Star City Games Richmond Open Experience
Star City Games is the world's largest Magic: The Gathering store located in Roanoke, Virginia. The company holds competitive tournaments across the east coast of the United States. I attended one of the SCG Open weekends held in Richmond, Virginia from February 1-2, 2020. The event took place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, a large venue in downtown Richmond. Inside the exhibition hall, there were about 400 players participating in the main event. This tournament featured cash prizes totaling over $20,000 for top performing teams. In addition to the main event, SCG offers side events throughout the weekend including competitive Classic tournaments on Sunday.
I arrived at the exhibition hall around 9 a.m. and met up with Sean, a friend of mine from northern Virginia. Players were scurrying around the hall to purchase last minute cards for their decks. The main event began at 10 a.m. and players had to record decklists beforehand. Once the main event started, the hall felt somewhat empty as hundreds of players were sitting at tables. The side event space was desolate outside of a handful of people participating in morning Challenges. In total there were around 50 players participating in the first set of side events. However, I heard on-demand drafts did not start until about noon.
The Challenge events consist of four rounds with prize payout based on your overall record. These side events cost $20.00 per player. Various formats are offered as Challenges such as Modern, Pioneer, and Two-Headed Giant. If you play all four rounds of a Challenge, then you can likely participate in two per day. Prizes are awarded in the form of tickets. These tickets can be redeemed for gaming supplies, sealed product, store credit, and other items.
My friend and I entered the Modern and Pioneer Challenge events respectively. I was able to achieve an overall record of two wins, one loss, and one draw. My deck of choice was Blue/White Spirits. I lost in a close match to Ensoul Artifacts and drew against Blue/Red Phoenix. Sean played Bogles in Modern and finished with a record of two wins and two losses. He was soundly defeated one round by the turn two kill of Colossus Hammer, Kor Duelist, and Sigarda's Aid. There was a wide variety of casual and competitive decks played in the two Challenge events. Many players that participated in the morning Challenge events had bought the Infinite Challenge package. This package includes entry into any four constructed Challenge events and a promotional playmat for $80.00. Another package was available for Sealed format events at $125.00. Essentially, you got a free playmat for pre-paying four Challenge events. The upside is if you do not perform well in one event, you can drop and enter another Challenge. However, you will likely need to join a different MTG format when dropping early.
The plan for the afternoon was to participate in the Two-Headed Giant Challenge at 3 p.m. We received eight packs of Theros Beyond Death for the event. Unfortunately, our card pool consisted of terrible commons, two rare scry lands, and lackluster late-game threats. We built two mediocre decks and hoped for the best. Our first match did not goal well. On the second turn of the game, our opponents flickered a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. This spell caused each of us to discard two cards. We ultimately lost to a resolved Dream Trawler with its controller holding multiple cards. When the second-round pairings were posted, we randomly earned a bye. This gave us the chance to earn prizes if we could win one of our last two matches. We lost our third-round match against a father and son team. We tried playing our stronger cards, but we could not keep up with the evasion and removal from our opponents. In the final round, we were paired against a team with the same overall record. The game played out as a stalemate until we put out a few flying threats. Our opponents were able to draw answers before we could end the game. They also deployed multiple gods that we were unable to remove. The match went to turns and as we were unable to secure a victory with the current board state. One of the opposing teammates hinted twice to their partner that the match was headed to a draw. I believe this person was trying to suggest that they could concede to us since we had the advantage. Sean and I understood that neither team would win any prize tickets if a draw occurred. In the end, the game resulted in a draw. Even though the outcome was disappointing, we decided to try again the next morning.
Sean and I arrived early at the venue for the 9:30 a.m. Two-Headed Giant Challenge. We were worried that some of the Challenge events would not have enough participants. Thankfully, the event started on time with 10 teams. Our pool of cards was considerably stronger than what we opened Saturday. We also had strong mythic cards including Ashiok, Nightmare Muse and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. One of our decks was Black/Red Aggro with removal. The second deck was Blue/White Auras splashing Ashiok. Our basic strategy was to attach auras to creatures in the Black/Red deck and protect them. For the first-round, we were paired against opponents with similar decks. The game was going well for us until our opponents played a few powerful removal spells. Sean and I were able to recover enough to hit time in the round. We managed to salvage a draw at two life when the match ended. In the second-round, we were able to close out our first win. We did the same combo with Kroxa and a flickering spell that was used against us on Saturday. For the third round, we were paired against a couple playing Green/Red Aggro and Black/White Midrange. Our opponents stumbled early in the match but were able to come back after drawing removal and threats. We had them low on life with a board stall when time was called. During the final turns of the game, the Black/White player made a risky play by attacking us with all their flying creatures. Sean saw a line to victory during the opponent's attack and guided us to setup a potential win. I had to draw Kroxa to ensure victory for everything to work. Miraculously, I drew Kroxa and was able to produce enough lethal damage for the win. Sean received full credit for the narrow victory. Our final round opponents had three wins and zero losses. One of their decks was Mono Black Control featuring four Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The game was going surprisingly well for us until our opponent drew multiple Gray Merchants. We were swiftly defeated by arguably the best card in the format. After the match, we collected prize tickets for our overall record and proceeded to the prize wall.
Star City Games Prize Ticket Redemption
All of the side events, including the Sunday Classics, reward prize tickets based on overall record. The side event prize payout is listed for each Star City Games Open. After paying $60 for three challenge events, I had earned 290 tickets. Players have a few different redemption options at SCG Open events. You can exchange 10 tickets for $1 in SCG store credit. This is likely the worst exchange value, but it allows players to pickup individual MTG cards. Another common option is exchanging 20 tickets for a Standard set booster pack. Essentially, this doubles the value of the tickets compared to store credit. SCG offers a variety of foreign language and Masters set booster packs for more than 20 tickets each. Other sealed product is available at similar rates to booster packs. I saw Brawl decks between 200 and 240 tickets, Standard set Bundles at 400 tickets, and Standard booster boxes for 720 tickets. A third option for ticket redemption is gaming supplies. You can get various Ultimate Guard products such as deck boxes and playmat holders. I personally like Ultimate Guard products and would have exchanged tickets for an Ultimate Guard Flip in Tray if I did not already own one. There are a few other items available in the prize area such as tokens, dice, pins, and SCG playmats. However, none of these items are essential gaming supplies or contribute to a MTG card collection. I decided to redeem my tickets for 14 booster packs and an SCG deck box. The $29 in store credit was appealing, but I wanted the opportunity to open more value and playable Standard cards. In the end, I opened around $25 in value from the booster packs.
Sean and I had a great time playing in side events at SCG Richmond. We enjoyed the laid-back competitive environment, meeting players from other places, and celebrating our success by opening booster packs. Most importantly, we had fun playing Two-headed Giant together and catching up on life occurrences.
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