Sunday, April 6, 2014

Confusion in the Ranks Deck

Confusion in the Ranks: 5 mana red enchantment that reads, "Whenever an artifact, creature, or enchantment enters the battlefield, its controller chooses target permanent another player controls that shares a card type with it. Exchange control of those permanents."  

Six or eight years ago, I learned of this card and got four of them, and slapped together the rest of a 40 card deck from whatever I had.  40 card decks were legal at the time, or, if they weren't, we didn't know.  

I've remade this to be a legal 60-card deck.  This meant that I needed to either have tutors or lots of card drawing (in order to ensure Confusion in the Ranks gets out), and I chose to go with black for tutors (white has enchantment tutors, but offered nothing otherwise interesting). 

This hasn't been played yet, so it might get mixed up.  Measure of Wickedness seems perfect, but I feared it would lead to instant, vicious retaliation.  Cards with huge drawbacks, like Cosmic Horror, are tempting but have a high mana cost that did not justify replacing existing cards.  

So, here's the remake:

4 Confusion in the Ranks
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
2 Diabolic Tutor

4 Glitterfang
3 Viashino Sandscout
1 Norin the Wary
4 Sleeper Agent

4 Dark Ritual
4 Wild Cantor

3 Lurking Jackals
3 Nyxborn Rollicker

3 Steel Golem
3 Bronze Bombshell

1 Kher Keep
Multicolor Lands 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review

Game: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Year (s): 2001
Company: dev. Gray Matter Studios
pub. id Software
Engine: id Tech 3
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 88
My Score: A solid modernization of graphics and gameplay that would, in turn, become dated.

Price (as of March 30, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $30

Obligatory Trailer:


You're B.J. Blazkowicz, the same silent protagonist from the original game. You start by escaping Castle Wolfenstein. After that, you're sent on a bunch of missions to abort Nazi rockets launches, steal prototype technology and weapons, perform covert operations, and so on. Ultimately, you end up heading back to Castle Wolfenstein to stop the resurrection of an unstoppable evil knight from the dark ages.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? Yes
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? I think so, but am not sure.

Combat and Gameplay
This game has all the key features of the time: ladders, crawling in ducts, pre-rendered death animations (3D, no sprites), water, use of WADS-based controls, some destructible scenery, walk-over healing kits, cutscenes, and somewhat blocky-looking people,
The combat is generally straight-forward with little to mention. However, some levels must be completed without signaling any alarms, so there is a minor stealth element.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
Four Wolfenstein titles have followed Return. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (it sounds like Quake 3 but with Return to Castle Wolfenstein weapons) and Wolfenstein RPG (a short game for mobile devices) both came out under the radar.
Wolfenstein (2009) is a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein and was developed by Raven Software. It has a metascore of 74.
Woflenstein: The New Order is due out in May of this year. This one takes place in the 1960's, in an alternate timeline in which the Nazi won. This will be the first Wolfenstein game that does not incolve id Software, though it will utilize id Tech 5 for the engine.

Final Thoughts
If I'd gotten this in 2001, I'd have played the hell out of it. As it was, I played through a few levels, having fun until I came to a level with acrobatic enemies. The first small room had several bad guys. I only had thirty health, and I was out of ammo except for the sniper rifle. That being said, I turned on godmode and merrily progressed through the rest of the game.
Play it for nostalgia if you can, or just play it for kicks. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a pretty good game for its era, and still runs fine on modern hardware and software.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review

Game: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Valve Software, Hidden Path Entertainment
pub. Valve Software
Engine: Source
Type: Online Multiplayer Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 83
My Score: 83

Price (as of March 19, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $14.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $8

Obligatory Trailer:

The trailer might be a joke, but it's fairly accurate (and much shorter) than other trailers.

Combat and Gameplay
Originally a port of Counter-Strike for Xbox Live Arcade, Global Offensive added a couple new deathmatch modes for a broader gaming experience.

Gameplay is Red Vs. Blue format, with a strong emphasis on headshots. In my brief game time, I'd basically get shot in the head any time I went around a corner. In some cases, players were deliberately camping out and waiting for someone to walk into view.

Half of the game modes have objectives, these being to detonate/defuse an explosive, or to keep/rescue the hostages. In my brief experience these objectives were ignored and the game ended after one team slaughtered the other.

Players can buy different weapons and equipment at the beginning of rounds. This system wasn't explained; I think I was assumed to be familiar with it from playing other Counter-Strike games. For non-deathmatch modes, players do not respawn until the next round, leading to very short rounds.

I would like to note that, with 167 available achievements, this one can keep a completionist busy for a long, long time.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Global Offensive is the most recent in a series with a handful of titles overall. There are no official DLC, but Project Phoenix (and other stuff) can be purchased in-game.

Final Thoughts
The Counter-Strike franchise has been around for fifteen years and is both well-known and well-liked. I feel like I missed the boat here. If I had been playing games like this with my friends for years and years, I'd love it. Someone, most of my friends and I missed out on the Counter-Strike heyday, and I felt a little lost jumping right in on the newest one. Rampantly getting shot in the head was frustrating, as I tend to favor shotguns, explosives, and other non-sniping combat approaches that are, in this game, quite ineffective.

If you are a capable video game sniper looking for a challenge against real people, this one's for you. Personally, I prefer something like Team Fortress 2, with a variety of viable ways to play.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Prodigal Sorcerer (Tim) Deck

I hadn't planned to build a deck around Prodigal Sorcerer and his buddies (they used to be called, "Tim")
I was putting away cards from Born of the Gods (a set I was not particularly impressed by) when I came across Horseshoe Crab.
In high school, I had a crappy deck that turned Horseshoe Crab into a reusable fireball by using enchant creature spells like Fire Whip or Psionic Gift.
I did a search for similar creatures, but was kind of let down.  Soliton, a 3/4 artifact creature for 5, was the only creature with the exact same untap cost.
Blizzard Elemental and others cost significantly more mana to untap, making repetition less likely.

My search brought up other cards, notably Charisma, Sigil of Sleep, and Curiosity.
I've used two of those, and saw how well they all paired with Tims.
My failed attempt at a Horseshoe Crab deck also showed me Freed from the Real and Pemmin's Aura, both giving an ability of Pay one blue: untap enchanted creature.
I ended up with something I hadn't been planning, but it looks like it could be a fine annoying casual blue deck.
Another benefit?  A card from Homelands!  ...And I already have pretty much everything I plan to use.

The tap this creature: deal one damage mechanic has shifted to Red.  The last blue creature with this ability was in Time Spiral.

This is the end result.  I hope to try it out this weekend.

Prodigal Sorcerer (Tim) Deck
60-Card Format

The Tims

4 Prodigal Sorcerer
4 Thornwind Faeries
4 Suq'ata Firewalker
1 Reveka, Wizard Savant
1 Zuran Spellcaster

The Untap for One Blue Auras

4 Freed from the Real
4 Pemmin's Aura

The Annoyance

4 Charisma
4 Curiosity
4 Sigil of Sleep

The Keeps me Alive Guys

3 Shape Stealer
3 Fog Bank

22 Islands

Sunday, March 2, 2014

State of Decay Review

Game: State of Decay
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Undead Labs
pub. Microsoft Studios
Engine: Cry Engine 3
Type: Sandbox Zombie Survival
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 79
My Score: 70

Price (as of February 23, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): Not Available

My Game Time: 20 hours, first time, on normal

Obligatory Trailer:


This game essentially has no plot. Zombies happened, and you help the survivors stay stocked with ammo, food, and medical supplies.


Cry Engine 3 is one of the most realistic, and most demanding, graphics engines that exist. State of Decay underutilized its capabilites to wind up with a generic looking game that could have been anything released for Xbox 360, Playstaion 3, and PC in the last six years.

I hit a few bugs with this game. It crashed a few times, and goals would sometimes fail to appear or resolve.

Save System

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

Combat and Gameplay

Generally, you're doing fetch quests to help the fortified groups of survivors. While there are guns, it's largely a skull-bashing pursuit. As your character progresses, they gain bonuses in fighting, cardio, weapon classes, and, “influence.” Influence is money.

Zombies are much worse at night, and you are certain to die at some point. While you usually have a couple of chances to recover, at least one enemy can tear you in half. If you die, the game carries on with you playing as a different survivor.

State of Decay has a text-heavy help section that explains how to play. There isn't anything in-game. I don't read so well, so it took me eight hours and a google search to learn how to build things. I never figured out how to set up an outpost, though I was constanly prompted to do so.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

In State of Decay, there are a finite amount of resources and you will at some point have to complete missions that end with escaping the vally. In the Breakdown DLC, gameplay is endless, though it gets harder and harder.

A second DLC, Life Line, is in development with few details.

Final Thoughts

I'm not a zombie expert. I haven't seen all of the Romero movies, I haven't played any Resident Evil, and I'm fine with that. State of Decay does a very good job of being a sandbox game, but the absolute lack of plot made the gameplay, for me, rather mindless.

If you just want something to do with your time, this might be a more difficult option for those tired with Skyrim. While not a bad game, and a good first show from Undead Labs, this isn't one I'd highly recommend.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whelming Wave Deck

Whelming Wave is silly.  It returns all creatures to hands except for Krakens, Leviathans, Octopi, and Serpents.  I figured I'd build a deck with it in mind.

Magic has only printed three octopus cards in its history.  I wasn't impressed with any of them.

Serpents aren't so good either.  Almost all of them have islandhome (they can't attack a player that controls no islands, they die if controller controls no islands).

Stormtide Leviathan gives one obvious way to go with the deck (he's a big islandwalker that makes everything an island, and only flyers and islandwalkers can attack).  He pairs up with Inkwell Leviathan and Benthic Behemoth (both big island walkers with appropriate creature types).  This would be a mono-blue deck.  The big guys would take a while to get out, and while this might be compensated by blue counter and control, I can't think of a way in which it would be better than a much quicker Merfolk-oriented deck.  I would have to buy the Stormtide Leviathans and the Benthic Behemoths, and I don't see that I would ever use them except for this slow alternative to merfolk.

Kederekt Leviathan returns all other creatures to owners' hand.  I think he's funny but it would affect me just as much as everyone else.

Quest for Ula's Temple is a rare enchantment that can bring out the creature types we want quickly.  Or not quickly.  It's a gamble on how long it will take to get three counters, and I don't like to gamble.

In the end, I went with blue and green.  Green added mana-producing creatures.  It also added a few land-fetchers and a disenchant-type creature that, if returned to my hand by Whelming Wave, could be reused to great effect.  I added a half-dozen weenies with flying and deathtouch so I can hold out until I have enough mana out.

Adding green also allowed me to add two flying levithans.  I've been sitting on four Simic Sky Swallowers for several years and am finally putting them to good use.

In the end, I made a stompy deck that only differentiates itself from all the rest by having one funny card in it (Whelming Wave, of course).  The good news is that I had to buy very little to build it, and some things I bought (specifically, Bane of Progress) will almost certainly see use in other decks on down the line.

Here There Be Monsters
60-Card Format
Blue, Green

4 Whelming Wave

4 Deep-Sea Kraken
4 Nimbus Swimmer
4 Simic Sky Swallower
2 Tidal Kraken

3 Wood Elves
2 Birds of Paradise
3 Quirion Elves
2 Urborg Elves

4 Thornweald Archer
2 Deadly Recluse

3 Silverglade Elemental
3 Bane of Progress

Friday, February 14, 2014

RAGE: The Scorchers DLC Review

RAGE: The Scorchers DLC

The Scorchers!

The Scorchers is the one and only DLC for RAGE. No more have been announced.

The Scorchers are a tribe of bandits that were cut from the original game. A handful of new locations are added in order to combat the Scorcher threat, adding a few hours of gameplay. Each bandit clan is unique, and the Scorchers distinguish themselves with heavy flamethrower guys, short distance jet pack maneuvers, and a flying gunship boss.

The Scorchers DLC introduces a new and difficult armored mutant, and a new Bash TV set of arenas. The player gets a nailgun (in homage of Quake) with alternate ammo or rebar (usually a one hit kill) and railgun. Railgun ammo/mode shows targets through walls, and the shots pass through walls, multiple enemies, whatever. After completing The Scorchers, you get a house in Wellspring with trophies for achieving certain things in the current game, as well as personal access to two minigames.

Two new minigames (roulette and five-card draw) are introduced at a new location in Wellspring. That about wraps up the additional content of the DLC.

But not quite. This DLC wasn't just new content, it also did a few things to address complaints. For one, after you beat the game, you can keep playing and complete unfinished sidequests. Makes sense. People complained that Nightmare difficulty wasn't hard enough, so that brings us to our last topic:


There's an achievement for beating the campaign on ultra nightmare, so I had to give it a go. It was a learning process. Initially, 2-3 hits= death. I learned to take cover all the time. Bandit vehicles are more aggressive and use quick-use shields. At a pretty early stage, my vehicle was out of ammo, on the verge of exploding, and I went and explored a sewer because that's what I would normally do. I ran out of ammo in the sewer and punched the last half-dozen mutants to death before emerging to call for a tow.

After some armor and health upgrades, things were easier, but never easy. Enemies deal more damage, are more accurate, and take more shots to kill. The player is easier to kill and less accurate with every weapon. That headshot you had lined up? Good luck with that.

The Scorchers adds no new races or vehicles, but Ultra Nightmare makes Time Trials essentially impossible. After running nearly perfect races with a pimped-out dune buggy, I was nowhere close to the new time trial limits. I failed to complete any time trials on this setting.

The Scorchers DLC adds a few hours or new gameplay for fans, and a new difficulty level for those looking for a challenge. If you already like RAGE, it's a cheap addition to the experience.