It’s not the most obvious of connections, but Las Vegas and Magic share more than just three memorable Grand Prix Weekends. They also share a love of cosplay.
Cosplay, for the uninitiated, is short for costume play, a sort of performance art or fun pastime where people dress up as their favorite characters, fictional or real.
Magic, with its rich backstory, pantheon of memorable characters, and well-drawn planeswalker characters is ripe for cosplay, and the two have gone hand-in-hand for years now.
But Las Vegas? Las Vegas had cosplay before cosplay was cool. Don’t believe me? Well…
Florence Dei Ochoa, left, cosplaying as Chandra, and Greg Miller, a Las Vegas local, as Elvis.
Cosplaying really hit its stride in the 1990s, but Elvish impersonating? While, that’s nearly as old as The King himself.
So it’s no surprise that the cosplayers have come out this weekend, not only in Las Vegas, but in Chiba and Utrecht as well. And they’ve shown up in a big way, from new cosplayers to some of the most well-known in the Magic community.
Welcome to Las Vegas
That, of course, is Christine Sprankle, who first rose to prominence in the Magic community in 2011 when a very handsome writer featured her incredible Elspeth, Knight-Errant cosplay at the 2011 World Championships. She had been cosplaying for years prior, but after 2011, she became something of a regular feature at Magic events. She has, certainly, inspired a number of others to try their hand at it. She also brought an Eternal Witness costume this weekend.
Christine Sprankle, Eternal Witness
As well as Soul Warden.
Christine Sprankle, Soul Warden
On the other end of the spectrum is Florence Dei Ochoa, the Chandra shown above with Elvis. Modern Masters Weekend is Ochoa’s first attempt at cosplay, but, by the looks of things, she’s getting the hang of it fast. Well, fast-ish.
Florence Dei Ochoa as Chandra
“It took me 4 months, lots of YouTube videos, and a lot of mistakes,” she said. “This is my first time, but I hope to do more in the future.”
Flo said she chose to come as Chandra because “I have that firecracker spirit.” And who could argue with a fire mage?
If Jaclyn Foglia has her way, the answer would be no one. She chose to come as the fiery planeswalker as well.
Jacklyn Foglia as Chandra.
“I was nervous to come dressed up at a large event like this, but my friends were very supportive,” Foglia said. “It’s a lot less intimidating than I thought. When I put on the costume, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I felt like I was someone different. I’m no longer Jaclyn, I’m Chandra.”
Foglia said she planned to start bringing Chandra with her to more events, including Gen Con and future Grand Prix. She even plans to start on another cosplay of an angel image by Jason Engle that was done for a playmat. The armor, she said, inspired her to continue.
Foglia said she especially enjoyed when other people enjoyed all of her work. She calls herself a perfectionist, so when she found players and fans who loved her take on Chandra, she felt all the work was worth it.
“I’m a perfectionist,” Foglia said. “So when people would say it was the best Chandra they’d seen, it made me feel good, because I put so much work into it.”
She said she spent about 20 hours on the costume in total, working a bit through trial and error “because when you put on any costume for the first time, it won’t work.”
She said she’s also learned quite a bit by meeting up with Christine Sprankle, grabbing tips and tricks along the way. The pair also spent much of Friday posing together for photos.
“I like what Sprankle does,” Foglia said. “Yesterday was super fun.”
Alan Marling is another one who has been spotted posing for pictures with Sprankle, especially since his cosplay, Stitcher Geralf, doesn’t exactly get along with Sprankle’s Avacyn.
Marling, a fantasy writer and Magic player for more than 20 years, is, like Foglia, learning to dip his toe into cosplaying as an outlet for his imagination.
“Most of my imagination goes into my writing, that’s really my outlet,” Marling said. “But I do a few when I feel especially inspired.”
His inspiration for Vegas led him to come as this crazy scientist:
“People have been really excited about it,” Marling said of his costume, in between posing for photos with fans. “Though it is an obscure character. Sometimes I get mistaken for Snapcaster Mage or Laboratory Maniac, but it’s ok—those are my coworkers.”
So why did he pick Stitcher Geralf while others are flying around as more iconic characters?
“He is fighting against the stifling ideas of Avacyn, who is trying to hold back science, innovation, and creativity!” Marling said. “Plus, Innistrad is my favorite set.”
At least one player took the spirit of the weekend and came garbed as a recognizable, and much beloved, Modern Masters 2015 card: Noble Hierarch.
"I work in tax, so cosplaying is my creative outlet," said Mikaela Downs. "It's a bit of problem solving too."
Noble Hierarch was Downs' third attempt at cosplaying, and she found the experience a bit different at a Magic tournament compared to a convention, where many, if not most, people are dressed up.
"It was fun getting my picture taken in something I worked on," she said. "You really need the ability to think outside the box."
But Las Vegas isn’t the only one getting in on the fun. Players in Chiba and Utrect came out to play as well, with everything from Liliana in Utrecht:
To a veritable pantheon in Chiba:
Chiba cosplayers posing as, from left, Liliana, Nissa, Teysa, and Vraska.
While many of the cosplayers came just to do exactly that—cosplay—many were playing in the main event as well. Marling, for one, described his pool as “insane” and said he’d be disappointed if he didn’t finish Day 1 at least at 8-1. Though he did admit to feeling slightly bad about distracting other players with his crazy get-up.
In fact, in Chiba, there were enough cosplayers to fire off a draft!
One cosplayer who isn’t playing in the main event, but not because she doesn’t want to, is Amanda Sharpe, the wife of Wizards of the Coast employee Lee Sharpe. Employee spouses aren’t allowed to play in events that feed the Pro Tour, so Amanda can’t play in the Grand Prix…but she certainly can terrify the multiverse as Nicol Bolas.
Amanda Sharpe as Nicol Bolas
Sharpe has cosplayed before, but never at a Magic event. But with Las Vegas approaching and some extra time and energy on her hands, Sharpe set out to utilize some skills she already possessed to create the Bolas look you see above mostly out of leather.
“I’ve worked with sculped leather before. That’s an ability I had, so I thought I’d use it,” said Sharpe, who made the detailed mask out of 25 individually sculpted pieces before moving on to the claws and the rest of the costume. “The cloak was made by a friend, because I can’t sew.”
But what she can do is get in character, and she counts Bolas as one of her favorites.
“He’s just the ultimate bad guy and I find that awesome,” she said. “He’s just relentless, he’s going to get what he wants and he doesn’t care who he runs over to get it and I enjoy powerful characters.”
As a designer and illustrator, Sharpe is certainly in it for the artistic aspect. But she admits she certainly likes the reaction Bolas evokes.
“The best part of cosplaying Nicol Bolas is the awed whispers. Some people will come up to me and tell me the costume is cool, but then I’ll hear others off to the side whispering ‘Ooooh, is that Nicol Bolas?’”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? To see the world react to you as someone else, to leave your old self behind and stop being nervous as throngs of strangers ask to take your picture?
“Cosplay is wearing your imagination on your sleeve,” said Marling.
Elvis would agree.