Fail Drafting with Bel

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The first I learned this weekend are that the Quick Draft format in Magic the Gathering Arena is extremely enjoyable.  The second thing I learned this weekend…  is that I am pretty horrifically bad at drafting a set I didn’t spend much time playing at all.  The third thing I learned is that even if you suck at drafting… it is still a pretty reasonable way to pick up cards for doing other interesting things with.  If I am doing my math correctly…  I walked away with 45 cards that I picked out during the draft and at least 8 cards that I got from the pack that I won just from participating in the draft.  Especially if you are trying to work towards something in particular this seems like a very efficient spending of your gems.  Ultimately you are getting over 1200 gems worth of cards for 750 gems if you want to think of it in those terms when you are talking about total number of cards gained through the process.

Granted by drafting you are not putting any points towards your next vault opening and there is no chance of getting wildcards other than through any of the 8 card normal packs you win in the process.  I drafted a grand total of three times this weekend and failed miserably in all of them with the best I managed to do ending up with a 3 and 3 before finally washing out.  There was one where I did not manage to win a single match but even then I walked away with a handful of gems and all of the cards that I managed to draft in the process.  The event however sadly ends in roughly three hours as of the time of making this post.  I am hoping that they might do this as a weekly thing and offer up a new set each week for drafting.  Surely they have enough information on Ixalan to make this work, or it would be a truly great way to introduce Kaladesh as they have already stated they are going to soon.

Ultimately Arena scratches the Magic itch for me especially if I can ever get reasonable at formats like Draft and be able to craft decent decks.  A large part of the issue I have is that I am not really playing a lot of magic, and have been more of a collector for the last several years than someone who actually sits down and plays on a regular basis.  I am trying to stoke a bit of a Magic culture at work, but it is really difficult for me to find a time or a place to sit down and play.  Sure there are shops I could go to Friday Night Magic at…  but I don’t even have a deck that I would feel really comfortable playing in such a location because it feels like I have been out of the game so long.  There was a time where I could look at a card and immediately think of all of the possible combos for it…  and that time has passed.  Largely I need to build back up that muscle memory and the only viable way for me to do it… is by playing lots and lots of Arena.  On the positive side…  each time I sit down to play it I seem to get completely engrossed in the game and completely lose track of how many matches I have ended up playing.

Watch Fail Drafting Hour of Devastation with Belghast! from Belghast on www.twitch.tv

If you are curious and want to see me fail-drafting you can check out the VOD over on Twitch as I streamed most of it.  I accidentally cut off towards the end…  but I had honestly forgot I was streaming at that point so you are not getting much in the way of commentary as the progression continued on.  Chestnut hung out with me for a bit but that was really the only person I had in the stream and even then I think she was mostly afk cleaning house as she said.  When I don’t have people interacting with me I sometimes forget I am actually streaming and you end up with me falling back into silence.  Anyways… if you want to see what the format is all about you can at least watch how the draft part works at the beginning.  I need to sort out why none of the music I had playing was coming through on the stream.  If you want to see someone significantly better at drafting…  you should also check out Kodra who was my inspiration to stream the draft (because he did it earlier in the day).

Watch Magic the Gathering: ARENA from Kodra22 on www.twitch.tv

MTG Arena Economy

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Last night I spent a tiny bit of time in Magic the Gathering Arena because they unleashed the new Dominaria expansion.  The funny thing is the digital version of Magic got Dominaria long before I actually got the box that I ordered.  If you currently have access to Arena just the act of logging in gets you three packs, and once again remember these packs have 1 rare/mythic, 2 uncommon and 5 commons…  and or a combination of wildcards.  Wildcards as always can be traded in for any card you are missing of that rarity and they do not appear to be set dependent.  This means that more or less you seem to be able to bank them and then turn in a bunch of them any time you want to build a deck.

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The other thing that went in yesterday was the ability to spend money and buy the intermediary currency of Arena…  Gems.  There are two currencies in the game…  Gold that you earn by completing quests and such and Gems that you plunk down hard earned cash.  The prices range from $4.99 for the first pack of 750 gems making it roughly 150 gems per dollar all the way to 20,000 gems for $99.99 making that 200 gems per dollar spent.  The thing that concerns me the most at this point is the fact that MTG Arena is a beta and I have yet to actually find any place that talks about whether or not there will be a wipe before launch…  and if there is one if money spent will be refunded.  This is the biggest hurdle for me personally against spending any money at all…  because I would really like assurances that I would at least keep the value of that purchase even if I don’t keep the cards.

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Now we get into the prime thing you can buy with your gems…  packs of cards.  At the 45 and 90 pack range you get what was the Dominaria buy the box promo card…  making me think that they consider 45 packs to be the equivalent of a 36 pack Magic the Gathering Booster Box.  I did some nonsense via spreadsheet before I actually noticed that there is a post on the forums with pretty much all of the economy elements outlined.  As it stands the only scaling is on gem purchases…  where the more money you spend the more gems you wind up getting per dollar.  At the high end of buying 750 gem packs that places the price per pack at $1.33 and if you are buying on the low end at 20,000 gems the price per pack drops down to $1.  That means 45 packs would be $59.88 buying 600 gems at a time and $45.00 buying 20,000 gems at a time…  similarly the gigantic 90 pack bundle comes out to $119.76 and $89.99 respectively.

For an economy reference… Hearthstone buying in the smallest package ends up being $1.49 per pack and in the largest package $1.16 per pack…  for 3 fewer cards each pack.  The biggest problem with each and every gem pack is they do not exactly sync up with the dollar amounts meaning you are going to have a remainder of gems that are not really usable for the purpose of buying packs.  Contrasted again with Hearthstone there is no intermediary currency so you always know what you are getting per dollar spent regardless of some nonsense exchange rate.  My friend Toadchild also did some math and figured out that the most efficient way to purchase cards if you wanted the maximum number of packs for your gems…  would be 1-45 card pack, 2-15 card packs and 4-6 card packs giving you a total of 99 packs for 19,800 gems.  This still gives you an annoying remainder of 200 gems though in the process.  If you are curious about the full range of nonsense here is the google sheet I was working things out in.

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Other than just the ability to purchase cards for cash…  they implemented the beginnings of a draft mode.  Quick Draft however is not the pod drafting you were expecting however and instead something significantly different.  Effectively when the event is going on you can enter the draft at will and be placed up against some AI that drafts with you.  This apparently gives you the ability to leave the screen and return to your matches later any time while the event is active.  The buy in is going to be 5000 gold or 750 gems… aka the $4.99 pack and rewards you a blend of cards and gems in prizes.  Essentially you keep anything you draft into your collection and have the possibility to win additional prizes if you get to 7 wins before you get to 3 losses.  Draft packs have the same distribution as tabletop giving you 1 rare/mythic, 3 uncommon and 10 commons making it a more familiar format for those who have drafted before.  The prize support breakout looks a little something like this…

  • 0 Wins: 50 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 1 Win: 100 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 2 Wins: 200 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 3 Wins: 300 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 4 Wins: 450 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 5 Wins: 650 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 6 Wins: 850 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 7 Wins: 950 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted

The boosters are all listed as a “Chance for Extra Boosters” but there really isn’t any particular information surrounding that…  maybe if you go 7 and 0 you get 3… or 7 and 2 you only get 1.  This isn’t really clarified that I saw.

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The other thing that went in is Quick Constructed which is effectively a tournament in a box allowing you to hop in and play in a competitive structure with prize support.  The buy in here is 500 gold or 95 gems and has significantly more meager rewards primarily allowing you to gamble your gold for the chance at winning your 7 and getting it doubled in the process with a few randomized cards in the process.  This would feel better were it not for the fact that they completely removed random card rewards at the end of winning a match, meaning this is now your way for getting that sort of thing.  I actually loved the whole get a random card after you win thing… because it sorta felt like an Ante card even though that concept is an element of a bygone era.  For those interested the prize support structure looks a little something like this…

  • 0 Wins: 100 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 1 Win: 200 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 2 Wins: 300 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 3 Wins: 400 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 4 Wins: 500 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 5 Wins: 600 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 6 Wins: 800 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards
  • 7 Wins: 1,000 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards

In a worst case scenario you spent 500 gold and got back 100 and 3 common cards.  In the best case scenario you spent 500 gold… doubled it and got back 2 rares and 1 common.  Unlike draft this is not an AI mode and you are playing against players.  They suggest that this is game mode primarily for players who have already completed their daily quests and are looking for a way to get more goodies.

All in all I am mostly happy with the economy of the game so far.  It seems rather reasonable especially if you contrast it with paper magic.  For your dollar you are getting way more value out of Magic the Gathering Arena both in the sheer number of rares and uncommon you get per dollar and the fact that wildcards exist.  Wildcards and stockpiling them seems to be a really good way to prepare for the oncoming release of a new expansion.  As it stands right now…  I could sit on my stash of mythic and rare wildcards and then the moment the next expansion releases buy everything outright that i need to make a deck work.  Cracking packs is always going to be fun for me personally, but for players who would rather just buy what they need… cracking packs becomes a way to get those much needed tokens to finish their custom “brew”.  The only concern I have is that since this mode seems so much more equitable to the player…  what will it ultimately do to the physical hobby?

[UPDATE]

I got a response back from Wizard of the Coast support and the plan is to return the spent gems to your account when it goes live.

 

Unintended Night

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What I was supposed to be playing last night is World of Warcraft as Wednesday is our normal mythical nonsense night.  Unfortunately we were down two people already and I myself wasn’t really in the mood to do it either.  I’ve been dealing with some stuff and yesterday was a bit of a bad mental health day.  When those situations happen I tend to turtle up somewhere quiet and hang out by myself until whatever it is has passed.  World of Warcraft is such an inherently social game that even the act of logging in ends up prompting a bunch of people to poke me and say hello…  and it feels bad to ignore them when I need to ignore them.

Sure there is now “Appear Offline” mode but even then that is not a perfect scenario.  For me at least there are a handful of people that I am generally okay with interacting with, because they know the drill.  They understand deeply because they go through their own periods of turtle time, and as a result there is no need to attempt to keep up appearances as it were.  However if you are in Offline mode and you reach out to one of those people who are on the closest rings of your monkeysphere…  they cannot respond.  You will be able to send them messages all day long but they will always get the offline message when attempting to respond back to you.  As a result when I am feeling like this I just avoid WoW like the plague because it isn’t worth the hassle.

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What I wanted to be doing was to sit on the couch and play some Everquest while watching some more Mighty Boosh streamed through the television.  Unfortunately they seem to have had a rather traumatic maintenance yesterday.  The servers went down at 5:00 am EDT on the 18th and did not come back apparently until 2:30 am EDT on the 19th.  I have no clue at all what was going on…  but I kept trying to fire up the launcher and getting the maintenance message.  I have been enjoying myself a shocking amount in Everquest, but I realize that I am riding the drug that is nostalgia.  I am not sure how long that drug will last but for the moment I am riding its high.

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What I did instead was play a lot of MTG Arena as I got it set up on my laptop.  Yesterday Scopique wrote an interesting response to my post about Arena…  or at least one that mentioned it because it wasn’t exactly a direct response.  The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily call myself much of a competitive gamer.  I traditionally shy away from player versus player situations, but games like MTG Arena or the Crucible in Destiny don’t seem to bother me that much and I am not entirely certain why.  I stumbled across a post from Tobold who very much did not enjoy his time with Arena, but for the moment I don’t mind at all that it is largely just a stripped down 1v1 client.  I think ultimately if you are going into Arena expecting Duels of the Planeswalkers or MTG Duels either one… you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Arena is simply a Magic the Gathering Online that isn’t horrible.  Sure MTGO is serviceable but nothing about it is really intuitive and it feels like you are jumping through a lot of hoops to make anything work.  MTGO was absolutely less cludgy than the days of trying to arrange a game on IRC and then getting both parties to fire up and connect to each other through the Apprentice application.  However card gaming on a PC has changed drastically since then and Hearthstone more or less has led that charge.  Arena is that Hearthstone-esc interface for the far more seasons and complicated game of Magic the Gathering, and the thing is… it works amazingly well.

There have been a few times I have been bit by the game trying to move forward without me…  but in the grand scheme of things it seems to do 99.9% of the right things at the right time.  The other moments don’t bother me too much because I am not placing a lot of my personal ego into whether or not I am winning.  I am simply enjoying playing cards and occasionally I do really well.  I do feel like Tobold’s comment of not feeling like he could be competitive with the decks presented was a bit nonsense given that I have been entirely playing the stock Golgari Exploration deck.  I felt like I was able to pick it up and start winning matches almost immediately…  and sure as my rank has risen I am winning less matches but even that doesn’t bother me much.  I am still winning more than enough to complete daily quests getting me packs and gold…  to buy more packs.  All in all I feel like Arena is going to shape up to be a very solid version of Magic the Gathering Online…  but we need to stop the comparisons there for our own sanity.

MTG Arena Beta

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Yesterday was of course the ninth anniversary of the Tales of the Aggronaut blog…  and Wizards of the Coast got me a present.  Roughly halfway through the day I checked my mail and noticed that I got an email from WotC inviting me to the closed beta of Arena…  their attempt at making a modern Magic the Gathering client.  The truth is Hearthstone has been eating their lunch for several years now due to its extreme accessibility.  It also does the dual whammy of giving both a nostalgia buzz for magic the gathering and collectible card games in general…  while delivering a fatal blow of world of warcraft nostalgia at the same time.  It’s a good game… and honestly lately I have been playing quite a bit of the warrior rush deck, but even that said…  it is no Magic the Gathering.  There is just something about this game that causes me to follow the community and buy cards… even though I don’t get to play that often.

The biggest problem for me is that I don’t really have a LGS or Local Gaming Store to be spending my time at.  I live out in the burbs and the closest thing to me is on the opposite end of Tulsa from where I live…  making it not exactly convenient to go to in the evenings and play cards.  Where a game like Hearthstone or Arena comes in is it allows me to get that fix…  without the need to actually get hands on other players.  That said I am working on fostering a little community at work for lunch time gaming and am building up some balanced decks to sort of make an easy drop in and play environment.  All of that said… it is just so much easier to get online at the end of a day and get my gaming fix rather than trying to coordinate with other human beings.

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When you start up the Arena client you are given a handful of packs to start crafting your own decks with.  This assortment essentially encompassed the last two blocks of play…  Rivals of Ixalan, Ixalan, Hour of Devastation and Amonkhet.  I got a handful of decent cards and could have probably crafted together a serviceable deck from them.  I personally like these two blocks of play theme wise and together they give quite a bit of reasonable synergy.  I believe the plan going forward is to largely limit Arena to standard sets by default…  which seems a little if that were the case why Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are not included.  It was my understanding that when the Kaladesh block cycles out the Amonkhet block will as well in Q4 2018.  Quite frankly I struggle keeping these things in my head as to which sets are in and which sets are out because it doesn’t seem anywhere near as clear as it used to be.  I apparently am not the only person to think this because there is literally a website called What is In Standard.

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One thing that is going to be a challenge to get used to is that the pack structure is vastly different from live paper magic.  When you open a pack you get a grand total of 8 cards instead of 15 cards…  which I hope means they are going to charge a reduced price for the packs when the whole buying packs for money thing is eventually introduced.  You get a single rare/mythic, two uncommons, and five commons.  If you already have more than a play set of a card they replace it instead with a token as you can see underneath Samut in the above picture.  These can then be spent to fill out missing holes in your collection trading a rare for a rare or a mythic for a mythic.  At first I could not understand why I kept getting them since at this point in my head… I had only opened a handful of packs.

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Also in your collection are a wide variety of deck archetypes built and ready to go.  Personally I have been shifting back and forth between Golgari Exploration for which Green/Black has always been my preferred color set, and Legion of Dusk which similarly is heavy black and vampire themed enough to ignore the fact that I am using white mana.  I love the exploration mechanic and when it compounds with cards that do stuff when any card explores.  This means you can get some really big critters on the board that escalate rapidly.  Ultimately in a perfect situation I want a foul orchard out on turn one, Wildgrowth Walker on turn two, and then some combination of creatures that explore like Seeker’s Squire or Ixalli’s Diviner to pump up the Walker and start my assault proper.  What that works it is beautiful… when it doesn’t there seem to be enough alternate paths to victory to hang in for a very long time.

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For the most part the client itself plays exactly like you would expect a magic client to play.  It does a lot of things for you, like if you have no plays it goes ahead and skips to the next turn which is likely going to throw you off at first.  There is a way to flip the client into a more granular level having you verify each and every trigger that happens…  which would be important for more technical decks.  I do feel like the timeout is maybe a little bit long given how many phases you have to get through…  there have been times that matches have taken forever because the other player was just slow at evaluating their options…  or potentially just doing something else at the same time.  Unlike the Duels of the Planeswalkers clients I never felt like it was rushing me through things and causing me to lose card play opportunities.  It seems to have some intelligence built into the client and stalls anytime it thinks you might have a play option, and so far it has not missed a time when I needed to play a card in response to something.

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After each victory you are awarded a single random card, and there are various quests that you can be working on while playing matches.  For example you can see in the bar that I am at 8 wins of 10 needed for  my next pack of Rivals of Ixalan.  The pack quests seem to come at 5 victories, 10 victories and 15 victories…  and not sure if that trend continues on every 5 victories or if you are limited to 3 packs per week.  Similarly there are quests that I had already completed like Kill 13 of your opponents creatures or cast 13 white or blue spells, each of those rewarding 250 gold.  The in game pack purchasing mechanism allows you to buy a pack every 1000 gold, so essentially after doing four of these quests you can get some more cards.  I am assuming this gold currency will also eventually be used for drafting which sadly is not in yet…  but I believe they have talked about wanting that game play mode exists.

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The only real thing you need to know is the fact that I set up my account around 6:30 last night and the next thing I knew…  it was 9:30.  The game is extremely good and brought back all of the right nostalgia beats for sitting around playing magic the gathering and trying to figure out how to dig yourself out of a card draw hole.  There are times when things go extremely well…  then there are other times like the above match when things go south really quickly.  I just could not get the exploration cards I needed to power up my front line and managed to keep the other player long enough to get a recursive combo on the ground.  As a result they manages to gain up 183 life before finally finishing me off in a single round.  I could have conceded at any point, but I wanted to see how big they could manage to get their health pool.  Even in a horrible loss condition… I was entertained.  I look forward to seeing how this product evolves over time and I am likely going to start streaming it on occasion so you can laugh at me as I make obvious mistakes.

Bizarre Obsession

This weekend we recorded somewhat of a mega show of AggroChat.  We originally sat down thinking we might not have a complete show…  and then recorded for two hours and wound up dropping a few topics to try and manage the show length.  There were a whole slew of topics but one of which is one that I did not expect to blow up to the level at which it did.  Kodra has been talking magic for a year or so in his adventures in doing drafts through Magic Online for each of the expansion releases that have happened.  Lately however I have found myself obsessing about the game even though I have not regularly played it since the tempest cycle.  Magic the Gathering will always have this nostalgic characteristic for me because I have had a lot of really good times playing it.  The problem is…  once I entered the adult world I stopped having a regular stream people to play with.  I’ve never really gotten involved with a local shop doing the Friday night magic thing, because in truth people just don’t play Magic the Gathering the way I want to play it.  The prevalence of NetDecking and combo magic turned things into a weird cold war…  where you either needed to be playing whatever the new hotness needed to be…  or at least come up with a way to counteract that new hotness.  When I last stopped playing… the format of choice was called “Type II” and I believe this translates to the “Standard” in the current naming of formats.  So when I left during the Tempest cycle it was all about the combo to beat… and either scrambling to get the cards…  or scrambling to get something to beat it.

The style of Magic the Gathering I enjoyed was back when you never quite knew what you might be encountering in a players deck.  Maybe it just took my area while to get super competitive, but in early tournament play I only ever once encountered the “power nine” but instead came up against a lot of seemingly fun to play themed decks.  For me a lot of my decks centered around some card that I wanted to play with… and then blunting the negative effects of that card.  So say I wanted to play with the Lord of the Pitt, I would run some token creatures that I could just keep churning out to feed to it rather than pay the 7 life upkeep.  If I wanted to play with Leviathan I would run Icy Manipulator and Twiddle to keep from having to pay the two island tax to untap it each round, then figure out some way to retrieve islands from the graveyard every so often.  It was fun trying to figure out a way to counteract what was not good about the cards and then figure out how to make them work well enough to be playable.  Some of the most fun I ever had was in college the magic store I used to hang out in had a deep common bin… and we would end up building these $5 decks out of the archives and then pit them against each other.  I guess the modern equivalent to this would be pauper, but even then…  that format takes itself way more seriously than I wish I could when it comes to MTG.  I’ve been trying to sort out a way to play the game how I want to play it…  but also find some people to play with.

The biggest problem right now is availability of people.  There are enough folks who have played MTG at one point in their lives to maybe create a lunch time group at work.  The problem there I am not not sure what sort of format would work best.  I am leaning towards something janky along the lines of Pauper Commander…  without the commanders.  Where you functionally construct a deck of common cards without the ability to repeat any cards.  I would functionally need to probably fund a lot of the commons given that there are simply not enough in any one set to make up a deck of entirely common cards.  I think a format like that however might bring back the random weirdness that I miss from playing Magic.  There were moments where you would sit down and encounter something you never expected to see…  and it would be interesting to figure out how to adjust to that and find a way to either defeat it or work around it.  In truth I love common cards,  because they tend to be the unappreciated workhorses of magic.  It always bugs me a bit when people just dismiss them and toss them aside like garbage…  when you cannot really make ANY deck without relying on a whole slew of them to serve as the glue between those higher dollar cards.  I have no clue how this will end but thusfar it has simply been a case of be re-familiarizing myself with Magic the Gathering and trying to figure out if this is really something I want to jump back into.

Tale of Dice Games

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It is bizarre to me how I went into Pax South thinking it would be largely about the Nintendo Switch for me… and it wound up becoming almost entirely about Tabletop gaming.  More so it was the tale of dice games… and my experiences trying three different ones.  There was King of Tokyo that I had never actually played, and while I found it enjoyable it wasn’t exactly the sort of game I was going to rush right out into the store and purchase.  Then there was Dragon Dice…  which sounded familiar at the time as a game that TSR once published… and it turns out that in fact it is the same game just self published by the creator now.  The problem is that I looked in the general direction of the booth and got sucked in by an extremely motivated salesperson in the form of what I can only guess was the thirteen year old daughter of the creator.  I sat down to play… and got Ashgar roped into doing the same.  So we played and tried our best to wriggle out of the booth as soon and as politely as possible.  It was bad…  and not just in a general sense of not fun… but bad in a sense of whoever attacked first essentially put the other player on the ropes for the rest of the game and since attack and defense is out of the same dice roll…  it made it extremely hard to ever recover.  As a result we avoided anything else that was dice related like the plague… that is until while waiting in the hour and a half long Dauntless line I ended up getting into a random conversation with the folks I was standing shoulder to shoulder with as is the way of PAX.  We started talking about our favorite games of the show so far, and one of these other folks mentioned Dice Throne.  So before the night was up we wound up making our way over to the Dice Throne booth in the PAX Rising area, where unfortunately no one was giving demos at that moment.  However they mentioned that in the tabletop area there was a completely different set up where folks had been playing nonstop.  Little did I know that essentially this would be the last thing I played during my time at PAX and would eat up my last few hours.

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c3tib3xumaajc_wI am of course swiping images left and right from the Dice Throne twitter and Kickstarter for the purpose of this post.  The game itself is a weird mix of dice battling, action RPG and Magic the Gathering starter deck duels.  Each player chooses a character to play from the current list of Barbarian, Moon Elf, Pyromancer and Shadow Thief…  with Paladin and Monk playable at the show but ultimately stretch goals in the kickstarter.  Each character comes with a unique play mat, card deck, five dice, and a sheet that describes their status effects that they can give to opponents and explains the chance of rolling a given symbol on the dice.  What made the game addictive to me was the aspect that as you move through the session you can play cards on top of your playmat and upgrade your base abilities.  Sometimes this is just a matter of making the abilities more efficient, or having a lower number of dice needed to trigger the effect.  In the case of the game where I played the Shadow Thief… some of the cards actually served as two completely different abilities that you could then choose from.  I personally only have experience with the Barbarian and Shadow Thief, but I think Ashgar and Paragon wound up playing Shadow Thief vs Paladin… in which I heard that the Paladin is completely brutal.

Regardless of the specific configuration the game is ultimately a game about duels… which admittedly is the part that makes me the most excited.  I love tabletop games… but I don’t exactly have a wide circle of people that I can play them with locally.  I mean I could branch out and just show up at a game shop and look for people to play… but that isn’t really my way.  I am way too introverted to ever make that work.  So instead I have limited opportunities usually one friend at a time to play things.  Dice Throne is absolutely perfect for this situation because it creates a completely meaningful experience with only two players.  In theory this game also works with any multiple of two, in that players can set up 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3 scenarios and some of the cards would play perfectly into that situation.  The reason Magic the Gathering comes into play as a reference for this game is that it is set up in a number of phases:  Upkeep, Income and Draw, Main Phase 1, Offensive Roll Phase, Defensive Roll Phase, Main Phase 2, Discard Phase.

Players start out with 50 Health, 1 combat point or CP and 4 cards from their deck with the ultimate goal of reducing the other player down to 0 Health to win the match.  Each round the players gain 1 CP during the income phase and draw one card, with the CP being spent to play the various cards they have in their hand.  Each character plays a little different in that the Shadow Thief seemed to be all about hitting the 15 CP cap as soon as possible and then striking from the shadows with critical attacks that scale based on the current CP number. The Barbarian seemed to be about healing back lost health and avoiding taking damage by simply overhealing the incoming attack…  all the while smashing with big attacks that can easily become unblockable.  Barbarian absolutely was “my thing” but it also sounds like the super defensive Paladin might have been a good fit for me as well.  Each round of attacks you roll your 5 dice and then take the symbols and numbers and try and make something with them.  You are given two rounds of re-rolls as you attempt to hone in on the exact thing you need.  There are also cards that shift your abilities so that you can make certain dice wild, or with “samsies” swap any dice to match any other dice.  These however take the luck of the draw and the CP to play them when needed.

What I found most interesting is that essentially you are having to look at the symbols and the numbers to see what the best course of action is.  All of the characters have something interesting that happens when you roll a small straight (4 numbers in sequence), and something interesting that happens when you roll a large straight (5 numbers in sequence).  Then again there are other things that are super powerful that can play off of the other attacks.  For example 2 swords and 2 “pow” symbols on the Barbarian gives you an attack that deals less damage… but becomes undefendable which when upgraded serves as an amazing way to finish off your opponent.  The Shadow Thief allowed you to shift in and out of the shadows… allowing you to be essentially untargetable until you exit on the next round.  Attacking from the shadows allowed you to roll an extra dice as you exited to deal a little bonus damage.  Every hero has an ultimate attack that is essentially triggered by rolling five 6s, but in truth I found these pretty freaking hard to make work unless I had a wild card or two available in my hand.  There is a lot more nuance that I feel like I cannot adequately cover after literally having only played two games.  Suffice to say there is a lot of meat on these bones, and I am sure more than enough to start to develop even a bit of a meta game among players.  I was not well suited for the Shadow Thief because the whole poke from the shadows thing is not really my deal.  That said I know players that would absolutely excel at that game play style since essentially the Barbarian and the Shadow Thief are playing two completely different games.  From what I understand each of the characters plays this way essentially with the Moon Elf focusing on dealing damage while defending for example.

The long and short of this is that as soon as I got back home on Sunday night I went out to the Kickstarter and backed the game.  I was completely and thoroughly sold.  As of this morning even though the page has not updated they have already hit the Paladin stretch goal so it will be included in the Champion version of the game.  Next up is an upgrade to Linen Cards at $35k, Vacuum formed tray at $40k, Thicker Box at $45k and finally the inclusion of the Monk Hero at $65k.  With 24 days to go they are already sitting at 200% of the original goal, and I have to think that Pax South is going to give them a lot of good exposure going forward.  There was a pair of guys who had literally spent about twelve hours over the weekend playing the game… and wound up serving as surrogate coaches when we had so many people wanting to play the game in the Tabletop area.  The rules are pretty simple and easy to pick up, and the game play while actually taking awhile to resolve itself… feels like it moves forward instead of stalling out.  I have to say for something in prototype form… the game felt really damned polished.  The cards and artwork all felt great… with the only complaint being sticker dice.  However the first stretch goal was to upgrade to engraved dice so that will in theory no longer be a thing.  I went with the $39 Champion edition which seems to be the point that the majority of backers are entering at, which in theory should give you access to all six characters and slightly nicer multi-tone dice.  The base game will include four characters: Shadow Thief, Barbarian, Moon Elf and Pyromancer which sits at $29… so I felt that extra $10 was more than warranted even for the shot at two more characters.  Dice Throne was definitely my tabletop game of the show… but in truth I think probably it was my game of the show as a whole.  I highly suggest if you have the opportunity to check this out at any conventions between now and the projected November release date that you grab hold of it with both hands.

Kickstarter Link

 

Communing with Fae

Freemium Magic

MagicDuels 2015-08-09 09-57-36-70

While I still have aspirations to cease the swiss army posts…  I guess in reality I live a fairly swiss army life.  This weekend was really no different, and the one hundred plus degree temperatures just caused us to spend more time than normal indoors.  When this happens I start to get a little wanderlust at least from the standpoint of what games I am playing.  As a result this weekend I played a mixture of Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars the Old Republic, Minecraft, and some Magic Duels.  You can blame the podcast we recorded Saturday for the later, because both Thalen and Kodra talked about playing it.  I have several assorted versions of the Duel of the Planeswalker magic game cluttering my steam account.  I end up picking them up when they go on sale and then only ever playing them a few times.  Ultimately part of the excitement of magic for me is playing with physical cards and opening physical packs.  We have joked about it before but “that new pack smell” is really a thing, and it can be intoxicating.  That little tingle of excitement as you rush through the “commons” to find out what rare you got in that pack is a thing I have repeated thousands of times over the years.  So is the sinking feeling when I see that rare is a blue or a white… the two colors that I most have a negative reaction towards.  The real life magic really really wants me to play White, because I have an insane number of rare angels…  but all I ever really want is the dark and sinister Black cards.

Right now I am still about halfway through the unlocking story of the White deck of Gideon Jura.  The game does a really cool job of telling you the story of how each of the planeswalkers found their spark, which according to Kodra is the central focus of the Origins story line.  The only negative that I have so far is that you have to wade through a lot of tutorials before the game just lets you play.  Normally I would say these could be skipped but the game rewards you in gold for watching them, and that is gold that you will need later for purchasing packs.  Where this gets really frustrating is when a new card mechanic is introduced and it stops whatever duel you are in the middle of to show you a tutorial on how that mechanic works.  I can absolutely see however how this would be beneficial to brand new players, and even for me there are card mechanics that are being called by names that I don’t recognize in spite of fully understanding the game play behind them.  The other big frustration with the Duels client is the fact that it crashed on me, numerous times…  so I am guessing they are still having some issues.  From what I can tell you stay connected to their servers even though you are essentially playing a single player match, and if that server connection wavers your game cannot seem to recover gracefully.  I figure this is going to be something I piddle with from time to time when I am not in the mood for other games.

Communing with Fae

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-09 18-54-19-35

As I wrote yesterday Arcanist has always been the class that I struggled the most in playing.  For whatever reason I have caught the desire to play it, and I spent most of yesterday working my way through content doing a mix of low level roulette, Haukke Manor, and guildhests.  As a result early yesterday evening I managed to push across the line and ding 30 while in one of those Haukke Manor runs.  After that it was chasing down two different job quests and learning how to be both a Scholar and a Summoner.  The thing that I did not initially realize was the fact that the two Carby summons ultimately become the Faerie summons.  I guess this makes sense, as without them somehow overwriting those low level abilities there would be no way for the job to scale down and effectively heal low level content.  The other thing that I was not really expecting was how “un-healer-like” low level instances ultimately felt.  My first dungeon as a Scholar ended up being Halitali… where I have exactly one useful heal button.  So instead I just made sure I was standing next to the tank and dotted everything up.  I am not sure when the class feels more “healer-ly” but until then I am just pretending I am still playing an Arcanist.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-09 19-03-52-18

The other shocker for me was just how relatively easy the Summoner job quest ended up being.  As you can tell by the Summon III icon, I had to fight Ifrit and after fighting him in several different versions… I have to say it was way easier than I expected it to be.  I cast dots on all of the things, and then eventually he fell over…  which I am guessing is how summoners are supposed to play?  This play style is just so weird to me because it feels oddly passive.  Maybe a better way of putting it is it feels like I am playing a completely different game than the rest of the people in my group.  Much of the time leveling to 30 was spent tabbing through targets, applying dots, and then tabbing back to the first one to reapply dots after I had finished one circuit of the mobs.  This just doesn’t feel natural to me I guess because it feels like the sort of triage that I do as a healer…  but to damage all the mobs rather than heal all the players.  I guess the truth is that I have never really successfully played a damage over time class, and it almost makes me want to fire up and play my Warlock again to see if this new outlook makes that class more enjoyable.  In any case I now have a Scholar so I can begin leveling that through the instant duty finder queue.  I should try and catch up to Tzi and Rylacus and run up with them.

Wildstar Woes

Crack Dealer

So my reputation as a gaming crack dealer is intact, as I spent part of yesterday teaching another gamer to play Magic: The Gathering.  I guess it is fitting that we taught him at a Math Conference, considering it was invented by a mathematician.  In my defense this time, the attendee asked for someone to tutor him in the ways of planeswalking, and considering I was not actually attending sessions but instead just waiting around to be needed, I volunteered.  We met yesterday morning at 9:30 in the third floor commons area and I brought my patented “box o’ decks”.  @Jay2thaVee was a complete rookie to the concepts of magic and had not purchased any decks.  Thankfully I had left a few of the various $14 starters I have picked up in their original states, as those are pretty much the easiest way to learn.

Unfortunately I take “devotion to black” seriously, and every single deck in my box save for one had black somehow mixed into it.  He played a white/black nyx prebuilt, and I was playing a black/blue theros prebuilt.  Basically for the first game I played with my hand on the table, so he could see what exactly I was doing and when I was doing it.  Additionally every so often when he seemed to lack a play I would nudge him a little bit to explain how the cards in his hand might be useful.  By the time we got around to the second match he was up and running and ready to kick ass… and in fact he did just that.  The second match was excellent in that it showed just how quickly fate can change with the play of the right cards.  We both had cards in play that helped us soak back up some health in each upkeep so for a long time we were in a bit of a stalemate as I could only do as little more damage than he could heal up each round.

Thanks to an artifact that gave all of my creatures lifelink I was able to soak up quite a bit of health during this long drawn out stalemate.  At this point I was starting to get a creature advantage on him as well as a health advantage.  Then with a single play he rocked my world.  Granted I had to explain how good the card he held in his hand was, and why he should play it… but when he plunked down Banishing Light.  Now I must have been extremely tired or something, but I completely misread the card yesterday when we were playing.  It says banish “target” and for some reason I read that as “all” non-land permanents.  So I played it as though it was a complete board wipe, which made the game more interesting.  He began to make progress on chipping down my extremely high health pool which was like 32 or something similar at that point.

Then I get the big guns onto the board with my Abhorrent Overlord.  So I once again start whittling down his health at the same time as he chips away mine.  I do 6 health, he regens 2, and so on until we get to a point where he has 11 health and a serious creature advantage on me, and I have my single big guy as he eats everything else I can get on the board and 9 health.  He manages to do 10 damage to me in one turn and it is pretty much over.  However of all the ways to learn magic this is one of the better matches I have played.  It shows just how tentative a lead can be at any point in the game.  When we misplayed the banish card, it looked like the game was over… but had i not had several rounds of getting crap to play I could have maybe pushed back to get the victory.  In any case I think he is hooked and going to buy a couple of decks for he and his son to play together.  Sounds like awesome times.

Wildstar Woes

WildStar64 2014-07-26 08-21-14-508 Last night I got a rather frank question from a friend of mine regarding Wildstar.  Some time ago another friend had handed him one of the free trial codes that we got for preordering.  He just now got around to trying it a month and a half after launch.  While he enjoyed the game, it wasn’t like the most enjoyable thing he had ever played.  His question was how many of the Stalwart crew were still playing, and if he should pick it up.  He followed us into Elder Scrolls Online, and while he loves that game, he finds it extremely solemn to be playing by himself all the time.  The big thing is that he didn’t want to jump into Wildstar and it to be the same experience for him.  His question was, should he buy the game.  Now I could have put the hard sell on him and lead him down a path that would have ultimately lead to disappointment…  but I was honest with him.

For the most part in the circle of friends that he is part of… Wildstar has come and gone.  There are a few of us who log in periodically but this game had probably the briefest of “glory days” of any title we have played to date.  I only made it to 26 before slowing down and to the best of my knowledge none of us actually made it to the level cap.  I enjoyed aspects of the game, namely the dungeons…  but for whatever reason as much as I should love this game… the drive to play it was just missing.  I am still piddling around, this time on the Exiles side on Evindra but running into the same lack of drive to log in.  Everything about this game should be something that I really enjoy, and you could not ask for a better community team or company supporting it.  But when I ask myself what I want to play in a given night, this game never seems to come up on its own.  To be honest most of the time I was leveling my Chua Engineer it was the boom boxes that kept me logging in every night more than anything else.

So while I think there is a great game here, I had to be honest with him that he probably should give it a pass if he is only interested in playing with the Stalwart/Masks crew.  I think one of the things that really hurt this title was the fact that we simply rolled on the wrong faction for the wrong server.  Dominion side on Evindra is dead… like when I got to Whitevale I sat around for two hours waiting for someone else to wander by so I could take out one of the world mini-bosses and not so much as another adventurer came by at any point during that time.  To be truthful it feels like wandering around Illium you might see a dozen other players at any given point, whereas on the Exiles side you are constantly bumping into people.  The problem is with only 6 slots per server, it really negates the concept of playing both factions.  Within a few days all of the people who were primarily Exile, had deleted their Dominion alts to free up space for more Exiles.

So once again we are stuck at the problem of having all of my time devoted into what has essentially become a non-starter character.  So when confronted with the idea of re-rolling…  I just can’t be bothered to put much effort towards it.  Ultimately if my immediate circle of friends is not playing…  then what exactly am I rushing around to get leveled to be able to do?  I am sure I could roll with any number of the guilds on the exiles side, but I just am not sure if I have the social oomph left in me to start from scratch without being able to rely on the folks I hang out nightly with on voice chat.  I feel like Wildstar might have run its course through the internet as well.  I am seeing a lot of folks who claimed diehard loyalty to the game “taking a break”, which we all know is the beginning salvo in the “quitting the game” conversation.  I am not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I am just struggling to find reason to log in.

Dragooning It Up

ffxiv 2014-07-26 08-06-32-335 Lately I have been back playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV.  I feel like I parted with that game on really good terms and it has always been extremely charming.  When not working on hunts I have been working on leveling the dragoon.  If we can convince a repeat of the other night to happen, when we all logged in to run a dungeon, that place me playing a DPS character.  Ashgar unfortunately only has two tanks to 50, and I have a Warrior and a Bard.  That said I have never really felt deeply connected with the bard.  It does amazing damage and is super useful, and mostly was easy to level through Fates.  The class I would far rather play dps wise is the Dragoon, so lately I have been taking advantage of the Duty Roulette option and running some random dungeons.  I have to say the groups I am getting randomly are actually extremely friendly and communicative.  I feel like maybe this game has crossed the threshold of shedding all of the folks who were caustic and toxic… and now really has devoted fans left.

I guess the real challenge will be what this game feels like trying to tank it with random groups.  At some point I will work up the nerve and tank a random as my Gladiator seeing as I would really love to get to Paladin conversion levels.  There is still a lot to like in this game, and it is the only Asian inspired title that has managed to create a male character I actually enjoy playing.  There are proper beards here, and you have options other than “pretty boy” as far as facial features go.  We will see how long it take for me to get this game out of my system this time, but so far I am really enjoying myself.  I feel like at some point I need to dig up a list of what all new content is available, as there have been three rather large patches since I last played the game regularly.  FFXIV is pretty horrible about advertising what is new from the game interface itself, so I think there are probably some other ways to level that I am just missing.

#MagicTheGathering #FFXIV #Wildstar

Moon Raider

Edition Madness

2014-07-22 06_07_13-Save 81% on Two Worlds II_ Velvet Edition on Steam I feel like the colorful descriptors that companies tack onto iterative versions of games has hit an all time low.  Since the 80s we have been forced to play a progressively extreme number of versions of a game.  During the 90s the Street Fighter franchise for example proved to us all of the ways it could not actually count to 3.  We’ve suffered through Super, Hyper, Ultra, Zero, Alpha, Game of the Year, Ultimate, Legendary and innumerable other hardcore and extreme versions of the games we love.  This morning as I idly checked Steam I spotted something that made my eye stop dead over it.  We really have a game that is a “Velvet Edition”?  What is next suede or cordura?

I keep thinking maybe this is a translation error somehow, but “Samten” doesn’t really sound much better.  Maybe it is me, and I just have a negative connotation towards the word velvet, and maybe it is completely normal for someone to use that word in place of say “deluxe”.  This is just a first for me, and I think maybe this whole descriptor thing has gone a bit far if we have arrived at fabrics now.  I mean even though “game of the year” bundles are completely inappropriately named, considering very few of them have actually won a “game of the year” award…  at least for awhile they were something standardized.  I personally would rather they go with something like “complete edition” considering that is what we are talking about… the version that includes all the damned DLC in one place.  Though I guess game companies would probably frown on admitting they have been rationing game content to us for years.

Moon Raider

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-02-13-441 We had a few errands to run last night, and by the time I got home I was not sure what exactly to play for the evening.  Since this weekends podcast, Kodra has been urging me to finish up Wolfenstein so he could have someone to talk about it with.  So I opted to work on that, and while I did not quite make it through the game I figure I am pretty close to the ending.  I suffered a series of technical difficulties where I would crash out and have to load back in restarting me at the previous save point.  When this happened the last time I figured I would call it a night, as it seemed like I was probably going to have to repeat a significant chunk of the previous level.  It seems to be related to when I go into a cutscene and then come back out of it.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-50-29-397 It is really hard to find screenshots that I can show off that don’t really give away anything major about the game.  Well other than the fact that you get to experience Nazi’s on the moon…  but that doesn’t really give much away plot wise.  I feel like that is the aspect of the game I enjoy the most is seeing how this alternate reality evolved without the influence of the United States.  So much of everything we experience today is because of the global export of American goods and American values.  As a culture we have had a death grip on the entertainment industry and the internet as well… and as a result everything that comes from other countries often feels like an odd remix of something we would see in the United States.  So to see this reality that evolved entirely in a different direction is interesting to me.  I applaud the level designers because all of the little details feel like they come from a completely different place.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-05-26-813 This game is definitely going to warrant a second play through, because there is a single decision that you make early on that causes the game to go in different enough directions that from that point on the chapters of the game branch depending on your choice made.  It seems that Kodra and I picked completely different routes, and I think it will be interesting to talk about the differences between them.  I don’t feel like this is probably a discussion we can really have on AggroChat because it would be impossible to do this in a way that is not spoilerific.  I really hope all of you took advantage of the QuakeCon pricing and picked up this awesome game when it was essentially half price.  I have a feeling that this game is going to experience quite a bit of third party modding, and I hope that sooner or later they bring out a multiplayer addon.  One of the more enjoyable game play and narrative experiences I have had in awhile.

Sparse Next Few Days

The next few days are going to be interesting for me.  Today is technically my last day at work this week, but just because I am off does not mean I won’t actually be working harder.  My wife is part of a crew putting on a mathematics conference here in town, and I have opted to take off from work to help her with it.  I know Wednesday for example I will be operating an impromptu shuttle service, and then the other days I will likely be filling in a tech support role and general “gopher”.  With all of these constraints it will be interesting to see what I end up blogging about, as I doubt I will be playing that many games.

Magic-2015-M15-Core-Set-Fat-Pack That said it sounds like at least one of the conference attendees is a Magic the Gathering fan, so I will be bringing up a box of decks just in case that happens.  Speaking of Magic…  I really have no clue what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they came up with the 2015 product designs.  Once upon a time the off brand products that you can get in your grocery store that are branded as Always Save or Best Choice or even Sam’s Choice were simply called “Generic”.  They featured white labels with start sans-serif writing on them, similar to government commodities.  So I cannot look at this magic the gathering set without thinking “oh its generic magic”.  I feel like we arrived at this point out of some sort of hipster minimalist design ethic…  but yeah it is just not working for me.  I guess they have used every other color of the rainbow lately for the primary theme of a set…  so sooner or later they were going to get around to white.

It will be interesting to see how the next few days shake out.  Likely you will be getting some more personal posts.  Right now the plan is to take my laptop and work on editing my NaNoWriMo novel between times I am needed.  The only problem with this is that the guest wifi at the school is horrible.  My phone will allow me to tether to it, but not sure how much I can do that without AT&T getting pissy with me.  We are grandfathered in on one of the unlimited plans, and I don’t really want to do much to jeopardize that.  The positive is that the Galaxy S5 shipped with unlocked tethering software, and it is not like I had to do anything to get it up and running.  I just expect that all of the websites I would want to look at would be blocked without it.

#Wolfenstein #MagicTheGathering

Let There Be Rangers

Dabbling with Danger

ReaperCounter At work there are a bunch of us who have at one point or another played Magic: The Gathering.  I don’t play the game regularly, because I simply do not have the time to commit to going to a shop regularly to play.  However I still love playing the game, and it is wrapped up in so much nostalgia for me.  My first starter deck was from unlimited, and I dabbled a bit here and there through Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and started getting serious about the time revised came out.  I played super actively until the launch of Ice Age and then for one reason or another got out of it.  At that point I was really into the World of Darkness games, and was doing far more pen and paper than magic…  also I started college and seemed to have far less disposable money.

I flirted with the game again my Senior year, because there was this great culture at the local game shop.  I came in at the tail end of Mirage, played through Visions and was super involved with Weatherlight…  probably my favorite expansion to date.  When I left college I also left the community I liked hanging out with an playing magic regularly, so I stopped playing again.  Since then I have picked up the occasional pack of cards to see what was new, but never really got involved with the game again. That was until I found out that we had a bunch of former magic players at work, and I thought it would be awesome to foster a sort of lunchtime M:TG group.  Yesterday I got to break this awesome reaper miniature again, as I tutored my friend Rae through her first game of Magic.  This could end in madness, but my hopes is that we can just develop a casual magic culture to hang out and enjoy.

The Ancient Library

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 18-45-43-676 Last night while waiting on the pizza to arrive and Elder Scrolls Online to patch, I decided to attempt to play some more Final Fantasy 5.  I had a near mishap where I thought for a moment I had lost my saved game and had to revert back to a period of time when I was still in white mage hell.  However that was not the case, and I managed to restore back and get to where I should have been.  I kinda went crazy at one point and ground my way to 19… which means that in order to be safe for the Ancient Library I needed to be at least 21.  So most of the time waiting on the Pizza was spent grinding aimlessly trying to get the last two levels so I could start my quest proper.  You might ask why I need to be 21?

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 19-05-58-456 If you enter the Library of Ancients, there are various creatures that can cast the dreaded Level 5 Death spell.  This will target any character with a level that is a multiple of 5, aka ending in 5 or 0 and pretty much instant kill them.  This means in order to be safe you have to enter the library at something OTHER than that.  Now if you have a Blue Mage, you want to de-synchronize your party so that you have exactly one party member at a “5” level so you can learn it.  Both fortunately and unfortunately I do not have one so I just needed to be safe as I finished the library.  The above monster is Byblos the guardian of the library, and I found him pretty easy considering I had ground to a much higher level than you normally need for the encounter.  Most people natively get here around 15, so at 21 I was significantly higher.

Goodbye Ship, Hello Chocobo

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 20-25-15-748 Final Fantasy 5 is a story about destroying modes of transportation and then curiously finding a new one to replace them.  After the library you find new information that allows the fire-powered-ship to start moving again without the power of the fire crystal.  Unfortunately as you move to your next destination you encounter an earthquake and the fire-powered-ship gets sucked into a giant whirlpool.  Conveniently you just happen to be on an island that just happens to have a Black Chocobo Forest.  I know from lore that these are Black Chocobo, but I will be damned if this one is not pink…  so you pilot your Pink Chocobo around the world visiting all the destinations that you missed and picking up any gear or spells that you might need.

Let There Be Rangers

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 20-41-32-722 The big takeaway from the encounter with the Pink Chocobo, is that it had the last two fire crystal jobs stuck in its gullet.  One of which was the Ranger job that I had been waiting patiently for.  This means from this point out I must have a White Mage, Mystic Knight and Ranger in the party at all times.  I opted to shift Faris and Galuf to rangers in order to teach them the Rapid Fire ability as soon as I could.  Basically you enter a period where you can reach most of the world so it is a great time to finish up anything you left unfinished.  I headed up to Istory and went ahead and defeated Ramuh for example.  Since I do not have a summoner in my party, this was a completely optional step… but Ramuh is generally my favorite of the espers so I figured I would go ahead and fight him.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-04-59-953 Once finished messing around the room I proceeded with opening the way to the Tower of Ruin.  The desert area is one of my least favorite, mostly because the sandworm fight is a pain in the butt.  Considering my party composition, it was not really technically difficult, just annoying in that the Sandworm jumps between one of three holes on the screen.  You don’t target the worm itself, but instead the hole it came out of, this means that more often than not you can target a hole and it might have moved before the attack lands.  With the white mage, I was able to heal through anything the worm could throw at me, and it was simply a matter of wearing it down.  Mostly this just meant that my rangers could not benefit from their !Aim ability, as it took way too long for it to actually resolve the damage.

Airship Go!

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-25-01-826 Once you complete the Tower of Ruin you get rewarded with access to the airship, and find out that your fire-powered-ship didn’t get destroyed, but instead fell into a chamber underneath crescent isle.  Now you have this really awesome base that you can launch either the fire-powered-ship or airship out of.  You end up faffing about running several mini missions all in the effort of trying to teach your airship how to flight higher to reach the earth shrine that has been elevated up into the air by the power of yet another crystal draining… and ultimately crystal destroying machine.  We are nearing the sequence of events that I hate each time I play this game.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-56-13-507 The Earth Shrine is guarded by four missile launchers and the extremely frustrating boss Soul Cannon.  This is the point at which I stopped playing for the night.  I made an attempt at the missile launcher fights, and while I managed to get through one of them… I didn’t back out and save like I should have.  The big problem with the fights are the “rocket punch” attacks that cause your characters to go confused, and the Rocket Launcher that is an insanely nasty percentage based attack.  Thing is if I can get enough time to Spellblade, the Rocket Launchers drop fast but I seem to spend my entire time trying to heal up and un-confuse my party.  If I am struggling with the Rocket Launchers I have having trouble fathoming just how bad the Soul Cannon encounter will be.  I am thinking this might be time to grind again and get a level advantage.

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-53-29-154 Being 22 has allowed me to just steamroll the encounters leading up to this one, but that level gap has closed on me.  So I am thinking I will spend some time over the weekend watching TV and grinding away to build back up a buffer.  Additionally I would really like it if most of my characters had Rapidfire as an option for the Soul Cannon encounter.  I think I got through it during last years Four Job Fiesta by double casting lightning attacks, so if I can get two Mystic Knights with Rapidfire I might be able to do the same kind of trickery.  Spellblade is a super powerful ability, but it sucks in that it takes one turn to cast in which you essentially do nothing.  The Soul Cannon sequence is one of the big hurdles that most players get hung up on, so I don’t feel too bad that I am having to rethink my strategy before moving forward.  I am sure with the Black Mage/Red Mage combo Kodra was able to just absolutely destroy it.  What I really need is a bunch of Ribbons, but I think at this point in the game I only have access to the one I have.

#FF5 #FinalFantasy #MagicTheGathering #MTG