I’m pretty sure that I remember the EXACT moment when things started to make sense – in the World O’ Magic, at least. It was one little sentence that abruptly molded me into the what-the-hell-kind-of-player/writer-are-you that I am today.
"What the hell are you?"
-Jack Lemmon, Glengarry Glen Ross
It all started during round 1 at the Prophecy Prerelease. During, and most especially after, this round, things became clear enough to see all the way to the bottom. Muddled among all the discarded boots, tires, and assorted river sludge, I found an epiphany lying underneath a rusty license plate.
It was such a profound moment that I will have a difficult time conveying it in words. (What a shock, huh?) But I’ll try. Because I think it’s worth it.
Allow me to set the scene:
I sit down to the table and notice my opponent – Dan was his nombre, Chico – is about eleven years old. So, of course, I figure on an easy victory, as I rule at Magic. Especially against damn newbies. (Remember, this event transpired pre-enlightenment)
Now, Dan has a cold. A bad cold. Actually, it’s not a cold… he’s staring death in the face here, chief. Within five seconds of sitting down, I wondered if I should (Rules be damned!) leave my cell phone on during this match, as I could foresee needing to call 911 when this kid just keeled over as The Plague finally overtook him.
And it’s his first tournament.
I’m already running the phrases through my head. You know the phrases, don’t you? The ones you toss at your opponent after you have just beaten the living death out of him:
"Dude, good deck ya got, but you got screwed."
"Man, I’m sorry about getting so lucky."
"Good luck the rest of the way, and I’ll see ya in the top 8."
I decided to choose my phrases of consolation based upon the actual game situations, as is recommended in the "Wizards Big Fat Book of Nice Things to Say After Beating the Living Snot Out of Your Opponent."
After coughing up a lung or two, Dan and I roll ’em. I have to explain that rolling a die is one of the more traditional methods in randomly determining who plays/draws first. Of course, my eloquent explanation is lost on this young man, as he is using all of his mental faculties in an effort to stave off death from mucous ex- and/or im-plosion.
Dan plays first, (guess what’s coming) he lays a land and draws a card. I fix that without calling a judge. Man, I am so nice.
<I’m doing okay here>
On turn three, Dan goes off. Yes, he drew his combo – a creature he could cast. He throws down (and I mean THROWS) a Diving Griffin and shouts "Diving Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffin!"
<Um, I hope he’s not gonna be this nerdy for long>
After he winds down from his Griffin high, I ask him if he has an enchant world Aluren in play, as he didn’t tap any mana to cast his Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffin! My truly awesome and hilarious offering is answered with the blankest stare that has ever been, or ever will be, witnessed. He finally taps his land, then says, "I attack you, take two."
<Okay, he’s getting mildly annoying>
I do my best to explain haste, or the lack thereof, to which he sniffles, coughs, burps, farts, bleeds from his eyes, and says "go."
I take my turn and cast something to which he responds by announcing that his Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffin! is going to attack me again. After explaining some random rules that really don’t even cover this situation, he takes his turn.
He draws his card and attacks again, but I asked him if he would like to untap his lands first. He says "oh yeah," untaps, and casts Fen Stalker – in the middle of combat. I tap 2UU to cast Rewind and ask him to start his turn again, ’cause I feel I’m losing control of this situation.
This time around, when he casts Fen Stalker, he says, in as diabolical a voice a nearly dead human being can, "He is the FEN Staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalker!"
<Please announce all your cards like this, chief>
FrigginRizzo: <—Has decided to announce all of his cards like that.
(Swaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamp, Dark Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitual,
Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain of Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears. Go.)
I can go on and on, (and even on and on too) but I think I can explain my epiphany a little better in a conversation.
This conversation explains my epiphany.
Was that redundant?
Was that redundant?
Turn to page 4 in your "Guide to Reading FrigginRizzo for Fun and Profit" and try to follow along.
Might of Oaks and That Annoying Kid:
<Guess who I just bumped into!>
Um, I don’t know…scoop.
<Come on. Take a guess.>
Um… every current and former member of Menudo?
<Remember That Annoying Kid you told me about?>
<Come on! You remember That Annoying Kid, right?>
That Annoying Kid? Well, Menudo was kind of annoying…
<You don’t remember telling me about him?>
…and they were kids…
<Man! Come on! The kid with, like, a twenty-digit DCI number!>
I have no idea. What about him?
<Wow, you have a very short memory.>
My memory is fine.
<Maybe it’s not as fine as you think.>
It’s fine, and thank you for your concern.
<Well, let me take you back to a significant moment that you seem to have erased from your fine memory.>
<Let me bring over That Annoying Kid, ’cause he wanted to talk to you, or something…>
[Do you remember me?]
<Well, you have played a lot of matches.>
[Let me see if I can jog your memory.]
<Yes, kick da’ wisdom up in here.>
[Maybe it was my first tournament.]
Perhaps it was.
<Indeed, it seems likely.>
[Maybe I made a few mistakes.]
Hey, we were all newbies once.
[All right, maybe I made a lot of mistakes.]
I know I’ve made my share.
<I bet you have.>
[But my mistakes were Legendary.]
Don’t beat yourself up.
<Let me do it for you.>
Give the kid a break, won’t ya, slick?
<My witty comment was tactless?>
You could say that.
My bad is as my bad does.
<Now it is your witty comment that is tactless.>
Sorry. Go ahead.
<Yes, our collective bad.>
[Like I was saying, my mistakes, they bordered on pathetic.]
They couldn’t have been that bad.
<I bet they were.>
[Well, I guess that playing first and drawing a card isn’t the worst mistake ever.]
<Done that. Okay, never did that.>
[And maybe not keeping track of your life total isn’t that foolish.]
Well, it’s usually a good idea to keep track.
<Yes, pens and paper are very hard to come by!>
[And I guess I can see how attempting to cast a Thermal Glider for free because your opponent has a red creature in play doesn’t seem to be entirely silly.]
Well, a little.
<Man, we are way past silly.>
[And I guess it really isn’t that annoying to continuously repeat the phrase "He is the Fen Stalker," in a screechy-yet-diabolical tone, every twenty seconds for the better part of thirty minutes.]
Thirty minutes seems a long time.
<Who the hell plays with Fen Stalker?>
[And I can see how attempting to take two turns in a row due to the resolution of combat damage might not seem that ridiculous.]
Well, maybe a tad.
<Yet another "Damage-on-the-stack-equals-free-Time-Walk apologist!">
[And I bet many players have tried to regenerate a creature from their graveyard as blockers are declared.]
Regeneration can be confusing, but tha-
<I’m calling Wizards! They won’t believe that one!>
[And picking up your deck and looking through it in response to a Snuff Out might not be the textbook definition of legal.]
I’m no Rules Guru, but I don’t think that’s legal.
<Sure it is. Try it again, but call a judge to watch first.>
[And so, if one would be irked by another’s failing to understand the basic concepts such as untapping lands at beginning of turn, tapping creatures to attack, and actually burying creatures who had sustained lethal damage, it shouldn’t be taken personally, right?]
Well, everyone should know the basic-
<Jeez, you must like, really suck.>
[Does any of this sound familiar?]
<Did you mean to say "fine-ite" memory?>
[See if you can remember this…]
Why don’t you just tell me who you ar-
<Jeez! I’ll be over here committing suicide if anyone needs me.>
[I’m the one that made you want to reach over the table, grab my deck and tear it into shreds and go into Chaos Orb mode, aiming for any organ that could possibly have the word "vital" attached to it.]
I don’t think I’ve ever been that angr-
[I’m also the one that made you seriously contemplate just how far one could conceivably shove a deckbox down another human being’s throat.]
Seriously, I don’t think I woul-
[And I’m the one that made you want to call a judge and ask if gouging out an opponent’s eyes is legal in sanctioned play.]
Are you sure that I’m th-
[I’m the kid who you wanted to up and kick square in the ‘nads to insure that his genepool would not further infect this planet.]
<You said "nads.">
Oh, you’re THAT Annoying Kid!
[Yep, I’m That Annoying Kid.]
I remember you now.
<He must’ve been in Menudo.>
That was a very trying match…
I almost went off, seriously…
<…Even Bargain fizzles once in a while…>
But I held it together, and tried to be nice…
<…Oh, the fortitude of your intestines…>
It was very difficult…
<…Your flabber was nearly gasted…>
So, what did you want to tell me?
<Are you in a Vendetta kind of mood?>
<Are you going to bust a cap or something?>
<Gonna kick it Gangland Style then?>
[…I came here to talk to you about our match.]
I don’t remember much about the games though.
<I bet you remember Ricky Martin’s birthday though.>
[It was the greatest match I’ve ever played.]
But, didn’t I beat you two straight? And all those mistakes!
<Wow! You beat a newbie!>
[It wasn’t exactly the outcome of our match I wanted to talk about.]
<You gonna kick him in the grill?>
[It was exactly the outcome of our match I wanted to talk about.]
But you just sai-
<I’ll take "Confusing and Annoying Kids" for 200 please, Alex?>
[What does he mean?]
It doesn’t matter.
<I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat.>
Why don’t yo-
<Would you like to phone a friend?>
<Is that your final answer?>
<Thanks! I’m here all week. And be sure to tip your waitress!>
Go rip someone or something.
<Good idea. The stupid fat kid is here!>
[Is there something wrong with your friend?]
I think so.
[Does he have amatta or something?]
[Nothing. What’s amatta with you?]
Now that’s comedy.
[Just trying to lighten up a little.]
Heard about the guy from Nantucket?
[I just wanted to tell yo-]
He built a Net Deck then he said –
Who’s ther – um, all right, what about our match?
[Well, I was just going to tell you something.]
You have the floor.
[I wanted to say thanks.]
Er, uh…you’re welcome, I guess.
[No, really, thank you.]
Okay, you’re welcome.
[You don’t know why I’m thanking you?]
Of course I do. Well, no, I don’t.
[Because you were an Oak.]
I think I’m lost.
[I don’t think you are.]
Oh, I think I am.
[The fact that you don’t even know why I’m thanking you speaks volumes.]
Is it too late for me to buy a vowel?
[I think you know what I’m talking about.]
No, I assure you, I have no clue… Hey, wait a minut-
Is it because I didn’t shove my deckbox down your throat?
[In a way.]
Or gouge out your eyes?
[In a way.]
But I wouldn’t really do those things.
[I know, but it is precisely what you didn’t do that warrants thanks.]
Well, I didn’t Chaos Orb your vital organs.
[You didn’t get mad.]
I sure did.
No, not outwardly.
[You didn’t try to embarrass me.]
I guess I didn’t.
[You didn’t look down on me because I was a newbie.]
I wanted to, though.
[You didn’t make my experience as unpleasant as I must have made yours.]
It wasn’t that bad.
[Yes, it was that bad.]
Okay, you were pretty annoying.
[I was That Annoying Kid.]
But annoying in a way that… um…
<Awesome! Two Ports for my Mox Diamond! Fat stupid idiot!>
[No, just plain annoying.]
But you seem much less annoying today.
<Actually, you are both kind of annoying.>
Go falsify match results or something.
You were saying?
[After that tournament, I was really hooked on Magic.]
Hey, I’m still hooked. And I even suck. A lot.
[No, I mean that I resolved to learn the game.]
Well, that’s good. Some new players have a tendency to make their first tournament their last.
[And why do you think that is?]
Well, maybe they played opponents who were jerks.
Or maybe they just didn’t have fun.
[Do you see it now?]
[The fact that I didn’t quit is partly because of you.]
But I don’t get it. I beat you pretty badly.
[No, you beat me pretty good.]
Well, Okay then. I beat you pretty… goodly?
<That stupid fat kid is gonna be so pissed when he finds out that he dropped at 5-0! I friggin’ rule!>
[When I say "you beat me pretty good," I mean that I learned from you.]
<You learned from him? That’s like getting a job at Taco Bell because you want to learn how to make Authentic Mexican food!>
Why don’t you-
<Or Majoring in Liberal Arts so you can learn to paint family portraits of the Kennedys!!>
<Or joining AOL so you can learn to surf the Internet!!!>
Give it a res-
<Or asking Keanu Reeves for acting lessons!!!!>
<And even lik->
Shut the hell up!
<Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!>
[Go away, please.]
Yeah, maybe you should.
<Man I was on a roll too!>
<A’ight. I’m Audi 5000 Gee. I’ll just ghost to da’ coast. A, B, See-ya!>
[Wow, he’s annoying.]
[What I mean to say is that while you were containing your urge to bury target player, you were teaching me.]
I think I understand, a little.
[I think you do.]
Bury target player? That’s a white card isn’t it? One white, instant?
[Thanks for sticking it out.]
Not a problem. Anyone would’ve done the same. It’s like a rule.
[No, not anyone would have.]
Sure they would have. You just don’t know Magic players very well.
[I don’t know your friend very well.]
Well, he’s more of an exception to the rule.
[Yes, he’s quite exceptional.]
Well, he has a car.
[I think you know what you’re talking about, but…]
But nothing. Give them a chance.
[One rotten apple…]
…But look both ways before crossing.
[Mix metaphors much?]
I should’ve been a bartender.
[Well, maybe I could give them the benefit of the doubt.]
You definitely should.
[Again, thanks for being cool about it.]
Just doing my part.
[I’m eager to do my part as well.]
For That Annoying Kid, you’re all right.
<Awesome! I just snatched a Squee from the dealer’s table!>
<Yeah! Friggin’ newbies will still pay like ten bucks for a Squee!>
Not that. It was nice of him to let me kno-
<Him? Nice? What are you, going fruity on me?>
He said I was an Oak.
<I see. Okay, no, I don’t.>
I didn’t think you would.
<What the hell? An Oak?>
It’s an idea that you’re probably not ready for yet.
<Oh right. Mr. 1591 Composite telling me what I’m not ready for!>
Well, I only figured it out just now.
<But you’re a borderline idiot.>
You probably put a lot of people into that category, don’t you?
<No, most people aren’t borderline, they’re just idiots.>
A world full of Court Jesters, all for you, huh?
<I’m the King of Rock, there is none higher!>
I don’t think you have it in you to be an Oak.
<You’re buying that "You da’ Oak" crap?>
Yes, I did buy it. Because he was right.
<I think you’ve been renting too many chick flicks.>
You would think that.
<If the shoe fits.>
You weren’t there.
<Did I need to be there? I don’t think I missed anything.>
You missed plenty.
<No, you and Mr. Might of Oaks are missing something.>
But I do remember one thing…
<Oh, your fine memory is back yet again?>
I remember when the match was over…
<…You stole his deck?>
When the match was over…
<…You stole some random kid’s binder?>
His dad came over to me and…
<…Whipped out his gat and cold got ballistic?>
Well, he thanked me.
<That’s so gay.>
I didn’t think is was.
<What the hell would he thank you for?>
He said, "Thanks for being so patient with my son."
(I’m pretty sure that I remember the EXACT moment when things started to make sense, in the World O’ Magic at least. It was one little sentence that abruptly molded me into the what-the-hell-kind-of-player/writer-are-you that I am today.)
He said, "Thanks for being so patient with my son."
<What a fag.>
You just don’t get it, do you?
<Yeah, I get it. You and Grandmaster Oakie Oak are just…>
Should I brace myself for a profound statemen-
<…a couple of weepy little bitches.>
And Socrates was pleased…
Your truth? No, it doesn’t hurt at all.
<Could you be more of a Friggin’ woman?>
Considering the source, I’ll take that as a compliment.
<Considering you’re a fruity ass, I’m gone.>
You most definitely are.
Three very different people examining their game?
One person with an insightful mirror?
It doesn’t matter, as epiphanies come in many forms. And mine was in the form of a flashback.
You can be an Oak, an Acorn, or The Hatchet.
John Friggin’ Rizzo
"Suddenly, she couldn’t see the acorns for the trees."
-Should have been the flavor text on Might of Oaks.
Oh, it was.