Right now I’m on the plane, headed home from GP Charlotte—aka the single biggest Magic tournament of all time, with an incredible 2,693 players. I had speculated that this event—given what seems to be ever-increasing GP attendance, combined with StarCityGames’ unparalleled marketing power, and despite being in not quite as big a hub city as Boston (1,845 players) or Philly (1,986)—would approach 2,000 players.

I was off by nearly 700. But more on that in a minute.

My trip began Friday morning with a ride to LaGuardia Airport, aka New York City’s bus stop, but for planes. As I boarded the flight, I noticed New York pro Christian Calcano in first class, talking on his phone. I thought I might introduce myself in mid-air and ask if he wanted to split a cab to downtown Charlotte when we landed—but then I noticed a few other Magic players on board as we flew, and thought better of talking to Christian, figuring, “He’s a pro, he’s probably traveling with a crew,” etc., etc.

So it was really funny when I stepped off the gangway in Charlotte and Christian immediately came up to me and said, “Hey, I’ve seen you playing Magic in the city. I’m Chris. You want to split a cab to the venue?”

Christian had already collected another dude, GP first-timer Jason Oppenheimer, and we trooped out to the taxi stand, where we collected a fourth guy, [NAME NOT FOUND], and drove in the spitting rain and mist to the Charlotte Convention Center. Nice guys, all.

After checking in at my hotel—my buddy Brandon “General” Patton (but henceforth Brandon the Hobo Mage, due to his four-month-old hobo beard, and his habit of scavenging discarded commons and uncommons for his set cubes) having already arrived and checked into our room—I got my shit together and walked the few blocks to the convention center for a sealed grinder. I already had two byes, but three is > two, and I needed the practice, anyway. Plus, hey—I came to Charlotte to play Magic ‘til my eyes bled, right?


Ready for battle.

As it turned out, there was another event going on at the center, a motorcycle show—it always cracks me up, the weird groups that find themselves thrown together in venues such as these; on Saturday night there was even some sort of prom-type thing happening.

After walking through the bike-show-registration portion, I found the GP down a set of escalators, and immediately signed up for a grinder. It was about 4pm by this time, so I figured this would be my one and only grinder, given that new events stopped firing at 7pm. Also, grinders are named that for a reason.

I found Brandon, too—wolfing down one of about eight PB&Js that he’d smartly packed and brought from home, in New Haven—who’d just lost in the first round of a grinder, and had signed up for another one, the same one as me.

Soon enough our grinder fired and we were seated—with recent Pro Tour Montreal top-eight-er Owen Turtenwald a few spots down from me, to whom I dutifully gave a Hipsters of the Coast business card—and started cracking packs. In my first pack was the second foil Aurelia, the War Leader I’ve opened, which is really weird, odds-wise—but I knew that, most likely, I wouldn’t be keeping this pool.

After deck-regging and passing, I ended up with a strong Boros pool, featuring Gideon, Frontline Medic, and Spark Trooper—which, going into the weekend, was exactly what I was wanting to see. (My other rares were Immortal Servitude, Mystic Genesis, Soul Ransom, and a FOIL Biovisionary. BOO. Also, I later learned that maybe Boros wasn’t exactly what I most should have been wanting to play, but more on that in due time.)

I didn’t keep my cards together for this pool, so I can’t quite tell you what I built. But, at the last minute, I made a decision to cut a Dutiful Thrull and Orzhov Guildgate for Boros Keyrune and one (of two) Boros Guildgates. I also neglected to play Gift of Orzhova.

In round one of this single-elim, potentially-five-round-max grinder, I faced the first in a long line of great opponents over the course of the weekend, a guy named Joe Jenkins. Although it might start to sound repetitive, really it’s worth underlining how cool and funny and good-sport-y most (emphasis on the most) Magic players at these GPs are. Everybody is just having a good time and slinging some spells.

Joe was like that, albeit serious (like me) about the game. Joe was on Dimir, and our match went to three games. At one point we had a funny exchange where, on the end of his turn, he Dimir Charmed me, choosing the fateseal-ish mode (look at the top three cards of target player’s library; put one back on top and the rest in the graveyard).

So Joe looked at my top three, and snap-put Pit Fight and Boros Charm into my ‘yard, putting the third card back on top. I untapped, upkept, and drew—a Plains. “Joe!” I said, fake-admonisingly, and we both laughed.

At one point in this match I made a mistake. I had Frontline out, along with let’s say a Sunhome Guildmage and Daring Skyjek. Joe had an Assault Griffin and some other durdle. I swung in with the team and, sort of wanting to test the limits of the new trigger rules, didn’t say a word w/r/t battalion. (“Keep quiet and answer all questions truthfully,” advised HOTC in-house counsel (JK) and level two judge Connor Hays, in a discussion about the trigger rules and battalion on our Google Group.)

Joe pretty much snap-blocks the Skyjek and the Guildmage, saying, “Trades?”—at which point I perhaps too-quickly reply, “All my guys are indestructible,” pointing to the Medic. Joe sort of immediately pulls back his blocks and says something to the effect that he thought Medic only made himself indestructible. (Which indicated that Joe wasn’t unclear on whether or not battalion had happened—rather, he just thought the Medic’s ability was something other than what it is; unless of course, in a next-level sense, Joe thought that I had forgotten my battalion trigger(s), and that he could get away with blocking and trading.)

In a further aside, on Saturday, during the main event, I tried to do just that sort of next-leveling, if you can call it that. My opponent, Wai, attacked with a Skyjek and two other durdles, and I tried to block the Skyjek with one of my dudes on the ground. It took Wai a second or two, but he realized that the Skyjek had flying and pointed out that my ground guy couldn’t block him, so I undid the block.

It felt a little hazy on my part as to whether or not what I was doing was scummy, as I clearly knew the Skyjek could have (or did have? Is this a Schroedinger’s Cat sort of thing?) flying when I tried to block him—but, given that we don’t have to remind our opponents of their triggers, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Wai had in fact forgotten his trigger, and wouldn’t remember it until it was too late. So I think I was definitely within the letter of the law, and maybe even the spirit? It’s a weird-feeling realm.

Either way, back to Joe’s blocks—I should have called a judge, but I didn’t; it just happened too quickly, and I was still uncertain w/r/t to the new trigger rules. But Joe did declare blockers, and he should not have been able to take them back, no matter how quickly or confusedly he did so.

Nevertheless, I ended up winning the match. 1-0


GP Charlotte on day one.

Next up was a guy who I won’t name, because he wasn’t so cool. He wasn’t a total dick, either, but he was just being really loud and making up weird atonal songs about his cards and basically just playing crazily and like a troll. And, sad to say, I let him fluster me, with all his obnoxiousness.

He also had a bonkers deck, with High Priest of Penance, Deathpact Angel, Sepulchural Primordial, and a metric fuck-ton of removal. I definitely made some mistakes in this match. At one point, I had Act of Treason and Pit Fight in hand, while he had High Priest on the table. “Oh, this is going to be sweet,” I thought.

Unfortunately, as I was waiting for a good target to show up for Penance, my opp. drops Undercity Informer, who can sac guys for one mana—and who really throws a wrench in my Priest plans. He passes the turn back to me, and I’m thinking, “OK, how do I play this? If I try to steal either guy, does he just sac him to Informer? Or does he let me take him?” At this point I had out Frontline Medic, Ember Beast, and maybe another guy.

I decide to try to steal Priest, figuring he’s less likely to sac in response. I don’t even quite remember what happened, but my opp. thinks for a while and then goes Pit Fight, targeting his Priest and one of my guys. Everything happened so fast. I decided to Pit Fight in response and man, I don’t know what happened. It didn’t work out well for me.

In G2 my opp. targeted Sunhome Guildmage w/ Killing Glare for three, and I let the thing die, not realizing until it was too late that I could have pumped himself twice with his +1/+0 ability, thereby fizzling the Glare. My opp. went on to win the whole grinder.

At that point it was past when the last grinder was firing, so Brandon and I packed up to leave. Earlier in the day, I had decided to add the sleep-in special onto my registration, which I did online earlier in the week (what a great idea, seriously). Before we left, I checked with the main event stage to see if I was good to go for my sleep-in special, and they said yes.

I and the Hobo Mage decided to find food, and I had heard that there was a Buffalo Wild Wings nearby. I like a good hot wing, so we decided to check it in. Let me tell you this: If you are wondering what the dystopian-comedy movie Idiocracy is like, but don’t have time to watch it—just go eat at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Our waitress was super sweet, and I don’t want to sound all elitist and shit—but man, that place is a digitized nightmare. Literally everything is served in paper trays, and there were about nine billion wide-screen TVs in any direction you looked. At one point an alarm started going off inexplicably; I think it was from a video game. Also “pub trivia” was happening that night, and one of the questions was, “What makes flatulence flammable?” Methinks that any halfway decent pub-quiz aficionado could have cleaned up at that place.



One cool thing that happend, though, was this: While the Hobo Mage and I were “scarfin’ some wingz,” a big table of gamers filled up next to us. More and more dudes kept showing up, and so they kept adding a new table to the end of their long table. There were some young guys, some older; one guy got a beer, and a guy who looked like he was a bit young to be drinking cocktails got a cocktail. They looked like maybe they were there in some official capacity, like they worked for StarCity or something. And then the leader of the nerds, once everyone had gotten a drink, raised his glass and said, “Gentlemen—merry GP!”

That was awesome, and made my heart swell. A good GP really is like a holiday: good friends, good times, and trauma-inducing, subhuman food (that last part not so much).

Back at the hotel, Brandon and I checked out our pools and did a little sealed workshop on them. We decided that I had built my pool correctly, although I should have played the Gift of Orzhova, if not the Holy Mantle as well. I’d had a fair bit of removal and somewhat fewer playable creatures than I like to have, so I really wanted to keep my creature count as high as possible. That was my rationale for benching Gift and Mantle. I see now that both are just stone beatings.

We then jammed a few games in the room while listening to the new My Bloody Valentine album (so good) on my portable Phoenix Bluetooth speaker (mad product recommendation) and then crashed out, me reading my book on Scientology. Thinking of my second-round-grinder opponent, I would definitely say that he was “out ethics.”


Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this GP Charlotte tournament report, including seven hot rounds of Swiss action on day one!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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