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A Personal Story

Let’s kick this week’s article off with a little bit of appreciation. During late July, my wife and I were triumphantly driving home from Friday Night Magic at our LGS (local game store). Like most Magic players, we love to throw down on Friday nights and drive over an hour to attend what must be the most consistently large FNM in the country. Tampa’s Game Academy hosts between fifty-five and seventy players each week, and the ranks battle through six to seven rounds of Friday-night Standard for prizes and MTG glory.

I love to hang out with my spell-slinging friends and always enjoy the battles. Between rounds, we whip out the trade binders, squeeze in truncated games of EDH, or hang in the parking lot trading war stories of cardboard battles from the prior rounds. On Friday, July 22, I was lucky enough to march through the seven Swiss rounds, securing a place among the privileged Top 8 players.

Playing giant FNM tournaments has both strengths and weaknesses. I rarely play the same player in a month, meet new folks every week, and have a chance to hang with a giant MTG community. However, the tournaments begin at 7:00 p.m., and the finals are typically decided deep into the night. Things wrapped up on this particular Friday around 3:00 a.m.

The summer air was cool. After stopping for a bit of breakfast at a local IHOP, we cranked down the windows, opened the sunroof, and hit the highway homeward. We had some sort of acoustic music providing a background for our conversation, and I distinctly remember holding my wife’s hand. It was peaceful. These are the kind of simple nights that you string together in order to make the best possible life.

The police report indicated that the accident happened at 4:08 a.m. Both cars were cruising down the two-lane highway at 55 mph when the other driver slipped into our lane. His headlights squared up with ours, leaving no time to react. I remember saying, “He is going to hit us.” The two cars slammed into each other head-on. There was no time for braking. I only managed to yank the steering wheel slightly to my left.

The frontends of the cars met with an explosion of sound and immediate darkness. Held in place by a gripping seatbelt and the introduction of an assortment of airbags, I can only remember the helplessness. I was conscious and recall wondering if we were going to flip. I felt the spinning. Would we hit another car? Was there more? Where were we going to land? This was definitely the end.

The afterglow of our Friday night was extinguished, replaced by sirens, the repetitive flashing of red and blue lights, and shock. It seemed surreal. The serenity faded into chaos. Our Volkswagen Jetta buried itself into the side of the road a couple of yards from the tree line. The front right side of the car was simply gone. The dash, passenger door, and floorboard crowded my wife. As I pulled her across the broken glass and through my door, it all became a little more real. We had just survived a head-on collision.

Nearly one month later, I can finally bring myself to describe the night and can calmly think back through the events. Aside from soreness, muscle aches and pain, and a few cuts and bruises, we lived through an event that could have been catastrophic. The police, the medical folks, and everyone who has seen pictures or has heard the story note that fact. We surely had a close call. It put things into perspective. There are hundreds of clichés that I am working hard to avoid, but I will tell you that we are very thankful. Sometimes you forget, but it is really amazing to be alive.

A Thank-You Note

While we had to miss a few nights of gaming and skipped GenCon for the first time in five years, it is safe to say that we are back. Not only did we survive the crash, but we also walked away from it slightly stronger and more focused. It helped us prioritize and brought a sense of clarity to issues that can get cloudy when you get comfortable living everyday life.

While most of my articles are about Commander decks and slinging cardboard Highlander stacks, it is reasonable to throw in an article like this one from time to time. I want to take a few lines to thank the folks who read this weekly column. While the Internet is filled with vile things and snarky comments, and haunted by trolls, the vast majority of players who read and comment on this site are a cut above.

I relish the opportunity to read the comments left on the articles we post every week. They are populated with positive comments and helpful suggestions, and come from players who care about the community. While folks don’t always agree and approach deck-construction, play, and competition from various angles, it is amazing to watch it all come together on Magic websites. Considering these things, I just wanted to thank all of the guys and gals who frequent the site, participate in building our community, and keep inspiring us to write awesome content.

With nearly every article submission to our editors, I include a thank-you note. I am appreciative of the chance to write and look forward to cranking out a ton of additional content in the coming years. My family and friends have a passion for Magic and love to share that passion with the greater community. What better way to share than through a weekly conversation with the community in the form of columns and comments? At the risk of marching a little too close to the Hallmark section of the interwebs, I want to share my appreciation. You guys and gals are great.

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Commander Content

August is an exciting time to be a Magic player. Back during the 2011 Community Cup, Wizards employees announced a Modern format for online play. During the event, players were able to play with nearly every card with the updated, modern border. One of my close friends is relatively new to Magic and asked me to explain the “modern-border” concept because it was difficult for him to remember the set orders and older blocks, and understand where the cutoff happened.

This is really a pretty useful tip to all gamers, but my casual friends and those less familiar with older sets can especially benefit. During 8th Edition and Mirrodin-block era, Magic changed the card borders. There are two easily identifiable ways to spot a modern frame on a card. Let’s start with the most important distinguishing feature. Pick up a couple of your favorite cards. Take a look at Dark Confidant. There are five major components found on the front of a Magic card. There is the very outside border. Sometimes this is black, and sometimes this is white. This is not the border that we need for visual reference.

Look at the title line, where you can find the card’s name. This is the box above the picture or art. Below that title line is the picture in the vast majority of cases, and below that picture is a tagline. The tagline will house the description of the card’s type(s) (artifact, land, creature type(s), legendary, etc.) on the left-hand side and the set symbol on the right-hand side. Prior to the modern card frame, this tag line box was either open (no borders) or was a simple, square-cornered box. The Modern card frame has a box with curved edges. It has “bubbled” ends. So our first quick visual reference notes that older card frames do not use rounded ends in the tagline or title line. If you find the card’s name or type contained in a rounded frame, you are looking at a Modern-legal card. Consider the example of Solemn Simulacrum versus the nonexample of Vampiric Tutor.

Further, the modern frames were ushered in with an additional alteration that can be a solid visual reference. Artifacts traditionally sported a brown coloration. The original Memory Jar, for example, was brown. The old Karn, Silver Golem is brown. However, the modern-style artifacts are gray. Consider the gray coloration of Mox Opal.

The only exceptions to these visual-identification rules come in the cases of judge/DCI promos or printings of cards found in the From the Vault, Planeswalker vs. Planeswalker, or Faction vs. Faction special boxed sets. These sets are often found with an occasional older card like Mox Diamond, Survival of the Fittest, or Chain Lightning that is framed with the modern style but is not legal. Does this make sense? A great general rule before purchasing a card or making a new deck list might be to give the card a visual check and then confirm that it comes from a Modern-legal set.

Modern is going to have a huge impact on Commander. Some of the cards that folks love and pack into Commander stacks are going to change in price. There are going to be some cards that are likely going to become more available and a few that will disappear over the course of the next couple of weeks. In our next article, we are going to move away from hallmark moments into hardcore Commander collecting and card acquisitions. We will talk about the cards that you might want to seek out before they dry up, the cards that you have waited on that will become more available, and some cards that you might want to dump into more casual crowds to fund your Commander adventures.

While this article was a departure from our normal content, I believe that we need to step back from time to time and evaluate our progress and our place in the world. We are people in addition to being gamers. It can be nice to advance our lives in both pursuits. See you next week for Commander vs. Modern.

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