Posts Tagged magic

Teresa St. Arnauld

When I met Teresa, she had just said “yes” to Dwayne’s marriage proposal, on the first Magic Cruise.  Now, I understand this predisposes them to have been friendly to me (and in fact, I think I had met Dwayne at local Seattle Magic events previously), but even so, they were quite nice and easy to talk to.  Teresa, not being a Magic player herself, and I, not really able to play tournament Magic and looking for cool people to hang out with, ended up chilling together (with Jess, Rachel and Shannon) a bit on the rest of the cruise.

Teresa shares my affinity for corralling/organizing a bunch of gamers to go out together for dinner/etc.  She’s also quite good at it when she puts her mind to it.  Like many of my socialite-type friends, she’s very good at being inclusive in conversations, which I really admire because I feel awful when friends are left out of each other’s space on a full group outing.  Teresa and Dwayne’s wedding was wonderful, and it was Teresa’s idea to have Joe Rick Roll the audience – truly a genius masterstroke, and also hilarious.

Teresa and I aren’t hanging out all the time, but the time we do get to hang out together – Monday night karaokes, after long Magic events, etc. – is definitely much better for her presence.  She even found a sweet Thai place after an event here in Seattle that didn’t spice me to death – big thumbs up!

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Jonathan Loucks

Jon is kind of a young’un, and I haven’t known him that long, but in our short time of acquaintance, I’ve found I’m quite happy we’re friends.  Jon, along with his roommate Brian, do something I really enjoy doing when I have a group of friends in an area – they encourage people to get together at their place to play games, in this case Magic and usually Cube Draft.  Jon’s always a welcoming host, and to his credit, continues to invite me to come over to game with them despite my frequent out-of-townness.

Jon really loves Magic, and it shows.  He is the kind of player I admire the most – striving to become better (even though he is quite good!) and trying to play good Magic rather than getting all super tricksy and play a “metagame” kind of game.  He’s written articles, which is basically trying to share knowledge and enjoyment with the community at large.  And he’s recently made top 8 at a GP, so I’m proud to be his friend too. :)

Despite our gap in age, he and I have good talks about game design, because both of us are so motivated to do a good job designing games.  I know he’ll do extremely well in any design-type job he takes, so I hope one day in the future the two of us are doing more than just playing side-by-side… I hope we’re designing side-by-side too!

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Zac Hill

I only met Zac months ago, but I probably spend more time hanging with him now than basically anyone else I know.*  Zac’s very intelligent, and very charming, and very talkative.  He’s very wise in some ways, and very young (I’m actually looking for a word that means “opposite of wise, but not foolish” here) in others – he’s got so much more wordly experience than me, for example, and yet holds some beliefs I feel are obviously flawed so tightly.  Zac’s got a penchant for debate that I admire, because I am myself often opinionated and love talking/arguing it out with people, and he’s got the right combination of talent and determination when he’s doing work.  Zac’s got a lot of good qualities.

But those are not the major reasons I’m so glad to be his friend.  It’s because Zac is open-minded when encountering people and ideas.  I have frequently been in discussions with him about religion, or impossibility, or what-have-you, the kinds of conversations where I expect to be suggesting ideas against brick walls, and he’ll go, “Huh, I didn’t think about that.  I’ll have to think more on that.”  And although I have heard something similar from many friends, I find he really means it and sometimes we return to the discussion to make further progress later.  This is not to say he doesn’t dismiss some people and ideas as being dumb – he does that too!  Still, he is willing to accept insight from people he meets, and welcome those he doesn’t know on the way to becoming friends, and I salute that.

Probably the worst (least gas) thing about Zac is that he is a supervirus of DI lingo that infects all who converse with him, la.  But it’s hilarious to me anyway, so I’ll give him a pass on that one. :)

* – This is because Zac is awesome to hang out with, loves to push people to go out more (an admirable quality in a gamer, honestly), and because Bill is so often out of town, Kelly and Ryan have significant others with whom to spend their time, and Todd, Tim, Nate and Jeremy don’t live nearby.  Ideally, everyone on the aforementioned list, Zac and I would all hang together – a man can dream.

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Greg Collins

Greg is the events coverage coordinater for Wizards, and among other insane work responsibilities like managing entire websites worth of content for Magic, he organizes and takes the lead on the event coverage we do for events. It’s pretty cool his name came up on my random sampling, because here I am in Amsterdam, having traveled for a Pro Tour event, and even though I am doing gunslinging (playing against all-comers as an R&D member) this time, it is Greg’s willingness to try me out as a reporter for event coverage that got me into traveling for Magic in the first place!

Greg’s very good at his job, and it’s awesome working with him. He’s always on top of what needs to get done, and manages a wide variety of personalities and… eccentricities?… during each event. I did high school and college journalism, but let’s be honest – students kind of fly by the seat of their pants when doing event coverage of any kind. Greg weaves excellent stories by properly using each of his writers, video guys, photographers and “talent” on camera at each event I’ve attended with him. He and I also worked together as a lead producer/developer pair for the current iteration of the Magic website, which was definitely one of my most enjoyable (challenging, but fun and dynamic) projects at Wizards as a web dev.

I definitely need to start hanging out with Greg more beyond Teriyaki Time Thursdays and events, because he is a genuinely great human being and I’m glad we are coworkers and – dare I say it! – friends.

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Rotisserie and the Highly Enfranchised

We often discuss the differences between lightly and heavily enfranchised players with respect to Magic, and also our new players and our “people we wish were players” audiences.  But it’s always amazing to me that Magic has such depth that it can support people who have been playing for 15+ years.  What sort of consequences does that sort of longevity have?

Take, for example, this activity related to Magic I am currently participating in: we are taking all 11,000 cards in Magic (one of each, essentially) and drafting in a predetermined order on a Google docs spreadsheet until we each have 75 cards.  Then on Sunday we are going to meet in a bar and battle each other with decks constructed of these cards.

It is amazing to me that Magic is robust enough a game to support this kind of activity.  Our current set on release, Magic 2011, is a set designed to be appealing to newer players.  The eight of us drafting are taking cards from over 50 such expansions and are furiously constructing strategies with them, some of which are totally new and some of which are based upon some of the many years of professional level gaming with Magic.

What a game.

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Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Aha!  A *double* movie weekend!  I went to go see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on Saturday for a matinee with Zac and Ken, and no small part of that decision was because my company has some prominent product placement in the movie.  It was pretty tasteful (I would totally put those up on my wall at work) but overall, the movie was only medium quality.

I do not think it was awful, but a good part of that was because I had lowered expectations going into it.  I didn’t hear positive reviews on it from the radio movie reviewer, and then Aaron was not kind to it in his review.  So, with those biases coming in, I actually found it to be enjoyable.  I do enjoy more campiness and silliness than most, though, and tolerate it significantly longer than some of my friends when watching a “popcorn movie.”

That said, I thought the plot was a bit weak, and the characterization of the main two “masters” – Cage and Molina – could have been much much better.  I’d say wait until DVD.

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I spent some time today constructing decks to play against Magic players at this weekend’s prerelease.  For those who don’t know, this card game Magic: the Gathering that I work on has a regular release roughly once a quarter.  The summer release is a Core set, meaning it’s aimed at more entry-level players (though still intended to appeal to all kinds of players!).  Since I was on the development team for this set, and because I enjoy playing Magic for reals against local players, I’m heading over tomorrow to “gunsling,” which means taking all challengers and giving a pack of product to anyone who can beat me.

They can try to beat me, anyway.

The interesting factor about gunslinging decks is they have a number of jobs to do above and beyond “win games.”  You want to show off new cards, so that excitement builds for the new set.  You want to play something on the faster side (or at least geared toward quicker, less stagnant games) so that you can keep things moving if there’s a line.  You want to have decks that are capable of beating old, tried-and-true decks with newer cards, and you want to suggest ideas for new decks to your opponents while leaving them room for their own innovation.  And above all, you want to make sure you are having fun!  It makes an interesting puzzle to try and solve, and like all products-for-consumption, gunslinging is all about the intended audience.

I’m also excited that I get to go to PT Amsterdam over Labor Day weekend, as a gunslinger.  Already looking forward to those puzzles to solve!

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It is somehow not surprising that as soon as I accept a non-programming job, I have an urge to program again (recreationally)!  It might be that I’ve been hanging out a lot at home with these beagles, beaglesitting as it were, and it might be that writing up a bunch of documentation on my old job has made me more interested in doing something.

Breeze is a project I took on back when I worked for Skilljam – it’s essentially a draft simulator for Magic, pick by email, for the drafting part (not the playing part).  I created it because I always wanted to get drafts together but getting lots of people all in the same place (especially specific friends in the same place) for a few hours, to play Magic and to not do anything else… well, it was difficult back before I worked for Wizards!  It was also just the right scope for a hobby project – finite, well-defined, data-driven but not too dynamic.  So I created Breeze, and it worked for a while, and then I stopped maintaining it.

So, like all good (bad) programmers, I am recreating it using more modern technologies rather than fix the old one.  I am also interested in using it to create Cubes, which is like a personal (sometimes themed) box of cards from which to draft, rather than specific booster packs.  We’ll see how it goes – I got through a good chunk of it this weekend, but there’s plenty more to go!

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Event Journalism

When I was in high school, one of my English teachers convinced me to go join the journalism class, which was responsible for our newspaper The Flagship.  I had a great time working on it, so much so that I took on editor-in-chief at Caltech as a freshman.  Oops!  It was tons and tons of work for very little payoff… but I still had fun.  So when I joined Wizards and realized I still had a desire to write about things happening, I talked with Greg, the events coverage coordinator, and he agreed to let me try.

I am now at my fourth Pro Tour doing coverage, and it’s awesome!  It’s a lot of work, and the hours are a little… weird.  And the particular context in which I am doing event coverage – of Magic, and of Magic players – can sometimes be frustrating (Magic players are very opinionated, for example, and not very hygienic sometimes).  But it’s still awesome, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to write.

Writing about Magic games is an interesting balance between play-by-play and story.  It’s pretty important to have a narrative thread to keep the reader’s attention, and except for the very best players, you don’t want to flood readers with game states.  I have found it is way easier to write down the play-by-play while sitting there watching them play, and then revise into a real story afterward if I can.  Oftentimes, when you look back to do a first and second edit of your work, you can feel themes emerging.

Maybe it’s silly to think this way about specifically articles about Magic games, since they are so inaccessible to an uninformed audience, but I have definitely appreciated seeing my writing in new light from doing event coverage.

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PTQ Geneva

When I won my first PTQ, I was kind of buoyed up by this intangible feeling of accomplishment.  I have very rarely won anything – usually, like for positions, I am assigned rather than elected, and for talent-based competitions, I am sabotaged by my own mind into shooting for lower than first.  But that day, I did everything right (or right enough :)) and won.  It was Time Spiral limited, and my UG tempo deck was both unconventional and powerful.  It took me to the top 8, where I again drafted a bit unconventionally, nearly mono-B with giant fatties and my personal sleeper card, Traitor’s Clutch.  Some made fun of me for it, but then they got smashed.  It was pretty Clutch, let me tell you. [end Magic strategy content]

I had not planned on attending more PTQs that season – I had tried my luck at the enormous Los Angeles (Costa Mesa) one and failed to get anywhere.  It was Thanksgiving weekend, and as I was musing that I didn’t have anything to do (and most of my friends were out of town), my friend James invited me (kind of out of the blue) to his place in Phoenix, Arizona.  On a whim, I looked and saw there was a PTQ there on Saturday.  The drive was something like 6 hours.  But I decided spending time with James and his family would be fun in and of itself, so I took the trip. And ended up one free trip to Geneva, Switzerland (with a France/England extension afterward) richer.

All through the ride, and while hanging out with his family, and while at the tournament, and even in the celebration afterward and the drive home… I kept myself in the moment.  It’s something I have an extremely difficult time doing – my mind just wants to hang out thinking about possible futures (and anxiety), and pondering alternate pasts (and regret).  But somehow, that weekend, I was able to cast aside those mental states.  Recently, I have felt those states consuming my mental energy, and this memory came up to remind me that I can get past them and back to the “precious present,” somehow.

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