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Picks of the Week, 12/21/2014


The holiday season is a great time of year to pause and reflect about how the previous year has gone and what could be done better. This week our picks fall into these themes of lessons learned, thanks given, and bringing new skills and energy to challenges that may get in the way. Whether it's stepping up your Magic game, working towards a stronger community, or just being thankful for the amazing work that people do all year round. This week we call out and give thanks for just of a few of the things that make Magic and its community as awesome as they are, and wonder how they might be made even better in the coming year.

Picks of the Week: November 30, 2014

The Art of It

One of my favorite feature of Grand Prix are artists. While, as a member of the coverage team, I don’t often get to queue through lines and have various cards signed I do get to chat and say hello on occasion. Artists like rk post and Matt Stewart swap stories and smiles. Artists like Christpher Rush has hit a resurgence in popularity and appearances.

While I’m not a tournament organizer and I don’t have perfect insight into costs and revenue for Grand Prix, articles like Mike Linnemann’s remind me that tournaments are both a gathering of friends for fun and a business operation. While I respect the need for Grand Prix to, ultimately, be a profitable enterprise I worry about where artists will fit in the future: Are they guests that serve as an advertised benefit for players, or vendors that need to build rapport and brand within the community?

I don’t have an answer, and it worries me we’re asking these tough questions.

Unwrapping the Cube

The seasonal Holiday Cube is back on Magic Online and I couldn’t be happier. The steady stream of “Check out this sick thing I just did in this draft!” images parading across reddit, my Facebook feed, and my Twitter followers is infectious.

While there are certainly some ongoing issues with Magic Online’s client, the fun to be had for those that venture into the world of high-powered drafting is rewarding, even for the rest of us.

Oreos? Really?

I never knew that I needed to have a breakdown of the qualities and rank of 18 types of Oreos until someone did it for me.

Of course, if you think Gathering Magic needs to replicate the results I’d be glad to help make that happen.

The End of an Era

While it’s become in vogue to cynically lampoon all news, politics, and global affairs, most of the modern comedians doing so are doing it as themselves. The Colbert Report was one of many to adopt a caricature of a real life character and draw out the natural conclusion of how that caricature would be.

As much as I desire strong news reporting, and strong social progress by viewers, the ability to make light of darkly real situations – mostly my politicians and their ignorance and incompetence – was a warm welcome to a bleak world. I’ll miss Stephen Colbert the character, and hope against hope he’ll return when we need him most again.

Heather Dawn Lafferty is the Community Manager for Gathering Magic, collector and creator of the 20 Tweets series, and resident Angel.Speaking of tweets, you can tweet her with your thoughts regarding Gathering Magic content, Magic, or Nintendo at @Revisedangel.


As we move into THE week of gift giving, occurring all over the world, I wanted to take a minute to talk about why we give gifts. People can opine about the commercialization of the holidays but when it comes down to it we give gifts to say thanks. To show love. To express appreciation. To make sure another human (or pet) in your life knows you see them there. Not only do you see them, but you think about them. You think about them enough to plot, plan, and execute the buying of the one gift that will light up their face for just a moment. I love Holidays.

Taking the reasons for gift giving to heart, I wanted to take this one last chance as the Community Manager of Gathering Magic to give a big thank you to the staff, writers and supporters of Gathering Magic in 2014. I wish I could have hugged every one of you across country and the world with cases of Magic cards, but I hope our holiday cards expressed our appreciation of what amazing creators, writers, and talents you all are. Thank you for all your hard work; Adam and I hope you have a joyful Holiday break followed by a kick ass 2015.

We hope all our readers have an amazing Holiday break as well. We would love it if you tweeted us photos @GatheringMagic of all the new Magical gamer gifts you open, so we can share in your joy and fun as well!

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.

Artists Matter

Making a trip to a large Magic event is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. Not because I enjoy playing in the main events; it’s been several years since I’ve actually entered. I love Magic convention experience – traveling to a place packed with people who love the same thing you do and getting to share an experience with them. It’s a blast to travel to an event, see friends from all over the place and get to meet Twitter acquaintances you’ve never had the pleasure to meeting before.

One of my favorite things to do at these events is to meet artists. If there are cards I’ve especially enjoyed collecting or playing with, there’s nothing that makes me happier than getting them signed or personalized in some way. In recent years I’ve noticed a some amount of stagnation in the artists who are making the rounds at events that I’m able to make it out to, but I never really gave it much thought. Before this week at least.

If I have questions about Magic art, Mike Linnemann is the guy I’m going to go to. When he says that there’s an important decision that needs to be made about the future of artists at Grand Prix, I’m going to pay attention. In this piece Mike summarizes why the current system isn’t working; why it encourages only local artists and those who are the best at entrepreneurial endeavors to make the trek to a large event. I’m not really in a place where I can travel much outside of the mid-Atlantic region I live in, and I think it’d be a shame if that meant that I didn’t get to meet and support some of the personalities who have created things that have been such a big part of my life.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that being aware of the underlying issues is important. I certainly wasn’t, and Mike’s article was an incredible opportunity to learn something about something I’d been taking for granted. So take a few minutes to find out what’s going on and decide if it’s as important to you as it is to so many other members of the community.

Modern Marvels

Modern has gone through somewhat of an upheaval with the printing of allied fetchlands, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Jeskai Ascendancy just a few months ago. Now that we’ve started to see the fallout, where has the format ended up? What’s good anymore? This week Martin Juza gives us an inside look at his preparations for Grand Prix Milan, and while I don’t love the deck he settled on, I do love the thought process behind it.

We all know that Treasure Cruise changed everything, but what exactly is it that changed? Martin begins his testing with some off the wall ideas and then moves on to some of the tried and true titans and up-and-coming strategies in Modern. Which old strategies have a chance to make a comeback? Which ones are just bad? More importantly, why? Martin answers all of these questions on his way to selecting his deck for Milan, and the journey is definitely one you want to follow along with.

Lessons Learned

If you’ve played Magic for any length of time, you’ve had that feeling. The one where your stomach drops because you’ve just made an enormous mistake and threw a game away for no reason. We all like to think that this happens less and less as you play more Magic, but the truth is that it still happens all the time, just in more subtle ways.

This week, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa shares a few of the common mistakes he sees experienced players continuing to make. As I was reading through, I saw a number of things that I know I’ve done for years and never knew that it might be a bad habit. Paulo does a great job of breaking down exactly why these are mistakes and not judgment calls, as well as the misunderstandings that lead to the perpetuation of these errors in our gameplay.

Fire Emblem ReAwakening

I am an enormous fan of Fire Emblem games. Path of Radiance on the Gamecube and Radiant Dawn for the Wii were two of the games that I played most throughout high school. The interesting characters, powerful abilities, and strategic decisions were what first caught my attention. What kept me around was that the characters were never the same two games in a row. Characters leveled up differently in subsequent playthroughs such that your favorites from a previous game were positively unplayable in this one. You could also try different support combinations to unlock new support conversations that gave you a more personal look at a new dimension of a character you’d grown attached to. The depth and vibrancy of the world that they created was amazing to me then, and those games are still easily among my favorites of all time.

I have to be honest though, I was disappointed with Fire Emblem Awakening when it first came out. Once I got over the initial rush of having new Fire Emblem content, I realized that I just didn’t have the same kind of connection with this world as I did in previous games. There were new mechanics, classes, and enemies, and I just wasn’t as into it as I wanted to be. I got most of the way through the game before putting it down, but never got around to finishing it.

Recently I’ve picked the game up again, and I’m having a blast. A little time has made all the difference. It’s still not the same, but it doesn’t have to be. The core mechanics are still the same. The characters are still interesting. There’s still a ton of space to explore different support pairings and combinations of classes and abilities. Besides, what’s better than an awesome handheld game?

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