“Help us turn Ardent Recruits into Civilized Scholars!”

That’s what it says in the fine print on the Gamers Helping Gamers webpage. Also on that page are the names of more than a half dozen veteran Magic players — Hall of Famers, Grand Prix, Pro Tour and World Champions with a smattering of Player of the Year — who formed the non-profit organization to award need-based scholarships to a new generation of Magic players. Timothy McKenna (President), Eric Berger (Secretary), Jon Finkel (Treasurer), Chris Pikula, Robert Maher, Jr., Matthew Wang, and Daniel O’Mahoney-Schwartz make up the board that reviews the submissions each year and decides upon the recipients.

For the past several years I have had the pleasure to introduce the recipients and this year is no exception. This year’s recipients include two four-year scholarships of $5,000 annually and one one-year scholarship for $5,000. They have been waiting all week to share the good news with others so without further ado let me introduce you to this year’s crop of gamers.

Faolan Sugarman-Lash
Age: 18
Hometown: Richmond, Massachusetts
Destination: Santa Clara University
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Faolan Sugarman-Lash

Faolan is an avid consumer of Magic content and actually discovered the existence of the scholarship by watching Jon Finkel’s stream one night and last year, his best friend Dylan Quinn (photobombing above) also won a scholarship award from Gamers Helping Gamers. The Massachusetts-based player, who will be heading to Santa Clara after this summer, describes himself as a competitive player who does not get to play nearly enough.

His Magic playing career began when handed a large box of cards from a family friend. It was not long before he was getting booster packs and questing to get better and better at the game. In addition to Jon Finkel he lists LSV, Kenji Egashira, Alex Hayne, Shahar Shenhar, Reid Duke, HAUMPH, and Jacob Wilson as players who inspire him to be both “a better Magic player and a better person.”

“This scholarship is really important to me,” said Faolan who was looking forward to celebrating his good news with an Eternal Masters draft. “It’s a physical manifestation of the idea that following one’s passions can benefit them! It makes me really appreciate the game that I’ve played for more than half of my life — almost 11 years!! — and the people who make this happen. It’s humbling as well as inspiring to me to be a recipient of this award.”

Jacob Schliesman
Age: 22
Hometown: Kenosha, WI
Destination: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (Majoring in Media Arts and Game Development)
Scholarship: 1 year/$5,000 per year

Jacob Schliesman

Jacob is already attending the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater and has been applying for the scholarship for the past four years since reading about the first class or recipients. Interestingly that was not too long after picking up Magic roughly a half decade ago when his local homeschooling organization handed out Mirrodin Besieged Intro Packs to all the kids. He was instantly hooked — and hooked beyond just the game play. The story was just as important and engaging to him which worked out well for him while filling out the application for the past handful of years.

“It’s certainly the most enjoyable application process I’ve ever encountered; writing about Magic is something I love to do, and it really makes you think a lot more about the game itself. And it never ceases to amuse me that there is a place for your DCI number right next to your SAT score,” laughed Jacob. His essay for the application included a discussion about how Magic spurred him to study game design and journalism.

“I worked as a writer for my campus’s student-run gaming website, GameZombie.tv, and actually ran the writing team for about a year. During this time, I had the opportunity to interview a few Magic pros for the website; namely Patrick Chapin, Jon Finkel, and LSV. My goal is to eventually work on the story team in R&D itself, a dream which I’m happy to say I have taken some steps towards since my initial application. I now have a freelance position writing creative text for Magic, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jacob also wrote about Narset, Transcendent in his essay. Early on in his education Jacob was labeled as “intellectually gifted” and struggled to fit in with his peers as some things came easily to him while others were more elusive.

“This all changed when I read the story accompanying the preview of Narset Transcendent, The Great Teacher’s Student by Kimberly Krienes. Never before had I seen a character whose mind so closely resembled mine. Narset quickly became one of my favorite characters of any medium, as I finally had a character I could relate to. This also taught me the importance of diversity and inclusion in pop culture, because everyone deserves to have a character, be it Alesha, Ashiok, or whoever, that they can point to and say “that one is like me.””

Community is a recurring theme for Jacob and this scholarship was very meaningful for him in multiple ways.

“Not only have I been working towards it for a few years, but I have been trying to be more involved in the Magic community for many years. Currently, those efforts include a semi-collaborative parody Twitter project with A.E. Marling and a portrait of the Magic community through signed Unyielding Krumars. I’ve always wanted to make or write or do things that other Magic fans would enjoy, and to me this scholarship means that I can do that. I can get there.

Not shockingly the world of Innistrad is one of Jacob’s very favorites and he plans to celebrate his scholarship beneath the Eldritch Moon.

Oliver Tiu
Age: 18
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Destination: Boston College
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Oliver Tiu
If you follow competitive Magic you have probably heard Oliver’s name mentioned often, and with increasing frequency, over the course of this season. He currently leads the Rookie of the Year race, has crossed the threshold to become Platinum through the remainder of this year and next, and could very well be competing at the World Championship if he can maintain his pace in the Constructed Master category at the last Pro Tour this season.

Oliver has been playing the game since the 5th Grade when he saw some fellow campers playing the game. He was drawn into Magic by the artwork rather than the gameplay itself which is somewhat unexpected for someone who describes himself as “extremely competitive”.

I had the opportunity to interview Oliver after the second Pro Tour of the season when he finished in the Top 16 in Spain. It was obvious that the young New England player had attracted the attention of the best and the brightest from the Northeast as both William Jensen and Mike Sigrist went out of their way to make sure I knew that Oliver was the real deal. During that interview he stated that Owen Turtenwald was the player he attempted to template himself after.

“He is simply the most consistent and flawless player I’ve had the pleasure of watching in the current Magic era,” said Oliver who voraciously consumes Magic content (which is how he found out about the scholarship in the first place). “I also admire Luis Scott-Vargas for his mastery of creating Magic content, he has the most entertaining articles and videos out of any player. In addition to that, he is a great player across every format and always is able to see weird plays that would not be seen by a vast majority of players.”

One of the amazing things about the success Oliver has had on the Pro Tour has been his ability to succeed without working with one of the major playtesting teams (which changes for the upcoming Pro Tour when he joins Team Face to Face Games) and that was one of the topics he wrote about his Magic essays.

“I found the questions very thought-provoking, especially the question about what I would change in the Magic community,” said Oliver. “I discussed my favorite Magic card: Deathmist Raptor, my least favorite: Monastery Swiftspear, and what I would change about the Magic scene: decreasing the necessity of teams in order to be successful on the Pro Tour.”

Oliver has a lot on his plate for the coming year between his freshman year of college and following up on a Platinum Pro Tour season.

“This scholarship means so much to me, especially in regards to continuing to play competitive Magic while pursuing a college education,” said Oliver who will be playing at Grand Prix Pittsburgh this weekend. “This scholarship will be a big help in making college affordable for me, and using what I’ve learned in Magic to aid my education. The scholarship is a great idea to reward those who have a skillset that isn’t typically rewarded by the college application process. I hope I’ll be able to contribute to the scholarship when I graduate.”

Arena of the Planeswalkers

Arena of the Planeswalkers is the upcoming tabletop version of Magic: The Gathering.

Fetchland and Kitchen Table Gaming met up with Hasbro Director of Brand Strategy and Marketing, Angus Walker at Gen Con about Arena of the Planeswalkers. We are overjoyed to give you this exclusive look.

According to Angus, Arena of the Planeswalkers has “all the key tenets of Magic” and the “key things that make Magic so great” while layering tactical game play from the board game side of the house.

So… Arena of the Planeswalkers. What do you think?

“To us this is the beginning of a new era of Magic.”

That was how Mark Rosewater kicked things off at the annual Magic panel at San Diego Comic-Con early Saturday evening. He was talking about the elimination of core sets, the creation of two blocks a year and the new 18-month Standard rotation. The final piece of that puzzle — and this was something that was emphasized over and over again throughout the panel — was a shift in storytelling. He pointed to Mirage, Visions, then Weatherlight and Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi as examples of disjointed storytelling across a block.

One of the side effects of twice as many blocks is having to tell twice as many stories. The pace of the story is just going to accelerate with more chapters being unfurled each year. This has led to the desire for there to be a more continuous story. Joining Maro on the dais were Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe, Magic Senior Art Director Jeremy Jarvis, Brand Manager Liz Lamb-Ferro, and Magic creative designer Jenna Helland. It was Jenna who began to speak about how they solved this problem.

“We wanted a central cast of characters. This is who became the Origins Five; Gideon, Jace, Lilliana, Chandra and Nissa.”

Once they finalized their cast of characters the next step was to take a deep dive into each of those characters and find out more about what made them into the Planeswalkers at the forefront of the Magic mythos. She went on to show how the story of Gideon is woven throughout the art in the past sets and up through Magic Origins which leads him to planeswalk to Bant when his spark ignites. We were then treated to a glimpse of Gideon from the upcoming set — sans frame, text, casting cost and all that.


Another of the Orgins Five that had upcoming art showcased was Nissa.


Once all the characters have had their origins revealed there is the small matter of getting all these characters to interact with each other. In the continuity of the game after Magic Origins these characters still don’t know each other. Jenna talked about the writer’s room where not only are all the character’s stories are workshopped but also the dynamics of how the Origins Five deal with each other. One of the little exercises they might use to figure this out is to ask what would happen if Jace and Gideon had to move a couch together. The audience laughed but Jenna assured them that it was a very real exercies. Later during the Q&A someone asked what the resolution to the scenario would be. Maro had the perfect response.

“I think Gideon moves the sofa by himself but thinks Jace helped him.”

Jenna revealed that only 80% of the Origins Five would make their way through The Battle for Zendikar. Lilliana is still dealing with the ramifications of The Chain Veil and will be sitting this one out. Much of the art in Battle for Zendikar will feature these characters interacting and building out that story such as this piece.


The Uncharted Realms column on DailyMTG.com is going to become more and more central to the telling of these stories and next week will feature the first Prelude to Zendikar story which gets out heroes from the end of the Magic Orgins into the first act of the Battle for Zendikar. Jenna teased out some of the upcoming stories. Jace will get a visitor that will shake up his world, Lilliana is still struggling under the Chain Veil, Chandra has gotten herself into a position of authority, and Nissa who is “boots on the ground” battling the Eldrazi.

Pivotal events were the next topic of discussion — such as when Elspeth slayed Xenagos on the card Deicide. We were given a glimpse of a pivotal event from Battle for Zendikar and given three words — that were warned were not likely in the correct order. “Gate Slaughter Sea”, which I am just going to venture a guess unjumbles into Seagate Slaughter.


Picking up loose ends — and tying them off — from older stories is another stated goal of the creative team. They were intrigued by the story potential of Ob Nixilis from the last trip to Zendikar and looked to revisit the Planeswalker who lost his spark in the new set. If you are looking for a likely villain in the new story you need search not farther. Ob Nixilis hates Zendikar and the Planeswalkers native to it. This is fine artisinal aged hatred and you can expect this baddie to be very, very bad.


Then they unfurled the wings…


Earlier in the panel Jenna had discussed Jace having a mysterious visitor. Spoiler! Later on Jeremey Jarvis whowed off a meeting of the minds between Jace and none other than the Spirit Dragon himself Ugin.


One of the reasons I was able to unjumble “Seagate” earlier was because…well…it really wasn’t that hard but my notion was confirmed when Maro referred to an upcoming Seagate story on Uncharted Realms that will feature this art. Art that features both Kiora (!) and what appears to be the Bident of Thassa.


Before they let everyone out of the room they showed off a pair of Angels from the next From The Vault set.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath_EN_HRR

Akroma, Angel of Fury_EN_HRR