Sunday, February 22, 2015

Graveyard-Based MTG Decks

Magic has always had ways to use a graveyard to your advantage.  These are the decks that my brother and I have made over the years specifically for that purpose.  Some of these decks may have been mentioned in previous posts.

60 Card Format
Black, Blue

Animate Dead
Dance of the Dead
Crystal Chimes

Nevynraals Disk

Rhystic Study
Dark Ritual
Hidden Horrow
Feldon's Cane

Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Dralnu's Pet
Avatar of Woe

Assorted big creatures

Reanimation is a solid deck concept, but the nuts and bolts are all old cards.  Animate Dead (3rd/4th Edition), Dance of the Dead (Ice Age), and Necromancy (Visions) made the deck work.  Draw and discard spells changed over the years, as well as the choice of big creatures, but the base concept kept one of our longest-running decks going for over a decade.

60 Card Format
Green, White

4 Anvil of Bogarden
4 Mesmeric Orb

2 Harrow
2 Eternal Dragon
4 Werebear

4 Mystic Enforcer
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Gurzigost

4 Bonehoard
4 Unburial Rites
4 Pulsemage Advocate


4 Riftstone Portal
2 Nantuko Monastery

WIN METHOD: Damage- Creatures, Mill
INHERENT WEAKNESSES: The deck may become a target by virtue of annoyance before taking off.


Originally this deck was built around one idea: what if I cast Traumatize on myself? Threshold, flashback, madness, hellbent, and other seldom-used mechanics become useful. While blue originally contributed the bulk of the deck, spells were replaced with better spells until the deck was cut to straight green and white.  This deck went through many iterations and card search terms, and is one of my favorite deck collaborations.

Nether Shadow
60 Card Format

Nether Shadow
Ashen Ghoul
Nether Traitor

Buried Alive
Iname, Death Aspect

Braids, Cabal Minion
Magus of the Abyss
Killing Wave
Barter in Blood

Blood Artist
Angel's Tomb
Demonic Tomb
Blood Funnel


Crypt of Agadeem

WIN METHOD: Damage- Creatures
INHERENT WEAKNESSES: Non-creature decks


This is another tried-and-true format, where you generally win by attrition.  We didn't come up with it, we just wanted to try it out.  A rather comprehensive go-to for this deck type can be found at:  .

Other Stuff

As I mentioned, using some combination of synergistic mechanics like madness, delve, hellbent, and threshold has been something I've looked into many times over the years.  While the new delve cards haven't impressed me, I was moved to look into yet another graveyard-centered deck, using a lot of cards I've liked for a while.  Graveyard Deck Number Four!

Red Black Delve Discard Threshold
60-Card Format
Red, Black

4 Avatar of Discord
2 Craggenwick Cremator

4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Vengeful Pharaoh

4 Tombstalker

4 Typhoid Rats

4 Anvil of Bogarden
4 Howling Mine

4 Dark Ritual
4 Rite of Flame
4 Cabal Ritual


Multicolor lands
2 Lotus Vale
2 Gemstone Mine

I haven't played it yet, so it may need to be tweaked to get the right balance of discard and speed.  While Tombstalker is the only delve in the deck, and Cabal Ritual is the only threshold card, Rite of Flame, Vengeful Pharaoh, and Demigod of Revenge are all beneficial in the graveyard.  It looks ok to me, we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Morrowind Review

I'll keep this short.  I first played Morrowind years after its release, and didn't particularly care for it.

Reason 1: It has all the game-ending glitches of titles that came after.  I played this for about 8 hours, then hit a bug that reduced my strength to zero.  I couldn't deal damage, or carry anything.  I took some potions to counter this, and then tried to sleep it off.

Reason 2:  Less saves.  While Morrowind does have some auto saving, it is less than in games that followed.  In my case, I was stuck with zero strength because sleep resets the autosave.

Reason 3:  Morrowind does not have map/compass waypoints.  It does provide text clues for where to go, but as I don't read so well, this was really a huge downside.

so, there you have it.  Nostalgic fans love Morrowind; I think it's not worth it.  At this point, with all of the Skyrim DLC, Fallout 3, and so on, I would personally recommend something more current off the Bethesda menu.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Games I Liked 2014

Games I liked 2014

This year, I have fewer games to recommend in my annual installment of games I liked that I first played this year (they could have come out at any time).

Gone Home
Gone Home is a non-combat exploration game. You are a college student that comes home late one stormy night to an empty house. Obviously, you have to tear the house apart and snoop through your family's personal items to figure out where everyone is. Gone Home, while short, is a well crafted exploration game that really leaves the player feeling good at the end.

Shadow Warrior
This remake of the late '90's Shadow Warrior is the second game developed by Flying Wild Hog, and I loved it. It's a perfect meeting of new and old, pairing hordes of enemies and groan-worthy jokes with powerful abilities, an out-of-the-box plot, and some of the best controls for a PC game that I have ever played. Also, great job on an in-house engine. Until I looked it up, I assumed this was running on Unreal tech.

Sanctum 2
I liked Sanctum, even if all of my friends didn't really care for it. I like Sanctum 2 even more, even if some of my friends still don't get it. Sanctum 2 has a better learning curve, different character classes, and more tower types. Ideally played with friends.

Noteable Mentions

Payday: The Heist
Payday is a 4-player coop game where you play the part of masked criminals that must work together to take hostages, break into vaults, and kill police. While I'm not thrilled about killing policemen, the gameplay itself is a nice alternatvie to standards like Left 4 Dead. The biggest downside of Payday is that only the first two levels can be played on easy, after that you better know what you're doing.

How about a game set in the West for a change? I wrote a review for this one recently, so I'm not going to go into details in this article. Not a groundbreaking game but something a little different.

Far Cry 3

It's a big open-world game with lots of sidequests that'll give you many hours of gametime. Some action segments are pretty great, but I'm leaving this on as an Noteable Mention because the endings really soured the whole thing for me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wolfenstein (2009) Review

Game: Wolfenstein
Year (s): 2009
Company: dev. Raven Software, Endrant (multiplayer portion only)
pub. Activision
Engine: modified id Tech 4 with Havok physics
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 74
My Score: 70! Do I hear 65? 65! Do I hear...

Price (as of November 8, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: Not available
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $21

My Game Time: 18 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

B.J. Blazkowicz returns in a follow-up to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This time the nazis are using energy from the black sun dimension to create monsters and super weapons. Stop 'em, B.J.!

I got this on a $5 Steam sale, but it's no longer available. Speculation on the Steam forums is that Wolfenstein publishing rights may have been bought back from Activision by Bethesda for Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? Yes

Combat and Gameplay
Basic shoot-and-crouch gameplay, because health regenerates if you take cover. It's not a mechanic I love, but it's bolstered with a variety of guns (you're not limited to just two or three at a time) and a few abilities. Abilities include a bullet shield, damage amplification, crappy slow motion, and good slow motion. Energy for ailities runs out fast, and can only be recharged at certain spots. So while you have the illusion of being a badass, you're mostly going to be crouching a lot and taking headshots of enemies with really easy A.I.

The exception for this is boss fights, which are generally a pain in the ass compared to the rest of the game. Also annoying are flying enemies that fire a volley of rockets at a time (= you're dead!).

Completing main and side missions earns gold. You can also find gold and intel hidden all over the place. Gold buys upgrades for weapons and abilities.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
2014 saw the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Set in an alternate history, it is not a direct sequel to the 2009 game. Developers of the most recent installment liked Wolfenstein 3D but thought the 2009 game, “was crap.”

Final Thoughts
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was good at the time, and as a sequel, this one feels rather uninspired. The stealth element of Return is gone. Silenced weapons will alert every enemy in the neighborhood. Collecting intel is fine, but looking behind a garbage can to find a bag of gold is pretty comical in 2009. I liked the variety of weapons and the upgrade system, but felt hampered by crappy abilities, easy A.I., and a frequent need to find cover.

If you want a fun new Wolfenstein game, I've heard good things about The New Order. If you want a shooter with cool abilities, I'd opt for Crysis or F.E.A.R. Or even Raven's 2010 game, Singularity. All good games. Pass on Wolfenstein 2009.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

GUN review (video game)

Game: GUN
Year (s): 2005
Company: dev. Neversoft
pub. Activision
Engine: unknown
Type: Shooter with minor RPG elements
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 76
My Score: 88

Price (as of November 1, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $31

My Game Time: 10 hours, 90% completion

Obligatory Trailer:


You go on a steamboatt with your father. Indians attack and your father dies. You set out to find out why the boat was attacked, and wind up on seeking to stop an evil man's bloodthirsty path to the lost city of gold.

I couldn't find out what engine this game uses. It's not on Wikipedia, and the generic title of the game makes it impossible to find anything online. As far as 2005 games go, graphics are pretty similar to Unreal Engine 2. I didn't run into any noticeable bugs.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes, usually
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? No
Checkpoint Save? Totally

Combat and Gameplay
Ride horses! Shoot horse thieves! Throw dynamite! If you're hurt, drink some whiskey! I'm surprised there aren't more shooters set in the Wild West (the only others I can think of are Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez). Aside from the main mission, the player can collect bounties, hunt trophy game, play poker, and do some odd jobs for the locals. Doing these things give you money, which you can you use to upgrade weapons, horses, equipment, et cetera.

With the exception of a few tricky boss fights, combat stays on the easy side. This is largely due to the, “quick draw,” slow-motion mechanic. Slow motion is always fun, but in the game they include auto-aim with it.

Final Thoughts
I don't know where I heard about this game, but I'm glad I did. While it's not a long game, the action is almost nonstop. The West is a welcome change of scenery from the usual zombies, aliens, demons, nazis, and so on. It even won some awards from gaming magazines. I'm not saying this is the best game ever, but if you can pick it up on sale on Steam it's a fun romp that has aged pretty well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thief Gold and I Am Alive Reviews

Game: I Am Alive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Darkworks, Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: modified Unreal Engine 2.5 w/ Havok Physics
Type: Survival Climber

The Game
I bought this game with a gift card, largely because it has a great title. It was also post-apocalyptic (earthquakes and sandstorms, in this case) and looked like it might be a shooter of shorts. The playable character has been walking for months to be reunited with his family after taking a business trip across the country.

I didn't get too far into it. Gameplay is mostly climbing on stuff. Combat was basic and always came with prompts to make sure you did it right. Bullets were quite rare, and if you climbed too much at once you'd lose your grip and die. So, it's definetely survival, and somewhat of a crappy shooter.

The plot interested me well enough, but I couldn't find the objective on one of the early levels (climbing up a mall). Maybe they could have made it glow. Maybe I missed a prompt on part of the screen I wasn't looking at. I'll never really know. After spending about 2 hours climbing (and sometimes dying from climbing) around the same area, I gave up. This is not a worthwhile game.

Game: Thief Gold
Year (s): 1999
Company: dev. Looking Glass Studios
pub. Eidos
Engine: Dark Engine
Type: Game: Stealth

The Game
This was one of the many games I bought on the cheap, largely to see why it was so popular at the time. It was one of the first games that utilized stealth. You're a thief, and you're going to steal things. Or you can just kill people. You have the option, at least in the little bit I played.

While the gameplay may have been revolutionary at the time, the controls do not translate well to today's gamers. If you remember Duke Nukem or Hexen, there were buttons all over the keyboard to access inventory, use specific items, et cetera. Controls for Thief Gold are a mangled combination of WADS, mouse, and the aforementioned controls of games of latter years.

There were too many buttons to manage easily, and too many to rebind rationally. This is one of those games that I would have liked when it came out, but now I'd be happier to just play Dishonored.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Contagion Review

Game: Contagion
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Monochrome LLC
pub. Monochrome LLC
Engine: Source
Type: Survival Shooter, Multiplayer, Co-op
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 62
My Score: 62

Price (as of October 4, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: $11 (Steam key)

Obligatory Trailer:

Zombies! Contagion is a spiritual sequel to Zombie Panic! Source, a game I have never played.


It's the good-ol' reliable Source engine. You know what to expect.

Save System: None

One of Contagions big selling points is that it plays a little differently each time. Locations of weapons, ammo, and necessary items, are not fixed. The path to get from A to B changes. One time a hallway might be blocked so you have to use the stairs. Another time the stairs might be blocked and you have to crawl through ventilation. Level areas are pretty big, so this leaves even a moderately familiar player wandering around not knowing quite where to go. Enemies respawn on a timed basis, but ammo remains scarce.

Combat and Gameplay
There are a few different game types, and I'm going to discuss them one at a time. In Escape, you complete objectives in an effort to be evacuated. The levels are enormous, and they aren't broken into parts as in Left 4 Dead.

Hunted is a survive-as-long-as-you-can game mode in an enclosed area. It is pretty mindless but might be fun with others.

Extraction is the only game type I really enjoyed. Find survivors and escort them to safety, rinse, repeat.

I had two big problems when it came to asking others to try Contagion. First, there are only a few maps for any game type. The randomization concept, which at first sounds like a good idea, is ultimately frustrating in the execution. In some game modes, if you die you come back as a zombie. If you are a zombie, you suck. Even if you manage to shamble up to somebody, you might land a few lame punches and then just get shot in the head. Mostly you just get shot in the head, and have no indication of which direction to go in (if you're a human, your cell phone won't show you a path but will at least point you in the right direction).

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Final Thoughts

I tried Contagion on a free weekend, and played it for several hours to determine if I wanted to pick it up while it was on sale. The answer: no. The maps are very limited, the zombie gameplay is awful, and the randomization premise didn't do it for me. While this looks like a Left 4 Dead knockoff, you're better off just playing that instead.