The War Report: A Magical Vacation

I’ve been on vacation for a week now, and it’s been pretty swell. Last Sunday was my final day of work before the paid holiday, and smack in the middle of my time of was the trip to Las Vegas for Magic Fest 2019. I managed to play a lot of Magic: The Gathering over the course of the week, and thought I’d share some words and pictures to commemorate the events.

So as I said, I got off of work last Sunday morning, and still won’t go back to work until Wednesday early am. From there I had a couple of days of rest and relaxation ahead of me. My sister and her husband-to-be came over to visit us on Tuesday, and that meant we’d play some MTG in between catching up conversations and pizza (yay pizza, by the way). I had finished up my Yuriko build that I wrote about the other day, and really wanted to try that out so I ended up playing it vs. her Teysa Karlov and his Jodah, Archmage Eternal decks. He ended up beating us pretty readily with an early turn Sneak Attack into an Utvara Hellkite that we couldn’t answer. Yuriko still looked to have potential but it’s the only game I had played with her since finishing the build. I wanted a win and we only had time for one more game, so I pulled out my Zur the Enchanter deck which I had never played against them (it’s considerably higher powered) and pulled off a quick win.

Wednesday was prep and pack for Vegas day, so I ran some errands and gathered up my stashed recycling, coinage and bills and got those all turned in for cash for the trip. I left for Vegas on Thursday morning at 10am. I arrived by 2 pm. Unfortunately my friend who had reserved the room at our hotel wasn’t able to get off of work, so he left later in the afternoon and didn’t arrive until almost 9 pm. Needless to say I had to find a way to kill some time. Luckily our other friend who had moved to Vegas a couple of years ago had a place for me to hang out, and I did just that. We had some food, drank some beers and played some 1v1 Commander.

We ended up playing three separate games, and I won two of them. He’s had some money troubles and sold off a large portion of his collection. This meant he only had a total of three EDH decks and that would prove to be more frustrating for him than us as the weekend went on. Yuriko performed much better in the game at his house, and nearly won but he had a well timed Empress Galina that kept stealing my shit and pissing me off. My Zur game was a win, as was a game with Jodah. Later I would leave him behind (he had work in the morning) to go meet up with my ex-roommate to check into the hotel. We weren’t ready for bed yet, but at this point the first day of the convention was winding down, so we ended up ordering a pizza (yay pizza again!) and playing a few rounds. We got four games in before he was falling asleep with cards in hand. I won three of those games, probably the most fun of which was with Jodah, where I managed to drop Emrakul, the Promised End for 5 mana and basically took over the game. We crashed out looking forward to attending the convention in the coming days.

On day two, after waking up and getting cleaned up, we decided to play a few games in the room before heading over to the convention. Our other friend didn’t get off of work until 2pm, so we figured we’d hit the con and then go swoop him up to do something. Once we were at the convention center, we quickly learned that the venue was at the same hall as last year, so everything was very familiar this time around. Some things changed though, in that this year the cornered off area with the orange table cloths was called the “command zone” and we had to check in to get our passes to access the area at will.

Beyond just the pass giving us access, we also received a alternate art foil Sol Ring, four commander on-demand passes, and a 100+ deck box with Channel Fireball livery. I slammed the new Sol Ring into my Zur deck immediately as I’ve been pimping that deck out for a while now. We ended up wandering the hall for a while and checking out the vendors and things, and then ended up back in the command zone where we sat down and played some 1v1 waiting on other players. It seems that this wasn’t the best method, as we waited for a while and didn’t see lone players LFG or have anyone invite themselves to play with us. We decided to do some on-demands and found pods to play with that way, and had a bunch of fun. As soon as we had sat down to play our friend was bugging to come pick him up, but we ended up hanging out for a while before doing so.

We ended up back at the hotel room after picking up our friend and getting some dinner. We drank and played cards for a few hours, but later in the evening my ex-roommate had the commander party to attend. He ended up getting the Populate C19 Precon and since that was the one I wanted and he wasn’t as interested, I ended up buying it off of him. He got some Liliana sleeves as well, but I put those on my Varina deck since that’s the only place I have any Liliana cards. I sleeved up the precon and set it aside. We had plans to get the others the next day.

On day three we spent more time in the room than anywhere. Our third wasn’t in a spot to really do much at the convention so we decided to do some day drinking and play some games in the room before we went to go grab lunch. We went back to the hotel and played even more before we headed to the convention center for the last time. Between the two of us with money to burn, we wanted to get all four of the precons and only one was had at this point. I also wanted to get either a t-shirt or a playmat as a souvenir to commemorate the occasion and ended up with a new lightning bolt playmat that featured Magic Fest, the Channel Fireball, MTG and WotC logos on it. We ended up pooling our prize tix from the on-demands and I was able to pick up the Flashback precon as well. He ended up buying the other two at good prices, mainly because he traded in some valuable cards he wasn’t using for credit towards them. I was happy with the new purchases and we headed back to the room to finish our last night out playing more cards and drinking some brews.

Overall the convention was fun, the trip was memorable but I think I overdid it with the extra day. It turns out that one can only play so much Magic and be away from home for so long before wanting to do something else. I left early on Sunday morning despite originally planning on staying the day. I missed my family and wanted to sleep in my own bed. I still had a good time, but I think if I do this again next year some things will have to change. I’m hoping to maybe get my sister and her man to get interested in the trip and make it with me… would be really nice to have a pod of 5 before even heading to the con. We’ll see, I might end up just doing the Los Angeles convention next year instead, as it’s much closer and I’m sure the room prices would be about the same. Whatever the case, I’m glad to have done it, and I’m glad that I ended up with two extra days off after arriving back home. It’s back to the grind soon, but I’m glad to have had this opportunity again.

TWR: Looking Ahead to Magic Fest Vegas

It’s exactly 7 days until MagicFest Las Vegas kicks off, and I recently found out I’ve been approved for my vacation days, so I’m beyond hyped to be going to the Vegas convention for the second year in a row! You can read about my thoughts for the 2018 edition over here. I thought I’d take a look at the things that are different this year as opposed to last year and what I’m really looking forward to. If you are unfamiliar with MTG events, many of them are run by Channel Fireball, and you can get a ton of useful information over here. Regular readers will know that I’m primarily a Commander/EDH player, and this year there is a big portion of the convention devoted to Commander. As usual, the event features merchants buying/selling cards, professional tournaments, on-demand drafts and things, and casual tables to meet other players. What’s different this year, is a group of events hosted by the Command Zone podcast guys (one of which I met last year at the convention). The casual area is called the command zone this year, and there is a pass to have unlimited access to this area, but it also comes with the following perks:

  • 4-Day access to the Command Zone: Premium Casual Play Area with comfortable seating & table space, access to special guests & fellow Commander fans

  • 4 On-Demand Commander Events

  • FOIL Sol Ring Promo!

  • CFB Deckbox

This pass ran between $80-100, and from what I can recall last year the on-demand commander events were in the $15-20 ball park on their own. I’m sure the judge promo sol ring will be worth some money in the future (though I intend to hang onto it) and deckboxes are worth a few bucks as well. It seems to be worth the value. Check out the sol ring, it’s super nice!

Zur definitely wants this version in th deck, as it’s my most “pimped out” project (and most expensive). There is also a commander fanatic pass that gets you extra on-demand stuff along with a promo lightning bolt and playmat, but it’s an additional $75 on top of what I had already paid, so I passed. Another additional add on was the commander party on Friday night, which I was sort of interested in, but I decided to try and cut down my expenses for the long weekend. It was an additional $60 and gets you one of the C19 Precons at random, another non-foil sol ring promo and some other goodies. My friend ended up getting in on that, but I passed as well. I have been putting money aside for the trip, but between the room for three nights, gas to and from, food for most of four days, the command zone pass I already grabbed, and anything else I might want/need while I’m out of state means I can’t go too crazy. I’m also hoping to hit the LGS where my friend that lives out there goes to, and hitting the strip to gamble a little and hopefully hit something that basically pays for the trip. A couple hundred of bucks would be well enough.

Last time I managed to spend under $200 for the entire trip, but this time around I know that I’m going to spend more just because there are new options this year but also I have been saving for a couple of months to have a splashier time. It’s gonna be a blast one way or the other and excitement is starting to set in. Have you gone to a convention for something that you’re really into? Share your stories in the comments, or feel free to spin off a blog post of your own!

The War Report: Guilds of Ravnica Pre-Release

This past weekend the Pre-Release events for Guilds of Ravnica kicked off. My roommate and I ended up going as usual, this time on Sunday afternoon. Each one of these events that I’ve gone to has been a bit different, and I really enjoyed the themes of the kits this time around. Battlebond was the last prerelease I went to and it was a special occasion. Being a two-headed giant based set, it was a ton of fun to play as a team and do something a little bit different. Guilds of Ravnica was a standard limited event, but this one was more unique than some of those I went to in the past.

Given that this set is focused on five of the ten color pairings, we had five guild kits to choose from when we arrived at the event. Each of these decks came packed with a d20 and divider with the guild’s symbol, along with a special pack of cards in those colors and a few GRN boosters. I had decided going in that I would be representing House Dimir (clearly, from my Twitter profile) and my roommate chose to roll with Izzet. When we got down to opening packs, I ended up with quite a few good cards, though some that didn’t make it into my deck for the day. Many people were splashing a third color, but I literally didn’t get any bombs in other colors, so I stuck with a 2-color deck. Thankfully I pulled a bunch of cards with the new Surveil keyword and managed to make a decent deck out of it.

In the first round I ended up against another Izzet mage, but I was able to conquer 2-0 pretty easily. The first game took a while to get things going, but with 8 creatures in graveyard I dropped a creature with the Undergrowth keyword that pumped another creature by 8 power and that was all she wrote. In the second game my opponent couldn’t get anything going fast enough and I finished them off quickly.

Round two didn’t go as well. This time I was up against a Boros player, but he had also splashed green. In the first fight I pulled off some trickery but still got smashed. In the second game my opponent was mana starved and couldn’t stop me, but in game three the tables turned and I was mana starved. I finished the day 1-1, or 3-2 overall. I wasn’t able to stay for the third round but I was happy with my performance since I suck at building decks that aren’t commander decks. However, with MTG Arena in beta now (no more resets) I may start playing a bit more just to stay sharp between these events.

Above are the best cards I ended up with, at least for my current needs. Etrata was my promo card with the prerelease date on it, and a card I plan to use in my Lazav deck that I shared recently. Mission Briefing and Steam Vents have the most value, but I already own a set of shocks, so this one might just slam into Niv-Mizzet when I get around to building that, or will be some trade fodder. Mission Briefing and Plaugecrafter also slot into Lazav, and the little goblin there has a spot in Krenko. Overall it was a fun event again, and I look forward to getting my hands on a few more packs here in the near future. How have you been doing with your pulls?

The War Report: Grand Prix Las Vegas

Grand Prix Las Vegas ran from June 14th to the 17th this year, and though these sorts of events have been happening for years, I never saw myself going to one. I’ve known about Pro Tours and the competitive scene but I was always a kitchen table player so I always assumed these events were mainly for the pros or those aspiring to get into that scene. When it comes to the Grand Prix at least, there is more to do for the average Magic player than I would have first expected. It’s true, there is still a main event that the pros are participating in, but outside of that there are tons of events going on for everyone else, so my roommate and I decided that we should go a couple of months back. Part of this decision was made easier when a member of our pod moved out to Vegas, so we figured we could get the gang back together while simultaneously participating in one of the biggest Magic events of the year. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the game, so it was an extra special convention.

It really wasn’t a spontaneous decision to attend; we casually discussed it a while ago and though I thought it was a great idea it was unclear if we’d have the extra money to go. A few weeks ago he went ahead and secured a room at a hotel near the convention center, and let me know it was done so I scrambled to get my finances in order so that I would be able to make it. With the support of my lovely woman I was able to make the trip and I’m glad that I did. Though the convention started on Thursday, we decided that we could afford to take that Friday off in order to get a head start on the weekend. With Sunday being Father’s Day we needed to get back home as early as possible so we also headed to Vegas super early on Friday as well. I was in the car and on my way by 6:30 that morning and arrived shortly before 11 am. Our friend had work until 5 pm and check in at the hotel wasn’t until 3, but we managed to check in early and took advantage of the time to have a meal and enjoy the AC before heading over to the convention center.

As soon as we headed inside the main hall, we were greeted by an overwhelming amount of people and visuals. The place was packed when we arrived, and we spent a good couple of hours just walking around looking at everything on offer. Rows upon rows of tables were filled with people playing various forms of Magic. Vendors lined the rows and every card you could ever want was on sale — in multiple languages no less.

One of the coolest things on display was this humongous Serra Angel statue. Situated nearby were extremely over-sized cards showcasing all of the first printings of each artwork for the card. It was a shame that there wasn’t anything else like this on display, but you could get your own oversized cards from the “prize wall” nearby. There was also an “official” merch presumably run by Wizards of the Coast, and that’s where I got this beauty:

Before I left there were a few things on my bucketlist. I wanted a t-shirt commemorating the event, I wanted to do my first ever live draft and I wanted pick up some cards on my wishlist. There were a few shirts on sale at the shop, but this was the only one that mentioned anything about GP Vegas. The other shirts on sale were each of the individual mana colors, with some sort of slogan using the mana symbol as one of the letters. For example, the word “Nope” written across the front of the shirt with the O being the blue mana symbol. Funny yes, because blue is the counterspell color, but not really my thing. I liked the black one best, with the word “Doom” written across the front with one of the O’s being the black mana symbol. I still preferred the GP shirt, with the simple rendition of a black lotus on the front and the 25th anniversary logo and Grand Prix locations on the back.

I ended up participating in less events than I would have expected. The first few hours in the convention center were overwhelming… we had just driven for four and a half hours and were a bit jet lagged, and there was no real rhyme or reason for the event. It took some time to figure out where to go to sign up for events and whatnot, but once we did we decided to play some commander. There were sealed events, a beta draft qualifier and “on-demand” drafts. You could also play 4-player commander on demand, so that’s what we did. Each of these queues required payment and sign up and then you’re given a buzzer. You wait around til the buzzer goes off and then meet at a “gathering point” where a judge will verify names and then seat you. We had to wait about 30 minutes before we got a 4-player game, and it was over in about ten minutes or less. The guy who won literally pulled a turn 3 win con out of his ass and that was that. We went ahead and played a for fun game and I won that one at least. After this point it was time to meet up with our friend who was finally off of work, and we set off to do a Dominaria draft.

Later in the evening the on-demand drafts turned into “turbo drafts,” which are essentially the same thing but instead of playing three rounds you only play one. This was my first ever live draft, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I opened poorly, and though I made what I thought was a decent deck I got stomped pretty quickly. Unlike the pre-release events I’ve done at my LGS where you get packs of cards as reward for playing (and winning), at the convention you were rewarded with “Prize Tix” in various amounts. These were used on the aforementioned prize wall. I earned 20 tix for participating in the round of EDH, though the winner got an additional 40. For the draft format, you get 100 tix for winning and 10 for losing. Some people were cool and did a 60/50 split, but the guy I played against gave me the 10 and walked away. Dick. The second day I did one more paid event, a Battlebond draft with our friend while my roommate did his beta draft qualifier. That one didn’t go so well either, and unless the judge forgot to give them to us, I didn’t get any tix from that one. At the end of the day, I ended up with a total of 40 tix, and the prize wall was always so damn packed that I didn’t bother spending them. They’re an additional little souvenir from the weekend. The “Cake Tix” was for the 25th anniversary cake they were giving away but I didn’t have any of that either.

The two parts of the weekend that were my favorite were playing EDH with our original pod back in the hotel room, and the games of EDH we got going at the end of Saturday. I guess you could say I love EDH. Oh, and I met Josh Lee Kwai from The Command Zone podcast. He’s Internet famous, so that’s pretty cool. At one point I finally decided what cards I would like to get my hands on, limiting myself to spending $100 or less, but wanting to get some value. These were my spoils from the weekend:

The top row were purchased for said $100 or less. The bottom row were promo cards for participating in events. Teferi and Land Tax have a home in one deck that I’m building, while Atraxa has been on my mind as a commander I would like to build for a while now. Doubling season I’ve talked about quite a bit lately, and having been recently reprinted it’s dropped from $75 to $36, which is a steal at this point (and I doubt it will drop much more before slowly creeping back up to that high point). It will be included into whatever I do with Atraxa, be it Superfriends or +1/+1 counter shenanigans. The promo lands are more of a souvenir than anything, but that promo Death Baron is a sweet alternate art and will slot right into my Scarab God zombie tribal deck.

Overall it was a great weekend and a neat experience. I don’t know that I would do it again though, because I’ve discovered that I truly do not like drafting, so if I do anything like this in the future I’ll be focusing on EDH alone. Still, if you love the game like I do, I’d recommend checking out a big convention like this at least once for the experience!

TWR: Battlebond Preview Weekend

Battlebond releases this Friday, but this past weekend there was a “preview weekend” event at my LGS; my roommate and I took the opportunity to check out the new set early. Being a Two-Headed Giant format makes the sealed experience a bit different than what I’ve experienced in the past. Rather than getting a pre-release kit for $30 and building a deck from the packs included, then running through a few 1v1 rounds and possibly winning some extra packs, we were both awarded with 4 packs for $20 each. Technically that sounds like a sham, but the two of you build two decks from the pool, and in our case we just took pictures of the packs we opened so we could pull our cards back out after the event. Similar to pre-release events, you’ll run through rounds against rotating opponents, but 2v2 this time around. We also received promo cards at the beginning of the event, and I started the day off pretty good:

It seems that everyone got one of the new “partner with” pairs, my pull being one of the better options. This also helped steer us in a particular direction when it came to deck building. Unfortunately I didn’t end up with many other cards I wanted from the set, and none of the big money reprints or new additions. My roommate pulled a foil Greater Good, and the Najeela that I’d love to trade for but not much else. We ended up doing really well in the tournament though, and that made me proud. Our deck ended up centering around those two Planeswalkers above, along with a suite of removal in Black and Red, some good ramp in Green, and a splash of White. He ran RGW and I built UB. Though we were running the Kenriths and Najeela, we never played any of them. We primarily played Warriors though as we had good synergy in those colors, so I most slung the removal spells and he mostly made the creatures. We won the first two rounds, and only lost the third round due to a well timed Archon of Valor’s Reach, naming Sorcery. Our trump card ended up being Thrilling Encore, working exactly as planned in game 2, where we cast some removal spells, swung out with our board and killed/lost creatures, then played Encore to return all of the killed creatures to our side of the field. Game Over.

Besides the aforementioned Planeswalkers that I’m thinking of throwing into either a Superfriends deck or my Jodah deck, these were the cards I pulled that I can see places for in my existing EDH decks. In some cases I’m not too sure where they will end up but I’d like to use them nonetheless. The Blaring Captain/Recruiter pair are good in a Najeela deck, as is the Mindblade Render, and I’m considering where I might put them. Sylvia and Khorvath are screaming to go into Kaalia, considering I added a handful of dragons to that deck recently and they’d love to have doublestrike. Khorvath’s Fury is a nice wheel that I’m going to put into Locust God. The Goblins will find a place in Krenko. The Wumpus and Searchlight are great for my group hug deck, and Seer’s Lantern will work for Grenzo. That leaves Gorm and Virtus, which really want to be in some sort of unblockable type deck. Not sure where to use Spellseeker either, though I’m sure she could go into Kess or Taigam, something that wants to grab a particular spell. It’s a tutor at least, and that will find a home.

Overall I’m happy with the outcome of the event. I wish I would have pulled a Doubling Season or a Land Tax… hell I would have loved a Diabolic Intent, but I can still grab a few more packs after Friday and pick up some singles. I’m not missing out on a cheaper Doubling Season, I’ll guarantee that. I’m hoping that Wizards can keep this sort of thing going, I really liked playing 2v2. I’ll definitely participate in some more Battlebond action in a couple of weeks at GP Vegas!