Portrait of an EDH Mind - Hobbes

Andy Zupke • May 10, 2022

Portrait of an EDH Mind is a monthly series that shines a light on important individuals in the EDH community. We take a look at their history, their passions, and their love of the game.

"Squee got done dirty!" Hobbes exclaims as we chat about Magic: the Gathering lore and his favorite Goblins never getting their fair shake in the Magic story. As the co-host of Goblin Lore Podcast, you'd expect that Hobbes would know a thing or two about...well, Goblin lore. But what may surprise you is just how much time this podcast, which is coming up on its 4th year of production, devotes to topics concerning mental health.

Hobbes spends his days working as a clinical psychologist for the VA hospital in Minneapolis. There he treats veterans who are dealing with serious mental issues, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while also acting as a teacher and mentor to students training to be psychologists. He loves being able to help people in the mental health field, particularly in the VA environment where patients don't have to worry about insurance or costs. This passion carries over to the podcast, which devotes large segments of their episodes to good mental health practices, like "coping forward", and ways of dealing with depression and burnout. 

Co-hosted by Alex Newman, the podcast has featured many wonderful people from the Magic community, including DeQuan Watson, ManaCurves, Amanda Stevens, and more. When you listen to the show, you can tell there's an almost fearlessness to it, as they forgo any chance of placating the faceless users of social media who shout, "Just stick to Magic!" At the top of each show, the hosts introduce themselves with their pronouns, a quick indicator of the hosts' worldview and respect for inclusion, and they never shy away from important social topics, like Black Lives Matter, diversity, and the importance of representation in Magic story. It's clear from the start that "just sticking to Magic" was never an option.

Hobbes doesn't just love to talk about Magic, he's a big fan of playing it as well. But when the pandemic hit, he, like many of us, was suddenly without an outlet. Before webcams and Spelltable became the norm, there was no real way to play safely, so Hobbes took up a new hobby in lieu of playing: supporting Magic artists. In addition to regularly having artists on the podcast, he has also cultivated a large collection of artist proofs, which are white-backed Magic cards that Wizards gives to the card's artist in a very limited quantity. These non-tournament-legal cards are usually purchased directly from the artist, and many artists will include a sketch on the white side for an additional cost.

Hobbes was very excited to show off his labor-of-love, fully artist proof, Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck. So we shuffled up to play. We were joined by Beth, the "Queen of Cardboard," playing Volo, Guide to Monsters, and Cowboy Kyle playing Oswald Fiddlebender. I gave the table a few options for my deck and they went with my $50 Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty Cascade deck. Imoti has the tendency to make me the villain very quickly as it cheats out bigger and bigger threats earlier than most opponents care for. But hey, they asked for it.

On turn 2, I played In Search of Greatness, which we had a good laugh about, as it had just a couple days earlier been the victim of some drubbing over on Twitter (it's searching for greatness, people. Can we give it credit for trying?). On the same turn Hobbes played Grenzo for X=0.

On T3, Hobbes played Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. While not as scary as Krenko, Mob Boss, I've taken enough beatings from Goblin decks to know that both Krenkos are a threat to my existence. He then hit me for 2 with Grenzo; a taste of what was to come.

On T4, Hobbes used Grenzo to bring out a Boggart Harbinger. When it entered, he searched for Muxus, Goblin Grandee and put it on top of his deck. Then he sent Grenzo and Krenko in to swing at Beth and Kyle, respectively, and both took the damage.

I cast my commander, which Cascaded into a Quandrix Command. I chose the modes of "bounce target Krenko" and "pump target Imoti." A temporary solution. Over to Kyle, who cast Mangara, the Diplomat. With my Cascading, Mangara was a huge play. On T5, Beth cast a Voracious Hydra, and although she was bombarded by Hobbes's cries of "Kill Imoti!" she had it fight Grenzo instead, and I was okay with that.

On T6, Hobbes cast Conspicuous Snoop, the first piece of a Goblin death combo. We were officially on Red Alert.

Hobbes grew up in Santa Paula, located in the Santa Clara River Valley in Southern California. While it's known as the "citrus capital of the world," Santa Paula is also an outdoor adventurer's delight, as it sits nestled between Pacific beaches and the Topatopa Mountains. He holds many fond memories of his childhood, particularly of annual family vacations to a small cabin in the Sierra Nevadas, where he and his parents would hike and fish, then head back to the cabin to watch movies and play rummy or canasta. 

His father worked, and still does today, in the oil fields, while his mother worked in printing. They toiled for long hours to provide for their family and to ensure that Hobbes could go to college. As a latchkey kid with no siblings, Hobbes often had to find ways to keep himself entertained. This frequently involved playing games by and against himself. He believes this solitary play is what led him to enjoy Storm decks so much, as goldfishing a deck feels just like old times. 

At the age of 18, Hobbes left sunny California behind for the east coast. What led to this drastic change? Was it wanderlust? A need to escape? No, dear reader, he found a brochure. After getting waitlisted at his school of choice in California, he decided to give Brandeis University in Massachusetts a try. He made his journey 3,000 miles, to a place where he didn't know a soul, to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry. But after getting a D in Organic Chemistry sophomore year, his first real academic failure, he knew a change of plans was necessary.

He had taken Intro to Psychology in his first year and found it intriguing. He needed to settle on a major in his second year, and he saw Psychology as the bridge between his love for science and his interest in working with people. Since Psychology also required a heavy emphasis on science, with lab classes and stats, it felt like the best fit for him. Then in his senior year he got into a special advanced seminar for a clinical placement working alongside grad students. He worked in a VA hospital with people with serious mental illnesses and felt drawn to the clinical work. He knew this was what he wanted to do.

It was during his senior year of undergrad that Hobbes started playing Magic. Introduced to the game by a college friend, he got hooked into it because of the game's complexity. He played on and off for several years, then in 2009 he was introduced to the best way to play the game: EDH. The first deck he built was Merieke Ri Berit, a card he pulled at a Time Spiral pre-release. At the time he didn't have a great collection of cards, so Merieke was perfect, as it allowed him to take his friends' more powerful creatures. He especially loved the idea of killing people with their own commander.

It was around this same time that he became interested in Magic lore, having gotten into EDH and seeing the importance of legendary creatures. Like many people, he enjoyed the novels that used to come with bundles (or "fat packs" as they used to be called in the long, long ago). As you might guess, he became particularly fond of the Goblin stories, especially Slobad, the Goblin artificer who befriended the elf Glissa, and later gave up the godlike powers of a planeswalker in order to resurrect the people of Mirrodin who were killed by Memnarch's machinations.

Undeterred from his scheme of making a Goblin horde, Hobbes replayed Krenko. On my turn I cast a free Dawnglade Regent off of In Search of Greatness (take that, haters), which Cascaded into Unsubstantiate, which, you can probably guess, bounced Krenko again. I became the Monarch and my stuff got hexproof. On T7, Hobbes brought out Muxus, Goblin Grandee. We held our breath as Hobbes flipped his top 6 cards, wincing with the agony of anticipation. And...Whiff! Only one Goblin was joining the party, a Skirk Prospector. Now, don't get me wrong, the Prospector is a damn fine Goblin card, but it's just one card. He then sacrificed a few Goblins to the Prospector for mana to recast Krenko. Not willing to let the joke die, I cast Read the Tides on turn 8 to bounce Krenko again, as well as Muxus.

Skip ahead to turn 9, when Hobbes cast the card that would spell doom for at least one of us: Quest for the Goblin Lord. On my turn, I cast River's Rebuke. Dear reader, I know what you're thinking: did Andy just spend the whole game bouncing Hobbes's Goblins? And it's because I knew that you would be thinking this that I targeted Kyle instead. Was it the right move? No. Did it prevent me from looking like an a-hole writer who refuses to let the subjects of his articles keep their Goblins? Maybe. 

I thought I had at least another turn before Hobbes would have lethal damage on me, so I swung 16 damage at Kyle, cutting his life in half. I had two creatures left up to block, just in case. But Beth, perceiving me as the threat (not totally unfair), had other plans for me. On her turn she put me to Sleep, making it so I had no blockers against Hobbes's horde. But he only had a few Goblins. Not enough to kill me. I was probably safe.

Over to Hobbes, who recast Muxus, this time bringing with it Krenko, which had been put on top of his deck with a Scroll Rack, and Goblin Ringleader. Quest was nearing completion. Off the Goblin Ringleader, he pocketed a Sensation Gorger. He then cast Goblin Bushwhacker with Kicker. All of his creatures now had haste and an extra point of power. He declared he was attacking, and turned everything sideways, which triggered Krenko to make more tokens, which put the final counters needed on Quest for the Goblin Lord to pump all his Goblins for 2 more. But he wouldn't send them all at me, would he?

After Hobbes received his undergraduate degree, he was beset by many challenges in pursuing further education. He was rejected from grad school twice, then on the third try he got into a joint doctoral program between University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University. During his time there, one of the directors of the program told him, to his face, that he didn't think he would get his PhD, a devastating thing to hear. Between this, and other stressors, he began to have panic attacks and had to take a year off from grad school. Against all odds, he persevered, came back, and finished school. And after failing to match for his first internship, he eventually ended up interning in Minneapolis.

Despite the many setbacks he faced in school, he would not be where he is today without them. "Failing up," he calls it, as his many defeats led him to a path of eventual success. He's doing a job that he loves where not only is he helping veterans and teaching students, he helped to set up a program using Dungeons and Dragons to treat social anxiety, which he's been co-leading for 3 years and even presented to the American Psychological Association. Also, and most importantly, Minneapolis is where he met his wife, with whom he now has 2 amazing daughters.

As a champion of mental health in the Magic community, Hobbes feels it's important to be forthcoming with his own struggles. He openly talks about his own depression and being diagnosed at 18 after a period where he had a hard time feeling joy or enjoying things that used to make him happy. Since then his illness has ebbed and flowed, and, like many of us, he took a downturn when COVID hit. But one of the perks of his job as a psychologist is that coping mechanisms are always at the front of his mind. As he teaches others, he is reminded how to cope, himself. 

Thankfully, he does have joy in his life now. He loves being a dad and the ways that parenthood changes life experiences. He loves to cook for his family. His favorite dishes are Thanksgiving turkey, which he refuses to let anyone else cook, and his English grandmother's recipe for shepherd's pie. He loves to help others in need and participates in charity events benefiting organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the Trevor Project (support for LGBTQ+ youth). And he loves Magic. Not just the story, although that is an important aspect. He cherishes what many of us love about Magic, which is, of course, "the gathering". Coming together to a place where all of us can have that shared language and experience, the mutual love and admiration of something that is ours

"Andy," he said. Everything was coming at me. He added it up, and it was well over 40. I died in my sleep, and it was not peaceful. 

With me out of the way, Hobbes was clear to build up his board to take command of the game. With the tokens he kept making by attacking with Krenko, it was hard for Beth and Kyle to get through with much damage. Kyle found solace in a Crawlspace, which would hold back most of the Goblin horde.

But Hobbes didn't need to attack. He cast an instant-speed Twilight's Call during Beth's turn to bring back all of the dead Goblins in his graveyard, many of whom had ETB triggers, fetching more Goblins or making more tokens. Then on turn 12, with Conspicuous Snoop out, he cast Goblin Recruiter to put Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on top of his library, giving the Snoop Kiki's copy ability, which could then make infinite copies of Conspicuous Snoop. And with that, the Skirk Prospector for mana, and a Siege-Gang Commander, he was able to fling enough Goblins to kill Beth and Kyle. Good game, Goblins. Good game.

As a psychologist, Hobbes is delighted to see more and more people in the Magic community being open about mental health. Even little things, like streamers taking a night off for self-care, do wonders to help destigmatize mental health discussion and care. The community has really come around to this openness, thanks, in no small part, to people like Hobbes being their champion. And seeing listeners' positive responses to the mental health portions of his podcast has been both inspiring and affirming. The Magic community is giving him hope.

You can find Hobbes on Twitter at @HobbesQ and you can catch the Goblin Lore Podcast wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Also, on May 14th and 15th, many of your favorite content creators will be streaming Commander games and raising money for NAMI. There will be giveaway prizes during individual streams as well as raffles for anyone who donates. You can find details on Hobbes's Twitter.

Andy loves EDH, travelling, movies, writing, whiskey, board games, and spending time with family and friends. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from UW-Milwaukee. His daughter is the best kid ever.