roll your percental and a d10 to form a d100 (unless you’re one of the few that actually own a DM’s golf ball). The Tavern has a higher chance of being rolled on that list but that’s up to you. Is it wrong that the Unicorn Ranch is less likely than the Whore House? If it’s a small town then you simply roll a few times. If it’s an entire Kingdom then you keep rolling until you feel carpal tunnel setting in. You can reroll as you deem necessary (for example, it's highly unlikely a town would have six Taverns but I've seen crazier things in my day).

You can also change it to look something like this:
Roll: 1d12
1) Tavern
2) Tavern
3) Tavern
4) Inn
5) Inn
6) Inn
7) Shop
8) Church
9) Market
10) Specialty
11) Whore House
12) Unicorn Ranch

Let’s look at another example. I hear encounters are a pretty big deal in D&D. Let’s make a quick table for what the group might face.
Roll: 1d6
1) Monster
2) Monster
3) Trap
4) NPC
5) Item
6) Other

Then for each of those you make yet another table. So for NPC you might have something like this:
Roll 1d100
1) Helpful stranger 1-40
2) Stranger in need of help 41-70
3) Another adventurer 71-80
4) Some strange cliché character type from a film 81-90
5) Recurring villain 91-99
6) Kragnor the Dark Lord of Ruining Your Shit and Kicking Kittens! 100

You may have noticed that I deliberately made the Encounters section more complicated by requiring several tables. These are all examples to show that you can make this as simple or as complex as you see fit. Go crazy with it!

It’s possible to make tables for just about anything in the game and simply roll for outcomes. If you’re a truly lazy bastard then you can just have your players make the lists for you. The epitome of sloth can even have the players roll the dice for you. At that point the whole game runs almost on auto pilot without the need for a DM, you horrible hedonistic monster.

This is Kylak signing out to let you enjoy your time off.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Decklist Ex Machina #13 L.O.L. Elves

Coming up with fun decklists so you don't have to.

L.O.L. Elves or also known as Lots of Lovely Elves is a decklist that Wafflesaurus and I worked on together to let her terrorize multiplayer tables to her heart's content. L.O.L. Elves is a token deck at its heart and it generates enough tokens that it was a necessity to actually get an entire deckbox for Elf Warrior tokens of the Green/White and Mono-Green variety. Ready to engulf the kitchen table? Here's the list:

Rhys the Redeemed 3
Imperious Perfect 4
Elvish Archdruid 4
Elvish Harbinger 3
Sylvan Ranger 2
Essence Warden 3
Ezuri, Renegade Leader 2
Dauntless Escort 3

Garruk Wildspeaker 2
Hunting Triad 1
Elvish Promenade 2
Harmonize 2
Hour of Reckoning 2
Fracturing Gust 2

Sunpetal Grove 4
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood 2
Selesnya Sanctuary 3
Forest 11
Plains 2

Assembling Allies (Token Generators):
This is the heart of the deck. Rhys the Redeemed, Imperious Perfect, Hunting Triad, Elvish Promenade, and Garruk Wildspeaker create token armies with ease. Imperious Perfect is still probably to this day one of the best token producers ever printed. It might as well read: pay one mana for a 2/2 creature with the most relevant creature type. Rhys the Redeemed and Elvish Promenade aren't the most effective in the early game and in a duel they wouldn't be that useful but this is multiplayer and they truly get to shine here. When you're doubling your army every single turn, they're going to need multiple reset buttons to even hope to stop you.

Gathering Resources (Mana Ramp):
The actual spells are on a very low curve for a multiplayer deck as most of the spells only have a converted mana cost of one to three. The mana itself is mostly used for activated abilities. Rhys requires six mana to double your token army and Ezuri wants five mana for his overrun ability (and this deck easily gets enough mana to activate this multiple times in a turn). Ramp includes Sylvan Ranger, Elvish Harbinger, Garruk Wildspeaker, and the overly ridiculous Elvish Archdruid. Thanks to the sheer amount of tokens on the field, Archdruid will be producing more mana than you ever thought necessary.

Fortifying Defenses (Saving Tokens):
Tokens are generally weak 1/1 creatures that just simply don't do enough on their own and die way too easily. In a multiplayer matchup it means that there are that many more players that might have board sweep to instantly ruin your day. This deck gets around that dilemma in multiple ways. First you have Imperious Perfect and Elvish Archdruid that are constantly giving your army a static bonus. That means that your tokens are generally at least 3/3 creatures (though usually they're even bigger). Oran-rief the Vastwood gives further defense and Ezuri's overrun can be activated defensively as well. Possibly more important than any of them is Dauntless Escort as he can save your army from the worst kind of board sweep (Wrath of God-like effects). It should also be noted that Essence Warden sets up a different kind of defense: your life total. When you're producing ten or more tokens a turn and all of your opponents at the multiplayer table are playing their own creatures each turn, that means Essence Warden is going to be skyrocketing your life total.

Conquering New Lands (Tricks to Win):
Elvish Harbinger allows you to get any elf you need at the time which makes for very consistent setups. Fracturing Gust can take out some decks completely and at the very least it can handle some pretty nasty cards that might show up. One of the key win cards is Hour of Reckoning as it lets you gain the advantage by leaving all of your tokens intact. The best part is that you have Dauntless Escort which means you don't have to lose anything while everyone else is back to square one. The deadliest win conditions in the deck are Ezuri and Garruk. Both have overrun abilities (+3/+3 and trample) and Ezuri's can be activated multiple times in a turn. With a field full of giant tokens with trample, it isn't likely that anyone can stand up to that.

This is Kylak signing out to let you take over tables with tokens.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Video Spotlight #44 Doritos - Make Your Own

Sharing videos I managed to find scattered across the internet.

List of Ingredients:

Staff of Anubis
Philosopher Stone
Rubber Hammer
Rubber Nails
Moon Rock Salt
Archimedes Screw
Bag of Holding
Cloud Mist
Elven joy
Lucky Penny
Love Song
Erlenmeyer Flask
Sense of Wonder
Blankety Blanks
Temporal Glitch
Star Dust
Rings of a Tree
Mother's Approval
Mountain Air
Inspiring Footage
Secret Ingredient
Smell of Morning


This is Kylak signing out and wondering what he's going to do with all of that gold.

Friday, February 3, 2012

VG Talk #9 You Don't Know Wii

Video Game discussion.

The Wii seems pretty misunderstood and there aren't many willing to have a discussion about it. It's simply a console for your grandparents to buy Wii Fit and then never use it again after Christmas season right? That's what the internet keeps telling me. So it must be true. Today we're going to go over all things Wii: the misconceptions, the strengths, and the weaknesses. Many gamers tend to shout that the Wii doesn't have any games. Let's begin there shall we? The games. That's the heart of this right? Here are some of the notables:

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Paper Mario Wii
New Super Mario Brothers Wii
Mario Party
Mario Kart Wii
Mario Strikers Wii
Wario Land Wii: Shake it
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Metroid Prime Trilogy
Metroid Other M
Rune Factory: Frontier
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Muramasa: the Demon blade
No More Heroes
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Punch Out
Red Steel 2
Lost in Shadow
Little King's Story
Trauma Center: New Blood
Trauma Team
Wii Sports Resorts
Boom Blox: Block Party
Rabbids Go Home
Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Animal crossing: City Folk
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
Another Code R
A Boy and His Blob
Batallion Wars 2
Fatal Frame 4
Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces
Endless Ocean
Endless Ocean 2: Blue World
Disaster: Day of Crisis
Cursed Mountain
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
de Blob
de Blob 2
Arc Rise Fantasia
Epic Mickey
Mad World
Rayman Origins
Monster Hunter Tri
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Tatsunoko vs Capcom
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Sonic Colors
House of the Dead: Overkill
Dead Space: Extraction
Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of a New World
Manhunt 2
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles
Pandora's Tower

Virtual Console Titles
Super Mario RPG
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario World
Paper Mario
Super Mario 64
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Super Metroid
Star Fox 64
Kirby Super Star
Kirby's Adventure
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country 2
F-Zero X
Chrono Trigger
Mega Man X
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 9
Mega Man 10
Final Fantasy 6
Harvest Moon
Secret of Mana
Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and 3
Sonic & Knuckles
and the list goes on...

The next claim is that the games just simply aren't hardcore games. They're labeled as fun kiddy games that are for children and parents. So then I have to ask, how do you define hardcore? Does it need to be Dark Souls level of difficulty to be a hardcore title or does it require sex, blood, and violence to land that Mature label from the ESRB? I'm pretty sure the phrase "hardcore game" has lost all meaning at this point because I've yet to meet a group of gamers who can even agree on what it means. Is Super Mario Galaxy a kids game because it's bright and colorful? Is Mad World a hardcore title simply because it has loads of gore? I would have to say no to both of those.

The difference between a casual game and a hardcore game for me personally would depend on aspects of gameplay. Super Mario Galaxy should be labeled as a hardcore game. The level of difficulty to get 100% completion is actually tougher than most major titles on other consoles. Then you have games like Monster Hunter or Donkey Kong Country Returns that are incredibly difficult (no I'm not going to list every difficult game on this list). To top it off, you have games where completing the main story is easy but getting 100% will test your skills as a gamer such as Kirby's Epic Yarn. Out of all of the games I listed above, there were only a handful of casual games I even acknowledged and that's because they're still fun even if they don't provide a challenge.

All of that being said, the Wii did have many failings and I'd like to point out the real reasons the Wii wasn't as successful as Nintendo had hoped:
1) Lack of third party support.
The Wii has the highest number of exclusive titles but also the least amount of notable titles from third party developers. Between hardware limitations that made it silly to port versions of a developer's game to the console to the confusion of what to do with motion controls, the Wii has had a tough time making friends with developers.

2) A lackluster online experience.
It's become sort of a running joke that Nintendo is behind the times in the online world. Let's take Super Smash Bros. for example. It had online support but even if you could find your friends online (which was no easy task), you'd have to suffer through horrifying amounts of lag.

3) Bad marketing.
The focus for advertising centered around Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and all things Mario. Very little marketing love was given to the mass majority of titles or genres on the Wii. To make matters worse, with so much focus on advertising the motion controls, there was never any mention that most games can be played with a normal controller (gamecube controllers fit into the Wii and you'll be surprised at how many thought the Wii-mote was a necessity). When Monster Hunter Tri was released, there were combo packs that came packaged with a regular controller which was the right move but it was a few years too late.

4) Not utilizing motion controls.
I'm in the camp that still sees potential in the motion controller which I realize is a very small little tent of a camp at this point. In another article, I mentioned three genres that are actually improved with motion controls:
You should take a look and throw your opinion down. Shooters, strategy, and adventure games actually have a lot to gain from motion controls if done right. Skyward Sword made everyone a believer that motion controls could improve the Zelda experience. Now ask yourself, how many shooters are on the Wii? How many strategy games? How many adventure games exist that aren't Metroid or Zelda? The answer to all of those is not many. There is a lot of wasted potential in game concepts.

5) Not explaining the motion controller.
Back in the day I wrote an article about the Wii-mote VS the PS Move controller here:
I'll go over the basics though. Did you know that some forms of light (even simple Christmas lights) and sound can affect the calibration of the Wii-mote? Did you know the heat of your own hand can even ruin the calibration as well? It would have been nice if Nintendo actually explained what affects the motion controller so that you could have a flawless experience playing a game. I've heard tales of people being annoyed that the motion controls didn't work for them and then I've heard the other side of the coin of people saying that they were remarkable and perfectly simulated their own movements. I imagine that the latter story would have been more of the norm if the knowledge was readily in the lap of the consumer.

6) Unused franchises.
Star Fox, F-Zero, Pikmin, Kid Icarus, Advance Wars, and Golden Sun never made it to the Wii. There are many reasons for this but I think most would have loved to have seen these break out with major titles. Then you have the franchises that came a bit too late: Donkey Kong and Kirby didn't even show up on the Wii until a few years after its release. Most of Nintendo's key stars were absent or late to the party and that really didn't help matters.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping Nintendo has learned from all of this. Round two is coming up this year with the Wii U.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Video Spotlight #43 Vermin Supreme

Sharing videos I managed to find scattered across the internet.

Great Presidential candidate or greatest?

Those of you who keep up with my Facebook and Twitter already got to see this a few weeks ago. Because of that, here's a second a video where Vermin Supreme not only becomes the first self-aware meme but also the Queen of the Bronies.


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