Quote about Diversity in Magic from content creator Maria Bartholdi

Maria Bartholdi is a Magic podcaster and content creator who was asked about Diversity in Magic by Judges for Diversity and had the following to say

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Critical thoughts on representation in Conspiracy 2

Representation of diversity in games is hard. It’s also important. Wizards has publicly made very clear that they care about diversity, so we should hold them to account and make sure they deliver on this. We also need to strive to be thorough, rigorous, and fair in that critique for it to be most effective. We at MTGDiversity.org absolutely adore our friends over at HipstersOfTheCoast. We applaud them for regularly tackling diversity issues. The fact that the original article this post is about is something they are interested in is fabulous. It raises some important points and has sparked an important discussion. We also thought there was some excellent food for thought in some of said discussion, as reflected in a small part of this twitter exchange excerpted below (click on the tweets below to follow the full discussion). We also highly recommend Quinn Murphy’s thoughts about the importance of critique.

-Your friendly neighbourhood @mtgdiversity editors [Note: this post was originally published August 22 and our statement above was updated on with a link to Quinn Murphy‘s thoughts on August 23rd]

This conversation between Mike and I is a discussion between two people who are at the base of things folk who love Magic and the Magic community both personally and professionally. We are also both people who have been responsible for editorial and art content and I am an ethnographer specifically working on relationships between corporations and community, and our discussion takes place with that background. Both Hipsters of the Coast and Wizards of the Coast are working hard to tackle complicated subjects and we respect both of them while also feeling that balanced critique is a necessary part of engaging with their efforts. Tackling industry wide issues and analyzing steps for improvement is no quick fix and analyzing them should merit the rigor of research.

Mike and I may spend more time looking at more places than many community members because of our own positionality, and our discussion comes from those positionalities – I’m happy to share it if asked because my own work is transparent to the community. But understand at heart this is a conversation between one friend asking another friend for her “hot take”  and take that for exactly what it is.

We genuinely love all of you, and Magic.

-Adrienne (@DreamtimeDrinne)

Tackling industry wide issues and analyzing steps for improvement is no quick fix and analyzing them should merit the rigor of research. The casual nature of the discussion should not undermine the seriousness of the discussion, nor should it discount the crux of the article’s main argument. As fellow community members with advanced academic research under our respective belts, when we see articles that elevate the discussion from playing into industry analysis, we expect serious research and when questions arise, we will bring them up.

Adrienne and I have very different lenses and use them to aid in questioning editorial content just as any academic would write a book or article review. I write on art because it comes naturally to me from interest, academic background and previous work experience. Finding examples where the ingredients differ but the cake gets made still warrants why so much saffron is being used. Representation is something all TCGs in the gaming industry struggle with and that issue will not be resolved on Twitter. We may be instigators of keeping the ball rolling and we do so out of love for our community, this MtG game and how it helps future generations.

-Mike (@VorthosMike)


Planeswalkers for Diversity at PAX 2016

Planeswalkers for Diversity was at PAX again this year, in the Diversity Lounge where we will be set up to teach new players to play Magic and to answer questions about setting up local chapters. This year we will also have buttons and these two playmats available for purchase!

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Several Planeswalkers for Diversity volunteers assisted a crew of people from our sister organization, Lady Planeswalkers Society, teaching new players to play Magic.

Finally, one of our co-founders was part of the following panel:

Challenging assumptions about diversity with data

Friday, September 2nd at 4:30pm in the Chipmunk Theatre.

Gaming has a problem with being inclusive and with diversity. While industry is working on it, discussion can generate an ideological divide. We will start to move beyond this with good, hard data: demographics, how often people have unwelcoming experiences, what impacts that has, and how people have made change. We will involve the audience to check our collective assumptions and see what quantitative empirical evidence says about diversity in gaming and about how to improve inclusivity.
~
Panelists include:
Tanya DePass [Founder, INeedDiverseGames]
Glenn White [Director of Marketing Infrastructure , EA Games]
Aurora Walker [Lead Instructor, Lady Coders of Victoria]
Trevor Murdock [Co-Founder, Planeswalkers for Diversity]
Matt Baume [Host, Sewers of Paris Podcast]
Cherrise Miranda [Conference Volunteer Extraordinaire]

Quote about Diversity in Magic by Professional player Reid Duke

Reid Duke is a Professional Magic player who was asked by Judges for Diversity and had the following to say about the importance of Diversity in Magic

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MrLuBuFu’s 365 day challenge

Hello all. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Lucas (often known by my Twitch moniker ‘MrLuBuFu’). Almost a year ago, I decided to challenge myself to stream Magic the Gathering: Online every day for 365 straight days. I wanted to do this not for viewership numbers nor popularly, but rather to put a difficult goal in front of me and see if I could persevere for both myself and any viewers of my channel.

With this in mind the rule I was to follow was simple: stream MTGO every day for at least one hour per day. The goal was straightforward enough, but the true underlying sentiment reflects one of my philosophies:

“Not everyone can like you, but be loyal and true to those that do.”

As a content creator on YouTube for over five years, I have found personal connections and interactions with the community can form a true bond between people. I wished to build a space where anyone could come in and be comfortable enjoying a technical analysis of Magic.

Now I find myself facing my final day of this challenge staring me down, I felt it would be appropriate to share my thoughts, experiences and thanks to all I have interacted with during the process.

The Challenge

The 365 day stream challenge is really, really hard. I recall mentioning to Kenji Egashira (NumottheNummy) that I was undertaking the same challenge he had completed. His response was honest: “Good luck. It’s going to be rough.” My naïvity at the time was simply on the burden of just fulfilling a quota rather than the truth of the matter. You have to sacrifice your time, your sleep, and a fair amount of your social life outside of the stream. Everyone has both good and bad days. The good are easy to stream. You sit and laugh and nothing can go wrong (except maybe drawing ten consecutive lands). You feel the strain in the rough days. Nobody talks about streamer depression, but it’s very real. Watching numbers go up and down, not making headway, or dealing with the stresses of everyday life make the bad days seem like pits of despair. It takes a toll on you to pull yourself out and try to stay positive. The important thing is to fight through it.

I found myself in a unique position to undergo the challenge as a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering with enough ‘free time’ (I use that term loosely because it doesn’t truly exist as you do graduate work) to be able to play Magic every single day whilst balancing schoolwork, research, and teaching.

Early on the challenge was much easier because the MTGO cube was available. Cube is my favorite format, and I found myself loving the stream and loving the community even more. Prior to this I had mostly just spent my time in the various Twitch streams of other MTGO players (NumottheNummy, GabySpartz, LSV, and HAUMPH to name a few), and had greatly enjoyed the interaction.

Ultimately, the stream came down to a day-by-day basis. Each day I focused on playing whatever format seemed like the most entertaining and the most fun. A combination of lots of limited (Cube, Flashback events) with Modern and EDH to fill the time between rounds.

For the most part the stream went smoothly but some major highlights behind the scenes that people may not know:

  • Swapping the stream between two different computers every 30 minutes due to a weird router error most times I visited my girlfriend in Chicago
  • Going to urgent care due to fungal poisoning. I got medication, drove home, streamed, then went back to the clinic to confirm I would be all right.
  • Streaming while technically homeless. My new landlord thought I was moving in two weeks later, so I moved into my new apartment without locks and slept/streamed in the living room because the door was wide open.
  • Streaming during multiple GPs (Detroit, Washington DC).
  • After my sister (who was visiting) was stranded on the tarmac at O’Hare Airport for three hours, I drove through a blizzard to get home to stream.

The Improvement

My goal during the stream was simply to entertain and play a lot of fun formats. I hoped that I could pass along some of the knowledge I accrued over my years drafting. Starting with a Limited Rating of 1650 and Constructed of 1612, I successfully was able to reach the following:

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Who would have guessed that streaming every day would make me a better player? I also watched other streamers in order to learn all the older formats, so I learned a lot by watching, too.

The Community

Ultimately, the charging of my metaphorical batteries came due to the fantastic viewers of the stream and other community members. Some of my favorite moments have come courtesy of people I have looked up to for a long time:

  • Worth Wollpert, the man who pulls the levers behind the scenes of MTGO labelled ‘mana screw’ and ‘mana flood’, stopped by and donated a ‘blessing’ (http://i.imgur.com/t6ak7PB.png)
  • LSV hosted the stream, which led to the highest viewership of any day during the stream
  • Cam (IlyonTV) hosted the stream more times than I can count, and has been incredibly friendly and a pleasure to talk to during the challenge
  • BillyTheFridge and I duo-drafted a ‘Planeswalkers Only/No Creatures Cube draft’ that somehow made the finals

The finale: 24 hour stream for diversity

To celebrate the completion of a 365-day streaming challenge (read about that below), I streamed at twitch.tv/MrLuBuFu for 24 hours, starting at 8 AM Pacific / 10 AM Central/ 11 AM Eastern on Saturday July 9th.

I wanted to raise money for Planeswalkers for Diversity (donate here). I love their mission to support everyone being welcome to this game, and I want to try and raise as much attention and money as I can for a group that deserves it. I have previously done 24-hour streams for various charities (Gamers Helping Gamers, Mariah Pagliocco Medical Fund Drive, and St. Jude). I think it is important to give back to this amazing community that offers so much to so many people.

I also wanted to give back to the viewers, so every hour I gave away something to celebrate.

The 24 hour stream itself was fantastic. In addition to cubing for nearly 20 hours (took a quick break for a Shadows over Innistrad draft to finish off the night), there were lots of great moments:

Thank you all for the support. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity and all the positive messages since I started the challenge. I hope to see you all this Saturday!

I would like to thank everyone who has supported the stream by stopping by, watching, commenting, donating and more. Each and every one of you has been amazing and incredibly kind. (Except the trolls. You know who you are.)

-Lucas ‘MrLuBuFu’

twitch.tv/MrLuBuFu

Fighting Back Against Persecution in Magic

By Mark Nestico, re-blogged from Mark’s facebook

I’m a funny guy.

I like to write satirical articles about decks or other trivial bits of nonsense that are meant to make you laugh. Sometimes people don’t understand that, at their core, those pieces are meant to hold a mirror up to the community. Whether it’s about the outcry for bannings in Modern, the distaste we may have for a format, or whatever else…I have always tried to give you something that would make people smile. I don’t always do the best job, but the heat from it never really bothered me. All I ever really want to do is entertain you.

Bear that in mind. It’s not about being entertaining- at least not today.

Over the weekend StarCityGames posted about the recent legislature, HB2, as it pertained to the upcoming Grand Prix in North Carolina. I won’t speak to it, because Pete explained everything about as perfectly as he could. The issue I have doesn’t stem from Mr. Hoefling’s words, but rather some of the comments posted in regards to them, and more so over various forms of social media.

Perhaps I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

I had this set up all differently. I’ve already deviated from my outline. I guess it’s just time to write from the heart.

So anyhow.

None of us are normal.

Make sure you understand that before you proceed, because I assure you that’s a point we are going to drive home today.

Ok.

So.

None of us are normal.

Imagine for a moment you don’t belong. That shouldn’t be a terribly farfetched concept, right? You’re not the captain of the football team nor are you the head cheerleader. You’re just you, and for some people you isn’t good enough. This is high school, middle school, elementary school, work, or wherever else all rolled into one. Eventually you start to think that you’re not good enough.

Depression sets in. Pain sets in. Suffering sets in.

You are suffering.

You’re not the person now that you were then, but you’re certainly a byproduct of it. All the downers, bullying, trolling, vicious comments, physical assaults, psychological assaults- they shape you. Not everyone can just “brush it off” or “stand up for themselves.” Amputate the leg and you’re no longer a track star. Amputate the self-esteem and you’re no longer capable of fighting back.

Time passes.

You find Magic. Maybe you stumbled upon a store or saw it on the internet. It’s a children’s card game, but it has millions upon millions of people that play it, and there is a convergence of other people who just don’t belong meeting there a few times a week to battle, discuss, and share in a hobby.

“What the hell.”

Forsaking your baser intuitions that tell you to avoid these kinds of interactions completely predicated on all of the unfavorable ones you’re used to, you go. You learn. You observe.

Time passes.

Magic isn’t just a hobby to you anymore- it’s the very air you breathe. Your friendships exist because of Magic. Your self-confidence has grown because of Magic. Your time is now spent between when you get to go to your local game shop and be happy and the life you loathe. Your life means more because of Magic. It has saved you.

Time passes.

You’ve spent so, so, so very much time being different. Not good enough in your own eyes, but Magic and good friends have finally given you the courage to be who you thought you always should be. When you go to these Opens or PPTQs or random events you’re surrounded by literally thousands of people who were all a little different, or made fun of, or outsiders/geeks/nerds/whatever the hell people need to call other people to make themselves feel superior. They all convene in one place for plenty of different reasons: commander, cosplay, to meet artists, trading, play competitively or casually, hang out with friends, draft, and a multitude of other possibilities.

With that in mind you decide you’re going to go to your first Grand Prix. Maybe it’s in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Developments in that state make you feel significantly less safe. Your pragmatism sets in, and you do your best to understand the “whys” and how they directly impact you. It’s not just HB2. It’s the reaction. Polarizing. You’re called names again. Your very state of being is called into question. You begin to feel those old notions of inadequacy- the kids in school who relentlessly tease you, or the adults who stare and point. It’s not just the bill.

It’s not just the bill.

It’s the people and their treatment of their fellow man or woman.

Anxiety sets in.

Here we are again, suffering- wasn’t I silly for thinking I could escape from you.

The Island of Misfit Toys

We are all beautiful, and beautifully broken. From the lowliest internet troll who seeks to inflict pain in order to feel something…anything to the most holier-than-thou crusader who finds offenses in everything regardless of if it exists or not. We all are something special, and usually that conflicts with the opposite end of the spectrum.

Magic is the Island of Misfit Toys. Its where a lot of people who have never felt a sense of belonging go because they don’t know any other options. For some it’s the first, and for some it’s the last stop on a journey to find their place in this world.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

There is something wrong, however, with acting like your place is somehow more sacred than another’s.

Bullying is a hot-button topic. It has been for a few years.

There are two camps:

1- Those who think the bullied should stop being soft and fight back.

2- Those who are bullied.

The interesting dichotomy that exists is that those who think it’s as simple as raising a generation of warriors often fail to realize how damaging it is to constantly be put down. Have you ever seen a boxer get knocked out? Does their corner rush to their side and scream “get up! You’re letting us down by being unconscious! What kind of loser are you?” Or do they rush to their side and try to take care of them? I’ll give you one guess, and it’s not the first one. We learn from getting knocked out, but some people become punch-shy, and they learn to dodge better rather than absorb a hit.

When I was a kid I was bullied, but I had a smart mouth and I wasn’t afraid to take a beating or dish one out. That’s just who I was, but when I went home do you know what I did? Watched television. Played with my action figures. Ate dinner. Talked to mom and dad. Went to bed. That was it.

People nowadays have no escape. Are you tortured at home? Lovely. Let’s continue that when you get home over social media- tweet at you how much we hate you, and tag you on Facebook statues about what a terrible person you are. Are you scared? You should be. Here come the text messages because we somehow got your number. Emails. Don’t even try to cover your ears. We’re everywhere.

This is the life that the bullied live nowadays. It’s not as easy as when I was young. We threw some punches and called it quits. There is literally no escape from being condemned for your race, sexuality, gender identity, looks, weight…your everything is on trial.

The Magic community, which is supposed to be a Safe Haven for those who enjoy the game, instead has fostered a subset of members who believe their hatred trumps compassion and reason. Look no further than the various comment sections of articles. We make a play or write about something you don’t agree with? We’re idiots. Don’t like our articles? We’re illiterate. Constructive criticisms are a thing of the past, because why be kind and understanding when you can just tell the other living, breathing, alive person with feelings that they should kill themselves. That’s the ticket, right? Forget the middle. Straight to the endgame.

It’s not about safe spaces or secret clubhouses. Magic is a game and it is meant to be enjoyed by every person who chooses to play it, and the injection of prejudices and ad hominem should be a notion so far removed from it that it makes almost no sense to me that a group of people just searching for happiness would cannibalize itself with hatred. Malice doesn’t come with impunity.

The Remedy

So far I’ve heard “stop shoving your changes down my throat,” “things were fine the way they were before,” and “political correctness is destroying America.” I’m here to hold your hand through this. It’s not the end of the world. Listen to my words: change is a good thing, accepting your fellow man and woman is ok, and not spewing hateful rhetoric will do your soul more good than it will harm.

We are blessed. So blessed. Beyond blessed that we have Magic. It’s not the game- because a game is just that. For some it’s a living, or a passion- a hobby or an escape route. You don’t know the extent that someone has ran away from persecution just to be able to sit across from you at the table, shake your hand, roll some dice, and battle some cards. Their struggles- internal or external- are a catalyst for their strength and determination, but are also scars they bare from battles you know nothing about. Just being in your presence shouldn’t be another war, nor should telling them how much they disgust you.

They are a human.

You are a human.

Despite philosophical, perceived, real or fake differences, hurting someone is never ok. Your rights do not begin based off of ending someone else’s.

Empathy.

Understanding.

Respect.

Emotion.

You can never underestimate these qualities. They are literally the perfect starting hand for interacting with those around us.

Magic should be all-inclusive, and even though the vast majority of it is, that doesn’t mean we can’t be better.

We should want to be better.

After all, what would you rather do?

Destroy a life

Or save it? Your words can do either.

Embrace the power your can have over the Magic community. Spread love, not hate. Spread positivity, not malicious thoughts.

Free yourself from the thorned bonds that would prevent you from helping those around you. Exile bullying or doing harm to your fellow players.

This is my declaration today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the time I play Magic.

Next week I’m sure I’ll write about some deck or do some satirical piece. I’m a funny guy, right?

Peek #15: Gerry Thompson

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Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity.

What’s tougher – a Pro Tour, or an SCG Invitational? If anyone’s qualified to answer that, it’d be Roanoke’s own Gerry Thompson. He’s played in eleven SCG invitationals, top 8’d six and won two, on top of his nine Grand Prix top 8s. In 2013 he broke the ranks of the best pros to never spike a Pro Tour Top 8, finishing seventh at PT Gatecrash in Montreal before going on to take a break from competitive Magic and intern at Wizards of the Coast. Currently living in Seattle with his girlfriend and former SCG copyeditor Kaitlin Lindburg, Gerry is back in the scene writing for StarCityGames and crushing tournaments near you.

p4d: First, a question we ask everyone: what is your Magic: The Gathering origin story?

GT: I was into fantasy stuff, like comic books and novels when I was a kid, and my mom saw some Magic cards at a gas station and bought me a couple packs. I didn’t have anyone to play with so they just sat in a shoebox for five years or so, and then when I was 15 and got my first job one of my co-workers played Magic. We just kind of bRM_1onded over that, he built me a deck, we played some games, he ripped me off on some trades, and then I was just hooked from there.

p4d: It was several months ago now, but you left WOTC in April after a six-month internship. Can you tell us your most favourite and least favourite aspects of working there?

GT: Least favourite was that I was not the smartest person in the room anymore, but that was just part of this good thing where I was surrounded by a bunch of very smart capable people that constantly surprised me. Other than that it was just that I learned a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if it necessarily makes me a better Magic player but I certainly think that I have a better understanding of the decisions that get made for how sets and cards are designed. I know more about how they expect formats to shape up and stuff like that.

p4d: Did you feel like it was a good fit for you overall, or were you itching to get back to competitive Magic and writing articles?

GT: I didn’t know if it was going to be a good fit, but I had to try it. When they offered it to me I thought it might not work out, but I was ready to try something different as far as Magic was concerned. It was definitely a good idea, and while I was there I wasn’t thinking, “oh, I can’t wait to get back to playing” — I was definitely dedicating 100% to doing the job, but when it got towards the end of it and I had the choice to stay on for another six months, I decided to get back to playing Magic. I’m just more comfortable playing and it just felt more right for me.

p4d: How is it being back at SCG? You alluded to some other projects coming up in some recent podcasts, anything we can look forward to? Streaming, maybe?

GT: I’ve wanted to be streaming since Journey Into Nyx came out on Magic Online, but for whatever reason I haven’t started. It’s just one of those things where I’m good at doing the stuff that comes easy to me. I put off writing articles for the longest time because I thought I wouldn’t be good at it and people wouldn’t want to read the stuff I had to say. I kinda feel like that with streaming also, where I want to do it and I think it would be a good thing for me, but I just haven’t started yet. I have a lot of excuses but they’re not good ones.

I started working on a book about four years ago, and I have a lot of work done with it but it’s one of those things where it’s kind of almost done but it’s hard to pull the trigger. With my articles there’s a deadline, I have to do this every week, and for all this other stuff, if you give me free reign I’ll never finish it for whatever reason and I really need to get over that.

tumblr_m2xqjpjgQ61r5wyekp4d: To lead into some P4D stuff, what does diversity in the Magic community mean to you?

GT: I think ultimately what I want to have happen is that issues of diversity are just not a thing. We are Magic players, male, female, trans, straight, gay, whatever, it doesn’t matter, you know? At the end of the day we all have this thing that we really enjoy and this should be our escape from reality, where we go to have fun and enjoy ourselves, express our creativity, and I would just like for everyone else to see each other as Magic players and not how they’re different. We have a lot of the same stuff in common and we like the same things so we should just be able to share that.

p4d: Let’s delve into an event from your past – specifically you getting decked by Todd Anderson. The interesting thing that seems to get missed is that it was an act of mediation by you, trying to keep your friends as friends. Do you find yourself in that position often?

GT: As mediator, kind of. In the social circles that I hang out with I’m normally the adult or at least the oldest person. I might not be the most mentally of age person I suppose, but I do act like the adult in a lot of situations. When people are hanging out with their friends, their filter is off, they want to blow off steam and sometimes people get a little out of control, myself included.

But there are situations where I think “hey, this is not a thing that should be happening, this is only gonna end poorly.” I don’t necessarily try to mediate things by taking a fist to the face all the time, but I think in that case it was a good solution. I don’t want to be results-oriented or anything. [laughs]

It was also one of those situations where Todd and I were not on the best of terms, and now we’re really good friends, and I think that situation really helped that a lot. But again, I don’t think the way I handled things was necessarily the best for that situation, there was almost certainly a better way, but at the time that was what I felt was correct. I knew it would resolve the situation and it did, so it is what it is.

p4d: Is there anybody who you find an inspiration in the community, that you’re learning from on these issues?

GT: I don’t feel that there’s one person in particular, it’s just that there are a lot of voices of reason in the community. But generally I have not been disappointed whenever something happens because I feel there are enough smart people that say, “no actually this is not cool, this is how you should react to this or this is what’s most acceptable”, you know? As far as my personal opinions, at the end of the day we’re all just Magic players and I wish that these things would just not be issues.

p4d: What can you do as a leader in the community or what do you think other players in general can do to make our community a better place?

GT: For me I think it’s probably just best to lead by example, and if you think that people are acting poorly and doing things that are disrespectful, you can let them know in a positive way. If someone says something in a group and then you immediately call them out on it, that’s probably not the best way to handle things. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not gonna cause change.

I feel like most people respond positively to actual one-on-one constructive criticism, and sometimes it’s someone’s opinion, where they might feel it’s okay to discriminate against females for example, and maybe you can’t change that. But most people, you talk to them in a one-on-one setting, you make it clear you respect them, you respect their opinions, but you say, hey, people have a problem with this, and they will actually stop and think. This approach has worked for me so far.

p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?

GT: It’s just constantly working towards that goal with whatever reasonable means necessary, and I think that’s good, I’m glad that someone is out there doing it.

p4d: Any big tournaments you’re playing soon?

GT: I just attended Grand Prix in Nashville and New Jersey and had loads of fun at both. I’m hitting up all the Starcity invitationals, andTrap_GerryT I am qualified for Pro Tour Vancouver.

p4d: Any sick tech you’ll be shopping around?

GT: No, not really. M16 was a set that I worked on a little bit, but it was not in FFL (Future Future League) which is why that’s the cutoff for when I can play again. Presumably between April and now the set is going to change a lot, so the theory is that I don’t have a large edge over everyone else. So I got nothing basically. I’m just waiting to see how everything plays out with the full Khans block and everything, and I’m sure that we did a lot of good work in FFL but we almost certainly didn’t find everything or have a 100% clear picture of what the format’s going to look like. It’s been very interesting being on the outside and seeing what people come up with.

p4d: Where can people find you online?

GT: I am on Twitter @G3RRYT as well as Facebook, the comments of my Starcity articles, that’s about it. I basically  respond to anyone that gets at me on Twitter, so that’s probably the best way to reach me.

Peek #14: MJ Scott

Image (1)Peek is a series of brief interviews of Magic personalities who support Planeswalkers for Diversity. MJ Scott is widely regarded as a master of all things flavour including cosplay and fanfiction. A freelance editor, producer, and sometimes card alterist, MJ writes a weekly column for Gathering Magic and recently contributed flavour text and card names to Theros, Commander 2013, and the upcoming M15 core set.

p4d: First, a question we ask everyone: what is your Magic: The Gathering origin story?

MJ Scott is a Planeswalker native to–where else–Kamigawa. MJ spontaneously formed in a pot still, and was removed as an impurity by the Izzet expat distiller. Michiko Konda and the red bull from the Last Unicorn adopted her as their own child, and she was raised traditionally to be a prophet and gunslinger. Eventually she rejected the confines of her parents’ estate, stole a horse from their stables and rode off to make a name for herself, briefly training in hospitality as a bartender in Takenuma. After waking up one morning with a stubby sword clutched in her hand (not an innuendo) and a voice in her head calling for help, her spark ignited and she traveled across the aether with her companions Yellow Ranger and Zelda to battle Nicol Bolas at the Pools of Becoming and free Link from his servitude as Bolas’s cabana boy. MJ proved instrumental in the battle by making Bolas the best mojito he’d ever had, thus forcing the Elder Dragon to free Link in order to secure a steady supply of superior rum-based drinks from MJ’s deft hand. The two are now great friends and often conspire about Magic-related business. MJ currently resides on Ravnica, writing smut and flavor. She runs a side business that sells (via Dimir agents) the secret of luscious Asian hair to wealthy Ravnicans. Liliana Vess is a client.

p4d: Wow! No wonder you are a flavour writer with Wizards. How did that start?

MJ: I had a friend who did it, and inquired about how to work toward it. I basically got a referral, like any other job process that helps a lot. But it also helps if you have been writing in the MTG community or otherwise professionally/semi-professionally. It’s really rigorous and competitive, so you’ve got to have the chops already or you won’t make it. It was like an audition process after the referral, but that’s all I can divulge – we have to keep the mystery alive! (wink)

p4d: What is the most fulfilling part about writing for GatheringMagic.com?

MJ: At heart I’m an entertainer. Sharing stories with Magic players and putting smiles on the faces of my awesome readership is exactly what I love to do. My column is always going to be a safe space to explore flavor, debate ideas, laugh, and feel more connected to the greater community and all things magical in general. I am super happy to write for a site like Gathering Magic that goes out of its way to be inclusive and provide all kinds of content.

p4d: Vorthos refers to a player who loves flavour. How did you fall in with cosplay and all things Vorthos?

MJ: Well, I was dressing up long before I played Magic, but I would say my not-Magic-exclusive love of flavour and story and art came first. I mean, I had to read books and see TV and films that gave me inspiration for costumes. I would roleplay animals at an early age. I was a horse a lot, and would run around on all fours asking to be fed uncooked oatmeal in a dish on the floor. I also liked wolves and foxes, so I was “what does the fox say?”ing a lot and hiding in very small spaces–like the toilet paper storage cabinet. This cabinet was six feet off the ground, cut into the wall of the hallway, and I’d taught myself to climb up–by bracing a foot on each side of the hall–after I saw Spider-man or something. The animal “cosplay” was influenced mostly by Margeurite Henry books. I also did the Disney princesses. Apparently I could read when I was two.

Later I would sometimes be Link or Zelda, and there was a phase where I was always Tyris Flare from Golden Axe and I’d run around in an altered version of one of my mom’s old bikinis, making my family act out the entire game. My mom always had to be Death Adder. I don’t know how she coped. I mean, I have a feeling I was pretty hard to deal with–this intensely passionate, weird, creative, competitive kid and she just let me have free reign. At one point I think my wardrobe consisted mostly of leotards, swimsuits, cowboy boots and moccasins (to go with the full-size “teepee” in the backyard). I was proud of having the full Wonder Woman getup. One time I was being a cat, and actually ate some cat food out of the cat’s dish. My mom almost had a heart attack. I didn’t do that again–it tasted awful… which to this day baffles me, because cat food smells so good.

I appreciate all those memories more now that my son has reached the age where he’s into pretending. The other day we were play-fighting and he was alternately “Black” Ryu, Chandra, and Gutsman. I spent half of last month as Zero to his Megaman X. I love it. Who knew–all that weird creative passion is extremely helpful for parenting!

1528529_246394638872715_1805224962_np4d: What is it specifically about the flavour of Magic that appeals to you over other games?

MJ: It’s Magic. I’m somewhat of an elitist – I enjoy that it’s iconic, that it was the first of its kind, that it still best articulates what it would feel like to actually be a mage.

p4d: Do you have any advice for people who want to follow in your Vorthos footsteps?

MJ: The big one is do not be afraid to embarrass yourself. It’s unavoidable, anyway. Second, read fiction – it’s like a cross training workout for your brain. Third, work at it: you have to be willing to get feedback, surround yourself with people better than you (or at least, you know, as good as you or challenging to you) in whatever discipline you’re interested in, and you should always be challenging yourself to improve. It’s fine to have days where you say “this is all I’ve got, it’s OK as it is…” but most days you need to go 120%. I think a lot of people limit themselves with fear and bad habits. You can definitely overcome those maladies. I did..

p4d: Who is this Elliot person you retweet sometimes, other than an avid Pucatrader?

MJ: (laughing)–Elliot is my husband. If you want our origin story, it’s in my first ever Magic blog post: How MJ Met Magic. Elliot and I have a strange relationship. Sometimes I’m his maid, and sometimes he’s my executive assistant. I think the humans call this type of relationship “marriage.” Unfortunately, there’s a good chance I’m a Cylon and thus never satisfied. I’m always looking for ways to manipulate the relationship so it’s more like I’m a dragon and he’s a kobold, but damn his eyes, he is highly resistant to black magic and has an annoying amount of defensive artifacts.

p4d: You mentioned in an article that your parents don’t read your work because it’s fantasy, and that school didn’t support you to be a writer. What kept you going?

MJ: Reading other fantasy writers’ work. I’m the type who can’t stop reading a good book once I pick it up, and I would often think, “This kind of world is where I want to be. This is what I want to do. I

f I can give just one person the kind of experience this author has given me, I’ll be happy.”


p4d: How can players make their community a better place?

MJ: Don’t mistake this for a trite answer: people, you need to BE KIND. It’s way harder than it sounds. Funny how many folks pride themselves on being so damn smart but can’t wrap their heads around a concept like treating others with respect. Sometimes it comes down to just taking a moment or two to consider your words before you open your mouth. Our society really rewards sound bytes and shock tactics, and this value system has been deeply ingrained into us by now–moreso if you’re under thirty. Sometimes it’s just a matter of choosing to say something neutral or bland as opposed to gratifying yourself by throwing out the zinger or verbal fatality. We all want attention and accolade, and some people waste so much energy being mean to achieve this. I have a dirty sense of humour and know you need all types to make the world interesting, plus I like free speech–but abusing our liberty by being an asshole when it’s hurting people is really just a sign that you can’t adapt, have low emotional capacity and aren’t smart enough to rationally think through a real-life situation and choose the best play.

One thing I want to highlight is that players need to have zero tolerance for bullying in our community. And bullying isn’t… you know, verbal banter between two equals. It’s the purposeful victimization of someone or some group for someone else’s gain/gratification/validation. It’s a matter of having other players’ backs and elevating your role as a Magic community member over your role as socially maligned smartass or massaging your clique’s collective ego. If you see someone being bullied, it’s your responsibility to tell an authority, step in, or at least defray the situation. At the very least, never participate in this kind of behavior yourself. This applies to all communities, not just Magic. The real-world result of bullying is that little kids try to hang themselves because they like My Little Pony. Or maybe the kid goes and gets a gun before they go to school. It’s no fun to be lonely or maligned for our interests. We’ve all been there. Gamers should be ahead of the curve here, not trailing behind as the last holdouts. If we can’t find other ways than meanness to express our intelligence and angst, then I guess we’re not so smart, are we?

p4d: What would you like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity accomplish?

MJ: I WANT T-SHIRT. Seriously, I can has P4D shirt now? And socks. I want knee socks with the little symbol. I totally need branded swag on which to spend money I don’t have. I would like to see Planeswalkers for Diversity become an aggressively active voice in the community and a very visible organization at events. It’s a ton of work and this group has already made great strides, but the sky’s the limit. I think a lot of community members will continue to be happy to contribute to content and support the group, so that should be leveraged as much as possible. I would love to see something like a P4D Commander tournament series, for example. Something to gather players around a fun aspect of Magic as well as the cause.

p4d: Where can people find you online?

Fanfic and card alters: www.moxymtg.com
Articles: www.gatheringmagic.com/author/mjscott
Cosplay: www.facebook.com/moxycosplay or moxymtg.tumblr.com
Twitter: @moxymtg

Khinky’s Boots #4

Welcome to Khinky’s Boots, a weekly column where your resident know-it-all dispenses indispensable advice to everyone from Planeswalkers to Pegasi.

Our contributor is Khin Kyaw, a flavour text enthusiast, fashion nerd and inveterate science fiction fan from Johannesburg. She blogs about freedom and frugality at Osprey’s Lab and explores the South African MTG community at Manabond ZA.

The Multiverse has 99 problems… Khinky is in no way qualified to fix any of them, but it never hurts to try. In today’s column: merfish, lotuses and inventors.

kioraDear Khinky

All my life I’ve had a problem with seamen – they have a habit of suddenly exploding on the scene when I least expect it. The worst part is, I can never see it coming. Oh, and things have been heating up with Thassa lately so it would be nice to have some privacy! What can I do to keep the seamen at bay? (I’ve tried feeding them to my Kraken but she doesn’t like the taste.)

XOXO
Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Dear Kiora

The seamen situation seems to be a case of fated infatuation on their part. Unfortunately I don’t have too much experience in dealing with this kind of thing but the Sirens are world-renowned experts. Why don’t you pay them a visit?

All the best
Khinky

P.S. Send my love to Thassa (and also, I totally called it!)

ablDear K

I am so stressed out. My $ value is reaching epic heights, I never have the chance to socialise and I have not been out of a sleeve in decades. And what with the counterfeits running around, I feel like it could all come crashing down at any moment. I’m just tense and worried all the time, not sure what to do!

From
Alpha Black Lotus

Dear ABL

You have what I’d call a 1st Edition problem. Maybe you just need time to chill and enjoy life again. Why not get out of the vault, unsleeve yourself and spend an evening on the beach with a mojito? Take it easy. If you’re not careful you may end up like Blacker Lotus, who caved under the pressure and went to pieces.

Love
K

archibaldTo whom it may concern

It is with great pride that I introduce to you and your readership a momentous advancement in artificial wing design. Gone are the days of wax and feathers! My innovative manufacturing process utilises a lightweight and only slightly flammable paper-based compound, making bothersome melting a thing of the past.

You are hereby invited to witness a demonstration of this groundbreaking discovery, wherein I, Impetuous Archibald Sunchaser, shall catch the sun itself!

Dear Archie

That’s nice. What do you plan to do with the sun once you catch it?

Love
Khinky

Khinky’s Boots #3

Welcome to Khinky’s Boots, a weekly column where your resident know-it-all dispenses indispensable advice to everyone from Planeswalkers to Pegasi.

Our contributor is Khin Kyaw, a flavour text enthusiast, fashion nerd and inveterate science fiction fan from Johannesburg. She blogs about freedom and frugality at Osprey’s Lab and explores the South African MTG community at Manabond ZA.

The Multiverse has 99 problems… Khinky is in no way qualified to fix any of them, but it never hurts to try. In today’s column: fame, friendship and a Cyclops.

totallylost Khinky,

Explain to me please how our dear friend Fblthp got to be so famous. Everywhere I go it’s “Fblthp this” and “Fblthp that.” And he gets plushies. Not even Nicol Bolas gets plushies. Fame should not come this easy to an eyeball with arms!

Annoyed,
Storm Crow

Hey Storm Crow

Sounds to me like you’re jealous, and green is definitely not your colour. Sure everybody loves Fblthp but that doesn’t mean we love you any less. You’re practically an institution! I dunno, maybe just try to be happy for the guy? He has a hard enough time as it is…

xx
Khinky

P.S. If it will make you feel better I know someone who can make a custom Storm Crow plushie just for you!

satyrhedonistDear Khinky

My band of satyrs is pretty cool and we have a lot of fun. Recently I got a girlfriend and sometimes she brings her friends around and we all hang out. But, they all seem to have a problem with one of my buddies, Satyr Hedonist, and once I overheard them calling him the C word! (“Creepy”)

OK so he makes a lot of jokey sexual comments and maybe dances too close to the ladies during our drunken revelries, and now they never want to come over. I think he’s a good guy at heart. He’s an old friend but she’s my only (ever) girlfriend! What am I supposed to do now?

From
Satyr Rambler

Heya Rambler

I’m going to give Satyr Hedonist the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is merely a lonely (and horny), awkward dude with good intentions. Even then, it’s clear that he either does not understand boundaries or does not respect them. He’s obviously rubbing folks up the wrong way…

Guess what, your buddy probably values your opinion! Next time he does something inappropriate, don’t laugh it off. Even saying something as simple as “That’s not cool,” might be enough to get the point across. If he still doesn’t get it, you could talk to him in private.

Of course, he is responsible for his own actions. But by keeping quiet you’re actually saying that his behaviour is acceptable and OK. (Pop quiz! Is his behaviour acceptable and OK? Hint: the answer is no.)

Yours in hope,
Khinky

polis crusherHey yo K!

I got a bad reputation for stepping on poleis. Not always on purpose since I can’t really see the ground from up here. Also tripping a lot, and not in a good way – my depth perception could be better. 

Suggestions much appreciated.
Polis Crusher

Hey Crusher

The poleis should be trying to accommodate you… but there are things you can do. Have you tried contact lenses? I hear Urza makes some good ones!

K