It’ll henceforth be known as Indrik Lamar

Magic the Gathering themed post today. If that’s not your thing, come back tomorrow.

I hope everyone enjoyed another fun and successful spoiler season. There’s some neat stuff on the way. I can’t wait to play with Pelt Collector, which embodies the beloved fantasy trope of elves wearing an overabundance of coats and charging into battle. We’ve got plenty of memeworthy critters including Generous Stray, a cat who brings you a lizard treat. There’s Affectionate Indrik, solid limited fodder that loves so hard it hurts. Also Book Devourer, a big ol’ lug who enjoys words as much as I do.

Without diving too much into specifics, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together for limited. There’s good, efficient removal in abundance, a sign of an excellent format. Prey Upon, Luminous Bonds and Dead Weight are all superb tempo plays. I’m personally kinda excited to see how Undercity Uprising plays, let alone all the neat coloured mana heavy uncommons. Will the plentiful Gates make for easily castable nonsense? I sure hope so. I’ve got lots of time for nonsense.

What about the mechanics? Did they get there? It looks like Dimir got an alley ooped big time with Surveil. Seems like it’ll have a subtle long term affect on the game while powering out any Undergrowth/Jump Start shenanigans Dimir players will be able to swipe from others. I’m not sure on Undergrowth yet. Traditionally Golgari’s strength has been slow attrition, coming back in the long game. This time around, I’m not sure. The full spoiler was just released this morning and I haven’t combed through it much. Undergrowth seems like it has marginal enablers and might not get there, but it’s often hard to tell what, on paper, will be good on the board.

Mentor looks like an ability that will play out much stronger than it looks. I’ve got echoes of Renown thundering in my heart. Will combat tricks keep the moMentorm rolling? Probably. I expect to be rolled over by it infinite times. Last up, Jump Start. I’m quite not sure that Jump Start got there and I’m very prepared to be wrong. Feels like Wizards were super worried about it being too strong and didn’t make it strong enough? Chemister’s Insight does look dope though. Flashbacks to Deep Analysis? Pun intended. Convoke was super strong first time around. Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi and Siege Wurm were total gas. Siege Wurm is back and this time it looks less like a penis. I’m not sure that small creatures are as common as they were in original Rav (anyone remember how dominant Selesnya Evangel was?), but who knows? The game has shifted and maybe getting a turn 3 4/4 vigilance is good enough. Conclave Tribunal certainly is.

Big news on the Magic the Gathering: Arena front, we’re finally getting a wipe for Open Beta. I think I’m in the minority seeing that as good news, but I do. It’s neat to start from the bottom and work your way up. Sure, it means any decks I’ve made will disappear, but I get to create new ones depending on what I open/draft. Plus everyone else will be running their jank cobbled together decks too. I love it when everyone has clunky one ofs that slowly get tweaked over time. The wipe will also make drafting Dominaria fun again, now that I’ve collected pretty much the whole set. Better yet, there’ll be Rav to draft. Plus Ravnica sealed. They’ve promised friend finder functions and all sorts of helpful tweaks. The game has gotten kind of boring with all these retread formats. A party’s on its way and I’m ready for it.

I guess you could say I’m all Rav’d up.

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Here I am muddering to myself

Tough Mudder this year was…

…actually, I think that says enough. Tough Mudder this year was.

It existed. There was a path to run on. They had some obstacles. It was a Tough Mudder course, in the proprietary sense of the word.

It was also a real disappointment. Look. I’m a decently optimistic bloke. I really am. I look forward to this event every year. I train like mad to throw myself at everything the course puts in my way. Every year I have a total blast getting covered in mud, slipping and sliding, crawling, climbing, swinging and jumping. Everyone helps everyone else out, and we all make a time of it. Great event.

This year it felt like they phoned it in. I’ve heard rumours that they’re looking to sell the brand and, as such, they’re trying to maximise profit margins by scaling things back. Feels accurate, even if it’s just a rumour. Which sucks, because the event has always been a master class in price scalping. We’ve known this going in, but it’s been fun enough to compensate. You’re paying at least $150 for a ticket, $20-$30 for parking and $10 for bag drop.

The obstacles this year were altogether pretty tame. King Gorilla was almost farcical. It was a zig zag through a dry, flat field. In previous years, at least it’s been up and down a hill, adding some interesting dimension. This year it felt like they got pushed for time last minute and turned the line outside of bag check into an obstacle. This year the full course involved looping around to do a second lap of the course, with some divergent paths. There were a couple of obstacles you had to redo. It was sorta lazy, like they didn’t even try. The partner carry was weirdly short and Mud Mile 2.0 felt like a mildly inconvenient puddle. Most of the obstacles felt like smaller versions of the previous ones. It was like they wanted to make them accessible for the half course, but didn’t add an extra difficulty layer for those who wanted them. Funky Monkey 2.0 was a blast last year and downgrading to the regular version this year was disappointing. The new Kong was fun, for sure, but there was nothing this year on the awe inspiring scale of King of the Swingers from a few years back. In past years they’ve had extra obstacles for returning participants, extra challenging ones. Not this year. My team and I were halfway through the course thinking “sure, it’s nice to be outside and people are very friendly, but does this all seem pretty underwhelming to anyone else?”

This was my fourth, and it seems like each year they scale down food options. First time around there were energy gels, pre-workout and real protein bars at regular intervals. If you’re burning a couple hundred calories every hour in the hot sun, this stuff is important to keep you going. It’s kinda irresponsible not to keep participants fed, not least because they’re paying $150+ per ticket. You think they could spare a protein bar, energy gel and pre-workout per participant and still be laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s not all bad. Christie Lake Conservation Area was gorgeous. Truly lovely terrain to run through. It was nice to not have the constant hills of St Louis, but it would’ve been great for the difficulty level to compensate. The electronic waivers were excellent this year. The staff were friendly and helpful. When a guy in the beer tent started getting faint, medical responded quickly and helped him out. There was still the outstanding attitude of camaraderie and an admirably low douchebag quotient, given the hordes of shirtless dudebros. It was a nice day out in the sun and I’m stoked that they’ve developed accessible opportunities for burgeoning course-goers, but it would’ve been nice to have the challenge level of previous courses. Felt like a waste of training.

Will I go again next year? Every other year the answer would’ve been a resounding yes. This time? Maybe I’ll see what Spartan Race 2019 is like instead.

When Mudder Nature calls

It’s 5am and I’ve only been up for 40 minutes. I was in bed just after 9pm. I may have had six hours sleep altogether. Without any sarcasm whatsoever, for a Tough Mudder eve, things are on track.

I’m excited, like I am every year. Like every year, this year feels different. It’s a small group this time. Three of us. Every Tough Mudder I’ve loved approaching the challenge with a different team. Everyone brings their own attitude to the course. I’ve never been saddled with anyone who hasn’t given it their all. This year is my first time running with only veteran Mudders. Both my team mates know the score. It’s great basking in the camraderie of a large team, but you’re only as fast as your slowest member. A seven person team has a ton of variance. A three person team of individuals who’ve run the course before means that we can probably jog most of it. That’s exciting to me. I’m not the breed of competitive where my finishing time really matters. That said, previous years the course has taken over four hours, because not everyone spent the preceding months training in earnest. I get it, life gets busy and for most people it’s just a fun day excursion. Personally, having put gallons of sweat into my training, it’s been a bit of a let down to spend much of the course walking. Left me feeling overtrained, y’know? This year I’m hoping for maybe under three hours, just to say I did it. It’s not just a performance thing. You get long lines at a bunch of the obstacles and that’s out of your control. Having too much of an aggressive mindset would ruin the charm of the experience for me. I mean, I’ll be garbed in a bright pink shirt and purple leggings. Okay, “bright” is an overstating it. I pulled out my go to uniform last night. It still smells like mud. I’m bathing in nostalgia already. Just, muddy nostalgia.

I’m all packed. I’ve had my first bowel movement on the day (if you’ve never run an intense physical trial you have no idea how impotant food timing and bathroom sequencing is. Seriously). The goal is to eat breakfast around three hours before reaching the starting line. Some good hearty porridge, packed with carbs, fats and protein. A cup of lemon water on the side helps settle your stomach. My team mate, literal angel that she is, has baked some paleo chocolate chip banana bread to give us some extra stodge to run on, so we’ll have that in the car on the way over. An hour before hitting the starting line I’ll have a banana. Not too much fibre, but just a little. Then 30 minutes before starting I’ll have a big ol’ double dose of pre workout. Get that caffeine flowing. Fingers crossed that leads to another bathroom break around 20 minutes pre-liftoff, so I feel energised by all the packing, but not bogged down. The mindset is, your body really needs food on the course. At the very least, you’re probably running through 300-400 calories an hour, depending on your pace. We’re likely to be there for two and a half to three hours, so that’s a hefty amount of calories burned. There will be food on the course, they usually have bananas, energy gummies, pre workout and protein bars at intervals across the race. At the same time, too much food can leave you feeling bloated, with an uneasy stomach. If you’re pulling yourself over sheer walls, having an unhappy gut makes it a lot harder.

Goddammit, I’m really bloody excited now. Perhaps that’s pre race jitters or literal jitters from the bottle of cold brew coursing through my body. A brutally sunny day today. 27 degrees. Thank fuck we have an early start time of 9.30am. It’s gonna be murder out there.

Righto, time for bowel movement number two. Get it? Number two?

Beer and breaststroke seems like a lesson in drowning

I feel crispy and sun baked. Let’s work with this hazy day’s daze.

I finally joined in my first ever Run TO Beer. If you’re too lazy to click the link, I’ve got you. It’s a local Toronto running group that does weekly planned routes to breweries across Toronto. You run, then head to a brewery and get a free beer in exchange for an instagram photo or equivalent social media promotion. They do 10km, 5km and 3km runs that go in waves. The neat part is, they run as a homogeneous blob of activity. Like a Katamari of athletic folk, the 10km loops around to pick up the 5km runners, then the 3km runners join in the fun. There are pacekeepers who ensure nobody gets left behind (Ohana, etc) and it’s open to enthusiasts irrespective of speed or skill level. Also “skill level” sounds like an odd combination of words when you’re talking about moving forward at an advanced pace. I guess there’s a lot of technique when it comes to high level running, but the more skilled you are, I’m sure the more effortless it all looks. I still don’t really consider myself a runner. It’s just something I do for fitness sake, without being a hobbyist. I know that posture and knee driving helps with speed. Beyond that, I swing my arms and move my legs like everyone else.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I often have trouble meeting active friends. It just so happens that a lot of the people I gravitate towards don’t necessarily care much for running, lifting or climbing things. At least, not to the same extent that I do. I never hold this against people, because imagine that being a dealbreaker in your life. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like more of it in my social circles. I tried to put together a summer activity/open source fitness group on Facebook, but it never really took off. I think people had the best of intentions, but when I fractured my wrist and spiralled out of commission, I think I took their incentive with me. I get it. Motivation is hard to find and harder still when it comes bundled with buckets of sweat.

I didn’t socialise a whole lot today, but it was neat to meet habitual runners and hear about what it meant to them. Over our beers (and as today was a huge run, 250 odd people in comparison to the usual 30-40), we chatted about distances, times, wear and tear and whatnot. Marathon runners discussed the differences between race lengths. Apparently a full marathon feels around four times harder than a half. A few of them mentioned just how challenging it gets close to the 30km mark. Your body shuts down in a big way and motivation is difficult to come by. They said 37km is where it tends to pick back up. With the end in sight you think it’s only 5km. I can run 5km. Then they run 5km to the finish. C’est tout.

I thought about running some more. Aside from Tough Mudder, I’ve never really trained for a big event. Most years I tend to overdo the Mudder training, then end up in a group with people who didn’t train. It’s meant previously that I find the course pretty easy, since I don’t have to push the pace. This year because of my wrist I’ve undertrained. I also purposefully wanted to let myself have patio beers, etc, this time around. I’m doing it with friends who’re Mudder veterans and we’re planning on trying to jog most of it. I’m hopefully gonna find the challenge level this year that I’ve been searching for. If that’s too easy, what’s next? Do I finally do a half marathon and train incrementally? Do I consider a mini triathlon for something all new? Or is there something else out there that could take my fancy? Circus? Rock climbing? Finally learning how to swim Butterfly?

If they involve more sweet ass beer, sign me up.

Is that what we call a cardinal sin?

Magic the Gathering themed post. Once more, if this isn’t your thing come back tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll have loads to complain about then.

“Do you have any competitive decks?” He asked. I wasn’t sure what the answer to that was. Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to have a quick 1v1 EDH game where we both went all out. I grabbed Hazezon Tamar, my pet deck. Land ramp, tokens and value. I had zero idea how it’d go against anything truly cEDH. I’ve never really tried. I shuffled up and asked him what he was playing. “Jhoira” he said. I laughed. “The new one?” He nodded. “So basically Eggs combo?” He laughed and nodded. We both shuffled and kept our hands. I got high roll and went first.

Leon Turn 1

Naya Panorama. Turn.

OP Turn 1

Island. Chromatic Sphere. Turn.

Leon Turn 2

Wooded Bastion. Sac Panorama to search for a plains. Turn.

OP Turn 2

Buried Ruin. Coldsteel Heart naming red. Turn.

Leon Turn 3

Forest. Farhaven Elf finding Mountain. Turn.

OP Turn 3

Seat of the Synod. Sacrifice Chromatic Sphere for U. Draw a card. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain. Turn.

Leon Turn 4

Canopy Vista. Panharmonicon.

OP Turn 4

Prophetic Prism. Draw two cards. Island. Chrome Mox exiling Counterspell. Draw a card. Thought Vessel. Draw a card. Myr Retriever getting back Chromatic Sphere. Draw a card. Turn.

Leon Turn 5

Forest. Natural Order sacrificing Farhaven Elf. Put Avenger of Zendikar into play. Panharmonicon triggers giving me 10x 0/1 Plant tokens. Turn.

OP Turn 5

Reliquary Tower. Basalt Monolith. Draw a card. Panharmonicon. Draw a card. Welding Jar. Draw two cards. Retraction Helix on Jhoira bouncing Welding Jar. Play Welding Jar. Draw two cards. Tap Basalt Monolith. Chromatic Sphere. Draw two cards. Sac Chromatic Sphere for R. Draw a card. Sac Buried Ruin, returning Chromatic Sphere. Play Chromatic Sphere. Draw two cards. Turn.

Leon Turn 6

Forest. 0/1 Plant tokens get +1/+1 counters. Beastmaster Ascension. Attack for 70. Good Game.

 

He had the win next turn, so if I didn’t win, he would’ve. Apparently that’s kinda how cEDH feels. I think I like it. The above took a long time to type out/remember (especially the fiddly mana stuff), but in reality the game took around five minutes. My opponent was friendly and didn’t take an age trying to work things out. We both went for the jugular. I top decked really well and, in a game where we were essentially both goldfishing, came out on top. It’d been a while since I’d played with physical cards or even visited an LGS, so it was a mixed bag.

I’m used to trading when I go out to play. These days few people seem to bring their trades. Or they’re wary of trading with strangers, which is fine too. The one dude who wanted to trade didn’t even play the game. He was just a dealer. I was small potatoes to him, and it showed. We durdled around as he tried to angle for the most value possible. I really didn’t give a shit about a dollar here and there. His attitude left kind of a bitter taste with me, but at least I picked up a Nylea and Dig Through Time that I’d been seeking for some time. Casual EDH scrub stuff. It all comes out in the wash.

I played a couple of randoms, but as ever it was a mixed bag. Some games were fun. Others took too long without a decent resolution. Some had neat interactions, especially seeing one of the new generals Aminatou, the Fateshifter at work. It was nice to dust off old decks and remember how they played. Altogether, a fun night that ended far too early as the store kicked us out around 9.30pm. On a Friday?

I guess you gotta know when to fold ’em.

Could I be any more of an ideal spokesman?

I rode a bike yesterday!

It was magical. The wind whipping through the phantom locks I had in my experimental hair phases. Engaging my calves pushing uphill. Trying to wrap my head/hands around the odd downward sloping bullhorn style handlebars. An all new familiar experience. Unexpected and thrilling. I used to bike all the time. As a kid, from ages 10-15, I’d bike to school. I buckled my wheel at some stage and kept riding on that wheel for several years. It was so freeing. As a cookie-doughy child, I got to be active and experience the joy of speed. To have that control, to find new hidden routes and side streets. To zip around in charge of my own direction. I’d cover so much ground and see small changes on my day to day route. I tried besting my old times, it was awesome. I never really got the confidence to ride on the road, plus bike lanes virtually didn’t exist yet. So it was always ducking and weaving around pedestrians on the footpath.

Last night a bunch of us went out to Kensington Market for drinks. After chatting and chilling, we piled back to our friend’s place for more relaxed hangabouts. It was a no brainer. We could stay in a bar grabbing expensive drinks, or go back to her plounge and tailor our own vibe. Thing was, all the liquor stores were closed. Not even Wine Rack, the last refuge of desperate drunks, was open. She had a couple of bottles, but it felt like a dick move for us all to deplete her stash. When we arrived, I opted to go and grab some bottles from home. I was just down the hill, after all. With a monthly pass, I could even grab a bus there and back if the times synced. She off-handedly offered her bike. I opened my mouth for polite refusal and thought for a secondHow many years had it been since I’d ridden? Too many. It’d be faster and maybe more fun. The five or six drinks I’d had by then nudged me in the direction of yes and I went for it. I grabbed a helmet and climbed aboard.

Maybe the beers helped. It was just like riding a bike. Sure, the handlebars were more narrow than I was used to. My recovering wrist made things a little less secure. Given that it was almost midnight, nobody was around, so I took the footpath. It was great. I reined in my speeds coming down the hill and made it home in sub five minutes. I parked up front, put together a goody bag of liquor and climbed back on. Was it a fixie? Oh, it totally had gears. they were these odd little toggles that were quite estranged from what I’d grown up with, but they worked. Away I went. Even in my drunken state, the hill was a breeze. I didn’t even need to stand. I guess when you grow up in the land of dormant volcanoes, everywhere else is flatland by comparison. I was back at my mate’s place within 15 minutes.

Every year I think about buying a bike. Every year it gets late into summer and I think well, next year will be the year. It isn’t. Every year. Maybe though, and hear me out here, maybe next year will be the year. Not this year, because my wrists need time to heal. Next year though? It’s perfect. I’m sure it’ll happen. I do get bogged down by the artifice of owning a bike though. I’d need all the accessories; helmet, lock, etc. I’d have to consider lugging the vehicle around or where I was gonna store it. It’d make navigating public clunky at times. It’s that stuff that gets in my head ever year and thwarts plans to get one. Really though, I’m sure it’s not as bad as I think. It’s not an all or nothing conundrum. Just because I have a bike, doesn’t mean I need to use it all the time. I can take it when I want to, when the sun is shining just right. When I’d otherwise walk but want a swifter trip. Maybe if I was picking things up and slung my backpack over my shoulders.

2019, you hear me? Twenty biketeen. It’s coming.

I’m sure a number of you will end this thinking “well, those were technically all words…”

Magic the Gathering post. Usual disclaimer: If this ain’t in your wheelhouse, maybe come back tomorrow?

Egads, I’ve spent a lot of today playing Magic.

Arena has made it so I can tap lands without leaving the house. More importantly, Arena has made it so I can play spells without wearing pants. It’s, in a word, Magical. I started drafting around 9am today and finished around 4pm. So basically a full day of limited. I’ve learned that it’s almost impossible for me to turn down the opportunity to run Tatyova. If she’s not dealt with immediately she buries your opponent under card advantage. I started the day with a RG kicker concoction with Multani and Belzenok at the high end. Was it greedy to try splashing the Demonlord off a Song of Freyalise and Grow to Ashes? Likely. Was the deck a blast to play? Very much so. Multani felt like an unfair card whenever he came out. So much damage output. The combination of Reach and Trample meant he could put the brakes on an opponent before beating down. I’d feel filthy using his recursion ability with Tatyova. Guess what deck I’m making next? Unfortunately after having a quick opening with Radha, I tried casting a kicked Untamed Kavu and the game crashed. Game loss, bye bye draft. I sent in a crash report and went onto the next one.

My second deck was near mono blue with Tempest Djinn and Zahid. Or “Djinn and Djuice” as I call ’em. Naban with double Academy Journeymage, plus Raff Capashen for ambush surprises. Blue’s not my normal go to, but it was hard to deny how good it felt playing tempo games, smoothing out draws with Opt and Divination. Syncopate felt unfair when it arrived right on time. I got to live the dream once of turn 4 Zaphid with Raff, Syncopate and Blessed Light in hand. Doing It indeed. Tempest Djinn feels downright unfair on curve. I didn’t exactly smash the draft, but squeaked out just enough wins to make it to another one. Why not? I had a day free from plans.

If there’s something that I’ve learned today, it’s that while I love Magic, I still make a billion tiny little play mistakes. It’s kind of nifty to think how long I’ve been playing, how much I’ve learned and how much more there is to learn. It’s an absurdly deep game with a multitude of decisions to make. Each decision can have a ripple effect over the course of the game. So many matches end up decided over a few measly points of damage. Maybe one missed attack or a mistimed trigger. Drafting takes so much skill, deciding what to pick, how to factor in cards that’ll make it all the way around the table. A deep knowledge of the format makes such a difference too, so you can factor what your deck could look like and veering towards those possibilities.

Anyway, I still had enough for one last draft. After first picking Traxos and grabbing a couple of solid blue/artifact cards, I was looking down the barrel of U/x Historic. Then pack two I opened Naru Meha, On Serra’s Wings, Serra Angel and Icy Manipulator. I grabbed Icy, but it wasn’t a simple pick. A pack or two later I was passed Multani, Merfolk Trickster and In Bolas’ Clutches. I wasn’t certain what the pick was, so I grabbed the on colour legendary Control Magic. Next pack had my BFF Tatyova, so I went green anyway. By the time I put it all together it was a spicy Sultai brew with Traxos, 2x Tatyova, 2x Rona, In Bolas’ Clutches, 2x Cloudreader Sphinx and 4x Academy Drake. I played it safe and cut the black splash, upping the land count. The deck was remarkably consistent. With so many Academy Drakes I didn’t worry about waiting to kick them an awful lot. Playing a Wind Drake on curve felt totally fine. I ended up going 5-3, my best result all weekend. Turns out blue, despite my reservations, may well be the best colour in the format.

You learn something new every day.