Richard Vaughan asks:
“Of all the writers who have come and gone, who is your favorite, and who do you miss the most? (I will not be very surprised if both answers are Rizzo, but Meh!)”
Actually, the answer is not John Friggin’ Rizzo. Not surprisingly, I loved Rizzo – but he was a real pain in the ass to edit. Long articles, lots of hidden swears that I had to search and destroy, and always the negative feedback from the people who hated him.
(Interestingly enough, in a poll we once took, Rizzo was our most-loved and our second most-hated writer. Our most-controversial writer at the time was Sean “Deranged Dad” Erik Ponce – a fact I would not normally reveal, but the last time he wrote for us was almost four years ago and the forums even then were seething with angry feedback, so it probably wasn’t a secret. Me? I actually kinda liked Sean, even though he was goofy and really obsessed with trading. I can’t ever hate someone who’s that focused, I really can’t.)
My favorite writer is, undoubtedly, me. I find me very easy to edit, and me always makes the deadlines that I ask him to. Furthermore, if I’m short on good articles, me can usually pull one together with very little notice. Plus, I hear me always speaks well of myself.
Seriously, though, the “Favorite Writer” category is a tough one – and not just because there are so many good writers here. When I took the position, the thing that really surprised me was how much of my job was pure psychology. Writers are inherently lazy, insecure creatures, and getting them to write articles for you on a regular basis is an incredibly difficult task.
There are five basic types of Featured Writers:
1) The guy who has incredible ideas, but wants to get them perfectly right. He will not write unless he has a great idea that he can fully explore, which means that an article may sit on his hard drive for months at a time until he finally puts the finishing touches on it. Ask him about it, and he’ll run his hand over the back of his head in embarrassment and say, “Well, I’ve got something, but it’s not done yet.” Getting an article out of this guy is like squeezing a lemon… But when it comes out, it’s worth it.
2) The guy who has few ideas, but wants money. You can tell these writers, because they generally try to get away with a two-page article, featuring an untested deck. Given the slightest amount of fiduciary compensation, this kind of writer will continue to stretch two-paragraph ideas into an entire article, week after week. They’re usually not bad core ideas, but they definitely need either more testing or more explanation. Pros tend to be the worst at this – but who can blame them? The winner of the last Pro Tour knows darned well that if he wrote “How 2 not Seck N Xtendud” on toilet paper, his articles would still get more hits than 99% of the PTQ-grinding articles out there. I can’t really blame ’em, but turning them down can sometimes backfire. Thus, you must do it nicely and cautiously, so they don’t bitch about you all day on IRC and poison the well.
(And to be thoroughly fair, a surprising amount of pros don’t ever read articles on Magic sites – and why should they? they know this stuff already – so they’re not really familiar with what a good article should look like. Quite often, with a little feedback, a seeming mercenary will turn into a really good lemon-squeezer.)
3) The insecure guy. These folks turn out good, solid articles on a regular basis – but they need to have a seven-page email from you after every submission, explaining what you liked and what you didn’t. He doesn’t write for money, or for fame – he writes for pure adulation, and your feedback as the editor is the most critical. He will email you. He will IRC chat with you. He may even be good friends. But he will demand a lot of time. Thankfully, he’s usually worth it. You know him, because he will have clicked the link and scanned this article immediately, wondering “Am I the one? Am I the one?”
4) The prima donna. He never listens to the guidelines. He always puts in tables, and bitches when you change any of the words, and wants everything on the page precisely the way he typed it. He is inevitably very good, but not nearly as good as he thinks he is.
5) The pro. They turn in articles week after week, and the only problem is keeping them writing for you before Magicthegathering.com steals them away. They began writing back in the Dojo days, and somehow they still manage to come up with something to say that is worth hearing almost every week. One of them has an article up today, in fact.
Note that I was not thinking of anyone in particular when I wrote any of these, so no theories in the forums about who the money-whore is. These are just how people tend to pan out, and you have to handle them all differently.
Who do I miss the most? That’s easy: Jon Chabot. You’ve probably never heard of him, but I think he wrote the most fascinating series of multiplayer articles, ever.
Jon was a real Spike… And I mean a real Spike, a rarity in multiplayer Magic. His first few articles discussed multiplayer combos that could routinely sweep the board by turn 3. Jon didn’t give a crap about politics, or holding back – he wanted to win. As such, I think I have to give him the title of “Best Multiplayer Deck Designer Ever.” (Sorry, Anthony.)
What happened to his play group, however, was the interesting bit. Slowly, his group caught on to the fact that you couldn’t race Jon with creatures, so they had to play either control or combo. Like any early-game combo, the combos in Jon’s group tended to be all-or-nothing; you burned up any chance at a future recovery for the opportunity to take the win right now. (I’d be mighty curious to see how Jon would have broken the Storm mechanic, which would provide a little more flexibility.) Thus, the combo players tended to go off all at once in one explosive turn.
Control could stop that. Unfortunately, in a table choked with combo, the control players were at a disadvantage; they’d counter one spell, completely devastating Combo Player #1, and then Combo Player #2 would go off while they were still tapped out.
The group disintegrated into a play for sheer power, which led to actual anger as players wanted to actually interact with each other. Frictions developed. Eventually, the entire thing fell apart in a catastrophic shake-out.
Jon was always a good man, and I loved hearing from him. He helped me design a couple of multiplayer decks, which inevitably were much better for his input. Long after he stopped writing for me, I’d get these occasional emails, telling me where he was now… And then nothing.
I often wonder what he’d think of today’s environment and how he’d break it. That would be cool to see.
But that doesn’t answer the question: Who is The Ferrett favorite writer of all time? I do actually have one. I’m debating whether I should mention him, because it’ll send all of the other writers into paroxysms of insecurity, and I will have to tell them all individually that no, really, they’re fine writers.
Which they are. Nobody gets to be a Featured Writer on this site without being a damned good wordsmith. I’m proud of what this site has become, and that’s all due to the fact that we have always – Omeed, me, and now Ted – always valued entertaining writing just as much as technology. Wanna know who I like? Look at the Featured Writer Page. The answer is “All of ’em.”
But I like one a little bit more. There’s one writer who I think has a lot more potential, and really could be a lot more than Joe Magic writer. He has his flaws – he tends to write a little too long at times (but then again, so do I, so I’m sympathetic), he sometimes overreaches, and he’s frequently belligerent.
Okay, that could still be me. But what’s important to me about this writer is that he was always looking to push the envelope. He came to StarCityGames with a fantastic idea, and he did it for a surprisingly long time. When he wants to write funny, he’ll make you laugh your ass off. When he gets deep into tech, he’ll share all he knows – which is a surprising amount for a guy with no real PT achievements. When he sets a mood, he sets it better than just about anyone else.
And he switches up. I never know what I’m getting from this guy. Ever. Whenever his articles hit my inbox, I do something that I don’t do for most writers – I sit down and read it first just for pleasure. I’m not correcting spelling errors or looking for weak points; I’m just reading because dammit, I’m a fan.
It’s not Rizzo. It’s….
Oh, hell, you can probably guess. Is there really a need to tell you?*
The Ferrett asks:
Got another question? Go ahead; ask me.
* – Okay, okay. I’ll tell you who it is in the forums. But in return, you have to tell me who your favorite writer is – and whether you guess who mine was.