hwango: (hermit crab)
Sunday was the TCGPlayer.com Massachusetts Limited States Championships for Magic: the Gathering. I like limited formats, and thought it might be fun to attend, but I was concerned about playing in a more competitive tournament than I usually play in. I called to see if the venue could give me an idea of how many people usually go to these things and how cutthroat it is, and it sounded like it wouldn't be too bad, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The first part of the event was a sealed tournament. Most of those that I go to are the Prereleases, where you get your cards, open your cards, build your deck, and play. You're not allowed to use any cards from outside the ones you open, but there isn't a lot of security in place to prevent that sort of cheating. They are more casual events, and I guess we're on the honor system. Well, this event was a bit more formal, so everyone was issued a pool of cards to open and then catalog on checklists, with the understanding that you are NOT keeping the cards you just opened, so don't get attached to them.

Naturally, this meant I opened some amazing cards. Oh, well. Once we were done cataloging, we were instructed to pass our cards to the player on our left, and then to check our new pool of cards against the checklist to make sure it was accurate. I wasn't sure I'd be keeping those either, so I tried not to pay too much attention. They were certainly worse than the ones I had opened, though. To my delight, we were then told to pass things to the left one more time, and the pool we got this time would be our actual pool. I was not sorry to see that second one go. Third pool seemed not as good as the first, but certainly better than the second.

This probably all sounds super tedious, but it's not actually that bad, and I really like that it discourages cheating.

Once we'd built our decks we were going to play 5 rounds of Swiss, then cut to the top 8 players. I won round 1, lost round 2, won round 3, and then won round 4. My opponent for round 5 asked if I wanted to just draw for our match, since if we did we'd both make the top 8 (as opposed to playing it out and the loser possibly not making it). That sounded like the sort of thing that happens all the time, but I wasn't clear why that wouldn't count as Collusion, which is Totally Not Allowed, so I checked with a judge. Apparently, you're allowed to draw with your opponent at any time, but you can't bribe your opponent into agreeing to it. So, awesome, I'm in the top 8. Then we played out our games anyway because, duh, I'm there to actually play the game, and I beat him.

Top 8! At this point, we set aside our trusty decks that got us this far and drafted new ones. Bye, Fleecemane Lion - you were awesome and I'll miss you. In Draft, everyone opens a pack of cards, takes one, and passes the rest to the left. Repeat until all cards are taken. Then we do the same with a second pack going the other way around the table, then a third going left again. Then build your deck from those cards. Many times when I've drafted someone picks their cards much faster than their neighbor, and the stacks of cards pile up, and they get drafted out of sequence or there's some other problem. Sometimes we get to the end and there seems to be a missing card, which people often wave off as no big deal...except, it is, because what if it's from someone taking a second really good card early on in a pack?

So I was pleased that this was going to be carefully managed to avoid such nonsense. You open the pack, you count the cards, you pick a card, you put the rest of the cards fanned out so the player about the get them can count them. Then we all pick up the new cards simultaneously, and repeat. This doesn't take that much longer than an unregulated draft...in fact, probably the same amount of time, or less because we don't have to have things grind to a halt to sort out problems.

I loved my draft deck. The first card I took was Keranos, God of Storms, and then I was actually able to take cards in the correct colors to be able to play it...and even a bunch of cards that would improve my chances of eventually drawing it.

I won my first match, though it was a tough fight, so now we're the top 4. The judge came over to ask if we all wanted to rearrange the prizes at all...normally the prize packs would be 18/12/9/9, but we could agree that everyone would just get 12, which seemed nice. There were also going to be these weird tournament points, the distribution of which we tweaked so that everyone would get enough to buy their way into some other tournament somewhere. There were a few other things that had to go to whoever actually won...or if we didn't want to play it out, we'd have to choose who "won," and that person would get those.

I could understand why people might want to cut things short and go home. We had all been at the event for about 7 hours by this point. Everyone had already played between 12 and 18 games of Magic. And I gotta say, usually after 5 rounds I'm burning out too. But swapping to a new deck and the fact that the new deck was full of crazy awesomeness certainly helped reinvigorate things for me. I was getting pretty hungry, though.

In the end we decided on how to divide things up, and then played it out. I beat my next opponent with no trouble at all, and then it was time for the finals...and my opponent was that guy from Round 5. We meet again! I mangled him the first game, and the second one was close but I pulled it off. Victory!

So, in hindsight, oops on splitting up the prizes. I shorted myself out of 6 packs and 20 Maxpoints. But honestly I think those last rounds were more fun with most of the pressure taken off, so I have no real regrets. I'm glad I didn't talk myself out of going. Also, it was actually kind of nice to have a more competitive tournament, because it meant no one ever made a mistake and then said "oh, man - can I take that back?" and I'd feel like a jerk when I said "sorry, no, we're playing for prizes." Instead, people realize that this is for real, and when they screw up they just go "oops," and we move on. I'm sure that higher-stakes tournaments would feature a more cutthroat atmosphere, but this was a nice midpoint where it was not so casual that cheating was easy and people would try to guilt you into undoing their mistakes, and not so competitive that people would count your deck to see if they could get you an automatic game loss because you accidentally left behind one of your cards at the last match and now have an illegal deck, or some such nonsense.

I got the playmat that says I'm Spring State Champion for Massachusetts, as opposed to the other 7 people in the top 8 whose playmats just say they made top 8. I also get free entry into the Grand Prix tournament in Worcester later next month, including fancy VIP status...which will doubtless include many things I don't care about, but whatever. So, I guess I'll be going to that tournament. Of course, that will be Modern format, for which I don't have a deck, so I'd better come up with something by then. And I will probably lose spectacularly, because constructed formats favor people who can spend a lot of money on their decks*, and I plan to do no such thing. But there will be side events to play in, and I hope to at least enjoy the confused looks my opponents give me as I play some crazy nonsense deck that bears no resemblance to the current top performers in the format.

*To put this in the proper perspective, an article about the current top 6 decks in Modern says of the deck in the #5 spot that it is "something cheap and easy to play that will still give you a legitimate chance to win the tournament." The average costs of the cards that make up this deck total to $690. Granted, $468 of that is in 8 of your lands, which you could replace with far cheaper lands that will make your deck less consistent but not change what it actually does. But hey, either way it's a bargain compared to the "top-performing deck," which averages $1,230. The lands in that one account for a significant portion of its cost, too. It's a supply and demand thing...people want the fancy lands no matter what other cards they're playing, and there are only so many to go around. The card the top deck is named for accounts for only 4% of its price tag.
hwango: (Default)
On Friday, I attended the Midnight Madness prerelease for Return to Ravnica. Normally, I do these things at TJ Collectibles, but that wasn't practical this time around, so I went to Myriad Games in Salem, NH. This saved me about as much in gasoline as I paid in additional entrance fee, but it also saved me driving time, so it was theoretically the better choice. However, it turned out to be crowded (TJ's has a ludicrous number of nice big tables, and can comfortably sit at least three times as many people as we had packed in like sardines at Myriad) and not as smoothly run, and of course I didn't know anyone, so I'm not sure it was the right choice.

This tournament was different from every other prerelease so far in that we didn't just get 6 random packs to build our decks. This time, you picked which guild you wanted to play for, and got 5 random packs and a special pack of cards with the appropriate colors for your guild (you could still play whatever cards you wanted). I got my second choice, Blue/Red Izzet, rather than my first choice of Green/Black Golgari. Apparently, about half of the players who signed up wanted Golgari. Bafflingly, I played against someone Golgari who had it as their second choice, and who had wanted to play Izzet. If only I'd known before we opened our stuff we could have traded. I don't understand how with 25 people picking Golgari as their first choice someone ended up playing it who would have preferred to play something else. Another strike against Myriad.

Round 1 I beat an Izzet player and round 2 a Selesnya player. Then I got savaged by 2 Golgari players in a row (and of course envied them their card pools the whole time), and finally lost to a Rakdos player in round 5. Blah. So definitely no prizes, and the cards I opened aren't really worth anything - my most valuable card clocking in at $3.00. Ouch.

I just finished recording my deck and my card pool, as I do for all of these things, and realized to my great distress that I probably could have made a pretty decent black/green (with a bit of white) deck in spite of the slant towards red/blue in my pool...since just because I had more red/blue cards than other colors, it doesn't mean they were actually good red and blue cards. I remember carefully considering other colors during deckbuilding in spite of how silly and unlikely it should be that I play something other than my guild colors (maybe with a splash of a third color, as many people did), but unfortunately I focused too much on being able to reliably play cards, and not enough on whether those cards would be good enough. I think that's why I won rounds 1 and 2 - I could reliably cast spells, and won the race in round 1, and simply outlasted my opponent in round 2. But in rounds 3 and 4 I played against opponents who simply had better cards, and there was little I could do to catch up to them when they started putting out unstoppable monsters of doom. Oops.

Innistrad!

Sep. 25th, 2011 06:27 am
hwango: (cthulhu-approved)
I had been going to post a much longer report of the whole tournament experience, but remembered in time that no one cares about a lot of the details but me. = ) So, short version:

I went to the Midnight Madness prerelease tournament for Innistrad, because if you're going to play in a prerelease tournament for a gothic horror Magic setting, midnight is the time to do it.

I opened a couple of werewolves (yay!) and some really awesome zombies (yay!), but not enough total zombies to make playing zombies worthwhile (boo!). But hey, I really wanted to play werewolves anyway, and I did manage to put into play and transform one of my werewolves, and a good time was had by all.

Overall, I did awful. 1 win, 1 draw, 2 losses. But I had fun, and I opened a bunch of cool cards, including one of the ones that's theoretically worth money (I am skeptical about it's long-term value...sell now, hope to rebuy when cheap?)

I think the set is great fun, and the theme is way better than the one from the last block. I love the number of cards that you can look at and immediately spot the horror trope, story reference, or whatever. I am tempted to buy more, or at least make an effort to play in a bunch of drafts with it, thereby gaining more cards and playing with the set more. It's the most fun Magic has been for me since Rise of the Eldrazi and its towering otherdimensional Cthulhu juggernauts.
hwango: (rant)
Saturday morning I went to the Conflux prerelease. All in all I had a good time, and managed 3 wins and an intentional draw for Round 4, so I got 7 prize packs. The only bad parts were how tired I was for the Round 4 games, and the extraordinary lack of courtesy shown by my Round 2 opponent.

In each round of a tournament, it is your responsability to look at the list of pairings and find out who you're playing against. If you don't recognize the person's name, you can call it out to the room in general and try to get their attention.

For round 2, I called out the guy's name 3 times and never got an answer. On the fourth try, I finally got the guy's attention. He was all the way back in the corner of the room, and obviously never got up to look at the pairings himself. If you're not going to look up your opponent, and just let him find you, then you should at least be listening for someone to call your name. Freaking ridiculous.

The tournament was sold out, and the room was pretty crowded. To go sit across from this guy I was going to have to get 5 people to pull in their chairs to let me by. Then I'd have to try to squeeze my coat and bag in next to me. Or, he could have come out past 2 people and we could have sat at the table I was at in the middle of the room with a lot of open space around us. My appeals that it would be easier for him to come to me were ignored. Awesome. He's just building up so much good will from me already, and we're not even sitting across from each other yet.

Game 1 I destroyed him, and I admit that I took great satisfaction in doing so. Then he wanted to swap out some cards before game 2, which is entirely legal and perfectly reasonable. But it took him like 5 or 10 minutes. We've only got 40 minutes total to play our 2 or 3 games in the first place, and we already lost 5 minutes of that because he didn't make any effort to find me so we could start the round on time. When we finally played game 2 it was a lot closer, but to my immense relief I still managed to beat him. I was incredibly grateful that I didn't have to sit across from the guy for a third game. We almost certainly would have run out of time trying to play it, and I really didn't want to have to associate with him any more than necessary as it was. Grr.
hwango: (Default)
I went to the prerelease tournament for Time Spiral over the weekend. It was wacky fun. In addition to the wacky fun of new and interesting cards that no one had ever seen, Time Spiral also features "timeshifted" cards, which are reprints from older sets, complete with old borders and old art. Some of the timeshifted cards were things that I never would have expected Wizards to reprint, either because of power level (high or low), not matching the current idea of the Color Wheel, or simply because they were weird enough that they were unlikely to make it into a basic edition of the game, which is where reprints usually appear. The things that most made me blink in surprise were Psionic Blast, Arena, Sol'kanar the Swamp King, and Nicol Bolas, though that's hardly an exhaustive list. I pulled 2 copies of Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and am delighted to find out that Akroma goes for decent money on eBay right now, so I can recoup some of the cost of playing.

I went to Midnight Madness, so my first tournament was at midnight Friday night. I won the first 3 rounds, and went for an intentional draw for the 4th round since I was getting tired and starting to make mistakes. That got me 6 packs as my prize, which already put me ahead in terms of cost vs reward, so that was nice. I did substantially worse in the second tournament that I played on Saturday afternoon, but still had some fun. On the way home from Worcester on Sunday I stopped by to play the two big time tournament players that were there. If you could beat them with your sealed deck from the tournament, you won a booster pack. I played crappy against both of them, partially at least due to tiredness, so I didn't win anything else. Even now I'm in disbelief over one decision that I made. I can't imagine why I thought it was a good idea at the time. Other things were mistakes that I could understand making, but that one choice was just plain awful.

I was greatly pleased to open a Stuffy Doll as one of my cards in the first tournament. I had sort of wanted one ever since it appeared on the previews for the set, and it was fun to play with at the tournament. I also had great fun with Greater Gargadon, which I had almost dismissed as unplayable when I first opened it, but which won me at least 2 games.

I definitely hope to make it to the actual release tournament so I can recapture some of the same type of fun. Thumbs up to Time Spiral.
hwango: (Default)
On Saturday I went to my second Magic prerelease tournament (the first being the one for Ravnica almost a year ago). I would have gone to the ones for Guildpact and Dissension, but they were in Boston, and it wasn't worth the trouble of driving all the way in there, even though I really enjoyed the one for Ravnica. Coldsnap, however, was back in the hotel in Boxborough, which is only about 20 minutes away. Rock on!

I had some trouble sleeping the night before, and ended up trying to take an extra nap before going. That didn't actually get me any more sleep, and got me there late, so I had to wait around until enough people showed up to start tournament #7. Bleh.

I opened my packs, gazed at some of the crazy crap in the set, and made a (supposedly) fiendish deck of small, quick white and blue things, most of which had flying. I thought this would work pretty well. Unfortunately, in the first game I couldn't draw past 3 land, and really needed the 4th to be able to deal with some of the stuff coming at me. The second game, I drew too much land. Not a great start. I went to the third game in round 2, but still lost, so I was out of the running for a prize (you need to win at least 3 of your 4 matches to get a prize). I was going to play one more round to see if I could get my deck to work properly and then drop out, but an odd number of people were in the tournament for round 3 (probably due to everyone else with 2 losses dropping out) and I got the Bye, or default win for not having an opponent. Ordinarily an automatic win is wonderful, but not if you're already out of the running for a prize and just want to play. Grr.

I dropped out and entered the next tournament, #14. I opened much better stompy critters in that set of packs, including 2 of the most powerful cards in the set - Ardarkar Valkyrie and Ohran Viper. Sets of 4 Ohran Vipers are already pre-sellng on ebay for about $45. It's an awesome card. The Valkyrie, on the other hand, probably has too high a casting cost to be a serious tournament card in the future, but is ridiculous for Limited play like a prerelease tournament. I certainly won all 3 games that I put it into play. Alas, I had one fluky matchup that I lost in round 3, so I only made a 3-1 record. Still, that's 4 packs as a prize, so I sort of broke even for the day. Plus I had fun, which is the whole point of going to these things.

I'll probably try to play in the release tournament if TE has one. I might do better there, since I have an idea of which cards actually work in a game now, and what I can expect to face from my opponents.

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