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Picks of the Week, 7/19/2015

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Picks of the Week: July 19, 2015

Carlos Gutierrez is an Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, an engineer-in-training, and a Commander and Pauper enthusiast. By day, he works as a STEM educator, but he spends his weekends hitting all his land drops and trying new board games, puzzles, and video games.

You can find all of him sharing Commander craziness, baked goods on Twitter, and complaints about graduate school at @cag5383.

I Spy Pie

Since starting a real job, I haven't had as much time as I like to pursue hobbies, so things like gaming, cooking, and more have fallen to the wayside. This week I finally made time to bake some things before making the trek to hang out with the Stybs himself. Earlier this year, Heather, Adam, and I had a brief discussion about the pie tier list (the discussion was brief because cherry is obviously the best). Remembering this, I decided it'd be a great idea to try to make pie.

We settled on something appropriately summery: strawberry-lemon pie. Two pints of strawberries, one lemon juiced and zested, and about a cup and a half of sugar, pulsed with a second (whole!) lemon. A splash of vinegar and a quarter cup of corn starch, and the filling is ready to go. All that was left was to whip up a batch of Grandma's pie dough. How hard could it be?

It turns out that pie is a monstrously finicky thing to try to make, since it has more disparate components than many other baked goods. Making a good dough is difficult. Making a good filling is easier, but deciding what to use is rough. Putting all the pieces together, making it look pretty, and baking it without something going catastrophically wrong? Forget about it. After this delicious and haphazard attempt, I have infinitely more appreciation for the small miracle that goes into every pie that shows up at a summer barbecue. This experience has taught me that making pie is not for the faint of heart, but can be enormously rewarding if you're willing to put in the time to learn how to make a fantastic crust and make the dumb thing look pretty. For all of our mistakes and such, it still turned out great. I can only imagine how well they turn out if you actually know what you're doing.

EVO 2015

This weekend in Las Vegas, Evolution 2015 is happening. This is one of the biggest celebrations of fighting games in the world, and showcases representatives of all the major franchises: Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear, Persona 4, and many more. I don't play many fighters, but I still love this weekend, as it represents people pushing the limits of human reaction, prediction, and technical proficiency and precision. As far as I'm concerned, the star of the show is Super Smash Bros. Melee.

It's been an exciting summer for Melee. The top five players have been shaken up a little bit, with several players jockeying for position among the top echelon of players for the first time in many years. Leffen, considered by many to be a community villain, has taken down the last two large events on back to back weekends, from the winner's side of the bracket, and is the clear favorite heading into the Top 8 Sunday afternoon. He was upset late in the day on Saturday, and has been sent to the loser's side where he will have to run an incredible gauntlet of the best players in the world if he wants to take it down.

On the other hand, we have Mango who, despite being considered the Greatest of All Time by many, has been in a bit of a slump recently. He is defending his back-to-back EVO titles from the loser's side, and will be trying to fight through the killer's row to win his third EVO championship. There are up and coming players and players returning from long breaks competing alongside the players who have proven themselves to be among the top five in the world. In addition, there is actually surprising diversity among the characters represented in the Top 8. In a game where there are generally considered to be only about 5 viable characters at a time, there are potentially eight or more characters who are commonly played by the Top 8 players at this event.

Melee is one of the most technical fighters ever devised, and EVO is the event during which we see the top players pull out all the stops. Shield drops. Smash DI. Frame-perfect abuse of invincibility and frame advantage. Every year these players push the game a little further, and it really is a marvel to see how far this game has come and how much it has grown. Melee came out over ten years ago, and has had two sequels since then. It is still the third largest game at EVO this year at 1,869 players, almost doubling the previous record for attendance set earlier this year.

Melee has never been more exciting or accessible. Even my family, who have never really followed the game have gotten excited about the last matches at the bigger events this summer, and I can't wait to sit down with them tomorrow and see how the finals shake out. Check out the EVO streaming schedule, and be sure to tune in to catch some of the action.

Narrative Design

I love reading Ant's Vorthos articles, because he manages to capture ideas and feelings that resonate with me, and is able to intelligibly discuss them in a way that makes the concepts accessible. His topic this week is narrative design; the idea that experiences are much more fulfilling and memorable when the gameplay and interactions resonate with the flavor and characters. Even if you aren't particularly invested in the story, there's something satisfying about finding Elspeth, Sun's Champion off of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, or casting Not of This World targeting an Eldrazi of your choice.

Ant's article is about how this is an important untapped resource in the development of cards and sets which could be used to improve immersion and story-telling. I see this as a way to improve my own gameplay experience in formats like Commmander and Cube, where you can build in satisfying, flavorful interactions which will create interesting and memorable moments during your games, which is something to keep in mind when you're deciding which cards make the cut in your newest decks.


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