War of Kings is a blog dedicated to my favourite comic books, books, games and movies.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Togs of War - Halloween Special - Mogloween!

When it comes to holiday events, DragonFable has done them a lot better than its predecessor (or successor if you manage to work out the internal timelines of the games) Adventure Quest. In AQ holiday events just happen. In DF, they mean something. Mogloween is a perfect example.

In Adventure Quest Mogloween consists of collecting candy from houses to unlock masks and other goodies. You need to wear the masks, otherwise whenever you meet a moglin (cute Pikachu-like creatures who function as healers in the game) it yells that you're not wearing a mask, turns into a giant moglinster and attacks you. Why does this happen? For not reason ther than that the game's anniversary coincides with Halloween in the real world.

Mogloween in DragonFable, on the other hand, starts with a moster we all love to kill - the yaga. The yaga is your typical hag-like witch - green skin, pinted nose, warts, large black hat. But last year, three young witches decided to go out and redeem the name of their class, which had been tarnished by the yaga. It helps that they are cute. They are the Cauldron Sisters - Bubble, Toil and Trouble, and together with their cat, also called Bubble, and their cauldron, named Myx, they decided to start a candy company and hand out candy to everyone. Because they are so nice. Unforunatly, it then emerged the Myx was in fact an evil doom cauldron, and together with some manipulation by the ebil necro-moglin Zorbak and the misuse of mog-nip, the candy was poisoned so that any moglin who ate it would turn into a ramapging moster on seeing a good person. Enter the hero, me (or you if you're playing the game). I saved DragonFable by donning a mask to make myself look evil, and set out to collect all the poisoned candy, every last piece of it. Along the way I unlocked some cool masks, became a level 14 Pumpkin Lord, and got some awesome nature-based pumpkin daggers. Yay.

But that is not the end. See, this year, the Cauldron Sister are back to ask for my help. Their latest candy shipment (now posion free) was stolen by the new ruler of the Necropolis, poisoned, and distributed to everyone. Including moglins. Yes, this year they have managed to integrate Mogloween even deeper into the DF mythology by making this years event a sequel not only to last years event, but also to the Necropolis section of the Orbs storyline, which is the game's main storyline. So its probably entirly my fault this has happened, considering that I defeated the old ruler of the Necropolis, paving the way for the new one. (Read: You can't play this years event until you have completed last years event and also completed the Necropolis quest chain.)

So now its off to find out who the new ruler is, collect up all the poisoned candy again, unlock new cooler masks, become a level 14 Evolved Pumpkin Lord, and get some awesome fire-based pumpkin daggers. Yay. But is it worth it?

Its not really worth unlocking all the masks - the bonus hey give to candy collection is offset by their huge cost. However, its entierly possible that you won't be able to play next years event until you unlock all of this years masks, so I did it anyway. (Plus, it was easy cause I cheated, but more on this later.)

The Evolved Pumpkin Armour looks pretty cool, and its stats are a little better than normal Pumpkin Armour. It has no effect on the skills of the Pumpkin Lord class, however. You need to unlock each skill again in this new armour, but their effects are exactly the same. Not that it matters - Pumpkin Lord always was a very good class, and is the only event-based class that I count as a real class. Especially now that you can use it outside of Mogloween if you have a Armour Closet. There's only two problems with this class - you need to pay real money for an Armour Closets, and its two healing skillsare basically disabled outside of Mogloween, as they require candy to use. Its not really worth unlocking unless you have a closet and think you'll be using this class - and again, you may want to just for next year. There is also the remote possibility they'll release an area with weakness against nature damage, in which case skills like vine whip, scythe, root and spikes will come in very handy.

The Reaper weapons? Well there's no doubt they're good. Their highest level is 45, which I haven't reached yet, so I can't quite tell whether they're better than the Amulet Weapons. Theinitial damage of the Reapers is certainly higher, but the Amulets do have a powerboost ability. Hmm.

Now, about the cheating thing. It was an accident - I discovered that if you lose the titan battle, and choose not to give it a second try when you are offered, your Dragon Rider armour does not uneqiup. This means you can go around collecting candy in Dragon Rider mode, oneshotting powerful monsters like werewolves and mummies with dragonfire. Your armour does get reset when you leave Mogloween though, and no, I haven't tried teleporting out to see if the armour stays. Using a bug to unlock Halloween masks is one thing, but using it to level up is not something I want to do.

Verdict: Major Victory!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quartermaster - January 2009 - War is Upon Us

Astonishing X-Men #27
Big action. Big Science. And a Big Mystery to solve! The superstar team of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi take the X-Men on a mission that will take them into mind-bending and previously uncharted territory -- one that will test them -- and their leader Cyclops -- to their very core.
Quick, look! Before it disappears! Ok, so it’s only been delayed by one month, as it was replaced by Ghost Boxes for two issues. But this series just doesn’t appeal to me.
Not in supply.

Cable #10
In the present, Cyclops, Emma and Beast have been ambushed by Bishop and a nasty little surprise he’s smuggled into the X-Men HQ. Meanwhile, hundreds of years in the future, Cable realizes what the former X-Man has done to the planet -- all in an effort to make sure Cable and the four-year-old mutant messiah never, ever return to the present. Once again, the rules of the hunt have been completely rewritten, and the future of mutantkind has never looked more uncertain.
The baby isn’t a baby anymore, in January she’ll be four years old already. Hmm. I still don’t get how Bishop knows what to do to change the future so Cable can’t return. Oh well.
Not in supply.

Captain America #46
Eisner-Winning artist Steve Epting returns as the New Captain America comes face-to-face with an old ally -- Prince Namor -- on a dangerous trip to China. Can Bucky and Namor team up to save the memory of an old comrade-in-arms as Cold War crimes come back to haunt the Winter Soldier? Part 1 of 3.
Presumably the old comrade in arms is Jim Hammond the Human Torch, as he’s on the alternate 70th anniversary cover. I missed out on Namor in Herc, and now I'm missing out on this. Oh well.
Not in supply.

Civil War: House of M #5
How Magneto formed the House of M! It all comes down to this...the final battle between Magneto's mutant army and the United States of America! Can the Master of Magnetism stand against non-metallic Sentinels? What will happen when Magneto's children learn that he's their father? And how will Earth's superpowers respond when the planet's most powerful mutant finally makes his bid to conquer the world? The epic conclusion to the House of M's greatest untold story is here!
Still not a lot I can say about this, as I haven't got the second issue yet.
In supply.

Fantastic Four #563
December has a Cosmic Sized special instead of the regular book. This month has the FF nowhere to be found. Is Millar really killing off Sue? Does Reed bite it in the final issue of SI? Is the Fantastic Four no more? Marvel are being very quite about this.
Missing in Action.

Erm. My mistake. Looks like the Millar-penned #563 has been delayed from December to January. It seems to have a Human Torch alt cover, exactly like Cap. Or Marvel just posted the solicit wrong.
Not in Supply.

Guardians of the Galaxy #9
Star-Lord...trapped in jail...in the Negative Zone Prison...under attack from King Blastaar and his barbarian hordes! Will Rocket Raccoon and his new Guardians arrive in time to save their leader? Given their recent run of luck, probably not! Plus, cool art by Star Wars penciller Bong Dazo staggering revelations about Adam Warlock - as events continue to build to WAR OF KINGS! Surely you must be there for the next chapter of the series that has WeeklyComicBookReview.com raving: "If you aren't reading GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY yet, now is the time to get a taste of the awesome that is Rocket Raccoon and the gang."
I'm pretty sure something is missing from that solicit. But it's Guardians, and it never misses and thats why its...
In supply.

Secret Invasion: War of Kings #1
It's finally here...WAR OF KINGS! The Secret Invasion may be over, but the Inhumans are still reeling from the terrible wounds inflicted on them by the Skrulls. And this time, the Royal Family and their massively powered people have been pushed too far! You have never seen the Inhumans like this - and it's only the beginning! Plus: How will the empire-expanding Vulcan react to these recent universe-shaking developments? Before this double-sized shocker is over, vengeance will be had, daring alliances will be forged, and the first shots in a destiny-changing battle will be fired! The acclaimed team of writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning and artist Paul Pelletier unite to revamp heroes, reveal villains and rock the universe!
It costs more...buuut...its double-sized and written by DnA. So its gotta be good.
In supply.

Thor #600
The mighty God of Thunder hits a major milestone! THOR goes back to its classic numbering for this issue 600 mega-event, and even Stan "The Man" Lee joins the party with an all-new story! J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel bring their widely acclaimed run to a major culmination! And Chris Giarrusso lays down an epic Mini Marvels Thor adventure! PLUS jaw- dropping wraparound covers by Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic! Miss this issue?! We say thee NAY!
This makes me laugh. In a good way, though.
Not in supply.

Tech-powered Ex-X-Men #20…I mean, New Warriors #20
This is it. This is what it’s all led up to. In a future that’s everything he’s ever fought against, Night Thrasher has achieved his mission and been reunited with his brother, Dwayne. But at a cost. One that’s growing. And when that cost becomes too high, Donyell realizes he needs to take it upon himself to set things right. In this final issue of NEW WARRIORS, all bets are off. And no one leaves unscathed...
I was just wondering last week how many people were buying this.Apparently, not enough. Fans of Chamber, start sending Paul Cornell your requests.
Not in supply.

Uncanny X-Men Annual #2
This appears to be classified alongside the Dark Reign stuff. Hmm. I better add the Dark Reign One-Shot to my December list. I need to know what dark dealings the X-men are getting involved in. For some reason, Newsarama and CBR didn't have the cover for this - but IGN did.
In supply.

X-Factor #39
Witness the most important event in the lives of Jaime Madrox and Siren—the birth of their baby! What will happen to X-Factor—and what will be the meaning for mutantkind!...All we can guarantee are that the answers are not what you expect—but that’s what makes it X-Factor! Don’t miss what is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of 2009!
It’s Siryn. Get it right people. You’d think the birth of the second mutant baby would garner a bit more attention than a normal issue of XF. But none of the power players from Messiah CompleX seem to care. I’m not complaining – X-Factor doesn’t need to get involved in another cross over, and Peter David generally knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he can make it an siginificant event without the involvement of other books. X-Factor have probably been able to keep it secret, what with Bishop taking out everything that can detect mutants and all the power players from Messiah CompleX embroiled in their own problems. Besides, no one ever said this baby was a mutant…
In supply.

X-Force #11
After Warpath's shocking discovery last issue, now it can be told... the origin and history of the mysterious man who betrayed the Purifiers, killed a Technarch, and plans a dark future for X-Force and all of mutantkind. Welcome to first century ROME, and meet the man named Eliphas and his Black Queen...the woman the X-Men know as SELENE.
Looks like they’ll be picking up the Wither/Selene loose threads here. Not surprised. But it’s X-Force. It doesn’t exist. I don’t know about it.
Not in supply.

X-Infernus #2 (of 4)
Darkchilde comes calling to the X-Men’s doorstep—and she’s not leaving without her Soulsword. The next pulse-pounding issue by C.B. Cebulski and Giuseppe Cammuncoli is here and it’s shaking up the X-Men in a big way.
Yeah, that doesn’t tell us anything. No cover image either. For all the information that’s been thrown at us in interviews we still know very little about this mini. But it seems like it will be good.
In supply.

X-Men: Legacy #220
It’s the moment that X-Fans have been waiting for — Rogue makes her return to the X-Books. But while Xavier seeks out Rogue, who is searching for him? Hunter becomes hunted and friend becomes foe, in a story that will change your favorite Southern Belle forever. Part 1 (of 5)
Looks like Legacy is going straight from the crossover into a five-parter about the Prof and Rogue. I don’t care much for Rogue, so it looks like I won’t be getting this for a while still. I like Mike Carey’s writing, I just don’t like the topic.
Not in supply.

X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 (of 4)
Marvel Girl, Korvus and Lilandra are the only resistance to Vulcan’s reign, but Vulcan aims to end their rebellion. With Havok, Polaris and rest of the Starjammers in prison, they don’t stand to get much help. The Shi’Ar Empire is expanding under Emperor Vulcan’s reign… Come see the road to the WAR OF KINGS!
There's still two more issue of this in Febuary and March, so I don't think WoK is actually starting till April, despite what SI:WoK says. I think its like the Annihilation events which had a one-shot, minis and a main series, except the minis are GoG, Nova, Inhumans and this, and the scheduling is a bit off.
In supply.

X-Men: Manifest Destiny #5 (of 5)
The final issue of the hit X-Men anthology mini-series is here! See the pulse pounding conclusion of Mike Carey and Michael Ryan’s Iceman story? What does Mystique want and why is she coming to Iceman? Also stories featuring the return of Avalanche and a rockin’ story starring your favorite glam-X-lady Dazzler!
Well here’s my answer – MD is definitely five issues. Despite the first issue saying 'of 4' on the cover. I hope that the Iceman story has a good finish. I don’t much care about Dazzler or Avalanche though. This is a hit series? I thought everyone hated it. You may think I’m crazy to get it, but I’ve committed myself and I’m stubborn.
In supply.

X-Men: Worlds Apart #4 (of 4)
On one hand, her husband. On the other, her teammates. While Storm races to save the lives of the Black Panther and the X-Men, she recognizes a third option: take down the one responsible for making her choose in the first place. And to do it, she just might get some help from an unlikely source…
Say what? After all the hype Storm’s not going to choose between the X-Men and Wakandia? Meh.
Not in supply, fortunately.

Young X-Men #10
You think you know everything there is to know about YOUNG X-MEN? Think again. One shocker has been brewing since #1 and the pot peaks with #10. Don’t miss this landmark issue of Young X-Men.
I’m really tempted to pick this up. The Y-Men arc will have finished in December, and this book looks like it will be going somewhere at last. But I’m still getting a lot of miniseries in Jan, so I’ll probably wait for some of them to end, and for the book to pick up threads from Infernus.
Not in supply…yet.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Duel! - Halloween Special - The Dead Rise Again

I'm not entirely sure why we need another zombie structure deck, but they decided we do - so we have Structure Deck: Zombie World just in time for Halloween. And damn if they haven't made it good. This deck centres around destroying your opponents monsters, and then brining them back from the graveyard as zombies to fight by your side. It’s the obvious strategy for a zombie deck, I wonder why they didn't think of it before - up till now, zombie decks only brought their own monsters back from the dead, not their opponents.

The New Cards
Forget about previous structure deck trump cards who were badly hampered by their summoning restrictions and inability to be brought back once destroyed - Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon is easy to summon, resummon, and resummon again. It’s a level 7 monster, but only needs one tribute if you're playing a zombie deck. But, it only has 2400 attack, which is standard for level 6 (one-tribute) monsters these days anyway, and you can't use decoy dragon on it, as it it’s a zombie. So its basically a zombie-deck-only level 6 monster. It does have another effect - when it destroys a zombie-type monster, you can summon it from the graveyard to your side of the field. In attack position. Nice - but only really useful if you're playing against a zombie deck, right? Wrong.

Despite its 'Ultra-Rare' status, the new version of Red-Eyes isn't really this decks trump card - that honour goes to another new card, the field spell Zombie World. When this card is on the field, all cards on both fields and in both graveyards are treated as zombie-type cards. See the synergy? No matter what deck your opponent has, his minsters will become zombies, and Red-Eyes effect will work. Plus, it messes up some type-based cards - the powerful Fossil Excavation won't work as all cards in the graveyard are zombies. Lightning Blade, Tail Swipe and Icarus Attack are useless as all cards on the field are zombies. Oh, and there's one more effect - you can't tribute summon non-zombie monsters. And since zombie world doesn't affect your opponents hand, that means no high-level monsters for him.

There are two other new monster cards in the deck - Malevolent Mech - Goku En and Paladin of the Cursed Dragon. Both cards are an antithesis of a previously released card, explaining why they are light monsters, the only two light zombies found in the game. Malvolent Mech- Goku En is the dark version of Majestic Mech - Okha and both are vaguely dog-shaped with wings. They are very similar, both are level 6, have 2400atk, 1400def, can be normal summoned without a tribute, and are destroyed during the end phase if you summon them in this way. Goku En's effect has some added zombiness, however - his destruction is delayed as long as there is another zombie on the field, and when it is eventually destroyed by this effect, you take 2400 damage. Ouch. Is the risk worth it? You decide.

The relationship of Paladin of Cursed Dragon to Paladin of White Dragon is a lot more complicated. From the artwork alone, the former is obviously the zombie version of the latter. Both are level 4 light monsters with 1900atk. Paladin of Cursed Dragon is an effect monster that can summon a level 4 or lower zombie-monster that was destroyed by battle from your opponent's graveyard. Think death knight. However, Paladin of White Dragon is a ritual monster that you can tribute to special summon Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Quite different. But if you think back to the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Series, you'll remember that Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Red-Eyes Black Dragon were the two opposing powerhouses. It seems Red-Eyes has now fallen to the dark side and become a zombie, and taken the Paladin with him.

The other new spell card (besides Zombie World) is the quick-play spell, Spell Shattering Arrow, which destroys all your opponent's face-up spell cards and deals 500 damage to them for each one. What is it doing here? I don't know, but I can hear my Crystal Beasts crying.

There is one new trap here - Imperial Iron Wall. It also has nothing to do with zombies - it prevents cards being removed from play, completely destroying the strategy of the Dark Monarch decks. A lot of people will want this. But why on earth is it in here? One reason - you can't summon monsters from the graveyard if they aren't there.

The Old Cards
The rest of the cards have been seen before, but I'll mention the most useful.

Pyramid Turtle is possibly even more important than ZW. When its destroyed, you can special summon a zombie with 2000 or less def from your deck. Please note every single card in this deck has 2000 or less def. Including Red-Eyes. And you get two Pyramid Turtles. Ryu Kokki is the standard level 6/2400atk, but can take out warriors and spellcasters more powerful than itself. Its ok against most decks, but it shines against the Yusei-type synchro decks with their powerful synchro warriors, and is ready for the next structure deck which will be spellcaster themed. Patrician of Darkness is only 2000atk for a level 5 monster, but it does allow you to choose your opponent's attack targets. Marionette Mite and Zombie Master are only good when ZW is on the field - one can be discarded to take control of an opposing zombie monster, and the other can be used to summon zombies from the opposing graveyard. Plague Wolf is a little like the Mech - you can double its attack (to 2000) but then it gets destroyed.

It also has some neat spells, useful in any deck. There's the literal drawcard, Pot of Avarice - originally very rare, it was in Structure Deck: Machine Re-Volt, and now its in this one. Cold Wave is very popular in the Japanese version of the game these days. The only reason I don't think I've seen it used much is that its not easy to get hold of. Another hard-to-get card was the quick-play spell Shrink, which halves a monster's original attack for one turn - very useful. And almost impossible to get hold of was Magical Stone Excavation, the only legal way to bring back a spell card from the grave. . But now, I think we'll see all of these a lot more. I certainly want them.

You have three cards with 2400 attack, all of which can be brought out pretty easily, but if your opponent pulls out a monster with a higher attack, you're in a bit of trouble -there are no cards in this deck with an attack higher than 2400. But didn't I say ZW means no high-level monsters? I did, but it's not quite true - a lot of decks can play around ZW without much effort. I'm sure the fact that the new Yusei-type synchro decks will still work perfectly well against this is no coincidence. Synchro players can still splash their low-level monsters and tuners, and bring out their powerhouses by synchro summon. Most archetype based decks use name referral, and so players won't care much that they're now playing with zombies. Most notably, Gladiator Beasts can still tag in and out and perform their special brand of contact fusion. Elemental Hero decks will still be able to use their powerful support spells fusion summon high level monsters. Crystal Beasts can still switch between monster and spell form, and Rainbow Dragon doesn't need tributes. Aliens will be slightly hampered by the inability to tribute summon the Cosmic Horror or Alien Mother, but they can still synchro summon the Cosmic Fortress, and use Crop Circles to special summon Alien Mother. The only deck I can think this will seriously hamper is Neos and Lightsworn, as you'll have to find a way around not being able to tribute summon E-H Neos or the Lightsworn Dragon - remember both Premature Burial and Call of the Haunted are now banned.

Or, your opponent could just destroy Zombie World - all they need to do is play a field card. Everyone has fields in their decks these days, and often Terraforming and Ruin of Land too. The number one problem with this deck is how much it relies on ZW to prevent tribute summons - and yet, the deck only has one ZW in it. Sure it has Terraforming and Magical Stone Excavation, but you really need three copies of ZW. Plus a Ruin of Land. You can protect it with Field Barrier, but the deck is also lacking a bit in spell prevention. It doesn't have Mystical Space Typhoon, Heavy Storm or Giant Trunade. They must have thought that Spell Shattering Arrow, Cold Wave and Dust Tornado were good enough. I don't.

So what happens if you can't keep Zombie World on the field, or you find yourself facing down a high-attack synchro or fusion monster? You have to go with spells and traps. Bottomless Trap Hole is excellent here, as it works on any kind of summon. But wait, doesn't Imperial Iron Wall negate BTH? Reading the card carefully, I think the monster is first destroyed (sent to the grave) and then removed from play, so that's ok. You could also use Soul Taker, that destroys a monster and gives your opponent 1000 lifepoints, or zap a monster with Shrink and destroy it with one of your monsters, or use Creature Swap. But honestly, I'd rather have Lightning Vortex, which isn't in the deck for some reason. There is one other option if you have ZW on the field and a high-attack monster is special summoned - Getsu Fuhma destroys any zombie it battles with. You'll just have to sacrifice it and some lifepoints.

This deck also doesn't have the banned Call of the Haunted or Premature Burial, or the unbanned Monster Reborn that everyone is now hunting for. It does have zombie-only cards that can bring back your monsters from the graveyard, and excellent cards that steal monsters from your opponents graveyard so don't be too worried about this weakness. It isn't really there. Watch out for an opponent's Monster Reborn, however. It allows your opponent to summon a monster from your graveyard - meaning they can get hold of Red-Eyes or Paladin, and as all of your cards are zombies, it won't be fun for you.

Best Card (for this deck): Pyramid Turtle
Best Card (for any deck): Magical Stone Excavation
Best Card Artwork: Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon

Verdict: Much as I dislike doing it, I'm going to have to give a zombie deck a Major Victory! All of its weaknesses are easily fixed, except its lack of really high attack monsters - and with cards like Turtle and Zombie World, you should be able to decimate your opponent before they can pull out something good anyway. I might get this just for Magical Stone Excavation, Pot of Avarice and Imperial Iron Wall, and then use ZW (and the rest) to trade for cards I want. I know people I know will be buying this.

Note: I have been using the old terminology - tribute instead of release, and tribute summon instead of advanced summon. It's not because I can't adapt to the new terminology, but rather because the cards in this deck use the old terminology. I'm not sure why, we've already had a starter deck and booster pack which use the new terms. Perhaps these cards were printed before the change, and they decided to delay the release for Halloween.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Under Siege - Ghosts and Wind Walkers

This will be a monthly post on Defence of the Ancients Allstars. I'm not sure why I am doing this, as I hardly play DotA Allstars these days, so I can't give an analysis on how any new items or heroes actually stack up in play. But I did play it intensively against and with really good players for a number of years, and I know the Warcraft mythology far too well, so when it comes to concepts and ability synergy, I do know what I'm talking about.

For those of you who do not know what Defense of the Ancients is, it’s a fan-made mod map for Warcraft III that supposedly takes place centuries after the game. It’s the last war between the Sentinel, an alliance of humans, elves, orcs, trolls and other creatures of good, and the Scourge, a collection of bloodthirsty monsters, witches, necromancers and, of course, the undead. This is supposedly their final battle, with the Sentinel desperately trying to protect the World Tree from the Scourge, whilst attempting to destroy the Frozen Throne, and vice versa for the Scourge. The Sentinel and Scourge armies are computer-controlled, assisted by two team of up to five heroes each, played by you and your friends. There are now 93 heroes to choose from, most of whom are entrenched in Warcraft mythology, though there are a few, like Zeus and Lina Inverse, who are included for no reason in particular. Actually they're there because they were in the original DotA which made no attempt to make sense, and they've been around for so long that no one can imagine DotA without them. In fact, the entire storyline no longer makes much sense after World of Warcraft was released, in which the treaty between the human-elf Alliance and orc-troll Horde fell apart.

So, onto the changes for 6.55 and 6.56. And there are a lot. The most obvious is the new base layout, especially for the Sentinel. It is disconcerting at first, because the bases have remained unchanged since….I forget, but it was a really long time ago. I like the change - the fountain area is a lot more streamlined, you can actually access all the shops at once now that the blood elf recipe shop isn't off in the corner, and you don't have to run up the hill to get to the circle of power. And always thought the placement of the World Tree was a little off, especially when compared to the Frozen Throne.

There are also lot of item, recipe & hero changes, a couple of new items, two new heroes, and two hero reworks. Too many to go through, so I'll just do the important stuff. You can find the whole list here.

Alleria, the Windrunner - This character is obviously based on the Elf Ranger General from Warcraft II, Alleria Windrunner - except that she's supposed to be dead. Either she somehow survived being trapped in Outland and is now a spirit 'windrunner', or this character is just named after her. Her first ability is Staple which staples a unit to a unit or tree behind it. It's a little like Baruthrum's greater stun, in that it knocks back a unit and stuns them, but it also stuns the unit behind them too. Its not called Staple? Its called Shackleshot? Oh. Well, I'm still gonna call it staple. Powershot deals damage in a straight line, dealing less damage every time it hits a unit. It's also useful in that it gives sight and can mow a path through trees. Windrunner is really good - it gives 100% dodge, 50% increased movement speed, and on level 4, 30% movment reduction to nearby enemies. Good for chasing past towers, or just running away. Of course, it lasts for a very short time - five seconds on level 4. Her unltimate is also good, one of the few castable on towers, it gives ger max attack speed on the unit it is cast on, though damage is reduced by 50/40/30%. It might seem a bit strange, with all this and the fact she uses the Ranger model, to see that she is not an agility hero, but an intelligence one. But if you think about it, her abilities do all cost a lot of mana, and there are a lot more item options open to int heroes than there used to be, so its not a terrible choice.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Kunkka, the Admiral Proudmoore (or Captain CoCo, or Jacksparrow, or the Ancient Mariner, or sometimes even Captain Obvious) - Yeah, this is just strange. How can you be an Admiral Proudmoore? Admiral Dalien Proudmoore was a person, not a title. He's not even decended from the Proudmoores, an important family in Warcraft history. And if he's an Admiral, why does his ultimate summon a pirate ship? I'm seriously thinking of sending in an e-mail saying What the Hell are you thinking? Make him Kunkka, the Ancient Mariner! What? Oh, his abilities. Actually, they are quite good. Tidebringer is a more powerful version of the tauren ability of pulverise from the normal game. X Marks the Spot is an 'anti-blink' ability which marks a units position and forces it to return there four seconds later. This synergises with Torrent which is a little like Light Strike Array - it targets an area, and two seconds later water erupts from the ground, tossing everything in the area into the air and damaging it, and his ultimate, which summons a ghost pirate ship which gives allies drunken hardiness (damage reduction for now, but the damage catches up to you eventually) and damages enemies.
Verdict: Minor Loss. He would be an awesome unit, if his background made any sort of sense.

Ezalor, the Keeper of the Light - I always liked KotL and often played him as support for mana intensive heroes like Zeus when I was asked to. I was quite handy with Illuminate, Mana Leak and Chakra. But when left to my own devices, I wouldn't often pick him, mostly because of his ultimate. It summoned a ball of light, that in turn summoned mini-priests that healed you. The ball could teleport anywhere on the map, but still, it was just strange and didn't seem to fit in with his other abilities. But all that has changed. The KotL now uses the normal non-ghostly Archmage model, so presumably he's alive and not a spirit anymore. Illuminate remains basically the same, except it reveals the area gradually now. Mana Leak has been changed to a mana version of Rupture - the mana lost is now linked to movement, and if it reaches zero the target is stunned. Hmm. Good for supporting Anti-Mage, or anyone with the manaburn items (which have been buffed too, see below). Chakra is nerfed - it does nothing except restore mana now. Which is still good. His ultimate is Spirit Form, which turns him into the original ghost-Archmage model for 40 seconds by 'filling his body with light'. Sounds sufficiantly Naaru. In addition to his other abilities he gains Blinding Light, which knocks back all enemy units and gives them an 80% chance to miss for a few seconds, and Recall, which teleports an allied hero to his side. Oh, and Illuminate isn't a channelling spell in this form. Nice.
Verdict: Major Victory! KotL is now a really, really useful support hero, with some neat tricks to help him not die so badly.

Aithusha, the Enchantress (or, if you prefer, Bambi) - Enchant's creep control is reduced by 40 seconds, but I never used it to control creeps much. Do you sense my dislike for having extra units to control? But the major change here is the swap of Untouchable and Impetus. Untouchable's change to a normal skill comes with no actual nerf - its maximum level still slows by 90%, it just starts at 30% now as it has four levels instead of three. Impetus is now her ultimate - it gives 15%/20%/25% now with 0 cooldown and it ignores magic immunity. Ouch. So overall this seems like a buff to her - it makes her less of a early killer but a better late-game hero.
Verdict: Hmm…I'll say Minor Victory but I'll know better when I get a chance to play her.

Magic Stick - This is an interesting concept. It gains a charge every time someone else casts a spell near you (ally or enemy) and when you cast it, you instantly regenerates 12hp and mana for each charge. I think that means that casting it resets it back to zero, rather than you having to cast it twelve times. Maximum of twelve charges, which means up to 144hp/mana, not too bad in early game for only 210 gold, especially for low health heroes. Of course, if you're soloing against someone like Naiax or Sven, its useless, but if you have a spammer ally, or you're a melee/short range hero fighting a spammer it'll be very useful. I'm thinking it'll be good for my favourite hero, Luna. It looses its usefulness in late game, and even with all the recipe changes it's not used to make anything, but such items will always be needed.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Phase Boots - Cheaper than power treads, gives 5 extra movement speed, plus thje ability to phase for a few seconds - a 10% move bonus with no pathing. No pathing apparently means you can walk through other units, but not through cliffs and trees. Unless I'm doing something wrong. But hey, I'm sure every DotA player have died due to being slowed by their own units more than once, so phase will be loved. So now you have an extra boots choice besides the standard Power Treads and the high-end Boots of Travel - and choice is always good.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Sentry Wards/Dust of Appearance - This is a serious nerf to sentry wards, range reduction and they last half the time. But Dust of Appearance more than makes up for it. It works just like the dust from normal Warcraft. I believe it doesn't work on Techies wards, or the Templar's traps, but the three assassins, Broodmother, Rooftrellan and Gondar had best beware.
Verdict: Major Victory! Oh the times I have wished for dust!

Teleport Scroll/Boots of Travel/Glyph of Fortification - Now this is interesting. Reduced casting time on teleport, and the ability for multiple people to tele to the same are is a marked improvement - with the drawback that you can't cheat an opponent out of a tower with tele armour boost. I never liked that anyway. But to make up for it, you can now boost the armour of every building for a short time with the gyph of fortification - but its not an item, it’s an ability of the consumable shop that costs gold. So you have to be at the fountain to do it. Which I think is perfectly fair - it means its harder to stop towers falling, but easier to protect creep generating buildings.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Lothar's Edge - All the change really does is make this a general item, instead of an agility item. If you're an agility hero you now get 4 less damage from it, but its made up by a 10% attack speed bonus. If you're strength or intelligence, you get 17 more damage, plus 10% attack speed. This is now really useful for low-health spammers like Crystal Maiden. It's cheaper overall, but you now need a Mithral Hammer, which can be hard to save up for. It will definitely be replacing Yasha in my speed Luna build - which means I will now be able to escape better too. Yay. Unless they buy dust. Not yay.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Diffusal Blade/Manta Style - In opposition to Lothar's, these two items are now even more agility-hero skewed than they used to be. Diff Blade now gives 10 extra agility, and two extra mana burnt per hit, and it only costs 300 more. Plus, with the redistribution of the cost (you now need an extra Blade of Alacrity for 1000, with a reduction in the recipe cost to 850) you don't need to save more than 1000 gold at a time (before you needed 1550 for the recipe). To upgrade to Manta is still the same (1100 for vitality booster, 1400 for recipe). Manta now gives you 7 extra agility total, and 4 extra mana burnt per hit total. There iso change to the diffuse or image abilites.
Verdict: Major Victory!

Sange & Yasha & Sange & Yasha - Sange used to hava 10% chance to slow movespeed 10% for 6 seconds. It now has a 15% to slow 20% for 4 seconds. What does that mean? Well, I hardly ever bought Sange, so I'm not an expert on it, but it looks like a buff to me. It would make sense, as in my experience Sange was bought a lot, but only by the ok players - the really good DotA players opted for other orb effects. Yasha now gives 15% attack speed instead of 10%. Sange & Yasha combined used to have 15% chance to slow movespeed 30% for 6 seconds, and gave 15 extra damage and 15% movespeed. It now has 15% chance to slow movespeed 30% and attackspeed 15% for 4 seconds, with only 12 extra damage and 12% movespeed bonus. For 300 gold less.
Verdict: Eh…too much numbers. I'm just confused. I never used S&Y anyway, and I'm not about to start.

ULTIMATE VERDICT: MAJOR VICTORY! This contains major improvements, and even the stupidness of Admiralcaptain Whoonearthknows can't detract from it. I can just ignore him anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spoils of War - Better Late than Never

Cover to X-Men: Kingbreaker #2.

I know I had said that I would post a review on the new DotA - it's all typed up, but I forgot to post it. Rudi at the comics shop is trying to convince me to start playing the WoW TCG with him and some other guys, so I spent the evening looking at cards and it completly slipped my mind. I'll put it up tommorrow. But for now....

Well, I was right about Ink not being a mutant. However, the reveal of where his powers come from is...interesting. I hope they play this well, and we don't need another House of M to stop a whole slew of Inks. I'll keep watching this book as it seems to be on its way to becoming good. A late starter if there ever was one.

I don't feel so bad about not buying Worlds Apart any more, as it doesn't seem to be the advertised product so far. But I'll watch it too to see where it goes.

I am becoming increasinglyconvinced that Dark Reign is going to set up an X-Men vs Avengers summer crossover event. Read this interview with X-editor Nick Lowe and see if you agree. I was hoping that they were going to make War of Kings the big summer crossover, pushing the galactic books like Guardians and Nova firmly into the spotlight - but it seems WoK will be a 'secondary' event, like both Annihilations.

Thor's gonna jump from issue #12 to issue #600, like Avengers jumped to #500 before it was cancelled. It seems to me that they're trying to get the best of both worlds - launching a series with issue #1 and then jumping to a high anniverary issue, which, by the way, will cost you $5, less one cent. On the other hand, there will be an all-new story by Stan Lee in it. That might be worth $5.

Amazing Spider-Girl cancelled? Seems that One More Day didn't push up its sales after all.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm leaning towards building a Decon Markus Hallow deck, so I can play healer in raids (I like playing that role) but switch to shadow burn stuff if I need to in solo games - and also make use of the ally-cost-reducing abilities human heroes have access to.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Togs of War - Pic-a-nics and Ro-oh-ses

This week its back to Dragesvard, this time to convince the Ursine Bears to unite with the humans and killguins to fight the evil ice elf queen and her followers. Though the Ursine were initially inspired by The Golden Compass, their civilisation itself is lifted straight out of Warcraft - they are just like the Furbolgs. Furbolg, incidentally, comes from Fir Bolg, a race of non-furry giants in Irish Mythology, but this is beside the point. The Ursines have one trait I'm pretty sure the Furbolgs do not - they are inexplicably obsessed with pic-a-nic baskets. Say it with me. Pic-a-nic. Its siren call is irresistible to them. Fortunately, ice goblins enjoy putting aside their axes ever so often to have pic-a-nics, so all I had to do is take out a few, nick their basket and present it to the Ursines to win their loyalty. Quite a fun quest, actually. I really hope that ice elves don't show up with pic-a-nic baskets and entice them to betray me. The quest drops ice dragon scales and a set of stone claw weapons. They look coolly barbaric, but they're not as good as the July 4th set, so I'm not bothering to try get them.

In other news, Thursday of Amityvale has a new quest for us - get her some sanguine roses. Unfortunately they only grow in the haunted maze-like crypt under the town, so its time to stock up on potions, and break out your pen and paper to get mapping. This is the kind of quest I enjoy - its hard but not too hard, requires thinking and good mapping skills (or in my case, decent enough mapping skills that I can understand my own map - no one else is likely too) and has a reward that's worth it. It even tempts you to give up - you need four roses to get the best weapon, but each time you find a rose it asks you if you'd like to give up in exchange for a sighlty less powerful weapon. But I'm proud to say I stuck it out, even through multiple internet disconnects, and got my new, shiny Sunsabre Dagger. Its an awesome wind weapon - in both looks and damage, so I can finally pension off my Mako Shiv, which was really good but looked horrible.

Verdict: Major Victory! Keep up the good work guys!

This is my cryptic crypt map:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

From the Front - September, Second Wave

I didn't realise that Guardians was missing till I checked up on when these books came out. Must be another shipping mess up. Yay. But regardless, this is the rest of my September reviews. Hopefully I can review the first arc of Guardians (1-6) and the Secret Invasion/She-Hulk tie-in-cross-over arc of X-Factor before the end of the month.

Uncanny X-Men #502
SFX Part 3: Beginning to See the Light
The title is very apt, as Uncanny is either getting better, or I'm just enjoying it more for some reason. This issue gets across exactly how things are going to work. If, like me, you thought Karma's unannounced appearance at the end of last issue was strange, you had best get used to it. Cause Cyclops is gonna call in whoever he needs, whenever he wants. Need bait for a trap? Call in Karma, who can walk around looking like a helpless girl, but is really incredibly tough and can suddenly turn around and control her attackers minds. This issue does a far better job of introducing her then the story about her in Manifest Destiny - and she's barely in half of the book! And when the mission is finished, he thanks her and she leaves, and we don't see her again in the issue. In a similar way to Karma's appearance, Storm suddenly shows up to help attack the Hellfire Cult's base with no explanation of where she's been (probably flying in from Wakandia, but her role will be examined in the World's Apart miniseries). Colossus is apparently on the mission too, but we don't see him.

We are shown exactly what kind of leader Cyclops is - his plans aren't perfect, as Karma's ability to control people is neutralised in the first page, forcing her to withdraw, and later Empath escapes a carefully constructed web by means of a tunnel that no one knew about. On the other hand he has contingencies in place, as Logan and Kurt are on hand to take down the ambushers when Karma proves unable to control them. He's also good at rapidly analysing situations and changing plans accordingly (Emma explained this to Shanna back in the Savage Land). For the mission to the cultists base, where presumably they will still be protected from mental attacks, he tells Emma to go diamond form, using her as powerhouse instead of a telepath. This will prevent her from acting as team coordinator, so he uses Beast (with radio communicators) as co-ordinator instead. When Pixie suddenly leaves, they're short a teleporter, so he calls in Kurt again.

We also take a good look at Pixie. It takes a lot to shut her up, but Beast manages to render her speechless by introducing her to her favourite pop-star, Dazzler. Pixie then decides she just wants to be normal, and tries to sneak off, but learns there's no sneaking past Logan. He drop her off at her friend's place in a run-down warehouse, and gives her a good Logan-style talking to. He calls her girly-girl, probably because of the unicorn incident near the end of the New X-Men run. And while the X-Men are off fighting Emapth, Pixie decides to join them after all, leaving us with the famous words, 'What could possibly go wrong?'

By the way, anyone else notice the graffiti scrawled on the wall read 'Embrace Change'? Skrull propaganda is everywhere.

Verdict: Minor Victory.

X-Factor #35
Best Intentions
I decided to read this, as it could take while for #34 to get here, and it’s a SI tie in anyway, so its not absolutely essential. I was wondering if David could come up with a good reason for the real Longshot to show up, and he does. Longshot sees a picture of himself and Darwin fighting a skrull in the newspapers, so goes to Detroit to find out who's been impersonating him, and is told that XF Investigations are good at getting answers, so he pays them a visit. Hilarity ensuses as he tries to convince Guido that if he was a skrull, he wouldn't be impersonating someone they knew was a skrull, would he? This sort of thing works with Guido - but it doesn't with Rictor. If Rictor's on the team for his investigation skills rather than his powers (and we know he has investigation skills, he's the only one who realised something was off with Gameday) surely he can work out for himself that Longshot isn't a skrull?

Madrox and M are called in by the cops and shown Hector (Darwin's father) in a coma at the hospital, with severe brain damage. Longshot seems to be replacing Layla, as he gets a feeling that it would be a good idea to meet Madrox at the hospital, and uses his powers to charm the dour cop into giving him Hector's check book, leading to the reveal that Hector only wanted to find Darwin because someone was paying him to deliver Darwin to them. Except, instead of paying Hector, they shot him. How nice. But it never rains, it pours - Madrox accidentally lets out his X-Factor dupe, who tries to suffocate Hector, but fortunately he is stopped in time. But...Longshot now knows Madrox's secret. He has proved his usefulness , so it looks like he'll get a feeling that it will be a good idea to stick around for a while.

Darwin, meanwhile, is at the mercy of some nasty people, who appear to be trying to use him for some sort of genetic experiment. Why do I get the feeling that this corporation will turn out to be funded by the same mysterious person who was funding Damian Tryp and Singularity?

While the story is strong, I am still not enjoying Larry Stroman's art. It’s a bit better than issue #33, but not by much. The cover is good, but Siryn doesn't fight Longshot - in fact, she's the one who convinces Guido he is who he says he is. But we don't exapect whats on the cover to actually happen in the book anymore, do we?

Verdict: Minor Victory.

Both books aren't at their best, but they're getting there. And lastly…

Solomon Kane #1
The Castle of the Devil, Part 1
This is the first book from Dark Horse I've bought - in fact it’s the first book by a publisher other than Marvel or DC. And it was quite different. Even the paper felt different. And I must admit…I didn't quite follow the story. But it is the first of a five-parter adapting a story that Robert E. Howard never actually finished, so I'm sure my understanding will improve drastically when I have more of the story in my hands. It takes place in Germany before Kane travels to Africa, and follows his journey with incidental companion John Silent, who's name sounds vaguely familiar - I suppose he is referred to one or twice in the later stories I've read. Silent and Kane are not two people who would normally make friends, Silent doesn't quite know what to make of Kane's insistence that he is following God's will, and Kane dislikes Silent's blasphemous mouth (and yes, saying 'Name of the Devil' counted as bad swearing back then, especially to Puriatins like Kane). But a fellow Englishman is a fellow Englishman, and they find themselves starting to like each other in spite of their differences. They end up guests at the titular castle, named after the Abbey of the Devil over which it was built, made infamous by the discovory that its prior was an apostate. The Baron who resides in the castle is obovisly either very scared of some evil goings on, or is the instigator of them, but no more is revealed for now. The artwork was sombre bat well-drawn, with a pastel palette - except for the blood in Kane's fight with the bandits, which is jarringly bright red. I suppose I'm used to X-Factor in which blood is usually discoloured to a muddy brown. And its good to know I'm not jaded and still flinch at blood.

By the way, the cover scene does happen in the book. Well, almost - he's not holding his gun in the book.

Verdict: Minor Loss. I didn't particularly enjoy this, even though I usually enjoy Kane stories. But I'm hoping I will be able to revise my opinion soon.