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Friday, August 30, 2013

Fallen Empires Draft Strategy

Mohan doing acrobatics! by Tambako the Jaguar from flickr (CC-ND)

Dark Sphere LGS in London recently started running unusual formats every Wednesday. What was meant to happen this week was a Homelands draft - and I simply had to go, given how famously awful Homelands is.

It turned out they accidentally misordered the box, and instead of Homelands we got to play Fallen Empires. It was an interesting challenge, since I've never even seen any of its cards (I briefly looked at Homelands cards to get some idea, but I knew nothing whatsoever about Fallen Empires), and the set wasn't designed for drafting in the first place.

Since boosters back then contained just 8 cards, instead of opening one 15-card booster at a time, you open 2x8-card boosters simultaneously (for a total of 6 boosters).

There are a few major differences between drafting such ancient sets and drafting anything recent. First, since sets were really small you'll be seeing multiples of the same common a lot. Second, since it was before the New World Order, commons are often extremely impactful. Add these two together, and you can make a deck unlike anything you could do these days.

If you compare Constructed now and back then, creatures got a lot better - but the difference is not that huge in case of Limited. I'm not sure if that's specific to Fallen Empires, or if it was more common, but cards seem to require far greater color commitment than now. They also had a lot more really brutal hosers than recent sets, but I never took advantage of it (I had one anti-blue and one anti-black hoser, but even against a white/black deck it seemed like not worth siding)

Oh, and by the way - level of respect for the color pie in the entire set is pretty much nonexistent - green and white both got burn effects and at common.

Anyway, after making these observations while looking at cards I just opened, I drafted monogreen Thallid deck and went undefeated with it:

  • 16 Forest
  • 1 Fungal Bloom
  • 1 Thallid Devourer
  • 2 Elvish Hunter
  • 4 Spore Flower
  • 3 Thallid
  • 2 Feral Thallid
  • 9 Thorn Thallid
  • 2 Thelonite Druid

There are a few interesting things about it:

  • 3x Spore Flower is infinite fog
  • 1x Spore Flower + 1x Fungal Bloom is another way to achieve infinite fog
  • 9x Thorn Thallid - they are fairly bad pingers, but they are pingers and they can repeatedly murder everything. It's a pretty ridiculous draft that I was able to get 9 of them, and sometimes had as many as 5 on the field at once.
  • Feral Thallids and Thelonite Druid were meant as wincon (I never got to play with Thelonite Druids)
  • Elvish Hunter works surprisingly well as a bad pacifism (I had two more sideboard, but it's not a card I terribly want a multiple of due to heavy mana requirements)
  • one land cut because monocolor deck doesn't have to worry about color screw, and I can theoretically achieve full fog lock with just 2 Forests

Generally the format is very slow, and it's very easy to stabilize. As far as I can tell, monogreen Thallid is the best control archetype in the format.

Neither red nor green really has any good fast aggro, blue doesn't have enough evasion and seemingly none of the usual archetypes really does much.

The only archetype that seems fast enough to possibly kill before Thallids can stabilize seems to be white/black based around creatures that are hard to block like Farrel's Zealot and Necrite with a lot of backup from various damage prevention and pump creatures, with a bit of backup of Icatian Javelineers to kill any remaining utility creatures. I faced such deck in the finals and it felt like a lot of early pressure, but it was still a turn or two too slow.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to drafting other ridiculous formats, and if anything interesting happens I'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Google is the new Yahoo

Mirror cat by crsan from flickr (CC-BY)

Over the last couple of years the only times Google bothered spending significant effort at doing anything new was when they felt they existence was threatened. They made Google+ because they were afraid of Facebook, and Android because they were afraid of Apple. In both cases execution was poor to put it mildly. Google's strategy was not even to create great products - it was to make good enough products and to be there when Apple or Facebook screws up somehow.

In Android's case, it might even work since Apple prioritizes profits over market share, so Android was given low and mid end markets without much fight, and other companies like Samsung are doing much better job at competing with Apple at high end than Google ever did.

In case of Google+, the odds look much worse. Not only it is still losing in popularity, it is becoming actively worse for microblogging with each iteration. Even if Facebook ended up screwing up bad enough to cause mass exodus, it's not so clear Google+ would be where the masses would go.

And whenever Google doesn't feel existentially threatened, its mode of operation recently has been forcing horrible UI at users (Google+, Youtube, now Gmail), forcing Google+ integration and its horrible "real name policy" (Youtube), crippling them (Google Reader, Google Talk), or shutting them down outright (Google Reader again).

What was the last time you've heard any good news from Google? It was awesome once. They kept releasing great new things one after another. Now just about any time Google does anything is to make something actively worse.

Today they completely screwed Gmail usability for writing email. Now instead of being able to focus on what you write there's extremely distracting visual clutter everywhere. I'm sure some browser extension to hide all that crap is going to come sometimes soon, making Gmail not horrible again.

The problem is not this horrible decision or another. The problem is that every decision Google makes these days is like that.

Google became the new Yahoo. Could someone become the new Google please? Amazon?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Tampermonkey/Greasemonkey exercises

Marmoset by @Doug88888 from flickr (CC-NC-SA)
A few weeks ago I ran some tutorial sessions for Tampermonkey (and all that knowledge is transferable to Greasemonkey).

You can check them in this git repository.

There are three sets of exercises:
  • beginner - 5 exercises with extremely detailed hints, appropriate even for people with no Javascript knowledge
  • intermediate - same 5 exercises, except without all the hints, appropriate for people with some Javascript/DOM skills who want to learn Tampermonkey
  • advanced - some more complicated ideas if you need inspiration for more
I'm not sure how useful it is without 5 minute introduction on how to install and use Tampermonkey, but give it a try.