No Main Event, No Problem

Posted in Ways to Play on June 7, 2016

By Maria Bartholdi

Maria is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring. When she's not working on the podcast, she's probably in an improv show, speaking Welsh, or thinking about popcorn. Rakdos is the true nature of her heart.

What's your favorite side dish?

Garlic mashed potatoes? Baked beans? Perhaps a nice vegetable medley?

My personal favorite is a hearty helping of the Super Sunday Series.

Oh, wait...did I say "side dish"? What I meant was "side event."

Grand Prix weekends are an exciting way to dive deeper into the game you love. Whether it's Standard, Modern, Legacy, or Limited, GPs give you the chance to compete side by side with some of the biggest names in the game as well as your buddies from the local card shop.

But what happens when the event is Standard and your nickname is "40-Card Kate"?

Or what if you haven't had time to get a deck together but still want to take part in all the action?

Not to worry! GPs are about so much more than just the main event. They're a buffet filled with all of Magic's greatest hits: sweet side events, amazing artists to meet, cosplayers, a bevy of playmats to buy, pro players to high-five—the list goes on and on. And you won't need to get a new plate each time you go back for more.

People to Meet

Lots of people head to GPs with no intention of playing in the main event. There's so much amazingness packed inside of that convention center, and the main event is only part of what's happening at Magic Party Central.

First up: famous people. Who doesn't like to hobnob with their favorite Magic personalities? Many of us don't have the opportunity to interact with pro players or content creators on a day-to-day basis, so getting the chance to actually meet your heroes is a big deal. I remember literally shaking in my shoes the first time I met Marshall Sutcliffe! I listened to him on Limited Resources every week and had watched him on coverage countless times. It was crazy to see him right there in front of me, in real life. He was extremely nice, and extremely tall.

Awesome memories of meeting The Professor at GP Vegas and Kenji for the first time at GP San Diego

Once you've had Marshall sign your Kird Ape and awkwardly hugged Reid Duke, why not check out some of the incredible Magic artists as well? Every GP is packed with artists who have illustrated iconic cards over the years. Make sure to check the list of participating artists before you go so you can bring some of their cards for them to sign. Artists often also have tokens, playmats, and prints for sale that you can't find anywhere else. (I'd know. I'm a certified playmat addict.) Artists are always up for a chat about their artistic process or how they got their start illustrating cards for Magic. Make sure to tip well!

A Noah Bradley print that made me so very happy, and Aaron Miller signing some tokens

There are plenty of chances for great photo opportunities at GPs. If you're not snapping a selfie in front of a giant Nissa or Liliana, you might be posing with one of the best cosplayers in the Magic community. Cosplayers make the game we love come alive in front of our eyes, and you'll find them hanging out at most GPs. Let me tell you from personal experience that there's nothing quite like posing with Avacyn, posting it on social media, and having all of your friends think you're best buds with a crazy Angel.

A.E. Marling as Stitcher Geralf

Side Events

So you've met Owen Turtenwald, gotten some foils signed by an artist, and updated your profile pic with a cosplayer. It's time to play some Magic. If you're not interested in the main event, there are about a billion side events for you to choose from.

It can be difficult to know where to start, so here's a primer of some events you'll usually see offered at a Grand Prix.

Mini Masters

While it may sound like a professional golf tournament for children, Mini Masters actually has nothing to do with the eighteenth green. Usually held on the Friday before the main event of a Grand Prix, Mini Masters challenges players' deck-building ability in an unusual way. Entrants are given a single booster pack and instructed to use it to make a 30-card deck. The event is single-elimination, and for every win you add another pack to your pool. By the time the finals roll around, the top two decks are pretty powerful.

Mini Masters is great because entry is included with your registration fee. Even if you lose the first round, you still got a pack for free. Win-win! It's also great because the gameplay can be very silly. Building a deck around the random cards you open often forces you to play with cards you normally wouldn't, leading to interesting board states and seldom-seen interactions.

Two-Headed Giant

Chances are you've played this super fun format at your local game store. Well, guess what? You can play it at GPs, too! Bring your friend, your spouse, your brother, your sister, or even your grandma to throw down some spells with you versus another two-player team. It's a great way to teach Magic to someone who might be new to the game.

Tim Livaccari and his daughter Veronica decided to team up for a Two-Headed Giant event at Grand Prix Minneapolis. Tim is excited to get his daughter into the game, and Veronica loves playing.

"It's a lot of fun to have her next to me and have her input on what she thinks she should do," says Tim, smiling.

It's easy to see the excitement on Veronica's face. "It's a card game, it's competitive, and you have to think through what you have to do," she giggles. "And I get to play with Daddy."

Sealed Draft

This is one heck of a crazy format that I love. That's because Sealed Draft combines my two favorite formats of all time (Sealed and Draft, duh) and gives you the opportunity to make incredibly sweet and synergistic decks. If you've ever wanted to feel like you've opened the perfect Sealed pool (without actually having to do it), this is the format for you.

Here's how it works: First, you crack three packs and mentally note your cards. Then, you draft the next three packs—just like any regular draft. Next up is the moment of truth: building your deck!

The decks are powerful and play out like Constructed decks because it's easy to get multiples of cards, or cards in your strategy, once you know you need them. For example, if I crack one or two Insolent Neonates in my Sealed pool and the rest of the pile supports it, I can prioritize Vampires in the draft and ignore other colors (even if I see a sweet bomb) because I already know my game plan. I've played this format a few times, and every time have had a very memorable (and amazing) deck that I couldn't shut up about.

Super Sunday Series

So you didn't make Day Two. I feel ya. It's happened to me a bunch of times.

But don't worry! There's a special tournament just for those who missed the cut. It's called the Super Sunday Series—and yes, it is super. It is also held on Sunday. How do they think of these names?!

Super Sunday Series competitors at GP Minneapolis

The Super Sunday Series format is often Sealed Deck (the format is at the discretion of the tournament organizer), and it offers high-level competition just like the GP main event. The best part? The prize.

"The first-place prize is amazing," says Super Sunday Series competitor Kevin Klaes. "It's a trip to Wizards!"

He's right. Besides an armload of prize tickets, the winner gets a trip to Wizards of the Coast headquarters in Seattle, where they battle other Super Sunday Series winners for their share of a $20,000 prize pool (not to mention fun events like drafting with Magic R&D).

"It's something to do if you don't make Day Two," says Kevin. "It's also good practice for Sealed Deck Regional PTQs. You can test out cards to see if they're working and take that knowledge home with you."

While I've never made it all the way to the Top 8, the Super Sunday Series remains one of my all-time favorite parts of attending a GP because it's nearly as competitive as the main event. Another one of my favorite things about it? You can talk about your Day One bad beats with all of your opponents, who also have their own Day One bad beats.

Vintage Artist Constructed

This is a really cool format designed to show off the incredible work of artists in our community. It hasn't shown up at many tournaments just yet—it premiered at GP Vegas and was held again at GP Minnesota—but it's a really neat concept that's starting to catch fire. Here's the idea: you build a Vintage deck but can only use cards illustrated by one artist. Yep, just one! And that means basic lands, too.

A beautiful Vintage Artist Constructed deck using art from Eric Deschamps

There's no ban list. Although, with broken decks that feature Baneslayer Angel (artist Greg Staples), there might soon be. But that's part of what's exciting about this format: it's still evolving. Creativity is king, and there's lots of room to brew to your heart's content.

So, what kinds of decks are the most popular? I asked one of the format's inventors (and Magic art enthusiast), Mike Linnemann. "People generally look for artists who have been around long enough to have had the amazingly powerful spells from the 1990s, but have had the longevity to have the stronger power level of today's creatures," he says. "Think Force of Will and Angel of Jubilation by Terese Nielsen, for example." A 100% Terese Nielsen deck? Sign me up!

Another fun aspect of the burgeoning format is discovering synergies within a set of any given artist's cards. "I hear Chippy has [versions of] Isochron Scepter and Orim's Chant, which is indeed a thing," says Mike. Locking your opponent out of playing any spells or attacking with any creatures does seem good, doesn't it?

On-Demand Events

Say none of the scheduled events I've listed above tickle your fancy, or maybe you only have time to drop in for a quick draft. Or maybe all you want to do is draft again and again and again. In that case, On-Demand Events are for you!

On-Demand Events are things like Booster Drafts; Standard, Legacy, and Modern queues; and Commander matches that fire as soon as eight people (or four for four-player Commander) enter. Think of it like Magic Online. As soon as eight people join the queue, your event launches! You can squeeze in as many On-Demand Events as you can handle into your GP weekend. They're single-elimination, so the ticket payout for winning is pretty good.

A Grand Prix is sort of like a Magic convention. There are a ton of things to see and do, and when you're finally back home you have a bunch of memories and a distinct longing for it all to have never ended. Grand Prix tournaments are events that players flock to from all over the world. I've visited so many cities I never would have had the chance to see were it not for GPs. I've had amazing experiences I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. I've also tried all of the chicken strips and fries combo baskets every convention center has to offer.

Play the game, see the world

So, the next time you consider heading to a GP, I say, "Go for it." It'll be a weekend you won't soon forget.

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