Sunday, 22 January 2017

A Beginner's Guide to Magical-Road-Trip-Adventures™

Hello again dear readers, and welcome back to Exile!

This week's post is about something very near and dear to my heart, and something that I personally know a lot of Magic players and judges are underestimating the value in - taking the time to travel to Magic tournaments outside of your local region.

Some of the best memories I have are of playing or judging in Magic tournaments far from home over the past few years.  Interestingly enough, it's not the games of Magic that I look back on and cherish.  And it's certainly not my win/loss record, as I'm truly a mediocre Magic player at best.   Well, sort of.

In fact, most of my favorite memories from my Magical-Road-Trip-Adventures™ really had nothing to do with playing Magic at all.  I've got stories of dinners with friends gone horribly awry in strange cities, judges trying to get into complete strangers cars (because mine is Hexproof),  polka music playing escalators, a borrowed GPS steering us in the wrong direction, and even staying in a room now affectionately known as the Murder Hotel™.  The one truth I've learned is that when you take the time to go away with friends to somewhere new, the most valuable things you'll bring back home with you are the awesome new memories and (often hilarious) stories to share at your local gaming store.      

In today's post I'm going to go over some useful tips and tidbits of knowledge I've learned from the dozen or so road trips I've been on during the past few years while travelling to Grand Prix and other Magic events.  So for now, prepare your minds to expand their horizons!

Find Your Fellowship

"Now class, remember who your travel buddy is and stay close..."

Whenever it's been possible, I have always chosen to travel with others to Magic Grand Prix and other large events.  I have a small group of close friends that I always turn to first when I am considering booking another trip to a far off event - shout outs to Ed, Bradley, and Seth here for always being good travelling compatriots!

I personally find that getting a group of 4 people together for a road trip is the 'Magic' number you want to usually aim for.  Four people can travel comfortably in most cars that people commonly own, and this will usually give you at least one option for a reliable pal to swap out the driving burden with.  While pushing your group's size above this may be tempting (no one wants to leave a buddy behind), I suggest against it unless you will be travelling in two or more vehicles, or flying to your destination.  Having three people literally rubbing shoulders together while crammed into a vehicle's back seat for any significant amount of time does not make for an ideal travelling experience.

Travelling in a group of four also tends to work out well for booking your hotel rooms, as you can either go the route of two rooms or two people, or for the ultimate value seekers four people break down nicely into two pairs sharing a queen sized bed each in one room.  Sleeping on pull out couches, roll away beds, inflatable mattresses or in extreme cases, tossing a couple pillows onto the floor are all acceptable options as well for budget conscious groups.  I cannot overstate how much more affordable trips become when you are splitting hotel costs between 2 to 4 people.

*Pro Tip!*  It is beneficial to pick one person who tends to travel the most often, and have them sign up for all of the travel membership plans and hotel perks programs available.  Whenever possible, try to always stay at a hotel that belongs to the membership program you have chosen. This way if the same person always books the hotel accommodations for your group, you all will get to enjoy the privileges of free upgrades and perks much quicker.

Flying for Less

For many of us, flying somewhere for a weekend of fun simply isn't an option.  Airlines in Canada especially can often seem to be charging ridiculous amounts of money to travel.  Fortunately for you, I've learned a few money saving tips that I can share here that may just help get you into the friendly skies for less than you expected.

  1. Not all cities are created equal.  I was preparing to fly to #GPMilwaukee in December when I learned that Milwaukee is far more expensive to fly to than nearby Chicago. This is because Chicago is a 'hub' city with far more direct flights daily, causing each flight to be cheaper than a direct Toronto-Milwaukee flight, which had a premium price tag attached.  I was able to save myself $200 usd in airfare by flying into Chicago, and then taking a charter bus from O'Hare airport to Milwaukee at a cost of only $50 round trip.   *Pro Tip!*   When looking to fly somewhere on a budget, consider flying to a major hub city in the area, and then taking affordable ground transit.  #value
  2. Timing is everything.   When my plans to drive to SCG New Jersey fell apart in August of 2016 I was left considering all options, including buying a last minute round trip ticket to Newark airport, as my judge friend Seth was already booked to fly to the event. This was when I learned a valuable (read: painful) lesson.  Seth had booked his airfare around two months prior to the event, and his tickets had cost him approximately $230 cad to fly round trip.  But now, with less than a week until the event I was looking at paying $490 cad for the exact same tickets.  For future reference, the sweet spot to try to book your airfare at the best price seems to hover around 10 to 12 weeks in advance.   Also, Tuesdays and Thursdays often have been slightly more affordable days to fly in my experience.
  3. Carry on, my wayward son.  I've flown to two Grand Prix in the past 3 months, and for both of them I was able to avoid expensive fees for checked luggage by packing efficiently in my carry on.   With Air Canada you are allowed one carry on luggage and one personal item within a defined size limit.  In my case, I used a carrying case designed for a 15" laptop as my personal item and between the two pieces I was able to transport enough clothes and Magic related items to successfully get through each weekend, while even being able to bring home a few souvenirs. *Pro Tip!*  When you are packing up to return home at the end of your trip, you would be surprised how much more you can fit into your luggage if you try rolling your clothes up instead of neatly folding them.  I somehow managed to cram 3 boxes of Kaladesh and 3 new playmats into my previously full carry on by utilizing this trick.
  4. Sign me up, Scotty.  When I booked my first flight for a Grand Prix last fall I signed up for an Aeroplan™ membership to start working towards earning rewards, and I chose to be added to the Air Canada mailing list for any promotions that may come up.   I tend to get new offers in my e-mail monthly and some of these offers have far better value than others.  Keep an eye out for the best deals possible and maximize your value for each dollar you spend!

There and Back Again

If I could pick just one message that every Magic card loving gamer out there would hear, it would be this:   There is an amazing world out there beyond our local stores, filled with thousands of other people who also love this game just as much as we do.  Gather up a few friends and make an effort to get out there and see some of it for yourselves.   Visit a new city that you've never been to, and make some amazing memories at it's Grand Prix.  And if you DO get out to a Grand Prix this year and happen to see me there, be sure to say hello. I'll be the judge with the butterflies in his stomach and loving every second of it, feeling kinda this this guy over here...

Thanks for joining me once again, here on my Path to Exile.


From The SideBoard

A new thing I want to start doing is sharing interesting stories about judge calls I've been a part of in the past, so that we can all hopefully learn something new from them.  Hence, I'll now be adding a separate section on after the end of some of my weekly articles, where we can look at things that don't really connect to my topic of the week, but are still good to discuss.   And so, welcome to our new blogging zone:  'From the SideBoard'.

Whose Turn Is It Anyway?

For today's judge call we are going to go back to Grand Prix Providence, a Standard GP that occurred in October of 2016.   I got called to a table where two players had gotten themselves lost while trying to figure out whose turn it would be next.

Andrew (active player) vs. Nathon (non-active player)

Nathon casts and resolves Emrakul, the Promised End.  The current turn ends, and Andrew's turn begins, with Nathon controlling Andrew for the turn.  With the perfect information of seeing Andrew's hand, Nathon is then able to use up some of Andrew's resources and send some of Andrew's creatures to a painful demise; thanks to choosing both how Andrew would attack and how Nathon himself would block those attackers.  It was in Andrew's post-combat main phase (with Nathon still controlling Andrew) that things would get interesting.

Before choosing to pass on Andrew's turn, Nathon decided to activate his Aetherworks Marvel.  When the ability resolved, while still in Andrew's turn, Nathon chose to cast a new copy of Emrakul, the Promised End.  It was at this point that I was called over to the table, as neither player was clear as to what would happen next.

Me:  Hi folks, how can I help?
Andrew: Well, Nathon here resolved an Emrakul and took control of me during my current turn.  Then before it ended, he used his Aetherworks Marvel to cast another Emrakul, so we aren't sure what happens next.
Me: Is that correct Nathon?
Nathon: Yep.  Now we don't know whose turn is next.
Me:  So tell me where the confusion is coming from?
Andrew:  Well, the first Emrakul resolved and said that he would control my turn, and then I would get an extra turn after that.  So now he's already controlled me for a turn, but then here's a second Emrakul now and it says he controls my next turn.  So what happens with my extra turn from the first Emrakul?  Do I still get a turn from the first Emrakul's ability resolving, and then the 2nd Emrakul will take my next turn after that one, or do I just lose my extra turn altogether from the first one, or does he control this turn and my next turn and then I get 2 extra turns in a row after that, due to both Emrakul's each giving me an extra turn that I haven't had yet?
Me:   Oh boy...

Any thoughts?    The explanation to this week's ruling is below when you are ready...









Spoiler Alert:

The first Emrakul did indeed create an extra turn that Andrew would take after Nathon had controlled Andrew for a turn.  Unfortunately for Andrew, that extra turn that he had planned to take ends up being the first turn that the second Emrakul will see Andrew is about to take, and as such the turn ends up being controlled by Nathon again.  After this turn ends, Andrew will then get an extra turn where he will be able to (finally) control himself again.


I hope you enjoyed this tricky bit of turn taking.


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