Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Online dating article fail

Today I would like to write a little post about something I came across. It will talk about two people Alyssa Bereznak and Jon Finkel. You guys reading my blog probably know one of these names.

I hope Jon Finkel will be fine with me posting this and as for Alyssa I don't care if she cares. I know that this means writing about a personal matter yet once more, but I was horrified with this so much that I just can't let this go unnoticed.

In her article Alyssa Bereznak accused a former Magic: The Gathering World Champion of lying and being a creep. The article is pretty much about the pitfalls of online dating but you will also find out that the author of the article FAILED at both writing the article and the date itself.

Alyssa wrote about her experience on OKCupid - an online dating service. Personally I think that people sign up for something like this for one of the three following reasons: some people might try it as a last resort. Some people might abuse it and some people can try to see what happens if they try it. No matter the reason both of these people signed up for this site and ended up on a date. I personally think that doing a little research about dating sites would be a nice article but something like what Alyssa wrote and published is really unacceptable .

In the first paragraph Alyssa stated that she was drunk when creating her profile on OKCupid. This already was a WTF moment for me. How on a site that seemed serious something like this could be written and posted? Anyway the last sentence of the paragraph says: "Sure, I’d heard horror stories, but what was the worst that could happen?" (talking about online date)

One would expect that what would follow would be really terrible. In my head the word 'rape' appeared. It could be far worse I guess, but even this would be a horror story for me. What followed is something I did not expect at all and the whole point of the story is 'google something?'.

It seems that after receiving tons of very creepy message one, sounding completely normal arrived. Alyssa then gave Jon her name so he could google it but she forgot to do it herself. Now tell me, how can a journalist and a researcher forget to do something like this??! Not to mention this fact - Alyssa for sure was already sober and stayed on OKCupid for two weeks at least. Huh? Why? Was she so desperate looking for someone?

Anyway these two people met and had a dinner together. Here Alyssa found out that Jon managed to be a World Champion in Magic: The Gathering. I personally don't know how I would react but certainly I would not laugh. I guess most people would be curious no matter if they knew what Magic: The Gathering is. It deserves some kind of respect and it is not something that is bad for a relationship. Ok, it might show the fact that certain person dedicated a part of their life to become good at something and achieve to come to the top. But all of us have some hobbies. There are ones that you share with your boyfriend/girlfriend and some that you don't. You need to find a balance there. But only after some time you find the balance and find your preferences.

That's where Alyssa accuses Finkel of lying in the article. She thinks that 'nerdy titles' such as this deserve to be written in the profile and should be mandatory. I highly disagree with that. Isn't online dating about well first talking to the person and in the meantime search some information about that person? I noted that all the people that talked to me via instant messaging services searched information about me and read my posts at certain forums. All of the people admitted this. I consider it normal.

Personally I have some titles myself and good standings at that level in certain games but I won't be typing that anywhere. Google is good enough. Just type my name and you get it. But unfortunately Alyssa forgot to google him and thus was surprised. If she would have found this out earlier what she would do? Never respond to Jon? Or tell him 'sorry, you are active magic player and a nerd, good bye?' Certainly she would not go on a second date with him as she well did.

Hope she was fired for this (seems it happened) and I hope that no poor guy happens to be dating her in the future because for sure he does not deserve someone who can't get over one World Champion title and can't figure out 1 + 1.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mana Base (theory - how I do it)

At MTG Salvation site I came across one topic in which a certain person wanted to come up with a formula for mana base and that started a series of thoughts in my head. I have a way of determining number of lands and what ratio. But I never asked anybody else about this. How do you do it? Here is a short post about how I do it .

I use a method that is approximative in a way but works fine for me (I was always good with numbers, if I make an extensive table with everything written in it, I can see what the ideal result is. I'm bad at calculating it though...). But on the other hand it probably would be accurate if I would use the right constants for some variables and would actually calculate it. The one variable that actually bothers me the most is a fetch land. I usually count fetchlands as producers of all the colored mana the fetched lands can produce. But that is wrong as it fetches only one part of it either - one or two colors. So that is why I started to include importance of having a certain color on a certain turn (and also started treating fetchlands 'correctly')

Land Count

For each deck type I usually have a given number of lands in my head already. Blitz will play 18-19 lands, aggro deck will do fine with 20-21 lands, aggro-control with higher cmc will do fine with 23-24, control/combo about 26 and heavy control even 27-28. This is something I start with. But if I want some more precise numbers I usually go figure out how many successive land drops I need. For that I need to calculate my average converted mana cost and see. Then check the decklist and see what CMC the crucial spells are and when I need to play them. The percentage of drawing the last land on crucial turn should be somewhere near 75% but anything higher than 70 usually seems fine. This means that if a crucial spell for my control deck is turn 4 when I need to play a wrath effect I need enough land to have 4 consecutive land drops. If I would be playing Zoo I need to lands by t2 because I can operate on that just fine. It is crucial to have the second land though. If you want to calculate the probability of having certain amount of land cards by turn X use hypergeometric distribution for that.

Actual Mana Base

So what do I do to get a mana base done? I count the number of colored mana symbols first then count the number of colored cards and calculate the ratio of colored mana I need for the deck to have a basic idea how the mana base could look like. I assign importance to the cards - there is an ideal turn in which I want to cast the cards. Based on the importance when to play certain spell I write down modifiers for the colored sources. For example I want to be able to cast Kird Ape on turn 1 and Qasali Pridemage on turn 2. Kird Ape requires Red and Pridemage GW. I also change the mana cost of the cards to the one I actually need. Force of Will does cost 3UU but often you cast it for alternative cost not 3UU. Tribal Flames in my Zoo deck requires at least 4 or 5 different basic land types to be efficient. That is the reason why the mana cost in my table is marked as WURBG instead of just 1R. The same can be sad about other alternative costs - for example flashback cost. For example if you play a certain card only for its flashback cost what you count is the colored part of the flashback cost (for example Unburial Rites fetched by Gifts Ungiven) requires W. When doing this I also look at my sideboard because I also want to be able to cast my spells when I need them. Especially when many cards against Burn and RDW are white. This means that I also need to add some more importance to white.

After doing this for all relevant spells I add up the importance modifier (ranging from 1 - not important - to 3 - important) with the colored mana the spell requires and multiply all that by the number of cards. Then I take these values and divide them by the number of respective color cards exponent 0.5 (or square root). This will reveal the ratio of colored sources. From this point on I usually just consider some facts and make a list of lands I want to play. One needs to play with the deck a lot to find the ideal mana base but this is system helps me create a mana base that works pretty well. It's much of a guess work actually but assigning the importance to colors you need and number of lands on specific turn helps to make the mana base efficient. In the table I enter the number of how many times I want to play each land and check if the ratio check or not (divide the ratio so you have numbers similar to 1, you will be getting usually numbers like 10/8/12 for example instead of 31/25/40 - I just took some random numbers).

For example the factors that change the number of lands are - acceleration spells (ramp) like Birds of Paradise or Rampant Growth. Or it can be the number of cantrips in a deck. All these cards lower the number of lands you need to play usually in 4:1 ratio (one land per 4 cantrips).

The same way as I look at the importance of having the colors I need on turn X I also look when I need untapped lands. This is something many of us will subconsciously understand to some extent. Fast aggressive decks should not play CIPT lands since these will just make the deck lose tempo. Control decks though can have a certain amount of CIPT lands but not too many (four Colonnades is nice, but if you have other CIPT lands 4 might not be the right number). Especially if such a land can become win condition. The thing to consider though is this. If I want to play my Supreme Verdict on turn 4 I need White producing lands to come untapped. That is the reason why my Solar Flare wasn't really running too many Seachrome Coast but rather Glacial Fortress. I always needed blue so there wasn't a problem this land would come tapped in play. Seachrome Coast would come tapped always on turn 4. Since this deck also ran Liliana of the Veil and wanted to play it on turn 3 it needed black sources to come untapped (Darkslick Shores). For this same reason aggressive GR decks played 4 Copperline Gorge in addition to few shocklands. This allowed them to have their sources untapped during the crucial turns when they need access to both colors and the mana while saving life.

All this information will change certain type of land count and can shift the land count in general. At this time in Standard we have CIPT lands that are usually manlands and 2 types of land that can come into play untapped or tapped. The ratio between those is also crucial. Playing 8 CIPT lands is too much! But you can afford to play 5-6 for example. As for the actual land count. For example my Esper deck ran Nephalia's Drownyard as a possible win condition that in the end proved to be primary win condition. In order to run 4 of these lands and still be able to play my UU, BB and WW spells I needed to play more land in general - 28. It may have looked extreme but look at this card as a spell and one you need to invest mana each turn as well while still being able to play your other spells. Note that this deck also ran cantrips that also usually lower the land count in a deck (4/1 meaning that for 4 cantrips you can just cut a land)!

If the deck is multicolored I create a table. In it I write down each land in consideration and write down mana it can either fetch or produce. I multiply this number by the number of the land in the deck. I play with the numbers till I find the right numbers (that I got from the above). This part for me is usually more abstract and does not really use math much. But on the other hand everything can be somehow transformed into pure maths. This table makes me see if everything I considered corresponds with the mana base. If it there doesn't seem to be a solution it means there is a problem in deckbuilding and what I want to play is too risky. So I need to go back and revise my spells instead.

After all this I usually try to think a bit and see what problems I can encounter. Either be it Blood Moon entirely killing my dual lands or Wasteland/Strip Mine destroying just one but needed land (in terms of color). That's why I shift the numbers a bit as well. When my table shows that my deck needs only 1 mountain but the red spell is something I really want to play I put two instead of one (I'm talking here about fetchable source of a certain color, just an example). If Blood Moon would really hurt my deck (for example while playing Jund) I consider running basics. I put in the number I need to cast my most important spells. If I need to cast Liliana of the Veil I need two Swamps. I will need Forest as well, but I won't need Mountain since Blood Moon will provide me with many Mountains^_^.

So in short this is how I go about creating mana base for my decks. Mana base is crucial. Without having efficient mana base that allows you to play the spells you need and when you need to play them your deck will be much worse. It will either struggle on having too few land, too much land or lose tempo because of not having the right lands available. Even if you will copy mana base from someone else make sure to make approprite changes according to your deck's important turn, color requirements etc.

EDIT: 11/8/2016
since the link to the original table is broken I will add here an example of BUG Control mana base for current Standard.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grixis Titans/Control

I got tired of trying to figure out what to do with Tezzeret deck or U/W/x control variants. I wanted something faster and responses that would be instant. Dismember was not enough for me so I tried UR deck, similar to one another player tried to develop online for current standard. As I'm trying to build a deck for a new format the deck lacked cards I would like to play and thus I added a color. The deck is not tested much, I just played against UW cotrol, Tempered Steel and some UW aggro but playing with it was relaxing as this feels more familiar to my earlier decks. So here's the decklist. I'll need to figure out what the deck can't handle and how to kill alternatively certain decks. But anyway I can't say what people will play when Innistrad will be out so I'll have to wait and see.

Creatures [11]
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Grave Titan
2 Inferno Titan
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Spells [24]
1 Cancel
4 Despise
3 Divination
3 Doom Blade
4 Incinerate
4 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
1 Stoic Rebuttal

Lands [25]
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacomb
10 Island
6 Mountain
1 Swamp

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Modern aka dismember/random thoughts part 2.


I decided to split the post into two, because the following text does not really relate to Dismember. This card has actually triggered all the following thoughts in my brain but does not really have to do much with it. Except, 'will this card be played in different formats'?

Extended format is relatively dead. The cut to Lorwyn till now turned the format into a big standard and that's where no one wanted Extended to be. CawBlade running rampart, Fae-Blade, tricky Valakut and some other crazy decks like well Jund?!
I was looking forward to Mirrodin+ Extended and when I heard the news about this not happening I was sad. Outraged at first, later sad as I couldn't change a think about it.

Some time ago at Community Wizards network I learned something about Community Cup via one girl's blog. The blog is featured for some reason (I still don't get it) and it lacks a lot of information concerning the game itself. But anyway this is the source from which I found out about Community Cup and Modern 'maybe' becoming a reality. I've ignored all the Modern threads on forums because I thought that this would not happen. But I have to admit that WotC starts to surprise me more and more.

So September 2nd is the date. Are you ready?

The prices of cards went ridiculously up and buying them before the big jump was rather difficult. No matter what our country ran off them quite quickly. So the prices will rise even more when they will be in stock once again.

The banlist is vast, so that should mean that there should be a big variety of decks, hopefully.

Concerning the decks that would see play though...

Zoo is no.1. Wide range of cards it can play and even different styles. Ones with little creatures and additional damage cards (how was the goddamn boost spell called?? and tribal flames) or something like a bant zoo. Dark Confidant version or more disruptive and counterspelling/disrupting version? I went through different versions and settled on Gaddog Teeg, Meddling Mages and Negates and that worked wonders. No matter what I guess people will grab their zoo and play it once again.

And then? Grove of the Brunwillows/Punishing Fire? Guess that counts as zoo as well.

What else I would expect? Faeries, different versions of CawBlade. Different kinds of control decks slowly emerging - UWx, UBx. I personally think that red has what to offer.

Jund as well even though I tried to figure out in what Jund could be better than Zoo and apart from Bloodbraid Elf I couldn't come up with anything (hm Anathemancer actually). I don't see the SOM lands as a big plus and running fetchlands + duals does not seem as a solution either. But maybe I just don't know how to play Jund. I just seem to think that Naya has better cards available and thus would see play. Anyway mana base is something people should consider. I except to see two approaches - SOM lands that are not actually dual lands as they lack the basic land type and fetch lands + dual lands. I prefer the latter and I would expect most decks would run this combination as well. This means loss of life... and that brings us to burn type deck. (That can as well run Grove of the Burnwillows + Punishing fire). This kind of mana base makes Blood Moon flash red in my head. Hopefully there's no wasteland or strip mine.

I would expect people to play Elves and Goblins but those are not decks that I would expect to excel. And I can hardly imagine Merfolk being that good at modern either. But Aether Vial is not banned, am I right? But I think people will come up with something better to use vial for.

I can imagine Tempered Steel being played and I've seen crazy decks already in the past. My not so well UW Steel aggro surprised many 5cc decks and even elves and goblin players were like wtf?

As for combos...I'm not really sure. Thopter/Depths, Valakut/(scapeshift) etc are banned so... When I first thought about it I came up with Breach/Hulk, Pyromancer's Ascension, Splinter/Twin (or Kiki-Jiki/Pestermite). But there are already working decks running Ad Naseum (angel's grace not to die), we've seen Time Sieve combos of all kinds and probably other decks as well. The only new combo deck I can see is Melira/persist combos. My favorite creature for sacrificing creatures was always Carrion Feeder but that card is long gone. Now we have a better card - Viscera Seer. This way sacrificing creatures and getting cards you need is way easier (btw this card and yummy)

I used to play different versions of Persist decks that tried to kill with Red Cap (quillspike combo included) or boosted nantuko shade, later bloodthrone vampire. But well persist has limited use and nothing like Melira was printed until now(ok it's been a while). The deck now finally got what it needed.

Well, I guess there are many decks that can come to mind but which ones will prevail? Which ones will define the new format? We have yet to see. (I skipped different kinds of rock decks on purpose.)

Lately my bf told me about Modern TCGplayer tournament and noted that there was a UW Tron deck he liked. He told me me about the other decks so I had to check them out. There was one decklist that caught my eye. It was a Superfriends deck that placed in top16 and it runs some important cards from standard. A part from Jace, Gideon, Batterskull etc etc it runs Preordain, Dismember and Consecrated Sphinx. When I've seen this for the first time I liked the idea. I already played UWR Superfriends at the last 'big' Extended. It consisted of 3x Jace TMS, 1x Elspeth, 1x Gideon, 3x Ajani Vengeant, few burn spells (lightning helix), PTE and counterspells. The win condition was either Jace TMS or Kitchen Finks. I would never expected a similar deck to show up now at modern. But well this deck has come through a zoo test as a winner so why not?

Anyway it's been already a long time since I played this deck and many new cards were printed. Among them the cards from the deck below - Inferno Titan, Batterskull, Dismember, Consecrated Sphinx, Preordain.

Now follows the Superfriends decklist from the tournament.

Creatures [4]
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Inferno Titan

Planeswalkers [8]
3 Ajani Vengeant
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Gideon Jura
3 Jace Beleren

Spells [22]
2 Batterskull
2 Dismember
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
2 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
4 Preordain
4 Rune Snag

Lands [26]
4 Arid Mesa
1 Cascade Bluffs
3 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
2 Mountain
1 Mystic Gate
2 Plains
1 Rugged Prairie
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Steam Vents

Inferno Titan is a card that can deal a seriously hell of a damage. At one funny standard tournament I played Valakut ramp with a lot of burn spells and Inferno Titans in my sideboard. (how a mono green deck with 12 mountains can change into a burn ramp with titans - lol that sounds terrible). To my surprise this plan worked and Kuldotha Red, different types of Tempered Steel and Burn just stared at me like WTF?

Consecrated Sphinx A card I believed would be good. But it never managed to get into my decks because I had my playset of Jaces TMS. Why play this card when you can kill with Jace or your manlands? When Jace was banned this card lurked in somehow and I could see what the card really does from both my point of view as a player piloting deck with the card and a opponent to someone playing Consecrated Sphinx. I've already gone through several EDH matches in which both of us had this card in play and the card draw was insane. In t2 even with limited cards it is still good.

For Dismember comments see above. (note ehm actually the post is below)

Preordain. As for this It's not brainstorm for sure. It's not Jace, the Mind Sculptor either. But it still can allow you to see three different cards. Earlier (talking about standard) we had Ponder and fetch lands and that was relatively fine. But the idea of having ponder and no fetch lands makes me sick. So if I would want to choose a card with similar effect I would go for Preordain.

It seems like Jace TMS was first replaced by Sea Gate Oracle (at least in my case), later by Preordain and now he's* replaced by Ponder + Consecrated Sphinx. At least the Sphinx costs more than the rest of the cards^^.

* see? I referenced the card with 'he'. What the hell is going on? Ok, this happens...I mean I've seen many (not so many in fact) people reference cards like this but since the planeswalker type people reference the planeswalker cards by the depicted characters' gender. It's easier in a way but it wasn't happening. The planeswalkers change some people's mind and also many people are crazy about 'walkers. This seems as a really good marketing strategy but I have to tell you that I'm fed up with planeswalkers already. I was fine with Urza and the other eight but hell how many planeswalkers we have now? It was 21 when I attended Magic: The Gathering Quiz. Now we have even more planeswalkers and in Innistrad we are going to have one with 5 ABILITIES! Jace was enough, thanks...

Back to the deck. I seriously have no idea why the person is not playing Hallowed Fountain but otherwise I like it. The deck plays well and is close to what I like. The last card I'm unsure about is Batterskull.

I've played against Batterskull on NPH Prerelease/Release and I have to say that the card annoyed me as hell. In all those six boosters I did not open any artifact removal nor counterspell (that could counter an artifact otherwise I would even play blue). The card seemed overpowered to me at first. 4/4 lifelink, vigilance?! I was like WTF? What the hell should I do with it?

Later when starting to build different kind of decks (t2 again) I realized that any titan can easily block that. Paying 3 for returning the card to hand and play it once again becomes tricky especially when your opponent keeps you under pressure. In the time I would usually need to play Batterskull I usually need to deal with other threats and this way Batterskull ends up on my hand not being played for the rest of the game.

While including this card in Modern Superfriends deck I realized that there is more space for this. Actually the start is pretty crazy but later in the game you have everything you need. It's not like titan after titan and gideon after gideon. I'm still not convinced about this card in any build but still playing it once in a t2 deck feels right.

It seems that I wrote quite a lot about modern and I did not even wanted to write anything about it. It seems that this shows my joy with WotC's decision.

Dismember and some random thoughts

Dismember is probably my most favorite card in New Phyrexia. This card gives -5/-5 to target creature until end of turn which easily kills creatures like Phylactery Lich or Baneslayer Angel. But who cares about that? It does not entirely kill Titans but 1/1 creature can do the job and if the creature is bigger than it still stays alive.

But well this is not the reason why it should be the best card of a set.(well might not be in your eyes but for me it is. I wanted to write about this a while ago, but got to it now). Anyway this card is an instant removal for any deck. The card costs 1 mana and 2 black (phyrexian) mana. So you can either pay the black mana or pay some life. 4 might seem a lot but the possibility of playing this spell on turn one or for just one mana when needed is so great. My little Nacatls could be telling you stories about this...You can do the maths yourself (killed Nacatl costing you 4 life or Nacatl staying alive and swinging for three each turn? (till t3)).

I spent some time trying to figure out how to build a UW control deck and this card is one of those that just want to stay in the deck. It is also one of the cards that can destroy Inkmoth Nexus (after tectonic edge rotates out).

Since my beginnings of playing Magic: The Gathering I always had to have an instant response to something either good spot removal or counterspell, many times both. I usually played Blue/Black or Blue/Red or Red/Blue decks that always had access to control and removal/burn. Lately these combinations weren't possible (oh yeah Tezz combo, Vampires with Kalastria/Viscera Seer). Last time I played Grixis Control when Alara was still T2 legal. But even at that time my primary deck was UW Tapout deck. At that time I had hard time figuring out what I wanted to play. Grixis control decks were the type of decks I wanted to play but UW control was simply better. (I kept Grixis for Extended for a while but I gave up on playing Grixis at Standard.) White color is the one being strong and still is. My decks are UW and now there's even more white! But still the decks usually tapped out completely and were dealing with stuff at sorcery speed and that's were Dismember comes in. Dismember adds a good instant speed removal for one mana and that's what counts.

Phyrexian mana also starts to mess up with the color pie even more than cards like Damnation. Well there are many cards that could count for a different color (I know in the case of Planar Chaos it was a real intent but still I couldn't get over it) but now you can ignore the color of the card completely.

Some time ago we played a sealed deck with NPH boosters only and our first match looked like: My opponent played vault skirge, spined thopter, porcelain legionnaire
only to be hit by marrow shards and be overrun by the same creatures I could pay for with phyrexian mana. I actually lost the first game as I messed up my five color manabase because that way I had to pay more life than I could spare. I changed it a bit for the remaining games and it worked much better. The decks were a 5 color phyrexian zoo but it was doing wonders - in the limited format we played.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

11 years ago readers of fantasy in the Czech Republic could get their hands on a book called A Game of Thrones. My sister brought it home and as usual my sister, me and my mother read the book. That's how it usually goes. Our sister is the initiator and tells us what to read and what she finds good. George R.R. Martin is a name I never heard of before but I already heard that the Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy that no one should miss. It takes usually ages for me to pick up such a book and read it but I usually do. The name of the book already suggested plots, politics and war and that's something I usually don't like much as most of the time, it does not really make sense and is boring to most of the time. In the end I grabbed the not so fantasy looking book and started reading.

This series is 'different' from other fantasy I've read. Many people compare it with The Lord of the Rings and some claim that this series is similar to Wheel of Time. Both groups are true but from my point of view the series is unique. It has the same 'epicness' as The Lord of the Rings )and has similar character's points of view as in Wheel of Time. I would actually compare it more to The Gap Series but that's not a fantasy series.

So what is this series about? Ever heard the name George R.R. Martin or A Game of Thrones? If not then I'll tell you a bit about it. BTW there is a TV miniserie that cost a fortune, so you can check that out as well.

The whole story takes place on a fantasy continent that seems to be like medieval England. On this continent there are seasons that last for years. There's Summer when everything stays calm and Winter which lasts for seven years. The Winter is coming after 10 years of peaceful summer. Up north behind a great wall built both by magic and human work the races of nonhuman creatures wake up. South a big political fight among the great houses has begun. Overseas thousands of miles away a daughter of a former king is married to a leader of a tribe - an army that can serve her purpose and help her claim the throne.

In the kingdom the hand of the king mysteriously dies and King Robert Baratheon asks Eddard Stark of Winterfell to come South to King's Landing to become the new Hand of the King. Eddard Stark leaves the North (Winterfell) and comes to King's Landing to investigate the mysterious death of the Hand and to rule the Kingdom that is not in a good state.

In the meantime an assassin tries to kill Bran Stark, one of Eddard's sons. His mother Catelyn leaves Winterfell to inform Eddard and to find out more information. They find out that the weapon held by the assassin belonged to Tyrion Lannister. Catelyn seized him and brought him to a court. This is what started the events that resulted in a later war.

Viserys Targaryen and his 13 year old sister were invited as guests by a rich magister. Viserys and the magister decided to arrange a marriage between Daenerys and Khal Drogo, war leader of the nomadic Dothraki. Viserys hoped that through this marriage he could use the Dothraki as an army and to conquer Westeros (where the Iron Throne is..that is..and where all the other politacal games take place). Daenerys was shy and afraid of both her brother and her husband. But later she found out that Drogo is not such a barbar (and knows metaphores well) as he seemed to be and fell in love with him. She took on the role of khaleesi (queen) of the Dothraki and she even stood up against her own brother.

Another character who's story is followed is of Jon Snow - Eddard Stark's bastard son. Jon Snow stayed at Winterfell till his adulthood. His presence was not wanted by some and Jon's uncle suggested that the Night Watch would could use a man like him. Jon left Winterfell to join the Night Watch whose vow was to protect the kingdom from what lived beyond the Wall. 8000 years has passed without any real threat and the Night Watch recruited criminals and other people that couldn't deal with their own fate. This coming winter though is different.

Hm I think I should stop at this point, you already know enough.

What else to note? From what I wrote I guess you get the picture what the series might be about. It's mainly about all the plotting how to claim the throne. The setting is highly realistic and something like magic does not seem to happen often. Yes, there are supernatural beings, 'gods', magical powers but it is subtle in a way. The story is narrated via the characters' points of views. Each character has its secrets, point of view, opinions and 'knowledge base' as I would say. There's a lot of symbolism, some is subtle and hard to find but some things are too obvious as you will find out very soon after starting reading the book. There are many plots in the book and many sub-plots. The tension grows and does not break.

And this series is known for one more thing (things). A lot of swearing, violence and sex.

Personal Rating: 3.75/5

Note: I can't rate this too high for several reasons. One is the complexity of plots and the amount of them. As I state above this is not something I like and it is very difficult for me to read through such passages in other books. And here you've got a whole book about that^_~. Well, this proves that this series is good and I like it. But I felt like reading Balzac when reading Martin. (at least the speed of reading through was similar). That's the other reason why I don't go to 4 or higher.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

War of Honor - Card Game

War of Honor is a let's say a multiplayer version of Legend of the Five Rings card game. The game comes in a box with 4 preconstructed decks (Lion VPI, Phoenix CoT, Dragon TKM and Scorpion SSK), a path to victory board, tiles and lots of clan and honor/dishonor tokens.

Readers of my blog already saw several posts from me about this game. For newcomers:
Legend of the Five Rings is a collectible card game set in a world of Rokugan a medieval Japan inspired setting. The card game employs its own continuing story that goes from arc to arc. The game is relatively complex for a beginner and I would not recommend it to any players not being familiar with this game. On the other hand the level of the game is relatively balanced and slow paced, which means that the game is relatively beginner friendly. Anyway if by a chance you would grab this game of the shelves I would suggest you 1-on-1 game to find out what a deck can do and to understand how the game mechanics work. It takes usually 5-10 games to figure out what the turn structure is and what you can do in each phase/step! I usually recommend this game to players with years of experience in other TCGs or CCGs. If the game will seem difficult, it's because it actually is difficult on many levels. It's entry point is way higher than for Magic: The Gathering for example.

War of Honor brings something new to the CCG game. L5R multiplayer games many times ended pretty badly because one player's deck was simply too fast or too powerful. In the CCG game, there are four different win conditions and if none can match a ultra fast honor victory no one will be happy (the victory conditions are Honor, Dishonor, Enlightenment and Military. A deck can have two win conditions and is named a switch deck). WoH tries to eliminate this by setting new Paths to Victory. There are four (obviously) and each of them has 5 steps. Military one needs 5 provinces taken down (1 province = 1 step). One Honor path step can be achieved after gaining 8 honor points in a single turn. Same goes to dishonor that needs to take 8 honor points in a turn. Enlightenment players need to put one ring into play to make a step. This way the WoH Path to Victories balance the different deck styles. In the CCG games you can take 3 provinces in one turn or put all five rings into play during a single turn which means other strategies may not be able to compete with that. This way the win condition cannot be reached in a single turn but in 5 for each win condition.

There is another novelty in the game. There are tiles with either Plains or a Fortress. Fortress tile has an ability on it. That ability can be used once per turn if the tile is face up. An active player can declare an attack from his own face up Fortress. He can attack any Fortress on the earlier created plan. The attacker can invite any, all or none of the remaining players to ally with him. The Defender has the same right under the same condition.

This brings a new element and can make it either more difficult or easier to pursue your own path to victory. Although it seems that with this rule and the wording in the rule book there might be situations in which a player cannot attack or is unable to have allies (and as military it can get really bad, as honor and dishonor decks in late game can easily make one step on their turn.).

As a downside of this game I'd say are the rules. The game has a very complex rules that cannot be explained in a board game rules. If a player already knows the CCG game they may also wonder how certain things work or if the game actually checks for it. For example there is something like an Honor requirement in the CCG. That is a number on Personalities mostly (also on other cards). If a player doesn't have enough Honor points, they need to pay 2 more to play the Personality. This is important for example for Dishonor players because this way they can tax the opponents that need to pay more for their Personalities. In the board game this is not explained in the rules, but the values are printed on the cards. This might be the only thing I encountered and bugged me for a while but in general the rules are a serious problem. If you don't know the game you can be pretty lost and as I stated above it's better to start with just another player and try to figure out in 1-on-1 game how the game works first. If you can manage to play the game within the rules, playing the multiplayer game using the War of Honor Path to Victories is actually a very enjoyable experience. It takes some of the complexity of the board game out of the game and makes it more balanced for all the players at the table.

Also the game takes a LOOONG time. If you don't have few hours spare don't even start it. And if you don't know the rules then don't even think about it if you don't have at least a half day free. The game in terms of turns can be quick, thus experienced players won't play this for that long but if you don't know how to achieve your goal the game can take ages. Believe me that realizing how to win in this game takes long.

Each deck has actions in different phases of the turn. When I played Dragon Enlightenment I usually had actions in Action Phase and other players were just passing. In 1-on-1 games this does not need to take long, but when 4 people need to pass on actions it gets tiring. When beginning players start to play, they don't usually rush the game much and wait till they have many Personalities and a lot of Gold available. This results in big battles that take really long and the outcome is not that predictable and is really difficult to tell what to do in such a battle (since players can't usually keep track of what happened and what the resulting power of the army actually is - meaning knowing the outcome of the battle).

This brings me to misplays. In L5R a mistake during the game has a big impact on it. Your whole army can die in a battle for example. This especially in multiplayer game will result in being hapless and unable to catch up once again. In WoH there is only a winner, if you want to win you need to watch out and grasp each possibility given to you.

So well is the game good? Yes and no. It really depends on the players, not only on the way how they like having fun but also on how well the players can deal with the game that is very complex.

Loving Hut - vegan restaurant

Loving Hut is an international vegan cuisine and can be also found in the Czech Republic. We have one nearby so I just had to try it (there are three in Prague in total).

Loving Hut international was initiated by Chinese humanitarian activist Ching Hai. So if you like vegetables and don't really need to eat meat and you don't mind Chinese food you can try this restaurant out. You can get there - spring rolls, meals with tofu prepared in various ways that can even taste like meat, different kind of soups, bamboo shoots, sushi etc.

All the meals have a really strong taste but it does not ruin anything. It tastes well and seems to be in harmony. I never ate tofu prepared in a such way before and it surprised me that it can taste so well. Even just cooked vegetables taste really well there.

The restaurants are cheap in 'Prague' terms and the people there are really nice.

Rating: 5/5
Note: I thought would never give 5/5 to anything, but I did not find anything wrong about this restaurant. So I guess it deserves this rating.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deviant Art

Few weeks ago I started to work a bit on my DA profile. For the most time my page on DA was a real mess so I decided to put some order in it. I created few categories

  • Magic: The Gathering - some random magic alters and some drawings. I might actually divide this into two groups if I decide to be submitting my Magic Alters.

  • Vector art contains mostly my tattoo designs. There is not much here yet, but maybe one day I might come back to vectors. There are people around walking with my tattoo designed tattoos and I find this wonderful.

  • 3d Renders - contains some of my really old renders done in 3dsmax.
  • Photos which contains some of photos I took during my lifetime and found them somehow interesting.
  • Animations - not much here...
  • Cosplay - which contains photos of few of my cosplay costumes.
  • Drawings - Full Color - well, this is the reason why I created a DA account, but I have a really long way to go. I need to get way better to produce a good piece of work. ^_~

I also joined a Magic: The Gathering group and my profile page just passed 10,000 views! Yay!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Anime Dance Weekend

A sixth Anime Dance Weekend (Advik) took place this weekend in Prague at KC Zahrada. This is a convention mostly about anything coming from Japan (anime, cosplay, jrpgs, music games, karaoke, martial arts, japanese cuisine etc.)

We had a music games programme at Advik for several years till we were banned by the organizator stating that no one actually cares about music games. This wasn't true, but well, we did not really care. Someone else took our place and everyone could be happy. I was getting text messages about 'where is Beatmania IIDX?', 'Where is dance dance revolution?' etc the next year when we weren't present.

After some time I attended Advik. This time not because of music games but card games. I had a stand there and wanted to recruit new Magic players and teach some people other games as well.

The problem with KC Zahrada was this - the place wasn't big enough to hold more than 500 people. How many people came to Advik? 1500? That's a lot. That also meant that we card games and board games were placed in the middle of a nearby square. We had a big tent with some tables and chairs. It was nice but we weren't really sure if the tent can survive three days of rain and storms.

[I'll add photos later, my bluetooth stopped working]

The first day we found out that stronger wind is a problem and that we will need to keep the tent on the ground somehow. So the quest for finding a hammer began. After 5 hours of trying we managed to stick the tent to the ground. Note that we already used a LARGE AMOUNT of tape to keep the structure standing.

The next it started raining and our tents were moved closer to Zahrada. We still had place were to organize tournaments but it was impossible to try to sell something. In the meantime I was signed up for several tournaments. It was nice to play music games after a long time. I also managed to play PIU, I'm grateful for that. Some people were amazed by my skill, some just couldn't understand it. It seems that the new blood needs someone to show them how the games can be played. Some comments on facebook regarding me playing were a novelty. But it wasn't anything like a 'crazy japanese girl running from one pad to the other'. Some that amused me were [during a tournament]'ugh, hm, you aren't the national DDR champion by a chance?' or 'hm I've seen you somewhere already...[thinking] in game page [realization] ... you were third at Worlds right?' or 'Should we still try when you get 100% on anything you play?'.

I have to say that I was rather surprised that still people remember me from certain TV shows and from articles in magazines. When I was actively going to conventions and fairs people knew me in person. But now there are new people who never saw me in person and still know me.

I did not go to any presentation or panel discussion but I do not regret it. This is for other people not me. I'm not interested in mainstream anime nor discussing so called anime with people who don't even know Ghost in the Shell, Shinseiki Evangelion or Akira. Well, I don't want to blame anyone or say they aren't anime fans. But most people there like Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, Fate Stay Night etc but hardly know something like for example Ergo Proxy. Some don't even know who Miyazaki is and I just think that these so called Otaku should know that there are different anime styles and there are famous movies and directors.

There were even people not knowing anime who came there just to see all those lolita girls. People got drunk, smoked sisha and then ended up somewhere in the nearby bushes doing well, you imagine.

I don't know if this is how it looked like in the past few years I did not attend conventions, but that's not how I imagine a convention. There were many organization problems and there was a hostility between czech and slovak organizators. Otherwise there were things that were at Advik once more and made it better. No matter what I guess people enjoyed the convention. I have heard only negative comments so far, but I've seen many people having fun and enjoying their stay at Zahrada.

As for me and the shop. We sold some goods, booster packs and organized several tournaments. People came to play even when it was raining heavily and the tables were wet. I even managed to give out prizes and I hope that next time we will have better conditions for playing card games, board games and selling.

(btw I also played on my Real Edition which was at Advik and managed to A some 9s and pass 5 and sometimes 6 on doubles. I found out that not playing for a long time makes someone lose the skill^^ I need to convince my muscles to do their job once again. Same goes to PNM. I don't know how but from level 40 I got to level 29...-_-... it was physically demanding^^)