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PAX Day 3 & Wrap-Up

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When my eyes opened I knew I had only just fallen asleep and it was still early. It was dark. It was quiet. I rolled over to see the clock. It was... 9:30am. Oops.

After getting out of bed my primary task is to confirm the world hasn’t ended and that GatheringMagic.com is up. Yup and yup. Alright, my day may now officially begin.

11am. That's my appointment to sit down with Mark Purvis, who you might recall figured prominently in last night’s story. We might go so far as to call him the antagonist of the story as clearly I am the protagonist in my own story. Thus it seems that I should have won our Winston draft match off my awesome self-Incinerate plan. Right? Right. Glad we can all agree.

What was that?

So I get showered (never let them smell you coming... journalism 101. Or was that Sun Tzu. I can never remember.) After that I answer some tweets and emails. Check in with my amazing wife. And get packed up for the day before heading out the door.

I walk up to the Wizards booth at 11am on the dot. Punctual by pure luck. Turns out he’s still talking to the previous appointment. Drat. I end up hanging out with John LeRoy, who works for 360 Public Relations. 360 is a company Wizards works with for media and PR. He and I chat to pass the time. His flight home was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. He’s not sure when he’ll get home. Here’s thinking of you John, get home safe!

Finally Mark’s earlier appointment wraps and I step into the meeting room.

“Just couldn’t wait until 12:30 could you?” He grins at me.

“I can come back. I.. I thought it was 11am.” Were this an episode of Ally McBeal we’d cut to a dream sequence where the door to the room opened to reveal a UPS delivery man carrying my box of ‘fail.’

But this isn’t Ally McBeal (thankfully) and in the end it worked out great as it gave him one long break after we finished. So we sat down and recorded an interview about Innistrad and the upcoming expansion for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012. The interview didn’t have any revolutionary big spoiler content other than to show the physical incarnation of the now oft-tweeted and controversial double-faced cards (DFCs.)

As with many of the people I interact with at Wizards, Mark Purvis is a pleasure to talk with and someone who effortlessly conveys his love for the game of Magic. He’s been a Brand Manager (initially an Assistant Brand Manager and now Senior Brand Manager) for four years. He loves the game. We love the game. Because he is one of us. He’s not some random suit who Hasbro put in place to handle Magic’s business affairs. In fact none of Magic’s higher ups (as far as I know) are they are all people who loved the game so much that they worked their way into Wizards.

Double-Faced cards are clearly going to be a new experience, and last night I did my best to answer questions, clarify, and calm those worried that Magic had jumped the shark.

It happens every time that Wizards makes a major decision or change to ‘our’ game. There’s always a large knee-jerk outcry that they just double-tapped the game before our very eyes. I think Aaron Forsythe’s tweet sums it up nicely:

And here we are 18 years in, and going stronger than ever.

Let’s look at the very worst case scenario here. I mean, let’s assume Wizards completely screwed up and fumbled this in the worst possible way. The cards are over powered in constructed. The time required to laboriously pull them out of the sleeves and flip them over. The added twist to drafting. It all just wrecks competitive Magic down to the FNM level. Worst case scenario right?

Well, we have six months of unpleasant drafting. And they ban 20 cards. Unprecedented. Horrible. And then the game limps through the next year or two before it goes back to being awesome. And a lesson has been learned.

Sure, that all sucks. From top to bottom. It’ll hurt. It’ll suck. It’ll be rough. But the game won’t die. We’ll recover with a new experience and lesson.

So let’s all take some deep breaths and actually put some trust in these people. They’ve been working on this for a long time. As I said last night, they’ve worked on this for a while, and they’ve got some of the best competitive players of all time.

Alright, back to my day’s events.

The discussion with Mark continued and I touched on the upcoming Premium Deck Series “Graveborn” due out later this year. I’ve not yet been impressed by these decks yet, and I said as much to him. His answer was that Wizards had been fairly conservative with these decks but he promises that the PDS Graveborn will have some more cards which are a bit more exciting. Including one with new art from Chris Rahn, though he wouldn’t tell me which card it is.

After wrapping up my discussion with Mark Purvis, before I turned the camera off, Mark says “But we have unfinished business...” He pulls out his deck box and says, “I’ve got my Winston deck all sleeved.”

OH NO!

Flashback to the party last night. I lost the Winston draft game 1 and we decided to stop, looking to instead join the party as it had begun to really fill up and get going. We leave our decks on the little bar table we had been playing on in the VIP area. When I went back to get my stuff, I glanced at the table and it had been bussed. Food and drink cups were gone and I didn’t see my deck. I assumed it had walked off and didn’t much investigate.

Looks like my second delivery of FAIL had arrived for the day.

So I conceded to Mark, his deck was definitely better than mine, I was relying on the bomb of Garruk anyways - I had made the crucial mistake of under-drafting creatures leaving me heavy on spells and light on creatures.

After that, I grab my gear and head out to hand-cam it and shoot video on the PAX floor. I snagged plenty of b-roll footage to edit together into a rock music fueled montage that I’ll share in the coming week or two.

The only non-Magic game I really recall playing was giving the MMO ‘APB Reloaded’ a shot. I had beta tested the original APB: All Points Bulletin which failed in spectacular fashion after an absurd amount of money was poured into its development. So they relaunched the game under a free to play platform and it looked pretty good, were I someone with free time I’d consider checking it out, though the mechanics still seemed fairly on par with the original, and that was part of its downfall I think. We’ll see I suppose.

After making a few circuits of the event hall I then I made my way down to the Annex where MTG was being played. I looked around a bit and happened to time it so that I got to watch as the Totally Rad Show guys recorded a segment about playing in a MiniMaster event here at PAX. I’m not just plugging their show, I swear. I happened to run into them again.

Anyways, after that I then went and found one of those holy grails of any Con. A table with a power outlet nearby. Setting down my stuff I plug in my camera to charge, eager to have it fully powered for the upcoming World Building panel.

As I’m sitting and resting my feet, an under appreciated activity after three days of a convention, who should walk up but Scott Larabee. Scott’s also been mentioned multiple times in these posts as we keep crossing paths or gaming. We chat about a bunch of stuff, my conversations with him are always off the record, but in truth there isn’t much in there to tell.

He was hanging out until Brian David-Marshall (PT Historian & Commentator) finishes up a draft so that Commander can be played. We chat about the game, the party last night, etc. After relocating to be closer to BDM’s event, so as to not miss the opportunity to play, Scott asks to see my Kiki-Jiki deck for some ideas of a deck of his own. In truth though he ended up sharing ideas on cards that my deck was in need of.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to play Commander, the clock rang and I had to get going to the World Building panel. BDM did eventually win his draft though.

The panel took place in the Sheraton in the ‘Kraken’ ballroom. I find the hotel easily enough and ascertain that there is a room for queueing for the panel. It’s got tape on the floor drawing out a magically powerful queue preventing people from jumping line or causing other socially unpleasant incidents.

Being that I have a pretty yellow Media pass and wanted to setup a camera for recording, I hit up one of the volunteers for the convention, called “Enforcers.”

“Do you know if I can go into the hall early to setup my camera equipment?”

Translation: “I’m too good to stand in line with the plebians and unwashed masses, please escort me to your VIP area.”

“Sure, just go on into the room.”

Achievement unlocked. The universe confirms: I win.

I head to the room and the Wizards people are there and we get into the hall to setup. Inside I notice that the panel is not set for just three people as advertised. Instead, the entire Creative team is on the panel:

  • Mark Purvis (not Creative team)
  • Brady Dommermuth
  • Richard Whitters
  • Jeremy Jarvis
  • Doug Beyer
  • Jenna Helland
  • Adam Lee

I found an awesome position that kept me up front but also out of the way of all the people in the hall. I know there were concerns about how many people would show up for this sort of panel at the end of the Con in the Sheraton.

Well, let me tell you. Approximately 300. The room seated 350 and while there were empty chairs it was largely full of Magic nerds eager to soak in the Vorthos flavor and learn about how Wizards makes the story that goes to the greatest game of all time.

I recorded the entire panel, though the camera work suffered as I tried to tweet spoilers as they went up. You’ll just have to accept that I was a little slow to change from time to time, but the audio on this should be pretty awesome.

I noticed that the Enforcers who ran the room were also recording the audio from the sound system onto their laptop. After inquiring they were more than happy to provide it if I had a thumb drive.

“Sure no problem!” I dive into my backpack and root around confident in the ever present thumb drive. Turns out I didn’t have one. I frantically grab people after the panel wrapped asking if anyone has one I can use. I want good audio!

No dice.

Crap.

So I go back to my backpack to check again, just in case I missed something. Turns out I did. But it wasn’t a thumb drive. It was a soon-to-be extinct Flip camera. The Flip cameras are amazing and don’t deserve to be extinct so soon after they went big. Sadly their technology is probably also what has made them extinct as they probably helped enable smart phones to rapidly up their quality. Thus making it so those one-use gadgets couldn’t compete with the mini supercomputers we now carry in our pockets.

But for this one shining moment, my Flip camera was the hero.

I carry it purely as a backup in case something happens and my main camera fails. It’s not HD. It doesn’t let me input audio from a mic. It’s there in case something big happens and I need to get it on camera. Or in this case, I need to move a 600 meg audio file for audio for an awesome panel.

Awesome.

With that worked out I go to the front panel and start shaking hands and introducing myself face to face. As it turns out most of them know me for the site, and are fans of Vorthos Wednesday. It was awesome to get to tell them all that their work is appreciated. For it Richard Whitters presented me with his panel doodle. He had been drawing for much of the panel and I got the outcome: A baby Garruk running. You can see a tiny rhino running in front of him, and a pacifier that flew out of his mouth. A fun sketch and one I’ll keep for a long while. Will post a pic on twitter once I get it scanned.

As I finished shaking hands and my bag was packed I was hit with a sudden realization: PAX was done. This was the final event of the convention for me and now I had to return to the real world. Well, to be fair... I’m only home for 3 days before I leave for Pro Tour Philly. #sickbrags

As I left the Sheraton and made my way back to the hotel, I envisioned a John Hughes-esque final freeze shot with me jumping in the air and raising my fist in victory after an awesome event.

This was my first PAX but I can safely say that I am hooked and am eager to keep coming back to descend into an awesome event. Having been a longtime veteran of the Atlanta nerdfest that is Dragon*Con, I had some idea what a major convention like this would be like - and I was not disappointed.

Now, here’s to hoping I avoided the PAX Pox and I won’t be sick come Philly.

Shout Outs

Tolena, Whitney, and the others behind the Innistrad Party - While I have no previous party to compare the party to, I can say that this was an awesome party and I had a fantastic time. Even without the excitement around the Innistrad previews, I had a great time.

Mark Purvis - For his great interview, our Winston draft, and all the other stuff he’s done for Magic.

Mark Purvis, Tolena, Marcy, Paul Levy - All four of these people tirelessly encouraged and told me I needed to come out to PAX, even beyond the current year. Three years ago it began and this year it finally happened. Thanks guys for endlessly urging me to make the trek.

Robby Rothe - It was awesome hanging out with Robby on Saturday, major shout outs to him for his approach to Magic, PAX and life in general. Great guy and eager to hang out with him again!

Nathan Weizenbaum - Ran into him at PAX and was overjoyed to finally meet him in person. Also met his lovely girlfriend Liz. Sorry we didn't get to play commander guys, next time!

PAX Enforcers - As a volunteer at another convention, I appreciate the volunteers who helped make the con run and were always willing to provide directions or help.

Scott Larabee - For the fantastic discussions and being a champion of Commander. I appreciate all you do my friend!

Mark Rosewater - For coming up to me during the Innistrad party and throwing himself on the grenade so I could grill him on the set.

BDM - For being a generally awesome guy, a font of knowledge of food and movies, and doing all you do for the game.

Yuuya Watanabe - Winning GP Pittsburgh, he's on an incredible tear. I think he should change his name to Yuuya Wannabelikeme.

Totally Rad Show - Awesome meeting them and here's hoping they make it to worlds this November.

@Sunie_FDC - Awesome finally meeting face to face! She's awesome, great for the game, and a hard working gamer gal. Major props!

My Wife - She puts up with an ubernerd husband who takes off to Seattle for a gaming convention the weekend before he goes to Philly for the Pro Tour. #wifeplug

Here's to PAX 2012!


So give me some feedback guys, did you enjoy these write ups? What sort of stuff do you want to read more about on my journeys? I'll be doing these more in the future based on the response and traffic, just looking for some guidance on how to improve them down the road.

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