Return To Glenn Con
Today's article isn't going to break down any principles or offer you any real wisdom. Competitive players have their tournament reports but for casual guys...there's not really something that fills the same space. After all where do you even get a chance to jam a bunch of different games against tons of new people?
Why Gen Con of course!
Today I'm going to tell you how I spent one of my favorite annual events. This will not be a typical column from me; you might not like it. I hope you do!
I've been going to Gen Con since 2007 if I recall correctly. I first went to play in the debut WoW TCG Nationals where I did terribly but where I also met Ryan O'Connor then the coverage lead for Upper Deck Entertainment (and now a member of Gary Games the company behind Ascension). After I scrubbed out Ryan let me try my hand at tournament coverage for the first time...and I think we all know how that turned out.
After all here I am.
It's safe to say I remember Gen Con fondly. That event became an opportunity for me to experience a convention I have returned to every year since and will likely be attending for the foreseeable future while also setting me onto my current career path. It is probably one of the ten most significant weekends of my life up to this point!
Gen Con's known as The Best Four Days in Gaming and with good reason. The convention is massive and features board games card games tournaments suppliers—pretty much every aspect of the gaming industry that you can imagine. If you like to play games of any stripe at any hour with anyone you will never want for activity during your waking hours. A not unusual problem is actual sleep deprivation!
My first few Gen Con years were spent working coverage for the WoW TCG but since the move to SCG I've been able to attend the convention as a vacation rather than as a really fun work weekend. I definitely prefer the former! Last year was awesome as I got to watch Ali Aintrazi one of my favorite people pull off the last US National Championship win with a deck I'd spent most of the week smack talking—very special indeed! This year I knew we'd have the World Cup going on...but I wasn't that interested. Even the WoW TCG events didn't light my fire.
I just wanted a weekend to hang out and be a gamer with all the friends I don't see very often.
I met Matt Kranstuber podcaster of In Contention and Joy of Cubing fame for the first time at the last SCG Invitational and I got the opportunity to get to know him better at Gen Con this year. He felt that this was what Gen Con would eventually become for all of us—that one weekend each year where we catch up swap stories...and play Cube obviously. I couldn't agree more and approaching Gen Con with that mentality made it the best one yet.
That and Klug inking Kranny's likeness to Taylor Gunn in a most flattering fashion.
So what did I spend the weekend doing? Heh. Well that's a story...
I drove up with Ryan O'Connor—the very same one who gave me my first coverage job all those years ago—and SCGLive director Jeremy Noell. I'd already arranged to stay with some buyers for StarCityGames.com as we had a sales booth at the event and I'd brought just the essentials. Clothes One-Drop Cube and Commander deck—that's basically it.
All the body needs.
Thursday saw me reconnecting with my WoW TCG buddies. There are too many to name but I will give Bobby Victory a quick shout-out—the guy just finished demonstrating he's a dreamboat at two games taking second place at Grand Prix Boston! Many of these guys are Magic alums and they still play from time to time. I introduced them to the newest iteration of the One-Drop Cube and it was generally found to be very entertaining.
For example a very confident Joe Demestrio was incredulous as his Skullclamp/all removal deck was handily dismantled by Shriekhorn and Steel Sabotage before it could generate enough traction to actually end the game—the One-Drop Cube really asks players to demonstrate the ability to create certainty.
As I tune the One-Drop Cube I've felt closer and closer to making something really special—I think the last overhaul has really been strong and I heard nothing but good things from the players. I trimmed out some chaff leaving it at 270 cards and restored the deck sizes to 40 while adding more mana fixing. I don't have an updated list available to be posted just yet...but you can bet I'll present one in this column as soon as I do.
Thursday concluded with the delightful discovery of the WoW TCG crew having found one of my favorite semi-deckbuilding games: Innovation. Lauren Lee and Sam Black introduced me to Innovation in 2011 during the Grand Prix Pittsburgh/Pro Tour Philadelphia weekend and the game is my kind of fun—a million interactions with plenty of room to think and weird beats to occasionally flip the game in a completely new direction. I highly recommend it if you want a portable game to play between rounds at tournaments.
Friday was set to be a day of wandering. I didn't bring the cube planning to spend most of the day looking at the convention hall itself and checking out everything the vendors had to offer. I didn't get very far on that—Wizards was offering Magic Online Cube Swiss Draft for $2 each with two packs of Magic 2013 for every match you won.
One quick and easy 3-0 on the back of Griselbrand and Gilded Lotus put a spring in my step! While I was waiting for my rounds I used the computer to check Twitter and discovered that Gavin Verhey—former SCGLive cohort and current Wizards R&Der—had space on his True Dungeon crew! I'd heard a lot of good things about True Dungeon most of them admittedly from Gavin and told him I would happily give the event a go.
For those unfamiliar True Dungeon is a mix of puzzle games and roleplaying created in a massive space that you interact in freely. You look around the actual room and complete the challenges physically—in many ways it's a lot like LARPing but there's a cooperative group element to it with a range of roles and required skills. I can be a curmudgeon but let me tell you that True Dungeon was fun. There are a number of different Dungeons every year and I think I'll be setting aside time to do at least one run in the future. I joined Gavin Alex West and his better half Lauren Lee and frequent SCG Open Series judge Zak Whyte for a fantastic trip through the Dungeon.
TL;DR: We killed the dragolich. I'm pretty sure my sweet Magic Missiles helped.
After a rousing romp through the Dungeon we were all reasonably ravenous and began assembling a dinner party. A dissatisfying wait time for St. Elmo's sent us up the street to Ruth's Chris where game guru Brian Kowal and Great Designer Search 2 winner Ethan Fleischer joined us. Brian Kowal and I are former werewolf partners—to great success—but I hadn't met Ethan before. He was a welcome addition and everyone spent the whole meal talking Magic board games and swapping stories. One of my favorite dinners and not just because I dodged paying in the credit card game!
Oh yeah and the food was good. I made a grave error in ordering the chocolate souffl over probably any other dessert they offered but such is life.
I didn't get any secrets out of Gavin or Ethan... I guess you guys are going to have to remain a little in the dark about Return to Ravnica for now!
I bumped into Kranny at some point on Friday and he informed me that a crew of good men would be cubing most of Saturday away if I was interested. I had a WoW TCG tournament to play in but a quick 1-2 had me happily searching for a more fulfilling endeavor One-Drop Cube in tow. Kranny and crew certainly provided!
I was going to take pictures of all my Gen Con cube decks but the new iPad I procured to replace my old one has an unexpected malady—it doesn't save pictures or videos! So I'll just briefly summarize the madness.
Starting with Kranny's awesome Combo Cube I drafted a Storm deck that killed either through Empty the Warrens Ignite Memories or making infinite mana with Palinchron and Spikeshot Eldering the opponent to death. I could even sideboard into Swans/Seismic Assault!
We busted out my One-Drop Cube next and I moved into a fancy little G/B/R deck that combined the might of Llanowar Mentor and Lab Rats to build its own Sprout Swarm with Joraga Warcaller enabling a semi-combo finish. My Hunger of the Howlpack got cut but I taught the kiddos a thing or two about Engineered Explosives—namely that you don't pass it!
My memory is a bit fuzzy after that but I believe we did a quick draft with Usman Jamil of this here site where I put together a bit of a stinker and didn't run especially well either. It was a RUG midrange deck with a bunch of planeswalkers but when I failed to play those it mostly looked like a pile of garbage; alas that deck failed to generate much of interest. There was a really funny game where Usman tried to Tangle Wire me early and I locked him out of the game with Phyrexian Metamorph on the Tangle Wire!
Lunch at Harry & Izzy's with Klug Kranny and Taylor Gunn was awesome. They cooked the best steak of my weekend and my only regret was being too stuffed to eat dessert.
Then I played some Commander!
I ended the night with a trip over to the Magic World Cup area. Klug and I played a couple games with Monty Ashley whom you're most likely familiar with from Magic Arcana. My trusty Glissa deck managed to win the first game but the second saw me grievously wounded by Klug's (truly) Heartless Hidetsugu deck with Monty and Kaalia of the Vast taking down the game following my demise.
Monty left to take care of a few World Cup coverage items and we reformed a five-player game. Myself Klug Adam Styborski John Wade (hope I'm remembering right!) and Trick Jarrett squared off for a quick game of Star. In Star games you win the game when the two players not seated directly adjacent to you die. This can lead to some awkward and amusing game states! Players may be forced to protect someone else just to prolong the game and on occasion an already deceased player might find themselves earning the win!
The game was a tough battle but Klug deployed turn 1 Manabarbs to really shake up the table. That made a lot of the slower decks very vulnerable and while the game took some time to really turn into a brouhaha it was Trick's Goblin deck that was able to take advantage of the damage Klug had done and claim victory. Glissa was pretty poorly suited to this format in hindsight—it's a much better deck in free-for-alls or duels because it doesn't do anything especially fast...but the things it does are pretty powerful.
Klug played Hidetsugu Stybs had an all-permanents Maelstrom Wanderer deck except for a Primal Surge John piloted Talrand and Trick came with his Kiki-Jiki deck. I of course remained with my one true love.
Actually this left me with a hankering to build a new Commander deck. I may try to update Glissa for an aggressive bend—she's so fun!—but I'm more likely to give someone totally new a try. I already have some ideas... On Magic Online I play Radha Heir to Keld exclusively at the moment so something in that vein could be fun to explore further. Any suggestions?
Klug's deck was really cool and unique creating a lot of pressure; check out his list!
- 1 Moltensteel Dragon
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Fire Servant
- 1 Hostility
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Kargan Dragonlord
- 1 Lightning Mauler
- 1 Taurean Mauler
- 1 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Tunnel Ignus
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Godo, Bandit Warlord
- 1 Heartless Hidetsugu
- 1 Urabrask the Hidden
- 1 Zo-Zu the Punisher
- 1 Ankh of Mishra
- 1 Black Vise
- 1 Chrome Mox
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Gauntlet of Might
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Grim Monolith
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Mox Diamond
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Furnace of Rath
- 1 Manabarbs
- 1 Repercussion
- 1 Spellshock
- 1 Sulfuric Vortex
- 1 Act of Aggression
- 1 Burst Lightning
- 1 Comet Storm
- 1 Dangerous Wager
- 1 Galvanic Blast
- 1 Lightning Bolt
- 1 Price of Progress
- 1 Seething Song
- 1 Starstorm
- 1 Acidic Soil
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Chain Lightning
- 1 Devil's Play
- 1 Earthquake
- 1 Elemental Appeal
- 1 Firebolt
- 1 Flame Rift
- 1 Flamebreak
- 1 Gamble
- 1 Goblin Game
- 1 Reforge the Soul
- 1 Ruination
- 1 Shattering Spree
- 1 Slagstorm
- 1 Wheel of Fortune
- 1 Wild Guess
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Sunday was a nice lazy day for me as I finally took the time to wander the convention hall. I met a few artists and bought some sleeves with rounded edges from a new company called Remove From Game. They appear to focus exclusively on their own custom gaming accessories but these sleeves were a real trip. Dave Spears showed them to me on Saturday before crushing my face in the WoW tournament and I was immediately intrigued.
The rounded corners prevent scuffing and breaking while you riffle although the use of a seam and slightly tougher materials also makes these sleeves pretty thick. I've sleeved my Commander deck in them; if they wear well I'll likely be buying enough to do my cube!
Dropping by Steve Argyle's booth I was glad to see he had some massive proofs of his promo Glissa the Traitor in stock—I promptly purchased one and will be hanging it in my room as soon as it comes in. My walls are sparse at the moment; I used to hang a lot of my own drawings and the occasional poster but I've become very Spartan in my adult life. As a few people have (accurately) pointed out my walls look bizarrely empty when I do the GameState podcast so hopefully Glissa will help solve that problem.
Usman and I got in one more Cube draft before I had to go play one final WoW TCG event. A quirk of Gen Con is that events cost event tickets not money which you buy from booths in advance. This is highly annoying and costs everyone involved a lot of time and money including the Gen Con organizers—they're basically paying people to turn $2 into a piece of paper worth...$2.
But only this weekend.
I had $14 in tickets left over which was exactly enough to enter the WoW TCG draft on the side. Opening a bomb rare and getting passed another I managed the 3-0 for a winning loot that paid for...dinner!
I actually went to dinner alone this time after staying past close to help Ryan pack up the Ascension booth but as luck would have it a few friends found me at the McCormick and Schmicks bar. Well it wasn't especially lucky since we were meeting the same people that night but Madison's Dave Dan and Lissa were good company before we headed out for one last night on the town this time to celebrate the success of Ascension and the bright future for SolForge with the fine crew of Gary Games.
Unfortunately I have to admit to not remembering much more about this night other than me knowing how to navigate the city at all times and having a ball before eventually retiring to my hotel room a smidge early. I'm such an old man!
And then I went home to Roanoke.
I think by now most of you are used to me being a little maverick from time to time so I hope you enjoyed this departure from the norm. If not then look on the bright side—I can only really do it once a year. At a minimum I really hope this column has convinced you that a trip to Gen Con might be worth looking into next August. I'll certainly be there!
PS: If we hung out at Gen Con and I didn't namedrop you rest assured that you were awesome (duh everyone was awesome) and I just have a terrible memory. I'll do better next time; see you when I see you!