God, I Hate These Guys! My Invitational Ballot

When Scott Johns sent me the list of names on the Magic Writers Invitational, I winced. Never before had I seen such a wretched hive of scum and villainy. After much deliberation and more than a few shots of tequila, I finally settled on the five least repugnant invitees. Which five did I choose and what dirt do I dish on them? Find out inside!

In politics, they always say you should start things off with a good joke to break the ice and get the crowd on your side. With sincerest apologies to the other person involved in this transcript, this was the only joke I could think of. Anton Jonsson, this one’s for you.

Knutson: Anyone tell you the American vote results?

Osyp: no

Osyp: are they in already?

Knutson: My contact with inside info

Knutson: said the results were quite surprising

Knutson: but wouldn’t tell me what they were

Osyp: dammit

Knutson: I figured you might know better

Osyp: lemme change my article

Knutson: okay

Osyp: I knew this would happen

Osyp: I figured Mauler would win

Knutson: probably a good idea, just in case

Osyp: dammit

Knutson: I have to change my vote too

Knutson: but I wasn’t sending mine in until tomorrow anyway

Osyp: I’m so depressed now

Knutson: bah, no depression

Knutson: I’ll get out the word on the writers vote

Knutson: and you’ll still go

Osyp: when do the results for the North American one go up

Knutson: Thursday?

Osyp: thur?

Osyp: ok

(5 Minutes pass)

Knutson: okay okay

Knutson: I can’t make you waste time on this

Knutson: I’m just messing with you

Knutson: you won in a landslide

Osyp: lol

Osyp: oh thank god

Osyp: I was so scared

Knutson: I just can’t resist pulling practical jokes on you

Osyp: that was a good one

Osyp: you bastard

Knutson: 😀

Knutson: I was going to wait to tell you until you sent me a new article cheering for yourself

Knutson: but I figured that would be too cruel

Osyp: oh man, my article would’ve been so self-serving

Osyp: I would’ve voted for myself five times

I recognize this joke did not have the quality of a Gerard Fabiano ringer, but it was the best I could do. As for Osyp, I find pulling pranks on him utterly irresistible – I literally cannot help myself sometimes. You see, Osyp has been pranking various elements of the Magic community for years. Whether it’s in his writing, the forums of this very website, or in person, Joe Black is considered the master prankster on the Pro Tour. He even pranked me in his Grand Prix: DC report, thus leading me to believe its okay to subtly pay him back like I did above or in the Blog from PT: Columbus or… well, in numerous other occasions that I don’t really need to remind him of. All of this makes me look like a spiteful human being, and I don’t want to be that guy – therefore I’m calling a truce. I pledge not to prank Osyp anymore as long as he doesn’t prank me either. Simple, effective, not very funny…

So what does any of this have to do with my Invitational Ballot? Discerning readers should notice that I knew Osyp had already won the North American vote before I turned in my ballot, therefore he’s not included here.

For the record, here is the list of players contending for votes:

Osyp Lebedowicz, Brian Kibler, Gabe Walls, Jeff Cunningham, Craig Krempels, Tim Aten, Neil Reeves, Olivier Ruel, Antoine Ruel, Marc Zajdner, Nic West, Sam Gomersall, Jeroen Remie, Masashi Oiso, Paul Rietzl, Antonino De Rosa, Rich Hoaen

Also not included in my ballot is Big Country Bryant Reeves. I love me some Big Country, but he retired from basketball some time ago, and while he’s a clear winner in the personality department, you have to be fully active to get my vote. Yeah, fine, he keeps showing up at random PTs much to my delight, but he keeps saying he’s retiring, so I wrote him off. The same goes for Handsome Boy Modeling School front man Brian Kibler, who fell off the face of the Earth about six months ago while LARPing, landed in World of Warcraft, and resurfaced the other day in San Diego of all places. To me this sounds like a Stephen King short story that was turned into a horrible movie, but regardless of how things happened, you missed two Pro Tours, my friend – no vote for you!

The rest of the list is patently ridiculous. When I got voting criteria from Scott Johns that included “Style, Poise, and Looks Best in a Swimsuit,” I knew I had an impossible task ahead of me. The only person who spends more time with these goofballs than I do is BDM, and I can honestly say that there’s not a bad guy in the bunch. I mean, sure… there are some you don’t want sleeping in your room because like Gary Wise, they have snoring habits that set off earthquake alarms in California. And yes, in the case of certain larger members of that squad, they are experts in quietly clearing rooms of occupants by using only the power of their sphincter. Nevertheless, I took this task upon myself – may as well stop rambling and tell you who I chose and why.

5) Antonino De Rosa

I voted for Antonino because he looks best in a swimsuit. Seriously – he always has a great tan and he doesn’t have the world’s ugliest feet like Gabe Walls. I like a man of passion – a man who can kick a chair across a room at a Pro Tour in frustration and get banned from the site for it. A man who plays Type One, and still lives with his mom. A man who is comfortable enough with his masculinity to highlight his hair, and who keeps Gerard warm at night on road trips. Ant remains one of my favorite people to hang out with on the PT, even if half the time he’s speaking Italian to the fellow Italians around him and I have no idea what he’s saying. In fact, that may be part of his charm. Italian Stallion, I choose YOU… as my number 5.

4) Olivier Ruel

I never really got to talk to Olivier until he started chatting with me during the Quarterfinals at Pro Tour: Columbus, but I became a big fan right then and there when he kept apologizing to good friend Masashi Oiso (who conceded to Olivier to help put him into the Top 8) while pounding him into the ground. Olivier and I share a love of Japan, of travel, and of soccer, thus giving me a strong connection with the man in spite of the fact that he’s a Frenchie – a quality that would turn many Americans off. For me it makes him cooler, and not just because half of my favorite English Premier League team is from his country.

Aside from being one of funnier pros on the tour, Olivier has a sense of whimsy that draws you to him, but he’s also incredibly humble, deferring praise and kudos to friends and teammates while deeming himself overly lucky with surprising frequency – even though he and his brother are actually 1 and 2 in the current Pro Point standing! In short, Olivier is a great guy to be around and you’ll rarely feel out of place, even though he’s generally one of the best Magic players in the room. Mr. Ruel, for your humor, your humility, your skill and Henry/Viera/Pires/Wenger, I choose YOU… as my number 4.

Brief Interlude

For the record, I’ve been campaigning for some time for the Internet Writing Community to get a say in who goes to the Magic Invitational and I’m ecstatic that Wizards of the Coast finally chose to let us play in the reindeer games. That said, it feels a little weird that all of the voters from Brainburst and two of the five voters from StarCityGames.com are actually on the ballot (I chose our voters), thus creating a situation where half the voters have a vested interest in the outcome of their vote. Not there’s really anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t quite what I was anticipating when I used to think about this. Would the Invitational be a better place if the Chris Romeo and Bennie Smith of the world had a bigger say in things? I’m not sure, but maybe next year we’ll have to find out.

3) Jeff Cunningham

I covet this Canadian. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Well I’m not. For years, I thought that Ffej (as he is affectionately known) and Tomi Walamies were the two best writers in the game for pure entertainment value. Walamies has since gone on to work in the entertainment industry thus proving at least half of my opinion correct, but Ffej, glorious Ffej is still around, gifting readers with his Saharan wit at least a couple of times a year. My only complaint about Cunningham’s writing is that it is far too infrequent to satisfy – talent like that needs to be displayed more than 3-4 times a year.

Besides Ffej’s writing talent, his talent for the game stands out as well. If you are a young Canadian Magician, there is no better tutor than Cunningham. He’ll teach you how to dress properly (take heed Murray and Aeo, you boys could use some help), how to take bad beats in stride, the differences between Pro Tour Heaven and Hell, and most of all, the man will teach you how to draft. Aeo Paquette and Murray “The Mauler” Evans have both been generous recipients of Ffej’s Magic knowledge and just look what it did for those two younguns’. Two Top 8’s a piece in the course of a year? Ridiculous! If I’m Canadian and want to get better at the game, I’m buying Jeff gifts and wooing him until he opens the vault of Canadian Magical knowledge or until he calls the mounties and slaps me in jail for stalking him, whichever comes first.

If that wasn’t enough, here’s what fellow contestant Paul Rietzl had to say about the man while we were on the train in Nagoya: “If Magic players had trading cards, this is what it would be like, okay? A Foil Ffej would be the most valuable card ever – it would be like a Foil Black Lotus or something. AND Foil Ffej’s would be impossible to trade for – you could trade a Foil Ffej for both a Foil Kai and a Foil Nassif easy, and possibly even get a Foil Finkel thrown in on the side. He’s clearly the most valuable player in the game.

Foil Ffej for your guidance of young Canadians, for your sheer mastery of the written language, and for the fact you are a right bastard who still hasn’t written for me, I choose YOU… as my number 3.

2) Gabe Walls

Some of you think Gabe Walls is just a fat, obnoxious goof-off who cheats in every “casual, fun draft” he’s ever played in, who has the world’s most hideously grotesque feet, and who lies even better and much more frequently than Osyp Lebedowicz. Those of you who believe that would be wrong.

Gabe isn’t fat at all, he’s a skinny man trapped in a fat man’s body.

The rest of what you think is spot on.

It took me a while to warm up to Gabe, but once I was able to converse with the man without him bagging on me all the time, poking fun at my awfulness, I realize that he’s really just a big, genius softy who happens to be the funniest guy not named BDM on the Pro Tour. Oh wait, BDM just covers the Pro Tour, thus making Gabe the comedy master. The round mound of retort, if you will. And he looks fabulous with pie on his face. What more do you need to know?

Gabe’s game has suffered a bit since he’s been crosstraining (card games, obviously), but he’s still quite talented, makes oddball decisions that often turn out well, and is now one of those fixtures on the Pro Tour that most players never want to see disappear because he brings amusement to everyone that encounters him.

Last but not least, he’s from my home state of Indiana, so he obviously gets bonus points for his Hoosier roots. In case you ever have the good fortune of meeting him, please don’t curse around Gabe. He goes to church twice a week with his fiancée and finds cursing very offensive.

Gabe Walls, I have nothing good left to say about you that people will actually believe, therefore I choose YOU… as my number 2.

1) Tim Aten

In the past I have always voted for the best writer on the ballot, regardless of what kind of year they had on the Pro Tour. As long as people are actually playing the game (meaning they show up at Pro Tours), if I felt there was a tie between two players that forced me to find some additional measure to judge them, I always picked the better writer. It therefore seems completely obvious to me that Tim Aten should be first on anything called the “Internet Writers Ballot.”

The following isn’t a precise measure or completely accurate – in fact it’s a bit of a cludge, but I need to make a point so bear with me. If you divide Magic writing history into periods, you get the early newsgroup/Duelist days, the Dojo days, the subsequent Mindripper/Sideboard/Early Brainburst years, and a couple of years ago you get the BB/Togit/SCG years. All of those periods except that last produced a large crop of outstanding writers from the Pro ranks (the last mainly produced Osyp and Ffej from what I can see, but I’m willing to listen to arguments here), but it seems to me like the amount of Pros that actually write about the game at a very high and entertaining level has drastically fallen off over the years. Thus I find it interesting and a little worrisome that Tim Aten is the only great writer/pro to emerge from this last generation so far.

Now I’m not saying there are no great writers that have started in the last couple of years, it just seems to me that most of the excellence these days is coming from the PTQ and semi-pro (or even casual and Type One) ranks instead of the Pros. Maybe it’s because the new pros are too young to write really well, or maybe they are too busy, or maybe they just don’t enjoy the craft… whatever the reason, I think there’s little doubt that Tim sits at the top of the heap for this latest generation and resides pretty close to the top of any generation.

Sure, he’s an angsty lad and that drives some readers away, but few writers out there convey as much accurate strategic information as Tim (particularly in Limited) while making it an absolute blast to read. And sure, Tim never talks to me in person unless he needs to borrow Decree of Silence for his awful Worlds deck, but I won’t hold that against him. There are people who might see him conversing with me at tournaments and the man has an image to uphold, right? Plus he’s good for late-night internet chats and long walks in the moonlight. Is he a better writer than Cunningham? I don’t know… that’s like judging between Lennon and McCartney or Raphael and Rembrandt. In short, it doesn’t matter. I do know that Aten produces a lot more than Ffej and that’s enough to give him the nod.

Nate Hittomy, for your disgruntled outlook on life, for your wickedly funny and self-deprecating sense of humor, for your innovations in the areas of Magic slang and Team Limited names, and for your mastery of Limited strategy and ability to convey that info to the masses I choose YOU… as my number 1 stunna.

That’s it folks. This was something I spent far too much time thinking about, agonizing over, and I’m still not happy with it, but what can you do? Apologize to the people I didn’t include, I ‘spose… sorry Richie, Samwise, Jerome, Scrubby, Kibbles, Craig, Antoine, Scrubby, Nic, Neil, and Little D. Congratulations to whomever actually gets to go to LA and I hope that the winner of this specific vote is not the only one from the ballot that gets to go to the Invitational – every player on this list is deserving in some way and the vast majority of them really want to go, unlike certain Germans I know.


Teddy Cardgame

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