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Picks of the Week, 1/11/2015


Fate Reforged is on the horizon. Hundreds of magicians have descended on Omaha, Nebraska. No matter what kind of Magic player you are, it's a great time to be playing and there's plenty to be excited about. Whether you're looking for sweet new cards, novel technology, exciting content, or something a little more personal, Team Gathering Magic has you covered with our picks of the week.

Picks of the Week: January 11, 2015

Pout and Shout

If you ask some people “Do Magic players have entitlement issues?” you’ll find a mix of answers. I generally agree with the premise, based on personal experience everywhere from local stores to the Pro Tour.

It’s a difficult subject to approach because there’s always emotion and personal investment at stake. What I think is fair or just or right is going to be skewed by my experience in the game leading up to it, just as those arguing for more or change are shaped by theirs. I tend to believe, however, that some requests and asks go beyond simple quality of life or value-add benefits and reach into the fundamental nature of playing the game.

The Avacyn Restored Prerelease is probably the biggest example I can think of: With some stores, at random and at an invisible level, getting “more special” free stuff than other stores went over poorly. Nevermind everyone got cool bonuses, the fact that some “made out better” riled up the community in a way I could never have expected.

These days when I hear about randomized giveaways to players in games, such as what happened recently in Destiny, I expect the type of vitriol and anger I’ve seen before. Getting free stuff is great – It’s free, for crying out loud! – and even token gifts of questionable utility represent acknowledgement by game producers and developers that players are a valuable part to a game’s success.

Maybe it’s having that value pointed out to us that creates these reactions? Do we really think we’re always worth more than this?

While constructive feedback (“Hey, could have checked to see if I already had the item first?” “Maybe provide a choice of two different things so I could find the marginally better option for myself?”) is always valuable for those growing games, I’ll never understand how raging about something free is an acceptable endeavor.

At the very least disappointment can be shared respectfully. Something is always worth more than nothing, right?

Sick of Siege Rhino? Modern isn’t Safe Either.

Marc Calderaro is among my favorite text coverage writers these days. (Along with all my other favorites: Everyone else on the text team. I’m biased, of course.) Hearing Standard players gripe about Siege Rhino being “too good” or “everywhere” is probably a valid complaint if you’re unlucky enough to run into it every other match.

Marc took that thought to its natural conclusion to see if Modern was a place free of the raging of Rhinos. Hint: It’s not, and Marc shares that fact in an entertaining way through plenty of interviews.

Cube Reforged?

There are so many cards for my pauper cube in Fate Reforged that I can’t believe it. There’s also a ton of stuff for Commander. I’m impressed with the power and diversity of cards coming in the next set, and I can’t wait to start drafting towards a manifest-meets-Trail of Mystery dream deck. Seriously. Wow.

Alex Ullman is Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, a renowned Pauper (cube and Constructed) player, and member of the victorious 2009 Magic Online Community Cup team.You can find him on Twitter as @nerdtothecore.


Happy New Year! Fate Reforged has been fully spoiled and looks to be quite the exciting set. While I am sure many of my picks in the months to come will include decks and events featuring spells from Tarkir’s past, this week we’re staying on this plane of existence.

Paul Cheon - Round 14, Game 2, Grand Prix Denver

This is one that needs to be seen to be believed. Paul Cheon, former United States National Champion and streamer extraordinaire, is down a game and fighting for the chance to qualify for the Pro Tour. While I have been in that position, I have been in Paul’s seat of having to mulligan. Then mulligan again. And again. All the way down to four. I know how much it sucks when I have to do that in my local draft. Playing for a spot in the Top 8 and the proverbial blue envelope? I’m not sure my heart would be in the game. Paul is not me and he shows. He keeps his four and with the help of some luck and poor draws on his opponent’s part he manages to win the game. Never give up, never surrender. Paul goes into detail about his entire tournament in his report and it is well worth the read However this match should serve as inspiration for anyone playing in a tournament. Mulligans are not the end all and be all of a match. I know I have found myself with slumping shoulders when I go down to five cards (let alone four) and yet here is Paul Cheon, with far more at stake, knuckling up and doing everything he can to win the game and keep his dream alive. Yes, variance is involved, but that just let’s us all in on the secret - the top of the deck is entirely random. When you mulligan, there is no reason that the top of your deck is automatically going to lose. So next time you go down a card, sit up straight and think of Haumph.    

Limited Resources #266 - Khans of Tarkir Sunset Show

The first episode of Limited Resources under the auspices of Channel Fireball and the first appearance of Luis Scott-Vargas as co-host would be enough to warrant attention. The reason it makes my picks this week is for LSV’s sign off. Ah, the sign off. Started by Jon Loucks as a humorous cap on an otherwise data heavy podcast, it evolved under the care of third co-host Brian Wong. While Jon has my all time favorite in “Five Drop or Zombie”, Brian’s commitment to the bit with the Dack Fayden song is something special. LSV, however, goes in an entirely different direction. The Hall of Famer takes a few minutes to go over end of game etiquette and sporting behavior. The so called Good Game Dilemma is about who can initiate a handshake at the end of a game. Luis attacks this from all sides and basically comes back to one of the rules of joining the Limited Resources Magic Online clan: don’t be a jerk. The result: anyone can offer a handshake and its being a good sport to accept the offer, when made sincerely. LSV does a far better job describing all sides here that I could do given three days and the ability to beam thoughts directly. Seriously - check it out.   

The New York Knicks

I grew up in an era when Patrick Ewing’s Knicks consistently lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. I was a fan and enjoyed watching them try, every year, against a force of basketball nature. This year the Knicks stink. And I don’t mean they’re bad - they’re worse than bad. They are the Chimney Imp of the National Basketball Association. And I can’t stop watching. I don’t know what it is but for some sick twisted reason I am enjoying watching my favorite basketball team stink up the joint. Yes - there is a plan here. The Knicks, owned by the heir to Cablevision (who also fronts a terrible blues band) they recently hired Phil Jackson to oversee a rebuilding process, but it has been tough. So rather than root for winning, I’m pulling for new and interesting ways to lose. Won’t you join me in this descent?    

“Kingfisher” by Prawn


During high school I listened to a lot of Long Island post-hardcore and emo. Bands like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday were the soundtrack to my senior year, summer, and first year in college. While emotionally and intellectually I am in a different place now, every so often I’ll spin “Your Favorite Weapon” or “Tell All Your Friends” for nostalgia’s sake. Prawn captures that moment and thrusts it into 2015. I can’t explain it, but the interplay of the slow and strong guitars and the pops of a brass section make this record one I haven’t put down for the past week. “Kingfisher” is a perfect album for cold nights and hot drinks, maybe spiced as an adult beverage.

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.


Malaise Cube

Once you've played enough Magic, it's easy to get a little cynical about the game. New decks aren't quite as exciting as they used to be. Bad beats seem more and more frequent. We all have different ways of dealing with that negativity, either through sheer joy of the game, fun casual formats, or stepping away for awhile. This week, Jon Corpora takes a look at a few of his attempts at channeling his Magic negativity. First, a malaise jar to fund Modern Masters drafts.

Second, and more exciting is the Malaise Cube - a cube where the cards themselves are actually out to get you. The pieces aren't always there. Crucible of Worlds without fetchlands. Squadron Hawk without multiples. Lords without tribes. The possibilities are endless, and the format-building constraints are surprisingly interesting. How do you build a 360 card format without accidentally piecing together good interactions? I'm not entirely certain, but I'm sure the idea will keep me entertained for many a road trip.


I've been looking for a way to shake up my more established Commander decks, and have recently settled on having a few "Chaos Slots" marked with fun stickers. Right now two of my decks have five chaos slots and fifteen possibilities. Before each game I choose five at random (preferably without looking too closely!) and shuffle up as normal. It's been a blast having games that are a little more surprising, with fun tutor targets and topdecks that even I didn't know were available.

Alex talked up Worldslayer earlier this week on Twitter for his Sapling of Colfenor deck and I knew it had to go into Kemba's sideboard. The very first game where Worldslayer deigned to show up, hilarity ensued. This is all your fault, Alex.

Definitely not for everyone, but I've been having a great time adding some more randomness and variety to my games. Worldslayer isn't a card I've ever really though about playing with. Now I'm not sure I can imagine playing without it.

Love Letter

One of the games that my family picked up this holiday season is Love Letter. It's a game that I'd heard talked up on Twitter awhile back but had never gotten around to picking up a copy. Now that we've all-but-accidentally obtained a copy and have sat down to play it, I have to say that it's a fantastic family game that I strongly recommend to anyone trying to ease their family into more complex games.

At its core, Love Letter is a game about hidden information. You're trying to live to the last round and have the highest possible card value. Along the way you'll have opportunities to steal from, trick, and otherwise incapacitate your opponents based on what card you think they have. The game is quick and easy to learn and the rounds are fast, but there's a lot of mindgames and depth if that's what you're looking for.

When Science met Romance

I always find it fascinating when people apply science to things it doesn't usually relate to. I stumbled onto this article thanks to our own Natasha Lewis-Harrington, and was immediately intrigued by the story. So much of science is so impersonal; driven by pure data and analysis. I love that part of science, but I think it's great to know that there are personal stories like this one as well.

The underlying question behind this story is this: what happens when science meets relationships? Can a situation be engineered that makes it more likely that people will develop a strong relationship with one another? What would it look like and why would it work? This article briefly describes the work of Arthur Aron, which focuses on how intimate relationships are developed and how the process can be accelerated. In this article, Mandy Len Catron shares her experience in trying to replicate the results of Aron, but hers is a more personal take that focuses on the people and experience rather than pure psychology.

So can you create an intimate and lasting relationship with someone in an hour? If so, is it really about the science? Or the people involved and the choices they make along the way? The questions that are generated when humanity meets science are always fascinating to me, and this was a quick, fun read that I really enjoyed thinking about.

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