This weekend was the annual celebration of all things gaming known as PAX East. I traveled to the historic city of Boston to learn everything I could about the future of Magic the Gathering from the mouths of the people responsible for creating the world’s greatest strategy card game. I’ll be sharing more of this news with you all this week but first please enjoy this journal of my four days at PAX East 2015.

My Trip to PAX East

Day One

Boston’s very soul has been frozen. That’s the feeling I get as I’m walking from my hotel in Chinatown to the convention center in South Boston. It’s rush hour on Thursday evening and the working-class is making their daily exodus from the city through South Station. I weave through the pedestrian traffic with my massive Sennheiser headphones over my ears, partly to enjoy Spotify but mostly to keep my ears warm. How could I have forgotten to pack my scarf?

This used to be water but it's now the frozen dreams of Bostonians

This used to be water but it’s now the frozen dreams of Bostonians

Considering how my day began, cleaning a fresh coat of snow off of my car parked in front of my apartment building in Bushwick, Brooklyn, you’d think I wold be better prepared for Boston winter. After all, this isn’t my first trip to PAX East. After cleaning off the car I went back upstairs to pack Zoe into her carrier. Zoe is an adorable cat that my fiancee and I have been fostering for the ASPCA and she’s finished her antibiotics and can be returned to the shelter to be adopted out. Zoe hates being put into her carrier and meows out her song of suffering for the entire two hours it takes me to travel 13 miles from my apartment to the ASPCA.

The snow is brutal but PAX East beckons. While this will be my fifth trip to PAX East in the six years it’s been around (Sorry 2011) this is my first time going with a Media credential. I’m excited enough that I forgo taking the T to get to the convention center and decide to walk the 1.5 miles to the convention center to get my badge and then walk back to my hotel. It’s a very brisk walk and my lack of scarf helps motivate me to walk a bit faster.


The convention center is massive. From a quarter-mile away I needed to use panorama to capture it all.

The convention center is massive. From over a block away I needed to use panorama to capture it all.

I get back to my hotel room, managing to somehow avoid the temptation to enter every single Asian bakery in Chinatown on my way back (I passed six, you should be proud of me), and ironically take out the leftover Chinese food I brought with me to have for dinner. I turn on the Bruins vs. Flames pregame show and dig into my cold Sesame Chicken. As a Devils fan I’m mildly interested but I pull up the PAX schedule on Guidebook.

I put a few panels into my schedule which may be of interest to me or my fiancee but really I’m here for two reasons. The first, obviously, is to play games with my friends. The second is to see the future of Magic the Gathering first-hand. I plug in my portable phone charger and get out my notebook and start making preparations. MTG Panel on Friday. Sit-down with Liz Lamb-Ferro on Saturday. I’m tempted to try to track down Ethan Fleischer and Doug Beyer on social media but I need to pick up some friends from the airport so I put it off until tomorrow.

Day Two

I knew Friday was going to be a long day. I was rooming with a few former Magic players who are now game designers and we headed over to Panera with a few of my college friends staying at the same hotel. It was 7:00 AM and it was cold and windy. Boston’s cold heart had not yet thawed to the warmth of the gaming community. With some egg sandwiches in our stomachs we went back to the hotel and gathered our things for the day. I grabbed my backpack and tossed in some granola bars, my portable phone charger, my tablet, notebook, pens, and my Legacy deck (the last remnant of my Magic collection). We went down to the lobby to get the 8 AM shuttle to the convention center.

8:00 came and went with no shuttle but a longer line forming outside the hotel. Minutes felt longer and longer as we huddled for warmth. A few teenagers in Pokemon costumes bounced a surprisingly durable prop pokeball against the wall. Their chaperone told us how disconnected she felt from their children’s generation. The shuttle did not come. Many of the people in line who needed to be there to set up in the exhibition hall started hailing cabs. Around 8:15 my roommates did the same. I lasted another 15 minutes and the shuttle finally arrived. There were about 40 people waiting in line. 10 of us were allowed on the bus. Once all the seats were full we were off to the convention center.

One of the non-Magic things I did at PAX East

One of the non-Magic things I did at PAX East

Friday featured two important things for me to check out. First, from 9 to 10 AM, was the exclusive media access to the expo hall. I wasn’t covering anything in the expo hall but it was access I was granted by the magical powers of being a member of the media. I had no qualms in abusing the power and meandered to Blizzard’s impressive Overwatch booth. I got in a very short line and was soon jumping into a couple rounds of attack/defend in a very enjoyable Team-Fortress style game. My team won both rounds and I was rewarded with a Pinny Arcade pin for my troubles. Afterwards, I queued up for Heroes of the Storm at the Twitch booth and got another exclusive pin. Both games were highly enjoyable.

The mundanes entered the expo hall and I decided to check out Magic’s presence in the tabletop area. Yikes. Wizards and TJ’s collectibles easily dominated a full third of the tabletop area. This is an insane amount of space. You easily could have hosted a PTQ and then some. They had tournaments running non-stop, a large learn to play area, a prize wall, a store, a massive judging station, spellslinging and a lounge for the slingers (Ethan Flesicher, Doug Beyer, and Dave Humphreys) and a press lounge (which I took note of for my Saturday interview with Liz Lamb-Ferro). Magic was everywhere.

They were running side events on par with a Grand Prix. It was crazy.

They were running side events on par with a Grand Prix. It was crazy.

A few hours later I found myself in the Queue for the Magic: the Gathering Panel featuring the aforementioned representatives from Wizards of the Coast. You may have heard about the panel. There were a couple topics covered including Dragons of Tarkir, Modern Masters 2015, Magic Origins, and something called Battle for Zendikar, whatever that means. In case you missed it, I highly recommend catching the replay on Twitch, or checking out the live Twitter feed we had going on Friday afternoon. I had a blast covering the event but was thoroughly exhausted afterwards and grabbed some lunch.


The day got a bit more relaxing at that point and I sat down with some friends to play a board game called Castle Panic which was a lot of fun but was mostly random chance. It was like Hearthstone as a board game. I’m just kidding. It was maybe like an adult version of Candyland. Seriously, there wasn’t a lot of skill involved. After that I got some dinner at Legal Harborside with my roommates before walking back to the hotel and picking up pastries from an Asian bakery in Chinatown on the way. The day was capped off by a late-night drive over to South Station to pick up my fiancee who would be joining me for Saturday and Sunday.

Day Three

On Saturday morning we went to a diner near South Station for breakfast. It was a greasy joint which is my favorite kind of place to get food. The waitress was a bit brash and the owner was a bit pushy but we got seated, got breakfast, had some laughs, talked about the humble beginnings of Magic the Gathering, and then headed off for an exciting day at PAX East, the biggest gaming convention on the eastern seaboard.

The day began walking around the expo hall checking out a few new games, but most of the lines were too long and the crowds were too big so we didn’t stay too long. Besides, I had an important meeting scheduled with Wizards Brand Manager for Magic Liz Lamb-Ferro. I won’t go into too much detail because I will have a follow-up post on this interview, but we talked about a wide range of topics including Duels: Origins, Magic Online, improving the community for women, Modern Masters Weekend, and PAX Prime. Keep an eye out for that post.

These folks were a blast to talk to this weekend.

These folks were a blast to talk to this weekend.

After the interview I spent some time talking to Ethan Fleischer while he was spell-slinging. He crushed me with the Liliana side of the Liliana vs. Garruk duel deck but while doing so he confirmed the following things to me:

  • Battle for Zendikar will have full-art lands
  • Un-Set 3 releases this week
  • The Wizards staff uses a lot of puns

Actually, Ethan has a policy of confirming all rumors, so none of that is necessarily true. Sorry if I got your hopes up.

After some duels with Ethan I grabbed some lunch and then checked out the Final Fantasy XV panel. This game looks gorgeous and will hopefully be releasing sometime this year on next-gen consoles. As a huge fan of the franchise I was glad to see the visuals are stunning. Of course the characters are all variations on the same tropes we’re used to and the story may end up being similarly full of cliche. The combat system is very real-time instead of turn-based and I’ll reserve judgment on that until I can get my hands on it. But good lord it looks pretty good.

Seriously this game looks like a movie

Seriously this game looks like a movie

After the panel it was time for tabletop gaming until around 11pm. I got to play Ubongo: Duel (highly recommend), Dixit (highly recommend), and Galactic Strike Force (avoid). We ended up spending about three hours playing Galactic Strike Force twice because we fucked it up so badly the first time around. I’ve been told it’s a very skill-intense and challenging game but it didn’t seem worth the effort. Afterwards I met up with my fiancee and a friend of hers to get some drinks at a lovely seaport bar called Gather before walking back to the hotel.

Day Four

On Sunday we slept in a bit. This was mostly because it was the end (beginning?) of Daylight Savings time so we lost an hour of sleep. I went to bed around half-past-midnight but it was really half-past-one so when I woke up at 7 AM I’d only slept for six hours, instead of seven. I went right back to sleep and got out of bed at 8 AM. Seven-hours-of-sleep achievement unlocked. I grabbed breakfast from the hotel’s buffet with a friend from college and then packed up my car. Since I was done with the “work” part of the convention I wouldn’t need any of my bags. Three of us grabbed a cab around 10 AM but the traffic was nuts. At one point we just got out of the cab at a red light. Of course the light immediately changed to green and people behind us got pissed and honked their horns a lot. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Once inside we stopped by the retro arcade and decided to play-through and beat the Simpsons arcade game since we had infinite lives. Then we went down to tabletop and I played Smash Up (highly recommend) and Death Angel (recommend) before it was time for me to make my getaway. I said farewell to my college friends and met up with my fiancee and one of her co-workers to drive back to New York. We stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Connecticut on the way home and fantasized about opening the first eSports Bar in NYC. The perfect ending to the weekend.

While searching for pictures of Buffalo Wild Wings I found this one at IGN so, it seems appropriate.

The Quick Hits

  • Huey Jensen lists the top five decks he’s played in his illustrious career [Channel Fireball]
  • Jared Yost reviews the value of the Elspeth vs. Kiora box set [MTG Price]
  • Fabrizio Anteri shares his story of struggling through a streak of bad luck [MTG UK]
  • Channel Fireball and Cardboard Crack are teaming up to provide this amazing giveaway contest [Cardboard Crack]
  • Danny Brown is not happy at all about the recent updates to the MTGO Legacy Cube [Quiet Speculation]
  • Caleb Durward seeks out a few cards which are criminally underplayed in Modern [Channel Fireball]
  • Ryan Overturf has a rebuttal to Danny Browns concerns over the MTGO Legacy Cube [Quiet Speculation]
  • Cliff Daigle looks ahead to this summer’s releases and recommends saving your pennies now [MTG Price]
  • Hallie Santo balances playing Magic with the relationships with her loved ones [Gathering Magic]

Wallpaper of the Week

If you’ve been longing for some dragons to grace your desktop you should be very pleased over the next few weeks/months as Dragons of Tarkir will likely dominate our wallpaper selections. Perhaps we’ll get a Narset or Sarkhan but I think just like in the cards we’ll be seeing a lot of dragons. Thunderbreak Regent is as good a start as any.

Grade: B+

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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