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Mini-Colony: Origins

Monday, July 15, 2002

For those of you who have been keeping up with the exploits of our intrepid heroes, you'll recall that our last destination was Columbus, Ohio for the Origins Game Fair. Ben Rubin, Eric Froehlich, and I made the trip to what is one of the year's most enjoyable gaming events. Origins - and gaming conventions like it, such as GenCon - is much different from the typical Magic event like a Pro Tour or Grand Prix. At a major tournament, most players arrive the night before, get some last-minute practice or playtesting in, and then head off to get a good night's sleep before the event. These tournaments have big money and pro points on the line, so pretty much everyone takes the whole event very seriously, making every round - every game - a hard-fought battle.

Origins is a chance to just hang out and spend time with fellow gamers without the pressure of a Premier Event.

Not so at an event like Origins. Origins - for those pros in attendance, who can't play in the Amateur Championships or PTQs on site - is a chance to just hang out and spend time with fellow gamers without the pressure of a Premier Event. Ben, Eric, and I stayed with Alex Borteh, whose home in the suburbs of Columbus played host to a veritable menagerie of gamers, the roster of which included, but was not limited to, Alex himself, Chris Benafel, Brian Davis, Neil Reeves, Peter Szigeti, Dan Clegg, Ed Fear, Pat Chapin, Tim Aten, Dan Rodemann, and the lovely duo of Liz Lempicki and Jill Costigan. Also joining this motley crew was Colonist-to-be Brian Hegstad, who would be returning with us to Virginia from Origins when all was said and done.

Borteh's house not only served as home base for all of our excursions to the convention itself, providing ample bed, couch, air mattress, or floor space for us to sleep (in shifts), but was the site of some of the most exciting gaming of the entire convention. Late Thursday night, while most gamers were nestled in their beds resting up for the team PTQ the next day, Pat Chapin - notorious for his love of bizarre formats - presented a draft challenge to those of us who were still awake - three man team silent auction sealed deck.

If you have no idea what that entails, you're not alone, so don't worry. We divided into two teams - Ed Fear, Dan Clegg, and myself against EFro, Rubin, and Jill - who tagged out for Benafel pretty early on in the process when she realized she didn't know the vast majority of the cards. That was because the sets being used for this format included nearly everything from Alliances through Judgment. I don't recall the exact packs we had to bid on, but there were around twenty of them - including the mother of them all, a Tempest starter deck. Each team had one hundred points to work with, and we silently submitted our bids on each pack to Pat, who awarded them to the highest bidder.

Soltari Monk
There's actually a lot to consider in this format, both in the structure of the bidding and in the evaluation of the various packs for card quality. Rath Cycle packs are particularly powerful, both because the general power level of the commons is extremely high (e.g. Rolling Thunder) and because it's the only block with shadow, which effectively reads "unblockable" against opponents without Rath Cycle cards. On the other hand, overbidding for these cards can allow your opponents to get a significant quantity advantage on you, as far as product goes, which can make their card pool much deeper. This is what seemed to happen, as the Rubin/EFro/Benafel team invested a large percentage of their points in the Tempest starter and boosters, while Ed, Dan, and I quietly picked up a significant majority of the card pool. It was a close battle, with our team pulling out ahead 5-3 with one unfinished match (in which I was in the process of losing game 1) by virtue, it would seem, of our choice of quantity over quality.

Lesser Werewolf
Beyond crazy draft formats, the game of choice at the Borteh manor was a political strategy game called Werewolf. For those unfamiliar with this game, the rules are fairly simple. In a group of ten, one person is the moderator, and the other nine are secretly assigned the roles of six townsfolk, two werewolves, and one seer. Each game "day", the moderator tells everyone to close their eyes, and then instructs the werewolves to open their eyes and silently select someone to kill. The werewolves then close their eyes, and the seer opens his eyes and silently selects someone to "divine the knowledge of", to which the moderator gives a thumbs up or thumbs down on their werewolf status. Then the day begins and the moderator informs the players who have been slain, and then the player's debate until they select someone to hang as a werewolf. This process continues each day, until either both werewolves are hung or the townsfolk no longer outnumber the werewolves. In the former case, the townsfolk win, and in the latter the werewolves win. It's a crazy game, full of intrigue, bluffing, and strategic voting and debate. In the many hours we played, only two werewolf teams were able to win - myself and Ben Rubin, and myself and Eric Froehlich, a fact of which I am quite proud.

We did, of course, leave the house and travel to the convention site itself on occasion, though few of us actually played in any of the tournaments we'd intended on competing in when we arrived. Ben, EFro, and I had planned on playing in both the Team PTQ and the $1000 Team Sealed deck tournaments on Friday and Sunday, respectively, but our Werewolf playing and otherwise staying up far too late for our own good got in the way of those plans, and we all resigned to sleeping in rather than showing up in time to register. The only team events we ended up playing were two on two and three on three team booster drafts - with the exception of Ben, who couldn't get a ride back from the site Saturday night and just stayed up to play in the Team Sealed on Sunday with Neil Reeves and Dan Clegg instead.

Catalyst Stone
The purpose of the Colony itself - that is, breaking formats for Worlds - wasn't much furthered by our excursion to Origins, but so be it. The only Standard or OBC I played over those four days in Columbus were about a dozen games of the u-g madness deck Jill was planning on playing in the PTQ vs. Andy Stokinger's Catalyst Stone/Living Wish-based Quiet Speculation deck, and that was only because Jill had left to find a draft and I couldn't help myself from playing with a Constructed deck that had been left sitting right in front of me. Then again, we got a lot of draft practice under our belts (if only three on three booster draft were a PT format!) and had a lot of fun besides. Origins was a blast if only because it gave us all a chance to hang out with the people we only get to see from time to time and play Magic how we all started playing it - for fun, into the wee hours of the night, surrounded by our friends and laughing and joking the whole time.

Such a utopian environment - gamers doing nothing but gaming all hours of the day - could sadly not last forever. Come Monday morning Borteh's house, once bustling, slowly emptied of all of its visitors, ourselves included. I can't really comment on our trip back to Virginia, with Hegstad now in tow, as I managed to sleep through nearly every moment of it - much to my companions' chagrin. When we finally arrived back at EFro's house, we got to work pretty much immediately, and things have been going fairly well - if erratically - ever since. We've gotten our mailing list set up with the German contingent, and deck lists and tech-talk is flowing smoothly already. As of the writing of this article, we've played at least several hundred games of each of the formats, and our testing and tuning seems to be coming along nicely. Our erratic sleep patterns have gotten in the way of things somewhat - Hegstad sleeps more than any man alive, and Rubin and I are functionally nocturnal, while EFro has managed to maintain some semblance of a normal human schedule - as all four of us are rarely awake at the same time for more than a few hours a day, but hopefully we'll manage to adjust soon enough to find something workable.

I'm writing this only a few days after our original article went up, so I haven't had much of an opportunity to get feedback about what people would like to see in this space. Rubin, EFro, and Hegstad will all be taking their own shots at providing updates on Mini-Colony life, so if you have any specific questions for them or myself, please feel free to post them on the message boards at the end of this article. For now, in the comedic stylings of Chris Pikula, I leave with you a selection of Colony bloopers from the past week or so…

Balshan Beguiler
1) I may or may not have played a draft match on Magic Online that was decided in large part by my opponent's Balshan Beguiler in one game and Dwarven Grunt in the next. I was defeated two games to zero.
2) Brian Hegstad, after watching Ben Rubin and I play a series of Standard games, may or may not have asked "Why don't you play the blue-black deck against that?", to which I replied, after a moment of confusion, "Brian, that's a BLOCK deck..."
3) Ben Rubin may or may not have completely seriously referred to the card Jeska, Warrior Adept as "Jessica, Warrior Princess"
4) The very same Ben Rubin, two-time Masters Series champion and four-time PT Top 4 finisher, may or may not have asked, also completely seriously, "Have you ever used a real washing machine?" after struggling to comprehend the functioning of the common household appliance
5) If you have three Soulgorger Orggs in play, and you sacrifice one to Animal Boneyard, you go to not one, not two, but twenty-seven life. Think about that...until next time....

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