One Night in Bangkok and the World's Your Oyster
- Mark Pinder
You're probably wondering, what the musical Chess has got to do with Magic: The Gathering. Well, in October, Mark took a trip to MagicFest Bangkok, and now he tells us all about the experience. Read up on a week of Magic and the magic of Bangkok itself.
My partner and I love attending MagicFests. Apart from the events in the United Kingdom we've done several European trips, with our first trip away together being to Utrecht and then celebrating my birthday in Stockholm. So this year we were looking at possible destinations … I liked the idea of going to Copenhagen as we'd get the chance to do some sightseeing as well, maybe taking in the statue of the Little Mermaid. She priced up the trip and it wasn't going to be cheap with no real budget flight options, plus the expense when we got to Denmark could be prohibitive. Rachel then dropped the bombshell into the conversation: "I've done some checking and whilst the flight is more expensive, overall it would be cheaper to go to Thailand."
Our money went so much further than expected. We were in a four-star luxury hotel with the most amazing buffet breakfast: unlike the UK/Europe it changed everyday to give you a variety of options. Bangkok itself though was great for eating out with the choice of numerous roadside street-food stalls or fully air-conditioned restaurants. Our budget for food went a very long way and by comparison we spent less in Thailand for twice the stay of a weekend at MagicFest London earlier in the year. Many meals had a Thai kick to them being spicy and hot, even the household names among fast food outlets such as KFC and Mcdonald's.
The Fanatic Package
Our first big choice was what we were going to do: in which tournaments to participate. We decided to go for maximum value getting a Fanatic Package for $150 which allowed us to enter five Sealed events and gave us a playmat on top. That seemed like a sweet deal, especially when to play Standard it probably would have cost more than $150 to complete a deck in the newly rotated format. This proved to be a great choice as we came back with a box full of new cards and we're able to cash in some more desirable cards like a full art The Royal Scions to acquire another Questing Beast.
At 813 players, the Grand Prix was smaller than European GPs and the side events were also much smaller. We had 20-player Sealed tournament and eight people playing Legacy next to us. CFB didn't run the show themselves, instead outsourcing the organization to Panda Events from China. It felt very retro, much like a Grand Prix from several years ago: no online pairings or payments on the day. However, the event was still well run and I'd certainly consider attending another one hosted by Panda in the future. The real difference is that CFB have run so many events that they've developed a great infrastructure and an experienced team to run the events in a way we may take for granted.
The players were very friendly and the majority had a reasonable grasp of English. The strangest thing we discovered was the very small number of women among the players.
The Prize Wall
This was very similar to the event as a whole: decent prizes on offer but slightly less impressive than at a European Grand Prix—no oversized cards and only English booster packs from Standard-legal sets. However, they had an impressive collection of singles including several Chinese prerelease foils and English Throne of Eldraine foils.
I enjoy meeting the dedicated Magic fans who cosplay as their favorite characters. I feel they add greatly to the atmosphere of an event. All weekend long, we didn't spot one person in costume, not even a Fblthp, the Lost.
There was a wide array of singles traders from within the region. Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and China were all represented, but we didn't have any Korean traders. Many of the traders from Italy and Canada that you regularly see at European events, had made the journey too.
There was a great supply of English, Chinese, and Japanese cards, but pretty much just singles, the only boosters being expensive Chinese Modern Horizons. However, everything we wanted we found quite easily and there were plenty of older cards in foil or a foreign language that will be making an appearance in our Commander and Pauper decks.
So Sunday comes along and our events start time wasn't until the early afternoon, so we decided to do some sightseeing. We went to the famous Chatuchak Market which was a truly amazing place to visit. We managed to experience the street food and get souvenirs for all the family. Too many people visit a MagicFest but never venture further than the convention center and their hotel. You will get so much more by spending time in the country experiencing the culture.
When we were ready to leave, we headed for the local taxi rank to get back to the venue faster, but that was when I saw the alternative: a tuktuk. Now Rachel had mentioned before we left she'd love to have a ride in a tuktuk and the opportunity had presented itself to us. We hopped in and using my trusty phone showed our driver where we wanted to go.
Whoosh!! That's best we to describe our driver pulling out into traffic and then flooring the tuktuk into the busy street. Then we hit stationary traffic and apparently the three-lane road had a fourth lane as we weaved through the traffic. We arrived at a roundabout and we were off at speed playing chicken with taxis, mopeds, and the occasional pick-up truck. We hit the open road and we could finally breathe. I'm not sure what the speed limit was, but it certainly felt we were above and beyond. It was an exhilarating thrill ride that belonged in a theme park, not the open road. It's a trip I won't forget in a hurry.
One of the best things about a MagicFest is that usually you can find something that no one else has and serves as a unique memento when you get home. I feel a lot of the enjoyment from Magic: The Gathering is the social experience and the ability to talk about fond memories. As many of my regular readers will know I'm a big fan of the Pauper format and one of my favorite decks is Monoblack Control. One of the key cards is Thorn of the Black Rose which features "The Monarch" mechanic from Conspiracy …
While talking to Jeff Laubenstein, one of the artists present, he mentioned he did personal commissions for tokens and the like. On the flight over I'd watched a couple of films including "Rocketman" and "Bohemian Rhapsody"—something clicked in my head and a quick google search later I had my photo and asked for a custom Monarch emblem based around Freddie and Queen. What better way to represent the Monarch?
It's my proudest purchase of the weekend and had exactly the desired effect when I brought it from my deck box and placed it on the table during FNM. The players on either side stopped and looked too.
Overall the trip to Thailand was amazing. We met so many new people and the environment was amazing. We will still be attending MagicFests in the UK and in Europe, but we will also be planning a return trip to Thailand at some point, just to take in the wonderful country. However, we also loved the Magic experience. We've already started saving for more long-distance Magic trips. We just need to find a new destination. Las Vegas is an early contender and so is Japan for the cultural experience.
My final word of advice is that there is so much to do at and around a MagicFest, so take the opportunity to explore the host city and make some great memories yourselves!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.