Breakfast Pasta Achieved

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Food, Uncategorized
Breakfast Pasta Achieved!

A couple of days ago I found myself in the throes of an idea. One Sunday later I managed to extricate myself through brunchery.


1 package of orzo pasta
4 oz of diced pancetta
1/2 large sweet onion diced
1 1/4 quart chicken stock
3 or 4 Calabrian chiles minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
large handful of Italian parsley chopped
6 large eggs
4 tbs butter
Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts
More parmesan

Preheat oven to 375

Simmer chicken stock over medium heat (I added parmesan rinds to mine) and reserve warm. In a deep saute pan crisp up the pancetta over medium-high heat. Remove pancetta and reserve on a paper towel lined plate. Add diced onion to pancetta fat, (don’t forget to salt and pepper) and sautee until onion is transcluscent. Add the orzo to pan and toast the pasta, keeping it moving with wooden spoon, until it smells slightly nutty. Begin adding the warm chicken stock in three or four batches, only adding more as the previous broth has been absorbed into the pasta. Continue adding broth until the pasta is slightly slightly chewier than al dente. Remove from heat and stir in butter, pancetta, chiles, parmesan, and parsely.

Butter a casserole dish and add the orzo mixture. Using the bottom of a ladle make six depressions in the orzo and break an egg into each divot. Make sure to salt and pepper each egg. Bake in the over for 15 minutes or until egg white has gotten opaque but the yolks are still runny.

Individual version heading into the oven…

To serve use a large spoon to scoop gently under each egg. You can also make these in indivudual baking dishes. If you do, don’t forget that the dishes will be scaldingly hot when you serve.


I mixed toasted pine nuts and breadcrumbs with some chopped parsely and grated parmesan and topped the perimeter of each egg once it was out of the oven.


I love a chocolate cookie but was frustrated when I could not find a recipe for one that captured the experience of eating good, dark chocolate. It was this frustration that actually spurred my (relatively) recent interest in baking. I tinkered around with several different recipes I found, mixed and matched elements I liked and disliked from each and eventually arrived at Dark Chocolate Rituals which were one of the first recipes I shared on this site. I have made the recipe many times and have occasionally experimented with other versions that, instead of coffee beans, incorporate orange zest and dried cherries. It was good but the flavor profile was too close to my Sunburst cookies. I loved the combination of dark chocolate and cherries but wanted something else to bridge those two flavors.

I have recently started using gochujang — a fruity and spicy, fermented Korean chili paste — in my ever expanding arsenal of flavors. While rummaging through the refrigerator for stuff to empty into a fritter I did a taste spoon to see how it would go with the Mediterranean flavors in my egg dish (the answer was “not so well” but I fortunately had a jar of Calabrian chilies). I could not get the flavor out of my head and began to imagine how it would taste with chocolate and then with cherries. I fooled around with the recipe a little and just prior to Grand Prix Atlanta I had a batch of cookies that exceeded my expectations and is now my favorite chocolate cookie in my repertoire.

Molten Pinnacles


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Dark Cocoa Powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 oz dark chocolate for melting (I used a 76% chocolate for this batch)
5 oz dark chocolate chunks for even more melting
1 stick unsalted butter (grass-fed butter really makes a difference)
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons gochujang chili paste
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried unsweetened cherries. I used bing cherries for my recipe.

Time to make the cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt 5 oz. of chocolate with one stick of butter in a double boiler or small metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the gochujang as the mixture melts and becomes smooth (I used an immersion blender to make sure it evenly dispersed through the mixture. Meanwhile add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Whisk together and set aside. You also want to halve your cherries.

Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of your mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture and combine. With speed turned down to low add the flour mixture in stages until it is all incorporated. Fold in the chopped dried cherries at the end and mix until they are just distributed through the dough.

Scoop the batter onto parchment or Silpat lined baking sheets with a small ice cream scoop. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie. Gently flatten each cookie into a disc. Bake for 15 minutes and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. While the cookies are cooling you can temper the remaining chocolate to put on top of them. I like to reserve a couple squares of chocolate and put the rest in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave on half power. I go in short bursts until the chocolate is mostly melted. I then stir it until it melted smooth. I add the reserved pieces of chocolate and stir them in as well until melted — this “reminds” the chocolate of what it is supposed to be like when it cools. I then drizzle the chocolate over the cookies in a criss-cross pattern and let them sit until the chocolate has hardened. Then transfer them to an airtight container.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen spicy cookies.

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.



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

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Listen to the full podcast at ManaDeprived.

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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

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Aetherworks Marvel

In case you missed it, on 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

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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, or here I guess:

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


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


Transcript: What exactly does “combat” mean?

Sure thing, Jon.


“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!"

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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!

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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.


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.