I’m sure that both of my regular readers may have noticed I’ve been gone for a while. I’d like to say everything is okay, but sadly, it is not. A very close family member has been battling Cancer, and between that and my normal overworked schedule, I haven’t been able to squeeze in any writing time.
Yes, I can see you all missed me. [/sarcasm]
However, one thing I’ve always felt I’ve done well, and have generally gotten positive feedback on, are Convention pieces, whether it be recaps, prep, or whatever. This year, I wanted to write a GenCon primer for everyone, both specific to this year, and hopefully for future years as well.
On Monday, Matt Elias wrote an excellent piece on the three major championships held at GenCon: Vintage, Legacy, and Block. I recommend hitting his piece up for tech on those specific tournaments. You can find his article here.
Let’s start with a little history of GenCon: GenCon began in 1968 as a wargames convention, and was co-founded by Gary Gygax, who would later go on to co-create Dungeons and Dragons with Dave Arneson. Surprisingly, every year I hear someone get shocked by the fact that GenCon is older than Magic. It’s even older than D&D!
Today, GenCon is held in Indianapolis, Indiana, and has a yearly attendance in the upper 20,000s. Last year, 27,900+ attendees were at Gencon, and those numbers are pretty typical. Almost 30,000 gamers in one huge building.
Let’s cover some of the events occurring this year at GenCon. However, before I do, I want to link you to a very popular site that will make your life much easier. GenCon’s schedule is a bit, well, let’s be generous and say difficult. However, each year there is a simplified version put out at this website. This website is ridiculously more useful, and for anyone trying to schedule events, is a God-send. Games can be searched by start time, genre, Gamemaster/Host, or other factors. Want to know what special events Legion Events is running? Looking for a good Risk 2210 game? Just want a list of Magic events? Have a hole Sunday morning? Find your answers there.
As for magic events, the three major events were listed above. In chronological order, they are:
Zendikar Block Championships: Thursday, Aug 5, 5 p.m.
Vintage Championship: Friday, Aug. 6, 10 a.m.
Legacy Championship: Saturday, Aug 7, 10 a.m.
Speaking from personal experience, the Block championships are probably the least â€˜prestigious” of these events, but usually have the highest EV, as well as the most opportunity for innovation. This is for many reasons. First, Thursday night is not the greatest attendance. Many people can only get Friday or even just the weekend off, meaning Thursday events have low attendance. Second, there isn’t a “community’ around that particular format, thus meaning it doesn’t carry as much “weight” in a group of peers. Finally, as a fairly fresh format without much high-level event support, there is still plenty of metagaming to do from the stale San Juan format. Coupled with the ridiculous prize support (last year, first place was a foil playset of the entire Block, and second was a regular playset of the entire block) and low attendance (I believe last year had 77 players, although my memory could be a little fuzzy) this tournament is an excellent one to try.
The Vintage and Legacy championships are pretty well defined. Expect the Legacy Champs to be very well attended, especially with the Legacy GP in Columbus this past weekend, giving everyone both some playtest / tuning workouts as well as a taste of the format.
Some other notable tournaments occurring over the course of the conventions are:
2 Generic Grand Prix Trials: One Friday night at 9 p.m., and one Saturday night at 8 p.m.
2 Midwest Masters series LCQs: This is a tournament series run across the Midwest, with an invitation only championship. The LCQs are Thursday at 9 p.m. (in case you scrub out of the Block Championships) and Friday morning at 11 a.m. (In case you scrub out of the Vintage championships really early). The Midwest Masters Championship will be held Saturday at 5 p.m., with the finals (I imagine top-8) at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
PTQ Amsterdam: Saturday, 11 a.m. I expect pretty good turnout for this, but some will be siphoned away by the Legacy championships. This is probably a decent option for PT hopefuls. An extra convention entry fee, coupled with competing events, may mean for a lower turnout than typical for a Midwest PTQ.
Champs Prelims: There are preliminary events for each of the three championships that award both byes and pretty decent prizes.
Block Prelims: Thursday at 12 noon. 4 swiss rounds, with each 4-0 player getting a 1 round bye and a Box of M11
Vintage Prelims: Thursday at 11 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. The morning session says there is a Notebook for the winner. I don’t know if this is true for the evening one as well, but each of them gives prizes, as well as 2 round byes to the winner.
Legacy Prelims: Thursday, 8 p.m. and Friday, 3 p.m. Each of these events gives 2 round byes to the winner of the event, as well as prizes.
There are 4 Magic Online Live Series Qualifiers, which will be leading into Worlds in Chiba. They are M11 Booster Draft, and will happen Thursday and Friday at both 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Only 16 players on Thursday and 32 players on Friday per event, so sign up fast.
On top of all these, there are practically infinite pickup Drafts, as well as 8-man Standard, Legacy, Vintage, 4-man EDH, and a bevy of other “Fire when we get enough” events throughout the weekend to keep you busy for all four days.
Of course, the biggest sale of interest to the majority of this sites readers will be the From the Vault: Relics sale going on. Wizards of the Coast will be selling 100 of these on each of the 4 days of GenCon. They will retail for 34.99 (plus IN state sales tax) but if you are lucky enough to procure one, you may be looking at a free $40. Last year, I was able to purchase on, and immediately sold it to the booth for this very website. Not a bad return on my investment, more than doubling my money in less than 3 hours time. However, this can also be a keeper item, as they are limited even at the store level when they do release on the 27th of August. Unless you have an inside track on one, you may want to keep the one you’re lucky enough to get at GenCon.
Stop by the Wizards of the Coast booth (#1721 on your maps, #1 in your hearts) and get some free swag. There’s usually some foil cards for playing the paper Magic demo. Last year was a Foil Steward of Valeron. MTGO usually gives out some digital freebies for updating/creating an account. Last year, just for updating your account, you got a draft set of M10. Not too shabby for 5 minutes of your day, eh? I imagine they’ll have some sweet stuff this year as well. Finally, try out Duels of the Planeswalkers for even more sweet stuff. I’ll be there demoing all sorts of WotC goodness, so swing by and wave at me.
One of my favorite parts of GenCon is the unparalleled array of artists that are there. If you like getting cards signed, it’s tough to find a better event to get the most artists in one location. This year, Wizards of the Coast is bringing in noted Magic card artists Steve Prescott and Kekai Kotaki. For a link to all of the cards they’ve done, scroll to the end of this article. They will be signing at prescheduled times in the TCG Hall.
Additionally, the following artists will be at GenCon in their own capacity:
Susan Van Camp
You can find links for them as well below.
The artists will typically have a limit to the number of cards they will sign for free, and also will typically ignore that limit once you start buying stuff. I like getting larger sized Art Prints and artist proof cards (Normal front, completely white back) to add to my collection. They sometimes will also alter cards for you, which I can attest is pretty freakin’ sweet.
True Dungeon/ Terror Werks
Finally, one type of event I highly recommend is the Live Action events. True Dungeon is an actual dungeon that you go through as a group, D&D style. The events are often sold out well in advance, but you can also find people either Looking for Group, or even scalping tickets. Terror Werks is a fairly new take on the genre that I participated in last year. They use Airsoft guns and run an actual simulated combat event. Shooting Aliens with your buddies is an amazing amount of fun, and if you die, you get to come back as an Alien. Last year, Sohmer left me to die, but it was nonetheless a heckuva good time. I highly recommend either.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. Sadly, this will be my final article for the foreseeable future. With the extra care that is being needed right now, I just don’t see myself having the time to keep writing with any sort of regularity. I barely even manage to read a half dozen articles a week now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to throw in a feature article or two here and there. I’m sad to end At the Gathering’s run, which is now over two years, the last 18 months of which have been here at this very site. I’d like to thank Craig and Pete for letting me live the dream of writing for StarCityGames.com, and all of the readers and writers who have shown support. [Thanks for the articles, Jeff. — Craig]
This is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.