If there's one thing that Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen and No. 1-ranked player Reid Duke are familiar with, it's being in front of a crowd. The pair have played countless matches in front of hundreds of spectators at events, and played in front of untold more through online videos.
But they had never been in front of a crowd quite like this.
Jensen and Duke hosted a special event Friday evening at Grand Prix Washington DC, a sealed deck-building seminar that was open to anyone who wanted to attend. And plenty did, with enough players filtering in and out that even with a microphone the back of the crowd was stretched to the limits of earshot.
Reid and Jensen covered a vast array of topics, from the details of how Sealed Deck differs from Draft (you generally aim to play for the late game); how and when to splash a card (only when that card is both powerful and good at any point of the game); to the mechanics of how to actually put together a deck (try to use all of the time you're allotted). The pair then broke down a practice Sealed Deck along with the audience, stayed late to answer questions and even helped a few players with their own Sealed Deck from other events.
"I came because I recognized their names and this was reasonably helpful even for someone who knows a little about limited," said Jamie Ellis, a Richmond, VA native who is playing in his third Grand Prix this weekend. "Some of the info was basic but it was really good to hear their insights. And it's great that they're taking the time to do this. I give that a 10 out of 10. In fact, I really just want to ask for autographs right now."
One especially deep topic the world's first and 21st-ranked player covered was how to sideboard. Duke called it the "best-kept secret of sealed" and explained that sideboarding into entirely different color combinations was a good way to improve poor matchups, keep opponents off their guard and possibly blank targeted sideboard cards like Glare of Heresy and Dark Betrayal.
"Deck building doesn't end when they call time on it," he explained to the crowd. "You can keep working with your deck and talk to others about what you should have done. You can also prepare to sideboard into a different deck. Cards like Glare or Dark Betrayal are so powerful it can also completely swing your own deck. In the right matchup, they can make one of your colors way better than another."
The seminar was the brainchild of tournament organizer Tom Shea, who owns the store where Jensen grew up playing. They enlisted Duke to join, and — if Friday's participation is any indication — a new Grand Prix staple was born.
"For each person who came, if they can take away even one thing I feel like it's a success," Duke said. "In Magic you build your castle one brick at a time, and if they learned something today that may help them this weekend, or next week or a year from now, that's what we want to accomplish."
For Jensen, the event was a chance to give back to the game in the same way he received help as a 16-year-old at Shea's store.
"I want people to feel like I'm approachable, because when I was young I felt like there were people I could approach who would help me," he said.
If you're hoping for an opportunity to learn from the pros but weren't able to make it to DC, fear not. They'll be back, along with fifth-ranked Owen Turtenwald, at Grand Prix Portland on Aug. 7-10.