Grand Prix Las Vegas ran from June 14th to the 17th this year, and though these sorts of events have been happening for years, I never saw myself going to one. I’ve known about Pro Tours and the competitive scene but I was always a kitchen table player so I always assumed these events were mainly for the pros or those aspiring to get into that scene. When it comes to the Grand Prix at least, there is more to do for the average Magic player than I would have first expected. It’s true, there is still a main event that the pros are participating in, but outside of that there are tons of events going on for everyone else, so my roommate and I decided that we should go a couple of months back. Part of this decision was made easier when a member of our pod moved out to Vegas, so we figured we could get the gang back together while simultaneously participating in one of the biggest Magic events of the year. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the game, so it was an extra special convention.
It really wasn’t a spontaneous decision to attend; we casually discussed it a while ago and though I thought it was a great idea it was unclear if we’d have the extra money to go. A few weeks ago he went ahead and secured a room at a hotel near the convention center, and let me know it was done so I scrambled to get my finances in order so that I would be able to make it. With the support of my lovely woman I was able to make the trip and I’m glad that I did. Though the convention started on Thursday, we decided that we could afford to take that Friday off in order to get a head start on the weekend. With Sunday being Father’s Day we needed to get back home as early as possible so we also headed to Vegas super early on Friday as well. I was in the car and on my way by 6:30 that morning and arrived shortly before 11 am. Our friend had work until 5 pm and check in at the hotel wasn’t until 3, but we managed to check in early and took advantage of the time to have a meal and enjoy the AC before heading over to the convention center.
As soon as we headed inside the main hall, we were greeted by an overwhelming amount of people and visuals. The place was packed when we arrived, and we spent a good couple of hours just walking around looking at everything on offer. Rows upon rows of tables were filled with people playing various forms of Magic. Vendors lined the rows and every card you could ever want was on sale — in multiple languages no less.
One of the coolest things on display was this humongous Serra Angel statue. Situated nearby were extremely over-sized cards showcasing all of the first printings of each artwork for the card. It was a shame that there wasn’t anything else like this on display, but you could get your own oversized cards from the “prize wall” nearby. There was also an “official” merch presumably run by Wizards of the Coast, and that’s where I got this beauty:
Before I left there were a few things on my bucketlist. I wanted a t-shirt commemorating the event, I wanted to do my first ever live draft and I wanted pick up some cards on my wishlist. There were a few shirts on sale at the shop, but this was the only one that mentioned anything about GP Vegas. The other shirts on sale were each of the individual mana colors, with some sort of slogan using the mana symbol as one of the letters. For example, the word “Nope” written across the front of the shirt with the O being the blue mana symbol. Funny yes, because blue is the counterspell color, but not really my thing. I liked the black one best, with the word “Doom” written across the front with one of the O’s being the black mana symbol. I still preferred the GP shirt, with the simple rendition of a black lotus on the front and the 25th anniversary logo and Grand Prix locations on the back.
I ended up participating in less events than I would have expected. The first few hours in the convention center were overwhelming… we had just driven for four and a half hours and were a bit jet lagged, and there was no real rhyme or reason for the event. It took some time to figure out where to go to sign up for events and whatnot, but once we did we decided to play some commander. There were sealed events, a beta draft qualifier and “on-demand” drafts. You could also play 4-player commander on demand, so that’s what we did. Each of these queues required payment and sign up and then you’re given a buzzer. You wait around til the buzzer goes off and then meet at a “gathering point” where a judge will verify names and then seat you. We had to wait about 30 minutes before we got a 4-player game, and it was over in about ten minutes or less. The guy who won literally pulled a turn 3 win con out of his ass and that was that. We went ahead and played a for fun game and I won that one at least. After this point it was time to meet up with our friend who was finally off of work, and we set off to do a Dominaria draft.
Later in the evening the on-demand drafts turned into “turbo drafts,” which are essentially the same thing but instead of playing three rounds you only play one. This was my first ever live draft, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I opened poorly, and though I made what I thought was a decent deck I got stomped pretty quickly. Unlike the pre-release events I’ve done at my LGS where you get packs of cards as reward for playing (and winning), at the convention you were rewarded with “Prize Tix” in various amounts. These were used on the aforementioned prize wall. I earned 20 tix for participating in the round of EDH, though the winner got an additional 40. For the draft format, you get 100 tix for winning and 10 for losing. Some people were cool and did a 60/50 split, but the guy I played against gave me the 10 and walked away. Dick. The second day I did one more paid event, a Battlebond draft with our friend while my roommate did his beta draft qualifier. That one didn’t go so well either, and unless the judge forgot to give them to us, I didn’t get any tix from that one. At the end of the day, I ended up with a total of 40 tix, and the prize wall was always so damn packed that I didn’t bother spending them. They’re an additional little souvenir from the weekend. The “Cake Tix” was for the 25th anniversary cake they were giving away but I didn’t have any of that either.
The two parts of the weekend that were my favorite were playing EDH with our original pod back in the hotel room, and the games of EDH we got going at the end of Saturday. I guess you could say I love EDH. Oh, and I met Josh Lee Kwai from The Command Zone podcast. He’s Internet famous, so that’s pretty cool. At one point I finally decided what cards I would like to get my hands on, limiting myself to spending $100 or less, but wanting to get some value. These were my spoils from the weekend:
The top row were purchased for said $100 or less. The bottom row were promo cards for participating in events. Teferi and Land Tax have a home in one deck that I’m building, while Atraxa has been on my mind as a commander I would like to build for a while now. Doubling season I’ve talked about quite a bit lately, and having been recently reprinted it’s dropped from $75 to $36, which is a steal at this point (and I doubt it will drop much more before slowly creeping back up to that high point). It will be included into whatever I do with Atraxa, be it Superfriends or +1/+1 counter shenanigans. The promo lands are more of a souvenir than anything, but that promo Death Baron is a sweet alternate art and will slot right into my Scarab God zombie tribal deck.
Overall it was a great weekend and a neat experience. I don’t know that I would do it again though, because I’ve discovered that I truly do not like drafting, so if I do anything like this in the future I’ll be focusing on EDH alone. Still, if you love the game like I do, I’d recommend checking out a big convention like this at least once for the experience!