By Nicholas Forker

(The following is adapted from a series of emails sent over the course of Grand Prix Las Vegas.)

The Main Event

So here I am, in a building the size of two Home Depots, which has been divided into four color-coded sections. I’ve been placed in the blue section. The brain power in this room is enough to stop the Earth from rotating on its axis. I have my mat laid out at my designated seat 467. I’m anxious to get my hands on some shiny packets of cards and start my build. I’ve already bumped into Matt Jones, who had combed his hair to match his crispy new Twenty Sided store white tee, complete with teal logo. He had some registration issue in which he was registered twice by mistake, under both his new and old DCI numbers. I found my number on the VIP board and quickly sat in my chair. Cargo shorts, flip flops, and hobbit feet as far as the eye can see. The largest event in magic history. In an attempt to explain what M:TG was to my cab driver, I ended up just telling him I was playing cards, to which he replied, “I tell you what’s funner than that…” He handed me a business card for an escort. “This is Las Vegas, this is what we do,” he said creepily. Thanks Vegas, but no thanks. I’m here to play some cards.

My deck is built. I am firmly in blue-white, with an Oona, Grand Arbiter, Kitchen Finks, and Cryptic Command, with all the trimmings: a Path, Pestermite, Thirst for Knowledge, Flickerwisp, Otherworldly Journey, Bound in Silence, etc. I decided to run 18 land—this is a GP, so nothing is going to be left to chance. Cut a Runed Stalactite for the 18th land. We’ll see how it goes. Round 1 pairings are up! (I think I may have messed up my deck list.) Here goes nothing…

Round 1: Forker wins R1 in two games. Opponent’s Thallid durdling is no match for the Faerie Air Force, coupled with well-timed bounce and removal.

Round 2: Forker loses in two games. Gets smashed by Oona/Bonesplitter G1. Stalls on mana G2. Headed into the third round at 1-1. Note to self: Man cannot subsist on gas station food alone. Pack a huge lunch for next GP.

Round 3: Forker’s Faeries take two straight for the win. He Pathed my Oona, but no matter. I had curve, tempo, and control in the right places. Honorable mention to Spellstutter Sprite, which put in work both matches with gobs of Faeries on the field.

Round 4: It was a grindy mirror match that went to time in the third game. We each won one and the third was looking bad for me, so in the end I am all right with a draw.

Round 5: I have not seen any 20-siders in a minute. Except Zac Clark, whom I see everywhere. He sat next to me as I was trounced by Sarkhan and a gabillion storm copies of Empty the Warrens. With that most recent beating, Forker falls to 2-2-1 and it isn’t looking so hot. I think I’ll play one more round. If I win I will continue on for points and if not I will drop and play in a side event. That’s all the news that is fit to print. Vegas is still weird, you guys. Weird and hot.

Round 6: When it doesn’t matter for day two at all, I finally resolve Oona and mill out my opponent, then win with lethal air faeries game two. Thinking about dropping and getting into a Mini-Masters thing at 8pm. I’m 3-2-1 for the day.

Round 7: Doesn’t happen because I drop and queue up for MMMM!!!


So I did indeed drop hours ago to jump into a Modern Masters Mini-Masters. I know right? So I bump into Giaco and he is just as stoked as I am about the idea. We sign up and wait patiently as the judges scramble to figure out where to fire this tiny tourney. A judge shouts that all mini-masters should follow him as he raises a handful of paperwork.

We do and march from the northernmost entrance all the way to the southernmost wall (easily a quarter-mile walk) as he tapes up the positions. “Did I get the lead in the school play?” I cry out. No one laughs. We clamber and shuffle our way to the front to find out Giaco and I are sitting right next to each other for deckbuilding.

We are handed one shiny gold pack apiece and told that we have five minutes to build. We crack our packs as John F. looks on. I pull a Pyromancer’s Swath as my rare. Giaco gets two rares, a foil Maelstrom Pulse and a City of Brass. We all build and sleeve and split off to find out seats as the round begins.

Turn one my opponent suspends a Greater Gargadon and I say, “Looks like I’m on a 12-turn clock.” He starts blocking and sac’ing and I realize my calculations may be lacking. I play a Masked Admirers, hardcast a Durkwood Baloth, and eventually a Myr Enforcer. At this point my opponent gets greedy and sacs four lands to hurry his Gargadon into play. In one move he taps his creatures and mana and points a Drag Down at my Masked Admirers. I ask if he is attacking, he says yes. I ask him to separate the phases and to announce them. He looks at me like I’m being difficult. He Drags the Masked Admirers. I double-block with the Baloth and Myr and take down his Gargadon. His Veteran Armorer and a Spellstutter Sprite get through.

Then my topdecking begins. I pull an Ephemeron and hardcast it, and since it’s MMMM I have another two forests up to grab the Admirers from my bin. Next turn I draw an Executioner’s Capsule and crack it to kill the Sprite. I swing with the Ephemeron, cast the Admirers, and stabilize, all with Li, John, Giaco, and Zach B. watching me. I am just hoping I don’t mess this up.

I forget what happens next but I draw a Torrent of Stone and nuke one of his creatures that I didn’t need to and swing for lethal in the air. Zach asks me why I chose to kill that creature and left before I could properly answer. I would have held onto it for his suspended Ivory Giant, but I knew I had him and I wanted to put him on tilt before I swung, sure enough when I did kill it he said, “All right, looks like you got it.” Then I declared combat.

As the excited winners sit down for our round two packs, the guy across from me asks, “Hey, did anyone get a pack with the Dark Confidant art on it? I really like it, would anyone want to switch with me?”

Sure enough, I turn over my face-down pack and new Bob is there shooting me his weird Skrillex grin. “Would this make you happy?” I ask. I flip him my pack and he throws me his. We get the signal to open and proceed to tear the golden foil. Thanks to Orlando I have learned that I must “respect the pack” by shuffling through from the common side, thoroughly enjoying each card as the excitement builds. I do.

Much to my delight, I spy my rare, the same image chosen for the playmat, the Sword of Fire and Ice. I am feeling pretty good about this, and I quickly assemble my modified MMMM deck. My neighbor never asks what I pulled, so I thought I would spare him my luck and not rub it in. We get our pairings and guess what? Yup, I get paired against the Bob-pack fetish guy. I think, no worries, I have a Sword. Long story short, my deck was allergic to his turn-six Mind Funeral, with three lands in hand (this is Mini-Masters, remember). He mills me to two cards while resting comfortably at 18 life. I draw one of my final two cards and reply, “Scoop phase.”


Later that evening, as thousands of people were tapping away while their hopes produce diminishing returns, I was sitting in Las Vegas McCarren Airport typing away on my iPhone, thinking about what I have learned from this experience.

Playing Magic has big swings. Sealed especially. At it’s highest, the excitement and optimism of the build, highlighted with a near perfect synergy of interaction and curve makes one believe that this is the way the game works. Then a couple missed land drops and boneheaded plays later, you are in a place that feels like detention. No outs, forced to sit still and stare into the void. An exercise in patience and humility only to shuffle up and repeat. The key here is being present, letting go of anything that transpired before this game and focus on the task at hand. This task, of course, is an operation within an agreed-upon framework to produce desired results—which in this case is: to win.

  • I learned never go to Las Vegas. Haha, no no. I did learn to stay away when there is an electric music thing (EDC) where near 500K party-goers (ravers essentially) turn up to watch a guy select music on his computer. (Clearly DJ culture is lost on me….) Also, this was the reason why flights/hotel were packed and outbound flights delayed, with a bunch of energy drink-consuming, fist-pumping morons gumming up the works.
  • I learned the only thing green in Las Vegas is cash. Apparently they have never heard of vegetables.
  • I learned that cabs here are like $40 (what a nightmare) and the trends in personal hygiene amongst cabbies are slightly worse than the Empire State.
  • I learned that when you are wearing a T-shirt you think is clever and funny, someone in the immediate vicinity is trolling you.
  • I learned the meaning of the word “trolling.” (Or did I?)
  • I also learned that Magic players are among the most diverse, brightest, effusively nice, and oddest lot I have ever encountered.
  • I learned that as far as store names are concerned, Twenty Sided Store is still my favorite by a long shot. (Hotsauce Games?! C’mon! *GOB voice)
  • I learned I have protection from capital letters. (Editor’s note: You’re welcome.)
  • I learned that apparel choices in Nevada are questionable as well. I believe I saw clothing I didn’t know existed.

Finally, I learned so much about the game I love. I learned there is no way around an activated ability save removing its target. I learned that a one-game match win is a thing if you go to time in the second. I learned that making your neighbor happy by switching packs with him before opening because he likes the new Bob art gets you a Sword, a Bob, a Vedalken Shackles, as well as a foil Pact of Negation. (Valuetown!)

I look forward to the next big M:TG event…next time I’m not getting on a plane to go to it though. I’m getting onto a bus or car and not traveling more than a couple hours max. I lie, I just recently heard tell of a GP in Hong Kong that has my mouth watering.

(Side note—I just bought 70 crispy Beta lands on eBay for $177.50. Looks like I’m hooked.)

I think we decided that we New Yorkers are too all over the place time-wise to create an actual Magic team, but if anyone else is a romantic then I’m your huckleberry! Let’s make Team 20ss a thing. Shout out to the 20-siders I saw in Vegas and those back home! See you again soon. Off to SF for the week! Catch you all on the flip-flop…love you guys.

Nicholas Forker is just a kid from the Midwest who never learned how to draw. In 1981, he was given a dog that he named “Magic.” He likes popcorn and carrot juice, cartoons and comic books—and occasionally he makes things. You can find him in Bushwick, Brooklyn, or on Instagram.

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