SCG Invitational Los Angeles Results

Last week, I flew from North Carolina to California to compete in the Star City Games Invitational Tournament, a Magic: The Gathering tournament with eight rounds of standard and eight rounds of legacy. It was the first time I qualified for such a high profile tournament, and although I didn't have high hopes for placing in the top eight, I was excited about seeing how I matched up against some of the country's toughest competition.

My results weren't pretty. In fact, it was probably my worst performance since I brought my UW aggro deck (featuring School of Piranha) to an Urza block Type II tournament. I was embarrassed... but I'm still going to share the worst of the weekend and the lessons I learned.

I registered the following list for the first standard portion of the tournament:

Lands (24)
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Blood Crypt
3 Cavern of Souls
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Mountain

Creatures (20)
4 Strangleroot Geist
4 Dreg Mangler
4 Knight of Infamy
3 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Deathrite Shaman

Planeswalkers (3)
2 Garruk Relentless
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

Other (13)
4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Farseek
2 Ultimate Price
2 Sever the Bloodline
1 Dreadbore

4 Slaughter Games
4 Thragtusk
3 Pillar of Flame
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Ancient Grudge

#1 problem with this list? Not enough early game punch to have such a weak late game.
#2 problem with this list? Terribly rotten sideboard.

Round One vs. Joe with Four Color Planeswalkers
In game one I mulliganed to five but kept a pretty aggressive hand. If he stumbled, I might have a shot. Sure enough, he kept a hand with all comes into play tapped lands and I pounced with an early Strangleroot Geist and Knight of Infamy. A Supreme Verdict set me back, but I was still able to pressure him with the must-be-killed-twice Strangleroot Geist and a follow-up Dreg Mangler. Then he played Thragtusk, Jace, Thragtusk and all of a sudden the game was out of reach. Thinking I would need a game three against a slow bant deck, I went ahead and scooped when he played the second Thragtusk. In game two, I hit early pressure followed by a Slaughter Games for Supreme Verdict. Unfortunately, he revealed a hand full of planeswalkers, Lingering Souls, and a Gavony Township. There was soon a point in the game that I realized the only way I could win was to miracle a Bonfire of the Damned to wipe out his ever-growing army of tokens. Unfortunately, I had sided all of those out...
0-2 loss
0-1 overall

Round Two vs. Jason with BR Zombies
In the first game, we traded attacks until he stabilized with a Rakdos Keyrune. I couldn't get anything relevant through, and he continued hitting me for a few points a turn until he put me away. Game two came down to my ability to scavenge Dreg Manglers. It made my guys big enough that I could swing in without worrying about trades. In game three, he stalled on three lands. While he was still making plays, they weren't as relevant as the Thragtusks that started hitting the board on my side.
2-1 win
1-1 overall

Round Three vs. Brian with UWR Midrange
Game one went pretty quickly. I put on early pressure, he slowed me down with Supreme Verdict, and I continued the onslaught with hasty guys. Game two was a lot closer, and I had what might have been the worst brain fart of a turn that I've had since I started playing competitively. I can't even explain what happened, to be honest. I don't know if I stopped paying attention, or if his line of play seemed so foreign that I lost my mind for a minute, or what... but he made several plays and my brain just did not compute the sequencing. I remember ending my turn and saying, "You would think I had never played this game before!" It was that bad. The only thing I remember clearly is that one of his plays was a pivotal "Searing Spear your Garruk, Primal Hunter" that happened mid-combat before I activated him for the turn. Needless to say, I lost. Game three was close as well, as we both developed a decent board state and were trying to race. I was swinging with everything I had but getting chump blocked left and right by Augurs of Bolas and Spirit tokens from his Moorland Haunt and getting very little damage through. Meanwhile, he was whittling my life total away a few at a time with a Restoration Angel that I couldn't block. I was finally able to deal with the Restoration Angel with topdecked spot removal, but he slammed a Drogskol Reaver that really threw off my math. On my last turn, I did a lot of math and figured I could get him down to five, so I scooped. After the game, he pointed out that I had missed a Huntmaster of the Fells trigger on my last turn, and that he thought I might have had it. I tried to remember the exact board state, but I couldn't figure out if it would have actually made the difference or not.
1-2 loss
1-2 overall

Round Four vs. Jim with Bant Control
Game one we both mulliganed to five. He must have kept a land-heavy hand because he didn't miss a land drop for a while. I kept a hand with one land but double Farseek, and if I had drawn anything, I might have at least put up a fight. Instead, he played Sphinx's Revelation for some number and just got way ahead of me. In game two I kept a pretty beefy hand with three lands, a Dreg Mangler, a Huntmaster of the Fells, and two Thundermaw Hellkites. I even topdecked a Strangleroot Geist for additional early pressure. However, while I did see my fifth and sixth land drops, I never hit another red source to play either of the Thundermaw Hellkites.
0-2 loss
1-3 overall

Standard was over for the day and I was pretty bummed about my abysmal performance. I felt less prepared for legacy, but I've played junk in legacy for quite a while (albeit in low profile tournaments) so I figured with a little luck on my side, I still might be able to sneak in a few wins. The deck I played in legacy was fairly similar to Matt Pavlic's junk deck from the SCG Seattle Legacy Open on 11/18. This is what I registered:

Lands (23)
4 Bayou
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
3 Wasteland
1 Maze of Ith
1 Scrubland
1 Savannah
1 Karakas
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Plains

Creatures (15)
4 Dark Confidant
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Deathrite Shaman
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Scavenging Ooze

Planeswalkers (1)
1 Garruk Relentless

Other (21)
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Swords to Plowshares
3 Green Sun's Zenith

2 Sensei's Divining Top
2 Sylvan Library

2 Thoughtseize
2 Maelstrom Pulse

3 Surgical Extraction
3 Pernicious Deed
4 Hymn to Tourach
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Swords to Plowshares

#1 problem with this list? Terribly rotten sideboard.
#2 problem with this list? Piloted by an inexperienced legacy player.

Round Five vs. Andrew with Esper Stoneblade
Neither of us were happy about our results so far, and we chatted a bit about the frustrations of our losses in standard. Game one was pretty even until an unanswered Jace, the Mind Sculptor ran away with the game. In game two, we both traded discard spells until we ended up in a topdeck war. A timely Maelstrom Pulse answered both sides of his first Lingering Souls, but I couldn't deal with the second.
0-2 loss
1-4 overall

Round Six vs. Erik with BUG Control
I didn't take good notes on this match, but I remember getting a first turn Deathrite Shaman in both games. In the first one, he had an answer for it pretty quickly and he ran away with the game on the back of a Jace that I couldn't find an answer for. In the second game, he matched my Deathrite Shaman with two of his own, and the Tarmogoyfs I kept drawing were pretty pathetic. I should also note that I managed to overextend into a Pernicious Deed in game two as well, which was particularly embarrassing because it just so happens to be one of my favorite cards of all time and I should know to play around it. Ugh.
0-2 loss
1-5 overall

With a 1-5 record, no chance of even making it to day two, and a lady waiting for me in Costa Mesa, I decided to call it a day. I would make some modifications to my standard deck and register for the standard open the following day. I was sick of having a strong early game but not enough power to push through the late game. I wanted to be more of a midrange deck, so I pulled some of the lower impact early threats and replaced them with more ramp and more resilient late-game potential. Unfortunately, my results in the open wouldn't prove any better. I registered this list for the standard open:

Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Rootbound Crag
Blood Crypt
Cavern of Souls
Kessig Wolf Run
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Mountain

3 Deadbridge Goliath
3 Olivia Voldaren
3 Thragtusk
4 Knight of Infamy
2 Wolfir Avenger

2 Garruk Primal Hunter
1 Garruk Relentless

4 Farseek
3 Rakdos Keyrune
3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Ultimate Price
2 Victim of Night
2 Dreadbore

1 Bonfire of the Damned
1 Sever the Bloodline
2 Silklash Spider
2 Pillar of Flame
3 Slaughter Games
3 Appetite for Brains
3 Tormod's Crypt

#1 problem with this list? Thrown together the morning of the tournament.
#2 problem with this list? Lack of focus.

I felt like if I played more of a midrange jund deck, I would be able to hang with the control decks into the late game by continuing to drop bombs rather than trying to start out fast and nickel and dime them to death if the game went long. I still think the mindset is right even if my execution was terrible. Knight of Infamy and Wolfir Avenger are just very out of place in this deck. I often found myself playing them rather than ramping and then regretting it a turn or two later.

Round One vs. Anthony with BR Zombies
In game one, I shipped a double Thragtusk five land hand that in hindsight I probably should have kept. My hand of six had no lands at all, and my hand of five only had one. I kept it, knowing I was in a bad spot but scared to mulligan again, and I got punished. Game two was much more even, but I stalled on four lands with a Thragtusk in hand. I could have miracled a Bonfire of the Damned for three on my last turn, but I needed something to deal with the Thundermaw Hellkite that was presenting lethal damage. No such luck.
0-2 loss
0-1 overall

Round Two vs. Mike with Naya Midrange
I'm just going to go on the record as saying that Naya midrange has been my nemesis of late. I've won fun matches against it, but in actual tournament games I haven't won a single game against a Naya deck. Not matches... no, I haven't won a single game against it. As soon as I saw a Temple Garden followed by a Clifftop Retreat, I knew I was in trouble. I should have put in a lot more testing against this match-up, but I just ran out of time. He steamrolled me in two games, plain and simple. My records show that his life total only increased while mine steadily decreased. I didn't manage to get in a single point of damage. Blegh.
0-2 loss
0-2 overall

Round Three vs. Chris with GW Aggro
I was pretty frustrated at this point and ready to just quit. Fortunately, this match felt a lot better. It was a matchup I had playtested against a fair number of times and felt comfortable with my chances of winning. Game one went just the way I expected it to. I held removal for the cards I knew I needed to kill (Silverblade Paladin and Wolfir Silverheart), and used my beefier creatures to beat down the rest of the way. In game two, he got a blazing fast start and put me away while I was still stumbling around with Farseeks. In game three, he kept a hand heavy with mana dorks, and I punished him with a turn three Bonfire of the Damned for one, knocking out an Arbor Elf and an Avacyn's Pilgrim. He got stuck on two lands, and just wasn't able to keep up.
2-1 win
1-2 overall

Round Four vs. Gustavo with UWR Spirits
That's right, folks. It wasn't UWR midrange. It was a spirit themed deck, complete with Dungeon Geists, Favorable Winds, and Angel of Flight Alabaster. Unfortunately, it also featured Geist of Saint Traft, and letting that hit you several times before you can hard cast Bonfire of the Damned is pretty tough to beat. I thought Knight of Infamy would be a huge help, but he had removal for it every time. This loss was tough to swallow, and I just wanted to leave at this point... so I did.
1-2 loss
1-3 overall

I learned quite a few lessons that weekend, many of which I will share in my next article. However, as disappointed as I was in my performance, competing at a higher level has whetted my appetite for tougher competition. I'm going to be hitting the tournament scene pretty hard over the next few months, and hopefully I'll have better results than these. 

Gatecrash Spoilers: Simic Fluxmage & Fathom Mage

Two Simic Combine cards have been spoiled so far. The first didn't really excite me all that much. Yeah, it grows when you play bigger creatures. Yeah, it lets you move counters around some. But it just reminded me too much of the spike cycle from Tempest block... slow and underwhelming.

Fathom Mage is the kind of card that seems extremely powerful, but is probably too fragile to make a major impact. I mean, come on... a 1/1 for four mana? That's way too easy to kill before it ever even makes an impact on the game. More often than not, you play this and have very little (if any) mana left over, so you have to wait until the following turn to get any real value. In the meantime, this chick has a huge target on her head and probably won't survive until your next turn anyway.

But then it dawned on me. This card looks cool, but there are a lot of possibilities with this mechanic that I hadn't considered. For example:
  • Garruk Relentless could make a wolf token and cantrip. Garruk, Primal Hunter could cantrip twice as long as Fathom Mage sticks around long enough to make two beasts.
  • You don't actually have to trigger the Evolve ability to draw cards if Simic Fluxmage moves the counter.
  • Abilities that trigger on "whenever a +1/+1 counter is placed on this creature" will play quite nicely with Scavenge. Perhaps a fun BUG Miracle Gro deck will be viable... Quirion Dryad is in the format, after all.
  • Gavony Township + Fathom Mage seems slow but crazy awesome.
I've got to be honest. I haven't been all that excited about much of what was spoiled prior to these cards... and I'm not even that excited about these cards at all. What I am excited about is the potential of the mechanic. Evolve looks like it might be a ton of fun.

Gatecrash Spoilers

That's right, folks. the next Magic: The Gathering set is on the horizon, and some of the cards have already been spoiled. Gatecrash is scheduled for release in February, and it showcases the five guilds that were left out of Return to Ravnica: Boros, Simic, Orzhov, and Gruul. These are the dates you need to know:
Prerelease Events: January 26-27, 2013 Release Date: February 1, 2013 Launch Weekend: February 1-4, 2013 Magic Online Release: February 11, 2013 Game Day: February 23-24, 2013 Pro Tour Gatecrash: February 15-17, 2013

And for those out there who just can't wait to see the cards as they're officially released and/or spoiled, you can always check out the most up-to-date spoiler by clicking here.

Exodus, The Trading Card Game

Existence Games is excited to share their flagship product, a new trading card game called Exodus. Forget everything you dislike about trading card games and hold fast to the things you love about them, because Exodus does away with the bad and retains the good. This TCG brings a whole slew of new things to the table!

Exodus is the latest and most innovative trading card game to hit the market. The Exodus Trading Card Game is a brand-new fantasy based collectible card game that is fast paced, easy-to-learn, and revolves around an evolving storyline, in addition to the “full art” that covers each card. There are currently two different starter decks available: the Dragonis Deck and the Skyborn Deck. The Dragonis Deck features terrifying dragons and dragon-type cards, while the Skyborn Deck is packed with the power of Angels. 

In the game, players take on the role of a Drifter, a powerful human being who can walk or drift through portals and into other worlds. These worlds are full of magic, challenges, and secrets that are just waiting to be revealed. Even the mysterious landscape poses a threat to the unaware traveler. 

As Drifters traverse these magical lands, they carry with them a specialized deck of cards that they use to battle other Drifters for knowledge, new cards, and dominance over the area. Creatures are summoned to the battlefield when a card is played, pulling them from another dimension or a different space in that moment in time. 

This first set of the game follows the story and birth of the planet Eeventide (Information about Eeventide hasn’t even been mentioned on the official website yet), and shows how the universe of Exodus came to exist. It will also reveal the establishment of two guilds, the Dragonis Guild and the Skyborn Guild, each of which struggle to impose their unique agendas over Eeventide. 

Exodus is unique to the genre because of its simplicity, its insanely fast gameplay (games can literally be played in a few minutes once you’ve learned), and the fact that when new cards are added, they won’t render old cards useless. Kids as young as the age of 6 can play the game and fully comprehend it, while the older and more hardcore gamers in their 20s – 40s are shocked by their discovery at how in-depth deckbuilding and strategies can already get. Exodus is the first trading card game that truly has something for everyone and doesn’t appeal to only a small niche or group of people.

Existence Games is a small company comprised of 2 kids, a brother and sister team. These teenagers grew up playing trading card games, but found too many faults with the existing ones. In many cases, the bad things pertaining to a card game outweighed the positive, they said, and so they created Exodus. They had quickly grown tired of the complicated and unnecessary rules attached to many of the popular CCGs, and so they invented and published a game that essentially reinvents what a trading card game is. 

“You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make a good deck,” says Jake and Lexi, founders of Existence Games. “Rare cards will definitely have great effects and be a bit harder to find, but they won’t be so overpowered that old cards or common cards become bad. We’ve designed a simple game that relies on the player considering all possible combinations during battle, but also depends heavily on the luck of the draw. Drawing a new hand of 6 cards each turn can really turn the tide of a match, depending on what you drew and how you use your cards. In fact, booster packs aren’t even out yet, so if you buy a Starter Deck, you’ll have an instant collection of the best cards!”

Games and matches are lightning fast, so losing a game isn’t as much of a grudging experience as in other trading card games. Revenge can be quickly acquired on your opponent by a quick shuffle and resetting of life points. Players start with 10 life points and the first to hit 0 loses. Players win by summoning fearsome creatures which they attach to piles of energy and command to attack their opponent’s life points. The game is multiplayer friendly as well, welcoming an even or odd number of players, teams or no teams. 

You can learn more about this exciting new trading card game on the official website:, where you can also “like” the game, become a follower of the official Facebook page where you can “like it” again, and start playing by purchasing a Harmonized Starter Deck for $19.99 through the online store. Full-art game playmats are also available in the online store for $24.99 each. 

If you buy a starter deck from the website, you’ll be supporting a new, small game company gain exposure and provide them with the funds for new additions to the game and awesome expansions. You can also show your support by “liking” the game both on Facebook and the website, and by sharing it with others. 

“Don’t hesitate to contact us through our “Contact Us” page on the card game’s website or by leaving a message on the Facebook page! We’re always happy to address any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the game. We love hearing from players or those who want to become a player. Be one of the first to jump in on this new game with FIRST EDITION cards!”

About the author: Existence Games is a small gaming company based out of the Central Valley in California. Two siblings in their teenage years created and released Exodus out of their love and passion for games and the need for innovation in the trading card game genre. The card game is still largely unknown, but on the rise as it is gaining more and more followers. Existence Games is always looking for the right people to work with them in expanding the brand and the world of Exodus, so if you’re interested in working with them first-hand to get the game into other media, you can contact them by e-mail through their website

Exodus, The Trading Card Game and all characters, pictures, and logos are © and ™ 2012 Existence Games. All rights reserved. 

Bezaleel, Phase World Rift Runner

R.CW.03.012, d'norr devilman
Bezaleel grew up on Center, born to parents who were well-traveled scholars before they settled down to have children. He had a knack for magic just as his parents had, but Bez's values focused more on personal comforts and advancement than scholarship and learning. Rather than follow in his parents footsteps, Bez saw his opportunity for fortune and fame in the repo-yard. He picked up odd jobs here and there, usually with less-reputable but high-paying employers, while investing and reinvesting until he had the funds to purchase a ship worth commanding. He dubbed it the Steel Centaur, named for the cyber-horsemen in stories his parents told him when he was a child. The Steel Centaur is a heavily modified Espandon Gun Ship originally built by Naruni Enterprises. It has everything a captain could ask for: the speed to get you where need to go in record time and enough firepower to get you there safely.

By the time he had purchased the ship, he had enough contacts and associates in the black market of Phase World that it didn't take much to start the lifestyle of a high profile runner. Despite open rumors of his smuggling, Bezaleel has managed to keep a relatively clean slate with the Promethean authorities. This is due to his highly lucrative legal operation, armed transport services, which could easily support him and his crew on its own. However, Bez likes the thrill of knowing he has contraband on board and continues his less-then-legal activities to supplement his already-substantial income.

Legally, Bezaleel specializes in no-questions-asked transport of individuals to anywhere in the Corkscrew Galaxy, although he will take on clients who need to go elsewhere for a higher price. The only thing he requires is that clients have paperwork for any passengers being held captive. Bez doesn't tolerate slavery, but has no qualms about transporting criminals who have run afoul of a bounty hunter.

Off the record, he also deals in stolen magical goods. Some of his best customers and worst enemies are United Worlds of Warlock citizens, as his work often involves their property. Most recently, he has been contacted by Inglix the Mad for a special assignment, but Bez hasn't decided whether or not to accept. On one hand, it could be one of the most profitable jobs he has ever taken. On the other, he isn't entirely sure that he has never transported property of Inglix himself and somehow earned his ire. If the latter is the case, the whole job could be an elaborate trap to exact revenge... and Bezaleel doesn't even want to try to imagine what that deranged dwarf might have in mind for him.

Name: Bezaleel
Alias/Nickname: "Bez" to those closest to him, "Boss" to most of his crew
6th Level D'Norr Devilman Rift Runner
Alignment: Unprincipled
Attributes of Note: IQ 17, MA 23
Horror Factor: 12

Armor: Bezaleel wears a TW-enhanced Cermalyte Black Nightsuit (28 MDC) under casual clothing. It has all the qualities of the normal cermalyte armor, and can be activated for 25 PPE to protect the wearer with Armor of Ithan (50 MDC), Impervious to Vaccuum, and Space Walk.

SDC: 40
Hit Points: 42

Attacks per Melee: 5
Combat Bonuses: +1 strike, +2 parry, +2 dodge
Weapons: PH-21 Phase Beamer (3d6 SDC or 4d6 MD)

Magic: knows all Rift Runner spells (Rifts Black Market p105), plus Armor of Ithan (10), Charismatic Aura (10), Dimensional Teleport (800), Frequency Jamming (15), Shooting Star (18), Space Flight (15), Telekinesis (8)
PPE: 182

Other Abilities: Black Market Abilities (Street Rep: Trustworthy, Slippery, Friends in High Places)

References: Rifts Ultimate Edition, Rifts Black Market, Rifts World Book 30: D-Bees of North America, Rifts Dimension Book 2: Phase World, Rifts Dimension Book 8: Naruni Wave 2, Rifts Dimension Book 12: Dimensional Outbreak, Rifts Dimension Book 13: Fleets of the Three Galaxies

Return to Ravnica Magic Workstation (MWS) Set and Images

I've been a little behind on Magic the last few weeks, mainly because of school and work. But I need to catch up on Return to Ravnica, and I can't think of a better way than playtesting a few matches before I buy more cards. How do I do it? As usual...

Magic Workstation
Return to Ravnica MWS Set
Return to Ravnica Pics

Rifts Randomized Campaign Setting

Just for kicks (and for the mental exercise), I'm going to generate a random setting for a Rifts campaign. The goal is to utilize various random tables contained in Rifts books. I'll start with the Colony Creation Tables in Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy, and incorporate random tables from other books whenever they seem appropriate. We'll see how well I can tie the random results together. Hopefully this will be at least semi-logical, but I won't be sure until I start rolling dice. Whether this turns out to be an incredibly rich setting or one that is insanely goofy, the process will be interesting either way.

Basic Premise: The setting will be somewhere in the Thundercloud Galaxy, on a planet with a colony of some sort.

  • Colony Organization: Independent/Other (94)
  • Colony Size: Colony Outpost (56)
  • General Alignment: Diabolic (97)
  • Trade Policies: Flexible and Pragmatic (51)
  • Environment Around the Colony: Heavy Mixed Forest (34)
  • Notable/Special Natural Resource: Coastal Fishing (23)
  • Buildings/Facilities: Whoah... come back to this... 30+ rolls...
  • Medical Facility: Small Hospital (64)
  • Primary Source of Energy: Satellite Energy Transmission (92)
  • Primary Source of Transportation: Simple & Basic Range of Vehicles (54)
  • Security/Fighting Force: Colonial Soldiers (38)
  • Outside Threats: Demons (21)
So with these random rolls, let's try to fit some of these random facts into a coherent setting. The things that most stand out to me are the alignment, the setting vs. natural resource oddity, and their primary energy source. Hmmmmmmmm...

The book describes a colony with a diabolic alignment as a den of thieves, which immediately makes me think of two things: the thieves guilds from fantasy fiction (D&D, Elder Scrolls, etc.), and the Gangland television show. We also know that the colony is independent, unsupported by any major power. Let's say this is a penal colony, or was at some point, and that it has been either abandoned or it's prisoners fought their way to freedom. We can figure that part out later... for now, it just matters that the original members of this colony were prisoners, and that any other colony members have either been born to the prisoners, or have joined since it achieved autonomy.

It seems odd to me that the environment around the colony would be heavily forested but the natural resource is coastal fishing. However, a quick Google search for "forest beach" yields lots of coastal forested areas (such as this beach, or this one, or this one), so maybe it isn't as strange as I thought. So the colony is located in a heavy forest and close enough to the ocean that fishing is a notable resource.

Their energy source is a little odd as well - a satellite collects solar energy and beams it down to the surface of the planet. Perhaps this was a safety measure taken by those in charge when the colony still functioned as a prison. If things ever get out of control on the surface, you can always cut the power and effectively strand them.

So now that the oddball traits are explained, let's go for a short description of this place and give it a name.

Rhykers Folly is a small colony with roughly 2,000 occupants located in a thick forest near the coast of a large island. It was originally a penal colony, but has since been liberated and is now run by the Boss Council. The leaders of each major criminal organization represented in the colony when it was still a prison are on the council. Although there is some semblance of order, the truth is that the whole colony is run by criminal organizations that manage to cooperate just enough to avoid turning the whole place into a war zone (although it has come to that on several occasions since the colony gained its freedom). 
Even though Rhykers Folly is made up almost entirely of criminals, the Boss Council realizes that in order to survive, they need to be able to trade. Thus, the colony's business dealings have been less shady and underhanded than they normally would be. The colony is attempting to build trust with its neighbors, and the dirtiest business practices are discouraged. Still, it is only a form of self-preservation, not a moral statement, so as the colony stabilizes and needs outsiders less and less, its businessmen will become less and less trustworthy.
Each criminal organization at Rhykers Folly has its share of enforcers, and these function as the colony's first line of defense against any danger. The trouble is that they don't follow any central command, so coordination among different units is sketchy at best. The colony is well fortified, although some of the fortifications have had to be modified to keep people out rather than in. Still, it has been convenient to the colonists that protection from the outside has not been a major concern yet.
The colony was liberated by several of the bosses who decided to lay down their personal differences long enough to kick their captors out. However, what they didn't realize at the time was that their captors didn't bother trying to keep the place because the planet is expected to be overrun by demons in the near future. 

And there we have it... at least the beginnings of a randomized Rifts setting...

Oh Zombies, Where Art Thou?

There was a lot of hype around zombies in Return to Ravnica standard, but no version of the deck has won a Star City Games Open tournament yet. Instead, bigger decks are rising to the top, winning with planeswalkers, reanimation targets, and miracles. I don't like the slow grindy game plan of the planeswalker decks or the crazy unpredictability of the miracle decks. I also don't like the narrow focus of the reanimator (or frites) strategies.

Personally, I've been playing this:

4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Sunpetal Grove
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Gavony Township
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Plains


Strangleroot Geist
Knight of Glory
Centaur Healer
Dreg Mangler
Angel of Serenity

3 Tragic Slip
4 Mulch
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Garruk Relentless

No reanimation here, but plenty of beefy creatures that are really efficient and do a great job of fighting the zombie decks that people claim will be so rampant. I haven't listed a sideboard because I'm currently just playing a hodgepodge of cards that I wanted in the maindeck but couldn't decide what to swap out for them. I love the hasty green guys, and Angel of Serenity provides a powerful late game that is hard to overcome.

I've only played on tournament with this, but I'm currently undefeated (even winning the "for fun" match against my last-round opponent after agreeing to an intentional draw). I'm going to keep running it until it starts losing...

2012 Palladium Christmas Surprise Package

I've made a yearly habit of purchasing a Christmas Surprise Package from Palladium Books in the fall, and other than a "never got my package" issue last year (which could have easily been someone snatching the box off my front doorstep), I've been more than pleased with this yearly deal.

Each year, I browse through the online store and jot down a handful of things that sound interesting. Palladium has produced so many books that I never have a hard time finding things I want and don't yet have. This time, my list looked like this:

What did I receive? Rifts Black Market ($24.95), Fleets of the Three Galaxies ($16.95), Armageddon Unlimited ($20.95), Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy ($20.95), and Deception's Web ($9.95). That's $93.75 worth of product for only $48.39... and that's just the MSRP. I don't know what the monetary value increase would be (if any), but all of the books (except for Deception's Web) are signed by multiple artists and authors.

I haven't read any of these titles in depth, but these are my initial thoughts:

Rifts Black Market - I love the CGI cover. It's the first Palladium has ever done (to my knowledge, at least), and it's a style that I would love to see more of in the future. While there are some really goofy things I noticed while flipping through (the walker-bike, for example), there are also sections that I cannot wait to find the time to read thoroughly... like the Rift Runner O.C.C. and the Ironmage, a techno-wizard's enhanced glitter boy suit that reminds me of a cross between a traditional glitter boy suit (style) and an Eldar wraithlord (crazy cool runes).

Fleets of the Three Galaxies - I expected a book full of equipment and space ships. Those are in there... but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book also includes a bunch of profiles for notable NPCs in these fleets (all commanders, at least as far as I've read thus far).

Armageddon Unlimited - To be honest, I was initially unimpressed with the Minion War, as it felt like it was blatantly stolen from D&D's Blood War. However, I got Dimensional Outbreak just because there was so much detail on Center, and I'm finding myself more and more intrigued by Palladium's take on this demon vs. devil idea. The only thing that disappoints me is the lack of M.D.C. conversion notes. With this as the only non-M.D.C. book in the Minion War series, I thought there would at least be a section on how these new powers work on Rifts Earth or in the Three Galaxies, but I guess that's something I should be comfortable doing on my own if I ever need to...

Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy - Of the books I received this year, this will be the first one that I read cover to cover. I've got to admit that I'm a little bummed that the United Worlds of Warlock seem to have been left out of this book altogether, but I'm still excited to read through the Thundercloud Galaxy book. While I find Center the most intriguing of locations in the Three Galaxies, I think a game on the outskirts of civilization would be a ton of fun as well, and the Thundercloud is the perfect location for such a campaign.

Deception's Web - I struggled through the first Rifts novel, not so much because of the story line but because of the editing (or lack thereof). I've read online that the rest of the series won't make the former English teacher in me cringe as much. If this one doesn't impress me, though, I doubt I'll bother picking up the third.

Even though I don't play anymore, I still enjoy reading the setting information and seeing how the various metaplot unfolds. It's good to have some Rifts reading material lying around again.

Return to Ravnica Spoilers

If you haven't heard already, one of Magic's most beloved blocks is getting a second chance to shine. That's right folks. We're returning to Ravnica... the same setting that brought us Dark Confidant, the shock lands, and Loxodon Hierarch. We don't know much yet, but bits and pieces of info are starting to surface. Allow me to point you to my usual sources for Magic spoilers:

MagicSpoiler (Side Rant: I go here a lot, but I'm not actually going to link to it for one reason: the last three times I've visited, I've had to deal with audio advertising on their site that automatically plays when you open the page AND there isn't an easy-to-locate mute button. I just don't want to be forced to listen to commercials while I'm looking for Magic cards.)

Now, for some pics and stuff:

Dante Deepshroud, Whisper Gnome Underdark Guide

Dante has been hired by Baron Cantor Quickseed to help his hired adventurers find the city of Dylvwyllyn and make it out alive. Dante is quick to remind everyone, however, that he was hired as a guide, not as a guard. He fights only when necessary, and his primary concern is the safety of Sehliss... not bringing the boss's daughter back alive would surely result in an unacceptable pay cut.

Dante Deepshroud (Ranger 3 / Scout 4): CR 7; Small humanoid (gnome); HD 3d8+4d6+28; hp 58; Init +5; Spd 7; AC 20 (+4 dex, +5 armor, +1 size), touch 15, flat-footed 15; BAB +6; Grap +2; Atk +11 melee (1d4+1, 19-20/x2) or +12/+7 ranged (1d6+1, x3) or +10/+10 ranged (1d6+1, x3)SQ whisper gnome abilities; AL CN; Fort +9, Ref +11, Will +3; Str 11 (+0), Dex 18 (+4), Con 18 (+4), Int 13 (+1), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 8 (-1)
Skills: Balance +4 (2 ranks), Climb +8 (8 ranks), Diplomacy +4 (5 ranks), Gather Information +4 (5 ranks), Hide +22 (10 ranks), Knowledge: Underdark Local +6 (5 ranks), Listen +12 (9 ranks), Move Silently +17 (9 ranks), Spot +12 (9 ranks), Survival +6 (5 ranks), Use Rope +6 (2 ranks)
Feats: Alertness, Endurance, Rapid Shot, Swift Hunter, Track, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (longbow)
Class Features: Favored Enemy +4 (drow), Favored Enemy +2 (duergar), Skirmish (+2d6, +2 AC), Trackless Step, Trapfinding, Uncanny Dodge, Wild Empathy +2
Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day - silence (self only)
Equipment: chain shirt +1, shortsword +1, longbow +1, 1300 gp

Sehliss Quickseed, Half-Elf Healer

The youngest daughter of Baron Cantor Quickseed, the elf noble seeking to reunite the Shards of the Day, Sehliss insists on searching for the legendary swords herself rather than leave the matter to people outside of the family. She is pleasant, but doesn't truly trust anyone aside from her father, and she is almost as obsessed with finding the shards as her father... if only to make sure that his life-long quest is completed during her lifetime.

Sehliss Quickseed (Healer 7): CR 7; Medium humanoid (half-elf); HD 7d8+7; hp 42; Init +2; Spd 6; AC 18 (+2 dex, +4 armor, +1 deflection, +1 dodge), touch 14, flat-footed 14; BAB +3; Grap +3; Atk +3 melee (1d8, x2) or +5 ranged (1d8, 19-20/x2); SQ half-elf abilities; AL NG; Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +8; Str 11 (+0), Dex 14 (+2), Con 13 (+1), Int 10 (+0), Wis 15 (+2), Cha 12 (+1)
Skills: Concentration +15 (10 ranks), Heal +15 (10 ranks), Sense Motive +12 (10 ranks), Spellcraft +11 (10 ranks)
Feats: Augment Healing, Combat Casting, Dodge, Skill Focus (Heal)
Class Features: Effortless Healing (no attacks of opportunity when casting healing spells), Healing Hands (Cha bonus to healing)
Spell-Like Abilities: Remove Paralysis (1/day), Remove Disease (1/day), Remove Fear (1/day), Neutralize Poison (1/day)
Spells Memorized: 0 level - create water, detect magic, light, mending, purify food & drink, read magic; 1st level - cure light wounds x5, sanctuary; 2nd level - cure moderate wounds x5, lesser restoration; 3rd level - cure serious wounds x3, restoration; 4th level - cure critical wounds x2, freedom of movement Note: all healing spells heal +3 hp
Equipment: +1 studded leather, masterwork spear, masterwork light crossbow, ring of protection +1, cloak of resistance +1, 400 gp

No Love for Green Planeswalkers?

I've seen an unusually high number of planeswalker control decks at the Dugout lately, and while it does bug me a little that the strategy makes so many matches go to time, it made me realize something more important. There is a growing discrepancy in how much each color has access to planeswalkers... and right now, green is getting pooped on.

These planeswalkers are legal in standard right now:
     Elspeth Tiriel
     Gideon Jura
     Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
     Jace, Memory Adept
     Koth of the Hammer
     Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
     Chandra, the Firebrand
     Sorin Markov
     Liliana of the Veil
     Garruk, Primal Hunter
     Garruk Relentless
     Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
     Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
     Venser, the Sojourner
     Karn Liberated

If you look at raw numbers, it doesn't seem like a big deal.
     White: 2
     Blue: 2
     Red: 3
     Black: 2
     Green: 2
     Gold: 3
     Colorless: 1

If you instead focus on how many planeswalkers each color has access to, adding Karn to all five and the gold cards to each of their respective colors, the numbers get a little more unbalanced. It becomes more obvious that green is getting the short end of the stick here.
     White: 5
     Blue: 5
     Red: 4
     Black: 5
     Green: 3

But M13 is about to come out! That might help! Unfortunately, it only serves to further imbalance things. Green, blue, and red get reprints. White gets a new Ajani, black gets a new Liliana, and Nicol Bolas comes back. That brings our counts up to:
     White: 6
     Blue: 6
     Red: 5
     Black: 7
     Green: 3

When it comes to deck building, things get even trickier. Because planeswalkers are super legendary permanents, you can never have more than one in play at the same time even if the card names are different. This makes it difficult to add many different options to a single deck unless you have access to multiple planeswalker characters. Guess what?
     White: Gideon, Elspeth, Venser, Sorin, Karn, and Ajani (6 total)
     Blue: Jace, Tamiyo, Venser, Tezzeret, Karn, and Nicol Bolas (6 total)
     Red: Chandra, Koth, Tibalt, Karn, and Nicol Bolas (5 total)
     Black: Liliana, Sorin, Tezzeret, Karn, and Nicol Bolas (5 total)
     Green: Garruk and Karn (2 total)

One might think that this is just the nature of standard at the moment. After all, power balance among colors shifts with each new set, and access to certain toys shifts with time. Apparently, not so for green planeswalkers. These numbers aren't exactly unique to standard right now. Even if you count all the planeswalkers that have been printed to date, green is still behind. Check this out:
     White: Gideon, Elspeth, Venser, Sorin, Karn, and Ajani (8 cards, 6 characters)
     Blue: Jace, Tamiyo, Venser, Tezzeret, Karn, and Nicol Bolas (9 cards, 6 characters)
     Red: Chandra, Koth, Tibalt, Karn, Sarkhan Vol, and Nicol Bolas (11 cards, 6 characters)
     Black: Liliana, Sorin, Tezzeret, Karn, Sarkhan Vol, and Nicol Bolas (8 cards, 6 characters)
     Green: Garruk, Nissa, Sarkhan Vol, and Karn (6 cards, 4 characters)

I think the numbers speak for themselves. Where is the love for green?!?! I vote for at least two new green planeswalkers in Return to Ravnica block... perhaps one green and one gold. Come on Wizards of the Coast... throw the green mages a bone! And no, just tossing in a new version of Garruk is not good enough...

Magic Rap?

This is horrible... but still funny...

Allies in 40K 6th Edition

I have a tendency to try to mix and match things in gaming whenever I get the chance. I've played RPGs with Warhammer 40K scenery. I've mixed D20 Modern and D&D for a crazy multigenre feel. I don't think I've ever played a single classed character in an RPG that allowed multiclassing. I'm always trying to figure out how to splash an extra color in Magic decks. And... I never could stay satisfied with a single army codex in 40K.

The good news is that I don't have to be anymore. Now I can mix and match some... and according to this chart, I have quite a few possibilities with the armies that are just sitting around in the man cave.

Image snagged from krittoris here.

I'm not really sure why I would want to combine Space Marines and Blood Angels unless it was for a wider variety of psyker abilities, but whatever. What I'm really interested in is that Tau can ally with anybody... except for Tyranids, of course. And my Eldar can ally with my Blood Angels!

I haven't played 40K in almost a year now... but I think it's time to get back into things... time to do some list building...

Magic 2013 (M13) Patch for Magic Workstation (MWS)

Magic 2013 will be coming soon, and the spoilers are nearing completion. I'm always eager to start experimenting with deck lists even before the set is "complete" (or at least known to everyone). Luckily, some folks over at MTG Salvation continually update Magic Workstation patches so that people like me who have more time than patience (at least in the summer months) can go ahead and start building decks. I can't give a specific link because updates will be posted frequently between now and the official patch, but here's where you can find some of those works in progress:

Underdark Campaign Pregame - Sandbox Building

Now that it's summer time, it is time to revive game night and get some non-Magic gaming going. I've played plenty of cards over the last few months, and I've put a few hours into Diablo III, but I haven't gotten to play much else. All that changes next Wednesday, when we kick off the Underdark campaign I started talking about a while back.

As I said before, I don't have time to actually create the setting, but I would like to avoid using the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms... so my compromise is to build a quick sandbox of mish-mashed material from several different settings, toss in a few plot hooks, and just see how things play out from there.

These are the locations I plan on using:

  • Haranshire and the Underdark mapped out below it (Night Below)
  • Sshamath (Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark)
  • Mantol-Derith (Menzoberranzan Boxed Set)
  • Underspires (Dragon Magazine #267)
  • Dylvwyllyn (Dungeon Magazine #60)
  • Lower Broken Lands (Poor Wizard's Almanac III)
That short list gives me places for drow, duergar, derro, deep gnomes, mind flayers, aboleth, tons of monstrous humanoids, etc. Between the three adventures (Night Below, Shards of the Day, and Menace in Menzoberranzan Sshamath), there will be plenty of reasons for players to get involved in the goings on of the Underdark. However, with three distinct plot hooks carrying the players in three very different directions, I don't think I'll follow any of the three plot lines as written. Instead, I'll use the locations but allow the players to push things along at whatever pace they choose.

I intended to run the players through the first book of the Night Below adventure as-is and then mix things up when they actually made it to the Underdark. However, after talking to my players about what they intend to play, I think we're going to start at 7th level. While this makes the first book of that particular adventure relatively obsolete (too many low-level encounters), it does have one very useful upside: it allows characters in the "Underdark" campaign to actually start the campaign with one of the adventure hooks that would take them into the Underdark!

Conveniently, 7th level is the approximate midpoint for the time in an adventurer's career that these modules expect characters to enter the Underdark. Night Below assumes characters are 4th level or so before they head below, the pregenerated characters for Menace in Menzoberranzan are all 6th or 7th level, and Shards of the Day was written for characters of 7th to 9th level.

Now I've just got to get everything ready to roll for next week...

Wolf Run X

I've tried quite a few ramp decks lately, but I've always piloted them to frustratingly average finishes. I've tried traditional Wolf Run, RUG Ramp, BUG Ramp, and BG Ramp. They were all decent, but always seemed to lose to the esper control decks that have been so common in Hickory lately. After giving a messy RUG Delver list a shot last Friday (and playing horribly with it), I decided to stop being cute and just play something that fit my play style. Aggro it is... and here's my current list. 

Wolf Run X
Main Deck:
Borderland Ranger
Inferno Titan
Primeval Titan
Strangleroot Geist
Thrun, the Last Troll
Viridian Emissary
Wurmcoil Engine

Garruk Relentless
Bonfire of the Damned
Brimstone Volley
Green Sun's Zenith
Pillar of Flame
Red Sun's Zenith

Copperline Gorge
Evolving Wilds
Inkmoth Nexus
Kessig Wolf Run
Rootbound Crag

Brimstone Volley
Pillar of Flame
Red Sun's Zenith
Wurmcoil Engine

Just a few notes:
  1. When I was looking at Pillar of Flame, Brimstone Volley, and Red Sun's Zenith, I couldn't decide what to cut... so I just played half of each in the main and half of each in the side. I'm sure there is a more efficient mix, but I haven't found it yet.
  2. I don't care what you say. For the foreseeable future, Bonfire of the Damned will be a guaranteed four-of in any deck I play that can make red mana. Yes, it is that good. No, it doesn't matter if I have it in my opening hand. I can't remember how many times I found myself hard casting it for X=1 just to wipe out spirit token blockers before swinging for lots, but it was more than a few.
  3. I'm calling this "Wolf Run X" because there are 14 cards with X in either the casting cost or the activation cost. Yeah, I know there are 8-10 in every other Wolf Run list too.
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