SCG Talent Search – Casual/Other Knockout Round 3

Tuesday, December 14th – Out of five writers, three have to exit stage left in an epic triple elimination. Pedro earned immunity this week, so who’s his lucky Top 8 partner…? John Beety? Dan Barrett? Or one of the Casual writers?

Pedro Alvarado


— As noted on Twitter, you got the most votes from the audience this week, a crucial piece of tech since I’m not certain this article would’ve survived a judge’s vote. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that. Now that you are in the Top 8, you should start figuring out what your regular columns will be about. The material you’ve covered in the contest so far has been diverse and generally pretty interesting — they were typically good choices for making it through a weekly elimination — they would not, however, make for a long-term writing career. (Unless you start travelling for Pro Tours and Grand Prix again, in which case forget I said anything.) Regardless, I look forward to your work pretty much every week, so you clearly have the talents to make yourself worthwhile, should you choose to do so.

Jacob Van Lunen:

To say that I thought this piece was bad would be an understatement. I thought that absolutely nothing in this piece was worth reading.


A little fluffy, but obviously going to put butts in seats and interesting to everyone. An exploration into a controversial area, though I sort of wonder if “sex/flirting/dating” is going to be your fall back. Rizzo and Tait are far from one trick ponies. I was originally a bigger fan of you, as I have a high tolerance for writing that some would call offensive. However, it seems almost as if you’re trying to insult me and others, and I’m not so sure I’m getting enough content out of your work to be worth it. While I would’ve voted to save you three days ago (if it came to that, since you have immunity), I would like to mention that I would rather we could keep Beety.

I’m not so sure we have the same idea of what a top cut is.


I love your Rizzo-like qualities here of writing these dense, complex articles studded with a lot of obscure humor. Plus, you have that Rizzo-like quality of an attitude that just bleeds through into your articles – your words always drip with a worldview that I don’t always agree with but am inevitably entertained by.

The one thing I’d like to see from you, and I don’t know whether it’s possible, is a little more tap-dancing on the line. When I wrote about
the state of Magic writing,

I became infamous for squeezing in a ton of barely-concealed d**k jokes. Rizzo, too, was famous for finding the line of what SCG will allow and surfing the end of it. (I had to cut so much of his foulness.) I think you’re there, and if you continue, I’d like to see you piss off editors even more with excursions into the gray areas.

I like what you’re doing, but I still get the feeling you’re finding your voice. You’re one of those people I feel is only going to get stronger as a writer with each article… Until you get bored and wander away, leaving heartbroken fans and cheering naysayers.

That said, this article felt a little light on content. I feel like even more could have been done with the topic, like you sort of shied away from things. I don’t know whether you did, but I think you could revisit this topic and make it more about you and have it feel more universal at the same time.

Daryl Bockett


— I think you have taught us a great deal about the current readership of our site through your work. At one point, this would’ve been bread and butter for SCG, and you would already have a very loyal following of people doing backflips over the fact that you were speaking their language. Unfortunately, that time has passed. I don’t know if it’s because we as a site generally didn’t connect to readers that would want to read your columns any more or what, but the votes and the hits are pretty clear at this point.

I honestly thought this was a good article, and I’ll echo Ferrett’s opinion that you won’t be voted off for quality.


Awesome. This piece has a lot of depth. I really like the author’s voice. I haven’t played much Chaos Multiplayer. (When I have, I’ve always been the first one eliminated.) This column kept me interested, despite my lack of interest on the subject matter. Well done. 


I have been fighting for you from the beginning; you’re good at what you do. Your strategy is sound, your writing solid. You have potential to carry on in the tradition of Anthony Alongi and The Ferrett. The problem? Maybe that audience has waned lately; maybe you just haven’t mobilized them. Either way, two things are clear — You’re a quality writer in your niche, and you cannot win this contest.



It’s a good article. Possibly the best strategic casual article this week. And people didn’t bite.

I kind of have to think that articles on straight multiplayer are just dead in terms of interest. You got a decent amount of hits but little forum interest and little feedback in the forums. You’re doing a solid job at what you do, but it may well be that the field in which I got my start is pretty much gone. Le sigh.

If you’re voted off, it ain’t for quality. Not as far as I’m concerned.

John Dale Beety


– A couple of weeks ago, the judges picked apart Michael Hetrick for poor topic choice, particularly because the article he wrote had been done a few times recently and done better. I feel the same way about this article. You have talent, intelligence, and usually some pretty good research behind your articles. Unfortunately, your topic choice definitely let you down here.

One of the things that writers need to be cognizant of is the general discourse floating around the community. Repeating a topic that has been done once recently isn’t a horrific mistake. Repeating a topic that has been done a couple of times recently likely is, especially when they were done on our site, and they were as outstanding as Geordie and Sam Stoddard were. If Pedro hadn’t had immunity this week, and you submitted something as good as your previous weeks, he might’ve gotten the boot. As it was, you wrote an article that might’ve been interesting if it was the first time I’d seen it, but one I ended up skimming it instead.


I have a confession: I didn’t get anything out of this. The piece was fairly well written, but the content was difficult at best. This piece was riddled with passive-aggressive tones, even if they weren’t intended. Your apology to AJ seemed more like a showcasing of a previous trolling session and your description of Craig as lonely seemed a lot more like an insult than an olive branch. 


See, articles like your “Confessions” article this week… well it’s tough because these are the articles that most people are afraid to criticize, since they are “supposedly” heart-felt, open, honest, and deep. The thing is, though, what are you even saying? What is the point? There are any number of “painful” confessions you could make about any areas of your life, potentially far more painful, open, honest, deep, etc. that, like this article, would mean nothing to me. When people tell stories about these sorts of experiences in life, they have the potential to be very moving, very powerful. The key? Talk about something interesting to

the reader. If your story somehow resonated with an experience I had, that showed me something, alright, maybe we would be talking. If you inspired me to have courage in some way, maybe. If you brought a tear to my eye or cracked me up, great. Instead, I’m bored. I don’t want to read about you cheating on a test in ninth grade or stealing a dollar from your parents when you were seven, unless something interesting happens as a result, some change, some story element.

You’re pretty good, and I like that you took a chance. The thing about taking chances is that they don’t always pan out. This week was disappointing, but worse, it was bad in a particularly insidious way, as it is the kind of bad that seduces the author into thinking it is great. I’ve been there; I know what it’s like. While you would certainly not be at the bottom this week, Pedro won the vote, and only one other gets the save.


I said I was a little worried about this article’s topic. What I said was this: “I think it’s a weak theme, and while you write well and have enough fans that you might be able to carry it off, I’m pretty sure this won’t be one of your popular ones. In a week like this, you need a smash hit.”

Thing is, you’ve been really strong at picking solid topics every week – except for this one, when competition is fiercest. So why’d you settle, man? Why’d you go for an article that was essentially three stories about YOU, not about the reader, when the #1 thing I’ve been hammering on is CONNECT WITH THE AUDIENCE? When my final piece of advice to you on this one was, “I think it’s going to be stronger if you make it more universal – in other words, weaving in an explicit call to people to share their own confessions?”

I’ve gotta go with what Geordie Tait said in the forums: “It seems these events are of little significance. If the response to that is ‘well, they are significant to me!’ then that perhaps explains why the article may seem, to some, a little self-indulgent.”

Sure enough, though, you had enough fans to get you to third place, but the article itself didn’t generate a ton of hits or heat. You’re putting me in an awful bind here, John, because you finished weak, whereas Pedro finished strong. If I have to save one of you, who should it be?

Brandon Isleib


– I want to tell you up front that I’ve enjoyed your run on le contest, sir. I enjoyed your article as well, but there comes a certain point when even fans such as myself must give way to the fact that the voters and readers don’t seem to be having as much of a positive reaction as I am. I’m not well versed enough in extremely goofy deck design to criticize you (hey… my decks can be terrible, but they are terrible in Standard). Aaaanyway, I have love for your work, but you just haven’t clicked with the audience the way the Top 3 in this category have. For me this is the end of the line.


This piece is a really good tool for casual deckbuilders. I liked your guidelines at the beginning of the piece, but the process in its entirety seems a bit contrived. You make a lot of awesome suggestions, but your reader base is somewhat limited. It seems like you fell from the top of the casual tree and hit every branch on the way down. (Which is a good thing!) I would read more work by you, and I think you could be an awesome columnist. You love the game and (clearly) have an endless supply of ideas for casual decks. Unfortunately, I can only pick one writer to advance. 


Certainly a reasonable piece and I liked some of the thought process, but my attention was not captured. I know I’m not the usual casual audience, but others did interest me, and I’m a judge. Besides you were in the bottom two for hits as well, so unfortunately, you won’t make it to next week. I think you have the makings of a regular casual writer, especially since it is clear how much you truly love and enjoy the game. What I would recommend reflecting on is how to open your articles up more, rather than close off. So often, I find in your work a series of narrowing things down. We have this idea, here’s what we should do with that, here’s a list, etc. Your style seems like it would lend itself more to discussing more ideas than the ones you use and leaving things a bit more open, as well as challenging the reader to become involved in the process.


A solid article – as someone said in the forums, it’s a long article but it doesn’t

long, which is a nice solid trick to pull off. And it focuses on one of my weak points – finding the cards to go with this cool card I just found with the deck.

That said, I don’t think much of the deck. It’s nice, but it seems too ill focused. Is this a Capricious Efreet deck or a Paradox Haze deck? If it’s Paradox Haze deck, then there are a lot better cards to work with. (Heck, even the Shrines from Kamigawa are a nice shot.) If it’s a Capricious Efreet deck, it seems like if you don’t draw a Magma Phoenix or a Petrahydrox, you’re dead… Or if someone just Doom Blades your Efreet, what the heck do you do?

This seems more like Lifegain.dec than it does a deck that has a lot of interactions with Efreet, and I’m not a fan of stuffing life gain in to make up for weaknesses. You either need to make Efreet a powerhouse enough to build around, which it isn’t here, or you need multiple interactions with another card LIKE Efreet so that Petrahydrox and Phoenix are useful even if you don’t draw Efreet.

Nicely explained. But I disagree strongly with your conclusion.

Dan Barrett


– This article was wonderful. Your work, in general, is wonderful. I don’t know what you are like as a person, but your work is consistently funny, entertaining, and a little bit offbeat. That is exactly what I want to read from a Magic writer. Right up until the deadline, you had immunity, so I thought I’d be facing a tough choice between Pedro and Beety on who to save. Instead Pedro stole some votes and the end, making himself safe and making my choice easy. Whatever anybody else is saying about your work being a bit fluffy or that it almost never has strategy or that you tell too many stories and have to run out of them eventually — f*** that noise. You’re here because every week you produced an excellent article, and people love to read you.

You may have a little bit of trouble after the holiday break when you’re up against guys with decklists in their articles… but honestly, you might just shock everyone and win this damn thing. That’s how good your work has been every week thus far.

Vote: I save Dan Barrett.


I found this piece very informative. I haven’t used Twitter, but this piece definitely got me interested. This was a super difficult article to write. There was no precedent whatsoever. Two thumbs up! Best casual piece this week!

My votes go to Dan Barrett. I’d like to read more from Brandon and Daryl, but I’m only allowed one vote. 


Interesting, so a relatively new concept for an article that definitely could have fallen flat. Result? You pulled it off. Not only was the info good, you put butts in seats. Article was a hit, but I gotta keeps it real with you, not doing the interview in 140-character bits was a massive punt. I saw you mentioned that you were going to, but it was “hard…” SO!?! Are you really going to run from any and every restriction that is hard? Can’t you FEEL how much it would have been appropriate?

I vote to save Dan Barrett, on overall traffic and overall body of work. I don’t think Isleib or Bockett can win, and Beety didn’t have as strong a week. It is unfortunate that three got voted off instead of two, as I would love to see Beety recover next week, but it is what it is.


Big props to Dan. When he said, “I’m thinking about a Twitter Primer,” I said, “I dunno – it’s a big swing or a miss.” Who’d be interested in Twitter, man? Doesn’t everybody know?

…apparently not. Or everyone wants to know how to use it better. And so you had an article with pretty damn good hits, a lot of nice feedback on Twitter (of course!), and a positive reaction overall. I was skeptical, but you pulled off your last article here with style and grace – and the auto-status update was a brilliant way of saturating Twitter with mentions of your article.

Plus, Dan was under a very special gun this week: I told him that because I’d given him a lot of editorial feedback on past articles, which I think saved him when he might have otherwise faltered, I would NOT be looking at his article in advance this week. I was worried, because I thought it was a dangerous topic with the potential to easily lose the audience – but you came through. You proved your ability to self-edit. It sounds odd to be proud of you, but really, I am.

Well done on all levels. Sadly, you did not get the vote this week. This puts you in danger, awesome.

My Choice:

Oh, dear. This is like pulling teeth. Any of these guys could be a fine columnist, and I just want to stress that the eliminations have nothing to do with quality – you’re all solid, solid entries. But I have to choose.

My first choice must be to eliminate Daryl, sadly, because if he makes it into the Top 8, he just won’t draw the hits. My apologies, man.

Brandon goes next, because while I like his writing, I’m not as sold on his strategy. Some of that’s just a natural disagreement between players, of course – there’s room for a lot of approaches in multiplayer and casual – but I felt like I could have built a better deck than he did, using the methods he went with. He explained it exquisitely, but when I can’t bear up the conclusion, how do I go?

Which leaves me between Mr. Beety and Mr. Barrett. Let’s break it down:

Dan Barrett


  • A stronger narrative voice than JDB

  • Already has a strong following (he was actually ahead in the vote until early Saturday, causing me to have to rewrite this whole section)

  • A natural tale-teller who can flip into some strategy


  • May fall down on his rump when not so editorially advised

  • His choice of topics doesn’t seem to have any overlap with strategy, ever

John Dale Beety


  • Usually has an eye for what grabs the Magic audience

  • Tremendously motivated to write, and write well, for Magic sites

  • Shown an ability to cross into Magic strategy, albeit lightly


  • Punted the topic on his last week and paid for it

  • Not quite as much audience loyalty as Dan

It’s close. Either of you would be great. But in the end, I took a chance putting Pedro in the Top 8 casual section, and he’s paid off strongly. So I’m going to take another chance and vote for Dan in the final Top 8. Sorry, John, you do good work, but we only have so much room… And the voters have spoken.