On April 4-6, 2014 Phoenix Arizona played host to a Magic the Gathering Grand Prix. The last time one of these signature tournaments was held in Arizona was 8 years prior. Being an avid, but new MTG player, I was unlikely to find myself at one of the events in California or Las Vegas, so I jumped at the chance to check it out.
The event was held in Downtown Phoenix at the Phoenix Convention Center. The beginning of April is the perfect time to be in Arizona and the weather did not disappoint, delivering two perfectly sunny days with temperatures in the 80’s. After a wrong turn that found me in a juicer convention (think wheat grass, not steroids) I found my way to the right building. As I approached it was immediately obvious that I was at the right place. Groups of people milled about outside the entrance playing pick-up games and perusing each other’s collections for potential trades. This boded well for my day and I headed inside.
The Grand Prix was being put on by ChannelFireball.com and Cascade Games. Inside the entrance they had set an area for several well-known artists. Christopher Rush (Black Lotus), Howard Lyon (Angel of Flight Alabaster), Steve Argyle (Deathrite Shaman), Jaime Jones (Progenitus), and Peter Mohrbacher (Brimaz, King of Oreskos) were all in attendance signing cards, as well as selling art and doing card alterations and custom playmats for fans.
Peter Mohrbacher had designed the playmat for the Grand Prix, featuring Brimaz from the Born of the Gods set. VIP participants received a copy of the mat, as did players who participated in the last chance trials on Friday. For the rest of us, the mat was available for purchase.
Inside the main hall were a dozen vendors and hundreds of tables for the tournament matches. There were 1463 players registered for the event. Each was guaranteed 9 matches on day one. To make it through to the second day a player could have no more than 2 losses. Most players would drop out of the remaining rounds when they hit their third loss.
As the tournament progressed I had a chance to talk with a variety of players. They ran the gamut from veterans who had spent time in the Pro Tour to new players who had been playing for a few months. The common bond that connected them all was a love for the game. It was the perfect place to indulge in discussions of all things Magic.
Many people had come out with their friends. I even had a chance to play with a group that had traveled from Alabama for the tournament and was headed to Las Vegas when they were done. I also had a chance to play with a father and his two sons who were there to watch like I was. Passing the game to the next generation seemed a common theme for many of the veterans. Talking with other players I realized that I’m in good company when it comes to teaching magic to my kids. Maybe in a few years I’ll be back with my daughters in tow.
For those who had come to watch or those whose day had ended early, the tournament organizers had provided a whole host of side events. For a few dollars you could enter scheduled mini events that featured a variety of different MTG formats. Additionally, there were on demand events that would launch when enough players signed up throughout the day. The prizes ranged from a few packs of cards, to 8 player sealed win a box events. These events allowed players to salvage a day that started poorly, or simply enjoy a little competitive play outside the main event. I jumped in one of the win-a-box events and walked away with 2nd place and most of a box of cards (The other player and I split the prize.)
No one I knew had made it through to the second day. And in the end it was Robert Berni of Austin, Texas who took Mono-black devotion all the way for the win. While the tournament saw a wide variety of decks in play, it was Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion that found its way most consistently into the final 16. With Journey into Nyx right around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see if anything can break that dominance.
Looking back on the two days, win or lose it was a lot of fun. There was something for every type of magic player. If you love Magic, then I highly recommend attending a Grand Prix. Who knows, maybe next time it comes to town, I’ll even play.