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Killer Joe's Magic Blog II
By Mark Ortego
Killer Joe's Magic Blog II
October 2006

It’s late October and Marching Band season is almost over. The band I work with still has two more parades to perform (Halloween 10/25 & Christmas 12/2) but only one half-time show left this Friday. That’s good news for me because I talked to Rich (the owner of Blue Star Games in Sarver, PA) about me starting up my Friday Magic Events next Friday (11/3).

I ran it last year from May of ‘05 to December of ’05 and then kind of put it into the hands of the players themselves. I made it so that whoever won the official FME game would get the honor to choose the next week’s format. I used to dictate what the formats were so that everyone got a chance to play their favorite kind like one week it would be Peasant Magic, the next week Standard, the week after that Mono-Colored, etc… but the same two or three guys kept winning and they would pick the same format week after week and it grew stale not to mention that they started to start the games later in the evening to accommodate friends and girlfriends. I started the game at 6:30 p.m. at the latest knowing that the owner would want to close the store at 9:00 p.m. Well they were starting at almost 8:00 p.m. and not doing much before then either. I guess, I can’t complain since I basically stopped playing at the store since it seemed like I was dominating the environment with a high winning percentage. When I left the sharks came in and FME imploded. By March of this year the D&D dice-chuckers took over and they were in-charge of Friday nights at Blue Star Games. No ilk towards D&Dr’s but at that time there were campaigns every night of the week and much lamenting at how Magic was bustin’ up their clean sweep of the week.

So a couple of weeks ago I stop by Blue Star Games and ordered me up all four Time Spiral pre-cons (I swear I’ve got a fetish with those decks but I NEVER EVER play them!) and a Fat Pack. I look around the store and see a sea of 3.5 D&D books everywhere. I ask him about the Magic scene and he said its non-existent. I felt bad. I know there are a lot of kids out there who want to play Magic at the store but the sharks keep them away. I have to own up to what I started and I am looking for a new pet project anyways. The MML isn’t as exciting to me as the prospect of starting something up at BSG’s. I had made a hand-made poster for Friday Magic Events with the Magic: The Gathering logo and Blue Star Games logo, it reads:

Blue Star Games and Friday Magic Events present Magic: the Gathering Chaos Multiplayer. Next Event:

And that’s where I left a space for me to put up an 8.5 x 11 mini-poster with the date, time and other info on it. I never put it up but I hung it in my basement for nearly the whole summer. I returned last week to pick up my product and brought in the poster and showed it to Rich. He seemed to like the idea and gave me a thumbs up on it. He put it up and I left a little sign under it that read:

Friday Magic Events to return November 2006

I’ll let you know how November 3rd. goes it’s the first scheduled event.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Years a go I lived in a town in upstate New York called Endicott, I was teaching at a local high school and had found a comic book store called Centerfield Comics. This was back in 1998. I really consider this to be the place where I cut-my-teeth playing Magic. The local guys were hard core Syracuse PTQ types they loved to draft and I mean a lot! I hated it, I always liked my home made decks (this was prior to me finding out this thing called the internet and thusly a “Net.dec”). This was around the time I made my “Erratic Spikes” deck with Erratic Portal, Spike Feeder and Weaver and Propaganda with a splash of counter magic. Anyway, it was more or less, when in Rome, do what the Romans do kind of thing. So I learned, reluctantly, to draft. My first draft we all bought packs of whatever we wanted, that night Tempest was in full regalia so I bought three Mirage packs and so did my friend Christopher. He said that he was going to open a Hammer of Bogarden and win the tourney. I said something to the effect of, “Yeah, me too.” I stunk! I stunk at constructed let alone even KNOWING what or how to draft, whatinthehell was I talking about? Geezsh!

So the legend of how Mark Ortego passes a Hammer of Bogarden to Chris Berg (a local Magic player of the southern tier) and how HE won the tournament, began. I had NO idea what I was doing, I think I actually picked the blue shadow knight that had flanking or something like that. It was a very bad pick. I’ve told this story several times and on this very front page and about three years ago I get a reply from Berg saying: “Thanks for the Hammer.” ~Berg That’s it, no hello, nothing. Bastich!

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Do you remember that first tourney pack you bought? I do. I still have the box and the rules book that came with it. I was working at a local catholic high school back in ’96 and as band director I had to fill up the time that I wasn’t teaching band with “duties”. Study Hall duty was my job that year. Now we all know that Study Hall is MOST CERTAINLY NOT for studying. It’s for catching up with the latest gossip of how Johnny QB and Cheerleader Missy were thinking about breaking up before the big dance this Friday and so on,…..blah, blah, blah. But this one day, way in the back, were these two geeks; Jason and Robert. They were what we now call “Gifted” and they were ALWAYS finished with their physics homework before they even stepped into Study Hall. Occasionally I would talk to them but only in a ‘hey, I never talked to a brainiac before wonder what its like’ kind of way. They were nice kids, that is to say that I felt sorry for their unpopularity status but impressed with how ‘invisible’ they were to the beautiful students of the school.

I walk back there undetected because in those days I was more interested catching someone doing something wrong instead of right, I sneak up on them and BAM! What in God’s good name were they playing? The first card I saw was what I believe to have been Yawgmoth’s Demon. What an unbelievable bad hair day that demon was having on picture day at his school when that card was made! I said to them, “What in God’s good name are you playing?”

FLASHACK: zip-zoop-zop-peori[nb]-0a]y-0bayog klzd:,z’po zglz:lh
Wprh p[skb
P[sb
Sr
[ph[h[piosdh
m[phi to 1981!

read this really fast with a Morse code dit-dot sound in the backround:

Newsflash: Three local boys in Oakeyville, Pennsyltucky were arrested last night while running amok around town in demonic clothing and worshipping the devil. Puzzled police chief Billy Bob had this to say, *now read slowly* “Welp, I dint see much ‘cept fer deez here boyz talkin’ demonic jibberish and playing rock, paper, scissors fer nuttin’. So in I had Officer Owen here arrest dem fer messin’ wit Gawd.”

Newscaster: there you have it ladies and gentlemen, demonic jibberish, what-has-this-world-come-to?

ZAP! Back to the Future! Or past, or whatever, but those were my thoughts looking at those two playing this game. What did I do? I did what any other non-informative closed-minded person would do, I confiscated those cards and made Jason and Robert report to me after school in the band room for a full explanation before I write them up.

Later that day…

Okay, uh-huh, so you turn this terrain card sideways to put down this monster card and then on my next turn I can turn the MONSTER card sideways to reduce my opponent’s game points until he gets to zero? Can I turn my opponent’s terrain cards sideways, too? What about these water cards? What’s this Power Sink do? I like the whole eye and split picture thing. …uh-huh,……it does what? So the monster my opponent tried to put down goes into a graveyard instead of on the table? I like the way THAT sounds.

By 3:45 that afternoon I was “HOOKED” Several years before I had stopped in at a comic book store and had seen Magic for sale but was too interested in OverPower which I only ever played in one tournament at Superior Sports Cards store. So I went to a different Comic book store called Eide’s in downtown Pittsburgh and saw all kind of cool things. There were these cards displayed like baseball cards, you know, a single card instead of a pack. There was this black flower card for like $45, no way would I ever pay that much for cardboard. Another card was a pretty blue one with some kind of pyramid and a guy standing in front of it for $40, again, not gonna waste my good hard earned money on THAT! What fool would? Ah, there it was, a 75 card deck with terrain cards and all five of the color cards you need to play Magic, right out of the box!

That next Monday I get to school, I had read some of the rules but mostly stared at all the cards all weekend and smelled them as well, HEY! My generation comes from a long line of smelling things like “Ditto-Sheets” from ditto copiers (way before Xerox machines, copying machines? Damn it, you know what I’m talking about!). Only if these Magic cards came with a stick of gum, then that would be heaven. I had opened the starter pack and I must’ve gotten the rarest of all rares because there she was in all her glory, the mother of all cards and with an Ebony Queen on it, it was called: Counterspell.

*A loud chorus of angelic voices sing: Coun-Ter-Spellllll!*

I tap two water terrain cards and rain on someone’s parade, it does NOT get any better than that ladies and gentlemen, not-any-bet-ter-than-that!

Anyway, it’s time for Study Hall and I see Jason and Robert skulking down the hallway and I say loudly and geek-ishly, “Hey guys! I got deck of magic cards!”

*The wind rustles dropped paper handout sheets through the hallway, a locker swings and creeks as if someone forgot to catch it as it was opened, for a moment the Earth stood still, pretty school girls in catholic outfits stop chewing and cracking their minty gum, big burly boys with mouth agape start to miss catching their drool, and a look of horror on Jason and Robert’s face begin to emerge.*

Did I say that out loud?

I get into the Study Hall and call roll, the usual suspects ask for passes to the library to do whatever it is they do at the library, not reading books, THAT’S for sure. Jason and Robert are not to be seen (ooo, they hide good). I’m beginning to think I made a mistake shouting in the hallway, whatever, I wanted to say Hi to my two new student buddies! Get this, these guys weren’t even in BAND.

I let them alone for about 20 minutes and then start making my rounds. They are hiding for sure, in fact, they were actually doing work. I let them be for now. Five minutes left to Study Hall and finally Jason walks up to me and asks if I was sticking around after school for a while, I said yes. At the end of the day they both come to the band room and give me a refresher course on how to play Magic. We never spoke of the hallway incident, ever.

They immediately told me that my tournament pack was NOT a pre-built deck and that I would have to sink more money into buying more cards. The two of them realized that I was open minded enough that they started to hang out in the band room to play Magic afterschool waiting for their rides. What I didn’t know was that there were more of them, little by little they trickled down to the band room until a month later there were about 12 kids hanging around after band practice wanting to play Magic. Even some of my band members played but were too discreet to let me know before.

So I said to them that there was this “lull” of time between afterschool and when the band kids were to report to the bandroom for football games on Fidays. At least two hours between. I suggested that we play a tournament or something and there was the beginning of what I would later call: Friday Afterschool Magic which then later became Friday Magic Events.

Unfortunately I lost contact with those two kids and they’re in their mid 20’s by now and their cards are probably moldy and dusty and rotting in their parent’s basements, I’ll never know. But I am most certainly grateful to both of them for showing me this awesome game that I LOVE.

To Jason and Robert: Thanks guys, I’m tapping my next island for you!

~M.

Read More Articles by Mark Ortego!

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