Archive | June 2014

Putting the tree back in the jungle

Roughly two and a half years ago, I started playing League of Legends. Having never played a MOBA before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. One thing I did expect was, like with other games I have played before where the different types of characters are divided up into different classes, is that I wanted to play some kind of mage. So after playing only Swain and Veigar, I bought Annie as my first champion. She was cheap, a mage, and even though I only knew about her from reading her ability list, I knew that her ultimate ability summoned a pet, and I loved pet classes.

After buying Annie, I went through the long list of a hundred or so champions and had no idea who to buy next. So I picked Udyr just because I thought he looked cool. My next purchase was Shyvana, because my cousin told me her ultimate ability was to turn into a dragon, and I thought that was cool. Because I bought Udyr and Shyvana, I pretty much necessarily learned to jungle. While hard at first, it’s probably the least challenging role in League of Legends mechanically speaking, and I had a lot of fun playing it.

The first high level League of Legends I ever watched was IEM Kiev, which was won by the team that was then called Moscow Five. Their jungler, Diamondprox, played a lot of Udyr and Shyvana, so he quickly became my favorite. Later on I discovered TSM’s TheOddOne, mostly through streams. While Diamondprox played a lot of heavy counterjungling or carry-style junglers, TheOddOne played more support-style junglers. That included picks like Skarner and Maokai. Maokai became one of my favorites in season 2. However, time was not kind to Maokai, and since season 3 rolled around, he has been a pretty weak pick. In season 4 especially, where damage-based junglers are king, he has been quite weak.

But in Riot’s forecast announcement for patch 4.11, they promised some itemization changes for tanky/support jungles and a host of changes to Maokai himself. The itemization changes have not shown up on the PBE yet, but the Maokai changes have.

First of all, his mana costs have gone down, though not significantly enough not to need help with it. This has always been true for Maokai, but especially after season 3, when AOE clearing was nerfed, he’s been struggling to keep up with clear time and keeping up mana to actually use spells to clear with. When the early version of season 4’s Spirit of the Spectral Wraith was introduced, with a high amount of mana drain against jungle creeps, I was optimistic. But as much as I tried, he always felt behind, even after getting good ganks off and farming decently. The problem was and is that his mana does not regenerate when he is outside of the jungle, so if you use too many spells, you run out pretty quickly. At this point, as long as you itemize at least slightly for mana, I think it should be doable. In my games I did this by buying items like Chalice or Frozen Heart.

The second very significant change is to his W spell, Twisted Advance. The range is a lot shorter, and it was very noticeable. Being used to his old range, at several points I flashed in to W, only to be short and have wasted my flash. In return for that, they lowered the cooldown and made the damage be %health. The damage is a pretty significant buff, especially at the higher levels. It makes rooting a frontliner more worthwhile, so your role is shifted closer to peeling for your carries than it used to be. It’s still not the best for clearing(75 mana per camp is still pretty hefty) but it does provide a good bit of damage and utility.

There were some changes to Q and E, but I won’t go over those. The biggest and most significant change to Maokai is his ultimate. Gluing it to him might not seem like a big buff, but it really is. Since your role is slightly shifted from big tanky initiator to tanky initiator who peels for his carries, having the ultimate stick to you is a great help. A lot of the time when I would ult with Maokai, the enemy could just kite away from the area in question and I wouldn’t be able to move it for a good twenty or so seconds. But with Maokai’s new ultimate, you can move it wherever you want, as long as you can get there yourself. You can use it to initiate onto their front line, but if their front line moves past you to dive your carry, you can follow them backwards and still have the benefit of your ultimate. If you initiate onto their carry, you can still kite back and carry your ultimate with you the entire walk back to your team. The one downside is you can’t walk away from your ultimate before detonating it, so you have to be close to your target when you do. But other than that, it’s almost all upside.

The question still remains: is Maokai good enough? That remains to be seen. I played about six games of Maokai on the PBE so far, and it’s gone both ways. His clear is still somewhat slow and mana-inefficient. He is still somewhat weak early and therefore susceptible to invades. There still isn’t any real efficient itemization option for him in the jungle. In the games that I ended up doing better in, I decided to build as some jungle Nunu players have done in professional games. Spirit Stone into early Sightstone. Chalice of Harmony into Mikael’s. Locket. Even in season 2, when Maokai was popular, he was basically a second support. I remember when Frost came to the US and built basically every aura item, including Soul Shroud. Oftentimes, Nunu still plays that second support role. So maybe that’s the kind of jungler Maokai will end up being. But I think I’ll hold off on any final judgments until Riot releases the next part of the patch, with the new items they promised.

Everything old is new again

So earlier this week, the Summoner’s Rift update went up on the PBE. It’s temporarily down now, due to some bugs causing Baron and Dragon to not counterattack or regenerate their health, but I got a chance to take a look, and it’s pretty nice. Here are a few things you might see on your visit to the new Summoner’s Rift.

Toplane

That’s the new view from toplane. It gives you a sense that you’re fighting atop a cliffside. Certainly an improvement over the generic flatland with trees from the current version of the Rift.

Blue Sentinel/Sentry

This is the new blue buff. Or, as his hover-over text says, it is the Blue Sentinel and his Sentries. I like that there is some thematic consistency with this camp. It’s not lizards hanging out with a golem over some stew. I’m not sure if it has an ingame effect, but he seems to have one attack that has a different animation than the others, where he raises both his hands over his head and brings them down, which creates a kind of blue splash animation. It looks like it would be an area of effect attack, but I don’t actually know if it’s different than his regular attack.

Red Brambleback/Cinderlings

This is the red buff, now known as the Red Brambleback and his two Cinderlings. Personally, they remind me of the Skullkid from Zelda, but I do like his entrance animation. He burrows, arms first, out of the ground and then does a roar animation. His attacks are these wide swings with those huge arms.

Gromp

The big wraith has been replaced by Gromp. Aside from kind of blending into his surroundings by having the same mushrooms grow on his back that do on the stage, he doesn’t seem that impressive. I will say that his attack animation, a tongue attack, looks pretty cool.

Murk Wolf

Replacing your old wolves are the Greater Murk Wolf and his two friends, regular Murk Wolves. You can tell he’s greater because he has two heads! It was at this camp that I first noticed that the monsters turn to face you if you’re within their sight range, even if you haven’t aggro’d them. I like the little touches with the bones on the ground, but I feel like having those bones be on a flat texture like that might take you out of it a little since they just walk on them like they’re flat.

Razorbeaks

The wraiths have been replaced by these little birds. The mean looking one is the Crimson Razorbeak, while the smaller ones are just called Razorbeaks. They are bright and colorful and I think it’s kind of cool that they are in parts of the map that are slightly less dark than where you would find the Murk Wolves or Gromp. The nests in the background are a nice touch. Almost makes you feel bad that you’re going to be killing them every fifty seconds. Almost.

Krug

The double golems, as they were known, have been replaced by the Krug and the Ancient Krug. As far as gameplay-wise, some people had a hard time telling which of the golems was the “big” creep, which gave more gold as well as mana and health back when counterjungling. Well, at least with the Krug and Ancient Krug, it will be harder to make that mistake. Also, I like that before you get close to them, their legs and heads are retracted so they look more like rocks.

Dragon Sleep

And this is the new dragon. At the point I took that picture I was close enough that I had vision of it but I wasn’t close enough that it wanted to fight me. But I fixed that in the next picture.

Dragon

As soon as I got close enough, it spread its wings and let out a roar, letting me know it wanted to fight. Unfortunately, he’s bugged so he can’t fight back, so I didn’t bother him for much longer.

Baron Nashor

And now we come to Baron Nashor himself. He seems to have gained some height since we last saw him. And I heard he gained some new attacks, though for the same reason as Dragon, he did not demonstrate those new attacks.

Overall, I think the new Summoner’s Rift looks pretty great. Normally, I run my game on super low settings, because I play on my laptop which is also not very good. These shots were actually taken with “high” settings for both environment quality and character quality. But I still don’t think these pictures are enough to show what the new Rift is like, so I hope Riot brings it back soon for us to try again.

Truly awful at Vintage Masters

Even though I’m reasonably certain no one is reading these posts, I did want to have something to actually write about. So I had planned on going to a PTQ last weekend. I had decided that two weeks ago. But last Wednesday I heard about an event happening on Magic Online called Vintage Masters. Basically, I had the chance to draft a pseudo-cube of oldish cards, with the added thrill of possibly opening one of the power nine. And keeping it.

So I considered for a little bit. I had two Modern decks already built. Neither was all that good. One was a monogreen Nykthos ultra-ramp deck I made on MODO back when Theros first came out. The other was Gerry Thompson’s Elementals combo deck from a few years back. I had played that one both on MODO and over the years in real life to a pretty great win record. But I knew even with that deck that I wasn’t going to win much. Probably an 0-3 drop tournament report, at best. So I decided to instead play a bunch of Vintage Masters. At the very least I didn’t have to drive for 2 hours to Sacramento.

My first foray into Vintage Masters, I didn’t have any idea what the set looked like. I knew there was a special class of rares saved for the power nine. But outside of that, I had no idea what the set held in store. So for my first pick, I looked through for cards I recognized. To be honest, there wasn’t much I recognized. But I did see a Putrid Imp and an Animate Dead. So then and there, I decided I’d draft some kind of Reanimator strategy. My second pick and I didn’t see much in blue or black, so I picked up a Wild Mongrel. Maybe I’d end up green black. My next pickup was a Circular Logic. My next pickup was the difficult choice between Symbiotic Wurm and Reanimate. So I took Reanimate. For the rest of the first pack, I got some blue cards and some green cards, but no relevant black cards. I also didn’t get the Symbiotic Wurm back like I thought I might. In fact, it seemed like black was being cut.

Pack 2 gave me another Wild Mongrel, a couple of Elephant Guides and mostly blue cards. But somehow pack 3 gave me everything. Deep Analysis, Arrogant Wurm, Basking Rootwalla. Then some questionable cards, but ones that were good in my deck. Aquamoeba and Owl Familiar. Pretty strong stuff. That’s how I accidentally drafted UG madness.ug

My first opponent was playing Storm, but barely put up a fight. There was a point I was attacking for lethal and he tried to Repel my Wild Mongrel with an Elephant Guide on it and I tried to Circular Logic it, but I didn’t understand how Madness worked on MODO so I failed to cast it. But we continued to play it out for a few more turns and he could barely put up any kind of defense.

My second opponent put up more of a fight, but Arrogant Wurm with Elephant Guide is pretty strong. My last round opponent seemed to have all the burn in the world as well as Battle Screeches, which I find to be one of the strongest commons in the format.

So having gone 2-1 in my first Vintage Masters draft, I thought I understood the format a bit. My feeling was that it was a bit cube-like, with fun old cards and interesting draft synergies. So obviously, for my second draft, I drafted UB control, with the option select of trying to draft Storm. I got pretty crushed. My next draft I forced UG madness, but my first round opponent’s BR aggro concoction was much too fast for me. In the spirit of fun, my next draft was Storm. I pretty much forced Storm, which was pretty awkward since despite all my best efforts to draft Storm, I didn’t see a single Storm card until my 3rd pick Mind’s Desire and 4th pick Tendrils, both in pack 3. I thought my deck was pretty strong until my opponent cast Battle Screech twice on turn 4 and then attacked with 4 birds while casting Rites of Initiation for 4 on turn 5. And then after casting Battle Screech twice again on turn 4 the next game, he cast consecutive Empyrial Armors on his birds. Granted, I didn’t have much in the way of defense in that deck, but that was fairly ridiculous.

So after my crippling losses, I thought I’d put away Vintage Masters for good. I was obviously very bad at it. Storm seemed bad and it seemed like the only fun deck to try to draft. But in the wee hours of the evening, the urge came back. If you’ve ever played MODO, you know what I’m talking about. That urge to draft. It starts off small. Just a little annoying, even. Just a little knack. But then the urge grows. And soon enough, you’re down hundreds of tix and you don’t know where it all went wrong.

That brought me to my next draft. I started the draft off deciding that I was going to force Lighting Rift. I drafted more than a few Solar Blasts. A couple of Forgotten Caves and Secluded Steppes. I also ended up with a few Kindles and other burn spells. What I didn’t end up with, however, were any Lighting Rifts. At least not until the 6th pick of pack 3, where I had to take it over a Flametongue. I took that RW deck to a 2-1 finish. My second round opponent complained the entire game about how I was so lucky to draw so much burn. I didn’t want to tell him that probably more than half my deck was burn.

I wanted to put Vintage Masters away, I really did. But like any other junkie, I couldn’t resist the allure of ‘one more game.’ And besides, while I had dried my run of packs out before my last draft, I had gotten some packs from my RW deck. So I decided to draft Storm, and just for fun, I’d do a Swiss draft. I didn’t end up drafting Storm. I got exactly 0 Storm cards in pack 1. Instead, I got a bunch of burn cards and a couple of decent blue cards. Pack 2 gave me some goblins, a Serendib Efreet and a Man-o’-War. I was pretty content with my random smattering of red and blue cards. Right before pack 3 came up, I went to change my music. When I clicked back over to my MODO screen, I nearly misclicked a card to pick it. I was extremely glad I didn’t, however, because my pack revealed a present. Ancestral Recall. Not only had I drafted a power nine card, but it was in my colors and easily playable. It’s almost forgivable to not play an off-color Mox or possibly even a Lotus, depending on the deck. But this was in my colors and could draw me multiple burn spells. And so that’s how I ended up with this deck.

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And unsurprisingly, I did pretty well with the deck. Every game that I cast Ankh on turn 2, I just won pretty easily. The only games I ended up losing were the ones where I drew too much land. The deck was aggressive, had some goblin synergy, had lots of burn and despite those Battle Screech players still putting up a hell of a fight, I still beat them down.

And despite all that, I would still say that I am truly awful at Vintage Masters. It’s really hard to gauge a format like this because it’s so varied. But I think that’s a lot of what makes it a lot of fun. So despite being so bad at it, I think I’m going to keep playing for as long as it’s here, for as long as I can afford it. And thanks to this last draft, that might be a while.

 

Mistakes

Pretty universally, people make mistakes. I’ve made my fair share in the past. Some very recently. It’s easy to think something’s okay and for it not to be. Sometimes, it’s a joke that no one else laughs at. Sometimes, it’s something really dumb that I probably should have known not to do but didn’t realize it until moments after it was done. But I think the worst mistakes are the ones that you never thought were mistakes. For a lot of mistakes, it isn’t until someone else points out that it’s not okay for you-or I should say me-to realize. Today was one of those days.

Unfortunately, I’ve been especially reckless recently. I don’t know what it is about this time of the year, or if it even has anything to do with that, but I haven’t been making a lot of good decisions. It may have to do with my lack of a sounding board. The one person I bounced ideas off of at work quit for a better job recently. My closest friend, whom I had known from high school, just moved away recently. I do have other friends whom I talk to, but I’m afraid of asking them for advice, so I often don’t ask them about problematic matters at all. Left to my own devices, my mistakes are my own and they are growing in number.

But what is one to do about a mistake? Dwell on it? Ruminate about everything that you did wrong? Think about everything that could have gone right if it hadn’t been a mistake? For my part, it’s to learn from it. There’s nothing I can do about a mistake I’ve made in the past now but to apologize and not make the same mistake twice.

So if you’re someone I’ve made a mistake with in the past and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. While I still don’t believe anyone is reading this, the amount of people I’ve wronged with my mistakes over the years is pretty high and if you are one of those people, then I am truly sorry for everything I’ve done that has, for you, been a mistake. I can’t promise that I realize all my mistakes, but the ones I do know about, I won’t do again. And this might be a mistake in itself, but I not only promise that I won’t make the same mistakes again as much as I can help it, I will try and make fewer ones in the future, and less egregious ones when I do make them. Unfortunately for everyone, that’s as much as I can promise.

Convention season

When the Spring starts to turn to Summer, it signals a lot of things. Mostly, my allergies. But also, it gets to be that time when people go to all sorts of conventions. I don’t personally have a lot of experience with conventions, only now having been to two. But, I do enjoy convention season for one main reason, and it’s new pictures of people’s cosplay.

For those of you who may not know, cosplay is when people dress up in costumes of their favorite characters, most commonly from comic books, video games and anime. But cosplay’s pretty all-inclusive these days. They can be impressive, imaginative and downright beautiful. Even without going to many conventions myself, I get to see these cool costumes because people who go to the conventions often take pictures and post them up online.

My own experience with conventions is somewhat limited. I tried to get into this year’s San Diego Comic Con, but was unable to get a ticket. Besides that, I’ve been to one convention several times and another convention only once.

Fanime is, according to the internet, the fifth largest anime convention in the US. It is also apparently the only one of those left that is completely fan-run and fan-funded, meaning without any major sponsors. I’ve been to it many times now. The first time I went, I didn’t know anything about it, but a friend of mine asked me if I was going. I hadn’t seen this friend in some time, and he told me that other friends of mine who I hadn’t seen in some time as well were also going. If only to see them again, I decided to go that year. I went, with very little in the way of expectations, had a decently good time, mostly watching the cosplayers but also seeing my friends. The next year, I decided to go again, but only one of my friends came that year. I was less enthused about it, but enjoyed it somewhat. I decided to skip Fanime for the next couple of years, deciding that I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I thought I did. The things to do there were… limited. There wasn’t really anything that I was particularly looking forward to there. But when another friend of mine, whom I still hung out with on a semi-regular basis, decided that I should take him, I went again. And he has since basically dragged me back to Fanime each year. I enjoy it, to some degree. I like to see the cosplayers and getting to see some old friends I don’t often see is a welcome scenario. But to this day, I still haven’t really found my niche in Fanime.

I should maybe explain why it was so hard for me to like Fanime, especially this year. I had just gotten through two weeks of some of the hardest work I had to do at my job. Excruciating, teeth-pulling work. But the Friday at the end of that week, I went to a Lindsey Stirling concert(with the opener being Dia Frampton’s new band Archis) and had an absolute blast. Then, the following day, I went to Big Wow. Now, I had considered going to Big Wow last year. But to be honest, outside of a few cover artists and some writers, I didn’t know that much about the people who made comics. I know a few big names, but when I would read the guest lists, I had to actively go check to see if I had read anything they made. But this year’s Big Wow was a little different. They had invited a suite of cosplayers that I had actually heard of as guests.

It might be shallow to admit, but I’m still assuming no one’s reading, so I’ll admit it right here: I went because of the cosplayers. Jessica Nigri was obviously the big draw. The line at her booth was impressively long throughout Saturday. There was also Riddle, Monika Lee and Scruffy Rebel, some of the cast of the first season of Heroes of Cosplay. Holly Conrad was there, but she didn’t have a booth, so I only saw her at the Heroes panel and as a judge of the costume contest. Her other half, Jessica Merizan couldn’t make it, as well as Chloe Dykstra, who was also on Heroes. I got to see them in person, took pictures of and with some of them, and even got to have an extremely brief, 30-second conversation with Nigri. That, to me, was pretty cool.

The other reason why I enjoyed Big Wow much more than Fanime was just the general atmosphere. They used the same space for the Dealer’s Hall at Fanime that they used for pretty much all of Big Wow, but the difference in space and the amount of people there was amazing. I was actually able to talk to the people manning their booths, able to ask them questions about their products and was able to peruse in peace. At Fanime, the crowds were so overwhelming they had volunteers yelling at people to clear the walkways pretty much constantly. That’s not exactly the kind of atmosphere I find welcoming. Through all the years I have been going to Fanime, between the Dealer’s Hall and the Artist’s alley, I’ve definitely spent less than $100 in them. I think I’ve spent more on parking alone. At Big Wow, without intending to, I spent close to $200 in a single day. I was more interested in what the people there had to say about their comics and art than I ever did at Fanime.

But that’s not to say I got nothing out of Fanime. Like I said, first and foremost, it’s a way for me to hang with friends. Some that I don’t get the opportunity to see very often. But also, I like to keep a tally of the cool, positive experiences I have. Take last year as an example: despite having to wait in a 5-hour line for registration, I actually met a very nice couple. We bonded over similar interests and in complaining about the 5-hour registration line. This year, however, I counted fewer. I got to meet Christine Sprankle, a cosplayer who is pretty well-known in the Magic community, mainly for cosplaying Elspeth. I got to take a picture with her and hang out with her a bit. That was fun. But the thing is, after that, my next best memory is of my Saturday morning sandwich. Don’t ¬†get me wrong, it was a great sandwich. Andouille sausage with a hash brown on top and sauteed onions and red pepper, a little fig jam, with a little parmesan grated on top for a salty finish. I actually made a few really great sandwiches for Fanime. But when one of my best memories of a convention is the sandwich I ate, what does that really tell you about it?

This has been a pretty long post already, and probably a bit ramble-y, so I’m going to cut it short. I feel like even though I’ve had sort of a mediocre experience with Fanime, my incredible experience with Big Wow is more telling about what I like about conventions. Discovering new stories in the form of comics I had never heard of. Seeing cosplayers, especially ones I’ve actually heard of before. That’s what I like about conventions. I haven’t had the most positive experience with Fanime, but that’s no reason to judge any other conventions by its standards. Next year, San Diego Comic Con.

FIRST!

This, as is customary, is an introduction. My first post of my first blog. I am a bit old to be starting a blog, but I’ve decided that it is time for me to do so. I don’t imagine anyone will read this, so I’m going to post basically whatever I want here. Primarily, as the “tagline” suggests, it will be about games. My hobbies mean a lot to me, the main ones being League of Legends and Magic: the Gathering.

As this is an introduction to a blog that I will primarily dedicate to my three main hobbies, I feel as though I should at least mention my other hobbies. As anyone else, I do have a great interest in other media aside from games. I watch as much television as my time allows, though none of it on an actual television. I have a passing interest in movies as well, though I don’t watch as many as I would probably like to. I guess it’s mostly because I enjoy stories. Stories of all kinds. It doesn’t matter if it’s in writing, told verbally or if I’m watching it unfold with my own two eyes. I love stories. I also enjoy food. I like to cook, and although I don’t get the chance to do it as often as I’d like, I do it as much as I can. New food is like a story in itself. So is every meal you’ve made a hundred times.

But that’s enough out of me for one blog post. This is just the first. There will be time to tell more stories yet to come. So for now, goodbye. And I truly hope that your life is filled with stories. Mine is.