Brittany Sportscard

So I got a little carried away last time, so here is some more about local card scenes.

So the first place I found out about was right near my middle school in Bloomfield, NJ, which I happened to be attending when I started playing Magic. This place was called Brittany Sportscard. (Everyone just called it Brittany’s which was the name of the owner’s daughter IIRC) So this place was your traditional Sports Memorabilia/Comic Shop/Trading Card shop. The store was pretty long so the Comics were all along the one wall. And then he had I guess more expensive stuff under glass. So whatever signed baseballs he was selling, or whatnot. He had some single Magic cads there, and I’m guessing single Sports cards too. They kept all the boosters on the opposite wall of the comics. So the glass things would separate the customers out, and then the guys working would have to turn behind them to get the boosters or starters.

Now for whatever reason Brittany’s always had packs of older cards. This is 95/96-ish and you would expect them to just have like only the most recent expansions like Ice Age and Alliances and 4th Edition or whatever. But they seemed to have a bunch of Revised/Dark/Legends lying around too. I don’t know if they just had a huge stock of them or what. The other thing about Brittany’s is their pack prices was always pretty expensive. The cheapest cards would be the list price on the pack. I know they are a business, and I usually bought there when I first started playing, but it started to wear a little bit that prices were as expensive as they were. Especially after we found our second playing ground, Comic World, had much cheaper prices.

The best thing about Brittany’s was they had a Type 1 tournament every month. The first Saturday (I think) of each month at around 7 all of the local Magic geeks would come together and Brittany’s would open up their basement and crowd everyone downstairs amongst the setup tables and extra inventory. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone actually had the Power Nine. But it was nice to not be too restricted with what you could play. If we were playing Type 2 (which was in it’s infancy) I wouldn’t have see all the random old cool cards (like the Green Serendib Efreet or Braingeyser or …). It also seemed like all the guys who were playing when I started had tons of Dual lands, and had pretty big firepower. So for 5 bucks you got entry into the tournament, a slice of pizza, and a can of soda. Winner and 2nd place got some prize booster support. I recall at some point they started giving a random pack to someone. But for the cost of $5 you basically got dinner and a place to play cards for 5 hours. Once you got knocked from the tournament they just asked that you stay out of the way of people still in the tournament, but as much trading/casual play as you could fit in was expected. Oh and if you happened to buy a bunch of cards while you were there from the store all the better.

I don’t remember who I played in my first Brittany’s tournament, but I remember having like a 5 color 80 card deck. After getting destroyed pretty quickly in the first game to my opponent I chatted with him for a bit and decided I was going to remove all of my red cards from my deck (obviously it was Red that was the problem since I didn’t draw any mountains) and didn’t fair much better in game two. Yes, I realized later it was completely illegal for me to do this, but this was more casual. The guy was nice enough to trim my 80 card 5 color deck down to 60ish cards, and only 2 or 3 colors. I’m sure he traded stuff with me, and I probably lost a pretty good rare for some Timmy rare. But the new deck seemed pretty decent.

Sometime early on I ended up swapping cards accidentally with one of the regulars. A long-haired metal dude named Shaun (I think that’s the right spelling, I never knew his last name). Swapping cards wasn’t exactly what happened though, he ended up with some multi-colored beads that I used for counters, and I ended up with his Red/Black land destruction deck. This was still early on for me, and I felt bad about losing my beads, but thought it a great learning experience. I played his deck against my own, and learned how the deck worked. It was like taking apart a computer built by one of the better builders in the local scene. The deck was pretty ruthless if it could get going. 4 Sinkholes, 4 Blights, 4 Strip Mines, 4 Stone Rain, 4 Sedge Trolls, 3 Demonic Hordes, 3 Icy Manipulators, 4 Badlands. Something like that. It just tried to bludgeon you into having no resources. We successfully swapped back at the next tournament and he was quite relieved to get back his prized possession.

I don’t know exactly how long it took but I know by the next year I had become a dominant force on the scene. I had built a UW Stasis deck that deck could almost play itself. I would counter big threats, sit there and not do all that much. Then lock down the board and coast to victory. I used Kismet, Storm Cauldron, Capsize, Chronatog, Enlightened Tutor, Ivory Tower, Black Vise, and some creature kill. I could probably rebuild the deck off the top of my head. With a Kismet/Stasis lock in play, I would just stall long enough until I drew the 3rd puzzle piece. To be honest, the deck wasn’t that fun to play, because it was racing my opponent to the lock, and it definitely wasn’t fun to play against. I think I only lost a few matches with the deck fully built. And one of the losses in the semifinals, I had my opponent completely locked out, each of us had a Zuran Orb out and he sacrificed some land to have more life than I did just before they called time. Brittany’s had a policy to not give extra time and since they did a bracket style tournament instead of Swiss, they awarded my opponent the victory. A poor way to end a game, they should at least have let me get the chance to sacrifice lands myself. Oh well, I have long memories but try not to hold any grudges. My opponent was gracious enough to give me a card from one of his packs for getting second place. I was still convinced I would have gotten first, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

The tournaments had started getting erratic around this time, and wasn’t a guarantee to happen each month anymore. But the next tournament my Stasis deck had been dismantled and most of the pieces were sitting in my trade binder. I built a new Silver Bullet style deck that would haunt my opponents. Between all the creature recursion, always having an answer, and having the finisher in my back pocket, my Hermit Misery deck won with as much consistency as the Stasis deck but with a higher fun factor for myself and my opponents.

It always felt so weird to not know if they were having their tourney that month or not. They definitely should have had a better system. This was before the internet was so widespread, but they required word of mouth and it just didn’t work that well. A lot of the regulars started getting out of the game, and with less new blood coming in and less regular tournaments the lot of us changed primary scenes to Comic World.

Brittany’s had another location near the high school, which was actually their first location. And as almost a final hurrah, after the store I knew about closed down they had one last Type 1 tourney at the other location. It was fun to play another Brittany’s tournament, so I decided to bring a fun green Land destruction deck that was Type 2 legal. I added a few Type 1 staples (like Regrowth) and went to the tournament with a bit of a handicap. I think that was the last tourney Brittany had. I wish I had kept some type of record of the deck I brought to each event and how well I fared.

I know those Brittany tourneys had been feeding me with lots of extra boosters. So here’s a toast to Brittany’s. Thanks for all the great hours. I don’t know exactly when you went under, but I loved spending hours in your basement playing cards. And thanks for everyone else for the good competition. I wonder if any of you still play or would be up for some casual games.

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