Some photos and captions of Eli Kaplan

Here’s some photos of me throughout the ages, some good, some not great.  I’ll add captions for context.


Here’s a great picture of me and some students in Central Park, with Manhattan in the background.  I love hiking in large cities, particularly Philly (my home away from home), Nagoya (my other home away from home), London, New York, and Washington, DC.

The student asked me for the pose, honest.


Here’s me with a photo of friends I graduated from Temple with.  We are all in the Applied Linguistics department.  Countries represented are Brazil, Canada, South Korea, and the US, of course.


Here’s a photo of me playing at a major Magic: the Gathering event, Grand Prix Atlantic City, in 2015.  There were 1900 players in the main events; I was one of the undefeated players after round 8 on day 1. In fact, here’s me sitting at table #1 (of 930).

I do like this hat.

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I am not a small person, but this camel could totally take it.  Seen below me, from left, my brother Ben, a Bedouin guide and the keeper of the camel, my mom Theresa, and my dad Marvin.  Also Sheesha the camel.  This picture was taken in the Negev desert in Israel.


Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 3.26.33 PM.pngEli is not particularly talented at making cosplay outfits.  But he does what he can.

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Eli lived in Philadelphia for seven years, the birthplace of the United States.  It’s more famous for its incredibly unhealthy sandwich, the cheesesteak.  But it is also the home of Philadelphia cream cheese.  The  best place for a cheesesteak isn’t Pat’s or Geno’s, as widely reported, but Jim’s (South Street and 4th).  You need to have onions on it.




The big List of Lists

This is a master list of ideas for Top 10 lists.  Top 10 Lists are a nice way to keep some content on the channel without doing as much research and editing as the regular episode format. They’re also fairly short.  But they’re not just Top 10 lists, they’re also an educational tool, to give players of the game an idea about what the history of that card type is, what the archetype of that type is in fiction or the real world and what traits of the inspiration come through.  Where did the idea of golems come from?  What tropes do sphinxes embody?  How have vampires changed over time in Magic in terms of design?

There are some tough ones, that require a LOT of analysis, or just lack the numbers to really have it out with.  We’re talking at least 25, generally speaking.  Spells are harder to analyze than creatures, as they’re just harder to process in Gatherer and compare all at once.  Creature types are much more easy to get to in terms of flavor and tropes, and they’re also way easier in terms of searching.  But with that said, I’ve done a non-creature list before.

Here’s a list of what I’ve done:

Cats, Dogs, Discard Spells, Rogues, Elementals, Vampires, Zombies, Golems, Giants, Sphinxes

And here’s the list of topics I came up with.  And there are a lot.  There are some I rejected as well, so if it’s not here, that’s likely why.  A Top 10 Wizards list… holy crap, that’d be impossible.  But this is the list of lists as it stands:

Clerics, Assassins, Viashino, Fireballs, Wraths, 20 Wizards, Threshold Cards, Demons, Goats, Orcs, Spirits, Rats, Beasts, Centaurs, Archers, Druids, Horrors, Minions, Plants, Treefolk, Vedalken, Insects

Of these, one of them is already done, and I’ll shoot it after the Urza’s Destiny conclusion. Rats is also very likely, as I’ve already done Cats and Dogs, so that’s the most obviously connected one.

The Three Year Plan

Hi, folks.  For those of you who find this, you’re likely fans of the show or close friends of mine.  And if you’ve followed my show for a while, you know that I put out about 10-15 episodes a year these days.  The length has gone way, way up in terms of content, so my output is still as substantial as the early years, but I release less frequently.  Adding green screens has actually not added that much time to the show when it comes to editing, though I’ve spent less time working on cutaways.

The number one time consuming part of producing the show is writing the scripts and research.  This is  THE hard part.  It requires many, many passes of the visual spoilers, as well as thinking about what kind of predecessors and remakes come up, and how relevant they are.  I have to decide what to cut, because i do leave stuff on the cutting room floor, especially when shooting goes awry.  But some things are “load-bearing”, as in they have to be done exactly right.  And so I mark down in my scripts what is crucial, and what’s merely edifying.

But I do try to focus on formula, and deviate from it only occasionally, so as to create a sense of continuity as well as a way for the videos to be used as citations and resources.  I follow WUBRG order almost always.  And I think about the order of releases these days, and how the big picture looks.

And yes, I’ve pencilled in the next season’s topics, and episode breakdowns.  I’m going to do five shows on Time Spiral.  Three on Planar Chaos and three on Future Sight.  They require a lot more outside connections than the other sets, because that is the freaking point.  And since I like to share my work, here it is.  This is the rundown for the next three years, and beyond.  I’ve tried to keep them in the order of how I’ll write the scripts.  And yes, I will take a break after the Legends episodes are done to write the next 12 episodes.  That’s when I will put out some Top 10 lists.


Season 2:

Urza’s Destiny (scripts done), episodes 58-59

Legends (scripts done), episodes 60-62

Season 3:

Mirage (63-65)

Visions (66-67)

Weatherlight (68-69)

Arabian Nights (75)

Ravnica: COG (70-72)

Guildpact (73-74)

Dissension (76-77)

Antiquities (78)

Time Spiral (79-83 – Story/Suspend/split second , black-blue, white-red, green-artifacts, timeshifted subset + final analysis)

Planar Chaos (84-86)

Future Sight (87-89)

Coldsnap (90)

— END Season

Season 4 (this sequence is less clear at the moment):





1994-1995 Non-Magic Episode #3 (episode 100 – tinfoil hat episode)

Portal 1, 2, Starter

Shards of Alara


Alara Reborn

Portal Three Kingdoms

A History of Core Sets – Revised through Fifth Edition (pre-Limited)

Sixth through 10th – Simple Limited play, dribs of power, how each set altered Standard

PROFILE:  The slow evolution of Planeswalkers




Urza’s Legacy Retrospectives

So yeah, I got two episodes out fairly quickly.  I plan to try to stick to a weekly release schedule until I go back to work for a bit, part-time.  I’ve got a great shot at getting a solid job in Japan for next year, but in the meantime, I need to stay busy and make some money to help work off these student loans.  I’d prefer not to sell off much of my collection, and I already have some saved up for the Aether Revolt release.

First off,

And then

I’m working on pounding out the end of season scripts, which will lead to me taking a break while working on Mirage.  But I am closing the season on a large set.  And a very historic one.  Yeah, we’re closing with Legends.  That way, Season 3 can do Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Mirage block, and then there’s nowhere to go but forward in time from Ravnica!  (Oh, and the core sets, and Portal sets, and the boxed sets… )

So much to do.

Urza’s Saga Retrospective, and Doing a Charity Show


There was a bug on my first upload of part 1, so this links to the good version.  That’s why its view count is lower.

I also managed to make the Daily Update page of the Mothership with these, so that’s nice.

The scripts for Urza’s Legacy have been in the can for a while.  I’m still touching up the Destiny scripts as well.  I should be shooting the first Legacy this upcoming week.  But here’s the real issue:

I want to do a ‘season closer’ for episode 60.  Like Season 1, it will have run for 30 episodes, and then I’ll have a ton of time to work on Mirage block.  And I want to do something fun.  So I wanted to do a donation show, where people could donate money, which would go to a charitable cause.  I could go with the safe, most popular choice for Magic, kids’ hospitals.

Or I could go with the cause closest to my heart, donating to volunteer organizations that assist refugees who come to the US.  Refugees need assistance adapting to life in the US, and being treated as human people who deserve dignity.  I have done lots of work with volunteer programs, and while I usually do it with labor, I wouldn’t mind having them get a check. So I need to put together an episode talking about the population I’ve worked with.  I’ve taught refugees who came to the US after being stateless, stuck in a legal limbo for two decades.  They are ethnic Nepalis, though from 1930 to the 1980s, they were farmers in the neighboring state of Bhutan.  Then the king kicked them out, and their ancestral country didn’t want them back.  They’re amazing human beings, kind, thoughtful, and peaceful, and they want to learn about the US and find a way to raise their families and keep their traditions alive while sharing in the culture around them.  Most of them really do love living in the US, even if the language is hard and the culture is confusing.  And I was able to share stories of Washington chopping down the cherry tree (a myth, admittedly) and how Lincoln led this country to be united through a civil war, and the problems that the slaves faced and how the Civil War failed to solve the inhumanities and degradations they had faced for hundreds of years.  I was able to teach about Dr. King, and his non-violence and preaching for peace, as well as Gloria Steinem and Malcolm X to show that not everything can be done with niceness, and that conflict is part of our culture.  I taught them how to go to a doctor and how to file documents at City Hall, how to ride the bus and read a schedule and how to ask for a translator.  I taught them how to talk to a police officer when they need help, and why they have to be careful because police officers are not their friends.  And they taught me about farming, and their religion, and how fathers and mothers deal with their sons and daughters who speak the local language better, and how they deal with that, and how they love to spend their free time with each other.

So I’ve got to put together a video talking about these people, in a way that doesn’t exploit them, but that tells their story, so that I can raise money for them.  And how am I going to raise money?  Well, there’s the possibility of doing an AMA, and there’s also the possibility of letting VIEWERS bid for the small set of their choice.  I can’t review a large set in a show, because there’s too many bells and whistles and components to give them full justice.  BUT … I could review a core set, talking about the reprints that came in and the reprints that left.  Or I could talk about a Portal set.  I’d prefer not to talk about an Un- set, because silver bordered sets are about jokes, and how they work.  And telling people about how jokes work is a very specialized form of torture.  Though it’s the joke that’s being tortured, not the teller or the audience.  (But in a few cases…)

That’s my plan, anyway.  Since I have a bit of downtime for the next few weeks, I hope to get another episode out for each week.  I’ve got the time.  I also have three boxes of Kaladesh coming my way, in addition to the ridiculously extravagant $400 I donated to Wizards’s Extra Life campaign which got me a complete foil set of Kaladesh, whenever they get around to sending it to me.  But I don’t love the FNM experience in Scranton.  So I just need to hammer out the next four episodes, and after that I’ll put up the donation video talking about the charity and from there we can work out the last episode.

And if you’re a supporter of the Orange Nexus of Hate and Fear… well, maybe you won’t like me, because I am trying to help some freeloaders who aren’t Christian who came here to leech off the system… or whatever.  These are people who came to this country because they were oppressed on the basis of their religion, and no one would have them for many years.  There were 800,000 stateless people in Nepal at one point, and while the UN camps are now almost empty, with most of them being repatriated in the US, they still need help.  But I am extremely proud of the US for taking them in, and the Bhutanese refugee community is a major asset to their community.  Philly’s community gardens are one form of proof of that.

Also, I am avoiding all Magic Youtuber drama at the moment, with a crucial exception.  Travis Woo is a foolish idiot for talking about the actual Nazis without doing his homework and saying incredibly bigoted, anti-Semitic statements (which he actually represented as his own ideas), and then retracting his apology for his misdeeds after this past week’s conflict lollapalooza.  Because you don’t say bigoted, racist stuff and give a false apology and get tolerated in my Magic community.  If you must be a bigot or a racist, you should just keep it to yourself if you want people to respect you.  And that’s all I think I need to say about that.

Thanks for reading.

The Other Trading Card Game Episodes


So Magic isn’t the only trading card game I’ve played before.  While Magic has grown quite a lot and incorporated different forms of storytelling, mechanics, and formats, there are some things that understanding a different game from the bottom up can teach you.  What does a successful multiplayer TCG look like that was designed with a focus on storytelling and horror?  Well, Vampire: the Eternal Struggle is the answer.

I consider this video to be a wild success, because I was able to do good integration of music, have some fantastic visual backgrounds, and use green screen much more successfully than in episode #49.  And the people who still play VTES to this day think it’s a great piece of work, including linking it into the game’s unofficial FAQ as a partial introduction to the game!  That’s what I was hoping for.  I was able to tie in a few nods to Magic as the game’s predecessor, and that context was there enough for Magic viewers to get the idea, but the game of Jyhad/VTES and its world were the stars of the episode.

And yes, that was a simple cosplay as a Brujah.  A nerdy, academic Brujah, but they were the teachers of the Kindred back in the day…  and yet no one seems to have picked up on that.  🙂

On the other hand, my Star Trek: the Next Generation Customizable Card Game review…

This video was probably more fun to make, thanks to wearing a costume and all that.  But on the other hand, I spent probably too much time talking about the legacy of Star Trek as a whole at the beginning.  See, a lot of young people today don’t really know Trek, and I want to have people understand my series even if they don’t know the cultural elements of TCGs.  I was astonished to teach classes of teens and 20-somethings and none of them were familiar with Star Wars three years ago… which boggled my mind.

I also had to talk a lot about a defunct company, and other trading card games that flooded the market, because many of them were cash-ins.  And the Trek CCG was a cash-in, with a ton of mechanical problems, as well as the whole collector angle.  Which I discuss in great depth, because it was a key part of the game’s design.  This game was designed for collectors to buy, and the mechanics were put together and adapted from Magic with some major oversights.  There was a resource management system, but it was “You get to play a card from your hand”.  And the events were insanely overpowered or underpowered.  Well, the video says what I want.

Since the tone was fairly negative, the feedback from the Trek audience was poor.  Now, maybe in a little while the Trek Continuation Committee might watch it and enjoy it, and if they do, that’ll be something that makes me happy. I don’t like putting down card games or sets for the sake of putting them down.  But I gotta be honest.

In retrospect, I probably could have pulled off a decent transporter effect, too.

Long time, no update. Back in the US

Honestly, I had a very difficult year. Working in KSA was somewhat lucrative, but the people I worked for were abusive, greedy, and didn’t care about doing the job right.  And I had a ton of stress, more stress than at any other point in my life.  So my output’s been pretty measly.  Happy people can create.  Miserable, stressed, anxious people don’t really make all that much, except for stuff that perpetuates that angst.

Still I have gotten some stuff out there.

This post covers my Alice block reviews.  No, I don’t consider Coldsnap to be part of Alice block, even though booting Homelands out in favor of it was the right thing to do.  This was also when I started working with green screens, in episode 49.




And what’s up with the missing episode?  More about that in the next post.






SLA Assignment: Learner Profile of Olivier Ruel, professional Magic player

Eli Kaplan

TESOL 8618

Dr. Pavlenko

September 16, 2013

Assignment 1: Language Learner Profile of Olivier Ruel

Olivier Ruel is a 32-year old Frenchman who is a professional player of the trading card game Magic: the Gathering (M:TG). He resides in Lille, France, and works as a writer and columnist for several publications and websites when not playing in tournaments. He is the fifth highest ranked player in lifetime standings, according to the game’s sanctioning organization, the Duelists’ Convocation International, as of September 2013. He was voted into the game’s Hall of Fame in 2008, the first year in which he was eligible. In the professional Magic community, he is widely respected, and collaborates on a regular basis with players from France, the US, Japan, the Netherlands, and other countries. He has close contact with a wide variety of L1 and L2 English speakers.

Ruel’s first language is French, and he studied English in high school. He also started to learn Japanese in 2004, and spent several months in Japan each year in 2004-2006. As a professional Magic player, he travels to 30-40 tournaments around the world each year, and often stays with local players at his destinations. He has excellent social networks, and spends over half a year away from his hometown annually. I have interacted with Ruel on over 10 occasions in my past as a Magic tournament coverage writer, and know him well on a professional and a social basis. Ruel started playing the game at age 14 in 1994, when the game was first released in French. He has taken time away from the game to pursue other activities, such as university, but claims to play the game not for the money but because he loves it so much. While much of Olivier’s early career was spent with his brother, Antoine, and dominated by French language use, he started to travel outside Europe more frequently starting in 2004, and spent more time with players from other countries instead of his compatriots.

Magic: the Gathering is a game produced in the United States by the company Wizards of the Coast, and while it is printed in 10 languages (including French) and played in over 150 countries (153 countries fielded national teams for the 2013 World Championships), the official language of the game is English. The authoritative rules documents are kept in English, and its judge community uses English, requiring all but the lowest levels of judges to have some level of English proficiency. People attending tournaments in Asia or Europe will hear a large number of languages spoken at the largest tournaments, and at major North American tournaments, usually 30 to 60 players from other continents regularly show up. Asian tournaments broadcast tournament information over loudspeakers in English and the local language.   Almost all the top level pros from Europe, Latin America, and Asia have some command of English, as players need to follow the rules updates and information about new cards in English. Players who do not share a common first language often play in broken English, and a strong command of oral language is often necessary to explain complex timing rules and report sequences of events to judges. Many players who can purchase English cards instead of cards printed in their native language choose to purchase English ones, because they’re frequently less expensive. This is another incentive for them to acquire English competency.

While Ruel has published many articles in English, these articles have been edited by native English editors in order to ease reader comprehension. I do not know if his articles are produced in English or self-translated, so for the purposes of this assignment I will avoid examining them closely and choose instead to analyze Ruel’s oral communicative skills. I will use a brief section from an interview Ruel had with Magic video journalist Brian David-Marshall after his inauguration into the Magic Hall of Fame in 2008.

(Collins, time: 3:35)

Brian David-Marshall: So after the ceremony, I saw your brother and Manuel came up to you and gave you a couple of presents.


Olivier Ruel: Yes. … Uh.. Manuel Bucher and Patrick Chapin gave me the Hall of Fame Toy Pack, very useful [Ruel displays a Duncan Toy Hall of Fame package, which includes a yo-yo and an Etch-A-Sketch, which are ironic gifts], and uh… my brother offered me this book. [Ruel displays a scrapbook which has framed photos from his childhood and Magic career, with notes on the opposing pages.] It came from the idea of a friend, Maxine, thanks a lot, Maxine, if you’re watching this, basically, it took pictures of me, and of friends, and everyone wrote their own message. My brother asked Japanese players to, if they could write something, maybe, and they all posted, like, pictures, and little notes…


David-Marshall: It’s, it’s beautiful, that had to have felt really nice. Was that a total surprise to you after the event?


Ruel: Half-surprise. Like, there is a, Tsuyoshi Fujita’s girlfriend, Asami [Kataoka], she came and talked to me last Grand Prix and, like, she tells me like, so did you see the pictures? The pictures? Yes, the pictures, you know? I think I’m not supposed to go… OK, I said nothing. [Ruel gestures with his finger to cross his lips, indicating that he knows something is up but his lips are sealed]

Ruel demonstrates ability to craft a coherent narrative. Using Labov’s system of narrative analysis, he creates a solid abstract and orientation, explaining what the scrapbook is and how he suspected that his colleagues were working on such a gift for him. The audience understands that he is going to explain what he knows about the scrapbook’s creation. Ms. Kataoka’s question about whether he had seen the pictures (which he was unfamiliar with at the time) is the complicating action, and his suspicions about these unknown pictures are the evaluation. He handles the situation by staying quiet, but using hand gestures clearly communicates the clandestine nature of his knowledge. This fits Labov’s result component. There is no coda, as at this point Ruel has adequately answered David-Marshall’s question.

When we look at Olivier’s lexical usage, the only usage that stands out as atypical for native English speakers is his verb choice in explaining how his brother presented the scrapbook to him. Olivier uses the marked verb offer instead of the unmarked verb give. This is most likely an interaction with his L1, French, which uses the marked verb offrir specifically in the context of gifts instead of the unmarked form, donner. This usage does not deter comprehensibility, however.

The other lexical shortcoming that comes across as somewhat unnatural is his repeated usage of the generic book over the more explicit and marked form, scrapbook. This can be explained by scrapbook’s low usage frequency. It is likely that he hasn’t seen the term before, and the general negative connotations of scrap might cause some hesitation and cause him to avoid the term. While this low frequency usage is distinctive, I would argue that it does not diminish his communicative efforts.

Ruel also uses varied hesitations to allow him the time to compose his thoughts. He uses the common English uh… as opposed to the French analogue, euh. I would argue that unmarked hesitations are acquired and used with very little conscious effort, following Krashen’s model of cognition, so the fact that he uses L2 hesitations points to a great deal of exposure to English input. He also uses marked hesitations. Instead of starting a description of the scrapbook with intricate details, he indicates a brief summative explanation with basically. He gains time to compose his thoughts, but it’s also clear that there is a lot of personal information in the scrapbook and important messages inside, and he informs the audience that his description is going to be brief because there’s so much content he values in the scrapbook.

He uses like twice to attribute direct quotation instead of reported speech in his dialogue with Ms. Kataoka. This usage is not one that most French language classes (or many EFL teachers, for that matter) would proscribe, but Ruel uses English extensively in tournaments in a social context, and it would follow that he acquired the like construction from natural interactions with native English speakers.

Assessing Ruel’s phonology in 2008, we find many characteristics typical of native French speakers. His production does not differentiate between /iː/ and /i/. However, he is fully competent in differentiating and using /θ/ and /ð/. This particular area of pronunciation is something that has improved significantly since I met him for the first time in 2004.

Ruel also uses body language and tone to express his emotions. He uses pitch correctly to report questions, and uses a deadpan tone to express sarcasm when discussing his entrance into the Hall of Fame being coupled with “Hall of Fame” toys such as a yo-yo. He knows that he is speaking to a wide audience (10,000 viewers on a live webcast, with archival footage to be posted later), and he uses humor and wit to entertain them. His gesture crossing his lips to demonstrate his conspiratorial silence, while letting the audience in on the trick, is dramatically appropriate. This is a characteristic of a highly competent, experienced communicator. Having personally interacted with Ruel in both French and English in 2004 (he claimed to be impressed with my French, but jokingly said that he couldn’t keep up with me in it and didn’t want to be embarrassed, so he’d prefer to use English), I can say that he has an excellent command of English for emotive and social cues as well as for inquiries. Observing Ruel in dialogue in a more casual register (Miller, 2010, 1:15 in video), he uses a faster, more casual tone, informally dropping by to visit friends, and the fact that he is on camera does not cause any hesitation. The broadcasters don’t expect him specifically, they are just looking for a celebrity player, and Ruel clearly fits their needs. He uses wit and humor in front of a large audience.

In David-Marshall’s interview (Collins 2008), however, the topic is far more personal and formal, and he code-switches appropriately to suit the higher gravitas. Ruel played for over a decade before attaining membership in Magic’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor in the game, and he clearly wants to come across in a positive light. The different register is a product of his personal investment in creating an archival video for posterity, something that he could show his children or relatives, whereas his more colorful register in Miller’s video clearly indicates that he is comfortable talking in English and using more idiomatic, emotional speech in his self-chosen social circle.

Ruel’s response time in the Collins video is quite rapid and spontaneous. His narrative is rich and requires little prompting. This performance could be facilitated by the vividness of the recollection, with little time removed from the events. Or it could be rehearsed. Ruel could have just given a similar recounting to a French-language journalist prior. Or he may have a great deal of experience as a narrator. In his San Juan tournament report (2010), Ruel mixes the social aspect of the game interacting with familiar and new opponents with recounting the strategic plays he made. He knows that his audience in this setting wants to learn how to play better, using his experiences as templates for success. But he also weaves a tale that includes fraternal conflict (facing off against his own brother) and emotional dilemmas he faces as he plays against his fellow collaborators.

One key concept that is exemplified in the case study of Alberto (Schumann 1976) is social distance. If a learner is strongly disaffected and does not feel the need to understand or interact with native target language speakers, that will create a strong disincentive to learn the language. No such disincentives exist for Ruel. Ruel loves playing Magic, and likes to travel the world and meet new friends, and English is his primary vehicle for doing so. Ruel’s motivation is unimpeachable. Since he travels so extensively, he has ample opportunity to use the language and be exposed to it. He regularly reads Magic articles in English, which are often combinations of complex game theory crunching and analysis and anecdotal accounts. He is one of the game’s ambassadors, and is often featured in Wizards of the Coast’s promotional materials. In the hierarchy of Magic players, Ruel is at the pinnacle, and yet his intrinsic modesty and tendency to mock himself (and others) make him accessible. This allows him to front a positive attitude towards his L2 language usage. One could make the argument that Ruel’s usage qualifies as successful acculturation, defined by Schumann.

Through effort, his understanding of English used in playing Magic (a very technical, demanding competence demanding study to reach comprehensibility) is such that he feels confident being able to produce English articles that are respected in his field. This brings to mind Derwing and Thomson’s 2008 study assessing Chinese and Russian learners of English in China, which discusses accessibility to local norms. Ruel has successfully adapted to the international peer group and enjoys high status, which facilitates his language acquisition. However, Ruel has been studying and playing the game for almost two decades, which makes him far more fit for a case study than as a participant in a group study.

Ruel attributes a lot of his success in the game to his collaboration with the Japanese players, and is widely considered to be one of the bridges between the European and Japanese player base. Tsuyoshi Fujita, a fellow Hall of Fame player from Osaka and a close associate of Ruel’s, told me that Japanese pros can interact easily with Olivier because he can slow down and speak English at a speed that matches their own. Fujita said that while many Japanese pros can communicate with other players through email and text instant messages, they are often frustrated by American interlocutors in oral speech, and that the French player is easier to understand than his American or Brazilian counterparts. It is clear that Ruel has learned to effectively modify his speech to work easily with other L2 English users.

There are gaps in my knowledge of Olivier’s English proficiency that I would seek to fill in, if I were to continue my assessment. I don’t know whether he finished university. I don’t know when he started studying English, and what methods he used to learn morphosyntax. Olivier started playing the game with his older brother Antoine, and has teamed with him in many multiplayer formats. How much English did his brother teach him in the process of playing the game? Pecinec’s 2011 article discusses the relationship between two brothers acquiring an L2 and the different influences of age. That would definitely be an area of interest if I were to continue to assess Olivier’s English acquisition, but further research would be needed. I can assert that he has read many English Magic articles, since he refers to them in his articles. He has written for a number of websites in English, but I don’t know the language he writes in initially. I don’t know how much of his written work relies on collaboration with his editors. Given his age and his extensive world travels, I suspect he dropped out of college, and I wonder if that has shaped his perspective on English studies or not. How would he function in a business or academic environment using English? This analysis is yet incomplete. But with the information I have, using the CEFR proficiency levels, I would place Olivier at a C1 (Advanced) level.

It is problematic assessing a learner’s perspective through a mix of personal interaction and published media, because personal perception and subjective memory inform judgments. It’s been two years since I met Ruel in person, and I personally can’t divorce assessment from individual face-to-face experience. I can make judgments based on recorded media, but my intuition doesn’t allow me to trust those feelings. To me, the situation reminds me of Senator Bill Frist (R-NC), a doctor (but not a neurosurgeon) prior to his political career, who claimed that he used an hour of video of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, to disagree with the diagnosis and claim that he thought that her brain damage was not long-term or irreversible. After she passed and underwent an autopsy, Ms. Schiavo’s condition was indeed found to have been irreversible and unsalvageable. I selected Ruel because I have had some lengthy interactions with him. I’ve interacted with him on quite a few occasions, but since I wasn’t using my faculties as a TESOL professional to assess him at the time, I can’t wholly trust my findings from those interactions. However, those interactions plus analysis from recorded media do give me the confidence to make an analysis I am confident in.


Collins, Gregg. 2008 Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame: Olivier Ruel. August 2008. Available at, last accessed 9/14/2013

–      This is the video that I use for the transcript. I selected it in order to avoid jargon-heavy discussion for ease of use and because of its extensive narrative.

Collins, Gregg. Play the Game, See the World. June 2006. Available at , last accessed 9/14/2013

–      A typical promotional vehicle for the game, Olivier and his brother are featured in this video interviewing professional players and their experiences traveling the globe as they play the game.

David-Marshall, Brian. Magic: the Gathering Hall of Fame Pro Tour Profile: Olivier Ruel. Available at , last accessed 9/14/2013

–      This is a summary of the interview and other dialogue that happened between David-Marshall, the official M:TG Pro Tour Historian, and Olivier that weekend.

Miller, Rashad. GP Oakland Day 1 Between Round Chat with Olivier Ruel, uploaded February 17, 2010, available at , last accessed at 9/14/2013.

–      This video is notable for Ruel using a more colloquial register, using more casual, technical game terms to explain his experience.

Ruel, Olivier. My Thoughts on the Hall of Fame.   Available at, May 5, 2008, last accessed 9/14/2013

  • An article where Ruel argues for members of the two voting comittees to vote for him for the Hall of Fame. I attempted to contact the website editor of that time, Ted Knutson, to inquire how much editing was involved with Ruel’s article, but Knutson did not contact me. This is an example of Ruel’s earlier English MTG writing.

Ruel, Olivier.   Reflecting Ruel – My Pro Tour: San Juan Report. July 11, 2010. Available at

–     This article is an example of Ruel’s writing close to two years after he started writing a regular column at Star City Games. Ruel regularly wrote tournament reports after tournaments he thought were noteworthy, or where he found great success.