Ways that Wizards could Improve Legacy

Many of us Magic players are Legacy enthusiasts. We love the format – we’re heavily invested into it, we love playing with some of the most powerful cards ever printed, and we have been doing so for years. More recently, Wizards has seen fit to promote the Modern format heavily – it will be the Standard of eternal formats. The reasons for doing so are sound – the biggest being that the reserved list exists. That all being said, I believe that it is in Wizard’s best interest to continue to promote Legacy as well as Modern through some direct injections of key card reprints as well as maybe some alternatives for reserved list items. Here are a few ideas I’ve thought of.

Obviously, the biggest restriction to Legacy growth is the supply of dual lands. There, Wizards could easily come up with some plausible alternatives. Snow duals have often been floated – it’s not a bad idea, but it’s a bit of a cop-out. Snow duals would be almost exact functional reprints of regular duals, and they would have to be introduced into Standard. That could be a nightmare for many a reason. Another idea would be some type of hexproof dual with a penalty, such as enters tapped or requires loss of life to be played. A hexproof dual would also ease the need to own Wastelands in the format as well, which would be a good thing. While we’re at it, Wasteland and Rishadan Port are certainly nearing time for a reprint.

Another idea is to print Force of Will – in Standard. Having Force of Will in Standard would be a blast – Legacy players would make Standard decks just to play Force. In all likelihood, it would not be stellar in Standard because it’s a combo-killer and there isn’t much combo happening in Standard. Where there’s been a history of broken combo, though, is Modern. Adding Force of Will would certainly be a big change for Modern, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing? Having Force of Will in Modern possibly would have precluded a need to ban a bunch of the more powerful combo decks, too. Nothing would please me more than to see an easing of the Modern banned list, like there has been with Legacy over the years.

Yet another idea would be to make some very powerful tribal lands. There are certain tribes that border on Legacy playability – such as vampires, zombies, and wizards. If there were some lands that added a powerful effect for those tribes (and maybe some spicy meatballs for goblins and merfolk too), it could boost them to Legacy playability – Modern, too. Those decks already have access to Mutavault and Aether Vial through some recent reprints. Adding them to Legacy could create an awesome new era, and it could be done deliberately.

There are certainly more things that could be done. I don’t think it would be too much to ask for Wizards to do something big to inject new life into Legacy. It’s a great format, and there are many players that are dedicated to it. Vintage is a broken beast, but Legacy is a well oiled format – there is so rarely a dominant archetype that it is no stretch to say Legacy has the best stability among all formats, Standard included. That alone is reason enough to keep it around – until Modern proves itself as the worthy successor, it would be a shame to destroy the most beautiful thing you’ve ever created.

CISPA

CISPA is the latest cyber-intelligence legislation passing through Congress. Basically, it’s goal is to legally allow companies (like Facebook, for instance) to share user information with the Federal government.

Obviously, the government should be able to have access to private information online in order to prevent crimes they are reasonably certain are going to happen. This is not a new concept – we have the same needs in the physical world, where a set of checks and balances has been established to allow the needs of law enforcement while protecting a reasonable amount of our privacy. Law enforcement uses the courts to obtain permission to gather information that would be reasonably otherwise private.

I wanted to educate myself on CISPA – is it a reasonable piece of legislation, or does it allow an unlimited breach of privacy, as it’s detractors have said? I took a reasonable time to look over the legislation, and there was one thing that struck me about it fairly immediately. Go here, to the official repository of the CISPA draft. Click on the latest version, and search for the word ‘warrant’. No results found.

What’s so bad about getting a warrant before asking private companies for information about their users? Is that too much due process? It doesn’t seem to be in the physical world. Any legislation that addresses cyber-intelligence (or, in other words, all the public and private data online) should carry with it a system of checks and balances that prevent abuse. As such, CISPA is deeply flawed and cannot be reasonably justified. FerretArmy.com stands with Tim Berners-Lee in saying that CISPA threatens the rights of all citizens and should never be enacted.

jsFiddle: The Online Web Editor

I just started playing with jsFiddle, which is an online tool that allows you to test and share HTML/JavaScript fragments. It’s a really neat tool – I’m not entirely sure what it’s boundaries are quite yet, but it’s been pretty amazing so far.

The interface is fairly intuitive – just three panes for HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, and an output pane that displays your rendered content. It also has support for a number of JavaScript frameworks (jQuery, MooTools, etc), and a number of addons for those frameworks. It’s also setup as a collaborative tool – by default, your ‘Fiddles’ are public and accessible by URL. As a quick test of the tool, I ported the code I wrote for my ‘:between‘ jQuery selector – check out the demo here: http://jsfiddle.net/jneal/WmnNJ/.

You can even embed your Fiddles on other websites. Next time I write a post on a coding technique, I’m planning on setting up some examples through jsFiddle. Hopefully it turns out well!

Triple MBS Drafting

I’ve been doing a ton of triple Mirrodin Besieged drafting on Magic Online lately, and I’ve been winning my fair share of packs. Triple MBS is a limited-time draft format, so there likely won’t be much strategy written around it. Triple MBS is a great format to draft because it’s a small set (less packs opened) and because it has relatively more money cards than Scars of Mirrodin. Okay, onto some thoughts.

First, I don’t think infect is a very good strategy in triple MBS. The infect cards are spread out across too many colors, so getting a deck together is tough. Second, the best infect cards are also the best cards against infect. Blight Widow and Priests of Norn will be highly picked by everyone, so you’ll end up with the drecks, like Flensermite. Third, infect is a popular (but bad) strategy, so the cards will be that much harder to come by.

Fangren Marauder is first-pickable. I’ve not had any trouble picking up a full playset of these in most of my drafts, and I’ll always splash green to play them. They are the nuts against non-infect decks, and they are even great against infect. Next, anything that gives a -1/-1 counter or does one damage is playable, and probably will be awesome in your deck. Any guaranteed 2-for-1 is playable (even Myr Sire). Sword of Feast and Famine isn’t nearly as threatening as you think – it’s a mana sink in the early turns, and every deck should have an answer to it (maindecked, none the less). There are far fewer mana fixing cards to make splashing three colors easy in triple MBS than there are in Scars (no mana Myrs), so Sphere of the Suns is a great pickup, as well as Viridian Emissary.

So, what do I think is the most playable strategy in this format? Red-Green artifact sacrifice. The core of this deck is anything that works with artifact sacrfice – Fangren Marauder, Gnathosaur, Ichor Wellspring, Myr Sire, Kutholda Flamefiend, Myr Turbine, Spine of Ish Sah, and such. Red in general has powerful cards all along the curve, and the synergy that can be put together in with this core of cards is amazing. In general, I’m very open to also splashing white in these colors, for things like Master’s Call, Divine Offering, Priests of Norn, and Choking Fumes. If you happen to open a Spine of Ish Sah, try your hardest to get a Treasure Mage, and pick Gnathosaur high.

I highly recommend triple MBS drafting to anyone that has such an inclination. It’s a great format that won’t be around for long, so enjoy it while you can!

Cube

I’ve always been a gamer at heart, be it video games or board games, or my absolute favorite genre, collectible card games. This month marks nearly a year into my refound romance with the card game Magic: the Gathering. A bit of background here: I used to play Magic back in 1995 or so as a teen, in the ‘Revised’ era. After finding some cards at my mom’s house over Thanksgiving last year, I got the itch for it yet again. I’m taking my hobby a bit more seriously nowadays (though it’s still just a hobby – I still try to find some balance in my life!) – I’ve take the opportunity to go to try a few professional tournaments in the area, and I’ve built up a decent collection of cards over the past ten or so months.

The one thing that has been bugging me lately is how to bridge the gap between my friends who know how to play Magic, but aren’t into playing competitively like I am. To some extent, I’m sure I could convince a few friends to get together and draft, but nothing more than that, and even then on rare occasions. As a group, we are far more likely to play a good game of Smallworld, Power Grid, or any other board game than we are to do anything Magic-related. Being the problem-solver I am, I decided fairly recently to create a Cube.

Cube is an informal Magic format that is similar to Draft. Essentially, you create ‘packs’ of fifteen cards out of an available pool of 500 or so cards, and you hold a draft tournament using those cards. I won’t go into the specifics of drafting, but essentially all the cards you need to play are going to be provided to you at the outset, though winning requires a fair amount of skill and familiarity with the rules of Magic.

Creating a cube is a very time consuming effort. I’m currently in the acquisition stage of my cube – I still can’t play with my cube, though it is roughly half-complete. Having a theme for your cube is somewhat essential in creating it – in my case, I’ve decided upon a hybrid of a powerful-game-state cube and a good-limited-cards cube. This means that I want to add to my cube some of the most powerful cards available in Magic, as well as to add cards that are particularly powerful in draft format. I’ve been tracking my progress in a Google Docs spreadsheet. I’ve picked out a good portion of the cards I want in the cube, though I haven’t acquired them all to this point. My one additional caveat to this story is that I want my cube to be primarily foil cards (say 95%+ foil, and almost no non-foil-non-promo cards – if I have to put a non-foil Primeval Titan into my cube I will, but not without some regret).

Normally, a cube is actually surprisingly cheap to put together – were it not for the foil cards restriction I’ve self-imposed, I would be fairly near completion of my cube. I’ve been trading and buying cards at a pretty furious pace in order to get where I am now, which is about 180 cards in, with an additional 100 or so picked out but not yet acquired. Feel free to comment on my pics if you so desire, and by all means, challenge me to a cube draft when I’m complete. I’m very energized to complete this project, so I can play with some of these amazing new cards that I’ve acquired over the preceding few months!

Extending jQuery Selectors: ‘between’

There are a ton of jQuery selectors to get at just about any data imaginable on a page. Between actual selectors (such as ID and attribute selectors) and pseudo-selectors (such as :first and :checked), the bulk of HTML element selection is trivial. There are, however, a few selectors I’ve had a need for but aren’t in jQuery currently – for instance, there is a next adjacent selector, but there is no analogous ‘previous adjacent’ selector baked in. How does one get around this? Let’s find out, after the jump.

Continue reading

Musings on SPDY Protocol

So, yet another week, and another fairly large announcement from Google. They’ve been coming pretty fast and furious lately – the open-sourcing of both Closure and Chrome OS are two fairly recent developments. However, the one this post will focus on is the announcement that Google is working on a new application-level protocol, dubbed SPDY.

SPDY (pronounced ‘speedy’) is designed as an adjunct to the http protocol, which has been around for nearly twenty years now. SPDY was designed to run atop of tcp/ip, which is the place in the networking stack that the browser talks to the web server. Hence, to be able to utilize SPDY, both the browser and the web server need to understand the protocol. However, the router need not change at all, which will greatly aid in implementation, if it’s standardized as a protocol.

So what are the features of the SPDY protocol? First, it’s faster than standard HTTP through a number of mechanisms. By default, it gzips it’s headers (and all content), making the packets more lightweight. It only needs one channel for data transfer (it multiplexes requests through the channel, which functions as a stream), so there’s a tremendous amount of connection overhead reduction versus standard-fare HTTP. The connection is designed to remain open as long as the client wants, which means that new content can be pushed from the server to the client. Packet prioritization is built into the protocol as well.

The nicest part of SPDY, in my opinion, is that it requires the use of SSL by default. This means that every packet sent over the wire is encrypted. Deep packet injection and packet sniffing are realities in the world, so a switch to secure communication is long overdue.

The roadmap for SPDY seems pretty straightforward. It’s not finished yet, but being an open source effort, a standard could be developed in a few years. Browsers and web servers can build in protocol support as the standard is still being developed. Browsers and can try to handshake in SPDY with a web server, then default back to HTTP if necessary. There aren’t many competing protocols out there, especially ones that don’t require any router firmware updates (which would take a decade to roll out, at least). Even if the web doesn’t decide to run on SPDY, the only reason for that would be someone came up with an even better idea in the meantime. A new protocol is definitely in store for the future of the web.

Google Closure

Google Closure

Google just open sourced Closure, their robust JavaScript library. Closure is used in a variety of Google products, notably GMail and Google Docs. I had a chance to play with it for a few minutes, and I’m posting my first impressions.

Google Closure is a fairly complete JavaScript framework. In that sense, it duplicates a lot of the functionality of existing JavaScript libraries, such as jQuery and YUI. It contains behaviors, AJAX, event handling, selectors, UI components, and more. The syntax is fairly straightforward, but it’s not the same as other libraries, so there’s a learning curve in getting acquainted with it.

Closure has excellent dependency management through a robust loading mechanism. Basically, if you don’t reference a certain piece of the library, rest assured that it’s not going to load (and slow down your page as a result). In addition, it comes with the Closure Compiler, which will walk your JavaScript, determine what libraries you need, then aggregate and compress all the required files. Being able to deploy one file instead of many is a great way of speeding up your site.

One thing that irks me is that there only way to get Closure is through Subversion access to the trunk. If Google wants Closure to be adopted widely, they’re going to need to start offering discrete, packaged versions of it. Many developers (and novices) will be put off by the current distribution method otherwise.

The API is well documented, and has links to the actual code for each method (something that I’ve not really seen before in API documentation). The API itself is very robust, with a ton of methods and accessors on each object. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the way things are laid out in the API, but I don’t have enough experience with it to say anything definitively here.

One doesn’t have to stretch the imagination to believe that Closure has amazing potential. This is, after all, what GMail is built from. I’m excited that it’s been open-sourced and I can’t wait to use it a bit more. Google has given a grand gift to the developer community with this release.

3D CSS Animated Image Carousel

Here’s a 3D CSS Animated Image Carousel that I created while I was learning about 3D CSS animation. Watch the video above to see the technique in action. If you’re on a 3D CSS animation capable browser (currently a non-production version of MAC Safari and mobile Safari in the iPhone and iPod Touch), go ahead and check it out. The video was shot with my XBOX360 webcam, of all things.