Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Create a Tic-Tac-Toe Game in Java



Tic Tac ToeAt some point in your life you may have heard of things like source codes and programming languages. If not, at least I hope you ever thought of how video games are created. For one thing, I am going to show you how to create the popular scribbles game Tic-Tac-Toe using Java. By the end of this tutorial I am hoping I have inspired some of you to experiment with programming languages and create your own fun games. Learning programming languages like Java is easy. All you need is a little bit of creativity and a good understanding of logic.

You can download a playable version of the game, although you must have Java installed in your computer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gamers’ Guide to AMD(ATI) Catalyst Control Center

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When I decided to buy a laptop, I made sure it was a gaming powerhouse. Sure enough I didn't bother configuring the driver software of its ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 video card anymore. But give a year or two and history will repeat itself, back when I was frequently optimizing the settings for my aging desktop computer.
Catalyst Control Center

All AMD(ATI) card owners, myself included, are compelled to be familar with the settings found in Catalyst to determine the best settings for their current video card. It helps prolong the card's usability before seeking for a replacement.

If you either just bought a new AMD graphics card or simply want to update its Catalyst driver to the latest version, the folks from AMD have prepared a concise guide to ease the process of the upgrade/update.

Once installed, the Catalyst software can be launched through the Start Menu or at the system tray.  The latter method can also be used to set all graphics settings to "optimal quality" if your video card can handle the load and still dish out blazing fast frames per second.

Catalyst Settings Gamers Should Know

The Catalyst Control Center recently underwent a facelift; the ATI name is no longer present, replaced by its 2006 acquirer AMD company. Despite the streamlined user interface, the software is still jam-packed with features that it's easy to get lost. Various settings relevant to gamers are explained below with instructions on how to find them in the control center.

Catalyst Control Center Advanced View

Note: While the Standard view provides a simple categorization of features, gamers will find the Advanced view a better option. Feature navigations described below also have the Advanced view in mind. Just click the Preferences button at the upper right to switch between views.

The settings from Anti-Aliasing to Triple Buffering in this list are found in Gaming > 3D Application Settings.


Anti-aliasing (AA) is a technique in graphics rendering that smoothens jagged or pixelated edges commonly found in 3D game objects. Affected pixels in your screen display will have surrounding pixels blend in similar color to produce a blurry image when enlarged but appears smooth at higher resolutions. Increasing the number of samples taken per pixel produces a smoother image.

There are four filters for anti-aliasing:

  • Box is the standard setting which provides the fastest performance but with the most jagged look because of anti-aliasing samples only within the current pixel.
  • Narrow-tent expands sampling around surrounding area of the current pixel.
  • Wide-tent is similar to narrow-tent but at a higher degree although not beyond 1.25 times the radius distance from the current pixel.
  • Edge-detect differs from the previous three by not producing any softened or blurred areas in edges of 3D objects. An effective sampling level for this filter is 4x, matching the AA CrossFireX (AMD/ATI's use of multiple video cards) configuration of 12x.

The sample levels and filters available depend on what video card you have. For instance, my ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 has all filters listed above and up to 8x sample level.

Left 4 Dead 2 without Anti-Aliasing

Left 4 Dead 2 without Anti-Aliasing

Left 4 Dead 2 with 8x MSAA

Left 4 Dead 2 with 8x MSAA

Anisotropic Filtering

Some 3D applications and games reduce the visual quality of objects that appear far away from your perspective. Through anisotropic filtering (AF), their quality can be preserved. You can compare this to a nearsighted person being able to see far objects through eyeglasses. At higher settings, some game scenery such as mountains and jungles are very detailed and appear realistic.


Tessellating 3D objects is another means to improve their quality through GPU acceleration while not sacrificing too much graphics memory, bandwidth and CPU cycle. Enhancement is done by increase the number of polygons used to render a 3D object.

Characters, like in the image above, and objects in video games can benefit greatly from tessellation. With it, you get well-defined face features instead of blocky ears and noses.


Catalyst A.I.

Enabling the Catalyst A.I. finds the optimal balance between 3D application performance and image quality. There are two choices, namely, Standard and Advanced. The former attempts to optimal results without affecting performance while the latter brings insignificant loss as much as possible in exchange for better optimization.

Mipmap Detail Level

Exclusive to select graphic cards, mipmapping is a technique in texturing to preserve features of 3D objects through the use of optimized image collection of a source image. These "maps" in various texture resolutions are stored in memory  and are selectively called according to the required detail level.

AMD recommends the setting to be performance-optimized for a smooth animation of 3D images and quality-optimized when surfaces of 3D objects require higher detail.

Wait for Vertical Refresh

If you often notice screen tearing, a visual artifact that happens when the display is out of sync with the graphics card, you can enable Wait for Vertical Refresh to prevent the card to modify anything visible in the video memory until the screen display has finished its refresh cycle.  This feature is also known as vertical synchronization.

Anti-Aliasing Mode

Three modes are applicable when using anti-aliasing for DirectX and OpenGL applications: Super-sample anti-aliasing (SSAA), Multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) and the balance between the two known as Adaptive anti-aliasing. When MSAA, the fastest of all three, merely manipulates the pixels near polygon edges, SSAA affects the entire screen. The latter obviously requires a bigger graphics processing demand and only the latest cards can deliver.

Triple Buffering

Applicable when Wait for Vertical Refresh is enabled, Triple Buffering improves the frame rate of 3D applications whose default rate are lower than v-sync refresh rate. However, triple buffering can actually worsen the frame rate if video memory is low, in which case there won't be enough usable memory for geometry data and texture. At this point, the feature is automatically disabled.


Turn multiple monitors into one giant monitor with AMD Eyefinity. Together, all screens display a single desktop with a larger resolution. If speakers are positioned at the front and back of your seat to create a surround sound experience, Eyefinity brings you, as what AMD calls it, "surround-sight."

Dirt 2 on Eyefinity

This feature may not be for everyone as the costs for multiple monitors as well as accompanying graphics cards can be really heavy. Also, each monitor must have identical resolution, screen size, and be properly arranged. Using one particular brand and model for multiple monitors is therefor ideal.


Going beyond the default GPU and memory clock settings set by the manufacture requires overclocking techniques, known as Overdrive for AMD cards. However, a possible scenario involves overheating issues which requires upgrading your PC rig with a custom cooling solution. Notebooks are therefore not recommended for this feature especially in warm places.

The control center provides information regarding your GPU's temperature, activity and fan speed. All three indicators must be monitored in order to avoid going too much over the limit and risk hardware malfunction.

Catalyst Overdrive

You can find Overdrive in Performance > AMD Overdrive.


Found in Power > Power Play, this feature allows you to select between maximum performance or longer battery life for two occasions: when the computer is plugged in and when it is running on battery. Obviously this feature is only available in notebooks, not desktops.

Driver Information

To find out more about your video card and its driver, you can go to Information. Properties and details in Software include Catalyst version, whereas Hardware shows the what AMD/ATI card model your computer is currently equipped with. These are two indicators to know when to upgrade your card or to update its driver.

Control Center Tips

Use application settings

Settings in Catalyst can be overridden via settings found in video games. For instance, you can enjoy the best performance in all other games but want to smooth out the sharp edges in a single game. In order to do so, you must tick the checkbox Use application settings of Anti-Aliasing.

Pinned for shortcuts

If you find yourself tinkering too much with the features in Catalyst, you can pin the ones you often change. That way, you can easily go to the Pinned category and find all your frequently-altered settings.

Presets for profiling

Different games require different settings. With presets, you can, say, easily switch between two profiles if you have two games currently installed, one of which requires better performance while the other plays well even at higher quality settings. This saves you time from changing the whole performance settings when you play between the two games alternately.

Regular update checks

Every month or two, AMD releases a new driver version for its video cards. Various fixes and performance increases are provided, the latter of which is usually noticeable in high-end cards. Be sure to visit regularly and update your Catalyst.

Optimal Settings According to Gamer Type

Each type of gamer have different demands in graphics performance. Here are some tips on what configuration should their Catalyst software driver package be.

Kid gamer

If you have a child who is too innocent to be exposed to realistic gory and bloody scenarios, use the lowest setting possible so that images are pixelated. Or better yet don't introduce mature games to them! Instead, you can let them play games where there are cuddly animals whose cuteness can be intensified at higher quality settings.

Retro gamer

The retro gamers cannot be bothered by the immense graphics of today's video games. Instead, their choice of fun in video games is found in the simple graphics and gameplay of old school video games. They aren't also bothered by things such as anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering, because they won't even notice any difference in their games at the lowest possible setting!

PacMan Best Retro Game Ever

Casual/midcore gamer

When budget is an issue or too much time simply can't be wasted for video games, a casual or a midcore gamer is born. Their gaming rigs are not top of the line, but just good enough that any game can be run at acceptable frame rates. In other words, it's average settings for an average computer.

Newbie gamer

At some point in a gamer's life, having to learn too many settings, terms, and whatnot can be overwhelming. That's the noob phase, so to speak. Many video games can determine what hardware currently comprises the computer and consequently find the best level of visual settings these games can run on. So heed my tip and let Catalyst use application settings. Even better is to set the Standard 3D Settings (set in Control Center's Standard view, found in Gaming > Gaming Performance > Standard 3D Settings)  to Balanced.

Hardcore gamer / Professional gamer

When gaming is your entire life, video games cannot be if they fail to provide you an escapist's world whose detail is as realistic as the real world. More importantly, if you have found serious money opportunity in games, focus is the most essential factor. The ability to delve right into the game itself without getting distracted by awful graphics is a must.

As expected, your computer is always upgraded for the latest specs and can therefore render games seamlessly at the highest settings. Especially if you want to play games like Crysis 2:

Crysis 2 Purely Awesome

Mobile gamer

Laptops are prone to overheating after prolonged gaming use. That is why you can't afford to tinker with Overdrive. You can't also set settings higher because this generally causes a problematic increase in system temperature. Find a cooling system for your computer first! Remember, the laptop form factor is harder to open and have parts replaced than their desktop PC counterparts.

Bear in mind that as you raise each feature up a notch or toggle them on, the performance of your graphics card will be generally lower. If the latest games are run at a painfully slow frame rate even at the lowest or performance optimized Catalyst settings, then perhaps the time is ripe for a video card upgrade.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

McDo Delivery 24 Hours in Cebu

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Of all fastfoods I searched, McDonald’s was the only restaurant that had a Cebu delivery service that runs 24  hours day. Wanting to see if they keep up to that promise, while at the same time satiating my hunger, I immediately hooked up to the Internet and entered the online McDo delivery website.

McDelivery Online

If I remember correctly, it used to have a shorter URL: But it’s now longer: That’s not stopping me from ordering, however.

On the other hand, people hailing from Cebu have recently joined the folks from Luzon areas as customers of Jollibee’s online delivery service. It promised 24/7 too! Apparently, this last bit turned out to be false. I ordered around 6am and still haven’t received any confirmation email or call, forcing me to contact  them myself. Their response was they have received my order but was unable to process it because they open at 7am. How confusing is that? I tried to understand that perhaps the 7am opening time was for the Jollibee branch closest to my location (University of San Carlos – Talamban). Nonetheless, I ended up disappointed.

As for McDonald’s, their website greeted me with a login page as well as a link to immediately order as a guest customer. Knowing that I’m bound to take orders some more in the future, I registered an account to speed up the process when I come back next time.

McDelivery Online

Finding food is easy thanks to each item placed into categories such as Burgers, Chicken, etc. But you’ll be at a loss if you want to use a search function (which I’d like to point out that Jollibee has one.) Despite that, ordering does not require you to leave the current webpage to, say, checkout the shopping cart or choose specifics for the selected foods (which Jollibee does).

Being a registered member automatically placed my information at the fill-up form. I then simply specified how much I’m paying, entered the verification code, and hit “Ok, I’m done” button. A popup notification lets me review what I ordered and then all I had to do is wait.

Within minutes, a call arrived from a McDo Cebu call center agent . Merely a confirmation call (with added suggestions to add unpopular food items to my order), they said my order will arrive within 30 minutes.

And now, I wait. I am actually writing this post and see if I can finish it before the delivery arrives. What do you think happened next?

Well, the delivery boy came before I published this post. In less than 30 minutes!

mcdo delivery cebu in 30 minutes

But there have been other occasions when McDo really pissed me off. At times, the confirmation call really came late which delays the delivery even further. Also, the confirmation is sometimes sent via text messaging. I suppose the call this time was speedy because only a few people take orders early in the morning. And how about those long waiting delivery times? The 30-minute guarantee is not always accomplished. And the service crew gives laughable and idiotic reasons to boot!

Search for delivery numbers here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Play as Archenemy in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012

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While it is cooler and more heroic to defeat an enemy many times bigger than you in possibly all aspects, you know you want to fight as Goliath sometimes – filled with bullying rage and bent on sweet domination. That is why when I first played an Archenemy campaign game in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, I thought of trying the new game mode as the overwhelming archenemy against three allied planeswalkers (or players).

After a little bit of Google searching, it turns out Duels 2012 only allows players to be one of the three normal planeswalkers.  Luckily, I also learned that an upcoming expansion for the widely acclaimed video game will not only add new challenges and decks but also lets you do the very reason you stumbled upon this blog post: play as Archenemy.

Actually, I read a user’s forum post (the link of which I cannot find anymore) that he played against a human playing as an Archenemy. Well, that might have been because the closed beta of the DotP 2012’s first expansion is being tested out. Eager fans who went to PAX on August 25 to 28 were even lucky to try the expansion before it goes on sale sometime during early fall.

More screenshots can be found at the link I provided above but here’s one that shows how the game will look like from the Archenemy player’s point of view:

Magic DotP Expansion - Play as Archenemy

The player portrait of the Archenemy seems to have a different art style than the portraits of other planeswalkers. To me, it seems she is not a planeswalker at all but a customized avatar.

Anyway, here is a list of other official changes/additions coming in the DotP 2012 first expansion:

  • Three new decks to play, namely, “Grave Whispers,” “Auramancer,” and “Cloudburst,” by the respective planeswalkers: Liliana Vess, Ajani Goldmane and Ral Zarek
  • A taste of another upcoming expansion called Innistrad with six exclusive cards
  • New challenges a la Archenemy style
  • Additional single player campaign levels
  • Four unlockable cards for the original Duels 2012 decks
  • New achievements for all platforms (PSN, XBLA, and Steam)
  • New loading screens

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

How to get refund for From Dust video game

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While praised for its visual prowess, the PC version of the god game From Dust is teeming with a number of glitches, crashes and issues that Ubisoft and Steam agreed to issue refunds to those who ask for it.

From Dust

The French game publisher previously stated that From Dust would only require an Internet connection on first run for a one-time-only activation. It turns out that the game will need Internet connection every time it is launched, a fact which Ubisoft now acknowledges and therefore refuting its previous statement. All these commotion led to Ubisoft’s offer of giving refunds to customers who purchased From Dust through UPlay.

On the other hand, Steam has kept mum about all this. In fact, the people from Valve have not given any official statement including for refunds, although there are already users who were reported to have been given their money back. If you bought the game through Steam and would also like to get a refund, do not just ask for it because your request will be denied. Instead, supply a reason: either mention the performance issues of the game or the misleading info regarding Internet access requirement for a supposed one-time activation. Supplying relevant links would be helpful too.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Request to Allow AirCon Installation

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I just recently wrote a letter asking for permission to allow air conditioning units in our dormitory, where it can be very hot especially during summers. I think it came off as a bit rude… What do you think?

Dear Mr. Concerned*,

People say college life is, suffice to say, an important aspect of a student. As an in-campus dormer, I can certainly vouch for that remark. While my sister and her fellow female dormers will soon find a new haven at the newly constructed dormitory building, the majority of us male dormers feel somewhat left behind. We may not be able to get a taste of a new home but we would at least like to make our current stay a better experience. As such, this letter acts as a proposal to allow male dormers to install air conditioning units.

I believe the new dorm buildings have been designed to accommodate air conditioners. Hence, we would also like to have the old dorm complex be modified as well. I am aware that not everyone can afford or perhaps simply prefer to not have air conditioners in their rooms; therefore modification shall only be made upon request by interested male dormers.

On a similar note, we also want to know the rates for air conditioning units and air coolers, the latter appliance being the middle ground option between the former and electric fans. I also took the liberty to run a petition among the current male residents. Over 60 have signed, indicating a major interest among us.

If there are problems that prevent installation of aircon units at the old dormitories, we appreciate any form of enlightenment. Otherwise, we are hoping for your kind consideration.

Looking forward to a kind reply through our dorm supervisor, I am

Sincerely yours,

Conan Hughes

*The name has been changed to protect this person’s identity.

Desperate Measures – Magic 2012

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You will have to defeat Sorin Markov first before you can play Desperate Measures, a medium 1-on-1 challenge in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Sorin has 5 life while you have 3. With your own units now a threat, hatch a plan to defeat Sorin.

How to solve:

The game begins with Sorin having already placed two “cursed” aura Relic Banes to your Sundering Titan creature.

Desperate Measures

You will need to get rid of these two to avoid damage during your turn and consequently losing the game. To do so, activate the artifact Quicksilver Amulet ability to put Duplicant into the battlefield.

Desperate Measures

Through Duplicant, exile Sundering Titan. Because of the Titan’s exile, destroy any land of each color present in the battlefield.

During your own turn, activate the Quicksilver Amulet again to summon Precursor Golem. His first ability causes two additional golems to appear. Cast instant spell Fleeting Distraction to any golem in the battlefield. Because of the Precursor Golem, the Distraction will be casted to all Golems and will let you draw four cards.

Desperate Measures

Be careful not to cast Distraction as a counter to the Precursor Golem since this will only let you draw two cards.

Put the Island and Mox Sapphire into play to increase your mana. Then, cast sorcery spell Show and Tell to put artifact Icy Manipulator into play.

Using the Amulet and Show and Tell is important during your turn because they will save you much needed mana to complete this puzzle.

Activate the Icy Manipulator ability to tap Sorin’s creature Akroma, Angel of Wrath. This leaves Sorin defenseless when you attack him with your Steel Hellkite during combat phase.

Desperate Measures

The damage brings down Sorin’s life to 0, but he will still survive because of his artifact Lich’s Tomb. To win the game, activate Steel Hellkite’s second ability and spend/tap 4 mana/lands.

Only activate the dragon’s ability once it has already dealt damage to Sorin.

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Master your Destiny – Magic 2012

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Despite being labeled as a hard challenge, I’m proud to say I was able to solve Master your Destiny within 20 minutes. If you have played the challenge Desperate Measures before, you can already play this one too as both puzzles are unlocked after defeating Sorin Markov in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 campaign.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Jace has 3 life while you have 4. Your first move should be to cast Index, so you can better orchestrate Jace’s demise.

How to solve:

Just like what the objective says, the first thing to do is to cast sorcery spell Index. Or you can play the Island card first. From the five cards at the top of the library,

  • click Tranquility and Erratic Explosion first (in any order) to place them at the bottom of the other three cards.
  • click the remaining three cards in the following order: 1) creature Bogardan Hellkite, 2) Island card, 3) creature Coiling Oracle.

The last to be clicked is placed at the topmost of your library.

Summon creature Bloodbraid Elf into the battlefield. Its Cascade ability will summon the Oracle from your library into play. Subsequently, the Oracle will also put the Island card preceding it in the library into play.

Master your Destiny

You have enough remaining mana to activate your creature Djinn of Wishes’ ability. Next in line to be summoned is the creature Bogardan Hellkite.

Upon entering the battlefield, Hellkite gives you 5 damage that you can distribute. You can’t direct all this to Jace because of his hexproof enchantment from Leyline of Sanctity. Instead, target Jace’s Illusionary Servant once and Air Elemental four times.

Master your Destiny

The damage kills Elemental and sacrifices the Servant. You can now attack Jace with your Bloodbraid Elf, which has Haste and can’t be blocked by the Cloud Elemental. You win the game.

Cloud Elemental can block only creatures with flying.

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Plots within Plots – Magic 2012

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The last of all campaign challenges (excluding those in Archenemy) I solved and written about, Plots within Plots can be played after defeating Nissa Revane in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 game. I’m disappointed that this challenge is hard not because it requires a lot of thinking but instead takes a lot of trial and error. It turns out the Storm ability of sorcery spell Grapeshot is key here.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Karn has 12 life while you have 6. Using the cards available to you, craft Karn’s defeat.

How to solve:

The game begins with your turn first. You have in your hand a Dragon Whelp and Sword of Vengeance, a seemingly perfect combo to bring down Karn’s life to 0. The mana consumption however proves to be a problem.

Hence, the correct solution is to cast instant spell Gifts Ungiven.

Plots within Plots

Among the unique cards you have in your library, choose the following:

  • Instant spell Gift Ungiven
  • Sorcery spell Grapeshot
  • Sorcery spell Blaze
  • Sorcery spell Dragonstorm

The last two cards will be chosen by Karn to be put into your graveyard. Logically, he is threatened by these two cards since they will give you an immediate chance of winning the game.

Cast the second Gift Ungiven and choose the following:

  • Instant spell Intuition
  • Sorcery spell Grapeshot
  • Sorcery spell Dragonstorm
  • Elemental creature Ball Lightning

Once again, the last two cards are the most dangerous in the eyes of Karn and he will expectedly choose them to be put into your graveyard.

Instead of selecting only unique cards, cast Intuition and select all three instant spell Flame Bursts in your library.

Plots within Plots

Now comes the part where we finally damage Karn. Cast the only Flame Burst in your hand and choose Karn as target. The damage done will be 4.

Flame Burst deals X damage to target creature or player, where X is 2 plus the number of cards named Flame Burst in all graveyards.

Remember, there were two cards disposed from Intuition we casted earlier.

Cast Grapeshot. Because of this sorcery spell’s Storm ability, it will copied 4 times and therefore deal a total of 5 damage. Be sure you selected Karn to receive all the damage.

Storm – When a spell with storm is cast, it is copied for each spell cast before it this turn. Its controller may choose new targets for the copies.

Karn will still survive the onslaught. Finish him by casting the last Grapeshot. Target him at least three times.

Plots within Plots

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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Tangled Vale – Magic 2012

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One of the last challenges on medium difficulty, the Tangled Vale involves wiping off a throng of enemy creatures and couple of spells. You will need to defeat Nissa Revane during the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 campaign game first though, before you can encounter her again in this puzzle.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Nissa has 22 life while you have only 7. In spite of Nissa’s massive Elvish force, you must weave a plot to defeat her.

How to solve:

You play first, the only turn during this challenge. Start by casting sorcery spell Sign in Blood and target Nissa Revane. This adds two cards into her hand, now a total of 9. To capitalize on this, cast instant spell Sudden Impact on Nissa.

The Tangled Vale

Make sure you don’t cast Sudden Impact as a counter to Sign in Blood, since it can’t benefit from 9 cards in Nissa’s hand but just 7.

The third step is to cast sorcery spell Sickening Dream and discard all other remaining cards in your hand. This will damage everyone, creatures and players alike, by 3. All creatures but Nissa’s golem Darksteel Colossus will die. Your life becomes 4, while Nissa 8.

Resurrect your four Bloodghast creatures from the graveyard by activating land card Terramorphic Expanse and putting a swamp/black land card.

The Tangled Vale

With Nissa having no creatures to block for her and her current life causing the vampire spirit creatures to have haste, attack with all your Bloodghasts. The game ends with you as victor.

The Tangled Vale

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Bane of Bolas – Magic 2012

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You won’t be able to play the challenge Bane of Bolas in Magic: the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012’s campaign game until you defeat Chandra Nalaar. This puzzle happens to be the easiest to solve among the medium difficulty challenges, despite being the third to be unlocked among them.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Nicol Bolas has 10 life while you have 5. Using the cards available to you, find a way to outsmart Nicol Bolas and defeat him.

How to solve:

Despite the number of cards in your hand, you will only need a select few. To begin, cast instant spell Aether Tradewinds to return your Thunder Dragon and the opponent’s Blood Tyrant creatures.


During combat phase, attack with Spellbound Dragon and choose the returned Thunder Dragon to boost the former’s power to 10, the amount of which is equal to Nicol Bola’s life.


How to solve (#2):

To begin, cast instant spell Aether Tradewinds to return any of your land card in the battlefield and the opponent’s Blood Tyrant creature.

During combat phase, attack with both Spellbound Dragon and Thunder Dragon and choose any of the following cards to discard:

  • Chain Reaction instant spell
  • Plasma elemental

How to solve (#3):

Yet another way to defeat Nicol Bolas is to make use of his own creature’s ability. First, summon Plasma Elemental into the battlefield.

When the Electropotence spell is activated, choose Players, then Nicol Bolas, then Yes to pay for the conditional cost.


During combat phase, attack using  both flying Dragons and discard any of the two non-land cards in your hand. Nicol will expectedly block the Spellbound Dragon because of its higher attack power, leaving Thunder Dragon to drain Nicol’s life to 1.

During Nicol’s turn, you will win because of Blood Tyrant’s ability activated upon upkeep.


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Welcome to the Pit – Magic 2012

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You can unlock the medium difficulty challenge called Welcome to the Pit by defeating Jace Beleren in Magic: the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012’s campaign game. You will be pitted against Sarkhan Vol using black cards.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Game objective:

Sarkhan has 10 life while you only have 1. Find a way to deflect the coming deathblow, defeat Sarkhan, and survive your own creatures’ predations.

How to solve:

The challenge starts with Sarkhan Vol’s turn. He will attack with all creatures he has in the battlefield. To survive this,

  • Block Colossus of Sardia with a Bloodthrone Vampire.
  • Block the remaining three attackers with one creature each. There is no correct attacker-defender pairing needed.

After you confirm the blocking, activate the ability of the Vampire currently blocking the Colossus and sacrifice Mortivore plus all three creatures which are blocking the other attackers. In other words, you activate the ability four times with four sacrifices.


The activated Vampire gets +8/+8, bring her total combat power and toughness to 9/9. This is enough to destroy the Colossus as well as withstand all its combat power so no Trample damage goes to you.

Meanwhile, the other attackers appear to attack but produce no actual damage.


You can just imagine the attacking creatures have already launched their missiles/projectiles towards to where the blocking creatures are. Despite them being sacrificed and no longer present in the battlefield, you still don’t receive any damage since the projectiles were already fired at elsewhere and not to you. But the visual aid, specifically the orange arrows pointing at you, can be very misleading.

During your next turn, you will win during upkeep phase because of enchantment Mortal Combat. The challenge began with 15 creatures already in your graveyard. With four sacrifices and one death from an attack, you already had 20 creatures in the graveyard before your turn.


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Master of Illusions – Magic 2012


One of the first two challenges on medium difficulty that you’ll encounter in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Master of Illusions requires some familiarity with Jace Beleren’s deck known as Realm of Illusion. Its cards can be a bit tricky and unpredictable.

Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

Master of Illusions

Game objective:

Jace has 5 life while you only have 1. Manipulate the situation to defeat Jace.

How to solve:

You will have the first turn during this puzzle. In no particular order, do the following:

  • Put the Island in the battlefield.
  • Cast sorcery card Time Warp to yourself, allowing you to take an extra turn after the one you’re currently in.
  • Cast instant spell Into the Roil (no kicker) to Krovikan Mist, an illusion creature currently controlled by Jace using aura enchantment Mind Control. Once it returns to your hand, summon the Mist back to the battlefield.
  • Cast sorcery spell Preordain. You will be forced to move a Mahamoti Djinn and a Wall of Air to the bottom your library. (This is fine and scripted.)  A Summoner’s Bane card will be drawn to your hand.

You will have another turn because of Time Warp. During this turn, do the following (again in no particular order) during the main phase:

  • Put another Island in the battlefield.
  • Summon all three Phantasmal Bears.
  • Summon spirit creature Dreamborn Muse, but counter it with your instant spell Summoner’s Bane. Doing the latter will summon an illusion creature.


Attack Jace with your Krovikan Mist. This creature’s combat power and toughness depends on the number of illusions present in the battlefield (no matter who controls them). Including the Mist itself, along with the Bears and the Bane-produced creature, there are 5 illusions and hence giving the Mist 5/5, enough power to drop Jace’s life to 0.

Do not attack using the land illusions as this will decrease the combat power of the Mist.

How to solve (#2):

There is a second way to solve this challenge, although still similar to the steps above. During your first turn, do the following in no particular order:

  • Put the Island card in the battlefield.
  • Summon two Phantasmal Bears.
  • Cast sorcery spell Preordain. The same cards above will have to be moved to the bottom of your library. A Summoner’s Bane will still be summoned. Scripted, like I said.
  • Cast instant spell Into the Roil (no kicker) to Mind Control (not the Mist this time). It is located behind the Mist so make sure you highlight it before clicking. With the Mind Control back in Jace’s hand, you gain back control of your Krovikan Mist. It will have summoning sickness so you can’t attack with it during this turn.

Master of Illusions

  • Cast sorcery card Time Warp to yourself for an extra turn.

During the next turn’s main phase, do the following in no particular order:

  • Summon the last remaining Phantasmal Bear in your hand.
  • Summon spirit creature Dreamborn Muse, but counter it with your instant spell Summoner’s Bane in order to summon an illusion creature.

If you’re wondering why you have more than 7 cards but you’re not forced to discard during cleanup phase, it is because of the artifact Spellbook.


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          Thursday, August 25, 2011

          Lust for Blood – Magic 2012

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          The last easy 1-on-1 challenge in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Lust for Blood can only be played after defeating Kiora Atua in the campaign. Deathtouch is introduced in this puzzle. 

          Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

          Game objective:

          Garruk has only 1 life while you have 8. Stymie Garruk’s attack before finishing him off.

          How to solve:

          The challenge begins with Garruk attacking you with his Terra Stomper, an 8/8 beast creature with Trample. Block Stomper with your Vampire Nighthawk, a 4/3 vampire shaman that has been modified in this challenge to have multiple abilities, the more important of which include Trample, Deathtouch, and First Strike.

          Deathtouch – Creatures dealt damage by something with deathtouch are destroyed.

          Even with the Stomper’s greater combat power able to overcome your Nighthawk’s toughness, your creature has first strike. This allows it to damage Stomper first. Couple that preemptive attack with deathtouch, Stomper dies without dealing any damage.

          Lust for Blood

          During your own turn, attack using Nighthawk to end the game. Your creature will be blocked by Garruk’s remaining creatures, three Giant Spiders. Nighthawk’s combat power of 4 will be distributed to each Spider as well as Garruk.

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          Death Blooms – Magic 2012

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          To be able to play the easy 1-on-1 challenge Death Blooms in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, you will need to defeat Tezzeret first. Regenerate and Protection are the central concepts during this puzzle.

          Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

          Death Blooms

          Game objective:

          Nissa has 2 life and you have 4. Weather Nissa’s onslaught before defeating her.

          How to solve:

          Nissa plays first and attacks with two creatures: Gaea’s Revenge and Mortivore, an 8/5 elemental creature and a 10/10 lhurgoyf (MTG’s large reptilian) creature, respectively.

          Block the Revenge with your Zombie Outlander, a zombie scout creature with protection from green.

          Protection – While on the battlefield, something with protection from a specific color can’t be the target of spells or abilities from cards of that color. However, spells and abilities of that color that don’t use the word “target” will be able to affect a creature with protection.

          Anything with protection from a color can’t be damaged by cards of that color. Similarly, creatures of a specific color can’t block an attacking creature with protection from that color.

          Also block Mortivore with Cudgel Troll, a troll (obviously) creature which has Regenerate.

          Regenerate – To prevent a creature from being destroyed. A regeneration effect works like a shield. If a creature would be destroyed and it has a regeneration shield, it’s not destroyed. Instead, the creature becomes tapped, it’s removed from combat (if it’s attacking or blocking), and all damage is removed from it. That regeneration shield is then used up. The creature never leaves the battlefield, so any Auras, Equipment, or counters that were on it remain there. Any unused regeneration shields go away during the cleanup step.

          The damage dealt to the Outlander is nullified since it has protection from green and the attacker is green. On the other hand, before Mortivore deals damage to the troll, activate the latter’s Regenerate ability so it can survive the former’s onslaught.

          Death Blooms

          During your turn, attack using Zombie Outlander. It’s combat power is equal to Nissa’s current life, ending the game. Nissa can’t stop the attack since her two recently summoned creatures are green, again a color the Outlander is protected from.
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          With Fire and Sword – Magic 2012

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          Unlocked after defeating Garruk Wildspeaker, With Fire and Sword is yet another easy 1-on-1 challenge in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012. Game concepts taught in this puzzle include Equipment, First Strike, and Double Strike.

          Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

          Game objective:

          Chandra has 6 life while you have 4. Ready yourself for Chandra’s finishing blow and then defeat her on your next turn.

          How to solve:

          You get to move first during this challenge. During your main phase, put/summon Kor Duelist in the battlefield. This Kor Soldier creature has double strike as long as he is equipped.

          Double Strike – Attacking and blocking creatures that have first strike and double strike deal combat damage before other creatures. Then, all creatures except those with first strike deal combat damage.

          Creatures that have double strike deal combat damage twice each combat.

          It’s possible for a creature to be destroyed before it can deal its combat damage.

          At its current state (1 combat power and 1 toughness), the Duelist will not be able to stand an anticipated attack by Chandra Nalaar next turn using her Lightning Elemental. It has a devastating combat power of 4 and also has Haste, although the latter is not significant during this challenge.

          Haste – Creatures with haste ignore summoning sickness. They can attack and their abilities (that cost them to be tapped) can be played as soon as they enter the battlefield.

          To give it a fighting chance, equip artifact Trusty Machete to the Kor Duelist.


          It will be Chandra’s turn next. As expected, she will attack using her sole creature. Block Lightning Elemental with the equipped Kor Duelist.


          Since the Duelist now has Double Strike (implying First Strike), it gets to damage the Elemental and kill it before it can return damage.

          During your next turn, attack using Kor Duelist. He will damage Chandra twice, dissipating her 6 life and completing the challenge.

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          In the Spider’s Web – Magic 2012

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          The second challenge in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, In the Spider’s Web will be unlocked after defeating Koth. Using Active Abilities of creatures is key to completing this puzzle.

          Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

          In the Spider’s Web

          Game objective:

          Kiora has 6 life while you only have 1. Negate Kiora’s lethal attack, then defeat her.

          How to solve:

          The game begins with Kiora’s turn. She will attack using Storm Crow, a bird creature with Flying and has 1 combat power and 2 toughness.

          Flying – Creatures with flying can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.

          Select the untapped Furnace Whelp to block the incoming damage. It is the only creature at your disposal that can block the Crow anyway.

          Your turn will soon follow. A Mountain card will be drawn, which you can ignore or put into the battlefield.

          During Combat phase, attack Kiora using both your Furnace Whelps. She will block one of your Whelps with Giant Spider, her remaining creature in the battlefield and has Reach. 

          Reach – Creatures with reach can block creatures with flying.

          The other Whelp is free to damage Kiora. Therefore, choose/click this unblocked Whelp and click Activate Ability.

          In the Spider’s Web

          When asked how many times you want to activate this ability, select 4 or 5 (5 being available if you put the drawn Mountain land card in the battlefield.) This will increase the Whelp’s combat power to at least 6, enough to bring down Kiora and therefore complete the challenge.

          The Furnace Whelp has an active ability that for every Mountain card used, the it gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

          Important: Do not activate any of your two Whelps’ ability before Kiora can decide which to block. If you do, she will block the Whelp with the most damage, leaving you insufficient damage for Kiora’s life.

          Important: You cannot also use both Whelps’ active abilities at the same time since you do not have enough Mountain land cards to sufficiently increase both their combat power.

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          Wednesday, August 24, 2011

          Rumble in the Jungle – Magic 2012

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          The first challenge playable in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Rumble in the Jungle is arguably also the easiest puzzle. It is basically an extension of the tutorial as it introduces you to Trample and Blocking.

          Check out solutions of other challenges at my Magic: The Gathering portal page.

          Rumble in the Jungle

          Game objective:

          Both you and Garruk have only 2 life. Using the few creatures you still have left, blunt Garruk’s final assault and defeat him.

          How to solve:

          The challenge starts with Garruk’s turn. He will attack using his sole creature Stomper Cub, a creature with 5 combat power and 3 toughness and has Trample.

          Trample – If a creature would deal enough combat damage to its blockers to destroy them, it deals the rest of its damage to the defending player.

          Among the three creatures you have in the battlefield, select Runeclaw Bear and Barony Vampire to block the Cub’s attack.

          In M:TG, you can use multiple creatures to block a single creature.

          The Bear and the Vampire have a total toughness of 4, leaving 1 extra combat power of the Cub to be dealt to your life. This is okay since you have 2 life from the start of the challenge.

          It will then be your turn. During combat phase, attack Garruk with your Gloomhunter. This creature has enough combat power to bring down Garruk’s life to 0.

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          Saturday, August 13, 2011

          Switching back to Blogger editor due to Scribe

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          I'm switching back to Blogger just so I can try out the new feature known as Scribe. It's actually more annoying than useful. So far it can't really guess the right word I'm looking for. I may be exaggerating but it can only predict the word I am about to type at around fifty percent of the time.

          But is Scribe enough for me to stay writing using the Blogger editor or am I just going to return to Windows Live Writer in the future? Sure it might be nice to see some suggested words since I often am at a loss whenever I write; that one word is just at the tip of my tongue and Scribe says it for me. If not, it can at least show a possibly similar word.

          Scribe is just one of the new features of Blogger. But what I really want to know is if the quirks during writing, especially the formatting problems in HTML, is still left unfixed. That was actually the main reason why I used Writer for the time being: what I really type during draft and how it appears is successfully published live as it is.

          And, I wish they've added a word count feature. It's simple but really nifty. So much for that.

          Logic: Fallacies

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          Equivocation occurs when a word is misconstrued in a sentence or argument for two or more meanings.

          Example 1:

          A fan can cool off a person dripping in sweat.

          Juan de la Cruz is a fan of western actors.

          Therefore, Juan de la Cruz can cool off western actors.


          The term “fan” is ambiguous in the argument. The fan in the first statement refers to a tool to move air while a fan in the case of Juan de la Cruz refers to being an enthusiastic admirer of a celebrity.

          Example 2:

          Adam is the fastest runner in the world because he is first in the human race.


          The word being misunderstood in this example is “race,” as a competition of speed  and as humanity as a whole.

          Wednesday, July 6, 2011

          Rage and Fire Without

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          Nationalism is dead in the hearts of the Filipino youth. Or perhaps it never died because it never lived in the first placed. At least that’s what I saw among fellow moviegoers who went for Sigwa, a tribute to the First Quarter Storm during the early years of President Marcos’s declaration of Martial Law. Whatever the film attempts to impart didn’t penetrate the people who watched with me. Rather, I felt that only when times are dire will the youth play a role for the fate of the country.

          February 6, 2011, a Sunday, was an ordinary day for me when I watched Sigwa. The main thing that stood out that day was that it was the first time in a couple of years that I was tasked to watch a historical film, surprisingly something I was looking forward to do. Nonetheless I was amazed how long the queue was for the film, having momentarily forgotten that students from every school and course imaginable could have also been required to watch. I had no choice to but fall into line to enter SM Cebu’s Cinema 7. I actually thought the theater would run out of seats for the attendees. Thankfully my fears were unfounded.

          When I went inside, the theater was already jam-packed with other students filling the place with so much unnecessary scuffles for seats along with din. I hurriedly looked for a comfortable seat as the screen was small it would be hard to watch it from the sides. It took around ten minutes after the expected time, 12:30 p.m., for the film to start showing; moderators were trying to subdue the noise and commotion, to no avail.

          Things did not improve in the middle of the movie. Here and there I noticed people getting bored with it that they were finding means to kill some time, at the cost of annoying other people like me who paid rapt attention at the film. To my right, a teenage girl was animatedly talking to her friends. To my left, I could not help but notice yet another teenage girl sending love messages to her boyfriend. Everywhere else in the theater one could find similar conditions. The only times interest was seemingly observed for the movie was during the sexual and kissing scenes. It was simply disappointing.

          I assumed this movie did not wholly affect the minds of the youth, save a few. I did not suppose it was because the direction and script was subpar for my taste and the acting acceptable at best. My criticisms were not the problem. The problem lies within the fact that Martial Law happened during the time of our parents. My generation and those after mine however lived in a time of relative peace, blindly enjoying whatever it satisfies us. Perhaps if history repeats itself with the spending of blood for peace and harmony, then we might fully understand what Sigwa really was trying to portray. I didn’t even know the film was a tribute in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Storm until I researched a bit.

          After about two hours, the credits finally started rolling. By then I was anxious to leave, having enjoyed a cultural film yet disgruntled by the crowd I left behind. I wish the time comes the youth embraces nationalism willingly and knowledgeably. As one Josephine Dionisio said, “None of us is born nationalist.”

          Where to Find the oDesk Exchange Rate

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          If you’re wondering whether oDesk’s Local Funds Transfer is really competitive to other payment methods available, you can always check out the exchange rate between U.S. dollar and your local currency.

          There are two locations in oDesk where the currency converter is displayed. The first one is through the setup of LFT while the second one is when you withdraw funds using said method.

          A little bit of background: Local Funds Transfer is the newest way to send payment directly through your local bank account in your local currency. Through it, Paypal, Payoneer and others become even more optional for oDesk contractors.

          Conversion Rate at Setup

          An oDesk member can preview the last rate through setup through the following.

          1. From the homepage, go to Payments > Payment Methods.
          2. If LFT for your country is not yet established a notification will show to direct your through the setup. Click Set up now. oDesk local funds transfer setup
          3. Enter your password if asked for.
          4. At the next page where you enter the BRSTN code for your bank, a What’s This to the right shows the last oDesk exchange rate.odesk exchange rate setup

          This procedure will no longer be possible once you have finished setting up Local Fund Transfer.

          During Withdrawal

          If you now have the LFT method prepared as a withdrawal method, you can also view the last currency conversion rate among the information. To do this,

          1. From the homepage, go to Payments > Withdrawals.
          2. Under the Withdrawal Method dropdown list, choose Local Funds Transfer to specified local bank with xxxx-acct#.

          odesk exchange rate

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