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Picks of the Week, 2/1/2015


With a new Standard format, Pro Tour Fate Reforged around the corner, and even a new Wizards Play Policy, there are plenty of things to be excited about this week. These are a few of our favorites.

Picks of the Week: February 1, 2015

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.

The Truth of Names

This is important.

When I started reading The Truth of Names I simply expected a story about Alesha, Who Smiles at Death and her leadership of the Mardu Horde. I scanned the words only casually interested until the first break in the story. The Nameless Orc, gaining a certain amount of renown in Vorthosian circles currently, uttered a simple line:

“‘You tell me this? A human boy who thinks he’s a woman?’”

I stopped and read it again. Then a third time. I clicked over to Twitter and wrote:

I then entered into back and forths with a few friends as we all slowly came to realize the waves this story was making. I saw an alert on my phone and went back to Twitter to see a reply from none other than Trick Jarrett himself:

Alesha is a trans* person. Alesha is the first canonically trans* character in the history of Magic. I am cismale (the sex I was assigned at birth and the social norms associated with it largely line up with my gender identity) so I am not going to attempt to understand what this means to members of the trans* community. Part of this is because being cis I cannot ever fully understand it but another part is because to try and apply broad strokes to multiple people would fail miserably.

What I can say is this: when I was growing up playing Magic part of what drew me to the game was a sense of escape. Me, the short and slight Jewish kid from Brooklyn, could be a powerful sorcerer hurling fireballs and summoning dragons. It was easy to imagine since I could see people similar to me - fair of skin- reflected in the art.

There is a problem of presupposing cismale white as the norm against which everything else is judged. Taking that as normal turns anyone who is not cismale white into something Other. It is easy to see Other as less than when that is not the case The fact is there aren’t Others in this world there are only Ands.

Now there is another And in Magic. There is a character out there who can, I hope, for some portion of trans* people out there, allow them to escape deeper into the game and uncover that same solace and comfort that I was able to find. While this push towards inclusion from Wizards of the Coast may be overdue it is absolutely welcome.

Thank you, Wizards, for making Magic awesome.

And to people out there who are reading this and find that I have used incorrect language or terms - please let me know. I want to be better.

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.

Teaching in the Zone

For a few years now, I've worked various part time education positions while making steady progress towards my end goal of teaching engineering in a university setting. Teaching is a passion of mine, and something that I strive to be better at every time I sit down with a student. It turns out, I've been lax in my habits when it comes to Magic

Magic is a complicated game. For anyone who's tried to teach a new player, you know it can be a trying experience for all parties involved. A delicate balance needs to be struck between showing off the depth and complexity of the game and letting new players move at their own pace. This week, Natasha Lewis-Harrington takes a closer look at the mindsets that make for not only good teaching, but learning as well. These are certainly things I will be keeping in mind not only when I try to teach Magic to new friends, but when I'm working with my students as well.

APEX 2015 - The Salty Suite

The biggest Super Smash Brothers tournament of all time is happening this weekend. Apex 2015 did not go off without any hitches though. Some two thousand people were stranded in the cold and without a venue when a roof collapsed and the fire marshal showed up. But the community rallied, found a new venue, and carried on with no events cut despite completely losing Friday as a day for competition.

One of my favorite things about APEX is the Salty Suite. Competitive communities are always full of rivalries and trash talk. Sometimes friendly, sometimes not so much. The Salty Suite is a place for these kinds of intense rivalries to take center stage, where trash talk is not only allowed; it's required. It's an opportunity for rivalries as recent as 2014 and as old as 2006 to flare up. To put people in their place. To earn redemption. It's more relaxed than a tournament setting, but there's just as much on the line. The Salty Suite is a place where reputations are made and broken, and the matches are some of the most fun and intense sets I've ever seen. I had an absolute blast watching last night, and hope you will too.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS

The internet has done a lot of good things for the world, but internet culture may be a different story. Trolling became a thing. Then it started escalating. Sometimes it's as small as telling someone that something they like is dumb. Sometimes it's bigger; doxxing, swatting, or worse. Whatever the reason, these are things that have devastating impacts on the lives of actual people, and for what?

This week, This American Life takes a look at the internet hate. Who? How? Perhaps most importantly, why? As someone who doesn't have to deal with life-altering levels of trolling, this was eye-opening for me. Intellectually, I know that these are things that happen. It's different to hear someone detail the things that happen to them. It's not the same as experiencing it. I'm not going to say that I understand. But it helps, and that's important too.

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