Where Have All the Writers Gone? My 2006 Magic Invitational Ballot
In a normal year, I would be ecstatic to be writing this article. I was lucky enough to be chosen once again as part of the voting committee for the 2006 Magic Invitational, a very cool honor and something I take pretty seriously. Unfortunately this year, the nominees in this category merely serve as a reminder for a problem that has been growing in the Magic Community for some time, with no real signs of slowing. We'll get to that in a bit though, first the important stuff.
Here's the list of nominees we writers had to choose from, along with the voting guidelines:
Tim Aten; Jeff Cunningham; Antonino De Rosa; Gerard Fabiano; Tsuyoshi Fujita; Sam Gomersall; Mark Herberholz; Craig Krempels; Osyp Lebedowicz; Masashi Oiso; Neil Reeves; Jeroen Remie; Tomoharu Saitou; Tomi Walamies; Gabe Walls.
Remember that the voting criteria is "Best combination of talent and personality."
Since this is the Writer category - a bone thrown the Internet and Print Magic Community, perhaps one of the most important cogs of the game - I tend to add an additional guideline to help me sort out what my Top 5 will be. I mean, nearly all of these guys are my friend at some level, so choosing a winner is particularly difficult. I strongly believe that writing about the game is vital to its health. Giving back to the game at that level should be rewarded, thus I tend to restrict my votes to those who actually write.
There's just one problem... none of these guys wrote much last year. In fact, this is part of a continuing trend in the community where, in spite of more interest from fans and more money from websites, fewer and fewer pros are actually writing good material. We even started recruiting the Japanese to write, so that the language barrier is less of a barrier and more of a hurdle, and yet almost none of the individuals listed above contribute by writing articles about their adventures in Magicland. I don't know why this is... Magic writing is frequently both fun and rewarding, but fewer and fewer "name" players seem to bother with it.
With regard to the actual voting, I went into this with a couple of assumptions. First of all (and just like last year), Oiso was always going to win the APAC vote, so a vote for him is wasted. However, unlike last year, Osyp isn't a lock for anything. In fact, this category might be his best chance to make it to the show, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up when all the votes are tallied.
As mentioned earlier, I am highly unlikely to vote for anyone who didn't write at all last year, meaning boom-booms Walls and Reeves are out, though they are absolutely the best two guys to watch play Magic on the list. Krempels and Fujita also don't produce any articles, significantly narrowing the options. Even with this narrowed field, however, the vote is a tough one. A strong case can be made that Jeroen Remie meets the criteria quite well (though he didn't have a great season), and who could forget the indelible image of Mark Herberholz boxing with Bob Barker on the Price is Right? And that's without names like Julien Nuijten, Gadiel Szleifer, or Anton Jonsson - excellent players who actually write articles - appearing on the list of nominees.
Regardless, lemonade needed to be made, so this is what I ended up with:
5) Tomi Walamies
Ya know, if Tomi had actually shown up to multiple Pro Tours last year, he'd be a lot higher up on this list. As it is, he Top 8'd the one event he went to, wrote one of the more amusing reports of the year, and proved to be a scream on the comedy stage as well. It's clear that he is working on his stage career and Magic is definitely a secondary priority, but as far as the criteria go, Tomi meets or exceeds all expectations.
4) Sam Gomersall
Sam has the coolest accent on the Pro Tour (though he might be fighting for that title with his roomie, "Gandalf" Moore, if Rich ever hits level 3 on the Players Club), and Sam's Limited chops are second only to about four or five other people in the world. He has yet to post a great finish on the Pro Tour, and he'd probably be better if he didn't spend six months a year creating tales of drunken debauchery with Mark Herberholz, but you can't really hold that against him. I have to say that I miss the days when Sam was a bit poorer though, because it meant he needed to write to earn the money. His gain would appear to be our loss.
3) Antonino De Rosa
There's a reasonable chance Ant won't need this vote to make it to L.A. - he's the odds-on favorite to win the North American vote. Surprisingly, De Rosa probably wrote more often than anyone else on this list, and while I sometimes disagree with what he has to say - either in print or in person - he's still a fun guy to hang out with, and a great player to watch in the feature match area.
2) Osyp Lebedowicz
2005 was a forgettable season for Joe Black, both in terms of writing and in terms of his Magic performance. To be honest, I wasn't sure he really cared much about either any more, especially since he never bothered to detail some of the incredible moments from last year's Invitational. Then came this article, a stinging reminder that Osyp is one of the funniest people in the game when he can actually be bothered to care. I sincerely hope that Osyp will still find the motivation to perform in 2006 like he has in previous years (he was on fire through Nagoya, but petered out from there), but the only one who knows whether or not that will happen is the dancing Ukranian himself.
1) Jeff Cunningham
Last year I voted for the best writer in the group (Tim Aten), and this year I'm doing it again. The Untold Legends series, which is apparently impossible to get people to write for, was some of the best Magic work to appear anywhere during the game's lifespan. It's an outstanding concept that seems to have proved too difficult to make reality on a regular basis. On the other hand, Jeff's motivation for the game is perhaps even more questionable than Osyp's - the metrosexual Canadian has spoken more than once about hanging up his spurs and retiring to teach geeks how to dress properly and take a decent picture. That said, word on the street hints that he has once again had a change of heart, and will be appearing at most, if not all, Pro Tours this year. This means that he will presumably deliver at least a report on each of those events, if nothing else. Is it worth voting for ffeJ on merely the chance that he will deliver five Pro Tour reports and an Invitational report for the next year? Well, the Untold Legends series is now available for all to read, so you can make your own decision, but I believe it is.
Don't let us down, ffeJ - the game and your fans still need you.
I'll be back later this week with my thoughts on Hawaii and a Guildpact Standard deck that seems surprisingly popular among the kiddies in local stores.