Going Off Like A Bomb In A Nipple Ring

The Ferrett finally weighs in on cheating, the DCI, and why he can’t find it in his heart to condemn Mouth. About as mad as the weasel gets.

you edit the suckiest site on the net. i cant believe ur telling people about magic articles when you suck so bad. your SH*T

– mouth

That was my introduction to”Mouth”.*

I had just published my treatise on how to write Magic articles, and apparently Mouth didn’t like it.

Now, in retrospect, I can see what he was complaining about; I was still a novice editor then, and I let some pretty suck articles slip by in the beginning – lousy decks without playtesting, results, or even a coherent focus. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings then, so my policy was”publish everything except the absolute dregs.” I should have been focusing on the playtesting and playability aspects of articles, and not the writing, back then.

StarCity wasn’t particularly good, then, and it was all my fault.

(Make your obvious joke now about how StarCity still sucks. Thank you. Now go away.)

Not that Mouth actually conveyed any of this.

I, of course, wrote back to breach the gap between us:

Dear Sir,

I just thought you’d like to know that some idiot has apparently hacked your email system and is sending out incoherent blatherings under your address. Since I know you wouldn’t want to have your good name tarnished by the dyslexic gurglings of a slow-witted mongoloid like this, I thought I would forward you this mail so you could track down the problem. Perhaps you have a retarded son?


The Ferrett

Editor, StarCityGames.com

“Mouth”. Team Academy member. Internet personality. Loudmouth.


Mouth got caught stuffing an extra Crippling Fatigue and a Faceless Butcher into his Sealed deck in a PTQ, and as a result has been suspended from Magic for two years.

Now, you might expect me to go off on some sort of rant about cheaters, and condemn Mouth, and yadda yadda yadda. But I can’t. I feel for Mouth, because he’s a very typical player in the Magic community…

He’s a mugger.

I once defined The Muggers of Magic thusly:

“They don’t have to take your money OR your cards. All they have to do is take your pride when they beat you.”

And by all accounts, Mouth fit this profile. He was a gratuitous trashtalker. He gleefully shredded other people’s Magic articles and crapped all over ’em, basically tearing his way through the community like a dyspeptic wolverine**, even though he never wrote anything worthwhile himself. He insulted anyone he could get wherever he could find them and was a total snob… Although if you managed to beat him at Magic consistently, suddenly he’d be wearing brown Chapstick.

In short, all that mattered to him was being the best in this one particular area… And in that, he needed to be supreme. If he could beat you, albeit in this narrow and ridiculously asocial battlefield, he was somehow superior to you.

So why am I not unloading on Mouth?

Read on, Macduff. I’m gonna paint you a picture that’ll make you weep.

So we’ve already established what Mouth thought of me; a lousy writer who didn’t deserve my job. Fine. I’d seen his writings and I didn’t think much of him, either. Essentially, we pretty much despised each other, which was fine with both of us.

Then, one day online, I was chatting with someone who knew Mouth fairly well…

He thinks hes a better writer than you

What? Me?

You, Wakefield, Rizzo

He thinks hes gonna be it when he starts writing

I asked around some other people who knew Mouth whether he really thought that he could stand with the greats.”Oh yeah,” they said.”He thinks he’s the bomb. He just has to start writing, is all.”

Apparently, Mouth was dead serious.

From his perspective, it must have seemed so easy; he would just write whatever popped into his head, just like Rizzo did – which also made sure that he didn’t have to worry about leaking”tech” from his playtesting groups – and become the next Wakefield once everyone saw him in action.

So what actually happened when Mouth burst out of the gates?

He wrote nine columns for CCGPrime – not the biggest of venues, I grant you, but enough for some writers to get a start. His articles generally held no decklists and consisted of profanities sprinkled with brief tourney reports – almost strategy-free – combined with in-jokey references to what was going on in his home town.

By the seventh, he was complaining that he never got any reader feedback. Apparently nobody was much interested.

By the time the ninth column rolled around, he had been banned.***

So what happened to Mouth? Well, it turns out that he didn’t have nearly the talent that he thought he did. He saw other people doing it, thought”Well, crap, if they can, so can I!” – and completely bombed.

Now, let’s examine Mouth’s Magic career, shall we?

Mouth was a member of Team Academy, who seem to make a career out of mocking other people’s lack of skill. Mouth was a solid player; he could beat average players with ease, and even some pretty good players on a regular basis. He qualified at least twice, which is more than most people ever manage, meaning that his skills were above-average.

But what happens when you put Mouth on a Pro Tour?

  • Pro Tour Illinois 2000: 218th Place

  • Pro Tour Illinois 2001: 171st Place

The fact is that Mouth was good… But not that good. When push came to shove, he couldn’t hang with the big boys – and I think he knew that. The Pro Tour was his graveyard; he could get there, but no further. He’d be”Mister 171st Place” every single time.

And yet Magic was the best thing he had.******

Can you see the desperation? The one thing that he could consistently beat people at, the one thing that really proved his superiority to anyone on any level and gave him total license to insult people…

Was something that he wasn’t top-notch at.

Just pretty good.

Can you smell Mouth’s desperation? Oozing out like stale sweat?

No wonder he cheated. Crap, everything he had pretty much rested on his being good at Magic. If it wasn’t for Magic, he’d be some other generic college-aged punk with no discernible personality aside from a sneer.

Magic was the only thing that made Mouth unique.

Can’t you see him? Sitting there, going,”F**k. This deck sucks… I can’t win with this. But if I lose, that means that I’m no better than all of these other people here!”

He looks at his deck, his palms sweating. He looks at the happy people, who probably have better lives than he does.

He thinks about himself, and what he has left after Magic goes away.

His fingers trembling, he slips in the Butcher.

And here’s the irony: He can’t even cheat right.

In his puerile exchange of letters with the DCI, his entire defense boils down to:”Well, the TO was picking on me – he hated me! He had it out for me!”

So, numbnuts, why in hell did you decide to cheat?

If you’re going to cheat – and keep in mind that your friendly locals probably suspected you of cheating because, well, you were – then why would you try to pull a fast one in a place where they’re actively suspicious of you?

By this logic, we should be saying,”Hey! The chief of police hates us! Let’s go pop wheelies in his front yard!’

Inserting cards is a technique caught by the simplest deckcheck. You are more likely to be deckchecked if people distrust you. Therefore, cheating at this tournament was frickin’ stupid.

It’s the little idiocies like that which is why I can’t really go off at Mouth.

What has Mouth done right? He can’t play Magic well enough to finish in the money at a Pro Tour. He can’t write well enough to get an audience. He’s too dumb to cheat properly.

In short, Mouth – for all of his swaggering arrogance and willingness to insult – is kind of sad. It’s pathetic, really. Sure, he can beat me at Magic… But what else?****

Like every other Mugger of Magic, Mouth is nothing more than a local bully. Is he Beavis or is he Butthead? It doesn’t matter. Maybe he can outdraft me… But in every other area, he’s gonna fall behind.

And in that, he’s like every other stupid, conceited jerk you’ll run into at tourneys. There aren’t that many of them, but they’ll make your life miserable for the brief periods of your life that intersect with theirs. They win via cheating and trashtalking and other asocial methods…

…But they have to.

But you really should feel sorry for them. They’re ultimate losers; wastes of human flesh who will later become has-beens without ever having been. Years from now, when you’ve got kids and a wife and whatnot, they’re still gonna be hanging around bars, trying to get themselves some strange from the washed-up waitress with wrinkled and sagging boobs like balloons three days after the party, wondering where the hell their life went.

Feeling down in the mouth.


Am I picking on Mouth?

No more than I do any other outspoken person in Magic who I think is wrong. After all, I never met the man face-to-face… And for all I know, maybe he drinks high tea after going to church every Sunday, then tithes his Magic winnings from money drafts to the Catholic Church. Perhaps he alternated his time moneydrafting and winning mad matches at the World Scrabble Championships, or even came in first at the National Spelling Bee.

But I doubt it.

I am using Mouth as an example; really, is he different from the other ten zillion local jerks out there who use their meager talent as an excuse to feel superior? He’s not. He just got caught… And at least Mouth had the courage to take his writing and his play into a public venue where he could be dissected.

For that, sir, I salute you! Most people kept it to themselves.

Am I picking on pros?

There seems to be a general sentiment in the Pro community that casual players hate them, that we wish they’d all go away. To which I answer:

If you really think that Mouth was a pro, then you need to redefine pro.

Most pros I’ve met are kind and courteous, and some of them occasionally even send me”attaboy” emails now and then. Most pros play hard, but fair… They won’t let you take a move back and may refer to you as a scrub behind your back, but they don’t mock you to your face. They collect their cards and leave. They’re there to win.

People like Mouth? They want you to feel stupid. It’s not enough simply winning… They have to rub it in so they can get that post-orgasmic shot of self-esteem off the look on your face.

Is that what Kai does? No. Is that what Gary Wise or Alan Comer or Brian Kibler or Alex Shvartsman or any number of other name guys do?


Are they infinitely more talented than the Muggers of Magic?

You bet.

And yet they are infinitely more courteous.

I don’t feel anger at Mouth for cheating; he had to, didn’t he? Without the genuine talent the pros have, Mouth had to make it up somewhere – and if that somewhere came from a card up the sleeve, well, you do what you have to. I don’t condone his cheating… But at least I can understand it.

So who, you may ask, am I mad at?

Anyone who defends the little bastard.

Let me say this calmly: Anyone who says that Mouth should be forgiven for what he did should have a nipple piercing that gets so infected that it explodes with an audible pop in a public theater, sending a wave of pus and black bacteria out in a twenty-foot radius as his heart is suddenly exposed to air.

Lemme try again: Anyone who tries to defend cheating in any form should be hung upside down via a fishhook from their anus while a fat lady tapdances on the beam that holds them.

Or perhaps a third time: If you suddenly decide that cheating’s okay because they’re your friend, die. Go to hell. Burn. And never come back, you dripping wad of worthless flesh.

Am I making myself clear?

People are continually saying that cheaters are ruining the game – and they’re right. Cheaters not only tend to be the kind of jerks who drive novices away from Magic, but they also ruin the game. I know. As a casual player, I stayed away from tourneys for a long time because I heard all the horror stories about rules lawyers, trashtalkers, and cheaters… And I had no intention of getting mixed up with a bunch of idiots like that.

Fortunately, my experiences at tourneys have been pretty much positive… But just running into one of these local yokels can ruin your entire day, and maybe your week. And a novice on his second or third major tourney who runs into someone who insults him in order to throw his game? Mostly, they go away and don’t come back.

But it’s not just the noisy idiots – some other people cheat. Quiet people. People who you might not think about.

Why can they do it?

Because their friends look the other way.

You know if your good friends are cheating; most of you have pals who would never cheat, thank the good Lord Jeebus. But every time some cheater’s been yoinked out of the woodwork, the morons come marching to their defense like lobotomy patients with their brains hanging out their nose:

“Sure, Bob Maher was colluding. But he was a good player otherwise.”

“Theron Martin could never cheat!”

“So Mouth threw a couple of cards in. Is that a sin?”

Hell yes it is.

I don’t mind if you question the DCI’s investigative techniques; I don’t think they’re always correct in what they do, and Theron’s case looked sketchy to me from the evidence presented. But if someone admits it – like Bob, or apparently Mouth – then they deserve everything they get.

And a little more on the side. With mayo.

Gary Wise says that Bob’s brought more good to the game than bad; but you know, Nixon was a good president, maybe a great one… But the lack of faith he engendered when he had his goons break into the Watergate Hotel left a legacy of distrust that’s lasted to this day. He did a good job as far as it goes – but thanks to Nixon, nobody trusts the President any more.

Now, people go,”Well, if Bob Maher – one of the finest and most respected players on the Tour – was cheating, then who isn’t?”

And that raises a more dangerous question: Why shouldn’t I cheat?

It’s a simple equation: If the Pro players cheat their asses off, then I will never win. Even if I get to the point where my play skills outshine theirs – which is unlikely – then they’ll stack their deck against me.

The logical conclusion?

Cheating is a part of good play. Of Pro play.

Sure, Bob only helped falsify some tourney reports… But do you really think that everyone else is drawing that distinction? Or that people are utterly confident that Bob’s crimes stopped there?

If one of the noblest knights of Magic can get tarred like that, then maybe a shadow isn’t cast over all of you?

The message spreads silently, like a virus: Cheating’s okay, kids. You just have to not get caught.

And it’s spread by the idiots who stand by cheaters.

It’s not hard to catch cheaters – or at least it’s not hard when everybody’s against them. If anyone ever cheated in my group, they’d have to cheat well enough that I’d never catch them when we playtested… Or practice their cheating skills in private. In either case, their skills would be halved and possibly obliterated.

And cheating slides by.**** It happens, and close friends are almost aware of it… But they don’t press.

Better not to know.

‘Cause you know, if people did go up to their friends and say,”Mouth, I’m not saying you’re cheating ’cause we all know that you’d never cheat… But if you did cheat, and I caught you, I’d kick your ass out on the street in a New York Minute. You hear me? Not that you would.”

I bet you Mouth would never have brought those damn cards in.

But no, he gets to keep his pals, because cheating’s not a big deal. It’s a forgivable offense. A laugh, maybe! Cheating’s part of the game, kids.

I know my opinion makes no difference. But here’s the truth; cheaters don’t kill the game. It’s the people who let cheaters slide because they’re pals, or maybe scared to tell, or just because they don’t want to be a pain that kill the game.

You know who’s cheating. You know who you’re friends with. You know who’s desperate for the win, who’s out to Get It at all costs… And you have a better idea of what they’re doing than you’re willing to admit.

Have a talk with them. Don’t let them be Mouth.

They’re desperate for friends anyway; if you and everyone you know threatens to walk out on anyone who cheats, I guarantee you the social pressures that clamp these poor bastards in place will erase that pro = cheat equation quicker than Team Academy will mock this article.

They won’t dare to cheat. If they do, then what do they have left?

I’ll close this article with a quote from Mouth that’s so ironic you could use it in vitamins:

“If you see this guy call the judge on him and call him a cheater for me.”


And heh again.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

[email protected]

* – Actually, I don’t have the original email saved. As much as I tried, I couldn’t write as poorly as Mouth’s original email, so this summary comes off as far more erudite and thought-out than it should be. My apologies.

** – I don’t know what that means, either – but it sounds cool.

*** – I can’t verify this exactly, since CCGPrime’s archives aren’t updated, but it’s darn close if I’m off.

**** – Okay, that whole”watching porn while doing match reporting” was pretty damn funny. I had to laugh. But back to the article.

***** – There is a joke to be made here, but StarCity guidelines won’t let me say it.

****** – Interestingly enough, I think of all the TA members, it’s Andy Stokinger who really has the talent it takes to become a pro; he’s ratcheting up his skills with every tourney he’s in, it seems. And yet he seems to have tired of the”let’s ‘review’ a bad article” submissions, and has asked for strategy reports for his own site. Is there a correlation? Hmm.

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