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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Custom tokens and Yummy Tokens

Since I don't even know when people started doing custom tokens. The first ones being sold were made by some fans I guess who just figured out that a picture printed on a piece of paper and foiled is a good idea (we also have altered cards like this via print). These type of custom tokens are available kind of everywhere one looks. But majority of those tokens are really horrible (things changed in past few years, so maybe I should use the past tense). Anyway just check ebay or MKM or well just google Magic custom tokens. Many people do custom tokens in a way that they steal art and print it and create some layout for the token. Those are the worst most of the time and many times the tokens are foil (half naked female character tokens that are shiny...simply sell...no matter of the quality). Horrible to look at from my point of view and I can't even imagine paying 5USD for such a token. Ok, yes I admit it usually features a hardly clad female character no matter if the token is Insect, Beast, Elemental or Soldier - the less armor the better^_^) so I may not be in the market's target group.


Example of token I do not like, do you?

Do you see a Green Elf?

Lately not only big portals like SCG or ChannelFireball have their own tokens. Freelance artists or shops (hiring someone to do the tokens) start selling their own tokens and they are making quite a big business out of that (I just wonder why bother selling singles sometimes...). I'm seriously wondering about this 'business' myself but since I cannot draw or paint well I'm not really sure if anyone would be interested (at least in this country my work is most of the time looked down upon). It still might happen.


My own custom tokens

But even among all those people producing their own tokens I had difficulties finding ones that I would actually like. I am always in wonder why people buy many of those tokens I find really ugly (and oftentimes foil). Anime styled tokens are also popular (usually portraying almost naked female characters no matter if it is a wolf or beast, but in this case it is more understandable). But even if those tokens are painted/drawn by someone the quality is low (probably because the person does not get paid much, or rather someone of not such a good skill does those). Some are ok even though I don't like them but if I would want to use something as tokens I would like to find something nice to look at, something that will be right away distinguished as the corresponding creature etc. Many times one cannot even distinguish what kind of token the card represents. I would not consider myself picky about this but after all I've seen I might actually be. But what I only want from a token is this -> the image should correspond the creature it represents (if the color palette corresponds the color that's a bonus), the design should be clean, the overall look should not be too distracting (that means no really shiny foils, too flashy images on which one cannot even distinguish what is painted on it etc). If there are no tokens like this I'd rather play with a piece of paper on which I type the power and toughness (and possibly the name/type of the token and its abilites).


Inkwell Looter Goblin Tokens

But among all those horrible tokens, official ones both regular and promo we can also find tokens that are actually pretty cool. The very first tokens I actually liked were from Inkwell Looter unfortunately for us he discontinued his Magic related project and moved on to something better. For a long time I couldn't find any other token I would like (I actually like SCG tokens quite a lot) till Rishada (one of Czech shops started selling and distributing Yummy tokens). I got the first token at Grand Prix Utrecht were I received a promo version of one token. At another GP I got another one. Later I've seen the whole (non-promo) batch and immediately fell in love with those.

This kind of style is something I would not expect to like. I write this because Inkwell Looter's style is similar and some of you could expect that I like this particular style. My preferred style would be anything similar to Drew Baker's style, check out his work! But well just look at those Yummy tokens. All those pics are funny and distinctive. She did a great job. The graphics design is one of the best if not the best as well. The paper could be different as this one is too sturdy for my like but I guess that is problem of all tokens out there.

So those are my two cents about custom tokens. Each of us has a different taste but when buying custom tokens I'd rather support someone who actually paints or draws the tokens himself/herself. So if you like these tokens you can visit their site at http://yummytokens.eu/index.php and possibly buy some of those pretty neat tokens.

Monday, October 26, 2015

World of Robotics Deck Building Game

Game description
World of Robotics is a Czech deck building game for 2 to 4 players. Each player takes on the role of a 'programmer' of a massive alpha robot. These programmers duel against each other by using their alpha robot, beta robots, equipment and programs. Each player starts the game with randomly chosen programmer and then chooses an alpha robot.

Programmers have two abilities that cost them Exhaustion Points and can be used once per turn (turn meaning one round of turns of all players till it reaches you once again). Each programmer has a limit of how many points that card can use. If maximum is reached (9 usually) the player with exhausted programmer loses the game at the end of his or her turn.

Alpha robots have Hit Points' value and Shield Points' value. They also have an ability. It can be used as many times as you want.

Each player has a starting deck consisting of 10 Titanium cards that give 100 resources, 2 Smoke Bombs that either draw a card or prevent next 20 damage dealt and 1 card that negates any action or reaction. Each player starts with seven cards in their hand.

During their first main phase they can buy cards from robomarket, use actions/reactions, play equipment/bots.

Next is attack phase in which robots can attack opposing alpha robot. Robots can only attack if they have a weapon equipped. Damage is first dealt to the 'Shield Points' and then HP is used. When both reach zero the player controlling that robot loses the game.

This phase is followed by another main phase (because for example you can draw more cards during combat but wouldn't be able to play the cards otherwise). The cards can be bought from 'Robot market' - area consisting of 8 piles of cards. In those piles one can encounter beta robots, programs and equipment cards. There are three more piles with resource giving cards - Titanium, Uranium and Platinum. In order to buy a card a player needs to play enough resource cards in order to pay the cost of the wanted card (played cards go immediately to robot scrap - discard). When a card is bought it is put on top of the player's deck.

At the end of turn all cards (robots, used equipment, cards in hand) are put into player's discard pile. That player then draws seven cards and the game goes on till one of the players (erm alpha robots) dies/is destroyed or one of the programmers gets exhausted.

Contents
The box (which is kinda neat but cannot hold the cards when sleeved) contains:

  • rules (that are supposedly simply but not explained well)
  • game board (we never use something like that unless necessary for the game)
  • damage counters (those are pretty bad, 20 sided die seems as the best counter)
  • exhaustion point counters (same as above - 10 sided die is ideal)
  • 203 playing cards (the quality of the print is meh, sleeves advised because this won't survive for long even though the game does not require excessive shuffling as most deckbuilding games do)

First experience (far from positive)
We borrowed the game from a local game store to check it out because we were both quite curious about it. We did not have time to try it out until recently. We both expected something completely different (we are used to deck building games and for me personally this would not qualify as one). I unsleeved several type two decks (because they are not legal anymore anyway) and sleeved the Robotics game. Zdenek read the rules and while reading them I already understood that the rules will be a bit problematic because the rules incited more questions then answers. There is not much explained in them and there are card effects that don't really make sense or it is not clear what the cards do (or rather when). He explained the game to me then and we tried to play our very first game.

I chose some programmer and later some random alpha robot because I did not understand the abilities just yet. Then we both started buying some resources so we could buy some tech or programs. When we finally managed to attack each other we got a bit stuck because there was no clear say about whether Shield Points kind of regenerate or just go down and then HP is used. But it seems we were just looking for some sense in the game because we expected a game to last for while (30 minutes). After trying to google something on the internet I landed on some description of a test game. After one player dealt 210 points of damage he won the game so we found our answer (simply the SP and HP go down) and started a new game. I chose one programmer (Lily) that can look at the top 5 cards of the deck. The second ability searches for a card in a deck but it costs two more cards from hand and discarded cards cannot be resource cards (so I never used that ability). As a bot I took one that seemed the most aggressive one - for sacrificing a beta robot it deals 10 damage to opposing alpha robot (Centurius).

Getting 600 resources on your first turn is nothing impossible and Merlin (beta robot) showed up. This robot when it comes into play will let you return one card from the discard pile to your hand. The next robot I bought is even better - Fox - "When Fox comes into play it deals 20 dmg to opposing alpha robot (if the bot does not have any SP left, it deals 30dmg), if opponent's robot is dealt damage this way, draw a card. If Fox is in play, you may discard a robot card from your hand and search your deck for a card, shuffle your deck afterwards". So 2 Merlins and Fox were enough to 'burn' my opponent via Centurius and Lily helped me look for Merlin. The game was pretty fast even with the possibility of preventing 40 damage per 1-2 turns. Preventing damage though is not what one wants. Drawing a card that was bought the same turn is way more important because still one needs to deal those 190 damage and one cannot fall behind.

The following game wasn't any slower. It ended very fast. We cannot imagine games taking more turns than let's say 6 turns. After those few games the game seemed to be primarily about choosing an alpha robot well. There are always alpha bots that counter different bots, so if the second player sees what bot is missing he or she can choose alpha robot accordingly. Then simply buy a weapon and swing. Some other cards may be needed but not a high number is needed. The deck alone works on 3-4 cards only plus those basic cards which one cannot really get rid of much. Getting defensive slows down hell a lot though and the game is not about being able to survive but about destroying opponent's alpha robot.

In the second game that I hoped to be longer I was discarding about 3 cards from my opponent's hand each turn (and the discard is random to make it even more annoying). The game ended soon as well as I just bought one weapon and attacked with that while not allowing my opponent to actually play something (my programmer also could discard a weapon if something would go awry). None of us enjoyed the game.

Anyway the very first impulse to try the game came from the fact that the game was advertised as deck building game and I usually like those. But in this case it feels completely different primarily because the game is so fast. The cards that one buys can oftentimes be used on the very same turn as there are two Smoke Bombs in the deck that allow you to either draw a card or prevent 20 points of damage. When someone uses the word deck building I would expect the players to buy more cards and when having a functional deck being able to do something (in this case attack and deal damage). In this game the cards can deal damage fast and in great amount and even those 40 damage prevented won't save the player or prolong the game much. So there is no time for different phases of the game like early/mid/late. Since here it is pure aggression (and judging from posts on the official page I guess that's what the authors wanted, just to run your opponent over and that's it. It is either you or him, not much of a way how to actually impact the game and turn the tides).

We still have to explore the game but after going through each single card we can clearly see what is possible and what not and I personally am not sure if I want to give it a second chance. Preparing the game and shuffling the cards pregame takes longer than the game itself (now that everything is sorted this statement probably won't apply much, but still you get the idea). Unless there is a market that offers only 700-900 cost cards the game will be too fast for my liking and well the game simply does not have 'control' as a deck type.

The biggest downfall though is the fact that this game simply does not have a future. The way the game is there is not much that could be done to make the game last longer or make more sense. Adding cards won't help no matter if they are more powerful or if they would be able to stall the game a bit because players will simply ignore those. The game is about buying the best card that shows up and finding a card that counters that and in the meanwhile buying something with what one can attack won't simply work. The whole design of the cards would have to be changed in order to make this game work.

This game though gave me some insight on what things to avoid when trying to come up with a deck building game and I can also see what should be done correctly:

  • First the TEXT and icons and other stuff needed for the game should be visible. That means readable from a distance (of one's head from the card laying on the table).

  • The game should be long enough to become relatively difficult or that interesting interactions can happen otherwise I don't really have a reason to play that game. If the game ends 'sooner than it begins' why bother.

  • Seven cards in hand is too much.

  • Rules should be well explained and structured. All keywords or effects explained clearly!

Additional Info
I mentioned (not really but you could deduce)that there is a possibility to get rid of a card from your deck. Some of the cards in the game have one of three icons. There is a trash icon, recycle one and Ti. The trash icon allows a player to put one of your cards from discard or hand (I think) on the bottom of one of the market deck piles. Recycle icon let's you discard the card with the icon and return a card from discard pile to your hand. The last icon simply gives you 100 resources (Titanium).

Also there three types of equipment. Weapons that allow a robot to attack, support equipment that can prevent damage or have other special ability stays in play till game effect destroys them and 'protective equipment that prevents damage (is discarded after it prevents the damage).

Verdict
1.5/5

I won't give it 1 because I see how difficult it actually is to come up with something and balancing something is even worse. Creating a game, marketing it and then actually selling it is not an easy feat. All those people merit respect for that. But game-wise this has nothing to offer me and thus I won't recommend it to anyone. (But I still have to see what attitude to the game non-TCG players will take).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What to do when Magic Online does not work?

Note: Since many people ask me periodically about Magic Online downtime or what is going on when MODO starts acting weird I decided to write a post and record a video tutorial about what to do when Magic Online really starts doing something strange. I wrote this so I could sometimes just send a link to those players, since what I usually say is pretty much the same. While doing actually writing that I guess it can publicly accessible and possibly help other players too if they happen to land on my post. Here are some tips and links that will come handy so if you speak English (you probably do if you end up on my blog) you can try those.

What to do when MODO starts to act up and it worked before the last update? In short ->

1. Turn off firewall and antivirus software.
2. Update operating system. (run Windows Update)
3. Update .NET Framework (important)
4. Uninstall Magic Online (run appwiz.cpl)
5. Clear ClickOnce cache (run cmd -> type in this -> rundll32 dfshim CleanOnlineAppCache)
6. Clear Magic Online Cache named 2.0 located at -> c:\Users\[username]\appdata\Local\Apps\ (run %LocalAppData%\Apps)
7. Download Magic Online from http://magic.wizards.co/en/content/download
8. If MODO won't work after this contact Wizards of the Coast via their Customer Support. Provide DxDiag file (run dxdiag) -> wizards.custhelp.com
9. Wait and hope (next update might solve your issue).
10. Change your computer configuration/ISP etc...

The infamous sideboard bug when cards start to either show in more copies than they should be often resulting in a crash - one cannot submit the deck anyway if the client does not crash at this point

What to do when something goes wrong?

In general if something is wrong with your client you will be often told to either just relaunch the client or reinstall it. If that won't work you should do a clean reinstall. Here is a link to one of the emails Wizards of the Coast sent me to help me with my issue - Magic Online clean reinstall.

The 10 steps in the gray box above this are the guidelines for what you should do when something goes wrong. You won't need to go through all the steps each time but if point 4,5,6 won't help you should try 1,2,3 as well. If everything fails you'll have to contact Customer Support. That's not the same support that is available via the client or Twitter (@Wizards_Help). In Chat with Support you will talk with WotC ORCs (Online Response Crew) that can answer questions regarding events, dropping from events, navigate you through Magic Online etc. but they won't provide any technical support or reimbursement etc. For that there is Customer Support. If your problem won't be easily solved you will still need to be redirected to Tech Support.

What else is good to know?

If there is a card that does not do what it is supposed to do or MODO is acting weird check the Bug Blog to see if it is listed there - it provides a temporary workaround for some issues (http://magic.wizards.com/en/en/gameinfo/products/magiconline/resources). If the issue is not listed send a report to Wizards of the Coast (via Customer Support -> Report an Issue - if you use this link you won't need to go through all that clicking to select what you actually want to send them). You can also reach this page by clicking on Help in Magic Online, then on Request Reimbursement or Report a Bug. Click on the BIG button there and then once again on a big button in the middle of your screen when the page loads up.

Something went wrong with this update...

If MODO starts acting weird and you think that the problem is not with your client you can also check Magic Online's Twitter -> https://twitter.com/MagicOnline to see if by a chance there isn't some kind of server issue. If a downtime takes longer than usual that is also a reason to look there. There might be an estimate when Magic Online will be back online. Apart from event announcements and such there are all the information regarding downtimes and current issues under investigation. For example if you and your opponent get kicked out of a match and can't log back in it usually means that there is something wrong on the server and that kind of information will be posted there.

If the problem is probably caused by your own computer configuration or connection and you don't know what to do you can check Magic Online's support page -> https://wizards.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2304.

If doing everything listed on the help page won't help send an e-mail to Wizards of the Coast. Send them a crash log or a screenshot if you have it.If you are reporting a bug, send a video or screenshots (recreate the bug). For being able to contact Wizards of the Coast you need a Wizards Account - create it if you don't have it already (hopefully the registration will work). It will save you a lot of trouble and it will actually let you communicate with Wizards of the Coast faster (or to actually communicate). This account is used throughout all WotC sites and accounts, it works with Wizards Event Reporter, Planeswalker Points and Customer Support. I understand that many of you don't need to communicate with WotC often but it is a good thing to have and it won't take much of your time to register. Certainly the time people spend sending me messages about MODO not working is enough to write email to Wizards of the Coast. People tend to complain about WotC support being slow or that they do not know a thing about their issue etc. It's not true. Honestly, Wizards Customer Support is the best one I had the opportunity to use. I wrote all this because I often get the attitude 'that's too much work', 'it takes too much time' and I'm fed up with it. If you need to fix something it won't usually fix itself on its own, you need to do something and Wizards Customer Support is here for you. They do not bite, they will help you. The Customer Support changed a lot, it is way better than it used to be so try them.

If you don't want to look for the link that links you where you want to end up there is a way to navigate there through MODO. That is the link I used because wizards.custhelp.com it was too difficult for me to memorize the address.

I had major issues with Magic Online myself some time ago because it either unexpectedly crashed or did not even launch (and gave me some .NET error). Those issues were solved eventually. I was pretty angry about that so I finally sent a crash log to WotC. It took quite a while but my problem was escalated and then I finally got to communicate with someone who helped me. After reinstalling MODO, deleting its (the deployer's) cache and whatnot and trying different settings and such I still couldn't get it working. Then I was suggested using a different graphics card. Honestly that is something I really did not think of because I thought the problem lied somewhere in the software itself and the new update (it started doing when Tempest Remastered became available). After trying everything I was suggested to do and doing other things I could think of myself I switched to GeForce 550m rather than the integrated graphics card. And you know what happened? MODO launched, my reconnection times went from 9:50 (very frustrating) to up to 1 minute and the application rarely crashed (or even disconnected 'just because'). It was the dedicated memory that was important. The dedicated memory should at least be 500MB as it seems.

One more thing, if there is a feature you'd like to be implemented in MODO or a problem you would like them to solve just address this issue as well. There were things that annoyed me like not being able to update a decklist with cards I own, or that there was no way to see what cards in trade binders I actually own or not, or Flusterstorm not showing which cards it targets. All this was fixed. If you have suggestions, send them to Wizards of the Coast. They listen, it may just take a while to show.

This post sums pretty much everything you need to know to solve common problems. You'll have to dig a bit if you don't understand those 10 points at the beginning of this post (but I provided links to where you find the information, it's all on the Wizards Customer Support website). The video below shows those ten points, but the commentary is in Czech, you'll see what I meant though.

Na mém blogu se nachází obecné i podrobnější info o Magic Online. Dále zde je návo, co dělat v češtině pro ty, co nerozumí moc dobře anglicky. Vše názorně ukázáno -> Co dělat, když Magic Online přestatane fungovat

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Zoo part 2

After painting Goyfs and Guides I moved on to other cards Umezawa's Jitte, Windswept Heaths and Taigas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SCGMobile (Magic: The Gathering App)

EDIT: Unfortunately this app will be discontinued by the end of this month.

Since my phone got stolen and I was given iPhone for Christmas I was searching for an app that I could use as a card database for Magic: The Gathering containing oracle text and containing magic rules and IPG. On my Android device I used MTGFamiliar which seemed the best app I could find and it probably is the best one (I also tried quite a few). The MTGFamiliar though does not seem to exist on iOS. So I looked for something similar for iOS.

The AppStore showed me about 258 results so I tried the relevant ones one by one and I couldn't find one that would be good even as a life counter (which I'm not really interested in but I use from time to time). After a while I gave up and just downloaded MTGRules and was looking up the cards online.

Some time later at one major tournament though I needed really something. I asked around and I was finally redirected to StarCityGames and their SCGMobile. I downloaded it, opened it and to my surprise found an application that suits my needs (mostly). It does not contain any rules but contains more stuff a player and SCG follower needs.

So what does the app feature?

    The application works in two modes - online and offline.

    The application lets the user read SCG articles both normal and premium and it allows the user to favorite them. This way one does not need to search through all the content to find something.

    It also has access to the store (which I don't really need but I guess it can be handy).

    Then there is the Life Management that pretty much does everything one could think of. You can set your name, your opponent's, track the win rate of games and matches, there is commander damage, poison counters, dice roll (available from the life management screen), timer and mana counters (also available from this screen). The stuff bolded is something I find quite important because when someone uses this kind of application he or she does not usually have dice around. The timer makes it easier to track the time which I find good as well. Even when not playing in tournaments this comes handy because one can find out if he or she plays fast enough to win on time.

    Next thing in the menu is Advanced Card Search. The normal search is a part of the menu so it is accessible after one tap. The advanced search is pretty much what it says. The result will show you the card's image, oracle text and its price.
    I would like to make one note here. The Advanced Search screen also has a Update Card Database button (I was looking for a way how to update it for quite some time...till I googled that and landed on SCG's comment about that). The application does not update itself so one needs to manually update it. For that login is necessary (I have SCG account for ages and it worked). The app allows to create an account if you don't have it.

    Dice and Coin is pretty much what it says. It has a history of rolls and flips.

    Mana Counter - let's the user to count mana in mana pool both color, colorless and there is also a counter for storm. (many apps don't have this for some reason)

    Hotlist - when one looks for a oracle text he or she can add the card to a hotlist. The most searched cards can be put there and accessed more quickly. I guess you can use that Hot list for whatever you want but this is the only thing I came up with. I always have to explain what my general does (The Mimeoplasm) even though I hardly cast it. So that's why it is on the list.

    About - if you want to know who brought this app to us and who wrote it. Thank you guys!

So if you have an iOS device and you have a need for Card Database and a Life Counter I would recommend this application even though updating manually is not something I would expect from such an application. This isn't the only 'bad feature' but everything is something one can live with. After going through many of free apps I just couldn't choose one that would do what I want and would look at least decent even if they update automatically when a new set comes out. That is the reason why this app should get a good rating.

Anyway I hope this post saves time to some of you who would be downloading one app at a time and figuring out if it is a good one or not. SCGMobile does way more than I expected, looks ok, is fast and does not crash (many of these apps were just crashing).

Note: Some people want a deckbuilder along with card database (and that is why some people rate this app badly for some reason). This application does not have it so if you are looking for something like that you'll have to look elsewhere.
(the manual update is an issue but come on guys, you have to do this 4 times a year! that is not a reason to give this app 1/5.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Battle for Zendikar Magic Online Prerelease Draft

Battle for Zendikar is a set I looked forward but I did not really have time to read the spoiler and thus played the very first prerelease sealed deck without knowing what the set looks like. This showed to be a big disadvantage since I really had no idea what kind of tricks I can expect andin this set it is vital to know. Synergy is the key in this set.

My first pool looked terrible and I made some kind of 4c Eldrazi deck out of it. I found out that cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner or Vile Aggregate are good and that certain cards simply work in a certain archetype but I wasn't really sure what works the best with what. I did not have enough Devoid cards to make it work, not enough Ingest cards to make it work and no reasonable way to ramp. I liked the Black-Green sacrifice deck similar to the one one could build in Modern Masters but I simple did not have enough token generators nor Bone Splinters. Ramping into Eldrazi is something that I did not really find as a good strategy but that also might be because of my pool lacking enough of those. Even with all those Eldrazi Scions it seemed to me that it is better to simply pump them somehow and attack but I lacked the 'overrun' spell. Black/Blue/Red Ingest control was something I wanted to try but I did not have enough noncreature spells for that. So this deck tried to win by slow but evasive creatures with ingest (blue), stop some frontal assault with red creatures because those were big and could trade or just buy more time with green cards. It did not work well...but I learned a bit about the set. From this tournament I learned that synergy and evasion is something very important.

In the second prereleased I played I put together a Ally deck that was at first a simple aggro deck splashing black for Kalastria Healer and Drana's Emissary. After the first game the power of the black cards showed to outlclass the rest of the deck so I put more black sources in and used those as my win condition (I won the rest of the matches, I lost the first one because I couldn't draw a single black source).

Anyway after some experience with this set I was still utterly lost in it. I can see some archetypes like Black/Red devoid aggro, U/B Ingest control, R/G landfall, Allies (either GW, BW or RW), BG Sacrifice or some awaken control but how the decks should really look like and what cards are good that was difficult for me to see. I mean it is easy to see that Oracle of Dust is a good card in a UB Ingest Control and that Eldrazi Skyspawner is simply good in any deck running blue. But there are some cards I can't really say where they belong if they belong somewhere and I'm not really sure how much I should value Ally cards compared to a better card but not simply being an Ally when drafting Allies.

I still haven't posted about Battle for Zendikar till this day and that is because my feelings about the set were pretty mixed and there wasn't much I could say about the sealed decks. But draft is different matter. Since seeing some of the cards when I was pricing them on Magic Card Market I got the impression that drafting this set will be fun. So I decided to finally try to record some video from Magic Online and bring it to some people who would be interested in that. (the videos are in Czech, but I plan to record in English as well - at least try).

Unfortunately my (nonintentional) streaming of the very first part and the most important one went awry because sound wasn't recorder. But since I have the video I can comment on the picks more than before (or at least write them down).

In the first pack I opened From Beyond as my rare. There were also Grove Rumbler, Rolling Thunder, Bone Splinters and Eldrazi Skyspawner in the pack. There were even more interesting cards but none that I would choose as my first pick. I would normally pick Skyspawner in this pack but I couldn't decide what the best choice is. In the end I decided to pass the card a pick From Beyond and see what the next pack would bring. The second pack did not contain any green cards. Looking at it the most interesting cards were Processor Assault, Sheer Drop and Makindi Siderunner. Since I expected to play some Eldrazi I expected to have some Ingest creatures or other ways to remove a card from the game. But the Makindi Siderunner seemed as a good creature and I rather have that than a removal I can't play. The card is not devoid of color but it is a good 2-drop. Vile Aggregate was my next pick and I was happy about it. There was also Eyeless Watched in the pack but that is a common and I don't even find the card good in most decks. I hoped to pick few of those though later. Next there was Blisterpod or Snapping Gnarlid. Since I did not play black as my second color I would rather pick the Gnarlid. But that creature is colored so in the end I decided to pick Blisterpod. It does not attack that well but would make my Aggregate(s) bigger and it can chump twice unlike the Gnarlid. My fifth pick was Turn Against because I simply wanted to try the card. This card was good at the prerelease because most people did not know that it is an instant and did not play around it. In draft I expected this card to be worse but still expected to be able to do something with it. There was also Molten Nursery and Oran-Rief Invoker. I was also a bit tempted to try the enchantment since draining life with allies work and this is similar but it is not a good card on its own so I just let it there for someone to have it. The Invoker is ok but that could still show up later. Among Jaddi Offshoot, Giant Mantis and Outnumber the choice was clear. Next pack had very nice cards in general but my decision was about Stonefury, Tajuru Stalwart and Valakut Invoker. I did not want to spend 5 mana to deal 5 damage somewhere so I was deciding between Stalwart and Invoker. Since I was in two colors the cards would have the same power and toughness and the Valakut Invoker could possible hit something/someone for 3 at least once during the game so I picked that. Tajuru Beastmaster or Boiling Earth that could possible kill all my creatures? Tajuru Beastmaster since I want to kill everyone with my 1/1s and Boiling Earth still can end up picked by a player that either won't play it or I he won't draw it. 5/5 body still sticks after this card wipes my board. My ninth pick was a surprise - Grove Rumbler. Processor Assault came back. Eldrazi Devastator (over Plummet), Lavastep Raider and Basic Lands followed.

In the second pack I opened there were cards I would first pick right away if that was my first pack but since I was already in RG I just had to pass them. For me there was Akoum Stonewaker, Makindi Siderunner and possibly Territorial Baloth even though I don't like the card and rarely pick it. The rare though was Brood Butcher and I decided to take that rather than any of the two cards I would prefer and would play in my deck. In the next pack it was time to pick Eyeless Wacher (since there was nothing else).
The next pack contained only 1 green card and zero red cards so I picked the green card - Broodhunter Wurm - because it is not that bad. In the next pack there was Akoum Stonewaker and Pathway Arrows. I picked the creature since I did not pick it earlier. Next I picked Bone Splinter over Kolizek's Sentinel. I wasn't so happy about that. Outnumber or Earthen Arms was obvious. Nettle Drone, Tajuru Stalwart (over Stonefury), Akoum Stonewaker, Oran-Rief Invoker, Pathway Arrows, Basic Lands followed.

In the third booster pack I so wanted to pick the green retreat but in the end I picked Eyeless Watcher for some reason. Second pick was good though - another Vile Aggregate. Call the Scions, Outnumber, Touch of the Void, Blisterpod, Boiling Earth (since there was nothing for my deck and this card would be good against me), Eldrazi Devastator (not that I would plan to play it), Tajuru Beastmaster, Tandem Tactics, Mire's Malice, Altar's Reap and Shatterskull Recruit followed.

My deck was more or less fine, there were few cards I passed that I wanted but even without them it was good enough for winning a prerelease draft. Later I will have to be more picky about my picks and also play better so I don't end up attacking with a 3/2 Trampler into 2/2 First Strike. Remembering what is in my deck and what cards I have in my last ten cards would also come handy, that is something I remember usually but I was too distracted when recording this video.

So if interested in those games you can watch them.



Friday, October 9, 2015

Streaming via Open Broadcaster Software

Believe it or not streaming is not something new. It's been here for a while. In 1995 Microsoft came with ActiveMovie which allowed streaming media in a really strange video format. It continued in Windows Media Player. Apple also had to come up with something similar and so they introduced streaming in QuickTime 4. During those times RealPlayer also allowed streaming. So watching something or viewing the downloaded stream needed us to have the respective codecs and players installed. The Windows Media Player allowed us to choose our own settings for our streams and often rendered the stream unviewable for many. RealVideo seemed to work fine though. It was the only thing that managed to stay 'playable' even after a new version was out. Few years later (2002) Adobe Flash happened and since then we could truly speak about unified streaming that everyone could view.

Since technology advances fast we are now in a totally different world of streaming now. It has become something very common and something that an ordinary consumer can do.

Nowadays in the era of interactive media, streaming has become a huge thing - many people earn a lot of money by streaming. That does not mean that you have to be one of those people, but one day streaming is something you might want to do, no matter for what reason.

In most cases in order to stream we need software that can make this happen (encoder software). Gamers in general have been doing this for ages and do not have problems setting everything up. For those of you who struggle with it I wrote this short article. It is an overview of what is possible in one specific and free software.

Open Broadcaster Software

In order to start streaming one needs equipment (computer, microphone, monitors, lights if need be etc) and software. It seems to me that majority of serious streamers use Open Broadcaster Software or its Multiplatform version now being named Open Broadcaster Studio.

Since I wanted to stream and record my own videos I decided to give this program a try. It is free and can be downloaded at http://obsproject.com. At first I wasn't sure how good this program can possibly be but it far surpassed my expectations. It can simply stream what you have on your screen but it can do way more. You add text, images, overlays, video camera feed etc to your stream. You can also switch from one scene to another. It can become a TV studio practically. In order to have bigger control over your stream it is good to have a second monitor.

Note that you can simply use Open Broadcaster Software as a screen capture software. You do not need to go live.

After the software is downloaded it needs to be set up and for that you can read the documentation at the aforementioned site. If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7 and want to use Window/Screen/Monitor capture you will have to disable aero (Win8 and win10 cannot disable aero) or OBS won't be able to stream/record at all. If you will use Game Capture leave it on. You can either disable aero yourself in Windows or check 'Disable Aero' in OBS under Settings -> Video.

So how one sets the scene? You can start by adding a scene and naming it. Then you need to add 'sources' which you want to show on your stream. In my case there is sts_channel pane that hides practically the windows taskbar (this can be just cut from the view), chat pane that hides Magic Online chat if I don't want to show Twitch chat instead, webcam feed and monitor/display capture. You can add way more to your scene if you wish and many things can be set via OBS (opacity, size, color etc). For example players show their record, logos of their sponsors etc. on their streams.

To change the size and position of sources on your scene you need to see a preview of your stream or actually stream. You then just click on the source you want to edit and then use your mouse to either resize it or move it (In Open Broadcaster Software you need to click on 'Edit Scene' first). Right-clicking the source will show a menu that can help you set other things (for example if you want to set your webcam's exposure/contrast etc.).

To actually stream Magic Online games you will have to go to Monitor Capture and check "Capture Layered Windows" otherwise OBS won't see the game window (but only Main Navigation window).

Also note that Window and Monitor Capture won't let you stream games in full screen mode. Only Game Capture can do that but this mode can be unstable. With Monitor capture you can stream only a sub-region of your screen.

The order of your sources is important. Think of it as layers. If your screen capture will be the top most object you won't see any of the objects that are beneath.

You can hide any source/object any time you want. You can switch audio streams, change their volume, set push-to-talk and push-to-mute etc. Audio should be set before you start to stream (my microphone input is set to relatively high - 76% - and Magic Online is set to minimum otherwise it is the only thing that can be heard). You need to set to what devices OBS will listen. You can choose those in Settings -> Audio. If it won't show set your device to default in Windows and keep the Default option in OBS. I also have set push-to-mute if by a chance someone rushes in my room and starts talking to me. It comes handy.

I have set another scene that I sometimes switch to if I need to do something on my computer in between rounds and I'm not entertaining my viewers. It is simply an image that says that I'm 'in between rounds' and not really present. So after I finish my match I can just switch to the scene not worrying about the fact that people would see what I do on my computer.

As another example here is another scene I created and can use. I wanted to do some interviews from time to time and for that I created a scene that contains 2 video feeds, background image and text. (the text can be changed while streaming, the same way as anything else)

When you have your scenes ready you need to set your encoder settings. For me x264, flv, 3000 bitrate (use constant bit rate) works fine so see what works for you (the recommended value is 70-80% of your upload speed). Count with 3500 bitrate as the maximum. 3000-3500 bitrate is recommended for 1080p streams. For lower resolutions lower the bitrate (for example for 720p, 1800-2500 should do). So set the resolution and bitrate accordingly.

The older version is not saving your replays unless you tell the program to do so automatically (check 'save to file', otherwise you can always do that manually). You can also set replay buffer that allows you to save the last X seconds of your stream (you need to set a hot key for that obviously^_^).

Then you have to set up your stream. I use Twitch, so I needed to fetch my stream key from Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/[you username]/dashboard), select the closest server and I was ready to go. If you want to use Youtube you will have to log in to Youtube, go to Creator Studio, click on Live Stream and under Encoder Stream get your Stream Key.

Twitch can automatically upload your videos to Youtube where they stay (on twitch they are deleted after 2 months or so) after your session is done. But if you would like to do it yourself and edit your videos or just trim them or change the audio or whatever I recommend using VirtualDub with mp4 or flv plugin depending on what container you will set in OBS.

So that was in short little bit about Open Broadcaster Software. It is really awesome software. The best one I encountered. So have fun streaming!

Here's one game to show you that the software works and the link will take you to Youtube Gaming which I find pretty cool (it is far from perfect but is getting better). The live streaming finally works fine and has a good quality. So people don't need to be afraid to use it and if Google makes it even better (so it can be edited for example via YT Gaming etc it might actually become pretty good). But so far it is Twitch being no 1.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Goodbye Dig Through Time

On September 28 Wizards of the Coast announced that Dig Through Time would be banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage. This is something many of us expected to happen. I hoped the card to be banned prematuraly but that did not happen. We had to wait for the normal official announcement. During the period which started with the bannings of Treasure Cruise and ended 2nd/7th of October I actually started to get used to Dig Through Time to some extent. I included it in my 4c Delver deck in two copies even though sometimes I just had the urge to play 4 of those. One or two would get ditched into Force of Will most of the time but the one that would actually resolve would be awesome (usually). This card saved me many times from utterly dying to some combo deck be it Show and Tell or ANT/TEPS.

When I was in Utrecht some time ago though I faced Dig Through Time all day and most decks that ran it were UR Omni-Tell decks. At that tournament I remembered how I hated the card after it was announced that it won't be banned alongside Treasure Cruise. Everyone was trying to abuse the card. I thought I would tear my hair off waiting for someone to resolve Dig Through Time. It was always a very devastating experience. That is the reason I stopped playing Jund altogether because just this single card kind of killed the deck. But even when playing blue I felt the same way. I played against Miracles finally hoping to be able to either play something or swing for lethal...and then BAM... Dig Through Time and the game was over.

When I used to play against Show and Tell decks I was quite fine with it before Dig Through Time happened. One could simple counter the Show and Tell and even with Omniscience in play it was possible that the Show and Tell player wouldn't find what he needed. But with Dig Through Time I knew I straight lost. Adding red to the deck just worsened the Omni-Tell nightmare. That was the time when I started to hate Dig Through Time once again. Whenever someone played Dig Through Time against me and it resolved I felt really bad. I felt miles behind and many times I just couldn't keep up unless I played my own Dig Through Time. Blue decks became more frequent and many players just prepared to play Omni-tell at bigger tournaments. This is something that should not be happening and I'm glad this card got banned.

The banning of the card though means that I have to abandon this deck and say goodbye to it. I will still be playing 4c but I will join the ranks of those players playing Tarmogoyf - a card I'd rather avoid - but it seems that now legacy needs powerful cards, the more the better.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tarmogoyf, Thoughtseize and Goblin Guide

I got a slightly different assignment...I'm supposed to alter cards for both Zoo deck and Workshop deck...so the Vintage deck alters will be mixed with some Zoo deck alters.