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This week’s Hearthstone Tavern Brawl is “Miniature Warfare” which means that all minions are 1/1 and cost only 1 mana. This isn’t the first time this brawl has occurred, but I put together a deck to satisfy some quests and it turned out to be pretty fun (and decently successful). Here’s the Shaman deck list:

  • Runic Egg
  • Spirit Claws
  • Tentacle of N’Zoth
  • Loot Hoarder
  • Maelstrom Portal x 2
  • Unstable Ghoul x 2
  • Hex
  • Ironbeak Owl
  • Lightning Storm x 2
  • Mana Tide Totem
  • Cult Master
  • Elise Starseeker
  • Bloodlust
  • Loatheb
  • Prince Malchezaar
  • Psych-o-Tron
  • Sludge Belcher
  • Stormpike Commando x 2
  • Illidan Stormrage
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Stormwind Champion
  • Chromaggus
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Alexstrasza
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I think this deck works because it has a little bit of everything. Card draw, defense (AOE, Loatheb, taunts, removals like Hex and Ironbeak, and one-offs like Stormpike Commando and Sylvanas), snowballing win conditions (Illidan, Bloodlust), and lots of high value cards (legendaries + Prince Malchezaar).

Too bad I have to get rid of this deck and build a Warrior+Battlecry deck for some new quests.

I’ve had my eye on Layton Brothers Mystery Room for a long time because I enjoyed playing Professor Layton in the past. However, I stayed away from this game for a couple of reasons: 1) It was more of a detective game á la Phoenix Wright then a puzzle game and 2) It was a IAP game. I ended up trying it now because it was a game that didn’t require internet connection so I could play it on the plane. I played it on one of my flights the last few months and it basically lived up to what I thought. The gameplay was in Japanese (with requisite English errors), linear and not fun. In order to pass the mission, you have to do things in a certain order, or find some specific thing, which I find limiting and infuriating. Not surprisingly, I didn’t buy any of the IAP to unlock missions after the first 3 (one of which was a tutorial).

I came across Card Crawl while browsing Google Play and it is surprisingly good! It’s a solitaire card game where you attempt to exhaust the deck of your opponent. The rules are pretty straightforward but it involves some thinking to complete the game. If you’re good, you can get a high(er) score and compete against others on the leaderboard. The free part of the game seems to be good enough for casual play and the only criticism I have is that the UI is slow/laggy (too many loading screens).

  • They Promised Us Jet Packs. They Promised the Bosses Profit.
    A quick look at how Google X operates – did you know they get bonuses for purposely failing a project? In a way, it makes sense…

    The idea of celebrating failure is a Silicon Valley cliché, but Mr. Teller talks about it in the practical terms of a management consultant. Say you have a team of 20 people working on a project that is not going anywhere, he said in a recent interview. In a year those 20 people will be 30 people. The company has to pay their salaries and health insurance, and the team will inevitably hire a few consultants. Worse, they will have wasted a year.

    How much money could the company save if you could get them to cut bait a year earlier?

  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    After hearing about this approach, I want to use it when I watch videos (is there a button that I can do toggle this on YouTube yet?). Although one area where this wouldn’t work is if you’re watching music videos (is almost half of the videos that I would watch).

    In the 1960s, a blind psychologist named Emerson Foulke began experimenting with this technique to accelerate speech. A professor at the University of Louisville, Foulke was frustrated with the slowness of recorded books for the blind, so he tried speeding them up. The sampling method proved surprisingly effective. In Foulke’s experiments, speech could be accelerated to 250-275 wpm without affecting people’s scores on a listening comprehension test.

    These limits were suspiciously close to the average college reading rate. Foulke suspected that beyond 300 wpm, deeper processes in the brain were getting overloaded. Experiments showed that at 300-400 wpm, individual words were still clear enough to understand; except at that rate, many listeners couldn’t keep up with rapid stream of words, likely because their short-term memories were overtaxed.

  • Everything we love to eat is a scam
    On the one hand, I suspect that the findings in this article are true (I’ve experienced a wide range of quality in salmon sushi), but as an avid food eater (which I hope you are too), it really sucks.

    Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

    Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

  • The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go
    This Pokemon Go article is about how it is a great freemium game and some reasons why it is so addictive. Of course, now we have confirmation that it is a fad and doesn’t have dominant staying power.

    In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.

  • How Chromebooks Are About to Totally Transform Laptop Design
    Just because Chromebooks run Android apps, doesn’t make it that attractive to me – I guess I’m not bought into the hype yet and I have a lot of use cases which seem like they will need local storage. Maybe if I wasn’t very OCD about my data I could live with one. In any case, here is a short history of the Chromebook and where we are right now.

    “The first people who bought Chromebooks were people who were computer folks,” he says. “They looked at the Chromebook and said, ‘This is not a real computer, it doesn’t have very many settings!’” They hated that you couldn’t find your files, or change the time setting. But why in the world, Sengupta argues, would any rational person want to manually change the time on their computer? It should just know. “The amount of work it took to eliminate all the settings,” he says, “so that you didn’t have to care and feed for your computer, was the thing that really made it successful.”

Mystic Miracles is a clone of the board game 7 Wonders. It has the same mechanics but all the names are different. I have been looking for a 7 Wonders game to play on my phone for awhile – there were a couple of amateur projects but they didn’t get very far, and I stumbled this one while following links from another game (I think it was Dominion). Now that I’ve found this, I 1) forgot the rules and had to learn them again, and 2) don’t find the game very fun any more. However, if you are looking for a good port of 7 Wonders, this is very good (not sure about the AI since I’m not a good player).

Continent Conquest is a game that plays like Civilization or Age of Empires, but doesn’t look nearly as pretty. I played it through a little but didn’t end up finishing the tutorial. There’s nothing really wrong with this game, just that I don’t have the patience to invest in a game like this on mobile when there are other games or faster games to play.

While I was never a fan of Pokemon, I had to try playing Pokemon Go because it is the latest craze. On the surface, this game has plenty of stuff that will appeal to me: the location-based gameplay is interesting (and was the reason I tried out Ingress previously), AR is pretty cool, the UI is pretty slick, and I’m a sucker for collecting/levelling games. Plus, everyone who has a smartphone is playing it so why wouldn’t it be good?

Strangely, I played for a bit and it’s just not entertaining to me. The lack of interest/fandom in the Pokemon franchise really kills it for me (especially the levelling part – I’d much rather play a franchise I’m interested in, like Star Trek). I am not out enough to go to Poke-stops or Gyms (even though there are 2 that are 1 minute from my house), and it’s difficult to hunt Pokemon with two little kids on the loose. Without walking around to catch Pokemon, the game is actually incredibly shallow (I just catch Drowzees sitting at home).

I suspect that a lot of people that play will drop it in a few weeks and this will be just another fad like Miitomo and Clash Royale of recent history.

After playing Star Trek Timelines for a little bit, it became apparent that levelling (maxing) out characters would be a good approach. By maxing your characters, you do better at shuttle missions, which allow you to level your other characters faster. So I proceeded to pick certain characters to max as follows (based on fading recollections):

  • February: Wesley Crusher, Security Chief Tuvok
  • March: Captain Janeway, Commando Crusher, Cretak (stalled at level 80)
  • April: Captain Proton (progressed very slow due to equipment requirements), Rifle Janeway, Miles ‘Smiley’ O’Brien, 1701 Dax, Prisoner ‘Bones’ McCoy
  • May: Fencing Sulu, Sela, Worf (stalled at 90), Reyga, Khan, Mobile Doctor (stalled at 80)
  • June: Khan, Tuvix, Mirror Uhura, Worf (2-star & stalled at 90), Picard (2-star), Garek, Ensign Seska

I guess I want to get to a point where all my characters are max level – I’m not buying premium packs, so I can only get new characters from portal pulls (daily rewards/events), credits (although they give two stars which are easier to level, and I’m throwing out ones that aren’t needed for Cadet Challenges), or events. I’m also not level any 3 star character that is not fully fused. Hopefully I’m over the hump and can level characters faster than I attain them.

I’ve been playing Star Trek Timelines for about 6 months now. That’s a long time for a game which I didn’t find that interesting! I’ve been playing every day for a couple of reasons though, mainly because the game pushes a lot of OCD buttons:

  • It is a game about collecting and opening packs (harkens back to me kid days spending allowance on cards and siimlar to Hearthstone)
  • There’s always stuff to level up; whether it is advancing a character, crafting equipment, or getting a a piece of loot to craft something. Meaning you get lots of mini rewards from your own progress (even now that I have a lot of high level characters, I get “rewards” every day).
  • To play the game efficiently, you need to be organized (i.e., use a spreadsheet), have a plan and prioritize your goals. Once this is done, there is yet another reward where you validate your plan by carrying it out (which is relatively simple since the gamelay is not difficult nor skill-based).
  • There are reasonable, built-in limits so the leveling seems attainable – namely, you can only level each character to level 100.

Lastly, I do like the Star Trek franchise; even if a game had all of the above points, I don’t think it would’ve kept my attention for this long (I think there are similar Star Wars and Marvel games)

I started playing Clash Royale because I thought it would be a quality game (from same developer as Clash of Clans) and that it would be a Hearthstone-lite seeing as it is a card game. While it is polished, I think the card aspect is just a gimmick – cards can be replaced with units and the game would be the same. I never played Clash of Clans but I guess this is a striped down version where you battle within an arena. Strangely, the game is not very addicting and even though there are IAP delay elements, I have no motivation to play it. I guess it’s an OK backburner game if I have spare time and I can’t play any of my other games.

Green The Planet is from a Japanese game company and has no IAP; also, it’s free yay! But after playing it for awhile, I think it’s basically a game where you get to look at a banner ad. The premise is that you have to destroy asteroids/comets using a planet-based canon to collect resources (there are a lot of different types, but they all convert to energy) and greenify the planet. There isn’t a lot of gameplay because you simply press on a spot in space and your cannon will fire. The asteroids travel across the screen in a simple linear fashion so they will run into your canon. After awhile, all you end up doing is pressing the screen and waiting – perfect time to watch the banner ad.

I’ve been closely following Nintendo’s first smartphone “game” Miitomo and I was finally able to download and try it out last week. My interest stemmed from reading the initial description of it. It’s not really a game but a messaging app built around the concept of Miis. I remember creating myself as a Mii about 10 years ago, and they look just as cartoon-y now (although it’s neat you can generate a few versions from a photo). I was quite curious how Nintendo can make this a successful (and profitable) game.

After playing it for awhile, I can see that it may be successful. The target demographic seems to be female and/or young. It drives engagement by providing canned questions that can generate discussion (although in a way, that is also quite limiting to be forced into topics). Monetization is done via standard freemium means – you buy in-game currency which you exchange for clothes that outfit your character. There are a couple of very basic RNG games where you can win some unique clothing items. I can see how this app my appeal to Japanese people, but I don’t think it will be successful in North America (especially the male teen/young adult market).

The app itself also feels unnatural. It’s cross platform, but the UI is completely custom. It feels like a kid created the UI design (which may be on purpose) and feels unfinished (the look and constant appearance of loading indicators are driving me crazy). I hope this aspect improves in the future.

I might leave this app on my phone for awhile, but I’m not sure if it will get prolonged use (I say this about a lot of games and end up playing them for months though).

I have mixed feelings about this battle because it was both hard and easy. It was easy in the sense that Baron Geddon was not overpowered and cheap – you could play around it. But it was hard because you had to play strategically in order to win. There were 4 things working against you:

  1. He had 100 hp (50 health, 50 armor) compared to your 30.
  2. If you don’t use up all your mana each turn, then he will do 10 damage to you
  3. He summoned reasonable but many minions, so you needed board presence and to trade effectively
  4. He has a spell which will do 10 damage to all your minions and your hero if the targeted minion doesn’t die before his next turn. The spell is always on your own minion. Oh, and he has more than 2 copies in his deck.

The last one was most annoying because sometimes you didn’t have any enemies to trade into, so I based my deck around countering that spell (silences and returning minions to hand). The remainder of the deck was built on cheap cards & drawing cards so that I would have cards to play (and would not take 10 damage). Here’s my Shaman deck:

  • Earth Shock x 2
  • Clockwork Gnome x 2
  • Dust Devil x 2
  • Zombie Chow
  • Ancestral Knowledge x 2
  • Ironbeak Owl x 2
  • Totem Golem x 2
  • Vitality Totem
  • Whirling Zap-o-matic x 2
  • Youthful Brewmaster x 2
  • Feral Spirit
  • Hex
  • Lightning Storm
  • Harvest Golem x 2
  • Mana Tide Totem
  • Ancient Brewmaster x 2
  • Spellbreaker x 2
  • Bloodlust
  • Chromaggus

I had to play a couple of games (~10?) before I won, but it was challenging and fun. In my winning game, I had to do some weird stuff: I had to use Bloodlust to clear his board, had to Hex my own minion to prevent my board from being cleared, and played roulette with my Brewmasters. That eventually allowed me to win because at that point I had board control and was able to do 10+ damage a turn. I had to keep rotating my Brewmasters because the AI would target it with the 10 dmg spell (at 5 attack, it was the most dangerous minion), and because I ended up with too many 0/x totems on the board (although I had Vitality Totem out for a long time, which almost healed me to full health), so I couldn’t do damage fast enough. I had to swap those into my hand for Windfury minions.

The AI also spent a couple of turns doing nothing, which I later found out was because he had 2 Molten Giants in his hand but his health was too high. In the end, I played to fatigue and won a fulfilling match.

This duel was pretty easy because Garr’s hero power basically triggers Grim Patron. The twist is that Garr has minions that you have to kill across different turns otherwise it will do a lot of damage to you. Here’s my Warrior deck:

  • Inner Rage x 2
  • Execute x 2
  • Warbot
  • Zombie Chow x 2
  • Fiery War Axe
  • Battle Rage
  • Slam
  • Armorsmith x 2
  • Crazed Alchemist x 2
  • Cruel Taskmaster x 2
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Bash x 2
  • Acolyte of Pain x 2
  • Deathlord x 2
  • Frothing Berserker x 2
  • Raging Worgen
  • Axe Flinger
  • Grim Patron
  • Shieldmaiden

Grim Patron wasn’t actually needed but the win condition is definitely pumping up Frothing Berserker. In the early game, you need some direct damage and cheap minions to stage out the kills. I also needed both Armorsmiths and both Bashes to get enough health to survive until I won. This matchup is actually fun because it requires strategy to kill the enemy minions at the right time, and the opponent is not overpowered.

I had a lot of trouble with the Dark Iron Arena because I couldn’t think of a good way to tackle this boss. His ability is to summon a (free) 1/1 taunt, but he also starts with 3 extra mana and has a deck that consists only of legendary minions. Basically you have to contend with at least 2 new minions per round (one taunt and one legendary).

My first attempt was with a secret Hunter but I quickly switched away from that. My next try was an Animated Armor Freeze Mage, which had moderate success. I basically had to draw/play Animated Armor on turn 4 and then slowly chip away. I could never do enough damage to win though. Finally I switched over to Rogue (I guess Oil Rogue) because I could reliably remove the taunt with my weapon. Here’s my deck:

  • Cold Blood x 2
  • Deadly Poison x 2
  • Buccaneer x 2
  • Pit Snake x 2
  • Betrayal x 2
  • Blade Flurry x 2
  • Eviscerate x 2
  • Sap x 2
  • Beneath the Grounds
  • Fan of Knives x 2
  • Emperor Cobra x 2
  • Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil x 2
  • Assassinate x 2
  • Antique Healbot x 2
  • Vanish x 2
  • Sprint

It still took many tries (under 15) but I was lucky on my winning game. The AI played Millhouse Manastorm and I was able to play a bunch of cards (Sprint, Beneath the Grounds) and buff my Buccaneer. Then I was lucky that the AI drew 2 Nerubians in a row to give me a strong board presence. I was able to remove board presence with Pit Snake/Emperor Cobra, and had their Tinkmaster Overspark heal my last remaining Nerubian into a 5/5 (which was then buffed by Tinker’s Oil). Alexstrasza healed me for a couple of HP and I was able to achieve lethal with my Oil’d weapon + 2 Deadly Poisons and a Vanish.

When Hearthstone formats were announced, I went ahead and spent all my gold on GvG packs. I’m sure that a lot of people will think that that is a bad idea, but I’m a collector so I wanted to roll the RNG dice and get as many epic and legendary cards as I could using gold. I’ve done that for a few weeks and TBH, the results are a bit underwhelming. I’ve only opened 1 legendary (Sneed’s) and a 3 Epics (I did fill out my collection a bit more so I have 2 copies of each common and 78% of rares).

Now that Whispers of the Old Gods has been announced, and I’m starting to read about the upcoming cards, it’s becoming very difficult to spend my gold on GvG packs. I will probably just save gold for a month and then buy a bunch of packs from the new expansion.

But this puts TGT in a weird spot. I’m not going to spend gold on it for the next few months (since I’ll concentrate on the new set) and I’m not sure when I’ll get back to it. My stats are actually not that far away from GvG (I have 58% of TGT vs 61% of GvG); mostly because I stopped farming for gold at some point in GvG’s release cycle (before TGT came out) and only played enough to get the monthly card back. Maybe I’ll buy a few more cards for TGT (although it’s going to be deprecated like GvG not too far in the future) when I start getting a lot of repeats in Whispers of the Old Gods packs.

I got stuck on Dark Iron Arena so I skipped over that and tried Emperor Thaurissan first. His hero power is pretty tame, it just does 30 damage to a target of his choosing – i.e., instant death. Lucky for us, his wife is there to prevent him from using his hero power. The tradeoff is that his wife is 3/1 and will attack you every turn (along with whatever other minions the Emperor plays).

My first approach to this deck was to use a face hunter deck to try and do as much damage as quick as possible. I handled the wife with a Crazed Alchemist and Abusive Sergeant if available (thereby turning her into a 1/5). However after playing this a couple of times, it didn’t work out – I typically was only able to get rid of his armor before I died.

Next I switched over to Priest. Along with the Alchemist trick, I could heal her, give her more health, and use Power Word: Glory to offset the damage. Here’s my deck:

  • Circle of Healing
  • Silence x 2
  • Light of the Naaru
  • Power Word: Glory x 2
  • Power Word: Shield x 2
  • Abusive Sergeant
  • Northshire Cleric
  • Divine Spirit x 2
  • Acidic Swamp Ooze x 2
  • Crazed Alchemist x 2
  • Ironbeak Owl x 2
  • Museum Curator x 2
  • Velen’s Chosen x 2
  • Eydis Darkbane
  • Dragonkin Sorcerer x 2
  • Holy Champion
  • Lightspawn x 2
  • Holy Fire x 2

I ended up winning on the first try, and it wasn’t difficult at all. Moira was a 1/5 Power Word Glory’d, healing me for 3 health each turn. I also had my Holy Champion out which achieved was 31/3 at lethal (I killed Moira too for good measure).

Now that the Naxxramas heroes are done, it’s on to the Blackrock Mountain heroes! The Grim Guzzler is the first duel and his hero power is to summon 2 of his minions (and one of yours) onto the battlefield for free. It ends up being a slugfest because powerful minions are on the board from the firs turn – you just have to make sure that yours are better than his.

I went with Druid because I needed a lot of taunts (seeing as he gets 2x the minions). I put a bunch of hefty minions and then a bunch of spells (hoping that I would draw spells and my minions would get randomly pulled onto the battlefield). Here’s my deck:

  • Innervate x 2
  • Naturalize x 2
  • Mark of the Wild x 2
  • Wild Growth x 2
  • Annoy-o-Tron
  • Anodized Robo Cub x 2
  • Healing Touch x 2
  • Mark of Nature x 2
  • Poison Seeds x 2
  • Abomination x 2
  • Sludge Belcher x 2
  • Cairne Bloodhoof x 2
  • Force-Tank MAX x 2
  • Ironbark Protector x 2
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Volcanic Lumberer x 2
  • Deathwing

You’re at the mercy of RNG on this one, but I beat him within 5 tries (I was a close a couple of times). Nothing noteworthy (or overly lucky) about this match; just glad that it didn’t take me too many tries.

I’m kind of disillusioned by Hearthstone because while I enjoy collecting and making fun decks; high level (ranked) play ends up being the same decks over and over again. Even if you don’t get to higher ranks (which I am surely not), a lot of people look for deck lists on the internet and just copy those “optimized” versions. That takes a lot of fun out of the game because the duel is so structured.

I’ve thought how championship play must be kind of straightforward because everyone knows what decks everyone is bringing; and what’s in the deck. But I guess the difference between professional and amateur is that the professionals are able to play out the entire game in their head before they actually run the play (kind of what you would do in chess). It just feels constrained when there is no randomness or surprise within a deck, but again it’s not like a chessboard has secret pieces that your opponent doesn’t know about.

In any case, I just play for fun and having every opponent use some sort of optimized hero archetype is frustrating. That’s why I’m happy to see the Hearthstone formats change. There was a ton of knee-jerk complaining about the change, but I think it makes the game much more healthier. If you play Standard, you’ll have to rethink all the archetypes and build new decks and card synergies to make up for retired cards. No doubt, the meta will devolve back into netdecks, but at least there’s going to be a period where people are just trying stuff out.

Wild will also be … Wild! I’m a collector so I’m spending all my F2P gold on GvG packs now before they go “out-of-print”. I’m a bit bummed that I won’t be able to get cards to complete my collection without crafting them (which given my Epic and Legendary pull rate, might not be that much harder to do) but I’m excited about how crazy that format will be in a couple of years. It’ll be like Tavern Brawl every day.

Also, if it’s not obvious, I’m a Johnny player type, although I need to win in order to fuel my collecting (so Spike by necessity).

I’ve been playing Stark Trek: Timelines for about a month now, and so I have more refined thoughts beyond my initial review. I’m not changing my review, but I just thought I would leave some of my thoughts out here:

  • There are a ton of bugs, questionable design choices, unbalanced or unfinished features. The devs have been slowly addressing them, and you learn to live with it, but it still kind of sucks. That’s the price you pay for starting at the very beginning. It feels like we’re beta testing, but I hear there was an actual beta test
  • At some point, you accumulate enough “free” currency (credits and merits) that it basically becomes infinite (unless you go crazy and spend on things you can’t use/store). There’s no way at all the get premium currency without paying $$ though, so it is very difficult to play more or play strategically to get premium currency items (like new ships/rare or higher crew)
  • While you might have some sentimental attachment to one or two star crew (you might like the character or they might seem to have useful traits or you might have spent a lot of time levelling them), it is almost always better to just chuck them since you have limited crew quarters (with few exceptions that are needed for missions, like 2 star Data). You should concentrate on levelling rare or higher crew for later episodes (and epic/elite missions). Although I still carry around a few single-skill 2 star characters because their skill level is sufficiently high for the missions I’m working through (prior to Episode 4).
  • There is too much stuff to craft and collect for your crew, that I think it’s impossible to play this game systematically without a spreadsheet. If you don’t use one, then you’re wasting a lot of time doing duplicate things.
  • The gist of this game is that it is about collecting (with arbitrary resource limits). There is a “story” but after you’ve played a mission 50 times to farm an item, it doesn’t matter anymore (it’s not that compelling anyways). You craft items and upgrade your crew, in order to go on more missions. However the missions get too hard, so you have to craft items and upgrade your crew again. It’s an endless cycle/time sink.

I’m at a point where I’m getting diminishing returns from the game now. I’m trying to decide when a good stopping point is, should I just move to another game or should I wait until the end of the current bonus period and see whether the (next) rewards are worth it?

Kel’Thuzad is the last boss in Naxxramas and he’s quite difficult. He doesn’t have a gimmick, although his deck is not really optimized (mostly contains minions from this adventure). However his hero power is strong (3 damage to your hero, every turn) and on turn 10 (or when his armor is gone) he gets 2 free 5/5 Taunt minions and a new hero power to steal any one of your minions.

The 3-damage-per-turn hero power really takes your HP down, so I had to use a Priest deck. I ended up using a Inner Fire/Dragon Priest. Here’s my deck:

  • Inner Fire x 2
  • Light of the Naaru
  • Power Word: Glory x 2
  • Power Word: Shield x 2
  • Divine Spirit x 2
  • Mind Blast
  • Shadow Word: Pain x 2
  • Sunfury Protector
  • Unstable Ghoul
  • Wyrmrest Agent
  • Shadow Word: Death x 2
  • Velen’s Chosen x 2
  • Eydis Darkbane
  • Dragonkin Sorcerer x 2
  • Holy Champion
  • Tournament Medic
  • Holy Nova x 2
  • Sludge Belcher
  • Holy Fire x 2
  • Majordomo Executus

I can handle the first phase of KT by buffing my minions but didn’t have a balanced board to handle the second phase (i.e., only having one minion with a humongous attack). After awhile, I decided to switch my strategy and force KT to become Ragnaros. I would cast Majordomo Executus on turn 9 (I was able to get him by turn 9 most of the time), kill my other minions, and then figure out what to do after that. In my winning game, I used Power Word: Glory, Tournament Medic and my hero power to keep me at full health until KT stole Majordomo Executus. I used Shadow Word: Death to transform KT into Ragnaros, and then Holy Fire over two turns to win. I had just enough health (and another Power Word: Glory) to take the damage from his board.

So that’s it – all the Naxxramas heroic heroes are done! The only tough one (many replays) was Razuvious now that I have access to more sets. This effort also generated a ton of blog posts, in fact, my blog ended up being a Hearthstone blog for 3 months!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.