May 2018
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006

Categories

  • Film
  • Journals & Blogs
  • Places
  • Reviews

Dominaria Prerelease

Yesterday I went to the Magic prerelease for the Dominaria, and had a lot more fun than I expected! Of course, winning a lot will do that.

I went to the new Isle of Gamers, which is two doors down from their old location, but is at least 100% improved due to the wider and brighter space. They’ve gone all-in on a pirate theme (which they had before, but it feels more pronounced now), and they have a great-looking private gaming room in back.

My approach to sealed deck has been slowly evolving, and these days I tend to focus first on bombs I open and second on number of creatures across the colors, since limited is such a creature-heavy format. It feels like I rarely open pools in which I have more than one viable color combination unless the format supports 3-color decks. Dominaria certainly does not unless you’re base green, because there is very little color fixing (much like the last time we were in Dominaria, back in Time Spiral), and I think you have to have just the right set of stuff to even consider splashing.

As it turned out I had 4 colors in my pool with nominally enough creatures to build decks – blue being the one that didn’t. Red had some good removal, but the creatures were terrible. At first I as leaning towards black-green, but as I looked at it I felt my green was just not very good and white had a lot more punch. So I ended up going black-white.

At first I wasn’t sure I’d had enough playable, but after some thought I talked myself into playing this little combo:


Voltaic ServantTraxos, Scourge of Kroog
This seemed a little sketchy to me, but I felt like I had enough Historic cards that it was worth playing. So in the end I ran with this deck:

Dominaria prerelease deck

My main reservation about this deck was the relatively high converted mana cost and the low-impact 2-drop creatures (3 of them were 1/3s). I also did a test run and realized I had to be mindful of casting Demonlord Belzenok since I could easily draw a bunch of cards off of him but also lose a bunch of life.

My first round was against another WB player. Game 1 I mulliganed to 5 (my first 2 hands had zero lands total), and predictably lost – although if I’d drawn a second Swamp I might have made a go of it. Game 2 my opponent got stuck on 2 lands and quickly conceded. Then, game 3 went on forever and ever. I got out Traxos, put On Serra’s Wings on it, swing twice, and then he killed it. Then we got into a long board stall, got back Traxos with Daring Archaeologist, he killed it again, and finally I managed to seal the deal with Belzenok.

1-0.

Second round I faced another WB opponent, but this one went considerably quicker. The second game was a bit tedious as I kept drawing removal for his good stuff, but I couldn’t get any good stuff of my own. Finally I put On Serra’s Wings on a Voltaic Servant and just kept swinging away with a flyer he couldn’t deal with.

2-0.

Third round I played a red-white deck which looked similar to mine only without as good a top end. I played Divest to lead off game 1 and saw that he had Gideon’s Reproach in hand, but I ended up with more gas than he did and won the first game. The second game we ended up in an early board stall and then I played a Serra Angel. Next turn I had On Serra’s Wings to play and had to decide where to put it. I decided to put it on the Serra Angel in case he had Gideon’s Reproach in hand, making the Angel a 5/5 and out of reach of his spell. His groan when he drew his next card told me that I’d guessed correctly, and I rode the Angel to victory.

Flavor win or flavor fail? Marshall Sutcliffe says:

Flavor win

3-0.

On to the finals! I played a fellow who had just defeated my friend Subrata at the next table over in the third round. He was playing a black-green go-wide deck based around Saprolings and Slimefoot, the Stowaway. He got Slimefoot out in game 1 and he was as annoying as advertised, but I managed to keep the pressure on with slightly-bigger creatures so that he kept chump-blocking with the tokens, and I finally pulled out the victory with a Serra Angel.

Game 2 was epic, and we had several onlookers for the match. He observed that he drew the other half of his deck from the first game, which meant bigger creatures. I managed to get out my Traxos/On Serra’s Wings combo, but he dealt with it through removal and a Mammoth Spider. He got a second Mammoth Spider out, but we ended up trading off some creatures and I used removal to bring us – around turn 10 – to the point where neither of us had any nonland permanents on the board.

A little more maneuvering resulted in me with a 3/2 flying Windgrace Acolyte on the board, but then he dropped a kicked Baloth Gorger, which put me in a bad place. I’d been drawing a lot more gas than lands, and I started playing creatures to chump his Gorger. He was on 8 life and I was around 13, and I was stuck on 5 lands. Just in time I drew my sixth land and played my kicked Sergeant-at-Arms, which gave me several blockers, and I followed it up with a Serra Angel which ended up being just enough for the win.

So I went 4-0 on the day, 8-1 in games, and finished first in the tournament, which was good for 9 prize packs!

People have been speculating that Dominaria is going to be a slower limited format, and that’s how it felt yesterday. I rarely felt like I didn’t have time to get down my 4-drops and slow people way down. I’m sure there are a few faster decks in the format, but it feels like there are ways to deal with them. That kind of makes sense in a format with the Kicker mechanic.

I’m pretty happy with my deck, though in hindsight I think Divest wasn’t really pulling its weight and I should have replaced it with almost anything else – even just a combat trick. I’m also not impressed with Caligo Skin-Witch, mainly because its kicker cost is too high for what it does and its 1/3 body is unimpressive, but I didn’t have a great choice to replace it with. So I don’t regret playing it, but I think it’s a card to avoid going forward.

Overall I was mostly impressed with how many redundant moving parts my deck had, so I really didn’t have much trouble slowing down fast starts, dealing with big threats, and getting out my own big threats. Different games played very differently, but my deck was pretty consistent in always having something useful to do.

Oh, and On Serra’s Wings is just as awesome as people have been thinking it would be.

I’ll definitely have to see how this set plays in draft. I think it will be a lot of “good stuff” decks with minimal synergies, but that can still be fun.

Social Media

I have some thoughts on the turmoil in corporate social media recently – meaning, in particular, Facebook and Twitter. For posterity, the precipitating events are:

I’m hardly the first – or the five hundredth – person to observe that this is the natural development of handing over our online social connectivity to a few corporations who are mainly driven by profit motives and which mainly make money through advertising. The details of election manipulation were perhaps harder to foresee, but it seems clear that there was plenty of room for badness.

So what now? While there’s a movement to delete Facebook (#DeleteFacebook), it is still a tremendously useful resource for keeping in touch with friends and family. (My observation is that it’s especially handy for generations older than mine.) Twitter is less useful for that purpose, but it’s more useful for keeping up with people involved in or who share my hobbies and interests.

Frankly I trust neither of these companies, as both have long histories of not caring about their users. Facebook in particular I think is deeply untrustworthy as Mark Zuckerberg’s 14-year apology tour indicates. Twitter I think is at least as incompetent as they are untrustworthy, and I’m not sure if that’s better or worse – probably it just means they’re going to sell to some large, more solvent company in the next few years. (My guess is Google will buy them.)

Should I stop using them? Yeah, probably. Will I? Probably not. But I have been making some changes in how I use them:

  • I recognize that making political posts is not going to change the opinions of my followers on these platforms. So I’ve been cutting back on doing so unless I think I have something novel to say.
  • More seriously, I’ve been trying to avoid sharing political posts unless the post’s originator is someone I know and trust. The means of political manipulation has been to promulgate divisive political propaganda – at both extremes of the political spectrum – and while I’m solidly left-liberal, I see little reason to help them.
  • I’ve also been cutting back on following people whose main social media activity is to share political content which they didn’t write. So if that’s mainly been what you’ve been posting, then there’s a fair chance that I’ve stopped following you. I follow people mainly for what they have to say, not for them sharing content from others.
  • I also use an ad blocker (AdBlock on the Mac, 1Blocker on iOS), and also a tracker blocker (Ghostery). Since ads can be a vector for malware, using an ad blocker is also a security measure. Moreover, if I visit a site which doesn’t let me read its articles because I’m using an ad blocker, then I stop visiting that site.
  • My Twitter client on both Mac and iOS is Tweetbot. If Twitter drops support for third-party clients and doesn’t come up with a good client of its own with the features that I want, then I’ll probably stop using Twitter. I’d probably do the same thing with Facebook if they ever remove the live feed.

In the long run we’re going to have to move away from corporate-owned social media networks, or at least move to ones which we pay for, where we, not the advertisers, are the customers. Maybe something like Micro.blog or Mastodon is the future. It seems like something like that should be viable, but whether it will become popular is something else altogether.

The bottom line, though, is that it’s got to be something each of us owns. Because if you don’t own it yourself, then you don’t own your own presence on the Internet.

Which, despite my relative inactivity here lately, is why I still have this blog.

(Oh: This is the second post I’ve written titled “Social Media”. Things have changed a bit in the 9 years since I wrote the first one.)

My Trouble with Names

I’m bad with names.

No, not that way. I’m fine with remembering peoples’ names. Well, above average. Probably.

I’m bad at coming up with names. At naming things.

The earliest instance of this I remember was when I was about 10 and was playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends. We’d come up with characters, and a few of them would persist for a while. The one I kept the longest had the deeply evocative name of… Seggerillon.

(He was a wizard.)

I probably haven’t written that name since I was 13 and geez, it looks even dumber than I remembered. Just a bunch of syllables stuck together, and it doesn’t even scan well. Okay, in my defense I was 10. But still.

This has extended into other parts of my life. For example, my two journals, both with names I’ve never been very happy with (“Gazing into the Abyss” and “Fascination Place”). I’ve never been able to articulate what I wanted my journals to represent, and I’ve shied away from titles that seemed snarky or dismissive. It’s been over ten years since I started this one and I haven’t yet come up with a name I like better. (Not that it’s been a high priority.)

I also hit this at work, where naming classes and objects is a routine part of the job. Fortunately, most of this involve fairly rote and descriptive names. But coming up with good names for more advanced classes is sometimes a challenge. I sometimes joke that one of the big problems in programming is that many things you create are abstract with only a tenuous connection to anything in the real world, and there are only a relative handful of words for abstract concepts in English compared to the number of words for concrete things. So we always end up with some class which is a BuilderOperationDelegateProviderManagerContext or some subset thereof.

On another note, something I rarely mention here is that I write a little fiction. A very little. So little that I wouldn’t call myself a writer. One of my problems is that I have trouble coming up with names for characters, especially since what I really want to write is far-future science fiction, where the names might arguably have a tenuous connection with names in today’s world. I like to think I’ve advanced a little beyond Seggerillon, though. I have a couple of names in my quiver that I’ve carried through a couple of story concepts looking for the right one. (And waiting for me to actually start writing one of them.)

Anyway, as they say, there are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation and naming things. At least I’m good at invalidating all the caches.

Middle Age

The last couple of years I’ve been feeling more keenly that I’m middle-aged.

I guess it started a decade or so ago when a cow-orker of mine observed that he remembered watching Babylon 5 when he was in junior high school, whereas I was halfway through graduate school when it premiered.

Since then time has marched inexorably onwards. Most of my cow-orkers are between the ages of 30 and 40, which puts them in average half a generation younger than me. It’s enough that our cultural touchstones are just a little askew: I saw Star Wars in the theatre when it came out, while they mostly watched it on cable growing up. They grew up playing Nintendo and Sega game consoles, while I had left game consoles behind by then and was playing Apple ][ and Mac games. One of them was visibly surprised that I was born in the 60s. And, my career at Apple is almost 19 years old, which means there’s a real chance that I’ll soon have a cow-orker – an intern, perhaps – who was born after I started working there.

(This is not at all to disparage my younger cow-orkers, who I learn things from all the time!)

As I’ve been feeling these differences in age, though, I’ve started making quips about our relative ages from time to time. Some of the jokes are rooted in these different touchstones, and others are more generally about my age (“Pipe down sonny or I’ll whack you with my cane” types of jokes). It’s not that I feel old – in a lot of ways I feel better than I did 20 years ago – but it’s like I have a new perspective that I haven’t had before, and which feels weird.

I’ve been feeling a little – something, guilty? Unjustified? – in making these jokes. I don’t necessarily believe that talking this way is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s been making me a little uneasy. So my plan – my resolution, if you will – is not to make jokes like those this year. There’s a gray area, since I don’t think it’s feasible for me to just ignore or never mention these differences, but to the extent that not talking about them leads to me not thinking about or feeling being middle-aged, I think that’s a good thing.

I’m sure age will announce itself to me in due time, without any help from me.