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The Gen Con Diaries:
Did you ever keep a diary, log or journal? I had to keep a journal when I started teaching, so I decided to do the same for this weekend. To cut to the chase, this piece will comment on casual vs. competitive play, the scene at Gen Con, and some PTQ results to keep you interested. I think this will be a rant/reflection article. I wonder if rant/reflection will be a new split card? Perhaps in Unglued 2 (someday… someday… probably not) but I digress! If I ever had a diary, it would look like this:
flooding in Chicago – it’s a great way to start the weekend. After a slow start, we get to the hotel and convention mid to late afternoon. Matt jumped into an IBC sealed deck and I hit the booster drafts. By the end of the night, I finished four of them!
|Set: Classic Sixth Edition|
Artist: David Ho
Text: Put a creature card from your hand into play. You may pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2. If you don't, sacrifice it.
Draft #1 – I lost first round to an awesome Milwaukee player. I played G/R/W. Seemed like a good idea at the time…
Draft #2 – I made it to the finals because my semi-final Milwaukee opponent got mana screwed. We both played B/U/R and it was my best draft of the night.
Draft #3 – I lost to a player from New York. Awesome! This guy was a super nice guy and a great opponent. I wish I could have given him more of a challenge, but sometimes, nothing comes together…
Draft #4 – I lost my first round with my long-shot drafting strategy. I was drafting a five-color-green deck with Cromat
as a surprise in my Apocalypse
Sub Type: Legend
Artist: Donato Giancola
Text: WB: Destroy target creature blocking or blocked by Cromat. UR: Cromat gains flying until end of turn. BG: Regenerate Cromat. RW: Cromat gets +1/+1 until end of turn. GU: Put Cromat on top of its owner's library.
pack. Did I see the mana fixers during the game? Nope. Did I die? Yep.
Artist: L. A. Williams
Text: Remove all permanents from the game. Discard your hand.
Let’s pause for a moment. What knowledge can you gain from a report expounding on how badly I did. Well, not much, but I can tell you how I felt about drafting at the Con. There was a great divide on the first day between good drafters and bad drafters. I am sometimes in either category, but it was an intimidating and annoying evening.
I am speaking directly to the impatient grunts and groans of drafters and the subliminal intimidation that goes along with the game. I never see this behavior when I draft in any store, but when I get to a convention, the egos get wild and people put pride on the line. I have been drafting for the last five Gen Cons, and I felt that the drafts are very unfriendly. I was lucky to play against great people, but there were others at my tables who (to put in bluntly) were jerks.
Many may say, “If you can’t stand the fire, get out of the kitchen.” That’s fine, and they would probably be right. However, what happens when every casual player, that can afford to play, decides not to play any other tournament for that weekend, month, or year based on a string of bad experiences? Sounds like we all would be out of a card-game, right? Well, if I had any advice for a group of strangers getting together to have fun at a convention draft table, it would be to “have players respect you by performance, and not by arrogance.”
This was more evident when my friend Matt won his IBC sealed deck. He took first place and grabbed a box of booster packs. Everyone at the final table was joking, cheering, and laughing. What did they have in common? When talking to them, they were all casual players! Only one or two had an IBC deck, and most were happy to be in the top 16 at the end of the night.
I was jealous. Here my friend played for eight rounds and had a great time all of the way. I, on the other hand, paid and played in four tournaments and didn’t have half as much fun as he did. I made a decision right there and then: I was only going to play in fun tournaments that weekend. No PTQs. No drafts. No big-prize events. No type 2. My plan was set, and Friday was amazing.
We sleep in. We miss the PTQ. Darn. Did I have dreams of breaking a deck like Bill’s Blue-Green Machine in Origins? Of course I did! Did I have a new and profound deck? Nope. Was I mentally prepared to play? Nope. Did I have fun during the day? Yep.
So here is what you do to have a fun, casual day playing at a convention:
First, find when the PTQ is taking place. This will take a lot of the aggressive players out of the mix. I don’t want to say that aggressive players are annoying. Actually, I assume that only 25% get underneath my skin. However, all of that 25% will be in that PTQ. Guaranteed!
Second, find another tournament that will start before the third round of the PTQ. Many people go 0-2 and then drop. To make their day better, they will get into another tournament to smash some heads. If you are looking for a fun tournament, did you want to face an angry PTQ-hopeful who dropped $25 to play in a constructed event - only to lose twice and drop? I didn’t think so.
Thirdly, pick a sealed-deck tournament. Casual competitors gravitate to sealed deck because it doesn’t rely on drafting strategies or current “tech” in the field. Everyone has pretty much a winning combination of cards in their hands. It’s up to the players to find it. Now, I know some people would argue that “sealed-deck is sealed-luck and it doesn’t measure the quality of a REAL magic player.” Well, those people are playing in the PTQ – so there is none of that complaining at your table.
Fourth and final, pick an OLD sealed deck. I would have picked an Ice Age block if it was offered. Well, they had a Mercadian Masques block sealed, so Matt and I got into the mix.
My four steps worked great as every opponent was a joy to talk to and play against. You know the group is positive when your previous opponent will talk to you in later rounds to encourage and discuss how things were going. I remember two games in that night when there was actual laughter. Every game made me want to play another.
At the end of the night, I was seated in the top eight in the same atmosphere that my friend Matt experienced the night before. Well, maybe it was him since he got second place prize that day. To have both of us in the top 8 was a bonus in itself.
The day started off right when I received a tournament report by Adam Fischer. He made top 6 in Friday’s PTQ. Anything I said bad about a “PTQ” player is negated by this guy. We met in Origins though a mutual friend, Johnny Lai. I spent the morning (before my 7 a.m. McDonald’s breakfast) posting the article and reading how well he did. Unfortunately, Adam wasn’t going to join us in the afternoon’s festivities. Adam was bound to qualify as Johnny Lai, Matt, Eric Weissman, and I were striving to be “The Master of Peasant Magic”.
Before the common constructed deck tournament, I ran into a good friend, Troy Skinner. He hooked up with Eric Taylor for a long drive to play in the Saturday PTQ. Excited by Aaron Breider’s Friday PTQ victory, the fellow Michiganers headed into the IBC block to battle for the top slot. I wished Troy luck, gave Eric a t-shirt, and headed to test my peasant/common deck with Johnny.
I won’t give away the ending to that story – Johnny is going to be writing the article for us, and you’ll want to read it in the Common Corner. The organizer and his wife were very cool to talk to. Even though I didn’t do so well, I spent the rest of the day playing casual games and cheering on my friends in the process.
Saturday was a day of friendship as Lai, Crofoot, Weissman and I went out to dinner. Veal buffet! Yum. On the way back from dinner, I saw Troy and Eric leaving from the PTQ. Troy pointed to him and said, “He did it!” I shook Eric’s hand and felt good about having two Michigan players take the slots at Gen Con. Awesome.
Adam came back to play a casual five-man booster with us. We had our Card-Shark shirts on, and we played the night away. It was a perfect way to end the con since I had to leave on Sunday.
Props go to Jen, Runi, Thea, Ann-Marie, Eric, Thomas, Johnny, Adam, Eric W. and the rest of the crew that made the weekend so enjoyable. Kudos go to Professional Entertainment Services who did a great job in running the tournaments that weekend. Cheers to the Peasant Magic players and promoters who encouraged the scene. Praise goes to Aaron Breider and Eric Taylor who took the PTQ slots. Finally, special thanks goes to my long-lost brother Matt who encouraged me not to quit the game three years ago and keep all of my common cards and decks.
I spent the last two days reflecting on the convention, and I feel great about it. I didn’t win as much as I did in previous events, but I never had as much fun as I did this year.
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