Whether you’re traveling to your first or 50th Grand Prix, there’s always preparation to be done. This edition of The GP Prep is specifically for San Jose, but many of the points here can be directly translated to any tournament you play in or travel to. Anyone looking for actual strategy for this sealed format, Aether Revolt and Kaladesh, feel free to gloss over the next bit as it serves to help Magic players with their non-gameplay experience at a Grand Prix. If not, let’s get started!
Besides the obvious of booking airfare or other travel means to get to San Jose, making sure you have lodging for however long you plan on staying in town, and that you’re actually registered for the tournament, many people don’t consider other travel plans other than those basics. Sure, you might have some sweet food spot you know you want to go to on Saturday night, but there are plenty of other steps you can take to make your Grand Prix experience more enjoyable. Let’s start with the basics.
Grand Prix Travel Prep
Nobody wants to travel for a Magic event and not feel prepared. Bringing a decent variety of clothes can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable inside and outside of the venue. You might not always have the necessary luggage or space to bring everything you want but a few pairs of all the basics (I’m not talking plains, mountains, islands…) and a heavy coat or jacket does an excellent job at not only keeping you fresh but also prepared for most weather scenarios. It’s better to be overdressed and able to take off a coat than to be freezing your ass and having no way to remedy that. Speaking of fresh, don’t forget to bring toiletries; Magic players have an unnecessary stigma of being unhygienic. Simply bringing a toothbrush and deodorant can keep you clean, in fact I usually bring a stick of deodorant with me to the actual event!
Outside of clothing and toiletries, and sometimes even Magic cards, people frequently pack nothing else. The fools! While there’s definitely nothing wrong with the food they sell in and around the Grand Prix location (there’s definitely many things wrong), there are so many added benefits of bringing your own food. Firstly, you don’t have to either a) not eat during the entire tournament or b) scramble to find something in-between rounds. Secondly, you’re generally saving yourself a buttload of money by doing so! Sure, you might not be able to bring a hot pizza or sandwich with you in your backpack but just bringing snacks to munch on will at least keep you alert and not feeling like poop soup. Even just hitting up a grocery store the night before to pick up some fruit or granola bars is an A+ idea. Magic tournaments, especially large public ones, run throughout the course of an entire day and do not have designated break periods. Make sure you eat something before the tournament starts, have a plan for lunch, and prepare your body for a very late dinner.
These are simple enough, yet many people forego packing enough clothes or planning out their meals. Doing even a few of these easy steps will provide a much better tournament experience. Of course, these things speak nothing of gameplay, and having poor results at the Grand Prix tables can certainly leave a negative feeling. At least you’ll be wearing clean clothes and have some food in your belly!
Grand Prix San Jose
Whether you read the GP Travel Prep section or simply skipped to here, (it wasn’t long, slacker) this is where the actual analysis of the Aether Revolt/Kaladesh sealed format will happen. This advice doesn’t simply apply to the Grand Prix, however, it can be applied to any event where Aether Revolt and Kaladesh are the limited format of choice! I’ll start with sealed since that’s the format that’ll be played on Day 1 of the Grand Prix, and it’s probably the format that people will have the least experience with going into it.
At Grand Prix San Jose you’ll get six booster packs. You open your packs, find 23 playables and shove 17 lands in. Done.
Okay, it’s not that easy, but that’s the simplified version of what you’ll do. Grand Prix are marathons and not sprints, and that’s true of both deck construction and personal energy output. Sealed format is generally slower than draft, and oftentimes more bomb driven. With four packs of Aether Revolt and two packs of Kaladesh you’re going to see familiar faces, but you’re also going to see many cards that you’ve probably not had a chance to play with any frequency seeing as the set just came out. I find it somewhat useless to simply point out all of the ‘bombs’ you can open as most of them are found at the rare and mythic spot, but it is important to know what they do. I find it more useful to take a look at the tricks in a new set in order to (hopefully) better play around them come game-time. Let’s take a look at some from each color, starting with White.
Not the easiest card to play around, and not really a ‘trick’, but definitely a card worth playing around. Aerial Modification turns the vehicle into a creature, meaning it no longer needs to be crewed to attack or block. If your opponent is extremely aggressive in getting in damage and has any vehicles you might want to watch your life total. To note, this does NOT only have to enchant a vehicle, it can be used on a creature to just pump it up while giving it flying.
Cheap, efficient, and modal. This is probably a card I will undervalue and get punished by innumerous times throughout the life of this limited format. An easy way to trigger revolt, save a creature, or boost one up in combat – be prepared to see this card and play around it if possible.
Much higher utility than good ol’ Fragmentize, at common you should be ready to face this card many times. In racing situations this shines as artifacts and enchantments are not only prevalent in this format but the added lifegain makes going for ‘lethal’ attacks much scarier. Imagine killing your opponent’s last blocker, attempting to swing in for lethal, only to have them decommission to survive the attack and blast you on the backswing. Gross. Similar to Appetite for the Unnatural, I’ll always be happy to maindeck the first of these, and probably play even more.
There have been many iterations on this type of card, and all of them are quite decent. With the addition of Aether Revolt into the mix we find ourselves with plenty of high-quality creatures with toughness three or less, but I’m afraid tricks only available during combat are not at their best. Not only is it generally pretty easy to sniff them out (you don’t have to attack with three 1-toughness creatures, after all) but they also suffer from the revolt mechanic being in the format. We might very well see this card being used more frequently by the attacker than by the person being attacked. Just be careful when you’re opponent is holding up the mana to cast a deft dismissal.
Saves creatures from removal, untaps creatures to block, re-triggers revolt, this card is great and can lead to huge blowouts. Try not to let it blow you out.
Generic bounce spell that cantrips. Good enough for me.
Does your opponent have three mana open? Two mana and an artifact? One mana and two artifacts? This card is scary, and at common it wouldn’t be surprising to see people play multiples of these. You can’t always afford to play around something like Metallic Rebuke but it’s always something that you should be prepared to see.
Generally these types of cards aren’t good enough to make the cut in a sealed environment but are always worth noting. Certainly a card that can be annoying, in any case.
Not the most amazing removal spell ever printed but undoubtedly a fine one, especially with the scry. Whether using this to kill a smaller creature or shrink a larger one in combat, I would probably maindeck every single one of these that I opened if I was playing black.
I’m not sure why but I’ve always been a fan of these sorts of cards. They’ve never overly impressive in any capacity but are often just good enough. The nice part of this card is that it targets any permanent, so you can even save a vehicle that hasn’t been crewed yet. In a pinch, target a land and get a 1/1 servo token – now that’s value.
Decent combat trick that has the potential to force through large amounts of damage because it grants trample. I wouldn’t actively be looking to play this in a sealed deck but if you have a sweet aggressive deck go for it.
This is one of those combat tricks you’re always hoping your opponent doesn’t have, which probably makes it worth running the first. First strike is the king in combat, and this provides it at the cost of only a single red.
I’ve been moderately impressed with the Highspire Infusion, it just has some nice utility. Fueling your energy reserves while being a decent combat trick makes this a card I expect to see in many green decks.
This card is terrifying and I expect it to win quite a few games while part of the limited format. Buffing a vehicle is great (though it doesn’t make the vehicle a creature, to note) but turning one of your random servos or non-creature artifacts into a huge threat at instant speed seems very good to me. It does require a bit of work as your deck needs a certain threshold of artifacts but otherwise it’s solid.
Another nice removal spell for green, though Natural Obsolescence notably does not hit enchantments. Another card you’re probably maindecking the first copy of, and bringing in any additional if the need arises.
These are just the basics and I certainly have not gone into the most depth of cards that you should be thinking about as Grand Prix San Jose approaches. Beyond these named cards you will still see plenty of your favorites from Kaladesh, and that’s one of the beautiful things about a two-set sealed format – the variety. Specific strategy was not the intent of this article, it was just to help get you started in a new format and thinking about cards you’re very likely to encounter at the Grand Prix. If you want to see actual gameplay with the new cards, well you’re in luck. Aether Revolt releases on Magic Online January 25th and I plan on streaming it until I have to leave for San Jose. That gives me plenty of time to jam for practice and you, if you’re tuning in, plenty of gameplay to watch. I’ll see you there.