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.

The anti-feminist backlash to #YesAllWomen is very disturbing to me. It’s clear the cultural norms of our patriarchal society are also damaging to men. A dismissive attitude towards women’s basic safety needs is depressingly pervasive.

We men need to go further than acknowledging the dangers to women in our society. We need to reexamine masculine ideals. But how? There is no progressive movement to raise awareness of male issues. Men’s Rights? Are you fucking kidding me? Where is the safe space to talk about male frustration with gender relations, while also embracing feminism and avoiding misogyny? Who can these angst-ridden men turn to for guidance? Who are our leaders? We need a new voice. The old one is dog shit and bad for all genders.

- Nathan Holt

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

How to Deal with Antisocial Behavior in Magic

Likely if you’ve played a lot of Magic in local game stores (LGS) then you have heard or seen some antisocial behavior.

Other than just bad toilets I have been made to feel unconformable at LGSs due to openly expressed homophobia, sexism, transphobia, bullying and sleeves depicting semi-clad prepubescent anime girls. I have seen grown men bullied and a first time female player walk out of a store before they even started playing.

When this behavior occurs it makes me incredibly sad, but what can you do?

  1. Talk to a judge: If your store is lucky enough to have a judge then you should bring incidents to their attention as they’re trained to deal with such things and are by far the best people to sort out problems. It’s their job.
  2. Talk to the store owner or the group organizer: Be polite and open, talk about how the environment makes you feel (and could make others feel) and specific incidents. Likely you’ll be upset and this can certainly be awkward. I believe the tone is key – give them the option to change and not retreat to defense by offering a solution such as “could you talk to this person?” or “could you make an announcement about being more respectful?”
  3. Start a local Planewalkers for Diversity group: P4D groups will help to encourage a more diverse group of players in your local area. More diversity at events will improve the environment as they lose their boys club feel and what is ostensibly acceptable making your store more welcoming and friendly.
  4. If none of the above are useful then speaking with Wizards of the Coast is a great course of action. You can contact them at http://wizards.custhelp.com/ with information on what occurred or what is occurring.

Speaking with Hélène Bergeot (Wizard’s Director of Global Organized Play) she informed me that the company takes this very seriously and that “every complaint is treated confidentially (when we follow up with a store, the player’s name is not mentioned). Confidentiality works also both ways, meaning that we won’t disclose the outcome of any follow up we make with a store; the same applies to any investigation we conduct.”

Whilst I play Magic to compete, it is also a social activity. I have met and kept great friends through the game and having a place where I can feel comfortable and happy to play is not only important but a right. You deserve to have it and can make it happen. If you see people making your store unwelcoming then take action for everybody.

Reposted from willbotmtg.tumblr.com