19 May 2017

Upon manabases

Hello y'all, I normally don't write about Magic: the Gathering on Axes and Orcs. I apologize for this brief interruption.

It's been roughly a week since ProTour Amonkhet, and I'd like to take a moment to do a bit on something that is extremely important to playing MTG, your manabase. I am focusing on the various Aetherworks Marvel lists, although this also applies to any list running any form of basic land fetching.

The other day I was watching Paul Cheon (HAUMPH) streaming. He decided to stream Temur Marvel as it was one of the best represented lists at the PT. Instead of copying any of the lists, he was cherry picking from the various highly placed lists. Why is this problem? It isn't. Paul is a pro, unlike me. However, I noticed that he was mismatching the manabase he was building with the other cards he was including. It is my personal rule of thumb that when you are running spells that fetch basic lands you include one basic for each mana symbol in the casting cost for you spells. This means if you have RR in a single card, you have at least two basic mountains. The only deviation is basic forests, as almost all the basic land fetching spells are green, you want a higher chance of drawing green sources so you can fix your mana.

But why should someone listen to me, a non-pro? You don't have to listen to me, but you might want to pay attention to the pros who took Marvel to the PT.

First, let's compare Yuuya Watanabe's and Martin Müller's lists.

Watanabe has a single mountain and none of his spells require RR.

Müller has two mountains and has Chandra, Flamecaller and Sweltering Suns, both of which require RR. But does it matter that he has four Chandra and two Sweltering Suns? Let's look at other PT lists.

Eric Froehlich has a single mountain, no RR in his maindeck, but he does has a single Chandra, Flamecaller in his sideboard. I don't agree with that, even though it's one card if only because the opportunity cost of cutting one of the duals for a mountain is relatively slim, but it is only a single sideboard card unlike Müller's four maindeck and two sideboard cards.

But let's look at something completely different, Jiachen Tao's Four Color Marvel list.

It has WW and UU and has one island and two plains. Interesting, yes? He obviously wants to be able to cast Fumigate, but is willing to wait a while to cast Memory since it's a late game card that doesn't clog up your hand, merely resting in your graveyard.

Huey Jensen's Sultai Marvel list is spicy.

He has not only BB but BBB cards in his 75, and look he's running three swamps, even though he has two Evolving Wilds, four Blooming Marsh, and four Aether Hub, clearly he, and Reid Duke who also had Demon of Dark Schemes maindeck, felt that having three basic swamps was important. Brennen Decandio and Julian To were also running Sultai Marvel, but only had a single Demon of Dark Schemes in their sideboards, and only two swamps.

If you look at the rest of the Aetherworks Marvel decks from Protour Amonkhet, there seems to be a consensus that if you are running double color in a casting cost you have two basics, unless it's a small number in the sideboard or a card that doesn't need to be cast on curve.

I encourage you to check out MTG Goldfish, which is where I made my screen captures of the decklists to check out the lists for yourself, and don't cherry pick good cards from similar lists without double-checking your manabase.

06 March 2017

How does Spelljammer and Grubbian Physics interface with Eberronian Elemental Airships?

            A quick run-down for those unaware of the general details. Grubbian Physics are those physical laws that inform the Spelljammer setting. They include the concept of a gravity plane, a plane through the center of mass of a sufficiently large object which is down for either side of it, and air envelopes, a volume of air that any object in the Wildspace. There is Wildspace which is the temperate vacuum of space contained within a Crystal Sphere, and the Phlogiston, a warm multicolored space of combustible something that Crystal Sphere are suspended in also called the Flow.

            An Eberronian Elemental Airship is made of soarwood, which is really light wood, and is powered by either a huge fire or air elemental in the form of a torus around the airship. Despite the description of the airships including both, I have only seen depictions of the flaming torus of a fire elemental; therefore, I will assume that for some reason fire elementals are the default. This also makes a few other considerations easier to think about, air envelopes and the Flow.

            The two most important factors regarding the interface of Elemental Airships and Grubbian Physics are the air envelope and the combustible nature of the Phlogiston. The air envelope contains a finite amount of air, and will go stale or foul. The rate at which this happens depends on the size of the envelope, which depends on the size of the body, and the number of creatures consuming air within it. There are also considerations for large fires and other effects. As the bound elemental is bound in the form of a torus encircling the airship while active, I decided to not use the rules for fire and smoke fouling the air, which also simplifies things.

            Elementals require sustenance. Something not apparent while being used to power airships within the skies of Ebberon as they draw their sustenance from their surroundings. Air elementals need air, moving air, or they will slowly die like a mortal suffocating or dehydrating. The air within the air envelope of a spelljamming ship is not enough to sustain an elemental indefinitely.  This applies in a similar manner to the more common fire elemental. While fire elementals actually derive sustenance from the sun, which is still shining in Wildspace, they are fire and as such consume air. Consider either elemental to consume the air of five regular crew, and the elemental should be considered part of the ship's crew for purposes figuring the maneuverability of the ship. 

            As the Flow is combustible, highly, any kind of fire makes a fireball three times as intense. This represents a very real problem with using a fire elemental to power a ship through the Flow. Airships use huge (16 HD) or greater elementals. Piloting a ship with an active fire elemental will result in a 48 die explosion with no save by the elemental or the ship. Whether this is 48d8 (or whatever hit die you use for elementals), 48d6 (like a fireball), or three times the max hit points of the particular elemental (similar to how AD&D dragons calculate breath weapon damage) is up to you as the GM. This explosion will likely kill the elemental, possibly removing all motive power. 

            I recommend that instead of using the 3e/3.5 deck plans for an Eberronian Airship, that either the 4e or the galleon deck plans from Spelljammer be used. This is on account of the description of how large and how much cargo space is written having little bearing the monstrously huge airship plans in 3.5. An airship is described as having less cargo space than a comparable water vessel, such as a galleon or the elemental galleon. If using the deck plans of a SJ galleon omit the traditional rigging.  As an elemental airship is built of soarwood, which is as tough as normal wood but lighter I recommend it be treated as light wood for purposes of saving throws.

            There is an interesting possible interaction with a spelljamming helm and the elemental powering the airship. Ordinarily, I would rule that the elemental is essentially an exotic helm, like a furnace helm, and as such would not be able to function while another helm is being used and vice versa. I decided that the sight of an airship ringed in fire flying through Wildspace is just too cool to not allow. This also means that I can decide that while it might be possible to get to Wildspace with an elemental airship sans helm, it would not be capable of Spelljamming speeds, instead being restricted to tactical speed with an Spelljamming Rating (SR) of 1.The base Maneuverability Class (MC) of an elemental airship is D or poor, which of course only matter when the elemental is active and it is flying. Adding a helm, any helm, improves the MC to C or average, but only while both are active. This is for the most current generation of elemental airships, which are designed for flight within the sky of a planet and not Wildspace, reflecting its overall better MC when compared to a galleon or other groundling vessels fitted with a helm.
Plot Hooks

            The PCs are hired on as crew for an expedition to the stars. Variations on this are: this is first mission of its kind, this is not the first mission but the PCs and indeed the whole crew do not know this and none of the previous expeditions have come back, or this is a expedition to look for the previous missing expeditions with no idea of why they are missing.

            The PCs stumble upon a wrecked spelljamming ship, one of the sort clearly that is clearly a sailing vessel, while also not being one for sailing the seas or of conventional airship design.

Further Reading

Spelljammer Beyond the Moons: for essays and deckplans, covers 2e and 3.x versions
Wildspace: The Spelljamer Fanzine: essays, book reviews, and inspirational art

27 February 2017

Monday Morning Non-Post

Saturday my wife ran Pathfinder. It had been scheduled for last Saturday. It was scheduled for 12pm, got pushed to 1pm, but the people who were playing didn't show up until 6:30pm. Neither of the two hosts were playing in the game. My wife being focused on helping the completely new to RPGs roll up her character didn't hear the several really shit-tier rape-rapier jokes. Then there was the "I'm going to rape your family" comment directed at a fleeing a goblin. Half the people involved in this shit-fest weren't even playing in the game.

On top of that, I had to endure alpha-nerding from the male half of the hosts. It's like cool that you have all these really old RPG games like Champions. And no I'm not going to Emerald City Comic Con. And no I'm not interested in helping you run pre-2000 games at ECCC. And the fuck do I have to deal with a dude that thinks I'm so young I didn't watch the original TMNT cartoon when it was running.

Anyways, I won't be gaming with this shitfest again. My wife is planning on giving them one more shot. Unfortunately, the other half of the hosts is her friend/coworker.

This is why I'm writing this instead of something cool about Knights & Kaiju or even Magic. I was exhausted by a day of bullshit.

23 February 2017

MTG and DnD speculations

Speculation time.

Shadows over Innistrad was released relatively close to the release of Curse of Strad. By the time Eldritch Moon comes out the second Plane Shift free supplement comes out with barely enough information to run DnD on Innistrad.

Kaladesh comes out around the time Maze Arcana starts. Maze Arcana is an ongoing WotC sponsored twitch/YouTube DnD series set on the world of Eberron using 5e rules. Both Kaladesh and Eberron have similar magic as technology themes.
I'm speculating that sometime during the release period there will some similar DnD thing that is Egyptian out.
Further speculation.

Based on the confirmed booster packaging from a leaked image of "possible" future sets, the set following Amonkhet, Atlazan which appears to be Mesoamerican AND merfolk themed, and on something I saw Chris Perkins talking about re: Maztica, leads me to believe that the following block will be Mesoamerican themed in part and that WotC will be doing SOMETHING involving Maztica by the end of this year.

20 February 2017

Facts about England and Britain in Knights & Kaiju

Britain's native forests are a combination of the Toxic Forest from Nausicaä and WoW's Zangarmarsh. Countless acres of hundred meter tall mushrooms with increasingly dense toxic under and overgrowth.

The native flora and fauna have high concentrations of metallic and semimetallic compounds. This leads to megafauna having semi-mechanical appearances; fur look like iridescent wires sprouting from hide, scales and shells vary from solid metallic hues to the iridescence we know from insects. Within the muscles of the megafauna are filaments of organometallic polymers that in the largest of kaiju form cables as thick as a man's arm. Within the cultivars of mushrooms with suitable mecha muscle fibers, there are similar filaments of polymers only with less metallic compounds.

Castles are large spherical or ovoid structures usually encircled by walls and fences. The oldest castles are made of metal. Troubadours sing ballads in which the castles are the ships the first king of England, Felix Brutus, sailed from ancient Troy, by way of Rome, after its fall.

All large mechanicals are owned by the lord of the local area. As a rule, every mecha is a weapon of war and fit for only the use of knights and their retinues. In practical terms, some mecha aren't suitable for war or leisure by knights. Those wholly unsuitable, which means for whatever reason incapable of hard-mounting or carrying arms, are used by the peasantry for those tasks that require the a small giant to do.

Following such unknightly mecha are those that could be used for war but incapable of bearing heavy enough armor yet still possessing other knightly attributes; these are known as palfreys and are considered suitable conveyances of ladies while on the hunt and other sport.

Next is the much larger class of knightly riding mecha which contains two sub-classes, the rouncy, the lower end of mecha a knight would take into battle, and the courser, a sturdier and faster class. Neither of which would be the first choice of any but a poor knight to take into battle, these are used mainly for sport or by squires to support their lord.

The penultimate knightly mecha are the charger class. These are purpose built and the purportedly to be the closest to how they were when Felix Brutus came to England; although, troubadours sing of larger and more powerful mecha, and many a knight has gone off into the Wastelands and Forests in search of a legendary mecha to bring home. The sumpter class has already been written on.

North beyond Hadrian's Wall are the Picts, savages that have tamed and ride megafauna.

Saxons, ancestral enemies to the Cymric people of England, are said to be half-giant, and indeed they share the giants hues of blues, greens, and pinks in their skin.

There are Things that live in the Forests and Wastelands. Things like, yet unlike either man or beast or kaiju. They work sorceries for their amusements, and sometimes those amusements involve mortals. Sometimes the mortals fare well, and sometimes they never fare at all. There are stories told of castles made of narrow spires of crystal, and knights made of solid gold, or possibly mecha; Faerie-addled peasants are poor witnesses.

16 February 2017

Mid-Week Thoughts: Magic: the Gathering

Midweek thoughts are random things that are stuck in my head that I'll vomit forth into the void whenever my brain is backed-up.

            This weekend was Aether Revolt Game Day, a Wizards of the Coast sponsored event at LGSs. I and my wife stopped playing Magic, her for various reasons, and me because I don't like the cost of keeping up with Standard, I snoozed on good cards that were released in Eldritch Moon and Shadows that shot up in price, and I couldn't play my other favorite archetype, ramp, due to good ramp cards rotating out.
            We played only to get the participation prize, full art promo Trophy Mage, for commander. Since I didn't actually care about making top8 and getting that promo as well, I took my really bad GR ramp deck that I used for last game day out for a spin. Ramp is terrible in this Standard. The decks that do the thing that ramp does, Aetherworks Marvel and Metalwork Colossus decks, do it better. However, when no one expects it, it's an ok deck that does powerful hard to deal with things. It's already a solid deck vs control decks as all I have to do it make my lands drops and naturally cast large eldrazi with on cast triggers that interfere with my opponent's ability to play, and control is only ok in this Standard. Against slow midrange decks, it's pretty much the same. My only bad matchups are aggro, like vehicles, and tempo-aggro, spirits, decks, which should be a difficulty, but also I play control and know how to pilot against aggro, and again didn't care too much about winning.
            Part of the reason I stopped playing is because I didn't like spending the money keeping up with the greater meta, as I said before, but it is also mentally taxing brewing and testing on top of that. I totally stopped playing RPGs or even thinking much about them since I had come back to Magic, which you can see from the total lack of anything on the blog. It is also mentally taxing to play, doubly so since I am an introvert and being around people is tiring. I was exhausted by the end of Sunday, having only played 4 rounds of magic each day. If I hadn't already had Monday's post typed up and queued, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep with my intended once a week updating on the second week.
            Even right now, I've been spending more time tuning my ramp deck and thinking about a possible brew for Standard instead of working on Monday's next Knights & Kaiju post, which consists of a few lines on setting and then some notes on how I'm stating-up mecha, which would make for a terrible post. Fact is, I am running out of steam. Of course, that might just be me just not sticking my notebook in front of me forcing me to at least constantly look at my words.  My decklists can be found here or here for Saturday or here for Sunday.

            But relating to mecha, I'm reading Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, an Neon Genesis Evangelion AU fanfic set during the Second Aeon War of CthulhuTech. I'm probably 40% through it, which is fitting since CTech is influence by NGE. Some parts of where I might take Knights & Kaiju are inspired by NGE, the possibility of mecha going berserk if a knight were to use kaiju muscle instead of fungal fibers, even if using them is more directly from what little of Aura Battler Dunbine instead of the use of a cybernetically enhanced genemoded monsters as a mecha like in NGE.

13 February 2017

Some facts about the England of Knights & Kaiju

The mecha primarily use bundles of contractile fibers harvested from fungal trees. Rarely, knights will utilize the muscles of megafauna, but this is discouraged due to the risk such mecha have of running berserk from interference with the heart fueled reactors. Through generations of selective cultivation many different grades of these fibers are grown. 

Combined with differences in braiding, power output of reactors, and frame strength, a wide range of mecha strength and load-bearing exists. Naturally at the top are mecha piloted for war by kings, knights, and other good at men-at-arms. 

Every mecha of the knightly classes possesses at least one directed energy weapon as they only need to be mounted well and connected to a reactor to operate. Their rate of fire is slower than comparable ballistic weapons, caused by the larger amounts of waste head; as well as having shorter ranges. These are likely to be only weapons of a Rouncy- or Sumpter-class mecha.

Chemically propelled ballistic weapons tend to be big, heavy, and LOUD, in addition the manufacture of the ammunition is controlled, leaving them to be either mounted on fortifications or on the Charger- and Destrier-class mecha of knights.

Mechanically powered ballistic weapons are simply bows and crossbows. While these weapons do occasionally end up being used by knights, these are primarily peasant weapons intended for defending against megafauna.   
Despite mecha seeming to bristle with a limitless cornucopia of death from afar knightly combat frequently comes down to lances and swords, whether from a personal challenge or having ran their ammo bins dry. While there are axes and mauls meant for mecha hands, those are tools used by peasants, and not considered knightly weapons. Only the sword, shield, and lance are truly knightly. Yes, lances are used by knights, grasped with both hands and couched while running at other mecha or some megafauna.

Sumpter-class mecha aren't really mecha. They are tracked or ground-effect transports and mobile workshops for knightly mecha as well as accommodation for a knight and his retinue.

The reactors of mecha are powered by the crystalline hearts and other organs of megafauna. The most powerful come from the most dangerous megafauna: dragons, boars, bears, and deer to name a few; consequently, not only is hazardous for peasants to hunt these, it is forbidden by law and custom to do so, leaving harvesting of these crucial power sources from domesticated beasts and those lesser megafauna deemed beneath knightly consideration.