Posted in NEWS on March 8, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

How do you handle the prospect of 4,300 opponents to defeat?

Events of different sizes lead to different experiences. You might believe that 2013's Grand Prix Las Vegas is the event to measure against, but Limited –Modern Masters of Vegas – plays out differently than Constructed – the Modern proper of Richmond.

How can you handle the 4,300 other decks to deal with?

"It's not something you can handle," Eric Froehlich, the number 23-ranked player said. "You just play the deck you play the best. A format like Modern is so wide open there's no clear cut best deck, so you just play the deck you're most familiar with."

"I'd shy away from playing a deck with a bunch of answers," Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Luis Scott-Vargas added. "I'm not comfortable saying what the field looks like. At a Pro Tour you can guess that Spell Snare might look a little better than Mana Leak, but here?" The ocean of players over his shoulder reinforced the futility of predicting what others might be playing.

Luis Scott-Vargas and Eric Froehlich were among the horde that descended upon Richmond this weekend.

Choosing your deck is often a powerful part of Grand Prix preparation, but here there's a different focus for playing: Player expectations factor in approaching a number of opponents that can populate small town.

"If you're going to play a standard nine round event you'll be playing experienced people at the end of the day," Froehlich said. "That may not be the case here. You're going to get more judge calls and miscommunication with this many people."

"I'd also say you should be sure what's going on with your opponent," Scott-Vargas continued. "Modern's a complex format a lot of stuff going on." The eager inexperienced (and tired) players demand attention from each other.

"If I'm playing against LSV at the Pro Tour we're going to have shortcuts we understand," Froehlich said, "but here that might not be the case." Brushing up on your Magic rules and card is always a good idea. For examples of just how complicated they can be in Modern the Magic Judges blog has you covered .

What else sets these super events apart?

"You have to prepare for a longer event. The days are going to be longer," Scott-Vargas said. "My expectations [for winning] go down for a larger tournament. It's just harder to do well but it shouldn't change how you play. And it's harder to find your friends!" Scott-Vargas said.

"It's definitely more of a spectacle than an event," Froehlich said. "But it would be cooler to win."

"Yes, it would," Scott-Vargas agreed, with a cheerful smile.

Huge events like Grand Prix Las Vegas and Grand Prix Richmond might sound like a bit down, but that's not how Scott-Vargas looked at it. "One of the best things about this event is that it demonstrates Magic is getting bigger. While it's harder for us to win the event, if this leads to more benefits or expansions down the road it's worth it." Last year a fourth Pro Tour and scaling prize support for larger Grand Prix were added. With more super-sized events on the horizon there could be even more for 2015.

But it's not just about the spoils of victory. Modern is an Eternal format, reaching back halfway through the game's history.

"The fact the people are getting exciting about these old cards really ties together that Magic's been a game for 20 years," Froehlich said. "We've been around awhile so we can go back and explore some of our favorite cards again."

Scott-Vargas was sagely succinct: "Modern has a lot of depth."

4,300 players prove it.