See the World, Whilst Playing Magic

Laurie is trying to get better at Magic, one event at a time – whether that’s a PPTQ in the South East or a Grand Prix in some part of Northern Europe – he’ll be there, trying his best not to 0-3 drop.

The most accessible form of Premier Magic Events is the Grand Prix circuit, you’ll undoubtedly have watched them on Twitch and perhaps you popped to Grand Prix London at the end of January. In a good year, the UK gets 3 Grand Prix events – 2018 is already special because we’ve got 4 on the roster. London, which took place in January, Liverpool (Team Sealed!) which is in December and the double-header event at Birmingham featuring TWO back to back events for Legacy and Standard. We’re spoilt for choice this year.

But, if like me, that doesn’t sate your cravings then you’ll be looking a little further afield, if you’re considering your first Grand Prix event abroad this year, then this is the article you’ve been waiting for, my top tips on your first Grand Prix abroad.

1 – Book in Advance

You’ll save money, a lot of money – it doesn’t matter if you’re flying to GP Stockholm, taking a Eurostar to GP Amsterdam or hopping on a ferry to get to GP Lille. You will save money.

An example ticket for the Eurostar to Paris can be had for £39 each way a few months ahead, but a few weeks before departure will easily cost £80 each. The old mantra that the early bird gets the worm has never been truer when it comes to travel.

2 – Close Hotels are Good Hotels

I’ve learnt to appreciate the distance between your hotel and the event venue is a significant factor in how much you’ll enjoy your trip. It’s ok to sacrifice quality of hotel for being close to the venue, it’s ok to pay a little more to be close to the venue too – ultimately you’ll only pay more in transport costs. For Lyon, we stayed in an Ibis Budget. I would really rather not stay in an Ibis Budget hotel, I’m a man of comfort and have a personal preference for mattresses slightly thicker than 2 inches… But, it was a 10 minute walk to the venue and I couldn’t fault it for that alone.

When booking, research your travel plan. How close is this hotel to the event venue and do I need to take transport to get there? If it’s public transport, how will that be on a Sunday? Because you don’t want a Match Loss when you’ve made Day 2 because the bus wasn’t running! Make sure to factor these costs in when deciding where to book, just because the hotel is cheaper, doesn’t mean it will be cheaper to stay there.

3 – Have a Plan for Food

It can be challenging in a foreign country to scavenge up some food at short notice, even with UberEATs or other online food ordering services designed to take the communication requirements out of the process there’s potential for it to go wrong. One friend at GP Lyon ordered food but it was accidentally delivered to the other side of Lyon, and 3 hours later all she could get from the restaurant was a refund – and then, she went to bed hungry.

It’s almost always worth a trip to a local SuperMarket on the Friday of a GP, before the main event starts and you get caught up in that whirlwind – to stock up on essentials at a price slightly more affordable than food-stands at event venues. Bottles of water, bags of crisps (or healthier alternatives). For Lyon, we stocked up on crepes and brioche, and it was magnificent.

If all else fails, and you’re in a hotel of some quality, the front desk employee will be happy enough to help you muster up some food – although, it might be from a limited room service menu or a pizza menu they keep on hand for these emergencies.

4 – Uber is pretty great, most of the time

Uber will let you remove the requirement for communication with a taxi driver, and will automate the billing process in a fair and transparent way. It gives you access to drivers from your phone and the sense of trust that these people have been peer reviewed and found to be trustable.

That said, if the event venue is a little bit out of the way, then late night coverage might be a little bit more sparse. If this is the case, I’d plan ahead and work out what time you want to leave the venue and use the book ahead function.

5 – Cash Cash, Money Money

As a Magic player, you’ll be intimately familiar with the concept of Timing. You’ll wait until they declare attackers, or possibly bait out a pump spell before dropping your removal. To get the most for your money, you’ll need to work out the best timing for currency exchange – and the best place to get a good exchange rate.

Firstly, rule out the Airport. The Sell rate they use on currencies is below market value, which is where they derive their margin from. If you’re planning your Grand Prix event a few months ahead of time then keep an eye on the exchange rate for any fluctuations and aim to buy whilst the Pound is high.

If you run low on cash whilst you’re there, consider liquidating a little bit of your trade folder with a vendor to top up your funds.

6 – Stay a While Longer

Most Grand Prix events will have Magic tournaments on the Friday, Saturday & Sunday meaning your travel options out-bound are often Thursday evening or Friday morning, returning Sunday evening or Monday morning.

It’s often cheaper to head out a day earlier, or return a day later as the flights are in lower demand for outbound Wednesday-Thursday, and cheaper for Monday-Tuesday returns due to lower demand in those days. Often, once you take into account an extra night of accomodation it works out about the same but you don’t have quite so much pressure to rush from the Airport to the Venue and then back again.

This means you get to see a little bit more of what’s on offer in the host city, I added an extra day on to the back of GP Lyon and took advantage of Parc Du Tet D’or and the City Zoo within without incurring any real extra cost.

7 – Your Phone is Awesome

Your phone gives you access to a lot of elements that will make your trip easier

  • Confirmation emails for bookings & e-tickets for travel
  • ONLINE PAIRINGS, because no one likes a scrum before the round starts
  • Apps, Uber to Google Translate and everything in between
  • Google Maps, for when you need to find something or somewhere

I hope these have been a few helpful hints and handy tips on how to get the best out of your first Grand Prix outside of the UK!

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