SCG Talent Search – Top Six Knock Out!

Friday, February 4 – It has been such a long journey for many of these writers, some of whom have already been voted off yet became regular columnists anyway! What is the fate for the last six standing?

Pod One


Ted Knutson:
It took a cold dude to wait this long in delivering the article everyone wanted and expected at the beginning. Well done. You must have been
pretty confident you could leave such a blockbuster in your back pocket until you needed it to guarantee passage into the finals. Which is exactly what
you did. Well done.

The Ferrett:
Jeremy, I’ve been one of your harshest critics here – when people were oohing and aahing over your pretty pictures, I was the one saying there
wasn’t enough meat to your articles. What I said to you was this:

“If you want to win people like me over – and keep in mind you have strong hits going for you already, so please do not discount the success
you’ve gained already – then tell a story with your art documentation. Which is to say, don’t just say, “Here’s how it’s done,” but tell it in a
character arc of Sisay, where you say, “All right, here’s what I wanted to do when I started, here are the challenges I foresee,” then with each
succeeding photo, show me what you realized you were doing right (or wrong), point out where things were spiraling out of control, and walk me through
the little details that separate you from a punk-ass no-paint like me. (I know artists; there’s always something you see that others don’t.)

“In short, rather than just making it a how-to, turn it into something that actually shows me the difference between what you set out to do and what
you wound up with, and why.”

And you know what? You’ve done that. Each week, you’ve grown stronger in terms of providing the origin stories of your art, to the point where I feel
like your triumphs are mine. You’re really in the zone now, and I think you’re the person who has evolved the most in this whole contest – it’s
subtle, yes, but subtle things are what make great differences. You got my vote in the poll this week… for best article. Go you. 

Evan Erwin:
Well done! You showed a side of creating Magic art that few others can, and from your own unique angle. THIS is how you do it; this is how you make
your column stay fresh and keep people interested. Well done! Fave of the pod.

Patrick Chapin:
Another fine showing, this week didn’t resonate with me as hard as last week, but it is clear that you deliver material every week that will appeal to
your audience and you have successfully found it. Keep it up; you are definitely a contender, though as always, I am unsure how much water is in this
well (which very well may just be my lack of interest in the subject). I know what hit counts and vote-gets look like, and you deliver.


Ted Knutson:
Rosewater’s writing is frequently brilliant but is also really divisive in that much of his audience ends up loving or hating his more adventuresome
work. The feedback I got on Twitter for your article was very much the same in that there was a lot of love mixed with some hate. I didn’t think you
could pull it off myself (riffing on one of Rosewater’s classics should probably be a little more derivative than this was), but at the end of the
article, I grudgingly had to admit you pulled it off. The readers certainly felt you did, and in the end, that’s what counts.

The Ferrett:
While I don’t think you connected on quite the deep level that MaRo did in your article, this was a nice shot. For once, we didn’t have girlfriends
being some alien creature – they were people, which was nice. Though your personal stories were a little dry and short for my tastes. I wanted
more of an investment in your personal situation before we launched into the “lessons,” which were often a little trite and easy. (Though I’m not sold
on the comparison between your last girlfriend and your last Magic lesson, but that’s a personal thang.) 

Still, the stories were fun, the writing was breezy, and I enjoyed. You pass for me. Move on. 

Evan Erwin:
Solid entry. You did well. It got a wee bit formulaic before it was over, but I enjoyed most of the stories. I appreciate structure and trying to tie
it up, but beware the sappiness that can come off of the bittersweet endings.

I actually think you’d do the best trying to institute an ‘article playlist’ (i.e. a Pandora station or embedded playlist of songs to listen to while
reading the article.)

Patrick Chapin:
I am a big fan of when you “write” more so than get too into heavy strategy, the strange exception being your most strategic article that touched on
grand unifying theories. I would love to see you continue to branch out a little and just tell us stories, make us laugh, and not get to
teacher-in-front-of-a-classroom-y. You have a sharp wit that I would love to see more of, though your writing this week was certainly strong enough to
carry you into the next round.


Ted Knutson:
I liked this article, but you gutshotted yourself with your choice of topic this week and lopped off your head with the chosen title. Limited… PTQ
tournament report… You didn’t win. It added up to a ton of choices and like Ahnuld said in True Lies, “zey wuh awl baaad.” Which
is a shame because a lot of this article wasn’t about the PTQ report; it was about all the other excellent writing that got you to this point in the
contest. As an article for a columnist, this would have been a fine choice for a change of pace. As an entry for the final 6 where you are still trying
to win a fat $1000, it fell very flat.

I have unequivocally enjoyed your participation in the contest so far, but unfortunately for you, the voting was such an epic landslide, and the
choices made this week so very bad that even I have to admit it is time for you to bow out.

Fist-pump, brother. Respek.

The Ferrett:
Shoulda been paying attention, Jon. Here’s a lesson for anyone in ANY future StarCityGames.com talent competition: our readers don’t like tourney
reports. And when they get tourney reports, they don’t want losing ones. You lost by a huge margin – as did almost every other person who touted
their terrible finish in their title. 

People don’t mind crazy stories about Magic – but if you’re going to drag us through the tedium of “Here’s the deck I made, here’s the matches,
here’s the finish,” then it’d better be a damn good finish. And you may note that even for the good tournament reports from good finishes, the ones
people respond to are the ones that encapsulate the experience of being there, chronicling the swell of victory, as opposed to a bunch of cards.

What you did was rote, sir – you didn’t have a good topic, so you did what every lazy Magic player’s done since the history of time and went with
a game recap. Of a format that was rotating out within a week. And you didn’t do well, giving people even LESS of a reason to care. And as such,
my vote off the island must go towards you. 

Evan Erwin:
You know how big a fan I am of you. You know I did my best to incorporate your humor with my own on the Show. It’s not you; it’s me. It’s not SCG or
the writers, but it’s the voters, and it’s the panel. And it’s time. My vote is for you.

Patrick Chapin:
You have done good work, but this week’s submission was the clear weakest in a tough group. The voters agreed as well, by no small margin, so my
vote-off has to be you. Writing about Limited is a major handicap, as the articles are just not widely read or appreciated (at least as they are
currently done). I appreciated that you gave us more than just Limited Magic discussion, but you didn’t connect with me enough to keep me hooked.
Instead of just telling us about you, what about engaging us directly? Helping us see how we are like you and how you understand us would go a long way
towards establishing the kind of rapport with audience the way Rizzo and Tait are able to do. You have a knack for humor that will be a valuable asset
when you find the right vehicle for it.

Pod Two


Ted Knutson:
You overreached by a good bit on this one and largely ruined the flow and style that made you so successful in weeks past. I’d actually use this
article as proof that writing entertaining strategy is about as tough as it gets, since you were always entertaining in earlier rounds, and this fell
flat. I don’t read you for decklists or tech, so switching gears was always a risk, and you lost your voice in the process. There is a finite amount of
actual Magic strategy that can be packed into an article and still be entertaining for most readers. These days, length impresses absolutely nobody. If
you break each article into 5 perceived segments, my articles usually use segment 1 for some goofy intro, 2 and 3 for strategy and analysis, and 4 and
5 are fun/issues/randomness. Chapin does similar things except his segments are all mixed up, making his article harder to skim but still excellent at
maintaining energy and attention spans. Geordie Tait is perhaps the best right now at keeping his articles focused and still funny, but he’s a force of
nature who has generally shied away from pure strategy since his return. Fewer decklists, more analysis, and more fun could have made this article
work, but what we got was a very long muddle that could have been written by almost anyone.

That said… this was your worst article of the contest so far, and it was still almost as good as what a lot of bigger names churn out regularly. I
also liked the adventure in the decklists you were goofing around with. The problem is that the other two guys you are facing are also exceptional
– every one of you will likely have long careers as Magic writers if you choose to pursue it.

The Ferrett:
I’ll be honest, Dan – I thought this was a pretty terrible article. You pretty much could have listed fifteen decks or so, and gotten mostly the
same hits and response. The explanations of the decks were scarce. 

In terms of giving the people what they want, though, you scored – as you knew you would. People are always ravenous for decks incorporating
those new and shiny cards, and as such, folks tuned in. The words were pretty sparse, but did you need them? I’d argue no. As such, I’ll say that it
was a terrible article but a good strategy (in both the SCG Talent Search sense and the “exploring new decks” sense) and well done on ya there. 

Evan Erwin:
My God, man, when you said decklists, we got frickin’ DECKLISTS. I actually think you may have went a little overboard here, but sometimes
free-flowing ideas just get the juices flowing. I enjoyed it. I would suggest holding back a little bit next time, and trying to flesh out the best
ideas, as developing them into something beyond early sketches is also exciting.

Patrick Chapin:
Decklist article! Nice trick! This is a competition to the death, however, so I appreciate the move. The only issue with a move like this with one week
to go is that you can’t do it twice in a row. You easily advance to the finals, but you are going to have to find a different angle of attack if you
want to close it out.


Ted Knutson:
Great title with a strange wrinkle in the premise. This was an odd choice of topic for a knockout week, but you were blessed by the fact that the other
two guys went off the deep end. The reality is that we’re in the middle of Extended season, and the Pro Tour is coming up – tackling either of
those would have put you through to the next round easy. As it was, you still created something fun and readable off the beaten path with your usual
panache. Welcome to the Final.

The Ferrett:
A really interesting double-sided approach, here. The listing of “people you need in your playgroup” works on two levels: if you don’t know that you
need these people, it’s valid strategy. If you DO know it by heart, revealing the archetypes is an amusing head-nodder as in, “Oh hells yeah, I know a
Paranoid Data-Miner!” So it works for laughs and education, which is very, very rare. 

Then, as usual, you have some interesting tech in the deck matchups (Spellbreaker Behemoth? Really? Sounds interesting – and what the heck,
Cragganwick Cremator?), so you once again have something valuable to give that I hadn’t seen before. I think yours was the best article this week, but
really any one of the three could have taken it. As Ted’s admitted, it’s a tough choice. But I think you win. You definitely make it up,

Evan Erwin:
You know I’m a big fan, and I remain so. Your article focuses on Magic culture, the particulars and strengths of teams, along with their weaknesses and
inherent humor. As a culture junkie, this is my kind of article, so I’ll freely admit my bias. But for someone with such strong technical skills, it’s
great to see you focus on the non-technical qualities of Magic. Great beginning and tech at the end, my fave of the pod.

Patrick Chapin:
You continue to step it up, bringing a great selection of technology, humor, useful advice, cultural insight, and smart writing. You have been strong
since day one and have demonstrated that there is absolutely no language barrier restricting you at all, as we have seen now with your submission that
did not benefit from any mentoring. I would say keep doing what you are doing, but the next round is the finals, so don’t pull any punches; you are
going to have to hit as hard as you can!


Ted Knutson:
When you mentioned you were going to do a Prerelease primer, I agreed it was a good plan. What you ended up with, however, was not really what I was
expecting. This was less a Prerelease primer and more a Limited set review. I know you were pushed to the max in waiting for all the cards to be
spoiled, but the truth is that you bit off way more than you could chew in the time you had, and it showed. I’ve done set reviews, and I would never
choose to do them again because a) they are too much work and b) the odds you are correct and insightful are incredibly slim. This is doubly true for
Limited. Thus, I would certainly not recommend you (or anyone else in the contest) do a set review for a knockout round.

On the other hand, you should get some credit for even attempting this gargantuan task, and the information you delivered to readers was valuable and
timely. It’s not as if the article was bad – it’s just that it didn’t live up to the standard you had set through the rest of this contest.

As I noted on Twitter, this is the first time where I have truly hated to make a cut. I have actively enjoyed every article from Shunkov, Reeve, and
Barrett in the contest. Well, until this week anyway. Valeriy is safe, which leaves me to choose between the two Brits on who to send through to the
Final. The other eliminations were all relatively clear to me based on the current article produced, the voting margins, and the overall body of work,
but this one doesn’t have an easy solution. The voting split between Reeve and Barrett was like 5%, with something like 15 people choosing Dan over
Tom. Not exactly a landslide there, is it? Comparing body of work doesn’t help because both of them have been great right up until this week. Neither
of your articles worked as well as you guys had hoped, mostly because they were both hopelessly overambitious, which in turn led to a loss of charm and
polish you guys normally display. I’ve chewed on this for days and still ended up torn.

Before I give my judgment, I just want to say that you’re both outstanding talents and whatever site you end up writing for will be lucky to have you
on staff. In the end, I found Barrett’s article for this round was far less approachable for me than Reeve’s. I guess in a week of minor failures for
both of you (and the first that either of you has produced), Reeve failed slightly less and earns my vote to stay around.

The Ferrett:
A good article, but not necessarily the greatest – dealing with the strengths of the individual colors might have been strong strategy back in
2006, but with the advent of Magic Online, we’ve come to expect more in our Limited articles. The question is not, “Is White strong?” but “Is
Metalcraft still a viable strategy in Sealed?” or “Will Metalcraft even be viable in Draft with the new reverse-order drafting?” Pointing out strong
cards is fun, since we can look at your evaluation vs. mine, but still, the color-checking was merely okay.

The rest of the article did well, however, because the analysis of the drafts was nice, and the overview did work well. So overall, a B, maybe a B+.
Good, but not your best. And unfortunately, this was a strong week. Reluctantly, I’m going to ease you out, in the hopes that maybe with your history,
we pick you up on the side as we did for Beety and Kotter.

Evan Erwin:
My feeling with this article is I think you didn’t self-edit enough. Remember 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. It was a good article, no doubt about
it. This is a welcome piece, if not a bit meandering at the beginning. But this week, you’re against stream of consciousness and a fascinating culture
piece. My vote is for you.

Patrick Chapin:
It was a close week, this week, but unfortunately your submission seemed a little loose. This is exactly the type of submission that would have
benefited from sleeping on, then finishing in the morning. You are a strong writer, and I am sure we will be seeing more of you, but I have to vote
against you here, as Barrett and Shunkov just came a little stronger, this week.


Jon Corpora and Tom Reeve have been eliminated by the judges!

That means the following writers made it to the finals!

Valeriy Shunkov

Dan Barrett

Jeremy Froggatt

Jon Agley

Join us next time for the exciting conclusion of the StarCityGames.com Talent Search (#SCGSearch on Twitter).