Archive for the Wizards of the Coast Category

Review of the 5e Player’s Handbook (Classes)

Posted in D&D 5e, D&D Fifth Edition, Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast with tags , , , on January 30, 2015 by boccobsblog

I thought I could bang out a quick review of the 5e PHB as I did with the Monster Manual, but there is just far too much ground to cover. So I’ll give you my take on the classes first. I am happy with all the base classes in fifth, they seem balanced and the archetypes give them serious re-play value. Here is a brief break down:

Barbarian

Not much different here, this class will feel very familiar. The rage mechanics are far simpler as you no longer add stat points mid combat. Instead, you take less damage and do more damage. The barbarian has two paths; one that heightens the rage ability and one that is more spiritual and offers magical abilities (though not spell slots).

Bard

The bard gets a pretty big power bump in 5e as they now have access to spells all the way to ninth. As far as archetypes, they bard has two colleges to choose from, one that focuses on being in the thick of combat and rallying forces, and one that focuses on knowledge. Bards look cool to me for the first time (sorry to the three bard fans out there).

Cleric

Largely unchanged, again this class will feel very familiar to pre-fourth players. Clerics only have one domain as do most gods in 5e (Side note, the PHB lists nearly every god in D&D history: Forgotten Realms, Dragon Lance, Greyhawk, etc., as well as many Earth pantheons, Greeks, Egyptians, etc it is an impressive list to compile your pantheon from.). There are seven domains to choose from: knowledge, life, light, nature, tempest, trickery, and war. The DMG also contains the death domain for evil characters.

Druid

No big changes for the druid. They choose from two paths one of which offers a broader range of spells dependent on the land type the druid protects, and the second offers more wild shape options. It looks like the animal companion got chopped.

Fighter

The fighter has always been my favorite class and they get a lot of attention in fifth. They have three archetypes to choose from: the Champion is an easy to play fighter that requires little thought (along the lines of the 3.5 fighter) he hits, and he hits hard. The Battle Master reminds me of the classes from the Book of Nine Swords or maybe a 4e warlord; he has numerous maneuvers and abilities that he can choose from that aid his party and make him extremely interesting to play. He is slightly more complicated than the standard fighter but a refreshing change for those of us that want a more dynamic melee character. Lastly, the fighter can choose to be Eldritch Knight, which, much like the 3.5 prestige class it’s derived from, is a fighter mage with spells up to fifth level. 5e fighters are amazing.

Monk

I’ve never been a fan of the monk class and feel that it really doesn’t fit into the western feel of a largely medieval game, but with that said, the 5e monk is pretty cool as monks go. They have three paths: one that focuses on hand-to-hand combat, one that is essentially a ninja, and one that gets spell like abilities (though no spell slots).

Paladin

The idea of a non-lawful good paladin isn’t a new idea, there have been paladin variants around for over thirty years and have always been met with mixed emotions. The 5e paladin comes in three varieties: the pain in ass lawful good chivalrous knight we all know and love, a neutral good, nature knight (an elven knight from Middle Earth), and a badass, don’t get in my way neutral or lawful neutral knight of vengeance that is on a mission to destroy evil and cares nothing for law or goodness. The DMG also has an Oathbreaker path for evil paladins that have strayed from the path of good. Not sure how I feel about the third option, but the pally has options for players that don’t want to go the boy scout path. Paladin also get their spells much earlier, and cast up to fifth-level spells.

Ranger

The ranger, like the pally, see increased spell casting, and has two options: the beast master with his animal companion, and the hunter (who should probably be called a slayer) who focuses on hunting a favored enemy.

Rogue

Like the fighter, the 5e rogue gets a lot of attention and has three paths to walk: the thief (no explanation needed), the assassin (first edition fans rejoice), and the arcane trickster who is essentially a rogue/mage.

Sorcerer

Earlier in the 5e playtest the sorcerer has a vastly different and new approach to a spellcaster (as was the warlock), but fans shouted that idea down and the final product is fairly the same as it was in 3.5 or pathfinder. The sorcerer has two possible bloodlines: draconic and the much-loved wild magic. My beloved 3.5’s attempt at the wild mage in Complete Arcane was a joke, but the 5e wild mage is more akin to its 2e roots, complete with wild surge chart.

Warlock

The warlock is once again a base class (one thing 4e did right). The warlock has invocations, as well as spell slots. The warlock derives their power from three possible sources: fiends, fey, and great old ones (yup, Cthulhu and his homeboys).

Wizard

Finally, everybody’s favorite blaster caster, the wizard. Like the cleric, the wiz doesn’t see much of a change. At creation the wizard must choose one of the eight schools to specialize in, but he isn’t barred from other schools as we was in the past, he’s just better at one school.

All in all, the 5e player’s handbook gives you 12 base classes (the most of any PHB in the game’s forty year history) that after archetypes is actually 40 (42 if you allow evil characters) classes. That is pretty cool. Sure we lost prestige classes (for now), but can play a lot of those role more quickly. I am especially impressed with the fighters, monks, paladins, and rogues.

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Magic the Gathering: Deck Building Guide

Posted in Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by boccobsblog

Recently I have been playing a lot of Magic. While the last few sets have been pretty uninspiring, I’ve been playing with students at the college where I teach and their enthusiasm rekindled my passion for the game. Today I gave a presentation on basic deck building to the students in the game club and I thought I would post my notes for anyone interested in improving their magic game.

Choose a theme. [optional] (Examples: Merfolk, Knights, Goblins, Clerics, Fairies, etc.)

Rationale: A theme helps solidify a deck’s concept. Also, many themes share spells and artifacts that make strategy and card choice easier.

1.)   Choose a deck concept.

While this may sound like choosing a theme, it is much different. While a theme might be knights, or giants, a concept is how your deck will function mechanically. Do you want a lot of fast creatures (aggro)? Do you want to run the table and affect your enemies with powerful spells (control)? Do you want a mixture of the two (aggro-control)? Do you have a trick in mind or one you found on the net (combo)? Common deck concepts are weenie (a swarm of low casting cost creatures), burn (lots of spell damage), discard, and stomp (big creatures).

2.)   Decide on a win condition. How do you intend to win the game? Do you want to do creature damage, spell damage; do you intend to ‘deck’ your opponents? Maybe you want to use poison?

3.)   Choose cards that support your chosen win condition. For example: If you intend to do fast creature damage, choose spells that will remove roadblocks on your path to victory. Make your creatures unblockable, give  them flying, remove blockers, etc.

4.)   Plan for everything. Ok, not possible, but did you cover the most common threats? Do you have a way to deal with: flying, enchants, artifacts, burn, creature damage?

5.)   Never, ever, ever, go over 60 cards ( or 40 in a tournament) in your deck.

Rationale: This one is simple statistics: each card you add to your deck over 60 makes it that much more unlikely that you’ll pull the card you need. Wouldn’t you rather have a 1 in 60 chance of pulling your needed card than a 1 in 70?

6.)   Understand the statistics in the game and make them work for you. If you need a certain card to make your combo work, place four in your deck. This takes you from a 1 in 60 chance of pulling that card to a 1 in 15. Simple enough. Put cards in your deck that will affect the chances of pulling your needed cards. Cards that allow you to search for a certain card, spells that allow you to draw more cards, cards with the cycle ability; all of these tactics will greatly improve your odds of pulling the cards you need. Don’t leave it to chance, take control.

7.)   Learn the ‘rule of nine’. You truly only need nine cards to create a magic deck.

Rationale: By only using 24 lands and nine playsets (four copies of a card) your deck will be focused and honed. By choosing only nine cards that support your win condition your deck will be a dangerous weapon whose strategy comes together quickly, rather than a random collection of 60+ cards with ‘neat effects’, or ‘cool art’. Many players find this approach too restrictive, but if you need evidence of its effectiveness, google any number of pro decks and you’ll see the RoN at work. And remember, use the RoN as a starting point, but don’t be a slave to it.

8.)   Learn the mana curve. You want the casting costs of your deck to form a bell curve. Create your deck in such a way that you are using all your mana each round and playing spells each turn. Be sure and put several (about 1/3 of your deck) 1 and 2 casting cost cards in your deck so that statistically you will be sure to draw a ‘one drop’ spell on your first turn. Sure, that 8-casting-cost creature is awesome, but while you wait 10 – 12 turns to cast him, your opponent has already wiped the floor with your corpse by dropping lower cost creatures every turn and needled you to death. examples of mana curve

9.)   Learn how much mana your deck needs. In multi-color decks, you will need to add the mana symbols up and place them in a ratio, simplify the ratio, and that will tell you how much mana you need. Until you’re comfortable doing it yourself, sites like: http://www.onlinewebpage.com/simplelandcalc/ can help you compute how much mana your deck needs. (note: the average 60-card deck needs about 24 mana)

Printable handout of the article: MtG_Deck_Building_Tips

Good luck!

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