Sheldon is a competitive Magic: the Gathering player commonly referred to as a “grinder.” He attends countless events and plays thousands of games to compete at the highest levels.
This is an insight into his journey of traveling the competitive scene.
For a grinder, there is always a certain amount of stress right before a major event. This is especially true for constructed events immediately following the release of a new set. I usually allow for the prior Pro Tour to inform my decisions for what the meta is going to look like, and what I should play. I rarely brew decks, and am more likely to actively tune either the best decks at the time, or what I feel like is going to be the best positioned deck for the weekend. That said, the Pro Tour results were a little less informative than I cared for. For one, there was a rule in effect involving mulliganing that would not be present for following events, and two, Pro Tour results are typically slightly skewed to more mid-ranged/control strategies, which was completely not the case this time around.
Preparing for the Grand Prix, I could not figure out what I wanted to play. I was jamming tons of games, playing in any free time I had. I typically submit my decklist to Brainstorm Games(my card supplier) at least a week beforehand to make sure they have all the cards I need. As he pointed out this time around, I never “technically” submitted a decklist, and a few hours before the start of the event, we had to scramble to put together a deck I just felt ok with. The deck was a list similar to the mono red decks that did well at the Pro Tour. I typically hate playing super linear strategies that don’t give me the opportunity to “game” a bit at Grand Prixs, but at that point, I was left with very few options.
Its said with mono red decks, that if you draw the 5th-6th land, your chances of winning go down significantly. Well, I ended several games Day 1 with 8-10 lands in play, and more in my hand. I lost my 3rd round knocking me out of day 2 contention in round 8. It is always a little brutal to travel for a Grand Prix, and not even make day 2, but in the end, you have to keep a positive attitude, and accept that any game is going to have some variance, and for this event, I picked a high power/high variance deck. I didn’t love doing so poorly, but I have no issue moving on, and just trying to enjoy the trip, and look forward to playing some side events the next day.
I decided to play in the Super Sunday Series, which was a sealed event with a chance to win an invite play in an event in Seattle. Sparing the details, this event also did not go great for me, so I had ample time to cheer on my friends who made Day 2 of the main event. Definitely an important part of grinding is helping your teammates when they are doing well. Making sure they don’t get tilted from losses, and are taking care of themselves with food/water. We both have played a lot of competitive events, but it certainly is helpful to have someone watching out for you.
I do regret that I wasn’t able to find a deck I would enjoy playing more for the weekend. I do not regret the deck I played itself, as that path leads to madness. You can’t live in the past with these events, all you can do is learn from any mistakes, and look forward to the next event. I don’t actually have any events I’m travelling to for a couple weeks, and I still can’t play in any PPTQs this weekend, so the next article will be “Grinder in the downtime”. It is important to stay sharp, but hard to keep the drive when you’re not preparing to play for anything specific. I’ll be playing a variety of formats, and be taking some extra time to prepare for the next event, the WMCQ in California!