By Monique Garraud

7:16 a.m. Crap, I pressed the snooze button one too many times. Erin, Anthony, and Morgan are supposed to meet me in front of the store by 8 a.m., so I shower quickly, throw on my favorite Magic shirt, and throw everything in my bag to rush out of the door.

While driving to Twenty Sided Store, I think about some changes I’d like to make to my Jund midrange deck since Dragon’s Maze is officially legal. Sire of Insanity seems like a good inclusion to help combat control strategies, especially those using Sphinx’s Revelation. Also, I’ve been hearing a lot of hype surrounding Voice of Resurgence, so switching out a Tragic Slip for a Pillar of Flame seems to make sense. After a quick coffee stop, I pull up to the store where I’m greeted by a bright-eyed Anthony and his companion Morgan. After a few minutes, Erin joins us and we continue on our road trip to the Star City Games Open Series tournament in Somerset, New Jersey.

8:09 a.m. Erin recently put together a deck using Obzedat’s Aid to reanimate Nicol Bolas. We tested it earlier in the week and Jund had a pretty big problem dealing with a turn four Nicol Bolas. During the drive, we chat about his tweaked list as Morgan helps Anthony pull a last minute audible on which deck he should play. After a little over an hour, we arrive at the complex which is supposed to house the Garden State Exhibit Center. We take a few wrong turns but I soon spot a group of men carrying large backpacks walking up the road. I quickly decide these are Magic players and follow them into the parking lot.

9:15 a.m. The venue is still pretty empty at this point but filling up quickly. I plan on grabbing a little fuel from the food service station in the back, but spot Richard and Johnny doing some last minute deck-tweaking on the way. Johnny is also playing Jund midrange and decided that Sire of Insanity deserves a slot in the main. I’m still not sold, but I borrow a Sire from him and decide to give it a try in my sideboard.

I grab an apple and find a quiet table to reflect on my 75 and how I’d like to change it. Ultimately, I decide on making the Pillar of Flame switch I had thought about earlier, and switch out a Rakdos’s Return for Sire of Insanity in my board. Normally, I prefer KMC Matte Series sleeves, but decide to try out Max Protection Tournament sleeves for the day. These new sleeves feel great—the corners don’t snag and they’re easy to shuffle, but the matte blue seems to scratch extremely easily.

10:21 a.m. Players’ meeting seating is going up and I am not surprised to find Mike right across from me. I see this Massachusetts resident at almost all of the bigger events that I attend. We talk about his newest brew—Esper Flash with Obzedat, Ghost Council leading the pack. Obzedat has been seeing an increasing amount of play lately. His drain every turn and ability to survive sorcery-speed removal makes this card a forerunner in Standard. With the meeting coming to a close, Mike and I decide we need a secret handshake. We soon settle on one that’s simple and fun, with a little sprinkle of cool, and the jellyfish is born.

10:37 a.m. (Round 1 vs. Bant Auras) I almost scoop when, after losing the die roll, my opponent John plays T1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim followed by a T2 Geist of Saint Traft. And just to solidify the beating, Unflinching Courage + Ethereal Armor T3. Game two isn’t much better since Invisible Stalker + enchantments = game over. My deck added another dagger by flipping over the very much needed Liliana of the Veil a turn too late.

11:43 a.m. (Round 2 vs. Junk Reanimator, 0-1) My sleeves are already showing very visible scratch marks as I pile shuffle in eight. I ask my opponent if its OK to play with them in this state and he approves with a chuckle. Jon was in a tournament where he had gone 0-4 where his opponent called a judge to have him resleeve. I end up winning a three-game match with the all-stars being a pair of Huntmaster of the Fells in game two and Garruk, Primal Hunter in game three.

Rounds 3—5 are a blur. I remember losing to an Aetherling during an Esper control match; triple Angel of Serenity while battling Reanimator; and beating another Junk deck piloted by a young fellow using aviator bird sleeves and recycled paper as scoresheets.

4:10 p.m. (Round 6 vs. Junk Reanimator, 2-3) By this point, my sleeves are all showing signs of use but still feel great. John is a familiar face on the tournament scene and has no problem with letting me play in them. He had to buy flip card checklists last round because of an opponent complaint and has no intentions of following suit. We draw in three close games but he kindly concedes to me stating that drawing won’t benefit either of us.

5:16 p.m. (Round 7 vs. Junk Reanimator, 3-3) Ugh, not this again. Facing the same archetype five out of seven matches is extremely unusual. Luckily, my bright green-eyed opponent is a happy seventh-grader from Long Island. I manage to win games one and three but lost to a Ready//Willing blowout after I tried to call his bluff.

Fatigue is starting the set in as I begin to start my eighth round of Magic. I remember losing to a red/black aggro deck and winning a Jund mirror against an opponent with a cute puppy. I wander over to the feature match area to get a look at what that top tables are up too. I can’t quite squeeze through the crowd for a good view so I settle for watching Max Tietze perform an elaborate cutting ritual on his opponents deck before walking over to the pairing list.

8:29 p.m. (Round 10 vs. mono-red, 5-4) Richard only recently began playing competitive Magic but has come far with his two months of experience. I manage to win with the aid of Liliana of the Veil despite my opponent having a lethal Volcanic Strength-ed Cackler staring me down.

(6-4) It’s been fun but I’m glad my day is over. I have to hurry up and get some rest for team sealed with Rob and Zach tomorrow. It’s a lot of Magic to squeeze into one weekend, but I’m excited to try out this fun format and ready to face its challenges.

Monique Garraud is a Brooklyn native who started playing Magic in 2011. “Grinding It Out” is her weekly take on the trials, tribulations, and joys of being a competitive tournament player.

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