Pokemon Y Nuzlocke Challenge — Part 1

A good friend was telling me about his recent (mis)adventures in the Pokemon handheld games. He told me about his playthrough of Pokemon X using the self-imposed Nuzlocke Challenge rules. I’d heard about the game type before, but never had a lot of interest in it myself. I’m kind of a casual when it comes to most games, and my tastes in the Pokemon games skew decidedly towards using supremely overpowered and care-fully tailored monsters. So, I wasn’t keen on taking on the challenge myself.

A second source of Nuzlocke inspiration had come from the recent video series by Monster Factory famed McElroy brother Griffin, where he records himself playing through a Nuzlocke Challenge on Pokemon Y. I’ve been watching with my son, and it’s great fun to watch other’s minor sufferings.

However,  it wasn’t until I finished my recent second playthrough of Pokemon Emerald that I decided to jump into my own Nuzlocke Challenge. I decided I would follow in Griffin’s footsteps and, since I’d only had a run through Pokemon X on my own before, I would play Pokemon Y in Nuzlocke mode!

Starting out, I decided to follow the optional rule for picking your starter. Namely, this rule:

  • Starter Pokémon is based on the player’s Trainer ID number. If the last number is 1-3 the player starts with a Grass type, 4-6 is Fire type, 7-9 is Water type, 0 is the player’s choice.

Turns out, my Trainer ID ended in 5, so I was the proud new owner of a Fennekin! Another core rule of the Nuzlocke Challenge is that you must name each of your Pokemon. Since I had nick-named myself El Presidente, I decided each administration needs a loyal second in command, so I dubbed my Fennekin as Juan-Manuel. We are friends to the bitter end. Even when the US-backed coalition comes to drive us from power.

Juan-Manuel and I headed out onto Route 2 in the hopes of finding a new buddy to join our growing oligarchy. Wandering around in the tall grass, I encountered a Pidgey! Unfortunately, after I had reduced it to less than a quarter health, I realized I hadn’t purchased any Pokeballs. Oops! I decided this would be my one and only cheat of the rules, and ran away from the fight, vowing that the next monster would be the replacement. Also unfortunately, but after returning with extra-dimensional magic Pokeballs, we encountered a Scatterbug. Bleh. Reluctantly, I caught him, and dubbed him Y2k.

My journey with Y2k didn’t last long. I put the bug up front of my party, hoping to get him some XP. Well, he was just too low level, and when I got in trouble in a wild pokemon battle, he dropped low in health. When I tried to run, I couldn’t get away! After the second failure to run, Y2k was felled by a tackle from a vicious Pidgey. RIP in peace, Y2k.

I was doing pretty poorly at this so far. But I resolved to improve the situation, and entered Santalune Forest with my friend Shauna, who helpfully healed my Pokemon whenever I wished. Very handy.

After I prepared Juan-Manuel with a pep-talk, we ventured into the tall grass. The first Pokemon we encountered was a Weedle! Not too bad. Now I just had to capture it. A couple tackles from Juan-Manuel was all it took, and with a single toss of a Pokeball, the Weedle was mine. I’m not sure why, but I named him B. B. King. Maybe because it looks like he plays a mean guitar? I mean, he knew String Shot (GET IT?!).

I took a little time to level up B. B. King and Juan-Manuel a little bit in Santalune Forest before heading out onto Route 3. After a couple trainer battles, I ventured into the tall grass to find the next member of my team. Highly disappointed when the first monster I encountered was Bidoof. I could have had a Fletchling! I would have even taken a Pidgey or Pikachu. Bummer. Reluctantly, I caught Pickles the Bidoof, and headed up into Santalune City.

It was here that my adventures came to a close for the day. I knew there was a gym battle ahead of me. It was my hope that Juan-Manuel and B. B. King were up to the task, because Pickles is just awful. You should feel bad, Pickles. Useless.

More to come!

Uncharted 4 Complete

I recently finished up my play-through of Uncharted 4 and really enjoyed it. The game was a fitting end to the series, although I assume it won’t be the last of the Naughty Dog narrative-driven action games.

Story was pretty solid. There were some pieces of the plot that felt a little weak, but the voice acting and dialog was top-notch. The cinematic experience, watching these characters, was really a treat. Lots of familiar faces from the past, along with new friends and foes. And the ending tied up a lot of loose ends still hanging around.

The gameplay mechanics were also pretty good. The familiar formula of puzzle, platforming, and action combat elements were split pretty evenly. I definitely liked the puzzles and climbing much more than the combat. Some of the difficulty in the combat seemed really punishing, and I was never good enough to try to pull off some of the things I needed to accomplish. Shooters on consoles are always a mixed bag. Maybe I should have given in and enabled snap auto-aim.

Visually, the game shines with its expansive environments and gorgeous detail. The character animations feel really good, very believable. You can feel Nathan Drake struggle across rocky outcroppings, reaching for a hold as he swings through mid-air. The best parts are just you directing Nathan around ancient ruins or wind-swept island cliffs, trying to find a way through.

It was a poignant end to a great series. Happy to have enjoyed its final chapter.

Grand Prix Columbus Tournament Report

Wanted to do a little write-up for my play this weekend!

Round 1 versus Stephen on MUD

Game 1 my opponent opened Ancient Tomb, Grim Monolith, into Trinisphere, and I was in trouble. I was locked out of plays for a few turns, and although I got a Goyf online, he found more mana, and made a Forgemaster. Although I was able to land a Jace and bounce his Forgemaster, he made a Metalworker, with Lightning Greaves in hand, played the Forgemaster again and then the Greaves, fetching up a Blightsteel Colossus, and killed my Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I blocked for a turn, and was killed the next, failing to find anything like Liliana of the Veil to deal with the huge monster.

Game 2 I had a better start, using Force of Will on an early lock piece, and blowing up a Metalworker with an Abrupt Decay. Sylvan Library allowed me to draw a few extra cards and put more pressure on, and he finally lost due to not finding any threats and my two 5/6 Tarmogoyfs.

Game 3 was similar. I had an early Force of Will to slow down his lock pieces. I landed a turn 2 Sylvan Library. We both Wasteland each other twice over subsequent turns, but I land a Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay his Metalworker, shutting him off mana. My followup Liliana of the Veil to kill his newly cast Forgemaster, and then a Life from the Loam getting back three Wasteland drew the concession.

Matches 1-0, Games 2-1

Round 2 versus Brian on Death and Taxes

Game 1 I win the die roll and start turn 2 with Hymn to Tourach, getting a couple threats out of his hand, and answer his Thalia with Tarmogoyf. I attack with my 6/7 Goyf, and he has to hold back his creatures to block over two turns, and doesn’t find anything to deal with the Tarmogoyf.

Game 2 he plays a turn 2 Phyrexian Revoker naming Deathrite Shaman, seeing my one on board, and then next turn I play two more, and never find anything to deal with the Revoker, severely constraining my mana. He finds Batterskull with Stoneforge Mystic, and although I have Engineered Plague to deal with his Thalia and Mother of Runes, and Maelstrom Pulse to kill the Batterskull, I can’t deal with Mirran Crusader, and it eventually beats me down.

Game 3 an early Engineered Plague deals with his Mother of Runes, and even though he has another Mirran Crusader, I get way ahead, hitting with two Tarmogoyfs and Creeping Tar Pit, getting him down to 6 from 17, after he attacks me down to 6. His board is only Mirran Crusader after a piece of removal and active Liliana of the Veil, and I’m able to attack for the win.

Matches 2-0, Games 4-2

Round 3 versus Brian on Belcher

Game 1 I keep a hand that’s something like Force of Will, Brainstorm, Deathrite, Abrupt Decay, and three lands. My opponent casts Chrome Mox, Rite of Flame, exile Simian Spirit Guide, Seething Song, Goblin Charbelcher, and I Force the Charbelcher. He scoops and we go to game 2.

Game 2 we both mulligan, him to 5, me down to 6. I keep a hand with two Brainstorm, Deathrite, Ancestral Vision, and two lands. My scry shows me Force of Will, and I hope he doesn’t have the turn 1. He does not, but tries to go for it turn 2, and I have Force of Will again. He just draws a few more Chrome Moxes, while my Deathrite Shamans eat his life total, and after my Ancestral Vision comes off suspend, I Abrupt Decay his Carpet of Flowers, and make him discard both cards in his hand with Duress and Thoughtseize drawn off Ancestral Vision. I win shortly after.

Matches 3-0, Games 6-2

Round 4 versus John on Miracles

Game 1, my opponent resolves turn 1 Sensei’s Divining Top and turn 2 Counterbalance. I attempt to slow-roll him, not wanting to play anything into the lock and waste it, so I wait until I find a Abrupt Decay, which comes a few turns later. My life total approaches 30 after two Tarmogoyfs get Swords to Plowshared. A Shardless Agent gets a few pokes in, and finally a third Tarmogoyf joins the fray, protected by Vendilion Clique in response to his Miracle’d Terminus,

SCG Legacy Classic Results

Got to play in the Legacy Classic at this past weekend’s StarCityGames events in Columbus. I wrote up a little tournament report!

Round 1 versus Eldrazi

Game one I keep a hand with lands, Goyf, and Abrupt Decay. My opponent opens on Eldrazi Temple and Mimic. He doesn’t have a second creature, but does find Umezawa’s Jitte. I Decay his Mimic, Waste one of his lands, follow up with Goyf and second Wasteland, and he isn’t able to recover.

Game two he gets a quicker start, making a 4/4 Endless One on turn 2. I get hit twice before I find Decay, and have to chump his follow-up Oblivion Sower with Shardless Agent, protecting my Liliana of the Veil, but the Shardless also hit Brainstorm, which allows me to find a second Liliana for his Olivion Sower. He follows up with two Dismember to wipe my board. He top-decks a few lands, I find Baleful Strix, but nothing else, and five turns more of top-decks, I fail to put it away before he finds Reality Smasher.

Game three I have a very disruptive start, with turn 1 Deathrite into turn 2 Liliana, killing his Mimic. I follow up with a Shardless Agent into Hymn to Tourach and Wasteland, and a second Wasteland puts the game out of reach, and I beat him to death with Baleful Strix and Shardless Agent.

Round 2 versus Eldrazi

Game one he curves out quickly, finding turn 1 Mimic, turn 2 Matter Reshaper, and turn 3 Reality Smasher, which I completely fail to Force of Will, even though I had it in hand with blue card, and I get bashed out, losing on turn 3.

Game two his two only two lands are Ancient Tomb, and he does two damage to himself to cast Mimic, which I Decay, and then four to cast Thought-Knot Seer, which gets my Garruk Relentless in hand the turn before I can cast it. However, my follow-up Tarmogoyf is bigger than his creatures, and he, at 11, has to hold back to block my Goyf as a second Goyf hits the table, and my bigger creatures take over.

Game three I draw a few too many lands, and my business spells, Maelstrom Pulse and Liliana of the Veil, are stolen courtesy of two Thought-Knot Seers. I have a serious board, but my Goyfs are only 3/4, so I double-block on Thought-Knot Seer to kill one, and he also has Matter Reshaper and Mimic to my Goyf and Deathrite. I find a Jitte and, with my choose not to attack with my 4/5 Goyf and Jitte, and he is able to activate Eye of Ugin and attack for lethal. I maybe should have attacked to get the counters on Jitte, but I thought I didn’t have enough mana to move the Jitte to my Deathrite, allowing me to block the Reality Smasher with a 5/6 Deathrite, but I still would have died to 7 damage off Matter Reshaper and Thought-Knot Seer, since I was at 3.

So a pretty serious punt in game one cost me the match. This player eventually would end up in third place at the end of the tournament.

Round 3 versus Death and Taxes

Game one he started off with Mother of Runes, and my troubles only began. I had Baleful Strix, but the Mom blanked my Goyf, and he found Stoneforge into Sword of Fire and Ice into Batterskull.

Game two I Decayed his turn 1 Mother of Runes, and then cast a turn 3 Engineered Plague on Human, followed up by turn 4 Garruk Relentless. My wolves took over the game, allowing me to punch through even though he had Rest in Peace to blank my Tarmogoyfs. Eventually he cast Mirran Crusader, but

April Legacy Results

Little report of my results for last night’s local Legacy event.

Round 1 versus Jund

Normally a pretty tough matchup, this was a serious grind-fest. Game one I started on Thoughtseize, catching an Abrupt Decay out of his hand to protect my Tarmogoyf. He also had Kolagahns Command and Punishing Fire, which got my turn 2 Deathrite Shaman, but my Ancestral Vision, suspended on the second turn, came off on the fifth turn as we were both playing off the top of our library, and I was able to kill his threat with a Liliana and land another Tarmogoyf to replace the one killed earlier, and ride those and a follow-up Sylvan Library to victory. He never found a Grove to go with his Punishing Fire.

Game two I got hit with Hymn to Tourach in turns 2 and 3, putting him way ahead, and he got there with random beaters.

In game three, we both played the attrition game, but I landed an early Sylvan Library, drawing two extra cards to put me way ahead. Highlight of this game was when we were both on an empty board in the middle of the game, he tried to make me discard my one card in hand and rebuy Dark Confidant with his Kolagahn’s Command, but I used the Surgical Extraction in my hand to exile all his Dark Confidants, breaking up his 2-for-1, letting my Sylvan Library dig for answers. I was able to kill his double Tarmogoyf with Maelstrom Pulse, found second card down with Sylvan Library, and then take over the game with Liliana, and he never found Punishing Fire to go with his double Grove of the Burnwillows.

Sylvan Library was a huge all-star this game. Very happy to have it in my main deck.

Round 2 versus Dredge

Luckily we have some main-deck interactions in the main deck, with Deathrite Shaman and counterspells on Careful Study/Faithless looting. Unluckily, I didn’t know he was playing Dredge, so I kept a great hand of two land, Goyf, Abrupt Decay, and double Shardless Agent. So I got beat down hard by Ichorids and many zombie friends.

Game two we both mulliganed to 5, and I see a hand that contains Baleful Strix and Umezawa’s Jitte, which might be enough to get there. Fortunately for me, my opponent only saw one dredger the entire game, which was too slow, as my Strix into Jitte was shortly joined by a 6/7 Tarmogoyf, and he wasn’t able to get things going in time.

Game three I had an opener with Deathrite Shaman, and he only found one dredger by the time Deathrite came online, so I won that game pretty handily, especially since I made a 6/7 Goyf on turn 3.

Round 3 versus Elves

Another pretty tough matchup. The little green men are explosive, and our spot removal isn’t at its best. Game one I keep an opener with Toxic Deluge, wiping his board of about six guys on turn 3, but he’s able to reload and hit me for 19 with only two creatures with a Craterhoof Behemoth and one other pumped guy for lethal damage.

Game two I get to bring in all kinds of hate, like Engineered Plague, Engineered Explosived, and some things that aren’t engineered, such as Pithing Needle, Damnation, and Umezawa’s Jitte. In the second game, I get a quicker start, with Deathrite on turn 1, a couple pieces of removal to get his early guys, and then land an Engineered Explosives with sunburst 1 and Pithing Needle to name Wirewood Symbiote, a key piece of his combo. A followup True-Name Nemesis shows up to start attacking past his team, and when he tries to Abrupt Decay my Pithing Needle, I bust the Engineered Explosives, setting him back to an empty board. True-Name Nemesis finishes him off.

Game three he has a very slow start, and my Thoughtseize reveals double Sylvan Library, Worldspine Wurm, land, and Glimpse of Nature. I take the Glimpse, figuring taking one Library won’t do much. He draws a couple extra cards off Sylvan, uses Green Sun’s Zenith to find Scavenging Ooze, but my third-turn play of Wasteland his Dryad Arbor, Disfigure his other Dryad Arbor, and Abrupt Decay on Scavenging Ooze sets him way back, and finding Umezawa’s Jitte on Baleful Strix let me keep his little guys off the board for a couple turns, letting me strike through with a big Tarmogoyf.

So some pretty tight games. Stars of the show were certainly Umezawa’s Jitte and Sylvan Library, really extending the interactions I am able to have with my opponent and letting me find the threats and answers I need. Again very happy with Toxic Deluge in the main board, even if I didn’t win the game against Elves where I cast it, it was great to buy me time. My single Gurmag Angler in the main was pretty good as well, only saw it one game, but it was a great threat.

I dropped one Wasteland and put back in a Creeping Tar Pit. Didn’t really do much work in any of the games. Might go back to Wasteland.

My current list:

Creatures (15)
4x Tarmogoyf
4x Deathrite Shaman
4x Shardless Agent
1x Gurmag Angler
2x Baleful Strix

Spells (22)
4x Brainstorm
4x Force of Will
4x Abrupt Decay
3x Ancestral Vision
1x Maelstrom Pulse
1x Sylvan Library
1x Toxic Deluge
2x Hymn to Tourach
2x Thoughtseize

Planeswalkers (3)
1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2x Liliana of the Veil

Lands (20)
1x Creeping Tar Pit
3x Misty Rainforest
3x Polluted Delta
3x Verdant Catacombs
1x Forest
1x Swamp
3x Underground Sea
2x Bayou
1x Tropical Island
2x Wasteland

Sideboard:
1x Duress
1x Damnation
2x Pithing Needle
1x Umezawa’s Jitte
1x Engineered Explosives
1x Engineered Plague
2x Disfigure
2x Golgari Charm
2x Surgical Extraction
1x Nihil Spellbomb
1x True-Name Nemesis

Legacy in Detroit

I had a chance to visit Detroit this past weekend for a Magic the Gathering Grand Prix. I really enjoyed my trip, and wanted to write up a report of the games I was able to play.

15 Creatures
4x Deathrite
4x Tarmogoyf
4x Shardless Agent
3x Baleful Strix

24 Spells
2x Liliana of the Veil
1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor

4x Brainstorm
4x Ancestral Vision
4x Abrupt Decay
3x Force of Will

3x Hymn to Tourach
2x Thoughtseize

1x Sylvan Library

21 Lands
3x Wasteland
3x Underground Sea
2x Tropical Island
2x Bayou
1x Swamp
1x Forest
4x Verdant Catacombs
3x Misty Rainforest
2x Polluted Delta

Sideboard
2x Golgari Charm
1x Toxic Deluge
1x Dismember
1x Disfigure
2x Grafdigger’s Cage
1x Nihil Spellbomb
1x Surgical Extraction
1x Null Rod
1x Maelstrom Pulse
1x Force of Will
1x Duress
1x Pithing Needle
1x Engineered Plague

I played my first event on Saturday, a 5-round Legacy tournament with Swiss pairings. First round I was paired up against Thomas.

Game 1, I win the die roll and keep a hand with a couple Deathrite Shaman and Force of Will. I open with Deathrite, and pass. He plays a Mox Diamond, Taiga, plays Gamble, pitches a cycle land, and plays Molten Vortex. My next turn I have Abrupt Decay for the Molten Vortex to protect my Deathrite Shamans, and play a second Deathrite. The next turn he casts Life from the Loam, which I Force of Will. Back to me I play Tarmogoyf, and he can’t find anything else, and I kill him two turns later.

Game 2 I keep a decent hand, including Deathrite Shaman, but not good enough to match his second turn Crop Rotation into Dark Depths, and plays Thespian Stage to make a 20/20 Marit Lage. I’m unable to find an answer, and die the next turn.

Game 3 Thomas mulligans down to 5 cards, and over four turns I’m able to answer and remove everything he plays. Starting with a turn 1 Deathrite Shaman, on my 2nd turn I wasteland his only land, and Abrupt Decay his Mox Diamond. I repeat the same thing on my third turn, and he’s left with no permanents. My fourth turn I play Shardless Agent into Tarmogoyf, and although he plays Tabernacle of the Pendrel Vale, I have five lands, more than enough to pay for the upkeep on all my creatures, and am able to win.

Round two I am paired up against my friend Sean playing Grixis Delver. Game one I keep a hand with lands and two Deathrite Shaman, but he has a quick start with a first-turn Delver, which flips the next turn. He gets me to 12 before I can remove it, and he finds burn for my Shamans and some Shamans of his own. Although I have two Shamans on the board, he is able to fly overhead with Delver of Secrets and finish me off with some burn.

Game two I bring in Golgari Charm, Toxic Deluge, and Disfigure to try to deal with some of his quicker threats, and board out my Force of Wills. I am able to lead with Thoughtseize and follow up with Deathrite Shaman, while removing his threat-light hand. Golgari Charm proves key as I remove a Young Pyromancer and a couple token. I close it out with Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman activations.

Game three I’m on the play and keep a hand with two Wasteland, a fetchland, Golgari Charm, and some discard. I get a slow start without Deathrite Shaman, and although I find two more lands, he double Wastelands me after dropping a Young Pyromancer. He recovers from my double Wastelands, and after I get back up to two lands on board, I wait on casting the Golgari Charm to wipe his board of Young Pyromancer and two Elemental tokens. Fearing counter magic, I hedge and cast Baleful Strix, which eats a Red Elemental Blast. The next turn I Abrupt Decay the Young Pyromancer, but he follows with a Gurmag Angler. Both playing off the time, I find a Deathrite and, low on life, I chump the Gurmag Angler. My next turn Shardless Agent into Brainstorm finds Maelstrom Pulse, but too late, as even though I’m able to block, he takes me low enough to find a bolt and kill me.

I realize that had not feared counter magic and cast Golgari Charm two turns earlier, the game might have turned out much differently. I should have understood that the best path to win the game was wiping his Young Pyromancer and tokens two turns earlier, saving myself four damage. Waiting on it cost me the game. I would have lost if he had counter magic for it, but I lost anyway by waiting.

Round three I’m paired up against Matthew playing Death and Taxes. In the first game, I get a slow start, my single Deathrite Shaman not doing much, and he found a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, turn 3 Flickerwisp blinking his Stoneforge, and turn 4 Jitte-equipped Flickerwisp to handle my Deathrite Shaman. I draw too much land, and although I remove the Jitte, he just kills me in the air.

Game two I bring in Golgari Charm, Toxic Deluge, Pithing Needle, Engineered Plague, and Null Rod, removing some of my discard. I keep a hand with two Wasteland and Force of Will, Forcing his turn 1 Aether Vial off Rishadan Port, and over three turns I Wasteland Port, Port, and Karakas. I start beating with Tarmogoyf, and the turn after he plays Mother of Runes. I follow with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and he scoops.

Game three I get a quick start with a second turn Tarmogoyf, and although his Mother of Runes represents a problem, the third turn I drop Engineered Plague naming Human. I’m able to get in with Tarmogoyf, and follow the next turn with Null Rod. Stuck on two land, he shows me his hand of Thalia and Stoneforge Mystic.

The sideboard cards really came through for me in this matchup.

Round four I’m matched against Cameron playing Reanimator. I didn’t know what he was playing when I kept a hand of two Deathrite Shaman, but it worked out pretty well once I figured it out after a Thoughtseize saw Griselbrand and Reanimate. I took his Reanimate, and although he flipped his Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, a third Deathrite Shaman kept him from reanimating any nasty creatures, and I followed with a Shardless Agent that drew me three cards and found more counter magic.

From the sideboard I bring in Grafdigger’s Cage, Surgical Extraction, and Nihil Spellbomb.

Game two he has a blistering fast start, with a turn 1 Entomb and turn 2 Exhume on Elesh Norn. He Dazes my third turn Liliana of the Veil and fourth turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor and beats me soundly.

On the second turn, I find a Grafdigger’s Cage off the top of my library and play it. Turns out that isn’t super important, as he slams Grave Titan into play off Show and Tell. I have to block the Grave Titan with my Deathrite Shaman to save some life. The next turn I find Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounce his Grave Titan. He kills my Jace with zombie tokens. The next turn my Shardless Agent casts brainstorm, so at least I have a blocker, and I go to 7. I’m able to find a Tarmogoyf, which at 6/7 keep him on the defensive. He blocks my Tarmogoyf with zombie tokens over three turns. By the time he finds mana to cast Abrupt Decay in hand, he’s too low on life and with no blockers that he can’t kill the Grafdigger’s Cage, lacking two black mana to also cast Exhume and would die to Goyf. So he kills my Goyf, hoping to find something with Brainstorm. In response to his Brainstorm, I Surgical Extraction his Show and Tells, wanting to make sure he couldn’t put the Grave Titan back in play. He never finds anything relevant, and I finish him off the next turn.

At 3-1, me and my last-round opponent Kyle decide to split. We play it out, and I discover he is playing Enchantress. The first game I have all the answers, wasting two of his Serra’s Sanctum and Liliana of the Veil for his Argothian Enchantress. He scoops to my Jace.

Game two he brings in a bunch of cards from the sideboard, while I load up on more enchantment removal in the form of Golgari Charm. He gets a blistering start, casting a third-turn Elspeth, Sun’s Champion that I am ill-equipped to deal with. Never seen that in Legacy! But it’s pretty great against my deck.

In the last game he’s able to take advantage of my turn 1 Deathrite Shaman, turn 2 two more Deathrite Shamans with powerful enchantments like turn 2 Suppression Field and turn 3 Choke, locking me out of the game. Probably a mistake to keep a hand of two deathrite shaman and no counter magic or removal against Enchantress!

Ended up 3-1-1, had a great time.

The following day I decided to join the dark side and play in a single-elimination with a different deck of mine: Dredge!

Round one I am paired up against Elijah, who admitted being new to the format. I showed him exactly how Dredge worked, starting quick work with Putrid Imp and then Ichorids and Zombies. Short on mana, he isn’t able to find anything to interact with me.

Game two I keep a good hand, lead with Putrid Imp, and on the second turn cast Cabal Therapy three times, taking Snapcaster Mage and Ponder, blanking the first time on Rest in Peace. I blow up his Counterbalance with a piece of my hate, Wispmare, and net two zombie tokens. They bash in next turn, but on his upkeep meet Terminus and are exiled. I follow up with double Ichorid activation, and he is too late with his Containment Priest. I use my Firestorm in hand to kill my own Ichorid and hit him for two, saving my bridges. The next turn I kill him with the remaining zombies.

Round two I am paired up against Kolton who is playing Reanimator. My Cabal Therapy finds Exhume, Reanimate, Entomb, Izzet Charm, and Brainstorm. I make a huge mistake when, the next turn, with several dredgers in the graveyard and his two mana open, I did not flashback Cabal Therapy to take his Izzet Charm, and cast my Breakthrough right into it. Without dredging about half my deck, he’s able to entomb and reanimate the next turn, getting Elesh Norn out and locking me out.

Game two I mulligan to four, but find a dredger. I get a slow start, but so does he. He plays Pithing Needle and, with my Putrid Imp in play, he names Cephalid Colliseum. Probably a prudent card to name, but I never see a Colliseum the entire game, and just beat with Putrid Imp and Ichorid over three turns, and win after he can’t find a target to reanimate.

Game three I again mullgain to four. He also has a slow start, but finds Griselbrand and reanimates, taking him to 8. My board of two Ichorid, zombie, and Narcomoeba gets him to 1 when he bounces Zombie with Echoing Truth, but he goes back up to 8 with a Griselbrand attack and, drawing 7, finds Elesh Norn to lock me out yet again.

Some very close, interactive games for a couple combo decks focused on the graveyard!

Overall had a great trip to Detroit. All my opponents were gracious, win or lose. Once again I find that the Legacy community is a great group. Looking forward to more Legacy and Grand Prix Columbus in June!

Stardew Valley

Since finishing XCOM 2, I picked up a little country-life RPG called Stardew Valley. Since release, the thing has exploded, and is now kind of an Internet darling. But it’s for good reason, because the game is charming, feels alive, and is just a lot of fun.

Similar to the Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and Rune Factory series, you engage in a series of activities such as managing a farm, fishing, gathering, and fighting monsters. There are lots of things to upgrade and customize, such as requesting the upgrade of your homestead, building new farm buildings, or upgrading your tools and weapons. You also get to know various townsfolk, befriend them, and even form romantic relationships with a special someone. Because there are so many things to do, you can really play how you want, when you want, and still be able to progress.

I really enjoyed the process of building up my farm, tending to the crops, and seeing things grow and develop over time. Achieving the goals of completing certain objectives through careful planning and management of my resources was hugely satisfying.

The story and dialog is funny, touching, and sometimes very serious, but interactions with the townsfolk draws you into their world, and makes you want to get to know them even more. The more you are liked by a given person, the more they reward you with items or crafting recipes. And friendship is its own reward!

Stardew Valley is a cute, engaging game with relaxed gameplay and a colorful, warm aesthetic. It’s not particularly challenging, but it is rewarding, as you reap what you sow, returning your time spent with an increasingly thriving world.

XCOM 2 Complete

What a ride.

It’s no secret that I enjoyed the previous incarnation of XCOM. The series meets all my qualifications for excellence: tactical combat, strategic goals, economic management, and just the right amount of challenge. So it was no surprise that when Firaxis released a sequel to the remade XCOM, based on the series from 20 years ago, I would be on board. I’m pleased to say they’ve outdone themselves with XCOM 2.

Much of the previous game is present. The tactical combat is unchanged mechanically. There are some tweaks with how cover and flanking works, but if you understood how it worked in XCOM: Enemy Within/Unknown, you’ll understand it here.

What has changed a whole lot are the classes. The new classes in XCOM 2, the ranger, sharpshooter, grenadier, and specialist, are loosely based off the assault, sniper, heavy, and support classes from the first game, but come with new twists and in many cases totally new abilities. Some of the later game abilities are exceptionally powerful, and you’ll need them to face off against a whole host of enemy aliens.

The new enemies are deadlier than ever. Many returning faces, like the Sectoid and Muton, are new and improved, while many, like the Gatekeeper and Andromedon, are frightening and totally novel. Combine with the more mundane ADVENT Troopers, Officer, and Lancers, there is a wide variety of foes, each requiring different tactics to take down.

The strategy portion is perhaps the most changed of the entire game, and it’s here where I have found the most to like. XCOM has always been a game about economics, managing scarce resources and making choices about where to invest in upgrades, research, and facilities. The strategic overview, named the Geoscape in this and the previous game, now allows you a great deal more flexibility in achieving your own goals. At any given time there are a half-dozen locations that call for your attention, and it’s up to you to decide where to spend your time. You have to make choices, because the aliens are working behind the scenes, pursuing their own goals that you have to counter. You have to make some hard choices, and it often means giving up on something you’d really like to have, or risking that the aliens make more progress towards their goal, thus ending the game in failure.

Everything isn’t wonderful, unfortunately. I did experience several bugs in my playthrough, from strange camera issues that have always plagued the series, to performance and optimization problems that caused turns to wait a couple minutes to process, to outright crashes. It was kind of a bummer to experience these things, but they weren’t a dealbreaker. Hopefully Firaxis can figure some of them out.

I clocked around 60 hours in my first run, and I felt like I rushed it a little bit. There’s enough room here for a much longer game, and mods already out from the Long War crew could extend a single playthrough to the triple digit hour mark. Not only that, but because so many of the missions are dynamically generated, the replayability value is very high. I’m already planning my second game!

XCOM 2 hits far more than it misses. Great tactical gameplay, freedom to pursue strategic goals, and enemies that you want to come back and crush again and again. Great game, highly recommended.

Wolfenstein: The New Order Complete

Finished my playthrough of Wolfenstein: The New Order. What a ride. Crazy encounters, memorable characters, and a strangely touching story. A little unexpected for the franchise.

The mechanics of the game were pretty solid. All the weapons were a lot of fun, and because ammo wasn’t always plentiful to needed to swap around to different ones. And, you really wanted to, since different weapons were better against certain enemies, so you got to use all of them depending on the situation.

The story was pretty solid, actually. Some of the gore and creepy stuff I could have done without, but I guess it fit into the story. The alternate-history stuff, and all the characters really drew you in and made you want to find out what happened next. Fun to watch things unfold.

Some parts of the game were a little frustrating. The checkpoint system sometimes worked a little against an enjoyable experience. The checkpoints can be spaced out a little too far apart, making you have to replay quite a bit if you die just before the next checkpoint. A particular bridge section took me nine or ten tries to complete, and I had to replay the entire thing every time because I couldn’t get the hang of the very end. Kind of frustrating.

All in all a lot of fun. Definitely worth picking up.

Zoom Zoom Goooaaaal

I have been having a ton of fun with Rocket League. I only got the game a couple days ago but I’ve been playing several matches a day since then.

Matchmaking is very quick. Usually only takes about a minute or less to get into a game. Sometimes you even catch a game in progress, so you drop right into play without any wait time. For a multiplayer game it’s still very convenient and easy to get into play really quickly.

Sometimes I’m a little afraid to play multiplayer games, especially online multiplayer games, because of the community. But so far I’ve been very pleased. Maybe only one match out of the 50 or so I’ve played in the last three days has anyone been the least bit salty or abusive in chat. So it’s been really fun win or lose, everyone has a good time.

The gameplay itself is really fun. The game itself is basically soccer with cars and you have rockets on them. What’s not to like about that? The controls are great, and pretty intuitive. You are driving a car, this isn’t rocket science. Or is it?

I also really like the arenas with matches take place. They’re well designed with nicely rounded walls that prevent the ball from being trapped and allow for great bank shots. There’s really only one arena shape, but with several texture and style swaps so everything is still interesting when you’re driving around.

There’s an aerial aspect of the game since a lot of times you can pop balls up in the air. The developers took that into account and allow you to jump your car up into the air and then boost using your rockets to kind of do headers as they would be in soccer.

These kinds of systems really allow for some skillful play. Very good players can anticipate the movement of the ball control their car very precisely and hit ball just the right moment to make a pretty spectacular goal. The game itself is an awesome moment generator where dynamic play really gives rise to these fantastic moments when you pull something off.

Because it’s an online multiplayer game of course there are progression systems. You unlock new things to decorate your cars things like hats, paint, decals. All of these things are purely cosmetic and that’s where some of the monetization comes in. It is a pretty good system though since everything is only cosmetic and doesn’t affect gameplay. So they can sell new paint colors and whatever and let people who care about those things pay real money but everybody else doesn’t have to compete with them.

Rocket league is a ton of fun and so far there isn’t anything that I haven’t liked. If you like action games you owe it to yourself to pick this one up!