Friday, 28 June 2013

It That Betrays

Magic 2014: Duels of the Planewalkers came out on Wednesday.  As someone who likes Magic but doesn't want to own cards or spend a lot of money on it, this is a release I was looking forward to.

Basically you are playing Magic with fixed decks.  Each time you win a game you unlock a new card which is added to the deck.  Then you can take out whatever you want to bring your deck back down to 60 cards.  There are a few oddities about the deck building - you can't choose how many lands to play, for example - but since you are playing a deck someone else designed things generally work out.

I wouldn't recommend 2012 because you couldn't take the original cards out of your deck to add the news ones - your deck just got bigger as you unlocked more better cards.  2013 was a big improvement, and it seems like 2014 is even better.  One disappointment for 2014 is that the sealed deck feature wasn't that great - it seems you can only get two sealed decks and you have to buy more slots to get more.  I'm not really complaining, though, since ten dollars is more than fair for the amount of play I'm getting out of it and I don't really need to play sealed deck tournaments against a computer over and over.

But I'm not here to review the game, I'm here to tell a story about an incredible game of magic.  This is a mirror match with my partially unlocked version and the computer's fully unlocked version.  My opponent was at 82 and had the following:

2 Oracles of Mul Daya
2 Grazing Gladeharts, 1 enchanted with Eldrazi Conscription
Avenger of Zendikar
8 Plants with 3 +1/+1 counters on each
Khalni Heart Expedition with one counter
13 Forest

This monstrosity of a board is across from my 42 life and:

Oracle of Mul-Daya
Ulamog's Crusher
Grazing Gladehart
2 Artisans of Kozilek
It That Betrays
Eye of Ugin
18 Forest

My opponent plays a forest from the top of his deck, casts Primeval Titan for a forest and his own Eye of Ugin, plays another forest from the top, and activates Khalni Heart Expedition for two more forests.  That's six landfall triggers from the Avenger of Zendikar, making his plants 9/10's.  Naturally it then attacks with everything except for the freshly played titan.

That's 95 power worth of attackers into my 6 creatures.  I sacrifice two lands to the Gladehart annihilator trigger and block the big gladehart, four of the plants and the Avenger.  My artisans trade with plants, It That Betrays kills one and survives, and my Ulamog's Crusher kills the Avenger.  I take 39 and go to 3.

Now this would all seem pretty bad except for the fact that, thanks to the oracle that just valiantly blocked a 12/12, I know what the top card of my deck is: All is Dust.  Which sounds like a real lifesaver, but it's a little bit more than a lifesaver when you have It That Betrays in play.  If you aren't familiar with this interaction, read both the cards again.

Because I miss clicked the blocking that Avenger was dead so I sadly did not get my 17 5/6 plants.  My opponent had its own All is Dust so that didn't really matter anyway.  But with annihilator four on board and It That Betrays I very quickly expanded my land advantage and kept him from coming back into the game using his own Eye of Ugin.  Here's what the board looked like a few turns later:

That's a 43 sitting on top of my stack of Forests.  Now that's a game of Magic.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Random Ability "Challenge"

I like Diablo 3 and I liked it when it was released.  In a lot of ways I think it is a real disappointment, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fun game, especially since I'm always disappointed with everything.  It wasn't long, though, before I got bored with it and set it aside.  The story didn't interest me, I found the characters kind of annoying, and with no character customization aside from infinitely tradeable items there just wasn't much replay value.

Sky at Bright Cape Gamer suggested an alternative way of playing that makes levelling up new characters more fun.  Instead of choosing your abilities, you use assign whatever abilities you get each level, overwriting the previous ability in that spot.  So as a wizard when you hit level three, you replace Magic Missile with Shock Pulse, when you hit level five you replace Ray of Frost with Arcane Orb.  Carrying this forward, when you hit level 55 you replace Ray of Frost (Black Ice) with Arcane Orb (Celestial Orb) and Energy Armor (Force Armor) with Magic Weapon (Blood Magic) - keeping Shock Pulse (Living Lightning), Slow Time (Stretch Time), Blizzard (Stark Winter) and Archon (Slow Time) equipped.  You just choose your passives each level because otherwise you often end up with passives that have no effect with your current active skills.

I tried this and it didn't really hold my interest.  It was fun for a while but which abilities you had didn't matter that much for levelling - the monsters just dissolved when you looked at them funny.  When they came out with Monster Power it was time to try it again.

Since I started playing again a few months ago I've played almost exclusively this way.  Start a new character on Monster Power 10 and play with whatever abilities you get at each level.  Sometimes in the 30's and 40's I re-randomize my abilities halfway through levels because the levels get very slow.  I usually only use the gear I find on the ground but I did craft a weapon early on for my Demon Hunter because there was only so long I could wait for a bow to drop.  The point is to have fun and learn about different abilities, not to be bored.

That's why I put the caution quotation marks around "Challenge" in the title of the post.  If you are the sort of person who likes to look online to find ways that people are challenging themselves playing video games you are not likely to find this much of a challenge.  More like the Random Ability Diversion, or Random Ability Time Killer.

Despite this, I think playing the game this way has taught me a lot about the game.  I don't pay attention to the abilities that define the most powerful builds, I pay attention to every ability and whether the game feels hard or easy when you have it equipped, long before the degenerate build stage.

The only class I've actually hit level 60 with using this scheme so far is the wizard.  As I finish with various characters I am going to put together a list of abilities and how it feels to play when you are randomly dealt them as you battle through the levelling game.

If you try this and like playing this way, I'd enjoy hearing about it.  I'd also like to hear feedback on what you learned about classes while doing it.  Of course, as usual, since literally no one will ever read this, none of this is terribly likely.

Inaugural Post

This is my fourth blog.  When I have a blog I like to make sure it is dedicated to one very specific topic.  This is both for aesthetic reasons and because without a specific topic to stick to I would be tempted to write about everything all the time.  I've tried writing those posts, they don't really work.

There is nothing that I am doing right now with such obsessiveness that I could really fill a blog about it the way I used to.  My World of Warcraft blog was filled with very detailed analysis of individual spells, talents and boss fights from the narrow perspective of a 10-player raider in the Wrath of the Lich King days.  My blog about regulatory burden in Ontario law was intended to be a useful sharing of ideas for a handful of colleagues doing the same kind of work.  My blog about Glitch was intended to fill a void of mathematical analysis in that game.

But I stopped playing World of Warcraft, the project I was working on regarding regulatory analysis expired, and Glitch, sadly, passed away.

I tried to keep my Glitch blog going after the death of Glitch but I ended up posting about mortgage rates.  I needed a new focus.

So here I am.  I miss writing about things, and I miss particularly doing the analysis of things that backs up the writing.  It's all well and good to explain my feelings but making the spreadsheets that rationally justify those feelings is where it's really at.  Since the depth of analysis I am interested in is rarely of any use in the real world - and is little other than depressing when applied to the real world - I decided it would be more worthwhile to focus on games.

Right now I am playing Don't Starve, Diablo 3 and Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014.  I also watch a lot of Magic, a little bit of Starcraft 2 and League of Legends, and a fair amount of walkthroughs of console games online.  If any of that interests you then I might interest you as well.

In my past blogs, I have sometimes employed footnotes to elaborate on certain points.  Because of technical problems that these notes create, I've decided that a better way to make parenthetical comments is to use tooltips.  As you can see, I'm putting text with tooltips in purple so that you don't have to hunt for them.

Since no one is reading I won't go on any longer.  If somehow you are actually there, I hope that you either enjoy my blog or find something else to do instead.