Here And Now

I can tell you that Rizzo won’t be playing Magic again anytime soon. His enjoyment came from the writing more than the playing – and as long as he finds something to write about, he won’t need Magic.

I point my finger to a Friday night in late October. That was when it all got set in motion. I dressed up that night and Hobart house headed down to the bar.

We were having a going-away party, since Forsythe was moving to Seattle soon. Everyone was there: Harvey, Johnson, Silberman, Teamann, Heiss, Patnik, Rizzo, Sottosanti, Dhuse, Forsythe, wives and girlfriends.

If you are wondering who these people are, I guess I would have called them Team CMU. For a little more info than that, you could just look over Rizzo’s articles from about the past year.

So we celebrated…And then celebrated some more. Forsythe had brought a stack of cards – and before the night had ended, he got the idea to sign each of them with a little personalized message for each person at the table that night.

I’m ashamed that I didn’t keep the card he handed me. I can’t even remember what the message said. I do remember the signed cards being passed around to see what each person had received for a keepsake. Maybe the messages were just fancy fortune cookies.

Laughter filled the room.

I know Dhuse still has his card. When you enter his place, if you look directly left, you will see it sitting there on his bulletin board. Sottosanti still has three of the cards that Forsythe handed out. I would imagine Rizzo still has the Forsythe card; he loved signed cards as well. I can’t even guess who else still has theirs. For all I know, mine sits in my room waiting to be discovered the next time I rummage through my cards.

Or maybe it got stolen with the rest of them.

By the end of the night, I had convinced Rizzo to give me his copy of Wakefield’s book; a worthwhile read for anyone who thinks that Magic has always been as static as it is now. Even if you don’t think that, find a copy and figure out what to do with it.

For some reason Aaron and Anne walked down with Dan, Andy, Eugene, and I back to Hobart house. Aaron had retrieved another present by this point, the oversized Magic cards that were handed out for Arena Leagues.

We each took turns playing DC-10 and other random games with them. Juzam Djinn, Serra Angel, Shivan Dragon, Chaos Orb, Earthquake, Mirror Universe, Balance and Black Lotus saw more play in their 6″x9″ form than they have in the last four years in normal size by any of the people present.

Looking back on that night it reminds me more and more of the scene in Almost Famous, when Russell Hammond talks to William Miller at the road manager’s poker party the night before the band flies to New York. Russell stands up from the table, futilely trying to explain to William how the band can leave the Band-Aides behind.

“Everybody understands. This is the circus. Everybody’s trying not to go home.”

Everyone does go home, though. And everyone went home from the bar that night.

After Forsythe left, Teamann was the first to go. Teamann quitting was no surprise. Aaron and I had talked about it shortly after realizing that Aaron was moving three thousand miles away and Rizzo a thousand. Teamann was the last of the Pitt guys; he was the last of the players who migrated up to the O from Pitt. Teamann played because his friends played, and with Forsythe and Rizzo leaving all of Teamann’s best friends had left. He didn’t need Magic anymore, so he slowly disappeared.

At the same time, Rizzo moved up to Maine. This came about fairly abruptly. For a man who wrote as much as he did, I still don’t know that much about him. Sure I know where he stands on intentional draws and net decking, but I never met his wife or kids; heck, I don’t even think I know their names.

I don’t know what made John tick, either. He would drive three or four hours to go play in a qualifier and play his little goofy deck. The deck was always competitive – but not as competitive as it could have been. He got a bigger kick out of writing about Magic than actually playing it. Not to say he didn’t love playing Magic, but he really loved to write about it.

He was amazingly frustrating to watch play. Take watching Eric Taylor or Nate Heiss play, and multiply that by a hundred. John would see half of what was going on in the game at any given moment. A few minutes later, he would see a different half – and a few minutes after that, a third half.

Somehow he still made a top eight or two. Somehow he made it into the top eight of a qualifier after not drawing in the last round, losing, finishing 6-2, and somehow one 6-2 made it.

John ‘Friggin’ Rizzo. 8th Place.

Give me a break. Friggin’ karma. How Rucky!

I still can’t believe he made it into top eight that day. I think when I offered to buy him dinner, I was in shock. In his situation, I would take the intentional draw every time, every day of the week, every second of the day. Rizzo’s Bruce was clubbing him over the head, pounding him into the ground… But that couldn’t keep John out of the top eight.

I still may need a shot of insulin to recover from the shock.

John was a godsend to Team CMU. He gave us the best publicity that I could ever imagine. In the little Magic community known as the internet, he made our name a little more common, a little more recognizable, and a little finer. Thank you for that. I was proud to call John a teammate.

Away John went into the mist.

Johnson was the next to fall. Andy still plays; he plays more than I do, but I haven’t played versus Andy in at least three months. He didn’t play in Grand Prix: Houston, which was less than an hour from where he was staying that weekend.

He certainly hasn’t shown up at the O for Tuesday night gaming at all this semester. Currently he is selling off bits and pieces of his collection on eBay.

He has disappeared into Magic Online. He has played over six hundred”sanctioned” matches online. He has played eight hundred matches in real sanctioned play. At the rate he is going the number of online matches he plays will surpass real life matches by the end of May.

What does this mean? He has been Silbermaned. He doesn’t add anything to the Pittsburgh Magic community outside of Hobart Street. Magic Online has wiped him from the face of Pittsburgh.


Dan hasn’t played outside our house in probably five months either. His last appearance was a qualifier in Rochester, New York, where he made top eight. Dan is now represented by his little Avatar sitting shuffling at the table, waiting for another game of Magic Online to start.

Dhuse was the next to stop showing up on Tuesday nights. While he still makes an occasional guest appearance, it appears that Magic no longer a significant part of his life. Before he quit he played a lot of Magic Online -and some with cardboard cards too.

He loved Magic Online and played a ton. One Tuesday night at the O, Ryan had shown up late for the draft. With no other people around to play against, Ryan just brought out his laptop and loaded up Magic Online.

I haven’t seen Cuneo for a month. The last time I spoke with Cuneo, he let me know that he wouldn’t be going to France for the Pro Tour. I don’t think he has quit – but a month is a long time even for Cuneo.

So now on Tuesdays, we are getting between six and eight people. A few people drop in, say they can’t stay long, and go; others can’t afford to draft; and almost nobody brings decks that have actual cards.

Most of the playtesting that was done for Osaka happened downstairs in the dining room with Silberman, Cuneo, Harvey, Heiss, and I fighting it out.

Even though I am always inviting people to come by and play on Tuesdays, it is as if a snowball headed out of the bar that night down Squirrel Hill picking up momentum as it rolled the Magic community with it.

So who is to blame?

Not Forsythe. Even though I discouraged him to take the position at Wizards – much like I discouraged Randy – I realize now that I was wrong about both. They found their dream jobs, and who was I to not encourage them to go for it?

Yeah, Forsythe left Pittsburgh and that hurt Magic here… But I can’t blame him for that. Looking back, I would have probably done the same thing. Who wouldn’t? Forsythe leaving hurt because more than anyone he was the heart and soul of Team CMU. Like Randy before him, Aaron carried the flag. He would try and keep the team on the same page. When qualifiers were happening, he would have qualifier decks…. And when the Pro Tour came around, he would make sure we were ready for that too.

I don’t know if half as many people would have shown up at the bar for anyone else on the team. I would like to think so, but I’m not sure. Forsythe was our glue. He made sure everything was going in the right direction.

What then?

Well, another place I could point my finger to is other parts of life. Magic is much like the circus in that it’s just for fun. While I love playing it, sometimes this fact escapes me. Other things in life are more important – and I think that fact really drew Teamann, Rizzo, Johnson and to some extent Ryan, away from the game.

Life has always been sitting out their taking some people away from Magic. Nothing quite like having half of my team members stop playing in a six-month time has ever happened, though.

The biggest culprit sits on your computer. Magic Online is tearing down Pittsburgh. The problem is twofold.

First, Magic Online is too good. It offers too much. Last night, Paul Sottosanti said that he couldn’t imagine how he ever built sealed decks on Apprentice. The pictures, the built in rules, and non-stop tournament action are all great. Magic Online brings Magic home. 3 a.m.? No problem. Oh yeah; right now, it’s absolutely free. No cost whatsoever.

Of course, the catch is that instead of meeting and making new friends and acquaintances, you are stuck in front of your computer playing versus little Avatars and people with pseudonyms like SatansGoat or Cube. Who are these people? Where are these people? Why are you playing versus them? What is the point?

Are you trying to have fun? Win? What does it matter? If this game ends one way, there are always more free Magic games available online. How much fun is beating a deck of cards with an icon attached?

At the beginning of April, I played in the online Mox Jet tournament. I finished at 7-2 – which was good enough top sixteen. By the end of the day, I was disgusted.

The problem is that Magic Online doesn’t give back. It is a video game with an anonymous user at the other end. Unless you love winning, Magic Online is only a video game. I could see why Dhuse, Cuneo, and Johnson stopped showing up on Tuesday nights; Magic isn’t as fun without the friends. Magic Online doesn’t offer friends, just avatars. So all of a sudden Magic Online made Magic a little less fun, and their motivation for showing up wasn’t around anymore.

Except for events like Regionals, Magic Online is killing Magic attendance. The sooner Wizards starts charging for Magic Online, the better. I wonder what will happen to the online crowd that doesn’t play in real life. Will paying for Magic Online be worth it? Will over ten dollars a draft be too much for players to continue to support the game?

Where should we go from here? Going back to Rizzo.

Last weekend, Andy Johnson found Erik Lauer’s phone number. Today, Erik instant messaged me. For all of those who care he is doing well and is headed back to graduate school. Andy sent him Magic Online.

Do you think Rizzo will ever be back? I called Jamie Wakefield after he quit playing because I needed to ask about Secret Force. I never knew Jamie that well, but I could tell he wouldn’t be playing Magic again anytime soon. Rizzo will follow the same path. His enjoyment came from the writing more than the playing – and as long as he finds something to write about, he won’t need Magic.

I hope to see one of Rizzo’s plays. It would be awesome if he turned into the next Tom Stoppard… But I have a feeling he will be John ‘Friggin’ Rizzo. That will be plenty good.

Kudos, you broken, broken man.

Until next time,

Mike Turian

[email protected]

Team CMU

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