Top 5 Tips To Help You Prepare For Any Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Grand Prix, by Graeme McIntyre

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

Grand Prix Manchester 2014 Report (Top64) by Matt Gregory
Image by Anna Przywecka

5 Tips To Help You Prepare For Any Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Grand Prix – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

With MTG Grand Prix (GP) Manchester on the immediate horizon, I thought this might be a good time to share with you some general tips which will hopefully increase the likelihood of you having a good time at the event. With the change from Pro Tour Qualifiers (PTQs) to Pre Pro Tours Qualifiers (PPTQs), nowadays there are fewer ‘stepping stones’ for newer players to make between the local environment and the larger events such as the GPs.

Whilst PPTQs are Competitive REL and so differ from FNM and the like, they’re often still full of relatively familiar faces and are atmospherically pretty easy going. GPs in my experience have not felt ‘super serious’ from the get go, but you definitely won’t get take backs at this level, and people will call judges over little things. They’ll bring their A-game, and as the tournament progresses and the matter of reaching the second day of competition comes to the fore, things will get a lot more serious. Of course, if you make day two it will be more serious still as winning and losing games can easily be a matter of large sums of money, or potentially an invite to the Pro Tour.

It’s a bit early to say anything about what deck to play, especially given how much this Standard format in particular has changed from week to week, so in this article I will be offering practical advice that I hope will help make your life easier and give you the best Grand Prix experience possible.

So, lets go!


5. Get Collecting – Find Your Cards Before You Get To The GP

It’s pretty likely that there will be local people who have the cards you need who aren’t going to the event, so it’s worth asking around before you go. If you want to own the cards, then you should definitely buy them before you go if at all possible, as prices on site will certainly be significantly higher. The point at which I learned this was European Championships 2003, where Wild Mongrel was being sold for £5, in spite of being last year’s draft set, because the RG beatdown deck was really popular. It won’t necessarily be that bad, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see mythic rares for £5 more each, and rares for £3 more. If you want to buy something as a memento look for something in a different format than the event is, as the prices on these cards won’t be inflated through the roof.


4. Plan Your Journey – Book Travel And Accommodation Well In Advance

Public transport and hotels generally cost more (unless you get some sort of deal) closer to the time, and not by small amounts either. There has been many a time I’ve booked flights in advance for £25 or less, and there have also been times I’ve checked the price closer to the time and thought “well, that’s that then…”, but it’s not just planes where this can happen. Often it will be the case that you pay two or three times as much for booking a train or a bus within ten days of the day you want to travel, than you would have if you booked eleven days ahead or more. It is also worth checking to see if you can get there cheaper by purchasing a series of single tickets and potentially waiting around for a bit at one of the stations. Occasionally the only reason a journey is expensive is because one of the connecting train journeys is abnormally expensive, and by waiting for the next train you can significantly reduce your costs.

When it comes to hotels you’re also better booking in advance for similar reasons, but there are some useful tricks you can try. Single rooms are often about the same price as a twin room, so you want to be sharing if possible (also, be mindful that a twin room has two beds and a double has one big bed). In the same vein, it’s worth checking to see if they have a family room – these are often about the same price as a twin room, but have a couch which has a pull out bed, so you can fit in up to another two people.

If you’re driving to the event, or if there is really good public transport, you might find that it’s much cheaper to stay at a hotel either outside the city or in a satellite town. This is naturally less convenient, but in many cases very manageable.

If you are planning to attend GP Manchester 2016 then you can find a list of nearby hotels and a guide to the GP here: Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Grand Prix Manchester 2016 – The Complete Travel Guide, by Aaron Strawbridge.


3. Pack Light – Don’t Bring Everything But The Kitchen Sink

While the venue is going to be pretty big, once there are 1200 people in it space is going to be a bit on the tight side. I would always advocate bringing a minimal amount of stuff – for me this will mean a small pad of paper, a pen, a small box of dice, your deck, a shoulder bag to put them all in and some comfortable clothes, while everything else will be left in the hotel. This will make it less of a production to get in and set up at the start of the round, as well as getting out at the end. It will also be less annoying for other people, but probably the biggest thing is that it will mean you have fewer things to keep an eye on throughout the day to avoid losing any possessions.

Maybe you’re especially looking forward to playing Cube, Battlebox or even Commander while you’re there, in which case it’s obviously fine to bring what you require to play, and he same goes for trading. I’d ask myself the question “do I really need this today?”. Are you really going to bother trading while you’re still in the main event on day one? Will there really be time to play Cube? Will there be time for both? Realistically, probably not, and these things can be brought on the second day instead, unless you are one of the few reaching day two.


2. Dog Eat Dog Event – People Will Be More Serious

Due the size and prize potential of the Grand Prix, players and judges will be more serious. There is often a bit of bristling from casual players about this – e.g. “it’s just a game, why get so bent out of shape?” – but many of these people will have invested in a flight, several days in a hotel, and perhaps asked for those days off work to play in the event, which will not be the case for many casual players, so it’s unrealistic to expect them not to be quite as invested.

That said, it’s rare that anyone will be actively trying to be unpleasant to you. It is mostly just a matter of playing the game a bit more formally, not expecting them to let you have take backs, and most importantly to communicate clearly. If you’re a bit worried about your ability to do these things, consider taking a deck you’re familiar with and spending some time playing as if you’re in the conditions you will be at the GP while you’re testing it over the next few weeks.

And don’t be afraid to call a judge at the event. If you’re not sure about a situation for any reason at all, call a judge.


1. Keep Your Wits About You – Be Aware Of Thieves

This advice isn’t just for the tournament but in the city as well. At GP Barcelona I spoke to three people who had possessions of theirs stolen in the city by pick pockets, and it made me more mindful as a result. It became obvious to me how this had come to pass as I watched people leave their things lying around, and be generally negligent. Add going out and getting drunk to the mix and it’s no surprise that people were being targeted.

It’s really all about presenting an opportunity – you won’t become a target if you don’t make yourself an easy mark, because there will be easy marks around. This ties in with my point about not bringing unnecessary items to the tournament site. Things like passports are worth stealing, and you won’t need to have easy access to them at all times, so don’t keep them in the back pocket of your jeans. If you’re going to lose a bag, then it might as well not have every change of clothes you brought with you in it.

Consider taking a shoulder bag instead of a rucksack, as these are pretty awkward to grab, and there will be less temptation to “put it down for just a second” and having to hope it’s been turned into lost property 15 minutes later. Give some serious consideration to how likely you are to play with your Legacy or Modern deck before you bring those, too – that’s a lot of money to lose on something you weren’t even going to use that day.

If you are planning to attend GP Manchester 2016 then you may find this guide by Aaron Strawbridge extremely useful: Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Grand Prix Manchester 2016 – The Complete Travel Guide, by Aaron Strawbridge


The Tale of the Badger and the Elephant

Badger and the ElephantTime for this week’s Magic Fable – The Tale of the Badger and the Elephant

Once upon a time, there was a badger who lived in the sunny village of Bormingham. The Badger did ever so well in school, and from this concluded that he was likely the smartest badger in all of Bormingham and, thus, the rest of the universe. The only problem with the badger’s life in Bormingham was that he didn’t have enough people to play variance chess with, and so it was with a heavy heart that the badger left sunny Bormingham, and moved to good old Waspford.

The Badger naturally made an effort to inform everyone he played in the university town of Waspford how to play properly. Naturally, this was met with mixed reviews, as the people of Waspford had also done well in school, and were living there in order to go to the University. Some simply took the best of the badgers advice, some ignored him, some rolled their eyes and were vaguely irritated. The badger didn’t for a second consider that even he may learn things by listening instead of telling other people how to play, instead continuing on his mission to civilize the dim witted folk of Waspford.

So it continued until the badger met the elephant, who was – due to his unfailing memory – rather decent at variance chess, and had also done ever so well at school. The elephant was the badger’s greatest challenge, and each and every time he met the elephant, he would go on and on about the same things the elephant had previously disagreed with him on. Each time without consideration that he might be wrong, and each time without much of an actual argument for why he was right… as this was self-evident. Had the badger not done ever so well in school perhaps?

The elephant did his best as the weeks dragged into months, and the months dragged into years, until he finally snapped as the badger opened his mouth to go on about how good affinity was (or something – I forget, but the elephant doesn’t!).

“Badger, this is the 13567th time you have tried to convince me about Affinity. It’s 4th, behind the 13205 times you’ve tried to discuss counter drafting, 12993 times you’ve tried to talk to me about how fun it is to play in events even once you’re out of contention and 12834 times you’ve tried to discuss play mat usage. The conversations never go anywhere, I don’t care to convince you, and I don’t understand why you feel so compelled to make me change my behaviour. Why don’t you mind your own business, and stop being so tiresome?” said the elephant.

A short, awkward silence was followed by “…Because playmats have nice pictures, they protect your cards, help you celebrate the game and engage in geek culture“, a thunderous horn tooting and a crash…

…and this is how the elephant got his “Flattened Badger” play mat. The moral of the story is “Always press your case well beyond the point when it seems useless – you too could be immortalised as a play mat.”


Community Question: What is your single biggest tip for someone who is planning to attend their first GP?

That’s it for this week, all the best!


Top 5 Tips To Help You Prepare For Any Magic: The Gathering (MTG) Grand Prix, by Graeme McIntyre
With MTG Grand Prix (GP) Manchester on the immediate horizon, I thought this might be a good time to share some general tips which will hopefully increase the likelihood of you having a good time at the event.

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Graeme McIntyre
I've been playing magic since the end of Rath Block, and I've been a tournament regular since Invasion Block. I started studying for a PhD in Sociology at University of Leicester in 2017. I was born In Scotland, but moved to Nottingham three years ago, seeking new oppertunities both academic and magical. I play regularly with David Inglis, Alastair Rees and Neil Rigby. I've been on 5 Pro Tours the 2016 English World Cup Team, and Scottish 2003 European Championship Team, but what I really bring to the table is experience. I've played 136 Pro Tour Qualifiers, 18 Grand Prixs, 11 National Championships, 13 World Magic Cup Qualifers, 51 Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers and more little tournaments than I can remember. More than anything else, my articles are intended to convey the lessons of this lived experience. Likes - robust decks, be they control, midrange, beatdown or combo. Cryptic Commands, Kird Apes and Abzan Charms. Dislikes - decks that draw hot and cold. Urza's Tower, Life From the Loam and Taigam's Scheming.