Flores Friday – Top 11, Top 12

Mike Flores sets a few goals for himself in 2012 and then lists twelve Magic articles that have shaped his writing and continue to influence him today. Some of the best the game has ever seen!

The dawn of a new year is a traditional time for resolutions and reflection.

Rather than make any kind of resolutions this year (I mean who keeps those?) I decided to set twelve measurable goals and just try to hit those (or at least “fail close”) during 2012. Almost every personal development goal tends to fall under one of three categories:

  • Money and Career
  • Love and Relationships
  • Health and Fitness

I have the most to work on in the area of health and fitness so I decided to set most of my goals there this year, though I did set some professional-ish ones like making a certain amount of money and getting out a certain number of cool new products (including some planned collaborations with some of your favorite Magic writers, some mentioned below); I also want to watch 100 movies with my wife in 2012. This might seem like a weird goal, but it implies that I watch approximately two movies with my wife each week.

My 2012 goals are mostly around getting my resting heart rate below 59 bpm (health and fitness) and highly measurable stuff that combines both process (number of days juice fasting) and end state (producing 100 spot illustrations) goals. I like to draw!

The reason that setting specific, measurable goals is vastly superior to the more common “resolutions” is that you can’t really put them off. If I say I am going to do actual something by such-and-such a date, I have a deadline, and so my goal becomes real. It’s like making an appointment. You might be lazy about getting up in the morning “in general” but probably not on days you have to be somewhere. I know that when I was in college, I could sometimes have problems waking up in time to hit to a 3 pm class on Mondays… but damned if I were ever late for a PTQ in another state (and I didn’t even have a car!) on the generally-accepted-to-be-a-sleep-in-day of Saturday.

As such, I have checkpoints on February 1, March 15, Easter (whenever that is), and December 31 so that I can take note of my progress and re-calibrate (if necessary) or even celebrate (if applicable).

I think that being “results oriented” gets a bad rap from Magic players, partly because they overheard poker players (who exist on a higher echelon for some of them) saying that it is bad and partly because of general linguistic misunderstanding. I try to be thoroughly results oriented in as many areas of life as I can think of, and I think you are crazy to operate any serious endeavor any other way. In fact, I believe there are really only two kinds of people: those with “reasons” and those with results. Those with reasons are usually staring at their shoes explaining why they didn’t accomplish something while those with results are being carried on the shoulders of their adoring fans to the waiting arms of the local prom queen as they line up the next victory.

Now say you have a bag concealing 100 marbles—99 of them black, one white. You get a new Challenger if you correctly guess the kind of marble and have to kiss a particularly ugly, half-starved Rottweiler if you guess the wrong one. About 1% of the time “correctly” guessing black is going to get your face chewed off (literally)… I think the “Magic” (misunderstood) notion of being results oriented comes from the misguided notion of guessing white a bunch of times after seeing someone lose when drawing white, or perhaps the jabbering justification in the remote, off-off-off chance that someone actually chooses white before plucking the white marble. I am sure you can imagine seemingly inferior Magic players doing the equivalent of picking the white marble winning either because they did so (because it is “right” 1% of the time) or in spite of that, and never hearing the end of it.

Here’s a little secret: Magic players—even snooty “not results oriented” ones—are much more results oriented (in the bad way) than they think that they are. Tournaments—especially MTGO—are littered with perfectly good players making donkey deck-picking decisions after seeing such-and-such negative-EV deck in a Top 8, or worse yet, multiple copies of such a deck over the course of a couple of different tournaments. Popular Top 8 decks are notoriously negative-EV (or grow to be over time) and often generate multiple appearances through sheer volume, information cascades, or dumb luck rather than actual value of expectation.

The reason that players like Gerry Thompson switch decks so often, week to week, or brewers like myself or Patrick Chapin seem constantly contrarian is that switching in order to ride metagame trends can be one of the most productive things you can do, especially when you know what other players are running, from an expectation perspective.

The average player sees rock and rock and rock over again in Top 8 listings and thinks to himself “I should play rock!”

You wanna make the next Top 8? The answer is obviously paper, not rock! Duh.

Just look back at Worlds…

How many teams had Olivia Voldaren on their list of playable six-drops (or for that matter, four-drops?).

How about Channel Fireball’s decision to play Tempered Steel? Tempered Steel was a “known” deck but didn’t really qualify as a deck in the metagame. Their Standard results as a team eclipsed the all-time win percentages of any all-time great, and they put a staggering four players into the Top 8.

I realize this might seem unsatisfying to wannabe “grinders” … but with rare exception (basically “Caw-Blade”), I can’t think of a deck played to any scale that actually held a positive win expectation. Okay, Blightning Beatdown.

So it being a year and all, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this Flores Friday is the 364th day-iversary of How to Make a Mashup, i.e. my return to this here website.

My 12 11 Favorite Flores Friday (and associated) Articles of 2011:

11. How to Make a Mashup
10. Top Ten
9. Five Common Deck Design Traits to Avoid
8. One Rule: What Makes a Deck?
7. Seven Techniques for Unbeatable Sideboarding
6. Ten Rules of Reaction
5. Ten Facts About The End of the World
4. The Awkward (and Hawkward) Further Adventures of Deceiver Twin
3. Asking Better Questions
2. Picture This
1. Cards, “Facts,” Mentors, Multipliers, and Using Every Part of the Buffalo

How to Make a Mashup I had for sentiment’s sake—the comeback. Most of these are pretty good theory / position articles. Top Ten outlines how I mostly changed my long-standing design schema over the past three or so years (versus the previous 13+ years), and  #6, #7, and #8 help you think about Magic better. I rated #4 over #5 because I particularly like it when I put out a deck before I (or one of the bullets) wins with it; nothing like doing something better than the best Standard deck of all time (if even for a weekend!). Ultimately both #2 and #1 are all-time articles, and I am very proud to have put them out on this run.

Well, enough about me.

In the spirit of 2012, following are the twelve highest impact Magic articles not written by me. In the spirit of producing results, I will tell you why and what I copied (or aspire to reproduce) as I learned from them.

I am starting this Top 12 list with an article that could arguably be #1, but I wanted to start it off and set the tone a certain way, so I am starting it off with Schools of Magic by Robert Hahn.

“The basic philosophy of the Weissman School is that defense wins games.”

12. Schools of Magic by Robert Hahn

To understand how great Schools of Magic was, you have to understand that at the time Hahn was working on it, there was no such thing as a metagame as such. He was cataloguing what went on in $1,000 tournaments in New York, watching the emergence of some of the players who would become all-time greats, and trying to draw lines together in a way that was ultimately repeatable for other players (generally very far away), and before there were really websites—the essence, as such, of both magnanimity and strategy. To wit, Hahn worked with and immortalized Weissman… before he was Weissman. Ever heard of “card advantage?” You have Brian—and his mouthpiece, Rob—to thank.

Back then people pretty much jammed whatever they wanted together and called it a deck (Rob talks about that, too). So by contrast the notion of publishing someone else’s successful decklist was quite different to say the least, and many of us took that as chiseled in stone. I remember laughing with the amazing altran at a local Philadelphia tournament when Elliot Fertik—a future columnist here at Star City and the eventual namer of The ‘Pile of B*tches (YT’s first deck of any significance)—had added Whirling Dervish to his G/W Armageddon deck.

“The archetype Kim deck plays three Elvish Archers!”

Ha ha ha!

Hilarious, I know!

LOL! What an idiot.

Takeaways: Schools of Magic is the thematic forerunner of essentially all Magic strategy and the direct catalyst for The Magic Dojo and as such, is the first mover in the realm of all Magic websites (including the one you are reading now). What do I take away? Schools of Magic is in large part the template for Top Decks / Swimming With Sharks (deck rundowns with strategy explanations), Theron Martin’s Metagame Madness before it, and all their combined imitators. So, in a sense, I copy Rob week-in and week-out.

The #11 article isn’t even an article at all.

While everyone who’s anyone knows that a line in the sand of Magic video content was drawn with Expect the Unexpected Tomorrow, ultimately ushering in a whole new generation of Pro-generated walkthroughs and personal explorations, the real first line in the sand was drawn by Evan Erwin and The Magic Show:

11. The Magic Show #1 – Cheap by Evan Erwin

Takeaways: In a sense—back when I was making videos much more consistently—I was following in Evan’s footsteps every time. What is more fun to talk about at this stage is how you might want to.

Look at how amateurish Evan’s early Magic Show was… At the time he thought Terramorphic Expanse was broken. I don’t mean that as a criticism whatsoever. Look at how he grew. Evan went from making this show in his basement, with relatively low production quality—essentially no resources past his passion—to catapulting himself to what many people consider the pinnacle of Magic (new) media. SCGLive much? You write your name down, doing something different and wonderful that people love the way Evan did, you work at it, and someone with resources (like a Pete Hoefling) takes notice… all of a sudden you have a whole damn staff making The Magic Show for you… and a whole traveling circus of video-makers and hilarious talking heads that make you look good. Really good! Then those em effers go and get a job in WotC R&D or whatever.

“1) Self-confidence is almost always an important contributing factor to success.
“2) You may not have that intangible fully fleshed out yet.
“3) You may need to do some soul searching to determine if your lack of confidence is misplaced or can be remedied before you can move to the next level of your game.”

You know who should write more? Or at all? Jon Becker.

10. Tomfidence by Jon Becker

Takeaways: Tomfidence isn’t so much an article as it is a lifestyle. This is an article you should probably read over and over again, maybe have printed out in your binder of favorite articles to read in the car ride on the way to every PTQ.

Mike Turian said Tomfidence was about a perfect Magic article. Certainly something, as a writer, to aspire to.

“Surprisingly, everyone was gone. I figured that there would at least be four less people for the PTQ on Sunday, but I wasn’t expecting this. There was no one. 38 people registered for the tournament and two were disqualified in the first round for playing with Standard decks.

“I like those odds.”

To understand why the #9 article on this list is so special, you kind of have to step back and put yourself in another world. This was a world before the MTGO PTQ. It was a world where we elevated and idolized Magic personalities and champions in a way that we don’t today.

Dave Price—one year earlier—was defining about 1/3rd of all Constructed Magic and winning a Pro Tour with Jackal Pups and Wastelands. Then he was the Editor-in-Chief of THE Magic website. He stepped down to go back to full-time Pro Magic but had, unfortunately, fallen off the Pro Tour. So Dave—who had years earlier—been dubbed a “King of the Qualifiers” by The Duelist magazine, went on the road, hitting PTQs week-in and week-out, from his hatchback.

Dave started the season with an X-0 Grand Prix opener, only to fizzle out Day Two after a long night of drinking with YT (kind of a theme for us in those years). He grinded and ground for weeks until the last Saturday and Sunday, a back-to-back PTQ weekend.

Finally, on the very last opportunity, he got it on that back-to-back.

House of Horrors, the climax and culmination of that journey in the summer of 1999, is Brian David-Marshall favorite tournament report, ever.

9. House of Horrors by Dave Price

Takeaways: I think that every grinder—certainly every writer / grinder—owes Dave and this era a tip of the hat. He worked on decks, switched decks, week over week.

From my perspective—actually I’ll just quote Dave on this—

“So this was it. I’d never missed a Pro Tour before. I had one more shot at qualifying, one more weekend. As soon as I heard about the four-spot PTQ in St. Louis, I knew that’s where I had to go. So I hopped in my car Friday morning, and drove for 15 hours.

“The drive wasn’t bad at all. I’ve done worse. I had a lot to think about and I was excited about the new deck that I was playing. There were doubts, of course. I knew that if I didn’t qualify, it would be because I never played Squirrel Prison… something about that deck I didn’t like and didn’t trust. Too many twos and threes of cards. Too slow for an aggressive deck. Not enough countermagic or removal for a control deck. Not focused enough to be a combo deck. I didn’t understand Squirrel Prison, so I never played it. But of the dozen or so competitive decks that comprise the complicated rock-paper-scissors that we call Urza Block Constructed, Squirrel Prison had slightly outperformed the rest. It seemed like the deck to play, but I just couldn’t bring myself to play a deck that I didn’t like.

“I was tired of trying to play the “best” deck. U/r control failed me on the second day of Grand Prix – Memphis. Replenish made for an 0-2 record in Boston. Wildfire got beat by everything. Mono-green beatdown got me to one top 8, but it couldn’t take me all the way. Enough was enough. In honor of Halloween weekend, I decided to play a theme deck.”

Dave does something remarkable here. Keep in mind he is at this point not just a Pro Tour champion but one of the most popular players in the world at this point, an Invitationalist and moments earlier the editor of THE Magic site. When his back is against the wall, he chooses not to try to “play the best deck” (whatever that ephemeral something is), but play something sweet.

To my mind, this is a skill that the most dedicated would-be grinders can stand to learn.

Speaking of dedicated grinders…

8. Chasing Victory – Return from the Depths by Gerry Thompson

“… I like money, so this is strictly for the paycheck. Don’t get it twisted though. I have a decent amount of free time, so at the very least I’ll be playing enough Magic Online to be able to pretend to know what I’m talking about. Don’t expect me to show up to any real life events though.”

Gerry Thompson returned to Channel Fireball with a little deck you might have heard of—Dark Depths / Thopter (DDT)… In this article we have essentially everything you could ever want and Gerry at his best at the same time. Brewing a new deck. Brewing a pretty great new deck! The attitude, the in-your-face… Gerry cementing himself as one of the finest deck designers (or “developers” if you prefer) in the world… and even the grinding?

Gerry retired before the first words of Return from the Depths, then made his way all the way to the finals of the PTQ before losing with his super broken deck.

Don’t worry, Gerry fans! He had another PTQ the next day or so.

Takeaways: Presuming of course that I start out with my own model (playing the best cards my mana can buy me), after Gerry’s [chased-down] victories, I usually try to jam two decks with unique functionalities together or at least bring together disparate elements. You can look at my Exarch Twin deck from last year to see what I mean… Not just a turn-four combo kill deck, but an Inferno Titan deck; not just an Inferno Titan deck, but one with a Trinket Mage + Basilisk Collar sideboard plan; no third color, but extra lands nonetheless… Not just extra lands, but Tectonic Edge!

What inspired me from Gerry was / is to figure out where I can do something sweet at very little cost. Where are there card crossovers between different competencies? Can I lean on existing tutors or redundant card draw to get more functionality into my deck at a low cost?

This is just an incredibly valuable skill for a deck designer to have and can help your brews buy all kinds of extra value. Your opponent sides 100% against half your deck and loses to the other half, etc. Classic.

“Few players are immune to the ‘cool things’ problem. We all love to come up with combos or brilliant plays, but (from a competitive standpoint, at least) we need to remember that what matters is winning the game.”

Chad Ellis is probably the most underrated strategy writer in the history of Magic: The Gathering. I rip him off constantly and just hope that no one notices. The Danger of Cool Things is simply Chad’s most famous article, but most of them are all just better than most everything else you might read today (or ever, actually).

7. The Danger of Cool Things by Chad Ellis

Takeaways: I am guessing you are not immune to the “cool things” problem. Think about it.

“Middle class America knew nothing of the atmosphere which lurked within the American institution known as the Pool Hall before Tevis’ book openly addressed its subculture of deviants, hustlers, players, and otherwise shady individuals. It mythologized the smoky rooms filled with miscreants, men some described as losers, dreamers, men whose lives others from the outside accused of being wasted largely due to the incredible number of hours spent playing on green velvet. These men viewed their lives differently, but to the outside world, the pool hall was a den of evil.”

6. The New Pool Halls by Brian Hacker

Takeaways: Hacker talks about Tevis’s book being a game-changer, but for countless Magic players of his own and future generations, this article—whether those trickle-down drafters ever read it—was the game-changer of afterhours Magic. Have you ever played a—ahem—“side” draft? The reason you’ve probably ever heard of one, considering that in all likelihood you are not one of the hallowed players mentioned in the article, is Brian Hacker.

For me and lots of my friends, we owe a whole rebirth of Magic culture to the game being described in this article. In New York, there is a thriving community of gamers who have come out of the Hall of Fame and have shepherded up a new generation of young players to Pro level. Our group owes the Grand Prix wins of Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz (and arguably his recent Hall of Fame induction), Matt Wang, and Steve Sadin (and probably, to an extent his shepherding of this website) to the art and camaraderie of the team draft. We owe the return of Team Sped and Jamie Parke’s Worlds finals, Jon Finkel Kuala Lumpur return, and innumerable PTQ wins to the same. I don’t play much anymore, but I spent probably my most productive term as a deck designer hammering out games against Jon Finkel, Steve, BDM, and others to the proto-Finkel Draft.

Big Hacker fan here.

“A player is said to have inevitability if and only if from the current position he will win a long game. A player is said to have inevitability in a matchup if and only if they have inevitability on turn one.”

The next two articles are relatively interchangeable in terms of genius and significance. I rated Who’s the Beatdown II: Multitasking higher than Clear the Land and the Fundamental Turn mostly because Zvi named it after another Magic article that I like.

5. Clear the Land and the Fundamental Turn by Zvi Mowshowitz

4. Who’s the Beatdown II: Multitasking by Zvi Mowshowitz

Takeaways: This is how it’s done. I don’t know what else to say. These are two lasting concepts that every systematic thinker in Magic uses on a near-constant basis when building and playing; if you “don’t” but are any good, you either “do” (but don’t know it) or aren’t as good as you think. Even Zvi admits in Who’s the Beatdown II to use similar concepts [to YT], simply describing them differently. From the long perspective it is hard to imagine an article (let alone two) that is / are as lasting. From the writing standpoint, this is how it’s done; I don’t know what else to say. Most writers can only hope to scrape up 1% of the value of one of these over the course of an entire career, let alone hitting so hard more than once.

“As a result, players were convinced that Ghost Dad was not just decent, it was great! It got to the point where in the Team PTQ season, Ghost Dad was the most popular B/W deck, followed by Hand in Hand, followed by Ghost Husk. Out of 100 players playing Ghost Dad, perhaps 90 assumed it was good because everyone else said it was.”

Patrick only has one article in this Top 12 list, but he will have to content himself with polishing up the single highest-ranking strategy article, which was a much-deserved article of the year.

3. Information Cascades in Magic by Patrick Chapin

Takeaways: There is some really big Magic and life in this article—way bigger and more important than what the article is ostensibly about, why Ghost Dad (i.e. Jund or Faeries) wasn’t quite as good as advertised—that are evergreen: valuable for players essentially for all time. One is the notion that a deck isn’t good just because everybody else says it is (or by corollary, the fact, therefore, that it makes a lot of Top 8s). Again, popular decks are generally negative-EV (though not Caw-Blade). The bigger one, and to my mind the most important thing I have ever read in a Magic article, is the notion of differentiation and difference being ESSENTIAL to producing valuable results. This is something that is useful not just in the context of picking, say, any deck over Ghost Dad; but any activity you do.

It’s no secret that “Who’s the Beatdown?” is my most famous Magic article ever. I wrote that very early in my career, and the truth is, I have probably written half a dozen “better” Magic articles that just didn’t happen to be first. Yet, every article is compared against “Who’s the Beatdown?” (which is, to be fair, exceptional, even a lucky 13 years later). Patrick has the same problem. He wrote Information Cascades before he was even a columnist at Star City. Can you imagine the third-best article of all time (more-or-less) being your third-ever article? I think Patrick deals with that reality the same way I do but probably does a better job of it, which is to try valiantly to one-up his younger self… no matter how dismally impossible that might be (and I mean that in the best possible way).

“What is a Prerelease?”

It is one thing to make a great deck like Gerry Thompson that people talk about for years to come. It is another thing to create a mystique around yourself and spin a sufficiently compelling yarn or series of yarns that people keep coming week after week and care about what happens next (like Dave Price, or even the heretofore unmentioned King of the Fatties Jamie Wakefield). It’s yet another thing to change how your reader thinks like Jon Becker, or that your reader thinks at all, like Robert Hahn.

Some readers produce ideas so big and compelling and lasting that they become part of our culture or form the foundations of our culture, like Hacker, Zvi, and Chapin.

It is another thing entirely to pull the strings that weave the destiny of the game itself.

If you are a member of WotC R&D, or say the marketing guy who invented Planeswalkers… honestly, not that impressive. It’s like the t-shirts say: Those guys make the rules. It’s like a president + former head of the secret police declaring his son head of state or something after his adversarial successor was disgraced in a sex scandal or something. Big still, but just not that impressive given starting values.

But to do the same thing from the outside?

Not as member of R&D.

Not as an “insider” (at least not yet).

Not as a columnist even!

“Just” a guy (at least at some point).

Now that is… something more.

2. Prerelease Primer by Brian David-Marshall

It is hard to quantify the impact of this article, but you can probably do so by counting millions and millions of OP dollars.

BDM’s Prerelease Primer rewrote the future of Prerelease tournaments, and by domino effect, tournaments. There were literally Prereleases before Prerelease Primer and then Prereleases after Prerelease Primer (at least until they literally rewrote how Prereleases work… remember what I said about being an insider).

The attendance basically [REDACTED].


BDM did something few had ever thought to do beforehand and certainly not from the pulpit of a website whose address was printed on every pack of Magic: The Gathering cards, during one of the four or so most hyped up traffic weeks of the year: he taught non-tournament players basic operational stuff that got them to attend tournaments. Stuff like:

  • There is a tournament this weekend!
  • It’s called a Prerelease!
  • Try to stick to 40 cards…
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have a DCI number…
  • (etc.)

… Stuff like that.

What is truly epic is that at this point, BDM was not a columnist.

Remember what I said way at the beginning about people who have reasons and other people who have results? The then-less-known (though not “unknown”) BDM asked the coach (or in this case Aaron Forsythe [years before he was who he is today, by the by]) for the shot, took the shot, scored 20,000,000 or so points simultaneously, and took home the ring. So many rings, in fact, that he gets to hand them out to the greatest players of all time, basically every year.

Not just a columnist—but a pretty important columnist.

Not just the booth—he had to earn that, too, coming up through the ranks of the coverage team, but sure, the booth.

Pro Tour Historian much?

Any and all other things you probably admire?

Getting to hang out with me?

Takeaways: If there is one thing I can teach you from this article, let it be this—there is no more consistent way to successfully distinguish yourself than to produce results and provide value. You can do so only via differentiation, that is “doing something other people do not do / have not done before,” whatever that is. You do NOT need to have massive resources in order to do that. You do need resourcefulness; or in Brian’s case, he brought basic resources to a whole new—and then untapped—neighborhood of tournament players.

No good deed goes unpunished.

The success of Prerelease Primer put Brian on a track where he “had” to write / re-write basically the same article basically every time another set came out / comes out, or at least did for many years (I have honestly lost count but you can look them up if you so desire).

“Spike plays ten games and wins nine of them. If Spike feels he should have won the tenth, he walks away unhappy.”

After everything I said about the not-impressiveness of creating massive change from within R&D, I am nevertheless going to end on a #1 article that is probably the most impressive Magic article of all time—including “Who’s the Beatdown?” by the way—Mark Rosewater “Timmy, Johnny, and Spike.”

If you haven’t read it yet… finishing this sentence is ridiculous. Of course you’ve read it. What was I thinking? Nevertheless:

1. Timmy, Johnny, and Spike by Mark Rosewater

Takeaways: Very few writers—in particular writers outside of Renton, WA—will ever have the impact that BDM did with Prerelease Primer. But we can all aspire to at least an aspect of what Mark did in Timmy, Johnny, and Spike (if not a fraction of its ultimate universality). Mark affected the language of Magic in an infectious, sticky, and lasting way. I try to do this constantly (with varying levels of success). Osyp Lebedowicz often accuses me of “trying to make ‘fetch’ happen” (if ya grok). You know who tries to make “fetch” happen? Osyp Lebedowicz. More than that, Timmy, Johnny, and Spike gives us an additional important tool: whatever vector we need to taunt Jon Becker. No matter what Becker does, I can find a way to twist that into his being a Timmy. Plays a Spider? Timmy (it’s big, if only in the butt). Accelerates mana? Timmy (you were obviously setting up to play a big creature). Counters target spell? Still Timmy (I bet you felt dominant there, Tim!). It’s absolutely infuriating! (Typical Timmy reaction, natch.)

Everyone has an opinion. Often they have opinions about areas where they have never experienced success. Especially if someone is better than I am at something, I think about what they have to say, but especially where they disagree with me, I never consider the opinion of someone who has not experienced success in that area.”

In Cards, “Facts,” Mentors, Multipliers, and Using Every Part of the Buffalo (that is, my favorite Flores article of 2011), I talk about the concept of mentors and drawing upon the experience of more successful—or at least highly respected—people to help guide future behaviors, endeavors, and hopefully ultimately successful accomplishments. From the perspective of this thing that I am good at—this thing that I use to try to contribute to a community I love—these guys are my mentors or at least my models; many I would consider friends, some close friends. I am better at many things than every one of them; and they are better at other things than I am… which simply gives me the perspective and the fuel to reach for, point at, aspire to, and hopefully accomplish lots of other things that I haven’t yet, in Magic and elsewhere in life.

And they do so, largely, with zeroes and ones—digitally—in media that you can easily consume with a click (or twelve). I invite you to relish the same sauce that has been fueling me for all these years as we start the next one.

Happy reading, and happy new year!


P.S. Totally spontaneous / unplanned / not in the first or second drafts / let’s see how this goes:

  • Make another Exarch Twin
  • Make another Exarch Twin (haven’t done that twice since 2005-2006 BTW)
  • Write another Cards, “Facts,” Mentors, Multipliers, and Using Every Part of the Buffalo
  • Write another Picture This
  • Do #3 / #4, but like ~5 more times if possible (gotta keep AJ as happy as possible)
  • Do secret project with [NAME REDACTED] (you will love it)
  • Do different secret project with [NAME REDACTED] (you will also love it)
  • Do SCGLive commentary at least two times
  • Play a tournament well enough, that is important enough, to warrant a tournament report
  • Write the tournament report! (See what I did there?)
  • Break in a new top-flight writer / content producer
  • Maintain excellence in family / friendships and professional aspects of life while simultaneously making two important / awesome decks, writing 7.5 all-time articles, releasing two earth-shattering new projects, traveling to at least three big events, and finding the next Apprentice. No problem—I have 51 weeks left!