Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best Deal Event

It's been a difficult past few weeks for me, so I apologize for the lack of substantive posts. My family and I are finally getting settled into our new home and routine. Things should be smoother from here on out. Anyway enough about me...let's get on with some new content!

A couple weeks back, I got the chance to participate in a Standard Pauper event run by the BestDeal clan on Magic Online. While the time and day of the week weren't exactly ideal for most people (it was on a Friday night and conflicted with the weekly Standard Heirloom event hosted by pdcmagic), it had the sweet, sweet prize of a full set of Standard Commons! Despite this lucrative prize, only a handful of players showed up for the event. I ended up with a 2-1 record in the three rounds of Swiss, which with tiebreakers wasn't even good enough to place me in the Top 4.

Anomulus, one of the other participants in the event, played a unique take on the Boros deck, and after the event recorded quite a bit of content regarding his decklist and matches. I have included below both his summary of his decklist and his Round 1 match, where he battled against none other than myself. Here are those videos:

Edit: For some reason, Blogger isn't letting me place the videos inside the blog, so I will only be able to include the links. No idea what's going on here.

Opening Discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUrZJgW5yvk

Round 1 Match: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV8cgQS_UI0

For Thursday's post, I thought it would be interesting to bring you my own summary of the decklist I played as well as some commentary from my side of the virtual battlefield. But until then, I hope you enjoyed these videos. See you next time!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Post Today

Moving into the new house today. We don't have an Internet connection yet, so no post tonight. I will try to get two posts in later in the week. Thanks!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post on Flash Fiction

For today's blog post, I invited blogger Alissa Leonard to share with you her thoughts on what makes for good flash fiction. She has won several online flash-fiction contests, and is currently hard at work on revising a YA fantasy novel. You can check out her blog at http://alissaleonard.blogspot.com. Here's what she had to say:

Flash fiction is really fun to write. I’ve been writing it for a little over a year now; participating in contests I’ve found over the web, through twitter, and recommended to me by the amazing authors I’ve met online. (One of my friends has a list of those we know about here.) When you participate in flash fiction online, there is typically a prompt of some sort. The prompts vary from pictures to words, sentences, ideas, or themes.
So what makes good flash? A good story, like all fiction. The trick is to come up with a small story, at least that’s the trick for me. I tend to think big. My ideas can fill novels most of the time. Staying under the word limit (sometimes VERY small word limit) is difficult. All the things that make good fiction, make good flash fiction. You still need characters people can love or identify with, a setting that is clear and rich, conflict that is exciting and interesting, a voice that is compelling and intriguing, and a resolution that at once satisfies and surprises (Often in flash you get a twist ending). Can you fit all that into 500 words? 200? 100? 55? Yes.
The “in late, out early” idea for fiction writing is essential in flash. There is no time for set up and no time for falling action – just punch. My process is to write the story that comes to me and cut, cut, cut! Believe me, I usually have to cut a lot! J But it’s amazing how much you can cut from a story and change wording to be more precise and still have the same story! It’s helped my editing skills A LOT! I’m also getting better at knowing when a story is just too big for the word count, but that just takes practice.
Here is a piece I wrote for a 55 word challenge. Yes, 55 words. Exactly. It’s tough. It comes with a photo prompt. You can go here to see the photo of the chalk outline of a teddy bear with a chalk gun beside it. This piece, even though it’s small, has character, conflict, setting, voice, and resolution. Could I have written a longer piece? Yes. I did even. I had to work to get it down to 55 words. But I enjoyed the process and learned a lot. Plus, it’s invigorating to challenge yourself to do something you never thought possible.

Here is a piece I wrote for a 500 word contest where the prompt is the first sentence. I got it down to 498 words. I personally like taking the prompt and doing something unexpected with it. I think this one works because I was able to round it out. It starts with a character on fire, explores the reactions of those around him to the fire, and ends with his feelings about the fire. Within the story, I give you characters to love and hate, depth to the society they’re living in, conflict and intrigue, and I set it nicely in a school setting so the unfamiliar isn’t too shocking. I think the resolution works because the story is really about the fire that we started with. And it packs a punch, forcing you to ask questions about the society’s stance on fire – hopefully causing the reader to ask questions about their own society and evaluate their own positions on issues going on around them. 

Let me extend my special thanks again to Alissa Leonard for sharing her thoughts on what makes for good flash fiction. If you're interested in more on this topic, be sure and check out her blog at http://alissaleonard.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on Twitter by the username lissajean7. Thanks for reading and I will see you next time!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flash Fiction

For those familiar with fiction, you know there is a surprising variety in the length of these works.  Length, of course, isn't actually based on the total number of pages, which can vary based upon the font size, margins, and the like. Instead, length is a matter of word count. While there is some debate about these definitions, generally for science fiction and fantasy, word counts divide fiction into four categories:

However, these categories leave out one other important classification of fiction: flash.

Here again, there is no formal definition of flash fiction, but generally the word count will be no more than a thousand words. In fact, most proponents of this type of fiction would constrain the word count to somewhere between 300 and 500 words, and sometimes even lower. In any case, flash fiction is unique in that this form still attempts to include all the elements of a story: a protagonist, conflict, and resolution. Naturally, the extremely low word count makes this difficult to pull off successfully. This, then, is the beauty of flash fiction: crafting a fully contained story in as brief an account as possible.

Perhaps the most cited example of flash fiction is a piece commonly attributed to Ernest Hemingway: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Like any good piece of flash fiction, a great deal of the story elements are not explicitly written but instead implied. Think about the questions that arise from reading these six short words:
  • Who is selling the baby shoes?
  • Why is he or she selling them?
  • Why were the shoes never worn?
  • What happened to the original owners?
One could easily craft three or more stories, each with a different take on the scenario described with these six short words.

Next Tuesday, I will be crafting my own piece of flash fiction, and talking about some of the flash-fiction contests that have become increasingly common around the Internet. But today, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this question: can you really tell a good story in 300-500 words?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Standard Pauper Event Tomorrow!

Being almost exclusively an online player of Magic the Gathering, I have never once made the journey to my local card store to participate in Friday Night Magic. In fact, even before I moved, I could not have told you where the nearest store was that even sold Magic cards. But for the first time since I was in high school (at least that I can remember), I will be participating in a Magic event on a Friday night. But not the one you're thinking of.

You see, as fortune would have it, I ran across this link in the PDCMagic.com Standard forums this morning, announcing a special Player Run Event tomorrow afternoon beginning at 5pm EDT hosted by an online clan known as BestDeal. While I am unfamiliar with this clan, I am excited to see that the format has garnered enough attention that they would host a special Standard Pauper event.

So here's how it works. According to the announcement in the Player Run Events forum, this will be a Swiss event, tentatively running for four rounds but potentially continuing until only a single player remains undefeated. There are three prizes in contention:
  1. A most unique deck prize of 2 tickets, awarded for the most innovative or unique deck idea.
  2. A best sportsmanship prize, also of 2 tickets, awarded to the most courteous and respectful player.
  3. And last but not least, a full set of all of the cards in Standard Pauper, awarded to the first place finisher. Yes, you read that right. A full set! This is a fantastic prize!
So, honestly, what do you have to lose? You get an evening of Standard Pauper and the chance to take home a lucrative prize, and all you have to do is show up and play. Additionally, the clan has pledged .25 in credit to spend in the Bots owned by the clan.

To participate, you need to send a valid decklist to MTGOBESTDEAL@GMAIL.COM by the time the tournament is scheduled to start, which is Friday 12th July 5pm EDT. You will need to join the BestDeal chat room (/join BestDeal) and all games will be played out in the Anything Goes (or Moving On Up on the new client) room.

I certainly will be there, and I hope I will even be able to record my matches. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Thoughts on Magic 2014

By now you should be aware that the full spoiler is out for Magic 2014. Last time, I wrote about how the removal was shaping up in this set and how I thought that might impact Standard Pauper in the future. While a full review of this set will have to wait for a few days while I compose a feature length article over at PureMTGO, I wanted to post a few more thoughts about this new set:

1. Several 'goodies' are returning. There are quite a few good cards that rotated out of Standard that are now back thanks to their inclusion in this set. These include, in no particular order, Auramancer, Solemn Offering, Shrivel, Gladecover Scout, and Tome Scour.

2. Commons upgraded to Uncommons. Several other older cards have returned, but have been shifted from Common to Uncommon. These include Doom Blade, Spell Blast, Congregate, Darksteel Ingot, Accorder's Shield, and Shimmering Grotto. In an Expert set this might be cause for alarm. As is, I suspect this is simply WotC's renewed commitment to keeping the Core Sets as simple as possible.

3. Slivers playable at Common? There are six Common Slivers, plus Hive Stirrings, scattered between White, Green, Red, and Colorless. Between them they grant Vigilance, Haste, First Strike, Trample, and +1/+1. While I will withhold judgment for now, my quick guess is that they will be similar, but ultimately worse, than the Allies deck was in Standard Pauper back during Zendikar block.

4. Strongest Card? Probably Dawnstrike Paladin.

5. Best Build-Around Card? Without a doubt Advocate of the Beast.

6. Most Interesting Effect that Probably Won't See Play? That would be Zephyr Charge.

Anyway, as I said, more to come. Hope you enjoyed this quick peek at the new set. Anything of significance that I missed? Tell me about it, and I'll be sure it makes it into my article this week!

See you next time.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Removal in Magic 2014

Usually, I am one who eagerly watches the spoiler season for the next upcoming set, but for some reason the upcoming release of Magic 2014 has basically caught me by surprise. Granted, given the number of reprints in each Core Set, the spoilers aren't quite as dramatic as they are for Expert Sets. Still, even learning that a particular card will be returning to the Standard set after rotating out can be quite exciting.

Rather than focusing on the entire set of cards spoiled thus far, instead today I want to look at two particular removal spells that will be released in the set. One is an old favorite, returning at a new rarity. The other is an effect that's been printed at Common before, but returning for a very different cost. Let's take a look.

1. While I have been unable to find an actual scan of the card, most sources agree that Doom Blade will be returning as an Uncommon. While some have been understandably annoyed by this development, I personally think this will be good for Standard Pauper. Removal has always been a huge part of most Standard Pauper decks, with most lists including between 8 and 16 copies. But lacking both Doom Blade and Incinerate at Common (the latter being replaced by Shock), removal will not be as strong. As a result, Aggro strategies should become more viable, and Control strategies weakened somewhat. I personally think this will be a welcome development. As Common creatures continue to be less powerful and less complex overall, weakening removal in general should help compensate somewhat and keep creature combat more interesting overall in the format.

2. The other card I wish to highlight is Time Ebb. While technically a reprint(from 9th edition and Tempest), this is an effect that has been largely missing from Standard Pauper, or, in the case of Griptide, has been too expensive to really be playable. Time Ebb might be only one mana cheaper, and Sorcery speed as well, but that one mana I believe will make a decisive difference. This card not only acts as an Unsummon effect, but also blanks your opponent's next draw step. While not amazing, this type of effect should be strong in the more aggressive mono-Blue builds like this one from MPDC 21.07. I have always liked more tempo-based archetypes, and this card will slot right in to this type of deck.

So what do you think of the removal for Magic 2014? Do you think it will make the format more interesting, or will the weakening of removal make the format more stale? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I am rarely one to be at the forefront of trends, even if they are just hashtags trending on Twitter. But today I stumbled across one of the more amusing Twitter trends with the perfect moniker #bookswithalettermissing. The concept is simple: take a famous novel title, remove one letter, and come up with a hilarious spoof of the original story.

Now that would be amusing enough. But thanks to the magic that is Photoshop, Twitter user @darth created hilarious cover art to go with the newly titled books sans one letter. I was unable to find @darth's original post, but even a cursory stroll through the #bookswithalettermissing will lead you to the complete collection of his cover art. Here are a few of my favorite, each of which I have actually read the original novel:

So, inspired by all this hilarity, I thought I would sit down and see if I could come up with my own #bookswithalettermissing. Here's what I came up with over a few short minutes:
  • A(n) Ale of Two Cities
  • The Ale of Peter Rabbit
  • Lack Beauty
  • Harlot(te)'s Web
  • The Great Gas By
  • The Hack
  • Dun
  • Little Hose on the Prairie

Alright, I admit it, I cheated a little with some of those. Still, it is a fun exercise. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this random musing. See you next time.