#505: The Puzzle, Part 2


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In this blog post, I won’t just be talking about the act of working on puzzles, a meaningful activity that my family has spent a lot of time on already. I talked about that in the last one. I want to touch on a particular anecdote and share it with you all because it’s stuck with me, and it’s an experience you maybe don’t always get to have. Basically, I got to meet one of my good friends’ family friends while working on a puzzle with them at their house about a year ago. We talked about all kinds of things in the time we were there, especially election season and how we were excited to hear what was going to happen next year. How naive we were at the time.

The puzzle we were working on was mostly inconsequential. I don’t remember the pattern or what it looked like at all; I just remember struggling to put anything together, as it had about 25% of it done and was in that stage where people are just putting the pieces next to other pieces and seeing if they fit at all.

About a week or two ago, I spoke to that friend again and we talked about this moment in time. We specifically talked about how weird it is sometimes to recall places and people you’ll likely never meet or see ever again. You were nice and cordial to each other once, and then… poof. They’re gone. You might not even remember their names or where they lived or what their house was like; you just remember that small moment your lives intersected for a bit. It’s unusual to consider this, I guess. But we talked about it together, and I wish I had more examples I could pull out in my head, but they’re all gone.

#504: The Puzzle, Part 1

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Back when I used to live at this house, we would sometimes pull out puzzles and try to complete them in one go. They’d never get finished that easily, usually because the puzzles we had were enormous and multifaceted and full of the most ridiculous spots. It’s more difficult than it looks, I promise you, to figure out how this blue spot connects to this other blue spot that looks remarkably similar except for an infinitesimally small sky-blue dot in the upper corner. It’s all about the little details when it comes to figuring out how these puzzles work. You have to have an attention to detail and picking out the finest points of things, and you have to be able to focus. That’s always a tough thing for me: focusing. Puzzles require concentration and dedication to completing it, obviously, but also to looking at those small details and not losing your mind in the process of working all that out in your head.

I give props to my mom and sister, who are much better at completing puzzles than I am. I learn by intuition; I feel things out and hope that they make sense in the process of me figuring it out on my own. I learn in a way that makes puzzles difficult, because they’re not exactly the most intuitive things around. Of course, there are some intuitive elements, like figuring out the outline of the puzzle before anything else, looking for pieces that match each other in pattern, and so on, but more than anything, puzzles are about concentration and a will to not completely give up after staring at the same spots over and over again.

I think I’m going to write about puzzles some more in the next blog post. Stay tuned for that.

#498: The Counter

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So, I sometimes run a deck that has a lot of good counterspells in it. No one seems to know what to do when they face it one-on-one, because it’s just so obnoxious to deal with. It reminds us always of a friend who we used to play with constantly, who always ran counterspells and loved the colors blue, black, and red in Magic. Those colors generally run with annoying spells, so it’s sensible that people wouldn’t feel that great playing against it in games. It’s like playing against control decks in Hearthstone; you never really want to do it, because you know they’re just going to ruin your whole game plan for the duration of the game. It’s part of their strategy, and it’s basically how they plan on winning, by disrupting you so much that you no longer have the combo pieces required to win how you would expect to.

Today I’m writing about counters because, as it happens to be, yesterday I spent some time with my friends playing magic and we discussed what it’s like to play against the Bolas deck, as it’s called. It’s my grixis-colored commander deck, and it’s known for being especially obnoxious to play against, especially if you’re playing Dan’s selesnya-colored commander deck. He doesn’t run much blue hate in that deck, and it’s pretty much exclusively good at out-doing other fat decks that rely on big creatures. My Lord Windgrace deck gets countered pretty hard by Dan’s deck, but whenever I seem to play the Bolas one, it seems to come out on top in spite of it being less good, in my opinion. It doesn’t have the same options and I haven’t put as much money into it as I did the other decks. Sometimes simple is better, at least in this case.

#497: The Reaper

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The data reaper is a series of Hearthstone reports put out by an organization called Vicious Syndicate, a group of elite Hearthstone players and personalities, all of whom are dedicated to accruing the most up-to-date data on the Hearthstone ranked ladder at all levels of play. This includes ranks Legend through 25, and it even includes both Wild and Standard formats, though the Wild data reapers usually take a bit longer to update considering the popularity of the format compared to Standard.

Above all, it’s nice to have a resource anyone can look at, that’s publicly available and for free, that you can use to look up the meta in Hearthstone. The game itself is such a meta-dependent game, in that you need to have an up-to-date understanding of each of the decks that might ravage the format in order to best understand what’s going to hose you down in a few minutes. If you’re not aware of the decks, you won’t know how to handle their aggressive or controlling strategies, and thus it will prove difficult for you to figure out how to beat them. It’s a simple sort of dynamic that Vicious Syndicate has created, and speaking as someone who’s never reached Legend rank but has gotten close a few times, I would be nowhere without those people and their resources. I regularly send my data over to them, though I don’t play enough for it to be that relevant, unfortunately. I hope, in the future, should I play more and eventually reach Legend, that the popularity of this website continues to grow and eventually lead to even more advanced strategies and builds for decks. Even now I’m pretty sure people are still optimizing the decklists that are put out by VS, and people will make them their own in their own different ways.

#495: The Worthy

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The new season in Destiny 2 is called “The Season of the Worthy,” and today I’ll be talking a little bit about it in an effort to explain it while I work on completing a few of the objectives for it at the same time. Pretty crazy how that works, but we’ll try it anyway.

Essentially, every new season, if you own the season pass, you get access to a leveling system that goes on top of the existing leveling system. It’s the “season rank,” and with it you can unlock great rewards like exotic engrams and zone currencies and ascendant shards and what have you. It’s a nice little system that they added, that rewards you for playing their game on top of the stuff they already reward you with for playing their game. Unfortunately, I had to purchase the season pass independently of everything else this time because I was given access to the last season for free by purchasing Shadowkeep around that time. Now that the season has changed, I had to get something new. It’s really that simple.

Right now, I’m running around the Tower hoping to reach Zavala before I reach the end of this sentence. Zavala is the commander of the Vanguard, basically the heroic organization of this game, and he’s in charge of how this operation goes down. When you talk with him he unlocks certain Strike-related bounties that are, of course, only available to be completed in Strikes, most of the time at least. Today, as I talk with Zavala, he tells me about the bunkers where Rasputin is housing ancient weapons that can help us take down the Cabal. It feels like how the initial Red War campaign went down, except this time it’s involving us being in the Tower instead of operating from the Farm.

#487: The Disconnect

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While writing the last blog post about getting a fat pack of cards, I disconnected from a game of Hearthstone. I like to play that game while still having time to do other things, like Destiny, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, or writing blog posts. Whatever the occasion, I like the opportunity to multi-task and accomplish two things at once, if possible. Most of the reason why I end up writing so many blog posts about the same subjects — the games I play — is because I end up writing while doing those things. It’s just the natural way of how I write.

Now, when I’m trying to pay attention and actually home in on a particular idea, in those cases I definitely don’t multi-task. Like if I’m writing a story or a chapter, I find that I have to commit myself to only writing that story or chapter in order for it to make sense. In any other circumstance, it’s just straight up impossible. There’s sometimes a disconnect between how I write and how I play, but above all it’s caused by my brain and how it manages itself. More than anything, I’m not the kind of person to just let things pass me by, and I want to commit to writing this blog with my full attention at times.

The disconnect is what happens when I lose a game of Hearthstone because the Internet connection here is a bit unstable and doesn’t always like to cooperate. The disconnect is how I handle frustration, and it’s also how I handle situations that are just straight up difficult to manage on my own. I disconnect from them, and I move away, like I did this January. It’s crazy to think it’s still been two months since what happened changed everything.

#483: The Golden

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The other day, while playing Hearthstone and having not much else to do, I reached 500 wins with the Hunter class for the first time. It’s a great milestone to achieve in Hearthstone because, after all, it means I’ve sunk a ridiculous amount of hours into this game and thus I finally have the golden Hunter hero, Rexxar, unlocked. Is this a significant achievement that warrants respect and admiration? Not really, not at all. It’s more of a matter of time if you play as often as I do, not really a mark of skill or anything like that. Also, though this is my first time reaching the milestone on Hunter, it is not the first time I’ve made it to 500 wins with a class; I also have the golden hero for Warrior. In fact, I’m at around 800 wins with Warrior, which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. I hope to get 1000 to unlock the even better portrait that comes with it.

Golden heroes are unique and stand out among the crowd, in that they look cool, shiny, and designate a certain level of dedication to playing the game. It’s like my card back, which I might explain at a different time on this blog in order to preserve the ability to write about that topic. But regardless, I use it to show the people I’m playing against that basically I mean business, if that makes sense. It’s nice to be able to communicate that sort of information without actually speaking to the other person.

My friend Dan actually reached 500 wins with Hunter before I did, so he had the golden hero in advance. I remember seeing it while playing against him and thinking it was really cool, so now that I have the opportunity to use it myself, I likely won’t stop.

#481: The Land

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Land-based decks are some of my favorite in the world of Magic: the Gathering, and in today’s blog post, I’d like to discuss them a bit more in depth. This is partially inspired by the fact that the last time that my friend Dan came over to play Magic, I beat him twice with my land-based deck. It ended up being a lot more powerful and potent than I thought it would be, during both fights. What happens is, I start the game with some form of powerful land recursion or land generation from my deck, and then I ramp up to lots and lots of mana at once, culminating in a major move that usually wins me the game. Sometimes it’s Multani, other times it’s a really large Torment of Hailfire boosted by an absurdly powerful effect like the one that comes from Nyxbloom Ancient, a card that debuted in the most recent Theros set. (This post is going to seem ancient really soon, as soon as the next set comes out, right?)

Land decks are especially interesting to me because they focus around one of the key components of any deck: the mana base. If your deck doesn’t have a consistent way of ramping up mana, or perhaps they just don’t care about mana ramping at all, they’re likely going to falter in a format like commander, which is the one I’m trying to describe here. The landscape of the format pretty much depends on some form of cheap, reliable mana ramping. Without it, you’re going to be left in the dust by other people who are accelerating much faster into their game plans than you are. Even just including small cards like Sol Ring go a long way. That card is crazy busted by the way and wins games if you get it out early enough.

#480: The Shadow

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In the Persona series of video games, all of us have shadows that are reflections of our emotions. They’re essentially parts of our minds that have been made manifest. When you enter this world, you have to accept that negative emotions have consequences, and they take the form of violent and harmful entities in this other world. A shadow will try to get you to deny that it’s really you, when in reality, it does represent the person you’re trying to hide away or suppress.

The reason I bring this up is because I sometimes wonder what my shadow would look like, or perhaps how it would reflect on myself. What types of emotions would I be suppressing that somehow come out in the form of the shadow? Would my shadow taunt me with visions of the past, when I was a different person and acted weird during high school and other parts of my life? I would hope not, but on that same token, it’s impossible to know without seeing it for yourself. Fortunately, I won’t have to fight in a battle my negative emotions any time soon, unless the Persona world turns out to be real one way or another.

This all probably sounds ridiculous, and I know at my heart that it really is, but to me, I still like the idea of psychology reflecting on reality and vice versa. I like that our thoughts and minds have minds of their own, in a way, in the world of Persona.

Nothing really compares to the feeling of immersing into a Persona game for the first time, and finding out that the world isn’t so dissimilar from our own. It’s really a copy of the real world with an overlapping part of it that ventures into the fantastical.

#445: The Vein

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Though I’ve never played Code Vein before, I know a decent amount about it because of my friends who have played it a lot. Earlier today, the day that I’m writing this, my friends were still playing Code Vein into the morning when I woke up at 6:40am. They were doing their thing, playing the game and beating all the available levels and bosses in front of them, and I was just getting ready for work. It almost felt surreal to see them still online, still talking to each other for almost 14 hours straight. I felt exhausted after only one hour of talking at a time, because it gets exhausting not being within my own head space for awhile. I know that probably sounds a bit selfish, but what it really is is just that I am the kind of person who prefers total peace of mind. I try not to stir the pot or make things worse for anyone, but I also like being within my own head, if that makes sense.

But again, this post is about Code Vein, which seems to be a Dark Souls-like game that features action elements and companion-style combat. It’s like Monster Hunter if the palico was actually really useful and helpful, beyond just providing buffs and healing from time to time.

But really, it was great to listen to people talk about their game while I was driving to work. It felt totally normal to hear them and chat with them, and continue the conversation that had started before I went to bed. It felt completely natural to move from one right to the other. And it kept me busy during the drive, which is great because usually I’m just listening to music or something else to keep my brain occupied. It’s wonderful.