Going for the Gold: Attending Your First Pro Tour
Welcome back to Going for the Gold!
Today is the day that we've all been waiting for...
Pro Tour Ixalan!
It's a weird feeling: Ixalan has been out for a few months and I feel like everyone has a good idea on how to Draft it. On top of that, Standard is more or less solved, so it comes down to picking a deck that you think will give you the highest win percentage against the field.
I would go into detail on how I prepared, but a lot of my team members will be playing the same deck as me. Forgive me if I don't want to spoil anything and give our competition the chance to look it up (I have been told from previous opponents that they have looked up my most recent article after being paired with me). Just trust me when I say that our deck is a good choice for the field!
Speaking of my team, who are these fine gents that I'm teaming with for the remainder of the Pro Tour season?
Pro Tour Team Series
Thanks to Simon Nielsen's Photoshop skills we had a team picture before the one taken on Friday morning. We've chosen to represent Child's Play, a charitable organisation that seeks to improve the lives of hospitalized children through toys and games. We've partnered with them for this season to shed light on their work.
Beyond that, we're a team made up of three Gold Pros (myself, Simon Nielsen, and David Mines), two Silver Pros (Zen Takahashi, Gerard Fabiano), and a Bronze Pro (Anthony Lee).
Some of the great equity in the team series is the fact that the Top 16 will automatically be qualified for the last Pro Tour of the year. Given that the best five results are used to compute the team score, this is a great way for us to qualify Zen, Gerard, and Anthony for the Team Pro Tour.
Keep checking up on us during the season to see how well we are doing!
And now on to today's article...
Attending Your First Pro Tour
You've finally qualified through your local RPTQ and you're super excited to be able to play on the highest stage of the game. But what's next? What should you be doing now?
The most important thing you have to do after securing your qualification is to contact Premier Play within the appropriate timeframe to book your flight. Unless you're planning on going sight-seeing, I'd suggest booking your travel so you land the day before the Pro Tour and leave on the Sunday afternoon. The only exception to this is if you will be severely affected by jet lag and need an extra few days to recuperate.
When I first qualified for the Pro Tour in Paris, I showed up a week and a half early and left a few days after the Pro Tour. Suffice to say I was drained, and ever since I always plan to leave the Sunday of the Pro Tour. If I miraculously reach Top 8, then I can easily enough switch my flight to later on that day and pay the change fee. You also end up saving on accommodation and vacation days by not staying those extra few.
One last comment. When you travel a lot for Magic you should pack light. I used to carry a luggage and a carry-on to tournaments, but the price of that adds up since most airlines will charge somewhere between $20-35 USD per checked bag. Just pack some underwear and a few outfits to tide you over for the couple of days that you'll be at the tournament.
If booking your travel was the most important thing you did, then this is the second most important. The last thing you want to do is show up to a foreign place and not have anywhere to stay, or go on social media and ask for floor space. This might be common in the Magic community, but it's not very effective unless you're strongly networked.
Team houses are a great option if everyone is willing. However, in my experience unless there's one person who's willing to take care of the logistics, everyone is better off booking hotel rooms close by.
The best option for hotel room booking is Hotels.com, which allows you to scour current listings for the best option within your budget. Plus, most bookings allow you to cancel within one business day before you check-in. And if you like booking for others, their loyalty program will get you one free hotel stay for every 10 days that you book. You can carry this free stay over for at least a year.
Picking Your Testing Team:
Now that we've gotten you to the Pro Tour's location and have put you in a warm hotel room, we need to focus on the actual tournament itself.
Pro Tours are a dynamic format, and going by yourself is typically not the optimal route for success. Don't get me wrong, there have been people who have gotten there in the past by going solo, but the vast majority have done it by leaning on, and testing with, their team members.
You want to make sure that the people you test with won't divulge your testing to non-team members and that every member of your team actually contributes. I have been part of teams in the past where some members did nothing but leech information. It is a constant source of frustration when you're putting in the time and effort to improve, and others are just getting a free ride.
This makes it critical that you pick people who you know that you can work with well, not just people who ask to work with you.
Picking your Deck and Learning the Draft Format:
The last component of your pre-tournament preparation is learning the various formats. For the last couple of years, every Pro Tour has been a mix of six rounds of Booster Draft and 10 rounds of a Constructed format.
This means that you'll want to get at least 20-30 Drafts under your belt and have a clear indication of how to draft the strongest archetypes. It's not good to only learn how to draft one archetype, because if it's not available you'll quickly find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
When it comes to Constructed, it is worth a great deal to try to learn the dynamics of the format. You can only do this by playing most of the decks in the format to try and see what the pivot points are. At the end of the day, you'll only pick one deck, but even if it isn't the strongest deck you can still gain an advantage over your opponents by understanding the format better.
Knowing the decks out there also helps you pick out the right sideboard cards to respond to them.
Having the Right Nutrition and Concentration:
Finally, Pro Tours are large marathons.
You have to play eight rounds each day, and also partake in a booster draft. You want to make sure that you have the right amount of nutrition, so pick yourself up snacks and water before the event to make sure that you stay full and properly hydrated.
I also find that having a good soundtrack helps the day go by faster since you can listen to music during your downtime. Don't sit there and talk Magic with people after your round, give yourself a well needed break.
Don't forget your headphones!
That's it for this week. Join me next week as I go through what happened at Pro Tour Ixalan and what I would change for next time.