I submitted my first article to TheDojo on December 6, 1999. Two articles, actually; I guess it’s appropriate that they were both sent directly to the "humor" archive. That day marked my first big dive into the deep and sometimes fickle Pool of Magic. I guess that’s when it all started; what a friggin’ ride it’s been so far.
Hella rollercoaster and stuff. I’ve gone from complete obscurity to hack submissionist to Featured Writer to playing with the CMU guys. I’d call that an interesting year. And I’ve ridden the emotional ups and downs that anyone who comes out of nowhere is sure to taste.
I’ve been praised as a voice for the little people and derided as a charlatan, with equal passion. I’ve gone from not knowing my place in The Magic Matrix to thinking I found it to becoming totally lost again. And back. Basically, I still don’t know where I fit. And I care less than ever as to what my role is. I’m here, just like you are; that’s enough for me.
While I don’t really fashion myself as a real writer, I do enjoy the hell out of it (sometimes), and find that the Magic community more or less puts up with me, which is more than I might’ve expected. But, as many writers can tell you, it’s sort of a business where Manic Depression is king.
Some days I love you all, on others, I hate you. I have days where I find myself virtually jumping for joy as I realize that I have actually connected with some readers. Then I have the days where I ask myself "what the hell is wrong with everyone?" Sometimes you guys get what I’m trying to do here; sometimes I can just smell your confusion and anger.
Hey, me too. I’m not really sure what I hope to accomplish by writing about issues that I know will not make me popular with many of you, but I feel that there are some things I cannot allow to sit and fester.
To further explain what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll start by giving you an example of what I sound like on one of my "I Hate You All" days, as I’d prefer to save the goodness for the "high note" ending. Keep in mind that everything that follows is offered with no excuses or apologies, for I don’t think you’d have it any other way.
Purging My System: The Bad
I’ve done my share of (apparently) random bitching, and I must say that it appears my passions are not shared by anyone. So I have made impassioned pleas for change – most of which have fallen on deaf ears. All right, I guess that means that I am an island here; that I can accept, although I refuse to unequivocally believe it.
Some things suck and hit virtually all of us, and some things suck and hit only a few. The few scream much louder than me, it appears. That seems strange, as the things that piss me off enough to write about are almost universally applicable.
Still, very few care. Well, maybe they care, but they sure ain’t climbing mountains to proclaim their concern. That leaves me, in theory, on the outside looking in, right? Alas, what did I expect? Did I want to initiate change? Did I think that anyone would consider what I was saying and not only agree with me, but also take up the cause?
Well, here is my last impassioned plea for change – for a while, at least. Take comfort in the fact that you won’t have to hear my rampant bitching about the things I deem problematic. So I’ll get to it, and although it’s with a little less passion than usual, I will never thrown in the towel. (It’ll just sound like it.)
An example of something that many of us won’t have the pleasure of dealing with, but gets everyone riled up:
The Grand Prix bye system is utterly broken. Everyone says so. This is a real problem, and it needs fixed ASAP, right? For it violates the "spirit" of competition, yes?
It seems a funny thing how the "spirit" of competition is to be held in such high regard… but only sometimes. For those who think the bye system is in need of a fix, I offer that it is simply the "goes around" that finally did "come around" to smack you straight in the chops.
Perhaps it’s the Magical Karma. But it certainly is poetic justice.
Hypocrisy is a bitch, huh?
The Grand Prix bye system is but a symptom; the real problem is that many players are weak-ass human beings, with absolutely no propensity to grow some guts. If you think the bye system is the biggest problem we face, man, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Here’s a forest for ya, and something that should really concern you, but doesn’t rate very high in anyone’s book but mine:
"We agreed to ID even before getting to our table…"
-Theron Martin, Indiana State Champion
Then Theron states this little neato thingy…
"…two 5-1-1s who missed the cut…"
I guess I’m the only one who might find a correlation between those two statements. Maybe Theron would say "sucks to be you" to the two 5-1-1s, as that could’ve easily been him had he taken the long way. Why would he, when the easy road is so friggin’ easy?
"The top three tables, including Tim and I, all ID. David Redfern is the unlucky twelve-pointer who must play."
-Chris Kwan, Queensland State Champion
David got "unlucky" because six guys ID’d. Unlucky is an interesting word to describe that situation.
"We decide on drawing for at this point, since it seems certain that thirteen points will get us in. We play a game just because."
-Jeremy Muir, Top 8, Vermont States
"Just because." Isn’t that special? Doesn’t that show a burning passion for the game?
"Round 6 intentional draw."
"Round 7 Intentional draw."
-Billy Postlethwait, Florida State Champion (and fourteen years old)
Fourteen years old… and drawing. This disturbs no one?
Random voice: Billy, you should always give your best.
Billy: Um, I did. Except for rounds six and seven.
"Paired against Teammate and Friend Chris Poulin. I concede to him 0-2, knowing I gotta win last round. Talk about taking one for the team."
-Pete Ceprano, Maine State Champion (and sixteen years old)
Pete takes "one for the team," then the team takes one for Pete…
"I’m paired vs. Chris, the friend I conceded to in round 6. We talked for a bit, then he returned the favor and extended his hand. Onto Top 4."
So, Pete concedes to help Chris into the Top Eight so Chris can concede to Pete to get him into the Top Four? More of the "sucks to be you" was probably offered to the guys who didn’t make it in thanks to the above example of touching humanitarianism.
(Mother Theresa smiles down from The Heavens.)
"I do, after all, have a wide reputation as a Master when it comes to calculating whether or not a person can safely draw into a Top Eight."
-Theron Martin, again
I’m not sure if he’s bragging or not.
(By the way, you will not find a bigger supporter of what Theron brings to the game than me. Although it appears that I have an axe to grind with Master T, I assure you that I don’t. But it sure does seem like I’m picking on him. Well, quit drawing, chief… then I’ll be all nice.)
Dear stupid Friggin’:
"You don’t know what you are talking about."
"Who the hell cares what your scrubby ass thinks?"
"You’re a Friggin’ idiot."
"Dude, you really should shut the hell up because you suck and no one likes you and no one even cares what you think anyway."
Society of the Happy Intentional draws into Top 8.
More food for thought that none of you care about:
"Someone went one and FIVE? At a Pre-Release? And they’re still here? What a loser, messing up everyone’s tiebreakers."
-Matt Lute, quoting some of his less enlightened brethren, "Prometheus Rises: I Came to Play."
How many times have you seen this:
Once or twice, I would wager.
1) Drive to tourney.
2) Pay upwards of twenty-five bucks to play.
3) Lose second match.
4) Drop; don’t upset the applecart.
Paying your entrance fee does not entitle you to play the entire tournament, that privilege is reserved only for good players who will win most of their matches. For you wouldn’t want to mess up someone’s tiebreakers, would you? After all, it makes it that much harder (if you stay in after your second loss) for those players to Intentionally Draw into the Top Eight.
Stop thinking about yourself so much, Mr.-I-actually-want-to-play-all-
Imagine the audacity of the players that Matt quoted. They believe that it is far more noble to drop when you can no longer mathematically win the tournament than it is to tough it out with a crap record and try to learn something, or at least try to have some fun.
And they are not alone. By a long shot.
And this bitch has made no dent, at all:
"(Jamie Wakefield) shortcomings as a deckbuilder and/or player spawned from his passion. He had an ideal and he stuck to it. As a pro player, I can tell you that is not a style conducive to continued success. But is it commendable? Well, Don Quixote was an outcast because of his strong belief in long-dead chivalry. Wakefield’s chivalrous outlook kept him from being one of the true greats as far as players go – he had the instincts, but refused to alter his self-imposed standards – so in a way he was sort of an outcast."
–Aaron Forsythe, "Good Beats: Forcefield."
That’s as close as one can get to finding Jamie Wakefield. Many of you admired his guts and willingness to fight for what he believed in. You told me so after I wrote that friggin’ Wakefield article. Then you forgot all about him and ID’d into the Top Eight, with your Net Deck, while berating the guy who was still playing at 1-5.
Wakefield was willing to fall on his sword (and often did) for what he believed in. I am too.
If the DCI made it illegal to Intentional Draw, would you draw anyway, and risk being suspended because you believed in it?
Would you spend your own money to print up flyers as part of a grassroots campaign to insure that Net Decks survived and prospered?
If the DCI contemplated mandating a drop when you lost your second match, would you vote for it?
None of you would.
Because you don’t care that much. I do. And get mocked for it.
Here’s a fun activity for you to try at your Christmas gathering:
1) Find the oldest living man in the room. Preferably a Grandfather-type being around seventy years old or so.
2) Explain to him, if necessary, the tournament structure of Magic.
3) Tell him you Intentionally Drew into the Top 8.
Another fun activity:
1) Find a thirty-five to forty-year old man.
2) Repeat steps 2 and 3 as above.
3) Prepare to get slathered with praise.
I guess I can attribute much of my sense of failure to this:
"…I loved your first few articles… You WERE good, and then you seemed to have started trying too hard to be weird or original… you seem to be more in the vicinity of jumbled and pretentious… tedious and difficult to wade through."
"You seem to be trying too hard to be different…"
"I really liked your [Wakefield] article, and [Stigmata] was good too, but what were you trying to say with that visually annoying Might of Oaks article?"
"I used to like your stuff, but lately, you are getting too weird."
"…sometimes I can’t even finish one of your articles… they seem to be contrived and basically, full of [expletive]. I wonder what it is you think you are trying to prove, and to who…"
It’s enough to make a guy ask himself what the hell he is doing. And why.
See, apparently, many people have these ideas of who John Friggin’ Rizzo is supposed to be:
You are supposed to write stuff that makes us think, but not too much.
You are supposed to be funny, but not too much.
You are supposed to bitch about stuff, but not too much.
You are supposed to do the "FrigginRizzo: <—," but not too much.
You are supposed to be philosophical, but not too much.
You are supposed to be Rogue, but not too much.
You are supposed to be weird and out there, but not too much.
FrigginRizzo is supposed to write the things that make people go "wow," but laugh about in the company of friends. I’m supposed to say things that you would like to, but wouldn’t risk for fear of ridicule. I’m the whipping boy of ideas, right?
I’m supposed to take the risks, right? You may or may not agree with them, but at the end of the day, you get to go home and forget about me. I don’t have that luxury.
FrigginRizzo is supposed to be the little sensitive, thinky bitch that discusses all the touchy-feely-honest-to-goodness-mushy stuff everyone wants to hear. I’m supposed to be everyone’s big brother; the guy who never gets any but is always hanging out with a bunch of girls because, "Oh, Johnny, I need someone JUST LIKE YOU… but not you!"
FrigginRizzo: <—The emotional tampon of the Magic world.
I have never taken kindly to those who had formed an opinion of what I was supposed to be. Because I can’t please everyone, or even most. Once upon a time, acceptance really mattered to me; I used to strive to be everyone’s happy little lump of clay, ready to be molded.
For the longest time, I would worry about how others would perceive me: Are these jeans still in style? Will people think I’m gay because I have a couple earrings? (Trust me, in 1985, it WAS an issue.) Will Mommy and Daddy be proud of me? Blah. The only reason I don’t have an ulcer today is because I realized that the list of people’s opinions that truly matter can be counted on one hand.
I went to college because I was supposed to make everyone proud. "You can be the first Rizzo with a college degree!" Well, maybe I don’t want to go to college, get a degree, and waste fifty years of my life behind a desk to make the Rizzo clan happy.
Maybe, just maybe, the secret of life isn’t to be found in a friggin’ textbook. So, I quit. Three times. So, there’s this Professor going on and on about what it takes to succeed? How the hell does he know? Not everyone wants to fit in the buttoned-down business world.
It looks like the Rizzos will have to try and go on without an "educated" member elevating the bloodline, as I wasted two and a half years trying to get all wise and stuff. Because I was supposed to.
I run the family business because my Grandfather and my Father did. It is my destiny, right? Well, this business reeks so hard that it had a hand in sucking the life out of both of them, and it isn’t exactly raising my life expectancy either. "How could you think of selling the business?!" Well, maybe I don’t want to be a friggin’ salesman/all around whore just to fulfill someone’s insane idea of my destiny.
Maybe, just maybe, the secret of life isn’t to be found by kissing enough tuchis to make your mortgage payment. Maybe, and I know this is a stretch, finding something you enjoy is more important.
It looks like the company will just have to suck someone else’s soul, but it’s taken thirteen years of mine and counting.
I started writing about Magic because I wanted to.
I wanted to.
I submitted articles for months because I enjoyed it. It was pretty cool to get mail that complimented or validated what I was trying to say. Hell, even the occasional "dude, you suck" mail was cool, as I pretty much bucked conventional wisdom from the word go, and expected a naysayer here and there.
And that used to be enough for you. Not anymore, though. You would put me into a box with predetermined parameters – parameters from which I could not deviate one iota.
Not to be hasty, but screw that.
It’s not as if I can’t take bitching about my subject matter, or even being judged by what I write. Hell, I do it too. I judged the character of the guys I quoted regarding Intentional Draws. They can judge me right back, but I know that I am right. They know they are wrong, but just don’t care. Okay, I’ll take that back… they don’t know they are wrong because they are just doing like the Romans.
Nobody bothered to tell them that they are wrong, except me. But who cares what I say?
I’m finally starting to figure stuff out, and that seems to make many want to throw me back to the starting gate where I’m supposed to belong. They want me to be on the outside looking in. To be the voice of the little guy who just can’t seem to break into the big time.
Write another Wakefield article! (Talk about a Friggin’ albatross.)
Well, maybe I don’t want that. Perhaps I’m not the voice of the little guy, or the one on the outside looking in. Maybe I’m just trying to be who I am; love it or leave it, chief. Maybe I am where I am, regardless of whose side I may appear to be taking.
And I’m taking a nice amount of crap because of it:
First off, maybe I really am weird and original. Perhaps I don’t want to be the normal guy who toes the line, punches the clock, and wakes up fifty years later, saying, "What the hell did my life mean?" There are plenty of conventional writers out there; what the hell does one more bring to the table? Do we need another brick in the wall?
Every morning, on my way to work, I see thousands of people, driving along with their corporate grins, in their <insert random trendy vehicle> to jobs that they hate. For what? Because that’s what they are supposed to do.
I always hated that word. Supposed.
That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do.
That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to be.
Well, not for me.
Yep, they went to college, majored in something that had the most potential "upside," as deemed by some random guidance counselor, got their degree, and joined society. They toed the line; now they can reap their "reward," which basically consists of pats on the head and a few Scooby Snacks thrown their way to keep them dumb, fat, and happy.
Don’t rock the boat and you will be rewarded. Figure out what everyone else is doing, then do like them.
Punch a clock.
Get a gold watch.
We’ll write you up a nice obituary:
<insert name of random clock-puncher> died yesterday. <clock-puncher> took no risks, played it safe, and died with a ton of friggin’ regrets. <clock-puncher> is survived by a whole bunch of people who probably won’t take risks either.
Personally, I’ll pass on being just another statistic.
You can laugh at my stuff, or mock my ideas, but do you really think that’s going to stop me from trying to make my dent? Ever? I’ll be here until The Ferrett or Pete just gets sick of explaining and/or justifying me to the readers – which, judging by what I’ve written so far, might be sooner than we think. That might get me out of your face, but maybe not.
Secondly, "difficult to wade through" is exactly what I’m striving for. The issues I discuss are important to me; naturally, I would think they would be important to some of you as well. And it shouldn’t be easy to figure out.
You’ve all seen "The Matrix," right? Why was that movie such a Friggin’ success? Take what’s-her-face’s leather pants, some pretty damned cool special effects, and Keanu’s pretty mug out of the picture, and replace them with anything. It would have still been a success because, while offering obvious visual appeal, the movie made a huge point that absolutely required deep thought to fully appreciate.
It didn’t just spoonfeed the "man v. machine" aspect, although that was quite evident; the masterstroke was due to the fact that one was left with many issues to ponder long after the closing credits. Using a band called "Rage Against the Machine" to close the film was, hopefully, not lost on the audience, either.
"The Matrix" appealed to the "Imma take off my brain and just let you entertain me" crowd, as well as the "I’ll be here searching for neat little innuendoes and whatnot" crowd. In other words, the Rambo fans AND The English Patient fans both left satisfied.
What group do you think I’m shooting for?
I ask more from my readers than most Magic writers do; that much should’ve been obvious from day one. If you want to sit back and be entertained, go read someone else – because that’s not what I’m about. If you want to be turn on your computer and be spoon-fed entertainment, then don’t click my link, ever.
Now I know a lot of people are expecting me to wow them on a weekly basis, to come up with something that is simply amazing. Well, I try, and if you actually do more than read, you may come away with something more. But, if you aren’t willing to bend a little, my stuff won’t make sense.
All of my articles are extensions of articles and ideas that came before. It’s more like a book, with the individual articles being chapters. The new articles work backwards from the earlier ones to try to get at the bigger picture.
I really hate to have to explain myself, as it makes me feel like an idiot, but it may be time to simplify a few things. Ergo:
"The Most Broken Tournament Mechanic, Ever" was supposed to make you think about what ID’s actually meant to you. Maybe it was meant for you to challenge yourself and take the long road. Or maybe it was meant for players to decide what part the word "honor" played in their lives.
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone Intentional Draw into the Top Eight. I can’t be the only person on this planet who wouldn’t be able to look at himself in the mirror afterwards, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to ID into the Top Eight.
Which led to:
"The Innocence of Magic" was intended to help you remember when you were a newbie, and to make you appreciate what the real benefits of our game are. It was meant to inspire you to throw conventional wisdom out the window and just play like you know you can (and should).
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone take our game so seriously, that every aspect of the original fun and innocence is corrupted beyond repair. I can’t be the only person on this planet that believes that fun and innocence should come first in Magic, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to play for blood.
Which led to:
"Searching For Jamie Wakefield" was meant to take one of the most beloved players/writers ever and try to use what he represented to make you think about what our game means to you, and where you are going within parameters that you would set for yourself – and then go beyond.
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone settle for less than everything. I can’t be the only person on this planet that thinks Magic is a game where you must constantly reevaluate yourself and keep reaching for the brass ring, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to stop and smell the roses.
Which led to:
"The Grand Experiment" was intended to make you strive to be original, to be more than just a guy who plays the best decks. Nevertheless, many of you wrote in to wise me up to the benefits of Net Decks. Did you all miss the point? The fact that the idea of using Net Decks did not sicken you lead me to believe that I was fighting a war that I could not win, as tourney victories are held in higher regard than individuality in most cases. (Most? – The Ferrett)
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone grab a Net Deck and head to a tourney. I can’t be the only person on this planet that thinks that individual success should come wholly from within, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to use the best deck.
Which led to:
"Rethinking the Grand Experiment" was my way of spitting in the face of Net Decks. Yeah, I’ll lose a lot of DCI points, and probably all of my games, but the idea was to offer myself up as a sacrificial ratings lamb to try to prove just how ridiculous the "win at all costs" mentality is. I am gladly throwing myself into the fire on the off chance that someone will care. Who knows?
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone turn their back on themselves when push comes to shove. Am I the only person on this planet that thinks that one should fight for what one believes in?
You are SUPPOSED to join ’em if you can’t beat ’em.
Which led to:
"Monotony" was intended to demonstrate how big a role Magic played in my day-to-day life, and maybe yours as well, with particular attention paid to the mundane lives we all really lead… and maybe how to break free from your monotony.
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone take their Magic playing time for granted. I can’t be the only person on this planet who sincerely values every minute of actual play, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to accept your lot in life.
Which led to:
"The Pittsburgh Connection" was entirely based upon how one can find inspiration if they just look hard enough. It was also a tribute to everything that is, or can be, right with Magic.
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone think success is measured only in numbers of victories or dollars earned. Am I the only person on this planet that thinks success has nothing to do with the traditional measuring sticks of greatness?
You are SUPPOSED to cherish your possessions.
Which led to:
"Stigmata and The Cleansing of Magic" was intended to make people
aware of the "wrinkles" in our game. As much as it was just random
bitching, it also connects with all of the above in that staring at the bad might lead you to search for the good.
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone smear any aspect of our game. I can’t be the only person on this planet that believes that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to accept things as they are.
Which led to:
"Epiphany: Might of Oaks and That Annoying Kid" was intended to be annoying to read. It was purposely hard to follow. It was designed to irritate you. Yes, you actually had to put in effort to read it, and maybe some more effort to "get it." The fact that the Acorn’s dialogue was in parenthesis, the Hatchet’s was preceded by a "<" and the Oak’s was in the plain ole, nothing fancy Arial font, was, apparently, lost on everyone.
(For the record, the Acorn’s parenthetical usage was indicating the subconscious or the original innocence, the Hatchet’s "greater than" sign was just that – everything he says is greater than anything else, and the Oak’s plain ole’ Arial was an indicator of humility – or the rediscovery of the original innocence. Maybe I won’t try so hard next time. Or maybe I will.)
I’ll never understand just what it is that makes someone looks down
on the new blood of Magic. I can’t be the only person on this planet who believes that players deserve respect, regardless of the number of digits in their DCI number, can I?
You are SUPPOSED to earn respect.
I write for me, no one else. If others can connect something I write with their situation, then that’s hella gravy. If not, well… if I was the apologetic type, I would simply say "my bad." But, I’m not. I can’t keep barfing up my innards and hope that someone, somewhere can make sense of it. I’m not that far out there; I can’t be as Rogue as I imagine. It has to mean something to someone, right?
But, I can’t be your whore. Take (or reject) me as I am, warts and all, because if you have learned anything about me at all from my articles, it should be this:
Some things are important.
I guess I’m also supposed to be "everyscrub"; the guy who goes to tourneys and gets pummeled and likes it. Maybe I’m supposed to represent the little guy – the one who struggles to overcome adversity, but just can’t manage to break through. Walter Friggin’ Mitty, right?
Well, how about this:
I have recently begun playing at CMU with some of the best players in the world. How ya like me now? That’s right, I’m actually trying to get better at this game. Sorry to burst your collective bubble, but being the designated scrub isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so I’m not going to be that scrub anymore.
Does that make me a sellout? Did I sell out because I’m sick of being an average player? I’m tired of being referred to as the worst player in history, so I go and try to improve myself, which is going to piss many off you off. Funny, huh? There are actually people who will be angry that I am trying to improve my game because that might mean I have ideas above my station. Of course, that will also mean that I will lose my "edge" and my "hunger," which, according to many of you, I’ve lost already anyway.
Hey, this is pretty long. Do you hear me apologizing? Do you hear me saying, "If you’ve made it this far, kudos to you?" You’ll never hear me say that, because if you are going to read my stuff, you should be aware that it’s going to be interactive, chief.
Readers. Please bring brain for twenty to thirty minute discussion of subjects that may require thought.
You don’t have to like it. In fact, if you are now livid, please email The Ferrett and tell him how much you hate me. If he gets enough angry mail, he’ll have to kick me to the curb, as StarCity is not a nonprofit enterprise.
If I’m as annoying as many of you say I am, then do something about it. Stand up and be heard. Quit being little wussies. Click that link and unload on my editor. Go ahead.
But, most of you won’t email The Ferrett, because, even though I have "disappointed" many of you, you still realize that I’m not just a little lap dog that will kiss butt and take names. That’s right; I’m the guy who stands by what he believes, right or wrong, and is willing to face the music. And, if you are really honest with yourselves, you will see a little bit of FrigginRizzo in all of you, maybe.
I USED to be good, right?
I made my own bed; I am fully prepared to lie in it.
I’m just John Rizzo with the double entendre nickname. If anyone needs me to be someone other than myself, they are in for a long wait. I yam what the Frig I yam.
Deal with it, or not.
Now, THAT is an "I Hate You All" day.
I cannot apologize for anything I said above because I believe in every word I wrote. But, that was an angry day. I’m really not as cool as you think. When I have an "I Love You All" day, this is what it sounds like:
Purging My System: The Good
I really don’t know where to start, but I know where I’m going with this. Really, I do. So, I’ll just keep typing and I think my thoughts will begin to morph into an article that hits what I’m shooting for.
It all started, for me, as documented many times, with Wakefield. I’ve gone places since that I couldn’t have fathomed.
1.) Readin’, ‘Ritin and ‘Rithmetic
As much as I try to convince myself that other people’s opinions don’t really matter to me, I can’t. Because, more times than I would like to admit, they do. A long time before I became a Featured Writer, I was more than a little concerned that I had no business playing Magic, let alone writing about it.
Who the hell would want to read what I have to say about our game? For that matter, who the hell was I to submit articles in the first place? There are so many better writers and players out there; who cares about a scrub like me? And why should they? What the hell can I offer to the Magic community?
I bought a laptop because The Duelist was going to become an E-zine, which meant that I wouldn’t have any printed magazines to help me keep up on Magic. This was before I knew about Inquest and Scrye. (Even though the above mags get their fair share of mocking, they do serve a valuable service to the community. Really.)
Soon after, I discovered The Dojo.
"Wow," was all I could say. Look at all those friggin’ articles! I must have spent a month just reading the archives. Talk about a wealth of information. It wasn’t long after that I decided to put my two cents in, as I felt that in order to truly be a part of this game, you have to do much more than just play. My part, so I figured, was to try to make people laugh, or, perhaps think.
"Squee Errata" and "Yet More Errata" were my first submissions. I can remember how cool I thought it was that The Dojo posted them. I might not have been on cloud nine, but I was pretty damned close.
Then I got some mail. You have to be kidding me? People actually READ this stuff? And write mail to the people that wrote it?
Oh, was I hooked. Much.
I started pumping out submissions (of varying quality) like they were going out of style – which is odd, as I didn’t know if they ever were in style. I continued to get a bunch of mail, but this time there were some angry ones. Even back then I could see that talking trash on Net Decks was not going to be taken lightly by anyone. But it was fun.
I also remember getting mail from Will Rieffer (Can you guess what card played a vital part in our correspondence?) who seemed like a cool as hell Rogue who just went and played what the hell he wanted.
Not long after, I joined the Meridian Magic discussion forum, or whatever it’s called, and saw tons of Riefferism all up in that joint. Damn, he is very protective of his Ankh! I also became aware of Star City through Meridian. (Yes, I miss that site.) When The Dojo went under, I started to fill The Ferrett mailbox, and I mean FILL, with random submissions, as I was left without an outlet for my Roguistic lifestyle. (This is true, incidentally. I currently have no less than FIVE unpublished Rizzo articles waiting around, and he keeps sending me more. When Riz dies, he’ll be like L. Ron Hubbard – six feet under, but nobody’ll know he’s dead for another six years… – The Ferrett)
After I submitted "The Innocence of Magic," The Ferrett made a mistake: he wrote me an email that said, "Good stuff." That, coming from a badass writer in his own right, energized me to just get all ballistic. So I did. Then Pete started up the Submission Contest, which of course, I took as a challenge to bombard The Ferrett with articles.
I think I sent in six articles in a two-day period, and I’m not sure which one won the Submission Contest, but, within a week, "Searching for Jamie Wakefield" was my first feature.
Can you say "holy hell?" I received so much mail from that article, most of it extremely complimentary (Well, OMC did write me a note…I’m still trying to figure out if it is praise or derision in his tone.), that I think I still have a couple to reply to. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, chief.
But I did realize that some people connected with my article, which was some severe gravy and biscuits. Although, I can be honest with myself, and I do realize that the subject matter (Wakefield) had A LOT to do with the massive response.
So, I write a couple more, garner some support, and start to think that there is nothing to this writing stuff. For a while, there WAS nothing to it. I kept on searching for ideas that would challenge myself and the reader to think, and eventually I pissed some people off. Now we are getting somewhere! I’ll take the bad with the good, and there is still plenty of good to be had here at StarCity.
But on the bad days, I would dwell – a little too much, probably – on the
negative mail. Every time I would get depressed that there was a small, but vocal, faction that absolutely HATED everything about me, good stuff would just pop up out of nowhere. And that’s the stuff that keeps me motivated and inline.
When Josh Bennett "came to my aid" as a result of Jon Becker "interpretation" of my Wakefield article, I was utterly astounded and honored. Of course, I couldn’t let him know just how honored. But, sometimes I still get chills when I think of how much he must have had to disregard his personal feelings for me when he defended one of his own who he felt was treated improperly by an "outsider."
Dan May wrote an article that had a little postscript that basically unleashed oodles of praise on my writings. I was floored again. Unlike OMC, I COULD let Dan know how honored I was. And I did.
Little, well, maybe not so little, things like those were such huge pick-me-ups, that it was difficult – if not impossible – to stay bummed for long. Those are the things I try to remember when I get depressed regarding my being a square peg in a friggin’ triangle.
When I first started reading Star City, Dave Meddish was most certainly my favorite writer. Besides having the FrigginRizzo look, he wrote in a manner that I wanted to be able to. Then, all of a sudden, he started to get all "spiritual." I remember feeling kind of pissed off, so much that I wrote a reply to his article on the Chris Benefal/Pete Norris issue. I basically lambasted him for going on a crusade of personal cleansing. It’s almost funny how I was so pissed that Meddish got offended when someone called a card a "fag."
After I was a feature guy for a few weeks, I started to realize that, while he dug some holes for himself with his opinions, he had balls. He stood up for what he believed, and didn’t back down. I wanted to be able to do that; I needed to take my own stand. And so I did. Only now can I begin to fully understand that he brought to light issues that he thought needed attention. While I usually disagreed with him, I have to offer him much kudos for having the guts to fight for his beliefs.
Boy, am I glad The Ferrett didn’t post that reply.
The experience of writing for StarCity has changed virtually everything I thought I knew about people. It’s caused me to reevaluate my ideas on
a thing or two. And that is some weird stuff indeed.
2.) Aaron Forsythe hooks me up.
After Aaron’s massive Nationals Report on Mindripper, I wrote him a "kudos, chief" email, that would end up altering my ideas of what a pro really was. I mentioned that I was going to Grand Prix-Pittsburgh without a team-I was just going to show up and see if I could hook up on the spot with whoever the hell needed a third guy.
Aaron wrote back and mentioned that his brother Neil and his teammate
Chas Tressler’s third guy was unable to attend and that they would need
someone…and was I interested?
Um, hells yeah, ya’ think?
Aaron had absolutely no incentive to help me out, and I didn’t even ask. He just took it upon himself to do what he could to help out a hometown scrub who was going to the GP in search of a team. (As well as finding a third wheel for Neil and Chas.)
I had a little history with Chas, him being my first ever tourney opponent and OWNER of Rizzo, so I was glad to become a member of the "Really Rottens." Personally, I would’ve picked a much more random name, but hey, I was there on a weekend pass and I wasn’t going to rock any boats – just play some Magic and have a little fun.
I sure did. We finished 56th or so, but it was probably the most fun I had playing in any tournament, ever. The Grand Prix led to acquaintances with Aaron, Neil, and Scott Teamann, and I also got to know Chas a little better. It was all going pretty smooth so far.
At the second MBC tourney I played in, I was outside after round one, seriously contemplating going home rather than being beaten to death for a second straight week, when I saw Aaron coming into the building. This was the weekend after his Godly performance at Worlds, and he was coming to draft for fun. We chatted for a minute or two, then he asked if I was playing the same deck I played last week.
I wrote a report for that tourney, in which I went 1-3, drop, and was pretty pleased that Aaron would bother to read my report. (I was still a hack submissionist at that point) That, along with his Worlds aura, rubbed off on me and I went back in there energized. I ended up finishing a respectable (for me) 4-3, which is way better than the 0-1 I would have ended up with if it wasn’t for bumping into Aaron.
I drove down to Ohio for PTQ-LA to have a little fun, maybe win a few games, and, while I was there, to lend Aaron Wakefield’s book. I finished pretty crappy (3-4), but had a blast just beating and/or losing to Neil and Chas for way too many hours. I got to trash talk everyone. I got to show Scott Teamann a Universal Net Deck submission that I brought with me. I got to hang out with pros and other assorted cool people all day. Further smoothness.
A few days later, Aaron wrote me an email inviting me to play at CMU with THE CMU GUYS. Needless to say, I shuffled around a few things and headed on over. Even though my ratings suck, I still thought I had a pretty decent grasp on how to play. Wrong. It didn’t take losing too many games to Andrew Cuneo to realize exactly how little I did know: nothing. A few beating by Eugene "Eubroken" Harvey further cemented my complete lack of understanding of this game. A few random beatings from Scott Teamann and Aaron just iced the cake.
I didn’t know Jack. And Jack wasn’t real familiar with me either. But wasn’t that one of the benefits of playing with the best players in the world? Yes indeed, chief. Sure was.
A few weeks later I find myself getting better. I went 1-2 in my first ever Rochester Draft, but I built a pretty good deck that took Andrew Johnson down to the wire. And Scott Teamann knows he escaped, barely. Although I do find myself falling for too many Jedi Mind Tricks from those guys, damnit. Oh, I still haven’t beaten Mike Turian at anything, ever, but the learning curve is curving fairly well so far.
Good stuff helps kick the bad’s ass. On a regular basis.
3.) The Human Factor
Some of the emails I have received are downright spectacular. I would quote some of them here, but I don’t think anyone but the writer of each mail would believe they were real. Alas, they are some serious reads. "Cool mail.txt" does more than keep me interested in playing and writing-it reminds me why I jumped into this game head first, and stick around despite finding myself, on occasion, in danger of losing my "Innocence of Magic."
While I have yet to see anyone with a "Rogue" DCI card, I did get one email from a guy who claims he went through with it. Well, that makes two "Rogue" DCI cards in existence now. Two is not many, but it’s one more than I ever expected. (Make it three – The Ferrett) And I’ll take it.
I have actually autographed cards. As weird as it is for you to read that, it is that much weirder for me to remember that I really took a pen and scribbled my name on someone’s cards. I’m not sure how to deal with the fact that some of you actually like my writings and might even look up to me, for even though I am an opinionated bastard, I still consider myself semi-humble. When I add it all up, it’s just plain weird. But utterly on the cool tip.
Speaking of cool mail, here’s the Universal Net Deck news so few of you have been waiting for:
First off, the Father of The Universal Net Deck is David Zadok Stroud, he of StarCity and Greater Good fame. Here’s the deck he submitted:
4x Land Grant
3x Mind Slash
2x Dragon Mask
2x Feast of the Unicorn
3x Forgotten Harvest
4x Bog Elemental
2x Whipstitched Zombie
4x Wyluli Wolf
2x Molting Harpy
3x Deepwood Wolverine
4x Skyshroud Ridgeback
4x Llanowar Elves
10x Snow-Covered Swamp
8x Snow-Covered Forest
4x Crumbling Sanctuary
4x Rishadan Pawnshop
1x Mind Slash
4x Rejuvenation Chamber
The deck speaks for itself. Play guys. Attack with said guys. For kicks, David threw in the combo of Forgotten Harvest/Sustenance. It plays fairly consistently, and can goldfish on like turn, well, midgame or so. It will be beats and mo’ beats for me on November 18 in Columbus. Kudos to David.
Secondly, thanks to all of you who submitted decks, as I realize that poring over that list was painful enough, but to go the extra mile by putting together a deck and submitting it is worthy of much kudos. I wasn’t sure that I would get any submissions since I was asking for a healthy chunk of your time, but The Universal Net Deck started to grow it’s own legs and run loose. It took on a life of it’s own, and I am glad to get the opportunity to throw myself into the fire and burn, baby, burn.
Thanks also to those who submitted the cards that would become the "sealed deck" of utter crap. Although I think that even *I* would enjoy throwing together a pile of crappy cards at someone and telling them to "play at your own risk."
So, kudos to all y’all.
While there are a few Rizzo haters out there, I really look forward to conversing with them. (Boy, and it sure will be a thrill reading their emails, too! – The Ferrett, surprised to find himself conscripted into Rizzo’s demise) They are the ones I think I may be trying the hardest to reach. So if you think a quick death would be too merciful a fate for me, drop me a line. I might not bring you around to the good stuff, and you might not convert me, but it certainly will be an eye-opener for all of us. And any chance I get to spread some of my good stuff along to the community, I’ll gladly take.
For there is enough good stuff to go around, and then some.
I can’t even believe how many people I have met as a direct result of writing for StarCity. Every time someone recognizes me from my pic and says hello, it just helps to feed my desire to keep hacking away at my battered keyboard. Tournaments; where seldom is heard a discouragin’ word.
When I was at Grand Prix-Pittsburgh, I wanted to walk up to Dave Price, Mike Long, and Scott Johns and give ’em a big "Hola, chief, I’m a big fan." But, I didn’t. Regretful? Maybe a little. Since then, I have made it my mission to discard my introverted personality and say "sup" to anyone and everyone. I know what it feels like to have a total stranger come up and tell me that they like my articles. I think that most Internet writers kind of like it too, even the ones who must wear raincoats to protect from the slobber of rabid fans. (Or in my case, the fans who must wear raincoats to protect themselves from the slobber of a rabid writer – The Ferrett, keeping to his StarCity-mandated quota of one interruption per 12,000 words).
I have yet to meet any Magic personality that had an unapproachable aura. Who the hell is really above the fray in our game? No one. Because they know this is a community; enriching and expanding our community is probably as high up on their "to do" lists as it is mine. And yours. With that said, if you see me getting trounced in Columbus or Pittsburgh (or anywhere), come on over and say, "Sup, chief." Hopefully, we’ll both be glad you did.
Here’s to you, my Magic community, for hooking me up with said good stuff. There’s plenty left.
Purge mode: Off.
John Friggin’ Rizzo