f you're of adult age and have some disposable income, taking a road trip with friends is one of the greatest things that you can do. It's with this spirit of exploring and experiencing that led me to take advantage of the kind offer I received: heading out to Minneapolis, MN for this past weekend's U.S. Nationals tournament.
Of course, minor differences existed for my trip. I flew instead of driving. I didn't actually go with any friends (but met many once I arrived). I had some business things to attend to throughout the time I'd be out in the Twin Cities. However, there is one thing that was adamantly the same for so many others piling into the Minneapolis Convention Center: the love of playing Magic.
Call me sentimental, but the feeling of being surrounded by others who are passionate about Magic creates an electric, almost euphoric, heady atmosphere. Whether it was Draft or Constructed, through Duels of the Planeswalkers or against members of Magic's R&D team, or vying for the top slots and right to represent the United States in Chiba, Japan later this year, it didn't matter.
The love of Magic was pervasive.
Which brings me to my challenge: showing you an interesting slice of just what I'm talking about. The acronym SFMT, which I'm guessing doesn't already stand for something unseemly, is "Super Fun Magic Trip." It quite aptly sums up the entire experience for me.
Super Players at Super FNM
After finishing helping provide coverage on Friday (something you may want to check out) it was finally time to dive into some awesome Magic myself at the Super FNM. What puts the "super" in Super FNM are the prizes. Everyone gets the current cool promotional foil card (which for August was a sharp-looking Krosan Grip) and the rewards of battle start at winning just two out of four rounds.
While diving into heated competition isn't something I'm normally into, Super FNM is always a fantastic time and I was resolved to see it for myself. Having a blast was a bit easier for me as I introduced myself to my opponent each round, asking them if "Hey, is it cool if I take pics and put you up in my column?" and got things going on the right foot.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Since there's always a few curious, here's the Magic 2011 Sealed deck I finally settled into.
Adam's U.S. Nationals Super FNM Deck
Magic 2011 Sealed
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is seven, and arguably more, ways to deal with my opponent's creatures. Would it be enough?
Brian was my first opponent. He shared that he didn't like his pool but seemed satisfied enough with how it had shaped up. However, neither of us were prepared for the thirty-five minute game we were about to embark on.
Brian started by finding lots of great creatures with flying, like Wild Griffin and Air Elemental, but my removal was making things hard for him. Soon, the board was a gridlock of critters of all shapes and sizes.
Eventually Brian made his move by sending his army in and trading much of it away with mine.
However we were stopped up at another impasse. Attrition was building up as Brian used a Foresee to dig deeper. He was down to four cards left in his library when he ripped what he had been digging for all along: Overwhelming Stampede.
13 damage and my side was decimated. After thirty-five minutes of dueling it only took a few seconds to deal enough unrecoverable damage.
Game 2 was a pretty similar slow affair, but I was off to a promising start.
But in true Magic fashion, luck played its role and he had an early Overwhelming Stampede after taking my Canyon Minotaur with Mind Control.
It dealt some damage but didn't knock me out. I landed my bombastic Royal Assassin and deployed a few friends to try and take the dominant position on the battlefield.
But he played a well-timed Redirect on my Chandra's Outrage.
Ouch. Without my star defender, Royal Assassin, he pushed in the last few points of damage.
Hunter was my next opponent.
In our first game he had a lot of flying with a healthy touch of blue. But let me tell you that it was his black that had me scratching my head.
With two Gavediggers and some Liliana's Specters he managed to make me throw something away three times in the first game. The real treat came when he showed off his metallic bomb: Platinum Angel. But my Rise from the Grave had a handy Manic Vandal waiting for me in my graveyard.
We played more creatures and our battlefield got very full.
I was trying to figure out how to break though when Hunter showed me a pretty good way: Sleep.
Our second game was a bit of reversal of fortunes and I managed to get some solid creatures onto the battlefield.
Then my Royal Assassin.
I managed to kill his Royal Assassin and use Rise from the Grave to add his to my own.
While the game wasn't over right at that point I did manage to push through to my first win.
Our third game was a similar but even more drawn out affair. Trading Liliana's Specters and creatures galore we ended up going to time at the end of the round.
Rather than get into the "Whose deck should and would beat whose?" discussion I conceded so Hunter could get the win, and discovered that he, too, was going to do just that. And I don't regret beating him to the punch: he ended up winning his next two rounds as well!
Matt was the next opponent I faced. He was pretty excited that I was going to do a little write up after playing him.
Unfortunately, my deck wasn't going to be as kind to him as I fired on all cylinders, finding Royal Assassin, Howling Banshee, and Juggernaut early—though his Ice Cage was a nice solution to the troublesome killer.
That Banshee did the trick, however. Despite the quick game he held high spirits. I asked him what he liked about his deck.
"Baneslayer Angel." he said without hesitation.
"Well knowing my luck I know you'll see it next game."
"Yeah. Maybe." was all Matt offered as we started up again—oddly similarly. I found an early Juggernaut that ate through several blockers, as well as a few more friends to join in the fun.
And my creature killing spells were appearing beautifully, giving me a well-needed Chandra's Outrage for an Azure Drake. But Matt got his wish
And then some.
I had exactly one chance to handle the slayer of demons and dragons: my draw step.
Indeed, I found my Doom Blade waiting for me on top.
I hoped my rash of luck wasn't over at this point. While I got my first match win and stayed on for another round, Matt dropped out to move on. There is always something else to do at these events!
Intermission Announcement: Girls Exist
Adjacent to Matt and I there was a different match going on. At one point I heard Mind Rot, followed very soon after by another Mind Rot.
"Eww!" I exclaimed, and looked over to see who was making all these cards get discarded. I was greeted by a curious-as-to-why-I-was-looking-at-her Nicole.
After our matches ended, I asked if I could talk to her briefly.
Nicole got her fairly recent start thanks to the passion of her husband, Raymond, who himself started back during Invasion block.
She liked board games and role-playing games already, and moving into Magic was smooth. She didn't like that sometimes other players treated her differently (So hey, let's knock that off!) but was more than willing to hold her own: she had tried to earn her way into playing in the Nationals competition and did very well in a few of the Last Chance Qualification tournaments.
U.S. Nationals was her first "big event," but she is already a regular feature at her local game shop. Her only wish: "I want more girls to play!"
I know I do too!
Craig is a funny guy—I really enjoyed our banter as he shared how he felt about his deck and what he liked about things. Despite being unsure about his deck, he felt confident he could deliver for me.
He didn't lead on, however, that he was packing some serious bombs. More on this right now:
Our first game he had a foil Chandra Nalaar that wasted no time in tearing up my best attacker: Juggernaut. It took my immediate follow up Rise from the Grave for the Juggernaut to get him to drop Chandra to 0 loyalty. However, it wasn't long until he revealed that he had another trick up his sleeve.
Overwhelming Stampede was mitigated, but the cost of life is always dear. Finally he found another bomb, Magma Phoenix.
The obligatory sequel game was another reversal of fortunes. Craig didn't find much action as my Barony Vampire and Howling Banshee did their thing.
Which was hitting Craig's life total. It worked out okay for me once he suited a Runeclaw Bear up with Volcanic Strength and I had a Chandra's Outrage ready to go.
I won that game!
Finally, it came down to Game 3: guts and glory, or at least a pack or two of Magic 2011, were on the line. Unfortunately my nemesis of the round, Chandra Nalaar, made her second appearance and brought some friends.
While I worked as best as I could to get my deck going, my slow start was making it tough. Eventually, a Runeclaw Bear suited up with a Volcanic Strength was the end for me.
All said, I was still pretty pleased about how everything went.
Nationals was a rip-roaring good time. So good, in fact, that I can't even begin to touch on everything with just one article. Remember, this was just a few hours of fun on Friday night—there had already been two days of Magic and there were two more coming!
Participating in the Super FNM, and getting the chance to discuss Magic with so many new people, was amazing. While I've tried my best to give you my view of the night, exactly how I was seeing it, there's only so much I can do with pictures. I hope these snapshots in time convey more than any words can provide.
Join me next week when we revisit the past, with a twist.