In my post about my Pyromancer's Ascension deck, I mentioned that I was playing against my Baneslayer-Lifelink deck and I thought I'd share the decklist:

This deck came into being as a way to find a home for the Baneslayer Angels that I purchased on the basis that they were too awesome for me to not have a playset. The deck ends up being unified mechanically by lifelink (that's the "Lifelink" part of Baneslayer-Lifelink) even though, thematically, it's a bit unfocused. Angels, and priests, and vampires! Oh my!

It turns out that the Vampire Nighthawks are surprisingly effective. The combination of deathtouch, flying and lifelink make them difficult to block and, conversely, great blockers. They provide great early game attackers to dishearten your opponent as your life total starts going in the "wrong" direction. One of the Grave Titans and the Wurmcoil Engine actually came out of boosters (Shocking, I know) and made their way in to provide some late game heavies.

Pyromancer's Ascension

I got to play some Magic: The Gathering with one of my co-workers for the first time in a while. He had forgotten to bring his cards, so I lent him some of my decks and the match-ups were: Red-Green Stompy vs. Aggro-Infect, Vampires vs. Red Deck Wins and Baneslayer-Lifelink vs. Pyromancer's Ascension.

The Baneslayer-Lifelink vs. Pyromancer's Ascension turned out to be the most interesting. I was piloting the Ascension deck and in the first game it played oddly aggro. I dropped a pair of Kiln Fiends, cleared the board with a Staggershock and then attacked for massive damage. This worked out just fine, but it's not really the kind of play you would expect from a deck with four creatures in it.

The second game was where things really started to heat up. Other that getting a Pyromancer Ascension down early, my opponent really dominated the early game. I tried to thin the field with some burn spells, but it got to the point where I didn't really have anything other than the Ascention and some land while my opponent had a pair of Vampire Nighthawks stairing at my throat: Not looking good.

I used Foresee to dig for a Staggershock to match the one in my hand. I bet on triggering the the Ascension, cast the Staggershock, and passed the turn. My dropped a Baneslayer Angel and swung. Ouch. I rebounded the Staggershock, cast the other one, pumped the Ascention and passed the turn. My oponent swung again. More ouch. I rebounded the Staggershock, and put that second counter on the Ascention. I was at five life, with no creatures. My opponent had thirty-something life, a Baneslayer and a pair of Nighthawks. Still not looking good, but I did have a fully charged Ascension. I cast Preordain betting that in four cards and two draws I could pull an Island to replace the one I tapped. I pulled a Lightning Bolt and an Island. I bolted the Nighthawks and killed the Baneslayer with a kicked Burst Lightning. I passed the turn, and it came back to me: I wasn't dead yet! The turns that followed played out as some combination of Call to Mind, Kiln Fiend and Lighting Bolt.

Moral of the story: Spells are better when you get to cast them twice. I clawed my way back from a pretty big deficit and it was terrifyingly fun to cast the same Lightning Bolt over, and over again. The darkhorse MVPs were Kiln Fiend and Staggershock. In the first game, Staggershock kept the board clear and stimulated my Kiln Fiends and in the second, it was key to triggering the Ascension; however, in both games, the Kiln Fiends proved instrumental in actually chipping away at my opponent's life total while my burn spells kept the board clear.

Here's the decklist (because this kind of post is screaming for one):

The more wealthy of our readers, will notice that Scalding Tarn is a drop-in replacement for the Evolving Wilds. Other than that, it's not too shabby for a deck with a grand total of eight rares. The Chandras Ablaze kind of felt like they were dead cards, but it will take more than two games to determine whether they need to be subbed out for something else.

Portal is Awesome!

Ever since Portal 2 was announced I've been thinking about playing Portal again and I finally got around to it this weekend. Verdict: Still Awesome.

It was lots of fun. If you havene't played it yet, you really have to. It's sublime. Now I'm even more excited for Portal 2... I mean, the prepulsion gel alone!

Flower is Beautiful

Flower is beautiful... it really and truly is.


As a previous article may have hinted, I've been playing a lot of Uncharted. I finally got to the part where you start fighting mutated Nazi zombies in a poorly lit World Ward II era bunker and the game went from fun and adventurous to downright scary. I decided I needed a game that wasn't quite as... heavy, to break up the zombie Nazi killing marathons.s Having recently read the Ars Technica review of Flower I figured I would give it a shot.

I layed out my 11.29 USD, downloaded it from the PlayStation store and have been very happy with my purchase. All in all, Flower is beautiful, a joy to play and definately worth checking out. If you have a PS3, I would highly recommend giving it a shot and if you don't have a PS3... (I was going to make a joke about breaking and entering, but tha's going a little far just to play a video game).


... if three quarters of the way through Flower I have to start killing mutated Nazi zombies I'm going to frigging scream!

Guns, Bullets and Uncharted

I've been playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune recently and so far it's a really fun game... but, the balance of the weapons has been really irking me.

You Start with a 9mm...

You start out with a generic 9mm pistol which seems to take 3-5 body shots to kill a bad guy with. Yikes! Meaning that instead of doing what actual people who shoot at people (cops, soldiers, etc.) are trained to do (center of mass shooting) you end up peering around corners trying to get head shots while your enemies shoot you in the face (thankfully your character appears to be even more nigh invulnerable than the bad guys).

Then You Get an AK-47

That iconic Soviet assault rifle, which holds more bullets than your 9mm, still takes 3-5 body shots to kill a bad guy and will run out of ammo a lot faster if you carelessly hold down the trigger.

For some insane reason, it's actually harder to get head shots with the AK than with the 9mm, so I found myself fighting with the pistol because I would at least have a chance of taking out a bad guy with a single shot rather than spraying bullets all over the place (that's right, the shoulder mounted rifle is less accurate than your pistol because... it's crappy and Soviet *shrug*).

... And Finally a One Shot Kill

... and it's a Desert Eagle .50AE (well actually the first one hit kill you come across a .44 Magnum but I have more rant material for the Desert Eagle and in terms of ballistics they are largely equivalent). This is the classic shooting game, hit them in the knee and they fly back a meter or two an fall the ground dead style of one-hit-kill weapon. Fun, but seriously, why a Desert Eagle?

Yes, I know that both Bullet Tooth Tony and The Agents use them, thus, they must be totally bad ass, but seriously they're hand guns.

I get that, when you're making a game, you want a power curve on your weapons so that as the game progresses your character gets progressively more kick-ass weapons; however, why on Earth is a pistol the first weapon you encounter that can reasonably knock someone on their ass the first time you shoot them.

... And Order is Restored... Sort Of

A little deeper in you get a SVD (Dragunova) which is a sniper rifle of Soviet origin, which also has the ability to deliver one-hit-kills. So at least one rifle is able to out perform the Desert Eagle, but neither the AK-47 nor the M4 (which is black, futuristic looking and American, thus, better than the Soviet piece of shit (... or the the AK at least)) manage to do so, each requiring multiple body shots to disable your opponents.

Pretty Graphs

I pulled together the ballistics data from the Wikipedia for the:

... and plotted muzzle energy, muzzle velocity and projectile mass.

The muzzle energy of various rounds.

The muzzle energy of (in Joules) 9mm, .50AE, 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54mmR rounds.

The muzzle velocity of various rounds.

The muzzle velocity (in meters per second) of 9mm, .50AE, 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54mmR rounds.

The projectile mass of various rounds.

The projectile mass (in grams) of 9mm, .50AE, 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54mmR rounds.


You'll notice that the SVD delivers substantially more energy (3939J) than the runner up, the AK-47 (2010J), 96% more in fact. The AK-47 in turn delivers 21% more energy than the next runner up, the Desert Eagle (1666J). Admittedly, the Desert Eagle has a massive round (massing in at 21.1 grams) which does endow it with favourable penetrative characteristics, but the only round which it clearly out performs is the 9mm.

Consequently, why the world of Uncharted seems to treat the Desert Eagle as largely the equal of the SVD and the AK-47 as the equivalent (... or lesser if you consider the fact that you can't hit a damn thing with it) of the 9mm is frankly mystifying. Further exacerbated by the fact that late in the game you begin to encounter "snipers" that use Desert Eagle with laser sights to one-shot-kill you if you stand in place too long whereas the guys will assault rifles can't seem to think of anything better to do than spray bullets randomly.

In Conclusion

My crazy mental model of guns, is that a body shot will pretty much disable anybody, regardless of what you use to shoot them. So seeing the bad guys limp around like I kicked them in the shins after pegging them 2-3 times with an AK, is just kind of crazy. Admittedly, having every gun dole out one-hit-kills could make the game too easy (if the one-hit-kills only apply to your enemies) or too hard (if it applies to your character as well), inject too much realism and make you resort to stealth when you just want to race in and kill people.

The FBI Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness is an interesting read and discusses the use of handguns in combat from the perspective of people who actually rely on them (namely law enforcement officers). One of the interesting observations (when discussing the tactical realities of law enforcement) notes that due to the difficulty of making effective use of handguns in combat:

[...] no law enforcement officer should ever plan to meet an expected attack armed only with a handgun.

A world in which game designers read some Box O' Truth and therefore knew that "rifles are rifles and pistols are pistols" would be a scary place indeed, but at least the uber-weapons would stop being handguns.

Fun Fact

In the 2008-2009 skills competition, Zdeno Chára won the hardest shot competition with a shot registering 105.4 miles per hour. Given the mass of a hockey puck ranges between 156 and 170 grams, the winning puck had approx 173-189J of kinetic energy. Which is just 1 - 10% shy of the muzzle energy of a .22 Long Rifle. Which, I suppose, explains why NHL goal tenders wear so much equipment.