GP Vegas: From the inside

While I was at home watching from GP Vegas afar, my boyfriend, Steve, and several close friends from my LGS were there. Actually playing in the largest TCG event ever. I was cheering for them all, hoping they’d make day 2 and show everyone who’s boss. And I know how awesome my LGS is, especially at limited, so I thought they had somewhat of a good chance. While they all did OK, only Steve made day 2. So being the awesome guy he is, he agreed to let me ask him a few questions about the experience for “Nerd Maids”. (He’s not a girl, but I counted and only maybe five girls made day 2 of GP Vegas… I included a few gender-neutral names in that count, too.) And after making Steve show me his sealed deck, and let me play with his draft decks from Vegas, I finally got him to sit down and do this. Yay! 🙂 I hope you enjoy his story as much as I do! – B

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they're freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice -- one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they’re freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice — one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

How long have you been playing Magic?

I’m a grizzled veteran of the magic scene.  I started playing casually around 1995.  Back in those days, my friends and I would make amazing five color, 200 card decks where we would shove every Elder Dragon Legend we had into them and just hope for the best.  Yeah, we were really good.  I started playing semi-competitively during Invasion block.  That’s the time I learned about drafting.  I still remember my first pick of my first draft: Rith, the Awakener, a naya colored dragon. I just drafted around those colors and actually ended up with a playable deck.  I even won my first round!  I’ve been hooked ever since.

What made you want to go to GP Vegas?

Although I’ve been playing magic for so long, I had never gone to a large competitive tournament.  The biggest tournament I had ever been to was the Torment prerelease in Kansas City.  After hearing success stories from many of my FNM friends playing at GPs and PTQs, I started to get the itch to test myself at a bigger event.  I pretty much only play draft and sealed magic, so I kept my eyes out for a GP or PTQ that was a limited format.  When I heard about GP Vegas, Modern Masters sealed, I knew I had to go.

Were you familiar with the cards in Modern Masters?

As many people who play magic know, sometimes you get burned out and have to quit the game from time to time.  Many of the cards from Modern Masters were from sets that I sat out.  I would say that I was familiar with about 40% of  the cards.

So how did you prepare?

I did as many draft simulations on as I could.  This sometimes meant not eating or sleeping for days at a time.  OK, maybe I only did like 20 total.  I also did a draft with some friends out of a box one of them purchased and did one phantom draft on Magic Online.  Although I was probably less prepared than many of the other 4499 players that went to Vegas, I was relying on my superior card evaluation skills to pull me through.

How did it feel going into day 1 knowing you had 4499 opponents, and were part of the largest TCG tournament ever?

I probably would have felt super excited if I wasn’t completely brain-dead from the 20+ hour drive it took to get there.

So you felt good?


Awesome. Can you tell me a little about how the sealed part of the GP works?

First, I had to find my name on a list of all the players and see what color section I would be in.  Then I had to go to that section and find my name on another list that told me what table number I would be on.   After everyone found their seats, we all received a fancy white paper bag filled with 6 packs of Modern Masters and a checklist with every card in the set.  Then we had exactly 30 minutes to organize all the cards alphabetically into colors, non-basic lands and artifacts. Then I had to mark down the contents on the checklist.   I was pretty stressed out when they called out “five minutes left” and I still had plenty left to sort and record, but I did finish on time.  The pool I opened was very strong.  It had 3 rare fairies, including Oona, Queen of the Fae and Vendilion Clique.  It’s important to remember however that this is not the pool I got to make my deck with.  The people that opened the foil Tarmogoyfs and immediately dropped definitely remembered that fact.  After the 30 minutes were up, everyone put all the cards and the checklist back into the paper bag and passed it to the left.  Then it was time to build our decks.

What process did you use to build your deck?

My usual process is to separate the cards by color then go through each color and take out the unplayable cards and go from there.   This was a little different because the cards were already sorted by color for me and there were barely any unplayable cards because Modern Masters is a very powerful set.  It seemed I could have made a decent deck no matter what colors I played but I knew that I wanted to play with my Cryptic Command and Meloku the Clouded Mirror (not to mention my three Aethersnipes) so blue was the first color I decided on playing.  I finally narrowed it down to green or red for my second color.  I had to choose between the solid removal I had in red or the efficient creatures in green but it was Tromp the Domains that solidified green as my second color.  Some other notables in green were Woodfall Primus, two Search for Tomorrows and a Penumbra Spider.  I ended up splashing black for a Drag Down because instant speed removal is good and the extra color would power up my Tromp the Domains.

How did your matches go?

I was a little worried because my deck was very light on early drops and extremely top heavy.  But I quickly realized that this was a slow format and when I got up to six mana I could completely take over games using my superior late game spells.  While my Meloku and Tromp won me many games, I’d have to say the MVPs of my deck were my Search for Tomorrows.  Those let me reliably accelerate up to my magic number of six lands and after that my Aethersnipes and other bad boys gave my opponents headaches all day.  I went 6-0 before I finally lost a match and then won the last two for a final day 1 record of 8-1.  You wouldn’t believe how many swords I had to beat to get there.

It must have felt pretty good to have that kind of run. Were you expecting to make day 2?

It was unbelievable!  I knew the odds of making day 2 were pretty low but I wanted to stay positive.  I wouldn’t say I expected to make it but I thought I had a decent chance.

How were you feeling going into day 2?

I was feeling great before my group made it back to the hotel and realized that my last match had been recorded incorrectly.  That caused me quite a bit of stress and I lost some sleep over the whole thing.  Everything got taken care of once we arrived the next day and I started feeling good again right before the draft started.  I felt like I was going to win the whole thing and was already deciding what to do with all the money!  I just want Bale to know that, even though I was in Vegas without her, I never thought of spending that money on hookers or blackjack even once 🙂

Awww thanks. What was it like drafting at that level? How did your drafts go? 

I wish every draft I played in was that organized and rigid with the rules.  There was absolutely no table talk allowed and that is just how I like it.  There was also a strict time limit to make your picks, another thing I really liked.  I ended up making a blue/white tempo deck with Cryptic Command (pack 1, pick 2), two Mulldrifters, two Vedalken Dismissers, two Veteran Armorers, two Blinding Beams and other goodness.  I was lacking bombs but I figured I would win by keeping my opponent off balance but it didn’t go exactly as planned.  I ended up going 1-2 and killed my chances at the top 8.  I still had an outside chance at top 64 and some money but I would have had to go 3-0 in my next draft pod.  I built an almost mono-black aggro goblin deck with some blue tricks but ended up 1-2 in that draft as well.  I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though you didn’t end up in the money, you still placed in the top six percent of the tournament. How does that make you feel? 

Considering it was my first major tournament, I have to feel pretty satisfied with how it turned out.  I’m looking forward to playing in another GP soon.  Bale turned me on to a limited GP in Oklahoma City in October so that’s probably the next step from here.

Did you learn a lot? 

I did.  The most important thing I learned is that I can step my game up when I really need to.  I beat at least a couple guys that have played in pro-tours and I didn’t miss a single suspend trigger until my 15th match of the tournament.  Magic is serious business at GPs and I felt like I actually belonged there.

What was the most memorable part of GP Vegas? 

Probably all of the dreams I crushed and the tears I drank on the way to making day 2 of the biggest TCG tournament of all time!



3 thoughts on “GP Vegas: From the inside

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