Sorry – I mean Labor Day weekend was Magic. And it was good to me.
Although it didn’t compare to the Kansas City Irish Fest (although to be fair I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that practically could compare to that epic event – make sure you check out my recap in this post) it was definitely one of the better weekends I’ve had as far as Magic is concerned.
It actually started off Thursday night when I decided to play a booster draft in Magic: The Gathering Online. I did the Avacyn Restored draft (not the latest set, but the one before it). It was my first foray into MTGO and I completely screwed up the first two games (losing both). And when I say “screwed up” I mean “royally hosed myself” – as in not playing lands, killing my own creatures and completely wasting spells I cast. Needless to say it was pretty embarrassing. But after that I rebounded, taking the next two in fairly quick fashion and dominant style. The next two games weren’t as kind to me – I dropped both – but they were at least relatively close (I had him down to just a few health in both before I lost). Ultimately I ended up in 6th place out of eight – not exactly what I was hoping for but good enough to win one booster pack.
Friday was the regular Friday Night Magic booster draft up at Spanky’s Card Shop. I’m going to put in a quick plug for Spanky’s here because if you play trading card games like Magic or Pokemon or Vanguard you want to become intimately familiar with it. Whether you just want to pick up some cards, trade some in or play in a tournament you won’t find a better place to do it than off 99th and Holmes (by Gomer’s). The store is clean, the folks who run it are incredibly helpful (and fun to boot) and the people who play up there are friendly and an absolute blast to play with (quick shout out to Kevin, Jeff, Andrew, Lee, Michael, Spanky, Andrew, Emily and the rest of the bunch). Make sure you stop by there for at least one Magic tournament (Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday afternoon) and give it a shot.
My favorite color combination to run in a booster draft (you sit in a circle, open a pack, take a card and pass the rest to your left until the pack is gone, then repeat to the right and then back to the left) is green-red. I like the color combination and there are usually enough low-mana cards in there to build an army with (I generally prefer a low-mana deck). However, Friday night I ended up going with a blue-white deck. There wasn’t any compelling reason why, really – it was just two colors that caught my attention.
Luckily for me there weren’t many others out of the 8 playing that combo so I was able to get quite a few cards to come back to me – including four Ajani Sunstrikers (the white cat below) – so I was able to build a pretty decent deck. The cap on the night, however, was pulling Ajani, Caller of the Pride (the top left card) out of the third pack – a $20 card and one that fit perfectly into my deck. What was funny about it was just as we were opening the third pack Jeff, who was sitting to my right, predicted he was going to pull it. I guess luck moved one spot left…
Anyway, the night went pretty well. I won my first two against Emily – a newcomer to Spanky’s – although we only ended up playing two games because she played a Slumbering Dragon (the card on the right up there) which effectively prevented me from attacking (basically as soon as I attacked with five guys total she had a flying creature I couldn’t effectively block that could kill me by itself in three turns). However I had the Ajani Sunstriker in play which meant I gained life whenever I did combat damage. Both players start at 20 life – at my high point I had 57 because of that card.
The second two were not so kind to me – Jeff took me out in two rounds, although I played it pretty close. I ended up getting him down to one life using a couple of combos but it just wasn’t enough. For context, Jeff is one of the best (if not the best) up there when it comes to booster drafts. I always enjoy playing him – he’s always willing to give hints (after he beats you, of course) or tips on playing your deck better.
The final match was against Matt; a 13-year old that may be the most hyper person I’ve ever played against (but a fun kid). He’s constantly going a mile a minute which contrasts pretty hard with my generally laid-back style. He ended up pretty mana screwed the first game (only getting one out on the board) which I ended up winning in about five rounds (not much you can do if you don’t have mana), but the second battle was much closer before I finally pulled it out using a tactic he used on me to almost beat me about a month ago – playing a bunch of creatures with lifelink (Ajani Sunstriker and Arctic Aven; whenever they do damage to a creature or player I gained that much life).
The net result was a 2-1 match record which was good enough for third place (actually tied for second from a record standpoint but lost the tiebreaker) out of the eight there. Not bad – not the best I’ve done but finishing in the top half is always a plus as far as I’m concerned.
Saturday morning it was raining – hard – so I decided to hit the KC Irish Fest later in the day and play in the standard Magic tournament up at Spanky’s. Where a booster draft puts everyone on the same ground from the standpoint of the fact they’re limited to cards in the packs that are opened that night, a standard deck is limited to cards from (currently) the last four “blocks” of cards. So you have the Magic 2012 core, the New Phyrexia block, the Innistrad block and the Magic 2013 core set as your base of cards. You build (or buy) your own deck. I’m not as big a fan of standard as I am booster draft because you’re up against decks people construct, and there it’s less about player skill (although some of that is in there) and luck of the draw (although there’s still some of that) and more about what cards you have. But it’s still good fun.
I brought two constructed decks – my goblin deck and my ultra-fog deck. Both are based off of decks I saw online that were successful, although I threw in my own flavor and style to them to give them a (hopefully) boost and fit more of how I wanted to play them. I decided to play my goblin deck since that’s the one I’ve been playing the last couple of tournaments and I’ve tweaked it some more. The beauty of the goblin deck is that it’s cheap (both in terms of how much it would cost to build from scratch and how much mana the average card costs in play) and is fast. If I haven’t won by maybe turn six or seven then I’m not going to – that’s too much time to give an opponent to bring out their big stick.
The first match I was up against a younger player (maybe 15?) who I’ve run into a number of times before. He’s a fun player as well as being good – he’s like me inasmuch as he likes to converse during the game. I wasn’t much of a challenge for him – I started off way too slow and couldn’t get my guys out on the field. At one point I had him down to six life but he dropped a Thragtusk (one of the best cards in the current set) down and it was all over from there – zero and two to start the day.
The second match was against Kevin, one of the guys at Spanky’s. He and Spanky both are great people – fun and damn good at what they do (both in terms of knowing and recommending cards and playing the game itself). He was playing a new deck that Spanky had given him to test out. It didn’t turn out so well for him – I kept picking off his “mana dorks” (creatures that can give you additional mana) so he couldn’t get anything going. I ended up taking that round 2 games to none, pulling me even with a 1-1 record.
The third round was against Andrew. Andrew, who’s typically up there on a Friday night, is a very methodical player. He takes his time – I suspect he’s had more matches go to time (typically 50 minutes for all three games) than most people up there. That’s not good or bad – it’s just a different style. He and I battled it out over the course of three games, but I was able to Arc Trail enough of his smaller guys and land a couple of well-timed Thunderous Wraths that I pulled off two of the games to give me a 2-1 match record.
That was three of the four rounds, and unlike any other standard tournament I’ve played in I was actually in the running for the top prizes. There were 11 players and the top four made the cut. All I needed to do was win the fourth round (even if it was 2-1 in terms of games) and I would have landed some store credit at the very least. Considering my record in every other standard tournament I’ve played in was zero and <lots> I was pumped.
Unfortunately I was up against the one kind of deck I didn’t have enough in my arsenal for – a fast deck. This one in particular, played by Matt (the other Matt – not the 13 year-old Matt), was a zombie deck with a little vampire thrown in. I have pretty much zero protection in the goblin deck because I rely heavily on hit them fast with a bunch of little damage to win. That’s why I can’t survive much past round six in an average game – at some point my little creatures are either not sufficient to get the damage done or they’re just cannon fodder when the big boys (or girls) attack. In the case of Matt’s deck he was set – not only did he have some small-item zombies in there (one- and two-drop) but he also had a couple of Falkenrath Aristocrats (featured above) which do, for all intents and purposes, four damage when they’re cast. He managed to draw a couple of them in a row plus a clone card (one that will let you copy any creature on the battlefield) and that was all she wrote for me.
But it was a great time – 2-2 gave me a sixth-place finish which was 5 spots higher than I’d ever finished in a tournament before. And the fun thing is most of my goblin deck will live on when the new set comes in (mid-October) and older cards rotate out so I don’t have to rebuild my deck.
I think next time (a couple of weeks) I’m going to try my ultra-fog deck just for the fun of it. It’s a much different deck than the goblins – it’s designed to last long into the rounds. I recently upgraded it with a Jace, Memory Adept planeswalker which I’m pumped about – I haven’t played any planeswalkers in my standard decks (the only time I’ve played one in any tournament was Friday night when I drafted Ajani).
It was a great weekend Magic-wise (and other wise, too!). I’m out the next couple of weeks (volleyball tournaments and the Blues and Barbeque benefit for the Sherwood Center) but hoping to be back mid-month to play some more tournaments. I finally feel like I’m getting into the groove with the game and able to hold my own a lot of times (although I fully intend on beating Jeff one of these days…) which makes it that much more fun.
I hope to see you out there at Spanky’s! (tell them Pauly sent you if you happen by there on a night when I’m not there)by