Some of my favorite days have begun by waking up by my friends in a hotel room, packing my backpack full of snacks and Magic cards, and heading to a convention center for a stop on the SCG Tour®. As I arrive in the grand hall, I am greeted by the friendly faces of the judge staff, the coverage team, the vendors, and players I've seen at other Tour events, from reigning Players' Champion Jim Davis to SCG Points Leader Jeff Hoogland to people who just hope to make Day 2, like me.
There are several reasons to attend an SCG Tour® event. You get a weekend full of opportunities to play Magic with people who share your love for the game, from the more casual Commander pods to the high-level competition of the Open. You have a chance to buy and sell cards you have trouble finding or trading with your local play group. You can meet artists who came to the event, get your cards signed, and pick up some awesome swag. And best of all, you get a chance to catch up with old acquaintances and make new friends!
Choosing an Event
The first step is to choose which SCG Tour® event you'll be attending. The SCG Tour ® Schedule Page has a convenient listing with cities and dates, and you can even see what formats the Open and Classics will be.
Maybe the SCG Tour® is coming to your hometown, so you have an opportunity to visit without much overhead. If this is the case, consider yourself lucky! You can head to the tournament center when you wake up for the day and sleep in your own bed that night. Without traveling, it's a low-commitment endeavor and you can just stop in for a draft or two, even if you don't have time to make a day of it.
Perhaps there's one within driving distance or in a city you haven't visited yet. For example, because I live in St. Louis, my group of friends will often make a weekend getaway out of events in Indianapolis and Louisville. We'll book a room, head down a day early to experience the city, and enjoy a combined road trip, vacation, and SCG Tour® stop! Every new city has something to offer.
Or maybe you just want to attend every Open to level up your game and climb the leaderboard. There are plenty of ways to optimize your travel to stay on-budget while still attending most of the dozens of Open Weekends on the SCG Tour® every year. You can reach out on Twitter with the event hashtag, like #SCGCOL, to see who else is coming, make plans for dinner on the town, and follow your favorite Players to Watch as they tweet throughout the day.
If you're attending an event in your hometown, I'll assume you know what you're doing and leave that part to you. For the rest of us, getting there can be an adventure of its own!
If you're flying or taking a train into town, be sure to take some time before you arrive to figure out how to get around once you are there. You could always just rent a car, but many cities have great public transportation options, so you might be able to get away with buses and light rail. Or you could rely on taxis and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to get around if they're in the area.
Then again, my favorite option is to make the journey a road trip! Whether you're driving on your own or you've packed your car full of friends, driving to events on the SCG Tour® can be just as much fun as the event itself. If you're like me and you prefer to have everything planned ahead of time, you can use sites like Google Maps and RoadTrippers to find points of interest and places to eat along the way. Or you can just make sure you've got gas in the tank and adventure in your heart and wing it, stopping wherever and whenever you want.
When it comes to lodging, every SCG Tour® event has a discounted rate at a hotel near the event site, which is always great. If you're on a tighter budget, you can stay with locals via sites like AirBnB or CouchSurfing. Be sure to book early! If you're looking to split a room but you don't have anybody in mind, reach out with the event's hashtag on Twitter and you'll often be able to find somebody. I reached out on #SCGCOL last weekend, and now I'm sharing a room with fellow SCG Tour® grinder and StarCityGames.com® writer Emma Handy!
The headlining event at a SCG Tour® Open Weekend is the Open tournament itself. Hundreds of players compete for $20,000 in prizes and a wonderful team covers feature matches on SCG Live. Day 1 is nine rounds of competitive Magic in the Swiss format, and if you do well enough, you are invited back to compete on Day 2, where six more rounds of Swiss are followed by a cut to the Top 8.
If you don't make the cut for Day 2, or if you prefer a format other than the one at the Open, the Classics are another great option for competitive Magic.
If a large tournament doesn't interest you, there are plenty of other great reasons to attend an SCG Tour® Open Weekend. Other options to play Magic include side events in nearly every format. Legacy, Modern, Standard, Booster Draft, Sealed Deck, Two-Headed Giant, and Commander events fire all weekend. Some are scheduled, while some start as soon as enough players sign up for the event.
These events are a great value, and if you do well, you get tickets for the Prize Wall, which you can exchange for booster packs, playmats, accessories, sealed product, StarCityGames.com® store credit, and even items from the Creature Collection—I've started building quite the collection of adorable pins! Pro-tip: people are often willing to trade your tickets for cards from their binder because they're going after higher-value items from the Prize Wall. Don't be afraid to offer or ask for tickets when trading at the event!
Artists and alterists also have booths at SCG Tour® events, which are a ton of fun! You can meet the artists behind your favorite cards, ask them to autograph your favorites, and buy playmats, prints, artist proofs, alterations, and sometimes even pieces of original Magic art! Finally, vendor booths give you a chance to sell cards you've had trouble trading away, buy cards you haven't been able to find locally, and grab that card you need for your deck that you just figured out on the car ride over but is totally perfect for your sideboard against G/W Tokens!
If you ever have any questions at the event, I've never met a nicer group of people than the judge and event staff on the SCG Tour®. Just head to the registration stage and find somebody in a blue judge polo, or raise your hand and shout "Judge!", and somebody will be along shortly to help.
If you're competing in the main event, you'll want to be prepared. Nine rounds of Magic without a break is no small endeavor, so give yourself the opportunity to focus on the game instead of logistics. With a little bit of preparation, instead of collapsing from exhaustion at the end of Day 1, you'll be wishing for more Magic.
First, be sure to sleep well the night before the event. I like to travel on Friday so that I can arrive in plenty of time to get settled for a good night's rest. Next, have a plan for food. Some SCG Tour® events have restaurants near the event center or concession stands in the building, while others have more limited options. Because the tournament goes from right after breakfast until just before dinner, you'll probably want to pack some snacks or even a full lunch in case your matches run long around lunch time. Bring a water bottle, too. You don't want to get dehydrated!
Next up, pick your deck! Read up on the latest articles, check out the decks you might expect to face, watch some video content and streams to prepare, and choose your 75. Double-check that you've got the cards you want to play with for your main deck and sideboard, and if you've got access to a printer, fill out a decklist early to save time at the event.
If you're hundreds of miles from home and you realize you left an important card there, don't panic! You can usually find the cards you need last-minute at the event. I did just this when I picked up Hallowed Moonlight to combat the Collected Company decks that showed up in force at #SCGATL.
Be sure to bring everything else you'll need to play the game of Magic, too. If your deck needs tokens or dice, bring those along. You can always get cards and accessories at the event, but having one less thing to worry about is always nice. If you're playing in the Open or in a Classic, be sure to check that your sleeves are in good condition—damaged sleeves can be considered marked at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level. Bring a way to track life totals for yourself and your opponent. I like pen and paper and my husband uses an e-ink tablet, but you can use whatever you prefer. Just try to avoid dice; you don't want somebody bumping the table and causing you to lose track!
Finally, check out the Your First Open page. It's packed with details to help you through your first trip to an SCG Tour® stop. Bookmark it on your smartphone and don't be afraid to check it often!
If you're playing in a Classic or a side event, there's no limit to the number of players that can show up and register. But if you're planning to attend an Open, I highly recommend pre-registering. Just last month #SCGDFW hit its player registration cap with 1,000 people participating in the Open. The day of the tournament is exciting: everything you've planned for is happening, so don't get left out!
Once the event starts, enjoy it! Magic can be a mentally taxing game, especially when you play for nine rounds in a row. Be mindful, live in the moment, and have fun. And be sure not to miss anything obvious!
Between rounds, try to meet new people and exchange contact info to keep in touch. Even if you live far away from each other, you might see them again at your next stop on the SCG Tour®, you might keep in touch and exchange deck ideas on Twitter, or you might become lifelong friends. Who knows?
Enjoy the tournament, and enjoy your time in the city. Take time to explore after the event ends, and see what each place has to offer. Grab dinner with other players you just met. And once it's all said and done, head home with a weekend of memories, prizes, and stories to tell.
Maybe it's just me, but can you guess the first thing I do when I see the St. Louis Arch and I know I'm almost home? I start daydreaming about my next stop on the SCG Tour®.
Have a wonderful week, and as always: happy gaming!