[M:tG] Talking To Strangers – Von’s First FNM

It’s all in the cause of addressing my declining mental health, honest.

I need to get out more, and I need something to reward myself for dragging my carcass through the week, and I need some form of recreation that doesn’t involve other people.

Also, there’s the small matter of Crackgate. A storm in a teacup from the Dark Sphere perspective – by and large, waistlines are modest and belts firmly secured around our way. We endure few of the… specimens… which this… person… has seen fit to point out. In general, the perspectives expressed by Dark Sphere players were along the lines of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, “look, some people only leave the house to play Magic, maybe we shouldn’t harsh their buzz too much”, “dude’s got a point you know” and “well, it’s not really an issue for us…”

I know what Dark Sphere’s Magic players had to say on the matter because I went along to the tongue-firmly-in-cheek response event: Black Tie FNM. Turn up in a tuxedo and you won a life counter, turn up in a fancy outfit of any sort and have a professional photo or three taken while you were there. And, oh, yeah, play some Magic as well. I opted for draft because a) Modern is scary and b) more cards yay, and – quite against my expectations – not only had a nice time but actually two rounds out of four.

photography by Thomas Ralph, DCI judge and pro photo person

Going in, I planned on black/green/white since, um, they’re the colours I mostly play and new stuff for decks is always appealing. I managed to stick to these guns despite a couple of very tempting Legendary draws – Tymaret and Bident of Thassa both came around early in the second set of boosters, and I suspect that blue/black/red EDH deck may be on the cards, and I might give the half-assed black/red deck I’ve been working on another look over.

I ended up running a strange black/green bestow/inspire graveyard-pumping sort of thing. The first two rounds were… merciless. First I drew blue/red and didn’t really get to do much of anything in either game, what with all the burns and counters and things; second was green/white and a couple of closer but still lacklustre games. After taking the advice to swap out an Asphodel Wanderer and Defend the Hearth for Graverobber Spider and Mortal’s Resolve, I… did surprisingly well. By the end of the night, the deck stood like this:

1x Marshmist Titan
1x Vulpine Goliath
1x Arbor Colossus
1x Grey Merchant of Asphodel (had a shot at another but Tymaret was just too tempting)
1x Warchanter of Mogis
1x Cavern Lampad
2x Disciple of Phenax
1x Returned Centaur
1x Graverobber Spider
1x Guardians of Meletis
1x Scourge of Skola Vale (and it was in foil!)
1x Nyxborn Wolf
1x Setessan Oathsworn
1x Sedge Scorpion
1x Asphodel Wanderer

1x Ordeal of Nylea
1x Ordeal of Erebos
1x March of the Returned
1x Asphyxiate
1x Cutthroat Maneuver
1x Pharika’s Cure
1x Mortal’s Resolve

10x Swamp
7x Forest (a mistake; should have been the other way around)

There’s some fun stuff in there. Bouncing the Merchants and Disciples in and out of the graveyard to double-dip their bonuses was a regular thing, as was casting a bestow creature as a creature, letting it die, and pulling it back for later use as an enchantment once I had the mana in play to support it. The Guardians were very much unsung heroes, pinning down some early-game Ordeal attackers until I drew Asphyxiate or could get the Scorpion into them with Mortal’s Resolve. In most of the games I’d end up taking some hits, going down to about 12 or 10 life, and then starting to pull out big green grobblies or ramp up the Cavern Lampad and turn the games around. The deck proved quite dynamic, albeit very weak against rush decks – that’s pretty much how Magic goes for me though, and in conversation with Andrew, my second-round opponent, I realised that it’s the GM’s weakness at work again. As an RPG GM, one doesn’t want to say “no”, one wants to say “yes, but it’ll cost you…” and keep a certain dynamic going, which is at odds with the ancient and sacred principles of victory: win before the game starts or stop the game happening until you can win.

The experience of drafting with people I haven’t known for donkey’s years, meanwhile, was… interesting. I made a few gaffes that left me quietly mortified – things like the convention of cutting the other player’s deck before hands are drawn, violation of which is apparently a matter for the judge. I do like the Magic folks’ willingness to actually use the judges, though, and call them over as soon as an incident occurs. There’s little of the wargamers’ tendency to get all hot and bothered and stressed and ask the next table over and only then, when the likelihood of a calm, graceful and quiet resolution has utterly evaporated, actually ask someone who’s there to resolve issues. The judges were a lot more up on things than I was expecting, too – all too often the response from a wargaming TO is “I don’t know either but I think”, whereas the Magic judges seemed much more confident in their assertions. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing – “I AM THE LAW”, as it were – or a result of the highly organised and centralised Wizards of the Coast programme.

Oh, and apparently I have a DCI membership and number now. I’d be scared, but – well – I actually quite enjoyed the experience, and I’d definitely like to draft again. Constructed tournament play is still a little beyond my means – in terms of the competition level, the investment required, and the style of play – and I’m happy for it to remain so, but I can see future Friday nights being “at least you’re in the same room as other nerds” nights. I can also see a Born of the Gods fat pack, to be honest – after some initial dread about the new mechanics I can actually see a lot of potential in them, and that black/red Zombie deck seems mighty tempting…

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

You may now commence belching

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