I sat down at one of the myriad of tables set up in the Cashman Center in Las Vegas. The StarCityGames Open had been in progress for quite a while now, and people all around me began their matches. I unrolled my Sigarda playmat, then set aside dice, paper and pen as I shuffled my deck. An opponent sitting on the other side of the table did the same. We shared a bit of light chatter with two others sitting next to us as we made sure everything was in order. Then, with everything in order, we all showed our generals and started a game of four-person commander.
Alright, I’ll admit this wasn’t exactly a feature match in the SCG Open main event. Heck, we were probably playing in the most casual side event supported by SCG. In fact, the most interesting thing about this game might have been that it was actually happening. Going into the weekend, I hadn’t know what to expect since I wasn’t playing standard. Would there be plenty of side events to participate in? Would I be stuck watching others play for long periods of time? Would I even have fun if I wasn’t playing in the main event?
Let’s rewind to the beginning. I drove into Las Vegas Friday night, so I didn’t have a chance to check out the Friday activities. I spent the night helping a friend playtest his standard deck — he was trying out Alms Beast in Paul Rietzl’s Orzhov deck — and briefly toyed with the idea of entering the standard tournament with a mono-red deck, but eventually decided against it. My plan was to play some side events on Saturday, then play in the SCG Classic Sealed on Sunday, giving me a good mix of main and side events.
We woke up fairly early Saturday morning to make sure my friend got his deck registered on time. There were a myriad of side events available, with a sign conveniently showing all the options along with the number of people signed up for each one. Standard, Modern, and Legacy eight-person win-a-boxes were available for $15 apiece. The drafts were $10 each, with the winner getting three packs or entry into the next draft. There was also a common/uncommon cube with cards from the previous four blocks (Core Sets excluded), and a two-headed giant sealed for $30 total. Rounding out the side events were the four-person commander games, with a $5 entry fee and $20 in dealer credit for the winner.
After perusing the various products for sale, I signed up for the first draft, unsure of how long it would take for it to happen. After all, most of the people there were participating in the main event. Since it was the beginning of the day, no one had scrubbed out yet, so the only ones who would be drafting would be people who had come just for the side events.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long. It didn’t take long for eight people to sign up, and the first draft got started soon after the standard tournament started. As I talked to the people in my pod, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my approach to the SCG Open.
“This is OUR main event,” declared one drafter, while another discusses his plan for the weekend: “$10 blackjack all night and $10 drafts all day, that’s what I’m here for.”
And that seemed to illustrate something about the SCG Open: that you didn’t have to participate in the main event to participate in the SCG Open. It didn’t matter if you only played limited formats, only played modern, or even only played EDH. There was something for everyone, and with the sheer number of people present, there was bound to be others who were willing to play with you.
A big part of the reason this was possible, though, was the organization of the SCG staff. A big board at the front table showed the side events and the number of people signed up for each event. Upon signing up for an event, you would get a buzzer — similar to one you might receive at a restaurant — that would alert you when the event was full and ready to fire.
After the draft (I lost to Blue/Black fliers when my opponent top-decked two Griptides in a row to barely outrace my Whip of Erebos), I decided to stick around to get some trades down before signing up for more events. Before long, there were at least four or five trade binders being passed around, and deals being struck all around me. It wasn’t all cutthroat bargaining either — we talked about cards we wanted, deck ideas for all formats, and long-term projects like cubes or foiled-out EDH decks. Before I knew it, I had spent two hours and reached deals for a handful of new cards.
Eventually, I got done with trading and moved on to my next event: two-headed giant. I love two-headed giant, so I wasn’t going to miss this one for anything, especially since it only happened once a day. Our pool didn’t have any real bombs, but we managed to put together two decks that went 2-2, capped off with a game that we had a real chance of winning until a Stormbreath Dragon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel along with two Sea God’s Revenges ended those hopes as I stared at a useless hand of two Divine Verdicts and a Vanquish the Foul.
Because I spent so much time earlier trading, that was all I could fit in for the day. Despite having only entered two events, I was quite happy with how the day had turned out. I had a blast in the few events I did play, and even just making trades and talking to others had turned out to be fun. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I decided not to enter the main sealed event the next day, opting to play in some more side events instead.
My group departed for the Cashman Center a little later on Sunday because none of us were entering the main event (I actually woke up quite a bit earlier, but it took some convincing to get everyone up and ready). We arrived around midday, and only had time for two events: the common/uncommon cube and commander.
The common/uncommon cube was actually a trial run of an event that SCG was thinking about expanding. It contained only common or uncommon cards from the previous four blocks, not including Core Sets. As with other cubes, it was constructed with color and archetype balance in mind, and since it had no rares or mythics, we got to keep the cards after the draft.
Going into the draft, I didn’t know what to expect, and having never drafted most of the formats, was a little lost as to which cards would be good. Somewhere around the first pack, after having seen some infect cards, I decided to go for it, reasoning that most people would just pass them because it was such a risky strategy. As it turned out, my gamble didn’t pay off, as I began to see fewer infect cards, leading me to believe someone else was also drafting it. The deck I ended up with wasn’t the worst, but it also wasn’t great either. I ended up losing to a Blue/White fliers tempo deck in three games.
Afterwards, I talked to the person running the event about the cube. He said they were trying to see how it would do and what people thought about it, with plans to expand it as a side event and even selling it as a product. Furthermore, he explained that they wanted to construct the cube so that you could take out certain blocks and add in other blocks and still have a functional cube. In other words, you’d be able to have expansion sets of sorts with products from different blocks. The idea was intriguing, and I let him know that this iteration was quite fun to play.
Finally, I settled down to play my last game of the weekend, an EDH game with three others. One of the people I was played with was there solely for EDH games, further showing that there really was something for everyone there. I played my Sigarda, Host of Herons deck to complement my playmat, and though I managed to get good board control early, the Oloro, the Ageless Ascetic player managed an Archangel’s Light/Vizkopa Guildmage combo that won him the game on the spot.
All in all, looking back at all of these events, I guess I didn’t do too well. I only won a few packs, and I didn’t even open anything remarkable in my limited pools. In the end though, I had a ton of fun, and despite not even having a constructed deck, managed to always have something to do throughout the weekend. I had some doubts in the beginning whether it would actually be fun, but now I can honestly say that it was definitely worth the trip. Even if you’re just a limited player, or just an EDH player, or just a modern player, I would encourage anyone able to attend these types of events to do so. There is just so much going on that it really is more than just a tournament — it’s an experience.