Thursday, 17 July 2014

MTG: 11 Intriguing Cards from M15

M15, the new core set for Magic: The Gathering, is being released this Friday to lots of anticipation.

With the major reboot of M10 in 2009, core sets are far better than they used to be. That said, these summer releases have been getting stale the past couple of years, and Wizards of the Coast needed to add some more spice to the pot. M13 and M14 were complete snoozefests, really.

Well, by asking famous names in the gaming community (Video games, board games, etc) to design some cards, tweaking the card frame, and getting away from some of the stale reprints, M15 is looking to be the best core set since M10.

After reviewing the set, and playing in this past weekend's prerelease, I've got a list of 11 cards that I will be looking forward to building and playing with in the future.


In alphabetical order, because Stone Cold said so!

1. Avacyn, Guardian Angel

My Angel EDH/Commander deck is currently lead by Avacyn, Angel of Hope. While the original is far more powerful, the 8 mana cost makes her an expensive date.

This version doesn't need a fancy steak dinner every night, and she can still protect your army. I'm not sure if I'll replace the original, or just take another card out. A flying 5/4 vigilance angel is good in any white deck.

2. Brood Keeper

I had two Brood Keepers in my prerelease pool, but not enough auras to make it worthwhile to play them :(

Slapping auras on a non-hexproof creature always make me nervous, but Brood Keeper will definitely reward the risk. A 2/2 dragon whelp for every Aura attached to her? This is a pretty good build-around-me card. I will certainly brood over the possibilities.

3. Chasm Stalker

This might be my favourite new card from the set. Who doesn't love SQUID tokens? *Squish*

Blue decks always draw plenty of cards, so, when this fellow dies, you ought to be left with quite a  calamari army.

Brainstorm or Ancestral Vision will get you 3 additional 1/1s for cheap, and those are cards I use in many blue decks. Better get some tzatziki ready.

4. Ensoul Artifact

Your mother told you not to run with scissors, but you should probably run FROM them! 

In terms of raw power, this card ranks highly. Turning a Darksteel Ingot or Darksteel Citadel (the artifact land) into indestructible 5/5s, for just two frickin' mana, ought to make the cut.

The artwork alone, is full of win.

5. Generator Servant

This little bugger was surprisingly powerful at the prerelease, allowing players to cast out huge hasty creatures a lot earlier than they should be able to. It's not often we get served with any type of Sol Ring effects.

Red often gets some form of temporary mana generation, but giving one or two creatures haste? That is what pushes this card over the edge. 

Don't forget that the mana generated can be used for anything, even instants.

6. Hushwing Gryff

More and more creatures are being printed with 'enter the battlefield' triggers. Killing those creatures doesn't stop their controller from getting the benefit, dammit!

With that in mind, Hushwing Gryff is another 'hate bear' created to help in competitive formats. Decks that rely upon Birthing Pod will definitely not be happy to see this flashed on to the table.

For us casuals? This is a very flexible answer, and can save you from the devastating effects of an Inferno Titan or Acidic Slime.

7. Necromancer's Stockpile

Cheap discard outlets are always useful, especially if you get some real return on your investment.

I already have a middling Zombie deck, so this ought to slide right in their perfectly. If you have recursion creatures like Gravecrawler or Bloodghast, discarding that card isn't a real cost at all.


8. Nightfire Giant

Talk about a bomb in sealed and draft! A 5/4 that can machine gun opposing creatures and players? Ick. My poor wife was on the wrong side of the table from this creature at the prerelease, and her army of little dudes didn't last too long.

Yes, the activation cost isn't cheap, but you get a fairly costed creature that makes a great mana sink. I could see myself finding a home for him in one of my numerous red/black decks.

9. Ob Nixilis, Unshackled

Those who have played against my Demons deck know how ObNoxious the original Ob Nixilis can be.

Creatures die often in multiplayer Magic, so Obby here will get bigger with little effort. Being able to punish somebody for shuffling their library will be almost orgasmic, I'm sure. It's too bad he doesn't have flash, so you could really "GOTCHA!" some unsuspecting shmuck. 

10. Scuttling Doom Engine

I'm torn ... (but not Rip Torn) is this a really good card name, or a terrible one?

This card hasn't been getting as much hype of some of the others, but I love being able to punish somebody else for killing my creatures. Six damage is significant, and will definitely scare people into poking it with a stick.

"Scuttles" also makes it so that opponents can't easily chump-block it with some dumb token. One way or another, you are DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!!

11.Waste Not

I finish with the card designed by 'the Magic community', including another name that strikes me as both clever and/or lame.

For sure, this is a powerful 'build around' card that will put further pain on those opponents who have to discard precious resources.

Seeing as I already have such an annoying discard deck, I look forward to the scowls of my playgroup when I whip this out for the first time.

I know karma will come back to bite me, but I don't want your cards to go to ... waste ...

*mic drop*


So, what cards from M15 interest you?

Friday, 11 July 2014

World Cup Schadenfreude - Brazil Edition

(Give the post a minute to load, will ya?)

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup nearing the final weekend, and the Dutch out of contention for the title, I can relax and enjoy the fact that Brazil won't be winning the whole thing.

It is no secret I am not fond of Brazil's soccer team. The people, country, and food? Fine by me, but their soccer team can KISS ... MY ... GRITS!

During their beating at the hands of the Germans (7-1 is like 24-3 in hockey terms), I experienced a grand dose of Schadenfreude. I was actually cackling as I watched the Brazilians collapse in front of their home fans, and was enjoying watching the many replays on my screen.

"Jes, why do you not like Brazil?"

Let me count the ways...

The Diving - Italy and Hondruas might be the worst, but Brazil is up there in terms of countries that flop more than a fish out of water, or Arjen Robben. As soon as a Brazilian is within 5 feet of an opposing player, they suddenly have balance issues.

Here is 'Fred' getting a penalty call, thanks to a typical flop:

The Acting - Any time a Brazilian player is even breathed on, or a foul is called on them, they roll around like they've been shot with a rubber bullet. It makes it hard to tell when they are actually hurt, like when Neymar got kneed in the spine.

The Bandwagoners - Strangely, Vancouver seems to suddenly have about 100,000 Brazilians every four years. Brazil is a trendy 'easy' team to cheer for, especially for people with absolutely no connection to the country.

Typical bandwagon douchebag.

Their fans also seem to think that their team and game are 'beautiful', and other football is 'ugly'. Basically, Brazil is the self-absorbed high-maintenance type that is too in love with themselves to ever love you. 

The Names - Yes, you are so awesome and god-like that you go by single names. Fred, Hulk, Kaka, Ronaldo, Neymar, etc ... I don't care of Portguese naming conventions give you 34 different middle and last names. Pick two or three and use them. What conceited poppycock!

To quote the awesome George Carlin:
These singers who think they're so special they only need one name. Bono, Sting, Jewel, Tiffany, Prince. What a crock of shit! Get a fucking last name, would you please? ... It's not bad enough the music sucks, but with no last name, you can't find out where these people live so you can throw a fuckin' bomb through their window! It's frustrating.

The Overt Religiousness - Even after they got curbstomped, the Brazilian players were bowing down to their deity and praying for ... not to get killed by the fans?

 "Please, Hammer, don't hurt me!"

Many of the Brazilian players are in-your-face about their religion as much as a Southern "Born Again" Baptist. Even the strongly Catholic Italians are rather quiet about their religion, and Italians are rarely quiet about anything!

Look, your god does not care about sporting events. You didn't lose because of anything other than your own terrible play and Germany's good tactics.

That penalty call above? Here is Fred thanking God for apparently helping the ref make a terrible call. *sigh* Yes, Brazil are somehow the "Chosen Ones", asshole.

Now, I expect Brazil is going to slaughter the Netherlands in the "3rd Place game that should not even be played", as Brazil has something to prove to their home fans.

Still, I will take great satisfaction in knowing Brazil won't win the World Cup in their own country, and that they wasted billions of dollars building gaudy sports stadiums instead of addressing actual problems, like poverty.


 "I can't believe it's not butter!"
 This is how FIFA developed the 2014 World Cup Logo

 Yes, even their statues were facepalming after that game.

 Aww, I kinda feel a bit sorry for this old guy.

 Burning the flag. How original, you terrorists.

Ummm... wow... 


 Brazil's new flag

 Now that the Germans have conquered Brazil...


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Canada Day Thoughts: USA v. Canada

For Canada Day, why don't I write about something about ... Americans! (?)
My wife and I took a nice little mini-vacation to Canada's Vancouver, aka Seattle, and I got to observe Americans in their natural habitat.

While I talk to many Americans online every day, they are usually like-minded people, or those I deal with in my line of work. I don't often interact with the 'average' American, so these trips are always a little experience.

While Canada and the USA are similar in many ways, there is always a difference once you cross the border, and it's not just the air quality.

(many sweeping Generalizations, based on purely personal experience, abound!)


This does not make me feel safe...

The American border guards are always surly and look at me as if I'm a terrorist, but that's their job. Ordinary Americans seem much more anal about perceived threats than they should be.

One recent example is us going into Safeco Field (a beautiful place) for a Mariners game. Not only did we have to empty our pockets, but we had to go through some kind of scanner. I'm used to a minor security checkpoint at Rogers Arena (mainly for alcohol), but this was a bit of overkill for a frickin' baseball game.

Airport security, security guards, police presence... you see a lot more of this south of the border than you do up here.

The funny thing is that this heightened security makes me feel more unsafe, more than anything else. The most law enforcement officers, security guards, and security checks I see, the more I'm subconsciously thinking "Is this place dangerous"?



I know Americans love their big, crappy chains, but Seattle seems to be a great place for restaurants.

Vancouver is often pointed-to, or wants to be, as a world-class city for food, but it lacks one major thing: VARIETY.

Vancouver has plenty of great restaurants, but if you want Central European, Eastern European, African, Southern, Cajun, Central American, South American, or Mexican cuisine, you are out of luck.

Almost every month, you can see a few new Japanese or Chinese restaurants open up in the Greater Vancouver region. While I enjoy both of these cuisines, the market must be saturated like 1-ply toilet paper after a single wipe. Vancouver also has enough "West Coast" restaurants to service the entire population of Canada.

Portion Sizes:

Somehow, we forgot that American restaurants serve about 3,500 calories worth of food on the average plate. I am a BIG eater, and thrice could not finish a good chunk of the food I ordered.

This might seem like a generalization, but it's happened on every trip to the US that I've been on. Hawaii was the one place that didn't seem hellbent on stuffing my stomach to the hilt, although just about every meal we had there was still very filling. 

Note to self: Order appetizers, or split a dish with the wife. I feel bad wasting so much food, and I can't understand how people can eat so damn much! Even the small restaurants give you massive portions.


On an individual level, most Americans are quite friendly and easy to talk to. Even in more conservative areas (Phoenix/Scottsdale, San Leandro, Castro Valley), I've rarely had unpleasant interactions with the average person. In fact, I've tended to have more random conversations with American strangers than I have with Canadian strangers.

That said, Americans are hyper-competitive people, and seem to react quite strongly when competing for a resource(s), driving, involved in sporting events, or are discussing politics and/or religion.

American drivers are especially aggressive, and tailed my ass more than I'd ever allow my wife to. I even missed an exit because other drivers would speed up and cut me off. I guess that's the 'reward' for using my turn signal, something American drivers rarely seem to do. Ugh.

(Maui, being an obvious exception, is so laid back and slow...)

It's a weird Jekyll-Hyde thing, as I do find Americans can either be really nice, or really angry, yet not as much in the middle as the average Canadian I interact with.


So, while I certainly enjoy my experiences in the USA with American people, I am certainly glad to be home in Canada Day to celebrate the better of the two countries ;)