Thursday, 12 March 2015

When I was about 11-12, I was given this silly little book with strange cartoon characters splashed over the cover. It looked a bit geeky and I was reading something else so I put in the back of my bookshelf and forgot about it.

It must have been months later when I came across it again and, having nothing else to read, opened it up. I think it may have been the first book I read cover to cover without stopping much for paltry things like conversation, physical movements not directly related to comfort, doors, food, heck, even TV!!

When I surfaced, my mom asked me with a smile "Was your book good?" to which I replied the entire contents of said book simultaneously accomplishing 2 things: she never asked me that questions again and she started bring me to the book-shop more often (she says now it was to encourage me to read more but I secretly suspect it was just to stop me talking about the contents of those books.)

I have read every single item I could get my hands on by that author, he still remains my nostalgic favourite to this day. I can pin onto him my love of books, specifically his chosen genre, to this day. My daughters are reading him now too, starting with me introducing some of his more colourful characters during bed-time stories to picking up his books themselves and devouring them much as I did almost 30 years ago. I can't empty my library onto their bookshelves fast enough! I can only hope that, in introducing my children to the wonderful and fantastic world I discovered as a child, they will also come to love reading and cultivating their imagination as I have.

While not an avid follower of the private lives of authors I read, it was hard not to note the solemn announcement some years ago of a degenerative illness this man was diagnosed with. Rather than hang up his pen, he persevered with his writing and lecturing until very recently and retained his intelligence and dignity in the face of dimentia.

I find myself deeply saddened by the passing of a man that I never met but that greatly touched my childhood and introduced me to interests I cultivate to this day. I'd like to thank him in my little way, in my little corner of the world for the fantastic world he opened up for me and my children.

Thank you, Mr Terry Pratchett, for giving me Mort and for everything that came next.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Desperately foiling Susan... em, Bob.

Balthor Bob is foiling up!

This weekend these 6 will fall into my grubby mits


The rest..... One day:
Abhorrent Overlord
Crypt Ghast
Nantuko Husk
Disciple of Bolas
Massacre Wurm
Grotesque Hybrid
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Mogis's Marauder
Fleshbag Marauder
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Withered Wretch

Liliana of the Dark Realms 

Exquisite Blood

Beacon of Unrest

Coldsteel Heart Twilight's Call
Phyrexian Arena
Phyrexian Altar
Mimic Vat
Living Death
Demonic Tutor

Pristine Talisman Fellwar Stone
Oblivion Stone

Temple of the False God
Deserted Temple

Monday, 20 May 2013

Standard Cookies

I've been asked to post this so, slave that I am to public pressure, here are my oatmeal cookies. The Caramel Slices recipe may or may not be printed at a later date.

Recipes generally tell you to pre-heat your oven, but I prepare so slowly that doing so is a waste of electricity. At some point in your process you'll need your oven pre-heated to 170°. The other reason why you can hold off heating the oven is that you want your oatmeal to start absorbing the dampness of the mixture. The longer you leave the mixture uncooked, the softer your oatmeal will get. Don't be afraid to make these early in the day, leave the mixture in the fridge (there's fresh eggs so it's got to be in the fridge) to soak and then bake in the evening.

Start with a bowl, a block of butter (about 250g), 200g of soft brown sugar and 75g of white sugar. Throw them in together.

Butter that you've taken out of the fridge is generally hard and difficult to mix in so either take it out early, cut it into cubes and leave it to soften or bung the block whole into the microwave for no more than 20 seconds.

Take a fork (not a whisk or blender or wooden spoon, just a good, old-fashioned fork) and mix everything in until it's a buttery, surgery paste. It's really important that it's properly mixed as patches without sugar result in unsweetened biscuits.
Once you're all mixed in, grab a couple of eggs and break them in. Mind you don't drop in any shells! Add in 2x coffee-spoon full of vanilla essence and start stirring again.

150g of cream or plain flour (not self-raising) goes in next. Mix it all up.

125g chopped Walnuts (or whatever nuts you like, pecan is great too!), 175g Chocolate chips and 260g oatmeal (porridge oats) go in next.
When you are finished mixing, you should get something like this. I can't stress how important it is to get an even mixture, not getting any nuts or, worse, chocolate, in your cookie is the total pits.
This recipe, like all good cookie recipes, spreads out once you bake it so, when you're seperating it out, roll nothing bigger than a golf-ball. I generally use 2 teaspoons to roll the balls. What I noticed when cooking is that the base tends to get very crispy so I branched out into silicon moulds for part of the mixture. These leave the cookies soft all over and are prefect for soft-cookie lovers or served with a scoop of ice-cream. The moulds are also a little more forgiving on your cooking time so if you let them go a little long because you're off playing cards or similar, you can get away with it.

Personally I prefer a little crunch in my cookie so I'll eat up all the tray-baked ones if I've made both.

This mix makes about 40 golf balls, a bit less with silicone moulds as they are a little larger. Bake for about 15mins, keeping an eye on them so you don't burn them. Probably better to shoot for a shorter cooking time, check them and leave them in if they aren't golden brown.

[This is where the pic would be..... 
........if I had remembered to take 
one of the baked cookie.
Presentation fail, go me!]

Leave them to cool on the tray for about 10-15 mins before moving them to a rack to cool completely or tuck in and savage them while they are still warm! You'll need napkins if you eat them warm, there's a pretty high butter content and you don't want your card sleeves sticking together!


Thursday, 4 October 2012

PUNY HUMANS!! The first steps in building a Human deck

[Another oldie going out there. Obviously the numbers are off in this kind of article and this post, more than than others, is going to feel truncated.]

>opens Gatherer<
>types Human<

.......1369 results. Okaaaaay........

>clicks [back], selects "Legendary" filter<
>curses at Gatherer<
>clicks Advanced Search<
>selects "Legendary", "Creature", "Human", wonders why same search doesn't work from front page<

189 results. Hum.

Did anyone else know that "Human" is far and away the most represented creature type among Magic's Legendary community? Strange, in a game where everything is about the Sphinx, Dragon, Elf or Zombie of preference, that Human makes up for almost a full third of all Legends. A lot of that is down to the Portal legends and the early Legends who were overwhelmingly human (or became human after "Legend" became a type and each Legend needed an actual sub- or creature type).

With the upsurge of Humans and "human matters" cards in recent sets, I have a hankering to look at what the race can offer in terms of tribal support for an EDH deck. My first step to make a tribal deck would usually be to find a general and build from there. 

As I've mentioned before, I really like Tribal-deck Generals that care about their tribe. Boosting is good, tribe only abilities is even better. Zombies is a disappointment as there's not a single Zombie Legend that has a Zombie in its rules text: They just don't care. Balthor's reanimation ability is about the closest I can get thematically. Dragon Legends care: Scion, Karrthus and Bladewing all want lots of dragons in the game and you to be the (eventual) controller. Elves Legends care: there's 5 that help or create elves. What are those Human legends up to?

>clicks back, adds "human" to rules text<

Humans, unsurprisingly are selfish egotistical bastards: they don't give a damn about other humans. What am I going to do in my deck? I want a human who feels like a leader. Soldier feels a bit too much like "follower", there are no higher ranks in the subtype line and, surprisingly given that there is "Adviser", there's no "King" subtype. What about "Knight" or "Warrior"?

>clicks back, cuts "human" from rules text<
>adds "or" "Knight" "or" "warrior" to subtype<

Daakon Blackblade.....
Jor Kadeen..

Ok, there's some stuff I can work with in there. I have to be honest, when I finished this search, I saw the guy I want leading my army right off the bat, mostly by eliminating the cards I didn't want or didn't own. In a choice between Jor Kadeen's RW and the UWG knight, Rafiq wins out every time. My old Rafiq deck, made to weather the Annihilator storm with the release of Rise of the Eldrazi has been retired for a while. He could do with a good dusting off.


>Clicks back, adds "Human" into rules text and cuts "Legendary" & "Human" from type & subtype fields<
>after clicking search, facepalms, clicks back and adds "not" "red" and "not" "black" to colour filter

"Not" is always better in this search. If you just do "or" "UWG" you won't find any lands or artifacts that care about humans. Took me a while to figure that one out but it's the most efficient way to do this kind of search.

What I starting out doing is looking at "human matters" creatures in my colours. Only 23 creatures out of 1368 Humans actually mention the word "Human" in their text box and only 10 of those are in Bant.

That's not a lot.

Here is my second big choice that needs making: Is this a strict "Humans only" deck or can I add either relevant human related non-humans (like Grave Titan in Zombies) or totally unconnected good cards in my colours. Where possible I avoid the third option, I could just make a good-stuff deck if I wanted to. The first is extremely restrictive that stops you using some really relevant creatures just because of the type line. Take Angel of Glory's Rise from the up-coming Avacyn Restored [You guessed it: this is an old article!]: it's an angel that loves humans BUT it's an angel, not a human. How strict is that deck-building line? I think humans need a to believe in something greater than themselves to spur them on to greater feats of valour so thematically the Angel could easily get the nod.

When I don't have a particular theme for a deck outside of a particular tribe, finding an identity can be annoying at times. There's a couple of options with someone like Rafiq. One, the longest is slogging through the CMCs one by one (with 1369 Humans there's a lot to slog though so you're better off breaking it down into managable parts) until your've filled out each CMC with playables and start cutting from there:

>Click's back, removes "Human" from subtype line, adds "CMC =1"<
>Click's back, removes "CMC=1" from subtype line, adds "CMC =2"<
>Click's back, removes "CMC=2" from subtype line, adds "CMC =3"<

and so on.  

[And here is where I finished before that huge chunk of RL intervened. 

This post reflects one of the two major approaches I use when building decks: slogging through Gatherer for days in a more or less systematic manner until I see what I have to unearth from my boxes and binders. The more a deck sticks to a theme, the more I will build in this manner. Obviously I have a jumping off point, generally when cooking, "working" or driving; a moment of clarity where it becomes obvious that, in order for my life to be complete, I must build the ultimate Squirrel deck. Or whatever. Here it was humans and a deck that eventually never got built. Go figure.

The other deck building process that I regularly employ is a good stuff approach trawling through my binders because I want to use X Legend or Y card in a deck. Gatherer generally figures somewhere in the mix in order to find that obscure instance of a creature that has this specific triggered ability, that particular land that bounces back to your hand or something along those lines.

Feel free to share your personal deck-building tic, your tips for a more complete Gatherer experience or whatever cookie recipe you're brandishing at the moment.*]

*Shortbread base, caramel fudge layer, dark chocolate topping and, occasionally, I can be tricked into sprinkling mini-marshmallows on top while the chocolate is still liquid.

Animar - Soul of Elements: Just brainstorming silliness

[This is another of those old articles that never got finished. Now it is (kind of) and I'm putting it out there. Enjoy!]

When talking to a couple of players recently they subject came up about "broken" Generals and how exactly is broken defined in this context. Apart from the joker that suggested Haakon, opinions varied a bit:

One espoused Braids and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV who have board warping implications merely by being present.

Another championed the Arcum, Sharuum, Zur & Azusa types who allowed repeated incremental advantage.

Personally I plumped for Animar: If you consider the mana and additional costs of creatures to be the baseline in what's considered "fair", Animar, just by being in play, makes each successive creature spell more "unfair" by allowing you to pay less for that spell than you should. You're breaking one of the 3 base rules in the game: you pay less than cost price for your cards (the others base rules being draw one card per turn & play one land per turn). Animar also has the ancillary abilities allowing him to become infinitely large and two relevant protections to dodge some of the more common spot removal in the format.

There's not really that many modes to Animar; you have "stupidly broken" and "durdling about not specifically trying to achieve stupidly broken but getting part of the way there". I suppose, in an effort to avoid both of these modes, you could take out all those cards that make the general merely an enabler for stupid things and aim for merely "pay less for my dudes", however even this can be considered a form of "trying to achieve stupid". Creatures have a cost to play, though some are more fairly costed than others, and that cost is a supposedly fixed element. When you start reducing that cost, you're getting something for less than you should. Start reducing that cost on a creature that's already aggressively costed and you start getting a lot of value where none normally exists.

Generally the things that allow you to pay less for something only do that: Cloud Key, Etherium Sculptor etc. Animar gets very big and swings for damage while he's enabling cheaper stuff..

If, when building your deck, you can add in effects that allow you to break the remaining 2 base rules (and I assure you that Blue, Green Red, & Artifact have an abundance of ways in which to do this even with the restriction that the desired effects should be attached to a creature), suddenly you're achieving the trifecta of effects that break the core tenets of the game at very little extra cost than the investment you've already made in getting Animar into play. The only question you need to ask yourself at this point is how much you're willing to push these boundaries to break the game (and how detrimental that will be to your playgroup?)

So, I decided to build an Animar deck in one evening to illustrate my point of Animar's intrinsic brokenness to my group. Initially, I started with inspiration from Animar's rules text and planned on a 100% creature deck. While going through my folders to build the deck, I decided to place to one side all the non-creature cards I came across that I thought merited inclusion to see if I was willing to make that 100% creature call or not.

It became quickly clear that the choice wasn't simply a question of playing either "lots" of creatures or "all" creatures, it was also a question of power-level. I could build the all-creature deck but it wouldn't be the deck I promised to showcase to the doubting few. Aluren, Earthcraft and Cloudstone Curio are the sort of cards that change most decks, but here they turn it from a "just very good" deck to the aforementioned "stupid". When you are playing your under-costed threats, you're eventually going to run out of either mana or cards (or both). The first two of these three cards take care of the mana part, the third takes care of the problem of needing to draw cards by allowing you to re-use the same cards repeatedly for an effect. Working on the theory that you're only going to include creatures that advance some portion of your plan, and that all provide some sort of intrinsic value, re-using the same cards again and again for little or no cost just makes sense.

So the decision taken was to go full-on silly season and see where it led me.

My basic starting point to any deck-building exercise is 36 land, 5-6 mana rocks and some guys that go get lands (in Green or White). If this mix is off after playing the deck a few times I can change it but it's an excellent jumping off point. You may have to mix around some of the numbers if you are in colours that don't have a huge amount of card filtering or land search but the basics are the same. I find that with multiple colours this approach still works, though sometimes calls for a little more time getting the correct artifacts and searchers. Here's where I started with Animar (replace anything you don't own with basic lands):

Coloured Mana:
3 Duals
3 Ravnica Shock-lands
3 Ravnica Bounce-lands
3 On-colour Fetch-lands
3 M12 / Innistrad tap lands
1 Command Tower
1 Gaea's Cradle
15 Mixed basics depending on your build

Some specialist non-colour lands. Here I've only included 4 as I want as many lands as possible to produce coloured mana:
1 Temple of the False Gods
1 Alchemist's Refuge
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Homeward Path

To help out with the mana base I have 7 non-creature artifacts that search for or produce mana. My emphasis here was really on fixing multiple colours because of Animar's CC and the desire to get him down early hence the inclusion of the Signets, something I generally avoid:
1 Sol Ring
1 Armillary Sphere
3 Ravnica Signets
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Vessel of Endless Rest [This would have been Chromatic Lantern had it been out when I initially started this article]

And rounding out the mana fixing section are 7 creatures that either tap for mana or search for lands. Generally in a deck like Animar I like to put the lands directly into play, even if they are tapped. Tender is initially an over-costed Llanowar Elf but becomes 3 turns of acceleration once Animar is in play:
1 Bloom Tender
1 Sakura Tribe Elder
1 Wood Elves
1 Sakura Triber Elder
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Farhaven Elf
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Primeval Titan [This was pre-banning, you'll have to improvise here!]

If you add up all that you come to the total of 51 cards that either make or find mana, most of it coloured. When you have a tri-coloured deck that revolves around the general, you're dedicated to getting him out repeatedly which means you want to maximize your access to your colours. The other avenue of moxes & petals is a lot less attractive after the first couple of turns, this is going to be a deck here you really want to get a permanent mana presence rather than a flash shot. While powering Animar out turn 2 is great, having that land or signet available following a turn 3 Animar is more important than that extra turn.

That's all the basic stuff, here's where we start to get silly.

Animar, Soul of Elements
Cloudstone Curio

Take these effects with any 2 additional creature cards with a single coloured mana cost. If it costs 4 or more you get to play each creature effectively for free by casting for the single coloured mana using a basic land, untapping that same land with Earthcraft, bouncing the second creature with the Curio and repeating for as often as you want or as your opponents allow you to. Should the creatures cost 3 or less you can do the same at instant speed and create infinite mana with Earthcraft. We have to keep in perspective that this is Magical X-mas Land with a 6 card combo. This won't happen every game, especially if your meta is wise to your funny tricks. The avalanche nature of the deck with Animar's effect means that this combination is potentially much more possible than any other deck. Given enough counters on Animar the deck effectively goes off.

However, let's say you're missing one of the pieces:

No Aluren still allows you to go infinite for enters the battleground abilities with the other two in play though no Earthcraft means you may have to pay 1 mana each time you play a creature restricting you to the amount of mana available for creatures costing over 4 (but not for those under if you control Aluren). The big loss is potentially no Cloudstone Curio, meaning you have to include creatures or permanents that have some sort of bounce ability to create a couple of loop effects.

These areas are where we have to start looking for creatures that will fill holes in our strategy. One obvious addition is Equilibrium as it's essentially the paying version of Cloudstone Curio. While may may think it's fair to start paying for bounce effects especially when your general is giving you a price cut on your creatures, a few turns with an active Cloudstone Curio will quickly show how much of a pain it really is to have to actually tap mana to make your combo go off (unless you include a certain category of creatures, but I'll get to those in a minute). The real advantage of the Equilibrium is the ability to clear an opponent's board very cheaply. Imagine you are playing Man-o'-War with Animar (2 counters) in play. You can play the Man-o'-War for U, tap 1 additional for the Equilibrium and bounce an opponent's creature while targetting the Man-o'-War with its own ability to return it to your hand. Each repetition will gain you an additional counter on Animar and bounce an opposing creature. Add Earthcraft to taste.

You're probably surprised it took me so long to mention them, but the Urza's "free" creatures are a natural fit for this deck. Each provides a marker for Animar making subsequent versions not only cheaper but also a net gain in mana. A Cloud of Faeries will give you +1 (minimum, excluding lands that tap for 2 or more), Peregrine Drake will provide anywhere from 4 additional mana and Great Whale and Palinchron will just get ridiculous very quickly.

I've mentioned Wood Elves already however they are worth mentioning again as many overlook the Forest coming into play untapped. It's also a "Forest Card" not a basic Forest so any Curio loop with the Wood Elves and 2 markers on Animar is essentially free on eth Wood Elves side where the total number of repetitions = the number of forests in your deck, even without Earthcraft or Aluren.

After taking care of the basic mana and the potentially silly mana, you have to look at the cards that are going to advance your plan. This involves either helping you draw into your options or tutoring directly for them. In our colour combination we have 4 creature-based tutors that aren't concerned with a specific tribe:

Imperial Recruiter
Momir Vig, Simic Visionnary
Fierce Empath
Brutalizer Exarch

Each has it's own drawback and advantages. The recruiter can only search up smaller creatures however that allows it to create clone chains and boost your board dramatically while ratcheting up Animar. The $250 price tag is still a little steep for me right now so I'm going to leave it aside for today though, if you own him, use him. Momir Vig requires a second card to do anything but can tutor any creature and serves as a draw engine as a back-up. Fierce Empath is the reverse Imperial Recruiter, fetching your huge guys. Brutalizer Exarch can also fetch anything but is restricted by his initially hefty mana cost and the top of library clause. If you can loop him with anything, his second ability can clear the board of any pesky non-creature for a turn allowing you free reign.

That's an ability some players will particularly appreciate when used in conjunction with Whirlpool Warrior's activated ability. If there are non-creature permanents getting you down, bounce them to the top of your opponent's deck and Whirlpool them away. True they can potentially re-draw the same ones again however they need to get lucky to do that. I'm not going to mention that, when you loop the Exarch, you can potentially clean the board of every land permanent your opponents control and that subsequently Whirlpooling them away would probably not be well considered.

In addition to the Warrior, there's a couple of cards that don't give you direct card advantage but they will put you in position to see a lot more cards.

Whirlpool Warrior
Whirlpool Drake
Augury Owl
Sage Owl
Garruk's Horde

Your objective here is not burning through your deck by drawing cards but by selecting and changing your hand as much as possible. Eventually you'll get one of the aforementioned tutors or just draw into your end-game cards. Then, of course, we come to the cards that actually replace themselves or better:

Visionary Elf
Wall of Blossoms
Bloodbraid Elf
Sea Gate Oracle
Raven Familiar
Primordial Sage
Soul of the Harvest

These last two sections are the real meat of the deck and your goal is to use these cards to find the more broken enablers of Curio/Animar/ Equilibrium/Earthcraft and subsequently reuse these cards until you get to a winning position either with Animar or with the army you're slowly building. The small issue here is that these form only 1/8th of your deck and you really need to find them as they & the tutors form the oil for your deck's engine.

So we're going to look at our options to reuse them that we haven't already mentioned. The first option is the cards that want to recover your creatures from the graveyard or exiled in some way.

Loaming Shaman
Body Double
Eternal Witness
Artisan of Kozilek

The most extreme is Loaming Shaman which will put cards back into your deck, as will Riftsweeper, either from exile or the graveyard. Loaming Shaman's advantage is that he can be used offensively as well as defensively by clearing out stacked graveyards your opponents control. Body Double, EWit & Artisan will either use a dead creature, return one to your hand or bring it directly into play. One of the huge disadvantages of the deck is that you really don't have a huge amount of room for sacrifice engines meaning that your creatures are ripe for being stolen and there's not a huge amount you can do about it.

Venser, Shaper Savant
Phantsmal Image
Phyrexian Metamorph
Deadeye Navigator

I've included two bounce creatures and 3 additional clones as well as Avacyn Restored's latest advantage engine to round out the re-usable package. Venser's "counterspell" ability surprisingly is much less impressive than his ability to "flash" in, partly the reason why Alchemist's Refuge was included. Deadeye Navigator is potentially massive allowing you to blink himself and his Soulbonded mate for 1U. I presume you can see where the advantages in that lie in a deck like this, not least in allowing, for a certain mana investment, your creatures to be protected from spot removal.

Speaking of protection, your deck will need some additional points to plug some gaps, preferably attached to creatures. I've gone for a second counterspell, some creature exile and Voidmage Husher.

Lightning Greaves
Phrexian Duplicant
Mystic Snake
Voidmage Husher

The advantages to the Husher, along with his countering ability, is again the flash and his return to hand ability. In a previous incarnation of this deck, I looked at cards like Timid Drake, Arctic Merfolk and Shrieking Drake solely for the ability to constantly bounce themselves or something back to your hand. In the end they essentially did nothing by themselves and were replaced by slightly better creatures. The Husher is always a threat and you're generally happy to see it bounce back.

We're now down to the final 10 cards. What we're looking to do here is provide "game winning solutions" in these last cards even if you can conceivably win the game with dorks much earlier. In the deck I initially put together, I went with Anger as a haste giver however this will be replaced by the Planechase II legend, Maelstrom Wanderer that grants everyone haste along with the double cascade. If we're going to win through combat, why not include Champion of Lambholt? It won't take very long to bring him to the point that only the largest creatures will be able to block yours. This is defiantly a debatable slot, we'll have to look into how this one works out.

I also like the 1-2 hit that Kozilek & Ulamog provide. They are not artifacts so you can loop them both around a Cloudstone Curio and, given enough +1/+1 markers on Animar, you can do this for free, drawing cards and destroying permanents as you see fit. You can, in fact, draw your entire deck in this manner which brings us to a slightly wacky win condition: Laboratory Maniac. In conjunction with other looped draw effects and Ulamog, this is a potentially fun way (for you) to finish off a table. It matches nicely with the recently released Primal Surge and the fact that we have yet to include a single non-permanent card in the deck. I think 10 mana is very do-able in the deck given the deck space we have dedicated to generating it.

The final 4 slots are really open to you. If you drop the Lab Maniac / Primal Surge plan, you start to open up options for Comet Storm & Mind's Desire to finish the game. I'm not sure I'd be forgiven for not mentioning Avenger of Zendikar & Terastodon in a deck that includes green though these are so played out, it would be nice to try to work without them. I'd probably look at adding to the earlier part of the curve, concentrating on smaller boosts or more control with Words of Wind, another of those cards that, when you get the upper hand, you just ensure you keep it: evoked Mulldrifter, add 1 for the Words, tap the Mulldrifter for Earthcraft mana (or just use some of your "free creature + Equilibrium / Curio" infinite mana), bounce the Mulldrifter, draw 1, allow the evoke sacrifice to fizzle, repeat until you're the only player with permanents in play.

To conclude: Animar is not bros, as the currently in vogue meme is so fond of saying. He's a combo general, quite capable of being a complete ass-hat and ruining games. Of course, if you've read down this far without puking, you've probably realised that. You do need certain cards for the deck to run in this manner, some of which are expensive, I make no apologies for that. Feel free to include or omit as your personal ethics dictate, much like the Exarch / Whirlpool combo.

I've since brought this build in to play in our playgroup and knocked out a couple of 1v1s and four 4-player games. The 1v1s were against un-tuned decks and functioned really only to beat the kinks out (though I didn't actually make any changes as a result) so they didn't count for much. The exercise is more like goldfishing (though playing though a Pain Reflection made me pause in one of them). Of the 4-player games, they went pretty well, considering. Games 1 & 3 finished in or around turn 10-11 with advantage engines just powering out either a huge unblockable Animar (those protections again!) or a small army the wasn't dealt with immediately. Game 2 was over earlier with, going first, turn 4 Man-o'-War following Aluren onto the table.

If you're not into magical masturbation this is not the deck for you. You will spend turns in your corner bouncing stuff while your friends have fun laughing about football, girls & life in general but I realise that there are some sad people (like me) out there that just want to go out for the evening and sit there interacting with no-one else.

Have, (Don't play this deck!)

Blood Artist: Just a 0/1?

Innistrad: October 2011.

Drafting B/x decks was quite fun during Innistrad if you managed to get your hand on a couple of Falkenrath Nobles. A 2/2 for 4, even with flying, is interesting while not being anything spectacular. However, adding a little ping of Drain Life that triggers on creatures dying and suddenly there's a huge amount more math that needs to be done around combat. Every creature that died negated a portion of an opposing attack and hurried that player closer to their demise. Having two on board was just heaven as you were generally going to come out ahead on life in any creature kerfuffle than when you went in.

While not the out and out bomb some cards are in limited, it got killed somewhat higher up the priority list than other creatures because of the potential for huge life-swings in the creature-centric matches limited games generally are.

Above and beyond drafts and sealed events though, the card was just not interesting. For the same cost you had better fliers or the same power at a cheaper cost. Until the format swings round to mass creature generation, it will probably watch from the outside.

Avacyn Restored : May 2012

Fast forward to the release of Avacyn Restored and the very curious case of exactly the same effect on a much smaller creature with no evasion.

How desperate were WotC to get this effect into the stand-alone that they weren't willing to push off Falkenrath Noble but preferred to print exactly the same effect on what is essentially a much worse card in Blood Artist?

But is it a worse card? No evasion, no power and about the lowest toughness you can go without automatically dying, all for 2 colourless mana less. It's a cheaper rip-off of a limited card. Who is going to play this?

Actually the question is more likely "Who is going to kill this?" It's a 0/1 that falls over when another player sneezes. It dies to everything. Why waste a kill spell or effect when it will wither away at the slightest suggestion of a Wrath of God?

Well, as it turns out quite a few people, mainly because that Wrath of God will be a 20 point life swing in favour of the controller of the Blood Artist. The little dork no one wanted to kill has just taken out the lowest hanging fruit on your Wrath of God, made his controller more comfortable and will likely come back with Sun Titan in a couple of turns, something the Noble never did.

In a strange turn of events the student has become the master in our play group with the presence of quite a lot of token strategies. Stuff dies all the time and each one is a little ping here, another one there and so on until you wonder how that Ghave player could still be alive and why your neighbour is cloning 0/1 dorks like crazy.

Rite of Replication, kicked, targetting Blood Artist? Sure, I've seen it happen.

Blood Artist: Not just a 0/1.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Willy Wonka

(Note: I initially wrote the majority of this piece almost 1 full year ago after promising the guys at CommanderCast I'd do it. Then RL intervened and it, and the 8 or 9 other pieces I'd started, never got finished. Fuelled by an increasing desire to get it out there rather than dive back in to try to provide the most polished version possible, here it it in all its ugliness.)

You may not realise it, but this guy -> is probably sitting beside you at your Commander games.

He's definitely on the forums that you're reading. (No, I'm not talking about Joz, though the resemblance is uncanny!!)

It's certain that he'll appear in this post again without me needing to post the image. (It's kinda all about him and someone called Charlie but I'll get to that.)

What you don't know is that, for some of you, he is also the face that stares back at you when you're checking yourself out in any reflective surface you come across. Yes, my fellow EDH super-enthusiasts, we are fast becoming the principal consumers of green hair-dye, fake tanning cream and white dungarees and most of us never even realised it. In short, there's a lot of Oompa-Loompa's around.

Confused yet?

First off, what the hell is an Oompa-Loompa? Wize Wiki tells us:

Oompa-Loompas come from Loompaland, which is a region of Loompa, a small isolated island in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Ok, sure.

The Oompa-Loompa would end up being preyed upon or attacked by Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers and Snozzywangers, which also lived there. 

Typical really, I never trusted those Snozzywangers.

Wonka ended up inviting them to work at his factory and get away from their natural predators. As each bad child makes his/her exit, Oompa-Loompa sing moralising songs accompanied by a drum beat, and tend to speak in rhyme.

Or, to put it another way: they annoying, moralisizing little shits that live in a strange, enclosed world and speak funny.

This is the 99% true story of Charlie (some very slight artificial licence), the luckiest boy in the entire world, who won the golden ticket to play Elder Dragon Highlander Commander because he likes playing magic with his friends when his mom let's him out and he was given a Commander pre-con for his birthday. Like I said, lucky boy.

Charlie tinkered about with his Kaalia deck a little bit, adding a couple of cards, taking some away and decided he was going to hit his LGS the following Saturday. Candy filled dreams of crushing angel/dragon/demon victories rocked Charlie gently to sleep that night.

Roll around Saturday and Charlie is finally there, the mecca known as "Know When to Hold 'em Games", and, how lucky, there's a Commander game about to get under way. Could Charlie possibly join in?

But of course, toothy grins reply! Charlie, stars in his eyes, sits down with the sharks. Starting to his left we have Augustus playing GAA, IV; Veruca Salt playing Faeries; Violet playing Gaddock; and Mike, the resident Spike, playing Sharuum. 

The game draws a crowd. (I mean, a couple of chicks playing Magic, why wouldn't it?)
  • Augustus gets greedy, overextends and bites it early.
  • Violet, ignoring Sheldon's advice, knocks her soda over her deck and quits in a quite spectacular rage.
  • Veruca tangles with some squirrels and ends up falling to an Overrun.
  • Mike tries to go infinite infinite times and has to stop when he starts to bleed from his ears. 
  • Charlie is left alone at the table, trying to get to 14 mana to replay his general.

And thoughout all this, everyone around has something to say about everthing transpiring in front of them: "Tunnel Vision is a DB move!", "Girls don't have the temperament to play Magic!", "You don't fuck with the squirrels!", "Don't bring a knife to a battlecruiser fight!" and, of course, "
\partial_t g_{ij}=-2 R_{ij} ".

Personally, as I watched from the counter, I felt sorry for Charlie.

We had a chat afterwards to get his back-story but he was essentially an onlooker in his first ever game of "unprotected" Commander. He was only ever attacked or targetted as an after-thought, it was almost as if he just wasn't worth considering until the other sharks were dealt with.

Unfortunatly, I made the mistake of asking to look through his deck before the other Oompa-Loompas had cleared away (of course I'm an Oompa-Loompa too!) and they flocked round to begin the real beatdown in ernest. There was not a single Oompa-Loompa who refrained from moralising Charlie about his choice of deck, cards or even opponents. It very quickly became Charlie's "fault" that he had choosen to sit at a table at which players with "tiered" & "tuned" decks resided. How the hell was he to know? The kid had never played Commander in the store before and this was his reward.

And, this is the kicker, no-one around was intentionally being mean or nasty to Charlie, they genuinely believed that they were good samaritans helping this lost soul, this Commander noob, tweak his deck, become a better Commander player, make better card selections.

I could see his face slowly melting from a sort of inner pride that he hadn't necessarily embarassed himself during the game to a hollow, pasty pallor of someone who's been had the rug pulled out from under them and were afraid they were going to get dumped on their ass again.

After waiting to see if there was anything really constructive in the offing, I stepped back in again and shooed the oompa-loompas away, to their huge annoyance. I put the decks to the side and we got to talking about games and movies and cards and stuff that's cool. We talked about Magic tournaments and "competitive" level play. Charlie admitted that he'd come to the store expecting to feel that special Commander comraderie he'd read so much about, an acceptance of what he finds "cool", but instead found he was being judged against much stricter standards. As of that moment, he didn't have any particular desire to come back to the store.

The moralists, perfectionists and "strictly better" crowd had managed, in a single afternoon, to put a new player off the format by "helping".

You see, the Willy Wonka Sweet Factory that is the Commander format is filled with a lot of great stuff but coming in from the outside with your pea-flicker and facing down the howitzers can be a harrowing experience. The store owner, Willy, offered to start up another game and sit down with the two us for something more convivial and suited to Charlie's current level, a 3 way Commander precon battle.

He had a blast, we all had a blast and, even though Charlie didn't ultimately win the game, he'll remember it for the laughs and swingy plays that are the hallmark of the format and he'll remember it for being an integral and important part of the game, not just an afterthought.We got up from the table with his promise to come back in to play again sometime and then he headed for the door.

There was an additional disappointing footnote to his afternoon in the shop though as another Oompa-Loompa (I swear that guy is part Whangdoodle!!), who had been watching the second game, started on what plays he should have made and what he should have dropped with Kaalia at what moment. Charlie mumbled his excuses and sidled out.

[Warning: here's my brief attempt at moralising!] At least Charlie got to go home with the keys to the factory, though, seeing how some people keep it, that's not necessarily always a good thing. I'd like to think me & Willy set him on the right path to enjoying the format, I'd like to think that he'll actually take some information and positives from the first game and the dissection he endured afterwards but I wasn't so sure about that at the time.

I actually met Charlie on the street about 2 weeks after first meeting him in the shop and he seemed quite up-beat about the format. He'd convinced his friends to play a game (though he'd made the decks and, of course, the one he kept for himself was better and Kaalia whupped them easily) and thought he could get them to play  more. He did admit that, had he left the shop before that second game he'd never have come back and he gets the idea about the relative levels of the decks at the initial table after inflicting similiar treatment on his own friends, albeit at a much scaled down level.

Now that it's a year on after starting this piece, I can say that he has been back to play, not often but still some, though I've never seen him come in with any other kids. Maybe he spiked it a little too hard with his friends (or maybe they're just not that into Magic?)

How we act at the table & after the table has a huge impact on young players coming into this game and an equally huge effect on players coming into the format. People with experience at Magic will be able to pick the format up easily enough however more inexperienced players will feel out of the loop in terms of card access, rules and interactions and general Magic knowledge.

While I don't want to say that it's our "duty" to help newer players out without moralising and lecturing, the future of the format and the overall enjoyment behoves us to encourage and nurture these players coming in.

This isn't exclusively for the under-prepared or card-shy players coming in to play with us as Charlie could easily have soaked up everything like a sponge from the first game and come back with the griefer deck to end all griefer decks, some sort of hybrid Azusa / Ad Nauseum nightmare-combo. That wouldn't have been very beneficial for him either as the general community (not represented by Violet, Veruca, Mike and Augustus or, for that matter, the Oompa-Loompas) wouldn't have taken kindly to yet another power gamer concentrating on the W and not the J (that's "Journey", btw)

So this is where I bring my rambling to a close. I suppose the message is that sometimes your good intentions are not received in the way it's intended and you need to be as careful about how you present them as when you sit down at a table across from someone new.

And, more importantly, stay away from the Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers and Snozzwangers!!

Friday, 16 March 2012

[SCD] Cornelian Choices with Bad Cards: Phyrexian Portal

Probably one of my favourite cards over time has been Invasion's Fact or Fiction. It rewards everything from correct piling and correct pile choosing to building your deck to take advantage of a lot of cards going into your graveyard. It even spawned an acronym to illustrate it's power in conjunction with the mighty Psychatog: EOTFOFYL (End of turn: Fact or Fiction. You lose!) Sometimes it spawned choices that meant you were damned irregardless of how you split your opponent's piles, there was essentially no good splits for you, just degrees of how bad it was going to get. The card spawned pages and pages of internet ink debating the ins and outs of the card on topics such as the benefits of the 1-4 split and when you should go 3-2.

My favourite part of the card, however, was not making the piles but forcing the choice on my opponents and then turning their choices into decisions that best reflected what I wanted at that time in the game. I'm often surprised at the extra importance some players give to certain cards: Why should I worry unduly about letting the 1-card Wrath of God pile disappear when the remaining cards will more easily win me the game? Sometimes with Fact or Fiction, the 1-card pile is the right answer because that's the one card that the opponent fears the most.  With Phyrexian Portal though, where they know the others aren't going to the graveyard, the choice for you is harder. The psychology of the presented piles is the game within the game.

Unfortunately, Fact or Fiction is not a Commander staple, though it does crop up from time to time. What does a one shot of this sort in a 100 cards deck serve you compared to the 3 or 4 copies that were de rigeur in 60 cards decks when it was legal? Some would argue "not much" though there are some compelling arguments for those who want to churn through cards and fill graveyards. Sadly, it's not a card that has seen much love and I miss it.
In its absence, I've been finding a lot of joy in a very (very) bad junk rare from alliances: Phyrexian Portal.

Now, don't make any mistake here, this is a bad card, you probably shouldn't ever play it. Some players, upon seeing it for the first time, immediately look for a way to get around the potentially crushing exile effect. As the exiled cards are exiled face up there are a couple of possibilities depending on your color mix: Riftsweeper and Pull from Eternity will both recover cards into your graveyard or library, however, unless you’re able to churn the Riftsweeper through some sort of loop, you’re probably not going to be able to rely on it. Add in that Riftsweeper itself it could be one of the cards that is unwittingly exiled in a face down pile and you may begin to see how unreliable such a solution is.

So yeah, bad card.

Before we go look at the what the card does, here's the Oracle Text:

3: If your library has ten or more cards in it, target opponent looks at the top ten cards of your library and separates them into two face-down piles. Exile one of those piles. Search the other pile for a card, put it into your hand, then shuffle the rest of that pile into your library.

What it doesn't do like Fact or Fiction:

  •     It doesn't allow you to see both piles. You must make a blind choice based solely on the number of cards in each pile and your read of your opponent.

  •     It doesn't put the un-chosen cards into the graveyard. One of the incidental strengths of Fact or Fiction was that the un-chosen pile was put into the graveyard. Occasionally, given the format, it mattered more what and how many cards you put into your graveyard than which cards you chose to take into your hand. Here the un-chosen cards are pretty much lost.

  •     It allows you to activate the effect multiple times.

What it does like Fact or Fiction:

  •     It forces your opponent to make a choice: into which of two groups of cards should they put a particular card. They must not only make this choice, but also make a decision on the size of each pile. Like Fact or Fiction, Phyrexian Portal doesn't stipulate the size of the splits and 1-9 splits are as possible as 0-5 Fact or Fiction splits. 0-10 splits are also possible, though I’m not sure why you’d want your opponent to have a choice of 10 unless you’re colluding with them to try to overcome a third player.

  •     It forces you to make a choice. Now that you have seen the two face-down piles, which one do you take?

Essentially the entire fun behind the card is in these last two bullet-points: What is your opponent going to do and what are you going to do with whatever information you have gleaned from his process? If he splits it 1-9, is the 1 card so dominating right now that it will win you the game right there or is your opponent so good at mind games that he's just fucking with you and placing a basic land apart with signals that it's some ├╝ber-spell? If you pass on the "1" pile, you're potentially missing out on the exact card you need to win the game right now. Potentially. Is it worth the risk of exiling the remaining 9 cards to find out?

I'd say that the answer is "No" 99% of the time. I think you can allow for yourself to get punked the once this actually crops up for better card selection in the remaining pile, even if that pile is 9 basic lands. Your chances of getting something worth playing are so much higher if you take the larger pile. Imagine that you're running this out on the third turn with no acceleration and play no land before activating on turn 4. You have drawn 11 cards from your 99, 3 of which are lands. Given the trend for about 40 mana sources in a deck, of the remaining 88 cards there's 37 mana sources and 51 spells if you have no other mana sources in hand. That gives you a rough ratio of 4 mana sources for every 10 cards revealed to your opponent off the Phyrexian Portal. Now, we all know that bad luck laughs in the face of statistics such as this and you can just as easily have a 10-spell reveal as a 10 mana-source reveal.

Now let's also assume that Phyrexian Portal is the worst card in your deck (shouldn't be hard really!). Every card revealed to your opponent that's not a mana source is now a spell worthy of having in your hand. As the opponent choosing, if there is the aforementioned 1 great card and lots of mana, the split is probably still better at something close to 5/5 than 9/1 as they are guaranteed to deprive you of at least 5 usable cards, even if they are only mana sources. Having 2 great cards and lots of mana make it easy to split with one in each pile. What do you do when it's 6 great cards and 4 mana sources?

If you split them straight down the middle, you cut out half of the great cards, as they will be exiled, but the remaining unchosen cards in the taken pile will get shuffled back in to the library. Are you willing to let that go? And, if so, which pile are you more willing to let go? Do you maybe shunt over an additional mana source into the "better" split to fake out your opponent into thinking that you don't care of they pick the bulkier pile? What about a full-on psych-out by stacking all the spells into the larger 6- or 7-card pile and keeping the mana sources in a smaller 3- or 4-card pile?

Don't forget that the person activating the Portal doesn't see the cards as they go into a pile as they would with a Fact or Fiction. You just see the back of 10 card sleeves split into two piles. How good are your Jedi mind tricks? And, in your multi-player group, knowing that it's closed information, which opponent do you choose: The guy who knows what he's doing or the guy who doesn't? If you pick a player who just randomly flips the cards into 2 separate piles of 5, it's really just a crap-shoot. You could be getting, and losing, anything. Someone who tries to choose "correctly" but has a weaker grasp of the cards he's looking at will be more inclined to make bad choices but you have to read that bad choice correctly. Someone who knows exactly what they are doing could play it straight up or try a bit of bluffing. You really need to know your playgroup well to the get the best out of this card.

Of course, Phyrexian Portal is not all bad. You do have cards that can help you decipher what is happening in the top ten cards of your library. Ancestral Knowledge is an obvious one, but tends to be a one-shot solution. Scroll Rack has much more promise as, with a large enough hand size, you get to look at most, if not all, of the cards you're putting on top of your library before your opponent looks at them. This way you can control some of what could be exiled, though I presume that most of the kind of players who would run something like Phyrexian Portal are not the types of players who really care that much what gets exiled!

Many thanks to Imshan for the rules spot that allows me to add in Mirror of Fate. For 5 mana, Mirror of Fate allows you to cherry pick from the exiled cards some of the more powerful ones that will help you win the game in short order. If you can get it up and running with some sort of artifact recursion support, there is potential there for a second or third shot at the prize. It seems like a pretty delicate balance that you’d need to strike between what you are exiling and what you’re bringing back, but I can see a situation where you get some choice cards into exile, pop the Mirror (which, very importantly, is not exiled with it’s own effect), recur the Mirror and pop it again to bring back the next pile of cards. 

This is probably something I’d use in a U/x deck rather than the Mono-R shell I’m currently using the Portal in as blue would give you access to Academy Ruins and a little more draw to churn through cards. I know people hate him, but I can see a very aggressive line of play with Mirror, Jin Gitaxis and Academy Ruins allowing you to both draw for the turn and draw 7 off Jin Gitaxis with each of the drawn cards being hand picked from your face-up exiled zone in addition to the Academy Ruins recurred Mirror of Fate. Of course, you can have this effect without the use of Phyrexian Portal, though planning for this eventuality allows you to tutor through the Portal with a lot less care for what gets exiled.

At worst, I suppose you could always run Labratory Maniac and hope for the best!

May your splits always be favourable and your Jedi mind tricks never fall on a Toydarian opponent!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Grafdigger's Cage: Metagaming made easy.

Sometimes I feel a deck can reach a critical point when any improvements on it are just trolling your playgroup. You move past the “hard to beat” descriptions and moving into “just being unfair” territory. While many players don’t like intentionally building in weaknesses, sometimes you just have to step back and say “Ok, We’re going to have to do this “Dr. Evil” style and not “Scott Evil” style or people will just think I’m a jerk.” Allowing your deck to contain a big glass jaw isn't too much of a problem in any case when your opponents just don't play to beat that strategy.

That's just not the way it's done, Scott!!

I reached that critical point just after the release of Dark Ascension with the Teneb deck I had tweaked from  Mr. Scotty Mac’s original “cheaty” build. His version was hell-bent on putting huge monsters into play for cheap or free but, while I kept some of the build as was originally intended, I tried to move the deck into a more comfortable territory for my playgroup.

Unfortunately, Wizards went and printed Mikaeus, the Unhallowed in Dark Ascension. Sometimes the temptation is too much.

Ok, my first impression was to be pretty impressed, both by the first look at the card and by the flavor. A legendary character in Innistrad killed off and zombified to come back in Dark Ascension? How cool is that?!

I lucked into a copy in a sealed event and put on my thinking cap as to what I could do with it. I could have just put it into my zombie deck, of course. The only other deck I have built with black is the aforementioned Teneb, a deck that really likes having things jump in and out of your graveyard. Hey! Mikaeus helps things jump right back out of my graveyard! Match made in, where-ever zombies and dragons and spirits all hang out together after the game.

Surely, if I put Mikaeus into Teneb, it would be nice and synergistic and not some broken-ass engine, right?


Rolls eyes.

The following overreaction comes with the sad knowledge that your opponents have somehow allowed you to have Mikaeus, Greater Good and Reveillark together in play at the same time.

Things that I have learned from Mikaeus:

  • Eternal Witness is Human, thankfully, as the card is nutty enough as it is. So is Academy Rector, though this is rather incidental as you were unlikely to ever resolve Undying anyway unless his race was blanked in some way (such as being flipped by Ixidron) and his remove ability wouldn’t have triggered in any case. Sadly, Yavimaya Elder is also Human.  I think I’m more bummed with that than the prospect of EWit not continually bouncing back.
  • >> Insert some sort of infinite damage combo with Triskelion here <<
  • Reveillark is probably a card that the RC should be looking at very closely. It's already pretty OP with things like Karmic Guide (Yay for the Judge Promo!!) or Saffi and it's positively bonkers with Mikaeus, as are pretty much all the evoke creatures, with possibly its high evoke cost the only thing keeping it from being stupid as opposed to just extremely good. Changing colours quickly to mention Mikaeus with Evoke, Mulldrifter becomes a 3/3 flyer, draw 4 for 2U with the Legend in play. That's fair, right?
  • Grafdigger's Cage wasn't just a nice in-set foil for Undying and Flashback: It's a necessary tool for keeping some balance in standard and essential for ensuring that all colours in all other formats have a cheap means to stop recursion engines of every sort.

In a set that gives some nice flashback spells and a new graveyard based mechanic, it seems a little misplaced to find the Cage as it totally dominates those strategies. Currently in the Standard and block formats, in addition to getting your game in place, you must at all times and in all colours be able to remove the Cage. The flip side is that the cage is a blank card against you unless you need to use the graveyard as a resource.

Sideboarding for Dummies:
4 Grafdigger's Cage
11 Other Cards

Moving this into Commander, it's a bit trite to say that the sky is falling for recursion strategies as is being mentioned in Vintage, but this card is a kick in the teeth for Green-White (Sun Titan, Karmic Guide, Reveillark, Saffi among others), Black (where do I start?), Blue (Wrexial, Acquire, Bribery, Magus of the / Future / Sight), and even Red (Goblin Welder). So I guess that's a kick in the teeth for everyone. For one single, colourless mana, the Cage shouts "NO!!" for a very large portion of the format's favourite spells. It's cheap, tutorable with Trinket Mage and allows for very few work-arounds.

Essentially only effects that exile a card before it enters play from library or graveyard can side-step the Cage: Living Death (yay!), Tooth and Nail (Booo!) and Thada Adel (yay!) are a couple of more common examples but this list gets very short and unimpressive very, very quickly in comparison to all the cards that the Cage stops. The other work-around is just playing fair but we all know how unsuccessful that strategy is in Commander.

Something to remember: Grafdigger's Cage will swing from being a useless card to being the most dominant card in different games and at different points in games. Either way it's still essential and I'd go as far as to say is an auto-include (sorry!) for any deck that isn't intending to abuse graveyards or the top of their deck. It's also not a definitive answer. You will need something else to stop shennanigans so this should be part of a suite that looks at disrupting your opponent, not just a single card in a pile of 99. I've already had an opponent whine about being unable to stop Teneb despite having the Cage in his deck. Maybe he should have found the Cage with his Trinket Mage rather than Sensei's Divining Top, eh?

Enjoy your new toy, bring balance to the force and don’t call me Shirley.