This week's category takes the Invitational into new territory. The Magic Storyteller ballot aims to champion those players who not only play the game, but put their heart and soul into bringing Magic to life. From voluminous writing to interactive podcasts to trail-blazing video blogging to their mere presence at a major event, these candidates showcase the game in fun and unique ways for the entire Magic community.
But rather than trying to sum up their impact and catalog of work in a one-paragraph profile, we decided to let the candidates have a say. Each was asked to submit an entry, which could either be text (no longer than 1,000 words, no more than five pictures) or an audio/video clip (maximum length five minutes).
Click on the names below to see each entry, and then click on the image in the upper right to vote in the poll and share your thoughts on our forums. New account registration has been temporarily disabled due to maintenance, but the Wizards Community Team hopes to have it restored by Tuesday.
John F. Rizzo
Why you should vote me for Storyteller
A couple of good reasons to vote for me:
One, I was a finalist at last year's Invitational. This proves I am capable of competing in this tournament, even if the highest echelon of Pro Tour success ("heaven") has eluded me. It also gives me a storyline. Will I, like Finkel after his humiliating defeat to Pikula in '99, rise up and avenge myself?
Two, I have been writing reports (and other types of Magic articles) for years, including one for last year's tournament. No matter how I was to do at this year's Invitational, I would write one again. The report would be as audacious as The Satanic Verses, as conclusive as The Deathly Hallows, as heartbreaking as The Professor's Field Journal.
Put together, I think these reasons make me a unique candidate for this category. Yeah, you could vote for a Gary Wise-type; he'll probably write a report, but he's a shoe-in for dead last. Or, you could vote for an Itaru Ishida-type; he might make a good showing, but you know his account of it will read like a VCR manual. Why not get the best of both worlds?
The Magic Invitational's roster is like a fighting game's. We all remember when Sagat lost the finals of the first Street Fighter tournament. Ryu scarred him with a devastating Dragon Punch and embarrassed him in front of all his friends. How unsatisfying would it be, then, if Sagat never showed up in the sequels? The notion is absurd as Dhalsim's gangling appendages.
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I am not going to be able to attend the Invitational this year; please don't waste a vote on me. The last thing I would want would be to fracture another deserving candidate's block of votes. Might I suggest pie-face Fabiano or dragonslayer Sanchez? In fact, I just did.
While I will not be able to attend this year's Invitational, I am honored just to be on the ballot, and in that spirit, want to share a couple of stories from real life. While none of them have to do, expressly, with Magic: The Gathering, they all sort of fit into the Sun Tzu dancing around which I have been building my strategies for some years.
From the first weekend I spent with her family over the holidays, my best friend in college gave me my model for business: her father. Pops was probably the only guy in history (not just some made up character) who actually worked his way up from a blue-collar mailroom job to VP of a Fortune 100 company.
He was the head of HR for a gigantic company, negotiating multimillion dollar packages and traveling the world, deciding the fates of families and even generations with the stroke of his pen, but Pops really just wanted to sip sambuca or a red wine in his den (where women were banned, but I was allowed to quietly sit) while watching the jiggling bikini uniforms of Telemundo game show hostesses ("I don't need to know what they're saying to get it!"). Pops lost mobility in half his body after his stroke, a trial likely caused by the stress of his long years and massive responsibilities, but you would never have noticed it unless you knew what you were looking for. He had learned to coordinate his gait, driving, and even speech to mask the stroke almost completely... He slurred a bit while talking, but I always assumed it was because he grew up in Jersey. The coolest thing of all? He had had a secret affair with an A-list supermodel in the 1980s; yes, you would recognize her.
Now most young people remember the Clinton years as an economic candy store, but there was a considerable downturn before the first dotcom boom. Pops's Fortune 100 company had to make large cutbacks in the mid-90s, and as the head of HR, he was responsible for issuing them.
"I'll need 5,000 names, across all levels, by Friday, Pops," requested his boss, EndBoss.
"We just cut 10 percent last month, EndBoss, and 10% the quarter before. Don't you think..."
"5,000 names Pops! You are the head of HR. I know I can trust you to cut the fat and make the right decision."
Trusty, infallible, Pops sure delivered those names. The first two on the list were...
1) Pops*, and
2) EndBoss himself!
A short walk from my condo there is a hill where the Starbucks lives. This hill is the urban planning equivalent to an Attractive Nuisance, and up until recently, not a day would go by without a small army of helmet-lacking adolescent cyclists zipping down the sidewalk at 40 miles per hour, arms and legs projecting like the King of the World at the prow of the Titanic. The wife and I often carry the kids around on our backs, and one of those ruffians controlling one of those breakneck collisions-to-be rocketing down the hill is an illusion at best; dodging is impossible with your back turned. The wife has a friend who was once a prizewinning scientist, but—helmet-less herself—suffered a traumatic brain injury snowboarding, and has never been the same.
Now to look at my wife today, you would probably register nothing past good job michaelj, but the fact of the matter is that before her valedictory speech, two masters degrees, writing awards, and pushing my pair of adorable monsters out, she was the toughest cougar ever to come out of the state of Maine; I make it a point not to cross her.
One day last winter, the wife volunteered to go to Starbucks to warm me up while I was working on probably a Magic article. The snow on the ground was a few inches deep, but even still, Starbucks is two blocks away; it took her twenty minutes round-trip.
"What took you so long?"
"I had to go back and get you a second latte. I lost the first one."
"In the face of one of those crazy kids on the bikes. Best $5 I ever threw away."
I usually try to end the story there, but there were an interesting next couple of minutes, which I will share. Being long tenured executives at a multibillion dollar concern, both EndBoss and Pops had attractive severance packages. The question remained, though, of who was going to run HR for North America and Europe with that veepee ousted; he would be needed more than ever. "I have the perfect candidate," noted Pops as he laid down a presentation-packing dossier. "A freelance consultant."
That consultant was, unsurprisingly, Pops himself.
The sad part of the story is that, clever as his plan was, Pops ended up on a lot of transatlantic flights, essentially working more, if not harder. The cool part of the story is that, on top of his severance package, the company was stuck paying him by the hour for the next four years.
At my daughter's birthday party last year, Joshua Ravitz ran over my wife's big toe. "It was an accident!" he pleaded. "I mean, if I were trying to run you over, I would have gotten the other four."
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Once upon a time there was a green and pleasant land filled with happy little elves. It was a twee and disgustingly smug place so The Professor came with an army of goblins and burned it to the ground.
Hello, I'm Craig Jones and I like to set things on fire.
I'm also known by a bewildering array of other nicknames such as "Prof," "The Professor," and "Lightning Helix." This would appear to be necessary as my real name, "Craig Jones," has now been stolen from me and is currently being used to describe a certain play strategy that involves throwing around seven points of burn directly at your opponent's face, ideally the turn before they're about to kill you.
I apologise on behalf of my errant name to anyone who has been "Craig Jones'ed" over the last year. However there is a solution.
Anyway I appear to have been put forward for the Storyteller ballot. So what exactly is the Storyteller?
The other categories are fairly simple. Spend all your waking hours travelling to the far corners of the planet and you win the Road Warrior ballot. Be the best player in Europe over the last year and you win the European ballot. Or just be Frank Karsten (who coincidentally is virtually the only person I voted for that won. I'm actually scared of voting for myself).
So where does the Storyteller fit in and how do I convince you guys (and gals) that I deserve to go to the Invitational?
I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for a very long time. Back in 1998 I was a reasonably good player. I won the odd local tournament and had a lot of fun playing the game. Then I went to Grand Prix–Brimingham, because it was... well... my local tournament for the weekend. I sort of did quite well, very well in fact as I took a motley selection of burn spells, goblins and their pet Jackal Pups all the way to the final where I beat a very serious young German player. His name was Kai Budde. You may have heard of him. He didn't lose to anyone else in a major Top 8 for a long long time afterwards.
After that win I started travelling to other major events. There was a slight problem. I thought I was quite good, I'd just won a Grand Prix after all, but in reality I was actually rubbish. I mean truly "why-don't-I-play-Auratog-Rancor-at-the-European-Championships" inept.
I loved the game, loved the travel and loved meeting the people, but it became hard to justify the expense when I kept failing to post the finishes. So I started reporting on the game rather than playing. I was the European coverage guy for some years. My role was to write about the game and bring it to life. I think it's an important job. If people lose interest in a game then the game dies.
Then something odd happened. I started getting good. All those years of watching and writing about the best players in the world and something must have rubbed off. I started making the Pro Tour again and even weirder, started finishing in the money. Then there was Honolulu and that topdecked Lightning Helix. After writing about the history of the game for so long it was a weird feeling to actually become part of that history.
I still write about the game. I'm fortunate enough to have a weekly column on starcitygames.com and I'm also insane enough to blog my tournament performances live (sort of) on this very site. You may be familiar with them, they tend to stop after Day One. Sob.
So what has this to do with the Storyteller ballot?
Well I'm going to come straight out with it and say that on pure playing performance I probably don't deserve to go to the Invitational.
I'm not a scrub. Last year I finished runner-up at a Pro Tour and only two weeks ago I won my National Championships. But if you're looking for the absolute best 16 players in the world then I'm not one of them. There are two Level 6 Mages that still haven't been picked, for starters.
However, if the Invitational was purely about taking the best players it would be a rather dull selection process. You may as well just pick the top 16 finishers in the Player of the Year race from last year (dang, I finished 25th) and be done with it.
The Storyteller slot is for something more than just playing. This is for the people who not only play the game but also try and communicate that love for the game to the outside world. I may not be one of the absolute best players in the world, but I'd like to hope I'm one of the more entertaining writers.
So what can I offer if I'm fortunate enough to get voted in?
Well obviously you'll get the field report. That goes without saying. And if you think I was the biggest lucksac in existence for that Helix in Honolulu then this is great news, because you get to read about me getting comprehensively demolished by fifteen of the best players in the world over three days of competition. What better comeuppance is there than that?
Actually I've got a secret plan. Evil geniuses always have a secret plan.
I'm just going to get them really really drunk the night before.
I've also got another secret plan. It involves four unmarked graves in the middle of nowhere.
I don't want to use them.
I actually quite like the other people on this ballot.
... I really want to go. I've never played the Invitational before.
Just kidding. Vote for the guy you think will entertain you the most. That's what the Storyteller is for.
Obviously I'm hoping that will be me.
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Imagine, if you will, a bright plane of existence. Imagine a place of boundless, ambient light that pervades the realm. It's a place of light without form, without contour—like a white room without walls.
Now look! That crackle of energy—that flash of blue lightning. A wizened mystic materializes color by color, from her pale skin to her blood-red robes. A sly grin reveals itself beneath a heavy cowl.
Moments later, a man appears in a plume of smoke. His fire-blackened skin and the white scars trace deliberate patterns about his face, betraying eons of experience. His beard, thick and mangled, hangs off of his chin in a pair gnarled braids.
Two Planeswalkers have entered the realm.
They are ancient beyond reckoning. They are not simply magicians, they consider themselves gods.
Whereas their less experienced brethren are used to summoning up wildlife, flora and fauna, creatures of the night, or soldiers to do their work and to fight each other, these beings do not demean themselves by having other beings, sentient or not, fight for them. They have power beyond measure, and aside from manipulating a few of the stranger creatures found in the dimensions of Dominaria, such as the mysterious and elusive Worldgorger Dragon, the potent yet fleeting Elvish Spirit Guide, and the spunky and hard working Goblin Welder, these wizards-cum-gods do not deploy these creatures to fight each other directly, but to fuel more dastardly and embarrassing stratagems.
Like a fly on the wall you watch. You regard this strange and unique sight, privileged to look upon a battle that few will ever see. One of the wizards is draped in jewelry, covered in ornaments of pearl, jet, emerald, sapphire, and ruby. Yet a curious flower catches your eye, with petals of resplendent beauty.
Suddenly, a grey fog intrudes into the plane. It's not fog. It's soot, accompanied by the clatter of machines. Smoke and dirt appear, arising out of what appears to be a full blown workshop, a manufacturing plant—an array of mechanical labor and strange machines.
Out of this workshop appears a strange orb . It is a large, pallid sphere that seems to be sucking the pressure out of the plane. And yet, there is a certain magnetism to it. It draws the air out everything nearby, as it if has changed the physical laws of this universe by its mere presence.
You are struck by the incongruity—how is it that such an artifact was created by a backward industrial process? This was no mere workshop—no more than Santa's is a normal toy factory.
The Orb glows and pulsates, almost as if alive. You know that it is not. The gravity in the room swells and everything seems to buckle under the pressure of this strange device.
Out of the workshop comes yet another mysterious artifact: a yellowish rod. Invisible power perforates the objects of the room. The strange jewelry around the one Planeswalker lose its glow—their light dims and they become inert. The Planeswalker scowls.
You hear the crashing of waves and the whole space, as far as you can see, is filled with water. The drop appears immense. A spanless ocean settles beneath your line of sight. Amidst this ranging, wild, sinusoidal torrent is what appears to be three small islands, nestled in the distance The Planeswalker turns with steely tenacity, drawing upon their power, focusing it.
In a flash of light the Rod, Sphere and all of the other objects drawn from the mysterious workshop zoom above your line of sight. As you peer upward, all you can see of the once oppressive Sphere is a dot in the receding distance. The gravity and pressure of the realm normalize.
You turn your gaze, once more, upon the ancient and wizened Planeswalker. Her gems shimmer and glow once more with radiant splendor belying deadly power, the Rod now absent, you can almost see the colors bleeding from these primeval objects.
Abruptly, these objects disappear and then materialize once more—flashing in and out of existence as a star might twinkle in the night sky. A look of fear appears to penetrate the visage of the other Planeswalker. The air goes still for only a moment. The gem wielding wizards appears to utter a chant, a dark incantation to some unknown deity.
Amidst the crash of waves, the glowing and flashing gems, and the guttural yet persistent chanting you observe a grotesque spectacle. From the mantra spitting Planeswalker shoots from, in horrible agony, a multitude of phantasmagoric, ethereal tendrils that hurl across space with such velocity and fervor that in the blink of an eye the other Planeswalker is struck. He is engulfed in an exponentially growing number of blackened, magically imbued shoots tear through his body and ravage his frame, searing flesh as his skin proliferates with pus-exploding sores until the unraveling tendrils burrow deep into his remains.
The battle is over.
The water recedes, the clanging and whirring of the workshop has been silenced and disappears. The realm returns to the endless white except for the now inanimate corpse floating above, bobbling lifelessly in the still air, a few trinkets and objects hanging loosely about it.
The victorious Planeswalker expels a breath—signaling a moment of relief and respite. She turns to you, winks, and then disappears from the realm.
I share this story to illustrate the point that I come at Magic from a very different perspective. I've never played on a Pro Tour and never will. I don't grind in PTQs or draft on MODO.
My passion for Magic is not defined or bounded by tournaments, formats, or ratings. What I love about Magic is the idea. This is the allure of the Eternal formats; I enjoy Magic unhinged from the straightjacket of limits. Last year I was able to show off my design abilities. I was asked to design a deck for the "Auction of the Geniuses" section of the Invitational, which Mike Flores described as "the single strongest deck in the auction." For over five years now, I've been sharing my passion for Vintage (and Legacy) to readers, many of whom admit that they'd never play the format.
Magic is more than Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and Championships. If you've ever played Type Four, you have me to blame. A few years ago, I decided that Type Four was too much fun for just myself and my close friends to enjoy. So I uncorked that bottle of Magic fun for the rest of the Magic community. I bring a unique vantage point to the Invitational and promise, if you give me the opportunity, to design an awesome Magic card and make the 2007 Invitational a tournament you'll never forget.
Art by Josh Silvestri
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Vote for Me! by Cedric A. Phillips
Vote for me! I want to be on your next Magic card.
I want to win so badly, I‘ll even wear a leotard. (gross!)
But let's not quibble over the money component
Let's talk about the real evil—my opponents!
If that cold-blooded Kyle Sanchez wins
He'll open the door for all manner of sins!
Why, I heard from a solid reliable source
That Evan Erwin tried to marry a horse!
Gerard Fabiano hates puppies—I have that on good account
and his gambling losses are too numerous to count.
After kissing babies, I've seen Stephen Menendian wipe off baby slobber.
Of course to me, baby slobber is no bother.
My opponents would mana screw anyone who ventured to smile
and they'd go about it in a humiliating style.
They’d outlaw the truth. We'll all have to tell lies.
They hate your Mom, the flag and especially apple pies.
So, if you don't want this invitational to go into the trash,
vote for me and contribute with cash!
The reality is, I’m not going to be able to out-video the Magic Show man, out-paint Afro Man, or out-cool Gfabs. So, what can I do besides that awesome poem to sway your vote? How about, sing you my favorite song!
I want to be the minority!
I don’t need your authority!
Down with the moral majority!
Because I want to be the minority!
Well, apparently that hasn’t done it yet. Well, you should vote for me because we both love a lot of the same things! Like:
Japanese Magic Players! Sports Icons! Food! and Movie Stars!
Still not sold yet? Tough crowd I see. Well, I'm done trying to sell you on why you should vote for me then. However, remember one thing. No matter who you vote for, make sure that you are always careful in...
So, don't be crazy like this guy!!:
And vote for Cedric Phillips!
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When I heard I was going to be on the Storyteller ballot, I was pretty surprised. I haven’t been a pro since the start of the current season, fell of the gravy train, and despite playing the 2HG Pro Tour and qualifying for the next one, I am mostly playing for fun these days. So what was I going to write for the ballot? It took me a while to figure it out, but finally I decided on doing a “100 things you need to know about me” article. This got cut short because of the allowed word count, but we’ll see how far we get huh.
- My name is Jeroen Remie.
- I am 28 years old. My birthday is September the 20th.
- I am from the Netherlands, one of the best Magic countries in the world back in the day, but those days seem to be behind us.
- My second home away from home is Indianapolis, IN, where I am right now, hanging out, playing Magic Online and preparing for Gen Con to get my game on.
- Ever since getting here I have never played as much Magic Online in my life, clocking an average of 4 or 5 drafts a day.
- I gave up the PT life because I really didn’t like the pressure of having to win and the constant traveling and playtesting. It made me not like Magic anymore.
- Now that I have been away for awhile and only play the game for fun really, I have never loved it more. I even enjoy games I lose.
- I have pretty decent stats though: 3 PT Top 8s, multiple GP Top 8s, a win at Pro Tour-Seattle and a national championship, combined with 100k in winnings lifetime, so I wouldn’t be out of place at the Invitational, Magic-wise.
- All these stats can be found on my own Pro Player card!
- Another reason I put the PT life on hold is because I went back to school. I am about to start my last year to get a degree in Business and IT. The thing that really scares me is the mandatory internship.
- I am on this ballot because I used to write a highly popular column over at starcitygames.com, going weekly for at least a year.
- People everywhere have asked me why this ended, and to be honest, I am not sure.
- I have been looking for a different space to feature my writing ever since, but not that seriously since I have been on vacation.
- I have played an Invitational before, and I finished dead in the middle of the pack there.
- My submitted card though came in second in the vote behind Unluckyman’s Paradise! Rock Beast was so close to becoming a reality.
- Rock beast was a 4/3 guy for that had the Pernicious Deed effect
- I made this card because my favorite deck has always been the Rock. This green-black Extended deck has been my weapon of choice in many a tournament and has made me more money then anything else besides Kamiel Cornelissen and Jelger Wiegersma (see my PT–Seattle win).
- My favorite Magic card is Spike Feeder. He attacks for 2, gains life versus beatdown, gives you a versatile threat versus control and even lets your Birds of Paradise get big and attack for damage! I must have attacked with the Bird for at least 100 damage in tournament play, mostly because of the Feeder.
- My favorite format is Booster Draft. I think it rewards the most skill and it is one of the few formats that playtesting is fun! You just get to draft more. My favorite version of draft is 3v3 Booster Draft. The team part of rooting for one and other is awesome.
- My sport of choice is basketball. I play every week, and love watching it more then anything, though being from Holland obviously means that I love soccer as well.
- My favorite soccer team is NAC Breda back home. We suck, but hey, what can I say.
- My favorite NBA team is the Phoenix Suns, they are just so much fun.
- Football is something I have been slowly getting into and learn more about every time I watch. Being “ from” Indy means the Colts are my team.
- I still hate baseball. Europeans really don’t get it, and I sure don’t.
- I love movies. I try and see as many as possible, and I’d like to see every one that hits the theaters. Saying this it totally amazes me that people seem to love the Bourne Ultimatum when I hate it. Come on, it’s just Matt Damon walking around for an entire movie, there's not even any action!
- I love TV shows more. If I hear it’s good, I’ll watch it. My favorite show of the last year has been Friday Night Lights.
- I also love comic books to make the geek factor complete. I am a Marvel guy and my favorite writer is Ed Brubaker.
- I always have time for anyone needing a question answered or needing some advice.
- Magic for me is all about the friendships and hanging out with your friends. The game is still fun, but playing a game still is only an excuse to travel the world and see your friends from all over.
And that’s about it. I hope this will give all of you guys a li'l help in choosing who to vote for, and I obviously hope it’s gonna be me!
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John. F. Rizzo
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