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"Scrubs Corner": I am only good as those around me
By Shawn J. Houtsinger
Beyond every good player is an amazing play-group.

Even Kai Budde himself surely had friends that would point out his mistakes in MTG. Of course, this would very, very, early on....maybe before he knew what a MTG card was...

I am a lucky Magic player, because I have the ability to play with some young up-and-coming Mtger's. Also, early on in my Magic playing days, my friends were a great my supporting cast on improving my skills. Now, after playing for 10 years, I find myself still loving the game, and enjoying meeting people through this magical card game.

But, where did it all start?

---10 years ago---

My best friend, Ken, introduced me to the world of all night gaming-MTG. Being we both were sport fanatics, it was hard to fathom us sitting around a table shooting MTG cards, while pouring gallons of soda, Ho-Ho's, and candy down our throat. Nevertheless, I found the game intriguing, with all the trash talking, endless possibilities for a deck and having all my friends(some whom didn't play sports) find a connection. Ken shoved me a box that one night saying, “Here, take them, I don't need them and I know you'll play more than me.”
The box contained all Beta and Alpha cards; a total of 1000 cards, which was a lot at this time. I can never thank Ken enough for his generosity. I spent an hour putting together a 187 card deck, with all 5 colors, and every C.O.P you could imagine. I sat down at the table, dying to my friend, Bill, who would double Chaos Orb me out of a game, and then another game to Chuck who had a mean fireball to my dome. It was a game of chaos with underlying diplomacy tactics:

Bill-“Oh, I hate to do this, but Tim....I'm going to have to Mind Twist you've been countering everything! Don't get mad, and who cares because you'll live from it!”

Tim-”Sure, but then you can't kill me during this time..and you better protect me!!”

Bill-”Of course...” *smirk*

Endless amount of time I spent trying to convince my other friends to keep me alive..and how I could help them out...or why I wasn't a 'threat'.
Those were good times. Magic can't be the same it was during the first two years, when Mox's were being traded for Juggernauts.
The days when Royal Assassin on board was a threat, not a good laugh.
White weenie started to dominate after a few sets...
A Flying Men with Unstable Mutation could lead you to victory road.
First turn Tinder Wall, and second turn (sacking the Wall) Erjham Djinn was a threat.
The days where formats were only restricted by what you had in your binder, and the level of competition that separated you from your friend.

Then the introduction of Type 2 and the first Pro Tour came alive. Some of my friends who were serious players started to build their Necro-decks. Remember the “Black Summer of 1996?” I do, and trust me you didn't want to be playing around then.
Check out this article for more information.

The winner of the first Pro Tour? Michael Loconto playing U/W Millstone. Weird huh? Somehow he guided this deck all the way to the finals against Bertrand Lestree piloting G/W Armageddon deck. Check out this for more information.

I was instantly hooked on Millstone decks. If you had seen me during those futile times, you'd see my carrying around my Millstone deck around our local shop. At that time, I was a very bad player. I put more effort into playing sports and having a social life. It was different then. Friends you knew only played MTG. These days, you can enter a shop and meet someone new, and this is the social event for most kids. Now, I know friends who play Magic, and then go play sports when they run out of money; it used to be the other way around in my youthful days.

I could go on about all the people that helped me play this game, borrowed me cards, pointed out my mistakes, shook their heads at my game losses at PTQ's, my enthusiasm for playing the game rather than winning, road-trips, and other countless stories...but I want to focus on my current situation.

I moved to Racine, from Kenosha (wooaah! Big move!), when I moved in with my roommate Shane and Mattie 6 years ago. At that time Shane and I played games in our apartment(read my last article on this-ugh) and once in a while we'd venture out to find a card shop. I started to play at a small shop on the other side of town. It was the only place in Racine to play, and most of my older friends were starting to fade away on the MTG scene. So I was stuck with trying to find a 'home' for my card flopping. This little dankly card shop would hold Type 2 tournaments every Sunday, mostly kids who have played, but not yet keen on what the tournament scene was. Only because I had been playing for so long, and played in a few PTQ's did I have a better edge. I won Sunday after Sunday, occasionally finishing second to one of my old school buddies that would attend.

But I noticed happening in this card shop-a transformation before my eyes.

In my earlier articles I have written for casualplayers, you will see my story-telling going on:
http://www.casualplayers.org/article/get.php?action=getarticle&articleid=123
http://www.casualplayers.org/article/get.php?action=getarticle&articleid=177
http://www.casualplayers.org/article/get.php?action=getarticle&articleid=141

These articles were my personal diary for what was occurring in this card shop.
What was it?
The players were getting better.....
People started to help each other out, the place was a gathering ground for those who wanted to improve on their game of MTG and have fun doing so. I tried in my best effort to explain to people why certain cards were better and then sit down and play against them. This was almost 3 years ago.

Those same players are still playing against me-only that they are consistently beating me, and teaching me the rules. The small card shop has gone, and I spend my Sundays running a card shop for these same people. Most of them were young when I first met them, starting at 6th to 9th grade, and now some in high school or graduated. Time has flown by. There is no doubt I wouldn't be playing if it wasn't for their enthusiasm in playing this game. Each person has their own little story or personality.
I don't get paid enough money to justify running Sunday Magic tournaments...
My work and school schedule surely could do without these Sundays.
I barely play any real tournaments to even keep up with MTG....*
I don't own any decks, or barely enough cards to make one...

Yet, I enjoy spending Sundays having them impact my life, and the impact of myself (giving back what was given to me in my younger MTG days) upon them is satisfactory enough to justify it all.

If you'd enter my shop on Sunday, you might meet the following players:

Peter McGrain (A.K.A. “Chubbs”): Peter is your typical happy-go-lucky slightly 'chubby' player that is good at draft. He spends more time defending his weight than actually playing the game, yet he surpasses me in drafting. Calling him “Fat” only encourages him, so be fairly warned. Peter has won a JSS qualifier, so he has proven he can play.

“Ugh-I'm horrible!”: Before attending States, I was playtesting R/G, which Peter knew inside and out, and I made a mistake. Peter instantly told me I could have won the game, and went on to watch me in my other games. Well, that and Lukas, helped in tag-teaming my mistakes. Roll Wakefield dice to 6...

Mike Anderson(Known to hate Jarrod Bright): I believe Mike, along with many others, hates Gadiel Szleifer.** Mike has the most talent for someone his age, 15, however he doesn't attend enough big tournaments, or care enough to, to start out on the JSS train. Known not to sleep, drink excessively, and spout angry comments to his opponent that beats him in draft. Mike is our 'go to' guy for latest Type 2 decks or draft information.

”Need inspiration?”: During a Mirridon draft, I was sat down to face Mike. I absolutely believed I had the best deck. He swept me. But, I was still intent on my superior draft skills, and bombs in my deck. I took him out only once after losing two more. I had to swallow my pride and admit his deck was better. But Mike knew through my trash talking, and persistence as merely my tactic in unnerving him. I do this in a good nature, at times, to see if they can handle it. Also, I am a fan of 'playing the role'...

Marty Amacher(Funniest moment: “Twitch, Twitch”) Marty has grown as a player. He is 16? year old arrogant, athletic, and very intelligent person. However, Marty is young (did I mention his young age?) and can be obnoxious at times. He has taken hold of black/white lately, and is a Type 2 force to deal with...if he keeps playing and learning. He could do very well in a JSS if he wanted to. He is the chaos in the store-spraying people with aerosol cans, feeding Peter packets of hot sauce for money, and constantly testing my patience. He qualified for the Super Series coming up. Good luck!

”Gadiel who?”: Usually I don't condone any of them to put down any person, or player, in front of me. However, when I heard what Marty did, I accepted the story as just being educational...
Marty apparently was with some of the people from the store, Peter and Lukas?, when he was approached by Gadiel Szleifer. Apparently Gadiel started to spout utter trash about how he'd draft against them and crush them, etc, etc. Marty merely replied with something of along the lines of: “Yeah? Whatever.. twitch, twitch.” Yeah, he said it out loud. In case you all didn't know Gadiel is a young, cocky, but good, MTG player who has twitches that he can't control. I guess he got fed his own medicine.

Lukas Carlson(Greatest B/G Cemetery player ever!) Lukas missed a Top 8 this year with my B/G Cemetery deck I gave him, but he did qualify for a Super Series, along with Marty, and I expect him to do very well. Lukas is a Type 2 and draft player. There isn't too much to say about him except that his mild mannered, and enjoys pitching in with Marty's insults, or Peter eating something...
If I played a sealed deck tournament, he would have a seat next to me...

”Oh, yeah, life...”: If there is one thing I can say about Lukas is...he has learned what NOT to say at Pre-release, and understanding 'playing the role' first hand. A year ago, I attended my second pre-release ever. I thought I would waste a few dollars on seeing the cards first hand. However, I did better than what I thought I would. A new ability called 'Morph' was the new concept...and I happened to draft a certain black fattie that I could flip over and beat their head in—at a low cost of 2 life per turn.
Well, I went undefeated, only drawing once, until my final round. If I won I'd get half a box, and more importantly beat the opponent who was being obnoxious. During game three, and as I was swinging in with my black fattie, Lukas points out (mind you-he had been watching the game for a little while) that I didn't take the 2 points of damage from the beginning of my turn.
He says this...right...as..I was...swinging...to kill my opponent.
Now, I appreciate his honesty, but after the match I calmly(heh) explain that it was the worst time for him to do that. Reason? Well, I was actually at 3 life, and my opponent hadn't been paying attention to my life, and two turns earlier we had a dispute over life totals. Finally I allowed him to take me down 2 less life. He didn't have anything in his hand so he was hoping I'd die to it sooner. He did it vindictively to win the match. So, when he didn't pay attention to life totals, and was about to scoop, Lukas pointed this out.

Tony Kisch(A.K.A. 'the man' or 'playa'): What can I tell you about this fella? He has the enthusiasm of Kurt Hahn, the trash talking of PTR (and myself), and the age, 18, to supply the energy. Besides being an amazing athlete, and over-all good magic player, Tony is the guy who brings in the Texas Hold Em chips, and spreads his good will among everyone; he is an instant morale boost. Tony once played a mono-red LD deck with the worst cards imaginable. His win condition was-Magnivore. And, he almost made a Top 8 with it. Ugh.

”No! Blew you out!”: Tony's signature would have to be “Blew you out!” I forget when, but this phrase uttered from his mouth one day. It just awe struck me with the humorous way he put it. He was playing some combo deck, and got a luck-sack hand, killing me without any fight. I sat there and drilled at him, half kiddingly, about how lucky he was. Every time I tried to explain the mathematical probabilities of his handshake's would only respond with this phrase. It has become a phrase we use whenever someone totally gets dominated. Got blown out by 4 Aces when you had a straight? “You got blown out!” Top-decked an answer when you no chance of recovering? “You got blown out” How can you respond to something like that? You can only merely shake your head and smirk.

Alex Kisch(Houts Lackey) He helps me out every week running the store, as he works hard for packs every week to draft with. A reasonably intelligent kid, who is decent at MTG, but surely tries harder than most I know. His humor is what keeps him around... A lot can be said about him considering I trust him to help me run the store, and entrust the money in the register and product on the shelf.
That and his uncanny nature.

These players are my influence to keep playing and improving my skills. I wonder how good they will be when they are my age, and still playing, while I am sitting in my swinging chairs, and talking about 'those good mtg days...”

Shawn J. Houtsinger
The one and only,
HOUTS

houts000@hotmail.com

*...of course this excludes Extended. The only PTQ's I have attended the past year were Extended PTQ's. I have no urge to do more 'touring' about in search of a qualification than within my location.

**Read my article to understand more.

Read More Articles by Shawn J. Houtsinger!

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