Serious Fun is a beautiful name for this column. So many topics fit under the moniker that every week I can write about something completely different, and it all fits. However, never has the title been more appropriate than it is today. I recently attended Gen Con, and "Serious Fun" describes that event better than anything. I would be remiss not to share with you "the best four days in gaming" in general—and Magic specifically—that I have ever experienced.
Although Gen Con starts on a Thursday, everyone arrives the day before. You want the opportunity to scope out the ridiculously huge convention center, figuring out where everything will be and what your plan of attack will be. Trust me, you will need a plan of attack, because the convention is bigger than you expect. You want the chance to leave your things at your hotel (or in the case of the guys at General Damage Control, your rented house!), so you aren't pulling luggage around while you could be gaming. Most importantly, you get to meet up with friends you haven't seen in a long time.
This is Andrew Magrini, a Gen Con veteran. If you are going to experience Gen Con for the first time, I highly recommend you get a Magrini. Magrini knows the best way to get from the airport to downtown. Magrini sets up the hotel accommodations. Magrini knows the nearby restaurants. Magrini knows how best to avoid long lines and maximize your Gen Con experience. Every Gen Con rookie needs a Magrini.
We met at the airport, dropped off our luggage, and headed straight to the Mecca for all Magic players at Gen Con: Harry and Izzy's. Shrimp cocktails and unbelievable meats are what Harry and Izzy's is all about. In the two hours we were there, we met up with several other Magic players who were doing pretty much the same thing we were: eating bacon and French onion Soup!
French onion soup and bacon at Harry and Izzy's. pic.twitter.com/e4EqO3nedx— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 30, 2015
After this, we hustled back to our hotel to meet up with the other guys who would be crashing with us. The five of us (Preston and the brothers Foster) headed out to meet up with other Magic players at Kilroy's. It was here I got a chance to meet the crew from General Damage Control, a website that focuses on Commander. They had decided that Gen Con was going to be a chance for them to all meet up face to face. They soon found they had enough people coming that renting an entire house made sense. They arrived early in the week and played games at the house, then at the convention center once Gen Con was underway. My schedule never seemed to match up and I only managed to talk to a couple of the guys during Gen Con. This is just another reason to go back next year!
Also at Kilroy's, we caught up with Adam Styborski (perhaps you've heard of Command Tower or GatheringMagic, the site he runs?) and Uriah Oxford (Uriah was a big part of last week's article). Stybs and I have had the chance to meet at PAX East and a Grand Prix before, but I had never met Uriah in person. The night at Kilroy's demonstrated how Gen Con gives you the chance to meet people you've only talked to online. It was a treat to be able to put a face and full personality to a name, instead of just a Twitter handle.
And lest you think all I did was eat, I even got in a game of Magic that night with Magrini and one of my roommates for Gen Con, Preston. It was my first chance to take last week's Nissa deck out for a test drive. The deck sputtered, just never getting the lands I wanted, but Magrini and Preston's decks matched up well and neither could quickly eliminate me. I believe Andrew won the game, but I left the matchup hoping the result was just an aberration and my deck, which revolved around getting lands onto the battlefield, would come to life tomorrow.
Thursday saw the start of Gen Con, and things became a bit of a blur. I remember the stunning crowd for the 10:00 AM opening.
GenCon says "Good Morning!" pic.twitter.com/Fxr6atKC1J— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 30, 2015
The rest of the day was a sensory overload of cosplay, games, and gaming. I walked through the vendors looking at all the cards available, and the hundreds of booths there just for you to demo their new game. Shirts, cloaks, and armor were all available. Dice, supplemental game pieces, and pretty much anything else gaming-related was there. There was an artist's avenue with at least 20 different artists, many of them current or former Magic artists.
And this was only the main hall with the vendors! Other rooms had role-playing games, readings, talks on a variety of topics, or demos of board games at room size! I spent most of my morning just trying to see as much as I could without stopping in any one place for too long. Even the adjoining hotels had something happening in their event rooms, but I missed most of that.
After looking at everything, I went back to one booth to pick up a few toys. Expect to see this show up in a future article!
Picked up some needed toys at GenCon for a deck I'm working on... pic.twitter.com/A8jj0FgqeI— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) August 3, 2015
I managed to get in a Commander game in the afternoon with the guys from Kilroy's: the ever-present, ever-threatening Andrew Magrini; the originator of the Deck Tech series, Uriah Oxford; and the Command Tower legend, Adam Styborski.
The game was a back-and-forth battle that Stybs was able to finally put away with an epic push.
I was getting tired after dinner, so I headed back to our room—only to wind up in another Commander game! The room was lacking a single large table space, so we made do with what we had.
Commander is played on so many levels! pic.twitter.com/7BmH3wkCgX— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 31, 2015
The game had a good back-and-forth feel to it. My Krond the Dawn-Clad deck managed to hit Andrew and Preston, putting them into range for another lethal attack, but things just sort of sputtered out for me at that point. Preston's Glissa, the Traitor deck was supposed to fill his graveyard so he could run plenty of recursion spells, but Andrew and Matt's decks were designed to use everyone's graveyards, so Preston's graveyard soon became a communal resource. My game ended with a Traumatize, followed up with an attack from Andrew's Guiltfeeder that took me out of the game.
Friday morning was spent trying to get signatures from artists for a few cards I had brought along. The lines were long and I found myself getting antsy. I hated the idea that I could be doing something instead of standing in a line, but I knew these signatures would remind me of Gen Con. Besides, the artists had some great stories to tell about several of the pieces they had done, and watching many of them do custom artwork on the cards themselves was a treat.
The afternoon included some Commander games, including one game that saw my Mycoloth get out of hand.
Mycoloth got out of hand. Winner! pic.twitter.com/pjv0HhZbfz— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) August 1, 2015
This was the result of my Vorel of the Hull Clade deck, working in harmony with Seedborn Muse. Mycoloth started out with only a couple of tokens, but doubling them on every person's turn meant a whole lot of damage dealt in the final turn.
On Friday night, several of us went to the Concert Against Humanity, an event put on by the folks at Cards Against Humanity. The concert included live music performances from several great bands—and the swag bags at the end weren't too shabby either!
Saturday started out in a mad rush. I'd promised Uriah I would do a Deck Tech for my Nissa deck, but had put it off until that morning, so I left the hotel in a mad rush.
GenCon starts early for the bleary, hardcore warrior/gamer! pic.twitter.com/LdFadqwljh— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) August 1, 2015
After the Deck Tech, I managed to get a couple more games of Commander in and a few more cards signed before heading to lunch at what had become our regular stop: Granite City. Every day about an hour before lunch, Andrew would put out the call over social media, letting everyone know where we'd be going and inviting anyone to attend. After some larger events, this lunch was downright quiet, with Josh Alvarez and a fellow Tuesday Mothership writer joining us.
Getting a chance to finally meet Gavin Verhey in person was a treat. The man is a true gamer. He could talk about Magic, or pretty much any other game at Gen Con. He had demoed several games and was excited to head back with a suitcase full of new games to try out. Expect Gavin, Chas, and me to try out some interesting article combinations in the future.
After lunch we headed back to the convention center for some Conspiracy. I brought a box with me and wanted desperately to draft it. I picked a terrible time, right when many players were involved in Commander tournaments and other drafts. We had seven players before we convinced Josh to stick around and be our eighth. He was waiting for his first round to start, but he agreed to draft a deck, with our hope being that we'd find someone who would be willing to play it in the game. In the end, Josh decided the Conspiracy game would be more fun, so he stayed and played out the game.
I'd like to tell you I have copious notes about the games, but I don't. I believe Uriah won his game with a black-green deck, but I'm not sure. I drafted a Dack Fayden with my first pick, then promptly went into a Walls deck that played out fairly well. What I do remember is everyone having a great time, and that I picked up some great cards! My thanks to everyone, particularly Josh, for making the Conspiracy games happen.
The rest of the afternoon saw a lot of Commander.
Is there any Commander games at GenCon? pic.twitter.com/5sjB92yd8p— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) August 1, 2015
I took this picture mostly because I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen three games of Commander all happening at once without involving any sort of tournament. Admittedly, I don't play a lot of Commander, but seeing that lineup of players was just impressive to me.
Although Gen Con continued on Sunday, for me it was anticlimactic. I said goodbye to friends and left at noon to catch my plane. For me, Gen Con ended on Saturday night. Josh had organized an impressive dinner at GP Boston, but this was even better. All kinds of Magic players and friends piled around the table to share amazing food and desserts.
I got the chance to talk with people I hadn't really talked to before. I talked to Brandon about decks and Magic writing. I talked to Josh about his young son. I sat next to Sean Patchen and we talked about Magic and so much more. It was nice to finally get to know someone I'd known tangentially since I started writing about Magic five years ago. We both commented about what a genuinely fun group of people we'd met at Gen Con, and how we looked forward to it happening again.
Gen Con was a great Magic and gaming experience for me, but I had an even better time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
Commander . . . Conspiracy . . . Food . . . Friends . . . Serious Fun indeed!