At the Gathering – Come Together

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at Grand Prix Minneapolis
Wednesday, November 11th – We have a lot of social interaction in Magic, and sometimes we end up playing people we don’t like, or are just bothered by. Sometimes, we have interactions we aren’t comfortable with. Sometimes, though, you’re that guy, and you don’t even know it. Today, I want to go over some things that I’ve witnessed or even done that you probably shouldn’t do.

I hate people.

That’s not exactly fair, I don’t actually hate anybody except Manu Ginobili, but in general, I’m not a fan of potential people. Hmm, let’s backtrack some more.

One of my Majors is Political Science. In Political Science, most views can be broken down to either Idealists or Realists, especially in regards to international relations. Idealists believe that people are generally good, and that the corrupt system is what causes problems. Realists generally believe that people are flawed, and need laws and rules to keep them in line.

I’m a realist.

In general, the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has flaws. Most flaws you can get around. For instance, your buddy Joe has a tendency to slurp his soda. Annoying, sure, but you can get around it. Some flaws aren’t okay. For instance, let’s say a guy around the store named Steve is a thief. That’s probably too much to get over, although some would be able to. But some of these flaws are very grey areas.

Can you cope with those grey areas? We have a lot of social interaction in Magic, and sometimes we end up playing people we don’t like, or are just bothered by. Sometimes, we have interactions we aren’t comfortable with. Sometimes, though, you’re that guy, and you don’t even know it. Today, I want to go over some things that I’ve witnessed or even done that you probably shouldn’t do. Hopefully, we’ll have some sort of effect on the MTG populace to interact even better. More likely, we’ll also have a lot of interesting discussion in the forums.

I want to start off with a personal pet peeve of mine: Lying. This isn’t lying in the general sense, as we have all told little fibs. This is lying to make yourself seem more important that you are, or take advantage of someone. Personal story time. I’ve managed to go to a few major tournaments, usually as WotC staff, but on occasion to play. I’ve met plenty of pros, but not all of them, and certainly not best buds. I spent a night drinking on a patio with Chapin and Moreno, partied with Kibler, chatted with Riki, and hugged Cedric Phillips (squishably soft, by the way) but overall, I’m not on anyone’s roommate list for San Diego. I’ve worked hard to even meet these guys. So when a local donk tries to say he beat Kai Budde at Regionals 2 years ago, I’m calling BS. When he tries to say he barely missed Top 8 of Regionals the following year, when in fact he went 2-5, and one of those was a bye, it irks me. If you want the “prestige” of doing well at a tournament, then put in the time, effort, and practice to do so. You are what you are (yes, nice tautology, thanks), and if you want to be something else, then change. Don’t lie about it.

Next on our list is one I’m guilty of: The Handshake. I’m not much of a handshaker in Magic. It’s not anything personal against anyone I’ve played, and if you offer, I’ll take you up on it, but I do a lot of hand shaking in my line of work (slinging Verizon Phones), and it always feels off in Magic. But the truth is, it’s a very significant part of the match for almost every player, and it’s something you should take part in at the end of a good match. To paraphrase Riki Hayashi, we’re warriors on the battlefield, but afterwards, we’re all friends. Hug it out, b*tches.

Now, if your opponent is a d*ck, then you can politely decline the shake. It’s a gentlemanly gesture, and should be declined in a gentlemanly way. Don’t be a d*ck in response (since your d*ckishness will resolve first [/joke]) I recognize that players have bad games, have bad matches, have bad days. Do you really feel like shaking hands after losing a good matchup to bad mana / Oblivion Mulligan? Sometimes, no. Just say “Hey, I don’t really feel like shaking hands. Nothing personal, I’m just not feeling it,” or some such.

I talked last week about clear communication, and that’s a very important factor to maintaining amicability. For instance, at GP: Seattle this year, Stan Bessey and Noah Weil had a bit of interaction that left a bad taste in the mouth. However, after some clear communication, it seems it was just a matter of simple gamesmanship on Noah’s part that didn’t go so well. If you have an issue with someone, sometimes that can be worked out by just clearly communicating your point. Other times, not so much, and you just have to realize you have irreconcilable differences with that person.

One additional piece of advice with this, though, is to always give people a chance. For instance, I come off as an arrogant jerk to some people at first blush. I try not to, but it happens. However, as most people get to know me, they come to realize I’m more of an honest, blunt person. For instance, this statement: “I am the best Magic Player in town.” Some might see it as boastful if they haven’t met me before, and I could see that. But empirical evidence and continual playing confirms the fact. Are there players I lose to at times? Yeah, of course, I’m not saying I’m unbeatable. But matching skills against skills, results, rankings, etc. I can back that statement up. Now, at least one local player hated me to start, but as we played more Magic, he came to see that while I have my flaws, mostly I just try to be honest and forward with people. I’m not trying to be a d*ck when I tear apart your deck, I’m trying to be helpful in the best way I can: blunt force. Had he let his initial reactions guide him continually, the good friendship that we now share would have been lost.

On that topic, our next issue is one that my buddy has little tolerance for, what he calls “the armor of ignorance.” You’ve all met players who are wearing the armor of ignorance. I wore it for a few weeks after Eventide came out. It’s the player who can’t or won’t accept criticism. Since there are a lot of these out there, I’ll use a few stories to help illustrate the point, starting with my own.

Right after Eventide was released, I was completely in love with the Devoted Druid / Quillspike combo. I was determined it was the best combo out there, it would define Standard, and I was going to be the one to break it. I staunchly defended it, pointing out it had early kill and lots of potential. I put together a deck around it, and proceeded to go 4-4 over 2 FNM’s with it, losing one of the matches to a complete donk. Yeah, that was frustrating, and after looking it over, I realized that despite plenty of players telling me the combo was bad, I wouldn’t listen. I had wrapped myself in the armor of ignorance.

You’ve seen players do this all the time. It’s the player who corners you at a tournament, begging you to look at his deck to see the brilliance. Never mind that its 0-3, that’s being results oriented. It’s really good, see? I have this, and that, and this other card too! The problem is you’re now in an awkward position. Do you pull a GerryT and tell them that their deck actually sucks? Or do you let them continue on the path of suckitude by saying “yeah, sure, it’s fine.” Or even try to tell them why Tarmogoyf is probably better in the deck than Elvish Warrior, even if they are running Elvish Champion. But you know they won’t listen. You know they aren’t interested in getting better, or even having fun (since they don’t lose blissfully, like player in it for just the flavor… they get angry). What they really want is to believe that their crappy concoction is good, and they need you to justify why their belief and reality aren’t meshing up. Don’t be that guy.

The final piece we’ll cover today is a simple one, and one I hope we can all achieve. When interacting with other people, recognize that differences exist. We are all at different stages of our Magic life, our play skills, and our social development. We all have different goals, different factors in our lives. As an example, I don’t want to play on the Pro Tour as a gravy trainer. It’s a fine goal for many people, but not me. I don’t have the time in my life to devote to all the travel and preparation. I like playing Magic, I love writing about it, and I hope to play to a high level. I’ll grind a few PTQ’s, but my ultimate goal isn’t PT Champion (although I’ll take it if I can get it). I’ll play my best to try and win things like PTQ’s, Regionals, and States, but even if the lifestyle of the Ruels were available, with all the travel and exotic locales, I wouldn’t take it. I have a family at home, and reading Olivier’s crazy worldwide schedule, spending a month away from home just isn’t my dream. I’ll do a week here or there for a tournament with a vacation stapled to it, but that’s about my limit. So, not only do we need to recognize that, but also try to see things from the various points of view. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to see what they are seeing.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.

P.S. In case you didn’t see the announcement, Duels of the Planeswalkers is coming to the PS3 and the PC. I am excited to be able to download it for my laptop, and look forward to playing my way through my Poli Sci classes. Cheers.