Commissioners, A Richard Garfield Story And All Things Swanky

Too sexy for the DMV, indeed! You’re all jealous, I tell ya, jealous of my swanky good looks. But I get the feeling you’d rather not hear me discuss the secrets to my inner swankiness (to order, call the number on your screen or send $29.95 to….) I know, let’s talk about Regionals like everyone…

Too sexy for the DMV, indeed! You’re all jealous, I tell ya, jealous of my swanky good looks.

But I get the feeling you’d rather not hear me discuss the secrets to my inner swankiness (to order, call the number on your screen or send $29.95 to….)

I know, let’s talk about Regionals like everyone else! Woo hoo!

Uh, well, except that I didn’t go. E3 is coming up (short for Electronic Entertainment Expo, it’s the big dog-and-pony show for all computer game developers to show off their wares to the press and start building hype for releases). Accordingly, I’m pretty much spending the bulk of my time in the office trying to get a playable version of our game done. Heck, last night was the first time I’d had a chance to play Magic in almost two weeks. I built this really swank deck that I’ve been itching to play, but had no time to do so.

I do have a cool E3 story about meeting Richard Garfield, but I’ll save that for later.

On the bright side, this means one less article about Regionals metagaming, deck choices and yet another“He Replenishes, I lose” report. I must, however, give props to Aaron“The Captain” Fitzgerald, a friend of mine who went to Seattle and wangled a Top Eight finish using a modified Aggro-Enchantress variant (he threw in one Swamp maindeck and two Darkest Hour in the sideboard, thusly neutering his deck’s bane, black removal, and apparently it worked). Aaron now gets to go to Nationals, assuming he can scrape together the cash.

This now makes me, among my circle of friends and acquaintances just about the only person who hasn’t been to the Pro Tour. Even uber-scrub Kirk Powell got to go—sure, he did finish dead last at PTLA’97, but at least he got to go.

So that’s my next goal.

Now, it’s like 1:00 in the a.m., I’m waiting for the latest build to compile, and I’ve got some time to think about decks, cards, and getting something done for Star City.

I’ve been reading a few baseball historical tomes lately. I’m both a history buff and baseball aficionado. I actually believe keeping score at the ballgame (a dying art) is a great way to pass nine innings and I get a kick out of reading box scores from old newspapers. At present, I’ve been reading up on the infamous“Black Sox” Scandal.

For those of you not familiar with the infamous“Black Sox” scandal, in 1919, nine members of the Chicago White Sox, fed up with the penny-pinching of owner Charles Comiskey, conspired to throw the World Series for payoffs from gamblers. The scheme was later uncovered—after the underdog Cincinnati Reds won the series 5-3—and the players were prosecuted.

In order to restore fans’ faith in the game and save the sport from the influence of gamblers, baseball’s powers that be created the Office of the Commissioner, giving that person broad and ambiguous powers to act“in the best interests of baseball.” The first commissioner was former federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a man who could probably double for the dictionary definition of“stern.” His first act was to ban the participants in the Black Sox Scandal from the game for life, even though a jury found them not guilty.

In retrospect, his actions probably saved organized baseball. Had the perception of cheating and fraud become entrenched within the game, the sport doubtlessly would not have been able to reach the heights is has since then.

His actions also led to some interesting confrontations down the line. While the commissioner is appointed by the owners, frequently a commissioner would use his“best interests of baseball” powers against the interests of the owners.

So, what does this have to do with Magic? In my sleep-deprived state, a furtive idea has crossed my mind.

What if there was a DCI Commissioner, responsible for acting in“the best interests of Magic?”

A commissioner would give the DCI a recognizable face: By and large, the DCI is pretty much seen as this entity that issues bannings on a whim. It’s much bigger and more complex than that. Most players can recognize Mark Rosewater, some might know the name Jeff Donais, but the rest of the DCI might as well be one of those clandestine organizations with black helicopters and secret messages on the backs of Kix cereal those wacky militia types are always ranting about.

By having a central figurehead to essentially be a player/DCI liaison, a lot of the misconceptions about the DCI can be cleared up before they snowball into massive player revolts. This person could also act as a public representative for Magic and the DCI to the non-gaming public, although I doubt they would have the power to book and participate in grudge matches a la the WWF Commissioner. I must admit, however, by-play like“Masticore followed by a elbow from the top rope” does sound appealing.

Maybe he could even legislate the use of soap at tournaments.

Tournament Organizer:“The players are revolting!”
DCI Commish: (sniffing air)“You got that right.”

A commissioner would have the power to act quickly on miscreants: It’s been said before, it’ll be said again; but if Magic truly wants to achieve mainstream appeal, even having the slightest appearance of impropriety means losing valuable credibility. There are certain players who have been accused to cheating on multiple occasions who have continued make money on the Pro Tour.

Using my previous example, even though a jury exonerated the Black Sox, there was enough evidence for the commissioner to nonetheless ban the players from the game. He was not bound by the findings of a court of law.

A DCI Commissioner could act in a similar fashion, removing suspected cheaters from the Pro Tour environment for any amount of time, and have the power to issue on-the-spot rulings.

There is a system already in place for dealing with rule-breakers, but a commissioner would only serve to strengthen it.

However, there is the possibility of an individual getting too much power (which is why baseball’s commissioner position has pretty much been neutered and you have an owner—and a wishy-washy one at that—now sitting in the office).

I didn’t say this was a perfect idea. If you have suggestions, feel free to fire away.

I’m getting loopy. But I did promise you a Richard Garfield story.

Okay, it’s E3’98, I’m showing off our company’s game, and who should walk into our display area but Richard Garfield and I think Skaff Elias. They were apparently looking around for games that could be played at the new WotC Game Center, and our little multiplayer extravaganza seemed to fit the bill. I mentioned I was a big fan and long-time player, and was given three packs of Stronghold for my fawning.

Skaff was wearing a Mirage T-shirt with a picture of Telim’Tor on it. Someone, I forget who, asked who that was on the T-shirt, and that led to a discussion of all things Telim’Tor.

I mentioned that I had used Telim’Tor’s Darts as part of a very good MiViLite block deck I had been running. Richard then notes that,“Originally, it was called Telim’Tor’s Tiny Rod, but we changed it after we came up with the flavor text.”

I’ll leave it to you, gentle reader, to go dig out a copy of Telim’Tor’s Darts to get the punchline to that joke. Richard was so impressed with me that he offered me a job at Wizards of the Coast designing their next big CCG, but I said no, that taking this position would require me leaving the fine metropolis of Eugene, where at night I done a cape and cowl and fight crime as The Masked Vigilante.

No, not really.

And that is my big“I Met Richard Garfield” story.

Dave Meddish