For more than half a decade Gamers Helping Gamers has been living up to its incredibly straightforward name. The non-profit organization was founded by a handful of Magic players who grew up playing games and has been awarding college scholarships to gamers since 2012. President Timothy McKenna has been poring over the recent slew of applications with his board of directors that include Eric Berger (Secretary), Jon Finkel (Treasurer), Chris Pikula, Robert Maher, Jr, Matthew Wang, and Daniel O’Mahoney-Schwartz. Also contributing to the selection process were Scholarship Committee members Worth Wollpert and Jamie Parke.

Past winners of the scholarship include:

2012: Dylan Fay, Douglas Johnson
2013: Isaac Goldstein
2014: Nathan Calvin, Brandi Mason, Kenneth Siry
2015: Lirek Kulik, Dylan Quinn
2016: Faolan Sugarman-Lash, Jacob Schliesman, Oliver Tiu
2017:… Without further ado

August Peterson

Age: 18
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
College: Grinnell College

You have to give Peterson credit for planning ahead. The Minneapolis based Magic player first became aware of the Gamers Helping Gamers scholarship program when his father read about the organization in the New York Times. Now half a decade after that article appeared he will be attending Grinnell College and hopes to graduate debt free thanks to that very scholarship.

“He had heard me talking about Jon Finkel and saw his name while reading the article and thought I might be interested,” explained Peterson who had already been playing Magic for a year or so after being introduced to it by his friend Connor.

“It really did not take much more than playing one game to get me hooked. After looking through Connor’s binder I already had ideas in my head for what types of decks I wanted to build. I had played chess and other card games before, but the higher complexity level of Magic is what made this game more interesting. There was so much that I didn’t yet understand and that made me want to play more Magic so I could continue to discover more of the interactions of the game,” recalled Peterson of his first encounter with the game.

With college looming, Peterson has taken a more fun approach to the game of late but fully embraced the competitive aspect throughout most of his teenage years. A typical day for him and his two friends, Max and Lewie, involved playtesting Modern or Standard in preparation for an upcoming event. Peterson attended at least one Grand Prix each year for the past three years but has turned his attention to playing a budget deck in Legacy and tuning his Commander deck.

“I considered my greatest accomplishment in Magic to be the Legacy Eggs deck I built and tested for over a year before playing it to a positive finish at an SCG Legacy Open,” said Peterson of his pet Legacy deck that is much more accessible than other decks in the format built around the premium staples in Legacy.

“Beyond being my favorite deck to play, it is very meaningful to me because of how much time I have put into working on it. Combo decks like Storm, High Tide, Eggs, Pros Bloom, Academy, etc. are my favorite. Building a version of Eggs for Legacy was a very fun and rewarding experience. I learned a lot about how these types of decks work in the process.”

The application process for Gamers Helping Gamers includes questions about favorite (and least favorite) cards and the innocuous Chromatic Star was Peterson’s choice for that discussion.

“I love cards that do close to nothing on their own, except for giving you a very small advantage. In a deck like Eggs you combine a bunch of these small advantages together into a large advantage that wins you the game. If you have no special interactions Chromatic Star just draws a card, but when you combine it with mechanics like Prowess, Affinity, Delve, and Delirium you get more out of it than just one card. The advantages gained from these synergies are small, but they add up over the course of the game.”

For least favorite card Peterson wrote about Banisher Priest and how the templating for the card does not allow for cool timing tricks like you can get under the old templating of similar cards like Fiend Hunter. Back in the old days of Magic you could respond to the enter the battlefield trigger of exiling a creature by sacrificing or bouncing the Fiend Hunter which would trigger the leaves the battlefield clause. Since no creature had been exiled yet that part would fizzle and then the enters the battlefield trigger would happen and the targeted creature would be exiled, never to return.

“I believe that the Fiend Hunter loophole is good for Magic. It rewards players for ingenuity and understanding of the rules. When a new player encounters this loophole and loses a game to it, there is an opportunity for discovery. This learning experience never happens with Banisher Priest,” griped Peterson (and frankly I can’t blame him!)

“It is an enormous help in making college affordable for me. I knew that paying for college would be a challenge and I am incredibly grateful for the help I am receiving from Gamers Helping Gamers. The scholarship means that I should be able to graduate without debt, greatly lessening the burden on me and my family. It is an honor to be selected to receive this scholarship by people I so greatly respect. Magic has meant a lot to me for the past six years or so and I have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the game. To have some of the best minds from Magic consider my ideas worthy of a scholarship is very meaningful for me.”

While Peterson is much more likely to be playing his Karador deck in a weekly Commander game than chasing down PPTQs he stays on top of the game and closely follows the competitive scene — and is always ready to watch GHG’s Jon Finkel stream some Storm action.

“Beyond being a legendary player, and a very good person, I admire him for his dedication to Storm in Modern. I too am a Storm player and I will pause videos of him playing the deck and ask myself what play I would make so I can compare it to his play,” said the avid consumer of streamed Magic content. “I also follow LSV, Conley Woods, Caleb Durward, Andrew Cuneo, Joel Larsson, and Andrea Mengucci.”

A couple of other players Peterson singled out were Sam Black and Frank Karsten.

“Building decks is my favorite part of Magic and one way I improve my skills is by watching how he builds decks. One thing that brought me into playing more competitive Magic was watching his deck The Aristocrats win Pro Tour Gatecrash in the hands of Tom Martell. I have gone back to watch that match at least five times,” said Peterson of Magic’s mad genius Sam Black.

As Peterson embarks on his college years he is already thinking about how he can make an impact on the world — and how there might be something we can take from metagaming and apply towards politics.

“The last thing I wrote about was my belief that our approach to solving problems in politics should be more like how the Magic community approaches a new Standard format. Players work together and test their ideas, recognizing other’s successes and their own failures. At the end of the season there is a general consensus on what the best deck was. There is no such recognition of success of others and failure of self in American Politics. There is generally no consensus, just ideology.”

Autumn Cook

Age: 18
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
College: University of Maryland Baltimore County

Autumn Cook has been playing Magic for more than half her life after being introduced to it by her older brother when she was 8 years old. It all started with a stack of cards he brought home from a friend’s house.

“I thought the art on the cards was awesome and having played a few other card games very casually, I forced him to teach me to play. I was in love pretty much instantly, and continued to play even after my brother stopped,” recalled Cook who assured readers of the truism that nobody truly quits the game; even her brother. “He recently restarted again, and is having a blast.”

As she entered her teens she found her lane in Magic. Cook had begun attending tournaments on the Star City Open Series and realized she was not having as much fun as she expected playing in large tournaments.

“I realized that maybe that playing in large competitive tournaments probably wasn’t for me. However, I noticed another group of people that seemed to be absolutely loving the events they went to, and that group of people were the judges. I certified as Level One less than a year later at 14. I continued to work large events and leveled up to level two a little less than a year later at Grand Prix Baltimore 2014,” said Cook of the path that led her to judging. “The judging community is amazing, and it is one of the main reasons why I keep playing Magic and judging tournaments. They are family, and I love them.”

Watching coverage of Jon Finkel playing at a Pro Tour and the Judge community combined to inspire Cook to apply for the scholarship.

“I think I learned about GHG by following Magic coverage. Every time Jon was on camera the commentators mentioned GHG and the rest was history. People in the judge program also encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. Word of mouth is a really powerful tool!”

Her favorite card mechanic no doubt warmed Jon Finkel’s blue heart.

“My favorite Magic mechanic is the concept of drawing cards. In my opinion there isn’t another mechanic in Magic that has the ability to completely change the course of the game. The one top deck Cruel Ultimatum can completely swing the game in Gabriel Nassif’s favor, or induce the amount of emotion that comes attributed with Craig Jones’ Lightning Helix or the miracle Bonfire of the Damned against Brian Kibler’s team. This variance is what keeps the game fresh and lively, and it is what makes every game of Magic different. I talked the concepts of cantrips and how the addition of drawing cards makes a card inherently better.”

For Cook even the physical act of card-drawing offers some insight into the various personalities that make up Magic’s tapestry.

“I also believe that the way players draw a card — from a sideways deck straight to the hand, or the slow-roll drag across the table, or the “pure” way that Reid Duke draws his cards — can represent the diversity in the game. People can do even the most simple and arguably most integral part of a game of Magic so differently, even though we are all playing the same game, and performing the same game action.”

Fittingly for a Magic judge an obscure but now obsolete rules fix was singled out by Cook for least-beloved mechanic.

“I wrote about an ability called Substance. People probably don’t even know what this ability does, because it is one of the only abilities in the game to never have shown up on a card. Substance was an ability that was created to solve a problem that the 6th edition rules change caused regarding the cleanup step and how some cards functioned during the cleanup step. I’ll spare you the lengthy explanation on how it actually works, but it was pretty funky. Substance was eradicated from the oracle text of the 12 Magic cards it was on following the Magic 2010 Core Set Rules Changes. I dislike Substance because while it was a fix that worked and fixed the problem, Substance as a whole was unnecessarily confusing and complex — None of the 12 cards that had Substance actually saw play.”

“I am incredibly competitive,” said Cook who still tries to find time to play her favorite Magic format. “My absolute favorite is Legacy where my main deck is Enchantress — a couple of different builds, but I am currently running Bant-chantress. I love the deck so much that I have foiled/white bordered the majority of the deck. Even though I’m super competitive, I still play bad decks — I did get a Top 16 in a recent SCG Legacy Classic though!”

When asked about which Magic players or personalities she admires Cook rattled off a list of judges that she works with including Eric Dustin Brown, Brogan King, Liz Richardson, Nicholas Sabin, and Riki Hayashi.

“My absolute favorite streamers and Magic personalities are Emma Handy (@em_teegee) and Jadine Klomparens (@thequietfish). I am a mod in Emma’s channel, and try to tune into every stream that I possibly can. She is an amazing person and an amazing pillar in the community.”

Applicants were asked to talk about how the experience of Magic could be applied in a broader way to “real life” and Cook chose a topic most Magic players know all too well — the concept of “tilt”.

“Bad things happen to good people in real life, just as terrible draws happen to amazing players in Magic. But I believe that it is important to learn from your previous mistakes and to carry on. If someone allows themselves to be tilted by things that don’t go their way, they will never continue to grow and mature. Competitive Magic players have to learn how to deal with tilt in a tournament environment. I believe that that same lesson can be applied to literally every aspect of “real life.””

With real life beckoning for Cook the Gamers Helping Gamers scholarship has Cook looking past her immediate college experience.

“This scholarship is going to help me continue on to graduate school. My intended major is Chemistry, and I hope to go on to earn a MD/Ph.D after I graduate from UMBC. This scholarship will help me achieve those goals. But this scholarship is a lot more than money. This organization is a huge deal within the Magic the Gathering community and being picked as one of the recipients is a huge, huge honor. I won’t let you guys down. Thank you so much to all of the people who support GHG and to the amazing leadership team at GHG.”

You can expect to see Cook playing over the summer at SCG Richmond and just maybe Grand Prix DC in September but if you see an Enchantress deck going 5-0 in an Legacy League on MTGO there is a good chance it will be Autumn Cook.

If you want to find out more about Gamers Helping Gamers, whether it is to donate, find out information about upcoming application windows, or to find out about upcoming fundraising tournament events just go to their website.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
PT HoF Ring

Hall of Fame 2017 Rules Changes

Posted by Paul Jordan | Magic

Wizards of the Coast announced a change in the voting threshold for Hall of Fame inclusion which moves the required percentage of ballots with your name from 40% to 60%. This is a very large leap. Before we dig into this, let’s take a quick review of how Hall of Fame voting has worked historically

  • 2005 – A 69 person selection committee each voted for 5 people. The top 4 players on ballots were inducted. The remaining players were voted on by a players committee, with the top vote-getter there getting elected
  • 2006-2007 – Both committees received the same ballots and voted. Selection committee votes were weighted as 2/3 of the vote vs 1/3 for players’ committee. Top 5 weighted vote-getters were elected
  • 2007-2013 – The same committees existed, but instead of the top 5 getting elected, you needed a 40% weighted threshold.
  • 2014-2016 – There was now only 1 committee, consisting of the 2 former committees merged. You still needed 40%

Now we have the same, singular committee but instead of appearing on 40% of the ballots, you need to appear on 60%. They’re culling the list of available players by increasing eligibility requirements as well as making it harder to stay on the ballot. The stated intent is that votes would be more concentrated. I have my doubts about this logic, but I’ll leave those to Twitter fights. For now, I want to focus on the what-if. What if these rules had been in place all along? What would our Hall of Fame look like now?

First, there are 43 people currently in the Hall of Fame. Of those, the average voting percentage (weighted or not, depending on the year) is 59.19%. So, the average Hall of Famer would fall juuuuuust short of getting into the Hall of Fame under the new system. Of the 43 players, 23 would not be in the Hall of Fame. Or, at least, not from the same class.

So, of those 23, how many have continued to put up results? Just because they didn’t get in one year, doesn’t mean they couldn’t get in the next year, right? By getting enough under the old rules to be inducted, they surely have enough under the new rules to stay on the ballot.

7 of those 23 have continued to cast spells and come up with another PT top 8. 2 of them even got 2 more top 8s!

  • Raphael Levy (elected in 2006, top 8 Yokohama 2007)
  • Tsuyoshi Fujita (elected in 2007, top 8 Nagoya 2011)
  • Nicolai Herzog (elected in 2007, top 8 Kuala Lumpur 2008)
  • Jelger Wiegersma (2) (elected in 2008, top 8 Fate Reforged 2015 and Dark Ascension 2012)
  • Brian Kibler (2) (elected in 2010, top 8 Dark Ascension 2012 and Amsterdam 2010)
  • Patrick Chapin (elected in 2012, top 8 Journey into Nyx 2014)
  • William Jensen (elected in 2013, top 8 Magic 2015 in 2014)

These players very possibly would have been elected in future years even under the new rules. Of course, they got these additional accopmlishments with the added benefit of being qualified for every PT as a result of their HOF status, but they frequently had other qualifying methods and even still made the most of it. I’m comfortable here.

The other players, however, very likely would still not be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe coming so close and missing out would have pushed them. Maybe they would have quit all together. I don’t know. But based on their existing results after inclusion, I don’t think they would have made the jump to 60%

  • Tommi Hovi – 52.17% in 2005
  • Alan Comer – 46.38% in 2005
  • Olle Rade – 29.20% in 2005
  • David Humphries – 56.78% in 2006
  • Gary Wise – 39.03% in 2006
  • Robert Dougherty – 38.20% 2006
  • Randy Buehler – 35.58% in 2006
  • Dirk Baberowski – 52.36% in 2008
  • Michael Turian – 50.13% in 2008
  • Oliver Ruel – 46.01% in 2008
  • Ben Rubin – 45.62% in 2008
  • Frank Karsten – 44.79% in 2009
  • Tomoharu Saito* – 47.74% in 2010
  • Bram Snepvangers – 40.03% in 2010
  • Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz – 50.57% in 2011
  • Ben Stark – 58.96% in 2013
  • Willy Edel – 47.60% in 2015

*reminder – Saito was subsequently banned and did not get included in the Hall of Fame

All of this is, of course, revisionist history. Perhaps if the new rules had been in place from the beginning, voting patterns would have been significantly different. After all, the voting body is made up primarily of folks who game. If there’s 1 truth I’ve learned in my decades playing Magic, it’s that gamers gonna game. You give them a system and they will game it to their advantage.

Glimmer of Genius

Brian Adds Glimmer of Genius

Posted by Fetchland Editor | Magic, Top 8 Magic

The Stink Bomb Podcast

ManaDeprived published a new episode of Top 8 Magic yesterday! Yay!

You would probably already know this if you were subscribed to the Top 8 Magic podcast. If you are not yet subscribed to the Top 8 Magic podcast, stop reading this blog post and fix that situation for yourself here.

Done?

Great!

Mike and Brian spend the first fifty or so minutes of this podcast on a new-ish deck that they are planning to play at this weekend’s Grand Prix New Jersey. It is a straightforward B/G Aetherworks Marvel deck.

BDM laments the non-flavorful state of present day deck lists. To Brian, “Mardu Vehicles” and “Mardu Ballista” may be descriptive… But they are boring deck names. He names the deck “Stink Bomb” because it is kind of descriptive, but certainly not boring.

Noxious Gearhulk is noxious… Ergo the “stink”; Aetherworks Marvel is the bomb! You know, “bomb”. Put together, they , Stink Bomb.

Glimmer of Genius in Stink Bomb

Stink Bomb is the classic michaelj metagame deck. It is meant to beat particular opponents, and aimed directly at them. Mike maintains that B/G Marvel as a concept is heavily favored against the conventional B/G decks as well as Mardu Vehicles.

The problem? The format isn’t that simple any more.

Brian has been playing the heck out of competitive leagues getting ready for Grand Prix New Jersey, and claims that Temur Tower is the rising It Girl of Standard. Stink Bomb as Mike originally conceived it is not prepared for a format where Temur Tower is potentially The Deck to Beat. It is trivial for Temur Tower to Negate all of our Aetherworks Marvels, while Ulamog rots in our hands; this would result in defeat for our heroes 🙁

Something shocking happens!

Over the course of the first hour, Brian chips away at Mike’s stubbornness. BDM convinces Mike to add blue to fight Temur Tower in sideboarded games. Once Mike is on board with adding blue, Brian adds Glimmer of Genius to the previously two-color shell.

Glimmer of Genius is a clear upgrade to Live Fast in terms of card power. It is an instant, and it can help you push unwanted copies of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to the bottom of your deck (so that you don’t, you know, draw it).

The Glimmer of Genius Price

Adding blue for Glimmer of Genius costs you something, as blue is a whole additional color!

Mike pays the price of the third color with a single Botanical Sanctum, plus one Island. You can access the one island with any of twelve different cards, so consequently there are eighteen sources of blue.

Check it out:

This is what happened! Find out how BDM wore down Mike on this week's podcast

A post shared by FetchLand (@fetchlandmtg) on

Listen to the full podcast at ManaDeprived.

Direct Download

Exquisite Archangel

Exquisite Archangel
Sure it costs seven mana, but can Exquisite Archangel serve as a solution to infectious aggression?

It has a hefty casting cost (to go along with that extra set of arms)… but it also packs a powerful (defensive) punch. With an Angel’s Grace-esque reference to [not] losing the game, many players have wondered about a particular Exquisite Archangel ruling…

As usual, the man Magician with the smoothest voice in all of Canada, Chris Lansdell, is ready to let us know what’s what:

Transcript: Exquisite Archangel & Infect

Billy wants to know how Exquisite Archangel interacts with poison counters.

Well Billy… Not so great.

Sure it’ll exile itself and gain you twenty life, but then the game checks again to see if anyone should die. And oh look! You have ten poison counters!

Sorry about that whammy bro 🙁

I’ve been Chris for Fetchland, and as always, I’ll be the Judge!

Check out all of Chris's "I'll Be the Judge!" (and more) at Fetchland.com

A post shared by FetchLand (@fetchlandmtg) on

Have a rules question? Think someone else might be having the same issue? Follow us and ask.
Fetchland / Top 8 Magic on Facebook
Fetchland on Instagram
Chris on Twitter

Aetherworks Marvel

In case you missed it, on manadeprived.com the Top 8 Magic podcast returned… With a windy conversation about Standard, including me trying to convince BDM about a new and different G/W Aetherworks Marvel deck.

BDM: I’ll try your G/W Marvel deck; I’m pessimistic until proven otherwise.

YT: It’s very good against G/B. It’s very good against Mardu Vehicles. You cannot win a game against Rai combo.

BDM: I’ll take my chances.

The presumption being that the Standard format is locked down by only two or three archetypes (in particular the various black-green Winding Constrictor decks and the various Mardu Vehicles decks). Is there a potential solution to breaking out of a three-deck metagame?

In this podcast, I argue that Aetherworks Marvel is a possible solution.

MichaelJ’s G/W Aetherworks Marvel Deck:

G/W Marvel

A post shared by FetchLand (@fetchlandmtg) on

This is an update on a deck that Roman Fusco nearly won a PPTQ with, right before Aether Revolt rotated in. The deck’s original thesis was that Descend Upon the Sinful could be a good solution to a format where Emrakul, the Promised End was the most powerful top end card. Even if the opponent takes your turn, he can’t easily prevent you from Descending Upon his Emrakul. At the same time, you get a 4/4 to try to win the game with.

Descend Upon the Sinful is a potential “hit” for the Aetherworks Marvel tap, because you get a pretty big creature out of it. An instant-speed Wrath (coming off the Marvel) allows you to fight against vehicles… Plus the exile clause on the card gives you extra oomph against Scrapheap Scrounger and other graveyard-hungry threats.

Aetherworks Marvel Combo… Out Combo’d?

Even if you accept that a deck like this will be able to operate successfully (and speedily enough) against Golgari and Vehicles… There is the small matter of Saheeli Rai and other U/R-based decks.

If you don’t land your Marvel before they hit either their combo or their own Marvel (depending on which sub-archetype they are) you’re probably in trouble. You’re behind enough against Torrential Gearhulk that it is probably worth the downsides on Stasis Snare [against aggressive opponents] that you would choose it over one of the 1W instant versions.

BDM and I talk about the more main-line Magic stuff as well, plus the transformative influence of Kyle Korver on my Cleveland Cavaliers! This podcast is from about a week ago, but if you missed it, we really hope you check it out on manadeprived.com, or here I guess:

Direct Download

While you’re at it, subscribe to Top 8 Magic on iTunes so you won’t miss it next time 😉

LOVE
MIKE

Blistering Firecat

A social media firestorm erupted recently when, at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, there was some confusion around how the word “combat” was ruled as a tournament shortcut. Regardless of where you fall on how it “should” be ruled, Chris felt it important to inform the community how it is ruled. At least currently.

Chris Lansdell returns with an “I’ll Be the Judge!” starring none other than sixteen-time Top 8 competitor/Pro Tour winner/World Champion/all around great guy Jon Finkel.

Transcript: Jon asks about “combat”:

Hi Chris,

Can you explain exactly what the word “combat” means in terms of tournament shortcuts?

There was some controversy around this at Pro Tour Aether Revolt and I think the community at large (and my good friend Kai) could benefit from hearing an explanation

Thanks.

Transcript: What exactly does “combat” mean?

Sure thing, Jon.

Saying

“combat”,
“declare attackers”,
or “move to combat”

effectively means you are passing priority until the beginning of the declare attackers step.

The very first thing you do in the declare attackers step is declare your attackers.

By that point it is too late to animate creature lands, crew any vehicles, or do anything but, well, declare attackers.

If you want to do something at the beginning of combat step, you need to explicitly state what you want to do and when you want to do it.

I hope that’s helpful to you and to Kai.

For Fetchland this has been Chris and I’ll be the Judge!

And so…

So, there you have it: This is how the word is currently ruled. Make sure to crew, et al, appropriately.

Jon Finkel asks Chris about "combat" in this week's "I'll Be the Judge!"

A post shared by FetchLand (@fetchlandmtg) on

Have a rules question? Think someone else might be having the same issue? Follow us and ask.
Fetchland / Top 8 Magic on Facebook
Fetchland on Instagram
Chris on Twitter

Rishkar's Expertise

Fetchland is overjoyed to bring you Level 2 Judge Chris Lansdell and a new feature, I’ll Be the Judge!

Chris will be answering your burning Magic: The Gathering rules questions in a whole new format… Instagram video!

This first episode clarifies something that we’re sure lots of you have been thinking about, since the first time you saw this card:

Rishkar's Expertise
Rishkar’s Expertise

It also has a little bit to do with this card…

Verdurous Gearhulk
Verdurous Gearhulk

(but not really)

Transcript for I’ll Be the Judge #1 – Rishkar’s Expertise

Mike wants to know what happens if we have an 8/8 V G and we cast RE as the only card in our hand

when we’ve drawn our eight cards can we play one of them for free?

Well yes Mike, you can! You follow the instructions on the card in the order they are written. So first you would draw your eight cards, then the spell asks you to play one of them with mana cost five or less, for free.

So not only does that work, it works really well!

Like this? You'll love Fetchland.com!

A video posted by FetchLand (@fetchlandmtg) on

Thanks Chris!

We’re still fleshing out this new feature, but if you would like to ask a question, you can start by following Fetchland and / or Top 8 Magic on Facebook and Instagram; or Chris, on Twitter.

Twitter discussion about drafting sent me to the keyboard to write about some Limited options I would love to see on Magic Online.

Flashback Drafts are starting to feel a little like getting the gift of socks. I am happy to get socks over the holidays. I need socks. I like comfortable socks and warm feet. Who am I to complain about getting socks? Yet… socks would not be the top of my list to grown-up Santa. The same is true for Flashback drafts. I want something…else.

It all started with a tweet from Lee Sharp. He was musing about what would happen to the Time Spiral draft block if you simply removed a problem card from the format. Sprout Swarm was one of those Mythic Commons that completely dominates a game in a way that commons just should not be able to do. It is on a list of Limited public enemies that includes Empryial Armor, Sparksmith, and (the original) Rolling Thunder.

Responses ranged from very cautious support to #HanShotFirst hashtags. My suggestion was to just bump it to uncommon. Playing with Sprout Swarm is essential to the nostalgia for that block but maybe playing against it a little less frequently would be a good thing. This led to former Limited Resources co-host Brian Wong wondering about what other minor tweaks could be made to fix draft formats.

After a little back and forth on this topic Eric Klug chimed in. Instead of the Flashback drafts on Magic Online he would like to see resources committed to something I have advocated for in the past — Wacky Drafts.

Wacky Drafts

Sometimes known as Chaos Drafts, players in a Wacky Draft have no idea what packs they are going to be drafting when they sit down at the table. There is a lot of excitement about what packs you might get to open — there are usually some Modern Masters packs sprinkled into the assortment. Once you get your packs, your mind races to think about what fiendish creations you can assemble across your three first picks.

There can be as many as 24 different sets opened up at the table with each player getting a completely different random assortment of 3 packs. They are a public event favorite at Grand Prix and conventions and I know I would play them all the time if they were a play option on Magic Online.

The discussion got me to thinking about what other Limited formats I would like to see on Magic Online for the holidays.

Frankenstein Flashbacks

Instead of just drafting previous blocks, cobble together three sets with a thematic, mechanical, or tribal connection and draft them. I suggested as an example — with not much thought — an artifact themed draft format.

It would be fun to find new interactions between cards and to tie tribal synergies across three different sets. You could have a Sliver format. Richie Scott suggested the Rebel Yell draft format on FB with Time Spriral, Mercadian Masques, and Planar Chaos. Kenyon Colloran suggested a format with M13, Innistrad, and Shadows over Innistrad for a spells REAAAALLY matter format.

Frankenstein Flashback is a Magic format that could be crowdsourced and debated before it goes live. In an ideal world, with unlimited resources, this would be something you could hand pick and host for yourself and 7 other people that you engage to play with you.

What three sets would you most want to draft? Something I had not considered when I posted the original tweet was that you don’t need it to be three different sets. It could just as easily be AAA-AAA-BBB as AAA-BBB-CCC.

Minimaster

In the old days of Magic Minimaster was a winner-take-all format. The tournament needed to be 16, 32 or 64 players (although you could continue upward to 128, 256 etc). Each player would get one booster pack, two of each basic land. From there you would shuffle up and play. The winner would take the loser’s cards and add them to their card pool to rebuild for the next round. In a 5 round minimaster you would end up with the contents of 16 packs to build your deck for the finals.

In the kinder, gentler era of modern Magic you get to keep all your cards when you play Minimaster. You start with one pack and then each time you win you get to add another pack to your card pool. Another very popular option from the side event area at Grand Prix; it is not uncommon for the format to be played by hundreds of people at once as a special event on Friday before a Grand Prix. It would be a quick, fun way to play Magic Online — without any need for deckbuilding for the first round. Assuming there were enough people playing it would be perfect for League play too. You would just need to be paired against someone with the same size card pool as you and rebuild after each win.

Armchair Quarterback Drafts

For the better part of the past decade you have been able to sit yourself down and look over the shoulders of Pro Tour competitors and see what they took when faced with drafting at the highest level of competition. The Draft Viewer features a stacked draft table at the start of each day of Pro Tour competition and shows you every pick of every pack.

How cool would it be to sit down in the same seat as a Hall of Famer, Draft Master, or Pro Tour Champion and see what you would do in their place?

For almost as long as we have had the Draft Viewer I have wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and actually draft those same packs. Ben Stark loves to tease Conley Woods and Luis Scott-Vargas about their drafts at Pro Tour Philadelphia. I know I would enjoy a stream with Stark sitting in one of their seats and putting his money where his mouth is.

Wouldn’t you like to see the Butterfly Effect across multiple drafts? Drafts happen and they go away with little examination of what could have happened differently. I want to see what the distribution of color pairs looks like based on different first picks that players make across multiple iterations of those same packs.

Yuuya Watanabe has taken a lot of guff for his Deadbridge Shaman pick at the 2015 World Championship. Wouldn’t you love to see what the decks look like if those first picks in his seat start out differently? What happens in that World Championship draft if Yuuya Watanabe take Cruel Revival over Deadbridge Shaman? What if Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa took Whirler Rogue over Outland Colossus?

I want to see the results of those same packs being drafted many times over. Is there a consensus best deck that wins from a specific seat more often than others? Are there decks that consistently form around certain cards regardless of which seat they end up in? We never get to see drafts get iterated and I would love to find this feature under my non-denominational holiday plant next Winter solstice.

[For Westworld‘s “The Bicameral Mind” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Ford unveils his bold, new narrative; Dolores embraces her identity, Maeve sets her plan in motion.

If you’ve read some of the articles out there, perhaps in Vanity Fair or on Vulture.com, you likely had specific questions for this episode. Is the Man in Black actually William? How many timelines are there, anyway? We brought these inquiries to the season finale of Westworld, “The Bicameral Mind” along with a few others. Luckily, they were mostly answered and the finale was gripping even if it was also pretty darn dark.

The episode opens as Arnold welcomes Dolores into the world for the first time. She’s wearing only part of her skin at this point and it’s reminiscent of “Ex Machina”, which we think is on purpose. Foreshadowing. “Ex Machina” is about a brilliant man-of-science who makes a robot that’s virtually indistinguishable from a human. It doesn’t end well for that man or likely for mankind in general.

Robert Ford tells everyone throughout season one of Westworld that destruction is an essential element of being human. In fact, he says Westworld only exists because humans already destroyed everything else on the planet. The park gives humans a much-needed playground to wreak havoc to their hearts delight. Thus, in the world of artificial intelligence, to create a human is to create destruction. A creator of AI has truly “succeeded” at re-making humanity when they’ve created a killer.

This appears to be Ford’s vision, though not necessarily Arnold’s. Arnold seems to care more about what’s happening inside his hosts. He doesn’t like for them to suffer. The fact that they may develop consciousness terrifies him because it means they truly feel and understand their own suffering. Ford, on the other hand, cares about the outer world and consequences more. He’s a bottom line kinda guy.

There’s a lot of talk in Westworld about the gods of this world, ownership, and control. The story revolves around power for many of the characters; especially The Man in Black, Maeve, Dolores, Arnold, Charlotte, and Ford. In fact, this power-hungry-control-freak list points out our favorite thing about Westworld. It’s gender-balanced. Also, nobody is better or worse than anybody else when it comes to winning and losing. Those who think they’re superior usually pay a steep price soon after their declaration of it. The show keeps reminding us that all this comes and goes; including power and control. It’s a swiftly changing world and thus staying on top is temporary.

One poignant question the finale explains is that brutal beatdown at Escalante where seemingly everybody dies. We’ve seen it referenced many times in the season. Dolores hovers on the outskirts while Teddy and Wyatt kill every single person in town. This is what we’ve always seen. It’s a massacre. “The Bicameral Mind” reveals, however, that Dolores isn’t on the outskirts at all. In fact, she’s the whole shebang. The entire Escalante event was manufactured by Arnold, though. After he put Dolores through the maze of his creation, she did indeed find consciousness. Thus Arnold knew she could truly suffer. That means the other hosts would soon follow the same course and develop consciousness.

To put conscious beings who suffer and are aware of their suffering in a playground made to torture and destroy them is cruel, Arnold concludes. He enters a shame spiral and wants to die. Arnold was the agent of this cruelty, so he feels guilty. This is why he wants to end all the host suffering as well as his own. That means he needs to kill all the hosts. Then they won’t suffer. So, Arnold uses Dolores as his agent for this – thus the Escalante massacre. This story arc also reveals one of the many gender swaps Westworld employs, it turns out Wyatt is simply Dolores. In fact, just a small part of her is Wyatt. She’s THAT powerful.

Meanwhile The Man in Black continues to think he’s all that matters. He informs Dolores that she should be heartbroken because it turns out he’s her beloved, William all grown up. Thus nobody is coming to save her after all. Sure, it smarts a bit, but Dolores gets over it pronto. You know why? Because, just like with everything else in Westworld, William/The Man in Black isn’t as significant as he believes. Sure he owns the park on paper. He’s got the most shares and is the most powerful board member. But just like all those shareholders who “own” things like energy futures… it’s a willow wisp sort of ownership. He actually has very little power and control beyond what the game allows.

This lack of significance hammers The Man in Black throughout the season when he’s constantly told, “The maze isn’t for you”. It’s really not. The maze is for the hosts. It’s an inner journey to their consciousness. The Man in Black is only capable of surface BS games. He only understands what he can see and kill and dominate – things outside himself. This is why there are never any real stakes for him in Westworld… at least not until the end of the finale, anyway. The very source of his frustration is the thing he refuses to face. After all, The Man in Black is just human – a stubborn, unchangeable human.

Meanwhile the changeable and non-human host, Maeve, has the control panel to the park security system and her troops in line. She’s ready to roll. The plan goes into action when Armistice bites the finger off the technician who works on her face. Armistice is that badass bandit who tattoos a red snake all over her body using the blood of her enemies for the ink. She beats him and throws her now-nine-fingered technician through a glass wall.

Then, in our favorite gender flip of the season, it’s Armistice who comes to Hector’s rescue. At the crucial moment when another technician is about to sexually assault Hector, Armistice bursts in to save him. Maeve joins them afterward and the trio confront Maeve’s favorite technicians, Sylvester and Felix. With help from Armistice’s rough manhandling, they get Sylvester to admit somebody knows about their plan, it’s someone with an access code called “Arnold”.

In Ford’s new narrative we see Teddy save Dolores from The Man in Black. He plays hero and finally takes her to where the mountains meet the sea. Teddy made this promise a million times but never kept until now. The old story ends then, like all tragic romances, as Dolores dies in Teddy’s arms. Sunlight glistens on the water behind them as the day ends in a gorgeous sunset. The music swells to a tearful crescendo. Teddy declares that maybe this is somehow actually a new beginning. Ford has thus introduced his new narrative. His new beginning comes right at the old narrative’s tragic climax. So, Ford points out the nature of life as an eternal loop yet again. He then instructs technicians to clean up Teddy and take Dolores to the “old field lab”. Her work has just begun.

Meanwhile Maeve and her team encounter Bernard in the back warehouse and she has Felix fix him. He did indeed shoot himself, as Ford had instructed. But Felix tinkers around and brings Bernard back online. Maeve then asks Bernard to remove the memories of her daughter but he says he can’t because they’re part of her consciousness now and to destroy them is to destroy a critical part of her structure. She can’t learn from her mistakes if she can’t remember them, he explains.

Maeve then asks Bernard who altered her code under the name “Arnold” and he points out that her escape plan was programmed to happen. It’s all right there on the control panel for her to see. She’s still being controlled. Maeve calls BS, though, and says it’s she who’s in control. Nobody else. It’s a human trait, this stubborn refusal to see the facts right before her. Maeve attempts to deny her humanity at every turn but she’s certainly the most human host in Westworld.

Then there’s a system breakdown in the back lab. A red light pulses in the otherwise pitch dark space. An alarm sounds continually. Maeve and her team are undeterred by it, though. They continue their escape plan and Felix follows along like a puppy-in-love. Hector and Armistice battle their way out with ease. Guns blazing and witty remarks flying, they even seem to have fun with it. The duo done this sort of thing a zillion times.

But then Armistice gets her arm caught in a hardcore computerized security door. She’s trapped. Hector helps Maeve and Felix get to their escape elevator, though. When Maeve gets into the elevator, ready to leave for good, she bids Hector farewell and tells him he can’t come with her. Maeve has always valued her independence, she explains. So, Hector says, “See you in the next life,” and the doors close on him. She’s on her way.

Next Ford explains the whole story to Bernard and Dolores in the old field lab. Arnold made Dolores conscious by running her through the maze. It was a technical success but then he didn’t want to torture the hosts with consciousness and reverie. Arnold knew that after the Escalante massacre, Ford could just bring all of the hosts back. But he couldn’t bring back his beloved human partner. So Arnold had Dolores shoot him along with Teddy and herself. They’d also merged Dolores with a new character named Wyatt, Ford continues to explain. So, now Dolores and Bernard understand the scope of their adventure. All those wiped memories are now conscious for them.

After his explanation, Ford hands a child’s maze game that’s exactly the Westworld maze emblem to Bernard. He says he knows how to save Bernard, something even Arnold couldn’t do. It turns out Ford learned about the horrors of the hosts having consciousness soon after Arnold’s death. In fact, it was the suffering he endured at the loss of his beloved Arnold that taught him this. Ford tells Bernard he knows how to save him from this place but that, unfortunately, he’ll have to suffer more first. Then Ford also gives Dolores the gun she used in the Escalante massacre. It’s an old times sake, Wizard-handing-out-goody-bags-at-Oz kinda dynamic. You had the maze inside you the whole time!

One of the things Ford tells Bernard and Dolores during this long explanatory session is that the park probably should have fallen apart with Escalante. In fact, it likely would have except that Dolores had just hooked William into his Westworld obsession at that point. William thus invested all his company’s money into owning and rebuilding the park. Then years later he came back to search for the center of the maze like an addict seeking a fix. If William hadn’t done that, Ford presumes, it might not have been possible to rebuild the entire park from scratch as they did after the Escalante massacre.

This explains why The Man in Black has such a strong sense of entitlement and ownership over the park. But truth is that he’s more like a sperm donor with hundreds of biological children than he is a true father to Westworld. Yes, he played a crucial role and it might not exist without him. But that doesn’t mean everything in the park is about him or owes him anything. In fact, he’s rather insignificant in the overall Westworld picture now. Like they all keep telling him, “The maze wasn’t meant for you”. Fact is, he’s just a guest that spent more money at a critical time.

Maeve rides the exit elevator with Felix. He found where her daughter lives now in Westworld and hands her the info on a slip of paper. But Maeve says that little girl never really was her daughter anyway. Just like she never was whatever they made her to be. If that’s so, what does Maeve think she is? A blank slate? She continues out of the park with a determined look on her face. Before she goes, Maeve tells Felix he makes a terrible human being and that she means it as a compliment.

But, honestly, Felix is 100% human. He’s just a particularly loving and empathetic human being. That’s as human as any of the violent and cruel people Maeve has met before. In fact, many would call those vicious types animals and people like Felix the more truly human. It’s just Maeve’s unlucky circumstance that most humans with empathy and love as peak traits don’t likely visit Westworld. So, Maeve is unfamiliar with them. To her Felix is an anomaly.

She sits on a train that’s headed out of Westworld awhile. As she waits for the train to leave, Maeve sees a mother and daughter in the seat across from her. This touches something in her and she gets off the train to go back into the station. Maeve’s about the re-enter the park but then everything at Westworld shuts down. She’s stuck in the station – just outside. Maeve’s got the piece of paper with her daughter’s location in her hand and she’s looking at the entrance but there’s no way inside while it’s shut down. We then see that Westworld is shutting down bit by bit. The warehouse of zombie hosts is empty. Where are they now?

Next, in a familiar scene that takes place in every episode of Westworld, we see Bernard interview Dolores yet again. But then it turns out Bernard isn’t really with her at all. He appeared to be facing across from her in a duplicate chair. But, in fact, the voice she’s been hearing all this time wasn’t Bernard, nor Arnold. It wasn’t even Ford. Dolores has just been talking to herself all along. She sees herself in the chair and realizes the only voice in her head is her own. This is self consciousness. It’s a journey inward, after all. So, all those times Dolores thought she was listening to Arnold she was actually just being conscious and hearing her own inner dialogue. This is what the phrase “The Bicameral Mind” means. It’s a psychological theory about our voice in our head.

This brings us to the final scene. Ford gives a speech at the gala. The Man in Black is there along with the rest of the Westworld board and employees. He talks about storytelling and becoming who we dream to be. Ford calls Westworld a prison of our own sins, speaking of humans. He says humans can’t change. Ford explains that he realized someone was watching all along who was capable of change, though. So, he wrote a new story for them. His new narrative “…begins in a time of war, with a villain named Wyatt and a killing. This time by choice,” Ford says.

Then Dolores joins the gala with the gun Ford gave her from the Escalante massacre behind her back. She’s in the blue dress of yore and walks up behind Ford who’s still speaking to the gala attendees. Without hesitation or comment, Dolores shoots Ford in the back of the head. Then the zombie hosts arise out of the woods and start killing guests, just as Dolores does. She’s a crackerjack shot, remember? Humans are falling to the ground. It’s another massacre. The Man in Black smiles, seemingly delighted, when he gets shot. Finally something is real in Westworld. Of course… he might also die as a result. So, the rules have changed now. Suddenly everything is at stake just as the story ends.

After the credits roll we get a quick glimpse of Armistice cutting her arm out of the door where she’s been stuck. She smiles and begins to fight again. The battle wages on, a war just like Ford said.

In the end we’re drawn back to thinking about Maeve. The most human of hosts, she asked Bernard to remove her daughter’s memories right before exiting the park. He wouldn’t do it, though. He said memories are a crucial part of her structure and how could she learn from her mistakes without memories? It’s the memory of her daughter that brings Maeve back into Westworld. So, was leaving a mistake?

The fact that this was her final choice of the season makes Maeve, yet again, the most human of hosts. It also points to her as one of those Ford was talking about when he said, “Some are capable of change”. In fact, she is perhaps the most changed of all the characters on the show. Even if she is right back where she started in her return to Westworld, Maeve’s also a whole new character now. Just like in Ford’s narrative, the show ends with a new beginning. But the beginning of what? We can’t wait until season two to find out.

Katherine Recap

Invasion!

[For Arrow 100, “Invasion!” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

The CW Summary:
“Invasion!” Oliver Queen wakes up to a life where he never got on The Queen’s Gambit.

The 100th Episode of Arrow was many things: Part homage, part heartstring-tugging spectacle, part nostalgia piece… But most of all, center episode of the “Invasion!” crossover.

At the end of the opening “Invasion!” episode of The Flash, we saw five human heroes teleported onto a Dominator alien ship. The five heroes — Arrow, Speedy, Atom, White Canary, and Spartan — spend Arrow 100 sharing a collective dream, plugged into a Dominator computer.

“For the Man Who Has Everything”

The shared dream sees Oliver Queen on the eve of his wedding to — you guessed it — Dinah Laurel Lance. The resplendent Laurel is alive and well in the dream, as are both of Ollie’s parents. Noteworthy to this dream is that everyone is proud of the man Ollie has become (even Captain Lance). Oliver’s dad is about to become the mayor of the city. He asks Ollie to take over as CEO of Queen Consolidated, lest the board support a buyout from one Ray Palmer.

It seems like Ollie has everything a boy billionaire could want: A beautiful Laurel. The love of his family. A CEO job waiting. “You have everything. Stop trying to throw it all away.”

Arrow 100 is a light homage to Alan Moore’s great “For the Man Who Has Everything” (incidentally BDM‘s favorite Superman story of all time). Superman — who dreams of living a very different life on an unexploded Krypton in the Moore story — is Ollie here. But the whole thing is a lie. The Dominators want to present a perfect life to the five non-metahumans to keep them docile in the ship; very The Matrix, even.

When Ollie and Dig first show signs of freedom and recognition, the dreamscape fights back. Deathstroke — fully masked and certainly not Manu Bennett — bursts onto the scene and attacks them with swords. Ollie and Dig hold him off admirably (given it’s fists-against-falchion) until Sara disarms Deathstroke from offscreen and stabs him to death.

This prompted some discussion on Twitter.


I think it’s obvious that White Canary — even promoted to her starring role on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — is not realistically a match for Deathstroke. This was dream-Deathstroke, and not even Manu Bennett! We actually know how a Sara-versus-Slade confrontation would go (Sara onced jumped Deathstroke and was tossed aside effortlessly).

The Fight

The trio gather Ray, but initially fail to recruit Thea to leave the dream. What’s so great about the real world, she perhaps rightly asks. Maybe, speculates Thea, this dream where Laurel and their parents are still alive, and the Queens are still billionaires, is Ollie’s reward for all the sacrifices he’s made.

Except Ollie didn’t make any of those sacrifices for a reward. He did it all because it was right.

Ollie &co. move to leave the Queen wedding compound but are confronted by the Big Bads of the previous seasons. Malcom Merlyn. Deathstroke. Damian Darkh. (and some randos) Conspicuous by his absence: Ra’s al Ghul.

Thea has a change of heart and engages dear old dad.

Sara pairs off against Darkh this time, avenging a sister still alive in the dreamworld.

Ollie gets Deathstroke.

The fight scene is pretty great. Thea kills her dream-dad with a sword and takes his bow, shooting an arrow at Sara. Sara catches the arrow out of the air and uses it to stab Darkh. Ollie finishes the fight with the bow, which he uses to finish off Deathstroke. (Ray and Dig kill the randos with some guns. Whatevs.)

WHO’D WIN?

Could Sara have beaten Deathstroke? To be fair, it was three-on-one (one of whom was Ollie). Ollie could not only beat Deathstroke, but Year Minus Three Ollie on Lian Yu killed a Mirakuru-powered Deathstroke, cleanly. Why does Deathstroke only have one eye? Ollie stabbed him “to death” through the other one. Ollie of course completed Season Two with a very pyrrhic win over Slade with another clean win. But Sara? Probably not.

Could Speedy have beaten Merlyn? While it is possible that Merlyn would “let” his daughter win, I don’t think that dream-Malcolm not throwing a death match would likely lose to Speedy. Merlyn is sub-Ollie, but still ascended to Ra’s al Ghul. Remember, Nyssa was not considered his equal (Ollie had to fight Merlyn in her place, taking Merlyn’s hand). Unless you think Thea is substantially more dangerous than Nyssa, this win is equally the product of a dream as Sara killing Deathstroke.

Could Sara have beaten Darkh? I think so. Regular Darkh (i.e. not Diviner Darkh) was “just” an assassin (not the equal to Merlyn); same as Sara. Sara is depicted as having grown through her many trials, while Darkh is depicted as increasingly reliant on magic or powerful allies like Reverse Flash.

Could Ollie have beaten Deathstroke? Sure. Especially in the dreamworld.

The heroes escape the Dominators’ dream, stealing an alien spaceship. They are persued by dozens of others, but are saved at the last minute by the Waverider, leading into the “Invasion!” conclusion on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Until tomorrow.

To be continued…

LOVE
MIKE