Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will be Remembered


Adventures in Forgotten Realms has been described as a core set in all but name, and like any core set I struggled a lot with this format. I did about 35 drafts and got about 4 trophies with a 54% match record and 50% game record. Definitely a downer after great success in Kaldheim and moderate success in Strixhaven.

Despite that, I really enjoyed drafting AFR more than Strixhaven, despite the imbalance of the power of Red-Black compared to Blue-anything. The flavour of the set really appealled and I found enough room to experiment and play around.

Still, I've gotten very frustrated lately with my lack of success. 

There are three major areas you can leak percentage points:

- drafting

- building a deck

- playing the games

I think drafting I sometimes get too tunnel visioned or not tunneled enough. For example, sometimes I pick a colour pair too early and ride and die on that despite obvious signs a different pair is open. And other times I get to distracted by signals and end up with a pile of junk.

But overall I think I draft OK. Could be better, but not too bad. When it comes to building a deck, I sometimes have trouble deciding on what curve topper I should go for. A big creature? Big spell? How much removal is too much? Not enough? I hear the podcast experts talking about modifiying number of lands and I'm here like thinking "really?". 

And then when I play the games, there are times I know I make stupid punts and lose games, and other times I make no obvious mistake but simply play too agressively.

All told these three leaks and weaknesses adds up to a lot of lost games and percentage points overall. With the upcoming Innistrad Midnight Hunt release I'm going to try and tighten up all three and see if we can't get back to some Kaldheim numbers.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review: Broken Earth Trilogy

 The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisim is a series that starts slow and a little confusing (you must read the glossary before starting the first book) but after that initial stumble picks up into a solid pace and engrossing story. I quickly found myself enjoying the diverse characters with realistic motivations in a world setting that felt rich and natural in the enviornment protrayed.

The writing and narrative storytelling is clear and engaging, and the descriptions adequate without being too in depth. As the story accelerated into the last book I was devouring the pages and was satisfied with how the it ended overall.

I give the trilogy as a whole an 8 out of 10 and highly reccomend it as something very different from usual sci/fi or fantasy fare.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Goodbye Strixhaven


The MTG Strixhaven limited drafts were not great for me. The success I had in Kaldheim did not carry over as I had hoped. Even though I had a strong start in Strixhaven, the simplicity of the set (draft temur, occasionally Silverquill, ignore lorehold and witherbloom) meant that the format settled down pretty quick and it turned into a slog. It became very repetitive very quickly; I still don't understand how the podcasters rave over it.

In the end I think that the Lesson/Learn mechanic was too good but only a little bit. I think that either the learn cards needed to be more expensive or the lesson cards did. As it was there was no reason to not grab as many of both as you could barring rare scenarios. Couple that with Lorehold and Witherbloom being second tier colour pairs compared to the others and it just did not have legs in my opinion.

The next set, Adventures in Forgotten Realms, I hope will have more room for variety and less of a "race to 8 lands" feel to it. Also, no mystical archives.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fleets are Ready to Engage

 It took a while but my chaos fleet is ready for action:

Now I have two fleets and can try to teach my sons how to play.

Rise of Fenris Campaign

My board gaming group that has been using Tabletop Simulator to play weekly board games this pandemic decided to try Scythe this spring, a favourite board game of mine. The group, 5 of us, enjoyed a few games over a few weeks so decided to dive right in and do the Rise of Fenris campaign.

Its an 8 game campaign with lots of surprises and additions and definitely worth the money in my opinion if you own the base game. Some of the rounds were better than others, but overall the campaign was a hoot and the final game last week was down to the wire. But I managed to pull a victory out from the jaws of defeat, winning with a score of 240 to 236 of my closest opponent. Lady luck smiled on me that night.

The one complaint about the base game that a few of us had is that there is a significant portion of the game dependent on luck: which encounters you get (some are better than others), which combat cards you get (last game of the campaign I was pulling all 5s and 4s while the Saxony player was only 2s), which player mat you get, etc. And the balance between some of the factions is terribly out of whack, for example the Crimea and Rusviet factions are better than the other 3 base game factions and all 5 of those are strictly better than the expansion factions from the Invaders from Afar pack.

That being said, its still a great fun game, and the expansion is worth it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Blog Lives!

 What the hell happened? What have I been up to since Feb 19th?

I've been chasing a particular project at work for about two years, pushing for a technology and implementation that I thought was very necessary for our product offerings and that people agreed was desirable, but could not get time funding for to actually do it.

Things came to a head in late February where I asked if I should just give up on this project and focus my energies elsewhere and my excellent managers found a way to carve the time for me to work on this pet project alone for one year. I went from "this is never going to happen" to "OMG this is happening RIGHT NOW" on a dime.

Since I've been campaiging for this project for two years very loudly I feel like my repuation is on the line based on the success of said project. If it fails to deliver, my hopes of influencing future projects could dim precipitously. My managers have assured me that they are measuring how much can an enthusiastic developer get done in a focused project in a year and that I cannot fail as a result, but there is a wide gulf between failing and succeeding that can be preceived as disappointing to others excited about the outcome of this project.

All of that to say, I've been working harder than ever in order to guarantee early success on this project which means less time for "smoke breaks" at work where I can put together a blog post over a couple days. The good news is that the extra work has paid off and I feel like my project has gotten off to a good solid start and I'm at the point where some of the pressure I put on myself can relax a bit so I can take a chance to breath again.

SO..... what's been going on?

Magic the Gathering: Arena

I have continued to play Magic the Gathering: Arena focusing mainly on Limited draft. When I last wrote I was commenting on how Kaldheim set was some of my most successful drafting ever, and now that the set has sunset I can see the difference. 

My end result with Zendikar Rising:

Game Record: 134 - 128 (51.1%)
Match Record: 116 - 112 (50.9%)
Total Events: 48 (7 Trophies)

And with Kaldheim:

Game Record: 134 - 109 (55.1%)
Match Record: 72 - 57 (55.8%)
Total Events: 39 (7 Trophies)

The number of trophies did nto increase but my win rates in matches and games both had a dramatic increase. And the results so far in the new set, Strixhaven: School of Mages?

Game Record: 65 - 53 (55.1%)
Match Record: 36 - 24 (60.0%)
Total Events: 17 (3 Trophies)

Still looking good.

Board Games

I talked about how we were entering a Golden Age of board games with my kids and that has continued. Not only is Axis & Allies and Tapestry a choice for us, but recently Settlers of Catan and Scythe have entered the picture, along with a borrowed copy of Memoir 44. And Tapestry and Carcassone have continued to be in the rotation.

Computer Games

With the exception of MTG Arena, there has not been much. Like I said, I've been busy with work and keeping 3 kids, two who are teenagers now, active and happy. We'll see if there is room for some extra games in the summer.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Continuous Drafting

I've run into a curious situation with drafting the new release, Kaldheim.

I can't stop. 

I just ... keep.... drafting.

In all seriousness, I started the draft with 40,000 gold and using the gems from winning and draft tokens from the season pass and a couple draft tokens on sale for half price in the store, I've been drafting more than ever as I earn enough from winnings that I almost never completely drain the wallet. As a result I've done 23 drafts over a period less than a month; in comparison I did 35 drafts for Zendikar rising that went from late October to early January.

For some reason, I feel more successful in Kaldheim than I did in Zendikar, and I felt good about the latter to begin with. The stats support this: I had 5 trophies total in ZNR, and I'm at 4 in KHM. I think a big part of that is concentrating mainly on Best of Three drafts instead of Best of One. 

Although the reward structure is more skewed in Bo3 there are factors that mitigate this skewing and have lent to my better results.

1) Not Ranked - so I'm playing against any level player instead of increasingly better opponents

2) No Hand Smoother - so decks are less likely to "go off" on curve and games are longer

3) Variance Reduced - since its a best of three, a bad game or mulliganning down to 5 does not mean you have lost the match; the variance is spread over 2 or 3 games per match

4) Maybe I'm getting better?

Let's not put too much stock into that last one.

Whatever the reason, my enjoyment of drafting on Arena has increased with these improved fortunes as I rarely find myself grinding standard for gold and can just enjoy the game the way I like.

Now, time to see if I can break my trophy record...

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Welcome to Kaldheim


The new Magic the Gathering set is out two weeks ago and I had stored up 40,000 gold, enough for 4 drafts. This time I was planning to concentrate just on Best of Three instead of Best of One, so there was some risk that the Gem rewards were going to be more lacking, but I was willing to try as I've been finding the Best of Three format to feel less frustrating as I know the variance gets spread over 2 or 3 games instead of just one.

I went into the limited format feeling a little overwhelmed. There is a lot of words and mechanics and things at play and after enjoying the straightforwardness of Zendikar Rising I was worried it was going to end up being another Theros Beyond Death experience for me.

I'm happy to report that I've done better than I hoped:

2021-02-03 12:00UW2 - 1
2021-02-02 12:04WB2 - 1
2021-02-01 7:43UG1 - 2
2021-01-31 20:47RG2 - 1
WB1 - 2
UW3 - 0
2021-01-29 12:30RB2 - 1
2021-01-28 12:05UW1 - 2

One trophy and I've earned enough Gems for 5 more drafts (still have one draft to go so wish me luck) and I feel like I have a moderate handle on the format. 

So far my favourite deck was the RB Berserker/Giants that was pure gas fun.

2 Deathknell Berserker (KHM) 83
1 Demonic Gifts (KHM) 84
2 Draugr's Helm (KHM) 88
1 Elderfang Disciple (KHM) 93
1 Feed the Serpent (KHM) 95
1 Jarl of the Forsaken (KHM) 100
1 Karfell Kennel-Master (KHM) 101
1 Raise the Draugr (KHM) 105
1 Skull Raid (KHM) 111
1 Basalt Ravager (KHM) 122
1 Doomskar Titan (KHM) 130
1 Dual Strike (KHM) 132
2 Frost Bite (KHM) 138
1 Immersturm Raider (KHM) 141
1 Provoke the Trolls (KHM) 144
1 Run Amok (KHM) 147
1 Shackles of Treachery (KHM) 150
2 Tuskeri Firewalker (KHM) 157
1 Kardur, Doomscourge (KHM) 216
1 Blightstep Pathway (KHM) 252
2 Snow-Covered Swamp (KHM) 281
8 Mountain (KLR) 298
6 Swamp (KLR) 293

My trophy deck was a busted Blue White Foretell deck that won more than a couple games on the back of the Niko planeswalker who is very powerful in limited

1 Battlefield Raptor (KHM) 3
1 Clarion Spirit (KHM) 6
1 Codespell Cleric (KHM) 7
2 Doomskar Oracle (KHM) 10
1 Kaya's Onslaught (KHM) 18
1 Stalwart Valkyrie (KHM) 31
1 Starnheim Courser (KHM) 32
2 Valkyrie's Sword (KHM) 36
1 Augury Raven (KHM) 44
1 Bind the Monster (KHM) 48
1 Brinebarrow Intruder (KHM) 49
1 Cosima, God of the Voyage (KHM) 50
1 Depart the Realm (KHM) 53
1 Draugr Thought-Thief (KHM) 55
1 Giant's Amulet (KHM) 59
1 Karfell Harbinger (KHM) 65
1 Mists of Littjara (KHM) 67
1 Mistwalker (KHM) 68
1 Niko Aris (KHM) 225
1 Niko Defies Destiny (KHM) 226
1 Funeral Longboat (KHM) 238
2 Gates of Istfell (KHM) 256
1 Shimmerdrift Vale (KHM) 267
7 Island (KLR) 290
7 Plains (KLR) 288

I'll continue drafting and let you know in a month how things are shaking out.


Magic the Gathering Arena Mobile has been released for early access and I got it on my phone and I can confirm that it works pretty good. It uses the same account as the PC version and all my decks are there, I can play games with no issue against opponents on PC or mobile, and the experience has been pretty solid. 

That being said, I did a test draft on it, from Pack 1 to Pick 1 to all three matches and I found that more difficult. I like to build my deck as I go and this limited size made that much harder. And I found the gameplay in the more competitive environment more stressful. I noticed at one time that I had 5 fewer minutes left on the match clock than my opponent because it takes longer to do anything.

Overall, I'd recommend the mobile version for doing daily quests on the go, or just passing time. I'll stick to the PC for more competitive Magic games I play.

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