Grand Prix Las Vegas. Modern Masters 2015. The biggest tournament in Magic: the Gathering's history and almost the biggest card game tournament of all time. How was my experience? I'll break it down into a few different sections to get all my super salty and nerd rage filled opinions out in controlled bursts.
Initial ExperienceI had heard the tales of Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013, the former record breaking Magic tournament, for the past two years. When I found out they were releasing a new Modern Masters set and having another GP in Vegas, I knew I couldn't miss it. Channel Fireball, who hosted this event, did a really great job. The website was nice. Awesome giveaways for early signups. Preregistration available for main events and side events. Around 30 artists in attendance (seems like typical GPs have about 3-5). A cool, exclusive t-shirt (see above) that you could purchase as a souvenir. Not one, but two (!) exclusive playmats for the main event and side events, respectively. I can't forget just the fact that you would be opening Modern Masters 2015 booster packs which could have who knows how much value?! These, of course, were all of my feelings before the set was completely spoiled (which has now already been covered by many other blogs and podcasters so we all know the value of this set doesn't really meet the $10/booster price tag). So let's jump into what I did for the 3 days I attended Grand Prix Vegas.
I arrived in Las Vegas early Friday morning, had a great breakfast of chicken and waffles, and headed to the convention center around noon. I had preregistered for an event that started at 1pm and wanted to make sure I got there in enough time to figure out exactly where I needed to be. Showed up to the convention center to exactly NO SIGNAGE outside of the convention center that told me where I needed to go to get inside. However, there were signs outside for a WASTE EXPO convention that was also happening in the convention center next door to the GP, and because that was properly labeled, I used my context clues to go inside the convention in the proper place. (Also there was an overwhelmingly male crowd with backpacks heading towards the convention center and nerd recognize nerd.)
Once inside, I saw a giant wall of all the players preregistered for the main event where you could go find your name to make sure you were signed up and the section you would be reporting to on Saturday for the main event. There were also customer service booths with staff for questions, and the convention center was ridiculously well air conditioned. Almost TOO cold but I'm not going to complain because it was over 100 degrees in Vegas that weekend. Channel Fireball rented out what seemed like four giant convention halls for this event and with possibly 10,000 players in attendance, I never once felt crowded. Another point for organization, which will quickly be deducted as I'm trying to find out where the hell to go for my side event. To avoid walking around aimlessly and in the interest of time I go straight to the customer service booth to just ask where I need to be. As I walk up I hear them tell someone else who had the same question where to go, so I head inside, but not before grabbing a map. Again, MASSIVE convention center. It's popping. My eyes are wide. I'm so excited to actually be there.
They had giant banners with Magic characters on them hanging from the ceiling and under those characters were corresponding sections with tables and table cloths that matched those colors. For example, the side events were mostly being held in the Liliana area. Big black banner. Black planeswalker. Black table cloths. I found it easily. The group on front of me from the customer service section were instructed to ask a table judge where exactly to be once we got in the section, and as they did, the judge had no idea. At this point, the general consensus was wait for an announcement over the convention center system and it will tell you where to be, so I wandered off to explore. I brought what I felt like was a massive amount of cards with me I wanted to get signed by the artists so I jumped in a line while I waited for the announcement. I don't remember exactly what artist's line I jumped in first, but they all were a pretty good length and seemed to be moving okay.
I got through one line when I heard the announcement (later than 1pm) and went back to the Liliana area where a judge said seatings were posted. Found the postings board, found my name, sat down, everything was fine. As I'm sitting, I see the judges passing out sheets to register the pool you open. I immediately realize that because this event I signed up for was a "last chance trial" to get bye rounds for the GP, we were going to be registering and passing product as if we were in the main event or a PTQ or something. I then sank in my chair. I hate registering pools and I hate passing the packs you open. I understand why this process is done (to prevent cheating as much as possible); however, this also means that if you open anything remotely good, you get the best value from dropping from the event and not playing to keep what you open. It also means, as other players at my table were confirming, that they planned on doing this and so GENERALLY SPEAKING the pool you are being passed will probably not be worth too much. This is Modern Masters 2015. I want MY VALUE AND I WANT TO PLAY WITH THE CARDS. I don't want to open a pool and drop because of money, I don't want to have to pass money, and I want to actually play. So I'm having a dilemma, which turns into a crisis once I get my six boosters and begin registering.
I open (and I feel sick every time I think about this which will inform the entire rest of my GP experience) an Eldrazi, either Ulamog or Kozilek, a Spellskite, a foil Smash to Smithereens, a Remand, another $10-20 dollar card that was possibly a mythic if I remember correctly. My first pool of GP Vegas. Not SPECTACULAR, but was a little bit of money. I searched for prices online and it seemed like retail was about $60 at the time. Of the other people around me, one person to my left opened a Tarmogoyf and dropped, and a guy to my right opened either a Bitterblossom or Dark Confidant and for sure a Cryptic Command and dropped. Other people were saying if your pool could cover your entry fee you might as well drop because you are also getting the playmat for signing up and can just join another event. My pool was right on the bubble and after sitting there, literally in pain because of this decision, I said fuck it. I'm fucking here to play magic. The pool isn't insane. I'd be maybe breaking even. I want to play Magic. I pass the cards. I get passed a pool half as valuable as the one I had before. I instantly feel like shit. I like playing Magic, but I also like having money. It's just the kind of person I am. So I decide well since I passed that pool I just had (like an idiot), I have to suck it up and play now. 5 fucking rounds. I already lost value passing, might as well stick this out and try to make some back up.
The pool I get passed, while not monetarily valuable, had some good removal. It was light on early creatures (or good white creatures that this particular archetype needed), but I ended up in the archetype I wanted to be in, which was blue white artifacts, splashing red for a couple dragon bombs. First round my opponent was one of the ones that probably opened something good and dropped so I got a bye. Cool. I jump in a couple more artist lines to get cards signed. I run into Houston aka Ginger Ale from the Tap N Sac podcast and say hi. Cool ass dude. Get some more cards signed, show up for round two, repeat this process until this 5 round tournament is over at 8ish FUCKING O CLOCK with a 2-2-1 record and a (1!) Khans of Tarkir booster pack as my prize for spending all fucking day in this event. I cannot express enough how much this event rubbed me the wrong way and how much it informed the entire rest of my GP experience. I guess I'll add here that I came to Vegas with my parents as well. See, my birthday was a couple days before the GP and the weekend before that, I graduated with my Bachelor's Degree. (At this point it is perfectly acceptable to ask me why in the fuck am I writing this fucking novel after just finishing college and not ever having to actually write a paper again.) The trip was intended to be bigger, as in more of my family coming with me, but they couldn't manage to fit it in so it ended up just being me and my parents, which was great. Oh, except for the fact I was AT THE FUCKING CONVENTION CENTER ALL FUCKING DAY ON THE FIRST DAY WE WERE IN VEGAS AND I INTENTIONALLY SIGNED UP FOR AN EARLY EVENT TO NOT BE THERE ALL DAY SO I COULD SPEND TIME WITH THEM TOO.
Because I was there all day, I told them they might as well go see a show they wanted to see, and I would try to get as many signatures as I could so I could not spend as much time there Saturday and more time with them. Also because I was there all day, their show started as I was leaving the convention center, so I had to walk to the monorail (which wasn't far) then take it to the closest hotel near mine, and walk from there, go to the front desk and get a room key, eat dinner by myself, go to bed, and wake up early the next day without ever doing anything with them aside from breakfast. Oh well. Sucks for me, but bad beats is bad beats.
First Day of Main Event
On my way to my table for the main event, I run into fellow Nerdcore rapper, internet superstar, some might say legend, another cool ass dude, Billy the Fridge. I say hi and get a picture. I've talked to him quite a few times online and on his Twitch channel (where he streams magic and makes people laugh) so it was really awesome finally meeting him in person. I then sit down for the main event. It is reiterated that you will be passing your pool so if you want to drop, feel free. After the day before, I was really hoping for some money in these packs to make up for the bad beats and time I spent there. The product gets passed out and I crack an almost IDENTICAL pool in cards and value as the one from the day before. Also like the day before, people around me were cracking cards, getting up immediately and dropping. I stare at my pool, I think about the 9 rounds, and I think about all the artists I still didn't get a chance to get stuff signed by (the lines that didn't seem long usually took at least an hour to get through), and THIS TIME I said fuck it for a different reason. I would much rather flip some of the cards for value and go get cards signed then get passed a possibly shitty pool, maybe live the dream and day 2, or maybe spend all day here again and not get WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO GET ACCOMPLISHED, accomplished. I understand my strengths and skills as a Magic player, I know I am no where near as good as some of the players there, and I also know there is a chance I could have made day 2 (a local guy named Pablo from my card shop did! Congrats!). I also know I what I would be happier doing, and that is doing the thing that is more rare than day 2'ing a GP, meeting 30 artists all in the same place at once.
So I drop. I wait in hour long lines. I get cards signed, some altered, and I have
Having nothing to do until 8:30, I decide to sign up for another sealed, fully planning on cracking and dropping. It included the side event playmat, and was only $60 since I had signed up for the main event. All the value. As I sit down I find out this event was not going to require us to register our pools. I get super happy about this. I tell myself, "Yeah. I'm playing this one." I cracked my packs, again, nothing really of value. Very similar to the other packs I had opened. However, the packs looked BONKERS as far as a limited deck was concerned. I was again in blue white artifacts splashing red, this time, almost mono blue with Tezzeret, the only red was for Electrolyze, the white was for like two cards, a great curve, a lot of really solid cards, a good number of artifacts, a small eldrazi synergy with a rare legendary land, All is Dust, and 2(!) Ulamog's Crusher, it was truly a thing of beauty. Then I realized it was REALLLLLLLLLY light on removal. Almost none. A counterspell, I think an Arrest, and the All is Dust. Better removal would have made this deck unstoppable but as it was, All is Dust is great when you know you have it and are playing a lot of artifacts. I could make it work and I did. I started 1-0. It took three games because game one I realized that the legendary land didn't actually tap for any mana, and had to add another land to the deck. The first thing of note was going Ulamog's Crusher, next turn All is Dust, top decking another Ulamog's Crusher for the final turn. The only other thing of note is my opponent fanning out his deck after he lost to show me the Goyf he never drew, basically to say, "Yeah you won but I got money!" *Sigh* Round 2 I get paired up against a guy playing the typical 4-5 color Domain good stuff deck. It was anyone's game early and we vied for control until I eventually was in the driver's seat looking unstoppable. Good board position, fired off an All is Dust (admittedly a little early), had Ulamog's Crusher out, feeling like I locked it up, the only problem was his Blinding Souleater that didn't die to All is Dust and could lock down my Ulamog's Crusher the whole game. That sucked. Whatever. Then, Vapor Snag to Ulamog's Crusher, damn. Oh well. I had other cards in my hand, I figured since he would be locking down Crusher all game I should just deploy a ton of threats instead of just one. Anyway, he eventually was able to beat me down with a flier and I just couldn't seem to get back in the game or do anything about the Souleater so he won game one. It put me1 on the hardest tilt ever. There was almost no way I could have lost. I kept thinking about what the fuck actually just happened. Then of course my shitty pool. Then all my shitty pools. Then life. Then my bad luck. Then more pissed. Whatever, I try to get back in it. I win game two. Kind of hand him his ass, but then he shows me he also got a Goyf. Pissed off again. Lose game three because of land screw and kinda keeping a bad hand but it was close. I am way too tilted to keep playing even though this deck was super ridiculous, I couldn't even focus. I unsleeve the deck and go sulk for a minute. Later of course it hit me that my deck was probably good enough to win out and I should have played it out but the salt was real.
Lines. Waiting. Signatures. Walking. Lines. Waiting. Signatures. No real food anywhere nearby because of where the convention center is located (at least as far as I looked). Con food for lunch. A slice of Sbarro pizza. It was actually okay. Lines. Waiting. Signatures. Walking. Lines. Waiting. Signatures. Sbarro again. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. See a bunch of pros walking around. Shahar Shenhar, Patrick Chapin, LSV, Reid Duke, Martin Dang, Josh Utter-Leyton, even the now confirmed douchebag combo of Huey Jensen and Owen Turtenwald. Pretty cool. Didn't bring a sharpie with me for signatures which was definitely a misplay on my part that I won't be repeating, but still cool. Then while on the phone with my girlfriend, I see Maria from the Magic the Amatuering Podcast walk by, and I am a huge fan, so I say, "I'll call you back in a minute!" Then, very uncreepily, follow her for a second, just to make sure she wasn't busy with something, then get her attention and say hi. She was so super nice and said she was on the way back to The Meadery booth, where her partner in podcast Meghan was, and I should come say hi to her as well. This made up for a lot of the long lines and bad beats. I talked to them both for a minute, told them they make me laugh and I am a huge fan, joke around with them a bit about all of our different accents, and then get a picture. I was definitely cheesing in it, and I blame them for being way nicer than I thought they would have been, having been surrounded by the aforementioned overwhelmingly male crowds and most likely some shitty behavior from Magic players because of their attitudes when playing against women. It was unfortunately bound to happen and they both alluded to a couple instances they would cover in the next podcast probably.
My parents come pick me up, having already eaten both an awesome lunch and dinner while I had Sbarro both times, and we went to a giant Ferris wheel called, "The Highroller," and took a 30 minute ride to see Vegas from 550 feet up in the air. It was really cool and I was glad I finally got to do something fun with them. After this, we went to Fremont street and gambled a bit, but mostly people watched. A lot of crazies out, as well as street performers, and the hybrid of crazy/street performer/weirdo dressed up as something. I have been to Vegas three times now, but that was the first time on Fremont street. It was cool to see I guess. Got back to the hotel. Went to bed.
The Final Day of the GPOn Sunday, the final day of the GP, I had preregistered for another sealed event at 11am. I did this one early so I wouldn't be there all day. Having got most of the signatures I wanted, I was content doing this event, then using my ticket I got from giving blood to draft, then taking off and feeling like I had experience a satisfactory amount of Grand Prix. Get to my table, crack another almost identical pool as far as rares and value go, this time though with a Noble Hierarch and Kiki-Jiki which I was happy to see. Still didn't make any real money and planned on keeping those cards for a while. Also planned on NOT STAYING THERE ALL DAY so I walked away and went to turn the blood I gave into value.
I join a draft. It's a little disorganized and a lot of sitting and waiting for it to fire even though the table was seated they needed four tables to start. It being day three and me being bombarded with bad luck in packs I was cracking and also not winning any money gambling, I was definitely in a funk, which was made infinitely worse by this player in my draft pod WHO WOULD NOT SHUT THE FUCK UP! EVER! HE TALKED THE ENTIRE TIME AFTER HE SAT DOWN! AS SOON AS HE FINISHED TALKING, IF SOMEONE DIDN'T IMMEDIATELY START, HE WOULD START AGAIN. IT WAS GRATING. HE WAS SUCH A STEREOTYPICAL, OBLIVIOUS TO SOCIAL CUES AND THE DISCOMFORT HE WAS CAUSING PEOPLE, MAGIC PLAYER I COULDN'T DO ANYTHING BUT THANK FUCK I WASN'T ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. THE KIND OF PEOPLE THAT YOU START TO FEEL BAD FOR BECAUSE YOU WONDER IF HE EVEN HAS ANY FRIENDS OR IF THIS IS ALL HE HAS. SMUG. DOUCHEY. KNOW IT ALL. HIS OPINION MEANS MORE THAN YOURS. HE IS AN EXPERT BUT IS ACTUALLY ONLY HERE TO MAKE TRADES AND GET VALUE FROM THE PACKS. EVERY THING I CAN'T STAND. TALKED WHILE DRAFTING. TOLD PEOPLE THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. SMILED WHILE DOING IT. FUCK MY LIFE.
I ended up first picking a Daybreak Coronet as I completely intended to lose the first round as it was single elimination. The Coronet of course was miscolored, which I guess I will derail here for just a second and say, HOLY FUCK THE INTERNET WAS NOT FUCKING KIDDING. THESE PACKS FUCKING SUCK. SO MANY FUCKING CARDS DAMAGED RIGHT OUT OF THE PACK AND FOILS SCRATCHED UP AND LOOKING LIKE PURE SHIT! HOW IN THE FUCK CAN WIZARDS DO THIS AND GET AWAY WITH IT?! 10 FUCKING DOLLARS TO BE RIPPED A NEW ASSHOLE?! GET FUCKING REAL! I'M SURPRISED NO ONE HAS BURNED WOTC TO THE GROUND YET. THIS IS WAY WORSE THAN MAGIC ONLINE BAD. I have been playing magic for a little over two years now, and I have never fucking seen this many fucked up cards in my life, straight out of the pack. No fucking joke, I even defended Wizards and said, "Hey, the internet will complain to complain," but holy fuck these cards are fucked up. Seriously fucked up. No fucking joke and no exaggeration. They are miscolored, misprinted, scratched up, bent, and nicked. I was holding two cards side by side that were commons from back to back packs that were a different shade of green. It is embarrassing. There is no fucking way Wizards will not be admitting they were wrong and apologizing for this fucking joke of a set. They fucking have to. I know they just made a killing but I sure as fucking hope the voices start rising to the forefront after this GP. Back to the draft, I begin to end up in red/green, start getting fixing, start going domain, end up in red/green splashing a single blue, white, and black for some domain cards. No real money besides the Coronet that I remember. End up losing in the first round to a guy playing red/white all combat tricks and enchantments. It took three games and I kept a bad hand game three. It was embarrassing to lose to him. What was embarrassing was it was exactly my kind of deck and I could have been in it because ALL the cards came through me first. Those are the decks I usually play, the against all conventional wisdom, red white, all two drops, card disadvantage for immediate advantage, kill you ridiculously fast decks, and I wasn't brave enough to draft it. I feel mine was objectively better, but unluckily for me we got matched up round 1, we were both playing red, and he out sped me with the enchantments and combat tricks. A really shitty way to go out of the final event of the GP but whatever.
I think it was about 5pm when I finally left the convention. I stayed a little later than I planned to charge my phone a bit and then met up with my parents. We walked around a bit, drove around, walked around again, then eventually got to finally go to Gordon Ramsey's BURGR, which we all had been looking forward to. The food was amazing. No surprise there. Nothing to complain about. Gambled a bit. Went to bed. Next day got some awesome donuts (O Face Donuts in North Vegas, look them up), then a buffet for lunch, and headed home.
TL;DRAs I look back on the Grand Prix, I had fun. There was a lot that was done right, and of course, a few things done wrong. I've heard how hard it is to run a really good GP and I think Channel Fireball pulled it off. I've heard many GPs have had side event confusion, or events that run really long because they can't get their shit together, and that has to be expected at this point. I feel like they did their best, and it was good. Seemed to be well organized. Every judge and non judge working the event were super friendly and in a good mood. They accommodated players who wanted a different playmat. They actually got enough convention halls and seating to accommodate all the players too. I'll talk about some of the shitty things I couldn't control, like ridiculously long lines for signings, and artists doing commissions while others waited for signatures, or artists that showed up and left at really random and short times. I feel like I waited in lines the majority of the time I was there for almost three whole days and still missed two or three artists I wanted to get signatures from.
The shitty things that I could control, were my expectations and attitude. I am already completely aware that I have bad luck when it comes to cracking packs. I personally cracked 2 Modern Masters 2015 boosters before the GP, 27 boosters while I was there, and was passed 6 of them while passing 6 of mine. I know I've opened over 12 mythics, which seems like insanely good luck, but none of them were Goyf, Mox Opal, Bitterblossom, Dark Confidant, Karn, Emrakul, Primeval Titan, or V Clique, so I didn't make more than I spent, and don't even think I broke even if I sell everything I opened (unless I sit on it for a while). The only good rares I opened were Spellskite and Noble Hierarch. I shouldn't have put so much energy in expecting I would be cracking Goyfs left and right and leave Vegas a winner, monetary or otherwise. Some people have to leave Vegas as losers, and I was one of those people. It bums me out, which is why I rarely gamble, even on Magic cards. I guess this isn't such a big deal to my family, since they frequent casinos year round. I let this trip be the big Modern Masters splurge and I crapped out. It was made worse walking around for three days hearing about all the other people cracking multiple Goyfs, but that's just how it is. I didn't have to get tilted and salty, but I am a self-professed, "nerd rager," and so that's just how it is as well.
Sitting here a couple days later, as I said, I did have fun. It was a net positive experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Sure, I would do a couple things differently, but I know that now. If you've never been to a GP, you should go to the next one you can. If you went to GP Vegas, I would love to hear what your thoughts were on the whole experience. At the moment, I am pretty burnt out on Magic after this weekend and I'll be taking a break until Origins comes out (with a little Modern constructed thrown in here and there because, no matter how burnt out I am playing magic, I am never too burnt out to play BURN).