Happy New Year! If feels like forever since we've seen one another!

Before we begin, I must warn you: the first part of this article is a little more personal and a little less Magical. If you're okay with that, read on. If not, we'll try to get some Fate Reforged content in a little later!

With the New Year I'm now a resident of Washington State. Melissa DeTora, our friend Mike, and myself all make the five day journey to the Pacific Northwest this past week and boy was it a harrowing one. I mean, not for normal people. For normal people it was mostly fine (mostly), but I have discovered on this journey that I am not most people it seems.

The Driving Dilemma

I always loved driving in Florida, and I basically drove any time we went anywhere. Stores, restaurants, Magic events; I was the default driver. Having lived in Florida for, well, my entire life, I knew everything about the roads and streets. I knew where the turns and curves were, I knew the speed limits, I knew what roads were dark at night and where they ended. I took these things for granted it seems, as I had quite the time driving through the varied United States terrain over the past week. Don't get me wrong: the journey itself was a blast as we had two cars, a U-Haul, five people, and three pets in tow. Our friend Ashley and John were awesome enough to drive our U-Haul for us and join in on the adventure. And it was an amazing one at that, but I realized a lot about myself and about some fears that I had. I spent a good amount of time posting these revelations on Facebook during the journey because, for the most part, they struck me as comical, but in truth they were things that greatly affected me.

While I was already leaning toward it, based on this journey I'm fairly convinced I suffer from some form of anxiety. I had a very hard time driving through snow, or ice, or with extremely limited visibility, or on mountains, or around sharp turns, or on interstates that had no guard rails but twenty foot drops on either side. I clung to the handle of the car like my life depended on it (and I feared that it did) until the road was flat and straight again. I've never felt like this before during a drive. Not once. I would get a little nervous going up the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Florida, but this was different. It was almost crippling at times.

I've even experienced similar since driving here in Washington. There's this huge hill here in Kent, on James Street. When you're approaching it in the dark, it literally looks like cars are driving straight up into space! No joke, the road looks completely vertical in the distance. When I see it, my hands begin to sweat and grip the steering wheel unreasonably tight. Once you're driving up it, however, it feels pretty flat. If your car wasn't struggling to accelerate up this giant hill, you might not even notice you were on an incline!

I've been trying to figure out what the cause of this anxiety is, and the best I can figure is familiarity. In Florida, when I would drive down roads at night, I knew basically everything that was around me, from the sides of those roads, to what businesses were around, to signs, to natural landmarks. I could tell you if there was a ditch you should watch out for, or where the nearest gas station was. I could tell you when a road was going to end, or where the next sharp turn would be. I would know how fast to go around those sharp turns. Not only do I know none of these things in Washington, but there seems to be much more in the way of unpredictable terrain. Every street has a hill or a sharp curve or a lack of street lights. I'm not saying I won't get over this, but simply that's it's new to me and driving in the daytime (Fog and rain permitting) has been infinitely helpful. (I'm also not sure the headlights on my Prius are as strong as I'd like them to be...)

How does this apply to Magic? Well, it doesn't, not directly anyway, but perhaps it can. I've been doing a lot of analysis this past week to try and figure out what's causing me to feel this way, and it's been somewhat helpful. I feel like I've figured out the root of the problem and it seems, for the most part, irrational. I think this same process can be applied to any sort of anxiety one might face in a Magic event, which I know is a real thing. You walk into the tournament hall, you sit down across from your opponent, your heart beats faster, your hands begin to sweat...what can you do about any of this? It can be a crippling feeling, akin to a deer in headlights and it can definitely be the source of misplays.

It seems to be all about perspective. A lot of times what helped me on the road was too look around at the other cars and see that they were all making the same drive, and at faster speeds than I was. The same would be true of every other player in the room. They're all playing the same game as you are against similar opponents. And they were all just fine. The other thing I would remind myself was how rare any sort of accident was. There were no cars in ditches on the side of the road and we didn't come across a single accident. This is even truer for Magic events (metaphorically speaking, of course). A lot of times asking yourself not "what is the worst that can happen," but "what is the worst that can reasonably happen" is the best thing you can do, and in this case the answer is "lose a match."

Either way, I made it to Washington and I'm doing just fine here. We've (mostly) set up the house and it's starting to feel like home. Although I miss some of my favorite Tampa area frequents (Italia Mia, Chick-Fil-A, Shortstops, Pei Wei, etc.) I have little doubt that I will find new favorite frequents in the opposite corner of the U.S. And if you guys have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. (I don't each much meat; mostly chicken!)

The Internet Dilemma

One thing that has been making this transition somewhat difficult, however, is my lack of internet service. Yes, you read that correctly. This might affect videos for a couple weeks, but luckily it's Fate Reforged spoiler season (or rather, it was) and that means there would typically be a Lull in Standard videos anyway.

Basically I had a technician from Comcast come out on Wednesday, January 7th (the same day I arrived in Kent) to install internet. I was told by the technician that the line going to the house wasn't long enough - he said it seemed like the previous tenant or landlord might have cut it - so a new line had to be put down (known as a "drop bury"). I wasn't really clear on whether he was going to schedule that or if I needed to, so I called Comcast and told them and...well, basically I've been given the run around for the past six days.

I've spoken to someone from Comcast no less than twice per day with no real information. I was told it usually takes about seven days to drop a line. (Seven days without being able to work? Sounds great.) I was told they would call me back on Friday at three pm. No one called. I called them and was told, because my case was escalated, a contractor would call within three days to arrange the drop bury. No one called again.

They go through a third party contractor to run the cable and when I asked to speak to someone about it, I was told they have no way to contact them outside of internal email! So despite my case being "escalated" (for whatever good that does) I have no idea when the line will be installed or when I will be called back by someone who knows what's going on or when I'll have working internet. I've called them no less than seven times in the past five days and at certain times the calls are outsourced so I'm basically having some very scripted conversations with no real answer or idea of when I can get service.

I even drove a half an hour to Federal Way last night, to the Comcast store, and no one could help; the most they did was schedule me for another technician to come out on Wednesday...I have no idea what good that will even do unless the first tech was just completely wrong, and it still means a guaranteed two more days without reliable internet.

In the mean time I went to Sprint to turn my phone into a mobile hotspot, but since Kent is mostly 3G still, I feel like I'm using AOL.

I'm only telling you guys all of this because it's part of the whole "moving experience" for me, and if you're looking for videos, I'm giving you some insight as to why they are on hiatus until my internet gets sorted out. Hopefully that will happen this week.

The Fate Reforged Dilemma

Okay, honestly, this one isn't a dilemma; I just wanted to keep the theme going. I suppose the only real dilemma is the fact that I can't play sanctioned Magic with Fate Reforged! (Due to living with a Wizards of the Coast employee (Melissa DeTora)) Sad times indeed. Luckily I can still play Magic Online, and I can't wait for this set to drop.

Since I have a Top 10 Sleepers of Fate Reforged article coming out next week, along with Conley's set review, I'm going to save a lot of my favorites until then, but I wanted to highlight a few cards that I can't wait to play with along with some of their potential applications.

I'm not sure if this is better than Chandra's Phoenix, but it certainly feels that way. The one benefit I see to Chandra's bird is that it can block if need be, but come on...we're playing red here. The biggest upside I see with Flamewake Phoenix is that you can play your four power creature, then return every Phoenix in your graveyard to play for one red each. Now sure, you're probably not going to draw more than one or two, but unlike Chandra's Phoenix, a) you don't have to cast them for three mana a piece and b) you don't have to aim your burn spells at the opponent's face (which you often don't want to do) to get these birds back. The only thing this Phoenix requires of you is a single red mana and a four power creature that you were likely going to be playing already.

Jeskai Barricade is no Wall of Omens, but it kind of is. While Wall of Omens draws you a card, Jeskai Barricade can save one of our guys from a removal spell while also putting a body into play. So instead of drawing a card we're basically making our opponent discard one and saving one of our own...basically. The wall also has flash, which isn't of non-zero value. I could even see this card having applications in older formats as a Birthing Pod target or a way to rebuy enters the battlefield abilities.

I still don't know how this card is a thing. It's basically Knight of Meadowgrain - which was a tournament staple - but easier to cast, no first strike, and two extreme upsides. Soulfire Grand Master might be the most powerful card in the set, and that says something, as Fate Reforged seems like a pretty powerful set. It even puts Seeker of the Way to shame. I definitely see this card fitting into any deck that can use it effectively, and even the decks that can't get a 2/2 lifelinker for two mana. I keep reading this card looking for a drawback but, nope, still can't find one.

I love cards like Arashin Cleric. This is a great option against the burn decks. It reminds me a lot of Lone Missionary, and at two mana it's a perfectly reasonable cost. In the decks that want this type of effect, a 1/3 is much preferred to the Lone Missionary's 2/1. While it only gains us three life instead of four, being able to block things like Foundry Street Denizen and Akroan Crusader without kicking the bucket is a great benefit. It also dodges removal like Magma Jet and Magma Spray. This is a versatile little card that should find a home in white sideboards everywhere.

Fate Reforged seems to have a ton of unassuming cards (like some of the ones mentioned above) that could really make a huge difference in certain decks and strategies. I really like this set and I think it does a great job of filling some holes and giving all kinds of decks new angles to fight from.

Alas, that's all I have for today. Thanks for all the help and advice you guys have given me during the move and thanks for reading. I'll be back on Thursday with some more Fate Reforged insights or, internet permitting, maybe some videos! I'll catch ya then.

Frank Lepore
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