The Vase

It’s been a slow week for non-Premium strategy articles, so we figured we’d give you the next best thing – a freebie John Rizzo article! If you’ve never read the man, now’s your time to start as he looks at his pet card for Extended and discusses how netdecks and Hollywood are all part of the same dang thing.

Who plays Ichorid in Extended and expects to actually do well? Never mind the pity party, life goes on and I’m making this entire article up as I go along. It’s 5:54 in the P, I’m in a hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire, and I couldn’t make the PTQ in Brighton last weekend – And it ain’t looking too good for the one this weekend, either.

Here I was, again at the ready to play Ichorid in Extended and expecting to actually do well. However, you go and have a preggers sister-in-law come to your crib and ooze utter pregnancy all up over you, and then tell me how you feel. Pregnancy, while making the chick with a bun in the oven even more ridiculously hot than the guy who put it there thought she was initially, wreaks havoc on Pro Tour Qualifier attendance. Yes, that means I think pregnant chicks are hot.

Despite my previous four-loss chunkfest of love a few weeks back, I must confess that I am astonished (not really, not even a little) that no one else has seen how bent Ichorid is with dredge. If only someone made a deck like mine, but not mine – a deck that can potentially interact with an opponent’s deck – took it to a PTQ, did kinda good-like, wrote a report, and finally vindicated me. If only.

Am I that inconsequential? Does nothing I say make not even the slightest shred of sense? Does no one want to potentially waste an entire day and twenty five beans for a infinitesimal chance of allowing me to say “boo, and ya, I told ya’ so?”

I read Zvi’s latest article, you know, where he talked about mulligans. The one where he exactly, verbatim, to-the-letter precisely what I said about mulligans. You read that, right?

Zvi = good at Magic.
Frigginrizzo = not.

And yet none of you trust me about Ichorid. Why not? Do you really think you have a chance to win a PTQ? Really? Then why not play my deck, do crappy/average/surprisingly well, and stroke my ego to even larger proportions?

Yes, I’m still making this up as I go. It’s the grand experiment all over again!

Seriously, why wouldn’t you try a little sumthin’ sumthin’ diff’rent diff’rent?

Ichorid has haste.

Every turn.

Dredge puts stuff in the hamper.

Every turn.

Is it just me, or does this seem, a little too quickly give me an adjective… Convenient?

What do you have to lose? A few rating points, a little pride and what’s left of your self-respect? If you can’t play Ichorid, then at least play something unique, not tame lion. No, I still haven’t learned; still crazy after all these years; still not very good at Magic; still gettin’ jiggy with semicolons; still trying to make a mark in a world of dents.

Unless something miraculous happens — and by “miraculous,” understand that I mean “like a miracle” — I won’t be playing in any more Extended Qualifiers this year. Me, Johnny used-that-Fog Bank-that-bounced-dudes-back-to-the-hand-in-an-Extended-Qualifier. Me, Johnny used-Braids-with-Smokestack. Me, Johnny used-seven-Enchantress-and-fourteen-land. This means that to live, it must be vicariously though someone, somewhere. Anyone will do, Buehler.

It’s a clarion call (my new favorite phrase, although “chunkfest” is kinda neat too): Dare to be different! Use Ichorid! Even if you’re a sucky player – or more appropriately, especially if you are – use Ichorid! Mikey likes him! I like him! I haven’t shaved in five days and will not shave until someone uses Ichorid in an Extended Pro Tour Qualifier! (StarCityGames.com is proud to announce our new line of Friggin’ Rizzo freshly-trimmed beard clippings – Ben)

Think of it as my playoff beard. Just like Billy Moreno.

If no one uses Ichorid in an Extended PTQ, I will cut down a tree, saw that bastard into pieces, split it into firewood, and burn it….

Allow me to convince you:

Ichorid cannot be reliably eliminated. Yes, peeps use graveyard removal nowadays, but not much. Besides, you can play with four hasty copies. Hey, maybe use that Relentless Rat guy that you can throw in ten or twenty of with Ichorid. Ichorat – don’t bet against that.

It’s kinda like, real good with Zombie Infestation and dredge. Ichorid uses its body to make a 2/2, and then jumps back into the fray. It gives it to your opponent on both ends – coming and going! Fits!

It is insanely, ungodly, incurably stupid with Cabal Therapy. I bet that none of you have ever even tried that. Do that and you will see windows of opportunity open, children will smile… But old people will still cut you off at Dunkin’ Donuts’ drive-thru.

Maybe it doesn’t work so well if you plan to actually cast Golgari Grave-Troll — but other than that, no problemo. Okay, and maybe Dimir Infiltrator can’t go and fetch Ichorid, but Dimir House Guard can. Buried Alive is muy bueno as well.

He can come to play on turn 2 with Putrid Imp assistance. The Imp could have threshold by then which equals attacking for at least five before you opponent has Counterspell mana up. You won’t use him, though. I can’t say I blame you – I would (and have before) and would again. But you use him, though.

This is what I would play, if miracles happen to someone like me, even if I don’t deserve them:

Alas, the deck doesn’t look right even to me. Fix it, make it stronger, and do better than three and four.

Maybe I could sweeten the deal; perhaps offer a “break this card” dealio a la Alongi. Maybe I could offer to reimburse your entry fee if you used Ichorid in an Extended PTQ and didn’t do better than 3-4. Maybe I could do something else, but probably won’t try to bribe anyone… Even though that’s the only way I know how to get, keep, and maintain readers.

It’s now 6:39 in the P, I’m hungry, and I’m still waiting for that miracle. I likely could use a shower. But I’d still like someone to use Ichorid. Is that so wrong – wanting to share the 3/1 love with others who have yet to see the light? Am I not an evangel of sorts? Do any of you have balls large enough to, yes, insult them? If you insult them, they will come.

How do you spell “Eye, yi, yi?” I must bribe you, I have decided, for countless many of you will use DredgeAtog, Goblins, No-Stick, Affinity, or the like and go 0-2 drop. Why not go out in style? Ichorid is perfectly capable of going 0-2 drop. Challenge yourself. Bewilder your opponents. Earn while you learn. Win friends and influence people. Insert a bunch of stuff from Norman Vincent Peale here.

Obey me. I am your master, your idol, your vicious pinnacle of abhorrence! Unlike most wretched monsters – who are inexplicably awarded bandwidth – I love each and every one of you. I love cute little fanbois and one or two fangrrls, and offer wet and very sloppy kisses right on cheeks to y’all.

I remember back in the day, when I would write page after page of desperate pleas for reform: Stop net decking, you net decking bastards! Open up your lungs and inhale the freedom to think for yourself. Live and die by your own wits!

What an ass I was, huh?

Back then, I really thought I was right about so many things. Nowadays, net decks don’t bother me as much… Not because I’m in touch with my inner netdecker, but because I realize that many people don’t expect Magic to provide for them what it provides for me. While there are a horde of benefits I cull from this game, it is foremost an outlet for creativity.

Oddly, Magic is not a game that often rewards creativity — at least not in the competitive arena. When there are tens of thousands of peeps doing the thinking at once, how often do you reckon you’ll see something they didn’t? Gee, not very often, I bet. This is my conundrum: What I enjoy most about Magic is giving birth to ideas and raising them to fruition – fruition that doesn’t really bear fruit, since others have likely already discovered and rejected my ideas en masse.

I don’t think I’m smarter than the community. Even if I did, my record indicates otherwise. It used to be frustrating to read endless reports of net decks that, golly, did good, while seeing the guys who went rogue finishing 78th.

But I don’t feel that way anymore, much.

Most of you like to compete, and to compete well, you need access to the best competitive tools – this is what net decks provide, for they represent a tried-and-true pathway to potential success. Rogue decks don’t offer that, unless you take “success” to mean: I built my own deck, got killed, but damn, I’m so much better than those dirty net deckers!

I felt that way for a long time. Not sure why either.

When I started writing plays, and later screenplays, I found myself immediately getting that netdeck feeling. Most of the plays that get produced are, in the words of Clarene Whorley, “Safe, geriatric coffee table bull****.” Ooh – a play about how hard it is to be gay! Oh my – someone actually wrote a play about how blacks still struggle against racism! Wow – some men beat their wives?

Over and over and over and over and over and over it went. The same stories told a hundred different times by a hundred different peeps who really thought they were actually saying something new. Guess what? We’ve heard the punch line before… White guys are bad, and everyone else is good. I came to a realization that maybe, just maybe, the only way I was ever going to get a full-length play produced was to sell out.

But I didn’t sell out, and that’s not the only reason I have yet to have a play produced. People must be compelled to put your words on the stage. They must be unable to sleep unless they take what you have written and show it to the world. I thought I did that, numerous times, even if the subject matter wasn’t about four guys who are mean to a transvestite. I guess I didn’t, though.

So I accidentally eased into screenwriting. Heh. Think about Hollywood for a moment.

And another moment.


If you have even the slightest ideas about what I stand for, what I believe, the values that I hold dear, take them and apply them to Hollyweird. Try to think of a movie you saw in the last ten years that I might have written; something that says something that might have come from me. Well, there’s…

And oh, um…


People still make movies about evil white guys. There doesn’t really need to be a story, just so long as all the bad guys are white. You make think I’m teetering on racism here, but think for a moment ‘fore you get all Sharpton on my ass. You shouldn’t really have to think very hard. But this is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about one, maybe two, films per year that say something different.

It didn’t have to spend too much time on triggerstreet.com to hear “you need to do this, that and the other thing if you want to succeed.” Here I was thinking that all I had to do was tell an engaging and engrossing story that hopefully ended with a victory for the hero. No, no, you need to do all these things we tell you, because we are smart and ignore the fact that fifty percent of the movies that come out every year are sequels or remakes or plain ‘ol thefts of stuff that sucked in the first place. Someone spent a year of their life and thirty million bucks minimum to make the following films:

The Longest Yard.
Anything that starred Will Ferrell.
Or Ashton Kutcher.
Or Jennifer Lopez or Jennifer Aniston.
Starsky and Hutch.
Mr. 3000.
The last film, in fact, any film Oliver Stone made that blew total chunks and lost 200 million.
Four hundred Batman films.
Five hundred Spiderman films.

Sideways won Oscars. How the f*** is that possible?

Q.What do they all have in common, besides sucking?
A. None of them say a goddamned thing.

Finding Nemo was a fantastic movie.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was fantastic.

Q. What did they say?
A. More than Sideways, which basically says “do scumbag stuff and suffer no repercussions.” Yeah, Lowell from Wings got a broken nose, but he got laid repeatedly by a hottie and still married the rich chick. Yeah, the Commish’s kid got dissed by what’s her name and drank his wine, but he still stole from his mother and he too got the girl in the end.

I realized that maybe it’s not them. It can’t be. It must be me. It has to be. Net decks will be around long after the net. Crappy films that have no redeeming value whatsoever will be around long after there are movie theaters. But why? Well, it doesn’t really matter why – It just is.

Maybe I can’t change your mind when you reach for your net deck and I damn well know I’m not going to change Broadway or Hollywood, but what I can change is the way I look at things, and the way I let things affect me. Net decks are a fact of life. Maybe you don’t seek some kind of creative refuge in Magic; maybe it’s just fun to play with any deck. Fun to hang with peeps. Fun to make those memories that will last a lifetime. How can I be mad at you for that, especially since I’m all about that stuff too?

Worthless movies are a fact of life as well. Maybe people don’t seek some kind of introspective refuge in a theater – maybe it’s just fun to go flick out. Fun to escape from reality for a while. Fun to be entertained. How can I be mad at anyone for that, especially since I’m a fan of all of the above?

The answer is: I can’t be mad. All being mad does is make me mad. I can be mad anytime I want. Why would I choose to dwell on the negative aspects of otherwise riveting pursuits? I enjoy playing Magic, but can I truly enjoy it unless I convert everyone to my line of thinking? Yes, actually. Yes I can. I enjoy writing, but can I truly enjoy it until I make everyone else nod in agreement? Ha, yep.

Magic is still growing, and it did it so without me. Hollywood still churns out fifty-plus features a year, and they do it without me. The more things stay the same, the more they change, and this, dear peeps, is what they call “progress on a personal level.”

So net deck away, I’ll still like you in the morning. Go watch a bad movie, we can still cuddle afterwards. I don’t have to change the world – I can do my thing, y’all can do yours, and well, stuff can get done.

But you can play Ichorid and make me proud.

Or play something that isn’t Ichorid.

And miss this opportunity to prove me right.

Or wrong.

Or something.

John Friggin’ Rizzo