SCG Daily: A Chasm I Helped Create

When I started writing for StarCityGames, I was an intelligently ignorant fellow. I was well-versed in many aspects of Magic, but when it came to the things I was ignorant about, my vanity knew no bounds. And one of those things I did not comprehend was the Tournament Mentality.

When I started writing for StarCityGames, I was an intelligently ignorant fellow. I was well-versed in giving advice on mastering multiplayer politics, and I understood how to be competitive at most multiplayer tables, and I knew how to write very subtle penis jokes that almost always made it into print.

But when it came to the things I was ignorant about, my vanity knew no bounds.* And one of those things I did not comprehend was the Tournament Mentality.

So, of course, I savaged it.

In my first article on this site, you can find multiple references to the concept “DojoDork,” which was my not-so-clever way of saying that playing someone else’s deck was for mugs. (At the time, The Dojo was the biggest Magic site on the Internet bar none — it was even more popular than Wizards’ official site, and the decks spawned from The Dojo’s moistened loins flopped wetly onto every table between Connecticut and California.)

I mocked the pros, savaged the very idea of tournaments, and held up the idea that multiplayer was the only true form of Magic. And because I wrote in an entertaining fashion, I helped to dig a chasm that had existed long before I entered the Magic scene — namely, the idea that Pros Are Evil and Casual Players Are Good.

Then again, the Pros I had known were evil sons of bitches.

When I lived in Michigan, the guys who played to win were scummy gits. They rigged tournaments at their local shop, and if they beat you that was their signal to tell you what a loser you were. They high-fived and shouted across the room when their opponent had to mulligan: “Hey, Jim! The scrub’s going to six!

Worse, they didn’t seem to enjoy the game. They played combo, and seemed kind of bored when it went off. They barely paid attention to you, looking everywhere but at you. You had to remind them to shake hands after the game was over, and even then they did so with the reluctant air of a man forced to exchange pleasantries with a hobo.

They were here to win, and you were in their way.

My friends all informed me that this was the way of pros everywhere. The pros, they informed me, built decks that won on Turn 1, and enjoyed playing them. We stood in wonder, trying to figure out what kind of weirdo would have fun with a game where their opponent barely had to show up.

Those guys were choads, pure and simple. And in mocking them, I found a hell of a lot of people who rallied around me.

My fans were frustrated casual players who were happy to have someone speak truth to power for once… And the angrier I got, the more they liked it. The very fact that people were mad meant I was right, of course — why would I have such a visceral reaction from people if the pros weren’t all big dripping uglies?

I laid the law down: The Pros don’t love Magic. We do.

The letdown, of course, was when I went to Pro Tour: LA back in 2001, at which point I met real pros.

The realization was subtle and profound, but the people I met there were, on the whole, staggeringly nice people. They pounded the pants off of me, of course, but if I asked they told me what I did wrong and they were happy to talk to me.

They were soft-spoken. God, that was a surprise.

Even crazier, they did nothing but play. In between rounds, they played quick duels. When they dropped out of the tournament, they drafted. And if there weren’t enough boxes to go around, they played 5-Color or some other game. In fact, they played more Magic just for fun than my casual friends could stand.

What I came to realize in time was that, like rabid fundamentalist Christians, the “pros” I’d known in Michigan were the worst and most visible face of a generally-decent organization.** But like the fundamentalists, when the bad seeds were the ones who were always getting in your grill, how could you not think that they were the sum total of their kind?

But that was… Well, it was just an excuse.

Deep down, any community likes to point at The Other.

You’d think that as silly man-children who play a game consisting of glorified baseball cards with painted boobs on them, we’d realize that we’re a small community to begin with. But no, we always want to have some other group of similar people to feel superior to… And so the pro/casual gulf continues.

Pros are better. We play to win. You casual guys are scrubs.

Casual players are better. We play to interact. You pros are meanies.

The truth is, of course, that neither side is better or worse. Pros get their charge largely out of winning. Casual players get their charge largely out of interaction and cool tricks. In a sane world, we’d realize that these were simply two dots on a loose graph, and not poles in a big game of Capture the Flag.

After all, it’s not like there are no intersections. It’s hard for a Casual player to feel good at a game where he never wins, and even the most jaded Pro will give a tip of the hat to a crazy-clever play that beats him. Fact is, we all have the cards in common, and that should be enough.

That pro/casual gulf was there beforehand, of course, but I’m ashamed to say that I helped widen it for a lot of people. And while I wish I could say that this silly idea has vanished over the years, I still see it pop up occasionally.

That’s the final lesson, folks: We’re all Magic players. Period. Some of us like different things, and get our charges from cool areas. You don’t like playing net decks? Fine; I certainly don’t. But that doesn’t mean that people who do are somehow evil.

There are bad pros, who cheat and connive and mock. There are bad casual players, who whine any time someone dares to build a better deck than the all-Hurloon Minotaur deck. But there are good, solid people on both sides, and we should all realize that at the core, we are here to have fun.

There are no stinking Pros. There are no Scrubs. There are just players.

Now shut up and shuffle.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy

* – Insert your own joke about my current ego right here. Well done!

** – For the record, I’m a Christian. Thanks.