Yearly Archives: 2009

Nix Tix Alara Draft (Swiss): 3-0 and Draft Conversion Tools

Now, this is a bit awkward. One of the side projects that’s been in my backlog for a long time has been to work on an improved version of the MTGO Draft Converter at zizibaloob. I thought I would get started on that today, and in fact already had quite a bit of javascript done for the draft widget when I read a new post by Brian David-Marshall over on top8magic and found out that there was already a new draft recorder website: RareDraft. I got myself an invite and tried it out, it has many of the features I was planning and more! Ah, now I don’t know whether it’s worth continuing my own project. =/

Anyway, here’s the link to the unfinished, unrefined (but working!) MtgStorm draft converter. (if you’ve been following me on twitter, you know that I created a new username “mtgstorm” for MTG-related stuff)

To see how far ahead RareDraft’s offering is, here’s a recent Alara block draft I 3-0’d on MTGO. The first output is by the MtgStorm draft converter, the second is by RareDraft.


Powered by MtgStorm Draft Converter

In hindsight, mine might be better in some cases because I’m using pure JavaScript, while theirs is using flash (and does not seem to resize to fit the containing column)…yeah, technical jargon.

When Your Wallet Gets Stolen

December 17th. It was around 10pm, I was getting off the bus carrying a box of ensaymada in my right hand and using my left hand to make my way down the crowded aisle despite the speed and turbulence of the bus ride. As I alighted off the bus, I felt movement in my left pants pocket, where my wallet was. As soon as my left hand was free I checked to find my wallet missing and looked back accusingly at the mass of unfamiliar faces crowded along the door of the bus. One man whose face I couldn’t see extended an arm and pointed out into the crowd. There’s a man running, he said, that’s who you’re looking for. I look around like an idiot, and the bus goes on its way. There was no running man, my wallet was lost.

I later learned from a couple of other people that it was a known modus operandi. Simply, a group of around ten guys rides a crowded bus and they all stand around near the exit, waiting for victims, ones who look distracted and are thus easy prey. This sort of thing seems to happen a lot around Christmas season.

Despite my anger at myself for being so easily distracted, as soon as I got home I took stock of the wallet contents and took the necessary measures:

Cash: I had around 1.6kphp in my wallet at the time. Can’t really do anything about that. Luckily I seldom carry cash larger than that.

Credit Cards: I had 2 credit cards in the wallet, one was the card I used regularly, and one was a new card a bank sent me unsolicited and I had never used (but I put it in my wallet anyway). I called up the banks to have both cards blocked and to get a replacement card for the one I was using. Damage: 400php replacement fee.

ATM Cards: Originally I was thinking the ATM card wouldn’t be of much use to the thieves because of the PIN, but I was convinced to go ahead and cancel it anyway. It turned out to be a good choice as I found out later my bank’s ATM card was also a debit card. Damage: 150php replacement fee for the ATM card.

IDs: My company ID was in the wallet, I would have to get it replaced. Damage: 200php for replacement and getting new ID pictures.

Insurance Card: My health care insurance card was there also. Damage: 150php replacement fee.

Receipts: I had a couple of reimbursable (with my company) dinner receipts in the wallet, damage: 400php in lost reimbursements.

Other papers: I also realized my most recent payslip was in the wallet, which would contain my bank account number. This was dangerous, since given the bank account number, my signature (from the company ID, credit cards) and sufficiently gullible bank personnel, an over-the-counter withdrawal from my bank account might be possible. The next day I spent two hours at the bank opening a new savings account, transferring the remaining balance and asking my company to have the payroll go into the new account. Damage: Two hours of time.

So, the total losses were around 2.9k, plus a few hours of hassle. It’s not as bad as the last time I was the victim of petty theft, so I’m mostly just annoyed at how I let it happen.

Future Prevention and Mitigation Activities:

  1. When I know I’m going to be taking any form of mass transit or going to crowded places, I’ll carry my wallet and cellphone in my belt bag instead of my pockets. The belt bag is much harder to steal and it’s bulkier so it’s a lot harder to hide.
  2. Take pictures of each ID/credit card (front and back) and store those pictures in a safe place, encrypted behind a secure password (i.e. not on Flickr). Having the images makes it easier to have those cards blocked and also makes it easier to remember what stuff you had in the wallet.
  3. Don’t store receipts and payslips in my wallet, especially anything with bank account numbers. I’ll probably find a place to store them at work or inside a more secure container in my bag.
  4. Get additional IDs. I don’t have a driver’s license yet, but I’ll look to get one next year. Having more IDs makes it easier to establish your identity when you need to apply for new accounts or block existing ones.

Hopefully the above story, information and tips help someone avoid any other such misfortune in the future.

New Comments System

I got tired of having to maintain my own comment moderation system, and I decided against throwing out the django code and going back to wordpress. Instead, I’m migrating the comment system to DISQUS.

I love this little mess of django code that’s running my blog. I wish I had time to clean it up. But for now, at least I can have a more industrial-strength comment system in place.

Zendikar Draft #1

I was able to chain a sealed event into a number of drafts this weekend. Here’s one of my better drafts:

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This draft converter created by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy.
Visit the draft converter today!

I thought the deck was pretty solid, albeit with a bit of a high curve. I won round one versus white green by racing with fliers. I lost round 2 to monoblack – just got outraced by those dang vamps! I am sad that I never got to cast Sorin Markov =(

MTGO PTQ San Diego Schedule (Manila Time)

The following are M10 sealed:

  • Friday Oct 9, 8am
  • Sunday Oct 11, 10pm
  • Friday, Oct 16 6am
  • Sunday, Oct 18 8pm

The following are Zendikar sealed:

  • Monday, Nov 9, 1am
  • Friday, Nov 13, 8am
  • Monday, Nov 16, 3am
  • Sunday, Nov 22, 11pm
  • Friday, Nov 27 7am
  • Saturday, Nov 28, 8am
  • Sunday, Nov 29, 9pm
  • Friday, Dec 4, 8am
  • Monday, Dec 6, 1am
  • Monday, Dec 20, 3am
  • Friday, Dec 25, 7am
  • Monday, Dec 27, 3am

Good luck to all Pinoys playing in the MTGO PTQs!

Weekend Project #1: MTG Utils Decklist Sharing Tool

I’ve been meaning to write a nontrivial app using Google App Engine for a while, and here’s my first weekend project: Decklist Sharing Tool, an tool for MTG players to share decklists online.

I had the decklist parsing and autocarding code available for a while (and used on my MTG related posts), so that part was fairly easy, I got it done under 3 hours I think. The rest of the time (around 5-ish hours) was spent on glue logic, fixing minor bugs, working on HTML layout, cleaning up text, etc. It feels pretty good for a one manday effort, let’s see if it breaks down. Not the best code I’ve ever written though (until the latest upload the main class was named “hello.py”)

Some notes:
– the Django template engine included with GAE seems to be earlier than version 1, as the escapejs filter wasn’t available and I had to write it myself. Still, being familiar with the Django template engine helped a lot
– WordPress.com blogs don’t allow Javascript inside the posts, so the blog sharing code I provide won’t work there. It works on Blogger though. I’ll look for a workaround…(iframes?)
– I’ve yet to try using memcache, so the current version doesn’t cache anything, I mean to try it in a future version
– yes, I put adsense ads there. I was like, why not? 😀

Zendikar Prerelease and Limited Impressions

As you might have heard, there was a helluva storm in the Philippines yesterday, and I was pretty much stuck at the Titan Hobby Shop for most of the day. Luckily, that meant I get to play in the Zendikar prerelease.

My Zendikar prerelease record: 1-3 =/ I had a decent pool and went with a UW build, but I played too loosely and the stars just weren’t aligned. My pool was very bad value-wise as well, having mostly “nice” rares like Lullmage Mentor and Lorthos, the Tidemaker.

My sealed pool had Blade of the Bloodchief, which I was a bit skeptical about, but it’s pretty good in a situation where you’re always trading creatures or you have lots of removal. It would probably be lots better in a vampire deck though. The Legendary Octopus was pretty good if you got to untap with it, obviously. I also had Sphinx of Lost Truths but it was never able to save me in time. The “loot 3” ability isn’t very good when you only have one card in hand, so you better make sure you have a lot of guys to hold the fort while you wait for the seven mana to kick it. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is a lot better.

I had to face Sorin Markov in one game, and although he costs six, that first ability is a game breaker, especially against my U/W sealed, which had tons of small guys that easily get eaten by his vampire abilities. I lost that game T_T

I won only one pack (actually I won off a BYE >.<), and the pool was so bad, I sold off the pool and the prize pack (contained Bloodghast) so that I could join a booster draft. Nothing else to do anyway!

I first picked a Verdant Catacombs, but couldn’t get heavily into black. I got some late pick Bladetusk Boar and found myself settled into RG. I won the draft on the back of my special ability to mana screw opponents, and thus managed to salvage some prize packs from nowhere.

As for Zendikar, I’m still not sure what to make of Zendikar limited. If you get enough cheap allies you can make a blazingly fast deck. The best common ally is in white (Kazandu Blademaster), but I think it’s possible to build good curves using any color combination of allies, except possibly black which has no 2 or 3-drop ally. I had the red Ally that makes all your guys FTKs, but he never became relevant, six mana may be too high.

Spire Barrage was a nice late game finisher, obviously way better than Lava Axe. Red seems ok in Zen limited as there’s a lot of common removal Burst Lightning, Inferno Trap, Torch Slinger and of course the aforementioned Spire Barrage.

Sealed is a lot slower than draft as usual; I was watching one sealed game where one guy managed to kick Rite of Replication, but he targeted Shoal Serpent and hoped for the land drop next turn rather than target Kor Hookmaster to win the game on the spot. I wouldn’t count on the big kicker spells for draft though, they might be too slow.

Baloth Cage Trap is pretty good; people like to play their Trusty Machetes and Expedition Maps early so you have a good chance for early beats. I had a Scute Mob, but never had a good chance to play him. Maybe if I had a Vines of Vastwood.

Okay, enough rambling now. Let’s see if I do well in the release events next week.

ACR Draft 8-4

Wanted to try out draft recording, the same method that pinoyraredrafter uses. The below is an ACR draft I tried this morning. I think the deck was decent, although I made a number of questionable picks. I don’t have match stories to go along though, I got mana screwed in game 1 then lost a nailbiter in game 3.

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This draft converter created by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy.
Visit the draft converter today!

Thirty One

Days seem to fly by at such an unforgiving pace. Has it really been thirty-one years now?

I have a lot to be thankful for the past thirty-one years. Family, friends and other wonderful people that provide love and support; a roof over my head, three square meals a day minimum and a nice, stable and well-paying job. For all of these, I am thankful.

One would think that at such a point in my life, I would be very satisfied for having been so blessed.

I was never one for being so easily satisfied.

I remember when I was in high school, I made a bet with a classmate that I would be able to become president of the country before he could. Our wager was worth one cubic meter of solid gold.

A few years back, I made a wager with an officemate who was about to leave my company to go independent; I bet that I would become famous before he would. To win the bet, one would have to be named person of the year by a major international publication such as Time or Newsweek.

I’m still a dreamer, I always have been. Since I was young I’ve dreamed of accomplishing something great. I think everybody has a dreamer inside them, especially when they’re young. But as we grow older and face the different trials and tribulations of life, they start to chip away slowly at our dreams. Everyday we make some simple decision that trades a part of those dreams for something pragmatic.

But dreams have a way of being overtaken by real life.

We tell ourselves we’d just be working for a year or so, until we figure out what direction I wanted my life to take. We have so many options in this day and age; never has the barrier for entry into freelancing, entrepreneurship or innovation been so low. One year passes, then another and then yet another. But we still don’t know where we want to go.

We say to ourselves; it’s okay, I can work on my dreams in my spare time. I’ll write a chapter a day. I’ll code a few portions of my revolutionary web service after I get home. I’ll do design work on my game on weekends. I’ll brainstorm business ideas on the way to work. But when we come home from our daily grind, we’re dead tired and just want to relax, or surf the web, or play games on our consoles. I’ll start tomorrow, a familiar mantra. And days turn into weeks and turn into months and into years.

I need to get some experience first. I just need to save up some more money. I’m already doing pretty well, why ruin it? I’m pretty lucky to have a well-paying job in this economy, I’d be foolish to take risks now. I have bills to pay. These are the lies we tell ourselves when we find ourselves wondering what happened to our dreams, when we wake up to find ourselves trapped in the loop of ordinary life.

And we end our days, humble and simple, having lived an ordinary life. Just another statistic in human history, just another cog in the great wheel of destiny. And we tell ourselves more lies. I could’ve been great. I never had any opportunities. If only I had gotten a break.

For many people, this ordinary life may be enough, and that’s great for them. They will live out their ordinary lives with their ordinary ending and grow old and raise their kids and enjoy the company of their grandchildren and they’ll be completely happy and satisfied with that.

Again, I was never one for being so easily satisfied.

Thirty-one years now. Days flying by at an unforgiving pace. How will I find myself spending the next thirty-one?