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Insider: Prepping for an Event – Competitive and Financial Aspects

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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There are many aspects to preparing for a big event. Whether it's your first or your fiftieth, everyone needs to get things in order so they can attend the next Grand Prix or SCG Open.

Most players realize all the little details are important but sometimes we don’t analyze each facet. Today that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Metagame Research

These days, hundreds of articles are written daily to help you prepare for the competitive side of an event. If you follow the Pro Tour, you are well aware how much time and effort the pros devote to preparation.

In addition to countless hours spent individually, most teams meet up a week or two ahead of time and devote that chunk of their lives solely to developing the best strategy for the event. If you have that much time to invest, you'll have a higher chance of success than others.

For the majority of us though, we need to rely on data gathered secondhand. Spend some time scouring through deck lists from recent tournaments to get a good foundation of what the field may look like.

Technology today allows us to track event results minute by minute and dissect deck lists immediately. In my case, I am preparing for the next local GP in Pittsburgh. As the tournament is Modern, I am using data from this past weekend’s SCG Open to gather my key facts.

As expected, the typical tier one decks such as Burn, Affinity and Grixis Control placed well. But by going through this process, I also discovered a few off-the-radar decks that look promising.

First off, we have this doozy:

If you’ve been around for a while you might recognize the core combo in this deck, but it's been a long time gone. Looks like it might have finally made its return.

The basic goal is to cheat Protean Hulk into play and then let it die. Its death trigger lets you tutor up the remaining pieces to kill the opponent. Let’s look at the steps to victory.

1. Cheat Hulk into play.
2. When it dies, search out Body Double and Viscera Seer.
3. Copy Protean Hulk with the first Body Double and sacrifice it to Viscera Seer, searching for Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic. Without these four cards, you cannot complete the combo.
4. Sacrifice Mogg Fanatic to ping the opponent, followed by Reveillark. Lark's death trigger gets back Mogg Fanatic and Body Double, this time copying Reveillark.
5. Now you can execute an infinite loop. Each time you sac the Body Doubled Reveillark, it can get itself back, along with Fanatic. Repeat until the opponent (and all his/her creatures for good measure) is dead.

Finding Easter eggs in the results like this can give you a huge edge. This deck didn't top-eight, so many players may be unaware of its existence. Just like Bant Tokens in Standard recently, that makes this deck a decent choice for an upcoming event.

There were two other decks of note in the Top 32 of the Dallas SCG Open. The first is Scapeshift.

Three Scapeshift decks reached the Top 32 of the event. None of them made it to the Top 8, but more importantly, two of the three decks were built to take advantage of Bring to Light.

This new innovation may have floated right past your attention. Everyone already knows about Scapeshift, and the internet didn’t distinguish between the typical build and the Bring to Light build.


Bring to Light fills the same role as Dig Through Time and catapults this deck back into playability. As I’ve said before, Bring to Light is akin to a spell-based Birthing Pod, and this deck shows off that definition with flare. Although the champion of the deck, Jeff Hoogland, hasn't succeeded with it, others were able to pick up where he left off.

Finally, our last treat down the Easter egg trail is this little gem.

If you caught any live commentary from the event, you know the commentators and the players alike were rooting for this underdog.

Like any other tribe, this deck is built on the intricate synergies of its creature base. Like Slivers, Elves, or Merfolk, this deck also snowballs into an impressive combat phase that most players cannot survive. Watching opponents try to detect the next move from Allies was comical because few of us remember what abilities any of the cards can grant.


Although this deck has a lot of potential, I doubt many players will be picking it up. Make sure you're familiar with all the cards anyway, in case you do have to play against it.

Selecting a Deck

An important part of this research process is choosing what weapon to wield yourself. Will you jump on board with one of these new decks? Or will you bring the deck you currently have built?

Deciding which deck to bring to an event is a crucial decision. While I won’t spend much time on this topic today, my best advice is to choose a deck that plays to your strengths.

For me, I prefer a deck that is aggressive but whose creatures have interesting interactions. In addition though, I need a deck that can interact with my opponent. For a long time, my Modern deck of choice was Birthing Pod. Now that Pod is banned and we don’t have that option any longer, I am still trying to play the same basic strategy but with different cards instead.

Whatever deck you choose, make sure you practice with it. Just like a sports team going over their plays, you need to work through the kinks before the event. Don't show up expecting to learn the ins and outs of your deck the day of the tournament.

Aside from playtesting, one of the best ways to accomplish this is by getting in some tournament time. Players take live events more seriously, and that testing is invaluable.

Specifically, don't skip an FNM to test for your event the next day if they're the same format. Use FNM to test the current version of your deck, or the best candidate for decks you're considering.

Even a small tournament with prizes on the line pushes players to give you their best. Testing is extremely important as well, but don't replace live events with it--make time for both.

Travel Plans

The second major area you need to be concerned about is securing travel plans. Usually each group has one person that coordinates all of these details. Often it’s the driver but not always. Someone needs to take charge though, and if that’s not you, find a friend who doesn’t mind being in charge and who you trust.

It’s important to remember there are additional costs besides the entry fee. You need to pay for gas (or a plane ticket if you are flying), food, and a hotel or other sleeping arrangements.

These things are all important and the sooner you take care of them, the better deals you'll get. Additionally, once these plans are secured, that's one less thing to worry about and you can focus your attention on the event itself.

Most of the time, you know you'll be attending an event months in advance. Take the time to make your travel plans that far ahead as well when possible.

Other Financial Preparations

There are other aspects to your financial preparation as well. Not much attention is given to this topic, so I wanted to shine some light on it today.

Most people tend to see preparation for an event as distinct from speculating, but a lot of the time, I see them as working hand in hand.

For example, when I was looking over the results discussed above, I noted that I didn't have any copies of Footsteps of the Goryo or Protean Hulk. I'm the type of player who likes to have everything available so I'm not constrained on deck choices. As it turned out, I had a hole in my Modern stock I was unaware of.

Hulk Combo is great and it seems capable of gaining traction in the metagame. Take a look at current prices on the aforementioned cards:



As of this writing, Protean Hulk is a couple bucks and Footsteps of the Goryo is under a dollar a piece. Being so cheap, I think both are great targets to see some growth.

I decided to order a playset of each for my own collection. While I was at it, I added an extra playset or two and a couple foils to put into my spec box.

When you're considering a card as a possible engine for profit, keep in mind that you may want some copies for your competitive endeavors as well. No reason not to kill two birds with one stone.

Getting Cards

Regardless of what you're bringing to battle, you need to make sure you have all the cards. You can show up to an event a couple cards short and try to obtain them on site, but that doesn’t always work out.

Back before smart phones, when trading was more prevalent, my friends and I used to show up to an event an hour or two early. I would take a list of cards we needed and trade for them all so we could use them that day.

Nowadays that would be much harder to accomplish. It's probably only feasible at a Grand Prix, and only if you start working towards the goal the day before the event. Even then, your success may depend on how many traders have shown up early.

You have a couple of choices then, if trading before the event is not an option. You can either hit up a dealer or you can prepare ahead of time.

If you're using dealers, my suggestion is always to look for ones that offer bonus store credit. Trading with dealers will always lose you some money, but bonus credit will lead to a smaller margin.

Although obtaining your cards on site is sometimes a necessity, I prefer the “be prepared” option. There will always be those times when you think of a great sideboard card or decide on an important maindeck switch on the way to the event. But most of the time, you know what you are playing ahead of time.

Sometimes that starts with preordering product of the upcoming set, but most of the time it revolves around settling on your deck list ahead of time. Then you can trade or find the cheapest price for the cards you’re looking for.

If you are thinking about preorders for the next set already, remember Oath of the Gatewatch will also have Fat Packs that contain all the full art basic lands. That likely means we will see shortages and sold-out preorders for this product. Reserve yours today before your local store runs out.

Zendikar Fetches


One final note I'll finish on. There has been much discussion about when/where the Zendikar fetches will be reprinted.

I was stalwart in my opinion that we'd see them in Battle for Zendikar, but that obviously didn't happen. I feel the possibility they're in Oath is unlikely, and we don't have any indication, positive or negative, that they'll be in Shadows Over Innistrad.

Last weekend, I thought of another likely place they could show up: the soon-to-be-released Commander products. We've seen printings in Commander sets before that had Legacy and Modern implications. I think that might be what's about to happen with these new enemy-colored decks.

I decided to unload some extra fetches I had because of this. Just to reiterate, this is not based on any particular evidence other than what I think will happen.

If these lands are reprinted though, count on them coming way down in price. Then, once they drop, start picking them up again--we all know they'll start increasing in value again at some point.

Thanks for reading. Leave your feedback or suggestions in the comments below. Do you think we will be seeing Zendikar fetches reprinted any time soon?

Until next time,
Unleash the Force on your next big event!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

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