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Feature Article – From The Desk Of The Constructed Specialist

Read Feature Articles every Monday and Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Another week, another bile-fuelled rant from John Friggin’ Rizzo! In today’s offering, the mighty JFR lays into Limited, advertizing executives, and himself, with his usual acerbic style. He also updates his funky Red/Black Madness deck in Standard, and reveals his New Year’s Resolutions! As always when reading Rizzo, remember: buyer beware.

Know what I love about Magic? I mean, obviously cheating is super awesome, and ripping off spoiled latchkey kids is near the top of the list as well… but what takes the cake is building decks. Perhaps it’s the old “extension of you” idea that so tantalizes me, or possibly that clichéd “me versus you and cruel ass world,” which is nothing more than an extension of the extension of you, or a hyper-extension as it was. Personally, I know I could use a hyper-extension. lol a sexual innuendo in paragraph one – call the neighbors and batten down the hatches, frigginrizzo’s in a mood!

(Actually, I am kinda pissed off right now. I think it’s the cold. Cold sucks, but it does have one saving grace: everyone hates the cold, so not many people live where it’s cold. Thus, Maine doesn’t get to be as “big-city-dirty-streets-crowded-polluted-crime-ridden-scumbags-everywhere” as it would like. And oh, it would certainly like, witness the Portland School District’s national headline decision to give birth control pills to eleven year-olds.)

Whatever it is, I’m sure my hatred of Limited has a permanent affect on the color of my mood ring. You can’t build your own, like, own-two-hands-from-the-ground-up deck in Limited. Yeah, yeah, it’s skillful you still kinda construct I get it so what I don’t get to choose the cards! Wizards may not construct our Limited decks per se, but they do randomly handpick/roll a d-50 re the pool of assemblage, and that’s close enough you evil manipulative thought policia prick bastards boycott Wizards.

I’ve been asked to join seven man drafts for free to even the odds (even the odds!), or “for the store,” and I’ve had to step off and bust a b-boy stance. Upon denial of such opportunities, my manhood would be immediately attacked, and whereas I once would defend my honor with innumerable tales of hot chyx I banged, now I simply fancy confession: not only do I exaggerate my sexual prowess and pretend that a five-o’clock shadow is the requiem for manliness, but drafting causes me physical pain. If I truly wanted to torture myself, I wouldn’t. Wow, that’s like, sadist versus masochist deep, or SM, as we say in the industry.

I’m positive I’ll never be the “compleat” Magic player, since that’s how the Brits spell it [Not since the fifteenth century — Crayge, ye edytor] , and limited skills seems to make up more than fifty percent of the whole per “compleatness.” I’m okay with that — my failure, not the jazzy spelling. Yet, even in Constructed, where I feel most “at home,” there are roadblocks a-plenny. I’ve spent weeks fine-tuning (ahem cough lol!) my deck, and when I finally sit down to play when it counts, I can’t wait to show the world how irreparably busted I happen to be.

And then I get fixed all quick-like and lose the first two rounds. What a waste.

This is when Magic is no longer so enjoyable — no one likes to get their head beat in, though when it’s a thirteen year-old with a pre con, that’s okay. Instead of playing it out with a deck I suspect is not up to snuff, and especially when I “know” just what I need to tweak to make it a contender, I want to call time out, make the desired changes, then get back in there, all smartened up. And tell that punk his mom wants me. To be his dad.

In point of fact, it’s not a waste. Nothing that is created can be a waste, even if, in some surreal world I invented just for this parable, your job is to dispose of waste. Sweep it under the rug, and you still learned something.

Then Sam Stoddard went and opened up a can of worms and Pandora was inside getting wormed to death. What most caught my attention was not the list of mistakes, all of which I make, expect the Limited ones since Limited is teh suck, but the tremendous success Sam has had in PTQs. Winning one-point-five per season strikes me as, well, a lot more than zero.

I actually wrote in one of my earliest articles, something along the lines of:

“I played perfectly all day and didn’t make a single mistake.”

I was so young back then. Yeah, like 30.

As such, I did some research and introspection. Ergo:

I’ve played in thirty-three PTQs over the last eight years, and made an entire two Top 8s. Is that a good ratio? Both of those Top 8s were at the beginning of the century, and when I was playing at CMU, so what the hell chance do I have now? Of course, I don’t go to PTQs expecting to win, though I felt very good about my bad Ichorid deck, and whereas I don’t go merely to “have fun,” I’d like to do well.

How sissy is that.

I’d like to do well.

With an attitude like that, why bother? Well, why not bother? I do enjoy the fruition process, and while I often bring a knife to a knife fight against guys with bigger knives and guns if they need ‘em and posse members sporting fat gold chains who can beatbox me under the table… I guess I just have a thing for knives. And really, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned knife fight?

Two Top 8s in thirty-three tries. About half of those tries weren’t really tries as in “attempts,” but rather “show up and have fun and hope to get lucky and snatch me some packs.” The highest rankings I’ve attained in Limited and Constructed are in the mid-1700s, so obviously I’ve gotten my share of luck, since play skill is not an option.

That’s me in a nutshell — slightly above average at everything I do. At least I’m able to admit that I’m either too lazy or too bereft of talent to ever amount to anything substantial. Apparently, I’m all about Brando’s “I coulda been a contender,” had I dared put in even a minimal amount of effort, or had more than a drool-rendered modicum of aptitude. Put some ass into it! However, I did finish in the top twenty at States on two different occasions! [email protected]&4me4L!

Since Josh Silver Streak already hit upon some of the more salient points re Worlds, there is a scarcity of salience save some soylent. Still, I can ruminate and spit with the best of them, which is very attractive to chyx, hot or other, everywhere.

I found it interesting that neither the Americans nor the Japanese dominated Worlds. This indicates there may finally be Magic parity to go along with all the parody. Pardon me for sounding Rozelle-like, but when any country can take down the prize, the longevity of the game that makes us neglect personal hygiene and relationship obligations doesn’t seem to be in question. If Magic was a stock, I’d recommend a buy. Of course, the last time I bought stock, on a tip from a guy who knew a guy, I lost about five grand. In my defense, when I bought, the tip was that the stock, sitting at 22 cents, would shoot to a buck fifty.

Within days, it soared to ninety cents. Here’s me counting the cash and thinking why isn’t everyone getting rich in the market? Obviously, who would settle for a 300% profit when you can watch it go all the way to a buck fifty (or more!). It tanked shortly thereafter, and instead of raking in fifteen grand profit for three days worth of sitting on my ass doing nothing, I ate the ass end of Molten Disaster with kicker. Thus, no harem for Johnny Mint Box.

Hooray for Patrick Chapin second place at Worlds! When I saw him in contention in the late rounds, I guess I was pleasantly surprised, yet I never thought he was anything less than a top-notch player. The mini-shocker was due mostly to Patrick seeming like, well, one of us.

This isn’t to say that guys like fellow SCG pimp and Invitational winner Tiago Chan isn’t one of us (though there are an entire four or five guys who are legitimately his “us”), but more so I expect Tiago to own many tourneys. He’s supposed to beat in faces — he’s Mr. Level Ten Mage – which means not only does Wizards pay for his hotel, but they stock it with fresh hookers! – whereas Patrick is Mr. Everyone, the guy who gets the hookers when Tiago’s done, and who chronicles his struggles and 66-card mishaps, so when he succeeds, it feels like a success for all of us scrubs, even if we’re reduced to sloppy seconds once removed.

Kinda like Evan and Steve getting the invites to dine with the rich and famous. They were there, but in essence, we all were. Sort of, pretty much, go go us, but I wish we woulda done better, you guys stunk up the freakin’ joint!

Personally, I’d be a lot more intimidated walking up to Tiago and offering a “sup, punk ass wigga from the old school!” than Pat. Maybe the phrase “punk ass wigga” isn’t the term of endearment in Portugal as it is here in the good ‘ol USA, but colloquialisms aside, props to both you crotchety bastards, especially the one who wore a freakin’ tie a la Finkel back in the day.

With all this talk of success, lemme blow you away with mines:

OONA! has now made back-to-back Top 4s at City Champs! And you still don’t care! Probably because the deck isn’t very good, right? For those two of you who have played (or are considering playing the deck), here’s the latest list — and no, I still can’t decide on the right amount of this/that/the other thing:


Dear Guy Who Suggested Expanse,

Word.

Love,
Them Up

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Dear I Am Good,

Nightshade Assassin is so much teh awesome!

Love,
At Magic

So that’s that, and how in the world can Dragonstorm still be good? That confuses me almost as much as people denying that ‘Goyf does not completely blow. Good thing absolutely no one can get them, ever, or everyone would have them, thus everyone would know how awful they are and the market would plummet. However, Dark Withering is readily available everywhere — get ‘em while they’re, well, virtually free.

Star City Special:

Today Only (okay, forever): Buy one card, any card, eh, buy anything, er, just send us your address and we’ll mail you 20 Dark Witherings!

You can buy one ‘Goyf or 1500 Dark Witherings! 401Ks are for suckers!

Maybe if I had more stories of bumping uglies with the rich and famous, like Patrick’s tale of hobnobbing with the whiney guy from Cypress Hill, you’d respect my technology. Unfortunately, the biggest tale of stargazing I can offer is the time me and my roommates met Dave and Ben of The Four Horsemen (“Rockin’ Is My Business” was their breakout MTV hit) at a pool hall, drove them back to our apartment, then beat the piss out of them in blackjack and took all their per diem ducats.

We did get to hang out on their bus before the show, where bestiality proper was the video of choice on the VCR, attend said show for free, and visit the backstage carnage of flesh, drugs, and rock-n-roll, though none of us got laid, drunk, or arrested. Bad night!

On a positive note, we did give Dave (lead guitarist) a tape of our bad ass rap and turntable techniques and whatnot and asked that he give it to his producer — Rick F***ing Rubin, only the best producer evah! Haven’t heard back from Rick, but it’s only been, oh, 15 years or so… Not as impressive as letting the empty in the reefer fried membrane dead from the neck up whiney bastard from Cypress Hill bite your rhyme, but close. Very, very close.

Now that Patrick’s in the big time, again, the next time we both have an article up the same day, do you think maybe Craigers could put his article above mine? I mean, if Patrick was a liberal, I’d understand putting his sub-par lefty ass beneath, but a brother seems to lean to the right, which is yet one more reason he seems like one of us. Okay, one of me and the other one entire guy who reads StarCityGames.com who isn’t now or has ever been a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.

By the way, McCarthy was right! Does anyone doubt that Hollywood was full of communists – look at it now. Yeah, so the guy was a fruitcake and a nutcase and had an issue or two or eleven, but really, who doesn’t go off the deep end in paranoid rantings that nearly tear the country in half?

You thought I meant Joe, but really I meant Andrew McCarthy, teenie bopper actor from such 80s hits as “Pretty in Pink,” “Less Than Zero,” and, well, the other ones were much worse than those. Still, he’s a little better than Keanu Reeves.

The following passage was written after and during a six-plus hour session of watching television, and if this isn’t proof that TV is a vast wasteland of sickness and decay, well, then gimme some xanax, ‘cause I’m off the chain, yo…

I watched the Steelers-Patriots game today, after watching the early game between the Chargers and some randoms, and I slowly felt complete and utter stupidity coming over me. Seriously, the commercials might be the final nail in the coffin of anything that once resembled humanity. I must have muttered the f word a dozen times at the television, due to unbelievably moronic commercials that were so incomprehensibly insulting as to be offensive.

The advertising guys have nearly eclipsed TV newpersons on my list of the biggest scum-sucking pigs on the planet. No, I take that back: they’re now tied as not just the most useless humans on the planet, but also the most destructive. I have more respect for street-level drug dealers than ad men and newspersons.

I think I need to survive a heart attack so I can reaffirm the beauty of life. Or become King of the World. Perhaps someday I’ll end up the leader of my own cult, if I can find five or six people who think like I do, and are willing to get shot to death by FBI agents to further my agenda, whatever that may be.

You probably haven’t noticed that when a commercial involves both a minority (color, gender, orientation, species, etc) and non-minority (white guy), the non-minority — er, white guy, always plays the idiot, dutifully and without fail. If there is a role that requires a dumb ass, sucker or sap, consider it filled by your neighborhood white guy.

Example one: the “white guy who doesn’t understand Wii so he throws the controller at the black guy’s TV.” Now, swap the roles and the dumb black guy doesn’t get technology and destroys his buddy’s TV. Still funny?

Example two: the “white guy showing off his audio soundsystem to his black buddy — ha ha, the white guy has Tiffany and Michael Bolton on his system!” Again, swap the roles. Offensive much?

Why do I bring up these examples? Because I’m a racist. Duh. Who just so happens to be a bad father and terrible husband, I’ll have you know.

If you think I’m wrong, stop now. I’m right. Dear Pros: come get some!

(Sidebar: Does CBS Sports actually pay sideline reporter Andrea Kremer? If so, I hope it’s not in money.)

Wow. A day later and a dollar shorter, either I need to not watch TV at all, chill the hell out a little, or learn that less is more. But I really, really, really, really hate TV commercials and newspersons. They hate me, too, so it’s a push, and since this isn’t kitchen table blackjack, the dealer does not take pushes.

Speaking of “one of us,” damn, I miss Wakefield. If ever there was one of us who defined the term, it’s that f***er. Romeo, too. They’re both afk, but maybe not brb. How depressing and sentimental and sh*t like that. They’re supposed to be there, and there is not where they are, they’re somewhere else.

Nonetheless, in my golden age, it’s getting harder and harder to find a Magic writer who doesn’t seem like one of us. Sure, there are a few who are grating or condescending (like me), and some that suck (ditto), but for the most part, I find myself empathizing with the writer’s plights, cheering his victories, and nodding my head in agreement with whatever the hell he wants me to nod my head to. Sometimes I even bob, and once in awhile I’ll even do the running man.

Barring some sort of scheduling snafu or other emergency, this is likely the last article I’ll write in 2007 (and maybe ever BANNED!), so I figure I’ll offer up my list of resolutions (that I’m making up on the spot and most likely don’t intend to honor). To wit:

Play more Limited.

I already broke this resolution, since I don’t plan on playing any Limited if I can help it. However, it wouldn’t be the worst idea ever to actually play some forty card decks. It has, in the past, aided in my Constructed ideas (LIE!), and if nothing else, will allow me to play more matches more often and get more player reward swag.

Player Reward cards — best idea Wizards ever had. By the time they’re ready to be sent out, I’ve completely forgotten about them, so when I open the mailbox and find an envelope that isn’t blue, it’s always a little shot of adrenaline, akin to cracking the first pack of the brand new expansion.

The person who came up with this idea needs a fat stack of hundred dollabillz y’all, a free Compton-style tricked-out Escalade, and a room full of coked-up hookers. Unless it was Dr. Dre’s idea – he’s all set.

So, play more Limited. Maybe.

And that’s about it: one resolution that I may or may not keep, depending on how my meds are treating me on a particular day. I do, however, have a laundry list of excuses, not the least of which is I’m back in school, but with nineteen 20-year-old credits hanging in limbo. Sick of being a blue-collar underpaid loser (it only took five years!), I figured I can hate any number of white collar jobs equally, but why not get paid a little more humanely? Such is life, and sometimes a brother gotta go and grow up.

The point may be moot, though, since I’m attending online and it’s likely the real school of my choice won’t accept the credits and I’ll have wasted one entire semester so I’ll just quit and wait for someone rich in my family to either take care of me or die.

Okay, one more:

Attend more PTQs.

While I’m no longer a huge fan of traveling to remote locales in search of anything that isn’t a 2-5 record, I should hit the road, if only a little. Massachusetts isn’t really that far, and for those of you in, say Idaho, who get one PTQ every election cycle and therefore must drive 400 hours to attend any other PTQ, I owe a road trip now and again. On that note…

Attend a Grand Prix or two.

And maybe even stay over a day or two! If it’s not too far and a format I care about and a bunch of guys go with me so I don’t end up in the poor house. Who am I kidding: I’m already in the poor house. It has five bedrooms and try heating it, at $3.29 a gallon, k.

While many of you resolve to “win a PTQ,” or “stay on the tour,” or “get laid at least once before I die,” yours truly has goals a little less lofty, thus, more attainable. This doesn’t mean they’re going to be kept, but at least I didn’t offer a generic list that you see everywhere like “stop playing with myself so much,” and “only smoke crack on the weekends.”

Regardless, anything that gives me more time to build, test and finally play decks, is fine and dandy. On the off chance (on the off!) that I start 0-2, then Bruce into a mere two wins in ten hours against those more random than I, it won’t be the long end of teh suck. Because there is always another tournament…and another deck to build.

John Friggin’ Rizzo
Constructed Specialist
(lol)

spe•cial•ist: One who is devoted to a particular occupation or branch of study or research, such as the Constructed format of Magic: The Gathering.

This is where I would put my current ipod list if I had an ipod and listened to all that new-fangled post-modern silly-string emo-alt-pleh trash you punx like nowadays, and wanted you all to think I was oh so cutting edge. Since I’m not, I’ll leave y’all with a hardcore, Ayn Rand Anthem-like bam, pow and booya:

When I was a youngster, I was always adorned in a t-shirt that was emblazoned with some trendy logo, slogan, message, or fad. From Adidas and Pony, the local sports teams to the newest lol-funny-gag-shirt-I-got-at-Spencer’s, or what have you, I was comin’ correct, yo. My dad, bad ass, when questioned why he always wore mono-colored t-shirts with absolutely no such trivial machinations, replied:

“I don’t need a message. I’m the message.”

F***in’ pimp, that guy.