Guess I forgot to say the magic word.

Magic the Gathering post. As the usual disclaimer goes, if you don’t play or care about the game, perhaps this entry isn’t for you. Try again later.

It’s been a busy weekend and I’ve been more social than I had in a while. It’s also the Rivals of Ixalan pre-release weekend. I was gutted to miss the Ixalan one, considering this is basically a set tailor made for me. A Mesoamerican themed deck filled to the gills with merfolk, pirates, vampires and dinosaurs. It’s silly EDH fodder, which is precisely my style. I didn’t play much Ixalan limited. In fact, I don’t really play much limited at all. Usually I do alright at pre-releases. Probably around 2-2 or 3-1. Spoilers, I didn’t do well today. In fact I did about as poorly as I could. I went 0-3 then got a bye in my last round, adding insult to injury. I didn’t even get to play one more match and see if my deck was as non-junky as I’d assumed.

Why was I so surprised to punt so hard? Because I’m usually a decent player and my pool seemed quite solid. I had a ton of removal in an aggressive red/black shell. There was a pirate sub-theme, I had a low curve and sitting at the top was Angrath, who I hoped would swing a couple of games my way. Other colours had strong cards (there was a Trapjaw Tyrant, but my white didn’t have enough depth), but nothing that deserved to make it into the deck. Without fixing, there was no real way to effectively splash either. So I was staunchly in red/black. Anyway, let’s get to the deck so you can see what I was working with:

Creatures (15)
1x Skittering Heartstopper
2x Dusk Legion Zealot
1x Fathom Fleet Firebrand
1x Dire Fleet Hoarder
1x Raptor Hatchling
1x Nest Robber
2x Fathom Fleet Boarder
1x Deadeye Tormentor
1x Frilled Deathspitter
1x Thrash of Raptors
1x Brazen Freebooter
2x Dire Fleet Neckbreaker

Noncreature (9)
1x Reckless Rage
1x Mutiny
1x Buccaneer’s Bravado
2x See Red
2x Bombard
1x Impale
1x Angrath, the Flame-Chained

Lands (16)
8x Mountain
8x Swamp

As you can see, my curve was decent. I had a bunch of two drops, a couple of three drops, some decent four drops and Angrath at my top end. My removal was high quality, which should’ve been able to clear the way for my creatures to kill ’em dead. The Dire Fleet Neckbreakers (couldn’t stop reading them as Neckbeards) put in work, making my pirates monstrous. I had eight pirates overall and didn’t spend a ton of time blocking. Having a Fathom Fleet Firebrand attacking for four or more was pretty harsh. The Neckbreakers often meant my three and four drops were hitting for five, which is a big chunk of life. I’m often wary of auras, but See Red put in work. With Skittering Heartstopper or the Firebrand, it started putting a clock on the opponent. It had the potential to turn Dusk Legion Zealots from dumb utility dorks to actual menaces. Buccaneer’s Bravado was an all-star. It either made sure my creatures emerged from combat victorious, or hit for unfathomable damage off the back of the Neckbreaker. When I got Angrath out, it presented itself as an immediate threat that my opponent needed to deal with.

So that all sounds good, right? How did I shit the bed? Because I didn’t just lose a couple of games, but every match I played. Firstly, I wasn’t playing my best. In the first game I kept a hand I should’ve tossed. It was a two land trap that had Fire Fleet Firebrand and See Red. I’d hoped to ride that out and draw a swamp, but I should’ve known better than to have trusted the heart of the cards. I made some questionable plays early on and felt fuzzy brained all day. I don’t know why, but I was having trouble focusing. My brain was wandering non-stop. I was a little shaky and it didn’t help in plans to win. Also mana. Mana destroyed me the whole day. That was the one game that I got mana screwed and aside from two games, I flooded on the rest. It was land after land after land. Starting with a four land hand and drawing six lands in a row seemed to be my deck’s innate line of play. That shouldn’t be happening in a 16 land deck, right? Statistics weren’t on my side.

All that considered, the day wasn’t a bummer. All of my opponents were friendly and chatty. Nobody took it too seriously. I got most of the cards I’d been seeking for my Marath EDH deck. I took my losses without getting frustrated. Sometimes that’s just how the cards fall. You know what? It can be nice to finish the day early and head off home.

I mean, not as nice as winning, mind you…

Advertisements

Is there anything a seven year old boy could love more than dinosaurs performing fatalities?

Because I want to write about anything but keto today (it’s… going. At least I had a couple of lil’ baby poops today), I’m gonna turn my attention to some of the new Magic the Gathering spoilers for Rivals of Ixalan. If Magic ain’t your thing, come back tomorrow (when I’ll most definitely mention poop again).

Dinos, pirates and… vampire conquistadors? Oh my. Rivals of Ixalan is a mere week or two away and I’m excited to dig into these EDH goodies. While standard will no doubt continue to be relatively stale while Scarab God and the full energy suite are in the format, Ixalan is at least buffing up Commander with some fun new toys. In sublimely selfish fashion, I’m gonna look at some nifty gains for my Primal enRage deck helmed by Marath of the Wild. Let’s get into it!

I talked about what the deck would resemble here, but as a basic primer for what the deck does, it tries less to be a boring Marath toolbox and more to enable Enrage shenanigans (or legacy Enrage style abilities like Stuffy Doll, Boros Reckoner, Spitemare, Sprouting Phytohydra, etc). Most everything in there passes the Aether Flash test and if I ever get out Pyrohemia, it’s a good time (for me, not others). It’s been playing alright, but has needed a couple more cards to eke out wins. What does Rivals bring us?

First up we have Zacama, Primal Calamity. This big ol’ dino comes in and stomps the world around him flat. Have you got a fancy robot or aura? Dead. What about your precious tiny critters? Taste Zacama’s heel! Nine mana is a ton. There’s no getting around that. However, my Marath deck does a fair bit of ramping thanks to the usual complement of staples (Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, format all star Fertilid, etc) and the deck’s MVP: Ranging Raptors. Getting to 11 mana isn’t uncommon or difficult, so Zacama will do its fair share of work. Thankfully I don’t run Temur Sabretooth or Cloudstone Curio. I’m not interested in winning with cheesy infinite mana combos.

Forerunner of the Empire isn’t a dino, but he grabs them. The card isn’t amazing, but it has a couple of features I like. First off, he passes the Aether Flash test. Secondly, he grabs dinos while enabling them. That static ability not only does work (especially with a Rite of Passage in play) with getting Enrage online, but it’s a “may” ability to prevent me from destroying all of my own stuff. I expect that Raptor Hatchling will be BFFs with this dude (after it gets a +1/+1 counter or two from Marath).

Forerunner’s next best friend is bound to be Polyraptor. This silly bulk mythic is a pumped up version of Sprouting Phytohydra that can actually attack and makes 5/5s, which have a habit of ending the game. I’ve gotta watch out for its interaction with Aether Flash, which creates an endless loop if I don’t have some way of ending it. In goes Impact Tremors, so I can at least burn out all my opponents while I’m at it. If this thing costs eight to cast, I’m alright with an unwieldy three card combo to close out games.

Another fat, splashy dino is what’s being translated at the moment as Silver-Armored Ferocidon. The ability could work out to be pretty mean, or at the very least help me end games. Running Pyrohemia, this could put the kibosh on my opponents’ boardstate, especially with Seedborn Muse on the table. These are the kind of large scale Enrage effects the deck was missing.

Speaking of large scale Enrage effects, “Trapjaw Regisaur” is a doozy. There are some serious Deepthroat shenanigans going on with this lizard. Does it have a black hole for a stomach? In any case, while I don’t expect it to survive forever, it should manage to keep a couple of my opponents’ creatures at bay while the rest of mine slay. It’s competitively costed and sized and earns its slot. God forbid if I manage to give it indestructible or hexproof. Or what if I pinged it a bunch of times in response to a wrath in order to save my other dinos?

Like this lil’ guy. Siegehorn Ceratops. It starts out tiny, but gets massive pretty damn quickly. It’ll need help from Marath to survive Aether Flash, but if it does I’ll have gained a 4/4 for 3 that’ll only grow. Imagine having a 5/5 Marath and this, having the capacity to make a 12/12 at will? Seems sweet as fuck.

The last dino I’m considering is less fierce, but a useful roleplayer. Also it saves Siegehorn Ceratops from Aether Flash. Temple Altisaur. See, my favourite sweeper in the deck is Blasphemous Act (for good reason. It’s like dropping a Brick… House on the board). It plays very well with all of the Stuffy Doll variants. It does, however, kill my critters, even if my Enrage dinos give off a parting shot. In other words, it’s a saur spot. The Altisaur doesn’t survive Blasphemous Act, but it’s pretty much dino Jesus, sacrificing itself for the rest of the herd. Or, y’know, it just puts on Darksteel Plate and goes to town. If Boros Reckoner gives its life by dealing 13 damage, I’m probably okay with that.

I’d always hoped that Rivals would give Primal enRage the boost it needed. In a few weeks, there’ll be no more need for dreams. The set isn’t even all spoiled, but I feel like I have been.

An astutorial could’ve been handy.

Magic The Gathering themed post. As always, if that’s not your thing maybe don’t read this one?

I’ve been searching for a way to play Magic online for many years now. The more astute (or smart arse) of you probably just said “how about Magic Online? It sounds tailor made for just that.” I hear you, it does sound like a solution. Frankly though, I’ve invested a ton (too much) in my paper collection over the past 17 years and the notion of opting into digital product has zero appeal. What I’m looking for then, is all the action at no cost. A lofty goal, but an admirable one (unless you’re Wizards of the Coast or someone else whose livelihood is dependent on customers). I’m sure those “astute” folks who were quick to point in the direction of Magic Online are now asking why I don’t just play with my physical cards. I do, so don’t get so judgey. It’s just not always viable at 11pm on a Monday.

I used to use Magic Workstation. While it wasn’t technically a program for playing online (it ostensibly was to organise your collection?), that’s exactly how everyone used it. There were no strictly enforced game rules, it just operated on a general principle of Don’t Be A Dick. Most people were. Still, I wasn’t gonna complain about the price. I used it for years, made a ton of decks, tried out strategies I never would’ve been able to afford with physical cards. I played with people from all around the world at all times of day and night. Things were great. Over time it got harder to find a game. I hadn’t been blacklisted, I think users migrated to other options when they became viable. I didn’t. I just retreated back into the 90s Microprose game when I need a quick fix.

The other day I saw a post on Reddit looking for non-Magic Online options for online magic. I mentally jotted down the suggestions and gave them a try.

Untap.xyz was cited as having a friendly community, so I hopped on and gave it a crack. It was an online UI. Nothing to download, I merely had to make an account. I downloaded a generic EDH list from EDHREC and got stuck in. The interface looked really nice. It was a joy to not have to download a ton of images and additional files. The deck building tool was easy to use. It was quick to find a game. There were a ton of options and things weren’t too difficult to find. Great, right? It was also slow as fuck. I’ve got a decent internet connection, but actions still lagged. Magic is a game with fucktons of actions. An EDH game that didn’t even go for that many turns still took about an hour. I tried learning hotkeys, but they were unintuitive and didn’t work if the chat window was selected. No deal.

I moved to the next suggestion, which was XMage. The interface reminded me a bit of Magic Workstation. I had to downloaded software, but if that meant it would run smoother, I was in. All I had to do was download the images. Turns out though, that the image pack was 50 gigs and would take around ten hours to download (the server was slow. I usually get about 5MB/s). I tried it without images, but it wouldn’t show the cards’ casting cost. Less than sub-optimal.

Last up was Cockatrice. I remember trying it years back, but not wanting to shift to a new program and lose all my decks. With no decent alternatives, why not now? People on Reddit complained about the community, but having weathered Magic Workstation, my standards weren’t astronomical. The interface was simple. Maybe a little nicer than Magic Workstation. The hotkeys were exactly the same. It ran quickly. It all felt intuitive. It had four player capability. Wary as I was of the community, it took no less than five minutes for someone to invite me to draft a Commander Cube with them. The players were friendly, we had a fun, interactive multiplayer with big splashy plays. In short, it was exactly what I’d been looking for as a replacement for Magic Workstation.

So what do you smart arses have to say about that?

Before you ask, I would happily board a literal gravy train. I’ve dreamed of little else in my life.

WELL THAT WEEK IS OVER.

In a week I’ll get to write some silly Barenaked Ladies “One Week” cover. For now I’m focusing on moving forwards. Slowly though. My body has become wracked with pain post boxing. I woke up last night with a tightness in my core. It’s been tricky to straighten up my body. I guess that’s what I deserve for skipping abs over the past few years. Eight or so ab exercises in a row will do that to you. All these muscles in my back have activated. You know when you find old coins and stuff between couch cushions? I don’t, because I use debit cards like a goddamn human being, but a lifetime diet of TV has taught me that this is an issue some people face. Well my back is like that. I’d forgotten that holding up gloves and jabbing use certain muscles that’re rarely worked otherwise. My groin is super tight (did I mistake the class for dick-in-a-boxing?) and my calves too for good measure. It was silly of me to go back to the gym last night, but I’d just joined back up and needed to work off steam. I’d forgotten about the day after the day after pains. Well, I’m paying for it now.

It’s Friday night and to be honest, I’m big on the stay in plan. Unfortunately for me, I live a privileged life and sometimes opportunities get thrown at me. What I want to do is stay in and watch the Magic the Gathering World Championship stream. What I’m going to do instead is go out and watch Future Islands perform at Massey Hall. Yeah, it’s a band I’ve been looking to see since 2011. Yeah, Massey Hall is my favourite venue in the city. Plus it’s a seated gig, so any qualms I have over a stiff body fall flat. Still, I’m lazy both physically and intellectually today. But people would pay for this kind of experience and I’d be a dick to pass it up. Story is, I applied to review this gig last month at four in the morning while quite drunk. After not getting an email confirmation of my gigs for this month, I checked in with my editor. He said if I didn’t get an email, I didn’t have any gigs this month. Fine with me. After such an intense succession of JFL42 gigs last week, I’m quite alright staying in for a while. Then today I got a confirmation email on this gig and handily (or maybe not, in this case) didn’t have any alternate plans. It’s hard to argue with free (well, writing a review is a pretty small cost). I’m sure Future Islands will be amazing. We all saw that Letterman performance, right?

The rest of this weekend is fancy free fun. I’m gonna play some Magic the Gathering tomorrow, maybe head along to a Cthulhu/undersea themed rave tomorrow night. Sunday we’re going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. Then on Monday, we’re hosting our own Orphan’s Thanksgiving with friends who don’t have family close. I’ll take any excuse to gorge myself on gravy. Why not two days in a row?

Cause it’s been…

After plundering my future happiness, I guess pirates were on theme.

Hey team, I made an adult decision today. This past week I’ve basically been following my cravings. With dwindling sanity, my capacity to refuse urges has been at an all-time low. Is there something delicious I could eat? In my mouth immediately. Could I go for a drink? Why not several? Do I have the chance to go home and get some sleep or stay out for one more show? Meh, who needs to rest and regenerate? YOLO and FOMO combined to create a disgusting cocktail of consumption.

Today though, with five hours between the end of Jen Kirkman’s podcast recording and my next show, I had decisions to make. I’ve had very little downtime in the past week. My body is way beyond the point of crying out for it and has instead resigned itself to blindly follow all of my brain’s baser impulses. I’ve been needing a haircut for ages. I’m back to my default Lego man locks. My beard is haggard and overgrown, to the point where it’s begun annexing my neck. The adult thing to do would be to get a haircut, then go home and relax before my late (inevitably) drunken night tonight.

What I wanted to do, however, was to go out and play Magic. A new set was released last week, so this week a local store is doing $10 draft till you drop sessions. It’s $10 to draft and the winner gets their next draft free. It often ends up with players splitting in round two and going off to play another draft for $5. I figured it might be tight, but I could get one draft in, race home and do a drive by before heading to my 7pm show. Not ideal to set me up for a long night, but more fun for sure.

I thought long and hard and decided to do the responsible adult thing. I was shaggy (it wasn’t me) inside and out, but with a quick chop I could be Mr Bombastic. I descended into the warren of pathways where my hairdresser worked and walked in the door. He was clearly very busy and told me to either come back in two hours or on Tuesday. I tried to do the responsible thing and it blew up in my face.

So I cut my losses (a.k.a my loss of a cut) and went to draft Magic instead. I DIDN’T LIE! I told you all that I made an adult decision. I may not have mentioned that after the adult decision didn’t work out, I reverted back to my hedonistic, devil may care, laissez-faire, debonair affairs. It was just up the road, so I strode up there and registered tout de suite. It was fun. My deck was hot garbage. After first picking a Deadeye Trackers, I ended up grabbing a bunch of grixis coloured pirates. I planned to get a ton of Pirate’s Cutlass and Siren’s Lookout and going HAM. Things were a little iffy and a Lurking Chupacabra came my way. There was nothing else in the pack, so I picked it mostly jokingly. I found another one in the next pack and wondered if I could grab a stack of explore creatures. I got one or two sub par ones to go along with my Tracker and Sirens. It was a mess. I had a Siren’s Ruse for pirate/explore ETB shenanigans. My two Chupacabras did good work if they could stick on the board, but I failed to draw adequate mana most of the time. It was fun, but I got totally stomped by a similar but better deck. I guess that’s what I get for making the adult decision.

Wait, did that sound like a massive consequence? I had fun. I’ve effectively learned nothing. HEDONISM ALL THE WAY.

Now let’s see how I feel at 11pm.

The treehouse thing is legit. You can look it up on Air BnB Portland.

And so the adventure comes full circle. I return home, but have I changed? Have I grown? I’m not just talking about my midsection here. Did I face trials and adapt to them, learning more about myself in the process? I mean, I discovered that PBR (while not the vanguard of quality) isn’t intolerable for $2 a pop. If nothing else, that’s something.

I woke up yesterday knowing that I wanted to get to Pok Pok. A vietnamese restaurant frequented by chefs, Pok Pok is the sister restaurant of Whiskey Soda Lounge, where I’d gotten those wings on my first night in town. I got in touch with my friend and asked him if he wanted to go there for a late lunch (thereby avoiding the absurd lines). We got there for 2pm and were seated immediately. I’m not a good enough writer to do the meal justice, but it was fantastic across the board. We had grilled chicken skewers, which had a tiny morsel of pork belly at the bottom of the skewer to add a little fatty flavour. There was a beautiful coconut milk based pork curry. It was so sweet and thick, with succulent chunks of pork. Then of course we ordered the wings, because if a dish is the best of its type you’ve ever tried, going for another round is hardly an imposition.

Stuffed and sanctified, we went for a walk in a nearby park. There was a great off-leash, some dude who sounded Johnny Cash-esque playing to himself and some spritely old woman walking her dog. She told us about the Air BnB she’d built. She’d taken the old frame of a tree house in her backyard and solidified everything. She’d created a cute little two person domicile that people could rent for $23 per night. She said it had her art over the walls “and I’m a good artist” and had been booked solidly since she’d opened. We walked around a bunch and talked to more dog owners/dogs. Then shuffled off for late afternoon coffee. I took my buddy to Tov, my favourite cafe in the city. It’s the transformed bus with a passionate barista doing all manner of delectable creations. My friend is lactose intolerant, so he ordered a chilled coconut milk vanilla/reduced rum latte. The barista measured each and every ingredient to ensure perfection. He went into his freezer and pulled out a block of frozen coconut milk. “This way the drink is chilled, but doesn’t dilute the flavour”. It’s the little touches, you know? I got a wine mocha because if this guy could nail such a bizarre high-wire act, he deserved all the acclaim I could give him. I took a sip, it was wonderful. I asked him how he managed to make everything work together so well. “It’s ratios, for sure. The other part is using the highest quality ingredients across the board. Fine chocolate, fine wine, fine coffee.” I couldn’t argue with success. We chatted about cafes in town and we both agreed on which places were great and which were overrated. He suggested a cafe downtown, which I might try to get to today.

I wanted to check out a Magic night at a local game store, so my friend gave me a ride. He told me that if I wasn’t busy later, he was going to a Burner meet up at a local. I figured I’d get a couple of games in then meet him there. It went exactly like that. The store was a friendly place open to all manner of games. A group next to us was playing Pathfinder, while a couple of tables played board games. There was a nice community focus. One wall had a sign that said “what would you tell someone being bullied?” Kids had given their answers, which were surprisingly mature. A noticeboard said that house rules were to be respectful, friendly, to watch your language and take care of your hygiene. I enjoyed a few games (the deck I brought has been on a hot streak. I’ve won maybe 8 of the 10 games I’ve played), then left for the burner meet up.

It was exactly what I’d wanted. Meeting and chatting with open, welcoming people. We talked about their burn experiences and travel they’d done. I got mistaken for some French UFC dude from Montreal and pulled into a group to hang out regardless. One of my friend’s camp-mates played Magic with her boyfriend, so we chatted about the game, long term relationships, etc. As always, anyone who found out I was from New Zealand and had visited wanted to talk about their experiences there. An adamant “I’m just passionate” Mexican woman ranted about what good Mexican food really was and accosted my friend into a future trip to her favourite restaurant in town. “You’ve gotta work for it” she said. “I’m not just giving you the address. You have to wear a blindfold and everything. I’m serious.” It was a great cap to my trip, my last night ending on a high note. My friend and I got late night tacos and he dropped me off at home. I told him sincerely that if he and his wife ever wanted to come to Toronto, we had a spare bed for them.

The big question, with three days left before the event. Have I learned enough about myself to write the greatest Beth/Bojack crossover erotic fanfic the world has ever seen? Stay tuned to find out.

It was, in short, a magic gathering.

I think yesterday was the kind of day I’d come to Portland for. A day spent going with the flow and enjoying where it took me.

In a weird coincidence, The Smiths played at least once in every establishment I set foot into yesterday. Which is even weirder because last night I dreamed that somebody loved me.

The last day or two had me feeling a little lonely and isolated. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of social interaction and the connections I hoped I’d find didn’t eventuate. When travelling, connecting with strangers and interacting with people outside of my usual experience keeps me going. What you see when going from place to place makes for a great backdrop, but the characters you meet provide the flavour. Tinder has proven to be a dead end. Without any matches it’s more a time sink where I get to judge a portfolio of people and marvel at what a terrible human being I am. What did work out though, was Couchsurfing. I was terrified of ending up in another meet up where people said “schwag” on repeat for 20 minutes, but I downloaded the app to try the “hangout” function. Simple but effective, it lists people who are actively seeking others to hang out with. It’ll say what they’re looking for (coffee/tea, drinks, lunch), have a link to their bio and show approximately how far they are from you. I saw that some dude within a 3km radius was looking to grab coffee. He was an aspiring audiophile and well travelled guy. I figured I lost nothing by opting in for a hangout. I sent a message and within minutes he accepted. He said it’d take him about half an hour to get ready and suggested a cafe about half an hour from where I was. What could go wrong?

Nothing, apparently. He was a nice bloke in his late 30s. He’d been constantly on the move for the past nine years or so, periodically coming back to Portland between journeys. He’d taught English in Korea, Japan, backpacked around South America and Columbia. Used to work in PR for tech companies, but got wanderlust and had to sate his thirst. We talked about cultural differences in the places he’d visited and how his language acquisition had gradually increased. I mentioned how I’d had trouble pushing myself to meet people. How I’d felt that I’d be interrupting or forcing myself on others who were just looking for their own space. He said not to worry, that if you’re not being a dick the worst they’re gonna say is “no thanks”. He said that oftentimes he’ll just chat with the bartender if they’re not that busy, which creates the opportunity for others to join in on the dialogue if they’re feeling it. He mentioned the difference smartphones have made over the years. How on one hand they’d made it harder to spontaneously connect with the people around you, as everyone was plugged in. At the same time, they were infinitely useful when travelling alone in order to find your way around a new city, figure out events to check out or make online connections for meet ups. I asked him, with all his travelling, what was the first thing he’d do when arriving in a new place? He said that he wasn’t much of an insta-traveller, that he often stayed somewhere for a few weeks to a few months. He said that establishing a routine made him feel more comfortable, he’d check out coffee shops and local bars. Once he felt settled, he’d engage more with connecting to others. We chatted about music, how we sourced new artists and how our relationship with music had formed and changed over time. We talked podcasts, TV and films. He suggested a few places for me to check out around town, some particularly choice food cart pods. After our coffee he took me around the corner to a pod (that’s what they call clusters of food carts, if that wasn’t immediately obvious) and introduced me to a delicious korean pork belly lettuce wrap. It was the size of a burrito, with a delicious spicy sauce. Food carts are so good here. The quality and prices are both unbelievable. Social batteries recharge, I ventured out to Happy Hour with a renewed vigour.

I stopped back into The Hungry Tiger and sat at the bar. Sipping on a whiskey & coke, I noticed someone looking at her phone and picking at a macaroni & cheese. I thought ‘here goes nothing’ and thought of what the Couchsurfing guy said. If the worst was gonna be “no thanks” I could always just go back to playing on my phone. “How’s the mac here?” I asked. She looked up. “It’s vegan and I’m vegan so it’s pretty good. They use better “cheese” than some other places.” That wasn’t so bad. We talked for a while. She’d been looking to move to this part of the country to do her masters in photography. She’d checked out San Fran and was leaving Portland in a few hours. The cost of living here was lower and she was strongly considering it. She asked me if I watched Game of Thrones and lit up once I said yes, so we talked the ins and outs of Westeros for an hour or so. She was 25 and not the sort that I’d usually hang out with, but that didn’t make her a bad person by any means. Frankly, it was just nice to talk about a mutual interest with someone and kill an hour. I guess the Couchsurfing dude was right.

The only thing I’d actually planned on doing yesterday was checking out Tonic Lounge. A bar on the North East side, it hosted a weekly Monday night Magic event. Given my lack of success with events over the past week, I expected to walk in and find the place empty. Instead there were around 20 or so players by the time I arrived. Everyone was playing, sipping on pints and eating bar snacks. The music was great and they had old episodes of Robotech playing on the projector. Since most of the staff were Magic players themselves, the bar extended the Happy Hour specials all night for anyone who was there to game. I had a great chocolatey stout and ordered a $6 plate of pulled pork nachos. I couldn’t believe how good they were. The pulled pork was sweet and tangy. Super cheesy, there was a dollop of sour cream in the middle, fresh bruschetta on the left and picked carrots/jalapenos on the right. Everyone was really friendly and, while experience levels varied, nobody seemed to be outright cutthroat. It was an amazing space to enjoy the game, see some great plays and have fun hanging out. I had such a fantastic time and only regretted not being able to become a regular.

With one and a half days left here, I haven’t got a lot left to cross off my list. How much debauchery can I get up to before I leave?