This is a guest post from Grant “Chuggy Bear” Shindo

Magic the Gathering fans and players just returned from one of the largest Grand Prix ever in Las Vegas, Nevada. In true Vegas fashion, we got three times the GPs we hoped for with a Legacy, Limited and Modern GP rolled all into one weekend.

I arrived late Tuesday evening from beautiful Hawaii and after a quick bite of an In-N-Out 3×3 cheeseburger with animal style fries, started studying the cards in Amonkhet in a last-ditch effort to prepare for the sealed portions of GP Vegas.

I was confident in my ability to draft and subsequently construct but sealed practice was always tricky since it gets expensive online and getting a sealed tournament to fire in store in practically impossible outside of pre-release weekend.

Here’s a list of my biggest takeaways from my first Grand Prix:

Get to the Grand Prix as early as possible. If there’s a day where they’re running side events and last chance trials, getting the lay of the land ahead of time is invaluable. Acclimating to the tournament environment (we don’t play competitive REL often so getting in some reps before the main event helps calm nerves) is important especially for your first big tournament. The adage, “the early bird gets the worm” applies here and especially applies to my next point.

Be prepared to sell singles. The buy lists were unusually aggressive at this giant GP. Vendors like Hareruya looked to obtain as many copies of staples in all formats prior to the main events starting. The prices in the photo are from Wednesday before the main events started. Eventually the listed prices came down slightly as the tournament went on but overall ended up at or above low pricing.

Last chance trials are a good way to squeeze that last bit of practice into your training. I came into the tournament with two byes with a win at a local GPT but I entered a sealed last chance trial just to practice card selection and deck building with a sealed pool. These trials are also competitive REL so cleaning up your gameplay also isn’t a bad idea. Practice how you play, right? I ended up going 3-0 and negotiated prizes with my last round opponent since he needed the byes (I got his prize tix from that round).

GPs are a desert and GP Vegas is a desert inside a desert. Bring your own water to keep hydrated throughout the event and drink often. Your day often starts at 9 a.m. and ends late in the evenings and I’ve been told that the big tournaments are marathons where you play nine rounds in a single day. I brought two 1.5 liter bottles each day and just stuffed them in my backpack and I’m glad I did. No fighting crowds during lunch or having to run to a fast food shop in between rounds. Don’t worry too much about bathroom breaks, just make sure you let a judge know each time you go if you’re worried about getting to the next round on time. If you need to go during a round, call a judge and they’ll work it out with you.

Be friendly, courteous and gracious. There’s a lot of nervous energy in these big events and there’s a lot at stake for some of the other players. To help take the edge off, I’d chat with my opponents and get to know them a little bit as we shuffled up. Even small talk helps both players feel more relaxed and improve the communication from the onset of the match, making the player interactions that much more clear.

Have fun. This sounds really cliché but it’s important to step back and have a good time. Know what you find exciting and go do it. I played a Modern Masters 2017 sealed event that had double the prize payouts and even with a mediocre pool ended up doing well and meeting some friendly people along the way. Don’t pass up the opportunities to meet other players and their cheering squads. One of the most rewarding conversations I had all weekend was with a dad from California that plays kitchen table Magic with his family and had to drive over 30 miles to the nearest LGS just to pick up product. He was proud and excited to watch his son play against some of the very best Magic players at Grand Prix Vegas.

Overall my very first GP went well making the cut to Day 2 with a record of 6-3 using this solid BW aggressive build. Drafts went well and through some bits of variance I ended with a record of 9-6, #347 with 27 match points. I’m excited to compete in another GP soon and keep improving my gameplay and final standings.