It's Friday morning and your alarm goes off at 6:30 AM. For some of you, this is no different than any other day. For others, this time hasn't seen you being awake in quite a while. No matter what your situation, it is still hard to drag yourself out of bed, but eventually you do. Your bags are packed and everything is already prepared for the trip. No work today, a relieving thought, but eight hours in a car seems like quite a daunting task. The hotel has been booked for fifty dollars a night for two nights. Thirty three dollars per person for lodging really is not that much though for a trip a couple of states away. Gas calculations have been made for approximately forty dollars per person and food estimates come in around fifty dollars if you conserve and eat some food you brought along. Don't forget you have to pay for your events also. While you could get by with $160 in your wallet, there are certain to be more things to buy and other events to play in so count on $200-$250. Think you'll be a little short, the vendors there are sure to help you out by buying some unwanted cards. This much money might seem a lot to some, but it's a small price to pay for the fun times you are certain to have traveling to a big event.
The car ride goes much quicker than you predicted, mostly because you and your friends discussed the decks you would be playing and the metagame you expected. What do you think the most played deck will be? How well does your deck do against it? What is your sideboard going to look like. All these questions and more are discussed. This time is so valuable for finalizing deck lists before you get to the event site. If you are lucky, this process will yield some new piece of tech or a whole new deck you have to scramble to get the pieces for on site so you can take the event by storm. Once all decks are finalized the last part of the journey went especially fast because your friend suggested you play twenty questions with magic cards as the topic, an epically fun game.
Arriving at the event site on Friday night is much different than it will be the next day. Not as many players are there yet, but you are ready to try and grind your way into qualifying for the event. Even if you don't get qualified, you can at least test your deck out and see if you want to make any changes. The atmosphere is a bit relaxed for such a competitive crowd, but you have your game face on and are ready to battle.
Even failing to grind into the event, the evening was still enjoyable and the food after the grinders was quite good. It's getting late and everyone needs to get some rest before the event tomorrow. No Invitational, but there is still a big event you need no qualification to enter. The hotel is tolerable as a room with some beds and maybe a little testing. Your spirits are lifted upon thinking of the competition tomorrow will hold. You are prepared. You are ahead of the other players. Your deck has been tested and you are ready to beat them all! Tomorrow will hold no variance like tonight did and you go to bed ready to crush the field.
As your roommates wake you a little bit to early, you groan but roll out of bed so everyone can make it to the site early. The hotel is not far from the event site. It is only a short drive to the convention center. When you ask, your friends tell you the hotel is cheaper when you stay a quick drive away. Walking into the convention center hall is like nothing you have ever experienced. There are hundreds of magic players all over the place. There are vendors, artists, alterers, and people who make 3D cards. Some players are already selling cards to vendors while others are on a non-stop mission to trade, trade, trade. Some players are writing out deck lists and others are getting in some last minute testing. If you don't have all the cards for your deck be prepared to wait in the long line of others in a similar situation. It is a lot to take in but the exhilaration you feel is almost overwhelming.
What took you so long to make it to big event like this? Excuses about money mostly you think, or maybe your friends thought they were too busy to make it to an event out of town. Whatever the reason, you certainly are glad that didn't stop you this time.
While the Star City Invitational this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina was not my first big event, I did recall these same feelings while I was there. It was just like I was at my first big event all over again. I still get the rush when I enter the event hall for the first time each weekend.
This experience used to be much easier for players to experience because prereleases used to be held in convention centers in most major cities. It was great. You got to meet all kinds of new players and have this experience while you still had a casual event to play in. This old style prerelease was the gateway for casual players to break into competitive play even more so than FNM. It allowed them to get a taste of what it was like to play in a larger event. I miss it so much and wish we could return to my good old days of convention center prereleases.
Getting back on topic, if you have never made it to a big event, I highly recommend it. Make it your New Year's Resolution to get to a big event. Star City is expanding their series yet again and Wizards is increasing the number of Grand Prix tournaments. Find the time and money for this experience. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
One of the other great things I love about going to big events is seeing all the friends you have made from playing this game. It is worth it. For me, it was great to hang out with Quiet Specs own Corbin Hosler. Talking magic finance is a ton of fun for me and this guy knows his stuff. Ryan Bushard, who now writes for gatheringmagic.com, was a blast this weekend. Not many people can make a living with this game but Ryan is killing it with his Box to Extended project.
The main goal of this article is to spread the joy of going to big events, but never fear, I have some tech to share.
Last week, I talked about a new version of Green White Tokens. While I do not have a tournament report filled with success and stories of the top 8, the deck is solid and still quite viable. There was one change I made from the deck last week. Both versions are very good but I felt that this new version, only four cards different, had the edge on the field.
The change? Sunblast Angel over Sun Titan! It is a wrath effect that has a huge flying body. I won the only game I drew her over the weekend. Switching the numbers on Blade Splicer and Mirran Crusader seemed pertinent due to the rise of Blue White Illusions because they just pay their one mana to bounce the token and that basically nullifies your threat. Mirran Crusader is also better against Wolf Run. Taking out a Garruk Relentless and a Viridian Emissary for the two Tumble Magnets just felt like diversifying my removal. Tumble Magnet and Gideon Jura go well with Sunblast Angel, though Phyrexian Rebirth may have been a better choice even with no evasion.
The part of the sideboard I loved was Bonds of Faith. Instead of running another Oblivion Ring or Pacifism like some pros have advocated, Bonds of Faith allows you to play defensively like a normal Pacifism effect or offensively by pumping your Mirran Crusader. The necessary Timely Reinforcements was fine as was the one of Sword of War and Peace. Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite is pretty standard tech now, but the card is just amazing in any type of mirror or similar match. The part of the sideboard that I am not sure was optimal was the package of Thrun the Last Troll, White Suns Zenith, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Creeping Renaissance that I boarded against control decks. The reason I am not sure is because I do not think that many spots should be dedicated to beating a small percentage of the metagame. My friend played the same list as I did and dedicated more space to beating Wolf Run, this decks worst match. His sideboard is as follows.
2 Tumble Magnet
1 Sword of War and Peace
4 Timely Reinforcements
2 Ghost Quarter
There are a lot of cards that overlap here. The two Pacifisms should have been Bonds of Faith but no manner of convincing would make him purchase them for $.50 each. He chose to go with the sideboarded Spellskites and Ghost Quarters to bring in against the Wolf Run decks. He successfully beat a few of them so maybe this strategy is just better than what I decided to go with. My impression though, is that this plan is too reactive and I wanted to be doing something more proactive.
Regardless of what sideboard you decide to go with, the deck is a ton of fun and is capable of winning any game. Do not forget about Green White Tokens because it is still powerful. If the new set brings a better two cost creature, Green White Tokens could see a resurgence in the metagame.
Many of the matchups are solid and in your favor like Blue White Humans, Red Deck wins, and even the popular Illusions deck is a decent match for you. If you decide to play this deck, just make sure you have enough cards in your sideboard to beat Wolf Run and the control decks.
Traveling to events and discovering new cards to use in different ways are just a few aspects of how amazing this game is. There will be retellings of games won and lost. There will be stories of dinner with Jonathan Medina and restaurants filled with crazed MMA fans. Will you be living in these stories or just be there to hear about them when you friends return from the weekend-long trip?
Until Next Time,
You can't just go have dinner with Jonathan Medina, Corbin Hosler, and Ryan Bushard so go Unleash that Road Warrior Force!