Tag Archives: Friday Night Magic

A Beginner’s Guide to Cockatrice – Part One

7 May

I meant to write a brief post about my thoughts on experiencing the Limited and Limited draft formats for the first time over the last two weeks, as part of the Avacyn Restored pre-release and release day events, but I felt like I really needed to write this post first, in the hopes that it would inspire more people to get on board with this and ultimately give me more people to play Magic the Gathering with online.

As of right now, I don’t get a lot of experience playing Magic outside of the Friday Night Magic events that happen once a week in my city.  There are card shops that run tournaments on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but they tend to be ones that you have to pay an entry fee for and you typically want to have your ducks in a row before you show up.

So needless to say, I don’t really have anywhere to test my decks or decks that I have been thinking about building.  I realize that testing is a huge part of the process and one that I really lack in.  I tried looking into official versions of Magic the Gathering that you could play online, but I didn’t like the idea of either paying for virtual cards that don’t translate to real life ones, or the idea of having a limited pool of cards or pre-constructed decks to choose from.

Enter Cockatrice – a free piece of open source multiplatform software that you can use to play Magic the Gathering over a network, along with hundreds of other users.  After giving Cockatrice a try for myself one night, I decided that I really liked not only the layout of the program, but the simple and easy to use controls associated with it.  The users that I found online tended to be pretty friendly and now I’m trying to get more people into this, so that I have more people to play with.

Because new or unfamiliar programs can seem intimidating, I figured I would write a brief starter guide for Cockatrice and give people a taste of what they can expect. This won’t be terribly in depth, but hopefully it gives people some idea of what Cockatrice brings to the table and inspires people to try it out for themselves some time.  The first half of this guide will walk you through how to get Cockatrice onto your computer, how to setup and update your card database, and how to build your deck.  Part two will go into more detail about how to get a game started and some of the controls that you can use once you start playing.

Step #1:  Visit the Cockatrice home page.  It should look like this:

Step #2:  Download the program.

Click on the yellow circle at the top of the page marked “Download.”  This will take you to a page that looks like this:

I only have experience downloading Cockatrice as a Windows user, so I apologize in advance for not being much help in the Mac department. Click on the link found in the “Windows Users” section to download the .exe program, which will help you install Cockatrice.

Step #3:  Connect to Cockatrice.

Once you have installed Cockatrice to your computer you will see a mostly blank screen with two menus at the top.  Click on “Cockatrice” and then “Connect.”  Make sure to leave the host and port information as is and type in a name for yourself.  If you plan on using Cockatrice more than once, you can register your username on the main site and use it subsequently by entering in your username and the password you have chosen.  If you’re still not sure how you feel about the program, you can just enter in whatever username you want to go by without a password and that would be fine.  Successfully connecting to Cockatrice will take you to this area:

Step #4:  Run Oracle

Either during the initial download process or after, you will have to run the program called “Oracle” that can be found in the main Cockatrice folder and which allows you to upload all of the cards that you will use to build your deck.  On the Oracle importer screen, click “File” and then “Download sets information.”  A window will open, asking you to enter a URL, but one should already be located in the field for you.  Hit “OK.”  You should see a list of expansions with check boxes to the left of each name.  You will want to select “Check all” and then “Start download.”  This will give you access to every card from each set that you have selected.  Going forward if you want to just add one set, like for when a new expansion comes out, just select the box for the set you want, uncheck the rest, and then click “Start download.”

Step #5:  Build your deck.

Once you have uploaded all of the sets that you will want to have cards from, click on “Cockatrice” and then “Deck Editor.”  When starting off with a fresh deck, it looks like this:

Start by searching for the cards you want from the box on the left.  An image of the card will appear in the middle of the screen, to show you what it looks like and what the card does.  Use the green arrow to add those cards to your main deck or the blue arrow to add them to your sideboard.  If you add cards you later decide that you don’t want, you can click on the X button to remove all cards with that name from the deck.  If you want to increase or decrease the number of said card one at a time, you can click the plus or minus buttons, respectively to do that. Once you have your deck built to your satisfaction, click on “Deck” and then “Save deck as” to save your deck for future use.

Part two should be coming out shortly.  If you just can’t wait for me to publish it, feel free to poke around Cockatrice on your own, or even pop into the main chat room channel and see if you can strike up a conversation with someone there who might be able to help you out a bit further.  I’ve had some pretty positive experiences so far with folks that I have met through the server, so I highly encourage you to try and make a new friend that way.  Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for the second half of my guide to Cockatrice and let me know what you think of the program, if you have gotten around to trying it.

May the cards be with you!

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Short and Sweet

6 May

On Tuesday, my guild successfully downed the Heroic Madness of Deathwing encounter on 25m and thus wrapped up our time raiding in this expansion.  We spent Thursday night in Heroic Firelands and cleared up to Heroic Ragnaros, but decided that we didn’t want to spend all of tonight wiping on that (which we probably would end up doing because that encounter is still really tough), so we decided to take tonight off.  Next week will be spent getting people their achievements for the Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider achievement and then we are officially done until Mists of Pandaria comes out.

This is the first time that I have ever killed every boss in the current expansion before the next one comes out.  I was just shy of an Illidan kill in Burning Crusade.  I was a resto druid warming the bench on Heroic Lich King (because resto druids weren’t considered to be very helpful on the 25m mode of that one).  And don’t even ask me what the final boss technically was in Vanilla, because I don’t know and frankly can’t remember.  Suffice it to say my time spent raiding in Vanilla was mostly a blur and full of plenty of noob moments that I can’t help but look back on and laugh out loud at.

It’s such a weird feeling knowing that next week is my last week spent raiding seriously in Cataclysm.  I don’t know what to do with myself after that.  I’m so used to raiding and logging in solely to raid that those three days are going to feel sort of empty without having raiding to rely on.  Some part of me really wants to pack those three days with other things to do, like PVP, or more Magic the Gathering, and the other part of me really wants to enjoy having nothing to do those nights and getting a good night’s sleep or just doing something simple like reading a book.

Other than the Heroic Madness kill, not too much is going on in my neck of the woods.  The latest expansion in Magic the Gathering came out on Friday, so this weekend and the weekend before were filled with pre-release and release day events.  I got to try out some new formats and see some of the people that I usually play in Friday Night Magic with in a different light.  It’s nice to see people who come to Friday Night Magic with the most minimaxed deck possible trying to create something out of a couple of packs of cards.  I think it puts everyone on more even of an even playing field and it’s fun to see what people come up with for themselves.

I am still in the Mists of Pandaria Beta and I will also have Diablo 3 when it comes out.  I have never played a Diablo game before, so I’m curious to give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.  Diablo seems to have some pretty die-hard fans and I respect any game that can keep people interested and happy during long periods of time between releases like that and any game that has been around that long and helped pave the way for many games after it.  I’m not really going into it with any expectations.  I just want to poke around and see if it’s something I could get into or get the hang of.

Last but not least, I am participating in something called the Newbie Blogger Initiative that was started by the creator of a blog called Bio Break.  This is something that will be happening throughout the month of May and is meant to give new bloggers some motivation to start blogging or to welcome back retired bloggers who are thinking of getting back into the scene again.  I signed up as something called a Sponsor and I will be throwing up a post next week with some tips that I have for up and coming bloggers.  I really wanted to do this because I definitely feel that I have taken a more unconventional approach to doing things, which has worked for me, and I would like to offer up some different perspective, other than what most people would suggest you do if you want to be a successful blogger.

Leave a comment and let me know what you have been up to, or if you have anything to share or add about the end of raiding in Cataclysm, Diablo 3, the Newbie Blogging Initiative, or anything else that I have mentioned in this post.  Let me know what’s on your mind!

Why Women Are Seen Differently In Magic the Gathering Compared To World of Warcraft

5 Apr

Typically when I write a blog post it usually consists me of telling you how it is and then you comment to either expand on what I have just put out there or to say that you respectfully disagree and why.  In this case, I wanted to write a blog post because I don’t know why something is the way that it is and I am hoping to start some discussion to find out for myself.

About two months ago I started playing Magic the Gathering again.  I felt like I had the time and the interest in playing another game, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play another computer game.  I really missed social interactions with people that didn’t involve sitting behind a computer screen and having to wear a headset.  I started to remember all the good times that I had playing the Magic the Gathering and I was curious to see if I could recreate that magic (no pun intended) all over again.

Back when I quit playing, which was around 1998, Magic was a very different game – especially for women.  I remember being the only girl at the card shop.  I remember reading Duelist magazine and seeing that all of the writers, all of the authorities on how to play the game were men.  I remember seeing special edition decks that would be released with the names of tournament winners and all of them were named after men, too.  There was nobody for me to look up to.  There was nobody around that I could relate to.  It was very frustrating for me, especially as I was starting to enter my early teenage years, I was extremely conflicted about my sexuality and my gender identity, and I already couldn’t relate to my peers for various reasons.

I was quite surprised with how much things had changed in the course of 14 years.  Women were reaching the top 10 rankings in various high end tournaments and sometimes even winning them outright.  The Friday Night Magic event that I attend regularly is comprised of about 50% women – some of whom may happen to show up with their boyfriends or other male companions, but who are still extremely skilled and knowledgeable in their own right.  Women were contributing articles to various blogs and magazines at the same rate and at the same skill set as their male counterparts.  It was incredible to see and it made me even more motivated to come back to the game and to see what I could accomplish for myself.

Unfortunately, the examples listed above are still very much exceptions to the rule.  Magic the Gathering is still very much a men’s game.  This is something that most people in the community will freely admit to.  For as much as people might say that World of Warcraft still has a long way to go, with regards to how women are seen or are how they are treated, it is still leaps and bounds ahead of where Magic the Gathering is today.

What I want to know is why.

Here are my thoughts on this.

Internet anonymity.

It is no secret that people tend to feel more uninhibited or more comfortable with themselves when they are sitting behind a computer screen and not actually having to converse with someone in a face to face manner.  Some people choose to channel this in really positive ways, as in they feel like they can truly be themselves, while others choose to go in the opposite direction with this (e.g. The Internet Dickward Theory).  Regardless, there is something to be said for not having a total stranger sitting in front of you who you do not know and who you are expected to engage in conversation with.

Throw in an extremely competitive tournament setting, where you know well ahead of time that you are going to be one of the only women present, where you are seated very closely to people on either side of you who you do not know, where casual observers might approach you with unsolicited advice in the middle of a round, and where time restrictions are strictly  enforced, and you have all the makings for a potentially stressful situation that would deter most women from even making the effort to participate in such things.

Compared to a Magic the Gathering tournament, participating in a World of Warcraft raid or battleground may seem like a much safer option.  You can sit in your own chair and group up with people that you know and who you are comfortable with.  You can wear more comfortable attire, like your pajamas or your sweats, and bring a snack (or even a drink).  You are most likely playing in your home, your bedroom, your office – your sanctuary, of sorts.  There is a lot of comfort to be had from those trappings that being out in the open in a Magic the Gathering tournament can’t provide you with.

Tangible rewards.

Some would say that the reason why Magic the Gathering seems so much more competitive than World of Warcraft is because the stakes are higher.  People who become very good at Magic can win trips, money, endorsements, trophies, and other sorts of prizes.  These people actually have something tangible that they can gain (or lose) by taking part in these tournaments.  In World of Warcraft, the best guilds typically end up with bragging rights, achievements, special mounts or gear, but the rewards aren’t tangible.  You can’t actually touch these things or show most people what you have won for completing such feats.  On the other hand, cash prizes and actual physical trophies or plaques are things that everyone can understand the significance behind.

With that said, the World of Warcraft trading card game (which bears a lot in common with Magic the Gathering) also offers some tangible rewards, as well.  Yet that game is still considered to be rather casual and inviting towards all different kinds of players in a way that Magic the Gathering still is not.  So maybe it is something else.

The community.

World of Warcraft has one of the most vocal communities out there.  There are hundreds of blogs devoted to the game, from people who raid casually, to those who don’t raid at all, and everything in between.  Sites like Blog Azeroth and WoWInsider act as hubs, or ways to bring the community closer together, and as ways to spotlight voices in the community that may be worth paying attention to.  Podcasts also pop up from people with different takes on all things World of Warcraft, again some from people more experienced with such things and some from others who may not be.  At the end of the day, there is something for everybody.  You really can find something that represents you and that speaks to you.  We have just about every niche filled and if we don’t, there is always room for someone to come along and fill that niche themselves.

From the brief time that I have spent delving into the Magic the Gathering community the opposite seems to be true.  The only people blogging or doing so with any sort of visibility appear to be those at the upper echelons of the game.  The same decks are covered over and over, along with deck ideas that exist solely to beat said deck in a competitive setting.  You don’t see anyone at a more approachable level talking about their experiences and what they may have learned.  The barrier to entry is quite high for these activities.

The game isn’t sold in these formats in such a way where it makes you feel like you too could take part in the action.  It does contribute to the feeling that you need this many DCI points, or this win under your belt, or this deck in your box to be worthy of having a blog or a podcast worth listening to.  And that’s not to say that the authors or podcasters themselves are solely responsible for this.  The audience determines what makes it and what doesn’t.  And if the audience decides that they only want to see people who are successfully taking part in these endeavors, then those are the blogs that you are going to see more prominently.

So what do you think?  Why do you feel like Magic the Gathering is still behind, when it comes to how women are seen, compared to a game like World of Warcraft?  Maybe you feel the opposite.  Let’s talk about it!

Pressure

19 Mar

I feel like if I were a boy I would be less worried about my performance in a game than if I were a girl.

Let me explain.

I feel like when a woman puts herself out there, wherever it may be in the gaming world, she is automatically expected to either be completely bad at what she does, or is viewed with hesitation or apprehension.  So when I do poorly at something, whether I didn’t show as high on the meters as I would have liked, or I didn’t win as many rounds in a tourney that I should have, I feel like I am living up to that expectation of me.  I feel that I am proving that person right.  I am just another terrible female gamer.

I feel like you not only have more wiggle room, in terms of your performance, but you are also given more leeway to try new things, or to be innovative.  If I were to show up to Friday Night Magic and tell someone that I was playing a self mill Vampire deck, people would immediately look at me and think I had lost my mind.  Nobody would give me the benefit of the doubt, or the chance to show them that maybe this deck idea might not be so bad, and maybe it would turn out to be something great.

But if I were a man and I showed up with that same deck idea, I think people would still be a little apprehensive of my idea, but they would at least let me see the idea through, and then poke fun at me if the whole thing crashed and burned.  And if the deck did end up being a glorious failure, I think the focus would be more on how terrible the deck was, versus how terrible I was.  More often than not, when a woman does perform poorly at something, more of an effort is made to establish that she is in fact a woman.  The focus isn’t placed on how badly the strategy was, or the idea behind it, but the fact that a woman implemented it.

At the same time, you can’t just be a woman and be good at what you do.  Someone let you win.  You cheated.  You got lucky.  A man can take a defeat from another man much more easily.  It involves swallowing so much more pride to say that you won, and that you did so without gaming the system, or using your feminine wiles, or anything of the sort.  Even if they don’t make any initial snide comments, they will still wrap things up by saying “I lost to a girl.”  You would never hear someone say “I lost to a guy.”  It would be “I lost to this comp,” or “I lost to this type of deck.”  Again, the focus is immediately placed on losing to someone who happened to be better than you, and who happened to be a woman.  It isn’t enough to say that you were a better player, or that you had more skill.  It has to be reiterated that you are a woman.  Everything else will come a distant second to that.

At the end of the day, it’s not my perfectionist nature that makes me stay up an hour after the raid is over with to pore over the logs, and to see how I did, or what I can do better.  It’s not the competitive side of me that gets angry when I lose badly in a Friday Night Magic tourney.  These things tap directly into the side of me that feels like I have to do my gender proud, like I have to represent for all women, and that if I don’t that I have let any number of women like me down.  It taps into the feeling that I have proven every short sighted, misogynistic asshole right by being bad at what I do.  They must think women are bad because I was bad.  I’m not helping.  That’s how my mind interprets it.

I’m not really sure what can be done about this, or even where I’m going with this.  These are things that I feel, and I can’t necessarily say that someone has directly made me feel this way.  This is how I choose to interpret things that are said or things that I have experienced in the time that I have spent gaming.  I feel like we have come a long way, but the pressure is still there.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so maybe I felt like it would be a good idea to get this all off my chest, and to see if I’m not the only one who feels like I owe it to my gender to be good at what I do.

If you have felt this way, let me know how you cope with it, or how you deal with those feelings of inadequacy when you are feeling not good enough.  If you haven’t, feel free to leave a comment about that, too.

Thanks for reading.