Monday, January 31, 2011

This Week In News

LA Noire gets a May 17th release date.

Interesting article about the kinds of enemies we fight in video games.

Full Marvel vs Capcom 3 roster has been leaked. Its still awesome that Amatarasu is a playable character.

Tons of new information came out last week on the new PSP (Next Generation Portable). Here are some of the details.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and other random Wii Party Games may be getting theatrical adaptations. Wow...

Probably one of the most hilarious video game reviews I have ever read: IGN's Dead Space 2 review.

Information is now out regarding new Age of Empires and Civilization games.

Remember that Mc Donald's hot coffee incident in the 90s that everyone turns to when they need an example of frivolous lawsuits? Turns out, the woman was 100% justified in her lawsuit and the incident ruined her life.

LOL. Conservatives attempt to pull a sting on Planned Parenthood similar to the ACORN one and fail miserably.

I think de-funding the Department of Education will definitely make American workers competitive with the rest of the world.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has released their official report about the causes of the Financial Crisis.

First Tunisia, then Egypt, and now Yemen. This just in ... Al-Jazeera is the best source for international news.

More evidence that life may have came to Earth via asteroid.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zach Vs Alex: Stompy vs White Weenie

Welcome to a new magic based video series called Zach vs Alex, which as you may have guessed, is Zach and I playing a recorded game of magic. Part of doing this is to finish everyones magic training, but this series will also showcase other types of magic games. Ever wondered what its like to see a deck combo win on the first turn? Ever wanted to see the most douchebag strategies in magic played out so you don't actually have to experience them? Ever wanted to see how a true tournament level magic game actually plays out? Well now you'll be able to.

Today's video is another learning video. It pits a simple mono green deck (Zach) vs a typical mono white deck (Alex). You get to see what each color can do reasonably well, and you'll get to see all of the topics covered in my tutorial videos brought together for maximum learnings. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Magic Instructional Video Part 6

Today's video covers THE STACK, or what happens when multiple spells are being played at the same time. This topic is a bit confusing, so feel free to ask me or Zach any questions you might have. This is also the last of the magic tutorial videos. The rest of the videos I post will be Zach and I playing online sample games of various complexities.

Monday, January 24, 2011

News News News News News

New Super Smash Bros Brawl mod makes the game play and look like exactly like Melee. I don't see why you wouldn't just play Melee at that point though.

Speaking of mods, users are hacking Super Mario Galaxy 2 to add in user created levels.

There was tons of new information on the 3DS released last week at a Nintendo conference. Here is the most important bit of information from the conference.

Looks like the Wii is going to have another slow year. The new Zelda is about the only thing to look forward to, and the two decent looking RPGs (Xenoblade and Last Story) might not even make it stateside. Its pretty clear that Nintendo is devoting most of their resources to the 3DS this year.

New hospital visitation rules for gay couples are in effect.

Obviously, the job killing Health Care law isn't going to be killing that many jobs.

Woman protests Corporate person-hood rights by vowing to marry a corporation. Lulz.

Lets talk a little bit more about the Class War in America. Granted, its not like there is any information in that article that we didn't already know.

This seems too good to be true: company claims it can efficiently synthesize fossil fuels from bacteria.

New super massive black hole has been discovered.

Hopefully we live to see Betelgeuse supernovae.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spring is Coming

Probably my biggest crutch in High School was a timesuck dedication to reading fantasy novels. I've read so many thousands of pages of suspect sword-and-sorcery prose that I can no longer remember whole catalogs of books I've read (and I've probably crippled any chances I have to successfully write any other genre). Some - if not most - were simply awful. I could do without Terry Goodkind's or Robert Jordan's words in my memory, even if Sam Raimi brought Legend of the Seeker to television, or Jordan's wife is finishing the Wheel of Time. Lord of the Rings was classic, sure, but boring? Quite. Don't even get me started about Terry Brooks; I've read maybe fifteen of his books? Around book 12 I realized each one was identical.

I consider myself an expert in bad fantasy writing. That's why I feel comfortable saying that George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series transcends the quicksand label of "Fantasy Series", to something greater. Martin manages to brand make-believe worlds with realism without insulting the reader's intelligence. He manages to dial up the intrigue without resorting to the usual "world is going to end/become evil unless" scenario. He creates a world where the so-called bad guys are sympathetic badasses, the so-called good guys are dashing assholes, and the epic plots are driven entirely by the badassness and the assholeness of regular folk.

I can go on and on about why George R. R. Martin's books are worth reading, but I also concede that his 1,000+ page novels are also excessive, that if you aren't an experienced reader of epic series, you'll become bogged down in descriptions and medieval terminology. So I am not trying to convince anybody to read The Game of Thrones. I am, however, going to recommend to everybody HBO's Game of Thrones when it starts airing on April 17, 2011.

HBO was originally pitched the series as "Sopranos in Middle-Earth", which I believe is a fair way to nutshell the story. The major players in a medieval kingdom are using social politics, outright war and behind the scenes power-struggles to control New Jersey Westeros. A more accurate comparison in HBO-terms, however, is probably Rome, due to the budgeting and permanent sets, and this comparison is that much more promising, because while The Sopranos was good TV, it was more of a family drama than anything (7th Heaven with Guns). Rome on the other hand was one of the most entertaining non-modern-era television experiences of the last couple decades.

Personally, I am hoping for something even better. I am hoping for something that crosses the epic-adventure success of Rome with the badass realism of Deadwood. I don't think I could ever hope for anything better, because in all honesty, when it comes to medieval and/or fantasy television and film, has anything ever come close?

Since HBO originally optioned the pilot, to it getting picked up for ten episodes, to the recent announcement of the air date, it's been an exciting couple of years. I'd like to thank both GRRM's website and the invaluable Winter is Coming rumor-mongerer for breaking each awesome news story after another.

When the cast starting to fall into place, shit got real. The best part of the Lord of the Rings films (Sean Bean) signed on as one of the leads. Lena Headey from 300 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles was cast as the sultry Cersei, and perhaps best of all, Peter Dinklage - possibly the only actor in the world capable of the role - was announced as Tyrion. My feelings toward the project went from "Oh please don't fuck this up," to "...omg omg omg!"

Am I getting my hopes up? Yes. Could I be in store for disappointment? Definitely. So?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Geek On Geek Crime

Even though I grew up half a jock, the most dominating aspects of my extracurricular life have been geek-related. I believe, in my lifetime, I have encountered, and - to a certain extent - participated in a wider range of geek niches than most self-proclaimed science-fiction, fantasy and/or gaming enthusiasts.

While I've never experienced (aside from watching a bunch of homemade videos of LARPs of a friend's that actually made it look really fun, and that time we did a D&D Ravenloft adventure in song), I have participated in most other forms of geekdom that didn't involve dressing up as an animal or alien. That is to say, at different points in my life, I've been on-and-off obsessed with various RPGs, CCGs, miniature games, strategy games, fighting games, as well as the gamut of sci-fi/fantasy literature, films and television.

I've had many friends that have fallen into a number of the above categories, and if one thing has become clear in my sub-social travels, it's that most geeks look down on the others.

Despite the absurdity that one of these activities might be "more cool" than another, there's definitely a tradition that real-time strategy, first-person shooter, and fighting video games make a person into less of a social pariah than someone who enjoys pen-and-paper RPGs or table-top Warhammer 40K. While one person might not hesitate to discuss Harry Potter at parties, someone else is probably avoiding admitting that they spend ten hours a week playing World of Warcraft. All of a sudden, because of a decade of things like Kevin Smith, Family Guy and Robot Chicken, it's suddenly cool to like Star Wars, but heaven forbid someone likes anime.

It isn't just social acceptance. Geeks who value intellectual competition look down on gaming that is more geared to finger-eye-coordination or fun. Hardcore enthusiasts sneer aristocratically at watered-down and main-stream sci-fi/fantasy or gaming. Classic Science-fiction lit fans laugh at the childishness of mass-market fantasy epics while Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett loyalists oust last generation's fiction as pretentious. Etc., etc. Nerd rage is an ugly thing, and while it often is pointed at bros, jocks and the rest of the in-crowd, the ugliest side of nerd rage is always reserved for other nerds.

In recent years, or at least from my perspective, lots of previously embarrassing extracurricular interests have found mainstream popularity. Superhero blockbusters and The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films are inching fantasy novels and comic books into the light of day. Science-fiction-based TV shows like LOST and Battlestar Gallactica are finding larger audiences and actual acceptance from TV critics. TV stations like Versus and G4 are ushering video games into the arena of spectator sport. European boardgames are becoming less and less scrutinized by the people who cringe at the word "game" when it isn't preceded by the word "video" or followed by "on ESPN".

I feel like things have changed so much in the last 10-15 years, that if I were to kidnap thirteen-year-old me and teleport him into 2011, that goofy, freckled head would have exploded when he learned HBO will start airing my favorite childhood fantasy epic, The Game of Thrones, this summer. HBO! That isn't UPN or WB or scIFi/SyFy or even Fox. HBO is... dope!

These changes over time have altered the social heirarchy within the geek community. Arcades are the stuff of grown-ups who never grew up. Why play pen-and-paper games with so many MMORPG's available? Fantasy novels might be cool, depending on which, and whether or not they involve vampires. Fifteen years later, I'm suddenly realizing that half of those things I used to love but of which I'd been ashamed are no longer embarrassing to admit in public.

And, of course, the other half is still mostly kept under raps, because even if the word geek is starting to be defined more as "enthusiast" than "nerd" these days, especially when used as the second of a compound term (i.e. film-geek), most stuff is better saved for third and fourth-impressions rather than first-impressions. I don't meet somebody for the first time and volunteer the fact that I love playing Magic: The Gathering. I don't say, "Hi, my name is Zach. I'm a hipster and a trekkie." I'm even hesitant to admit that I'm a foodie, or that I'm addicted to Fantasy Sports, because I know that even if I'm talking to the geekiest of geeks, I'm wary of geek-on-geek prejudice.

This isn't a call to geeks everywhere to become more open-minded, because in all honesty, part of being overly enthusiastic about one fringe social activity kind of has that unavoidable side-effect known as tunnel vision. I'm not telling every strategy gamer to try Magic: The Gathering, or every BSG fan to watch Star Trek: TNG, or every WoW fanatic to play Dungeons & Dragons, because even though I would guess each transition to be painless, I really don't know. To each his/her own. I'm just saying: It's hard out here for a geek.

Life's a bitch and then we die. That's why we pretend to cast spells.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Magic Instructional Video Part 5

Today's video covers Non-Basic Lands, Artifacts, Planeswalkers, Legends, Activated vs. Triggered Abilities, Gold and Hybrid Cards, and Alternate Win Conditions. Were almost done with this. Download the video here.

BTW: You can play this game after only watching the first two videos. I am posting thousands of videos on the topic so I can be as thorough as possible. If you watch all of them you'll actually have a pretty good grasp on the game, but its not 100% necessary. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Magic Instructional Video Part 4

Today's video covers the rest of the colors (White, Black, and Blue). Download it here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My World of Warcraft Relapse

I'm sorry I've been off this blog for a little over a month but I've been lured back into a former relationship with World of Warcraft. Be aware that this isn't a post about how WoW ruins lives everyday or there aren't any beneficial effects from playing WoW, but a reflection of a few interesting things that I discovered about WoW and myself.

I first jumped into the game as a Human Paladin before I discovered there was life away from a computer screen during college. I was in awe with the class because it embodied everything that was "good" because it's role was to unleash retribution onto the corrupted while protecting the weak. But in reality the class was awful. My Paladin was essentially an invincible pile of dung because he had high survivability but wasn't able to deal damage or tank. However, there was one niche that paladins were able to fill in the early days - healing. Paladins had huge mana reserves with strong single-target healing, which in combination with their multiple-support spells, were excellent in dungeons and raids. Not surprisingly, this type of play style harmonized well with my D&D cleric affinity that Alex and Zach can attest to. Some people love playing characters that make faces explode and I love saving the lives of other characters. There's an amazing rush of adrenaline I get when I save someone whose close to the brink of death. My hands were synchronized to viewing everyone's life/status bars - ready to instantly dispel and heal. Hell, I ditched classes in college to play this game and I loved every minute, or atleast I used to.

Some of the biggest problems when you play a healer is that you simply are type-casted to being support. Before WoW allowed characters to have dual-specializations for talents, players were forced to spend massive amount of gold to respec between healing to whatever they wanted but I was stubborn (and Paladin DPS still wasn't developed well after 2 years). Doing solo-quests took excruciating amounts of time while it took my DPS friends a few minutes to complete. In addition, I made the horrible mistake of agreeing to play on a Player versus Player server, which meant I was constantly killed by Horde. Plus it sucks babysitting whiners - I was tired of being yelled at for the lack of heals people received during a boss encounter. I was done and left the game on bitter terms.

Fast forward a few years later and Cataclysm suddenly appears. I treated WoW like my cocaine. There was just no rational reason why I would jump back into a game that caused so much annoyance and was a virtual time sink. In fact, I threatened my boyfriend that I would break up with him the moment WoW re-entered our lives. But I was quick to change my tone after a quick rejection from medical school; I was ready to re-enter the world that had been changed permanently by Deathwing.

Before I came back, I decided that I had to make a change in theme with all the amazing changes Blizzard has made to the world. I decided to retire my paladin because he no longer represented what I wanted to be. Instead, I started anew and became a Worgen Warlock in order to and melt faces all day. Playing casual on a non-PVE server has liberated me from dealing with all the qualms in the past and I am enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately I'm still far away from hitting the higher level content of Northrend and Cataclysm, but I'm sure as glad about one thing - I have no one's ass to worry about except for myself.


New Kid Icarus footage has been revealed. The 3DS seems pretty awesome thus far.

More new info on Skyrim has been released.

10 Most anticipated RPGs for 2011. Out of these I'm most looking forward to Skyrim and Dragon Age 2.

Scientist can predict your gaming skills based on how big parts of your brain are.

MTG Tactics comes out tomorrow. Its free to play, so theres no reason not to try it I guess.

Several Arizona Republicans quit citing safety concerns after receiving Tea Party threats.

Here is a quick rundown of whats been happening in Tunis recently.

A Tale of Two Moralities.

Man denied from Ohio BAR from having too much debt after law school.

Was there ever a dinosaur civilization? Lulz.

A new ecosystem is evolving at the site of Chernobyl.

6000 year old Winery has been found in Armenia.

 7 Things guys ignore when caring for their clothes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Magic Instructional Video Part 3

Today's video covers the mechanics of Red and Green. You can find it here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Magic Instructional Video Parts 1 and 2

Youtube was giving me a ton of problems, so I just decided to upload the videos to Rapidshare. This way, I can go over the 15 minute time limit Youtube imposes on you. The following two parts were originally designed to be one big video before I had to split them up for Youtube, so definitely try and watch both in one sitting.

Part 1 covers the basics of the game as well as all of the different card types.

Part 2 covers how to actually take your turn and combat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Magic Instructional Fail

So yesterday, I got to work on my promise to Mel and Cooper and started recording the first part of the Magic Instructional Video series. I've never made an online video like this before, so the entire project has been a learning process for me. In all honestly, making an online video like this is a pretty simple process ... but that didn't stop me from failing repeatedly.

My first take was good. My instructions were clear and my examples were sufficient, however I accidentally made the video in the wrong file type, which resulted in a file that was over half a gig in size with awful quality. My second take was perfect. I had chosen the right file type this time and my lecture was smooth again. However, when I previewed the video, there was a random black box covering half of the screen during the entire second half of the video. Sigh. Third times a charm I guess. My third take was excellent and there was nothing wrong with it. I upload the video to Youtube only to find out ... Youtube video uploads have a max limit of 15 minutes and the first video of the series was 20 minutes long. I guess I should have anticipated that.

The 15 minute maximum length of each video changes the structure that I wanted my video series to follow. Its not really a big deal, but it will encompass more posts than I wanted to originally because of this. My next course of action was to find a good video splitter software, so that I can divide my first lecture into two parts. I downloaded a high rated video editing software, and attempted to split the video. However, the program would crash every time I attempted to split the video. Frustrated, I uninstalled the software and downloaded a different program. This time, the program couldn't even open my original video. Somehow, the first program messed up my original video and now I have to record my first lecture all over again...

I cannot believe that this project has been one big load of fail so far. I'm still going to work on it, but I need a break for today as I'm too frustrated to deal with it at the moment. Basically, the video is coming, I just need a little more time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Years News

First off, I just wanted to say that Congresswoman Giffords got what was coming to her. Her stance on issues like health care and gun control have no place in Arizona politics. Lets take a second and remember Sharon Angle, who famously said, "If we don't get what we want at the ballot box, we can always turn to our second amendment remedies." Truer words have never been spoken. And now, onto this week's news:

A prototype version of the original Legend of Zelda has been leaked.

The Wii continues to have random medical and scientific applications.

Penny Arcade raised over 2 million dollars for the Child's Play charity. Yayayay!

A fan made mod has given Morrowind a makeover. However, this mod is now very hard to find.

The case against the industry's rampant use of Downloadable Content.

Apparently, Nintendo experimented with 3D on the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance.

Mirrodin Besieged spoilers have officially begun! I guess its time for me to get excited about Standard again.

Here is a special preview of HBO's upcoming Game of Thrones adaptation.

Some recent developments on the Prop 8 case.

Here is some gay trolling at its finest.

Apparently, you could've gotten a ticket for cursing in PA. Wow...

Shockingly, the study linking vaccinations to autism is a fraud. I actually thought that study was already discredited, so its interesting to see it in the news now.

This is for Cooper: Wikileaks cable shows that the EPA knew of and allowed the use of bee killing pesticides.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January's Dino of the Month: Therizinosaur

I wanted to start out the series by presenting to all of you a dinosaur that you might not even heard of: Therizinosaur. For some reason this guy doesn't get a lot of play and I really don't understand why. Hes basically a T-Rex with giant raking claws.

Therizinosaur belongs to the class of dinosaurs known as Theropods, which is the group made up of bipedal bird-like dinosaurs such as the T-Rex and Raptors. Obviously, this guys two most defining characteristics are his huge claws (although he still has the trademark Theropod short arms lol) and long neck. The reason for these giant 2 foot long talons were not to attack prey like you would expect, but instead to help trim leaves off of trees. Yes, this is an herbivorous Theropod. This makes him have more in common with a Giant Ground Sloth than most of the Raptors.


These guys were around in the late Cretaceous period (100 million to 65 million years ago) along most of the other Theropods. Skeletons have been found mostly in Mongolia, China, and in the Western United States. The discovery of this dinosaur has been pretty recent. The first one was found in Mongolia shortly after World War 2 and paleontologist basically had no idea what the fuck it was. It looks like a Therapod, but it has these huge claws, an herbivorous dentition, and feet similar to Sauropods (think Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus). They didn't get their official classification until the mid 1990s, once more species of this type had been found.  Lets be honest here, Therizinosaurs are sort of a mess. The fact that they've baffled scientist for so long means that there isn't a lot of information available about them. But, this is the precise thing that makes them awesome, and thus our first Dinosaur of the Month.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What to Expect for the New Year

I have to say, that when I started this blog in October I had no idea it would even make it into the New Year. My New Years Resolution is to ensure that this blog doesn't die a slow death once school starts for me. This is going to be a challenge, as I'm sure my motivation to blog will start dwindling once I have my first essay to turn in or test to study for. Luckily, I have been brainstorming and writing down ideas for future articles in order to ensure that this blog will have content for months to come. Here are some of the articles to expect this year:

1) When I started this blog, I really wanted a heavier dinosaur emphasis. They are even mentioned in the main tag line! However, with the exception of a couple of news roundups, dinosaurs have been fairly absent on this blog. Part of the problem is that paleontology news is either bad or hard to come by. As such, I will be introducing a new feature called Dinosaur of the Month, which will be a monthly informative spotlight on a particular dinosaur. Each one will discuss general information about the dinosaur, recent findings, and controversy surrounding the animal. Fun and Educational! Derp.

2) I will be posting a Magic: the Gathering instructional video sometime this month. This will be a three part video tutorial on how to play Magic, so that I never have to give that awful lecture ever again. This is a really big project which requires a lot of set up, so it probably won't be done until I finish playing Dragon Age.

3) While I will continue doing my Supreme Court reviews for recent games, I will also be doing unbaised reviews of old games. Oftentimes, we tend to be really nostalgic for our old favorites, and this nostalgia tends to blind us from the obvious problems in the games we played when we were younger. The first game reviewed this way? Final Fantasy 6. While it may be my favorite game ever, this game still has A LOT of flaws that need to be discussed.

4) I will also try and branch out my coverage of games more this year. I realize that I never really broke out of being a predominantly Wii guy after being pigeonholed as a Nintendo specialist at EA, and thus most of the time I talk about Wii games to the exclusion of all else. Now that I have a PC that can actually do some gaming, I can branch out my coverage a bit more and write Supreme Court reviews for games that aren't published by Nintendo.

Ad Astra

5) Another aspect of gaming which I have mostly ignored are board games. Considering the amount of board games we still play, I am a bit surprised on how little coverage they've gotten on this site. Expect more board game reviews and strategy information in the months to come. Also expect me to write about Ad Astra in the very near future.

If you have any topic ideas, suggestions for the blog itself, or want to write an article, please get in contact with me. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want some feedback on how to improve the site. Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

MTG: The Origin of Species

Magic: The Gathering was a reoccurring force during my formative years. It was one of the strongest uniting factors between Alex, Jason, Josh and I through High School, a time when the four of us might have otherwise grown up in different directions. It kept us grounded in the catacombs of sci-fi geekhood and casual cerebral competition, both of which we've since maintained in our lives in our own ways.

(I'd like to take this moment to thank MTG for giving us something to do during those summers away from college before we'd turned twenty-one. Oh, and also for all the vocab it taught me.)

Once our college years ended, Magic was no longer the dominant time vortex into which disappeared our time spent together - thanks to booze, drugs, smash bros, and other similar mind alterants - and yet magic never completely went away for some of us. Jason found more casual board games and a career, while Josh found Street Fighter and Japan, but Alex and I kept playing MTG here and there.

(Sure, the fact that Magic: The Gathering continues to refurbish old ideas and reprint old cards in new sets for the sake of renewed profit is annoying, and it cheapens the competition of it, but it's also what kept us coming back. Rotating tournament legality is a money drain on fans, but so is having to buy this year's EA Madden, or this season's WoW expansion set, which isn't necessarily any cheaper.)

Back in the early days, we played by the rotating rules provided by Wizards of the Coast, but we also played by our own guidelines, banning everything we had determined to be "too cheap". Nobody was allowed to burn opponents for more than half their lives, and I'm pretty sure land destruction was considered illegal in the house of butwinks.

By the end of college, however, MTG shifted from casual to competitive. This was due to a multitude of causes, including:

- Alex discovered the tournament scene, which spelled the end for the usual "combo" and "theme" decks we'd constructed up to that point, because, quite frankly, Alex had become too good at constructing decks that were designed to win.

- Alex recruited Ian into the world of Magic: The Gathering. Ian harbored a naturally aggressive competitive streak bred in part by real-time strategy games. Naturally, he constructed decks for the purpose of winning.

- We'd all started playing Texas Hold'em, which only added fuel to the "win or bust" fire, and bolstered the idea that, for a game to be fun, something must be on the line, whether its money or pride. This is a paradigm that has taken me years to overcome.

- It had to escalate to stay fun. You know, like necrophilia.

This period of competitive games taught me that I was much more of a sore loser than I would have guessed, and that goes for every game we played during the early Canfield years. But it also taught me that end-game Magic: The Gathering is actually pretty damn fun, too, and I soon overcame the frustrations and the fall from (casual gameplay) grace to very much enjoy constructing tournament-level decks with Alex, as well as deck-testing and nurturing advanced strategy.

It's something that Alex and I continue to do to this day, here and there, via Magic Workstation, this blog and sharing various links to Magic-related articles online.

In reality, though, recent years have dialed back the competitive tension. Casual games have become more and more popular between Alex's and my mutual friends even to the point of completely innocuous parlor games like Apples to Apples and that telephone-drawing-game-that-nobody-knows-what-to-call. Again, the reasons are many:

- Some new players have been added to the scene, like Luke, David, Jules, among others. When new players are being introduced to the game, ruthlessness isn't very helpful.

- Open-ended social circles keeps everyone friendly and dampens the nerd rage. When it isn't only the same three dudes competing everyday, competition doesn't have to escalate.

- Both Alex and I have long-time significant others, and taking pointless games too seriously has a habit of adding stupid tension to otherwise happy and stable relationships.

- We're older and wiser maybe!?

The effect on magic is obvious, and thanks to Wizards of the Coast, it's even official. The new game format, known to fans as EDH, is an alternative play-style to Magic: The Gathering that Alex has previously discussed.

I haven't played that much EDH yet, and to be honest, I am not quite finished formulating an opinion on the format (I plan to write a review of the EDH format from my perspective later). However, I do find the gameplay style of EDH pretty interesting as the next step of MTG's evolution in my life, because in all honesty, it is kind of the culmination of everything that has come before it.


- "Combo" and "Theme" decks are back. In high school, we'd create decks based on one card all the time. Then we discovered that when that one card is then nullified (come on, don't disenchant my Land's Edge!), the deck is nullified. In EDH, however, you are more or less required to do exactly that.

- Multiplayer is the name of the game. While I'm sure Alex and Luke play one-v-one, EDH simply feels more like an MP format. This is partly due to longer life spans, which keep unlucky players from dying within the first few turns, and because certain common spells are no longer as crippling, which means that people have less reason to complain that they are being ganged up on.

- All sets are legal. While there are limitations for fairness, EDH does not limit decks to using only the last few Magic sets. This means that all those cards Alex and I used to use in middle school are fair game again, and some of them might even be useful. This also means we are less at the mercy of Wizards of the Coast, which is probably the format's greatest virtue.

- "House Rules" are partially back, because even though EDH has an official rule set, I've noticed that Alex and Luke are keeping away from particularly cruel strategies like infinity combos and too many board wipes. (And most of this is due to EDH rules themselves, because the highlander limit of only one of each card prevents most of the worst.)

- Due to the open-endedness of the format, and because players don't die as quickly, the idea of "playing to win" is no longer the power-gaming buzz-kill it used to occasionally be. Even if Alex and I read a hundred strategy articles on EDH and constructed the vilest tournament deck possible, a harmless theme deck would still have a chance (albeit remote), which is something that would never be the case in standard magic rules. The EDH format is kind of like a buffer against MTG's rougher edges, a soft cushion against "cheap" gameplay.

I am not saying that EDH is the solution to all of Magic's problems. I am just saying that, right now, it makes sense that EDH is the game of choice, because that's what fits into MTG's evolution according to my personal timeline. I'll be interested in seeing how Magic and/or EDH evolves over the course of 2011. And I hope it's still around in 2012.