FF5 Draft: White Mage Hell

Today I am swapping things up a bit with my Steampowered Sunday post.  Originally the goal of this column was to force myself to play some games that were sitting in my steam backlog… which is huge.  However over time this has mutated a bit into “bel plays a game and reviews it”.  Today we are going to see some further mutation of this as I write about some madness that I allowed myself to get involved with along with my Aggrochat podcast co-hosts Kodra and Ashgar as well as occasional fill-in host Tam.  For some time Ashgar has participated in the Four Job Fiesta charity event that now helps out the Child’s Play charity.  The goal of this is to play through the epic game Final Fantasy 5 using a fixed set of jobs.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-18 11-06-24-150 For those not familiar with Final Fantasy 5, it was a 16 bit era title that allowed you to choose what classes a fixed set of 4 characters would be by assigning them jobs.  While in the job they gained abilities that could then carry over into other jobs.  This became a min-maxers dream as you could make some extremely broken combinations.  As a result for years players have done various wierd combinations of this game for fun, and the Four Job Fiesta capitalized on this and turned it into a grand charity event.  For awhile Ash has wanted to do an internal draft of this game, where four of us get together and draft out a viable party made of of the different available jobs.  As a result each player has to make some compromises to determine what they want to go after first.

To facilitate this Ash decided to set up a card deck game using the amazing Google hangout app Roll 20.  He laid out the various sprites for the characters in rows representing the Wind Crystal, Water Crystal, Fire Crystal and Earth Crystal… adding the Freelancer as an optional job for the Earth Crystal given that specific one only has four options.  So again for those not as deeply familiar with the title as it seems to be among our little circle of mumble users…  the setup looks something like this.

The Job Options

Wind Crystal

  • Knight
  • Monk
  • Thief
  • Black Mage
  • White Mage
  • Blue Mage

Water Crystal

  • Red Mage
  • Time Mage
  • Summoner
  • Beserker
  • Mystic Knight
  • Mime

Fire Crystal

  • Beastmaster
  • Geomancer
  • Ninja
  • Ranger
  • Bard

Earth Crystal

  • Dragoon
  • Dancer
  • Samurai
  • Chemist
  • Freelancer

The Draft

The rules of the game that we are playing under is that each player must always have one of a given job, and from the moment you get your crystals… every character must have a job.  There are alternate rulesets where you can play with freelancer until you get all four jobs available, but we are playing with the more pure ruleset.  This as always means that some of the parties will have a much easier time than others.  Whoever gets stuck with Thief and White Mage will be struggling, since both of them have issues early game, and whoever has the Black Mage will have a supremely easy time rolling over everything in their way.  We opted to go with a draft order that minimized the advantage of being first, and the disadvantage of being last… that looks a little something like this.

ABCD | DCBA | BDAC | CADB

We decided to roll a 20 sided die in the Roll20 addon to get started and pick the order.  Ashgar using his dice hacking abilities rolled an 18, Tam rolled an 8, Kodra rolled a 5… and I rolled a very lowly and painful 2.  Meaning that in the above scenario Player A would be Ashgar, B would be Tam, C would be Kodra and I got stuck bringing up the rear with D.  However due to the order of the draft I feel like maybe I had a slight advantage.  Of course the Black Mage was gone by the time it got around to me, but I still had plenty of really good things to pick from, considering in this draft I got to make 2 picks back to back.   When all was said and done our party compositions looked like this.

Belghast – White Mage, Mystic Knight, Ranger, Samurai

Ashgar – Blue Mage, Summoner, Beastmaster, Dancer

Kodra – Black Mage, Red Mage, Bard, Chemist

Tam – Thief, Time Mage, Ninja, Dragoon

This surprisingly left the Knight completely untouched, which is an extremely good early game starter.  Not unsurprisingly no one picked the Berserker or Mime, or the Geomancer.  However I think we were all somewhat shocked that no one at all picked up the Freelancer, which ultimately ends up being one of the best options since they can be super customized.  I think overall each of us had a plan in the works, namely mine involved using Ranger to feed my Samurai.  Ash seems to like Blue Mage and Beastmaster which are super fiddly combinations… but he is methodical enough to make them work amazingly.  Kodra of course went for the power combo of Black Mage/Red Mage which will mean he has an extremely easy play through.  Tam went with a super focused build of being able to feed the Ninja and Dragoon, but will have the roughest start of all of us… since you cannot get thieves a weapon in the first town.

Reality Setting In

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 20-29-04-556 It was really during the first “post job” boss encounter that the reality of my choices set in.  I wanted to go for a very melee party, which meant I needed some extremely strong healing.  There is no stronger healer in Final Fantasy 5 than the White Mage, so it seemed like a no brainer pick.  However I did not really “grok” the reality of trying to play through with ONLY white mages up through the water crystal.  Karlaboss aka the fight above is the moment it really set in what I had laid out in front of me, as I slowly dinked away at 650 hp… 10 damage at a time.  Granted there was no way in hell he was going to kill me… but the entire process is just slow and tedious.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 22-28-47-597 I made it through to the ship graveyard where finally I could start to grind away at the mobs.  My white mage party is uniquely suited for combating the undead, since this flavor of FF allows for you to case cure on the undead which becomes an offensive spell.  I made an early mistake in that I tried to podcast while playing this game, and wound up running out of mana and dying horribly.  However I reloaded from an earlier save state after we finished the podcast and continued on the journey.  I opted to grind my way to 10 on the undead hoping that would give me enough of a buffer to get through the next few fights before I finally get the water crystal and can make a party full of mystic knights.  Granted I will still have to keep one player a white mage, but that should work just fine given I will still need some healing.

White Mage Hell

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-03-44-311 The boss at the end of the ship graveyard was a complete pushover.  Generally speaking this is a pretty rough time for most parties considering she starts out living and turns undead a few rounds into the fight.  The undead version has the nasty added issue of poisoning players each time she hits them.  This quickly gets out of control for most parties, however with an army of white mages I just pushed forward nuking the hell out of her with cure.  It took two rounds of this after she turned undead to finish her off.  I calmly cured the poison and moved on. However as easy as this fight was, the next one turned out to be absolutely brutal.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-30-16-066

As I climbed the north mountain to get to the wounded dragon Hiryuu, I started to question if I should have ground higher than ten in the ship graveyard.  I simply could not do crap against the mobs on the mountain, other than simply out survive them.  Additionally the flail that I picked up, and is now my saving grace… seems to miss quite a lot.  Instead of fighting I opted to run away from almost all of the fights leading up to Magissa.  I knew this encounter would take a truly insane amount of time.  She has 650 hp and as you can see from the above shot I was only whittling away around 12 hp per attack.  This was a sheer battle of willpower to keep moving forward at a snails pace.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-17 23-37-20-000 When she summoned her pet Forza, I ignored him completely, realizing that there was no way at all I could keep up with fighting him and Magissa and the regeneration spell she casts on him.  Instead I opted to cast protect on my entire party, and used one of my white mages to heal folks up while the others slowly dinked away at Magissa until she fell.  Finally I turned my attention to Forza and focused all of the attacks on him.  Even doing this the “right” way, it still took about thirty minutes to push my way through the encounter with my army of “horrible monks”.  I was completely drained after that fight, and it was getting close to midnight so I stopped playing and streaming.  At some point today I will pick up where I left off.  You can watch the entire thing on my twitch stream, or you can check out the videos that I have uploaded to YouTube embedded below.  Additionally Kodra is streaming his play through so check out his channel as well.

 

AggroChat Episode 6

This week we have myself, Kodra and Ashgar for Aggrochat.  Rae was unavailable because honestly I feel like she was probably asleep.  She spent the day hanging out at the local Renaissance Faire with her brother and our good friend Dallian that appears on last weeks Aggrochat.  This week we had a bunch of things to talk about, or at least things that Kodra especially was excited to discuss.  The first of these was the new champion in League of Legends… Braum.  Next we talked about the Hex vs Wizards of the Coast lawsuit and what it means for the game and TCGs in general.  We also get on this long drawn out discussion of Kickstarter Fatigue and what it means for the kickstarters that are still coming out, and whether or not that is still a viable means of funding a project.  Like always we get lost on lots of rabbit trails between all of this points.

#AggroChat #FF5 #FinalFantasy5 #FourJobFiesta #SteamPoweredSunday

Rebooting Minecraft

Guild Meeting

I have an exciting evening planned that I have been looking forward to for a few weeks.  One of my long time House Stalwart guild members is here in town, and tonight we plan on having a board game night.  Dallian/Doctor Hannah appeared on Episode 5 of AggroChat, and we mentioned the upcoming visit there.  He lives in the Little Rock area which makes him a neighbor of ours as far as the internet is concerned.  I always think its cool when I get to meet someone in the flesh that I have gamed with for ages.  I think the plan tonight is to play loads of Munchkin and eat pizza at Rae’s house.  We’ve tried to invite several of the locals to meet up, so it should be really fun.  I am contemplating bringing some magic starter decks, but that might be a little too involved.  We’ve been talking with a co-worker about maybe trying to play some magic over lunch soon.  Apparently his wife is super into the game and would probably even come up over lunch to play it.

chickenandtots I don’t really do this sort of thing that often.  I guess the last guild member that I met up with was Lummox who happened to be about fifteen minutes away from where I happened to be staying in Albany.  It is always interesting to see how someone is in real life verses their in game persona.  For the most part, a lot of the people I have met have been fairly similar.  I have to say the closest was probably Urcasio and Ravener, who were pretty much exactly the people I would have expected based on in game interactions.  Since I generally find it easier to meet over food, Dal and I are meeting up before this evening for lunch.  For years I have been talking about how amazing Ron’s Hamburgers are, and more importantly their hot and spicy chicken and cheese tots.  So we are meeting up at my favorite location today around 11ish.  I would love to somehow steal him to town like I managed to do with Rae.  I feel like I am trying to build this little gamer community, one person at a time.

Rebooting Minecraft

Last week one of my new friends Missysmojo decided to try her hand at playing Minecraft. I joked with her that she would end up losing the next three months of her life.  She opted to stream a little bit, and it got me thinking.  It has been years since I have played Minecraft with any regularity.  There have been a few times I patched up my client and connected to the guild server just to see what folks were doing, but I had felt like I had “beaten” Minecraft for some time.  In this last year there have been significant changes in the game, and probably even more before that I really never noticed.  So I thought I would start a brand new game and play completely legit.  No mods, no helpful minimap… just the vanilla client and a texture pack (because yeah that is necessary).  The above video is the results of that process last night.  I am not really sure yet how often I will be streaming Minecraft, but I expect to continue where I left off each time.

For starters…  I am really not used to the game any longer.  I kept trying to “suck in” blocks and drops like you do in Trove.  The low performance of the game frustrated me, because I am not used to it “chunking” and loading in parts of the game slowly freezing my client momentarily when it does.  I am sure this is something I can tweak, because I probably just don’t have enough memory flowing to the default client.  There used to be a tool called Magic Launcher that handled a lot of the memory allocation for me, so I might look into that.  Another dumbass move is I totally thought I was on “survival” mode for the first little bit, running scared from potential monsters… only to find out that I actually was in peaceful mode on the client.  Once I noticed that and changed it things started to get interesting.

For starters, it seems like the creeper spawn rate is insane.  I maybe saw one or two zombies and skeletons the first night after flipping it to a normal mode, but I saw what felt like half a dozen creepers.  I managed to trap four chickens inside my base and I dug a pit like I often do and have them down there for a constant source of eggs, feathers and meat.  At some point I want to try and drag a couple of cows and pigs in there as well so I have all of my livestock needs handy.  Most of the video involves me setting up “base” as I hollow out a mountain, search for coal and finally start digging down into the earth in search of steel.  I encounter a cave with a skeleton spawner in it… and have a pretty epic battle trying to break the cave and torch it off.  I had quite a bit of fun, or at least more fun with Minecraft than I have had in ages.

Bunny Doom

Hex 2014-05-15 23-48-43-201 I love everything there is to love about the Shin’hare, and the fact that they exist makes Hex so much more enjoyable than Magic the Gathering ever could be.  It’s an entire race of adorable evil samurai bunnies…  you could slap that into ANY game and I would play it.  As a kid one of my favorite comic book characters was Usagi Yojimbo… so everything about this deck feeds my enjoyment.  Not to mention that my favorite deck combination in Magic the Gathering was Green and Black… and the Shin’hare are exactly that…  Life and Blood aka Green and Black.  In some ways it reminds me of playing my thalid deck circa Fallen Empires.  I would constantly use that deck to feed my black “sacrifice or I feed” cards.  While I am lacking some of the cards in Hex to make this work really well, the starter deck mixed with a few cards I got from my packs seems to be working okay.

Last night I got in and played a few hands against the AI, mostly because it was getting late and I didn’t want to deal with people.  I am anxious for when trading comes into play, because of my group of friends I think I am really the only hardcore bunny player.  I should be able to help some of them out with cards they are looking for and bolster my bunny army.  My all time favorite card is still the Uzume, Grand Concubunny.  Not only is the artwork adorable, but the card is insane when you get it out into play.

When I first read this card, I assumed it would start dropping the 0/1 battle hopper tokens that the other Shin’hare cards do on the table.  While that would have been good enough, considering the normal concubunnies you have to expend resources and tap them to get this effect.  The real effect however is so much better, in that it summons a random non-unique bunny card into play.  This can be ANY card, even ones you don’t currently have in your deck.  It is literally generating cards for you, but the problem is this makes the card and insane aggro magnet.

I need to formulate some ways to protect the card, because really it is too damned valuable to not have it on the board for more than a few turns.  Hopefully soonish I can get together with my other friends currently in the closed beta and play some actual matches.  I feel like Kodra is in a completely different league with me, and like to play a style of magic that I do not… but this will not stop me from attempting to beat him.  He royally kicked my ass in hearthstone, but it didn’t stop me from coming back for more.  These type of games for me are about the moment to moment play and not whether or not I win.  In fact that can pretty much be said with any game I play, I am just not that competitive.  It is about the journey not the win conditions.

Party Like it’s 1995

Flashbacks

Supremacy-Placeholder-592x333

I have been fairly oblivious to the world for the last few days, and as a result I had fallen behind on my news reader.  The thing that I found most interesting was this article on Massively talking about a potential League of Legends Universe online TCG.  I feel like I would love any game set in the League universe that is not League.  The world they have built up around the MOBA has some pretty awesome lore, and in part that is why I continue to play the game in spite of my problems with the control scheme.  My friends and I have talked about how successful we thought a single player game would be set in that world, but I could see an online TCG working as well.

Party Like It’s 1995

magiccardsthegathering

A friend and I were talking about this news, and he made the comment that it is 1995 all over again.  In a way that is exactly what it seems like to me as well.  For those who were not part of that scene during the TCG boom during the mid 90s… suffice to say every potentially marketable property got made into a card game.  I like a sucker probably played most of them out of sheer love and nostalgia for Magic the Gathering the one that started it all.  Some of them stuck around and gained a life of their own like Pokémon or Yugioh because they were driven by external motivators… and some were really amazing and died on the vine like Rage and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.

However during the 90s… you could find a card game for any property you wanted to play, and I think among my friends we at least bought a starter deck of most of them.  Magic the Gathering has had an online component for years, but for the most part it has never gained traction because it was arcane to get into, and Wizards of the Coast still very much favored the physical market.  In essence it was a cheap copy of a physical property and the company seemed fine with that.  What we are seeing now is a new crop of games conceived for online play, and that offer rule sets that would never really work in a physical card game.

The Next Boom

hearthstone

Much like we have seen for MMOs and MOBA… we are going to see a lot of companies entering this marketplace, trying to TCG-ize their existing intellectual property.  Even though neither has released, it seems like the two leaders going into the marketplace are Hearthstone by Blizzard and Hex by their TCG business partner Cryptozoic.  While they will be competing in the same space, and have quite a bit of overlap… I feel like each of these games is going after a slightly different player.  Hearthstone is going after the “easy to learn, hard to master” demographic, with a deceptively simple mechanic that leads to extremely fast paced duels.

While I have not actually played it (hey Blizz flag my account already), I have watched more than a handful of youtube videos and live streams.  Essentially it seems like a really straight forward rage style duel mechanic.  The thing that I initially am not a huge fan of is the way that combat works.  It seems like there is no real defense mechanic, or at least not one in the way I have come to expect from Magic: The Gathering.  As a result the gameplay is extremely in your face and aggressive, but does not feel terribly nuanced.

Cryptic Gameplay

Hex-TCG-URUUNAZ_851x315_FB

On the other side of things you have Hex: Shards of Fate by Cryptozoic… which is a oddly fitting company name for their approach.  It feels like they are trying to be Magic: The Gathering 2.0 with an evolved rule set and extremely cryptic and nuanced gameplay.  This is the type of game you go into already at a massive debt of knowledge, but as you learn the rules and uncover strategies you are rewarded for your ability to assimilate the information.  It looks like it will support some extremely long running duels, much in the same way Magic did, with players coming back from the brink to snatch victory out of defeat.

Personally while I really want to play Hearthstone, Hex seems more my style.  It is less Pokémon and Yugioh and more Magic: The Gathering… the game that started the craze and still has a honored spot in my heart.  Currently I think there is more than enough market share for both of these games.  However all of the late comers that are creating online TCGs… are likely going to get left out in the cold the same way all the other boom economies have worked.  Mainly I don’t see anyone else bringing something truly unique to the table.  During the physical card game boom, we saw lots of different themed versions of M:TG, and to a lesser extent I figure we will see this again.

Been There Done That

Vampire_Jyhad_Game_Setup

Currently both games are very fantasy oriented, so I expect the other genres to get on the act shortly.  Since DC is working on a MOBA… I fully expect to be seeing a DC themed online card game.  To be honest… the VS system that incorporated both DC and Marvel had a decent amount of success during the physical card game wars… so it might be a property worthy of resurrection in an online form.  Additionally I fully expect there to be a Star Wars themed product offering with the upcoming 7th movie entering production.  Then I am sure there will be other properties that jump on the bandwagon that we can’t even fathom being a card game…  just like last time.  The problem is… all of this has a feeling of “been there done that” for me.

I experienced this rush of excitement and crushing disappointment several times before during the 90s, as a property I cared about was turned into a truly un-inspired card game amalgam.  To some extent we are still living through this each time an MMO spins up only to sputter out a year or so later.  Another tidbit from my news feed yesterday was that Mummy Online was shutting down… I literally did not even know it existed in the first place.  So MMOs are currently coming and going without me even realizing it.  Basically I am bracing myself for a lot of shoddy card games to be released in a short period of time, trying to cash in on the “new” craze of digital collectible card games.  So as much as I look forward to Hearthstone and Hex… I am entering what I feel will be a new trend with quite a bit of trepidation.

End Game

Slowing Down

ffxiv 2013-10-06 00-51-19-70

For most of us in House Stalwart the wild ride that was the Final Fantasy XIV storyline has come to a conclusion.  As a result a large number of us have dialed back our playtime a bit to recover.  This is only magnified by the fact that the game that none of us may speak of is having yet another event and a large number of us are actively playing that.  The storyline was extremely exceptional and did everything I would expect in the ending of a classic final fantasy game.  However this time it left the door completely open.

It felt much like that first time you transitioned Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past into the Dark World.  It feels like we just scratched the surface of the game, which I guess is how the ending of the storyline content should feel in every MMO.  Lots of things are resolved, but very quickly you realize that nothing at all is truly resolved.  Now that we have spent all the storyline we are left with the fact that other than the wonderful story… the FFXIV experience is a rather skeletal one.

End Game

ffxiv 2013-10-05 20-39-50-40

Basically eight of us have entered the phase of the end game at this point… which is extremely limited.  Each step along the path has some pretty severe gear requirements, so what we have ahead of us is a large amount of running the same two dungeons over and over.  Basically you are given two paths forward for gear.  The first of which is running two 8 man dungeons that reward a lot of tomestones, but absolutely no gear…  or running two 4 man dungeons that drop gear but very few tomestones.  Neither option feels really good, considering for the time spent running Amdapor you really do not end up with much gear.  I’ve run it three times as a tank and have yet to see a single drop.

The real problem is the fact that each run through the dungeon racks up a not insignificant repair bill.  One of the big problems I have talked about before is the fact that there really is no good way to gain money at level 50.  I carried with me into the end game about 200,000 gil, and that has been going fast as I use it for various needed things at the maximum level.  The options I have before me are grinding fates which pay out around 200 gil each, grinding leves which pay out around 500 gil each…  and playing the auction house.  The problem with the auction house is that `the only thing worth anything really are high level crafted items.  Leveling your crafting however can bankrupt your character… so it is a bit of a catch 22.

Relic Weapon

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The goal of the game right now seems to be to get your relic weapon and later on your +1 upgrade to it.  This is the best item in the game you can get, but much like the Everquest Epic weapon it is a long and drawn out process.  To start down this path is a rather expensive one.  Firstly you have to acquire the base weapon, for a Warrior this is the Barbarian’s Bardiche.  This is crafted by a high level blacksmith and is gathered together out of bits that have to be farmed from a combination of dungeons and overworld zones.  They currently go for about 10,000 gil on the open market, and since I do not have access to a max level Blacksmith that is the option I chose to go with.  In my experience it costs far more than 10,000 gil to get a smith to create one for you.

From there you need to infuse 2 Battledance III materia onto the item.  This once again has to be done by a level 50 blacksmith… and the going rate per infuse on my server is 10,000 gil.  Acquiring the Battledance III materia is a whole other matter that is far more time consuming.  These are gained from disassembling level 45 or higher items that are 100% spiritbound.  The problem is… individual items can be disassembled into a wide variety of different materia.  I spiritbound a set of Mithril Plate gear, and did not manage to get a single Battledance III.  Ultimately I had a guild member give me one of them, and I bought the second on the open market for 15,000 gil.

So just to get to the point of turning in the infused axe I have already spent over 50,000 gil once you factor in the material costs of the infusions.  I apparently got off easily… for a Paladin or a Scholar apparently the costs are more like 100,000 gil.  From here it is a series of monsters that I have to take down, starting in Coerthas with the Chimera and ending with Hard Mode Titan.  All of which is rather honestly a pretty horrific grind, considering by the time you get to Hard Mode Titan, you damned well better be in full darklight gear, the set you get from the tomestones I talk about grinding out earlier.

Grind, Grind, Grind

Ultimately this is going to be the thing that kills the game for me if they do not introduce some less grindy paths.  Right now I have the option of grinding for money, grinding to level other classes or grinding out end game gear.  There is nothing left to do in the game that is anywhere near as enjoyable as the questing experience was.  At this point, the game is a really fun ride to 50, and then grind city afterwards.  I still greatly enjoy the dungeon runs, and I look forward to doing more of that, but that involves getting a large number of people online at the same time.  When there is not a full groups worth online, I am finding myself lacking in things I really want to do.

At this point I have leveled my Warrior to 50 and my Bard to 50…  but any additional characters involve lots and lots of either mob grinding or fate grinding and right now after having done it twice… that lacks any sort of luster.  So I find myself piddling around in other games waiting on enough of a critical mass to form in FFXIV that we can do some dungeons.  At this point I really lack interest in doing anything else in the game.  I think as time passes I will want to level other classes, but after having ground out two to 50, I need a bit of a break.  As a result I have been piddling around in League of Legends and finding myself pining away from my Hex invite.  FFXIV still has a ton of potential, but they really need to make some changes in 2.1 to make the game more livable.

Bun’Jitsu

Hexxen

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As you can see from the above image I am almost 80% finished downloading the Hex: Shards of Fate Alpha client.  Starting late yesterday Alpha invites began trickling out as the servers came up.  They of course are starting off with the highest supporters and working their way down the list, only allowing small bits in at a time to keep from cratering the servers.  As a result I figure it will take a few days for them to reach us plebeians that only supported enough to get INTO the alpha in the first place. 

However at one point yesterday they stated that it would likely take a few weeks to get down to the “slacker backers” aka folks who supported the project after the kickstarter finished.  If that is the case it should be a matter of days not a matter of weeks, which is good.  I know there were a large number for $250 backers and that is the tier that is starting invites now.  The majority of my friend are all like me and in the $60 mere-human range.

Bun’Jitsu

I have to say I am really looking forward to getting some playtime with this.  Everything about it feels like a different take on Magic: The Gathering for the online age.  I am already pretty fond of the Shin’Hare… which happen to be a combination of Wild (green) and Blood (black).  That was the deck combo I always relied on in MTG so here is hoping it will be equally effective in Hex.  Besides any race that has a card called Bun’jitsu has to be amazing right?  I just love the concept of these crazy twisted anthropomorphic bunny rabbits.

They released a PDF with all of the initial cards in it yesterday to backers and almost immediately someone took that and broke it out into an amazing deck builder site, so you should totally check that out.  Additionally on Reddit there is a Hex Alpha FAQ thread that is worth checking out as it has a number of useful links… including the downloader for the alpha client.  Like usual we have a pretty decent sized community that will be playing this off and on so I expect it to join the ranks of League of Legends as one of our regular non-MMO games.  If you are part of this madness as well let me know!  I am always looking for more people to hang out with while playing various titles.