Gen Con

Ken Bearl had a rough finish at US Nationals, but he still enjoyed the trip to Gen Con with his friends. Today, he shares his stories from the event, complete with game reviews and jokes about people being older than himself.

Just like that. Brandon lost in a close game 5 to finish in fourth place, qualified for Worlds but not on the national team. Daggers!

For those of you who don’t know Brandon, that is his favorite term to use when he takes a bad beat, since it’s like getting stabbed with a dagger. Of course the adventure starts way before that when Charles Whittmore arrived at my house to start our journey to Gen Con which, living in Minnesota, was a lengthy ten-hour trip. I got hugs and kisses from my three kids and wished my wife luck as I left her for five days. Hopefully she would still be sane when I returned. Since I didn’t want to take Wednesday off from work, we were driving overnight to arrive Thursday morning.

We headed to Brandon’s and just before getting to his house, I got to the county road and there’s a police car opposite me at the stop sign. I was turning right and he waved to tell me to go first. Charles said, “Sure, go ahead, that way I can pull you over.” After I drove the two blocks and turn on the street for Brandon’s house on the corner, sure enough, the police officer turned on his lights. After I gave the officer my license and proof of insurance, I text Brandon, “See the flashing lights!” He replied, “lol omg!!”

The officer just gave me a verbal warning as I guess the road I was on before has a 30 mph speed limit and I was going 45 because I thought it was a county road. Not the best way to start out a 10-hour road trip, but a lot better than a ticket.

We picked up Kyle Stoll and all traded off driving except Brandon who claimed he didn’t sleep at all despite being out of it the whole way.  We arrived in Indianapolis and go to IHOP for breakfast and even though we were really tired we went to the convention center since we couldn’t check into the hotel room.

We arrived at the convention center and, man, there were a lot of people. We soon found the excellent Wizards check-in for US Nationals players that had no line unlike the will call line which was about a mile long and looked very chaotic. Charles, however, had to wait in customer service since he didn’t register ahead of time with his number that he got when qualifying for the MMS. We then found out that generic tickets were required to play in a grinder, which meant you had to wait in a two hour line. That was one of the first faults of holding US Nationals at Gen Con.

Charles played in one sealed grinder and I wandered around with the guys to see the acres of exhibits. Seriously, the main room is huge and you see all these games you never see, both old and new. We didn’t demo any of the games since we were so tired, but we did get a free five hour energy! Plus got our custom Yu-Gi-Oh! tokens made and I caught up a little with Pat Sullivan as he was working at the Cryptozoic Games booth. 

Yu-Gi-Oh! Token

The other exciting thing was hearing about the guy from Japan who always flies in to play Vintage. He was playing Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and used it to animate a Mox Pearl to kill his opponent. Plus he had Chandra, the Firebrand, explaining that the first ability killed Lotus Cobra and Dark Confidant, the second ability could copy Demonic Tutor or Tinker, and the third was worthless.

I also got to pick up some LSV tokens which I got him to sign, so I gave him my signed Yu-Gi-Oh! token. I figured it was a fair trade as my token was one of a kind 😉

LSV Tokens

The rest of the group was all playing different decks, as we didn’t find something in testing that we all really liked. Matthias had Pyromancer Ascension in the main deck “For Value!” which led to an ongoing joke of doing everything for value.

I figured on playing U/R Twin with Twisted Image in the main and Grim Lavamancers in the side. I knew I was in for a rough day when I asked my first round opponent if he was going to play first and he replied, “You won the die roll. It’s your choice.”

I finished 1-5. I didn’t play against anything weird. I just made some bad sideboarding decisions and really just didn’t bring my A game. At least I had the next day to explore Gen Con without being tired.

It was also annoying to draft in the 0-4 pod at the back of the Nationals area since it wasn’t really split from the other part of the gaming area. So every time a new pod started over in the general gaming area, we couldn’t really hear the draft commands over the loud speaker that was right next to us. It would have been much nicer if Nationals had its own room. I know the judges had lots of trouble trying to keep the area clear and threatened that if a judge had to tell you to move a second time that you would get a game loss in your next match. I don’t know if they had to resort to such draconian measures. The head judge also seemed to be getting very frustrated and he actually swore at my friend when he was investigating after an appeal.

I wasn’t there at the time but this is what my friend told me. On his turn he played a land and cast Explore. He then went to put a counter on his Khalni Heart Expedition and his opponent was like no you waited too long. So Steve was okay with that since, yeah, he should have done it before casting Explore.

Later he had a Lotus Cobra in play and played a land announcing green or red and played another Explore with the mana. He played another land and announced the mana and played another Explore. He played his land and is pretty sure that he announced or at least indicated that he was adding the mana and played a Rampant Growth. His opponent is like no you didn’t announce it, so being pretty sure that he indicated that he did, they call a judge and he ruled in favor for Steve. His opponent appealed the decision and the head judge came over and talks to Steve separately.

He asked him if he added a mana.

Steve replied, “I’m pretty sure I did.”

Head judge said, “Well you either did or you didn’t.”

Steve replied, “Well I guess I did then.”

Head judge responded, “So you changing your story!”

Somewhere in the rest of the conversation the judge swore and then came back to the match and told the opponent, “Well I’m going to rule for him, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation and I’m sorry that I swore but that’s the ruling.”

Now, Steve is an honest guy. If he remembered adding a mana he would have stated it as that and if he was sure he didn’t he would have said so, like with the Khalni Heart Expedition. So he was actually, probably sure that he added the mana but not 100%. Maybe he just tapped the Lotus Cobra or muttered the color and his opponent didn’t hear him. But I don’t think that’s a difficult ruling and a guy who really isn’t sure what he did calls for someone losing their cool and swearing.

The next morning I slept in until 10 AM which felt great. After getting to Gen Con I walked around with Charles and figured I should pick up some games for my kids since I was left them for 5 days. My wife said she didn’t want anything, just for me to come home safe. After being married for 11 years, I still love her just as much as when I started dating her.

I headed to where I think it was a daycare area, although I’m not exactly sure as it may have just been a play area. I checked out the games that Game Brotherz had, the first of which was Spuzzle, a simple board game where you turn over cards to try and be the first to assemble all your little puzzles. I think my 3 year old will love it and you can play it by yourself.

Second, they had BOO, which seemed like Chutes and Ladders, but you are racing against a ghost named Boo who is going the opposite way you are. It was okay but seemed a little complicated for the kids, not that they probably wouldn’t like it.

Third, they had Mister Mailman Junior, which seemed a little complicated but it was awesome. Basically you use your cards to try and deliver mail to every house before everyone else does. There are various restrictions on certain houses that you have to play card to get around. But at the end of turn you draw to the max hand size of three, plus you can play a card to trash a letter that they delivered. So I turned to Charles and said, “Sweet, there’s card advantage and tempo.” I’m sure that I’ll have many fun hours of crushing my kids with sweet card advantage. Matthias joked that after some game that I’ll just start yelling, “Do you know how lucky you had to get to win that game! I played so optimally but just drew poorly.”

Charles checked out Dragon Dice. I guess someone bought it from TSR and continued the product and rules. While he did that, I considered buying a Cthulhu t-shirt but decided not to.

If you read the last story, you know how I like Mark Hinsz since he’s older than me. Well it was his birthday, so to celebrate his being even older than me,  Mike Hawthorne and Forrest Ryan got him a custom cookie.

That’s Mark getting his cookie that says, “Still Older Than Bearl.” Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see it or enjoy some of it.

On Sunday we had the MMS with $10,000 for the Top 8. I didn’t want to play U/R Twin after the disappointing Nationals finish so I switched to Caw Blade, which is what I qualified for Nationals with. Sadly I still didn’t have my A game and dropped at 0-1-1, even though I could win out and still make top 8. Part of it was I wanted to watch Brandon play against LSV in the quarterfinals of nationals.

I went to lunch and saw Crazy Stupid Love (gotta love Emma Stone) with Steve Mckenna and Nose (Stephan Hink). It was a good movie, but also made me miss my wife and kids a lot.

We got back to the event site in time to watch Brandon battle in game 5 and lose. It was disappointing since he’s not on the Nationals team, but at least he is qualified for Worlds and, hopefully with a good finish, he can get on the gravy train.

I then got the chance to talk to Brian David-Marshall, who mentioned that he really liked my Pro Tour London story, which was awesome to hear. I mentioned that I really liked his Pickwick Hotel story. It’s a must read.

After spending the night at our now nearly abandoned hotel (seriously, there were a couple bags of trash and roll away beds just left in the hallway), we headed out. We discussed the genius idea of a gaming restaurant where you unlock secret menu items. Imagine that for each item you buy, you add to your point total, such as an order of fries is one point and a Big Mac is 3 points. Then at certain levels, you could unlock certain sections. Do you want to work on your side items or main items. You also could unlock bonus items by ordering items in a certain sequence, such as ordering a soda, then fries, and finally the burger to get a free item. You could go up to a statue of a person and ask what they think and they would say something like, “I’m not sure, but I’ve heard the onion rings are real good this time of year.”

We also made the choice to stop at Portillos, which is home to excellent food and the cake shake. Boy was that good. It was like drinking a chocolate cake. It also lasted a long time. For a good part of the trip I would announce my taking a drink of the cake shake with, “You know what I think? Cake Shake!”

But with the disappointing finish I think it’s time to take a break from the game. Like Jason Ford said if you work to much at this game it’s a grind. So I’m not going to any of the upcoming GPs or SCG Open Weekends until at least Innistrad comes out.

Also, congrats to Peter Knudson who qualified for PT Philadelphia. Too bad I won’t get to see you at GP Pittsburgh.

I’ll be writing some more history pieces with stories from my second Pro Tour, the first Pro Tour New Orleans. Plus, you can now search for Modern events on mtgfinder.com. If you know of one that I don’t have on mtgfinder.com, email me and I’ll add it.


Ken Bearl

@Kbearl and @mtgfinder on Twitter