Decks in the City

Posted in Feature on December 13, 2007

By Chris Millar

With Worlds 2007 set to take place in New York City, I knew I would have to attend. A common misconception is that because I have a column on this site, people think that I work at the Wizards of the Coast offices in Renton. I do not. I am merely a contract writer who lives far, far away. I had nothing to do with making Tarmogoyf, I can't ban Goblin Ringleader, and I don't get to talk to Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater, Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe, or editor Kelly Digges on a daily basis. In fact, until this weekend, I had never even met any of them before, a sad fact which provided further incentive for my trip.

As is my wont, I made all of my arrangements at the last minute, getting my passport and booking my flight and hotel just days before the event. As a result, I couldn't find a Manhattan hotel that had rooms available for the entire week and didn't cost upwards of a million dollars. On a tip from The Week That Was's Brian David-Marshall, I ended up staying in lovely Edgewater, New Jersey, only a short bus ride away from Times Square.

I flew out of Toronto, Ontario at the crack of dawn, which was suboptimal and another unfortunate consequence of my last-minute planning. I'm not much of a world traveler and I don't really have all of the necessary equipment, like, say, luggage. I packed as much as I could into a single duffel bag. Considering that I wanted to bring a bunch of decks too, that didn't leave a lot of room. I had to make some tough choices. More decks or more clothes? I nearly attempted the "wear five layers" gambit to conserve space, but that turned out to be unnecessary. I would just have to be extra careful about spilling something on my lone pair of pants.

I am not a small person, so when I looked up at the flight attendant as I was about to board the plane, and saw that her head was scraping the ceiling, I knew I was in trouble. The plane was tiny, like a can of Pringles with wings. I had to crawl onboard. If I stood up straight too suddenly, I would break my neck. When I collected my boarding pass, they asked if I wanted a window seat or an aisle seat. I said I had no preference. It didn't matter either way, since the window turned out to be at crotch level.

Flying usually makes me a little ill, which isn't terribly surprising since I once threw up on a carnival ride called the Scrambler, which is about one step up from the Carousel in terms of G-force. This flight was no exception, and while I didn't require any emergency paper bags, I did have the kind of fuzzy-headedness that people get when they read in cars.

I took a cab from JFK Airport to New Jersey and let's just say that it didn't make me feel any better. New York cabbies have an insanely difficult job, especially during rush hour, and frankly I think it was a miracle that I arrived at my destination in anything but a stretcher. Constantly weaving, squeezing into gaps with only inches to spare, passing semis on the right. Soon my knuckles were turning white. Getting through the tunnels seemed especially insane, since at a certain point all lane markings vanish and we are left with what is essentially a traffic funnel. Maybe it's because I'm from a small town, but until this past week, I had never seen a bus perpendicular in gridlock before.

The streets of Manhattan were no better—narrow one-ways, lined from end to end with delivery trucks and with encroaching pedestrians at every intersection. People walking the streets aren't timid, with the flashing hand being interpreted as "Don't walk... unless you think you can make it." With even the smallest window of opportunity, you crossed, and it didn't matter if you were pushing a baby carriage, wheeling a hot-dog cart, or carrying a large pane of glass for some reason. That we didn't kill anyone was further proof of my driver's competence. If, at the end of the trip, he had to fire two proton torpedoes into a narrow exhaust port, I am fully confident that my driver could've pulled it off. It turned out that the cab ride was almost twice as long as my flight and nearly as expensive. But, hey, I was in New York and ready for Magic.

Top8Magic Draught and Draft

I flew in a couple days before Worlds actually started so I could take part in this event hosted by Brian David-Marshall and Matt Wang of I got out off my bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and regrettably decided to walk down to Fontana's Bar. I hadn't seen that many blocks since I toured Lego Land.

I always feel a bit out of place when surrounded by great Magic players and other Magic celebrities, and there was no shortage of them here. Eventually, I got to talking with Anthony a.k.a. Tyrannosaurus, who was looking to cook up something for the Multiplayer Free-For-All involving members of R&D that was set to take place on Sunday. (He eventually made the final table with a blue-white deck that played Beacon of Immortality and, like everyone else there, was taken down by a Spinerock Knolled Coalition Victory.) After a little waiting, we got into a team draft with Billy Moreno, J. Evan Dean, filmmaker Gabe Carleton-Barnes, and a fellow named Damon whose last name I didn't get. I drafted this miserable pile and ended up on a team with Gabe and Billy:

Groundstall and Grizzly Bears

Download Arena Decklist

The deck wouldn't have been quite so bad if I had managed to pick up some more Faeries. I had four Boggart Sprite-Chasers, you see, but after Gabe asked Billy how many of them he would play with only five Faeries (I also had a Glen Elendra Pranksters) and he said, "Um, none," we put the kibosh on that plan. In hindsight, I should've moved into Goblins midway through the draft (I passed a Mad Auntie and a Fodder Launch at one point), but I was too attached to my Silvergill Dousers, even though it was pretty clear that I wasn't getting any more Merfolk or Faeries. I went unvictoried, but it all worked out since Gabe and Billy both went 3-0.

That same night, I talked a bit with DCI Head Honcho Scott Larabee, who is a big fan of Elder Dragon Highlander, perhaps my favourite format to play. His latest deck used Brion Stoutarm as its general and used the Giant to fling Serra Avatars and Avatar tokens produced by Ajani Goldmane. If he has a higher life total than his opponent, they just die. He can cheat the Avatar into play with Sneak Attack, give Brion haste with Thousand-Year Elixir (or Anger), and to make it truly sick, he can copy Brion's ability (or Ajani's) with Rings of Brighthearth and take out two players at once. That's foreshadowing.

On Wednesday, I finally got to meet the coverage staff (gentlemen and scholars all) as well as the members of R&D in attendance, including Aaron Forsythe, Mark Rosewater, and Randy Buehler, fresh off his Hall of Fame induction. Our post-dinner draft fell through because of mana screw. No one had any lands! I returned reluctantly to my hotel and stayed up half the night, jacked up on adrenaline.

Shopping at the General Store

Gaea's HeraldI spent much of Thursday at the dealer tables, sifting through boxes of full of "bulk" rares, looking to buff up my EDH decks, put together a Standard deck, and pick up some cards illustrated by the artists in attendance (Jim Murray, Paolo Parente, Rebecca Guay, and Aleksi Briclot). I got a playset of Radha, Heir to Keld; a Razormane Masticore; a set of Wren's Run Vanquishers; a Godo, Bandit Warlord; four Yavimaya Dryads; and a Commander Eesha signed by their respective artists, and I also picked up signed prints of the art for the Tenth Edition Gaea's Herald (sweet!) by Jim Murray and Kaysa by Rebecca Guay. I was hoping to get a set of planeswalkers signed by Aleksi Briclot, but the lineups were just incredibly long the entire weekend. On top of the five 'walkers, Aleksi also illustrated a number of other chase rares from the past two years, including Eyes of the Wisent, Thoughtseize, and Tombstalker, which made him a very popular guy.

I did manage to get some exciting cards for my EDH decks (Cabal Conditioning, FTW!) and later that night, finally got into a game. I brought four of my EDH decks with me: Chromium (which turned into Merieke Ri Berit); Palladia-Mors; Crosis, the Purger; and Cromat. The last two I ended up cannibalizing for parts. I lent the Merieke deck to Aaron Forsythe, and we sat down with Scott Larabee (playing Brion Stoutarm) and Tony, a judge from Seattle, playing his Momir Vig, Simic Visionary deck.

My Palladia deck is similar to the one I wrote about in an earlier column. The main changes include the addition of a Giant subtheme (thanks to the Lorwyn Giants), as well as the hilarious Kavu Predator + Ageless Entity + Collapsing Borders combo first brought to my attention by the ingenious Christian M. I was also hoping to do some sick things with Kavu Predator or Ageless Entity and Arbiter of Knollridge or Reverse the Sands. Here's what I played (minus Brion Stoutarm, Scott's general, and plus Crater Hellion):


Download Arena Decklist

Here's the deck that Aaron played:

Merieke Ri Berit

Download Arena Decklist

Living Death should definitely be Replenish, but I didn't have any on hand.

I felt bad for Aaron at the beginning because all he could do was "cycle" Shelter and play a Spectral Lynx, which didn't exactly convey the exciting "bomb-iness" of the format. The little ghost cat showed its worth, however, since neither Tony nor I could block the thing for several turns. Tony was eventually forced to use a Duplicant on it.

Aaron meddled in everyone's business when he wasn't beating down with Spectral Lynx. Scott gained a bunch of life and always seemed to have the table's biggest threat (Brion, Purity). Meanwhile, I was clearing the board regularly with Squall Line, Wrath of God, and Magma Giant, in the process knocking Tony down to 2 life. Momir Vig, Simic Visionary allowed him to stabilize, giving him a string of creatures including Simic Sky Swallower, the Duplicant I mentioned earlier, and a Ravenous Baloth that he had to leave on top of his library. On his turn, Aaron played Null Chamber and chose me to be the opponent in this sick little exercise. He cackled and named Ravenous Baloth, Tony's lifeline, while I named Brion Stoutarm, who was currently removed from the game and ready to be replayed.

Fearing Voidslime, I popped my Bloodfire Colossus before Tony got another turn, making the inability to play the Baloth moot. Then I played Reverse the Sands—swapping my measly 11 life for Scott's 31—a play which is apparently becoming a trend among his opponents. Aaron, meanwhile, was at a comfortable 25 life.

Stalking Vengeance
The game-deciding misplay was made by yours truly. Scott had a Stalking Vengeance in play, as well as a Moat that made it unable to attack. I played a Giant Harbinger to the amusement of all, and tutored up a Desolation Giant. I was ready to pass the turn, but Aaron coughed and I looked down and realized that I could draw it with either Mikokoro, Center of the Sea or Mind Stone, and wipe the board right then and there. Feeling a little too comfortable with my 31 life, I decided that I would just wait until next turn. Famous last words. On his turn, Scott played Replenish, returning Sneak Attack and Goblin Bombardment (which Aaron had taken care of earlier). He then proceeded to sneak in Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (copying Stalking Vengeance), then Heartless Hidetsugu (instantly halving everyone's life totals), then Reya Dawnbringer (!!!) who knocked me down to 12 in the subsequent attack. Scott followed that up by sacrificing Reya to Goblin Bombardment, which took my life total down to 3 because of the twin Stalking Vengeances. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker likewise hit the bin, ending my night, and he was soon followed by the rest of team, taking Aaron down with me. What a spectacular finish. In retrospect, I definitely should have offed the Stalking Vengeance when I had the chance, but in my defense, who expects the Replenish into Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Heartless Hidetsugu, and Reya play?

Later in the week, I walked past a table of judges playing EDH, looked down on the board consisting of Aura Thief; Rorix Bladewing; a Rancored Rith, the Awakener; and other ridiculous and/or hilarious bombs and said, "Man, I love this format." As judge Gavin Duggan said, "People always ask how they can promote the format. All you have to do is let other people watch a game."

For more information on the format, check out The Ferrett's article this week or Bennie Smith's from over at StarCity. Both articles have links to the official home of EDH on the web, and Bennie's has some wonderful play-by-play, the kind of crazy fun stuff that only happens in EDH.

Draw, Varmint!

If you're not interested in booster drafting or, say, trying to win a car, one of things you can do at a Pro Tour is battle the gunslingers. Usually Wizards employees and pros who volunteer, this year's World Championship gunslingers were Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forysthe, Erik Lauer, and Elaine Chase, who were later joined by The Magic Show's Evan Erwin, Antoine and Olivier Ruel, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty, and myself.

Anybody can just get in line to play one of the gunslingers (for free, which was a surprise to many), who were defending a great trunk full of free swag, containing everything from pens and dice to booster boxes and exclusive holiday promo foils. If you defeated the gunslinger, you could either take a Lorwyn booster or win a random prize from the trunk. I had a lot of fun playing everybody and giving away tons of prizes. Some players would wrap up their game and get back in line in the hopes of winning more stuff. What could you do while you wait? Why, play Magic, of course!

If I had planned things out a little better, I would've brought some more of my own decks. Here's one of the decks I used, an adaptation of deck I wrote about a couple weeks ago in my column. I put it together hastily onsite, so it's missing some cards:

Ashling's Leprechauns Redux

Download Arena Decklist

When I wasn't playing this deck, I was using the gunslinging decks the rest of the team brought, including a spicy little blue-white deck involving Hoofprints of the Stag and Rings of Brighthearth and the five-colour Elemental deck that led to the awesome Nova Chaser + Mosswort Bridge play described in yesterday's Card of the Day.


Download Arena Decklist


Download Arena Decklist

The Best Burger in the World?

On Friday night, Tim Willoughby, Josh Bennett, Kelly Digges, and I went to the Corner Bistro for what BDM claims is the best burger in New York City. Their menu consisted of burgers, chili, and chili burgers, and we all took the advice BDM gave in his column a couple weeks ago and ordered a "Bistro Burger, a plate of fries, and a McSorley's Dark." I ordered my burger "well done" which was apparently an unusual request, but, hey, I'm used to eating burgers that are like hockey pucks. The food was so excellent that we went back on Sunday after the event wrapped up, but this time, I went with the "medium rare." There will be blood. Oh, yes. It was even better than before, even though I felt like I had just delivered a baby calf after eating it.

It was a tremendous week of Magic, and I'd like to thank the coverage team (Greg, BDM, Josh, Tim, Kelly, Bill, Ben, and Rich) and the crew from Wizards, as well as all the players who came up to gunsling or just to say that they liked the column. Cheers!

Until next time, have fun with Magic!

Chris Millar

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