Accountability & Quick Hits

Mark talks about some positive changes he’s aiming to make in his life and provides some quick hits going into #SCGINVI this weekend.

“Think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump in your face.”

On the eve of the last Standard PTQ of the year, I should be thinking about what I’m going to play. I want to qualify for Pro Tour: Theros so badly I can taste it, and I’ve had so many near-misses, failures, and losses when it mattered most and I try too hard and it doesn’t matter most of the time and I can’t stop trying but sometimes you feel like you’re running into a brick wall at full speed over and over again and and and and . . .

I’m not going to write about Standard this week. Yet, at least.

Instead, I want to take you on a journey with me. Some of you will dig this. Others will just pass right by it and leave comments like “this isn’t Magic-related I troll u bald guy.”

I assure you. Magic has everything to do with this. Stick with me; I promise you won’t regret it.

My life would be very, very different without Magic: The Gathering.

When I was younger I had heart surgery, and that put a sudden end to the sports I loved so much. No more baseball, no more wrestling, and no more running. Aside from the parts they put in me, I was empty. I had nothing anymore until I saw two kids in the school library sitting across from each other with a bunch of sandwich bags full of cards trying to muffle their laughter. I knew one of them, and I decided to gamble and ask them what they were doing. One of them, a guy named Dan, started explaining it to me. Immediately I was interested.

The void that was left started to fill.

As the years progressed I met my best friends through Magic, people that to this day I call brothers. I love them dearly.

Through Magic finance I was able to supplement my income in such a way that I was able to put a ring on my wife’s finger. The car that I drove off the lot in 2011, a brand new Hyundai Sonata, was purchased with funds from buying and selling various collections. My wedding was partially paid for through Magic cards as well. The very house I live in boasts the same claim. I was able to quit an abusive job because I was making so much. Magic saved me from that too.

Being able to write for you every week has become one of the greatest joys of my life. It might sound corny, but I like it. The response I get has been overwhelming to me at least.

That’s not to say that everything is roses however.

What I’m really trying to say is my life would be very, very different without Magic: The Gathering.

Every hardcore gamer has a similar story. Well, most of us do anyway.

I was a smart teenager, and I was lucky enough to have a full-ride scholarship. I figured college would be just as easy as high school, so I pretty much treated it that way.

Boom. Failure. Bubble burst, two screwed up semesters, and one lost scholarship. Hello and good luck! Thanks for playing.

One of the few things I had control of in my life was Magic, so I retreated deeper into it. Instead of doing the right thing—getting back on the horse and trying to get back what I neglected so much—I made Magic my priority.

For years I put my hobby in front of my real life. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Years passed this way. I was content, but I was primarily content with mediocrity. I had so much potential, didn’t I? Didn’t I?

My point is that I’ve used Magic as an escape for the last few years. Instead of facing reality, I faced planeswalkers. Instead of going back to school, I went to my local game store. Sometimes I’d call into work so I could playtest with my friends. Every success made me want it more. Every success drove me further away from the truth, and the truth is that I was afraid.

Magic made me afraid.

About a year ago one of my best friends and I were talking. He is very much like me. We both graduated in 2004 with our way fully paid, him to UCF and me to wherever the hell I wanted to go because I had about 100 different options. Both of us dropped out, we both used Magic as our means to circumvent the negativity we were cultivating with our stupidity, and we were both terrified by our own failures. One night we were talking about our conundrum, and when the conversation became particularly deep, I made the comment that it was as if we both seemed to have a “fear of success.”

Fear. Of. Success.

Becoming successful is hard, and it requires work and dedication. The whole time we were trying to replicate real success with the kind of success that comes from a card game. That’s not to say that it’s diminished, but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for in the realm of non-Magic related activities.

Those three words rang so pertinent to both of us that we immortalized them by tattooing them on us, him on his bicep and me across my chest. There. Now it was put on display. When people asked me what it meant, I’d have to tell them the ugly truth: I was a failure in life. I had a fear of success.

We made a promise to each other: that we were going to get our s*** together and become adults. In some aspects we’ve succeeded, but in others we’ve failed.

That’s why I’m doing this.

I want to put this on display for all of you to read in hopes that some of you will take this journey with me.

I’m not scared anymore.

This is the start of something wonderful for me. Instead of being something that holds me back, Magic is going to become a reward that drives me to greater heights.

Starting I guess a day before you read this, I’ll have begun the process of going back to school to finish my Political Science degree with a minor in English. It’s been a long time coming.

For me, Magic is about to be the thing that makes me want to do these activities rather than causes me to put them on the backburner.

What I want for you is to do the same thing.

Your life is your own, and you should start to take control of it.

There are those of you out there who are rolling your eyes because you have control of your life, and that’s great. Some of us need a tad more motivation.

The thing I want most from you, though, is accountability.

The reason I am putting this out there for you all to see is because I want you all to know that I’m trying to make these changes in my life. I want—I need—you all to hold me responsible for this. In the comments section weeks from now, I want you to ask me how it’s going. When I’m streaming, I want you to ask me if my homework is done.


Because I don’t want to lie to you.

I don’t want to let you down.

I want to grow with you. I want us to grow together.

Sounds corny, right? That’s the theme of the day I suppose.

My hope is that if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you do it. In my case, it’s to get in shape, finish school, get myself into a job I can be proud of, and win a gat dang PTQ. Not necessarily in that order. These are all goals that are easily accomplished if I put my mind to it, and now that I’ve clued you in to them, there is nowhere left for me to run. I can’t make excuses anymore because if I do I would lose your respect, and that’s not an option.

It’s time to do you proud.

Quick Hits: Where I Talk About Standard Anyway

Quick Hit #1: Standard

Things got heavy there for a minute. Let’s bring it back for a bit.

This past weekend AJ Sacher took down the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Richmond with W/B Humans. If there’s one thing I love, it’s a W/B deck that jams tokens.

The synergies here are insane, and I love everything about this deck. Gather the Townsfolk in conjunction with Xathrid Necromancer is about as filthy as it gets, and the deck relies on powering out a ton of fast and resilient creatures backed by a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad emblem. Cast a Supreme Verdict while they have two Human tokens and a Necromancer in play? Sounds awful.  

Watching AJ play the deck last weekend gave me flashbacks of one of my favorite decks of all time, B/W Tokens from 2009. He piloted expertly through a field of Jund, managing to take a title that has been more than a long time coming.

One of the things that was noticeably absent from most of the Jund lists I saw was Pillar of Flame, which is a card that goes a long way in shoring up the degeneracy of AJ’s list and I’m sure going forward is a card that it might want to go back to utilizing.

Andrew Boswell list seems very crisp and clean, and Scavenging Ooze is a card that I am super excited to play with. The power level of this card is off the charts, and like Ari Lax said in his recent article, it seemed to overperform whenever it was in play.

Going into this weekend I’m pretty much torn between U/W/R Flash, Jund, and Bant Control. Despite only putting one pilot in the Top 16, I still feel like Bant is well positioned in the current metagame, but it’s probably not enough to warrant me PTQing with it.

U/W/R Flash, piloted by William Jensen at #SCGRICH, is a phenomenal choice going forward because if people start drinking the AJ Kool-Aid, which I would totally understand, a Pillar of Flame deck packing Snapcaster Mage might be an outstanding place to be.

Bant Hexproof made the expected showing last weekend, but thankfully it didn’t take home the trophy. I find the deck to be too much of a glass cannon even though Witchstalker and Gladecover Scout gave the deck the boost that it needed, allowing it to run even more hexproof creatures. Keep preparing for it in the way that you always have, but don’t commit too many sideboard slots to it because it’s still just what I said it was before: a glass cannon.

Quick Hit #2: Finance

This past weekend gave us a flash of what to start looking for in terms of M14 investments, and while it was a brief look, it still let us know that M14 is every bit the real deal that some of us (*ahem*) said it would be.

Xathrid Necromancer was sold out at $6.99 and has recently come back into stock at $7.99, but I could easily see this card popping up a few more dollars once the various other Aristocrat decks start to battle with it.

Scavenging Ooze has already hit $20, but that doesn’t mean it is done climbing considering Modern PTQ season is going to increase the demand for this card while it is still being played in Standard. Historically, core sets aren’t among the most opened of product, and like you saw with Thragtusk last year, a huge price spike is not out of the question.

When it comes to your Archangel of Thunes and Kalonian Hydras, sell sell sell. Archangel is eventually going to be the real thing, but the Hydra might only make tiny waves. The casual crowd loves cards like these, so I wouldn’t fault you for holding, but right now you can get a huge premium for these hard-to-come-by mythics.

Mutavault is another card I’d be picking up now. Last weekend showed that it’s going to be in a lot of decks, and you don’t want to be without when it comes time to start jamming them in every deck when Theros comes out.

Quick Hit #3: The Invitational

Though I can’t be there with you physically, I will be there with you in spirit. Good luck to all my friends competing.

. . .

. . .

. . .

I’ve wanted to do this kind of piece for a pretty long time.

My biggest hope from all of this is that some of us can make these positive changes together while the ones who don’t need this kind of help can cheer for us at the finish line.

Next week will hopefully be a triumphant tale about how I won my local PTQ and a rundown on everything about the deck I won with.

Actually . . . hope is for suckers. I’m making promises now.

Catch ya on the flip-