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The Richmond Experience

Written by Mike Keknee on . Posted in Magic Culture, Modern

The Richmond Experience

Mike Keknee

Mike Keknee is a Magic grinder from the Columbus area. He has managed to put together a solid resume with four StarCityGames Open top 8s, including a win, as well as a Pro Tour appearance. He is also a co-host of the At Your End Step podcast available on iTunes and MTGCast.

Recently, the largest constructed tournament ever held took place in Richmond, Virginia. I was lucky enough to make it down with a group of friends, including fellow LegitMTG writer Jordan Kennedy. We took a bunch of pictures and decided to document some of our trip for those who were unable to attend. I apologize if any of the images are blurry.

Day One


We began by making the long (more than eight hours) trek from Ohio to Virginia. We were lucky that Jordan had a free satellite radio trial to keep us entertained. By entertained I of course mean that we sang loudly and obnoxiously to stay awake. We even passed a town called Sam Black Church, which is where I assume he learned the power of devotion. Eventually, we arrived in Richmond and settled in for the night. We knew that the venue would be packed in the am, so we got up way too early and headed out. Again, we were prepared for a lot of people, but what we found was even crazier.


What if I told you that this was only two thirds of the players in the event? Yep, another 1600 players (roughly the size of GP Detroit by itself) were seated in a far-flung ballroom on the second floor. To say that the place was buzzing would be a serious understatement. There were three flights that separated the players during day one. Two flights were in the main ballroom pictured above, and the other was upstairs. This worked pretty well, though the upstairs flight went much faster than the downstairs. A few of our friends were upstairs, and they managed to finish round nine before we even began ours. They said it was pretty fun to time travel to our venue.

The actual tournament itself was also a lot of fun. We began the day by recording a huge introduction for Evan Erwin and The Magic Show. Being a part of thousands of players cheering, “welcome to The Magic Show” was pretty awesome. Jordan and I both had two byes. Jordan hung out with some friends while I finalized my deck and got some testing in. I was able to win my first round in the UWR control mirror match. I had tested this match-up exactly zero times, so I was pretty happy to steal the win in turns. The second round was pretty exciting though as I got to play against one of my favorite cards of all time. My opponent led off with a mountain into a Grim Lavamancer, signaling Burn. Next turn he played this card:


For those who may be unaware, Mana Clash requires both players to flip coins (thus the quarters in the picture). I played a pretty awesome Krark’s Thumb deck back in high school, and I was ridiculously excited to flip some coins. The players to our left and right were pretty terrified as we aggressively played our game of chance. The first Mana Clash casually did 11 damage (six to him and five to me). I had the win on board in game three with the life totals very tilted in my direction when he went for the clash once again. Fun fact about Mana Clash: if a player goes below zero, the spell continues to resolve until both players flip heads. That means that you can force the draw if you clash at a low life total. I managed to get out of the game without the forced draw, but it was by far the most fun I had on day one.

I continued on a pretty good run including an epic win in round seven against a Splinter Twin opponent. I managed to convince my opponent that I had an answer to his Twin after scouring his hand with a Vendilion Clique. I had stone cold nothing, but he was afraid of the blowout. I was able to steal that game and lock up a 6-1 record. Unfortunately, my luck ran out as I ran cold against B/G and got paired against none other than Gaudenis Vidagaris for my win and in. He had two superb storm draws, and I lost in short order. We discussed my lines, and he agreed with my plays. I was disappointed to miss out on day two, but luckily two of our group managed to make it in. After an exhausting day, we eventually left the venue in search of food and sleep.

Day Two

We awoke and headed back to the venue. We have gotten used to visiting some pretty awesome , but one thing we noticed about Richmond was that it wasn’t exactly the cleanest city. It wasn’t uncommon to see things like this on the streets:


This was the only downer to an otherwise awesome event. A few of our number had to be at the tournament site a bit earlier than me. Our friend Eric Griffin and fellow podcaster Dave Nolan were ready to jam for day two. Dave managed to start the day off with a win, and the controversial tiebreaker reset actually made it so both were still in top eight contention.


Unfortunately the wheels came off for both of them, and they settled for final records of 10-5 respectively. Unfortunately, this was just out of the cash range of 150th place. While they were busy trying to battle at the professional level, I was over playing in the Super Sunday Series. I chose to jam some sealed and was passed a frustrating pool. I managed to make a solid U/R tempo deck with double Fall of the Hammer and multiple bounce spells. Unfortunately, my creatures were less than stellar. I was able to quickly go 5-0, but soon after I was paired against the better decks in the room. Some rough mulligans and better card pools later, and I was out of knocked out.

Throughout this, the hall was even more awesome during day two. They had the GP, both Super Series events, a number of format challenges, and infinite drafts and win-a-boxes. There is something so unique about the feel of these huge events. You could wander the tables and see any number of formats and decks. One of my personal highlights was watching a group of players draft Eric Klug’s Pro Tour cube. This cube features a copy of every card that has ever been in a Pro Tour winning deck. It looked like it was a blast to play.

Eventually, the day began to wind down. The top eight of the GP was decided, and the single elimination rounds ran quickly. Some major names managed to make the cut against 4300 other players. This included hall of famer Luis Scott-Vargas and actual Modern master Josh McClain. Neither was able to make it to the finals however. Finally, riding the back of Shatterstorm, Brian Liu managed to take down the largest event outside of GP Las Vegas last year.


After finding some awesome food in downtown Richmond, we finally began the trek back home. All of us had a blast, but we were truly exhausted. We did manage to do an awesome before and after episode of At Your End Step that does an excellent job of highlighting our optimism on the way there and our drained lethargy on the way back.


Overall, the event was a great time. It still amazes me that the game has grown to the point where we literally have thousands of people now descending upon these unsuspecting cities. Hopefully it keeps growing and we can break that five thousand mark sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Keknee

@AtYourEnd Step

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