SCG Talent Search – Casual Knockout Round 1

Monday, November 15th – Double-elim day for the Casual contestants, which means two people have to go home crying. The judges were not lenient!

Dan Barrett

This was excellent. Fun stories, interesting angles. I loved it. For the record, so did the voters.

I always wondered how I could’ve gone 1-2 in two different continents on the same day but just had always assumed I’d found a way… Entertaining
enough and fun stories. The underlying message is fantastic, of course, but thought it may have been better driven home, tied together, whatever. That
said, this was a fine submission; I just didn’t love it.

You are the front-runner in my eyes. Awesome stories, pictures, and good times.

Telling crazy stories about Magic players works for you, man. You’re getting hits and votes, and that’s a solid thing. You only have to watch out for
two things:

1) In-jokes. The first draft of this article you sent me was very in-jokey, filled with references that nobody cared about, and you wisely ditched them
when I pointed that out. When you tell tales about Magic, you have to remember that you’re playing to an audience.

2) Longevity. This is a long contest. How many good stories do you have? Do you have a back-up plan when you run dry? This is what concerns me still.

Aside from that, few complaints.

Pedro Alvarado

Linking to Heezy’s The Price of Right appearance is cheating. It’s impossible not to smile, and a very clever opening to what’s an
extremely technical article. Having interacted with you for a while now, I have a pretty good idea of how smart you are. Your writing skills are truly
exceptional, especially since I believe it’s your second language. Right now my brain is not in shape to evaluate your system — few brains are.
That said, everything around this article screamed Vote for Pedro!

So I will.

So it took me a little bit to get what you were doing. At first I was a little turned off, as the overwhelming computer database charts were even less
fun to look at than certain legal graphs and charts of Vintage trends in Lithuania. Additionally, the only strategy advice in the column was 100% wrong
and offensive to my ears.

(In case you were wondering, four is most definitely not the maximum number of Squadron Hawks you want in your draft deck. Who cares if you
have two in your opening hand if you have three or four more in your deck? That is the dream! I think I’d like at least nine, probably more. If I knew
I was going for all Hawks, I’d draft one-drops very aggressively and probably be happy with twelve. Then again, you did tell me to leave earlier in the
article, since it wasn’t supposed to be about strategy, so I guess that’s fair).

Anyway, once you got past the computer flowchart stuff, I could actually grok what it was we were talking about, and it certainly seems awesome, if
it’s in any way realistic and obtainable. Now I’m all about doing the impossible, so don’t get it twisted. Your aspirations are certainly “ambitious,”
and so far the systems you’re describing seem extraordinarily arbitrary; however I can sense the underlying motion in the right direction, plus as
cheesy as your humor was, it was well placed to keep eyes from glossing over. You actually do need people to read the beginning stuff to get where
you’re going, and you managed to drag me through that while being somehow slightly glad you did. Definitely not convinced this isn’t all gibberish that
won’t float, but I definitely want to see more.

Wow! The race for the top is close. The top three are you, Dan, and John Beety. I loved it—neato charts, meme pics, programming nerdery, it was
all here! This was chock full of stuff to enjoy, and I’m glad we were here to publish it. Well done!

I’ll be honest: I skimmed this article. I thought it was cluttered and confused, with a lot of cute graphics, but the core of it didn’t make a whole
lot of sense to me — personally, I thought it was an explosion of style over substance.

But I didn’t choose you as one of the Top 8 to make me happy. What I sensed in you, and what I think I see blossoming here, is a unique voice that’s
going to appeal strongly to some and put off others. That seems to be paying off, since you were in the top 3 in total votes, and so the only advice I
can give to you is to keep being more you. I might not like it, but that’s probably a good thing — you’re cultivating a love/hate relationship,
and evoking emotion (any emotion) is one of the hardest tricks for a Magic writer.

Daryl Bockett

You have a lot of stuff going for you. Worldwide experience and playing Magic in different places is one. A breezy writing style is another. This
article was a bit potpourri, in that it didn’t settle down much, but the individual sections were almost exclusively enjoyable reads. I’m
not sure what to expect from you next, but this was good enough to make it through to the next round.

I’m not much of a casual player, these days, but the experiences you shared resonated with me anyway. It was kind of a strange experience reading your
article that didn’t seem to be about anything, only to discover that each of the little experiences you shared did an excellent job of painting a
picture of “Finding the Fun.” Helping aspiring casual players figure out what’s “Fun” is actually a very underappreciated subject. Well done, I was a

Yeah… this one didn’t do it for me. Seemed to end before it started, discussed a cube when these days, vernacular would imply something discussed
on cubedrafting.com so when it ended up not being about a “cube” but a ‘puzzle.’ I
was curious if there was perhaps a better analogy to use.

Regardless, not in the bottom, but I’d stress you find new angles and/or themes to work around in the future. This one seems far too meandering.

In development, I’d expressed some concerns about this article, mainly because I said that articles on “Here are the fun things I’ve done in Magic,”
barring some greater connection to Magic players at large, tend to generate little interest. You disagreed and went your own way, for which I salute
you. And that paid off, sorta! You aren’t in the bottom three vote-wise…

…but in terms of hits, your article was the least read this week. Compared to the most-read article (Why You Suck at EDH), you had a third of the

The good news is that enough of the people who read it liked it. The bad news is that in terms of what we’re looking for at StarCityGames.com, your
numbers are weak — which, should you fall into the elimination category, is going to be an issue. Your challenge: find a way to increase

Geoff Matteson

I’m starting to realize that this category has a depth of quality writers that’s going to make choosing eliminations difficult. I enjoy
EDH, but I don’t have any decks, and I don’t follow it. That said, you’ve constructed a nice little deck tech article that I enjoyed
reading. Unfortunately you didn’t get a great response from the voters, but I could see you having a regular column on a site.

I’m not much of an EDH player, but the fact that I enjoyed some of the other EDH columns makes it clear to me that I can be pleased in this area. That
said, this article did not do that at all for me. It read like just every Constructed article I’ve ever read where the author just goes down the list
of cards in the deck making up reasons why they’re being used that may or may not have anything to do with anything. “40 mana. It doesn’t really matter
right now what that 40 mana consists of, but it’s going to be about that much… Looking at this highly, highly appealing color combination, there are
a few more cards I can already tell you I’m going to want to play.” What does this even say? I’m not a fan of throwaway sentences, nor advocating that
your mana base doesn’t matter.

Additionally, I appreciate the intent behind relating growing bored of a relationship with growing bored of an EDH deck, but let’s just say, it didn’t
click with me. I see potential, but I’m not sure if you’re ready yet. That said, the way I’d suggest “getting ready” is to just start blogging about
what you love and start honing your craft.

I thought this article was really super cool. You know me, show me a graphic and use it well in your presentation, and I’m halfway there. The problem
is? You didn’t follow through! You built up to this sick list… then didn’t tell me if it worked, was mana-screwed, how it performed, what
generals it was good against or bad against after playtesting… so frustrating!

I give you props (and put in a vote to save you) because I feel you did a lot of awesome work in this article. Next time though, let it shine by
telling us how it worked out!

This was, in many ways, a very solid EDH deckbuilding exercise, but for one major error: You didn’t tell us how the deck did. You built something nice
on paper, but did you take it for a spin? That’s what people want to know in EDH; one of the reasons Sheldon Menery does so well is that he brings
back, not theory, but hard-earned results. As a result, this felt more like an intellectual exercise than an actual strategy article — though as
an intellectual exercise, it works pretty well.

John Dale Beety

Outstanding. There’s a lot of knowledge in this article, making it feel a bit like something Rich Hagon would write. Obviously Magic means a lot
to me, so the sentiment in this article hit home for me as well. It also introduced me to the very goofy Meet the Andersons Magic Show, which was a
nice bonus.

Just Awesome. My favorite submission this week in Casual/Other, coming on the heels of the controversial first submission on flirting at Magic
tournaments. I found your work to be knowledgeable, fun, professional, and I’m greatly looking forward to reading your next work.

And right behind Dan is John. Both you and Dan really got to the heart of road trips and Magic experiences. I’m sure I could be biased, since you
linked to a pretty emotional piece of mine, but regardless it worked on all cylinders. Great piece. Also liked the Forum Response of the Week. 🙂

This was, in many ways, a near-perfect essay article, and reading this was like watching a star athlete make a magnificent catch. Last week, you had
more hits than anyone else with your article on flirting at Magic tournaments, but you also caught a lot of heat in the forums; in the first section,
you simultaneously acknowledge, deflect, and change the nature of what you’ve done, which was brilliant.

As for the meat of the article, it didn’t say anything that a bunch of other articles haven’t already said before, but the breadth and scope of your
research really pays off here, making a stale topic feel fresh. This article is the quality that a star columnist should produce, so it’s a good
measure of your talent – the big question is now, can you deliver something other than essays? Have you any strategy within you, sir? I’m curious.

Brandon Isleib

Casual deckbuilders often surprise me, because I think they tend to know more Magic cards and more about Magic itself than most of the Spikes I know.
Creating regular theme decks forces sifting through card databases that Spikes (like I used to be) limit to specific formats. Thus reading casual
articles for me is often a nostalgia trip, where I go ‘Hey, I forgot about that card!’ or even a journey into discovery. This article
capitalizes on both of those feelings. I liked this. I think there’s definitely a slot or two waiting for Johnny deckbuilding articles on our
site (Chris Millar has taken out a restraining order against me), and this has potential to fill one of those slots.

I was actually not a fan of this article, and I assume I must be missing something, as I still don’t get it. Was this article about constraints of
restrictions? I agree whole-heartedly that restrictions breed creativity. The themes in this article felt like nonsense to me, but I suppose that’s how
it is with art.

The Alpha deck, what did it have to do with anything? The restriction was playing with Alpha cards? I assure you, 70 was not the old 60. What rhyme or
reason was involved with this list? What is it trying to accomplish? I guess I just didn’t get the fun part.

The second list was a similar experience, as it didn’t feel like some Johnny-Dream, but rather just a very not tuned Standard deck. What was the Johnny
aspect? Grand Architect existing? I’m not critiquing the choice of decks so much as I’m pointing out that the music behind their designs is definitely
lost on me, since to me, it didn’t seem as though they were actually designed to be anything other than a legal deck that fits the criteria.

Your first article wasn’t as off, for me, but you aren’t in the bottom three anyway, so I couldn’t vote you off if I tried. On balance, you’re
receiving votes, and I know others that did like this, so I must just be missing it. That said, I gotta share my perspective and vote accordingly, when
the time comes. Your personality is likeable, so I’m certainly open to a stronger connection to your next submission.

If I were to sum up one thing that would’ve gone very far to winning me over, it would be “Help me understand what’s going on when I read your article,
your decklist. Tell me what you’re trying to accomplish. A list of cards legal in Alpha is trivial to produce, so what was the real constraint?”

Loved the theme, wasn’t quite as hot on the writing. You wrote about building this crazy deck, then not much about how it worked or performed before
you were off to the next one. Unfortunately part of the fun in being a Johnny is both creating and showcasing amazing interactions within your deck.
You need to harness this and infuse as much personality as you can into your writing.

Compared to past work, this one feels like it’s stripped of personality; the decks take front and center here, making it feel extremely dry. And the
meta-theme isn’t compelling at all: “Past, Present, Future?” Why would I care about that? Those are loose themes that don’t really hold together
— not as strong as, say, “Breaking Grand Architect” or something to grab people’s attention.

Unlike last week, there’s also very little commentary on the decks. The only deck that’s actually really interesting to anyone not fascinated by theme
is the Present deck; I could’ve stood a whole article on that one.

So I’m not really impressed here. I want your Johnny skills to be strong, but if you’re going to go the Johnny route then you need to not only explain
what you’re trying to do with your decks but to make those deckbuilding choices interesting.

Bruce Richard

Multiplayer strategy is hard. It’s a tough niche to get people excited about, especially if you don’t have the reputation of Alongi, or
100,000 d*ck jokes to back you up (Ferrett). (Oh fine, Ferrett has the rep, too.) I think this article was solid for what it tries to do and the
writing was smooth and easy, but tactically, as part of a contest, this wouldn’t have been my choice for trying to make it through a crowded
field to the next round. You know those times when Simon Cowell wonders if someone is remotely marketable as a pop artist, even when it’s clear
they have a lovely voice or can sing well? That’s what I’m doing right now.

I thought this was actually a strong submission. I thought the premise was clear, well stated, and well explained. The strategy was in fact well
reasoned, and interestingly, applicable in multiplayer, but not regular. You’re going to have to fight hard to establish your niche, since multiplayer
players aren’t generally conditioned to talk strategy, but it can be done, and I think you have chances. Take a page out of the Ferrett’s and Alongi’s
playbooks, if you have to.

You were in the bottom three, this week, but I’m voting to save you in hopes that you can widen your appeal a little. I don’t know if you’ll make it
past this week’s voting, but if you do, it might do you good to actively try to rope more readers in and build a little more of a following. A little
fun injected in your articles could go a long way. I hope you advance this week, I really do.

As much as I enjoy the kicked Conqueror’s Pledge into Day of Dragons discussion and how that ‘mistake’ went right… it was kinda boring. Also,
short. The votes didn’t get there, and I’m afraid this may be the last we see of you. I hope that you focus on either more entertaining stories,
including stories that are much shorter, or EDH/Cube formats.

Ah, Bruce — what we have here is a very solidly written article with an antiquated take. As I said in my first week’s feedback to you:

“Magic’s moved on, my friend. As you say, the big trend in Casual Magic is alternative formats like Cube Drafting and EDH, and you — like
me — are writing about regular ol’ chaos multiplayer. Your writing is solid, your advice is good, but will the people at StarCityGames.com
want to read entertaining articles about a format they don’t play?”

And sure enough, the votes didn’t come. You’re in the bottom three. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this article aside from a lack of focus on
things that today’s modern reader wants to see; abstract strategy may not be carrying the day. I think you have potential if you put energy into
choosing topics that people are going to want to read, but that’s your biggest issue right now.

James Fiene

This article was good. Hard-core EDH strategy, for a current and common problem. I like it. The writing had some levity, a few puns, and the analysis
seemed right to a novice like myself anyway. Good work.

First of all, not a fan of various “Why You Suck” styles of articles, as the original energy behind the theme has been lost, and now it feels little
more than a writing crutch. Most people suck at most things, from some frames of reference, so I wonder, is this article really about how EDH players
suck at EDH? I’d venture to say that I’m not so sure that EDH players suck at EDH, as I think that perhaps EDH players EDHing are doing something
different than what you may be imagining. You speak with a sort of “Playing to Win” mentality that assumes people are competing and actually playing to
win the game. EDH is a place where that isn’t a fair assumption, hence so many Spikes not finding it interesting. The EDH crowd isn’t even the biggest
audience to reach, and the “You Suck, but I am a Pro, so you should listen to Me” angle generally turns people off unless they have that much
respect for you already, so who’s reading and voting for you?

That said, I don’t think that’s even what your article is about, as it seems like it might have been titled as “Let’s Cut to the Chase: Emrakul in
EDH.” Once I got past the disconnect with your article’s topic (Why I Suck at EDH), it seemed as though there was reasonable commentary of Emrakul, why
he’s not the end of the world, and good ideas on how to combat him. Bribery seems like it should’ve been a pretty high point, but I assume it was only
mentioned in passing because of cards like Crystal Shard?

Long story short, remember your audience! Who are you writing this to? It’s fine to try to share some of Spike’s wisdom to non-Spikes, but you’ll
generally get better results if you appeal to them in their language. Instead of telling them that’s how Spike does it, just explain the problem
(Emrakul is a very strong endgame against you?) and your solution/why it doesn’t need to be banned (There are plenty of good ways to combat this
strategy, here are some in every color). Explaining why they are scrubs if they act like most EDH players misses the point: They’re only scrubs if this
is how they treat competitive Magic.

Oh man, awkward mistake is awkward. Again, I can’t get out of a Magic Show alive without at least one mistake (seriously—every episode ever has
at least one small mistake somewhere. Yes I know where they all are. No, it doesn’t bother me. Nope, not at all. Course not. *twitch*).

Anyway, barring that, it simply wasn’t that appealing. Your #2 answer doesn’t work. Options like Bribery and Brittle Effigy weren’t brought up. Not a
lot of form or personality. I enjoyed the graphics at the beginning. Went all downhill from there.

On one level, this article’s a triumph: a strong idea that got a lot of readers into it. Who doesn’t want to know why they suck at EDH? Who doesn’t
want to know how to handle Emrakul? Where Bruce Richard struggles to find relevance, you grab the reader by the scruff of the neck and say, “THIS! THIS
is what you want to read!” In terms of overall hits, you were by far the winner this week.

So why are you in the bottom three?

Partially, it’s our fault; in editing, we didn’t catch a rules error that we should’ve called you on. (Note to editors: Casual writers, who deal with a
much larger card pool than people who write about Standard, are much more prone to goofs like this.) Still, you made that rules error and presented it
as a valid answer, and you paid for it.

When you tell people why they suck at EDH, you have to take extra-care not to suck yourself. And that kind of sloppiness costs you reputation and


Knowing that the bottom three were Matteson, Richard, and Fiene, I’d vote to save Fiene, but it’s close.

The bottom three were Matteson, Richard, and Fiene. If I only get to save one, it has to be Richard.

Knowing that the bottom three were Matteson, Richard, and Fiene, I would vote to save Matteson.

My vote for the save goes to Bruce Richard. I feel like he’s got potential, still. I hope.

Looks like Bruce Richard gets saved! James Fiene and Geoff Matteson have been eliminated!