While my lovely girlfriend Hana is exceedingly tolerant of my various card/board game and internet addictions (and is the best at opening sweet rares and mythics in my prize packsâ€”Garruk, Primal Hunter last week!), she is (understandably) not so keen on having a load of sweaty, drunk/hungover gamers lying all over our flat for an entire weekend. So when she headed up to Scotland to visit family for a week, I naturally had to invite some of my bros round to get in as much gaming as possible. And so the call was issued to a dozen odd friends on Facebook:
“Any of you about Thurs 30th June – Sat 2 July? Got the place to myself and want to cram it full of games. Well up for having folks bring laptops round and play Magic Online (or board/other games) and drink, go to FNM at Games Club on the Friday, etc.”
Fortunately, despite a few no-replies and dropouts, five answered to the affirmative and met me after work at The Games Club that Friday night. Â
The players, onto the stage: Tim W (of coverage fame), Phil D (Matt Sperling personal deck designer), Josh T (spends ages doing his hair in the morning), Glenn G (“I’m feeling pretty rough, but I’m still up for drinking games”), and Thom R (top 16’d GP London, but can’t go to PT Philly, as his flat mate is kicking him out instead). The intention was to play FNM over a few beers, then go to mine and play more until we passed out at some point in the early hours.
When we arrived though, it was to a sorry sceneâ€”merely a handful of Magic players trading or in the midst of Commander games, and 80% of the room’s table space taken up by abrasive and aggressive teenage Yu-Gi-Oh players threatening to knife each other over matters of disrespect or trying to steal each other’s trap cards. Few things encourage you to leave somewhere immediately more than a large group of 16-year-old gangsta wannabes with 30% moustaches, talking about how their cousin has been to prison and will “totally merk anyone, so man better swear down bruv.“
Furthermore, Glenn wasn’t greatly interested in playing FNM, as he had a draft’s worth of boosters in his bag already, and the rest of us quickly lost interest also as talk went to team-drafting instead.
I’m not sure what the opposite of a secret admirer is, but I appeared to have picked one of those up at some point too, as several people noted the looks of utter contempt and disgust some guy (who none of us recognized) was shooting at me. I think he must have overheard my joke about always shuffling Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top to the top of my deck in Commander games versus Nathan (local format master) as serious strategy advice.
I don’t, for the record, but even when I draw those cards against him, I still lose, as Nathan’s decks are always stupidly good and synergistic. Also, Mono-R Bosh isn’t a particularly strong deck choiceâ€”I spend most of my games searching for Mountains with Journeyer’s Kite, and then die.
Various off-putting factors taken into account, we decided to just hang around for a round of drinks and then head off to team draft instead of play FNM. Thom and I quickly borrowed the club’s rusty guillotine to cut up some ludicrous drinking card game from 4chan I’d printed off on a whim, then off to catch a 168 bus we went.
Despite being completely sober at this point, Phil was in fine form, managing to offend almost the entire top deck of the bus within a minute of us sitting down, only to be outdone by an even louder group of teenage girls two stops later. Now, this isn’t to say Phil is a bad person with detestable views (most of them are reasonably acceptable), but he is one of a few people whose regular speaking voice is louder than mine (which I get told off for frequently), and he has no issue with talking about any subject at all in an extremely public circumstance. Subjects on this occasion included someone he completely hates and various stories from his work… which is at a strip club. Not things the mothers with children and grannies with shopping bags appreciated hearing about.
“Can we stop in a pub on the way, please?” Tim asked politely after ceasing to pretend he wasn’t with the rest of us. “I want Jagerbombs.”
Off the bus outside Camden Market and across the street to The Monarch then, which being a trendy hipster pub, was totally empty at 6.30 pm on a Friday. Fifty quids worth of Jagerbombs and not long later we were back at my flat, following a brief detour to the off-license to stock up on tins of beer/cider, greasy bagged snacks, Snickers ice creams, and a comically tiny pot of orange jelly (Jell-O) for Tim.
After spending 20 minutes sleeving up that drinking game and enjoying reading many of the silly cards it contained, we instantly abandoned the idea of playing it, so it was time to team draft. None of us particularly wanted to buy Glenn’s packs from him, and “big-time ballaz” we ain’t, so in lieu of shelling out for FNM and to keep it competitive, we agreed to play for a fiver each, and Glenn could keep all the cards. Randomly assigned teams were Josh, Tim, and myself against Thom, Glenn, and Phil, who had yet to draft the format before and thus had received a stern talking to such that he wouldn’t try and force mono-U.
We started drafting, and Guinness (the cat) was loving all the extra attention everyone was giving him, helping out by knocking over half-full cans and pawing cards out of our hands at every opportunity. My first few picks from each pack looked like this, as I settled comfortably into an archetype I’d drafted a couple of times already online, R/B removal:
Round 1 I lost in two to Thom’s poison deck with Phyrexian Swarmlord, while Tim and Josh 2-0’d Glenn and Phil respectively.
Round 2 I took out Phil 2-0, while Tim and Josh lost 1-2 to Thom and Glenn. Three wins to each team.
Round 3 I tilted Glenn a good amount and won 2-0. One of London’s strongest players, Glenn can beat almost anyone with an average deck and draw but is near-incapable of dealing with any amount of mana difficulties, just putting lands straight from the top of his deck into play and passing each turn in despair. In the first game, I misplayed by failing to keep Shrine of Burning Rage mana open when it was on about ten counters, but of course said this was intentional when Glenn pointed it out between games just to twist the knife a little more. Josh lost to Thom 2-0, then it was just Tim and Phil left in a U/B mirror.
Disappointed, Tim, Josh, and I gave over our money, and we all handed in our cards to Glenn. As he was keeping everything, we of course opened nothing of any worth save a single Venser, the Sojourner. If we’d been re-drafting, it would have been at least a planeswalker each because that’s how life works.
This had taken us up to past 11 pm, and having eaten nothing save a bag of crisps (chips) each since lunchtime, we were all starving and half-cut, so a wander over to Marathon seemed like an excellent plan. For reference, Marathon is a legendary North-London kebab shop that also sells alcohol and used to have a license to stay open until 4 am and various blues/jazz/rock acts playing till dawn on Friday and Saturday nights. Sadly they got busted for ignoring fire regulations and going past their allowed opening hours and now have to close much earlier, plus legendary house one band Daniel Jeanrenaud has moved on. Still the best drunk food for miles, though.
Somehow it took over 40 minutes to decide who was going for a six-minute walk round the corner, but eventually all but Glenn and Josh headed out into the warm summer night. Feeling particularly flush, Tim opted for the Marathon’s behemoth Â£8.50 signature dish, a sort of Noah’s Ark of kebabs, containing one of every kind of meat. And then he felt the need to get chips on the side, perhaps intending to commit a food-based suicide.
This left the rest of us with a considerable wait time while a team of three cooked and assembled Tim’s food, so I stood outside in the street eating my food while Thom and Phil smoked. It wasn’t long before a young woman who’d just left the pub next door came over asking for a lightâ€”innocent enough, until she said something that set Phil off on one, as he became what is best described as a British, Magic-playing Tucker Max. The conversation went a little like this:
Woman: Hey, do you have a light? *bats eyelids*
Phil: Sure. *Passes over lighter* You know, you wanna watch out talking to strange men at night when you’re on your own; you don’t know if I’m gonna kidnap you and lock you in my basement or something. Nah, I’m just kidding, don’t worry.
Woman: *Laughs a little* Well I think I’m a bit too smart to get myself into such a situation.
Phil: Oh really, is that so?
Woman: Actually I’m really smart. I’m in Mensa.
Phil: You’ve got to be kidding me.
Woman: Why would I lie to you? I’m an actual genius. I have an IQ of 148.
Phil: That’s a lie.
Woman: No really, I have a picture of it on my phone, look! *Hands over phone*
Phil: This is ridiculous; that isn’t a real Mensa membership card.
Woman: It is! *Beginning to get upset*
Phil: No, that’s just a lie, love. What kind of a joke of a person has a picture of a forged Mensa card on their phone? Who do you think that’s going to impress? Me?
Woman: I wasn’t…
Phil: *Interrupting* WRONG! I’m the son of two clinical psychologists. I know all about IQ tests, and I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t let you take one.
Woman: Hey! I’m in the top smartest people in this country, and Mensa says so.
Phil: What drugs have you been taking that makes you think that is the truth?
This carried on for a further five minutes as Thom and I cried with laughter throughout, until she eventually stormed off.
Phil: Who even has that as a picture on their phone? She was asking for it, don’t you think?
Tim’s food had now been loaded into the bed of a flatbed truck, and back to the flat we went to eat it while watching EpicMealTime videos on YouTube for inspiration. It was just past 1 amâ€”what next?
“Why don’t we try and record a draft?”
We did so, using the musical chairs (taking it in turns to pick) format Tim suggested, but things quickly dissolved into madness. You may notice there aren’t any videos embedded into this article here, as you might expect… Let’s just say that the results, while totally hilarious (easily in the top five draft caps of all timeâ€””Fantastic idea. LOVE,” said Ted Knutson when he got a preview), were somewhat very unsuitable on the grounds of language to appear on a fine and family-friendly site such as this, and it would have taken me most of a week working full-time to censor the damn thing. They are online though, if you go looking on a popular video-sharing site…
We started out with a windmill-slammed Urabrask the Hidden and followed it up with a pair of Blinding Souleater, an Apostle’s Blessing, a Pristine Talisman, and Remember the Fallen; things were looking very strong. Then we took a Slash Panther, and the aforementioned madness began, as we gravitated towards the most aggressive red deck we could possibly cobble together.
Cheers erupted from everyone as pack 2 opened with a Sword of Feast and Famine, before we went properly off the rails by picking every Concussive Bolt we saw. This was probably Phil’s ideaâ€”he has many terrible ideas, but they usually turn out with a good story.
We ended up with this:
And managed to defeat our first-round B/G infect opponent, staunchly refusing to sideboard at all. “You can’t improve on perfection,” with the Concussive Bolts being solid gold every time we played them. No amount of words can do the videos of those matches justice though, I’m afraid…
After collecting our two packs (there was no way we were winning a draft with that deck, but we still turned a profit!), Phil insisted on taking anyone who would go with him to the strip club he worked at, promising free entry and drinks. Glenn and I, being loving and well-behaved boyfriends (as well as just plain tired), elected to stay behind and sleep.
The next day was a hangover haze.
Glenn woke me up at 9 am, as the cat was crying to be fed, and more importantly, he needed the computer password so he could start drafting online.
Arriving just after lunch, Tim reported that Phil was almost certainly going to be fired for his behavior last night, and I stupidly didn’t make a bet with him on this, knowing Phil would be able to talk his way out of anything.
Various people were thought missing, then turned up, and we set to playing cube Winston drafts, as Tim ground out two-mans online with Brad Nelson Mono-Green Infect deck. End of day record: about 10 wins, 4 losses, I think.
At some point along the way, we spotted this excellently named player in the 2-man lobby and couldn’t resist having a joke, which went far better than we ever could have anticipated:
An early dinner on Camden High Street with the day’s new arrival Mills (the UK’s Adam Richman), who helpfully finished off other people’s food for them, and Tim and Glenn retold some sordid tales from WoW Nats, worthy of an entire article themselves.
A few more drafts at home, and then everyone split, leaving me and the cat to tidy up and recover before my eight-hour train to Aberdeen the following morning.
LESSON: Apparently you’re supposed to learn something from articles? I guess the lesson here then, is that you don’t have to be a pro drafting for hundreds to have a fun time worth writing about playing Magic. It does help if your friends are as good as mine, though!
Until next time, when perhaps we’ll be covering a more highbrow subject!
(* = not really).