Well I certainly won’t be motherbored.

At the moment life looks like a bunch of pixels. My brain is unravelling and I can see The Matrix. It’s not bad enough for my vision to have devolved into binary, but I could be in need of a graphics card upgrade. RAM’s usually pretty cheap. Let’s toss some more in there too. I don’t know if that ol’ 512MB of DDR RAM can keep up any more. It’s been a decade since I last knew anything about computers and it seems like my mind is similarly outmoded. Oh well, it’s not like overclocking could have any severe ramifications…

I still haven’t caught up from my holiday hangover. I caught a cold and instead of shirking it off, I spread it to my girlfriend who begrudgingly held up her end of keeping the contagion going. Thanks honey. So I spent the weekend soaking in the festering putrescence. I’m still congested and my squishy think-y bits are accordingly dealing with my internal traffic jam. Everything’s taking a while to process. Pity, because returning from holiday has meant a significant backlog at work. We’re ramping up to the busiest time of the year, which co-incidentally coincides with the colossal comedy festival, which I’m covering. Cool. Cool cool cool.

Buuuuut, my accreditation hasn’t yet been sorted. Normally I’m all geared up a week or two ahead of time. This year, a combination of poor communication and a new PR firm covering the festival has meant that three days out I still haven’t been told the status or extent of my accreditation. They want me to submit my requests, but they haven’t told me what level of shows I get access to. This means I have to put together requests with contingencies. I usually plan pretty carefully to maximise what I’m able to see. Some comics stay for a couple of nights, others pop in for a night or two. This makes the festival into an elaborate puzzle.

This puzzle is further compounded by travel times. It’s all well and good to book a 7pm show and 9pm show, but if the 7pm show is at the Sony Center and the 9pm show is at Comedy Bar, it can be pretty fucking tricky to make it from the first show to the second in time. Sometimes shows run long. Furthermore, now that they’ve included Yuk Yuks in the venue list for midnight shows, it’s damn near impossible to get from a 10.30pm show to the midnight show in time, even after taking an Uber (RIP the novel experience that is Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show).

So one axis is timing and venue distance, the other is headliner access. If I can see headliners, it’ll change which shows I prioritise. If I don’t, that’ll change the shape of my festival. Without knowing whether or not I get headliners then, will affect the structure of my schedule. If I get Mulaney on Thursday night, for instance, it won’t only change what I see on Friday night, but could affect which shows I opt in for on Friday, Saturday and Sunday too. Which means I need to submit multiple contingencies based on what access I will get, without knowing how this will play out. Anyone else confused?

Then while all this is happening I’ll also have daily coverage, a full time job (which could be in another department with later hours if I get the job (it’s a six month assignment that would start over the next week or two. Fingers crossed) and the necessity of keeping up physical activity (or otherwise truly go insane). Sleep comes in there somewhere too. Is caffeine more effective if I shelve it?

The scary part is, this is what I do for leisure. I think I need to learn what priorities are.

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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!

I for one am looking forward to talking about something else. Like, did you know they’re doing a live action Jetsons? Why?

Like every other year, the last week before Tough Mudder absorbs all other thought. I’ve become a broken record. Talking about much else would be disingenuous, because I’m not thinking about an array of topics. I’ve got tunnel vision that’s concentrated on how I’m gonna get up those hills.

I’m thinking about what to eat and when to eat what. While common knowledge says that carbo loading is the way to go, I’m borderline petrified of getting constipated and having to navigate the course with a food baby as the monkey on my back. It’s a trap for sure. If your body isn’t used to certain types of food, why vary things up before the race in the hopes of getting a slight boost? I know that I’ll have shit all chances of sleeping the night before, so adding any kind of indigestion is a fool’s errand. Keep it simple, proteins, fibre and small amounts of complex carbs. Then fill in the gaps before the race with excessive pre-workout. I’ll practically fly up St Louis Moonstone.

I’ve kind of divided life into PM and AM (Pre Mudder and After Mudder respectively) and for the most part I’ve pushed everything after the race out of my head. One nagging issue though is footwear. There’s no way my shoes will be operable post race. My beloved Saucony Excursion TR8 GTXs. I bought a pair a few years back and found them to be the most comfortable running shoes I’d ever owned. So of course I got another pair once they were done. It took work and Google-Fu. I searched across the world and found a pair close to home in Edmonton. Paid way too much, but it was worth it not to mess with what my feet were used to. I’m no stranger to foot pain, which has a habit of becoming knee pain all too easily. So the path of least resistance was best paved with becoming a creature of habit. This year, the shoes are nowhere to be found. I’ve looked. I’ll have to figure out what about them worked and seek the next best thing. That’s a job for my Sunday hangover.

Tonight is all about stretching and foam rolling. In other words, a torture session. It’ll hurt like fuck now, but anything I do beforehand will only ease pressure on the day. Why is it that myofascial release is so goddamn painful? Somehow pressing dense foam into my muscles feels like a stabbing. The foam roller will deal with my IT bands, thighs, calves, groin, glutes and rotator cuffs, while a lacrosse ball can get into those hard to reach spots on the upper body. Is this boring you? Good, it’s gonna be even worse for me. I have no idea how real athletes deal with this stuff on a regular basis. Those fucking Supple Leopards. Staying limber seems to be a full-time commitment. I can’t imagine how much time you’d have to devote to keeping the machine running well if your body was the tool of your trade. Last year it was so easy. I had benefits that covered regular athletic therapy. I just offset the work and knowledge onto those who knew best. Maybe I can convince myself that doing it on my own makes it worth more or something. Am I that gullible?

Two sleeps, then it’s here. I’ll be able to remember what my life was like when it had nuance. Maybe I’ll learn from walking a mile in some different shoes.

I am somewhat driven towards a Mairsiélago deck through.

Magic the Gathering post. Here be dragons (literally. It’s one of the four tribal decks I’m gonna talk about today).

Commander 2017. The release which made me realise that I don’t own any tribal EDH decks. What gives? I’ve always loved tribal mechanics. Or at the very least, I’ve enjoyed making tribal decks with little to no synergy. Like that 60 card Insect highlander that vastly improved with the printing of Swarmyard. Or the plant deck I put together before Avenger of Zendikar actually made it viable. Forget that noise. My big hitters were Vineslasher Kudzu, Vulturous Zombie and… Lichenthrope. I’ve always wanted to build a tribal EDH deck, but it’s never happened. I’m too much of an edgelord that wants something non-standard. Maybe one day I’ll really commit and make all of my Camarid dreams come true.

Until then, let’s look at some neat stuff from Commander 2017!

  • Mairsil, the Pretender: Here’s a complicated card that no doubt has a million infinite combos. Yeah, of course you can blink him with Deadeye Navigator, but since when did that card need help being effective? More importantly, Mairsil gives you the opportunity to do downright silly things. Want to turn him into a vehicle? Go right ahead, get all John Malkovich on him. This guy might finally make Quicksilver Elemental worth something.
  • Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist: They did a hell of a job bringing back an old favourite (even if that old favourite wasn’t Baron Sengir) and making them formidable. Mirri lets you swing in with impunity, unworried about the backswing. More importantly, she finally legitimises the Centaur Omenreader/Glare of Subdual deck I’ve always wanted.
  • Edgar Markov: A new Baron Sengir he isn’t, but I do like how they’ve made going wide very much in reach. He may have benefited from shaving off one mana, but at least by the time you drop Edgar you should have four vampires already on the board. The first strike/haste combo pulls back on some of the feel bads of being a Cadillac general, but not entirely as he’s only swinging for five.
  • The Ur-Dragon: Big, dumb and goofy, but likely pretty effective. I can imagine just how fun it’d be loading your deck up with all the dragonlords and swinging. Hellkite Charger could give you double the pleasure and Utvara Hellkite could make things worse and worse for your opponents.
  • Path of Ancestry: A bonafide EDH staple. At absolute worst it can tap for your general’s identity and gives you a scry when you play them. In a dedicated tribal deck you’re most likely scrying every turn with no real cost. That’s fucking amazing. It’ll feel subtle, but your draws will be smoothed out for the remainder of the match. This card is big game.
  • Teferi’s Protection: It wouldn’t surprise me if this made waves in legacy. Does this work with Ad Nauseum? In any case, Sunforger packages cried out worldwide in exultation. How does my Shu Yun deck not yet have Mistveil Plains?
  • Vindictive Lich: Selfishly, I just put together Chainer, Dementia Master so I’m looking to jam this in there. Is this worth the extra mana than Merciless Executioner and Fleshbag Marauder? I think so. None of these are tiny effects (two cards and five life are a chunk) and if you’re more than 1v1, this card seems solid.
  • Mathas, Fiend Seeker: I’m far from the first to mention this, but it’s a spectacular flavour win how well this goes with Bounty Hunter. This dude seems like the basis of a neat political deck, with a commander who can get in for small digs here and there.
  • Ramos, Dragon Engine: These DARGONS were all spoiled months back, but Ramos seems like it’ll be heaps of fun. It’s a great pull of an old character and happens to produce the same amount as all of its Mercadian Masques body parts would. It also makes Increasing Savagery provide six mana first time around and 20 on the second cast.

To be honest, I probably won’t buy any of the product this year, but I might pick up some singles. They’ve done a good job of printing some truly neat and clever cards, but also evergreen tribal effects (one cycle in particular) that really work in this format. I may not want a vampire deck, but Mirri will most likely worm its way into some of my decks. Not just my heart.

Kinda surprised they didn’t play Freebird.

It’s getting harder and harder to tick bands off my live music bucket list. That wasn’t intended as gloating. The issue is that I’m not nearly as exploratory with music as I once was. It takes a shit ton of effort to keep on top of new releases, especially when there’s so much fucking content coming out all the time. How am I supposed to hear and absorb new music when every artist I loved back in ’08-’10 has a 2017 release? Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Broken Social Scene, Sigur Rós, Japandroids, Spoon, The XX, The National, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, St Vincent and so much more. Half of these are already out and I’ve been so overwhelmed by content that I have yet to give them the ear-time they deserve. There are podcasts to listen to, things to watch and read. I’ve got hobbies and responsibilities. Being an adult takes up a lot of spare time.

However, none of that mattered the other night when Fleet Foxes took the stage at Massey Hall. I got into these guys a week after their 2008 performance at the Bruce Mason theatre. The next time they came to town, I was overseas. I think there was some music festival I meant to go to, but that never worked out. We’ve been passing like ships in the night (they felt my profound absence from their tours, I’m sure). Finally the universe aligned and came together under the roof of my favourite Toronto venue. One of the rare venues where the sound techs are so good I don’t need to wear earplugs. The lighting techs make the most grand displays. The acoustics are phenomenal and the whole building is gorgeous. If an artist I love has a show there it’s pretty hard to pass up that chance.

It took about ten minutes for the band to engage the audience. In my head I’d always had this picture of Fleet Foxes as uptight, pretentious artwank douches. I couldn’t have been more off-base. They were amicable and loquacious, taking time to banter with the crowd. A crowd that was strangely aggressive heckle-wise. Once again, I expected that the band would shut that the fuck down, but instead lead singer Robin Pecknold accommodated it. He’d listen and respond. They’d goof around playing snippets of covers (“Exit Music for a Film”, “Here Comes the Sun”) or in general joking around with audience members. That unfortunately encouraged a deluge of dickheads from the crowd to call out, but didn’t tarnish an amazing gig.

It’s something truly special when a band you’ve been waiting for delivers in stunning fashion. Everything sounded phenomenal and the choice of visuals brought it all to the fore. The harmonies were rich and bold. Their track selection was astounding. I can’t think of any songs I craved that they missed. The old classics scratched the itch I’d built up for years. The new material added a interesting dynamic. It played on a stronger sense of juxtaposition, something that was viscerally felt live. I can’t imagine them having performed a better gig, which is the most sensational feeling when it’s something I’ve been longing for. At times it’s easy to forget how much live music resonates deeply within you.

Like every good gig, it’s making me question why I don’t go out to concerts more often. It’s making me wonder how long I’ll have to wait until the next big one (September 18th, Father John Misty). Mostly though, it’s filling my mind with memories and my heart with goodwill.

In short, it’s about time I added more names to that bucket list.

You win some, you Cthulhu’s some.

I’m excited. Today we’re playing Arkham Horror for likely my first time in three years. It’s a tremendously complicated and difficult Lovecraftian board game with a strong overarching narrative. You play a group of investigators in 1920s Massachusetts looking into strange happenings around town. A disconnected bunch, there’s a drifter, scientist, professor, nun and all kinds of characters who’ve experienced the supernatural. This was a pre-Ghostbusters era, obviously, but this motley crew have tasked themselves with exploring otherworldly locations to prevent the rise of the horrifying Ancient Ones from destroying our world. It’s atmospheric and at times staggeringly oppressive, but with the odds stacked against you there’s no choice but to fight back against the rising tide of evil.

There was a period of about two years where I’d play multiple times per week most weeks. I loved this game to bits. My friends and I composed rigorous strategies to attain victory. We’d seek to understand the game better on a macro level, breaking down what really made it tick, working out lines of play and crunching statistics. One of my friends started putting together an excel spreadsheet tracking our win/loss percentage, whether we won by closing gates or defeating the Ancient One and which investigators we used. We’d add expansion packs one by one, which would drastically change how it played. To say that we were obsessive would be both fair and accurate. It was intoxicating to dive head first into something new with a core group, developing our own lingo and shortcuts. In jokes too, of course. I’ve got rosy memories of those late nights and I want to recapture that feeling.

When I got to Toronto, one of the first things I did was seek out an Arkham playgroup. In fact, at a concert on my second night in the city I met a guy who played. Serendipity on my side. A bunch of us would visit his friend who had stacks of board games and have these great days spent playing through them. We’d throw on atmospheric music and have a blast. Then Fantasy Flight games’ updated Eldritch Horror came out and we dove in, exploring all the nuances and updated mechanics. Being new to the city, it was a damn swell time. Sadly the main guy who owned all the games moved away to Vancouver and it kind of fell apart. Before he left, however, he sold me his base copy of Arkham Horror for dirt cheap so I could keep up with this game I loved so much.

After buying it, I haven’t played it once.

Today though, today I get to crack it open and relive those past experiences with a fresh perspective. Back to the mean streets of 20s Massachusettes. Sifting through the stacks at Miskatonic University, searching for treasure at the Curiositie Shoppe, canvassing for allies at Ma’s Boarding House. Or frankly, just trying to avoid getting devoured by The Hound of Tindalos. With so many ways to die or be driven insane, what’re the odds of survival without at least one major psychosis?

Where’s that damned excel spreadsheet when I need it?

Now I feel bad for not knowing the right kind of card tricks.

Magic the Gathering post. If you’re not into that, come back tomorrow.

Well we’ve reached the end of my Magic Grand Prix adventure. Immersing myself in a game I’ve been playing for 17 years now. I knew that I enjoyed it, but I didn’t realise how entrenched I’ve become in the culture surrounding it. I have good friends who I’ve met through the game. I read daily articles on strategy and changes to the metagame. I follow Magic stocks, the fluctuation of how much cards are worth. I get the jokes rising from the endless online circle-jerks. I knew it was a hobby, but didn’t understand that it was really a part of my life.

Spending two days at the GP was great. I always had people to chat to, given the commonality of our hobby. It was exciting to hear how friends were faring in their matches and overall records. I had consistently skill-testing matches and played a ton of players who were far better than I was. I learned a ton about the format and drafted a bunch. My drafts started off a little bit dicey, but by the end I realised where I was erring. I’d remembered that Amonkhet was a hyper aggressive format and I was convinced that playing five drops or six drops was a dead man’s game. That was true. It was all cartouches, trials and fucking Slither Blade of all things. The addition of Hour of Devastation slowed things right down. It’s entirely possible to splash cards. You can get to late game and mount a comeback. In short, if there’s fun, splashy stuff you want to play, go ahead. Play it.

It’s hard, getting a couple of bad beats in a row. It really shits on your morale. After a rough morning of being outplayed, I started getting almost delirious. I was clearly losing my mind and decided I could either let the pressure drive me insane, or stop taking it so seriously. It was just a game. If I wasn’t doing it for enjoyment, why was I doing it at all? I chilled out a little and tried to draft what I felt like drafting rather than what I felt I should. I managed to eke out a win in my third draft and felt the upswing. Then tragedy. Common practice in drafting so far had been to split after the first round. In short, declaring that the top four players all came out even. It meant everyone could walk away with ten boosters and go off to draft again. Everybody barring this one confident dude was up for splitting. This guy wanted to play it out. So we were all forced to play, then that guy got totally crushed. I got destroyed by my opponent and walked away with six boosters rather than ten. Fuck that guy (a sentiment I heard repeated later by other players in other drafts).

I did one last ditch effort draft. I started out picking Resilient Khenra, then got fed a number of solid red cards and began to question my green pick. Then the pendulum swung back and nearing the end of pack two I was solidly in RG, but with a bunch of fixing just in case. I noticed a super late Obelisk Spider coming around and decided what the hell, why not pick it and splash? The card is neat and I’d never been able to solidly get in that archetype. It was my last draft of the day. Fun was my motto. I opened pack three saw Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons staring me in the face. Time to commit. I was hoping to find a couple of those -1/-1 counter green creatures. Then Plague Belcher was passed and I knew I was set. I had fixing and three powerful themed splashes. ROCK AND ROLL MOTHERFUCKER.

The deck played out like a dream. It had a bunch of aggressive critters, but truly came alive in the mid-game. I didn’t see Hapatra, but hell that Obelisk Spider and Plague Belcher put in work. Both games they showed up and made things difficult for my opponent. I had a blast and did some tight aggressive manoeuvres. I felt like I was playing limited like it was meant to be played. I felt centred. Then our pod all decided to split because they weren’t assholes. I left the convention centre with a lightness in my heart.

AND A FUCKING STACK OF BOOSTER PACKS. YEAH BOI.