Hey, everyone. I am now finally recovering from my icky illness that has had me under the weather for over a week now. Now I am bouncing back to full enthusiasm and expect this article to be more bubbly than the last.
As promised at the end of last week’s article, this one is going to be less about serious Magic and more about all of the fun of the fair that you can have away from the main event at the Pro Tour—and also a little about my travels. With Pro Tours being closed next year, I don’t know what will change, but I hope we will still have GPs to party at . . .
Sadly, I didn’t take my camera, and therefore you will have to use your imagination for some of this. My non-Magic adventures actually started on the way to the GP when I learned about Hurricane Irene after arriving in New York on the Friday before said hurricane hit. I don’t have a TV at home and I don’t read the news on the Internet very often, so I was blissfully unaware of any travel issues that might occur. Luckily, my trip was beautifully planned, and I flew out of JFK on Friday evening, weathered the storm in Pittsburgh, which was unaffected, and then flew into Philadelphia after Irene had passed. Still, I had a bit of a panic attack when they had it on the TVs at passport control. My mother phoned me after I had returned from America. She had decided that I should call ahead to countries I was planning to visit and ask them to pay me to stay at home. I asked her why, and she pointed out that both Japan and the United States had earthquakes shortly before I visited, and that this time the United States suffered a hurricane. Obviously, natural disasters precede my arrival to foreign countries.
Philadelphia was pretty hot and sunny while I was there. Not that I saw much of it, as I was having too much fun at the venue to leave. I did see the bridge, which was very large, and the City Hall, which was very pretty.
I was there for a week before the PT, and each day I walked for fifteen minutes or so to get to the hotel, where a bunch of other UK players were playing. Walking in the United States is amusing; you will be beeped at by multiple taxis, since you obviously don’t actually want to walk anywhere. We spent three happy days play-testing across two beds in a somewhat small room, and then spent our nights trying to find somewhere for dinner that everyone could enjoy. (For reference: I do not enjoy eating in large parties; it’s just far too stressful.)
I was amazed by the food that was available in the States. I’d been once before, but I don’t remember it being as bad. For days, I completely failed to find anywhere to buy fruit. I visited multiple convenience stores, where in the UK you would expect to find some fruit. I could buy multiple flavors of coffee out of vats, and various flavors of doughnuts, and infinite other highly processed food. Seriously, how are all Americans not absolutely huge!? When I asked Gavin Verhey about this, he said it was a daily battle, so I guess I wasn’t just imagining things.
As a vegetarian, I did not try the famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak. The vegetarian variety was nice, but my boyfriend was not particularly excited by the cheesesteak. Saturday evening, we did have really nice Japanese food that was very authentic and reminded me of my trip to Japan. I got to have tofu tempura, which is delicious.
The day before the PT, I hung out in the venue because my boyfriend was trying to LCQ. Sadly, that wasn’t successful, but I did get my sideboard built. I ran into Gavin Verhey, whom I had met in Pittsburgh the previous weekend. Gavin writes for Star City Games and had been trying to LCQ for the main event. He was also unsuccessful, but inquired about what I was going to be running in Modern. Zaiem, who is an editor for ChannelFireball, was also there and had qualified. He asked if I wanted him to go. Up until then, I had been secretive outside of my own group about my deck choice, but I decided I just wanted advice. After all, if Zaiem really wanted to change his entire game plan based on mine, he could go ahead. After going through my deck, Gavin suggested that he could stick it up on SCG and Zaiem could post it on CF that night as some last-minute tech. Oops. That might have been going too far with my deck list; I’d at least wanted the sideboard relatively secret. Luckily, it was all good-spirited joking, and the discussion about my deck was useful; it resulted in my adding another land to the main deck.
We all know that the main event was not as successful as I would have liked. My boyfriend, in the meantime, piloted Eldrazi Green to the semifinals of a side event to win complete foil sets of New Phyrexia and Mirrodin Besieged, which went some way toward making up for not playing in the PT. Some of the prizes available at the side events are pretty nice.
As I had to find my own entertainment on Saturday, I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Tristan Shaun Gregson from ChannelFireball, who had brought his Cube. For those (like me, until recently) who don’t know what a Cube is, it is a large collection of one-of cards, sometimes with a particular theme, sometimes just with good cards, from which you pull cards to make up three “boosters” that you use to draft. This particular Cube was full of very powerful cards, including all the Power 9. I did, very carefully, handle my first Black Lotus, before carefully replacing it. Luckily, I didn’t see it in the drafts.
I did, I think, two drafts with Tristan’s set. I had only done one Cube draft previously (in Japan), so I’m hardly a veteran. Plus, I didn’t know what half of the cards did. Last time I did a Cube draft, I decided to draft aggro rather than anything more complex. However, with some prodding over my first picks, I ended up drafting two control decks. It’s fun to draft cards you’ve neither played with before nor ever known how to value in Draft. Sometimes I took cards because I’d heard of them being good, like Mox Diamond. Some I took because I had played with them a little, like Cryptic Command. Some I took because someone told me to, like Mana Vault, and some I took because they seemed strong in a vacuum, like Gilded Drake. There are many principles that apply to all drafts, and I was happy to just take cards that appeared to offer card advantage.
I very much enjoyed playing with both of my decks. I wasn’t super-successful with them—I think I won one match out of four, but many of the games were close, and all were enjoyable. My favorite play was, turn one on the play: Mox Diamond, discarding a Swamp, playing a Swamp, and playing Sign in Blood on myself to regain most of my used cards. Then, on the next turn, I played Phyrexian Arena, which was going to allow me to have great card advantage. Sadly, I couldn’t turn that into a win, but it was an awesome feeling to make a set of plays that makes your opponent’s jaw drop.
I also learned that Tristan should not be allowed to draft Chaos Orb, as the man is a boss at using it. I also need to know from a judge if there is anything to stop me from placing my lands on top of his. That seems like a good counter to the Orb.
Thanks to everyone who Cube drafted with me. I’m not going to name names, but I had a super-great time and learned a lot. I hope we can draft again someday!
Aside from Cube drafts, I did a handful of M12 team drafts. A team draft means that you are divided into two teams before drafting, and then sit in an alternating pattern. After the draft, you play all of the other team to decide the winning team. It’s very good when you have six players, and it’s very popular. If you have eight players, you only play two matches, one each against the opponents to whom you were not sitting adjacent. To add motivation, we played for the winning team to take the rares. These normally got divided up by “battling.” To battle, you put all of the rares face-down and shuffle them up. Then, each team member picks one and turns it face-up. The player who reveals the card with the highest converted mana costs takes all of the rares revealed in that round. It’s pretty fun, and usually one person ends up taking all of the good cards in one round.
I did a couple of M12 team drafts. One particular draft that sticks out in my mind was an eight-man draft. My team went 3–1 in the first round, but in the second round, it came down to the final match to decide between a draw and a win for us. In game two at 0–1, we were beating down with an Aven Fleetwing to get around the Crown of Empires that had been holding off our attack. A Jace’s Archivist was threatening to mill us, but it wasn’t enough on its own. However, after some serious thinking, the other team worked out, with some glee, that they could make it a draw. After some careful timing, they got to untap with no cards left in their library and activate the Archivist’s ability in their upkeep to make us both lose at the same time. Good games.
On Sunday was the Top 8, and I finished off my GP tournament report while watching the quarterfinals on the big screen. I enjoy watching the Top 8s of these events, as you get to see some very high-level play. It is a good learning exercise if you have never checked them out. After I was done with my article, I tried to send it, as it was due. However, the Internet access available to the hall was decidedly overloaded, so after failing to send the e-mail multiple times, I took Gavin’s advice and sought out the press room. The press room was cunningly hidden on another floor. It was lovely and quiet and well air-conditioned. If I have to write an article at a big event again, I might try it out. The person in charge was very understanding and gave me the press Internet password so that I could send my article.
One of the things I most enjoy at Magic tournaments is talking. I get to do it even more now that I am starting to know more people. At the PT, I spent a long while chatting to Tristan about the UK Magic scene. He approached me on the topic, as he was interested in my opinion, having previously heard Richard Hagon’s viewpoint. It was a very interesting discussion, and it got me thinking about starting a team, like ChannelFireball, to test and share ideas together and work toward having people place well at big events—so watch this space.
Thanks to everyone who made my Pro Tour experiences so much fun! I really hope I have a chance to see you again soon. I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading about my adventures, and I’ll see you all next week.