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.
A Grinder at the WMCQ
This past weekend, I made the journey down to Santa Clara, CA to play in the Modern World Magic Cup Qualifier. They were also hosting a Standard Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier the following day, and since the plane tickets were cheap, I figured I’d give it a go. Unfortunately, I didn’t do terribly well in either of the tournaments, however, I feel like I learned a lot from the experience. Hopefully, going forward. I will use some of these lessons learned to inform my decisions going forward when deciding whether to travel to this tournament, or tournaments similar in nature.
The Value of Playing
Usually, I don’t have trouble discerning the value of travelling and playing in a tournament. I so play to have fun, however, I’m usually after something specific as well. It is almost never worth it for me to play in a tournament where the only prize is cash or boosters. In this case the issue was travelling for a tournament where the only prize I really wanted was for winning the whole thing. This is especially troublesome when considering that its proximity to the Channel Fireball facility meant it was very likely some very good professional players would be there. This was further confirmed by the fact that Tom Martell ended up taking down the whole tournament. I’m totally up for playing these players anytime, however, banking on winning a 9 round tournament with these types of odds is folly. I’m not saying everyone should necessarily follow my maxims for determining a tournaments value, these are just what I go by.
That said, we do have to remember that there is value in having fun. Clearly I wouldn’t be doing all this if I didn’t have a love for the game in the first place. Everyone has different ways of playing the game, and enjoy different aspects of the game. Some people look to jam games of the more casual formats/events with their friends, others like me are chasing invitations, pro points, etc. Neither method of playing is more right than the other, just important to know what you value when looking to play.
So, this was likely my biggest mistake for the entire weekend. As a grinder, I typically play what I think is the best deck, based on what’s strong and the time, the meta I expect, etc. That said, as opposed to spending time trying different decks to get a feel for them and such, I spent basically all my time tweaking Grixis Splinter Twin. I never felt confidant with the deck or that it was in a good position, I just couldn’t get behind spending time working on any other deck either. I felt extremely unconfident in the deck all the way up until the tournament, believing that there was just too much efficient removal in the format for the deck to be a good choice for the weekend, and was swiftly proved correct. I definitely should have tested more of the green decks, but have historically never enjoyed the “off the top” nature of those decks.
Going forward, I will certainly broaden my testing range for tournaments, especially when the deck I was leaning towards playing feels incorrect. I haven’t played basically any Modern since the second PPTQ of the prior season. If anything, this is even more of a reason I should have spent more time testing a wider range of decks, to get reacclimated to the format. The next big travel tournament is Gran Prix Seattle/Tacoma. The format is legacy, which I haven’t played since the beginning of the year. I will definitely take the lesson from this tournament to heard, and spend more time practicing, and practice a wide range of decks to figure out what I’d like to play more.
Overall, the weekend was a lot of fun, as they usually are. I always enjoy travelling with my friends to different tournaments, and I have only been to this area one time before. Got to see some sights, and eat good food. That said, from a grinder’s point of view, the weekend definitely could have gone better. I doubt in the future I will travel for more WMCQs. It is already hard to justify travelling more than an hour for PPTQs, since again, the only place I’m interest in for these are 1st. I will likely just continue to grind the Grand Prix circuit to get the competitive experience I’m looking for. That said, Channel Fireball ran a tight tournament, rounds ended pretty quickly, and judges were on top of people for slow play constantly, which I appreciate. Especially, since for standard, I play a fairly slow Blue/White control deck. That deck was a ton of fun though. I ended up getting 14th in the PPTQ, going 6-2… So that certainly could have gone much worse.