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The Quest: Part 1: The Quest

By James Stevenson “By God, when I get home… I’m gunna take that frozen fruit, put it in the bottom, cover it in cake mix, then pour on a can of s...

tmc

Too Many Cooks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrGrOK8oZG8 ...

YouTube-logo-full_color

Youtube Scavenger Hunt

by: Jason Waddell Hannes had been bugging me. Pestering really. Text messages linking to the most inane, random YouTube videos. https://www.y...

livingend

Turbo Living End in Modern

By: Dom Harvey Now that the Modern PTQ season is over, it's a great time to explore some more decks that I can't be tempted to waste a PTQ shot on ...

The Quest: Part 1: The Quest

By James Stevenson

“By God, when I get home… I’m gunna take that frozen fruit, put it in the bottom, cover it in cake mix, then pour on a can of soda, then bake it.” I was having an excellent introduction to Canada, eavesdropping on a table of old ladies in a restaurant. An old man hobbled over to their table for a quick flirt, opening with “How are you fine looking ladies enjoying your meal?” and telling them how good the food was there.

I was in Peggy’s Cove, a world famous town I’d never heard of, home to 38 people, a lighthouse, and a beautiful coastline of exposed rock. It looks like a moonscape, except for the sea and the groups of tourists that get bussed out from Halifax every day to say “how quaint” for an hour. A local complained to me that one hour is not really enough to see the town, and I quite agree. An hour and a half would be perfect.

I’d only been in Nova Scotia for a few days and I was ready to stay forever. I was staying in Halifax, and after London I felt like I’d finally ascended from Purgatory to Heaven. Gone were the gray streets and gray people, replaced by green trees and blue waters. People seemed happy and unhurried here. I remember staring out of a café window, half asleep at 8am. A pretty girl jogged up to the crosswalk next to the window and looked at me. Instead of glancing away, she held my gaze and smiled. I was amazed! What was this place? Why hadn’t I been here years ago?

Peggy’s Cove was just a day trip for the sake of checking out Nova Scotia. The people who drove me were really down to earth and easy-going. I got given all kinds of advice about wild animals, people would talk about moose and coyotes and bears. One guy’s parting words as he drove away were “Buy bear repellent!”

I got two consecutive lifts from a couple middle-aged hippies who were spacing out happily and driving around with some young kid in the back seat. They loved Peggy’s Cove and were really happy I was going there. When I left one of them said “Thank you for bringing the medicine to Nova Scotia,” and wished me a meaningful, loving trip.

After a week in Halifax the real trip begun. I was heading north to Quebec, six hundred miles away. I’d travel along Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick, and for a little while I’d be in civilisation. Once I reached the TransCanada Highway there would be a long stretch of wilderness before reaching Quebec, hundreds of miles of forest. Towns were rare; there was only the woods, the animals, and the creeps who go out there to disappear. Or at least, so I was told.

Right in the beginning I had really good lift. I’d been dropped off after a ten minute ride and I was walking along the shoulder when this car swerved over and screeched to a stop ahead of me. It was a little two-door thing, low to the ground and looking kinda beat up. I ran over.

“Oh man I love picking up hitchhikers!” my driver exclaimed. He was a skinny guy with a mad grin and tattoos down his arms. I jumped in and he floored it. “I got a bit of a wet foot! I hope that’s ok!” he said.

He slouched back and smiled slyly while he talked. He had this kind of confidence that the world was his oyster. What he did for a living escapes me, but I do remember him telling me what a profit you can make transporting Canadian weed into America. He said they don’t let him through the border any more.

“Why not?” I asked, wondering if he’d been caught.

“Because I got a criminal record as long as my arm!”

He told me about a Russian girl he met on chatroulette.com that he’s kept in touch with for years. He almost went to Russia to meet her, but something about it didn’t work out. Maybe it was his massive criminal record, or maybe it was her stern, Putin-loving, west-hating father (Now that I think about it, how old is she?). He was still hoping she’d come to Canada one day. “I don’t know how I’d make that work with a wife and kids, but I’ll find a way!”

“You’re really lucky I picked you up,” he said. “I’m gunna take you to a big truck stop, you’ll get a ride in no time.”
The place he took me was completely dead, and I waited for three hours, getting slowly colder and adding layers of clothing until I was wearing everything I had. There was hardly any traffic, though one guy pulled over and handed me a bag of chips and a can of soda. “I’m not going that way, but here, have some pop and chips!”

I got fed up and went to warm up in the Schnitzel Haus, a weird roadside German restaurant that smelled like eggs. It was like being in a chalet, with chequered table cloths and a waitress in a dirndl She had a lovely Nova Scotia accent that was really out of place.

After twenty minutes enjoying this bizarre atmosphere I hit the road again, and it wasn’t long before I started getting lifts. I remember having a lift with a guy in a pickup truck who cracked open a couple beers for us as we drove. I just went with it. There was also a retired school teacher who wanted to write a book about teaching. People these days don’t know how to get respect from their students, he said.

I ended up somewhere in the south of New Brunswick, still four hundred miles from Quebec. I was surrounded by open green fields and rolling hills, crisscrossed with lines of little trees that led to the edge of dark woodland. The sky was huge here. The clouds which had kept the earth so cold all day started to drift away to the west and the sun, dipping towards the horizon now, threw great beams of light over their edge. I sat on my duffel bag, finally warming up in the sunlight. Whenever a car appeared I’d stick out my thumb, but for the moment I was perfectly content where I was.

I got one more lift that day, a long lift with a trucker who was on his way home to Woodstock, New Brunswick. He was another skinny tattooed guy, with a bandana wrapped around his forehead. He laughed a lot as he talked, and he would bounce around nervously in his seat when he did. He was in his sixties, but he was lean and wiry. He trained in mixed martial arts and kept a chrome baseball bat next to his seat, just in case.

The light of his life was his daughter, who could do all kinds of neat things like fix cars and hunt and whatnot. He called her the son he never had.

He told me all kind of stories about the women in his life. He had a “lot lizard” (that’s a euphemism for truckstop hooker) in New Jersey who was quite fond of him and would drop whatever she was doing and see him if he was in town. He assured me she was clean several times, and in one story about a three-way he assured me the other girl was clean too. I don’t know why I’m mentioning this; he just said it a lot. He also had a girl in Texas, who’d hitched a lift with him once. She given him weed and slept with him during the trip and would also drop whatever she was doing to see him if he turned up in Texas. And then there was his wife, who knew all about these women and didn’t mind.

I asked if he knew other truckers, what he did in truck stops. “Oh you know, I’ll pull in and go see what’s going on. See who’s telling the tallest stories.”

When we finally got to Woodstock I was let out in a truck stop. It was dark, but trucks were still moving, so I stood by the exit and held out a thumb whenever anyone passed. I didn’t get anywhere that night, but one Nova Scotian trucker did pull over and hand me five dollars. I spent the night on the sofa in the truckers lounge. I was nervous I’d get kicked out and tried to look awake whenever anyone walked by.

I gave this up and went back outside around 7am, and this is the day that things got weird.

I went back to the spot I’d been standing at the night before, and a guy in a pickup truck pulled over. He was 78 years old, nuts, and he talked like he was missing all his teeth. He was out that day to pick up potatoes from the fields and sell them. As he explained, the harvesters miss potatoes and leave them behind, and he would drive onto the fields after the farmers had left and fill up a couple of boxes.

We were driving past endless potato fields and he would stare around wildly, looking for farmers. “You cocksuckers!” He’d shout. “Where are you cocksuckers? All them potadas are gunna burn!” He must have spent a solid half hour gumming about potatoes, he knew everything there was to know about them. When we did finally pass a field being harvested he shouted triumphantly “There you are you cocksuckers! I’ll be back!”

As I slowly learned, Potato Man had had a hard life. “You got a girlfriend?” He asked me. I said no. He showed me a picture of a woman. “This is the lady I was taking care of,” he said. She had died earlier that year, and his son some time before that.

“I used to pick up bottles along this road.” In Canada many homeless people collect bottles and collect the deposits on them. “I used to jerk people off for fifty bucks. I’ve slept in boxes, abandoned cars, you name it, I’ve slept in it.”
We were off the highway so that he could scope out potato fields, and anyway he had some burning hatred for the TransCanada Highway that I didn’t understand. We passed a cornfield and he pointed into some trees at the edge. “That’s where I used to pull up my truck. I’d pull in there, go take some corn, and go sell it.”

More and more he would talk about jerking people off, and slowly the stories started to be about hitchhikers. He’d picked up eleven hitchhikers that summer, he told me. He said he’d been telling another hitchhiker about his sexual encounters, and that hitchhiker had told him to stop and jumped right out. “But I ain’t never attacked anyone!” he told me.

He also warned me several times not to go to Kitchener, Ontario because it was “full of queers up there”.

The closer we got to the end of the ride the more desperate and up front he became about what he wanted from me, though he never came out and said it. “I ain’t never attacked anyone,” he said, As we were pulling to a stop, “but if someone gets it out I’ll play with it!”

Now I was spooked. Maybe I should have jumped out too, but I wasn’t scared, just disgusted. I bought a doughnut from Tim Horton’s to feel better, but that didn’t really help. It was Tim Horton’s so I don’t really know what I’d expected.
In the next car I was wary. “What does this guy want from me?” I wondered. But he was just another nice guy. Thank God.
I caught a third ride, slowly making my way north, slowly feeling better. My driver was a salesman from Maine. He would visit Canadian companies and sell advertising slots on American TV.

We were getting along fine, talking about whatever, and then he asked me if I had a girlfriend. I said no, and he said something I didn’t quite hear. And then, after a pause, “You wanna make a little money?”

I knew what was going on, but thinking there was a chance all he meant was “Do you want to get a job while you’re travelling”, I answered “Maybe.”

“I’ll pay you to let me jerk ya off while we drive.” His voice kind of oozed and purred, oily. Every time I think back he sounds more like Heath Ledger as The Joker.

This time I said no. He nodded.

“Thought I’d ask.”

More afraid of an awkward silence than of him, I picked up the conversation again. “So you’re married, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s that like?”

“Marriage? It’s alright.” There was a pause. “But I’ve been bi my whole life.” He still sounded like The Joker.

After that ride I was feeling terrible. I’d hitchhiked thousands of miles in Europe and never had anything like this at all! I was starting to think back to all the rides I gotten in my life. What were they after?

The Joker had told me he’d pick me up again if I was still there after he was done in the town, so I was really hoping I’d get picked up before I saw him again. Thankfully a couple French speaking guys let me into the back of their minivan and completely ignored me. I leaned against the window, nervous and exhausted. My eyelids were starting to droop. “What the hell,” I thought, “these guys are probably fine,” and I fell asleep.

They woke me up when they were turning off and I hopped out. I started walking and started to feel good again. The sky was clear and the sun was warm. For the first time in 24 hours I took off a layer of clothing. I wearing a rainbow patchwork jumper and a swagged out Turkish sunhat, and I thought to myself I must look like some kind of weird ginger hippie chinaman. I giggled a little, and a great euphoria welled up in me. I laughed and grinned and breathed in the fresh air. This was real hitchhiking! Out here in the middle of absolute nowhere, surrounded by a sea of trees, walking on highways and being picked up by repressed homosexuals. I was miles from home, miles from anywhere and I felt so alive!

At the top of a hill I could see for miles. All around me was green forest, dotted with blue lakes. It was just me, the land, the sky, and wind at my back, blowing north. Ahead of me I could see a big sign prohibiting anyone from walking further. That meant civilisation! I was getting close!

I got one last ride that day, with some kind of cultural minister from Quebec City. As we drove he told me all kinds of interesting things about Canada and about Quebec, and around us towns and houses started to appear again. The mighty Saint Laurence River appeared ahead of us and led us to the city. We crossed over a great bridge to the island and took the scenic route into the old town, my driver pointing out different buildings and interesting things.

He drove me right to the steps of Hostelling International. I booked a room for the night, went in, collapsed on the bed, and slept.

That night I took a long walk in the rain. I had a lot to think about. The last two days had been more interesting than whole months of boredom at home. Not only that, but the next day I knew I would be heading for Montreal, and I was excited. Montreal was my goal. I know I haven’t yet told you why I was in Canada in the first place, but you’ll just have to hold on. Things were about to get completely absurd, and I won’t say anything at all until part 2. Stay tuned!

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Too Many Cooks

Youtube Scavenger Hunt

by: Jason Waddell

Hannes had been bugging me.

Pestering really. Text messages linking to the most inane, random YouTube videos.

“I’m not even interested in golf”, Hannes added.

I responded each time with the only appropriate response.

“Not now Hannes, I’m at work.”

When this proved an ineffective deterrent, I was forced to change tactics. “Tell you what, I’ll make you dinner Friday, and we can watch YouTube videos to your heart’s content.”

Prelude

The dishes were cleared and the festivities began, aimlessly at first.

“Less than 5000 views! It’s a travesty!”

Hannes was nothing if not passionate. As we watched, he waxed poetic on the intricacies of the YouTube ecosystem.

“Every YouTube session diverges in one of two directions: you either get stuck in some obscure abyss, or you reach VEVO.”

“So there’s a tipping point? Could we intentionally cross from one to the other?”

We devised a game.

The Rules

At the end of each video, YouTube presents you with a 4 by 4 grid of suggested videos. The goal was to start at a completely random location and, by navigating the suggested video links, eventually reach VEVO territory. More specifically, the Nicki Minaj: Anaconda official video. Truth be told I didn’t actually know what Nicki Minaj looked like, and had only heard the name as some sort of negatively regarded pop sensation. But I wasn’t one to turn down Hannes’ anthropological offerings.

Our starting point? A click of the Wikipedia “Random Article” page.

gravityAssist

Perfect. We’d search YouTube for “gravity assist”, click the first link, and begin our journey there.

Planetary Physics

Video 1: Gravity Assist or Stealing a Planet Angular Momentum and Getting Away With It 
Video 2: Gravity Assist
Video 3: Gravity Visualized
Video 4: David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min

Four clicks in and we’d made our first leap. We were moving on to greener pastures.

Youtube’s Got “Talent”

David Blaine led us to You’ve Got Talent territory, one step closer to music and one step closer to Nicki Minaj.

Video 5: Top 5 Magician auditions on Got Talent
Video 6: Top 5 acts EVER on World’s Got Talent 

Click six was undoubtedly a bad move. Before formalizing the challenge, Hannes and I had gotten stuck in an inescapable web of cyrillicly-titled Russian folk music videos. Cultural diversity was not our goal. We needed to toe closer to America’s Got Talent and steer clear of the World’s edition, multiculturality be damned.

Video 7: America’s Got Talent 2014 Top 10 (First Auditions)
Video 8: America’s Got Talent 2013 Episode 10
Video 9: Michael Jackson song sung by a 16 year old young man Must see AWESOME!!!

Okay, color me unimpressed, but performing a Michael Jackson piece at age sixteen is hardly noteworthy. The King of Pop himself started his recording career at a much younger age, so you’re not remotely in prodigy territory. And can we be clear on video naming etiquette? This video was hardly awe-inspiring, and certainly doesn’t classify as compulsory viewing.

But it did lead us to a deep place. A dark place. A swirling eddy we’d soon be desperate to escape. The Michael Jackson corner of YouTube. Neverland Ranch.

Michael Jackson Purgatory

Video 10: MICHAEL JACKSON BILLIE JEAN HD MUNICH BEST QUALITY
Video 11: Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Video 12: Michael Jackson – Black or White

There was no progress in sight.Every video ended with another wall of suggested Michael Jackson videos. We had to get out, by any means necessary. We devised a plan. Find Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. Surely there we could take an Alien Ant Farm cover escape hatch.

Video 13: Michael Jackson – Scream
Video 14: Michael Jackson: Smooth Criminal – Moonwalker Version [Blueray]

We didn’t find a link to a cover. What we found was much, much worse.

Parody Hell

Video 15: Disney’s Frozen – Thriller by Michael Jackson

Video 16: Memorial Michael Jackson animation – MJJCN

Video 17: Michael Jackson VS Spongebob 2!!! Revenge of the Sponge

Ugh. The ’2′ in the title isn’t an errant character. It’s the second in a series of, from what we could see, at least four installments.

Video 18: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Tribute in LEGO
Video 19: Shrek – Thriller (Parody of Michael Jackson)

We thought it couldn’t get worse. But that was just wasted optimism.

The Seventh Circle

Video 20: Creeper – A Minecraft Parody of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Music Video)
Video 21: Wrecking Mob – A Minecraft Parody of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball
Video 22: Like An Enderman – Minecraft Parody Gangnam Style
Video 23: Minecraft Style – A Parody of PSY’s Gangnam Style 1 hour (With animations)

Insanity began to set in. But our path was clear. We had to reach the surface. Swim through the mire of parodies to each an official PSY video.

Video 24: Baby Gangnam Style – PSY babies dancing (Evian)
Video 25: “Walking Dead – Dancing Zombie” – Gangnam Style – Daniel Cloud Campos
Video 26: Psy – Gentleman Spiderman (SA Wardega)
Video 27: PSY – “Gentleman” (Hongtleman) Parody by Trend Factory
Video 28: Gentleman-Little PSY
Video 29: GUNMAN STYLE – GANGNAM STYLE (ASIAN WESTERN PARODY)
Video 30: PSY (ft. HYUNA) 오빤 딱 내 스타일-
Video 31: PSY – HANGOVER feat. Snoop Dogg M/V

Jackpot. Our destiny was just a few clicks away.

The Promise Land

Video 32: Nicki Minaj – Pills N Potions (Official)
Video 33: Nicki Minaj – Anaconda (Lyric Video)
Video 34: Nicki Minaj – Anaconda Video Reaction
Video 35: Nicki Minaj Anaconda Video: Behind the Scenes Vlog

Controversy

Something was wrong. Clicks that should lead to the official video didn’t. There was no way to get there organically.

“Are you sure it’s on YouTube Hannes?”

“I watched it yesterday. It’s got more than 200 million views. It’s on there. Keep trying.”

We tried a few more videos in vain, but the connection wasn’t there. Was YouTube silently directing traffic away from the video? Had they deemed it too raunchy to stumble upon by accident? What reasoning had caused this behavior?

As a final measure, we searched for Anaconda directly. And sure enough, it was there.

Maybe YouTube was on to something. Maybe we shouldn’t be watching this video after all.

Turbo Living End in Modern

By: Dom Harvey

Now that the Modern PTQ season is over, it’s a great time to explore some more decks that I can’t be tempted to waste a PTQ shot on for another 8 months now! Let’s set the stage first:

With the release of Alara Reborn, players quickly found ways to exploit cascade by using mechanics with wonky costs such as suspend and split cards to bypass cascade’s CMC restriction. At its most ‘fair’ this involved Shardless Agent into Ancestral Vision or Bloodbraid Elf into Boom // Bust, but this quickly moves into unfair territory once you carry this idea to its logical extreme. If you’re willing to contort your spell base so that only one card is on or below the CMC threshold, you can guarantee that a cascade spell will hit that card every time and so build your deck accordingly. In Standard, this meant the delightful Seismic Swans deck:

Lands (41)
Battlefield Forge
Cascade Bluffs
Fire-Lit Thicket
Ghitu Encampment
Graven Cairns
Mountain
Reflecting Pool
Spinerock Knoll
Treetop Village
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Meadow

Creatures (8)
Bloodbraid Elf
Swans of Bryn Argoll

Spells (11)
Ad Nauseam
Bituminous Blast
Captured Sunlight
Primal Command
Seismic Assault
Sideboard (15)
Aura of Silence
Countryside Crusher
Maelstrom Pulse
Primal Command
Vexing Shusher
Wickerbough Elder
Wrath of God

In Extended, you could live every Timmy’s fantasy:

Lands (21)
Calciform Pools
Forbidden Orchard
Fungal Reaches
Gemstone Caverns
Gemstone Mine
Reflecting Pool
Tendo Ice Bridge

Creatures (21)
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Angel of Despair
Bogardan Hellkite
Progenitus
Simian Spirit Guide
Sundering Titan

Spells (19)
Ardent Plea
Demonic Dread
Firespout
Hypergenesis
Thirst for Knowledge
Violent Outburst
Sideboard (15)
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Firespout
Fungal Reaches
Ingot Chewer
Meddling Mage
Putrefy
Venser, Shaper Savant
Vexing Shusher

And there’s always that guy who loves playing Restore Balance:

Creatures (14)
Greater Gargadon
Riftwing Cloudskate
Simian Spirit Guide
Thassa, God of the Sea
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (7)
Ajani Vengeant
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Garruk Relentless
Gideon Jura
Jace, Architect of Thought

Spells (22)
Ardent Plea
Detention Sphere
Dismember
Fieldmist Borderpost
Firewild Borderpost
Restore Balance
Violent Outburst
Wildfield Borderpost

Lands (17)
Arid Mesa
Forest
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Misty Rainforest
Mountain
Plains
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Detention Sphere
Ingot Chewer
Kor Firewalker
Krosan Grip
Leyline of Sanctity
Mistveil Plains
Ricochet Trap

Fans of 5th-pick draft commons have had it good in Modern and its predecessors since 2010, when Living End arrived on the scene. Since then it’s been the subject of occasional PTQ/GP Top 8s and frequent mockery, both of which it deserves. This year it appeared on Magic’s largest stage in the hands of Michael Hetrick, who booked a 8-0 start at Pro Tour Valencia before falling back into the pack on Day 2:

Creatures (29)
Architects of Will
Deadshot Minotaur
Fulminator Mage
Jungle Weaver
Monstrous Carabid
Pale Recluse
Shriekmaw
Simian Spirit Guide
Street Wraith

Lands (19)
Forest
Swamp
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine
Grove of the Burnwillows
Kessig Wolf Run
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Verdant Catacombs

Spells (12)
Violent Outburst
Demonic Dread
Living End
Sideboard (15)
Ingot Chewer
Shriekmaw
Sin Collector
Leyline of the Void
Jund Charm

Hypergenesis was much more explosive than Living End and was capable of much more busted starts, but in trading Emrakul for Deadshot Minotaur you gain a certain consistency. The conceptual beauty of Living End is that your cyclers both put themselves where they need to be for Living End and get you one card closer to a cascade spell. This helps the deck tremendously against discard and in any kind of long game. Want to match the control deck land drop for land drop? Seeing at least one extra card a turn lets you do that. Need to find a sideboard card to answer their hate? You may be drawing to two or three outs, but you have many more streets to hit them on.

(And of course, there are the games where Plan A is called off and you start hardcasting Valley Rannets, or you resolve a small or ‘desperation’ Living End and get to relive Alara Limited. The fact that Living End has a failure rate – that manifests itself in hilarious ways – is a knock against the deck from a pilot’s point of view, but speaks well to its contribution to the format).

One big problem with the deck is that, in a format of ruthless and quick combo decks, Living End usually makes a cursory effort of winning around turn 4, and doesn’t close out the game immediately. If you only bring back two creatures with Living End, a removal spell and any respectable blocker is enough to put the game back in their corner; and if you take time to power up your Living End, they have more chances to advance their own game plan. What if we traded in that staying power for racing stripes?

Creatures (24)
Monstrous Carabid
Deadshot Minotaur
Architects of Will
Glassdust Hulk
Street Wraith
Faerie Macabre

Spells (13)
Violent Outburst
Ardent Plea
Demonic Dread
Living End

Mana (3)
Simian Spirit Guide

Lands (20)
Mana Confluence
City of Brass
Gemstone Mine
Forbidden Orchard
Darkslick Shores
Seachrome Coast
Llanowar Wastes
Shivan Reef

This is a no-frills list built with the sole aim of resolving a big Living End as soon as possible. The most common way to stock your graveyard quickly outside of Street Wraith is:

T1: 1-mana Cycler
T2: 1-mana Cycler x2
T3: Living End

Hetrick’s list is better at this than most as he has Architects of Will alongside the Jund-tinted cyclers, but Glassdust Hulk gives us the full 16 ’1-drops’ and Faerie Macabre pitches for free too. Hetrick has only 8 cascade effects, and Demonic Dread spends a lot of time complaining that it has nobody to play with. This list has 8 unconditional cascaders, rising to 10 when Dread is relevant. All this is possible thanks to Mana Confluence, which allows us to play 16 rainbow lands and only have a few gaps to fill with fastlands/painlands.

With this manabase we can take our pick of sideboard cards as long as they fit the 3 CMC constraint. Ingot Chewer and now Wispmare are additional 1-mana ‘cyclers’ and efficient answers to hate cards (though beware of tension between Ingot Chewer and Architects/Hulk) and Shriekmaw is a more heavy-duty answer to creatures, Ricochet Trap is the go-to card against counterspells (Hetrick’s Sin Collectors complement these well, but with a rainbow manabase we get to upgrade to Vendilion Clique), and Beast Within is an all-purpose answer that lets you tax their mana. Timely Reinforcements is a possible safety valve against aggro decks. The 4th Living End belongs somewhere in the 75 as you don’t want to cascade or draw into them all when the game goes long against blue decks. The 3rd Demonic Dread in the board might be right too, as using it as a 3-mana Wrath is perfectly fine in some matchups.

As for possible resistance, you will face down countermagic at some point. Traditional Living End tries to pick fights with cards like Fulminator Mage or Beast Within that threaten to mess up the opponent’s mana. We can’t mimic that approach – we could sideboard Fulminator Mage, but most of the blue decks can also switch plans quickly with Snapcaster and Lightning Bolt, which happens to be great against our City of Brass/Mana Confluence deck; drawing out the game just plays into their hands. Instead, we have attack when their shields are down. They have to live in constant fear of Violent Outburst: you often get more time than you ‘should’ because they can’t afford to tap out as long as you have 3 mana open. You can exploit this with the help of Simian Spirit Guide: if you cycle mainphase when you have two land and play the land that you ‘topdecked’, most opponents will assume they have a turn of safety. Even if they know the premise of your deck, they often won’t be watching out for Simian Spirit Guide; and if they are, they may assume that it’s unlikely you have Outburst *and* Guide right here. In any case, EOT Outburst into a second cascader on your turn is the best way to fight through countermagic. The sideboard gives us Ricochet Trap, an efficient way to force through a spell that has random but useful applications against Snapcaster Mage.

Discard is much less of a concern than it is for most combo decks. Old favourites like Hive Mind and Enduring Ideal get written off, whatever their other strengths, because it’s so hard for them to beat a naked Thoughtseize. By contrast, this deck is as homogeneous as it gets for a combo deck – you have only have cyclers and cascaders. They’re gunning for your cascaders, but they have maybe 6 discard spells that they have to draw naturally while you have ten cascaders and can tear through your deck to find them. Discard is a worry when it’s stripping away your answer to a hate card, but beyond that it’s refreshingly easy to fight through.

Graveyard hate is in short supply at the moment – there’s no established ‘graveyard deck’, and there are so many bases to cover in Modern that you can’t waste sideboard slots on fringe decks. That means you rarely see full-on hate like Rest in Peace, which requires an answer; instead, the most you’ll face is Scavenging Ooze and Relic of Progenitus (and formerly Deathrite Shaman though, as Hetrick pointed out, the presence of DRS wasn’t all that bad as it forced graveyard-based decks out of the format and so reduced the need for dedicated hate). Most decks running Ooze either will often have non-green lands in play when they cast it, so you’re looking at two or maybe three activations on one turn. Rather than cycle every turn and let them use Ooze to full effect, it’s best to sandbag cyclers and fill your graveyard in one turn – you may only get to Living End for a few creatures, but that’s often enough. Alternatively, you can burn a cascade spell as a Wrath of God, and then cycle to your heart’s content. If you’re on the play, you can also just resolve a Living End before they get to untap with Ooze.

Relic of Progenitus is a little harder. If possible, bait a Relic activation with a ‘small’ Living End, and then with Living End still on the stack you can bin cyclers (typically the free cyclers in Street Wraith and Faerie Macabre) and proceed as normal; and, as above, you can sometimes just power through it with back-to-back cascade spells. If you want other cards in your graveyard to feed to the tap ability, deliberately ticking down Gemstone Mine can do the trick.

The deck is a blast to play – ‘drawing’ tons of cards, a splashy combo finish, and the occasional bizarre game that degenerates into primitive combat. It has a lot of raw power – you get to cast a thermonuclear Martial Coup on the third turn in most games – and can easily steal games even in ‘bad’ matchups. I highly recommend giving it a try.

September Vices

by: Jason Waddell

Here’s some shit I’m into.

BoJack Horseman

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I don’t know if this is actually a good television show. Do we still say “television”, even with a complete disassociation of the physical technology? The phrase “do you want to play Nintendo” outlived my ownership of a Japanese console.

BoJack Horseman is a Netflix produced cartoon about a has-been horse-man, washed up and former star of of a tacky Full House-esque nineties sitcom. The voice acting selection seemed hand picked to pique my interests, starring Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Aaron Paul. I’m well aware that my taste in actors reads like a listicle from Stuff White People Like. The casting got me in the door, and a general need for escapism kept me there.

I don’t know if BoJack Horseman is actually a good show. If you’re looking for something on par with the quality delivered by Arrested Development, Community and Breaking Bad, this isn’t the place. BoJack deals in relatively dark themes for a cartoon, but more often than not misses the emotional mark. Despite my misgivings, I endured the entire first season, which is perhaps a testament. It doesn’t “get better”, so if you’re not sold after an episode or two, I’d give it a pass.

Recommended for: People who don’t need much comedy in their animated comedies.

 

Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour

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I first discovered Todd Barry through his appearances in Season 4 of Louie, where Todd regaled a bar crowd with his retelling of a petty victory over a local comedy club owner who had mistakenly typed his name as “Todd Berry”. Todd Barry practices a perfected style of dry comedy, but here discards prepared material for a script-less crowd work tour. With some comics crowd work can feel like a hack collection of canned barbs masquerading under the guise of improvisation, but Barry’s work is truly entertaining and hits all the right notes.

You can buy The Crowd Work Tour for a fiver over at Louis CK’s site.

Recommended For: People who claim to “love to laugh” in their dating profiles.

This Shirt from Pull and Bear

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The above picture is a product of a misguided attempt to win a girl back with the flirtatious guessing game “what’s in my mouth”, hoping she would someday return the favor. We’d been watching Project Runway together in recent weeks, and I had hoped she would appreciate the aesthetic alignment of the shirt pocket with the (spoiler alert) Kinder Surprise capsule. The whole thing was a failure, which goes to show, there’s no accounting for taste.

Recommended for: Losers.

 

Zinedine Zidane

Recommended for: People who feel the robbery scene from Spring Breakers didn’t live up to its potential.