So I’m a couple days behind on getting this out, but over the weekend, I went to my first Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix! It was a lot of fun. 1600+ people filled up the Oakland Convention Center on Saturday morning to play M14 Sealed.
There were events all weekend long, and while I couldn’t hang out during the day on Friday, in the evening, I hooked up with my friend and guildmate Kinch to attend a cool seminar on the format with Ben Stark and Luis Scott-Vargas (look, these are MTG Hall of Famers, okay?!) and play in a “practice” event in the same format. Theoretically, you could come up against people from Channel Fireball, who were hosting the event, and win some extra prizes. Instead, I just went 2-1 and won some extra foil prize cards. Mostly, though, I was just there to have fun. Which I did!
Also, I asked LSV if he had given away any prizes (by losing) midway through the rounds. That was kind of awesome. Especially since he had.
After getting stuck in a 12:30 AM traffic jam on the way home, I came back Saturday morning for the Main Event. This time, I took the train – suck it, Oakland road work! They sat us down at tables, and we started – very methodically – opening packs, sorting them, and writing down what was in them. I’ve never had to do a “real” deck registration before, but the idea is that you open packs, write down what’s in them, pass them around the table, someone else verifies it, and then pass them again. At that point, you have the pool you’ll be playing with. I guess this is a good way to verify that people aren’t dropping in extra Kalonian Hydras into their decks (even though the pack being registered next to me had two of them in it…).
In the end, I played a red/green deck that had a lot of face-bashing potential. What it didn’t have much of was removal spells. This is a problem (especially in sealed), because when everyone opens 6 packs of cards, they have a lot of chance to open removal, and a lot of chance to open big fat dudes that smash you. So, while I had the possibility to just win some games before my opponent could react, I got into a lot of trouble once the board stabilized a bit. I still tended to have the bigger creatures, but it just wasn’t consistently enough.
I think that I also ended up playing too few creatures for the style of deck I was trying to build. I only had 12 creatures (out of 23 spells), which just isn’t that many. I probably should have tried to push it to 16 or so. Maybe not, since I had to dedicate 3 cards just for the Doom Blade. It’s hard to say. Here’s what I ran:
In the end, I went 3-3, at which point I dropped (basically, if you don’t go 7-2 on the first day, you are highly unlikely to make the second day). The friend that went the farthest got to 5-3 with what appeared to me to be a slightly weaker deck. It’s possible that I was mistaken – especially after he started switching colors in between rounds (which is where his winning percentage changed).
So yeah, that’s basically it. Going to a Grand Prix is definitely something I’d do again, and I’d highly recommend it to someone who enjoys playing competitive Magic. Even if you don’t think you will make it very far, the atmosphere is just really cool. There’s tons of people around who just want to play and have a good time. There are artists that show up and will sit at a booth and sign cards/playmats/whatever for hours all day. You can even buy some original card art – several of the artists I talked to did their originals in oil on canvas, and were at least selling prints.
Also, if you have watched any coverage or listened to podcasts (Limited Resources and Drive to Work are my current go-to Magic podcasts), then you will recognize a ton of Magic celebrities – all of whom seemed reasonably willing to just chat with people from the community. That, or you could spend 10 grand on a full playset of Beta moxes…