Thursday, October 28, 2010

Continuing Koth's Rampage

After a crazy day long adventure with Cooper to see Obama last Friday, I managed to drag my tired self over to Friday Night Magic (FNM) to test out my latest deck creation. I had written about this decklist a couple of weeks ago, so if you need a reminder you can check it out here. I managed to take second place, which is respectable considering I wasn't even sure my deck was all that good. Honestly, I'm still not sure if this deck is any good, but it was nice to have a little bit of validation.

Good thing Wizards made the first black planeswalker a good one.

During the tournament I realized I was taking too many Mulligans, and I needed more lands. I thought 23 was enough since I was running 8 mana sources, but this deck is super mana hungry and its incredibly important that I make my early land drops. I also realized that Galvanic Blast wasn't cutting it. Since I don't try to turn on metalcraft early, the extra damage was never relevant and it was basically shock 90% of the time. I also realized, that oftentimes Koth would be staring down multiple creatures when he hit the battlefield, so a single Lightning Bolt was not enough to protect him. I decided to main deck a couple Pyroclasms to help those situations. I was boarding in Pyroclasms a lot anyways. I took the Shatters out of my sideboard since artifact destruction is worthless in my meta. I added Dragon's Claws since I don't want to lose to mono-red ever. The revised deck list has been posted here.

Match-up Analysis:

VS Ramp Decks (Valakut and Eldrazi): Game one always comes to down to who won the coin flip. Surprisingly, my deck can ramp almost as good as the dedicated ramp decks, so game one really is a race to see who can drop the stupidest bombs first. Kuldotha Pheonix is really good in these match-ups because the ground often gets stalled and it can kill with a pretty fast clock. Post board, the games are in my favor. Tunnel Ignus really slows them down if they can't deal with it immediately and their usual anti-red tech, Pelakka Wurm, doesn't work as well against me as is does vs the other types of mono-red.

VS Aggro Decks (Elves and Mono-Red): Elves and other traditional aggro decks are easy match-ups. Pyroclasm is a beast at the moment and so is Destructive Force. Most of the time, I just take their initial rush and then lay down a Destructive Force or a Wurmcoil Engine and that is gg. Mono-Red aggro decks are a bit tougher however, since they can often kill me right before I manage to stabilize. If I keep a slower hand against a red deck, I lose; that's all there is to it. Post board, the match-up gets much much easier as Dragon's Claw gives me all the time I need in the world. I almost feel like this might be wasted sideboard space though. Maybe instead of the claws and the extra pyroclasms, I could put in Cunning Sparkmage and Basilisk Collar combo as my catch all anti-aggro tech. Regardless, my aggro match-ups are pretty good.

VS Control (U/B and U/R): I used to think this deck was good against control, but then control stopped running white and I started getting my ass kicked. U/W Control is no longer a good deck and it took people a bit to realize that. Anyways, my deck is really really vulnerable to disruption, and a well timed counterspell or duress can be game over for me. Pheonix is an all-star again (which is weird because I thought this card would be worthless in practice), as I can actually achieve metalcraft easily against slow decks, allowing him to be a recurring threat who also happens to be excellent at killing planeswalkers. Koth, if I can get one to resolve, is still a beating against control no matter what colors they are. Post sideboard things get a little better for me with my anti-counter spell tech, but regardless, I'm still fighting an uphill battle if they are the type that runs a ton of counterspells.The control match-up isn't unwinnable or anything like that, but I'm definitely not favored.

Overall, I think the deck still needs some work, but its close to becoming actually competitive. One quick thing in particular I am unhappy with is Lodestone Golem. Sometimes he can be beastly and totally screw over opponents (also dropping him after blowing up all of your opponent's land is lulz). At all other times, he dies at end of turn to a lightning bolt as soon as I play him. I'm not sure if I can find a better artifact creature to run in its spot, since as I mentioned before, I really don't have enough creatures to run the Masticore and adding enough creatures to support him will drastically alter my deck. I am also considering Kargan Dragonlord in his spot, since hes such a good creature and is easy to slide under mana leaks. However, hes not an artifact, he's also easy to remove, and he fails to adequately fulfill my need for a four drop. Regardless, I think I'll try him out soon and report back. I realize that most of you won't enjoy articles like this, since you have to be really into Magic to be able to follow along properly. But I like to write these articles as they really help me collect my thoughts during the whole deck building process. Basically, I just want to apologize beforehand since I'm sure there are more of these to come in the near future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yakitate Japan!

A couple of weeks ago, JSJ changed our lives by introducing the anime, Yakitate Japan, to us. For those of you who don't know, Yakitate is an anime about a boy who has slightly warm hands, which allows him to bake bread like a champion. The anime focuses on a small bakery whose workers tend to get involved in bread making competitions. Now when I said this anime changed my life, I don't mean because its the best anime I've ever seen. Its far from that, and in fact I wasn't even sure if I liked the anime at all after the first few episodes. However, this anime inspired Luke and I to bake bread, and it opened up a whole new culinary avenue for me to explore.

Luke decided that he was going to bake some French Rolls and I had decided to make Japanese Curry Bread. We spent an entire afternoon baking bread and watching Yakitate with Jules and JSJ, and it was quite an enjoyable experience. Luke hadn't really baked anything his whole life, so everything about baking bread was new and amazing to him. Surprisingly, Luke was very adept at forming and kneading the dough. His bread was perfect going into the oven, but unfortunately our oven ran a little hotter than we thought and the rolls got slightly burned. Introducing Luke Pan #1 (Pan is bread in Japanese):

Burned or not, these were delicious.
For me, making Japanese Curry Bread was super ambitious, not only because this was my first time making bread, it was my first time deep frying. I failed really hard trying make the dough at first. I actually had to throw my first attempt away and start over since my dough was looking more like cake batter than anything else. My second attempt went much smoother, although my dough was still super sticky when I let it rise. I got frustrated for a bit while kneading it and probably would have given up if I didn't have Luke's help.

I suck at kneading.
After the bread had risen, I was supposed to cut the dough into pieces and roll out the pieces into circles. Again, I couldn't actually do this, so JSJ had to roll out the pieces for me while I placed curry into the circles. The curry I made beforehand was fucking amazing though, so at least I know I'm competent at something.

I was sorta good at filling them with curry and folding them over.
The worst part of my bread making experience was dipping each pastry in egg wash and coating them in panko bread crumbs. Dipping the bread in egg wash was such a disgusting feeling that I cringed everytime I did it. JSJ stood next to me laughing non stop at my expressions. The last step was deep frying the bread, which actually went very smoothly. I bought a candy thermometer the day of to let me check the oil temperature so that I didn't burn the house down. This was super helpful, and allowed me to feel more comfortable with doing the frying. The results were as follows:

Alex Pan #1    

Seriously, stuffed in deep fried bread is the best way to eat Japanese Curry. The only problem with the bread, is that my body hadn't had that much grease in a while, and it really made me feel gross for a couple days.  There are tons more pictures of this event that we will put on facebook in the near future. Even though I sucked at making the bread, I really feel like I managed to level up my cooking skills.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blizzcon 2010: Diablo 3 Review

Alright folks, let's dive into the meat and potatoes of Blizzcon 2010. In 2009, we were introduced to the fourth class in the trilogy - The Monk. While everyone was getting their panties wet to play the Monk, I wasn't sold. I love ranged DPSers. My favorite play throughs of Diablo was with a rogue and in Diablo II was with a bowazon. Realizing that Diablo 3 lacked a solid ranged DPSer (magic users do not count), I already suspected that a ranged class was the only remaining class left to develop.

As you already know, the Demon Hunter is the final class in basic Diablo 3. What you may not know is that she represents a hybrid of play styles. She utilizes the Assassin's "burst of speed" ability that allows her to dash 40 yards across the screen. She also has traps in her arsenal that causes a chain slow or AoE damage. In addition, she matches the Amazon's skill set in having multi-shot and a fire arrow (which has pierce!). Overall, she fills in the missing gap of the other Diablo 3 heroes.

What you may have not figured out from Blizzcon 2010:
Diablo 3 is becoming a Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 clone.

- Skills/Traits. Skills are abilities that your characters gain. When you level up, you gain a skill point that can be used to strengthen a previously acquired skill or unlock a new one. In the D3 play through, there wasn't a skill tree that required pre-reqs from what I noticed. Traits are passive characteristics that your character gains when you level as well. Similar to feats in D&D, you have the option to modify your character (ex: gain more health/mana from globes, more gold from monsters, etc). Just like skills, you have the ability to either invest in a previously aquired trait or invest a new one. I counted about 31 traits in my play throughs, so there are a lot to pick from!

- Runestones are 100% back into the game in full force. In 2009, the devs announced that they were going to remove runestones because they were too unbalanced. In 2010, 4 out of the 5 classes started off with runestones for players to play with. Runestones allow players to modify their skills at ANYTIME without consequence by simply placing a runestone in. For instance, in my witch doctor play through I was able to summon fiery plague dogs or summon a bear zombie from runestone modification. For more details about character customization, please check out this link.

- Crafting makes character investment more worthwhile. 3 artisans are introduced - a blacksmith, jeweler, and mystic. As you level them up, they become more powerful and offer you more goods. These artisans are player-specific! As you play the game, you have several options of dealing with unwanted goods. You can return to town and sell them, you can "insta-sell" them with a scroll of worth (SUCH A GREAT IDEA), or disenchant them. There's a horadric-cube looking item each character has that allows them to disenchant items into components - very similar to Asheron's Call/Asheron's Call 2. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to see what I could make with my reagents, but it's assumed you use these things to craft new items and/or level up your artisans.

For now, that's all I have to report from Blizzcon 2010. Hopefully I'll see some of yall there in 2011. :)

Monday Sciencing

Most gaming news last week has focused on Blizzcon, which Jason has excellently been covering. Once you remove Blizzard from the equation, there wasn't much interesting going on in the world of gaming. As such, I'm going to do something a little bit different today, and focus exclusively on the latest happenings in the scientific world.
All eyes were on Blizzard last weekend.
A frozen Antarctic 'telescope' will help scientist identify the source of the mysterious particles that bombard Earth from space.

Boring status updates and superficial friends on Facebook aren't completely useless and may help us psychologically.

New study suggests that the people of Pompeii were killed by the heat of the volcanic eruption within 10 seconds.

This was also found in Pompeii.
A psychologist at Cornell has conducted a series of experiments which may provide evidence for psychic phenomenon.

Here is a look some of the economics of Japan.

Here is more information regarding the habitability of Gliese 581D.

A more reasonable look at the potential implications of Prop 19.

Astronomers have found the most distant galaxy yet.

ZaNoWriMo Update: 10/25/10

During my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, in Fall 2003, I was ditching eighty percent of my classes and burning away most of my free time playing Gunbound. Granted, at the time I also worked as both a United Artists usher and an Editorial Intern, but even those two jobs and school combined didn't add up to full-time hours. In the end, I failed to reach the target 50,000 words, giving up at midnight on the final evening at just over 47,000. Lose.

Then, in 2005, I was living in Moscow. I had an hour commute to class and back everyday, lived a busy life full of museums, traveling and partying, and wrote everything by hand. On the final evening of that November, I locked myself in my room with a bottle of vodka and gave myself an awful hangover and an awful hand cramp to the tune of 7,000 words. I succeeded in hitting the target 50,000 words, just barely. Win.

Chapter Three finished.
Word count so far: 49,590 words.
Target pace as of the end of 10/24/2010: 48,774 words.

I have surpassed that 2003 total in 4/5th the time and I've almost matched my 2005 total in such leisurely fashion that I have to wonder: is my life these days spent that much more like a hermit's? Am I John Turturro in Barton Fink? Or have I become that much better conditioned to behave on self-imposed routine? Is writing this month just another clock to punch? Am I now, to the detriment of my imagination, mindlessly writing wrestling movies? In other words, am I wasting my time?

Probably, but at least I'm ahead of the pace. Woot!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blizzcon - Wear some damn deodorant

First of all, I don't give a damn if you are a top 20% level Starcraft 2 player or have a WoW character with ubar L33T epics - take some pride in yourself and learn to wear some fucking deodorant. Blizzcon 2010 smelled like teen spirit in the most literal sense possible.

Anyway, after adventuring through the Anaheim Convention Center for the last two days, I have mucho to report. I know you've read through Kotaku, WoW Insider, and other news outlets, but screw it - you know you want the gaymer perspective too.

Going from least exciting to most exciting. You've been warned. And SPOILER WARNINGS AHEAD.

Starcraft 2
No new buzz about the 2nd expansion for Heart of the Swarm :( But it's okay! Blizzard's dedication to their gaming community shined by showcasing four fan-created mods.

Stargem - Bejeweled + Tower Defense. Two teams of two battle each other out in a tower defense style game in which players collect energy from creating rows/columns of matching colors and then summon units/cast spells. Very addicting and enjoyable for anyone whose a fan of either genres.

Left 2 Die - Boring. A team of two battle together in defending their bases when the zerg attack at night. Players are able to rebuild their base and attack the "sleeping" zerg to collect research points during the day time. While the gameplay is very repetitive and difficult to explore in the allotted game time of 20 minutes, I did enjoy the aspect that players shared whatever research they performed to open access to more units.

Auir Chef - FFA style game of fetch. Players control an auir whose mission is to gather ingredients for dishes that generate points and bonuses to become the next top chef. Each round has a secret ingredient that is revealed and required in every dish. Ingredients are all across the map and each player has a limited inventory of how much they can hold and bring back to the kitchen. It's very silly and cute, but it's hardly something that will ever have replay value after an hour.

Starcraft Dota - I never understood the craze behind dota in WC3...but I finally do in SC2! Teams of 5 select a unit hero (dps/tank/support) and attack each other's bases. Your hero becomes stronger and gains access to more skills as you successfully kill more units. I'm so glad Blizzard brought them in!

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Everyone knows that Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms will be forever changed once Deathwing is reawoken. I really want to avoid rehashing all the coverage released this weekend, but I want to share some key things.

- The log in screen is beautiful.
- The creative minds (Christopher Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi) of the WoW world admitted that there are storyline issues with Cataclysm and Burning Crusade/Wrath of the Lich King. The idea is that players will just have to deal with being detached from Cataclysm between levels 60-80 and essentially treat it like their character is going back in time. Sad.
- The amount of work is immense. Wrath of the Lich King had 1,000 quests. Cataclysm has 3,500 quests.
- Roleplayers are fucking ridiculous. Stop wasting time at our panels by asking mundane is it really important to know that you have issues with a warlock summoning a voidwalker in the Stormwind Cheese shop?
- Thrall is a become the NEXT EARTH ASPECT!!!!
- Speaking of which, Thrall and Jaina will never be come JaiRall. Ever. As revealed in the latest WoW Book.
- New Worgen back story. Really not that crazy exciting.
- No plans to allow players to get Aetish or any other expired Legendaries. No plans to allow players to upgrade old Legendaries to level 85.
- Goblin/Worgen are new races (old news). New news? The Goblin starting world is SO much fun. I had a chance to play Worgens last year and didn't think it was that flavorful. Folks - I'm a classic WoW human paladin. I fucking bleed Alliance... but after playing as a goblin, I think I've been converted! The goblin starter really showed players how Blizzard plans to continue using phasing technology in addition to incorporating new game play additions that were introduced in Wrath (not going to reveal anymore).

Diablo 3
- The 5th and LAST class of Diablo 3 finally revealed.
- Arenas revealed!
- A shitload of information revealed at the Crafting panel. I'm going to give some awesome details I found out during my gameplay that should make every diablo fan the next post.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Country (Rainbow) Roads, Pt. I

I've always been both gay and a gamer, though I didn't explicitly acknowledge myself as either until well into my twenties. Though this post will focus almost exclusively on my metamorphosis into a bona fide gamer, undoubtedly my love for games and my gayness are inextricably intertwined. Both heavily involve guys, both involve somewhat of a stigma, and, for me, both involved a long process of "coming out." But my love for dudes is really a story for another time.

As for gaming, where do I begin? Probably with this: Behold. The Intellivision. For those of you too lazy to click the link (I would probably be among you), the Intellivision is a video game console released by Mattel in 1979. Over 3 million Intellivision units were sold and a total of 125 games were released for the console. By the time I was cognizant of, well, basically anything, the Intellivision was a part of my life. I assume that my dad bought the system for himself while he was in college, but I ultimately used my powers as a child to commandeer it for myself. Playing some of these games comprises a handful of my very earliest memories as a kid.

I even recently discovered -- while doing research for this post, actually -- that the Intellivision introduced me to my very first incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons. I remember loving the game, but I had no idea that when Jules, Alex, John St. John, Mitch, and I started our real-life D&D campaign in August, I actually had some familiarity with the concept.

The Intellivision, for as big of a piece of a junk as in retrospect I'm sure it was, lasted until the early '90s. Because my parents were apparently slow on the technology upgrades, it wasn't until about 1991 that I discovered the NES. Plus, to my horror, my parents sold the Intellivision at a garage sale for which I will never forgive them. I became instantly hooked on all things Mario. Though, shamefully, I have never once beaten Super Mario World, I feel like I played it for the better part of the early '90s. (The combination of the amount of time spent playing and the lack of victory is surely a tell-tale sign of a child with a severe learning disability). My increased devotion to video games probably came about for three very important reasons: (1) Nintendo is clearly awesome, (2) my mom had just had my sister, thus ending my nearly nine-year reign as an only attention-spoiled child, and (3) we had just moved from a small city in West Virginia to an even smaller, more horrible city in West Virginia where I didn't have many friends at first. I delved into the video game world out of boredom and a need for a virtual, more fun reality.

With the advent of Nintendo came several other amazing gaming staples of my early life. Who could forget classics such as The Paper Boy, Whomp 'Em (even young Luke loved racial stereotypes), Tetris, Heavy Shreddin,' and Beetlejuice?

Then came Super Nintendo, and thus also came my first love. The game that likely shaped me more than any other, and forever transformed me into a true gaming nerd, was Super Mario Kart. I was particularly obsessed with battle mode, and friends and I would laugh to the point of tears as we spent hours stalking each other with red shells in the four (then amazing) stages (though the ice stage was whatever). Almost nothing in life could possibly be more satisfying than that SNES sound of an opponent's balloon popping after a high speed, high stakes pursuit in Cocoa Beach.

I've subsequently gone on to love almost every version of Mario Kart since, with the exception of perhaps Mario Kart for Game Cube (which likely is only a result of being a college student who was more interested in drinking than playing video games during the height of the Game Cube's popularity). Since Alex and I began dating, in fact, we've hardly gone a single day without engaging in at least one fierce match of Mario Kart Wii. I've even commissioned my good friend David, otherwise known as Korean scum, to draft a version of a Mario Kart Wii blue shell for my first and upcoming tattoo. It's not only super nerdy, but because of my long-term love of the game, it shines as one of the few representative icons in my life that, no matter how dated it becomes, will always mean something to me.

And with that, Jules is here World Of Worldcraft-ing in the other room, and Alex needs a lift from a Magic tournament. Part II will follow in due time, and I will totally annihilate that bridge when I come to it.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

New NPD Sales Data Chart for 2010

Today, Gamasutra released a compilation of NPD sales data, showcasing the top selling games of 2010 thus far. This chart does not combine the sales of multi-platform games, nor does it include PC titles. Here is that chart for reference:

I'm not sure which is more impressive: Halo Reach becoming top selling game of the year in only a month, or New Super Mario Bros, which came out close to a year ago, taking the #2 spot. Its also interesting that Red Dead Redemption is on the list for Xbox 360 but not for PS3, indicating that the game was significantly more popular on the 360. This makes me wonder if all games which come out on both platforms sell significantly better on the 360. I'm actually quite surprised at the PS3's poor showing here. I was under the impression that the PS3 was starting to gain some momentum, but maybe its too early for that to start showing on these charts.

Wii is still showing no signs of slowing down with its games taking up half the list. This is just insane to me. 'Hardcore Gamers' can bitch all they want about the Wii, but one thing is for certain: As of this generation the game industry has fundamentally changed. Nintendo is redefining the industry. Motion controls and 3-D aren't just gimmicks, they are the future of the video game industry. 

Courtesy of JSJ
There is another thing I wanted to mention about this chart though. Out of the five Wii games on that chart, only one, Just Dance, is from a third party developer. A lot of people like to blame Nintendo for this, but its really not their fault. Sure their development guidelines are the strictest out of the first party developers, but that's not good enough excuse. The fact is that most third party Wii games are half assed games just trying to capitalize on the Wii's commercial success. I would LOVE it for a third party developer to put as much thought into a Wii game as they would for a game like Red Dead Redemption.

For instance, remember a couple years ago when Sega thought they would revolutionize the Wii market by bringing out a triple threat of House of the Dead: Overkill, Madworld, and the Conduit? These three mature games were supposed to be a test as to how well 'hardcore' games would sell on the Wii. They all did miserably, and it was blamed on the Wii's audience. But honestly, the real reason they didn't sell well is because they all sucked. House of the Dead was a generic rail shooter selling for full price which you can play through in one sitting. Madworld was an awesome concept, but it was a short game with no multi-player and zero replay value. The Conduit was just a generic FPS with some waggle thrown in.

I'm a ten dollar game now!

I guess my point is that the lack of third party games on Wii has nothing to do with Nintendo themselves, its just that all third party developers (except maybe Capcom) haven't put the time or energy into releasing an actual good game that's not a port on Wii.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Little Bit of a Rant

So last month, I was leisurely browsing through Facebook and I saw the following comment on a friend of mine's status about Veganism:

"Lol you should have told her that protein from plants don't completely replace animal protein and need supplements to be "healthy". Or law of nature. No explanation needed."

My mind was blown. I couldn't believe that people still bought into that myth. I raged for a second, lulzed it off, and then continued my day. After this, I started to notice that Reddit and the internet in general is super hostile towards vegetarians/vegans. Like I can sorta understand hating PETA since they are some of the best trolls in the world, but name calling vegetarians and being ignorant of basic nutritional facts seems uncharacteristic of a culture of people who pride themselves on intellectualism. Subsequent talks with my parents and with JSJ have prompted me to write this article. This article is in no way an attempt to convert anyone or something stupid like that. I'm writing it because at this point I feel the need to defend myself a little bit.

I'm not even sure what this is.

So first off, I need to clarify how much protein our bodies actually need per day. The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is approximately 0.8 grams/kg per day for adults. This is not a lot of protein at all. The average amount of protein you get from eating 3oz of steak or chicken is about 21 grams of protein. I weigh around 145 lbs (65.8kg), so I need about 52 grams of protein per day. This means I can eat a 6oz steak and get almost all of the protein I need for the entire day, which is pretty absurdly small amount. The average American eats about 91 grams of protein a day, which is simply overkill.

Granted some Americans look like this guy.

Now lets talk about complete and incomplete proteins. A complete protein is a protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, and these nine amino acids are ones that our bodies cannot naturally produce. Complete protein comes mostly from animal based products such as meat, dairy, eggs, etc. However, soy and quinoa also are considered complete proteins. Yes soy is a complete protein. There is a lot of confusion regarding this, since originally it was not considered by nutritionist to be a complete protein. As of 1991, the FDA investigated it further and officially declared soy a complete protein.

An incomplete protein as you may have already surmised, does not have all nine essential amino acids. Most plant and grain proteins are incomplete, which is where the myth that meat proteins are better than plant proteins comes from. Most plant proteins are lacking in only a couple of amino acids, and these amino acids can easily be made up by pairing them with complementary foods. Now this might seem difficult, but its really not. Rice + Beans = Complete Protein. Peanut Butter + Bread = Complete Protein. You don't even need to pair together these foods at the same time. They can be separated by no greater than 24 hours. Its really not that hard.

I've heard the argument that plant animo acids are inferior to animal based amino acids. I'm really confused about where this came from, as it makes zero sense to me. Your body doesn't care where its getting the animo acid, just that its getting it. Your body can't tell the difference between Lysine from a steak and Lysine from black beans.

Since I'm only a psuedo vegetarian (I still eat eggs and dairy), I really have no concerns about getting proper nutrition. If I was full blown vegan, I would be more concerned with getting enough B12 and Iron than I would be concerned about protein. The protein argument makes no sense and is very easily debunked (I researched everything in this article in about 5 minutes online). Getting adequate nutrition is simply about paying more attention to what you eat and trying to have a balanced diet. Vegetarian or not, everyone should be doing that anyways.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Beginner's Guide to Smash

Over the weekend, some new faces came over to our house for some Magic times, and much to my surprise, they play Brawl at a competitive level. Well I guess its not that suprising, since Brawl is a pretty popular game but it was still a nice change. Most of the old Canfield Smashers are either gone (like Zach and Scott) or rarely hang out anymore (fuck you Law), so the amount of Smash time in our house has decreased to almost non-existent. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to play Brawl with these guys (I was teaching someone Magic at the time), but Luke did, and he got his ass handed to him over and over again. This prompted me to write up a quick guide to Smash so Luke can at least not kill himself next time they come over to play. This guide might also be helpful for the more occasional Brawlers like Cooper, Jules, and Mallory.

The main thing you want to concentrate on when you first start Smash is not dying. This will be the focus of this guide.

1) Before playing, make sure you have a profile name. Go into options on your profile name and turn Tap Up Jump OFF. This will keep you from accidentally jumping around (or off a cliff).

2) While you're at it turn Items OFF too. Its hard to learn how to properly control your character when you have a bunch of stuff falling from the sky and exploding everywhere. The less noise you have on screen, the easier it is for concentrate on your movements.

As cute as this is, resist the urge and turn all items OFF, including Smash Balls.
3) With a few exceptions, each character has exactly two jumps. With most characters, an Up+B attack functions as a third jump for all intents and purposes. When trying to learn the game, try to avoid characters who do not have some sort of vertical momentum attached to their Up+B. These Characters are: Ness, Lukas, Yoshi, and Jigglypuff.

4) Some characters have moves which put them into Free Fall mode. When a character is in Free Fall, they cannot jump anymore. This means that you have to be very careful with characters who often go into this mode after a move, as its easy to accidentally kill yourself with them. These characters are: MetaKnight, Jigglypuff, the space animals (Fox, Falco, Wolf), and Ike.

Stay Away from me. I tend to fall asleep a lot ... in mid-air.
5) Learn to use Directional Influence. DI means that when you are floating in the air, if you hold a direction you will start slowly floating in that direction. Its a pretty simple concept, but its super important. If you get hit and are flying towards the left side of the screen, DIing to the right (hold down the joystiq to the right) can help you survive these kinds of attacks.

6) Don't forget that you can block attacks. If you hold down block and press Left or Right, you will Roll. When you roll, you are invincible for part of the roll. If you hold down block and press Down, you will do a spot dodge, which means you'll be invincible for a short time but you won't move. Rolling and Spot Dodging are important survival tools, so make sure you practice them.

7) Speaking of which, get some practice. I don't necessarily mean you should have some one on one time with the training room (although that's never a bad idea), but like, if Law and I are in a heated combat, take the opportunity to practice jumping around while everyone is ignoring you. Trying to interrupt us is only going to get you killed. The best practice you can do when learning the game, is jumping off the edge and then using your Up+B to get back onto the ledge. Learning how to recovery properly is very important, this is the best practice you can do.

8) The following characters are good beginning characters, they are straight forward and don't tend to kill themselves a lot: Mario, Luigi, Zelda, Link, Toon Link, Pikachu, Kirby, and Pit.

9) While you may be focusing on staying alive, keep in mind that sometimes you might have to actually kill someone. The easiest way to do this is with the C-Stick. The C-Stick is a shortcut to a character's smash attack, which are powerful finishing blows. Spamming the C-Stick is not the best strategy in the world, but it works. People might call you a n00b, but you are one, so who cares.

Okay begginers, go forth and ... not die as much ...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Its Monday!

Here is an interesting article talking about how the NES still influences the game industry. 

Police are cracking down on fake vegetarian food in Thailand.

Here is just one example of the stupid things Carl Paladino, NY's GOP gubernatorial candidate, has been saying as of late. 

Examples on how to make your 4e DnD campaign a little more roleplaying based.

Apparently, a Dance with Dragons is almost done.

Everyone has seen this by now, but in case you haven't, here is the OK Trends article comparing gay sex to straight sex.

The Department of Justice appeals the Defense of Marriage Act ruling. This is incredibly disappointing.

Speaking of disappointing, here is a bunch of news on DADT.

Fired EA artists goes on a rant against the management at EA's Mythic Studio, which is famous for online games like Warhammer Online.

Activision rants about California's anti-violent video game law.

Potential new law might mean the death of the used video game industry.

Build your own Wii Remote!

Hubble Telescope captures first images of asteroids colliding in space.

Netflix is now available on Wii without the annoying disc.

ZaNoWriMo Update: 10/18/10

I wish I were better at this science-fiction thing. Over halfway into the word count and I can't for the life of me get the sci-fi aspect to kick in. Kick in, sci-fi! Kick in!

Chapter Two finished.
Word count so far: 34,058 words.
Target pace as of the end of 10/17/2010: 34,548 words.

Nothing adds up more than four hours spent in the same coffee shop. Live long and force be with you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Board Games 101: The Art of Losing

Place yourself in the following scenarios...

You didn't get to the finish point first.
You didn't get enough victory points.
You didn't guess "Bill Clinton plays a saxophone" before the timer ran out.

You realize you lost. But before you get all butt hurt, imagine taking a deep breath and then realize that you SHOULD not be upset. Forgetting the amount of time you invested in trying to win the game, you need to realize that you opened yourself to a perfect opportunity to learn more about the mechanisms of the game and the play style of your opponents.

Take for instance Carcassone. Carcassone is a strategy tile game in which players take turns placing randomly drawn tiles on a play field. These tiles depict images of sections of a city, road, or a combination of the two. On each player's turn, the active player has the option to place a pawn on the placed piece to gain victory points (depending on how it is placed). These pawns are critical in winning, which is why the strategy of winning is based on how well you can "trap" your opponents pawns from scoring.

And I suck at it. Well, I used to not suck at it until all my friends realized my strategies and turned the tables against me...and now I'm losing. Constantly. And I hate every single one of them, but I still love playing the game because it's forcing me to change strategies and how I anticipate my opponent's moves. I don't mean to sound like a little-league coach, but I've discovered that the key in becoming a better gamer is highly dependent on your ability to learn from your previous mistakes.

So go forth gamers. Lose to your hearts content and display your battle scars proudly.

Personal Updates

I'm proud of myself for keeping up with this blog so far. Its been around for almost a month and already has more posts on it than the Canfield Science and Law Review. To put things into perspective, my last blogging attempt, Tap Dat!, was rarely posted in and barely lasted over a month. This blog has had continuous content on it since its inspection, and this is something I didn't really think I could do when I started it.

I had assumed that the only people who actually read this blog were Luke, Jason, Zach, and sometimes Jules. When a couple non-Canfield people commented and talked to me a bit about my Final Fantasy character analysis, I was quite surprised. I assumed this was a fluke because the subject matter of those posts were so awesome, but nevertheless I took it as a good sign. Today, I wanted to take the time to update everyone I don't talk to on a regular basis on what I've been up to with my life.

For those of you who might now know, Luke and I have spent the last year in Pittsburgh because he couldn't find a job in LA and I desperately needed a change in scenery. I had originally planned on trying to continue with Archaeology/Paleontology while I was on the East Coast, but a boring internship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History made me rethink those plans. I had decided that I was going to try for an MBA, and took the Gmat. That was the only real work I did though. I basically spent the entire year in Pittsburgh on an extended vacation, which was fine with me because I needed the break. I played lots of Magic, learned to cook, and met a lot of cool people there. It also made me appreciate LA more, since I never want to experience "real weather" or seasons ever again.

I would not be surprised to see this in PA.

We returned back to glorious CA in August because Luke got a job at a small civil rights firm in the Valley. I had gotten a call from 2K to interview for a testing position less than a week after we had moved back. I figured that doing some grunt testing would be a good way to kill time while I applied for Business Schools. My interview went absurdly well, so Luke and I decided to move to North Hollywood/Studio City so that we could be close to both of our jobs. After we had secured our apartment in Studio City, I discovered that I in fact did not get the job at 2K ... awkward. I am assuming that the project they were hiring for got pushed back or something, since I refuse to believe that I did not get the job with my experience/amazing interview.

I've been applying for jobs again, but the market right now is terrible. I did manage to get my unemployment benefit extended for a few months, so I'm less stressed out about it than I was. Depending on where I get into business school, I could start as early as January, so I would only need to hold out for a little bit longer. I figure if I get into a school which starts next Fall, then I will just get a job through a temp agency or hire a headhunter.

Speaking of business school, my applications to LMU and USC are almost done. Once all of my letters of recommendation come in, I will be done. I should find out whether or not I got into those schools fairly quickly, so if I don't get in, I still have time to broaden my search and apply for round 2 applications in a number of places. I get recruitment emails from random schools everyday because of my high GMAT score, so I take that as a good sign that I should be able to get in somewhere pretty easily. Once I get my MBA, I'll probably attempt to return to the video game industry in a more managerial position. I am also considering opening my own hobby store, but I don't know how feasible that actually is. I would like to be a part of a start up video game company at some point in the far future.

I also quit smoking since I've been back. Well that's not entirely true. I still smoke when I drink, buts that's all really, and even then its actually getting harder and harder for me to smoke while drunk. I was smoking almost a pack a day in Pittsburgh, so this is a welcome change.

I'm also studying for my driving test and we're thinking about getting me a bike or used car soon. Its about time I learned how to drive, and I'm going to need wheels when I start school, especially if I end up starting while were still living in Studio City. That's basically everything I've been up to. I guess I've also been playing lots of games and writing, but you should all already know that.

One last thing: I'm sorta in full blown Magic mode right now, so I've mostly been concentrating on Magic over any other game. Since most of you don't even play the game, I've been trying not to bore you all with article after article of Magic related material. As such, in my attempt to diversify the blog's content, expect more random personal articles like this one in the future. Ninety percent of the posts on this blog have been information based anyways. I also want to start taking topic requests, so if you want me to write about something specific, leave a comment somewhere.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ZaNoWriMo Update: 10/12/10

There is no try.

Chapter One finished.
Word count so far: 21,665 words.
Target pace as of the end of 10/12/2010: 24,387 words.

It slips away, but oh so slowly. I need a push.

Brewing in a Post SOM Standard

I have a confession to make: I am not a very good deck builder. I'm good at making small adjustments and finding new tech for existing archetypes, but I suck when it comes to building a deck from scratch. Nevertheless, every year at the beginning of the rotation, I try to homebrew a standard deck thinking I could be the one who could break the format. I pretty much fail every single time. Scars of Mirrodin is officially out and legal for Standard, which means it was time for me get brewing. Of course, I had to start with my three favorite cards in the set:

The first thing I brewed up was a rather pathetic attempt at an Artifact Based Mono Red Control deck. You can view the rough draft here. The main problem with the deck is that it just doesn't do much. It has a couple of randomly explosive plays, but for the most part the deck is pretty slow. It was also just bad at being a control deck. Ratchet Bomb is actually rather awkward and easy to play around. All is Dust wasn't quite fast enough to be a good sweeper, and it was easy for the opponent to recover from on top of that. I think Mimic Vat has a lot of potential, but it just didn't work in this deck. The only way for me to kill larger creatures is Brittle Effigy, and that card exiles so the dead creature can't even be imprinted onto the vat. When I tested the deck, it very poorly against Elves and Valakut Ramp ... like could barely win any games poorly. The only deck it really did good against was U/W Control, but that can mostly be attributed to how amazing Koth is against control decks. I had to go back to the drawing board.

Well what was actually good about this deck? Koth and Wurmcoil engines are champions, and the phoenix is actually a bit better than I thought it was going to be. Brittle Effigy is surprisingly amazing. It makes it easier for me to have metalcraft, kills Baneslayers and Titans, and exiles annoying creatures like Vengevine and opposing Wurmcoil Engines. Sometimes this deck would get randomly explosive starts like playing a turn 4 Wurmcoil Engine off a turn three Koth. I knew that if I wanted this deck to be competive, I had to concentrate on making its explosive starts consistant.

The first thing I wanted to do was give the deck another amazing four drop. I contemplated using the Masticore, but I didn't run enough creatures to abuse his ability. I decided that I was going to test out Lodestone Golem, since its big and buys me a couple of turns against the ramp decks. I then decided that I needed Iron Myrs in my deck, so I could consistently cast my four drops on turn three. Destructive Force replaced All is Dust as the deck's main sweeper of choice. The revised deck list can be found here.

These kinds of plays now happen all of the time:

T2: Iron Myr.
T3: Koth. Untap a Mountain to leave up for a bolt.
T4: Use Koth to Destructive Force. Then play a mountain and proceed to kill them with said mountain as they struggle to do anything.


T2: Iron Myr.
T3 Everflowing Chalice (2 counters)
T4: Wurmcoil Engine 


T2: Everflowing Chalice (1 counter)
T3: Koth. Untap Mountain to leave up for a bolt.
T4: Wurmcoil Engine.

Even this is a strong opening:

T2: Iron Myr.
T3: Lodestone Golem

Preliminary testing has shown that deck is doing much better against the Tier 1 Ramp decks, much better against Elves, and is still good against U/W Control. Lodestone Golem has been amazing. A turn 3 Lodestone Golem slows the ramp decks down by at least two turns, which gives me plenty of time to play more bombs and apply pressure. They also let me randomly steal games against opponents who miss their early land drops. The sideboard still needs a lot of work, but ultimately I think I may actually be onto something.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday News Timez

Polls are now confirming Brown narrowly ahead in the California Governor race.

Obama, Palin, Hill dawg and others are playable characters in the new NBA Jam.

Some states are starting to charge for public defenders.

Almost every single potential GOP presidential nominee for 2012 is on Fox New's payroll.

Super sexy red Wii is officially announced.

New futuristic substance can potentially change the way we live.

This is how Epic Yarn became part of the Kirby franchise. 

Interesting article about Obama's stance on DOMA.

Someone recently did a board game review of Magic: the Gathering. The good article is a good read for those of you who are considering learning how to play.

Nintendo's president has some interesting things to say about video game piracy.

New archaeological find might suggest a new starting place for Western Civilization.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ZaNoWriMo Update: 10/08/10

Thanks for the advice, Chuck.

Prologue finished.
Word count so far: 13,656 words.
Target pace as of the end of 10/07/2010: 14,226 words.

My birthday slowed me down. That's no excuse. I know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Final Fantasy VI Character Analysis Finale

Gau (Oog):
Extra HP: 45
Extra MP: 10
Vigor: 44
Speed: 38
Stamina: 36
Magic Power: 34
Battle Power: 99
Defense: 44
Evade: 21%
Magic Defense: 34
M.Block: 18%

Overview/Stats: Gau is hands down the most complicated character in the game. Most people write him off because it takes so much work to weed through the literally hundreds of bad rages he can get. However, once you know how to actually use Gau, he becomes godly. His stats are some of the best in the game. The only stat of his that is bad, is his Defense, but that doesn't matter much for him anyways. His Magic Power is fifth highest in the game (tied with Strago) and he starts off high M.Block percentage, which is always nice. The only downside to him is that he can't use weapons, so his battle power will always be low (unless you use the merit award) unless you train his Vigor extensively. 

Special: There are 255 different rages in the game. With a number that large a couple of those are bound to be broken. I'm not gonna list every single useful rage of his, because that would take up this entire blog post. I will however list the big three: Stray Cat, Magic Urn, and Nightshade. You can go through the whole game building up Gau's Vigor and only using Stray Cat and he'll be an amazing physical damage powerhouse. Magic Urn turns Gau into a hyper defensive character. He will absorb all magic sent his way, is immune to all status effects, and cast Cure 3 on the party continuously. It is pretty hard to die while raging as a Magic Urn. The Nightshade rage makes the entire game laughably easy. This rage allows Gau to cast Charm, a spell which has an 80% hit rate and works everytime on every enemy including bosses (This also includes Kefka). It cast a version of Muddle on them (confusion) which will never wear off unless Gau dies (which he won't). Using the Nightshade rage is basically cheating. Rages are the best special in the game if you know how to use them.

Equipment: Gau can't use any weapons, which is fine because he works well without them. This makes him a good candidate for the Merit Award though, as this relic allows you to put a weapon onto Gau and then suddenly things get absurd. He has access to one of the best armors in the game (Snow Muffler). Other than that, his defensive equipments are nothing special. 

If you use Gau right you almost feel like your cheating. His absurd power level puts him in the top tier with Terra and Celes.

Setzer (Nigga):
Extra HP: 46
Extra MP: 9
Vigor: 36
Speed: 32
Stamina: 32
Magic Power: 29
Battle Power:18
Defense: 48
Evade: 9%
Magic Defense: 26
M.Block: 1%

Stats/Overview: Setzer is a character who is a little bit of a one trick pony. Like Locke, Setzer is reliant on the Offering to do good damage in the end game. Unlike Locke however, hes actually quite useful to have around in the WOB. For all intents and purposes, the characters are pretty similar. His stats are pretty average across the board. Nothing really jumps out as anything special or weak. The good thing about Setzer though is that his special and ultimate weapon do not use Vigor at all, so you can raise his Magic Power throughout the game without worry, making him a good physical fighter and decent backup spell caster.

Special: Again, slots is one of those specials that gets worse as you progress in the game. It is pretty easy to get the timing down on 7 Flush and Chocobop, and both are very good attacks in the WOB. The rest of his slots are actually rigged against you, so you can't rely on them for damage in the WOR. GP Rain is awful, so don't bother with it.

Equipment: Setzer has a very unique type of weapon in his Cards, Darts, and Dice. They are mostly long range, so he can always be in the back row safely. They usually have some sort of decent status effect attached to them too, which is also nice. His main draw however is the Fixed Dice, which randomly does good damage and it always hits and ignores defense. This makes him a good candidate for the Offering, since the Fixed Dice ignores the Offering's damage penalties. His armor is nothing special, its similar to Locke and Shadow's. He can use the Force Armor though, which is nice.

Overall Setzer is a lot like Locke; He is reliant on the Offering to do decent damage in the end game. This makes Setzer is mid tier character.

Strago (Shazam):
Extra HP: 35
Extra MP: 13
Vigor: 28
Speed: 25
Stamina: 19
Magic Power: 34
Battle Power: 10
Defense: 33
Evade: 6%
Magic Defense: 27
M.Block: 7%

Overview/Stats: Strago is a good example of a character gone wrong. He is the first character you get you actually screams that he should be a Mage. The problem is that as a Mage, he makes a pretty mediocre one. His Magic Power is tied with Gau for fifth highest. Mog has a higher magic power than he does! His physical stats are abysmal, which is to be expected. For an ancient mage warrior, he can't even fling spells as well as his 10 year old Granddaughter. 

Special: Lores are pretty awesome. Aqua Rake is better than a lot of other spells in the WOB. The problem with Lores is that everything they do, the Magic skillset can generally do better. Having both Magic and Lores is a little bit redundant, as their effects aren't dissimilar enough from each other. On the plus side, he can hit some of the more obscure weaknesses like Water and Wind.

Equipment: His equipment isn't anything special. His ultimate armor, the Behemoth Suit, is good, but it outclassed by the other ultimate armors (namely the Minerva, Snow Muffler, and Force Armor). The Magus Rod isn't bad, its sorta like an improved Enhancer sword. Not much else to say here, his equipment is remarkably average.

Strago is supposed to be one of the game's dedicated mages, however his stats ensure that he'll always be a mediocre one. Lores aren't very useful as a whole, and his equipment options are average at best. If you need a mage, just go with Terra, Celes, or Relm. Strago is a low tier character.

Relm (Walter):
Extra HP: 37
Extra MP: 18
Vigor: 26
Speed: 34
Stamina: 22
Magic Power: 44
Battle Power: 11
Defense: 35
Evade: 13%
Magic Defense: 30
                                    M.Block: 9%

Overview/Stats: Who has the highest Magic Power in the game? Its not Terra like most people think, but Relm. She actually beats Terra's Magic Power by quite a lot. She is one of the most underrated characters in the game, and is the best dedicated mage out there.

Special: Sketch is terrible. Its up there with Runic as one of the worst specials in the game. It is also poorly tested and can cause all sorta of nasty glitches, so its just best not to use it. Control isn't much better. Just have Relm shoot some fireballs and be done with it.

Equipment: Relm can use everything Strago can use plus the female specific equips, making Relm's equipment selection quite good. Like Strago, she has access to the Behemoth suit and Magus Rod, which are both fine in thier own right. She gets the Cat Hood, which is hands down the best helmet in the game. It has good stat boosts, amazing defense, halves all magical damage, and lets you earn more GP in battle. Plus, shes the only character that can use it. In addition, she is the only character who doesn't wield a sword that can reach 128% M.Block easily. 

Relm starts the game off awful. Once you teach her some decent spells though, she'll become a force to be reckoned with for the entire game. Relm is high tier, not really because of her own merits, but mostly becuase Magic Power and the Magic skill set are overpowered in general.

 Umaro (Kevin):
Extra HP: 60
Extra MP: 0
Vigor: 57
Speed: 33
Stamina: 46
Magic Power: 37
Battle Power: 47
Defense: 89
Evade: 8%
Magic Defense: 68
M.Block: 5%

Overview/Stats: There isn't much to say about Umaro. He starts off strong, but since you can never equip him, the damage he deals when you first get him will never really change. So while he starts off decently enough, he gets outclassed by everyone else quickly. All of his stats starting stats are good. Too bad you can't raise them ever.

Special: You can never control Umaro, so he's permanently in Rage mode, which is annoying. Later on you can get the Rage Ring and Blizzard Orb which allow Umaro to throw characters and to use the special skill Blizzard respectively. Unfortunately both of this skills are mediocre and random to boot.

Equipments: He comes equipped with a Snow Muffler on, which is nice. 

Overall, Umaro is a character who does good damage when you first get him but will never really improve. This coupled with the fact that you can never control him, makes him a low tier character, and more of a novelty than anything else.

Gogo (Rupaul):

Extra HP: 36
Extra MP: 12
Vigor: 25
Speed: 30
Stamina: 20
Magic Power: 26
Battle Power: 13
Defense: 35
Evade: 10%
Magic Defense: 25
M.Block: 6%

Overview/Stats: Gogo is a character who can do everything, just not particularly well. His stats are some of the lowest in the game, and they can never increase. This is his main drawback, as without it Gogo would be overpowered.

Special: Mimic is fun for novelty purposes but not for anything else. The best part about Gogo is that he can use every special in the game except for Morph. This makes him incredibly versatile. Need another thief? Done. Want another Bum Rush user? Done. Want to have two Magic Urn ragers at once? Done. This is Gogo's main selling point.

Equipment: Gogo's equipment selection is bad. He can use most of what Strago can use, except for the suits. The good thing about Gogo is that he has very mage like equipment selections, which means its easy to raise his magic power. Technically, he can end up Bum Rushing better than Sabin can.

Gogo's extreme versatility make up for his terrible stats. This makes Gogo a rather average character (mid tier), as he'll always be useful but never really good at anything.

Quick Recap:
Top Tier: Terra, Gau, Celes
High Tier: Edgar, Shadow, Mog, Relm
Mid Tier: Locke, Setzer, Sabin, Gogo
Bottom Tier: Cyan, Strago, Umaro

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Final Fantasy VI Character Analysis Part 2

Mog (Potato): 
Extra HP: 39
Extra MP: 16
Vigor: 29
Speed: 36
Stamina: 26
Magic Power: 35
Battle Power: 16
Defense: 52
Evade: 10%
Magic Defense: 36
M. Block: 12% 

Overview/Stats: Mog is a defensive powerhouse. He has the second highest Defense stat in the game, he has access to one of the best armors in the game, and hes one of the two characters who can jump efficiently, meaning he'll barely be around for enemies to hit him in battle. His stats are a bit awkward however, since besides his defense, his physical stats aren't all that spectacular. Instead, his stats seem to indicate that hes a good mage type, since he has the game's highest magic defense and fourth highest magic power. Luckily for him, low strength is easier to make up than low magic power, so hes able to have the best of both worlds. Basically, hes a hard to kill versatile fighter.

Special: Mog has eight terrain specific dances he can do in battle. When you use a dance with Mog, you lose control of him for the rest of the battle and he performs one of four attacks randomly. Like most specials in the game, Dances are amazing in the WOB but get out classed in the WOR fairly quickly. The Water Rondo, Wind Song, and Earth Blues absolutely destroy the Sealed Cave, Imperial Air Force, and Floating Continent sequences respectively. In the WOR, magic will completely outclass all of this dances, and your better off doing something else (like Jumping or slinging spells) with Mog. 

Equipment: As I metioned earlier, Mog can use some of the best armor in the game. The Snow Muffler will close to max out Mog's defense, making it so he only takes 1 damage from any physical attack which he doesn't block. He can use Spears, which is one of the better weapons classes. He also gets the Moogle Charm, which allows you to totally avoid all random encounters. This is amazing for split team dungeons like the Pheonix Cave, and for early raiding of some of the harder dungeons like Kefka's Tower or the Ancient Ruins. 

Mog is a monster in the WOB, and continues to be quite useful in the WOR, He can do decent damage with a Jump Setup or his spells at the end game once his dances become useless. This combined with the fact that he becomes near impossible to kill, means that Mog is a high tier character.

Edgar (Tyra):
Extra HP: 49
Extra MP: 6
Vigor: 39
Speed: 30
Stamina: 34
Magic Power: 29
Battle Power: 20
Defense: 50
Evade: 4%
Magic Defense: 22
M. Block: 1% 
Overview/Stats: Edgar starts off amazing and continues to be amazing throughout most of the game. He starts taper off at the very end of the game however, so just be aware of that. He has good physical stats, so hes clearly a fighting type. He has some of the highest defense in the game. 

Special: Tools are a pretty straight forward special. The Auto Crossbow, Flash, Drill, and Chainsaw make short work of every monster and boss in the entire first half of the game. Once in the WOR, Drill and Chainsaw become the only useful tools, and they start to fade off at the end. Tools are easily one of the best specials in the game, just don't rely on them at the end.

Equipment: So what does Edgar do once his tools become obsolete? He has to rely on his amazing equipment! He can basically equip everything that Terra can except for the female specific stuff. So he can use Illumina and Atma Weapon and wield them like a champion. He can also use Spears, meaning that he can utilize a jump set up and do some good damage that way. Hes also one of the easiest characters to get to 128% M.Block, meaning he can be invincible too.

Edgar is easily one of the best characters in all of the WOB. In the WOR however, he is forced to rely entirely on the strength of his equipment. This isn't a bad thing at all, but because he can't abuse magic and the Offering like others can, he can end up tapering off in usefulness at the very end of the game. Still, I would say that Edgar is high tier. 

Sabin (Oprah):
Extra HP: 58
Extra MP: 3
Vigor: 47
Speed: 37
Stamina: 39
Magic Power: 28
Battle Power: 26
Defense: 53
Evade: 12%
Magic Defense: 21
M. Block: 4% 

Overview/Stat: Sabin is a n00b cannon. He starts off amazing strong and decimates everything in the WOB. Once in the WOR, he continues to be strong, mainly because you can get his ultimate blitz so early. By the end of the game, Sabin is practically worthless. Why is this? His physical stats are great and he has some of the highest defense in the entire game. His magic power is abysmal, easily one of the lowest amongst the characters. So whats the problem? His blitzes are all based on Magic Power.

Special: Blitzes when you first get them are easily the best special in the game. Like Edgar, Sabin's blitzes make the WOB a joke. Even though his Blitzes are based on his low Magic Power, they pack enough punch themselves that it is not noticeable in the WOB. By the end of the game however, you'll notice that Sabin's damage peaked early on and he'll have a hard time keeping up with everyone else. You can get his ultimate blitz, the Bum Rush, very early in the WOR, which is Sabin's saving grace. Bum Rush is a basically a single target Ultima. Sabin's magic stat is so low however, that even Bum Rush will start be outclassed by the mages once they start learning the good spells (The 3s, Pearl, Meteor, etc.).

Equipment: Unfortunately Sabin's equipment isn't all that special either. Claws for the most part suck, and do nothing to raise his Magic Power to respectable levels. He doesn't really have any armor of note either. Not much to really say here.

Sabin is the lazy man's character. He starts off doing great damage and continue to do passable damage late in the game with his Bum Rush. He gets outclassed by the other characters quickly assuming you put some time and energy into learning/building up the other characters. Hes an easy character to learn, and he'll always be fine, there are just better options than him late in the game. Because of this, Sabin is a mid tier character.

Shadow (Velvet):
Extra HP: 51
Extra MP: 6
Vigor: 39
Speed: 38
Stamina: 30
Magic Power: 33
Battle Power: 23
Defense: 47
Evade: 28%
Magic Defense: 25
M. Block: 9% 
Overview/Stats: Shadow is a solid character held back by his availability. Hes rarely around in the WOB, so its hard to evaluate him there based on the his limited usage. In the WOR, hes a versatile character who doesn't have any weaknesses. His stats confirm this; He has high Vigor, Magic Power, Speed, and Defense. Like Mog and Hannah Montana, Shadow can do the best of both worlds.

Special: Unlike most of the other specials, Throw is useful throughout the entire game. The Ninja Star will be one of his primary sources of damage for most of the WOR, and his Skeans are basically improved Level 2 spells that he can use at will. In addition, Shadow also gets Interceptor, his cute little puppy. This means Shadow has a 50% chance to block any physical attack with his dog. He has an additional 50% chance to for the puppy to counterattack with an impressive attack which is the equivalent of casting the Flare spell.

Equipment: Shadow's equipment is a little bit mediocre. He has some unique knives like the Striker and Stunner which can cause instant death or stop attacks on enemies. This makes him a decent candidate for the Offering, since Offering + Striker means at least two enemies will likely be instantly dead. He can use the Genji Armor, which isn't bad. Lastly, he is one of the two characters who can use the Momento Ring, which is more neat than useful.

Shadow is a character with no weaknesses. He has a good special, good physical attacks, and can make a decent backup mage. The only thing bad about him is how little you actually get to play him. This means that Shadow is a high tier character.

Celes (Ribbit):
Extra HP: 44
Extra MP: 15
Vigor: 34
Speed: 34
Stamina: 31
Magic Power: 36
Battle Power: 16
Defense: 44
Evade: 7%
Magic Defense: 31     
                                                                                M. Block: 9%

Overview/Stats: Celes is basically the exact same as Terra. Her stats are similar to Terra, except her physical stats are a bit higher and her magic power is a bit lower. Celes is a bit more capable as a fighter than Terra is, but that's all there is to say really.

Special: Runic is awful. It is probably one of the worst specials in the game. There are a couple of bosses in the WOB who get easier if you runic, but otherwise you'll never be using this ability.

Equipment: Same as Terra's. The two of them have the best equipment options in the game.

Basically, Celes is the exact same as Terra but with a worse special. Terra is top tier and that means that Celes is too.

Cyan (Suzie):
Extra HP: 53
Extra MP: 5
Vigor: 40
Speed: 28
Stamina: 33
Magic Power: 25
Battle Power: 25
Defense: 48
Evade: 6%
Magic Defense: 20
M. Block: 1%

Overview/Stats: Cyan is a character who wasn't very well thought out. His special is awkward, and they didn't make his specialized equipment good enough for him to be a good attacker. He has the lowest Magic Power in the entire game, so hes hard to even raise as a mage.  For a front line fighter, his physical stats aren't anything all that special either. He also has the worst speed in the game for whatever reason.

Special: When you first get Cyan, Dispatch owns. Unfortunately, that is about his only useful Sword Technique. His later Sword Techniques do good damage, but you have to wait a very long time in order to be able to use them. While he is sitting there charging up, everyone else is slinging spells and doing more damage than his fully charged ability would do. His Sword Techniques are never worth the wait, and Dispatch only takes him so far in the game.

Equipment: Unfortunately, Cyan's equips aren't very good either.With the exception of the Tempest, all of Cyan's Katanas suck. He can use the Force Armor, which is one of the better armors in the game ... so that's something. He doesn't even make a good character to use the Offering with.

Cyan is a bottom tier character, and is one of the worst characters in the game. Fortunately for him, this game is pretty easy so it really doesn't matter who you choose to use in the end game.

To Be Continued...