The Worst Week Ever: The MTGO Dissension Release

It was Dissension Release week on MTGO. I wanted to play a ton, and then try some Ravnica block ideas I had floating around.

Guess how my week really went?

It was Dissension Release week on MTGO. I wanted to play a ton, and then try some Ravnica block ideas I had floating around. Guess how my week really went? It was sort of like most Magic websites at this point – real Magic content was sadly lacking.

Before Craig steps in, I’m not saying that the websites have no content. StarCityGames has some good reads. The Wizards site has a couple of articles worth a look — but what can we write about? Regionals is over, and the powerhouse Standard decks are still the same: W/B and U/R. Coldsnap isn’t around yet. The Pro Tour format — Team Ravnica Block Constructed — is something only the pros are going to care about.

I like Ravnica Block Constructed. I have been playing around with some decks online and in paper. These decks clearly want Dissension cards, which I don’t have enough of in paper and, of course, have been waiting for online. However, the Pro Tour is Team Constructed, meaning they have to share duals. All the three- and four-color decks, using a ton of the good duals, are not team friendly. The team decks that win the Pro Tour will not, necessarily, be the best Block decks.

That said, I just wanted to play Block decks because I like undefined formats with fun cards. I’m perfectly happy targeting Witch-Maw Nephilim with Might of the Nephilim. I just needed to get some cards. Okay, lots of cards — but that’s what the release events are for. I stocked up on Ravnica tourney packs, tix, and twenty Dissension boosters. With any luck, that would solve the problem.

I bought the Dissension boosters on Tuesday, as soon as they were available. I wanted to just bust packs, but that is such a waste of money. I kept my pointer off the packs, and waited until the release events started. And the drafts. Triple Dissension. Woot!

A few longtime readers may remember — and fewer still care — that I am one of the volunteers that run our local public TV auction. Auction week runs through Tuesday through Sunday night. I also have to work during the day, and commute. That makes for a busy week, but I had some gaps, so I figured I could get in a couple of games. Not enough — actually, even if I had been able to play 24/7 during release week, that may not have been enough, but whatever.

On Wednesday I got to my real job about 6:30 am, then went over to Auction at 4pm, and left the Auction sometime around 1:30 am. I got five hours of sleep, and then went back to work. I had arranged to have the afternoon off, though, for release events.

Day 1 of the Release Events (Thursday)

You know how people keep saying that you should get a good night sleep before you play? How being tired makes you play badly. Didn’t matter. I got hung up at work, and had to head from there directly to Auction, because they were short of volunteers. We worked straight through past midnight again, and Ingrid and I flipped a coin to see who had to drive home, and who got to sleep in the car. Since the drive takes about 25 minutes, and I won the flip, I got about 24 minutes more of sleep than she did that night. We were home, had the dogs run and were in bed about 2am.

Results so far: No Magic; no sleep; still had my job; Auction was doing okay.

Day 2 of the Release Events (Friday)

We slept in until 7am, got to work by eight. I have an understanding boss, so I had permission to leave before noon. I was actually able to leave by 1:30 or so, but had 150 pages of briefs to summarize over the weekend. I got home after two, and had to leave again about 4 to get to Auction… but I had time to draft.

Wow. Actual Magic. In a Magic article. Who’d a thunk it? Okay, it’s a triple Dissension draft, so it’s a dead format. Content may appear, later. Watch for it.

I joined the queue. I was fifteenth. After a mild eternity, I was actually in a draft, and a Dissension pack opened before me. First pack, first pick: Breeding Pool. Over Seal of Fire and a bunch of trash. No Zeppelids, no other removal, no playable uncommons. A rare draft I really didn’t even have reason to feel guilty about.

The rest of the draft was insane. I drafted UG, with 4 Vigean Hydropon, 3 Silkwing Scouts, 3 Coiling Oracles, Zeppelid, and four in-color Eidolons — plus a Manipulator and that nifty make-your-guy-a-copy-of-my-graft-guy-without-counters spell. I would get a bit behind while I cast Hydropons, and then play 3/3 Coiling Oracles to get back 4/4 Eidolons, and 5/5 Zeppelids. The deck was absolutely broken, and dominated right up until it was time to concede and head for Auction.

Auction was a bit tricky. The old volunteer manager had retired, the new one was brand new, and we were really short of volunteers. Ingrid and I were pulling extra shifts, and running like crazy. After working flat out for eight hours, we managers sat around and planned for a couple more. Home about 3am.

Results so far: One draft, winning 2 packs; five hours sleep; still working; Auction was short of volunteers, but hadn’t crashed.

Day 3 of the Release Events (Saturday)

We had run the dogs and crashed about 3:30am. The dogs, as always, woke me at 5:30am, when they usually go out for a run, and so forth.

This is Bailey. He wakes you up by sticking his nose under the covers.


Bailey’s nose is cold. My back, usually, is not. The combination is startling, especially after just two hours of sleep. I managed to avoid killing him, and slept in until 7am. By then, the dogs were standing there with their legs crossed, whining, so I dragged myself outside. The dogs did their duty, I got a big glass of diet Mt. Dew — the caffeine of champions — and fired up the computer.

Nothing wakes you up like a big glass of Mt. Dew, with lots of ice. Especially when a dog comes up beside you and nudges your arm with his nose, trying to get you to pet him. Buster did that. He is quick, and pushes hard. About half a can of ice cold Mt. Dew ended up in my lap.

Like I said, nothing wakes you up like Mt. Dew.

Here’s Buster.


Doesn’t he look like a sweetie? See, he fooled you, too. Buster’s a rescue dog. He was a stray adopted from a shelter; his new owners were going to kill him (literally) for stealing the Easter ham (and various other things.) A co-worker talked them out of that, took the dog, and put out the word to a rescue network. Now he’s ours.

He steals food off the counter. He raids the refrigerator. He can, and does, open screen doors. He jumps up on everyone. He barks. He rips the stuffing out of stuff with stuffing. (Note: furniture has stuffing.) He climbs on the bed — and then on the people – in the middle of the night. He is an absolute terror on a leash, and runs like a maniac when off leash.

We’ve had him almost a month. He’s getting a lot better. The screen door trick, for example, is one thing he’s getting better at.

Anyway, at 7:30, with dry pants and semi-awake, I joined a release league. I had to be down at Auction before noon, and wanted to play Sealed, not draft. My pool — hell, Ravnica, triple Dissension is a dead format, no one cares about the pool. My rares were mediocre and my pool had zero cards that killed enchantments or artifacts, and nothing but a Spark Mage that killed creatures. On the plus side, I had decent UG again, with a Govern the Guildless and splashing of White for Glare of Subdual.

The first match went as planned, partly because I was up against a brand new player with a marginal deck. I won with a grafted up Zeppelid, and with assorted beatdown. Game 2 was the only time I saw Glare of Subdual hit play in the entire league, without having it immediately get hit with Faith’s Fetters. Anyway, I won this one going away.

Match 2, and I played like the brand new player. I didn’t mulligan when I should have, missed three land drops before turn 6, and lost. Then had a major brain fart in game 2. I almost recovered, but my opponent not only played more removal in that game than I had in my pool — which wasn’t hard — but more than I had in the pool and last two drafts. I lost.

Match 3 I thought I had it in hand. I had won game 1, and had lots of mana and Govern the Guildless in hand, my two Hydropons in play — one wearing an Ocular Halo — and I had just dropped a 4/3 Silkwing. Then my opponent dropped Simic Sky Swallower. Game 3 he dropped it on turn 4, off Birds, Farseek, and some Signets.

That was it for the morning. I had to run the dogs, shower up and head for Auction, about 11am. We were shorthanded again, so I worked a couple of shifts, took a break to come home and run the dogs, then went back. I was scheduled to be on air, as an auctioneer, for the 10pm to 1:30am shift. People tell me I did well — I can’t remember. I can remember parts of the post auction planning session (okay — planning and party: beer and pizza was involved, although I was too tired to risk the beer.) I remember fighting to stay awake on the drive home, then crashing (in bed, not the car) about 3am.

Results so far: Won 2 packs in a draft; 1-2 in a league; sleep deprived to the point of hallucinations (for example, I though Buster was the good dog); hadn’t touched the briefs I was supposed to do for work; Auction hadn’t fallen apart, but it was close.

Day 4 of the Release Events (Sunday)

The plan was to get up early, play some Magic and then head for Auction. Didn’t work — even cold noses couldn’t wake me until almost 8:30. I got up, ran the dogs, did some of the minor stuff that you have to do around a farm — it all meant that I didn’t get to the computer until 9:30 or so.

Auction was short staffed — again — and needed more help – again. I was due there a little after noon, and was auctioneering, so I had to shower, dress and drive in — I had about two hours for Magic. No time to draft, no time for a PE.

Match 4, my opponent beat me with Simic Sky Swallower. Again. Nothing in my deck can deal with that. I have a powerful late game deck — but not that powerful. I can’t outrace it. I can’t get rid of it. I can’t plow through it. Thank gawd it’s rare. But two in the same league. Well — each player got three rares. 256 players in the league. 768 Dissension rares. Sixty rares in the set — there should be a dozen in the league somewhere. Just bad luck to hit two.

I had time for one final match before leaving. My fifths and final for-points league match, and my opponent had —

No, not Simic Sky Swallower.

Foil Simic Sky Swallower.

Sometimes, I hate this game.

Auction went fine. I filled holes first shift, auctioneered (and I actually remember doing it this time), and then had to fill in holes again until the end. I had been scheduled to work Auction for about three hours on Sunday. I was at Auction for about ten. Home, dogs, summarize briefs, fall asleep, wake up with my head on the briefs, summarize briefs, fall asleep, wake up slumped in my chair, take the dogs out for a last break, and then to bed.

Results so far: One draft (won 2 packs); one league (2-3); got some sleep; half the briefs summarized; Auction is over!

Day 5 of the Release Events (Monday)

Got to bed at an unreasonably early hour. Up with the dogs at 5:30. Out, did some farm work, got the briefs done. Logged in to the network at work: summary attached, auction over, I’m not coming in. Wrapped up some stuff, and by 8am I could…

… actually…

… play…

… Magic!

It was a bit after 8am. The most recent PE had started, and I decided to draft triple Dissension. I opened Twinstrike, but RB vanished. UW, on the other hand, was coming along just fine. I wound up with four Azorius First-Wings, some Beacon Hawks, five two-power, three-mana fliers, three Plumes of Peace, and people on both sides of me were kind enough to pass me Pride of the Clouds. Thirteen fliers, plus a couple Soulsworn Juries and some Eidolons to hold the ground, and a couple combat tricks. Sweet!

Game 1 my opponent won the roll and opened with Seal of Fire, Rakdos Guildmage. Rakdos Guildmage proceeded to kill every creature I could play, and I died to Demon’s Jesters. I sided in my Spell Snare. Game 2 he did not draw the Guildmage, so I killed him on turn 5, like I’m supposed to. Game 3 I made sure Rakdos Guildmage stayed off the table, because reusable removal just destroys this deck.

He had Stormscale Anarch, instead. You know – the frickin'”four casting cost reusable kill all my fliers can’t be stopped with Spell Snare makes me want to punch in the monitor because I can’t stop the blasted thing and I can’t draw a frickin’ answer” guy.

That card.

I did bust a Hallowed Fountain in pack two, so I can’t complain too much.* Two drafts, two duals. Lucky — hell yes, but I was due. In all the drafts and leagues and Sealed with Guildpact (over 50 packs so far), I have zero Steam Vents, zero Shrines, and one Stomping Ground.

Okay, it was Monday morning, I had the day (mostly) off, and I could play in a PE. Unfortunately, the public TV volunteer coordinator called a meeting of the volunteer leadership council for 5:30 pm, and I’m on that council. That means I probably could not play in the 4x. It had more rounds, and if I made Top 8, I would have to leave before or during the draft. I had already conceded one draft because of outside events, I was not going to do it again. I did have time to play in the 2x instead.

We got just over 24 players.

I had a very mixed pool. My rares were Searing Meditation; Vinelasher Kudzu; Hunted Dragon; Momir Vig, Simic Visionary; Omnibian; and another Govern the Guildless. I had another pair of Hydropons, but no Zeppelids and not much else. I built UGx, but it wasn’t exciting.

I also had some decent RB, with a Rakdos Guildmage, two Ickspitters, two Riot Spikes, Fiery Conclusion, two Gatecrashers, Frenzied Goblin, Fangtail, and some random stuff. I touched white for Lightning Helix, a flier or two and Sandsower. Good, not great.

Match 1 I played against a new player. I had to explain stops, and that the PE was not single elimination. I gave him some advice on settings, strategy and deck building. No need to describe this match. 1-0.

My next opponent was playing a UG graft deck, with multiple Hydropons. We split the first two games, getting fast draws against mulligans. However, in game 3, I had the lineup in play: two Ickspitters and a Fangtail. I could slaughter practically anything he could drop in response to the graft abilities, and had nailed his Siege Wurm with the Fiery Conclusion. Then he cast.

Wait for it…

Simic Sky Swallower.

His life total wasn’t that low — and he had a freakin’ double-grafted 8/8 flying…

Whatever. 1-1

Match 3 I faced… I don’t remember. I won. 2-1

Match 4 my opponent just plain outplayed me. His draws were better, his removal was better, and I made a suboptimal play — maybe two. He didn’t. I had two mulligans to his one, but that wasn’t the difference. That match, he was the better player, two games out of three. 2-2.

No 3-2s made Top 8.

I didn’t have enough time, because of the blasted meeting, to play another PE then. I tried a league match, and wound up playing the number two guy in the league, who was trying to pad his tie-breakers. He did. His deck was nuts, and mine wasn’t.

The meeting went late, and I got home too late to do anything but lose a league match to the number three (and gaining) player, then tried building some Standard and block decks with my new cards. Since I had opened all of 12 packs of Dissension at that point, I didn’t accomplish much. I had also been trying to get matches in a Kamigawa league I had entered three weeks ago. I was 32nd, with 11 matches to play. In theory, I could win the league. In practice, I could not find an opponent. I did get one match, and my DSL crashed. I went to bed.

Results so far: One draft (won 2 packs); one league (2-3); one PE (missed Top 8); slept; still employed; I don’t need to do anything for public TV for at least a week.

Day 6 of the Release Events (Tuesday)

Up with dogs and 5:30, in to work a bit after 6:30, back home about 7pm or so, dogs, dinner, DRAFT!

Release week triple new set drafts are weird. I can’t seem to get a handle on what people are drafting. Some seem to be following the precious metals plan (draft gold, silver and foil.) Others — well, I have no clue. Twelfth-pick Hydropon? Eleventh pick Silkwing? Thirteenth pick Eidolon?

In this draft I opened a rare Blue flier, but soon wound up in RB. I had removal.dec. Four Cackling Flames, two Rakdos Ickspitter, two Riot Spikes, two Seal of Doom, one Kindle the Carnage. Four Demon’s Jesters. I had opened a Twinstrike in my second draft, and hated one sixth pick, second pack in my first draft, but didn’t see one here. I did have in-color Signets and Karoos, so I liked the deck.

The first match was a walk in the park. The second was a bit tougher. My opponent had a ridiculous rare-filled five-color monstrosity, but all the rares were things like Cytoplast Root-Kin and Demonfire, and he was using Ghost Quarter to fix his mana. (That actually worked.) Game 1 was close, but I pulled it our. Game 2 was going in his favor, with life totals of 36 to 10. He was beating with the Root-Kin, and Forecasting the life-gain Paladin, while I drew lands. I eventually killed off the Root-kin, and he dropped Jagged Poppet to go with his Omnibian. I dropped a Gatecrasher, emptying my hand. He made the same mistake I have seen tons of players make — he swung with the Poppet, and when I blocked, he made his Poppet a 3/3 frog. He clearly thought that doing so would somehow save his hand — it doesn’t. Gatecrasher killed the Poppet, his hand and his hopes. I ripped a Flames to kill the Omnibian, then drew an Ickspitter, which brought three Eidolons out of my graveyard.

In the finals, my opponent took a double mulligan and did nothing for too long in game 1. Easy win. In game 2 I got the double mulligan, and got down to five before I finally stabilized. For a while, it was all about throwing Eidolons in front of everything coming my way, then finally clearing the field with Kindle. My Ickspitters died to his Riot Spikes, but they got back some Eidolons. Finally, we were both empty-handed, playing off the tops of our decks, and he ripped Nihilistic Glee. I ripped a land, and he killed me. Game 3 ended the same way — we kept each other’s board pretty much clear, we both wound up at very low life, and he ripped Glee. I did have every piece of Red and Black enchantment kill available in my hand (meaning I had nothing, of course), and he won the match.

It was late, I had to work, so to bed.

Results so far: Three drafts (won 5 packs); one league (2-3); one PE (missed Top 8).

Day 7 of the Release Events (Wednesday)

I got up with dogs about 5:00, took them out for a short run and fired up the PC for a quick league game. I got a Kamigawa match, won game one, was winning game two and…

DSL dropped faster than the price of Time Vaults after the bannings. I power cycled the modem, rebooted, powered everything down and did it all again. Twice. I finally got back online, and…

The match was over. I had lost. 35th now, with 11 matches to play. League ends Friday.

In to work a bit about 7am, back home about 6:30pm or so, dogs, dinner, DRAFT!

Or not.

DSL was down. We did all the things you can do, and got it back up — for a couple of minutes. I got into a Kamigawa league match, playing while eating dinner, and it crashed again. We did the reboot, cycle stuff again, and got it working for maybe a minute.

I should note that I had permission to take off the next morning, so I could play most of the night, then sleep in. I could play MAGIC! At least, I could play Magic once I got connected.

I checked the phone lines. I could hear dial-up modem tones on the phone. It wasn’t my modem. In the industry, we call that cross-talk. Someone was using a modem on their phone line, and their wire pair and ours were touching, or the insulation was bad, somewhere in the cable. Big cables — 500 pairs and up — use paper insulation, because telephone systems are very low voltage. Those cables have waterproof casings, but if those crack, then the cable (and paper) gets wet and you get cross-talk, static, noise on the line, etc.

My job falls in the intersection of telecommunications technology, law, and policy. I have been dealing with telephone line problem issues, on and off, for years, but usually on a more global basis. This time it was personal.

I called my provider’s trouble number. I got their automated system.

“For problems connecting to the internet, say ‘connection problem.’ To place an order, say ‘order.’ To check the status of an order, say…”

“Connection Problem.”

“I’m sorry, I did not get that. For problems….”

“Connection Problem.”

“I’m sorry, I did not get that. For problems….”

I’m from the freakin’ mid-west. Born and raised here. The TV networks used to recruit all their anchors from here because we have practically no accent. People who make English language training tapes use Midwesterners, for the same reason.

“Connection Problem.”

“I’m sorry, I did not get that. For problems….”

“Co-nect-shun- prob-lem.”

“Order status. If your order…”

Click. I tried again. I spent lots of time, but got through to the right area. The system told me to call up the provider’s help page. It told me how to open up a browser, type in the website, then asked if I saw the page. No, of course not. My DSL wasn’t working. No Internet.

Eventually, the automated system conceded, and I got connected to a real person. I work with several Hindus and a Sikh — I recognized the accent: Eastern Indian, maybe Bangladeshi. He had me power-cycle the modem. About then whoever was using the modem gave up and the DSL came back. The tech support guy reported no error codes and closed the call.

The modem was back a minute later, and DSL crashed again.

I made another call. Another chance to navigate the gawd-awful automated system and wait for a tech-support person (instead of musak on hold, I listened to an endless loop on how I can solve most problems by powercylcing my modem, and can find answers to nearly all problems on their website.) Eventually, a voice answered. Definitely Bangladeshi, and a thick accent. I tried to explain, but he started the whole power-cycle, reboot, etc. routine. I explained that I had power cycled seven times, rebooted five times, powered down everything twice, and connected my phone directly to the drop line with everything else disconnected and I still got static. He wanted to know my operating system. I told him.

“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t hear that. There’s some static on this line.”


He told me he would start some network and line tests. He said this can take a minute or two. I heard nothing for thirty seconds, then got a busy signal, then the line went dead. A minute later I got dial tone.

Nine pm. I started another call. Automated system. Recordings while on hold. Tried to explain. Operating system, power cycle, line tests.

Busy signal.

I got out my cell phone. I’m in a rural area, and cell service is spotty. Zero bars. I tried anyway. Automated system. Recordings while on hold. Tried to explain.

I lost the call.

I finally got smart. I took the cell phone out behind the barn, where the reception is better. (The barn is between the house and the nearest tower.) One bar. I called the voice service — not DSL service — line. Automated system. I reported noise and static on my line. The system offered to order a service tech to be dispatched between “8 and 8:01 tomorrow morning”, and then offered to explain why such “large time windows” are needed. I said “no.” The system explained anyway, then restated the times as 8:00am to 8:01pm. It offered to place a work order saying that I was hearing voices on the line. That’s wrong, I heard modem tones, so I said “no.” The system finally decided to connect me to a real person.

More recordings on hold telling me all the answers are on the website. And that my call was important to them.

Then I heard a person. A woman who speaks English with a Texas accent. More importantly, she speaks telecom. Cross-talk. Wet cable. Network Interface test.


She told me a tech would be dispatched the next morning. I didn’t need to be there, but she took my work and cell numbers.

No point in staying up late tonight. No drafts or PEs for me. I gave away the modem years ago — all I have is DLS, and that doesn’t work. Actually, I’m lying. I do have an old laptop with a built-in modem. It is ancient (Window 95, anyone), but I could, in theory, download MTGO and install it on that machine. The download should finish about Christmas.

Results so far: Three drafts (won 5 packs); one league (2-3); one PE (missed Top 8); no DSL.

Day 8 of the Release Events (Thursday)

Up. Dogs. Work until late. Home. Dogs. Message on the answering machine from the tech — wet cable fixed. Dinner. Fired up computer.


Logged on MTGO. Downloaded the upgrade.

The release events had ended.

I played a league match. I was 53rd in the Kamigawa league at that point. If I won out, I could make be top 16. If I hadn’t lost two matches to modem problems, and two to having to leave early for Auction in the previous week, I’d be in the Top 8. I have seven more matches to play. The league ends Friday. I won’t get to play them.

Final result: Three drafts (won 5 packs); one league (currently 122nd — probably will wind up with no packs); one PE (missed Top 8); almost as much time on the phone about the DSL problem as I spent drafting.


On the plus side: Two dual lands. Plenty of booster packs left. Auction raised about a half million bucks.

Maybe not the worst week ever, but I’m glad it’s over. PTQ Saturday.


pete {dot} jahn {at} verizon {dot} net

* Okay — it’s me. Of course I can complain. It’s my bestest thing.