“Friday Night Magic,” DCI, and Booster Drafting.
That’s the Voldaren Pariah, who is a vampire that suffers from some kind of Eldrazi produced tentacle growing disease, which actually only gets worse as the game goes on. And that, of course, is where our hero’s dialogue comes in. Oddly, the Pariah was the star of my Booster Draft, and despite it’s grossness and odd proportions, on my side for the night.
So yes…I played in a Booster Draft Tournament on Friday the 22nd, release day for Eldritch Moon, the new Magic: The Gathering release. Since that (my Friday post) is dated for Saturday, we get Saturday’s post on Sunday…making THIS post happen, right now. It will be a brief review of my experience playing in the Booster Draft, at a nearby game store. I haven’t played “competitive magic” in ages, and the two times that I did before, I didn’t take it very seriously at all.
Not to say that I took Friday night’s release Booster Draft so seriously. I wanted to be polite, and not really hamper anyone else’s ability to progress. That said…Friday Night Magic players are a Very Serious Bunch. Possibly, this was enhanced by the cards first being readily available, and seen in person for the first time, or because it was the release date…I don’t know. Most of the players were okay, but Very Serious. About a third of them were…not very nice people at all.
It bewildered me, but not really knowing anyone, I just sort of sat with my big pony and tried to figure out a basic strategy. I also checked out my new “DCI Card.” DCI is the governing body for organized play…you get a number assigned to you, and that number establishes a profile (if you set one up) and tracks your “Planeswalker Points.” Planeswalker Points is a worldwide system that rewards you for playing tournaments and also for winning them. You get Planeswalker Points for every sanctioned event you join, and you get even more for each victory. So…I apparently have “Planeswalker Points” now.
The draft itself was odd, and fun in a way. The presence of “flip cards” in the set added an extra stage of revealing the “flip card” to the draft group. My first flip card in the draw was the Voldaren Pariah, who is depicted in today’s art. The card is surprisingly awesome, and I immediately drafted it, with an eye toward building my Black/Red deck around it. More about the card later. We are focused on the Draft.
So…knowing that I would be picking roughly 40 cards to build a deck from (eight people at a table, passing three pack contents each), and that I had my “closer”, I started to draw toward deck construction. This involved a lot of repetitive draws of the same Common cards that I saw keep going by, which I sorted by Mana cost. Most other people sorted by Color, or not at all. It seems that many of the others were looking to heavily draft the Rare and Uncommon Cards, in part to simply turn around and sell the Rares at a profit…covering the entry fee, more or less. The entry fee was only fifteen bucks, but that’s some people’s Thing. That methodology, with less focus on the deck build during drafting, made a lot of decks that were “all over the place” in design and build.
I was then told, late in the “build phase” that I didn’t need a 60 card deck…I could play with 40. Who knew!? Since I drafted to make an effective 60 card deck, it was pretty easy to “trim the fat” and make a much leaner, much more probability driven 40 card deck that ran on a real “engine.” That engine still revolved around the Voldaren Pariah as a “closer.”
So NOW it is time to talk about the Voldaren Pariah. I mentioned that it was my first draft pick. What the @#$% is it? Glad you asked, True Believer. So it’s a creature that you bring out into play to fight for you, with a Mana cost of 5…two black and three of anything. Specifically, its a “Vampire Horror”…the tentacles and weird proportions in a Lovecraftian sense being the “horror” part. A bunch of the current set are Lovecraftian Horrors, so that’s a Thing now in the game. Anyway, it’s a flyer, making it hard to block, and a 3/3…making it slightly worse than the old Sengir Vampire card for it’s cost, it seems.
Oh, no. Don’t buy now…it improves. You can discard it and play it for its “madness” cost of three Black Mana…a MUCH better deal. Already that’s good…but you can sacrifice three of your other creatures to “transform” it. That means flip over the card (get the “flip cards” now?) to reveal it’s transformed side which is bigger and worse…and has a whole lot more tentacles and grossness, in full on Lovecraft Mode. That side still flies, and is a 5/6…and makes your Opponent sacrifice three of HIS or HER creatures. So roughly double the power and toughness, as well as clearing the board to a large degree. Called the “Abolisher of Bloodlines” in that mode, it brings the hurt down hard, with disturbing artwork.
You see why I built around it. I incorporated cards with Liliana’s picture on it (as was my initial plan in yesterday’s post), called “Cemetery Recruitment,” to get creatures back from the discard pile, and cards that forced me to mill myself (put cards in the discard pile) and/or draw cards…to dig down in the deck to the Voldaren Pariah. It was a pretty solid build…especially with cards that made the Pariah/Abolisher get bigger and meaner.
So the build was solid. My play on the other hand, left a bit to be desired. I play primarily in very casual settings, with friends or with High School students. Even our club Tournament was good natured, casual, and about a kind of love of the game. sort of a forgiving, sportsmanlike atmosphere.
Let me tell you…one third of the Friday Night Magic crowd took it like it was the Summer Olympics. Without the sportsmanship. It was a bit jarring to encounter, because honestly, it doesn’t seem all that important. Thinking that I might encounter that kind of thing has kept me from going to tournaments, I just find it very unpleasant. I’m still getting my brain around that attitude of play on what is for me, just a casual card game.
Also…none of the more jerky players did all that well. For all of the rules lawyering and snarky attitude about play phases and “resolution of the stack”…they tended to not really build the deck that well. Simple play seemed to kind of outwit them in an especially odd way. I felt that it was some sort of Karmic Comeuppance, or what one of my High School players calls “the Heart of the Cards.” I came in fifth, and the shop had drawn a decent number of players to it that weren’t at Comic Con in San Diego. Figure I was top twenty percent, I think on the nose.
Still despite playing well, I haven’t decided if I’m going to do another one of these Friday Night Magic Tournaments. The DCI points don’t mean anything to me, after all, and in about a month, I’ll have my own club back. Sure…about a third of the players were…ahem…but that leaves two thirds that were okay people, players interested in the same way that I am. I’m wondering if the venue was an issue…maybe other shops draw different kinds of gamers? I suppose you find out by looking around.
Talking about the art for a moment…above, there’s a “night sky background that was a bit of a @#$% to do, and after merging the other elements with it, I had to fuss with sharpness and contrast. I’m reasonably happy with the experiment…it was an effort at doing something different in background building. A little below, you’ll see the art before adding the night sky element, in cross hatched pencil, to the foreground pencils.
The foreground had two problems…the clouds, which I think came out well, and the Voldaren Pariah herself. As per the card art, her proportions are all…off. Her head is too small, neck too long, arms and legs a bit too long in places. She looks…alien. The tentacles sprouting from her dress, and the tatters on the dress itself, were challenging.
In a way, I like the dialogue free, cross hatch free original pencils below more than the completed work. Something about the smoothness of the pencils, without the sharpening necessary to contrast with the cross hatch.
The really excellent thing? There’s a good chance I will see one of my students at a “Colleges That Change Lives” event in Universal City next Sunday. He is the Original Magic Playing Student in my classes…without his bold inquiry about my bookmark, there would be no Magic Club at my school. Should I see him, I will be able to let him rifle through my new cards, and have a pleasant conversation about my adventures with Officially Sanctioned Magic Events.
If he thinks it sounds fun, maybe we will have jerseys made up in the school colors, and go to one as a team.