Thursday, 25 September 2014

MTG: 12 Intriguing Cards from Khans of Tarkir

(Let's get this out of the way now...)

Khans of Tarkir, the newest expansion for Magic: The Gathering, will be out Friday. After attending last weekend's prerelease (and somehow winning it!), and looking over all of the spoilers, there are a handful of cards, like in any set, that I am most intrigued by.


As you can see, this list have quite an Abzan bent (the White, Green, and Black clan). The Abzan clan fits my grindy Orzhov style, and playing this style of deck requires an amazing amount of decision making.

Why didn't I Play JESkai? Despite the awesome name, the White-Blue-Red style of deck has never suited me all that well. Jeskai decks can tend to be a bit more fragile, and require a good amount of trickery. I prefer decks that have some good amount of defense and protection, while allowing me to slowly grind away for long-term advantage.


12. Jeskai Ascendancy


The Old Combo Jes would be all over this card. Here is an easy two-card combo that generates infinite tokens.



This card is amazingly and deceptively powerful, even without the combo potential. The problem is that, again, I rarely play the American colour scheme.

11. Utter End



Sure it's just a one-for-one removal spell, but the Orzhov mage in me will want about 30 of these for my various Black/White decks. Instant speed exiling is always potent, especially if you can hit those pesky planeswalkers.

I'd also like somebody to alter one and put a cow on it. Moo!

10. Bear's Companion



Any creature that comes with other creatures is worth considering, especially when it's a 4/4 bear! My Riku EDH deck will definitely want this pair. It's not easy to play, being 3 colours, but it is a very powerful uncommon.

9. Altar of the Brood



This artifact is deceptively powerful, turning any land drop into a Mill-1 for all opponents. Combine this with fetchlands and token makers, and you can very easily mill your opponent a bunch of times with little effort.

I don't plan to play this in my mill deck, so much as I'd put it in a Mimeoplasm deck where I want my opponents to have NomNoms for my pets. 

8. The Abzan Lords




OK, this is technically three cards, but they all fill the same type of role in the casual Abzan deck I'll be building. After playing them at the pre-release, I can appreciate how well they work together.

This trio basically function as 'lords', as they grant your team certain abilities, providing you meet the requirements. They also grow themselves, giving you a good way to use extra mana. Think of them as harder-to-use slivers :)

7. Bloodsoaked Champion




How can a guy with a shield in each hand not bloody be able to block? o.O

This was another card I had in my pre-release pool, and it is one of the better 1-drop creatures ever printed.

Besides the fact it's an efficient, aggressive, creature, it will just keep coming back again and again and... again.

Read the ability carefully, and you realize you can bring back the Champion the same turn he attacks and dies a traumatic death.

6. Sultai Flayer



Not such Roose Bolton have we seen such a dreadful flayer!

This was played against me at the pre-release, and it gave my opponent about 12+ life each game. Besides the four life you will gain when it dies, your other fatties turn into life-nourishing snacks when they hit the bin.

5. Sultai Charm


For casual play, I think this is the best charm of them all. The flexibility to handle most troublesome permanent is all that you can ask for in a card, and you will likely always have a target for this. Any BUG/Sultai deck ought to easily have a spot for this, and I can see it replacing other removal spells that I have in those decks.

4. Abzan Ascendancy


It's hard not to like this enchantment, as it can grow your existing team. For Abzan, turning on the lords (not in *that* way, pervs!) is key to victory, and this allows you to do it without tapping them to use the Outlast ability.

This card also provides some removal and wrath protection, giving you a nice ghost once the original creatures bite the dust. If you overextend, or get wrathed out, it is nice to not be left empty-handed.

3. Duneblast


He who controls the spice controls the board!

This was my pre-release MVP, despite the heavy mana cost. Yeah, I don't normally play 7-mana wraths, but this one is damn well worth it! This limited format was quite slow and allowed for big spells to be played.

Being able to clear the board of pesky rodents, and then swing in with your best creature? That is such a good feeling. It can often suck to wipe the board when you have a creature you don't really want to have die, so why not have your cake and eat it to?

In multi-player, there is an added political aspect to this card, as it may be somebody else's creature that you let live. Yes, I'd like you to attack Jace, the Wallet Sculptor, for me next turn!

2. Siege Rhino



Another bloody Abzan card, I know :)

Still, how could you not like the value on this Rhino? A 4/5 trampler that also does three damage to each opponent? Oh, I also get three life? Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

I don't understand the flavour of this card, but that won't stop me from using and abusing it (Don't call PETA on me, thanks) in my Junk Reanimator build. Blinking and reanimating this creature just feels so dirty.

1. Villainous Wealth


I'll finish with the card that made me squee like a little girl at a One Direction concert when it was first spoiled.

Remember Genesis Wave?



Introducing ... NEMESIS WAVE!


My playgroup buddies know how much I love to 'borrow' their stuff! There are so many cool cards that I never get to play, so this is my chance to do so.

While the mana investment will be quite high, being able to borrow a big pile of your opponents deck gets Greedy Jes all shuttering with excitement. A Genesis Wave on your opponents deck is boom or bust, but it will likely always be fun ... for me, at least ;)

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So, while I'm mostly looking at the Abzan cards in this set, there are many other cool cards that could find their way into existing decks. The Abzan is the one clan I'll be building around, while most of the other cool cards will just find their way into my existing decks.

What cards from this set excite you?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tim Hortons Sucks, and You Know It!


The internet tubes are abuzz with news that Tim Hortons and Burger King are merging.

Americans are angry that another large multi-national is not paying their fair share of taxes, while Canadians are flipping out that their precious national coffee slinger is going to be taken over by Americans.

People easily forget that Timmy's was taken over by Wendy's back in 1995, and it didn't cause the brand to disappear.

If you really think that buying Tim Hortons or Molson Canadian beer makes you a good Canadian, then you are a marketer's wet dream. Supporting Timmy's is no more or less Canadian than buying coffee from a local cafe, or a gas station.

To quote BD Gallof:
Acting like it is some sort of national pride to eat processed fried dough and badly roasted, but drinkable, coffee beans is just plain silly.

I really don't understand why people feel the need to tie their nationality to a large corporation, especially one that has been acting more and more American the past decade.

While Timmy's used to be cool, and a box of fresh donuts would make the whole office happy, the franchise is no longer worth supporting. Those people mad about this deal have their priorities in the wrong place, and need to wake up to some basic truths.


Timmy's hires boatloads of Temporary Foreign Workers. 

Once upon a time, Tim Hortons used to air ads proclaiming that working at Timmy's was a great way to get started on a solid career, and even promoted their Scholarship Program. Timmy's was a place you could get a half-decent job, while working towards something better.

Realizing that paying workers decent wages stops the executives from buying a new Mercedes Benz each Thursday, Timmy's took to, instead, hiring piles of Temporary Foreign Workers.

Despite the fact that there are thousands of Canadians who could use a decent job, Timmy's would rather hire indentured servants from other countries, and pay them cheaper wages than actual Canadian citizens would be entitled to receive.

Timmy's claims to be a Canadian company, yet hires non-Canadians to fill jobs that Canadians could easily do. Yup. 

Tim Hortons donuts are not at all FRESH

Once upon a time, Tim Hortons actually baked the donuts, from scratch, in the individual stores.
Realizing that they could make more money by just having the stores warm up frozen dough, and thus requiring even less-skilled staff on hand, Tims forced franchises to switch, with some of them filing, and then losing a lawsuit.

At the heart of the case, which began in 2008, is what the judge describes as the “Always Fresh Conversion,” a shift from fresh baking in each store to a system of industrial par baking and flash freezing at a centralized plant in Brantford, Ont., followed by reheating in specially designed ovens.

Hmm, reheating dough? This sounds an awful lot like Pillsbury products.

The last few times I've seen Timmy's in the office, there was more of a collective 'meh'. Donuts used to be OMGZ EXCITMENT!!!!11111, but it has been replaced by, "Ok, cool, a free snack... I guess".

Their Timbits are laced with Crack Cocaine


OK, maybe not, but they are far too addicting. Any time somebody brings a box of them to the office, or some other party, I end up eating far more of them than I should. I don't find them particular awesome, and they seem far too bland for the calories they contain, but I seem to end up scarfing down a half-dozen before I realize what I've done with my life.

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So, what is Canadian about heavily-processed, reheated food and hiring Temporary Foreign Workers? Tim Hortons has been acting more and more American each year, and is about as Canadian as Basketball now is.

If you want to be a good Canadian, and support Canadian businessess, go to your local coffee cafe. Not only do you support the hiring of Canadian workers, but you'll actually keep the money in your community, and probably get better food out of the deal.



Monday, 11 August 2014

Vancouver's Food Truck Follies


One of the recent trends in Vancouver has been the explosion of Food Trucks on the streets.

While other major cities in North America have an abundance of these mobile kitchens, it wasn't until 2010 that Vancouver had its first. Now, we have over 100.

To understand why it is such a big deal, you have to know that Vancouver has always been behind the times and quite strict about food safety for mobile food sellers.

I remember how big of a deal it was when the first street hot dog vendors (Mr. Tube Steak!!!!!) were allowed to start operating about 20-odd years ago. While other big cities had plenty of these street meat hawkers, Vancouver didn't start catching up until my early teens. It's no surprise that we didn't get food trucks until just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, the food truck industry in Vancouver has been, to my experience, one GIANT disappointment.

Here is what I expect from a mobile food seller: Fast and cheap

Here is what Vancouver Food Trucks (VFTs) are generally not: Fast and cheap




One reason I'd want to go to a VFT is to get a quick meal to go. If I had the time, I'd go to a cafe or restaurant, so going to a street vendor is for time-saving purposes.

VFTs fail largely in this regard, with 7-15 minute waits not uncommon. Fresh food does take time to prepare, but many VFTs don't seem to have certain staples prepared beforehand, and efficiency is lacking.

VFTs have nowhere to sit, and you are often left there standing in the baking hot sun with nothing to do.

Prices at the typical VFT also mirror that of most small cafes and some restaurants, which is to say it is not cheap. $10-15 for a small meal is the norm with many VFTs, and the quantity of food doesn't make up for it. (Although that isn't as much of a concern to me these days). 

I'm not sure the quality of food makes up for the prices, either. I've had one fish & chips that was so oily that I had to throw it up an hour later, I've tried the famous "Japadog" (overrated, but still tasty), and found most dishes to be pretty much of average quick-food quality.

I understand every business has costs to cover, and Vancouver's licenses aren't cheap, but the food trucks don't have the brick-and-mortar costs that a typical restaurant has, nor do they need to hire serving staff. VFTs should be able to offer lower prices due to lower overhead, but it doesn't happen.




(c) The Vancouver Sun

From anecdotal internet talk and other things I've read, it seems that other cities with food trucks have it better, and have it right.

Honestly, downtown consumers are better off going to any of the numerous food courts at the malls here. You get air conditioning and protection from the elements, you don't have to wait as long for the food, and the prices are a bit lower. The quality is about the same, too.

Mobile food trucks are a great concept, and seem to be popular, for the time being, but I still fail to understand how they will continue to be successful if they cannot offer any time or money savings from the thousands of other options we have in this city.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

MTG: 11 Intriguing Cards from M15


M15, the new core set for Magic: The Gathering, is being released this Friday to lots of anticipation.

With the major reboot of M10 in 2009, core sets are far better than they used to be. That said, these summer releases have been getting stale the past couple of years, and Wizards of the Coast needed to add some more spice to the pot. M13 and M14 were complete snoozefests, really.

Well, by asking famous names in the gaming community (Video games, board games, etc) to design some cards, tweaking the card frame, and getting away from some of the stale reprints, M15 is looking to be the best core set since M10.

After reviewing the set, and playing in this past weekend's prerelease, I've got a list of 11 cards that I will be looking forward to building and playing with in the future.

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In alphabetical order, because Stone Cold said so!

1. Avacyn, Guardian Angel

My Angel EDH/Commander deck is currently lead by Avacyn, Angel of Hope. While the original is far more powerful, the 8 mana cost makes her an expensive date.

This version doesn't need a fancy steak dinner every night, and she can still protect your army. I'm not sure if I'll replace the original, or just take another card out. A flying 5/4 vigilance angel is good in any white deck.


2. Brood Keeper

I had two Brood Keepers in my prerelease pool, but not enough auras to make it worthwhile to play them :(

Slapping auras on a non-hexproof creature always make me nervous, but Brood Keeper will definitely reward the risk. A 2/2 dragon whelp for every Aura attached to her? This is a pretty good build-around-me card. I will certainly brood over the possibilities.


3. Chasm Stalker

This might be my favourite new card from the set. Who doesn't love SQUID tokens? *Squish*

Blue decks always draw plenty of cards, so, when this fellow dies, you ought to be left with quite a  calamari army.

Brainstorm or Ancestral Vision will get you 3 additional 1/1s for cheap, and those are cards I use in many blue decks. Better get some tzatziki ready.


4. Ensoul Artifact

Your mother told you not to run with scissors, but you should probably run FROM them! 

In terms of raw power, this card ranks highly. Turning a Darksteel Ingot or Darksteel Citadel (the artifact land) into indestructible 5/5s, for just two frickin' mana, ought to make the cut.

The artwork alone, is full of win.


5. Generator Servant

This little bugger was surprisingly powerful at the prerelease, allowing players to cast out huge hasty creatures a lot earlier than they should be able to. It's not often we get served with any type of Sol Ring effects.

Red often gets some form of temporary mana generation, but giving one or two creatures haste? That is what pushes this card over the edge. 

Don't forget that the mana generated can be used for anything, even instants.


6. Hushwing Gryff

More and more creatures are being printed with 'enter the battlefield' triggers. Killing those creatures doesn't stop their controller from getting the benefit, dammit!

With that in mind, Hushwing Gryff is another 'hate bear' created to help in competitive formats. Decks that rely upon Birthing Pod will definitely not be happy to see this flashed on to the table.

For us casuals? This is a very flexible answer, and can save you from the devastating effects of an Inferno Titan or Acidic Slime.


7. Necromancer's Stockpile

Cheap discard outlets are always useful, especially if you get some real return on your investment.

I already have a middling Zombie deck, so this ought to slide right in their perfectly. If you have recursion creatures like Gravecrawler or Bloodghast, discarding that card isn't a real cost at all.

As the zombie Billy Mays would say: "NOT ONLY DO YOU GET TO DRAW A CARD, BUT WE'LL THROW IN A 2/2 ZOMBIE TOKEN, FOR FREE!" 


8. Nightfire Giant

Talk about a bomb in sealed and draft! A 5/4 that can machine gun opposing creatures and players? Ick. My poor wife was on the wrong side of the table from this creature at the prerelease, and her army of little dudes didn't last too long.

Yes, the activation cost isn't cheap, but you get a fairly costed creature that makes a great mana sink. I could see myself finding a home for him in one of my numerous red/black decks.


9. Ob Nixilis, Unshackled

Those who have played against my Demons deck know how ObNoxious the original Ob Nixilis can be.

Creatures die often in multiplayer Magic, so Obby here will get bigger with little effort. Being able to punish somebody for shuffling their library will be almost orgasmic, I'm sure. It's too bad he doesn't have flash, so you could really "GOTCHA!" some unsuspecting shmuck. 

10. Scuttling Doom Engine


I'm torn ... (but not Rip Torn) is this a really good card name, or a terrible one?

This card hasn't been getting as much hype of some of the others, but I love being able to punish somebody else for killing my creatures. Six damage is significant, and will definitely scare people into poking it with a stick.

"Scuttles" also makes it so that opponents can't easily chump-block it with some dumb token. One way or another, you are DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!!


11.Waste Not

I finish with the card designed by 'the Magic community', including another name that strikes me as both clever and/or lame.

For sure, this is a powerful 'build around' card that will put further pain on those opponents who have to discard precious resources.

Seeing as I already have such an annoying discard deck, I look forward to the scowls of my playgroup when I whip this out for the first time.

I know karma will come back to bite me, but I don't want your cards to go to ... waste ...

*mic drop*

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So, what cards from M15 interest you?



Friday, 11 July 2014

World Cup Schadenfreude - Brazil Edition

(Give the post a minute to load, will ya?)

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup nearing the final weekend, and the Dutch out of contention for the title, I can relax and enjoy the fact that Brazil won't be winning the whole thing.

It is no secret I am not fond of Brazil's soccer team. The people, country, and food? Fine by me, but their soccer team can KISS ... MY ... GRITS!

During their beating at the hands of the Germans (7-1 is like 24-3 in hockey terms), I experienced a grand dose of Schadenfreude. I was actually cackling as I watched the Brazilians collapse in front of their home fans, and was enjoying watching the many replays on my screen.

"Jes, why do you not like Brazil?"

Let me count the ways...

The Diving - Italy and Hondruas might be the worst, but Brazil is up there in terms of countries that flop more than a fish out of water, or Arjen Robben. As soon as a Brazilian is within 5 feet of an opposing player, they suddenly have balance issues.

Here is 'Fred' getting a penalty call, thanks to a typical flop:



The Acting - Any time a Brazilian player is even breathed on, or a foul is called on them, they roll around like they've been shot with a rubber bullet. It makes it hard to tell when they are actually hurt, like when Neymar got kneed in the spine.

The Bandwagoners - Strangely, Vancouver seems to suddenly have about 100,000 Brazilians every four years. Brazil is a trendy 'easy' team to cheer for, especially for people with absolutely no connection to the country.

Typical bandwagon douchebag.

Their fans also seem to think that their team and game are 'beautiful', and other football is 'ugly'. Basically, Brazil is the self-absorbed high-maintenance type that is too in love with themselves to ever love you. 

The Names - Yes, you are so awesome and god-like that you go by single names. Fred, Hulk, Kaka, Ronaldo, Neymar, etc ... I don't care of Portguese naming conventions give you 34 different middle and last names. Pick two or three and use them. What conceited poppycock!

To quote the awesome George Carlin:
These singers who think they're so special they only need one name. Bono, Sting, Jewel, Tiffany, Prince. What a crock of shit! Get a fucking last name, would you please? ... It's not bad enough the music sucks, but with no last name, you can't find out where these people live so you can throw a fuckin' bomb through their window! It's frustrating.

The Overt Religiousness - Even after they got curbstomped, the Brazilian players were bowing down to their deity and praying for ... not to get killed by the fans?

 "Please, Hammer, don't hurt me!"

Many of the Brazilian players are in-your-face about their religion as much as a Southern "Born Again" Baptist. Even the strongly Catholic Italians are rather quiet about their religion, and Italians are rarely quiet about anything!

Look, your god does not care about sporting events. You didn't lose because of anything other than your own terrible play and Germany's good tactics.

That penalty call above? Here is Fred thanking God for apparently helping the ref make a terrible call. *sigh* Yes, Brazil are somehow the "Chosen Ones", asshole.





Now, I expect Brazil is going to slaughter the Netherlands in the "3rd Place game that should not even be played", as Brazil has something to prove to their home fans.

Still, I will take great satisfaction in knowing Brazil won't win the World Cup in their own country, and that they wasted billions of dollars building gaudy sports stadiums instead of addressing actual problems, like poverty.

 OM NOM NOM NOM!

 "I can't believe it's not butter!"
 This is how FIFA developed the 2014 World Cup Logo

 Yes, even their statues were facepalming after that game.



 Aww, I kinda feel a bit sorry for this old guy.

 Burning the flag. How original, you terrorists.

Ummm... wow... 

 DOWN IN FRONT!

 Brazil's new flag

 Now that the Germans have conquered Brazil...

Teeheehee