Welcome

Welcome to my blog! Here, I will post all my ideas about fantasy creation and mostly Magic the gathering, the card trading game. I will try to edit once per day, so keep the pace! Most of my ideas go all over the place, from new game creation, to short stories to whole fantasy world or setting to real life applications and reflections about anything and everything. I came to create this blog because for now I have lot of spare time and because my living space starts to suffer all those loose sheets of paper lying around. I needed a way to keep track of every thought I put on paper, and also to get some comments back on those ideas. I needed an outside look to keep me going forward and in the right direction.

I’m a fan of Magic and I started playing it when Lorwyn came out, although my first few cards were from Ravnica and Time Spiral. I played regularly since, mostly as a casual player going to Friday night magic. I have a good grasp of the rules, and am a good deck builder. I also played Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, mostly as a dungeon master, and follow right now a role-playing french forum. I’m a fan of fantasy literature as I’ve read the Forgotten Realms number 1 through 27 and many classics of the gender, like Let the right one in and the likes. That’s all about me for now.

Let’s get going, and leave comments!

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Chess tips: Where to attack?

It’s been a few days that I didn’t post on the blog. I’ve been collecting my ideas and wondering if I really want to continue. I guess I do, but it will be somewhat less regular. I will post when I feel like it, probably two or three times per week. Also, I’ve have a shift of interest. I won’t talk as much about Magic, but more about chess. Or maybe I’ll try doing a column on chess and another on MTG? I don’t know for now. Anyway, let’s start.

 

Chess is a board game for two players where there is absolutely no luck, just skills. Every game is unique, which is a great part of what makes this game interesting. You can find rules and tactics on the web easily, but there are some things that I noticed while playing that I couldn’t find anywhere. Just so you remember, those are my guesses because I did not find anything on the subject:

 

Where to attack?

Depending on your opponent’s development, you may want to attack his developed side or the underdeveloped side for different reasons.

By attacking the developed wing you want to take advantage of his one or two undeveloped pieces to have more material on the attack than he has defences. Usually, the undeveloped piece is a bishop or a knight that blocks the tower in the corner. Until they are moved and his two towers connect themselves, he will play with a disadvantage. Your aim is to attack in such a way that he can’t defend by developing those pieces. If he could, it would stop you in your track because he would have gained many tempo and way more options.  For example, in the French defence the black player castle when his c8 bishop is still paralysed behind his own pawns. At this moment, you can try to start an attack on the king (developed side) with both bishops and your knights to have a temporary gain of material.

If instead you plan on attacking the undeveloped side, your goal is to force your opponent’s pieces into bad positions so that later you can pick them up one by one. It is harder than the other way around, but it is feasible. Usually, it will be something like threatening the f7 pawn or trying to control the squares around the king side pawns. The defence will usually try to fight back with pawns, and that’s exactly what you want. A usual mistake you want to provoke is f6 or c6 when it doesn’t serve any real purpose. Those pawns block the best diagonals for their respective bishops and occupy the best square for the knights to develop. After having messed up this side, you can start bigger operations on the developed side since the bishop and/or the knight you left in the king’s corner won’t be able to come as backup.

Feedback

It’s been over 50 days that I post every day at least a page length. I have proven myself able to do such a thing and been serious about the blog until now. But after all, it is a work, not a game. I pass at least 2 hours each day trying to figure out what to write, which subject to chose and writing it. Sometime I don’t have the time to do it and end up doing it at 10 pm, and other times like now I’m just not in the mood to write. And the most important thing of all, I don’t have feedbacks doing it. Even by being extremely serious and posting super regularly, no comments, very low views and an ever decreasing motivation to continue.

 

You need feedbacks in everything for you to continue doing it and even improve yourself. Playing piano, working, writing a novel, becoming an Olympic athlete, playing tournament chess…you can’t advance if you don’t see the results of your hard work. It may be a coach, better results, friends’ chat or critiques about your work; positive or negative you don’t care. All you want is to be seen and to improve yourself with comments. A bad comment is still way better than no comment at all since in the first case you have something to work on for you to improve. But unfortunately, it is hard to get such feedback. Finding a coach cost money, your friends are usually not an objective audience and you can’t control how many critiques you get. In such a situation, how are you supposed to find feedback?

 

I tried to comment myself back on my own post, but it’s even less objective than the comments of my friends. I start to think that these 2 hours each day could be put to better use in another way. If anyone has tricks on simply leaves a comment from time to time, I will surely continue this blog, but as things turn out now, I’m more than willing to put it aside, at least for time.

Polymorph Solar flare

Polymorph solar flare decklist

Lands (24)

  • 3 Arcane sanctum
  • 2 Rupture spire
  • 2 evolving wilds
  • 1 Vivid meadow
  • 1 Vivid Creek
  • 4 Plains
  • 6 Islands
  • 5 Swamps

Creatures (5)

  • 1 Elesh norn, grand cenobite
  • 1 Sheoldred, wispereing one
  • 1 Jin-Gitaxias, core augur
  • 1 Harvester of souls
  • 1 Drogskol reaver

Spells (31)

  • 4 Forbidden alchemy
  • 3 Lingering souls
  • 1 Moan of the unhallowed
  • 1 Sever the bloodline
  • 3 Unburial rites
  • 1 Mana leak
  • 1 Dissipate
  • 1 Geist snatch
  • 2 Beckon apparition
  • 1 Wretched banquet
  • 1 Doom blade
  • 1 Geth’s verdict
  • 1 divine offering
  • 2 Infest
  • 1 Crib swap
  • 2 Oblivion ring
  • 2 Polymorph
  • 1 Painful quandary
  • 1 Necromancer’s covenant
  • 1 Grave exchange

The comments I’ve got on this deck turn around “This is complete cheat”. All five creatures are finishers, create massive card advantage and are near impossible to remove thanks to the Unburial rites. Forbidden alchemy finds the perfect answer to any given threat and dumps your winning conditions and flashback cards into your grave. There is an abundance of token creator to go with Polymorph: Lingering souls is the perfect chump blocker and draws a handful of cards with Harvester of souls; Moan of the unhallowed trade better in combat than little 1/1 spirits, but with more budgets could be replaced by Grave titan; Beckon apparition is at worst a 1/1 flash flyer (still really good) and at best a 1 mana Geist snatch for flashback spells (which is great) and finally Necromancer’s covenant can completely turn the tide of battle and gain you tremendous amount of life. The usual all around control spells are all here: Mana leak, Dissipate, Oblivion ring and the new but powerful Painful quandary. Even if your opponent has a card to deal with it, it is still a Lava axe or a Mind rot, and if it sticks it’s game.

For the creature control, Sever the bloodline is an absolute beast and I would put two more in the sideboard if I had them. Crib swap is an answer to Geralf’s messenger and Vorapede. Wretched banquet is surprisingly strong, killing early deadly creatures like Champion of the parish and Delver of secrets. Even Polymorh can be used as a removal against an aggressive opponent and weenie deck.

This deck buries its opponent in card advantage. On one of my games, my opponent started fast with two Phyrexian arena. I played the entire game against an opponent that drew 3 cards per turn (he had life drain to keep himself alive) and was able to keep the pace. Often, I even had more cards in hand, on the battlefield and in the grave than him simply because every card I played was at least two for one. Sever the bloodline and its flashback on two Blind hunter and a Falkenrath noble, one half of Lingering souls he had to Wrath because with the arena he was ticking 4 lifes per turn, Harvester of souls he had to double block, Sheoldred he had to kill 3 times because of Unburial rites… He eventually killed me with a combination of another Falkenrath noble and his last Wrath of god when my side of the board was full of 1/1 spirits, 2/2 zombies and Drogskol reaver. I understand now the power level in tournaments…

Games play styles

In any tournament level game, players not only need to have a perfect game play, but they also need to understand the different player’s psychologies. A player’s psychology influences his style of play and by being able to identify this you can outthink your opponent. No top player of games like MTG, Scrabble, Super smash bros brawl or chess can earn his place at the top without having a sense of metagaming.

When you sit with your opponent(s) and the game is about to start, in the first few moves you make yourself an idea of his playing style, of its resources and of its thinking pattern. Everybody does that, but not everyone is conscious they do. By looking at his playing style, you can see his pattern and anticipate his actions. Is he aggressive, opportunist, careful, deliberate, random? And yes, random is a style of play. By consciously trying to be unpredictable, your opponent loses its metagaming advantage, he may start to feel uneasy and stressful and he may be more prompt to a mistake, even a small one.

Those are only the most basic forms of play styles. Each game has its own particular play styles that can become really complex at high level. In chess for example, there is a constricting style which plays defensively, but more than that aims to subtly control squares, limiting the other player’s movements and maximizing its own piece’s power simply with position. It doesn’t attack other pieces directly, but after removing every move that piece has, it is no better than dead. There is also a triple threat style that aims to create 3 weakness in the opposing position and then to press on those 3 weak points until the position breaks. There is also the tempo sacrifice style that creates “time” (tempo which is a mix of initiative and position development advantage) by a well timed loss of material. It exchanges a physical permanent advantage for a virtual temporary one and usually takes the opponent by surprise.

By noticing early on the play style of your opponent, you prepare yourself for those weirder moves and you understand their meaning, which also allow you to find an appropriate answer. Even on Scrabble there is some play styles like “Aiming”, which is targeting a specific x3 square in a few turns and playing conservatively toward that square; or playing in such way that the word you create doesn’t offer any good transversal x3 squares for your opponent; or even planning two lateral words which will give tremendous amount of points for all the small transversal words created at the same time.

Knowing those play styles makes you prepared defensively, but offensively you can choose a style of your own. This allows you to start a game with a plan to win it. You will build your game focused on that plan instead of spreading your forces around, not knowing where you’re going. Knowing the way you play also means you know your weakness and can counter your opponent’s counters. You’re better prepared to play this way than just knowing a list of good moves. Also, if you don’t know your own play style, an experimented opponent will have the advantage of knowing how you think better than you yourself because he will surely analyze you in the first few turns.

 

Trying to analyze one’s play style, and especially your own, you first need to keep track of a few games that player played, no matter if they were won or loss. The most useful games are those really close to a draw, but that you somehow manage to win or to lose. When going through that game again, notice anything that made you win/lose directly. Then ask yourself why you did such a move and note it down. Then find those really small moves that gave you any advantage/disadvantage and ask yourself what you wanted to do with such a move. What was the plan you were following. Then find those moves you don’t understand, those that seem so random and that don’t bring anything to the game at first. Then ask yourself the necessity behind this move. What did you see at the moment you played this move that made it useful or even lifesaving in such a subtle way that when looking back you don’t understand it. Note it all down and do this for as many games as you can, without looking back at your notes in between. When you’ve collected a sufficient amount, take another sheet or blackboard and write what you found one by one with the number of time it was present in your games. For example, if you have “targeting weak f7 early on”, write it and every subsequent time you see this mention in your note, put a “|” beside it on the blackboard to count them. The mentions that will get the highest numbers will be your natural play style.

 

In competitive play, it is essential to know yourself and to play to your strengths.

What if…?

As much as yesterday’s game was about new ways to see the same subjects, today’s game is about finding new subjects for creative thinking.

I’m sure many of you know this game. Take a fact, usually a commonly accepted fact, and then ask yourself “what if this fact was upside down”. Then, go on a fantasy trip and describe as best as you can the world with this new, twisted fact.

Here are many examples:

1-      What if students taught to teachers instead of the opposite?

2-      What if anyone could speak any human language from birth?

3-      What if, instead of a car, people where driving in an individual bus?

4-      What if everyone was blue?

5-      What if you could see radio waves?

6-      What if only three creatures survived the apocalypse, other than human?

7-      What if clouds where heavier?

8-      What if water couldn’t freeze?

9-      What if genders where inverted?

10-  What if watching the television was an exercise that makes you sweat?

11-  What if air was priced?

12-  What if everyone was given the right to ¾ of a child at birth?

13-  What if earth was a gigantic puzzle which government could change the locations of pieces and cities at will?

If you play this game in group, you’re in for a world of absurdity and laugh. Sometime, an idea exposed this way will become practical and can be developed into something useful. Just wonder where the “What if we could go to the moon?” got us. Here’s one:

 

What if working was a game?

If working was a game, every player (worker) would have fun playing it. They would come back the next day for more and would even be willing to pay to play the game. Each could keep track of its scores at work and competitive friendship would become common. There would be no lazy worker since they themselves will want to work for their own pleasure. Money would no longer be needed, but a scoring table could be used as a reward system. Each morning, you would be excited to go to work and play the game. You could hear sentences like “Hello honey, well slept? Sorry, but I must go play now.” or “You should take a break, you’re getting addicted to work!” or even “Hey doctor, I have sleep problems. I’m so excited about my work that I often do all-nighter!”. No more boss problems, no more reluctance nor procrastination. Every one could contribute, like a super large real life MMORPG. Because of the flow and fiero feelings, relationship between people would be easier and warmer. They could share their game experience and would laugh at each other’s epic stories. Everyone would be satisfied and war and hatred would be greatly lessened. Isn’t that a kind of world you would like to live in?

The similes game

Number of player: any

Material: none. A sheet of paper and a pen if you want to keep track of what has been said.

 

This is a child’s game that is surprisingly difficult and entertaining. The rules are really simple: two objects, animals or things are randomly named and the participants must, one at a time, find something in common of both objects. The first one that fails to give a simile or repeats something that has been said loses. If the number of participants is big, each loss could result in elimination for the round until only one player is left standing.

 

This game can be played alone as a creative exercise. Here’s an example:

A dice and an IPod touch

  1. You can shake both for the same result (dice app)
  2. They both hold in your pocket
  3. You never know what’s the first number you’ll see on both (clock)
  4. The main forms is square for both (app icons)
  5. You can play games with both
  6. You can find them both at DnD sessions and Mtg tournaments

 

This game can be used to find an idea in a new, interesting way. Because of the “do not repeat” constraint, it forces the players to think differently and in more deep than usual. Play this game a few times before charging in a complex problem will help you think differently and envision many solutions with a certain ease. You can also set themes for the two objects to be chosen from.

 

Let’s try again but on the theme of MTG cards:

Diabolic tutor and Skeletal wurm

  1. They are both black
  2. Their converted mana cost is both a multiple of 4
  3. They both show a skeleton in the picture
  4. They are both really useful in limited
  5. They are both uncommons
  6. Their collector number both end by 7 (77 and 127)
  7. One of their artists have the same initials GS
  8. They both have the flavor of a necromancer who succumbed to power
  9. They both have a total of two black mana symbol on the card

Another two? I’m having fun right now!

Deftblade duelist and Shivan oasis

  1. They both have the flavor or “Survival of the strongest”
  2. They are both one drops
  3. Both care about tapping
  4. Both go in aggressive decks
  5. They both have mirrored vowels between their two words (iaoai and eae eie. This one is really stretched)

Try it. It’s fun and really forces you to think creatively.

Explaining Soulbond and Noncreature Interactions.

At the prerelease, I used (and abused) an interaction between Angel’s tomb(A) and Druid’s familiar(G) to curve out extremely aggressively. I said before that by stacking your triggers correctly, you could end up with a 5/5 attacking flying creature and a 4/4 back up, which is about equivalent to Broodmate dragon from Alara, but 3 turns earlier (considering the turn you’re able to attack with the dragon) and that souldbond would not end if the Angel return to be a simple artefact. Back at my place, I had a doubt about it so I made a rule search. For those Melvin out there, here is why it works.

 

First, let’s take a look at the two concerned abilities:

  • Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may have Angel’s tomb become a 3/3 white Angel artefact creature with flying until end of turn.
  • Soulbond (You may pair this creature with another unpaired creature when either enters the battlefield. They remain paired for as long as you control both of them.)

Soulbond may not look like it, but it is a triggered ability because of the words “when”. The trigger is the same as “when this or another creature comes into play” and the effect is of course “pair this creature with another unpaired creature”. Notice that the effect do trigger when a creature enters the battlefield under your opponent’s control and that you can pair it with that creature even if you don’t control it, but the pair will stop immediately because you don’t control both and you will lose the effect. It may just be funny to say to your opponent “I pair my bear with your ghoul, and then it stops”.

With that out of the way, stacking the trigger correctly is the biggest deal of this rule twist. Following rule 603.3, when Druid’s familiar enters the battlefield and you control Angel’s tomb, both triggers go on the stack in the order you chose. If you put the Angel’s first and then soulbond, soulbond will trigger first and, looking around for a creature, won’t find any and the effect will be removed. You will be left with only a 2/2 and a 3/3 flyer. This is bad stacking. On the other hand, if you place soulbond first followed by the Angel’s, the artefact will trigger first and you will get a 3/3 flyer, and then the bear will take effect and it will be able to pair with the Angel.

This works because soulbond DOES NOT TARGET. Since it does not target, no choice is made during the trigger. It only looks for a creature when it resolve. If it did target, with say this wording:

  • Soulbond (You may pair this creature with another unpaired target creature when either enters the battlefield. They remain paired for as long as you control both of them.)

Then, at the moment the ability triggers it would need you to choose a creature under your control as the target of the ability BEFORE any of the two triggers could resolve. It would be impossible to pair them this way. Thank WotC for this lack of target. It also means that you can pair Druid’s familiar with a creature that has protection from green or shroud without any problems.

The last debating point is why they stay paired even when the Tomb stops being a creature. This is again from the wording of soulbond. The last sentence says: “They remain paired for as long as you control both of them”. “Them” refers to the cards the ability affects, not particularly creatures but the physical card. Angel’s tomb doesn’t become another card by its effect. So as long as neither leaves play in any way, whatever they become they will still be paired.

Of course, doing this kind of trick with Halcyon glaze is just a sneeze in comparison since the Glaze triggers when you cast the bear, so the two triggers are very distinct. And if you want to pair it with a Gideon or Inkmoth nexus, feel free to do it anytime. The later one is particularly nasty.