How to Make a MagicFest Magical
- Mark Pinder
Usually, when you talk about the MagicFest, your first thoughts are of the Grand Prix main event taking place. However, there are a whole load of other events you can take part in, as well as other MagicFest experiences that can make your weekend a great one.
I wasn't been planning on attending MagicFest London last month, but then it was announced that the Mythic Championship was coming too. My wife also plays Magic: The Gathering and was excited at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Mythic Championship being on home soil. Well, April is already a pretty special month for us – this year would be the first anniversary of our marriage, so we decided to have our anniversary break a couple of weeks late. But after we'd booked, we discovered that it was going to be a Grand Prix Pre-Release as well! Missing our store's Pre-Release was a big thing, but by then we had already booked our accommodations. There was no going back.
This is by far the most important aspect of your trip to a MagicFest. You want to go home with fond memories and be able to recant tales of your awesome weekend. The easiest way to set this plan rolling is by taking advantage of the playmat on offer – we all use playmats and it's a great conversation opener.
When I got married in 2018, my wife-to-be let me loose for one day in Las Vegas to play Magic. It came as quite a surprise when I managed to find an actual PPTQ that weekend rather than just go to an FNM. My crazy accent and Grand Prix Liverpool playmat got me new friends really fast. Sitting in an air-conditioned room talking about football (or soccer as they call it), I chuckled when one of the players turned out to be an Arsenal fan. Three thousand miles from home and I found myself chatting with a "Gooner". It's surreal when one of your best mates is also a fan of Arsenal F.C.
Below is the gorgeous Mythic Championship playmat that I acquired, by the way.
The Prize Wall
Nowadays, most Magic players are used to receiving boosters as prizes. MagicFests give out boosters too, so everything will be familiar. Prizes though are given in the form of tickets and these tickets are then cashed in for whatever is available in an area called the Prize Wall.
All current Standard-legal boosters will be present for 10 tickets, then at varying rates, other prizes can be acquired with your tickets. At Grand Prix Liverpool, they had Ultimate Masters Box Toppers for 100 tickets, which sold out long before the end of the event. Other unique prizes can also be sourced, like foil uncut sheets of Magic cards, an oversized card for several hundreds or even thousands of tickets, and other sought-after items. More casual items like an event t-shirt can cost from 50 to 100 tickets.
MagicFest London was no different. The only issue was War of the Spark wasn't officially released worldwide yet, so not all of its products were available. However, they did have all War of the Spark singles available during the weekend while stocks lasted.
Here is my Alara Reborn sheet of foil uncommons that I had framed several years ago:
You don't have to enter the main event to play at MagicFest. There are plenty of side events that you can take part in. Channel Fireball also offered a bundle of events wherein you pay upfront for several daily events over the three days, which can equate to quite some savings.
My wife Rachel took the Constructed Fanatic Package option and spent the weekend playing Standard against a wide array of players and decks, including a few home brews.
Rachel ran Simic Stompy (Andreas Reling wrote about his trek to Mythic on Arena in this article) all weekend after seeing it in real life when I ran it to FNM glory the previous week. By playing so many events and having great results in the Double Ups, she managed to acquire around 450 tickets in total that whole weekend. This would have equated to a booster box and still have lefotver tickets. Rachel came away with three Gideon Blackblades and a foil God-Eternal Oketra for her efforts.
I'm usually a die-hard main event player. But the range of packages on offer with the ability to now pick up promo cards and playmats without entering the main event? This seems like a very attractive opportunity for me in the future, especially after seeing Rachel extolling the virtues of her chosen package all weekend.
In London, we also received the below promo Lightning Bolt card and playmat. Other rewards, depending in the event, can include pens, pads, sleeves, and deck boxes.
Every MagicFest has several card traders on site with a vast array of cards that you are unlikely to see in your local games store. Not only are there staples in every format available in display cases, but there are also many folders stocked with cards for your perusal. The fun part though is probably the bargain boxes where you can find a good bargain or two. I picked up these Japanese bad boys in foil, Woodland Cemetery and Hinterland Harbor.
My favourite card that I acquired was this Japanese magazine promo of Cast Down, which is extremely rare. I even had to ask what the card was as I didn't recognize the artwork.
Several sellers will also allow you to bulk in all your rare and mythic rare cards for a nominal amount. But a few hundred soon becomes a sizeable amount to grab some staples for whatever is your favorite format or for a desired foil.
Whilst bargains can be had, if the main event is Constructed, then try to acquire your cards in advance – unless you are prepared to pay premium for cards on that day. This cost, however, can also be mitigated by trading in desired cards or in bulk.
The artists gallery usually has about half a dozen artists and for a small fee, you can get your cards signed by the artist themselves. For slightly more, an artist will customize your card with some unique extension or doodle. The artists also sell playmats of their most popular works and signed prints. I've several framed prints in my Magic study.
One of the most popular items artists sell are tokens. RK Post is a regular at MagicFest and he has a great range of tokens that he signs for free when you purchase them. He regularly updates his collection as new sets come out and when new alternate tokens are requested.
You will also find that many artists are players as well and just generally great people. I've had the pleasure of chatting with Jeff Laubenstein who did the artwork for one of my favorites of all time – Scragnoth. He also did the artwork for Show and Tell.
Sometimes, there are casual games of Magic in the main hall, but with so many scheduled events, space can be at a premium. However, you can always explore the options of Turbo Town which follow:
The Turbo Town feature is great fun. You buy entry tokens then head over to the reserved area where you can play a one-on-one match in any format. You either play the person waiting for a game in the desired format or you can simply sit and wait. You can even play against your friends to generate prize tickets and get some bragging rights for the trip home. I really enjoyed being in Turbo Town as the War of the Spark events ran to time at every round. So by the time I had finished, I had already missed out on the organized Pauper events, but still managed to get several games in. What was also good was that the local meta is pretty much locked in, so getting to play against different decks was great fun.
If you look at my profile picture, you will see me with Nahiri and Chandra at GP Utrecht a couple of years ago. The time and effort that cosplayers put into their looks are amazing. If you see someone dressed as your favorite character, don't be afraid to say "hi" and ask for a photo. I've never been refused a photo, although common sense applies, so don't ask when they are playing or when the pairings have just been announced. I've found that cosplayers are really grateful for positive feedback, so grab that photo and make their day too!
It's amazing what you can find at MagicFest – and it's not just the cards, playmats, and dice. I picked up some pretty hard-to-come-by items. I'm a big fan of Liliana and this Mexican Day of the Dead variant can cooler is now on display every weekend at my LGS and is a great talking point. It's practical, but looks great too.
By Sunday, I had been pontificating for two days, so I finally gave in. Here I am in my new hoodie.
MagicFest is for all Magic players. No matter your format or skills, there will always be a game for you to play and an atmosphere to soak all in.
MagicFest London was awesome. Whilst results-wise, it wasn't great, I still had the greatest time in everything else that I was also able to do. I watched great matches and even had a chat with LSV about the Limited Resources podcast. I came home with an empty trade folder, but many more new foil cards, unique trinkets, and memories that will last a lifetime.
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