Metagame This

So. Fires is a good deck. So. Everyone is going to play it at Regionals. Not to be crass, but I doubt it. I think.

So. Fires is a good deck. So. Everyone is going to play it at Regionals. Not to be crass, but I doubt it. I think.

In my last article, I pleaded for someone to beat the pants off Fires, and my pleads have been answered in the form of one J to the M to the Salazar. Jiggitty Jay sent me over a decklist that just screamed pure hate for Fires, and after we tweaked it/played it/tweaked it/played it some more, we came to a conclusion:

it beats the ever-living snot out of Fires. Unless Fires gets the God Draw of course. Then it only beats Fires like the redheaded step-bitch that it is. And you know what? If J to the M (who owns a total of ZERO cards and plays exclusively online) and SupaScrub Rizzo can kill Fires to death, might it be possible that others have already done so?

Well, yeah, they probably have – but that won’t stop Fires dead in its
tracks. Or maybe it will. People will still play it, although it’s likely that not as many people who planned on playing it will actually play it at Regionals. Or maybe it will be everywhere. Metagame that.

But, in beating Fires, don’t you cripple yourself against the other popular archetypes? Well, yeah, sort of – but we still have the extraneous use of our left arm and a little feeling in our right ear.

So, a decision needs to be made (eventually): Play the deck that kills Fires dead, but might be a sub-par choice vs. the other archetypes floating around, or screw Fires and play something that beats everything BUT Fires.

It is quite possible that Zvi’s Protection From Life deck from PT: Tokyo will see more than a little action in a Type 2 bastardized form; ditto for Fuller’s, Benafal’s, and all those other dudes G/R weenie monstrosity as well. And don’t forget Turbo-Chant and any and all sorts of the becoming-seriously-popular Dark Ponza. Oh, and it’s Regionals, too, which means Timmy, Power Gamer is likely to be out in full force – which means weird decks with weird cards that no one can a) predict, b) strategize against, and c) understand why the hell those cards ever saw play.

Who do you try to beat? Fyres? Skyez? Jeb and Joe Bob and other assorted Rebels? R/B? Zvi? Benafuller? Turbine-Chant? Ponzi Scheme? Timmy and his Big Deck O’ Legends? Everyone?

I guess that’s what they call the metagame.

Figure out who you have to beat, then beat them. A lot.

But, who do you really have to beat to do well at Regionals? The knee-jerk says beat Fires, but everyone’s knee be jerking in that direction, so how can everyone be right? And it’s likely that everyone does have at least a clue how to trounce Fires into oblivion, which leads me to wonder if Fires really will be the deck voted most likely to win a spot or five at Nationals.

"If everyone says one thing, I say vote the other way."
-Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross

Are there a bunch of Al Pacinos planning on attending Regionals this year? Makes a brother wonder…

If there are, then Fires won’t be the deck to beat, something else will. If Pacino decides to stay home this year, then Fires takes the cake and eats it too, which is what is supposed to happen anyway, judging by the sheer volume of Fires-related articles popping up all up on The Net.

And then there are the other "Tier One" decks: Skies and Rebels.
Skies hates Plague Spitter, and Sergeants aren’t real happy to see that dude either, so does that mean tons of black decks show up, conceding matches (but still trying to go "Ritual, Spitter") against Fires in order to beat Rebels and Skies (which they feel will be the top decks after everyone metagames against Fires)?

Or does everyone just play land kill, because it can just house anything? Or do they hide behind Counterspells and bounce and Agenda? Or something else?

And what if you bring the Best Fires Ever and face Timmy and his "I only beat Fires with my 4 Story Circle, 4 CoP: Red, and 4 CoP: Green, with one Millstone.dec?" And there is a good possibility that you could face some such deck in rounds one, two, and maybe even three, for that’s the nature of the beast and stuff.

"Tech wants to be free."
-Paul Barclay

"My ass."
Aaron Forsythe

"Your ass wants to be free?"

How about this: screw the metagame. Metagame that.

If you think you can figure out if everyone will or will not play Fires, Skies, and Rebels, then best of luck to you, and you certainly are in the wrong line of work; try The Psychic Network. Because no one can know what the hell everyone else is going to do, they can only predict, and that still doesn’t take into account what the heck Timmy, Lewey, and Ricky and the rest of the "nonviable" metagame are going to do.

On one hand, that’s part of the art of the metagame: Trying to predict what everyone else if going to do and playing accordingly.

On the other, what if you are wrong? You will probably lose, a lot, and
go home scratching your melon until you end up resembling Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future, mumbling "One-point-twenty-one gigawatts" until the cows come home. (Don’t the cows actually LIVE on the farm? So they aren’t really "coming home"; they are, more accurately, "coming back to where they sleep." Farmers, I’ll tell ya.)


The early bird gets the worm. Eventually, all the birds that normally sleep in a while will figure this out too, thus, all the birds will be early birds because they want to get the worm too, thus, the same amount of worms will no longer feed all the early birds that get there, thus, the early bird will not necessarily get the worm, thus, that saying is stupid.

And that’s the metagame: a bunch of birds that want a mouthful of fat, juicy, worms.


You gotta get up pretty early in the morning to fool me. Eventually, they will get up pretty early in the morning, thus, they will fool you, thus, you must get up even earlier, thus, so do they, thus, no one ever sleeps; thus, New York City is born.

And that’s the metagame: a bunch of insomniacs that want to either fool someone or prevent themselves from being fooled.


You can fool some of the people some of the time. Eventually, the
time to fool everyone will be today, thus, some people will be fooled,
thus, others won’t, thus, your ruse won’t work on everyone, but maybe
on everyone you meet, thus, your ruse worked on all of the people, thus, flip a friggin’ coin.

And that’s the metagame: some people fooling some others, while some of the ones that are fooling some people are being fooled by others who are fooling them but not the others that have already been fooled.

Screw the metagame? But didn’t Zvi and Crew establish that taking the metagame into account and figuring out how to kill it works wonders for your complexion? They sure did. This time. Does that mean that "pulling a Zvi" is the way to go in the future? Probably, but not always. The early bird gets up pretty early in the morning to fool some of the people. Why not just sleep in a little and hope you are in the other group that doesn’t get fooled? Well, probably a lot of people will indeed sleep in (those who play Fires), but there will be some who are up early pecking in the wet grass looking for fat and ripe ones while telling the other early risers that the real fatties are over on the other side of the meadow – you know, over by where the cows live and stuff.

And I now have a headache. Because the metagame is a metagame in and of itself. And while it probably matters, it also probably doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.

My wife understands the metagame better than anyone I’ve ever met, and she couldn’t care less about Magic. What that basically means is that if ever I have an extramarital affair with you, and after the, um, "thing" is over and I say to you "my wife doesn’t understand me," you’ll know that I’m lying and I’m just using you. Metagame that.

(above paragraph fulfills quota of questionable material)

Anyway (wow, I hate using that more than "as"), the metagame is irrelevant to me for now, and I think I’ll just build a good deck and let the chips fall where they may, and maybe even throw some caution to the wind for fun. Because if I play a deck that beats X, Y, and Z, but loses to A, B, and C, I’ll be second guessing myself ’til doomsday, especially after I face A, B, and C in the first three rounds at Regionals. I’ll just be in Columbus representing my own metagame.

Representing what? Well, since the last tourney I’ve played in (a month ago), some really annoying and/or generally odd things have taken place. Ergo:

1) I’ve played Magic (with other humans, damnit) a total of seven times. And three of those times involved playing IBC decks and Planeshift Precons with Sean, since the multiplayer game has apparently evaporated and stuff. Metagame that.

2) I’ve finally found a solution to the three months of not taking a paycheck at work: Go the hell out of business. When all else fails, just give up. Or, as Destiny’s Child likes to say, "throw your hands up at me." Or maybe that was Fred Durst. Metagame that.

3) I’ve built two trillion decks, which results in cards being spread out from here to <insert remote locale, preferably somewhere warm>, which also means that it can now take up to two hours to find that fourth Glacial Wall. And don’t get me started about how hard it was to find ANY of the fifty or so Primal Clays that I knew I had since birth. Metagame that.

4) I’ve been hacking up lung parts from a pseudo-pneumonia that only took three and a half weeks to go find someone else to pick on: My wife and kids. Metagame that.

5) I’ve been counting the days until GP – Detroit, so you know what that means, right? Yep, an 0-7 day is on the horizon, which will allow my Limited rating to find solace in the 1600 range where it belongs. Metagame that.

6) I’ve been counting the days until Regionals, so you know what that means, right? Now that I can give Fires this day its daily bread, I’ll probably get matched up against eight rounds of Anti-Rizzo.dec, which will probably help my Constructed rating back under 1500 where it belongs. Metagame that.

7) For some reason, I’ve joined at least two more mailing lists, probably because getting a hundrd and fifty emails a day isn’t quite enough for me. Metagame that.

8) I’m out of contact lenses, and the dudes won’t just refill them, I actually have to go get another yearly eye exam. And they won’t just tell me my prescription so I can just order some from a fly-by-night lens company that advertises in Woman’s Day. (How’s that for something really worth bitching about?)

As Damon Wayans once quoted a friend as saying, "I was collecting unemployment, but now they want you to go down there to pick up the check." Oh, by the way, if you own a business, you still have to pay unemployment tax on yourself, but you can’t claim any benefits. Ever. I guess that’s what you get when you are one of "The Rich." My W2 has Year 2000 earnings of $9,600. Yes, I am oh so very rich. Metagame that.

9) For the first time ever, I haven’t read every Magic article on The Net. Whoa, I feel all casual and stuff. And I’ve also stopped writing thirty daily emails to the buckets of lists that I’m on. I feel like a lurker. Surprisingly, The CPA hasn’t discontinued me yet for lack of posts. Since January, I think I’ve posted a total of twenty-five times or so, which doesn’t quite compare to the guys who have thousands of posts, but I like to think of my posts as "Dog Posts," just like "Dog Years": Twenty posts for me is like a hundred and forty in "Human Posts." Metagame that.

10) My wife bought me a DVD player two days after "The Dead Thread" was posted. I feel all dirty. Oh, and she bought me a few movies too, but they all sucked. Give a brother VHS and make him happy, damnit. Metagame that.

11) Napster was ordered to bend over and like it. I promised myself that if Lars Ulrich didn’t give up on is quest to kill Napster, that I would no longer like Metallica. I guess I lied. But I still want to kick many parts of his ass for many hours in a row. Metagame that.

12) Dan Bock did something nutty in Tokyo, and I’m STILL not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, booya for sticking it to the man, and on the other, reverse booyas for sticking it to the little guys who’d love a chance to just get to the show. Since Dan bought a couple hundred bucks worth of cards from me last year, I guess I’ll give him 50.1% booyas because I’m a whore who cares way too much about money. Metagame that.

13) Some stuff was banned from Extended, and I really won’t care at all until the next time the season comes up. Then I’ll probably care a lot, since my FrigginGreen will be dead as a doornail with the banning of Survival of the Fittest. Metagame that.

So, I’m unemployed, the bank account isn’t nearly as fat as it once was, there’s a huge void where tournaments once were, the wife and kids are sick, I’m out of contact lenses, Napster got screwed, my taxes are due, and I don’t have a deck for Extended. Some of those things are important and some are not. But they are all there, waiting for Godot.

Metagame that.

Wow, I’m starting to depress myself. Prozac anyone? In the old "Good Days, Bad Days" vein (during a "Bad Day"), I thought about what my "Goodbye Magic" article would sound like, then I realized that I wouldn’t ever write one, I’d just disappear. But not in the foreseeable future anyway – ’twas just neato to think about. Have I written anything worth reading at all up there? Probably not, and here’s exactly why:

Last year, on a whim (sort of), my brother wrote a play and submitted it for the Pittsburgh New Works Festival and it was not only accepted, but lauded by critics (tip: those who can, do, and those who can’t should shut up and stuff) and theater peeps alike. Although, the audience was way too stupid to understand it, probably just as intended.

So, after his play gets accepted by J. Random Theater Company (Stereotypical question: what do you think the subject matter is of most of the plays that company produces? You are correct.), he gets to hang out with the actors, director, and assorted stage nerds. Pretty cool until the director suggests that maybe this scene could go like this and that character should probably sound a little different and a bunch of other stuff that my bro sort of doesn’t want to go along with, but does because the New Works Festival is a really big deal.

He makes a few changes here and there and everyone’s happy. Until opening night, that is. Apparently, the director thought that adding some music would just make the play oh so much better. So they added a song that has the lyrics "Don’t call me nigger, whitey" in the intro and outro without consulting my bro (who WROTE the damn play, but what does that matter?).

Now, I was pissed at him for rewriting a lot of the stuff that I was positive he was passionate about keeping, and I tried to get him to stick to his guns a little, and if the director didn’t like it, then he could pull his play from production and tell them where to go. Kinda like a "my way or the highway" thing, which, apparently, doesn’t go over very well with old school directors and random theater peeps… So he caved a little. Not much, but enough to know that he did indeed cave.

On opening night, there were two plays ahead of my bro’s, and while they were mildly enjoyable, they really didn’t SAY anything; they were more like TV shows on stage. Smart writing, keen directing and all that, but they had no importance at all in the greater scheme of things, while my bro’s play did have a ton of things to say.

So, the audience is all dumb and fat and happy from the two TV shows they just watched instead of participated in, and my bro’s play comes on.

Me: Hey, Vin, I don’t remember this is the script you showed me.

Vin: Well, that was one of the things that was changed.

(Repeat that dialogue about ten more times throughout the play)

Long story short: the play sucked, the actors blew, the point was totally missed, the audience was clueless, and my bro was crushed. But he was nowhere as pissed as I was: if I could’ve gotten away with murdering the director and crappy actors, I would’ve put their lame asses on ice in a heartbeat, because I know what they did: they took something different that had a meaning, and raped it for their own asinine agenda and politics. And it all sucked because my brother’s passion was quelched by someone with a happy little agenda to pursue. And he let them.

I remember leaving the theater with my mother, aunt, and a random family friend, and they all wanted to talk to my bro about the play. Understandably, he didn’t. Because he knew that that the metagame got the best of him.

So, we went to his house and discussed the many ways in which we would kill the director and actors to death. I stopped short of giving him the "I told you so" speech because he pretty much knew that the "my way or the highway" mentality sometimes needs to take center stage. He had a solution: Next year, both of us would submit plays and do it our way. If they didn’t like it, no matter; we would create our own metagame, chief.

For the last month or so, I’ve been working on my play that I will submit, they will accept, someone will sign on to produce it, and I will stand up and represent. Because someone has to. Someone has to say, "Hey, jerkies, all y’all don’t know jack about what this really means, and allowing you to pervert it is bad times all up in here, and it ain’t gonna happen." Yeah, "my way or the highway" up in there.

It’s sort of like The Ferrett Anti-Tour kind of pledge: Getting to the show is enough, don’t ask me to play ball – YOUR ball – ’cause it won’t happen. (Well, except in the end even The Ferrett decided to see what the ballpark looked like – The Ferrett) Yeah, I sound like I have a major attitude problem, and you’re right – I do.

I will stand up and represent.

Because someone has to.

Relevance to Magic? Sure…

It took me some serious time to figure out what I needed to get from the insane amount of time and money on this game, but I finally did: I need to represent. I need to stand up and say "Um… It doesn’t always have to BE like this, dammit!" And that’s what I try to do in my column. And in tourneys. And in life.

I was sickened at the prospect of having a "we ID and we both make Day Two" scenario with a CMUer. Then, when I was writing the play, I realized that I must represent. I must represent what I believe. And that is "roll that die, chief, and we’ll sort this all out later if you want, but right now, we are going to play."

And if it doesn’t go over too well, then thems the breaks. Metagame that.

And getting people to understand, and hopefully adopt, my ideas on ID’s was one of my top priorities. Um, can you say "utter failure?" Thought so. Even The Friggin’ Ferrett ID’d! Can you say, "Kick a brother in the ‘nads, it won’t hurt as much?"

It’s also the "no Net Deck policy" that may relegate my ratings forever to the bottom of the barrel – yet another utter failure.

It’s also the "write what you believe and let the readers take it from there" ideal that may eventually get me kicked to the curb.

The jury (all y’all) is still out on that one because it’s still sort of a brand new metagame that people haven’t figured out how to beat yet.

It’s also the "I might not make a difference, ever, but for as long as I play this game, I will certainly try to" ideal that may eventually make the readers tune me the hell out.

But it’s downright depressing when I can see the difference either nor being made at all, or being made slow-as-molasses.

And it’s also "yeah, maybe I DO have an attitude problem, but it’s MY attitude and I will stand up and represent what I think is right" ideal that may turn out to be wrong.

As often that I do indeed think some of my ideals are wrong (at least for this game and these players), my bad attitude just blames everyone else for not being able to see what I feel is right. Now that’s a healthy outlook, huh? Metagame that.

Whether I’m right or wrong is irrelevant, and whether my play gets accepted and produced under MY terms is irrelevant as well, and certainly whether I make it to The Tour and make a difference is irrelevant; it all comes down to one question at the end of the day (and the end of your life as well)…

Did I represent?

My answer will be yes.

And if I suck at Magic forever…

And I lose readers by the hundreds…

And if Zvi trounces me in the Writer War…

And if my play gets dissed hard…

It won’t and it does not matter, as long as at the end of the day
and the end of my life I can say that I stood up and represented.

My obituary:

Friggin’ Rizzo died yesterday while representing.

My tombstone:

Here lies a man who represented.

Metagame that.

John Friggin’ Rizzo