Monday, October 16, 2017

What's Up With Gwyned?

It's a question I'm sure many of you have asked yourself in the past couple months: what's up with Gwyned? I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I kept coming up with excuses or other things to do. But I'm hoping that by finally being honest and open about my situation, I can begin to return to some kind of normal.

Back in June, I learned that my position was being terminated. The organization wasn't happy with my performance, and while many of my co-workers encouraged me that it wasn't really my fault, it still took a pretty big toll. I continued working in my position through the end of September, which at least meant I was collecting a paycheck and had time to search for other positions. But my emotional state was pretty low, and as a result, I stopped doing almost any writing or Magic.

I've made excuses about being busy, but the truth is that it's just been too hard. I've been diagnosed with depression, and I'm on medication for it, and it's helping. But emotionally, my situation is still so draining that it's hard for me to flex my creative muscles. It's easier just to distract myself with other things rather than try to create something. And even worse, I'm afraid that if I fail, if I don't create something good, if I don't succeed, it will just make these feelings worse.

But I'm going to try. That's why I'm writing this post. It's not going to be easy. It's not going to change overnight. But just avoiding the situation isn't going to make things better. So I'll have more content this week, and expect to see me on Magic Online playing in the league again as well.

So that's what's up with me.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

MPDC League Season 4: SilverBlack!

First, a quick disclaimer: I spent the last couple months finishing up my job, and I am now unemployed. For various reasons, this has led me to not be blogging or playing Magic very much. Maybe at some point I will write more about that. But for now, blog updates are going to be very infrequent. My apologies. So with that out of the way...

I am happy to announce that there will be a Season 4 of the MPDC League. Honestly, when I first saw the full card gallery for Ixalan, I was pretty disappointed with the new batch of Commons. So disappointed, in fact, that I'm not even sure it's worth posting a Standard Pauper review of the set. But after consulting with joekewwl, we decided that the best option would be to expand the cardpool in some way.

So for Season 4 of the MPDC League, the format will be Standard SilverBlack. SilverBlack is the common term for allowing all Commons and Uncommons. At one point there was at least one Player Run Event using this format, but as far as I can tell, it is no longer running. Therefore, this seems like a great option to help make up for a somewhat lackluster crop of cards.

Additionally, we are also going to experiment with two short segments of the league with additional rules. For weeks 5-7, we will be doing Standard SilverBlack Tribal, which means that at least one third of the cards in your deck must have a shared creature subtype. Then, for weeks 8-10, we will be doing Standard SilverBlack Monocolored, which means that every card in your deck must either be Colorless or share the same single Color. The exact schedule can be found on the schedule page, along with the new rules for card legality.

Let me answer a few questions regarding this season:

1. Why SilverBlack? Why not just stick with Standard Pauper? In addition to my disappointment with the Ixalan Commons, participation in the league has dropped as of late. Expanding the cardpool seems like a great way to revitalize interest and breathe new life into the league.

2. Doesn't adding Uncommons make decks a lot more expensive? Actually, the cost of most Uncommons isn't much more than the Commons. There are a few Uncommons with a price closer to a dollar each, but most of these are cards that have limited availability online and thus more expensive due to their demand by those trying to redeem sets.

3. Will WotC be offering additional prizes this season? As of right now, we do NOT have any sponsorship from Wizards of the Coast for this season. Thus, the booster packs we awarded during the first three seasons are not part of the prize package for Season 4.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to comment below. I'm looking forward to getting this season started this coming Monday. Hope you will join us!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mistborn House War - Two Player Variant?

Within just a few days after GenCon, my Kickstarter copy of Mistborn: House War arrived on my porch. While I didn't get a chance to play it this year, I did demo it at last year's GenCon, and its promise hasn't lessened in my mind since then. The game's only problem, however, is that it requires at least three people to play. Which means I'm still waiting for the opportunity in the midst of a very busy schedule to get together with my game group and try it out.

In the mean time though, I've been thinking about how the game might be adapted for only 2 players (or possibly even just one). Having played a lot of Scythe recently, I was intrigued by the Automata feature of that game, which essentially uses a deck of cards to substitute for the actions of a human player. While I wasn't ready to develop something quite that complex, I was curious if I could come up with a simple set of rules to govern a "dummy" player who the two human players would be competing against.

You see, at its heart Mistborn: House War is a social, semi-cooperative resource management game. Everyone's working for the same end, and you work together to solve Problems before they "erupt" and make the overall situation worse. You do this by contributing your own resources and agreeing with everyone else how much Favor you'll receive for your aid out of the total available. But at the same time, you're all individually competing to earn the most Favor, which is awarded for each Problem solved before it "erupts." You can read my review here for more details.

My design strategy looked something like this:
  • Make the "dummy" player always act out a simple script. In this case, it always plays a card during a deal, always gets any Favor that won't divide evenly from any deal it participates in, and only solves Problems during its turn if it can do so without any help. 
  • The human players have to agree on any actions that the dummy takes; if they can't agree, determine the result randomly. Furthermore, they can never decide to target the dummy player with negative consequences unless those consequences are equally applied among all three players.
  • Finally, to incentivize the players to deal with the dummy more often, any time a Problem "erupts," it increases the Unrest track by one. And should that track reach 8, the players lose. This is in addition to whatever the normal consequences printed on the card when it "erupts," even if that includes additional Unrest.
I'll be testing this with my wife over the next few weeks. It's been a fun diversion and let me enjoy playing the game without having to wait for a full group of friends to come together to play.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MPDC League Season 3 - Esper Artificers, Mark 3

Another week of the MPDC League brings...yet another victory for the Esper Artificers deck, this time piloted by the renown joekewwl. While his version is certainly similar to the one that cRUMMYdUMMY has played over the past few weeks, joekewwl's version definitely has some interesting variations. So I thought for today's post we'd take a quick look at some of his choices.

First, this version adds a couple of new cards into the mix. While earlier versions have typically included several copies of Fireforger's Puzzleknot, joekewwl also included Metalspinner's Puzzleknot, which gives the deck significantly more card draw. He also added Djeru's Resolve to presumably give it some creature protection as well as Compulsory Rest, which serves as an alternate removal spell to Unquenchable Thirst (and as such doesn't require the deck to run any Deserts).

Second, joekewwl's version is more creature light, trimming a single Thraben Inspector, Aether Swooper, and two Aviary Mechanics to make room for the full playset of Self Assembler and almost a full set of both Cartouche of Ambition and Knowledge.

Finally, while his Sideboard was fairly similar, joekewwl's version made room for Dispel, which is one of the better permission spells in a Control vs. Control matchup.

Overall, these changes definitely push the deck towards the Control end of the spectrum. It plays fewer creatures, but draws more cards, and generally will be stronger in the late-game than cRUMMYdUMMY's version. It would be interesting to read the thoughts from both of these players on which version they think is stronger, and why.

Hope my readers are enjoying this third season of the MPDC League.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

GenCon 2017

As I mentioned earlier this week, this past weekend was GenCon here in Indianapolis, Indiana. In case you are unfamiliar with it (and I am always amazed at the people who live in the Indy area and yet have no idea what it is), GenCon is the largest gaming convention in the world. Their motto is, "The Best Four Days in Gaming," and as far as I'm concerned, they live up to that claim 100%. This year was their biggest attendance yet, with well over 200,000 people in attendance over the four days. In fact, for the first time in their history, they sold out of admission badges the week before the event began. This convention is so large that it not only encompasses the entire Indianapolis Convention Center, but spills over into event areas of seven other nearby hotels as well as Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.

I got the chance to play several great games, including:
  • Scythe, a 7 player asymmetrical civilization and warfare strategy game
  • Clank, a deck-building adventure game (by the same company that makes the CCG Eternal)
  • Ex Libris, a card drafting and set collection game that feels like something from the Harry Potter universe
  • 7-Wonders Duel, a 2 player variant on the popular 7 Wonders civilization strategy game
  • Yamatai, an Asian mythology themed route/network building strategy game that is highly reminiscent of 5 Tribes
  • Imperial Settlers, a asymmetrical civilization card strategy game 
I also have to mention attending the fantastic Writer's Symposium, which is an entire mini-seminar within the conference itself that brings in the top authors in the science fiction and fantasy genre to host topical panels for aspiring and beginning authors. Just like in previous years, my wife and I got sit in on the live recorded sessions of Writing Excuses, which is highly recommended. And for once, they had the whole cast there, which has not happened in previous years.

But the highlight of the weekend was the special panels I got to attend with Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and the cast of Critical Role. Rothfuss is absolutely hilarious in person; listening to him reading his Princess book is not to be missed. I also managed to get a special promo card from Sanderson for the Mistborn: House Wars board game that just arrived on my doorstep straight from its Kickstarter fulfillment. And last but not least, seeing the amazing cast of Critical Role is an experience that should not be missed.

If you're a gamer of any sort, you should come to GenCon. It's well worth whatever it takes to get you there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MPDC League Season Two Results

And just like that, the second season of the MPDC League is over. Thanks to all 22 players who participated, who logged nearly 250 matches over the 5 weeks that we played. For Week Five, cRUMMYdUMMY not only again took the trophy for the week, but also managed to secure the title of Season Two Grand Champion.

Couple of logistical points of interest. First, we're running back-to-back seasons for Hour of Devastation, which means Season 3 has already begun! Second, while all of the HOU booster packs for Season 2 have already been distributed, the Season Total prizes from MTGOTraders won't go out until early next week. joekewwl is also working on getting the Door Prizes from Season 2 distributed to the winning players. If you believe something is in error, please contact me right away at gwyned at gmail dot com.

cRUMMYdUMMY went 5-0 once again with his Esper Artificers deck, using the exact list he mentioned in the comments in my previous post. This deck has proven to be quite strong, so it remains to be seen if the metagame can adapt and find a way to consistently beat it. If you've got some ideas on how to do that, I'd love to hear it in the comments below!

Finally, on a more personal note, I recently was let go from my job, with my current position ending at the end of next month. So in the process of applying for jobs, interviewing, and the like, my blog posts probably will be a bit hit or miss for the next couple months or so. Sadly, this probably isn't that different than what it's been recently - but at least now I have a better excuse!

Anyway, I'll be back later this week with my promised write-up of my experience at GenCon 2017!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Esper Artificers, Take Two

With a short Season 2 of the MPDC League, we're already at the final week for this season. Interestingly enough, this week's winner is once again cRUMMYdUMMY, who piloted a very similar list to the one from Week One to capture the trophy for this week. You can view his original decklist as well as my breakdown of its contents here. So today, I thought I would look at some of the changes that he made for this week.
I. Maindeck:
II. Sideboard:
The two biggest changes are the inclusion of a full playset of Boon of Emrakul and the inclusion of two copies of Ironclad Slayer. Boon of Emrakul seems like a perfect inclusion, as it can serve both as conditional removal (killing any creature with 3 Toughness or less) or as a way of pumping up your own creatures once they are large enough. Ironclad Slayer also seems right at home here, with at least thirteen targets in the deck between the copies of Inventor's Goggles and the Cartouches. The deck is also slightly less controlling with the removal of Brilliant Spectrum and only a single copy of Cartouche of Knowledge remaining in the deck, and that only in the Sideboard. But the most interesting change is the inclusion of 2 copies of Renewed Faith (which is considered Standard Pauper legal thanks to being printed as a Common in Onslaught block). Pure Lifegain spells are usually pretty bad, but the fact that this either grants you a hefty six Life or can instead be cycled and still gain you two Life makes this a pretty reasonable option, particularly against very aggressive decks.

Congrats to cRUMMYdUMMY on his second 1st place finish of this short season!