NOTE: This is my second Magic video – better than the first, but still room for improvement. I welcome all feedback. I should also note, quite strenuously, that I do not speak ex cathedra on this, which is to say that anyone who takes my words as The Official Voice Of StarCityGames.com is grievously wrong.
This is just one man’s opinion. Please take it as such. K thx bai.
Let’s stop all of this talk about Magic. It’s too competitive, too stressful. Instead, let’s talk about a friendly, no-pressure game…. Like Tiddlywinks.
Tiddlywinks. Ah, who doesn’t like the relaxation of squopping a wink just perfectly so it pots your opponent’s field? Just boondocks, squidges, and , flicking little plastic disks on top of each other. Ah, the good old days, my friend, the good old days.
Now throw a million dollar prize in there. And make it just a bit more sexier to appeal to the college demographic.
Suddenly, twentysomething whelps with an ego the size of Moldovia and too damn much time on their hands come a-running. They will be the Tiddly-Master. Now your friendly game’s awash in the sewage of idiot kids who’ve spent thirty hours mastering the perfect tiddly-shot. They’re cheating by sanding off the edges of their tiddy… squidger… thing to get an unlicensed edge.
And they’re trash-talking.
There’s a formula: Fun + money = idiots. And nobody in Magic epitomizes that competitive spirit better than Tom LaPille.
Now let me say that I like Tom LaPille. In fact, I’m directly responsible for him here. I read his awesome blog and thundered, “THIS TOM LAPILLE! I MUST HAVE HIM! FETCH HIM FOR ME.” And Pete and Craig made it happen.
In fact, Tom has exceeded my expectations. He’s one of the best writers on the site, and a lot of people tune in to hear what he has to say. And he’s also willing to share his bozo mistakes with the world, which is comparatively rare in a Magic author.
And, well…. Tom’s a little cutthroat.
It’s not that Tom breaks the rules. What he does, at least as he describes them in his article, is perfectly legal. But they are perfectly legal, in the sense that Tom figures out exactly where the line between “not breaking the law” and “cheating” is, then does a furious little tightrope walk up and down on that line.
If Tom can trick you legally? He will.
If Tom can get a judge to screw you? He absolutely will.
And it’s good to have a Tom writing for us, because if you’re at a PTQ you need to remember that there are Toms out there.
One of the most amusing things I’ve heard lately was when someone referred to Guitar Hero as “fun.” And Guitar Hero is fun… As long as you stay on Medium. The minute you commit to the expert track, which requires you to have hyperactive snakes for fingers and a supercomputer for a brain, it goes like this:
“DAMMIT! WHAT THE HELL? I HIT THE KEY! HOW THE HELL DOES ANYONE HIT THESE CHORDS? THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!”
You do it, of course, but only after bombing out seventy or eighty billion times. On the upper levels, it’s “fun” because you eventually triumph, and the victory itself – that’s sweet. But the actual game? It’s like flossing with barbed wire that’s been soaked in cow urine.
Every videogame, when you get down to it seriously, involves losing losing losing losing losing until you eventually discover what works and get that candy center of pure win. It’s like learning how to wipe your butt with Brillo pads; it’s painful, but eventually you can feel cocky because you know the secret.
A PTQ is a Brillo-padded buttwipe. PTQs are not, as we understand it, “Fun.” They are about attaining victory, which is an entirely different thing and involves a lot of 5-2 heartbreakers and many “God, I was so damn close!”
And for someone like Tom to go, “I will do anything to win this tournament,” well… That’s exactly what PTQs are about. They’re about every level of legal competition, from Jedi Mind Tricks to actual skill. Look in the judges’ rulebook and you’ll find hundreds of pages devoted to card rulings and tiebreakers, but only a handful of paragraphs devoted to “nice.” And there’s a reason for that.
But the number of folks who actually write about how they want to destroy you are reasonably small. Why? Because people hate them. The Magic community will dog-pile upon these folks in the forums…. but strangely enough, Internet complaints do not cause an entire caste of players to become extinct. Those take-it-all players may make your day miserable, but they do attend PTQs in numbers large enough that you’re likely to run into them once in a while.
If victory went to the nice guys, Mister Rogers would be tapdancing on Mike Tyson’s grave right now. You have to remember that you don’t win games by being pleasant – you win them through skill and observation. And Tom reminds us that it’s not just worth observing the cards, but you have to watch your opponent. Because there are people with his mindset, and some of them do cheat.
In a way, that’s generous. Tom is willing to walk up there and be the punching bag for the Magic community. He represents of a whole cadre of folks who the Magic world never wants to play. And he may be a nice guy. But during the game, he is your enemy, and remembering that you have enemies at a PTQ isn’t something that’s mentioned often enough. In his own way, he’s the bravest and most honest writer we have.
But do I agree with Tom? No. He holds up Mike Long as a fine example of mind trickery, but Mike Long last won back sometime when Glen Miller was at the top of the charts and we were all concerned about beating the Kaiser. No, wait, I lie; Mike Long was the fabulous flash master back when Wizards didn’t really care if you cheated.
Think about that. The Judges came in, Wizards started banninating people… And Mike Long went away. Hmm. Wonder why that is?
Then there’s the numbers. Frankly, if this whole Jedi Mind Trick thing was so awesome, you’d expect to see it used a lot at the Pro Tour level… But you really don’t. I’m sure it might be effective on the PTQ level, where your opponents are frequently less clueless than a halibut, but when you get to the upper level of skills what matters is, you know, game play.
I’m not saying that Jedi Mind Tricks don’t win games. What I am saying is that it takes a lot of practice learning how to work those shifty angles. And all that time you’ve spent looking for the perfect moment to run the Sting might better be spent on actually playing the cards.
Look. I made my reputation writing about politics in multiplayer – which involves reading people and playing them off against each other. So it’s kind of relevant when I, Mister Mind Trick, say that politics is maybe 10% of what wins the game in multiplayer. So what is it in duels? Probably a lot less.
Plus, it’s kind of toxic to the soul. People say, “Oh, I can be a total jerk when I have my game face on, but that’s not really me,” but jackassery is like dioxin. It seeps through the walls and drips into your subconscious, making you a little jerky all the time. And there’s always that lurking danger that you might some day decide to say, “Screw the judges” and start actually cheating. When you walk that line, it’s real easy to slip off to the dark side without even noticing.
And lastly, what goes around comes around. Some day, you’re going to need someone to scoop to you to make that Top 8, or to lend you the cards for that deck you need. They might do it if you’re a nice guy, but if you’re the buttmunch who humiliated them three weeks ago, fuhgeddaboutit.
Tom’s writings are incredibly worthwhile. He really is trying to make you better at Magic. But at the same time, he also serves as a warning about what sorts of things you can lose. Maybe it’s just my oh-so-noncompetitive spirit speaking, but winning a game isn’t worth all of the stress you endure and the anguish you deal out. Magic should be for fun.
Like Tiddywinks, motherf**ker.
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy
P.S. – I’ll have a new webcomic to plug soon! Aren’t you thrilled?