Katie Smith, it may interest you to know, is the leading scorer in the WNBA.
Why on Earth should you care? Well, my daughter and I have season tickets for the Minnesota Lynx, the team on which the talented Ms. Smith plays. We don’t miss a home game. And in a cruel test of devotion to my daughter, the WNBA scheduled two consecutive home games in conflict with my weekly Magic group.
After some initial gnashing of teeth, I decided to use this opportunity to ramp up my skills in draft. Dreamers in St. Louis Park holds a draft tourney every Wednesday evening. It’s very official – I had to look up my DCI # and everything. (Thank goodness they don’t list player ratings in that book.) I don’t swing by there very often any more, since it’s on the opposite side of the metro from my commute; but the owner, Jason, is a great guy and I always feel a little guilty for not coming by more than once every expansion, when I’m looking to trade away foils.
So I convinced my wife that I was really doing HER a favor by spending the extra night out a week for a couple of weeks (she may have been distracted by the screaming of the children when I asked), and saddled up to enter a more formal Magic venue.
And so we get to the reason why you might care about Katie Smith’s great scoring percentages. Due to my pilgrimage among the unholy tournament set, I can’t talk much about casual plays and what not this time around. I’ll see where I can’t throw in a Shivan Dragon or five-piece combo, though. Stick with me.
I’ve drafted in tourneys before, of course, and even done some sealed at Prereleases and a PTQ. But Dreamers is well known in Minnesota as the hang-out for the more successful fraction of the PTQ crowd. Most of the higher-rated players play there, if you keep track of that sort of thing, and even a well-adjusted casual player like myself felt a little anxiety as I checked out the crowd. I have no idea what I expected. I figured during tourney events, far from the prying eyes of most casual players, the Dreamers regulars would get together and, oh, I don’t know, flick foil rares at each other, or have tickle/pillow fights, or make fun the rest of us, or whatever. Now, as it turns out everything looked normal throughout the night, and they put on a good face of just playing Magic and what not, but I suspect they were on to me.
There were 24 of us there, for a weekly event. Nice. Three pods of eight and we were on our way. In addition to me, Theo and Gary from our group were there. We were divided (by chance) among the three pods. I didn’t know anyone in my pod, though I recognized a couple of faces at statewide events before. Eh, they all looked shifty to me.
The drafting went smoothly enough – I do like being in an environment where rare- and hate-drafting is kept to an absolute minimum, and everyone really is striving to make the best deck in the colors they wrestle for. I opened Lieutenant and got passed Thermal Glider, so hmmm… I found out later the Glider-passer took a Nightwind out of the same pack.
CASUAL ASIDE: Okay, this is one of those things that came back to bite me as a casual player. Who knew both Gliders were that close in the print run? Had I felt him going white that early, I probably would have abandoned the color and followed black earlier, since I got passed TONS of it in Nemesis pack. As it was, I ran red-black with poor early creatures but great finishers (Flowstone Thopter, Scoria Cat, Pit Raptor) and solid removal (Massacre, 2x Seal of Doom, 2x Kris Mage, Plague Witch, Flameshot, Lunge, Inflame).
It worked, rather well. We don’t need to write a tourney report in this space, but I was fortunate enough to pull a 2-1 decision on one of the top-ranked limited players in Minnesota, and ended up top eight across all three pods with a 3-1 record. My match loss came 1-2 to a non-regular (at least, he wasn’t there the following week) playing blue-black, and my black removal became less useful. I kicked myself after the match for forgetting to side in a late pick, Distorting Lens. Duh.
Checking out other random matches, I got to see a Plague Wind go off a couple of times. I am itching to use one of these in a seven-player like you wouldn’t believe. And I became a real fan of the lovable Silt Crawler. The Crawler is a less obvious pick when you’re putting together a multiplayer deck, but I really ought to try to find a place in one of my decks for a lizard that likes to roll in nature’s filth.
Irony of ironies, someone from my own group kicked me out of the running. Theo, who had done very well in forcing white and ended up with two Troubled
Healers for his efforts, took me out in the first top eight round with a white-red monstrosity, and went on to win it all. Congrats Theo!
There are some lessons for group players to take home with them, either because we do occasionally venture into the limited scene, where the pools of "good cards" intersect heavily in Masques block, or because there are tips for multiplayer formats that occurred to me while I was playing with these cards:
LESSONS FOR THE CASUAL PLAYER, WEEK ONE:
- It’s easier to beat one of the top-ranked players in the state when he never draws his Predator, Flagship for three games straight. (I felt like Neo in the Matrix dodging those slow-motion bullets and not knowing what the hell he was doing.)
- Alternate casting cost spells are just yummy – or sickening, depending on where you’re sitting. They should make a real resurgence in multiplayer decks, because they allow tapping out for the big-effect spells we like to use, while still holding something back for defense.
- Seals look better than ever to me. The implicit threat is great fun, and even more fun is watching your opponent gauge the seal, put out a medium-sized threat, have you seal it, triumphantly put down a bigger threat…and then frown on your turn as you lay down the second seal you’d been keeping in your hand. Almost worth giving up instant speed for fun like that! And again, great for group play.
The following week, there were only 16 of us, so two pods, and we played within pods only until top eight.
I drafted horribly here. I really hesitate to talk about it at all. It was great to have two more from our group there that night – Pete and Ben joined Gary, Theo, and me – but other than that, I felt I really wasted my night there. And no one to blame but me. I ignored good drafting sense and picked five different colors with my five first picks. (Booooo.) Then on the Nemesis pack, faced with a Rupture, Seal of Fire, and Flowstone Overseer, I refused to commit heavily to red yet picked Rupture instead of the Overseer. (BOOOOOOOO.) Then I stayed low on creatures, ending up with only thirteen worth running. (BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!) But I did get two Rhystic Lightnings in the Prophecy pack. (Yay.)
Ended up white-red (with plenty enough red to have played the Overseer, if I had followed EITHER my little-kid cool-card instincts OR my adult-intellect, commit-to-draft-colors instincts… it’s going to be a long time before I stop feeling stupid about this). Went 2-1. Made top eight. Got slammed out in first set of top eight, which is what I deserved. Actually, I deserved to go 0-3 and get charged double entry fee for the tourney, but Rupture was kind to me a couple of times, and Rhystic Lightning IS pretty good.
At least I never saw the Overseer played against me.
The rest of the group didn’t do that well, either, though Theo made top four. I very much enjoyed watching his last match, since he was playing one of the better and funnier players there.
LESSONS FOR THE CASUAL PLAYER, WEEK TWO:
- Commit to colors. Shut a color off first pack and stick with that plan. Take a bomb in a likely color. Don’t just read Gary Wise articles for the funny comments, READ them, you ignorant freak. (Sorry. That wasn’t directed at you.)
- When your opponent has a Parallax Wave and three creatures on the board, and you have no creatures and just a Wishmonger in your hand, you cannot scoop fast enough.
- When your opponent has you at two life, puts down a Predator Flagship, and then lays down a Waterfront Bouncer, sometimes all you can do is jump into the arms of the guy sitting next to you and plead, "oh my god, hold me!" (I nearly lost a gut when Theo’s opponent did exactly that.)
I really had a blast, both nights. Kudos to Jason for serving as a haven to a great pool of guys who are friendly, fun to be with, and very talented.
All right, enough on the limited tourneys. It was a nice diversion and I do love the way drafting changes the playfield, basing success on skill rather than collection depth. And folks with their own limited sob stories are welcome to console me at [email protected]. (Gary, if you’re reading it would really help me to know you’ve been this stupid before. Not holding my breath.) But…next week we must return to our casual bread and butter.
COMING SOON: The Break this Card results for Mana Cache, more vignettes, and how low can you go?