Friday, 30 September 2011

I love the fatties!

When I am referring to loving the fatties, I mean the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Fat Packs - not the huge creatures in the game. In this case, I am referring to the Innistrad Fat Packs.

It was launch weekend this weekend for the Innistrad set for MTG. This follows on a week after the prerelease weekend. You have to acknowledge the sole purpose for these events - it comes down to marketing to turn over money. I do acknowledge that it also introduces the people to the new sets, but we are not talking about a life saving technique or event here - it is a card game (a fun one at that). It could turn into making money for the individual players themselves (if they decide to turn "pro"), but essentially this is an opportunity for the stores selling the product as well as Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro (the manufacturers of MTG) to make money. It is a symbiotic relationship, where the retailer and the manufacturer work together in an attempt to bring the product to the consumer. While the consumer has the final decision in this, the strength lies with the strategy used by both the manufacturer and the retailer.

As mentioned in the title of this article, I appreciate the package known as a fat pack, and hence purchased one this weekend, along with a copy of all the Intro decks for Innistrad. The contents of the Innistrad fat pack can be found on-line.

Innistrad Fat PackInnistrad Fat Pack

Others there were even more keen than me on this game (and this may lead to why I am not consistently good at this game, as I am not willing to put in the investment of time and money as much as other people). To me, this game is still a hobby, not a profession. While the fat pack I purchased cost AUD$50, I saw other people this weekend sitting in front of booster boxes, opening up the 36 booster packs found inside. Each booster pack costs around AUD$5.50 to AUD$6, but when purchased as a box, it costs AUD$150 and they usually throw in a promo card (while stocks last). The promo card for buying a box of Innistrad boosters is Devil's Play. Buying a booster box works out roughly to getting 6 booster packs free when buying in bulk.

From estimations, I have spent somewhere around AUD$400 to $500 (as a rough total) on all my purchases for MTG. I was dwarfed by the amount of people who were spending money buying products. The one guy at a table near me had opened two booster boxes already, and was working his way to his third box. I hope he gets out of the game what he needs - as that one afternoon, he was working his way through AUD$450.

All the prices I have mentioned in this article are from the Games Laboratory. I have not seen a "recommended retail price" anywhere for these items, so you may find prices fluctuate depending on where and who you are buying products from. The guys at Game Laboratory appear there to help, so buy in bulk, and they'll try to help you out.

(I'm hoping that no one who reads this article mistook the title for a broadcast that I am in anyway attracted to BBWs I may have been with.)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The "Exception" deck in MTG

After one of the recent major pro tournaments that Wizards / DCI ran for Magic: The Gathering (MTG), they deemed that two cards were too powerful for the tournament style game, and were subsequently banned. Those cards were "Jace, the Mind Sculptor", and "Stoneforge Mystic". The first card was very powerful, and banning it seemed to put some equality back into the game. Banning the second card caused a dilemma for Wizards, as around the same time, they were releasing a ready-to-play Event Deck that contained that card - the War of Attrition deck.

An Event Deck is a preconstructed deck that is geared towards winning games. It contains 60 cards, with an additional 15 cards as a sideboard. By banning the Stoneforge Mystic card, they effectively banned the War of Attrition deck. Since they were all ready to by shipped or already in the stores, Wizards deemed that those decks were tournament legal - as long as you played the deck as it was. If you want to modify the deck, then Wizards have deemed that you need to remove the 2 Stoneforge Mystics in the deck.

War of Attrition Event DeckWar of Attrition Event Deck

This leads to an interesting position for me. I am not the greatest deck builder. That has been shown to me by my lack of being able to win matches in all the MTG events I have been involved with - although I am starting to win games. Getting this deck meant that I would loose out in doing something MTG - customizing decks.

From the majority of initial reports, the War of Attrition deck is still quite useful at dispatching the majority of other decks. In the next few weeks, when I get to play it as is (ie. "out of the box"), I will make mention of its performance in the comments section below.

I purchased this from the Dungeon of Magic (located in the Royal Arcade, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne City).

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ajani vs Nicol Dueling

After purchasing and playing my first Magic: The Gathering (MTG) duel deck, Phyrexia vs. The Coalition, I purchased a second one - Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas. This is the first duel deck I have had that has been built around a Planeswalker type.

Ajani vs Nicol Bolas Duel deck
From my understanding of these decks, Wizards of the Coast (the developers of MTG), made these decks to be played by two people against each other. With just the basic understanding of the game, two people would be able to purchase this product, shuffle, and then start playing. You can always change the cards in the deck, or take cards out of it to add to other decks you may have, but it is not how to use the product as it was originally intended.

After playing a few games with these decks, I feel that the Ajani deck tries to swarm out a lot of creatures while gaining life at the same time. On the other hand, the Nicol deck needs time to build up a large store of mana to play some powerful cards - but meanwhile will try to counter and remove the opponents cards on the table and cards in hand. The deck lists can be found on the Wizards website. The key aspect of the game I have noticed is that whoever gets their Planeswalker out first will usually have enough of a position to win the game. A Planeswalker in the opening hand would be a huge advantage, and knowing when and when not to mulligan is critical.

For the moment, I am content to play both my duel deck sets as they are, and against their corresponding opponents. I think they are a great way for casual players or people who are just interested in playing occasionally (that do not have their own decks) an opportunity to play instantly. The only suggestion I could make would be to remove 3 cards from either deck, and include 3 more copies of each of the Planeswalker type cards.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Microsoft is stifling your freedoms (again!)

This article was originally sent out on the Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) mailing list by Luke. After emailing Luke, he has release the below (with some of my alterations) as public domain:

It as part of the Windows 8 OEM scheme Microsoft requires the OEM's to lock down the computer to only run Windows 8 or other "authorized" OS'es via a signature system for "security" reasons.

Put simply, Microsoft as part of their OEM system require all new computers shipping with Windows 8 to use secure signing keys to prevent "unauthorized software" from running on the computer. This will prevent all free software operating systems from running on the computers that come with OEM by default.

So, we need YOU to stand up for Linux in Australia (and other countries)!

Simply follow these easy steps:
  1. Click this link: here
  2. Fill out your concerns (find a reference letter below that you are free to copy / use).
  3. Submit with Personal Information (this is a real complaint, and the ACCC requires this information to possibly verify it is legitimate).
  4. Tell your friends to do the same.
  5. (optional) Forward this to your favorite Linux Mailing List.
  6. (optional) Phone the ACCC on 1300 302 502.

Here is the reference letter:


I have recently learned that any new computer or laptop that ships with the upcoming Windows 8 Operating System will not be able to run any other Operating System. Microsoft's new UEFI Secure Boot system prevents 'unauthorized software' from running on any new computer sold with Windows 8. Making a system that ships with only Microsoft Windows not being able to boot a copy of Linux or any other operating system. I wish to use Linux on future computers, and this will not allow me to use Linux at all. Microsoft is engaging in seriously anti-competitive behavior by forcing the lockout of all competitors - see:

Not only will Microsoft kick out Linux off the computers, they will prevent 'upgrading' of windows versions: creating forced obsolescence. I am disgusted, is Microsoft legally allowed to do this? Microsoft has been slowly becoming more anti-competitive: computing used to be about choice, having the ability to choose the Operating System. Now Microsoft want to have complete control.


[insert your name here]

Do something (now) about protecting your freedoms! And if you want to read more, try the originating opinion in itwire.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Innistrad pre-release weekend

I went to my first pre-release for Magic: The Gathering (MTG), even though I have played the game on and off for around 16 years. I have previously been to a prerelease for MTG, but only to see what was going on. That was for Zendikar, and now, for Innistrad, I was going to participate.

I may have forgotten to mention that the Zendikar pre-release was in Canberra, and had around 20 participants. Not many people turned up. I thought the Innistrad prerelease was going to be about the same, especially since it was going to be a midnight release - starting at 12:01am on Saturday (24.09.2011). I was wrong!

Participation involved a sealed limited format. I, and 41 other people, were given 6 booster packs (a random selection of around 15 cards sold in individually packets) of the Innistrad set, and was required to construct a deck of 40 cards out of those cards found in the 6 boosters supplemented with as many basic lands I wanted. This was similar to draft limited format, except there was no passing of cards from one person or another. You got what you received at the start of the session, and you made your deck out of that. Swapping was not allowed.

My first match was a walk-over. I was pummeled into the ground by my opponent. He knew what was going on, and did what he did to win - by a large margin. I was never in the game. Since we finished very quickly, he offered to assist me in building out my deck to avoid a repeat situation. My problem was that I had a very unbalanced mono-coloured deck (being red). With a few tips, I was shown how to rank cards on a mana-curve, and to weed out just creature / artifact spells, attacking spells, and removal / counter spells. Creatures are usually used to attack with, and removal spells are used to get rid of attacking creatures, spells, or artifacts. With this new information in hand, I tried to construct a more balanced deck by adding black to the red.

It proved successful, but only marginally. I did win 2 more games, but I lost all the best of 3 matches. Still, I see this as a learning curve. I did not learn how to run in a day, and I see these defeats as my attempts to learn how to crawl and walk first. I hope it is not going to be a long slow crawl.

Thanks goes to the guys at Games Laboratory, for putting on a great prerelease event (which I ended up getting home from at 5:30am). As some assistance to me, they have pointed me in the direction of the following online resources:
When I did get home, I decided to do some additional reading, and review the cards I have gotten from the sealed limited event. Within 30 minutes, I had created a red-green deck with a small portion of white. I tried some example opening hands (ie. drawing 7 cards), and found it to be a far more viable deck - assuming I shuffle it well every time. Who knows what would have happened if I spent the time on making that deck, instead of taking the easy way out and constructing a mono-coloured red deck? Maybe I would have won my first best of 3 match?

Friday, 23 September 2011

The iconic Adidas Shelltoes

There are only a small number of sneakers, in my opinion, that have been made that can be considered truly iconic. Amongst them I would have to put the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, the Nike Air Jordan I, the Nike Air Max ('87), and the Adidas Superstar - also known as the Shelltoes. This article is about the next iteration of the Shelltoes, being the Adidas Superstar II. There is apparently some minor differences between the original Adidas Superstar, and the Adidas Superstar II - hence why the name has changed. The rubber toe covering is still there, which is where the nickname of the shoe came from.

These sneakers were originally popularized by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The shoe was modeled off the Adidas Pro Model, which was similar in design but had a higher ankle cuff (also known as being a "high top"). It was not until the rap group Run-D.M.C. wore them in their acts that the first cross over from hip hop to fashion occurred, and it was Shelltoes that made that transition. The list I proposed in the first paragraph of this article may be short, but the Shelltoes is a sneaker that can be immediately recognize, and attributed to the 1980s hip hop culture.

The shoe requires some wearing-in. Trying the shoe on for the first time, I noticed it was digging into my arch, as the shoe does have a high arch support. While this is not too uncomfortable, it does take some time for the materials to soften, as well as my foot adjusting to the new shape. Traction is superb for indoor or outdoor sports usage due to the usage of a herringbone / ripple sole. With the emergence of this shoe being in the hip hop spotlight, I doubt that this should would be used for sport, but more geared towards fashion. In the case of the model I have, the tumbled leather used throughout the upper of the shoe creases gently, without looking too shabby after a few wears. The rubber toe covering initially rubbed on my toes, but within a few days was flexible and comfortable. Another benefit of the rubber toe cover is that most scuff marks are easily cleaned off with a damp cloth.

The only disadvantage of this shoe is that it has poor heel lock-down, and it feels like my foot slides around in the shoe. I doubt this will matter to most of the people that wear this shoe, as the lack of a heel lock down may be considered an advantage for people who just want to slip in and out of this sneaker. By lacing the shoe loosely, this is easily achievable.

adidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silveradidas superstar II - white with silver

From what I've seen in retail stores, these shoes originally sold for AUD$120, but with some shopping around, I was able to get these for AUD$48 from the Adidas Factory Outlet on Smith Street, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia. I will be sure to look for more if they ever come on sale.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Phyrexia and the Coalition dueling

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) on and off for around 16 years. I initially started off being introduced to it by a guy at uni, but I never bought my own cards. He brought in his own set of cards, and we played a few games. I was interested, but at the time I could not afford the initial investment of playing the game. The game requires collecting cards, and a huge number of them (unless you know which ones to purchase individually) - hence why I believe that they added the words "The Gathering" to the end of the game's name. Luckily, the guy at uni lent me his copy of the Microprose computer game of MTG, and while this was much appreciated, and well used, it was eventually met with disapproval from my partner at the time claiming it was consuming too much of my time.

Go forward to around a few years ago, I actually starting buying the physical cards. I have played with KittyKat, Jarvo, Chewie, and a few other guys from work. Some of them have likened the game, while others have just blatantly put up a mental barrier against the game stating it is too geeky and requires "too much reading". I'm quite interested at the comment of "too much reading". I wonder if anything will ever be labeled as "too little reading"? What is "the correct level of reading"?

Anyway, to get back on track, here is my latest acquisition - based on the initial theory of Chewie, that you should play MTG as it is - out of the box. It is the Phyrexia vs. The Coalition duel decks. In case you are wondering what is contained in this set, the decklist for both the Phyrexian deck and the Coalition deck is easily found on Wizard's main website (the subsidiary of Hasbro that develops MTG). The two decks play very differently. The Phyrexian deck is all black in mana, and plays very straight forward, attempting to cause damage with a swarm of creatures immediately. The Coalition deck is all 5 colours, but with green as its predominant colour of mana. To win with a Phyrexian deck, you need to keep attacking and swarming your opponent, while doing some graveyard and mana manipulation. To win with the Coalition deck, you will need to hold off / endure your opponent's attacks, until you can get enough of the correct colour mana generators to cast one of the three dragons in the deck. Once the dragon comes out, the game will be completed within another 3 or 4 rounds.

I purchased this from the Dungeon of Magic (located in the Royal Arcade, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne City). Their prices are competitive when compared to what is on offer from

Lastly, I have started being more involved with MTG in Melbourne, by even fronting up to events to play against people I have never met before. It was very surprising to find that the attitude of the shop owners and the players are very courteous to new players - like myself. While I do know how to play the basics of the game, I am new to playing competitively. Upon playing my first booster draft game, I was issued my own DCI number, which can be used to track my progress over time. I doubt I will climb fast in the ranks, but it is still a fun game to play.

Anyone up for a game?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

EDH / Commander play

One of the aspects I like about playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is playing the cards in combination with each other for interesting effects and outcomes, and the social play. I do like playing competitively, but I really enjoy play in a relaxed atmosphere, where each person has enough time (and life points) to be able to get some combos out, before the game grinds to a halt due to someone winning. One on one is fine, but it is much more social and fun playing in a group, where alliances can be forged in one turn, only to dissolve in another.

One sub-game of MTG is attempting to address that - called Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH), or as it is better known now MTG Commander. The rules can be found on-line, or in the main website, but in summary:
  • You have 100 single (no duplicate except for basic lands) cards in your deck including your commander card
  • The deck has to be in the same colour as your commander's colour/s
  • The commander must be legendary
  • Your commander starts off in a "commander zone" and stays there until it is ready to be cast - it does not add to your hand total
  • It costs more every time your commander dies to cast it out of the commander zone
  • You have 40 life (instead of the 20 you get in a normal game), but if you sustain 21 or more points of damage from a single commander, you loose
  • Games take longer - not the 25 minutes a normal game may take, but closer to an hour
  • You are encouraged to make up more rules to add more fun to the game
Getting together 100 cards is a lot to ask for, especially if you are new-ish to the game, so to assist, the guys at Wizards (developers of MTG) came out with preconstructed Commander decks - with oversized cards for the deck's commander. Those decks (with their mana colours) are:

1. Heavenly Inferno (white, black, red deck)
MTG Commander - Heavenly Inferno (front)MTG Commander - Heavenly Inferno (back)

2. Mirror Mastery (blue, red, green)
MTG Commander - Mirror Mastery (front)MTG Commander - Mirror Mastery (back)

3. Counterpunch (black, green, white)
MTG Commander - Counterpunch (front)MTG Commander - Counterpunch (back)

4. Political Puppets (red, white, blue)
MTG Commander - Political Puppets (front)MTG Commander - Political Puppets (back)

5. Devour for Power (green, blue, black)
MTG Commander - Devour for Power (front)MTG Commander - Devour for Power (back)

Each deck's checklist can be found on the wizard site, or you can find the entire card list for the MTG Commander set on Gatherer.

Along with that, I also got some sleeves, and storage boxes:
MTG Commander - original box imagesMTG Commander - original box imagesMTG Commander - sleevesMTG Commander - sleevesMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro BoxMTG Commander - Ultra Pro Box filledMTG Commander - Ultra Pro Box filled

Since I am new to this format, I have not had a huge opportunity to playtest the different sets. I will be able to give a better indication over time, but I will leave that to another articles. My thanks for allowing me to put all this together goes to:
Lastly, I have noticed some people actually constructing commander decks by hand, and doing this all in one colour. It limits the possibilities you have, but if you can get the cards you need, you can be very annoying for other opponents. Think of an Erayo's Essense (the flipped side of the card) as your commander, and then playing an Arcane Laboratory - hence locking out your opponents from casting regular spells. It would make you very unpopular, very fast.