With the prerelease of Zendikar Rising happening this week, it brings up fond memories from about eleven years ago. At one particular Grand Prix, which featured the original Zendikar set, I managed to put together a pretty good run that, by the end of the weekend, placed a Black Lotus and Time Walk in my possession.
What follows are my recollections from that magical weekend.
On the Chilly November weekend of November 13, 14, and 15th in 2009, several of my Magic-playing friends and I made the journey to Minnesota in search of Grand Prix glory. Arriving midday on Friday, the 13th featured a day of Grand Prix Trials and other side events. I decided to spend that day doing one of the trials. This six hour event was a sealed deck, five-round tournament. Lose, and you were out. Win it all, gain a bye in the main event the next day. An aggressive red and white deck carried me all the way to the finals. There, I would face a local pro from the Chicago area. Ironically, I had faced and beat this same pro in the finals of a high profile tournament a few years before (that is a story for another day). On this day, he would defeat me. Six hours down the tubes.
Actually, my time in that trial was no waste at all. The next day, Saturday the 14th, at the 2000+ person Grand Prix, another sealed deck tournament, I was able to construct nearly the same deck I had spent all that time playing the night before. From round one, I had a comfort level with my deck that normally would have taken a bit of time to get used to. The result: I played my way to a 7-2 record, finishing 97th out of all those players. This qualified me for day 2 of the Grand Prix. On top of that, all participants received an awesome Chrome Mox just for being part of the tournament.
My comfort level with my deck was not the only thing that allowed me to do so well that day. As it turns out, there was going to be a HUGE side event - a draft for the most expensive card in Magic history - on day 2. In order to participate, you had to be one of the lucky few to be randomly selected. It was lunchtime. A few of us had ventured to the golden arches for some fine Minnesotan cuisine. While there, one of my buddies calls me to let me know that my name was the first called to be in this draft. I was ecstatic beyond belief.
The rest of Saturday followed a very similar pattern for me. I would sit down with my opponent and tell them I was going to win a Black Lotus tomorrow. They would ask me to concede, since I was going to do that. I would decline. We would then play our match. Grand Prix can be very intensive and stressful. Having something else to play for the next day removed all care and worry from my play. With much of the stress removed, I was able to play more carefree and focused than I ever had.
Saturday night, we had delicious sushi. I did not sleep well.
The start of day 2 at the Grand Prix was a draft. I drafted horribly. My first round opponent was one of my friends from my hotel room. He destroyed me. I dropped from the Grand Prix with an overall record of 7-3. It was time to focus on the money draft later that day.
After being placed in two pods, I drafted what I thought was an incredibly solid deck. I learned from mistakes I had made in the first draft that morning. With my first pick Emeria Angel, I managed to put together a white / blue evasive deck. My first round opponent had two of a particular card that absolutely wrecked me (curses, Marsh Casualties). He dispensed of me in a couple of games. I was crushed to be eliminated. My friends and I had drafted in my basement on Tuesdays for years. Drafting was a format I was good at. I had blown my chance. At least, I thought I had.
That is when I discovered the tournament was double elimination. I was not out of it after all. I was able to coast to a couple of easy victories after that while my first round opponent did not win another game. I qualified for the final draft that would determine the winner of the coveted Black Lotus.
My first pick in the second draft, Halo Hunter, took me in the opposite direction of the first. I was able to draft an aggressive black / red deck, similar to what I had played the day before in style and widely considered to be the best archetype of this set. With the most powerful uncommon from the set, Vampire Nighthawk, and a ton of removal, I was able to take down my next three matches. After thinking I was gone from this tournament, I had run off 5 straight match victories to claim the top prize: a Black Lotus and Time Walk (a valuable card in its own right).
After 21 rounds of marathon Magic over two and half days, it was time for the long drive back to Woodstock. Needless to say, my wife was extremely happy that I managed to win such awesome prizes. After owning them for a few weeks, I ended up selling those two cards for a fair chunk of change that went directly into the "Disney" fund.
Here's to hoping we'll be able to make some good memories with the release of Zendikar Rising.