This weekend I played in two Modern Grand Prix Trials for byes to GP Minneapolis. While I knew I wasn’t going to Minneapolis—despite being the fictitious home of the Mighty Ducks—I really wanted to play Modern. After my brief and calamitous detour with Cruel Control, I wanted to get back on the right path for PTQ season. I decided on playing Paul Nemeth’s UWR Kiki Control deck over the weekend, here is the list:

UWR Kiki

Lands (26)
Celestial Colonnade
Hallowed Fountain
Cascade Bluffs
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Arid Mesa
Sacred Foundry
Desolate Lighthouse
Tectonic Edge

Creatures (15) (15)
Wall of Omens
Snapcaster Mage
Restoration Angel
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Instants (19)
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Relic of Progenitus
Shadow of Doubt
Stony Silence
Anger of the Gods
Rule of Law
Vendilion Clique
Engineered Explosives
Wear // Tear

To be fair, I actually played 74 of the 75, replacing the second Rule of Law with a second Anger of the Gods. I just couldn’t find another Rule of Law and figured I’d run into more Pod than Storm/Ad-Naseaum anyway.

This deck is basically a UWR Control list with the added power of a combo kill via Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki. I had been playing UWR Twin, but found that Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin were usually pretty lousy when grinding it out in a longer game and by eschewing the Exarch/Twin package the deck can play a stronger long game with more permission in the form of Mana Leak, Spell Snare, and a full set of Snapcaster Mages. The deck feels a bit more cohesive than the Twin list, and I’d just rather be a control deck with a combo plan B rather than a combo deck with a control plan B.

While I’m interested in writing more about the deck, individual card choices and sideboarding plans will have to wait a week. What I want to talk about today are the GPTs I attended, one at Toys N Things in Danvers, MA and one at Die Hard Games in Lincoln, RI. Despite both stores running Modern GPTs, the experience I had at each was markedly different and worthy of discussion for that reason. While I think it’s a bit prickly to praise one store over another when each LGS is in a different location and has a different clientele, I feel comfortable writing about my first impressions as a guy who sometimes travels around to tournaments.

On Sunday, I went to Toys N Things in Danvers with a small carload of friends. The store itself reminded me of my old LGS in Fitchburg; it was crammed with items and entirely too small to move around comfortably in between the card and Warhammer tables. Yet, the general feeling of claustrophobia was eased by the charm and eclectic feel of the small town hobby shop catering to nerds of various interests.

I was looking forward to the event because the prize support was impressive for a GPT:

1st: Two Scalding Tarns plus two round bye at GP: Minneapolis
2nd: Two Misty Rainforests
3rd-4th – Two Snapcaster Mage each.
5th-8th – $25 each in store credit

However, I was a bit worried because at 1PM, when the event was supposed to start, there were only 15 players present (four of which included myself and car mates). Yet, despite the  small turnout, the prize support didn’t change and we set off to battle through four rounds of swiss with a cut to top 8. I won the first round against my buddy Pat playing Merfolk and the second against a guy named Kyle who brought his own Death’s Shadow brew. From there I was able to double draw into the top eight, which felt really strange given that I had only played two matches. Over the next two hours I wandered around the center of town which was basically just closed because of Easter, ate some Chinese food, and tried to get some trades in. The owner of Toys N Things set up a grille in the back parking lot and made everyone playing in the tournament burgers and hot dogs. Everything was free. When I explained to him that I didn’t eat meat, he apologized and told me that he would make stuffed peppers for me at the next event if I sent him a message beforehand.

I lost in the top eight to Nik, one of my car mates, who was also playing Merfolk. The top four ended up splitting so everyone got a fetch land and a Snapcaster Mage. I spent my $25 on some stuff to finish up a Standard deck and headed back home. I was back in Boston before 7PM.

On Monday, Nik and I traveled to Die Hard Games (DHG) in Rhode Island. The store was located in a weird industrial part of town but the space itself was conducive to running bigger tournaments with room for upwards of 100 people. DHG had a lot of singles in stock, with cases and binders full of foils, though most of it unpriced. It is a pet peeve of mine when stores display things without pricing them as it makes the entire transaction process long and unsatisfying. While I understand the plight of store owners who don’t want to lose value due to the spikes in the secondary market, I imagine you lose just as much business from people like me who don’t like playing the “let me look this up on TCG on the spot” game with a brick and mortar store. I was also a bit weary of the prize support for the event which only paid out to the top four and had a overall prize structure much lower than the GPT I played in the day before. Here was the prize support:

1st: Choice of 4 Snapcaster Mage + Byes


12 packs of Modern Masters!

2nd: Whatever 1st didn’t Pick!

3rd/4th: 6 packs ea. Modern Masters!

I’m not sure why the person writing the event info felt the need to put exclamation marks when this wasn’t all that exciting but I digress, on to the next point of contention.

When I got to the store, I went up to the front to register and handed the owner my credit card. I saw $21.70 flash up on the register, and asked the owner why it would be more than $20. After moving a box of dice and pens in front of the register, the owner pointed to a sign that said there would be an additional 7% fee for all credit card transactions. While the additional $1.70 isn’t going to break the bank, charging people more than what the credit card companies charge the store seemed a bit unsavory. I didn’t even realize this was a legal practice since you can’t do it in Massachusetts but a Google search confirms that it’s okay to do in Rhode Island.

To the credit of the store, the event did start on time, 6PM, and was run pretty tightly. However, with 40+ people, the event required six rounds before a cut to top eight, which meant that at best, the top eight would begin at midnight on a Monday night. Now, to be fair, I should have known that an event starting at 6PM wasn’t going to get out at a reasonable time but I have a hard time believing that most players wouldn’t prefer to play Magic on the weekend earlier in the day than late at night at the beginning of the week. While most of the room let out a collective groan at the six round announcement, the TO also announced that they would be extending prizes to the top eight, which seemed to elicit a positive response out of the room.

I ended up playing three rounds and dropping at 1-2. I usually try to stick it out and play through a tournament even when I’m dead for top eight, but the store owner announced that he’d be running a side event, a $10 draft for people who dropped from the event. I payed my $10.70 and signed up for the event. It never fired and since I was waiting on Nik, who was doing well, I spent the next four hours meandering around the store trying to trade or pick up games of Modern. While it’s obviously not the store owners fault that the event didn’t have enough people to fire, and he did refund the money, or at least $10 of it, I was definitely feeling a little salty after sitting around for so long.

Nik ended up losing in the first round of the top eight. He went over the counter to collect his prizes which ended up being a convoluted process of the players five through eight choosing cards from three rows of Modern singles. The first row had cards between $15-20, the second row between $5-10, and the third just around $5. Each player took a card from each row which roughly translates to $25-35 worth of value. Nik got a Birthing Pod, a Goblin Guide, and a Darkslick Shores. While I have seen stores back-draft rares, this whole process seemed entirely absurd to me. From a player perspective, I would much rather get $25 in credit to spend on what I wanted rather than pick from a bunch of cards that I didn’t necessarily need. I mean, Nik couldn’t use any of the cards he took and will need to invest time and effort into trading them, or lose considerable value in buylisting them or selling online. I can see why a store owner would want to get rid of some back stock, but that feels like a prize only in the way older siblings hand-me-downs feel like a prize.

After dropping Nik off, I got home at 2AM and promptly passed out.

Like I said earlier, both stores clearly have a different feel to them and serve different communities despite both being “game stores”. Yet, it wasn’t the more competitive atmosphere at DHG that lead me to prefer Toys N Things but the nagging sense that the players were being nickled and dimed by the store owners at DHG. The seven percent service fee, the unpriced singles, the questionable compensation, the weird timing of the event, and the failed side event are, in and of themselves, not really a big deal. The problem, for me, is when all of these little things add up, they add up to a subpar experience and the feeling that I wasted my night.

On the positive note, my experience at DHG made me appreciate my own LGS a whole lot more and my experience at Toys N Things put me in the mood to make stuffed peppers. Thanks for the idea, Evan.

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.



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