The Grand Experiment

I thought it was a good idea. Then I thought again. Then I thought it was a great idea. -Pray tell, what’s this earth-shattering idea ya got there? Well… It is a Grand Experiment of sorts. The ramifications of said experiment have the potential to be felt the world over – from Renton to Antwerp…

I thought it was a good idea. Then I thought again. Then I thought it was a great idea.

-Pray tell, what’s this earth-shattering idea ya got there?


It is a Grand Experiment of sorts. The ramifications of said experiment have the potential to be felt the world over – from Renton to Antwerp to Beijing to London to Milan. And back again.

If you have read some of my previous articles, you will have noticed that there are a few things I am passionate about, as I wear them on my sleeve.





-But how do these wonderful buzzwords connect to your so called Grand Experiment?


If I were to tell you that you could be involved in a sort of "Hands Across America" for the entire Magic playing world, would you be interested? If you could be part of a planetary breakdown of intellectual barriers, might you sign up?

What’s that? You say you might? If only you could get Larry to switch days with you? (Larry said it’s cool with him, but you have to buy him a sixer of Milwaukee’s Beast next payday.)


-So let’s get on with it, then!


Here’s a fact that applies to ninety-nine percent of you:

FrigginRizzo: <—Takes a deep breath.


"Am I talking too loudly?"
-Gary Oldman, as Beethoven, who really can’t tell if he is talking too loudly, Immortal Beloved.

Sorry to destroy target Illusion (that Illusion may not be regenerated), but anyone who has ever spun an abacus silly could show you the math. There are a zillion Magic players who play in significantly less than a zillion qualifiers, and there can be only one winner. It could be you, but it probably won’t. I’m fairly certain that it won’t be me.

FrigginRizzo: <—Nevertheless, jumps back, kisses self.

Okay, when you are done throwing things at your computer – which is probably quite silly, since you really want to throw them at me – think about that statement again.


-Start making sense, Rizzo! Like NOW! While you’re at it, insult us a little more!

I’ll give it a shot.

Let me first try to define those wonderful buzzwords:


Can you say "www.tonsofmagicsites.com?" Thought so. From the big boys like TheDojo and StarCity, to the little "indies", such as Joe’s Haus of Magic and Exotic Cheeses.com, and My Kewl Magic Page With Assorted Wizards Copyrighted Mana Symbols That I Used As A Border.net, the collective knowledge is there. People write for these sites. And when a gaggle of people with similar interests get together, a community is formed.

It’s more than that. It’s your team. It’s your casual play group. It’s the people you just nod a "sup" to at the PTQ. It’s your parents for driving you to the tourney instead of forcing you to cut the grass. It’s the shop owners. It’s all that. (The bag of chips are, as always, optional.)

That is community.


Remember the time you forgot to pay echo on your <insert random card
with echo> at the PTQ and your opponent didn’t notice? Do you remember how you felt when, during your opponents turn, you noticed? Then you must remember that you called a judge and asked what should happen. (Don’t even say that you didn’t call a judge, because you did.)

And do you remember that you lost that game because the judge told you to bury <reinsert above inserted random card with echo>?

That is honor.

(Please. This example, while probably technically flawed beyond belief, is just that: An example. Where the hell is Sheldon when you need him?!)


Magic is a game of individuality. One person challenges another to a duel of wits. The tools are concrete. But the battle is fought along abstract lines. Though the methods of determining the victor are quite tangible, the road to
victory is not. Make sense? Didn’t think so. Again:

A guy is fightin’ this other guy. They got weapons and stuff. Them weapons are cards. They use ’em to try to whoop each other. But them weapons are like, only the tools. Their minds are the real weapons. And stuff.

That is individualism.


Do I really need to elaborate on what fun is?

FrigginRizzo: <—Doesn’t elaborate.

Now THAT is fun.

-Is there a point anywhere in the near future?

In the NEAR future? Well…

OK, the elements are in place. Community. Honor. Individualism. Fun. Let’s just call it "CHIF" for short. Later on, maybe we can call it "CHIFFY," but in the immortal words of parents everywhere…"We’ll see."

Now. Let’s get to the crux of the matter. Let’s find a way to channel all this positive energy to defeat a common enemy.

(Pin drops)

Net Decks.

(Warning: Clicking your browser’s back button may cause your computer to crash.)

Jeez, what a let down. I know, I know, you were expecting something profound. And you thought you’d find profundities in my article? Even after I’ve built it up for two pages? Hold on there chief, for you still might.

FrigginRizzo: <—Seriously doubting ability to pull this off.

Net Decks. They are the bane of many Magic players’ existence. Even if you play Net Decks, you feel it. It’s that tingly sensation in your spine when someone says, "What are you playing?" You feel it when you answer, "I’m playing <Insert Random Net Deck>." And you thought those facial tics were due to someone dipping their big toe in the wrong genepool.

"An Army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe."
-Bill Murray, Stripes.

Now, for a question with many possible answers. All of which will be wrong.

Why do you play a Net Deck?

For ratings, maybe? You have a desire to get, like, more better and stuff. And the "traditional" method in measuring your "progress" is by watching your ratings go up. But think about this: if you continuously play Net Decks, how responsible are YOU, ultimately, when you see your ratings "movin’ on up" like George and Weezie?

What does a Net Deck actually say to you? I see it – okay, hear it – saying, "If you continue to use me, your ratings may continue to rise, and as a result, you will have successfully proven that you, YES YOU, can also succeed with a proven commodity."

It seems to me that many players of dubious skill levels can achieve a semi-decent rating if they are always "Netting it up." It’s like the famous adage, uttered by a truly gifted unnamed editor (okay, it’s The Ferrett), equating the use of a Net Deck to that of "bringing yo’ nine to da’ sword fight, homie." He who has the coolest weapon is not necessarily the best warrior.

Bonus Net Deck analogy/simile:

Playing a Net Deck is like arm wrestling with The Terminator: You may win, but it’s still gonna hurt.

Bonus Net Deck analogy/simile, number two:
Playing a Net Deck is like installing a Braille ATM at the bank’s drive-thru window: Sometimes you wonder just who is supposed to benefit.

-Yeah, yeah, you’re Friggin’ clever. But what about this Grand Experiment?

In time, Grasshopper. In time.

Perhaps you play a Net Deck because you find that you suck at deckbuilding. There is little shame in Constructed Suckiness. For if there were, I’d have been shamed to death a long time ago and would have people parking bicycles between my cheeks by now. (It sure helps if you have heard the "Why do <insert random ethnic group> bury their dead face down?" joke.)

But, (How’s that for a segue?) isn’t shame supposed to be the great motivator? Go to tourney with Rogue deck. Get killed. Make better deck. Get killed again. Make better deck. Do good. Eventually.

If you can manage to Top Eight with your Rogue little version of you, you have accomplished something that, in all likelihood, none of your seven brethren can claim. Although you might not have won the whopping two-fiddy travel award, you have won something else. And it’s bigger than a
breadbox. (Or a booster box, as the case may be.)

"Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives."
-Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross.

Maybe you play a Net Deck because the tournament organizer usually
says something like this in his/her/oh, the humanity introductory speech:

"All right players, let’s get to the swiss. All Net Deckers please raise your hands so that the judges may come round and give you your complimentary four wins."

Bonus Net Deck analogy/simile, number three:
Playing a Net Deck is like taking the SATs: You get 400 points just for signing your name.

FrigginRizzo: <—Rogue, therefore, did not take the SAT’s.

Bonus Net Deck analogy/simile, number four:
Playing a Net Deck is like eating Chinese food: A half an hour after you’ve played it, you’re hungry again.

A Net Deck temporarily fills you up. But it always will leave you wanting more.

"Too much … is never enough."
-An old school MTV slogan, circa: when they actually played videos.

While I certainly don’t intend to offend any Net Deckers out there – okay, maybe a little – I do contend that always playing a Net Deck will lead to stunted growth in more than your game. Like your life.

If you are used to constantly scouring The Net for your next meal ticket, where will you turn when REAL life throws you a curveball? Because then the habit you have formed will come back to bite you as you grab nothing but a handful of air. For there is no decklist to life.

At the risk of getting way too philosophical, da’ mirror don’t lie, chief. And a rose by any other name…

"That’s easy for you to say. You’re Mr. White. You have a cool sounding name."
-Steve Buscemi, lamenting all things pink, Reservoir Dogs

Is playing a Net Deck a result of art imitating life? Or vice-versa? Is the decision to play a Net Deck of any lasting consequence? I think so. To me, playing a Net Deck can be likened to being a "yes man." A follower. A conformist. And Magic players, for the most part, dance to the beat of their own drummers. So therein lies the paradox:

Magic players, who by their nature appear to be nonconformists, will, to appease a faceless and unidentifiable deity, discard many facets of their individualism in an attempt to associate with the upper echelon of their ranks.

FrigginRizzo: <—Thinks that was profound. Maybe.

Bonus rainy day activity: Ask every Magic player you know if they are a conformist. When you get your first "yes" answer, the activity is over.

Maybe using Net Decks is nothing more than an avenue for the working class to achieve greatness. With that said, I still deeply believe that using Net Decks is a recipe for failure, especially if you "succeed." And the machine of failure is always looking for a few good men/women/Pokedex to hurl into oblivion.

-So where the hell is this Grand Experiment?

Patience, dear reader.

-Well, I’m on my Friggin’ lunch break here!

A little history first.

-Rizzo, you are, without a doubt, the most annoying writer on The Net.

Give me a minute. It gets worse.

In January of this year, I had posted a little two-part thesis entitled "The Theory of Rogue" on the backest pages ever of TheDojo, to which I received about fifty e-mails that were mostly non-complimentary. But I thought I had really smacked the nail on it’s melon with the following:

[-What is the challenge of winning with a Net Deck? A Rogue, win or lose, knows that they have created something from nothing, as opposed to the outright theft of another’s labors. Winning with a Net Deck must feel a lot like being Casey Affleck. Sure, Ben got you some acting gigs, and you even did a credible job, but you’re always gonna be Ben’s brother:

>Mrs. Affleck: And have you met my son Casey?
>Random woman: I don’t believe I have. Do you act TOO Casey?]

Simply stated: Casey will always be remembered as a Net Decker.

Later, in February, I posted a followup entitled "This Rogue won’t
leave me alone," also on TheDojo. (They’ll post anything, won’t they?)
An excerpt:

[Wanna take a look into the future, Mr. Unoriginal Deck Grifter? Hmmm, remember Vanilla Ice? Yep, the guy who shot to fame by using someone else’s deck. Well, where is he now? Ditto for Hammer, or M.C. Hammer, or whatever the hell he goes by now.]

Simply stated: Ice and Hammer took shortcuts. They now have a very long road back.

So, it’s not like I was just up late pounding keys in a futile attempt to justify my crappy ratings by dissing Net Decks. I have had a sour taste for Net Decks since I found out that the Net had Decks. And the color white, too.
But that’s another story.

"Your hatred ran deep."
-Vincent Rizzo (my bruddah), in his award-winning play, "Cells."

-Wonderful. You’re John Friggin’ Grisham! Get on with it!

Prepare to get your groove on, so to speak.

Remember CHIF? Community. Honor. Individualism. Fun.

CHIF is ready to fight the Net Decks. All right, CHIFFY is ready. There, I got that out of the way. CHIF will be the single most important factor in the success or failure of The Grand Experiment.

Community. Honor. Individualism. Fun.

They are the reason The Grand Experiment is necessary; to save these ideals from becoming a punchline.

And so:

The Grand Experiment.

This will take but a few minutes for one day of your life. Relax, it won’t interfere with your pre-prom party. Or your "twenty-one drinks at twenty-one bars" rite of passage. It is, conveniently, the day of your next tournament.

-How the hell is that convenient?

Because you’ll be there anyway.

At the tournament, The Grand Experiment asks for one small sign of solidarity. It is such a small effort that I fully expect that there will be no signs of stress, nor pain, and you won’t even break a sweat. In preparation…

You will need two items. Your DCI card. A pen. You may borrow the pen, but I’m not sure about the DCI card. But that could be neat.

The Grand Experiment:

Step One: Get out your DCI card.

Step Two: Get out your pen.

Step Three: Print the word "Rogue" on your DCI card in BOLD letters. Print it big enough so that it covers the entire card.

Step Four: Before each match, pull out your DCI card.

Step Five: Set your DCI card on the table directly in front of you.

Step Six: Play.

-That’s it?

Yes, that’s it.


Yes, really.

-I wasted my Friggin’ lunch break for that?!

"Wasted" is not the word I would use, but, yes, you did.

-I don’t believe this.

Believe it.

-No, I really don’t believe this.

I know.

-Well, since you did that Wakefield article, let me think about it.

You do just that.

The Grand Experiment. It’s purpose is twofold:

1.) Avoiding Death by Net Deck.
-Fighting the good fight.

2.)Standing up to be counted.
-Taking control of your life.

Change is scary. Stagnation, however, is terrifying. The choice is yours.

If you take part in The Grand Experiment, you will feel something. Perhaps not immediately. Perhaps not for years. Perhaps not until you are lying on your deathbed. But, by then, it will be clear.

And that.

That will be enough.

If you don’t take part in The Grand Experiment, you will feel something. Perhaps not immediately. Perhaps not for years. Perhaps not until you are lying on your deathbed. But, by then, it will be clear.

But, by then, it will be too late.

And that.

That would be the real tragedy.

If I were to tell you that you could be involved in a sort of "Hands Across America" for the entire Magic playing world, would you be interested? If you could be part of a planetary breakdown of intellectual barriers, might you sign up?

The Grand Experiment.

Now accepting applications…

John Friggin’ Rizzo
[email protected]