Urza’s Destiny Retrospective



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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 3.24.09 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 3.27.33 PM.png

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.