Monday, December 27, 2021

Things Near Carlsbad

We are visiting Carlsbad, CA again to be near family.

Years ago the decision about what to do here was quite obvious: LegoLand!

But now the boys are too old for that place.

They are not too old for local playgrounds.  Poinsettia Community Park has a very large parking lot and lots of room to run around, play soccer or frisbee, etc.  The playground is delightful but designed for 5-12 year old kids, so the boys got tired of it after about twenty minutes.  Olympus Park is smaller and has a tiny parking lot that makes it only appropriate for an early morning visit.  It does have a unique play structure.

There are some really short hikes near the hotel.  Hosp Grove Park is a little park with trails up the hill behind it, supposedly to nice views of the adjacent lagoon.  But its tiny parking lot means this is either another early morning outing or we have to park at the nearby shopping center (which does dangerously have a Sees Candy.)  There are three other tiny hiking trails near LegoLand.

Of course, the local beaches are great.  South Carlsbad State Beach is easy to get to and usually easy parking, but mostly rocks so okay for kids playing and digging in the sandy spots but not ideal for long walks at sunset.

Gluten-free restaurants include Rim Talay Thai food and Nectarine Grove smoothie shop.  But mostly we prepare food at the hotel suite, which is easy since we are across the street from Costco and within 15 minutes of three different Trader Joes!

For rainy days there is also Sky Zone trampoline park for two hours of bouncing and a respectable price, or K1 Go Carting for indoor racing that is a bit expensive for an extended family outing.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

When I Learned the Mad Scientist Laugh and Gesture are Instinctual

It is November, so time to share this story.

Gallant was only three, and owned only a few dollars in his "treasure box" (a plastic tool box).

We were at Costco. I knew he loved hot cocoa. It was November and the boxes of powdered hot cocoa mix were once again on sale.

I asked him if he wanted to spend $4 on hot cocoa. He thought for a long time. That was almost all his money! But he did love hot cocoa.

He said yes, so I lifted a box onto his lap. Only then did he realize this was not a single serving, but fifty cups of hot cocoa!

He tilted his head back and instinctively cackled loudly like a mad scientist "Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" and even did the gesture of lifting his hands claw-like to the heavens.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Hearthstone Paladin Overview (Rise of Shadows Expansion)

The Paladin is one of the nine hero choices for the Hearthstone card game.  A player who picks this hero can use the Paladin cards as well as neutral minions.

The internet provides many examples of Paladin decks.  But it can be difficult to find a broad overview of how the class works.  This essay aims to fill that role.

Section One: Behaviors

The Paladin cards include several that interact with your draw pile (Blessing of Wisdom, Crystology, Call to Adventure, Prismatic Lens, Duel, and Bellringer Sentry) to make your deck predictable and efficient.

Only two Paladin cards interact with your discard pile (Immortal Prelate and Kangor's Endless Army).  These each define their own deck archetype as described below.

The Paladin cards include only three that interact with your hand (Glowstone Technician, Bronze Herald, and Dragon Speaker).  These currently are fun but not a key feature of any meta deck.

No Paladin cards interact with battlecries.  This is an intentional weakness for the hero.

The only Paladin card that interacts with deathrattle is the secret Redemption, which allows a minion's deathrattle to occur an extra time.  Small but significant!

Currently Paladin cards have a creature type synergy with mechs and dragons.  In the past murlocs and recruits were too, but no longer.

Filling your side of the battlefield with small minions is called a "wide board". Some other heroes have cards (Soul of the Forest, Soul of the Murloc) that make a wide board "sticky", meaning an effect that destroys all your minions will not actually leave your side of the battlefield empty because replacement minions stick around.  Paladin cards have no way to make wide board sticky.  This is an intentional weakness for the hero.

The Paladin cards include four to clear an opponent's wide board (Equality, Shrink Ray, Consecration, and Avenging Wrath).  Some decks combine these with the neutral minion Wild Pyromancer to increase their potency.

Some other heroes have minions (Timber Wolf, Tundra Rhino) or spells (Savage Roar, Bloodlust) that beneficially affect all the minions on your side of the battlefield.  Paladin cards have no way to empower all your minions.  However, this has been a feature of Paladin cards in the past and might return in a future expansion.

The only way Hearthstone cards allow you to act on your opponents turn is with secrets.  The Paladin cards include some really great secrets.

Three Paladin cards provide a surprise burst on your turn without needing a card combination (Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, Truesilver Sword).  Most decks include one of these to allow the player to punish the opponent for acting too greedy.

Section Two: Tempo from Secrets

Most Paladin decks include secrets.  These serve two purposes.

First, they ensure that player survives the early game.  This is especially true if combined with Commander Rhyssa.

Second, the secrets provide the type of efficiency called "tempo".  Mysterious Blade and the neutral minion Sunreaver Spy both provide a lot of value for only two mana.  Early in the game, while many secrets are still in the deck, Prismatic Lens will often makes a big minion very cheap to play.  Later in the game Bellringer Sentry helps bring remaining secrets out of the deck so important minions are drawn sooner.

A common selection of secrets that promotes early game survivability and middle game tempo is: Autodefense Matrix, Hidden Wisdom, two copies of Never Surrender, Noble Sacrifice, and two copies of Redemption.

Section Three: Deck Archetypes

Secret Paladin

This deck archetype includes more secrets, Secretkeeper, Masked Contender, and Leeroy Jenkins.  If you own Subject 9 that card adds extra oomph.  The goal is to use the tempo created by secrets to wear down the opponent, and then use Leeroy Jenkins to finish the game.

The Magic Carpet variant includes the neutral minion Magic Carpet along with the 1-cost minions Argent Squire, Crystallizer, Mecharoo, and Glow-Tron.  It tends to be weaker than the meta version of Secret Paladin, but more fun to play.

Mech Paladin

This deck archetype builds up three big mechs, and then brings them back with
Kangor's Endless Army.  That goal is simple enough to be achievable, and powerful enough to win the game.

The Small Mech variant focuses on small, magnetic minions like Glow-Tron, Skaterbot, and Bronze Gatekeeper, enhanced by Call to Adventure and Glowstone Technician.  This variant is one of the few Paladin deck archetypes that include few or no secrets, instead relying on its small minions to survive the early game.

The Jepetto variant focuses on three minions whose effectiveness does not depend on their attack or health values: Mechanical Whelp, Mechano-Egg, and Faceless Manipulator.  The neutral minion Jepetto Joybuzz is used to draw these early.

The Fast Budget variant does not use Kangor's Endless Army.  Instead it works like a less effective Bomb Hunter, with a focus on quick damage by including Explodinator and Replicating Menace and attaching magnetic mechs to a wider board.  It is the weakest mech variant, but fun for players who do not own Kangor's Endless Army.

Big Spell Paladin

This deck archetype uses five big spells (two copies of Avenging Wrath, two copies of A New Challenger, and one copy of Lay on Hands) in combination with Spirit of the Tiger to rule the late game.  The spells are so strong that the bonus creation of big minions will surely overwhelm the opponent.

Things get even better when Archmage Vargoth replicates those spells and bonus minions!

The neutral minion Sunreaver Warmage is included for mid-game tempo.

Big Minion Paladin

This deck archetype uses Prismatic Lens and Duel to play huge minions like Amani War Bear, Batterhead, Tirion Fordring, and Ysera much earlier than otherwise.

Include whichever huge minions you own and enjoy.

To some extent Big Minion Paladin can be blended with other Paladin deck archetypes.  Have fun experimenting!

One Turn Kill Paladin

The goal of this deck archetype is to draw the entire deck (typically using the well-established combination of Wild Pyromancer and Acolyte of Pain), play Shirvallah, play Baleful Banker to put a copy of Shirvallah as your deck, and then play Holy Wrath to deal 25 damage.

The deck's second copies of Baleful Banker and Holy Wrath can repeat the combination for an additional 25 damage against opponents with a lot of armor.

The Nomi variant includes Chef Nomi as an alternate win condition.  This allows Shirvallah to be used in the middle of the game if needed, which can really help when the opponent has a very aggressive deck.

Either version may include the spells Time Out and/or Rebuke to help survive until victory happens.

Immortal Paladin

This deck archetype uses Crystology, Call to Adventure, and Witchwood Piper to draw the card Immortal Prelate.  That minion is buffed, used until it dies, and then returns with its buffs.  It grows throughout the game until the opponent is worn down.  If you own Da Undatakah that card adds extra oomph.

The Recurring Villain variant adds Recurring Villain as a second returning minion to buff.

Both versions can use either secrets or small mechs to survive the early game.

Dragon Paladin

This deck archetype uses dragons and Paladin cards that work with dragons.  Because most dragons have useful battlecries, the neutral minion Barista Lynchen is often included.

UPDATE: June 2019 had game development news about the intended flavor of all nine hero classes. It says:
Paladins are great champions who support their minions with buffs, healing, and divine shields; however, they are not afraid to get their hands dirty when the time comes. They are methodical, controlling the battlefield through debuffs and focused attacks instead of destructive spells. Strength and persistence are the keys to a Paladin’s victory.

Focuses on and excels at: minion swarms, minion buffs and debuffs, healing, divine shield, secrets
Limitated functionality with: cost reduction
Struggles to do: direct damage spells, destroying big minions

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What I Got from a Hearthstone Pre-Purchase

I tried but failed to love Hearthstone years ago, when the game had too many problems.

I recently tried again.  I am really enjoying the game.  Most of the early problems are fixed.
  • Daily quests do not all require winning games
  • The deck-builder automatically completes decks intelligently
  • Monthly ladder resets do not clump experts and newbies together
  • A "budget" meta deck without a specific legendary card is not crippled

For the first time, before last week's Rise of Shadows expansion I spent $80 on the big 80 pack pre-release bundle.  I am glad I did.

I expected two benefits.

First, when gaining new Rise of Shadows packs I would more quickly get dust from daily quests to craft cards I wanted.  This would be pleasant compared to the past expansion.  During the past three months I had just started getting noticeable dust income by the time a newer expansion appeared.

Second, I previously had one meta deck type named Odd Hunter that I could use in ranked play to see how much ladder progress my skill allowed.  I wanted a new meta deck to play on the ladder.

I did not realize how much more I would get.

Before I can explain further, I should describe what a "meta deck type" is for readers who do not play the game.  Here is a list of the currently best ones, two weeks into Rise of Shadows.

Right now the game is enjoying amazing balance.  Great job, designers!  Nine meta deck types have a win rate between 51.98% and 53.66%.  This is a very close spread: no one deck type is too dominant.  Moreover, eight of the nine heroes are represented.

Each of these deck types focuses on 10 to 15 cards.  A player who owns those can create a version of that deck type.

The improved game design means that missing a legendary card does not cripple its deck type.  The "budget" version of that any meta deck type might have one less trick up its sleeve, but still behaves similarly and can be nearly as successful on the ladder.

At the start of Rise of Shadows I was awarded a bunch of dust for owning certain now-obsolete cards, and for opening my pre-purchase packs.  An unexpected benefit was how I could create a bunch of key epic cards that my collection lacked, such as Sea Giant, CrystallizerMasked Contender, Magic CarpetMaster's Call, and Preparation.  Those opened up a whole lot of new options.

I expected to be able to build a new meta deck.  Now I can build five!  I can use the deck types named Midrange Hunter, Zoo Warlock, Imp Warlock, Secret Paladin, and Silence Priest.

For seven more deck types I can have fun with "budget" versions on the ladder: Token Druid, Recurring Villain Paladin, Tempo Rogue, Lackey Rogue, Resurrect Priest, Tempo Mage, and Spell Hunter.  For each of these I am missing only one legendary card (or a few epic cards of lesser total dust cost).  It is nice to have a shopping list of which cards I should craft next.

So I did get the jump-start I expected about getting more dust from daily quests to craft the cards I wanted.

And I did get not only one meta deck type to play, but five complete ones and seven more "budget" ones.

I also got a new way to relax.  Being able to use so many deck types means I now understand how those deck types work, and watching Hearthstone players on Twitch, YouTube, and in tournaments has become much more fun.

I also gained playing with my most fun cards.  I always found fiddling with decks to be time-consuming and not fun.  So when I owned cards that were fun but not powerful I seldom bothered to make decks to use them.  The improved deck-builder now lets me select a few cards and then will automatically finish the deck with the optimal other cards in my collection.  So I spent some of my dust on silly cards like Academic Espionage that will not help in ladder play but are providing a lot of fun in non-ranked games.

Finally, the improved deck-builder makes owning non-meta rare and epic cards more fun.  For example, the pre-purchase packs happened to give me Jumbo Imp.  That card is not currently part of any top-performing deck.  But it has potential.  I can auto-complete a deck seeded with just that card to see the most successful deck other players have designed for it so far.  And if other players ever do design a meta deck type that uses it, my deck-builder will use it appropriately.