Since Automattic is currently gathered in Whistler, BC, Canada for our annual Grand Meetup I had the pleasure of running with about 100 of my colleagues near our hotels. It was a rainy and wet, but not as cold as you’d think! Having not run once since my last 5k in May it wasn’t exactly my best performance but I did enjoy the outing.
To encourage Automatticians to join in this mornings run, we’re making a donation to Soles4Souls for every participant here at our Grand Meetup. How could I pass that up? Totally worth getting up early.
Playing Magic: The Gathering over the course of the Grand Meetup was a lot of fun. While I had a losing record (5-8,) I was second in number-of-games-played, which was my true objective. We had 31 players with a round robin setup: everyone was to try and play everyone else once, but we all knew we wouldn’t get all the games in. Each match was ‘best of two out of three games.’ We were playing sealed decks with booster packs from Magic Origins, Dragons of Tarkir, Khans of Tarkir, and Fate Reforged.
I did some research on how to build a deck in a tournament like this, and I ended up only adjusting my initial build once, to add one counter spell which I never got a chance to cast. Apparently in most tournaments you have to mantain the same build for all matches, but we allowed players to change decks completely between matches since it spanned the course of a week and was only for fun anyway.
My best cards were a pair of dragons that both required blue and black mana. I also felt okay on my blue/black cards to provide a solid opening, but I worried about how well they’d hold up in the middle. Since no other color seemed to scream a plan at me I decided to go forward with blue/black and find ways to win late with my dragons and a couple other big creatures.
Having low-cost, deathtouch creatures helped my early drops, but I relied heavily on creature removal to make it through the middle game. When I was lucky enough to get the Blood Chinned Rager along with multiple other warrior creatures (i.e., Unyielding Krumar, Hand of Silumgar, Alesha’s Vanguard) the requirement of two creatures to block made for a strong attack that almost always secured a win later on. But in sealed deck, one really shouldn’t rely on combos. So I added that splash of white to bring back some life. I considered removing the War Behomoth because I almost always used the 2/2 token (without morphing) as a blocker instead of using it for the big creature it can be. The Skaab Goliath and my two dragons were way better at that.
The Necromaster Dragon ended up being my best win condition. Creating 2/2 tokens turn after turn adds salt to the wound of a tough flyer and it was usually enough to turn an equal position into a winning position. Problems with this plan were against opponents playing with aggressive speed. If I was already being attacked by five or six creatures, one 4/4 flyer isn’t enough to turn the game around to my favor. But if I could steadily build as I liked, this creature became the cornerstone of my turn. Silumgar, the Drifting Death can fill the same role because he’s so tough to kill, but I just didn’t draw him as often.
If I wanted to use this deck as the basis of construction play, I wouldn’t need to adjust it much. I’d just add land appropriate to a 60-card deck and beef up the amount of black 3-drop and 4-drop creatures. The result would still be a deck that either annoys for several turns and wins late, or loses quickly due to slower draw against aggro.
I was wrapping up my trial during last year’s grand meetup. When everyone got back I had a chat with my trial lead, Beckett. Reading the archive of that conversation, I now fully ‘get it.’ The week is exhausting: there’s a lot of building, bonding and learning to be done. But inevitably the automatticians leave fired up for what is to come.
Sleep deprived, travel weary, and forgetful of how to make their own food and do dishes, but fired up. Ideas for how to spend the next year abound and we’ll all start back this week with loads of expectations to keep the cool stuff going. I could notice the energy in every slack channel last year, and I’m truly a part of it this year.
One of the lessons I learned from Susan Cain’s Quiet is that when you find yourself in a social environment outside your comfort zone, you can mitigate it by finding more reasonable avenues of engagement within the same setting. The “deep conversation” in the corner of a crowded dinner party comes to mind. While at the Grand Meetup, I’ve been doing my best to not be overwhelmed in the more populous moments. 400 people altogether can lead to being lonely and surrounded at the same time.
My main tactic for this has been to force smaller groups on myself and engage as best as possible with them. Anyone else I meet and converse with is just gravy. Some of these moments would be:
The 4-to-6 person dinners we have each night
The 1 person whom I’m playing Magic: The Gathering with at any moment
The person right next to me at a larger breakfast or lunch table
The players of the Dungeons & Dragons game I run
These are all much easier for me to handle, and I’ve found that by focusing on how to meet people through these avenues I’ve been able to give myself plenty of time to recharge socially and still meet a ton of new folks. It’s unreasonable to expect myself to feel truly comfortable in the loud party room, but absolutely expected of myself to feel comfortable playing Magic 1-on-1 in that room.
As of this writing, I’ve met 161 of the near-400 automatticians. This is far more people than I’d meet if I came here flying by the seat of my pants socially. But not once have I dived in headfirst to a crowd of strangers (which is terrifying,) it was all through small, expected engagement with opportunities I could easily find (which is fun.) Good results also makes me feel less guilty about spending a couple hours each day in my room to both call my wife and recharge my batteries.