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

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!