Thursday, 25 June 2020

MTGA: Core set 21 out on Arena today.

Magic the Gathering Core Set 21 launched today and I'm halfway through my first draft. I drafted Black/Red in the first pack but I got a Baneslayer Angel in pack 2 pick 1 so I pivoted. As a result I'm a little creature light.



In the first game I got punished for this, barely seeing a single creature as my opponent ran over me.

The next two games I won with powerful high end creatures doing particularly well. (Although as so often seems to be the case when you get a bomb Mythic Rare I have yet to see it). The expensive but Common 7 mana Gloom Sower has done the job for me twice.

I think Core sets are innately less attractive than the other sets because they miss a theme, a story, such as the delightful faerie tale themed Throne of Eldraine and because they reprint a lot of rather dull cards. This is because it's aimed to be more accessible so simpler and/or familiar cards make the game easier for new or casual players. I can see why they do it, I'm just not the target audience for a dumbed down blander offering.

That said it remains a game of deep strategy and I'm very satisfied that I made no error in the game I lost and won games 2 and 3 by making better decisions than my opponents.

Many Magic players, even some reasonably good streamers don't evaluate combat well. They will attack with a good creature into two medium creatures of which they get to kill one. That's not a good decision, it's probably better to be patient. In the last game in particular I was able to use an equipment and good defensive double blocking to whittle down a far superior army of creatures from the other side then turn the game around once I could play my 7 mana big monster.

I'm expecting to be deeply absorbed in Magic Arena for the next couple of weeks as the period just after a launch is very fun for relatively competitive players.

Rabbit season!


Saturday, 13 June 2020

ESO: Daily routine

Elder Scrolls Online rewards a well-organised daily routine which I'm finding quite an enjoyable way to pass time during coronavirus isolation.




1) Daily reward. This is a freebie and since when it hasn't been claimed yet the screen to claim it pops up it's no more work to accept it than to click and close the window. Even in terms of time it's free.

And the rewards are good. For May there's a total of

6 Crown experience scrolls
1 Grand Gold Coast experience scroll
12 Crown refreshing drinks
12 Crown fortifying meals
300 various poisons
60 various potions.
10 Crown mimic stones (allowing you to do 10 master writs without having the motifs)
4 various instant all research (knocking 19 days off if you can use them maximally)
10 Crown repair kit
10 Crown soul gem
20000 gold
Cosmetic item (pet).

These rewards are so good it's worth considering making an extra account or two for c£14 as a one-off payment at which point it does become a minor timesink to log over to the second account and collect free stuff. I decided to make one account and I'll talk more about that in a later blog post.

2) Upgrading mount skills

Quite tedious, you can learn 1 point every 20 hours up to a max of 60. +60% mount speed is pretty important. I guess in a way you get the time back as you play simply by not moving slowly. It takes me about 20 minutes to upgrade 11 characters across 2 accounts if they're all waiting at the stables.

3) Research

Researching traits is essential for a serious crafter and a nice extra on other characters who might need to respec traits at some point.

4) Crafting writs.

Crafting writs pay gold, resources, some deconstructable items, useful trait and improvement materials, treasure maps to more resources, recipes, junk glyphs,  and inspiration (crafting exp).

5) Open mail

6) Restock guild stores. I usually sell across 1-2 guild stores plus my casual guild's store if we have one up. You have to cancel orders that aren't selling and put up different stuff to make sure you hit that guild's minimum sales volume or else they'll kick you. Being kicked doesn't matter much as you can just join another trade guild (or perhaps even the same one). If you're serious about being a goblin then you'll probably focus on materials, highly used potions and foods and highly prized gold or mythic items. The cottage industry nature of ESO's economy doesn't really reward being a goblin as far as I can see so far - there simply aren't enough eyeballs on the items you're selling.

7) Inventory management. This is a major part of the game and sometimes you just have to wade through all the junk you've picked up and dispose of it in the most constructive way possible. It's good to combine this with mail and decon.

8) Deconstruction. As I play I fill up my bank with weapons armour rings and glyphs that will get disenchanted. I often combine this with my morning writs/mail and store management to set me up for a well-otganised day.

9) Daily random dungeons.

Big fat experience bonus for the first random dungeon on each character. This is my main way of levelling alts. Just log in, get their dungeon done, log out.

10) Daily battlegrounds.

These are tedious unless you're really good at pvp. So far as a newbie I've been a drag on any team unlucky enough to get me which means I quite often am on the team that comes third and misses the rewards. It's just not a good experience to get massacred and then miss out on the reward. This one usually falls below the bar for me, I tried them out when I started the game but now I don't do them.

11) Daily pledges. A pledge is a quest for group dungeon content. The rewards give you access to chests which hold part of the game's "monster sets" and give you Undaunted rep which is a pretty useful skill tree on every character.

12) Enlightenment. Bonus experience which accumulates daily but stays for 12 days. This doesn't have to be used daily but you do need to use it up every 12 days to avoid waste.

13) Daily repeatable quests. Not currently on my radar as the storyline quests pay better rewards (ie skill points). The main virtue is in collecting rare motifs by doing a lot of grinding of these quests. Perhaps the best ones to do are the Cyrodil or Imperial City ones as most players don't like pvp.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

MTGA: analysis of the mastery upgrade for Theros Beyond Death

I've written before about the mastery system in Magic Arena. TLDR 4 wins a day will comfortably max out your mastery.

The mastery upgrade costs 2200 gems and at level 100 gives:

1800 gems
4000 gold (worth 600 gems)
1 ranked draft entry (worth 750 gems)
Booster packs: 4 GRN, 4 RNA, 4 M20, 4 WAR, 4 ELD Key: here.
Random cards: 8 mythic, 10 uncommon
A large amount of cosmetic upgrades including the owl pet.

The first 3 items alone clearly return more than the gem value making this well worth it. It's effectively 1150 free gems if you're an active player.

The other benefits are nice to have on top but not benefits I'd pay money for. But unless you're committed to playing for completely free (which is perfectly viable) then this is an essential upgrade for anyone who is willing to spend money on this game.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Absurdly happy in World of Warcraft Classic too.

Right, What's that? Daylight? What day is it?

2 days of playing a lot of Classic WoW has left me firmly echoing Syp's eloquent enthusiastic blog post from yesterday.



One delightful and perhaps surprising aspect is how nice everyone is. World of Warcraft has not always had the reputation for having lovely people playing it but whether it's the delirious contagious happiness or the increased maturity or a sense that community is finite and matters, whatever, people are being really nice.

Half the passing Druids and Priests throw me a buff as they run past. A stranger gave me a free green 2handed Axe. (In a Classic twist, naturally my Tauren warrior couldn't use 2handed axes - I had to spend 30 minutes running to Orgrimmar to vist the Weapon Master).

I've done 2 group runs of Ragefire Chasm. The first was an all guild group and they were very competent and very friendly. It got hairy at times as we had two partial wipes but we managed to come through both with our healer still up. (My Warrior ate dirt for the team as is appropriate).

The second run was a late night affair with people playing at all hours right now. Another very nice effective group that cleared the place with no deaths this time.

Gear feels very exciting, getting new levels is a highlight, running these half-remembered quests is enjoyable.

Perhaps I'm the ideal audience. I both like the gameplay and would play it and enjoy it had I never experienced it before. And I also get very strong nostaligia vibes. I suppose I acquired a mastery 14 years ago that wouldn't have otherwise had any relevance and certainly doesn't carry over into the modern retail game. But in this  I know what I'm donig, I'm full of cunning plans, I'm relishing the ways the game tests me and I'm back with my tribe of people.

"Ah," you may be thinking, "You can't be all that absorbed if you're pausing to write blog posts."

Wrong!

I'm waiting in the log-in queue. Obviously.



Sunday, 25 August 2019

WoW Classic: Information sources

 I'll list a few topics that I think will keep coming back with sources that might help:

What quests are there for each dungeon?

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/classic-dungeons-overview
Wowhead is probably the best resourced WoW fan site and it shows. Articles show a completeness and a professionalism that isn't always there on some of the other fan sites.

The inidivual dungeon guides are in both written and video format making them great to plan efficient runs. Quests have their pre-reqs explained so you can prepare those before starting.

https://classic-wow.fandom.com/wiki/Dungeon
This one is still in its early stages when a lot of the links are incomplete. I imagine it will fill up pretty fast. (You can always register, dear reader, and help them out). Where there is data it's very good and it's Classic specific which matters.

https://wowwiki.fandom.com/wiki/Instances_by_continent
Not Classic specific but most data hasn't changed much. Also a good place to look up quests.


What's Best In Slot?

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/warrior-tank-gear-bis-classic-wow#phases-phase-1

Pre raid gear comes from:

Head: Blacksmith item or Blackrock Depths. Enchant with Libram which need Black Diamonds from BRD.

Neck: BRD. Also Onyxia attunement quest for fire res.

Shoulders: UBRS. Exalted with Argent Dawn for the enchant.

Back: Stratholme. Also UBRS for fire res.

Chest: BRD. Mail item so Hunters and Shamans will expect priority.

Wrists: BRS. BRD for fire res bracers.

Hands: Scholomance. (Note Edgemaster's Handguards best for threat. BoE world drop).

Waist: UBRS

Legs: UBRS/World Drop. Enchant with Libram which need Black Diamonds from BRD.

Boots: Scholomance. Mail item so Hunters and Shamans will expect priority. Also boots in Stratholme for Fire Resistance.

Ring: Maraudon and Scholomance. Also BRS quest/world drop for Fire res.

Trinket: Maraudon and BRD.

Main hand: Scholomance.

Shield: UBRS. Enchant with Blacksmith item Thorium Shield Spike.

Ranged: LBRS. Ranged item so Hunters will expect priority.

Enchants from the Enchanter profession will be covered in a separate blog post.

This list is pretty interesting for our late levelling. Pre-raid end game and even the first few weeks of raiding are about completing this list so that we can be at our optimum. And some of these dungeons start well before level 60.


Also note that many of these picks are controversial and the list may be subject to change.


How do I power level my professions?

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/enchanting-classic-wow-1-300#classic-enchanting-fast-leveling-guide

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/mining-classic-wow-1-300#classic-mining-fast-leveling-guide

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/fishing-classic-wow-1-300#classic-fishing-fast-leveling-guide

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/cooking-classic-wow-1-300#classic-cooking-fast-leveling-guide

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/first-aid-classic-wow-1-300#classic-first-aid-fast-leveling-guide


Warrior class quests

https://classic.wowhead.com/guides/warrior-class-quests-classic-wow

Level 10: Defensive Stance.

Level 20-30: Brutal Armour

Level 30+: Berserker Stance and Whirlwind weapons.







WoW Classic: Preparations

So far my preparations for WoW Classic have consisted of consuming a great amount of youtube content and getting excited.



For everyone thinking about playing this retro treat there are a few common elements we need to process before we dive in.

Decisions - Race, Class, Professions, Goals, Methods

I want to play Horde. I always liked the Orcs from games before WoW even came out and developed a great attachment to the faction back in the first run-through of Classic.

After considerable thought I've decided to play a Warrior. Warrior sucks early on, its solo levelling experience terrible by comparison with any other class. It offers the most in the end though. Raid tanking is epic, warrior dps becomes amazing later on, arms warrior pvp in the days of windfuried Arcanite Reapers and better should be fabulous and it's the class with the best claim on the legendary weapons Sulfuras and Thunderfury as well as a host of great epic weapons. It also scales incredibly and attracts healers like moths.

The downsides can be largely mitigated by levelling by doing dungeons. If I'm in a dungeon I'm getting heals and if we have a mage I can get a stockpile of free food for later on. Being the dominant tank class should make forming groups very easy and I'm reasonably confident of managing the job competently. (I don't think I'd be able to manage the more intricate modern WoW raids as a main tank but I'm confident in Classic).

Knowing the class means there's a clear favourite race: Orc. Orcs get stun reduction which is a secret superpower against the dominant pvp class, Rogue. With rogues being able to pick and choose their targets most of the time they usually won't try anything against an Orc Warrior as both plate and the stun reduction seriously tilt the odds against them. Blood Fury and Axe specialisation are also pretty nice.



My playstyle will be heavily instance based because that's what I loved back in the day. In fact I recently rolled a Zandalari Troll Warrior and that was great in dungeons earlier this year. I think I'm going to have an utter blast in Wailing Caves, Scarlet Monastery, Stratholme and all the other old favourites. As mentioned it also counters some of the in-built drawbacks of Warrior levelling.

Gold is an important goal. I want to become rich not just to enable other things (like mounts) but also because I like the whole wow goblin playstyle. It also fits in with the instance running - I can be browsing the auction house while waiting for my groups to form.

I've found the best way to become rich quick on a new server is to go dual gatherer. Now the very richest people will be crafters who can be first with certain recipes and make a ton of money while they have a monopoly. These will be people who play about 16 hours a day and who are fed by a guild. That's not me, not even close.

So dual gatherer - with a twist. Miner/(Dis)enchanter. Disenchanting is an incredibly powerful gathering profession. Enchanting is a horrible gold sink but disenchanting when you are receiving a flood of bind on pickup blues is extremely lucrative. At some point (probably after epic mount) I'll level enchanting but I'll be fine making minimal progress and selling all my mats at the start. Mining is not bad in dungeons with Dark Iron Ore end game relevant and a bunch of rich Thorium veins at the end of Dire Maul. It also feels more socially acceptable to stop for an actual mine compared to being the tank who stops for herbs. Because a mine is more substantial and people will connect it with a tank's way of gearing up.

Cultivating a friends list is a very important part of playing WoW Classic. Warrior facilitates that because most people are pretty happy to have a tank friend. It also allows me to tune the 5 man team a bit so that I can work around problems like Druids not being able to ress (by for example having a dps Priest or Shaman). It may also let me get more Warlocks in groups as getting a summon is a huge boon. (Not that I intend to be one of those jerks who never runs to help). It also allows me to deselect jerks and slackers as some players are going to be absolutely terrible to run dungeons with. Getting serial wiped by a ninja puller is I suspect to become a big part of many people's pug experience. The friends list even synergises with disenchanting as I can disenchant other people's drops that they'd normally have to vendor.


At end game I'd like to raid Molten Core and all the subsequent raids. By doing dungeons I hope I'll have a decent gear set when I ding 60 and I can farm pre-raid best in slot and fire resistance gear pretty fast. As well as get the mats from my gathering professions for high end Blacksmith crafts.

I won't be an early 60 I don't expect but I hope to get there in the second wave when most guilds are still filling out their raid rosters.

So there's my plan for Classic, can't wait!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Age of Wonders Planetfall: the overpowered sniper strat - a walkthrough for beginner players

Hi, if you've just bought the Age of Wonders Planetfall game this post may help you develop your tactical skills.

This is a look at how to specifically develop a very powerful early game based on the mechanics of ranged combat, particularly the Overwatch feature.

If you've messed around and tried melee units you may have seen how they can get horribly shot up on their way in to where they need to be. This is, sadly, because melee sucks in the early game. Later on when you have heavily fortified teleporting or jetpacking units it might be a different story but this is the melee vs ranged scenario:

You move in. Opponents take overwatch shots against you. You reach the bad guys with about 1 action point left and do one third of what a full round of attacks would do. The opponents shoot you. At this point they may have had 6 attacks to your one.

So it's a no brainer to play ranged, right? Sure but there are two issues - you need to force defending enemies to engage and the overwatch UI is a little unintuitive. Don't worry, here we'll solve the first issue by making a sniper - if they hang out and do nothing you can snipe one shot per turn and that'll wake em up. And I'll explain in pictures how to set up Overwatch.

Start a New Game (Scenario or Campaign, it doesn't matter).

(Optional) change Opponent Level to Very Easy. If it hurts your ego you can always come back later and make a new game on a higher difficulty. Or you could try it on Normal or something and see if these tactics are enough to get you through.



On the next screen choose Customize Commander.

You need a race whose default units are decent ranged troops. So far the best I've seen for this strategy is Vanguard.

As for your Secret Technology I honestly don't know yet which one is best but it doesn't matter too much as our crucial mods are in other tech lines. Voidtech seems to be for enhancing melee so that's probably not a great one. Other than that just pick one you want to try.

Pick Martial Tradition, none, Vanguard Sharpshooter Equipment, none as your perks.




Customize him/her however you like.

Scout with both OWL scout units (leaving you with a 5 stack as your main army).



Build Central Replicator Factory and Vanguard - Trooper at your colony.

Move your army out to clear a nest of bad guys, no more than 3.

Use Manual Combat.

If the enemies rush into range then you can back off a bit and set up an Overwatch trap. Normally they won't be in range in which case we'll move the sniper commander one green square closer then set him on Overwatch.

To set overwatch press the overwatch action key (5 for the guy in the picture) then with the zone highlighted in purple right click. You don't have to do facing first as it automatically adjusts facing.

Right click in the purple hexes to set overwatch



Form your troopers in a gunline and set overwatch. In the example I've actually used a couple of them to clear an annoying obstacle instead of leaving them on overwatch. (Mostly because I don't think these particular enemies will rush into my overwatch zones next turn).

A gunline perpendicular to where the enemies will come at me.
In the example battle the opponents lined up just outside of normal range which is a tactic ranged enemies will often do. This is why the sniper is so valuable. Position the sniper so he is at his maximum range and take a potshot while leaving the other units in a gunline on overwatch.

The serrated white line shows the edge of sniping range.

In the picture it's a pretty low hit chance shot but it doesn't matter. The purpose of this shot is to provoke them and make them come charging out.

Here is the same time in the battle showing my gunline. My PUG has dropped a Blur Cloud on the trooper in front of it.



The bad guys move forward, triggering two troopers who fire overwatch shots into the bike. Look how badly damaged it is. This means our sniper commander can shoot it and because of the perk he chose he'll get another go if he kills it. One of their other units picked a good position at the edge of shooting range and got a couple of shots off, not triggering overwatch. His last unit pointlessly entrenched miles away from the action.

Position at the start of round 3.

Unsurprisingly the sniper kills the bike but sadly he misses his shot on the enemy trooper. I push 3 units down that flank to get enough to kill that trooper without anyone getting in range of the entrenched unit at the back.

I retreat my sniper one hex to take a snipe right on the edge of max range while moving the others to form a gunline back near where I started, putting them all on overwatch. My PUG uses its medkit on a damaged trooper.

He managed to get a good hit on my PUG as I'd stupidly left it facing sideways so it got flanked. Note to self - position better next time. But it's too little too late as I take my snipe then move my troopers up to finish it off.

Victory!




So take your time early on and don't take on battles when your guys are wounded. If you look after them they will level up which gives them more hit points, accuracy and a skill: Improved Overwatch.




I got them all up to their maximum Trooper level in one game without ever loosing a single trooper. It gets a lot easier once they have experience and mods and once you get the stack up to 6 units. At that point I could auto-battle against stacks of 3 npcs and come away with barely a scratch.

It works even better against melee. I did a battle where the melee enemies moved quite badly and basically came in one at a time and they didn't land a single attack, dying to overwatch zones and sniping before they got to my guys.

You will also want to mod them when you can.

I like Nanite Injectors. This gives them a heal which I usually use at the start of combat as not much usually happens in round 1 so it means I can go in injured and be on full health when the action starts (and often still on full health after the battle.)



Ammunition is good, Ammunition - Flechette is fine.



Rail Accelerators gives you an extra range which is very powerful for this strategy as we're usually fighting at max range.



I hope this works out for anyone new and feeling a bit overwhelmed and perhaps some of the grizzled vets might pick up a thing or two.

Good luck and have fun!