Who to Follow – Team RIW

It must have been 2009 or 2010 when I was reading the Top 8 decklists from all of the State Champs events. Someone had jammed a G/U deck that used permission and bounce spells to back up Thornling and other wacky creatures with Auras on them. A lot of people were impressed that a total homebrew managed to do so well at a State Champs event, but some pee-pants in the comments said, “Ya well its Michigan wut do u expect”[sic].

“What does that even mean?” I sort of half-asked-half-shouted at my computer screen, as though the guy could hear my incredulity and would apologize for his error. I prepared myself to type an educational post to him but decided he wouldn’t read it anyway and thought better of it. The comment still bothers me a bit to this day because I wonder whether players outside of Michigan have some sort of impression that Michigan produces bad players and substandard decks. I wonder whether we as a state do a poor job of representing where we’re from. I wonder all of this because someone barely literate made an offhanded comment he probably didn’t even understand in an Internet subforum about four years ago. I probably shouldn’t care, but this idea bored into my subconscious like an insidious little ear worm; only, it makes me think this guy’s dumb idea instead of making me hear “Gangnam Style” or whatever. He got inside my head like in the movie Inception; only, when he opened up the safe in my head, instead of putting a spinning top inside, he just yelled, “DURRR!” into it and slammed the door while it was still echoing.

I didn’t feel that the comment section was a good place for a rebuttal I guess. One could argue that this is not the best venue for a rebuttal either, especially since Spanky (I’ve named that guy Spanky because I can do whatever I want) probably won’t read it, but maybe once I get this off my chest, I will sleep better at night knowing I’ve set the record straight and that Spanky is probably on Magic Online calling Sam Black a noob because he doesn’t recognize his username.

Folks, Michigan has produced more pro players from a single store than some states have produced pro players total. That magical store’s name? RIW Hobbies. Pull up a chair, and let me tell you all about people you should be following.

Ari Lax

Where You Know Him From: He writes articles, some of them here

Current Title: Magic Pro, Student

Social Media: Twitter
GM Article Archive
SCG Article Archive

If you didn’t know Ari was the product of the insane crucible of Magic: The Gathering that was RIW Hobbies, I guess you don’t check out the Team RIW shirt he wears to every event. He’s been Top 8’ing events since the days of the Junior Super Series a decade ago, and he shows no signs of stopping soon. His most recent finish was second at Grand Prix: Providence, the Team Limited Grand Prix this last weekend. He paired with two other Michigan spellslingers Matt McCollough and Alexander John. So, Ari has been grinding for over a decade and came within a hair’s breadth of winning the most recent Grand Prix. Still not convinced that RIW Hobbies produces quality players?

Michael Jacob

Where You Know Him From: SCG

Current Title: Magic Pro

Social Media:
SCG Archives

Another player who sports the trademark red RIW logo with pride (10 Internet points to anyone who can find a picture of Pat Chapin wearing something with an RIW logo on it after 2003), MJ could have easily been the star of “Stream Team, Part 2,” but I wanted a novel theme, and you’re just going to have to sit there and like it. His Jacob’s Ladder series on SCG is entertaining, but the real value is his Twitch stream. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A permanent fixture of the Michigan Magic community, MJ can still be spotted at local Pro Tour Qualifiers and Grand Prix Trials as well as events such as Champs. His contribution to game theory is very valuable, and I like when he and I can agree

Mark Herberholz

Where You Know Him From: The Price Is Right

Current Title: Game developer at Stoneblade Entertainment

Social Media:
SCG Archives
He Still Has a MySpace Page
ChannelFireball "Archives"

Bob Barker learned the hard way not to stand between Heezy and his goals. A fixture in the pro community for over a decade, Mark smashed Pro Tour: Honolulu in its face, but his genius is best exemplified in one of those most epic matches against Kai I’ve ever seen. Both Kai and Mark were facing elimination at PT: Philly in '05. The winner took home $500 bucks—the loser jack and also squat. Playing an early Wear Away on Night of Souls’ Betrayal, Kai tried to dig for a second copy, thinking Mark had blown his one copy of the enchantment-removal spell. In reality, Mark was sandbagging—waiting to top-deck another Wear Away, which would allow him to go off with his Hana Kami combo unmolested. The Night of Souls’ Betrayal in the ’yard allowed Mark to Cranial Extraction for the win. The trick worked, and Mark stole Game 1 from Kai, who said after the game, “Most Gifts deck run only one Extraction and one Wear Away. You run two . . . Wear Away is very good against me.” A full account of the feature match is here.

Maybe not the most epic play in history, but I feel it exemplifies the deep level on which Mark Herberholz thinks about the game. If you thought the list peaked with Heezy, prepare to be proven incorrect.

Patrick Chapin

Where You Know Him From: He’s Patrick Chapin.

Current Title: Patrick Chapin

Social Media:
Facebook Fan Page
SCG Archives

Oh, did I fail to mention earlier that Team RIW has produced a Hall of Famer? It’s worth noting I guess. Author of Next Level Magic, Hall of Fame inductee, innovator of . . . innovative . . . thing, Chapin is among the most recognizable faces in the game today. Despite being a mainstay in the community during the years he was active (see how I glossed right over that controversy?), people still squeal like teenage girls when they see him at a PTQ at Pandemonium Games. Driven toward excellence in all that he does, he strives for greatness at every turn

That’s right: Not only did RIW produce the other heavy hitters I mentioned above, it also spawned “The Innovator” himself. Not bad for one hobby shop. Other notables include Kyle Boggemes, Brian Demars, and a whole host of other recognizable names. This team has consistently produced and molded talent, and if you still feel like writing off results from an event in this state because it’s “just Michigan,” you better think twice.

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