Embracing The Chaos – The Philadelphia Story

Sheldon shares food adventures from Philly and his stories of much gaming at the venue. Check out notable Plays of the Week and his ratings of his own EDH decks by both quality and fun.

As you can imagine, being a VIP Spell-Slinger at a Pro Tour is pretty awesome. The first thing that has to come out is a hearty thanks to the staff who took care of me all weekend (especially Matt Danner) and the endless line of fans who showed up to play. Everyone was amazing, and we had lots of laughs. I can’t say thank you enough to the EDH Army for supporting and promoting the format.

Second thing is my report on the weekend’s eating. Instead of typing it up again here, I’ll direct you to my blog, Discoveries in Food and Wine. Venuto, veduto, mangiato.

What the blog didn’t mention was the pre-Judge Dinner mini-gathering in the room of Jeff Morrow and Toby Elliott, where JMo, Riki Hayashi, Chris Richter, and I emptied nearly two bottles of Cosentino “The Zin” (apparently there was help before I arrived from Kevin Desprez and Claire Dupré) and moral support from non-drinkers Toby and Ryan Stapleton. Getting a little lathered up to attend Judge Dinner is always the way to go.

Cosentino makes nice wines, “The Zin” being pretty affordable (around $17/bottle). At the same price point they make a blend called “Cigar Zin,” which adds in a little Sangiovese to theoretically give it a ‘smokier’ character. Side by side, I have trouble telling the difference between the two. I just don’t think that 3% of another grape makes that much difference when added to something as powerful as Zinfandel. Cosentino also makes a nice blend called “The Poet,” which is a little pricier (over $50) but worth the splurge.


My shift in the Spell-Slinging booth didn’t start until 11 am, but it felt right to show up for the 0730 L4+ meeting and then the 8 am general Judge meeting. I hung onstage with Scott Larabee until just after the first round started, and then we went to breakfast.

As soon as we got back, I set up shop in the Spell-Slinging area. As soon as I sat, folks showed up. I once again met the goal of not playing any 1v1 matches. In fact, I think there was only once that I played a 3-person. There were always enough folks waiting, and 4-persons were the way of it.

About halfway through the day, fellow Spell-Slinger and Rules Manager Matt Tabak and I decided that the line was moving too slowly. To help push it along, we decided to play teamsies. It wasn’t really 2HG, but it was me and Matt against the two folks who sat across from us. The games went a little faster, but there was no less enjoyment. We were still having lots of laughs and meeting great fans of the format.

Play of the Weekend #1 occurred in a game where Matt and I were on the ropes the entire time (I was playing The Mimeoplasm, and Matt was my Karrthus and His Beasts deck). The other two players had us on the ropes most of the game. We normalized a few times, but never got the upper hand. When the first player (I’m really sorry now that I didn’t, as I did at Gen Con, write down the names of each and every player who sat down—I’ll remember faces forever, but it’d be way easier to make sure I get it right if I had notes) cast Avenger of Zendikar with 21 lands in play and then copied it with Riku of Two Reflections, we thought we were sunk (especially after he landfalled four times). It got to Matt’s turn, and all he had in hand was Massacre Wurm. I shrugged and said that we were either going to win or lose, so he might as well cast it. He did, and I came up empty on my draw.

We were looking for a solution when Matt mentioned he had Eternal Witness in his graveyard. I had 15 mana available, and The Mimeoplasm would cost me 11. I copied Eternal Witness (and something else) with my General, regrowing the Damnation from my graveyard. The crowd sent up a roar—and then a bigger one when the second player destroyed the Massacre Wurm in response with Putrefy. The game, which we eventually lost, went on for a while longer, but that was “the moment.”

I had had a late lunch (of the DiNic’s roast pork sandwich), so I didn’t really want a large dinner. I grabbed a quick bite and returned just in time for the post-Day 1 Judge wrap-up. I told the Judges that I’d be setting aside some time that night for Judges-only Spell-Slinging, with a priority to folks with whom I’d never before played. We ended up with a five-person game (including WotC booth man Ethan), so we decided to play pentagram.

One of my allies was playing Karn, Silver Golem. One of my enemies was playing mono-blue. Both of them were playing Sundering Titan. It was the only really painful moment of the weekend. John Carter, who was also in the game, is on a crusade to get the card banned in the format—so much so that after about six Titan triggers had gone off, he Wild Ricocheted my Reanimate (targeting a Solemn Simulacrum so I could get back into the game) to one of the Titans. He kept yelling “BAN IT!” Although that particular game was less than enjoyable (even the Titan players were face-palming by the end), the RC doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. 


One of the reasons that I showed up early and stayed late on Friday was that I felt responsible to give back to the players. Players have made the format popular, and I wanted to, in what small way I could, say thanks. After that long day, however, I needed a little extra rest, so I took VIP advantage of my shift not starting until 1500. I woke up at 0900, rolled over, and slept until 10. Certainly, that’s the latest hour I’ve ever slept to at a PT (the previous record was probably 7 am). I could easily get used to it.

I went to squeeze into the booth around noon, but it was already full, with Tabak, Aaron Forsythe, and Ryan Spain all slinging. I had a leisurely lunch (Hershel’s) and then took over at 2 pm when everyone else took off for their breaks. Once again, there was no problem getting a four-person game right away. I played until about 2115, when I had to depart to make our Saturday evening reservation at Amada.

Play of the Weekend #2 came from late in the day on Saturday, and also involved Massacre Wurm. One player had mono-white Darien, King of Kjeldor, and another (whose name I actually remember, John) had mono-black Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. The Darien player was building a small army of tokens and keeping people off attacking him by casting his General (while having gained some life, up to 48). John had Sword of Light and Shadow and Grappling Hook equipped to his Nantuko Shade. He swung at the Darien player and pumped the Shade up to five. Darien player got that little smile on his face saying “you forgot about Darien’s ability, didn’t you?” until John asked “How many creatures do you have now?” When the answer was “24,” Darien lost his smile as Massacre Wurm massacred him.

Saturday evening’s meal included the company of Philly resident and good man Jon Becker, the often-mentioned Scott Larabee, and SCG Editor Steve Sadin. Steve got his spot at the table when Aaron Forsythe, good man that he is, found out that Steve was really itching to go to Iron Chef José Garces’ Amada, and graciously gave up his seat. Steve’s enjoyment of the food was an enjoyment of its own kind. While Becker, Larabee, and I all agreed that the Short Rib flatbread was the best of the dishes, Steve was adamant about the bacon-wrapped dates. After biting into the first one, he pronounced, “This is what I live for.” A man after my own heart.

The return to the hotel was somewhat surreal. I had considered stopping into the bar and seeing if anyone was interested in a nightcap. When I got out of the taxi, I could hear the whumpa-whumpa of the music coming from the bar—I mean LOUD. Entering the lobby, the music was painful. I stuck my head in anyway and saw a large number of people dancing—to be expected—but realized that I would have been one of the youngest people in the room. I decided to head upstairs and read a little more of Storm of Swords, which I’m realizing (on fourth reading) is probably the best of the series, although I haven’t yet gotten to book five.


Sunday was a blur of fun people and fun games that lasted from 1100 until I had to leave just after 2000, since acting Judge Manager for the show Jason Lemahieu invited me along to the Judge Dinner. In between, I did an interview with Uriah Oxford of the You Tube/Facebook channel CMDR Decks (while grabbing a quite bite in the Press Room), featuring my Intet deck. I’d have a link, but it’s not up yet.

Judge Dinner was one of the highlights of the weekend for some very personal reasons. We promoted two Florida Judges, Ben McDole and Justin Turner, to Level 3. Both of these guys have done a fantastic job in building the best state Judge community in the country. Their promotions were well-deserved. Also in the well-deserved department was the promotion of Chris Richter (who many of you may know took over from me on this very website on “Ask the Judge”) to Level 4. Chris gave a very moving speech thanking some of the folks who he considered to be important in his Judge career, and I was humbled to be one of them.

As I mentioned in the blog post, the Judge Dinner was one of the best ever. Getting decent food to 60 people at once is no easy task, and the folks at The Continental did a great job of seamlessly serving the delicious food, quickly getting people their drinks, and simply helping us enjoy the evening. One of the best Judge Dinners ever—especially since the one the last time we were in Philly was hands down the worst.


Each of the 11 decks I took got played at least once over the weekend (I think Matt was the only one to play Karrthus and Rith). All told, I played more than 25 games. Here’s how each of them did (with a 10-point scale of both quality, meaning how well the deck did, and fun):

Animar, Soul of Elements: Results were much the same as I’d previously experienced. The deck can get really insane, but it’s nearly totally dependent on having Animar in play. If folks can repeatedly deal with him, the deck doesn’t have nearly as much gas. Quality 6, Fun 9.

Intet, the Dreamer: Man, this deck is good. Man, is it difficult to play. Quality 9, Fun 4.

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund: I still think Karrthus is the wrong General for the deck, but it’s otherwise good and fun. The Beasts theme has some legs, and the toolbox style of the deck gives it some power. Quality 7, Fun 7.

Kresh the Bloodbraided: My flagship deck does exactly what it does. It’s gotten to be nearly a combo deck, waiting for either a giant Fling or a giant Living Death. It has enough weapons to stand with really good decks, although its early game has gotten weaker. Quality 9, Fun 7.

Lord of Tresserhorn: I have one word that completely describes the deck: ZOMBIES! Innistrad is going to add some weapons to the Tresserhorn arsenal, so we’ll see if we can make it even more fun. Quality 7, Fun 9.

Phelddagrif (“Lighten Up, Francis”): A little janky, it would be better with a few more control elements. It has fun cards, and I still can’t wait to Mirror Strike the impossibly large The Mimeoplasm or Maga, Traitor to Mortals coming my way. Quality 7, Fun 7.

Riku of Two Reflections: Riku of No Haymakers probably needs rebuilding. It just doesn’t have the punch I’d like. When Riku stays alive it can be okay, but otherwise, it’s been kind of meh. Quality 5, Fun 6.

Rith, the Awakener: I’ll confess that I don’t play it much, and I’d like to run it a little more often. Soldiers is a decent enough theme, but it could, as with Phelddagrif, probably use a little more control. Quality 7, Fun 6.

The Mimeoplasm: Much was said about the deck that I posted, some of it rightly critical. There are a few cards that are coming out—the Masticores were just terrible—and a few more going in. Mindcrank is one of them, maybe even the Chains of Mephistopheles that will eventually end up in the Your Tears Sustain Me deck. That said, it was always enjoyable to play because it always had options. I love the flexibility it provides and the fact that I actually have to play the deck, not just wait for it to do its own thing. Quality 7, Fun 9.

Thraximundar: I have two versions of the Thrax, the top two decks from the contest a while back. They’re both pretty dependent on the General, but he can sometimes be a one-man show. The non-Sliver version is a pretty good deck, although it doesn’t really cut any new ground. Sliver version Quality 6, Fun 7; non-Sliver version Quality 8, Fun 7.

Next week, Guest Columnist Cassidy McAuliffe (DJ Catchem on the forums) will be sitting in with his tales of Embracing the Chaos at Gen Con. I’ll be celebrating turning 50 and no doubts have some stories of my own.