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Ari Lax – Worst Human Being or Just Worst Magic Player?

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Did you know that PT Khans of Tarkir winner and Magic Pro Ari Lax was LITERALLY THE WORST HUMAN BEING TO SHUFFLE AND MULLIGAN?

It's true. Ari Lax won the Pro Tour, but he got there by trampling on the hopes and dreams of his opponents on the way.

Did you happen to catch this disgusting display of bad sportsmanship?

For those people at work, I'll give you notes.

  • 53:51 Close-up on Yuuya Watanabe's face for some reason because we probably don't want to see Ari's topdeck
  • 54:00 Ari cracks a fetchland and goes searching for a Plains
  • 54:04 Ari presents his deck to Yuuya to shuffle
  • 54:07 Ari checks life totals on his pad
  • 54:11 Ari disrespectfully throws a tapped Zurgo at Watanabe like a shuriken
  • 54:12 You can hear Ari say under his breath "Anata no senzo no hajidearu" which roughly translates to "you're a disgrace to your ancestors"
  • 54:15 Watanabe stares at the board, mystified
  • 54:16 Ari says "You're dead, you're just too dumb to know it" and flips Watanabe the bird with both hands
  • 54:18 Ari extends his hand for a handshake, but when Watanabe reaches for it to shake it, Ari withdraws it and runs the hand through his hair while making a fart noise with his mouth

Clearly Ari is the worst sport of all time.

Right?

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I got the video clip from this tweet by Chris Pikula, a respected member of the community. A lot of people seem to be somehow disappointed in Ari and acting like Ari actively disrespected his opponent. For a bit of context, this is Ari's first Pro Tour Top 8. (Edit: the video isn't from the Top 8, it was from round 10. It's important to note it was his first Top 8 to frame how he was treated after he won, but it doesn't change the fact that when this was shot, he didn't know he would Top 8 or win). It also seems like a great deal of the expressions of disappointment at Ari's displays of emotion were retroactive upon him winning the event.

The entire tempest in a teacup has led to a lot of hyperbole and a lot of strong emotions on both sides of the debate. If you can't tell, I'm pretty squarely in Ari's camp and I'm not the only one.

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Is Spruke onto something? Is Ari genuinely a scumbag or would we treat this incident like Craig Jones' Lightning Helix if we knew more about who Ari was?

What we could do is ask someone who has known Ari for years and grew up playing in the same area.

You know. Me.

Q&A

Q: Thanks for joining us, Jason.

A: No problem, glad to be finally interviewed by myself.

Q: So let's get down to it. Is Ari Lax a disrespectful dick?

A: No

Q: Care to elaborate?

A: OK, here's the deal. Ari is neither super likeable nor super unlikeable. Ari's not Reid Duke - he's not going to stop on his way to a photoshoot with his trophy to help some randos pushstart their car and have that be the story of the entire tournament, but he's not a cheater and he didn't start all the drama that is surrounding him. He's just a good Magic player who has been groomed from an early age by guys like Pat Chapin and Mark Heberholtz on Team RIW. If he seems arrogant it's because most Magic players seem arrogant.

I've lost plenty of matches against Ari over the years and if this were an actual incident worth caring about, I'd be the first one to condemn him. This is a non-issue and all of the reports about his "disappointing conduct" seem rooted in jealousy and a general dislike for him as a person more than actual condemnation of his behavior.

Q: Well, couldn't it be said you're just an Ari Lax sycophant who is sticking up for him because you like him so much?

A: The last time I saw Ari Lax was at a pub two blocks from GP Worcester. Ari wasn't playing the event and neither was I. It was Sunday morning and Slick Jagger, Time Elemental and I were nursing hangovers with pancakes and Bloody Marys. Ari walked in with two friends, I turned around to see who came in and waved when I saw it was him. He made eye contact with me, saw I was waving, and didn't acknowledge me. So, no, I'm not sticking up for him because I like him.

Here's the takeaway lesson, folks.

How you feel about a person is going to color your perception of their behavior. If you think they're a jerk, everything they do is going to seem jerky. If you think they're a saint, everything they do is going to come across saintly.

Nothing Ari did at the PT, whether it was narrating his opponents' turns, having friends scout opponents' decks so he knew their outs or even slamming a game-winning topdeck was really poor enough sportsmanship that we wouldn't chalk it up to the general course of Magic for any other player if we happened to like that person better. Were the roles reversed, I'm not sure I could see Ari Lax tweeting that Chris Pikula slamming a game-winner was "not cool at all" or anyone else saying it for that matter. It was the result of a lot of emotion surrounding a tense, important final game in a pivotal match that he had won for turns and turns but couldn't find a source of white.

He's not a poor ambassador to the game, he didn't disrespect Watanabe or anyone else over the weekend and this entire issue seems sad and unfortunate considering other PT winners get to bask in the glory of their achievements and don't have to deal with a wave of negativity in the wake of what should be the best weekend of their life. If you personally dislike Ari, fine, whatever. But let's not pretend how much someone dislikes him means he's a poor sport.

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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37 thoughts on “Ari Lax – Worst Human Being or Just Worst Magic Player?

      1. To be fair, as someone who had NO prior context what-so-ever on what was going on or any knowledge that this incident even happened (I didn’t get to watch the draft portion on Saturday), I absolutely thought Ari actually did those things. Glad to know you were merely being facetious.

        1. I thought the whole “disgrace to your ancestors” in Japanese thing was pretty obvious. I’m glad you’re relieved that he’s not that douchey.

          1. Sometimes sarcasm just doesn’t get through. The majority of people doesn’t even know who Ari is, besides his winning Abzan list, let alone the fact that people are talking trash about him. Worse yet, you could just as easily have been sarcastic in the latter half of your article and not the first half. There’s no way to tell.

            I watched the entire constructed portion of the coverage, and I think Ari (and everyone else) was fine. If someone finds him rude though, I don’t disagree simply because we all have different opinions on what is rude and what is not.

  1. Yeah, when I saw Pikula’s tweet I was expecting something more egregious. Once I watched the clip, all I could think was, “Seriously? People are annoyed at THAT?”

    1. You can see that Ari is abrasive every time he is under the lights. Just watch the first 3 minutes of the finals. Playing out of turn. Talking through each opponents plays, untapping and drawing before it was his turn. He is like a 12 yo boy with no attention span, patience, or tact.

      1. Or he was making minor errors because he was the most nervous he’s ever been in his whole life. Stress talking is also a thing people do to try to stay calm and logical

  2. I actually enjoyed watching Ari on camera because he was fairly talkative. I like that in my Magic pros. Sure, his game-winning plays were a bit aggressive, but hell I would’ve been just as excited if I had been in his shoes. I would much rather have animated, exhulting Ari than the typical stoic/utter silence/speak only when announcing plays/annoyed when you attempt small talk type of players that I regularly see.

  3. It doesn’t change the overall point, but:

    > For a bit of context, this is Ari’s first Pro Tour Top 8

    is not the correct context. This happened in round 10, a long way from the top 8.

    1. Good point. Saying “this is his first Top 8” is context for how the weekend went overall, but at this point he didn’t know that was going to happen.

  4. “Nothing Ari did at the PT, whether it was narrating his opponents’ turns, having friends scout opponents’ decks so he knew their outs or even slamming a game-winning topdeck was really poor enough sportsmanship that we wouldn’t chalk it up to the general course of Magic for any other player if we happened to like that person better”

    Yeah. I have friends that are A’ holes. They are my friends, but it doesn’t change the fact..

  5. I was looking for all of these happenings for the past 10 minutes. I expect you to pay for this months subscription fees for your misinformation and tricks, Jason.

  6. I have no horse in this race; I have watched exactly two online MtG events in my life. I doubt I could pick RIch Hagon out of a lineup in a Turkish prison. I watched a lot of Pro Tour KTK this weekend (only so many things you can do while taking care of a sick baby) and I never saw Ari do anything that I would consider bad sportsmanship, showboating, etc. The community’s reaction doesn’t surprise me much- MtG players seem to be off-put by displays of charisma and emotion.
    Make eye contact- you’re acting intimidating.
    Talk to your opponents- you’re trying to distract them.
    Say “good game”- you’re rubbing it in their face.
    Play a card with any sense of emotion- you’re a showboat.
    What does it say about the community when it insists that the pros are allowed to do nothing but shoegaze and shuffle the 3 cards in their hand once every 0.13 seconds (seriously, what’s up with that?)? If you want quiet, emotionless, stoicism in your game, may I suggest robot chess.
    It’s ridiculous stuff like this that keeps me planted squarely at the kitchen table instead of going out and playing at the LGS. I have no interest in dealing with such histrionics from a bunch of neckbeards who foam at the mouth wanting to point out and gloat over every mistake I make but then cry foul if I sigh or say “darn” when I lose by top-decking a land.
    God save us all from hypocritical armchair planeswalkers.

  7. Glad this is a wasted article spot defending an apparent douche. If anyone shuffled/cut my deck like Ari did, and then slammed their finger into the top of it I would slap the lips off his face.

  8. It’s not about whether you like Ari or not. And it’s not about whether Ari shows emotion or not. It’s about showing that emotion on the opponents side of the table. That’s the line between being a bully or not. When he flips that Zurgo, he doesn’t just flip it onto the table and he doesn’t just slam it onto the table. He slams it onto Watanabes side of the table and onto some of Watanabes cards.

    When he topdecked the Elspeth in the quarterfinals he claps his hands which, as clapping hands can do, produces a sharp and aggressive noise (especially in an otherwise quite environment). It’s not that he showed emotion, it’s that his way of showing excitement gets on his opponents side of the table.

    All the table talk, all the claps, all the slams, and all the slams onto his opponents cards are meant to distract and disrupt his opponents. And distracting the opponent like that is totally legal. He won the pt, he played well, and he deserved the win (he picked a great deck, tested, etc.). But he acted like a bully on the way to that win.

    1. Yes he may have (I guarantee unintentionally) slammed zurgo on a half inch of his opponents cards, in a matter that I guarantee could not cause any harm to the cards either of them received for free anyway. I will concede that, but if you truly believe that making a sound makes you a bully you should do the world a favor and never go outdoors again because I guarantee you will get “bullied”

  9. My only concern is this: please everyone, ask your opponent if it’s OK to riffle shuffle their deck before you start the match. Many don’t mind, but more (like myself) do not want that. I hope seeing it done by the pros on coverage does not encourage mistreatment of people’s property. Thanks.

  10. Half the players were up in arms over someone saying good game. I don’t see a single comment from them about a player slamming a card down for the win…? Please enlighten me

    Yeah, about the rifle shuffling. I politely tell my opponent not to do it. That’s all it has ever taken. If it happened again, I would happily grab the deck from his hands.

  11. I’m just sad for Ari Lax, because this moment has been completely ruined for him. Whether you believe that his actions on the way to the Pro Tour victory were fine or awful, the fact is that the reception that he receives now after winning the Pro Tour is far more subdued than it has been for anyone else in quite awhile.

    Previous to this, Ari produced a lot of content for StarCity Games. As far as I could tell, he gained a lot of respect from people for the quality of his articles and analysis. He also produces top notch video content. He seemed to be a well-respected member of the pro community, at least from my limited perspective as a “random” MTG consumer that isn’t personally hooked into the pro scene. I don’t know the guy personally, but what I’ve seen of his content and reception indicated knowledge and respect from other people.

    Now, however, some people will never see Ari as anything more than a showboating jackass, regardless of anything else that he ever does around this game. After one weekend, a young man in his mid-20s has thousands of people that now hold him in the same esteem as they would a chronic cheater, or violent bully, and that honestly just makes me sad, whether he deserves it or not.

  12. Let’s give Ari the benefit of the doubt and assume that he does have respect for his opponents. Based on his analysis videos and articles, I believe he does. Let’s stipulate that the tension is high in these situations, and that emotion is a part of the game.

    Does this somehow excuse disrespectful behavior? Not in my opinion. Throwing your cards onto your opponents battlefield is disrespectful and discourteous, as is clapping and reacting aggressively after a win or a top deck in the face of an opponent.

    I’m not mad at him, but it’s ok to scrutinize this behavior as antithetical to the spirit of the game. We can only speculate as to the reason behind it: lack of emotional maturity, lack of control in tense situations, but the reason doesn’t matter that much. If local players decide to showboat as a result of this example, that is on them, not Ari. I believe he will regret it to some extent eventually, but hopefully we can forgive him and continue to learn from his insights into the game.

    Criticizing someone’s behavior as ‘not cool’ is fine. It wasn’t cool. I can’t recall another pro tour winner behaving in such a manner. Craig Jones had no tendency towards overreaction when he top-decked the lightning helix, so it is different.

    Calling him a douche or a bully is worse, though, imo. What the #@% do we know anyway? I imagine if he wins a major tournament again in several years, we will not see this behavior, as he will have learned to stay in control after having been there and done that.

    Good luck, Ari, and congrats, but tone it down a little next time, please.

  13. Regardless of how you feel about Ari Lax, I think he is vital to the future of the Pro Tour. Here’s why:

    I thoroughly enjoyed cheering against Lax. I hated watching him win. I thought he was rude and disrespectful to his opponents. At the same time, this was wonderful. It made me actually care about watching for something other than the deck techs. I watched the Top 8 almost entirely to see who would beat Lax and how he would react.

    Last weekend I watched the Grand Prix Top 8 just to see if Melissa DeTora would win. Similar narrative impact.

    If Wizards wants to grow the game, they need more polarizing characters like Ari Lax.

    10/10

    I would root against him again.

  14. One time I was playing ZZW draft with some crazy guy called Kelly Reid and he literally chewed up my Mordant Dragon, sleeved up the remnants, and taped up the sleeved, dismembered dragon as a warning to all other red bomb rares. What a jerk!

    Can we just realize that emotional reactions are fun when they’re done in good fun?

  15. Ok… watching the PT this year (not participating), I believe it is refreshing to see an animated player. How drool it can be when you have people deadpanning, reciting card text (which at that level, they almost always know what each card reads verbatim, right down to the flavor text), or just otherwise being stoic.

    Head games are part of the game itself or any card game for that matter, not just the math and statistical analysis.

    Shaking a hand and saying “Good Game” is not rubbing anything at anybody.

    Slamming a card down, is excitement for an awesome top deck win.

    Talking to an opponent… dear god, not human interaction, can’t have that!

    Nothing I saw was rude, nor distasteful by any means.

    Showboating? I never saw a Terrel Owens moment.. anywhere.

    To Ari, Good on you for acting like a Kirk, in a game full of Spock.

  16. I also had no idea of what happened here and it was not clear that you were making that shit up. All I’ve heard of Ari since I started getting into Mtg a few months ago is how big of a jerk he is (yet I haven’t seen it myself). I was scouring the video looking for some of the things you mentioned and proof of his horrible sportsmanship. Look at the youtube comments, there are others as well. Stop responding to people like they’re idiots for not noticing.

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