(Metagame Archive) The First Champion: Part 2

By Brian Kibler

Fade to black on overly long self-congratulatory introductory sequence.  Scene change.  Setting: bustling convention hall, packed wall to wall with people playing, trading, discussing cards.  Cut to Danger Room.  Cut to Doom’s Throne Room.  Cut to Daily Planet.  Cut to Batmobile.  Still: Bat Signal pans across room.

No matter how much testing time I might have put in, nothing could’ve prepared me for the spectacle of the Pro Circuit itself. I realize I’m the umpteenth person to comment on the tournament setup, but I just can’t go without saying something.  Upper Deck Entertainment really went all out to make the Pro Circuit memorable, and their efforts did not go unnoticed.  From the Batmobile sitting in the entryway, to the ominous mask of Dr. Doom looming over the judge’s station, to the amazing multimedia feature match area, everything contributed to an atmosphere of almost palpable excitement.

I had no time to bask in the site’s glory, however – there was much work to be done.  After registering for the event and filling out the obligatory paperwork (I find it incredibly amusing that I got my UDE membership number at the Pro Circuit itself), it was off to the hotel for the equally obligatory last minute testing and tweaking based on scouting reports.

Scouting before the tournament has even started might seem bizarre, but when you’ve been playing in big TCG events as long as I have, you pick up on a few things.  One of those little tidbits is the knowledge that dealers can provide you with far more than just the last few cards for your deck.  Because you know what?  You’re not the only one who showed up with a stack of proxies on Thursday night.  The hot sellers at the dealer tables tend to be a good indication of what the field will look like the next day.

The dealer report was nothing surprising.  The only real trends of note was Have a Blast! and Longshot selling out everywhere, and Wild Sentinels going for promises of firstborn children.  Good info, but nothing we didn’t know already.  It was common knowledge that most of the Magic pros without Vs. experience were planning on playing Sentinels, so the mechanical menace was already on our must-beat list.  Have a Blast! just meant trouble for decks reliant on team-ups, but again, that only reinforced what we already knew.

Thus, we went into our last minute testing no better off than when we arrived.  Now, if you’ve never been in the room with a group of professional gamers the night before an event, I’m not sure I can quite convey the sheer absurdity of the scene.  Picture a hotel room packed wall to wall with twenty-somethings huddled around decks of cards- on beds, on the floor, on desks; whatever surface might be handy.  Notepads, pens, and sleeves lie strewn about, and the air is thick with discussion, debate, argument, and everything in-between.  Cell phones serve as a bridge between any number of “situation rooms” like this one, as the collective sense of urgency deepens with every passing moment.  The chaos of the whole situation just cries out for an ironic subtitle: “Don’t try this at home, kids.  These men are trained professionals.”

This particular “situation room” featured Gabriel Nassif and Matt Linde smashing Sentinels into Fearsome Five, Billy Jensen and Neil Reeves checking in via cell phone with the contingent at Gabe Walls’ apartment, Dave Williams and I scouring tournament coverage on the internet for decklists, and Eric Froehlich ranting incoherently about who knows what.  Somehow, we managed to reach consensus in the chaos, and that consensus was simple: Listen to Gabe and Neil.  One very important quality to have in TCG tournament play, along with life in general, is the ability to recognize when someone else knows better than you do.  In this case, we all had to concede that Gabe and Neil had a better understanding of the metagame and the matchups, no matter what results we might scrape together at one in the morning.  They said Common Enemy?  Common Enemy it would be.

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