You ever run super good? Either that, or your attitude is in the right place and every minor thing feels like you're firing on all cylinders? I figure if my mindset can be such that I let trivia ruin an afternoon, occasionally I can let trivia make me so happy that I feel invincible. It can be one of those afternoons when you're driving to a GP and think, "I could eat," and you notice you're low on gas and the very next exit has the exact restaurant and gas station you want. The odds of that are actually pretty high but it doesn't stop you from feeling amazing. What if that feeling could last an entire weekend, even one that didn't start out amazing?
This GP weekend was one where everything seemed to go right for the most part. Some of it was me just enjoying the hell out of not playing Magic (bad EV after all) and some part of it was Wizards of the Coast having their shit together to an absurd extent.
Exhibit A -- Venue for the GP
GP Pittsburgh was held at the Convention Center. While this shouldn't shock and amaze anyone, it was held in a ballroom larger than recent events and there was so much space it was pretty awesome. The dealer booths on opposite sides of the room were so far apart it was kind of hilarious, but there were enough tables that a 3,000+ person GP could have been held with enough space for two huge rows of tables for side events and lots of tables left over for traders. Even though there was a Standard Open and anyone within driving distance of the GP was also within driving distance of PAX this weekend, WoTC and PES (the TO) could have hosted 3,000+ players easily. This may be the new norm, and people preemptively complaining that they won't be able to handle the demands of a predicted 4,000+ player GP in Las Vegas seem unfounded.
Speaking of preemptive complaints--
Wizards and PES tailored the event to the size of attendance, and the pernicious double cut, so believable in the wake of many botched Grands Prix, was avoided. Was this just luck or is WoTC really learning how to open lines of communication and optimize these events on the fly? I'd like to think it's the latter, and viewing everything through the lens of optimism, we'll go with that. It's my column, anyway. Ain't no democracy.
Don't think I'm sucking up to PES either -- as a top four finisher at a 2-Headed Giant PTQ, Aaron the Godslayer and I were once awarded 34 packs. Yes, that's right. PES opened a booster box, took out two packs and handed it to us. They're free to handle prize payout how they see fit, but that kind of absurdity sticks with a guy even six years later.
What Could Have Ruined My Weekend
Staying at the Westin onsite. I shouldn't complain since I was offered a spot in a car for a trip that was already planned, but come on. There are some cities where staying onsite is the play. This was not one of them. My cut of a room split four ways was still twice the cost of a room split two ways on a previous trip and that math is a little silly.
I don't know if we need someone to write an article series about where to stay and eat in major cities for Opens and Grands Prix, but usually you don't stay onsite, especially if the hotel charges for parking. Sometimes staying offsite and driving in isn't the play if parking costs negate the benefit of a cheaper room. But if you'll pay parking either way (the single greatest hidden cost of playing in Magic events and, worst of all, one that causes a kind of amnesia which sees you surprised by parking costs at the next event) a three-star hotel is more likely to have free breakfast ($15 a plate at the Westin onsite) and free internet. Nicer hotels are more likely to have business travelers who put charges like that on their company's expense account or have a per diem; cheaper hotels generally have travelers on their own dime and less amenable to paying a bunch of costs on top of the cost of their room.
Exhibit B -- WoTC Has a Great Idea
A small number of you may be aware that I pen a pretty awesome column over on Gathering Magic where I recommend people worth following. Recently I recommended following someone I called the Jon Finkel of Cosplay. Apparently I'm not the only one noticing how much the community responds to Christine Sprankle as WoTC contacted her and, well, I'll let you read it in her words. Her Tumblr today had some good news and Twitter blew up with a mixture of congratulations to her, congratulations to Wizards for the good idea and large, hairy dudes wondering which characters they should cosplay so they can be next to spoil a character.
The idea of having a prominent cosplayer spoil an important character in Dragon's Maze is so good it isn't funny. Everyone involved deserves high fives. WoTC is clearly engaged with the community, aware of what people want and capable of finding inexpensive ways to create an insane amount of hype surrounding the last Ravnica block set. Granted, only people who are engaged with the community already heard this announcement, but even the spikiest among us had to admit today that they thought it was pretty fantastic that WoTC gave her enough time to get a costume ready for the prerelease. She promised another surprise tomorrow. I hope it's cookies.
Quick Bullet-Point List Why This Weekend Was the Best GP Ever
- I played EDH for the third time ever and for the first time ever I didn't hate my life and beg people to attack me. I won a few games. Thanks to @norbert88 (Jonathon Richmond) and his friends for providing me with a lot of entertainment when my roommates were asleep at 10 PM.
- I made a joke about having a 3D Iname, Death Aspect to Lindsay Burley, who looked at me like I had read her diary. Turns out she made one for the lulz and totally had it on her. Snap buy! Sometimes you run so good it isn't funny.
- I decided my new trade targets since I'm not building decks is to get foil Shamblesharks and get them altered by every artist at the GP. The alter? Putting Psyduck's (Ryan Bushard's pokemon of choice do to his tendency to waddle when he isn't shambling) face on them. Check my twitter for pics.
- To that end, people sought me out because they heard I was after foil Shamblesharks and shipped me a ton.
- We made it out of Pittsburgh before Snowmageddon hit. Seriously, what is it with storms chasing us out of Pennsylvania GPs lately?
Add that to all the other great reasons to be at a GP and you have one pretty sweet weekend. If I can have this much fun and not play a single sanctioned game, I can't imagine someone who likes playing not having the most fun ever. Grands Prix are only getting better and better and if you've never been to one to play or trade, stop doing it wrong. Midwesterners will have a chance to hit GP Detroit here soon and I'll be there in a big way, lacking an excuse to skip a GP two hours away. Come say hi and give me some foil Shamblesharks. It's so much fun to troll Ryan Bushard with them.
OMG Shut Up About GP Pittsburgh
Ok, fine. It's not like it was my first GP, I go to almost all of them. I might have even played this one if I'd really wanted to since it was sealed. A sealed GP means I don't have to talk about it any more when I move on to this section and we can cover the SCG Open in Kansas City.
The Reanimator deck is taking down events, which is no surprise since the deck has been good in various forms since States. Variations with Conjurer's Closet and Séance are a bit more consistent, but since those cards are "bad" the majority of players are jamming versions that rely on counterable spells like Unburial Rites and more creatures. I think this shows a fundamental lack of vision on the part of the metagame, but jamming more creatures is fine. So many play groups settling on the core of the deck with cards like Grisly Salvage speaks to the sheer power of such a configuration, and whether or not you're ballsy enough to jam a durdly card like Seance or Closet, the deck is solid and it's winning despite lots of hate being everywhere.
There is a lot of Reanimator in the top eight, which seems to indicate we've unseated decks like U/W/R Flash and Jund. While still doing well, these decks aren't "multiple-copies-in-the-top-eight" good. With six decks in the top eight, Standard looks wide open right now.
Enough so that Jeff Hoogland, a name you see in a lot of my top eight recaps, decided to jam a full play set of Yeva, Nature's Herald to cast... basically it gives flash to [card Huntmaster of the Fells]Huntmaster[/card] and that's it. Four Yeva is an awful lot considering its legendary status, but that speaks to how much he wants to draw one. A RUG midrangey, controlly thing, this deck looks strong but I'd have to test to see how strong. He also missed top eight by quite a bit, but I am intrigued by the list anyway. Here's a man who isn't trying to play Jund in three different formats like the rest of the metagame. Congrats on the brews.
"Dark Naya" is back, this time eschewing Falkenrath Aristocrat in favor of [card Olivia Voldaren]Olivia[/card]. I still think the deck is Boss Hog (Or Boss Naya I guess, if we're inventing Magic colloquialisms) but it's fallen off a bit lately, securing a mere one spot in the top eight as piloted by
Michael Nielsen Daniel DuSang (I should have known this because I follow Daniel on twitter @CapnTopdeck. I was going to write about Michael Nielsen top 16ing with Aristocrats but ran out of fucks) Dark Naya gets mileage out of Olivia instead, which seems fine to me. You know why? Because it's way more fun to use Olivia to shoot Boros Reckoner than it is to sac Reckoner to Aristocrat. This little combo allows Olivia to deal her pings to the face while pumping herself. This can break ground stalls or give you something to do when they don't have targets (although you're winning that game anyway because they either have no creatures or they have to block with a [card Geist of Saint Traft]Geist[/card]). Seems fine to me. But any deck with Assemble the Legion seems fine to me.
Conspicuously absent from the top eight are Naya blitz decks. The American metagame has finally found out which cards in which proportions they want to play in control and midrange is finding ways to cope with the blitzes. Expect [card Obzedat, Ghost Council]Ghost Dad[/card] to really heat up very soon. His price has been steadily declining, so I'd wait until he actually catches on (if at all), so while he isn't a pickup now, I'd keep an eye on him at least. The more his price tanks, the better for those of us ready to pounce the second he heats up, and if the indications I'm getting never play out (Dragon's Maze could take him from Obzedat to obsolete before he has a chance to catch on) you'll be glad you didn't buy in too early. Keep an eye out for this guy is all I'm saying.
Eight decks in the top eight? Can't ask for a healthier meta, can we? Storm takes it down for the second time in recent history and it's looking like a deck with hate bears might be needed. Might I suggest Punishing Maverick? I'm going to anyway!
Did you write off my suggestion of Punishing Grove combo as the rantings of a madman obsessed with making Maverick a thing? If you did, you missed buying Grove of the Burnwillows around $14 and you'll have to shell out over $25 if you want any now. Great news if you did buy in cheap when Punishing Jund first emerged, though.
Lands and Elves get to share the "pet deck of the week" crown this week. For clarity, I refer to decks as "pet decks" if they're not real strong metagame choices but rather decks that will always be solid in Legacy. Legacy is a format where the power level is such that a well-tuned deck never has a 0% matchup. If you take a deck you're comfortable with to a Legacy tournament and play well and get lucky (you have to get at least a little lucky) you can top eight. This is one of the reasons Legacy is such a good format. Lands and Elves are both decks capable of winning a Legacy event.
Honestly, there is not a lot new here. Legacy is going to be shaken up again a bit when Dragon's Maze comes out (although Gatecrash really hasn't impacted much so it may not) so look forward to it remaining a dynamic format, diverse and healthy with high playability and fun factors that no one will play in six months because there aren't any events.
Tune in next week for a discussion about the merits of three different brands of riding lawn mower that will have you double-, then triple-checking that you clicked the right link.
Don't do anything I wouldn't do!