My First Grand Prix!

Grand Prix Detroit – Wrap Up

After 17 years playing Magic I finally when to my first Grand Prix: GP Detroit. I was excited, but a bit nervous. I knew there were going to be a lot of people; there were 2555, I knew my deck well; GW Tron, and I knew what meta I expected; lots of aggro. I had tons of questions though: What kind of players would be there? Are they all going to be better than me? Worse? Was I going to play against a pro?

It turns out that my first GP was a ton of fun, and it left me excited to play in more large tournaments. I wish I had known earlier that there are lots of other things to do other than the main event at a GP. Artist signings, side events, vendors, chatting with pros, friendly games, nice people, just so much stuff to do!

Deck Choice

Despite being a long time RG Tron player, I didn’t think the red, see [card]Pyroclasm[/card], in RG Tron was going to be useful in Detroit, but I wanted to leverage my skills as a Gx Tron player. Traditionally RG Tron uses [card]Pyroclasm[/card] to push the game late, but the current meta isn’t as susceptible to [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. I expected a lot of aggro in the form of Infect, Affinity, Burn, Zoo and Eldrazi. GW Tron is a legitimate, although unpopular, deck that eschews pyroclasms in favour of [card]Path to Exile[/card] and some serious sideboard cards. I ended up settling on this list:

GW Tron by Mike Pawliuk
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Eye of Ugin
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Expedition Map
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Oblivion Stone
3 Path to Exile
2 Dismember
4 Karn Liberated
3 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
3 Pithing Needle
2 Warping Wail
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Path to Exile
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
2 Timely Reinforcements
4 Nature’s Claim

I decided on 3 maindeck [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] as an additional buffer against aggro decks. The sideboard contained an Emrakul for control, Ugin for Chord decks and Merfolk, and 3 [card]Pithing Needle[/card] for Affinity and the combo decks I expected to see.

The Main Event

I didn’t have any byes in the main event, so I needed to play all of my matches. The goal was to get a record of 6-3 which would be enough to get me to day 2 of the main event.

Rather than give a detailed explanation of each match, I’ll just give a funny, interesting, or memorable moment from each.

Round 1. 2-0 vs RUG [card]Scapeshift[/card]. In game 2 my Ulamog got Remanded twice and he Exiled a total of six lands.

Round 2. 2-1 vs Affinity. My opponent cast Dispatch on my [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] with only two [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] and a Mox Opal. In response I used my [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] on his Mox Opal to take him off of metalcraft.

Round 3.
0-2 vs UW Control; Jaces, [card]Ojutai’s Command[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. In game 1 my opponent was able to answer 3 Karns and an Ulamog.

Round 4. 0-2 vs Angel Chord. In game 2 I mulliganed to four cards and promptly lost.

Round 5. 0-2 vs Naya Burn. Game 1 was my hardest loss all day. I got a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] out on turn 3 on the play followed by a Karn and still lost.

Round 6.
2-0 vs Grixis Control. [card]Path to Exile[/card] was great here as it removed all of his [card]Gurmag Angler[/card]s.

Round 7.
0-2 vs Naya Burn. I lost game 2 because I couldn’t find a colourless source for [card]Warping Wail[/card].

Round 8. 2-0 vs Red Deck Wins (from old Standard). Twice in the match my opponent got blown out by not thinking about how burn spells interact with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and small graveyards.

Round 9. 1-2 vs Infect. [card]Warping Wail[/card] was impervious to an [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card]!


Was this a good deck choice? I’m happy with my choice to bring GW Tron to Detroit. The meta was basically as expected, aggro and Chord decks, although there were fewer combo decks than I thought there would have been. I like my matchup with Chord, and I don’t think my Eldrazi matchup is that bad. Burn turned out to be much worse than I had hoped.

Could I have played better? I was generally happy with my play throughout the day, although I didn’t mulligan as often as I should have.

What card over-performed? [card]Pithing Needle[/card]. In matchups where it comes in, I was never sad to draw one or more [card]Pithing Needle[/card]s. In this deck we just want the game to go longer, and [card]Pithing Needle[/card] will do that.

What card under-performed? Dismember’s cost of 4 life was very real and often ended up being unplayable in the late game.

Enough about the main event! The GP was filled with tons of other fun things.

Side Events

I ended up playing in three side events. The most notable of the events was a 5 round Legacy event on Friday night. I played 4 Colour Loam, a deck I’ve played for a long time. The list can be found here for those interested.

Round 1. 2-1 vs Reanimator. I love [card]Burning Wish[/card] for [card]Chainer’s Edict[/card].

Round 2. 0-2 vs Bant [card]Retreat to Coralhelm[/card] Combo. I lost on his mulligan to 5.

Round 3. 2-0 vs Enchantress. I love [card]Burning Wish[/card] for [card]Reverent Silence[/card] against Enchantress.

Round 4. 2-0 vs Goblins. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] showed why he is the bane of Goblins.

Round 5.
ID vs Death and Taxes. We played a game for fun and he named [card]Sylvan Library[/card] with his [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]. I let him take it back and he named [card]Dark Depths[/card] instead. I let him take that back too, and he finally named [card]Thespian’s Stage[/card].

There were a lot of fringe decks in the tournament. In round 4 the match next to me was also Goblins vs 4 Colour Loam! This tournament made me appreciate how special having a weekly Legacy FNM really is. This GP was one of the few times a year a lot of my opponents get to play sanctioned Legacy, and I get to play it every Friday at Face to Face Games Toronto!

I also played in a miserable 8 person single-elimination Modern tournament in an effort to burn through some extra prize tickets. There were 3 Eldrazi decks, 2 Burn decks, 1 Merfolk deck, 1 Affinity deck and me on GW Tron. I might be projecting, but I got the impression that these players weren’t really enjoying themselves. Interestingly, the Merfolk player sitting next to me was AJ Kerrigan. I ended up losing in the finals of this tournament.

Meeting People, Making Trades

One of the neatest parts of the GP was that you could start a conversation with anyone. Whether you were waiting for pairings, in line for an artist signing, or just hanging out, everyone was willing to talk to you. Here are a few ice breakers to get a conversation going:

How has your day been going?
Have you played in any side events?
Where are you from?
What have you played against today?
Got any traders?

Speaking of traders, the Legacy [card]High Tide[/card] master, Feline Longmore, was wandering around the GP trading her alters. She graciously chatted with me and my friend about Legacy and the upcoming Columbus GP. It was definitely a highlight of the weekend to talk to Feline about Legacy.

There were tons of pros wandering around the convention centre, and for the most part they were very gracious. Kevin Jones was even slumming it out near me in the X-3 bracket!

Professional Event Services

The organizers of this event, Professional Event Services (PES), have caught a lot of flack for their running of GP Detroit. Some pros refused to go to this GP, just based on the organizer, and there is palpable vitriol online.

If I had to give them a grade it would be a C+. It was certainly a “Pass”, but they have lots of room for improvement. Things aren’t nearly as dire as people make things out to be.

The Good.

Judges: There were lots of them and they did an awesome job. I always had a judge within seconds of a judge call.

Scheduling and signups: It was always clear when events were going to fire and where to sign up.

Table space: There was tons of it.

The Bad

Time between rounds was 20-40 minutes. It was closer to the 40 minute mark in rounds 7-9.

Posting pairings was a disaster. The website was down (?!) and it took a long time to post pairings.

Announcements were barely audible.

It wasn’t clear that you had to wait at the Side Event Gathering Point until it started. It was easy to miss your side event and lose your entry.

Prize structure for 5 round events: 4-1-0 got 36 Tix, 3-2-0 got 2 Tix while 3-1-1 got 16 Tix. You were heavily incentivized at 3-1-0 to “concede and split” (19 Tix per person as opposed to 16 Tix) which lead to some weird rule-bending conversations.

Overall it wasn’t executed well, but it wasn’t bad enough that I would consider not going to another PES event, such as GP Columbus.

Going to other GPs

I’m really excited to go to my next GP, which will be GP Toronto on April 29-May 1. I don’t plan on playing in the main event, but it’s clear to me know that there is a lot to do at a Grand Prix even if you don’t play in the main event. Since I live in Toronto I’m planning on playing in as many Friday side events as possible. I’m especially excited for the Legacy GP in Columbus from June 10-12 where I will play in the main event.

Contact Me

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think; I’d love to hear from you. When was your first GP? What’s holding you back from going to your first GP? What’s your most interesting GP experience?

Catch me at Legacy FNM at Face to Face Games in Toronto, send me a message on reddit /u/mpaw975, or send me an email at