I’m pretty sure that GenCon was worth enough material to keep GDC going well into the holidays this year.  Mr. P has stepped up with quite a bit of stuff already, and there’s more to come.  This is probably because we’re both very opinionated, wordy, and neither one of us really knows when to shut up.  More realistically, though, is the fact that a lot of EDH material was witnessed by Team GDC in Indianapolis this year – good, bad and ugly. 
We’re still trying to process it all. 
What I wanted to do today is to knock out all of the rest of my recaps so I can move on with other content.  (Xiahou Dun folks, I’m looking in your direction!)  Part of my reasoning is that I also want to put this stuff behind me; while I had a blast at GenCon this year, the EDH portion left me a little upset and with a slightly bad taste in my mouth.
Translation: Today is value day.  Prepare for a long read.  Make a sandwich or grab a drink, and find a comfy chair.  This might take a while, but I promise it’ll be entertaining… 
I’m going to speak to my first-hand experience with the Commander Constructed events that occurred nightly, how they affected my deck decisions before and after Thursday, and the mother of all train wrecks that occurred on Saturday night.  Spoiler alert – I hold Pastimes (the gaming store responsible for all Magic events at GenCon) and Wizards of the Coast to a lesser extent responsible for what happened, and it is drastically affecting how I access EDH in specific, and Magic in general.
I’m probably going to go off a little as a result. 
For now, I will say this – hundreds of people signed up for Commander events over the four days of GenCon this year, but I’ll wager the number of people in those events that actually played Commander is a fraction of that.
More on this later.
I didn’t actually sign up for a Commander event until three days before we left for Indy.  This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering all that went down last year and my well-documented expectations for this year.  I finally came to the realization that I have a certain (possibly self-imposed and absolutely self-aggrandized) journalistic responsibility to my readers as a blogger and author for the EDH community.  This is the biggest gaming event of the year, and I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t try to experience our format on the biggest possible stage, and report it back to you.
So I bought my tickets for the 11pm Commander event, and Mr. P and I started brewing.
We knew that I should be expecting rampant combo, and I also knew that I wasn’t going to be the guy who talks all year long about hating on those strategies and then falls in and plays them at the last minute.  That’s just not me.  Call it misplaced altruism, but I’d rather lose with my standards intact than win by going over to the dark side.  So I basically had to decide what to do from there. 
Last year, I played my Kresh deck.  I consider it to be competitive, but it’s an aggro deck at the core.  And I sat totally dead in the water watching an Erayo-on-Erayo love-fest in the final round.  That sucked, and I wasn’t going there again, so I decided that I would take a different slant. 
I was going to play the metagame deck.
We knew that I would not be able to contain three other combo decks in each round of the events, and I wasn’t planning on being able to outpace them either, so we decided to take my existing Intet list and modify it to spoil combo decks.  We put a focus on being able to answer early combo components, plenty of Misdirection-style effects, and things that would punish strategies like excessive card draw.  I knew that I’d be dead in the water to any dedicated aggro strategies, and that was fine; if I was able to shut down a Palinchron-Stroke of Genius deck long enough for a tribal angels deck to swing for the win, I’d be perfectly happy.
Here’s the list I took with me on Thursday night:
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

Phyrexian Metamorph

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Seedborn Muse

Deadeye Navigator

Mystic Snake

Zealous Conscripts

Draining Whelk

Urabrask The Hidden

Acidic Slime

Bogardan Hellkite


Woodfall Primus

Sakashima’s Student

Consecrated Sphinx


Coiling Oracle

Yavimaya Elder

Solemn Simulacrum

Primeval Titan

 Trinket Mage

Eternal Witness


Rhystic Study

Scroll Rack

Sensei’s Divining Top

Sylvan Library

Cerebral Vortex

Fact Or Fiction

Oblivion Stone

Krosan Grip

Beast Within

Storm Seeker


Spell Crumple





Sol Ring

Hunting Wilds

Skyshroud Claim

Darksteel Ingot

Cryptic Command


Tooth and Nail

Mystical Tutor


Rite Of Replication

Fires Of Yavimaya

Mimic Vat


Cultural Exchange

Knowledge Exploitation

Wild Ricochet

Crystal Shard

Leyline of Anticipation

Relic of Progenitus

Spitting Image

Paraelectric Feedback

Gather Specimens
Bonfire of the Damned
Breeding Pool

Academy Ruins

Command Tower

Evolving Wilds

3x Forest

High Market

4x Island

Desolate Lighthouse

Miren, The Moaning Well

Misty Rainforest

Reflecting Pool

3x Mountain

Reliquary Tower

Scalding Tarn

Steam Vents

Stomping Ground

Strip Mine


Temple of the False God

Terramorphic Expanse

Alchemist’s Refuge

Tropical Island


Volcanic Island

Winding Canyons

Wooded Foothills

Hinterland Harbor

Sulfur Falls

Exotic Orchard
Out went the “top of the deck matters” Intet theme in favor of effects like Storm Seeker and Cerebral Vortex.  I upped my counterspell count, and finally switched out Intet for Riku for the ability to gain value through copies of my big spells.  I knew this would also cause people to put me on combo, which was fine; if I could force someone to either hold back a bit too much or over-extend, that would only help me in the long run. 
It seemed like a great plan at the time…

Patrick dropped a great tournament report and post-mortem on this event already.  If you’re looking for the bottom line, I came in 5th out of twenty-seven.  It probably should have been higher as well (not that I would have come anywhere near winning either way, but third and forth got uncut M13 sheets!) as the Pastimes crew working the event didn’t seem to have clear instruction on how to score things, and things seemed to change from round to round.  For example, on Thursday coming in second out of four players in a pod was worth the same as coming in third or fourth – two points.  By the time Saturday rolled around, second was worth three points, third was worth two, and last was worth one.  Both of these events were qualifiers for the same GenCon Championships, so it’s safe to say that some people got screwed over one way or the other by Pastimes.  I was shorted two points in total, which was good for third place (assuming that no one else was victim to this either, which is likely a false assumption, and I’m probably complaining for nothing anyway!) 
I hope someone with GenCon LLC is taking notes.
Round One
I was still getting my sea legs during this one.  I was seated with my friend John (whom I’d played against last year in this event) playing his aggro Animar list.  It was really nice to catch back up to him and his family, who were well represented again this year.  There was also a Savra player, and a Sliver Overlord deck played by a level-one judge.
Last year, one of the top two Erayo decks was piloted by a level-one judge too.
It’s always a level-one judge. 
Anyway, John knew what was up from the get-go.  He turned to the Sliver player right off-
“Nice general!  What other slivers do you play in the deck?”
The guy looked pale.
“Er…you know…a few.  I don’t remember exactly…”
Suuuuuuuuure, buddy.
Anyway, we all had a bit of trouble getting going.  The Savra player was having trouble finding a critical sacrifice outlet that would get his game going, and I kept a hand with a Sylvan Library that kept revealing nothing but lands.  John was growing his Animar, but not fast enough to stop the Sliver player from finally dropping Palinchron and Mirari’s Wake and drawing his deck, then Stroking us each out in turn. 
I was third out.  The Sliver player couldn’t take the hint that the rest of us weren’t very impressed by what he did, and kept talking until he realized we were all ignoring him or had wandered off.
Lesson learned: I need to aggressively mulligan into quicker answers.  My deck needs more two-drop counterspells, and I need to keep card advantage to pace decks like this. 
Also, never trust anyone playing Sliver Overlord who can’t name another sliver without pausing to think.
DJ: 0
Round Two

Pastimes got to display ineptitude again right off the bat.  When second round pairings came up, I was seated in a pod with the winning Sliver Overlord player from the last round, as well as John again. 
I pointed this out and we got a re-pair.  They did much better the second time…
Round Two, Take Two

Since we all had the exact same records, I was now seated with John again, as well as the Savra player instead of the Sliver guy.
Great job, Pastimes.  See the problem with your system yet?
Anyway, the third player was running Kaalia of the Vast.  I think we all had him pegged as the aggressor from the get-go; Sure enough, Kaalia hit the table immediately, swung at me, and invited Gisela, Blade of Goldnight to the party. 
As a result, all three of us went to work on the Kaalia player.  He seemed a little irritated (or confused), as every time he got the opportunity, he said, “You know, you can all deal each-other double damage with Gisela out…”  Finally, John simply said, “We know that, but you’re the biggest threat.” 
John took the final life points and was awarded the two packs for the Kaalia kill.  He immediately offered the Kaalia player one of the packs.

“No one should leave empty-handed after paying full price for admission”, he said.

John is one of the good guys, folks.  If you’re reading this, thanks for keeping the spirit of the format alive in a very hostile environment.
My memory is a little dull on the rest of this round, but John took it down, while my deck performed as expected, performing with difficulty against the aggro onslaught.
I was third out again.  John gave both myself and the Savra player a pack. 
Lessson learned: if you’re Pastimes, figure out how to score your events before they start.  If you’re me, don’t get paired against aggro.  Also, it may not be a good idea to lead with Gisela if you’re playing Kaalia.
DJ: 0
Combo: 1
(The round is a push since we miraculously missed each-other.)
Round Three

This was the round that brought it all together – Riku paid off and I was able to stop combo from…er…combo-ing.  I also caused a player to rage-quit with one of his own cards, and the Pastimes staff got to drop one of the craziest rulings I’d ever heard.  (Until Saturday, anyway….)
I was seated across from Merieke Ri Berit and next to Scion of the Ur-Dragon.   (Warning bells, anyone?).  The Merieke player brought a friend, who was playing Doran, the Siege Tower.  He leaned over and asked what Riku did.
“He accelerates into taking infinite turns and kills us all with Stroke of Genius.”, the Merieke player helpfully chimed in.  He was already exuding a hostile attitude.
“Nice guess!  Now ask me how many of those things are actually in my deck.”, I shot back with a smile. 
Doran seemed okay with that and shrugged.  Merieke mumbled something angrily. 
The game started.  We all started setting up.  On turn three, there it was – the Scion player dropped Hermit Druid. 
“There’s your infinite combo.” I pointed out to the other players.
The following turn, Scion untapped and activated the Druid, dumping his deck into the graveyard.  There was Necrotic Ooze and Dread Return.  Narcomoeba and Fatestitcher hit the table, but he then went straight for the Return instead of flashing back Cabal Therapy to make sure he was in the clear.  I pounced.

Commandeer, pitching two blue cards?”

The Scion player looked surprised. 


I grinned. 
DJ: 1
Combo: 1
I think the Scion player was new to the deck.  He had a few turns to try to get going again and possibly still take the game, but the rest of us were able to leverage graveyard hate to leave him drawing dead.  On the turn before he drew out, he shrugged and scooped.
I was elated…the deck did what it was supposed to do.  I was still in it.  Could I steal the whole game?
This is where it got interesting.
A few turns later, Merieke played out a Bribery.  I immediately Spelljack-ed it.  Merieke looked really pissed, despite knowing full well that I was playing steal effects and had six open mana up.  He passed.
I untapped.  I honestly didn’t know what I was going for, so I played the free Bribery and copied it with Twincast, aiming one copy at each player to keep it even.  The Doran copy resolved first, and I walked away with a sweet foil Primeval Titan. 
Merieke handed me his deck.  “I know what’s coming.”, he said sourly.
I started looking, and three-quarters of the way down, I found Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.  I hate this card so much, but it was far and away the best thing in the deck, and the one card that could sink me if he got it into play himself.  
I put it onto the battlefield.
Merieke frowned.  “That probably does it.”
I played it very carefully, passing the turn and amassing cards while denying the other two players their resources.  I finally found Ulamog, and Merieke angrily scooped immediately.
He turned to his friend. 

“That gets rid of Jin.  Maybe you can take him out now.”

A rage-quit and collusion in one fell swoop, over a card the player included in his own deck.  Nice!
The writing was on the wall, however, and a few turns later, I dealt lethal damage to Doran.  We called over the judge to report. 
“Hey…the other two players scooped.  How do the bounty packs get paid out?”  The Doran player asked the judge.

“Actually, if you scoop, you get your own prize packs.


I was in shock.  The Doran player was quick to come back.

“Well, in that case, I just scooped in the last round too.”

I was absolutely beside myself at this point.

“Wait a god-damn minute…so I just ran the table, and everyone except me gets prize support?”

“Uh, that’s what they told me.” the judge returned meekly. 
You’re batting one-thousand, Pastimes…
The Next Day…

In the end, sanity prevailed and I got my prize packs.  Unfortunately, I was fired up about the whole thing, and felt like I still had something to prove, so I rolled up my sleeves and went shopping in the Exhibit Hall. 
I knew that I needed to be a step or two faster.  I also knew that I needed to diversify my answer suite.  At the end of a marathon shopping session that started innocently with $3 FNM Acidic Slimes, I had replaced the borrowed Bribery and Trickbind with my own copies, and added a Mindbreak Trap, Time Stop, a Judge Foil Mana Crypt, and a reasonably-priced Mana Drain. 
So much for my restraint.  (Okay…I never had any to begin with.  These are the dangers of becoming obsessed with proving a point, folks.)  I made some substitutions and prepared myself for the Friday night 11pm Commander event.
Friday, 10:30pm

Four Long Island iced teas later, we left P.F. Chang’s to head back to the Convention Center.  I was pretty sure there was somewhere I was supposed to be, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it anymore.  What was that?  2-Headed Giant draft?  Sure! 
Saturday, 10pm
Thankfully, there was one final Commander event before the Sunday morning GenCon Championship.  Equally thankfully, I had all day to recover from the night before.  (I found a ten-dollar bill in my pocket; it turns out my draft partner Tyler and I got to our final pack in the trainwreck that was our 2HG draft, and he tapped the pack before opening and said, “Foil Thundermaw!”  Nailed it.

We took our beats and shipped it to a dealer immediately.  Win!)
I was ready for vindication.  I was ready to prove my concept was the right deck for the event.  I was ready for anything that came my way.
…Except for what actually happened.
Round One

I was seated with Jhoira, Teferi, and another Riku deck.  Things started fairly well, and I had some control elements and was prepared for someone to get going with a combo.  Suddenly, the Jhoira player, who had done nothing up to this point, untaps and does the following:

Extraplanar Lens, removing Island.”

The Teferi player lit up in a big grin.  The other Riku and I face-palmed.
The long and the short of it is that Teferi was able to go infinite on Temple Bell/Mind Over Matter through counters from both of us, eventually working his general into play to seal the deal and take us all out.  The Jhoira player offered the most oft-repeated line of the event after the dust settled.  “Sorry…this isn’t my deck.  I don’t really know what it does.  I don’t play this format.”  
(It turns out that the Commander events drew a ton of people out who didn’t play the format and perceived it as being a soft way to get into the GenCon Championships.  Most of these people borrowed decks from friends and tried to roll the event.) 
I turned to Teferi:

“Question for you.  I’m keeping notes for an article on this event.  Is this the way you usually play EDH when there aren’t prizes on the line?”

Andre, who turned out to be a very nice guy, looked as though I’d just kicked his dog.  He delivered the second most-repeated line among the other players in the event:

“God, no!  I’d never play a deck this douch-y in my regular game.  It’s just because the GenCon Qualifier slot is on the line…”

There you have it, folks.  Consider me a full convert to the “EDH can never be played for prizes without ruining things” camp.  I was wrong, and I admit it.  We were playing Legacy…not EDH.  No-one plays EDH for prizes. 
But wait…it gets worse!

That first game was the last EDH I played all weekend.  Things went to hell before the round even finished.
The first details:

-Pastimes had “fixed” the point system by now, so I earned one point for my loss.
-They had decreed that the event was going to be sans any time limit. 
This last bit is important.
The event had gotten rolling at 10:15.  At 12:15, there was still one pod left playing.  There was inexplicably a Vish-Kal aggro player seated with Mayael, another Riku deck, and a Mimeoplasm deck.  The life totals were all still above 30 for each player.  Turns were taking upwards of 15 minutes each.  The players were arguing. 
They were accusing each-other of stalling.
They were stalling themselves. 
They were calling judges on each other. 
Due respect to the players themselves, this was the absolute worst example of EDH I have ever witnessed. 
I looked up.  Sheldon Menery and a group of other judges were playing casual games three tables down.  I wanted to drag them over and force them to watch the awful spectacle unfolding, but before I could, things then took a turn for the worse.
A judge came up to the table.  “Okay, guys…” he started.  “Since this game has gone on so long, there will be a final thirty-five minutes to the round.  At the end, everyone still in the game will be awarded positions based on life total.”
The Vish-Kal player looked at his fresh Baneslayer Angel and grinned.  The other three players were far less enthusiastic. 
Fast-forward thirty-five minutes.  After several more arguments and a dozen failed attempts at infinite combo wins, the game ended with a draw.  Vish-Kal “won” with sixty life, and the other players lined up somewhere below that.  The Mimeoplasm player immediately called a judge and complained that they had been playing under the understanding that there was no time limit, and the game had been altered unfairly as a result.
The judges conversed, and came back five minutes later.

“Since we screwed this one up by imposing a time limit mid-game, all four players in the last pod will instead receive a full four points each, since no-one technically lost or won.”

This was followed immediately by the sound of fifteen or so other players in the event calling for a head judge in unison.  
Officials reviewed.
We waited. 
It neared one in the morning. 
Finally, the judges pulled us all together.
“Okay…we recognize that we really blew this one.” the head judge started.  “Since we shouldn’t have imposed an unexpected time limit on a game in progress, here’s what we need to do to fix things:
-The results of the moods that finished will stand.
-The final pod that did not will replay their game in full, this time with no time limit.
-The rest of you will get to take a break.  Please be back by at least 2am; the next round will start no earlier than that.
-Things will progress as normal for the final two rounds after that.
Oh…and we’re giving you each a pack of M13 to make up for things.”
Someone immediately asked another question.

“Hey…is it legal to sideboard between rounds?  I heard it was okay.”

The response made as much sense as anything else that had happened so far:

“No…you may not change out individual cards between rounds, as this would allow those of you who finished first to watch the later pods and make changes accordingly.  However, you may switch complete decks between rounds.”

The sound that followed was the noise that three-quarters of the event participants – myself included – made when they declared the event to be broken beyond repair and dropped while demanding and receiving a full refund.  I think someone appealed the deck change decision successfully, but at that point I didn’t care.  It was too screwed up to stick around at this point.
And so it came to be that the final slot for the 8am Sunday GenCon Championships was decided from a pool of about seven remaining players in the event, which I would estimate finished at about 5am.
Closing A Bad Chapter

To Pastimes, I say shame on you.  If this gross mishandling occurred during the World Magic Championships and you were at the helm, a different gaming store would be handling the Magic events at GenCon ’13.  As it is, you not only blew one event as catastrophically as possible, but in doing so, you partially invalidated the results of the GenCon Championships, which awarded someone a full ride to GenCon next year.  You did the same thing previously when you decided it was okay to change things while you went over the weekend.  I’m not saying that I would have won a slot on Thursday if you had awarded points correctly – In fact I know I wouldn’t have – but it’s possible that someone who might have earned a slot to the Championships with fair point awards was left out in the cold instead. 
My email request to file a complaint with GenCon directly was countered with a reply to forward issues to the organization managing the event – Pastimes.  Yeah…I’m sure they’d love to make things right at this point.
Wizards of the Coast got my complaint already.  I still haven’t heard back, and I don’t expect to.  I’m sure things will continue as usual next year, and nothing will have been answered for those of us who were forced to endure this crap-show in person.  And that’s too bad, because I’m now questioning the company support for EDH as a whole.  It makes me look at products like Commander’s Arsenal and wonder if it’s actually a blatant cash grab after all.  EDH is a massive format with tons of devoted players, and it’s clear that being tagged as “casual” is allowing companies like Pastimes to treat it like it doesn’t really matter, so long as the money is rolling in from the events. 
To be clear, I don’t want to think this way.  Not at all.  I want to have faith in Wizards.  I want to believe Pastimes just made some mistakes and will be looking to do better next time.  But this confluence of events makes it really hard for me.  I hope they both prove me really wrong, and I’ll look forward to writing a retraction.  Happily, even.
Finally, I’m ashamed in myself.  I fed the beast.  I knew it was looming, and still I voted with my dollars.  I should have headed over to Sheldon’s casual table instead and played some actual EDH games instead.  If things happen again like this next year, my name is now on it.  That kinda bums me out.
And at the end of the day, I’m not even sure why I’m angry to begin with.  I knew what I was getting into with this; EDH for prizes is going to go down like this every time.  I’m not sure why I ended up angry and surprised, and I don’t know why I’m fighting to have wrongs righted in this situation.  The players at the event knew what was going down.  We all implicitly signed on, and no-one (well, except maybe for the Merieke player) was mad about it. 
Maybe there’s a part of me that feels like our format got slighted, and I can’t abide by that.  I want people to take us seriously, and I feel like we all got jobbed with what went down.
Maybe I’m just making a mountain over a molehill. 
Oh well.  Until next year, I’m heading back to the comfort of my local game.  I’m sure the spirit of the format is still alive there, and I’m looking very forward to getting back to my roots.  And calming down.
Okay…enough of me complaining for the day.  Until next time…