Sometimes, you think you’re experiencing the best version of something and it isn’t even close to it’s potential.
This was my experience with Grand Prixs over the years. As a young kid, I loved watching Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix coverage. I was enthralled at the competition and loved dreaming about competing at that stage.
Fast forward to my college years – I was lucky enough to have the chance to play in a bunch of Grand Prixs, and even a Pro Tour at one point. I loved every moment of it. I was competing in giant halls filled with some of the best Magic players in the world – and I could hang with them. But that’s just it, the halls were FILLED with competitive players. Not much room for casual play. Eventually, the fire faded, I lost interest, and work/life felt more important to me than traveling to these events all the time.
Fast forward again to MagicFest Portland 2019 this last December. I hadn’t attended a “Grand Prix” in a few years, and walked into the doors to my surprise: A GIANT commander area, a kiosk with laptops to have sign ups for side events, about the same amount of vendors – except apparel and toys being sold now, and many tables full of players just hanging out and playing casually.
I used the kiosk and registered for a “Pioneer” side event.
The tournament was great. All my opponents were extremely pleasant. I met a few folks between rounds, jammed games, and just hung out for a few hours with a bunch of new friends. The pay structure was nice for a three-round event, and I was able to win a few cards to give to one of my friends as a thank you for letting me borrow cards for the main event.
The next day (Saturday) I woke up early and went with a “MagicFest/Grand Prix” first timer to some excellent Portland coffee, then started jamming in the main event.
Nine rounds later, I was sitting at 7-2 and the rumor was that everyone that made day two cashed! I went out for some Japanese curry with a couple of my best friends – both of which I met through Magic – and we went back to the AirBnB and played some cube with 8 awesome people from our hometown, Corvallis, Oregon.
My day two (Sunday) was great. I played against many people who just seemed happy to be there. In day two of previous Grand Prixs I had played, I always had an overwhelming feeling of uncomfortable tension. People looking to get the last few ‘pro points’ to stay on the ‘train.’ This one felt different. Everyone had already made cash. There were no pro points to play for. People were just playing good, clean Magic at a very high level.
This MagicFest weekend was some of the most fun I had playing competitive Magic in my entire life. People were just there for the love of the game – and a casual/competitive cultural blending was happening before our eyes. Magic is in a great spot right now - with Commander, Pioneer, and Modern leading the charge, it really feels we’re in perfectly capable hands. The years of the “Pro Tour” are done and it feels…different. But, in the end, maybe a “Professional competitive circuit” wasn’t ever the best? Maybe these MagicFests are doing it right. Make it a safe place for ALL Magic players, and more Magic players will come! For me, I felt at home at MagicFest: Portland. Please check out this schedule to see if there is a “fest” in your area. Make the trip down, and let’s jam some games!