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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Ok, I don't know where to start.

I have to be opinionated but ambiguous. Clear but cryptic.

Today I was faced with a choice. In many senses with a lose-lose situation. The blue pill and the red pill.

The blue pill was for sanity, for comfort, for salvation and common sense. It was also a gate back to loneliness and the harshest of realities.

The red pill was for madness, for trouble, for conflict and chaos. It was also an invitation to become a man in the most straight sense possible.

And I took the red pill. I swallowed it and now it's swimming in my stomach, swirling along the delicacies of life, faith and destiny.

Dear God, I will come clean on this, if I could meet you in the street I would hug you and thank you for all the happiness, for all the joy and the blessings you've brought in my life. I will also buy a strawberry and cream pie and smash it square in your face.

Now I know you listen, and I also know you're fair and work in mysterious ways, but I can see that you're also the greatest prankster ever. And boy did you pull this one out fine, I'm laughing you know, HA HA HA HA HA. You're so funny, I got your point straight, you've turned me into my own prophet, martyr and savior.

My own personal Jesus.

But I understand now. My time has come. I can't afford to be a youngster anymore. My date to become a Man has finally come, no matter how much I avoided it. It's taken me all this time to find out what I need, and now you tell me that if I really want it, I will have to pay for it with sweat, blood and tears.

Fine then. I won't flee anymore. You want a piece of me?????


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Feature presentation: th3 cr3w

How About some pics for a change?

This right here is a group of my close friends chilling out at my computer room. Soujiro is the thumb up dude, Tati is the little cute nurse wearing the purple beanie (purple is sexy, y'all!). The pimpin' dude in the middle is Santiago, but we call him Negro, as you all should. Mr. Smiley is JJ. The little red arm with the white pants is the eternally shy Jazie.

This is a weird picture indeed. Here I'm talking with Val, my best friend. In the background, Sou seems to be chilling us off. All in matrix-esque slow-mo. Whoah.

Ok, You can't help but to think....what the hell is Gabriel doing in this picture for crying out loud?

Solo picture featuring Soujiro in all his wacky glory. All hail Soujiro. Or else...

Here's Gabriel surprising us with his mad bbq'ing skillz. The goofy guy in the background is David, our candidate for the male Clueless.

Here's Lizzie. Behind those glasses and merry expression lies a fascinating mind and a beautiful soul. You'll soon have a blog entry all for yourself my friend, I miss you already :'-(

That would me featuring my best "can I be of help, ma'am?" expression. In the background, Soujiro connects the gas tank. For the record, the house didn't blow up.

(Notice the cute duck ornating the sugar container in the background).

Behold!! This is Claudia, one of my best friends and a person I recklessly admire for a 1000 different reasons. The picture has a grunge-ish feeling to it, don't you think?

Yo! This is a picture of the kitchen gang, the renegade members of my b-day bbq who stayed until the very end. We sure look like we could kick your punk ass, huh? We certainly schooled the watermelon that lies busted to my right.

The only new member in the picture is Luis, Tati's best friend.

Last but not least, Felipe, Valeria's BF, is hauling her away from the madness. Don't worry man, your lady is going to be back soon, and I'm sure she is gonna take good care of you :-)

Hope you all enjoyed!!

***Last minute entrance***

Tati and me, practicing our smilies.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

On how magic can save YOUR social life!!

Yup, Magic the Gathering, a game that could define nerdiness all on its own.

That's right, a game that involves collecting, trading and playing in rooms full of guys struggling to showcase their wits can actually be a tool to get closer, not only to people in general but (gasp!) people from the opposite sex!!!!

So, this was my little dillema, I really needed a way to talk with a girl I really like (if you are completely new to this, scroll down to the next post). But there was the problem of someone being there always, "Mario, I need this" "Mario I need that" or calling her or whatever. So I had to find a way to actually be completely alone with her without scaring both of us to death in the process.

In the meantime I had been thinking about teaching her and my best friend the mysteries of Booster Draft, a very fun way to play magic. I had figured that by saving some boosters from my national winning prize (if you are completely new to this, scroll down 2 posts!) we could run a little draft and get into the mechanics. While I really didn't know when to do this, I wanted to give it a try.

And so the big day came: My b-day BBQ was held today, and I was trying to find a way to sneak on her and tell her what I needed. After running out of ideas, I decided that there wasn't a better time to try the draft than there. So I took another friend and my two students to the living room and started running the draft.

It was halfway through that the idea dawned on me. After drafting your cards, you need a time to build your deck. Usually about 20 or 30 minutes.

Time that is usually spent better away from other competitors, to avoid scouting.

Spent alone.


I found the plan pretty sound and I decided to try it after we had lunch. So then I checked that it all was set and proceeded to tell a couple of my friends to make sure that no one else approached us while we were talking. At this point most of the house knew what was going on anyways (except for a dude that is never into the move, you know) so they were pretty cooperative.

I genially asked the players to take their cards pool and go to their own places to build their decks, so I took her to the isolation of my room, I carefully closed the door, then sat down with her and separated the cards by colors and mana cost....

...Then I cast them aside and started talking.

To make it short, it all worked out fine, half an hour later we came out of the room with a kick-ass White Black deck and big grins on our faces -completely unjustified by the quality of the deck, may I say- and the Impossible had been accomplished: a moment of perfect peace where we could talk and set things straight.

So you see my dear reader? Who says that Magic is isolating or alienating? Isn't it a game of chance, strategy and willpower anyway?

Just like life?

Think about it, I can safely say that I own a lot to this dorky cardboard game.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When you can't dodge anymore

Have you ever felt like your masks can't hold anymore to your face? Do you ever get tired of going through your dance and song every waking hour?

Do you ever get tired of being scared?

Do you ever feel like you can't dodge anymore?

I can't dodge anymore, I dodged my final time today.

My mask falls off and I have no choice but to break through.

Girl, we have to talk (and you know perfectly who you are). No more of my buddies or yours or ours getting between, no more of my classes of your antiseptics getting in the way. Pretty much everyone but the Pope knows about this and yet we can't seem to find a space to talk about it.

Let's make it happen, I need to tell you a lot of things. I can't guarantee you won't get a bit scared (fuck, I can't even guarantee I won't get scared!) but if I hold it anymore I'm going to blow up.

So, good luck to both of us and let's hope for the best.

For I'm taking the plunge, and I hope I'm taking you along...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ecuador Nationals: A journal

On August the 13th, the first ever Ecuador Magic Nationals will be held here in Quito, the highest level competition ever attended by any Ecuadorian player, in search for the national champion, who will have the chance to represent the country in the Magic Worlds 2005, in Yokohama, Japan.

I mean to be the national champion, I mean to be the one representing Ecuador in Japan, and this is a journal of the process starting from a week before.

Why a journal? Because this is going to be a high-level-rule-enforcement, nerve-wracking, brain fucking event with a high level of stress, and I need to release some of the tension. This is one of the ways to cope with it.

So, let's do it, eh?

Sunday, August 7th, 11:00PM

After coming back into Magic competition (which I kind of let fall apart after the little trip I took to Colombia), I've been honing my mad playin' skillz, specially in constructed. I've had a lot of assistance from a colombian player called Mario, a sneaky, cheaty, clever and ruthless mofo who could sell your liver and right kidney without you noticing it. As shifty as he is, we have somehow crafted an alliance based upon our mutual quality as players.

I mean, he might steal the rug from under you, but I can see he is a damn good player, and I'm gonna profit from that fact for as long as I can.

I feel pretty confident about the coming competition. I know I am a good player, capable of winning most of the times even with a very unlucky draw. I feel barely above the rest of the players on my place when it comes about constructed talent, and, to be honest, FAR beyond when it comes to limited (sealed and booster draft) talent and skills. Last saturday I played a 24k booster draft with what I consider was a very substandard deck, and I still managed to make third. To be honest, I didn't make it to the final due to poor mulligan decisions.

To be brutally honest, the deck of my opponent was full of crappy cards, but that's part of the beauty of this game: you can play with a p.o.s. deck and still win sometimes.

What am I playing on constructed? I'm not sure yet. I'll most possibly play Tooth & Nail, because the deck is so powerful it can dodge most of the hatred aimed towards it. But I've been testing a very bizarre red deck that almost won the last FNM, and I have been almost unbeatable even when testing online. So I dunno, I'll make up my mind in the next few days.

So I'll keep training, but I dare say that if we played the nats today and luck is in my side, I'd win anyways.

Tuesday, August 16th

OK OK!!! So I promised a Journal but I was too busy preparing for the tournament itself to write my blog, isn't it moronic?


Short story long:

There were in total 3 constructed rounds, 3 limited rounds and 3 playoff, constructed rounds.

In the end, I took my handy Tooth And Nail build, which I've playtested, dreamed about and nightmared over for almost a month, and I decided that I was gonna ride it like the friggin' apocalypse horse it was!

1st Round Vs. Tooth

So, for a good start I get to face the mirror match. Great, just great, I could have crapped my pants right there.

I start playing very carefully, after all it was my first nats match. I lay down every card with suspicion and prejudice until I see my oponent putting down a sakura-tribe scout. I relax a little realizing his construction sucks as an Electrolux.

Then I go into my song and dance and beat the living tar out of him.

2nd Match

He plays some kodama's reach, I play some Tooth and Nail. What a brutal match.


2nd Round vs. BG Cloud

The guy gives me a friendly reminder not to announce so loudly the spells I played, for he now knows what my deck is about. That pissed me off a little even though at that point I gave a rat's ass if the whole universe knew I played T&N.

The first game goes as planned: urzatron assemblin', tooth castin', game winnin'

The second game he gets his bird of paradise and lotta mana engine going and buries me under a ton of plow under and reap and sow and whatever

The third game I mulligan down to 6 and happen to have the urzatron ready in my hand, he plowed me once or twice, I don't remember, but I happen to put down the urzatron in time to cast my mighty triskelion, which started swinging and terrorizing his plans of laying down a flock of birds.

At some point he got desperate and cast Death Cloud for one, killing my triskelion (but not before taking 2 damage to the dome). He is in 3 life and a bit desperate for action. After what seemed like an eternity my green mana finally shows up and I cast a reap and sow first and a sakura tribe elder then. Suddenly he is facing death to a 1/1 creature, ain't this game fun?

The elder attacks once, bringing him to 2 life, he draws and does nothing. Then I attack again and I add another elder to the board, he concedes showing me a hand full of cranial extraction, death cloud and plow under. Am I good.


3rd Game vs. Medium Green

At this stage I'm very surprised to see my friend Jorge bearing his green deck and his motley crew of winning conditions. I'd normally be cocky about this game, but I play it square and straight just in case. He died horribly in two violent games.



After surviving my less experienced area, I walk into draft a little more confident, knowing I had drafted the set a couple zillion times by then. I knew I was gonna draft white something, though I didn't quite know what was the something gonna be

My early expectatives are confirmed soon: I'm going to get plenty of white to draft with, and after a few picks I decide to take a little black to go with my white.

If the champions booster seemed good, the betrayers one was simply obscene: I don't remember my first pick quite clearly, but they passed me this baby second pick:

For all the magic-impaired out there, this is as good as it gets, it's the freakin' hiroshima bomb dropped in the middle of a game.

I almost fainted right there, and decided that, obviously, my choice for white had been the right one.

And it didn't stop there, I was praying for a little critter called the Waxmane Baku, and I happened to find one in pick 6....just to see another one in pick 7!!

The deck ended pretty much looking like a freight train going downhill.

And so the carnage started...

Game 4 against, well, something.

My opponent was Johann Zeller, a good natured guy that had brought along a beastly monowhite deck from his city, but he had underslept and was very, very tired due to an early morning flight and the pressure difference (Quito is located 4500 meters above sea level). So to put it mildly, his deck was a little subpar.

I pretty much raped his deck in two quick games..


Game 5 vs. Red/Green

So this deck was a little more competitive allrighty, but still the combination of big defenses, spirit triggering chicanery and specially the very abusive Waxmane Bakus I made short work of my opponent.


Game 6 vs. Black/Green

One funny thing happened here: I was at this point the only undefeated player, and there was no mathematical probability of me passing in any position under 1st to the playoffs. My opponent was Juan, a friend of mine and fellow Tooth player who could assure his classification to the finals with a tie. But even though it's perfectly legal and quite a common practice in organized play, Tony, the head judge, doesn't like intentional ties for what he considers to be poor sportmanship (to be sincere, he might be right). So we had to find a way to tie the game without being so obvious.

The first game I did what my deck demanded, which was a very violent submission of my opponent.

The second game I knew I needed to find a way to play well but sneak a play mistake so large, yet so subtle, that my opponent will have the match easy. The chance arose when he played a Genju of the fens, an enchant land that becomes a creature. It gave me the chance to wipe the board with my trusty Final Judgment and "forget" that the genju stayed in play, killing me a few turns later.

You know, any bozo can win with a good deck, but losing with style? That takes a master, don't you think ;)

So after that game I just said "you know, I'm a bit tired, let's rest and get ready for constructed again, shall we" thus ending the farce we called "tie".


So I was top seeded for the finals, it was time to separate kids from adults.

Game 7 vs. Jushi Control

Uh oh, this wasn't good. This was your standard, 1 000 000 counterspell deck that could spell doom for a Tooth and Nail build. I knew it was going to be a difficult matchup. The only thing that made it a bit easier was that the player behind the deck was none other than Sebastian Almeida, an old competitor of mine and a pretty good natured fella, towards me at least.

First match.

He wins the die roll, and after struggling and fighting and even an argued ruling on Plow Under, the game got going slowly and painfull. Unluckily for me he seizes control of the situation in time and counters pretty much everything I try to do. After some feeble flailings from my side, I end up losing the match.

Second Match

This time I sideboarded in the dreaded Boseiju, who shelters all, one of the most dreaded nightmares existent for control decks. In fact I get to pick it up early with a second turn Sylvan Scrying. A little later I cast Tooth and Nail...

...and he casts Twincast, copying my tooth.

My blood went instantly frozen, knowing he could win the game right there if he put into play the dreadful Trike/mephidross/Uyo combo. Much to my relief, he didn't have them and instead brought kiki-jiki and daring apprentice. It was my turn to solve my spell, so after much thinking and teeth-grinding, I decide to bring in the duplicant to get rid of his flying golem played a turn ago, and the Triskelion to off his apprentice and his kiki.

The creature advantage ended being too much for him and I took the victory after a few turns.

3rd Game

After much fearing I decide to do the right thing and scrap the T&N engine, bringing in the big monsters from the sideboard. His time his twincasts proved useless and my creatures were a little too big to handle, especially with my Molder Slugs eating away his poor, poor Vedalken Shackles. The final demise came when I Mindslaved him and neutered his deck position. I had beat control, I was in control again.


Semifinals vs. Tooth and Nail

Mirror match again, whaddya know. If he gets the fast Chrome Mox draw, I'm done for.

1st match

I got the urzatron faster, toothed faster, and raped him.

2nd match

Same story, in reverse.

3rd match

This one was a little more strategic indeed. He got a ton of moxes in hand but alas!! No forests to go with the spells and seemingly, no large action. While I was trying to stabilize he suddenly drops 2 moxes into play, completing 7 mana and tutoring for his duplicant and a witness. Two turns later he tooths for 9, but I had an Oblivion Stone in play for a while, and when the fatties threaten to damage me I blow up the world, along some of my lands. As if my miracle I rip ANOTHER stone and play it, and I started destroying his lands with Reap and Sow, completing my own urzatron in the process. After a while I cast tooth, but instead of playing the Titan/Kiki duo, I go for the Colossus/Kiki combo, and after I attack for 11, I blow up the 0-stone, taking away his moxes and rendering his duplicant completely useless.


Final against BG Cloud

Yep, it actually is the same "I know your deck" guy from the 2nd round!! But this time it's for all the prize, money, glory and fame. And it's the best 3 out of 5 matches.

1st Game

Mario assembles urzatron, Mario casts Tooth and Nail, Mario kills and smashes!!

2nd Game

He mulligans down to 5, just to put down a seemingly endless parade of birds, tribe-elders, plow unders and a final kokusho to kick my sorry butt.

3rd game

This time it's me mulliganing down to 5 and no green mana, but I happen to assemble to urzatron without the green searchers and, in a miracle topdeck, I rip off a forest to play a Sundering Titan from hand, destroying two lands of my opponent and facin him with inminent defeat that ensues shortly after.

4th game

Just copy the 2nd game, but without the mulligan.

5th game

Now it was all or nothing. The game was a lot more interactive this time, a land blown here, a deatch cloud there, a searcher now and then. But moments later the things seemed pretty bleak to me as I was down to 7 life and he had the horrendous Kokusho and a Witness facing my Vine trellis. However, the turn before the Kokusho came down I had placed a Mindslaver on the table and managed to turn it on in the following turn (not before leaving a sakura tribe elder on defense).

I saw that he had the chance to use a witness and bring back something really nasty from the graveyard. Against most common sense I put down the witness and take back a Reap and Sow to destroy one of his own swamps, rendering his death cloud useless, but leaving him with yet another creature!! What noone knows is that my Sensei's divining top has forecasted a Duplicant the following turn. I untap, remove his kokusho and now proceed to have the creature advantage.

He draws his cards but doesn't seem to find the right answers. Being the miser I am, I get a triskelion that offs both of his witnesses and allows my duplicant (now a 5/5 dragon) to damage him unhindered. After a while the situation became critical and he had no choice but to concede.

Woo hoo!! I was the national champion, and I went undefeated!

Props and slops:

Mad props go to:

Mario Estefan, for helping me with some of his know-how on the tooth and nail deck, and lending me a couple of Plow unders.
Tony Lin for organizing a great event.
The Guayaquil players for bothering to come all the way from their city to play here.
My friends and family, for supporting me all the way in.


All those players that pretended to hide their "super secret"tech decks before the tournament, come on people, grow up!

Wizards of the coast, for not sponsoring the winner with a plane ticket to Yokohama or allowing at least one more guy to become member of the national team.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Quantum Leap

It's time to talk about the delicious and frightening contradictions made possible by one of the most fascinating theories in modern physics: Quantum mechanics.

1. Ok, hold on there, I know no friggin' math!!

Now relax your doggies, Smithers, I understand I am one of the few people I know that actually enjoys Calculus to some degree. There won't be equations or complicated math in this blog (unless someone demands it, of course). So go with the flow.

2. Allrighty then, what is this quantum thingie?

Well, people has been trying to understand the universe and its ways ever since humanity appeared in the world (in fact, it is such an important thing that, when faced against humankind's natural ignorance, can breed religious fanatism). After centuries of struggling a science such as physics arose as the one trying to explain the fundamental mechanics of the universe.

The first model appeared in Newton's Principia Mathematica, which managed to sneak the fist relativity: the spacial relativity. The idea is quite simple, if you are playing table tennis with your best friend in a train, the ball will go around at the usual speed that balls go around on such matches. But if someone would see the ball from outside the train, it will go at the speed of the train+the speed at which you're hitting it. But Mr. Newton made it clear that the time scale should be the same for all implied.

This model seemed accurate enough until physic researchers started finding borderline-behaving stuff such as, for instance, light. Along came an old, gramps-looking jewish scientist called Albert Einstein to save the day, creating the Special Relativity model, which explained the behavior of light by taking away the absolute time scale and stating that even time could be relative -someone standing in the earth would have to wait for years, while someone "riding" a light ray would make the trip in mere seconds. After this model, the only big thing escaping explanation was Gravity, and that little problem was solved with Einstein's General Relativity model, which introduced the idea of gravity being a consequence of the bends and distortions of an entity called the "time-space continuum" which is a universe made no longer by 3 dimensions but by four (height, length, width...AND time!).

At this point not only the model explained most of the universe behavior, it also marked a new height in human's accomplishment. But as it often happens in physics, the model once again broke. Physics not only watched big phenomena such as stars and planets and space, but also very small phenomena like atoms and molecules. At that level there were also problems, and the culprit was, once again, light.

One of Einstein's cronies, Mr. Max Planck, discovered a new model to solve most of these problems called the Quantum Mechanics. The idea is that energy cannot be transfered in arbitrarily small quantities, Planck stated that it had to be transfered in packets, called "quanta", which had large implications on the way atom physics were handled from then on.

The big problem? Quantum Mechanics fails when it has to manage large things such as stars and planets, while General Relativity fails when it has to work at sub-atomic scale. So right now, we haven't figured out yet the exact way in which universe works.

But in this road, the human mind has had to open to completely new concepts and embrace them, so someday we might be able to finally understand the ways that brought us into being.

3. Ah, I see, but what's in Q.M. for me?

Well, like I mentioned, we've had to understand new ideas we would have never faced without Quantum Mechanics. Some of the most famous paradoxes brought along by QM are:

The uncertainty principle

Up until the discovery of high physics theories, science worked with perfectly known facts. QM brought along the idea that, in order to work, it had to work with uncomplete information, why?

Well, some dude called Heisenberg made the following reasoning: let's say we want to know where is a subatomic particle and how fast it goes. How do we look at things? Well, light reflects on it and lands on our eyes. What if it's dark? We turn the lights on. So Heisenberg said we needed to know where the particle was in order to put some light on it and see how fast it was going.

But alas! Light is energy itself! And, according to our buddy Planck, we cannot illuminate the particle with a tiny little light ray, we must, AT LEAST, use one quantum of light, and at that scale, a quantum of light is a pretty big deal. The moment the quantum touches the particle, it's energy changes, changing therefore it's speed.

And we no longer know it's speed.

And if we knew the thing's speed, where do we find it without altering it again?

Heisenberg's conclussion was very important: We cannot know at the same time the position and velocity of a particle. QM would no longer work with full knowledge from then on.

This principle not only forced them to work with incomplete information, it also forced them to understand that they could still discover most important things beginning with missing data.

After humankind understood that, many other sciences prayed on the principle, spawning new disciples such as System Theory and the Black Box models.

What's in this for you? You don't need to know all the details in order to figure out something, and in many cases, the lack of details may even HELP finding the solution.

2. Duality (no, not slipknot's)

Most "rational" people feel comfortable with absolute concepts: it is either black or white, warm or cold, high or low, good or bad.

Physics used to work like that for a while, but it started to have problems really soon. Once again our good ol' friend, light, caused the problem.

Say you get a nice cardboard sheet and a lightbulb, then you cut a couple slits on the sheet and turn on the lightbulb in the dark, as if playing chinese shadows. Light will hit the wall through the slits, but if you see carefully, the edges of the light marks are not perfect, they're blurry and shadowy. If you've done that with only one slit, no shadows or blurs would have been seen.

This can be explained because light works as a wave. Imagine throwing two stones in the water. Their waves will circle on the water, but there will be interference when the waves crash and mix. That's what happens in the two slits and that's why you see shadows and blurs.

So one smart-ass scientist said: "well, how about shooting just one quantum of light?, it would be forced to choose one of either two slits!!" His physics buddies thought it was a great idea and treid it, so they shot a Photon (that is, by the way, the name of one light quantum) to the cardboard.

Guess what? It went through BOTH slits at the same time!!

Uh oh....

After taking their migraine pills, the physics theorics sat down to work, and after many coffee cups, cigarrettes and soul searching, they saw their answer: the light was, at the same time, a particle AND a wave.

Once again, the human brain needed to adapt to a new concept: a single entity could, at the same time, embrace two opposite concepts within. This discovery brought along many consequences, even to psychology and social studies. A nice way to understand this kind of duality is the famous paradox of Schrödinger's Cat.

What's in this for you? Perhaps some seemingly contradictory concepts that you have to handle make sense after all!! Take me for instance: there's a particular person in my life that fascinates and attracts me, but at the same time scares me almost to death.

And all this of course, has made of me a very quantic person. A cowardly-brave, courageously-afraid, cleverly stupid, dumbly intelligent, happily sad, dreadfully glad, sexilly pure and purely sensual person trying to remain as simple as possible while recognizing his incredibly complex nature. I embrace all of this within myself, and I know I'm not crazy or abnormal. Humankind itself is contradictory.

I am mine, I am human, I am this. I am me.