The Final Shot

Goodbyes suck – but this really isn’t one, so don’t worry.

Goodbyes suck – but this really isn’t one, so don’t worry.

I got an email from Josh Bennett a few days ago and I started typing out an explanation for my absence as part of the reply… And then I realized that I wasn’t speaking just to OMC but to everyone, and that what I was banging out was suitable for all ages, colors, creeds, and races. A new co-worker introduced me to the stylings of Wu-Tang this past week, so that’ll be the backdrop while I try to get my words on paper.

That and”Cochise” by Audioslave. It reminds me enough of the original RATM to qualify as good music. No, this isn’t about music. I’m done now. Forget you read that last bit, if that pleases you.

I’m going to send this off to Josh, but following that I’m going to send it to The Ferrett – and if he decides to run it despite it having no strategic value, you’re probably reading it right now on StarCity. So let’s do that. It’s been a good long while, hasn’t it?

Welcome back.

First things first – the Daily Shot has come to an end, and it’s the fabled T.S. Eliot ending: Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Sad, huh? Yeah, I wanted to shovel out that Onslaught Green Review just as much as the next guy, but apparently life, that old harlot, has other ideas. I had a good hand, but…. You know. Aces in the bustier, and all that.

A man gets distracted – and all of a sudden, all sorts of things are spiraling out of control, and new doors are opening, and you’re engulfed in a crimson tide of new responsibilities and interactions and damn, this is new and wonderful and terrible at the same time, and then your head goes under and the stifling flow of a multitudinous scarlet waterfall-o-change that fills your entire existence, and you sink into the chilling current… And as Stephen King wrote, the name of the river is time, and its waters are red.

Writing daily is a matter of WRITE WRITE WRITE…recharge. WRITE WRITE WRITE…recharge. Visualize a dark cave, with a single figure, a gaunt cyborg, stumbling his way through a cyberpunk nightmare, traipsing haltingly through the wreck of some ancient and advanced civilization, until it finally collapses into an alcove to plug in the juice.

That’s me. Except I’m less of a cyborg – more of an aimless blob. Many twentysomethings are.

Then a new job starts up and suddenly there’s no recharge time. It’s sudden, and scary. I would get home and I have this feeling inside that I couldn’t identify… A feeling like my brain was a dry sponge that had spent the day being wrung over a steam-drenched basin, again and again. I’d sit down at the computer and…. Nothing.

A blank.

Nothing is as frustrating as nothing when there should be something.

So after a few days of vacuous, bleary-eyed computer frustration, the routine changes. Instead of firing up the machine after a day of transferring idiots to the correct department to make changes they don’t need to equipment they can’t afford, I collapse into a chair and grab the remote. Writing goes right out the window – and by the way, did I mention that I make something like 10x the money doing a job that I don’t even remotely enjoy? As much as I would like to, I can’t justify going back to writing every day. I suppose I could write weekly, but… Bleh. Everyone does that. Ted Knutson does it. Oscar Tan does it. Josh Lytle does it. Jarrod Bright does it. Rizzo did it.

Writing every day was my”gimmick.” Toby Wachter would know what I mean. Maybe you do, too.

What do I do now, you ask?

I’m a Nextel Direct Sales representative. I sell cellular phones to existing customers for eight hours of each weekday. It simultaneously pays my bills, and sucks. Much like in any service industry, the customers are equal parts self-importance and ignorance. They seem to take pleasure in asking for things that aren’t feasible.

“Hi, I’m an existing customer and we have 28 active units with y’all…”

(We don’t care, we serve 1,000 companies JUST LIKE YOU – you get no discount)

“Why do the new accounts get better activation prices than I do, when I’ve been with you for five years? That’s just stupid!”

(Because we want to encourage NEW business, in the hope that maybe some of the new customers won’t be as annoying as you)

“I want to upgrade my phone”

(Try paying your bill first)

Since I started to slip away into the shadows like Shinobi 2002, some people commented that I should have written a farewell article. It sounds good in theory, but there were a couple of problems that delayed said article. For starters, I’ve mentioned to a few others that writing is an ugly profession when it comes time to say your goodbyes. Why?

A thirty-year veteran of carpentry can write a farewell address for his departure day; he’s tired of carpentry, not writing. Ask him to carve a commemorative bas relief of himself and he’ll probably punch you – but a farewell address? He can hammer that together over the course of some cold night, hunched over his ancient word processor, clickity-clacking away with splinter-deflecting, calloused hands.

What can a writer do when he wants to say goodbye due to burnout? He sure as hell doesn’t feel like writing.

See the problem?

How did I know I was burnt-out? It’s easy to tell – when you’re Canadian and a Magic player and a writer and you play against Gab Tsang for the first time and lose 2-0 in a fun match and then don’t write about it, then you can safely say that you’re burnt out. When you talk to Pro Tour finalist Elijah Pollock about the state of Onslaught Limited and then don’t write about it, even in passing, you’re burnt out. (I did make a pretty embarrassing Crown of Fury over Smother pick in front of Elijah, but hey – I was testing the”force R/W” theory.)

More than that, though, an overwrought farewell isn’t what this situation needs. I think it’s a little presumptuous for me to make a big deal out of my”retirement.” First, I’ll probably be back. I’m like that Gottfried guy who does the voice of Iago the parrot. I can’t shut up for long.

I was only around for half a year. It ain’t that big a deal. I’m not sure I shouldn’t take a break anyway, to re-evaluate exactly what the heck I’m trying to accomplish.

Want to hear four bone-chilling words?

I sure have changed.

Would a”gaming everyman” criticize someone else’s article? Would a”gaming everyman” rip R&D?

“What happened to you, man? You used to play T1. You used to play multiplayer. You and I used to be tight. Now you’re just a sellout.”

Wondering who I am? I’m your roots, grasshopper. I was drawing before I untapped back when the wannabe-pro portion of your identity was unformed, back when you thought Kibler was a brand of dog food.

I started playing when Stronghold was released.

Don’t you love that word?”Released”? It could describe the first appearance of most any entity, anything from an insufficiently stifled fart finally borne into the outside world, to the debut of Fallen Empires. Actually, the two aren’t that different. But don’t fool yourself, chief. The game broke you in and you broke in the game. It ain’t the same. It ain’t the same anymore.

My first trade was an Abeyance for an Overrun. Then I traded two Reflecting Pools to Trent Rogers for two copies of Aspect Of Wolf. Those were the days. I learned quickly to consult the price guide before making any swaps. I still unloaded Sapphire Medallions and Tradewind Riders for Bounty Hunters. I loved Royal Assassins. Heck, in my very early days, I thought Norritt was good because it could cause creatures to attack into my Royals.

I guess you’re wondering why I’m recounting the beginnings of my Magic career. I’m doing it because it pleases me to remember those beginnings.

And did I say”career”? Ha! Delusions of grandeur.

Monetarily, I’ve made squat playing this game. For regular morons like me, Magic is about as much a sport as shooting heroin. Hit the right vein, win a prize. Pleasing results or no, you still can’t stop until you find a better drug… Or until you die. I make as much as the homeless guy who spends his time at the subway station pounding out Leadbelly tunes on a dissonant, filth-encrusted guitar. Actually, my Magic income would probably be expressed as a series of negative numbers, for all the money spent on travel, new sets, drafts, and so on, with so little return.

I know too much about Magic, and it sucks. I do too much writing about Magic, and I take pride in what I’ve written, and that can get ugly, too. You know how I spend my time now?

I watch games of Magic and point out mistakes. I get frustrated watching other people play terribly, and display this displeasure with overwrought theatrics and muffled grunts of distaste. I read other articles and criticize them – either in public as with Josh Lytle, or in private. I play Limited and keep close track of my rating. I critique the drafts of others and the builds of their decks, offering alternatively advice and unbelieving skepticism should a pick seem off-kilter. I roll my eyes a lot.

I never thought I’d be an eye-roller as it pertains to my hobby, but I guess that’s the way it goes.

Is this a guy who should be writing articles? Heh. I used to think I could relate to every aspect of the Magic-playing public, but like the sign says (you know the one – it’s tattooed on that life harlot’s ankle):

“I sure have changed.”

Timmy who? I couldn’t play a casual game if I wanted to – I don’t ever carry decks with me. I just draft or Cube at the comic store. I doubt I could even write an article nowadays, unless it was called “Man, You Really Suck.”

So yeah, I’m the Magic equivalent of a backseat driver. The mouth roars – and then, odds are, I’ll go out and play terribly myself. And there’s nothing worse than calling someone else on bad play and then proceeding to tank it yourself.

Did you know that I once wrote “No one played Levitation, so no one will play Wonder”?

Heh. Pobody’s nerfect.

And everything is so different now, so different from when I started this, and now I have to go get Adobe Acrobat to print out my W-88 form to get my PTQ cash prize, and my printer doesn’t work so I have to forward the message to someone else, but everyone is at Provincials, and I have to renew my driver’s license, and everything is so different, and can I go to PT: Chicago, with my van in the bad condition it’s in, I’ve got to get it repaired, and can I find a girlfriend, and should I save for a new car, and if so, what kind, and everything is so different, and I was wearing black airwalks when I first stepped into that store, and I bought two packs of Homelands, and I had a deck with forty dragons, and Pandemonium is not your bedroom, and I used to play Assassins but now I pick a 1/1 Goblin over pretty much anything.

Everything is so different. Gotta get it figured out, and where does writing fit? Where does Magic fit? Answer the $64,000 question and then I can write again. Might take a week, might take a month, might take a year.

Shouts out and thanks to John Labute, John Silvestri, Mizu, Alice Coggins from Team Spike UK, The Ferrett, thegrimmoire, OMC, Gary Wise, Jean-Marc Babin,”Evil” Matt Fox, Chris(t) Borek, Ashley and J, Josh Rider (the first guy to say I didn’t suck), Adrian Sullivan for some great reads, Aaron Forsythe and everyone at the Sideboard, Amos Claiborne and everyone else who ever emailed me about the column (you guys rule), Mike Flores for inspiring me to write in the first place, Zvi for some great reads, Rizzo for retiring and sparking The Daily Shot, Pete Hoefling, Mike Clark for lending his support to Magic in Southern Ontario, TRENT ROGERS, Mark Weymouth, Laura Mills, the mighty mighty Mike Guptil and the fine people at Professional Events Services, WotC and the DCI, and anyone else I forgot.

I’ll be back. See you in a while.

Geordie Tait

[email protected]

P.S.: Wakefield still sucks.

P.P.S.: Yeah, yeah…I know I said I shouldn’t make a big deal out of this. But I’m melodramatic at heart. I couldn’t help it.