You Are Now About To Witness The Strength Of Street Knowledge

How long does it take to get good at Magic? Not”crush everyone at the kitchen table” good, but”breeze into the Top Eight and take this PTQ off” good.

Do many of you think you suck at Magic? Or are you able to delude yourself that if you just put in the time, you too could be cashing checks for thirty grand and getting your goofy mug on a Magic card?

How long does it take to get good at Magic? Not”crush everyone at the kitchen table” good, but”breeze into the Top Eight and take this PTQ off” good. One year? Two? More? I’ve been playing at CMU since late October of 2000 – is that long enough to walk on the shoulders of giants and poke my head up into the clouds? Should I have qualified by now? Or is it unrealistic to expect such drastic upward mobility in such a short period of time?

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s one States, one Regionals, one Grand Prix, and seven PTQs. With PTQ finishes of 98th, 8th, 53rd, 66th, 25th, 5th, and 16th, it might seem that there are good days and bad days, with the good being pretty damned good and the bad being ultra turbo pathetic.

The question is this: How the hell does a”98th,””66th,” and”53rd” exist on the same list as a”5th,””8th,” and”16th?” Alternatively, how does one guy show such amazing inconsistency over seven PTQs?

I’m fairly certain that the answer might be… Well, it just might be the answer.

Team CMU (as posted by Mike”Mike” Turian and Aaron”Eager Cadet” Forsythe):

Andrew Cuneo

Aaron Forsythe

Eugene Harvey

Nate Heiss

Andrew Johnson

Ron Kotwica

Mike Patnik

Dan Silberman

Scott Teamann

Mike Turian

…John Friggin’ Rizzo

One of these kids is doing his own thing…

Do you have any idea how god damned humbling (actually, it’s embarrassing) to be the guy that makes that remarkably sick list a little less remarkably sick? Everyone on the above list has at least BEEN to a Pro Tour, with many making multiple appearances. There’s also a PT winner, two Nationals Team members, a States winner, multiple ratings over 2000, and more Top Eights than you could shake a stick at…

And then there’s that guy at the bottom.

Yeah, Johnny Sore Thumb sticking out like, well, a thumb.

Until Mike’s and Aaron’s official public listing of Team CMU, I was just a guy who thought it was cool to be able to play with a horde of guys who just happened to know their asses from asses in the ground. It doesn’t appear that that will be good enough anymore. I suspect that the CMU guys don’t care one way or the other, but it’s quickly becoming an indictment to me. Perhaps I’m the only one ready to call in the grand jury… But now and again, that’s all it takes. (Did someone just request Creed’s”My Own Prison?”) Basically, it’s a list that says”Sup, chief?” and sports a big red light at the bottom blinking”La hoo…zher.”

It’s official, Johnny, you suck. Do something about it. Like qualify, maybe.

Let me put it another way:

Babe Ruth

Mickey Mantle

Joe Dimaggio

Lou Gehrig

Honus Wagner

Ty Cobb

Cy Young

Hank Aaron

Sandy Koufax

Nolan Ryan

…Bob Euecker

Bob Euecker was never much of a ballplayer, but he will forever be remembered as the guy who couldn’t hit his weight but was kind of funny in those Miller Beer commercials. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for his mad skillz. Perhaps that example was a little, um, ridiculous.

Okay then, one more for those of you in Peanut Heaven who regularly prefer a triad of examples…

The Rolling Stones

Led Zeppelin

The Beatles

The Who

The Doors

Fleetwood Mac

The Grateful Dead

Jimi Hendrix

Pink Floyd

Lynyrd Skynyrd

…Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim was never much of a musician, but he will forever be remembered as the”Tip-Toe Through The Tulips” guy who exchanged wedding vows with Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show. Not exactly a shining moment in the history of music, or humanity for that matter.

Which could lead to this:

John Friggin’ Rizzo was never much of a Magic player, but will be remembered as that guy who was kind of funny here and there and wrote really weird articles and took pictures at tournaments and accused anyone who made more money than him of being dead and had an unhealthy fetish (as opposed to a healthy fetish) for all things Becky.

Well. That’d suck.

My two PTQ Top Eights (Which means I can bring it like Harvey Keitel in”Bad Lieutenant,” right?) and victory in Da’ Writer War (which means I’m the BEST writer on Da’ Net, right?) does not a sparkling resume make. Oh, and to make matter worse, the other famous bastion of suckdom – The Ferrett – fought his way from said suckdom to emerge victorious at a PTQ, so I can’t even vicariously revel in his eternal suckiness. And don’t even mention Kurt Hahn cold kickin’ ass at GP – Boston, either. Two of the most vocal”fun players” on Earth got themselves tickets to the show, while Johnny Mintbox was obligated to turn green as his brothers in suckitude managed to taste the fruits of the divine love fest that is Professional Magic.

But how the hell did they/can random sucky player escape said life of suckishness?

Following the wisdom that has been passed down from the wise and the good is the preferred method to escape suckiness and assorted suckious situations… Or so I’m told. Said wisdom was culled from reading too many articles by too many guys on too many Internets and it goes a little something like this – hit it.

Supposedly, surrounding yourself with players who are better than you is a good thing.

The theory is that surrounding yourself with players that are better than you leads to elevation of the working class; workers of the world unite and whatnot. Marx and Engels would be proud… But I guess you should have a job first, though.

Well, Mike Turian is okay and all, having won a Pro Tour. And Aaron Forsythe, Andrew Cuneo, and Andrew Johnson did kind of good when they finished second at the same tour.

Dan Silberman, Scott Teamann, Mike Patnik, Ron Kotwica, and Nate Heiss have also won a few qualifiers; don’t even get me started on Eubroken, dammit. I’d say (and I’m oozing machismo as I say this) that those guys are better than me. I think I got rule number one covered. In spades.

Supposedly, practice, practice, practice (or play, play, play) is a good thing.

While Tuesday and Saturday are the only days that I get to hone my”skills” against real human beans, there isn’t a nerd alive who plays with himself more than I do. And yes, that double entendre was intentional. The hours I spend thinking about the game and decks and random situations should also be counted for something as well. In conjunction with rule number one, I think I got this bad dude covered as well.

But, you see, there’s a caveat: Practice correctly. That basically means that you sort of need to know what the hell you’re doing in the first place, since practicing all the wrong things is plain ol’ nutty. Of course, if you can’t tell the difference between practicing correctly and simply putzing around, then just go to a movie or spend too much time on IRC.

Supposedly, not handicapping yourself is a good thing.

Oops. This one might be a bitch to follow, with me doing that”no net deck or intentional draw” thing. Gandhi, Joan of Arc, and Mother Theresa don’t know stubborn at all, y’all. Well, I did use white cards at Regionals, and drafted a W/U deck in a PTQ Top Eight for Tokyo, so perhaps there is a willingness to bend a little – is that enough? Maybe not, but maybe it is. The theory is to not make a difficult game any more difficult than it needs to be, which is easier said than done in reality.

“We’re not homosexual, but we are willing to learn.”

-Harold Ramis, Stripes

Supposedly, not playing dumb cards or dumb decks is a good thing.

That depends on what the meaning of”dumb” is. Sort of. While it’s been quite awhile since I actually registered Mana Cache and Citadel of Pain in the same deck, I readily confess a slight desire to use cards that, while they may not be”dumb” per se, might be a little, um, unconventional. Witness Cho-Manno, Revolutionary at Regionals and Blind Seer at States.

Although, to pat myself on the back a little, Cho-Manno was kind of bombastic…

I wonder how Nate Heiss and his love of all things Mafia-related would define the phrase”dumb deck?” He’s proof that one man’s junk is another’s treasure, or some other old adage that’s sort of relevant.

Supposedly, learning from your mistakes is a good thing.

While I can’t claim to play flawlessly, I do try to file away dumb plays into my memory bank for scrutiny at a later date. But man, I’m running out of room up in there. The tough thing is to realize when you make a mistake; how the hell can you get better if you don’t realize that you are making mistakes?

Most players are aware of the really stupid mistakes, such as trying to Plague Spores a dude when your opponent has an active Tidal Visionary and other such incidents of severe retardation, but it seems that the majority of mistakes are made in the intangibles: Attack with how many guys? Block with what guys? When do I Repulse this dude? Should I kill that guy or wait for a bigger threat? There are no cut-and-dried answers to these situations… So how does one realize when a mistake is made? Rules one and two can help, but if you can’t learn to see the right plays, then you just may be doomed to making mistakes that cost you games without even knowing why. There is a fine line between playing flawlessly and playing correctly — and if someone can break it down, then good job, chief.

“Where he lives they got alarms – what kinda alarms? What kinda this?”

-Dustin Hoffman, American Buffalo

Instead of writing this dumb-ass article, I could’ve been playtesting. But no! Johnny Gotta Be Nutty felt compelled to write an article that has absolutely no value (intrinsic or otherwise) for the Magic Community. That’s what you get from the guy who is at least partially responsible for Star City’s”Issues and Opinions” banner on the front page. (Actually, he’s totally responsible for it — The Ferrett) And as an added bonus, I get this:

1677 Limited

1625 Constructed


I guess that’s better than this:

1613 Limited

1471 Constructed…

But not by much.

Okay, Johnny Sucks At Magic realizes that, by being the low man on the totem pole of Team CMU, it just might be time to stop talkin’ and start chalkin’. In fact, just as The Ferrett proclaimed that he would qualify in two years or – well, I don’t really remember what he was going to do if he failed to qualify in two years, but I bet it involved a horse that some guy rode in on – I officially state, for the record, that I will make it my life’s ambition to qualify within one year. If for some unthinkable reason I don’t, I’ll probably give myself another one-year extension.

Heh; you thought I’d say that I’d quit, didn’t you? The thing is that I like this game, chief — and while it’s good to have convictions and the like, I’m not altruistic or goal-orientated enough to give it up if I can’t master it. If I can’t get to the show, even if I devote way too much energy into doing just that, then I’ll have to take that as a sign that I wasn’t built for the highest levels of this game. But I’ll give her hell on the way.

I wanna swear or drink beer or something right now.

It used to be fun to be Worse Player Rizzo, but that song done wore itself thin in the last few months. So, a-qualifying we will go, high-ho the dairy-o, a-qualifying we will go, damn ‘ho. 1800 Or Bust seems like a reasonable goal to shoot for, but I’ve never been one to do anything in moderation. Perhaps Senor Grimmett will take things one step at a time, but shooting for the whole kit and caboodle is what made this friggin’ country, damnit. Succeed or fail. But”go balls to the wall or don’t even bother” is my mantra. Mantras are tech.

We’ll see. With pictures too.

Really stupid stuff that I came up with to get my mind off my supreme averageness at all things Magical that will likely get your mind off all things Magical as well:

Top Ten Rejected Magic Advertising Campaign Slogans

10. Yeah, we’re nerds and we smell. So?

9. Give us a try, since you won’t be getting laid anytime before Halley’s Comet returns!

8. Piss away your entire adolescence – Play Magic: the Gathering!

7. Magic: the Gathering – Devil Worship without all those messy human sacrifices!

6. We don’t make you wear a Boba-Fett costume!

5. Hey kid, give us your friggin’ allowance!

4. Magic: the Gathering – More fun than being a crack whore!

3. Yet another reason to stay indoors all summer – Magic: the Gathering!

2. Doubts about your sexuality? Play Magic: the Gathering and find out for sure!

1. It’ll never be a respected pursuit, but hey, neither is Lacrosse!


Top Ten Coolest Languages For Future Prerelease Cards

10. Pig Latin

9. Morse Code

8. Some made-up language by an R&D nerd

7. Canadian

6. British

5. Braille

4. Semaphore

3. Sign Language

2. Baby Talk

1. Ebonics

Top Ten Combos of All Time

10. Mountain/Mogg Fanatic

9. Goblin Game/Fork/Fork/Fork/Fork

8. Deranged Hermit/Aaron Forsythe

7. Deranged Hermit/Deranged Dad

6. Jeff Donais/Mike Donais

5. Rules/Lawyers

4. Clone/Vesuvan Doppleganger

3. Mark Rosewater/Designing cards

2. Contagion/Handful of Swamps vs. two Jackal Pups bashing your friggin’ head in

1. Masticore/In your friggin’ deck

Top Ten Reasons Why Magic Is Better Than Sex

10. If your parents walk in on you playing Magic, your mother won’t have a coronary.

9. You can play Magic all night and not need a blood transfusion.

8. When the game’s over, you don’t have to cuddle.

7. You don’t have to get anyone drunk to play Magic.

6. If your combo fizzles, you don’t have to say,”That’s never happened to me before!”

5. You never have to worry that your opponent is”faking it.”

4. A headache is not a valid reason to not play Magic.

3. You don’t have to take your cards to dinner and a movie before you get to play with them.

2. Your opponent(s) will rarely feel the need to ask if it was good for you.

1. You can engage in”Casual Magic” and still respect yourself in the morning.

Top Ten Rejected Card Names

10. Squee’s Pimply Goblin Ass

9. Suicide Pact

8. Serra’s Sweaty Melons

7. Cateran Crack Pipe

6. Rishadan Whorehouse

5. Vomit of Urborg

4. Rhystic Circumcision

3. Goblin Necrophiliac

2. Eladamri, Sexual Predator

1. Keldon Church Burner

Top Ten Magic Nicknames

10. Sean”Puffy” McKeown

9. Bram”Bram Snepvangers” Snepvangers

8. Paul Emerson”Big hooters you got there, ma’am” Leicht

7. Sean Eric“Hexum” Ponce”ing Jaguar”

6. Scott”What you talkin’ bout” Willis

5. Peter”Eminem is okay, but I really like Elton” Jahn

4. Scott”You may be Eminem’s biggest fan, but I’m Elton” Johns

3. Randy”Bueller…Bueller…Bueller?” Buehler

2. Sean”Puff Daddy” McKeown

1. Toby”the dog had to go out so I leashed her up and” Wachter

See, doing stupid stuff is not necessarily conductive to professional-level Magic. While I was thinking up these lists, all y’all were getting better at Magic. Now that means that even if you sucked at Magic ten minutes ago, you are now less sucky than me by now… So I’ll have to play even better to beat your ass. Well, don’t count a brother out yet, ’cause I’ve been known to just bring it now and again, and perhaps we’ll meet up during one of the aforementioned moments.

Thank you in advance for the rating points; I’ll try to enjoy them. Oh, and remember to smile pretty for the camera, ’cause the pressure will be on you. After all, you’re SUPPOSED to beat me, right?

Who loses to Rizzo?

Nothing personal, but I hope a lot of you get that opportunity. Then maybe all y’all can witness the strength of street knowledge. First-hand.

John Friggin’ Rizzo