Alternate Title: The Official Unofficial Grey Matter Conventions Guildpact Prerelease Tournament Report and Gratuitous Beard Boasting Article
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Smack the snooze. Roll over.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Smack the snooze. Roll over.
Today is the day of the Guildpact Prerelease. I convinced Dave that we should join one of the main flights, starting between 8:00 – 9:30. Accounting for the time it takes to get to Dave's place and then the convention center...
Turn off the alarm. It's time to get up.
I roll out of bed and head to the bathroom. I check myself out in the mirror. My hair's sticking up all over the place and I have a five-day old nerd beard growing in pretty nicely. I should have shaved the night before, but then again, I am going to a Magic tournament. I feel my face. Nerd beard: now even patchier...for her pleasure. If it was a little bit longer I might consider trimming it – Chuck Norris style. Fear the beard. No need to play any games. My opponents will concede or get a roundhouse kick to the face. I pause, for a moment, reflecting on my thoughts. They seem a lot funnier at 6:45 in the morning.
I get dressed with the lights off, to avoid waking up my wife. I throw on a long sleeve Moxie T-shirt. I need a hat, too. 49ers or Penn State? I go with the Niners. Back in the bathroom, the mirror tells me that the bright orange shirt and red hat do not go well together. (I'm going to a Magic tournament – why do I care?) I decide to wear a gray fleece over the T-shirt. It is pretty cold out.
I step outside. The sky is dark. It's telling me to play Dimir. It is my destiny. I will go and win with a Dimir deck.
I get in my car and start driving. The sky is pink now. It's telling me to play Boros. It is my destiny. I will go and win with a Boros deck.
I need cash. I stop at a bank and go to the ATM. I try to get "Fast Cash" from my checking account. It tells me that my card's invalid. I start over, finding out that my old bank account is still showing up on the card. I canceled that account over six months ago and it's still showing up on my card. Stupid bank. I get my cash and go back to my car. The sky is gold now. So, um... I guess it's telling me to play with gold cards. It is my destiny. I will go and win with a deck containing gold cards.
I start driving again. Before long, the sky turns blue, but stays red on the horizon. It's telling me to play Izzet. It is my destiny. I will go and win with an Izzet deck.
About halfway to Dave's the sky is blue and white. It's telling me to play Azorius. Azorius isn't out yet. Stupid sky. I give it the finger.
Who am I kidding anyway? I already know what colors I'll be playing: green, black and white. Because that's what I always play.
There's a dead skunk in the grass on the side of the road. It's telling me to play green, black and white. That's more like it. It is my destiny.
I get to Dave's apartment around 8. He answers the door right away. He's been up since 6:45. I tell him he's crazy. I feel like I have to drop a deuce. I ask to use the bathroom. Dave tells me it's for paying customers only. I tell him I'll buy... something. No wait, I don't tell him that. There could be a joke in there, but I can't think of it fast enough. I guess I'll have to think of something and save it for next time. So I sit on the toilet for a bit and nothing happens. False alarm, I guess. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this.
We hop in Dave's car and head to the Valley Forge Convention Center. Dave asks me to navigate. I completely miss a turn, but we get there anyway. Dave finds a place to park and we start heading toward the entrance. I see the other Eric getting out of his car. In case you forgot, he's the spaz from Infinite Quests. I can't believe he's old enough to drive. I make a mental note to be careful not to leave at the same time as him.
The signup line is hella long. Dave and I agree to enter two events: I want to get my money's worth in playtime.
We're in the orange flight. We look around. All the tables have different colored tablecloths on them, none of which are orange. We sit at a red table and start a game, waiting for our flight to begin. We only play a couple turns before an announcement comes over the PA system: the orange flight is ready to begin. We look around. The orange flight is taking place on the green tables with the tiny little slips of orange paper on them. How'd we miss that?
I sit around for a while, chatting with the players around me. I notice that Dave and I are the only players at our table with wedding rings on. I'm not surprised. I have the mightiest nerd beard at the table. I see this as a sign of certain victory.
We get our cards and I take a look at my selection. Black looks okay. So does green. But Devouring Light is the only playable white card. So much for destiny. Gruul is strong, so I lean towards black, red, green. I make an initial build, then review it. I've got double black, double red and double green casting costs. Not good. Black looks like the best candidate for downsizing. I take out a Brainspoil and Vigor Mortis for two Mourning Thrulls. Power for consistency. I'm not sure if it's the best decision, but it makes me feel more secure. I end up with the following decklist, which I remembered to save:
Eric Turgeon's Orange Flight Sealed (in no particular order)
Orzhov Euthanist (who I keep calling Orzhov Enthusiast, at least "enthusiast" is a real word)
Silhana Ledgewalker (<--Freaking Awesome)
Leyline of Lightning (meh. Got it to work once. In retrospect, I should have taken this out to downsize red, but I like to try out the new cards.)
Terrarion (for obvious reasons)
2 Mourning Thrull
Gruul Scrapper (meh.)
2 Streetbreaker Wurm
Gruul War Plow (<--Pretty freaking awesome)
Gleancrawler (meh. Not as insane as I expected.)
Bloodscale Prowler (I can't even remember what this is)
Moldervine Cloak (<--Insanely freaking awesome... but I hope you already knew that)
Cry of Contrition
Tin Street Hooligan
Wildsize (very decent)
Skarrg, the Rage Pits (solid)
Notable exclusions include the aforementioned Brainspoil and Vigor Mortis, along with Bioplasm (it worried me), Gruul Nodorog (too expensive), Exhumer Thrull (too expensive), Ostiary Thrull (no white), Gather Courage (too weak), and Siege Wurm (not enough creatures). I also opened three Izzet Boilerworks and no playable Izzet cards. I think there's an Izzet Boilerworks in every booster pack.
I sift through my deck one more time. Shuffle and draw. Shuffle and draw. The hands don't thrill me. I ask Dave if bad practice hands mean that I'll get my good hands in the game. He tells me they'll just get worse.
Match 1: John
John shuffles like a pro. He's fidgety, too, always moving or shuffling his hand or something, which makes me suspect that he's really good. But he's clean shaven, so he can't be that good.
In our first game, I draw fourteen lands before dying on turn three. That may be an exaggeration. I'll let you decide for yourself.
In the second game, I play a Gruul War Plow on my fourth turn. He tells me he thinks he hates that card. I ask him how he knows. He says it's too good. I tell him that I hope he continues to hate it. I proceed to beat him over the head with my War Plow. I tell him I like it.
Before the third game, he tells me the first game shouldn't have counted. Again, I play my War Plow on my fourth turn. He doesn't give up. Jerk. I proceed to not draw a single freaking source of green mana the entire game.
That only counts as game two, right? Oh, he was just being nice. I guess I've lost. I congratulate John and wish him luck in the rest of the flight. If he goes undefeated, maybe I won't look so bad.
Record: 0 – 1, 1 – 2
After the match, I go watch Dave. He and his opponent each have about a million permanents on the board. I try not to analyze the situation, lest my brain explode. It's still their first game. I'm not surprised. I think Dave eventually loses, but I can't remember. Either way, the second game takes just as long, and the loser of the first game wins. They're preparing for the tiebreaker when the judge calls time. They agree to just call it a draw.
Match 2: Dan
I don't think I like Dan. I've met a lot of Dans in my life, and he's the first one that I don't think I like. I would much prefer to be playing one of the Dans I played at the Ravnica prerelease. This Dan's a flicker. He's also kind of smug. He says all my creatures are awesome. I think that's his way of writing off a loss. He also yells at me for holding my hand under the table at one point in the game. I give him the finger with my other hand, which I decide to keep below the table for this purpose. I can't quite remember what he looked like, but he might have had a mustache. If he didn't, he looked like he should have. In case you didn't know: Nerd Beard > Mustache (that may of may not exist)
He beats me down hardcore in the first game. I might have been able to mount a comeback, but my life ran too low too quickly. The last card I draw is my War Plow, but I concede before casting it.
The second game, I cast Silhana Ledgewalker early. I decide that I LOVE Silhana Ledgewalker. I'm going to marry her some day (don't tell my wife.) If you played with her at the prerelease, I guarantee that two things happened: 1) Your opponent tried to block her with a non-flying creature. 2) Your opponent tried to target her with a spell or ability. My next turn, I cast Moldervine Cloak on her. Good game, buddy.
The third game, I manage to cast the Ledgewalker and Moldervine Cloak again, but much later in the game. My life is low, but I'm ripping Dan's life away. I make some careful calculations. He's at seven life and doesn't have enough blockers to prevent me from doing exactly seven damage. "Let's end this thing," I think. I swing for seven. That's game, right? Dan says he had nine life. He points to the die I'm using to track his life. I forgot to add two points when he cast his Blind Hunter. He knew I had the wrong life total. I wish I could hate him for this, but I know it's completely my fault. I give him the finger, anyway. Then I congratulate him and wish him luck in the rest of the flight.
Record: 0 – 2, 2 – 4
I have time to go watch Dave play. Again, he and his opponent have about a million permanents out. I think Dave loses in two games. Afterwards, we review each other's decks. His primary concern is that it can't last in the late game. I think back to my previous matches and realize that my deck has no late game. I notice that his deck has over 40 cards in it. I tell him I'd try to pare it down. Dave's weird like that. He's plenty good enough to know that 40 cards will give him the best deck, but can't force himself to cut any cards with potential. After considering my Blazing Archon advice from the Ravnica prerelease, I decide that it really doesn't make much of a difference what I think. Besides, he's wondering why I'm not playing Brainspoil and Vigor Mortis.
Match 3: Jon
I like Jon. He's a nice kid. Before our first game, I joke around about how bad we're doing. I tell him the positive thing is that at least one of us has to get a win here. I feel bad when I quickly beat him in two games. Especially the second game, which was absolutely ridiculous. I got one of those "God Draws" where every card hit right along the mana curve at the right time. I even had my Leyline in my opening hand. I wish him luck in his last match.
Record: 1 – 2, 4 – 4
Dave's match goes relatively quickly. We decide that we have enough time for lunch. There's a concession stand right in the tournament area. The food costs $5, or $7 with fries. I think that's outrageous. Dave thinks the proportions are good. He reminds me that they do have a monopoly on the refreshments. He's right, but I refuse to throw any of my food away. Those fries cost about 10 cents a piece.
Match 4: Steve
His name on the paper said either Steven or Stephen, but I can't remember which, so I'll call him Steve. Steve might be the oldest guy here. I'd place him in his fifties, at least. He's got a stubbly grey beard and he's definitely a nice guy. He was playing next to me in the previous round and after the match, he offered some deckbuilding advice to his opponent.
Steve and I make conversation before the games: the usual Magic player crap. How long have you played? Been in many tournaments? All that. We talk a little bit about Fallen Empires. I tell him how much I liked the set. He tells me how many people it put out of business.
I barely beat Steve in the first game. In the second, I gain an early lead and almost have the game in hand, when he pulls the ultimate finishing move, tapping all his lands and playing the only card left in his hand face down to do thirteen damage to me. He was kidding of course, but it's nice to see such a healthy sense of humor in the face of defeat. Once again, Silhana Ledgewalker and Moldervine Cloak were the heroes for me. I ask Steve if he's playing in a bonus flight. He is. I wish him better luck in that flight than he had in this one.
Record: 2 – 2, 6 – 4
I report my results to the judge and pick up my "automatic prize" booster pack. I wish I could have pulled out another match win, especially against Dan, for some prizes, but at least I get something and I ended on a high note.
Dave and I get in line for a bonus flight. While we're waiting, he calls his wife to tell her he won't be home until around dinnertime, since he originally hadn't planned to be entering two flights. Then he opens up his extra booster. It's got just about every solid common in it, along with Izzet Boilerworks. I tell him he should repackage it and save it for the next draft. I tell him I'm going to save my pack for a draft or something.
Our bonus flight number is five. Once again, we take our seats and await the products. I open my tournament pack first. Usually, I'll look through all the cards in order, but for some reason I feel compelled to go backwards this time. The first card I see: Foil Hex. The second card I see: Loxodon Gatekeeper. Not too shabby. I have a Putrefy and a Nullmage Shepherd in the uncommon slots. I get a Disembowel, Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Rotwurm, and Civic Wayfinder amongst my commons. It's no contest: green, black and white are my colors. It is my destiny. I think there are three things necessary to winning a sealed event: Good removal, good mana-fixing and bomb rares. I already have all three and I haven't even opened my Guildpact packs yet.
I open my first booster. It has Izzet Boilerworks. I'm not impressed.
I open my second booster. It also has Izzet Boilerworks. I'm still not impressed.
I open my third booster. Savage Twister. Angel of Despair. No Izzet Boilerworks. I decide that I can't lose.
When all is said and done, I come up with the following decklist:
Eric Turgeon's Bonus Flight 5 Sealed (in no particular order)
2 Mourning Thrull
Angel of Despair
Elves of Deep Shadow
2 Shrieking Grotesque
These were the solid, very playable cards that I did not include: Boros Fury-Shield, 2 Lionheart Mavericks, Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, 2 Cry of Contritions, Dimir Machinations, Elvish Skysweeper, Gather Courage, Siege Wurm, Dimir Guildmage, Petrified Wood-Kin, Rolling Spoil, Harrier Griffin. Any of those cards could have normally made my main deck. But not this time. Not with the best card pool in my life. This is what I like to call a good problem to have. Meanwhile, Dave builds a deck with 46 cards, including Gate Hound. Even I couldn't figure that one out.
Match 1: Travis
Travis is a really skinny, quiet kid. He wears a brightly colored striped scarf, which I find sort of strange, but then again, there's a lot of strange people at events like this.
This is his first flight of the day, so he's anxious to get started. I make him wait. Why? Because this is how I started the first game: Hand 1 – seven cards, no lands. Hand 2 – six cards, no lands. Hand 3 – five cards, no lands. Freaking Paris Mulligan rules. I'm not supposed to lose. It's my destiny. Hand 4 – four cards: Swamp, Forest, Golgari Rot Farm, Putrefy. That's just about the best starting four cards I could ask for, but I still die handily. On the plus side, I never lose track of his life total. It's twenty.
After the first game, some of his friends come over. They want him to play in a team flight with them. He says he doesn't have the money for it. They say they'll pay. He agrees. They tell him the flight is starting now.
Yes! Victory by concession! After that first game, I'll take whatever I can get. He tells his friends to make a deck for him. He wants to finish this match first. What!? Are you freaking kidding me? I want to ask him if he'll concede anyway, since he can't win anything by conceding after the first round, but I'm not well versed in the floor rules of DCI tournaments. Is that considered cheating? He doesn't offer, so I don't say anything. I just quietly seethe.
Luckily, game two goes much better for me. I win it pretty handily with a squadron of flyers. That's what the deck was supposed to do. I calm down a little and try to play slowly so that he'll be forced to leave early.
Game three does not start well. He casts a flurry of creatures and wrecks my life all the way down to two. (At this point, I'm getting ready to strangle him with his scarf if he finds a way to do another two points of damage. Actually, I guess I'd wait until he reported the win to the judge and then dropped. Cause that's just mean.) I manage to stabilize the board and I have my Angel of Despair in hand, but he's got an Elvish Skysweeper at the ready. I wait for him to tap out and then I cast my angel, blasting his elf. That's not quite how I envisioned her being used, but I'll take it. He's got no flyers and my angel goes the distance. He seems disappointed about losing, but I could care less. We report the results to a judge. The judge asks why Travis is dropping. I tell him I think he stayed the round just to screw me over. The judge doesn't care.
Flight Record: 1 – 0, 2 – 1
Overall Record: 3 – 2, 8 – 5
I wander to the other end of the table, where Dave's playing a kid who looks like he should be protesting Vietnam or something. There's a girl sitting next to Dave. She got beaten in her match and wants to know if I want to trade. I tell her I don't have anything to trade. She specifies that she's not looking for Guildpact. She thinks it sucks. I wonder why she's at the prerelease. Dave and Protest Guy finish their match and offer to trade with her. They all pull out their trade binders and pass them around. I observe the strange ritual that is trading. I decide that I need to get a trade binder for reasons that will be explained in my next 20-Point Fireball. (What a great teaser. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!) Some other people stop by and pull out their trade binders. I'm pretty sure that the time on the match ended over half an hour ago and wonder what's taking so long.
Match 2: Joe
Eventually, the pairings are announced for the second round of the flight. I'm up against Joe, who instantly impresses me with his nerd beard. I worry that mine will not be able to compete.
In the first game, I make a huge mistake early in the game. I play Castigate, and should choose Nightmare Void. But I forget that it would be removed from the game and assume that he would just dredge it right back up again. In the end, that mistake cost me my Foil Hex and a couple other cards. It also helps Joe take me down to 1 life. I fear that my deck is not quite as impressive as I initially thought, but once again, it responds with a great effort, as I stabilize the board and pull off a win back at two life, thanks to a Mourning Thrull.
The second game isn't even close. I have two Castigates in my opening hand. The next two turns after they're used, I cast two Shrieking Grotesques. Eric's card advantage = +2. The Grotesques go the distance, as Joe looks on helplessly, his hand reduced to nothing. At this point, I decide that there is a fourth thing necessary for winning a sealed event: evasive creatures.
Flight Record: 2 – 0, 4 – 1
Overall Record: 4 – 2, 10 – 5
My stunning victory proves that it is not the size of the nerd beard, but the power behind it that will determine the true winner.
Match 3: Jim
More than half of my opponents' names begin with J. This is the sort of thing Wizards should be doing market research on. Are people with J names more likely to become Magic players? Probably not. M's still dominate, in my opinion.
So anyway, I sit down across from Jim and the first thing he does is offer to take a draw. His friends look at him like he's crazy. You want to draw! With your deck? I consider this to be a good indicator that I should accept his offer. The prizes are rewarded by record, so if I win, I get seven booster packs, if I lose, I get three and if we draw, we each get five. For some reason the difference between seven and five seems a lot smaller than the difference between five and three. But I also decided that I can't lose. I decide to make a deal. I'm here to play Magic, so if we take a draw, I'd still like to play the games. He agrees.
We go to the judge to report our decision, but he's busy. While we're waiting, Jim asks what my rating is. I tell him that I don't know. This is only the third sanctioned tournament I've ever entered. Jim's starting to look like he wishes we played the games. Too late, buddy. A deal's a deal. Jim tells me he opened a Loxodon Heirarch and Glare of Subdual. I tell him that I got a few bombs myself, but I've really only done well because I got a good mix of evasive creatures, removal and mana-fixing. He agrees.
We report our decision and sit down to play. The game goes back and forth a little bit, but it's essentially a ground stall. Neither one of us plays very carefully, as I forget to sacrifice my Rotwurm before he casts Faith's Fetters on it. Then he plays Glare of Subdual while I have a Nullmage Shepherd in play. (After the fact: Not sacrificing the Rotwurm turned out to be the right decision after I topdecked the shepherd. I suppose it has more to do with luck. Or the beard.) Finally, I end the stall by casting Foil Hex and attacking for the win. And, yes, Foil Hex is the official name of the card. That is the proper way to refer to a bomb rare. If someone were to cast Cranial Extraction, naming Hex, I'd say, "Go Fish. There's only a Foil Hex in here."
The second game, we both play better than in the first. I do make a mistake by casting Savage Twister a turn too early, killing two of his creatures when I could have killed four, but I really had no way of knowing more were coming. Later, he casts his Heirarch, but I Putrefy it or Disembowel it or something. I ask him if he wants to sacrifice it in response to regenerate all his creatures. He doesn't care. It doesn't make a difference. Eventually, the ground stalls again, but a topdecked Foil Hex blows it up in my favor.
(Unofficial) Flight Record: 3 – 0, 6 – 1
(Unofficial) Overall Record: 5 – 2, 12 – 5
His friends can't believe he lost. Says Jim, "I knew there was a reason you went undefeated, too."
I tell him those were actually the first two games I was able to cast Foil Hex. I want to show him my angel, but I forget.
It's time to check in on Dave. He's getting a little frustrated. I think he lost his first two matches, but he's up one game in this one. His opponent wins the second and they decide to call it a draw. Right now, Dave's more worried because the event is running so late. It's almost six and he promised his wife he'd be home to have dinner and then see a movie at seven. He calls her up. Apparently, she's not very happy. While I wait for my prize packs, I notice that the last flight of the day is just getting started. I tell Dave we should join. He tells me I can read a speech at his funeral.
Dave opens his two consolation packs. He gets and Izzet Boilerworks in each. He also gets a Stomping Ground. He thinks that will be enough to pay for the day. I overhear a judge saying they're ready to hand out the prizes for bonus flight five. I'm the first person in line. I grab my packs and we head for the door.
Dave's anxious to get home, so he's driving pretty fast. Faster than usual, I should say. He almost misses an exit and cuts across two lanes of traffic to reach it. Then he gets stuck behind some old people. He's upset because they seem to have no idea how to drive. I make a tasteless joke about old people. He makes a worse one.
"Yeah," he says. "I'm going to hell."
See you there, buddy.
We get back to his place and exchange quick goodbyes. He's still got time to make the movie, so I don't want to keep him any later than he already is.
It's unusually balmy for late January. I brought a coat with me in the morning, but don't feel like I need it now. I get in my car and start driving home. I take the turn onto the highway a little too quickly. My tires squeal. I check back to see if a car's coming, while simultaneously not expecting a car to be coming. There's a car coming. Too late now. I stomp the gas pedal and my tires squeal some more as my car comes back up to speed. I seem to have no idea how to drive.
Once I'm on the highway, I let the person I was supposed to yield to pass me. I don't want them to have to worry about that crazy guy on the road their whole trip. I pass Baby Dolls on the way home, but consciously decide not to mention it. I recall a conversation I had with my sister a few weeks back:
Her: I read some of your writing.
Me: What writing?
Her: Something on a casual player website.
Me: That's not me.
Her: Yes it is. There was something about Dave and Lauren.
Me: Wait, what exactly did you read?
Her: Something about a stripper...
No more clever bonus stories for me.
Lauren's not home when I get there. She's out shopping with her best friend. I get something to eat then decide that I'd better start writing about my day. I can't think straight, so I go to look up my rating. 1620. Not bad. That's better than my online rating. I try to find Dave's rating. Or the rating of someone else I played today. All I find is the other Eric's rating. It's 1666. Somehow I'm not surprised.
I still can't think straight, so I decide to type up my decklists before I forget. I enter the cards and then see my prize packs. I was saving them for a draft. I decide to open them instead. I open a Djinn Iluminatus. Now I have three. That's enough for a deck. I was trying to get Dave to trade one of his earlier for a Scion of the Wild and some other stuff, but he wasn't biting. Now I'll probably just give him the Scion. I'll never play with it.
My stomach sort of hurts. I still feel like I have to drop a deuce. More urgently this time. I head to the bathroom. Sweet relief. Again, I can't figure out why I'm telling you this. Fast forward a couple weeks:
My sister: I read another one of your stories on that site.
Me: Oh. Which one?
Her: Something about taking a dump.
I decide to take a shower and get to bed. It's not that late, but I'm exhausted and I have to get up early for church tomorrow. I go in for a shower and decide to shave afterwards. The powers of the nerd beard are no longer needed. In fact, they're kind of frowned upon in the church setting. I finish shaving and Lauren knocks on the door, scaring the crap out of me. (Or she would have if there were any crap left in me. Is this getting too graphic? I can't tell.) She asks me how it went and I try to explain that I went undefeated in my bonus flight even though I didn't really go undefeated. I'm not sure she understands, but I'm also not sure I'm explaining it well.
Either way, I'm ready for bed. I quickly fall asleep.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Smack the snooze. Roll over.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Smack the snooze. Roll over.
I have to go to church today. I play guitar in one of the music groups. We're filling in at the last minute and I'm worried that not a lot of guitarists will show up. It's also my birthday and I'm still exhausted. I'm willing to get up at 6:30 in the morning to play Magic. How can I not get up an hour later than that for church?
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Turn off the alarm. Roll over. Go back to sleep.
Yeah, I'm going to hell. See you there, buddy.