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Demonic Attorney
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« on: April 09, 2007, 07:10:34 pm »

At the outset, let me get the disappointment out of the way and tell anyone reading this post that it will have nothing to do with the popular television show by the same name.  Nor will it be segmented into strategic cliffhanger installments to keep audiences at the edge of their seats while the doomsday clock relentlessly ticks away against our hero.  Don't lose all hope though; if at some point I get involved in counterterrorism or espionage, that could all change.  For now, however, this thread will remain about my comparatively boring efforts to balance Vintage and other life responsibilities.

24.  Only 24 hours in a day.  No matter how smart you are, how good at time management you might be, or how important your obligations seem, everyone is constrained by this limitation.  College, graduate school, part-time work, full time careers, familial obligations, relationship commitments, daily errands, and other hobbies all compete against Vintage for a share of our waking hours.  Some of us might be lucky enough to be left with a large chunk of lesiure time in their lives which they can divide among many other interests, with enough left over to faithfullly keep up with the Vintage scene.  Others, mostly the older users on TMD, find the amount of their free time shrinking and the number of their responsibilities growing.  Such is the price of adulthood and independence.

For my part, I currently need to balance Vintage against a full time appellate clerkship, editorship on law review, studying for the bar exam, a long-term romantic relationship, friends, family, and the chores we all attend to from day to day.  At times it gets to be a bit much and where once it was rare to go to a New England Vintage tournament and not find me there, it's now equally as uncommon for me to get the chance to play Magic at all.  Consequently, I've had to revisit my approach to the game, since I can't rely on the same intimate familiarity with developments in the Vintage scene that I once could.  I write this post for the benefit of anyone on TMD who might find themselves in a similar position, either now or in the future.  I hope that everyone can borrow at least one or two ideas from me and use them to help keep in touch with the game and this community.

First and most importantly, I make sure to keep in touch with people who have their fingers on the pulse of the format.  As a longtime member of Team Reflection, I make sure to set aside some time before a major event to talk over recent innovations in the format with my more active teammates to make sure I'm prepared for any potential surprises.  Before Stratfordbury I made sure to reserve a night for testing the most promising new ideas with Rich Shay (The Atog Lord) and Mike Lydon (Meddling Mage).  After that testing session, I had a much better sense of the strengths and weaknesses of Ichorid and Gifts, as well as an appreciation for the newest powerhouse card in Vintage, Empty The Warrens.  Without this preparation, I don't think I would have been in a position to do as well as I did in the Stratfordbury main event.

Second, I try to schedule my tournament attendances much further in advance.  In college, I could check TMD on any given Friday night to see if there was an event the next morning and then spend an hour deciding whether or not to go.  Now, I keep close track of local tournaments and try to schedule my weekends around the one Saturday in a month that I have a chance to play Vintage.  This has helped me keep my schedule from filling up so quickly that I can't even consider going to a Vintage event because I had something else planned 3 weeks earlier.

Third, I've given up on "rogue" decks.  I now play consistent tier one powerhouses pretty much exclusively.  Back when I could study the ebb and flow of the Vintage metagame, I sometimes tried to put together dark horse decks that I thought would exploit weaknesses in the field.  To do this sort of thing well, a player needs to devote considerable time and energy to studying trends in recent tournament results and strategy discussions on TMD in order to make accurate predictions about what to plan against.  This is not something I have the time to do anymore.  Instead, I play decks that have a strong chance no matter what the metagame is, thereby minimizing any harm caused by faulty predictions.

Finally, I've accepted the unfortunate reality that my social involvement with the tournament scene will never be what it once was.  A few years ago, attending a Vintage event meant staying out with friends until the wee hours of the morning, long after the event itself had finished, and getting home in time to watch the sun rise.  Now, my tournamentgoing experience is pretty much limited to the span of time between deck registration and prize collection.  I won't deny that this new approach to tournaments removes one of the most enjoyable aspects of the experience, but it also makes it much easier to fit Vintage into my schedule.  It's a lot less of a hassle to leave late Saturday night and all of Sunday open while planning to go to a tournament than it is to try to finagle an entire day (or weekend) off to play Vintage.

So that's how I manage to occasionally fit Vintage into the precious few 24 hours in my day.  I'm planning to sneak away from my girlfriend's place this coming weekend to attend Myriad Games' upcoming event, and drive back later in time for drinks and the rest of a quiet romantic evening.  It might not be what it used to be, but at least this way my favorite hobby can still remain a part of my life.
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2007, 12:19:22 pm »

I'm not sure how useful this is as follow up, but these have also alllowed me to jump back into a metagame after months away:

Everyone is probably familiar with starcitygames' deck searching functions, however, http://www.morphling.de/, a german magic site also compiles a pretty comprehensive list of T8 decks.  On the right hand side, the statistics tool can be good for seeing which key cards have been showing up more frequently.  The heavies (FoW, fetches, bstorm, etc) are always near the top, but seeing how far up and down the list dark confidant, chalice, etc are can be helpful when thinking about utility or sb slots.

2c
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« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2009, 11:03:20 am »

Why I Play Vintage

Many years ago, I was a semi-regular in sanctioned tournaments.  I tried my hand at the Grey Matter tournaments, PTQ's, prereleases, and even an occasional Grand Prix.  I wouldn't call my time on the sanctioned circuit entirely unsuccessful, though I was by no means a notorious success.  Eventually enough negative experiences piled up to push me away from those formats and towards a more or less exclusive focus on Type One, as it was then called.  Having to chase after a new set of rares every year, racing to unload my old cards before they lost their value, and being forced to learn the dynamics of a new tournament environment from scratch all seemed like unnecessary work for a hobby.  I played the game to play the game, not to engage anew in a mad quest to "collect 'em all" after each set rotation. 

All those factors did play into my decision to abandon sanctioned formats in favor of Vintage, but they weren't the main reason.  The main reason was the temperament of the players, and the character of the community.  I remember playing in a sealed deck tournament during Tempest block and having my opponent (an adult) repeatedly ask me (then a young teenager) if I'd played the game of Magic before, ridiculing my play decisions.  I recall being paired against one particularly notorious then-Pro who ran his mouth after our match about how I never had a chance against him because my deck was subpar.  And I  even remember well being paired against someone at the Ravnica prerelease, the first time I'd played in a sanctioned format in years, who had obviously cheated and stacked his deck with extra cards, boasting about being able to beat me with his godly card pool.  All these incidents ruined the fun of the tournament and turned what's supposed to be a relaxing mental exercise and a series of pleasant social interactions into a contentious, hostile contest of butting heads.  That, too, is not what I look for when I play Magic.

As I gravitated towards Vintage, I was struck by how absent those patterns were.  The format, while smaller, just didn't have the type of player willing to sacrifice basic decency and sportsmanship in the hopes of gaining an advantage by putting his opponent "on tilt."  Because the size of the format was so small, there were tighter social relationships between many of the players, and these in turn changed the social dynamics involved in tournaments.  People quickly earned reputations based on their actions.  And more importantly-- the community stood for a set of values that it didn't tolerate departures from.  After hundreds of tournament matches, and probably over a thousand tournament games, I can't recall a single instance of poor sportsmanship on the level of what I saw on a semi-regular basis in the sanctioned formats.

It takes a lot to get me to play a sanctioned format these days.  But the hype for Zendikar did the trick.  There are a number of valuable cards, many of them potentially Vintage-playable.  The prospect of opening power cards added just a taste of Vintage to a sanctioned format.  That was enough.  I went a local store** and signed up for their prerelease.  And all was normal for the first three rounds.  I entered round 4 with a prize-eligible record, having enjoyed my matches against my previous three opponents. Unfortunately, round 4 wasn't going to turn out the same way.

After the first few minutes, it quickly becomes apparent that my opponent** knows me.  He makes several comments about my background as a Vintage player, and asks if I'm opening with a hand of Black Lotus, Mana Drain and I chuckle and say that, in this set, maybe I could.  We play our first game, and he becomes gradually more aggressive, making derogatory remarks about my play decisions, working in "zingers" when certain game situations worked out in his favor.  This puts me more and more on edge, but I continue to play the match without being drawn in.  He ends up winning game one and this placates him enough that he tones it down for a little while until he starts losing game two.  Then it begins in earnest.

His running commentary resumes, but now it's not just directed at me personally but me as a representative of the Vintage community.  I should stick to my own format.  Vintage players don't know the tournament rules.  I, like all Vintage players, lack the acumen and playskill of sanctioned players.  That last bit did it for me.  I responded in kind, pointing out that he was losing game two, that his remarks about my play decisions in game one were off-base, and that he should focus on playing the game and not trying to gain an advantage through trash talk.  Things quickly escalate from there as I win game two only to be told that the play I made to win the game was somehow "wrong." 

The tension increases as we go into game three, as I'm unable to resist pointing out that my "incorrect" plays were still enough to beat him.  He retorts with some other criticism of all Vintage players.  As I win game three, he gets angrier and angrier throughout the process, not drawing well.  I finish him with a big attack, which he calls "overkill" and complaining about not drawing more than two lands.  I point out that he in fact had more than two lands.  He responds with another critique of Vintage players, and I suggest his judgment is deficient in view of his tournament performance and inability to keep track of the gamestate. 

He disengages from me but now turns to someone next to him and begins to complain about how awful Vintage players are.  As luck would have it, another Vintage player was sitting next to me, and I ask him what his record was.  4-0, undefeated.  I mention my record is still prize-eligible, as well.  Then, I take the extra step too far and ask my opponent what his record was after losing to me.  He loses it.  He first complains loudly that I'm being unsportsmanlike, but then changes his mind mid-rant and decides instead that the better way to save face is to threaten violence against me, giving me a menacing warning about a "problem we'll need to resolve outside."  I explain to him that he just made a threat against me and broke the law.  He doesn't seem to understand that.  Several bystanders and the store owner** get involved at that point, lecturing both of us on our behavior.

At this point, my head clears and I realize I responded to unsportsmanlike, uncivil behavior in a juvenile fashion.  I apologize for having played a role in escalating the situation and offer to shake my opponent's hand.  He declines.  The next round starts soon thereafter, and my next opponent tells me about how my previous opponent, with whom I'd had the confrontation, regularly demonstrated that kind of behavior and deserved to have it directed back at him.  Someone else mentioned that they were glad I knocked the hostile opponent out of contention because he treats everyone the way he had treated me.  The rest of the event turned out fine, but that experience overshadowed everything else, including the rest of my opponents who did nothing antagonistic or uncivil to me.   

All this gave me a renewed appreciation for the tendency of the Vintage community to reject this kind of behavior.  I was not without fault in the exchange, but I hope my opponents in Vintage will attest to the fact that I don't approach the game or other players with that kind of cut-throat hostility.  I don't know what differentiates Vintage from the other formats, but I'm grateful for it, whatever the reason.  Maybe it's the fact that we're a closer-knit group of players, and that leaves us with more of an ability to police ourselves and enforce our own mores.  Maybe it's because the temptation to take things too far isn't there because we're not competing for a coveted slot on the Pro Tour (or, in the case of a Prerelease, a handful of rankings points and a few packs).  Maybe it's because of the work of the original leaders of the Vintage community (I don't consider myself to be one) to set a positive example for everyone who's come along since. 

The Vintage tournament experience continues to be completely different from sanctioned formats for me.  I never leave feeling angry at someone for something they did.  Much more importantly, I've formed lasting friendships that have endured over several years.  So for that, I say thank you to everyone reading this.  Thank you for being good sports.  Thank you for not ruining someone else's experience to gain an advantage for yourself.  Thank you for making the Vintage community not just a group of competitors, but a group of friends.  I'm grateful to belong to a place where I can enjoy that level of character. 

** I'm not going to name anyone involved in the incident because that's not the point of this post.  I don't hold the store responsible for the independent choices of one of its customers (who I understand isn't much of a regular there); the store doesn't deserve to lose business because of what one guy did.  I also don't want to embarrass my opponent in front of the Vintage community, though I doubt very much that he'd care.  If you were there and you know any of those details, I ask that you not post them in this thread, or anywhere on TMD for that matter.
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2009, 12:06:26 pm »

I can't recall ever seeing anyone so terrible as that. Sure, we get our share of players who think they're just better, but they have the tact to keep it to themselves, only their demeanor and body language betraying them (eye rolling, subtle sarcastic quips like, "nice deck").

I applaud you for not letting this guy's assholery slide, although obviously there were better ways of doing that. Maybe peer pressure or something, like asking the guy next to you, "Hey, is your opponent this dickish too?"
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2009, 07:03:12 pm »

I think, at the outset, I should have asked him why he thought it was appropriate to act the way he was acting when I hadn't done anything like that to him.  This would have put him in a position where he needed to justify his behavior without being able to fall back on the excuse that I was doing it, too.  If that didn't work, then I would have felt (and probably looked) more justified in giving it back to him later on.

The thing that really irked me about the guy was his desperate need to get over on me in some way.  He wanted to beat me in the match, and he didn't.  Then he wanted to continue this trashtalking contest and beat me there, and I guess he felt like he didn't do that either.  So then, rather than walk away from the situation, he had to engage in this chest-thumping primate dominance ritual and threaten violence because all other avenues of "winning" the encounter had failed.  

But nevertheless, I reiterate that there were better ways of handling the situation than what I did.  When I get the feeling someone is trying to push me around, I can't ever seem to resist the urge to push back.  A friend of mine (who witnessed the whole sordid affair) told me it's healthier in the long-run to just let these people have their way, because otherwise you're drawn into an endless series of struggles over trivial things.  
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2009, 11:50:43 am »

So here's an interesting experiment:  What Would TMD Do?

I'll briefly recapitulate the incident I talked about earlier, so people don't have to re-read in full detail.  You're at a tournament, playing for prize contention vs. elimination.  You don't know your opponent.  While shuffling in preparation for game one, he shows a tendency to engage in a lot of table talk, but nothing aggressive or off-putting.  Yet.  During game one, he takes on a haughty, condescending tone, starting a running commentary on all your plays.  This turns into belittling your skill level.  You've done nothing to provoke or encourage this.  At this point, what do you do?

Now let's fast-forward a little.  You're in game three, and things have devolved into open antagonism.  You've given your opponent some of his own medicine, and it's clear he's not used to that.  He's gotten louder, more aggressive, more hostile.  Things are really starting to verge on a serious problem; more of the interaction between the two of you pertains to this antagonistic banter than it does to the game being played.  What now?

Now let's look at the ending to my story.  The match is over.  You won, he lost.  He's just rattling off every slight, every insult, every derogatory remark he can as you each pack up your stuff.  There's a small crowd watching at this point and he's trying to save face.  What do you do?  Let's say you give into temptation and rub his loss in his face to shut him up.  Now he's shouting and threatening you with violence.  How do you handle that?

To summarize, how would the community respond to these four situations:

1.  Mild, unprovoked antagonism early in a match.

2.  Aggressive hostility later in a match.

3.  Sour-grapes provocation and insults to save face after a match.

4.  Express threats of violence coming at the end of this confrontation.


Please be honest in what you would do.  Yes, some people out there have infinite patience, impenetrable armor, and unwoundable pride.  But not very many.  I'll be upfront and say that my actual response to this conduct fell short of what I'd suggest someone else do in this kind of situation-- calling a judge.  Instead of doing that, I responded in kind to what I took as unnecessary provocation.  With 20/20 hindsight, that clearly didn't help the situation, but we don't always live up to our ideals in the heat of the moment.

So I'm looking for that kind of candor in what other TMD members honestly see themselves doing.
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 12:23:10 pm »

I'm a big believer in the power of social shaming / social policing.

Quote
During game one, he takes on a haughty, condescending tone, starting a running commentary on all your plays.  This turns into belittling your skill level.  You've done nothing to provoke or encourage this.  At this point, what do you do?

I probably try to ignore it, at this level.

Quote
Now let's fast-forward a little.  You're in game three, and things have devolved into open antagonism.  You've given your opponent some of his own medicine, and it's clear he's not used to that.  He's gotten louder, more aggressive, more hostile.  Things are really starting to verge on a serious problem; more of the interaction between the two of you pertains to this antagonistic banter than it does to the game being played.  What now?

This one is hard to answer, since I don't think I'd get to this situation. But if I had to venture a guess, I'd say I'd watch his play like a hawk and do my level best to rules-lawyer him out.

Quote
Now let's look at the ending to my story.  The match is over.  You won, he lost.  He's just rattling off every slight, every insult, every derogatory remark he can as you each pack up your stuff.  There's a small crowd watching at this point and he's trying to save face.  What do you do?

Assuming I think of it in time: appeal to the crowd. Ask them, as a group, what they think of my opponent's behavior. Announce, "I'll give a foil zendikar basic to anyone who had an opponent being more douchey than mine this round". Try to make it fun for the whole table, expose this guy's assholery, and maybe make some friends in the process.

Quote
Let's say you give into temptation and rub his loss in his face to shut him up.  Now he's shouting and threatening you with violence.  How do you handle that?

Veeeery hard call to make. It definitely depends on whether he's acting alone. If he's got buddies with him, my first concern is that anyone threatening violence is probably beyond prepared to steal my trade binder, etc., or have someone do it while he's distracting me. If he's alone, it's much safer; I'd probably agree with him that we take it outside, and let him go out first, then not follow him. Probably go back to my seat with a huge grin on my face for the spectators. Obviously at no point would I instigate or participate in violence.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2009, 12:33:03 pm »

1. I would probably laugh, as I tend to view this sort of thing as gamesmanship rather than having any deeper meaning.

2. I would probably just play "really serious" if there is such a thing, any jibes on my part are unlikely to do much, though I suppose they could aggravate him further.

3. Just extend my hand and say "good game." Whether he shakes or not, get up and report the match.

4. As stated above, this is a tough one. I think each individual would have to make his own call here. It would require an evaluation of whether he has buddies and whether he is actually going to resort to violence. You'd also have to decide whether to report this to the judge or to take even further steps if you deem that necessary. Obviously, using violence back would be improper, unless you're actually attacked.
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2009, 01:57:10 pm »

1. At this stage I would probably ignore the opponent, dismissing it simply as an attempt to throw me off my game.

2. At this point, I would call a judge, if one hasn't already come by.  This level of behavior is unacceptable.

Any level beyond that would start with calling a judge.  I would expect the TO would get involved at the point it gets to threats of violence, and if the TO did not, I would probably not return to that venue.
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2009, 01:59:14 pm »

That sounds like an mws match!   I wish someone would talk to me like that in a tournament!   I'd call a judge so fast their head would spin.
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2009, 03:16:36 pm »


In my experiences, Magic and non-magic related, I have found that when somebody does their best to be malicious to you for no apparent reason, the best way to diffuse the situation is to ignore them completely. These people generally want an audience, and if you do not give them one, then they will eventually give up.

I think that after it became clear that my opponent was a douchebag, I would have called a judge immediately and then said nothing other than game related words to my opponent:

"Untap, Upkeep, Draw, Attack Phase..."
"Resolves"
"I am passing priority."

Other than those words, I see no need to interact with a person like that, or dignify any of their comments.
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2010, 12:25:21 pm »

I haven't ever had an opponent quite like that, and I've played against people who have stolen from me.

I feel like I've had many of the same experiences that you have had when it comes to the semi-competitive scene.  I was playing at GP Boston last summer, and I was 4-1, just starting round 6.  I shuffled, and passed my deck to my opponent to shuffle/cut.  He five piled me (which is more than fine) and counted out 39 cards.  Evidently I had lost a sleeve with a Mountain in it.  My opponent called the judge (again, no problem, the right call) and I received a game loss (all in line with the guidelines, more than acceptable.)  But my opponent, while this went on, had a the biggest smile on his face that I've ever seen.  He actively seemed to take joy in getting a win like that, and that, more than anything else disgusted me.  I play in small local drafts with a group of guys that I know a couple of times a month, and I don't play any other format but Vintage.  Guys who are out for the win, and nothing else, have driven me away from every "competitive" format.  We all play to win in Vintage, and I never see stuff like that. 

I beat him in games two and three and took the match anyways.

As a Vintage T/O I can tell you that behavior like that would never be acceptable, and that he'd probably get a quick DQ, with a potential ban.  I've had problem players at some of my events, and they've been spoken to, or otherwise dealt with.
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