Tuesday, December 25, 2012

[Caitlin] Fangirling: The Christmas Special

[JT's note: YAY!  Caitlin's back, and she's bringing her Fangirling series with her!  This time she's thrown in some holiday cheer with it.  Due to some special circumstances, I am going to leave this relatively unedited and without comment.  You'll see why in a second.  Just know that all numbers that look like this ---> [X], are placed there by me for a reason you will understand at the end.  I also just want to note that since Caitlin's love of Dr. Who has not yet infected me, I left out any spoiler tags that might be needed during editing since, well, I'm not sure what is a spoiler and what isn't.  Fair warning.  So without further ado...]

Merry Christmas to all my fellow nerds out there! If you hadn’t guessed already, I am a MAJOR Doctor Who fan. Christmas is a particularly special day for fans of this beloved series because of a British tradition known as “the Christmas Special.” I have been current with the series for only the past two Christmases, but I already know that it will be a personal tradition of mine to watch Doctor Who on Christmas day. Today has been an emotional roller coaster [1], as Christmas tends to be. There was the obligatory opening of presents, a lull in which sibling rivalry rears her ugly head, and then a wonderful day filled with friends, family, fun, and copious amount of alcohol [JT's note: Which is why I was so excited to see her write this ;) OK, I'm out for now.  See you at the end.].

Since this series is entitled “fangirling,” I suppose I should begin with the presents that made me fangirl, and made the rest of my family cringe. My favorite gift was Season One of Game of Thrones. Fortunately I was able to share my enthusiasm with my father; who has seen the first season and read the first 1.5 books (I have seen and read all of it, and this makes me very anxious because I have a compulsive need to share my obsessions (this explains why JT watches Bones). When present opening was done, however, no one would let me put on the special features. (even though my sister does it EVERY YEAR with any DVD that she recieves!! But I’m not bitter at all…) I had no one to share my excitement over Downton Abbey Season two, In fact, my entire family thinks I’m weird for that one… (I have an obsession with British Television and period dramas and I am not ashamed!!!)

This brings me to our afternoon festivities! My sister, who has recently been introduced to the world of musical theater (mostly thanks to Glee and shows like The Voice), actually wanted to go see Les Mis. Let me just say [1] that I have been looking forward to this for so long, and with every news update I wanted it even more! It was an emotional rollercoaster [2] to say the least [2]. To say [3] that I was anxious is an understatement; musical theater to film translations have not had the best track record.  The announcement that the actors were singing every track live was very promising, but out of context clips and the “highlights from the motion picture” soundtrack did not bode well. I have to say [4], that the wait for this film was an emotional rollercoaster [3] in and of its self; but the final product was well beyond anything that I could have imagined.

While I have never seen Les Miserables on stage, I can imagine that it lacks a sense of the personal connection necessary to capture the audience. On film this is absolutely not the case. Les Miserables pulled me in immediately, and did not let me go for three tearjerking hours. To say that [5] I was impressed would be an understatement. Initial critical reviews of the casting choices made me question my excitement, but I was not disappointed. While I wish that Amanda Seyfried’s voice had been more powerful in ensemble numbers, and that Russell Crowe’s delivery had been more powerful in general, this did not detract from the film’s emotional pull. On the other hand, Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen were perfectly cast for the precise amount of comic relief. It took a while for me to recover from the emotional toll of the film; which was both depressing and uplifting [4.5] at the same time.After all of that, the Doctor Who Christmas Special still remained. I made the mistake of watching the end of the Fall finale before the Special, which after the emotional rollercoaster [5.5] I had already ridden, was a horrible idea. At least it put me in the proper, I love to hate Steven Moffatt, mindset.

Since I have access to proper viewing equipment, (AKA a DVR) I am able to do a proper review (AKA I can rewatch it several times in one night and pause, rewind, and rewatch as many times as I want). The opening sequence is certainly different from recent years. I immediately picked up on the translucent image of the current doctor, and recognized that it was a throwback to the earlier incarnation of the series. The new opening sequence is such a glorious combination of old and new, that any long time fan of the series should be excited for what is yet to come (along with a few scattered allusions to the original series during the episode). This is particularly exciting since this is the beginning of the 50th anniversary year for the show, and it shows that Moffatt really cares about the legacy that was left for him.

One reason that I love Steven Moffatt is that he seems to personally have his fingers on the pulse of the Docto Who fandom. Since "A Good Man Goes to War," the fall finale of season 6, fans have been clamoring for the return of Madame Vastra (A member of the race Homo Reptilia, the first humanoid inhabitants of planet earth) and her female partner. It was widely speculated that these two were a romantic couple (and also that they might be future companions of the doctor's), and this was confirmed in this year’s Christmas Special; marking the first time that an openly lesbian couple has been featured on the show. Since this episode takes place in Victorian England, there are a few comedic moments where it is unclear whether characters are more unnerved by the fact That Vastra is a lizard-person or that she is married to another woman.

This episode also features Jenna Louise-Coleman, who was first introduced (to much fan dismay) in the premiere episode of the 7th season.  Since Jenna was known to be portraying the new companion to the doctor,to be introduced during the Christmas Special, and Moffatt, yet again, introduced a character shortly before their demise (think River Song), this was bound to be an emotionally and mentally taxing episode. There are several moments of Pond era nostalgia, and a few AHA! moments. In true Steven Moffatt fashion, this episode answers every question with another question, and will leave every fan utterly unsatisfied; with an insatiable hunger for the next episode.

[JT's final note:  ...and that's where she left it.  I don't know about you, but I kind of want to see more of this tipsy Caitlin's writing.  I think it could be fun.  Oh yeah.  The numbers?

"Emotional roller coaster" Count: 5.5 ([4.5] was basically an occurrence)
"To say"/"Let me just say"/etc. Count: 5

... all during the first half. -_-

Anyway, tune in next time for the next installment of Fangirling and see which version of Caitlin we get then ^_^

Happy Holidays!]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

[JT] CGC: Holiday Edition

Happy Holidays, all!  So, my original intent was to do a holiday themed Group Therapy with everyone.  Unfortunately, that fell through at the last minute.  Not wanting to give up on doing something special for my very first Christmas holiday season with you all, I racked my brain for a long time (it's amazing how long two minutes can feel ~_^ ) about what I could do until it hit me like a brick: Holiday CGC!  So let's unwrap what I have for you today...

Commander: Karona, False God

Creatures (31):

Agadeem Occultist
Akoum Battlesinger
Bala Ged Thief
Bojuka Brigand
Graypelt Hunter
Hada Freeblade
Hagra Diabolist
Halimar Excavator
Harabaz Druid
Highland Berserker
Joraga Bard
Jwari Shapeshifter
Kabira Evangel
Kazandu Blademaster
Kazuul Warlord
Makindi Shieldmate
Muramasa Pyromancer
Nimana Sell-Sword
Ondu Cleric
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Sea Gate Loremaster
Seascape Aerialist
Stonework Puma
Tajuru Archer
Talus Paladin
Tuktuk Grunts
Tuktuk Scrapper
Turntimber Ranger
Umara Raptor
Vastwood Animist
Mana-Charged Dragon

Spells (9):
Vow of Flight
Vow of Duty
Vow of Lightning
Vow of Malice
Vow of Wildness
Alliance of Arms
Minds Aglow
Collective Voyage
Shared Trauma

Artifacts (12):
Conjurer's Closet
Coat of Arms
Signets x10

Lands: X

That's right.  I brought you a Karona, False God EDH deck.  I will be perfectly honest and tell you that I did what EVERYBODY does and got this for you at the last minute; meaning I thought up this skeleton in about as much time as it took me to decide to do a holiday CGC.  Now before you ask for a gift receipt, let's take a closer look at the deck for a bit, because while the deck itself was quick, I've been brewing it in the back of my mind for a while now.

My first thought when coming up with a holiday deck was a Red/Green Santa Claus themed deck with a heavy group hug feel.  The problem with this was that there weren't any Santa-esque R/G legendary creatures.  Soon after I realized this, I also realized Santa-esque is too restricting.  A general holiday gen- ...er... commander would be much more fitting (and politically correct), which lead me to five colors.  I looked at the 5 color legends for a group hug commander, and found Karona.  It has a nice little twisted group hug feel that I have loved for a while now (hence the "I've been brewing..." line above).  Now I had an excuse to try and flesh it out a bit more.

Karona's form of group hug is a lot different than others.  Instead of giving other people some kind of bonus (a la the most ubiquitous group hugger, Phelddagrif), Karona give herself to your opponents.  This can be a huge problem if it comes back at you, hence why I included the full cycle of vows, the ones that give the enchanted creature a bonus and keeps it from attacking the owner of the vow.  These will keep Karona from coming back at you in retaliation.  Karona's title as the False God is also a small play to my cynicism about the holidays and shopping, because, let's face it, a large number of people have forgotten the true spirit of the holidays: coming together to celebrate with your friends and family...

Which is why I decided to go ahead and include the cycle of Join Forces cards as well; the ones that when cast, everyone can add in any amount of mana they want, and all players get the sum of the rewards.  Everyone pulling their resources to better themselves and/or the group; becoming allies for a brief moment.  Speaking of which, as you can see, I took the camaraderie to another level by making the creature base the full suite of Ally-typed creatures, even the puma (it's the family cat).  What I love about these guys is that they rely on others to bolster their [very versatile] effects; i.e. the more the merrier.  I originally picked the Allies because I wanted a fun tribe that spans all five colors, and while there might have been others, I'm not sure anyone can argue with the flavor of this band of bros.

The last thing I want to discuss is that if you notice, I left the land base open (with 47 slots to fill).  The reason is that I fully expect that anyone who wants to give this deck a try to tweak the spell base; take out certain allies that don't fit into a certain game plan, include more instants and sorceries (removal, draw, tutor, etc).  If you enjoy giving yourself some restrictions and taking the camaraderie to another level, I have a suggestion:  if something exists as part of a cycle, use the ENTIRE cycle (as I did with the signets, the vows, and the Join Forces).  This goes for lands too, although that might be the most expensive part of the deck that way (unless you want to go all out on the holiday feel and use the Holiday Promos)...

Here are some ideas that popped into my head:

 Zeniths!  Absolutely.  Sweeper?  Creature tutor?  Draw?  Burn?  Dudes? Re-usability and versatility?  Great.  These are the first five cards I am adding.

Guildmages!  There are 20 now total, or at least there will be once Gatecrash drops.  They sort of breaks the tribal theme, hence why I probably won't be using them (I enjoy tribal way too much), but I can see why anyone else would.

"Hunted"!  These larger-than-normal creatures add an extra dimension of group hug to the deck by giving your opponent something in return for allowing you successfully cast the guy. Again, though, breaks the tribe vibe.


Titans!  No.  Primeval is banned :(  If you have a play group that would allow you to use him though, go for it!  I would be willing to break my love of a mono-tribe creature list (Mana-Charged Dragon alone makes me want to sadface, but he is there for the sake of another cycle) for them since they have synergy with Conjurer's Closet and any other blink effects you may want to include.

Medallions!  Could be fun, but I prefer the signets since they can always be used as colorless sources for the spells that don't fit into the color.

Kamigawa Patrons!  Again, if you want to break the tribal theme for them, and think it would be fun (I do), go for it.

As I said, this is a skeleton that I rushed together, and I think it shows.  However, I think for a rough skeleton, this could turn out to be really fun, especially once you add in your own little twist.  Have any other ideas for cycles or holiday themed cards to include?  Just let me know in the comments.

So with that, and on behalf of Caitlin, Jas, and Stevie, Happy Holidays from NerdPop! ,,v. ^_^

Friday, December 7, 2012

[JT] CGC: Now I Know My ABCD's - Pick Your Own Adventure

*deep breathe in*  Ahhhhh...  Welcome back to The Card Game Corner everyone.  Sorry I've been so silent with this lately.  Don't really have an excuse; just sort went M.I.A.  Anywho!  I'm back, and it feels good.
Subliminal hinting, but to what?!

Today's CGC is introducing a revamp to my deck discussions.  You see, I've recently rediscovered my love of budget decks for standard (more on how I rediscovered it in a bit), so we will be talking about our (my) ABC...D's; as in A Budget Constructed Deck.  Want to know what's great?  If I'm showing the progress of the decks, we can have the ABCDE's (Evolution).  Then for the last segment on that particular deck: ABCDEF's (Finale).  Yes, I like word play.  Deal with it ,,v. ~_^

Ok, back on topic...  You all know that I love my Deadeye Control deck, and that will be my focus for the majority of Innistrad's stay in standard.  However, it's not like I want it to go stale on me.  Which brings me to today's post and why I rediscovered my budget love.  I was thinking about a deck I could just randomly throw together to have fun at a random FNM in November.  Since it was just to take a break from my main deck, I wasn't going to put too much time or effort (i.e. trading for pieces I needed).  What I came up with is...

Night Terrors:

Creatures: (20)
Duty-Bound Dead x4
Diregraf Ghoul x4
Butcher Ghoul x4
Blood Artist x4
Diregraf Captain x4
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Artifacts: (1)
Runechanter's Pike x1

Spells: (19)
Bone Splinters x3
Ghoulcaller's Chant x3
Altar's Reap x3
Spectral Flight x3
Murder x3
Forbidden Alchemy x3

Lands: (20)
Drowned Catacomb x1
Swamps and Islands x19

This deck actually had it's beginnings as my very first draft deck.  It was a DKA-IND-IND draft, where I ended up with a sic UB Zombie build that went Turn 1 Diregraf Ghoul/Gravecrawler, Turn 2 Spectral Flight... deal with this (and an Endless Ranks of the Dead for good measure).  The original intent behind this 60-card build was to top out the deck at a converted mana cost of 3, but the more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with a singleton Grimgrin, Corpse-Born.

One thing you may notice is the lack of Gravecrawler's.  Well, if you remember I said I was just throwing this together.  I don't have the Gravecrawler's.  Now, I know what you're thinking:  why Duty-Bound Dead though?  I wanted another one drop in black, and Hunted Ghoul was my first thought.  Awesome!  Another zombie!  Then my eyes fell on DBDead, and I started to think:  DBDead would do a better job of supporting the deck as opposed to filling the deck by not only mucking up the ground, but also pumping up my early turn attacker.  Would Gravecrawler's be better?  Most likely (they don't muck up the ground).  Would I love to have them in the deck?  Definitely.  Will I try and add a few?  Well, that's where we get to the interesting part of this post...

YOU are going to decide.  I am going to do something a little different.  I have a second deck I am going to discuss with you in a few seconds, and I want you to pick which one I focus on for my ABCDE's.  Which ever one is the most popular is the one I will discuss and tweak.  Simple as that.  If you pick the Night Terrors, Gravecrawler's would probably be my first choice in upgrading the deck as long as it stays a budget card (which it barely is right now.  More on this at the end though).  Before you snap pick that deck though, let's talk about it's competition...


Mindshrieker x4
Bruna, Light of Alabaster x2
Archon of the Triumvirate x2
Drogskol Reaver x2

Thought Scour x4
Mizzium Skin x4
Unburial Rites x4
Rise from the Grave x2
Righteous Authority x2
Unhallowed Pact

Azorius Keyrune x4
Ring of Evos Isle x2


Any horror director worth his salt will tell you that things you imagine are scarier than any monster that can be put on the screen.  Well this deck has the chance to prove it with another of my favorite, underrated cards from IND block: Mindshrieker.  At first, I saw this card as Jace's go to creature instead of an illusion (tell me you can't imagine how majestic it would look to see Jace launch a wave of blue magic at someone, have it form into a bird that buzzes over the person, clawing at his head, not doing any physical damage, and flying back over and landing on Jace's arm like a falconer and his pet).

The problem with that though is you are at the whim of your opponents deck, you never know what kind of card you are going to mill with it.  With THIS deck though, you have full control, and what better way to take advantage of all the high costed cards you want to mill with the bird than to reanimate them after they have pumped it up?

 And so, Reani-Shrieker was born.  Now, I will say right of the bat (and it may/should seem fairly obvious) that this deck is not nearly as "fine-tuned" as the Night Terrors, simply for the fact that I've had that deck assembled for a while now so I can use it at this week's FNM.  It will look more streamlined after I've had some more time to think about it.

My first pick for a reanimation target was Bruna, which also allowed me to tap into another form of reanimation, and include the aura that just screams "BRUNA!" for me: Righteous Authority.  Other possible targets that I am considering are Avacyn and Griselbrand, but again, that's up to you and the whim of the budget.

So there you have it.  Now it is up to you.  Which deck would you rather see me evolve?  Or do you just want to see me evolve my Deadeye Control deck? Leave me a comment with the deck and any suggestions you have for that deck.  On the topic of suggestions, I am going to leave you with two criteria I will be basing my decisions on for whichever deck you decide on:

1) Price.  Obviously!  Each card should be no more than $10 (since different sites have different prices, this is somewhat flexible), hence why I called Gravecrawler barely acceptable.  I will mention that the closer the card is to $10, the less likely I will add it.  Lands do NOT count for this, but you probably won't be suggesting those anyway.

2) Availability.  I am TRADING for these cards.  I am not spending any actual cash on them.  As such, if I can't find them for trade, they won't be going in.  This is less likely to be a hindrance though, since I can usually find most cards on Pojo, the site I trade on.  You also don't know what the availability is for me, so this is more of a "if I don't use the card you suggested, don't think I ignored it" stipulation.  I will seriously consider each suggestion.

I'm going to leave you with one last comment on these decks I feel should be kept in mind: Gatecrash will have both Dimir (BU) and Orzhov (WB).  JUST SAYIN'.  I am really excited for both of these decks.  Now all that's left is for you to tell me which one to use.  Leave a comment or tweet me @NerdPop140.

Now, if you excuse me, I think I just heard a Bump in the Night...