Innovations – Half a Dozen Insane Cameos

Patrick Chapin promises innovations… and this week, he certainly delivers! This is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill Magic article. As the world lies in the pre-Lorwyn doldrums, Patrick gathers some entertaining snippets from great Magic writers and pros, past and present. Cunningham, Sullivan, Aten, Sanchez, Herberholz, Erwin. Each snippet has been written with a twist… can you spot them all?

This week, I thought I would do something a little different. While I do love writing Magic-related content, there are certainly some other Magic writers that I really enjoying reading. I thought it would be fun to collaborate with some of my favorite writers, and see what kind of stuff they would come up with, when placed under “special restrictions.”

I don’t want to spoil it for you, so let’s see if you can figure them out on your own. Please feel free to discuss in the forums what they could be. There are definitely some unusual things afoot.

Also, to mix things up a little bit, I didn’t go with obvious possibilities, like Flores, Rizzo, Menendian, or Feldman, though I do enjoy the work each of them produces.

In addition, I would have liked to be able to get in touch with John Shuler, Eric Taylor, Zvi Mowshowitz, or Brian Hacker in time to work on this project, but I could surely collaborate with one or more of them in the future.

Up first, we have one of the authors who inspire my writing. Tim Aten is both a Pro Player and a Pro Magic writer, doing work for the Sideboard such as his coverage of my Feature match against Kyle Sanchez at Nationals that can be found here. In addition he has written for StarCityGames.com on many occasions, such as here, here, and here.

His dry, ironic humor and intelligence come across very well in his articles. I always look forward to enjoying what he comes up with. It is actually ridiculous, the amount of raw ability he has. If only there was some efficient way to channel it…

Tim A-10

This is a bit hypocritical, as I was guilty of it a long span ago, but I am sick of Magicians trying to gain acclaim without accomplishing anything outstanding. Many wand-waving buffoons wish for cohorts’ approval, but not all can claim mandatory work or skills to warrant such a thing.

Having a particular amount of wins following a solitary day of a Grand Prix will not add any avian wing clippings to your cap, nor is your only “good” finish okay for you to coast on (and brag about) until you quit. Adding two of a card to a known Standard list is not congruous with you as an “innovator,” and Urborg plus Korlash was an obvious combo to all, so don’t act as though you thought of it first. I could probably go on for hours about this complaint.

How about this: If you want acclaim, work for it. Actually play Magic skillfully, and you may just win a lasting spot in your compatriots’ minds. Don’t worry about it as you play, though. Who did what is not particularly important; if you attain stardom, it’s simply a bonus (in my mind, anyway… but what do I know about anything?)

Up next, we have a theorist who is not afraid to push the boundaries of accepting Magic philosophy. Known for developing high performing rogue decks such as Dread Panda Roberts and The Baron, Adrian Sullivan also has a reputation for playing the devil’s advocate against commonly accepted principles such as 60 versus 61 cards, and playing 4s and 1s versus playing 2s and 3s. While I personally am one to play 60 cards and 4s and 1s in general, I certainly respect his deck building skills and clever solutions to difficult challenges presented by formats.

So that there is no misunderstanding, Adrian usually plays 60 cards and has no problem playing 4s and 1s, he is just a willing advocate of times that he feels it is justified to stray away from these guidelines, which is more often than many others would.

For some examples of Adrian’s writing, look here, here, or here. Adrian is a blast to hang out with and the epitome of valuable information that must be taken with a grain of salt. Sullivan is certainly one of the more versatile theorists that have been around since the beginning. We are fortunate that Adrian is still going strong after all these years, continuing to share his unique perspective.

Adrian Sullivan

Inspiration is one of the most difficult things to find in deck building. Mob mentality rules the metagame, so finding something new can be quite enticing. Off balance opponents are unlikely to get your deck and can make mistakes that give your free wins.

The wretched thing about playtesting a rogue deck can be the response you get from many unfamiliar opponents, particularly on MTGO. Contempt can be an all too common reaction. Dismiss this, though. Peer pressure from other players has often homogenized the decks that people play. Tunnel vision about what is good and what is not often makes people sneer at new ideas.

Tinker away anyway, though. Clear your head, and make sure you aren’t simply trying to make something new for its own sake. Circular logic can be an easy trap to fall into here, so be vigilant, and realize that wanting a deck to be good does not make it so.

Forget not that many an over-powered card was overlooked once upon a time. Insight into what is good and what is not takes practice, but with time, experience, and mind open to criticism, you’ll be all the more ready to make something special.

My next guest is a writer whose work is exceptionally creative and fun. Kyle Sanchez is a talented writer that attacks Magic writing from an angle few ever attempt to approach. His work can invoke emotions ranging from laughter to sadness, from curiosity to anger.

Kyle’s ability to entertain in a way that you hadn’t seen really stands out to me. I am excited to see how his work evolves, as he matures and gains experience.

A true comedian, Sanchez has a gift for tapping into sides of us we don’t always acknowledge or understand, and making us laugh about them. While he is often misunderstood, many people ahead of their time are.

For examples of Kyle’s work, check out here, here, or here, though be warned, his work is not for the faint of heart. Also, he is clinically insane.

Kyle Sanchez


Serra Avenger.

Forbidden love affair. They danced all night. A seduction from the future. A pair chosen by the Gods. Their arms interlocked, bodies awkwardly pressed together. Her wings, his horns, her fingers, his claws. Feathers and tangled fur spread across silky bed sheets. Pictures of Mystic Enforcer face down on the bedside nightstand. His muscles worked hard, while her bosoms jiggled fervently in motion.

These are the things wild fantasies are made of, he thought to himself. Serra Avenger smiled briefly, overcome with joyous pleasure, completely aware of her sinful infidelities. Payback comes at a heavy price; it was Enforcer who acted first with Serra Angel. Her cousin, no less… what corruptive nerve, and before he had even achieved the threshold status. She continued with twice the vigor as before, at which point he let out a resounding “GURHA!”

The next morning, the chirping Avens awoke them both, which were soon silenced by the staff of Enforcer. His eyes were filled with rage, his mystical wings spread out over the two like a giant tarpaulin. Tarmogoyf had no idea what was going on, as they’d all coexisted peacefully in the same Grand Prix winner’s deck. Enforcer’s massive staff split the air between them, missing, crashing into the king sized bed, splitting it in twenty-one pieces. His next swing wouldn’t be so reckless, landing across the broad chest of a surprised Tarmogoyf, crashing him into a wooden dresser. He recovered quickly, launching himself at Mystic Enforcer, tackling him into a six foot mirror, the glass shattering around as they exchanged blows. A jagged rock collided with Enforcer’s right jaw, forcing a hideous combination of teeth and blood to spew from his mouth… when it occurred to him.

Tarmogoyf was not the enemy; that treacherous and deceiving Serra Avenger had seduced him, just as she had once seduced Enforcer all those years ago. Enforcer then noticed the subtle beauties of Tarmogoyf, sweat drenched fur glistening from the warm morning sun, the way his muscles flexed with each impending blow. It was as if he was hypnotized, and the fighting stopped as both warriors stood in front of the other with a yearning look on their faces.

They both moved in slowly, chest to chest, but neither had caught their breath when Enforcer made the first move, wrapping his finger around Tarmogoyf’s blooded chest fur…

Up next, we have one of the all time greatest Magic writers period (If not the greatest). Jeff Cunningham is the Magic writer that Magic writers look up to. Author of the best Magic series ever, “Untold Legends of the Million Dollar Magic Pro Tour,” some examples of the work of Ffej can be found here, here, or here.

In addition to his wildly entertaining, often hilarious stories, Ffej is the author of some of the best tournament reports ever not written by John Shuler or Brian Hacker. Ffej also wrote an exceptional series of basic strategy articles for MagictheGathering.com by the name of the Magic Academy.

Ffej has experienced high highs and low lows, but is always one to watch, as the story will be a good one, no matter where on the spectrum he is. Often, his best stories are of his own suffering and despair, often at the hands of his arch-nemesis.

Jeff Cunningham

Teamdraft Journal

Pro Tour: San Diego, Sunday, 4:40PM: $100, versus Herberholz

Tiebreaker game

I’m winning, I have Syphon-Mage in play and Withering in hand, we’re both at about ten, Heezy drops Chronazoa, one of those alarm-bell creatures, and I instinctively move to kill it, tapping mana and reaching for Withering – but someone’s whispering over my shoulder, forcing me to reconsider, “Don’t bother” – I turn; it’s Ravitz, silhouetted by the harsh fluorescents of the tournament hall, – and, damnit, he’s right; I can just race with Mage and give myself more options by waiting on the removal — God, Ravitz is disciplined – Okay, “it’s fine” – my turn, I pass, Mark untaps and plays a Morph, and then an Emberwilde Augur, and now I’m forced to Withering the Chronazoa — but Timebender flips, makes 2 copies of the flyer, and I’m dead – Heezy’s doubled-over laughing, Nassif’s thumbing through my deck, and I’m reaching into my wallet and pulling out a hundy; my last hundy – is this real; I can’t tell if I’m awake or dreaming – “Ravitz, why did you tell me not to bother killing that thing?” Ravitz turns to me, his face streaked with tears, “friend, I was telling Mark ‘don’t bother’ – to put counters on Chronazoa, since you were obviously going to kill it!”

Our next appearance is by the 2007 Invitational Storyteller winner, Evan Erwin. Mister Orange, pioneer of the Magic Show, the first major weekly video show of Magic related content available to the masses, has revolutionized the game of Magic-based entertainment.

Evan’s shows are well-produced, and they bring a mainstream sense of humor sure to appeal to a wide audience. He covers the “Now” issues in Magic, and keeps viewers up to date on the formats, technology, drama, news, and much more. For examples of his work, look here, here, or here.

Although he is somewhat of a controversial figure, due to his pop appeal and lack of Pro Tour experience, there is no denying that Mr. Erwin has changed the format forever, and he gives us a sneak peek into what the future of Magic Media might be like.

Evan Erwin

There once was a man named Irving Urza and he didn’t win any Pro Tours, like another dude we’ll call Mister Traditionalist. But even though the unwashed man doesn’t love professionals, it was important not to forget about them. Professionals do a lot of good for Magic. Someone said he of donkeys playing include chump blocking Loxodon Hierarch with goblins, rather each opponent decides to bust Loxodon Warhammer.

Suddenly, enlightenment fell over the young man. Discovered within combat steps were additional clues buried beneath play. Tell us how pros do it, Irving Urza said. They are not scrubs. But they are each casual players. Why? Suddenly Mister Traditionalist decides another young man that we’ll call Captain Enlightenment, discovered once how someone into scrubs plays. Clues us why good pros tell players over and again beneath scrubs were donkeys like Chapin but Chapin doesn’t love them.

Within, buried inside each playing, Captain Unwashed, a.k.a. Bruce, a.k.a. Chump Opponent, takes additional steps playing important goblins. Why?

Even with Warhammer, blocking Hierarch takes rather bust combat.

Hatred for Pro Tours didn’t include casual dude named Bruce. Forget about good Magic. Though he fell over again, any dude there could win.

Finally, we have my other head, the top Pro Player in the United States, Constructed master Mark Herberholz. Aside from being one of the best active players in the game, Mark is a hilarious storyteller that helps make Magic fun.

Whether it is his off the wall tournament reports or his memorable appearance on the Price is Right, Mark has had a lasting impact on Magic entertainment, as anyone who has heard him tell a story at a Pro Tour can attest.

A future Hall of Famer, Mark’s contributions to the game take many forms, ranging from deck building (He is Flores’s – and my – key sounding board for our Constructed decks), to Pro Tour playing, to tournament reporting, to speaking out for the Pros when it is popular to knock them. For examples of his work, look here, here, or here.

Mark has been a good friend of mine since we were both little kids, and I am incredibly proud of all he has accomplished.

Mark Herberholz

To protect the identities of the involved parties in the following story of a former PT player who has fallen to such lows that are about to be regaled upon you, the parties involved will all be given aliases.

This story takes place at a Pro Tour. The main character, let’s call him Washed Up, is in fact, washed up. He hadn’t been putting up the finishes that he used to, and to make ends meet at this PT he had to con his mom into going for a vacation because he couldn’t afford the hotel room. Imagine the shame of popping off money finishes left and right, and now being forced to ask mommy for a handout.

Well, Washed Up’s ill luck continued at this PT just like the others, despite a strong start, and he lost something like the last six rounds to finish out of the money. So it was on the walk from the site when Washed Up was walking with a couple friends, one who knew of his hotel situation and one who didn’t. The one who didn’t asked who Washed Up was staying with. Washed Up pretended to mishear the question, and answered it as if he had asked where he was staying, and responded with “by the beach.”

The other friend, let’s call him Papa Blesseds, kept his silence for the time being, only to tell everyone he could find the next day about Washed Up’s little encounter, therefore letting everyone he has come to know on the PT the true extent of his long sad spiral into PT purgatory. I leave you to wonder about who this sad, sorry tale is about…

Who, my friends, is Washed Up?

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”