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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Vintage - Paradoxical Outcome

This post was written as a reaction to a debate under this article - Vintage Crash Course

PO decks can range from decks that want to win as fast as possible to those that are required to actually grind against blue decks for quite a while and then win. Because of that we can have many versions of a Paradoxical Outcome deck. First, Paradoxical Outcome is a draw engine. Similarly to decks that are/were powered by Gush, Thoughtcast, Thirst for Knowledge or also Gifts Ungiven. A PO deck can be anywhere on the spectrum of a deck archetype even though it will tend to be somewhere in the (all-in) combo part and combo-control part. Thus, the word 'better' should be used in context because neither card can be necessarily better than the other one (Timetwister may perform better in a Storm deck while it may not be better in a deck that resembles Grixis Thieves).

Note that the choice of drawing engine is not the only thing to consider when building a deck. Some decks fight wars on different kind of levels, some fight over cards, some mana, some counterspells. A deck whose primary resource is counterspells will be using them in a totally different way than another deck. When using PO we don't usually have counterspells as THE resource. We have a 'critical mass' deck that primarily needs mana and the cards over a certain period of a time and then when the mass is attained we can win. This is also something that can make seemingly similar decks function in a totally different way.

One needs to distinguish the plan and what the deck wants to do and depending on that configure the deck. This is something with what I struggled quite a lot when I was fooling around with PO. I had no idea what else apart from PO I want to actually play. I wanted to play pretty much everything and I had no idea what to cut. I settled on just some things - full Moxen, Black Lotus, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, Gitaxian Probe, 2 Sensei's Divining Top, Voltaic Key, Time Vault, Hurkyl's Recall, Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, 4 Paradoxical Outcome, Tendrils of Agony, 4 Force of Will, 1 Repeal. The rest I had no idea how it would look like...but I started somewhere and it gave me a great insight in these kind of decks. There were way more variants than I expected.

Library of Alexandria - as Justin (see the SCG article linked above) already said in certain versions this card is good. In a deck that is not running 9 lands and trying to go odd on turn 1 this card can be good. I mean we saw a low of it in DPS and it was winning games.

Ancient Tomb - is a card I used to run in the 9 land decks, as well in a more Storm oriented deck in the sideboard when I didn't have access to Oath of Druids, Time Vault/Key or Tinker/Bot. The reason was that I really needed to cast Hurkyl's Recall or something else to deal with a Sphere or Null Rod and I needed that 1 mana more to get there. The thing was that Shops (mostly) is a deck that tries to keep the player taxed in a fairly given tempo, usually one mana away from where the deck can normally function and that Ancient Tomb breaks that. A deck that can just wait and play its lands and eventually play its Hurkyl's Recall doesn't need Ancient Tomb since it can just draw the lands and needs more card draw to get where it needs to be.

Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise - are the very first cards I cut from my decks. It may have not been the best idea but I needed some room for other spells and I hardly got to be casting these. This way I was cutting control cards more and more which led into a deck that wasn't really looking for inevitability and started to be more of a combo-control. More on the combo side. There were still cards to cut and that is why I tried playing without Gush and Brainstorm and while some cards came back to my deck or were replaced by Thoughtcast or Thirst for Knowledge it gave me an idea when and why the cards are bad. The problem with Gush was that I didn't really needed the mana tempo effect of the card but rather the card drawing one. Having two Islands in play wasn't that easy and most of the time I was playing Gush for 5 mana. Casting Thirst for Knowledge or Thoughtcast would have been in many cases better (mostly because I wouldn't need to crack a fetchland) so I was switching from draw engine to another one until I settled on some seemingly random configuration.

  • Dig Through Time, Thirst for Knowledge, Library of Alexandria were in one pile.
  • Treasure Cruise, Gush in another.
  • Thoughtcast, Yawgmoth's Will was another one. It's also here were I put Timetwister.
From these piles I put together 2 different decks - combo with Thoughtcast/Seat of the Synod, very little land and way more mana acceleration (including Grim Monolith, Mox Opals), and Tezzerator deck that contained Tendrils of Agony but its primary win condition was actually Time Vault/Key and post board Oath of Druids/Griselbrand.

Treasure Cruise and Gush was featured in some of my decks but these performed very strangely and in the end found their way into Esper Storm featuring Monastery Mentor, Fragmentize, and Kambal, Consul of Allocation. The deck was more of a Mentor deck but it could chain some spells thanks to PO and play lethal Tendrils. I kept the Tendrils in because at the time many players were on a Mentor deck. Mentor was simply everywhere and the first person to resolve Mentor usually won. Tendrils in my deck gave me an edge and that is how I was winning these matchups most of the time. Tendrils of Agony in this case was filling similar role as Oath of Druids in my other deck.

This was one of the games I actually won thanks to Mentor but I seriously was afraid of Time Vault entering play on the other side of the table!

Funny story. I once entered one tournament with a Esper PO deck and in one game it came down to me casting Demonic Tutor expecting to find Yawgmoth's Will for the win. Until that point I always won way faster and usually through a singleton Mentor rather than Will. When my library showed up I realized I forgot to put the card in my deck. I played the deck for quite a while without that Will and didn't have the need for it most of the time because I wasn't running into a blue grindy decks. I usually faced decks I could kill fast or decks that I managed to stomp over thanks to running more permission than other decks (that was usually 2 Mana Drain and 2 Flusterstorm that I ran to protect my POs). At that time I had to reevaluate Yawgmoth's Will - the card is strong and wins games but in some games it won't help, if you are taxed or playing against something that doesn't need to get to late game. It felt very similar to Sylvan Library. There are aggressively built decks that do need to keep the pressure on and don't have the time to be casting Sylvan Libraries unless they are playing against a hard control deck where it actually comes pretty handy. Both cards can be a sideboard material and others shouldn't laugh at that suggestion. There is nothing wrong about it, it may be a meta game call. It doesn't change anything on the fact that Yawgmoth's Will is a busted card.

Just my two cents...hope you get what I had in mind. I think we should be asking the right questions and then we can also get some right answers and more discussion. I noticed a similar debate about Tutors in a different community (100 card singleton one) and that is the reason I wrote this - On Tutors (read only the part about Tutors). For some reason I have the impression that sometimes people in the Vintage community talk about different things even when they are talking seemingly about the same topic. While having different point of views is good we also need to understand them and their context because that is very important. We can't look at cards as if they were cast in a vacuum but we need the context be it a format, deck, a game state. If we can see from where everyone comes (and that often leads to different kind of decks built) we will be able to understand each other and also evaluate the deckbuilding based on that.

I was totally new to the concept of a PO deck and I had no idea where to start so my initial builds were kind of going in all directions and lacked focus, later on I found what each of the decks I put together should focus on and depending on what I preferred I started going in that direction. This gave me enough insight into why certain cards can be better or worse and one card can be better in one build and another one in another. See if you can see why someone decides to play Steel Overseers+Hangarback Walkers and someone decides to run Fleetwheel Cruisers and Chief of the Foundry you should be able to see why some players decides to play Esper Storm or Esper Combo-Control including Tendrils of Agony.

Thank you for reading, take it easy
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Magic Arena Dominaria Limited patch

After the first Dominaria patch I was able to just play some games and comment on what I saw in game (DOM Patch. There were many changes. Economy changed, we got events and we got a big visuals update.

Since my collection is rather bad I wasn't really into playing Quick Constructed so I thought about skipping it altogether and wanted to just wait for a draft. Nevertheless I decided to hop in one of the events and get crushed. I paid the entry which wasn't much considering I'd still get something back and got terribly crushed by three Gold Rank players while my rank was Bronze (Rank 4). Anyway, I noticed one thing. It was the very first time I actually felt like playing a game of Magic. Even though I lost my matches I played games that made sense. My opponent's just wanted to win but that also made the games playable for me. No stalling, no players trying to figure out what card x or y does and no players playing random piles of cards, players not conceding immediately etc. I played against fully functional decks (full of mythics and rares). I wasn't really sure if this was the experience I wanted from the event but at the time I didn't really think much about it. I just knew that I should enter with a reasonable deck next time.

After little bit of playing it's time for me to write something.

Economy changes

Daily wins
The first win of the day awards 250 gold. The following 4 wins will award 100 gold each. That totals to 550 gold if you win 5 times a day.

A good change

Quests
The rewards of quests were changed too. We get quests that give us 500 or 750 gold. The quests are similar to the previous ones (play X lands, attack with X creatures, playing x color1/color2 spells etc.). The quests saying win with a color1/color2 deck were removed.

The change means that we can earn a pack per day if we want to. We need to play more games to finish a quest but that's not a bad thing. I like this change too.

Weekly wins
At 5, 10 and 15 wins we get a pack of the actual set (Dominaria).

Individual Card Rewards
ICRs were removed from Daily wins and the Vault. They still after this update will exist as prizes in Constructed events.

I have to say that I hated the ICRs. Getting a rare per day sounded nice but getting there was really terrible since the gold I was awarded in the meantime was 150 in total. ICRs being now behind a pay wall is something I don't mind. It's ok if the other prizes received won't be random (for example Limited awards 1-3 packs which sounds pretty terrible)

The Vault
The Vault contents changed. The random mythic is gone and we get a Mythic Wildcard once again. Next there are 2 Rare Wild cards and 3 Uncommon Wildcards. The Vault fills up more quickly now (if you play 60-90 minutes per day, the vault should open for you about once per month)!

  • Opening an 8-card booster: 3.33333333...%
  • Fifth (or more) copy of a mythic rare added to collection: 1.11111...%
  • Fifth (or more) copy of a rare added to collection: 0.5555555555.....%
  • Fifth (or more) copy of an uncommon added to collection: 0.3333333.....%
  • Fifth (or more) copy of a common added to collection: 0.11111111....%

Gems

Since this update we also get the option to buy gems with real money. I do not plan spending money on this game so there is not much I can comment on. I will just leave this here. It's slightly better from what I expected (I expected 5.5-6k per draft, 1.5 per pack), as it seems F2P aren't really content with these numbers?

Actually I have a comment to make. It's not really easy to buy stuff from Wizards of the Coast store on Magic Online for people outside of the United States and I really hope that Arena store won't work in a similar way. We need other ways how to pay for the Gems, including PayPal or something of that kind. On MODO we also pay VAT or something which is quite high, will we have to pay it here too? (I didn't check, so I don't know).

  • 750 Gems: $4.99
  • 1,600 Gems: $9.99
  • 3,400 Gems: $19.99
  • 9,200 Gems: $49.99
  • 20,000 Gems: $99.99
  • 600 Gems: 3 Packs
  • 1,200 Gems: 6 Packs, which includes at least 1 Uncommon and 1 Common Wildcard
  • 3,000 Gems: 15 Packs, which includes at least 1 Rare, 3 Uncommon, and 3 Common Wildcards
  • 9,000 Gems: 45 Packs, which includes at least 1 Mythic, 3 Rare, 9 Uncommon, and 9 Common Wildcards. (The Dominaria 45-pack bundle will also include 1 copy of Firesong and Sunspear)
  • 18,000 Gems: 90 Packs, which includes at least 3 Mythic, 6 Rare, 18 Uncommon, and 18 Common Wildcards. (The Dominaria 90-pack bundle will also include 2 copies of Firesong and Sunspear.)

Quick Constructed

Quick Constructed is a best-of-1 (constructed if that wasn't clear) event that should be available in MTGA at all times. The entry is 500g or 95 Gems and it ends after 7 wins or 3 losses are accumulated. The sets we will be able to draft will be rotating. It started with HOU/HOU/AKH and was followed by DOM. Next, we will have the possibility to draft RIX/RIX/XLN and then HOU/HOU/AKH again. Event prizes are:

  • 0 Wins: 100 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 1 Win: 200 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 2 Wins: 300 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 3 Wins: 400 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
  • 4 Wins: 500 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 5 Wins: 600 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
  • 6 Wins: 800 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards
  • 7 Wins: 1,000 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards

You might wonder why Quick Constructed was introduced. If you are already in the beta you probably know that all we could do was get daily rewards and then get some ICRs (individual card rewards). For many daily grind ended with 5 wins or something similar because that is were the front-loaded rewards ended (1st win of the day reward, some additional gold, 1 mythic or rare card). For many playing to get all the individual cards was simply not worth it. This changed later. The ICRs were gone, we got more gold and we could get some additional packs after 5th, 10th and 15th win of the week. Quick Constructed now allows us to actually grind. If we want to commit to grinding we can do so. 500g is something we can get daily and if we can get to at least 4 wins we gain some value - in this case one guaranteed rare or mythic card and 2 uncommons. No matter how badly this actually sounds the fact that we can pour 'money' into something to generate value is something we didn't have access to before and for that only reason people should be glad we have this event around at all times.

I'd like to digress a bit. I'll talk about Magic Online. When Magic Online's economy was pretty bad and people started running away, Wizards of the Coast tried to fix it somehow. There were few things that changed, one was the introduction of Play Points which made grinding a bit more limiting (I will get back to this later). The second thing that changed was tournament structure. These two things (PP and events) are linked. First, after waiting for years, we got Leagues. At first glanced they pretty much tried to copy the events before (I won't go into detail, but hopefully I'll say enough so you can see my point). We got something with the name "Competitive" in it and Leagues with "Friendly" in their names. These can be sometimes misleading but it was very clear that I'm more on the "Competitive" side of things. I used to play 8-4 single elimination drafts when I wanted to grind and played premier events in order to enjoy constructed (or Daily events). The more flat prize structure wasn't what I was looking for. It wasn't just the prize structure that didn't give me the motivation to play. See, soon after the release of a set the 8-4 and 6-2-2-2 queues were relatively similar. The 8-4 players drafted a deck in order to win so they were passing cards that one could sell for tix. 6-2-2-2 players were usually money drafting, they didn't mind about losing a first pick. With time both drafting and playing experience changed. While the 8-4 one changed to more refined experience the 6-2-2-2 events started to get chaotic. Not only the drafting went strange sometimes, one also played against decks that were very strange for a format that got solved relatively fast. I didn't play the Pack per win/4-3-2-2 unless I didn't care about losing my tix completely and didn't care about the experience I'd get out of it. After the introduction of Leagues on Magic Online the Competitive (8-4 equivalent) and Intermediate (6-2-2-2 equivalent) League players somehow ended up playing both in the Intermediate League. At first I wondered if this will become a problem. Wizards of the Coast changed the prize structure later and it segregated the players to how it used to be before. There was one more thing that surprised me and that is Friendly Sealed League and Friendly single game Draft League. When I read the announcement for each of these my brain just couldn't understand those Leagues. If I want to play a Sealed deck I want to play my 5 rounds with the 6 packs I get not some add a pack strange sealed deck. The prize structure also didn't make a sense to me at all (mostly because it awards PP and 3 packs max if you go 9-0). The draft sounded like a total nonsense. You draft like normal and then play up to 7 wins or 4 losses (best-of-1). You get up to 120PP for all that (120PP is how much it costs to enter). A bit later I heard many people actually talking about the Friendly Sealed League. Many players were also saying that it has the best EV and that it is their preferred way to play limited. Reluctantly I tried it. After my first experience I said, never again. I checked the EV though again and realized that for someone who's win percentage is not that high this indeed becomes the best EV event. Question is, is it worth the experience? For many it is. They get to play more, they can even get a better pool by buying another pack etc. Yesterday, when I opened MODO I stared at 7000 players in the Sealed deck Friendly League. That's a lot for Magic Online.

Back to Arena. We have one type of an event and while many players complain about it because of a thing A or B, one thing is certain - it draws the competitive crowd there. Since it is the only way to grind we'll find grinders there, players that want to play as much as possible and win as much as possible. I don't know how many players are in the beta but many of those in are either Magic players or F2P game grinders that are looking for something new to spend their time and effort on. This means that those that just want to play casual games get crushed. If you can't break even in Quick Constructed you shouldn't enter. You won't be able to grind that fast but you will still be able to get gold and packs. The difference between these two types of players will get huge and yes this is a problem that should get addressed. One thing that I noticed on MODO though is that segregating the players with different kind of events made everyone happy. I get to play what I want and can avoid Friendly Leagues while others will prefer those and won't ever enter a Competitive League.

I believe that Wizards of the Coast is trying to figure out what the best events will be for us and this is a start. Quick Constructed is the first event we got and the first draft of a prize structure. Many of us feel that best-of-one matches are something we don't want to be. There will be players that will want to play those and will be their preferred way how to play Magic. So all should bear with it, give it a try and see what it offers. Then we can jump into another event we will get and see how that works for us.

The problem with Quick Constructed is that well a good deck is expected of us and that takes some time grinding with the 'basic' economy. Since the matchmaking is not the greatest this may be a very frustrating experience for a new player.

Quick Draft
While I was in France without access to the internet Quick Draft was introduced. It is, once again, a best-of-1 event (hence the Quick in the name which is a bit confusing to some...) and ends with either 7 wins or 3 losses whichever comes first. The entry fee is 5000 gold or 750 gems. Prizes as follows:

  • 0 Wins: 50 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 1 Win: 100 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 2 Wins: 200 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 3 Wins: 300 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 4 Wins: 450 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 5 Wins: 650 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 6 Wins: 850 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
  • 7 Wins: 950 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted

So far you enter the event and draft with 7 bots that are scripted in a way to draft to win, thus they will be passing 'money cards'. For those not knowing what draft is - you open a pack, pick a card and pass the rest of the pack. You will receive another pack with one less card. You pick from there and pass the rest to another player. You do this until all 14 cards are drafted. Yes, fourteen. That is the actual number of cards in Magic: The Gathering packs in paper and on Magic Online with which we also draft. After you finish you get to build your 40-card deck and play your matches.

You probably noticed that Draft awards gems instead of Gold. The premium currency given out at this event can be bad for some and good for others. It depends on what you can do with it. A player not putting money into the game will have a way how to get premium currency but will also find it harder to spend it. If one would want to chain drafts we need to get to 6 wins (or have really a lot of gold). If we miss the break point for us (depending on amount of gold we have) all we can do is play Quick Constructed with it. This actually converts Gems into Gold once again and it is something we as players should realize. This is one of the reasons why I mentioned Play Points above. On Magic Online we enter events with event tickets that have an actually monetary value and are used as the currency on Magic Online to buy cards, enter events etc. PP are used to enter events and that this all we can do with them. A grinder on Magic Online wants to eventually turn these PP into something they can sell and while still keeping PP to continue playing. We get certain amount of PP as prizes and Treasure Chests (in Constructed) and Booster Packs (in Limited). The number of PP can get quite high for some players and one of the ways to turn them into something we can sell is to enter Limited events. When I saw that Draft awards Gems I thought of this. There is nothing wrong with that as long as we have the means to use or convert either currency. Note that gems can also be used to buy packs. The question is, will you want to do it?

Motivation
Each of us is different and our expectations are different. What motivates one player does not necessarily need to motivate another player. Those that know me, know that I'm not really motivated to play Arena. It doesn't suit me because it doesn't offer the kind of experience I want from playing Magic. I was looking forward to playing Limited though and the experience wasn't what I expected. The bots obviously have certain archetypes in mind and those that are hardly draftable they ignore. This also means that we get to see certain cards way more often than we would in a paper draft or Magic Online. There are cards that are not that great in multiples and we often draft some of them just to have a good curve or simply because there isn't anything better in the pack, we hate draft (still happening on Magic Online where we play have cross-pod play now). This also means that sometimes we can build a deck that will work because we know that no one will cut us from it. While some can argue that this is similar to reading signals IRL, it doesn't feel like it. We also know that no one is going to cut us and the cards we would not normally get, we can happily get for a last pick. While I don't think this is bad, it creates a different kind of experience. I expected that drafts on Arena would be a mess but I wasn't really sure what would be worse - drafting with 7 bots or 7 other people of a varying levels. I remember stopping going to certain LGSs to draft elsewhere where the level was higher. I couldn't stand playing with half the pod of players not knowing what they were doing and the other half knowing how to draft. I'm not a good limited player, I'm ok-ish, good enough to know when there is something strange happening and I'm not interested in that 'strange'. I played few drafts of Dominaria and then I got stuck with 600 gems. Since I do not play Quick Constructed I wondered what to do with that and that is where another problem might be for some. In Magic we often have Limited players and Constructed players. I'm a Constructed player but the economy is not kind enough for me to be able to put together a Constructed deck by playing Constructed. I give preference to Limited, but after my first few experiences I'm not sure if I won't just continue playing on MODO were I know what to expect. Since I don't want to play both Constructed and Limited in Arena it limits me and forces me to either pay money to participate in draft events or slowly grind some gold by completing quests (I'm in the losers bracket...) and getting gold for the first 5 or how many wins. I suppose this was the intention.

In general, the changes are good. There are certainly things I'm not a fan of and it still doesn't motivate me to play but it is way better start and we can see a fuller picture of how Arena can work. We should see how things are linked to each other and what are the ways to play Arena and if we can find our place there somewhere. I believe many features and events await us. What I still fear is rotation and I can't imagine Arena to work with the economy how it is set now. Time will tell.

As for visuals and audio, it got way better. What didn't get better is the fluidity of the game and there are still many bugs awaiting to be fixed. The game still has quite a lot of room for 'messing up' which is not idea for competitive play.

My two cents...take it easy
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Magic Arena - DOM Patch 1

A new set was released and it also reached Magic Arena. Now we have the possibility to play with Dominaria. In the following patch we'll get limited and economy changes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

STsung and Pump it Up (part 1)

Recently I was trying to find the first trace of me playing on a Pump it Up machine. My first blog entry talking about Pump it Up is from 2006 but it doesn't say if it was also my first time playing. On April 20th 2008, according to groovestats.com, I entered my first Pump it Up Pro scores. Now, ten years later, I have the possibility to play Pump it Up again and I'd like to write a bit about my previous experience.

I am not sure if I can say I was a real Pump it Up player but I certainly wanted to be one - I fell in love with the game the first time I set foot on a PIU platform. In order to be a player, one usually needs a machine nearby and that wasn't my case. We used to travel far to be able to play even four panel games and sometimes there was also a Pump machine around that many players weren't really giving much thought. I played rarely but my ability to play was quite ok since I was good at 4-panel. The most important part in terms of learning how to play Pump were (anime) conventions where Pump was available and my stays in Warsaw because I had an access to a machine during three days (otherwise my sessions were like 3 months apart). My parents lived in Warsaw and whenever I came to visit once in a while I came to one of the arcades around to play Pump it Up. This way in few days I was able to teach my legs where to step and how to play on Nightmare - doubles. I was a fairly good four panel player making it to the finals of different disciplines at World Cup. I wasn't using the bar at the time and that's probably a reason why I didn't win^_~. It was a great experience though, I met very nice people. We shared a passion and the players were highly skilled in machine dance. At that time it was clear that my strength was clearing difficult songs but I was pretty bad at accuracy (my 96% scores couldn't beat those 99%). Pump is more about speed, technique and full combo so my ability to clear difficult songs proved to be the perfect ability to play Pump it Up. I could speed! After I made it through songs I played over and over to clear them - Csikos Post and Turkey March - I started playing all the songs and tried to figure out how far I can go. I soon learned that the song I liked and played at first might have been 'easy' on the difficulty scale but were rather more difficult compared to songs from K-Pop or World selection of songs. I realized that Banya songs' difficulties should be multiplied by 1.5x. Thanks to that I was surprised I could clear songs of higher difficulties. After I felt a bit bored by playing on one pad I decided to give doubles a try. I always liked playing doubles in DDR but it cost too much money and couldn't be easily done at home. On Pump it Up though playing on Nightmare difficulty cost the same as playing on Crazy. That is how I fell in love with Pump and doubles and pretty much stuck with NM.

A rare picture of me playing Pump it Up, obviously I was playing Monkey Fingers CZ and I wasn't doing well

I started with level seven songs and my way through more difficult songs. At first I had troubles stepping or jumping and landing on the right panels but after a while I could jump through Beethoven Virus strange jumps just fine. Then one day I discovered a song I successfully failed. Its name was Love is a Danger Zone. I liked the song and I also seemed to like the stepchart but I couldn't clear it. I didn't know why that was happening. I seemed to be good enough to pass difficult songs. No matter where I went to play the machines were showing my high scores even when my visits were usually a year apart. But this song I couldn't clear no matter how fast I moved. This had to change. I wanted to progress and put this song on the 'imaginary' list of songs I cleared.

I have no idea what songs I played to get this machine record (something relatively easy). Later I learned that playing LIADZ2 CZ as many times as you can is what gets you the best score

Later I discovered a cab set on Free Play at one mall by accident. It was a rather abandoned place but it had a Pump it Up cabinet there. The game also contained Love is a Danger Zone so instead of paying 2 zloty for a credit I could just hit the center panel and play. I decided to play Love is a Danger Zone on Nightmare till I'd eventually pass it. Well, I was naive thinking I could clear it that day. My parents left me there and told me they would pick me up later. That later was six hours later. I spent most of the time playing LIADZ over and over. It was fun. I didn't pass it (that day).

The next morning I woke up in unimaginable pain. After a long Pump session I usually wake up with my legs aching all over but this time it was my core muscles that ached so much that I could hardly move. I had to literally crawl if I wanted to go somewhere. It was a rather embarrassing day and I think I won't forget it ever. My parents were certainly amused and laughed at me. In the evening I was able to walk again though and my parents asked me if I want to play more Pump that day and I was like 'Yes, sure if someone drives me there' (I was serious, my parents not). Well, no one took me there so I had to stay in their flat and regenerate. The next day though I went to play on a different machine and I suddenly had not problems with crossovers and running all over the platform. I learned something that day but I didn't know what at that time. All I know is that I could clear level 20-21 songs and that I could probably clear even more difficult songs.

Long version and a level 22 song. What could go wrong, right?

When NX2 came out I fell in love with WorldMax - a mission mode. I spent a lot of money on playing that and if you've ever tried World Max you probably know that it is designed in a way to make you fail. There were missions that were pretty normal but once in a while you'd encounter one that was very difficult to understand yet even clear. I was ready to feed the machine with my money and play missions I'd fail even but there was one catch though. All the machines in the vicinity of 1000km had World Max locked. The thing is that if there is a player that can pass through the boss missions anyone can move around the map. Well, on those machines I played on no one made it past the the first area. I started playing that and eventually got to the boss mission too. It was something like For You Full Nightmare, reverse grading, stage break on, get over 1500 combo. Which was totally great. At that time I couldn't even imagine clearing the song but I tried anyway. I could do about 1000 combo at the first part of the song but a slow down or hands broke the combo. There were parts of the song I was consistently dying. That was the end of a fast stream in the second part of the song and the part that followed with many hands. The stream I sometimes got through so I knew that it's not my main concern but I needed to figure out how to do those hands properly. In order to pass that there was a song by Novasonic named Another Truth. I'm not 100% if that is the correct song, but the one I have in mind has a Nightmare chart that consists pretty much just these hands and nothing else. When I managed to consistently clear that I came back to my boss song and tried to clear it. Eventually I did. I didn't need to care much about the combo, because one just needed to survive till the end. Anyway, I considered that a big achievement even though I only managed to get 1000 combo on it. I was proud to clear 7 percent of WorldMax on my own (until the machine became unavailable for us, I managed to get to 33% on my own) and moved onto another area in World Max.

Getting Andamiro flash drive and registering at PIUGame.com was no easy task, it was definitely worth it though!

At that time, I considered myself a fairly good player but this mission was probably at the limit of my skill and my progress was showing 7 percent. I started to wonder what kind of missions would follow. Fortunately for me, many following missions were relatively easy. There were those that were quite killer ones too though. No matter what World Max was for people who could clear at least level 20 songs with stage break on both Crazy and Nightmare difficulties. I started wondering what the overall level of players was in Korea (or elsewhere where people actually played Pump) was. In our area players tried to collectively get through the first area and failed. I got through 3 areas but felt like a total noob - it was way too difficult for me.

Both our NX2 and Pro machine ended up somewhere where one couldn't access them so a long period of not being able to play followed. Fast forward to 2018. Joystick Arcade bar bought a Pump it Up Pro machine and that means that I can go there anytime and play some Pump. During a few year period during which I didn't play any dance game at all I still managed to show up at Las Vegas Arcade Soho twice, La Tete dans les Nuages twice and in Funland once. Both me and Pump it Up games changed. I gained like 42 kg. PIU games introduced something like beginner mode and lot of other difficulties. Crazy and Nightmare difficulties became history.

Totally random doubles I played and... um missed 1 note on it.

When I first stood in front of Prime in LV it was a very embarrassing moment. I had no idea how to operate the machine, enter full mode and I had no idea what I can possibly clear. I played the most difficult songs in the beginner mode until someone showed and I asked him how to play songs on Nightmare (or well higher difficulty). After a surprised look I was told about full mode and how to enter it. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time in that beginner mode an didn't have much time left to fully enjoy what Prime had to offer. Some time later I came across Canon-D Full version. It showed some ridiculous difficulty like 23. I knew the song was difficult, I played it at all occasions I could in the past and successfully failed it (usually). After 3 days spend at a convention center (walking a lot), being totally exhausted, being sleep deprived and pretty hungry I decided to play this song. I asked the kind person who showed me how to enter full mode to record my attempt and hit the center panel (he was kinda surprised since I hardly played a song on higher difficulty than 14). I tried my best and I got a passing grade. How did that even happen (I blame the awesome platform, at that moment I didn't even realize that it doesn't have brackets)? I was given a broad smile and thumbs up and that felt great. I wondered if I could even step down of the platform and get to the airport without needing to crawl^_^ (I was fine).

I thought I'd completely fail and the machine would just show me Stage Failed. It didn't happen and it gave me a passing grade. That's great, maybe?

My next experience with Prime was a similar fiasco. This time though I knew what to look for - the full mode code which I didn't memorize. I found it on a poster on the wall and entered it (I had no idea when to do it). I played some 10-13s and got some full perfect combos and lots of machine records. I didn't get the chance to write down my name which used to be possible on the older machines. I figured there had to be some kind of internet ranking in place. Since I didn't sleep for over three days straight I didn't want to kill myself on something like Canon-D Nightmare and decided to leave soon. I was in a really bad shape but it was my second time playing on Prime.

My third time playing on Prime was awesome and I finally got the time to get used to Prime and explore it more. At Funland, I was joined by Thumbsy who was so kind and answered all my silly questions I could have about Prime. I learned to set a speed mod, took few hours to figure out what I can possibly read but still failed some songs because of a wrong speed mod. I learned that many new songs have some gimmicky things happening to the step chart. I also learned about the internet ranking, different kind of judgment windows and whatnot. At one point I realized one more thing that for some reason I didn't see before. I asked Chun to record a video of me playing Shanghai Romance. That song featured several "three notes at once". When I landed on the first jump I realized that I landed with my feet on the panels without hitting brackets and screws that I expected. I finished the song and then had to look down at the platform. It was bracketless o_O!

The song sounded fun. It was too easy for my liking but that's the only video I have. Thanks to this song I realized that there are no brackets...

I played songs of difficulties 10-18 (just few of the higher difficulty ones). Since it was clear I'd spend more time there I played something around the 13-15 doubles charts so I'd have enough energy to still play few hours later. After 6.5 hours we left for Den Haag to eat something and we came back to Funland again. There were too many people there for me and obviously Prime machine was way too popular. Pump it Up Pro was left alone so the rest of the evening I spent mostly playing Pro. I discovered that the difference between Prime platform and the PIU Pro one was huge, suddenly it was way more difficult to clear any song. I left few high scores on the machine as well, this time also leaving my game tag behind.

Did I get any better? Most of the time when I thought I got a new record I could consider an achievement it actually wasn't since I got a better score 10 years ago.

When I arrived back to Czech Republic I decided to start playing again since I have a machine nearby. My primary reason to try that again was to lose weight because my 90kg is not good for my body. All those years I tried everything from different kind of diets and exercise but I couldn't find anything that would have worked. Pump it Up is my last resort. People say that doing what one likes is something that has the most impact so hopefully it will help.

Me trying to survive Monolith... it didn't go well

Nevertheless, apart from losing weight, I have a goal - fill my groovestats as much as I can. Get back into shape and be able to clear some of the harder songs without passing out^_~. I know that I can still clear some crazy songs but I don't have the courage to try 11s or even some 10s because I doubt my skill. On the other hand when there is a level 13(or 14) song I want to play I just do it and somehow it ends up in a clear. How come I can pass some 13s while I manage to almost fail some 10s?

After I fill my groovestats I'd like to get some better scores on songs I have really bad scores but that can wait. I have a long road ahead of me since I'm afraid to play tens! Even though if I won't achieve any of the goals I set playing Pump makes me happy. I don't smile often and when I do no one sees me because I'm usually behind my computer screen playing Magic on MODO. Here's a pic of a happy STsung.

This was a great session... but who the hell decided to play I'll give you all my love CZ followed by LIADZ remix?!