At the Gathering: A Post-Nationals Review

At the Gathering
A Post-Nationals review

By Jeff Phillips

Magic Weekend was a blast. I don't think I've ever in my life had so much fun and so little sleep in the same seven days. I have a huge slate of topics to cover about the weekend, so let's get started.

Any of you who read Patrick "The Innovator" Chapin's columns know he's been working on some projects related to TV and film. I had the chance to visit with Patrick this weekend, and while I'm a little short on the details of his TV show, I can tell you that the documentary film in progress is going to be off the chain. (That's a technical film-making term, of course) I managed to speak with three of the beautiful ladies who are part of the crew, and just talking with them, I can tell this is going to be a great film. It looks like a talented and qualified group, and I'm psyched to see it when it finally makes it's way to the teeming masses. As for the TV show, I've heard it's going to be reality style. Look for it, and watch it when it does come out. TV + Magic? That's a winning combination. Besides, anything we can do to get Magic out there to more people is a notch in the win column in my book.

I had the opportunity to talk with some of the press covering the event as well. I'd like to highlight two of them here, because they are reporting to non-magic related publications. One of them is online, and the other in a print magazine, and this is a great exposure for Magic to their respective crowds. I spent a good amount of time with these two gentlemen, teaching them not only Magic, but some of the other WotC games, and I expect a stunning read.

Collin David is an old-school Magic player, and he'll have 3 articles up on another website, all of them already live. He has a unique take on his experience, coming as a former Magic player getting reactivated. I highly recommend reading them (they are free after all.) Here's the link. http://www.collectorsquest.com/blog/author/colin/

The second writer is a freelancer for Geek magazine. If you haven't seen it, you should. It covers all things Geek, no matter the obsession. I've picked up a few copies in the past, and it's good stuff. The author's name is Brian Rubin, and his article should appear in the October (released in mid-to-late September) issue of Geek Magazine. At last glance, Brian was trying to convince his editor to give him more space. Nice. Here's the magazine's official website. http://www.geekmonthly.com

Next on our list, the Artists. The featured artists this weekend were Aleksi Briclot and Dave Kendall. Dave was flying solo on Thursday, as Aleksi had some business in Paris, and wasn't available until Friday. Dave's most famous cards are actually two Eventide releases, Flooded Grove and Hallowed Burial. So, he was a bit popular, as his most-played cards are from the latest expansion. But of course, Aleksi, once he arrived, was absolutely mobbed. Wizards of the Coast has made the Lorwyn Planeswalkers the new face of Magic, and as the artist for all 5 of them, Aleksi is now one of the most popular artists. And he did not disappoint, signing and sketching well after his allotted time each night. As I've stated before, I'm a big Art Fanboy, and this was heaven for me. Aleksi had some beautiful prints and artist proofs on hand, and I picked up a print of each of the Planeswalkers. I also picked up a few prints from Dave, and some customized artist's proofs. (Cthulhu emerging from the Flooded Grove? Perfect) Now, to fight with my wife over where to put them. I also had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with them outside of the venue, and these guys are just awesome.

One piece of art I wish I had been able to get, but lost out on, was the original artwork for Flooded Grove. Dave Kendall had it on site, and it was beautiful. All weekend long, I kept thinking to myself "Do I really need to eat? Eating is overrated." I spent days ogling it from afar, imagining it on various walls in my house, but I never could muster the courage to pony up the $400 for it. Hindsight is 20/20, though, and I really should have taken the plunge and bought it. I take some small satisfaction in knowing that it will be loved and appreciated by it's new owner, Riki Hayashi. Congrats, Riki, enjoy it.

The only Tournament I actually was able to enter was the Saturday night Tempest Block Sealed Art Print tournament. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not up to speed on Tempest Block, and to make things worse, the pack of Stronghold was in German. Cool, of course, but not what you want when you're trying to build a block you've never played before, and on a time-limit to boot. The judges were great, and had copies of Stronghold Oracle printed out to reference, but I have to admit, it threw me for a loop. I had punted the whole tournament before I began, for two reasons.
1. I had an excuse to lose. I mean, who wouldn't get thrown off by German cards? As has been said in some Psychological Articles, I gave myself permission to lsoe, something I don't often do.
2. Scott Larabee had an invitation-only party that night, and I happened to have an invitation. Hmm, Party with some Pros and WotC Staffers, or scrub out.
After Deck Construction, I awaited my first round pairings. Okay, good news, I didn't recognize the name. At least it wasn't some Pro trying to add some "Phat l00t!" Not that it mattered, I still lost very quickly. I'm 0-1, and I would have to win 3 out of the next 4 to make the prizes. I decided I would have more fun with the party, so I dropped at 0-1 and had a blast that night. Scott's party was fun, and the late night party afterwards was not "The Loser Choice." Here's a word of advice, my friends. If you have the option to go out with friends, or go to sleep, choose the former. The latter is what we have come to call "The Loser Choice."



I wanted to go ahead and post my pool, as well as my build. Let me know what you would have done differently. I know I didn't build the best possible deck, given the pool, and I'm interested in what all you players out there in forum-land would have made.

If you'll look to the right, you'll see my sealed pool. I didn't think it was a very strong pool, but again, evn though I took German in High School, Sorcery and Trample aren't the sorts of words you see in the textbook. I really wanted to play black, given the Dark Ritual, but I just didn't see enough support for it.





So Tempting...














As I looked at the pool, I got the idea to use the Blood Frenzy and Mogg Cannon, together with Fling, to make a single, potentially game-ending strike. Utilizing those cards together, I can easily get 12+ damage through in one single round. With a Seething Anger, on buyback or not, or double Blood Frenzy, I can end the game in one turn. In hindsight, I think I can see some better builds, for sure. U/R looks strong, at least now, to me. Let me know what you would have made.



But let's talk of better times. I did manage to see some sights while I was there. The Sears Tower was nice, but I recommend the Hancock Tower now. It's about 10 stories lower for the observation deck, but the view is much better, in my opinion. As the real estate maxim goes, "Location, Location, Location!" and the Hancock is almost on the beach, with beautiful views in all 4 directions. I highly recommend it. The Sears Tower is nice, but it wasn't quite as awesome as the Hancock. I also managed to check out the Birmingham Fountain. I didn't realize it until I looked at the pictures afterwards, but it's the same fountain from Married with Children. No word on an Al Bundy sighting. Another cool sight I stumbled over was the parks around the Art Institute. One has the Fountain, another has a Chrome Bean, for lack of a better term, as well as an awesome outdoor concert venue. The third had an outdoor showing of "The Blues Brothers" on a 3 story screen. One of the sponsor companies even decked out a replica of the cop car from the movie. Solid.

I've been working on a new T-2/Block Deck. Looking at all the Nationals finishers and notables, I don't think it's been looked at yet. Either that, or it has been looked at, and it sucks. I plan to find out. I don't want to reveal too much, but I will give you the name: Fraggle Rock. If it works out well, I'll have something more for you in a future article. If not, well then *waves hand* "This is not the deck you are looking for."

On last notable point. I had the chance to visit with the User Experience Director for Magic Online. While I didn't glean anything juicy out of her, I do want to inform those of you who play that she was there all weekend looking for feedback on how to make the game better. She was also working with an Adept to make things work smoother on that side as well. So, while I hear lots of complaints about V3.0, they are genuinely interested in making it a better user experience.

Lets end with some Cheers and Jeers from the weekend.

Cheers:
To the Sunday Night (well, technically Monday morning) Crew. Before now, we've been doing the Pro Tour all wrong!
To Wizards of the Coast, for a smooth show. Although, next time, let's find a venue with free WiFi.
To the semi-famous people I met. The Pros and other Magic Personalities that I met, all of you were nice, cool people. Way to be!
Jeers:
To the hotel, for charging for WiFi. You're a classy hotel, let's get it together. If the Holiday Inn can give it to patrons for free, so can you.
To that guy who accosted Aleksi in the bar Sunday night, trying to get more autographs. He's been signing for 10 hours a day for three days. He's done. Don't be a jerk.
To O'Hare Airport, for the delays. The weather was not that bad. I've had other airports fly in far worse weather, just fine. Every time I fly through O'Hare, I get lame delays. Boo.

This is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don't Make the Loser Choice.

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