Something is about to happen that I have both expected and dreaded for many years. It is not a tragedy, yet it is a loss. It is not a catastrophe, but it is an event…
Team CMU will be no longer.
We were not the oldest team in Magic, but we have the most history. We have so much history that I will not even attempt to portray it all to you. I even wrote a three-part article about it for Sideboard.com. I can’t even find the links to these now due to the transition of Sideboard to MagictheGathering.com, but if anyone wants them, email me and I will be happy to share.
I thought it might have been the end of CMU once before, when Randy and Erik moved away. Luckily, Mike Turian, Eugene Harvey, and Aaron Forsythe picked up the ball. CMU has always been somewhat of a talent pool. There are the four or five guys you hear about in the headlines all the time, and then there are ten or fifteen other guys who are in the background, trying their best to make something of themselves. Once in awhile, one of those guys makes the jump and everyone gets very excited. Aaron Forsythe and Eugene Harvey are two good examples of that.
As for myself, I have always been number four or five on that list. I’m not the A-list player, I never was. I was worried when I heard Mike and Eugene were moving away from Pittsburgh, because I knew I would have to pick up the ball or the team would surely die. Then I discovered that I too would be moving away from Pittsburgh. While Mike moves to Seattle to be with his fiancé Rachel and Eugene Harvey moves back to Jersey to become a more masterful Piano man than he already is… I will be moving to our nation’s capital, moving in with oldie but goodie, Jon Shuler. I’ve been out of school for awhile and should really be looking into some sort of career besides writing Magic articles. D.C. is the place for jobs, or so I hear.
Team CMU was amazing – often imitated and never duplicated. We defined what a Magic team was. Don’t misunderstand me here – I am not taking much credit for this. My place on the team was a solid player who explored the Rogue decks and publicized the team to no end. Still, without Team CMU, I would have never got my first writing job with New Wave, so in a sense the team created what I am today.
What I want to do is talk about the Team CMU members. Then I want to talk about a few of the other guys that made my time in Pittsburgh more enjoyable. I’m shooting from the hip here – off the cuff. What you will read are some of my memories of these guys… some of the things that made Team CMU what it was. We always had our own way. Some teams are close knit and some only see each other every so often. Team CMU was more like a family. We didn’t always see each other every day, but at least once a week. We laughed, we bickered, and we smashed face. Good times and bad times.
Someday I will be telling my children stories of the first time I met Erik Lauer, and how he cast Contagion on all my creatures and smashed me with Karavek’s Horror, with me having to read all the cards involved. They will hear stories of how I got lost in Rome with Aaron Forsythe, only to finally return to the venue to find out he made it into day 2 at 96th place. They will learn how their Uncle Mike won six coin flips in a row at GP: Columbus to win the last solo GP he would ever play in. This team is a family to me, and to see it part is in many ways very saddening.
Randy was the spearhead of the team right up until the day he left. I have never seen another person to this day with as much drive towards greatness in this game as Randy. The man was pure determination. He trusted his logic and calculations, and we trusted in him. He was a fantastic player that calculated as much as he could in sanctioned play. My personal memories of Randy involve countless”discussions” (otherwise known a arguments) over various points in the game, deckbuilding ideas, and general Magic theory. Sometimes I was right, sometimes he was right, but either way, the debated always ended with him saying something to the effect of”Your logic just never makes any sense, Nate!” True enough… besides Magic, my favorite experiences with Randy were playing Settlers of Catan until the bagpipers played, Eurorails, and watching football. These days, Randy works as a head honcho in R&D, making sure the game stays fun.
Erik was lovingly known as the Mad Genius of Team CMU. I’m not sure why he was mad, but he sure was good at building decks. Sometimes his decks were a little off the wall, but they always won so much that no one cared. Erik was a somewhat quiet man with a profound love of dogs. He didn’t own a dog, but he still loved them. That and O’ fries. I always felt a little closer to Erik than I did to Randy, perhaps because my strengths lied in deck building rather than in playing, similar to Erik. I attribute much of my deck building skills to him and my constantly pestering him with questions. One time, Erik took a look at a deck of mine, and started making small changes to it card by card until the entire deck was his Necropotence list. He had quite the sense of humor. These days he lives in Albuquerque doing research. I hear he still plays under the radar. If you ever come across a slightly balding man in dark shades, a trench coat, and a warm 2-liter bottle of Coke, sit back and watch a master.
Potato. Potato, Potato, Potato! If this make you recall Mike, then you know him well. Chicken. The goofiest member of the team, Mike has the Mr. Magoo charm of being able to do everything in an excruciatingly painful manner, but looking at you, mooing, and winning the whole tournament anyhow. Mike is an extraordinary player who has loads of natural talent. Just recently he won GP: Columbus after drafting with the set only five times, one of which being the top 8 draft in Oakland. Things just have a way of working out for him… never flip him coins for money. He is a dear friend and cousin of mine, and I wish him the best of luck with his move to Seattle. He has been a cornerstone of Team CMU for a long time, and without him in Pittsburgh, it wouldn’t have been the same anyhow. My memories of Mike span back as long as I can remember – I’ve known him all my life. Always goofy, usually successful, Mike kept CMU going for as long as it has been since Randy and Erik left.
[After having spent much of the weekend of GP: Columbus chatting with the Potato, I can tell you that [author name="Gary Wise"]Gary Wise’s[/author] send-up of Mike from April Fool’s day was nearly perfect. Mike’s one of the more friendly individuals on the Pro Tour, and even Sheldon Menery refers to Mike as”a good man” and”a friend of mine.” – Knut]
Dan, the man, Silberdan. Dan was the quietest of all the CMU members, but he was a player with lots of natural talent. Dan was the kind of guy who wouldn’t play Magic for weeks at a time, and then pick up any old stack of cards and beat you silly with them. One time, Dan skipped an entire PTQ season and then during the last qualifier week, decided he wanted to go to the Pro Tour. However, the only PTQ available was one at StarCity Games in Roanoke. Pittsburgh and Roanoke at not remotely close to each other. Dan drove alone in the car through the night for seven or so hours just to play in the PTQ. Don’t underestimate his determination. Of course, he won the PTQ and went to the Pro Tour. Only Dan would do such things.
These days he is only known as the mysterious Agent B. Lurking in the halls of Wizards ready to unleash his fury upon unsuspecting playtesters, Brian keeps the peace and makes the game fun. We stole Brian away from Tongo for PT Slivers, and we were ever glad to have him. Brian is soft spoken and enjoys playing his guitar as much as a game of Magic. Well known for swinging with”monsters” as he calls them, Brian had moderate success on the team, but was hired away to Wizards rather early on in the scheme of things. My first memories of Brian were his apparent frustration at losing to my Wall of Heat deck twice in a PTQ (final round and quarterfinals) with his Necropotence deck. I don’t think the world has seen the last of Brian, someday he might emerge from the Wizards labyrinth to become a rock star.
Chapin is one of a kind. He has a love of Magic and gaming in general that is unparalleled. He is the kind of guy who is really smart, and wants you to know it. He is willing to go to great lengths to prove it too (I enjoyed letting him do this often). Pat was making Magic cards on his own, written on slips of paper and glued to other cards. He would make us draft the sets and play with them. It was fun, but it was also good practice playing with unknown cards… especially after several of them have since become printed as real Magic cards. Pat eventually got himself into some trouble and has been MIA since, but I like to think that soon he will be back, having the grand impact on the game that he used to.
Why do I feel like I’m writing a Wizards of the Coast roster instead of a Team CMU one? Maybe it is because half of our Team members have worked for them. Aaron was the most recent addition (unless you count Mike’s fiancé, Rachel). Aaron wasn’t a part of CMU until after Randy and Erik left. He knew about Team CMU, and he played with us sometimes, but he usually stuck to his own group of more casual players. One day, he’s playing on the dining room table, and the next he’s in the finals of the Pro Tour. Once Aaron realized that he could make it on the Pro scene, he switched from casual mode to Pro mode, and tested like crazy. Truth be known, I loved Aaron more for his casual side. I greatly miss the little pleasures of big box drafting and playing a random game of Carcassonne at the O since he left to work in Seattle.
Andrew Johnson…the Texan. When I found out he was moving to Pittsburgh, I felt troubled. Anyone who has met Andy knows he lives up to his reputation. He is a good player when in practice, and for a time, he wanted to win… badly. He and Aaron did well in the Team Pro Tour because they both wanted that time in the spotlight so badly. I lived with Andy for awhile, and for all of his faults, he is a gamer at heart. For that much I respect him. He is the only person left in Pittsburgh who could truly carry the torch of CMU if he wanted to, but I doubt he ever will play professional Magic again.
Oh wait, stop the presses. While I was writing this article, yet another member of CMU has been hired by Wizards. Paul was interning for them, but he has just recently been brought on full time. Congrats Paul! I feel like a broken record saying this, but Paul’s love of games was more than I had ever seen. Paul and Pat probably have a similar level of gaming, but while Pat likes the more intellectual games, Paul enjoys the more random”fun” games like Talisman. With Paul at the Hobart house, we could always enjoy the pre-game game of choosing a game between Paul, Mike, and Eugene – Paul liking the silly games, Mike liking the war games, and Eugene liking the auction games. Paul replaced Aaron as far as playing fun games. It was actually very amusing – Paul attended Aaron’s going away party when he was just getting to know us. That night Aaron wrote funny little notes to everyone on cards with a sharpie. Paul received one saying”Maybe one day you will be as good as Nate Heiss.” Paul was happy for the vote of confidence, but didn’t realize at the time that the joke was on him. We all laughed… you see, I’m not very good.
The Man… the Zombie… the Gnome. With Coke drinking skills that could only possibly be rivaled by that of the great Erik Lauer, Eugene is the only former US national Champion CMU has. Eugene is a quiet guy, not so much as Dan, but he makes sure that his words always count… unless they are directed at me… then they are usually some quip directed towards my dashing good looks. Eugene came to us from Jersey and from whence he will return to his TOGIT homeland. My first experiences with Eugene involved playing against his Pattern of Rebirth deck at the O. We often get new guys that come and play with us at the O, and they bring all sorts of strange decks. No one thought Eugene would be any different. Then, the next thing we knew he was National Champion and starting making top 8s all over the place. Eugene is a master of the game. He knows how to playtest very well and make good judgments based on that playtesting. Not only that, but he plays a mean Piano. Living with him has yielded not only good playtesting but great dinner music.
Hey, it’s me! You have all been reading my writing for years. At one time, being on Team CMU meant the world to me – so much that I have put it under my name at the end of my articles ever since. I love this team and all its members dearly. Moving away from Pittsburgh and finally quashing this flame is such a sad thing to do, yet I know it is time. I personally will continue playing, as I know Eugene will. I hope that one day I might have the dedication to put up the numbers that my teammates have, but my place on the team has always been a supporting role. Every so often I have my time in the limelight, but I’m content with my writing. I always brought a unique flavor to CMU, and I would live to think that it wouldn’t have been the same without me. It is difficult to write about yourself like this, even if you have written hundreds of articles online. If I am lucky, maybe one day I will be able to join all my friends again and live in Seattle. But until then, I will be making my way in D.C. I think Team CMU is one of the greatest things I’ll ever be a part of, and I want to thank all those involved for making it possible.
The O’ Guys
CMU has always had other great people and players floating around. There was always a debate about who is on the team or who isn’t on the team, or if there should even be a”team.” But the public generally sees Team CMU as the people listed above. There are many other people that I personally consider part of our group, if not on the team. I cannot possibly list everyone here, but I will list a few.
He doesn’t know it, but Cuneo taught me a lot about life. He wasn’t trying to teach me anything, but his outlook on life is so drastically different from everyone else’s, that I learned important lessons simply by being around him. These days I play more Warcraft than Magic with him, but he still shows up at the O to draft whenever he likes the format, and sometimes he can be tricked into playing in a major event. Cuneo does what makes him happy, and he won’t do things that don’t. It is a simple philosophy, but a good one.
CMU’s original Champ – pre Harvey. Elliot, Dan, and I had many good times together. Now Elliot is off gallivanting in Hong Kong and attempting to tear up the Magic Online scene. Elliot was never the greatest Magic player, but he made up for it with a big heart and good humor. Elliot is a big time movie buff, and I expect him to become a Hong Kong movie director eventually. I would never have known how to learn to love the bomb if it wasn’t for this man. I also would never have believed White Weenie could win – despite Matt Linde’s performance.
If you play on the PTQ circuit, you must have a PTQ buddy. It’s essential. You playtest with them, your drive with them, and you talk with them about all sorts of things with your infinite time in the car together. Over the years, Patnik and I got rather friendly, and I am going to miss him when I move away. Luckily, I will still see him every so often on the PTQ circuit. Patnik is just a likable guy – a straight arrow, but in a more Aaron Forsythe way than a Eugene Harvey way. Patnik has an unbelievable amount of PTQ top 8s, but he never wins. He won his first PTQ ever, and now cosmic karma is keeping him down I guess. One day he will make it big.
Jeremy is like the kid brother of Team CMU. The kid has talent, and we have known him since he was like twelve. My mother actually taught him in Kindergarten. He’s a fun guy and he can pull results, but shows the all-too-familiar frustration of losing when you are trying your best. He reminds us of what it’s like, being right on the edge of becoming a Pro player. He tries to balance School and Magic, but finds it hard. He tries to figure out his priorities in life. He tries to defeat us in drunken draft. Keep plugging Jeremy, if you really want it – you will get that finish you want.
Ryan ‘Deuce’ Dhuse
The first time Dhuse came to the O’, he propositioned a roomful of strangers to drive with him to a Chicago PTQ. I don’t think he expected any of us to take him up on the offer – Chicago was an eight-hour drive. He got not only one, but two takers – myself and Patnik… a fitting welcome to CMU Magic. Dhuse was a good friend in Pittsburgh and his time there was a good one for awhile. He eventually moved down to DC, about forty-five minutes away from where I will be living. I will be seeing more of him now, so he better watch out! While Dhuse wasn’t the best at the game, we shared a Team Prerelease victory together with his girlfriend Lei. Magic isn’t all about Pro Tours after all – its about having a good time.
Nick ‘Beverly’ Lynn
Nicholas has humor that only I can fully appreciate. He is a giant goofball that can only be rivaled by the likes of Turian. Maybe there is some law that all goofballs must be good at Magic… I don’t really know. Still, I teamed with Nick for a PTQ season and always enjoy his goofy goodness. His home is also in D.C., so hopefully I will see more of him as well. I would say he has the best shot of being the next big Pittsburgh player.
John Friggin’ Rizzo
When I say Johnny Magic, you think Finkel. Well, I think of Rizzo. Rizzo is the embodiment of terrible players across the globe attempting to be good and failing miserably over and over again. That being said, Rizzo was an awesome guy to be around. I think his angst was actually tangible. Man has known no good times like that of bashing one John F. Rizzo. I think he actually liked to get bashed too. I could never be quite sure.
All Good Things Must End
As I look back and read over this article, I realize that I don’t want to end it. There are so many more people I could talk about, so many more good times that were had. Team CMU has been together for seven years out of one decade of Magic. I can only hope that from the ashes a new team will form from the people left in Pittsburgh. We leave it in their hands now. By the end of this month, Team CMU as you know it will be no longer.
I don’t know if Mike or Eugene will be writing any sort of similar articles, but I felt that I should say goodbye to the team in a special way.
Thanks for the times guys.
Team CMU…for life.