By the time you read this I will be safely home in England, and probably enjoying the delights of jet lag. I do love coming to America, but going home always messes me up. At least this time it’s from the East Coast, but even so, my flight departs at 7:50pm and arrives at 7:00am on Tuesday. As such, my deadline for this is at some point over the Atlantic Ocean, so I should probably get it written before my flight.
T Minus 8.5 Hours
I’m always amused when I visit America at how we don’t quite speak the same language. I mean it’s well known that you guys can’t spell words like colour, but for some things you have just made up your own words. This is especially true for foodstuffs. I have started to compile a glossary of terms for the non-American:
It’s actually quite an insightful list. These must be foods that arrived (or were invented) after colonization, but before rapid and easy world-wide communication—for example we both have the term “burrito”. It is a little stressful for people with dietary requirements though.
One difference I do love is that you give free soft-drink refills. In England you get charged about the same price, but for every drink you want. This is so much better.
Even for words that are the same, you have to watch pronunciation or get puzzled looks from servers when you ask for no tomato (I need your collaboration here due to the limitations of written media, so please imagine a smooth English accent).
Whenever I see Gavin Verhey he likes to learn English expressions from me. Last time we met up, he adopted a number of phrases as we compared notes. Do you guys seriously ‘bike’ places? I prefer to cycle places on my bike. This time we worked on his enunciation; he’s getting much better.
I love how much Americans like an English accent. I was even told it was sexy at one point.
T Minus 7 Hours
In a continuing vein, there are a number of differences between American Magic players and English ones. My boyfriend, Matt, does card alters as a hobby in his spare time (@matt_alters). Occasionally he trades some in Europe, but there aren’t many people that value alters highly enough to trade at a sensible value.
In America it is completely different story. You guys love everything that isn’t a normal magic card: foils, foreign language cards, alters, signed—anything to make your copy of Elesh Norn different from the next person’s.
This difference puzzled me until someone told me that it was part of an effort to find anything to make you different, and that this was a very American attitude.
You also have different metagames here. There is more Delver in Standard here than in the UK, for example. The other notable difference I came across was that in Legacy there are many more of the classically “unfair” decks. When I attended GP Ghent most of the metagame was Stoneblade, Maverick, and RUG Delver. Here there was a much larger percentage of Dredge, Show and Tell variants, and Reanimator. Maybe it was just this week, but I saw the same thing in Gen Con and at the side-events in GP Boston.
Why is this? I have no idea. I suspect localized effects keep metagames stuck in certain arrangements—just look at the SCG metagame. Even after Caw-Blade had Mystic and Jace banned, they were still playing Caw-blade while the rest of the world moved on.
T Minus 6.5 Hours
Gen Con was a really overwhelming experience. I have always considered myself geeky—I got my first computer when I was 6 (an Amiga) and grew up playing video, board and card games, but it turns out that I’m really quite normal. In fact, playing Magic turns out to be a very tame hobby. The rest of the convention was filled with people in strange, exotic (and quite impressive) costumes roleplaying their way through the corridors or rolling dice to determine ship battles or goodness knows what.
I want to share some pictures with you from the trip, so here are some from Gen Con including the giant, sweet Serra Angel statue and a rather fine looking Scotsman I had the pleasure of testing with (commiserations to Scotland for losing in the quarters, but good job getting there!).
If you go to Indianapolis for a tournament, I can save you time on the sightseeing. There is nothing to see except the State Building and the Circle, so check out these photos to save time you can spend on playing Magic instead. It’s not an exciting city.
I had a week after the WMC before GP Boston to enjoy a bit of quiet time with my boyfriend. As is only appropriate, we spent it in the “other” Cambridge (for those who don’t know: I live in Cambridge, UK). It has a small-city feel to it, like the original, with a good number of green spaces, but it wasn’t quite as pretty. It does win the “American city Carrie would be most willing to live in so far” award.
We were staying in a quiet apartment overlooking the river a little out of town. One morning we left the apartment to find a majestic bird of prey just perched on the nearby fence. He was absolutely stunning.
Harvard is comprised of beautiful buildings that remind me very much of the colleges back in Cambridge.
I got to watch some American TV which is always entertaining. The adverts are completely different from the UK’s. There are many more medical ads, and they have the amusing format of 10 seconds of, “use our drug it’s amazing,” and 30 seconds of, “here is all the small print that would put anyone off actually using it, but we need to cover our asses.”
My favorite ad on this particular trip was an insurance ad by 21st Century. They had some bit about how puppies like both 21st Century and their competitor (with sales reps being loved by puppies to demonstrate), but then, because they are cheaper, all the puppies go to their sales rep—who is then buried under a mass of puppies. Am I the only person who thought, “don’t choose 21st Century Insurance! You will get eaten by puppies!”? Worst. Death. Ever.
Last time I was out in the States, I failed to notice how sneaky your programming is. You have lots of ads, but in between programs you don’t have any. I was happily watching some CSI: Miami (I’ve recently gotten into crime shows), and before I knew it I had gotten suckered into the next show. It was rather engrossing. It was called Criminal Minds and was about criminal profiling and had a serial killer on a college campus. But still that was another hour I lost of my day.
We explored Boston one day. It’s a much busier city than Cambridge with an interesting mix of old and new buildings—check out the picture of an old (by American standards) building with a shiny new skyscraper looming over it. They do have an awesome Summer Streets event that happens every year with performers entertaining live every day. If you like boats it has a large harbour with plenty of exciting ships to oggle at.
With a week to relax and not have to test Magic for a large tournament, we obviously didn’t find a local Magic store nor did we spend every evening there playing in the varied tournaments they hosted. We also didn’t stay afterwards to Cube.
Okay, we did.
Turns out, I quite like playing Magic, and Cambridge has an awesome store called Pandemonium. If you are visiting the area then check them out. They have events every evening, mostly run by local L2 Casey Brefka who is a great guy. We got to play Sealed, Standard, and Draft in the three evenings we were there, and they have great prizes. The locals are friendly and not opposed to a bunch of visitors turning up to steal all their prizes which is good since the Austrian WMC team was also there.
There are couple of names local to the store. I didn’t run into Darwin Kastle, but Steve Guillerm stopped by to say hi.
Elliot Raff has an awesome Cube that he invited us to draft with. It reminded me of my first Cubing experience with high-powered cards that were well balanced to allow varied and interesting strategies. I now have a new Cube nemesis—Flez and I will beat you eventually! I am currently building my own Cube and it further motivated me to get it done.
T Minus 5 Hours
GP Boston was extra fun. Having met some of the locals beforehand, I had plenty of people to chat to. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I love the social aspect of Magic. A big shout out to everyone I interacted with at GP Boston, in Pandemonium, and at Gen Con. I’m sorry I can’t mention you all by name but you made my trip really enjoyable so thank you.
My sealed pool was pretty reasonable at the GP, but I lost round 9 to not progress to Day Two. I did finally get the match I’ve always been after—I got to play against LSV.
I even had an edge few people can claim when facing him in a limited GP. I had seen his entire deck—it didn’t help.
He drew like… well, like LSV, to wriggle out of the stranglehold I had on him in Game 1. I’d landed my bomb, ([card nefarox, overlord of grixis]Nefarox[/card]), and while he had a Pacifism for it, I had the Acidic Slime for the pesky enchantment. However, four cards later, thanks to a well-timed Disciple of Bolas, he found the Divine Verdict to stabilize with. Game 2 went my way, but Game 3 was sadly a no-show for my deck. I missed on lands for a few turns and then he had the Rewind to stop the Mutilate that would otherwise have got me back in the game.
Would you keep this hand?
I did and Luis said he also would, but others disagreed.
My logic is as follows: with the Mutilate in hand you can basically miss on lands for a few turns and then slam it to wipe the board and probably go on to win from there. I actually employed this strategy a number of times throughout the swiss to good effect. If it did not have the Mutilate in the hand or two Swamps, I would have no issue with sending it back. As it was, I bricked on lands for a couple of turns, allowing Luis to overextend and then have Rewind backup to stop the blowout he knew could happen. I’ll get him next time!
T Minus 2 Hours
Finally made it passed airport security—turns out it is always Matt that has something dodgy looking in his bag. This time it was his book… didn’t know America had a problem with books, but they did let him keep it. For reference though, you might want to avoid taking The Dragonbone Chair through airport security if you are in a rush. Also don’t pack knives. When we went to a GP in Spain, Matt managed to forget about a knife we had borrowed during our stay until security flagged it up—that could have turned ugly. Luckily we were allowed to just abandon it with security. It is time to board soon (book and all), so I’m going to have to wrap this up. I will miss you America. I hope to see you soon!