Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Planet Buffing Races

There are three races in the game which have to be unlocked by doing a long mission chain and which have the ability to permanently buff a planet. These buffs all work the same way, the different races just buff a different planet production resource. Every 40 hours you can spend 200 energy with no experience gain. In return you get to increase the abundance of one planet by one tier (you add .25 to the multiplier).

I've been working towards completing the mission chain to unlock the artifact race but have hit a bit of a snag. It turns out I've actually been running at a money deficit for the last little while by working on that mission chain. (It requires a very high amount of scanning to do the missions, so I've had to keep switching in and out scanners, weapons, and energy modules as I work on it. Each time you unequip something it takes damage and it costs money to repair them, and I've been paying an awful lot of money to do so.)

I'm also very close to completing the mission chain to unlock the mining race. (I did most of the chain already because I wanted to get a passive cloak reward for my awesome planet.) I'm running low on money and the way you net more money is by spending less or earning more. Stopping the artifact chain for a while is a good way to spend less. Buffing my mining planets is a good way to earn more. So it seems like spending a couple days to finish off the mining chain could make a lot of sense.

The question then is what exactly will this ability do? How will I use it? Overall planet production pretty much boils down to size times abundance so it will be more efficient when used on a bigger planet. Most of my current mining planets are not very big but the thought crossed my mind of taking a truly terrible research planet that happens to be very massive and buff it up over time. Let's compare...

I have very massive planets now and their production from buildings is 40. Double that for owning the planet for 5 days and multiply by the .25 bonus and I'd be adding 20 points per hour every time I use the ability on a very massive planet. Large planets seem to have a base of 30 and very large a base of 34. So a large would get 15 per hour and a very large 17. My very large starts at a 2.25 multiplier. It will take 18 uses to max it out. If I were to abandon it and replace it with a very massive planet with no mining at all my two potential income functions are:

40*34*2*18/2*(2.5+6.75)+34*2*6.75*t = 459t+226440

40*40*2*18/2*(.25+4.5)+40*2*4.5*t = 360t+136800

Huh. I will admit to being surprised at this outcome. I was expecting it would make sense to grab the worthless very massive planet and buff it up but it looks to be not even close. I guess the difference between the two sizes isn't actually that big (I gain 3 per hour per use) and the difference in starting value is huge (153 compared to 0). If I could use this ability into infinity then I'd start profiting after using it 52 times.

It's capped at 6.75 per planet, but I can actually use it more often on the naked planet. I only got it up to 4.5 in the example; I could have used it 9 more times. Maybe a better comparison would be to look at what I could do with 3 planets? I could have three copies of my base 34@2.25 planet or I could have two copies of my base 40@0 and one copy of a base 34@2.25.

3*34*2*2.25*(t+40*53)+40*54/2*(17+918)+918*t = 459t+973080+1009800+918t = 1377t+1982880

1*34*2*2.25*(t+40*53)+40*54/2*(20+1080)+1080*t = 153t+324360+1188000+1080t = 1233t+1512360

Even in the 'fair' comparison the huge planets lose out. Both the flat amount earned as we use the ability 54 times and the amount earned every hour thereafter are lower with this option. As long as you have access to a large number of 34@2.25 planets you're golden.

I don't have an unlimited number of them, but I do have a lot and the ability to get more. It takes a month to fill out one of those planets and I can colonize 22 new planets each month so I'll have plenty of places to use the ability. Right now I actually can't afford to take that many planets, unfortunately, but hence why I want to start buffing my mining points.

Of course there is also the issue that I'm building awesome planets without having any plans for defending them. That could actually be a real problem but I figure I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Possibly I'll need to start cloaking planets as I buff them?)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Xecti Ensconcing Field

Another temporary mission launched today. The reward is an interesting one, to be sure. The mission is the standard 55 xp for 25 energy (which I have come to detest... I've been doing missions with a 2.6:1 ratio instead of a 2.2:1 ratio and the difference in leveling speed is staggering). You have to do that 50 times to get the reward, and you can get the reward 15 times total. The reward is an NPC spawn which drops an item you can use on any planet to give a permanent passive bonus of 80 cloak and 80 defense. If the planet should happen to be unscanned (check with a flux probe) the bonus is doubled up to 160 of each. Do it all 15 times and you're looking at a passive 2400 to cloak and defense before taking legion bonus into account.

That's enough to make a planet really hard to scan on its own. Coupled with a bunch of buildings you can get all the way to undetectable. Even if you're not going to go all the way the extra 2400 passive defense will at least give you a chance of surviving should someone hit the lottery and actually scan your planet. (I constantly live in fear that someone is going to scan my awesome planet, but now it feels like it actually has enough defense to maybe not fall.)

At any rate, I have a planet that is 4 times as good as my second best planet and 10 times as good as my new colonizing options so I have a clear place to use these items. In fact, I already have. I cleared the whole thing out with the aid of a couple energy cubes and buffed up my planet nice and spiffy like. If I didn't have an awesome planet I'm not sure I'd bother with this mission. Sure, you can protect something pretty good, but you can also spend the ~20000 energy someplace else and do this mission when it comes back if you even get a planet you really want to defend.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Necessity Of Iron?

I've been playing a lot of Through The Ages online recently. In one of my current games one of my opponents had the following to say:

"wow not having iron is so brutal. Gl to you guys, I am not longer really in this. cheers"

The 3rd player in the game gave an example of someone winning without iron. Which prompted the following responses:

"lol, i am not wrong, not having iron is perhaps the only real weakness in the game. play a few more games and then tell me what you think."

"i will probably resign rather than finish the game. I will see how next 2 rounds play out."

"hey nick, if you like I can prove my point. We can play 5 1 on 1 games. Use any strategy you like taking into account that you will not be using iron. I would be surprised if you could win just one game. But it would be fun to try it out."

He then challenged me to a 1 on 1 game which is currently in progress. I found this exchange a little amusing as in one of the first games of TTA I played (with Pounder, Sara, and Duncan) we came to the same conclusion. There are 3 iron cards in the deck and 4 players. All 3 iron cards were grabbed the second they appeared for max cost (cards start off costing 3 actions to take and you get 4 actions each turn). Someone (Sara I think) didn't ever get the chance to pay 3 actions for an iron and she fell far behind and lost. 

For those who don't know, the game is a simulation of the Civ computer game series. There are a few different resources you have to balance out (food, minerals, science, culture, actions, and military strength) and you start off making bronze which is worth 1 mineral. Iron is worth 2 minerals and the only cost to upgrade is a one shot cost of 5 science and then 3 minerals per mine you upgrade. So in a pretty short period of time you can end up doubling your mineral output. Minerals and actions are all it takes to build wonders and pretty much everything in the game needs minerals to get up and running...

I remember talking with Robb about iron at WBC this year and he told me he's seen Jason win games without getting iron. (Jason being our 4th teammate at WBC. His team game is Through The Ages and he is a two-time champion so I guess he knows a thing or two about the game.) Robb said he thinks knights might be almost as important (without knights you're probably going to be last in military strength and therefore end up getting hammered by attacks and events). In the games I've played so far it seems like alchemy is also way up there as well. (Turns minerals and actions into research per turn.)

At any rate, I am now in a game trying to prove that iron isn't needed. In the chat for that game was the following:

"concept of your game is to win with no iron, anything else goes. If you get within 30 points in endgame I will still concede defeat. That should be a nice handicap."

Now, 2 player games are a little different. In a 4 player game there are 3 iron cards, so someone misses out. In a 3 player game there are 2 iron cards, so someone misses out. The fact that someone is going to miss out means the cost of iron goes way up. Assuming iron is that important you need to pay 3 actions to get it which somewhat mitigates the power. In a 2 player game there are 2 iron cards (and you can't take both copies to punish your opponent) so you can get an iron cheap in a 2 player game. But still sometimes you'll pay extra for the first one as there might be 5 or 6 turns between them. Under this challenge where I can't take iron even that restriction is gone. He gets the first iron for as cheap as he wants it. And he also gets a knights and an alchemy. 

But whatever! I like playing games, and I like challenges, and he's even spotting me 30 points (winning scores tend to be in the 130-200 range, so 30 is a really big deal). Going into the game I liked my chances to win at least 1 of 5 games. We're currently about halfway through the first game and I actually have a lead. I make 4 food, 5 minerals, 5 science, and 4 culture per turn. He makes 3 food, 6 minerals, 3 science, and 1 culture per turn. We have comparable military strength, I have a 21 culture lead, and I have 4 extra military actions per turn. The outcome is certainly still up in the air but I'm definitely not blown out by giving up on iron. (It helped that 2 of the first cards out of the age II deck were constitutional monarchy and coal and I got both of them. But I was able to do that because I had a lot of early research by not spending any on iron...)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Great Canadian Board Game Blitz 2011 Recap

I woke up Saturday morning with no sore throat so I figured I was good to go. I headed down to the convention center for Fan eXpo and got directed to the volunteer office to get my pass. It turns out I had a volunteer pass which let me in early bypassing all lines. Pretty sweet, and makes me wish I'd felt up to going down on Thursday and Friday. I had baked in some time for lines so I ended up with a lot of time to kill beforehand and learned to play King of Tokyo which seems interesting enough.

The first two rounds of the blitz have you pick games in a random order, and then in the reverse of that order. I ended up pulling the 2 of diamonds with spades picking first then diamonds, A-K. So I would be picking about in the middle of both rounds which is a pretty good place to be. The number of people playing each round fluctuated as people came and went and I think they ran 7 or 8 games each round. With only 8 games to choose from this meant pretty much every game was started.

Round 1 - San Juan

I believe I've played San Juan in the first round of every blitz thus far. It has the rare combination of being a game I really like to play and a game that I've really put a lot of thought into mastering. I ended up with a near perfect set-up in this game. My first building was a coffee roaster (with an opponent choosing to not null-trader in 4th seat, instead he crafted a coffee for me and 3 indigo total for my opponents). Then I put out a gold mine (it didn't proc for a while but eventually came home for a hero and a palace), a library, a quarry, and a carpenter. From there it was just a matter of scoring points. All 3 statues, chapel, city hall, and palace. I buried one of the guild halls, though it didn't much matter. The final scores were something like 47-26-22-16.

Round 2 - Alhambra

I didn't really want to play any of the games up in this round. My choice came down to playing Alhambra or St Petersburg which are both games which I know the rules to, and are decent at, but which I don't really like and I have never really looked into how to be good at. I decided to give Alhambra a shot this time.

I don't really know what I'm doing so basically I just start off buying things I can afford and then try to transition into having barely more than other people. As it turned out the stuff I could afford early was exactly the stuff the guy to my left could previously afford. We ended up tying on almost every colour we had early on, but I was able to overpay for specific buildings in order to just edge him out as the game progressed. Unfortunately for both of us he tried to fight back, and I had to keep staying barely ahead of him. This resulted in his score being abysmally bad, but mine wasn't quite good enough. The final scores ended up being something like 123-114-113-66. I was second by a mere point.

Round 3 - Factory Manager

I'm honestly not sure what I was thinking when I picked this game. The only other game I've really played in the round was Roll Through The Ages which I really should have picked since I at least like to play it. I was thinking it was really random (though I have never lost in person) and wanted a higher skill game. I'm certain I got a higher skill game, but unfortunately it wasn't one I'm skilled at. 

The game itself wasn't very interesting at all. It was a three player game where one guy was taught the game on the spot and the other guy knew what he was doing. I'm actually not sure how he was able to get so much more stuff than I got but it wasn't even close. The scores were something like 300-220-120.

Round 4 - Notre Dame

If we're talking about games I like and really know how to win, Notre Dame might actually be on the top of the list. It was the first game I wrote about on here, and that was back before I was looking to post a lot. 

The game itself was a three player game, but when I sat down there was only one other player. We waited a bit and she hadn't played before so I figured I'd teach while we waited and hope the third guy knew how to play when he finally showed up. Full rules explanation later, still no third opponent. Marc (the man in charge of the blitz) came over and didn't know where the third guy was. It had been at least 45 minutes from when the round was supposed to start and he asked if Notre Dame could be played with 2 people. It actually has pretty good 2 player rules, so we started with the understanding if the third guy showed up soon we'd restart.

The third guy eventually showed up, but by this point we were a third of the way done the game. (2 player games are really fast, and my opponent was a fast learner and picked the game up right away.) We sat around in a 'should we restart, should we not' holding pattern for a little bit before the decision was made to screw him since he was an hour late. We probably could have ended up delaying the round a lot if we'd restarted at that point so it was the right decision I think. Though from a scoring standpoint really awesome for the people in the 2 player game.

The game itself wasn't actually close since Notre Dame is really a game you need to play a couple times to understand which of the limited resources you can afford to skimp on. My opponent missed a couple bribes and I got a perfect minstrel of two cubes and Balki from cube house to the hospital. The final score was in the 69-40 range.

Round 5 - Agricola

I was 4th pick in this round so I was pretty sure I was out. So I picked a game I wanted to play, Agricola. If I'd been 2nd pick I probably would have attacked 1st place but with all of the top 3 picking different games I didn't really have a hope. I wanted to farm! 

Seating doesn't get randomized at GCBGB, and sometimes it works in your favour. My game featured someone learning the game, the guy teaching the game (who was the guy who missed out on Notre Dame the last round), an older woman who had played a few times, and me. I was the 4th one over, and took the empty seat. It turned out the guy teaching the game was the only one who really knew what he was doing, and he was to my left. 

I gambled early on, and built my 3rd room on the 4th turn, setting up for a turn 5 family growth. Family growth did come out on turn 5 and I was off to the races. I also built the first fireplace and the guy to my left considering first picking 3 sheep on turn 6 to spite the 6 food from me. His other options were 6 wood, or to build a room so he could family growth on turn 7. He made some snide comments about how he was screwed on family growthing anyway but ended up taking the wood. The new guy failed to build rooms as his next action which allowed lefty to build two rooms on turn 6 anyway to get in the family growth. I got the 6 food from the sheep which powered me for a few turns.

I had the card which let me build clay rooms for 2 clay, 1 wood, 1 reed. I used that to build two more rooms and got to family growth a 2nd time before lefty got his 2nd one. I then also had cards which let me plow 6 fields with 2 actions, and which gave me one of each animal when I built 4 stables. I used those to fill my farm. I failed to renovate to stone (I forgot the new guy could renovate without reed and therefore thought I could hold off on renovating when I couldn't) but it really didn't matter. The final scores were in the neighbourhood of 47-30-25-12. 

As it turns out, with the win in round 5 I actually vaulted ahead into a three way tie for first. After going through the tie breakers it turned out that 3 wins and 2 seconds is worse than 4 wins and 1 second so someone else came 1st. Me and the other guy were tied all the way down the tiebreakers so we tied for 2nd-3rd. I actually didn't play a game with any of the guys I tied with, just like the one in Toronto a month ago when I came 3rd but didn't play against any of the people ahead of me. The blitz is certainly a fun format, but it doesn't really offer a good way to determine 'the best' since you don't have to play with each other. 

Afterwards I stuck around and taught Innovation. I also learned Hive in the middle of the day, so there was lots of fun board gaming to be had.

And on the plus side, I wasn't the only person at the blitz in costume this year, as the girl in my San Juan game was dressed up as something I didn't recognize, probably from an anime. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Off to Fan eXpo!

Unfortunately I came down with something this week. Probably just a cold, but it did mean I had to miss work on Friday and I didn't feel up to looking for costume materials on either Thursday or Friday. I did sleep around 24 hours between Thursday night and Saturday morning though, and I feel a little better. It's probably a mistake to go out to a convention today but what are you going to do?

Without having a new costume though I have been forced to fall back on an old one. I am a really bad Spocko!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Magic Nationals 2011 - Day 2

I got up bright and early and decided to brave the buses today. Saving $50 seems like a good idea and if the bus was really slow I could just get out and call a cab from the middle of nowhere. I was a little afraid the bus wasn't going to run that early on a Sunday but the worry was unfounded and I made it to the tournament site with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately between watching Dude, Where's My Car? the night before and getting up in time to make sure I caught the bus I didn't get a full night's sleep. This whole staying on site thing seems better ad better...

At any rate, I am currently 5-2. I haven't bothered to look at the standings or crunch any numbers but from overhearing other people it seems like not every 9-3 will make it in. If any 9-3 doesn't make it in it's going to be me since my breakers are terrible, so I guess I need to win out.

Round 8

My opponent is playing black/red beats with some bloodthirst dudes. He gets a pretty fast start in game 1 and I trade a bit. I end up at 16 life with him having a 4/4 and a 5/5 (Al Gore) in play. I have nothing, and it is my 6th turn. I've had inferno titan in my hand all along, but doming him for 3 seems a little weak. I draw for the turn and it's a basilisk. In retrospect the right play here is to play the basilisk. If he has removal that kills the basilisk it also kills the titan. I can block the 4/4 with my 3/5 and even if he has removal for the 1-for-2 I still have titan back and he'd need another removal spell for another 2 for one next turn. And maybe he'll even play some cheap dude I can kill with it.

Instead I just run out the titan for no good reason. My plan apparently is he has nothing at all to back up his dudes. I block the 5/5, he has chandra's outrage for the 1-for-2. I then bust out the basilisk and he has no immediate answer for it. I get out both my crown and my satchel but he beats me down to 4 life. I can either tap his 4/4 or his 1/1 unblockable. I choose the 4/4 (he'd killed the basilisk somehow by this point or maybe I'd attacked with it) and he incinerates me.

In retrospect I almost certainly win if I play my creatures in the right order on turn 6. Or if I'd tapped his unblockable guy I likely have chances. (I have a 1/1 to chump with.)

Now, there is a pretty big downside to drafting on a different day than you play. And it's that if you aren't on the ball you can forget what's in your deck. Like I did this game, with combust, which is terrible against a red/black deck. I didn't draw it but it was still a huge mistake to leave it in.

Game 2 he stalls on 3 land for a long time. I am mana flooded. Unfortunately his deck is full of terrible cheap dudes and the fact he only has 3 lands means he has lots of cheap dudes. I trade as much as I can but eventually lands don't trade with creatures and I get run over.

I am sad, since I now almost certainly can't make top 8, but I made a couple mistakes so it is my own fault. Going home at this point seems silly so I decide to stick it out. Also there are prizes to top 16 (only pro points, but I have to get Hall of Fame eligible somehow, right? Right?).

Round 9

My opponent this round is playing black/green. He has a lot of lifegain in his deck (stupid brindle boar) but it turns out it doesn't matter how many brindle boars you have, they don't block volcanic dragon and I kill him in game 1 without much fuss.

I decide to sideboard something in against him and find the combust. This is when I realize how terrible I was last round. I try to aggro him out but he has brindle boars to stay alive and trollhide on his 3/1 hexproof to bash me to death.

Game 3 he again has trollhide on wolf to make a 5/3 regenerating untargetable. For some reason he doesn't swing it into my 2/2 on turn 4. He didn't have regen mana up, but I couldn't kill it anyway. Except I had naturalize in my hand and totally would have killed it. He doesn't attack and I naturalize anyway. I'm mana flooded but I have a 4/4 trampler and my own trollhide. I decide if he has a removal spell right now I'm probably dead since he'll kill my dude and beat me down so I go for trollhide on my rhino. He doesn't have removal so I have a 6/6 trampling regenerator. I punch him for 6 over and over. He has brindle boars to stem the damage a little and 2 skeletons that he throws in front to absorb damage too.

Eventually he gets a second trollhide and makes his 5/3 regenerator again. I skip an attack for a turn because I'm stupid (just because his creature doesn't die doesn't mean I don't get to trample in). I'm afraid of overrun (I sided in a fog as well since he seemed to be playing the previous games like he had one in his deck) and want the game to end fast but don't really have a way to make that happen. Until I draw inferno titan, anyway. That kills a couple of his dudes and the next turn kills him off as well.

Round 10

Round 9 ended really fast so they decide to just start round 10. My opponent had looked at the clock, saw 16 minutes left in round 9, and went to the bathroom. So I got to wait around with no opponent for awhile, but because they started early she wasn't going to get a game loss for a long time. She eventually shows up, we get extra time, and we start.

She is playing caw-blade, and in game 1 uses a sac land to lose a life and busts out timely reinforcements to go up to 25 with 3 dorks in play. At this point I have 3 1/1 elves. I decide to play an archdruid and bash. She trades 2 tokens with an elf and chumps another. She casts a few powerful spells (wrath, jace, and gideon I think) but also draws a lot of land. She tapped out to wrath away my archdruid and I played a lead the stampede, nabbing 2 Ezuris to go with the 1 in my hand. 3 Ezuris end up being enough to power through her few actual spells and win me the game.

Game 2 is a complete blowout. She has a reasonable mix of lands and powerful spells. I do not. She ends the game having taken 1 damage from a painland (immediately healed up with timely reinforcements). I didn't hit her with any dudes after that, except with my poison guy who got in for 4 poison total.

As we're shuffling for game 3 I flip one of her cards. She doesn't think I need to call a judge but I do anyway since I had seen what it was. I get a warning as a result.

The actual game 3 had me stick a fauna shaman early. I filled my graveyard with vengevines and killed her. I think Ezuri also helped some elves survive a wrath.

Round 11

This round was not very interesting at all. My opponent was playing a pod deck, but he didn't draw a single pod the entire match. I played some elves and killed him easily both games.

Round 12

I get paired down (again) though it doesn't really matter. Even if I win I'll be 9-3 but 10th. My opponent is playing caw-blade and draws multiple wraths each game. Game 1 he actually gets gideon and karn online and uses that to steal my Ezuris before wrathing. Game 2 I have to mulligan twice and decide to risk playing out what little I have left after the first wrath. He has the second wrath. He then kills me with 1/1 flyers as I keep drawing land.

Ultimately I end up 8-4. The 8-4s spanned from 12th place to 25th place. I am, of course, 25th.

I run into Josh and he says at least there will be gaming later. I ask when and he makes a face. He's actually working and the top 8 is important to cover, I think. He says it won't be for a long time and sends me home. I decide there's not really much I'd be doing at home (I consider calling my D&D friends and seeing if they're both all available and willing to pick me up at the airport) and decide to just hang out in the hotel lobby reading my book until Nationals ends. I finish off Clash of Kings and get a good way into Storm of Swords. Eventually Josh is done working and I teach him Roll Through The Ages and Innovation before heading home to sleep before work on Monday.

As I said earlier, I didn't enjoy this Nationals as much as previous years because all the cool chrome was gone. I don't know if that was just this year or if it is a fact of life going forward but I do wish I hadn't bothered with it this year. Probably I won't bother going forward either, if I am even qualified anymore, but we'll see.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sudoku For Two

It turns out I just can't get enough of the World Boardgaming Championships so recently I've been trawling boardgamegeek for week summaries from anyone willing to post one. It's interesting to see other people's takes on the week. (Ok, and I'm looking for people talking about me, rare as that is.) Only one has really angered me so far, though that's a story for another day.

One thing I kept reading about was how people had been playing a lot of games online. In and of itself this isn't surprising, of course. The surprising part was the where. People kept referencing a German boardgame site, but it wasn't my old standby Brettspielwelt. Instead they were all playing on Yucata. Some of the same games are even on both sites! The difference is that while BSW is played real time, Yucata is all turn based. So a game on BSW gets done a lot faster, but it has to be played in one sitting. Yucata could be played in real time as well, but if someone wanders away the game doesn't get ruined, it just gets delayed. You can also play lots of games at once, and with people who sleep while you're awake, and it will all work out.

So I went to check it out yesterday and found a very interesting game on the site. They call it Sudoku Moyo. Essentially you take turns with another player filling in a Sudoku grid. Each player is responsible for 5 of the 9 sections on the grid. (Both players are responsible for the middle and it has to get filled in first.) The trick to the game is you're not trying to build a completed Sudoku puzzle. All your moves have to be legal when you make them, but they don't have to lead to a finished grid. In fact, you're trying to make moves such that your opponent can no longer make legal plays in their sections of the puzzle.

Here's the starting grid from my first game, for example. (It turns out you can replay every game you play on there too, which is awesome.) I control the lighter grids with the red numbers. My opponent controls the darker grids with the blue numbers. I'm playing first, and have to play to the middle grid.

The first thing I did was look to see if I could attack my opponent off the bat. Look at the middle-right grid, and where the number 6 could go. The only legal place for the number 6 in that section is the lower-left spot. So if we were actually doing a sudoku I would know that had to be a 6. But in this game I want to kill that space off. So for my first move I stick the number 6 in the lower-right hand spot of the middle grid, like so.

Note how the board updated to show that the 6 no longer has any legal spots to go in that section. (It has an X through the 6 on the side of the board.)

Here's the finished board. Note how the game nicely fills in spaces that can't be used with a nice big X for you. The winner is the person who played the last piece. (Or, I guess, the loser is the one who first has to pass.)

It's a fun little abstract game. You should challenge me (Ziggyny) on the site. In this or anything else!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Galaxy Legion: PvP Badge Values

While I was off at WBC the Galaxy Legion game updated with a bunch of new features. One of the things they added was legion base combat where essentially you can spawn a random enemy base to attack. The enemy base will have some abilities they can use to try to defend themselves from your invasion and they can build defensive structures. You have 8 hours to kill it. If you do then the top X damage dealers (where X is defined as 5 times the level of the base you're attacking) get some silver badges as a reward. Also the enemy legion suffers a penalty to their base resource production for having their base destroyed. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot you can do to stop them other than building the right defenses and having someone to hit your 4 hour repair cooldown at the right time so it isn't really interactive but there is something there.

Your legion can find a base to attack every 8 hours. In order to spawn a base you need to spend red badges which are earned for disabling enemy ships. There are a bunch of rewards you can buy with red and silver badges so the question is what do they do and is it better to get the red badge ones first or to try to convert them into silver badges?

Red badges really only turn into one thing other than silver badges: guns. You can have up to 4 of these guns total and there are three tiers of guns. I have 4 of the first tier already, purchased before they added the next two in. If I buy the higher ones I will have to replace the lower ones. So I can spend 128 red badges and 9 ship space for 100 attack. I can do that 4 times. After that the only thing left to do with red badges is turn them into silver badges (or stop earning them at all).

Silver badges turn into 4 different and unique items. You can get a permanent base health buff, you can get a planet defensive building, you can get a ship module for attacking NPCs, and you can get a ship module for attacking bases. In detail:

2 silver badges adds 10 shields and 15 hull to your base. There's no space usage here, it's just a permanent buff. It's awfully minor though, and I imagine it exists mostly as a badge sink for people who have maxed out on everything else.

10 silver badges gets you a planet structure which is size 1 and gives artifact 1. This is a decent but not spectacular production building. On top of that it also gives 300 defense which is worse than the best defensive buildings but not by a lot. Oh, and it gives +20% defense on the planet. You can build 2 per planet. Adding 40% on to your actual defensive buildings is a really big deal if you're trying to defend a planet with defense. As such you're probably going to want 2 of these on any planet worth defending. (Which I don't think is very many planets, to be fair.)

24 silver badges gets you a ship module which is size 20 for 40 scan. This is again not spectacular but is still decent, especially since scan is a stat you want to max out whenever you're really using it. On top of that it adds 5% to your attack when attacking a base. You can have 3 of these equipped and you really want 3 of them.

32 silver badges gets you a ship module which is size 20 for 50 energy. Like above this is not a great ratio but more energy is always good even if it isn't terrible efficient. On top of that it adds 5% to your attack when attacking NPCs. You can have 3 of these equipped and you still really want all 3 of them for the energy alone.

How good is the extra attack? I'll look into it in more detail at a later date but I built a pivot on my spreadsheet to work out what would have happened to the fights I'd tracked if my attack was different. I have data for 1079 shots. Over those shots I would have saved 77 shots if I had an extra x1.15 multiplier on my NPC attack value. By contrast, adding 300 attack from the bigger red badge guns would have shaved off 75 shots. Either way I'm only looking at saving 7% of my energy spent on attacking NPCs. (I built this part of my sheet to look into what switching to a Drannik race would do. It's +40% NPC attack and I decided it wasn't good enough.)

Note that those 77 shots would only cost 385 energy. So the 3 modules which add 50 energy each every time I level will have a much greater impact than the NPC attack will when it comes to killing NPCs. And will do something when I'm attacking other things too.

The base attack is in some ways worse (I don't shoot bases very often) and in some ways better. One of the reasons the NPC attack isn't very good is it often doesn't do anything. Because most NPCs don't have much health I already kill them in 3 or 4 shots. In order for NPC attack to actually have an impact it has to knock off a full shot; mostly it just means I overkill them more which does nothing. Bases have a much larger health pool and therefore the odds of just adding overkill instead of real damage goes down.

The questions now are how much does it actually cost to get a red badge, and how much does it cost to convert into silver badges?

You get a red badge each time you kill another player with a couple restrictions. They have to be within a certain level range (60%-140% of your level) and you can't have killed them in the last 12 hours. (To prevent you from just farming some easy target.) You get a 'battle tab' which has 10 random players within your level range on it at any given time. Shoot them even once and they disappear and a new random player comes in. I've been keeping mental note of how many shots it takes me to kill other players and it seems to be around 10 on average, but I'm picking off the people who seem weakest first. If I was really going at it I'd probably end up at more like 12 shots per kill. Also sometimes they have defended themselves with traps so I need to use null fuses to keep going. And there's the repair cost involved from the damage they do back to me. (Though I have a lot of shields so that doesn't tend to be very high.)

At any rate, I think saying it costs about 60 energy is valid. These shots tend to have a very high experience per energy ratio.

How about a silver badge? Well, in order to spawn a base it costs 5 red badges. You can keep the random base you spawn or you can spend 5 more to get a new random base. (I imagine if you do this a lot you'd start identifying which bases are well defended and which ones aren't.)

Bases are defended to varying degrees and I haven't fought enough to have a good idea how many shots they take to kill. I just spawned one and it will take 24 shots to kill and will return a total of 15 silver badges assuming 10 different people shoot the base. I will get at most 2 of those 15. So for this base (which seems particularly weak) the total spend is 420 energy to get a spread of 15 silver badges. 28 energy per badge.

Lets say we'd randomly spawned my legion's base. It would take me about 6700 shots to kill my base. It's a higher level base so the returns are higher: 50 silver badges spread 20 ways. Nevermind the fact we don't have 20 people who could help. So the total spend is 33800 energy for 50 silver badges. Of which I'd get at most 4. 676 energy per badge.

It's also important to note that while the experience for shooting players is actually good the experience for shooting bases is very bad. I practically soloed a level 3 base a couple weeks ago and the substantially lower experience return cost me about 2 levels. So there is a very real extra cost to killing defended bases.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Magic Nationals 2011 - Day 1

I wasn't 100% on how long it would take for the bus to get to the tournament site, and I wasn't 100% that I had enough cards between Duncan and I for my deck, and I needed to register still, so I built in a ton of extra time into my morning schedule. I set my alarm for 5:30 with the tournament to start at 9. I went to sleep pretty much as soon as I got home from work on Friday so I'd be well rested. 9 and a half hours of sleep apparently wasn't enough as I slept right through the alarm for another hour and a half. 11 hours of sleep definitely put me into the well rested camp, but it did make me worried I wouldn't make it to the site on time.

I ended up calling a cab. I didn't have a number for a cab so I searched on the internet and was told to dial 416-TAXICAB and they'd find a cab for me. Great, I called up and they said they'd send a cab over. I went to wait by the street when two cabs from different companies pulled up beside me. Both men clearly didn't have a great grasp of the English language. They were both yelling at me that they were the ones I called. Neither seemed to know where I was going, though one guy did guess the airport. I don't know if the phone number told me what cab company was coming or not, or if they'd even sent just one cab. It was too early to figure it out so I went with the guy who guessed airport. The taxi fare ended up costing about what my deck did, which is sad. I hope that extra hour of sleep was worth it, body.

I get to the site with an hour to spare and run into Duncan in the lobby. Apparently he's staying in the hotel despite living in Toronto. In retrospect taking the bus out and staying in the hotel is probably cheaper than taking the cab multiple times and it certainly allows for more sleep so I may want to consider doing so in the future. At any rate, he'll have my cards down in the site in half an hour. I head over that way to register.

When I get to the registration desk I'm greeted by the distinctive hairstyle of Sleep Yoda to my Sleep Skywalker - Josh Bennett. I sneak up and say boo, he is surprised that I don't have a moustache. Clearly Josh needs to come to Toronto more often since I haven't had a moustache in 9 months. We chat a bit, he asks if I'm feeling confident. I tell him I tentatively cancelled my D&D session on Sunday and actually did some drafts beforehand which about as confident as I can get.

Duncan brings in the cards and everything is there. I sleeve up, write a decklist, and have time to burn so I read some Clash of Kings.

I complained about the setup yesterday so I'm going to gloss over that today. Today is for making fun of my Magic playing!

Round 1 I get deck-checked right off the hop. The match to my right is Valakut vs Valakut. To my left is Valakut vs Cawblade. My deck can't beat Valakut. On the one hand it's good that 3 of the Valakut decks in the field are playing not-me right now. On the other hand maybe Valakut is going to be popular at Nationals and I'm boned. I passed the deck check (yay!) as does my opponent (boo!) and we're off. It turns out my opponent is also playing Valakut. (For those who don't know, Valakut is essentially a combo deck. The namesake card turns mountains into lightning bolts if you have enough of them, and you power both the Valakuts and the mountains out with Primeval Titan. The deck plays a lot of land searchers too like rampant growth. Elves can't win because they side in cheap sweepers and are just a more consistent fast clock.)

I win game 1 since I don't think he was maindecking sweepers and I had a decent draw. Game 2 he ramps up to 7 mana but doesn't cast anything. Clearly he kept a hand with no gas for some reason (probably he had some removal to slow me down) but I had some vengevines and Ezuris and have him on the ropes. Another turn and he's dead. He says something about needing a great topdeck, draws a card, and plays avatar of zendikar which is pretty much a 5/5 dude and 6 3/4 dudes in one card. Suddenly he's not nearly so dead. Two swings later I am, though. I misblock on the first one to guarantee I die to the second one but I don't think I had any possible outs one way or the other and was certainly dead in 3 swings no matter what.

Game 3 is also kinda close but he has a primeval titan on turn 5 which puts the game away. I didn't draw a torpor orb in either games 2 or 3. Also, I mulliganed every game, and twice in game 3.

Round 2 I'm paired up against a straight UR splinter twin deck. He kills me on turn 4 in game 1. I mulligan a mediocre but playable hand in game 2 trying to get a torpor orb. I keep a 6 card hand without one that at least has a mana elf, which he countered with mental misstep (2 life, 0 mana: counter a 1 drop). I end up topdecking 3 torpor orbs in 4 turns. I also get out 2 archdruids and an elf and he pyroclasms for no game effect (they're all 3/3). He scoops when the 3rd orb hits play. Game 3 my 7 card hand has 3 torpor orbs and 0 forests. I'm forced to mulligan, and then again, and don't get a torpor orb. I do actually put out some decent pressure with a fauna shaman and some vengevines and he's dead in a turn. So he busts out an exarch to stunt some of the damage and says he needs to topdeck a twin here to win. He topdecks a twin. He also has a counter for my nature's claim and I am dead. Twin is actually a decent matchup I think, but not when you mulligan 4 times and never draw an orb.

So I'm 0-2, with 8 mulligans thus far. I consider just dropping and leaving but I do like to draft and going 0-2 pretty much guarantees my rating will fail to qualify me in the future. I keep going.

Round 3 I play a guy from New Brunswick who comments, after I roll a 19 to go first, that while he wasn't sure before he is sure now. I must be Ben Page's brother. Once upon a time Jamie was my brother. My opponent is Jeremie Vienneau and is playing UB control. Game 1 he doesn't have a sweeper and I blow him up good. Game 2 he casts Black Sun's Zenith 5 times and gains a lot of life with Wurmcoil Engine. (BBX - Put X -1/-1 counters on all creatures and then shuffle the spell back into your deck.) This includes him using it on turn 3 to kill 3 of my elves. I had chosen to not pump up my joraga treespeaker since I was worried about dismember setting me back a turn. Sigh. Game 3 he doesn't have an early zenith and I kill him on turn 5.

I'm now 1-2. I run into my first round opponent in the bathroom and he says he's also 1-2 now. As if my tiebreakers weren't bad enough! And then my draft pod contains only 7 people, and includes the people at 0-2-1. As foreshadowing I will get paired down in both rounds 4 and 5 to these people. So my tiebreakers will be really, really bad. I pretty much had to run the table from 0-2 to make top 8.

Anyway, draft 1. My opening pack had no bombs and had 3 potential picks in my mind. Sacred Wolf, Griffin Sentinel, or Chandra's Outrage. I went with the removal. I get passed a pack with a Serra Angel and another Chandra's Outrage. Ordinarily I probably would have taken the Serra but I was operating on plan mono colour if I could. Outrage is really, really good since it kills almost any blocker and gets some damage in to the dome as well. And it kills Serra. Red then dries up in a real hurry. I manage to table a fiery hellhound (I think most people will really underrate him. I think he's awesome!) and my on colour picks after pack 1 are:

2 chandra's outrage
2 goblin arsonist
1 fling
1 fiery hellhound

Yeah, only 6 red cards. Not good enough. I also have griffin sentinel (which tabled from my first pack!), swftfoot boots, and a bunch of questionably playable cards. (zombie infestation, rites of flourishing, negate, hideous visage, buried ruin, celestial purge)

In pack 2 I open a fireball. Huzzah! I'd noticed in pack 1 that both white and green seemed to be open but that blue and black were pretty non-existent. As was red, really, but I'm stubborn. The red cards I got from pack 2 were:

1 reverbate
1 fireball
1 bonebreaker giant (which I long-ranged to 13th pick somehow)
1 lava axe
1 slaughter cry
1 act of treason
1 goblin arsonist

I also had manic vandal and combust for my sideboard. The other cards were rusted sentinel, gladecover scout, wall of torches, taste of blood, and guardian's pledge.

I still have my eye on being mono red. I have a couple ok artifacts (boots and sentinel) that I can play and I'm not against running wall of torches either. I open my 3rd pack and scan for the best red card. It turns out to not exist. My 3rd pack actually has no red cards at all. It doesn't really have what I'd call playable cards even. I'm left deciding what to hate draft from the two decent cards in the pack: mana leak or arachnus web. I take the web.

Right passes me a Chandra's Phoenix which is pretty insane in my deck with all the domey burn spells. Pack 3 brings with it a real choice... My deck doesn't have a two drop yet, and there's a red mage. There's also an arachnus spinner. 5/7 reach for 6 is pretty ok on its own. The fact that it can search out a pseudo-removal spell in arachnus web is pretty insane. And I just so happened to have hate-drafted one of those with my first pick. I decided that since red was dry in pack 1, and since green was wide open in pack 1, that my mono deck wasn't going to get there. So I should take my bomb. Cards that made my deck from pack 3 after that were:

2 act of treason
1 chandra's phoenix
1 fiery hellhound
1 runeclaw bear
1 titanic growth
1 greater basilisk
1 arachnus spinner
1 cudgel troll
1 arachnus web

The unplayed cards from this pack were wall of torches, manalith, pride guardian, and stave off.

I decided to actually run the fork in my deck. I had 10 spells to fork with it and some of them would be pretty sweet to fork. (Fireball, lava axe, and fling in particular.) I showed the deck to Josh after I'd built it and he thought it looked pretty bad. In particular he held his nose when looking at my 3 act of treasons but I actually thought they were pretty key to the deck. I was all about beating with cheap dudes (though I didn't have very many with 3 1-drops and only 1 2-drop) and then going to the dome. Act of treason goes to the dome with the best of them!

Round 4 I get paired down. I lose game 1 due to drawing lots of acts of treason but no fling or pressure. I do axe him down to 9 but he has a fair amount of life gain in his deck and recovers. (2/1 lifelink dude and drain life in a UB deck) He's playing 42 cards including 2 mind unbounds! I side out 2 of the act of treasons (he had a crown of empires so I bring in the vandal and he's playing blue so I bring in combust). I blow him out in both games 2 and 3, taking 4 damage total between the two games.

Round 5 I get paired down. I don't remember a lot about the games other than I blow him up with cheap dudes and burn. He says after the match that if he'd realized he'd been paired up he would have just scooped which was nice but misguided of him. There's no sense helping me out at the expense of someone else.

Round 6 I don't get paired down! Game 1 features me with 2 goblin arsonists and a mitt full of spells. I get him down to 12 with arsonist swings and he casts a 2/5 flyer. I'm at 16 at this point, but have since burned away whatever was hitting me. I have fork, titanic growth, lava axe, and slaughter cry in hand. And 4 land in play, 2 of each type. I decide to go for it, and swing. He blocks one and I growth+fork the other, hitting him for 9 with the unblocked guy and 1 with the blocked guy, knocking him to 2. He does something to gain some life (sorin's thirst I think, killing my dude). I draw a land and axe him out. Game 2 features Chandra's Phoenix beating him down for a while. He gets low and he decides to thirst it to gain some life. Instead I fling it at him. This prevents him from gaining 2, does 2 itself, and actually gets me the phoenix back into my hand. My hand is full of gas, I'm still at 20, and I topdeck axe to kill him a turn earlier.

My 'terrible' draft deck went 3-0 in matches, 6-1 in games. I only had 1 2-drop but I drew 'da bears' an awful lot of the time and it was very key. I won one game with Arachnus Spider pulling out a web but I forget which one. Act of Treason pounded through a lot of damage as I'd hoped it would and I was pretty happy with the result.

Off to the second draft. I'd recovered to 4-2 but I didn't think any of my opponents were giving me above minimum breakers. (Turns out they were at 41.66% which was more than 5% behind the next worst 4-2.)

First pack, first pick... Inferno Titan. Giddy. Up. I shift into mono-red gear again, though the wheels very quickly come off this time. Here are my red cards after pack 1:

1 inferno titan
1 combust
1 fling
1 reverbate
1 wall of torches

I did not see an actual good red card after my opening pack. I was getting cut, hard, and it was obvious what was going on. But what was I going to do about it? I started taking good cards when I could, but cards in other colours weren't very good either. Here's the rest of my pack 1:

1 crown of empires (good for staying alive to titan)
1 manalith (good with whatever colours I end up playing)
1 wurm's tooth
1 trollhide
1 lifelink
1 guardian's pledge
1 celestial purge
1 auramancer
1 spirit mantle

Now, spirit mantle is actually pretty good and my plan was to probably go RW. My hope was that pack 2 would yield an ungodly amount of red cards since I'd passed pretty much nothing playable the entire pack after the first one and that I'd go white in pack 3.

Pack 2 my choices are between shock and druidic mantle. Shock is pretty good but I figure the mantle will help control the game long enough to get the titan out. I am frankly astonished by how little red comes my way in pack 2. My red cards from this pack are:

1 shock
1 volcanic dragon
1 fiery hellhound
1 goblin fireslinger
1 fling
1 manic vandal

My other cards are:

1 druidic satchel
1 llanowar elf
1 runeclaw bear
1 stampeding rhino
1 vastwood gorger
1 naturalize
1 flight
1 demon's horn

Green had looked pretty open in pack 1 (I didn't take any of it, but I passed a lot of it) and it was coming back in pack 2 as well. White was not, so the couple of good white cards I had in pack 1 didn't look like they were going anywhere. So I went into green when there were no red cards.

Pack 3 was pretty bad for red. My first pick was a crimson mage which is pretty hot but it died out very quickly. The red cards:

1 crimson mage
1 goblin war paint
1 act of treason

Yeah. Sweet. The rest:

2 rampant growth
1 lurking crocodile
1 sacred wolf
1 garruk's companion
1 cudgel troll
1 giant spider
1 greater basilisk
1 fog
1 jace's erasure
1 disentomb

I had some rough choices in the building. I eventually decided to cut out the cute spells this time and didn't play with fork, fling, or act of treason. I did maindeck combust this time. I decided that 70% of the possible two colour decks can get hit by it and since I was playing RG (which can't get hit by it) I'd have pretty good odds of having it be live. It was live all 3 rounds last draft, though I started it on the bench there. My only removal was shock so I figured it was worth the risk. Possibly I should have run the flings to have more removal instead.

I ended up playing 17 land along with an elf, 2 rampant growths, the manalith, and the satchel. My goal was to get the mana in play for titan, or to be able to keep activating satchel and crown.

I want to note that over the course of 2 drafts, while trying to play mono-red, I saw exactly one red bloodthirst creature. And I took inferno titan over it. I didn't open or get passed a single other one. Where are you, Al Gore?

Round 7 game 1 featured a turn 1 elf, turn 2 lurking croc against a blue deck. I followed that up with turn 3 cudgel troll (bounced with unsummon). Turn 4 stampeding rhino. Turn 5 volcanic dragon. Yeah, he was dead. Game 2 my hand was fireslinger, rampant growth, volcanic dragon, 4 land. My opponent played out a bunch of cheap stuff and then on his 5th turn activated jace's archivist. By this point I'd had 5 draw steps, all 5 of which were land. And the fireslinger had gotten killed, so I had nothing in play. And now had to discard my 6 drop before I could play it. This gassed up his hand and combined with the dudes he'd already played he beat me down. Game 3 he didn't do a whole lot (I think he stalled on land) and inferno titan put the final nail in his coffin.

I started 0-2 and considered just going home. I'd recovered to 5-2 and felt like I had a pretty decent deck for the next two rounds of draft. So I went home and resolved to come back the next day. Josh told me to bring games so we could play after everything was done. I had a bit of a headache from the endless drone of a room full of people along with just not feeling too happy about the crowds and the smell so I decided to do something mindless when I got home... I booted up Netflix on my Wii and turned on Dude, Where's My Car? It doesn't get more mindless than that! Hilarious movie.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Collapse of Nationals?

A month and a half ago I posted about the differences between pre-releases of yore and the pre-release I'd just attended. In the Facebook comments thread for that post was a little discussion with one side taking the stance that things are terrible now and Wizards is killing Magic and the other saying that Magic has never been stronger. I don't know that I agree with either stance completely but what I do know for sure is that Magic has _changed_. And so have I.

At any rate, Nationals was this past weekend. I started 0-2 so the fact that I managed to turn things around to 8-4 and 25th place isn't terrible by any stretch. (Tied for 12th but my tiebreakers were abysmal.) I plan on going into details about the matches and the drafts at a later date. For now I want to talk about what I think Nationals was, and what it seems to be now.

My first Nationals was in 1999, where I tried to grind in with a terrible enchantress deck I borrowed from my brother. I lost in the first round. Not much of a story there. But the site itself was magnificent. I went to the old Sideboard coverage and found these pictures:

Epic! For contrast, here's what the open play area looked like, where I tried to grind in and failed so spectacularly:

The actual play area for Nationals was impressive. 4 players to a table. Pathways in between. The whole area was partitioned off. Spectators could stand behind the red draped barriers and watch the nearby matches but you couldn't go walking around amongst the competitors. Drafts took place at their own special round tables. (Looks like it was Rochester draft this year.)

As a punk kid from the Maritimes (via one year at the University of Waterloo) it was truly impressive. Team Comf had taken me to a huge pre-release, regionals, and to a PTQ or two but they were nothing compared to Nationals. You had to qualify to be allowed to play and it felt like you actually earned something just by being able to play. Separating the players out from the crowd and making sure the players had a lot of room to get around doesn't really impact who wins a game of Magic but it certainly gave the whole thing an important feel.

Here's a picture of me in 2002. This is round 11, where I can't make top 8 anymore but I get paired up against Gab Tsang who is in with two wins. I crush him! Notice how Gab has a nice nametag with his province on it? I won a grinder to get in so they didn't have one for me, but my name is printed on that slip of paper, honest.

The feature match tables were also cordoned off, with the big obvious placards that would let people anywhere nearby know the game state. Pretty cool!

1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009. All were the same feeling. (Well, I seem to recall 2009 didn't have any Wizards coverage people at all so it felt a little less special. I can't find anything online about it so that memory probably isn't too far off.)

What made this year different? Well, what do you think this is a picture of?

To me, that looks like the open play area from 1999. Rows of tightly packed matches on long, skinny tables. Unfortunately, no. This was the main Nationals area. Elbow room? A thing of the past, my friend. I didn't even have space to put my pen and paper for recording life totals unobstructed in some rounds as the large men sitting to my right would inevitably rest their meaty arms on the table on top of my paper.

I'm not sure if Nationals players this year gave up bathing for Lent or if it was just the really close quarters but it really reeked at the tables on the first day. (They did eventually spread us out a little more on day 2 once it became clear the side events wouldn't need half the Nationals tables. I didn't notice it on day 2, so either the smelly people all dropped or the extra room helped out.)

The tables weren't real tables, either. They were two similar tables placed back to back with a cloth over them. I say similar, and not identical, because often they weren't the same height and you'd have a big drop in the middle of the table.

Even worse, there were no round tables for drafting. We drafted at the exact same tables, cramped in tight. Some of the people, like me in the second draft, had to pass a pack to the person across from us. Laying out 13 cards across the table with a cliff in the way without revealing any of the cards to anyone is non-trivial and not a burden that should be forced on anyone. That we were drafting and building at the same tables was weird too. The judges did a good job having a system to make that work fairly well considering the constraints (you need to keep people from going both directions down those tiny aisles or you'd get a huge traffic jam) but it was still awkward and annoying.

Perhaps the worst thing from a competitive standpoint was the initial player meeting where they collect your paper work, including decklists. Normally at Nationals they seat everyone alphabetically for the meeting and then they post pairings for round one. This year they posted pairings for round 1 straight away and just collected the paperwork at the tables. (I knew something weird was going on when it wasn't alphabetical but I wasn't sure what.) As a result if you were careless or if your opponent was especially sneaky he could know what you were playing before you even started. Since your decklist was sitting on the table right in front of him.

The feature match area wasn't cordoned off, they didn't list anyone's province, and the scores were flat on the table instead of up on a board. In some senses none of that matters. But those little things were what made Nationals feel special. Nationals this year didn't feel like a big special event. It felt like a PTQ. A 2-day PTQ, to be fair, but just a PTQ nonetheless. (Nationals also used to be a 3-day event with the top 8 taking place on its own day.)

I don't know. Maybe I'm just too old for this sort of thing. Honestly, if I'd known what it was going to be like I wouldn't have shown up. And that's not because of how I finished, either. Nationals has been the only real Magic I've played in a few years now and I didn't regret going in 2009 despite also having a terrible constructed record. I probably wished I'd tested more so I could have done better. This year part of me wishes I'd tested more so I could have done better but mostly I just wish I'd played Final Fantasy and League of Legends for the last few weeks and played D&D yesterday. Nationals is supposed to be special, and this just wasn't.

I realize I haven't really done anything special enough to demand elbow room, space from spectators, and a nice table on which to draft. But if those little things don't exist, has Nationals done anything special enough to warrant me caring anymore?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Off to Nationals 2

Yesterday started out terribly with 2 losses. Key to those 2 losses were 8 mulligans. I played against Valakut and Splinter Twin and drew no torpor orbs in 3 of the sideboarded games. Oh well. Then I beat a UB control deck.

My first draft deck was 'terrible' but none of my opponents built a deck with enough early drops and my 3 act of treasons actually did something. I 3-0d with no bombs.

My second draft had me open a mythic rare. That colour got cut off so I had to build a 2 colour deck, but it seems ok so far.

More details to follow at a later date.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Off to Nationals

I went to sleep really early yesterday (8pm) and set my alarm for super early today (5:30am) so I could get to the site in time to register. Then I slept through my alarm for an hour and a half. I think the TTC can still get me there in time but I'm not 100%. I'm tempted to just call a cab from here. Maybe I'll get on the bus and get a feel for traffic. Get off halfway and call a cab from there.

On the plus side I did sleep almost 11 hours so I should be rested and ready to rumble. May I open many mythic rares that aren't bad timetwisters!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Elves: Modo Tournament Results

I played a bunch of events last night. Mostly 8 mans, but I didn't want to wait to win one as the night got later so I played a couple 2 mans as well. In total I went 6-4 which was a lot worse than the practice room but the people here actually seemed semi-competent so it's not too surprising. One thing I discovered is I simply can't beat Valakut and it saddens me. I wonder if I can find a better sideboard card in the next 16 hours to even the odds there a little...

Also, vengevine makes control decks cry like a little girl unless they have Karn. Even against burn my plan is often resolve a vengevine and then try to bring it back turn after turn as they kill it. 

Here's how I sideboarded in each match. Not sure if this makes sense or not, but it's what I did.

vs Goblins
+4 leatherback
+1 obstinant
-2 ranger
-2 ezuri
-1 corrupter

My thinking here is my opponent was big on burning out my dudes and swinging past them with goblin guides so I want to play more dudes that survive burn spells. Gaining life is good. In retrospect Ezuri is probably better than archdruid in this match since my opponent had arc trails which 2-for-1 archdruid and an elf but Ezuri can regen the elf.

I lost the match 1-2. One of the games involved my opponent playing turn 1 goblin guide, turn 2 goblin guide + goblin guide (beat me to 12), turn 3 attack + goblin grenade + goblin grenade. Yeah, a full house. And I was dead before getting a 3rd turn. Despite casting 3 creatures myself in those 2 turns. Bah.

vs Valakut
+4 leatherback
+1 obstinant
-2 ranger
-2 ezuri
-1 corrupter

This was the first time I ever saw Valakut in action and didn't know what to side in or out. I was worried about pyroclasm so I brought in the dudes that live through pyroclasm.

+2 ezuri
-2 leatherback

I didn't see any pyroclasm effects in game 2 (I won game 1) so I sided Ezuri back in. (He did cast primeval titan on turn 3 though!) He then proceeded to play turn 2 pyroclasm, turn 3 slagstorm (pyro for 3). I lost 1-2.

vs UW control
-2 sylvan ranger
+2 nature's claim

He had a pro-green sword. I didn't want him to hit me with the pro-green sword and I hate the ranger. I won this match 2-0.

vs Splinter Twin
+4 torpor orb
+4 nature's claim
-4 lead the stampede
-2 ranger
-1 ezuri
-1 warcaller

He comboed me out on turn 4 in game 1. I brought in the full package with enchantment removal for the twin and torpor orb to force him to try to deal with it. Going up to 31 non-creature spells with lead the stampede seemed wrong so I took those out. I took out the rangers again and then 1 each of Ezuri and warcaller. Not sure why.

+1 ezuri
-1 warcaller

I won game 2 and it featured a turn 2 torpor orb and then I topdecked my last warcaller. I decided his ability wasn't going to work with the orb in play (I ended up playing him for 1 to bring back a vengevine) and took him out for game 3. I have since realized he should still work since his ability isn't triggered. The corrupter, on the other hand, doesn't work with an orb in play. But I think I still want to leave him in to kill spellskite?
I won game 3 as well. 2-1.

vs Valakut
+4 torpor orb
-2 ranger
-1 corruptor
-1 ezuri

I decided to go for a different game plan against this valakut deck and tried to slow him down with torpor orb. I didn't draw one and it didn't matter. I exploded 0-2.

vs Mono green beats?

I honestly didn't know what this guy was trying to do. He cast a lot of midranged green creatures (including acidic slime to blow up a forest) but didn't seem to have any way to actually stop me from blowing him up with an army of elves. I didn't sideboard and blew him up with an army of elves. 2-0.

vs Puresteel
+2 creeping corrosion
-2 ranger

Puresteel plays with a lot of equipment and I want to be able to blow it all up. Not sure if I should also side in the claims here or not. It seems like with a decent draw I'm just faster than they are though they can get some sick combos going. At any rate he stalled on land in game 2 and I blew him up. 2-0.

vs UW control
-2 ranger
+2 claim

This is how I sided against the last UW control player despite this guy not playing a sword.

+2 ranger
-2 claim

I drew both claims and he didn't play an artifact in game 2. He did destroy me with Karn though. I was probably playing too passively in fear of wrath and I think it cost me. I undid my sideboarding for game 3. I also played this game too passively and frequently had 7 creatures in hand. (He tapped out and I lead a couple stampedes.) Eventually he played a wrath, I played a few dudes but not as many as I could. Then he played Karn and I realized I was just screwed if he had a wrath to go with Karn. So I played out an army of 1/1s. He didn't have wrath. I topdecked Ezuri and killed him. 2-1.

vs RDW
+5 baloths
-2 ranger
-1 llanowar
-1 arbor
-1 treespeaker

This match was a 2-player queue one. This guy wasn't playing goblins, he was playing full on burn with lavamancers and shrines. He had a lot of arc trails too. I decided my cheap stuff was just getting burned anyway so I sided a bit of it out and brought in large men. It worked, and I won 2-1.

vs GUW Pod
+4 orb
+4 claim
-4 stampede
-2 ranger
-1 ezuri
-1 warcaller

The last 2-player queue match. I got locked down behind Venser + stonehorn dignitary (skip your next combat phase every turn) so I sided in torpor orb to deal with him. And claims to kill off any pods. These are non-creatures again, so I pulled the stampedes along with my hated rangers and one of each of my finishers. I got locked again in game 2 and eventually got killed with about 120 power of dudes in play. I did get a torpor orb but by that point I had 2 extra combat phases skipped and he used Venser's ultimate to get rid of it. Pretty sure a turn 2 orb wins this game though, so I probably should have mulliganned into one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


On Tuesday I realized I had only 4 days left to pick a constructed deck, get the cards online, test it, and get the paper cards. This isn't a lot of time but I was still no closer to a decision. The problem is I am too apt to believe whatever it is I read/hear when I don't have any basis to disagree. Give me some actual knowledge and I'm front and center when it comes to being polemic about any argument but when it comes to an area I have no ability to critique I'm apt to just believe what I read.

I'd been reading a lot of constructed posts on various sites and they all espouse playing their own pet decks. RUG Twin-Pod is awesome says the guy who won Australian Nationals. Many people say to play Caw-Blade because it's powerful and the mirror is highly skill intensive. Of course these people are all in desperate need of having you believe they're an authority (they need you to come back to their sites to generate more ad revenue) so making claims implying that the choices they made show they're skilled may be more self-serving than true. Basic blue-red Twin had an article about it and made it seem to easy. Use your card filtering spells to build an unbeatable hand, then win with your unbeatable hand. I could do that! If I tested for weeks and weeks and knew what an 'unbeatable hand' was against each deck in the format, anyway.

The last article I read talked about playing cheap discard, removal, counters, and bombs. 6/6 flyers for 4. Gideon for 5. Some sphinx that draws a ton of cards for 6. Who cares that the mana for that sequence is BB2, WW3, UU4. You'll draw that mana mix, no problem. I was all set to get that monstrosity online when I realized just how many of those were mythics. A quick search online put the deck at about $400. I'd probably need to sink more money into online tickets to even put that together, but since the deck is clearly awesome it must be worth it, right? As a comparison I also looked up an elf deck and it was substantially cheaper... (I also wasn't looking forward to spending another $400 for paper cards for the deck either.)

I was still no closer to a decision but Duncan had recently posted on Facebook that he'd have to miss Sky's birthday since he was going to be at Nationals. Pretty much everyone I know has shifted into playing board games or having children instead of playing Magic and Duncan is no different. At least compared to the past where I could count on Duncan having pretty much all the cards. I decided to send him an email asking if he was playing or not, and what his card situation actually was. Then I put off playing constructed for another day and drafted a bunch, including the mono-green deck I posted yesterday.

Falling asleep is not something I do easily and I ended up playing sample games with the UBW deck in my head that night. It all sounded so simple in the article but I kept casting my discard spells in my (day?)dreams and not knowing what to take. I kept taking the wrong things, people kept mana leaking my 6/6 for 4, and wrecking me. Of course this has no actual basis in reality but the idea was implanted anyway... I still don't know what I'm doing so playing a deck with a lot of interactive choices can't be right.

I checked my email before going to work on Wednesday and Duncan had replied back saying he was judging, that he didn't have a ton of cards, but if I sent him a list he'd see what he could lend me to cut down on how much I had to buy which is awesome of him. But I didn't have a deck. I still had the elf deck open in my browser from the price comparing the night before and I didn't recall it being very interactive so I sent it to Duncan.

I got home from work to another email. Duncan has a lot of the elf deck (it being terrible draft commons and all) and gave me a list of what was missing. Perhaps a smart person would build the deck online but time was running short so I went downtown to 401 to buy the missing cards without having played the deck or even really knowing what it did. It turns out Duncan runs a board game night at 401 on Wednesday so he was also there.

It turns out 401 installed a second air conditioner upstairs since I went to the M12 pre-release event. Unfortunately the second AC wasn't working so the room was sweltering and I didn't feel like sticking around to play board games. I did go and get someone who worked there to fix the AC which helped a little, but I still just hung around a bit to talk to Duncan about cards and left. 401 didn't have everything I needed and Duncan pointed me to Harry Tarantula with a warning that they tend to be overpriced but as a result probably had what I need in stock. They did, with Vengevine being $25 there instead of $16 at 401. Ouch. (Though between the two stores they didn't have enough Ezuris and I had to buy a foil one for an extra 2 bucks. It was either that or risk that Marv would have one for sale at Nationals and knowing Marv it would probably cost $20 and a kidney.)

New cards in hand I headed home, put a tv dinner in the over, and bought the deck online as well. Thankfully the online marketplace is a lot more efficient and I was able to find all the cards in short order. The set of Vengevines was 65 tickets but the entire rest of the deck combined was under 20. Including the 10 forests I had to buy for a penny since I somehow only had 9 on my account. I then went to the solitaire room to give the deck a few spins to see what cards were in it and what they did. The first game I won on turn 4. I played probably 20 more solitaire games while eating and always won on either turn 4 or turn 5. In one game I did 47 by turn 4.

Ok, but that's goldfishing for no opponent who can block, cast counters, or burn out my dudes. So I headed to the tournament practice room to get some actual games in. I joined the first open table and it turned out to be one mcguirecj, former roommate and team sealed teammate. It turns out Chris is coming down from Ottawa for Nationals this weekend and was also getting some testing in. Small world! At any rate Chris was playing goblins. The first game he played a 2/2 haste for 1 on turn 1, then a grim lavamancer and a bolt for my elf on turn 2, and then just killed all my dudes and eventually me. So much for the goldfish, huh? I did manage to take games 2 and 3 after siding in an army of large men.

From there I went on to play against illusions, poison, hawkward, puresteel, GUB pod, some terrible deck that scooped before game 2, and finally caw-blade. I beat them all, though some of the players failed to take guaranteed wins on board so I'm not sure I can really be too thrilled. At the very least the deck actually seems to have game which is nice. The next step, tonight and probably Friday night, is to dive into the constructed queues on Modo for actually games with people willing to pay to play with their decks.

One trouble I had was I didn't have a clue how to sideboard. I had a rough idea what to bring in but no clue what to take out. I actually haven't found an article about how to play elves anywhere online so I thought it might be instructive to go over how it seems the deck plays and what I should do and solicit feedback from others. This is going to be a pretty long post, so here's a jump...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Magic 2012 Draft 3

I wasn't planning on posting this draft so I didn't note any of the game numbers down, but Matt asked for the decklist on Facebook so I figured the best way would be to load up the draft file. As such I don't really have game replays to go over. As a spoiler, I won this draft, and I did so mostly on the back of making creature drops on turns 1, 2, and 3. I didn't actually have many 2 drops but I did draw them an awful lot of the time. I also cast my first pick from pack 2 in practically every game and he was a complete blowout every time. I only drew my first pick from pack 1 once and it turned a game from a sure loss to a win as my opponent had tempo advantage on me and chumpers for my P2P1 dude.

I'm really starting to agree with Sthenno about this format in that focusing on one colour seems strong. Most of the cards are just dorks you trade 1 for 1 anyway, so a second colour tends to not actually add much in terms of power but can screw you out of your pack 3 bombs or just on mana colours. Garruk's Wildspeaker is mediocre in a 2 colour deck but a real beating in mono-green because you'll always cast him on turn 2 if he's in your opener. I had a BG deck that had a black one drop and him in it, along with forest, forest, swamp, but couldn't play them both as a result of the double mana.

Curving out also seems to be really important. Even with this deck the game I lost was when my opponent was on the play and curved out better than I did. (I think Aether Adept was involved. Playing him on turn 3 after having made a 1 and a 2 drop is such a beating.) The problem is there's pretty much no good way to get back from a creature disadvantage. There are no sweepers except wrath. There are no big removal spells that kill 2 dudes. You're pretty much always safe just throwing out more dorks, especially if you have a spell to deal with one big blocker. (Note: Some Planeswalkers and Titans can often deal with multiple dudes in one spell and that's a lot of why they're so overpowered in this format I think.)

At any rate, here's the draft and the deck:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Adaptive Spire

It's been a little while since the last temporary mission chain came to a close and a new one finally started today. The last chain started with a real doozy, needing 500 flux probes to get it done. This one is a lot more lenient. For a mere 1500 energy you get 3300 experience which is a 2.2 xp/e ratio. This is a fairly standard and unexciting amount. The reward for doing so is an interesting little size 1 planet building that changes depending on the type of planet on which it gets built.

If the planet is typically a mining planet (barren, toxic, volcanic) then the building gives 2 mining production.

If the planet is typically an artifact planet (icy, terra, desert) then the building gives 2 artifact production.

If the planet is typically a research planet (metallic, gas) then the building gives 2 research production.

If the planet is awesome (exotic, dyson) then the building gives one of each production.

2 production for 1 size is pretty much as good as it gets. If you don't have a high level of building tech researched these are going to be awesome. If you do have a lot of building tech researched these are still going to be pretty good. Just the way the pieces fit together it won't be good on every planet but it will be worth putting somewhere for sure. Especially since you can only get 20 of them and you can put up to 2 on each planet.

But how good are they actually going to be? I have a dyson and on it they're worth almost 48 points per hour. For 1500 energy? Sign me up. Beyond that it gets a lot worse. My next best planet has them worth only 14 per hour. My 10th best planet for them has them worth less than 10 per hour. That's ok to be sure, but is it really worth 1500 energy? I'm spending my energy right now trying to race change into a Taltherian, and if I do that I'll gain the ability to spend 200 energy for 20 artifact production per hour. That's 15 times as efficient which is a pretty big deal.

I don't actually think it's going to be worth delaying that while I scoop up 20 of these buildings. I'm thinking I'll probably grab 2 for my dyson but beyond that I'll ignore it until it comes back around a second time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Magic 2012 Draft 2

Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but unless it's not mulliganning properly I'm not sure what it is. So I figured I'd do another draft and see if anyone can point out any glaring flaws...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Level System?

I failed to take my laptop power cord with me to WBC so I was unable to play any Final Fantasy at all while I was down there. I did play a little bit before I left and discovered a little bit about the level up system, as it were. After a couple of fights the enemy I killed (a lizard) dropped meat and I was presented with the silliest question ever. Do you want to eat meat of lizard? DO I?!? Kill things, eat them, take their stuff! Most game leave out the eat them part but here was finally a game where I could eat my enemies.

Now, what do you think eating meat of lizard would do for you? I was thinking it would restore health, possibly damage health. Maybe it would even give a stat up. Lizards are agile, right? Eating meat of lizard could totally give extra agility. I can envision a game where different races get different boosts from eating different kinds of meat... Maybe I could even build such a system! I say that because that's unfortunately not the system in Final Fantasy Legend.

It turns out that when my albatross eats meat of lizard he gets polymorphed into a goblin. Permanently. He did get set to full health which was nice, and since goblins have a different base attack than albatrosses do he also got all of his action points restored. They both have the same max health and similar total stats so it was mostly a sidegrade but with the full health and action points and the slightly better stat split (who wants agility, really?) it wasn't a bad deal. Of course now his name makes absolutely no sense but I'll get over it.

I continued along, following the 'plot', and got some meat of goblin. I tried feeding it to one of my goblins and nothing happened. Frowns. Next I got meat of zombie. My redbull was getting a little low on health so I fed it to him. Since nothing was a possibility I imagined it couldn't hurt. Possibly it would make him better, possibly it would sidegrade, probably it would do nothing. Unfortunately that analysis was wrong. He turned into a skeleton. With 67% less maximum health and substantially worse stats. He went from attacking for 17 to attacking for 2.

This seemed terrible but I was near a boss fight so I pressed on. The boss had an aura so that when you hurt him you became poisoned. On the plus side my skeleton attacked for 0 so he never got poisoned. On the minus side he attacked for 0 (as did another of my characters) and therefore I couldn't possibly win.

I hadn't saved (why would I with my best character getting ruined) so when I play again I need to start over. Part of me wants to make a huge chart showing all possible race/meat combinations. (I'm playing on an emulator so I can use save states to make that a little less daunting.) Or I can give it on playing it pure and look for said chart on the internet since I'm sure someone has to have made one by now. I'm leaning towards the internet at this point but don't intend on playing again until after Magic Nationals so I have some time to mull it over in my head.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Draften Und Spielen, Ja?

I've been running a lot of M12 drafts lately without a whole lot of success. I'm trying to figure out if I'm doing something wrong, or if I'm getting unlucky, or if it's just a really bad draft set. Here are some things I think...

  • Planeswalkers are just plain stupid. I don't know that I've ever won a match against an opponent who resolved a planeswalker against me. One of the two drafts I've won was the time I had a planewalker in my deck. One time I drafted a Jace P3P1 without a blue card yet and lost with it in my board. Maybe I should have played it but he's the worst one so I don't know.
  • Titans are almost as stupid. I have managed to lose after playing a titan (grave titan got fireballed) and managed to win a game against one once (grave titan got oblivion ringed). But for the most part it really seems like you just win any game where you cast one.
  • Some other mythic rares are almost as good. My opponent just cast a turn 5 6/6 flyer which made his next vampite a 7/7 lifelinker. How am I supposed to beat that? (As I say that I just realize a brutal misplay that could have won me the game. Devouring swarm can prevent the 7 life gain...) (As an addendum, I did just win the game with a final strike while at 1. Because devouring swarm prevented the life gain.)
  • When brutal bombs aren't involved the game tends to go to the person with the better curve. Or the person who doesn't stumble on mana. 
  • Two people with even curves tend to just trade a lot and then the person who wins is the one with the most reusable abilities (jade mage, azure mage, merfolk looter, etc...). Unless someone has a planeswalker and then they win.
  • Griffin rider is surprisingly good. 
  • Double casting cost 2 drops are really awkward on the mana unless you're playing mono.
  • Green isn't bad and in fact seems to trump blue with the spiders.
  • People keep trying to mill me out with merfolk mesmerist and failing. Except for karma's sake I typed this as someone was casting a mesmerist so of course I get stuck on 2 land for a while and he barely manages to mill me out. This is the same match where I beat the vampire lord in game 1 after saying I couldn't win. He won game 2 with the vampire lord and game 3 with mesmerists...
  • Maybe I need to mulligan more. 

What I'm learning is that this format is frustrating. Garruk, Gideon, and Sorin all seem to be completely unstoppable. I have yet to face Chandra but she seems ok. Jace doesn't impact the board so he's not a guaranteed win but I have never seen anyone lose a game with him in play so he's still pretty good I guess.

Mythic rares come one in every eight packs. So there will probably be 3 at any given draft table. There are 15 total mythic rares. 5 planeswalkers, 5 titans, a useless 5 mana time twister than I keep opening, vampire lord, a ludicrous green hydra I've yet to play with or against, a 12/12 flying dragon for 7, and an enchantment which gives +4/+4, flying, first strike, and comes back to hand when it dies. I had that once and didn't lose a game when I drew it. 

So with 3 mythics at the table, and 14/15ths of them being bombs, should I start focusing on ways to stop them? Do I need to pack my deck with cancels and distresses? The problem then is cancel is practically useless against the fast bloodthirst deck, or the fast white weenie deck. Unless I use it to counter a random dork, but then I lose to the bomb mythic anyway since I don't know who has them. (In fact the time I played with Jace my deck was essentially a fast white weenie deck that happened to have Jace, Wrath, and Mind Control in it for funsies.) 

Some games are fair games, some games are won by 1 card. I can't stack my deck against the 1 card because then I lose all the fair games because I have wasted slots. Maybe mana leak is the answer. I'm happy to have it in a fair deck since spending 2 mana countering a random dork is still fine. Blue also has probably the best fair game with merfolk looter and azure mage. But it sometimes feels just too slow since most of its creatures just aren't big enough to have a shot against a stupid fast deck. 

All told I'm not sure I even want to play in Nats anymore. The draft format doesn't appeal to me and I have no constructed cards. But it could be me who opens the planeswalker... Wildfire could be awesome again...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Magic Decks

I put together the RUG Twin Pod deck that won Australian Nationals on Magic Online. I've played a few games with it and have done a lot of reading about the standard format and have come to a few conclusions.

  • RUG Twin Pod is the most powerful deck in the format.
  • It's also the hardest to play. Just remembering what all of your different creatures are at each converted mana cost is rough for someone who hasn't played constructed in 2 years. What you should search out depends on what your opponent is playing and I just can't know what they're playing without a lot of practice.
  • I'd rather practice drafting than standard.
  • Caw-Blade is the best archetype in the format.
  • The Caw-Blade mirror is very skill intensive.
  • I've never played a game with or against it in my life. Before Jace and Stoneforge Mystic were banned it was all anyone played.

In short, the best decks require a lot of skill and practice. I'd like to think I have the skill but I definitely don't have the practice and I'll probably scuttle my chances at doing well if I just assume I can pick it up as I go. What I need to do is find a deck that either doesn't require much practice (ie: isn't interactive with the opponent) or which is so similar to previous decks I've played that I can pretend I know what I'm doing. It should also be able to beat Caw-Blade since I'm betting that will be a very popular deck at Nationals. It sucks to have bought all the cards online for a deck and decided I won't use them, but I should be able to flip them back to vendors for a small loss. What was I saying about renting decks...?

I have four options in mind now. There's a $75k tournament being held this weekend so I'm going to hold off making a decision for sure until then since something might come out of that event but for now...

UB Control. This deck won US Nationals last weekend. Counterspells, wraths, huge bombs... How can you go wrong? Not knowing what to counter for one thing. One the plus side it plays with the Karn planeswalker and how can you say no to playing even more games of Magic?

Elves. Screw interaction. Playing some cheap dudes, make a ton of mana, cast overrun a bunch. Who needs to learn what the opponent can do? Fast, brutal aggression. As an added bonus it doesn't seem to be a very popular deck so possibly other people won't be prepared to play against it. Also, it looks to be dirt cheap, relatively speaking, which is nice.

Destructive Force! The one time I made top 8 I did so on the back of Wildfire. Destructive Force costs one more but it does an extra damage and blows up an extra land. The deck runs the new Chandra planeswalker who can fork spells. Why blow up 5 lands each when you can blow up 10! It also runs mind twist and a proliferate subtheme to generate all the mana needed to cast huge dudes. Turns out inferno titan and his 6 toughness will totally live through a destructive force... Supposedly it has a good match-up with Caw-Blade since it doesn't really matter how much incremental advantage they've gained if you can land a mind twist or an obliterate.

Pyromancer Ascension. This deck is pretty much just straight cheap cantrips with the goal of getting two counters onto this enchantment. Then the cantrips are big card drawers and you win by casting lightning bolts at the opponent's dome. For the life of me I can't see how bolt is a valid kill mechanism but it made top 8 at US Nats so it has to have something going for it. Some people play the splinter twin combo in the main or board as a second way to win. It feels like you spend a lot of time playing with yourself and then try to win which seems easy enough.