At the Gathering - Hot Nights in Indy
"Can you move your toes for me?" I inquired.
"Yes I can wiggle them." She replied.
"Can you straighten your leg without pain?" I then asked.
"No it hurts too much. Is it bad?" she asked back.
"Let’s just wait for the ambulance. They’ll be able to get you to the hospital." I replied. The knee looked pretty messed up but it appeared that all of the tendons and nerves were still connected so there was hope. What a way to wake up.
Wow do I know how to end a weekend.
This past weekend was GenCon in case you are now returning to reading StarCityGames.com after your hiatus under a rock with no concept of time. The Convention was of course amazing packed with gamers costumes companies and sweet sweet games. Today I’m going to run you through some of my time at the convention and we’ll finish up with some discussion of PlaneChase the new multiplayer format coming out September 4th which I’m sure you can purchase from this fine site or your local FLGS. [/shill]
In looking at the events before I left I really wanted to try to play in the Block Championships. As usual the EV is off the charts and the attendance is sparse. Unfortunately it starts at 5 and I don’t get released from my cage as a Wizards of the Coast Booth slave until after 6. Guess it’s dinner and barning for me. I managed to watch some good matches before the Top 4 was able to draw in. I went to dinner and came back in time to find a Top 9 littered with Ringers. GerryT Brian Kibler and Brian Kowal had all made it. All three quickly advanced to the semis while the fourth quarterfinal game went long. Brian Kowal then dispatched GerryT to make the finals while Kibler was still waiting for that quarterfinal match to end. I didn’t see all of this ridiculously long game as I was playing EDH with Ken Nagle during most of the quarters but when I came over to see who won between GerryT and Kowal Kibler was awaiting the quarterfinal winner and Kowal was awaiting that winner. Kibler eventually got an opponent who may or may not have been joking about the option of stabbing him. He was even trying to barter with Kowal who was avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. Here’s a quote:
"I think I’m going to stab you somewhere."
"You’d be DQ’d without prizes. You’d lose out on at least a set of Alara Block."
"Yeah but you’d have a new hole."
While it was mostly light-hearted it was also a bit awkward. Either way Kibler came away victorious and without any new openings in him and conceded/split with Kowal in the finals because Kowal wanted the title.
"We still split the prizes evenly?"
"I could care less about the title then."
Turns out that’s not entirely true as we learned when someone from the pastimes staff came to present Mr. Kowal his Trophy.
"Wait there’s a trophy? No one said there was a trophy." Kibler then turned towards the judge proclaiming "You said there was no trophy."
"I thought there wasn’t"
"Can we go back? I didn’t know there was a trophy."
To be fair it was a pretty sweet trophy. Good design nice heft very high-class. It probably would have looked nice next to his other trophies too. Kowal came out of the whole affair +1 trophy though so he obviously ended up ahead. Well played sir.
Shortly thereafter I learned that my EDH deck needs more win conditions and less do-nothing cards courtesy of Ken Nagle and his Red Deck’s Beatings.
On my way back to the hotel at way-too-late o’clock I managed to get snaked into a game of catch ‘n throw. If you’ve never heard of it don’t worry as neither had I. The rules go like this.
Make large circle of people.
Repeat as necessary until one of two conditions occurs:
a) Exhaustion becomes so prevalent you can’t perform one of the here required actions
b) All the girls leave making it too much of a sausage fest for your comfort.
In our case option B occurred although at 4 in the morning it could have been a combo instead.
I spent almost the entire four days demoing MTGO or Duels of the Planeswalkers to the public or doing various information/PR type stuff things like answering questions about where to get the From the Vault tickets when is the next duel deck coming out when is Planechase demoing and are you famous enough to sign my DMG. For the record those answers are:
9am by the Serra Angel statue but the line starts earlier than that.
1-3 by registration.
Duels of the Planeswalkers is incredibly fun actually and I had a lot of fun playing it all weekend. It’s a great tool for teaching new players and I think that it is a great step for players in their advancement. The challenges are pretty cool kind of like the old challenges from InQuest magazine and I feel pretty confident there will be more of those coming. I had a chance to interview Mark Purvis one of the Magic Brand Managers and he mentioned that they are always looking for ways to surprise fans in good ways. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some really cool content coming for Duels of the Planeswalkers in the future. They were listening to the feedback from customers. One thing I did want to mention was the discussion I had with him about customization of decks. For Duels of the Planeswalkers you cannot build your own decks you can only unlock cards to add. When asked if this was intentional he said it was. In testing they found that new players would take all of the curve out of their deck put in all the big fatty creatures (Because a 2/2 is way worse than my 6/4!) and then lose badly. Not only that but they weren’t learning from it they were just quitting. So they took that customizability out to help new players have a better play experience.
In my opinion this was a good idea. If a player wants to get better they’ll chat with other players or try MTGO or even find a local card shop. They may even come to websites like this one to learn more. When they do they can start down the path of learning that we all embark on. Duels of the Planeswalkers isn’t the place for some of those steps especially the really advanced ones. But it is an extremely fun time and another way to get your Magic fix for the week.
Moving on I mentioned MTGO. At GenCon I finally gave in and made an MTGO account. It was free and started me out with a whole bunch of stuff so I am going to see if I can try to squeeze some time in to play occasionally. Feel free to stomp my bones as I learn the interface more than what I know giving quick demonstrations. I may even do a draft walkthrough because what I really could use is DI forum posts on my drafting skills. That may have sounded sarcastic but my firm belief is that the best way to get better is to listen and learn. I look forward to most of the posts when I do finally knuckle under (Trolls need not apply).
Sam Black wrote an article this week about how you can learn skills from other games to make your Magic skills better and I agree. But one thing I learned this weekend is that you can use various options in Magic to make your Magic skills better. Ironically enough I have used our weekly EDH league to sharpen my skills for timing in Duels. By looking at the various timing options in a multiplayer game I have improved that same timing recognition in my FNM matches. I look ahead farther trying to find the optimal time to use an ability or spell rather than taking the first positive EV priority that comes along.
Speaking of EDH and multiplayer in general let’s take a look at Planechase. I’m sure there are spoilers and grainy video footage all over the internet like some sort of Card Game Bigfoot as well as sworn testimonials too ("I swear I saw the most amazing Plane Card ever. It said ‘Slap your opponent. If you pop a filling out put a 2/2 Molar token into play.’ No kidding!") First let me throw a few Plane Card images at you
Insert card images here.
I had a chance to play some on Saturday night before the White Wolf/CCP party which was awesome by the way despite their extreme ID tactics.
My friend lar deSouza of Looking for Group and Least I Could Do was carded despite looking like he’s older than dinosaurs. I heard that Peter Adkinson got carded too and had to go back for it. Lame. We had 4 tickets but one bailed so I gave it to Kibler who was outside trying to get hold of the people to get him in. He made it in all right eventually so no worries.
Anyway back to Planechase. The four precon decks are a Zombie deck an Elementals deck a Myr deck and some kind of Boros deck that didn’t do much before dying. The Zombie deck went crazy with Isle of Vesuva in play making two Undead Warchiefs and then just vomiting his army onto the table. Must be nice.
I love the art on Pools of Becoming and all the planes look pretty sweet. In my interview with Mark Purvis he mentioned a few key points I want to touch on.
First they have 45 planes already printed. 10 in each of the four precons and then five for OP. Yes there will be exclusive Plane Cards given away at the following events: Planechase Launch party Zendikar Prerelease and the remaining three in Gateway kits for stores running and supporting Planechase. I asked about the fact that they couldn’t be bought and Mark said "We don’t have to worry about fairness. This won’t break a PT it’s a casual format not a sanctioned format. We want to be able to give away cool stuff that you can’t buy. We can’t do that with most cards because of fairness issues but we can here."
Here’s a tidbit about terminology for you that I picked up. They are Plane Cards but it’s a Planar Die and a Planar Deck. And you thought you wouldn’t learn anything today.
Mark also made a point to mention all the cool stuff they’re doing for fans in the decks. There are some specific nods to Shandalar and some Future Sight reprints in the regular card frames for the first time too. (Sorry no Tarmogoyf.) In fact Mark said if you look closely you’ll see a lot of cool little things like that. I like to think they’re like Vorthos Easter Eggs. We also talked a lot about how cool the Serra’s Realm Plane card was and how it so perfectly fit the flavor. Brady Dommermuth keeper of Magic Lore was instrumental in keeping all the flavor and history straight within the cosmology. They moved from the idea of each separate plane being a card to having significant sections of planes in part because there are only 15 established planes in the game so far. Personally I like this as it lets you use differing parts of each plane to build a better story.
I asked about MTGO for Planechase and Mark’s reply was "No plans at this time but never say never." I later spoke with a member of the MTGO team Michael Gills who said he would like to see it but there’s a lot that goes into that decision. I imagine that like most things it will depend on popularity much like EDH has made the move to MTGO through its grassroots popularity.
Finally there are Planar Deck boxes you can buy which include some cool items and a sweet setup. The deckbox comes with 10 sleeves to use for your planes (Nice that it’s included) and a split setup like so.
I’ve been told that Scott Larabee can personally attest to fitting an EDH deck and 10 Plane Cards in the deck at the same time. Yeah that’s right you can play Planechase with EDH. Unlike an IPhone and Picture Messaging you can actually use these together in America! I kid of course but it opens up some cool EDH Plane stories and games.
Finally one note on the development. Mike Turian Magic superstar was the lead developer and he really integrated the brand teams in to make this set very evocative of flavor and fun. They also commissioned the same artists for Plane cards as they used for a lot of the lands from that Planes block(s) to keep the style very fluid and familiar. Very cool guys.
As for how my weekend ended I flew home Monday very tired after getting a whopping 19 hours of sleep over the previous 6 nights. So after an impromptu birthday party for my son and I (we’re on consecutive days earlier this week) I decided to let my wife drive home while the kids and I dozed peacefully. About halfway through the three hour drive My wife yelled something (I don’t know what exactly as I was asleep at the start of the screaming) and I immediately woke up. Turns out a dead deer had been in the left hand lane and while she drove by in the right-hand lane the car a few hundred yards behinds us hit is at an angle trying to swerve and flipped their car into the median. I immediately called 911 and my EMT training kicked in. We backed up to the scene and I administered first aid while immobilizing her in case she had a head or spine injury. The paramedics arrived shortly thereafter congratulated me on my excellent work and said I may very well have saved her leg if not her life.
Shortly thereafter driving off again my wife commented "Really makes you think about what’s important huh?"
I replied "Yeah I wish my Magic reflexes were that honed and sharp. I’d definitely be on the gravy train."
Until next time this is Jeff Phillips reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice
P.S. TV Interview from GenCon. I’m the guy playing Xbox toward the latter half of the clip. I’m Famous!