Embracing The Chaos – Gen Con And 99 Thoughts

Sheldon’s 99th article for Embracing the Chaos contains 99 thoughts on Gen Con and the format at large. For a fun look into Commander, Magic, and Gen Con, read this fun piece.

This being the 99th episode of “Embracing the Chaos,” it occurred to me that no one, not Jay-Z, not Sean McKeown, not even Nena and her luftballons has exclusive rights to the use of 99. I thought that I’d offer up 99 quick thoughts about Gen Con and the format in general.

  1. Gen Con really is the best four days in gaming. From the people, to the games, to all the cool stuff there is to see, there is no better assemblage of gamer culture. It’s never seemed to lose its spirit, even after all these years. Kudos to Scott Elliott and crew.
  2. I met the goal of playing no 1v1.
  3. A tradition I’ve developed over the past three years has been to have dinner on Thursday night at Harry & Izzy’s with Brian David-Marshall and Scott Larabee. There’s no real looking over of the menu: it’s the Spicy Shrimp Cocktail and the St. Elmo Prime Rib sandwich. And there’s no real Magic talk—it’s all movies and baseball.
  4. Putting together a list of 10 great movies of the 2000’s was more difficult than you might think.
  5. Which was meaner: the guy who played Jin-Gitaxias, or me waiting until two people had discarded their hands before I killed him? It was in a non-gunslinging game, so it was two people I knew. I definitely would have killed it right away if I were in the booth.
  6. During Spell-Slinging this weekend, I looked up and saw a mighty assembly conversing about ten feet away from the table, including David Williams, Bob Maher, Eric Froehlich, Brian Kibler, Patrick Chapin, and Matt Sperling. I asked Dave who the barn in that group was, and he immediately pointed to Bob.
  7. I played a couple of games over the weekend with a great group of friends from Michigan—Joe, Josh, and Matthew. They understood the idea of playing rough without going over the top and having a good time doing it.
  8. By contrast, there was a person who stood in a line a long while and then sat down to do this: Turn 1 Sol Ring, Turn 2 Skyshroud Claim, Turn 3 Ramp, Turn 4 Sarkhan Vol, Turn 5 Tooth and Nail for Kiki-Jiki and Pestermite. It took me longer to shuffle than to play that game. I told the other two players to stick around for another game if they wanted to, and they did.
  9. The steak at http://www.stelmos.com/home.html”>St. Elmo’s was disappointing. The two bottles of 2004 Domaine Du Pegau Reserve Chateauneuf-du-Pape were not.
  10. On Sunday last year, I had to abort a game with nearby shop-owners Steve and Amber because I had to catch a plane. I ran into them at the Trade Day thing we did on Wednesday night and promised to jump them to the front of the line. Only Amber came over to play, but she brought me the coolest gift of the weekend.
  11. If you can see the lower-left corner of that mat clearly, you’ll see that it says “Your Tears Sustain Me,” which is the Grixis Mean Deck that I had mentioned thinking about making last year to Amber. Now, I really have to make it and bring out that playmat just for the occasion.
  12. Never knew there was such a thing as the Weber BBQ Grill restaurant before going to Indy, but now it’s the only place I like to combo out: Brisket, Ribs, and Pulled Pork.
  13. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: there may be no better friend to the Judge Program than Alan Hochman of Pastimes.
  14. The Very Important Gamer ticket is a neat idea, but seemed a little pricey.
  15. Thought it very cool that the movie theater (which knows its audience) was playing the 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian.
  16. Delicious grilled cheese sandwich for lunch at Champp’s was punctuated by one of my favorite plays in baseball, the pitcher hitting a home run. Just as we sat down, Carlos Zambrano took Johnny Cueto seriously deep.
  17. One last baseball thought: Carlos Guillen may have gone overboard, but Jered Weaver is an ass.
  18. Coolest deck of the weekend was David of Indianapolis’ farm-themed deck, which I’ll probably feature at some point. The deck had cards like Workhorse, Gruul War Plow, Grim Harvest, Swords to Plowshares, Cultivate, and so on. It was loads of fun to see what was coming up next.
  19. It was interesting watching rivalries of players who knew each other. One group from Quincey, IL, practically forgot all about me and just beat up on each other. I think I died that game to my own Phyrexian Arena.
  20. Amusing play with the Thraximundar deck: Guy casts Tooth & Nail entwined, which I Twincast. Flipping through my deck, I see Draining Whelk. I lean over to Mark Gottlieb, slinging at the table next to me and ask if it would be mean to fetch it. He tells me to show the crowd. A huge roar goes up, but they’re split about 50/50 on whether or not I should use it. I end up getting something else giant instead.
  21. I’ve noticed a radically different reaction from people when they’re the target of Control Magic versus Bribery. In general, they kind of just shrug off Bribery, but they’ll come get you when you Control Magic something. Wonder what that’s all about.
  22. To answer the guy from last week’s forums who said he didn’t understand what I was doing with my decks, I say “something different.” Lots of decks with the same exact cards would seem to be a waste.
  23. When I was done playing with the aforementioned Joe, Josh, and Matthew, the box of boosters was down to three left (the rest having been packed up for the night): two Worldwake and one Zendikar. I tossed them on the table and told them they’d have to figure out how to split them up. It was Hungry, Hungry Hippos all the way. The first to open a pack (Matthew, I think) windmilled a Jace, the Mind Sculptor onto the table. One of the others got a foil Sorin Markov.
  24. Josh won “best headband” for the weekend with his Paul Kantner-cum-Mark Knopfler tribute.
  25. Two of the best hours of the weekend were spent at the Commander Panel with Scott, Mark Gottlieb, and “Phyrexian” Ken Nagle (complete with costume). The turnout didn’t quite pack the room, but there was great feedback, insightful questions, and lots of laughs.
  26. Turns out most everyone hates griefers.
  27. Downtown Indy was a mess due to some construction leading up to the Super Bowl. It led to some awkward sidewalk moments.
  28. In response to last week’s “Lighten Up, Francis” deck, Scott said that he was going to build “The Aunt Jemima Treatment.”
  29. I’ll concede that Predict is better than Lammastide Weave.
  30. There was a group of people on the street near the convention center handing out cards, which I assumed were for some new game. Turned out to be for escorts.
  31. If you have an awesome saying that you think would be great on the back of a sleeve, ship your idea to anyone who makes sleeves. Personally, I’d like to see “These Go to 11,” and of course, “Leave the gun, take the cannolis.”
  32. The new exhibit hall at the convention center meant a better space for the dealers. I didn’t get that much time in the hall, but it seemed like the aisles were wider and the spot had a brighter feel to it.
  33. Shout out to the guy named Page who had both a Squee, Goblin Nabob deck and a binder full of Squee foils and foreign-language versions.
  34. Ben and Ty from Leominster, MA, made me think of this beautiful girl I knew 30 years ago who went to UMass Amherst. Here’s to you, Cindy Eaton, wherever you are.
  35. The Channel Fireball guys rate consideration as best Magic team ever.
  36. Very few funny stories begin “Funny story…”
  37. I could have sworn that I saw some snow in one of the Neverwinter promo shots.
  38. Patrick Jarrett is a good guy and great friend of the format, but if he’s moving his lips during a game, he’s fibbing.
  39. Single Card Strategy: Mogg Infestation.
  40. Pretended that I didn’t know Tim Willoughby when he sat down to play on Thursday morning. I asked everyone their name and where they were from, and he looked a little confused when he said, “Um, Tim…from London.” He does get the “came the farthest to play EDH” award.
  41. Direct quote from one of the WotC folks: “We don’t really care if you call it EDH.”
  42. Mentioning mtgmom.com because Kitt and Megan are good folks.
  43. Saw way more Mario Brothers costumes than I had expected. Wonder what’s up with that?
  44. Shook a fair number of hands this weekend. The chance of coming down with Con Crud in the next few days is probably relatively high.
  45. Bad sign: someone actually believed me when I told them I’m turning 60 next month.
  46. Good sign: Nationals Head Judge Aaron Hamer kicking it up a notch by wearing a tie with his judge shirt.
  47. Recurring Nightmare is not getting unbanned.
  48. Didn’t take a computer or iPod to the show. Five days without Dream Theater is just so wrong. Rectifying that now as I write.
  49. Got an absolute harangue from BDM for not having a smart phone—not a “gee, you should get one,” but a “why are you a complete Luddite?”
  50. On the forums, someone suggested we legalize Cheatyface. Best response: “I think that if you need Cheatyface to be legal before you start playing with it, you’re doing something wrong.”
  51. If you want the RC to take seriously what you’re going to say, don’t title your thread “Look at Me, I’m the RC!”
  52. The last game of the weekend featured me thinking I was going to end it by activating a 51/51 Molten Hydra, which was that big courtesy of both me and my opponent having Vigor in play and bashing each other. His Voidslime crushed that dream.
  53. Mark your calendars for 25 September, the return of Boardwalk Empire.
  54. Voidmage Husher is a card that I expect we should see more of.
  55. In the VIG room, I got to hang out with two different sets of father and three kids playing in a special Commander event. The first rule at both tables seemed the same: “Attack Dad.”
  56. Mark Gottlieb mentioned that the idea of four-color Legendary creatures isn’t completely dead, but it could use some life support. It seems like every time they try to design a four-color creature, it’s not about the inclusion of the four colors, but the absence of the fifth.
  57. Single Card Strategy: Submerge.
  58. I asked everyone who sat down to play to pick the Commander they wanted me to play (I even wrote up a list). Most often, the response was “whatever you want.” Biggest cheers always came for Phelddagrif. The only by-name requests were for Kresh, which has become the flagship of my fleet of decks.
  59. Poison is not changing from 10. There are only two somewhat problematic poison cards, Skithiryx and Triumph of the Hordes, and I don’t think that changing poison solves the problem of either of them and still keeps poison as a viable strategy.
  60. I was ready to give up on True Blood after the second episode this season. Glad I didn’t; although I’ll confess to thinking Emo Eric is a complete wuss.
  61. You’d have to play five colors to play all 16 cards with Void and all 10 cards with Abyss in their names, but it’d be a cool theme.
  62. What’s with the price of foil Zendikar full art lands?
  63. Best of luck to friends Alan Hochmann and Ben Drago in their new venture, GameHead.
  64. Also in the no-change category: the rules on hybrid cards.
  65. My airplane reading was finishing up the second Game of Thrones book (again, for about the fifth time). Onto Storm of Swords (again) and hopefully will be reading Dance with Dragons on the flight to Spell-Sling at PT Philadelphia.
  66. If I could eliminate one mechanic, it’d be annihilator. I love the Eldrazi and their shuffle-the-graveyard trigger, but unless someone is getting really out of hand, I don’t want to attack with them. There was a game this weekend with I think about 16 total annihilator on the board spread across multiple players, courtesy of Kozilek, Artisan of Kozilek, Sakashima the Imposter, Clone, and Phyrexian Metamorph. No one wanted to twitch.
  67. Most unusual thing Metamorphed all weekend: Dolmen Gate.
  68. Still not a fan of the four-person collusion-fests that they run for prizes at events. I think they’re great for the TO, terrible for the format.
  69. Braid of Fire, Nin, the Pain Artist, and Darksteel Colossus still makes me chuckle. Replace (or add to) Darksteel Colossus with Vigor for even more fun.
  70. Still think Spin into Myth might be situationally very good, but a little spendy.
  71. Shout out to Lloyd, who is from the area where we got married, just south of Gettysburg.
  72. Ran into another of the “miss this guy at the Pro Tour” crowd, John Fiorillo.
  73. If you live anywhere near Livonia, Michigan, go see old friend Michael C Jackson and his band Abbey Rhode. The guy can play.
  74. How many Eldrazi Spawn tokens (it’s currently three) would Essence Feed have to give you before you played it?
  75. Single Card Strategy: Grim Feast.
  76. Somebody played a Collective Voyage without any additional mana to put into it, and no one else bit. I can’t really see playing any of the Join Forces cards besides maybe Mana-Charged Dragon and Shared Trauma.
  77. As mana rocks go, I think I might start playing the suite from Mercadian Masques, Eye of Ramos, Heart of Ramos, Horn of Ramos, Skull of Ramos, and Tooth of Ramos. Henge of Ramos, however, is right out.
  78. I asked Gottlieb/Nagle to maybe work up more Arcane cards. The blank-stared response was less than encouraging.
  79. Cards that I recognize are good and that people are going to play but I’m completely bored with seeing include Lightning Greaves, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers, Sakashima, and Reveillark.
  80. Seal of Cleansing, Seal of Doom, Seal of Primordium, and Seal of Removal all seem thoroughly playable, yet I rarely see them.
  81. Played two different games this weekend where there were no green players at the table. It seems notable that it was notable.
  82. Planet of the Apes looks like it’s going to be pretty crazy. I hope they don’t fall into the all-action, no plot trap. Speaking of traps, saw two complete whiffs on Summoning Trap.
  83. Speaking of whiffs, I was about 2-for-14 on Lurking Predators.
  84. Not a single person who sat down with me over the weekend asked for a card to be banned or unbanned. While there are cards that I know folks (including me) don’t like seeing, I think the format is pretty healthy right now.
  85. It’s time to let up Shoeless Joe Jackson and put him into the Hall of Fame. As much as I hated him when he played, same goes for Pete Rose.
  86. Think I’ll get an altered-art Dingus Staff and start playing it. Massacre Wurm for all!
  87. I think provoke is a great mechanic, and I wish there were more worthwhile provoke cards to play.
  88. Single Card Strategy: Abyssal Hunter. It’s not the damage; it’s the tapping in black.
  89. I keep threatening to play Aether Flash but have yet to put one into a deck. Seems like reasonable protection for the decks that vomit out a bunch of tokens.
  90. When the other people at the table with you are sitting with their arms folded watching you play or are playing a game on their cell phone, you haven’t played a good game of EDH.
  91. Original Virginia Group members Chuck Weaver and Todd Hughson were at the con, but we never got the opportunity to revisit old times for a game. Glad they stopped by the booth and said hey.
  92. Got much positive feedback of the inclusion of Rayne, Academy Chancellor in a deck. She does always seem to net positive value.
  93. Probably not telling you anything you don’t already suspect, but Innistrad is going to be AWESOME.
  94. There seemed to be a groundswell of support for requirement of Acorn Catapult in every deck.
  95. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone play a good Rebel deck. Sure, they’re mostly white, but there are enough good black ones (Big Game Hunter!) to play in maybe a Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter or Ghost Council of Orzhova deck.
  96. I could get used to the “Magic Celebrity” gig.
  97. I would not get upset at anyone playing Anathemancer, Ruination, Back to Basics, Destructive Flow, Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Price of Progress, or Primal Order, and I play a fair number of nonbasic lands. I’d call them all reasonable protection.
  98. A guy named Ben played as his General a card that he had picked up somewhere along the way: Genish, Lord of Elephants, which was a playtest card in 1997, costing 3WGG. It gave attacking Elephants +2/+2 and trample (although how many Elephants don’t already have trample?), for one green regenerated them, and did one other thing I can’t recall. I wish I had gotten a photo.
  99. The best writer about the format right now, myself included, is Sean McKeown.  

Thanks to everyone who came by the booth to play, watch, chat, and generally Embrace the Chaos. I was honored by all the requests for pictures and signatures and thanks for the format. I had a great time and look forward to doing it again in Philly in less than a month!