Writing for Star City Games has its perks. One such perk is qualifying for their Invitational tournaments, without actually having to play Magic. These tournaments provide some of the best prize support outside the Pro Tour and one was taking place only 45 minutes away. If I had played any non-Pauper 60 card formats recently, I would have absolutely played.
As it stood, I have played lots of Pauper, Commander, Cube, and Draft, but very little Standard or Legacy in recent years. I hope to remedy at least 50% of this problem soon, as I have bought a full set of Shock Lands and plan on dipping my toe into the Standard and Modern events at the 20 Sided Store. So the plan is next time the Invitation comes knocking, I'll at least be ready.
But there was a Magic event in my backyard and I had Saturday free. Of course I'm went.
I'm something of an oddity - a young adult in Brooklyn who owns a car. Sure, there are others like me, but most need their car. Me? I paid it off weeks before I knew I was moving to Brooklyn and I am too damn stubborn to get rid of the thing so I put it to use, mostly driving to Magic events. This is known and before too much longer I have a car load of 4 (including myself) signed up to trek to Somerset in my Honda.
The night before I put my bag together. I grab a stack of rares I am never going to play, even in my most out there Commander Deck and others I just do not need. My goal is to turn them into cards I can use in Modern. A few hundred cards later (and one special card that I intend to give to someone) I zip up my bag and attempt to sleep.
Good man (and judge) Connor messages a few days before, confirming that one of my passengers is in fact Tim. Tim is known for a few things, amongst them is playing control in every format and being late. To solve the second problem I inform Tim that we are gathering at 6:45am to leave at 7. So of course he ends up being the first person to show up, 6:50am. I inform Tim of the timing trick. He laughs it off and goes "I guess you know me."
By 7:10am Connor's judge friend arrives and we're on the road. Tim is in front with me and we talk Magic. Connor is in the back with his friend and they talk rules updates. We hit zero traffic and next thing we know I am pulling Obi-Wan into the Garden State Expo Center parking lot. Someone in the car in front of us looks familiar,
Me: "Is that Brad Nelson?"
TIm: "Yup, it's Brad Nelson."
We meander in to the site past Owen Turtenwald, Reid Duke, and William Jensen. We get our bags tagged with corresponding wristbands to help prevent theft. I wolf down my awful bagel before making my way to the dealer booth to unload my cards. Turns out my stack is worth $64.00 in store credit. I turn that into five cards I need for Modern and a foil for Commander. I sit with Tim as he debates between Grixis and Esper (he settles on Esper) and get up every few minutes to wander the hall.
On one such circuit I se Mike Flores. Mike is someone I admire as a writer and last summer gave me a brief, but important lesson on Magic writing while we shared a subway car. It was not too long after he wrote this moving tribute. That one card I packed, that I didn't sell, was a Taniwha. I told Mike I had something for him and gave him this card, still in pretty good condition 15 years after I tore it free of a pack. He smiled and said it would be his good luck charm for the day (it did not bring him any good luck).
Throughout the day I introduce myself to other Magic personalities. I finally meet Lauren Lee, someone who helped me experiment as a writer, in person. I see Reuben Bressler, who I had only recently started speaking with via Facebook for the Star City newsletter. I introduce myself to Reid Duke (although we had met previously at the Mirrodin Besieged prerelease years ago in Nyack, NY). I also speak briefly with commentator Matthias Hunt as he tried to warn a spectator that he wasn't a judge and couldn't assure him of the legality of cute puppy dog playing cards as tokens.
With the people I was planning on playing Commander with still en route, I wander around some more and run into my friend Anthony who is on site to show off a game he designed. We gather around a table and play through a few rounds of the party game- Funemployed. The game is awesome and plays really well. It is perfect for a group of people enjoying an adult beverage or two. I was going to tell everyone to go fund it, but it appears to have already met that goal. So regardless- go throw more money at Anthony so he can make more versions of this awesome game.
Eventually Andrew, he of the epic Commander games at GP: Atlantic City arrives with his car load of multiplayer fans. We sit down for a four headed game with Andrew on a unique take on Edric, Harry on new Niv-Mizzet, Omar on Esper Ertai, and me on Marrow-Gnawer. Andrew went group hug Enchantress with Edric and it made for an awesome play experience. The game is fun and fairly balanced before Harry has to bow out to go back to playing the Standard Open. My deck is clicking and the Cloudstone Curio I put in as an afterthought quickly becomes a centerpiece of the deck. Eventually I have a huge army of Pack Rat tokens pumped by Coat of Arms. I start attacking people but Omar's flying army takes me out and he wins the game in short order.
After a quick lunch we circle back for another game. This time Dave and Sida (also from Atlantic City) joining Andrew, Omar, and me for a five headed game. Starting with Omar on Prime Speaker, Sida is on an interesting Brion Stoutarm list, Dave is on Aurelia, Andrew is on a Damia adaptation of Legacy Lands and I bust out Jarad. I start the game slowly, having to discard a card (not really a detriment for my deck). I end up discarding Vengeful Pharaoh, announcing it clearly. Apparently Sida was not paying attention because he attacks into me with Bazar Trader, which promptly dies. The game goes forward with fairly even development until Dave starts to try and build a killing machine with equipment. Omar and I go after the monsters while Sida casually drops Vicious Shadows. A few turns later and Dave dies to Vicious Shadows triggers since he is holding cards.
Down to four, the game goes on. Andrew is playing lands and eventually sticks a Glacial Chasm. Then he casts Intruder Alarm and Squirrel Nest and promptly makes one thousand Squirrels. The Survival of the Fittest I had saved from destruction earlier starts goes into overdrive, combining with Volrath's Stronghold to fetch Mold Shambler. I realize I can knock out Andrew, thanks to the Shambler and Damnation, by taking out his Chasm and all the tokens, while also leaving me at zero cards in my hand after Damnation. Andrew senses my plan and using Alchemist's Refuge casts his own Damnation in response to the Mold Shambler trigger, which means that a ton of Vicious Shadow triggers come at me and Omar- enough to leave us at one life each. I manage to claw my way back into the game with Disciple of Grislebrand keeping me alive. Eventually, I am able to continuously recast Jarad and fatties and manage to win the game, draining out everyone.
Only took two and a half hours.
My day ends by chatting up Sean McKeown about his run in the Invitational of Commander. Chats with him are always fun and he broaches a topic that Mike Flores had mentioned earlier in the day: large scale Pauper events. Both Mike and Sean believe that if there was a large supported paper Pauper event that it would be successful. Mike also identified Pauper as "that format with Trinket Mage and Snap." Regardless, I think it would be awesome if this could happen and I hope people who can make things happen are listening.
So my day was done. I loaded up my bad and trekked back out to my car. A scant hour later I was home (and 30 minutes after that I found parking). I was exhausted, hungry, and beat.
And I can't wait to do it again.