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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
On Saturday we took the train to the convention center and got ready to play in my first ever GP.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
Thanks for reading,
Sean “enemyzero” Roden
team birds with rancors