People sometimes ask about stories from the Pro Tour, but it’s hard to know what to say. Magic is about the gathering, and a lot of things happen, but so many stories about things happening outside the game at events just become gossip or something. I had a fantastic weekend in Las Vegas, and I want to give some insight into what that looks like while acknowledging that not all stories are mine to tell and some things stay in Vegas. With that said, I want to try to give some idea of what my weekend was like.

Historically, I’ve written strategy articles for strategy sites, so I haven’t had a lot of occasion to tell stories about the rest of it, but Hipsters of the Coast was once described as a Magic Lifestyle site, so I’m going to take the opportunity to blog about my weekend. If you’re just looking to learn about playing the game, you’ve already read too far and you should stop now.

The decision to go to Las Vegas was an easy one. Flights were cheap, I had a friend I could stay with, a lot of my local community was going, so I wouldn’t be missing anything at home and wouldn’t have much to do if I didn’t go, and there was a $100k limited event that I was excited to compete in.

I’m more frugal than I have any reason to be. I’ve been playing Magic since I was 11 and didn’t have money to work with. I started going to events long before I started earning money, so I learned to be frugal and never really grew out of it. I booked flights on budget airlines that don’t let you check luggage or even take a carry-on on the flight, only a “personal item,” and I’m not about to pay extra. I fit a trade binder, 8 deckboxes, my toiletries, clothes and some boosters in my satchel. It’s remarkable that that was possible.

If I were a real competitor, I would have brought at least one Modern deck to be able to play in a secret lair tournament if I ended up with some free time, but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I brought 3 Premodern decks because my friend (Pro Tour Gatecrash champion Tom Martell, who I’d be staying with) said he’d put some decks together and I’d feel bad if he did that and I didn’t have anything to play against him—side note, he didn’t, but I did end up playing a few games against someone else) and 5 cEDH decks because I wanted to be able to play cEDH if I had free time at the event.

I arrived late in the evening on Thursday and went to Tom’s house where I stayed up pretty late chatting with some of his other guests—he has a large house and had 6 guests for the weekend. The room I was staying in didn’t really have curtains that blocked sunlight, so it got bright early and I didn’t end up getting much sleep. Another friend had an empty bed in a hotel room they’d offered me, but I wanted to hang out with people when I got in so I stayed at Tom’s Thursday night. After realizing it’d be hard to sleep there, I brought my stuff with me to the site Friday morning so I could switch to the hotel for Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday morning we got up early and went to the site for the $100k limited open. We weren’t sure which part of the convention center the event was in and ended up driving around trying to find the right place long enough that we had to run in and go directly to our tables for registration.

I opened a pretty good pool and built a deck I liked a lot, but I was also very hungry and didn’t really know when I’d have a chance to eat. (It’s best practice to bring food to events, but as you may recall, I didn’t have a lot of extra space in my luggage to work with.)

I played my first match. I mulled to 5 without finding a two-land hand, then flooded out in the second game and lost the match. Since my satchel was very full I didn’t want to bother trying to put my deckbox away, so I just held onto it and went to get some food.

The Vegas convention center actually had a remarkably acceptable food court and I got a veggie curry bowl, had a decent lunch, and went back to chat with friends a bit before my next round.

When I sat down for round two I realized that at some point in the process of getting food or talking to friends I’d stopped holding on to my deckbox, but I had no idea where and couldn’t find it, so I got a match loss. At this point I could have tried to reconstruct it, but with 2 losses already it didn’t really feel like it was worth the effort given that I didn’t even have any leads on a good source of bulk commons.

When I told people about this I realized that I wasn’t sad about it in that I didn’t really have an emotional reaction. I was disappointed because I thought I knew the format pretty well and wanted to see if I could win some drafts on Saturday, but I knew that might not happen and I knew there’d be plenty of other things to do.

I hung out around the tournament and offered friends advice about their sealed pools, then wandered the site a bit.

I ran into Commander Rules Committee member Gavin Duggan while he was playing a game of pauper commander and rudely talked to him about the format through the rest of his game. When it was over we moved to the food court and had a long conversation yabout the commander banned list, how it served various communities and kinds of players, which kinds of changes might be worth considering, how the might need to be messaged, and also how cEDH functions, the role of politics and how it plays out, and several related topics. If you’re looking for rumors to speculate on, I’d say it shouldn’t surprise you that he was hesitant to make many changes.

After he needed to go I wandered back to the Command Zone and found a game of cEDH. It was a pretty funny game. I was in seat 4 playing Tymna the Weaver/Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus and had a Gemstone Caverns. I thought about exiling Chain of Vapor since I don’t think it’s very good early and I don’t want to keep too much interaction when I’m already going down a card for Gemstone Caverns, but with Godo, Bandit Warlord in seat 1 I realized it might be important and exiled something else.

Sure enough, the Godo player played land, Mana Crypt, Pyretic Ritual, and Treasonous Ogre, then paid 18 life to cast Godo and 15 life to equip Helm of the Host, so it was pretty important that I could bounce Godo after that, since the table would have died otherwise. Instead, he was at 7 with a Mana Crypt and an ogre that couldn’t do much. I ended up using Demonic Consultation for Fire Covenant to kill the other players’ creatures and exiled most of my library. I end up winning through combat damage with something like 4 life and 4 cards left in my library.

After that I wandered around a bit more and ran into Dom Harvey and talked to him until he said he needed to go to dinner. I stopped him and asked where he was going and he said Lamaii, a Thai place Gavin Verhey had tweeted about that everyone wanted to go to because of his tweet. My friend who I was staying with had left to go to dinner with another group to a restaurant that wouldn’t be vegetarian friendly, but then texted me later that they’d actually ended up at Lamaii instead, so I asked if I could catch a ride with Dom. By the time we got his crew together and made it to the restaurant, my friend was finishing up, so I stayed and ate with Dom’s party instead and mostly gossiped with Mason Clark about our respective times consulting for Wizards on Modern Horizons sets (I consulted on MH2 and he consulted on MH3). After dinner Friday I got to bed at a reasonable hour for the PTQ Saturday.

My pool for the PTQ wasn’t really anything special. Its highlights were two Crystal Grottos and two Brave the Wilds which let me play all my best cards. I won my first five rounds and drew my next two and hung around until my friends were done with the 100k and got a 10 person crew together for dinner.

After dinner, which took quite awhile, I ended up back at the site for the party there. I made it there late enough that Elijah Wood’s set had ended, and I ended up talking about limited with Pascal Maynard and his entourage of employees at his store.

Once the party shut down a big group was heading to a casino to keep partying for the rest of the night, but I decided to head back to the hotel and get some sleep before the top 32 of the PTQ Sunday, where I’d need to 3-0 one draft to qualify for the next Pro Tour.

I had trouble falling asleep and only ended up getting a couple hours of sleep before the PTQ. I drafted a U/G deck with 2 Up the Beanstalks and a ton of expensive adventure creatures. I beat another U/G deck in the first round and then lost to a R/B deck with a lot of removal.

I wandered around the Command Zone for a while and ran into Brian Weissman, one of the few famous old pros from before my first Pro Tour I still hadn’t met. He was playing 1v1 cEDH and we talked about that format and Old School, then people were looking for a fourth for a cEDH game at the next table so I played a game.

I played Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh/Thrasios, Triton Hero this time, and a young player who said he played a lot immediately said I was playing PolyKraken.  When I played Springleaf Drum, Rograkh, Delighted Halfling on my first turn it became clear I wasn’t actually playing Polymorph and another player asked if I was playing Devoted Druid, to which I replied that I wasn’t playing White (my deck is playing Devoted Druid and Machine God’s Effigy, but when I’m playing cEDH I practice like I play).  I won pretty quickly with Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy/Basalt Monolith when it was clear no one had interaction.

I didn’t get in another game because Tom told me he’d be by the site to pick up his swag soon and he’d want to head back to his place right after, so I got up to meet him, and ended up following him around for and hour and a half while he hit up the dealers for a bunch of cards for cube.

Eventually we headed back to his place to clean up before guests arrived for a large after-party and BBQ.

I got roped into drafting Rivals of Ixalan, one of the worst draft formats of the last decade, but only had to play one match.

After that I mostly just hung out and talked, but at one point Pascal and the Canadians asked to try cEDH.  I told them it would be more fair if I didn’t play, since none of them had played cEDH before, so I just lent them my decks and watched to answer questions about how the decks worked.

It was a fun party with a lot of past and former pros, the kind of thing that’s hard to imagine coming together at any other event, and I had a great time.

The next day I broke a rule that I set for myself at some point in the past, which was “always check in for your flight before leaving” since I’ve done things like go to the wrong airport for my flight before.  As a result, I arrived at the airport over 50 minutes before my flight, but couldn’t check in anymore and had to wait in line to see an agent, and I was directed to the wrong line, so by the time I could talk to an agent it was too late to make my flight and there weren’t any more flights to Milwaukee, where I was trying to fly back to that day, so I went back to Tom’s.

Fortunately, most of the people staying with him were intentionally staying at least another day, and I probably would have planned to also if I’d known when I booked my flight.  I got back before people there were up after the late night the previous night.  When people got up we discussed plans for the day–there was some interest in doing some kind of touristy Vegas thing, but I suggested that I’d rather just stay in and ask everyone we knew in town to come back and hang out again like last night.  Fortunately no one really had the initiative to drive the group to do anything more active and I ended up cubing with a lot of people I really like, and drafting an absurd reanimator deck.  The highlight was reanimating Etali on my second turn and hitting my Displacer Kitten and a noncreature spell from my opponent, who conceded after around 4 Etali triggers.

The next morning I successfully caught my new flight back to Milwaukee, and wrote most of this article on my phone on the plane.  I was planning to take a bus back to Madison, but I just assumed there’d be a late evening bus, and it turned out that was wrong, so I hit up my local cEDH Discord to beg for a ride and two heroes hopped in a car to save me.

I typically write to educate, and I have no idea what actionable takeaway you could have from this article, but if you made it this far, I imagine you’re interested in these kinds of stories, in which case I guess it’s nice to have a platform to share them.

Sam Black (any) is a former professional Magic player, longtime Magic writer, host of the Drafting Archetypes podcast, and Twitch streamer. Sam is also a Commander Cube enthusiast, and you can find Sam’s cube list here. For anything else, find Sam on Twitter: @SamuelHBlack.

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