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By: Joe Fiorini, Joseph G Fiorini
May 01 2015 12:00pm
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"Speak little. Do much" - Monastery Mentor

     Welcome everyone. It's been a busy week for me. Last weekend was my son's birthday party, plus there was a festival in town that I took him to. It's called the Maple festival, if you're curious (I bet that you aren't, I know I wouldn't care if I didn't have a kid to take to it). I only had time for one Vintage Daily event, but I'm happy to report that it went pretty good. I ended up 3-1, which isn't bad. Hopefully I'll sweep the next one!

But seriously...

     My one loss wasn't due to anything that I could control. I faced a Delver deck, and things just didn't go my way. I thought about that loss quite a bit, and I came to the conclusion that the 8 draw-spells and 6 card-selection cards should have been enough.

     The one thing that really set me back was that I never drew any bombs like Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Ancestral Recall, or Gush. I did manage to resolve one Gush in game one, but it wasn't enough. Being that I can't really play any more draw-spells than I already am, I consider that to be attributable to variance.

     During the match, my Delver opponent would try to land a Young Pyromancer, and I'd win the fight over it, but the last card in their hand always seemed to be a Dig, Cruise, or Ancestral. Eventually, that wore me down and I lost. My opponent, Autodidact, played well, and apparently also ended up at 3-1.

     To say that I'm happy with my Mentor deck would be an understatement. I still need to tune it here or there, but I think the list is very strong. The three mana threat that keeps on giving, Mr. Monastery Mentor, is really coming up in the world. There's just one phrase that every Vintage player needs to remember:

MONASTERY MENTOR IS THE NUT.

Mentor Control and the Vintage metagame.

     On Magic: Online, there are now more people playing Monastery Mentor than there are people playing U/R Delver. Personally, I think that is quite significant, especially considering how popular Delver had been just a few short months ago.

     Monastery Mentor Control decks are second in popularity only to the big brown menace: Mishra's Workshop decks. Frankly, I think that the reason Shops is so strong is that it feeds on decks with shaky, bare-bones mana bases, like Delver or Mentor. Every deck wants to, dare I say NEEDS to play more than one spell a turn, and even playing one spell can be difficult when you're buried under a pile of mana-taxing Thorns, Spheres, and Wastelands.

     The great thing about Monastery Mentor decks is that unlike a Young Pyromancer/Delver of Secrets deck, Mentor Control isn't punished for playing too many Artifact mana-sources or Planeswalkers. Delver pilots have to always be aware of how many non-instant, non-sorcery spells they pack into their lists. I don't have that problem, at least not from a token-producing standpoint. There are some other issues with playing too much or too little artifact mana in a Mentor deck, but I'll get into that later.

     The reason I'm mentioning the artifact mana specifically, is that having a moderate amount of fast mana can help a little bit against a Shops deck, provided that you get to play them before they start to cost more than zero or one mana. I've had games where I was able to Ingot Chewer a Thorn of Amethyst, then drop some zero-cost artifacts. Once you have a solid foundation of mana on the table, the matchup is made a bit easier. Workshop decks are essentially Prison decks, which seek to control the game by preventing you from doing anything. If you're able to play spells, then you've undone some of their game-plan.

     I certainly feel like in comparison to Delver, Mentor decks have a slightly better matchup against Shops. From my perspective, I've always felt more likely to win when I was playing a Mentor deck. Being that the deck plays white, it's possible to run cards like Serenity in the sideboard if you are so inclined. When it is successful, Serenity wiping a board of artifacts can be hard to come back from for a Shops deck.

     Until recently, all of the Monastery Mentor decks listed on MTGGoldfish were lumped together under the term "Jeskai Mentor". While such a term is fitting for the list that I've been playing with, it doesn't accurately describe many of the other decks listed in that category. I notice today that the name has been changed to "Mentor Control", and I like that term a lot better. All of the decks have some common themes, for instance, they are all at least white for Monastery Mentor and blue because blue is the best color in magic. Once you look a little further, the subtle differences appear. Mentor decks have yet to coalesce into a stock deck list, so there is plenty of room for experimentation at this point. I'm going to go over a few lists that have placed in a Daily Event recently, and discuss them.

     First, we have a Blue-White version of the Mentor deck piloted by Flash_Hulk. Notice that this version is not playing the Tinker package that the other decks in this color combination have been known to run. This list runs Cavern of Souls, which is actually a neat idea.

 

     Resolving a Mentor usually means "Game Over" for the other player, so I can imagine Cavern of Souls could come in handy. Unfortunately, Cavern of Souls has zero synergy with Gush. For my deck, I made the decision to not play lands that didn't count as Islands. I wanted only Islands as lands because Gush is just that good. 

     The Narset Transcendent is Flash_Hulk's list is interesting. I'm curious how well that worked out. I'd try it at least once, I suppose. It isn't expensive right now, and I could see it maybe being good. I haven't made room for my first Jace yet, though, and Jace has big shoes to fill.

     Up next is a four-color deck that has light splashes for Fastbond and Yawgmoth's Will, as well as Demonic Tutor.

 

     This list is certainly interesting, and it's quite capable of some busted plays. As a matter of fact, this is the list that knocked me out of contention in a Daily Event the weekend before last.

     I think of this list as wanting to go all-in on trying to get the nut-play with Monastery Mentor. If you've ever seen Mentor in action, you perhaps know what I'm talking about. Sometimes, with a deck like this, you're able to play so many spells in a turn that your opponent just gets buried in so many giant tokens that they concede. Prowess sure adds up fast in Vintage!

     Yawgmoth's Will is certainly a broken card, although I'm not sure if making the mana base more vulnerable to Wasteland is worth it. I can say for sure, however, that when I played against this deck, YawgWill slammed the door shut on me and I conceded in a hurry. Any Mentor deck is capable of making broken lines of play, but this one seems to have a lot more ways to make that happen.

     MissClique also decided to run the full set of four Gitaxian Probes, which isn't something that I would do. It's worth noting I think that this deck only has eight counters pre-board, and that doesn't seem like enough to me. The number of Probes and counters should remind you of last week's article, where I describe this concept.

     It's great that Probe has synergy with the plan of getting a ton of prowess triggers in one turn, but it's win-more in my opinion. Luckily, Monastery Mentor is strong enough to do the heavy lifting in match all by itself, so winning once you have a Mentor out is often times a piece of cake.

    Last, but not least, we have a true, red-white-and-blue, Jeskai Mentor deck, played by yours truly.

 

 

     Islandswamp's Jeskai Mentor Deck Tech

 

     Going over the results from that Daily Event, there were three total Monastery Mentor decks that went 3-1. It wasn't a huge event, there were only two 4-0 lists. Still, with the amount of variance in the format, 3-1 is quite respectable in my opinion. I think I played well that night, but I certainly did have a string of fortunate draw steps round four!

     My deck, as you can see above, eschews some of the cards that other decks of this ilk sometimes choose to include. I'll go over a few cards that are great in their own right, but that I have chosen not to play in my deck.

Library of Alexandria Library is one of my favorite cards of all time. It's one of the few Arabian Nights cards that I owned once in paper, so it has a special place in my heart. This isn't a nostalgia contest though, it's a cut-throat game of cards, and Library didn't make my cut. 

    I view these Mentor decks as Gush decks. I know that Gush isn't the only card the deck is built around, but the way I made my list, I want to always be able to free-cast Gush with any two of my lands. Library has a tendency to hurt that plan. Library of Alexandria is also really good on turn one, and far less good later on in the game. Sure, you can scry one to the bottom, you can also bottom a Library with a Dig Through Time, but I would still rather avoid taking the chance of top-decking one when I really need some sort of action. 

     Also, I don't think adding a colorless-producing land to your deck is a great idea when one of your enemies are Workshop decks. Those decks love to prey on your mana base enough as it is. 

     I have played with Library in a Mentor list in the past, and it wasn't terrible all the time, but I really felt that I should make the tough choice and cut a card that I love.

Gitaxian Probe If you read my article last week, then you know my feelings about Gitaxian Probe. It is so tempting to include that card, because it does allow for some insane token bursts to occur. The downside, as I described in that article, is that the density of counters and card draw go down.

     Every game I won in that event was due to the higher-than-normal amount of counterspells and card-draw. If you count Misdirection and Pyroblast as Counterspells (and let's face it, in vintage they usually are as live as any other counter), then my list plays fifteen (Counterspells). Compare that to the other two decks, which have twelve (Flash_Hulk) and eight (Missclique). My deck also plays fourteen of the sixteen cards that make up the best draw engine in Vintage. That's 3 Digs, 3 Gush, 4 Preordain, and one each of the restricted cards (Cruise, Ancestral, Ponder, Brainstorm). 

     I can't bring myself to cut any of those cards for a Gitaxian Probe. I've got Gush as a free spell to trigger prowess on the turn I resolve a Monastery Mentor, so getting value from my Mentors immediately isn't an issue. I don't fault anyone for including a Probe or two in their decks, but I've never felt like I really needed it. 

Mox Emerald Mox Jet My list contains no off-color Moxen. I understand completely why someone would include these in a Mentor deck, but my testing lead me to decide not to run them. 

     I have played Azorius lists that only ran on-colored Moxen, and I've played Jeskai Mentor lists that did contain off-color Moxen. Mentor does trigger from them, and they do give you a virtual extra land-drop, albeit a "colorless" one 2/5 of the time. I had to make some tough choices with my mana-base in order to fit all of the other cards in the deck, and not playing Emerald and Jet was one of them. 

     Instead, I do have one Lotus Petal, which may seem like a bad choice to some people. I was skeptical about including a Petal, but I saw another list that used one, and I tried it. Lotus Petal actually can help you cast cards in the deck! What a novel idea! Seriously, though, most of the deck is uncastable with just an off-color Mox lying around.

     Many times, I'd be able to play a Monastery Mentor, and have a Mox in hand to trigger the prowess. The problem was, if it was an Emerald or Jet, that Mox couldn't help me cast the Flusterstorm in my hand that I needed to protect myself. It soon became apparent that Lotus Petal's ability to cast the spells in the deck pushed it into playability. There is an anti-card advantage issue with Petal, and it is a real problem. Luckily, petal is restricted, so the disadvantage isn't very large. Also, Petal going to the graveyard does enable delve, which is a big part of how the deck stays ahead anyway. 

     Most of these Monastery Mentor decks are at least three colors. Jace and Dack are common inclusions, and cards like Dig Through Time and Mana Drain have a double-blue casting cost! Getting the right mana for a three-color deck can be hard enough sometimes, and I ultimately decided to cut Mox Emerald and Mox Jet, and the concession to wanting more fast-mana lead to the addition of one Lotus Petal.

Sol Ring Sensei's Divining Top These two one-mana cards are great in a Mentor deck, but I couldn't find room for them. I needed the most bare-bones and efficient mana-base that I could come up with in order to max-out on the action cards. If you look at my list, I'm playing 14 lands, and 6 artifacts that make mana. I count this to be 20 mana sources, which seems right for a deck that plays four three-drops as the top of its curve. 

     As I've said with other cards that I chose not to run, I wouldn't fault anyone for playing any of these cards. They're fine cards, but in the end I decided that I didn't need them. My results indicate that my deck list is at least headed in the right direction.

     Jace, the Mind Sculptor I love JTMS. I really, really do. I just couldn't find anything to cut, and at four mana, having one of these in the main deck stretches the mana base a little thin. 

Now, here are a couple cards that I did include in the main deck that may seem odd or out-of-place.

Mana Drain Here we have one of my favorite cards of all time, and also a card that had worked very well for me in my current deck. I'm currently testing out two of them, that's how much I love the card.

     I did mention earlier that most of the deck cannot make any use of generic mana. While that is true, there are some cards, namely Mentor and Dig/Cruise that can use the colorless mana. By playing Mana Drain, I can sometimes get some extra mana to cast an early Mentor, and it's also a counterspell that can counter anything!

     There are times in a Vintage match where one player casts a spell that will eventually win the game, and the other player can't stop it from happening because don't have the right Counterspell. The fact that Mana Drain can counter any spell has been extremely useful for me. There are times when I can't get any extra value from the generic mana that Mana Drain produces, that is true. In those cases, you still countered an important spell, so frankly, I could care less.

     The only time that Mana Drain is bad, is when the spell that you need to counter costs less than two. That is a tempo issue, and it certainly doesn't feel so hot when you're forced to Drain something with a low converted mana cost. Still, if you're in this position, it's obviously a spell that you needed to counter, or you would have let it resolve. If it stopped a spell from resolving, than in my mind, it was worth playing. It's also worth noting that since all of the  lands (other than fetches) in my deck are Islands, Mana Drain is as easy to cast as Mana Leak.

Lotus Petal As I mentioned earlier, this is my free mana accelerant, color fixer, and delve-enabler. Having early access to all three colors in the deck is very important, and I feel that it outweighs the card-disadvantage. Against shops, this could be a liability, luckily there is an extra Mountain to bring in.

Monastery Mentor Obviously, Mentor is important to these decks. A lot of people are running only three Mentors, and I've even seen a few decks with only two. I decided that it was important enough that I should run four. I had lost several games in the past simply because I failed to draw a Monastery Mentor in a timely fashion. There is, of course, the risk that you'll draw two in your opening hand. I don't think that drawing more than one Mentor is necessarily such a bad thing.

     Imagine having two Mentors in your opening 7, and simply allowing the first one to be countered with Force of Will. You could save your back-up counters to try and force through that second Mentor, and you'd be a card ahead of your opponent by then! This may not be the best line, depending on a variety of factors, but I think it illustrates that having too many Mentors is better than not having enough.

Snapcaster Mage Ol' Snappy is another favorite creature of mine. I've thought about cutting him before, but it's always been a decent card to draw. The ability to replay one of your restricted cards is very powerful, and a 2-power attacker with flash isn't a bad card to have in a lot of matchups.

The Sideboard

Grafdigger's Cage Four cages. These are cheap, and they hose Dredge decks very well. I don't care how popular Dredge is at any given moment, unless you like losing to them. pack six pieces of hate. They will beat you otherwise. Dredge is so strong, because your cards don't generally interact with it. Plus, most of them don't cost mana (Dread Return, Cabal Therapy Ichorid, (Narcomeba)), and all of those cards get dumped into the graveyard. Each card in their graveyard is practically equal to a card drawn, there is no way you can keep up with Bazaar of Baghdad Ancestral Recalling every turn!

     Grafdigger's Cage also pulls double-duty against Oath of Druids decks, and shuts off Yawgmoth's Will. Don't forget that it shuts off your Snapcaster Mages like I did once, that can be embarrassing!

Containment Priest Two Containment Priests.  This card is incredible. It does a lot of what Cage does when facing down a Dredge deck, but it attacks for two each turn! There was once a match versus Dredge, where I lost game three because I couldn't find a threat. Since getting another Containment Priest, I've been able to beat-down with my hate cards, and that's helped me win a lot more games against Dredge (Including round two of the last Daily I played in).

     This is also good against Oath decks, but it doesn't stop Yawgmoth's Will at all. Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus won't work with a Priest out, so keep that in mind when playing against decks that might play that combo.

     It has been suggested to me to increase the number of Containment Priest, going up to four and bringing the number of Cages down to two. That might not be a bad idea. I've always been happy to see a Priest, even if it was just for the added pressure of a 2/2 with flash.

Ingot Chewer Four Chewers. This is standard issue artifact hate. It's a creature, so it's slightly less likely to get its cost taxed, and Chalice of the Void doesn't get set that high.

Pulverize One Pulverize, because I'll never be able to cast Shatterstorm against Shops. I would if I could, though. Recently, I've been trying Serenity in this slot, and I need more testing against Mishra's Workshop to decide which I like better.

Shattering Spree One Spree, hopefully this will take out a few artifacts in one shot. Stephen Menendian said he played this card in a thread on The Mana Drain forum, so I decided to try it. It's been great so far.

Mountain The last, and most boring sideboard card to aid in the matches against brown decks. It's sad to have to do this, but it is oh-so-important.

Slice and Dice Cycling Slice and Dice wipes the board of Young Pyromancer and its tokens, and is almost impossible to counter. Recently, I've been trying Supreme Verdict in this spot, because Verdict is less narrow (kills opposing Mentors/Monks). 

Pyroblast Over half of all decks in Vintage play blue, making this a very valuable card. 

Sideboarding Guide

     I've promised a lot of sideboarding guides, and never delivered. For that, I am sorry. I'm somewhat  ashamed to admit this, but I don't even follow guides. I don't always sideboard the same, although each time is usually almost identical to what I've done in previous situations. 

     I'll do my best to make a few suggestions, in case you're playing a similar deck. One thing that I do, most of the time, is start taking cards out of my main deck right away. Any card that is not obviously useful or important is stripped, which makes bringing in cards a lot easier.

     Shops: This is the toughest matchup. There are plenty of dead cards, and only seven live ones to bring in.

     OUT: Mental Misstep X4 Flusterstormx2 Pyroblastx1 I only have seven cards to bring in, so one Pyroblast stays. You can at least counter a Phyrexian Metamorph with one, so it isn't all bad. 

     IN: All the obvious Shops cards. Mountain, Ingot Chewer, and anything else that mentions artifacts (Shattering Spree,Pulverize).

     U/R Delver This is a bit tougher of a call, because plenty of your cards are good against them.

     OUT: Dack Faydenx1 I don't think Dack is that great in this matchup, I've been fine with just one. I've only got two cards to bring in, so only one other card needs to come out. Misdirection is the most likely to come out, because the card disadvantage is more important in a fair matchup like this. Force of Will at least counters their threats, so it is a better card to keep than Misdirection.

     IN: Pyroblast, Slice and Dice.

     The Mirror: This is a lot tougher. Recently, I've been playing with Supreme Verdict because it's better here than Slice and Dice

     OUT: Just like Delver, Dack Fayden and Misdirection.

     IN: Slice and Dice and Pyroblast

     Storm Decks: The number of cards to bring in or out can vary. Some storm decks like to have a transformational sideboard with Tinker/Bot, so you may want to keep one copy of STP.

     Out: Swords to Plowshares Fire/Ice Dack Fayden Misdirection

     In: Grafdigger's Cage Pyroblast

     Dredge: Much like shops, there are a lot of cards to bring in. Don't forget, many of these decks are playing their own Mental Missteps, Force of Wills, or even running a transformational sideboard including Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage. I tend to keep one copy of Swords to Plowshares in post-sideboarded games just in case I see a Marit Lage, and Pyroblast could find useful targets as well. Pay attention.

     OUT: Misdirection, Swords to Plowshares, Fire/Ice, Pyroblast

     IN: Grafdigger's Cagex4 Containment Priestx2

     Oath of Druids: My sideboard has six cards that hose this deck, and Pyroblast isn't too shabby, either. I've listed a five-card swap, but you could do six or seven if you felt it necessary. I have mostly played this matchup from the Oath player's side so far, but I think five cards is likely enough.

     OUT: Misdirection, Monastery Mentor, Fire/Ice, Preordain, Snapcaster Mage

     IN: Containment Priestx2 Grafdigger's Cagex3 

     

     Well, there you have it, I hope that helped. If you chose to play a Mentor deck, try my list out and see what you think. I'd love to hear your feedback. If you have never played a deck like this, perhaps you should pick up some Monastery Mentors from MTGOTraders while they're still cheap. As far as I'm concerned, the price of Monastery Mentor will only go up. It's as broken as a creature could possibly be, and not get banned. 

 

 

 A brief history of time Magic...

 

     This week, folks, I have a special treat for all of you! Titus Chalk, author of "So, Do You Wear a Cape?", was kind enough to grant me an interview. For those of you who have not read the book, or are otherwise unaware of it, this book tells the history of the greatest game to ever see print: Magic: the Gathering. 

     Around the time that I was just getting back into the game myself, I first learned of the book's existence. I was browsing the GatheringMagic website one day, and came upon an article that contained a sample chapter from the book. That sample chapter was amazing, and needless to say, I wanted to read more.

     Several months down the road, I downloaded the E-Book on my tablet, and proceeded to read. I quickly realized that I was spending more time reading than I had intended, because I found it so difficult to put the book down! Towards the end, I actually slowed myself down on purpose, as I wanted to savor the last few chapters. Perhaps this might seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you, that is honestly what happened.

     JF: "What was the experience of writing the book like? How long was the process?"

     TITUS:  It was actually something I had had the idea for a few years previously to beginning it in earnest. I had been working as a journalist at a magazine publishers in London, before moving to Berlin and going freelance. In doing so, I felt a burst of freedom as to what I could write about and the more I thought about it, the more I felt the conviction that the story of Magic was worth telling. I made a couple of false starts, but didn’t have the experience at the time to see it through. A couple of years later, various factors came together – not least writing a few long-form Magic articles for Gathering Magic (thanks to Trick Jarrett for that!). I had also grown as a writer and could see how the book might work. Around the end of 2012, I knew I had to do it – the 20th anniversary was fast approaching and I used that as my motivation. Then I worked solidly on it for a year, doing roughly five days a week on the book, then working weekends at a TV station and squeezing other freelance work in round the edges – it was exhausting, but really exhilarating! There were times I was scared I would never be able to write it. Then other times I sat in the library having written a few thousand words just wanting to punch the air. It felt great to write about something I was passionate about and to recount stories I was really pumped to share with the community.

 

     JF: "Did you find getting interviews was difficult, or were most people fairly forthcoming with information?"

    TITUS: There’s a degree of persistence required in journalism – that goes without saying. But there’s also a luck factor, too. And I was really lucky to catch a few people at what seemed like the right time; people who were excited about Magic, its history and who were enthusiastic about someone writing it all down before it got forgotten. That gave me a huge boost and encouraged me to keep going. All in all, looking back, there are two or three people I couldn’t persuade to talk, who I would have loved to have in the book. But at some point, you just have to draw a line under those efforts and tell the story as best you can. Certainly the people I did interview – I guess it must have been at least 30 interviews, many of them of pretty long – were very candid and helpful. And I feel very grateful for the way some of the interviewees opened up during our conversations. I hope that comes out in the book.

     JF: "For the readers that may have not read the book yet, can you describe how it was that you first came to play magic?"

     TITUS: Sure. Although I grew up mostly in England, when I was about 13 my family moved to rural New Zealand. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a dream move – rather an emergency move, after my parents’ fantasy gaming business had gone bust. We had lost everything – including our house and had to start again from nothing. Along with being dumped in a new school, in a new culture, it was a very difficult time and I didn’t feel happy or at home. In those circumstances, I guess I tried to find people at school I had something in common with – and it turned out the slightly geeky guys sitting at the back of the class were those people! After realizing we were all into fantasy gaming, broadly speaking, they told me about this new game they were playing called Magic. This would have been late 1994, I think, and I had never heard of the game. I couldn’t understand the concept at all at first from what they were telling me. But as soon as I sat down and they showed me how to play, I was hooked! The game helped me find new friends and a new community, when I really needed a little support. And I think for that reason, it’s stuck with me all that time.

     JF: "When did you first decide to write a book about Magic, and what lead you make that decision?"   

     TITUS: As I said earlier, it was something of a slow gestation that started as a tiny flicker of an idea, progressed into something I believed in, then grew into a project that consumed my life for a good year. Behind all of that was the conviction that Magic is a game of genuine cultural significance. And that its story needed telling to a much wider audience than just those playing it. As a community, it’s very easy to be inward-looking and one aim of my book, was to show non-players why it is, that this game has had such a huge impact on so many people over the years.

    JF: "The title of the book, "So, do you wear a cape?" is an interesting title. What does the title mean to you, and what made you choose it?"

     TITUS: It came from a funny remark from a friend when I was trying to explain to her what Magic was. She confused it with actual magic – conjuring or whatever you want to call it. I chose it as a title because I wanted to bust a few myths about gamers, but also show that we can hit a happy medium between being proud of what we do and being secure enough in it, to be self-deprecating.

     JF: "The section of the book where you talked about Jesper Myrfors, Magic's first art director, was one of my favorite parts. I'm a big fan of early Magic art. Do you have a favorite artist, and/or a favorite card art?"

     TITUS: Great, I’m glad to hear that! Jesper was an amazing guy and it was a real pleasure to sit down and talk with him. The early art was such a huge part of what hooked me and I think that sometimes gets overlooked by newer players. When the game came out, the art was truly radical and just made all the chemicals in my brain go nuts! I’m pretty sure that’s the hallmark of good art. It will come as no surprise then, that I love old cards and old art. I have a huge weak spot for Chaos Orb, not only for Mark Tedin’s funky art, but because the moment someone first Orbed me, I was just blown away! I couldn’t believe something so cool could exist. I dumped a bunch of permanents in my graveyard, sure, but I was really flabbergasted, in shock almost. I remember feeling that really visceral reaction to certain cards back in the day – there was something so powerful about the effects, so iconic about the art and so revelatory about the depth of the game’s strategy… even stuff like the first time I saw the Urza lands assembled. Or played against The Abyss. Or saw someone drop some battered Moxen on the table, then cast Armageddon and Land Equilibrium – honestly, those experiences blew my mind. On a purely visual level, I must also say, I really love The Dark as a set – designed and art-directed by Jesper. I think the original black-bordered Blood Moon is one of the most beautiful bits of cardboard on the planet. It’s been great to see it having a renaissance in Modern, even if most players in that format would rather it didn’t exist!

     JF: "In the book, you mention that Vintage is your favorite format. After trying Vintage myself, I'd have to say that it's become my favorite as well. What is it about Vintage that makes you enjoy it so much?"

     TITUS: To me, Vintage is Magic, it’s as simple as that. When I started playing, there was so little information out there about how you were really supposed to play. Plus the idea of tournaments was really quite new and even anathema to a lot of players out there. A few more clued in friends would pick up a copy of Scrye now and again and from there, we’d find out about stuff like the restricted list. But there were still no separate formats when we were starting out – so we really felt that we were playing Magic, in its one and only form. That form is what eventually became Type I and later Vintage – the format with the restricted list and the amazing old cards that I dreamed of one day owning. Type II never had that mystique for me – and perhaps because I was living somewhere fairly isolated, there wasn’t a tournament scene to make the switch over to playing with new cards feel worth it. Today, Vintage still presses all the right buttons for me. I think it’s a rich and exciting format – something I think a lot of newer players have been able to discover online and via the brilliant Vintage Super League. I do, though, appreciate the design of the newer sets and would actually like to play a little more limited, to get to experience of the sets as a whole, rather than just cherry picking a couple of cards for Eternal play.

     JF: "I've recently seen that you started playing Magic: Online. How does it feel to have the ability to have a quick match with your morning coffee/tea?"

     TITUS: Honestly, I bought into MTGO last week and this is the most excited I’ve felt about Magic since those school days back in New Zealand. Yes, the client is butt-ugly and frankly, I hate having to play on a bloody PC. But the ability to just play game, after game, after game – and of Vintage! It’s truly amazing. I’m feeling that same excitement I felt, when I could jam endless games against friends, during lunch break, after school or all day on a Saturday – back when life was simple! I’m looking forward to wrestling the interface a little less and, hopefully, to improving as a player. I’ve already played more Vintage in the last two or three days than I have in the last two or three months, so I have no doubts that will happen.

     JF: "Is there anything that you'd like people to take away from reading your book?"

     TITUS: There are a lot of strands in the book – the history of a business, of a sport (more or less) and of a community, including myself. But I think what they all share in common, is a search for empowerment. I hope anyone reading my book takes away a positive message: that being proud and passionate about the things you love will inspire you and embolden you to take on new challenges. Being a Magic player can help you to be a great human being. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

     You can follow Titus Chalk on Twitter at: @TitusChalk and the book can be downloaded Via most E-Book retailers, including Amazon

 

    Well, that's all the time that I have for this week. I'd like to thank Titus Chalk for granting me an interview, and I'd also like to thank him for writing such an amazing book! I really hope people heed my advice and try it out. When I downloaded it, there was another free preview that I was able to read first, and I knew right away that this was something special.

     I think the thing that spoke to me the most, and initially drew me in to the story, is Titus' telling of his first encounter with Magic. He spoke of being mystified by the game, and by the breathtaking artwork, but more importantly, he spoke of the comradery gained through playing the game. I know that personally, the friendships that I forged early on through playing Magic were something very important to me. In fact, they kept me going, during a time that was otherwise quite difficult for me.

     I know that I related to Titus' personal story, and I'll bet that a lot of you will as well. It's interesting that the story of legendary Magic Pro Jon Finkel, which is also told in the book, has a lot that I related to as well. There at least some small thing in all of us that binds all of us, from Magic Pro to Casual Commander, even if it's not readily apparent. When you read these stories, though, and experience the similarities vicariously, it really is something special.

Until next time...

Thanks for reading!

Joseph G. Fiorini, Jr - Islandswamp on MTGO

Follow me on Twitter: @josephfiorinijr