In the last few months, I've become a big fan of Shotgun Lotus (Twitter, Facebook), a Magic production company doing something different in an industry that one could argue just kind of does the same thing over and over again. Once a month, a group gathers at man-in-charge Paul Waite's house to engage in Magic shenanigans you may have never seen before.
So far, the company has streamed seven Vintage Rotisserie Drafts. If you're not familiar with the format, here's a quick rundown: one of every card in Magic, eight players, a rotisserie snake draft (the eight players publicly pick one at at a time out of every card in the pool, reversing pick order every other round), and a round-robin tournament to determine who makes the finals. VRD is the most powerful Limited format there is, and the deckbuilding requires creativity, adaptability, and lots of advance preparation. One more thing: they play for boose. Each entrant brings a bottle, and at the end of the tournament, the top three players draft them, with first place getting five, second getting two, and third getting one.
These drafts take place in Seattle neighborhood Ballard, and if you're able to be there in person, the group has qualifier events for folks who want to participate. This week, in the eighth draft in the VRDS, the roster is as follows:
Seat 1: Corbett Gray (a regular competitor who brews some sweet decks and has had success in SCG Opens)
Seat 2: Randy Buehler (former R&D member)
Seat 3: Jesse Hampton (PT Top 8 competitor)
Seat 4: Mike Thompson (GP Top 8 competitor, finished 10th at a PT)
Seat 5: Chris Kelly (Wizards of the Coast employee, winner of August qualifier)
Seat 6: James Nguyen (SCG Legacy Open Winner)
Seat 7: Marshall Sutcliffe (co-host of Limited Resources podcast)
Seat 8: Jesse Wilke (professional poker player)
That's a small list of big names, and the winner of this event will go on to battle for glory in a championship draft against past winners Cedric Phillips, Elliott Woo, Charles Wong, Paul Waite, Charles Dupont, Peter Beckfield, and Greg Peloquin.
Despite being out of someone's home, these broadcasts are very polished and professional. With the round-robin format, it's not hard to keep on-camera action going for the whole day, meaning there's less downtime than you would get for a PT, GP, or Open stream. Brian Wong, co-host of the Limited Resources podcast, made his commentating debut at VRD7, and will return for VRD8 along with Paul Waite and Dwayne St. Arnauld.
The company's technology has gone from humble beginnings:
...to a pretty sophisticated setup allowing for professional-quality streaming straight out of a dude's garage:
Photos from Shotgun Lotus Facebook page
These are truly entertaining events if you appreciate powerful, varied Limited Magic. I can't imagine watching a random Open or GP when one of these tournaments is running.
The main criticism I have about the VRDS so far is that Shotgun Lotus hasn't yet figured out the best way to cover the drafting itself. Competitors use Google Spreadsheets to input their picks, and even when running the stream on my 42" high-def TV, I have to squint to read the card names:
It's certainly not an easy issue to solve, but if they can figure out a more engaging way to cover these drafts, it will help to involve the audience in a much more entertaining way. Even as is, the commentators do a good job of keeping viewers interested by discussing the cards that certain players might be fighting over, what cards are left for an archetype, and what has gone far too early or far too late. It's clear that Waite in particular really loves the format, and he has tons of info he shares about past drafts, typical picks and where they go, and more.
The next Vintage Rotiserrie Draft will be this Saturday, August 23, 2014, on the Shotgun Lotus Twitch.tv channel. I highly recommend checking it out. And if Limited isn't your thing but you still want to see powerful Magic, the company recently announced its plans for the next series:
There will be a preview show tonight on the Shotgun Lotus Twitch channel [edit: I am wrong. It's on Randy Buehler's Twitch channel here], but I don't know much more than that. I'll be tuning in, and you can definitely count on me covering this as more information comes to light.