Sunday, 30 June 2013

Playing Magic (Standard)

It has been a fair while since I last played Standard (I play less Magic in general now I have Kaleb to look after, and when I do it is usually draft/pre-release sealed), but I made the effort to go and play at the St Albans comic shop at their Friday Night Magic event.

Even though I haven't played Standard in a while, I still had a deck in construction, mostly made up of cards from draft decks. Part of me thinks I enjoy deck building compared to playing more than usual (which would explain why I like draft), so I didn't have to rush to get something ready to play (although I did make a last minute adjustment while getting ready to go). 

There were two tournaments ongoing on the night; one with prizes, and one without (it was free). The one with prizes would be more competitive, so I opted for the free one (like I said, haven't played Standard in a while, and certainly not the current standard environment). 

The deck I put together was originally based around Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, but evolved while I was tinkering with it. The main premise is playing out creatures that have dual use (bloodrush or scavenge), which act similar to spells, but don't trigger Ruric Thar's ability. Here is is:

Two drops
4 Zhur-Taa Druid: No one drops in the deck, and I start ramping on turn two. Not as fast as some other decks, but my curve gets better at 4 anyway, so I'd rather play a 4 drop on turn 3 than a 3 drop on turn 2. I did have the one drop elf that untapped lands for a while, but added things like Rootbound Crag, so I might not always have a forest to untap. I think if Llanowar Elves or similar was legal, I would consider playing one of those instead. 

2 Scorned Villager: Put in when I took out the one drop elves. I tried a couple of other mana generators, but liked this one the best. 

4 Lotleth Troll: Doesn't work as well with bloodthirst, but alight with scavenge. I mainly added it in for the regeneration more than anything else. 

4 Mayor of Avabruck: This was the last minute change I did. I realised that, while I wasn't anywhere near Human or Werewolf tribal, I had just enough humans to make it useful. Plus getting a couple of tokens would help. 

Three Drops
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped: I really liked this one, but only have the one. Would add a couple more if I get my hands on them. Good to use with bloodrush creatures, and lowers the actual scavenge cost of some of the creatures that normally have it. Also regenerates which is nice (I think I was worried about Day of Judgement style effects)

4 Dreg Mangler: Quite handy to have a couple of things with haste really. Efficiently costed too, plus the scavenge is a decent amount. 

1 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker: Can get a couple of creatures in the deck, plus a couple in the sideboard. Might have played more, but I only have the one. Still undecided on this, it did let me get a useful creature the one game I did play it, but that creature was not needed to win in the end. 

Four Drops
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager: Would play another one of these if I had it. Saved some of my creatures a couple of times, big on its own, and a nice scavenge target. 

3 Deadbridge Goliath: While I only have 3, I'm not sure whether 3 or 4 is the right amount. I think I would like to try the deck with 4 as it is a big creature and always welcome. While I didn't get to do it, Varolz lowers its scavenge cost, which is nice.

2 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch: I started the deck with more Unleash creatures, but took them out in the end. Haste is nice, first strike is good, if I can play a creature and scavenge something onto it in the same turn it randomly also gets haste. A human so gets pumped by the mayor. 

Five Drops
1 Wolfir Silverheart: Only played it the once, but was good when I did. I have a second one now so will put it in (whether I play standard again before rotation I don't know, but if I do I have a second). 

1 Vorapede: Seems good, anti-combo with scavenge the first time it is played, but when it comes back with a counter from undying, Exava can give it haste. This was just a card I threw in as it seemed big and fairly resilient. 

1 Bloodgift Demon: This was a last minute addition to allow be to gain a little bit of card advantage later on. Never drew it, so I don't know how well it works in the deck. 

1 Wrecking Ogre: I don't think this is rated highly for constructed, but I like it. Did have two in at one point but took one out, might see if it will squeeze back in. 

Six Drops
2 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed: I had three (possibly four) in the deck at once. Took some out to lower the top end of the curve slightly. Nice creature to play, works well with scavenge (and bloodrush too), puts a bit of hurt on control decks (and none in this deck as it is all creatures and lands)

1 Sire of Insanity: Really helped me come back from a bad board state one game. I lost that game in the end, but this made it a close game, as opposed to me being trampled over. 

I basically played the on colour lands I had access too: 
4 Stomping Ground
4 Rootbound Crag
3 Overgrown Tomb
2 Woodland Cemetery
3 Blood Crypt
2 Kessig Wolf Run: Another way to use mana in a spell-like way, without actually casting a spell
3 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Swamp

The sideboard was me just guessing as to what the meta game would be. I had read about control decks and re-animator decks, so had a few aimed at those, but also some generally useful cards:
1 Predator Ooze: A bit harder to cast in a three colour deck, I had Supreme Verdict and Putrify in mind with this

1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord: The double black is a bit tough here. Some good reuse, which is nice, and pumps with bloodrush. Anti-synergy with scavenge (and Varolz). This might be useful against decks that also run a lot of creatures, as I can win without having to attack. 

2 Crypt Creeper: Might be useful against Snapcaster Mage, but mainly there in case of reanimator

1 Ash Zealot: There for Snapcaster Mage, plus first strike is always handy, nice if this can get counters. 

1 Skylasher: I would put 4 of these in the sideboard if I had them. Maybe I just dislike blue...

4 Acidic Slime: When I was putting a sideboard together, that deck that won with Mazes End kept on appearing online, which is my main reason for wanting this. Hits a lot of other permanents as well, which is always good. 

1 Glaring Spotlight: The creatures losing hexproof isn't as useful as I have no spells to target anyway, but making my team unblockable is always nice. 

1 Creeping Renaissance: One of the few non-creatures. If everything else I have is a creature, this could restock my hand very well in long games. 

3 Pithing Needle: Really like this card. I remember a deck that used this and Goblin Guide together

There were three rounds in the free pod, as it was the smaller one. I was not doing great in the first game, after a bit of a slow start. My opponent had some largeish creatures, and some I couldn't block. I was one turn away from losing to something I couldn't block, but had a lot on the board. My opponent played two spells which flipped back the Mayor to its human side on my turn, which pumped a couple of my creatures. That and an Exava pushed the damage up to a big swing which won the game. I had a more aggressive start to help win the second game. 

In the second round, I lost the first match, but stabilized (just not enough) with Sire of Insanity (they topdecked a Huntmaster of the Fells which helped them a lot). I boarded in a couple of cards as my opponent was playing Snapcaster and counterspells, and won the next two games. 

In the final round, my opponent had an interesting spell based deck, I won the first game with some larger creatures (but was on 1 life when I won, so a close game). In the second game, I got out a lot of big creatures quickly and there wasn't much my opponent could do about it. 

Even though it was the free pod and there were no prizes, I got some promo cards for winning, and one of the leftover badges from the Dragons Maze prerelease (which is nice, as I wanted a Gruul one but didn't have one yet). 

Modifying the deck
I'm not sure where to start modifying the deck. In theory I should take out all the Innistrad cards as they'll rotate out soon, to see how well it will do in Theros standard. That being said, I did get a Wolfir Silverheart and Huntmaster of the Fells for trade, so might pop them in while they're still legal. I now also have one Dryad Militant, so might look out to get some more. I prefer this one over Rakdos Cackler, even though the Cackler might have a bit more toughness if unleashed, and can be cast by both halves of the hybrid cost in this deck, I get an extra counter if I scavenge the Dryad with Varolz. Plus, I don't care about the cards it exiles as I don't have any in the deck. The sideboard could also do with a bit of work, I want more Skylashers, but that's just me. I don't really have a sideboard plan (i.e. what to take out against certain matchups, which I know you're supposed to), so the sideboard is less of a priority; its more just some cards that might be good in certain cases. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Android App: Holiday Checklist

As part of my preparation for my recent holiday, I wanted to be able to keep track of everything we were taking away with us so I could be sure we brought back when we returned. The design I had in mind was a very simple check list with two checks - one for when something was packed and one for when we brought it back. 

I did the initial implementation and sent it to my brother who was also coming on the trip. He suggested a few modifications which I tinkered with while on holiday as I had my netbook with me. 

As I was developing on a small netbook, I could only get a small device running as an emulator, which is why I aimed it at a smaller API level. It also has the bonus of being available for older devices (my phone is quite old as it is). 

When I got back from the trip, I finished off a couple of improvements and put it up on the Play store for free:

As I said, it is a very basic design, but it does what it needs to do. 

Now I just need to have another trip away...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Henley Holiday 2013

We got back from our holiday in Henley on Thames yesterday. Kaleb has had quite a week, as he had a sleep in and a very long nap today. It was the first holiday we have had with Kaleb, and two years since me and Liz last went to Henley.

As I knew we had a lot to bring along with Kaleb, I wanted to make sure we had everything we needed, so quickly threw together an app for my tablet to keep track of everything we wanted to take with us, whether we had packed it, and whether we brought it back with us when we returned. I tinkered with it while we were on holiday as I had my netbook with me, and might put it on the Google play store at some point.

The plan was that I would go to dad's club as usual and be picked up from there, with Liz and my Dad putting everything in the car, but we were running late so I helped pack things into the car before heading off and getting a pub lunch on the way.

Not as late as my cousin and brother, however, who took the same wrong turning as last time...

We did a wander around the local supermarket after getting there and unpacking a bit, Kaleb was asleep so he went around in his car seat. We got a BBQ and fire pit as the concrete ones had been removed, and our plans for Sunday needed a BBQ.

Preparation for the Sunday BBQ included constructing the BBQ, putting up the gazebo, and clearing some of the garden of goose droppings so Kaleb could crawl around the grass a bit. My dad stayed for most of the day, but went home that evening for work that week.

We slept in for most of the morning on Monday and Tuesday, having a big breakfast each day, but it did mean we didn't do much until after midday, having a wander around Henley each day. We did discover that it was a bit chilly in the mornings, but as we only had pyjamas for Kaleb and not a sleep suit, we fashioned our own by tucking socks into his pyjama legs, which seemed to work well.

Another BBQ was planned for Wednesday, which was a lovely sunny day. We got Kaleb's paddling pool inflated for him, and after the initial confused look wondering why he was suddenly wet, he had fun splashing around in it.

On Thursday, me and Liz went to Reading for the day, to look around some of the shops there. At the last craft fair we went to, we found out about another one in Henley while we were visiting, so went to that on the Friday, after which we started to tidy up the house so we had less to do the morning we were leaving.

After a final evening fire, with marshmallows, we went to bed quite late, so it was a good thing we didn't have too much to do the next morning.

We all had a lot of fun that week, I think Wednesday was my favorite day. Kaleb seems to have enjoyed himself as he had a big sleep the night after we got home, and a very long nap this afternoon.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Modern Masters Draft

As rare as it is, I was lucky enough to get to draft the Modern Masters set. By the time I got to St Albans to meet up with Liz to take over from looking after Kaleb, I had just about finished listening to the Limited Resources podcast on Modern Masters. 

Looking over the set once spoiled, I liked the look of the BG graveyard archetype, so would keep an eye out for it. 

I started off with a Cryptic Command, but then got a Murderous Redcap second, followed by a couple of red removal spells, and then some decent black removal spells. I was also able to pick up a Worm Harvest, so kept the graveyard deck in the back of my mind. I finished off the pack with a couple of leftover green cards. The second pack started with a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, soon followed by another Murderous Redcap. I picked up some good Green cards and some more black cards, before finishing off the draft with the third pack for more of the same. 

I had the minimum necessary to get some good graveyard interaction (Worm Harvest, Stinkweed Imp, Moldervine Cloak, Dakmor Salvage), which was nice as a side interaction, but my deck was mostly value and removal. 

Two Drops
2 Mogg War Marshal
Sudden Shock
Warren Weirding

Three Drops
Stinkweed Imp
2 Eternal Witness
2 Rift Bolt
Moldervine Cloak
Citanul Woodreaders
Drag Down
Kodama's Reach

Four Drops
2 Murderous Redcap

Five Drops
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Worm Harvest
Warren Pilferers

Six Drops
Pardic Dragon
2 Death Rattle
Sylvan Bounty

Land included Vivid Marsh and Dakmor Salvage, with about 6 of each land type needed (Swamp, Mountain, Forest). 

First match (against Islands)
I drew the first match, just winning the second game before time was called. My opponent got Vedalken Shackles out both games, playing mono-blue artifacts... Not too much I can do in general, which is why I lost the first game, but was able to get enough damage early on, followed by just lots of small creatures so the one they stole didn't matter. 

Second Match (with tokens)
In the second match, I lost the first game but won the second one quite quickly. I did quite well in the third game, using Kiki-Jiki to make tokens of Murderous Redcap a couple of times  before finishing the game with some Pardic Dragon tokens. 

Third Match (value)
In the final match, my opponent was playing Red/Black Goblins, and we both got out a lot of tokens, before I eventually wore down his side to win. 

I gained quite a bit of card advantage. This was my start:
Turn 2: Mogg War Marshal (including token)
Turn 3: Don't pay echo cost (get another token), cast Kodama's Reach
Turn 4: Warren Pilferers, returning Mogg War Marshal (attacking with haste)

A couple of turns later, having killed the Mogg War Marshal again and the Warren Pilferers, I cast Eternal Witness to get back the Warren Pilferers, which I used the next turn to get back the Mogg War Marshal again. 

In the second game, he got out two Mad Auntie's early followed by a couple of goblins and I couldn't get enough of a defence up so lost. 

The final game went to the final turns, and my opponent killed all my remaining creatures when I had the on 2 life. Stuck on 4 mana with a couple of cards I couldn't cast in hand, I lucked into drawing a second Forest that I needed to cast Eternal Witness... returning a Murderous Redcap, which I could play next turn (turn 4 of final turns) to do the final 2 damage. 

All in all, it was a fun format. It would be nice to be able to draft it again, I may be able to get one more chance, but I doubt I'll get many, so am happy to have had the opportunity at least the once. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


It's amazing to think that it's been one year since Kaleb was born already. We had a little family BBQ to celebrate.

Liz's family arrived early and we had a little bout of opening presents, as to not overwhelm Kaleb at once. My dad and brother arrived with the BBQ to set to while I was pushing Kaleb around in the trike we got him.

Around lunchtime once everyone had arrived I started making a mango curry, mainly for Kaleb as he couldn't really have much of the BBQ food, plus I had some too as I don't make it very often. I did make sure I had some of the BBQ ribs when they were done however, before my cousin ate them all ;-)

Into the afternoon, my brother spent some time trying to inflate the bouncy castle my dad got for Kaleb. As he can't even stand yet, let alone bounce, Kaleb crawled around on it a bit while some of us bounced the ground near him.

Liz had made a lovely cake for Kaleb, a nice bear shaped one, so we sung happy birthday to him with it. The candle was relit so everyone could then sing to me, and relit again for my mum.

It was a very pleasant day, the weather was nice - it was a great way to celebrate a year of being with Kaleb.

A very fun year, I have to say. It's great having little Kaleb around, watching him grow and develop and become not-so-little. He had such a zest for life and is seemingly always happy, which I think is a great mindset, and hope he continues as he is.


It was my birthday the weekend before last. I've gotten somewhat less interested in it in recent years, however as Kaleb's birthday is two days after, I have been rather distracted with that and it sort of crept up on me.

We had a little bit of a sleep in, by our current standards with Kaleb around anyway (some nights he'll sleep in quite late, others he'll be up early). We then sorted out getting ready to go out and eventually was on the train to st Albans.

We wandered around some shops and visited Liz's workmates before getting ready to get a lift from my mum to Watford. I got a milkshake for Liz and myself while we were waiting as it was a lovely, sunny day.

In Watford, we visited my grandparents as my cousin was also visiting and she was on business for Kaleb's birthday so we met up in advance instead. Kaleb had fun crawling around the living room before we went out to eat with my mum (it being her birthday too).

While waiting for our order, we caught up a little on the salad bar as it was a slightly later than usual lunch. We ordered various ice creams for dessert that were a little bigger than anticipated, but nice nonetheless.

One of the benefits of going out to lunch with my mum on my birthday is that, as it is her birthday too, we both avoid telling the waiter as neither of us want the candles and singing.

Of all the exciting things to do on a birthday, we ended going to Costco instead, which we mainly used to get ready for Kaleb's birthday BBQ, and the fair Liz was preparing for the following weekend.

On the way back we grabbed something to eat quickly from a nearly empty Tesco, ready to sort the house out the next day for Kaleb's birthday...