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Cars 3

I actually saw Cars 3 in June (and in theatres) but forgot to blog about it till now. It’s way down in my priority list because it wasn’t something I wanted to see, but something I took the kids too (I’m not sure they really wanted to see it either).

I was looking for a kids movie to watch in theatres and this was the best option. The boys like Lightning McQueen, and even though this was the third installment, it didn’t seem to get the Finding Dory treatment and get older and scarier. It was still rated G and from other reviews it seemed fairly safe. Of course, shortly into the movie, McQueen has a huge crash and freaked out the kids for the rest of the time.

Overall, the movie gets a 3 out of 5 stars from me. Being a Pixar movie, it is expected that adults will find it interesting, and the movie didn’t feel dumbed down; although it wasn’t particularly exciting or a strong story (I may have missed a lot of context as I didn’t watch the first two movies). There was another strong female heroine which, while positive, is getting a little overplayed. In turn, the male protagonists are now goofballs.

Android Games 38

Card Thief is the “sequel” to Card Crawl. It’s a sequel in the sense that the art style is almost completely the same, but the gameplay is similar, but the story is a bit different. In this one, you play a thief and you have to solve consecutive 9×9 puzzles to get as much loot as possible (i.e., solitaire game). Again you have to play through an entire deck of cards, and ultimately the game is about optimizing the order of the cards in your deck and on the play field for the most points. In isolation, this game and its story makes it more interesting than your generic puzzle game, but it’s not compelling enough for repeat playback.

I bought Mini Metro on a whim as it was on sale ($1.29). This puzzle game is pretty abstract and really they could have made it about anything. They chose to make it about linking a city via subway lines. I like the design as it is minimalistic and the gameplay is pretty fun in the short time that I’ve played. The touch controls are pretty finicky once the play area gets complicated (it’s easy to move the wrong line, so I need to pause before making changes) and the difficulty seems to ramp up pretty quickly. Decent investment for the price.

June, 2017

Well the last blog I made was the recap for May, and now it is June. I guess I didn’t blog at all in June.

It wasn’t all that busy, but I didn’t do anything noteworthy like travel though (so no chance to watch movies or anything). I did play some Hearthstone so is it surprising that I didn’t blog about it this month? Maybe I got stuck on a boss and couldn’t blog my progress? Nah, it was because I wasn’t playing PvE at all. Blizzard changed its rules and you can now finish quests against “friends” so I basically spent time to complete all my quests. I’m glad there’s a new way to accumulate gold but it’s still very difficult to get Epics and Legendaries.

June saw the wrap up of existing extra curricular programs and the school year. We started transitioning to summer schedule and new programs. My mom was in Vancouver for a family reunion for two weeks and we started skating again (once summer started??). We also started planning for a couple of vacations in the summer and later this year.

There was a lot of rain in June, which was unexpected and not normal. Lots of summer thunderstorms and just general overcast and cloudy weather. The temperature was warm enough for shorts for a couple of days, but it was back to long sleeves and long pants by the end of the month!

May 2017

May finished really quickly. That means that Katana is almost 3 months old! She can now “chat” with us and turn her head to look around at all sorts of interesting things. Still sleeps a lot though. May ending means that June is on us, which means summer vacation is only one month away! Where the school year go?

I traveled down to Mountain View this month for work, although it wasn’t directly for work as I went to Google I/O instead. I’ve tried to get tickets for a few years but this year I was finally picked! It was interesting to visit and hear about all the new Google stuff that’s released this year. If I didn’t go to Google I/O, I would have gone to Korea instead, but fortunately they happened on the same week so I didn’t have to travel for half the month.

California was hot the last day I was there (30°C) and so was Toronto, but the rest of the month was mostly rain. The trees have budded and most are full with leaves, yet the rain keeps on coming. The Toronto Islands and some parts inland are flooding due to the accumulation of water – I don’t think you’re allowed to go to Centre Island until July at the earliest!

While we didn’t get a lot of time to go out and walk around in the neighborhood after dinner, we’ve started doing more outdoor activities and packing the weekend. This month we went to Wonderland for the first time this year, Doors Open, and the York Region Police picnic.

Hearthstone Heroic: Chromaggus

After a few easy battles, Chromaggus took awhile longer. He has a solid dragon-based deck, but that in itself is not OP. He also starts with 60 health, which is a bit unfair, but there seems to be a bug where he always plays Alexstrasza when you are below 15 and actually heals you! What’s unfair is that every turn he adds a card into your hand that benefits him, either his spells/minions cost 3 less, or heals him for 6, or deals you 3 damage, or gives him double of each card he draws. These cards take 3 mana to get rid of so in essence you are always 3 mana behind against a strong deck.

It took me many battles (~50) but I finally beat him with a mill deck. It is by no means better than Chromaggus so it requires some luck to play into the right conditions to win. Here’s the decklist:

  • Earthen Scales
  • Jade Idol
  • 2x Mistress of Mixtures
  • 2x Naturalize
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Stubborn Gastropod
  • 2x Youthful Brewmaster
  • Brann Bronzebeard
  • 2x Coldlight Oracle
  • 2x Dancing Swords
  • 2x Deathlord
  • 2x Emperor Cobra
  • 2x Feral Rage
  • 2x Goblin Sapper
  • 2x Grove Tender
  • 2x Poison Seeds
  • Deathwing

In the early game, play the Zombie Chows, Mistresses, and Gastropods to take out the low level minions. Then start milling. Earthen Scales (with Goblin Sapper) and the Feral Rages are to heal 25 (plus whatever you get from Alex). Poison Seeds and Deathwing are the only board clears, and I found I needed all of them because I couldn’t catch up to the strong dragon board. The timing of Deathwing is also important as it allows you to get rid of all of his hero power cards in one go. In my winning game, I got it at the end (he was in fatigue) and I had been holding several double/healing cards since his hand was stuck at 10 cards – it ended up killing Alex and Ysera (Onyxia was done in by poison seeds). Finally, the one Jade Idol is to help you grow your deck and prevent milling yourself.

If you can survive his deck, then it’s an easy win!

Passengers

I never heard about the movie Passengers until I saw people watching it over a few flights. It turns out that I enjoyed this movie a lot.

The main reason is because it is a classic sci-fi movie. It happens in the near future, where humans have reliable space travel and colonization. A ship with over 5000 colonists and crew are travelling 120 years in a sub-light ship to a new world. The trip is mostly on auto-pilot and everyone is in hibernation. Except, an asteroid field causes one hibernation unit to fail and awaken its inhabitant. This happens about a quarter of the way into the trip so he’s destined to not just live out his life and die of old age on the ship, but to do so alone.

The movie portrays him as he goes through a variety of stages – from denial to despair, to making the most of it, to finally trying to decide whether he should forcibly wake up another traveler (spoiler: he does!). Then the cycle happens again with the newly awaken.

I think the idea is fascinating – to have an entire self-functioning and renewable spaceship at your disposal, at the cost of being alone. I’m glad that the movie spends ample time exploring this idea and developing the characters through that. It is a thought starter and the main reason why I enjoyed this movie.

There are also some external challenges that move the movie along. I wasn’t a big fan but it’s necessary for the movie – it doesn’t detract from it at least. However, I think this movie does what scifi does best – creates an interesting and plausible situation in the future and examine how it would be handled. Because of this, I give it a 4 out of 5.

Hearthstone Heroic: Vaelastrasz the Corrupt

This was another fun matchup that I beat without much difficulty. In this battle, you’re basically fighting against a super-mill deck, except the boss has an advantage where his mana ramps up at double your pace. He makes you draw 4 cards per round, so you need to dump as many cards out of your hand as possible. This made combo Rogue a natural opponent. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Backstab
  • 2x Counterfeit Coin
  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Target Dummy
  • 2x Arcane Anomaly
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Defias Ringleader
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Jade Shuriken
  • 2x Jade Swarmer
  • 2x Sap
  • Beneath the Grounds
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Vanish
  • Clockwork Giant

I beat him in my first or second attempt, so the deck is not optimized at all!

Ghostbusters

Although I always knew of it, I never watched Ghostbusters when I was a child. I recognize a couple of the memorable images (the station wagon, suit, green ghost guy) but don’t know the story. I guess I might have watched some Ghostbusters cartoons on TV at some point. But essentially watching the new Ghostbusters was a new franchise to me.

There was a couple of things to like about it; it had style and was unique with the gender reversed roles. The comedy had some hits and some misses but for some reason, the fact that it didn’t take itself seriously and be an action movie bothered me. Also, even though this movie calls for a high level of suspension of disbelief, I just can’t get past the how they “fought” an army of ghosts. Bring non-corporeal, the ghosts have a huge advantage. Instead, they were done in by some positive-ion lassos. Seriously??

The movie had a lot of fun and funny parts, but it just didn’t gel together into a good movie for me. Two out of five stars.

Hearthstone Heroic: Razorgore the Untamed

This boss was fun and not like the previous one that took me many months. Razorgore the Untamed has a bunch of 0/3 eggs and a free hero power that gives every egg one more health while spawning a new egg. If any egg reaches 5 health, it’ll turn into a 7/7 minion. The key to this match is not let those egg hatch!

This match was easy due to the poisonous mechanic, which meant that I could kill any egg with a single hit. The swap health/attack mechanic is also useful. I made two different decks for this, both with poisonous minions. The first was a Paladin deck with silver hand synergy, and the second was a Mill Rogue. I ended up playing the Mill Rogue because I never really play that hero. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Crazed Alchemist
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Sap
  • 2x Stubborn Gastropod
  • 2x Coldlight Oracle
  • 2x Emperor Cobra
  • 2x Giant Wasp
  • 2x Kooky Chemist
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Dark Iron Skulker
  • 2x Shadowcaster
  • 2x Vanish

I beat the boss with this deck on the first couple of tries. I didn’t really have to hit face much, and even used some of the poisonous minions on the larger enemy minions. I didn’t mill Razorgore to death, but he did use up his entire deck by the end of the match. I hope more bosses are like this – strong, but beatable without luck.

Hearthstone Heroic: Rend Blackhand

I was stuck on this heroic battle for many months before finally beating him recently. It took so long, that Blizzard released three expansions during that time (OiNK, MSG, JtU)! I found this challenging because the opponent deck was well balanced. He had a hero power that pumped out several decent (2 or 3 2/2) or one strong (5/4 or 8/8) minion per turn. He played a dragon deck that had strong synergies, utilizing dragon cards from multiple classes. And he also had strong direct damage spells.

I tried a variety of approaches – control warrior, mill rogue, beast/taunt druid, patron – but didn’t make any headway. I had the modest success with a modified freeze mage that could last 10+ turns through AOE board clears (spells, exploding sheep, abominations). The win condition in that deck was Alexstrasza, but unfortunately Rend has a kill legendary card. I tried to counter that with the Duplicate mage secret, but I never got to a point where I pulled off the combo successfully.

Finally I got fed up and looked on the Internet to see how others were approaching this battle. There seemed to be 2 approaches. The first was to use Hunter’s exploding trap to clear the early board, and then go face. I didn’t see how this deck would be successful since Rend would just through up more taunts and strong minions. The second was to use Deathlord and then double his health. I thought this might be easier, so tried the deck out.

After about 20 tries, I finally got into the right sequence to win the battle. Here’s my decklist:

  • 2x Binding Heal
  • 2x Inner Fire
  • 2x Light of the Naaru
  • 2x Mistress of Mixtures
  • 2x Northshire Cleric
  • 2x Power Word: Glory
  • 2x Power Word: Shield
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Divine Spirit
  • 2x Lightwell
  • 2x Deathlord
  • 2x Shadow Word: Death
  • Velen’s Chosen
  • Cyclopian Horror
  • 2x Excavated Evil
  • 2x Holy Nova
  • Entomb

The key to this deck is to play the taunts around turn 5 or 6 so that you can play at least one Divine Spirit (and hopefully Power Word: Shield or Inner Fire). In order to be successful, you have to clear/trade the first wave so Zombie Chow, Mistress of Mixtures and Cleric are very important.

In my winning game, I ended up beefing up my Cyclopian Horror with 2x Divine Spirit, Velen’s Chosen and an Inner Fire – so he was around a 10/40. At the same time, I had a Light of the Naaru going so it was an easy win once I was able to snowball the Horror.

I think I was lucky and the battle is still severely weighted towards the boss. But at least now I can move on to the next challenge!