Thursday, September 27, 2007

MTG Forge 2.0

I am in the process of rebuilding MTG Forge from the ground up. That means all of the cards have to be reprogrammed from scratch, none of the old cards will work with the new version. Today I just programmed the mana pool. This will allow cards like Early Harvest to work correctly as well as any cards that generate mana like Dark Ritual.

I like the Scourge land Temple of the False God that gives you 2 colorless mana if you have 5 or more land in play. The idea of lands producing more than 1 mana is just cool. Currently MTG Forge cannot implement Ravnica’s bounce lands because they generate 2 mana. Oddly enough Ravnica’s expensive duel lands were easy to program since they only generate 1 mana.

This is a rough outline of the features for 2.0 that I am shooting for. X spells and abilities like Fireball and Blaze. The computer is able to play counter spells, instants during combat, and at end of turn. (The computer can already use Remove Soul, yeah!!!) Phase stops, so you can set which phases to stop at, like end of turn. (Thankfully I have this tiny part already done, go me!!)

The ability to make a sideboard and use it during a match. (I have no idea if the computer should use his sideboard, maybe yes, maybe no. To begin with, it will be a no, since it is easier to program.) Quest mode where you start with a crappy deck and you have to win/buy better cards. Puzzle mode where you have to win by the next turn.

And hopefully being able to program most of the cards in a set like 10th Edition or maybe Lorwyn, so you can play real block decks. I’ve enjoyed programming old rares like Ancestral Recall and Flametongue Kavu, but they lack cohesion. I almost forgot, but I want to be able to code cards like Hypnotic Specter that trigger on combat damage or just regular damage.

Obviously this is sort of a long wish list and I might not be able to get it all done, we’ll see. Just a word of warning, MTG Forge 2.0 is still about 6 months away and will probably only have 50 cards, so you will have to enjoy the current version for awhile :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chandra Nalaar

Chandra is the 3rd planeswalker to be revealed and she is the most powerful so far. For a list of all planeswalkers and all known Lorwyn cards see here. Chandra costs 3RR and immediately pings your opponent for 1 or destroys any creature with a toughness of 6 or less. So all in all, Chandra will do something when she hits the board. If left unchecked for 3 turns she will deal 10 damage to you and to each of your creatures, OUCH!!! So you either have to win before she blows up your world or attack her with everything that you have.

In my opinion Liliana Vess is the weakest of the three planeswalkers. She needs your opponent (or yourself) to discard some quality creatures in order to return them to play. In general this is a weak strategy, but she combos well with cards like Damnation. Garruk Wildspeaker is a little better since he can generate three 3/3s or cast Overrun (all your creatures get +3/+3 and trample until end of turn). So Garruk would do well in a swarm deck, he works best if there are creatures that can be pumped up. Chandra is the best because she doesn’t have any requirements, she doesn’t need creatures in play or in the grave. Direct damage is always a surefire way to win and Chandra does that in spades. At worst she is a 5 mana fog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Banned From Star City Games

Please pardon me while I rant and rave. Skip this article if you don’t want pure, biased opinion. I was banned from the Star City Games forums for one week because I advertised my program, MTG Forge, too much. Wow, talk about criticism. I did post a short advertisement in the Constructed – Type II forum and it has already gotten 500 views in only 3 days, so does that really sound off-topic? I just programmed 3 Planeswalkers, the newest, greatest cards ever, that aren’t even released yet and I get banned for telling people about that? Am I missing something? Star City published my article but they don’t want me to talk about it in their forums?

In the history of Magic there are only 4 notable pieces of software: Magic Online, Apprentice, Magic Workstation and now MTG Forge. A new piece of significant Magic software is written as often as your Mom changes her hairstyle. MTG Forge is absolutely free and I personally feel like I’m giving away gold here, although I’m sure some people would disagree. MTG Forge is aimed at the casual crowd and is infinitely replayable. (Your top 4 could include Magic Set Editor since it lets you make your own cards.)

So maybe people always get banned for doing something that they feel passionately about. Miles Davis made a few electric/jazz/rock/funk albums and people either loved it or hated it, but at least his work evoked emotion. I think everyone who plays Magic Online would have a good time playing MTG Forge. Help me spread the word!!! Have you ever been banned?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Opinion on Planeswalkers

Shoot, I really wished I loved them, but I don’t. They seem like the ultimate casual card. Every kitchen table player will want one but everybody else will think they are just a novelty. Liliana Vess is both discard and graveyard recursion wrapped together, but she doesn’t win games. She can break stalemates and she is probably really good against a blue control deck, but she is painfully slow.

At best you will be using her discard ability on turn 5, but your opponent isn’t dumb, so he’ll probably just discard a land or something. She could go off on turn 7 with her super-duper return all creatures from all graveyards into play under your control, but that only matters if there are enough good creatures to make a difference. On the upside I did make a fun mono-black deck with Vess that had Damnation, Delirium Skeins (Each player discards 3 cards) and Royal Assassin that was pretty good.

I think Garruk Wildspeaker is a little bit better. For 2GG you can get a 3/3 now and two more 3/3 creatures later, not a bad deal at all. I guess he isn’t strictly card advantage, but at least he is creature advantage. If you don’t want to get more creatures, you can always untap two lands now, which is always a good thing, and then pump up all your creatures on your very next turn. Garruk is best in an aggressive swarm deck, because he is even a better pump than Tromp the Domains.

Garruk just seems more powerful because he pressures your opponent while Vess is some sort of crazy combo card that works sometimes. I could win with Vess but only if I was already winning and was just stalling in order to use her abilities. Even the computer never beat me with Vess because she is too slow. I would just ignore her and win anyways. Hopefully the other planeswalkers are a little bit better.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Programming Planeswalkers

Wizards has been hyping planeswalkers more than the new 2008 Chevrolet Mustang (I’m pretty sure Chevrolet doesn’t make Mustangs but I just needed a snappy analogy.) In short planeswalkers come into play with loyalty counters. These counters are used to pay for the abilities on the planeswalker. One ability can be played each turn, otherwise the planeswalkers would be insane.

So far each planeswalker has one ability that adds counters to itself. Planeswalkers can be attacked, so during combat you can attack either your opponent or his planeswalker. Blocking works like normal, you can block creatures that are attacking you or your planeswalker. If a planeswalker receives any damage, then remove a counter. When all the counters are removed, put it in the graveyard. See here for the complete list of rules.

So far Liliana Vess and Garruk Wildspeaker are programmed into MTG Forge. I had some code named “Combat” that handled combat, attacking and blocking, so I just had to add a 2nd copy of the Combat code that handles creatures that are attacking/blocking the planeswalker. It probably took me 30 minutes to understand my previous rewritten combat code to figure out that it would work for planeswalker combat also. Actually I had to change one whole line so the code would work for both types of combat.

The planeswalker abilities were harder to program and each planeswalker takes up about 200 lines of code. This is the first time MTG Forge has had an ability that effectively costs 0, so I had do some fancy pants programming. The code is pretty hacked together but it works.

Restricting the abilities to once per turn also added to the messy parts of the code, but thankfully it works. The computer AI for Liliana Vess is approximately 10 lines and I was a little surprised it was that easy, thank goodness for good software design. All in all adding the extra combat and Vess and Garruk probably took around 10 hours.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Useless Magic Facts

Yes you can amaze your friends with obscure trivia this is probably correct. (Note: you will only astound your friends if they like Magic, if they don’t, well, get new friends.)

Well let’s start with some big numbers. How many unique card names are there? 9,148 This includes the unsets and vanguard. Same question, no unsets and vanguard. 8,847 Just answering a simple question like “How many Magic card are there?” is a tough, that is a lot of cards for me to count, ha ha that was a joke.

Onward, and upward for more useless info….processing….How many times has Wizards re-printed the same card in different sets? 5,379 For example Chromatic Star was first printed in Time Spiral but was reprinted in 10th Edition. My number might be off some, but it seems right. Wizards has reprinted a whole buncha cards a whole buncha times, all for flavor reasons I’m sure, lol. Why make up new cards when you can just print old ones?

How many cards have double X mana costs? 8 cards, Builder's Bane, Chalice of the Void, Conflagrate, Decree of Justice, Meteor Shower, Orochi Hatchery, Part Water, and Recall. What card has the highest mana cost? Well not counting Gleemax with a cost of 10,000. Autochthon Wurm has a converted cost of 15. No one pays the whole 15, that would just be stupid, because Auto Wurm has convoke.

How many cards cost 0? 36 How many creatures have a power of 6? 133 How many cards have a toughness of 4? 528 What card has the most single colored mana symbols? Rushwood Elemental, it costs GGGGG And finally how many cards require all 5 colors to cast? 10 cards, Atogatog, Coalition Victory, Cromat, Genju of the Realm, Karona, False God, Last Stand, Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Sliver Legion, Sliver Overlord, Sliver Queen. I also remember that Bringer of the Black Dawn and his 4 bundies have an alternate casting cost of WUBRG. I’m not sure that anyone ever got a Bringer into play, but at least everyone talked about them, c’est la vie.

Thank you, thank you, join me next time when I count the number of hairs on my knuckles, good night.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Here is a look at another Planeswalker. A new version of MTG Forge will be released soon that has planeswalkers. Vess is already programmed.

There exists an old MicroProse game called Duels of the Planeswalkers but many players “in the know” refer to it as Shandalar, which is the name of the in-game world. I downloaded my version from Shandalar is pretty good, it has three main parts. One, you can play against the computer using all of the cards, a la constructed. Two, you can play in a sealed deck tournament. I found this very impressive and it actually inspired me to write MTG Forge. Three, you enter the world of Shandalar and try to collect cards in order to defeat the 5 evil wizards, one for each color.

Defeating the wizards in Shandalar takes a good amount of time or luck. It is sort of like a primitive Diablo, you fight creatures (duel) and try to build your deck into something competitive. You usually start out with a handicap, you will be at 9 life and your opponent might have 16 life. Sometimes your opponent even starts the duel with a creature in play, which is really astonishing the first time you see it. Starting out with even Llanowar Elves in play is a huge advantage. All of the duels are for ante (you win or lose a random card from your deck), so you need to win because losing will mess up your deck.

The graphics are very basic, you have to remember that the game was made in 1996. Shandalar looks like a very basic RPG where you walk around from town to town encountering random fiends and completing basic fetch quests. It takes a long time to assemble an optimized deck, so you will often use whatever decent cards that you have around. The duels tend be to short because both you and your opponent start out with less than 20 life, so aggro is the definite way to go. Not being able to mulligan really hurts because you often get mana flooded or screwed. It is still pretty interesting if you want to try it sometime. The last guy has 100 life and finally I did beat him (you just have to play him, you don’t have to win). I did rid Shandalar of evil for 1,673 years. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Take a look at this card, isn’t it different somehow? Planeswalkers have been a part of Magic’s history since the beginning and now they are getting their own new card type. Magic’s first new card type since, well, ever!!! Planeswalkers are to be introduced in Magic’s next release, Lorwyn, and were first mentioned on the Future Sight card Tarmogoyf. Get the latest info on Lorwyn from, I hate to advertise another site but they have pretty good spoilers.

Supposedly there are just 5 planeswalkers in Lorwyn, one for each color. I was excited to see an actual planeswalker card this early but unfortunately it still leaves me a little bit clueless. It seems that these new planeswalkers (boy that’s a big word) come with some rules attach that regrettably isn’t mentioned on the card (good luck to newbies).

Let’s review what we can learn from the card. One, it costs 3BB, that’s obvious but you have to start somewhere. Two, the 5 in the lower right corner seems to indicate some kind of resource like strength or magical ability that is left. Personally I call this new resource "magic mana." Three, this new resource is used to activate the abilities of the card, notice the similar shapes outlining the numbers. Four, there is a way to increase your supply of the new resource.
OK, this is pure speculation but I believe there can be only one planeswalker in play at a time. It seems like it would be weird if two planeswalkers were in play together, but it would better emulate a wizard-vs-wizard duel. Shoot, I wish I could figure out how to pay "+1". The rest of the abilities seem simple since they have a negative sign to show that you are actually subtracting something like magical mana.

After staring at Liliana Vess for 15 minutes I’ve made a few educated guesses that seem to make sense. Vess comes into play with 5 counters and she has 3 abilities that add or subtract those counters. Her first ability reads "+1: Target player discards a card" which seems to say "add another counter to Vess and make your opponent discard a card." (You could target yourself if you had a juicy creature in hand.) But the ability to make your opponent discard his whole hand for 5 mana is too strong, so I came to this conclusion. You can only play a planeswalker’s ability once per turn, probably only during your upkeep. This would limit you to only be forcing your opponent to discard one card per turn, which is more acceptable, while making you wait until turn 8 until you can put all creatures from all graveyards into play under your control.

I know my guesses are no better than anyone else’s, but at least I tried. So the first planeswalker Liliana Vess is revealed yet remains a mystery, but hopefully not for long. I’m sure the first split cards were pretty confusing to players also.