Wednesday, February 14, 2018

GP London and Las Vegas Arcade Soho

When Rivals of Ixalan got a Magic Online prerelease I was hyped and hoped the set would be good and I could play limited once again. I don't play limited much but I also enjoy playing some limited from time to time. Playing some sealed decks during the prerelease weekend and Magic Online release is something I enjoy and usually it also means that I get an income of tix I can spend on whatever I please in the following 4 months.

This time around though things were different. There was a Magic Online prerelease. Prereleases on Magic Online are nothing new but this one was special because unlike previous MODO prereleases that happened 14 days after paper prereleases this one took place on Thursday before the actual paper prerelease. I was hyped and ready to play some early sealed decks. I wondered what the experience would be (if interested you can read about my early RIX experiences here - RIX Prerelease).

Since I usually play with the paper cards first I wasn't sure how the MODO prerelease would go. From previous experiences (players being confused) I thought that I should have a chance to get a decent records on them so I wasn't afraid spending my tix. This time around we had 4 round sealed decks and in all three I played I went 3-1. In paper, my experience was way worse and my records were 3-2, 2-2, 3-1. None of the games I played seemed to actually be games and I had no idea what to think about the format. Few days later and with doubts I entered my first draft on Magic Online and went through the most excruciating draft ever. I went 0-3 (or 1-2?). That was devastating. During other events that day MODO was lagging a lot and eventually the server went down or was taken down, we all got kicked from the server. That experience was awful.

Some time later I decided to give it another go and unfortunately the server decided to not work once again, it went down just after I entered my draft. I wrote a very lengthy email to Wizards of the Coast and wondered if I'd even enter another event. The reason why I wanted to play in RIX events after all those bad experiences was GP London that was soon to happen.

GP London

Ho! NissaCosplay cosplaying Huatli

I wanted to go to GP London because it is close and playing a GP that takes soon after a set is released was always enjoyable experience for me. I didn't want to go alone though because that would cost a lot of money. Another player asked me if I don't plan to come so we decided to go together and share the costs. He found some accommodation near the venue and I took the care of the rest.

Obviously sharing rooms comes at a price and in my case it usually means that I don't get to sleep much. On the other hand being a women and sharing a room with several men is also pretty awkward and makes everyone behave rather strangely. I just wanted to note this because it can be one of the reasons why we don't see that many single women at GPs. Back to our two player case.

I slept in the same room with many different players (all men) and I know that some are calm and silent and some snore a lot. I didn't know where on that scale Vasek would be. I got to find that out though before leaving for the GP. Vasek used to work night shifts at a hotel reception and from time to time I went there to talk or play some Magic. During one of the night shifts he said that he needs to sleep and went to sleep while I was drafting on MODO (and was suppose to wake him up if anyone would want something or would want to enter the hotel). That night I learned that Vasek snores so loudly that I couldn't even concentrate on what I was drafting and I couldn't even imagine sleeping with him in one room, not even at the same floor of a hotel. I tried to mentally prepare myself for the fact that my stay in London would be truly sleepless.

There were other problems that arose 'thanks' to the low-cost company we booked flights from. All ended up well and when we finally managed to get on the plane, we were told that we would have to wait 45 minutes before we could take off (because of low visibility). We eventually took off and arrived in Standsted about 15 minutes later than we were supposed to land. My first time at this airport.

Since there were more Magic players taking this flight we agreed to take a cab to ExCel London and share the costs.

At ExCel, we parted our ways. Me and Vasek wanted to participate in LCQs or other events so we looked for the registration desk. Since we had our luggage with us though Vasek first wanted to find a cloakroom or something but was either afraid to ask or didn't know how so asked me to ask someone else (he had hard time understanding English). I came to a green haired Channel Fireball staff and asked him if by a chance he wouldn't know something about cloakrooms for the GP players or ExCel visitors. He was very kind and helpful and even showed us the way there. On our way there he asked me if this was my second GP and totally caught me off-guard by that question. See, I'm a GP regular since our country's second GP in 2002. Since I didn't know how many GPs I attended I blurted something out and then later realized that the number I said was most probably pretty low. Not entirely sure what the reaction of the green haired person was but Vasek couldn't stop laughing since he is (now) aware that I play Magic for a long time (the thing is that people often think I'm some 15 years old girl - I'm older and I've been playing since the Dark, you do the math!).

Anyway after we left our luggage at the cloakroom we registered for a LCQ and as usual at big events we got paired against each other (in Round 2). My deck looked like total crap and I eventually lost even though the games were actually tight (considering my pile was seriously bad). The second LCQ I got a way better pool but was once again paired against Vasek and lost. I went to collect my tix and get some t-shirts (yeah, I need new t-shirts).

With that our adventure that day didn't end. We had to find our way to our 'hotel'. I knew how to get there so it wasn't a problem but Vasek seemed to be quite confused and started complaining about pretty much anything in London (claiming he'd certainly get lost and that everything is expensive). He reminded me why I don't usually try to be around Czech people - complaining is their specialty. When we got there I paid for our accommodation and then we got to see the room we would stay for the upcoming few days - it was a damp and very small room (and there was like 30 degrees celsius there! Actually just 25). Well, for the price we paid it was fine but we were sure that we wouldn't enjoy our stay there. There was supposedly an internet connection and I hoped we'd be able to play some events on MODO (or rather me during the night). We tried and after one draft we had to give up. I wasn't happy because a very long night awaited me (Vasek seemed to go to bed at 10pm while I usually go to bed past midnight which didn't help shorten the night).

Since my cell phone died the day before leaving for London it was Vasek's phone that was suppose to wake us up for the main event. Unfortunately it died as well during the night. Even though I was awake the whole night (a torture) I couldn't figure out what the time is since well I don't have any other device showing time or an actual mechanical watch. When it seemed to me that there was too much light outside for too long I went to figure out what the time was. It was 9:17 which wasn't something I wanted to find out. I kicked Vasek few times since he didn't seem to want to wake up and told him that well we should be on our way like 'now'.

For a person who didn't sleep and couldn't stand the snoring I was actually in a relative good mood but Vasek's complaints that followed during the morning managed to turn my mood into a sour one. Few minutes later we ran to the DLR station and were lucky to board the train almost immediately (like 45 sec wait). We managed to get to the site at 9:57 and went to find the sleep-in registration. We had byes so we were actually on time. A group of judges navigated us where we were supposed to be.

While sitting at the table, I really wanted a breakfast, a coffee and a playable pool. Instead I got lots of complaints from Vasek, a seriously horrible pool and nothing to eat and drink. When I was opening my packs I already knew that there would be exactly 0 playable decks in it and wondered what I'd play in the end. I had Journey to Eternity so I decided that I'd be splashing that in some RG or GW dinos I'd manage to put together. It seemed to be the most viable deck. My sideboard deck was Grixis Pirates. I shouldn't even use the word 'deck'. It was simply a pile of unplayable cards...that shared a creature type.

My first round was a terrible experience. I got totally run over by something that actually looked like a pretty nice deck. In the following round I suffered for a long time against Vampires (I traveled to Great Britain just to play against Czech and Slovak players!). It seemed that my Ghalta could in theory win the game but it didn't happen. I died to three rares that I couldn't deal with because I couldn't draw either Thrashing Brontodon or Cleansing Ray that I had both in my deck (since turn 3 I was being attacked by Famished Paladin with Squire's Devotion on it) nor any kind of removal, Hunt the Weak would have been awesome. While the odds were in my favor I still lost and I didn't look forward to another round. I didn't want to drop because I wanted to collected enough PWP to be able to play in Nationals. Nationals were a really cool event and I don't want to miss the opportunity to play in it this year.

I went outside where everyone was smoking (I was told to go close to the river to smoke) and just pondered how the rest of the GP would go. The pool I had suggested drop after opening it, was the deck I registered able to win at least one match? Shouldn't I just give up and go play some Legacy? I went to the restroom were I bumped into few men, then went to fetch a coffee. In the meantime Online pairings were posted so I checked the table number and my opponent's name.

When I saw the name I knew that at least I was paired against a very good Dutch player. I wondered how the hell did he end up there? When he saw me he asked me how come I'm at table [zillion] and I answered with 'well, my pool is a total trash'. He was in the same situation which was pretty clear. A player like that couldn't lose few games in a row with a semi decent deck (could but the odds were low). We both were on the Dino plan and our game went relatively long because neither of us either had the creatures to go through or removal. In the end though it was Etali that was just too much for me and it was time for some heavy sideboarding. As usual when facing Dinos I 'boarded in' my Grixis deck. And obviously my opponent had a similar idea.

I opened with an Island. My opponent opened with an Island. I played a pirate, my opponent played a two-drop pirate. The game went on in a similar fashion and I wondered if I'd be able to win or die to Etali again. I had River's Rebuke in my deck and also a pirate lord that could in theory win me the game. I had more flyers than my opponent. I drew the lord that fortunately didn't die to Mutiny but my attacks were stopped by 2/3 Flyer being 3/4 with City's Blessing in play. At that time, Etali hit the board as well and my life total was also pretty low. I played the River's Rebuke. It felt like playing Hurkyl's Recall against Shops in Vintage. At the moment when you are forced to because you'd die next turn, at the moment when you don't have a win condition in hand (can't combo off etc). I knew that the Rebuke would give me a turn or two but it would still be very close depending on my opponent's draws. He drew 3 cards off the Ascend spell and produced some of the creatures that were on the board previously including Etali. The math was that if he wouldn't flip removal spell or a flying blocker twice in a row, he'd lose. Well, he managed to get lucky and got the cards he needed and I eventually lost to Etali once again (and my own creatures). It was a good game. I signed the match slip, checked DROP, and wondered what to do next. I was very glad I got to play against this player, looking left and right I knew I wouldn't survive playing against those players - they were misplaying almost all the time and also doing illegal plays at times when it wasn't a misplay. Losing a game against one of those players would just make me upset till the end of the GP and I wasn't in a good mood already.

I went to the side events registration area and looked for Legacy event registration slip. I filled it in and went to a table to check my Legacy decks. Since I was very sleep deprived and not sure of my ability to play Magic I decided to play Death and Taxes instead of 4c Control. I also wanted to play Death and Taxes because playing that on Magic Online feels like a suicide. In paper the field is usually way more diverse and while I prefer being on the blue side, the deck should be in theory better positioned.

I played in two Legacy events and they both were very nice experiences. I met many cool players and played some awesome games. Sometimes I got lucky, sometimes my opponents got lucky, sometimes I had totally no clue how to play D&T in that matchup and sometimes I had the game totally under my control. The decks I played against were Infect, UG Post, Show and Tell, BR Reanimator, UB Reanimator, Food Chain combo.

When I was there ready to play Death and Taxes a thought came to my mind. You know, female players are rather scarce, especially when we talk about eternal events. In our country at least, when a women comes to an event like this they are usually on Death and Taxes (and most of the time also at the last tables). I wondered if people would look at me and have some kind of prejudice (I don't usually play Death and Taxes so I wouldn't know - played with it like twice before at a GP and in both cases I was so 'lucky' to run into people I knew).

I got an answer to my question soon and it was better than I expected. I played against some players that certainly didn't appreciate playing against me and were also not happy when I beat them. Some players were cautious, and some were totally fine. In some cases the players were taken aback by my ability to play but it was also clear that they were comparing me with any other player they faced, no bigotry or anything involved. It calmed me. I could play Legacy, have fun, chat with these kind people and win some tix. RIX experience was terrible but the Legacy one at GP London was awesome. One thing was sad though. There were 3 Legacy events on Saturday and another 3 on Sunday 2.5 hours apart which wasn't really well timed for those that came to play just Legacy and paid the 'I can play as much constructed as I want' fee. We played 3 rounds each time meaning that we usually played just 2 rounds and split the last round. That felt very awkward. I came there to play as much as I could. There were many Legacy players at the GP and I really wished we could just play a swiss 9-round (or a bit less) Legacy instead.

After day 1 we went back to our hotel, played some Magic and went to sleep (or at least some of us, not me). Next day, we managed to get up (Vasek managed to charge his phone at the venue) on time. We both signed up for a Sealed Deck PTQ. I hoped some kind of justice would happen and I'd get some normal pool. It was way better than before but still nothing awesome. When the seatings were put up I tried to find myself on each of the stands except the one showing players whose name started with I, J or K. I went to a judge after losing precious minutes running all around the place. The judge seeing my puzzled look told me (even before I could start talking) that the players' names were messed up and that I should go search for my table under my given name. I went to the I, J, K paper and finally found myself there. My pool wasn't awesome but it seemed more or less ok. Once again I was on the Ghalta plan, this time I registered RG Dinosaurs.

In the first round I played against someone with a deck of a similar power level but I got stuck on a certain land drop and couldn't draw another land so I could actually land a threat and win. Even without that I was in a winning position but I really needed that land to win before the game would go awry. My opponent got what he needed and eventually won. Next round I played against someone who tried to somehow cheat me and was also asking judges how to avoid not dying and how exactly damage needs to be assigned for him to trick me. I felt like a total idiot and switched to 'Magic Online' mode totally ignoring a human factor and sequencing exactly as MODO would force me which is the right way to play the game but not really friendly way to do so. After I killed this player I wondered if I really need to play against players like that. I still needed some PWP so I continued in the event (well it cost 45 pounds so I had to make it worth at least part of it). Next turn I played against someone who seemed to be rather lost playing RIX limited but tried nonetheless. He was also on RG Dinos splashing white and was more focused on Enrage unlike me (my dinos were seriously silly). After he managed to miss several triggers, mess up blockers, I managed to win from a board position that looked totally awful for me. In the second game I played Ghalta being 100% certain that it would get Divine Verdict'ed (my Ghalta did not survive a single combat the day before and I expected similar result that day too). My opponent's reaction though was 'Oh you opened Ghalta? That's cool? How many times did you manage to play the card and win with it?'. I replied 'every single game and zero' and attacked with it into my opponent's 4 open mana because I simply had to (next turn I'd die, so it was either this going through or me dying next turn). My opponent scooped and I got a lucky win (I didn't ask what the white was for and tried avoiding explaining how my Ghalta died like 5 times already).

Since more and more players were going to the judge station to ask about dropping, a makeshift sign was created. Dominika Knapova was the one giving us tix and dropping us.

Next round I totally lost and decided to drop. So I went to ask one of our judges and she told me to come to her. I got a bit confused, asked again and then realized that she actually replied to my question because she was the judge I was supposed to come to drop me. I collected my tix and went to roam the hall. There was nothing I wanted to spend my tix on so I was just walking around looking for some Japanese cards I'd want and other cards for reasonable prices. I found some cards like that, so I bought them. Prices in pounds were all very depressing so I didn't even need to look what the stores offered. The ones using EURs as a currency were fine and I managed to get some good deals and finally bought a Japanese Knight of the Reliquary. I didn't find anything awesome though which was the case at other events (usually thanks to Hareruya).

After that it was time for some Chozen meal (Spicy sesame chicken) and coffee. Then I went to the prize wall again. Still nothing that caught my interest, so I at least turned 10 tix for a key hanger. Then I signed up for another Legacy event. That is how I spent the rest of the GP, in the company of nice Legacy players, playing some games, chatting about bugs on MODO, Legacy decks, and communities all over the world. I was very sad when I had to leave that company and go look for Vasek somewhere trying to play IMA drafts.

After listening to his bad beats stories, we left ExCel and went to get something cheap to eat. I ate too much but it felt good. We played some Legacy then while trying to figure out what we would be doing on Monday. My original plan was to meet with AJ Impy from PureMTGO but unfortunately he was very ill. I decided to join Vasek who wanted to do some sightseeing but the more I thought of that I just had the urge to leave him there somewhere in the middle of the town. I agreed to take him where he needed and to get tickets to Standsted.

Las Vegas Arcade Soho

Vasek wanted to go to the Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square etc. so I took him to Oxford Circus and then I wondered if I really want to go to see the Buckingham Palace for Nth time. I didn't want that. I was sleep deprived and not in great mood and what I really needed was to bash some buttons mindlessly. Well, since we were somewhere on Oxford Street I asked Vasek for his phone to check if LV was open. It was. We parted our ways. Were were to meet in several hours at the middle of the Oxford Street. I went to Wardour Street (got totally wet because it started raining), went down the stairs of LV and stared at Prime 2 Pump it Up machine! I decided that it's going to be the first machine I'd play on.

After trying all change machines I finally got some pounds I could feed the machines with. I put one pound into PIU Prime 2, almost jumped when I heard the sound it made and soon after that froze in horror because I probably would need to know something like how to enter full control mode and stuff. I certainly didn't want to be stuck with beginner mode. I didn't look that up prior going there. Fortunately I was saved because that instruction was there on the wall next to the machine (I just totally missed it). I entered the code and choose a random song because I didn't know a single song from the songlist (at least the part which I went through within the time limit). I totally 'failed' it and stared at a very lousy B on the big screen. I just played a level 18 song and it felt like I'd die if I had to play it once again. I wondered if my body that didn't sleep for three days was the reason for that feeling or if the difficulty scale was different (I could FC some 22 level songs - meaning I could A them on Nightmare - for comparison for those who don't know me). I realized that I'm about to spend some time in the arcades and should play easier songs since obviously I couldn't play PIU that day. So I played level 10-14 Nightmare songs and just enjoyed moving around. Sometimes I got surprised by some gimmicky stuff in the step charts (usually BPM changes) which resulted in me flailing my arms. I felt like a total idiot. Some people came to the arcades to play music games and I felt even worse. A player that came and was recording his ITG session though smiled at me and showed me thumbs up after I almost Sed some song on NM (I missed one note). I regained some confidence, smiled back and played some more songs.

After that I moved on too that ITG machine. After browsing the folders I decided to stick to In The Groove and DDR Supernova. I was totally offsync but I managed to have some fun playing a four-panel game.

I got tired afterwards so I decided to see if I can play some games requiring me to use hands instead of my feet. I went to Jubeat Qubell machines. I wasn't really sure how to operate the machine and I didn't figure out under what button I'd find Settings (there is only one Marker I can actually read and hit at the right time - the one showing the time counter). I was looking for セッティング but that wasn't anywhere to be seen. In the end I tapped the only button I didn't tap on - Concierge - and got were I wanted finally. It took me two songs to figure out so I played some random song each time. I full comboed it though^_^. After that I played some songs I wanted to play like CanCan, Sakura Storm and Diavolo. My fingers and arms ached a lot and after my arms decided to spasm in the middle of Evans EXT I decided to move to another machine again.

That's how it looks like if you can't hit the notes at the right time!

After some more credits spent on dancing machines I went to try Pop'n Music. I wasn't entirely sure if I could clear anything after my experience with playing level 9 and 10 songs in Jubeat. I clicked through the screens on PNM and then got to the songlist where I realized that it has English names of songs listed and that I can't recognize the songs because of that (for example Sakura Storm is one of the songs I had no idea that it is called 'Sakura Storm'). I switched to sort by level and set it to level 37 or 38 and played the first song that seemed as a good choice. My first few hits on the controller resulted in 'Good' written on the screen. I tried to adjust but ended up with 570 Goods, 100 Greats/Cools and some misses. Well, that was really bad. I got to play another song though. So I choose one at random again and tried to shift my timing way more than before in one or the other direction - I cleared the song this time with like 300 goods and 300 greats^_^. The last song I played I finally managed to figure out where or when more or less I should confirm the notes and got rewarded with 300ish Cools and 300 Greats. My choice of a speed mod wasn't the best either but I made it through and had some fun playing PNM. Now I can say that I played on a PNM machine! Achievement unlocked!

After I played all the games I wanted I had to leave. My time in LV was over for. When I was leaving I got a message from Vasek that he's already at the meeting point. He was early and I was about to be late. I rushed out of LV and hoped that I actually walked in the correct direction. After I walked for about 10 minutes in that direction I asked someone to be sure. Fortunately for me I was just few meters away from Oxford Street.

We went to Costa Coffee so I could refresh my self, go to the restroom and make myself look like a human being. I looked seriously terrible. I drank my smoothie including ice cubes that melted in the meantime. During that we talked about stuff and also Vasek asked me if I could loan him some money so he could buy a present for his girlfriend. After we bought the presents it was time to go to the airport.

I bought tickets for the train, we boarded the train which was leaving in 5 minutes and successfully arrived to the airport. It was a nice evening and we watched the sunset (at least I did while Vasek was smoking).

We then decided to go to Burger King, get something to eat and play some Legacy. A Magic judge was sitting next to us and obviously wanted to be home as soon as possible. Vasek got some Legacy lessons and then it was time to go. We didn't have much time so I just walked there at my usual speed which obviously surprised Vasek who in the end said 'that I may be small but I walk hell too fast!'. At our gate there was an utter mess. After changing gates with other flight, a relatively long delay, we finally boarded our plane and could take off.

We flew during the night so we could enjoy really nice patters created by all the lights. That was pretty awesome. Otherwise we talked about Magic, work and life and then landed at Prague airport. Vasek's girlfriend came to pick him up so I waved them good bye and went to wait for a bus to nearest subway station. It was freezing cold outside and I learned I'd have to wait there for 20 minutes. I don't mind cold but spending the whole trip in a t-shirt and being exhausted took its toll and I started to feel the cold as well. To pass my time I took out my Kindle and continued reading Hour of Devastation collected stories that I compiled.

In my flat I could finally sleep and that's what I did. I woke up in the afternoon next day with players asking me for a deck for the upcoming Pro Tour. I was glad I took a day off. I got up, opened Magic Online, played a draft and finally went 3-0. Unfortunately it did not make me feel any better. I felt defeated. GP London was full of frustrating moments but also full of good ones. I've never lost so many matches at a GP and that felt very badly, even weeks from it. That is the reason I didn't produce a report, nor a PureMTGO article, nor any other Magic related content.

This weekend though I went to a sealed deck PPTQ. It didn't go well but it was fun and hopefully the bad feeling from the GP is gone and I can get back to playing Magic without feeling that it will just get worse for me. Thank you for reading.

S'Tsung (I'm stsung on MODO and stsungjp at Twitter).