Tribal Thriftiness #7 – Cheesesteaks, Superhero Masks, and Morningtide

It’s not necessary to fly to the City of Brotherly Love to play in a Morningtide prerelease, but it wouldn’t be an interesting story if all Dave did was drive up to Denver and come home empty-handed.

The Story of Little Davey, in which he Goes To A Big City, plays with Magical Cards, and does Courageous Battle against Evil Sinus Infections

After being less than impressed with the Denver prerelease action from Lorwyn, I had made the conscious decision to fly out to Philadelphia and hang out with my good friend (and loyal Edward) Michael, who runs the show in Philly. I was hoping that it would re-establish my love for the whole prerelease scene. Needless to say, it certainly delivered, but I’m hoping that the next one will present fewer virus-related issues.

(cue ominous foreshadowing music)

Prerelease: The Day Before

My prerelease weekend actually began Thursday night. The flight from Denver to Philadelphia is only about three hours, but due to the time difference and the scheduled flights, we (oh, I took the missus) were looking at an 11am flight on Friday which arrived in Philly around 5pm. So Thursday, after work, I took it easy. Went and got a fresh haircut, I guess so I could appear “professional” working a prerelease, even though kids nowadays with their shaggy hair and awkwardly-askew baseball caps probably wouldn’t notice the clean shave. Then I headed over to play bass guitar for Capitalist Lemurs, our Rock Band band. I have just about mastered the game on Medium, which does not help our band, because we need to advance to Hard before we can gain any more fans.

Sadly, my musical skillz do not go to Hard.

I pack up my messenger bag with all the necessary requirements for prereleasing: trade binders, deck boxes (including my Elder Dragon Highlander deck), a bag with scorekeeping materials, the Gameboy DS (Sundays can be slow), and proper electronic charging cables. I also included the various and sundries that I would need, personally, to be presentable for the weekend. It should have gone without saying, but you know the stereotype.

We drove to the airport Friday morning, parked in shuttle parking, and took the bus into the airport. Grabbed sandwiches for the flight, then headed down to our terminal.

The mother-in-law picked us up in Philadelphia. Deciding that we had time before the rendezvous with the rest of the Gray Matter crew in the middle of the city, we opted to find a place to have something to eat. We started out up the highway, fraught with indecision … until I spotted an IKEA. Now, to most of America, IKEA is no real big deal – just another you-build-it furniture store with what is essentially dorm-room type fare. But in Europe, IKEA is a mainstay, and provides furniture to probably every household in some way, shape, or form. The lightning fixtures in our house in Germany were definitely IKEA, and you could always spot something when you went to other people’s houses.

And what most people probably don’t know is that IKEAs come equipped with a cafeteria. Where they serve Swedish meatballs.

I casually said, “Hey, we could go to IKEA.” The missus, a huge proponent of the IKEA, immediately was on board, and we soon were winding our way down to Swedish goodness. We ate (I had the LARGE meatballs, which should have been 20, but evidently the girl behind the counter had a crush on me, because I got 21 – score!), perused the bottom level of IKEA, then bought some cookies on the way out. A successful attempt to kill two hours.

We then head into the city, and they drop me off at the corner of the hotel before heading off to New Jersey, where the in-laws live. I meet up with the guys, and after some light eating and beer-drinking, we settle in for the night. You gotta get up early to run a prerelease. We play a little Sealed, at which point I realize that the guys I am playing with have literally NO idea how to play Sealed in Lorwyn.

The first clue? They’re still sorting by color.

Numerous times, as they mention how bad their decks are, and how they don’t really like Lorwyn due to all the weird interactions, I think about how easy of a switch this was for me. I did it at the Lorwyn prerelease. I knew that the Limited formats were going to be all about the tribal interactions, so it made sense to group them that way first, and then figure out your mana curve and make your cuts AFTER you maximize your tribal interactions.

After doing my initial sorting, I discovered I was really, surprisingly, short on tribal interactions. No Merfolk, no Treefolk, no… well, there are a couple of Elves, but not enough to build around. But there ARE a lot of Elementals, including a Nova Chaser. And a fair number of Changelings, and most of those are in Red. So this is my continuing thought process:

• A lot of my Elementals are Shamans.
• Therefore, I can play the Sensation Gorger that I opened.
• Therefore, I should run some number of Goblins as well to complement the Gorger.
• Hrm, the Red Goblins all suck. Hrm, so do the Black ones.
• Oh wait, I bet it would be fun to play Gilt-Leaf Archdruid as well.
• I have a bunch of Changelings to at least trigger his card-drawing ability.
• Therefore, I should play the other three Elf Druids I have.
• Since I’m now running Green as my secondary color, I can run Fertile Ground.
• Since I’m now five-color (a leap), I can run all good Elementals I have.
• Since I’m now Red/Green and running good Elementals, I can bend my manabase to include Cloudthresher.

Yes, it’s a scattered mess. I’ve never been able to build a Sealed deck properly, I’m sure, but I’ve always felt that that’s okay at a prerelease, or when you’re playing for fun. In a PTQ, it’s almost always right to run 40 cards; in a prerelease, is it going to kill you if you run 45?

I don’t think so.

So here’s the deck that I ran with:

Ceaseless Searblades
Fire-Belly Changeling
Flamekin Bladewhirl
Flamekin Brawler
Nova Chaser
Soulbright Flamekin
Rage Forger (the Elemental Shaman lord from Morningtide)
Release the Ants
Roar of the Crowd
Sensation Gorger
Sunflare Shaman
2 War-Spike Changeling
Elvish Branchbender (a druid!)
Fertile Ground
Leaf Gilder (another druid!)
Gilt-Leaf Archdruid
Heritage Druid (a … oh you got this one)
Nameless Inversion
Ghostly Changeling
6 Mountain
5 Forest
3 Swamp
2 Plains
Vivid Creek
Vivid Grove

We just played for fun. I won the first game simply because I actually drew cards, while Michael’s Black/Red Rogue deck drew land after land. The second time we played, we played all three of us in multiplayer, and I emerged triumphant on the back of Sunflare Shaman, who survived a Festercreep activation thanks to Earthbrawn, and went on to do the critical points of damage.

Oh, I forgot to mention. The first question I asked Michael when he arrived? “Say, what color are the shirts?” I have fond memories of Darksteel and Scourge, where the shirts looked cool and were probably cooler than the set itself.

His answer? “Purple!”


Prerelease: Day 1

Five. Thirty. This is what time the alarm goes off, requesting that I get up and shower and get ready to meet dealers and move product and set up the registration tables and put up table numbers and oh did I mention the negative digits of temperature and wind chill? And the ugly purple shirts do nothing to help improve the mood.

We start out by having to move all the product from the car into the tournament hall. Some of you may have no idea exactly how much product, how many starters and boosters, go into making a successful prerelease. The answer is A LOT. When you have to move them the equivalent of two city blocks with no professional hand truck or dolly, it becomes a much greater challenge. I quickly learn that a stack of four boxes exceeds the natural limits that my fingertips have. And my purple shirt is still ugly.

We begin registration at eight, and very quickly I am back remembering why I love huge prerelease events like these. We go through eleven 32-person flights before we show any signs of slowing, and while this is nowhere near the number of Magic players I have personally witnessed in one place at one time (GP: Amsterdam, 1600+), this is definitely a large number of people to me. We have people trickle in all through the day, ending up with around 400 people, and we run all manner of Sealed flights and all-Morningtide drafts. We started a Two-Headed Giant event in the afternoon, and had SIXTY teams! Someone had said, before the weekend started, that players were loving the tribal theme of Lorwyn, and I guess I witnessed that in action.

I got a cheesesteak for lunch, one of those things Philadelphia is famous for. A fantastic blend of thinly-sliced steak and Cheez Wiz — wait, do I need to use the trademark symbol for that? Maybe I’d better move on to the next topic.

Around 4pm, though, I started to get a headache. Not the ordinary type of headache, mind you, but the kind of headache that feels like I’m wearing a superhero mask made of metal spikes that I mistakenly put on backwards. By the time we leave the site, my face actually hurts to touch, which means I’m now open to the hilarious “Does your face hurt? Well, it’s killing me! Har!” joke. We close up shop around 9pm; we’re all tired, though, so we forego going to a restaurant and grab food products from Wawa and head back to the hotel.

A quick word about Wawa: For those of you who don’t know, Wawa is the essential equivalent of 7-11, but it exists only on the East Coast. When I lived in Jersey, I could have subsisted solely on the contents of a Wawa. I drank their orange juice, ate their sandwiches, got stuff from the steam table… man, I did it all. I had not seen the inside of a Wawa in five years. It was a beautiful reunion.

Prerelease: Day 2

Another 150 or so players returned (or came anew) for Sunday. I wondered, honestly, if the football playoffs would keep some people away. I’ll probably never know, but I’d assume not — the games started later than normal, so if you wanted to, you could come and play in a Sealed flight and make it home in PLENTY of time to see the start of the Patriots-Chargers game.

We also had a large number of new players. One of the things that I like to do is keep in contact with some of the players who are playing their first DCI event, to see if they are enjoying themselves, and to (hopefully) make sure they come back to future events. I think the best story was of a young girl who came from a comic shop in New Jersey, opened Doran and Liliana in her tournament pack, and went 3-1 in her flight! Good job. She came with a large contingent from her shop; I hope they keep coming back!

My headache stayed all day. I picked up some medication, and even after taking double doses for the entire day, all it was doing was taking the edge off. Now, being home, I can reveal that it was indeed a sinus infection, and now I’m better, but it made me truly miserable for a few excruciating days.

Prerelease: What It Could Have Meant For a Budget Player

I want to continue to stress that prereleases are a great, GREAT way for budget players to pick up a lot of the commons and uncommons from a new set. This is especially true for a small set like Morningtide, where you could have played in an all-Morningtide draft and pulled down playsets of the cards you wanted without having to crack pack after pack down the road.

So if you missed the prerelease, start looking now for a store in your area that is running a Morningtide release event, which will happen the first weekend in February. Oh, sorry! I now see that Wizards has taken to calling them “Launch Parties.” Next week, I’ll be back with a list of important commons and uncommons that you should be looking for playsets of, as well as what Chris Romeo would have referred to as “staple” rares that you should be trying to trade for.

Until then, may you put your superhero masks on right-side-out!