Saturday, September 26, 2015

Having Hindsight is Better Than Not Seeing at All - Battle for Zendikar Sealed Deck Thoughts

This post is going to be all about Magic the Gathering. Readers have been warned.

I attended the Prerelease today for Battle for Zendikar. This post is mostly going to be me going through my sealed deck thought process and my realization of how I should have gone about my deck build. Comments, as always, are welcomed.

First, a little background: I play at Uncle's Games in Crossroads, and their prereleases are usually a great mix of young and old, new and veteran players. I like the atmosphere, and I also prefer the familiar faces. My win rate is usually 50%, which isn't bad but isn't great either. Going 2-2-0 nets you one prize pack at Uncle's, so that's basically the threshold for "winning."

I play Sealed Deck almost exclusively now, mostly because I don't want to spend the money to play Standard, and I like the idea of deck building. Also it's the format that lets you open the most packs, and that feeling never gets old ;)

My pool for today was as follows (broken down by casting color and sorted by CMC, rares/mythic bolded):

Colorless (4)
Titan's Presence, Instant (3)
Hedron Archive, Artifact (4)
Kozilek's Channeler, Creature 4/4 (5)
Ruin Processor, Creature 7/8 (7)

Multicolored (4)
Herald of Kozilek, Creature 2/4 (1UR)
Veteran Warleader, Creature */* (1GW)
Ulamog's Nullifier, Creature 2/3 (2UB)
Kiora, Master of the Depths, Planeswalker (2GU)

Non-basic land (9)
2x Mortuary Mire
2x Skyline Cascade
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Prairie Stream
Lumbering Falls

Red (9)
Lavastep Raider, Creature 1/2 (R)
Outnumber, Instant (R)
Kozilek's Sentinel, Creature 1/4 (1R)
Tunneling Geopede, Creature 3/2 (2R)
2x Nettle Drone, Creature 3/1 (2R)
Touch of the Void, Sorcery (2R)
Shatterskull Recruit, Creature 4/4 (3RR)
Stonefury, Instant (3RR)

Green (16)
Sylvan Scrying, Sorcery (1G)
Earthen Arms, Sorcery (1G)
Plummet, Instant (1G)
2x Tajuru Stalwart, Creature 0/1 (2G)
Void Attendant, Creature 2/3 (2G)
Unnatural Aggression, Instant (2G)
Retreat to Kazandu, Enchantment (2G)
2x Natural Connection, Instant (2G)
2x Eyeless Watcher, Creature 1/1 (3G)
Infuse with the Elements, Instant (3G)
2x Reclaiming Vines, Sorcery (2GG)
Tajuru Beastmaster, Creature 5/5 (5G)

Blue (16)
Clutch of Currents, Sorcery (U)
5x Rush of Ice, Sorcery (U)
Tide Drifter, Creature 0/5 (1U)
Mist Intruder, Creature 1/2 (1U)
Coralhelm Guide, Creature 2/1 (1U)
Tightening Coils, Enchantment (1U)
Retreat to Coralhelm, Enchantment (2U)
Adverse Conditions, Instant (3U)
Incubator Drone, Creature 2/3 (3U)
2x Oracle of Dust, Creature 3/5 (4U)
Wave-Wing Elemental, Creature 3/4 (5U)

White (11)
3x Cliffside Lookout, Creature 1/1 (W)
Kor Castigator, Creature 3/1 (1W)
Felidar Cub, Creature 2/2 (1W)
Fortified Rampart, Creature 0/6 (1W)
Ondu Rising, Sorcery (1W)
Lantern Scout, Creature 3/2 (2W)
Stasis Snare, Enchantment (1WW)
Smite the Monstrous, Instant (3W)
Hero of Goma Fada, Creature 4/3 (4W)

Black (16)
Altar's Reap, Instant (1B)
Kalastria Healer, Creature 1/2 (1B)
Complete Disregard, Instant (2B)
Malakir Familiar, Creature 2/1 (2B)
2x Voracious Null, Creature 2/2 (2B)
4x Silent Skimmer, Creature 0/4 (3B)
2x Mire's Malice, Sorcery (3B)
Mind Raker, Creature 3/3 (3B)
Skitterskin, Creature 4/3 (3B)
Grip of Desolation, Instant (4BB)
Defiant Bloodlord, Creature 4/5 (5BB)

I got really excited when I saw Kiora. This is the first planeswalker I've opened in a Sealed Deck tournament since Rise of the Eldrazi. Apparently the Eldrazi planeswalkers like me. What happened next though was that I became obsessed with fitting her into a deck, so naturally it would be UGB right? In my excitement I mentally dismissed Red and White as having too few cards to support a deck, and I saw that I did have the mana fixing necessary to run three colors, so I immediately jumped right in and built this:

Creatures (16)
Mist Intruder
Tide Drifter
Incubator Drone
Ulamog's Nullifier
Kozilek's Channeler
Ruin Processor
Kalastria Healer
Malakir Familiar
2x Silent Skimmer
2x Tajuru Stalwart
2x Eyeless Watcher
Void Attendant
Tajuru Beastmaster

Planeswalker (1)
Kiora, Master of the Depths

Other (6)
Infuse with the Elements
Unnatural Aggression
Complete Disregard
Rush of Ice
Clutch of Currents
Grip of Desolation

Lands (17)
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Prairie Stream
Lumbering Falls
2x Mortuary Mire
2x Skyline Cascade
3x Swamp
3x Forest
2x Island

Looking at my deck in this format, I'm pretty sure people can see a few issues immediately. Unfortunately, they were lost on me during the deck building phase, and I then went on to a 1-2-1 record. Needless to say, not happy with myself.

The question now is, was this really the best deck I could build with my pool? As I was dismantling my deck I noticed that I'd used three of my seven rares, which is a respectable number for Sealed Deck, but TWO OF THEM WERE LANDS. Now, lands are important, but most of the time, especially in Limited, they're not going to win the game.

I should have chosen a different 40 cards. I should have chosen these:

GW Allies and Friends

Creatures (16)
3x Cliffside Lookout
Kor Castigator
Felidar Cub
Lantern Scout
Hero of Goma Fada
Kozilek's Channeler
Ruin Processor
2x Tajuru Stalwart
2x Eyeless Watcher
Void Attendant
Tajuru Beastmaster
Veteran Warleader

Planeswalker (1)
Kiora, Master of the Depths

Other (6)
Earthen Arms
Infuse with the Elements
Unnatural Aggression
Retreat to Kazandu
Stasis Snare
Smite the Monstrous

Lands (17)
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Lumbering Falls
Prairie Stream
2x Island
5x Plains
5x Forests

With this deck, 25% of my deck is Allies, which means a lot of chances for lifelink, indestructible, and +1/+1 effects. I also use six of my seven rares, which is a minor indicator of inherent power in the deck. On top of that I am able to incorporate the Retreat into this mana curve, and both +1/+1 counters or gaining life on landfall are great choices. Stasis Snare and Smite the Monstrous are both extremely well-costed removal spells, and I even get enchantment removal on a stick in the form of Felidar Cub. I get four sources for blue mana (and two wild cards in Evolving Wilds), which is more than enough to support Kiora.

Would I have done better with this deck during the tournament? That is up in the air. However, I probably would have given myself an easier path to success (and those two wins) using the second deck instead of the first. In previous tournaments I wouldn't even have been able to see this though, so I'm definitely proud of myself for improving to the point where I am noticing things like this.

What would you have sleeved up given this pool? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The state of console games

Two posts in two days...what is the world coming to? I'd usually leave video game ranting to Angry Video Game Nerd, except I'm getting that feeling right now.

I love video games. I may not have the console history that rabid fans use to measure their e-peen, but I've always enjoyed console gaming (even though I'm a PC gamer at heart). And really, growing up it seemed like the good games never stopped. Even now, as a member of the 9-5 workforce, there's always time for games, or at least I make time for them (usually to the extreme ire of Cindy).

There's always something new to play...except when there...isn't...

I just completed a year working as a tester on the Xbox One. The "next-gen" consoles have been out for a while now, with the Wii U finally hitting its stride (supposedly), the Xbox One slightly making a comeback (maybe), and the PS4 still going strong (uhh sure?). My question is, where are the games?

I haven't bought an Xbox One or PS4 yet. In my opinion, neither console has a strong enough library of games already released or announced to justify a purchase. Dragon Age: Inquisition? That was a no-brainer buy for PC for me. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? Not a fan of the PvP and the campaign's like 10 hours long, if you're slow. Forza? Sure it's fun, but I still have my 360 racing setup. Bloodborne? Seriously? Mortal Kombat X? Sorry but that's a nostalgia buy at best...and the new and improved fatalities are a negative in my opinion. Destiny? Sure, if Bungie hadn't run that IP into the ground shortly after release... Evolve was the March of video games (in like a lion, out like a lamb). Halo MCC had sooooo many issues, but it was fun playing the Halo single player campaigns again...until you realize that wait, I'm just replaying the old Halo games, which were twitchy and had really terrible story-telling...and are still twitchy with terrible story-telling. Assassin's Creed Unity...what a mess that ended up being.

I seriously had more fun playing Powerstar Golf on the Xbox One than any of the games I just listed (excepting DA:I but I played that on PC). So then, Nintendo must be doing okay on the Wii U right?

Well, let's see...Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. Those are the only two games mainstream fans care about. Me personally, I've never been a huge fan of SSB. Hyrule Warriors was fun for a while. But that makes...3 games? Bayonetta 2, but it still has the ridiculously unnecessary gratuitous nudity issue that the first one had, which they fixed with Nintendo costumes, but left in the sequel? Nintendo is still the king of poor design decisions...

This was supposed to have been Nintendo's year. Last year's E3, Nintendo completely blew Sony and Microsoft out of the water in terms of pure excitement concerning new games. Except now we're coming to E3 2015 and Zelda has been pushed back, Codename STEAM didn't actually generate any steam, Monster Hunter 4 still has the same crappy control system as the previous Nintendo ported Monster Hunters, and Xenoblade Chronicles X still doesn't have a Western release date despite releasing in Japan next Wednesday.

Come on, everyone. The heart has really dropped out of video games this year. Considering my top games of 2015 are Pillars of Eternity and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, it seems a return to the basics is in order. Make me want to play games instead of writing blog posts!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

To freelance or not to freelance

I'm very bad at this writing thing. I always start writing projects thinking "this time I'll keep it going!" and it never happens. This is why my blogs (like this one) are always empty, and I'm not a writer. However, what I've realized is that I'm an extremely good editor. It's not just spelling and grammar; I can pick out tone and style as well. I have frequent issues with self-published books (usually picked up on my Kindle), but it happens quite often with major content providers as well (e.g. news, current events, pop culture sites).

I also find myself enjoying translation work in the only two languages I'm fluent in: Chinese (Mandarin for spoken, both Traditional and Simplified for written) and English (mostly American, of course). Japanese has been my next project for years now, but much like writing blogs, learning it is a stop-and-go affair.

That brings me to the subject of this post. For the past year, mostly due to financial concerns, I've been toying with the idea of doing freelance translation and editing work. I already do a lot of this on a pro bono basis (starting from high school actually) - mostly for family and friends but also for kindred souls on the internet. For examples of my latest work you can check out the Xenoblade Chronicles X video subs by 許為傑. I own the Google+ page darkshard45, and I've been helping 許為傑 with grammar and flow.

The major issue with making this into a side business is time. Translating and editing are typically very time-sensitive. Editing is something I can complete within an hour or two for most projects, but translation projects can take days or weeks with work and life competing for attention. I can always start with just editing, but translating is where I stand out and usually do my best work. I'm afraid that it will become too time-consuming, and I'll end up letting down customers who would actually be paying now.

I figure this is where I needed opinions from people who know me. Some of you know me well, and most of you don't. What do you think should be my course of action? Should I attempt to make this into a freelance business or just keep it as a hobby?