Top 10 Things I Want To Accomplish At Gen Con 2019

Sheldon Menery will go to his first Gen Con in years, and he’s making the most of it! He lays out his Top 10 things to do there. High on the list: talk to you. Yes, you!

They call it the Best Four Days in Gaming, and it’s not far from the truth. Whatever your stripe(s) of nerdcore might be, you’ll find them there amidst an infectious (unfortunately, probably in more ways than one) atmosphere featuring games, games, more games, and all the things that go along with our marvelous hobby. This will be the first time that I’ve been to Gen Con in several years, so I’ve put together a small checklist of what I want to get done.

#10: Eat

Most folks who have been to Indianapolis know about Harry & Izzy’s, a restaurant just a block off the convention center. At H&I’s, you can get the world’s spiciest shrimp cocktail, and here’s the real tech. If you don’t have dietary restrictions, don’t bother with the menu. Order the shrimp cocktail, the prime rib sandwich, and then ask for the St. Elmo’s wine list. St. Elmo’s is a high-end steakhouse right next door to H&I’s, owned by the same people, and they share a cellar. You can get bottles from one in the other. There are some nice choices at all price levels, so find something that fits your budget and go wild.

H&I’s isn’t the only place near the convention center worth eating at. The area is teeming with good and creative choices. Fellow Commander Rules Committee member Scott Larabee and I had a tradition for a while of going to the Weber Grill Restaurant. It wasn’t fancy, but it sure was delicious. The only downside of eating good meals is that it takes away from gaming time, so there’s always that delicate balance. And there will be some people swarming downtown over the weekend, so I suppose I should start thinking about some reservations.

#9: See the Dealer’s Hall

Experiencing the Dealer’s Hall at Gen Con is like nothing else in gaming. There is obviously a ton of stuff to buy, but there are also a bunch of saucy demos going on. It’ll be a chance to see what’s the next hotness in gaming. There will also be a chance to find old materials from gaming’s past. Looking for that last module to complete your set from Ice Crown Enterprise’s Lord of the Rings RPG or that set of Genestealers minis? It’s probably there. It was in the Dealer’s Hall in 1993 (back when Gen Con was still in Milwaukee) where I first saw and bought Magic. To say that it shaped the last few decades is an understatement. There’s also the Artist’s Gallery, where you can enjoy art from across all the genres of gaming and chat with the people who created it. I also look forward to seeing what folks have done applying 3D printing to all facets of our hobby, from collectibles, to custom miniatures, dungeon tiles, and more. It’s an exciting time to be a nerd.

#8: Sling Spells

From 12-3pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I’ll be at the Legion Supplies booth in the dealer’s hall. The folks at Legion ran a contest and the winners, six in all, will play a game (or games, if there’s time) with me, two at a time. The fourth seat at that table will be occupied by metalsmith, streamer, podcaster, Magic cosplayer, and all-around awesomesauce Olivia Gobert-Hicks, who was kind enough to agree to join me.

Olivia Gobert-Hicks Olivia Gobert-Hicks

#7: Play a cEDH Deck

Some folks have threatened to put a real cEDH deck into my hands and have me play it. I’m game, so long as the other decks are at a similar power level. Understanding what a deck does is far easier than playing it, so the learning curve will be steep. It’s not just “assemble this combo,” but the process by which you assemble it, and what the other people at the table are doing. Each turn, each action in a shorter game has more impact than it does in a longer one, so you always have to be at the top of your game. I get how that can be a draw. I usually want to use a little less brainpower when I’m playing, but understand that YMMV.

#6: Reconnect with Old Friends

Because I’m just starting back on an uptick of attending events, now that I’m done with that degree and my treatment is 1) not debilitating and 2) regularly scheduled, I’ll get to see some folks that I haven’t seen in a while, such as a whole host of Magic judges, current and former coverage colleagues, and players. Games are great and all, but it’s really the people that make it into a hobby.

Speaking of connecting with old friends, I’ve already scheduled time to hang with two of my original Virginia EDH group, Chuck Weaver and Todd Hughson. They were part of the original cast of players to whom I introduced the format to when I moved to VA in 2003, and they’re in no small part responsible for helping me see what a hit the format could be. It will be good to see them in person, probably relive some memories, and then crush them in a game. Or get crushed. Either’s okay.

#5: Play a New Game

This one will probably be pretty easy to do. The question will be which one. There are only so many hours in the weekend, there are many, many Commander things to do, but I’ll want to step outside that and at least get a demo. The good part of doing a demo is that you also get to meet new people.

#4: Appear on Panels

I’ll be on two panels over the weekend. The first is Friday from 4-5pm and will feature the entire RC, together in the same physical spot for the first time in recent memory. If I recall correctly, the last time we were in the same building was the Pro Tour in Seattle in 2012. Wizards of the Coast R&D member and Commander superfan Gavin Verhey will moderate, and we’ll answer all his questions, which are hopefully some of yours as well. Saturday from 4-5pm, Scott and I will join Gavin and another R&D Commander fan, Ethan Fleischer, in a panel about building your first Commander deck.

#3: Talk with Commander Players. Just Talk.

Most of the rest of the time that I’m around, I’ll be in the TCG Hall, where our friends from Pastimes are running things. What I’d really love the chance to do is have a small area where I can sit with four to five people at a time and just chat about their hopes about the format and its future in a setting that’s far more personal than a panel or seminar ever could be. I’ll see what the Pastimes folks can do for me, and then tweet out the times I’ll be available.

I’m sure I’ll get a running tally of cards that people want banned or unbanned. The biggest current issue in Commander is communication—play styles, desires, dislikes, the whole gamut of what goes into the only format that you can really have a conversation about. We’re going to keep finding more ways to better communicate, and getting out into the player base is part of that.

#2: Battle with the Rest of the RC

As I said earlier, we haven’t been in the same spot in many years, and I don’t think we played a game the last time, since we were all busy with the Pro Tour. We’re setting aside time for some battles, and although his schedule is extremely busy, we’re hoping that we can get Rashad Miller to record the game for us. Each of us is building a new deck with one of the Core Set 2020 multicolor legendary creatures. Gavin still hasn’t decided. Scott has already built Kykar, Wind’s Fury, and Toby is working on Omnath, Locus of the Roil. He said he’s struggling to make it interesting, which I can understand. It seems like it would lead you in some pretty obvious directions, and Toby is always the “let’s not do the obvious” person.

Speaking of not doing the obvious. . .

#1: Play This Deck

Magic Card Back

I love Sultai colors and I adore enters-the-battlefield triggers, so Yarok is a must-play, must-build for me. I also just want to jam it into my Muldrotha, the Gravetide deck. The first draft of the deck included all my favorite things, like Avenger of Zendikar, Sepulchral Primordial, Puppeteer Clique, Noxious Gearhulk, and a continuing list of enters-the-battlefield-trigger creatures. At a certain point I realized that I needed to do something a little more outside-the-box. I’m not sure what led me to the energy idea, but that’s where I landed. There are some cool interactions.

First of all, energy takes the form of counters, so they can be proliferated. That got me to the proliferate sub-theme featuring Roalesk, Apex Hybrid; Sword of Truth and Justice (which might also get some commander damage in with Yarok); and some of the other proliferate cards that go with them. One of the things I want to proliferate is whatever pile of +1/+1 counters that Forgotten Ancient spits out onto things.

I considered the +1/+1 counter sub-theme (and you can see the vestiges of it in Fabrication Module), but that got a little heavy, and it’s honestly a little overdone. I think my favorite proliferate interaction will be with Eternity Vessel, hopefully continuing to set my life to a higher and higher total. Late edit: that’s how we got to Vorel of the Hull Clade. There’s also an Elemental mini-theme to go along with Risen Reef: Forgotten Ancient, Mulldrifter, and of course Yarok all belong to the tribe. Future iterations might leverage this theme just a little more, or just focus on it. There are loads of great Elementals in the colors (209 choices, if my math is correct).

Of course, if you’re playing energy, you want to play Aetherworks Marvel. And if you’re playing Aetherworks Marvel, you want giant things to cast with it. Late in the design process, I realized that I had quite a few support cards, but not really any win conditions. That’s when I married Aetherworks Marvel with Eldrazi, which are single-card win conditions. The two Ulamogs and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth should be able to lay down some pretty heavy beats. Big spells like Rise of the Dark Realms or In Garruk’s Wake can set up excellent finishes. I’m fond of the interaction of Aetherworks Marvel and Fblthp, the Lost as well. This is clearly a 75% deck. It’ll be fun to play, and there’s not really much chance of it getting hated off of a table.

It’s going to be a long and rewarding four days. Here’s hoping that if you’re around, you’ll stop by wherever I might be and say hello. Expect a full report afterward of all the exciting things that go on over the weekend.

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