John and I met up at Drexel University where he teaches and had a picnic.  I brought lunch for two, snacks for two, desserts for two, and we had conversation fit for a dozen.  While I was torching the creme brûlée, a college student studying near us leaned over to me and said “I wish I could cook”.  I looked at him and said “I hope you learn to.  It’s fun and rewarding.”  He looked at me, I looked at him, and then he said “ok, I’ll leave now”.  On the way out, John wanted a cup of coffee so we stopped in one of the Drexel coffee shops.  A fellow in front of us in line was doing a card trick to try to impress someone and I look a picture of it.


Card Person: Nice try but pictures of card tricks never turn out.
Me: I think I got it. *show him my camera*
Card Person: Wow, it did.  I’ve been looking for someone to shoot a show of mine.
Me: I’d love to, I generally ask $60 an hour for events, how long is your show?
Card Person: About two hours, but I don’t have that kind of money.  I’m sorry.
Me: Well, what else do you do?
Card Person: I also do fire eating as well.
Me: How about this, you teach me to eat fire, and I’ll give you a touched up set of photos of your total show.
Card Person: Deal.  How should I contact you?
Me: Here’s my card, that’s a picture of me riding a sheep.
Card Person: I think I can work with you.

Staff Member: Can I have a truffle?
Me: No, they’re for Fred for all the work he’s done.
Staff Member: Why can’t I have a truffle?
Me: Do you know what “raging entitlement complex” means?
Staff Member: No.
Me: That’s why, then.

Tonight was the last Magic tournament of the season. It was attended by six people. Last week, we had 56 in total. They played. They had fun. I gave them packs. I thanked Sam and Joe and they left. My job was done. So I too packed up and left for the 10th year in a row.

After the Magic tournament, I drove to Stomping Grounds, a new gaming store in the area, and sold my remaining grab bags, big box, and set up an arrangement to sell my deck of 6″ x 9″ promotional cards which I had sleeved in comic book sleeves. As of this Friday, I will own no more Magic cards and an 18-year chapter of my life will close. I once owned tens of thousands of cardboard squares. I now own merely thousands as I still have all my Star Trek and Star Wars cards.  For a time I was a n00b, for a time I was competitive, for a time I was a judge, and for a time I was an organizer. This process bears many parallels to my other interests:

Magic: n00b – competitive – judge – organizer
TF2: n00b – skillful – server admin – team founder
Scouting: Cub Scout – Boy Scout – camp admin – district activities chair
Skepticism: n00b – foot soldier – ?
Photography: n00b – guy who sometimes sells prints or photos – ?

Will my photography, interest in philosophy, professional career, or something else take this arc, too?

I can’t wait to find out.

45 kids participated in this evening’s Magic Tournaments at Ockanickon which is 15 more than I can comfortably manage by myself. I enjoy short spurts where I am running close to capacity and tonight that happened until at 7:45 PM when a Naylor Ex Machina occurred and Joe arrived. He smiled, did the the 30 things I asked of him and allowed the next two hours to pass as a kinetic blur.

The evening was satisfying. An unusual number of people said “thank you” or that they enjoyed themselves, possibly because they could tell we were understaffed. I had brought food to thank you staff and I derive a simple satisfaction from covering someone’s basic needs. I ejected two people from the event and neither person argued with me. One of my auras appears to be one that radiates a sense of “you’re not special” and I’m glad that a certain part of my imposing presence has not been lost as I shrink. A final note was funny:

Staff Member: Terry?
Me: Yes.
Staff Member: Can we be friends?
Me: Why couldn’t we?
Staff Member: Because you’re like 30 and I’m 17.
Me: Well, don’t expect me to invite you out for cocktails and I doubt we’ll see each other outside of summer camp, but I think we meet the friend definition of “being on good terms”.
Staff Member: So, if I need advice or something, I can contact you?
Me: Yes. Yes you can. Here’s my card.
Staff Member: *receives card* Wow.

Be mistaken for an adult. Achievement Unlocked.

Mike invited me out to the Philadelphia Convention Center. He was selling cards for Nick Coss and would probably have stretches of boredom. I took the train down and brought my camera. It had been a while since I had been to a tournament and might be a while until I go to another one.

The event was in the Philadelphia Convention Center and Mike and headed to Reading Terminal Market for lunch.



The Reading Terminal Market has at least three cheesemongers in it between the Amish, the Organic, and the Italian and each had a different view of me taking their picture.  The Amish don’t care, the Organic lady said “no” and the Italian fellow said “sure” kind of as a question while shifting his eyes back and forth.  Between the three I managed to spend about $80 in artisanal meats and cheeses and I again realized that charcuterie is my crack.

Mike and I returned to the Convention Center and I was hit by the smell.  When I judged, I was used to the wash of human stench that would occur after I returned from a lunch break but now there was a moment’s hesitation.  “I don’t need to go in there, so why am I?”  After watching Craig Berry eat a fist of ice cream as quickly as possible and seeing a lot of ass crack I decided to leave; there were aspects of Magic I missed, those were not them.

On the way out I stopped an waved to Nick DePasquale.  He didn’t recognize me until I spoke.  I had been away for a while.

I would have sold my trade stock the minute after the last Ockanickon Magic Tournament if I could have, but the guy I sell to had something called “sleep” he wanted to do when I called him at 11 PM yesterday.  So, today I packed my car with Magic cards and paraphernalia, drove to Moorestown, NJ and dropped off the rest of my once mighty collection.

Me: I want this out of my house.
Buyer: Ok, it’s going to take me a few hours to price this.  Do you want to wait?
Me: No, I just want this out of my house.
Buyer: So, just price it, cut you a check later?
Me: Yes, I just want this out of my house.

What remains of my collection is now tripartite:

  1. A deck built entirely out of 6″ x 9″ promotional cards from the 90s.
  2. My big box consisting of 3000 or so sleeved unique cards from between Urza’s Legacy and Zendikar.
  3. 1 Imperial Seal that has f-ing evaporated.

This I now have more off than Magic cards:

  • Star Trek: Collectible Card Game cards
  • Star Wars: Collectible Card Game cards

I’m not sure how to get rid of those.  Ebay, Craigslist, bonfire, or use them in some elaborate prank where I replace someone’s Vintage deck with my nigh unstoppable Soong-Type Android deck (it’s essentially the ST:CCG equivalent of Workshop).

An era of my leisure life is now closed.

The last Magic tournament of the season is usually a festive affair as Week #8 is usually low on Scouts and high on grim determination when it comes to the staff.  During the setup, a CIT was loafing and I asked him to help set-up or leave, he replied “and if I don’t?” to which I cocked my head to the side and said “we do it again next week.”  Doing so would be patently impossible, but the person in question knew I was a volunteer, and volunteers tend to do crazy things so he chose to start moving chairs than try his luck.

The event itself was unremarkable and I spent most of it asking overly probing questions to an adult to does XML metadata management for the Department of Justice and after 20 minutes of working specifically to do so I got him to say “there is nothing we do that directly benefits the public”.  I cut the price of all singles in half and a kid who’d been at an event earlier in the season noted:

Kid: If I wait even longer, will the prices go down again?
Me: At the end of the evening, I raise the price to twice an eight of their sell price.  So you better buy now.
Kid: *his eyes lit up* Yes.

The staff realized I had checked out when I started throwing product at staff members.  They, again, thought I was crazy but I set aside 5% of prize packs to give to staff who give up their Tuesdays to help.

All in all, about 300 kids participated in a tournament this year, bought $1800 in singles, and we had only 1 trip to the health lodge.  I don’t know why the kid went to the health lodge, just that week 5 a kid in the sealed draft event held up his product shaking and saying “can I go to the nurse?”

I’ve run tournaments at summer camp for 10 years now and I think this will have been my last one.  Thanks to the staff and campers that have made bringing Magic: The Gathering to Ockanickon Scout Reservation largely delightful and rewarding.  Joe, and Anthony, you’re machines.

When I first ran Magic events they were for Dorian Redburn nee Anders and I’d get a fist full of packs and a lunch for a day of judging.  I referred to it as my “moonpie” compensation scheme and I did that until I certed officially as a Level 1 judge.  I quickly got to L2 after an active 10 month period and have been there since and at most events, I get between a box and two boxes of product a day which comes out to about $8 an hour and is unimpressive overall but is enough to justify burning days and destroying feet to do it, until today.

I was asked by Cyborg 1 to run a GPT this weekend so I suited up in my black judge duds and black market suspenders to run an event of probably 30-50 people, possibly on the upper side if history proved true.  A total of 12 people showed and I couldn’t bring myself to accept full compensation so I offered to be paid entirely in whatever snacks from the store I could consume.  Here I was, with 12 people, not really having to answer any rules questions, vastly overdressed compared to those walking in and out, staring into the middle distance unable to bring myself to just read something, and eating moonpies.

I’ve come full circle.  I’m getting out.

7.5 hours of sleep approaches a record for a GP but I still felt behind my a day or two, maybe it was the timezone change.  The hotel offered a continental breakfast which consisted entirely of bread products and cereals, in the words of Brian Coval “It’s a continental breakfast; the continent is Africa”.  The venue itself was long and without cheap WiFi and my first experiment of the day failed when I was told that suspenders were not acceptable.  Wearing them gives me an extra round as they don’t impede my breathing and let my pants fit in a more comfortable overall configuration, plus I can use a urinal with my hands above my head.  The opening announcements noted the location of the fire exits; something I’d never heard although few people heard as the sound system blew.

After the opening comments, we were asked to introduce ourselves with “our name, level, and something about ourselves”.  I said “My name is Terry Robinson, I’m a level 2 judge from Philadelphia, and I collect trivets” which is at least partly true as I possess three trivets; many more than most people.  Judges are a strange lot of people who dump time and energy into a community activity that benefits a for profit company.  We are self-trained rules-wise with little structure to support us between events and are poorly paid.  Each GP makes me want to quit playing Magic a bit more.  See everyone at GP: Nashville.

I’m attempting to judge more often and volunteered to do PA States. I haven’t done States in ages and I quickly remembered why I hated this first Constructed event of the new Standard; people are playing under-tuned decks against other under-tuned decks resulting in a lot of upsets across player skill-level and a slightly higher than usual number of calls that are the judge equivalent of “what’s 2+2?”  to which the correct answer is “game loss”.  Besides this, I had a spot of a cold and the Philadelphia Convention Center was also holding a large Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament which meant we had security.  Yes, we need a security guard to protect Magic players from sticky-fingered Yu-Gi-Oh! players.

The event opened with an underwhelming 72 people which filled a 1/3 of the room resulting in us renumbering after the first round.  I don’t know why, but a lot of players said to me “thank you, Terry, I knew you were behind the renumbering”.  In round 2, we noticed a guy had his girlfriend sit behind his opponent and send text messages to him, presumably about his opponent’s hand contents, but not until a point where we couldn’t catch him doing it so we couldn’t quite DQ him.  The irony gods saw it fit for him to lose two games, then matches, due to tardiness, and get a game loss for failing to desideboard.  The last caused him to scrub out resulting in the loss of more points than if he had just been disqualified.

For lunch, I went to the Reading Terminal Market and went to a taco stand that offered “Mol Chicken” which I assumed was chicken with guacamole not the chicken with mole sauce I received which tasted like burnt toast mixed with sweetened squirrel meat.  I later found out that mole is a colloquial term for “concoction” in Mexico and that many mole sauces contain hints of chocolate.  The lunch strangeness continued when I went to the Amish bake counter and the attendant who was a girl of indeterminate pre-woman age was whistling “Ghetto Superstar”.

You may not see me at States 2011.

9:00 AM – Deck list built, tweaking tweaking full tilt, lacking guilt over the time I usually losing putting together a pile but a while I wonder if these hours hurs stew wasted as my attending ilk crush me on the thin carpet of competition.

12:30 PM – dash off a DM to a SM with a question about a meeting this PM where I’ll see ‘im if the tourney is short as I won’t abort sporting time with my Magic cohort.

Around 1:45 I arrive at the Doylestown dive (actually far from) to where I’ve come to play 5-C but I see only Mikey there, the time’s square, and after all I did to prepare to get people this seems a hint unfair, and in a worn black metallic folding chair I’ll wait.

Time ticks just Mike and I flipping cards, time still stick ticking as I sit thinking, dicking with magnets (god those things are fun) as I try to remember the crazy chick Mike told me about.  Hexagon on hexagon spun into soccer balls which we crush by seconds gone, the day ends 4-4, a tie but I feel we’ve both lost.  The icosohedron is gone as my numb magnet plunker fumbles and patiences lapses as the pseudosphere collapses.  Time to go home.