El Ess veE-Sports.

Another Magic the Gathering themed post. It’s been that kind of week.

What a day. I’ve basically become a caricature of myself. I’ve spent my entire workday watching replays of old Luis Scott-Vargas Magic the Gathering drafts. For years I pooh poohed the idea of watching others play Magic in the same way that I shat on sports viewing. Why watch something if you could play it instead? Discovering what everyone else has seemed to know for years, here’s why:

It’s not something I can just play. I don’t have the experience, the time or funds to play like LSV does. He’s a professional and as such gets paid to stream this kind of thing. I haven’t bought into MTGO and frankly, couldn’t afford to. I’ve spent long enough building up the collection that I do have to suddenly buy into digital. So to watch someone else put in the efforts and be led by his superior knowledge of the formats is a blast.

It hits on multiple fronts. Firstly, LSV really knows his shit. My mind Boggles at how quickly he’s able to assess and analyse a pack, formulating a draft path with solid potential outcomes. It means he can react appropriately when an otherwise shitty pack would pop up, creating contingencies. While I tend to find a strategy and stick it out, even if it’s drying up, LSV doesn’t. He knows when to pivot and signal. Better yet, his knowledge of the format and strong cards allows him to gauge when something could wheel the table and come back to him. It’s like watching magic (pun actually wasn’t intended) happen in front of your eyes.

Secondly there’s a nostalgic element to it as well. I’ve watched him draft a bunch of formats today. There was triple Ravnica, triple Mirrodin, triple Time Spiral, Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse and a few Holiday Cubes. I remember these formats, but at the time where my limited skill level was pretty… well, limited. I didn’t understand the wider archetypes nearly as well as LSV does, so I wasn’t able to as adroitly piece together a playable pile. Plus I tend to have a predilection for forcing green. Sue me. Getting to relive those old formats helps me recall where I was in my relation to the game during that time. I don’t know if I ever tried an IPA draft, for instance. I think I just went to pre-releases. Hell, the Invasion pre-release was my first taste of limited and sparked a lifetime love of sealed.

Mostly it’s a vicarious thing. I can’t afford to play these throwback sets, so the next best thing is to watch a master do it for me. I can cheer for his plans coming together and root for him as he’s playing the subsequent games. It’s interesting, but having seen the formation of the deck, it engenders this strange attachment to the pile. You want to see LSV win a) because you feel oddly involved in the process, b) because he’s a good player and c) because he makes a fuckton of puns. I don’t remotely begrudge him for getting to have this experience. He’s worked for it and creates a shitload of compelling, informative and funny content. As a humble viewer, I get to profit from it.

In any case, it’s about time I get going. I wanna see how he drafts Return to Ravnica next.

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Hold on to your butts, we’ve got some probing to do.

Magic the Gathering related post. Some people won’t be into that, I’m sure. If so, come back tomorrow. If you’re sticking around, AutocardAnywhere would sure be handy.

ALL HAIL IXALAN, BRINGER OF DINOS TO THE WORLD OF MAGIC. Sure, dinosaurs have been around since Ice Age, but only because of soon to arrive errata. I’ve been waiting for dinosaurs in Magic the Gathering for years. I’ve always had a love of those big scaley/feathery lézards terribles and the notion of using them to smash face in one of my favourite games is too much to ignore. So I’m gonna start brewing already.

Let’s get some mood music.

Back when Ixalan spoilers were leaked, we got a glimpse of the lizard commander himself: Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Gishath’s pretty neat, but everyone’s gonna be brewing that style of dinosaur deck. You know the one that clears the way, stacks the top of the library with something like Scroll Rack. Seems too easy. I wanna go for something that really lets me BE, AGGRESSIVE, BE, BE, AGGRESSIVE. Where’s my homeboy Marath at? It’s fight club time, baby.

Enrage is the new dinosaur keyword and it’s a doozy. [Whenever ~ is dealt damage, x] One of the prime examples is this fella here: Ripjaw Raptor. So you’ve got a stack of big lizards ready to rumble. They’re fine tanking a bunch of hits for profit, so let’s ring in some damage. Another (untranslated, as of the time I’m writing this) neat critter is this Ankylosaurus. It’s gonna pump the rest of the team when it takes a hit, which is handy because it lets our team take more hits, ya dig? Sun-Crowned Hunters lets us ping other players 3 damage at a time. I’m sure there are more Enrage creatures left to be revealed, but this is our rag tag starting line-up. We can round out the rest of the crew with perennial favourites like Boros Reckoner, Spitemare, Phytohydra and Stuffy Doll.

So how do we start dealing damage to our own creatures? Why not start thematically. Aether Flash (the 7th edition art in particular) starts the value train rolling in as soon as we play our pals. It also hoses opposing token strategies. To be honest, they’re gonna be having a bad time all over. Let’s throw in Powerstone Minefield and Lightmine Field to discourage opponents attacking, but also to let us clothesline any poor bastards with a field of weenies. To give us a bit more control over the board, lets harness the colour-shifted Pestilence, Pyrohemia. It means we can take into consideration our own creatures with lower toughness, making sure we’re only dealing a small amount each turn. Plus it’s pretty damn baller with the aforementioned Ankylosaurus and the enchantment Fungusaur: Rite of Passage. This means our dinos will be legit monsters by the time it gets back to our turn. I don’t think Subterranean Spirit has aged well, but I’m sure it can find a place in our little brew.

Let’s get some more brawlers in on this action. Gruul Ragebeast never says no to a fight. Triskelion likes getting frisky, as does its little cousin Walking Ballista. Foe-Razer Regent likes our creatures getting into boxing matches. Dromoka’s Command is super versatile, as is Boros Charm (that has the super valuable indestructibility we’re looking for. We should probably chuck in Heroic Intervention and Dauntless Escort while we’re there). Setessan Tactics can work as a one-sided board wipe, while Vicious Shadows can profit from the endless death happening all around us. Also Blasphemous Act, because we’re playing EDH, aren’t we?

The set isn’t even out and we’re already ahead of the curve. I knew life would find a way!

Something something BoJack’s Hor-semen.

I’ve just come from some project completion drinks and I’ve got farewell drinks to get to. In the hopes of legibility, I’m sandwiching my daily writing between the two as opposed to leaving it for the subway ride home. Because I care about you folks, obviously. Or I fear the plague of typos that I’d otherwise shamefully read through the next day. Let’s pretend it’s the former.

A friend of mine is having a competitive erotic fanfiction party and I can’t stop thinking about what to write. It’s silly to the max and I’m excited to put something absurd together. I don’t know if I have it in me to compose anything sincere, so the outcome will likely be pretty out there. I’m also a terrible fiction writer, so I’m not expecting magic to bloom on the page. I’m keen to put together an odd pairing, because in the spirit of things it seems like a neat challenge. My leading concept right now is a cross-fandom venture featuring Beth from Rick and Morty with BoJack Horseman.

It makes sense to me on multiple levels. They’re both depressed alcoholics prone to making stupid decisions while under the influence. They both have repressed trauma stemming from abandonment issues. BoJack is a horse humanoid and Beth is a horse surgeon with an inferiority complex about not being a “real” doctor. I can imagine Rick pulling Beth into a parallel dimension in order to get her to save his drinking buddy BoJack. Cue convalescence and misguided judgement in recovery. Then Poundtown, USA. The tricky thing will be finding justification for Rick needing Beth’s health, since he’s basically a walking god of science. I’ll think on it. I’ve got a few weeks.

Without spoilers, Game of Thrones had a fun and stupid seventh season. Most of the shortcuts taken were probably necessary to tell a primetime television story, but it did feel at times like they’d undercut GRRM’s methodical character plotting in order to skip to something more action-packed and exciting. I’m not saying they sold anything out. I think they definitely had to take measures to deal with the gargantuan texts they’d been dealt for previous seasons. It’s not like the previous few books have been anything to write home about in any case. Still, without the solid guidance of GRRM’s overarching narrative intent, characters floundered and heavy-handed plotting ensued.

Subtlety fell out the window as characters betrayed central motivations in order to keep the season running full steam ahead. It’s not that they’ve ruined anything, but moreso that they understand that the show they’re doing has become a different beast altogether. Fanservice and blunt exposition have become mainstays of an IP that’d always been massive in scope. It’s still entertaining to be sure. The production values are beyond compare and it shows. Also I guess with all the dragons, the CGI budget didn’t extend to animating Ghost this season? Small gripes.

I suppose I should head downstairs and say farewell to my co-worker. He was always a nice guy in a job that was severely below his skill level. It’s either that or I continue to sit here blabbing on aimlessly about pop-culture to internet strangers and probably one or two stalkers who know me personally. I hope you’re enjoying these stale hot takes.

I might not be a vampire, but that was a steak to the heart.

I lived a pretty damn fortunate childhood. While we weren’t filthy rich (in anything but love. Say it with me: “awww”), we never wanted for anything that mattered. My parents didn’t care much for us having the newest flash toys, but we had a solid roof over our head, a stocked kitchen and clothes to keep us warm. Of course, being a child I bristled seeing what some kids got, but it’s not like nuance is easy to understand without a fully formed brain. As time passed, I stopped seeing the value in ostentatious material goods. I grew to enjoy experiential gifts and quality excursions. We were, however, spoiled for food. We got good home cooked tucker and had more than our fair share of nice meals out.

To this day I don’t place a ton of stock in fine restaurants. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but the food here in Toronto is good enough that few occasions merit the higher price tag. I think back to my childhood with wonder, when we used to get entrees, mains and desserts, then leave the establishment clutching our bellies. I’ve gotten old(/boring) enough that I’m not really into that amount of excess anymore. I can’t fathom having three course meals when the portions are so plentiful over this side of the world. In the rare event that I go out for a decadent dinner, I savour it more than I used to. The cynic in me says that’s just ’cause I’m holding the price tag this time around. Or perhaps that’s what maturity does.

Yesterday was my girlfriend’s birthday. A couple of weeks back we realised we’d never been out for a nice steak since we’d been in the city. Her escape from the 27 Club seemed like the perfect excuse. Polling friends, Barberian’s had a solid reputation so we booked in. Dreams of sumptuously cooked slabs of meat floating through our dreams.

Barberian’s is a heritage steakhouse in Toronto that’s remained in the same building for the past 40 years. It’s high-end, with steaks averaging $50 or more a pop. Definitely a step up from the dilapidated soon-to-expire meat chunks I’d buy in my early 20s. Barberian’s is known both for their expertly prepared food and extensive wine cellar. If the steak weighed half as much as their wine list booklet, we were in for a feast.

It couldn’t be understated how different the service was at an establishment like this, verses some kind of chain restaurant. Our server was both extremely personable and knowledgeable. He seemed to be serving only a handful of tables and always managed to appear when a question popped into our heads. We admitted our ignorance when it came to high quality cuts of meat, so he took us slowly through the difference between each cut, how good marbling would change the overall taste. We queried about the optional extras and not once did he attempt to upsell or steer us towards more expensive choices. Instead he asked what kind of experience we were looking to have and offered suggestions on what he thought we might enjoy. While we walked in determined to stick with the steak, he made such a good case for the rack of lamb that it was hard to refuse. We ordered the 16oz Rib Steak and the full rack, with a side of baked potatoes and fries. He said it was no trouble at all to arrange the meal in a sharing platter so we both had easy access. He took the time to take us through wine options that would complement the meal, with generous sampling glasses to help us make the right choice.

Everything was lavishly presented and perfectly cooked. I mean everything, right from the iced pickled vegetables and bread at the start. I didn’t know it was possible for butter to have quality gradients, but that was some damn fine butter. The rack of lamb was a dream, with sumptuous medallions and adroitly seared exterior. The steak was perfectly textured, knives deftly sliding through. The contrast with your garden variety restaurant steak was staggering. The two of us blissed out as we took our time absorbing the myriad of tastes arising from the meal.

My girlfriend went to the bathroom and I took the chance to pay for our fare. I thanked our server for making the night as special as it could be. I explained how we’d been relishing the chance to finally enjoy a nice steak and her birthday had been the perfect opportunity. “Oh geez, why didn’t you tell me?” He asked. He grabbed our box of leftovers and remarked “pretend you haven’t paid yet. Does she like chocolate?” I nodded and he disappeared in a flash. She came back and we basked in the afterglow of a wonderful meal. Several minutes later our server arrived with an immaculately constructed plate. A small moulded white chocolate house sat in the centre, with a milk chocolate roof and mousse filling. It was flanked by a pile of fresh berries and mound of fresh cream with a single candle sticking out. Along the side in artful chocolate penmanship read “Happy Birthday”. It was a lovely (and delicious, I might add) touch to what’d already been a remarkable night out. We walked out the door filled to the brim with cheer, so thankful that the experience was everything we’d hoped for.

Sometimes nice things are just that.

I’m some sorta Cherishire Cat.

Gee willikers. What an ardently enjoyable weekend. After months of training, disengaging from social contact and staunchly monitoring my consumption, letting go has been such a release. Since Friday I’ve spent so much time in the company of others, appreciating delicious food and refusing to stress about most anything. I think my soul needed that.

Yesterday I put a Facebook call out to see if anyone wanted to join me for lunch. I was severely hungover and figured the best cure for what ailed me was a metric fuckton of meat, broth and rice. Pork Bone soup would be my saviour. I often post last minute plans to grab food and virtually never get anyone taking me up on the offer. It’s often a deluge of “wish I’d seen this earlier” or “just ate, sorry”. Yesterday, however, I had three people opt in. Plus it turned out that my girlfriend’s shift (a block away from the restaurant) finished up right as we’d planned to meet. It was a diverse group. One of my Magic buddies and two acquaintances I know through general community. Having this range of people opened the door for fun, varied conversations (with people offering viewpoints others wouldn’t have considered). We ate excessively with a lunch that ran for around two hours. Nobody was in a rush, we all just enjoyed being present and spending the time.

Our plans for the evening involved an Alice in Wonderland themed backyard bash. Costumes were mandatory and nobody disappointed. An array of colours and choices. Some went for specific characters, others took general inspiration from story themes. There were long dresses, corsets and bonnets. Most eschewed pants for leggings. Some opted for creative makeup or little accessories. Most of us ended up strangely flammable, which became all the more pronounced when we realised just how many tea light candles there were. The backyard had been wonderfully dressed, with fairy lights, deco light, little butterflies, streamers and an array of colourful accoutrements. Everyone brought treats of all shapes and sizes: Fruit, candy, chips, cookies, juices and soft drink. Peppermint tea in a big carafe. We came bearing blankets and pillows. The host had crafted a great playlist that lasted the entire night. It was a joy to settle in such a curated space.

Best of all, the social atmosphere was ideal. You know the feeling of walking into a room where the temperature has been perfectly set? It felt like that, but with mood and attitude. We were all there to enjoy one another’s company, to lift up rather than tear down. No aggression or bitchiness, just friendly positivity and joking around. As with the lunch earlier, I had a blast having the platform to just be funny. It’s understated, but being surrounded by people who’d yes, and… was bliss incarnate. Having that wavelength sustained through close friendships meant I could read the room well enough to know how to throw out good lines and bits to hearty group laughter. A night filled with solid pulls, deep cuts and callbacks. It also helped being surrounded by a bunch of clever, funny people who’d dish it back. My heart felt a warm tingle being surrounded by such a great crowd.

The misguided sentiment to pull from this weekend would be oh, I guess I just have more fun when I drink. That’d be missing the deeper message. The greater realisation is that it’s more about not feeling guarded. Back when I was monitoring my intake, I had to be hyper-aware all the time. I was thinking about calorie consumption, the ratio of exercise to downtime, whether I was keeping limber and stretched. Then if I was in a social space, being sober around those who weren’t meant that I’d notice too much. I’d see how people’s behaviour would change after a drink or two. I’d hear the noise level creep up. It’d be too much to take in and make relaxing impossible. What a relief then to let go of that and go with the flow. To not have to be so rigid all the time.

Golly gosh, it does lighten the load.

I was Babashook all night long.

Y’know, after two and a half months of teetotalling, I’d kind of forgotten that hangovers existed. After an amazing night of copious drinking, I was very rudely reminded.

Fake prom! Fake prom was everything I’d been hoping for. A big night out with great friends, dressed to kill (metaphorically. It came with the horror theme). The whole evening was one big adventure. For my Jekyll and Hyde costume I started by shaving half my face. If I was a smart man I would’ve used my hair trimmer to make the beard more manageable for my piece of Schick handheld razor. I’m not a smart man. It was a slow, arduous process. Any kind of precision work was a shit show. It did bring up interesting quandaries like do I shave half my soul patch? Or get rid of it all? I managed to keep half. My girlfriend did a phenomenal job on makeup, using green and black eye shadow to contour and bring out my ghastly side. Makeup being something I never do, I was amazed at the results she got. Plus how quickly she put it all together. After all of 15-20  minutes I was utterly transformed.

A bunch of us got together for pre-drinks. Most of which I spent holding moulded vampire teeth to my canines. I hadn’t realised how long I needed to let them set for, which meant nil by mouth as I stood with my head tilted back, amassing saliva. Then with ten minutes before our ride came, I frantically tried to put in my coloured contacts. I don’t normally wear contacts, so shoving something between my eyelid and eyeball is as nerve racking as it gets. In the end I got my friend to help out (basically insert them in by force) and the result was amazing. I had one half of my face clean shaven and nondescript, hair combed. The other was black and green with spiked hair, a sharp vampire tooth and one menacing red eye. Sinister as fuck.

Then we got into a motherfucking limo. Frankly just not wearing a seat belt made me feel some kind of special. It’s as if you get to a point of wealth where you stop fearing death. We had three bottles of champagne and I’d brought the essential can of Watermelon Four Loko. Why? Because there’s something innately pleasing to me about that kind of severe juxtaposition. An expensive, flashy ride while drinking the lowest of trash juice. It was hard not to feel fancy. As we drove past, people would pull out their phones and take pictures. It was snug (with ten of us in there) but the seats were plush leather. Colour changing lighting strips covered the ceiling. My only regret was the lack of a sun roof to poke my head out of. Guess I’ve still got that on my bucket list. We drove around then stopped at a park for an impromptu photo session with dinosaur statues. Because we’re adults.

The event was fantastic. Palais Royale is a mysterious place. I’d never seen it open before, but it was super ritzy. Right on the Lake Shore, it not only had a big dance floor, but also a gorgeous outdoor deck with water views. They’d hung black streamers, balloons and little ghosts all over. The range of costumes was spectacular. In our group alone we had Buffy and Angel, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain (of the 27 club), Samara (from The Ring) and The Babadook. I saw a great Pennywise, some dude with an Alien Facehugger/Chestburster combo, an Edgar Allan Po and all manner of witches, demons, vampires and corpse brides. Being the kind of hyper drunk that I was, I had a stupendous time dancing. I’m pretty sure I did The Worm no less than four times. Oh, and my Babadook friend got Prom King! Rightfully so, he did sew the costume himself. I somehow got my favourite white shirt covered in fake blood (no idea how. It was so bad that when I took it into the dry cleaners this morning the kindly lady refused and laughed me out the door), lost the clip/button from my pants (good thing my suspenders were keeping them up) and had a lengthy conversation with the Uber driver who honestly sounded like he wanted to keep hanging out.

This morning may have been a rude awakening, but it was a small price to say for such a jubilant night.

My stomach literally couldn’t hold all the joy inside.

Look out world, somebody’s gonna roll ya!

Our mail is being held hostage. We’re on our third warning (though only two have been delivered. Maybe the second one is being held hostage with the rest of our mail) from the post office. Apparently our mail box is inaccessible. I mean, it’s accessible enough for them to deliver warnings to it, but not regular mail. The issue? Our path is COVERED in grass. Yes, it’s slightly overgrown, but it’s not a rampant expanse of forest. When did the mailman become my landlord?

I don’t know why, but I’m irritable. I’ve spent the last few hours traipsing around town on the hunt for various costume accessories for tonight. I didn’t find a single one that I was looking for. I kept getting distracted by other places to look. I stopped off at H&M to see if I could scoop up some sale jeans. I found some, but they had a hard time with my monstrous thighs and calves, even though the waist fit fine. The LCBO and beer store somehow didn’t have quite what I wanted for casual drinking. So I ended up leaving with a can of Watermelon Four Loko (the absurd 11.9% stuff). My new shoes arrived in the mail and they’re okay, though not as great as the previous model. Now after all this fruitless tripping I’ve got less time than I planned this evening. You know what was on my agenda if I had the time? MOWING THE FUCKING LAWN.

Today was supposed to go so well too. I woke up five minutes before my alarm. I felt so rested, turned over to look at the clock with fear in my heart that it was a good hour before I was supposed to wake. Nope, five minutes early. A free five minutes? That feels like being handed the day on a platter. I was out the door a full ten minutes before my normal time. I practically skipped down the road. I can’t help but feel that today’s had it in for me since. Do you know what sucks about being ten minutes early? It doesn’t gain you any time. Ten minutes before I leave the bus to the train station is rammed. The train is sardine-packed, meaning you’re inhaling someone’s armpit. When I got out of the subway and waited for my bus, the line extended around the corner and I still had to wait another ten minutes for it to arrive. With no seats, I stood at a funny angle wrenching my already sore back. Still my morale was up, I was five minutes early. So I got out and had a great coffee at my favourite cafe. They were playing Flashback Friday hits and it was all 90s bubblegum pop. I’d thought I’d turned it around.

Now I’ve got maybe an hour to have a shower, shave half my face, get dressed, have my girlfriend do my makeup and get to my friend’s place for pre-drinks. Then I’ll be in a limo drinking Four Loko. Things are looking up for your dear narrator.

Come to think of it, I don’t know why I’d be anyone’s “dear” anything. I sound like a curmudgeonly grump. What have I done to earn your favour other than gripe and grumble? Maybe the post office are right and we should be mowing our lawns more often than once every three or so weeks. Maybe mothers everywhere are right and we should wash our bed sheets weekly instead of… I don’t think even I want to know how rarely we do it. Maybe that bus driver was right when I tried to hand him a $20 and he told me to organise my life. Maybe I’m not perfect, okay? Maybe I am an incorrigible mess unworthy of your adoration.

Or maybe I should forget all of that and remember that I’m riding in a fucking limo tonight!

GET SHREKED, WORLD!