Insider: Lessons from Grand Prix DC

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Welcome back speculators! Today's article will focus on the lessons I learned from my trip to Grand Prix DC.

The Good

Large events are the ideal places to locate hard-to-find rarities. I used this as an opportunity to convert some cards I was unable to move into some really great EDH cards that are hard to find including a judge foil Vampiric Tutor, a german Demonic Tutor, and a foreign Mana Crypt.

GPs are also great places to pick up LP cards from dealers. I was able to get two Ionas for 12 each and a couple other random EDH cards from the SCG HP section, which is a godsend for EDH players and a great way for SCG to unload some cards they wouldn't normally pick up. These sections tend to get raided of the best stuff early on, so if you want the best selection you need to hit up their booth early in the day.

The beauty of the larger events (and mutiple vendors) is that it creates actual competition among dealers. This means better prices for players, though I am still in awe of the apathy of many players. I heard several players sell their promo to the first vendor they came to (at $5) when I'd heard the vendor next to them tell people they were paying $8 for them.

This also means that dealers who wanted to stock up on certain cards had to offer higher than usual buy prices (one dealer offered 14 dollars on Jace, Architect of Thought, while all others were more in the $8 range). Needless to say that dealer got all of my remaining Jaces. The best dealers are often aware of what their competition is charging and change prices to reflect that.

GPs have lots of fun and interesting side events that aren't available at other venues. I suggest anyone who has never been to one to go (especially if it's decently close).

The Bad

Despite my best efforts someone managed to steal a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and foil Elesh Norn out of my binder. Now my normal rules for trading are:

  1. Only one binder out at a time. The more you have out the more "targets" you give people.
  2. Only trade with one person at a time. A lot of thieves will use a multi-person approach to get your attention.

However, I did (until this occurred) allow my trade partners to pull out cards they were interested in so that I could get a feel for what values to look for. Unfortunately, I believe this was the mistake I made that allowed them to take advantage of my binder.

I'm now implementing some new trade rules:

  1. Cards are not to be removed from the binder until the trade is actually occurring. I realize that people will want to verify condition on many of the higher-end cards. If this is the case then I would need to pay very careful attention to the process.
  2. Binders are to remain on the table at all times. (I believe another trick thieves use is to lean the binders on the table and their lap, which forms a ramp and they might pull cards out and allow them to "slide" down to their lap).

The last way to help protect your trade binder would be to keep all the slots full. This is how I realized my cards were missing (there were "holes" where there shouldn't have been).

The Ugly

While I was bulking out a Tropical Island to a player who was thrilled to get one, one of the TO's employees tapped me on the shoulder and asked to talk to me at the front. I was walked up to the front and told that I was being asked to leave the venue on suspicion of buying/selling cards.

I had not offered to buy or sell any cards from anyone besides an approved vendor (i.e. one of the several stores that was on site). Their "evidence" was my bulk trade mat (which to be fair looks exactly like a store's buy mat) and the fact that I had a calculator.

I asked to appeal to the TO as there was no actual evidence and it was entirely based on hearsay. I met with the TO, made my case, and was told that since there was no actual evidence and I had not been to one of his events before that I was still going to have to leave on Saturday, but would be allowed back Sunday so long as I didn't bring the mat. He stated that they had a zero tolerance policy of buying/selling cards and he was maintaining it.

So the lesson I learned and suggest to all of you is not to bring a trade/buy mat to a venue as it is apparently damning evidence of misdeeds. I will be reworking mine hopefully to be less "buy mat-like" and more bulk trade mat. To do this I'll need to replace all the $ call outs and replace them with: 1 rare, 2.5 rares, 5 rares, 7.5 rares, 10 rares, 15 rares, 20 rares, 30 rares, 40 rares, 50 rares, etc.

But before I bring it out at any venue I will first get the TO's blessing, as I believe that being upfront and honest with them will help head off any concerns before they occur.

Now I fully understand the TO's desire to maintain the zero tolerance policy. His only income is from actual entry fees and vendor fees for the event, thus he's going to have a strong desire to keep his vendors happy (and protected). To make matters worse, given those are his income sources he has no actual incentive to believe people who are there solely to trade, thus his over-zealousness makes perfect sense.

GP Tidbits

True-Name Nemesis was the breakout card before the tournament. Dealers were offering over $40 before the tournament, however, during the tournament they were only offering $26, despite maintaining the price tag of $60+. Owen Turtenwald won the GP with American Delver running three True-Name Nemesis and a total of nine made the Top 8.

The Dulles Expo center was a great location for the event. It's only downfall was the fact that it only had two restrooms, which meant that if you had to use the restroom later in the day (and you were a guy) you had to wait in a line and had your senses assaulted upon entering the restroom. It was great that they have a Wal-Mart within walking distance (with a Subway in it) as well as several other restaurants directly adjacent to the facility.

The Legacy metagame is still as healthy as ever. For all those upset with the recent success of Sneak and Show decks, the most common deck I was seeing was American Delver and/or Stoneblade variants. The Top 8 consisted of eight different archetypes (Dredge, Bant-Blade, American Delver, Elves, Death and Taxes, Sneak and Show, Shardless BUG, and Esper Stoneblade).

Larger events (especially Legacy ones) will tend to attract more thieves (as evidenced by the theft of my property) because there are a lot more high end cards. When attending any events of this magnitude extra vigilance is necessary. It is tempting to bring your best stock as you'll have the most opportunity to unload the high-end items due to increased demand.

I suggest using the strategy I saw several stores use, which is simply to print off pictures of the cards you're going to trade and allow people to pick them that way, though obviously this doesn't work as well with the weirder, rarer stuff (unless you take actual pictures of your cards). This prevents people from having direct access to your cards until the trade is underway (and it means that you are the only one to touch your cards).

Trade binders are always picked up in airport security. So your best bet is to pull them out (like you would a laptop) and place them in the bins that you send through the x-ray machine or have them in your checked luggage (though given how rough I've seen some airport employees be with luggage I would propose you make sure everything around your cards is soft.

If you're driving more than 30 minutes to the event site it is imperative that you verify traffic issues before leaving. We managed to avoid a big accident that had some of our fellow players tied up for more than an hour. They were nice enough to call us and give us a warning (though we noticed it on the road signs and took the detour accordingly).

4 thoughts on “Insider: Lessons from Grand Prix DC

  1. That is an extremely horrible customer DISservice from the TO at that GP. Unless someone witnessed you selling/buying, there should be no reason to ask you to leave. You shouldn’t have to have a separate mat just for a TO with an itchy trigger finger…. Guilty until proven innocent I suppose?

    1. That was my thought as well. I actually turned down people who wanted to sell to me. Either way I’m actually curious if any lawyers on our site want to pipe up with legality of the issue. I bring it up because I paid for a flight to the event and to be kicked out with no evidence of misdeeds (and after searching the TJ Collectibles site) I was unable to find any event rules I was actually breaking.

      1. There’s no legality about it. It is their event they can ask whomever they want to leave as long as it isn’t based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation etc, they don’t need evidence or a reason. Whether you traveled 1000 miles to get there or it was in your back yard. Their event, their rules.

  2. David sorry to hear of the thefts. Personally I dont know how you guys tolerate trading at those venues. I am so paranoid that I automatically assume anyone coming up to me asking to trade either is just trying to value grind or steal something out of my binder.

    The restroom situation was better than it appeared. At the rear of the building, the restroom there was a mess. But at the front, the venue commandeered the female restroom as an additional for guys. What I found when going to the rest room at the front, most guys didnt bother looking to the right and reading the sign on the other door explaining that it was a men’s room. As a result often times I walked into an empty restroom while the other one was full with a line.

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