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CardShark Content - K. David Ladage (1/29/2005)

My seventeen-year-old brother (Eddie) lives in Warsaw, MO (about 100 miles South-East of Kansas City). I live in Marion, IA (just outside of Cedar Rapids). When the two of us decided that we would like to spend a weekend together playing Magic, hanging out with each other, and just having a good time... well, to be honest, the first thing to worry about was the logistics of this situation. We had to figure out just how this was going to work. After all, he has to go to school, and I have work.

As it turns out, the Betrayers of Kamigawa Pre-release gave us a good excuse, while solving some of our problems. The location of Des Moines, Iowa proved a good middle-ground. To be honest, I had to do a lot less driving to get there; but then I was bringing along my 20-month old son, so it all evens out.

About three weeks ago (while I was on a two-day trip down to Warsaw to visit that side of my family), he and I decided that we were going to the pre-release. Within a week, we were making hotel reservations, and spending a lot of time talking about what we were going to do there. This meant that we were talking about articles we had read about these sorts of events. After all, neither of us had ever been to one of these before. As a matter of fact, neither of us had ever been to a sanctioned event of any kind before.

Perhaps a little background is in order: I started playing Magic: The Gathering shortly after Alpha was released. I was living in El Cajon, CA at the time (I was in the Navy), and a local game store was very good about letting me know about the new, cool things happening in gaming. I knew of Wizards of the Coast (I had a few of the ´´Primal Order
Primal Order
Primal OrderSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
David A. Cherry
Text:
During each player's upkeep, Primal Order deals to that player an amount of damage equal to the number of nonbasic lands he or she controls.
´´ books that had done) and so this whole collectable card game thing seemed interesting. I started collecting and playing cards almost immediately. Around the time of Mirage/Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
, circumstances in my life left me with limited play time, and I eventually stopped collecting. This was not helped by the fact that a large portion of my collection was stolen. I still played once in a while, but didn't purchase new cards at all.

Now, skip forward a bit: It is mid-to-late 2004; I have not been collecting cards for a long time; I have sold off what remained of my collection years earlier; I am no longer in the Navy; I am married and I have a young son. Several of my friends start getting back into the game, and the bug strikes. I purchase some commons from friends, co-workers, and game shops. I then buy some Mirrodin block cards and I have been playing regularly ever since.

Eddie (my brother) had picked up some cards around the time of the Odyssey block. He liked the game, the art, and the ideas... but he had nobody to play with. So, he maintained a small collection (two or three hundred cards at the most). He had a lot of people around him playing Yu-Gi-Oh... he did not care to play the game that much himself, but he did buy some to trade and re-sell with people he knew.

Skip forward to that trip down to visit him and the rest of my family: I looked over his cards, purchased him a couple of pre-constructed decks from Champions of Kamigawa, and taught him the basic rules of the game. He really liked it once he got a chance to play a few games. So I picked him up a Tournament Pack as well and showed him a few things about how to modify the pre-constructed decks to make them fit his play style better. It turns out that my brother-in-law (Ron, who also lives in Warsaw, MO) used to play Magic and was willing to be my brother's opponent on a semi-regular basis. After less than a week, Eddie had discovered a small, but enthusiastic group of players in Warsaw. He was pretty happy -- cool cards, people to play with, and a pre-release event coming up.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to understand that both my brother and I casual players. We don't normally do tournaments. We build decks that include cards that look cool, or have interesting abilites... and may or may not work together. We play the game purely for the joy of the game. I am a sold ´´Johnny´´ style player (I like finding odd, or interesting combinations, and seeing if I can get the deck to perform as an 'engine' or sorts; my current favorite being my ´´Return of the Men From Atlantis´´ deck and my variation of the deck published here on CardShark, ´´Titania
Titania
TitaniaSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
6
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Power:
+2
Toughness:
-5
Text:
You may play an additional land each of your turns.
's Other Song´´). Eddie, on the other hand, is a ´´Timmy´´ style player (he loves the big creatures, and would love nothing better than to pound you into the dirt with them). I had to really pound the idea of mana curves into his head -- he would rather his deck have a few more 5/5 creatures in it than some puny little 1/1. Add to this that neither one of us is particularly skilled at deckbuilding and what you have is a recipe for disaster, right?

No. Not really. I have been told that, of all of the formats and types of events that you can play in, Pre-release is a great event for people like Eddie and me. Most of the people in such events will be there to play and have fun. The whole environment is not nearly as stress-filled and serious as a PTQ or Grand Prix, for example.

Oh, and while I am thinking about it, a bit before the pre-release, I noticed the ´´free T-shirt´´ offer on CardShark. I let them know that I would be going, and so would my brother (I had recently gotten him to start using CardShark as well). I gave them the sizes of shirts we would need and it was not long before I had two shits, a couple of cool CardShark pens, CardShark M:tG score pads, and some ´´Equip Yourself´´ ad cards. Thanks guys!

My son and I arrived at the hotel in Des Moines around 7:00 pm on Friday, the night before things began. Eddie and my mother (who was there to drive Eddie to the event) and to watch my son for me while I was playing) arrived a couple of hours later. My son immediately wanted to play with his ´´mammaw´´ and so Eddie and I were free to go check things out where the games were to be played.

It turns out that the hotel staff was prepping two rooms -- one was for the Magic pre-release, the other was for the try-outs in a Teen Beauty Pageant/Modeling Show. I cannot stress how ironic this whole situation seemed to me. I thought, for just a second, this was the sort of thing that Gary Larson would have drawn for THE FAR SIDE.

I met with the guys from Moy Events (the people that were organizing the pre-release) and I have to say -- you will not find a better, nicer, more helpful bunch anywhere. It turns out that the first flight of the tournament was going to take place at midnight, not at 9:00 am as we had thought. Eddie and I thought it over, and decided that we would be getting in immediately. First things first -- we signed up to get our DCI membership numbers. That was painless. And free.

We showed up for the Midnight ´´flight´´ (the term they use for each tournament being played). It took a bit of time, as the organizers were hopping to get 32 players for an event that was being set up word of mouth (the web site indicated that games would not begin for another nine hours). We got the 32 players and by 12:30 am, we were ready to begin.

Both Eddie and I had read the Pre-Release Survival Guide on CardShark (great article, by the way), and so we had some idea of what to expect. We got a paper-bag with one Tournament Pack of Champions and three Betrayers boosters in them, along with a sheet of paper that had the card lists for both sets. We opened packs, registered cards, and put them all (minus basic land) back into the paper sack. We then did something that the veterans of the event called the ´´Magic: The Gathering Hokey Pokey´´ as we passed these bags from player to player until they ended up in someone else’s hands. We then opened the bags, verified that the cards that were marked on the sheet were the cards in the bag, and started building decks.

Eddie and I got our butts handed to us in two, very short matches each. My first match was against a guy that a bit obnoxious -- over serious and everything that I was told these events were not. Eddie seemed to indicate his opponent was much the same. My second match, I lost to a kid named Jake who had to be (at the most) 10 years old. Now, I have played some young players before, and most of them are enthusiastic, but may need some help in keeping track of all of the variables involved in the game. Jake is _not_ one of those kids. He was very enthusiastic, and also very skilled. He played well, enjoyed the game (win or lose) and had a great time. I beat him once, but only because he was not getting any of his flyers into play. Otherwise, he stomped me into the ground like a crash of rhino. It was hard to be upset, as this kid obviously loved the game and playing, to a degree it was almost contagious. I can recall him saying to me three times, as he would draw his card ´´Game Over!´´ He was a lot of fun to play against.

After two match losses, we were out of the running for prizes, so Eddie and I weighed our options: we could continue to play for the fun of it, or we could get some sleep and try again in a few hours, refreshed. We decided to get some sleep first. Neither of us could sleep very well (we wanted to look at our cards and see if we could have built better decks from them). But we managed a three-or-four hour nap. We got up, showered, got a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and dove back into the fray.

One of the first people I met in the morning was Jake. I asked him how he did. He was still a contender until he lost his second round in round 4. He was going to play in the last round anyway, but he fell asleep in the lobby area and had to drop. After talking with him, it turns out that he is the kid of one of the people from Moy Events. So his father was the one trying to wake him and just decided to let him sleep. :)

Moy Events has a system where, as you participate in various events, you get stamps on a card. These stamps indicate how many events you have been in -- as you reach certain milestones, you get discounts on the event entry fee, coupons worth discounts on future events (even other events at that pre-release), or even coupons for free events! So, going into the 9:00 am event, we already had one stamp and were getting our second one. Three stamps and things get cheaper for us. Not a bad system, overall.

As we were getting started, my mother came down and got out pictures. We were sporting our cool blue CardShark T-Shirts. Once I got home after the event, one of the first things I did was send those pictures off to CardShark. You should see them posted on the site soon.

We played another ´´flight´´ and, once again, we got our butts handed to us. Not as badly as before, however. I won my first round, lost my second and third rounds. Eddie lost his first round, won his second, and lost the third round. So, after three rounds, the two of us were no longer in the running for prizes. Everyone we played in this flight was of the ´´not too serious, but there to win´´ category. they were fun games, and we did not mind losing that much. We looked at our options again: continue to play in this flight, or try our hands at the ´´booster draft´´ style games. We decided that it might be fun to try something new.

We signed up for the booster draft. We had to wait for eight players, so we checked out the stuff that was on sale. And, I figure that my seventeen year old brother wanted to be in the lobby anyway: It was crawling with dozens of absolutely gorgeous teenage girls, all participants in the Beauty Pageant/Modeling tryouts.

A friend of mine, Mike, showed up later that day and pointed out that ´´you would think that with all of these beautiful girls running about, the guys in the Magic tournament would take better care in the hygiene department.´´ Unfortunately, one of the concerns that was addressed in the Pre-Release Survival Guide article was on the money -- there were quite a few people within the ´´geek´´ class that were doing all that they could to reinforce the ´´geeks do not bathe´´ stereotype. As sad as that was, to be honest, those girls were so focused on their tryouts that I think they would not have noticed if a herd of wild elephants had gone stampeding through the Magic tournament room.

It was not too long before we had the eight players we needed, and Eddie and I were drafting our very first booster draft. It was cool. I have to say that booster draft is, by far, the most interesting style of play I have been in. You get a strange feeling as you see cards that are, for the most part, generically useful in any deck being passed on to you (I managed to get a Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
Tatsumasa, the Dragon's FangSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
6
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Legendary Artifact - Equipment
Rarity:
R
Number:
270
Artist:
Martina Pilcerova
Text:
Equipped creature gets +5/+5. 6, Remove Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang from the game: Put a 5/5 blue Dragon Spirit creature token with flying into play. Return Tatsumasa to play under its owner's control when that token is put into a graveyard. Equip 3
as my third card, for example, meaning it had passed through two other player's hands untouched). It was evident (from the conversations I had listened to prior to use starting the draft) that several of the eight were going to be heading for the black and red cards. Others were talking about the blue and black (Ninja) decks they wanted to get together. So I drafted Green/White. And I have, what I think anyway, is a good, solid, green/white deck that I managed to draft.

I lost two games in a row, and thus the match (in a single-elimination event), so that was not good. But both times, it was close, relatively evenly matched games, where I was up against a lot of burn and tricks (Blue-Red). Overall, despite my dismal showing, I think I did rather well. And I had fun (which is the important thing). Eddie drafted a Black-Red deck that was fair, but prone to early game problems due to the steep mana curve he had. But once again, he had a good time playing. And his opponent was not obnoxious about it.

By this time, we decided to get some food, and just play some casual games for a while. It was late afternoon, and we wanted to get some sleep that night so we would be ready for the Team Event. With that in mind, Mike brought his cards down from his room and we build some decks. We were playing in the lobby area at an empty table.

Mike is a great guy. He and I were good friends back in our Navy days. He left the Navy and concentrated on school. He is almost finished with his Doctorate in Applied Mathematics, at the University of Nebraska. I left the Navy and concentrated on career. I currently work as the Senior Business Analyst, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Government Systems, Coralville Operations for Rockwell Collins International. Back in the days I stopped playing, so did Mike (we had parted ways, thanks to different military assignments). He has often alluded to the fact that he enjoyed playing the game primarily because I played. We get along very well, and so I can understand. But please note that none of Mike's cards were not stolen from him (as mine were), and he never sold off his collection (as I did). So when he plays, it is with a lot of Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Homelands, Alliances, Mirage, and Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
cards. As we sat in the lobby (now devoid of teen beauty queens, but they would be back the next day) we must have had thirty people come ogle over his cards. Granted, it can be a bit stunning to see a guy put out his third unlimited Sol Ring
Sol Ring
Sol RingSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
T: Add 2 colorless mana to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
. But, Mike is rusty (10 years of no playing will do that), and he is completely unfamiliar with the new cards.

Still, while we played, he received offers for his set of Dual Lands (which he sold), and a few of his Beta cards (which he declined to sell most of). He did, however, sell nearly all of his Alpha commons... Overall, Mike told me that (although he had not intended to sell any cards, he was just there to visit with me and play in the team event) the trip ended up costing nothing, and in the end he left with a profit of over $500. In other words, Mike was buying dinner. :)

So... up we rose on Sunday morning. We again got a shower and a quick breakfast and signed up out team (Mike, Eddie, and me). We were brainstorming for names when one stuck with us: Eddie and I had lost two standard flights, and a booster draft. This was the last format of the pre-release for us to play in -- after this there was nothing left for us to lose in. So, TEAM: NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE was born!

We got our paper-bag again. We opened, registered, and put them all back. We handed these back to the organizers, who then randomized them up and handed them back out. Mike wanted to play green -- any other splash color was fine by him. I wanted blue (I love blue). Eddie wanted to play with the Black and Red (his favorites). So... I helped Eddie build his deck (lots of early creatures, some rat ninja, and some cool burn spells. It was a tough little 40 cards. I put together the blue I wanted and splashed in some white. Mike put together his green, and also splashed some white.

In our first round, we all lost pretty bad. Now, when we signed up for the Team Event, we asked about how these run. After all, none of us knew what the heck we were doing. We were told by the organizers to not worry about much, just play, have a good time, and remember to not talk with each other during the games. This was stressed. No communication at all. The team we played (TEAM: MCBEATDOWN) was talking like there was no tomorrow. Lots of communication. This made me (and Eddie, not sure about Mike) very nervous. It just felt wrong. We did not say anything during play, as we could tell that we were outclassed deck-wise (and skill wise) so it was not like this was causing any change in the results. But it was distracting. Evidently, this was a problem with other teams, as the head judge was out between rounds one and two and made an announcement to stop all of the team communication immediately -- ´´the only ting you can ask of your team is how many games you have won or lost´´ he told the participants.

In our second round, we did better. We played what had to be the nicest, coolest people we met that whole weekend (outside of the Event Staff). They also had the coolest team name in the event - TEAM: FITNESS CELEBRITY JOHN BASDOW.

Mike lost his first game, won his second game, and lost his third game. Eddie had two very, very close games that he eventually lost (one time getting his opponent down to 2 life, the other time down to 1 life). His opponent then sat with him for the rest of the round giving him some tips, showing him where he could tweak the deck a little here and there, and even played another game with him just for fun. They were both playing relatively fast decks, so they had the time.

I had a long drawn out battle with my opponent where I lost the first, then conceded the second after it was evident that we would be there a _long_ time (we both had blue-white decks with a lot of defensive cards), but it would make no difference on the team-level results. All three guys in that team were awesome. If any of you are reading this right now, I would like to thank you for two things: (1) it was obvious that all three of you had actually showered that morning; (2) you helped me make this trip a lot of fun for my brother, who remains one of the most important people in my life. Thanks guys, you were great.

At that point, it was time for Eddie to get back to Warsaw (he had school on Monday, after all), Mike left to get back to Nebraska (he had to teach class on Monday morning), and I had to get a tired 20-month old, and myself back to Marion (I had work to contend with). We all had a quick bite to eat and said our good-byes.

While we were packing all of our things up and getting ready to leave, I noticed two young ladies in a hallway just outside of the lobby area. One of them was crying and the other was trying desperately to console her. From the bits and pieces of the conversation that I could hear over the noise of the hotel, the one that was crying was devastated that she was the last person picked for the pageant gig. Now, I bring this up for this reason: Eddie and I played in two tournament flights, one booster draft, and (with Mike) a Team Tournament. WE LOST EVERY SINGLE EVENT WE ATTENDED. While we were packing and getting ready to leave, our conversations were filled with the fact that we had a blast! We had a great time! We were happy! This girl had effectively ´´won´´ -- but she was on the bottom rung of the ladder of winners, and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I could give a detailed analysis of what I believe this means, but I think you get the idea.


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