Updates and Things I’ve Learned from My Mother-in-Law

What’ve I been up to?

I’ve been off of Extensive reading for quite some time now.

It’s been quite hard. I’ve done a little bit of intensive/extensive reading here and there in Japanese, but I’ve mostly been focused on other things. I got really caught up in playing Magic the Gathering over the past few months, and I did extremely well considering jumping back into it after such a long time of not playing. There are quite a few Korean and foreign players here in Ulsan and Busan. We meet up almost every Saturday and play Commander.

I picked up the special Japanese edition Chandra vs. Jace duel decks. And I’ve learned quite a bit of Japanese by reading through the cards/translating and playing in Japanese. In Japanese I feel the language is much more logical. It’s very similar to Korean Magic cards, but even more logical/step by step.

I’ll do some more postings on MTG here and there on the blog.

Other updates:

I started the Kanji book and Grammar book almost over a year ago, and I haven’t touched them much since the summer. I’ve been mainly trying to keep up with Anki. I don’t know how else I can progress with this unless I just keep on tracking it here on the blog. Those have been the times when I’ve seen the most gains.

Hangeul Type Attack

A few of you have been asking about Hangeul Type Attack, and it’s down for now. I know those of you who’ve been asking for it and who’ve been really sad to see it gone. I’ve been working on learning more Javascript and recently Python. There are plans to make a downloadable cross-platform python version with updated graphics and videos. As I’m still teaching in Korea, I can’t sell this software or have advertising to fund development. So this is just a hobby/project where I can’t sink much money into it. I’ll post progress on this item as well. It could very well be an open source project which could help further development.

YouTube. 

A few years back I tried to do a learning Korean Vlog where I said I’d be fluent in a year. This was mainly to keep me in check so that I could learn Korean with some motivation. But it was hard work keeping up a channel and I was starting to realize that it would take more than a year without significant help from other people and study time. In other words, I just burnt out and spun my wheels. Nowadays I still use Korean in daily life for simple functional things and sometimes in the workplace. I have barely any accent, which is tough because the native speaker thinks I know more vocabulary than I actually do.

I’ve decided to give video making a try again. Over the years, I’ve gotten more confident in my voice and presentation working as a teacher. I have a lot of ideas to share, and I might as well share them on YouTube.

Studying for the JLPT

I’m planning on taking it next December instead of July, but I should aim for being ready by July. That means more vocabulary and grammar drilling with Anki.

I know, this is the opposite of Extensive Reading. Studying vocab involves a lot of translation and takes a lot of time and processing power in my mind. But I’ve seen great gains in my ability by doing this for extended periods of time. I noticed a dramatic increase in my proficiency last spring and summer going to Japan and speaking with my in-laws, and people around in Japan.

Also, I could read a lot more Kanji. The meaning and reading would come up in my head, and I didn’t know how I knew it! Obviously I had studied it (but I didn’t remember explicitly studying it).

That’s what it’s like to progress. You go through so much that you don’t even know that you’re acquiring language. That may also be why I’ve been off and on for so long. I’m just not feeling the fruits of my labor as much. I think it also might be due to the fact that I’ve been involved in other activities and not been into Japanese media as much as I used to be. (but I really want to get back into it!!!)

Back to Basics Extensive Reading

I had a realization the other day while talking to my dear mother-in-law. I talk with her once a week in English so she can get some English conversation practice. She’s been recently following an NHK radio program (or TV program? I don’t remember). It comes with a magazine that you can buy for the program to follow along and study at home.

And you know what? It’s quite difficult!

It’s almost native material with big words and so-called “real” English. Which is fine. But… she takes a long time to read through these things. She said to me (in Japanese) that she knows what each individual word means, and sometimes what each sentence means, but the whole paragraph or article is much harder to understand.

And I said, “Yeah, you studied many words individually in school and in other places using the dictionary. You have a great proficiency. But you don’t know the language deeply.”

My father-in-law (who speaks pretty good ‘Business English’) said to me, “Maybe she is a 5 year old in English? Or 4 year old in English?”

And that struck me as being just plain wrong. My mother-in-law is not a 4-year old or 5-year old. If you listen to the speech of a 4 or 5 year old. It’s very fast. It flows. They are fluent. But they don’t use big words like the ones in the NHK English program.

Not only do they not use these words, they don’t understand complex concepts. They don’t even know about the concept of GRAVITY! They are still trying to count to 100 and tie their shoes the right way. I remember when I was very young, I thought that things fell down because they had nothing to support them. I didn’t think there was an invisible force pulling things toward each other. The concept hadn’t even occurred to me at 5 years old.

And yet, they are fluent. Kindergarteners can talk to each other and play house. Some can even read picture books! They know the language deeply and they can process simple language fast. They even make up language! Sure they make mistakes in grammar and understanding, but boy do they quickly learn and grow out of those ‘little kid mistakes.’

My mother-in-law is not fluent. It takes her time to process words and for words to come up in her head. But she knows lots of words and their meaning. She doesn’t always know how to use them. When she comes across a bunch of big words, she still has to process them and translate them in her head. That all takes time and mental effort. By the time she’s done reading and understanding a page of text in English she is exhausted! And she has the right to be! She worked hard!

A little kid will be processing language much faster and simple language at that. They will socialize with adults and peers as well as receive input from media. (usually children’s media).

So I told my mother-in-law all of this. She wants to improve her listening comprehension. And in order to do this, she needs to improve her processing speed. How can we do this?

Simply through extensive reading. Getting a lot of understandable English that is interesting and engaging is crucial to growing the mind. All the stress and hard work by going through these NHK English programs isn’t harmful, but it’s far from optimal. Those are designed for those with a decent ‘business’ fluency who can pick up an English teen novel and read it within a week or two without much use of the dictionary. It’s not suitable for my mother-in-law.

Which is why I did a little more reading up on the research that supports Extensive reading and decided to start and track it here again. Starting over from 1 isn’t a bad idea, either. Also, I’ve acquired many simple readers that I can safely jump into after all of the extensive readers are run through.

That’s the update for now. Check back here soon for more updates.

Top Useful Commander Cards from Fate Reforged: Mythic Rares

Fate Reforged has been released! This is the final post for this series. If you didn’t check out the previous posts from last week, go ahead and read those ones after.

Now we’re going to finally go over the Mythic rares from this set. It’s hard to rank these for Commander as different people will have them for different purposes. Let’s take a look at why you could use these cards in your deck. These are not ranked in any particular order. There’s only 10 of them in this set.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Pros: Ugin is a mighty fine planeswalker. If you have him out, you’re probably winning the game if nobody’s attacking him. He’s also an effective board wipe when he comes onto the board. He’s amazing in an artifact deck. In three turns you’ll have massive card advantage and a decent board state.

Cons: Not as useful against other artifact decks.

Monastery Mentor

Monastery Mentor

Pros: Works well in a token deck that’s also carrying a bunch of cantrips.

Cons: Just a 2/2 if you’re not putting in a bunch of non-creature spells.

Soulfire Grand Master

Soulfire Grand Master

Pros: Makes your instants and sorceries have buyback AND gives them lifelink. Think about an earth quake effect. Perfect!

Cons: A buyback of 4 is expensive.

Temporal Trespass

Temporal Trespass

 Pros: Take an extra turn after this one. Getting an extra attack phase can win a game in commander.

Cons: Dies to Ugin’s nexus. Three mana plus 8 cards in your graveyard to sac. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth taking an extra turn to get in an extra attack phase, and untap you lands. If you need more cards in hand, it’s probably not the best move to make. Exile’s itself.

Torrent Elemental

Torrent Elemental

Pros: Gets itself un-exiled. That’s cool. Kills your opponents defense.

Cons: It’s a 3/5, not a 5/5.

Brutal Hordechief

Brutal Hordechief

Pros: Your swarms kill before they do any combat damage. You can also have creatures block your death touchers and let the rest of the damage go through to your opponent.

Cons: dies easily to removal.

Ghastly Conscription

Ghastly Conscription

Pros: Dump all of your creatures into your graveyard, and then they come back!

Cons: A simple pyroclasm will knock out all of the creatures.

Shaman of the Great Hunt

Shaman of the Great Hunt

Pros: Haste. Ferocious gives you big draw! And you can do it over and over again for as long as you can pay 4.

Cons: It’s not in Abzan colors.

Warden of the First Tree

Warden of the First Tree

Pros: Can level up quickly and keep on leveling up.

Cons: He’s just a 1/1 when he comes out. People will either let him go, or bump him off.

Whisperwood Elemental

Whisperwood Elemental

Pros: Every turn, just manifest the top card of your library, including the turn he comes out! Sacrifice him to save your board position from a board wipe.

Cons: 5 mana for a green 4/4 with no trample. But honestly, he doesn’t need trample. You’re not attacking with him, I hope.

That’s it for the mythic rares in this set. If you drafted this weekend perhaps you’ve picked up some of these guys. There’s nothing too ground shattering as far as Commander goes in this set, just a bunch of fun cards to play with.

Top 12 useful Commander cards from Fate Reforged: Rares

Today we’re going to take a look at the rares from Fate Reforged. Again it’s extremely hard to rate these in terms of usefulness in Commander because each deck will have different strategies. Some of the cards I picked will only go in specific decks, while others will be more universal.

Mastery of the Unseen

#12: Mastery of the Unseen

Pros: Because we’re gonna make a morph deck more viable in commander! You can manifest on a stick as long as you have the mana for it!

Cons: Costly manifesting. Dies to Disenchant.

Soulflayer

#11: Soulflayer

Pros: 2 mana for a 4/4 with all the abilities (or none).

Cons: You have to exile some cool creatures that you could have just reanimated for more value. In which case, this guy might be a late game card depending on your strategy. If you can fill up your graveyard fast, it might be worth it, but again reanimation might be a better strategy.

Sandsteppe Mastodon

#10: Sandsteppe Mastodon

Pros: 5/5 with reach. Puts counters on your little guy, or himself. One more reason to buy a Doubling Season. There’s also probably a pretty sick combo with persist somewhere.

Cons: Dies to removal. Probably hard to get those tusks untangled.

Supplant Form

#9: Supplant Form

Pros: Bounce and copy your opponent’s commander.

Cons: Not a clone or impersonator. Targets.

Archfiend of Depravity

#8: Archfiend of Depravity

Pros: 5/4 flying for 5, and he wipes away your opponents swarm each turn.

Cons: Dies to removal. Big target.

Flamerush Rider

#7: Flamerush Rider

Pros: Attack with Doubling Season and some ETB creatures. Many possible combos. Evades board wipes.

Cons: Dies to instant removal and will be a big target. Might get annoying. STOP DASHING! JUST STOP IT!

Arcbond

#6: Arcbond

Pros: Instant board wipe in combat. Target your 1/1 bird. Block your opponent’s killer 7/7 flier. Arcbond!!! Also did you read that flavor text?

Cons: It’s damage, which is worse than destruction because it can be prevented. Doesn’t get rid of indestructible creatures either.

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

#5: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Pros: Red reanimator. 3 mana cost for a 3/2 First strike. You can make her your commander.

Cons: Dies to removal. Big target. No haste or Dash. Give this lady some boots!

Frontier Siege

#4: Frontier Siege

Pros: 4 free mana on my turn? Yes please! In late game the second mode might be more valuable if you’re playing a dragon deck.

Cons: Dies to disenchant. Green doesn’t have that many fliers, so you need to be running more than just a green deck to get the most value out of this card.

Silumgar, the Drifting Death

#3: All of the Rare Dragons!

They are awesome even if you’re not going for dragon tribal. But the best rare dragon for Commander IMHO is Silumgar, the Drifting Death.

Pros: Flying, hexproof legend for 6. Wipes out 1/1 tokens. Very strong in Dragon tribal.

Cons: 6 casting cost for a commander is a little slow especially in blue and black. Attack power is only 3. No haste.

Crux of Fate

#2: Crux of Fate

Pros: Cool black board wipe. Play it in a dragon deck. Look at that flavor text. Cool art too.

Cons: Not Damnation. Things can be regenerated.

But honestly how many people are playing with regenerate? Most people don’t bother with that nowadays. If creatures are put into a deck, it’s usually not for regenerate. I haven’t seen regenerate as a dominant strategy. It’s more of a second thought like, “Oh this guy can be regenerated, that’s cool.”

Hey look! I’ve built a regenerate deck! Look at my Wall of Bones! Take that Crux of Fate! Yeah… not gonna happen. Anyways…

Mob Rule

#1: Mob Rule

Pros: Red Control! Get your opponents elves, or get the brutes! Multi-player? Yes please! Where’s my sac outlet? Hey look! There’s a picture of the Hooting Mandrills attacking people on it!

I see… in the past the Mandrills hooted the humans out of the Sultai clan!

Cons: It’s not all the creatures. Can only play it on your turn.

That’s it for the rares in this set. Some of the other rares that I didn’t talk about here are probably a must for your deck. But again, it all depends on your deck’s strategy.

So, should you be using any of the mythics from this set? Some look amazing for Standard and even Modern! How useful are they for commander? We’ll talk about that in the next upcoming article.

Top 10 useful Commander cards from Fate Reforged: Uncommons

Yesterday we talked about the commons, now onto the uncommons for Commander. It’s hard to rank all of these cards as every deck will use these cards differently. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Only time and lots of playing can determine how useful these cards can be. Here’s my top 10!

Valorous Stance #10: Valorous Stance

Pros: Kill a beast, or save something from a board wipe.

Cons: One time effect. Limited removal.

Dark Deal

#9: Dark Deal

Pros: This is awesome in any deck that plays graveyard shenanigans, or just a plain old mean discard deck. Dark deal, then bog a graveyard. Boom! It’s not as mean as Myojin (who must be countered). If you’re playing a Hell-bent deck, you could get rid of your own hand quickly while messing with the other player’s hands.

Cons: Sorcery speed. You lose 2 cards in your hand when you play this one. Hard to play if you have 2 cards in your hand. Are you playing a Hell-bent deck? Probably not.

Mardu Woe-Reaper#8 Mardu Woe-Reaper

Pros: Awesome in warrior tribal. Awesome against Anger or any other graveyard shenanigans creature for 1 mana.

Cons: Not a soul sister. Not a Death Rite Shaman. It doesn’t have flash to deal with the Eldrazi.

Renowned Weaponsmith#7: Renowned Weaponsmith

Pros: He tutors and is a mana elf for a blue artifact deck. There might be a complicated combo with him if you can get him to untap.

Cons: Heart piercer bow isn’t amazing for commander, and we don’t know what Vial of Dragonfire is yet. Also, the mana is only for artifacts.

Reality Shift

#6: Reality Shift

Pros: Blue exile spell for two mana.

Cons: Targets. Commanders don’t care if they are exiled. Manifests your opponent’s top card of the deck.

Break Through the Line #5: Break Through the Line

Pros: I like it for the little creatures that do something when you damage an opponent. Daxos comes to mind if you’re playing Jeskai colors. Sticking strictly to red, I can think of a turn three shocker that kills the control player who likes their hand.

Cons: Dies to disenchant. Power 2 or greater won’t do much damage to a player.

Fruit of the First Tree#4: Fruit of the First Tree

Pros: You can put it on your opponent’s creature and cast a board wipe, or even some spot removal. If you’ve got a big beast out, put it on them before you wipe. Again green card draw is awesome! And you know other decks are running wipes. This might delay them for a bit.

Cons: Dies to disenchants, bouncing, and exiling effects.

Merciless Executioner

#3: Merciless Executioner

Pros: Beats Hexproof Voltron commanders. A good sac outlet. Great to reanimate.

Cons: Easy to kill when he’s out on he field. When he’s in the battle field he just sits there holding his ax.

Abzan Beastmaster

#2: Abzan Beastmaster

Pros: Reliable card draw for green. Most of the time you’ll have a big beastly creature on the board in green. Refilling your hand in green can be slow. This one will make sure you can do it quickly.

Cons: He’s 2/1 that can die pretty easily if you don’t have some protection on it.

Hero's Blade

#1: Hero’s Blade

Pros: Free pump for your commander. Goes into any Voltron deck. Goes into any Commander deck. It’s almost as useful as the boots or the cloak! If your commander already has haste, “bam!” 3 more points of commander damage the turn you bring out the general.

Cons: High equip cost for non legendary creatures. Might take up a slot where boots could go. Dies to removal. Doesn’t give your creature hex proof or shroud.