Great Magic Writing of the Week, August 18

A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.

To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!


On Tezzerator

On Thursday, Glenn Jones started a weekly Modern column where he'll be featuring various Modern decks and strategies and talking about how they fit into the format. This week Glenn focused on an artifact-based control deck built around [card]Tezzeret the Seeker[/car]d from old Extended. If this article is any indication of what we can expect, I'm certainly looking forward to more. The combination of interesting decks and strategy, strong writing, and awesome Photoshop shenanigans make this article a very pleasant read.
StarCityGames.com: Glenn Joes (@SecludedGlenn) The ArtiFacts of Life

I always liked Tezzerator, but it didn't last long in Extended. While Nassif missed the Top 8 in Berlin, it turned out that he'd broken it with Mono-Blue Faeries. Elves receded from the spotlight, and the format mostly became Riptide Laboratory vs. Wild Nacatl. Amusingly enough, I won a PTQ with both of those cards in play under my control in the finals.**

Let me hit you with that visual real quick.

Frantic Nacatl

I hear Born of the Gods has a large Lab Cat theme.

Flash-forward to the present day and Extended is no more—but most of the cards in this little gem are still legal in Modern. Truthfully, it never crossed my mind to go for Tezzeret the Seeker until I saw Secher_Bach do exactly that.


On Grid Draft

Winston, Solomon, and Winchester. These are just a few of the more popular ways for four-ish or fewer players to get their draft on. This week Jim Davis takes a look at a new draft variant: Grid Draft. If you've got a friend and a stack of cards, you've got everything you need for a deep and interesting draft format. Check out Jim's article for a rundown of the format and a walkthrough of one of Jim's drafts:
StarCityGames.com: Jim Davis - Life of the Grid

Sometimes it can be hard to get four-to-eight people together in the same room at the same time for a Cube draft. Sometimes your buddy you drove to the PTQ with was inconsiderate enough to Top 8 while you and your other friend met round four in the 1-2 bracket, and now you've got a few hours to kill. Sometimes you just wanna play some Magic real quick but don't have an entire draft pod worth of people on hand. Sometimes you just don't have many friends.

But don't fret! There is a bunch of fun ways to draft one on one, and today we are going to look at one of the more interesting ones I've come across called "Grid Draft." While I am not sure of its exact origins (and feel free to leave a nasty comment about how you invented it and never get any credit for your brilliant design in the comments), I'm sure it is a very fun and fresh way to draft your Cube.

Grid Draft is a shotgun wedding between the most commonly played two-player Draft format, Winston Draft, and the exceedingly skill-intensive, interesting, and antiquated Rochester Draft format.


On Social Psychology

What does social science have to do with playing Magic? Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa delves into a handful of social psychology experiments and looks at what the results can teach us about how to approach games of Magic. PV's writing is always very strong, and grounded in real examples from the highest levels of competition. In this article he covers the topics of intuition, tunnel vision, confirmation bias, and bluffing:
ChannelFireball.com: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (@pvddr)- Social Psychology and Magic

According to social psychology, our brain is capable of making almost subconscious judgments with surprising accuracy after seeing only a flash of the matter in question. In 1992, an article was published by two psychology professors, Amabady and Rosenthal, that found that judgments about people’s personality, veracity, etc. are just as accurate, if not more accurate, when they’re based on slices of less than five minutes.

There are many experiments that corroborate this. The Gottman Institute, for example, once conducted an experiment where random people watched three-minute videos of strange newlywed couples discussing an ongoing disagreement. After those three minutes, they were able to predict with statistical significance whether those couples would be divorced six years later! Remember, this is simply watching a three-minutes video of people they had never seen before...

This is very interesting (it is, isn’t it?), but how does it relate to Magic? It does when you consider things like intuition and shortcuts. You might have noticed that most of the pro players play very quickly. There are exceptions, of course—Martin Juza and Tom Martell are very slow, for example, and don’t even get me started on Tiago Chan—but as a general rule it takes less time for a pro player to make a correct play than for a non-pro. The reason for this is mostly that we’ve already been through almost all of the general scenarios. It’s rare that a play is completely different than anything we’ve seen before, so our brain associates the present situation with an old one that is similar—a shortcut, if you will, so we don’t have to think through everything every single time. That is a good thing!


On Mainstream Geek

The internet has changed a lot of things. Globalization of culture and information and social media have revolutionized not only the way that we interact with one another, but also the kinds of things we discuss. Technology is mainstream now and with it has come the rise of Nerd Culture. This week Adam Barnello discusses how geek culture has changed in recent years; the explosion of events like GenCon, the movement of games, and comics, and cosplay into the mainstream, and the monetization of all of these things. What's completely different? What's still the same? What does that mean for the people caught in the middle?
ChannelFireball.com: Adam Barnello (@AdamNightmare)- Geek Chic

Where do you draw the line between Nerd Culture and mainstream culture these days? What’s the difference between something found at a place like Gen Con—the home of Dungeons and Dragons, cosplay, and comic books, and something found in the sales tents at a NASCAR race? Or more to the point, is the culture surrounding the Indy 500 really all that different from the culture at Gen Con Indy? From my perspective the differences aren’t all that significant, though I imagine there would be a fair amount of resistance to that sales pitch from both sides of the fence.

Nerd Culture has spent the last few years seeping its slippery tentacles into the world at large. You can see it everywhere around you. From the wide acceptance of comic book superhero movies to the smorgasbord of t-shirts with Nintendo game logos emblazoned across the chest, the things we love are getting packaged up, shipped out, and sold to us at a markup. We’re actually being marketed to, which many of us have little familiarity with or interest in, as we spent most of our time seeking out information and products within our interests since they were, by definition if not by design, counter-cultural. There are people out there being accused of being fake geeks. I find the idea of a “fake geek” dumbfounding. Why would anyone want to go out of their way to pretend to be something that’s caused me and those around me to be subjects of derision nearly our whole lives?

Because Nerd Culture has saturated the mainstream. And there’s money to be made.


On Ravnica High

It started when the creative team started reminiscing about high school and which guilds matched archetypical characters that everyone remembers from their high school days. Then Jennifer Clarke Wilkes turned it into an incredible short story, reminiscent of high school tv dramas of the 90's. Take a moment to let Jennifer transport you back to your first days of high school and join Skrygix for a tour of Ravnica High:
DailyMTG.com: Jennifer Clarke Wilkes - Ravnica High

Welcome to Ravnica High! I'm Skrygix, and I'll be your mentor during this orientation session. Don't hesitate to ask me questions while we tour the grounds.

We've got a full slate of activities designed to get you familiar with daily life here, starting with the general assembly in a few minutes, where Vice Principal Beleren will be laying down the law. Like most orientations, this will focus on class structure and the rules on campus.

Principal Mizzet probably won't make an appearance. He's never around these days—I hear he's working on some big research project. But he and Beleren are tight, that's for sure.

Okay, now that the lecture is over and you've heard the official line, let me tell you how things really work. (I've been here a couple of years now, and I know a few things.) As much as the adults would like to deny it, cliques are the reality of student life, and nowhere is that more true than at Ravnica High. You might find yourself suited to a particular group, or be interested in avoiding one—or you might not belong anywhere. At least there isn't a uniform code here.


On Friday Nights

What's it like preparing for a Grand Prix? The most recent edition of LoadingReadyRun's Friday Nights comedy series focuses on their preparation for and experience at Grand Prix Calgary. What kind hilarity can you expect when a comedy group goes on a Magic road trip? There's only one way to find out:
DailyMTG.com: LoadingReadyRun (@loadingreadyrun) - Grand Prix Calgary


On Altering Reality

This last week we saw seventeen submissions to the Altered Reality Challenge featuring Magic 2014 Slivers. Take a moment to check out all of the awesome entries from alterers across the internet and look at the critiques of our panel of judges. Which alters came out on top? Find out and check out some of their other work:
GatheringMagic.com: Adam Styborski (@the_stybs - Altered Reality Challenge: New Slivers - Results

Apex Sliver by Amanda LaPalme

JudgesComments
Eric KlugIs this a Predator-inspired piece not on a Predatory Sliver!? Blasphemy! My favorite aspect of this piece is the light, which is great and really conveys the jungle setting well. I enjoy the loose brushwork in the background, but I would have liked to see tighter work in the figure: more detail and so on. I have an obsession.
Aggregate:Creativity: 5.75Execution: 6Complexity: 3.25Thematic: 2.25Total: .575

On GenCon 2013

The best four days in gaming is going down this weekend. GenCon is an incredible place to be, and fortunately for those of us who couldn't make it, Adam Styborski is sharing his experience through photos and videos from the event. From awesome people and food, to sick games,cosplay, and Cardhalla, you can share the GenCon experience with Adam on GatheringMagic, Twitter, or Facebook:
GatheringMagic.com: Adam Styborski (@the_stybs - GenCon 2013 Photo Diary


Of course, Cardhalla is where every attendee can help create something beautiful too...

...and it seems as though everyone takes up the chance.

If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.


Visit CoolStuffInc at Gen Con Indy 2013, August 15 through 18!