A Really Long Road Up And The Effect Of Escape Artist On The Metagame

Still whacked out after moving cross-country, random even by Rizzo’s standards, the Friggin’ One still manages to discuss Nate Heiss’s private parts.

The phone was finally hooked up today (Nov. 6) and boy, did I miss a lot.

StarCity got a facelift, BrainBurst all of a sudden stopped sucking, a friggin’ Pro Tour (that I was unaware of) up and happened, and I only had 455 messages in my inbox. That’s a lot of stuff to catch up on, and way too many articles to read that will try to convince me to change my mind as to what to play at States. But I won’t because I’m a stubborn ass.

But whatever – which is the official replacement for”but I digress.” At least for me. For now.

(The following article may seem random, choppy, and devoid of any semblance of congruity, since I wrote it”on the road” and over the course of three days… But hey, you guys ought to be used to that by now.)

(Actually, it’s now been five days, and not all of it has been spent on the road. Apologies to Jack Kerouac.)

(Actually, it’s now been like nine days, and even less of it has been spent on the road. Apologies to Stephen King for feeling all”The Shining” and seeing twin sisters in bathtubs and whatnot. Normalcy – what is that again?)

(Actually, it’s now been like eleven days, and who gives a rat’s ass?)

Heh, it was a really long road up, and since the road led to home too (sort of), how solid is it to pay homage to two CMU dudes in one sentence that actually makes sense?

Perhaps I’m just being Johnny Inquisitive, but…

The Phyrexians invaded, um, wherever the good guys live, then some planes up and got shifted and whatnot, which led to an Apocalypse with a bunch of dudes dying, but the one thing that I want to know, like, after ten years of storyline and such, is this:

Did the good guys win or not?

I just wanna see yesterday’s update. Is that so hard!?!?

Did the good guys win or not? Can you just tell us that? Is that so hard!?!?

Yeah, when you’re up at 1:24 steppin’ to the a.m., in a hotel on your way to uncertainty in a Northern Exposure sort of way, those are the kind of things you think of.

And it gets worse. What’s cabin fever again?

Tuesday the twenty-third (which, by the time you read this, will be like three weeks ago, although I started writing this on the twenty-fourth – it’s like going through that”Planet of the Apes” timewarp and stuff) was my final day of attrition at CMU. I thought it would be kind of difficult, but since everyone had already purged their souls the previous Friday night at Aaron’s going-away party/drunkfest, it was business as usual, except for the fact that, after this day, there would be no more free mints (I wisely decided to take my mints with me to Maine). Okay, it was kind of hard to say goodbye to a place that had been a weekly Magic Mecca for the last year, and to the dudes that took the occasional Saturday and transformed it into much more than just a competitive gathering.

But I did not cry. Only wussies cry. (Or watch chick flicks. Or eat quiche. Or play white.) In order to prevent myself from succumbing to some overwhelming emotion, I kicked it with the man style, boyee:

I belched a lot, scratched my genitalia at random intervals, smoked too much, and swore a blue streak up and down, all the while picking on small kids and stealing their lunch money. Oh, and I brayed and made kissy-face sounds at all the hot chicks; going”hey mama, flip over those pancakes” is still considered”manly,” isn’t it?

I am machismo in the face of adversity.

As an additional bonus, I ended up taking Nate, Dhuse Dhuse, and Scotty My Bags Are Too Hotty home. Hey, might as well hit up the guy with the car for one last ride!

Closing the book, or more appropriately, starting a new chapter, in my big tome o’ life and times and stuff, was much harder than it looks in the movies. Maybe the names change from”The Bag” to”The Binder Guy,” and”Forsythe” to”Fred,” or”Turian” to”Timmmmmmy!” but it’ll still be all good.

This is the part where I cross my fingers. Which reminds me…

Did anyone else go to school with someone that could bend their thumb back to touch their wrist, or was that a unique-to-me high school experience?

The first day I stepped into the secret realm that is The Original Hot Dog Shop, I was a tad apprehensive – for after all, I sucked at Magic. After one year of playing with some of the best players in the world, I can say with confidence that I no longer suck at Magic – I’ve moved up to the next level: Awful at Magic.

But seriously, ladies and germs, I don’t suck at Magic, and it took me quite a long time to figure that out. While my ratings may indicate that I do indeed inhale and/or swallow at all things Magical, it dawned on me that what I wish to attain from this game can’t be measured in rating points or Top Eights or byes at a Grand Prix.

I just said:”But seriously, ladies and germs.” Man, sometimes I crack myself up.

Sure, it’s good times to Top Eight or play very well, but hell, if that was all I wanted to achieve, there is a well-marked roadway, laid by many, that I could follow;”How to get good at Magic” is not one of the world’s best kept secrets. However, I think that I get what I want from Magic – therefore, I don’t suck at Magic. And you probably don’t, either, unless what you want is nothing more than to prove to the world that you are one damned peachy Magic player; if you look to Magic to”win, win, win,” and even throw in a little Malcolm X ideology of”by any means necessary,” then I’m not the one that sucks – you are.

And not even Ross Perot has an obscure enough analogy for you and your”giant sucking sound.”

I’m not sure what it is that I get from spending too much time on this game, but I am certain that it’s much more than the game itself: in a nutshell, it’s the people. And I hate people.

Well, I used to take comfort in saying (and believing) that I hated people, but this last year has proved to me that I don’t – that I can’t – hate people, because the people that play this game can be likened to something the wise man said about sex:

Sex is great when it’s good, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damned good.

And you, fellow Magic players, are sex. How’s that for a logical progression of ideas?

Sure, there are a few exceptions here and there, but mostly all y’all are sex-like. You’re all walking talking genitalia. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, as if there’s a non-nice way to mean it.

But I think that I can safely say that I do still do hate people – other people.

It’s some weird leaving a Magic Dance Club like Da’ Burg… But come on, how Magically-desolate can Maine really be? Aaron signed (off the top of his melon, which was covered by a”Triskelion” hat that he had custom made, unless Triskelion hats were mass produced, that is) a 7th Edition Gang of Elk:

“Rizzo – To the 43rd best Magic player in Maine.”

In checking out the stats for Maine, I discovered that I am actually the fortieth-best player in Maine, at least Limited ratings-wise. What does that mean? Is Maine a den of Magic death devoid of good players? Somehow I doubt that.

Jamie was not right.

Cease Fire is a counterspell.

So is Orim’s Chant.

Card advantage is a bunch of crap.

So is a mana curve.

I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

What the hell do we know? I mean, it appears that card advantage is indeed a good thing, and a mana curve that’s nice and smooth seems a better idea than a choppy-ass bend, but what the hell do we know?

We know that I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

Yeah, yeah – some guy ran the numbers on the probabilities of getting this card in your opening hand and drawing this many lands with that many in the deck, but what the hell do we know?

We know that I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

Pardon my digressions, and multiples at that, but you try to think of something to write about after driving a zillion miles into the great unknown. And with not being able to get your Magic fix to boot.

At least I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

If I can go from barely cracking the top 200 in Pennsylvania to top 50 with room to spare in Maine, then perhaps things are not what they appear to be. But that”card advantage” thing is probably correct, although I’ll do a little testing of that theory and get back to y’all.

Upon crossing the border into New York, I smashed the”seek” button on the car’s radio, anxious to hear some cool stuff from cool groups – hey, this is New York, y’all – home of The Boogie Down Bronx, The Brooklyn Queens, and, well, West Side Story too.

Expecting to time warp back into 1986, I did just that, but with this:

“When I was a little baby boy, my mama gave me a brand new toy: Two turntables and a mic…”

“Jam On It” by Newcleus does not necessarily qualify as cool stuff from cool groups, but damn, it sure sounded good. Perhaps I was pining for a little”Brooklyn blew up the bridge, the South Bronx helped us out” action from MC Shan, or even a little”I’m brown, from the Boogie Down” from the oversized mouth of KRS-One. Ah, the old school, harkening a brother back to the days of 12″ singles, mixers with cheap-ass crossfaders, and dual cassette dubbing.

Dear KRS-One,

Lines like this…

“…from the intelligent brown man…”

…make you sound like a nerd. The only thing missing from your complete nerd portfolio is a starter deck. Telling the world that you are intelligent doesn’t seem to be very, well… Let’s just say that it’s akin to the orders Jim Carrey gave to Jeff Daniels to relay to Lauren Holly in”Dumb and Dumber:””Tell her…I’m good looking.”


Some guy you never heard of nor care about

Heh; picturing KRS-One with a starter deck makes me feel all”warm.”

Light bulb:

Why doesn’t Wizards hire Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Nelly to do some Magic ads that they could run during ABC’s Afterschool Special?

Dre:”Sup, bizitch? When I’m cold kickin’ it and slappin’ hos, I always gots my Seventh Edition starter deck, yo. If yo dumb ass don’t get the miggitty-Magic hook up, I’mma flatblast a mudhole in yo ass.”

Eminem:”Hey, yo, then I’ll bury yo [expletive] ass up in my [expletive] basement next to my wife after I [expletive] and [expletive] you mother [expletive]!”

Nelly:”Tru to da’ Mizzy to the Gizzy. I’m certified multi-platinum thanks to Magic!”

Announcer (preferably Mark Rosewater)”Magic: the Gathering – ain’t tryin’ to hear ‘dat? [expletive] your moms, bitch!”

I’m no marketing whiz, but lemme drop one word on y’all who wanna snatch my idea up and run with it like you were in Pamplona:


And here I thought New York was still all about the old school. Turns out that I heard what’s his name moaning”this is how you remind me” about a million times – hey, I can get that stuff in the backwoods, Deliverance-style of Pittsburgh; where’s all the fresh jams?

And what the hell is this”H to the izzo” stuff all about? Is it anything like a Snoop Dogg snippet I heard a while back:”You can’t [edit] with Death Rizzo?”

DeathRizzo: <—Gangsta rappa.

Although, in fairness, I did hear Linkin Park’s”In The End” two or three bazillion times.

From The Residence Inn to The Days Inn to Howard Johnson’s, I’ve stolen, er -“liberated” – enough soap and complimentary sugar packets to outfit an entire PTQ. Now I have sugar for your coffee, mints to eliminate your nasty coffee breath, and tiny bars of soap for your general hygienic needs.

I’m like the Swiss Army Knife of Magic.

Overheard at a future PTQ:

“Anyone have an Ace bandage?”

Ask DeathRizzo.

“No one ever has a map of Ancient Greece when you need one!”

Ask DeathRizzo.

“All right, who’s got a curling iron?”

You get the picture.

At Aaron’s going-away party, Dan Silberman turned to me out of the blue said”You should write a novel.” I’m still reeling from the sheer absurdity of that statement. And not”absurd” as in”loony,” I mean absurd as in”Waiting for Godot,””Zoo Story,” and”The Dumb Waiter.” That kind of absurd. And hey, I’m going to Maine, home of Stephen King – king of the absurd if there ever was one. And he plays Magic, too.

Okay, he doesn’t… But I could’ve let it go and you might have believed me.

When I and the wifey and the kidsies arrived at the Hojo’s in Maine, we figured we’d live it up. After all, we brought a pocketful of money for the trip – the tolls, ya know. Livin’ it up equated to ordering room service from…

“Hey, honey, we done sold the house and got all this money now – what d’ya’ say we live like them rich people do on those TV shows you watch?”

“You mean like a nice five-star place?”

“Hells yes… Friendly’s!”

I am such white trash. Why Jerry Springer hasn’t asked me on yet is a question for the ages.

Aaron and The Bag also noted that I could fill the role of The Andy Rooney of Magic quite well. Picture Andy’s big ol’ melon staring at you from 20/20 or Nightline or whatever show he’s on and saying:”Y’ever notice how annoying Net Decks are?”

Nah, I don’t have as much ear hair as Andy. And I’ve yet to achieve the ultimate fashion accessory like our man Uncle A – the unibrow. But I’m trying.

Oh, and all of the rooms have had cable – thus, it’s clicker heaven all up in here.

Hey, let’s watch”Jaws,””The Faculty,” and”Crocodile Dundee” at the same time!

If I was ever in danger of falling off the anti-TV wagon, three nights in hotel rooms with cable put my ass right back on.

After all, I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

But the next event I’ll be able to attend is States, which is definitely not Limited, which may or may not mean that I’ll be able to sit on said Limited rating until the next round of byes for the next Grand Prix are tabulated – and I’ll still be well over a hundred points from getting even one measly bye.

Guess I’ll just have to win States, just like everyone at CMU told me I should. Except Aaron, of course, who is bound by some Omerta-like code on silence now that he works for Wizards. Ergo:

“Hey, Erin Brockovich, d’ya think there will be lots of Finkels at States?”

No comment.

“Yo, Eron the Relentless, is Crypt Keeper better than Cremate?”

No comment.


I’m sure he would’ve told me to play Rebels, though, since it worked for Turian so well last year.

White Weenie is still a front runner, but from up in where comes a Nate Heiss/Mike Flores deck for consideration. Yes, it kills White Weenie dead, which is times that are good for small and unimportant Caucasians, and it also doesn’t mind seeing cards that say”counter target whatever you do.”

All I can say at this juncture (which involved playing against the deck a total of one time and goldfishing it a total of six or seven times) is that is uses… Drumroll please…


Shocker, huh?

No, it doesn’t use Shocker, it uses Millikin, Sorry for the confusion.

But States seems like it’s a million years away – even though it’s only fourteen (heh, three now) days away and counting – and the PTQs at YMG seem even longer than that. It’s only been thirteen days since I last played any Magic, but that almost-a-fortnight feels like a freakin’ year.

But I’m the 40th best Limited player in Maine.

And DeathRizzo.

And H to the izzo.

But at least I can see the pool from the balcony – is voyeurism really that illegal? I mean, they are wearing bathing suits and all.

Hey,”H to the izzo” just might mean”House!”

Clever girl.

Tomorrow, we’ll head up to this little cabin-fever-type cottage that we’re renting in Raymond, Maine. Said cottage will be our H to the izome until we can find a suitable H to the izzo for Mr. and Mrs. DeathRizzo and fertilized eggs that hatched and are of full vomitable age.

By the way, if you wish to get phone service in Maine, be prepared to wait six days. In other words, go ahead and wait that five days for the Brady Bill waiting period to elapse on that brand spankin’ new handgun purchase – you can legally wax punk asses before you can even call them on the phone.

This means that as of today (October 29), I’ll be incommunicado until November 5th or so, which also means that my mailbox will fill up to enormous proportions and then I can delete all overflowing email with extreme prejudice, just like Brian Kibler does! and Gary Wise, too!

Dear Gary,

I likes ya and all, but if I ever hear of you deleting tons of mail from readers again, I will hop a jet to Canada or London or wherever the hell you’re living, and personally beat you in a tickle fight. Or a pillow fight. And you too, Kibs.


A guy who will never have to write a hit song entitled”Stan”

Unless, of course, the mail Gary and Brian deleted was already read and replied to. Then my bad, chief, and you guys can give me a noogie sometime, so long as you let me braid your hair before we call all the cute boys in our Science classes. But I’d still like to fight Gary – he’s my answer to the”if you could fight anyone” question from Fight Club.

Um, just kidding, for I’m just about the world’s biggest wuss. That used to be because I would always say that I was a lover not a fighter – but I suck at lovin’, too, so now what’s my excuse? Seriously, sleep with me sometime – I am really awful in bed. I mean, like really, really bad.

“The name’s ‘Lonigan,’ Mr. Shaw, you’re gonna remember that or you’re gonna get yourself a new game.”

-Robert Shaw, The Sting

Robert Shaw was playing poker with Paul Newman, who was using the alias”Mr. Shaw.” That’s some eerie.

And Robert Shaw got his ass ate up by the shark in”Jaws.” More eerie. And the shark’s name in”Jaws” was…


Wow, I think I just bent light.

Separate that. In less than Six Degrees.

“Do you trade online?”

Sorry for the above patented”Deranged Dad required interview question” moment, but I thought it apropos.

The funniest thing I’ve read in the last year or so:

“Honeymooners creator Jackie Gleason rewrites Ralph Kramden’s definitive line from, ‘Bitch, you better recognize,’ to the more benign ‘To the moon, Alice!”

– Mad Magazine, November 2001, This Month In History, Nov 16,1955

I laughed aloud for upwards of ten minutes after reading that. My wife, on the other hand, failed to see the humor. This probably explains why men think The Three Stooges are hysterical, while women find them sophomoric and trite.

Do I seem drunk or something? It’s probably ’cause The Bag peer-pressured me into drinking a shot of a paint thinner-like substance at Aaron’s going away party.

Always back to the going-away party!


All right, I will. But one more thing:

Spikey Mikey Patnik brought his girlfriend (hottie). Dhuse Dhuse brought his girlfriend (hottie). AndyJ brought his girlfriend (hottie). Aaron brought his wife (hottie). Sottosanti brought his girlfriend (hottie). And I was wedged in between Nate and The Bag, neither of whom I would do. Probably.

What’s with Magic nerds having hottie girlfriends? They have to know that they play Magic, and yet they, like, still like those dudes. Sup with that?

Yet another axiom of Magic-related folklore down the tubes. Next thing ya’ know, Magic will be on TV or something.

I built twelve Sealed decks last week or the week before (who remembers back that long ago?) and found that ten of them contained green and blue, with a third color splashed, which was red in eight of them and black in the other two. Know what this means? I bet you do. Go G/U/R in Sealed. If you can’t, then bad times for you. Of course, white/blue/something can still do well – er, okay, it can’t. If you can’t open good G/U/R cards, then you’d better hope to win a round or two, drop, and then go draft the rest of the day away.

And I knew this since the Prerelease.

And I knew that U/B/R was the shizzou in Invasion-only Sealed since the day of the Prerelease.

DeathRizzo: <—1683 Limited, which is good enough for 40th best in Maine.

Point: How can I know as early as or sooner than the greats of the game which colors are the best in straight Sealed and have nothing, save for a single Sealed Top Eight, to show for it?

Maybe I really do suck at Magic.

But I’m getting a fresh start. It could suck, but then again, it could be very cool.

And I’m banking on it being very cool.

DISCLAIMER: I pretty much have to say stuff like that – otherwise, it could be me against the world, and I’m pretty sure that once the world got me in a headlock, it’d be bad times for Johnny.

I still wanna fight the world, but not all at once. And only if I get to wear one of those cool Karate getups with a black belt that Mr. Miyagi stole.

And with mints, sugar packets, and soap to back that azz up.

So, we finally get to our little cottage in Raymond; allow me to describe it to you in one – er, three – words:”The Evil Dead.” The only things missing are a few zombies, a shed full of power tools, and The Book of the Dead – I swear I saw Bruce Campbell cutting firewood out back. Hey, his name’s Bruce – maybe that explains where his acting career has gone: He listened to his, well… He listened to himself.

And another thing about that son of a bitch:

Bruce Campbell was making an appearance somewhere in the Pittsburgh area before I left. It was basically a publicity blitz for his new book, and to make sure that he did indeed sell many copies of said book, the flyer I saw clearly stated that he would sign his book and only his book. No movie posters or stills, no magazine covers, no nothing else: just his book… That I bet was conveniently on sale at the appearance site.

So, if you wanted to meet Bruce, or just shoot the breeze with him (or even if you just wanted to kiss his ass and tell him how much you love him and how you were astounded that he was shut out of an Academy Award for his”stellar” work in The Evil Dead trilogy), you had to pony up twenty beans for his book just for the chance to talk to him for the fifteen seconds that it takes him to scribble”To some random horror film loser fanboy – love, Bruce.”

Wow, does everyone suck?

Woo hoo – Johnny finally got to play Magic! And he only had to drive two-point some-odd hours to do so. There’s this little store thingy in North Chelmsford (what – you’ve never heard of North Chelmsford?!) in which the owner/head honcho/Grand Poobah invited a brother up in to play; said brother threw caution to the wind and packed up a few T2 decks and the never-leave-home-without-it Foily Five.

Now, The Artful Roger, he being the owner of said establishment, is a common kind of guy. I mean, he really likes commons – so much so that he built a million commons deck using only 7th Edition cards. Lone Wolf is the beating stick in this format. But Lone Wolf with Regeneration slapped on his back is about one hell of a lockdown. And there’s your tech.

Ol’ Artful’s common Magic is like Peasant Magic, but a variant for the guys who can’t afford four uncommons – or hardcore Bolsheiviks and other workers of the world that unite and shout slogans like”stick it to the man” and”stick it to the man even deeper,” with”the man” being played by, um, well, someone… Maybe WotC (or”Whatzee” for the dice chuckers among us)?

Using all-common decks is some fun – it’s the antithesis to the”win at all costs” mentality that is pervasive in the tourney scene. Granted,”pervasive” doesn’t mean”way too many,” but there are more than enough psycho killas in the scene to take notice.

After a few hours of seeing and handling too many cards with white borders, I figured that I’d test Thee Artful’s ability to stare heresy in the face… And survive. Yes, that meant it was time to pull out the Foily Five. For if ever there was a deck that said”Look at me – I’m a bastion of excess!” then this deck is it. And it’s hella fun too, which is more than simply a bonus – it’s an adventure.

Rog didn’t have a heart attack, but Mike”Napalm” Clauss decided to take on Ol’ Foily with his”Look at all my Wizards.dec.” Da’ Foilz is now 1-0 against”real” decks, and Mike is that much closer to madness.

I also managed to get in a little T2 testing for States, which mostly involved me beating Mike’s White Weenie about the genitalia with the Nate/Flores-dot-Millikin deck. The end result is that, after an almost illegal double entendre in the previous sentence, I am now officially torn between using White Weenie or”Natikin” or”Millinate.dec” at States.

And I’m leaning towards”Nateskin.dec.” It is that friggin’ cool. Heh,”Nateskin.” Really, it is that cool.

No, not Nate’s foreskin, the deck.

Overheard at the shop by two different guys at two different times:

“I need to find a replacement for Shadowmage Infilitrator.”

Dudes, you ain’t the only ones. And there are no replacements.

I am now convinced that anyone who plays Finkelmage.dec at States is just anxious to show off his/her/somebody’s mom’s Finkelmages, and is not interested in winning. For if they were interested in winning, they’d just play White Weenie. Without Devoted Caretaker.

So, there you have it: Da’ Whites to the Weenies to the Zero One Drops or NatesForeskin.dec are my choices to kick ass at States. But I’ll probably decide to play the wrong one.

And White Weenie will be amazingly good until someone figures out how to build a deck that uses Pernicious Deed in the correct capacity – which isn’t likely forthcoming, since it’s still black and green.

I’ll see the other fifty of you that plan to attend States in Gardiner on the 11th (or maybe it’s the 10th – I forget), where my mints and my madcap Millikins or Whites to the Weenies to the Weenies to the Whites will wreck or be wrecked by White Weenie or Finkelmage or random Timmy decks.

Oh, that’s right; White Weenie sucks. Just ask the guys in the know – the same guys who insist on putting Devoted Caretaker (who is”the new Mother of Runes” as much as Phyrexian Arena is the new Necro) in their decklists.

Here’s a hint:

You don’t need to have multiples one-drops to call the deck”White Weenie.” Really. You can put Overrun or Might of Oaks in Stompy or Skizzik in a Sligh deck and not neccessitate a name change. It’s not 1998 anymore – the rules are no longer written in blood.

Yes, this is what I’m reduced to here in Raymond without Internet access, even after I went and bought Net-ready cellphones: Opening up this article and dropping random thoughts up in here on a daily basis.

Help me.

And one last thing:

Just tell us who won.

You owe us that much.

This is where the random”The Long Road Up And Drive Home” article ends, but since I’ve been away so long, and I have three tourney reports to write in the next three weeks, I figured I’d drop another article up in here (or down in here as the case may be), just so you didn’t think I was doing nothing but sitting on my ass waiting for the phone to be hooked up, which, actually, I was.

This is the where the second article that was titled”Escape Artist And It’s Effect On The Metagame” starts.



We’ve heard that Wizards builds our decks for us and only cares about the money while ignoring casual players. Et cetera. And Peter Cetera, too.

If we are inclined to believe some or all of the above statements, then there is one conclusion that can be reached: Wizards is the enemy.

It’s not really that hard to fathom. Simply agree with anything bad you’ve heard about Wizards, and the desire to beat up random Wizards’ employees will soon follow.

All the good cards are rare. Grrr.

Urza Block. Duh!

Odyssey. Whatever.

You could add”What the hell are they thinking?” to the litany of Wizards’ problems – I’ve read more than a little bit of venomous prose aimed at Odyssey and its perceived lack of”good cards,” which is further proof that they just don’t get it.

Wizards does not have their finger on the pulse of Magic players – real Magic players who don’t have access to the all-elusive gravy train. It’s not that difficult to justify thinking that Wizards doesn’t care about Us. Yes, Us, the same people who pay their bills, which translates into gigantic Christmas bonuses and the ability to traipse around to exotic locales in search of an even bigger piece of the pie.

You could believe that Wizards is the enemy.

Or you could see who the real enemy is.

I recently had occassion to play a few games against what many of this site’s readers would call a scrub. Actually,”scrub” might be a generous nomenclature;”sucky” might be more apropos.

Dude was using the following cards in his T2″control” deck:

Escape Artist

Harsh Judgment

Aboshan’s Desire

No Counterspells, Absorb, or even Syncopate. No Wraths. No Fact or Fiction. No Repulse, Exclude, or even Rushing River.

When he finally cast Harsh Judgment, he turned to his buddies who were semi-watching over his shoulder and said”I finally got the card!” as if this was an integral part of his grand scheme-like combo.

I was using my Pyre Zombies, Urza’s Rages, and Fact or Fictions against his”control” deck. And crushing him, which is to be expected, right? Right? After all, this kid was obviously uncultured, uninitiated and unprepared to play against a”real” player – in this case, I think using myself as a”real” player is appropriate for arguments sake. So shut your goddamned pie hole, candy hog!

I trounced him.

And I felt guilty.

And I felt envious.

This kid would be the guy you told your buddies about after you beat the piss out of him at a PTQ.”Dude had Escape Artist in his deck!” You’d all share a laugh – and if you thought about it for awhile, you might even feel a little pity for such an obvious scrub. Don’t even deny that you’ve done exactly what I’ve described. I know I have. Not for a while now, but I have. Many times.

If you were a super-duper nice guy, you might have offered to help him make his deck a little better. Perhaps, if you were the nice-as-pie guy that your mother thinks you are, you’d explain to him that Escape Artist is not a very good card, and if he wished for a creature with evasion, that maybe Theiving Magpie would be a good substitute. Or perhaps you’d even go as low as Phantom Warrior. Maybe you’d try to explain card adavantage, albeit in Cliff Notes form, to try to get him to improve his deck with generally-agreed upon card drawing staples such as Fact or Fiction or Opt/Sleight of Hand.

I thought about offering a helping hand after beating him. Then I realized something: Who the hell did I think I was telling a guy how to make his deck”better?” Who am I to give my opinion on”improvements?” Who the hell are you to do the same?

Magic is what it is to this kid, as much as it is what it is to me. And you.

Where would I get balls big enough to impose what I”know” Magic is about to someone who has his own ideas? Is that really”helping?”

Dude played with”crappy” cards; that much is”obvious” to anyone reading. Dude really doesn’t have a”clue” as to what consititutes a”good” card and what is so awful that you would be ashamed to put it into your trade binder.

And I felt even more guilty.

And even more envious.

Because, it just might be that I am the enemy.

Even though the kid shook my hand (twice) after playing and said”those were some really good games (twice),” I am still the enemy.

I felt bad because I felt so bad: This kid is clueless.

I felt guilty because I felt so guilty: This kid can’t compete with my”power” cards.

Dude left with a smile, and I was left with a ton of questions, all of which led me to one inescapable conclusion:

I am the enemy.

The kid was clueless – as opposed to me, who has all the clues figured cold, right? I’ve been playing for what seems like forever. I’ve been to a ton of PTQs and assorted tourneys. I’m Johnny Writer Guy. I’ve spent unmentionable amounts of time and money pusuing this”hobby,” which must mean that I am somehow more qualified than Mr. Escape Artist to determine his precise amount of”cluelessness,” and to offer solutions with the intention of hooking him up with the goods, or at least a few betters.

But that assumes that he is looking at the clues in the same manner as Us.

This kid wouldn’t know a good card if it kicked him in the ‘nads and tatooed its phone number on his forehead. I know this because he played with cards that, well, suck, as evaluated and deemed so by the community at large. We all know Escape Artist sucks; why doesn’t he?

Tip: If you want to win, use cards that don’t suck. That’s one of the well-known rules, isn’t it?

But that assumes that his goal is identical to ours: Winning.

He had something that we all used to have. He played with a passion that I doubted still existed in any form. He walked around the store with wide eyes, much like a kid in a candy store. His eyes darted around to this box and that box, salivating over the sheer volume of options that lay before him. Just like we used to. He had a spark. Just like we used to.

He isn’t the enemy. But many of Us will end up losing a very unlucky match to him somewhere… And then he will be the enemy. He will be an aberration; a freak; a piece of gum stuck on our shoes – the guy who used the crappy cards, who didn’t know the rules, played like a scrub and is too stupid to know it. And he’ll beat Us. Maybe only once, but we’ll remember that once for a long time. We’ll remember it because he has stepped into the role of the enemy, which is convenient for our bruised egos and reaaffirmed belief that, Christ, this game has so much luck.

But he’s no more the enemy than is Wizards.

We are.

For every bad thing we can say about Wizards, we should be saying about ourselves.

One can make a case that it was Wizards who created the Pro Tour, who fed obscene amounts of monies into The Masters, and who throws a cash bone to anyone who can win a PTQ. You can make a case that the money is one of the roots of all the evil that Wizards has become.

But that case would suck. It’s an excuse and a crutch; it’s a mirror that doesn’t reflect even the slightest bit of reality.

Wizards put a few bucks into the kitty, and look what the cat dragged in…


Ignore the Pro Tour and the money for a moment, and think about your local PTQ. Think about how many people would attend if there were no Pro Tour or no brass ring to strive for. Know what? Don’t even think about that, because it’s not even relevant. Think about all the Magic players you know, especially the guys you hang with, or your team if you have one, and then put them in my seat against Mr. Escape Artist Guy.

Which player would laugh at the other’s choice of cards? Which player would get pissed if he lost? Which player would be more likely to rules guru if the opportunity arose? Which player has more rares in his deck? Which player would try to weasel out of playing”a couple more games” just for the sake of it? Which player would feel the rush of just playing?

Then ask who is the real enemy.

Wizards sold us a game and said”here, have a blast.” We took that game and perverted it; not Wizards. We are the ones who”know” what cards are good, what decks are good, how to manipulate the stack and, in some cases, the rules. We”know” what’s best for this game, and we make no bones about telling it like it is.

A few lead, and the rest line up to follow; lemmings have more independence than we do.

Blaming Wizards for anything that is wrong with Magic is akin to saying that people don’t kill people, guns do. Well, in our case, it’s not the Magic that’s killing Magic – it’s the people. Even though Magic isn’t dying per se, it’s on life support. It has tubes up its nose and although it has a steady beep of a heartbeat, it’s dying because people play it.

“This job would be great if it wasn’t for all the [edit] customers.”

-Randall, Clerks

This game would be great if it wasn’t for all the [edit] players.

The customers and players that slowly become the enemy, that is.

But don’t blame us, blame the pimps: Wizards.

It feels much better to blame a large company that is, for the most part, faceless. Blame Us, not Wizards, for I doubt very much that Richard Garfield would let the idea that Mr. Escape Artist is a scrub run through his head. I also doubt that Garfield would wonder just how much more money he could squeeze out of the kid. He’d probably stick around to play just a couple more games for no other reason than to play.

Wizards provides a product and we provide the rest. And, like it or not, the Mr. Escape Artists of the world provide much more good than Johnny Net Decker can imagine.

I felt bad for Mr. Escape Artist because he wasn’t as enlightened as I was; he had not yet seen”the light” like I (and many of you) have. He just played. We don’t”just play.” Not many of us. Not anymore.

He’s probably never heard of Finkel or Zvi or Kai, likely never picked up a copy of Sideboard, and maybe doesn’t have any idea that websites devoted to Magic strategy and the like even exist. He just plays Magic. Whatever he gets from playing is his own business. What the hell is our goal? And why do we even bother to have one? Is it because Wizards set our paths in stone and blood and, most importantly, the universal language: Money?

Wizards charted Us a course, a course that, for many, leads to the sexy-ass summit: the Pro Tour.

Well, I’ve read about what goes on at Pro Tours, and so have you. A few of you may even have first-hand experience, while the rest of us are left choking in your second-hand smoke of making it to the show.

If the Pro Tour is the be-all end-all Magic accomplishment, a reason to play in the first place, then pardon me while I step away from the keyboard and vomit all over myself. If the Pro Tour and all that comes with it is the logical progression in Magic maturity, then I’ll be happy, nay stoked, to remain in puberty. If the Pro Tour is sex, then bury me a virgin.

But the Pro Tour isn’t the be-all end-all of everything Magical. It’s simply one path; it’s nothing more than one little side road at the biggest intersection you’ve ever seen. There are many tines in that big-ass fork, and each of them leads us to exactly the place that we want, or need, to be. Perhaps too many are ignoring the other paths and concentrating on the road that’s paved with gold, and the lifestyle that comes with even ackowledging that it exists.

There is nothing wrong with shooting for the stars – Mr. Escape Artist is doing it, I’m doing it, and I’d bet green money that you are as well. But the devil is in the details, and the details are where we are most likely to come face to face with the enemy: Us.

Maybe we all need to take another look at Escape Artist.

And its effect on the metagame.

John Friggin’ Rizzo