I played Magic for about two years from ages 11-13. It was a simpler time, our decks were basic and built solely from intro decks and a handful of boosters, we perhaps spent £30 on cards. It was a great pastime, huddled around a table in my friend’s mum’s mobile caravan, we laughed, joked and bonded over these little pieces of cardboard. Then we turned 13 and discovered girls, somehow girls didn’t think four boys sitting in an airless sweaty caravan playing with pictures of dragons was cool or sexy. Our weekends evolved subtly from card games to hanging out at skate parks or trying to exploit weaknesses in our parent’s internet filters so that we could eagerly wait ten minutes for a photo of boobs to chug down the dial-up connection.
About two years ago, after ten years of hopelessly trying to understand the female mind and pissing away hundreds of pounds on beer, taxi’s and nightclub entries, myself and my house mate were sitting in one evening and reminiscing. Remember Warhammer? He asked me, I laughed and reeled off a series of anecdotes about that time when this happened, and the time that guy cheated with this. We agreed that we missed pissing about with collectibles and considered starting playing again. Then we remembered the afternoons with our fingers stuck together with superglue, the time our dog ate our tank, when we screwed up the paint job on a model so bad that we had to chuck it. We didn’t know anyone else who would play, games could take hours and prices were daunting. Then it struck us, Magic didn’t need any setup, there was no pinning, no gluing, no heavy boxes to drag about, you simply had a wad of cards wrapped in an old elastic band (I shudder at the thought these days). James rushed into his room and started rustling about, “i think my mum might have chucked them in the move…no…wait…yes!”, i rummaged through my bottom drawer and found a tupperware, covered in dust and forgotten.
In the last two years i’ve played Magic twice a week on average and built several fairly competitive Modern decks. I’d never played in a tournament however, but waking up early on a sunday morning with nothing planned for the day, i thumbed through my Facebook feed and saw that Boundless Realms, my local store, were hosting an M14 prerelease. I’ve been very excited about M14, to the point that i have a booster box preordered, so for £25 with 8 booster packs and a promo Megantic Sliver chucked in, this looked like the perfect way to while away a day. I arrived around ten am and registered with DCi, keen to smash my way up to 924,567th place in the world rankings.
Decks were to be made from the contents of your first 6 boosters, plus any lands required (i excitedly pinched the sexy 8th edition plains in the pool – i say pinched, the other players and owners were bemused at my glee). There were 16 players, with the top 8 winning boosters. Decks were a minimum of 40 cards, so i went with what appeared to be the general consensus of 16 lands, 24 spells. My draw was middling, i had a couple of nice cards but mostly vanilla fare. My rares and mythics were: Devout Invocation, Savage Summoning, Megantic Sliver, Seraph Of The Sword, Tidebinder Mage and Xathrid Necromancer. With nothing of note in Black, no burn in Red and opting against a chancey counter based Blue build, I plumped for White/Green weenie aggro. The Seraph Of The Sword and Devout Invocation had steered me towards white (plus 80% of my builds are white) and i went with green on the strength of drawing 2 giant growth, Manaweft Sliver and Deadly Recluse (probably the most played card at the event).
Round 1 (2-0)
My first opponent was a new player, he had played Duels Of The Planeswalkers for a few weeks so knew the basics and came down to play with his mate. He played White/Green like I did but his inexperience told (he tried to prevent all combat damage on his turn, with an empty board – which I allowed him to rescind) and I won with 28 life in the first game and 24 in the second. We all start somewhere and i was pleased to hear at the end of the tourney that he had claimed his first scalp and finished 15th of 16. The more new players that join the community the better and i was glad that he hadn’t been thoroughly womped and put off.
Round 2 (1-1-Draw)
My second opponent was a seasoned player and did well. The first game finished with a narrow victory to me, i was on 7 life and got the edge through constant attacks with Seraph Of The Sword, her resistance to combat damage and my Giant Growths saw off any defences before eventually overwhelming my opponent. The second game saw me ascend to 24 life and bring him down to 4 with the Seraph and boost combo, along with little gems like Suntail Hawk and Brindle Boar (block him? I’ll sacrifice before damage is dealt). Then he Doomblade’d Seraph. This was a turning point as, at the time, my angel was my only creature in play (having thrown the rest at him every turn to wipe out his defences). Suddenly i had no board, no cards in hand and he enchanted his vanilla black 3/2 with Dark Favor and swung for 6. I drew a forest, my 9th land. He swung for 6 and played another creature. I drew Lay Of The Land. He swung for 8. I drew Serra Angel but it was too late, i blocked his big guy, 2 damage got through. I sat on 2 life, i drew Verdant Haven. We shook hands and laughed, he with relief, I with disbelief. These two games had been exhausting struggles, as we shuffled for our deciding game a judge called 2 minutes. We set up and began, when the timer had gone we were both sat on 19 life, four turns in and with level boards. He told me he was relieved to have taken a draw from me, I agreed, i was ecstatic.
Round 3 (0-2)
This was a humbling, crushing defeat. If i had been in contention for prizes before or deceived myself into thinking that my vanilla weenies were a force to be reckoned with; this shattered any illusions. The first game finished within four minutes. Scavenging Ooze and Woodborn Behemoth took me apart; i pulled out every trick i had, i played Fog, Giant Growth, Savage Summoning into Serra Angel. Nothing i tried paid off, my weenies were just chumps to block the Behemoth and were munched up in death by the Ooze. The second game didn’t go much better, I took him down to 7 life but i had got by every turn on combat tricks, minor life gain and exhausted my hand. Thoroughly outclassed and outmanoeuvred, i realised that setting my sights higher than 8th would be unwise.
Round 4 (2-0)
Still licking my wounds from the previous round and knowing that a defeat here would surely end any hopes of finishing in the prize places, i shuffled up and nervously faced my fourth opponent. In the break between rounds i’d decided to switch out Darksteel Ingot for Rumbling Baloth. The Baloth is vanilla as they come but i’d missed muscle and bodies in my previous game. The Ingot never added to my game, with Manaweft Sliver providing any emergency mana I needed. Playing Red/Black yet lacking low end burn and with just two kill spells, my opponent was always going to struggle. He explained his predicament to me and I sympathised, he’d had a rough draft. I won the first game before he had played a spell and the second saw my Serra Angel with Trollhide smashing face.
Round 5 (1-2)
This was the final round, from my reckoning I was back in contention for prizes but would need at least a draw here to keep clinging in. Game 1 started well for me, playing two Giant Growths on a turn 3 Deadly Recluse attack. My opponent, playing White/Black/Green pulled it back with a few very familiar cards, the same minor life gain that i had fallen back on in countless games brought him back to a respectable position. He brought out Archangel Of Thune, the one card i had been drooling over in the spoilers. On fourteen life each and with Seraph Of The Sword, Manaweft Sliver and two tokens from Hive Stirrings facing Archangel Of Thune, Siege Mastadon and Lifebane Zombie I needed a game winner. I tapped all three slivers for Devout Incantation and overwhelmed him the very next turn. Game 2 started in much the same fashion and i was confidently opening my prize boosters in my mind. Then it all went horribly wrong, Sanguine Bond and minor life gain sapped at me slowly, i was outnumbered on the board and slowly stumbled towards defeat. It was the final game, not only of the round but of the tournament. My record was mixed, my opponent had some great cards and my only hope was a great start and every combat trick i could pull. A judge had begun watching us with mild interest after my crushing angelic assault in game 1 and by the beginning of the final game 3 judges were standing around us; anticipating the tie of the round. We smashed into each other, balanced decks going toe to toe, every point of damage coming at the expense of a valued creature; i pulled every combat trick i had from up my sleeves; Fog, Giant Growth, Celestial Flare buying me a slight advantage. We stood facing each other on turn 8, my opponent on 11 life, i was on 14. Then it happened, Sanguine Bond. He’d already been smashing with his lifelinked Stonehorn Chanter, which had tied up my Seraph Of The Sword for as long as it had been on the battlefield, but as he whittled away my other blockers i was reduced to waiting for a miracle, unable to attack. Archangel Of Thune came in and the pair came in swinging hard, my Seraph blocked the Archangel and i took the unboosted Stonehorn damage. I drew lands and unusuable auras. His minor life gain stung me passively and the judges were theorising possible outcomes, each engrossed in the battle. When he swung with both the rhino and the angel with lifelink and made me lose the life he’d gained i eventually capitulated. My seraph lay down her sword. I extended my hand, we shook, both brimming with nerves and excitement.
My weenies had done their very best and stood their ground against all but the third opponent. With the cards at my disposal i couldn’t imagine a stronger showing and i was proud of how i had played, fully focussed and pulling tricks out of the bag where i would usually have missed a beat. We all stood around the store awaiting the results, read in excruciating ascending order, and then it became clear why the judges had taken such a keen interest in our final game. My opponent finished in 7th, I in 9th. Our third game had been an unintended play off for the final prize places. Our war of attrition, a slow, slogging battle, won on sheer endurance had provided the nerve wracking spectacle befitting of a play off. I learnt a lot by playing with a patchwork deck, compared to my usual mythic playsets, and grew to appreciate why Serra Angel invokes such nostalgia amongst veteran players. Seraph Of The Sword was my pick of the day, a really standout card, prevents enemy lifelink, deathtouch proof and a thorn in the side of a deck without removal. I’ll pick up three more when the set is released.
After five hours of magic and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in my first ranked tournament i thanked the great staff at Boundless Realms and left with my head held high.