A Guide to the Grind - Massdrop East/West: Article #9
Hi! My name is Pascal Maynard, I’m a Platinum level pro and the captain of Massdrop East. You might recognize me from the #GoyfGate, aka, taking a foil Tarmogoyf in a draft at the biggest Grand Prix ever, in Las Vegas. If you don’t, I strongly recommend that you do some research about it, it’s not only funny, but should be part of your Magic knowledge.
I’m also starting to be identified as a degenerate who plays a ridiculous amount of events. Between Christian Calcano, Tomoharu Saito, Brian Braun-Duin, Seth Manfield and me, there haven’t been many other players playing more Grand Prix than us in the last five years.
Just this last weekend, I made sure to arrive in New Jersey Friday morning before the Grand Prix so that I could play the Magic Online Championship Qualifier on my computer in the hotel room.
How do I sustain playing 20+ Grand Prix a year, local events, Magic Online events, Pro Tours and always being Up in the Air?
Playing too much can easily lead to burnouts. There’s a handful of pros who skip events after Pro Tours because they are exhausted of the travelling and playing duo they’ve been doing and I don’t blame them, especially if they have a job other than Magic.
You may be thinking that's ridiculous to get burnouts from playing a game, but if you're doing it right and are actually working hard to win, it’s just as draining as any full time job. The things you can do to prepare are limitless. Make sure you get some time to relax. I try to meet up with non-Magic friends once per week.
If you want to get consistent results at every tournament, it means you should only go to tournaments you really want to play in. I often see people attend an event just for the sake of it, they’re like ‘’I just played three weekends in a row, I kind of want to stay home, but I saw a cheap flight to the GP next weekend, I’ll just go and not test’’. While there is luck in the game and yes, someone with no preparation could win the tournament, you’re still not putting the odds in your favor. If you are going without expectations on your finish, then I won’t blame you for just showing up without caring. Magic events are still fun without focusing on your result.
You should put the same amount of work in every tournament if you expect to do well at all of them. Mark Jacobson wrote a nice piece two weeks ago (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1364/sorry-my-felidar-guardian-ate-my-homework-massdrop-east-west-article-7) about how he prepares for tournaments, it involves a lot of homework, lots of research, and talking with his teammates.
I like to do the same: I’m going to be on top of everything, looking at all the results that pop up on MTGTop8.com and MTGGoldfish.com. Then I’m going to want to play more games. The reason is that unlike Mark, I’m not as naturally talented. I’m likely to run into scenarios that I haven't encountered and make an error because of unfamiliarity with the situation. I suggest you find the right balance between preparing by looking at results, memorizing every deck and preparing your technical game play skills. There are people with worse results that are better technical players. They don’t keep up with the latest decks, the latest sideboard tech, or even how to sideboard properly.
My favorite way to get practice in for Grand Prix is Magic Online. I used to hate it with passion, but since the Leagues have made their way into the program, I’ve been able to get so many reps in every format in the comfort of my bedroom. Incidentally, my house chores became a lot easier to accomplish. The former DailyEvents required you to be 4 hours in a row in front of your computer at a specific time which was very inconvenient for me.
If you’re going to attend many events, there are ways to not spend a ton of money. Between hotel cost, flights, gas, cards, entry fees and $5 hot-dogs at the convention center, the price of travelling can be steep.
Be aware that these won’t make you a better player, but they’ll certainly help you attend more events, therefore increase your chances of becoming a better player.
I usually use booking.com and expedia.com to book my hotels. It doesn't really matter which one you use because the prices will be similar from website to website. I like Expedia the most because they have a reward program. Most people will be able to get some sort of reward depending on the credit card they use. $80-100 per night is pretty much the price you should be looking for. However, there will be tournaments where you can get nice hotels for cheaper than that, depending on the precise location.
I don’t like using AirBnB for a weekend since I like finding a hotel thats walking distance from the event and most convention centers aren’t near places to rent. However, it's a totally viable option, especially if you're also splitting an Uber four ways.
Networking is essential, you want to split it multiple ways to save on money. Networking is great for making friends all around the world. When there’s an event in their city, you can hit them up for a place to stay!
Flights and Gas
My flights are likely more expensive than yours since I’m a Canadian living near a small airport.
For that reason, our community has gotten used to driving up to 15 hours for a Grand Prix, which I do 5 or 6 times a year. If you can’t fill your car completely, check out what cities you’re driving by, chances are they have a Facebook Group and other people are looking for a ride that goes to whatever GP! Road tripping with fellow magicians is also a great opportunity to share tips, trick and thoughts, another way to learn!
When it comes to flying, I consider my ‘’cheap’’ flights to be around $300 in the US. However, it varies based on where you live and what airports you have access to.
Get yourself a frequent flyer account with each airline you’re going to use. If you’re just flying a few times a year, don’t bother trying to get the same airline every time, just pick the cheapest one. Make sure to collect those miles within each airline anyway because given enough flights, you’ll have enough miles to collect a free flight.
Personally, I’ve gotten to a point where I fly enough to bother paying slightly more sometimes to be with my prefered airline (Delta), because I get small perks, but I wouldn't go out of my way and pay like $100 extra though.
Kayak.com is my absolute favorite website to buy flights, it’s intuitive and even gives you advice on whether you should buy now or later.
You should set the bar at never ever having to pay for something sold inside the convention center. Oversalted pretzels and $5 hot-dogs? No thanks!
Bring your own snacks and bottled water at events. Not only will you save a ton of money, but you’ll also be able to actually eat what you want and not have to worry about round time. Hydration is also important.
Those are getting stupidly expensive and there’s not much we can do about it. Tournament Organizers generally offer an early bird price, if you register, let’s say, a month before the event you get a $10 discount. So register as early as soon as you know you’re going!
I used to like owning all the cards because I played locally a lot more, however, since I discovered the leagues on Magic Online, I actually found that my real life collection was starting to get dusty.
Not everyone has the chance to be able to borrow from their network of friends; trust needs to be built. I recommend starting by keeping a good look at cards you don’t use. If you know for instance that you won’t have a Standard tournament before the next rotation, take that opportunity to trade them away and build up credit at a store for when the next set comes out.
If I can’t borrow from friends because they’re playing the same deck as me for example, I’ll use the credit I have at stores that came from draft leftovers or cards I didn't need anymore.
It is kind of a package deal though, once you start having a group of Magic players that begin to travel together for events, split gas and hotels, the cards also start being more accessible between all of you!
Thanks for reading, and please post any questions or feedback below!If you are curious about our team, check out our intro here: https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1117/announcing-team-massdrop-east-west
Or, check out our previous weekly articles:
1. How to Prepare for an MtG Pro Tour by Ben Weitz(https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1158/how-to-prepare-for-an-mt-g-pro-tour)
2. Approaching New Magic Drafts by Ari Lax(https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1193/approaching-new-magic-drafts)
3. Constructed Testing for Pro Tour Aether Revolt by Jarvis Yu (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1213/recap-of-constructed-testing-for-massdrop-east-west-for-pro-tour-aether-revolt)
4. Breaking into Eternal Formats - Case Study: GP Louisville by Jon Stern (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1240/breaking-into-eternal-formats-case-study-gp-louisville-massdrop-east-west-article-4)
5. In Good Company - Top 8 at GP Vancouver by Eric Severson (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1285/in-good-company-top-8-at-gp-vancouver)
6. Adapting to Full Block Kaladesh Limited by Jiachen Tao (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1323/adapting-to-full-block-kaladesh-limited-massdrop-east-west-article-6)
7. Sorry My Felidar Guardian Ate My Homework by Mark Jacobson (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1364/sorry-my-felidar-guardian-ate-my-homework-massdrop-east-west-article-7)
8. Taking a Mardu Vacation - Top 8 in New Jersey and Heading to an Eternal Extravaganza by Jarvis Yu (https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1401/taking-a-mardu-vacation-top-8-in-new-jersey-and-heading-to-an-eternal-extravaganza-massdrop-east-wes)