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Monster Hunt

On my outgoing AC flight to SFO, the headphone jack on my seat was broken (I think someone snapped their plug off in the jack) so I was kind of stuck in terms of what entertainment to keep me occupied (the power outlet was also broken but forunately I brought my e-reader and iPod). Since I couldn’t get any sound, I ended up watching a Chinese movie with subtitles.

Monster Hunt is a strange movie, but it was a huge hit in China. It’s a comedic period piece set in the Kung Fu days but the interesting thing is that it is a real-time mix of CG and actors (all the monsters are CG). The story is that humans defeated monsters long ago and now the monsters have to wear human skins so they don’t get caught. Of course, there is a coup in the monster world and the old dynasty’s scion is about to be born or killed. So a band of unlikely partners have to protect him while the villains try and kill him.

The movie has the usual over-the-top Kung Fu fighting, lame Chinese romance/comedy and a unlikely mom storyline. It’s definitely not going to win any awards but the CG didn’t hamper the movie and it is kind of fun to watch. I’d give it three out of five stars.

Hearthstone Heroic: Sapphiron

Sapphiron was another duel where I couldn’t think of a good counter for his hero power. His heroic power basically clears your board every turn, while he builds up his board with minions that can’t be affected by spells and hero powers. He also has 2 spells that deal 8 damage to your hero each, so you really need to keep your health up.

Initially I started with a control warrior deck, but I didn’t get very far. I would do damage with weapons and charge minions, but I couldn’t do enough damage to Sapphiron and to his minions. I ended up switching to a Dreadsteed deck which was a winning and fun strategy. Here’s my deck:

  • Sacrifical Pact x 2
  • Corruption x 2
  • Mortal Coil x 2
  • Dark Bomb x 2
  • Demonfire
  • Explosive Sheep x 2
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Demonwrath x 2
  • Drain Life x 2
  • Shadow Bolt x2
  • Wolfrider x 2
  • Hellfire x 2
  • Baron Rivendare
  • Dreadsteed x 2
  • Antique Healbot
  • Siphon Soul
  • Reckless Rocketeer
  • Majordomo Executus

The key to this deck was to summon a Dreadsteed on turn 4. The rest of my cards were damage spells to destroy minions or to hit the hero. Often times my Dreadsteed died 3 times in a single turn (Sapphiron hero power, attack, AOE)! In my winning game, I pulled off the Baron Rivendare + Sacrifical Pact combo to have four Dreadsteeds on the board at one time (could have had more if I was able to attack something). I also won as Ragnaros for fun. Dreadsteed is a fun deck but the animation gets a bit boring after watching them die 50 times in a game.

January 2016

This winter was supposed to be light because of El Niño and January was half like that. There was very little snow, and when it did snow, it was followed by a day of warm temperatures and the accumulation melted away. One reason for the lack of snow might be El Niño, but another reason might be because the temperatures were fairly chilly (although not too chilly, it was typically above -10°C). Apollo had to wear snow pants to school everyday, but there wasn’t a lot of snow to play with (and not enough to build a snowman or go tobogganing).

There was one week where Apollo didn’t have to wear snow pants, and that was when we spent a week in Nevada/Arizona visiting Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon (although the Grand Canyon was cold enough for snow pants). The trip was alright, but not noteworthy. Otherwise, this month was a typical winter month where we tried to find indoor activities for the kids since they couldn’t go outside to play.

Apollo started skating this month. He didn’t attend classes but rather just hung onto our arms. He doesn’t have a lot of stamina to skate a long time, but is able to pick it up fairly quickly using us and pylons. He can stand and shuffle a few steps by himself, which helps our backs since we don’t have to hold on to him all the time. It’s going to take awhile before his cruising around the rink though.

I played a couple of games this month, mostly spending my time on Star Trek Timelines. It’s not a great game, but it appeals to the OCD collector in me.

Hearthstone Heroic: Thaddius

Thaddius’ hero power swaps every minion’s health and attack, which is fairly innocuous for a heroic hero power. He also starts with Stalagg and Feugen on turn 2, which actually isn’t much of a problem. I aggressively mulligan’d for Equality in my Paladin deck and they were defeated easily (they don’t summon Thaddius again). After that it’s a normal duel. Here’s my deck:

  • Humility x 2
  • Goldshire Footman
  • Equality x 2
  • Holy Light x 2
  • Annoy-o-Tron
  • Explosive Sheep
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Shielded Minibot x 2
  • Unstable Ghoul x 2
  • Muster for Battle
  • Gnomeregan Infantry
  • Consecration x 2
  • Hammer of Wrath x 2
  • Piloted Shredder x 2
  • Bolvar Fordragon
  • Feugen
  • Sludge Belcher x 2
  • Stalagg
  • Avenging Wrath
  • Emperor Thaurissan

In my winning game, I had the Emperor Thaurissan out from Turn 6 for maybe 5 turns, a 2 mana 14/7 Bolvar Fordragon in my hand, and my own Stalagg and Feugen. Obviously it was a very easy win once I was able to control the board.

Hearthstone Heroic: Gluth

While it didn’t take me long to beat Gluth (< 5 tries), I didn’t have a good strategy so I think I was a bit lucky. His hero power is to change all of your minion’s health to be 1, and at the same time he has some decent minions including Unstable Ghouls that will wipe out your board. He also has a weapon which is 3/5 but gains +2 for each deathrattle death.

Initially I thought this would be a RNG battle and I aggressively mulligan’d for Acidic Swamp Ooze, although it turns out that in my winning game, he didn’t get his weapon until later (and it didn’t matter). I assumed that my minions wouldn’t stay around for more than one round so I included cheap minions with the highest attack. Here’s my Mage deck:

  • Flamecannon x 2
  • Frostbolt x 2
  • Acidic Swamp Ooze x 2
  • Annoy-o-Tron
  • Forgotten Torch x 2
  • Ice Barrier x 2
  • Emperor Cobra x 2
  • Ice Rager x 2
  • Jungle Panther x 2
  • Magma Rager x 2
  • Scarlet Crusader x 2
  • Wolfrider x 2
  • Polymorph
  • Evil Heckler x 2
  • Piloted Shredder x 2
  • Blizzard
  • Flamestrike

In my winning game, I lucked out by getting Nat Pagle out of my Piloted Shredder, so I was able to top deck faster than Gluth. In a previous game I was one draw away from winning (needed any direct damage > 2). Looking back, I still think this duel is up to RNG and I can’t think of a deck which would give me an advantage.

Las Vegas & Grand Canyon

We didn’t go travelling over Christmas but we made a trip in January to make up for it. Typically people try to avoid the cold so we did something similar and headed out to Las Vegas. We also decided to loop out to the Grand Canyon as well while we were there, which unfortunately was just as cold (if not more) than Toronto.

Even though the Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, I was a bit skeptical that it would live up to its reputation – I was not impressed looking at the photos of it. However, I thought it might be one of those things that you had to witness in person to have your breath taken away. Now, after visiting it, I can conclusively say that it was underwhelming (we went for both sunset and sunrise). Part of it might be because it was cold, but it just felt like you were standing in front of a picture. It might be better if you were able to hike down into the canyon, but that was impossible in the winter (or with kids). We rented a car and drove around the majority of the South Rim so it was not like we just went to a bad lookout point.

We also spent some time in Las Vegas, and while I’ve seen a lot of kids there (I had a long stopover there in Nov 2014), there isn’t actually too much that kids can do. Basically it’s like they spent the entire time running around a large mall and/or eating. We ended up seeing one show which was suitable for young kids (Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre) and gorged on a couple of buffets. The pools were closed for the season, otherwise they might have had some fun there.

Lastly we made a side trip out to Hoover Dam. I thought this would be cool, because it was man-made and huge. It’s kind of strange to visit though, because unless you take one of the tours, you’re basically standing on the dam and you can’t see much. I did find out how to get on the bridge where the highway is located, and you have a nice view down (assuming you can see over the handrail).

Hearthstone Heroic: Grobbulus

Grobbulus was unlike the previous few heroes because it was not quickly evident what sort of deck I should use to defeat him. His hero power is to deal 2 dmg to all enemies, and a 2/2 slime is summoned for each enemy that was killed. Luckily for us, he always uses his hero ability at the beginning of the turn; otherwise he would be a lot tougher to defeat.

I eventually settled on a Grim Patron deck and it was pretty fun after you get the combo going. Here’s my deck:

  • Execute x 2
  • Whirlwind x 2
  • Cleave x 2
  • Revenge x 2
  • Armorsmith x 2
  • Unstalbe Ghoul x 2
  • Bash x 2
  • Earthen Ring Farseer
  • Frothing Berserker x 2
  • Death’s Bite x 2
  • Axe Flinger x 2
  • Maiden of the Lake x 2
  • Mogu’shan Warden x 2
  • Tournament Medic
  • Antique Healbot x 2
  • Grim Patron x 2

In my winning game, I played a Patron at turn 5 and another at turn 7. Along with an Armorsmith, it was pretty easy to win after that. Looking at my deck now, there are a lot of cards that were not necessary/helpful, but I didn’t play enough times to optimize it.

I’m sure these heroic heroes were much tougher after Naxxaramas came out, but the power creep makes it much more doable now.

Android Games 28

I bought Framed for ~$1 on a year end sale (not sure if it was actually discounted) even though I hadn’t heard about it until I browsed through the games. What sold me was the fact that it was a puzzle game, with a story and a novel mechanic. The story is told in comic book style but the frames are out of order. Your mission is to re-arrange the frames so that the protagonist is able to complete their mission. It’s pretty fun and light, but there is no replay value once you finish the short story.

I was happy to see that there was a new licensed Star Trek game full of IAP purchases called Star Trek Timelines. That’s only half sarcastic because any attempt would be better than Trexels. The graphics are surely better in this one, but the gameplay is certainly not any better. You get lots of crew but you have to level them up through various means, in this respect it is similar to Superstar SMTOWN. It should be very obvious that this game has everything horrible about an IAP game. The gameplay is shallow and lacking skill (it is slightly strategic in that you have to pick the right crew for the missions), you have to check back every few hours, and you must have internet access to play. The Star Trek license will only keep playing for a little while – I think I will be tired of it quite soon.

Hearthstone Heroic: Patchwerk

Patchwerk has no deck or minions and a 4 dmg windfury, respawning weapon. It seemed obvious to use a freeze deck against him. Here’s my deck:

  • Ice Lance x 2
  • Mirror Image x 2
  • Bloodsail Corsair
  • Tournament Attendee x 2
  • Frostbolt x 2
  • Acidic Swamp Ooze x2
  • Annoy-o-tron
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Snowchugger x 2
  • Duplicate x 2
  • Forgotten Torch
  • Ice Barrier x 2
  • Ice Block
  • Arcane Nullifier X-21 x 2
  • Armored Warhorse x 2
  • Water Elemental x 2
  • Sludge Belcher x 2

I beat him on my first try, although I got a great draw. First turn was coin+Acidic Swamp Ooze (although that just prevent his use of weapon for one turn). Second turn: Snowchugger. Third turn: Second Snowchugger (+ taunt). Fourth turn: Water Elemental. Fifth turn: Duplicate, which ended up getting triggered on a Snowchugger. I was able to freeze him out for the entire match and slowly picked him off with small minions. Maybe I was just lucky, but that’s another hero down!

Heathstone Heroic: The Four Horsemen

Once I saw The Four Horsemen’s hero power (draw two cards), I used my Gothik deck to see how the duel would turn out. I didn’t win, but did fairly well after Naturalizing one of the horsemen. I thought the main strategy would be the same (mill out opponent) but needed to tweak some of the cards as they didn’t apply (like Recombobulator for some Weapon destruction cards).

After playing a couple of times, I realized that wouldn’t work even though it was fun to Poison Seeds all the horsemen (still hitting you for 3 x 2 hp a turn though). I tried a Paladin deck next, with lots of taunts and jousts (no minions in opponent deck). Here’s my unrefined decklist:

  • Humility x 2 (I read this wrong and thought it changed health to 1hp)
  • Equality x 2
  • Holy Light x 2
  • Acidic Swamp Ooze x 2
  • Annoy-o-Tron
  • Shielded Minibot x 2
  • Unstable Ghoul x 2
  • Divine Favor
  • Muster for Battle
  • Deathlord x 2
  • Consecration x 2
  • Arcane Nullifier X-21 x 2
  • Armored Warhorse x 2
  • Kezan Mystic
  • Bolvar Fordragon
  • Sludge Belcher x 2
  • Tuskarr Jouster
  • Master Jouster
  • Guardian of Kings

This battle was pretty easy, kind of like a duel against an expert computer (with a crippled deck). I ended up slowly winning with a lot of 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits since my beefier minions kept getting killed by spells.