(Writer’s note: The last month or so, real life has gotten all stupid ballistic and interfered with the other white meat: Magic. While that doesn’t explain why no one uses Shivan hellkite (no, that’s not a typo, look at the card – it’s not capitalized) in Oath decks, it might explain why my writings of late appear to have been written by someone who has the attention span of Jerry Springer at an "Ethics in Television" seminar. Or not.)
I strongly considered breaking the following article into four separate articles, to be posted one per week, then taking the next month off. And then I realized it’s been done. To death.
News flash! I finally have a place in the Magic Matrix!
"No one has more issues than John Rizzo, and his latest column proves it :)."
–Alex Shvartsman, Meridian Magic.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Issue Boy!
IssueBoy: <—Formerly FrigginRizzo.
Wouldn’t it just figure that there is already an "Issue Boy" as an aol member?
There is a hella tourney schedule coming up, and it’s all Limited.
January 6, PTQ – Barcelona, Pittsburgh
January 20, PTQ – Barcelona, Columbus
January 27, Planeshift Prerelease, Pittsburgh
February 10, PTQ – Barcelona, Columbus
February 17, PTQ – Barcelona, Akron
The bad news is that the one hundred fifteen points I gained this 1.x season are going to have to sit there and stare at me until Invasion Block Constructed rears it’s big ol’ head. The good news is that Limited, while at times really boring (tap your tapper is fun for exactly one friggin’ turn, then it’s gets real ugly), seems to bring out my full complement of concentration and effort.
How much do you think drafting at CMU every week is going to help? I think so, too.
IssueBoy: <—Finally beat Mike Turian in a draft.
Would a gain of one hundred points be totally out of the question for these five events? I think not, as starting at a 1620 rating seems to be heavily in my favor, as many of my opponents will be looking way down from the 1700+ plateau, with the Prerelease being the exception.
By the way, I thought I was Rogue as hell because I kept all of my Limited decks together. It turns out I’m just another brick in the proverbial brickyard full of bricks and assorted brick products and related accessories, chief. Scott Teamann informed me that he also keeps many of his decks together, as does Aaron Forsythe. I haven’t asked around, but all of a sudden I have a sneaking suspicion that a few other players do too. Which makes me feel all mushy and whatnot.
Don’t worry about the vase: lessons from CMU (a few of you will get that reference, and no, it’s not just a Matrix quote):
While we always Draft, I feel that the experience with decktypes/card strategies can be easily converted to Sealed. Plus, Limited is one aspect of the game that I can claim to not suck at. Much.
I had a plan to always go Black/Blue/Red, and it worked, a lot. There is plenty of lovin’ up in those colors to go ’round. Repulse is probably the best common in the set, followed closely by a horde of other neato things, including Recoil, Probe, Agonizing Demise, and maybe Plague Spores. Throw in a few Kavu, a Duskwalker or two, and a Scorching Lava here and there, and you have the makings of a very strong deck. This is also a deck that you can expect to open with some degree of regularity. If you can’t force B/U/R from your cards, don’t fret, there are other options. Well, there is one other option.
It took me a while to realize just how good Aggressive Urge and Explosive Growth really are. If you use them wisely, they can be utterly sickening. If you don’t use them wisely, then they are still pretty damned friggin’ good, slappy. Adding a few fat green dudes like Kavu Climber and Serpentine Kavu into a deck with even a few Red speed bump eliminators is good times for Gary Wise.
B/U/R is the first choice, followed closely by G/R/Something. Take your tappers, Cloaks, random white cards, Tower Drakes, and dreams of Five-Color Forsythe out to the trash. Be the beatdown and leave the cuteness for the guys who think Plains are cool. Of course, I could be wrong. But, I have yet to open an Invasion starter where there wasn’t at least a rudimentary base of B/U/R. And I’ve opened a few decks here and there, slim.
(But watch out for those annoying little Acolytes)
After a few weeks, and a few respectable finishes with B/U/R, against, um, pretty good opponents, I started to get jiggy on the experimental tip.
Said experimental tip led me down the "Cloak up a Llanowar Cavalry and just win, chief" road. Drafting six Cavalrys and three Cloaks sounded good, in theory. While that plan would let me live for a very long time, it never did win me any games. Ditto for the "get me every friggin’ Quirion Sentinel, Trailblazer, and Elf that I see." That kind of felt like a really bad game of Wildfire; all the mana I could eat, and nothing to spend it on.
(I have yet to see a player who sports a too-many-Cloaks deck win anything. As the old adage goes: "Your life total is only relevant when it’s at zero.")
Eventually, I decided to try the Five-Color Forsythe gank move. Aaron seemed to just draft every good card, regardless of color, and make it work. He made it work. I didn’t. Tip: Leave five-color to those who know what the hell they are doing, especially in Sealed.
The "look how many tappers I have" routine made for long games, but rarely equaled anything resembling a win condition. But some people like to play really, really, really long games.
Shackles is a strong card, and drafting five of them seemed like a good idea. The reality of Shackles, and Shackles-like "reactive" cards, is that it will only buy you time in which to put up a valiant losing effort in a crappy deck, while in a strong deck you should have better answers to problem creatures. Shackles just can’t compare with some serious "kill target dude." Plus it’s a white card, which means, to quote that famous Magic player, James Brown, "get up offa dat thang."
I slowly began to realize that, after watching my Cloaked Something get Repulsed, Recoiled, and Tribal Flamed again and again, B/U/R was too strong to ignore (as I decided a hella long time ago). Go B/U/R, which has a tendency to hit so many def lines you have to rewind.
Invasion Limited Primer
The following common cards are not ass, meaning these are the cards that are the first to go into the "I really wanna play you" pile, and the last to go into the "You suck, get out of my deck" pile:
Black: Agonizing Demise, Duskwalker, Exotic Curse, Hypnotic Cloud, Phyrexians Reaper and Slayer, Recover, Soul Burn.
Blue: Exclude, Faerie Squadron, Probe, Prohibit, Repulse, Traveler’s Cloak, Vodalian Serpent, Worldly Counsel.
Red: Ancient Kavu, Hooded Kavu, Maniacal Rage, Pouncing Kavu, Scorching Lava, Tribal Flames, Zap
Green: Aggressive Urge, Explosive Growth, Harrow, Kavu Climber, Nomadic Elf, Pincer Spider, Quirion Elves, Serpentine Kavu.
White: Dismantling Blow.
Gold: All of the 2/2 Pro guys, Frenzied Tilling, Plague Spores, Recoil.
There are a few other honorable mentions, but these are the ones you want to choose from, chief. You could go for the tappers and Armadillo Cloak if you were so inclined, and it might not be a bad idea, but stick to the nuts and you will be rewarded with a deck that is good enough to take a few names. And if there is no white in your deck, you will be able to sleep like a baby.
Before I discuss the viability of Mercenaries in Type 1, permit me my druthers. No, I’m not sure what druthers means either, but I do remember that Kris Kristofferson used that word in a bad-as-hell jam called "Jesse Younger." (Yes, I just stopped writing, downloaded Napster, found said bad-as-hell jam, and shortcutted that bad boy right up on my toolbar.)
For all my ranting and raving regarding ID’s, I never stopped to think about the following situation:
It’s an "ID and we are both in the Top Eight" moment for my opponent and I. If we play it out, one of us is going home in ninth place. If we play it out and I win, I will make one serious enemy for life. If we play it out, and I lose, I will be laughed at for life. This is probably not an entirely ridiculous scenario. Yet. Let’s add a caveat.
My opponent is one of the guys I play with at CMU, and who is certainly expecting an ID so we both can represent in the Top Eight. If I insist on playing it out, and win, there will not only be one angry vanquished opponent, but also the possibility of one less friend.
Talk about a no-win situation. Which is more important: sticking to your guns and fighting for what you believe in, or a friendship that might wither away when back scratching is not involved?
Which would you choose?
(no space for you to think about what you would choose)
You know I’d stick to my guns. After all, it’s not called "The Little Picture."
The Big Picture is bigger than any one player. It’s big enough that, when (okay, IF) I get to the Top Eight at PT: Somewhere, I will beat on my opponent until he/she/Gwar extends his/her/Krovikan hand and starts to scoop ’em up. At that moment I think I will concede to my opponent. Because that is when the picture will be in focus. I’d also love to hear how the commentators explain that to the drunken fishermen who turned on ESPN2 expecting "Bass Fishin’ for Fun and Profit" and got this silly card game instead.
Explain how I ID’d into the Top Eight and inexplicably conceded to my bewildered opponent.
Explain how I just threw away thousands of dollars in prize money.
Explain how Magic is trying to become a legitimate mind game.
Explain why cards get errata’d and/or banned.
Explain why virtually none of the top players bother to play the full complement of rounds.
Explain that conceding to friends is somewhat of a common occurrence.
Explain why six of the Top Eight players are playing the same deck.
Explain all of that to Jim Bob and Scooter, wearing coonskin caps and getting buzzed somewhere in The Ozarks. Explain all of that, then try to sell them on Magic during the commercial breaks of Raw is War.
Or explain it to me.
Then expand on your explanations a little:
Explain how Magic brings together people from all walks of life in a competitive, yet friendly, environment.
Explain why many players would rather brown-bag it instead of ordering in so they can buy a couple of booster packs at the end of the day.
Explain why a thirty-one year-old guy calls a bunch of teenagers his peers.
Explain how millions of people spend many more millions of dollars with absolutely no expectation, nor desire, to recoup their costs via tournament winnings.
Explain why you’ll never hear racial or religious slurs over a playmat.
Explain that there are very few Magic players currently serving time for deciding to wax everyone in their office because they had a bad friggin’ day.
Explain how people who would normally be diametrically opposed can become friends through this game.
Explain how Magic is an escape from reality that creates its own reality that is much more real than any reality John Q. Public could demonstrate. Then explain that sentence to me.
When you bring up an issue, sacrifice Skittering Purge.
While Christmas week was typically insane and whatnot, invariably sending me into an evil tailspin, this week has been all gravy, biscuits, and fireworks, chief. Hence, imma jump back and kiss myself and anyone else who is within striking distance.
I will begin (begin?) with something that I’m sure will be done to death: The year in review kind of thing. (I woulda thought so too, Riz, but aside from Pierre DuPont excellent article from Friday there’s been jack – The Ferrett)
Y2K hit so many def lines you have to rewind, but I’d like to bring up the ones that are still at the forefront of my memory, as I’m too lazy to do any real research – who do you think I am, Card Catalog Forsythe?
The Pittsburgh Guys beat people with mallets.
Mike Turian team of Potatoes (The spellchecker told me to add the "e.") became the PT: NY champs by beating his playtest partners (Forsythe, Johnson, Cuneo), whose only two losses came at the hands of said team full of potatoes. (It friggin’ did it again.)
Aaron Forsythe beat the piss out of the world at Worlds. Talk about a coincidence.
Just about everyone who plays at CMU is qualified for PT: LA.
Turian also won States just because he felt like it.
-Another Cool thing:
Star City kicks it into high gear and crosses the finish line first, by doing some serious, hardcore, booya-inspiring writing, editing, and generally providing a bad-ass website. (How many errors were in that sentence? I’m guessing at least four.) (Well, not any more – The Ferrett)
-Random cool stuff:
There were DRAGONS in the Top Eight at PT: Chicago.
Psst… I made a Christmas-miracle-Top-Eight.
We waved good riddance to Urza Block, while Invasion smacked us in the teeth and made us its bitch – and we loved it. And we want more. Much more. Rosewater did good. Good enough to forgive him for Urza’s Block…maybe.
We said goodbye to Omeed, who went off to bigger and brighter things, and said hello to The Ferrett, who pulled a Captain Insano on the site and shot it off into the stratosphere.
We saw Meridian Magic pull a Shard Phoenix and jump back into the ring, while CCGPrime slammed down an Oath of Druids and pulled out a friggin’ Crater Hellion to say hello.
Finkel won everything in sight… again. And we STILL like him.
There was a Grand Prix in Pittsburgh, if you can believe it.
The Make-A-Wish foundation sent Sid van Loon to Nationals to hang out with best and brightest.
Mindripper jumped all up in here, while Scott Johns was jumping tax brackets by pocketing big ol’ fat checks from Wizards.
Masques Block had an almost infinite number of viable decks, with everything and its mother winning a slot or two.
And that is just random cool stuff off the top of my melon. There was plenty to go around, and there looks to be plenty more where that came from. 2001 looks bright; we might not need shades, but a little sunscreen wouldn’t be a bad idea. Here’s a few predictions that are guaranteed to be at least 3% accurate:
Sol Malka will win a PTQ. (99% chance)
Wakefield will return. (99% chance) (God, I hope so – The Ferrett)
The Dojo, as soon as Psylum figures out that Magic is not a friggin’ business, will regain much of its former glory and sit atop the ‘net with Star City and Mindripper in a triumvirate of good times for Becky. (85% chance)
I will win a PTQ. (3% chance – but hey, I like them odds)
Planeshift, Apocalypse, and whatever is after that (Dreamcast?) will blow our minds. (99% chance)
A virtual unknown will win a Pro Tour. (50% chance)
Will Rieffer will find another card to replace his beloved Ankh of Mishra. (3% chance)
Anthony Alongi will come out of the closet and reveal that he has long been, and always will be, a die-hard white mage. (3% chance)
Rui Oliveira will change his nickname to "18 Montanhas and some artifact mana" because the environment will demand a stronger mana base. (3% chance)
Pokemon will die a grizzly death causing many of it’s players to seek Magic as a sanctuary (just like WotC planned). (60% chance)
The Ferrett will finally update The Ferrett Domain. (3% chance)
Taking pictures with your opponents will become all the rage in future tournament reports. (10% chance, but a boy can dream) (That’s my nightmare – The Ferrett, who spends an extra half-hour to forty-five minutes HTMLing up all of Rizzo’s phantastich Tourney Reports… but they’re worth it)
Ice Age will rotate out of 1.x. Dual lands will also get the axe. (50% chance)
Randy Buehler, Worth Wollpert, and/or Henry Stern will quit their jobs at Wizards citing "the desire to play in tournaments" as their primary reason. (10% chance)
I will meet and befriend Sean McKeown, Chad Ellis, Pete Norris, and anyone else who has not exactly seen eye-to-eye with me on certain issues. (25% chance)
I will spend more time browsing and/or posting random messages on The CPA (http://www.casualplayers.org/), as I really am a casual player who likes to take it to the next level now and again. I think. (100% chance)
Tournament reports will get better and better, virtually eliminating descriptions like this:
"my deck rulez i mise 2-0"
"i go mountain drop a scroll and mise."
"round 2 joe with stupid.dec that ibeat badly but i dont remember much about this match cept that he tryed to mise but i mised better."
(20% chance, 95% chance if Shawn keeps up the Evil Eye of Orms act over at CCGPrime)
And some other things will happen, but I’m not sure about those.
A recent poll from Star City’s mailing list:
What card needs to be banned in Extended?
Yes, I also said "heh."
Tom Guervin’s "Magic: The 2000 Year in Review" over on The Dojo was a breath of fresh air. Tom basically argues that throwing tons of money at the top pros, while really friggin’ good for those guys, is anything but helpful to the little dudes. He is quite correct.
While it’s good times for Finkel and crew, our game should be as much (or more) about giving back, than taking it to the bank, as neglecting the poor to further fatten up the rich is not exactly a recipe for long term success. Tom figures that Finkel and crew should do more for this game than cash fat checks and pose pretty for the camera – they should roll up their sleeves and get dirty with the little people. He is correct there, too.
I have very little knowledge of how much time Finkel and crew spend in giving back, but I do know that they should set aside more than a healthy block of their time to help our game from the bottom up. That means doing whatever it takes, within reason, to help ensure that our game grows and remain vibrant; there is no need to kiss that hand that feeds you, but a firm handshake here and there would go a long way to that effect.
How do Finkel and crew give back?
1) Be approachable.
They should have the aura of "Regular Guy-ness;" a guy who might play a couple games with you for fun, and maybe even offer you a few pointers. They should go to a PTQ to just hang out and meet newer or lesser skilled players. There should be players who, after meeting them, will want to tell everyone that they chatted with THE <famous name here> in between rounds, and man, he is a cool (or friendly or helpful) guy.
2) Clear their dance cards.
When you are a respected member of any community there are certain obligations that come with such a position. Professional athletes donate time (and money) to worthwhile charities and foundations. Rock stars give free clinics and Q-and-A’s at local stores. Many Hollywood types give advice to fledgling actors and actresses at little theater group things. Even Bobby Fischer gave demonstrations and play tips at high schools. Finkel and crew needn’t give money… just time.
3) Energize the little guys, and keep them coming back for more.
If WotC is serious about growing our game (yes, I said "our game"), then they should set up a weekly/monthly "Clinic with the Pros" at local shops and random venues. And yes, they should be as willing to spend their money on this type of "promotion" as they are on the Pro Tour. Also, the pros they get for these clinics should volunteer their time. Are you telling me that there aren’t fifty pros who would be willing to give a few hours per month to do free clinics? I’d bet that many would jump at this opportunity to give back.
They should send a couple pros and a couple cases of boosters to schools for "Learn to play Magic day." Are you telling me that WotC couldn’t afford a hundred-odd boxes of boosters per year to keep a bunch of high school Magic clubs up to date?
They should support innovative ideas like Michael Granaas’ College Magic League Thing. Are a couple of hundred booster boxes going to break the bank at Hasbro? Those cases could easily translate into hundreds of new players who would soon be as addicted to the cardboard crack as the rest of us are. And Finkel and crew should be there with bells on to help hook them.
Finkel and crew don’t just play Magic for the money. Well, some of them might, but I have a very hard time believing that the money is the only reason they are playing. I’d say ninety-nine percent of all players play with no financial incentive at all (read: they play because they like the game). That’s a lot of players shelling out a lot of bucks. And when the lion’s share of many players’ contributions go to feeding a precious few piggy banks, then someone’s ideas of growth are skewed.
The Texas Rangers’ Alex Rodriguez is going to be making $25,000,000 a year. If he goes to the ballpark every day, busts his hump, and does his best, is that enough? Hell no. That kind of money has an unwritten rider attached to it: give back or get your butt run out of town with the quickness. Now Magic players are never going to make anywhere near that figure, but when the richest players are making 100% more than the poorest players, they need to give back. They might not get run out of town, but it never hurts to embrace the community in which you live.
And don’t think giving back only applies to the pros. It applies to everyone reading this right now. Every Magic player has an obligation to give back, even if they don’t think they have ever taken anything from our game. If you play Magic, you are automatically charged with helping this game attain it’s full potential in any way you can.
Anything less would be uncivilized. Or something.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of those who have given me props and/or way too flattering compliments through email or the super-tech in-person meeting throughout the year. All y’all hit so many def lines that even I have to rewind.
And if the friggin’ holidays ever end, I just might become compos mentis again.
John Friggin’ Rizzo
Be the first to identify where the column title came from to win fifty Simian Grunts. What can you do with fifty Simian Grunts? I’m not sure, but if you win, I bet you’ll figure something out.