Grand Prix Orlando Survival Guide

Grand Prix Orlando is fast approaching and it’s on my home turf finally. The only other GP I have been to was GP Portland (report post here) and it was one of the top Magic experiences I have ever had. I love the area and I got to visit my father who I don’t get to see very often so it was the best one for me to try attend.

One of the highlights for GP Portland was getting to meet Jay Boosh and Smi77y of the Eh Team fame back when they were first just starting out. Jay Boosh acctually gave me a shout out on the next episode but he screwed up my Twitter name which I attribute to why I only have 40 followers still. I’m sure that’s the only reason.

The venue is the Wyndham Resort that is directly in the middle of International Drive which is super busy all year round with a lot of travelers like you crazy people.

I haven’t done it much but the best part of traveling to Magic tournaments, to me at least, is seeing new places, eating new foods, and doing stuff outside of the tournament itself. I figured I’d put a quick post up as sort of a “survival guide” to having fun if your ever going to see sunlight while your here.

 

Watch out for alligators.

 

So a couple of quick notes first:

  • International Drive is OBVIOUSLY a big international attraction…there will be a lot of foreign people walking around so be respectful.
  • January is the slow season around here so the crowds shouldn’t be too bad…but don’t quote me.
  • Temperature will be around 50 at night and 75 during the day. The humidity is really high here so it often feels hotter than it really is.
  • The public transportation here sucks so much you have no idea. There is a trolley that goes up and down I-Drive every 20 minutes which is probably your best bet.

Yes, this is much like riding the buses here.

 

Onto the food:

Asian

  • Bento Cafe – About 5-10 minutes away walking. The absolute best and very unique take on asian fusion dining. I highly suggest going at least once.

Seafood

  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co – This is where my day job is. It’s on Citywalk which is the free to get in area in front of Universal Studios.
  • Boston Lobster Feast – This is the best but it’s super expensive, only go if your super good at the credit card game. South a little bit on I-Drive.

Brazilian

  • Vittorios – Fantastic buffet with great traditional Brazilian foods, my wife loves it. It’s on north I-Drive across from the Festival Bay mall (which is garbage, don’t go there).
  • Brazil 24-Hour – Most affordable churascaria around but it’s not fantastic. It’s also not open 24 hours despite the name. North on corner of I-Drive and Kirkman Rd.

Salads

  • Sweet Tomatoes – Imagine a buffet with just salads. Yep. North I-Drive about 20 minutes walking, on the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman Rd.

Breakfast

  • Ponderosa Steakhouse – 3.99 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, you really can’t beat it. You should eat breakfast here everyday. On north I-Drive right before Wet and Wild.

Misc

  • Bahama Breeze – Fantastic island inspired food and outdoor seating with a live band. South of the Wyndham on I-Drive.
  • Dave and Busters – This place is the shit. It’s basiclly an adult arcade. This is a must do one night, it’s got a full restaurant inside and tons of games and things for us nerds to do. South I-Drive again…you can’t miss it. It almost always has a line around the building to get in.

Alcoholics and Patrick Chapin

  • ICEBAR Orlando – I don’t drink but if I did I have been told this place is the place to go. It’s one of only 2 icebars in America. It’s a little south, 5-10 minutes walking. They also have a “Fire” lounge night club.

Other fun things nearby:

  • Universal Studios – About 15-20 minutes away walking north on I-Drive. The main attraction in the area, buy a Harry Potter wand and flash it when you cast spells during the tournament. The judges will love it.
  • Citywalk – This is the area around Universal which is free to get in if you’re not driving. It’s got a bunch of restaurants (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Emerill’s), AMC movie theater, bars, etc.
  • Movies – The 2 best options for you would be Pointe Orlando which is a bunch of overpriced tourist shops, about 5-10 minutes away walking down I-Drive south or the AMC which is in Citywalk, at the entrance to Universal Studios.
  • Mini golf – These are everywhere, there are at least 3 within 5-10 minutes walking distance. If you hit me up and I like you I have a stack of free game coupons I can give out.
  • Orlando Improv Comedy Club – If this is your thing then it’s at the Pointe Orlando center to the south.
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum – To the south near Pointe Orlando, 5-10 minutes away walking.
  • Go Karts – North I-Drive past the road to Universal, pretty cheap.
  • Sea World – To a lesser extent than Universal because it’s further away, if you rent a car or travel by bus (again, the buses here blow) it’s not too far but it’s the far opposite end of International Drive going South, way past the Orange County Convention Center.
  • Wet and Wild – Not that anyone wants to see a bunch of Magic players with their shirts off (except Kibler) but it’s a pretty cheap option if you want, about 15-20 minutes away by walking. They have 2 rates, tickets are half price after 2 PM.
  • Disney – One big word of warning, Disney is NOT NEAR the tournament venue. It’s pretty far away, you will either need to rent a car or find some other mode of transportation.

 

Best rollercoaster around.

 

The MUST DOs, in my opinion, are Universal Studios (if your budget permits) or Disney if you have kids and Dave and Busters multiple times.

There is no really close place to FNM…Coolstuffinc is on the other side of Orlando and the next best place, Phoenix Games (the organizers that setup the GP), is about a 20 minute drive away on West Colonial Drive. Maybe there is a super FNM at the venue?

Hope to see you there, look me up at the tournament and say hi.

If anyone has any specific questions please feel free to email me or message me on Twitter, if it’s a big topic I’ll add it to this post…I made this list pretty quickly so I might add more later anyways.

 

Sean Roden aka enemyzero
I will be wearing a black Las Vegas t-shirt to remind me how horrible I did at SCG Las Vegas.
Twitter: en3myzero

   

GP Portland Non-report.

Well I’m finally getting a chance to write about my trip to GP Portland and all the crazy fun I had. It was my first ever Grand Prix and I really wanted to experience one before I started my new job and lose all my free time.

I’m pretty much the opposite of my buddy Jesse (aka Smi77y) at 60cards.com. While his crew went up there specifically to win at any cost, I went to have some fun and meet some people…while also hopefully doing sweet in the GP. No false bravado here, I’m a pretty decent player and let my play do the talking, not my mouth.

I’ve only been playing Magic since I quit for the third time for about a year and I have a decent Standard rating of almost 1800, Limited rating not so much. To prepare for GP Portland I pretty much just used MTGO to practice sealed and draft. Won some, lost some, and recorded some for 60cards.com. You can see some of the drafts on my Youtube page here.

My weekend probably wasn’t one that was typical for the average GP player. I live in Florida and I used the GP weekend as a chance to also visit my father who lives in Seattle, just a few hours away. So no Magic karaoke or late night beer binges for me, I spent time with him when I wasn’t GPing as I don’t get to see him very often.

Checking Twitter.

Hot restaurant under a friggen waterfall.

I got in Thursday and we spent most of that day driving around and seeing the outdoor sights. I love the Pacific Northwest and its climate and the nature out there. No city life for me, I saw waterfalls and rivers, ate some great food…it was awesome.

Check out that view…

Double rainbow?? What does it mean???

Friday rolled around and we got to the convention center at around 9:30 with preregistration opening at noon. Standing in line was pretty uneventful; the line had to relocate literally like 3 times because the tournament organizers would come out and tell us we were at the wrong door. I did see Brad Nelson in the line once, he showed up and just started standing with us which was kind of weird. He made a phone call shortly thereafter and someone from Channel Fireball came out and let him in VIP style, that’s how he rolls.

The convention center from outside.

Checking Twitter again I’m sure and drinking a tasty blueberry smoothie.

I did get to meet Jesse and the 60cards.com crew while I was waiting, I saw the group come down the stairs with matching white 60cards.com shirts. They looked like some sort of new boy band, walking down the stairs in line together all dressed in white. They were so dreamy. It was awesome meeting them all, including Jesse whom I’ve talked to on Twitter a few times.

Jessie and his crew telling me how awesome they are.

Most awkward thing that day was walking around having all the guys with beards say “eh” to me because I really wanted to meet Jay Boosh from The Eh Team podcast but I didn’t really know what he looked like. I knew that voice though. When we got inside finally I was just standing in line and what do I hear from like 5 people ahead of me? That enchanting voice. I know he posted on his Twitter that his goal was for someone to ask for his autograph so I jumped right in and hollered “JAY BOOSH” and had him sign my bag when we got out of line because, seriously, I didn’t have anything else for him to sign.

The only other highlight of Friday was that I met my favorite player; Tomoharu Saito. I was seriously giddy like a school girl. He actually messaged me on Twitter a week or so beforehand when I asked him if he was coming and if he would sign my Player tokens of himself, which he said he would. When I saw him on Friday he was busy selling a bunch of Japanese cards for Power 9 at the Star City Games booth so I didn’t bother him. I had him sign my mat and he said that on Saturday to find him and he would sign all my tokens! It was so amazing and he was such a cool person!

Hail to the King Baby.

On Saturday we took the train to the convention center and got ready to play in my first ever GP.

Getting on the train.

I’m not going to go over rounds or anything because that’s boring but after deckbuilding I thought I had a decent deck. It disagreed. It was mainly green because I had Garruk Wildspeaker, Protean Hydra, Cudgel Troll, Micotic Slime and assorted other green goodies. I had some white in it too including a Day of Judgment which works well with the Troll and Slime. I proceeded to go 1-3. The fourth round was my fault, I Day of Judgmented too soon in game 3 and he dropped a Stormtide Leviathan the next turn which I couldn’t deal with. If I was only patient and waited one more turn…

Deckbuilding I think.

Focused and ready to get to it…

I was pretty bummed out that my deck never seemed to come together in the GP main event but I used the opportunity to get some more cards signed that I didn’t Friday and mingle. I brought along my Standard Conscription deck with me so I decided to play in a Standard Win-a-Box side event while I had time, which I promptly won 3-0. The second game in the finals was kind of nerve racking though because as we were playing Brian Kibler just happened to walk up to us and watched us play. It made me nervous at least since I’ve never been around the “pros” before. But he was absolutely awesome. After the game he asked if I minded him giving my opponent some advice to which I replied of course not. He told him about a couple misplays he made and didn’t do it in an arrogant way whatsoever; he was really awesome about it without talking down to us at all us normies.

That\’s me winning a box.

The absolute highlight of my weekend and my Magic playing career was when I found Saito again and he recognized me and signed all my Player tokens and sat there and talked with me about Magic. We talked about Legacy, his favorite formats, his new store that recently opened up in Japan…the experience to just sit there and talk with him was so awesome I will never forget it. Thanks you Saito so much for being totally awesome to me, it really made my weekend.

He\’s got a really detailed signature too…

Sunday I went back to get some more cards signed but while I was there I decided I might as well play in the PTQ for Paris so I signed up. My deck ended up not being nearly as strong as my GP deck but I did better for some reason. It was three colors which was my downfall most likely but I really didn’t have 2 clear cut good colors. I had a Vengeful Archon, great green creatures, and some blue flyers and card draw. All my removal was white or blue but all the decent creatures I had were green so I had to do the best I could. I started out 2-1 but then lost two in a row to drop, one was only due to getting color screwed in 2 of the 3 games.

Players…playing.

I saw Kibler walking around so I asked him if he had a minute to look at my deck and give me some advice on how I could have made a better deck. He was awesome about it and gave me his thoughts, mostly about how I didn’t have any mana fixing so I probably shouldn’t have gone 3 colors. He’s a much smarter man than I so I should probably listen. But it was very cool of him to even take the time to check out my deck as it was between draft rounds and he probably just wanted to stay focused or whatever.

I met a lot of pros during the weekend and had them all sign my playmat and they were super nice about it. I chatted up a few of them and they all seemed to be very approachable and friendly. I asked Cedric Philips to draw an Esper Charm on my playmat but he declined. Bummer. I even had PV write a note to my wife in Portuguese on my mat because she’s from Brazil too…it was awesome. Brad Nelson, Saito, Woods, Kibler, Ochoa, Gerry T, LSV, Josh Utter-Leyton, and Chapin all signed my mat too.

Brad Nelson signs my mat.

Greatest pro though during the weekend was Brian Kibler (other than my man Saito of course). He was super nice to me when we talked but the icing on the cake was when I saw him in the bathroom (get your mind out of the gutter). He was at the urinal near me pissing while still holding his draft deck with both hands and shuffling. He was shuffling a deck with both hands while pissing at a urinal, how bad ass is that? The man doesn’t need hands to piss. He is a king among men…although I admit it was pretty awkward.

I also met the one and only inkwell_looter and had him sign my Elspeth emblem plus he gave me some of those nifty plant token business cards. He was definitely a cool guy and drove up there from San Francisco to play in the GP.

Heading into Cupcake Jones.

My weekend ended with walking around downtown Portland, eating some good grub and hitting up a cupcake shop called Cupcake Jones which was AMAZING. Yes, I am a chef and I want to start a cupcake bakery someday so it was completely awesome to actually go to one as we don’t have any in Florida. We then ended up at the Big Horse Brew Pub in Hood River where me and my Dad just hung out and I contemplated the events of the weekend. It had a beautiful view…

Contemplating the weekend.

The view from the Big Horse Brew Pub.

But one last thing, passing through security at the airport on Monday to fly back to Florida, guess who I see in front of me? Tomoharu Saito. I yelled his name out and said “You rock” or something to that effect and asked him if he was going home to Japan. Other people just stared at me and the security guy told me to be quite and keep moving. What a buzz kill.

But, what a good end to such a good trip…

Crystal clear skies…

Crystal clear water…

DAM.

Thanks for reading,

Sean “enemyzero” Roden
team birds with rancors

   

Top 5: The Best Magic the Gathering Lands of all Time

Lands are something every Magic deck needs. You can’t play anything without mana right? Well some lands go above and beyond, doing extraordinary things and breaking your wallet at the same time. Let’s have a look at some of the best of all time!

Staff: Please keep in mind these articles are for entertainment only and are only an opinion. If you have a different opinion please share it but be polite and respectful about it.

#5 // Man lands

Man Lands changed the game forever when they were introduced and are currently wreaking havoc in standard once again thanks to the nasties in Worldwake, most notably Celestial Collandade and Lavaclaw Reaches. Man lands are a big factor in nearly all formats and are still underrated by a lot of players that don’t realize just what they add to the game. Back in its heyday, Treetop Village would simply win tournaments and Mutavault is still a base card in Tribal decks of all types.

Jim right before he lost his hands.

Some of the jewels in the Man Land tiara are Treetop Village, Mutavault, Mishra’s Factory, Blinkmoth Nexus, and the current Worldwake quintuplets.
Man lands give lands a chance to break away from the mundane and actually have a hand in killing someone. No longer do they just have to sit there tapping and untapping, some of them can hit someone in the face. If we were a piece of dirt that could slap people in the face when they walked by, well, just sign us up.

They add a whole new dynamic to the game as most wrath effects won’t kill them and they add a layer of strategy that wasn’t there before, changing the way people play the game. Killing lands is much harder than killing creatures and that’s where their strength lies.

Coolest thing to do with: Attacking Jace the Funslayer.

#4 // Dual lands

These are the original lands that go both ways. What they do is allow a player to fix their mana easily and the kicker is that they count as both land types. That means you can fetch these babies up with sac lands to have an easier time fixing your mana or sac your two Taiga’s for a Fireblast which you can’t do with nearly any other non-basic land (with the exception of the Shock Lands from Ravnica).

But obviously the reason they’re on the list is because there is absolutely no drawback to using them. Weaker versions either come into play tapped or don’t untap your next turn or do 2 damage to your face or even bounce other lands back to your hand.

Soon only Bill Gates will be able to afford Dual Lands.

The only drawback is how much they cost nowadays. You could feed starving children in China for a year for what some of you people spend on Underground Seas. Is it worth it? Star City Games says so.

Coolest thing to do with: Make newer players feel inadequate.

#3 // Tolarian Academy

If there was ever a totally broken land, this is it. I mean seriously with all the cheap or zero cost artifacts in the game you can collect blue mana like the Gulf of Mexico is collecting oil. Affinity anyone?

Tolarian Academy’s step brother Gaea’s Cradle could have been on the list but the power level on the Academy is just so much higher with what you can do (ei because it gives you blue mana) with it. Creatures are so easy to kill which can hamstring the Cradle while artifacts aren’t, which means you’ll probably get a lot more longevity out of the Academy.

You can play this guy turn 1 with an Academy!

The Academy was the format defining land during the Urza’s block and launched the ever popular “combo winter” that everyone loved. You would have decks with nearly 30 artifacts, Academys and Stroke of Genius. Yahtzee!

Coolest thing to do with: Tap. The only thing better then a blue mana is a shit-load of blue mana.

#2 // Strip Mine

What’s better than playing a land that does something amazing like Tolarian Academy? Playing a land that can destroy it. Obviously Strip Mine is more powerful then Wasteland or Tectonic Edge which is very evident by the fact that it has been banned or restricted in every format that it has ever been in because it’s just that powerful. It can answer pretty much every other card on this list and your opponent can’t do jack about it.

Strip mine can change games almost single-handedly. You can tap it for mana when you need to so it doesn’t slow you down and, even though you lose a land to destroy a land, it can swing the tempo in your favor whenever you want by destroying something that is special to your opponent like his $200 Tabernacle.

A Tabernacle costs more then my rent.

Really the only thing in the game that stops Strip Mine is a card that only costs one blue mana which leads us to the best land of all time…

Coolest thing to do with: Destroying an opponent’s $200 land with a two dollar uncommon.

#1 // Island

The Island is the single card that changed the face of Magic forever. When everyone else was wanting to play Savannah Lions or Llanowar Elves you could play cards that would prevent them from doing anything, especially have fun.

Preventing people from doing anything while playing a game for fun seems like a non-douche move to us. What’s more fun than not doing anything and just sitting there with your thumb up your butt while your opponent pings you to death with a Prodigal Sorcerer? Dental surgery? Let’s not do anything for 15 turns until I finally drop a Baneslayer or a Sphinx when you have finally given up on life. Good gameplan!

Kinda like playing against a blue deck.

You can do so much crazy shit with an Island it’ll blow your mind, especially if you HAVE MORE THEN ONE! You can end a turn at any time, reset the game at any time, draw handfuls of cards, take an extra turn, take control of nearly any permanent that you “allow” your opponent to play, oh you just paid 27 mana for something? I’ll counter it AND add the mana to my mana pool next turn. Stifle, Daze, counter a spell without even TAPPING an Island ala Force of Will? HOLY SHIT.

In all honesty, when an Island hits the table you should probably just scoop and do something fun like mailing all your Magic cards to us.

Coolest thing to do with: Make the game not fun.

Honorable Mention: Cabbal Coffers, Maze of Ith, Academy Ruins

   

Top 5: The 5 Best RPGs of all Time

Everyone likes a good RPG once and awhile right? The sexually unidentifiable main characters, the badly written dialog, the mindless boredom of 30 minute cinemas. There are a lot of bad RPGs out there but there are also many good ones that break the mold from the normal and excel. Here are our picks for some of the best of all time. Also, SPOILERS.

Staff: Please keep in mind these articles are for entertainment only and are only an opinion. If you have a different opinion please share it but be polite and respectful about it.

5 // Chrono trigger

We seriously had a hard time thinking of anything that we didn’t like about Chrono Trigger. It’s one of the games that Squaresoft laid its foundation on to become one of the most preeminent role playing makers in the business (which apparently gives them a free pass today to make garbage games like Final Fantasy 13 and get away with it).

No caption.

The game itself did a lot of things that not many games did before. It had a very likable cast of characters and they had combo magic attacks depending on which 3 party members you had. It added a little bit of strategy to choosing your party members aside from the normal choice in Squaresoft games…the characters which are the least annoying.

Another big thing we loved was the time travel aspect. Things you did in the past really did affect things in the future. If you left a treasure chest intact in the past and traveled to the far future the item would be upgraded, it was hard skipping over some stuff but it was worth the wait. Quests in the past would change big things in the future and you could see it change right before your eyes, which was awesome.

And they say I’M a nerd?

Replayability isn’t a quality normally associated with RPGs but Chrono Trigger also sported around 15 endings making it one of the most replayable RPGs ever. We can’t help but feel that if they released Chrono Trigger nowadays each ending would be paid DLC…

Coolest moment: When Chrono “dies” halfway through the game.
Lamest moment: That motorcycle minigame.

4 // Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 is the only newer game on the list but it definitely earned the spot. It’s Bioware’s finest game and a perfect hybrid between standard roleplaying aspects and shooter aspects. Bioware really outdid itself with ME2…the story, the graphics, the dialog, the characters, the music and sounds…everything they have done before ME2 just seems like it was practice and ME2 was the magnum opus. Until their next game that is…

Real men don’t look at explosions.

The characters and dialog are the best features again, although the totally redone combat system is close behind. The shooting aspect feels extremely visceral this time around and not “tacked on” like the first Mass Effect’s did at times. All of the characters are fleshed out so well with good backstories and world-class voice acting, it’s really hard to not get attached to them. Our Mordin died in the last scene…it was so sad.

Purely her combat skills are the only reason she didn’t die.

They added tons of new stuff and just flat out got rid of the stupid crap in the first game like the vehicle areas and the HORRID inventory system. Hopefully they fired the guy that made the first’s inventory system because it was just that bad. Seriously, if we were members of the group from Hostel we would chain someone in a room and make them manage our ME inventory for hours. Sadistic I know.

Coolest moment: Greatly improved combat system.
Lamest moment: My head hitting the keyboard after falling asleep while planet scanning.

   
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