Thursday, May 23, 2013

Last Friday Night (or Friday Night Magic)

If you've been following along this week, you're aware of how this past weekend went and ended, but I left out how it began, so let's go back to last Friday night. Okay, actually, let's go back to April...

Remember how I mentioned that during the midst of a-to-z that my washing machine had broken? Well, it did. Part of dealing with that was rearranging the garage, and part of rearranging the garage was finding things (like that first edition copy of A Game of Thrones). Well, it also meant finding a bunch of my old Magic cards.

As I've stated before, I love Magic: the Gathering. Best game ever made. I love Magic so much that I did a whole series of posts about it and how it relates to writing not all that long ago (you can find part one here). However, I haven't really played it in... a long time. Aside from games with my kids every great once in a while, but, considering that I used to play tournaments and stuff, that hardly counts. For me, anyway. I play it with them to enjoy an activity with them, not because it gives me the kind of game play I want.

At any rate, having unburied all of these cards, I thought it was probably time that I sort them out and sell off all the extra stuff I have. Because I have a lot of extra stuff. But, see, the sorting through them really made me want to play again. I mean play for real again. It is something that I miss doing. So I started checking into the local tournament scene...

There was a big problem with that, a problem I knew would exist, but I was just checking, so I was willing to ignore it for the moment. What problem? Well... see, here's where it gets complicated for those of you (I'm betting nearly all of you) that don't know anything about Magic, so I'll make it as simple as possible: My cards aren't current.

Yeah, I hear all of you non-Magic players out there: "What does that have to do with anything? Cards are cards." Which is true if I just wanted to goof around and play casual games, but it's totally not true for tournaments. To make it simple, due to the large number of expansions and the cost of the older cards, Wizards of the Coast has various formats for tournaments. The most common of these are modern and standard. Modern format tournaments allow cards printed after 2003; I stopped collecting in 2004. Standard format tournaments allow cards from the last couple of blocks of expansions, which means the last couple of years. Basically, I don't own any cards to build decks for these formats of play. That meant that "constructed style" tournaments were out (tournaments where you build a deck beforehand and bring it in to compete with).

Fortunately, in the time since I quit playing draft tournaments have become a big thing (a "draft" tournament is where everyone gets some booster packs of cards and chooses one out and passes it to the next player to choose and so forth until all of the cards are gone); they barely existed back when I dropped out of playing. I'm assuming the rise in popularity is because, theoretically, they put everyone on a somewhat equal footing. And you get to keep the cards you draft, so, even if you lose, you don't come away empty handed. This was exactly the kind of thing I needed. I could compete in a draft tournament.

Except for the one snag.
The draft tournaments are on Friday nights. Friday night is special family time night with a big special meal and all of that.
My wife was not going to be happy.

And she wasn't, but we worked it out. In the end, it was decided that I would take my oldest son, who had never played in a tournament, and go this past Friday night. Probably not the best choice of nights, but it was the only choice of Friday nights anytime around now. The prior Friday night, he was busy. Tonight, he is busy; actually, we all are, because we are going to see him in an improv show with his school drama group. Next Friday night, the whole family is busy, because my younger son will be performing in his school musical. I'm sure you get the picture with our Friday nights. Even with as busy as the weekend was going to be, it was the only Friday night available, so we went.

So, while I was busy working on formatting issues for Charter Shorts, Too and trying to get that finished, my son was looking up rules and stuff. And he kept trying to talk to me about the stuff he was reading, which I couldn't really do at the time. I answered his questions as best I could, but, whenever he would say something like, "hey, listen to this," I told him I couldn't. Now, that's important, so pay attention. In fact, in some ways, it's the point of all of this.

My son and I made it to the store where the tournament was being held at and got all signed up. We were asked multiple times by various employees "have you played in a tournament before?" and "have you played in a tournament here before?" I was very clear about our answers: 1. My son had never played in a tournament before. 2. It had been over 12 years since I had played in a tournament. 3. Seeing that that store had not existed a dozen years before, no, neither of us had never played in a tournament in that store. I kept waiting for some response to that question, or, at least, some kind of clarification as to why it was being asked, but the answer never seemed to get more than a nod, and at no time whatsoever did anyone bother to explain how anything worked.

I became that annoying kid in class that kept asking questions... except I really didn't know what questions I should be asking. And I didn't really get any answers, anyway.

At any rate, being totally unfamiliar with the cards, my son and I began drafting our decks, the slowest people at the table. Of course, once I had my colors worked out (blue and white), I sped up and even had to wait for stacks of cards from the people next to me. My son didn't get any faster and became the bottleneck at the table. But we got through it with only minor difficulties and miscommunications and got our decks built. 60 cards, right? Because that's been the minimum deck size limit since... well, since almost the beginning.

So I played my first match. It was against one of the top players in the store, and it was clear that he expected to win. And he did. Fairly easily, too. But, see, here's where it gets interesting. He took the time to put the cards he'd drafted into sleeves before playing [Sleeves are special flexible plastic covers for the cards so that you don't damage them while playing. I've never been a big fan of sleeves, but a lot of people use them.], so I didn't notice anything about his deck. But, once I had lost, I went over to watch my son in his game, and all I kept thinking was, "His deck looks really small." [Just don't even go there, okay.] So I got worried that he was playing a below minimum deck, but I didn't want to call him on it in the middle of the game. Afterward, though, I asked him, and he was playing with 40 cards.

Which had been one of the things he'd been trying to tell me earlier, that it was just a 40 card deck, because, at home, we always play with 60, because "them's the rules." Except for draft tournaments. Only I hadn't known that which is why that guy beat me so easily. It was definitely a "D'oh!" moment. The only issue I had about the whole situation was that none of the staff ever bothered to give any kind of run down of the rules despite making us repeat we'd never been in one of their tournaments before.

After dropping my deck down to 40 cards, which you can do in a draft tournament--mess with your deck as much as you want between matches (maybe even between games) as long as you are only using the drafted cards--I went on to win my other two matches and take home a prize. My son won his first match but lost his next two, so he didn't get a prize. But, now, he's totally hooked on tournament play. He really loved it and wants to go play again. Except, well, the next several Friday nights are booked.

Moral of the story? Take the time to know the rules and don't expect anyone to tell you what they are, even the people that ought to tell you. After seeing how my modified deck played and watching the guy that beat me play a couple of other games, I feel fairly confident that I would have won that match against him had I known about the 40 card thing. But that's what next time is for.


  1. That really does seem unfair they didn't tell you the deck could be less than sixty though. Oh well, now you know.
    My brain shuts down by Friday afternoon, so no way I could think coherently enough to play Magic on Friday night. That's why it's movie night for us. (Even though it will technically be movie afternoon as I'm ducking out of work early again this week to hit the theater.)

  2. Sounds way too complicated for me. I would like to see a game being played though. So how did you get these 40 (60) cards, did you buy them in the store or what? Or do the cards belong to the store and you pay to use them?


  3. I used to play Magic. But you already knew that. And I have card envy when it comes to you. But you already knew that as well.

  4. I've never played any of those kinds of games so I don't know much about them. However, you are goading me into cleaning my garage. So much stuff to get rid of--or at least organize better. I should get busy before the next neighborhood yard sale happens.

    Wrote By Rote

  5. JKIR,F!: Yeah, when we can work it in. And he's gonna be gone to Spain for most of the summer...

    Alex: Well, I just expected some kind of going over the rules when you're standing there saying that it's been more than 12 years. I guess that's just me, though. And you. Not them, though.

    Jo: You get 3 booster packs of cards with the entry fee.

    Michael: What can I say? But, if you lived closer, we could play.

    Lee: Our next one is happening too soon, but I wouldn't want to try to sell cards at a yard sale, anyway.

  6. Yeah, it does sound complicated. I don't know if I could play that..I think my attention span is way too short. Sounds like a fantastic father and son afternoon though. And,I don't have a garage, but you've inspired me to clean out my front closet...I'm sure I'll find all sorts of magical things in there!

  7. More Magic!! Anytime I can get my kid to so something I like and get to claim it as quality time I am very happy.

  8. I read this whole thing, and tried to follow the action, but what I kept coming away with was "Wow, this must be what it sounds like when I talk about my day at work over dinner."

    The takeaway I got was that (A) you got your son involved in something you like, which is great, and (B) he may turn out to be better at it than you. I'd watch out for his Obi Wan, Qui Gon.

  9. I agree with your moral. It's actually pretty deep.

  10. Eve: It's a short game most of the time. 20 minutes or so. Well, per game, anyway.

    Rusty: I agree! More Magic!

    Briane: I'm still waiting for him to get even as good as me. Right now, the only way he can win is if I handicap myself, which I do. Which he doesn't know that I do.

    MP: I think so, too. Unfortunately. I mean, it's unfortunate that that's true.