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Friday, August 25, 2017

Poromagia - Worldcon 75 Interlude

Ongoing Modern event, with some EDH players in the front. Arn (the player in the green t-shirt) is the one who helped me finding games (and not only that).

While attending Worldcon 75 I sometimes had to leave the convention center. There was simply too many people for me to handle and especially after I spent ages waiting in a line just to see the door closed in front of me I felt even worse. At first I thought I'd just go out of the building, sit down on a bench in the nearby park and chill. My curiosity about the Magic community was too great and I ventured to Poromagia - a local game store. I planned on going to the store for certain but I didn't expect to go there every single day. So what made me visit the place every single day?

I went there soon after the store opened and there were few EDH players. I walked around the store to check some games and other products, their prices (expensive) and the place in general. Then I went to ask the person behind the counter about events and the community. I was curious about eternal scene. I know that German Highlander is kind of big there but I don't understand how it came to be like that. He told me that the most played format is Modern and EDH. I also learned that they don't have that many events like we do for example, but they also have League play that obviously works there. Then he told me one more thing that surprised me - he said that normally the store is full most of the time. This is something that doesn't happen in our stores. People come there to either buy/sell cards but they don't usually stick to play a casual game of Magic or something. We come to LGSs to play in events and after an event ends the store becomes empty once again. That is also why League play doesn't really work well here. I didn't believe what he was saying but later I learned that it wasn't a hyperbole. It was reality! By 2 pm the store was full of people, playing Modern and EDH mostly. He also mentioned that the players would even loan me a deck if I would want to play few games. I didn't have the courage to talk to anyone, but he asked the players in my stead and I found myself having a deck in front of me and several opponents. That was certainly very unusual for me considering experiences from our stores. Note that those people never heard of me, knew that I am a foreigner and had no idea what my skill level is. They were willing to teach me Magic even, if I wouldn't be good enough at Magic.

I'll digress a bit to make one remark. The players had problems with figuring out my gender and age and I was too afraid to correct them or give them the right idea (this usually means even more hate for me, but I was silly not to try. The people were too nice there for this to happen...). Even though this was obviously confusing to some, they all treated me well no matter what they thought about me. I'm very grateful for this. I felt like a human being there. I really wish LGSs and the Magic community would be like that here too. This experience at Poromagia gave me hope that things can actually get better and if not that I can retreat to a different country and things would get better for me.

Arn, the Jarad player, checking if anyone of us could deal with his Lord of Extinction that would kill us next turn...we lost

After we finished pregame procedures I was asked if I know how to play the game. I answered that I know how to play Magic. I had to reconfirm that few times (note that everything on me screamed Magic, but obviously a Magic player without a deck is kind of strange) and then we could play our first match. I'm not entirely sure what deck I had in my hand for the first time (but the deck wasn't really good). The other decks on the other hand were nice decks, not competitive or anything but built to win. That was another oddity because in our playgroups many players somehow forget that a game of Magic usually ends with a player winning. Often when that player is me, more often than not, I become always the number 1 target. In this case nothing like that was happening. The players were happily killing each other and no one really complained (well, sometimes a player or two got screwed which didn't make them happy, but that's normal) about it (At one point I was playing a combo deck and I had to ask if I can kill them with Bomberman or if the game should go on. Obviously no one had problem with dying immediately).

I was coming back each day and always played some cool games of EDH. I had a great time. I was asking the players about their community and formats they like and if they don't have problems in their EDH groups. Actually their community looked like one big group rather than many small groups which is the case here. I also wondered if the same people playing EDH play also Highlander but found out that is not the case. Also while these players liked winning they were far from being the competitive kind of players we have here. I was very happy to be among players that enjoy the game and accepted me without a problem right away.

My artifacts were useless because of Stony Silence somewhere on the table, so they were pretending a board presence. Later on I actually managed to get some creatures and I could find Craterhoof Behemoth and possibly swing for lethal. My attempt failed and I died to very big plants with trample instead...

Apart from meeting very nice people I was also surprised by other stuff. I already noticed that the people in Finland 'work on mutual respect basis' and that they reach higher levels of efficiency because of it. That is something that doesn't work here at all but ordinary people tend to be ok. In Magic community, respect is often gone completely and the players find ways how to insult others or how to do some harm or steal. While this got slightly better overtime you can still see that people pack all their belongings if they just want to go to the bathroom (and I highly recommend doing this in our country, not joking). It's not like someone would just leave while leaving stuff (a deck for example) on the table and a bag on the chair. That is why I was rather shocked when many of the players went to fetch food in the nearby restaurant leaving everything behind unattended.

The decks I played were combo Breya (finding out that this deck often can piece two cards together, but Breya is still a beating), Jarad (that could also kill everyone in one turn), Jhoira (that didn't want to suspend anything and by some accident got more board presence than midrange and ramp decks!), Kruphix (that wasn't that bad afterall), mono black zombies (Gisa? With this deck I terribly flooded so I didn't really see much of it). I also had the opportunity to see a Shapefshifter Tribal deck, Saskia aggro, Ambassador Laquatus mill deck and Neheb the Eternal (that killed everyone with a Comet Storm with the help of Neheb swinging for 19). All the decks were interesting and seemed lots of fun (while also doing a lot of mean stuff).

This was an epic game that was all about hidden information and how I and my opponent would read each other. I decided to go with the safest route in the end and lost because of that.

As for competitive play, the decks at the events I saw - Modern, Standard, Standard once again (Standard Showdown), HOU/AKH draft - were varied. It wasn't the very compact metagame of top 8 decks from latest big event. I've seen anything from Turbofog to RDW and the skill level was very varied as well. Everyone seemed to be nice to each other though and the events were going smoothly without too much delays (with an exception of one round where two people took 8 minutes to try to kill each other, ending up in a draw). There was no arguing about where people would sit, no one was going outside to smoke when the round already started, people talked to each other in friendly manner... Everyone was organized and even there wasn't too much space to move around they all calmly sat down and started playing. I was amazed. Here sometimes one feels like entering a zoo instead of a local game store.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that their community is awesome. If I lived there I wouldn't have the need to play on Magic Online because I would have no problems finding players willing to play with/against me. And as I thought playing on Magic Online was rather looked down upon by many.

If you will show up in Helsinki, you love Magic or retro gaming, make sure to visit Poromagia (check their website). The address of the store is Opastinsilta 7B, 00520, Helsinki. It's close to Pasila train station which you'll most probably end up/pass through if you will travel around Helsinki.

Worldcon 75 - Day 0, Day 1

The 75th World Science Fiction Convention was held 9-13 August 2017 in Helsinki, Finland. Since the convention found its way to Europe again it was a great opportunity to attend again.

I did not manage to find other people that would like to come with me so I prepared for the trip alone and it cost me a large amount of money. To that day I did not even know how expensive the country be. I was scared it would be similar to Sweden and Norway which I couldn't really afford. All was well though. About it a bit later.

My flight to Helsinki was rather uneventful which was good. Me and my sister were taking the same plane though, what a coincidence. We also sat almost next to each other. When we got there I ventured on a 50 minute trip to the hotel I was staying at. The adventure started. I bought a day ticket because I expected to travel few more times during the upcoming 24 hours. At the metro station I was confused because it seemed that both directions lead to Helsinki. I asked about where to go and I was indeed told that I can take either train to arrive to Pasila.

When nearing Pasila there was an announcement that the Pasila station is under reconstruction. I didn't really know what that would mean for me but I suspected some problems. Anyway I got off there and looked for Pasilan Asema from which I should have continued to Herttoniemi. Google was suggesting that from there I could get directly to where I needed it wasn't something I'd see anywhere else. So a long search for platform 28 started. I've been running around Messukeskus (the exhibition/convention center) for about an hour after I totally gave up. Note that the bus station was supposed to be on a perpendicular line to the Messekuskes 400m away which I assumed was easy to find. I also knew that two blocks from the center there was a local game store - Poromagia - from which I could walk another two blocks to arrive at a different bus stop from where I could go to the place I was headed. I didn't find the shop either (assumed it would be very easy to find it as well). My despair was rather big and I was hungry. Luckily for me there was Subway that I really appreciate. Got a 6 inch Steak and Cheese and coffee and then ventured in a totally different direction, in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go. There I found signs showing that buses 50, 58, 59 go from a certain stop, so I followed it and ended up at a bus stop from which I could reach my destination (not the one I was originally looking for).

While I was running around I was also supposed to receive an entry passcode for the hotel. It obviously reached my mailbox but thanks to Google denying me to login I couldn't read it. I was also supposed to get it in an sms but I didn't receive it. So I called to the hotel's office if they could send it to me again somehow. After quite a while I got it! I was ready to take the bus. After 16 minutes later or so I got of in the middle of a highway which was supposedly the stop I was to get off (it was the right stop).

There I found out that the hotel is actually at an convenient place since there was pretty much everything I could need from grocery store, Subway, a cafe, post office etc (including a gas station, tire shop and a car wash ^_~). There was a metro station and the bus station, both being very close. In the hotel there was a public kitchen, sauna, public showers, laundry room etc so all was good!

After finally putting down my bag full (hardly) of clothes I called my sister to see where she is. She was at the Messukeskus getting her badge. I returned there and didn't get lost on my way to the Messukeskus. I got my badge as well and then we headed to the city center where we decided to go to a Thai restaurant and get something good for dinner. I ordered Green curry with chicken which was supposedly the most spicy meal but it wasn't really spicy. It was good though!

I took the metro to Hertoniemi. There I realized that I would have to somehow cross the highway and such. I managed that.

At the hotel there was supposed to be a wi-fi connection for free. Obviously it worked since my phone got online but my notebook didn't. That was rather a disappointment but well nothing I could do about it.

The first day of Worldcon started at noon because since 9am there was registration open. Since I passed through it the day before I didn't need to go there and stand in a line forever. So my first programme of the day was Always Connected, it's Mandatory.

Always Connected, it's Mandatory.
When I entered the room it was totally full but I decided to stand there and still hear what the people had to say. So how does social connectivity affect our lives? One thing that we learned is that even when we are not actively online using our phones the presence of our phone can be distracting us. The reason is because many of us are thinking about what they could have possibly missed. I usually go through my wall on FB and Twitter once per day and then I don't really care what is going on but obviously there are people that have the need to follow what is going on in real time (and they probably have access to the internet 24/7). When walking around I can see people staring at their phone screens and most of the time I see a Facebook on the screen. During the Worldcon it was also one of the most spotted apps, followed by Grenadine, Twitter and Pokemon Go.

Since most people have a phone and access to the internet people expect others to respond immediately or pick up their phones. People should learn that sometimes the person called can't comply or shouldn't because for example the person is driving, is not present or is asleep. Many of us have their phones or other devices turned on and online during the night for example. I'm used to getting messages during the night but some people should realize that there is a high chance that I won't reply. I also do not really have my phone around most of the time so getting hold of me is not that easy. I may find out that someone called or sent me a message 10 hours later. All this doesn't mean that I ignore you or do not want to talk to you. Some people accuse me of this and later become aggressive and start threatening me because I haven't replied to their 20 messages they sent me that I didn't see yet. Honestly, I don't like this and it shouldn't be happening. That's also a reason why I usually close Facebook while playing an event. I don't want to be distracted while playing. My response time will be likely somewhere between 30-50 minutes when that happens. One more thing people should realize is that I don't actually have internet access on my smartphone. Sending me imessages or messages on FB won't get an immediate response because I need to get online first. I may be an exception but after you find this out it shouldn't be too difficult to understand this, right?

What was discussed the most was the use of phone while driving. Different countries have different measures and sometimes even laws that prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving. Certain apps won't be accessible while the person is moving too fast for example and this thus applies to both the driver or passenger. Sometimes enforcing the law is not really going to help much. We have countries in which using the phone while driving is forbidden but in those countries for example the use on a bike is not forbidden, that's also quite an interesting thing. The game Pokemon Go brought many problems that people (or Niantec) didn't expect. People were paying attention to the game rather their surroundings and it sometimes ended in an accident. In some countries after people filed complaints about pokemon spawning at strange places Niantec actually changed the spawn locations. The pokemon stopped spawning at highways and railways for example since those are dangerous places to be catching pokemon at.

We also talked about social networks. There is also a certain behavior people adopted and many people want to be up-to-date to what their friends are doing etc. This is something that can be also devastating for some people because they somehow want to be as cool as their friends etc. This can lead to depression in some cases and I believe that. While I'm fairly immune to this I'm not immune to a large flood of comments on something that is going on. The reactions of people are often very aggressive and since now things are rather aggressive in the USA we can learn a lot about some of our friends and many people we don't even know. Racism, transgenderism are the topics of today. What one can read are often hate posts and that is something I don't really want to read. I get a lot of hate everyday in my ordinary life. Since I'm part of the oppressed group I can see what happens in reality, seeing people claim something else while having no idea how things are is painful. Getting hated for stating the facts is even worse.

Another thing that can have a weird impact are targeted ads. I'm also a person who ignores ads and if I pay attention to them it's usually because I'm interested in how I was targeted for a certain thing. In my case I'm often targeted with Asian Dating Sites, Poker and Expat ads. If you don't know me, this isn't because I'd be particularly searching for dating sites or something, one of the most used keywords on sites I visit or search is 'Singles' which refers to a single trading card game card (at least that's my explanation for being targeted with these ads^_^).

Here you can see that the algorithm used is totally wrong. Those ads are just strange but not hurtful. Imagine though someone who is expecting a child. This person will be looking for all kind of things they need to take care of a newborn child. Now imagine that the person experienced a miscarriage. The child won't be born but that is something that the ad targeting 'thing' won't know. It will still show ads related to newborn children which will be a painful reminder of what happened.

Life announcements are kind of weird of FB as well. Why would I want to learn about such things via Facebook? I noticed that many people actually give a very big importance to those on FB to that extent that they take that as the primary means how to announce things. Well, if I'd want to get married I'd send a paper invitation or announcement to those I care about.

What else I learned at this panel was that people probably use Facebook for staying in touch with their friends. It is more of a communication platform than a social media platform nowadays and many people are leaving Facebook. Advertisement and such were moved primarily to Twitter.

There is an upside to Facebook though - it is a good place where to raise awareness to things (it works). BTW If you think that FB knows everything about you, you should note that Google knows even more about you since it actually mines data from everything from searches, purchases and overal online behavior. This is something you can observe yourself.

Go watch Black Mirror if you haven't seen it already

Exotic Cosmologies
After the first panel I failed to get where I wanted several times due to very long lines and me not getting into the room. Next, I managed to get to a talk about Exotic Cosmologies. The presentation is available here. The talk was a good one but there isn't much I can comment on so if interested you can download the presentation to see what it was about.

Destroying the Universe with Vacuum Bubbles
I wasn't really sure what this talk would be about but I found it soon. In 2013, at CERN, Higgs boson was confirmed to be detected (the particle was discovered but it wasn't certain that it was Higgs boson). During those years there were people trying to warn that collisions of particles in LHC could possibly destroy the universe. While it was explained that this won't happen since LHC is not 'good enough' to produce such collision (the collider would need to be bigger than the planet Earth) the feared effect is something that could possibly happen based on what scientists observed and calculated. So what the feared effect was? A vacuum bubble.

In order for us to understand how a vacuum bubble (caused by vacuum decay) could come to existence and destroy the universe we needed to know what is a Higgs boson, Higgs field and Quantum tunneling. Since some people may not even know what a particle and force is we also got a short explanation of Standard model and different kind of forces.

In exotic cosmologies we learned not only about obsolete models but also about some theories how the universe could be destroyed. Big Rip, that we learned about, is just one of the possibilities. Another one and rather recent one is Vacuum decay which this talk was about. In order for this to happen we have to consider Higgs field being everywhere in the universe with non-zero value of strength. The strength varies depending on its potential (how much energy it has).

The Higgs field potential determines the state of the vacuum permeated with that Higgs field. It can either have a low energy state or a lot of it. We in theory live in a universe which is in a meta state, meaning that it can go either way. Either start decaying which can result in a vacuum bubble or become stable. In this state it is possible that a certain part of the one vacuum could 'move' by quantum tunneling into the other vacuum (talking about positive/negative vacuum) creating a bubble that would then start expanding (at light speed) and destroy the whole universe (the other way round it would create a singularity to which everything would collapse). Quantum tunneling isn't very likely though so for this to happen we would have to wait for roughly 10^600 years (an example).

Apart from this not being likely to happen, there are in theory ways how to avoid that - little 1 gram black hole could deal with the vacuum decay.

Red Mars/Green Mars
For years many people talk about colonizing Mars even though we don't even know how to get a manned ship there. There are people that believe that we would eventually colonize the planet. Some want it to be terraformed and some wish the planet would stay as intact as possible. There are many scenarios of what can possibly go wrong and how things would be handled. During the past convention and this convention I listened to various opinions on this matter and they highly vary. Apart from technological problems, there are also issues with laws. The Outer Space Treaty is very outdated and not specific enough. It certainly should be updated. It doesn't even specify what 'harm' is. There are things that are not even considered or talked about in the Treaty - terraforming and colonization did not seem as something that would be possible in the near future. Note that one of the 'problems' is the fact that space flights might turn commercial and this is something no one expected decades ago.

Anyway Mars is not the only planet or rather object that we could colonize or land on. There are other interesting places we could possibly try to go be it some of the moons like Europa, Titan or our Moon. Before we get to Mars though we should first explore objects that are closer to us, be it Moon or an asteroid.

While I didn't really enjoy this panel due to it being far too theoretical there is something that caught my interest. Sheyna Gifford was the moderator for different panels throughout the convention. She was part of a Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission #4 that consisted of 6 people (a field biologist, a fluid physicist, an astrobiologist, a space craft engineer, a medical doctor/neuroscientist, a space architect) living for a year in a 1200 square foot dome located on a Mauna Loa Volcano slope (8200 ft above sea level). These kind of missions are important if one day humankind would really go into space, land on a planet and try to live there for a while.

The first day at Worldcon was rather frustrating because getting to a room was very difficult. There were simply too many people and I failed to get where I wanted several times. I was actually very lucky I made it anywhere. Here's a picture of one line that was way too long for all of us to get in (me included). Note that this is only a part of the line...

When the first day of Worldcon was over I went back to the hotel. I bought something for breakfast, an energy drink so I wouldn't need to wait a long line for a coffee and pay a lot for it (lines everywhere at the convention center), and also something to eat for dinner. I ate and then spend the rest of the evening and part of the night talking to lowman02. I was very happy I could do so. He brought joy to my life and I really hoped I could meet him one day in person. He is like my twin. Finding a person who is similar to me is really awesome and it means a lot to me. I never thought I'd ever meet such a person and obviously I really needed such a person in my life. I'll still have to travel to meet lowman02 but I already know that such person is within my reach.

Since my computer didn't really manage to connect to the internet I couldn't chat with lowman02 via Magic Online where we ran into each other and where we usually 'interact' (lowman02 got interested in me after I ran into SugarDaddy and SugarDaddy told lowman02 about me). Lowman02 mentioned that I can also contact him via Skype so I installed the app on iphone and hoped that the phone would survive it. Unfortunately this app shares one thing with Magic Online. Both are serious memory leaks and drain the battery very fast. So next time I should bring a power bank with me!

It was a very long day and it was time to sleep. I managed that and looked forward to another day at Worldcon (more posts may come).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MKM Series Prague - Vintage Main Event

MKM Series Prague was an event I was looking forward to participating in since last year. Also after MKM Series Frankfurt that was rather a failure this year for me I needed another event that I could enjoy (3-3 in Vintage, 3-3 drop in Legacy).

A week before the event though I started to have a fever and I spent days shivering with cold while the temperature outside was over 30 degrees Celsius. It didn't look good. During the weekend I stayed in bed and hoped to be fine next week. On Monday I started feeling even worse and I took vacation for the rest of the week. On Friday I woke up with a body temperature that was around 37 degrees of Celsius. That was a huge improvement from the past days and I decided to risk going to MKM Series Prague.

Since I was sick prior to MKM Series and it was possible I wouldn't even be able to participate I didn't really care much about deck choice. I'd simply sleeve something up and try my luck. I created a poll on Twitter asking what deck I should play because there were 3 decks I was considering. Esper Mentor is the deck that got the most votes so I sleeved that up.

Equipped with this deck I headed to MKM Series venue to loan decks, cards and play some friendly games of Vintage with Tom De Decker. He tried putting together a Paradoxical Outcome Mentor deck and I was trying to play with a classic 'Gush' Mentor. I didn't have much experience with my deck apart a Vintage Challenge and Vintage Daily events so I wasn't really sure how the paper event would go (it was a total failure). During the Online events I realized that I lack counterspells and cantrips. I just couldn't figure out what cards to play to fix this. When playing with Tom I realized that some cards weren't doing much good in the deck - Snapcaster Mage, Merchant Scroll, Flusterstorm. I really wanted to replace the cards but I didn't know with what. Later I asked S4mmich about it. He showed me his version of the deck and told me that he feels that it is the counterspell resource that is needed the most and that is why he put Mana Drain in his deck and tried to fit another one main deck. I cut Merchant Scroll and Snapcaster Mage for Mana Drain and replaced Flusterstorm with Night's Whisper.

I also new that my deck configuration was the only problem. I felt that I'm not a good Mentor pilot. I didn't know how reactively or proactively I should play and that was my downfall during the previous events. I figured this out though during the MKM Series event, but at a cost - it cost me few games. It looks like the deck is a classic critical mass control. One needs to get the game into a certain point, have the resources needed and then play Mentor and beat the opponent with it and its tokens.

In the meantime I shared my Paradoxical Outcome Esper Mentor observation with Tom and told him what cards he should play. He was glad for this and changed the deck accordingly and later thanked me for all this. It helped him to win the event and I'm very happy about all that. When looking at his deck laid out in front of him I started to wonder if I shouldn't take out PO and Tendrils of Agony from my binder and play it as well. It was obvious after our conversation that I have way more experience with Tom's deck than mine. Thanks to S4mmich though I ended up with a deck I was content with. The two Vintage Challenges I played with Mentor were a torture and I really did not want MKM Series to be like that.

Round 1 - White Eldrazi

I kept a hand with several cantrips and lands. This is usually enough when playing against something blue which isn't a dedicated combo deck. Combo decks lately though disappeared from the Magic Online metagame. At MKM Series though I could possibly play against anything. My opponent started with Ancient Tomb and Null Rod which suggested an Eldrazi deck. One of the cards in my hand was Gitaxian Probe, so I played it to see my opponent's hand with Vryn Wingmare, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Strip Mine, Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Temple. It took me a while to realize that my opponent is missing a white source. I didn't draw any good card and let my opponent play. As expected he played Thought-Knot Seer removing one of my cantrips from the game. Later I managed to draw Strip Mine and I use it to destroy Ancient Tomb so I wouldn't need to face Reality Smasher. When being down to 8 life I finally managed to find Swords to Plowshares to get rid of TKS and I drew Mentor out of it. During all the time my opponent didn't manage to draw a white source and thus I managed to win the game.

Game 2 didn't look good at all. My hand contained two counterspells and land. This hand would have been good in the previous game but not in this one. My opponent played uncounterable Thalia turn 1 which was very annoying for my deck. Even though I had Swords to Plowshares in my hand I was saving it for Reality Smasher. My opponent wasn't really playing anything so I expected him to have few of those in his hand. When he drew a fifth source he played uncounterable Reality Smasher. I played my Swords targeting Reality Smasher and at this point I was glad I wasn't playing an event on Magic Online where the card is bugged and where my spell would get countered no matter if I discarded a card or not. I drew Monastery Mentor and played it which was possibly a mistake. I realized that there was a slight chance that my opponent boarded in some spot removal and I didn't have mana to counter it due to Thalia. My opponent destroyed one of his lands fetching Plains with Ghost Quarter and plowed my Mentor. Next turn he played another Reality Smasher that I dealt with but a duo of Vryn Wingmare and Thalia killed me.

A third game was similarly bad. My opponent started with Thorn of Amethyst that I decided to counter. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was the follow up though. Next turn I stared at uncounterable Thought-Knot Seer. Swords to Plowshares that was currently in my hand, I had to play on TKS in order not to lose it. I drew a cantrip that my opponent decided to remove from the game with TKS. TKS was joined by Reality Smasher and another Reality Smasher. I was lucky to actually have another Sword in my hand at that point and I top decked a third one. Unfortunately, due to my mistake, I did not have a card to discard so I had to take some damage. I drew Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that could finally deal with Thalia unless my opponent would have also played Karakas. JVP dealt with Thalia and later I played Mentor and won the game with it.

Round 2 - URw Delver

I lost the die roll and my opponent surprised me by playing Volcanic Island and Delver of Secrets. I tried to counter it but Delver resolved. My hand was pretty useless and Delver was a problem. I played Gitaxian Probe to see Young Pyromancer, Dig Through Time, Scalding Tarn and Mystical Tutor and I drew Ponder off it. I found Strip Mine which seemed as a really good chance not to face Young Pyromancer next turn since Delver decks are light on fast mana and colored mana producing lands. I destroyed my opponent's Volcanic Island and hoped to find something next turn to deal with Pyromancer. Unfortunately for me my opponent drew a fast mana source and played the Young Pyromancer. The game did not end well for me...

The second game was a total mess but in the end it was los of fun. My opponent showed me that he's good at missing triggers and he did not even want to kill me when he could. So I managed to miss few triggers too. Mostly it was due to out of order sequencing so after we agreed that the game would proceed with correct sequencing everything was fine. My opponent played Delver of Secrets. It didn't flip and was joined by Young Pyromancer. The next turn Delver still decided to stay 1/1. I hoped that my opponent drew a land but it wasn't a land. The drawn card was Scab-Clan Berserker. I stared at the board in disbelief since I couldn't deal with either of the 3 creatures currently in play and digging for some removal would cost me a lot of life. I took six damage and hoped for a miracle and I drew it. The fortunate top deck was Kambal, Consul of Allocation. I played it and it resolved. I had Mental Misstep to deal with Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. After this we both started playing some cantrips to find a way how to deal with the damage dealing creatures. Mine was more efficient since it actually drains life instead of just dealing 2 damage. That was something I really needed. This card was capable of getting me back to 20 life even though Delver finally flipped and started dealing more damage. I drew Swords to Plowshares and got rid of Young Pyromancer since I felt safe with Kambal in play (it was unlikely I'd die to the Berserker + Delver). The next creature I drew was Jace, Vryn's Prodigy which was all I needed to deal with both Scab-Clan Berserker and Delver of Secrets. Later I drew Monastery Mentor and won few turns later.

In game 3 I hoped not to die to Sulfur Elemental or Sudden Shock. I drew Kambal early in the game. The card resolved and eventual killed my opponent who certainly wasn't happy about seeing that card killing him.

Round 3 - BUG Fish

After yet another 50 minute battle I was totally exhausted and round 3 did not even start yet. Thanks to Matous Trajhan and Tom De Decker both on Paradoxical Outcome decks trying to kill each other after time was called I could sit down for a while and take a break.

After this unexpected and much appreciated break I played against the Mentor enemy number one. My opponent played an Island and let me play. I played Monastery Mentor and ran right into Daze. I guess my facial expression wasn't really nice to look at. I drew another Mentor though, slammed it and won later. Judging from my opponent's cards he played - Daze, Island and Preordain - I expected some kind of a BUG Fish deck. I was actually right and boarded correctly.

In game 2 I decided to try to kill my opponent as soon as possibly since I had 2 Monastery Mentors in my hand and I did not expect my opponent to have two Abrupt Decays in his hand. Unfortunately for me my opponent simply had all he needed and in the end I died to a resolved Leovold that I couldn't deal with.

Game 3 was very similar to game 2 with the exception that it actually seemed more likely that I would be the winner. My Monastery Mentors though got Abrupt Decay'ed right away and my lone tokens died similarly fast. I managed to get rid of my opponent's Deathrite Shamans, Dark Confidant and Leovold but my hand at that point looked bad. I had 3 lands and a Mox in it. I drew Force of Will, Mental Misstep and Mana Drain which seemed fine but then I tapped out because of something and couldn't Mana Drain. This way I tried to force Leovold but the card resolved. I was clutching Library of Alexandria for quite a long time (my opponent had Strip Mine and Wasteland in play) and hoped to get back to 7 cards in hand and draw a card at least but this exchange of cards totally ruined my plans. My opponent then decided to blew some of my lands which meant I could play the Library but I couldn't draw cards with it yet. Few turns later I managed to draw cards I could play after I'd resolve Monastery Mentor. I luckily drew the card, played it and then played a Mox. My opponent though played Abrupt Decay and I knew I was doomed. My token died to Snapcaster Mage -> Abrupt Decay and since I was down to 4 life I scooped. I was very sad about the outcome of this game. A pity because I really got the chance to win this really bad matchup.

Round 4 - Dredge

My opponent took a mulligan and his decision was so quick that I suspected a Dredge deck. He kept his next hand though so I wasn't so sure. My hand wasn't particularly anti-dredge since I had no fast mana, no Mentor and not even Mental Misstep. My opponent won the die roll so he was on play and the card he played was Bazaar of Baghdad. The cards he discarded were Golgari Grave-Troll, Golgari Grave-Troll and Bridge from Below. It didn't look good. I got the most lucky top deck though, I drew Strip Mine. I destroyed the Bazaar and hoped that my opponent would hit zero dredgers. I knew the chances were slim. To my surprise though the first six cards didn't reveal a single dredger. The other six cards were also a strange mix not containing a dredger. My opponent during that time did not draw either Bazaar of Baghdad nor Petrified Field and I had the chance to look for some mana sources and Mentor. My opponent then played Mana Confluence and Cabal Therapy that I quickly countered since I didn't want the Trolls to hit the graveyard. I countered 4 Therapies till one finally resolved and I had one turn to create enough tokens and overrun some Zombies that I faced at that point. I managed that and was glad that I would get two chances at winning another game.

I kept a hand with Containment Priest, Mental Misstep, Force of Will, Gitaxian Probe and some mana sources. My opponent dredged once (meaning 3 times) before I managed to play my Containment Priest. Later, he played Bloodghast from his hand and Cabal Therapy which I decided to counter so I wouldn't lose my counterspell. My opponent named Monastery Mentor for the flashbacked Cabal Therapy and missed. Next turn my opponent dredged with Stinkweed Imp which was rather fishy since there were some Trolls in the graveyard. It meant I would most probably need to deal with Contagion that I could counter. Since my opponent actually went for it though, it was clear that a second spell would be played dealing with my Containment Priest in play. I countered the first spell and failed to counter the second one. In that one turn my opponent could do whatever he wanted, he put three Bridges into his graveyard, played a land to get 4 Bloodghasts into play and at that moment I scooped since I didn't need to see the rest of the game.

In game 3 I decided to keep a hand with Grafdigger's Cage, a counterspell and Swords to Plowshares. With a little bit of luck I could possibly find another counterspell, Cage or Priest and win. My opponent was faster in finding two Ingot Chewers than me finding another counterspell and I lost.

Round 5 - Painter's Stone

Round 5 started sooner than I expected and I did not get enough time to get mentally ready for another match. I was hungry since the last time I ate something was like 6 hours ago. We were playing for 8th and 9th place but I wasn't aware of that. If I would have I'd probably just signed our result slip and went to eat something instead. The match was a very quick one though.

In game one my opponent played Painter's Servant that I managed to counter. My opponent didn't have red mana available but just a blue mana left. With that he played Grindstone. That was better than Painter in play. I tried to find a Sword, Fragmentize or a counterspell. I found a counterspell but that one alone was not enough to deal with Yawgmoth's Will and Painter's Servant and thus my library got milled.

Game 2 I'd rather not comment because I colossally screwed up but I took a picture so you can see what happened on turn 1.

After I lost the final match I went upstairs to finally get something to eat. Tom whom I helped with his deck came to thank me for my help and told me that they took an ID. He bought me a drink to cheer me up a bit after my last match and we talked a bit about Magic and the event. When top 8 started I went downstairs again to talk to Mark Poole which was one of the things I really wanted to do that day as well.

I asked him about why he decided to come here since he could have been in Kyoto at that time. He told me that he always wanted to come here one day so he could go see the Slav Epic by Alphonse Mucha. Unfortunately though, the paintings were in Japan!

After we talked a bit more I wanted to get a card signed. I wasn't sure which one though. My old Balance is too nice for that and my Library of Alexandria as well. Ancestral Recall though is in a rather desolate condition and I decided that this card will most likely be the best candidate. It would remind me this day and Mark Poole. He is a really cool person and I wish I could talk to him more.

Mark has really beautiful artwork from my point of view and can work in many different styles. While admiring some of his prints and playmats I found an illustration that I didn't see before. I suspected that to be Library of Alexandria but I had to ask about it. Mark affirmed that it is a Library of Alexandria, reimagined. I'd fancy such a Library on Magic Online. I bought Drew Baker one that I do not really like it (even though Drew Baker is one of my favorite illustrators, look for non-Magic illustrations though). Poole's Library would fit the digital Ancestral Recall and Time Walk very well.

After this I left the site to attend an Anime convention that was taking place nearby. It was quite a shock since the difference of the two venues was huge. I left a very luxurious venue and entered one that was very far from that. I had lots of fun at the con though and I'm very glad I decided to go there. A funny thing happened there and that is also one of the reasons why my weekend was one of the best I can remember.

A local Magic player that I ran into in Rhythm Games room asked me if I do not have two decks on me. I told him that we can play some Vintage if he likes. So we went to a Shogi/Go room and asked if we can play some Magic there. I wasn't afraid of playing Vintage there since I didn't expect anyone to know the value of the cards. One con participant came there to watch us play though. When he saw what we are actually playing he froze and stared at us with a blank stare. It was clear that this person actually knew what is going on or at least heard of Moxen and Black Lotus. After he de-froze he asked us if by a chance we don't have a Modern deck around. Well, I had one so I let my former opponent play a game and I took a break. I was too exhausted to play Magic. A friend of his came and we decided to hang out more during the weekend and it's been really wonderful!

On Saturday I came to MKM Series finding out that even if you win a trial you need to register for the event. This kind of makes sense but it didn't come to my mind. The registration was closed for Legacy so I couldn't participate. I asked if I can claim my free entry (and playmat) and the answer was positive. I got my voucher, playmat and went to buy some Japanese cards. I spent some time with Old School Vintage players, played a little bit of Legacy and then decided to go back to the Anime convention.

MKM Series in Prague was a really cool event for me since I got to meet very nice players and Mark Poole. I even managed to have lots of fun with Esper Mentor which was a surprise to me (a good one after my failures on Magic Online). The only sad thing about MKM Series was that there wasn't enough space for all the players and I couldn't play the Legacy Main Event. Otherwise everything was really good. Thanks everyone involved and see you in Hamburg or next year in Frankfurt!

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)