Saturday, 31 December 2011

All the best for the upcoming 2012

Just a quick note to everyone who reads this blog, either regularly or casually - I hope each and every one of you have a safe, joyous and prosperous new year for 2012.

KittyKat and I were going to catch up with Jay at the top of Melbourne, but tickets sold out to that before we got our act into gear, so he'll be kicking on with Az, and we'll be BBQing for dinner, and then most likely be popping into Melbourne city to watch the fireworks.

So where ever you are, what ever you are doing, and whomever you are with, may you have a fun in a safe manner ushering in the new year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Concord 11s

In the brief history of sneaker collecting, there have been a few shoes that have caused a frenzy in the collecting community. The frenzy is usually achieved by being very limited - in both release and / or colour, and having some significant place in some sports person's career. While this shoe may have been significant, in being the shoe that Michael Jordan wore when he returned to the NBA after his first retirement, it does not meet the criteria of being limited, as it was generally released to the public. The shoe I am talking about is the Air Jordan XI (11) - Concord.

They are similar to another shoe that I have, being the Air Jordan XI (11) - Space Jams. I would think of that pair as being iconic - as they were featured in a film. These Concords I do not consider as special. What I do not understand is that the whole sneaker community went into a shopping frenzy in an attempt to get these. I ended up the night of the release lining up at the Swanston Street (Melbourne) Footlocker shop for their midnight release. I was the third last person in line. Around 40 people were in front of me. I have not seen this type of release in Melbourne yet.

The box is not the same as with other Air Jordans. It comes with its own customized box, in a similar look to the customized box the Space Jams were in. The "2-3" found on the back of the heels of the shoes are embossed on the lid of the box which is now in white, as well as the patent leather upper wave cut being on the side of the box. The box opens like a shelf, not with a lid - again similar to the Space Jams box. Opening it up leads to a plastic cover with the words:
  • "Tinker made them shine."
  • "Mike made them fly."
  • "You made them iconic."
One of the images I did not capture was the inside of the tongue with the words - "Quality Basketball Products Inspired by the Greatest Player Ever". I can say that there has been an improvement made in the manufacturing of the XIs since the Space Jams. On the Space Jams, there were these "pimples" on the midsole. It was like there was additional material poured into the mold that was not cleaned up during the assembly of the shoe. There does not appear to be any such lack of quality from this pair. Here are the images for the shoe:
Air Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - ConcordAir Jordan XI (11) - Concord

Only time will give a proper indication if the quality will last with this shoe, but as you may notice from the image, the problematic yellowing of the soles is still there. The images are of the shoe unworn, and you can already see yellowing where the herringbone pattern section are attached to the clear sole. The only other main difference I have noticed is the darker carbon fiber shank (in comparison to the Space Jams) and the use of an opaque toe. This was actually a differentiating factor when comparing the early release / beta models of the Concords to the proper shop release.

I still do not understand why people went out of their way to get these sneakers as I do not find them more attractive than other Air Jordans that have come out in the past, and the ones that are currently available, but I did find them alluring enough to find a pair for myself, KittyKat, and a little person who may bless us with their presence one day.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Safe and joyous festive period to all for 2011

Just a quick note to all who read this blog - I wish you, your loved ones, and your families a safe and joyous festive period - whether you believe in the story of Christmas, or have some other faith, or you just like spending the time with family and loved ones.

This season for me has been one full of excitement. A few nights ago I decided to go out at 11:15pm to get a pair of shoes. I did end up with a pair of Air Jordan XI Concords for myself in size US 11, and one in size 8k (toddlers) - for the future addition to family. I will post up some images when in the next few weeks. I was lucky. Lucky to get those shoes. I am lucky. Lucky I get to share them with someone one day.

So, where ever you are, who ever you are with, I hope you are as fortunate and as lucky as I am.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Victory broken by Heart

Tonight, KittyKat and I went to our first away game of the Melbourne Victory. Fortunately, it was in Melbourne as the opponent was the Melbourne Heart. The result was not in Victory's favour, ending up with a 3-2 loss against the Heart, but it also provided a glimpse of what football can be and should be in Australia.

Victory scored first, but should have scored sooner from the penalty spot if it was not for the brilliant block from the Heart's keeper. Heart came back with the next 3 goals, and Victory scored one in the 92nd minute.

While it was a loss, with the Heart's second goal being one that could have been caused by a handball (albeit an unintentional one), it was a great match in front of 26000+ spectators. Victory could have defended far better, and their attacks were self-dismantled with poor passing. The scores could have been divided even further with goals going either way. Heart won. Victory (and their fans) need to acknowledge that, and move on.

A lot has been written by people and the media on the rivalry that exists with the Melbourne Derby. I for one do not buy into it at this stage. I did not really notice it in the stands where KittyKat and I were sitting. I am guessing the only people that act this way are the hardcore fans who are looking to cause trouble - something the media loves to vilify. The supporters in the area I was sitting in were all in appreciation of the game in front of them. I appreciated the fact that there is a healthy environment for football in Melbourne, and I hope that all games have high crowd attendance like the one I saw tonight. It was a fantastic atmosphere for football, and one that would have only been made better if Victory had won.

Victory and Heart meet up again on the 4th Feb 2012, and I hope the results go the Victory's way!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Garruk vs Liliana duel decks

As mentioned in a previous post on Jace vs Chandra duel deck, I also have the Garruk vs Liliana duel deck for the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) game. You may want to look at the previous post for a picture of the box, along side that of the Jace vs Chandra duel deck. The decklist for the Garruk vs Liliana set can be found on Wizard of the Coast's website.

This duel deck set was the second set to come out to include planeswalkers - the first one being the Jace vs Chandra duel deck. Wizards of the Coast do not include a planeswalker with every one of their duel decks, but they are increasing the frequency of sets coming out with them.

As mentioned previously, I enjoy the way you can just buy a set like this, and start playing against an opponent. Unfortunately, all is not balanced with this set.

I have mainly playtested this set with SpecialK - with SpecialK playing the Liliana black deck, and me playing the Garruk green deck. I have yet to win a game playing the green deck - even though I in most cases I am able to play a land every turn. I find the problem is the black deck is very quick in getting creatures out, and once the creatures are out, they have enough evasion to get past the creatures in the green deck. If the black deck looses a creature to the graveyard, then they can cast spells (including Liliana's ultimate planeswalker ability) to retrieve the creature back from the graveyard.

This goes against what most duel deck sets are appear to do. Every set I have purchased so far is balanced against its opponent's deck. Liliana's black deck has an advantage over Garruk's green deck. I am not talking about the occasional lucky win, but the black deck consistently defeats the green deck in reliable manner. This may come down to me not knowing what to keep in my opening hands, and not knowing when to mulligan my starting hand. If anyone has any insight to win more regularly with Garruk's green deck, I would appreciate your comments below.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Jace vs Chandra (english) duel decks

As mentioned previously on this blog, in the Knights vs Dragons duel decks article, I enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG), and one of the easiest ways I play it is by grabbing preconstructed decks and playing those as they are. This article is about the first of the duel deck series to contain a planeswalker - the Jace vs Chandra duel decks product. This deck was release originally in 2007 or 2008. I was not playing much MTG back then, so I did not get one until recently via the internet. It originally was sold for $20, but I ended up paying slightly more than that. I have heard it was even priced as high as $150 at one stage (and I am lucky enough not to have paid that). The decklist for the Jace vs Chandra decks is available on the internet (as well as visually on the gatherer website), and people wanting to play this set have a few options. They can either:
  1. Buy the set as it is - for around $50 to $150 depending on where they buy it from
  2. Make up the set from single cards - which can be obtained from the internet or from shops that sell MTG single cards and products
  3. Buy the Japanese-only Jace vs Chandra duel deck set in for around $20 to $30 - which is readily available as it was re-released in 2011. I would have selected this option if I could read Japanese, or if I knew the images of all the cards - but unfortunately I do not know either.
The box looks like this:
Jace v Chandra duel deck and Garruk v Liliana duel deckJace v Chandra duel deck and Garruk v Liliana duel deck

The images above show the back and the front of the Jace vs Chandra duel decks, as well as the front of the Garruk vs Liliana duel decks. I will not mention much about the Garruk vs Liliana decks, but I will mention them shortly in the future. People with sharp eyes will notice that the planeswalkers that should be facing the front of the box have been replaced with the deck boxes themselves. In a rush to play this set I did not take the photo of the box as it was when I first received it. I hope you get the idea of what to look for if you are thinking of purchasing the set yourself. The Garruk vs Liliana are as they came.

I have played the Jace vs Chandra set mainly against SpecialK, and moderately against Chewie. Chandra's deck is played how a good mono-red deck should be played. Play a lot of damage early, and keep it up. I did notice the lack of a Lightning Bolt card (or several) in the Chandra deck - something I would have included in almost all mono-red decks I would create. Chandra Nalaar is great, but is more expensive than casting Jace Beleren. If you can get Chandra out, especially before your opponent casts their Jace, you should be able to breeze through and win the game.

Jace's deck is played like a typical mono-blue deck. It is based on controlling the other player and limiting what they are able to do. It also allows for card drawing, but ultimately gets some flying creatures that can strike for the win. I appreciated the inclusion of the Counterspell card, and I look forward to its return to MTG's modern format. Getting Jace out does not guarantee a win, as it does not cause damage to your opponent. It does facilitate card draw, and milling your opponent - which I would consider a plan B strategy - used when you cannot draw enough creature cards to attack an opponent. It would backfire when used against a deck similar to Graveborn, that allows your opponent to retrieve creatures out of their graveyard, or Deathfed, that allows your opponent to fill their graveyard and then play cards from it.

I did have a minor problem with this set, as some of the cards were missing. I contacted Hasbro Australia, who sourced a replacement for me and sent it out to me. Well done to Hasbro, and much of my thanks and appreciations goes to their Australian staff for facilitating a replacement - even though the product has been out of print for some time. I believe I may have received one of the last replacements they have on hand - as there may be a policy in place to not stock products after a certain time.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The USA believes in Internet Censorship

Apparently Australia's good Senator Conroy has some support in his belief that the internet should be censored - at least in Australia. And this time it comes in the form of a covert operation from the entertainment corporations in the USA to regulate what appears on the Internet.

Known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a law is attempting to be passed allowing censorship of the internet to be made in the USA. Time for you to stand up America - go to - and find out what you can do.

I wonder what Mrs Clinton's opinion is on this. Any form of censorship is unacceptable.

And for Australia - Do something (useful (now))!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Victory rises from the ashes against the Phoenix

It may have been poor form of me, but I could not resist writing the title. In what turned out to be an exciting Sunday afternoon of football, the Melbourne Victory beat the Wellington Phoenix 3 goals to 1.

When it comes to football, I did not want to sit through an entire season of frustrations when the Melbourne Victory played their home games. Their current records is 3 wins, 6 draws, and 2 losses. The more draws they get, the higher the level of frustration, as I have seen on several occasions that they have obtained the lead, only to draw when the final whistle is blown.

One of those occasions this year where a draw was achieved was when the Victory played the Brisbane Roar for a 2-2 draw. The Victory started well, but ended up drawing. What was exceptional about this performance was that the Victory was reduced to 9 men - 2 men short of the full team's roster - due to tough referee decisions. Now to Brisbane Roar appear to be going through a minor slump, after their long streak of no losses, with a 3 game streak of defeats.

Football is a strange game at times. You can be the best team on paper, but not produce the results. You can be awful at times, and still come up with a win, even though the team did not play well or even have the majority of possession in the game.

I look forward to the next game the Victory have against the Melbourne Heart, and I urge all Melbourne Victory supporters to go to the "away" game at AAMI Park this Friday to support the Victory in the Melbourne derby. Fill the stadium with blue. KittyKat and I should be there to cheer the boys on!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Standard League at Games Laboratory

I have been playing in a Magic: The Gathering (MTG) League at the Games Laboratory, and while I am yet to win any matches (after playing 4 matches), I am enjoying myself.

For me, this game is very much going back to basics. While I can win games amongst my small group of friends that play, I do not win very much when I play against people I do not know. And as I explained to one of my fellow competitors in the MTG League, if I beat one of them, it feels like more of a real victory. Beating one of my friends is nice, but it is not on the same level. They do not have the same passion to try to win.

For those that do not know what a MTG League is, basically a competitor starts off in week 1 by purchasing 6 booster packs, and make a deck of 40 cards from them. The deck can be made up of as many copies of any cards found in the 6 boosters, and additionally as many basic lands as required. Ideally, you should have around 17 creatures, 6 other spells (made up of artifacts, pumps, removals or others), and around another 17 lands. Those are a rough guide line, and should be altered as required. Every week, a competitor is allowed to purchase another booster pack to add to their card pool - and then be able to alter their decks. During matches and outside of matches, competitors are allowed to swap out as many cards from their pool as they desire. Competitors are not allowed to add additional cards outside their pools, or trade cards with other competitors in the League to alter their pools. It is somewhat fair, requiring some luck, but also a lot of knowledge of the game, the cards, and using the individual competitors skill to win. You turn up, ask to see who is available and play them. You play 5 matches every week, and you cannot play the same person twice. You also must leave your deck at the store, to avoid you forgetting it, or modifying it accidentally with additional cards.

Games Laboratory also have a store League deck, so if no one is around, you can just play them.

My weakness is not understanding what I have in hand, and only a basic understanding of how the cards I have in my pool work together. I do listen to what my competitors say, and I do feel like I am getting better over time, but I need to judge myself against them with wins.

Lastly, if you are looking for something to do on New Year's Eve - Games Laboratory will be doing drafts all night. I may pop in, but I doubt it. Wish me luck in League games.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Infinite copies deck

I have been spending some time trying to put together a deck for Magic: The Gathering (MTG) that would make me competitive in the modern format. When I talk about being competitive in a game / tournament, I am implying it will essentially make me sit there not having to think too much on how I play, but just play it as it is - also known as basic piloting. I do not keep track of my game very well, and I need to improve on that aspect of the game to be truly competitive at higher levels.

Stating that, I started to put together a deck based on Samuele Estratti's winning modern Splinter Twin deck. The sole reason I chose this deck over attempting to recreate any other deck is simply the cost. I worked out that the cost of the entire deck would be around the $300 mark. Samuele's deck came in 1st place for the MTG Pro Tour Philadelphia tournament. The deck that came in 2nd had 4 cards that already totalled in excess of $300 - being the Tarmogoyf. My new challenge with this deck was not just to replicate it, but to keep it in a modern legal format. Since Samuele's win, 2 of the main cards he used have become banned - Ponder and Preordain.

This is what I have come up with so far:
I still need to work on what I would include in the sideboard. The deck works well against most decks, and it does have a good chance of getting a win condition by turn 4. I have played a few people with it, and it appears to be successful against most decks with the exception of decks that strongly manipulate the graveyard - and decks that are either vintage or legacy format.

I will post an article in the future about this deck when I decide what should go into the sideboard. Until then, I am open to suggestions.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Zendikar block fatties

Playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG), I am always interested in different products that they come out with. In the case of the Zendikar block, I had just stopped casually playing MTG about the time of the release of the first set of the block. I bought some cards before hand, and even have one of the Zendikar intro decks which KittyKat uses - Kor Armory. Her deck is no longer intact and has been modified somewhat.

The Zendikar block set is made up of 3 sets, being Zendikar (hence the name of the block), Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi. I missed out from some of the most interesting cards by departing from MTG just before they came out - only really playing it for about 2 months with KittyKat and Jarvo.

Fortunately for me, and with the help of ebay and eliza4172, I was able to track down the Fat Packs for the Zendikar blocks, and luckily they were not too much more expensive than were they were released. The Zendikar Fat Pack, the Worldwake Fat Pack, and the Rise of the Eldrazi Fat Pack provide the purchaser with around 8 or 9 boosters, along with a life counter (in the shape of a 20-sided die), a box to house cards, and most importantly, a guide containing images of all the cards as well as some background story. They are similar to the Innistrad Fat Pack I purchased a few months ago.

One interesting side note about these fat packs is that I ended up not opening the boosters immediately. SpecialK came over, and I ended up opening them to supplement a pseudo limited format we had - which started off with Rise of the Eldrazi, but ended up adding some Zendikar boosters. Neither of us has ended with the chase card of the block, being Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but it has been fun opening boosters and attempting to make a deck of 40 cards and then playing each other.

This time has been a rewarding one. I used to hang out with SpecialK a lot while I was in uni, and we did not catch up with each other for a few years, and now due to MTG, we are seeing each other once or twice a week. KittyKat is yet to complain - which is a good thing. With the extra physical strain on her at the moment, I think she is appreciating me leaving her alone to rest.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Simulated sealed deck games with SpecialK

Since SpecialK and I have been in contact with each other again, we have been playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) - a card game that simulates us being fantastical spell casters in battle against each other. While it may appear to be a kids card game on the surface, it does lend itself to managing resources (in the way of obtaining mana to "pay" for spells), as well as understanding probability when attempting to build decks to compete against each other.

While it is simple enough for a casual player to walk into a MTG store and buy a deck to start playing, the next level of understanding of the game is when you start creating your own decks. With some simple rules - like no more than 4 copies of any card besides basic lands, you have to construct a deck that attempts to beat your opponent down from 20 life to 0, or gives him 10 poison counters, or fulfils some other win conditions - without your opponent doing the same to you.

SpecialK and I took that concept one step further by having a limited sealed game with just him and I. We opened up 6 Rise of the Eldrazi boosters, added some lands, and made a deck of 40 cards. We would later add some Zendikar booster to the mix as well. We played this over the course of around 3 weeks. Every time we met, we would add one booster to our respective pools, and attempt to come up with a deck to beat each other. SpecialK kept reusing his first deck, and just substituting a few cards from it here and there. I would swap my entire deck in and out. One week I would play one combination, and another week I would be playing a totally different combination of cards. In this format, the 4 card maximum rule does not apply. The only rule that does apply is that you cannot add cards from outside of the packets you have opened.

In a way, this simulated the type of format used in some MTG leagues that are held in the card shops around Melbourne. While I am not doing well at those types of formats, I do enjoy myself when I play this game.

At the end of the simulation with SpecialK, it ended up roughly even, with me possibly edging ahead with an extra win or two. It also gave SpecialK an insight into MTG, a game which he thought was originally dead and no longer being played. I do not know of a time where it has been as popular as it is now.