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Great Magic Writing of the Week, February 23


A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.

To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!

On Charity and Magic

All you need is a cause, some friends, and plenty of time and energy. Charity Magic tournaments are certainly nothing new, but there are far fewer of them than there could be. Mike believes that Magic and charity are particularly well-suited for one another and wants to document his experience in putting together an awesome tournament so others can follow in his footsteps. If you've ever wanted to put together an event for a cause you believe in, stay tuned, because Mike's got you covered.

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike) - Starting a Magic Charity Tournament

I wrote about philanthropy a few years ago in “Magic, Philanthropy, and You.” I work in the nonprofit field and am an ardent supporter of all things that aren’t for profit or government work. (Generally, most nonprofit stuff is what government work should do, such as a state arts board being a ministry of culture.) I’ve found in my years playing this game that, on the whole, Magic players are quite charitable and will give more often than not. Though, to be fair, most humans will give when the hit is inconsequential or the incentive is even marginally helpful.

I didn’t add a charity tournament to my list of things to accomplish in 2014, assuming I wouldn’t be able to pull it off in time, but with a set coming out of the blue in Magic: The Gathering–Conspiracy, I can easily see a very quick “turn-key” event being possible not only in my home city of Minneapolis, but in a variety of other places, too.

I should comment that any charity event in non-USA countries is radically, utterly different. Germans pay exorbitant taxes, so donations make very little sense to them. “Doesn’t the government take care of this stuff?” is a very common response when I tell people I work for fundraising in the arts—they thinking I’m a lobbyist of sorts. (Which, technically, we kind of are.) It’s more than passing around a jar asking for quarters. It turns out nonprofits are often a signifier of vitality in a city and a huge economic indicator. If you don’t have an orchestra, for example, you’re not a city, or if you have nothing to store or show in a museum, it’s not worth moving there.

Before I put forth a decent timeline template for damn near anyone to hold a tournament, we need a couple of things explained. I plan on having a charity event this year, and while our local players may choose different routes, it’s wise for players trying to convince a tournament organizer or storeowner some foundations on what players want. I have inklings on all of these things, but let’s put it to a poll and then discuss briefly in a side note next week.

On Rome, Valencia, and Beyond

Play the game, see the world. This has been the tagline for the Magic Pro Tour for as long as I can remember. And why not? Every weekend, there's a Grand Prix in a different corner of the world. Every three months, there's an enormous professional event like a Pro Tour or Player's Championship in a new, exciting place. Valencia. Rome. Chiba. Kyoto. Paris. Dublin. These are only a handful of incredible places that the Pro Tour has visited in recent memory. What is it like to travel the world having Magic adventures? Blake Rasmussen wants to took a break from his travels through Rome and Valencia to share some of his favorite stories from the trips he has taken for Magic coverage.

GatheringMagic.com: Blake Rasmussen (@blakepr) - Oh, the Places You'll Go

Attention: This is a sacred place. Please observe silence . . . and follow the signs to the gift shop for deals so unbelievable Peter is spinning in his grave!

Of course, the announcement, made in English, hadn’t actually said that—at least not the last part. But that was the message I received as the disembodied voice attempted to employ some form of decorum while, literally a few feet from the tomb of Saint Peter, a sign pointed the way to the uscita (exit) and the souvenir shop, where they mostly sold religious-looking relics. At least they weren’t selling Pope bobble heads. You could only find those outside the Vatican walls.

How does this relate to Magic? It doesn’t—at least not to anyone paging through the multitude of photos on my Facebook page. But to you and to the people who will be standing beside me covering Pro Tour Born of the Gods, it’s a big part of the reason we do what we do.

Magic has taken me so many places over the years that it has become a significant part of the experience for me. I don’t do coverage just because I love Magic and writing—though I do both—I do it, in part, because it takes me places I might never have gone to on my own. I have passport stamps from Japan, the European Union, Brazil, Chile, and Canada all in the past two years because of this silly, not-so-little game.

On Burn

Burn can't be that complicated, can it? How fast can you count to twenty? The fastest way is the best way, right? Patrick Sullivan, Red Box advocate and master of all things Red and aggressive is inclined to disagree. There is a lot of subtlety to the sequencing of Burn spells to maximize damage and time, and to draw out counterspells while protecting your most powerful weapons. If you're an aspiring pyromaniac, you can't afford to miss out on Patrick's advice.

StarCityGames.com: Patrick Sullivan (@BasicMountain)- Burn vs Counters

In an article about Legacy Burn a few years back, I jokingly mentioned that if anyone wanted a thorough breakdown on how to sequence the spells in the deck I would put it together. I never got around to writing it, but the concept has been in the back of my head for a while. Not just about Legacy, but about playing decks like Burn in all formats against counterspells.

In many matchups (combo or creature decks), sequencing isn't the most important thing. You care primarily about mana efficiency, and a lot of those matchups play themselves. However, the matchups involving permission are entirely different. In those matchups, the counters in your opponent's deck can be either atrocious or their best cards, and you have a lot of control over how that plays out. Doing this well is a challenge and is in my opinion the most common mistake aggressive red players make.

The specifics are different from format to format, but the goal remains the same: to make opposing counterspells as inefficient as possible. The games often have a similar start—we play some stuff, it gets answered, and the game shifts into "try to burn out" mode. It is in these moments where playing proficiently against counters is the difference between winning and losing. The goal is to maximize inefficiency, either by bottlenecking and then overwhelming opposing resources or by invalidating soft/time sensitive counters. Each format has different heavily played counters, and each format has its own texture because of this.

On Introduction to Coverage

With the expansion of Magic Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage, as well as explosion in Magic Online streams and independent Magic circuit events, it's become easier than ever to watch Magic whenever you want. The thing is, Magic is not exactly the easiest game to watch, particularly if you're new to the scene or are unfamiliar with tournament formats, cards, or strategies. This week, AJ Sacher put together an awesome resource for anyone who wants to understand or explain the growing world of live Magic content on the internet.

StarCityGames.com: AJ Sacher (@AJSacher)- Introductionn to Magic Coverage (with FAQ & Glossary)

A cheesy and contrived hello to you! I am AJ Sacher, and one of the many hats that I wear in the Magic community is that of a moderator for the live chat that accompanies the live coverage of professional level Magic tournaments. In that role, I'm often tasked with answering questions from the viewers. As it turns out, a lot of those questions are the same. So much so that I created a document of my answers to some of the more common inquiries I receive so that I don't have to type them out again every twenty minutes or so when a new viewer enters the stream and asks the same thing.

"If only there was a place where all of this information was consolidated. That way I could point curious newcomers there so that they can learn as much as they want to without me having to lift a finger!" I said to myself before questioning my sanity after catching myself talking to myself. Even more than out of sheer laziness, I've also seen the occasional potential viewer enter the stream only to be overwhelmed and confused, often giving up and leaving. As a lover of competitive Magic, this breaks my heart. I realized there weren't any great resources easily available to these interested but uninitiated parties. That is when I decided to take advantage of being a columnist here at StarCityGames.com (one of my favorite hats) and create the very resource whose absence I was cursing.

While the information contained within may not always be entirely up to date, I hope that this can be used as a helpful and informational guide for some time to come.

On Dreams

Children have been taken by servants of Asphodel. A town is beseiged by The Fallen. These kinds of abominable deeds cannot go unnoticed or unpunished. How will the denizens of Theros respond? What secrets may lie just beneath the surface? Join Jennifer Clarke Wilkes for a look into the tragic, heroic, and hopeful parts of Theros

DailyMTG.com: Jennifer Clarke Wilkes - Dance of the Flitterstep

The still, dark shrine was hung once more with cloth strips. Each was twisted about some trinket—a tiny bracelet, a carved horse—that silently cried with forsaken parents' grief. The offerings clattered gently in gusts that wound through the streets.

Nowhere were seen public demonstrations of death and loss, with processions of mourners following the bier. No ritually washed corpse in solemn gray robes, crowned with a diadem of gold or sacred leaf. No marble stele, offerings of wine and blood, or smoking altar. These innocent tokens marked a gaping emptiness. Even the sad certainty of death had no home here, just a plaintive hope slowly fading into the dusk.

On Seeing the World

Opportunities missed. Choices made. This is not Travis Woo's first time going to the Pro Tour. With his previous qualifications, Travis found himself in the unfortunate situation of being unable to enjoy the locales he was traveling to or unable to attend events in more exotic cities. A resolution. This time will be different. Travis shares his thoughts on traveling for Magic, his recommitment to the game, and some Modern brews on the eve of Pro Tour Born of the Gods

ChannelFireball.com: Travis Woo (@travisdwoo - Play the Game, See Valencia

This is my last article going up before Pro Tour Born of the Gods. I am feeling so much from this, but mostly excitement. Five months is a long time to wait for a tournament. That’s how long it’s been since Oakland.

But here I am now, in Valencia. Let me tell you about how I see this city so far.

The geography of the city is a perimeter of massive sand beach meeting an old dried out riverbank park lush with green fields and trees encompassing a bustling little tourist city. You could almost Hobbit your way barefoot around the approximately 10-mile circumference in the 70°f February, but most people run on concrete trails with shoes on.

Half of the people don't work and the other half of the people don't work much compared to a working American. Suspiciously none of them are starving. Seems like they hang out in the park, walk their dogs, and chill at home. It's a slow pace. Things feel a little more present, but somehow mañana turns into mañana turns into mañana.

I am seeing Valencia. I did not see Hollywood, I did not see Atlanta, I did not see Amsterdam, I did not see Puerto Rico, I did not see Philadelphia. Those are the five previous Pro Tours I have attended without a satisfactory finish. I did not see Chiba, Japan. That's the Pro Tour I couldn't afford to attend—merely showing up would have put me on the next year's train. Somehow, things are different this time.

On Champions

What does it take to become a Pro Tour Champion? Florian Koch continues his series of incredible Pro Tour specials with a series of interviews with some of the greatest players who have ever shuffled up some Magic cards. From truly incredible players like Jon Finkel and Kai Budde to deckbuilding geniuses like Shouta Yasooka, Florian was able to sit down with some of the greatest minds in the game and talk to them about the trials, joys, and experiences they have had along their trip to the top.

ChannelFireball.com: Florian Koch - Pro Tour Born of the Gods Special

I must admit it, I do not only love Magic, I am also a big fan of the Pro Tour. It pains me that once again I am not qualified, especially as a few of my best friends are preparing for Pro Tour Born of the Gods right now. Thus I will do what most of you will probably do this weekend—watch the coverage and keep my fingers crossed for my friends. Of course, watching your friends compete makes the coverage more thrilling, but it becomes even more engaging if you have some kind of connection to the other players as well. This is my main motivation in making Pro Tour Specials, getting you closer to the players you will see on camera.

This time, I wanted to talk specifically to players that have won Pro Tours, and discuss their wins with them. However, I didn't just talk to any Pro Tour winners. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Gabriel Nassif, and Jon Finkel all must be considered the headliners for this issue, but it is not only their presence that makes this issue special. I also got the chance to talk to Jérémy Dezani, Simon Goertzen, William Jensen, Paul Rietzl, Antoine Ruel, and Shouta Yasooka—all of them true masters of the game.

I'd like to thank each of these players for taking the time and the effort to answer my questions. It was my pleasure and an honor. Once again, I am very happy with how the interviews turned out. I don't know all of them personally, but just reading the answers might give you a good, if cursory, idea about the personality of these players. For example, Paulo's answers are reflective, Antoine's are emotional, and Jon's answers always account for the big picture.


If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.

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