Picks of the Week: July 26, 2015
I’m a big fan of Tim Willoughby. He’s a magical with great tastes in alcohol, music, and movies and carries a noble English accent. All round he’s quite a fun fellow to work alongside at Pro Tours.
He’s also quite serious in handling his Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot.
This year, Tim wrote about every single player that’s in contention and otherwise eligible for ballots to consider their merits. My own piece covered my four – one short of the max five slots available – personal picks, but Tim’s is a wonderful read to see the full lay of the ballot lands. Stats, history, stories, and community all shine as he weaves us through them all, and for anyone that felt lost or left behind during the ballot discussions this was a refreshing way to not just catch up but to understand why it’s just an interesting and contentious time of the year.
I love Magic art. The small details and increasingly coherent stories being told across pieces delight me. While I’m in the minority of players by owning a few pieces of original art, I’m far from alone when it comes to admiring the hard work and dedication it takes to bring the visuals of the game to life.
Mike Linnemann took a look over everything in the set, digging into the stories and work that went into it all. From Separatist Voidmage to the cropping of the new Planeswalkers from much larger pieces, the insight into the inner-workings and ideas was outstanding.
I look forward to what he finds each set.
True Injustice of the World
I didn’t grow up a comic book fan. I’ve rarely picked up the pages but I already heard the big stories. Playing Magic and reading fantasy novels put me alongside comic book fanatics who were all too willing to share the tales they had read.
Then Marvel started making great superhero films again and my interest in learning more about the stories was piqued.
Through hours of online wikipedias on Marvel and DC universes showed me there was so much history it would be impossible for movies to cover it all. One storyline that really jumped at me was the story to Injustice: Gods Among Us. While it was a fine if not outstanding example of fighting game, the story it tells was interesting. Superman goes rogue, but divides the heroes a la Marvel’s Civil War storylines. Heroes die. History happens.
The comics that tell it in more detail, with a deeper look at those involved, are something I’ve grown fond of. It’s also home to the best Harley Quinn – smart, savvy, resourceful, and much more interesting than a in love-with-the-Joker psychotic sex doll as she often appears.
Give the story a try for a nice slice of “What if…” meets fantastic writing. Have fun!
Shook Me All Night Long
Gen Con. Grand Prix San Diego. PAX Prime.
I have plenty of travel lined up over the next few weeks and some of it will involve karaoke. I make no claim to providing good karaoke, but I aim to please those I can by practicing a wider range of options to emply.
I can’t just sing The Middle by Jimmy Eat World every time, after all. (Or can I?)
If you’d like to see what I turn my tunes to my full karaoke playlist is embedded here. It’s a fun one to listen to even if you’d prefer to never hear my attempts at them. Feel free to tell me what I should try singing next, though I promise nothing.
Goodbye for now, Academia
This was a big week for me, but it's been so busy that I haven't had time to really process just yet. This week I (finally) got through all of the necessary approvals and paperwork to have officially finished my master's program. Looking back on the program, this was certainly an enormously positive and productive experience. In just this year I started doing some very interesting research on applying control systems hypotheses to biological systems. I wrote a fun paper on developmental topographical disorientation, which turned into a personal reflection on what I was doing, both in Magic and in my life generally.
The paper and article I wrote caught the attention of the professor for that class, and she offered me the opportunity to start work on a thesis over the summer, applying similar controls systems concepts and methodologies to the study of alcoholism. Over the next 12 months, she would become an academic adviser, confidant, and inspirational figure who helped me accomplish far more than I could have imagined. Twelve months later, I've published in an academic journal, finished my thesis, gotten my first grown-up job, and am taking my first real steps into the world of adulting. I am more than ready leave the world of classes, papers, and publications for now, but, looking back on this year, I realize that I've learned something important.
The biggest thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to find things that you can be excited about and surround yourself with similarly-minded people. It's not hard work when you can find things to be excited about, and you can do incredible things when you have the support and guidance of people who are honestly and enthusiastically invested in seeing you succeed.
No Items. Samus Only. Yoshi's Story.
This past weekend one that I've been looking forward to since last August: EVO 2015. The return of Super Smash Bros. Melee to the world stage. The problem was that this year was different. This year, players have pushed the game further than ever before, and that has had some terrifying implications on tournament play. The joke used to be that super competitive players had simple rules: No items. Fox Only. Final Destination. A true test of skill, right? Until this year, it'd only been a joke.
In theory, Fox is far and away the best character in Melee. His raw speed and the incredible utility of his reflector mean that, in a perfect world, he is nigh unbeatable. Fortunately, the technical demands of frame-perfect inputs combined with the mental strain of playing at such a breakneck pace have kept Fox from truly taking over the tournament scene. However, this year, we've seen many top level players abandon their mains in favor of the raw speed, power, and combotastic potential of Fox McCloud. Perhaps the most infamous Fox in the game right now is Leffen, a Swedish player who has risen from relative anonymity before EVO 2014 to become one of the top five players in the world. He had been a villain in the community for quite awhile, and given that he won the last two big events leading in to EVO 2015, he had an enormous target on his back.
There were a lot of awesome sets at EVO 2015. This Top 8 match between Leffen and Plup had me shouting at me shouting at the screen. This is where Plup emphatically declares that Fox and Leffen aren't as big a deal as we've made them out to be. If you're going to watch one set from Melee, it should be this one. If you're going to watch one game, it should be the third. The excitement is palpable, the crowd is incredible, and the message is clear: Fox still has a long way to go.
A few weeks ago, I decided to retool my Ephara deck just a little bit, giving up on some of the pure control elements in favor of a more proactive gameplan involving a heavy Planeswalker theme. Because of that, I wanted to add Tezzeret the Seeker to my deck to tutor for both Rings of Brighthearth and The Chain Veil. The idea was that these cards, particularly in conjunction with Rings of Brighthearth, would allow me to keep the board stable get my Planeswalkers up to ultimate status much more reliably. Because of this new plan, I also decided to try adding Teferi, Temporal Archamge as another effect that threatens to allow extra Chain Veil activations and to let Planeswalkers get out of hand.
In the very first game I played with these cards, I found out that permutations involving these four cards - Tezzeret, Teferi, Rings of Brighthearth, and The Chain Veil - allow you to go infinite. As someone who generally despises infinite combos, I'm not super excited about that. As someone who loves doing crazy things with Planeswalkers, I couldn't be more excited to go infinite with every single Planeswalker in my deck. It's very likely that I'm just super late to the party, but I had no idea when I put those cards in my deck that they would interact in that fashion. Finding crazy interactions like that is a huge part of the joy of Magic for me, and so stumbling onto that was enormously exciting.
Now that I've figured out that the cards are all good, we get to move on to my favorite question in all of Magic: what next?