He came to New Orleans from the Midwest. Some say he was from Oklahoma, other say Indiana. All we knew is that the stranger had come to town and was looking to gun sling. He said his name was Brian Jenkins, and he claimed to throw a mean spell. He came into our territory from the other side of the tracks – we were the Magic players of Tulane University. We had numbers in our posse:”The Twins” Anthony and Chris DiNatale, who could give with their mouths as well as they could give with their decks.”Big” Jeff, who could easily eat a man alive on the play mat.”Spambob” Lewindowski, whose computer programming skills were outshone only by the computer-like computations in his mind. And there was me,”Poker Face” Bleiweiss, scourge of the New Orleans Magic scene. More Pro appearances than every other player in Louisiana strung together. They said I could shoot a Black Lotus off a man’s head ten paces as the Ouphe walks.
Brian Jenkins came looking for a game. His allegiance: to Loyola University, ugly stepchild of Uptown New Orleans educational institutions. If we were Columbia, he was NYU. If we were Black Lotus, he was but a Lotus Petal. He sidled up to our table in the University Center, and interrupted our games.
“Hey guys, can I play too?”
We looked upwards at this stranger and narrowed our eyes. Chris took his hands off his Hypnotic Specter. The gears in Eric head began to whir. My blood began to boil. Who was this new blood, and how had he found us? Later we would learn that he saw the flyers that we had put on Tulane Campus looking for new Magic players to game with, but we didn’t know that at the time – all we knew is that this buck wanted to challenge for his place in the herd.
We invited him to sit at the table and play a few games. He put up a valiant fight, but was dispatched time and time again. He took these defeats in stride, and he was invited back for a second session. That second led to a third and a fourth, and soon enough Brian Jenkins was a member of the pack.
Brian Jenkins didn’t have as many cards as the rest of us. Many of us had ridden together for years, accumulating the commons of the ages as time went on. Others among us had proved themselves, their feats becoming legendary in their own right. Try as he could, Brian could not keep up with our game. Time and time again he lost – and though we enjoyed his company, his plaintive cries could be heard over and over.
“I can’t believe I lost again.”
“Shucks, I just lost.”
“I thought I was going to win. I can’t believe I just lost.”
“Where are my pants?”
We informed him that we’d beaten him so hard they’d come off. He was discouraged. He did not yet know what the grizzled veterans had learned with time – that you must play to win, and not play not to lose. That you must maximize your opportunities, and carefully plan each trap and ambush. Brian would learn these concepts of the elders in time, but the solution in his mind was different. To him, the problem was not centered around the man, but on the man’s weapons.
It was but a few months after we first met that Brian Jenkins began to show up to the table with proxies. With everyone else, what you saw was what you got. Not with Jenkins. His Shocks were Lightning Bolts. His Grizzly Bears were Muscle Slivers. Fair enough. The man was down on his luck and wanted to play with what we already had. Things went smoothly at first. Then Brian Jenkins began to get more and more deluded. His proxies became not representations, but pieces of abstract art which signified nothing but the madness in his own mind. I remember well the frustration that we experienced as his cards became more and more obtuse. There’s a time when a man makes a name for himself, and this was Brian’s time:
Brian:”Hey Ben, do you want to play a game?”
Brian:”I have some proxies in this deck. Do you mind?”
Ben (Warily):”Are there a lot?”
Brian:”There’s a few.”
Ben:”Just tell me what’s what as we go along.”
Ben:”Swamp, Knight of Stromgald.”
Brian:”Tap my Forest, Pyroblast him.”
Brian:”My Forests are Mountains and my Pyroblasts are Lightning Bolts.”
Ben:”Brian, you have a Mountain on the board. Why the hell are you using Forests as Mountains?”
Brian:”Oh, I didn’t have enough Mountains to build the deck with Mountains, but I had more Forests, so I made Forests into Mountains.”
Ben: (Frustrated):”Fine, whatever. Go.”
Ben:”Swamp. Cast Necropotence.”
Brian:”In response, tap my Mountains and Forest. Play Thorn Thallid. Discard Pyroblast and Ashen Ghoul.”
Brian:”Thorn Thallid is Forbid. I’m discarding two cards to it to buy it back.”
Ben:”Brian, Thorn Thallid isn’t Blue. It’s not a spell, it’s a creature. Couldn’t you have found a better proxy?”
Brian:”It costs three…”
Ben:”It costs Green Green one! Forbid costs Blue Blue one! And you’re telling me that your Forests and Mountains and your Mountains are Islands?”
Brian:”Yeah. Is that a problem?”
Ben:”This is the stupidest game I’ve ever played. Your proxies make no sense at all!”
Brian:”Look, let’s just keep playing ok?”
Ben:”This is dumb.”
Brian:”Can I take my turn?”
Ben:”Fine, go ahead.”
Brian:”Forest, Fire Diamond, go.”
Ben:”Is that a Fire Diamond?”
Brian:”Yes, it’s a Fire Diamond.”
Ben:”Thank God. My turn?”
Ben:”Swamp, Knight of Stromgald, go.”
Brian:”During my upkeep, tap my Forests, Fire Diamond, and Mountains. Return Pyroblast to my hand.”
Ben:”What are you doing?”
Brian:”Pyroblast is a Hammer of Bogardan!”
Ben:”I thought you said that Pyroblast was Lightning Bolt?”
Brian:”Oh, the black bordered ones are. The white bordered ones are Hammer of Bogardan.”
Ben:”Brian, I can’t play you anymore. You have the worst proxies ever. Your proxies make no sense. I can’t figure out what he hell is going on in this game. If you’re ever going to play me again, your proxies need to be better. Get some notebook paper, write the names of the proxies on a card, and put them in sleeves. Write on the cards with a sharpie. Do anything, because this is the dumbest game of Magic I’ve ever played, and I swear to God himself that I will never play you again unless your proxies are spelled out.”
Brian:”Does that mean that we can’t finish this game?”
Ben:”No, I quit. Go fix your deck to make some human sense.”
Brian (disappointed):”Dang. I was about to Reanimate my Shivan Dragon next turn.”
This man would be part of our herd for years to come. He was a man of many representations, from slips of paper to indelible ink pens to computer paper print outs. But no matter what he played, no matter who he played against, his name had been made. From University Center halls to the tables of the PTQ circuit, he was known only by one name.
And so was born the Legend of Proxy Jenkins.
Ben can be reached at [email protected].