By Myles Miller
Today’s article is going to be based around the competitive side of Magic, a little bit more than usual. I and the other Battlegrounds authors always strive to create content for players at every level, especially those looking to improve their game, but this week, I’m going to focus on a more competitive aspect of Magic: preparing to play in a Grand Prix. I’ve asked some of Richmond’s most competitive players to share their experiences and insights to help you prepare for the event, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth.
What are GPs?
The Grand Prix are Magic’s premier competitive events, and certainly the largest you can enter without requiring an invitation. I will be heading to New Jersey at the end of the month with a group of friends and teammates to play at GP New Jersey, the first Standard Grand Prix since the release of Guilds of Ravnica. Let me describe a few details about GPs, to give you an idea of how these massive events work:
- Grand Prix are two-day events. Players compete in 8 rounds on the first day, and any player with a record of 6-2 or better (18+ match points) can compete for 7 more rounds on the second day. After 15 total rounds, the top 8 players play for the grand prize.
- The prize payout of a Grand Prix can be quite substantial. For example, the prize payout for 1st place at Grand Prix New Jersey is $10,000. $5,000 to 2nd place, $2,500 each to 3rd and 4th, and so it goes down to 64th If a GP has over 3,000 players, the cash payouts extend down to 180th place.
- Professional Points can be earned at GPs by players who do well enough. Pro Points are accumulated by players with excellent records at GPs, the Pro Tour, and other major events. Earning enough Pro Points will earn you special perks, such as byes, invites to the Pro Tour, and travel reimbursement. Speaking of:
- Players earn Planeswalker Points by playing in any official event, including your local FNM. I won’t go into detail, but every recorded match you play and every win you earn is recorded in your planeswalker point total, and players with enough points are awarded byes at major events like GPs. Certain events award extra points, but the default numbers are 3 points for a match win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. 1,300 points in the year (from the end of May to the end of May) gets you 1 bye, and 2,250+ earns 2 byes at Grand Prix events.
- GPs are conducted at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level. This means that players are expected to know the rules and play correctly. Judges work hard to assist players with any disputes or questions. Careless mistakes will result in warnings, while serious or intentional errors can escalate to more serious penalties. Players are also required to turn in a decklist before the event starts, listing every single card in their deck and sideboard, to help prevent any cheating.
Grand Prix are massive events, and held all over the world, all year long. Players who are serious about competing at this level will travel far and wide to play in any GP they can. If you wait for a Grand Prix to come to you, you’ll miss out on a lot of events. I personally have driven as far as Providence, Rhode Island and Orlando, Florida to play in a Grand Prix, and plenty of others in Richmond alone have traveled much farther than that. Because of the level of competition and the travel that’s usually required, there are a few ways you can prepare. Let’s hear from some of the more competitive local players and how they prepare for this level of competition.
Choose your weapon!
Q: How do you prepare for a Grand Prix? In terms of choosing a deck, practicing, etc?
Daniel D’Amato: I decide a deck two weeks out, test sideboarded games especially, and consider different flex spots in the mainboard to finalize a list 1 week in advance.
Charles League: I try to read articles to find out what the top decks are. I’ll watch event coverage, specifically of players who I respect playing those decks. If time permits, I play online in competitive leagues.
Orlando Lucas: Set up a testing group 3-4 days a week, play online, and read up on everything and watch streams.
Wyatt Plott: Get a lot of reps in with the deck I want to play, and play it online to get more matches in. Play in person and just do post-sideboard games to find a good plan for the expected metagame. Read articles to see what other people might be playing: don’t necessarily copy the lists but update them.
Pierson Geyer: I try to play in a weekday and weekend event to get some real practice in. Experience and performance are both important, so it helps to get a feel for your deck. I don’t recommend entirely online testing, because the human face-to-face aspect of the game in an important one. I also try to read an article or two about the format: knowing what other decks are out there will help you prepare.
Q: Travelling and logistics are also important. What do you recommend for getting to the event, and how can you be on top of your game throughout the weekend?
David Beniamino: Find someone else to do the driving. Get your own bed at the hotel, a restless night is not worth it. Make sure you know where to park and how much it will cost, so you’re not late. Play throughout the year to earn byes, they can make all the difference at a Grand Prix.
Andrew Black: Pack deodorant, book your travel ahead of time, drink water, and get plenty of sleep.
Adam Bialkowski: Never expect to win. Focus on one round at a time and try to have fun! GPs are like mini vacations.
Wyatt Plott: Travel with friends to help with the strain of driving long hours, and travel with people that have similar goals for the event.
Orlando Lucas: Bring water and stay around friends so that you’re not stressed out during the tournament.
Pierson Geyer: Getting your transportation, lodging, and budget figured out helps reduce stress, and getting a good night’s sleep is vital to performing well. I usually keep some protein bars in my bag to keep my energy up. Having a plan lets you keep your mental endurance over a full day of 8 rounds.
Daniel D’Amato: During the tournament I’m drinking water, walking around, and staying focused between rounds.
Each one of these players from RVA or the VA Beach area has several Grand Prix under their belt (a few even appearing in Pro Tours!), so they really know their stuff when it comes to competitive events. Whether you’ve been to a few GPs or would like to try one out the next time we have one nearby, these insights will go a long way towards helping you prepare for your next competitive event! While this article focuses on the main event, there’s plenty to do at a Grand Prix besides compete. Starting in 2019, these events will be referred to as MagicFest, a name meant to more completely describe the experience. MagicFests will include premier events such as a Grand Prix, but the weekend contains so much more than that: card vendors, cosplayers, casual and competitive events in all formats. You don’t have to be on the hunt for Pro Points to attend a Grand Prix weekend, there’s something for everyone to be found in the event hall which makes for an incredible experience. Have any habits or practices of your own you’d like to share? Further questions about GPs or competitive events? As always, drop a comment below or on Facebook, or come visit Battlegrounds anytime.