Friday, December 21, 2018

Nationaal Video Game Museum, International Pump Festival, Guilds of Ravnica, Netherlands

IPFs happened all over the world a quite a while ago, some of you were at BITE or elsewhere to participate. I went to Netherlands were IPF was held, at Gamestate Rotterdam. I knew that I'd probably end up at the end of the standings but I wanted to participate, but my name on the list of IPF contestants and maybe next year be able to actually compete without failing all my songs. Before I get to IPF I'd like to talk about other stuff that happened.

Things were very bad at work for me. There was utter chaos since there wasn't anyone who wanted to put some order in it and I could clearly see that the motivation to keep things running was gone. I had a lot of work with which no one helped me and I was accused of not helping anyone else because they have so much work and I do nothing. I tried to help, that is something I was doing, and I also tried to put some order into some of the chaos. That resulted in others talking about total nonsense and totally ignoring me and disregarding anything I said. I needed to leave and I was glad that IPF was coming because for few days I could forget about this hell that was my workplace.

I arrived on Friday evening and I had a rather fun trip to Nootdorp. When I landed in Eindhoven I broke. All the stress and whatnot that I tried to hide or ignore just surfaced and I started crying. That is something I didn't manage for a long time while I just hoped things would just end somehow. I was somewhere I wanted to be though and thought of my friends there and Kevin's family. I was somewhere I felt safe, a place I could call my home. This realization made me cry even more.

When I got out of the airport I saw the bus 400 arriving so I ran to the bus stop and got on. On the bus I read that the bus would arrive at 6:12 to the train station. 6:12 was also the departure time of the train I wanted to catch. All platforms were close enough to the bus stop, the distance could be covered in less then a minute. I decided to try to catch the train. I still had some time to ponder about live and death and tried to stop crying even though I wasn't particularly successful at that.

At Eindhoven train station I got off the bus and ran to see from where the train departs. I got there in time! I could freeze there for an hour or so before arriving to Rotterdam.

The rest of the trip was hopefully uneventful. I notified Kevin when I'd arrive and we met a bit later. I was invited for dinner which was delicious and we talked about stuff.


On Saturday we decided to go to NVGM (since I couldn't go to Netherlands and not visit the place) and Kevin's mother decided to join us which was cool. We went in the morning to Zoetermeer by car and walked to the shopping district from there. The short walk was nice. At NVGM I went to play all the music games I could and it was kind of a catastrophe^_^. Pop'n Music had a not so fully functional pin pad. My PIN unfortunately contained the digits whose keys weren't working. I wasn't particularly looking forward to playing without e-Amusement so that annoyed me quite a bit. When I managed to log in after a 13th attempt I found out that some springs were stuck. That wasn't great but I got to play some songs even though with some difficulty of some buttons getting stuck (I was totally offsync).

NVGM got Drummania recently so I wanted to play some songs. At first I just played some easy songs and wondered if 4x speed mod is ok for me. I asked Kevin to record a video for me and while trying to change the difficulty on a song I found out that cymbal doesn't work. I played part of the song until I got into Cymbal/Hi-hat section and failed. Next I managed to crash the MiraiDagaki machine. Jubeat worked fine even though the rubbers were producing an odd sound that was audible in the total mess there was in the arcades. I also played some DDR doubles and asked Kevin to record a video of me playing now the meme song - Max300 - on doubles. I got a lousy A on it. I asked to see the video afterwards and I noticed the ITG Dedicab no one was playing on at the time. I knew what the very first comment on this video would be 'Why are you playing on DDR Supernova when there is ITG Dedicab just next to it?!'.

I was very tired and hungry, all those games were very tiring. We went to Eazy (not sure how it is spelled) and ordered some food. I got the food with the most calories in it and we talked some more. We returned to the museum later. My plan was to play Jubeat but it was occupied and when it wasn't someone decided to start a game or not log out. It was time for some more DDR, or well ITG this time. We played some songs with Kevin alternating between some 11s and 9s and then it was time for everyone to leave (people stared at us).

After that I went to SW in Schiedam to play Pump it Up Prime 2 to figure out what speed I can possibly read and see how auto-velocity works. I have to say that I failed at both things I wanted to figure out - finding the correct speed and figure out how to use AV correctly. I also experienced how it feels to play on stock unmodded pads. Honestly the sensitivity was still high for me in most cases. When it came to holds I had to be very careful and try hard not to break them. The overal experience was good but I can understand that for those used to modded pads this wasn't good.

Since I didn't get my AM.Pass yet (for which I really thank all those involved in getting it for me) I could still try a flash drive. It worked and thus saved me a lot of time!

Anyway, for you pump players out there Prime 2 is nothing new but for me it was. Even though I already played on it (I suppose that what I stood on in LV and La Tete dans Les Nuages was Prime 2) I didn't have the time to actually go through the songs, figure out how it works and I certainly didn't have enough time to get used to it. Since the day later I was supposed to compete I probably needed some practice. Even though I knew the IPF songs I didn't try them out. Rather I played some easy songs so I wouldn't kill myself even before the event (note that once again, thx my awesome body, I felt like crap). I was told the menu has 'levels' so thanks to it I was able to find songs I wanted and I also found some mods I wanted to use. As for the speed I started with 573 and went up to 640 and couldn't figure out what is good for me. It was a nice and calm session and gave me a lot of energy even though my body was saying 'no' all the time.

I went to eat at Mr. Chow later and they told me that they don't have any small meals. I got a noodles soup with chicken. It was HUGE! Hot and spicy and delicious. But there was way too much of it. I ate as much as I could, spammed Kevin on Facebook or somewhere (I was too excited), and then went back up to SW to play few more credits. My 30 EUR were gone in no time and then it was time for me to leave.

After running around the train station since I couldn't figure out which train goes to Rotterdam (and the train was supposed to leave in 2 minutes) I decided to just run up at one of the platforms and try to see if I wouldn't be able to get some better clues. Luckily for me the train I needed to get on just arrived next to me, so I got on. Day 1 concluded and I was looking forward to IPF even though I wasn't sure what to expect.

This day wasn't supposed to be the lucky one. I learned that while I was gone my father passed away. I'm not good at processing any kind of emotions and I hardly imagined that I would experience a death of a family member at this age. Since I was already in a total turmoil when coming to Netherlands due to my own life situation this hit even harder but I knew that I'd have to put my feelings 'on hold'. When I came to Netherlands, after I calmed a bit I was thinking about selling some cards and moving there. I even asked my flatmate if he'd come with me. I was thinking about many things but mostly about the pain I experience everyday because people in the Czech Republic can't accept the fact that an Asian person is well a person, a human being. I was always shown that I do not belong and I was used and I don't think this is right. I couldn't see any other choice though than just continue suffering since it is very likely no one would hire me. I was considering quitting the job. I even made one decision. If I won't feel depressed and will be able to think straight and people at my job would just do something wrong again, I'd quit. I wasn't ready to quit just yet on my own, I needed one more serious reason to (came very soon). This was bothering me when I learned about my father's death. I was sad and I felt the big injustice once again. He was a strong person, someone who loved his job, projects he was working on and was always striving to achieve. He was full of energy and someone I believed would just easily outlive us even if he was the oldest in the family. He got the aura around him saying, I can withstand anything. And then death came, suddenly, without a warning. I wish it would have been me who suddenly died because my suffering would have ended and my father could just live on and be happy, something I simply wasn't. I tried to ignore what I feel but couldn't stop wondering how my mother was doing. She needed help and I wasn't there for her. IPF awaited me and the long sleepless night were my thoughts haunted me didn't really help me get ready for playing Pump it Up. It was clear my mind would be elsewhere other than IPF.

Since Kevin was organizing the IPF we came early to Gamestate de Kuip. Several players were already there and I was also allowed to play some doubles which I highly appreciate (thx guys!). We played some easy songs and even some 17s even all those levels were very low compared to what we were supposed to play at the upcoming event. The songs for all events are on the photo below. Randomly picked Mental Rider and Hyacinth were very unlucky picks for the female players.

The event started at noon, I think. The sun was directly shining on the screen. We hardly saw anything on it so someone came with a great idea of creating IPF sunscreens and making them a bit nicer^_~. Those were then held by the players while someone else was playing their qualifier song (sometimes they didn't help much) and was one of the small things (big) that makes you see that there is a nice community of players here. Everyone was nice and friendly.

When I played one of the qualifier songs for IPF I broke a freeze or rather it didn't register as being stepped on when my foot was already on that panel. I was confused and didn't even catch the freeze again which was a shame since it was at the beginning of a song and my score thus went totally south (I would have FCed the song). The crowd started yelling at me that I have to step on the freeze but my brain was too slow to understand the information given. I finished the song and then asked someone what happened. I learned that there are freezes in the game that require a player to step on them which was a totally new thing for me. I asked how to recognize them and was given an answer I was afraid of 'you don't'.

Next song was Mental Rider and I admired all the girls while playing this song way above their doubles level. After seeing the chart I was sure that I'd do way worse than that! I actually didn't do worse in terms of score but I just couldn't keep up, I felt like I have totally no energy to step through half of the song and I expected that I was the only person feeling like that... The sleepless night was partly the reason why I lacked energy but it was clear that in general I'd need way more stamina for all this and I admired the players even way more than before. The thing is that how my body works is that there are two modes it operates in. One is the normal one that is currently very weak and can't do Mental Rider D19 right away. The other one is the mode I get into after my body warms up and something else changes (probably oxygen intake I guess). At this point I become a beast usually, there is a huge difference between the two modes currently. There wasn't that much of a big difference when I was fit, but now I can't consider myself fit at all. In the second mode I could just play any dance games for hours at high difficulties and then still run home. I decided that when I would come back home I'd try to find a way to play Pump or something else everyday (I started playing DDR).

After watching the male division D20 - Smile Diary - I was a bit sad that it wasn't our song instead of Mental Rider. The song seemed fun and it wasn't actually that difficult (yeah, still a d20).

Then it was time to announce the qualified players for IPF rounds and play them. I watched the players amazed how good the players are. I learned that some are very new players, actually most of the players in the community now are very new (few months) and they reached a high level already. The Discord group was growing in the past few months and I wondered where all the players came from (how did they start playing). I couldn't believe that GS buying Prime 2 could just be the reason. How could someone not playing dance games prior would just pick up Pump it Up out of nowhere? Nevertheless it happened unlike in our country where it seems that no one would be interested even if Prime 2 was a thing there.

I'll digress a bit (might be rant-y). A Pump it Up Pro machine was bought by my friend and placed in their arcade bar. I was allowed to upgrade it to Fiesta but unfortunately that wasn't to last since the game is too unfriendly to new players and supposedly the players complained about the game. It's not what I experienced myself when I was there. When I was playing the game many players were surprised about all the K-Pop songs there and wanted to play them. I can't deny any complaints that were made because I simply don't know anything about that. Pro is easier to operate and has easier songs to play if you never played a dance game (and is faster in terms of going through the menu and stuff) and thus I put Pro back in which meant the end of my Pump it Up WPF dream. One can't simply get better on Pro. Anyway the reason why I wanted to digress is not to rant about Fiesta. When PIU Pro showed up and became accessible to public I hoped it would bring some players as well. There are DDR players (I should probably say 4-panel players since many of the players probably never played an actual DDR game) around and there are also players that already have experience with pump. I also hoped that maybe one or two new players could emerge. I asked former music game players to come join me and play some Pump and until now only two players actually did that - Xsoft and Srandista. I'd like to thank those players because it was really great experience and it was fun. No one else ever came and I met no new players. The machine earns a lot of money but it seems it's just people that want to try the game and then just leave it at that. I often came to the machine finding credits on it which was good for me but it was always a sad thing to see. Could Prime 2 change this? After the owner of Pro decided not to keep Fiesta around I decided not to buy a PIU XX even though I'll consider sponsoring it anyway if it ever comes down to that.

Back to Netherlands. We continued in IPF and many of us just got terribly massacred on our doubles songs. F grades were totally normal so a better grade usually meant a double applause from everyone around. I stared in awe, talked to some players, admired the players and was happy. I saw that this is a good healthy community that is growing. I wanted to be part of it but at that moment I already new I would stop playing pump since I just can't force myself into playing Pro after I experienced Prime 2 and Fiesta 2. EPF was still to be held in December and I hoped to come back, prepared better than for this IPF.

After IPF ended, the winners played all the World Cup rounds. They did very well, they can be proud of themselves. When this was all over we went to a restaurant nearby and ordered some delicious food. We talked about many different things and I got to know some of the players a bit more and admire them even more. After we were full (the meals were big O_O) we decided to hit Gamestate again. Mimi's boyfriend arrived with my AM.Pass for which I am thankful and I looked forward to using it (my flash drive doesn't always work and I expected this to be better, ehm it started by the card reader on P1 not working).

Finally we got to play on some lower difficulties so I tried some 17s and even got some nice scores on some! Not only that, we could just do whatever we pleased. Kevin played some custom steps showing us a great performance, he also played with his backpack (heavy!) on his head when playing on P1 since he couldn't card in and used USB drive with his no bar profile. I also asked some of the remaining players if they would be up for Tribal Attacker co-op. We totally failed but it was a fun experience. I also decided to play Canon-D D23 to reminisce and I got a hell a lot of PP for that and reached level 13!

I couldn't believe the day could have be any better but when we got back to Kevin's place my mind wandered back to reality in which my father died. A long night awaited me.

While being in Netherlands I really wanted to go meet CTK and Heat and possible undergo a job interview. The interview part got a bit complicated because my situation changed overnight but we could hopefully meet each other and have some fun. Unfortunately it was a very short. I got up and was taken to the metro station by Kevin who then continued to his job. I arrived to Den Haag where I almost collapsed because my body decided to give up. Fortunately I had some food I received from Kevin's family so I sat down and ate it. CTK called me while I was there trying to persuade my body to function. We met a bit later and went to a nice cafe somewhere near Hommerson's Casino in the city. I got a delicious pumpkin soup and flat white which was actually better than what I had last time. We talked about life, games and stuff and I realized that I'm sitting there with two people with common interests, live experiences and that we understand each other and we can joke around.

The plan for the day was to draft GRN which is something that totally did not come to my mind. Getting to Heat's place was a bit tricky because there was a power outage and we got stuck at a tram station full of little screaming kids. After seeing people not being able to follow simple instructions we made it safely to Heat's place. It was time to crack some packs! My first pick was Nightveil Predator, followed by Dimir Guildmage and a removal spell. Then I hardly saw a blue card and noted that GW cards are wheeling. I started drafting this and ended up with the deck below.

I was particularly happy about playing GW but the deck was good enough for 3-0. It didn't happen though because I was a bit unlucky and didn't draw a fourth land against Boros aggro. We played some nice games though and I hope my opponents didn't suffer much, I was partly absent from reality since all I could think was my father's death, paying attention to things happening around was difficult. I had a great time though and I hope I didn't make it a bad one for someone else. Soon after we finished our matches I had to leave which was rather sad. Wish I could stay for few more days but I couldn't. Work and reality was calling.

I got to the central station and left for Eindhoven airport. When I got to the Czech Republic I went to my mother's place to help her and support her. Seeing someone strong who doesn't show much weakness or emotion be broken is not something I was prepared for but what we can do is stay together, stay strong and get through all this together.

I couldn't write anything when I came back, my life kind of stopped and you could observe that my presence online was rather none. I was in turmoil. Even though I feel depressed and very sad I managed to put at least a little bit of order into my thoughts and emotions and it is time for me to once again start doing something. I need to get a job or earn money somehow, and I also need to do something productive, do something that can make me feel better if I can't find professional help that I need. One of the things I needed to do was writing this, my trip to Netherlands was very difficult on emotional level.

Thank you for reading

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Core Set 2019 Collected Stories

After Khans of Tarkir block Collected Stories I bring you the most recent ones from Core Set 2019 in the form of a epub, pdf or mobi file.

If you encounter a problem or anything, just let me know in the comments and I will fix it as soon as I can.

It's available for download from the same place as before. Link below.


Magic: The Gathering KTK, FRF, DTK, AER to M19 Collected Stories

*I'm not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Wizards of the Coast.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ITG Eurocup, Nationaal Videogame Museum, Zoetemeer, Netherlands

Hello my fellow readers,
it's been a while since I went to a dance game tournament and in this post I'd like to share some feelings from my trip to ITG EC. This post will most probably be more about other stuff than the event itself.

MKM Series Prague
On Friday July 20th a MKM Series Magic: the Gathering event started at PVA Expo, Letnany, Prague. I was an event I planned to go to play Vintage and Legacy but then I realized I'd also have to prepare for my trip to the Netherlands and probably not participate in the Legacy event. On Friday there was supposedly a Vintage Challenge - a 4 round event. I wanted to go but I wasn't sure if I could make it since it started early. Everything looked bleak but in the end I managed to get there, the event fired and I got to play few rounds of Vintage. I won the event and thus won some loot including a Vintage Mug which I like. I was in a very good mood afterwards and was looking forward to the rest of my vacation that started with this event.

On Saturday I just slacked for the most of the day, I also played some Pop'n Music and in the end even got some stuff done. On Sunday I went back to MKM Series to see if we could play some Vintage or Highlander. It wasn't really my day so in the end I was glad neither event fired. We also had an interesting debate with one of the judges about ethics and it got me thinking quite a lot. It didn't make me feel well though since the discussed topic also had to do with racism that I face everyday.

Back in Netherlands

On Monday morning it was time to get on the plane and get to Den Haag where I would meet with my two Magic playing friends - Chun and Heat. The plane was delayed, the train was delayed but in the end I got to my final destination for the day. What I didn't expect was a very great day with these two. I got on a bike and we cycled towards the city's coast. When we were arriving at an area that well starts with two big casinos I knew where I was - Scheveningen. It made sense, I was told that we would go eat some fresh fish and where else to go than the coast, right? I just did not expect we would end up in this area. I got to eat a herring which was delicious and some fried fish which was pretty tasty as well. In the meantime I was watching gulls trying to steal food and wondered how successful they were in general in their attacks. Obviously, a sign telling people to pay attention to their food had a good reason to be there.

We walked to the pier nearby watching the people on the beach wondering how some people can actually survive wearing long sleeves. I was standing there also in long sleeves and I felt like my blood was boiling and that my hair was on fire. I had the urge to walk down to the sea but there was so many people that I rather stayed where I was. Afterwards I persuaded my friends to go to Funland for a bit so I could see if I can play DDR doubles. While being there I also played a credit of PIU and finished someone else's credit on Taiko no Tatsujin. Why playing the dance games I wondered how easy is to slip on sand that was covering the platform - I found out. Slipping was very easy!

We cycled to the city center to get some good coffee (oh another Hommerson Casino's around). The place was very cool, the coffee not so much. I also became sick after I drank it and my body just gave up on trying to function normally. That wasn't great but I hoped I'd be fine the next day. We went to grab something for dinner but the places were either full or closed. It allowed me to visit the Asian part of the city which was actually nice. I miss something like that here. Not only that. Spending time with Chun and Heat made me almost cry. I can't express how happy I was that I could spend the time with them and I hope they enjoyed the day too. In the end we went to Heat's place to play some Magic. While they were getting some food I played some games on Magic Online where I was running into Vine Mare after Vine Mare which made me put Rekindling Phoenixes in my deck and hope this would stop the green menace I was facing. I certainly upset several of my opponents with those red creatures.

Kevin called and it was time for me to leave and go to Nootdorp. It took a loooong time but I got there. I met part of Kevin's family (his mother was on vacation at the time) and then he showed me the apartment I'd be staying at. Kevin's family (including the cats) is really great and it made me realize how much I missed in my life. Wish I could have such great people around me. Seriously, I was thinking about moving to Nootdorp the whole time I was there. There's nature around, animals just running around (or flying or 'swimming'), the people are nice, respectful and considerate to others. The public transport is great and one can walk around or cycle around as well. Words can't express what I felt. It is something I do not experience in the Czech Republic and I'm not even sure if I would if I were white.

Nationaal Videogame Museum
The next day we arrived to Nationaal Videogame Museum in Zoetemeer where the event was held and I was in awe. I already expected the event to be well organized and done in a very professional way. What I did not expect was how few people were actually involved. Those people get my respect. Again, I can't tell you how awesome all those people organizing the event are. They worked hard, nonstop, in the 35 degrees heat not complaining about a single thing. There were 3 ITG Dedicabs that would be used for the tournaments and one upgraded cab we could use to warm up. The DDR cab was actually in a pretty good shape and I enjoyed playing on it. For some reason it was easier for me to play on that cab rather than a dedicated ITG one. I tried figuring out what speeds I can read and started with 550 BPM. Unfortunately my reading speed is obviously somewhere in 670 range though.

In the Groove
On Tuesday there was a fun competition and doubles competition. I knew I'd fail badly in the Fun Compo but I signed up for it. I failed even more badly than I expected. We played 4 songs from 4 different group of songs. Old contained songs that we had to play on 1x and no bar. We picked a song that I wasn't particularly fan of and I did pretty badly on it, wish I have chosen Tricky Disco. Tech contained songs that were technical. Each song was focused on a certain technique. I picked crossovers since that seemed like the only thing I could actually do and I did well on it. The third group of songs was BPM changes and as you can expect I failed BADLY. I got like 3.3x percent on Utopia. When I looked at the scoreboard I wasn't the only one failing so badly though. The last group contained songs with mods. Since I had no idea what the songs were about we decided to pick one song that had some images flying over the notes. I set a high scrolling speed which did not really go well with that 'modification' and failed badly at the beginning. This still made me end up somewhere relatively high in the middle (12th).

Next we played some doubles. At that point I could hardly walk and I felt even worse. At that moment I still thought the next day would be better (it was way worse actually). I managed to pass two songs and utterly fail three (the 13 was actually fine). I managed to place high in the lower bracket which practically meant I'm not good enough for this tournament. My rounds went fine, one song got me in the finals. I choose a cab, let my opponents choose songs and then I tried to play them. Since it was the first time playing the songs it was most probably quite entertaining for the players watching me. Some players starting laughing me when I bruteforce'd my way through some songs or when I tried to hit a hand or a hold I didn't know that was coming. I could also could get a reward for stepping on all the mines that appeared. While playing on doubles I was trying to get used to the platform and figure out how to play without getting pad misses due to trying to play the same way I do on a Pump machine. Unfortunately when seeing a flurry of arrows I lost my concentration and started playing as I was used to resulting in misses (even without misses my scores would still be bad. At that moment I was usually 12 ms off with a relatively steady rhythm, not great when you need to be getting Fantastics only (edit: I found out that our PIU Fiesta is offsync and that probably resulted in that).

I managed to stay in winner's bracket until the finals where I played against Kevin. We choose our songs and went to play them. The same laughs I was getting earlier in the event could now be heard stereo most probably because Kevin was also sight-reading the songs. We played very close games and in the end I lost which was something I expected anyway. My comeback to winner's bracket wasn't about to happen. I faced Aleta who is very accurate even though technically less skilled than me in doubles (otherwise a total beast in singles!). We had a great time even though we played some terrible songs (I love you baby?! Did I seriously pick that song myself?) thanks to me not knowing the songs and choosing poorly.

I also participated in Precision Low event but it was clear that I can't compete against other players. Playing singles is very hard for me at the moment and the idea of me playing level 10-13 songs is unimaginable. I'll do my best to get better at Pump and hopefully it will also make a better 4-panel player so next time I don't play that badly. I was paired against Kevin again in the first round, we played some songs, had some fun and then I got eliminated by utterly failing some song. Here's me playing singles with Kevin. Unfortunately I didn't get bonus points for full comboing the song and I lost the match.

After the events I had some free time so it was time for some food. We went to get some food with Anna usually. We talked about the old times and and about our goals for the future ITG ECs. When we returned I went to play more BEMANI games or watch the finals. Here's a little tour of the BEMANI games.

Pop'n Music
The first game I was attracted to was Jubeat since that is a game one can hardly play at home. After playing my second song with forgetting to set my marker to something I can read ('the unreadable ugly digits' as other players would say) I went to buy e-Amuse pass and then struggled with Jubeat letting me use it. So I went to play some Pop'n Music instead and tried to figure out what speed I can read. I knew that 550 was too much already since that is what I tried in Las Vegas Arcade Soho and was unable to read it. So I put it to 480 and went up from there. It took a long time to get comfortable playing on the machine (and it also took me a while to find the RFID card reader, silly me) but when I did I played some 40s and 41s and I cleared some (still feels bad since I used to play 44+ level songs). I also noticed that my scores are comparable to the home ones which means that there is probably nothing wrong with my set up. It's just me who lost all the accuracy I had since I could 99xxx songs in the past and play more difficult songs as well. Maybe it will come back again?

After I found out that my card works on other cabs I returned to Jubeat and finally figured out what I did wrong. I had to reenter my pin and after that everything was fine. It was time to get used to Jubeat and see if I can ever figure out when to hit those notes. The first few days I still had no idea, I just hit the panels at some point that I thought was more or less ok. On the last day I realized that I may be able to get my timing right if I just continue playing. My accuracy didn't get any better during that time but I started to feel where the difference between Perfect and Great is which means that now I can concentrate on trying to hit the panels at that time - meaning one can really get better! I also got to see some good Jubeat players playing. While the players I usually get matched against while playing were not doing that great some of the players that were around were really good getting Perfects most the time and easily clearing 9s on EXT. It was nice to watch in real life and I wish I could become that good one day too. I suppose without playing the game it's probably not going to happen, but I can still try when I get to play the game next. Here is a video of me playing CroiX Advanced. It's a cool song reminding me of Xepher.

Future Tom Tom
Future Tom Tom is a game that I wasn't really interested in when I saw it for the first time in LV and I didn't plan to even try it at NVGM. It took me quite a while to actually try it out, actually I tried it on the last day out of sheer desperation because Jubeat and PNM were occupied. After trying to figure out how it works or what it wants from me I actually read what was written in front of me and navigated to 1 player doubles and played some level 3 song. That song was way to easy so I hit the 'Level' tom and tried a six. It was still too easy resulting in AAA. I used my card to try another game to see what else I could do. I set a high speed mod to 3 (after lifting my card that I had no place were tu put...with the exception of the pin pad...great) and chose the first level 8 song I encountered (Zankoku na Tenshi no TEEZE). It contained some arm motions but otherwise it was quite easy. So I tried a nine, and I had some troubles keeping up finally! I played some 8s and 9s then and actually had a great time. I appreciated that I didn't need to concentrate on some very precise movements or accuracy and I could just simply hit the drums and turn my brain off. It was a great break from Jubeat, PNM, IIDX and SDVX even though I really wanted to go back and play those games again.

Beatmania IIDX
Thanks to two people we could also play some Beatmania IIDX. I played singles on Infinitas and did very poorly and then I tried doubles (on Empress CS) since I don't even remember when I last tried 14k. I tried some 5s which I cleared so I continued to 6s which were a bit tricky. My left hand was just missing notes very badly so I knew that I'd be screwed if many notes would appear in the left part (I remembered Kakumei chart and was glad that the song was not in Empress). When I used to play doubles in the past both of my hands were able to play more or less on the same level (passing 7s one handed) so I was very surprised that I lost the ability with my left hand. My right hand was totally fine though most probably because I played some IIDX in the past few weeks during which it regained some of its ability to play the game. My left hand got 'good' at scratching though and since I use my thumb, forefinger and the middle finger when playing 7k I at least got some keys covered. It was a horrible experience and I hope that I get to play doubles again soon (edit: I managed to get the setup ready thx to Nebbii)...which means figuring out how to play doubles and see if I can get a PS2->USB converter with two slots. Nebbii's controllers had 50/20 swithces/springs in them which felt super easy to press with my fingers. Compared to my 100/40 it was quite a difference. Timing-wise I was completely offsync so here is yet another 'stsung clears a song with E grade' photo. This time though the photo is also interesting because of the reflection on the screen (look more closely).

Sound Voltex
Next game that was available was Sound Voltex. This time I managed to figure out how the game is played so I tried my best at clearing some songs. The best I could do was 10s (I did not even try 11s). I got some As on those tens though not sure if that is any good, considering my accuracy it was probably a bad score. I participated in the easy division of SDVX side event and got in the finals where I lost. It was fun to play, adjusting to SDVX was hard though. I was glad people weren't laughing when I played the game...

On Thursday Michael Markus brought his own StepmaniaX machine and let us try it out which was another surprise I didn't expect. So thanks Michael for this. It was also great to meet him after several years. Concerning the setup or game, many people had their doubts about the game and the touchscreen but we all appreciated many aspects of the game. StepManiaX feels truly modern unlike ITG, DDR or PIU. It allows the players to set the game we want based on what we are used to but also has many other features. The touchscreen can be used even with wet hands which we tested in practice (the temperature inside the Museum was 35 degrees according to thermometer we used and all of us were sweating even after playing one easy song). The pads as awesome as people say even though I had hard time adjusting to them at first. It was very easy to get lost on them but when you watched the screen to see where you stood it actually helped a lot and I stopped getting lost later on. As for the songlist and stepcharts I obviously moved on. I like different kind of charts and I also like a diagonal 5 panel rather than this kind of a 5 panel. The center panel in this game though is good. Patterns containing the center panel are actually quite natural so I can't say this is something that would make the game worse. It is a nice addition and takes some time to get used to. It makes doubles play (or Full as it is named in the game) quite interesting.

Apart from these games we could have some fun playing Bishi Bashi, Taiko no Tatsujin or Rhythm Tengoku. I'm not good at either. I was a little sad no one actually played Rhythm Tengoku there. It's a fun game to watch actually. One could play many other games in the Video Game Museum and if I wasn't playing a music game I played some Soul Calibur 2, Mortal Kombat 1, Prince of Persia or Raiden.

Unfortunately my line of thought got interrupted by a lot of work I had to do so I didn't get to finish what I had in mind so my post will end here. ITG Eurocup was very well organized by just a few people and they have my respect. All of the people involved get my thanks. They were really great. All the players that came to participate are similarly awesome. Great players, great people and I hope we get to meet again. Thanks goes to my friends who made the time to see me and Kevin and his family for letting me stay at their place and being really nice to me. Thank you everyone.

Thank you for reading this post and watching my videos. If interested there are more photos at my google drive -> Netherlands, ITG Eurocup 2018


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fun with Core Set 2019 - Open House, Prereleases

Wizards of the Coasts brings back Core Sets and the first new redesigned one is Core Set 2019. It contains Modern staple reprints (hello Scapeshift and Crucible of Worlds currently at 2 tix) and new cards that should help new Magic players learn the game in not so difficult environment but one that shows the depth of the game. There are also 5 Planeswalker decks that are more balanced against each other than the expert sets' Planeswalker decks. In my opinion they are actually good. They cost less (10 USD) and contain only one booster pack. Each deck is different and there are some synergies between the cards for the players to explore. During Open House, an event held a week before the prerelease of the set, we could bring new players to the local game store and teach them how to play Magic (and get a nice Guttersnipe promo). We could also buy and play with the new Planeswalker decks which was actually a nice experience. I bought Liliana's deck because I just wanted that card (I'm obsessed with Liliana) even though that is the only Planeswalker out of the five that does exactly nothing. I got quickly crushed by red flying creatures but in the following games I played I found a little bit of love for the Liliana slow and life draining deck. We certainly had some fun, I even cast Demon of Catastrophes 5 times against one opponent which certainly counts as an achievement?

My opponent was down to 2 life and played Meteor Golem to deal with my flying creature. I had Abnormal Endurance to save my creature and drain my opponent for the remaining life though

Apart from joining Open House I did one more unusual thing right before the paper prerelease (I played with the set already on MODO). A fellow PureMTGO writer shared his initial M19 card evaluations for limited. When I was going through that I strongly disagreed with many choices but then many of the cards I would evaluate differently were also build around cards or they were the cards that effectively killed me already and I knew how good they were. I decided to give it a try myself but I was already biased by his evaluations and also by mine since I saw what certain decks could do. The first thing I realized is that I can't do this without writing an explanation to why I think the card is good or bad. For example Patient Rebuilding seemed to be as an all-star but I wasn't really sure if that card would be fine in draft since the format may end up being faster than I expected. From my initial impressions the format would be relatively slow but fast decks would exist in the form of Blue-White and Black-Red. Since I already played with several Boros decks I knew that Boros does not really happen to be the aggro deck in the format. Similarly I valued both 'Wands' highly but it was just some kind of a gut feeling and I could sometimes reasonably explain why the cards are good. Chaos Wand already hit several of my own removal killing my creatures and then my opponent finally played something, killing me with it. Transmogrifying Wand was very good at making 2/4s our of Omenspeakers which wasn't the use I expected at first (later on, at the paper prerelease it seemed that this tactic was actually the norm). In the end I tried to put the cards in several categories which could be described as bomb, good card, average card and then there was bunch of cards I'd rather stay away. Since I didn't have a good methodology I played some cards at odd groups but for next time I know that I should come with some kind of methodology for this first. Nonetheless I was trying to figure out if this kind of initial analysis would give me an edge when playing the prerelease or would help me draft the set. That was to be seen.

A week after the Open House people were ready to play in the prerelease events all over the world. My first experience comes from Magic Online where it was available before the actual paper prerelease. I played my first Sealed deck without actually looking at the spoiler. I put together a GW deck since I opened Resplendent Angel and I terrible died to UB Mill twice in the first two matches! That was a very crushing experience. I decided to try one more match to see if my deck can win a game or match. I actually won but lost the other one, so I dropped and entered another League to see if it can get better. Next pool didn't look any better but it contained to my surprise another Resplendent Angel. This time I build a Boros Aggro deck and in my first match I encountered an Esper deck that played Patient Rebuilding on turn 5. That didn't feel great but this time my League didn't go badly.

My following pool was either a Boros deck again or a Junk deck without any mana fixing. Honestly I haven't really seen much of that in M19 during the six events I played and I totally lost to not being able to draw the correct lands. I went 3-2 nonetheless so 120PP and a Booster Pack gave me enough for a draft at least.

When I came back to my flat (because who plays on MODO when at home, right) we exchanged some Magic stories from the games we played with my flatmate. I complained once again about how I lost to Jace's Erasure no.2 when I decided not to board in Naturalize and my opponent just slammed enchantment number 1 on turn 3 and I got punished. I needed one turn to win the game but unfortunately a timely Divination made me lose that game. After that I brought my computer and we went through the M19 cards on MODO. We found a very cute Dragon among the cards just to find out that the card is not actually in the set but is rather a Planeswalker deck exclusive.

The following day (or rather the morning on the same day, I didn't get much sleep) I wanted to go to a paper prerelease. I wasn't sure if I'd wake up but somehow I did. I came on time and opened a great pool. When I opened (a 3rd) Resplendent Angel I just put it on the pile with cards without even a blinking. Someone saw that and was like 'Hey, that's awesome, no?'. I just replied 'Sometimes' but I honestly hoped that my Angel would find a way to actually kill some of my opponents because it didn't on Magic Online. My next pull was Ajani's Last Stand and I started wondering if all my pools will contain these two cards. I put together a 3 color deck for round 1 but after my experience with three color decks on MODO I decided to change it to a two-color deck. My opponent was very sad facing my all flyer deck and lost to two 5/5 Dragons but it took a me while to assemble two Mountains that I needed to cast the Dragon. While going through my pool so I could cut a color a fellow player came and suggested that I should play just straight UW which I totally agreed, it actually looked like a very solid deck. It just top8ed our 57 player prerelease.

The prerelease was fun and the games were actually more difficult to win than I expected. When I was paired against our National Champion I knew that things would get really messy. We sat next to each other so I knew what was coming. His pool looked like it needed a great amount of luck to assemble all the 3 colors he needed but there was a fair amount of filtering the library and card draw in the form of (Dryad Greenseeker, Tormenting Voice, Blood Divination). The rares were Gigantosaur, Lathliss, Dragon Queen and Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire. I won the first game fast because I simply curved out and finished with Angel of the Dawn. In game 2 I kept an ok hand that could even survive one removal. I expected that Tomas didn't really have that many removal spells. I suspected Shock and I also knew that he might be running Act of Treason (since I even said that playing Act of Treason and than casting Blood Divination sounds like a more likely scenario than one would think). My Snapping Drake died to Shock and then I had to wait for another flyer that could possibly deal some damage. I had a hard time drawing something, meanwhile my opponent was filtering his library with Dryad Greenseeker and eventually landed the Dragon Queen. I scooped and mulled to 5. Again my opponent started with mana dork and Dryad Greenseeker and I knew things would get messy. That wasn't all though. He played Tormenting Voice discarding Talons of Wildwood. Later he played Elvish Rejuvenator hitting a dual land and then sacrificed it to Blood Divination. I started to feel very overwhelmed since my opponent was like 10 cards ahead and even I faced just a bunch of elves I also knew that any of his rares would kill. None arrived though. I finally drew a threat and played it. My opponent tapped three mana and I already suspected Act of Treason and awaited the worst punishment to follow in the form of Blood Divination. That's EXACTLY what happened. We had a good laugh, I conceded and wondered if I can win my last round. I wanted to ask Tomas for a picture of his deck but when I came he just lost the finals to a BW Lifegain opponent that played Hieromancer's Cage on his Gigantosaur and swung for lethal so I let it go. The deck though was awesome and I was glad I could see it in action.

After almost falling asleep during the last round I decided not to participate in the following prerelease and return to my flat to do the laundry and other stuff I usually do during the weekend because that's when I have the time. I managed some of it and then got stuck on MODO and I don't even remember what I was doing! I went to sleep late and woke up in the morning being totally exhausted. I ignored the alarm for a while until I realized that I set it to the last minute I should be getting up. So I grabbed my stuff and ran to the subway station. I missed the train by like 10 seconds but I knew that if I take the next one and run when changing the trains I'd arrive at the same time. I was also relatively calm because coming to a sealed deck late is not usually an issue.

When I saw my pool though I was glad I came on time because it seemed terrible. I spent most of the time staring into the cards trying to figure out what to play and I wasn't fairly sure if what I played with in the end was the best possible solution. Anyway we had some fun.

While I was staring at my pool I was also wondering if I actually used the information I got from when I trying to evaluate the cards or not. I found out that I used none of what came out of the evaluating - I was only evaluating my pool and the best options of what I can put together. When I wasn't sure about a card I was taking experience from the decks I played against because that gave me information about the format how others see it and the speed of it at least that weekend.

In the last event that day I put together a deck out of cards I could never really see working together unless I'd manage to get my hands on few more other cards. I spent a lot of time staring at my pool and trying to put something together. I had like 7 black cards but few were good and I considered splashing them without any mana fixation though I decided against it. I had tons of red cards which was strange. What was even stranger was that the color did not contain any removal and it hardly contained creatures. Green was unplayable so the choice of colors was rather easy. I put together a deck out of cards that seemed to make sense and during each match I usually was boarding in or out about 5 cards. I did not trust my deck and the games were very straining for me. I always expected my opponent to disrupt my plans and sometimes it happened but still I was able to take over. I went 4-1 with this and the loss I got was because of Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma into some Angel and very big attack that followed. In the deciding game I mulled to five but I was still able to deal 20 damage before I died to the Angel again. My opponent gained 2 life that won him the game. A pity I lost that match. In the end this deck was supposedly not as bad as I envisioned it, but without a good pilot it would have most probably been a failure. It was a big difference from the UW deck I had the day before but it got the job done too and it was a nice experience.

Now it is time for some drafts and new Standard.

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (follow me @stsungjp on Twitter)