As Brits, we don't need much excuse for a party, but clearly something was needed to mark such a great year. But what format should it take? After some discussion in the community we decided that nothing could be better than cracking some product together.
Then came the question of practicalities. As much as we all admire the purism of the Swedish card set (and have a good number of players who only stick to 93/94 cardboard), we couldn't really stretch to a box of Antiquities. At least, not until one of us has a big lottery win.
But here in the UK we also allow old-frame original-art re-prints. This meant we could feasibly chip in for some sealed Fourth Edition starters and a box of Chronicles - helpfully sourced by Jason. The plan was agreed to open a starter each, and then draft three boosters.
As the day drew nearer, Markus charitably offered up his sumptuous North London pad as a venue. We were all set for a classic...
Before the event I had been quite blasé about opening new product (particularly given that none of it would be black-bordered), but when I actually held it in my hands there was an unmistakable moment of Proustian reverie. Fourth Edition and Chronicles (along with Fallen Empires) were the current sets when I got into the game and for a moment I was back in the halcyon days of 1995.
For one of us, however, the moment was slightly lost - this was their first ever opening of any Magic product! Now that is real Ivory Tower purism!
We had twelve attendees: your gentle author, Markus, Ben, Stebbo, Jason, Oli, Scott, Bev, Graeme, Karl, Bryan, and newcomer Patrick.
|Your author experiences the head-distorting curse of being the guy with the long arm|
We opened our starters individually. Talk immediately turned to who was going to open the junkiest rares and Scott quickly stepped up to take first prize:
|Two laces and an Island Sanctuary!|
I, meanwhile, was pretty chuffed with my own selection, with two highly-playable artifacts leaving me some nice flexibility in the draft:
We took a break to fortify ourselves with Markus's special brew of Glőgg. This appeared to be a heavily-mulled wine supplemented with vodka, but I am pretty sure there was some supplemental Scandi magic in the concoction. Washed down with a few fine ales, it nevertheless left us all feeling thoroughly refreshed.
Now it was time for the booster draft: opening Chronicles in two circles of six players. I remembered from my youth that Chronicles was a set to get excited about - a chance to get my hands on all the Arabians that had passed me by (although of course back then they were super-affordable by today's standards). It was therefore something of a shock to realise quite how many terrible cards were in the set. By the time a booster had passed through two or three players it was frequently denuded of anything attractive:
Weirdly though, this actually felt like it made the draft more fun. Particularly as we had agreed that there was no upper limit on the instances of any one card. Also I was able to absolutely cash in on Bog Rats!
We then moved into deck-building.
With two white superstar cards in my starter (Serra Angel, Divine Transformation), I was pretty sure I would pick this colour as my base. As a result I picked up a lot of Repentant Blacksmiths (with their sumptuous Drew Tucker art) and four War Elephants.
I was tracking green and black in the draft but ended up tacking to black to support my Howl From Beyond, Terror, and Drudge Skeletons. X-damage, regeneration, and removal are just too good to ignore. Nevertheless it was noticeable that my final 40 was hugely weighted towards 4th Ed cards. It's understandable, though evident, that Chronicles just wasn't built for drafting!
|Yours truly, Angry Mob|
What followed was some of the most enjoyable Magic I have played this year as we all grappled with unfamiliar cards - many of them ostensibly terrible but coming into their own in strange ways - and many of us relearned the (surprisingly powerful) mechanic of banding. At various points of the evening someone would declare the tabling of some unlikely card or other... Perhaps you had to be there, but it felt very much in the spirit of the format despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of the usual cards.
Here were a few of the most notable board states that I was able to capture:
|Brother Ben tables a fourth-turn Shotgun (aka Aladdin's Ring)|
|Oli holding the fort against Graeme's Time Elemental with.... Sivitri Scarzam!|
D'oh'venant! An rather unusual hand and mana screw for Graeme...
|Flavour-breaking Power play proves controversial: Scott sacs his Digging Team to undermine the foundations of Markus's... Wall of Vapor. He was not amused.|
|Blackplayed: Oli successfully tables Dakkon, to much acclaim 👏|
|Markus deploys the lesser-spotted Steal Artifact - but can it hold off one of Graeme's three (count 'em!) Elder Dragons?|
|Brother Ben went full Urzatron with a serious helping of obscure artifacts (Barl's Cage, anyone?)|
With most people playing unsleeved, between rounds there was also the joy of placing your deck back into a proper fourth-edition box - for that authentic 'back to the 90s' feeling. All it would have needed was for Markus to cue up Three Lions on his soundsystem and I may have regressed totally!
In amongst the hi-jinks there was actually some gaming to be done. I had enjoyable victories against Scott (despite a pesky Sentinel) and newcomer Patrick, and my deck was performing well. I had even managed to evade Patrick's unlikely combo of Channel and Disintegrate, although he had come a cropper earlier in the evening to his own strategy when deploying Channel and Earthquake, forgetting the double damage he would receive...
In particular, the combination of Serra Angel and Divine Transformation got me out of trouble on more than one occasion. For flavour purposes, I'm assuming she had an additional set of wings.
Given time considerations, I was then pitched into a final (of sorts) against Brother Ben (my real life brother) for a shot at a unique prize... the first ever white-bordered Brothers Of Fire trophy card (pulled pack-fresh from my own starter box).
As is his habit, my older brother proved too strong for me. In particular, Pestilence's board wipe proved brutal against my army of weenies. As a result I had to console myself with second place. Ben duly took home the trophy card (an edition we do not intend to repeat, barring another opening of fresh product) and the opened display box.
|The winning pile|
With that, there was time for some constructed play. After saving up my mana for War Elephants and Banshee, rolling out my Lightning Bolts and power felt like switching from a pedal-bike to a Ferrari!
All in all, it was a brilliant evening and a reminder of the great community that's here in London. We're hoping it will continue to grow in 2018.
Happy Christmas Everyone!