Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weekday Update

At the end of each month, I'm going to give a short update on my life and my writing, divorced from me telling you what to read and me making strange VS concoctions. Why am I going to do this? Because...because...I'm not actually sure why. Rest assured, the comics goodness will be returning shortly!

The two stories I made mention of last month - Pittsburgh Blue and I Am Very Important - were both rejected. While this doesn't necessarily surprise me, it is nonetheless disappointing. I will be trying to find a place to resubmit each of them, and you'll find out if I do.

Spacewesterns.com is accepting submissions, and as weird as it sounds, the second I heard the name of the site I came up with a story. It's not done, but I'm currently working on The Lonesome Death of Kara Inanna for submission, and, again, if I complete it, you'll hear about it.

Finally, it's National Novel Writing Month! If you've never heard of it and fancy yourself a writer, I recommend you check out their website - it's a strange concept, but it appeals to me, so I've signed up to give it a shot this month. The goal is, of course, to write a novel in a single month. Yes, 50,000 word minimum. One month. They do not help you get it placed, they don't help you sell it, they don't critique it. Why are you doing it? Because you hate yourself.

Nonetheless, as anyone who knows me knows, I'm so full of self-loathing I could pop, so this is right up my alley! Between this and 'Lonesome Death', I'll be writing a frankly embarrassing amount of fiction, but never fear - the blog will not be ignored! The reason for the recent lack of posts involves a dispute between me and my Internet provider, who shall not be named but who I wish to smite with the power of a million exploding suns. When that is resolved, expect posts detailing some interesting comics, decks featuring cards that no competent VS player would ever use (including a deck based around Warworld...because how great was Warworld?), and other such generic ramblings as you've come to expect from The Seventh Soldier of Apathy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Revenge Squad/League of Assassins Edition

When I first got into VS, I rarely, if ever, built competent decks. It’s nice to see that some things never change, huh? Yeah, you know!


Anyways, I wasn’t a good enough player or a good enough deck-builder to delve too deeply into strategy, but I thoroughly enjoyed one particular set of articles on Metagame.com – Breaking Ground. And one of my favorite articles over there introduced me to Plague Counters, a little-used League of Assassins theme that encompasses all of three cards in the entirety of the game.

Of course, that deck’s creation was back before the Revenge Squad was refeatured, giving them a single, massive bonus to the deck: Professor Emil Hamilton <> Ruin, Power Suit.

For those unfamiliar with Clench Virus, it’s a 3-cost plot twist that reads thus:

Play only if you control a League of Assassins character.
Ongoing: At the start of your attack step, put a plague counter on target character.
Whenever a character receives a plague counter, if that character has a number of plague counters greater than its cost, KO that character.

Not too shabby, huh? Of course, there’s a simple problem – just one of these isn’t going to do much. Two will obviously do more, but what you really want is 3-4 of them in your row. Three-four of them in a row can start knocking off characters every 1-2 turns, especially when combined with Poisoned!, a minor pump that’ll also give a plague counter.

So, here goes a modern take…

Plague Rats

4x Winslow Schott <> Toyman, Child’s Play

4x Terra-Man, Toby Manning
4x Atomic Skull, Joe Martin

4x Professor Emil Hamilton <> Ruin, Power Suit
3x The Mad Dog, Rabid Killer

4x Maxima, Empress of Almerac
2x Metallo, Kryptonite Heart

2x Talia, Daughter of Madness

2x Satanus, Evil Incarnate

4x Mountain Stronghold, Non-Unique

4x Tower of Babel
4x Poisoned!
4x Clench Virus
4x Executive Privilege
4x Never-Ending Battle
2x Hostage Situation
1x State of the Union
3x Death of Superman

So, there’s the game. The obvious stuff first – you want as many Clench Viruses in your row as you can get. Hostage Situation isn’t bad, and Executive Privilege is great, but you want some Clench Virus action going as soon as possible. Your mulligan is a Mountain Stronghold or Emil Hamilton, though obviously Clench Virus or Executive Privilege can be tough to pass up.

The deck plays exactly as you’d think it would. You keep their board clear using plague counters, refresh Poisoned when you need to with Winslow Schott. Terra Man, Atomic Skull, and Winslow Schott can all be played for free thanks to Talia, while Executive Privilege and Mountain Stronghold will both beef up your search and offer discards to her ability. Hostage Situation gives those low-drops something to do just in case, while Never-Ending Battle lets you push through the damage you need to on their diminishing board (with help from Death of Superman) to try and end things. Only bring out Satanus if you have initiative on 6 and you know you can't kill - a team attack into their 6 will net you a vastly superior position on 7, and your board will only keep improving.

Meanwhile, if you’re playing against Darkseid’s Elite or some other team that will fool around with your resource row, a single stun on Emil can send him scurrying for a copy of State of the Union, which will prevent opponents from targeting your row. And, finally, Tower of Babel proves to be one of the ultimate utility cards in the Bring Your Own Two-Team format, preventing a vast variety of support abilities – no legend support and no generic cards make Tower of Babel particularly nasty.

That’s all for tonight, but I’ll be back in a day or two with more fun stuff. Hope you had a good weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

For those of you unfamiliar with the work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, I've provided a link to their homepage. I know that with the current state of the economy, asking for a donation is a bit much...but right now, I just want to draw attention to them.

The CBLDF is dedicated to defending the first amendment rights of comics creators, sellers, and consumers. A good example of their work can be found in their most recent case: http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000372.shtml.

If you don't like donating and enjoy collecting autographs, they also have a store available with signed trades and hardcovers from big name creators like Jeff Smith, Ed Brubaker, and Robert Kirkman. Meanwhile, the Board of Directors of the Fund includes writer Neil Gaiman, Peter David, and Paul Levitz.

A first amendment group for comics nerds.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Authors You Might Like: Guy Gavriel Kay

So, I’ve talked a lot about comics, giving recommendations for modern books that I think deserve some love. I’ve had a few rants, on things from current comics trends to politics. I’ve talked about TV shows I loved, albeit briefly, and I’ve thrown down some VS decks that, I definitely admit, were built largely because I was a huge fan of the teams or characters I used.

Still, I haven’t talked much about movies, video games, whatever. Books. I loved to read, growing up. Didn’t actually like comics until I was a senior in high school when, after reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, one friend lent me Sandman and another followed it up with Watchmen. I was hooked.

But, before then, in high school, I read a book every damn day. Every day of every year, I pushed my way through a book. Sometimes it was a re-reading, but that’s where a bulk of my cash went, and the librarians in town knew me by sight. Those years were a big part of the reason as to why I’m in graduate school now, studying to be a librarian.

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, all that. I’ve enjoyed many other genres, of course, everything ranging from the classics through romance all the way on into noir. So, given that I’ve read a few thousand books by now, I figure, hey, maybe I’ve read one or two books that you haven’t. And even if I haven’t, even if the course of your readings has so perfectly mapped my own, I love the sound of my own voice, the process of recording my thoughts.

Now, this isn’t the only time I’ll be suggesting authors or books to you, to check out, but it is the first time I’ll be doing so, which means it’s a little bit special. Obviously, this means that I should choose a writer that’s special to me, right? A writer you’ve probably never heard of who writes books that I believe contribute something to life, or something.

Or, you know, I ould choose the author I’ve been reading a lot of lately. And I will. ‘Cuz it’s easy, and this particular author is seven shades of awesome.

Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian fantasy writer, and he’s been writing for over two decades now, I believe. He opened with what I recall being a fairly generic, substandard fantasy trilogy – the Fionavar Tapestry. I won’t recommend it to you, as I never managed to make it beyond the first book in the series, but I haven’t tried in seven or eight years.

However, after that, a little time passed, Kay had a lengthy novel titled Tigana, a far less-traditional fantasy novel set in a magical world that bore some vague resemblances to a medieval Italy. Tigana was a quality fantasy book with a novel concept – a recently-conquered country was punished for their defiance by having their nation’s name and history stripped from all minds save their own. They were renamed ‘Lower Corte’ after a nation, Corte, they’d warred with for decades, and nearly taxed into oblivion. Only those born in Tigana could remember anything about it...and once they died out, their history, art, and legends were lost forever. Some of them, though, were still in revolution, hoping to overthrow the conquerors and regain their name. The book asks a lot of interesting questions about the nature of rebellion, revenge, and power, three very common themes throughout Kay’s work.

As an early novel, it was definitely interesting, and it was extraordinarily well-handled, in my opinion. He followed that with A Song for Arbonne, a novel with similar themes about a country launching a holy war against another for worshipping in another manner…as well as maybe one or two slightly more political reasons. Apparently, history buffs might recognize elements of the Albigensian Crusade in the story, and this sets the trend for a great deal of what Kay’s novels do.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is heavily based on a certain period in Spanish history, while the Sarantine Mosaic was based on Constantinople and The Last Light of the Sun has its basis in the reign of Alfred the Great, and the most recent novel, Ysabel, takes place in the modern day, but is deeply involved in a legend about a battle between the Celts and a Roman leader, Marius.

So, if you’re a fan of well-crafted political fantasy, I’d recommend giving a Kay’s novels a shot. They aren’t flawless, for all that I’ve spent the last four-hundred words gushing about him, but in a genre that sees countless Lord of the Rings clones, he’s a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Crime Lords/JLI Edition

The Family. A criminal organization. If it gets big enough, if you get deep enough, it could be like a family. Really, anything can be like a family. A small super-team, no matter how ineffectual and goofy, could be like a family. It was, for the JLI. And the Crime Lords, like any good fictional criminal gang, places a lot of emphasis on family, on loyalty.

If you read the VS segments of my blog, you know that one of the teams that, for some inexplicable reason, I've always been quite fond of is Marvel's Crime Lords. For a long time considered one of the worst teams in the game, I loved them nonetheless, and it's always a pleasure to be able to build a Crime Lords deck utilizing old, and with MUN, new cards together.

Another team I've been fond of, though I neither discuss nor make use of them often, is the JLI. A team of goof-off super-heroes having bizarre adventures more suited to sit-com than spandex, the JLI offered an intriguing mix of comedy and drama in the comics, and so they are one of many teams that I'm desperately glad to see in VS.

In the newest Bring Your Own Two Teams format, you get to pick two teams, Golden Age, and you don't have to run a team-up. On the other hand, though, you flat-out can't run any generic cards. Almost every single type of deck in existence loses a lot from this. Savage Beatdown, Mobilize, Birthing Chambers - these are important, powerful cards, and we can't use them. So, you build around it.

The JLI offer two things to the Crime Lords in the way of characters - Martian Manhunter, a board-reinforcement guy on a team that enjoys reinforcement, and Animal Man, a character who gets bigger whenever he enters combat. They also offer effects that will allow Animal Man multiple safe attacks in a turn in Safety in Numbers, and full-on attack negation in Running Interference.

Meanwhile, the Crime Lords offer you Underground Laboratory, a brutally efficient card-draw engine (I wonder if Checkmate could do anything with that...?), a way to make Animal Man your defender whenever you want in Armed Escort, and one of the best defense pumps available in Drive-By Shooting. They also offer a low-cost army character that recovers characters and has range. These things, they are very nice.

So, once again, I present to you - a deck using pet teams and themes that are vastly enhanced by the lack of a team-up needed! Woohoo! I can literally smell your thrill from over here.

6x The Hand, Army * HYDRA
8x AIM Agents, Army * AIM
4x Sue Dibny, Charismatic Coordinator

4x Sin, Synthia Schmidt * RAID
2x Arnim Zola, The Bio-Fanatic * RAID

4x Animal Man, Buddy Baker

3x Martian Manhunter, Founding Member

1x The Sleeper, Doomsday Device * RAID

4x Armed Escort

4x Underground Laboratory

4x Drive-By Shooting
4x UN General Assembly
4x Good Night, Sweet Prince
4x Running Interference
4x Safety in Numbers

And that's that. Obviously, you want Animal Man out on 4 or 5. On or off initiative doesn't matter - he's an extremely efficient 4-drop, nothing more, and one that allows you to under-drop in later turns without penalizing yourself in available ATK/DEF. Martian Manhunter means each and every single one of those army guys are going to be reinforced and a simple exhaust will equal crazy card-draw, while the recovery ability of The Hand, and the ability of Sin, will allow you to negate attacks on Animal Man with Running Interference. Arnim Zola can turn otherwise dead army-characters into a 4-point swing each turn, and when The Sleeper comes down, that should be all she wrote.

I hope you've enjoyed yourself. It could definitely use some tweaking from a more experienced deck-builder, but the deck is certainly fun. I've got a few more decks I'm playing with in my head right now, for future use, and coming up pretty soon we'll see the blog expand into discussion of a few fiction authors some of you might just get a kick out of, as well as the usual rigamarole of my own personal blatherings.

Hope the weekend was great, and enjoy the semi-holiday tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Year of the Bastard

Well, as I suspect you’ve noticed, it’s comin’ up on election time. I know a lot of people who, despite complaining an awful lot about The Way Things Are really, honestly don’t care, and thus won’t vote. Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do, and equally obviously, many of you aren’t like this, but I suppose I want to urge you all to do the research on the candidates and head out there, when the time comes, to vote.

And, because I’m me, I have to do it in the most amusing way, to me, possible. Generally, that involved telling you to read something. This is no exception, as, in an election year, I feel compelled to offer up this particular suggestion: Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan.

Transmet features Spider Jerusalem, drugged out gonzo journalist in the style of Hunter S. Thompson (with notably more violence), and a fair number of volumes deal with his coverage of the election and subsequent clashes with the President as he tries as hard as he can to make an increasingly apathetic culture care about who will be running the country and how they'll be doing it.

For all the absolutely insane sci-fi elements to the story, the story definitely rings true to where we are in the world today. We live in a world where people remain gleefully uneducated about many of the most serious issues facing our nation while turning elections into a matter of “who’s the most like me?” We’re blinded by sound bites of flashy issues, ignoring follow through, ignoring compromise.

Transmet is hardly a new book, but there are a lot of people who’ve never heard of it, and a lot more who’ve never read it. It’s a frenetic, powerful book that’s wildly entertaining, and while it’s preachy at times, it’s relevant, and the scolding is well-deserved.

So, head up to your local library and ask about Transmet. Many public libraries have the full series, and others will think about ordering it if you ask. It’s a worthwhile read, especially in an election year, and if you aren’t interested in spending the money yourself, there’s no reason you can’t ask a library to do it for you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Avengers/X-Men Edition

Whenever a new format comes out, I end up hoping and praying that it’ll let me play with my single favorite sub-theme of all time – Avengers team-attack. I know that the Avengers part isn’t part of the theme, but I still find that the Avengers in MAV are the most fun, competitive team-attackers ever made. Much as I love the Young Avengers content in MUN, the lack of effects like Legendary Battles, Playroom, Quicksilver, and Natasha make it so that they can’t quite hold a candle.
They are, however, an excellent addition, because aside from those four cards, the old Avengers lacked strong team-attack based characters like Patriot, Speed, and Vision, and effects like Liberating Number 42 provide a frankly brutal amount of potential card draw.

Of course, the most recent announced format is Bring Your Own Two Team, a golden age format that automatically teams up two teams of your choice, but bans generic cards of any sort, like most of the most popular, powerful cards: Mobilize, Savage Beatdown, Blinding Rage, etc…. It also, I believe, bans Legendary cards, unless they also reference one of your two team affiliations.

Since the format’s Golden Age, a format that I often find less than appealing, it allows me access to my old Avengers team-attack core. And since it automatically teams up, I don’t have to worry nearly as much about getting a team-up online, opening up roughly 8 slots in the deck.

The X-Men don’t offer a bunch of powerful effects, but they don’t have to – the Avengers pack a powerful punch – but between their three features, they definitely have the tools to fill the holes in the Avengers roster, with powerful team attack centric characters like Cyclops, Slim, and the slightly toned-down functional reprint of Quicksilver in Nightcrawler, Man of the Cloth, not to mention potent plot twists like Time Breach, Bamf!, and Turnabout.

While many of the hardest hitting decks are slowed down slightly in this format thanks to a lack of generics, this deck is vastly enhanced by the format, not needing to worry about getting a team-up online ASAP, and most of the best team-attack support cards have been hard-stamped to a team. Still, I should stop talking up the deck, as I’m sure a more gifted deck-builder could do something far more impressive with the basics, and just give you my amateurish first draft of the deck.

So, without further ado, I present to you…


4x Jubilee, Jubilation Lee
4x Natasha Romanoff <> Black Widow, Super Spy
3x Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger
3x Captain America, The Patriot * Secret Avenger
1x Falcon, Secret Avenger
1x Hawkeye <> Ronin, Secret Avenger
1x Patriot, Elijah Bradley * Young Avenger
1x Kate Bishop <> Hawkeye, Young Avenger
3x Speed, Thomas Shepard * Young Avenger
3x Cyclops, Slim
3x Nightcrawler, Man of the Cloth
2x Professor X, Idealistic Dreamer
1x Monica Rambeau <> Captain Marvel, Lady of Light

4x Playroom
3x Muir Island

4x Legendary Battles
4x Liberating Number 42
3x Switching Sides
4x Time Breach
4x Bamf!
4x Turnabout

The deck is immensely flexible – Natasha or Slim on 2, Nightcrawler or Quicksilver on 3, or underdrop them later. You want access to Legendary Battles and Bamf! as soon as possible, and Playroom is the most brutal, and necessary, card of them all. Without a ‘once per turn’ trigger, Playroom will kill a weenie deck as early as turn 4 – if they have 5 1-drops and you have Nightcrawler and Quicksilver with a single Legendary Battles, you just dealt 36 damage and lost none...and if you have a Liberating Number 42, you just rallied for 10 character cards as well. Even against a curve deck, the damage adds up quickly, and the sheer number of ways you can hit the opponent can make it difficult to lock down.

So, there’s my first BYOTT.ga deck. I hope you enjoyed, and I’ll be back in a day or two with a new update.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

Recent troubles with Verizon have forced me to cut back a tad on my Internet use, but I'm working through that right now as best I can, and thought I'd keep you all apprised of the situation. Meanwhile, not a huge update today, as I'll largely be job hunting, homework doing, working on a new story, scripting a comic, and reading - a fairly busy day. Still, I thought I'd give a list of what's to come on the Seventh Soldier of Apathy this month, beginning, in all likelihood, tomorrow, and in no particular order whatsoever.

On top of the occasional Clone Wars deck list, I'll be branching out and embracing the current Bring Your Own Two Teams format with a few strange deck lists.

Another 'The Best Books You Aren't Reading' or two, and a few extra comics related posts. On top of that, I figure I'll branch out even more and continue to flaunt my excellent taste by suggesting some fairly excellent novels in a variety of genres.

Reactions to the beginnings of the MEV previews, since we've now seen a grand total of 5 shockingly solid cards in a set that looks like it'll be a blast.

And finally, at the end of the month, updates on where my stories are submitted, and whether they've been rejected or accepted.

So, that's that. Another month on my blog as we come up on my one year anniversary. To my loyal reader in New York City, the one I think I have in Chicago, and another one I'm kind of confident about in mid-Ohio - I hope you have an excellent month, I hope you stick around, and if you have any sort of feedback on the kind of things you'd like to see more - or less! - of, feel free to let me know.