GenCon Report 2004
Hey all! A week or two ago, I promised a GenCon report to the masses, no matter what the result of my trip. If I went 0-7, I claimed, there would be a report! While I didn’t go 0-7, I didn’t do too hot, either – so if you’re looking for a report on some amazing strategy I ran with, you’ll be disappointed. *However*, if you’re looking for a report on the mad-fun experience that is GenCon, with a $40,000 Pro Circuit, a couple of drafts, and a $10,000 event all stuck in the middle, then read on. I’m going to split this report in half – this part will cover everything up to and including the Pro Circuit, and the next one will cover the 10K, the drafts, and the end of GenCon.
I started off Thursday (The First Day of GenCon) in my hometown of Waco, Texas. From there, I would be traveling to DFW with fellow Pojo writer and my employer, DeQuan Watson. The plan was to leave by 4:30AM so we could arrive at DFW International with plenty of time to spare for our 7:20AM departure. This (according to my ticket) would put us in Indianapolis at 9:30AM or so – in other words, getting us to the Indy Center less than 10 minutes after GenCon officially began.
The plan didn’t quite work out like that.
We started off on the right foot by leaving DeQuan’s place (with DeQuan’s fiancé plus two friends – no complaints there) at 4:15AM. Hey! Ahead of schedule even! After a brief stop for gas, we were off. Unfortunately for us, that’s where the good part of our Adventure to DFW ended. We hit a pretty nasty storm as we started getting close to Dallas, and around 5:30AM, we got stuck in traffic due to a wreck on I-35. These two factors slowed us up quite a bit, and we pulled into the parking garage at DFW at ten ‘til 7:00AM. We made it! Well…
DeQuan and I had both bought e-tickets, so when we went to punch up baggage / ticket information on the terminals – yes, I know, technical terms – we were both informed that we had “arrived late” and we had to go to the desk for assistance. Well, the clerk informed me that, even at 6:55AM, I was late, and there was no way I could get my one suitcase on the plane. I have to arrive 30 minutes early or I would only be allowed two pieces of carry-on.
[Just on general information, folks – you cannot reason with people at the airport. I know it makes sense that, with the flight delayed ten minutes to 7:30AM, I should be able to get my bag on the plane that we all know is going to be running even later. However, this does not work in practice.]
Not only was I told that I couldn’t take my luggage, the clerk *also* told me that this all could have been avoided if I had left earlier. Thanks, that really helps.
DeQuan was having better luck with his clerk, and we eventually discerned that not only could we not get our luggage on the plane, but we were in the wrong concourse. My clerk was quick to point out that there was no way that we could get on our plane, as it was at the other end of the airport. Little did she know that she was dealing with Gamers on a Mission.
We got our tickets anyways and ran back to the car (as much as one can run with luggage). We flew over to Concourse C and rushed inside, just in time to be greeted with the sight of the terminals showing that our flight had been delayed again; it would now be leaving at 8:00AM. With this knowledge, we attempted to get our luggage on board again with a much nicer clerk, but due to trouble with her computer and the lack of a nearby supervisor, the system still wouldn’t allow us to get our bags on the plane, even with thirty-five minutes to spare. She told us we might be able to get them on if we talked to the people at Boarding.
Bags in hand, the only thing that really stood in our way at this point was security. I was informed by a very large and scary-lookin’ guard that it was wasn’t required, but “highly recommended” that I remove my shoes.
[Side Note: “Highly recommended” is security speak for “do it now”.]
Shoe-less, I had little issue getting through security, but DeQuan had a small problem: he had forgotten to remove his cell-phone before passing through the metal detector. DeQuan was told…
“Sir, I’m going to give you a second chance.”
So, if anyone was curious, you get two (and only two) tries at the metal detector before getting pulled aside. Fortunately, DeQuan managed to pass on the second attempt.
We got to Boarding around 7:30AM and hit up the ladies there to allow us to sneak our baggage on the plane. They told us they could – score! I would get to bring clothing!
Of course, after this hectic trip, the plane got delayed yet again (stupid weather) until around 8:40AM, when they finally boarded everyone. Once on the plane, we discovered why you never ship anything in a cardboard box labeled priority. Out my window, I saw one such box unceremoniously dumped on the ground in the pouring rain, and it was left there for a good fifteen to twenty minutes.
Once the flight got underway, the trip was actually rather peaceful. Air Marshal Paul did a quick check of the plane, and after determining that there were no suspects, he settled down at stared out the window for about two hours.
We landed in Indianapolis around 11:00AM, and after picking up luggage (yay!), we took a limo to the Indy Center. Yes, a limo. Why? Because the player packet for the Pro Circuit had the prices – limos ran $10 a head and cabs would be about $20. Which would y’all choose? C’mon, it’s easy.
Once there, I had no clue where the guys I was rooming with were, so I dropped off my luggage in DeQuan and Barron Vangor Toth’s room – Barron is the designer of Raw Deal, the WWE CCG put out by Comic Images. Raw Deal is an extremely fun game. Y’all should check it out if you haven’t already!
After that, DeQuan went to work in the Comic Images booth in the Exhibit Hall, so I was left to roam the Indy Center. If y’all haven’t been to GenCon, I’ll give you a fair warning – you have to have a plan on what you’re going to do. If you don’t, you will waste so much time wandering around doing nothing. I went without a plan.
However, I did accomplish a bit on Thursday. I started off by roaming the exhibit hall and scooping up random Magic singles that I needed – Eternal Witness, Tooth and Nail, Mephridross Vampire, etc. Following this, I just roamed everywhere, checking out every possible game, getting a few cards signed, and picking up promos – there is just too much there to write down. It’s such a fun experience.
Around 4:30PM, I went to register for the Pro Circuit. Oddly enough, I met up with the guys I was rooming with – Steven, Thai, and Aaron – right at registration. I got hooked up with a hotel key and was left to sign in. Weird odds, running into those guys with all of the roaming I was doing. Anyways, I hopped in line right behind Scott Gerhardt, Christine Gerhardt, IQ, and a guy named Kevin that I had met at a couple of Magic events down in Texas. Who does this? I managed to wander the entire convention for hours on end without seeing one familiar face, but once I jump in line for the Pro Circuit, I meet up with seven people I know. One signing-in, competitor badge, Pro Circuit shirt, UDE pen, and some paper-work later, I was back roaming around again.
That evening, Steven, Thai, Aaron, DeQuan, and I all went out to dinner at a place called the Ram, which I have to give major props to for catering to gamers. They had gaming posters all over the place and a menu that was set up with a Ravenloft (Dungeons and Dragons setting) theme. The fact that the food was really good didn’t hurt, either.
We eventually went back to the hotel room (sans DeQuan) and decided to test for the rest of the evening. I ran Common Enemy through most of testing as I was pretty set that it was the deck I was going to play. However, as the night wore on, I started to become less and less comfortable with the deck. It seemed to be more inconsistent than I would like, especially in the early game. My build looked like this:
4 Boris, Personal Servant of Dr. Doom
4 She-Thing, Sharon Ventura
2 Darkoth, Major Desmund Pitt
4 She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters
4 Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius
1 Wolverine, New Fantastic Four
1 Ghost Rider, New Fantastic Four
1 Robot Destroyer, Army
2 Thing, Heavy Hitter
1 Dr. Doom, Victor Von Doom
1 Hulk, New Fantastic Four
1 Sub-Mariner, Ally of Doom
1 Thing, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing
1 Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria
2 Acrobatic Dodge
1 A Death in the Family
4 Common Enemy
1 Faces of Doom
1 Flame Trap
3 Have a Blast!
4 It’s Clobberin’ Time
3 Mystical Paralysis
3 Savage Beatdown
4 Signal Flare
2 Total Anarchy
At the very last minute (I had been asleep for about twenty minutes), I switched my deck out. Instead of going with the somewhat inconsistent Common Enemy, I decided to run the uber-consistent Fantastic Four beats. I figured that Big Brotherhood might not make as much of a showing as it had in the past due to it being meta-gamed against and the fact that there are many better decks, especially with the introduction of Teen Titans.
The final decklist looked like this…
3 Luke Cage, Hero for Hire
4 She-Thing, Sharon Ventura
3 She-Hulk, Sharon Ventura
4 Thing, Ben Grimm
1 Human Torch, Hotshot
3 Invisible Woman, Sue Storm
2 Wolverine, New Fantastic Four
1 Ghost Rider, New Fantastic Four
4 Mr. Fantastic, Stretch
1 Thing, Heavy Hitter
2 Hulk, New Fantastic Four
2 Thing, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing
3 Acrobatic Dodge
2 Have a Blast!
3 It’s Clobberin’ Time
4 Savage Beatdown
4 Signal Flare
3 Tech Upgrade
3 Total Anarchy
1 Personal Force Field
You’ll notice the lack of Overload in both decks. It seems like Overload has become slightly less useful with the lack of New Brotherhood roaming around. The only deck you can consistently use it against is Sentinels, and it seems like other cards would be better in the slots. A lot of the Overloads played throughout the weekend seemed to follow the Overload player using his or her own Savage Beatdown on the character they wanted to stun.
…And then a new day dawned…
I got to the tournament area *way* early and just wandering around, checking out the decks in the room and looking at the set-up. Major props have to go to Upperdeck for having, by far, the coolest design of any company there. I don’t have any pictures, but I’m sure you’ve seen plenty elsewhere. It was, in short, amazing.
The player meeting began (almost) on time, and it was pretty short, simple, and to the point. I do have to say, though, that Mr. Donais dropped a word that probably shouldn’t be used in a room with a bunch of kids in it. He informed the players to be cool, be professional, and don’t be a [word that is usually reserved for rules-lawyers and people trying to get a cheap win]. I wasn’t offended, but it was kinda unprofessional. At any rate…on with the Circuit!
ROUND ONE – GADIEL SZLEFER (BIG BROTHERHOOD)
Gadiel had qualified the night before in the Last Minute Qualifier (limited). He seemed kinda tired and not too social, but I don’t suppose I would be either if I had to stick around that late and then get up early the next morning to play again. I won the roll for first game, and held my own against his somewhat sub-par draw. I don’t recall seeing a Lost City, so he was having some issues. The game ended on the back of a Thing, Ever-Lovin’, Blue-Eyed Thing, a couple of Savage Beatdowns, and an It’s Clobberin’ Time to put him too low to come back from.
Before the next game, a judge came by and dropped off our extended-art promos – Batman, the Dark Knight. I’m not a huge fan, but hey, I’ll take it :)
Second game, I had nothing, he had enough. My notes show him going to 43 and me going to way lower. It was a less than impressive game for the home team.
In the third game, we were about even, but I was having to rely on men that I would rather have not seen (Thing instead of She-Hulk, Ghost Rider instead of Hulk) due to a severe lack of Signal Flare for the third game running. Turn 5 is really when the game ended. He was swinging with a Magneto, Eric Lensherr; Sabretooth, Feral Rage; and Mystique, Raven Darkholme into my team of Luke Cage; Thing, Ben Grimm; Invisible Woman, Sue Storm; and Mr. Fantastic, Stretch. I had a Personal Force Field and two Acrobatic Dodges, but he had *three* Savage Beatdowns and a power-up to combat my tricks. He followed through on Turn 6 with a Mystique to my Ghost Rider. Sigh.
ROUND TWO – DAVID WILLIAMS (COMMON ENEMY)
I’ve met Dave before since he is from the Dallas area. For those who don’t know, Dave has had many, many appearances on the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour, and is considered one of the better players in the world. He got his invite through Poker, though, as he just recently placed 2nd in the World Series of Poker.
Before the match, some idiot with a camera was harassing Dave and trying to take his picture with a Poker mag. Major slops to that guy.
Going into this match, I thought it was a pretty even match-up. Common Enemy traded out some consistency for control, while I had zero control, but I tend to get the same draw almost every game. Unfortunately for me, Dave was piloting a version similar (or exactly the same) as the deck that eventually won. What made the difference? In my eyes, it was the Reign of Terror. Landing that card on Turn 4 completely eliminates any issues with losing the early game, and it doesn’t hurt in match-ups against Sentinels or Teen Titans, either.
Game one went to Dave, as he dragged it into Turn 8 and then dropped Apocalypse. It was close the entire trip there, however, as the game ended with Dave at 1 endurance.
Game two was almost exactly the same story. Mystical Paralysis and Reign of Terror provided the necessary defense until he managed to make it to Turn 8, when Apocalypse made his appearance.
Well, I wasn’t too pleased at this point, but I was still content. I hadn’t even thought of Reign of Terror – why is that card so good? Unfortunately, Round 2 ended pretty early for me, and I got to watch the clock drag on forever. I’m not positive, but it looked like none of the judges were doing anything with time…they were just letting games run. We actually had one round that was supposedly 70 minutes, but dragged into 110.
ROUND THREE – RAY PUNZALAN (FANTATIC FOUR)
This was probably the worst round of the day for me. I played the mirror, and I played it poorly. Twice I managed to do some really sloppy math. One of those times, it wound up with me stunning my own guy and not his – the other I managed to cover up with an It’s Clobberin’ Time.
Sloppy math or no, Ray still outdrew me both games. I didn’t have a 5-Drop in Game 1, while he pulled up a Stretch. If I had an Acrobatic Dodge, Ray had an It’s Clobberin’ Time. If I had a Signal Flare, so did Ray. I don’t really have any other explanation.
At this point, I was about ready to drop, but I figured I would play it out until I got my fourth loss. There was still a shot, right? Again, this round ended pretty quickly for me, so I got to wait for everyone to finish. At this point, I noticed the same person was at many of the last matches of each round – Darwin Kastle. Oh my goodness, that guy is *so slow*. I know he’s a good player, but it was like watching VS in slow motion.
ROUND FOUR – PATRICK TALASHA (BIG BROTHERHOOD)
Patrick and I talked a bit before the round, and agreed it was kinda fun hanging out at the tables where it almost didn’t matter anymore. Patrick managed to get the World’s Worst Draws with his deck in Game 1, whereas mine performed about as good as possible, walking up the curve and recruiting Fantasticars whenever necessary. My final notes don’t show me going below 25 in the first game.
Second game, I think Patrick’s mind might have been elsewhere. He made a few mistakes, like missing the fact that I had a guy to reinforce, and he turned a game that would have been close into a game I ran away with. Again, I walked up the curve, I had a few key cards (Acrobatic Dodge at the right time), and pulled off a win.
This was probably the weirdest feeling all day. I don’t think I ever suspected I would manage to make Day Two after my third loss, but apparently, I wasn’t going to completely bomb out. I had a lot of time to think about this because Darwin Kastle gave us a little extra time.
ROUND FIVE – BRETT (FANTASTIC FOUR)
I didn’t manage to catch Brett’s last name, but I do know that he qualified from a Pro Circuit Qualifier (Sealed). He and I looked to have almost exact copies of each others deck, and they played like it two.
Game one consisted of both of us playing She-Thing, then both of us playing Thing, then he made an Invisible Woman to my Wolverine. My notes actually have us staying at the same life totals (50 to 48, 48 to 45, 45 to 41, etc.) until Turn 5, when the game slanted in my favor because of a well-timed Savage Beatdown. Going into Turn 7, I had initiative, so with both of us sitting at low life totals (Me: 9, He: 8), I managed to pull a win on the back of Thing, The Ever-Lovin’, Blue-Eyed Thing.
In the second game, Brett made a *huge* error in over-pumping an attacker while I had Invisible Woman on the board. He used a Beatdown and an It’s Clobberin’ Time when he didn’t have to, leaving me with enough gas to finish him off.
Again, this was an odd feeling. I had to play it out, but the odds were stacked against me for a Day Two appearance. I think this was the one round where Darwin Kastle wasn’t one of the last few playing.
ROUND SIX – IAN YOUNG (NEW BROTHERHOOD)
Ian had received his invite because he is one of the top Star Wars players in the world. He and I talked a lot before the game, and he came off as a generally nice guy. Props to Ian for keeping a bright outlook!
Game 1 was closer than my notes would show, but he had just enough to finish me off before I could make the comeback (I ended the game at exactly 0 endurance). There weren’t too many highlights to this match, it was about as expected from both sides.
Game 2, however, was a mauling. I mulligan-ed into a hand with She-Thing, Total Anarchy, Ka-Boom, and It’s Clobberin’ Time. I failed to draw a 3-Drop, so I decided to try and off his Rogue, Anna Raven before he could come after me. I played It’s Clobberin’ Time and swung into her, flipping Total Anarchy along the way. Unfortunately for me, he had a Flying Kick and an Overload, so She-Thing went the way of the Dodo. Next turn, I managed to draw a She-Hulk (as opposed to a 4-Drop) who died shortly thereafter, and the following turn I had to drop Ghost Rider (as opposed to Thing – no dudes hurts). At the end of the game, my team of Ghost Rider and Thing, Heavy Hitter were staring down the barrel of a Sabretooth, Feral Rage; Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr; and Mystique, Shape-Shifting Assassin. No dice for me.
That about did it for me. With no reason to hang out through the final round, I dropped so I could go grab some grub. I finished 188 out of 248, which is pretty disappointing, but I probably learned more at the Pro Circuit than I did through any amount of discussing, play-testing, or otherwise. I also had a blast playing all day long – VS is just a generally fun game. Plus, the next day, I could always go play in the $10K tourney, right? There was still an extended-art Joker, Laughing Lunatic to be obtained.
I’ll finish up this report later in the week with what happened in the $10K, two drafts, and anything else I did worth mentioning. Until then – happy gaming!
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