A lot of people asked me how my trip to Las Vegas went this year, and I’ll Reiterate my response for you all here. It was hot and expensive! Over the course of the weekend we saw a high of 110*F, definitely a lot hotter than I’m used to here in Boise, Idaho. I drove down there with my good friend and coworker Joe Davidson (@MTGJoeD) and my teammate and new friend Chaz (@ChazMtg). It was an interesting 10 hour trip from Boise to Las Vegas, with a lot of real pretty dirt and sagebrush as scenery. Luckily we had Africa by Toto playing on a 10 hour loop and great conversation to pass the time. Shoutouts to Cliff Bars for being the best road trip snack.
The ride into the city from the highway was probably the most trying time of the whole trip. We all had full bladders, and as soon as we hit the strip ran into the strangest parade of all time, featuring Darth Vader and the Ghostbusters riding on a float together. Thirty minutes later, we had made it to our Airbnb, a two-bedroom apartment that would be inhabited by 11 dudes over the course of the weekend. I was able to set up camp on the couch and have a somewhat decent amount of space claimed for my belongings. Shortly after settling in, we arranged for two Ubers to come collect us and bring us to In-N-Out Burger. This turned out to be a huge mistake for me, as the food did not agree with my stomach in the slightest. Despite this setback, I was able to recover enough to get some sleep in order to prepare for the Modern Main event the next day.
I made the Modern Main Event my focus for this trip, deciding to play Blue Moon. I’m an Izzet Mage at heart, and I really like the idea of curving out T1 Serum Visions, T2 Remand, T3 Blood Moon, T4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor to lock my opponents out of the game. As well, I thought I had a good Humans matchup with a smattering of Lightning Bolts, Abrades, and Electrolyzes to clear the board and lock up their non-basic lands. With the rise in popularity of Jeskai Control, I was feeling confident in being able to win counter wars with a good selection of counter magic like Remand and Spell Snare in order to stick a Blood Moon early and proceed to Fateseal them with Jace. I knew I would have a rough run against any Bloodbraid Elf strategies, and I desperately hoped to dodge Krark-Clan Ironworks decks throughout the day. Regardless of deck choice, my expectation for myself was to play all my rounds to the best of my ability, and finish out the day.
Round 1 vs 4 Color “Lingering Jund”
I was paired against what I should have had a great matchup against in theory, as I have Blood Moon in my deck. Unfortunately, my opponent somehow sniffed out from basic Island into Serum Visions that I was on Blue Moon. It went to a game three situation, but Abrupt Decay was able to deal with my Blood Moon on time everytime. 0-1
Round 2 vs Boros Burn
I tried not to let my last round demoralize me, and I walked into this match with a lot of confidence. Seeing a turn 1 Monastery Swiftspear shook me a little bit, but I was able to have every bit of removal and counter magic when I needed them, and turned the corner with Snapcaster beats for a 2-0 victory. My opponent broke the golden rule of ‘Never take guys to 1.’ 1-1
If any of you had not heard already, the break between Round 2 and 3 was nearly 3 hours long, as something went wrong with Event Reporter causing many match results to be lost. This allowed time to grab a proper breakfast and talk about our future matches with the team, but was definitely a rough wait to deal with while trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Channel Fireball made it right by issuing all of those who entered a “Golden Ticket,” good for one GP Entry during the remainder of the year. While I was happy to learn my next entry was paid for, I knew I had to stay sharp and not let the long break get to me.
Round 3 vs Humans
Finally, the matchup I prepared most for! Opponent won the die roll and led off with Ancient Ziggurat, pass to instantly tell me what deck he was on. I was thankful to draw the Lightning Bolts and Blood Moons before he could get any real pressure on the table in game 1 and locked him out with Jace, exactly my plan. Game 2, I kept a subpar hand that led to a long game, eventually resulting in Dire Fleet Daredevil stealing my Bolts and killing me quick. Game 3, my opponent and I took turns punting the game away to each other, but I punted one time less, giving me the victory. 2-1
Round 4 vs KCI
Like I said earlier, I was hoping to dodge this deck, but no dice. My opponent was fairly proficient at playing the deck, and that was good enough to help him win the first game. After sideboard, I was able to bring in enough artifact hate and disruption to steal Game 2, but our last game unfortunately went to time. I had very little in terms of resources at the end of the match, while my opponent had a ton of artifacts and an active Ghirapur Aether Grid. I decided to concede rather than take a draw. 2-2
Round 5 vs Jeskai Control
Blood Moon was worth its weight in gold for this match! I won the die roll, and executed my primary strategy of resolving a Blood Moon T3 followed by Jace T4 for Games 1 and 3. Opponent drew too many Celestial Colonnades for him to cast more than one spell a turn, which I always had counter magic for. The Dream was still alive! 3-2
Round 6 vs Mardu Pyromancer
And then The Dream was dead. We went to Game 3, where threats and answers went back and forth for nearly a dozen turns. We ended up both going hellbent and top decking land after land until I found a Mind Sculptor. I started drawing a lot of cards, but after seeing 11 lands and 1 actual spell after fetching and reshuffling, opponent was able to find nothing but gas. 3-3 and out of Day 2 contention.
Round 7 and 8 vs Jeskai Control
A bit demoralized after my last loss, I resolved that I wasn’t going to give up in my next two rounds. I wish I had played against nothing but this deck all day, as Blood Moon effectively functions as a Rule of Law where the opponent can never defend any of their plays with counter magic, as Blue mana comes at a premium when they only have three basic Islands. I smashed my last two rounds 2-0 each, and felt a bit better to finish with a positive record of 5-3. Better than my previous year’s finish, where I didn’t even complete the day’s rounds. I was a bit bummed out to not make Day 2, but I quickly realized that I had two more days in Las Vegas with my friends and teammates, which put me in a better mood. Any chance to go to a Grand Prix feels good, and I hope to do better at my next big tournament. Congrats to our teammate Brian Young (@firstworstmtg) for making Day 2 of Modern!
Post Main Event
Las Vegas is the city of excess and luxury, and my previous years trip was done on a very strict budget. This year, I had planned ahead and budgeted to do some cool stuff, such as visiting the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace! I made it my goal to eat there at least once during the trip, and with my Saturday freed up, I took the opportunity to each brunch there. All you can eat seafood, Asian Cuisine, Mexican, and even some Southern staples were present on the fantastic buffet line. I enjoyed several trips to the Sushi Bar they had running, and I loved every minute of it. If you ever get the chance to eat here, I highly recommend it.
After my belly was full, I went back to the convention center to cheer on my teammates playing in the Limited Main Event, hit the artist alley, and scoped out what kind of sweet deals were to be had at the vendor tables. Getting my Force of Will’s signed by Terese Nielsen was definitely the highlight of my weekend. Later in the evening, 8 of us decided to do a Dominaria draft. I was able to eek out a 3-0 with a very nice GW deck, surely proving I was the draft master at the table.
We rounded our night off with a trip to the Firefly Tapas bar, where I had a delicious Chicken Mushroom Paella. The table was full of talk about our matches throughout the weekend, and a lot of cheering for Brian Young and Joby Parrish(@JobyMTG) who made both made Day 2 of their events. I had a great time hanging out with everyone and enjoying the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, but my wallet and I were very ready to return home the next day.
The drive home was filled with 10 more hours of Africa by Toto, and a lot of talk of where to go next between Joe and I (side note from the editor, Joe also got a big ol’ speeding ticket). Overall, I had an amazing trip, and was happy to get to know my teammates on a more personal level outside of the LGS in our area. Most importantly, this tournament definitely lit a fire in me to push harder for tournament Magic. I hope to push past the Day 2 barrier at my next GP, hopefully by practicing harder in the coming weeks for GP Sacramento. My goal this year is to grind out at least one GP Bye for next season, and make some deeper runs past the first day.
Props: Joby and Brian for their solid finishes on Day 2, the Bacchanal for having incredible food, Channel Fireball for hosting a great GP, and @DaneJensenMTG for holding the team together and keeping us from murdering each other all weekend.
Slops: In-N-Out burger for giving me food poisoning, the three hour wait between rounds 2 and 3, and the Las Vegas weather being way too hot!
Follow me on Twitter @chroberry to see some sweet pictures from throughout the weekend, and the rest of the team @TeamABU.