Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Restaurant Style Salsa

It's New Year's Eve, and after a long day of work, I am about to head out the door for some fun and festivities with friends. Sadly, I lack the time for a full blog post today. So instead, I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes.

Hands down, my favorite snack food is chips and salsa. But the salsa that you buy in a jar at the grocery store just doesn't cut it. I absolutely adore a homemade chunky salsa with fresh tomatoes and vegetables. I've tasted lots of salsa in my life. And this recipe has got to be my favorite. It's easy, it's spicy, and it's delicious. In fact, I've got a batch setting in the fridge right now.

Here's the original recipe, which I found here.

I make a few simple changes:
  1. I found this recipe to be way too juicy. So I discard the juice from the whole tomatoes.
  2. I also found the recipe to be too much for my mixer. So I only use a single can of Rotel tomatoes. This also helps cut down on the spice a little bit.
  3. I double the amount of onion as well as the sugar, salt, and cumin.
And that's it!

Hope you have a fun celebration of the New Year, wherever you are. Be safe, play some games, and dream of a great year ahead. See you in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Understanding the Color Pie

Way back in March, I discussed what is termed the color pie for Magic the Gatherling, which essentially is an underlying philosophy and theme that unites cards of a particular color. There is an excellent article on the color pie and its philosophy over on the MTG Salvation Wiki, as well as an excellent podcast by Mark Rosewater on the subject. In fact, it was this podcast that sparked the idea for the original post.

While an in-depth understanding of the color pie philosophy behind Magic is hardly necessary to enjoy the game, I find that the better I understand the design behind it, the better Magic player I become. And, as I mentioned previously, this color pie is also an excellent tool one can use to characterize different personality types or even archetypal characters, thus making it an excellent tool for a fantasy fiction writer to have in their toolbox.

Since I wrote that post in March, Mark Rosewater has also completed his podcast series on color philosophy. Because he tends to jump around from topic to topic, it took over 50 episodes to finally complete this series. Thus, today I want to link you to each of the podcasts on each color. They are interesting and well-done, and if you're reading this blog, it's a good bet you'll enjoy them:
  1. White
  2. Blue
  3. Black
  4. Red
  5. Green
And, in case you can't get enough of his podcasts, you can check out the full archive of Drive to Work.

See you next time.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Maybe there should be a Christmas-themed Magic set? One with giant snow-men
wielding deadly presents wrapped in bows?

Around the world, however you celebrate this time of year, from Writer Adept I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Mike Turian

Last week, I had a quick conversation with joekewwl, a former Community Cup champion, advocate of Standard Pauper, and unofficial liaison for beta-testing on Magic Online. At the time, he was chatting with one Mike Turian, who is the new Digital Product Manager for Magic Online at Wizards of the Coast. Joe later posted the gist of his conversation on the Standard forums of PDCMagic.com. You can read it for yourself, but the big takeaway is that Wizards Online has a positive outlook on the Standard Pauper format, and once the new client has been officially launched, is something they would like to move forward on at some point in the future.

Joekewwl encouraged all of us to continue to make our voice heard. So, with that in mind, I will be sending the following E-mail to Mike.

Dear Mike Turian,

My name is George Leonard, known as gwyned on Magic Online. For the past four years, I have been a major proponent of the Standard Pauper format. I am also a good friend with Joe Dillard, known as joekewwl online, whom you met during the 2011 Community Cup. I have over 70 published articles on the Standard Pauper format, and currently host Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is one of the most popular Player Run Events dedicated to this format and is now in its 23rd Season.

First off, on behalf of the community let me extend my gratitude for the addition of the Standard Pauper game filter on Magic Online. This has been a tremendous boon to the format, allowing us to much more easily find opponents and reducing confusion about what was and was not legal in the format. 

Second, it is my understanding that there has been some positive discussion regarding future sanctioned events for Standard Pauper. This is great to hear. I believe this will benefit both the Standard Pauper community and Wizards of the Coast. Here's why:
  •  Standard Pauper is the perfect format for new players. It uses the most popular format (Standard), yet allows them to play in a less complex environment while learning the ropes of online play. It also has a much lower cost of entry compared to any other format online.
  • Success in Standard Pauper very naturally transitions players to both Standard and Limited. As these are the most popular (and thus must lucrative) formats, growth in these formats would lead to increased revenues.
  • While less complex than other formats, Standard Pauper still boasts a rich and varied metagame, with competitive decklists that in many ways mirror the major archetypes found in Standard and Limited.
While I understand that most of your development assets are tied up in completing the new client, I strongly believe that sanctioned events for Standard Pauper would be a wise use of your resources for the future of Magic Online.

But don't just take my word for it. Earlier this year, a petition circled online regarding full support for this format. To date it has over 300 signatures. There are also a growing number of clans on Magic Online devoted to the format, with the largest - Standard Pauper Players - boasting almost 70 members from around the globe, with more added each week.

Thanks for all you do for making Magic Online such a great product for so many like myself to enjoy. I look forward eagerly to what's in store for the future.


George Leonard

If you've got suggestions on how I might improve this letter, I'd love to hear them. And I'd also encourage you to send your own E-mail to Mike Turian and make your voice heard. Wizards has said in the past that they want to support any format that the community rallies around. Let's hold them to their word. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Two More Screen Capture Options

Last Friday, I blogged about Camtasia, an excellent commercial screen capture and video editor package that I use for all of my videos (which you can always find on my YouTube channel). Today, as promised, I want to bring you two other options. While these are not as polished as Camtasia, and lack built-in video editing software, they do have one major advantage over Camtasia - they are 100% open source and thus 100% free.

A couple caveats. One, of the two options. I've only personally used CamStudio, and major updates have been made since the last time I used it. Second, both of these options will require some time to tweak to your specific computer hardware. When I first started using CamStudio, I spent quite a bit of time on YouTube and in their forums, digging around for solutions to various issues. These are both great programs - when they are working properly - but your results may vary.

1. The first option is CamStudio. It's a simple, clean program that can record both the audio and the video on your screen, as well as allowing you to commentate on the video using either a microphone or captions. You can even create a picture-in-picture of yourself using an external webcam while your recording. CamStudio does require, in addition to the software itself, that you download an external codec, which is a piece of software that can encode and decode digital signals. They provide access to one designed directly for CamStudio, but you can also download other popular video and audio codecs instead.

If you're interested in learning more about how to use CamStudio, there is an excellent resource on YouTube that contains a playlist of 23 tutorials on how to use this software. Check it out below.

2. The second option is Open Broadcaster. Open Broadcaster is primarily designed for live streaming, but can be used as screen capture software as well. Due to this design, it gives you a lot more control over the various elements you record, allowing you to utilize a variety of images, text, audio, and video. Open Broadcaster also allows you to setup different profiles for different types of recording, use different codecs, and control your video resolution. Clearly this is a much more sophisticated program than CamStudio, but naturally that sophistication requires a higher learning curve to operate. Fortunately, there is a great tutorial on these features on the forums. Additionally, their website provides a helpful walkthrough to help determine your ideal settings.

You can also check out the video below for a quick guide on how to setup and use Open Broadcaster.

 I hope that you found this information helpful. If any of you have some experience using either CamStudio or Open Broadcaster, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. And let me extend a special thanks to Master Greystone on Twitter for the heads-up about Open Broadcaster. It looks like a fantastic piece of software!

Thanks, and see you next time,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


It's the last full week before Christmas, and like many people at this time of year, I find my life full of an assortment of seemingly unrelated things demanding my attention. With that in mind, I have three unrelated items for today's post.

1. For the past few months, a new do-it-yourself, small, homemade heater has been circulating the web. I first encountered it through the video below, and decided to try it out.

Surprisingly, it works just as advertised. I spent less than $10 for both clay pots, a package of 30 tea light candles, and a metal bread tin. It produces a surprisingly large amount of heat, and burns for 4-6 hours at a time. On cold days, this is now my go-to heater while I am sitting at my computer desk. Go ahead - try it for yourself. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

2. Last time I wrote about the Camtasia, the screen-capture software and video editor that I use to make all of my videos. This was by far my biggest financial expense for creating content, but there certainly are other improvements I would like to make. However, all of these things cost money. And, like most Standard Pauper players, the amount of money I have to invest into this hobby is minimal.

I have periodically been asked how others can support what I do for Standard Pauper. I considered placing ads on my site, but decided against it. Instead, I decided to give, my readers, the ability to support me directly without having to annoy you with ads. So here's the deal.

On the right-hand column, there's a small entry entitled "Support This Blog." Underneath are two links. The first takes you to Paypal, where you have the option of donating directly to me. The second links you to the home page of Amazon. If you use this link before purchasing anything, a small portion of your sale comes back to me, without costing you a dime.

All proceeds earned this way will go into improving the quality and quantity of my content for my blog and for Standard Pauper.

3. Finally, I am happy to announce that Standard Pauper player milegyenanevem won my 100th Blog Post Giveaway! He will be receiving a Theros draft set compliments of Writer Adept. Congrats to him, and thanks to everyone who signed up to receive E-mail updates from this blog. If you haven't done so already, it's a great idea to go ahead and sign up under "Follow By E-mail," which is located on the right hand column.

That's it for today. Friday, I'll be back with some more content related to screen capture software. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Camtasia Studio

I've recently had a few people ask me what software I use to record my matches from Magic Online. Previously, I've written about how Magic Online replays work and how you can create a replay for any game for which you have the appropriate game number. Today I want to talk a little bit about how you can then take those replays and turn them into a video that can be shared on the Internet.

Essentially what you need is some sort of screen-capture software, which takes whatever is displayed on your screen and renders it into a standard video file that you can then load into a video editor. Most screen-capture software will also allow you to record a voice-over while you're recording; if not, any decent video editor will allow you to do the same.

While there are probably several good options available, I currently use Camtasia Studio. Camtasia is a fantastic suite of software that allows you to record, edit, and distribute video from your computer. You can capture all or only a portion of your screen, capture any sound effects from what you're recording, add streaming video or audio of yourself while you're recording, and much more. Then, with the built-in video editor, you can import existing images, audio, or video to really make a fantastic end-product. Their website has a whole host of tutorials, which are short, easy-to-understand, and really show off what this editor can do. They even have a fully functional 30 day trial to let you decide if this is the right product for you.

Unfortunately, Camtasia Studio 8 is expensive, putting you back over $250. If you are a student, they do have an education discount available here, but be warned you will have to prove your credentials to get the discounted price.

However, there is a free alternative out there called CamStudio. While it has significantly less bells and whistles, and requires some work to get it operating properly, it is available absolutely free. Next Friday, I'll tell you more about this great alternative.

Finally, don't forget about the giveaway I'm currently running. All you have to do is become an E-mail subscriber, and you are automatically entered into a drawing for either a Theros draft set or a $10 gift card. All the details can be found here.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

100th Post Giveaway

It's hard to believe, but yesterday I posted the 100th post for Writer Adept! Way back in January, I began this blog as part of a New Year's resolution, and I have been so encouraged and excited by the response from you, my loyal readers. Since that first post months ago, this site has logged over 30,000 pageviews, reaching an audience that spans North America, Europe, and Asia.

To celebrate this occasion, I want to give something back to this great community. Just to the right of this post is a widget that looks like this:
Not a real widget. Don't use this. Use the one in the right-hand column. Over there ---->
If you enter your E-mail address and submit, you will receive an E-mail each and every time this blog post is updated. This is a great way to keep up with what's going on here at Writer Adept. This also gives me the ability to communicate directly to you with any special announcements or a sneak preview of upcoming content.

At the end of this week, I will be randomly selecting one lucky E-mail follower to receive a Theros Draft set on Magic Online, or, if that person doesn't have a MTGO account, an online $10 gift certificate of his or her choice. All you have to do to be eligible to win is to enter a valid E-mail address into the "Follow By E-mail" widget and press Submit, and you're entered to win. It's that easy!

Thanks for reading, commenting, and supporting this blog. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SPDC is Back, Thanks to Cabel

Standard Pauper Deck Challenge is back!

I am pleased to report that this week long time member of the Standard Pauper community Cabel announced that he will be taking over as host of the longtime Player Run Event, SPDC. You can check out the details of his post here. This is great news for the format, as this community will once again have two events for Standard Pauper - MPDC at a European-friendly time slot, and SPDC at a United States-friendly time slot.

Furthermore, the capstone event for SPDC is coming up on December 19th. Normally, this is an invitation-only event, capped at the top 32 players as determined by Season Points. But this Thursday, December 12th, any player who places in the Top 8 of SPDC will earn a priority-invitation to the capstone event, which in the past has featured some incredibly good prizes! So if you've never participated in this event, this Thursday is an excellent time to start!

Let me also extend a special thanks to Cabel for making all this happen. Cabel maintains his own blog on Standard Pauper, is a member of the Standard Pauper Players clan on Magic Online, and contributes articles on the format over at PureMTGO.com under the username Copperfield.

If you see him online, be sure and extend your gratitude to him for bringing back this great event. It's a great time to be part of the Standard Pauper community! See you next time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Turtle Power vs Dimir Mill

As I mentioned earlier this week, I designed a new decklist I entitled "Turtle Power" to specifically combat Dimir Mill, which has emerged as the deck to beat in the current Standard Pauper metagame.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing how to beat Dimir Mill. Of course, the resulting deck would need to be able to compete against the other decks in the metagame, but that was of secondary importance.

Fortunately, it wasn't long into my testing that I got a chance to put this to the test. Today I wanted to share with you a video from that match.

Needless to say, this match definitely confirmed I was on to something! Hope you enjoyed watching it. See you next time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Turtle Power

So after a long streak of dismal performances at Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, yesterday I finally managed to fight my way back into the Top 8 of MPDC 23.07, actually finishing in 2nd place with my recent Izzet deck that I affectionately dubbed Turtle Power. The name is a nod to the perennial favorite Magic card Horned Turtle, which is a 1/4 Blue creature for 3.

While the archetype is nothing new, this build is closer to a pure Control/Burn list than the Izzet decks from earlier this year. Here's what my list consisted of:

Turtle Power
2nd place in MPDC 23.07 by gwyned
4 Minotaur Skullcleaver
4 Nivix Cyclops
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Annihilating Fire
4 Cancel
4 Essence Scatter
4 Inspiration
4 Lightning Strike
4 Razortip Whip
4 Shock
28 cards
9 Island
9 Mountain
4 Izzet Guildgate
2 Unknown Shores
24 cards

4 Dispel
3 Negate
3 Lava Axe
3 Frostburn Weird
2 Voyage's End
15 cards
Nivix Cyclops

Overall I was pretty happy with the deck. However, there are a couple quick changes I would make:
  • Drop to 23 lands. Even as a Control deck, with its low curve, 24 Lands is probably too much.
  • Replace some, if not all, of the Inspirations with Divination.
  • Take out 2 Dispels and a Negate from the Sideboard, and replace them with Archaeomancer to fight back against MonoBlack's hand disruption.
If you have other thoughts on how this deck could be improved, I'd love to hear them!