I recently reread Mark Herberholz’s masterful three-part article series chronicling his Magical beginnings, rise to dominance, and path away from the game. Basically every paragraph I laughed so hard I cried. The sheer absurdity of Heezy’s debauchery knows no bounds, and he’s a great storyteller, so his piece is easily my favorite Magic article. Take, for example, this tall tale:
“We overslept for Day 2 of the GP waking up at 8:55 a.m. when it started at 9 a.m. and we had a 30-minute drive ahead. I got the tournament organizer and head judge on the phone and told them we got a flat tire, and begged them to stall the tournament 15 minutes for us. They gave half promises, so I got Gabe Walls on the horn [phone?] and told him if seating went up without us that he had to fake a heart attack and buy us some time.
He was flopping around on a table while grabbing his chest and screaming. To this day I wonder if the judges knew that he was faking it and held the tournament up in order to make sure he was okay, or if they were genuinely afraid this 350 lb man would die on their feature match table.
Word on the street was that Gabe deserved an Oscar for his performance. It was so crazy. Who comes up with this **** and also has an overweight friend who is crazy and willing enough to make it believable? We ended up running into the tournament site barefoot, fifteen minutes late. Luckily they hadn’t started the drafts, but that didn’t really matter as I racked up a quick 0-3. After finishing about dead last on Day 2, the trip still seemed like a success.”
This is what some on the West Coast have come to describe as a “Yolo Swaggins” lifestyle. Yolo Swaggins is derived from the name of the Lord of the Rings character Frodo Baggins, and often followed up with the phrase “the Fellowship of the Bling.” It means living life with no regrets, pushing the limits, and accepting variance.
“Well, I drew my one-outer to win!” Should I feel guilty? Should I apologize to my flabbergasted opponent who is going on full life tilt, staring in disbelief at my dumb luck? No! Yolo Swaggins means embracing your inner miser. As Jamie Parke so aptly put it in his PT Journey into Nyx “Rap” Up : “Misers be mising, like every day!”
But just what is “mising?”
One of my all-time favorite experiences at Grand Prix occurred GP Albuquerque last year. After the conclusion of the Swiss on Day Two, I entered a Modern side event with a UR Delver monstrosity constructed almost exclusively out of cards I borrowed from Sam Pardee’s Cube. My deck was nice. The majority of my deck was one-ofs and fringe tempo spells—the two most important of which were Psionic Blast and, of course, Hidetsugu’s Second Rite. The tournament was an adventure in absurdity. In the first round, I cast Psionic Blast and my opponent seemed a bit new, so I asked him if he needed to read it. He declined, untapped, and deployed his own foil, textless Psionic Blast! Although I won the match, I definitely lost the contest to seem who could Blast off harder.
I was great at drawing Hidetsugu’s Second Rite—sometimes revealing it to Delver, which was always interesting—and game after game I dispatched my opponents from a whopping 10 life. After the third match, my deck was causing quite a stir. Each opponent shook my hand more enthusiastically than the last, happy to have experienced the power of Hidetsugu firsthand.
After Sam finished losing the finals (scrub), he joined the crowd gathered around my quarterfinal match. I was playing a nightmare matchup against UWR control. He had Lightning Helix, Bolt, Path, and all the card draw he needed to keep up. Worst of all, he already knew about my Hidestugu’s Second Rite tech. I mised game two somehow, and we went to game three.
My opponent main phased a Sphinx’s Revelation to go up to 21, leaving up three mana. I was basically dead. I fetched down to 3 life, and Bolted my opponent. I asked “Am I dead?” He cast Think Twice to try to find a Bolt. He joked, “No, am I?” I thought for a moment. “Yes.” Bolt, Snapcaster, Bolt, Second Rite, good game. The crowd went wild. He shook my hand the most emphatically of all my opponents—he loved to be a part of such epic mising. (Not sure why he didn’t just cast Revelation for more, but mise!) Since then, my opponents from this tournament have approached me multiple times at other events to reminisce about how sweet my deck was. Moral is, everyone loves a miser. (Except Sam, who reneged on his promise to put my exploits in his tournament report—scum.)
As an aside, I actually only broke even in the luck department, because I lost four double-or-nothing flips in a row on my $7 dinner to owe Jacob Wilson $112, so I handed over the cool hundo I had won. Tilt.
However, waking up so late you’re not going to make Day Two is loose. Similarly, forgoing a reasonable line and putting yourself in a position where you have to mise in order to win is basically the definition of loose. I think this is the main reason why people play terrible brews (like my Delver deck, if I’m being honest). People hurt their chances of winning in order to get closer to the mighty rush that comes from mising. “My deck was terrible, but ripped on the last turn to get there! Mise!” I love this feeling as much as the next guy (if not more), and this is why I played the side event in Albuquerque.
But when it comes to professional Magic events, reducing variance is the name of the game. As I discussed a couple weeks ago, when it comes to deck choice, don’t try to mise, just play the best deck.
In game play, take the line with the highest win percentage, not wackiest the line just for the fun of it. The hallmark of a good game is the best line being fun—Magic is a great game and it does not disappoint.
However, a framework of tight, high-level play is mising’s natural habitat. A couple weeks ago at Grand Prix New Jersey, I played against Dredge in Legacy. After losing game one, I played turn one Delver. I decided not to Daze my opponent’s turn one Cabal Therapy in order to play Young Pyromancer on turn two and increase my clock. Unfortunately, he sniped two Brainstorms, which caused me to wonder out loud if I was supposed to Daze there. I hoped he would name Force of Will, but maybe they just name Brainstorm every time. I haven’t played enough Legacy to know.
In response to my musing, my opponent responded with “I know how to play my deck.” I thought, “All right dude, you got lucky that I had two Brainstorms.” The next turn he played land, Careful Study, which I decided not to Daze after some consideration—maybe I would prevent him from flashing back Faithless Looting later. It seemed that my opponent did not agree with my line. Next turn, I played Monastery Swiftspear, bashed, and passed with one Volcanic Island untapped, one Daze and one unknown in hand. He dredged a Narcomoeba into play and flashed back Therapy, which I obviously Dazed to make a token. After choosing not to pay 1 mana, he discarded his entire hand to Firestorm all my creatures. He had two mana up, so even Spell Pierce wouldn’t do it. However, I had peeled Flusterstorm—mise!
My opponent was furious. “Unbelievable ****ing! Better lucky than good!” I didn’t mind. I definitely was luckier than I was good, because it’s pretty hard to get luckier than that!
I let my opponent stew while I shuffled longer than necessary for game three, and Grafdigger’s Caged my way to victory through a constant stream of muttered obscenities. Oh, and I countered another Firestorm. That was great.
In Heezy’s description of his early Magic years he put it best:
I walked out into the lobby of the tournament site and overheard my last-round opponent, who was in his mid-twenties, complain to his friend about losing to some kid who Blood Lusted his Birds of Paradise three turns in a row for the win. Even back then it was always about the moral victories and putting some dudes on life tilt.
Magic is not Magic without mising. Magic is not Chess. Magic is a child of variance. When we lose to variance it can be hard to take, but variance also gives us hope. With variance, anything is possible. The next time you get mised and go on tilt, don’t take yourself so seriously! Embrace the miser within—Yolo Swaggins. If you’re not mising, you’re doing it wrong.
Bonus Section – Pictorial Evidence of Mising:
Mise causes tilt:
One Orc’s view on the matter: