Whether in the spirit of supreme nostalgic mediocrity or my many current, worst indulgences, here’s a “report” on my weekend at MagicFest New Jersey.

But First, a Word on MagicFest

A rose by any other name is yadda yadda yadda. Look, Magic is bigger now. Grand Prix coverage is mostly gone. Between The Command Zone, Mystery Booster Drafts (which I’ll get to), and PTQ’s occurring each day—let’s face facts. The “Gee Pee” isn’t the Main Event anymore. Magic is. And that is a great thing.

The Meadowlands Expo Center

I don’t know what CFB’s costs look like but the site was, to put it mildly, awfully fucking packed. That time your friend warned you about wearing layers in a convention hall to stay warm in the middle of Winter? Well, after the rain emptied its humidity during peak hours on Saturday and the Tournament Organizer closed all signups for on demand events, I felt this terrible and damp roar precipitate. Us Magic players kept on playing though—spilled outside the hall huddled on carpets, across the street in hotel lobbies or at nearby bars with greasy lunch specials and beer.

The conditions felt oppressive and unwavering, but the people still played. Magic is an awesome force in this way. Again, I don’t know what costs are like but I assume moving next years New Jersey to Edison is a foregone conclusion. A capped Gee Pee, sold out fanatic packages, what can only be a growing Command Zone space, and the success of Mystery Booster drafts means we could see an even larger outcome in 2021. If it doesn’t move, you might wanna reserve space at the nearby hotel lobby. That is, if the TO doesn’t end up needing it for the next Modern Double Up.

Mystery Booster Drafts

In case you didn’t already know, Mystery Boosters are Chaos Draft packs. If anyone hasn’t done Chaos Draft before let me tell you something: this set is *chefs kiss* very nice. I’d been waiting to crack these suckers open for months, and ended up doing four drafts across the weekend (not to give away any spoilers on my main event performance, but let’s just say I had plenty of time to play side events). Gavin Verhey at Wizards of the Coast deserves a round of applause and a promotion for this product. The drafts were each unique with lots of decisions, the playtest cards range from hilarious to broken, and the gameplay is good, if wildly varied in power level.

Raredrafting is an unfortunate side effect of the playtest cards not being all that available on the open market. My drafts took forever as some would busy themselves price checking every rare and playtest card they came across, on top of chaos drafts being tricky to navigate. The principle of “making one’s money back” during the draft was loud and boring to listen to, and it usually worked out that those few raredrafters ended up with mild to moderate train wrecks.

On Friday, the event fired something like 95 Mystery Booster drafts. On Saturday they had no space to fire on demand events and closed registration, leaving what sounded like hundreds of hungry visitors to the convention center out of a good time. On Sunday, these same hundreds of chaos fans corralled and stormed the side event stage together around 9am. They must’ve fired another 90-100 drafts on Sunday. It was, as they say in the business, most excellent. I’ll be jumping into these queues with whatever regularity I can muster, and will be buying a lot of product for casual drafting.

The Main Event

I did test a fair amount for this tournament, so when I opened my pool and had good rares + good removal I must have subconsciously decided to misbuild my deck by a few cards. The packs told me to go Black/White and I abided, went 3-3 and dropped from the tournament with no byes.

On Dream Trawler

People who are no good at Sealed, or don’t care for it as a format, will believe deeply in cashing in massive complaint equity on “losing to bombs.” Every once in a while, however, we come across a truly exquisite specimen to stoke the campfire flames. Dream Trawler isn’t unbeatable, but it does a great job reminding us just what unbeatable means. My first three opponents all had Dream Trawler. They also all had either Kiora Bests the Sea God or Ashiok, Nightmare Muse. I managed to beat two of them, mostly because they didn’t draw their good cards, or I took them with Agonizing Remorse. Sometimes “Bombs and Chaff” just draws the chaff.

In a world where we’ll continue to see Dream Trawlers—i.e. our current timeline—and the top sealed decks in any given tournament will be more likely to contain Dream Trawlers; I see no reason why Wizards shouldn’t make cards like this mythic instead of rare. Ethereal Absolution is another great example of this, or Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Beating these cards in Limited can often be a great story. Asking is to beat them over and over again is quickly depressing.


I write mainly about cube on here, so I’ll finish on a cube-y note. Going in I was excited to meet members of the cube community at MagicFest New Jersey. While I didn’t get to relax and have a beer with many of you, I was very happy to cube as much as I did, and meet so many of whom share my love for Magic’s greatest format. It’s very clear to me that the biggest challenge facing most cube owners is the lack of a regular, dynamic playgroup. If you know someone who owns a cube and like to draft it, go out of your way to help get a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetup going.

It’s hard to get eight people in a room together to play Magic, especially for those of us who have big life obligations. Designing a cube also takes a lot of work, and for some of us is a huge financial investment, too. So if you want more cube drafts to fire, help put them together for your local community. It keeps our lists fresh and balanced, and also keeps us out of our heads, overthinking card choices with little to no data to back anything up. Don’t leave us rearranging the furniture.

To everyone I met, it was a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you all again.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.