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Nerds of the Conclave
By Eric Turgeon
Ever since Mirrodin came out, my best friend, Dave, has been trying to get me out to a prerelease tournament with him. At the time, he was going to school in Pittsburgh and could easily travel to the events in town. However, since I live in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, it would mean a four hour drive each way just to play a few rounds of Magic. The possibility of me staying a whole weekend was out of the question since he owns two cats, to which I happen to be allergic. I suppose I could have gotten a hotel room, but I'm not about to spend $300 just to play a set a few weeks early. Call me rational. So when Dave got married and moved closer to Philly, I was excited about finally making it to a prerelease and seeing what all the buzz is about.

My day began when I awoke at 8 am. I live in Reading, so I had at least an hour drive to Dave's apartment in Blue Bell, followed by a 45 minute train ride into Philly. We were planning on entering one of the side events, which start around noon. Dave suggested I get to his place by 10:30 to catch the 11:00 train, so I left my apartment at 9:15. After missing a few turns on the way, I arrived at his apartment about 10:50 and we raced to the train station with 3 minutes to spare. We arrived at the Philadelphia Convention Center before noon and wandered around looking for the prerelease. Some signs would have been helpful, but the security people were nice enough to point the way that we needed to go.

And there it was. Nerds lined the hall leading to the great Mecca of Magic. It was truly a sight to behold. I haven't attended a large Magic-based tournament or convention in a long time, but I was amazed (not surprised, mind you) at the composition of the crowd. There were at least 500 people, 90% of which were males between the ages of 13 and 22. Guys with long hair who looked like girls from behind probably outnumbered actual girls about 10 to 1. Now before I offend my entire target audience, let me just say there's nothing wrong with your typical Magic player. Hell, I'm a nerdy white guy, too. It's just weird to see them all congregated in one place, I guess. It also inspired the title of this piece, so I felt the need to mention it. On with the story!

Dave and I signed up to enter a side event, a.k.a. "bonus flight." The bonus flights had a rolling admission and started every time 32 people came around to sign up. We played a couple casual games while waiting for the flight to fill up. The bellowing of the 6'6" 300lb event coordinator told us that the orange flight was starting at the tables in the front corner of the room. We sat down, received our cards and sorted through them, looking to make the best deck. My card pool definitely favored green/white, with some good black removal (two Brainspoils) so I ended up making a three-color deck that heavily favored green, while the guy next to me prattled on about every card he opened. I tried to ignore him.

One of the things I loved about the prerelease is everyone's opinions on the new cards, despite only playing a handful of games, at best, with them. Here's some of the cards I heard referred to as unlimited bombs: Golgari Thug, Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Selesnya Evangel and Golgari Rot Farm. Granted, I didn't get a chance to play with all these cards, and they're all certainly solid cards, but none really seemed like game-swingers to me. Except maybe the Evangel, but even that takes a while to get going.

Round 1: I was paired up with a kid named Dan. He was playing a black/blue deck with pretty heavy milling. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't great, either. It's pretty easy to spot less experienced players because they play spells before the combat phase of their turns and Dan did this every time. Also, in the second game, I was stuck at two mana and he was using a Lurking Informant before all my draws, but instead of waiting to toss my lands away, he was actually milling all my expensive spells, which I couldn't cast anyway. It probably doesn't matter since I lost that game, but at the time I thought it might have made a difference. In the end, I won the match 2-1, almost solely on the power of my Selesnya Guildmage. I had no idea how good this thing was going to be going in, but once I hit 8 mana, I couldn't lose. In both games, I created saprolings then pumped them up for the win.
Record: 1-0, 2-1 overall

Round 2: Dave had a bye, which was nice since he lost his first round. I had a match against a kid who was slightly better than a bye. Just slightly. In this match, I discovered my deck's true bomb: Tolsimir Wolfblood. I played him both games and cruised to victory with the help of my awful opponent, who had two Benevolent Ancestors in play and couldn't figure out how to block a 4/4 creature without them dying. Coupled with the guildmage, it's insane.
Record: 2-0, 4-1 overall

Round 2.5: With some time to kill, Dave and I played a few games with our decks for practice. He was positive that my deck would easily beat him, but he ended up winning 2 out of 3 (I'm glad it didn't count), both wins thanks greatly to Flash Conscription on my Tolsimir. I also noted that he was playing with a Blazing Archon, which I knew he'd never be able to cast. He left it in anyway.

Round 3: Easily my best opponent, this guy was also named Dan. He was a really nice guy and I played really poorly. Early in our first game, I blocked a Galvanic Arc-ed Centaur Safeguard with my Sadistic Augermage before realizing my mistake. I asked him if I could change my mind and he replied, "Just one time." I ended up winning the game with 1 life left. The next game, he took mulligans until he was down to 4 cards in hand. With the help of a Bottled Cloister and a ton more mistakes by me, he almost got control of the board before I knocked him down to 0. In retrospect, I feel bad because I wouldn't have won if not for his generosity. Dan, if you're out there, I owe you two booster packs.
Record: 3-0, 6-1 overall

Meanwhile… Dave's still playing against some guy with a red/white/green deck. Dave lost the first game and is in the middle of the second. He's got under ten life and his opponent's creating a bundle of saprolings. In two straight games, he casts Blazing Archon to single-handedly win it for him. Just goes to show what I know.

All-in-all, the Ravnica prerelease was a great experience. I won seven booster packs and Dave won three, meaning we each got at least our $30 worth. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't gone before and I am personally looking forward to the next one. Though I still wouldn't pay $300 to go.

Read More Articles by Eric Turgeon!

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