By Erica Verville

HI EVERYONE! My name is Erica and for a long time I had the world convinced my last name was “Smerica.” I got into Magic: The Gathering four years ago via Shawn “Ensnaring Cambridge” Massak. I played in my first FNM with a borrowed Open the Vaults deck and fell in love. Speaking of … I would like to take a minute to mention I also fell for Shawn during that time, not just because he let me borrow that deck but because he’s pretty great. He has ensnared my heart!

So a few years ago, I was at the peak of my Magic: The Gathering journey. You could find me slinging spells, adding my input on card evaluations, and discussing the latest LSV video down at my LGS. While I was not the best player, I had a decent grasp on the game and even had a few FNM wins under my belt.

Enter work. As a consultant my time isn’t always “mine”—or, rather, I allow it to not always to be, prioritizing work over almost everything else. Work/life balance is a concept that gets thrown around a lot as you get older, and while I am finding it hard to define, I am trying, since right now it seems to be “work life.”


I find Magic very stressful at times. Thinking, planning, anticipating—that crushing feeling when you realize you played right into a Supreme Verdict, etc. After working 12+ hours, five hours in a LGS basement is not always what I need or can handle. Over time, I stopped making time to play/practice/be an active Magic player even while Shawn was out Ensnaring Cambridge. My downtime turned into reading fantasy books, watching an embarrassing amount of Total Divas, and only playing EDH so long as no one was playing Hanna, Ship’s Navigator and I had some guarantee that the game would last less than four hours.

Over the holiday season, Shawn was on break and I took some paid time off. As you probably know, Shawn spent a chunk of his time buylisting (for the record, the house is still full of Magic cards) and the only contribution I had to this process was loaning out my laptop and ordering sushi. I feel like I would have been more annoyed that even while on vacation Magic seemed to be swallowing my apartment and life whole, but instead it made me reminisce about how great Magic can be, what a huge role it played at the beginning of my and Shawn’s relationship, and how many friends I’ve met through the game.

My spark was (re)ignited.

It must have been divine intervention that the weekend Shawn was planning on coming to out to Sacramento (where my current project for work is) and spare me the red-eye flights to and from Boston was also the weekend of the Born of the Gods pre-release. Once I realized this, I quickly searched for nearby game stores.

Shawn and I ended up playing at a noon event on Saturday at the awesome Big Brother Comics. Everyone there was super-friendly, helpful, and the store was overall really great. Here’s my not so awol tournament report.


My Pool

Without playing any Theros Limited and not looking at any Born of the Gods spoilers or promo cards I went with the white prerelease box. My play style has me pretty comfortable playing WB, so I was hoping I could build a deck in those colors. No dice, though, as I got very little removal and ended up with a WR deck to utilize the larger creatures and burn spells available in my pool.

My final deck.

My final deck.

This being my first article attempt, I was not comfortable asking for pictures or really drawing attention to myself in that capacity, so sorry that there are no awkward pictures of my opponents. I also took terrible notes with such sloppy handwriting I can’t read them now so instead of going into the depths of each game, I’d like to just highlight the things that stuck in my head and the general feels of playing my first sanctioned event in over a year.

Round 1—Nick, UW (1-2)

Feeling: Anxious

This round was a mess for me. I was very nervous. I could feel my cheeks turning bright red and my hands did that shaking thing I try to mask with excessive shuffling. I’m pretty sure everyone shuffles their hand because the pros do it—but me, I do it because my hands shake excessively—and exclusively!—while playing Magic.

Anyways game one was pretty quick. Nick got land-flooded and with only a few counters and Excoriates to hold off my growing army of vigilant cats and Elite Skirmishers.

Not used to winning, or expecting to win, I announced I would be on the play the next game and received a puzzled look in response. Whooooooopsies!


That was embarrassing. While I think we all have moments like that at some point, I felt pretty stupid about the whole thing.

The next two games Nick seemed to curve out perfectly, unleashing a flock of flyers. I would like to think I held my own, but I misplayed a few times, missed some important opportunities to trigger heroic, and left the round feeling pretty gross about the whole thing.

I remember telling Shawn that I wanted to leave in fear of embodying the “playing against a girl = auto win” idea. I like to think no one really thinks this way, but it’s something I have had to deal with in the past and I didn’t want to give anyone ammo to perpetuate this idea.

Shawn’s words of advice for round two were simple: “Just win.”

Round 2—Jesse, BU (2-0)

Feeling: Satisfied

Shawn’s half-assed advice worked! My deck played out nearly perfectly in these two games, with answers and triggers up the wazoo. Game one I got to successfully cast and reap the benefits of both Rage of Purphoros and Ordeal of Purphoros. In game one I was able to get Jesse down to two and burn him out with Magma Jet. It’s been awhile since I’ve burned FTW, and I gotta say: It felt pretty satisfying.

Game two was pretty similar. I used Magma Jet to burn an early 5/2 creature that I did not want to get into combat with, followed by a lot of creature trading and trample damage calculations. But the important thing about this game is that I started to calm down and just enjoy the game. (I also remembered how sweet trample is.)

Round 3—Noah, UW (2-1)

Feeling: Proud

Noah was a super-nice opponent and had a solid UW deck full of fliers. After mulliganing in game one, I died fairly quickly to an aerial assault. However, the next two games I got to actually play Magic and felt good about my ability to do so; I remembered all my triggers and used my mana efficiently.

Game two I was able to get a Spear of Heliod out. I had not played yet with this card, and now I’m kind of in love with it. I had some favorable winds on my side this game—Noah was not able to get any damage through and I was able to create some very large trample creatures with the help of Anax and Cymede’s heroic trigger.

Game three I mulled again and was very worried I would be losing this one since my mull to six had three land sources (two Plains and one Mountain) and three red creatures, two of which required double red. I remember this game having some sweet blocks, a handful of Excoriates from both of us, and a weird draw–go cycle wherein the both of us waited to draw something other than land. I was able to get Anax down again, though—and, with the help of Silent Sentinel, return an enchantment creature to play and overpower the board one last time with Anax’s heroic trigger.

Round 4—UG (Draw)

Feeling: Lucky

I think if we both knew the difference in prizes (two packs for 2-1-1 and seven packs for 3-1) we would have played this game out for all the marbles. We did play for fun, though, and I was destroyed by the first UG deck I had played against all day. I kept getting held back from playing anything after an endless barrage of Griptides while my opponent was able to ramp up and overpower the board in both games we played.

Overall, I am so glad I played the Born of the Gods prerelease weekend. I did find myself slipping back into “math” mode a bit, especially after playing three similar-styled decks—but if anything I think it’s pretty cool I was able slide so easily back into Magic. I can see where this block so far can get a little stale for players, but coming into it with fresh eyes, I liked it and plan on playing in more sanctioned events in the future, on both coasts!

Back in elementary school Erica was told that girls were not allowed to play Magic by one of her card-slinging friends. This started a decade-long boycott of the game that ended four years ago, when she started dating someone who told her that girls can and do play Magic; that her grudge was stupid; and more importantly showed her that Magic is a very complicated and fun game. Erica works as a consultant, is in an indie-pop band, and really wants Daniel Bryan to main-event Wrestlemania this year.

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