Sunday, December 27, 2009

Edison PTQ: A Long Day for 270 People

I got up at 7 to take the New Jersey train into Edison, bumfuck-middle-of-nowhere town. The walk was a mile on slippery, puddle-ridden, and uneven sidewalks through light rain. The kind of rain that feels like someone is spitting on you out of a high window.

The Sealed portion was similarly dismal. I went 0-2 drop. I think I know why. There is no point in thinking about it too much for me because I tend to avoid Sealed whenever possible. I've always felt Sealed was the least fun format. If my friend Michael Newman hadn't begged me to go to the PTQ I might've just stayed home.

It was my first "competitive" level Sealed, though, so it was interesting. I had to fill out a form. It had all the cards from Zendikar in order. I had to write in the total number of each cards in the pool. Then we had to sort all the cards by color, alphabetically. This was so that deckbuilding would go smoothly for whoever eventually received the cards.

Some people didn't do this -- sort the cards in order. Or they tried but utterly failed at the alphabet. It bothered me a lot when I had to take my neighbor's pool and sort the cards for him. I am so OCD sometimes!

The packs we opened were not the packs we kept for deckbuilding. The judges orchestrated a complex "shuffle" routine where we passed decks to people across from us or behind us. And all the pools were shuffled around the room until we all ended up with a random pool.

And boy, did people complain.

When the judges finally announced the shuffling was over, there were several people in the room that hooted with excitement; and there were a few that groaned. While sorting the cards, many people loudly exclaimed details about the pools they opened, "Whoever gets this is sooo lucky. Two Marsh Casualties and Sorin Markov!" Or "I really don't want this pool. It has nothing." "This pool practically builds itself." Et cetera.

Each time we passed decks, some people read each form list of cards before passing it on. I think you're not supposed to do that, but it wasn't really doing anything either. And the judges seemed not to care.

Some people talk openly about their building pools. Some people like to goldfish it a little before registering. Two people next to me even played a game before the tournament started. Some people are very secretive and don't want to show anyone their cards. Like me! Although I'd be more lax about it in a more casual environment.

I'm as shifty during deck building in Limited as can be. I never line up my cards by mana cost on the table to look at overall curve. I keep all important cards facedown on the table. When looking through cards, I keep them all in my hand and sift through them one at a time, going back and forth over and over again. If people want to peek over, they can, but I don't think they can get a good sense of my whole deck like that. I try to keep the cards close to my face or at an angle to make it difficult.

My face is a little too recognizable in a crowd. People look at me and remember without trying. People talk. I want to minimize the effects of this by giving away as little as possible. People come up and talk to me or recognize me when I sit in front of them, and they start talking to me, and I'm like, "Huh?" But I enjoy meeting new people, so I don't mind.

I imagine if you are one of the Pros it is even worse. Patrick Chapin, Steve Sadin, and Osyp Lebedowicz (and others I probably didn't know) were all grinding. Chapin was the most recognizable; many people stood around watching his games, which means they all saw what was in his deck. I saw Osyp but not Sadin. I kind of prefer not to know who Pros are. It is a bit more intimidating to play a Pro than a random person in a realsies tournament. I laughed because Chapin's first opponent gulped and said, "I'm a big fan of your articles, man" in the most scared voice imaginable. Then he lost. Poor kid!

Chapin went 7-1-1 and made 3rd overall. My friend Brian Smolin, who made Top 8 at States, made 11th with a medium-powered BR deck (he went 6-0 without a loss). Around round 5 or 6, the people at the top tables were shaking like buckets of ice because it was so intense. The whole thing would go till past midnight. I definitely left earlier than that. (So I have no idea who won.)

I can only imagine how utterly exhausted the players must've been towards the end. There were 9 brutal rounds, and only X-1s would be guaranteed to make it. Some X-1-1s would get there but not all. After the 9 rounds, there was a booster draft for the Top 8, which would take ANOTHER FOUR HOURS.

There were 270 players total. Can you imagine going 6-0 or 7-0 and then not making it till the end? How do you even mentally steel yourself through that? In fact, only first place gets a Qualification for the Pro Tour. That means even 2nd place isn't good enough.

I think I would explode if I made 2nd after all that effort to just NOT GET THERE. Like I would just go crazy Hulk Smash style. Okay, I probably wouldn't do that. It would be amusing if I did though!

If there were a way to make PTQs less exhausting, mentally and physically, I think there ought to be. Online PTQs might be that answer. But online, the PTQs get up to 550 participants. So the chances are a bit worse. Still, it isn't so bad if you can manage your time during online play; you can go to a clean bathroom; you can eat food; you can pet your cat. You can get work done in between rounds. You can play all day in your PJs.

I still much prefer in-person play. There are dynamics there that you miss online. And I also play a lot better off-screen with physical cards in front of me. I suppose I should just practice playing online, though. It is a good skill to have since MTGO will quickly become the way of the future.

So what did I do after 0-2 dropping? I played in an T2 8-Man for a box. I made it to the finals, but the guy didn't want to split and ended up beating me after I mulled both games on the play, and he Blightning'd me in both games. Awww. Shucks.

Then I entered a draft and split in the finals with Newman. (When we played it out, I beat his monored.) I liked my draft deck a lot. It was practically mono blue with nothin' but fliers, a ridiculous Reckless Scholar, and a black splash for two Scorpions and a Hideous End. I had heard from various people that mono-blue was weak, but it seemed to work. (Who says card quality advantage + evasion doesn't win drafts?)

I should just go to big events and draft all day. :/ Because I suck at the main event, always. Especially at Prereleases. Also, it's an excuse to arrive hours late and not wake up at 7 in the morning.