Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #149: GenCon Notes, and The REALLY Big Bucks Decks

GenCon this year was a blast. I played some, judged some, saw some great Magic, and was attacked by flaming mummies and by a desert tray. GenCon hosted the Vintage and Legacy Champs, and Five-Color Worlds. I also saw Sam Black redefine “having a good weekend.”

GenCon this year was a blast. I played some, judged some, saw some great Magic, and was attacked by flaming mummies and by a desert tray. GenCon hosted the Vintage and Legacy Champs, and Five-Color Worlds. I also saw Sam Black redefine “having a good weekend.”

Cons are sweet.

Judging at Cons

I spent a part of my time at GenCon judging Magic. Judging at a Con is a bit different than at other events.

There are a lot more casual players. I listened to a discussion between a serious player and a casual player at the end of extra turns. The PTQ player realized that a draw would knock them both out, and one should concede. The casual player just wanted to play it out. That is his right, of course – and they ended up with a draw.

Cons are one of the last places that you will have to explain “the stack” to old school players that have never heard of it (but joined the PTQ anyway). I mean, having player’s first response on opening a pack be “the cards look different” is one thing – but having someone who last opened packs that contained mono artifacts is something else again.

Con games always start late. That is not just because it is a huge hall with a ton of events running. It is mainly because Cons sell tickets, and want people to use those tickets to enter events. That means that the typical Magic player arrives at the registration table less than five minutes before the event, and tries to register. Then he has to go out to the ticket sales booth – which is not located in the trading card games hall – and buy a ticket. Then he has to come back and register with the TO for the event. Then the scorekeeper has to enter all the names into the computer, and then generate pairings.

It’s a gawd-awful mess. Back when the Cons let TOs accept cash for TCG events, it was better, but no more. Events will start a bit late.

And no, this does not mean you should show up late. Cut-off for registration is generally the time listed.

The questions at a Con are often good. For example:

“If he tries to target my Eight-and-a-Half-Tails with his, can I give mine protection in response – and will that counter his effect?”

Hint: the answer involves rule 205.4c and 420.5e.

Need another hint? 420.5e is also known as “the Legend rule.”

In the later rounds at Con events, you end up giving a lot of penalties for tardiness and no shows. It noisy, the room is huge, and players get into trades, go out to smoke* whatever. A bunch more drop without telling anyone, because they have other events to get to.

Round 6 of the PTQ, I had one empty seat at each of the last six tables.


Other writers will do reports of the Vintage Champs, and Steven Menendian wrote about his tourney prep and his tourney (on premium.) I didn’t play this year, so I can’t improve on that. I can tell you a few things about judging Vintage.

First of all, deck checks are a lot scarier for judges than players. Players just have to worry about game loses for failure to de-sideboard. We judges have to worry about the fact that we are taking a small fortune in cards off for our checks.

Three years ago, I was halfway through a deck check when a fight – an actual fists and elbows fight – broken out behind me. I started to leave, then looked at the beta power and foil everything in front of me – and stayed put. The amount of money invested in these decks is amazing.

So, for that matter, is how casually players treat these decks. Three years ago, at U.S. Nats, I was playing sides. I found a deck box sitting at a table, with no one nearby. I looked through the deck while walking over to the judge stand. Beta Power. I have never – and will never – own beta power. I turned it in – and found out that this was the second time the player had left his deck on the table, and someone turned it in.

Lucky bastard.

Actually, in my experience, most players do turn in lost property. It’s only a small fraction that keep stuff.

Me, I turn stuff in, or return it. At the Dreamblade event, I spotted a small wad of twenties on the floor behind a player. I gave that back, too. Compared to beta power, $80 is nothing. But, Christ, people, stop tempting me.

Other than that, it really helps to have a PalmPilot (or the like) when judging Vintage. I have the complete Oracle on mine, and I end up using it a lot. I used it a lot more a few years back, when the pre-stack people kept trying to play cards as they were written. When judging, you need the Oracle text, and the errata. While it may be easy to remember the current text of Chains of Mephistopheles, how about Dance of Many, or Glacial Chasm?

Sam Black

Sam is the Midwest Regional champion, and one of Madison’s better players. He came to GenCon for two events, the PTQ and the Dreamblade $20,000 tournament. He qualified for Kobe at the Friday night PTQ, which started at 6pm and ran all night, then went directly to the Dreamblade event. After playing ten rounds of Dreamblade and making Top 8, he headed back to the TCG hall. Next morning he won the Dreamblade event.

Not a bad weekend.


GenCon hosted Vintage – the most expensive sanctioned format around. (Okay – to enter.) GenCon also hosted Five-Color Worlds – the most expensive Magic format played at the con. Since I am on the Five-Color ruling council, I didn’t play, but I did watch.

Notice anything strange in that last sentence?

I am on the 5CRC…

No, I’m not sure what they were smoking either.

If you have no idea what Five-Color is, go here.

In my last article, I tried to compare the cost of Vintage and Standard. I found that the cost of buying a competitive Vintage deck was far higher than the cost of buying enough Standard decks to play for a couple years. That’s nothing – the cost of a competitive Five-Color deck is even higher.

A lot higher.

Jim Hustad won Five-Color worlds. His deck includes:

Black Lotus
All six Moxen (Sapphire, Jet, Pearl, Emerald, Ruby, Crystal**)
Ancestral Recall
(no Time Walk – banned)
Library of Alexandria
37 original dual lands
20 Onslaught fetchlands
4 Mana Drains
4 Force of Will
Chaos Orb
Enough foil to keep McDonalds in business for a couple weeks


I used to joke that my Vintage deck cost more than my first car. That’s nothing, a good Five-Color deck costs more than I paid for the truck I have now.

I bought that truck new.

Actually, I would have played in Five-Color Worlds if I could have. I had one solid reason for not doing so, and three other reasons for feeling good about skipping it.

The solid reason was a conflict. I was one of the judges Wizards picked to help run the big Dreamblade introductory events. Wizards called a training and organization meeting for 2-5pm Friday, followed by a meeting with the Dreamblade designers.

Five-Color Worlds was on Friday. I really didn’t want to pay the $30 entry fee just to play a couple rounds then have to drop to go to the judge meeting.

The first reason for feeling good about skipping it is that Five-Color Worlds is notoriously slow. This year was no exception. The tournament was slated to start registration at 9am, play at 10am. I drifted in at 1:40pm to check it out – they were just starting round 3.

The tournament finished at 4:30am. Or so I was told by a reliable source – I was long gone at that point.

I hate long delays in tournaments.

Second, Wizards had scheduled a dinner for the Dreamblade judges at a local brewpub – on them.

Free food and free drinks with friends >> a tournament.

I think.

Finally, my deck sux. I had built it around a cute (as opposed to good) combo, but never really retuned it after the latest round of bannings. Those bannings nerfed the cheap tutors, which I used to find answers to weenie hoards. Now I get crushed by aggro decks.

I had also torn apart my wish board – the “sideboard” used for Burning / Living / Cunning wishes. I never put it back together.

In short, I was too lazy to get my butt in gear.

My EDH deck is pretty good, though. Actually, three of them are pretty good.

Priorities? Sure, I have priorities. I keep them in a box, under my bed. They are absolutely mint; completely unused.

Going into the event, a couple debates were raging on the Five-Color forums and mailing list. The issues were:

1) Death of the format.

2) Bannings and the effect on the metagame.

3) Trash talking about Madison.

Some players have claimed that the format is dead, after the last round of bannings (which included restricting Contract from Beyond).

The result: 29 players played at Five-Color Worlds. That’s comparable to last year.

Last winter, the 5CRC decided to ban all the one-mana tutors. The idea was to slow down some of the combo decks, and make the format a bit more balanced. A lot of people complained that the main effect of the bannings would be to destroy combo, and make control too slow to be able to handle aggro. A lot of forum posts predicted that new events would be all aggro.

The result: Of the 29 decks at worlds, only two were seriously aggro. The winner played control.

A number of commenters were also dissing Madison. Madison has a fairly intense metagame, and a lot of the bannings and restrictions have been driven by the analysis done by Madison players***. Many people claimed that the Madison meta was inbred, and that Madison just didn’t understand how good aggro could be.

Another point – although Five-Color may have originated in and around Milwaukee, Madison players have won all of the previous Five-Color worlds. That has bred some resentment.

The result: Jim Hustad, of Madison, repeats as Champ. Ben Rasmussen, of Madison, also makes Top 4.


I didn’t see this one, but I have heard about the “play” of the tournament. Jim Hustad fired off a Mindslaver. He then played Chaos Orb. On his opponent’s turn, the opponent “chose” to put all his permanents in a single stack, then Jim blew the Orb. Jim did not miss with the Orb, and destroyed all his opponent’s permanents. [That’s fantastic! – Craig, impressed.]

I imagine that the opponent had a few choice comments about that play, but Five-Color has a rule about that – if you have no permanents in play, you cannot talk.

Nice play – too bad it was illegal.

Mindslaver allows the caster to make all game-driven choice for the Slavered opponent. Choosing to move your cards around the table is not a game-driven choice. Neither, for that matter, would be having your opponent “decide” to eat his library, even unsleeved. [Booooo! – Craig, disappointed.]

I don’t think Jim was cheating. Jim’s a great player, and I think he’s honest. I also think that he might not have been thinking perfectly at that point.

Let see – start at 10am, finish at 4:30am. I get 18.5 hours. I suspect that brains might get a bit fried after 18 hours of high-level Magic.

I should also note that part of the 18 hours is because there is a Five-Color / bad cards draft in the middle of the tourney – it’s not 18 hours of pure Five-Color. There were also lunch and dinner breaks in there somewhere.

That said, 10am to 4:30am is a long, long time.


pete {dot} jahn {at} Verizon {dot} net

*Smoking. I just don’t see it. I have some medical training, and a lot of training as an economist. Either way, it’s damn stupid. It’s really expensive now, and the health effects will be really expensive later. Seriously – cigs are like Homelands. Neither will have any value in ten years, although Homelands won’t give you emphysema.

** Mox Crystal is a special Five-Color card that was given to people who won Five-Color events. It is basically a Mox that produces colorless mana.

*** I don’t consider myself part of the Madison metagame. I play around there, but I’m not a serious Five-Color player.