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Offline JasonPratt

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SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« on: August 23, 2015, 06:27:45 PM »
Part 1: What isn't Shandalar?

It will become quickly apparent that there is no feasible way to do a narrative Shandalar During Action Report. Or After Action. Either way. Calling it a DAR made more sense for the song joke, though.

Apparently there are young and confused people who do not know what Shandalar is, or why those of us who know what it is seem to be constantly whining about Wizards of the Coast (the guys who own Dungeons and Dragons and a bunch of other things, including the card game Magic: The Gathering) keeps wasting time making mere multiplayer versions of Magic: the Gathering instead of remaking Shandalar.

Not that a multiplayer version of MtG (hereafter) is a waste of time exactly. But theyíve spent a long, long time trying to get something right again that they already got right once upon a time long ago at the turn of the century. Or millennium.

Well, they got it sort of right. Their first computer game adaptation (I canít recall if it was with Microprose or not) of the collectable card game MtG, was an unmitigated disaster, barely remembered by anyone today except those of us who suffered from buying it. On paper it sounded like a great idea: an adaptation which used computing power to make the card gameís rules translate into a sort of real-time strategy game experience. Except turn based. I think. I donít recall clearly because the game was a buggy mess, and after a week of trying to fight its horrible design I returned it to the store for a refund (which was possible back then, even though we bought games physically from things called ďstoresĒ back then.)

Eventually various people made good semi-adaptations of the MtG formula featuring models and effects on a playing field, like for the Etherlords duology, among less well-known ones. But Microprose went back to the drawing board and converted the card effects into a different kind of randomly generated strategy game, combined with Sid Meirís Civilization engine. At the time it wasnít a wild hit, but this game, Master of Magic, became a cult phenomenon, and several developers tried badly to remake it for years until the team making Age of Wonders finally almost succeeded by polishing the game up to AoW: Shadow Magic.

That wasnít Shandalar. But I want to establish context. MoM-heir games have been increasingly popular, and increasingly competent, the past few years; but they owe their existence in some large part to Microprose sneaking MtG into a Civ game ruleset.

Anyway. Eventually someone at Microprose figured out how to do a proper engine for the card game, and released it using the 4th Edition cards. And it worked pretty dang well! -- the multiplayer was a bit skitty, but any multiplayer back then was more than a bit skitty. It didnít help that insane people among the devs had insisted on tying the various single player elements into the multiplayer connection (which was called Manalink), which made the game more than a little schizophrenic to operate. And bug patching back then was difficult to promote due to the internet being new; and this type of game naturally generated a lot of bugs due to the increasingly large number of playing cards.

But they did succeed. You could play a legitimate card game of Magic the Gathering, building decks of various kinds in various ways, generating tournaments (with real-life people or with AI bots, or a mixture thereof) using packs of random cards to build decks from if you wanted or with your own Ďbroughtí decks; you could skirmish in mere one-on-one games with the AI bots or with people online (if you could get the dicey internet connections to hold up properly). And the game would neutrally make sure the rules were kept up and enforced, doing a (mostly) great job of that. The AI was pretty decent, too, bugs aside, and would ruthlessly exploit how the cards worked, thinking ahead by several steps sometimes based on what cards it knew were in play or available in its hand. I had been playing Magic for several years before then, and that game still taught me TONS about clever and effective play and deck design. (Which I promptly would forget, or want to ignore for experimentation sake. ;) )

Microprose released two expansions which, between them, added the first four expansions from the Ďreal lifeí card game in order of their chronological release, and clearly the plan for a while was to keep releasing new sets every year or so.

Then that plan was abandoned for reasons Iím not entirely sure of. Iím doubtful it was worry that the computer game would cut into sales of their cards, since the last thing they did was to release a Magic encyclopedia as a CD program which included every card published up to that time, including all sets that had not yet been included in the Ďgameí per se (and including the set being released that year simultaneously). If I recall correctly, you could even print off your own cards from the encyclopedia, which I thought was insane -- though maybe I misunderstood. You could also set up games with people online (not hotseat so far as I recall), but there was a big catch now: there was absolutely no AI code. It was just like playing live, in the sense that you and your opponent had to be responsible for playing by the rules.

The Microprose died (and maybe had already died by the time the encyclopedia was released; I donít recall the timing there, and Iím too lazy to look on a wiki, though not too lazy to write about things I donít clearly recall SHUT UP! :P ) And MtG wouldnít return to computers until the days of Steam. And wouldnít really allow deck designing and building again until this very year, though they got closer to that goal every year.

So now they finally have something approaching the multiplayer side of their first legitimate adaptation long ago, which for reference weíll call Manalink: a certain number of ďsetsĒ are available to collect, and once you collect them you can put together decks the way you want, and challenge bots and real players on line.

But that isnít Shandalar.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 05:03:20 PM by JasonPratt »
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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2015, 06:28:50 PM »
Part 2 -- What is Shandalar?

Strictly speaking, ďShandalarĒ is the name of a fictional world where... I was going to say where some of the stories represented by the cards of Magic: The Gathering take place, but in fact most of those stories happen on a Ďworldí called Dominaria and some others having been added along the way. The history of that world, traced in the release of card sets every year or so for a long time, has become pretty epic by now, and Iím not going to get into it.

But because of that increasingly complicated fictional history, the designers for the game wanted there to still be a world with partial connection to all the other Ďworldsí where actual stories were being written, but it would be the default generic gameworld. Thatís ďShandalarĒ. In the meta-story, Shandalar is a fairly small plane rich in mana (magic) which picks up interruptions from other planes with more interesting histories. Itís sort of the ďFirst EditionĒ world, or rather a world where the ďFirst EditionĒ without a story is still true but all other cards can be played there.

The concept itself is kind of an in-joke for players who just wanna play the dang game and donít want to get involved in debating how legit it is to play cards from mixed sets, because once ďIce AgeĒ is over then cards from the ďDarkĒ (before the Ice Age) naturally wouldnít apply anymore except where things that developed during the Dark are still hanging arouNNNERRDDSS!!!

For our purposes, the relevant thing is that ďShandalarĒ was chosen to be the setting of the single-player campaign of the 2001 game (and its expansions). What does that mean? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Because, the campaign game runs on a procedurally generated map, which defeats the whole idea of trying to ever claim that there is some canonical ďstoryĒ to Shandalar. That, apparently, was why the dev team thought it would be proper (and presumably funny) to set the game there.

Of course thereís a loose story to set up the situation of the game, where a demonic supervillain from another plane is making a bid to take over Shandalar by installing puppet wizards as regents to funnel the planeís mana over to him so... he can break free of hell and wreck havoc everywhere else, I forget the details. Anyway, except for the final part of his plan, heís already won at the start of the game: the five wizard regents, who each represent one of the basic ďcolorsĒ of the cards in the game (except for the colorless artifacts, oddly), have taken over and are generating chaos from their heavily guarded castles, setting monsters and more minor wizards to roam the lands to free up naturally occurring mana by fighting each other and screwing over the population. Who naturally, in turn, promote and reward heroes to fight the chaos; which in turn just frees up more energy release to be captured and partially funnelled back to the Ultimate Bad Guy in his ponzi scheme.

(I tried to get a screensnap of the five regents and their sponsor looming in the background, because THEY ARE HILARIOUS LOOKING! But the particular screen which shows them drops back to the previous menu if I hit any button, which messes with my screenshot utility. The reason for that screen is to check how far down the regents have been notched, which affects how strong theyíll be if challenged. Thatís accomplished by doing various quests, tamping down the mana chaos these nits are causing and feeding on.)

You set up a character and choose a starting color (plus a difficulty, naturally) which will give you a decent number of randomly chosen cards in that color (mostly from the Ďcommoní classification) to start with; plus a few cards from a randomly chosen secondary color, and maybe an artifact or two.

I chose ďwizardĒ (the hardest difficulty, which Iím sure Iím going to regret), and then chose ďwhiteĒ from among the possibilities here:

 


Red == fire and earth; Green == life and earth; Blue == water, air, and mentality (not really artifacts despite how the description sounds); white == life and air, sort of; black = death. It doesnít really break down very clearly into the standard elemental categories, and thatís one of the charms (I think) of the MtG system.

(For those already familiar with Shandalar, you may be asking yourselves, is that running on Win 8.1? Yes. Yes it is. Perfectly well. You may squee now.)

Here I am designing my character from the hundreds of options available in a game from 2001!

 


I didnít say they were good options.

 


Here, flanked by my angelic harem (the background lineart in this game is a bit... pandery to its assumed play audience), I enter my name and Iím ready to begin. This game is/was notorious for its player characters and NPCs (randomly generated from the same Facemaker program) looking like asses. Still, a tolerably close likeness, for what itís worth!

 


Regardless of what I designed in Facemaker, there I am, the patriotic brown haired Aryan male, plopped into the middle of Shandalar. Or randomly somewhere in Shandalar, not necessarily the middle.

Here on the overland map, which has been procedurally generated, it is literally impossible to do anything other than move around trolling for random encounters or trying to reach a map location. Random encounters will spawn, and behave in various ways depending on their character, but will often try to fight someone who looks weak. Which I necessarily am at the start of the game, so itís important to find a town pronto and hop into it. The terrain affects what kind of randoms will spawn to harass me, and also affects what kind of cards I can find to buy in-town (and what kind of gems I can earn for doing quests).

I chose to be primarily a white mage to begin with -- itís a good idea to diversify later, but back in the day this game was made white had two special kinds of cards that were cheap to throw and which I made a point, in this game and in Ďrealí playing, to put in all my decks whenever possible: Disenchant (which destroys both enchantments and artifacts) and Circles of Protection (which keep me, the player, from being hurt by enemy effects). At the time the game was released, there was a reasonable chance of picking up one or two such cards in the deck randomly assigned to you at the beginning -- if I chose white. Nowadays, for reasons Iíll get into shortly, those odds are astronomically reduced; but I should still get a lot of white land cards (called Plains) to power them up eventually.

As you can see on the overland screen, which Iíll repost here for convenience:
 

There are three nearby towns, the form of which may or may not provide somewhat better trading and quest opportunities -- I forget if thatís true and it doesnít really matter. What matters more is how much of what kind of land is around the town. I can expect a lot of green in that one to the southwest; a mixture of white and black (but maybe more black) in that down directly east; and what looks like mostly or all white in that town to the northeast. Since I mostly want a white deck to start with (due to my personal playstyle), Iím going to head that way. Whereupon I discover Iíve forgotten that itís impossible to use the mouse to move me around on the map. Iím more than a bit paranoid about being caught in the open before I reach a town, so I donít take the time to test whether the keypad can do diagonals, I just stick with the arrow keys.

In case youíre wondering, the terrain does affect movement, which is why roads are better. This makes a difference in food consumption (I start with 50 and am only down to 49 when I get to town), and timeclocks on quests. Also in whether a random spawn will catch me, since appropriate colors will run faster in their proper terrain. Fortunately, no spawns appear; I make a mental note to check later, when Iím more prepared, whether theyíll run after me even if Iím not moving, or only as the Ďclockí advances during my moving.

Unfortunately as I get close I discover more rocks around the town, which means I can expect more red cards than white.

 


Thereís even an outright mountain nearby; and the high-plains area fits the (randomly assigned) town name of Coldsnap Village. Once I get into the village and look at a map (which shows me a little farther than I can clearly see Ďoutsideí), I immediately notice this town is far more red than white territory. Opps.

 


Iíve put a little yellow circle around it, since screenshots naturally canít show the little blinking pixel that indicates my position. Jeez, if anything this should be a heavy red/green area! Iíll be surprised if there are any white cards here at all. The little ďtowerĒ things are larger cities which will have specially large card selections available for buying with the gems. I donít see any adventuring dungeons yet (I think they have to be discovered by winning and buying and finding hints), but itíll be a lonngggg time before Iím anywhere mox enough to try one of those.

Iíll add here that this map function only being available in-town is one of the campaign gameís only real design flaws. If I recall correctly thereís a world-map power which will allow me to access it outside towns, but itís really something that should be available from the start. Still, itís only a minor annoyance, and gives me something to shoot for early in the game. Various toggles can be toggled which show things like the names of various dungeons (though not the towns, oddly; those are reserved for a Ďmap journalí screen elsewhere) and what kind of cards are specially available.

Meanwhile, hereíre Coldsnapís options.

 


Now I can actually use some of those icons, including the green one on the left below the others, which ought to have something in it, probably my face, but doesnít, and which leads to my main inventory screen.

 


Well, not my inventory screen per se; more like my progress tracking screen. Gold is used for various things, most importantly to buy more cards. A lack of food instantly kills me if I run out, and I can buy that with gold or get it in some other ways. The ankh indicates how many hit points I have (not called hp, something else, lives maybe?) Which as usual is important in a fight. The spellbook shows how many cards Iím using in my current deck, compared to how many I currently own: currently 46/46 which isnít bad as a starting number. A 60 card deck is ideal; in this game, Iím not sure thereís a minimum number for a legal deck, but if so itís probably 40. Gems (of which I have one white) are used for buying cards, but give more of a specific choice than whatever is being currently offered in the market. They can also be used to power magical effects on-map, which are represented by ďworld-magicsĒ; and players always start with a magic knife that allows me to teleport instantly from any town to an allied town under siege to help its defense. (That costs one white gem, although thereís a chance based on various factors that the gem wonít be used after all.) And you can see some other wizstats there. In this version of the game, the win/loss record against ďcreatures of ShandalarĒ may be broken, but it was never that important anyway.

This other screen (which can be reached in some redundant ways) is really the only inventory screen that matters: my deck builder.

 


That grey field across the bottom is where my unused cards will soon be residing. All cards are specific properties in this game, and can be moved in and out of decks much like Ďrealí life. Three decks are allowed -- which quickly becomes a real hinderance, since cards have to be moved discreetly into and out of decks from the general kit, and a player can easily want more than three deck variations to deal with various problems. (Especially once I get the world magic which allows me to edit my decks out on the map.) But eh, games are about overcoming limits, yo.

Good news! -- by a completely astounding blip of luck, I was assigned a circle of protection out of the gate! And a black one will be especially useful for working on quests at that swampy town nearby.

Bad news, but kind of good news in a way: the game rather unexpectedly assigned me a rainbow deck with a bunch of other colors. In this game, itís usually better to have only two or at most three colors for various reasons. Not sure if choosing wizard difficulty contributed to this initial result, but my deck is rather less effective at start than it could have been. My land to color ratios arenít the best either, but for the minor starting possibilities they arenít too bad. (I prefer a ratio of around 1 land to 2 cards of that color. Lands power up spells to put cards on the table, and to make some of those cards do effects once there.)

Anyone familiar with the original Shandalar may be saying to themselves now, ďSelf, if Iím not mistaken the only card in that deck original to the original game is the CoPBlack, and Iím not entirely sure the little icon on the card indicates that particular printing comes from one of the sets available to the game... Crossroad Vampire? Putrid Leech? Okay Bog Rats and Vampire Bats and Wall of Dust, might recall those, but the other things? Howíd they get in the game?Ē

Well. Hm. I canít say exactly how, but a few years ago some people involved in providing fan patch bug fixes for the original game (and its expansions) got tired of waiting for Wizcoast to make a new Shandalar campaign game, and so not only brought the game up to speed so that itíll play on modern systems without crashing (especially at the deck builder), but also wrote code and imported art for at least

FOUR
TEEN
THOU
SAND
CARDS
!

At least. Itís possible there are more cards in the game which just donít have the art scanned in yet.

Not all those cards (even remotely) have been tested yet for buggy operation, though naturally many of them use functionality already working solidly -- a 2/3 creature is just a 2/3 creature regardless of what color it is or its name or what the flavor text says; if itís invisible it canít be blocked except by walls, etc. And I think Iíve read somewhere that itís possible to go in and turn off cards for debugging purposes, which means all the sets after The Dark could be turned off and the game played just as a modern patched version of the original and its expansions.

Thatís still highly illegal, since you donít need to own the game anymore to actually play it; theyíve modified the ISO. So Iím not going to show where to find it, and Iím not offering to do so privately. (Though personally Iíve chosen to pay Wizcoast quite a bit of money through their current MtG:Duels game on Steam as a start of recompense for finding and using the game.)

But anyway, there it is for those Shandalar fans who were curious what I was talking about in another thread.

And, whatís available to buy in this little town?

 


Sweet!

Now, anyone unfamiliar with MtG wonít know what those cards Ďdoí or how theyíre used, but I may get to that next time. Essentially the game is an excuse to get into card battles with the AI, build up a card collection semi-randomly, design effective asskicking decks, etc. And to enjoy the fine art on the cards. (Well, some of the art is a bit dubious, but still.)
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 05:05:16 PM by JasonPratt »
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Offline bbmike

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2015, 04:13:49 AM »
Apparently there are young and confused people who do not know what Shandalar is...

Trust me, there are those of us who are old and confused.  :P
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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2015, 07:04:16 PM »
PART 3 -- BASIC MAGIC-RY

Okay, Iíve spent a little money on some helpful thingies, and tightened up my deck a little by stashing some currently-unhelpful Blue cards in my kit along with their Islands (and selling one particularly unhelpful card that would work better in a much more Black oriented deck), and doing my best to get close to a 1:2 land:spell ratio.

Lands are usually the first thing someone learns about MtG. Here you can see a Plains, which is a basic land card.

 


Itís that big card in the deckbuilderís card-viewer on the left, in case youíre having trouble parsing all the artwork.

Speaking of artwork, like most any collectable cardgame MtG is famous for its artwork, and the basic lands (by the nature of things, pun intended ;) ) have vastly much more variant artwork than any other kind of card. Shandalar (and the current Duels and most computer adaptations for that matter) randomly chooses a variant to display out of any existing in the gameís own library, although to help avoid confusion the variants stay locked once chosen by the system until an actual fight when they may be randomized again for the fight. In real life, players often like to buy and sell lands (which again by the nature of things are dirt cheap) in order to play using their favorite art variants. Unfortunately, that isnít an option in any of the computer adaptations I know about, including Shandalar. The Forest and Island artwork down in the kit are two of the original kind, by the way, and I think the Plains artwork that can be seen on the visible cards is, too.

Iím taking time to mention this because if you donít appreciate visual art, youíre going to be missing out on a significant part of the enjoyment of the game. But the art otherwise doesnít mean anything -- itís entirely possible to take the art folders out of the program folder and play the game cards with no art.

So! Okay, ďbasic landĒ, is land without any special powers. I have one golden land in my deck, too, called the Sandstep Citadel, and here it is for reference:

 


I bought this one in town, btw. In modern rules, special lands are usually (but not always) designed to come into play ďtapped outĒ, which Iíll explain in a minute, but basic lands (and a few golden ones) are ready to ďtapĒ immediately once you play them from your hand. Under most circumstances (and this game is ALL ABOUT exceptions to the rules), you can only play one land per round.

Lands are the power batteries of the game. Itís probably impossible to explain how they would work in the context of some kind of Ďactualí wizard fight -- you, as the player, have a connection to the lands in your deck, which playing the land establishes as a channel for drawing ďmanaĒ, which you then use to cast spells. But the lands are also treated as being developed there-on-the-scene somehow, in physical connection near where youíre standing or whatever. Which means some creatures can sneak through your lands to attack you.

The players themselves donít directly attack each other or any creatures on the board; the duel is purely fought with spells. Those spells are powered by ďmanaĒ, and mana is collected by ďtappingĒ lands -- ďtappingĒ is physically represented by turning the cards 90 degrees. Most mana has a color, and most spells (unless they are for artifacts) require at least one mana to be used of a particular color, sometimes two or more of that color depending on the design of the spell-card. Generally, needing more than one of a particular color to cast, signifies the card is going to be especially powerful. But most cards require more than one mana to cast, and most of the time this extra mana can come from any land or other mana-source (such as some artifacts or creatures). If you tap more mana than you actually end up using, youíll be ďmanaburnedĒ, which depending on the rules could be for one point of damage or for as many points as you had too much mana tapped to use. Usually this is meant to take advantage of drunk or otherwise distracted players.



(No, I donít know whether MtG is the origin of the slang about ďtapping thatĒ.)

But as you might expect there are a few spells designed to mess with a player this way. In Shandalar, itís easy to accidentally tap more than the lands you really wanted to use if you arenít careful, and the game will definitely manaburn you if you do.

Once a land, or any other card, is ďtappedĒ, it canít be used for various activities until the start of the same playerís next turn -- unless some effect ďuntapsĒ it, of course. This is a huge part of the strategy of the game, since itís often (but not always) important to keep some untapped mana in reserve to cast spells at the other guy during his turn!

So, you can tap a Plains for white mana, Forest for green mana, etc., one mana each, and then it has to recharge. My golden land up there comes into play ďtappedĒ so I canít use it immediately (unless I find a spell or effect to untap it!), but once it untaps Iíll be able to generate one mana of a color of my choice between white, green, or black. (The little turn-arrow is shorthand for ďtap to...Ē.) And then it has to recharge again. But it costs me nothing to throw down a land. (Well, usually nothing; there may be a spell in effect that penalizes me for doing so. Or benefits me!)

What do you use mana for? Almost everything else in the game, except for powering basic creature attacks and defenses. That includes summoning creatures to the battlefield. Hereís a pretty normal black one.

 


I havenít summoned him -- Iím only looking at my cards in the deck viewer, not fighting a battle at the moment. But the little skull and the number (1) in the upper right corner tells me heís a black card (as does the border around the artwork and text), for which Iíll have to tap one swamp (or a similar black mana source) and then one more mana of any color. Once I do that, and assuming my opponent doesnít screw with my casting attempt somehow (which Iíll talk about later), I can put him into play on the battlefield.

(People may recognize this creature and the flavor text as coming from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. But cards and sets drawn from realworld works are pretty rare. I donít know why Wei Infantry would be counted as ďblackĒ.)

This particular card represents one soldier (apparently), but other cards can represent single groups which are treated for game purposes as one creature.

Creatures, like lands, are persistent effects on the field once theyíre cast, until theyíre destroyed; such spells are called, rather inaccurately, ďpermanentsĒ, and there are a couple of others of this sort. There is a sort of window of opportunity to cast permanents twice on each of your turns, once before and once after the attack phase, although either time you can cast as many spells as you can find the energy to do so. Many players prefer to wait to summon creatures from their hand until after the attack, in case they need that mana for something else.

The ďattackĒ phase, which happens in the middle of your turn, is when you can choose to surge as many of your creatures forward as you want (and as possible under the cirucmstances) for what amounts to a melee charge at your opponent. Those numbers in the bottom right corner are a creatureís attack and defense values, how much damage they normally give to anything they hit, and how much damage they normally need to be destroyed. Reducing a creatureís defense to zero (usually) destroys it, sending it to the discard pile which is called (also rather inaccurately) the ďgraveyardĒ -- along with all other used or destroyed cards, including destroyed or discarded lands, meaning you can put a fireball in your graveyard but whatever.

Many creatures have special abilities other than only attack and defense, including the ability to attack targets (when powered with mana usually) at a distance. But these Wei Infantry are a basic creature with no abilities. He can be killed by practically anything, since he only needs 1 damage to die, but he can give 2 damage to anything he manages to hit.

During the ďattackĒ, your opponent can shoot spells at you or your creatures -- though only at distinct points of opportunity, and only certain kinds of spells while on defense -- and you can also salt your attack with various spells though only of certain types. (Creature abilities count as spells for this purpose, usually fast-acting spells called ďinstantsĒ which weíll get to later.) But mainly the point is to see whether or not you can get a charge through to damage your opponent directly. If he has creatures in play which arenít tapped out, he can move them to block your creatures, and then various things happen according to various rules; but aside from certain abilities otherwise (this game being ALL ABOUT the exceptions to the rules), any blocked creature of yours wonít hurt your opponent. And theyíll (usually) be tapped out now, which means they canít use any special abilities of their own until they rest up (in various ways, usually meaning recovering at the start of your next turn). It also means they canít contribute to the defense when your opponentís turn comes to attack!
« Last Edit: August 24, 2015, 07:07:13 PM by JasonPratt »
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2015, 07:05:11 PM »
Part 3 Part 2 of 2  :buck2:

Looking at the card again, which Iíll repost for convenience...

 


...you can see below the art-window on the card a description which tells you what kind of spell it is, a ďcreatureĒ, and what kind of creature it is, a ďhuman soldierĒ. That secondary description isnít just for flavor. Some spells and other effects are designed to affect specific kinds of other spells and especially specific kinds of creatures. This creature can be affected by any spell that affects creatures generally, but also by any spell that affects ďhumansĒ and/or ďsoldiersĒ (whether single or plural). Each word there is a potential vulnerability! -- though sometimes your own spells will benefit particular creature types of your own. Currently in the Duels online game, on Steam, ďzombieĒ decks are popular because there are several cards in the available sets there which affect ďzombiesĒ specifically.

Below that is a yellowish scroll area which will include any important information about the card; and if thereís room left over, it may also feature some flavor text, which will be in italics and printed below any important details. This card only has flavor text; but sometimes the flavor text helps tell a story, and often each set has one or more stories being told by various cards. Obviously in this case thatís Rot3K. But this Ďdistant mountainsí effect, as a good author friend of mine likes to call it, where we can see bits and pieces of edges of other things than what weíre currently doing, is one of the artistic merits of the game. (Novels detailing the stories can get quite epic, Rot3K itself being a historical example of a public domain novel of course.)

This creature on the other hand has important details.

 


This creature is a ďwallĒ. Once upon a time, back as far and farther when Shandalar was first released, all you had to do was print that a creature was a ďWallĒ and its special limitation was assumed; in modern times, there are creatures which arenít technically ďwallsĒ (and so which cannot be affected by magic specifically designed to affect walls) but which have the same limitation: ďDefenderĒ. As noted in the description, this means the creature cannot attack, but can only defend. Walls often are capable of doing some damage while defending, though, like this one.

Walls count as ďcreaturesĒ because... well... it was just simpler to do so in the long run, but this sometimes leads to weird tactics and strategies like trying to use a dryad to seduce a wall into your army! -- or trying to use a vampire to drain its blood! Which is even sillier for something like this Wall of Ash, and yet it is 100% legal in-game! (Unless the effect specifically exempts walls, usually by targeting ďnon-wall creaturesĒ.)

This particular wall has special powers, which the text describes, and which the computer has been taught about and will put into play automatically unless it needs your input on how or whether to do so -- which is a big benefit to playing a computer version of MtG! You can see the text running off the bottom, but thatís a font issue in-game. ĎRealí cards arenít printed like that, and you can right click on a card to expand up the text of all cards fully, though sometimes this partially obscures the art (only aesthetically important) or the card type (sometimes rather more important -- though the computer will keep the card types in mind for you.)

Some special effects, like for this wall, are automagically applied. ;) Others youíll have to activate yourself, and there will always be a cost of some kind, usually but not always in mana.

 


This creature for example can be buffed once each turn (though by the wording that means once on your offense and once on your defense as you wish) with an effect that makes its attack and defense values each two points greater. But to activate that effect, you have to pay two of your own life points! And if youíre ever at zero or below at the end of any phase of anyoneís turn, youíve lost the match (though again there are some exceptions to this rule through various spells). Also, typically players start with 20 life, but in Shandalar players start the campaign only 10 life strong for any fight! Permanent life boosts have to be earned. But naturally there are spells which allow you to increase your life during a fight in various ways. (Leeches typically allow this, but not this one!)

This is also a golden creature, which means it needs two different mana types to cast, one black and one green in this case. Relatedly, this is a zombie leech, and so can be affected by magic specially designed for either (or possibly both) types (more likely zombie magic).

Most magic in the game is nature-based and, you might say, vitalistic -- even death magic -- but there is another, colorless color which is for magical technology, and those are called ďartifactsĒ. Artifacts are also ďpermanentĒ spells (even if a few blow up on casting ;) ), which (usually) hang around on the field doing things actually or potentially once cast. This one is also a creature.

 


Most artifacts have special effects, usually but not always requiring colored mana, like this one which can target and counter a spell being cast (you can even counter your own spell this way, though usually that would be stupid) -- but to do so, you have to get one blue mana and sacrifice the creature, and the controller of the target spell might push the spell through to completion anyway by paying two more mana from anywhere. This, in my opinion, is a rather weak special ability; but heís a 1/3 flying creature which only costs 3 mana of any kind to cast, and thatís pretty handy.

I lucked up and got dealt two other quite good artifacts for my starting deck in the campaign, which you may be able to see in the upper right of the card list for my current deck: Gethís Grimoire, which allows me to draw a card from my deck whenever my opponent discards a card, and a Moss Diamond which I donít recall whether it costs anything to cast (some artifacts donít) but which acts like a forest once itís down, though it has to charge up first (untap). Lonnnng ago in the early days of MtG, including back when Shandalar was released, there were artifacts called ďMoxesĒ which could be thrown down for no cost, as many as you wanted if you had them in your hand, and which could immediately be tapped for colored mana depending on the type of Mox. These cards were declared illegal after a few years, since you could design a deck to abuse this factor to instantly win a game on your first turn! The Moss Diamond was designed later to be a more feasible artifact mana source; but Shandalar did (and I suspect still does) allow players to use broken cards like the Moxes, though in the campaign theyíre probably rare. Iíve heard the Ultimate Bad Guy (called the Guardian) uses a deck with Moxes, for example, and other cards that would be illegal to use in real-life tournaments.

Because heís eeeeeeevil. :D

Right, okay. As it happens, the only other cards in my deck at the moment aside from lands, creatures, and a few artifacts, are a few ďenchantmentsĒ. Hereís the most important one in my deck as far as far as I care.

 


I wouldnít be too surprised to learn that Circles of Protection have been banned from modern tournament play. Back in my day (old geezery cough), these were fairly common but highly sought-after staples for some decks, mine included. They are cheap to throw (one white mana, one something else), cheap to operate (one of any mana as often as I have some to use), and utterly omnipotent at doing their job: which is to prevent damage to its controlling player from any black source. Of course, if Iím hit by a bunch of black sources of damage, I have to pay one mana of energy for each source to neutralize it, but still. This thing is a game winner in the right conditions. One of my first goals in game is to buy or win or otherwise earn a full suite of CoPs.

An enchantment is another kind of ďpermanentĒ spell, like a creature or an artifact: once you cast it, it stays around until itís destroyed by various ways -- generally by various magical effects, not by creature attacks, but some creatures can directly or indirectly destroy enchantments. Some enchantments create passive effects; some (like this CoP) require further powering to work; some do both.

Thereís a special subclass of enchantment called an ďauraĒ, and hereís one in my starting deck:

 


Long ago, when I wasnít old middle-aged less experienced... .... ...when I was playing the game during and after college, these were called ďenchant creatureĒ spells, because people couldnít be trusted to remember a shorter type of description like ďenchantment -- auraĒ.

So naturally in todayís more educated modern world, ďenchant creatureĒ is usually spelled out in the text scroll, taking up a line which could be used for something else. ::)

Anyway, auras are enchantments which must have a creature as a target to cast into battle, but (usually) those could be your or your opponentís creature (though just as usually a spell is designed to work best on one or the other). You still own the enchantment, and itís returned to you at the end of the battle or goes into the graveyard (or in a few rare cases back into your hand) if the creature is destroyed or unsummoned or whatever. Come to think of it, I bet itís possible now to enchant things other than creatures, which may be why itís called ďauraĒ now and yet specifies ďenchant creatureĒ instead of ď... artifactĒ or whatever.

One of the creatures I bought in town is a green creature called an ďAura GnarlidĒ, which is a pretty boss little wolveriney thing already but which gets permanently stronger (as long as itís alive) whenever an aura is cast by anyone. Even better, it canít be blocked by any creature with a power less than its own! -- even if a bunch of them gang up to block him! (Iíll talk about group blocking later, which can be a key defensive tactic.) Every time an aura is cast, it becomes more unstoppable in a fight!

And thatís enough for tonight, and probably more than any sane person ever wanted to know about basic MtG play concepts. There are at least two other basic kinds of spells, ďsorceriesĒ and ďinstantsĒ (which also used to include ďinterruptsĒ back when Shandalar was first released -- Iíll be curious to see if theyíre still in the game, although modern rules have just made them instants), but Iím fairly confident Iíll be able to demonstrate those when I get to my first fight, when theyíre used against me! If I get around to DARing that.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2015, 07:22:26 PM by JasonPratt »
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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2015, 05:51:04 PM »
Jason, let me just say that I am extremely impressed that you named your character in honor of a famous paint company.
Very glossy of you.
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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2015, 05:54:43 PM »
You could have said very ballsy of me. For that, I thank you.  O0

Was going to work on next DAR entry tonight but got a face full of allergy medicine instead and slept too much. May still be able to do something, but... could be tomorrow night instead.
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Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2015, 07:13:34 PM »
PART 4 -- FIRST, WE SCARE THE TROLL

With my deck tidied up a bit -- but carrying a dangerous weakness I have forgotten to account for (which Iíll reveal later for dramatic tension) -- I go to the resident alderman of Coldsnap village to ask for a quest.

The Red Regent (a title far more interesting than the forgettable generic description the game gives her and her allies) has assigned a Troll Shaman to harass this town. Theyíre willing to give me 2 red gems if I can defeat it.

That may not sound like a lot, but this early in the game a troll shaman is no joke, and thatís actually represented by the fact theyíre willing to pay 2 gems rather than only one. Fortunately, I possess a rare ability unique among all magicians or... or deckers or whatever theyíre called... sure, letís go with ďdeckersĒ, thatís more interesting than just calling us wizards when most of us arenít.

That rare ability? I can split time into quantum paths which allow me to see the future and choose among disparate fates. I call it my ďsaveĒ -- and when I deploy it... letís see... Iíll call it my ďsaving throwĒ! :D

But letís say Iíll restrict it to being able to choose one out of only two outcomes. (Rather like the supervillain leader Coil, in the web serial Worm which Iím reading right now.) So if theyíre both bad, Iíll have to decide which is least worst.

You might think, huh? Least worst? Whatís worse than dying compared to not dying?

But duels in this game are surprisingly chivalrous, even when you arenít fighting white knights -- one of which comes close to ambushing me when I hike off cross country to that town on the edge the swamp to see if they have any good white cards (they do) to buff me up better before the troll fight. As I see him bearing down on me from the north, riding his trusty steed (the freaking traitor servant of the White Regent, who offends me as a true agent of Light), I run my offended way westward down the road to the forest near that southwestern town (which Iíll visit later), barely outstripping him. He doesnít want to leave his assigned territory but he waits on guard to see if I leave the forest; which I do, but not in his direction, rather back north toward Coldsnap.

Smack into an ambush by the Troll Shaman which I donít even see before BLAP!

 


He insists I duel him, and wonít even accept coin to let me go. Possibly because I donít have enough to interest him, having been splurging on spells recently; a fact I rudely reveal by accepting his insisted duel. HA! WERENíT EXPECTING ME TO ACCEPT YOUR ONLY OPTION, WERE YOU?! NOW WHO IS THE AMBUSHED ONE?!

I neglect to tell him about the prescient nightmare I dreamed last night in that swampy town, where he steadily overran my attempts at summoning help, with several kinds of giants and, not unexpectedly, trolls. This guy takes a little while to get going, but heís like a train on a 5% grade. And I donít have a fast deck myself. Still, this couldnít be worse than what I had dreamed. Why?

Because of the ante. In Ďreal lifeí, players traditionally bet the top card drawn off their shuffled decks (or picked out of a fan by their opponents or whatever seems fair). In my dream that was... well, a card Iíll get to soon in this fight. (More dramatic tension!) Iím much happier, relatively speaking, losing the card Iíve drawn this time between the two: that Putrid Leech, since its special power damages me pretty substantially if I use it. In return I stand to get at least a Stone Giant, probably more. (Unlike Ďreal lifeí duels between collectors, youíll usually pick up three or four cards, at least two, from winning a fight in this game.)

But can I win? (Spoiler: whether I win or not, this is a good way to introduce people unfamiliar with the card game how the duels are played.) (Spoiler: of course itís possible for me to win.) (Spoiler: revealing if I do or not would be a spoiler, and any inferences you draw from my evasions are yours to make.)

 


The Troll tosses a coin, and wins the toss. As an aside, since Iíve been playing the Manalink 3 update, Iím not at all sure Iíve ever seen the computer lose an initial toss. Toss winner gets to choose whether to play first or not, which is no small choice: playing first has obvious advantages, but the second player gets to draw an extra card for 8 instead of 7 to play from at the beginning. The Troll chooses to let me go first while he expands his options a bit, probably because he has a generally slow deck so trying to get on the field quickly isnít going to happen anyway; better to have another option sooner.

Shandalar still plays with the ancient Mulligan rules of the time of its release. A Mulligan in MtG means refusing the hand youíve drawn and reshuffling your deck for another starting 7-card draw. In modern MtG play (such as for Duels, available for free from Steam, which I try to plug if I can since after all Iím giving a much more extensive plug for a competing MtG product), each player can Mulligan as much as you want, without even showing your hand to the other player, but thereís a catch. The first time you do it, you can still draw your regular 7 cards, but you must draw one less card for each Mulligan you insist on afterward before the game starts. Still, itís up to you: it may still be better to enter the game with two lands and three fast cards than with seven chunky cards and no lands!

Back in Shandalarís day, each player could also declare a Mulligan (I think -- or it might have only been a privilege of the 2nd player, I don't recall for sure and haven't played Shandy enough again yet to see a decisive example), but only if you drew no land cards. Which you had to prove by showing your opponent, thus potentially spoiling the existence of certain cards in your deck. And you could only have one re-draw (after the reshuffle): you had to live with those results. Or die by them, as the case might be.

The troll refuses the Mulligan -- soon it will be apparent he has plenty of lands, and so couldnít take it anyway, but itís better not to give away even that information early for strategyís sake (unless you want to slightly bluff an opponent, which you canít do in the computer version anyway). So he ďrefusesĒ, leaving me wondering for a brief period whether or not he has lands.

Since I drew four lands myself, I (automatically) ďrefuseĒ as well, and off we go to the field.

 


The ďbasicĒ field layout is arranged to allow the game to show me a closeup of any card I mouse briefly over. Thereís an ďadvancedĒ layout which sacrifices that area to provide more ďfieldĒ for the cards, but our decks are relatively small and Iím playing with potentially 14000 cards, only a few hundred of the older ones of which Iím familiar with on sight, and this way I can help demonstrate the game to newbies better. His side of the field is north, mine is south. (In Manalink 3, the field is always that nice card-table felt green; originally the game allowed a number of graphic options and colors, but either those were removed, or they somehow bugged the game, or the updaters accidentally removed their functionality. I mention this only for the sake of those familiar with the original game who might be wondering.)

Immediately above the closeup window are, from left to right, his deck; his graveyard (the discard pile, currently empty but bearing the sign of his deckís majority color in case being a red creature wasnít obvious enough); and then a ladder-list of colors and numbers. Those represent mana colors that have been currently tapped into the pool but not yet spent on a spell; at the end of the playerís turn, that pool had better be empty or heíll suffer a manaburn. Otherwise it isnít terribly useful, or I donít care much about it anyway, so I tend to put our decks over it since field real estate is at a premium. Lastly, the big yellow numbers show our respective starting life points. As a novice, um, decker, I start with 10. He starts with 14, partly because heís a slightly more difficult monster than usual, and probably also because I chose wizard difficulty.

Thatís one strike against me. Another is that he has a larger deck -- I forgot to mouse over the deck to specifically count his cards (remaining after our initial 7 draw, of course; he hasnít drawn his 8th one yet to start his side of the game, and wonít till my turn is over), but monsters usually have a deck of 60 cards (which is also standard tournament size). Whereas I have 44. That means I not only have fewer options for fighting the duel, by proportion, it also means that I will run out of cards to draw much sooner than he will, so he will definitely win any protracted duel: if someone has no cards to draw when they get to their draw phase, they immediately lose, period. This being MtG, Iíd bet there are at least 5 spells somewhere that modify or otherwise get around this rule, since this game is ALL ABOUT the exceptions to the rule; but I sure donít have any such cards. I do know there are cards which burn opponent cards faster than the opponent can play them, which is one way to win and a very legitimate deck-building strategy -- but only if you can keep your own defense up to par. Fortunately, this guy wonít have such a deck; heís primarily red, and thatís mainly a blue deck strategy.

Also, being a troll, heís going to be a little slow putting power on the table, but thatís his only disadvantage right now. His deck has been tweaked for efficiency (by the game designers), whereas mine is currently scrapped together from whatever randomness Iíve been dealt, and itís a rainbow deck which means I could easily have some initial trouble matching cards properly to lands.

So the odds are stacked hard against me from the outset. NOT THAT IíM TRYING TO EXPLAIN WHAT EVENTUALLY HAPPENS!! :P

Okay, every playerís turn (and Iím going first) is divided into 8 technical phases; though I think maybe one or two of those phases have been combined in modern games. (I donít recall quite that many offhand in Duels.) Iíve labelled them on the Trollís side of the field, and Iíll repost that screenie here for convenience.

 


By the time I took that shot, I had already moved along to my 2nd main phase, and Iíve already played a card out of my hand, specifically a Plains.

(Incidentally, for some reason which seems a bit too coincidental to be entirely random, all my starting lands come from the same expansion, and one I donít recognize but which backstory apparently involves those floating towery things. Usually the lands donít show story-based details, but this is one of the exceptions; the Ice Age sets are naturally another exception. I mention this only because the art looks like there ought to be some effect other than simply tapping for white mana, but there isnít.)

My turn starts with untapping all tapped cards (unless an effect prevents that somewhat or altogether.) Since I donít start with any cards on the field, thatís not important yet, but it will be every turn.

Then, the Upkeep Phase, which triggers any upkeep effects, mostly involving having to pay a mana cost for something good or bad, though it might involve paying life points instead! This can be very important, but itís uncommon.

Once thatís done I can draw my card, but since Iím going first in this duel I donít get to draw one yet; not until next turn.

The Main Phases are for main actions before and after the combat charge (if any). I can (usually) cast down one land per turn, and I can do it on either of the main phases; and usually itís better to get any land down as early as possible in a turn. Since (so far as I know) Iím not playing against someone who might be saving up a spell to burn new lands when I throw them down, and even if he did he has no lands down yet to power such a spell, Iím safe to go; and under the circumstances I decide (as shown) to put one of my Plains. Iíll talk about special spells that can only be cast on main phases soon.

After the first phase (represented in this game by the waxing moon) comes the assault phase. For this Iíd need creatures capable of attacking, which I donít yet have; because I donít have any creatures in my hand which only need one white (or one colorless) mana to cast. But even if I did, I probably wouldnít be able to send them in to attack yet, for a reason Iíll cover soon.

Then comes the second phase, and I still donít have anything else I can do this turn. The little red dots on the phases, by the way, are in-game stops which make the game pause before moving to the next phase, so that I can take screenshots more easily or even just see whatís going on: playing this game on the worldís fastest personal computer from last year, means a number of things flash by faster than the human eye anyway!

This is as good a time as any to quickly talk about the cards in my hand, thanks to my first draw, and Iíll repost the screenshot again for convenience:

 


You can see my hand, currently with 6 cards in it, immediately to the right of my graveyard and my life points (covering up my manapool counters which I donít care about though some players like them.) Iíve got a pretty good starting mix of lands, with another two plains and a forest still to play over the next three turns (at least). However, I have no white spells yet in my hand; and the one black spell, Vampire Bats, needs a swamp to start casting. Furthermore, one of my two green cards (rather a lighter green than usual on the background, which led me at first to think they were white -- a quirk of the game engine, which sometimes makes the background under the card name lighter; donít know why) will be an almost completely useless spell for this duel, unless that troll has some trees among his lands: Dryadís Favor gives a creature Forestwalk, the always-active power to slip past all defenders during an attack so long as the defender has a forest. But I donít expect this guy to be using forests. I do have a great creature which will benefit from this anyway, but not currently in my hand, and the troll may steamroll me before I can draw and cast him. So unless that happens, that spell means I might as well have only drawn 6 cards! Last but not least is the Oakgnarl Warrior; but heís not only super-expensive to cast, he also needs two green mana to kickstart casting him, not only one. So itíll be a while, if ever, before I can call him onto the field.

Any player who gets to the Discard Phase with more than seven cards in hand, must put cards from the hand into the discard pile until seven remain. (Naturally there are spells which adjust this for good or ill.) Then comes the cleanup phase where any other remaining effects are resolved, usually having to do with things that happen at-the-end-of-someoneís-turn like temporary spells losing effect.

PHEW! Thatís a lot of talking just to talk about me growing some sunny grassland nearby! Next time will involve action more important than watching grass grow. ;)  Without particular spoilers, I can accurately say it's a brutal first duel!


(However, I may have to wait until Friday night, depending on other things happening tomorrow.)
« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 02:26:45 PM by JasonPratt »
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2015, 05:55:17 PM »
PART 5 -- THEN, WE... WAIT, WE HAVENíT SCARED THE TROLL YET??!

No. No, the Troll Shaman is not scared of our one puny sunlit plain, even if it does have four floating towery things above it, one of which is crumbling.

 


I swear, this will be the last time I post this screen. But while Iím at it, I noticed while writing Part 4 that the art from whatever MtG set my lands are being drawn from in this duel seems to be, well, contiguous. I mean, you can put one of those plains next to another of those plains, and they form at least a diptych, maybe even the left and center of a triptych. Sadly, I didnít think to test this before the slaughter.

Fortunately, as I noted last time, this gobliny-looking trollís deck needs a lot of pushing to get its momentum going, so unsurprisingly when he plays an unsurprising mountain he doesnít do anything with it; allowing me to play a swamp on my second turn, which allows me to summon a cluster of Vampire Bats.

 


You can see in the screenshot that Iíve ďtappedĒ my two lands to do so. The bats, despite their name, are pretty pathetic -- in fact they have no definable vampire powers at all! But they do have, um... well, I call it Swampbreathing after the old original ďFirebreathingĒ enchantment. (The Bats themselves are a very old card.) Quite a few creatures have this ability by nature in some variety: you can assign mana tapped from sources of the appropriate color, and their power to do damage increases temporarily until the end of your turn. But the Bats have an unusual limitation for this ability, in that they can only gain two power per turn this way. So unless I upgrade them with other spell effects, they can only be a 2/1 creature, and...

...huh. I just realized I may have confirmed that the new update to Shandalar has either removed manaburn, or accidentally deactivated it. Because I should have only needed to tap one swamp to summon the bats, and yet not paying sufficient attention and figuring a creature of this kind would need two mana I also tapped the plains. I know I didnít put that to use on any other effect that turn, so I should have been manaburned for a point of life in penalty, yet my next screenie shows me still with 10 points. I wonít intentionally test that theory, but Iíll try to keep it in mind for further confirmation later. (Come to think of it, Duels has never once warned about manaburn, although I thought that was because it works hard to prevent wasting any mana from accidental excess tapping. The Manalink 3 team does update Shandalar to some modern gameplay in places; maybe this was one of them...?)

The other thing you may recall noticing before you scrolled down this far, is the spiral on the card art of the card on the field. That symbol represents ďsummoning sicknessĒ. It keeps most creatures from attacking, or using any active powers, the turn they were summoned. In effect itís the same as coming into play tapped out, but one subtle technical difference is that the card cannot be affected by spells that directly or indirectly affect tapped creatures. A more important difference is that tapped creatures cannot block in combat defense -- which is a rule I donít think Iíve ever seen a magic spell designed to ignore (though sometimes effects will untap a creature for defense or never let them get tapped out) -- but since recently summoned creatures arenít really tapped out, they can be used for defense on your opponentís next attack opportunity.

My turn ends; the Troll calls forth another mountain and does nothing; my third turn starts and Iíve drawn a Moss Diamond. This is an artifact which generates green mana like a forest, but which unlike a forest I canít immediately use and which actually costs me two mana to bring onto the field. So what use is it compared to, you know, a forest which can be immediately used?? Well, it does allow me to circumvent the one-land-per-turn rule, even though I canít benefit from it immediately; and, much less importantly it isnít vulnerable to spells which affect lands. (Unfortunately many more effects affect artifacts than lands.)

In practical terms, this means I can lay my forest onto the field; then use it and my plains to call the Moss Diamond to the fight; and next turn itíll be like I played two forests this turn instead of only one land. So I do that.

 


And I move my swamp card up under my bats; not because the physical position on the field is important (it never is, unless maybe some spell says ďaffect the creature to your utmost rightĒ though Iíve never heard of one), but as a reminder to reserve it for powering up the bats unless Iím in an emergency. Itís a subtle strategy decision for me to consider henceforth: I might could cast a spell that needs that swamp, but shouldnít I devote it to giving my bats some attack punch this tur--

 


Oh, never mind the bleeping troll zorched it with lightning while I was assigning the bats to attack (but before I had powered them up with the swamp, as it happens.) Bats die, and weíre back to equality on the field.

(Strictly speaking there must have been another turn in there where I got the bats across but forgot to screenshot it, between which nothing else happened: I see he's down to 13 points.)

Well, not entirely equal. On his turn he has apparently run out of lands, and yet doesnít have enough to cast anything useful, so when it comes back to me I now have a significant edge in potentially doing things, with five mana sources (compared to his three, once Iíve played a plains for this turn) nicely mixed among three colors. I should be able to play almost anything I draw henceforth.

 


Except for that; which I wonít be able to play for a while due to it needing two mountains to start casting it. It would be handy against the kind of nastiness heís due to be throwing out soon, although better if I can wait to time its casting after an assault where I managed to damage the Troll Shaman directly. Thatís what the Bloodthirst means (as explained on the card text): if I cast it after a successful combat, it wonít be a 3/3 creature (though thatís good if underpowered for such an expensive card) but a 5/5 creature.

All I need are two mountains. But it could be a long time before I draw them, because I only brought one mountain to power the two red cards in my...

...

........

DAMMIT!!

How retarded. I was so enamoured with the two red cards I bought in Coldsnap, that I plopped them into my deck with my only mountain without checking whether they needed two mountains to cast! So at least one card in my deck is worse than one hundred percent useless, as it means I might as well have not even drawn a card this turn. At this point Iím trying, in vain, to recall what the other red card was; which I canít, but I console myself by remembering that cards which need two or more color to start are pretty uncommon. Odds are reasonably good I can use it, if I get to it.

Still, nothing for me to do this turn except pass (and put down a plains, as noted); so itís back to the troll who not-surprisingly calls forth another mountain land and then:

 



And then the first shape of the beating to come emerges.

Not only is this thing strong and tough on its own, but it can fling smaller creatures to attack me over my front line -- which I donít have anyway. True, theyíll die from the attempt, but Iím pretty sure the weakest non-flying creatures he has in his deck are trolls, which can regenerate if he has enough reserve power, meaning theyíll survive the attempt and be ready to try again next turn. He doesnít have any of those out yet, but I know they have to be coming.

But he canít attack me yet.

But on my turn I only draw a Wall of Dust; which is great, because it needs only one mountain (plus some other mana which I have plenty of) -- but I donít have that mountain yet, and odds arenít terribly good Iíll survive long enough to get it. So out of the four cards in my hand, one (the minotaurs) is totally useless; one (the Dryadís Favor) is almost totally useless in this fight (because the Troll wonít have any forests, and so it can only be an accidental buff to my aura badger if I ever get it out); and one may well be totally useless for as long as I survive.

The good news, is that Iíll almost certainly draw another land or two before the end; and I only need one more to put a surprise this Shaman wonít like at all.

The bad news is that I still canít stop his giant yet from coming over during his combat phase to smash me for three life I canít spare.

 


Oh, and now he has enough mountains out to start throwing down his heavy troops each turn, like this Ydwen Efreet after the attack. It hits as hard as the giant, and is even tougher on defense!

Oh, and he drew (and played) an Oasis, which doesnít give him another mana source but which he can tap to prevent one point of damage to anything from any source. So Iíve got to hit one point harder to be sure of killing a creature of his, and any damage I get through to him might easily be 1 less.

This is bad. Really bad.

And then I draw a Mountain.

And I play it.

And it is time to hit these clowns with Ent-erest.

(Not actually a spell name.)

 


The Oakgnarl Warrior. This one card may have arrived in time to snatch my defeat from the jaws of victory, or words to that effect. Heís stronger and tougher than anything currently on the board, so he can straight up kill anything coming over the line; and if I attack with him, he can not only push his extra damage through any blocker he kills (the ďTrampleĒ ability), but attacking doesnít tap him so heís still ready to defend!

This canít possibly win the duel for me, but any hope helps; and this hope not only carries a big stick, he is a bigger stick!

The Shaman wisely decides he doesnít want to sacrifice one of the big lineup heís building for nothing (and apparently doesnít have any zappy spells which might finish off my tree in trade afterward), so he calls for a Conservator instead. Which is an artifact that can, once activated, prevent the next two damage to him I manage to get across (completely aside from how the oasis might help.) At least it doesnít help his creatures (like the oasis).

At this point I donít really need more land, except for a second mountain I donít have in my deck at all, so naturally I draw a Forest. :P I can, and do, still cast my Wall of Dust onto the field...

 


...but now Iím left with totally and mostly unplayable cards in my hand. Urf.

But Iíve got a decent defense at the moment. The Dust Wall canít be destroyed by either of his big line (without spell effect help from the Shaman anyway), and whoever it blocks will be unable to attack for a turn afterward (though it can still untap and defend). And my tree can kill anything that tries to cross.

The real question is whether I should take the opportunity while he doesnít have anything more on the board yet, and while heís almost tapped out, to assault with the tree. If the Shaman blocks with both his guys, and also has a little zappy spell in reserve, my tree will definitely die even if I take one of them with me.

On the other hand, heís got 13 life and I have only 7, and heís got a red deck with plenty of bulldozing power and the potential to hit me directly with a fireball or something end-of-game nasty. I figure I better take the risk. Besides, one of his two linemen is randomly worse-than-awful at defense.

 


See, that Efreet has a 50/50 chance of chickening out of any defense and tapping out without doing anything to block at all. The fact the Shaman didnít block with both linemen tells me he also either doesnít have a zappy instant spell, or else is saving it to finish me off directly at the first possible moment. The question then is whether he wins or loses his coin toss. If he wins, I bounce off (unable to hit hard enough to get through his 6 toughness plus the one point the oasis will heal him from). If he loses...?

He wins. My Ent bounces off, everyone goes back to their side of the line, and Gnarlyguy readies to receive attackers, if any.

No attackers next turn, but the Shaman summons another Arabian Nights card, the artifact known as the Dancing Scimitar.

This thing can be trouble, because it can fly right over my wall and Ent; it may only prick me but it only has to do that seven times plus whatever else the Shaman manages to get through. It canít attack me yet, due to summoning sickness, but in nearly every game an evident countdown begins, and though it might be forestalled in various ways I can hear the clock ticking. I have seven turns, max, to win the game or at least stop my loss. And the Shaman may be improving his side of the field or speeding up that finale clock in any of various ways.

I have no choice. I have to run the Gnarly Warrior again.

On my attack turn, I do so.

All his troops line up to block. The Efreet throws the coin -- and wins again. That means my Ent will die: they can team up on the block to inflict 7 damage, and that puts him in the graveyard.

Thereís only two bits of good news.

1.) Usually, the attacker can decide how to distribute damage from a creature to a group which is blocking him. (The ďBandingĒ ability flips this around, allowing the defender to choose how to assign attacking damage in a blocking group. Fortunately that isnít a skill the Trollís crew is going to have.) That means I get to decide where all five of my Entís attack power is going to go, and even though the surviving creatures mean I canít push any through to the Shaman himself, I can hit hard enough to take out his Stone Giant -- even with the Oasis helping him!

Not the best trade in the world, but all I can eke from the disaster.

2.) Oh, and I drew a False Defeat this turn. And I have gobs of mana available to cast it.

 


This is a type of spell we havenít seen yet in the game, although theyíre fairly common: a ďsorceryĒ. That means there are limits when I can cast it, specifically before and after but not during my attack, and not during my opponentís turn at all. Also, sorceries arenít permanents like ďenchantmentsĒ: they create an instantly resolved effect, or maybe one that lingers the rest of the turn, and otherwise immediately goes away.

A ďLightning BoltĒ, like that which zorched my Bats at the beginning, is one of the ďinstantĒ spells, the last type we havenít discussed yet. Theyíre a ďfast effectĒ spell, meaning they can be cast during any phase of any player including an opponentís phase, and including during one of the combat subphases. Most direct creature action effects are fast effects, too.

(Once upon a time, back when Shandalar was released, there was an even Ďquickerí type of spell called an ďinterruptĒ, which meant you could cast it on top of another spell, even on top of an instant, and the interrupt would take effect first. And players could chain interrupts back and forth that way; or they could be cast like instants at any time instead. The only difference between an interrupt and an instant was that an instant couldnít be cast on top of an interrupt. In modern play, as on Duels, interrupts have been merged with instants: all instants are interrupts now, though theyíre called instants. I havenít seen an interrupt in the updated Shandalar yet, and Iím curious whether the dev team got rid of the distinction -- probably by reclassifying all instants as interrupts but redesigning the cards to call them instants, if so.)

Anyway. False Victory.

This is one of those moments Magic players love. I just scored a huge coup which my opponent couldnít have been expecting. A human opponent would be laughing or cursing. Well, Iím definitely cheering even though the computer canít appreciate it!

What does False Victory mean? Like it implies in the name. It means I can do this:

 


I can bring one creature of my choice out of my graveyard straight to the battlefield, AND I CHOOSE YOU, GNARLYPOO!!

Not only that, but I just noticed: by foisting all my damage onto that one giant, I did in fact push through a little with my ďTrampleĒ ability and tag the Shaman directly for 1 damage! His main front line reduced, with no loss from me, and even a bit of icing on the cake: and the Ent is ready on defense already!

I canít stop the Sword from flying over next turn to nick me, of course. But still, a huuuge boost.

Quickly muffed by him not only hitting me with his flying sword, but also...

 


God... bless it. {teeth gnashing}

Fortunately, the AI spazzes slightly -- not sure if thatís a bug or a bit of random ineptness even on wizard level difficulty -- and sends one of those points of damage to the Wall of Dust which does exactly nothing. Or perhaps this is a relic of a leftover strategy the AI was coding before I brought back my Ent unexpectedly, and the idea was to damage my wall just enough that if the Efreet also attacked Iíd have to block with the Wall to save myself and the Efreet would destroy it with its 3 power. With my Ent returned, Iíd just block safely with that instead. It seems likely this was the plan, and the AI couldnít adjust in time although it had enough sense not to send the Efreet after all. But not enough sense to hit me with all the Pyrotechnics.

The first real fault by my opponent in this duel -- but it doesnít matter much. He still has 12 life, and I now have 3.

But Iím dang well going to drag out the narrative suspense another day! Tomorrow, the finale of the duel!
« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 06:09:45 PM by JasonPratt »
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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2015, 08:19:54 PM »
PART 6 -- TROLL LOCKED

Yes, thatís a Wheel of Time pun. No, I am not sorry. This is a brutal fight and I deserve some indulgences. STOP JUDGING ME!!

... ...... ahem. Where was I?

 

Ah, yes. {paging pages} The pit of despair.

Itís worse than that screenshot directly says, though not quite as bad as it could be. Due to a crazy-lucky card-sharp play last turn, which allowed me to shave off the least-tough member of his front line at no loss to my line, but which he wasnít expecting and so which led to him aborting a pre-laid plan half-done... {inhale}

...Iím down to 3 life points instead of only 2.

Against his remaining 12 (from a starting 14).

And he not only has a much better tuned deck than my random grab-bag, but he has enough lands out now he can play whatever he wants, as soon as he wants, after he draws it.

So do I. Except that I accidentally included a card in my deck that was impossible to play, since I only have one mountain; and Iíve already drawn it, the Gorehorn Minotaurs, meaning I have totally wasted a card that I could be otherwise playing already. I also already drew an enchantment early which, against this foe (who has no forests), is only of use in buffing exactly one creature in my deck whom I may not survive to draw to play.

And even if by some miracle I managed an ongoing stalemate from here, any stalemate definitely ends in me losing, either because he finally draws another zappy spell or two to hit me directly, or because I flat run out of cards to draw since my deck, this early in the game, is much smaller than most monstersí.

I do currently have three possible hopes, though.

1.) My next three cards in the deck, whatever they are, might be something useful in this situation. I canít count on any more, because I have no way (at the moment) to stop his little Dancing Scimitar from zipping over my line to tag me directly every turn; and I might not even get that many, if he finds another way to push some damage across after all. Plus he gets to be drawing cards as well, to improve his position, during those same turns. But who knows, maybe Iíll turn up something to help hold out another turn or two.

 


So I draw a Loam Lion. A very nice creature for early in a white/green deck, very cheap to cast (1 white) yet highly powered for such a cheap card so long as I control a Forest on the field, which I do. It isnít completely useless, and might help me repell a large assault by his line of creatures at a later turn, if I survive that long; but it isnít going to help me immediately survive till turn 4 either. Under these circumstances, not so great.

Wait, didnít I say I had three possibilities of hope?

2.) Gnarlypoo is still on the field. I can send him on the assault without having to worry about him being unavailable for defense later (thanks to his Vigilance), and I can be pretty sure the Shaman doesnít have even a weak zappy spell to help that Efreet dispose of him on the defense, because otherwise the AI would have certainly used it directly on me! Then again, there are zappy spells which only work on creatures, and he might be saving it... but I have to take the risk. I canít mess around, because I am DEFINITELY done for in two more turns.

So on the assault phase, I send in Gnarlypoo; and the Efreet blocks, as expected. Leading to:

3.) The Efreet has a special weakness. He has a 50/50 chance of chickening out of the defense and crawling away instead; a chance expressed by calling a coin toss. So far he has called correctly twice out of twice. This time...

 


HE FAILS!!

Normally, once blockers are assigned and the combat phases move on to polling for any special effects during combat, it doesnít matter if the defender gets zipped somehow. It still did the job and stopped that attacker, although against something with Trample like Gnarlypoo that wouldnít matter the other way: any damage not absorbed by the blocker goes through to the player.

But the Efreetís psychotic attitude goes into effect in a way that not only taps him out (which on defense doesnít mean much other than making him vulnerable to spells which affect tapped creatures), but which changes the status of the attacker back to non-blocked.

Either way, my Ent is free to hammer the Shaman for all 5 damage! Whatís more, he hadnít reserved enough untapped mana so far to activate his Conservator, so he canít block two points of that at the last minute!

This is a massive break for me. It doesnít change the fact that Iím going to lose in two more turns thanks to that accursed scimitar spirit, but at the very least it means the Troll will seriously consider adjusting his casting strategies to leave himself enough power to absorb further damage in case I get through again.

 


Even better, from my perspective, the final card in his hand is pretty much useless at this point: the Sunglasses of Urza. If he had any Plains, he could tap them for red mana instead; but he has plenty of mountains already, so adding access to more red mana right now wonít change much. Probably. It does suggest he has at least a few white spells in there somewhere, but odds are good I wonít survive long enough to see them anyway.

He sends the Scimitar over to plink me as expected. 2 life remaining, against his 7. And this time, heís got plenty of mountains ready to put his Conservator to work, so any damage I get through wonít be nearly as effective.

Whether I live or die depends a lot on what I draw next...

...and...

...oh. I had a third red card after all. Now I remember. In fact, looking back upthread to earlier screenshots, I see I started with these three red cards to begin with!

The Crossways Vampire.

Which needs two mountains to start casting.

And so which is one hundred percent useless to me, since I donít even own two mountains yet.

Saucy-cute card, admittedly, but I might as well have drawn nothing.

Sigh...

Well, he didnít have another creature (yet) to play last turn, so I might as well assault with my Loam Lions this time as well as the Gnarlyone.

 


Notice that once I commit them to the attack, they tap. Thatís true for most creatures, just not for ones with Vigilance like my Ent. Shandalar uses chess-finger rules in this case: something assigned to assault canít be recalled, which occasionally leads to sending the wrong thing accidentally! I mention this because there is a point after assigning but before (technically) committing where a fast effects can be played and the creature can tap to create an effect, where applicable, or the opponent can tap a creature preparing for attack, even though in a practical sense the creature has already been committed since the player cannot take it back.

That isnít relevant here, but itís one of those rules which can lead to subtle tactics in this game! -- so I thought Iíd mention it while passing by.

The Troll only has one lineman currently available for blocking, since his Scimitar tapped out attacking me last turn: that same Efreet. Which decides to try blocking my lion in order to send one potential attacker to the graveyard, over blocking my Ent and accepting less damage now which he could probably absorb with the Conservator anyway. In my opinion, this was a bad call by the AI. The Efreet coin is tossed, and...

...HE LOSES AGAIN!!

Wow. Thatís like Tennessee recovering a fumble and scoring twice against Notre Dame late in the final quarter. (A game I was there for in college. We, the Vols, still lost in overtime, but man. We came back from way behind and won against them next year at Notre Dame, btw.)

Now you can clearly see why trying to block my lion was a bad idea in any case. Had he succeeded in blocking my Ent instead, he could have completely nullified my attack with his Conservator by absorbing the two damage from my Lion. It isnít that his choice was inherently flawed -- taking out my lion reduces my chances of getting anything more done in the next few turns -- but, well, I suspect the AI doesnít know how to account for the weakness of the Efreet. It may not be able to factor the substantial chance the Efreet completely fails on defense.

Now instead of completely muffing my attack, he has to use the Conservator to prevent me INSTANTLY WINNING THE DUEL RIGHT THERE!! I had hit him for 7 damage!! -- he would have been at zero!

Instead, suddenly weíre tied 2 for 2. Itís an even game!

Well, not quite even. I still canít stop him from sending that Scimitar over my line again to nick me. 1 life point remaining to his 2. Whether I live or die depends partly on whether heís able to play the card heís drawn, and whether itís any --

 


--good.

Well, it could be worse. A hill giant doesnít have special powers, and isnít quite as tough as a Stone Giant. Even worse would have been some kind of zappy spell; he surely has more than one lightning bolt in there somewhere at least.

Still, unless I can somehow finish him this round, or find a way to extend the duel, whether I live or die depends on what I drawwwww nowwwww........

 


Wow. This is another moment that MtG players play the game for.

Not something to help me nick the final two points, but something thatíll give me a chance to survive another turn or two. Good enough for now! As I summon the squad of Terohís Faithful, they grant me 4 life, and suddenly itís my 5 to his 2.

Still not great. One slip, one crucial miscalculation and he can still get finish me off immediately. Nor can I afford to play a waiting game; I donít recall having any direct attack spells, and I canít risk him not having any more.

But hereís whatís even better about drawing that card. The, ahem, ďdreamĒ I had back at the town on the edge of the swamp, where the Troll Shaman just steamrolled me, like he almost did here?

This was the card I had anted, and the card that I lost for losing the duel. The Terohís Faithful. This time, that same card has given me a fighting chance to win!

Maybe.

Now comes the calculations. I canít afford to wait. But my Clerics canít help distract defenders in an attack yet, and my Lion isnít strong enough to do anything other than die if I send it across, and if he distracts the wrong creature all Iíll do is send my Lion to the graveyard and make my defense porous enough that he might be able to surge all three creatures for a win -- or for enough of a slaughter on my line, trying to stop him that time, that I wonít last another of his turns.

Iím not comfortable with it, but I decide Iíve got to try to gamble on the coin one more time. I assault with the Ent; the Shaman will block with the Efreet and the Giant -- they canít kill the Ent even combined, not enough power, but that way if the Efreet fails the roll the Giant takes most of my hit, and after he dies the Conservator has enough lands untapped to power up and absorb the rest.

And if the Efreet succeeds, no big deal, they canít kill the Ent, they donít have enough cards and he has no more cards in his hand to risk some kind of effect, I still pick how the damage goes to the blockers and the Giant still dies.

Yes. This is a good plan. No risk to me at all, the Giant dies either way. Nothing at all can go wrong with this plan!

...oh.

that...

that wasnít what I was expecting to go wrong...

 


All he did was block with the Efreet? What?? Thatís crazy! Sure, it saves his Giant from certain death by joining the block, but what if...


 


WHAT IF HE LOSES THE TOSS FOR A THIRD TIME IN A ROW!?!?

The Efreet wimps out and goes home to curl up in a corner. My Gnarloak Warrior charges through for the full 5 points of damage on the Shaman.

He does activate the Conservator, but that only protects up to 2 point, max. Leaving over 3 damage.

And the Shaman only had 2 life left.

And just like that --

Iíve won the duel!


Man. Man, down to 1 point, came back from a 12 point deficit, largely by sheer luck, to win it all on... what the hell was the AI thinking?!?

Now that Iíve done the DAR on this duel, Iím pretty sure I know what happened at the end. No one has figured out, or maybe yet thought to code the AI for accounting for the 50% chance the Efreet will totally fail the block. As far as computer was concerned, that should have been a perfectly safe block, all by itself; heck all the blocks with the Efreet should have been perfectly safe.

Not really bad AI gaming, just a programming oversight, or maybe weakness, it didnít have the resources to adjust for.


Had we continued, the Shaman would have pulled and played another Stone Giant, which would have prevented me from trying another lone rush with my Ent; and with me only drawing a Plains next, and the Scimitar still plinking away at me turn after turn, my position would have been exponentially more dangerous. Chances are, that would have been a loss.

As it is, I not only win my own Stone Giant, but also picked up two more red cards, all three of which will be vastly more useful to me than my Minotaurs and Vampire (for now) simply in virtue of being able to be cast with only one necessary mountain in the mana mix.

You can be sure I ran up that road back to Coldsnap, picked up my two gem reward, saved the game, and then exchanged my two currently-useless reds for those! (Then saved the game again!)

But... what now? Hmmm... The town on the border of the swamp surely hasnít had time yet to get more white cards in the bazaar, and they might be black anyway -- which might or might not be good enough to try opening that path for a deck. But I imagine they'd reward me for getting rid of that knight which was chasing me down the road earlier. Though I recall from last playing it years ago, a mounted knight is a tough nut to crack and I may not have the tools yet. Or, I could go south to the forest town, which has some connection to plains and to hills as well: Iíve always done well with green, and a green/white/red deck might be rather boss...

For those who have never seen it before up close with explanations, this is Magic: the Gathering and the campaign game Shandalar! If anyone is interested in seeing me continue, great, let me know; but otherwise Iíll probably just work on it quietly for now. :)

Hope this has been helpful either way!
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2015, 06:46:28 PM »
The Sorceress of the Red Weenies is coming!

...

.......

Not remotely what I meant.
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2015, 05:13:32 PM »
PART 7 -- RISE OF THE RED WEENIES

Yes, sometimes I am immature.

Magic: the Gathering might not have been the first collectable card game -- or maybe it was, my threshold for exerting myself over several hours of work is selective and doesnít extend to checking on the internet somewhere even though Iím going to type this sentence out to the limit of my imagination -- but it was the first to give players such utterly epic scenarios, and itís still arguably the best for that.

For example, one of the first duels I won after the Troll duel (recounted at length in previous Parts), I picked up a card called Eater of Days: a monstrous 9/6 artifact creature, costing loads of mana to cast, which in story lore behind the game was a world shattering mechanism, and which was so overpowered on the table that to balance summoning it, it would eat your turns! Specifically you have to pass two turns, giving your opponent three turns before you could play again.

Admittedly, thatís a rare card, but a total newbie could theoretically open a brand new starter deck or one of the booster packs and pull that thing out. In other games, you start with dinky little spells; in this game you start with the theoretical ability to end the world, if you have the right spell already in your deck.

In the Shandalar game, thatís even more emphasized because the player starts with only half as many life-points as a normal player would. You have to scrape hard to earn each extra life-point -- I still havenít earned my first one yet -- because youíre just a novice whoís only been wandering the countryside as a magician for maybe a week. Granted, they explain you even having a Ďdeckí in-game by means of a host of beaten wizards who canít fight anymore but who all donated spells and land-links to give you your first deck, but still. One week in game time, and I already have the opportunity to cast something like the Eater of Days.

Sadly, I did not think to get a screenshot of this card before I sold it for like 690 gold. Because like hell am I going to give my opponent three turns. I know how fast this game can turn around in three turns, and thatís with each player drawing and playing cards.

Relatedly, this is the kind of game where you can sell off the Eater of Days at the local bazaar, and pick up some thorn pigs or whatever plus several other things like that with the profit.

Also relatedly, this is the kind of game where it is entirely possible, with the proper support, for a little seagull to kill the Eater of Days, without any other creatures or spells directly damaging the thing.

Thatís how epic this game is. It isnít only epic big, itís epic in making even weak cards useful. That stretches the scope of whatís supposedly happening in a whole other direction, like when a person learns that a human being is actually about average sized compared to the universe.

Which brings us to todayís match, with a Red Sorceress stretching her Red Weenies to... you know what, Iím just not going to ever type that again, just to be safe.

...okay, at least one more time. A ďWeenieĒ deck is a term practically as old as this game (i.e. early 90s). It refers to a deck mainly composed of weak creatures which can be quickly summoned, and some supporting spells to help them overrun an opponent quickly. Red decks were arguably the best at this. And so despite me playing with cards from around 20 years of production, Iíve been getting my butt kicked by a computer playing cards from no later than the late 90s. Not always; Iíve eked a few wins (like against the Troll), and my deck is getting better.

So Iím out in the hills meandering around, beating and getting beaten by various things whom the Guardian is sending into the territory to make up for the vacuum in minions Iím defeating, and looking for a Cleric -- which I need to find and beat in 3 days, yet there are no plains anywhere near the town who gave me that quest.

Then this dubious looking cougar lurches over some rocks at me.

 


Hm. That Iron Star would be nice, and eh losing my Loam Lion wouldnít be a huge loss, he hasnít been all that helpful. (I sold the Putrid Leech some time ago.) Iíve got a fair-sized deck with plenty of options, so any long-term game I should win; sheíll run out of cards first. Sure, I only have 10 life (still), but it seems like a winnable fight. I go for it.

My first hand drawn features no lands, so I opt for the mulligan, which allows her to do the same if she wants.

On my redraw before the duel starts, I get exactly one creature. The Primalcrux, an epic Green Godzilla Threshold thing that takes six green mana to play, and which has Trample (naturally) and a variable power/toughness based on how many other creatures Iíve already put on the field. This is not something Iím likely to ever survive to play, in a rainbow deck like mine; I might as well have only drawn 6 cards! (Which reminds me I ought to put it back in my kit for a more focused green or green/x bicolor deck someday.)

I know from bitter experience what kind of deck sheíll be playing, and having (effectively) no creatures in my hand at the start is harsh. In fact Iíll slightly spoil the plot by admitting now that I never got to play the Primalcrux. But hereís a nice screenie of it.
 


Iíll get to go first, for all the fat lot of good itís going to do me. Since I canít play anything useful for a while in any case, I decide to play the Temple of Abandon first; itís a special land that gives me either 1 red or 1 green mana, my choice, when tapped, and also lets me check the top card of my deck when it enters the field to see if I want to draw it next time or shuffle down. Itís a hard choice, as I see a swamp coming next and I do need mana but I also need creatures. Perhaps unwisely I choose to draw the swamp next, my rationale being that I have some very useful black creatures but not many swamps in a large deck so I shouldnít burn it by putting it essentially out of the game on the bottom of the deck.

She doesnít have any problem throwing down her one kind of land (a mountain, though as Iíll see later she does have Urzaís Sunglasses which implies she has plains, too, but sheíll never play them if so.) And she doesnít have any problem handicapping me further for this duel by summoning an artifact called a Meekstone. It keeps creatures with a power greater than 2 from untapping normally, so if I tap any creature for attacking -- or if she taps them somehow -- theyíll be helpless ever afterward.

Many of my creatures have a power greater than 2. Including, ideally, that Primalcrux Iíll never get to play. I can still put them on the field, and they can still be useful in various ways, such as on defense, but until when-if-ever I can get rid of that Meekstone (which is why I want to find some Shatters or Disenchants as soon as possible) any tapping ability of theirs can only be used once.

In accordance with the prophecy, I draw the swamp, but I save it for later as I have far more more green and white cards in my deck. So I play a forest instead. Somewhat amazingly she doesnít have anything costing only two mountains to cast, so once she plays her land itís back to me. I draw a special land thatís so useful I took the opportunity to duplicate it when offered the chance by a wizard I defeated a day or two ago, but Iíll talk about it later; meanwhile I play a plains. So Iíve got a good mix of green, red, and white to work with, and Iíll have black to add soon, but nothing really to cast with it yet.

Her turn, another mountain, and now she surely has enough to begin summoning creatures every turn for a while. Starting with this cheery lass.

 


Bird Maidens are one of my favorite cards; they arenít only pretty in a wholesome way, but useful if a little overpriced perhaps. Theyíre a card dating waaaaaaaay back to the early 90s as part of the very first expansion, the Arabian Nights, thus also the flavor text.

Normally Iíd be worried, since who know when I can get a flying creature out; but I drew that special land last time, and thatís what Iíll be playing now, not my swamp:

 


The Maze of Ith; a card from the Dark expansion if Iím reading my icons right. Even better, by a freak streak of luck I just drew my second of the pair in my deck! Iíll be playing that as soon as she plays another creature. Those two cards by themselves may have just extended my duel by three or four turns, and unless she has land destruction spells -- which she might, sheís playing with a red deck -- theyíll be a thorny-maze in her side for the rest of the game.

Because with those cards, I can instantly negate any attack from a single creature (per card) that she tries to assault with. Even the Eater of Days, if she had one, though as weíll see soon she has something almost as dreadful.

 


Yeah, her Bird Maiden can breathe fire now. Breathing fire is... well, not cool for me. In a solid red deck of the Sorceressí sort, this can be devastating: that creatureís power can be pumped up to nuclear levels. It wouldnít take many more mountains to giver that Bird Maiden a real chance of taking out the Eater of Days, just for example.

Relatedly, this is a game where you can give firebreathing to a starfish, a creature that normally sits there like a wall and canít even attack, and turn it into a Godzilla level powerhouse. And give it a throwing dagger, too, for a bit of extra power in melee, which the starfish can optionally throw at another target instead as it charges your enemyís army.

This game, yíall. This game.

Fortunately, it doesnít matter much (yet) that this Bird Maiden has just graduated to being, six or seven turns later, an extinction level event. Because I can confuse her in the Maze of Ith if she tries to attack me. Yes, it confuses even flying creatures strong enough (potentially) to one-shot a machine called the Eater of Days which actually does eat days.

The Sorc does indeed send her burning beauty over, just in case I forget to use the Maze, starting a long tradition of me trying to remember to use the Maze. Iíll spare some tedious suspense here by revealing ahead of time that, despite things getting pretty confusing, I never forgot to use my Maze(s).

With only one creature on her side of the field, I didnít call my second Maze, but my swamp instead. The Sorc tried her Bird Maiden again, out of opportunism, and then summoned a Hurr Jackal: also from the Arabian Nights set, this foxlike creature (officially classed as a ďhoundĒ by modern reckoning) only needs one red to summon and is only 1/1 in combat (unless she gives it firebreathing or something else like that), but tapping it sends it to gnaw on any dead target before it goes to the graveyard, preventing the corpse from being regenerated if thatís an option. Itís handy against trolls and various other things, but itís wasted against me as I donít think I have any regen creatures or spell effects.

With my second Maze now in play, I draw my first useable creature of the game, the Kami of Ancient Law: a very cost-effective white 2/2 creature with a sacrificial power of destroying enemy enchantments. Like that firebreathing aura on the bird girl. But since Iím muffing her attacks anyway (for now), and since this is my only creature on the field, I decide not to sacrifice it yet.

The Maiden makes her useless daily run; and then the Sorceress summons a Baby Drake: a flying 2/3 red dragon, which like its older forms comes with Firebreathing already installed. Even though it has restrictions on how strongly it can torch things (too much and it dies at the end of the turn, but it can do all that damage once, and with the right spell it can come back easily), itís a real problem.

On my turn I draw my Master Decoy: a silly but often very useful white creature with decent defense, which can use a white mana to cause one creature (and itself) to tap. As long as I can keep a white mana source free, though that wonít help me this turn (since I need my plains to summon it), Iíll be able to shut down his front line again: two mazes and a decoy.

 


This turn I should still be safe: I can use my Kami, or for that matter my Decoy in direct defense, to stop the Jackal (probably, unless she temps it up with something), and my Mazes will stop the two flyers.

Which makes the Sorcís next play a poor choice.

 


That bloodlust is a good card, but it works better as a surprise on a sacrificial card. This means the AI doesnít know what a Maze of Ith is (despite it being part of Shandalarís original expansion sets), because otherwise it would never have wasted it on a card I will definitely now stop with the Maze. She should have surged all three units across, two of which couldnít be stopped by my ground troops; let my Mazes be assigned to the flyers; and then if I gambled on stopping her little jackal, bam Bloodlust it since it was going to die anyway (being a mere 1/1 creature). She would have smatted one of my key defenses, a very advantageous trade of pawns under the circumstances.

Not that she isnít going to give me headaches as she goes. But this one is easy to parry.

Heck, it turns out she even had another Hurr Jackal to summon if that one had kamakaziíd!

I draw and play a forest, nothing more I can feasibly do, and itís back to the Sorc. She runs the flyers over again to be Mazed, but doesnít send the jackals yet since I could easily stop them. Somewhat disturbingly, even though she still has 3 cards in her hand and a ton of mountains, she doesnít cast anything this turn.

So far this has been a stalemate, though one on the edge of a blade. With my next draw, and summon, Iím hoping to start changing that soon.

 


My early decision not to send one of my rare swamps to the bottom of the deck, pays off. The Whispering Shade isnít inherently powerful, only 1/1, and much of its utility is busted in this duel since the Sorc surely wonít have any swamps (and I have no way to give her any, though there are definitely spells for that somewhere) so I canít blow the Shade past her linemen to attack her directly.

But it has, well, swampbreathing, to coin a term. :D Like firebreathing but for swamps.

That would be better if I ever drew more swamps, and Iíll reveal here that I never do. Thisíll only be a 2/2 creature, and then only if I keep that swamp untapped before combat (and if I remember to tap it at the proper time!) But I have plans. Sneaky, sneaky plans.

Plans that must wait until my next turn, since the Shade has the usual summoning sickness and canít tap yet. The Sorc sends her firebreathing fliers over, to be Mazed as usual, and then...

ugh, she summons another Dragon Whelp.

Now I could be in big trouble. She has three firebreathing fliers and currently I can only stop two with the Mazes, and canít stop the other at all!

As a point of trivia, when Shandalar was first released, none of the first expansions featured any dragons. Sometimes dragon art for dragon effects, but the only creature called a dragon, besides these Whelps, was a Fairy Dragon, and a card unique to the Shandalar game called a Prismatic Dragon -- which created random effects. Iím not sure when DRAGONS started being included in the card sets, or if they were included before the final official Shandalar expansion (for ďthe DarkĒ), but itís a detail the game itself points up: one of the town elderís random speeches will be about how the dragons left Shandalar ages ago and only two of the smaller kinds remain. Not counting the dang Dragon Whelps, old man. Yeesh.

With the unofficial update(s), thereís a decent chance I may find some bigass dragons to buy along the way. But I donít have any now, and Iím facing these things.

My only feasible option depends on what card I draw next -- and I draw the Wei Infantry, a meh 2/1 black card with no special powers. I cast it anyway, which delays my Shade plan by another turn since I need the swamp to do so, and then pass the turn back to the Sorceress.

I am 100 percent sure sheís going to send all three flyers across, and I figure sheís going to power up one of the two Whelps -- which if so Iíll maze them. I have to make a hard decision of when to sacrifice my Kami of Ancient Law to get rid of the firebreathing enchantment on the Bird Maiden. After hard thoughts, I figure the worst that can happen is that the Sorc plinks away at me for a while with the Maiden, since I strenously doubt the AI will waste mountain mana powering her up when she could get an extra point of damage from the whelp. And if I sacrifice my Kami, all that will happen is that the Maiden still plinks at me every turn.

In hindsight I should have waited, perhaps. But I didnít quite think things out completely, and I sacrificed my Kami to poof away the firebreathing aura after all. Maybe I was afraid the AI would get clever and start sending all three firebreathers across with powerups, in which case Iíd take two or three points of extra damage each turn I couldnít stop. This way I could be sure to stop the firebreathing threat. For now.

Yet the gameclock has suddenly kicked into low gear against me. I still have some chance to turn things around, maybe a lot of chances, but if I donít then Iím done in ten turns. Maybe sooner if the Sorc comes up with something worse.

Oh, hey, good! I drew...

 


...my Wizard Replica!

I donít know why itís called that -- the name doesnít match its abilities at all. Itís a 1/3 flying artifact creature which is strong enough to bounce the Bird Maiden easily, especially if she doesnít have firebreathing -- so that was a good trade for losing my Kami. And if I ever find my one Island (which exists mainly to allow this effect, and to give someone Dehydration which you might recall seeing at the top of my hand), I can Counter a cast spell, though that will sacrifice my Replica (and Iíd have to be picky about when I did it since the Sorceress might have enough red mana to power through anyway, losing my replica for nothing.) But thatís unlike to ever be a fact; right now Iím just glad to have something to keep the girl off my --

 


--glick...

Dangit, Sorc. Shatter? Really? Youíve been saving that all this time for if I get an artifact out, havenít you? TWO OF THEM?!!? You must be desperate in case I have some kind of counter for the first one, huh! (More likely this is an AI blip of some kind, but itís hard to tell; the AI has been taught to be clever sometimes.)

Well that bites.
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2015, 05:14:59 PM »
(Part 2 of 2)

Still, Iíve got a swamp and a Whispering Shade, and a clever plan I was... well, I was going to put into action except those shatters distracted me from doing so, having been cast at the start of my assault phase! (Maybe the AI knew what it was doing after all!)

So ends my turn, and she surges her fliers across again as expect, which I Maze, except for the Bird Maiden who plinks me again. Troubling, especially since I had a chance to stop that pestering until she Shattered my chance, but I still have some time to at least put my Shady plan into action -- although even a low-level zappy spell in her deck, which she might have, could cause me to quickly lose after all. Or, if not that --

 


Dammit, hereís another dragon that shouldnít exist in Shandalar anymore! When I get back to town, old man, Iím punching you in the mouth.

Fortunately, this thing is inherently weaker than the Whelp, even though it has the same firebreathing limitations -- but if she gets even one of them across, Iím (literally) toast and it wonít matter a whit if it pops like a fiery balloon afterward.

Unfortunately, it has banding.

I donít think weíve talked about banding yet. Normally creatures (and pseudo-creatures like walls) can only band together when blocking on defense, to team up on an attacking creature; and then the attacker chooses how to assign the power of his creatureís hit (if any) against them, so he can spread out the damage and maybe eliminate more than one blocker.

ďBandingĒ means first that the attacking player can team up any number of Banding creatures (plus one non-banding creature) as a group for attack as well as defense; and second, it means that the controller of the banding group, whether on assault or defense, gets to decide where all incoming damage goes. Meaning one little weak card could get it all, leaving the stronger cards to survive and fight again. Or maybe the card with the Ward against a particular color gets it all, and so no one takes damage at all!

This is going to make Mazing the fliers a little more difficult, as Iíve got to make sure to click on the proper edges of the cards; it also means if I do get any decent fliers out for defense, they might be able to work together to murder it while it can only hit back ineffectively.

More immediately important, I now have two fliers I canít stop, one of which also has limited but potentially fatal firebreathing.

At this point I check the antes again to remember what I stand to lose. My Loam Lion? Iíd rather not; it could be something easier to replace, but it could be a lot worse, too. Still, not disposable enough that Iím going to just concede. Yet. But Iím thinking about it.

Well, I still have my Shady plan, IF I CAN EVER STOP BEING DISTRACTED ON MY ATTACK PHASE AND START IT UP! The essential problem with this plan is that at best it will take a few turns, maybe even three or four turns if the AI suspects what Iím doing (or its code just happens to nerf my attempts).

One bit of good news is that I now draw a False Defeat, and anyone who read my previous entry will know thatís a great card; and I have enough land to cast it. But I donít have anything awesome enough in the graveyard already to use my one FD on, not worth the cost of delaying my Shady plan again. Still, nice to have it in my hand and ready to go!

Okay, the key here is to try to goad the computer into blocking my one attacking Whispering Shade with one of the Whelps, which are her strongest cards on the table even without firebreathing; and which, being fliers, I canít currently get unless the come down to me.

With Swampbreath (heh), I can make it a 2/2 creature, which will safely instakill one of her jackals if she blocks that way (unless she has a sneaky instant to mess with me, but she only has one card in her hand and I think sheíd have played something dangerous already on her Bird Maiden rather than letting the girl merely peck at me at little.) The Shade will also kill the Bird Maiden safely, and I VERY much doubt the Sorc will let that happen. There are two mountains untapped over there, so the Nalathni Dragon could power up enough to take me out, but it would die in the process; and banding with one of the whelps would be redunant (as far as she knows!) The safe play is to block with a Whelp, which is what she does. Itís strong enough to kill the Shade without even needing +2 power from the untapped mountains, and itís tough enough to shrug off the 2-power hit without dying.

What the computer doesnít know, is that Iíve had this card sitting in my hand all duel long, with nothing yet to properly use it on.

 


That cardís an instant, so I can cast it just about any time, such as after blockers are declared. And it temporarily gives a creature +2 power (to get past the 3 toughness) and also First Strike -- meaning Iíll apply my damage first instead of simultaneously (unless an immediately blocking creature also has First Strike, then itís back to simul).

Meaning that even if she powers it up with enough juice to kill my Shade, Iíll still hit first and thatíll be useless.

ONE DANG DRAGON WHELP DOWN!

Too bad I donít have another of those cards.

I do have something else, but I canít be sure itíll work against a Whelp.

What I do otherwise have, however, is my Master Decoy. And an untapped plains. Which, since his powerís description doesnít say otherwise, acts as a Fast Effect. Meaning I can play it almost any time. Such as on her turn, before she taps the Whelp to attack me.

Which means she can only send two fliers across this turn, both of which I can Maze.

One drawback to being Mazed, from my perspective, is that the Mazed creature goes back to the line untapped. So itís available to defend on my turn.

But thatís okay, because I want to sucker one of those cards to attack my Shade again. The Whelp remains tapped out, and wonít be back until the Sorcís untap phase at the start of her next turn. She summons another Hurr Jackal, which might potentially be a problem later but I canít do anything about that yet.

My turn again and ... oh...

 


Ohai Knight Captain! Iíd forgotten you were in the deck! Schway! {/BatmanBeyondref}

Summoning him would tap my swamp this turn. Is that worth delaying my Shady plan again? Hmmmmm.... yes. Worst case scenario, still yes.

Out he comes onto the field, with his two little minions.

And now the Sorc could be in serious trouble. Because I donít need Mazes anymore to stop incoming damage. I can use the Eos guy, or his minions rather, and anyone she assigns to the attack will be tapped out on her next defense!

True, I can only do that twice -- or less if she finds a way to zap a minion -- but twice would be enough to wreck some havoc on her line. Though that depends on what she herself casts in the next few turns.

I canít keep her Whelp from untapping (my plains are tapped out so I canít power up the Master Decoy), but thatís okay. I could stop all her incomers this time by sacrificing a soldier, but Iíd rather see if I can sucker that other Whelp down onto my Shade; so I Maze the two dragons, and take the plinky peck from the Bird Maiden again. Down to 7 life now, and I only draw a mountain (which naturally I play, canít hurt, might help later), but eh, on with the plan.

My main worry is that sheíll just send two Jackals to bloc my powered-up Shade, but I figure if that happens I can trade the Shade for two jackals and try again with something else next turn. But, logically, she takes the apparently safe route and blocks with the Whelp, which should be able to kill my Shade and survive the attempt. Just like last time! :D

 


Yeah, no, I have a Mirran Mettle. Which would be better if I had three or more artifacts on the field, but thatís fine. Sure, she could charge up the dragon to 5 power and mutually kill me, but Iím willing to make that trade.

Except she doesnít, which I have to reckon as an error on her part. Maybe something to do with being careful never to put in three or more red manas since thatíll kill the whelp at the end of the turn (and she needed 3 to simulkill my Shade) -- but that Whelp was smoked anyway, she should have done it.

Sheís still ahead 10 to 7, but things are looking increasingly bad for her; and all she can play is another mountain and send her two remaining fliers across to be mazed again. I draw another mountain, too (woop :P but I wonít say no to more mana options), and this time I want to sucker the the AI into blocking my shade, not with the remaining dragon which could power up and kill me, but with something I can surprise with swampbreath. Unfortunately, I canít think of a way to guarantee that this turn, so I pass back to the Sorc -- and then decoy her Nalanthi Dragon so that wonít be a blocking option on my next attack.

Just to annoy me she casts a 2nd Bird Maiden, which could screw with my Shady plan.

But then I final draw a second plains (despite them being by far my most plentiful land in the deck), and I can finally cast something Iíve been waiting for a while to get on the field:
 


...my Cloud Crusader.

Flying first strike 2/3 critter. Maybe most of my creatures are weenies, too! Huh!

I decided not to send my Shade across to be blasted by the Bird Maids, and she prudently decides not to attack on her turn since my Crusader would make short work of anything arriving (and my Mazes would bounce the rest.) But she does cast another Bird Maid. Now she has 3 and that could be a problem.

On my turn, I draw Tireless Missionaries, whom I summon to take a position (... on the line! Yeesh.) And they give me 3 life points.

So after all that has come before, weíre back to being tied and a ton of things on the field.

I decide to send the Shade this time; and she blocks with 2 Bird Maids even though he isnít swampowered yet. Clever! -- the AI foresaw I might do that! This ruins my plan, since tapping the swamp will still only mean I trade the Shade (which could in theory still become more powerful if I ever draw another swamp) for one Bird Maiden (each of which have a defense of 2, and thatís all I can hit for).

So I use one of the Mazes, saving the other for the little Dragon if it attacks.

Unfortunately, I was getting a bit tired by now, and didnít realize I should use the Maze on one of the blocking Maidens, which would return it back to the line unharmed while her sisterís little 1 point attack wouldnít keep my Shade from safely swatting her into the grave.

So I Mazed my Shade instead, sending it safely back to the line untapped. Meh. Something to try to remember next time Iím in a situation like this.

The Sorceress doesnít bother playing anything or attacking on her turn; and when play passes back to me, Iíve drawn -- 


Might of the Masses. One of several green spells with a similar theme of powering up a target creature by reference to other creatures on the board, and it costs practically nothing to cast, only one green. Very potentially a game-winning card this late in the game -- but surprisingly useless at the moment! See, under most circumstances, even a puny little Hurr Jackal could completely stop all the power from getting through to damage my opponent, unless I can guarantee the damage hits her instead. If she had a swamp, I could send my swampwalking Shade to do it; but she doesnít, and I have no way to give her one. If she had no flying creatures I could send any of my fliers over her melee line to do it, but she has plenty of fliers at the moment. I have a special land which when powered up allows one creature to bypass the combat line, but I might as well spoil the plot here a little and reveal that I never get down to it in this duel. She doesnít have any walls, so any invisible creatures or spells, or abilities which make a creature only stoppable by walls, would work; but I donít have any (maybe, canít quite recall).

Whatís left? Two options. The first is to whittle away her air force until I can send a flier safely across. The second is to hang on until I can cast a creature with Trample, which will push through any damage past what blocking creatures can soak. My Primalcrux, for example, though I still need another three greens manasources for that. I may have a couple of other Tramply creatures in my deck, I donít recall for sure.

Anyway, that gives me a plan, so I send my Cloud Crusader (first strike flying creature with decent power and defense) and my Whispering Shade to see if I can troll anyone into blocking them. I even add my Tireless Missionaries, since at this point theyíd be safely expendable if I lost them -- or so I estimate -- and maybe theyíll take someone with them.

 


And thatís her blocking strategy.

Unfortunately itís still late (now later), and I still donít realize I ought to be Mazing selected defenders rather than protecting my own troops with Maze. So, being stupid and a bit protectively paranoid I Maze my own Shade back to the line again -- and then because I havenít thought things out quite as clearly as in my post-op report here, I cast Masses on my Missionaries. Sure, this saves them from being killed by that Bloodlusted Jackal, and I forced her to waste a Blood Lust spell, so thatís cool), but itís a sad waste of my Masses, too. The problem is that she blocked me with a team of that juiced up Jackal and her dragonette, the latter of which has banding, meaning the Sorceress gets to decide where all the damage should go, not me. Iím not up for trading my Missionaries for a scrawny little Jackal (itís superpower being only temporary), and Iím worried that I had better save a Maze for her attack, and I still donít realize I should be Mazing her Jackal or something so I can kill the other creature more or less with impunity, specifically the little Dragon. Sure, she could fire it up to kill my Missionaries anyway, but firebreathing doesnít make anything tougher, only more powerful: my damage would have still killed it, and Iíd be well up for the trade to get rid of her last (current) flying flamethrower.

But alas. Late night, getting tired, saved my Missionaries, killed a small Jackal. At least my Crusader got through to nip her for two points of damage directly. Fortunately, itís a late night for the computer, too, and she decides I deserve to kill her little dragon anyway rather than the far less helpful Jackal! She casts a Dwarven Warrior, which is useful for getting weak cards through a defensive line, after which she could power them up with firebreathing -- but she let her dragonette die, so...

And she canít hurt me for a while. Iím actually wanting her to try a surge so I can Eos it with my Knight Captain, leaving her mostly unprotected. She does send all three bird maidens down the line, and I do decide to Eos them, so that now she has NOTHING in the way of my flying Crusader griffin. See, this is why I should have saved my Masses and used my Maze more smartly. The duel would probably be over now.

More griffiny goodness arrives when I draw and cast some Skyspear Cavalry, though they canít attack yet. Itís a Double-Strike creature, meaning it hits twice with its 2 power for 4 damage: 2 as a first strike (the spear) and 2 as normal damage (the claws and beak I guess).

I surge more of my troops again, knowing the defensive line will be safely held by one more Soldier working for the Knight Captain.

 


She only blocks with Jackals, and taps a third Jackal to gnaw on the corpse of my Wei Infantry after the battle just in case I have a regeneration spell in my hand (which I donít). I guess Iím okay trading the infantry for a jackal to help thin out her line, and my Shade powers up its Swampbreath to safely defeat the other jackal. She loses two ground defense cards, and I lose one; plus my other 2/3 creatures get through directly to hit her for 4 points of damage.

One more attack like that and Iíve won the duel, even without any fancy plan!

This time she has enough sense not to surge all her fliers, so I donít actually expect that that attempt to work again; but with a new griffin unit I give it another try. She blocks the Shade and my Missionaries with most of her ground line, and randomly blocks only my Skyspear Cav instead of the Crusaders with a Bird Maiden. Between one thing and another, I lose only my Missionaries, while she loses one of her Maidens and almost all her ground forces save one long Jackal.

Sheís out of options now, so since my air defense looks down she sends the Maidens to peck me; and I could have let them, but being cruel I pointlessly sacrifice the other Eos soldier to soak all the incoming damage. She has nothing useful to cast afterward; and with only 2 life remaining itís easy for me to just send my fliers over the line one more time for the win.

Phew! While I got back to my original 10 life points (which recharge between duels anyway), this one was a lot tougher than it may have appeared! Up until my final two or three turns, the match could have gone either way; and had I not completely lucked out and got both those Mazes of Ith onto the field early, she probably would have won -- I had nothing else to stop her several firebreathing fliers for a long time.

I won the Iron Star, which will help buff me with life points if Iím playing a significantly red deck -- things like this are super necessary for dungeon delving eventually because all those places involve several fights where my remaining life points carry over. I also got a Tempest Efreet, an old card from the Arabian deck, naturally, which has a unique ability affecting the card ownership: if I play it on the field (itís a 3/3 ground creature with no other special abilities), I can tap to sacrifice it, and force my opponent to either sacrifice ten life, or to let me draw a random card from his hand (though not his deck). I get to outright permanently own the stolen card! -- but in return, he gets the Efreet, though it goes into his graveyard. Meaning heíll have the opportunity to do that to me or someone else in a later game.

Thatís how it works in real life; in Shandalar, it only means I trade the Efreet for a random card in his hand, but lots of spells and creatures in this game can bring back cards (or creatures specifically) from the graveyard, so the computer might do this to me instead if the duel goes wrong. I donít like risking my deck more than I have to, and sell it for a surprisingly sparse 60 gold.

Thus ends my best duel for that night, and Iím still no closer to finding a white cleric near that mountain town than before. Perhaps any white cleric will do? Iíll meander over to a town on the plains and check...
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: SHANDALAR! D.A.R! (does whatever a shandy... dar...)
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2018, 12:50:13 PM »
Someone recently used the email button to send me a question about the Shadalar game, but he or she (probably 'he' around here ;) ) didn't sign a name, and the return address is actually to Brant -- but Brant didn't send it (I checked).

This is apparently a forum technicality, where using the email button send the message through the forum's email address.

Consequently, I don't know who sent me the email (and neither does Brant).

I'll try to help, if whoever it was sends me a pmail instead, i.e. a "private mail" using that button. That goes through the forum engine only, and will show up with an alert when I check in (though it may take me a little while to notice. Because I'm dense and narrow-minded.  :nerd: :hide: :dreamer: )
Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Strategic Werewolf Axe-chopping Simulator video AAR!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

The full pdf of Cry of Justice has been posted to the Grogheads Book category here.