Thursdays are my favorite day of the week. Every Thursday night, my friends gather around my dining room table for an evening of Magic. We play mostly Commander, but we regularly Cube draft, run Sealed games, Conspiracy draft, and play endless 60-card casual games every week. What's not to love about Magic and spending time with good friends?
A few years ago, however, I discovered what I call "convention-al" Magic, and it brings things to a whole different level.
What exactly is convention-al Magic? Start with a huge pile of gamers. Old gamers, young gamers, new gamers, veteran gamers. Bring them to a convention center or similarly large venue for some massive gaming event. Grand Prix are optimal, but any gaming event will do. I went to PAX East just over a week ago, and that was perfect. Pull out your Magic cards, and you are playing convention-al Magic!
The joy of convention-al Magic lies with the sheer volume of people at the event.
With so many people there, you'll always find others who are interested in doing what you want to do. Adam, also known as the Stybs, even found two others who loved sushi as much as he does! Not that surprising with 80,000 people attending the three-day event!
So what does a Magic player do at a massive convention like PAX East?
This one is fairly obvious. At most every gaming convention, there is a tournament organizer running all sorts of events. PAX East was lucky to have Cascade Games running the events. Tim Shields runs great events, and this was no exception. Standard tournaments, Sealed tournaments, theme-deck challenges, Modern tournaments, full-box Sealed tournaments; there was something for everyone interested in dueling. Winners earned tickets for product on the prize wall. Tournaments were starting every hour, so there was no reason not to be playing!
Every convention has cosplayers. While my talents don't go beyond Halloween-level fun, there are plenty of people who go all-out at conventions! At a convention like PAX East, most of the cosplay involves video games. Overwatch-, Super Mario Bros.–, and Legend of Zelda–related cosplay seemed to dominate the scene, but Elspeth managed to return from the dead to spend a little time at PAX.
I missed Elspeth, but I did see a Glint-Sleeve Siphoner about the convention center.
Conventions draw everyone, and content creators go where their readers, listeners, and viewers are. I had met Wedge from the Mana Source at last year's PAX East and was looking forward to spending a little more time with him again this time. We managed to get in a few games of Commander and even a dinner between his busy schedule!
Many of you know Adam Styborski from his articles here. Adam and I have become good friends over the last few years, and conventions are one of the times when we get a chance to meet face to face and game. I was also lucky enough to meet and get in some Commander games with Quinn Murphy, another writer for DailyMTG.
These games were a murderer's row of talent, with Wedge, Marc (from Minecraft), Rob (the writer behind The Orcish Library), Stybs, and Quinn.
With a little pressure, I was lucky enough to get a Conspiracy draft going with a few of these guys, and added Joakim, Mia, Nikky, and Sean Gibbons to the mix. A convention blurs the line between content creator and online friend you haven't met in person yet. It was great to play and talk (even briefly) with Sean and Marc, having never met either before!
I've never met a content creator who doesn't love it when someone recognizes them. These people are there to see you and are only too happy to chat for a couple of minutes.
A big part of the convention experience for me is the chance to game! My gaming is much more casual, so the tournament experience isn't always what I want. I love some of the weird Sealed formats that were offered at PAX, but when you put out the call for a free Conspiracy draft, it isn't too difficult to find people who want to play!
Most of the Conspiracy games I've played were around my dining room table and involved the same group of friends. We each have our own preferences, so our decks have repeated themselves occasionally. The games are still fun, but this was a chance to try it out with a brand-new group!
I know some people would be concerned about having their cards spread out over eight different people and two separate games, but I just wasn't worried. The gamers in the draft were all excited about getting the chance to play a format that doesn't come around too often!
The draft was every bit as crazy as every Conspiracy draft I've ever played. Conspiracies and draft-matters cards were everywhere, leading to crazy picks and bizarre passes. The decks were varied and wonderful, from my Illusionary Informant/Weight Advantage deck to Stybs's white-black monarch deck with Garrulous Sycophant and Knights of the Black Rose. Devin opted for a removal-heavy aggro build, while Sean had Sovereign's Realm and built accordingly.
My deck started out fast and threatened everyone in my game early on. This led to some group beatings and an eventual loss. I watched both games as players ramped into crazy plays! It was fun watching the games evolve and twist, with Adam and Joakim ending up the victors.
Not surprisingly, most of my weekend was taken up with Commander games! Once word was out that Stybs and I were set up and ready to play, there was never a shortage of players. We were close to the tournament area, so players were regularly checking out our games or looking to get into the next one.
It wasn't even just PAX that saw plenty of Commander games. Friends from Grand Prix New Jersey that same weekend had set up there and were getting plenty of crazy games in as well! Commander shows up at most events if you take the initiative or know where to find it.
It was fun watching pictures of crazy plays go back and forth between the groups! Just because the convention is focused on tournament Magic or electronic games doesn't mean that the Magic you want to play isn't happening!
Rob came up to say hello and found himself with a borrowed Nissa deck, ramping like crazy and casting Genesis Wave and The Great Aurora, all while using the ultimate ability of Nissa, Sage Animist. Wedge borrowed a Vorel deck and enjoyed the chance to durdle with a huge pile of ever-increasing +1/+1 counters. Marc watched eight Kobold tokens become 32 tokens with Doubling Season and Parallel Lives out. Joakim watched Atraxa go off with five planeswalkers, fueling insane shenanigans.
With so many different players, so many different things were happening from one game to the next!
The joy of convention-al Magic lies not with the convention food or the travel to get there; with so many gamers, what you want to do is just there for you. You only need to make it happen!