Due do an increasingly complex chain of events that aren’t really that interesting to retell, I ended up in Kuala Lumpur for the weekend, providing the coverage for the Grand Prix. This was my first ever time solo-covering an event of any size, so needless to say I was a little concerned about my ability to deliver the goods. In search of advice, I sent out a flurry of emails. My results ranged from being completely ignored, to folk saying that they had been offered similar jobs before and had never been stupid enough to accept, to someone saying that they had no idea what I was asking and that if I didn’t stop emailing them they’d take out a restraining order.
Thankfully, the Wizards of the Coast Coverage Manager, Greg Collins, came through at the last minute with a “bloggers guide to the Grand Prix” or something like that. I figured at the very least I could copy and paste the info from the last Grand Prix held in Kuala Lumpur and hope BDM wouldn’t notice that I plagiarized the ever-loving heck out of him.
What follows is a bunch of stuff that couldn’t be included in the MagictheGathering.com coverage for various reasons, or because I just couldn’t plain fit it or remember it at the time. We’ll be back to our regular Magic Online type stuff next week, but this week, I just want to get all of this down on digital paper while it’s still lurking somewhat close to the surface in those dilapidated memory banks of mine.
The flight to Singapore took something like ten hours. I assumed it would be around six or so, but when I finally bothered to check out what it said on my ticket a few days before leaving, I was a tad surprised to say the least. As I checked in locally, I was warned that my transfer at Singapore International Airport was to another airline, and that a certain amount of running mad dashing may be required on my part if my flight was even remotely late. Thankfully, we landed on time. My connecting flight… now that was a different story. I landed in Kuala Lumpur something like an hour later than planned. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? ‘Cept I was meant to land at 11pm, and there was s’posed to be a guy there to pick me up. On top of that, the one piece of luggage I checked in seemed to be missing.
By the time my bag was located, I was already an hour and a half late, and more than a little worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get my hotel. In part because – now get this – I was too slack to note down from my email which hotel I was staying at, because some guy was obviously going to drive me straight there.
As I headed out past customs – who smiled and waved more than actually checked me for anything serious, dangerous, or nefarious – I scanned the lobby for someone holding up a card bearing my name. I practically had to batter solicitous taxi drivers out of the way with my laptop before some guy started calling out my name. Which was lucky, because my name on the card he was holding up was in writing so small that I wouldn’t have been able to read it with my glasses on, let alone in the middle of the night after a long and tiring flight. Forty-five minutes later I was happily curled up in a big hotel bed. Yay!
The next day, which happened to be the day before the event, I wandered out to get some pictures and so on for the coverage. As the coverage implied, it was a little hotter there than I expected. My train of thought went a little something like this.
“Mmmm, nice weather. It’s quite hot actually. Very hot. Umm, I might go find some shade now. Shade would be good. Need shade. Want shade now. Feeling faint… somebody call a doctor… resuscitate, resuscitate!”
So yeah, it was, like, hot and stuff.
Eventually I headed off to the venue and failed to find the GP Trials that were meant to be taking place. After much confusion, including heading back to my hotel room and rereading the information about the location on the website, coming back and still not finding it, wandering off and almost dying in the sun again and coming back and finally deciding to ask someone in a uniform, I finally found them. I was somewhat surprised to see several well-known players roughing it up in some of the trials for three byes. Apparently they didn’t need the byes, but the entry fee was 25 Ringgits, which is around $6US. So they viewed it as practically free Sealed Deck practice. If I had known that, I probably would have shown up earlier for a game or two myself.
(This is assuming that I would have known how to find the place, which, we’ve already established, was unlikely.)
Somehow, despite being as nervous as fish in a blender, I managed to get a good night’s sleep before the main event. The next morning I rolled up to the venue, waltzed over to the stage, plugged in my laptop, cautioned the nearby judges about touching my stash of chocolate, and just plain started typing, only remembering to stop some forty one and a half hours later.
(Okay, maybe there was a brief stop for some sleep in the middle somewhere.)
At one point, the Tournament Organizer, David Ong, came over and asked if I needed anything. Anything at all. I motioned towards my half-eaten block of chocolate and jokingly mentioned that I would need more of that I if planned to do any further writing on the second day. The next thing I knew, Michael Toh, one of the terrific judges at the event, was passing me four king-sized blocks of chocolate. I tried to politely let him know that I would be giving most of that to the judges, lest my teeth fall out and my kidneys disintegrate. I stuffed one block in my bag for safekeeping, chucked two more in to the ladies dressing room we used for a staff hiding place, and cracked open the last block. Apparently later that day, both David and Michael wandered over while my back was turned and seeing less than half a block of chocolate left, and assumed I was some kind of chocolate decimating machine. I mean, I am, but not three and a half king-sized blocks in one day, sheesh. Anyway, on Sunday morning, there were another four king-sized blocks waiting for me.
So yeah, does anyone want any chocolate? I’ve got a ton of it.
It seemed like luck was on my side, everything was going well with no disasters in sight. Well, not for me at least. Apparently there was one judge from China – I’m not sure which one – who happens to have the worst luck in the world when it comes to Grand Prix events in Kuala Lumpur. Two years ago (at the last one), he managed to lose his return tickets, which I’m sure complicated things somewhat for him. This time around, he managed to slip over in the bathtub, or so I’m told, and break his arm. From the x-rays, it seemed like a pretty serious break, too. Anyway, they called the concierge who came up and organized to have him taken down to the lobby in the service elevator, which somehow managed to get stuck on the way down. Once they finally got him in to an ambulance, they got stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. Apparently at night, the streets of Kuala Lumpur come alive with transvestites, and everyone slows down to check them out, which in turn causes additional traffic congestion to streets already often well congested in their won right.
So yeah, that guy now swears he’s never setting foot in Malaysia again.
Anyway, part of this gig involved me taking pictures for use in the coverage. Unfortunately, the lighting in the venue wasn’t the best, and I had to use the “taking photos at night” setting on my camera. Any “artistic blurring” you may have noticed in the pictures used on MagictheGathering.com is uhh, yeah, basically just crappy photography. The upshot is I practically had to take ten shots every time I needed one, and I ended up with a bunch of extra pictures. Here are a few that tickled my fancy.
The Top 8 shot used on magicthegathering.com that just happened to have the eventual winner Kenji Tsumura on Quentin Martin‘s shoulders, turned out much better than I thought it would. However, this shot I snapped just prior to it seemed just a touch cooler.
You could tell Ruud Warmenhoven (at last, I can actually spell that last name without having to look it up!) was a wee bit disappointed that he only managed to finish fourth. That is, he was until he realized that there was an oversized novelty check for everyone in the Top 4. Then I got like, a ton of pictures along this vein, most of which were, of course, somewhat blurry.
Next up to receive his check and trophy was none other than StarCityGames.com Quentin Martin, who promptly complained that Ruud had stolen all of the good poses with his posturing, strutting, and general show-boatery. The only one he could think of after that was this. Actually, I wish I’d taken a picture of each of the Top 4 with their spoils, but Osamu Fujita seemed to move every time my finger pressed the shutter key, which kinda ruined that idea.
People have been telling me that the coolest picture in the coverage was the one of me trying to do a runner with one of the novelty checks. We tried to get one of me hiding it behind my back, but apparently it fitted behind me a bit too well. This is the second attempt where I held it up a bit, but ultimately it still sucked compared to the one we ended up using. Interesting story; neither Kenji nor Osamu could be bothered carrying their checks back to Japan with them, so they kindly burdened me with them instead. They’re now sitting on the wall at our local card store.
Finally, one of the most interesting things about the trip was the multitude of different cultures I witnessed there. I mean, I kinda knew that part of the population was Muslim and so on, but the fact that the hotel breakfast buffet had chicken sausages, beef bacon, and turkey ham still threw me off my stride. The real weird one was the sign I saw on the way into the city from the airport. I figured I’d see another one in the city somewhere, but I was mistaken, so I made sure to have my camera ready for the trip back out to the airport.
So yeah, um. Can’t say I expected that. Just to be sure and this was purely for scientific purposes for the readers of StarCityGames.com, I checked to see if there were any adult channels available in the hotel’s pay-per-view catalogue. Yup, not a single one.
Bonus last minute actual Magic Online content: Over the weekend, I was green-eyed with envy as I saw my friends getting to play with the new Momir Vig Avatar, which could quite possibly be the coolest thing to happen to casual Magic Online formats ever. Seriously, I want to know who designed that one? It’s fricken awesome. Anyway, I was on the verge of messaging Greg Collins and demanding he give one to me for not being able to play in any of the release events while I was covering the GP, but thankfully one Cpt. Crunch came through and gave me one instead. A gentleman and a scholar, especially considering he gave me the only one he had on hand at the time!
Oh yeah, some of you may have no idea what this thing does. Basically, you start with four extra life, and once a turn, as a sorcery, you may pay X and discard a card to put a creature into play. This is the cool bit: Magic Online will choose the creature at random and put a token of that one into play for you. So yes, that means that if you do it for five, you may end up with a Leveler, and if you do it for seven, you may end up with a Phage, the Untouchable. On the other hand, you could end up with practically anything, so it’s way cool! And by cool, I mean totally sweet, obviously.
Actually constructing a deck around this Avatar may be somewhat pointless due to it’s inherent random nature, which is clearly what makes it so much fun, there is another way to get maximum enjoyment out of your Momir Vig Avatar, and it seems like practically everyone is doing it online at the moment. Here’s what you need. A Momir Vig Avatar, and at least sixty Basic Lands. They need to be Basic, so there’s no cheating and using the common bounce Lands from Ravnica Block or anything. Apparently there’s even strategy to be had within this format, but I’m willing to bet that nothing is set in stone just yet and that people are still experimenting with it somewhat. Either way, you should get yourself a Momir Vig Avatar and get stuck in. I promise you, you’ll have a blast.
Until next week, where I’ll most likely deviate back towards our regular scheduled broadcast, may your three-drop be a Dogged Hunter!
(now back home and freezing his ass off in the South Pacific)