Friday, August 26, 2016

Free RPG Maps for Commercial Use

I've been playing around with GIMP a lot lately, practicing skills I'll need to publish some adventures that I have been brewing up for quite some time. In the process, I've produced a handful of maps that I don't have any intention of actually using in a product, so I'm releasing them for free on www.drivethrurpg.com. These are free to anyone for personal or commercial use (see Terms of Use in the download for details).

The download just went live this morning. I'm working my way up the learning curve with these, so any and all feedback is welcome! And if you use any of these maps, please let me know. I would be glad to help publicize your work through social media.

Click here to download the maps.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Tale of Naya Mediocrity (A Modern Tournament Report)

Last weekend, I switched from a Kiki Chord list to Naya Midrange for the Modern 25K Tix challenge at GP Portland. My original list and my pre-game theorizing can be found here... the only difference is that I managed to trade in enough cards to pick up the Engineered Explosives I wanted for the sideboard. Here's what I actually ran:

Creatures (22)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Voice of Resurgence
Knight of the Reliquary
Courser of Kruphix
Scavenging Ooze
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Planeswalkers (4)
Nahiri, the Harbinger

Other Spells (11)
Bonfire of the Damned
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Batterskull

Lands (23)
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Razorverge Thicket
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Sacred Foundry
Overgrown Tomb
Kessig Wolf Run
Ghost Quarter

Sideboard (15)
Reclamation Sage
Slaughter Games
Crumble to Dust
Fulminator Mage
Rest in Peace
Nihil Spellbomb
Bojuka Bog
Engineered Explosives

So how did it turn out? Very mediocre, as you can guess from the title. Here's how it went down:

Round One vs. Mark (Kiki Chord)
In the first game, I was able to apply some early pressure with turn one Noble Hierarch, turn two Voice of Resurgence, two more voices on turn three, and a hard-cast Bonfire of the Damned (X=2) on turn four that cleared his board except for a single Wall of Omens. The second game was much slower, as we each built up enough of a ground presence that attacking wasn't worthwhile. I had a Nahiri close to ultimate, but he was keeping it in check with a pair of thopters from Pia and Kiran Nalaar. I had a pair of Lightning Bolts in hand, but couldn't use them efficiently because of his Spellskite. He played a Kiki-Jiki and copied a Voice of Resurgence to start putting real pressure on me, and I thought it might be over... but I pulled a Path to Exile the next turn to deal with the Spellskite and then clear some of his more troublesome creatures with the bolts. I managed to pull ahead at that point, and with his late-game flooding, I took the game a few turns later.

Record
2-0 games
1-0 matches

Round Two vs. Robbie (Amulet Combo)
I didn't expect to see this deck after the Summer Bloom ban, but there it was. He absolutely wrecked me in the first game with the usual Amulet of Vigor -> several Ravnica bounce lands -> Primeval Titan -> Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion & Slayers' Stronghold. I double bolted the first titan before he attacked, but he had Summoner's Pact to repeat much of the same sequence on the following turn, so I packed it up. The second game didn't go his way at all, as he started out with an Ancient Stirrings that found no targets. How often does that happen? Things got better for him after that, but I got the chance to Ghost Quarter his Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion with a Primeval Titan on the stack, keeping him from killing me (or at least forcing me to throw away all my creatures on defense). The following turn, I attacked with a Reclamation Sage, a Voice of Resurgence, and a germ token (Batterskull), leaving a Knight of the Reliquary back on defense. He blocked the sage with his titan and the germ with a plant token from Khalni Garden, which gave me the opportunity to search out Kessig Wolf Run with the knight and do exactly lethal with trample damage. In the third game, I kept a hand with perfect mana plus mana dorks that could hit Slaughter Games on turn three. It worked, and without the Primeval Titans, he didn't have any true win conditions left. Unfortunately, even though I knew I would win eventually, a judge walked by and mentioned that we only had two minutes left in the round. My Courser of Kruphix (the closest thing to a threat I had drawn all game) did his best, but even with a few exalted triggers, he couldn't get the job done in time.

Record
3-1-1 games
1-0-1 matches

Round Three vs. Josh (Mardu Nahiri)
First things first, his deck was sweet, and I was a little jealous. I love my Unhinged basics, but this guy was packing foil full art lands from one of the Zendikar sets... I didn't look close enough to check out which one, but they were gorgeous. In any case, these games were slow and grindy. In game one, we were in a standstill for what seemed like forever. I had Nahiri out and threatening to ultimate, with a Batterskull to protect her. Every turn, he would kill my germ token (or the mana dork I had equipped), and then knock Nahiri back down a few points with his Shambling Vent. I kept waiting and waiting for a Kolaghan's Command to ruin my Batterskull's day, but he never drew one. With all the lifelink going back and forth, our life totals were each in the 30's at one point or another, but I finally drew Kessig Wolf Run to start hitting him for bigger chunks, and finally won the first one. In game two, I mulliganed to six and kept a hand with Voice of Resurgence, Courser of Kruphix, Knight of the Reliquary, two fetch lands, and a Ghost Quarter. I don't remember what the scry was, but I felt pretty good about that start before the game started. Unfortunately, with him on the play, he very easily took out Voice of Resurgence with an Inquisition of Kozilek and then played Liliana of the Veil before any of my slow three drops hit the board. I scooped the turn after he was able to ultimate Liliana. I actually don't remember much about the third game, except that we ran out of time. These games were a lot of fun, but at this point, I was getting really frustrated at not being able to close out games.

Record
4-2-2 games
1-0-2 matches

Round Four vs. Jordan (Naya Midrange)
Jordan's deck seemed to be very similar to Kibler's take on Naya, with Wild Nacatls and Tarmogoyfs. I wasn't sure how I would fare against it, since it can do a lot of the same things I can, but comes out of the gates a little faster. In the first game, he was a little light on mana, and I won fairly quickly. He managed to play some Wild Nacatls and a Tarmogoyf, but a bonfire wiped out his smaller creatures and I was able to swing past the Tarmogoyf for the win. In the second game, his speed was too much for me to handle. The couple of blockers I did manage to play either got eaten by removal or were forced to chump block his larger creatures. In the third game, I went to six and kept Path to Exile, Voice of Resurgence, a Bonfire of the Damned, and three lands... and then drew nothing but lands for almost the entire game. I did play a Nahiri that was able to interact with him for one turn, but I really didn't put up a fight at all. Variance sucks sometimes, but it's part of the game.

Record
5-4-2 games
1-1-2 matches

Round Five vs. Mike (Jeskai Delver)
It took me a while to figure out what Mike was playing. He started game one with a mountain and a Monastery Swiftspear, which made me think he was playing burn... but then he played a Stormchaser Mage and Gitaxian Probe. Okay, blue-red prowess? Maybe this is a Bedlam Reveler brew? But then I played Path to Exile on his Stormchaser Mage and he searched for a basic plains. A Boros Charm clued me in to the reason for the white splash not long thereafter. The first game was close, and I would have lost if he had drawn any burn spell on his last turn. Luckily for me, it was a Path to Exile, and he couldn't finish me off. The second and third games went pretty much the same. I played a few guys and started attacking, but he drew a lot of burn spells, and I didn't draw enough life gain cards to keep up. 

Record
6-6-2 games
1-2-2 matches

With that, I decided to collect my GP playmat and head home. The deck wasn't bad, but it wasn't stellar either. As much as I like the build as-is, I don't think I actually accomplished what I wanted to when I switched to this version. I wanted to be able to put a little more early pressure on my opponents than I did when I was playing Kiki Chord. However, even though I have more burn spells and more creatures that can attack, the creatures that I'm playing don't line up very well against a lot of what I played against. In order to do what I really want to be doing, I need to play more aggressive creatures or creatures that are more able to go over the top.

To be fair, though, I also made several major errors over the course of the tournament. Twice, I had two spells to play in the same turn, and I played Voice of Resurgence second, allowing my opponent to freely interact with the first spell. I could probably improve my results by shuffling faster as well. There is a lot of shuffling in this deck. 

Notes on improving the deck in the future:
  • Courser of Kruphix is a card that I really enjoy... but its power level just isn't high enough to compete with similarly costed effects in other decks. I might keep one in the deck, but I certainly won't play three again.
  • While I have some card selection with Nahiri, I don't have a lot of card advantage. Sure, I get a few extra lands from courser, and bonfire is often a three-for-one or better, but when topdeck time comes, topdecking is brutal. I do get excited about the idea of a topdecked Bonfire of the Damned, but let's be honest... usually the top card is a Birds of Paradise. That's just how the world works, right?
  • Cards in consideration:
    • More copies of Scavenging Ooze - I often found myself hoping I'd draw one, but these were noticeably absent from my games in this tournament. Maybe play another to increase the likelihood that I draw them?
    • Thrun, the Last Troll - I wish I had access to one of these in my sideboard. I didn't run up against a lot of counterspells over the course of the tournament, but I'm sure I will in the future. Also, just having a creature that my opponents can't remove with traditional removal would be nice sometimes. 
    • Stormbreath Dragon - When you find that you're having a hard time closing out games, why not play one of the fastest clocks out there? I can't accelerate into these quite as fast as the ponza builds can, but it's still an effective top-of-the-curve finisher that is immune to the most common removal spells out there. Of course, if I really want a faster clock, it's a lot more efficient to just switch over to...
    • Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf - Yeah, these are much more aggressive than what I'm running, but Tarmogoyfs are just stupidly expensive. I wish I hadn't sold mine back in the day when I thought I'd never use them because they didn't fit into the various Birthing Pod strategies I was playing. (That tragedy almost made me quit playing modern altogether.) Either way, Nacatl still deserves a second look, even if I don't have and can't afford the goyfs.
    • Loxodon Smiter - These are always in consideration, but they always seem to be the first things I end up cutting because they just don't do anything other than provide a big body Knight of the Reliquary does the same thing for the same mana cost and comes with some utility, so it seems like an easy decision if I'm making cuts and I have to choose one or the other... but then I play against Liliana of the Veil, and I wish I still had smiters back in the deck.
    • Domri Rade - Quite possibly my favorite planeswalker of all time, Domri was a beast in standard. I don't want him in the current build, but if I start replacing mana dorks with beefier creatures that his -2 fight ability will be more relevant with, then he might be worth another shot. He's also a source of card advantage, albeit an inconsistent one.
    • Raging Ravine, Treetop Village, or Stirring Wildwood - I felt like I flooded out a little too often. It was only five matches, so that might just be variance, but the more lands I can include that actually do something, the better. Each of these has its advantages, but Raging Ravine is the most powerful of the bunch. I could also play Needle Spires, but I want as many of my lands to produce green as possible.
Obviously, there are a lot of directions I could go with the next evolution of the deck. And honestly, maybe going back to the Kiki-Jiki + Resto Angel combo and playing Eldritch Evolution is what I need to be doing... or switch to blue and play the Retreat to Coralhelm combo. Or maybe Archangel combo... or maybe combine a few of the above options? I don't know. There are too many toys in GWx to play with, and they won't all fit in the same deck!

Any suggestions?
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