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Who sets the Standards: Making a Difference
By Nick "Ura" Saviskoff
Before I begin with this I give you all fair warning, I'm not here to reveal secret mysterious tech, or to rate cards or formats. I'm not here to discuss the difference between Pros and Casuals, or to talk about getting rid of Force of Will from extended. I'm not even here to totally talk about magic, at least not directly. I'm here to address every magic player, gamer, and person who happens to stumble into this site and pauses to read something.

As some of you may or may not know, I own a small game shop in a tiny British Columbian town nestled on a mountain side by a deep blue glacial lake. Its a simple town with a quiet, laid-back style of life, and is right now also covered in about 3 feet of snow- much to my personal distaste. I've been in operation for just over a year now and I like to think I've done a good job. It was always a dream of mine as an avid dice chucker and card flopper to finally be on the other side of the counter. Some of you may be able to relate to this in some way, as we all have dreams to chase. The entire idea originally was to provide a gathering ground, a place for all gamers to be able to get together as equals, a place free of malice and petty differences, a sanctuary away from the rest of the world. For the most part I was able to do just that, but somewhere along the line I fell off the path. Money and bills had become more important then Counterspells and Serra Angels. Things went ahead as normal, however, and I was able to bring magic in the area to a new level, running tournaments every few weeks, trying new varients often to surprise the locals and make them think just a bit harder then the time before. However, all good things must come to an end, and the corporate big boys moved into town and crushed my sales so that I couldn't afford to stay open any longer. This was 3 months ago...

Now we warp ahead to today, where I stress every night about how I'm going to pay next months rent, if the guys, (the local magic and rpg crew) are gonna still be coming down till the day I lock up for good-- heck, my last official tournament is ironically on new years eve. I was laying in bed tonight, listening to Casablanca play in the background, not being able to fall asleep. Something was nagging at me, pulling at my strings yet remaining elusive, like the specter in the corner of your eye that disappears immediatly when you look straight at it. My mind began to wander back through all the things that have happened in the last year, the people I've served and new faces I've met. Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks made from C-4 explosives; I finally realized what I was missing and what it was that I couldn't see until a sleepless winter night at 4:30am...

I ask you a question: when somebody mentions magic to you, whats the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the pro tour with the big prizes and fancy lights? Maybe a favorite card or deck? Perhaps you have a favorite author or online writer that has always inspired you. Regardless of what it is, I've often thought of all these things while looking for a driving force, but have never found it untill now.

You see, since I've had to announce my closing to the regulars and the other local groups I deal with, I've had parents coming in and just talking to me. Some I know from them coming in on a regular basis, and some I have never met at all untill now. They were all coming in for the same reasons, though. They came to express their sadness and their thanks for being here, even for this short time.

One parent, a father whose son comes in regularly, told me that before my opening his son had many problems dealing with social environments; he couldn't go to a regular school because of problems with other students. But over the last year since being able to come here, free of outside pressure, he's changed and grown up in a way. By coming here and playing he's developed social skills and the ability to interact with others on an equal basis-- and magic was the medium used to learn these skills. Now he's back in a normal school, and though he doesn't have a lot of friends, he's back there doing his best unlike 11 months ago when walking into that building was torture.

Another parent, a mother whose 10-year-old son plays magic, talked to me the last Tuesday. She had brought her son in because he wanted to participate in the Guru program that I'm sure many of you are familiar with. Her son basically has what is called attention defecit disorder[ADD, not to be confused with AD&D as I somtimes do-Orgg] by many members of the medical community. She was hoping that besides helping him with his game that it would help him learn to focus better, as well. I figured it's all good and did my best to teach him what I knew. She tells me now that since the time he's been coming to my Guru sessions that his grades in school have picked up, not only because of being able to concentrate better, but also because he's learning to read. I don't know how many people can understand this fully (I know there are some teachers among us), but when a parent thanks you for helping her child learn how to read it hits you-- It hits you in a way that nothing else can. It lets you know that you've done something that will affect this person for the rest of their life. For this I thank the people at Wizards of the coast who make the cards that, no matter how much we complain or bicker about it, have always kept trying their best to give us something new and interesting. I never did ever earn enough students for a free Guru basic land, but what I gained from one student is worth far more to me then any piece of cardboard.

I think back now even more to the days when the place was packed with players trading and battling it out for pack ante. I can remember each of their faces grinning and babbling away at each other, too many words flying around the room to absorb all of them at once. But they were all happy, completely free of outside worries. They were in what some players would call "the zone," a place where nothing can affect you because you're in the moment, being the moment, breathing the moment. All of this, because of Magic and the togetherness it can bring to people.

Think about it, really. Why do people try for the Pro Tour and PTQ's and grand prix events? Why do some people just play in the lunch room at school? Sure, some are there for the money and trips around the world, but there is a single thing thats bonds all of us, no matter what they are, together.

It's because we all share the same connection through the game, because we are all on the same level, maybe not in play skill, but in the fact that we do play. Through the 7 years I've played I've noticed there is a connection with other magic players that isn't duplicated anywhere else. Its like an invisible thread that binds us all together to the point where you can almost tell who plays or has played just by walking down the street and going past people. Its through this connection that makes a difference in the lives of each other, through the same hobby that we share and use to learn from each other-- not only in strategy and metagame tech, but in personality as individuals. We learn things like a sense of class, self confidence, or just simple good sportsmanship: skills that go past the game, beyond itself and above it to the rest of our lives.

In the entire time I've had my shop, I've missed the reasons why I started it to begin with. I've forgotten who I really am and tried to be a business man just out to make a buck. I did succeed at it for the most part, but I lost the soul behind it all. Now only at the very end of it all do I remember.

So I pass this on to you, the reader. No matter where you are or what your doing, you do make differences in peoples lives around you, whether you notice it or not. At a tournament, at school, the internet, or the local games store, somebody notices you. Don't lose yourself in the maze unless you want to jump out of bed at 4:30am with your brain going a mile a minute as you realize whats been bugging you forever.

In closing I'd like to thank all the members of the CPA for their friendship, and the people at Wizards of the Coast for their hard work and dedication in giving us all something to relate with. For everything else, here are some lines from a song that relates to me many of us when it comes to where we play and who we play with.


Theme to Cheers (extended version) (If someone can tell me who wrote this, btw, I'd really appreciate it.)[Editor's Disclaimer: The Casual Players' Alliance had absolutly NOTHING to do with the makers/former makers of Cheers. We don't challange your right to the song, we are just quoting it, OK?-Orgg]

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got
Takin a break from all your worries, sure would help alot
Wouldn't you like to get away

All those nights when you've got no light, the cheque is in the mail
And your little angel hung the cat up by its tail
When your third fiancee didn't show

Sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see troubles are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name

Rolled out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead, the mornings looking bright
When your shrink ran off to europe and didn't even write
And you husband wants to be a girl
Be glad theres one place in the world

Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna go where people know people are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name

Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came


Cheers,
Nick "Ura" Saviskoff
utpost@netidea.com">outpost@netidea.com

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