Quick Update on My Crazy(ish)ness

This will be a little more dry than my other posts; I mostly just wanted to get some updated info out. Primarily, I’m doing better than I was a few weeks ago and I’m making some positive progress, which is the rest of what’s below.

Two weeks ago, after my previous post regarding my mental condition, I started seeing a therapist. Yesterday I got a second opinion/confirmation on my bipolar II disorder. For the time being at least, my treatment plan is not going to involve medication. We’re focusing on ways to identify and manage my mood and mind state first. As long as that has some positive effect and progress we’ll keep going that direction. If I’m not seeing real improvement with those techniques, then we’ll look into a medication plan.

The first major part of this is identifying and controlling triggers for mood shifts. A lot of it in my case seems to be external stimuli. The main point of me saying this is: don’t expect me to be going out a whole lot to bars, shows, etc. any time soon. And for that matter, I’ve already cut alcohol and caffeine down to as close to zero as possible since they seem to be the most obvious triggers. That being said, I’m keeping a running journal with my day-to-day state and other factors like diet, sleep, life events and such to find out exactly what factors are the most important specifically for me to keep under control. Once we have a better understanding of that I should hopefully get back to more regular activity and behavior.

Aside from a big general “thank you” to everyone who has given me support and well wishes, that’s pretty much all I wanted to say. Feel free to ask me about anything, though.

Confessions of a Crazy(ish) Person

I really have no idea how to start this. I think rather than starting with the right thing, I’ll start with the important thing — an apology, so here goes… Sorry to, I’m pretty sure at this point, basically every person who has to deal with me on a semi-regular basis. Sorry for being distant, unreliable, unresponsive, frequently selfish, confusing, and in general for the times that I am a burden.

After a long time of doing what I can to keep my issues to myself, I’ve just decided to be as honest and forthright as I can possibly can be. I think some explanation is necessary at this point for people to understand why I’ve been acting the way I do. I have (as-of-yet untreated) characterization “mD” (hypomanic depressive) bipolar II disorder with severe onset depressive-associated generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia. I’m aware I’m putting a lot of stigma on myself for all that mess, but I’ll explain my symptoms and let you all judge for yourselves what you actually think of it. I’m not looking for sympathy, I don’t want to be treated any differently, and I’m guessing for quite a few people this is going to just be like “well that figures.”

I also really have no idea how to properly organize the rest of what I want to say so it might be a little messy. Bear with me.

Battling with depressive symptoms has pretty much always just been “normal” for me, ever since I was a teenager. There have been a few things that have perpetually made me just want to handle it myself and not admit that it is a bigger problem than I wanted to address. First, tons of teenagers are “angsty” or whatever, and I was fairly self-aware about it even at that age. In retrospect, I’m quite sure that means that it was way more severe than a normal teenager, but I didn’t really know that at the time. Going along with that, most major depression could be blamed on life events (losing my fiancée, shitty things at work, rejection, money, etc.) so I didn’t really think the problem was ME, necessarily. Second, going though long states of hypomania makes you feel like everything is totally cool. If you don’t understand what I mean, manic-depressive disorders don’t usually mean you’re bouncing off the walls and going nuts, it mostly just means you’re happy and energetic, especially hypomania in particular as it means the highs are less high but the lows can be just as low. In other words, you feel like how you hear most people are supposed to feel. When depressive states hit in waves, it’s really easy to justify it as just being sad temporarily or not a real problem. The third, and most important, part of this is that there is a major mind state that if you feel depressed, you “buck up and deal with it” or however you want to phrase it. Stated more simply, being sad should never impede on being able to live your life. If it does, you’re just whiny and lazy. I’ve made conscious decisions to be outwardly positive as much as possible as a way to fight back against what’s going on with me a lot of the time.

The point of all that is to say for the most part, I’ve been able to keep a handle on my bullshit and live a relatively normal life for the last 16 years, but right now it’s kicking my ass and I felt like I at least had to explain my behavior to other people. Also, the escalation of my symptoms recently made me realize that something is truly, actually wrong beyond some random bouts of depression, and it made me reach of for a real analysis of what my situation is. I think that’s a good thing, because looking at behavior through the lens of symptoms of a condition provokes a lot less self-loathing than thinking, “I’m a worthless pile, why have I been cuddling with a stuffed shark in bed without sleeping or eating for two days?”

As I mentioned before, I get extreme generalized anxiety symptoms onset with my periods of depression. Honestly, this is more of the reason why I’m having problems at the moment compared with just being down. It is unbelievably difficult to have a productive day in any way when even thinking about making a phone call to a stranger makes you physically feel sick. And it is an absolutely terrible daily cycle: start the day worrying excessively about something that shouldn’t be a big deal, which then means I start being self-conscious about how crazy I know I am for it because it’s not rational, which then means I get anxious about the fact that I’m anxious and none of it ever resolves itself. Or at night: I can’t sleep, so then I think and worry about the fact that I can’t sleep, which makes me more anxious and then even less likely to be able to fall asleep. It is not fun.

In an awful way, it’s sort of funny to look at my ridiculous anxious behavior in retrospect. But it also hopefully displays how debilitating it can actually be. Fun facts… When I last moved, I didn’t stop paying my cable bill for well over a year because I was so scared of calling them to cancel. I’ve gotten pulled over three times for expired tabs, every time because I was just too nervous to go to the DMV and get it taken care of. My license has been expired since my birthday for the same reason. My last house’s mortgage went into default because I was just too freaked out to call them about a payment issue. I am well aware there is no justifiable excuse for any of this crap that will make any sense to people, but I think that’s kind of the point. That being said, simply answering a phone call or responding to a text will honestly freak me the hell out sometimes. Not to mention actually spending time doing things in public and such. If I’ve blown you off before, there’s a really good chance this is why.

For those reading this far I’m sure you’re likely confused about some of this. How come sometimes I’m outgoing, fun, etc? Well, again, some of it is the hypomanic symptoms and thus my attitude is going to change a fair amount outside of my control. A lot of it is super intentional; like I said, I try very hard to be that way if I can control it. I don’t enjoy being a downer or being sad. The other thing, which is probably not a big shock, is alcohol. I learned years ago that MOST of the time, I can self-medicate with booze very easily to alleviate the social portions of my anxiety. When I know I’m “supposed” to be having fun I know I can prepare myself in that way. I think I can objectively say it’s not a dependency or anything since I drink usually once or twice a week generally at most. However, the downside is that it lends itself to binge drinking because it is a very legitimate escape. I’ve battled back and forth a hundred times on whether I should cut alcohol out of my life completely but I always come to the same realization. If I can’t turn myself into the outgoing, fun drunk guy when I need to, it’s just a matter of fact that most people don’t like me all that much. And being that I know all this shit about myself, I certainly don’t blame them.

Now that all of this has been written, I can’t say for certain whether I wrote it more to benefit myself or everyone else reading it. I do know that I enjoy the fact that I’ve put it out there officially, even if it’s just for me to read. Catharsis is a real thing. Either way, to finish up, thank you if you’ve taken the time to take all of this in. And an even bigger thank you to the people in my life who’ve put up with my bullshit over the years, and particularly in the past few months. It hasn’t been great, but you guys have helped more than you know.

My expanded thoughts on gun violence in America

I don’t get highly political very often. I have my opinions, but I generally keep them to myself. For whatever reason, violence, and gun violence in particular, has really struck a nerve with me. All political issues are obviously important to particular people, but this is literally a life and death thing at its very core, so I guess it just doesn’t seem like something we should be ignoring. I wrote an essay/rant (below) in direct response to the Sandy Hook shootings in December, 2012. I was upset, pissed off, and tired of acquiescing to gun supporters’ rhetoric. I furiously typed up this essay/rant/whatever you want to call it and threw it out to the internet sharks. It got a lot of response, and opened up some conversation about the topic. I honestly don’t know if it changed any particular person’s thoughts on the topic, but I certainly hope it helped. A little over a year later, we haven’t seen any particular incident quite as bad as Sandy Hook, but it seems like just about every single day I will see some news story about an outrageous shooting, often in public places. And while the general trend for gun violence is slowly decreasing across the country, it is still astronomically higher than the rest of the first world. This is not something we should be comfortable with. The point being, even though there is no single breaking point for me to repost this, the general idea still remains very relevant. I cleaned up a few typos and removed the old brief intro but otherwise left it in tact in its original form. I also added a pretty thorough point/counter-point section on the end based on the arguments I got against it from the original post. I think they further the factual basis for what I was going for as well as get in front of the typical responses that will appear from people who disagree with my opinion. OK, enough prattling, here it is:
Until very recently, I used to fight tooth and nail for gun rights in America.  I even staunchly supported conceal and carry.  You know that side of the story: “people are able to make intelligent decisions on their own” and “it’s obviously possible to be perfectly safe as a gun owner” and all that.  I’m sure it’s the same thing a lot of people say and think very frequently.  In light of the rampant public gun violence in the past year, I started to waver a bit on my opinion recently, and leaning more and more the other direction as time went by.  After today, I can confidently say I’m solidly standing as far in the other corner as possible.

It seems to be the de facto response from gun supporters that acts like today’s school shootings are the isolated acts of a crazy person and guns are not to blame in any way.  In theory, that sounds great, the problem is, how do you weed out someone like that with the way our current system works?  The answer is pretty clear at this point; you just fucking can’t.  Because of our supposed NEED for guns as a society, access to them is simply far too easy.  It is exceptionally rare to hear one of these stories where the shooter didn’t obtain guns legally, or took them from someone who obtained them legally.  We simply are NOT doing anything that we need to in order to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.  I’d love to say that our solution is “tighter controls” and all that, but honestly, how the hell do we know?  How do we have any clue that if you buy a gun you’re not going to lose it and start killing people?

What does this mean?  As I said earlier, fuck your guns.  I don’t care anymore.  I don’t give a shit that you can cite an outdated constitutional amendment that promises you can own deadly weapons for reasons that are no longer relevant to our modern society.  There is absolutely no practical need to own a gun.  Supporters, like I had been, love to think that having a weapon with you will protect you from violent crimes on the street.  In doing research on this awhile back because of a debate with a roommate/friend about the validity of conceal and carry (which I was in support of at the time), almost all evidence, anecdotal and statistical, shows little positive benefit and is easily outweighed by the negative.  This is particularly true when taking into account the second-hand effects of having guns in homes, such as accidents, thefts, and misuse.

For those hunters out there, yeah I stopped caring about you, too.  Bluntly, your impractical hobby is not worth it.  You may be responsible with your gun.  I don’t care.  The tangential benefit of your having fun does not outweigh all the negatives of ownership across the country.  Admittedly, from my own perspective, we shouldn’t have needed large-scale tragedies like this to come to this point, but all the fun you’ve ever had in the world hunting does not outweigh the thousands of lives needlessly lost to guns.  If your need to have something cool to do occasionally somehow outweighs the greater good of saving lives, then honestly, fuck you.  Take one for the team and realize that it is not a good idea to be able to buy deadly weapons that can be used for evil just as easily as… I won’t even say “good” because there’s really nothing “good” that comes from it, just… maybe not inherently bad.

Now, I understand that there are deeper societal concerns here.  People keep using the buzzword “mental health” like we can somehow magically identify and fix problems in people who have deep-rooted issues.  These being the same people who we’ve failed to identify them in yet and who haven’t sought help for their own problems.  Let’s just please be realistic–we’re not going to always find and solve those problems.  Sure, it should absolutely be our goal, as well as fixing our society’s fixation on and acceptance of violence in general, but it’s just not going to happen any time soon.  We at least need to do everything we can to prevent those people from being able to take others down with them.  Gun violence may indeed by a symptom and not the real problem, but until we can make traction on fixing the real issue, we need to address the symptom to prevent things from getting worse.  Gun lovers, give it up for the greater good.  We as a country are severely screwed up and it’s been definitely proven in my opinion by this point that we can’t handle the responsibility of gun ownership as a whole.  America, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Look, if I can change my opinion on this 180 degrees, there’s no reason why anyone can’t.  It’s highly probable my stance on this won’t change anyone’s mind, and I guess that’s fine.  But if I can at least influence one person to sit and think truly and honestly about WHY they think we need guns for the citizens in this country, I’ll already feel justified.

I welcome discussion on this so long as you don’t come at me with a bunch of the same clichés and rhetoric that we’ve heard for years and that I already alluded to.  One way or another, this conversation NEEDS to happen on a large scale, and something needs to change.  We can’t go on like this.
Alright, so, in response to that I received some pretty unsurprising counter-arguments and did my best to find ways to factually argue my point. Here are the primary ones which I’ve summarized/paraphrased, along with my responses.
1. I understand why you don’t like guns, but all you’re doing is complaining. Do you have any actual solution in mind?
When I wrote that post it was like 50% venting because I was pissed off and 50% just trying to get peoples’ attention to spark a conversation and make them think so I avoided a lot of the nuts-and-bolts parts of the conversation, like stats and citations, as well as my actual ultimate goal. And since you asked so nicely, here it is. Ultimately, there should be no private gun ownership whatsoever. Eliminate individual sales of guns and get rid of what people own already. This clearly is not a particularly realistic thing to just have happen right away but it should be our end goal. Whatever steps happen to get us there are fairly inconsequential to me, as long as it moves us in that direction. The less guns, the better; simple as that. This is not a fantasy or purely speculation, either. All around the world it is essentially without fail that the countries with the tightest gun laws have the lowest homicide rates. The United States is embarrassingly representing a murder rate about on par with Cuba, topping those of Yemen, Palestine, almost twice as high as Iran, and at least four times higher than the entire rest of the comparable first world.
2. OK, well, even so, that seems like it’s completely unrealistic and idealistic. Who says it would even help anyway?
In 1996, Australia was in a similar condition as we are currently. In the past 18 years there were 11 mass-shootings, culminating with an awful incident in Port Arthur, in which 35 people were killed and 18 wounded by gunshots. In response to this, as well as a general problem with gun violence, their government quickly enacted some legislation that would be pretty drastic if it happened here. Any and all long arms capable of rapid fire were banned outright (i.e. assault rifles and quick-action shotguns) and a huge-scale buyback program was created which encompassed any firearms whatsoever. Upwards of 700,000 guns were no longer in private ownership and sales obviously were halted. Afterward, gun deaths decreased at a trend of 6% per year for the next 10 years and there were literally no mass shootings during that time. This is not a utopian pipe dream, gun legislation can, and does, make a huge difference even in a place with an established gun culture in a short amount of time. The results of a full study with all data (coming from the Australian Bureau of Statistics) and methodology is here. Note that the changes made are not even nearly as far as I would ideally like to go. Removing even more guns from circulation logically would reduce these statistics even further.
3. People are still going to be violent or crazy whether guns are around or not. They will still find something else to use as a weapon.
I passionately HATE this argument, primarily because it is completely backwards logic and a terrible way to try to debate a topic. If it’s as simple as that, and all weapons are equal, why would anyone even care to defend gun ownership at all? If a knife, or a hammer, or whatever else is just as effective, why don’t we hear of mass-stabbings/clubbings leading to deaths? Why are our police and soldiers not equipped only with knives? Yes, people will still be crazy and violent, there is an underlying problem with violence in our country as a whole, which I acknowledged in my original essay. However, why make it as easy as possible for those violent or crazy people to inflict lethal injuries on people? If we eliminate the most lethal weapon available, it will inherently save lives, even if the same number of violent incidents happen. It was a twisted turn of fate that on the same day Sandy Hook happened in the United States, a crazy person in China also attacked a school full of children with a large knife. He was able to wound 22 of them as well as an adult. Literally none of them died. Yes, this is somewhat anecdotal, but it is completely ridiculous to say that all weapons are equal or that any other option is just as deadly as a gun.
4. If we get rid of legally owned guns, criminals and “bad guys” are still going to get their hands on them.
In extreme cases, this will obviously be true in a limited fashion. But again, we can look at the other countries around the world and easily tell that this is will not be a rampant problem. Also, if even simply POSSESSING a gun becomes a crime of some sort, it becomes an even bigger discouragement for anyone to have them “just in case” or whatever. For reference, the statistics I’ve seen while doing research generally puts illegally purchased guns at less than a third of all guns used in crimes. The large majority are fully legal when being purchased. This chart is a little old but it’s the easiest reference I’ve seen. Either way, illegally acquired guns have to come from SOMEWHERE. More often than not, they are purchased/stolen second-hand from someone who bought them legally, or are sold off-the-record illegally from gun dealers who would no longer have access to that supply through an outright gun ban. Even if we can’t realistically get rid of EVERY SINGLE GUN, removing nearly all of them is going to inevitably make a dramatic impact.
5. Owning guns is the best deterrent and/or best defense against gun crimes. (a.k.a. the justification for conceal and carry, a.k.a. the “good guys with guns” argument, a.k.a. the “only someone with a gun can stop someone else with a gun” argument)
The root of the argument against this piece of circular logic is blatantly obvious: if nobody has a gun in the first place, this is a completely moot point. You don’t need to defend yourself against gun violence if there are no guns to be used for violence in the first place. However, we’ll go a little further so as not to seem like a cop-out. From this pretty excellent research paper which goes into a lot of depth on the subject:
Concealed carry weapon laws have been unsuccessful in significantly affecting the rates of violent crime in states where they have been enacted. Several studies have been published on this topic, using information collected on crimes and rates between 1973 and 2000; each study used a date range between those two years.
This is on top of the fact that we have already discussed, which is that general gun ownership within a population not only does not reduce gun crime, but actually increases it. This article does a good job of going into some of the specifics on that beyond the raw wiki data I listed above. Basically every piece of evidence provided for WHY gun ownership can reduce crime is purely anecdotal and/or based on highly specific samples that are nearly always used in such a matter to try to support a pro-gun agenda. And any remaining statistics that show a possible correlation between gun ownership and a reduction in crime is easily offset by resulting accidents, increases in successful gun suicides, and unnecessary use of lethal force in cases of “defense” with guns. Otherwise this argument is purely rhetorical and theoretical without any real factual basis for it at all.
6. There are [thousands/millions/whatever] of responsible gun owners. Why punish them for other people doing bad things?
I already quickly addressed this, and it goes a little in hand with the previous answer regarding the whole “good guys with guns” thing, but we’ll get more specific. First and foremost, it is utterly impossible to predict future behavior of a person. Screening out potential gun owners based on criminal records, mental health evaluations, demographic information, etc. is in no way a defensible means of ensuring someone isn’t going to use their weapon in a harmful and illegal way. The epitome of a “good guy” would be someone like a police officer or member of the military. They are fully trained and educated on firearms and are trusted to use them regularly for their role. Even so, we hear very frequently about ex-cops and former military personnel losing it for whatever reason and shooting someone. It can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they seemed to be in a position where they should be fully trusted to do the right thing. Beyond that, the number of totally legit people having totally legit accidents is pretty outrageously high also (as in, more than zero needless deaths is pretty outrageously high, regardless of the actual statistics). It is simply not worth the risk.
7. People die needlessly from [cars/alcohol/obesity/cigarettes/insert random thing] all the time, too. If your argument is valid, then we need to ban those, too.
This is just a blatant type of red herring. If you want to start a movement to ban something on that list or whatever other thing you can think of, go for it. I’m not going to argue for or against any other topic in this space right now; it’s completely missing the point. All I know is that looking at factual evidence, there is virtually no upside for gun ownership so I really don’t understand why so many people are hell bent on keeping them around. A gun’s specific, designed purpose is to do lethal damage. Whether you may be shooting at an animal, or a target on a range, or whatever, THAT is the purpose. Any other thing that is ever presented within this type of argument never has that explicit purpose. They are made for enjoyment, convenience, or whatever.

I consider this essentially my final word on the topic unless anyone feels the need to challenge it. I have no problem defending my stance, so if you feel that need, go right ahead. Or I suppose if anyone thinks I just blatantly missed on some topic, in which cause I can definitely do an update or addendum. Otherwise, I think this is pretty complete from my perspective on the issue. Thoughts?

My Top Albums of 2013

 

I decided to do a completely unoriginal year-end review of my favorite albums of 2013. I guess I felt like sharing since I can never get enough of talking about music and sharing what I’m into at the moment. But also because most year-end lists from actual publications can’t stop getting their rocks off about Vampire Weekend and other popular stuff that I’m not into at all. Also, if I can get even one person to check out something on here and dig it that you weren’t aware of before, I’ll be ecstatic. I’m not gonna blab too much but I’m adding some notes for those who may not be familiar with the artists, including links for Spotify or other relevant/interesting stuff.

1. Milosh – Jetlag

Milosh-Jet-Lag

(Not on Spotify yet, but it’s free to stream on BandCamp)

Milosh was easily my artist of the year, as his other project, Rhye, also appears on this list. Tough call between the two but his solo stuff’s chill, downtempo electronica is perfectly up my alley. This is easily his best solo album front-to-back, with phenomenal, emotional songwriting that swings all over the place sonically. Usually an entire album of basically love ballads would be boring and lame but it works shockingly well because it’s all extremely genuine, deliberate, and honest. “Hold Me” is probably my personal favorite; I would not have expected a dynamic, 8+ minute song in this style to be effective but it’s pretty incredible. On the totally other end of the spectrum, he recorded the outstanding piano ballad, “Slow Down,” with an accompanying video starring his wife that’s intensely sweet.

2. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

Blood-Orange-Cupid-Deluxe

Spotify

This is probably the only album I really agree with pretty much all the critics on as being one of the year’s best. But it still seems like it’s flying a little under the radar as far as fans and listeners go. If you’re not familiar, it’s a hard-to-describe clusterfuck of genres, in the best way possible. It goes from Prince-y pop/R&B/soul to new wave, disco, and hip-hop mixed together in and endlessly interesting and awesomely listenable experience. Consistently well written and diverse songs make the entire album pretty fantastic the whole way through, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be maybe the weirdest track on the album with its odd 2+ minute voice-over intro and catchy-as-hell bass line, “Chosen.”

3. Rhye – Woman

Rhye Woman

Spotify

As I already spoiled, the other project involving Milosh was in serious contention for my favorite album of the year until the last two I wrote about were released late in the year. It’s much sparser, much more organic, and much more soulful than the electronica of his solo music, and I’ve gone back and forth a ton on which I prefer. If I were picking my top 20 (or maybe even 10) songs of the year, 3 of them would for sure would be from this album. “3 Days,” “Open,” and “The Fall” are all absolutely amazing, with “3 Days” probably being my favorite track of 2013. The live versions are really worth checking out also since they’re approached quite a bit differently (This one for example, or this). If it weren’t for a couple mediocre tracks thrown into the mix, this would have been on top of the list.

4. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

jon-Hopkins-Immunity

Spotify

I could see this being a little bit of a “love it or hate it” kind of album for some people since it goes absolutely all over the place. As a producer with a really varied background, Jon Hopkins covers the gamut on anything you might possibly throw under the “electronic” genre. I love the diversity, though. He throws together some of the most interesting, unique, and excellent upbeat dance tracks with some of the most beautiful piano-driven instrumentals I’ve heard in awhile. The mix is kind of a rollercoaster ride but it makes for an awesome listen. Get up off your ass to some electro dance funk with “Open Eye Signal” then follow it up with a gorgeous 10-minute ride of the title track “Immunity” and see what you think.

5. Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)

Gary-Numan-Splinter

Spotify

If you haven’t been paying attention, Gary Numan is still making music, and it’s pretty great. Apologies to Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, How to Destroy Angels, tweaker, etc., but this is easily the best “industrial” album of the year. Quite possibly, the best of the last many years. It isn’t necessarily breaking new ground or doing anything stylistically mindblowing, but if you dig heavy industrial music, this is nearly a perfect execution of the genre. If you consider yourself a fan at all of any of those artists, do not pass on this. Check out the first track, “I Am Dust” and you’ll likely know whether the album is for you.

6. Moderat – II

Moderat_Cover_Digital

Spotify

A collaboration between two of my favorite electronic artists, Apparat and Modeselektor, had the potential to disappoint horribly. However, the execution of this album was outstanding and managed to blend their unique styles in a really excellent way. There is an awesome flow and feel to the record even as it moves from experimental instrumental tracks to upbeat songs that border on pop R&B like my personal favorites, “Bad Kingdom” and “Gita” which both apparently got some college radio play earlier this year. Aside from that, though, this album sadly seems to have slipped under peoples’ radars even after really great critical response when it was released.

7. Queen of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

queens-of-the-stone-age-like-clockwork

Spotify

I sincerely hope I don’t have to explain this one too much. I think it’s almost inarguably the best mainstream rock album to come out this year. Queens haven’t put out anything bad in… maybe ever, and even though the releases aren’t very frequent, they do one hell of a job pushing the envelope with their style and presentation. The album is far from perfect but it’s always interesting, and the high points, like “Smooth Sailing” and “If I Had a Tail” are quite amazing.

8. Apparat – Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theater)

Apparat - Krieg und Frieden

This got taken down from Spotify recently for some reason and I can’t find a full album stream anywhere. It’s on iTunes/Amazon and there’s obviously BitTorrent if you want to be shady.

This album was not originally going to be an album. It’s the soundtrack to a German theater performance of War and Peace with all songs written with the intent of being performed live. But it was so good and so well received that they were basically forced to do a studio version of all of it and released it as an album. Most interestingly is that it was all written and arranged by Apparat, who was primarily a glitch/house producer and DJ until he started to get bored and decided to do all sorts of various stuff. It’s mostly emotional, orchestral style compositions like the theme “K&F Thema (Pizzicato)” (that version is the good studio version but incomplete, this live one is complete and beautiful but not ideal quality). However, there are a couple awesome vocal tracks, including the incredible “A Violent Sky” which is a must-listen.

9. Glasser – Interiors

GLASSER-INTERIORS

Spotify

This is in a similar vein to the style of Milosh’s solo album or the more pop-oriented tracks from Moderat’s album that I’ve already mentioned here. I couldn’t get enough of the good mid- or downtempo electronic stuff that was released this year, and this was one of the best. This could easily have been an Imogen Heap record in an alternate universe, which I say in a good way because Imogen Heap is great. The album’s opening track, “Shape,” is probably the best, but I really dig “Keam Theme” and “Landscape” as well.

10. Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

Hammock Oblivion Hymns

Spotify

My two favorite post-rock bands, Sigur Ros and Hammock, decided to go completely different directions with their 2013 releases, and it was very hard to choose between them for this last spot. While Sigur Ros decided to bring some aggression to their excellent Kveikur, Hammock minimalized to the extreme. This album is about as ethereal, understated, and simply pretty as anything I’ve heard since, ironically, probably Jonsi’s side project release, Riceboy Sleeps. If you’re trying to actively listen to anything and really dive in, this could definitely drag on over the course of the entire record, but as mood music or semi-background listening it is unbelievably good.

Others that were close calls and I like a lot but didn’t quite make the cut, in no particular order:

Sigur Ros – Kveikur
Kanye West – Yeezus
How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion
Pretty Lights – A Color Map of the Sun
Trentemoller – Lost
tweaker – Call the Time Eternity
Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
Jimmy Eat World - Damage

If you dig my taste at all in my top 10 selections, I would strongly encourage checking out this stuff as well obviously.

The Irony and Failure of Social Media

I spend a fair amount of time utilizing social media, between Facebook and Twitter (and Reddit, if you want to include that). In general, I think it’s pretty darn neat. I very much enjoy connecting with friends, seeing interesting things folks have to share, having somewhere for my thought vomit to stick, and in particular with Twitter and Reddit, communicating with people that I’d otherwise probably never meet or talk to. In using these platforms, I’ve had some things on my mind about them that stick out as really ironic and to me, personally, seem like failures in how we utilize social media. On top of that, there are a number of things that are just plain curiosities to me that I want to be out there for people to possibly think about and explain to me. I do understand that everyone is trying to get something somewhat different out of their social media experience, so keep in mind this is my own opinion. Also, this is probably way too many words for how much it actually matters, but once I get to thinking about something I like to examine it thoroughly. And considering how big of a deal social media is in our current culture, there are obviously plenty of people that spend a lot of time thinking about it in some context.

A warning: this is probably going to come off as somewhat bitchy and whiny. I assure you, it is not my intention to use this purely as a place to complain, but there are some definite frustrations that will seep through. I apologize in advance if you’re annoyed by that kind of thing.

While going through my year-end recap so graciously provided by Facebook, as well as some of my Twitter history, there is an undeniable pattern that comes through. Pretty much across the board, the things that I spend the most time, energy, and emotion expressing to my interweb friends are the ones that are the most universally ignored. There are a lot of times that I will write something, then stare, ponder, and edit the hell out of it for 20 or 30 minutes while I contemplate whether I want to share something so personal. It’s always a weird feeling voluntarily making yourself vulnerable in that respect. It used to be that I’d just say “fuck it,” throw it out to the internet, and then these types of things would unilaterally be disregarded and nobody cared. Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to the fact that nobody cares, I’ll go through that same process, but I would guess only 30-40% of the time I actually end up posting them (probably shocking to my Twitter followers who likely assume I have zero filter).  Even though I now filter out to only the things I consider the most important to my current state of mind, feelings, etc., they still get unilaterally disregarded and nobody cares. I am well aware there is such a thing as uncomfortable over-sharing that just gets awkward, but I don’t personally think I’ve crossed that line, or at least not frequently. For those of you who are curious what type of stuff I’m referring to, think of any time you’ve seen me post music, or something about art, or really anything that’s not obviously supposed to be funny.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things I post that people do apparently pay attention to. It’s just very strange to me because they always happen to be the things that I spend all of 20-30 seconds on and are totally disposable and throw-away types of posts. A random (sort of) witty comment that I pop into my phone while I’m doing something else, or an unspectacular picture I snap, or something I nabbed off of Imgur/Reddit and slapped a caption on are by far what gets the most likes/favorites/retweets. Once I had realized this pattern awhile back, I started paying attention to other peoples’ posts in this light, and the same thing holds true pretty well across the board, not just for me.

Ok, so what’s the point? Who cares? Why does it matter? Various other questions, etc., etc., etc. Well, I guess I just find it a little backwards that if we’re trying to actually express ourselves and show who we are as people, that we should disregard the things that are most relevant to that. I find it especially so with Facebook, since these are people we generally know in real life and are supposed to be “friends.” If we really want to “keep up” with someone and actually give a shit, shouldn’t it be more important to know their state of mind, feelings, and life interests than seeing what article they happen to reading at the moment or what their hot take is on the current happenings in sports or whatever the hell else? By no means am I saying there isn’t value in that. I like getting laughs from my social feeds and I’m glad when I can make anyone else chuckle. It also can be nice to just quickly relate to someone on a simple topic; that’s basic socialization, whether it’s online or not. But I don’t feel like knowing what Buzzfeed article someone finds amusing, or who they think should be starting at QB for the Vikings, or how annoyed they are by the weather really gives any indication of who that person really is. I kind of shudder to think what anyone’s perception of me would be based solely on my internet presence. If you don’t know me personally and follow me on Twitter (or for some reason were my Facebook friend and didn’t know me personally), I can virtually guarantee your picture of me is far, far different than the truth. Additionally, I can virtually guarantee that statement is mutual if I don’t know you in real life.

There is some more irony in the fact that this will very likely fall into that same abyss of people not giving a shit cause it didn’t give them the giggles. I think I wanted my thoughts to be solidified somewhere outside of my head just in case, though. On top of that, I do also wonder what anyone else has to say about the topic. Maybe I’m totally off-base, maybe I’m missing something important… enlighten me if you agree or disagree in any way, please.

Power of Scrubland; my PTQ-winning deck tech

Hello, welcome in.  Have a seat.  Make yourself a drink.  Get comfortable.  I’m doing this whole Magic article/blog/deck tech thing for the first time, so thanks in advance for checking it out.  Feel free to give me some feedback after the fact or tell me how much it sucks, etc.  I’ve never had the audacity to think that writing about my Magic lists was warranted before.  However, after winning the PTQ in Fargo to qualify for Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, I’ve had a few folks ask for my list and some explanation of how it plays.  The deck is something I’m pretty proud of, since I brewed the first version of it myself back before GP Chicago in November 2012, and made day two with it right away after very little testing.  Four months later, though, and after countless hours of playing, testing, researching, etc., I feel like it has been tuned to be a legitimately extremely good fit within the modern metagame.  I apologize ahead of time if this is too long or detailed, but I wanted to be extremely thorough.  And since the modern metagame spans a whole lot of popular decks, I wanted to make sure not to omit anything important.  That being said, feel free to ask me about any matchups I didn’t explicitly list; I assure you I’ve run across it at some point.  I realize this may be written a little simplistically for most upper-tier Magic players, but again, in the interests of being thorough I put in a lot of information.

Anyway, to save space, I’ll link to the actual deck list on my Deckbox page: http://deckbox.org/sets/139297

It’s built how I prefer to make decks–lots of four-of’s to ensure consistency with as much synergy and value as I can possibly find.  For the most part, the cards should I think be fairly self-explanatory.  For those who are curious about any card choices, though, here’s the rundown:

Obviously Squadron Hawks and Lingering Souls plus Honor of the Pure is nothing I invented, but it is quite powerful.  The amount of evasive, cheap, and resilient offense and defense you can pump out within a tight curve is very impressive.  In addition, the four Hero of Bladeholds are not to be underestimated.  In the metagame of so many Lightning Bolts, she dodges a whole lot of removal, and very frequently takes over a game singlehandedly.  She only gets better with other creatures out to benefit from battlecry and its own tokens benefitting from Honors.  The 10 discard spells (Thoughtseize and Inquisition, plus Tidehollow Sculler) allow you to consistently pick apart opponents’ hands with ease.  Frequently this involves getting rid of Path to Exile, as it is the only truly commonly played removal spell that can get rid of a Hero by itself.  Otherwise you just take your opponent off of their game plan and get rid of whatever threats they may need to be able to win.  Speaking of Path, having four in the mainboard to get rid of virtually any creature in the format is extremely helpful.   Dark Confidant should be pretty obvious, but aside from Jund, Mr. Bob tends be a very underutilized card in my opinion.  The low curve means you’ll never be taking a lot of damage from him, and since most cards are high value for the cost, the extra draws put you at a huge advantage.

There were a few things that I had considered running other colors for, but in the end, having a simple two color mana base was something I really liked.  Again, one of the main goals for the deck was extreme consistency, and it’s extremely rare to have color issues with the deck.  It also allows for four colorless sources in the mainboard (two Tectonic Edge and two Vault of the Archangel) that can end up being extremely important.  In any “fair” matchup, Vault frequently will take over games as long as you have a few creatures on the field.  And modern is a format where greedy three (or even four) color decks are common.  Punishing bad mana bases is not only easy, but very effective.  That’s not to mention the plethora of man-lands and tron decks that exist which can be abused with Tec Edge.  The last part of the mana base that I love, and not everyone immediately grasps, is the singleton Mistveil Plains.  It’s fetchable by any of the five fetch lands in the deck, and being that it’s the only land that can never come in untapped, I always fetch for it when the mana isn’t immediately needed (or a black source isn’t necessary).  If you know the synergy with Squadron Hawk, feel free to skip ahead.  Otherwise, scenario: Play a hawk, fetch hawks to hand.  Play second hawk (or any other white card).  Hawk dies and goes to graveyard.  Play another hawk from hand, search trigger on the stack, activate Mistveil plains and put the dead hawk on bottom of your library.  Search trigger resolves, hawk goes back to hand.  Obviously you don’t have to do the Mistveil activation with the hawk trigger on, but it is an option that a lot of people don’t always see or expect.  Aside from recurring Squadron Hawk infinitely, there is more synergy in that you can tuck back whichever card in the yard that is most valuable at the moment, and with free shuffles from Hawk triggers or fetch lands, it means you get to add whatever ammo you want back into your deck.

The last thing in the deck is the mainboard Auriok Champions, which is a saucy addition that I made very recently before the PTQ and I honestly believe it is the piece that pushed it over the top, along with a few sideboard adjustments.  The format has so much red right now that even while being overcosted, the champion is just a serious problem to have to deal with.  Not only is it immune to essentially any removal outside of Path (sound familiar?), but it blocks a whole lot of good creatures.  The life gain is generally nothing more than a nice bonus, but against aggressive decks, it certainly matters.  In addition, it gives you a pretty nice pre-emptive answer to the myriad Deceiver Exarch style combos.  The value of protection from red in the format right now is also prevalent in the sideboard, and it’s something I feel moved the deck up from being just very good to a legitimate top-tier list in the current metagame.  Speaking of the sideboard, I’ve listed below basically every popular deck I can think of in the current format (fifteen decks) along with my general sideboard plan and a quick explanation on how to play the match.

For reference, the decks I played against in the PTQ are as follows, in order: Swiss – RG Tron (W), WRU Splinter Twin (W), WRU Control (W), RG Valakut Ramp (W), BUG Infect (L), Tribal Flames Zoo (W), WRU Splinter Twin (W); Top 8 – Gruul Aggro (W), WRU Splinter Twin (W), Melira Pod (W)

TRON:
-2 Auriok Champion
-4 Squadron Hawk

+2 Tectonic Edge
+4 Stony Silence

Obviously a lack of red creatures and red spot removal make Auriok Champion pretty unimportant here.  We also don’t care to be playing 1/1’s for 2, even if they do get value like Hawk.  All of our other creatures should be able to get in for damage, so we can just ride them to wins, especially if you can jam a Hero of Bladehold.  Stony Silence shuts down their Expedition Maps and draw/filter eggs which is good, but just as importantly it turns off Oblivion Stone which is easily their best card against us.  The blue version also uses the Slaver lock as a win condition so that’s another plus.  4 postboard Tec Edge should allow us to keep them off of getting tron assembled, especially if you can pick off their land search ability with discard and see their hand to know which land is the weak spot.  Use the Edges aggressively, particularly if you know they only have one of a specific piece.  The red/green versions can cause us a bit of headache with Firespout/Pyroclasm, so you’ll hopefully be able to get that out of their grip with discard if they have either.  Even if they do resolve one, neither kills Hero, so it’s not the end of the world.  We should be favored here but you need Tec Edge and discard (and for them to not have the nut).

AFFINITY/ROBOTS:
-1 Hero of Bladehold
-1 Tidehollow Sculler
-4 Dark Confidant

+4 Stony Silence
+2 Dismember

Generally speaking, just by jamming up the board with Hawks and Lingering Souls, they can’t get damage through easily, and Signal Pest/Vault Skirge/Inkmoth become horribly awkward for them to be trading far down in value.  Fun fact, though, we have literally no answer to a resolved Etched Champion with an equipped Cranial Plating, so make sure to use your discard early to get them off of that set-up.  None of our cards are “bad” against them, but hitting multiple Heroes does nothing for us, and Sculler is pretty mediocre late off the top since they just hand-dump early.  The 1-mana discard stays in because on turn 1 it will still hit their cards that actually matter (Plating, Ravager, Etched Champion, Master of Etherium) as well as hitting Whipflares later.  Bob is out because you want guys that you can block with profitably, and our life total here can definitely matter.  Stony Silence on turn 2 is basically an auto-win, so don’t be scared to mull even a decent hand to get an extra chance at hitting one in your opener, and snap-keep the opener with at least 2 lands and a Stony.  Dismember comes in as extra game against their couple of dudes that might matter, like a Master of Etherium, which is still pretty good even after a Stony.  Game 1 is kind of a crapshoot, but post-board this matchup becomes basically a bye.

BURN/MONO-RED:
-2 Tidehollow Sculler
-4 Dark Confidant

+2 Auriok Champion
+2 Kor Firewalker
+2 Go For the Throat

This should probably be fairly obvious, but bringing in your protection from red guys that gain life is pretty insane.  Some people say that Thoughtseize should come out, but getting their creatures is still usually a good call, even if it costs you two life.  Also, if they bring in anything techy out of the board it’s almost always worth the life loss.  Sculler isn’t great because they’ll get killed easily by their burn, but there is still some value to be had there since it’s one less spell to your face.  As far as Bob, clearly losing life is not what we want to be doing in this matchup; we get enough value from our other spells to not need greedy draw spells.  Depending on whether they’re very burn-heavy vs. creature-heavy, there have been times where boarding out 1-2 more cards like a single Tec Edge, Thoughtseize, Sculler, or Hawk can be worth it to stick in a Dismember or two.  Or if they’re basically creatureless we can keep the Scullers in and not add the Throats, but for the most common lists what I have above seems correct.  Like affinity, this can easily go either way game 1, but 6 pro red life-gain guys after boarding tilts this pretty far in our favor.

RWU/AMERICA CONTROL:
-4 Tidehollow Sculler
-4 Dark Confidant
-1 Fetid Heath

+2 Kor Firewalker
+2 Auriok Champion
+3 Dismember
+2 Tectonic Edge

Otherwise known (to me, anyway) as the Bolt/Helix/Path deck, our pro-red guys blank most of the deck’s spot removal, which seems to be their primary game plan.  The life gain also means it’s REALLY hard for them to just burn our face to death.  Granted, they run Path to Exile, but our discard spells can get those out potentially.  If not, using their Paths on 2 mana dudes means they aren’t using them on our Heroes, which dodge Bolts naturally and are a one (wo)man wrecking crew.  Speaking of Bolts, Sculler and Confidant will never live through anything, so they’re gone.  Our mana becomes slightly greedier here by dropping the Fetid Heath, but we punish their even greedier 3-color mana base with the Tec Edges.  Sometimes you can keep them off of red altogether, otherwise focus on getting their Celestial Colonnades since they’re a primary win condition and killing them can make it tricky for them to play their Cryptic Commands.  Dismember also kills Colonnade as well as their other small amount of creatures like Restoration Angel or Baneslayer Angel.  These games tend to get grindy as they can slow us down quite a bit, but with our removal and life gain it becomes almost impossible for them to actually kill us.  A lot of the time you’ll end up riding small amounts of damage from Squadron Hawk and Lingering Souls to win long games, but since they virtually can’t win, we’re pretty highly favored.

JUND:
-4 Tidehollow Sculler
-4 Dark Confidant
-1 Fetid Heath

+2 Kor Firewalker
+2 Auriok Champion
+2 Tectonic Edge
+2 Go For the Throat
+1 Dismember

We want to blank their spot removal as much as possible (nice Bolts and Terminates, bro) and deal with their relevant threats.  Since we can also block their red/black guys all day, we basically just need to make sure that we have good removal for Tarmogoyf.  Dismember is less good because our life total matters and it doesn’t always get Goyf, but Go For the Throat ends up being surprisingly awesome.  Deathrite Shaman is usually a pain, so hitting it with discard or removal early can be key.  It can stop us from flashing back Souls (unless you play and flash right away since they never get priority to use the ability) and also prevent us from using our Squadron Hawk-Mistveil loop.  Be aware, though, that Mistveil can be used to counter their activation if they target cards in our graveyard.  Use Tec Edges to either keep them off of a color (particularly good if they don’t have a Deathrite in play) or else to keep their man-lands at bay.  As with the America deck, the amount of Bolts and Terminates they play won’t kill all of our guys, but you certainly won’t keep Sculler and Bob in play very often.  If you feel bold, you can try keeping Bobs in for value and slow-roll them after their removal is gone, but they generally aren’t necessary.  I don’t feel bad about this matchup, but as it seems to always be with Jund, it will come down to who draws better a lot of the time.

SPLINTER TWIN:
-4 Tidehollow Sculler
-4 Dark Confidant
-1 Vault of the Archangel

+2 Auriok Champion
+2 Go For the Throat
+3 Dismember
+2 Tectonic Edge

I feel a little lucky and relieved when I win game 1 against this deck, but we have a pretty legit game plan post-board, which involves slow-rolling them like crazy any time they could possibly have the combo in hand.  Discard is extremely vital here not only to get their combo pieces out, but also just to see their hand and know if or how they can combo us out.  If it’s even possible, we just want to always play well behind curve after turn 3 and keep at least one removal spell up at a time, usually two.  With 9 of them in the list, we should have enough answers, even through a Dispel or two.  We also have the benefit of having Auriok Champion being a built-in answer to Deceiver Exarch or Village Bell-Ringer being used to combo, since the life gain from its triggers is exactly the same as their damage output.  If they’re playing straight blue-red, they won’t really have many (or any) answers to Champion, either, so we mostly just need to make sure to kill Pestermite.  If they’re playing the newer white splash version, we also have to worry about Restoration Angel with Kiki-Jiki.  In that case, though, we have the benefit of abusing their mana with Tec Edge.  It’s not hard to keep them off of either white completely, or triple red for Kiki.  Otherwise as with the RWU control deck, getting their Colonnades is always a good call.  And destroying lands in either RU or RWU is a big plus because it leaves them less mana to back up their combo with counter magic, Snapcaster, or other tricks.  These games will get grindy and slow, but we can usually take them off of their win conditions and slow-roll value them to death.

KIKI-POD:
-4 Squadron Hawk
-1 Tectonic Edge

+2 Go For the Throat
+3 Dismember

I hate this matchup, not necessarily because it’s “bad,” but because I never feel confident that I’m good enough to make the right decisions.  I’m sure in a better pilot’s hands this would be a better match, or at least someone who was more familiar with the options that the deck has.  Also, the board plan is somewhat awkward because every card in the 75 does something against them.  But from testing it seems like the best plan is just to try to get rid of their creatures from hand and in play to avoid them doing any pod shenanigans, rather than trying to use Stony Silence to shut off Birthing Pod itself.  That being said, Pod is a great discard target when you can get it.  There’s basically no way they can beat you playing a fair game of Magic, so we just need to keep them off of going infinite with Kiki-Jiki.  Getting rid of Restoration Angels and Kiki itself usually stops them from going off.  You want to play a similar style of game as the Splinter Twin list.  Keep up removal if there’s even a chance they could go off and you should be fine.  Fortunately they don’t get counter spells to back it up so it’s less critical to have more than one at a time.  Because of mana dorks and Pod itself, their mana isn’t super critical, so we can shave a Tec Edge without too much problem.  And Hawks don’t do enough against a deck with virtually no removal.

MELIRA-POD:
-1 Squadron Hawk
-2 Inquisition of Kozilek
-2 Auriok Champion

+2 Go For the Throat
+2 Dismember
+1 Stony Silence

I like this matchup better than Kiki Pod because with disruption and removal it seems to be tougher and slower for them to combo off, at least from my experience.  Which means the straight-up beatdown plan is totally viable and they can’t do a ton to stop us.  Obviously discard and Path to Exile are MVP’s against the persist guys, and we want to use the other removal on their combo enablers.  We can also try to get their Pod(s) with discard.  Inquisition gets cut because a lot of the relevant spells in the deck are four-drops so it becomes awkward quickly.  We shave a Hawk because you should never need to play more than 2-3 in a game before it ends one way or another.  Stony as a singleton isn’t great but it’s better than what we’re cutting and a third Dismember seems unnecessary, however you can go either way depending on which cards you see in their list.

ZOO/GRUUL:
-4 Dark Confidant
-4 Tidehollow Sculler

+2 Auriok Champion
+2 Kor Firewalker
+2 Go For the Throat
+2 Dismember

You should be fine post-board by sticking a bunch of protection from red guys out to block everything and using discard and removal to get their green (or white) creatures and non-red removal (for the lists that play Path or Dismember).  After that, it’s just a matter of throwing out some Hawks and Souls and hopefully riding an Honor of the Pure over the top to an easy win.  This matchup is generally quite good for us unless we draw almost completely dead.

SCAPESHIFT:
-4 Path to Exile

+2 Tectonic Edge
+2 Kor Firewalker

You may want to vary this a bit depending on whether they’re running much red spot removal and such.  If so, shaving a Squadron Hawk and a Vault to add in the other two Champions might be worthwhile.  Otherwise against the straight blue/green lists we’re pretty much putting in Firewalker only because they have two power.  However, this matchup has been pretty good for me both pre- and post-board.  After a discard spell or two and putting some power on the field, it usually comes down to them playing all-time defense with Cryptics and Remands while waiting to die or hoping to rip the win off the top.

GIFTS UNGIVEN:
-2 Auriok Champion
-1 Fetid Heath
-1 Squadron Hawk

+2 Go For the Throat
+2 Tectonic Edge

We really just need to focus on getting Gifts out of their hand.  Nothing else they play is of serious consequence.  Their game plan is going to be to cheat an Elesh Norn or Iona into play, both of which are potentially devastating to us.  By the time they can hard cast either one, they should be dead.  This is especially true after bringing in extra Tec Edges to keep their total land count down and get rid of Colonnades.  Having extra removal spells on top of Path is obviously good for Elesh, but also having BLACK removal options for Iona is important since they will choose to blank you out of white spells if they have any clue what they’re doing.  If you’re lucky enough to stick more than one Honor of the Pure also, especially with a Vault in play, you can actually just bash straight through Norn without much problem. This match is not actually as bad as it initially seems, and in fact I’ve been riding a very high win percentage against it.

EGGS:
-4 Path to Exile
-2 Vault of the Archangel

+4 Stony Silence
+2 Tectonic Edge

This should be super obvious.  Having 10 discard spells is pretty solid against them, and Stony Silence is a literal must-answer, so this matchup tends to be pretty good as long as you can put a decent clock on them in game 1.  Tec Edge rarely matters but since Vault does literally nothing here, we might as well just make the swap.  Unfortunately we have no answer to opening hand Leyline of Sanctity, so we just have to play the numbers and hope they don’t have it, or don’t rip an answer to Stony Silence before we put lethal on them.

INFECT:
-2 Auriok Champion
-1 Vault of the Archangel
-2 Hero of Bladehold
-1 Vault of the Archangel

+2 Go For the Throat
+3 Dismember
+1 Tectonic Edge

We very much become the control deck against infect.  Making lots of Hawks and Souls for blockers is really good as long as they don’t have the Rancor or we can make them discard it.  We are not favored pre-board, but adding more removal definitely helps.  Keep them off of creatures and swing back with anything that’s not needed to block their guys.  Not complicated, but you will need to draw well or they will punish you for not having the right answers.

BOGLES/ENCHANTRESS:
-2 Auriok Champion

+2 Go For the Throat

We basically need to be on the play, have the discard in our opener, and make them get rid of all their hexproof creatures, and have them never draw any more to win this match.  In other words, you need them to run terrible and we need to run like God.  None of our board cards actually do anything relevant to the hexproof guys; all we can do is take out the enchantresses and pray.  Luckily this isn’t super popular at the moment.

LIVING END:
Again, luckily this is a very fringe deck.  I wish I had a legitimate sideboard strategy here but honestly nothing I’ve tried really works.  Your only real chance is to discard out the cascade spells and hope they don’t draw any more by the time you can kill them.  With no graveyard hate, though, all they need to do is cycle a few guys and resolve one cascade spell off the top and you basically have no chance since it also wipes your team.  I suppose it would be possible to load up on removal and hope you can kill enough guys to make a recovery after the fact but that seems pretty tough.