Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Yes, I am THAT Guy in Casual Magic

The Mana Pool is one of my favourite Magic: the Gathering podcasts, and one of the few geared towards casual players.

The most recent episode, #377 Aaron’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame, hit home as Aaron talked about being THAT Casual guy:

Aaron comes on to talk about being That Guy. No no, not THAT That Guy. Not one of the bad ones. But the guy that’s been playing forever and has lots of cards and lots of decks and actually has some money to spend on the game. Some casual players frown on That Guy, which gives That Guy some kind of stigma. Aaron wants to address that stigma and help change the opinion of That Guy. That Guy might not be all bad. You might even be able to learn something from That Guy’s experiences! So don’t dump on That Guy!

As you might have guessed, I am also that guy…and my wife, I guess she is THAT girl ^.^

We’re the ones that have been playing for years (2007), have a huge collection, make far too many decks (over 200!), and spend an excessive amount of our disposable income on the game.

We have met a lot of new people playing Magic, yet it’s been eight years since we’ve had the feeling of being the newbies. Most everybody we play with has varying levels of experience, and some even have been playing longer, but my wife and I always tend to be the ones with "all of the good cards".

On this ‘cast, Aaron brought up some good points that I’d like to connect with our personal experience.


Magic: the Gathering is a very complicated game, and there have been over 13,000 unique cards printed. When we first met some very experienced casual players, it was an overwhelming experience. I had played back during the REVISED era, and the card pool was fairly tiny compared to today.

Not only did we have to stop and read every card, but with so many (new) rules to learn, and so many strange interactions, our hastily put-together new decks were often destroyed. It was great to swim with the sharks and learn to swim without a floatation device, but it can be daunting.

The players we played with we far from cutthroat, but the nature of the game, combined with their massive card and deck pools, meant that we had a lot of catching up to do.

Thus, it is important to be patient with new and very casual players and do your best to explain what your cards do (let them read them carefully) and how things work. Try not to overwhelm them right off the bat, or they might get discouraged. Information overload is a real possibility.


If you are playing with newer or unfamiliar players, it is best to have a variety of decks to choose from. If you curb-stomp them with your Tier 1 Standard deck, and do it constantly, they won’t even want to play with you again.

This isn’t the military, and we don’t need hard-knock boot camp training. I don’t suggest going ‘easy’, but bring out a mid-level ‘fair’ deck and try to have interactive games.

I always bring a good range of decks to play against new and unfamiliar opponents. If I notice that they have some serious game, then I can bring out the big guns. Otherwise, I have goofier decks that I can play and foster a more social setting.

As for Combo decks, most of our playgroups frown on those these days. I know only to whip them out around other players that are at ease facing them, and only on rare occasions. Best leave the combo decks in the box until you know it’s safe.

** One little caveat that amuses me is just how much more powerful creatures are compared to 10-20 years ago. Even newer players can match up well against old decks, simply by the virtue of how much better today’s creatures are.


Maybe he should change his diet?
One intimidating factor can be the fact that my wife and I tend to have a lot of splashy mythics and rares. Yes, we’re the lambs that usually buy a box of every new set, tend to do a bit of trading, and like to tweak and evolve our decks from time to time.

It’s important to note that money isn’t everything in the game, and newer players should be taught that...

1.    Many of the expensive cards that we might have were acquired when they were cheap. Liliana of the Veil is now over $100, but I got my copy from a booster pack. Simply put, long-time players will have expensive cards, just by the nature of the game as a collectible and popular hobby. 

2.    Not all good cards are expensive. I love to ‘bin’, and search bulk boxes for $1 gems. Some of the best cards are commons and uncommons, and I like to challenge myself to build good decks without spending $ and by using cheap cards. These two cards, for example, are amazing, and can be found very cheap.
3.   If you have a large collection, with lots of excess cardboard lying around, donate some of those cards! We have a bulk box that any of our friends can search and take some freebies from, and we’ve also put some bulk rares into a binder. If we won’t use them, and they aren’t very tradable, maybe one of our playgroup can find a home for them. 


It goes without saying, but try not to be an over-competitive ass. I know I had a few spurts where I was getting far too angry about losing casual games, and it was making the other players uncomfortable. If you are feeling very competitive and want nothing to do but win, find a different arena.

Remember, nobody is keeping stats, and you want to be able to foster relationships that will last. I know I was close to driving away some people because I was acting like a prick, and appeared to not be having fun, so cut that crap out.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Grand Prix Vegas - Casually Disappointed

Grand Prix Las Vegas 2015 was, by far, the biggest Magic: The Gathering tournament ever held.

In addition to the 7,500+ players that played in the regular weekend event, several thousand also came for the side events and general shenanigans that surrounded the event. #Makemagichistory was all over Twitter and Reddit. 

My wife and I chose to travel to Las Vegas for our yearly vacation, with the Grand Prix a nice excuse to make our way south of the border.

Sadly, our experience with Grand Prix Vegas was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. We were part of that not-so-vocal minority that didn't have the "most epic time ever, dude!"

GP Las Vegas ran from Thursday, May 28th, to Sunday, June 1st, 2015.

Thursday and Friday were purely for side events, while Saturday and Sunday also contained the big main event.

We intended to attend Thursday and Friday for the side events, as we're not interested in the large main event and had a trip to the Grand Canyon to make.

We arrived Thursday morning, and were astonished at the pure size of the convention hall and how busy it was already. We thought Thursday would be a fairly quiet day, but I think the attendance on that day dwarfed that of most any regular event.

It seems that the event organizers and judges were also overwhelmed by the unexpected surge, as all events were well behind schedule. Those who signed up for on-demand drafts waited over an HOUR to even start their events, and those are supposed to be the fastest-running.

My wife and I had preregistered for a 2HG (Two-headed Giant event) for US$80. With the exchange rate, it was just over $100 Canadian. Owch! :(

As is the theme of the post, this was a disappointing experience for us, for the most part.

To start things off, the whole event started about 45 minutes late. This was 45 minutes before we even got our packs of cards to build our decks! Add on time to build our decks, and it was a good 90+ minutes before we even played our first game.

Rounds are supposed to take 50 minutes, and they usually run a little long. This time? Each round lasted 75-90 minutes, and this was a 5-round event. We seemed to spend more time waiting around than actually playing. Ugh.

We certainly enjoyed the process of building our decks and PLAYING the game, and we got to meet some pretty cool people from all parts of the USA. Our first round opponents even cracked a foil Tarmogoyf (A cool $300 or so), so we didn't feel too bad for beating them.

For the actual tournament, we went 2-1 and then dropped. The proceedings simply took too damn long, and Vegas had other things to explore. We intended to play all 5 rounds, but not if we're playing the Doctor Waiting Room Experience.

Our pool?

Well, a certain friend of mine said about the cost: "You'll probably make up the value in the cards you open!"

Let's see how we did..

For those who don't play the game (much), the card in the lower left corner is the only card worth more than 50 cents. (It's about $13 now)

That's right, we pretty much got one of the most worthless pools we could have possibly opened. No mythics, and one Surrakar Spellblade, a card so bad that I wouldn't taint my drinks by using it as a coaster.

On the other hand, we actually had a good pool for the tournament. Despite the lack of money, my wife and I had pretty good cards and decks that complimented each other. I think we could have ended up 4-1 if we had played the last two rounds.

My wife played the GOOD deck of the two: Gw Ramp/Tokens.

With limited bombs like Ant Queen, Mirror Entity, and Wilt-Leaf Liege, combined with 3 ramp spells, we finished off the top of the curve with 2(!) Pelakka Wurms and 2 Ulamog's Crusher. There was so much beef in this deck that we could open up a Fatburger franchise.

I went on the support role with a durdly black-blue deck with some random artifacts. My role was to kill and/or bounce creatures, and make sure Sarah's army destroyed the opponents.

Yes, 3 Aethersnipes and 3 Nameless Inversions.

My wife and I make a good team, and our play styles certainly paired well with the cards we got. The only match we lost was due to a Primeval Titan (expensive bomb) that we couldn't quite deal with. I would love to try a 2HG event again, as long as it is well-run.

Two other things contributed to us having a less-than-stellar time at Grand Prix Las Vegas

1. Artist Alley was a nightmare!

We were fortunate to get a bunch of autographs from some of the lesser-known artists, but weren't able to get any from the popular artists.

Long lineups are expected, but many jerks decided to bring 40-50 cards for the artist to sign, and the line would barely move. Is it worth it to wait an hour for autographs? Hardly. I wish the artists told these idiots "I'll sign 12, and then you go to the back of the line".

2. We didn't know anybody else!

Many people attending GP Vegas managed to meet up with friends, have parties, and have a real experience out of it. Nobody we know, apart from a local vendor, made the trek to Vegas. Being casual players, most of the people we play with have never even been to a Friday Night Magic, much less a Grand Prix.

Even the podcasters and writers I correspond with said Vegas was too far/expensive to get to.

Thus, it was kind of a lonely feeling being at a large event where we miss out on the social aspect.


We were certainly happy to travel to Vegas and be part of this experience, but it was definitely not as fun as we expected it to be. We didn't even bother going back on Friday for drafts, since waiting around for hours didn't seem like a great use of vacation time.

Yes, we're the silent minority that came away from this event the same way we came away from the city of Las Vegas: "That's it? It was expensive and overrated"