March means that winter is out and spring is in. All across the country, college basketball teams are fighting their way through the big dance. Here in North Texas, the basketball teams have all been eliminated and the madness we’re most interested in is the Madness in March DC-10 tournament. I took booster packs from sixty-four different Magic sets and put them in a single elimination bracket. In last week’s part one of this three part series, I broke down the format and shared some of the action from the West and Midwest regions. I also showed you the contents of the boosters from those two corners of the sixty-four team bracket. You can check out last week’s article here:
This week, we continue with the East and South regions. But before we dig into more boosters, I wanted to refresh your memory on how DC-10 works. DC-10 is the old name (and I am nothing if not old school) of a fun and easy Magic format also referred to as Pack Wars. Each player opens a booster pack and takes out the token card and basic land (if those are in the pack) and shuffles the pack face down without looking at the cards. The players choose who will go first and play begins. Players start with no cards in hand but the player who goes first does draw a card on his first turn. In my much-tested house rules, each player begins each game with twenty basic lands in play in the form of tokens, four of each basic land type. With these few exceptions, play is exactly like a regular game of Magic. Your deck is just extremely tiny.
The two most important differences between my house rules and a lot of other peoples both involve mana. Where others simply decide that players can play whatever spells they draw without the need for lands of any kind, I prefer my imaginary token lands. I like that islandwalk has value in my game, I like that activation costs are limited not by another separate DC-10 rule, but simply by the fact that you have just four Swamps available each turn. There are plenty of cards that matter because they destroy a land or else only work when you have a certain kind of land in play. I would never want to render worthless cards that care about land just because of the awkwardness of picking a number of fake lands for each player. The other big difference is the power of X in spells. I have heard other players tell me they learned the game with X limited in spells to values as low as one or two. Absurd. Almost no X spell ever created was intended to be played for such low value. Again, the original rules for the game, when it was informally invented twenty years ago, was that each player had an unlimited amount of mana. An X spell was an instant win in those games, and pretty much is with my house rules as well. That’s the explosive part about DC-10. These games are meant to teeter right on the fine edge of insanity. Did you lose a game of DC-10 because your opponent drew a Blaze or Fireball and you didn’t? Obviously you should try to be a better player and open a pack with a Fireball next time!
There are a lot of good reasons to play DC-10. The most important reason is that it’s fun. It requires no set up time, no one has to build a deck ahead of time. Usually, both players use boosters from the same set. Neither player has any advantage over the other until the packs are opened. I love this format because it truly makes you use EVERY card from your pack. You have to consider the best use of every single card, even cards you never thought you would play with in any other situation.
I’ve wanted to play a big DC-10 bracket like this for a long time. I started putting these sixty-four booster packs together a year ago. So many different eras of Magic, so many different mechanics, all bumping into each other for the first time in some cases. Here’s a sampling of the abilities and mechanics that we’ve run into in this sixty-four booster bracket. Imprint from Scars of Mirrodin, the en-Kor damage redirection effects from Stronghold, landcycling from Scourge, morph from its original source, Onslaught, plus so many others (get ready) including bloodthirst, constellation, heroic, sunburst, scry, tribute, entwine, monstrosity, affinity, phyrexian mana, amplify, provoke, kicker and multikicker, landfall, flanking, phasing, cumulative upkeep, rebound, fading, split cards, echo, infect, changeling, domain, slivers, transmute, radiance, flashback, threshold, champion, evoke, graft, hellbent, manifest, delve, unleash, haunt, replicate, snow mana, evolve, cipher, bloodrush, wither, outlast, banding, undying, miracle, soulbond, madness, cascade, epic, sweep, bushido, soulshift, channel, suspend, vanishing, ninjitsu, transform, splice onto Arcane and exalted. Of course I didn’t mention the obvious ones that are used in many different sets like flying and first strike. Does this sixty-four pack bracket contain every Magic ability ever printed? No, but it’s gotta be close. That’s some list. It just goes to show that if you aren’t careful, Magic can get pretty complicated…
The reach (another ability) of Magic’s long history is in evidence when you see these sixty-four boosters playing against each other. The most important thing I’ve learned from this tournament is that DC-10 isn’t quite as random of a format as I might think when a pal and I kill a few minutes playing with a couple of packs. When you play with the same packs in multiple games, you start to appreciate what makes one pack of cards significantly better than another for DC-10. Of course it’s great if your pack has a insanely powerful card, a giant creature and/or a spell that deals X damage or mills X cards into the graveyard. When you play a lot of games with a lot of packs you learn that some packs have great synergy and interesting combos that help them win games apart from just waiting to draw their big creature or their most powerful single spell. Also, you learn pretty quickly that packs that only have one card that allows them to win often lose when they don’t draw that one card soon enough.
The sixty-four boosters used in this tournament span the entire twenty plus years of the game with expansions from Ice Age and Visions all the way through Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. There are eleven core sets in the tournament representing sets from Fourth Edition to Magic 2015. There is one anthology set in the tournament, a single talent-filled pack of Modern Masters. Who plays all these games? I do, but not all by myself. As with any other ridiculous activity, I tend to get involved with friends. The tournament, like the big basketball tournament, is divided into four regions. Each region has sixteen teams (boosters) in it, seeded from one to sixteen. My pals on Facebook helped me seed the tournament so that the best packs wouldn’t face each other too soon in the single elimination tournament. Last week we explored the packs and the results from play in the Midwest Region where Ninth Edition and Mirrodin Besieged rose to the top, and the West Region where Modern Masters and Visions survived to the top eight. This week we are looking at the two remaining regions, the East and the South. I started play for each region in a different store or event. I played many of the games for the South region at the StarCity Games Open that was in Fort Worth the weekend of March 14-15. I was aided by my good friend and regular booster draft adversary Tuan Doan. Aaron Tobey also played, he’s a great limited player from way back. Teammate and fellow level two judge Joe Klopchic also battled with me. He unlocked the hidden potential of the Shadowmoor booster in a first round upset win over Khans of Tarkir. The East region was started at Madness Comics and Games in Plano. Chris Mettler has the biggest and baddest (bad meaning good) store in the Dallas area. Actually, it’s the best store in Texas or anywhere else in a four or five hundred mile radius. His store has over one hundred players for Friday Night Magic every week and accommodates over three hundred players for larger events. All the while, the side of the store not covered in tables and chairs features the nicest and most complete games and comics selection I’ve ever seen. It’s very good times. Helping me with the East region were teammates and friends from last week’s Texas Guildmage meeting, guys like Blake Bombich, Matt Tuck, Cesar Collazo and a teammate and veteran of a dozen Pro Tour events, Mark Hendrickson. They helped me see plays that I would have missed myself.
In the South, play began with Coldsnap versus Dragon’s Maze. I mention this matchup because it illustrates how bad a pack can be for DC-10. Coldsnap, the estranged so-called second expansion set for Ice Age came out in 2006. This set arrived with such a thud that it almost caused a second actual ice age. The rare in this particular pack is Tamanoa, a 2/4 Spirit for RGW that lets you gain life equal to damage dealt by non-creature sources you control. Snore. Of course, Coldsnap wasn’t built for DC-10, no set is. Wilderness Elemental is an */3 Elemental for 1RG with trample whose power is equal to the number of non-basic lands your opponents control. Might be a good card for Commander or even Modern, if you could imagine it, but it’s not too good in a format like DC-10. There are a few “snow permanents” in the pack, but the basic land tokens aren’t snow lands so Skred (a terrible name for a card) is not very dangerous. Meanwhile, the Dragon’s Maze pack is full of golden hits like Bronzebeak Moa and Scab-Clan Giant and Krasis Incubation. You haven’t thought about these three cards in a long time, have you? No one has, and that’s just another reason to play DC-10, it makes you appreciate weird cards in a whole new way. Krasis Incubation is very broken. You have four of each basic land available to you, play the Incubation on your creature, that costs 2GU. Then return it to your hand for another 1GU leaving behind two +1/+1 counters. You can play and remove Krasis Incubation two times a turn creating four counters and making your creatures a lot better than the other guy’s.
Magic 2014 instantly looked like a winner when Shadowborn Demon popped up. There’s no perfect crime, this 5/6 flying fattie makes you sacrifice a creature at the beginning of your upkeep unless there are six or more creatures in your graveyard. There never are, you always have to sacrifice a guy. Luckily, the M14 pack has seven other creatures in it. Some of them, like Nightwing Shade and Accursed Spirit, do a pretty good job of winning games when the big daddy Demon doesn’t show up.
It looked like the Khans of Tarkir pack, seeded number one in the South Region, would have an easy time with sixteen-seeded Shadowmoor. Khans took game one with Woolly Loxodon bashing through while Suspension Field and Act of Treason moved would-be blockers out of the way. Actually, I even cleared the board early in game one with End Hostilities. When Joe picked up his Shadowmoor pack after game one he was sure he was going to lose game two. Not so. Mistmeadow Skulk, a 1/1 Kithkin Rogue for 1W has lifelink and protection from converted mana cost three or more. All seven of the creatures in the Khans pack cost three or more. Add to that the reusable thumper, Scuzzback Marauders, a 5/2 trampler with persist. The rare from the pack, Cemetery Puca, doesn’t look like much. It’s a 1/2 Shapeshifter for 1 U/B U/B that can become a copy of any creature that goes to the graveyard from the battlefield while retaining its ability to copy the next creature that dies. Annoying! Joe won games two and three handily. I figured Joe had simply out-foxed me with his superior play skills until the Shadowmoor beat a very decent Guildpact booster in the second round. The Guildpact booster featured Invoke the Firemind, a sorcery for XUUR that either draws X cards or deals X damage to a target creature or player. With “only” twenty mana available you have to manage to deal three points to your opponent in addition to the seventeen damage from Invoke the Firemind, but you have to like your chances with a pack like that. Shadowmoor lost a very three game contest against M14 (with the Shadowborn Demon) to miss reaching the top eight.
The final preliminary battle in the South Region took place in the third round between Ravnica and Fate Reforged. Unfortunately, despite the good cards in the Fate Reforged pack, both games were determined by Ravnica’s cheaty X spell, Psychic Drain. On the play in game one, Ravnica drew and played Psychic Drain on turn six to mill away the remaining library of Fate Reforged. Ravnica did the same thing in game two, only earlier, on turn four. Ravnica goes on to the top eight having lost only one game, back in the first round against Magic 2013.
The first matchup in the East Region was explosive. On the play in game one, the number two seeded Conflux pack did not disappoint, dropping Inkwell Leviathan on turn one. The basic rules of Magic design show us that a card can be more powerful, but fair, if it costs more mana to play. Of course, DC-10 shows no respect to this important design consideration. Inkwell Leviathan costs 7UU. It’s a problem if this Leviathan with islandwalk, trample and shroud arrives early in a game. This creature’s power and toughness are 7/11 and like the convenience store of the same name, the Inkwell Leviathan is open for business day and night! Avacyn Restored, the lowly fifteen seed, fought back well in game two. Even though burdened by a foil Forest, this pack features some solid, if ordinary, monsters that can get the job done. Renegade Demon is a common 5/3 ground pounding Demon, but he can grow wings with Wingcrafter(Wingcrafters ™ – “wings in about an hour”). Gryff Vanguard is a 3/2 flyer that also gives you a card. Fervent Cathar provides a little bit of hasty evasion and Goldnight Commander can power up the whole team whenever a new creature joins the team. Avacyn Restored’s finisher is its rare, Revenge of the Hunted, a miraculous win condition regardless of its cost. Game three went on and on before Conflux eventually put Inkwell Leviathan onto the battlefield to secure the win.
Fourth Edition was considered a heavy favorite in the tournament because Fireball and Disintegrate are both commons in the set. The set has even more X spells, uncommon Hurricane and rare Earthquake. Fourth Edition was expected to wipe up the floor with the sixteen seeded Torment pack. Perspectives changed a lot once the packs were open. Torment won the match 2-0, but it was less because of the amazing cards in Torment and more because of the bad cards in the highly valued Fourth Edition booster. The Torment pack’s rare is Nantuko Cultivator, a 2/2 Insect Druid for 3G that can gain a +1/+1 counter when it enters the battlefield for each land card you discard when you play this card. You also get to draw cards equal to the number of lands you discarded. A very weird card. I don’t remember this card from back in the day and neither does anyone else. Situationally brilliant for limited play, I guess. Terrible for DC-10. The cards that make this pack go are Balshan Collaborator, a 2/2 flyer that pumps +1/+1 for black mana. There is also a Carrion Wurm with a thick 6/5 body. Removal is more than decent with Sonic Seizure, Kamahl’s Sledge, Waste Away and the once-awesome Faceless Butcher. The Fourth Edition pack is full of all favorites, famous old cards that just don’t get much work done in DC-10. The rare is Sleight of Mind. This card lets you change the text of a target spell or permanent from one color word to another. In this tournament, what Sleight of Mind really does is change the Fourth Edition’s seed from one to sixteen. The uncommons include Strip Mine, useless in DC-10 but a card that always brings a smile to an old player’s lips, Library of Leng and Ghost Ship. There’s a Lightning Bolt in here. White border Bolts are worth a buck, I guess. Other old favorites in this pack include Prodigal Sorcerer, Frozen Shade and Benalish Hero.
Champions of Kamigawa and Judgment fought a tough three game match for a top eight slot. Judgment won game one in nine turns after playing Battle Screech twice and flying over the top alongside Aven Fogbringer. Judgment also has good removal cards like Lightning Surge and Ember Shot. Champions failed to draw their best card, Myojin of Cleansing Fire. In game two Champions also failed to draw Myojin but dealt all kinds of damage with the little 2/2 Wicked Akuba. If Wicked Akuba has already dealt damage to an opponent, you can activate Wicked Akuba for one black mana (possibly multiple times) causing that opponent to lose one life. Wicked Akuba got through unblocked several times and made short work of Judgment, winning game two on turn four. For game three, here is a highly detailed, play-by-play account:
T1 Judgment draws Lightning Surge.
T1 Champs draws and plays Villainous Ogre.
T2 Champs draws and plays Ashen-Skin Zubera.
T3 Judgment draws Flaring Pain, attacks with Fogbringer (18-20).
(Web of Inertia won’t let Champs attack unless he exiles a card from his graveyard)
T4 Champs draws and plays Wicked Akuba.
T5 Champs draws and plays Ore Gorger.
T6 Judgment draws Grip of Amnesia, attacks with Fogbringer (12-19).
T7 Judgment draws and plays Phantom Nomad putting two +1/+1 counters on it as it enters the battlefield, attacks with Fogbringer (10-19).
T7 Champs draws and plays Myojin of Cleansing Fire putting a divinity counter on it as it enters the battlefield.
T8 Judgment draws Rats’ Feast, attacks with Fogbringer (8-19).
T8 Champs draws Hisoka’s Guard, removes Divinity counter from Myojin destroying all the other creatures, Zubera triggers when it goes to the graveyard, Judgment responds playing Rats’ Feast with X=5 targeting and exiling all five cards in Champs’s graveyard and drawing Sudden Strength, Zubera’s triggered ability resolves and Judgment discards Flaring Pain, Champs plays Hisoka’s Guard.
T9 Champs draws and plays Nezumi Cutthroat.
JUDGMENT WINS GAME THREE ON TURN 10, WINS MATCH 2-1
What follows is a list of the contents of all sixteen boosters from each of the two regions that we are focused on this week.
The contents of each pack are listed in this order: rare or mythic, then uncommons, then any foil card that might be in the pack, and then the commons. The cards are not listed in the order they came out of the pack. Unless foil, basic lands have been removed from the boosters.
Alara Reborn won 2-0 over Eighth Edition, lost 0-2 to Judgment
Avacyn Restored lost 1-2 to Conflux
Betrayers of Kamigawa lost 0-2 to Judgment
Champions of Kamigawa won 2-1 over Dark Ascension, 2-1 over Torment, lost 1-2 to Judgment
Conflux won 2-1 over Avacyn Restored, 2-0 over Planar Chaos, lost 1-2 to Shards of Alara
Dark Ascension lost 1-2 to Champions of Kamigawa
Eighth Edition lost 0-2 to Alara Reborn
Fourth Edition lost 0-2 to Torment
Innistrad won 2-1 over Odyssey, lost 0-2 to Shards of Alara
Judgment won 2-0 over Betrayers of Kamigawa, 2-0 over Alara Reborn, 2-1 over Champions of Kamigawa
Odyssey lost 1-2 to Innistrad
Planar Chaos won 2-1 over Tenth Edition, lost 0-2 to Conflux
Saviors of Kamigawa lost 0-2 to Shards of Alara
Shards of Alara won 2-0 over Saviors of Kamigawa, 2-0 over Innistrad, 2-1 over Conflux
Tenth Edition lost 1-2 to Planar Chaos
Torment won 2-0 over Fourth Edition, lost 1-2 to Champions of Kamigawa
Coldsnap lost 0-2 to Dragon’s Maze
Dissension lost 0-2 to Fate Reforged
Dragon’s Maze won 2-0 over Coldsnap, lost 1-2 to Magic 2014
Eventide lost 1-2 to Magic 2014
Fate Reforged won 2-0 over Dissension, 2-1 over Lorwyn, lost 0-2 to Ravnica
Gatecrash lost 0-2 to Guildpact
Guildpact won 2-0 over Gatecrash, lost 1-2 to Shadowmoor
Ice Age lost 0-2 to Lorwyn
Khans of Tarkir lost 1-2 to Shadowmoor
Lorwyn won 2-0 over Ice Age, lost 1-2 to Fate Reforged
Magic 2013 lost 1-2 to Ravnica
Magic 2014 won 2-1 over Eventide, 2-1 over Dragon’s Maze, 2-1 over Shadowmoor
Ravnica won 2-1 over M13, 2-0 over Seventh Edition, 2-0 over Fate Reforged
Return to Ravnica lost 1-2 to Seventh Edition
Seventh Edition won 2-1 over Return to Ravnica, lost 0-2 to Ravnica
Shadowmoor won 2-1 over Khans of Tarkir, 2-1 over Guildpact, lost 1-2 to M14
And Then There Were Eight
We’re down to just eight booster packs. Judgment and Shards of Alara from the East, Ravnica and Magic 2014 from the South, Ninth Edition and Mirrodin Besieged from the Midwest and Modern Masters and Visions from the West. In order to make the top eight competition the best it can be I will be reseeding these top eight packs. Their original seedings were determined before the packs were opened because it was more fun to do it that way. Now that we know exactly is in these eight packs, I want to reseed them for the top eight competition. I’ll again be relying on friends on Facebook. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comment section below. I’ll definitely be paying attention.
Why play a sixty-four booster tournament? For the same reason that you would ever play DC-10, just because it’s fun. There’s more to it than that, though. I admit that I enjoy conflating simple things to ridiculous extremes. DC-10 isn’t a tournament format, it’s a pastime, a fun way to get a little play out of your packs when you open them. But what if it was a tournament format? I’m not waiting around and holding my breath to see if Wizards of the Coast ever sanctions such a format. I’m putting on the first-ever, as far as I know, DC-10 tournament as an unsanctioned side event at the second annual Hunter Burton Memorial Magic Open in Fort Worth on March 28th. The DC-10 tournament will cost $15 and feature a single elimination bracket with thirty-two slots. In each round, each player will receive a new booster pack. The round of thirty-two will use Dragons of Tarkir, the round of sixteen will use Shards of Alara, the quarterfinals will use Eventide and the finals will use Modern Masters. I haven’t chosen packs for the semifinals yet. The winner gets $100 cash as well as a trophy and a fancy top hat to show off for winning the fanciest (and strangest) tournament of the day.
Thanks for reading.
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