Sunday morning of Grand Prix Minneapolis weekend I woke up in a bit of surreal haze. I know well that that my perception of the weekend’s event were only a small piece of the story. But that in the 18 hours I spent participating in the events, I had the time of my life. As a lifelong resident of Minnesota, I can say with pretty high certainty that the idea of “Minnesota Nice” is not true 100% accurate across the board, but during the last three Grand Prix in Minneapolis, local Magic personalities have worked to make a good showing and be bountiful hosts.

Those who can come to GPs in Minnesota absolutely should. The city is beautiful in the summer and so many of our magician residents are looking to create a stellar atmosphere for all things Magic, Cubing, Vintage Artist Constructed, barbequing and Magic art galleries. My hope is that more stories of the weekend will come to the surface, not just tournament reports and deck techs, but the incredible Commander plays, the gunslinging podcasters/cosplayers, the people that came together, and late night dining. All setting the bar for 2019.

Enjoying the Event Center

This year, I logged the least amount of time at the GP event center of all the years I have attended, making my one order of business finding RK Post’s artist table. For the amateur attendee, you should know that tournament organizers for Grand Prix—at this point exclusively Channel Fireball—have always had a space for artists to sell prints and sign cards, but RK Post was the innovator on unique creature tokens and the market it spawned at these events. Even with my Hipsters of the Coast merch on, I was still pretty much a fly on the wall as I wandered around the event site. I watched Megan from Magic the Amateuring and cosplayers TappyToeClaws and GoberThicks gunslinging challengers for packs, perused the vendors looking for any good deals on cards for my new Commander decks, until finally sitting down for some Commander.

I played a few games of Commander with Alex Szeto and Eric Moran, playing Arcades and Gitrog respectively. The highlight was our second game. I played Doran the Siege Tower and at one point had my life total up to 87 after an attack with my general buffed with Behind the Scenes and True Conviction in play and Armadillo Cloak attached to it. In spite of my life total, I lost to commander damage from Alex’s Arcades, the Strategist but at one point during all of this, the Gitrog deck had zero lands in play and was still threatening to win at any moment. After that game, we needed to pack up and got going to the real highlight of the night, a barbecue at Hobbes Q’s house and a special Commander event.

Swap Meets and Intimidation

“Take lots of pictures this weekend, I always forget to take enough pictures.”

~ Vorthos Mike

If you ask Goblin Folklorist Thomas “Hobbes” Q if he enjoys entertaining, he would likely say unequivocally yes. And the man is a heck of a host for an acolyte of Nicol Bolas: beer donated from a Duluth brewing company, handmade guacamole, barbequed tri-tip, and a beautiful Minneapolis night outside. The night started with a dozen of us participating in a deck swap of Commander decks we had all brewed for the event. My Jodah, Archmage Eternal deck—I really can’t stop building decks with Jodah—ended up with Joe aka Fyndhorn on Twitter, and I was given a Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand deck built by local deadpan ender of dreams and Cube conisure, Nathan Weber. I was in a pod against a Wort, the Raidmother deck played by Vince and Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign played by Nate. I didn’t do especially well, but the combination of my general and Uba Mask made it so the rest of the table was stuck trying to balance the spells they only had for the turn, and board wipes in the form of Crux of Fate and River’s Rebuke. The general consensus was that the mini event was a hit, and my hope is that something the same or bigger can happen in the future.

It was not too long afterward that I would be given some great advice from Vorthos Mike, which I completely failed to follow. I wish I had done a better job capturing photos of the night, but I got caught up in the torrent of events and random cameos the night brought. Notable Commander aficionado and all around loveable Magic personality Andrew Magrini walked into my life after at least a year of us being ships in the night at Magic events. I met Erik Peters, who was only ever introduced to me all night as “the guy that Birthing Pod banned,” was kind of enough to let people draft is UnCube and who I only recognized after a Google search. The Proxy Guy and Booze Cube were on site, challenging the viability of “Spellbook Karn” as a possible product—a challenge I stubbornly tried to prove possible, only to admit I was wrong the next morning.

We drafted Alex’s Cube and I was able to get him to concede both games to Pelakka Wurm. And just before I left for the night, I watched Vorthos Mike try to win a game of Commander through mill and some intimidation. While I was rooting for him, I have my doubts that he got far on those plans. I ended the night on a high, exhausted, but feeling all the better for it. I didn’t really get the pictures I should have to properly capture the night, but I believe that digging my nose into my phone might have lessened the experience, even if I had good intentions.

Art and Psychological Warfare

The tentpole event for me leading into the GP was always what had been brewing for the last few months, set to take place at Light Grey Labs only a mile south of the Minneapolis Convention Center. The art gallery, which has been hosting an art show celebrating Magic’s 25th anniversary, was open to the public and hosting a rotisserie draft of Weber’s Cube in the early afternoon. While I did not participate in the event, it was fascinating to watch, especially in the first round as pieces of the power nine were getting snatched up pick after pick.

The draft style could best be summed up by saying that the whole cube was laid out on several tables in the room and each drafter would publically draft a card in pick order, snaking back after the last drafter’s pick. It was exciting to watch and gave me some understanding as to how bystanders might feel watching a sport draft; but instead of on TV, it was right in front of me. Every couple minutes Hobbes would sneak over and show those of us in the “observation seats” his picks as he slowly assembled a reanimator deck. As the drafting finished and the players went off to play their matches, the Commander started, my first of four games that day.

In that first game I was armed with my Shattergang Brothers Eldrazi deck against an unknown player, Andrew Magiri, and Alex Newman playing Arcades, the Strategist, Riku of Two Reflections, and Xira Arien respectively. The unknown player—I apologize, I am the worst at names—inquired upfront the power the level of our decks, the three of us collectively landing on “roughly a 7 out of 10.” By my second turn, Newman had cracked a fetchland for a Taiga and I was playing Ancient Tomb into Matter Reshaper. In that moment I felt like I might have understated the power level of my deck.

The game went by in a flash. My Lifecrafter’s Bestiary and Oracle of Mul Daya kept my draws live and lands ramping, especially combined with the Rites of Flourishing that Alex cast early in the game. At one point Alex had assembled six additional land drops each turn for himself; and when I finally cast Lurking Predators, it meant that I was in a very good position. After a free Sandstone Sphinx drew me six cards—all revealed due to the Oracle—it was the All is Dust that captured Magrini’s attention. A few turns later he cast Tempt with Vengeance for fourteen, with no one at the table getting tempted. He looked over at me, voicing aloud that he didn’t think he’d have much more time with the All is Dust in my hand. I agreed. Surprisingly, he passed with a pretty massive army all untapped, which included an Omnath, Locus of Rage.

What followed was a sequence of events I revel in. As Newman moved to his attack step, he now had his own Omnath in play and he started doing the math to win the game. I believe he would have had to attack me for exact damage, something I was ready for with Hero’s Downfall in my hand. But then Magrini stopped him and offered him a different plan: attack all in at him, allowing him to block with his 1/1 Elementals and trigger Omnath fourteen times. My heart sank for a second, because it was a wonderful tactic; but then I remembered I could Downfall the Omnath out before triggers. I did just that, but Newman laughed to himself, cast Crop Rotation, and tutored out Yavimaya Hollow to regenerate Magrini’s creature. The tension broke, the two high fived and I nearly fell out of my seat with how incredible the whole thing was. It was amazing, though I worry about the unnamed opponent who just had to sit and watch the battle of titans occurring at the table.

My next game started instantly after collecting my battlefield, and it was a palate cleanser. I sat down with Erik Linden, Scott aka The Booze Cube and Magic Mic’s own Erin Campbell, piloting Rosheen Meanderer, The Ur-Dragon, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide respectively. In hindsight I should have just played Shattergang again, making a good show of it, but I incorrectly decided to play Mairsil the Pretender. I didn’t do so well. At game’s end I was left with a caged Blighted Bat and Cauldron of Souls with nothing impressive to do with them. Erin’s deck looked insane. I know the game resolved not long after I got knocked out when she casted Living Death with easily fifteen creatures already in her graveyard. Muldrotha is truly her spirit animal.

It was not long after my defeat to Muldrotha that two of my friends I have played Magic with for over a decade, Grayson and Louis, showed up to see if the hype I had been making about the weekend’s festivities were accurate. Pretty quickly we were sitting down for a game with Andrew Magrini, this with Karona, False God, spurred on by Grayson’s copy of Karona. Louis chose Grenzo, Dungeon Warden and I unpacked Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. I had known of Andrew before this weekend—like I said, we’d miss physically being in the same place the last few times he’d been in Minneapolis. I knew he was a smart player and that Bruce Richard from TCGPlayer had attested to his infamous persona over the years. Grayson and Louis had no knowledge of this. Being a fan of letting people make their own first impressions, I didn’t clue them in that Andrew likely was the biggest threat at the table. I regret this. Still, this was when I became endeared to Andrew Magrini as a Commander player.

As the story flashes back into my memory days later, I’m certain that over the course of the game Andrew didn’t cast more than five spells, his third being Vicious Shadows. A few turns later, I attacked into Louis with something, causing his creature to die. Shadows trigger, I take eight damage. In that moment I knew the three of us had already lost. Andrew’s fourth spell was Killing Wave with X set at four. I had four creatures and 21 life, so I paid the 16 life to stay in the game. In short order, Louis was wise to Andrew and attacking into him for “the win.” At this point and Andrew cast his fifth spell, Price of Progress, and we were all dead, played like puppets.


As quickly as the weekend came, it was over. I didn’t make it out on Sunday; but as my Twitter kept updating with pictures and tweets from my friends while I enjoyed a more relaxed afternoon with my son, it looked like a lot of fun was had. Other than a few people who had hung out with us on Friday night, I didn’t keep track of any of the goings on of the tournament proper, and I have no idea who won. To me, this was a weekend long Commander night that I got to experience with dozens of my friends both locally and from out of town. I didn’t have to get on a plane and fly across the country. I slept in my own bed, drank a lot of free beer, and few cups of reasonably priced beer. Magic is a community just as much as it is a competitive game.

Other than the Canadians, I don’t know that people host a better Grand Prix than us Minnesotans. So next time one is announced here, stop on by, enjoy the nice weather and the huge expanse of formats available. Next week, I think I want to chat about Arcades, the Strategist. See you then.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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