Ban List Swings Like the Pendulum Do…

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Combos and win conditions, 2 X 2.. DCI decisions blow with the wind, say good bye to Emrakul the Promised End.

After having a little time to digest the changes that are coming down with the 1 week early release of the DCI banned and restricted list, I am left thinking that this was a bit of an apology and an attempt to try to get back the players that have been lost from FNM lately.

While I do agree with some of the banning decisions, I do have to question not only the timing, but the reasoning behind a couple of the decisions that were made… I will break this down to the 3 cards that I found to be not so much surprising, but to a degree overdue.

Emrakul, the Promised End:

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What Wizards/DCI had to say: “Created to be scarily powerful, Emrakul, the Promised End delivered on that promise too well. Emrakul faced too little resistance and ended games too easily. She was the world ending, all-poweful monster she was in the story, which was too much for Standard.”

My take: Emrakul, the Promised End may have been too much for Standard, but are you seriously telling me that banning her in Standard is enough?

All you have done is spared FNM from her wrath, but that will not change the possibilities of Emrakul, the Promised End wreaking havoc on Modern, Legacy, and Vintage formats… considering that she is a 13 drop, that can’t be targeted by instants, and furthermore with the costing 1 generic mana less to cast for each type of card in your grave yard, and the ability to lower her casting further with things like Helm of Awakening, it is actually possible to take her from a 13 drop to all the way down to a 3 drop.

Further, if playing  Green (source for mana speed as well as blending with Aluren), you could possibly get her to the table for free… not quickly per se, but it is possible. This would also extend to stuff like Breaker of Armies, Desolation Twin, and a multitude of other Eldrazi that are currently in Standard.

Smuggler’s Copter:

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What Wizards/DCI had to say: “Simply put, Smuggler’s Copter is too efficient and shows up in too many decks, diminishing the format’s diversity. We wasn’t Planeswalkers, sorcery-speed removal, and a variety of vehicles to be viable options, and believe removing Smuggler’s Copter will allow them to flourish again. Of the top archetypes in Standard, very few didn’t play four copies of Smuggler’s Copter, stifling many creative, fun opion. Smuggler’s Copter was the result of a new card type being pushed too far, and, as such, is now banned.”

My take: Yeah, this was a decently reasonable reason to ban the card in Standard, and DCI makes a good case for it, but there is one small problem with what they are saying here… to a degree, they are banning a card based on how popular it is, and not because it is really all that game breaking.

Yeah, it’s a 2 drop, rare, and when it blocks or attacks you may draw a card, then discard a card… While I could see in some decks that this would be game breaking, it is still a vehicle artifact, and it still requires tapping a creature with a power of 1 or more to turn it into an Artifact Creature… so even though it is a 2 drop, it still requires outside factors to even activate that ability… and it would have to be done every turn… so again, mechanics wise, it is not that hard to remove the Smuggler’s Copter from the equation.

This one totally smack of strictly being a ban based on simply how popular the card is, and not how it would reshape a match.

Gitaxian Probe:

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What Wizards/DCI had to say; “Gitaxian Probe increased the number of third-turn kill in a few ways, but particularly by giving perfect information (and a card) to decks that often have to make strategic decisions about going “all-in.” This hurt the ability of reactive decks to effectively bluff or for the aggressive deck to miss-sequence their turn. Ultimately, the card did too much for too little cost.”

My take: COULD THE DCI HAVE DRAGGED THEIR FEET ANY HARDER THAN WITH THIS CARD?

Whew…

Now that part is out of my system, there are 2 questions that I have to ask about this banning.

  1. Why did it take so long to come to the conclusion that Gitaxian Probe is rather broken?
  2. Why is it not also banned in Legacy or Vintage?

Part the First… New Phyrexia was released in 2011, and with it the Phyrexian Mana mechanic where you can spend 2 points of life or a single mana of the corresponding colour to cast spells and activate abilities… in some situations that could be a real game shifter such as with the Gitaxian Probe which is a single Blue Phyrexian Mana to look at your opponent’s hand, and then draw a card yourself.

6 years and not a peep/ruling, and now… Ban Hammer.

Part the Second: The important part of this is that it went through Standard, and has been dwelling in the other formats for all these years without a banning. It is still fully legal in Legacy, Block, and Vintage formats… Black is not an issue so much, but do you honestly believe that Gitaxian Probe is not any more broken when it can be combined with the card pool in Legacy or Vintage?

If the point of banning Gitaxian Probe in Modern is because of the number of third-turn kills that it can result in, how in the blue cheese do you suppose it would be any less devastating in the arguably more powerful Legacy and Vintage formats?

The host over there at the Mana Source put out a video right after the announcement, and the point that he made about Probe being banned was not so much about the card itself, but more about the precedent that it had set… that being an active diminishing for control decks.

To be perfectly honest,  I kind of agree, but I also don’t really like the Mana Source too much (based on the sound of the narrator’s voice… makes everything sound like a question and not a statement), but the information is good.

At the time of this writing, the response from Jeremy at MTGHeadquarters has not hit, and I have not seen anything quite yet from Tolarian Community College or Command Zone, but I am sure they will be weighing in on it soon.

Moving into 2017…

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​Well… that was a long hiatus, but I have returned with a better focus for the new year.

I am writing this article after having been away for well over a year, as well as coming to the conclusion that Angry Dwarf Studios is no longer going to be a thing.

As I write this blog entry, I am also counting down the remaining days of 2016, and to be honest… it is a year that I would be fine with being rid of.

So, on to better things.

There will be a renewal of the blog “I have lots of double letters in my name” as well as a better focus on doing more with the podcast “This Nerdy Life”.

The thing that I need to emphasize really is what I aim to do with these things… and that is simple.

I am now doing this to amuse myself.

Maybe I will get readers, maybe I won’t…

Maybe I will get subscribers, maybe I won’t…

The fact is that I am really happy with my career away from the social media/pop culture world, so it is back to being a proper hobby as opposed to being something more than that… and for the truth of the matter… it has been a mere hobby that I have neglected for too long.

With that being said… I guess it would be safe to say that I have returned… at least for a while.

Why Some of Us Stay.

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For my first article, I wanted to pose a question.

If you are unhappy with the current job that you have, what is your motivation for staying?

My interest in this question was at first to see what the most common answer would be, and then to also address the root of the most common answer that I would receive.

Pretty straight forward experiment I feel. As such, I was all for giving my two cents for whatever information I would receive.

The premise is really simple as we have all been there at some point in our professional lives. Sometimes we have been there more than once.

It’s not always the best situation to be stuck in. To be honest it is quite frustrating to be trapped in that scenario. The helplessness, the feeling that there is no other option, and that we should be grateful for the job that we have, no matter how bad we feel that we might have it.

Or, the feeling that we have no other option out there because we are not good enough.

That last portion is the worst of all the feelings that we can have, and at times it could even be the source of our own undoing when in a job… not a career, just a job.

Some of the answers that I received were very interesting.

“Unhappy with my current job…..maybe. But the motivation for staying is a simple one. Not only is the money enough to cover my bills every month and put food on our table; but driving is something I love to do. Mind you it is not the job that I am unhappy with, it is the people and the politics.”
– Roy, Driver

“I stay where I am in the hopes that things will get better.”
– Michelle, Server

“I can’t find anything else that I am qualified for, and I can’t afford to go back to school to get something better.”
– Jeff, Warehouse Loader

“For me it’s because I don’t like change and hate losing seniority”
– Clarissa, Certified Nursing Assistant

“I stayed at my previous job merely to keep making car payments. Eventually the daily mental argument of whether blowing my brains out was better than that job made me realize I just needed to leave.”
-Anonymous, Call Center

“Some people are “stuck”. They have been in the position for a long time, but have no degree…they can’t go anywhere else for the same amount of pay, or more, for that matter, because they are lacking that ” X thousand dollar piece of paper”, but in all actuality, can run circles around anyone with a degree because of their experience”
– Tammy, Management

“I love my job but I have been stuck at [Redacted] for five years out of fear of starting over.”
– Lita, Hair Dresser

The results above are for the most part, right in step with the rest that I received. It seems that the biggest things holding people in position that they were not the most happy with (in some cases to put it lightly) was that many companies seem to not regard experience in place of a degree as a selling point for someone that is looking for work.

I will save that rant for a later time, but I wanted to focus on the overall point that was made with many of the responses. And that was quite simply…

People will stay with a company out of habit.

Whither the reason that employee’s give is that they don’t want to start over, or that they don’t feel like there is something else out there for them, or that they just can’t make it somewhere else… while all being valid excuses, they are at the end of the day, excuses disguised as reasons.

At the end of the day, it is something like this that will decide if it is a job, or a career.

Now while my career path has not been typical, it is the outgoing nature of how I present myself and information that has led me to constantly “falling up” the ladder when it comes to my employment. I spend time networking with people that are in my field, I try to open doors, and make it so that if in the worst case scenario, I would have a possible way into another company.

It is through the relationships that I have forged with colleagues in my field that has allowed me to work for the company that I do now, and the awesome part about it, is that while I knew someone that worked for the company, it was my personality, and experience that I was able to get the job.

I write this as someone that has been both a “company guy” and an entrepreneur, and the thing that has helped me is the ability to embrace the idea that I am a creature of habit, and I will actively try to make improvement of my position, and work place as a healthy habit.

On the other hand, not everyone makes these same decisions, but it is something that separates the “job oriented” and the “career minded”.

We all know that one person in the office, that complains constantly about things going on in the business, tells us how they would do it better, and then when the time comes for them to make a suggestion, or when they have the floor in a meeting. They completely buckle, and say nothing.

Again, I am not that guy. In fact, I was once banned from internal focus groups, because I was known for not holding back my concerns, and had the reputation of making the presenters look severely out of place with the questions I would ask, and the solutions that I would propose.

I had the thought process of stepping up and voicing concerns when I had them as there was no other way to fix the problem if there was one.

In it’s own way, it seems that feeling valued and the strength of communication have been the two things that have shaped how I feel about my career. I admit that I am pretty darn lucky, To me that is why I so thrilled with what I am doing with my professional life now.

Which leads me back to my question, and conclusion… it comes all down to this.

There are two kinds of employees that are within their company…

Those that are trapped in their job out of fear of the unknown, and those that look to the challenges in front of them in their career, and will do everything that they can to make things better.

I suppose the only question left is, which one are you?

That Extra Something.

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I had asked via social media a very straight forward question. “Are you able to take pride in what you do for a living? If yes, or no… Tell me why.”

Like in my previous article (where I asked if you were unhappy with your job, why did you stay there?), I felt that I had to ask about pride in your job.

Here were some of the responses:

“Yes. I provide a service that no one wants to do, but everyone needs. We are unsung heroes. I provide for my family, am self-reliant, and me and mine want for nothing. I don’t do what I do for the fame. I do it because without me, the world would be screwed under their own filth.”
– Clarence, Commercial Driver

“I love to make soy candles I love what I do and it helps to get rid of my stress.”
– Lois, Small Business Owner

“Yes. I keep 3 children healthy and happy. I budget, meal-plan, penny-pinch, and make sacrifices so we can all live a quality of life that otherwise wouldn’t be possible on our current income. And I’m damn good at it.”
– Rosemary, Homemaker

“Yes. I believe helping people find their way to God and his will for them is a blast.”
– Kurtis, Pastor

All of the above were great answers.

There was something that I noticed about the answers that were given, as every answer that I received were all along the same lines. As every responder was

When I was a kid, it was instilled in me that if you could not be proud of what it is that you do for a living, you don’t really have a reason to continue devoting time to it. That if you are not able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, and feel good about what you do, it is time to call it quits.

It is with that thought process that I have left companies that I had worked for. Whether it was for reasons pertaining to ethics, safety, or business practices, I drew a line in the sand and refused to stay with said companies.

On the other hand, I am very proud of the company that I currently work for. So I can say that I have experienced both sides of the coin.

The ability to take pride in where you work, or what you do for a living, is not just something limited to business owners or people that work in fields that carry a certain prestige to them. While I have friends that are in the military, police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics… I have friends that work as drivers, custodians, and clergy that take just as much pride in what they do.

For many years in this country, it was the concept that Americans have come to a point where we not only look down on certain occupations, but we refuse to work certain occupations as they are beneath us as a whole.

While there are many occupations that fall under this umbrella, there are some things that I learned recently that kind of blew my mind.

Recently there was a study done that evaluated the percentages of American citizens vs Non-citizen immigrant workers in the realms of Taxi drivers, house keepers, landscape workers and the like. The aim of the study was for the most part, to see if those fields of work were truly worked by Americans or not.

The United States Census Bureau looked at around 400 occupations in the United States, and came up with some very interesting facts.

51% of Housekeepers
58% Taxi Drivers
63% Butchers
64% Landscapers/Groundskeepers
66% Construction Workers
72% Porters, Bellhops,Concierge
73% Janitors/Custodians.

All American Citizens, showing that these are positions that are not entirely “immigrant” positions. They are in many cases, lower skill, or without needing vast education, but at the same time, have their own kinds of education. Meaning that there is still some kind of special training in order to do them.

Butcher’s for example need to be taught how to do what they do, and they also have their own union in many cases. You can also take classes in this trade at many community colleges. After all, it is an occupation that has been around for well over a thousand years.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “What does that have to do with taking pride in what you do?”

It’s simple. Pride in one’s work, is still the driving force in staying with your occupation, and that skilled trades such as butcher, landscaper, welder, etc. as well as the “low skill” jobs such as housekeeping, taxi driver, farm hand, while looked down on in some circles… require a certain amount of dedication and as a result, pride in those occupations.

We need to take pride in what we do to do it well. To make sure that things are not only done right, but also done to the high standards that are sometimes required by those on the outside looking in.

It takes me back to what I was saying before with what I was raised with, “If you don’t have pride in your work, you don’t have any business doing it.”

Again, the responses that I got were overwhelmingly positive. Some of the responses came from those that had responded to my previous article asking about why do they stay with their current line of work… and to their credit, they responded positively to that question as well.

At the end of the day, I guess what it all boils down to, is really just a couple of factors that we can all agree on.

When you can feel good about what it is that you are doing, you will be able to put that extra effort into it. You will go above and beyond to ensure that not only are you doing your job right, but that you stand head and shoulders above anyone else that does the same job.

Be the hardest working person that you know, and you will have success following you no matter what it is that you do.

And that is something that I can take pride in.

NHL ’91/EA Hockey

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NHL ’91/EA Hockey (1991, Electronic Arts, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

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This was the game that for the most part started it all for Electronic Arts’ foray into making high quality console games based on the sport of Ice Hockey.

I will be breaking this review down as I go and will focus a little bit on the virtues of the game, and the problems that it had as well. So let’s begin.

Graphics: EA Hockey/NHL ’91 is where the classic NHL graphics engine for EA really started. Featuring a ¾ overhead perspective with the home team defending the bottom net (as in the bottom of the screen) during the first and third periods, the detail of the arenas are all the same with the exception of the logo at center ice.

A rather smooth frame work for skating animations is present and it needs to be noted that the players while they all look the same, (considering that this was 1991, that should be expected), the player sprites are really well rendered here, and would prove to be the arc-type for every EA Hockey game (aside from Mutant League, but we will get into that later) for pretty much the entire lifespan of the 16 bit era.

Lights reflect from overhead, the boards move a little when heavy checks are done along them, and the fighting animations are the best up to that time. Only Blades of Steel from the NES and Game Boy would be a close second, and that game was a few years older.

Graphics Score 4/5 Tossed Octopi, this game is not really all that great looking compared to some of the other games that would follow, it was all about how it all came together, other games had better looking players, but sacrificed elsewhere, this game was going for balance.

Controls: The controls of this version are rather smooth, and still hold up after 23 years. This is really important to note as the controls are a mere 3 button system that works on offence and defense, with offensive controls being pass, shoot, flip the puck down ice, and defensive controls being check/speed up, poke check, and select next player.

The real difference maker with the controls is that it is really easy to move the puck around, shoot it, and body check the person that takes the puck so you can get it back.

Fighting in this game is little more that mashing buttons, and that is OK for this game, as quite frankly, you are only working with 3 buttons to begin with, and the fights are so quick, and frequent, there is no need to complicate the controls for them.

Control Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi

Details: From players celebrating after a goal, to them skating to the penalty box, to realistic penalties being called. The level of detail on this game is pretty good for its time.

Where it suffers in any way is simply put, the refs are a little too eager to call penalties. I can honestly say, that when I was playing this game, I spent the majority of it shorthanded.

This can be rather infuriating when taken into account that penalties in the real NHL do not happen as often as they were happening in this game.

Before each game, you will get a rundown between the 2 teams showing which team has the advantage when it comes to each position. Another nice detail is that the puck can take odd bounces just like the in real game.

Detail Score: 3/5 Tossed Octopi

Features: Not very many, you have regular season and playoffs (new playoffs which are single game, or best of 7). You can save your progress and play where you left off

Now, above under details, I complained about getting called for penalties constantly, One of the features is that you can turn off the penalties, and if you really want to have penalties, but don’t want the pace to be too broken up, you can also have penalties on, and simply turn off the off-side rule.

Nice amount of features considering that, again, this was 1991. So the features were still leaps and bounds ahead of the other games out there.

Features Score: 4/5 Tossed Octopi

Rosters/Characters: This category was a little hard for me to rate for this game, as the version of the game that I have is not the NHL version. All of the teams that I have are international teams, so I did my review game as the Soviet Union vs Canada, BUT, the teams appeared to be pretty well represented in their skill categories based on the tale of the tape before the game.

I did some research, and it is pretty much acknowledged that while NHL ’91 came out in the midst of the 1991 Hockey season, it was using the rosters from the 1990 season. So players that were traded in the off season were still assigned to the teams that they had finished up with the year before. This would become less and less of an issue in future games.

Rosters Score: 4/5 Tossed Octopi

Speed of Play: Fast.

The periods can fly by rather quickly as the timer ticks down at a rate that is much faster than it does in reality. A 20 minute period of play can pass by in half of that time if you are not using penalties, and if there aren’t goals being scored, the clock just runs at a lightning pace.

This gives the game more of an arcade feel, which is perfectly fine for the time when it was made, as arcades were going through a 2nd golden age with games like Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter 2 having to yet hit the arcades, and gaming systems still not being super commonplace as of yet.

This would keep the game on a fast pace, and keep you on the edge of your seat

Speed Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi

Learning Curve: The learning curve on this game is ultra-sharp, and you will have it down in no time. The controls are simplistic enough that you really don’t have a whole lot to learn so jumping into the game is pretty easy.

Learning Curve Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi

Legacy/Importance to Franchise: This really is the game that started it all. For the most part, the game series would not change for the next 7 years. The further legacy of the NHL Franchise will be explored later on.

How well has it aged: After more than 20 years, this game is still fun. The controls and gameplay are still crisp, and it has me wanting to play the rest of the franchise just to see the differences as I go.

Overall Game Play: 4.5/5 Tossed Octopi

This was a fantastic game for it’s time, and it holds up pretty well.

Next review will be Mario Lemieux Hockey (1991), until then… “Keep your stick on the ice”