Do you think Natalie Imbruglia enters Tornaments?

I’ve played Magic the Gathering for years. 17 of them to be exact. During all that time I’ve never set foot in a big tournament. I’m strictly casual and a competitive environment doesn’t excite me. The idea of grinding away at opponents in the hopes of being able to make day two of a tourney seems like a great way to welcome disappointment in my life, which has no place in one of my prime leisure activities.

With that out of the way, Grand Prix Toronto starts tomorrow and I’m pretty chuffed. I think the majority of that chuff-ed-ness comes from the fact that I’m not grinding away. I’m planning to pop in and out of the event all weekend. Unlike the pro players assembled from across the globe, I’ve got nothing riding on the weekend. I’m purely going to have a great time, take part in some small side events, trade and get a bunch of EDH games in.

There are draft pods firing off all day, with the chance to finally try out a multiplayer Conspiracy draft. I can do some spectating and see just how degenerate the cEDH format is. Plus the prize payouts are insane, with something like six boosters for a third or fourth placed finish, ten boosters for second and eighteen boosters for first. There’ll also be a bunch of rare stuff for sale/trade and I’ll hopefully be able to pick up a shit ton of stuff for various EDH decks. I miss being able to trade stuff away all the time. In recent years I’ve accumulated a pile of cards I don’t need, but others might. I’m more than happy to offload a heap of rares for a couple of specific rares. Why stockpile tons of cards I’ll never need? There’ll be so many casual players in attendance that I can probably spend hours simply trading and not even playing.

Playing will be fucking great too though. One of the best parts of this game is seeing the variety of decks and strategies that players employ. Interesting, bold and tight lines of play, curious interactions and quick thinking are the bedrock of Magic. A Grand Prix is a world class event and you can bet your arse I’ll be able to find the kinds of players I enjoy facing. There’ll be players who’ve stopped taking the game so seriously, just looking to get in neat interactive games. There’s a higher chance of seeing hard to find commanders in a tuned shell, honed from years of use. I’m sure there are stock lists that people will be running. Your Merens, Nekusar, etc. But there might also be Rasputin Dreamweaver or Diao Chan, Artful Beauty, maybe one of the original Elder Dragons. Hell, it’s even been years since I faced a Norin the Wary deck.

I’m looking forward to spending the weekend in a Magic smorgasbord, picking and choosing how much I want to partake. It’ll be exciting exploring my hobby with others who’re passionate about it. Not to mention the fact that I’ll have friends there to hang out with anyway. Who knows, we might even enter a team event. What’ve we got to lose?

Aside from the event, that is.

Just the motivation I kneeded.

I had one of those moments today where I realised what a sloppy garbage person I can be. I’d been for my run and felt both physically exhausted and sweat soaked. I’m lucky, in that my sweat is rarely that pungent. Still, something smelt stale. Was it me? Nobody else in the office had been recently active. My clothes had a “damp” odour, but nothing distressing. I looked over at my knee brace that I’d left to dry out. My eyes narrowed. I picked it up and took a big huff. My innards recoiled. Bingo.

Did knee braces need to be washed? What was mine made of? Some kind of compression fabric with metal bands sewn in for support. Would that rust? How would it handle a washing machine? A dryer? It was a $350 piece of apparel that I greatly need. The notion of ruining it holds no appeal. I thought back to whether I’d ever washed it. Presumably each year after Tough Mudder to get the copious mud and grit out. So maybe twice in almost two years. I entered a Google search string long enough for it to presume I wasn’t human. “Can I wash my knee brace in the washing machine?” earned me a captcha. I got a full page of answers and clicked a few. I was to leave it soaking in warm water and dish soap or vinegar. I was to hang it out and let it air dry. So no on the washing machine/dryer combo. Pity, despite my propensity for jogging, I clearly enjoy taking the easy route.

How often was I supposed to wash it? That depended on the severity of activity. If it was light work such as gardening or short walks, once every three or four uses wood be sufficient. For anything more intense it was advisable to wash it each time. Each time. Per use. I gave a quick thought to how many uses I’d have had in that past year. What was I using it for? Jogging, obviously. Hey lower body workouts for sure. I wear it when I go out dancing. Often I’ll use it for two intense physical sessions in a day. So altogether I’d possibly use it four or five times each week. So maybe I’d given it 200+ fewer washes than it needed? How was it still intact? Why had it not disintegrated into filth? How was my knee not a cluster of lesions and necrotic flesh? I was surprised the connective tissue had yet to become gangrenous. How the fuck hadn’t I smelled it yet? Boxing wraps I’d wash after each use or otherwise risk a nasty fungual infection. Yet I was fine leaving this harbinger of infection clasped around my second favourite leg joint?

I strongly desired sterilised tongs and a hermetically sealed clear plastic bag. This thing needed to be sent to a testing lab to examine the emergence of nefarious new lifeforms. Why are scientists wasting their time on teleporting photons to the edge of space when an all new lethal pathogen has been discovered on my knee brace. Wait, is this finally it? Am I patient zero? Can I finally go and loot sport stores to stockpile for the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Oh boy, daddy’s gonna get himself a boomstick!

Buckling under pressure.

Do you ever get these minuscule moments of panic, even when you know everything will be fine? Logic sits there flailing its arms while emotion runs in the room and starts shitting all over the walls? I had one of these moments all of five minutes ago.

I was in the bathroom having just finished peeing. I went to go and buckle up my belt and noticed how it could do with another hole punched into it. This wasn’t news, I’d bought an oversized belt because I needed one urgently. I’d recently put on weight and thought it’d be nice not pinching my midsection for a while. It was. I’ve dumped most of that weight, meaning the belt now feels more oversized than it did. The pants I’m wearing were also a purchase of necessity. I was running out of pants and needed something to wear to work (elsewise cycle between two pairs of pants on alternating weeks). I got something that fit, even if it wasn’t a snug fit. I figured they were cheap enough that I could always replace them later and/or not cry if they died.

Combined, this meant the belt and pants could both be significantly tightened. I grabbed my belt by the end and pulled hard. The buckle bypassed the first belt loop and tightly locked in behind. Now I had a bunch of pant waist and belt loop firmly wedged in front of the metal buckle. I tried to pull it back through. It wasn’t budging. Shit.

As I pushed, a bunch of scenarios flashed into my head. Coworkers walking in and pointing, laughing. My boss opening the door and quirking an eyebrow. Ritual tarring/feathering as a shaming technique. Dumb, dumb, dumb my brain shouted, but the buckle wouldn’t budge. I looked at the mirror’s reflection and saw feet in a stall behind me. Shit. I pushed at the mass of metal, leather and cotton, but it wouldn’t move an inch or centimetre (it did move a couple of millimetres though). I tried twisting and pulling, but it was steadfastly squished in place. I poked at it in the hopes that by magic it would unravel. It didn’t.

This was my life now. In the ten seconds that’d passed, I’d resigned myself to my fate. Everything was fine. I’d walk back to my desk and for the rest of my existence, I’d be wearing these pants. Guess I had wedding day attire sorted. If I was going out dancing I could affix little LEDs to the waistband. Maybe I’d get them treated with some kind of waterproof spray. Turn them into chaps for ventilation. Or perhaps I could find a friendly neighbourhood firefighter with a spare pair of Jaws of Life to come to my aid. Leave those godforsaken leg traps behind.

Then the magical science of physics came to my aid and the buckle popped out. My new life flashed before my eyes and vanished into the aether. I was free. I questioned why I’d ever doubted myself. I realised that I could do with both a new belt and pair of pants. I then realised that yes, I could get new whatever I wanted, but did I need it? Was this just capitalistic imprinting worming its way to the surface? Or a valid understanding of my own ability to get myself into clothing related mishaps and shenanigans?

Not as much of a cultural exchange as he’d hoped then?

In my post yesterday about getting back into Magic drafts, there was one element I left out. I forgot to mention the people. For better or (often) worse, they’re a big part of any local game store environment. Like any self respecting neighbourhood swill-hole, you get regulars. Given that it’s a staple of nerd culture, you get weird and wonderful people from across the geeky spectrum. I preface this by noting that the majority of patrons are very normal people who enjoy a hobby. Those who stand out, however, shine their stars so bright as to drown out the rest. Who did I encounter yesterday?

First up: The chatterbox. I sat down next to this guy to see if he had any trades. He didn’t, but he did have many things to share. He let me know that he was returning to the game after an absence. He told me the vast array of other card games he’s played. He let me know each and every one of his hiatuses from Magic over the years. He informed me about the scene, or lack thereof in Brampton. He said all of this in about a minute flat. I was groggy and this was a rude awakening. After a couple of minutes his friend showed up. His friend was just a normal, friendly dude and seemed aware of how much his mate blabbered. I kind of wanted to leave in search of trades while they hung out, but the draft was set to kick off at any minute. So I stayed and the chatterbox told me all about the draft he did the other day. When I say all about his draft, I mean that he said something about each of the cards he’d drafted while I stared into oblivion. The draft started soon after and he continued to pass commentary on every card he’d drafted. There were eight people in the pod. I heard from him, his friend (who quickly started tossing sass at all the dumb comments he was making) and one or two newbies who genuinely were asking for help.

Guess who my first round opponent was? It became quickly evident that he wasn’t really a great player. He telegraphed this by complaining constantly about how the game was going, how unlucky he was at every juncture and so on. I offered to give him some advice on the conventions of the format if he wanted to rebuild his deck for our second game. He denied and said that he’d built his deck right. He clearly hadn’t. I let it slide and took the easy win.

Second round was a lovely dude who’d gotten back into the game after a massive absence. He played pretty well, though didn’t quite understand the format. After the game I gave him a little advice which he took to heart. He tracked me down later in the day to say thanks, that he was doing much better.

During my next draft, I faced a jovial fellow who resignedly admitted that he kept drafting the same deck. It looked pretty strong. There were some neat synergies and I was convinced I was getting outplayed. I had to mulligan to five cards (instead of seven) in the first game, but managed to squeak out a win. The second game I mulliganed down to four and was crushed as he drowned me in card advantage. We chatted as we played and he seemed really friendly. I failed to find enough lands but still brought him down to six life. In the last game I kept a grip of seven and trounced him. He admitted that while his deck looked great, it was actually horrible and had no removal.

My next opponent was eleven years old, the age I was when I started. I’d seen his mum drop him and a friend off. It took me back to my early days at my local game store. He was a smart kid and made some solid strategic decisions. I let him do a couple of take backs, but to be honest his threat assessment and understanding of board state was excellent. Him and his friend were so excited. They’d pulled some good cards and were really invested in getting as much as they could out of the experience. He was super polite and I made sure he knew he wasn’t under any pressure, that he could take time with the game to make the right calls. He asked me after each game if there were any decisions he could’ve made differently, so as to improve his play style. As someone who’s been hanging around these kind of environments for going on 20 years now, my heart grew several sizes seeing such a positive attitude in a young kid. I hope both him and his friend continue getting that much out of the game. Also the last game was a lot closer than you’d expect.

My final opponent had been in Toronto for a week. He was about to graduate with a law degree back home in Brazil, but he’d taken a special elective on exchange in Canada. He was studying scientific law in English, which he said was a specialised field on account of the dense legalese and technobabble. A skilled, but chilled player. Our games were down to the wire and, if not for some good ol’ fashioned mana screw in my last game, I could’ve probably just squeaked through the win. He told me a bit about the scene back home, how it varied. I asked him about the local players back home, if they ran the full gamut from socially astute to inept.

“Of course” he said “this is Magic we’re talking about, right?”

Oddly enough, it’s the one aspect of Magic I probably don’t need to explain to jocks.

Magic the Gathering post. Be aware, here be dragons, etc.

Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

It’s been a while since I’ve drafted. It used to be a sort of Sunday ritual. Like church, but in a game where you summon demons, hydras and fuzzy little agents of terror. Booster draft. It’s a format where eight people open boosters, pick a card and pass the pack to their left. Players continue to pick cards from each booster that comes their way until all of the packs have been picked clean. Then they each open a new pack and continue the process, passing to the right this time. They open one more booster, passing to the right and by that point they should have enough cards to put together a deck. It’s often referred to as “limited”, as the decks are usually temporary. Players take them apart after they’ve played a few rounds with them. When I used to play on Sundays at my local game store Vagabonds in Takapuna (R.I.P. Vagabonds), other players would pay for my entry and get the cards I won. It was a sweet deal. I usually did alright, I didn’t have to pay a cent and my “sponsor” got the prizes.

A store here in Toronto was doing $10 draft till you drop to celebrate the release of the new set. You got a nifty promo card just for playing, and a draft for $10 (which is pretty cheap). If you won the pod (single round elimination between eight players (so from one to three matches)), you got entry into another draft free. Drafting is fun, you get the chance to open flashy, expensive cards (the game’s half lottery) and create powerful/synergistic/goofy decks. With such a low buy-in, it was a super casual environment. Most players split in the finals, meaning that if you won two matches, you and your third round opponent could agree to halve the prize. Since a draft was $10 to start with, it meant that if you were halfway decent you could do draft after draft for $5, which is an insane deal (since packs are usually $3 each).

Starting things off with a bang, I opened an invocation version of Omniscience. Invocations are special foiled versions of often popular cards. They’re incredibly rare. The odds of pulling an invocation are around one in 144 packs. If you’re drafting, you get three packs. So chance odds to open one of the 20 invocations are once every 48 drafts. The 20 invocations in this set range from around $20-$100. I pulled one that’s worth $70-$80. It’s not the most expensive piece of cardboard in the game, but it’s pretty up there. So go me.

I did well in my games too. I kept a) drafting green, b) opening Overcome (a powered down Overrun is still pretty damn great) and c) doing better than I expected, especially since I wasn’t drafting well. Signals were weird, given a bunch of new players. It made it harder to understand how the colours were flowing at the table. First round I put together a GB deck that had consistent three drops, three or so bits of removal and a chunky high end on my curve. Turns out sometimes if you keep hitting your land drops, playing solid creatures and attacking, you can win games. Round two I had a super aggressive RG deck with standouts like Earthshaker Khenra, Ambuscade and other great removal. Once again, I got to the final round and split.

My last draft didn’t totally come together. I started out GB again, then pivoted into GU after seeing how free the colour pair was. I had a bunch of super solid creatures on the ground, two Aerial Guide, three Ambuscade, Ramunap Hydra and two Unquenchable Thirst. I figured that removal plus evasion would equal wins, but I got mana screwed a bunch of times and couldn’t beat my opponent’s aggressive RW deck.

Altogether, I got to play three rounds of draft, picking up a couple of rad cards along the way and an absurdly valuable rare. I technically made money on my investment, which is funny considering I was using store credit from a card I traded in last week. My habit is paying for itself. If Vegas has told me anything, it’s time to take the money and run.

Just a bunch of haw-seplay.

In attempt to warm up my mojo and finally get down to business, I’ve garbed myself in my new donkey onesie and chunky slipper boots. It’s almost 9pm and I have no good reason to not’ve written. I mean well, but it’s all too easy to get distracted by shiny things and when there’s a task at hand, everything but that task glistens alluringly. I wrote the word “alluringly” assuming it wasn’t a real word and I’m kind of disappointed to discover that it is. It sounds clunky, which is peculiar for a modifier to “alluring”. “Alluring” is such an enigmatic and exotic word. It’s shiny, shimmering, splendid. It holds a kind of taboo promise. Seems that little bit naughty. If “alluring” was the suave dude you went home with, “alluringly” would be his Ed Hardy laden wardrobe. Those two letters do nothing but taint the potential of all that came before. “Alluringly” are The Matrix sequels. “Alluringly” is realising 16 years later that Lucas was actually a pretty shit director. Jar Jar Binks is the poster child of “alluringly”.

“Alluringly” was the rigid side dish regime at The Rooster Rotisserie and Grill on Bloor. Don’t get me wrong, the portions were gargantuan. The food was delicious. Service (though pushy for a bewildered newbie) was quick and the prices were good for the meal size. There are a heap of side dishes, but their policy is so inflexible. You get two side dishes with a combo, no complaints there. I saw the beetroot and thought how my poop hadn’t been noxiously red in a while, so I picked it. As the woman behind the counter started heaping it on, I realised just what a commitment that much beetroot was. I asked if she could possibly give me a third of that and a small amount of broccoli instead of what had amounted to around three large beetroots. Nope. No way. Two side dishes, no mixing. I’m not blaming them, I’m just complaining because I’ve built my own soapbox here. I understand their policy in theory, but they’ve also opted for a separatist movement between foods. You get two mammoth amounts (in that they’d each feed a mammoth) of individual vegetables. There is no “steamed vegetables” option or selection based on rough grouping. So I had a generously sized pork chop flanked by mountains of potatoes and beetroot. “Alluring” was the sight of the plate beforehand. “Alluringly” is my body figuring out how to process all that starch.

If I wasn’t entirely explicit, I’d still fully recommend this place if you have a massive appetite and want to eat a lot of a few things.

On the contrary, I don’t have a large appetite right now, but that isn’t stopping me from wanting to eat a lot of a lot of things. Due to insufficient planning, it’s one of those Friday nights where I’m tooling around on the internet in lieu of meaningful human interaction. Please don’t think I’m complaining. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is to do on the ‘net (as kids these days call it. In my day we just said Information Superhighway for short). I’ve got Netflix, a ton of games and so many unread stories on r/NoSleep. While I’m doing all this (ALL OF IT) though, I want stuff to nibble on. Something cold like ice cream or maybe wobbly like jelly. There’s chocolate around the house, but I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that if I have some of the chocolate there’ll be less in the house once I’ve finished. What if I want chocolate another time and there’s none to be had? I don’t think I wanna live that kind of dystopian existence. So the idea of eating chocolate, while alluring, is appearing more alluringly by the second.

It’ll be like my teenage years all over again (except for the angst and random boners that is).

It’s getting late and I don’t know what to write. Part of the trouble is that I want to have direction. If I start with a good enough prompt, it’ll give me somewhere to go. Another issue tonight is that I keep stumbling over my own fingers. Seriously, I do this every day. Why am I having such difficulty typing? Of course you’re not gonna see that outcome, since I’ll tidy it all up for you. Just know that it took two minutes to get this far into my entry. I was so bogged down by the trail of typos, scattered like bones amongst sand in the vast desert wastelands.

My improv teacher said one of the biggest issues that people face when they start out is trying to be funny. If you’re trying too hard to be funny, you’re fishing for the right answer, when you should ideally be going with your instinct. The right answer is often the simplest one. If you want to be spontaneous you don’t want to overthink it. When I think back to the origins of this project, that was the point. I wanted to find the creativity in lucid thought. Non-linear ideas were fine. As time evolved, I found that the entries where I had a theme to work turned out to be more cohesive. Restriction breeds creativity, right? At the same time, once in a blue, green or velvet moon I’ll flick back through my archives (they’re vast and mostly incomprehensible) and find some mental tangents. They’re weird, wonderful and yet cosy. I’m not sure how they feel to others. Having written them myself, they feel intimately familiar, like pulling a long forgotten hoodie out of your closet. While I rarely remember the day they were written, I’m sucked straight back into that frame of mind. I can follow the flow of thoughts from one point to another, understanding how connections were made. Of course I would say that though, wouldn’t I?

It’s funny, but as I’m writing this out, I’m having a concurrent conversation with a friend about my aversion to making plans. I used to plan ahead all the time. In recent years I’ve cooled off that kind of proactive plotting. I’ve become more enamoured with the convergence of spontaneity. Toronto’s a big city and there’s always something on. I think in a way it’s been a matter of keeping options open. Rampant FOMO, y’know Joe? While that sounds innately selfish, there’s actually a different reasoning behind it. If I’m really looking forward to an event, I get totally gutted if my activity partner cancels on me. I understand, because everyone’s time poor and has limited spoons, etc. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’ve been left in the lurch. More disappointed than Kevin Sorbo, even. Reflexively, I hate committing to anything if I might not be able to deliver. I abhor the idea of making others suffer those Kevin Sorbo disappointments. I wouldn’t want it done to me, so why do it to others? Subconsciously, I often take the path where this eventuality would rarely be a reality.

This mentality frequently pushes me away from relying on others. If my brain tells me it’ll likely end in disappointment, why bother? I’ll get concert tickets on my own. If it turns out another friend happens to be going, fantastic! Most often I’ll just go and chat to randoms while I’m there. Every once in a while I’ll make a new friend. I’ve realised lately though, that I’ve pushed myself into shitty patterns. I value spontaneity, but not everyone does. This means I’ll be continuously reaching out for companionship last minute and come back with nothing. I’ve been doing this for years and my success rate has gotten so bad, I’ve found myself refraining from asking instead. Obviously the lesson is here is to either conform to planning as others do, or get used to feeling let down. The latter seems a less rosy preposition. In any case, giving up on rampant spontaneity seems like admitting that the world isn’t a magical place. That too seems to be a shitty option.

Maybe the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Make plans, but loose ones. Book out time to be present with someone, but don’t sketch in the details too finely. Do x activity then get food. Be in this part of town and see what happens. Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I “hung out” with someone at their place. No agenda outside of experiencing one another’s company. Could that be the answer? Walk that tightrope between certainty and the unknown?

Or is it as simple as using Google Calendar again?