FINAL JUDGEMENT: Magic Diva Weekend

Michelle Bush visits the Alaskan Bush for a weekend of grand festivities. How does the Diva fare in polar climes?

Michelle Bush is like a fresh summer breeze in your mouth. Trust me, I know. If you don’t believe me, ask the hordes of Anchorage-area Magic players that fell prey to her charms when she visited, courtesy of our local 800-pound gorilla comics shop, Bosco’s. It was a grand weekend.

It started in non-Magic fashion. After some general puttering around in the afternoon (which involved a moose sighting), her first day in Anchorage was highlighted by a visit to one of our nicest restaurants — Villa Nova, an Italian/Greek/European cuisine mix that always seems to get it right. The food at Villa Nova is top-notch. The service, although adequate, is delivered by automatons whose faceplates are at any moment in danger of popping off, a la Yul Brenner in”Westworld.” Either that, or there’s a VR puppeteer in a suit someplace in the back gesticulating madly regarding zucchinis split lengthwise, hollowed out and stuffed with fruitti di mare. The best part was, after hearing the nearly hour-long recitation of the dessert list, inquiring about one of the selections and getting the same verbatim response, delivered in the same tone of voice, with the same gestures. All your cannoli are belong to us.

Of course, the purpose of the whole thing was Magic. Friday afternoon, we stopped into Bosco’s for a three-hour deck clinic. This turned into Dr. Michelle ripping apart the decks, discarding the chaff, and suggesting replacements. It was interesting to listen to the 15-year-olds defend their choice of eighteen lands and how it”always works good for me.” After each deck doctoring, the patient played a game with Michelle, which invariably led to them getting their hats handed to them, and the teenagers wondering out loud why they were getting mana-screwed.

Friday evening, we played in a Sealed Deck event at the Cyber Cup, where we play every Friday evening (you can check out some pictures on our website: http://web.acsalaska.net/~juggernt/mtg/mtghome.htm). Michelle piloted a mediocre deck to a second-place finish, losing only to one of our decent younger players, Mitch Greenlee, who, in all fairness, had such a house that all the homeless in the city could have lived in it.

Saturday afternoon saw us back at Bosco’s for lessons in drafting. A surprisingly large crowd showed up to take tips on both how to force colors and how go with the flow. The advice ran from the obvious (“Don’t pass the Magma Burst when you’re playing red”) to the arcane (but hey, I’m not giving away any of her secrets — it’s your fault for not showing up). A few of the good local players showed up to try to pick up some ideas, and there was some spirited discussion regarding good cards and bad (Battlemages good, Vigorous Charge bad, for those of you keeping score at home). After the lessons, enough folks stuck around to fill two drafts. Michelle slapped around some random Alaskans, signed some cards, and generally had a pleasant (if not busy) afternoon.

We followed the draft with inviting some of the of-age folks to the Menery Estate for cocktails. At some point a game of Balderdash broke out, with its general hilarity. After two wearying days of legions of adoring fans begging for her attention, Michelle fell asleep on the sofa in a post-Balderdash glow. We then dyed her hair orange, put shaving cream in her nose, and tattooed”I Am the Lizard Queen!” on her forehead… Or we would have, if she hadn’t woken up and overheard the plotting. She threatened to inject us all with a random creeping dermatological ailment that would both leave us with an embarrassing rash and destroy our fashion sense, so we understandably backed off.

After a leisurely Sunday morning and brunch at the Café Amsterdam (it’s a must if you come to the semi-frozen north), we were back off to meet the maddening throng for gunslinging. Again, the response was nothing short of amazing. In a three-hour period, Michelle played 28 matches against all comers, with escalating prizes (one booster per player) provided by Bosco’s. She only lost twice, once to young Jake Wise and his double-Cloaked Rith (the spirit of Brian Kibler was with him), and once in a tense game to one of our better players, Ambler Q. Stephenson, with some of his extremely odd-but-effective Ambler tech (the deck featured a single Nether Spirit and one Obliterate).

After a thoroughly mediocre Chinese meal, we headed back to the Estate. When we got home, Michelle said,”I know this sounds weird, but do you want to play some Magic?” I realized that we had been together for five days and had yet to play a single game with each other. We ended up playtesting some possible decks for Nationals (once again, no secrets divulged here) until rather late. Happily, I held my own (she won six of the eleven we played), but that was probably due more to the deck matchups than my savage skills.

Unfortunately, I had to work Monday and Tuesday, so we didn’t see much of each other. I’m sure her report will detail the events of her exploration of the Alaskan countryside. (That exploration was provided by me, her faithful editor, but I’ll simply say that we would have gone out dancing and drinking but she left her ID in Massachusetts —— The Ferrett, who strangely enough won a team draft against Michelle) Lisa and I took her to the airport Tuesday night (after a quick stop to another Anchorage standby, Humpy’s, for a halibut burger), closing out the adventure.

More high-profile players need to do things like this. I’ve said before that they need to give back something to the community. It’s enlightened self-interest. The more they promote the game, the longer the game stays alive, the longer the Pro Tour stays viable. It’s not the three hundred or so PT players that are important—it’s the tens of thousands that want to be like them that keep our game going.

Many thanks to Bosco’s for having the foresight and courage to make this happen. I suggest other shopkeepers, especially those in small markets, to give it a whirl. Kudos to Marc Hess and Brett Clark, the managers of the two Bosco’s locations that we visited, for laying out the red carpet, and a huge pat on the back to the staffs of both shops for accommodating our every need.

Obviously, the weekend wouldn’t have been possible without Michelle. Being the constant center of attention for three days, especially from zealous teens, can be wearying…. But she didn’t waver. Through all the silly questions and bad deck ideas, the smile never left her face, her demeanor never faltered. I’ve already had tremendous feedback and questions about when she’s coming back.

Lisa and I thoroughly enjoyed having her around the house, especially in the non-Magic times. We hung out, conjugated French verbs, developed too many inside jokes, and really got to know each other. After six days together, I can unequivocally say that being with Michelle Bush is kind of like biting into a creamy lemon.

And that’s my Final Judgement.

Sheldon K. Menery