Sunday, November 28, 2010

Guest Post - Top 4 - 64 Man SOM Draft Premiere

This is going to be the first guest written post here at Lep's Corner and I couldn't be happier than for it to be from orangerhyming.  He has been on a tear on MTGO of late, in particular in Scars of Mirrodin 8-4s and today he is going to share is account of how he top 4ed a 64 man Scars draft premiere.  Enjoy.

Janking Into Top Four

A) Draft Janky Deck in Draft One
B) Barely Grind Out Wins
C) Begin Top 8 Draft on Pick 18

At first glance, this may seem like an unorthodox recipe for a Top 4 berth. Your first glance is correct;
however, this is exactly what happened in my first ever premiere event experience on Magic Online.
Had I known that I would have had any success at all in this event, I would have taken notes on each
round. As it stands, I will do my best to recap the highlights.

The event was a 64 player SOM draft premiere. Following the initial draft, it was single elimination. The
Top 8 drafted again.

Here is the deck I drafted:

Acid Web Spider
Alpha Tyrranax x2
Bonds of Quicksilver
Carapace Forger x2
Chrome Steed x2
Dissipation Field
Flight Spellbomb
Gold Myr
Leaden Myr
Perilous Myr
Screeching Silcaw
Slice in Twain
Stoic Rebuttal
Strata Scythe
Tangle Angler
Turn Aside
Untamed Might
Volition Reins

Island x9
Forest x8

Now, as you can see, there are some questionable choices in this deck. (Who plays Silcaw? Turn Aside
maindecked? 2 Tyrannax??) I wish that I had some incredible insight or tech to explain my choices. The
truth is that these were my only playables. The signals were so ambiguous and mixed that I never really
got a read on what the players to my right and left were drafting. I first picked the Voliton Reins, second
picked the Slice in Twain, and from there it got ugly. That being said, I did 3-0 with this deck.

Great limited card....or greatest limited card?!

The MVP of the deck was Tangle Angler, followed closely by Strata Scythe and Slice in Twain. My proudest/most shameful moment came when, for the win, I cracked a Flight Spellbomb to give my
Tangle Angler flying, attached the Strata Sythe for +4/+4, and played Untamed Might for 5 to win the
game via poison. There was a good, full minute pause by my opponent, which is understandable, before
he conceded. If I had been on the losing end of that game, I may have put my fist through my computer
screen. Alas, a win is a win is a win. I only drew Volition Reins once, to steal a Razor Hippogriff at a
timely moment for a win. I honestly don’t remember much else from the first three rounds of the
premiere. I’ll try to keep better track for the next big event I do.

Top 8 Draft

I was pretty psyched to make the Top 8 of a big event. As I was recounting the events thus far to my
friend uwgeric, I noticed that it was taking a long time to move into the second draft. I didn’t think
much of it at first, but I relogged twice just to make sure I wasn’t missing the draft.

Funny story—I was missing the draft. I don’t know what happened in Modo, but after completely
exiting the program and starting it back up, I was able to see my draft…AND THE 18 CARDS THAT IT
AUTOPICKED FOR ME. Clearly pissed, I tried my best to finish the draft with a positive attitude, with
varying results. All things considered, I actually had a semi-playable deck to work with. But before we
get to that…

My autopicked cards:

Instill Infection
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Withstand Death x2
Fulgent Distraction
Swamp x2
Oxidda Daredevil x2
Corpse Cur
Furnace Celebration
Golem Foundry

I think we are all glad this didn't make into the maindeck

(Really, Modo? 6 lands?)

The closest thing to a first pick in the entire jank pile was corpse cur. Not exactly how I wanted to start
my first Top 8 draft. Seeing as the only viable option that my autopicks gave me was to force infect, I did
my best to oblige for the remainder of the draft. Here is the deck I played.

Bellowing Tanglewurm
Carapace Forger x2
Carrion Call
Copper Myr x2

Corpse Cur
Genesis Wave
Golem Foundry
Grafted Exoskeleton
Infiltration Lens
Instill Infection x2
Myr Galvanizer
Myr Propagator
Tel-Jilad Fallen x2
Trigon of Infestation
Tumble Magnet
Withstand Death

Forest x14
Swamp x4

Going into round one, I didn’t like my chances. I mean, I did miss my first 18 picks. But, I am a fighter,
so I went for it tooth and nail.

Game One:
I get slightly mana-screwed early on, stalling on 3 lands. He is playing a U/W metalcraft deck, but it
might as well have been a straight artifact deck. He lands a couple of Chrome Steeds before I can get
anything going and then drops a Tumble Magnet. That’s all she wrote.

Game Two:

This was a crazy game that was over fast. The short version:

My side: Painsmith, Tel-Jilad Fallen
His Side: Tumble Magnet, Gold Myr, Myrsmith

On my next turn I play Tumble Magnet, giving the Fallen +2/+0 with the Painsmith, tap down the
Myrsmith, and swing for 5 poison.

His turn: Chrome Steed, creating Myr token.

My turn: Wall of Tanglecord, again giving Fallen 2 more power, tap down the Myrsmith again, and swing
for the poison win.

At this point, I feel like I have a shot. If it can win one game…

Painsmith...thwarting MTGO autpicker since 2010

Game Three:

This one was a hard fought battle. I got through for 3 or 4 poison early in the game and he stabilized.
Late in the game, I finally draw the Tanglewurm, making my Tel-Jilad Fallen unblockable. I am able to
hold off his assault and push through for enough before he can get me to zero.

Top Four:

I’m ecstatic that I made it this far, especially considering the circumstances of Draft 2. I realize that I
got pretty lucky in the first round, so I wasn’t holding my breath for a win in top four. It’s a good thing I
wasn’t, because I would’ve died a painful death by asphyxiation.

No need for details here. I lost to a much better Infect deck, 2-0. I remember both games beginning
with turn one Sylvok Life staff, turn two Ichorclaw Myr, which is just bad news. I lost to the better deck,
and I’m quite alright with that.

So, all in all, it was a crazy event. With my original draft deck, I was not expecting to Top 8 at all. Some
strong play got me through and I was proud of myself. Draft two was a mess. . I do wonder what
would’ve happened if I had been able to make all of my picks. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I walked away
with more packs than I had when I started…which, in the end, is what matters.


Monday, November 15, 2010

My Musings - My Worst Movies (and why I love some and hate others)

During the course of my life, I have long had a fascination with movies.  This has had little to nothing to do with the movie-going experience.  For much of my childhood and even early adult life, I have been dirt as a result, paying more money for popcorn and a soda than I did for the actual movie ticket wasn't exactly something that drove me to the theater.  Moreover, while I do enjoy watching movies "on the big screen" with sweet special effects and stadium is also true that douchebags seem to enjoy the same thing and they always seem to sit directly behind me (no matter how many seats are open) and either prop their feet up on my seat or are obnoxiously loud during the whole movie.

"That will be $37.00 please"

Now, it would be bad enough that I have spent more than I care to share at the concession stands at movie theaters.....but I have also seen some TERRIBLE movies in addition to some truly spectacular ones.  Now, I could try to share how some movies (see: Turtles Can Fly, Schindler's List, What Dreams May Come) continue to this day to blow my mind with their awesomeness, its a lot funnier to tell my tales of woe and how I came to watch some of the worst movies of all-time.  Admittedly, I haven't seen ALL of these movies in theaters and I will distinguish those accordingly.  I thought about doing some sort of Top 10 list, but these movies really all contribute to the same pile of excrement that I choose to discuss them as an aggregate while only differentiating them to both explain specifically why they are awful as well as to add any funny anecdotes I may have.  These are numbered, but only in terms of the order that they appear to my recollection.

1.) The Fountain

Alright, I want to be absolutely clear....this is more than just ONE bad movie.  Somehow, and really this was a bit of an achievement (the only achievement that this movie managed), the writers managed to combine the worst space monk movie they could think of with a terrible romantic drama and a nonsensical short film about a Spanish conquistador.  The resulting shitstorm of a film had my brain about to implode only to end with a scene involving Hugh Jackman ingesting tree semen then shortly thereafter crashing himself into a star.  Does that sound potentially awesome...maybe, but the execution had myself and several others confused as to how we were ever convinced to go see it in the first place (the answer being that we were persuaded by a harpy of a woman that from here on in will be known as "It")

2.) Battlefield Earth

This one was truly my fault that I went to (I even convinced a friend to go to it with me).  I honestly and truly thought that a movie starring John Travolta and Forest Whittaker portraying aliens that took over Earth while adhering to much of the mythology (there I said it) of Scientology was going to be awesome.  Suffice it to say...I couldn't have been more wrong.  Aside from the fact that John Travolta's good performances on-screen have turned out to be the exceptions to the rule, the rest of the cast was terribly cast, the story was horrifically predictable and transparent, and the special effects were less than exciting.  This one haunts me to this day.

3.) Spice World

This one was only partially my fault.  You see...I was extremely awkward in middle school and I found myself with a rare chance to go on a date with a girl who hadn't lost a bet.  She proclaimed that we had to go see this movie because it was going to be "amazing".  The resulting first 25 minutes of this film made me realize a couple things.  First, while the Spice Girls were extremely attractive, I was amazed that they had survived as long as they had without killing themselves trying to figure out VCR instructions (combined IQ of 45...max).  Second, I was perfectly fine being alone, without a girlfriend, so long as I never had to watch movies as bad as this again.  Seriously....this set my dating life back a couple years.  I left her after those 25 the theater....and called my parents to pick me up.  She never spoke to me again.

4.) Epic Movie

Now, it does sort of go without saying that most, if not all, of these parody movies are terrible (a couple of the Scary Movie parodies weren't awful).  However, what made this a particularly memorable moment was I went with the UWG debate team to this the middle of the blizzard.  We took a cab to the theater (because the blizzard had delayed our flight) and afterwards, we were unable to find a cab back to the hotel which was 2 miles away.  So what did we do?  Yes, we the middle of a Chicago.  It was like our own little Trail of Tears where we almost lost one of our debaters to a rather steep hill and my shoes began dissolving due to the toxic slush that was on the streets of Chicago.  All of see Epic Movie....sigh.

5.) Tomb of the Blind Dead

This is the first movie on the list that I did not see in theater...mainly because it came out in the 1970's and is a Spanish film.  First of all, the premise of movie is laughable.  You see...the zombies/mummies/whatever they are are awakened and kill people.  Thats simple enough....but you see, they are, as the title alludes, blind.  Just wrap your head around how stupid the victims have to be to be hunted and killed by blind zombies and you can begin to understand how bad this movie is.  Its terribleness is capped by the fact that not only is there a rape scene that is comically bad in terms of its timing ("We are running from the blind zombies...I will now take this opportunity to rape you") but also by some of the worst subtitle translations I have ever witnessed.  Fun fact:  This movie was viewed with a couple good friends of mine on the same night as the next movie on the list (we actually watched three movies that night...the other being the timeless cult classic "Slugs")

6.) Dollman vs. The Demonic Toys

Now, far be it for me to disparage the storied Dollman franchise (and when I say "storied"...I mean that watching Dollman's adventures actually can cause someone to want to jump off a ten story building), but this movie is just awful.  Bad special effects (as per the usual in the early 1990's) combined with terrible acting and a laughable plot makes me honestly wonder who thought that both "Dollman" and "Demonic Toys" ACTUALLY warranted a crossover sequel.  Then again...they did make Rocky 5, so I guess folks just liked making sequels 20 years ago.

7.) Twister

If you have read my previous Musings, you may have come across my hatred for one Bill Paxton and this movie is a primary reason why.  See, I wanted SO badly to see this movie in theaters.  The special effects looked awesome, tornadoes are cool, and the combination of the two seemed like an unbeatable combination.  What did we get?  Paxton staring at tornadoes and trying to channel their feelings into some sort of predictive prowess.  I had hopes that he was going to get impaled by a high-speed chicken or getting launched by high winds into the horizon, but sadly he survived and my dreams of watching the greatest films EVER were dashed.  There were some other shortcomings (watching Helen Hunt try to appear scientific knowledgeable is awkward at best), but my primary hatred revolves around Paxton as the "tornado whisperer".  Curse you, Bill Paxton!

One day, day....

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Musings - My Love's Evil Plan

Words cannot describe my love for my Katie.  She is hilarious, smart, beautiful, and the best life partner a person could ever ask for.  However, this morning....she unleashed her wrath upon me.  You see, from time to time, I forget to do things she asks me to do.  Not everything, not even most things....just I will forget to do a household task or to run an errand.  Its just my nature and I try my best to not do so and I am actually fairly productive around the house.  Katie, it appears anyways, decided to take matters into her own hands and make sure that I understand who the boss was around the house (hint: its not me).  I wasn't sure at first that the events that unfolded were nothing more than an unfortunate sequence of coincidences.  However, I have unearthed her manifesto and have put it into pictures.  Be warned....the following is a plan of, quite simply, pure EVIL!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Have you caught it?: Why homophobia is a disease and being gay isn't

I'm not entirely sure what has gotten me thinking about this as of late.  I suppose its possible that it has something partially to do with the recent discussion about suicides due to the bullying/harassment of gay people, or maybe it has to do with the general tone of discussions from this new "conservative movement".  These are serious discussions of a serious topic and serious people need to be having them.  Sometimes....I count myself amongst those serious people.  I have at least tried to be a source of well-informed opinions on such matters in the past and I do have opinions regarding this issue (I may or may not overtly reveal those opinions during this post....but suffice it to say it won't be hard to guess them from the general flow of this post).  However, there has always been a funny undertone regarding the discussion of homosexuality that is also fascinating when you think about it.  The running joke in some circles is that some people don't want to be around homosexuals because they don't want to "catch the gay" as if watching an episode of Will and Grace will somehow make an adolescent boy/girl want to go out and become a cross-dressing deviant or something.

Become one of of us....

Why being gay isn't a disease

I do think this should go without saying but I'll go ahead and throw this out can't "catch the gay".  You can't be infected with it by enjoying the company of a gay person or having an affinity for musicals.  You can't come down with some sort of homo-ebola by having a homosexual as a close friend or feeling the need to finding the finding accessory to go with your scarf (if you are male) or having a shaved head and wearing pants (if you are a female). Whether or not you are born gay or choose to be gay (and it doesn't matter all), ultimately who you are is who you are.  Who/what you are attracted to simply just doesn't matter and you certainly can't somehow be tricked into it or "catch it" without severe indoctrination/conditioning that flat out never happens.  If we are being honest, you are actually far more likely to be trapped by fundamental Christians and indoctrinated into their belief structure and made a 14th wife than being trapped by a group of drag queens and forced to watch the "Sounds of Music" and "Mama Mia" on a loop.


I do think that there is entirely too much attention given to the "is being gay a choice vs. not a choice" discussion by both sides.  It doesn't....F***ing...matter.  As long as all parties are consenting adults, then why should anyone care? (FYI this is why comparing gay people to pedophiles and bestiality makes me so mad...the question of consent is simply the only thing that matters)  However, that isn't what I'm here to discuss.  I am here to discuss an epidemic that makes malaria, bird flu, SARS, bubonic super AIDS and gonorrhea combined seem...well...."gay".

Why homophobia is a disease

Oh yes, faithful readers, its true.  You can catch the "anti-gay".  Homophobia is just like the flu, except with less fever and more hatred.  Consider the following.

1.) Its contagious - Whether it be from your family who has long been subjected to the infection and yells at the TV every time they see an advertisement for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (in syndication) to even pundits on Fox News making tenuous connections between homosexuality and crime, if one is not careful and does not take the required vaccinations (for the purposes of this article, we will call these vaccinations "common sense", "rationality", and "intelligence"), you can catch homophobia.  Really, its worse than a simple air-born/water-born pathogens...because it can be caught via digital/electronic/radio mediums.  High-profile members of the infected include Christine O'Donnell, Rush Limbaugh, and Pat Robertson.

Gay people are the devil

2.) It is symptomatic - Now, this does at some level go without saying, but there some less noticeable symptoms of homophobia so we will explore it.  The obvious symptoms are fear/avoidance of physical contact with gay people, misappropriating religious doctrine to justify shitty behavior, appearing on or avidly listening to Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, or "The 700 Club" talk about social issues, voting for propositions that ban gay adoption/gay marriage/gayness, or, in severe cases, inflicting violence/vandalism/harassment on homosexuals or those who actively support homosexual rights.  However, there are less apparent symptoms such as feeling faint at the sight of rainbows/men dressed in pastels/women holding hands, recalling a summer camp experience as "just an experiment" followed by irrational outbursts about the state of American values today, nausea brought on by the thought of having to shake a homosexual's hand, and strong urges to watch hunting shows and Charlton Heston movies after watching "Say Yes to the Dress" for 5 minutes and finding yourself enjoying it.

"This happened because a gay person hugged me."

3.) There is treatment - Fear not, there is a cure....although it is a difficult treatment, is not 100% successful, and requires constant maintenance.  Its called "understanding that we are talking about people and not judging them".  So often in our long and storied history as human beings have populations determined that a certain subset of the population was undesirable and unfit to have the same rights as the majority or those in power (this has been based on race, gender, religious beliefs, etc) and it has never ended well.  Do I see something on the scale of the Holocaust or the Trail of Tears on the horizon for the gay community? No...I do not think that will happen...we as a whole have moved that far forward.  However, I do think that a lot of time and energy is wasted rallying against what is ultimately private behavior that could be used doing, oh I don't know, some actual good in the world.  Countless religious fanatics give millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to fight and rally against rights for homosexuals that could be going towards things like education and actual disease prevention.  In the end, the epidemic is ongoing and while the spread isn't as far as it once was, it is still ever-spreading, pernicious threat to, in my humble opinion, a more productive and, in general,  heightened societal well-being.  So until next time, as they say, a little understanding every day keeps the homophobia away.  I'll end with something I will now reveal the REAL homosexual agenda.  Be warned, your mind may be blown.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Musings - My Less than Ordinary Life

Well, my sleep schedule is semi-screwed up and after surveying the fairly depressing election results as they have rolled in (thank god Christine O'Donnell didn't get elected at least...its the little things that I must find joy in), I decided that I would give you all, my avid readers, a little taste of the less than ordinary life that I have lived thus far.  Now, at first glance, I have a fairly normal and happy existence that seems to be in line with many mainstream life goals.  I have my Katie with whom I plan on living a long and happy life with, a hilarious and awesome baby daughter, and a stepson who constantly amazes me with his gifts and his view of the world.  I have a house and a job like many others, but there have been other things that I have done that have made my life, at least in my mind, unique and hilarious in its own sort of way.  So behold, my hilarious existence in bullet point form (in some cases I will remove context for comedic effect or because I am lazy).

- After eating as many donuts as I could in 3 minutes with a fake plastic pirate hook and dancing in a cocktail dress to the classic 1980's tune "Mickey" in front of 1,700 people, I was awarded a plastic tiara which I lost several hours later.

Dramatization (not pictured: me)

-   I was racing another car heading back to school from spring break on what can only be described as the most boring stretch of road in the history of mankind.  Suffice it to say, I was pulled over for going 100 in a 65 mph zone.  Did I get a ticket or lose my license? No, but only because the OTHER vehicle refused to stop behind me, drove along the shoulder, and the driver proceeded to tell the very concerned officers that we were TRYING to get pulled over because a white Honda with personalized license plates ran us off the road and we didn't have cell phones (my cell phone was sitting in the passenger seat).  Suffice it to say, after recounting this tale to the officers, they sped off, and I was sitting there dumbstruck while thanking this man for saving me.  I saw no less than 9 white Hondas pulled over on that stretch of road after that.

Sorry dude...but it was me or you

- After extensive training and practice, I can safely say that I can speak at a higher rate of speed than the Micro Machine Guy and Twista.  I did this to compete in high school and collegiate debate.

I ownz youz guyz

- I have engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a hawk and a bat (successfully defeated the bat, got owned by the hawk.  See previous Musings for details)

- In a misguided attempt to find an outlet for my athletic competitive urges, I participated in a mixed martial arts club that had tournament scrimmages.  What was surprising is that I actually performed very well given my lack of formal training and, in general, lack of any discernible physical prowess.  What is less surprising is that my last fight, I was basically squished into a near death experience at the hands of a 250 former Army Ranger.

Not actually this guy....but scarily close

- In high school, I was on a very well-regarded and successful Model UN team and during my senior year, we raised enough money to attend a huge conference at the University of Pennsylvania.  Despite my urgings (only from a strategic perspective....I didn't want to go into a big conference with a bullseye on me), we chose to represent Palestine as a team in various committees.  However, my trepidations proved to be unfounded as we won fairly handily.  However, this was January 2002....just months removed from the Sept. 11th attacks and airport security was understandably high.  However, in the haze of our win, I thought it would be a good idea to wear a Palestine t-shirt with Arabic writing on it while carrying a plastic box (which contained only a couple books and some file folders with research in them).  Now normally this isn't a problem, but my appearance did get me randomly searched.  The problem came when they opened my box and it contained folders with things written on the tabs like "Al-Qaeda" and "Terrorism".  Suffice it to say that I got everything I have had with me swabbed and checked and their search of my person was very....thorough.  I did, however, manage to make it to my flight.

This nun got off easy compared to what I had to deal with

- While working as a night auditor at a hotel in Savannah, at around 3 am one night a bunch of (then) WWF wrestlers came in wanting to check into their rooms.  They introduced themselves as their wrestler names and, seeing as how I didn't have any "Edge"s in my database, I just checked them into empty rooms, no harm, no foul.  However, as I was getting their credit cards I realized something terrible had happened.  You see, if you make a hotel reservation and don't get charged at 2 am of the night you made the reservation.  And these guys, as it turns out, didn't have parents that hated them and had real, not ridiculous names.  I charged them twice.  Now I didn't want to be murdered by a bunch of a professional wrestlers, so my next 6 hours consisted of my trying to rectify this problem (which was compounded by the fact that I had already run the audit so the previous day had already been closed out).  I did manage to fix it...and one of the wrestlers (who shall remain nameless....but he was well-known) showed his thanks by shitting all over his room.  Not being metaphorical....his feces was strewn about the room.

Picture these guys...only real and scary

- I believe I am the unofficial master of roadkill bingo.  I don't know what it is, but it seems like any member of the animal kingdom who is suicidal will inevitably find me while I'm driving and use me as the means of their demise.  So far the list consists of dog, cat, squirrel, opossum, armadillo, raccoon, woodchuck, chipmunk, dove, seagull, snake, turtle, rabbit, and fish (yes, a fish).  However, I am one of the few people in my family who has NOT hit a deer, although I have had a couple near misses and I also almost added a cow.

Not sure what "urk" is....but I would still dominate with this board

There are other stories out there floating around, but I have ideas for future musings based on them (although with some killer artwork by yours truly).  Hope you enjoyed this week's Musings!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New Era of Fiscal Discipline


First, after consultation with others, I have decided to split up my posts by topic.  This way for those of you who aren't into Magic and/or politics and/or my random musings, you can read the posts you want to read without having to wade through the other stuff.  I will manage these the best I can with tags to help towards this end.  Anyways, on to the actual post...and for those of you needing a Musings is a funny picture of a shark.

Now, I keep reading articles about the federal deficit, responsible government spending, and the various economic implications of the Tea Party's platform/ideals and I feel like something has to be made abundantly clear.....calls for fiscal discipline, at least as constructed and put out there, are a gigantic ruse.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when fiscal discipline is a valuable tool to help guide decision making, in particular in terms of government spending.  As a principle, its really the only thing that keeps ridiculous pork-barrel spending from becoming even more ridiculous ("My constituents NEED me to have a 8 seat hot tub at my guest house!").  Moreover, while I think that the laser plane that the Air Force had been spending the last 10 years and $1 billion developing is awesome in theory, there are probably better and more responsible uses for defense funds.

It has a laser on it!

However, there have been a lot of conflated connections and relationships created by conservatives in this day and age between the current economic state of disarray and programs/things that they do not like under the guise of trying to promote fiscal discipline.  A simple example of this is health care.  Countless politicians have assailed the recent health care reform bill as a grotesque example of government spending gone wild (there are other complaints....but thats for a different day).  However, there are actual and unknown costs of no health care reform that aren't accounted for when these people shoot off at the mouth about the cost of the bill.  Between curbs on Medicare spending (something I would THINK that conservatives would be excited about) and most projections regarding how medical cost inflation will be controlled and the revenue created by the fines, the worst case scenario seems to be that the bill will be deficit neutral with many other projections saying that it will save money in the long term.  However, given that these same politicians simply find such programs unsavory because insurance companies hold a large amount of sway in the GOP and any government program is nothing short of the anti-Christ in their minds....they hide their biases under the guise of fiscal discipline.

Another example that is often brought up as a form of government waste is welfare.  It goes without saying that there are people out there who abuse the system to get a free hand out and that is deplorable.  However, that speaks far more of the need to reform the bureaucracy within the U.S. welfare system and not a need to cut funding under the guise of "getting rid of wasteful spending".  Why?  Because the absence of governmental programs designed to help those who are impoverished save a lot more money than people realize.  Without that source of income, many of these people would be forced to hand their children over to the state because they are unable to care for them, many would be forced to engage in less-than-legal sources of income to get by thereby putting a further financial burden on law enforcement and prison agencies as well as no gains in tax revenue, and more people would have to go in to foreclosure because either they can't pay their own mortgages OR they will not be able to pay their rent thereby threatening homeowners of rental properties (and we know what happens when housing craters).  What would a world look like in the absence of adequate funding for programs like welfare?  My guess is that fiscal discipline as a principle would be thrown out completely in exchange for trying to solve what could be an crisis of poverty that would make the situation of our current economic system pale in comparison.

What about illegal immigration?

Now, these two issues may not seem related, at least in regards to the current public discourse on the matter. However, not only does it show that those who are adhering to the principle of fiscal discipline don't apply the principle to programs that they like (due to racism or other biases), but also that they are acting on behalf of private interests that want to MAKE MORE money off of the situation by actually INCREASING the amount of spending (that doesn't sound like fiscal discipline...does it?).  First, one of the arguments advanced by conservatives in this day and age is that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from law-abiding American citizens, thereby invoking, at least, the specter of American unemployment in the discussion.  Now aside from the fact that this is borderline ridiculous (there isn't a line out the door at citrus farms for orange pickers or at many of these jobs where illegal immigrants are working), something is lost in the discussion: illegal immigrants are single-handedly preventing a crisis with Social Security.  According to the New York Times in 2005 (the number is almost certainly higher now), illegal immigrants contribute $7 billion annually to Social Security with almost none of it being paid back out to them because, again, they are illegal immigrants.  $7 billion?!?! Why isn't this in the conservative calculation, especially when fiscal discipline is so in vogue?  Because conservatives don't like Social Security and want to do it their way with privatization as a main component and all sorts of changes to decrease the scope of the agency.  And what happens then?  Old people riot in the streets

We are coming for our money....and to fuck you up!

So what is the real motivation then?  Is it just motivation based on antiquated, racist notions that illegal immigrants are all criminals and that the nation should all have one, pale skin color?  I'm sure some of that exists and there is a special place in hell for people like that....but I think that the link below may have some clues as to what is going on...its a good read.

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

Private prison entrepreneurs wanting to make money by imprisoning all of the brown people?  All I have to say about that is "Welcome to the new era of fiscal discipline"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Report from the World At-Large - 10/25/2010

Hello one and all,

I've been pondering how to manage this blog....what to include, what to not include, who to make fun of, etc.  and I have come this.  Every week (probably every Monday or at the very least, work schedule permitting, every first day off I get) I am going to write a Weekly Report from the World At-Large.  Essentially these will come in three parts:  the first about Magic: the Gathering, the second about politics in some form or another, and the last part (which I have titled "Musings" for the purposes of anal organization and so you fine people can Control+F properly) will just be something that I think is funny or a funny story from the life and times of me.  I will in all likelihood supplement the blog with other things as they come up from me or others (already have a friend potentially interested in guest writing some Magic stuff if the desire comes to him).  Anyways, on to the report...

Magic: the Gathering...aka How I keep winning with Vampires

If you read my last post, I have been fairly invested in making Vampires in some form or fashion successful in the post-Scars of Mirrodin world of Standard.  This is due, in no small part, is due to what I have termed "The Primeval Titan Puzzle".

For those not in the know, Primeval Titan is basically everywhere.  From Red/green decks that use this meanest of trees to abuse Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to Mono-Green lists that use him to ramp out giant Eldrazi guys like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or even Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to newer iterations that play Blue/green and just try to kill you with Primeval Titan and Genesis Wave for more Primeval Titans and friends, this card is far and away THE card you have to figure out how to play with/against in Standard right now.  However, the decks with Primeval Titan do vary enough that you can't game plan against the card itself necessarily and there are a bunch of other decks to consider out there as well such as Red Deck Wins and Blue-based control strategies.  So, with that in mind, I decided to build a Vampires list that attempts to be disruptive against ramp strategies and control strategies while still having game against the random beatdown decks (RDW, Elves, White Weenie, etc).  The list I started with is in my previous post and I will post it again here....

4 Captivating Vampire
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Kalastria Highborn
4 Vampire Hexmage
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Sign in Blood
4 Doom Blade
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Mind Sludge

2 Tectonic Edge
4 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs
14 Swamp


1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Mind Sludge
2 Haunting Echoes
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Deathmark
4 Urge to Feed

So far, the deck has performed very well in the Tournament Practice room (you basically can't lose to White Weenie or Elves just as an FYI) but there has been some things to consider based on testing.  First, while I love me some Mind Sludge...sometimes you just need it to be anything else and is often not good enough or fast enough against the Primeval Titan decks and its basically a dead draw if not worse against decks with Vengevine or Obstinate Baloth.  So what do we do?  I recommended Sadistic Sacrament as a way to deal with Valakut and/or Primeval Titan and while I think that general line of thinking is correct....I was also being remarkably stupid. The card pretty clearly to play towards this end is from our newest of sets...Memoricide.

Basically, its one mana can get rid of the Primeval Titans that are in their hand as well, you get rid of all of them, and its a beating against random combo or control strategies.  Yes sir...sign me up.  You can't get Valakut...that makes me sad, but the added bonus of getting rid of all of their Titans is too much to pass up.  I have also tinkered around with a Blue/Black vampires list as well....removing some of the disruptive elements (like the aforementioned Mind Sludge and an Inquisition of Kozilek) for Spell Pierce.  This is a nod to Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  Several different decks rely fairly heavily on sticking a turn 3, 4, or 5 Jace to win and Spell Pierce shits on that plan quite well.  Also, Spell Pierce also lets you commit to the board early and not be in fear of Day of Judgment.  Day of Judgment is a problem for the deck in the early stages because you can't really take full advantage of the wonder that is Kalastria Highborn if you are tapped out in the first few turns of the game.  With Spell Pierce, you can leave a Blue mana open, attack with your horde, and when they try to wipe your Spell Pierce their Day of Judgement and all is then right with the world.  I'm liking the Blue base strategy right now and will post more concrete results later, in particular with some changes to the sideboard to reflect the change if I think its worth pursuing. 

Politics aka Why I think 2010 Conservatives are stupid

The title may be a little more harsh than my actual meaning, but I think that there something to the thought.  Look, I get there are legitimate grievances with the U.S. tax system, the questions surrounding federalism and the tenuous balance that can exist between individual freedoms and the power of the federal government, and sincere concern over the deficit and bailing out corporations that shouldn't have the financial means to buy hot wheels and bubble gum.  Really...I do understand these complaints and they reflect long-standing (decades upon decades old) inequities that have existed in our governmental and financial institutions that have arisen in no small part because of the over-arching crisis of capitalism (with the amount of money at stake in this day and age...did you honestly think even rational people wouldn't try to bend the rules to "get theirs"?  You are beyond naive if you didn't see it coming).  However, thats not what my problem problem is that conservatives right now COULD be articulating these points and have a genuine discussion about the role of government and the tax code or whatever.  Instead....they have engaged in what I like to call "institutionalized stupid".  Just because Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter or some random Tea Party activist shares your viewpoint on the world DOES NOT MEAN that you should support them and let them act or speak on your behalf.  At best, they are worst, they will result in some of the worst sort of pandering to an uneducated, mis-informed group of followers that have no idea what the ramifications of their beliefs are.  The current "mobilized" conservative movement is the same group of people who continue to forward emails to each other claiming that Obama is a Muslim that is not an American citizen who is going to come into your house and have sex with all of the white women.  I can't understand how the public at large thinks that the world would be better if we had just followed George W. Bush's policies to their natural conclusions would somehow be helpful....but that is exactly what seems to be happening.

There is no greater proof of this than in the Georgia governor's race.  In a world where the primarily sources of anger seem to be over financial management and corruption and abuse of power in government...who has the conservative movement turned to?

This other than Nathan Deal.  This is the same guy who had to resign from Congress the same day that health care reform passed because he was dodging a Congressional ethics investigation by a federal grand jury because he was personally keeping a state program in place that earned him 300K a year.  He is also tangled up in a multi-million dollar bankruptcy filing.  You honestly want me to argue the merits and principles of the most recent iteration of the conservative movement when that movement neither has merit or principle?  Please....spare me.  Its institutionalized stupid....plain and simple.  Most of these people (I have to allow for exceptions...there are plenty of conservatives with good hearts and sound minds that might be able to explain this to me in a way that isn't the cop-out "Its better than Obama") just don't like people that disagree with them, have little to no idea what they are talking about, and do not apply the same principles to themselves or their candidates that they seem to apply to those that they disagree with.  Why?  Because ultimately they are selfish.  I can understand a certain amount of that in this day and age where many people just want to put food on their table and could care less about others or the systems they are apart of.  But lets call a spade a spade and figure it out from there.

Leppy's Musings

Alright, with that rant out of the way....I come to you now with a very important message regarding the state of my life.  You see....I have what can best be described as an "Enemy's List".  These are not specific people in most cases, but they are groups or even animals that are the bane of my existence for one reason or another.  Are the choices to put these individuals/groups/animals on the list completely rational?  Probably now, but if you have known me for any period of time you know that being "rational" isn't always high on my list of priorities.  So list of enemies!

1.) Bad Tippers - I know this is somewhat self-serving on its face because I serve tables for a living, but hear me out.  I'm not talking about the people who tip 10% on a $50 or something.  While I disagree with the amount/percentage...reasonable people can disagree about such things.  The people I'm talking about are the ones that run me around making me refill their water 15 times over the course of their $8 meal, ask me questions like "Does your salad have lettuce in it?", and then tip me 0.70 and tell me how great of a server I am.  Case in point:  Last night, I had a party of 13 people.  While 12 of these people were perfectly fine and tipped me a reasonable if unspectacular gentleman, who I'm pretty sure had a gig as an extra in the movie "Deliverance", asked me when I was taking their order "What should I get me to eat since I can't chew?"  Now, external from the fact that I had to try very hard not to laugh at that exercise in grammatical homicide and the fact that this man had the worst meth teeth I had seen in a long time, I was very nice and suggest soup...because, well, you don't have to chew soup.  He said, "I don't like soup".  I suggested mashed potatoes, which he seemed fine with.  Then he said, "What about fried shrimp?"  I said, in the most polite way I know how to, that he would probably have to chew the shrimp.  He proceeded to order the fried shrimp...and then complained about them once he received them.  Not because he couldn't chew (oh no, that would be too easy) but instead because there wasn't enough of them.  This man tipped me a dollar.  Sir, you are on my list.

2.) Old People - Now, before you start hiding your grandmothers and loved ones from me....I am talking about the kinds of old people who have disabled person car tags, drive 15 under the speed limit on one lane roads, and do so while having their turn signals on the whole time.  Aside from the fact that this alone annoys the hell out of me because I live in area with lots of old people and one lane roads which makes my drives to and from work harrowing at best...there is another problem.  You see...all of these people are close to death and, well, I seem to kill old people with my very presence.  Over the past year, I have had two separate instances where I either witnessed an old person die or found them already, if recently, deceased.  The first was where a woman who I can only guess was 147 years old, was driving in front of me going 20 mph and then very suddenly went off the road into a ditch.  I stopped, open her door, and discovered that she was in the middle of a massive stroke.  I called 911...but they did not arrive in time.  The other was where I was waiting behind someone at a stop sign at Publix to go home and the car didn't move for a long time.  I exited my vehicle, expecting to have to yell at someone for falling asleep listening to Perry Cuomo on cassette, only to find that this woman had died in her car and since the road was slightly uphill...her car was just sitting their idling.  I'm pretty sure that the Villa Rica police department has a file on me at this point and anytime some who is old dies they check my whereabouts.

3.) Bill Paxton - All I have to say about this douchebag is that he singlehandedly ruined the movie I looked forward to seeing most in middle school, "Twister".  It had tornadoes, Helen Hunt being chased by tornadoes, and flying livestock....what more could I ask for?  Instead, what I get is some bastardized film where Bill Paxton plays the role of some sort of "tornado whisperer" and I forever hate him for it.  The film could have saved itself by get his ass impaled by a cow or a bicycle or something...but alas, instead I merely have to find solace in the fact that if I were driving and saw him in a crosswalk, I wouldn't stop, and then would have to explain to the police that I thought he was an old lady.

4.) The Hawk - Some time ago, I was about to go out to my car when I saw that a hawk had killed what I guessed to be a rabbit and brought his kill down and placed it directly behind my car.  Now, I have a certain amount of respect for wildlife and I was fairly convinced that if I just walked towards the car that this hawk would get the clue and fly off and wait for me to leave so that he/she could finish its business.  This is not what happened.  Instead, what followed was a series of hand-to-hand combat situations with a bird of prey that I'm fairly certain I lost (I landed a good punch, but once he took to the skies I had to run inside repeatedly).  Now, that would be enough to end up on the list....but there's more.  See...this hawk is still around from time to time.  I will forget that I was ever made a hawk's bitch but every couple of months I will look out and in a tree I will see a hawk staring at me or my house.  Sometimes it will have a friend with it....but mostly with those cold, dead eyes it is the solitary hawk is in its tree....contemplating one last battle with its greatest foe.  You, Hawk, are on the list....

5.) The Daddy-long-legs that killed Fred the Crotch-Jumping Spider - This foe, with the exception of the two old ladies, is the only enemy I have permanently defeated, although at a heavy cost.  See, when I was living in Columbus...we had a patio with a ceiling fan on it.  One night, I came out to smoke and I see this spider dangling from the idle fan waving his legs at me like he wanted to fight.  Well, not one to back down from a challenge, I said something along the lines of "What the fuck are you going to do?" and then turned on the ceiling fan...thinking this will show him.  Instead, what happened is that this crafty arachnid flew from the ceiling and landed squarely on my crotch....continuing to wave his legs at me.  I reared my hand back, about to squash this antagonistic little bastard and it occurs to me....I am about to whack myself in the nuts because of this spider.  Impressed with his cunning, he was given the name Fred the Crotch-Jumping Spider (unclear as to whether or not this is a new species) and given asylum on the patio.  He lived a happy life there....until a bastard of a Daddy-long-legs came and killed him.  I avenged my friend Fred that day by burning that son of a bitch alive, but are on the list.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vampires on MTGO - Daily Event Report

Once Scars of Mirrodin became legal, it became readily apparent that decks that played Primeval Titan as well as other green-based decks (Elves, tokens, etc) were going to be the decks to beat in Standard, although the format was surprisingly broad so that was a factor to consider.  One can't really just decide "I'm going to beat green things" and realistically have a chance at doing well in Standard.  After some discussion, some friends of mine and I came to the conclusion that black had the tools to beat those decks, it was just a matter of finding the right build(s) that did so while also having game against the other decks that were going to be around (Red Deck Wins, Boros, UW Control, Fauna Shaman decks, and Quest for the Holy Relic based decks). I decided to give Vampires a go, since I have long had a love affair with Gatekeeper of Malakir and the idea of stealing giant green monsters with Captivating Vampire made me giggle.  After a fair bit of tinkering in the Tournament Practice room on Magic: Online, I came up with this list that I was going into the fray with:

4 Captivating Vampire
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Kalastria Highborn
4 Vampire Hexmage
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Sign in Blood
4 Doom Blade
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Mind Sludge

2 Tectonic Edge
4 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs
14 Swamp


1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Mind Sludge
2 Haunting Echoes
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Deathmark
4 Urge to Feed

There aren't a whole lot of hard to explain card choices here with the exception of Inquisition, and there are pros and cons for it over Duress.  Duress gets Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Inquisition does not.  Thats the big one....but the ability to get creatures (for the moment at least) is very powerful with Inquisition.  You can steal Birds, most Elves, various White Weenies (to keep them off of their "Oops, I win" early draws), Joraga Treespeaker (which if left alone will almost always result in your demise), and even Overgrown Battlement if need be not to mention a lot of the same things you could nab with a Duress.  While I'm not 100% sure of that decision, especially given that the format is very young and we have yet to see if Jace decks are going to have to be dealt with more proactively, but I feel comfortable with the decision overall.  Also, I want to talk briefly about Mind Sludge.  In the games you play it....its awesome.  However, what this tournament experience taught me is that it may just need to be Sadistic Sacrament instead.  Don't get me wrong, nailing their whole hand is always a plus.  But Sacrament does have the added benefit of getting rid of Valakut (which would have been extremely helpful in round 3 as you will see) and may end up being awesome against these Elixir of Immortality decks where you just deny them the ability to go wild.   Plus, Vengevine and Mana Leak are around and Mind Sludge isn't the best against those cards.  I haven't tested it, but others I know and trust say Sacrament has been good for them.

The sideboard is a work in make of it what you will.  Deathmark kills green and white things on the cheap...thats good.  Urge to Feed is a nod to the Boros Landfall decks as well as Red Deck Wins (also good against Elves and White Weenie).  Malakir Bloodwitch is awesome against things that play white (most of the time they just scoop to it if you are anywhere close to board parity or better).  Haunting Echoes is funny in that it helps matchups like UW Control and, if you play the game for it, decks with Vengevine or Elixir because they stop drawing gas.  Obviously don't play it if their Elixir is active, but it has been okay to good for me.  Also, good against Pyromancer's Ascension.  Anyways, on to the report.  Not going to name names because I do plan on trash talking a little bit if my opponents were rude and/or stupid.

Round One against Green/red Valakut Ramp

This matchup showed me a couple things.  One, how powerful the Ramp deck can be if left unmolested and much that DOESN'T matter if you have an active Captivating Vampire.  I kept an aggressive draw with Captivating Vampire and some other guys but with zero disruption.  He goes and gets extra lands, does it again, and the during all of this I draw a second Captivating Vampire and am attacking at will.  I get to 5 vampires but can't kill him I do not attack, just pass knowing that something large is about to hit the field that I can steal .  He untaps and plays Avenger of Zendikar, which I steal with with the Plant token trigger on the stack so he can't make them bigger.  He passes back and I attack which results in many Plant tokens dying painful deaths to my vampire army, which consists of two Vampire Hexmages and a Highborn...this will be important in a minute.  I play a Nighthawk and pass the turn with some lands available in cause something wonky happens.  He untaps and plays Primeval Titan to activate his Valakuts and he starts to kill my team with them.  I respond by killing him with numerous Highborn triggers by sacrificing my Hexmages and then letting the Valakut triggers resolve.  Game two was more of the same, except this time I didn't have to steal anything.  3 Captivating Vampires with friends plus a timely Mind Sludge for his entire hand resulted in an easy game win.

Round Two (1-0) vs. GUR Fauna Shaman

This matchup seemed like a disaster to me at first.  He has a recurring threat that I can't permanent keep off the table (Vengevine), a two drop that if I don't kill it I will just lose (Fauna Shaman), a toolbox setup to make both of the aforementioned cards better (Trinket Mage), and he plays Mana Leak.  Suffice it to say, I lose game one pretty badly.  I had a window where if I had Sign In Blood-ed into two vampires I could have stolen one of his guys and maybe won over the next two turns, but I sadly only drew one and got ran over by Vengevine recursion.  Game Two, he was reallllly mana light (only two plus some Birds) and I had the nuts.  I just attacked him to death before his Fauna Shaman could really get going.  Game three was fairly close.  He played a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and when I had a couple of windows to kill him....he had 3 Mana Leaks which, again, resulted in me dying to Vengevines.

Round Three (1-1) vs. Mono-Green Eldrazi

Easily my favorite match (for me) so far, I get a fast start  with Hexmage and Captivating Vampire x2 and he is ramping like crazy with Primeval Titan (which dies a painful death to Doom Blade) and Eldrazi Temples.  I am at five Vampires, attack, and he hits Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on his turn.  He takes his extra turn and attacks and I sacrifice all of my lands to the Emrakul, untap, steal his Emrakul which turns it a vampire and making him a 16/16, and he scoops, showing me a hand of all land.  Game two was less exciting because I just dominated from start to finish.  I Deathmarked his Treespeaker, Doom Bladed his Battlement, and Mind Sludged his hand.  Wasn't close.

Round Four (2-1) vs. Green/red Valakut Ramp

This was a frustrating loss....but its to be expected considering that my only way to interact with Valakuts right now is Tectonic Edge.  Game One, I Inquisitioned him and saw 3 Primeval Titans.  I took his ramp card, thinking I would be in good shape if I could just get my board developed quickly.  He procedes to draw Explore and Harrow and kills me with 4 Valakuts.....must be nice to draw that well.  Game Two I win fairly handedly with Kalastria Highborn and Captivating Vampires just bashing him.  Game Three is pretty anticlimatic.  I get stuck on 2 lands for a turn even after a Sign in Blood which delays my Mind Sludge for a turn which would have nailed a host of goodies.  Instead, he plays said goodies and bashes me to death with them.

2-2 isn't a bad record per se, especially considering that there are ways to improve the deck given the environment right now.  I think Sadistic Sacrament may just have to go in.  The games I lost were to very specific threats (Vengevine and Valakut) and the ability to remove them (or at least most of them) is appealing right now to me.  One Valakut is very manageable (remember I am playing Tectonic Edge) but four is a good way to just lose.  Thinking that I am going to replace the Mind Sludges for now (sorry buddy...but Mana Leak is bad juju right now for you) with said Sacraments and see if that helps with the disruption end of things.  Hexmage is just about the only answer I see right now for the deck to Jace with the possible exception of dipping into red for Lightning Bolt or something to that effect.  Overall, was a good time....but there is work to do!

My blog

Hello everyone,

My is Leppy (aka Lep or Leprekhan or <insert random insult referencing an inappropriate relationship with my mother/grandmother/neighbor's cat>).  After holding out for a long time due to other existing outlets (LiveJournal, various other social networking mediums), I have decided to create a blog.  A lot of these seem to have a specific focus/topic that people like to discuss...this is not going to be one of those blogs.  Sometimes I'll write about my thoughts on Magic: The Gathering, sometimes I will write about sports, sometimes I will post random political rantings/thoughts, and sometimes I'll just write something because I feel like sharing something I think is funny.  Enjoy!