5 Point Plan: Why the Cardiff Mindsports Festival is a great way to kick off your Magic career! by Dave Shedden
Fledgling Planeswalkers, it’s time to leave the nest… and happily, the ideal destination for your first jaunt has just come to my attention.
Lace up your boots, dive out through the blind eternities and get ready to touch down in…
Well, you don’t want to head straight to New Phyrexia first time out, do you?
Fear not, I chose this stop for better reasons than playing safe. It just so happens that a major convention, in the shape of the Cardiff Mindsports Festival, will be taking place in the city on the weekend of 14th & 15th September… and that convention will incorporate a large and exciting Magic element.
As a person who had the benefit of enjoying a fantastic weekend’s Magic in Cardiff some years ago (at a Grand Prix tournament which was held there) I believe I’m well qualified to tell you that if you’re just setting sail on Magical waters, this is a great opportunity to spread your wings.
Oh, you want more than just my brash pronouncements, eh? Here are five reasons you should attend:
1. There’s something for everyone
Sometimes, a Magic event will get a lot of press, but it just won’t be for you.
- Perhaps you see yourself as a constructed player – and the event is all limited formats.
- Perhaps you’re interested in competing for prizes – but the event is very casual-play-oriented (or vice versa).
- Perhaps, if you’re planning a road trip with your friends, you want to actually spend the weekend with them – but in an individual tournament, you’ll be split up for most of the day.
By virtue of being big and broad, events like the Cardiff Mindsports Festival are able to make these kinds of problems melt away.
Your local PTQ can only offer one format and one endgame – cut-throat Standard, to the death, for instance – but a larger convention can run multiple main and side events. Here’s a selection of what will be on offer in Cardiff:
- For the competitive-minded amongst you, there will be a StarCity Games Invitational Qualifier, in the Standard format, with £2,000 in cash prizes.
- For those who prefer particular formats, there will be side events in constructed and draft, plus large Vintage and Legacy events across the weekend – so you’ll doubtless be able to find your particular poison.
- For the people who want to hang with their mates, there will be the awesome Team RTR Sealed event – an opportunity to build and play with your wingmen/wingladies for glory, prizes and another SCG Invitational berth.
On top of this, when so many Magic players gather, the opportunities to do things like Cube, or play EDH on the side multiply. Trust me when I say that, if you make it down, you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself without enjoyable games to play over the course of the weekend.
2. You’ll be able to learn… a LOT
If you genuinely want to get better at the game, you could do a whole hell of a lot worse than attend a big convention, play a lot of games and talk to a lot of people about your deck-building and your plays.
Let’s imagine that you’re heading down to Cardiff to jam games with your new Standard deck. Ahead of time, you know that the big Standard event is on Sunday, but there will be 8-man side-events in the format running throughout Saturday. Entering these side events is simply a matter of strolling up to the organiser’s desk, registering for the event and paying your entry, then waiting for the number of player sign-ups to hit 8. As soon as you have that Magic number, the pairings will be made and the games will begin.
You play through your first event, winning your first round and then losing the next – but more importantly than your result, you’re able to get talking to your second round opponent, who seemed very accomplished, about your deck. In the downtime before his next round, he gives you a couple of pointers on the plays you made and suggests some changes to your sideboard.
Excited to have picked up some new information, you head off to the dealer booths and grab the new cards you’ve just discussed. Minutes later, you’re signing up for your second Standard 8-man; you eventually lose in the finals, but get some more great tips from your last opponent.
All of this leaves you much more experienced ahead of the main event on Sunday, having tuned your deck, played more match-ups and generally improved your feel for how the format works.
There aren’t many opportunities to have these kind of interactions all in one place, so when you have them, you should grab them.
3. There are good prizes on offer… and multiple shots at glory
For those of you who want to start proving yourself, a big convention like this one is well positioned.
With big tourneys on each day and good prizes on offer from those and the side events (FTV 20 is certainly going to be worth winning, if you ask me), you’ll have several shots at taking some spoils home with you. Scrubbing out of a tournament can feel horrible, but it might not feel so bad if you then crush two Win-a-box queues in a row… not something you’d have an option to do at a smaller event.
As an added bonus for those really trying to sharpen up their edge for a PTQ run or similar, the SCG Invitaional qualifier status of the two large tournaments is likely to draw a pretty good standard of competitor. From the middle-rounds onward, you’ll almost certainly be playing against excellent opposition, which is exactly what you should be looking for when honing your killer instinct.
4. Team Sealed really is that good
I alluded to the RTR Team Sealed event earlier, but for the avoidance of doubt, let me say this clearly: this tournament is the biggest single reason to go to Cardiff.
Most of us started playing Magic because of our friendships, or make great friendships in time through the game; some of us are lucky enough to have done both. No playing experience rewards that bonding process better than Team play – and Team Sealed is its very best embodiment.
Alongside two of your best buddies, you’ll get to break down an oversized sealed-deck pool and try to work out how on earth to build the best possible three decks from it. It’s mental challenging and engrossing; it allows you to build decks to suit the play-styles of each member of your posse; it creates situations where everything might ride on the outcome of a single game and where explosions of camaraderie and celebration are commonplace.
Hey, even if you go 0-2 drop, at least you’ll have a couple of folk to get food and drown your sorrows with.
Team sealed is the ultimate intersection of Magic and Friendship. Don’t deny yourself this experience.
5. Times will be had
You know what? Park the cards for this one.
The final reason you should go to Cardiff is that road trips with good pals are amazing – and you’ll be telling the stories for years afterward.
My GP experience in Cardiff was back in 2006. Since then, I’ve started a proper career, met a hell of a lady, bought a grown-up house, had a son… but I still look back fondly on that weekend, share stories with the rest of the crew who made it down and generally bask in the glow of what was a formative moment for a group of friends.
Without GP Cardiff, I would never have:
- Shared a somewhat dubious hostel room with 4 of the smelliest, ugliest, funniest guys in the UK.
- Learned an incredibly cool drinking game from Ed Ross which involved linking arms and slapping tables, while the landlord of whichever hostelry we were in looked on in evident anxiety.
- Ordered a massive, blue T-Bone steak at 3am in an all-night restaurant, while Greig Davidson berated me for slowing down the pace of my drinking (which had begun at 6.30pm in earnest).
- Christened that same restaurant ‘Honest John’s Steakhouse’ because of its no-frills approach to customer service… then ultimately forgot its real name, so that a healthy section of Scottish Magic knows the place only by its snarky epithet.
- Been able to watch Joules Jardine Top 4 the event… despite being something like 15 times over the drink-drive limit, following the crazy night on the town which preceded day 2.
I sure as hell couldn’t manage another weekend like that now, crumbling relic that I am, but I’m sure as hell glad I got to do it first time around.
My point is this: go for the cards, stay for the capers. I promise you won’t regret it.
I hope so. If you’re looking to explore this beautiful game – and you’re also in the spot in your life where Magic and road-trips sound like the best possible combination – I urge you to head down and live it up at the Millenium Stadium.
Oh… and if you make it to Honest John’s, I’ve got a playset of foil Tarmogoyfs for the first person who can get the owner to crack a smile.
Until next time, folks, may your every mulligan yield a nut draw.