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!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Bant Sacrifice

The third week of Season 2 of the MPDC League is in the books. This week's 1st place winner is MisterMojoRising, who went undefeated with his Bant Sacrifice list. While I am still waiting for the trophy from Polyjak, I am happy to see that the new visual decklist program is working once more. Definitely let me know if you prefer this style to the 'classic' PureMTGO list that includes links for each of the cards. Anyway, let's take a look at the winning list.

This deck uses a lot of the same sacrifice mechanics as last week's winner. Bloodbriar and Lifecraft Cavalry are the main recipients of such sacrifices, but the theme also synergizes well with Thraben Inspector, Wretched Gryff, Lunarch Mantle, Angelic Purge, and even Renegade Map. But unlike the Black Green version, this deck generates a ton of tokens as fodder for these sacrifices with the  tokens created by Eldrazi Skyspawner and Peema Outrider. Adding to this strategy is some removal in the form of the aforementioned Angelic Purge as well as Rabid Bite and Hunt the Weak.

This variant can also ramp out its creatures faster thanks to the Eldrazi Spawn tokens from the Skyspawner as well as the mana acceleration of Ulvenwald Captive. Even better, the flipside Ulvenwald Abomination is one of the biggest creatures in the format, making this deck a little better in the long game than its BG version.

At its heart though, this is still a fairly aggressive creature based strategy, looking to smash into its opponent with its bigger creatures and leverage the sacrifice mechanic to generate significant advantage along the way. But, should you find yourself paired against a more Control-oriented archetype, the Sideboard does provide some additional resources to help you combat that archetype.

First, the full playset of both Negate and Pulse of Murasa go a long way in keeping you alive in the long game and countering your opponent's specific gameplan. Second, you can augment your removal suite with additional copies of Rapid Bite, Hunt the Weak, and the lone Take Down that specifically targets flyers. Finally, the extra Lunarch Mantle is great if your opponent is light on removal.
 
So congratulations to MisterMojoRising for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and taking the 1st place prize for Week Three of the MPDC League.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing and Perfectionism

My wife recently linked me to an article entitled "You Aren't Lazy — You're Just Terrified." The author writes about her own struggles with perfectionism and how impossibly high standards make it so difficult for her to actually write anything. She had three insights that I thought were particularly relevant to most writers, myself included:
  1. Laziness is often a symptom of fear. When we think we're being lazy, the real problem is actually a fear of failure, or at least of not measuring up. Perfectionism whispers, "If you can't do something perfectly, don't do it at all." And since we can't measure up to our own standards, we end up doing nothing. But the problem isn't laziness. It's fear.
  2. Mistakes are a necessary part of the process. The only way to success is to fail. Falling short, missing the mark, not meeting the standard - all these things are a normal part of the process to achieve success. It's not just taking a risk that is necessary; it's failure itself. Failure is, perhaps, the best teacher of all.
  3. Perfectionism is exhausting. It's a whole lot more effort to figure out the perfect way to do something than it is to just sit down and do it. You only have a finite amount of time and energy in a day. You can use that time being productive, or you can use that time figuring out the perfect way to do something. 
The author's last words in the article are particularly poignant:

"It’s the only advice that has worked so far: Do the work. Write the story. Wash your dishes. It will never be perfect, but that does not mean that it can’t be good. Life is a lot better when you allow yourself to live it."

I certainly need the reminder to aim for "good enough" in my writing.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - BG Sacrifice

Better late than never, right?

Yesterday's attempt at this post did not go well. The cool visual deck editor program I used last week isn't working for some reason, and it takes quite a bit of finesse to use the old PureMTGO Deck Editor, since it is no longer updated for the new cards. So eventually I gave up and went to bed. Fortunately, things seemed to go much smoother this afternoon, and as a result you're now reading this blogpost.

So for Week 2 of the MPDC League, we actually had two players go undefeated - Armont with a BG Sacrifice deck and afreeAk with a Izzet Spells deck. But Armont narrowly edged out afreeAk in tiebreakers to claim the trophy for this week - which was once again created by Polyjak. Let's take a look at Armont's list:


This deck thrives on Graveyard interactions. Blisterpod, Doomed Dissenter, and Primal Druid are perfect sacrifice targets, replacing themselves with another card while also fueling the boost to Power and Toughness on Bloodbriar, Defiant Salvager, Gavony Unhallowed, and/or Voracious Null. Altar's Reap and Bone Splinters are also perfect additions to this deck, providing needed card draw and creature removal while still synergizing with these creatures. And even once these creatures have entered the Graveyard, Gravedigger is there to return them to play again and again.

This deck is almost entirely creature based, but it does include a few additional spells. Dead Weight and Murder provide a few more choice for creature removal, while Cartouche of Ambition provides not only some much needed Lifegain but also helps to make sure combat is in your favor by shrinking your opponent's creatures while also buffing yours.

From the Sideboard, Festering Mummy and Soulstinger fit right into this deck's strategy of sacrificing creatures for big advantage while gaining a small advantage in the process. It also includes 2 more copies of Murder, as well as a singleton Grasp of Darkness, when you need a more removal-heavy option. Appetite for the Unnatural is there to target Enchantments and Artifacts, while the powerful Pulse of Murasa provides additional Lifegain as well as creature recursion, pushing an otherwise creature-centric deck into a more midrange option than can better survive over a longer game.

So congratulations to Armont for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and taking the 1st place prize for Week Two.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Excitement as the Secret to Success

David Farland's Writing Tip for this week offers a simple hint for how to increase your productivity as a writer. For him, he says the key to getting a lot of writing done is simply to be exciting about what your writing. It sounds simple, but actually, for many writers it's easier to be discouraged than it is to be excited. So how do we cultivate excitement? Farland offers three tips:
  1. Blot out negative thinking. This is the big one, I think. Like I said, it seems like it's way easier to be discouraged than to be excited. Writers feel inadequate, inexperienced, unprepared, and under-resourced when it comes to the task of writing something great. And when those fears turn into negative thinking, it's hard to be excited. So relentlessly get rid of all that negative self-talk!
  2. Accept your flaws. One of the most helpful things I discovered as I began to write stories is that first drafts are universally terrible. Seriously. Go find an author who has posted a first draft; even better, one that lets you compare a first draft to the final published work. Even professional writers don't create beautiful prose the first time around. So why would you expect anything different from yourself?
  3. Cultivate excitement. In other words, figure out what makes you excited. Is it imagining how your readers will react to your story? Focus on that. Is it picturing the money you might make, the awards you might win, or the changes it might bring to your life? Keep those thoughts at the front of your mind as you write. Maybe it's just talking with friends or family about your story. But whatever it is that helps you get excited, keep that at the forefront of your mind.
I hope you find these tips as helpful as I did. And if you'd like more of the same, be sure and subscribe to David Farland's Writing Tips, which get delivered weekly via E-mail. And thanks for reading!

Monday, July 24, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Esper Artificers

The first week of Season 2 of the MPDC League is in the books. And as promised, we've got some new content to show off. First, we've got a fantastic trophy designed by Polyjak. Second, I've got a new visual decklist graphic as well as a short write-up of cRUMMYdUMMY's winning list from Week One, which we're calling Esper Artificers. Let's take a look at his list:

As its name suggests, this deck is all about Artificers and the Artifacts they control. Aether Swooper, Bastion Inventor, and Aviary Mechanic are all Artificers, giving them an immediate advantage when combined with Inventor's Goggles. Add to this mix a full playset of Self-Assembler, Thraben Inspector, and a single Pilgrim's Eye, and you've got a fairly aggressive creature-based strategy. These creatures can then be further augmented with the Cartouche of Knowledge and of Ambition, making them into an even more formidable threat.

However, that's not to say the deck can't also play the long game. There are seemingly dozens of ways to abuse the "bounce" effect of the Mechanic, generating card advantage from not only your creatures, but from the Cartouches and Prophetic Prisms as well. The list even includes 2 Metallic Rebukes for some "soft" permission and a single Brilliant Spectrum, which thanks to the Prophetic Prisms could potentially draw up to 5 cards.

The Sideboard gives the deck some powerful Artifact/Enchantment hate from Forsake the Worldly, whose Cycling ability ensures it will always be useful. Other options include some additional counter magic from Essence Scatter, Negate, and another two copies of Metallic Rebuke, some helpful removal spells in Grasp of Darkness, and the fourth copy of Cartouche of Ambition for when you really need the extra life granted by Lifelink.

Congratulations to cRUMMYdUMMY for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and earning the trophy for Week One.

Finally, don't forget to check out my top picks from Hour of Devastation for Standard Pauper, which is now available over at PureMTGO.com.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Finishing Up My Hour of Devastation Review


Today I am hard at work on my Standard Pauper review of Hour of Devastation for PureMTGO. I am most of the way through it, and assuming all goes according to plan the article should be published this coming Monday. After not doing much writing about Magic for the past few weeks, it feels good to be back at work evaluating cards and thinking about how Hour of Devastation will impact Standard Pauper moving forward.

On the whole though, I haven't been that impressed with this set. I only identified a little more than a dozen cards that will probably see play, and several of those are fringe cards that might be good in a particular archetype but are not worth much outside of that specific strategy. In fact, other than highlighting these particular cards, assigning a ranking to them seems pretty fruitless, as they all fall more or less within the same ranking.

Anyway, here's a preview from the article:


This cycle of creatures (plus the Blue creature Enchantment Aura) are vanilla creatures with an additional ability that turns on whenever you control a Desert or have one in your Graveyard. They are each fairly costed for their stat-lines, but even with the secondary ability they don't offer much benefit for the cost of having to include Deserts in your deck. The Falter-like effect of Gilded Ceredon is probably the most interesting, making this creature more difficult for your opponent to effectively block. But of them, the best is probably Unquenchable Thirst, since it is not only still decent even with a Desert card but is also an effective removal spell for Blue. Overall though this cycle is pretty lackluster, and certainly doesn't give you enough incentive to include Deserts in your deck if you weren't already going to play them.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Season 2 of the MPDC League Begins

So Season 2 of the MPDC League officially started today. As I announced previously, this season will be a short, five-week series rather than a full ten-week series, with the hope that this will make it feel less oppressive to try and catch the early front-runners. Splitting up up like this did mean I had to essentially split the end-of-season prizes between the two seasons,  but overall I think this change will be for the best.

I know several people have requested that I make it easier to view and interpret the results from the Scoreboard each week. I'm sure someone better acquainted with Google Forms might be able to edit the spreadsheets to make it easier to read, but unfortunately I don't know of any way of doing this rather than having to manually edit the spreadsheet constantly, which isn't something I have the time to accomplish. The easiest thing to do is just download a copy to your own computer and then edit it in your own spreadsheet software. If someone can provide me with a better solution, I'd be happy to work on improving this.

I also know that many of you would like more posts about how the metagame is shaping up, and that will be something I will be writing about each Monday going forward. Sorry that I wasn't really able to do that last season.

Finally, all of the prizes (except for the 10 tix owed to afreeAk) have been distributed now from the first season. If you're still missing something, please contact me (gwyned at gmail dot com) and let me know.

Thanks so much! Looking forward to a great Season 2. Maybe I'll even get to play soon!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What I'm Writing This Week

Well I'm back to writing this week, but not exactly what I expected. I ran out of time this past weekend and barely even got started on my Standard Pauper review of Hour of Devastation. My friend and I also still haven't resumed our writing exercises. I do seem to be getting back into the discipline of getting blog posts out on a consistent basis again at least, so I'm seeing some progress there.

But this week in my wife's birthday, and to celebrate, I decided to host a special party with some of our friends and run a one-shot D&D session for them. Which means I'm busy creating a four hour adventure for this group, which looks like it may be as many as eight players.

For this adventure, I'm using two tools I've discussed recently on my blog. I started by browsing the free-use maps from Dyson's Dodecahedron, and then used his adventure hook to brainstorm a specific Five Room Dungeon for the session. I've got the whole thing outlined; now it's just a matter of fleshing it out with text and monsters and descriptions. Assuming the whole thing goes well, I may even throw it up on the Dungeon's Masters Guild.

So while it may not be the writing I was expecting - at least I'm writing!

Finally, as I announced earlier today on Twitter, congratulations to Klimon, who won the free booster pack of Hour of Devastation as the Door Prize for the MPDC League.  All of the booster packs from the league are already waiting for the winning players in their collection, having been added by Wizards of the Coast earlier today. I'm definitely looking forward to the next season of this great event!

Monday, July 10, 2017

MPDC League Season One Results

The first season of the new MPDC League is now in the books. You can view the results of the final week here, or check out the tabulated totals for the entire season. While these totals are still preliminary while I double-check them for accuracy, it would appear that afreeAk is our Season One Champion! Also, if you don't mind, take a minute and check to see that you received the correct total points.

Joekewwl and I have been trading Emails about the current state of the league, and to that end I have a few ideas for what I would like to try.

First, with approximately 10 weeks between the release of Hour of Devastation and Ixalan, I would like to try two five week leagues rather than a single ten week one. It has been noted that the number of participants has been slowly declining over the past few weeks, and part of the rationale behind that is probably an inability to be able to catch the top players. Resetting the scoreboard more often should help alleviate that.

Second, since Season One ended a week earlier than was originally scheduled, I have an extra booster pack of Hour of Devastation from that week. Rather than throwing it back into the prize pool, I thought it would be great to give it away as a Door Prize to one lucky player who didn't finish in the Top 8 for the Season. I will be announcing the winner of the Door Prize later this week, so keep an eye on this blog, the main MPDC League page, and my Twitter.

Third, speaking of Hour of Devastation, the names of the 1st place players from each week of Season One of the MPDC Leagues will be distributed to Wizards of the Coast this week. I am unsure when these will be distributed to the 1st place winners, but they will automatically appear in your collection once this has happened. Once I have a clear estimate of the timing, I will announce that here.

I believe that's it for today. Thanks to everyone who participated in the league. Get out there and purchase your HOU Commons, because they will be legal for Season 2 of the MPDC League, which starts a week from today!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Five Room Dungeon

One of the best tools I've ever found for designing a side-quest or short adventure is the Five Room Dungeon Model, which I believe originated with John Four's Roleplaying Tips website. In case you're unfamiliar with it, here's the short version:

Room 1: Entrance And Guardian
Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
Room 3: Red Herring
Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict
Room 5: Plot Twist

The idea is that a good adventure includes an opening conflict, an obstacle that you can't just kill or destroy, a distraction or diversion, a face-off against significant odds, and some sort of twist or link to the next adventure. Its brevity, variety, and focus is actually what makes it so good. Your players don't waste time wandering around fighting off random monsters; instead, each encounter is significant, interesting, and engages different types of players. If you're interested, you can actually download an e-book with 88 unique dungeons built using this model.

While this specifically was written for a short dungeon, it actually easily can be used as an outline for a larger dungeon complex, a major adventure arc, or even a campaign. I certainly have made use of it both for individual adventure locations in my current D&D campaign and the overall flow for the adventure. So if this is something you haven't used before, definitely read the whole article and start using it for your own adventures.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It's Hard to Write About Writing When You're Not Writing

When I decided to resume blogging, I wanted to use my midweek post each week to talk about what I was writing. But unfortunately, since I made that decision, I have done shockingly little writing. My friend and I haven't been meeting for our weekly writing exercises, I haven't been working much on my ongoing D&D campaign since we've taken a break for the summer, and my crazy schedule meant that I didn't even blog much over the past month.

It's hard to write about writing when you're not writing.

It's hard for me to believe now there was a time when I was writing every day. When I could come home from a long day at work and get 1,000 words or more on the page. When writing my weekly blog posts was easy, was fun, and was a great way to share some of my hobbies and interests.

But now I'm hardly doing any of that. So it's hard to write about writing when you're not writing.

So. I guess the solution is just to start writing. To force myself to get out three blog posts a week, even when I don't really feel like I have much to say. To call my friend up and get us back on track as far as our weekly writing. To start work this weekend on my Hour of Devastation review for Standard Pauper and finish it for my Sunday night deadline.

So that when I am writing I will be able to write about my writing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

MPDC League Update

It's well past time for another update regarding the ongoing MPDC League. With the online release of Hour of Devastation next Monday on Magic Online, this will be the final week of Season One of the MPDC League. As has been the case with MPDC for a long time, we will pause the event for one week to allow player's time to purchase the new cards and get familiar with them before resuming the league on Monday, July 17th. Keep an eye on the main page and on my Twitter feed for any additional updates as they happen.

Overall I have been quite pleased with this first season. Going in I had no idea if this would prove to be popular or if the workload would be manageable compared to the time investment of running a six hour event once a week. I'm pleased to say we've had well over 500 matches played in the league since the second week of May, representing 35 different players. While not everyone has played all five matches every week, we've also seen a solid core of players that not only play their maximum number of matches each week, but also contribute by playing extra matches to help out those who haven't reached their maximum yet. Let me extend a big thanks for all of you who have gone the extra mile to help make this event a success!

Starting next season, I will be blogging more about the league metagame and will be adding trophies each week for the first place finisher (similar to how we have in the past). While I'm happy to tackle the trophies myself, if anyone is interested in creating them, please drop me a line (gwyned at gmail dot com) and let me know! I also realized today that we have not been distributing the Door Prizes for each week. At this point I think we will just forego those for this season and start that up for next season. My apologies for the oversight!

If you have any feedback or ways you think we could make the league better, please comment below or feel free to email me (gwyned at gmail dot com). And thanks for your continued support of Standard Pauper!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eternal - Omens of the Past

Although technically still in beta, the Eternal digital card game by Direwolf Digital is very close to releasing their long-awaiting second card set entitled Omens of the Past. You can read my previous posts about this great game here, or check out the spoilers here.

Anyway, in case you are a fan of this game but haven't been paying attention, this weekend you can actually play with several of the new cards in special preview events. All you need to do is "sleeve-up" a deck that consists of one of the five faction pairs for this new set, and the appropriate new cards of that faction will automatically be added to your deck when you enter the preview event. And through these events, you can start earning booster packs of the new set that will be added to your collection once the new set releases. Best of all, these events are absolutely free!

This is exactly the kind of event that Wizards should be running online instead of their prereleases. It gets players excited about the new cards, gives them a chance to start playing with them right away, and doesn't cost you a thing. Sadly, as I have mentioned before, Wizards of the Coast has a lot to learn when it comes to digital card games.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Common Cycling Lands Back in Standard

Previews have officially started for Hour of Devastation. And while there are several interesting Commons that have already been spoiled, the existence of a cycle of Common Lands that can be cycled will probably make a big difference in the upcoming metagame. One of the perennial problems in Magic is drawing too many Lands in the course of a game. Lands that cycle solve this problem quite elegantly, allowing you to discard them for a new card and a marginal cost. Unless you're playing a very aggressive deck where the fact that these Lands come into play tapped is an issue or need a very finely tuned mana base, including a full playset of these in your deck is probably a good idea.

In this case, the cost to draw the new cards is 2 mana, one of which (presumably) is the same color as the land would have produced. This is somewhat of a blend of the original cycle back in Urza's Saga (which has never been available on Magic Online) that cycled for 2 mana and the newer one from Onslaught that cycled for a single colored mana.

Interestingly enough, it appears that each land in the cycle will also be a Desert, which looks like it will matter for at least a few cards at Common.

Finally, I want to apologize for the lack of content. June has been extremely busy. I haven't had time to open Magic Online in weeks, and all of my other hobbies are suffering as well. The rest of the summer looks quieter fortunately, so I should be back to a more regular schedule from this point forward.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Delay in Updates for Week Six of the MPDC League

I am traveling all of this week, will have only occasional access to the Internet, and almost certainly will not have access to a computer to post the results from Week Five of the MPDC League or restart the Scoreboard for Week Six. So what does this mean?

The results and prizes will be delayed until next weekend. I hope to have it updated by this Friday, but it may be as late as Saturday before everything is updated.

In addition, the Scoreboard will continue to display all of the match results from Week Five, with the new results from Week Six appearing on the same spreadsheet. So if you check the Scoreboard during the week, you will need to scroll down to the bottom to find the new results.

However, this will NOT otherwise affect the league. Continue to use the Results Form as normal, and when I have access to my computer again on Friday afternoon, I will sort everything out.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sushi Go

My wife and I, being the avid gamers that we are, are slowly introducing our children to our wide collection of "Geek" games. We decided to start them off easy, and the game we picked was Sushi-Go.

Sushi-Go is a quick card drafting game where you select a card from your starting hand, play it face up in front of you, and then pass the rest of the cards to the next player. You then select another card and continue the sequences until all of the cards have been played. You do this over three rounds, keeping score after each round, and then the winner is declared at the end based on the total number of points you selected.

As you might expect from the title, the cards represent different kinds of sushi, each illustrated with a cute picture and coded to a particular color. Some cards are worth points all by themselves, but most of them are only worth points in particular combinations. These combinations range from having the most of a card type, from completing either pairs or sets, playing a multiplier on one particular card type, and even a card that only scores at the very end of the game, awarding the player with the most bonus points and punishing the player with the fewest the same number of points. The game takes its name from the "Chopsticks" card, which allows you to draft two cards during one of your turns rather than just one, requiring you to announce "Sushi-Go!" when you do so.

While not particularly complex, there is definitely some light strategy when it comes to selecting which card types you are going to build towards. You need to pay attention not only to which cards you're passing but also to which combinations your opponent is playing. Since even in the five player version you don't actually see every card, there is a fair bit of randomness involved, but you typically see enough cards that this randomness shouldn't be too much of a factor.

Our kids picked it up quite quickly, and while there was the typical hurt feelings when only one person wins, it was still a fun and easy game to play with them, and one I'm sure we'll return to in the future.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WIP: Three Gifts

I've written in the past how I've used Magic the Gathering art to inspire some of my writing. Today I want to share with you a work-in-progress based on this particular card image (and you get bonus points if you can name the card without using Google search or something similar).

Looking at this piece of art, I imagined a priest who specialized in identifying and destroying items that contain dangerous or evil arcane energies. This seemed like the perfect setup for a story about a series of objects that the priest encounters, and how he unwittingly falls prey to dark magicks hidden within. Here, then, is the first 150 words or so, which encapsulates the scene from the art. Enjoy!

Berend swung his maul, scattering shards of pottery across the stone chamber and unleashing a burst of sand into the air. A cloud of grit slowly settled amidst the jagged pieces of what had once been a statue, causing the robed figure to cough. He kicked at the debris scattered across the sigil of Piotyr inscribed on the floor, grinding a small fragment under his boot. Satisfied, he turned as two figures approached, burdened by the second of the grotesque statues that had been dragged into the temple after being found outside that morning.

“By the Light, your pride will be the death of you someday, Berend,” the first said. “You didn’t even bother to lay down a Protection sigil?”

He snorted. “You worry too much. Ugly as they are, they're hardly tainted at all. I don’t know why they even bothered sending them up here.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

MPDC League Scoreboards and Decklists

Earlier today I posted the results from the now complete Week Four of the MPDC League. Congratulation to cRUMMYdUMMY who went undefeated this week to earn the first place trophy.

Several people have requested permanent access to each week's Scoreboard to make it easier to track decklists. I finally updated the Scoreboard page to include these forms from each week. While the data isn't very easy to sort through in Google Pages itself, you can choose to save a local copy to your computer, which you can then input into your spreadsheet editor of choice. Hopefully this will allow some of you to share with us some insights on what's going on in the format.

I am also slowly in the process of exploring ways to save the Top 4 decklists from each week. Since the last time I checked, it appears that MTGOTrader's Decks feature seems to be working correctly, so I am in the process of uploading those into that database. But for the moment, you can check out the 1st place decks from each week below:

Week 1: White Weenie by nate316
Week 2: White Weenie by manaissues
Week 3: Burn by DrChrisBakerDC
Week 4: Azorius Artifacts by cRUMMYdUMMY

Last week we had 19 players who contributed a total of 69 games between them. Thanks to everyone who has participated in the league.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Writer's Symposium at Gencon

The official sign up for events at GenCon 2017 finally went live this past Sunday. Although the con itself isn't until the middle of August, the sign-up for events is always a bit crazy, as thousands of registrants compete for seminars and events that can only hold dozens of people at most.

Like in the past few years, GenCon is also hosting its annual Writer's Symposium, where successful authors in the science fiction and fantasy genres give panel discussions on a variety of topics. Some of the major authors featured this year include Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, Patrick Rothfuss, and Larry Correia, each of whom are doing special Q&A and book signings in addition to their panel discussions. If you're curious, you can see all of the Writer's Symposium events here.

Here are a few panels that I am particularly looking forward to:
  • Medieval Cooking and Fantasy Foods
  • Believable Fictional Languages
  • Real Animals in a Fantasy World
  • War Magic — When Magic Goes to War
  • Can a Hero be Too Powerful?
It's going to be another great year at GenCon. If any of my readers are planning on attending, let me know. I'd love to come say hello and meet you in person.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Update on MPDC League

The first three weeks of the MPDC League are now in the books, and overall things continue to go well. However, there are a few small items of note that I wanted to take this opportunity to touch on.

First, CHAOSBLACKDOOM has created a Discord channel for our league. I don't know how many of you use Discord, but if you do, definitely check it out here.

Second, when filling out the results form, it is very important to make sure that your username and the name of your opponent are both spelled correctly. When I go to tabulate the results, I will sort by the username, and if there are different spellings of your name, it can be easy to miss some of your results. While I have been able to catch most of these, one in particular did mess up this week's results. Fortunately, it didn't impact the prizes, but it still meant that this particular player didn't initially get their right score. So please double-check each result form before you submit it!

Third, there has been a request for access to each week's form so that players can track shifts in the metagame. Right now only the scoreboard for the current week is available. I hope to work on this later this week. All the data is saved; it's just a matter of how to make it available in the right way.

Finally, there have been a few questions about tiebreakers. Week 3's results are a great example of how they work. When two or more players have the same score, the first thing I do is calculate the match win percentage for each of their opponents. These are then averaged to determine the Opponent's Match Win Percentage. Should those numbers end up identical, I next calculate the percentage of games each player won by adding up the total numbers of games (not matches) played and how many of those were won. This then gives me the Player Game Wins Percentage. And while I don't expect to ever have to use this, should that result be the same, I would then determine the Opponent's Game Win Percentage as the final tiebreaker.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the league!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

RPG Cards

Today I want to share with you another awesome resource for your roleplaying games. A person who identifies him or herself only as crobi created a great online program called RPG Cards that allows you to create and print small cards to use as handy references for spells, monsters, magic items, and the like. It uses some fairly simple formatting code, which you can view on this page, and allows you to customize with a variety of rich text, images, and colors. There is also a sample file you can view that shows you a variety of different cards whose code you can then use as a starting point for your own cards.

Once you created your cards, you can print them out on A4 size page, which fits 9 cards altogether on the default settings. But of course, the size of each card, and the size of the paper you want to print them, it just one of several different options you have at your disposal. You can also save the file locally and then load it back up next time you come to the website, although the page itself records its last state so everything is just as you left it next time you come to the site (assuming you're accessing it from the same computer and same browser as before).

I primarily have been using this as magic item cards to hand out to my players as they acquire custom magic items. Here are a few examples:


They are surprisingly fun to make and play with. Why not give it a try?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Importance of Deadlines

Apparently I'm a lazy person.

No, maybe that's not it at all. But I've discovered that when it comes to writing, deadlines are important. In fact, that's exactly why when I resumed blogging a couple weeks back, I specifically announced a specific schedule of days of the week and topics. I know that without a deadline, I am more likely to procrastinate, to get lazy, or simply to not write at all.

That's been the best part of my decision to work through Writing Excuses Season 10 with one of my friends. Just this week, out of the blue, I was able to sit down and write over 500 words in about 40 minutes. How? I had a deadline. I had to get something done so that he and I would have something to talk about. I'm embarrassed to admit that we had to reschedule our discussion time two weeks in a row. And both of those weeks, I never once sat down to work on that assignment. No, it wasn't until I knew we were meeting again that I actually took the time to get it done.

Unfortunately, if I am ever going to become a published writer, I have to do better than this. I need to reach the point here my deadlines are internal, rather than external. I need to redevelop the discipline of writing every day. But I'm going to save that topic for next week.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Matches for MPDC League

So far most players are reporting to me that they aren't having much trouble finding other players participating in the MPDC League simply by joining the chat channel #mpdc when they are online. I encourage our players to login regularly and make use of that channel, and to feel free to challenge any other player who is logged on, as often times people don't notice chat in the actual channel itself.

However, for those of you who want some more definitive data as far as when you are most likely to find a match, I did include an optional question in the Match Reporting Form to gather this data. Here's what I've found by sorting the data from the past two weeks:
  • Our player base is pretty diverse as far as preferred playing times, with responses ranging pretty much across the entirety of a 24 hour range.
  • Based on the original time zone indicated, our players are fairly well split between North America and Europe, with only a few players in other parts of the world. This tracks well with who has participated in MPDC in the past.
  • The best time to find other players online seems to be in the 5-9pm GMT range. This makes sense, as it starts early afternoon for most of the United States but includes evenings and late night in Europe.
There has also been some discussion about starting a Discord channel to help facilitate finding other Standard Pauper players. I would love to hear how many of my readers currently use Discord and whether or not you would use this medium to chat with other players. Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Race for the Galaxy App

Several years ago, I wrote about a card game called Race for the Galaxy. Although the only components in the game are the cards themselves, it plays out very similarly to worker-placement games like Agricola or Puerto Rico. In each round of the game, each player secretly chooses a single action - such as settling a new planet, exploring the galaxy (for new cards), constructing a development, producing resources, or selling those resources.  All players play each of the chosen actions, but the one who chose it receives a significant bonus. Each planet and development gives the player certain advantages or abilities, and is also worth a certain number of victory points at the end of the game. Naturally, whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

Recently Temple Gates Games released an app version of this game for both Apple and Android, and I must say it's a hit. The app includes a nice, clean interface, some basic but appropriate music and sound effects, a surprisingly good AI, a quick three part tutorial, and a variety of ways to play the game - including against the AI, against other players online, or even as a "pass and play" option where you substitute your device for the game with multiple people around the same virtual table.

While $6.99 is a bit steep for an app, particularly when the two expansions will run you an additional $3.99 each, you're still getting pretty good value for your dollar. Games are quick enough that you can easily jam several in a short amount of time, or just squeeze one in while waiting for something else. At least on a tablet, the cards are easy to read even without zooming in on them, and each card includes helpful tooltips to help explain any card that seems unclear.

If you're a fan of the game, this should be a no-brainer to pick up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Respect as Professionalism

I am a subscriber to David Farland's #Writing Tips, which sends out periodic emails with advice related to the world of writing and publication. One of his recent tips talked about the value of what he called being a professional. This is how he put it:

"Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of being a professional. In other words, a professional is someone who works hard, meets deadlines, tries to be a team player, and so on.

A professional doesn’t whine if he doesn’t get his way with his publisher. He doesn’t punch his agent in the face. He doesn’t talk nasty about his agent. He recognizes that each of these people perform a valuable service, are probably doing the best they know how, and therefore strives to develop strong relationships with them.

If you look at successful authors, ones with long and healthy careers, you’ll find that they behave professionally."


While Farland refers to this as professionalism, a better term for what he's talking about might be respect. Sadly, we live in a world where respect is at an all-time low. People routinely treat other in ways that are vindictive, mean-spirited, and blatantly rude. So I thought this advice was quite timely. In whatever you do, it's not enough simply to be good at it. You also need to treat others with kindness and respect.

Even when we may never see a person face-to-face, how we treat that person matters. And I certainly am not immune. Just this week, I had to apologize to a player for the way I disconnected at the end of a match. While I didn't say anything negative, I still felt like my actions didn't communicate respect. So next time I was online, I took the time to apologize to that person.

What do you need to change to be more respectful?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wizards Donates Prizes for the MPDC League

The first week of the MPDC League is in the books, and from all accounts it was quite successful. We had 18 players total for the event, and of those both nate316 and afreeAk managed to go 5-0, with moromete in 3rd place with 4-1 and manaissues in 4th place with 3-2. You can view all of the results from Week One here.

But the biggest news for today is that longtime Standard Pauper support joekewwl reached out to Wizards of the Coast about this league. In response, Lee Sharpe replied back that they would donate 36 packs of Hour of Devastation to be distributed over the next two seasons of the MPDC League. After consulting with joekewwl, we decided to award one pack to the 1st place winner of each week, and then award an additional pack to all of the Top 8 players at the end of the season. Now obviously these packs won't be distributed until after that set is released online, but this is still a great show of support from Wizards of the Coast for this event. As a result, I've updated the Prize page accordingly.

Special thanks to everyone who participated in the league this last week, and particularly to those who expressed to me their gratitude for this new format. I hope this enables us to reach out to many more players over the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dyson's Dodecahedron

As I have been prepping for the Dungeons and Dragons adventure I am running with my group, one of the resources I am constantly in need of is maps. Fortunately, there are a whole host of maps available online. Most of those, however, are either copyrighted materials or are only available for personal use. So while I don't have any plans on publishing my adventure in the near future, I still very much was hoping to find some maps that I could include in such a product should I decide to put something like that together.

And that's when I discovered Dyson's Dodecahedron. While the author originally used this page for RPG characters and thoughts about roleplaying in general and Dungeon's and Dragons specifically, what he is now known for is his amazing old-school maps. He publishes several such maps a week, each with a short blurb describing a possible adventure hook and/or the circumstances that led him to create the map. But even more remarkable, as long as his Patreon sponsorship continues above the $300 mark for a particular map, he releases them under a free commercial license. This means that anyone can use, reuse, remix and/or modify the maps on a royalty-free basis, with the only restriction being that they must include attribution such as“Cartography by Dyson Logos” or “Maps by Dyson Logos." You can view all the maps that have been released under this commercial license here.

This is a fantastic resource, and one that I highly recommend. Check it out for yourselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Promises Made

I recently did an interest writing exercise as part of the Writing Excuses Master Class my friend and I are working our way through. Often time when discussing the beginning of a story, writers talk about the "promises" that a story makes. Essentially, within the first few paragraphs or so, a good writer should be telegraphing to their readers what the story is going to be about - the tone, the genre, the main character, the setting, and so on. For this exercise, we had to take the first page or so of our work in progress and show it to someone who knew nothing about the story and see what that person thought the story would be about.

My current story is about a priest who specializes in destroying items endowed with evil magic. He's brash and overconfident (and also racist), and in the story he is given three "gifts" which, in specific circumstances, will combine to unleash a terrible trap for him. After showing my wife the first page, here is what she said she thought would happen in the story:

"I feel like this is a set up for a story in which this guy lets something in that he didn't intend and underestimates some insidious dark magic-y thing and deals with either personal corruption or the corruption of many of his order as a consequence. Maybe trojan horse-like?"

Guess I must have made the right promises!

Monday, May 8, 2017

League Begins and Amonkhet Top Hits

I am happy to announce that the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League is officially underway! Whenever you are on Magic Online, join channel #mpdc, chat with your fellow Standard Pauper players, and get in some matches. You can also check out the current Scoreboard, which lists every match that's been recorded as well as the decklists they were using. It's been great to see so many players already taking advantage of this opportunity, and I'm happy to report that things are well underway.

I've also had several questions about Self-Assembler. While this card has been banned for the last couple seasons of MPDC, with the start of the league I decided to go ahead and make it legal again for play in the league. I will be keeping a close eye on the results and won't hesitate to ban it once again if it proves to continue to warp the format. But in many ways the league is like a reset button for the format, and I'd rather open everything up, especially with the influx of returning players. As such, I have adjusted the front page accordingly.

Finally, today PureMTGO.com published my latest article, this time analyzing what I believe are the best 25 cards of the set for Standard Pauper. Check out my article here. Note that I am no longer doing a card-by-card evaluation on the whole set. Instead, I'm just evaluating the cards that will probably see the most play, ranking them as follows: good, for those cards that will see regular play; better, for those cards that are particularly relevant or worth building around; and best, for those cards that will define much of the format. I hope this new ranking system makes it easier to quickly get a grasp on the format and guide you as to which cards you should pick up first from Amonkhet.

Hope to see you soon across the virtual table in the MPDC League!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Blogging Schedule Starts Next Week

While I can tell you now that there will be some growing pains as I get back into the habit of blogging, my plan going forward is to update this blog three times a week. My plan at this point is to post new content on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Monday will be my day for updates on the MPDC League and Standard Pauper. That will be my day to talk about high-impact cards, promote my articles over at PureMTGO, and discuss whatever is of note in the metagame.

Wednesday will be my day for posts about writing. Even while I wasn't blogging, I have continued to work through some writing exercises and classes. I hope to discuss what I'm learning, share snippets of my work, and post reviews of what I'm reading in the fantasy genre.

Friday will be my day for gaming related topics. This may include other video games, board games, my current D&D campaign, or anything else that catches my fancy. I will probably try to use this day to talk about anything other miscellaneous topics that may come up.

Of course, if you my readers have a particular topic that you would like me to address, I'd enjoy hearing about it. Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Introducing the MPDC League

Today I am pleased to officially announce the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League. You can find all the details about this new event here, which (for now) includes rules, the season schedule, and the prize structure for the event.

As I mentioned last time, we will still have a regular tournament today at our normal 2pm EDT / 6pm GMT timeslot in channel #MPDC, and Amonkhet will be legal for that event. But this will be the last "live" event, at least for this season.

I've already heard from several players that this will allow them to participate in Standard Pauper once more, so I am hoping that this will be a good solution to the declining participation in our events. I will be sending out an email to all those who have taken part in our events in the past and inviting them to try out our new "league-style" event.

While I encourage you to read all the rules for the details, here's the most important things to know:
  1. You DON'T have to register ahead of time. Join chat channel #mpdc on Magic Online, find an opponent, play a Standard Pauper match, and report the results. That's it.
  2. You can play as many matches as you want, but only the first five will count toward your record. Prizes are distributed each week based on point totals for that week, and at the end additional prizes will be distributed based on the cumulative points across the whole season.
  3. As always, matches should be Standard format, best 2 of 3, and 25 minute timer. Play them in the Just for Fun room with "MPDC League" in the comments. 
  4. Since BOTH players need to report the results, I don't recommend just creating a random table. Chat with players in #mpdc instead.
  5. The league begins a week from today - Monday, May 8th and will run through the week of July 16th.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below, or feel free to email me at gwyned at gmail dot com.