After my dad, Sean “Day” Plott is the man I look up to the most. He built a YouTube based on compassion and learning. His show The Day Daily grew over the years, and through it Sean taught me how to learn, how to apply myself, and picked me up in some of my darker moments.
So when I found out he was competing at the San Jose Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix (again), I decided I had to get down there and meet him.
(Sean tells us the story of his first time at the San Jose Grand Prix. If you want him to explain Magic: The Gathering quicker – watch this video)
I also wanted to meet up with Brian Kibler, a prominent game designer and TCG player, however for reasons I will detail in this post that never happened sadly.
So the first obstacle to overcome was: getting to San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. Now despite it’s significance, it is still not connected to the public transit network of the BART.
To get there, I needed to get the BART to Fremont at the end of the line, then get an express bus to San Jose and then get another bus to the convention centre. Simple enough.
Except it was scary and I was nervous. I hadn’t done a trip this big on my own in California yet. Just like in China, I had been happy to let my girlfriend lead me around and do all the talking for me.
So it was kinda a big, anxious “I really don’t wanna get lost” deal for me, but I got to San Jose without any difficulties, met a Nerdy Comrade on the bus, and made it to the convention centre.
From Day’s videos, and by being surrounded by nerd culture, I had learnt the basics of M:tG, but I was still in the dark enough to ask my companion about it. When he told me he was competing in a tournament today, I can’t deny it caught my interest.
So, with the experience of having played the iPad app version at the Tokyo Game Show 2012, once, under my belt, I entered my first Magic the Gathering Tournament.
Needless to say my girlfriend was less pleased when she found out. The conversation went something like:
“Also, I entered into one of the Magic tournaments”
“It was only $30, and I got a playmat too”
Admittedly, had I not entered, I probably would’ve had the time to meet Brian Kibler that day as well.
However, I did have fun. So much fun! I enjoy experiencing new games and competing, but really, it was the people there who made it for me.
I had been expecting a wall of body odour so thick you could taste it, with neck beards and sneering elitists galore. But actually, everyone there was so open to me as a complete novice, and everyone I competed against became a new friend.
The tournament I entered was called “Sealed”. It was 5 rounds of Swiss Tournament, best of 3 games.
You get 6 booster backs, containing 15 cards each. From these 90 cards you need to make a deck of only 40, including the “Land” (Mana) cards you need to be able to do things in the game. There was a side table where you could take as many of the 5 Land types as you needed.
Which for $30 I thought was a pretty good deal! Okay?….It only becomes a problem if you give into it and start spending more money, but I got my playmat, I know when to stop. I think it looks pretty cool, plus it’ll make a good mousemat which I currently don’t have, added value see!
The people sitting around me helped me make my very first deck, and soon I had my first opponent: Dominic.
Me being me, I just enthusiastically said “This is the second time I’ve ever played magic, please be patient with me!”
He was happy to help, and me run through absolutely the basics. Which was good, because my deck sucked.
I lost both games, so Dominic and the guy sitting next to me (Chris, I think?) said they would look through my cards and see if they could make a better deck.
However, we had been chatting so long that the next round was starting. All the places were numbered, so that players could find their opponents. People were coming over and asking for their seats, so that frantically through it together and I was off to my next opponent: Christoph.
It was impressive to watch them work so fast under pressure. However, as I immediately admitted to Christoph, this was going to be my 3rd ever game of Magic (with actual cards), and I had no idea what was in my deck.
Christoph was so kind, and really took the time to explain to me the terms, what he was doing, and even telling me what I should be doing.
Which was great, because I had an awesome deck now.
And I won my first game against him! I felt like I was kicking ass now. However, looking back I probably could’ve ended our stalemate much earlier. He won the second game, but it we had taken so long that we were running out of time, so we agreed to call the third game a draw.
My next opponent was Heidi. Again, friendly and happy to teach me the game. Although, that didn’t stop her from promptly stomping me 2-0. I largely blame the card that time around. All land, bar the one type I needed game one. Game 2, all the creatures and just one single land!
It was the one I had needed all last game. My deck was clearly punishing me for my hubris.
After the game she wanted to see if she could help improve my deck. As I evidentially had a ‘Mana Curve’ problem. Which is something the two lads who made it for me said as they handed to me: “It may have slight mana problem”.
Yep, that was proven now.
Heidi laid out all my cards and arranged them by mana cost. As you can see, I have a lot of 4 cost creatures and spells, which meant I had few options early on in the game.
She said, “Whoever made your deck for you: don’t trust them!” and made some rather drastic alterations. Speed deck-building is not always the answer.
Going in to my fourth game, Mira was my adversary. She was also a novice, but was surprised when I said that with no experience at all I had entered the tournament.
I don’t remember much about our games except losing two games in a row. Which sadly meant that I was dropped, and wouldn’t be playing in the 5th round, as I only had 1 point to my name.
But I had a lot of fun, and it was so amazing to see people be so nice to a complete and utter-newcomer, and share their passion with me and – Oh crap I was supposed to be making contacts today and its 4pm!
Yeah I know, if I wanna get ahead I’ve got to just harass people sometimes, but I’m still terrible at that.
After my tournament I went over to the outdoors area next to the toilets, where people to smoke breaks, because that was obviously were people congregated.
I found him immediately.
However, being star struck and overshadowed by another fan who happy to let his tongue run, I never managed to get to the all important: “Nyurr! I want your help and please befriend me!” part.
I felt like I had let myself down. I was a failure. The one thing I wanted to accomplish that day, and I blew it.
After some aimless wandering I remembered my girlfriend’s advice: “You get so depressed and miserable when you’re hungry – eat something you knucklehead!”
Or words to that effect, more sweetly put. I ate and felt so much better.
Reinvigorated, I found his table number of on the pinned up bracket sheet, and loitered.
After he finished his match, I sat down opposite him, his best friend Tristan, and his Mtg Master, Sensei Case.
I told him about me, that I loved esports and online media and that I wanted to find a way to stay in California. I knew he’d say he was busy, but he also said he was interested in helping me, and gave me his email.
I asked for a picture too, because I forgot to do that when I met Tasteless and Artosis – Arrrgh!
Afterwards I told him how much he had inspired me to do what I’m doing now, and the goals I’m working towards, and also had he had really helped me when I needed it most.
It amazed me to see his face light up as I told him this. It seemed so weird to me because I knew that’s how I felt watching his show, and that I was one of millions who felt the same way, just like that other fan who was talking to Sean when I first him.
But it was good to know someone was telling Day how he much to us all, someone needed to.
Travelling back I was no longer nervous, no, this time I was genuinely terrified! America goes from lovely, gentrified city centre to filth, drug abuse and sex shops in an instant. The day before my girlfriend had taken me through the Tenderloin in San Fran, and I saw the very definition of “skulking” manifest itself on the streets. Amsterdam at least had a gradient of creeping nasty, here its like walking off a cliff!