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Haven’t Used a Single Wish Yet, and Not Planning on It by Patrick Chapin

One of the most compelling voices in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin “The Innovator” is a member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame and the author of Next Level Deckbuilding.

“Haven’t Used a Single Wish Yet, and Not Planning on It” was originally published on another website; it appears, now, on Five With Flores at the author’s request.

A while ago, I was at RIW Hobbies getting ready for an event. Some friends of mine were discussing a philosophy question one of them had been asked recently in a class.

“If a genie gave you one wish, and you couldn’t wish for more wishes, what would it be?”

The two of them had been debating the “best play.” Others chimed in with suggestions; by far money was the most popular wish, though how much seemed to be a matter of debate. Other suggested wishes include “Living as long as one wants,” “One’s parent to still be alive,” and “Finding the ‘perfect’ girl and having her fall in love with you.”

With all of these ideas of how to spend the wish, the guys in the conversation were initially shocked and then quite skeptical when I replied, “I would not use the wish.”

“Call!” They were not only surprised, but initially a bit disappointed, thinking that I was only resorting to this answer out of laziness or lack of imagination.

“Seriously, I would not use the wish, not on anything, not at all.”

At this point they began to suspect that I was attempting to look “too good for a wish.”

“It’s not about being too good, it is about the universe already being the best possible way for today and that I am continually bettering my life though my own will, though my efforts. Why would I trivialize my life, what I am done, what I will do, Who I Am, by using a wish to get what I want rather than getting it myself?”

They mocked me at this point, claiming that if I were in that situation, I would surely wish for something.

“Whatever I would want is already mine if I take it. The Universe is the ultimate wish granter. The difference between the genie granting my wish and the universe is that the universe gives me an opportunity to be it myself, plus it gives me what I really want. The genie merely lets me “witness” it, as oppose to be the cause of it, plus the genie can only give me what I think I want. I already have essentially unlimited potential, but if I take the genie up on his offer, I am basically a slave to him, as it is him that is the source of my experience, rather than myself and the Universe.”

They continued to be skeptical, claiming that it sounded all well and good to say that, but why would not $100 extra be better than not using a wish at all?

“Money is a means, not the end in and of itself. The point is to know yourself, the Universe experientially. To wish for $100 may give me a $100, but what have I really gained? If I was $100 short, if I wanted $100, I could just go get it. If I found myself with $100 extra, I would find a way to give away an extra $100. The thing is, if the genie gave me the money, it would devalue both money and my human experiences. You and I both know what it is like to trade hours of actual work for a single digit worth of dollars. That builds character, character that if I could just wish for money, I would not have.”

Adam was appalled by this answer, “You are concerned about building character? Is this a joke? Who cares about building character, go do whatever you want with the money and build character that way! Are you really telling me you wouldn’t have used a wish to get out of going to prison? What about losing all the money you had made back in the day?”

When I was younger, I lived a strange life, one of excess and riches, mindless self-indulgence, and adventure. I was making a fairly absurd amount of money for a kid living so dumb. I decided to move past that life, giving it all up. Unfortunately, these types of things have a way of catching up with you, and eventually it did. It felt like I lost everything.

My money, my cars, my material possessions, my power, all gone. I let it go, though, and tried to move on with my life. I took a job with Wizards of the Coast R&D, my literal dream job. It was the most satisfying work of my life at that point and by no small margin. Then, however, my past continued to revisit me. My freedom was stripped from me, taking me four years to regain. Was I a victim? No sir, and any perceived individual injustices can be written off to having made mistakes that can have unpredictable side effects.

It wasn’t just my freedom that I lost, however. My dream job obviously disappeared, as I could certainly not make it to work each day. In addition, the first girl I ever loved was under a great strain. We were together for three-and-a-half years, but the prospect of years and years of waiting, as well as the stress between us over how difficult both our lives had become was too much. After I was down 18 months, she left me and while I was broken-hearted, I can hardly blame her.

I had lost everything. Didn’t I wish I didn’t lose everything? Don’t I wish I didn’t feel that pain?

First, obviously if I really thought I had lost everything, then it would show a lack of understanding about what it is I really have, but outside of that, it is easy to look back and see how each and every one of those forks in the road has lead to a better life than I would have had if I had “used a wish.”

The money, the cards, the self-indulgence? What was that worth? I make a lot less money now then I did when I was a kid, but I have more wealth. Not only do I have more to show for it, but it means more to me. I value things that I would never have valued when I was a kid. If I buy flowers for a girl today, it means something very different to me then it did when no amount of flowers would “cost” me anything.

I think about all of the things I have accomplished that I never would have, had I not had the motivation of “needing money.” For instance, isn’t it very likely that I never would have written a book? Writing a book is very difficult, but needing to keep a roof over your head is strong motivation. Now that it is written, however, I find it one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. If I had unlimited money, I likely never would have. I hardly was staying sober for a week straight, let alone in a position to finish such an undertaking.

What about my freedom? I didn’t value my freedom ten years ago, the way I value it today. I truly did go to the “School of Hard Knocks.” I experienced strange, dangerous, bizarre, difficult, painful, enlightening, moving, and joyous moments in life that I never would have if I had gotten out of it by way of a wish. It is almost as if I had received a wish a year earlier, as I had almost mystically gotten out of a bad situation. What had changed? Not much, not nearly as much as what was different now, after this four year education.

It is not just about valuing my freedom, my life, though that is a big part of it. It is about how strong I am now, as the trials and tribulations I have endured have giving me priceless experience points, so to speak. If not for the four years I spent behind barbed wire on top of that mountain, I would not be the man I am today. I really like the man I am today.

What about losing my dream job? Well, the truth is, at the time, I wasn’t as good at it as I could be. I was immature. I was used to being an overachiever and did not pour all of my effort into it, or rather I didn’t know how to. It has been nearly eight years since I had that job. I have continued to educate myself, practicing design, pushing myself everyday. I want to do that kind of work again some day, and I have spent the last eight years perfecting the craft, becoming the best possible designer I can be. I am going to keep pushing myself to be better and better, striving to some day have an opportunity to do that kind of work again, as I truly love it and if I have a second chance someday, I will have the benefit of years and years of strengthening of my skills to make me better, as well as added maturity.

What about losing my first love? Well, now I am in Love with the woman of my dreams, an unlikely connection that I never would have made had I “used a wish” so many years ago. My first love? I will always have love for her and I am thankful for our time and experiences together, but there is no question that my girlfriend today is a better fit for me than I ever realized there could be. Surprise, surprise, the Universe knows what I want better than I do! It isn’t just finding a girl that is better for me, it is also about learning to be a better man to a woman. It is about learning Who I really Am, and what Love would do.

Everything I have ever experienced leads me to believe that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes. Everything that happens is the best possible thing to happen. I know it is easy to debate or dispute this, I am merely saying that everything in my life points to this as Truth.

Each and every human experience that I encounter is a blessing that helps me evolve and Know Life. It took each and every experience I have had to bring be today, and it will take each and every experience I am to have to make me reach my full potential. I wouldn’t wish to give up a single one, not for anything.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

Editor’s Notes:

Thanks very much to Patrick for this contribution!

For those keeping score, Patrick is 1) currently and happily working in game design and 2) got married to his dream girl last summer.


Weekend Update



  1. The Moral Victory of 16 Thumbs and 7 Toughness
  2. The Destiny of 4 Kalonian Hydras
  3. The Next Level of The Next Level

So I was gone at the Star City Games Invitational in Somerset, NJ Friday through Sunday, and basically missed a whole bunch of stuff. Some of it is important; other stuff, simply awesome. Hence, this after-the-weekend Weekend Update.

Top8Magic on ManaDeprived Update

First of all, thank all of you cats who went over and liked our first podcast on ManaDeprived, “Save or Delete”.

In case you didn’t know, we posted another podcast last Friday.

Let me ask you a question: DO YOU WANT US TO DO THESE EVERY WEEK?

Is that like asking if the world needs more TAUNTING JON BECKER?

Answer in the comments below but I assume the answer(s) is / are em effin’ yes. If so, I need y’all to click over to ManaDeprived and Like the bejeezus out of this. Our first podcast over there got 10x the usual likes of a ManaDeprived podcast, but “The Moral Victory of 16 Thumbs and 7 Toughness” has to date garnered a pathetic 3 Likes. I don’t know what kind of Up North operation KYT has at ManaDeprived but I assume his servers are made out of maple tree twigs and run on a hydraulic system of syrup and snow. Go click over to ManaDeprived and break that thing! Come on BDM fans! Let’s go!

And / or…

Listen here:

Download and listen later…

But most definite, DEFINITELY, subscribe on iTunes:

Kalonian Hydra Update

In case you were wondering what happened to those four Kalonian Hydras I picked up [but did not play] for the Invitational, they found a fine home in the Zvi Mowshowitz-designed G/W Elves deck piloted by our good friend William “Baby Huey” Jensen:

William Jensen with YT’s four Hydras!

G/W Elves

4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
4 Kalonian Hydra
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Loxodon Smiter
4 Wolfir Silverheart
4 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Gavony Township
4 Arbor Elf
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Temple Garden
10 Forest

4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Ranger’s Guile
3 Garruk Relentless
3 Tree of Redemption
3 Acidic Slime

Huey Made Top 8 of last week’s Standard Open with U/R/W Control but did poorly in the Invitational. He switched it up to the G/W deck for the Somerset Standard Open and crushed his way all the way to second place. I have thought about playing against this deck with a variety of strategies and I think it is both counterintuitive and tough from the control side. At first glance this is the classic deck you crush with Ratchet Bombs and Supreme Verdicts but I don’t think it is ultimately that cut-and-dried. You can’t screw up. You can’t give them operating mana for too long. You certainly can’t let them level up repeatedly with Garruk, Caller of Beasts. I played a Quicken + Planar Cleansing deck in the Invitational and Open specifically to crush Jund decks that had been accumulating Planeswalker-based battlefield advantages but I don’t think that works against Garruk-six. The last thing you want to do is to tap for Planar Cleansing, clearing their board… But leaving them with seven cards in hand (most of which are sweet threats).

I actually think that you want both lots of sweep but need Need NEED permission to fight Garruk, Caller of Beasts here. I would consider siding in Negate just to fight that six. The creatures are not particularly resilient exclusive of dealing massive damage in one big attack. You really need to keep them off their combination of acceleration and card advantage or you are going to eat a Craterhoof, I fear.

Anyway, great weekend for Huey, who made back-to-back Standard and Legacy Open Top 8s.


Are you living under a rock or something?

Biggest of the big that happened this past weekend was the release of Patrick Chapin’s new book NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING on Star City Games. Patrick is one of my best friends and as a writer, an inspiration. He was one of the driving forces that got me off my butt to do THE OFFICIAL MISER’S GUIDE and I wish him all the luck with NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING.

NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING is huge — some 472 pages — but I haven’t been able to put it down all day. It’s beautifully laid out by the ebook elves at Star City Games; the content is one-of-a-kind and often quite hilarious (more on that later in the week). I haven’t read it all yet but I am absolutely loving much of what I have so far. Don’t go out and immediately buy NEXT LEVEL DECKBUILDING before you buy THE OFFICIAL MISER’S GUIDE or anything silly like that; but if you are in the market for awesome Magic books… This one is pretty awesome. I’m going to be recommending this for years I think. Again, more deets later.

Okay friends!

Lots of stuff to do!

Action Items!



Words Mean Things by Patrick Chapin

One of the most compelling voices in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin “The Innovator” is a member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame and the author of Next Level Magic.

This article contains profanity, including gay and racial slurs.

“Don’t be a faggot.”

When we communicate, it is not just some trivial exercise. It is not about repeating words in familiar patterns, like a machine.

Real communication is about conveying meaning.

I generally don’t use the word “nigga” (or its various analogues)—not because it is taboo, but because it tends to obscure meaning, rather than convey it.

I spent a number of years in prison. During my time there, I dwelt in an awful lot of circles that used the term very freely. In public settings, it would have been inappropriate to use this language. However, it is a term that has taken on many ironic reversals and additional meanings over the past thirty years, and when it was just me and people I knew, it was generally acceptable for Caucasians, such as myself, to use the term and be referred to by this term.

However, just because the group had accepted this language doesn’t mean it promoted healthy thought patterns. If I can say it another way, a way that is clearer and contains more real meaning, why would I cling to a word that can cause misunderstanding and confusion?

“Don’t be a faggot.”

We can go on about how that word doesn’t mean what it used to, so people shouldn’t be offended by it, but in the real world, that hurts people, particularly ourselves. It influences how we think, and not necessarily for the better.

Words mean things.

Many boys grow up in environments where they are pushed around or otherwise made to feel inferior. Sometimes they are bullied. Often, fathers, brothers, or other older boys will assert themselves as “the dominant males” over the younger ones.

These older males provide the models that the younger ones use to formulate their worldviews and their strategies for interacting in life. If a boy’s role models use bullying and abusive behavior to try to control the people around them, this provides a blueprint for the boy to follow, often long before they are even aware of it.

The Magic community contains quite a few adolescent boys. A common phenomenon in adolescent boy cultures is the use of rape slang, which reveals a lot about the nature of rape.

Rape is about power.

Some men treat or see other people, usually women, as objects rather than as human beings: trophies to be fought over and won; dogs to be commanded and punished for misbehaving. At its core, rape is about power over an individual, making someone submit to one’s will and transforming that person into an object or an obedient animal.

Part of it is an attempt to release anger and frustration, but the release is only temporary. Because of this, the rape mentality generally leads to repeated behavior.

What does this have to do with using the word “rape” as slang for “won by a large margin?”

When someone uses the expression, “He got raped,” they are generally just repeating something they’ve heard someone else say. After all, if you or a loved one has been raped, the expression is a lot less funny.

“He got raped.”

I used to do commentary for the Top 8 of Pro Tours sometimes, way back about ten years ago. Back then, there was a rotating cast that included Chris Pikula, Brian Weissman, Brian Hacker, Brian Kibler, Randy Buehler, Michael Flores, Matt Place, myself, and more.

During the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, I was in the booth, in a role not unlike the one I adopt from time to time for SCG Opens. Between rounds, a WotC employee pulled me aside and asked me to watch my language. I was taken aback. What had I said? I wasn’t swearing.

“It’s not cool to describe one player as raping the other.”

I hadn’t even been thinking and obviously didn’t mean anything by it, but here I was, a dumb kid who didn’t know anything about anything, and I was using rape slang in the official WotC commentary.

Now here is the part that makes me look back and cringe.

My response was to try to explain to this person—who was only representing the interests of a company that sells games to people of all ages—that “rape” doesn’t always mean forcing someone to have sex. It is also “slang” for beating someone badly.

It’s amazing how much you know when you are 18.

“Words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.”

I felt like an idiot. Despite knowing everything (I was 18, so kind of a given), I realized that just as chronic swearing is a symptom of a shortage of intelligence, so too is the inability to adjust one’s language to the situation at hand. Looking back, I didn’t even consider at the time just how inappropriate that kind of language was in an official capacity, let alone in any kind of public forum.

However, it is not just being mindful of the language we use in public. The language we use behind closed doors influences our thought process.

“Don’t be a faggot.”

The expression is said to have nothing to do with sexuality, a way of saying, “That’s not cool.”

At its core, this expression means “Homosexuality is so not cool, the most powerful way I can condemn your action is by suggesting that it is as bad as being homosexual.” That may not be one’s conscious thought process, but that is what they are saying.

The use of “faggot” as a derogatory term stems from hateful origins towards both women and homosexual men. Eventually this led to its popularity as a term boys say to each other in an attempt to assert their own masculinity by challenging the masculinity of other boys (following the example of those around them). In this context, “faggot” is not a permanent identity, such as one’s ethnicity or name. Rather, it is fluid, an identity that one seeks to avoid, such as being “it” in a game of tag. Many boys play this game of tag for years, back and forth with other boys.

“You are a fag!”

“No, you are!”

That’s adorable, but words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.

When we are at a Magic tournament, we are confronted with a whole lot of people, many of whom we don’t know all that well. It can be very tempting to try to assert our masculinity by challenging the masculinity of others.

Want to know a secret?

If you are actually secure in your masculinity, you have no need for such petty tools.

What’s more, use of this language speaks volumes about a person, and the people around them pick up on the message between the lines.

Do you think Brian Kibler uses those words? What about Luis Scott-Vargas?

The words we use shape who we are. They influence our thought patterns and steer how we approach things.

The reasons to avoid such language in public settings, such as a Magic tournament or Facebook, are obvious. After all, when you are talking, everyone who can hear you is your audience. We did not come to this game accidentally. We are intelligent. We have more effective ways of communicating.

However, reconsidering hateful speech publically is only part of the equation. It’s not about the word itself; it is about the thought process. This thought process is toxic, and if you indulge in it in private, it will influence you in public.

You know why rape and hate slang continues? The same reason all slang does — because of people repeating it. From experience, I can tell you, it is relatively easy to clean up a circle’s language. If you resolve that something isn’t cool, it doesn’t take long for it to impact the circles you run in. That circle reflects who you are but also leaves impressions on you. If you do not impress on it, it will impress on you.

I am blessed with a number of close gay friends who have greatly enriched my life. Each of my experiences leads me to believe that potentially shutting out a percentage of people from my life by using hateful language is a huge mistake.

We all have our own path to walk.

There is room for an awful lot of people to live lives that are not identical to our own. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for us, and what is right for us is not necessarily right for them. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are not hurting someone else?

No matter how tempting to try, we can’t make everyone else do what we want. What we can do is decide who we are, right now. It might not be the same as who we were yesterday, and that is okay.

When we see someone making fun of someone else at a Magic tournament for being different, we have lots of options. Are we someone who joins in, attempting to assert our masculinity? Are we someone who just tries to fit in with the crowd? Are we someone willing to stand up for someone who is outnumbered? Are we someone who is just afraid to say something, fearing becoming the next target? Are we someone who believes it is wrong to treat someone badly because of their race, sexuality, or gender?

Obviously none of this is to say that censorship is the answer. Words mean things, and if a given word is what you really want to say, more power to you. Rather, I’m trying to dispel the naïve notion that just because you might not be offended by a word, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and needless. Look, I am always touched when a straight, white American male is not offended by something, but maybe we are forgetting what it is we are doing.

There is a real temptation to defend slurs by arguing that the burden is on the other person to not be offended. After all, can’t anyone just say they are offended by anything? The thing is, asking someone if they are offended by something isn’t particularly fruitful. You don’t think it just puts all the pressure on them and risk being hated more? Likewise, a single person saying they are offended by something doesn’t make it offensive. It is a piece of evidence that helps build a case, but declaring something offensive does mean other people are offended by it.

Using slurs is harmful, not just because of the possibility of offending someone. It is harmful because of the implications. It makes people uncomfortable; it’s disrespectful; it’s bullying; and sadly, it leads to influencing the victims to go out and find victims of their own.

Words mean things.

Whenever people do something differently, someone is going to lash out against them. Maybe they’ll laugh at them, ridicule them, or hate them. People are scared of change, and they fear what is different from them.

Recently, I heard a young man, who considers racism obviously stupid, verbally attack a transgender individual he had never met.


What had this individual done to earn scathing slurs in front of countless people?

They had succeeded at something the boy wished he could succeed at.

Here we have a boy who considers himself a moral authority, who realizes the foolishness of racism; and yet when confronted with someone different from him, he didn’t even realize what he was doing.

Just as any woman who Top 8s a major event is greeted by some percentage of boys who hurl degrading remarks about her gender, someone transgender and successful is greeted with hateful slurs. Why?

It’s hard enough to live a transgender life. What do we gain by making their life harder, more painful? You don’t have to agree with all of someone’s choices or even understand them. However, if they aren’t hurting someone else, why attack them? Why be cruel?

In my experience, an awful lot of young men playing Magic have had some experience with racism. They’ve come to realize that it is not useful and not who they are; not as many Magic players have interacted with transgender individuals, so perhaps looking to broaden our perspective is worthwhile.

Imagine what it is like, everyone telling you that you are wrong about who and what you are. It can be a pretty tough spot to be. Imagine a bunch of people telling you what you should or should not be, say, or feel, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on inside of you.

Being transgender can be like that.

You may disagree with the actions someone is taking, and it may not be something that meshes with your worldview, but are they are hurting anybody? There is no question the life they are living is potentially fraught with hardships and pain, and you are certainly not obligated to do anyone any favors. However, do you really need to torment them and make their life harder? What does that accomplish?

Maybe they will eventually evolve their views. Maybe you will eventually evolve yours. Still, if neither of you changes your views, so what? No one needs to be hurt.

Picking on people in a position of weakness (such as being different from everyone else and having to deal with a world that is not built for them) is an act of cowardice. Whether using slurs because of anger or hate or using them out of ignorance of the implications of slang that carries with it pain and negativity, you have the choice to decide for yourself if that is who you are, or if you are better than that.

You also have the choice to act when you see someone else repeating this noise, without even thinking. I know I am so thankful for that individual who talked some sense into me all those years ago. People may push back, as confronting the truth can be scary, but they may thank you someday.

The signals you send to the world dictate what the world brings you. Make a statement to the world that you are full of kindness, courage, or love, and the world will bring you experiences to match. Make a statement that you are a coward, insecure, or full of hate, and the world will bring you experiences to match.

You want to win more at Magic?

You want to succeed more at anything you do in life?

Be strong. Be open-minded. Be courageous. Be a force for positivity. Be the greatest version of yourself you can envision.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

New Top8Magic Podcast!

In case you missed it, a long-awaited podcast with YT, Brian David-Marshall, and Steve Sadin is now up at MTGCast:

Top 8 Magic #329 – The 13 Lucky Charms of Fichael Mlores, Reality Bender

It took a couple of weeks to get up and onto the Internet due to some (admittedly understandable) stumbling blocks on the MTGCast side, so some of the discussion is a little dated [like whether Craterhoof Behemoth is good in Standard or not — LOL]. But… hopefully Top8Magic fans will love it anyway. On deck is our Thanksgiving podcast that is, like, only one week old 😉


Show notes I wrote /+ pilfered from MTGCast:

  1. A bunch of excuses as to why Mike and Brian started podcasting Podcasting in September… and then, you know, stopped.
  2. Brian is a big traitor that goes and hangs out on Limited Resources.
  3. Name dropping Brandon Sanderson (Mike — aka Fichael Mlores, Reality Bender — is the Brandon Sanderson superfan)
  4. Lots of stuff about Standard (“lots of” being “relative”)
  5. STAFF OF NIN! -Mike // Abrupt Decay? (“It probably isn’t good enough,” -Brian)
  6. Brian talks about baseball. Mike doesn’t know anything about baseball.
  7. Whew! Basketball! (“He doesn’t coach defense… AND he doesn’t coach offense!” -Sadin [Sadin appears])
  8. Talk about Magic some more (“… Guess you can play whatever you want” -Mike)
  9. Apparently Lingering Souls is bad in every format (Reid Duke is the nicest man in Magic)
  10. Mike, Brian, and Steve talk about some podcast they never put up where Steve turned out to be right about a bunch of stuff but you will never know for sure. Brian blames Will (not pictured) for saying “something unseemly”.
  11. What it’s REALLY like to do coverage. (gray hamburgers, “Brains! Brains!”)
  12. Shout out to Douglas Scheinberg (not actually in the podcast).
  13. Surprisingly, lots and lots of discussion about Legacy combo decks! (“lots and lots of” again being relative)


Stuff that you probably already know but is awesome to mention anyway:

Mike – @fivewithflores
Brian – @Top8Games
Steve – @SteveSadin

Stuff Brian and especially Mike really really want you to buy (also awesome):

Go listen!

More this week!



More Than One Interesting Thing Up on Star City Games!

If you have been to StarCityGames.com recently you have probably seen something new, different, awesome at the top of the page; no — I don’t mean my handsome face (though that is certainly awesome) — I mean the banner for SolForge, Brian Kibler’s new game, currently being promoted up on Kickstarter.

I have not played any SolForge (yet) but I intend to; well, I guess I am going to be stuck doing so actually on account of I just got all these cool future SolForge bonuses as a backer. Anyway, like I was saying, I haven’t played SolForge yet so it’s not like I can tell you it is the greatest thing since sliced bread but besides the fact that I assume it will in fact be awesome (they had Richard mother effin’ Garfield on the squad!), but as you probably know about me, I admire people who put themselves out there and do things. Kibler et al put together an ambitious goal of $250,000 and they have less than a week to get there.

At the time of this writing, SolForge is just past $224,000.

They need circa $6,000 a day to finish it out… Come on cats! I would love to see these guys get there! I just threw a couple of #TheOMG dollars SolForge-way (aka “all the cool kids are doing it”).

Oh, and while you are in the generous / buying mood, The Official Miser’s Guide is going strong, but could certainly be going $37 stronger if you know what I mean 😉


#TheOMG on Yo! MTG Taps!

What heretofore untapped outrageous force of nature could knock the cobwebs off of BigHeadJoe Panuska, prompting the return of legendary podcast duo Yo! MTG Taps!?

The Official Miser’s Guide of course!

The Official Miser’s Guide (aka #TheOMG) is a labor of love that represents my every spare minute for over a year of my life. It is late nights hunched over a laptop keyboard, cross-state commutes tapping at the iPad screen, and hours upon hours crammed physically into a closed-in closet recording audio eps. The Official Miser’s Guide details most of what I know about Magic, and tons of new things I learned about myself (and lots of other kinds of people, actually) over the course of writing it. It includes everything from basic Magic concepts like card economy, to visualizing the end game (of a duel or where you want to go in life, it makes no difference), to the how-tos of selling your opponent on your version of reality.

You can read The Official Miser’s Guide in e-book form, or you can listen to it while you do something else, like play MTGO, run on the eliptical, or pretend to pay attention in class / at work.

Early reactions seem to be pretty good, like so:

And the testimonials from names you know… I’ll let you go read those yourself.

I am thoroughly proud of this, and I think you will like it. Go listen to the first chapter over at Star City Games for free 🙂


Everywhere – Front Page LOL

I don’t actually know how editorially significant this is, but I thought it was a LOL.

On BleacherReport.com today:

I am all for a diversity of ideas, but certainly I can’t be the only guy who thinks that the headlines “Grant Is Doing a Fantastic Job as Cavs’ GM” and “Cavaliers Need to Fire GM Chris Grant to Win” sharing a day’s front page on a popular site like Bleacher Report is a bit of (the height of?) irony.

Chris Grant is the current General Manager of my Cleveland Cavaliers. I am under no illusions that Grant is the equal to R.C. Buford (General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs, aka the best-run organization in professional sports), but I think he has made some good moves. Bleacher Report contributor Leo Florkowski seems to disagree (i.e. above and beyond the article title, “… he has proven to be the worst GM of any Cleveland professional sports team… “). Like I said, I am all for a diversity of ideas, but — and remember this is ME talking — I don’t know how seriously you can take a writer (commenting on a professional) who says things like “I have more basketball knowledge in my little finger than Chris Grant does in his entire body[,]” and “Facts are good” IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH OF THE SAME POST.

Florkowski seems to know something, though, because at the time of this writing he is running on 159 comments. Well played, etc.

And while I have that deep respect for a diversity of ideas, and different people’s different and personal models of the universe, that doesn’t mean that they all have equal merits. To wit:

Anyone with an eye for talent such as myself scoffs at sabermetrics as the end all be all. When I see a talented player, I do not need some stat geek to confirm what I already know. When a player is not that good, I will roll my eyes when the stat geek tries to tell me otherwise. Poking holes in the sabermetrics argument is easy.

Ah, the “eye” test! Never change, Leo Florkowski.


Somebody at Pixar Has an Effed-up Sense of Humor

This past weekend I saw the new Disney Pixar film Brave with my son, the shockingly handsome Clark Flores (aka Version 2.0).

Brave was fine. I know it has gotten some mixed reviews but I mostly liked it. I like girl-power-y stuff in general (Aimee Mann is my favorite celebrity), and Brave isn’t just girl-power but mommy-power.

This blog post isn’t about Brave but one of the previews I saw, which was for an upcoming prequel to Monsters, Inc. If you haven’t seen the trailer to Monsters University, I am embedding it here:

Did you watch that?

Did you catch how effin’ effed-up it is?

At approximately the one-minute mark, the Monsters University trailer cuts to a shot of Billy Crystal’s character Mike Wazowski hanging from the ceiling as Spandau Ballet 80s hit “True” plays in the background. Now the more well-read among you are probably already wincing.

Yes, dear readers, somebody at Pixar has an effed-up sense of humor.

This is an Easter Egg wrapped in a reference covered by a security blanket and topped with bacon.

Don’t know what a Spandau Ballet is?

This is a screen shot of the referenced shot:

From IMDB:

The band took its name from Spandau Prison in Germany, where many executions by hanging were carried out before and during World War II. While dangling at the end of the rope, many victims would twitch and jump, which came to be called the “Spandau Ballet”.

You can go ahead and “ew” now 🙁


Why I Don’t Like Avacyn, Angel of Hope

No, I don’t like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. More on this later.

Yesterday was an absolutely epic day here in Five With Flores land.

243 Facebook Likes? Are you m-f’ing kidding me?

We crushed any and all all-time records with well over 10,000 visits. And why?

No effin’ clue.

I literally saw Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded circa 6am when my toddling monsters awoke me from my Thursday evening slumber, and decided to comment based on — if you read yesterday’s blog post — what I saw as some unnecessarily reductive forum posts.

Was I a little too harsh?


But it’s not like this is the New York Times or something; if one can’t be self-indulgent on one’s own blog, where can one?

Over 300,000 people have visited Five With Flores over the past four years or so, but we have never welcomed 10,000 of them in a single day before, not even when being linked to by ye olde Mother Ship. Was the universe just trolling me on account of it being Friday the 13th?

Don’t care.

Thank you any and all for validating me, per usual.

At this point, I would like to thank my Twitter friend Scott MacCallum, better known as @MrScottyMac. A short time ago I appeared on — to be frank — a surprisingly unpopular episode of Scott’s podcast The Eh Team.

I am a “what’s great about this problem?” kind of person, and took something really compelling out of that appearance, which is that all The Eh Team guys talked about loving this blog, and lamented that I had let updating it slip since, you know, December of last year… Scott in particular.

So if Scott (and KYT, Medina, and Jay) didn’t give me a little push, I might not have ever had a day like yesterday.

Quid Pro Quo, Scott recently did an interview at Medina’s site LegitMTG (“what is LegitMTG?”) that he asked me to look at. I actually enjoyed this interview. I think you should visit LegitMTG and read it.

Summon Legend: Scott MacCallum

Things I really liked:

  • Scott taught his son to read via Magic: The Gathering cards (he saw how much fun they were having and wanted to join in)
  • Actually the whole thing was heartfelt; I learned lots of stuff about Scott I didn’t know, despite chatting with him regularly and listening to quite a few episodes of his cast for the past handful of years… Well worth the read.

Things that could have been better:

  • Not enough michaelj. Sure, Scott says that I was a podcast inspiration and that being able to chat with me on Twitter was cool… But most of you on Twitter know that I will chat with most anyone there! Examples for improvement: 1) naming me as the hero of his story (over the ridiculous choice of Brian Kibler), 2) drafting me for his “surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” team, or 3) at least mentioning Top 8 Magic in his favorite podcasts!

    … But hey, we all have room for improvement 🙂

On the subject of fellow Twitter folk / podcasters / personalities elsewhere, Chris Lansdell of Horde of Notions recently did a nice write-up of deck design principles he learned from me (and some other guys but I don’t remember who any of them are).

One thing I find to be super ingenious and super useful is anything that is both blatantly obvious and true being said in plain language. I absolutely love stuff that has some people saying “well, duh…” You know why? Because even if something is obvious to you, that doesn’t mean that it is obvious to everyone, and especially in a game as fast-growing as Magic, we have new players who are eager to learn joining our ranks every day.

This is what I am talking about in Chris’s post:

“It’s a fundamental truth that the power of your spells increases with the mana cost, at least when it comes to tournament-quality cards.”

I was talking about a very similar concept in the most recent Top 8 Magic podcast *, specifically why I don’t like Avacyn, Angel of Hope.

Most of my compatriots were talking about how she has a lot of board presence. Yeah. Congratulations. She costs eight. If I am spending eight, I don’t want an “indestructible” creature that dies to Tragic Slip. My God, Vapor Snag is probably the most common creature control card being played in Magic: The Gathering right now.

“Well you probably aren’t paying full retail for it.”

Well if I am reanimating… Or I am paying eight, and I am allowed to play Avacyn Restored cards, why do I have dumb Avacyn, Angel of Hope in my deck rather than Griselbrand?

“Pick me! Pick me!” -Griselbrand

Even the most Spreading Santorum-leaning conservative player can, you know, gain seven to pad HIS life total a bit before paying the seven to, you know, completely take over the game.

“One of these things is not like the others.”
-Aaron Forsythe
(when the DailyMTG fans were voting on Crucible of Worlds versus other, less card advantageous, options)

Anyway, Chris’s plainly spoken statement pretty much echoed what I was thinking about last week, and as you know, that gives you like +1 points in my book.

Check out Chris’s blog post and see where you can agree, disagree, or just pick out michaelj name-drops (also an admirable way to spend a Saturday evening).

Last “everywhere” in this roundup: AJ Sacher put up a blog post on EV and how to deal with girls, possibly “for whom you care deeply” (AJ’s terminology).

A Tale of Expected Value

I would recommend clicking the above and checking out AJ’s story before reading this next bit.

I have been in similar spots, especially early on in my dating / married life to / with Katherine. One thing that women I dated found odd about me — and I don’t know if this is the same with you or what — but they often didn’t understand the adversarial / competitive relationships I had with some of my best friends. Think about how you deal with some of your best buds… Many of mine are duels of oneupsmanship, or running beats, shenanigans, or dirty tricks on each other. Who’s the barn? Who’s the hull? Different question: Who’s winning? How do we keep score?

In AJ’s spot I hope I would have recognized the communication disconnect and just acceded to her. It is just simpler to let her thank the other guy than inadvertently step on feelings. If there is one thing marriage has taught me, it is that avoiding conflict is generally more desirable than “being right” (or perceived as right).

Anyway, summary of everywheres:

* Oh, and one more thing… New Top 8 Magic Podcast is up at MTGCast!

Part 1 :: Part 2

Thanks for reading, etc.



Being Filipino in America is kind of weird. When I was a little kid growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians, the White folk would scratch their heads trying to decide if whatever I had just claimed to be meant “Chinese”, “Japanese”, or when you really get cosmopolitan, Korean. Other Asians don’t really know what to make of you, either. Do you even count as Asian? A college professor once asked me if I was from Samoa.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the Philippines… Well… I am not really going to use this blog post to either propagate any stereotypes or give you boring information that you could just Google for yourself on, you know, Wikipedia.

This is more a story about Yoshinoya.

For those of you who don’t remember, Yoshinoya was a regular location for the Top 8 Magic podcast in the early years. Back in 2006 or so BDM and I would walk about twenty blocks up from the then-Top 8 Magic offices (near the then-site of Neutral Ground), maybe end a long evening of chatting plus jackhammers and car traffic with a late-nite double dinner at the Times Square Yoshinoya. These days BDM refuses to go there (something about a cockroach the size of the palm of your hand crawling up the wall, and this one time when we got literally gas-attacked by some weirdo with — you know — a gas can). However I never held it against “the Yosh” and continue to eat there, albeit not very often; admittedly.

* Bella recently convinced Clark to have lunch at Yoshinoya by claiming it was a Super Mario Brothers-themed restaurant (it isn’t). He was disappointed at the absence of egg-eating dinosaurs and refused to eat his lunch in protest.

Yoshinoya is ostensibly a Japanese restaurant. They basically serve bowls of rice with some kind of meat (beef or chicken), soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, maybe some pickled ginger. It is also just a restaurant in New York City, which means that in addition to the Japanese staff, there are Hispanic (probably Mexican) people working the counter as well.

Remember when I said I am Filipino?

I don’t know what that means to you, but it might be interesting to think about what it means to one of the two most common kinds of Yoshinoya servers:

  • Every time I get a Japanese server, she gives me a fork.
  • Every time I get a Mexican one, she gives me chopsticks.

This has been tested to statistical significance.

That’s it.