You CAN Play Type I #98: Oscar Tan 101 – The Man Under The Hat

This week’s installment is extremely special and personal, and something quite a few readers have made suggestions on. Last week marked the 100th column I’ve submitted to Star City in the last two years (not counting the Deck Parfait analysis that came before I was made a Featured Writer, and the Mark Rosewater spoof right before his Type I column). Instead of celebrating by spoofing the website, I decided to give in and talk a bit about myself and who the heck I am beyond the websites, forums, e-mails and mIRC channels the vast majority of readers encounter me in…. So meet Oscar Tan!

(Author’s note: This article was supposed to come out as light reading during the GenCon weekend, but was late due to technical difficulties. As the Type I Championship played out, almost three hundred soldiers with protests and grievances against the Army leadership holed up in a building in Manila’s commercial district in full battle gear. The coup d’etat was resolved shortly before 10:00 p.m. Sunday, Manila time, with a negotiated surrender.)


Embarrassingly enough, there were a couple of errors I missed last week, which was ironic since it was about precision play against archetypes you expect to see in the new July 2003 metagame.

First of all, for the Goblin Welder scenario, the outline in my legal pad featured just one Wasteland and one Goblin Welder left in the opponent’s library, and I forgot about the Squee, Goblin Nabob that should have been in the graveyard. I wanted to drive home the not-so-familiar exchange wording, but my not-so-harmless additions to the scenario let the opponent play two Welders. I didn’t note the alternative that was featured in other scenarios – namely, that you could just Cunning Wish for a graveyard removal spell to remove Anger and Triskelion, or screw the Welders from the other end of the exchanges.

Second, you name a card for Cabal Therapy when it resolves, not when you cast it. I wanted to paint a picture of an opponent dumb enough to walk into Cunning Wish with Academy Rector, but overdid it, and your opponent would have no choice but to name Brainstorm, assuming he was paying attention to your hand.

Thanks for the minor inundation in my mailbox; you guys are sharp!

I hope that between my overview that focused on highlight deck components plus stack tricks, and Steve Menendian’s that focused on matchups, you’re well-equipped to be a spectator for the Type I Championships.

Oscar Tan 101

As some of the United States’ most dedicated Type I fans prepare to take the trip to GenCon this week, I’ll be stuck in my law library, studying for midterms (our classes open June here at the equator, and summer ends May). I asked Pete Hoefling, StarCityGames’ owner, to get me a souvenir, but I’ll be cheering for the Paragons from the sidelines – on the other end of the planet.

To break a little of the tension, this week’s installment is extremely special and personal, and something quite a few readers have made suggestions on. Last week marked the 100th column I’ve submitted to Star City in the last two years (not counting the Deck Parfait analysis that came before I was made a Featured Writer, and the [author name="Mark Rosewater"]Mark Rosewater[/author] spoof right before his Type I column).

Instead of celebrating by spoofing the website, I decided to give in and talk a bit about myself and who the heck I am beyond the websites, forums, e-mails and mIRC channels the vast majority of readers encounter me in. Some readers even want to see a photo of my dog (but I draw the line at writing about Type II, okay?), so here goes nothing.

So many of you from as far as Europe and North America write with brief descriptions of how you picked up the game and how your wives and kids are doing, so I guess it’s my turn…

The Man Under The Hat

I honestly wonder how many of you see that goofy photo every week and wonder who the almond-eyed author from across the Pacific Ocean is. Well, join the club! I ask myself the same question every time I look in the mirror. Have you ever had to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger? You begin thinking there’s nothing to talk about, then find yourself unsure where to begin.

So here goes my personal MagictheGathering.com.

I turn 24 this August, and people my age are usually asked what college they went to.

I graduated from Xavier High School in 1997, a Chinese all-male high school conveniently near a couple of the major Magic places (and a Chinese all-female high school right beside it) in Metro Manila. I got my bachelors’ degrees in Management Engineering and Economics Honors from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2001, and even taught in our country’s famous Jesuit university briefly. That tells you I’m able to discuss Ayn Rand with Stephen Menendian, a.k.a. Smmenen, and debate the existence of God with Darren DiBattista, a.k.a. Azhrei, and Matthew Vienneau.

And as you might know from my in-column griping, I entered the University of the Philippines College of Law in mid-2001, and am beginning junior year. (Law is a four-year program in the Philippines, and you’re required to take a comprehensive array of subjects from Constitutional to Taxation Law. Only one Bar exam is held each year, and it’s a national media event.)

None of this says much, and I could just stop here and post my resume.

Well, you might figure out a little about me by going through my room.

There’s a bed, a couple of terra cotta figurines from the tomb of China’s first emperor, a pair of forty-pound dumbbells, an old acoustic guitar, and four bookshelves filled with law books and quite a few science fiction and fantasy series from Robert Jordan to R.A. Salvatore.

I suppose books are my biggest vice, and my classmates appreciatively drop by to raid my mini-library. Once, after we watched The Fellowship of the Ring, a couple of friends dropped by at midnight to dig out my copy of the novel. At 12:30 a.m., one guy’s girlfriend stormed up from the living room and demanded to know what was going on. We hadn’t located Tolkien at that point, mind you.

I do enjoy our generation’s science fiction as much as political commentary and prize-winning literature. More than a teenager’s pastime, a well-created world filled with elves or mecha is an elaborate tapestry that disguises life’s fundamental questions, wrapped in the fantastic to divorce them from everyday life and distance them enough and let us face them. Who could resist vicariously living out the impetuous boyish romance of Dumas’s D’Artagnan or Shakespeare’s Romeo Capulet? The yearning for acceptance of Salvatore’s meditative Drizzt? The philosophical etymologies of duty as fleshed out in Heinlein’s John Rico? The burdens of ultimate power and the potential to fall from that high point, from the unended sagas of Jordan’s Rand al’Thor and Stackpole’s Victor Steiner-Davion?

I can appreciate how fiction clothes weighty moral and ethical dilemmas in the most human of wrappings, far beyond atrophied legal frameworks. An interesting enigma of judging good and evil, for example, presents itself in Steel Brightblade, son of Sturm and Kitiara. Star Trek is an excellent vehicle for playing out the permuations of the temptation to play God with technology. My personal favorite is the image of the regal, immortal elves contrasted with the brash, impertinent humans. A good story brings out the strengths that arise simply by being born to die.

The power of fiction lies in how strongly it resonates our lives, how the best of imagination always has one foot firmly in reality. Our generation retains that childlike sense of wonder nurtured by A New Hope, The Lord of the Rings, and The Dragonlance Chronicles, but we’ve grown up with quite a few emotional and intellectual kernels from these. Perhaps the next will have their own set of characters that echo their own set of hopes and dreams, perhaps for a time when life has gone even further than instant, virtual and global, perhaps for a time when the depths of the sea, the furthest reaches of space and the recesses of the human brain present far less mystery.

But then, all this just tells you my room is one big mess.

(Well, also that my Mom sometimes walks into my bedroom, and I actually say,”She’s borrowing books.” Yes, the average Filipino doesn’t make enough to move out until he or she gets married.)

Maybe I should just talk about how I picked up the game.

I began playing in the latter half of my freshman high school year (we have six to seven years of elementary education here, then four years of high school and four years of college). At roughly that time, the current sets were Revised, The Dark and Fallen Empires, and Ice Age was just about to be released.

We still had the translucent packaging back then, so it was child’s play to peek at the uncommon, and you could push the rare up with your fingernails. I never mastered the art, but confess to getting a few choice cards by kissing up to the lady manning the store display. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the guys whose relatives mailed Beta and Unlimited packs from the United States as novelties.

I fondly recall the days I could just hang out for a game in the cafeteria or gym and approach a student I didn’t know for a game. Scrub days are blissful ignorance, and these memories might explain why I intentionally write for beginners and casual players today over so-called”expert” Type I players. 1994-1995 was a time of Lure + Thicket Basilisk, Blood Lust + Prodigal Sorcerer, Chaoslace + Blue Elemental Blast, and having Glasses of Urza and Black Vise in every deck (to be followed by Zuran Orb, Fountain of Youth, and Feldon’s Cane). It was a time of ridiculous creature standoffs with a bloated Keldon Warlord facing off against Marton Stromgald, of Reanimator decks that skipped the first land drop to discard a fattie and then cast Animate Dead, and of the mind-boggling”old” rules with Interrupt windows and mana sources. It was, allegedly, a time when there were only two known Mishra’s Factories (before Fourth Edition) in the entire Philippines.

I suppose I’ve been around, Magic-wise. I actually surprised Scott Johns by asking about the original Star-Spangled Slaughter deck he played for Pro Tour Dallas ’96, and Eric“Danger” Taylor calls me a true student of the game. Internet infrastructure grew slowly in the Philippines so I wasn’t able to catch the original Usenet action, but I followed The Dojo religiously, and was heartened that”Sensei” Frank Kusumoto could remember the fifteen-year old who used to e-mail him with newbie questions when interviewed on StarCityGames many, many years later. It’s really different now. Aside from tech no longer being free, information spreads so quickly-back then, I devastated so many hands weeks after Mind Twist was banned. (Oh, and back then, Rick Swan wrote for Inquest and there was a reason for the magazine’s existence.)

My end of the”Dojo effect” was being able to follow Type II strategies at leisure, and being able to grasp Draw-Go, ProsBloom, and Tradewind Rider decks without spending all my time and money on the blossoming local tourney circuit. I never joined the earliest Type II tournaments when they were announced, and have never gone out of my way to enter one to this day. For a student juggling a tough college degree and other pursuits like campus publications, it takes a lot to block off a whole day for an event that opens at 10:00 AM, really starts at noon, and ends well past dinner. It was a matter of priorities, a question of where to put time. In the end, I realized that I was happy enough just playing an hour or two at a time, with nothing to prove and accepting that life outside hobbies was competitive enough.

That’s not to say I was completely detached from the local tourney scene. Back in 1986, I transferred into Xavier School’s first grade with one Richie Chua. We met again in college, and he dragged me to a few tournaments (and berated me to stop studying for Monday’s Operations Research exam while waiting for Round 1). He joked that I could be his ringer (the low-rated player who has a minor prayer of beating the guys in the Top 10), shortly before he realized his dream of holding the #1 Composite Ranking in the country before his college graduation.

Harold Sy was another”local pro” who used to go to the Ateneo de Manila, and was actually one of the first to congratulate me on hitting a hundred columns. Among other stories, he used Chinese language cards to show his grandmother he was diligently learning to speak Chinese, but made sure to pick the ones with characters learned during first grade, like Birds (of Paradise). Heck, one Mark Herrin had fun with Poison decks and the like back in my high school days, and I understand he was last year’s National Champion.

They (and even older Philippine dinosaurs) are leading very colorful lives right now, both in and out of the hobby.

One day, one of them might actually get me to shell out for drafts.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy Sealed Deck despite the luck factor because it has the variety of Limited play without the initial pressure of draft (read: I have time to read the damn cards), and usually open a foil rare every time. It’s just that the first time I tried draft, a certain Mario Padua was seated to my left, only one of the friendliest but most brutal of our local pros. To my right sat DJ Paculio, the local judge and a guy with a penchant for going 5-Color in every Invasion block draft. I think Mario went red/green while DJ grabbed everything else, so I took my two match wins, threw the last one against Ritchie in Round 4, and swore off draft.

But in fairness, many Type I players have Limited ratings above 1800. Sadly, I’m not one of them. Last Prerelease I went to, I misread a lot of the cards and figured out Madness on the fly, not having experience with the main expansion. I think I was a few points short of 1700 before then, and lost what few points I had on that excursion.

At least I can still be a ringer, though hopefully I could do that in Type I instead.


#1: This is my law class out on a birthday party. Ritz (beside me) is a close family friend and practically a neighbor, so it’s wonderful to be in the same law class. On these nights out, my problem is that I absolutely hate the taste of beer. The birthday girl usually ends up ordering cocktails for me, which was fortunately the case here.

#2: These are other members of the same class, hanging out at the back of the Law complex. The guy in the black shirt is my loyal seatmate Ellan, and we have the indispensable job of laughing loudly at professors’ jokes in the front row so the professor’s sure that the class is paying attention. Behind us are the girls of the second row, whom we harass on a daily basis. The girl beside me is Joan, our class’s top debater. That means it’s not worth the effort to harass her.

#3: This is a photo from the college’s electoral tribunal, which I chair, taken the day Althea was elected Secretary. She took me to my fraternity ball, is a member of the sister soriority, and is one of my closest friends outside my own law class.

#4: The fraternity brods enjoy intellectual and cultural pursuits. Norman (in the middle) works for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which held a kabuki showing for public school children. Guess who he dragged in to see the show?

#5: Here we have another intellectual and cultural pursuit unfolding. My classmate Ryan, the dark guy in the middle, is also a longtime player and sometimes tinkers with the cards lying around the house when he drops by.

#6: I interned at the Abello, Concepcion, Cruz and Regala Law Offices last summer, and Joey (for Josephina) was my partner since we were the only ones there from the University of the Philippines. Believe it or not, she was a preschool teacher before she entered law school. You get to exchange life stories when you’re chained to adjacent cubicles for weeks, and she may yet instill in me a sense of fashion.

#7: Some readers are surprised to find out that I come from a gigantic family, as in ten pairs of aunts and uncles on each side. You realize how old you’re becoming as you attend more and more funerals, but you’re also perpetually surrounded by toddlers. Being one of the oldest single male cousins, they usually want to play horsey with me. I’m lucky with Zen and Zoey here; their branch includes a set of eight-year old triplets who want you to carry them all at the same time.

#8: And this is our infamous family dog, named Hershey by my brother. Life gets exciting when you have a fifty-pound hairball running around the house and jumping up at your face, though you have it better than the furniture. To her credit, she’s toilet trained now that she’s grown up, and she’s only pissed in my bed once over the past months.

#9: This is my college class, celebrating Christmas at a Japanese restaurant. Being a poor law student while they’re all making their fortunes in large, high-paying corporations, I have trouble keeping up with conversation topics like overtime and marketing strategies. The last time I dropped by her house, Karen (in white, beside me) actually greeted,”So have you memorized the Constitution?” Our bloated post-Martial Law constitution has provisions for nuclear weaponry, sports, media, the environment, etc., so no.

#10: The 2nd China Synergy Program was sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, seen behind us. The short-haired girl is Trina from London while long-haired one is Nancy from New York. Behind us is Luke from London. Yes, it was a trip to China for overseas Chinese students, and some of us could actually speak a Chinese dialect fluently. (Well, Trina’s family hailed from Hong Kong so she speaks Cantonese, while my ancestors came from Fujian so I speak Fookien. Since we both sucked at Mandarin, that left me coping with British English anyway.)

The Story Of The Hat

I get two common questions from readers.

First, where did”rakso” come from? It’s easy enough to figure (Oscar backwards, as my grade school classmates coined.)

Second, where in the world did that hat come from?

I purchased the fox fur hat at the foot of the Great Wall of China, the section outside Beijing. I picked up the fan in the photo from Shanghai, and it actually has the first chapter of Sun Tzu’s Art of War brush-written on it. I picked up both when I skipped one month of class in July 2000 to attend the China Synergy Program, a Hong Kong-based free tour that took us to three corners of China.

The story goes that I tried to e-mail my yearbook writeups from Beijing, but it’s tough when all the software is in simplified Mandarin and hotel rates are impossible. The day I returned to the university, the editor and associate editor of our yearbook ordered me to the studio to get my photo taken – and that one of the shots had to be a”creative pose.” On short notice, I just grabbed whatever looked interesting from my luggage, and that’s how the fox fur hat ended up in my college yearbook.

(They flashed the same photo during the graduation party, when I won the class of 1,500’s”El Nino” or love drought award. This was a serious reversal in fortune from the end of sophomore year, when I got the Love Triangle of the Year Award.)

My bus seatmate in China was a then freshman from the London School of Economics named Trina, and we had some memorable conversations after I deciphered her strange (to me) British accent. Her vivid descriptions of the holiday-filled British educational system alone showed me how different life can be from a viewpoint on the other end of an ocean. Touring West China, heck, she asked me to swap seats so she could get the window seat and glimpses of ricefields, something we have too many of in the Philippines. Walking the Great Wall was especially funny. I could run around happy at a near-forty degrees Celsius, but she’d remind me that twenty-five degrees was a hot summer in London, so pay attention to how you hold that umbrella over me.

I miss the warmth of her smile and the gentleness of her company three years later (even the parts where she tells an Ateneo de Manila senior that the midterm he’s brushing up for covers what they studied in freshman year at the LSE).

This sort of international exposure is something I’m glad to get out of my personal Magic circles. The Paragons alone are geographically diverse: Darren Di Battista’s group in Virginia, Matt D’Avanzo’s group in New York, Stephen Menendian who moved from Ohio to London, Steve O'Connell network in the Northeast, and Carl Devos in Belgium. And then you have other friends like Oliver Daems and Benjamin Rott in Germany, Chris Flaaten in Norway, Raphael Caron in Canada, and so on.

You pick up a few nuances about life from all those e-mail and AIM exchanges. For example, Matti Nuortio from Finland used to be on Beyond Dominia’s staff, and he described how they liked to have two cellular phones – one for work and one for personal use – which is something not even phone-crazy Filipinos have done. Even minor language details are interesting, like how the Germans use the word”university” where Americans would use”college.” (Though nothing beats the time in China when we pulled an American, a British and an Australian student and asked them to talk to each other.) This leads to weightier self-evaluation sometimes. For example, the Philippines is East Asia’s predominantly Christian country, so it can be interesting to look at how your American and European friends look at religion, then look at how heavily it still influences your country’s everyday life.

I can tell you that political and historical outlooks certainly differ for a student from the Third World. Sometimes, when American students talk about maintaining world peace, I mention that their country colonized mine for half a century and that the CIA screwed with our presidential elections before. The”Oops, I didn’t know, I’m so sorry” reactions can be amusing, but imagine how we’d see, say, the invasion of Iraq (and take note that our president was Bush’s most vocal supporter in Southeast Asia).

I can just imagine the beauty of our kids’ collective childhoods, where the grandeur of communications technology deemphasizes physical borders and national differences. There’s a newfound pride in realizing firsthand that the people on the other end of that connection watch the same movies, read the same books and – yes – play the same hobby.

My Take On Type I

I sometimes discuss a”Type I philosophy” that underlies my articles, so I may as well articulate it here.

You have to realize that”Type I” for people can mean different things. As a default, it refers to competitive Type I complete with its unique metagame. However, to many other people, it refers to casual play – often old Type II decks they enjoyed with a sprinkling of Revised and Fourth Edition restricted reprints.

Both are equally important ways of enjoying the game. I believe, however, that being”casual” is no excuse for sloppy play, atrocious deckbuilding, and ignorance of rules. That is, you can be a good player no matter what you play and playing intelligently is often the most enjoyable way of going about the game, regardless of format (or lack of).

This carries over directly into my writing. You’ll notice that I try to take pains to explain and even over-explain, mentioning things that should be obvious because I can’t assume that beginners won’t be reading. This is also the inspiration of my Feature articles drawn from Apprentice logs. I actually get a lot of e-mails from people who enjoy seeing top tier Type I decks in action – vicariously – either because it showed them something they never saw in Extended or Type II, or because they’re old players who’ve retired and stopped keeping track.

You’ll also notice that I try to take a step back and discuss general trends and doctrines, and dislike focusing too much on individual decks and card choices before I establish the big picture. Look back at how I tried to discuss Wishes, fetchlands, and even the state of Green in Type I. I feel that painting the big picture or pointing out the larger framework helps the broadest audience, since you can apply mana curve theory, for example, everywhere from Sealed Deck to Type I. I even take pains to establish evolutions, to build a sense of history and a sense of where things have been headed.

That said, I also try to discuss the non-strategy elements that are equally dear to me, like flavor text, art, and cute theme possibilities. Yes, I have a soft spot for Thallids, Thrulls, and their alternate artwork, so let the Magic equivalents of min/maxers sue me.

This outlook also influences what I’d do if asked to formulate DCI policy on Type I. Basically, you have to admit that even though Type I players were the game’s first audience and the format has a sentimental spot, it can’t have the following Type II, Extended and Limited have – there aren’t enough Moxen in the world. The vocal minority advocating a Type I Pro Tour can dream on without me.

I advocate – and appreciate – support for the format that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to implement. The little references on Sideboard Online and MagictheGathering.com, for example, are heartening, especially when they discuss concepts using old Type II decks and current Type I decks. It just has to be done intelligently, and I’m glad they’re more careful of the old,”Oh, and I’m sure it’ll be broken in Type I” afterthought statement. I do have misgivings, on the other hand, with projects like Sideboard’s MVPs. When someone sees my Ancestral Recall and refers to it mainly as an”MVP” that was part of a cycle with Healing Salve

I’ve noted my apprehensions about the”Type I Championship” in GenCon, saying it’s essentially a one-shot Grand Prix-type event where anyone can show up. It’s very possible for a subpar deck or player with a good supply of luck to fix the image of Type I deckbuilding in the world’s memory for one year, for example, even by just hitting Top 8 or 16 on a fluke. It’s also not an event that’s accessible to everyone, and very different from other tournaments fed by qualifiers where you can watch decks evolve and results duplicated in many areas.

I’ve preferred smaller-scale solutions, at the store level. One nice gesture would be to lend store-level support for Type I – like Friday Night Magic, for example. I also suggested printing commemorative gold-bordered Type I decks for people to toy with, especially since suggestions for sanctioned proxy tournaments and Type I legal-only expansions have their own problems.

I’m actually wary of R&D saying they’re going to surprise us with cards intended for Type I. A lot of Type II-worthy mechanics filter into Type I, and some cards even have stronger interactions with uniquely Type I cards, like Goblin Welder and Moxen. Just look at how Gush and Psychatog were the headache of June 2003 Type I, right? When R&D says fun for Type I, I can’t help but recall Mind’s Desire.

Yes – let’s talk about Mind’s Desire, by the way.

I view Type I as the format people can play at their own pace, without keeping up with a weekly-shifting metagame or buying new cards every month. I do not view it as going wild with easy, power-backed wins, though the higher power level is part and parcel of the fun.

In other words, to keep Type I fun, one has to preserve variety and interaction.

It’s frustrating, for example, to hear people chant,”The metagame will adapt” like a motherhood statement, and without realizing the DCI can’t monitor Type I as closely as other formats. I mentioned in recent columns, for example, that the new Storm-powered combo decks are hardly unbeatable and you can stall them after they play out their mana. I did note, however, that uncounterable Storm cards added a frustrating randomness similar to a random ChannelFireball opening hand back in the earliest days of Type II.

I received some frustrating comments on that one. For example, some people asked what was wrong with combo being too strong. Others asked why I would complain on behalf of control decks (which I said aren’t having as much trouble as some claim) when aggro decks bear the brunt of the problem (and they happen to have the traditional bad matchup against combo).

Going back a month, you also wanted to talk intelligently about Roland Bode’s Growing ‘Tog. If entire archetypes or categories of archetypes (say, almost every formerly viable aggro and combo deck) face extinction, the question isn’t how happy you are to have a deck you can build on a budget and play without much experience. The metagame, I note, was very healthy immediately before Growing ‘Tog, with every viable category well-represented.

A lot of this sentiment goes against cards that lead to random wins. My aversion for Back to Basics and Blood Moon in principle, for example, are well-known. Again, I consider them the equivalents of Rishadan Port in its block. The dual and fetch lands are very commonly-used in Type I, so either card is effective in a well-built deck. However, I think it’s unhealthy for archtypes to consider a single sideboard card to hedge against combo, control and aggro-control.

Again, the legendary ICT opening of Black Lotus + Blood Moon + Force of Will can be as frustrating as the most degenerate of combos, and far more idiotic. A lot of power cards from Balance to Timetwister require careful timing, but not quite these two, to boot.

On another note, I imagine we wouldn’t lose much by banning Tolarian Academy, Memory Jar, and Yawgmoth’s Bargain, then unrestricting all the cards caught by collateral damage.

Finally, a little of this sentiment goes against residual un-intuitiveness. There’s a lot less of this, but I still have my misgivings about Illusionary Mask in principle, even if it never broke the metagame the way Growing ‘Tog did. Same goes for the Worldgorger Dragon + Animate Dead combo, which is still actually available for random wins despite Entomb’s restriction.

Simply, I think Type I has a certain elegance – even one characterized by brokenness, if you will – and it has to be preserved. With all the unpredictable interactions in Type I due to the size of the card pool, all it takes is one overpowered card to slip through the cracks…

My Take On Games

Weeks back, I was surprised to see a lot of debate about gamers and stereotypes, complete with complaints about hygiene.

I didn’t really chime in, but I felt there wasn’t much of a point. Maybe kids who enjoy these types of games give themselves too little credit. Just take a look at the”Help with girls” threads in the Star City Forums.

Would you rather tell a friend you spent the afternoon playing a card game, or playing basketball? If you feel strongly inclined to answer the latter, maybe you should ask yourself why.

I’d point out that, first of all, a lack of hygiene or a foul mouth is a personal problem. If you have it, you’d better fix it. It has nothing to do with your hobbies.

That said, I get to correspond with a number of readers of various ages with interesting lives and perfect grammar. Some are headed to college, some are finishing up, and some have settled down with wives and kids. I take pains to build a sense of”Type I community” in my columns, and mention complete names and backgrounds. Most readers have more interesting stories than I do – and we all have the same hobby, right?

I wonder if you could imagine your gaming group five or ten years down the line. If you got your DM as your manager, your best in-character speaker as your marketing man, and your powergaming dweeb as your accountant, you could run a successful little business. If you can develop the focus to pick an archtype out of a Sealed Deck, you might just be outlining a surgery strategy tomorrow. If you can spend the time to completely flesh out a Neverwinter Nights scenario today, you might well be writing a novel tomorrow.

Of course, I caution against the opposite stereotype. Going back to basketball above, you also have to understand that being on the varsity squad may well be a mental and emotional challenge to build the right discipline and teamwork.

Bottom line, if you’re not doing anything illegal and you’re doing something you enjoy, then you’re a happy person. Sooner or later, you’ll realize that you’ll be shouldered with more than games and hobbies, and you’ll find yourself looking at what self-transcendence you nurtured along the way. It may be social skills, a newfound creativity, a knack for leadership, a brand of iron discipline, or even logic sharpened by rules lawyering. Whatever it is, you’ll treasure it, and fondly look back to your teenage fun and games, so don’t plan on looking back to bumming around aimlessly.

Over five years down the line, the members of my own high school class have gone their separate ways. We have people in med school and law school, engineering and business graduates who’ve left town due to work, and even a guy who heads the local Jaguar franchise. Five years down the line, the people who were on the varsity teams, explored cigarettes and alcohol before anyone else, wrote poetry, staffed the high school paper, spent every waking moment chasing after girls, the class clowns and the people who played Magic: the Gathering all get together for the same round of drinks, and we were all the same crazy kids after all.

To younger readers, maybe real life is the ultimate roleplaying game, and the best thing about it is being able to play any way you want and plan your character accordingly.

Just make sure you play to win.

My Real-Life Deck

As promised, by the way, here are scans of some of my actual cards, including some recent additions that didn’t get lost in the Philippine mail service. Have fun figuring out why a person sent a particular card. For example, Edsel Alvarez and Sean Madrazo are the two store owners I patronized in my high school days. I don’t think they’ve realized that Edsel’s (Mystical) Tutor and Sean’s”Edsel-has-no-Brain”-Storm are actually a powerful Type I combo.


Oscar Tan

E-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com

IRC: rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance