By Sonja Benton
It is midnight on Friday, Jan. 25. Forty or so people are chatting and trading cards at Rook’s Comics and Games, waiting for the new, highly anticipated guild boxes to be passed out.
Ravnica, the world that Magic the Gathering is currently inhabiting, is a city controlled by the ten guilds and the “gateless,” or guildless. Gatecrash is the second set out of three in Ravnica. The first five guilds were released in the summer in the first set, Return to Ravnica. Gatecrash contains the rest of the guilds. Each guild is a different pairing of the five colors of Magic: red, green, blue, white and black. The guilds have their own flavor and lore, which in turn affects the effects their cards have.
Each player selects and receives a box that contains one pack of cards from the guild they chose and five packs from the set. The boxes also include a guild letter from the leader of the specific guild, a sticker with the guild symbol, a spin-down d20 (a twenty-sided dice for keeping track of life totals) and a card of funny goals to complete during the event. From the six packs of cards, each player builds a forty-card deck. This means the event is a ‘limited’ event — which means the cards you play are simply the cards you get at the event. The event is also ‘sealed’ because there’s no drafting (or switching) of cards between players.
The midnight sealed event, which lasted until about 4 a.m., involved three rounds of play — three games per person matched and three people to play over the course of the night. If you win zero or one round, the prize is one pack. Two wins and the prize is tripled to three packs. Three wins, or undefeated, results in five packs.
However, the respite of excited gamers chattering about the new cards and arguing about the best guild was short-lived. A second, larger sealed tournament started at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Rook’s had a food cart parked outside to feed hungry card players. The cart had hot dogs, drinks, sandwiches and crepes. Card trading and catching up were common activities between timer rings that signaled the time limit for each round.
The prizes were bigger than the midnight tournament and there were four rounds. Instead of a hierarchy of winners, packs were given to players based simply on the number of wins.
The prizes are fun, but the community around Magic is better: A “gathering” of card players, some new and some old, all helping one another, learning new cards together and catching up. Players of any level are welcome, and more experienced players help and give advice to newcomers.
Jonathon Mortenson, who went 4-0 on Saturday, said “Everyone shared a competitive camaraderie in the first Gatecrash event.” He continued that he’s “excited to try St. Traft,” a blue-white rare card from the Innistrad set, with “the new Gruul pump spells” from Gatecrash.
Peter Lester, a fan of white cards, loves playing with friends and said he “had a great time,” with “Lots of good people.” I personally agree with Lester; the majority of the people at these events are friendly, helpful and a lot of fun to be around. When a Gathering of people come together with a single common interest, it is sure to be Magic.