A bow to Merriam-Webter on-line for the following information:
Main Entry: comÂ·memÂ·oÂ·rate
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -ratÂ·ed; -ratÂ·ing
Etymology: Latin commemoratus, past participle of commemorare, from com- + memorare to remind of, from memor mindful — more at MEMORY
1 : to call to remembrance
2 : to mark by some ceremony or observation : OBSERVE
3 : to serve as a memorial of
During the summer of 1999, Mike Flores and Charles”Tuna” Hwa mistakenly put an article I wrote on the front page of the Dojo. (Isn’t it horribly frightening how many things are discovered by simple accident or oversight? Just think of Casual Fridays as the internet Magic world’s penicillin.)
I didn’t even expect them to publish the damn thing. I had been visiting the Dojo for just long enough that the lack of a regular feature on multiplayer Magic seemed strange. So I wrote Mike an email suggesting the idea of a column. Then, just as I was about to click”send,” I figured, well, maybe I should do up a sample, show them what I have in mind. Then maybe they can find a regular writer, some New York buddy of theirs, to do it.
(Therein, of course, I made my first incorrect assumption: That anyone in New York City plays casual Magic. It is now a commonly known scientific truth that if two New York City residents are playing Magic, and a third sits down next to them with a deck, that the New York City resident with the most recent timestamp goes to the graveyard. That’s a state-based effect, folks; you can’t deny, or even respond to, that simple fact.)
In any case, the article got a front-page link, they asked for a few more…
…and 99 columns later, here we are. Different site, different editors, same terrific number of unnecessary digressions.
Over that time, we’ve covered a lot together, you and I. We’ve gone from non-pouncing Jaguars to card advantage theory to grilled cheese sandwiches. A decent fraction of what I have written has been reader-inspired:”Maybe you should do an article on X format,” or”Have you ever considered how good Y card is?” Another decent fraction has come from just meeting and watching new friends at local shops, tournaments, and so on. I almost always have a multiplayer deck on me at a Magic event (even when competing at a qualifier, or reporting at Worlds); so come up and ask. What on earth will I write about if you don’t?
I wanted to make this 100th article a bit of a memorial to those people, places, and events that have enriched my life through this fabulous game. If I neglect to mention you in the list below, and you believe you have contributed significantly to my life, feel free to write in and nominate yourself for special mention in Casual Fridays #1000, to be published on the Ultranet sometime in 2019.
I might end up talking about myself a bit, here. I can’t help that; I wrote the darn column 99 times already. But I hope the right spirit comes across – I’m trying to say thank you to all the right people, less than I am trying to promote my own accomplishments. I couldn’t have done any of it without these folks.
So without further preamble, I present to you: 100 things related to Casual Fridays that I’m grateful for.
- ACCESS TO A WIDER WORLD. I won’t lie to you. Authoring Casual Fridays has given me opportunities to meet amazing players, as well as several Wizards staff who make the game happen. I put this item first on the list because this has been the most obvious change in the way I see the Magic world. The access I get to well-known players and great ideas really shapes my columns. (One column back in early February, based on a conversation on casual Magic with The Ferrett and Mark Rosewater, is perhaps the best example of this.) Thanks to everyone who has guided me closer to the inner circles… It gives Casual Fridays more weight than it otherwise would have.
- THE MYSTERY THAT IS MIKE FLORES. I’ve stated several times before that I’m grateful to the guy for opening the door, that he’s a genius of a theorist, writer, editor, etc. So instead of doing all of that again, I’ll share a mildly humorous story. While I had regular e-mail contact with the well-regarded Dojo editor during my time there, I never met the man until about two months ago, at Grand Prix Columbus. He was at a table playing 5-color with Adrian Sullivan. I went up, introduced myself… And then basked in the anti-climactic pauses that marked our awkward conversation. Lines like”So, what’s up?” and”Here to compete, are you?” were exchanged over the course of what was probably one minute, but felt like twenty. Never was there a better case of a meeting of two people who write more fluidly than they talk. Thank goodness that after Mike’s thoughtful piece on the David Williams disqualification, we were able to pick up the dialogue more capably, in written form. The next time I meet Mike I’m going to have a list of strategy topics worth discussing, so we can both get a little value out of our time together.
- THE PRERELEASES. I did not know about Prereleases until I noticed mention of them on meridianmagic.com, which I only heard about from readers after the site started linking to my articles. While my first Prerelease (Nemesis) was an unadulterated failure, it started me thinking about limited formats seriously. Subsequent Prereleases have been far more successful – and while Meridian Magic has had its difficulties keeping up with weekly columns, I still go to Prereleases, and I enjoy them. So thank you, Meridian Magic!
- ARTWORK I CAN’T SEND TO MY MOTHER. In their”Best of Net” feature, Inquest magazine was kind enough to list Star City games, and Casual Fridays, as worthy of mention. That’s swell. But the article had artwork of a half-naked blonde angel in a very vulnerable pose. So my first spotlight in a national magazine went absolutely unnoticed by my parents, because there wasn’t a chance in creation I was going to mail a copy off to my mom with a Post-It note stuck to the appropriate page and a cheery”Here’s what I do!” scrawled across the angel’s rear quarters.
Of course, if I ever get a short story published in Playboy, I imagine that’s exactly what I’ll do.
- PAY. I hear many good-hearted writers talk about how they don’t just write for the pay (be it cards or cash), but rather that they write for the love of the game, or the thrill of being read, or to celebrate the art of dialogue on the internet, blah blah blah… Yes, yes, it’s all one rich tapestry of interwoven motives. Beauteous. Pay is a pretty bright thread. To experiment with cards and decks the way most of us want to, a steady resource flow is important. I’ve been blessed with editors that understand this.
In fact, I did my first five articles for the Dojo for free, would have been perfectly content to continue doing so, and then got an email from the leadership there asking if I wanted to be paid. I would have kept doing it for free for some time; but this certainly got my attention, and made me want to write better stuff for them. In most industries, this would be considered somewhat savvy loyalty-building among your critical partners. In the Internet industry, where resources are a little thinner, perhaps this proactive spending got them into a bit of trouble.
- MORE WORK FOR ME. My dear husband, you should know that I, as an published author in my own right (see my lovely site at www.usinternet.com/users/alongi/index.html), have my own considerable writing commitments. I have a hard enough time keeping up with these, not to mention all the meals I cook for you. Now you want me to help you with your dopey articles? Well, let me tell you something, mister…
- A PLACE TO STORYTELL. Of course, one of the things I do most often in Casual Fridays is tell stories about gameplay. Here’s one that happened just a couple of months ago, which didn’t even involve me (I was busy losing at an adjacent table):
Denny and Carl had dumped Theo out of a three-player game. Carl was borrowing a Thrashing Wumpus/Lashknife Barrier deck that Theo and I designed together. It splashes blue for touches like Cavern Harpy and Dromar’s Charm to lend some utility to the deck. Denny had a recurring land destruction deck using one of the cheesiest slices of cheese I have ever seen: Spreading Algae with Blanket of Night, as well as Sands of Time, Roots of Life, and swampwalkers. (Denny doesn’t put much stock in any card released after 1998.)
On the board, Curt had a Thrashing Wumpus with Spirit Link (tapped), a Cavern Harpy (also tapped, also with Spirit Link), two Lashknife Barriers, an Alabaster Wall, and five lands. Denny had a Blanket of Night, Roots of Life (set to swamps, duh), some forests and swamps… And two Sands of Time.
Two Sands of Time. This is important to remember, because this is what makes the whole situation really stupid.
[Sands of Time, 4cc Artifact from Visions. Each player skips his or her untap step. At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player simultaneously untaps each tapped artifact, creature, and land he or she controls and taps each untapped artifact creature and land he or she controls.]
So do we see what’s happening here, yet? At the beginning of Carl’s turn, he’s tapping his lands and then untapping them, which gives Denny life through Roots of Life. But Carl also has the opportunity to tap his lands in there and pump damage through the Wumpus, which, when you’re all done calculating Lashknife Barrier prevention and Spirit Link nonsense, gains him exactly one life per mana pumped.
So at the point when Theo calls my attention to this game, Denny has sixty-one life and rising, while Curt has twenty-two or so and is also rising, and neither one of them are doing a damn thing to actually kill the other player. This drives me nuts.
“You guys need to clear a space at the table, here,” I point out.
They look at me quizzically. What, I want to start a new game, or something?
“You know,” I continued,”So I can throw up. I’d hate for those cards to get dirty. What is wrong with you people??? Stop playing stupid lifegain.”
I then refused to watch any more of this tedium. Denny insists that the game did eventually end at some point – Carl apparently decked himself, which would mean that he essentially lost to his own Lashknife Barrier – but I am not altogether certain that the two of them aren’t still sitting in that dimly lit marina, tapping lands and creatures ad nauseum and racking up life into four digits, one or two miserable points at a time.
- A FORMAL TITLE. I love how younger readers still write and call me”Mr. Alongi.” Of course, they’re only being polite, and that’s terrific. It does help me pay a bit more attention, I suppose, since their email then radiates that earnest quality that folks who can remember life in the twentieth century enjoy hearing from young pups.
I also respond more quickly to email addressed to”Lord” Alongi and”Mr. President.” I pay slightly less attention to anything that begins with”Dear hobby enthusiast” or”XXX! Barely Legal Teens!” (I’m not trying to be funny when I say that garbage annoys and insults me beyond belief. The twin issues of privacy invasion and unsolicited advertising alone are enough to make me want to run for political office some day.)
- A TRACK RECORD. While I have had far less time than I would like to do additional, non-Magic writing on the side, I do have a manuscript I’m starting to push. Having the regular writing experience every week has helped me twofold in this respect: First, while it takes time away from manuscript writing and editing, it also gives me regular practice in writing… Which is the number one thing a writer needs to avoid block. Second, it gives me relevant writing experience to list on my query letters. Having seen both my wife and I progress in our careers this way, I highly recommend to anyone hoping to make a side (or full) career out of writing: Get a regular gig, anywhere, anyhow. And stick to it. The discipline is worth it.
- CLUTTER AROUND THE HOUSE.”I have to keep those eight boxes of cards in the middle of the living room,” you explain while keeping both eyes on the computer screen.”I’m organizing them.””Organizing said in the reverent tones that the pope uses when he says”praying”…
- THE MANTLE OF”A NAME PLAYER.” I really don’t deserve this one. But it is rather nice to sit down in a matchup, have my opponent come up, and say quietly,”You’re Anthony Alongi?” And then I see them get really nervous. I think I may have even unintentionally psyched a couple of these people out, and won a match or two off of distracted play alone. I hate to blow what could be a strategic advantage here, but I feel my job is to make people happier to play this game, not more nervous. So I would like to say, perhaps just this once, that the reverence and any subsequent strategic adjustments you may feel appropriate are, in fact, not necessary. I pay a lot of attention to this game, and in a pure chaos game I know my footing pretty well; but in duel I am just as vulnerable to defeat as the next opponent. Just ignore the name. Play your game. Avoid mistakes. You’ll do just fine.
Incidentally, that’s a good approach to take with any player. Even the ones who deserve their”name” status. Such players don’t often publicize the tournaments where they go 3-2 drop… But the more honest ones will report on most events. Look at the names of their opponents carefully. Not all of these winners are going to the Invitational.
- A DABBLE IN JOURNALISM. While reporting on the Sideboard for PT: Chicago, PT: Los Angeles, and the World Championship in Toronto is not a part of Casual Fridays, I would not have had the opportunity to do this had I not known Omeed Dariani from Star City work.
This is a good place to thank Omeed for his paving the way to that work. It is a great deal of fun, and stretches me to write in a slightly different way.
- AN ETERNAL BRIDESMAID. Nathan Long, a frequent entrant in Break this Card contests, may win one someday. But since he has established himself as an excellent Susan Lucci figure in the contest – always getting mentioned in runner-up slots, but never winning – I think I’m on to a fantastic storyline here. Remember, Nathan: Susan had to miss nineteen times before she got her due!
- A TASTE FOR STYLE POINTS. I think that before I started writing this column, I was less innovative… And less inclined to find the flashy play. But every writer needs to find good stories; and so the pressure to find something unusual to talk about drives me to use cards with interesting interactions. As a result, we get situations like this:
I am one of the last three players in a five-player chaos, along with Carl and Pete. Pete is playing white-red with Flowstone Chargers, Squee’s Embrace, and Order/Chaos. Carl is playing white-green-red token generation with Mogg Infestation, Squirrel Wrangler, Night Soil, and Overrun. I am playing blue-white red with Armored Guardian, Minotaur Illusionist, and Illuminate.
With each of us hanging around twelve life, Pete plays Chaos and attacks each of us: Me for fourteen, and Carl for another five. Ready for the shenanigans, I wait for damage to hit the stack and then tap out to play Captain’s Maneuver for ten. I decide that Carl, in fact, will take the redirect.
In a great little twist, Pete then taps out to play his own Captain’s Maneuver… And takes five of the damage away from Carl, and puts it back on me!
Duel can never do anything like that. That’s why I’ll always play multiplayer, no matter how many tournaments I play in.
- FUN COLLABORATIONS. Even though it required watching Survivor every Wednesday for several weeks (including that interminable last episode, where the blonde truck driver whose name I forget railed on and on at the brunette whose name I also forget, about deserts and water and rats and snakes and whatever else popped into her teeny, tiny little mind), I really enjoyed doing the Magic-related spoof with Anthony Boydell. It lasted just long enough so that we could each try out a bunch of different things – but not so long that either of us got depressed.
It’s a good age, when you can work with someone whom you’ve never met and still have a good time doing it.
I currently get the chance to work together with Bennie Smith on a Scrye feature here and there. (The current issue has something on Ice Cave; next issue… Well, you’ll see.) Bennie’s also excellent to work with, and I haven’t met him face-to-face, either. I suppose you could say I get along particularly well with people who have never met me.
- THE RESPECT OF MY PEERS. Noah Weil, Minnesota Magic player extraordinaire, always has a kind word for me when he sees me come into Dreamers.
“Hey, Mr. Alongi,” he’ll say with a friendly smirk.”Gracing us with your presence?”
We’ll sit and chat for a bit. Perhaps we’ll talk about draft choices from a previous tournament.
“Sizzle,” he’ll ruminate, referring to the Masques red common I once picked ninth, instead of fifteenth where it belonged.”That may look spectacular in your nineteen-player emperor-hunt-whatever games, Mr. Casual Wednesdays, or whenever you are; but you may want to pass that gem along in a booster draft next time.”
And sometimes he has a few words to say about my column.
“I like that so-called card advantage theory you came up with,” he’ll say.”Does anyone actually buy into that stuff?”
He’s a great guy. Nothin’ but love coming from Mr. Weil. He’s even got his own Sammy-Sosa-styled kiss-salute thing going on. It’s a bit more obscene; but it conveys the right message.
- COMRADES-IN-ARMS. I’m always happy to hear from other advocates of casual play, especially those involved in the Casual Player’s Alliance, like David Zadok Stroud and The Orgg. These are the guys who, through the Alliance posting board and their occasional emails (including some of the more innovative Break this Card contest entries), most often keep my eyes open to other groups and other ideas beyond my own. To put it in Aliens terms, they’re like an army of smart Corporal Hickses; while I’m that weaselly Paul Reiser character with only nominal authority over the whole operation.
- AN INVITATIONAL OF OUR OWN. Enough was written, back in February, about the first Multiplayer Magic Invitational, which included Randy Buehler, Michelle Bush, Chad Ellis, The Ferrett, Sheldon Menery, and me. I had a good enough time that I’m making tentative plans to host the second Invitational at Grand Prix Minneapolis. I’d love to involve players like Kurt Hahn, Aaron Forsythe, and other people who just obviously have a great time with this game, as well as considerable skill. If anyone out there – famous or no – is interested in participating, write to me at [email protected] and we’ll see what we can set up.
- PROOF OF THE MOTION OF INANIMATE OBJECTS. Anthony, are your readers aware that their Magic cards can move? Yes, really! And yours are proof. At first, the li’l buggers keep to their corner of the living room. Then a few cards scramble onto the living room endtable. Then a few of those venture further and establish an outpost on my kitchen table.
When I request you shoo them back to their living room corner, you comply…and then a week later, they escape again.
- INSTANT GRATIFICATION. I learned about the value of instants in multiplayer before I learned their value in duel. And so I therefore learned about the value of open mana in multiplayer before I learned its value in duel. And in turn, I therefore learned about the value of continual land drops in multiplayer before I learned about it in duel.
And so it follows directly from land drops (doesn’t it?) that I learned about the importance of graveyard recursion in multiplayer first. Right?
Doesn’t make sense? I’ll revisit a deck built a while back, which came out of analyzing a bad card: Noxious Vapors. I decided I’d use instant-speed creatures and spells, as well as Yawgmoth’s Agenda, to”break” the symmetry of the Vapors. The Vapors are now next to useless in the deck… But being able to put in Magma Burst, Balduvian Trading Post, and Strip Mine gave me an added dimension to the deck. I could restore lands from the graveyard, to continue extending potent threats from the graveyard, such as a block with a dead Simian Grunts, or another Lightning Bolt to the head.
I like the deck a lot, because it works in a funny way that even most graveyard recursion decks don’t work. But I don’t talk about it much, because its performance is erratic. Perhaps that will change soon.
From what I can tell of Odyssey, graveyards are going to be important (note that the rumored Threshold depends on cards in graveyard, and the rumored Flashback lets you play cards out of the graveyard). Keep that in mind as you build your next multiplayer deck.
- CONTACTS FROM SYDNEY TO ISTANBUL. I can’t go down this list much longer without a straightforward”thank you” to all of the excellent readers who took the time to write in and say hello. I’ve discussed earthquakes with Turks, opera with Aussies, and good places to play with fellow Minnesotans. Casual Fridays, and you guys, have made the world a smaller, nicer place for me. So thanks.
- DEEP RESPECT FOR 5-COLOR. Our group tried it, we didn’t like it, but none of us can deny that 5-color has done an amazing amount of good for a large and growing number of Magic players. It has re-taught them that Magic is not all about tournaments. (One of the reasons my group probably doesn’t feel the need to play the format is because we already have fun doing what we do. I’d probably be an addict if it weren’t for our weekly multiplayer games.) Kurt Hahn has nearly single-handedly done nearly as much to change the face of Magic as Wizards themselves have with Invasion block.
There ought to be an annual award for the Best Contribution to Magic, each year. Call it the Meddling Mage Award, or something like that. Kurt should win it for 2001. (Yes, I know he invented it years ago. But this is the year it had tangible impact on the Magic community.)
- HATE MAIL. It’s funny, the way I still need to hook my audience from the very beginning of my articles. About eight months ago, I get the one piece of hate mail I’ve ever gotten. The guy who wrote it tells me, simply:”This week’s article sucked.”
Ever the opportunist, I wrote back to thank him for the email, as well as his driving so directly (and politely!) to the point. Then I ask him: What didn’t you like about it. His reply?”I can’t say specifically, since I stopped reading after the first couple of paragraphs.”
I felt like writing back again and thanking him for trying so hard; but the jerk did have a point. Readers’ attention spans aren’t always what we writers would like them to be. There does have to be some work done on the part of the reader; but it would be nice if writers could make their job a bit easier, sometimes.
- AN INFLATED SENSE OF MY OWN IMPORTANCE. A new card and comic store opened downtown. I go there, and I’m really excited because I’ve never seen a store with this much room, so close. I get the manager’s attention, tell him how great the store looks, and then ask: When will he start regular tournaments?
I get a blank look.”Tournaments?”
Ugh.”Yeah, for Magic?”
“Oh. We won’t do that.”
“What if I told you I could get eight guys in here every Thursday night, for the first few times?” (This is probably true.)
“What if I told you I would freely advertise your store for six successive columns, and draw a bunch of business to your location, just through Casual Fridays?”
Okay, thanks; I needed that reminder. I can accept that.”Casual Fridays. I write a weekly internet column for the Magic community.”
“Oh. Naw, I don’t think we’re interested in holding events.
So there you go. I can get the occasional pro player to come back to his or her multiplayer roots; but my powers have boundaries. I cannot get a businessman to smell money.
Unbelievable. If you’re wondering what the name of the store is, tough luck. I have no interest in helping them out.
- STRONGER FAMILY TIES. Magic has brought Tony closer to his brother-in-law. I do love that guy – Portly, or Peter, or Punkboy, or whatever silly fake name my sweetheart has given my sister’s husband. Put Pulchritude and Anthony don’t have much in common, other than: (1) they married sisters; (2) their shared father-in-law drives them up a tree; and (3) they love Magic. That’s about it. So it’s pretty great to see them get together so frequently and play nice. Often, in-laws don’t get along; but Magic helped them each see the man behind the constant sarcasm (Anthony) and the seeming intolerance to any food but hamburgers (Persimmon).
- LOVABLE CANADIANS. Two quick shouts out to a couple of wacky neighbors to the north. First, Gary Wise, who I continue to believe is the strongest all-around Magic writer on the Internet. I’ve written enough love letters to Gary in the past, but I’ll write one more in the hopes that I can squeeze into another cool practice Rochester draft down the line.
Second, Josh Bennett, whose regular writing I miss terribly. Josh, it doesn’t matter how many tournaments the DCI puts on: Sideboard coverage is not enough! Please come back!
Also, an impromptu shout to John Rizzo, who’s neither lovable nor Canadian, but nevertheless somehow fits better here than anywhere else on this list.
- CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT. When I make a mistake, tell me. It doesn’t bother me. In fact, it makes this product better the next time around. Thanks.
- JUGGLING SKILLS. I like to complain about my schedule; but what’s-his-face’s”shed-yule” (as Captain Picard would say) is… Well, almost as bad as mine. In addition to a demanding day job doing…er…whatever it is he does, he’s also got you people to satisfy, various editors to please, tournaments to cover, completely non-Magic-related things to write, children to raise, a dog to maintain (the dog was, after all, his damn idea), and a wife to keep amused. That’s a lot for anybody. Although I resent Magic at times for stealing my husband, his excellent time management keeps that resentment to a minimum. And as my brother-in-law Paradox could tell you, I’m prepared to be resentful at the drop of a hat. So it’s a pretty good trick Anthony pulls.
- ATTRACTION TO ROOT GREEVIL. The last time I did a list like this, I had 84 items. (For those guessing as to how hard that list was, and the implications for this supposed list of 100, here’s a foreshadow: CF #84 will always contain the longest list I have ever generated.) At about 9 p.m. on Thursday, as I was trying to fill in some of the middle slots (which I tend to do last, since the ending ones always kind of write themselves), I realized I was not going to make deadline unless I sacrificed some quality.
Then I realized I had already missed deadline, and that The Ferrett probably just wanted the darn thing, something, anything to throw up there. (And awkwardly enough, The Ferrett is actually moving today and tomorrow, and had the least time to edit one of the more important hallmarks of his career – The Ferrett)
So I figured, why not burn three slots on Root Greevil? Is there a larger waste of space, a card that – unlike so many horrific cards – actually tries to be good?
After I wrote that column, I actually began to see Root Greevil drafted higher at tournaments. It didn’t make the deck cut, but it wasn’t going fifteenth. Then Apocalypse rolled out, and stuff like Quicksilver Dagger took hold… And I saw it played at Grand Prix: Columbus, by good, well-recognized players.
Folks, when I told you to love the Root Greevil, I meant the idea of Root Greevil. I never meant for you to cleave to the Root Greevil like misguided barnacles to a sinking boat’s hull. Please, for your safety and mine, stay away from the Root Greevil. Do not feed the Root Greevil, or give it culinary tips. Refrain from advising the Root Greevil on financial matters. And above all, do not give the Root Greevil your ATM card access code.
- A DESIRE FOR MORE WHITE SPACE. I’m beginning to like the columns where I write less, and say more. Graphics are usually involved. Here, take a look:
- AN UNFULFILLED GOAL. I really, really, want to start a reader mail feature. And I’ve wanted to in the past. For like a year. But here’s what happens: When I have a ton of really good reader emails, I forget that I wanna do it. And when I wanna do it, it’s after I’ve already responded to (and subsequently deleted) the most recent batch of correspondence.
So what to do? Well, I’m too stupid to take action on my own. But here’s what you can do: If you’d like me to tackle a topic through this column (and I would be ever-so-grateful if the topic were related to casual play), go ahead and send me the email… And then, at the end, remind me to post it. After getting a bunch of these, my memory is bound to kick in, and I’ll start the feature at a time when I’ve got the material. Now, I’m not guaranteeing the use of your specific email; but then again, in a fit of gratitude, I just might.
- UNPARALLED OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE YOUR FAMILY OBLIGATIONS. First it was a couple of times a month. Then once a week. Then the occasional local tournament, too.
Then, one day, it was the out-of-state extravaganza you had to attend even though you weren’t playing cards. “I watch people play,” you explained earnestly,”And then I write about watching them play.” Yeah, whatever helps you sleep at night, buster.
- MILITARY CONNECTIONS. While some might say that having both a father and father-in-law with a distinguished history in the Air Force should be enough for any man, I say you can never have enough access to weaponry and power. So I’m pleased to have Sara Camarata (and her husband Tony, but he never writes, so he gets trapped in parentheses), Sheldon Menery, and Dan Rowland as regular readers. Each of these personalities has their own, separate Magic identity; and they also do/have done their serious part to serve their country. They’re among the most interesting people I know through this game, and this column.
- A WAY TO TRACK TIME AND EXISTENCE.”Columns” is such a more convenient measure of time for me than”weeks” or”years.” And you can also see the progression of my personal philosophy. Two columns ago, I was at Worlds. (No matter how hard I try, I won’t get there.) Ten columns ago, I was scrambling to come up with enough material to make the Hall of Fame work. (If I try hard enough, I might get there.) Fifty columns ago, I was still bitter about the Dojo’s demise. (After trying really hard, I ended up nowhere.) And a hundred columns ago, I had an office in a church with a window view of a cemetery. (No matter what I do, I’ll end up right there.)
- FERRETT FEVER. Enough said.
- A WIDER VOCABULARY. When looking up”pernicious,” I stumbled upon the word”permute,” which I had no idea was a verb. (Yes, it’s the root of”permutations.”) So now I am far freer to talk about my ability to permute my collection into a viable filing system, or my desire to permute my deck so that all of the good cards are on top. The question, of course, is: Will the DCI permit me to permute?
While we’re scanning the page, here’s an absolutely unhelpful definition:”permeance, n.: the reciprocal of magnetic reluctance.”
- BETTER DRAWN RADISHES. When I’m sitting around trying to figure out what topic to write on (or, perhaps, trying to think of what item #38 will be), I pull a book of the shelf, called How to Draw a Radish and Other Fun Things to Do at Work, by Joy Sikorski. I look at instructions for sketching vegetables, forging a magic wand, and stenciling leaves. Doing this actually helps me think up topics: That whole card-advantage theory article a couple of months ago came out of”creating a mobile” instructions.
- TRANSITION TO (RE-ESTABLISHMENT AS?) A PIG. See? Like I said. You’re a pig. Here’s why: There are no ugly or fat women depicted anywhere on Magic cards. Ergo, Magic players are pigs. You are a Magic player. Ergo, you are a pig.
- A CONNECTION WITH MY DAUGHTER.”Sexist” art notwithstanding, I really enjoy watching my daughter learn the game. I’ve got her messing around with Portal cards. You have to pay each creature’s cost correctly, and mana develops normally at one land a turn. But there are no sorceries, no creature abilities, and no blocking. (Creature combat decisions are not only mathematically complex for a six-year old; they’re also immoral:”Ha ha, my daughter, you are facing lethal damage this turn! So, then. Do you send your cuddly pet lion in to die… Or will it be your best friend, beautiful faerie?”) So as you might guess, with these restrictions she always plays green, and always kicks my butt.
- LESS SKIN CANCER. What good does the healthy muscle tone you get from basketball do you, if you’re in a hospital bed with advanced melanoma? And don’t talk to me about indoor courts: Those brightly-painted lines and soft rope nets are for wimps. No, I’d rather grow fleshy behind my full hand of Magic cards, than stay slim with a hand full of liver spots.
(As a favor to Star City, I would like to plead with my readers to refrain from using my column as any sort of substitute for the sound, personal medical advice your doctor, or even a stranger on the street, can provide.)
- A DOUBTFUL GUEST. When Edward Gorey died, I realized how much I would miss his artful work. I’ve been looking for a way to integrate some reflection of his dark humor into Casual Fridays; but I haven’t figured out the right vehicle, yet. While you’re waiting for me to puzzle this one out, do go to the bookstore and pick up a copy of The Doubtful Guest, and/or The Gashlycrumb Tinies. (They’re in one or more of his anthologies, as well.) I would pay good money for a Magic expansion that showcased Neville, 1/1 for B, neither deals nor receives combat damage, B: sacrifice Neville to ennui.
- A THOROUGH DISDAIN FOR KEANU REEVES. After reading many teenagers writing their first articles on Star City, and elsewhere, I am convinced that any one of them could do a better job at writing a movie script than whoever hatched the latest Reeves vehicle. I forget the title, but you’ve seen the previews: Keanu, white boy extraordinaire, goes into an inner city to show ten black kids how to play baseball better. Of course, there’s a white woman bopping around so that he doesn’t have the complication of falling in love with a minority. And amazingly – get this in a mentor-and-kids movie – he imparts some Keanu-sized chunks of life wisdom as well. One such gem is this, which he delivers earnestly:
“I’m blown away by your ability to show up.”
Snickers on a stick. I have no idea what else to say here, other than the Minnesota State Fair sold out of an actual new food item involving deep fried Snickers on a stick. (This is one reason why Mary and I have decided not to attend this year’s fair – that is to say, not the absence of this food item, but the potential of resupply.)
- EXPOSURE TO ALTERNATE SPELLINGS. I know precisely when my husband’s column goes up, because moments after the link appears, a thousand people email him right away to let him know that he spelled”mana” incorrectly. Until now, I’ve managed to restrain myself from writing back and pointing out that”mana” was spelled at least two ways before the exalted card game of Magic was more than a brain burp in Richard Garfield’s mind and oh yes, by the way, get lives, you little freaks.
- DOG HAIR IN MY KEYBOARD. On the Diary of an Emotionally Weary Canine article (back in March or April), I actually tried to get Turquoise to tap a key or two with her paw, just so I could say to people,”Yeah, she actually typed a couple of words!” and maybe they’d get just a little voice in the back of their minds that would tell them, hey, maybe the guy actually has a supernaturally intelligent dog…it could happen, right? Border collies are supposed to be really smart…
But alas, even Turquoise’s delicate paws are too large to hit individual keys. Well, I could get her to hit the tilde key about a million times; but that doesn’t exactly dazzle readers.
- A BETTER APPRECIATION FOR CHAOS THEORY. Chaos theory, when its original (late 80’s) form, pointed to a mixture of unpredictability in the world around us… And a faintly detectable sense of order within that chaos. Great multiplayer games work in a similar way: There’s a total inability to guess what will happen next; but when you look back at the record of a game, it all makes complete sense.
Take, for example, a recent game where I have Pernicious Deed out. It’s on the board, it’s sackable at instant speed, I have the mana, nothing can stop me… Right?
Well, there is a card (actually two) that can: Interdict (and Bind). As I try to sack the Deed, Theo actually flashes this card at me and says,”nope.”
I look at Interdict. I’m not looking at the rules text; I know the card. (This is a difficult admission; but it’s true… I actually bought a copy of it so I could fit four into a deck I built to deal with slivers a long time ago.) I’m looking at the artwork, and trying to figure out how a dumb cartoon mirror made out of water is going to prevent this amazing bomb from going off. How, exactly, does this work in the”real world”?
In any case, the Deed’s ability was countered, I lost control of the board, and I was soon dead. There was no reason for this, and no chance for anyone (other than Theo) to predict that this would happen.
But looking back at it all, it makes perfect sense. An action draws out an equal and opposite reaction. My awesome deckbuilding and play abilities terrified Theo, and he had to find the worst card possible to balance out the physical equation. It’s all a delicate balance, struck perfectly once again in our group.
- AMMO FOR AN AUCTION. I have no intention of embezzling any ideas that come to me from readers for the Auction of the People format at this year’s invitational (I’ve already got a deck put together, and will probably have submitted it by the time this is posted). What I mean by this item is, I have built up certain skills in the past two years. Chief among those is the ability to spot absolutely ridiculous interactions between and within creature types. This talent won’t get me elected to any powerful political office, or earn me millions of dollars; but with luck, it’ll get Finkel and Budde down in South Africa, bidding life and cards furiously for a deck featuring Ovinomancer. (Hint: The Ovinomancer is a red herring. Sheep are going to be so overdone… Or are they???)
- DOJO-DAYS COLUMNS. Darryl Greensill, a reader from Australia, emailed me several months ago with a plan to collect my entire Dojo column collection and consolidate it. Thinking the task nearly impossible, I wished him good luck and godspeed. He emailed me back about a week later with the whole thing, put together. I’m really grateful to Darryl for doing that. I also feel it’s something some readers may want to have access to. I’ve sent the Word file to The Ferrett, who I hope can make it accessible or downloadable in some fashion, in the archives. (It’s a project, but it’s one that’s gonna take a day and a half, so I’ve been stalling… – The Ferrett)
- A BETTER FEELING ABOUT MYSELF. Doing this column week in and week out, and having the continual contact with readers, has done something special for me: It has given me enormous incentive to become a better writer. It’s also been a prod to become a better Magic player, a better role model for those younger readers who seek my advice on everything from how they interact with their friends to why The Ferrett is wrong about everything. (Anthony is the best writer on the internet – The Ferrett)
I feel that, even beyond this column, I should throw in another gift for all of you – and so I will.
It comes as no surprise to my readers that my picture does not often appear near my columns. There’s no real mystery to this; it’s not like I have an”artiste” thing going on, or a third eye. I just feel Casual Fridays is a group effort, and group pictures look like crap when reduced to a square inch. So no picture.
On top of that, I have, without any intentional effort, never been very well-photographed as a part of Sideboard coverage. I’m there as a reporter, not a player – so I’m usually half of a shaved scalp looming next to Kai Budde, or a big nose lurking behind Steven OMS.
I nearly split a gut when I saw the picture of Team Mom Has the Kids…Again from the Grand Prix Columbus Feature Match. As the C player, I was at the far end of the table. The picture catches me with my face away from the camera. Meanwhile, my two teammates are front and center. This is nice; but also disturbing: Do people now think that I look like Bob Drosky, or worse, Todd Petit?
So I’m forced into this move. The mask must come off. I now present to you a full-face, no holds barred, crystal-clear picture of the genius behind Casual Fridays.
(You should keep scrolling if you’re ready.)
Okay, you’re ready.
- THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY MICHELLE BUSH. This is the woman Anthony secretly wishes he had married. Smart, plays a mean game of cards, writes really well, and easy on the eyes. Hey, Michelle? It’s a short flight to the Twin Cities. Come and get him.
- A DESIRE FOR SOMETHING ELSE. Here’s the deal. I’m sitting here at fifty and could do fifty more… But haven’t we learned enough together this week? I’m not trying to punk out, so much as point out that we have so many more things to do right now, you and I. I should get away from my word processor and spend time with my family. You should get away from your Internet connection and go out with your friends. As many a Magic writer has carried on at length, there’s more to life than this game. I think my column has connected with many readers because it gives glimpses into that world beyond – where the kids are waiting for you to come home from the tournament, the dog is madly typing away at the computer in your absence, and the wife is continuing her investigation into this hobby’s embedded sexism.
Well, at this point in the article, I gotta say, coming up with a hundred things is going to take a bit of intestinal fortitude. And, I am pleased to say, a partner!
Some of you may remember an early-age Casual Fridays, where my wife was kind enough to grace us all with her considerable wit and literary talent. Well, I asked her this week to come back and celebrate the good times Casual Fridays, and Magic more generally, have given us. Here is her melodious voice, in italics:
A hundred things Magic has done for us? Give me a break. It’s a card game, okay? CARDS. You’d ridicule anyone who was this obsessive about poker. Anyway, you’ll be lucky if you can come up with TEN things Magic has done for us.
With this in mind, I offered her an early slot to meet that first milestone.
Perhaps we can give the illustrious author a bit of time to herself, to think up more productive items for the list…
Speaking of the light of my life, it seems she has come up with an actual, serious item to suggest. Yes, Mary? You have something to share with the rest of us?
And you promise to be good?
Very well, I’m glad to see you’ve joined the program. So tell us: What great thing do you feel Casual Fridays given us?
All right, all right, that’s enough. Someone still obviously needs time alone with their happy thoughts.
And while in town, if you play your cards right (and I find the pun acceptable here), you may get to meet the illustrious MaryJanice, who will grace us with another one of her brilliantly Seinfeldian observations:
I have never heard my wife use the contraction”li’l” before. Must be a farm girl thing.
For her next item, Mary has turned to family matters…in particular, our extended family:
Pete and I also both love the Simpsons, Star Trek, and fantasy football. There’s actually a lot more intersection there than Mary admits; but I gotta say Magic does have us on the phone to each other more often than we otherwise would be.
And hey, I love my father-in-law!”Large Al” once gave Mary a bundle – and I mean a bundle – of cash for Christmas, one year, just because his daughter jokingly suggested it as a present. Cash is my circulatory system’s daily glass of red wine: It clears the arteries and helps you get straight to my heart.
(Paul, of course, can’t stand the guy, and always talks about how they don’t need any… lemme see if I have this straight…”stinking Christmas presents from that Ozark-lovin’ Large Al”, and how Mary and I might as well get all the presents from now on. The fact that my father-in-law has an Internet connection, of course, has nothing to do with my willingness to share this information with each and every one of you.)
Back to another outcome Mary would like to share:
Mary was kind enough not to mention the primary casualty of my priority-setting: Our lawn. That land is just bitter, bitter soil now. If it weren’t for the weeds, it wouldn’t be green. I don’t have the heart to uproot them. Speaking of roots…
Anthony doesn’t like
Lots of text, sparse graphics
Lots of graphics, sparse text
The really cool part of this chart is, it represents that much more formatting The Ferrett has to blast through… And I said it much better in a sentence earlier. Irony may be even better than white space.
Here’s another item from Mary’s list:
Most recently:”I’m going out of town again; I’ll be gone from the 7th through the 28th. It’s the World Magic Con Sci Fi Con Thong Con. G’bye.”
See, this just proves that she never listens to me. No one in their right mind would expect to spot a thong at a Magic event. (Randy Buehler keeps his well-hidden, I hear.)
Time to hear from Mary again. What’s next, sweetie-poo?
First, don’t call me sweetie-poo. Second, you’re a pig.
I see we’re back to shrill mode. Okay, I’ll bite. How am I a pig?
This is not entirely true.
What, the part about you being a pig? LIES!
Well, I meant more the part about the fat or ugly women – there are cards with that kind of artwork, out there. But you’re right in stating that there aren’t many, so I have a business proposition for you, my dearest eye’s apple. Send in your cutting-edge idea for a”Were-Walrus” Magic expansion to Mark Rosewater, c/o Wizards of the Coast, Redmond, WA. (Leave my name off of this, please.) Give him your best pitch. Tell him how tons of girls and women would join this game if only there were pictures of really unattractive women (and heck, no need to be sexist; ugly men, too) on all of the cards. After all, girls and women only buy pictures of attractive people when attached to, oh say, the covers of fashion magazines, right? Thank goodness you’re here to serve as the ambassador to a more enlightened market…
Listen, you unbelievably sarcastic bastard, let’s start with Earthbind…
I’m sorry, sweetheart; your internet connection appears to be breaking up.
We’ve re-established our link with Mary’s e-mail. Here’s her next item:
She loves you all. Really, she does. She can’t wait to meet each and every one of you at Grand Prix Minneapolis. And if you email her right now and ask her nicely, she may even invite you over to our house for a home-cooked meal. And a guest room!
Oh, come on. How many of you were really expecting a serious picture??? Okay, of those people, how many of you actually read this column, ever?!?
I actually submitted this to Pete for my author’s photo over a year ago. Pete gave me some silly”if you do it, everyone will want to do it” argument that may hold logical water, but is certainly no fun at all. Plus, it totally ignores the incredible amount of effort it took to get Turquoise up into the chair (where she knows she’s not allowed to be), stop licking herself, and look at the darn camera for two seconds straight.
Yes, those are her real ears.
Mary, who has ears almost as big (but not nearly as furry), has one last item for us.
All right, buster, that does it. No more pulling punches.
You forgot that she’s also a doctor, and a fellow Harvard alum. Michelle, no need to fly out. I’m on the way. See you at Logan.
I would like to get back to all of that, if you please. Because as much as Casual Fridays has done for me, that world has done a great deal more.
It’s good to be into three digits. Thanks, everyone, for sticking with me for the last couple of years. See you next week.