Magic Diaries #2: Traveling to and hanging out at Magic 30

 I had the fortune, or misfortune depending on perception,  of travelling to Magic 30 in Las Vegas during Halloween Weekend. Initially, I wasn't planning on going, however I had friends who were excited to go. I hyped up on my other friends to go together. In the end, only one of my friends went and it wasn't one of the people who hyped me up for the event. As the event was approaching, I was starting to have buyer's remorse as the process of coordinating with my friend was rough since we were busy and I was essentially travelling solo until my friend arrived later. I lucked out in that I had a mostly positive experience thanks largely to just meeting and trading with people. I found the set up was really cool with all over the different set ups they had. It did feel like the event didn't know how to identify itself as there were big announcements and cool events that were taking place right next to the World Championship. Both events set up seemed to be taking away attention from each other. This is the first event that felt more like a convention rather than a tournament with the panels and showroom. I found that the overall experience was entirely dependent on how often you had to interact with the event organizers and staff. "The less, the better" became the general rule for the event.

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Day 1 Friday 10/28

This was probably the worst day for me and it was my longest day. I had a flight at 06:30 that morning and was trying to get some sleep the night before. I ended up only getting 2 hours and would not sleep again until 02:00 Saturday morning. At the airport, I befriended a local who was travelling to Vegas for the weekend because he ended up not buying tickets for Magic 30, even though he reserved a room and plane ticket for Magic 30. We were traveling companions for a good 5hrs from San Diego all the way to Vegas. 

The Front of the TCG portion of Dark Side Games

Once we got to Vegas, we needed to find a way to kill time. I decided to go check out Dark Side Games, which I have been hearing a lot over the years. They opened at 09:00 and I got there around 09:30. Unsurprisingly, the only people there were a couple people travelling to Magic 30 and the staff members. The store seemed like a cool space to play at and the staff was friendly and on point with their customer service. Their gaming space was nice as it was a simple room with Magic art and decorations hanging around. The store portion of the shop was well organized and the products were well displayed. I didn't get a chance to play in any of the events here since it was early, so it's something I want to do when given a chance next time. The main thing I didn't like about the store was that they didn't display enough singles in the case as someone who likes browsing rather than looking it up online. This isn't really a huge deal since my preferred LGS in San Diego doesn't have any singles on display, but there is that extra awe factor when the singles are on display. I ended up picking up a copy of Giver of Runes (foil etched retro frame) for my cube as a souvenir. 

Eventually time came for Magic 30 to start and I made my way over slowly to avoid the long lines. For those of us who are finding out from reading this, the event started off as a shit show on Friday and deservedly got memed on on the internet. I came in excited and I left angry is the summary of what happened on Friday. To start off, I walked into the event carrying everything since I did not check into my hotel and I got checked by the security dog every time. When I got inside I was wandering a bit taking in all of the displays and statues they had set up. I was greeted by people giving away packs if you participated in their video project. What was super cool was that they had themed free play areas based on the various planes. As I finished looking around the showroom, I reoriented myself on what to do. I had a CLB event at around 15:00 and needed to kill time until then. I found a person to trade with and had one of the best interactions trading with this guy. I will cover it in its own section as I constantly had wild trades that weekend. 

My Commanders for this event

Eventually, time for the event came and boy was that an awful experience. The event organizers were relying on a PA system and the companion app to communicate with the crowd, but you couldn't hear anything and my app was not working properly, so that was a complete disaster. The event started about 30 minutes late and I was late for that because I wasn't getting any notifications and staff wasn't any real help since they kept sending me from person to person. When I finally got to my event, they finished drafting the first pack. I was forced to keep my first pack and draft the rest. I was fortunate that I had a solid pack 1 and ended up playing with a sweet Boros Livaan // Noble Heritage deck. 

The 1st round went as expected and we played smoothly. Aside from my deck, Thrakkus, Mahadi, and an Wyll// Faceless One were present. My table underestimated the impact of Noble Heritage on the game and kept taking the counters. This allowed me to swing knowing they couldn't crack back at me. The Thrakkus player was my concern because that commander has the potential to one shot. Thus my game plan was trying to lay low until I could quickly clean up the table. The plan worked as when players stopped taking the counters from Noble Heritage, my Livaan was a 13/15 and he was well on his way with one shotting the other players. I did exactly that with some evasion and removal.

Once we finished however, waiting for round 2 was a pain. We had no idea when the next round would start or how we would pair up. Reporting the results was also broken and didn't make sense since we were in pods of 4, but the app said we were playing 1v1. When asked the judge couldn't really answer our questions. It helped that everyone I played with was great and had a chill time talking to each other to pass time. We waited for an hour when our judge finally came back and just told us to pair ourselves. At that point, it was already 18:00 and my table opted to just split the prizes since people were signed up for other events, me included, and didn't have time to finish a second round.

My next event was the one that broke me, it also coincided with when the event took a huge downturn. The event was scheduled for 19:00, which was when the organizers started kicking everyone out except the people with events at 19:00. This meant the people with events at 20:00 and 21:00 were forced to leave and return at the designated time. At the time, they reserved 1/3 of all the play space for it and there was no more than 50 in it at all times. It was when they finally decided to open up the command zone for use with scheduled events. My event didn't start until 20:30 because the organizers were trying to find space for us to play. It was a Double Masters 2022 Grand Melee event, a 150 man FFA sealed event. For a quick rundown, there are several differences. With 150 players, multiple players are able to take their turn at once with a turn marker indicating whose turn it is, which had to be kept 3 players apart. What's more is that all players had a range of influence of one meaning that spells you play can only impact the player left and right of you. Combat was different as well as you were only allowed to attack to your left and block right. At first, this event ran smoothly, however as players started getting eliminated, the problems with the event manifested. I was expecting that there might have been some delays with taking my turn since people play at different paces, however the turns started taking longer gradually going from 2 minutes to 10mins of waiting. There was a point where I had to wait 30 mins to start my turn without a clue as to why. This happened because the event organizers had to readjust the tables  but didn't know how to go about it. At this point it was 23:00 and I was worn out. Combining this with how poorly the event was going and I was just angry and wanted to go home. I ended up just dropping from the event at 23:30. 

That event still had some cool moments even though it was overall bad. From one end, I heard there was an Ulamog with rancor mowing down players. On the other, Aurelia was doing the same thing and somewhere in the middle there were two dragon players who were at a standstill since they were at the cusp of getting eliminated or getting blown out. Somewhere right next to me, someone was about to start eliminating everyone else with Mayael's Aria. This format would be something I considered doing for cube if I had enough people. The format plays dramatically different from any of the other formats and is a nice breath of fresh air when you want it.

I thought my day was finally over, but checking into the hotel was hectic even though it was 12 at night. I had to wait almost an hour to check in. By the time I finally got into my hotel room, it was 01:15 and my friend finally met up with me.

Day 2 10/29

Waking up and harassing my friend

I woke up dreading returning to the convention center because of the events of yesterday with the knowledge that the day would be even more packed than Friday. This was the one day my friend was going and we originally planned to go together. I packed up the things, got breakfast, and headed over into the convention center. I didn't have any event for the day, so I wasn't under any time pressure.

We checked out the showroom and took the time to look through all the vendors and talk to them. This was when I saw a Wheel of Fortune for a price I was willing to pay for. This Wheel became my trade goal for the weekend. I was planning to sell and trade cards and product until I had enough to pick up the Wheel. So after we finished looking around, we went to the gaming area and to my surprise they opened up more of the command zone for pick up games. I ended up splitting from my friend as I went to focus on trading, while he went to go play commander. We eventually met back up and started playing random commander games together late into the night. When the day ended, I realized that the day went by so well, I honestly felt like Friday never happened. Friday was in fact so bad that the adjustments they made on Saturday made me feel like I was gaslighting people, when I told them how bad it was. 

Day 3 10/30

Sunday morning, I was alone again since my friend had a flight in the morning. Spent that entire morning packing everything up and getting ready to head out to the convention center and eventually home.

As soon as I got to the convention center, I immediately started hitting up people for trades since I only had a Baldur's Gate/ Forgotten Realms sealed event at 14:00. As time for the event to roll around, suddenly all of the problems that were occurring on Friday came back. The event location was switched at the last minute and you would have only known from looking at the app. To make matters more irritating, I had walked across the convention to the original location, only to be told to go back to where I started. Once I got there, the event organizers had to figure out how to organize several different events. When asked for further clarity of what was going on, I was met with the same answer as Friday and had to go around to find the judge, who ended up being placed there last minute and had no idea on the details of the event. 

The prize tickets

Eventually things got sorted out and our judge left us to our own devices. I ended up playing Kyrdle initiative. Initially, I thought my deck was lackluster since I didn't really have a lot of bombs or big plays. The game was going alright until I played Feywild Caretaker. That card straight up took the game over for me as the tokens helped me keep the initiative or take it back. The value generated turned any card I played into a threat and helped me win the game. As that game wrapped up, we were faced with a similar situation as Friday, where we had to wait around for round 2 clueless as to when it will start. By the time Round 2 was about to start it was almost 18:00 and we decided to split since there was only an hour of the convention left. Since I hadn't spent my prize tickets, I made my wall over to the prize wall, which was not looking too hot with the prizes available and I took my chances trying to trade away the prize tix instead (I ended up selling them). With having done everything I wanted, I made my way back home. 

Trading at Magic 30

How it started

Trading was the true highlight of my weekend. I was able to restructure a lot of my collection and left the event with two big items. To prep for trading, I brought my trade binder and a box of Secret Lairs that I was sitting on.

On Friday, I met a cool dude from the American Midwest as soon as I got into the play area and we started trading with one another. He was looking for anything, I was looking for anything, this was the sign this was gonna be a good time trading. I let him know that I also had secret lairs if he was looking for any and he was ecstatic since he didn't buy any. The picture below is the end result with some cash being exchanged as well.

The very first trade I did in Vegas

The trade had me stoked for the weekend was part of the reason I thought it was possible to get a Wheel by the end of the weekend. It was the only trade I did that day since I was playing in several events that day.

Saturday was spent trading with anyone and anything since I had a goal. My strategy was to trade up into higher priced, easier to trade cards, which often meant commander cards. Because of this, I kept trading into and out of Darksteel Plate and Smothering Tithes. I eventually found my big trade for the day. The man was an Argentinian looking for playable cards to bring back home for his local community.  He pulled a lot of my playables from my binder and I ended up grabbing a lot of his unique cards that are harder to find. This resulted in me obtaining a Monastery Mentor (Judge Promo) , Smothering Tithes (Judge Promo), and Sheoldred the Apocalypse (Textured Foil). 

Sunday was just a wild trade experience. Prior to my event, I met a German player who was living in Canada that came to the event. The man was looking for anything and he had some pretty nice cards that he was willing to part with. As I was trading with this man, he was excited to take the rest of my secret lairs and I was for sure excited to take this.

Got my first dual land

At this point I thought this was going to be the highlight of my weekend, but I still did not meet my goal of getting the Wheel. I had to put that goal on pause as I attended my only event on Sunday.

As the convention was coming to a close, I was in a rush to get rid of my event tickets and opted to trade them to other people since I still had a little over an hour to finish. Managed to find a guy who wanted some of my tickets and we did the exchange. I ended up with the Death Baron promo. Still had some tickets left, hence I continue my journey to rid me of these tickets. This is when I found a guy from Texas, who I wanted to trade with earlier but had to catch my event. As we looked through eachother's stuff, "How much for everything?" he asked and this is how that ended.

Met my Weekend Goal

This transaction shook me and I think I might have overdone it for the Wheel, but I left happy with the transaction. There's a little part of me that died when I traded it because I've been working on that binder for almost 10 years. That binder was heavy (probably 10-20 pounds walking into the event) and a lot of people have commented that they enjoyed looking at it since there was so much stuff. It was filled with a bunch of small cards that are good for players looking to build commander decks as well as some higher end stuff that I didn't want, but I made sure 99.99% was tradable. I took the trade recognizing that it was a huge hassle to accurately trade everything out and would provide me with a fresh start. 

How it ended

And after all this, I still had my prize tickets and just headed over to the prize wall to burn them up. At the wall,there was nothing I wanted since I didn't have enough for a collector booster and all the other prizes looked lame. I made the call to just sell them to people looking to acquire more tickets and it took me maybe 15 seconds to find a buyer. Sold them at 75%of the value just to get rid of them and was happy with it.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the event itself was not good, but the interaction with people was the biggest saving grace for the event. I'm normally not too critical about how an event is run since I'm not in their shoes but this one really needed better planning. The side events were easily the worst part of this event since none of them went smoothly. They ended become a huge time sink/ time waster, time which can be spent doing other things around the event like meeting artists and buying from the merch shop. The prizing for these events was just as poor. The rate for the tickets was 100 tix: $1 with standard booster packs being worth 400 tix. When doing the math, you'd often be paying way more for what you are getting with $30 events awarding 2 boosters. This wouldn't have been an issue if there were cool things to pick up at the midlevel like singles or exclusive product, but there were only the high end items like foil sheets and a giant metal Liliana of the Veil and booster packs. With events moving away from singles as prizes, I opt to just trade these away and treat other people's trade as the prize wall. 

 Outside of my own experience, I saw that other events were just as disastrous like the 21:00 Pioneer tournament that was forcibly ended during round 3 because of the convention hours. Also let's not forget attendees and vendors getting kicked out at 19:00 from the show floor without any notice ahead of time, this was one of the most aggravating events that took place. From what the people I talked to, this is what broke some people and convinced them not to come back for the weekend. I was able to avoid this by being at the play area. There were mentions of long lines, but I avoided them by arriving an hour or two after opening.

Regardless of all this, I'm a generally open to giving places a second chances and the event wasn't a complete disaster. With the announcement of Vegas in 2023, I am planning to go again and hope for the best. The people I met and the trading I did actually did a lot to improve my experience at the event, though I'm focusing more on the negative. If this event, somehow ends up equally as bad or worse, I'm probably going to reconsider attending future ones since planning and paying for it took a toll on my wallet, the minimum the event needed to be was smooth and it struggled there. Ideally, I want the side events to be ran better and have better prize support within reason because money is getting tighter and we need the organizers to stay in business, but we also need better returns than our local LGS. 

Magic 30's End Result

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  1. Thanks for sharing, that was a fun read. Sounds like there was both good and bad. It's funny how the biggest prize was the players and vendors, and not the events. Such a shame that the organizers had no idea what was happening.

    1. For the antisocial Magic player, this event would have been a total disaster. I forgot this happened, but there were people playing at random halls at the convention center because of the lack of space.

  2. I also went to Vegas Magic30 and day 1 was an atrocity of failures from everyone. I feel bad for the folks that were doing their job with terrible management and systems. They did their absolute best despite being given a sinking ship. Day 2 and Day 3 were so much better, but the fact that the events were so hard to get to fire on time was why I wouldn't want to go again. I'd prefer to be able to just show up and join some limited/edh pods on demand. The fact that many people played outside of the building, even though they'd paid to be inside the building, is a damning indictment of how poorly the managing of the event was. The people of the Gathering, as usual, are the reason to go and the reason the event was not a total loss for me and my group.

    1. I connected with a lot of people at Magic 30 based on their frustrations with my the event, it was kind of funny what bonds players together


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