Thursday, March 17, 2016


After reading this piece by James Fazzolari on why he cheated, I definitely had a few thoughts and not all of them were comfortable.

I saw a similar evaluation of myself in one that he made:
I am clever enough to know how insignificant I am.
That's a difficult thing to swallow. Extending out from that notion, is my own understanding of what I am good at: It is not Magic.

Don't get me wrong: I love to play the game and after nineteen years, I've become fairly adept at it. I've even gotten better as I've been writing this blog: the written catalog of mistakes, the forceful evaluation of decks and card choices have shifted how I build decks and play Magic, all for the best.

Nonetheless, I'm not that good at the game. There is a limit to my intelligence and to my time, so I can only be so prepared, only so smart.

And people like being appreciated for things they feel (or wish) they are good at. I'm no different. Garrison Keillor said (I'm paraphrasing) "Every man likes to feel that he is the best at something." I rarely feel as though I am even good at anything. Best? Never. And it seems like that should matter quite a bit.

That's a difficult thing to carry around the brain.

Now, I have made a decision to try and conduct myself as honorably as possible. Even with that, opponents have held their cards too low and I've seen them. Yes, I said something the first couple times but not every single time; it just becomes easier to look away, sometimes. It may seem penny-ante but I am trying to hold myself to an appropriate standard.

Because I get it. I get the notion that one derives self-worth from being good at a task. It is very, very difficult to believe that you have worth, just because you exist and are being a good person. We place a lot of emphasis on success and with that often comes a sneering at failure and at the people who fail.

So I understood why James cheated, better than I expected.

His conclusion, however, is important: The cost isn't worth the risk.

Because my truth is, your worth does come from that struggle to be a good person. Being a good person is something that takes forever to build, (or rebuild) and only a moment to destroy. When you've had everything built laid waste, life can seem pretty grim.


  1. The things I've noticed about the best players I've run up against combine a comprehensive knowledge of the current metagame what spells to expect with good anticipatory knowledge, knowing the comprehensive rules, and where they can be manipulated, and keeping track of all of their triggers with very few mistakes. All of these things fall under normal expectations, and it should be enough. However I have found to be true in many cases competitive players often take it a step further where they are reading your hand from your plays and figuring out your bluffs and tells from body language and style of play as well as utilizing side (casual) conversation as a way of reading your hand. Further propped by any opportunity to call the judge over and get their opponents warnings over minor infractions. I have noticed this kind of thing happening when playing and although I certainly wouldn't call it cheating but there is rarely honorable play, and unfortunately I think it is the use of these kind of tactics that give competitive players an edge over us filthy casual types. Because we are willing to let our opponents make minor mistakes, play honorably, and being happy with just enjoying the game. Basically the point I'm making is maybe the mindset of many current competitive players is not so much about cheating but how far to know before you've crossed the line. And really is that the kind of player you want to be?

  2. There's a lot of interesting things going on in your comment.

    First, I'd say that the mindset of a competitive player is not one I can readily acquire. It would likely alienate a lot of people I know: There is a reason that pros hang out with other pros, regardless of the profession. Their mindset is similar.

    Second: I think it's become pretty clear among the really great players, engaging in "dishonorable" tactics (like calling judges over for ticky-tac stuff) is highly frowned upon. Great players do not need to create infraction-rich situations to be great and I'd agree. I'm not dismissing your point-merely saying that in the larger community, my impression is that doing such a thing is looked down on.

    However, the flip side of that is, yeah; looking at player's language and body language is 100% legit as a way to predict things. I do that and I don't see a problem: It's free information being given out.

    Third, and most interesting, is this part:
    "kind of tactics that give competitive players an edge over us filthy casual types."

    The notion that has pervaded Magic of the 'filthy casual' is, I believe, a really destructive one. I'm not saying you think this way, I'm trying to point that that this language is a manifestation of what I was talking about above: that one's worth is determined by how good you are at a thing. Not the kind of person you are, merely your ability to perform a task.

    I believe the comment started off as a joke but, just as with the PC Master Race comment a couple years ago, that joke has opened the door for an 'elite' to look down on people who love what they love, just don't have the time to "prove" how much they love it.

    Lastly, my goal-always-is to play the best possible game I can. No mistakes, best decisions. The thing about that? Cheating deprives me of that opportunity.