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The Rough Guide to GP Travel


Richard Bland
Richard Bland

About Richard Bland

Richard is an English pro player. He started playing Magic on a foreign exchange trip to Germany in the dark days of Darksteel, and was running sick homebrew Shared Fate decks at FNM while everyone else was playing affinity mirrors. While he has learned better since then, he still retains a soft spot for combo decks of all hues.

  • Platinum Pro Player
  • 98 Lifetime Pro Points
  • 2nd Worlds 2011
  • 2nd GP San Diego 2011
  • 3rd GP Barcelona 2011
  • 3rd GP Madrid 2010
  • 2nd Great Britain Nationals 2010

The Rough Guide to GP Travel

Hello everyone,

This past weekend was GP Lisbon, and the final event of the year for me before the holidays. I was looking forward to this event for a few reasons. It was Limited, and a Limited format I enjoy, which is always preferable in a GP – Constructed may be well and good, but Limited is just too much fun.

Booking travel and accommodation at European GPs is always a bit of a mixed bag, some locations can be really great for the traveler on a budget and easy to get to, others less so, and conflicting events like public holidays or other scheduled events in the GP city can really make trips expensive. GP Lyon last month had the bad luck of being on the same weekend as the end of French school’s half-term holidays, so flights there from the UK were both expensive and crammed with French families returning from (the somewhat inexplicable choice of) having a Winter holiday in the UK.

For Lisbon, we managed to find a great deal on a combined hotel and flights, and snagged 3 nights in a 4* hotel a total of 10 minutes’ walk from the venue and non-budget airline flight for around £150 per person, a pretty great deal. This goes to show that shopping around online and checking out all the available deals you can find for travel can definitely be worth your time.

Most travel advice you can read on Magic sites tends to be US-centric, and not easily applicable to Europeans, which is understandable, and the US is far more homogenous in terms of infrastructure and travel provider coverage when compared to Europe. Here’s my advice for those who do travel (or are only considering going) to GPs – this advice is somewhat meant for Europe but a lot of it does apply to the US, and for Pro Tour travel in general.

Travel Preparations
Innistrad (Foil)

  • Book early – This is almost a truism, and you would think would go without saying, but it is advice that constantly fails to be heeded by Magic players, who do tend to be a little on the disorganized side of the spectrum. Airline flight prices follow strange, inscrutable and labyrinthine pricing algorithms at the best of times, but in general you’ll see prices trend up from about 2 months away from the flight date to a peak around 1 week from departure. Some places, mostly larger airlines with scheduled flights that don’t tend to fill may drop prices at the last minute to fill seats, but with GPs falling on weekends and often coinciding with public holidays, you won’t often find this the case.
  • Shop around - Most people in Europe have more than one airport within reasonable travelling distance. I myself, being in central England, can choose from 6 different airports all within ~2hrs coach journey. You should familiarize yourself with which airlines fly regularly from which local airports. Flying out closer to midweek can be cheaper than a Friday evening flight, but you must balance this against the hotel costs of staying another day. Similarly, flying out Sunday night can be a useful option if the flight is late enough. Most Constructed GPs tend to wrap up about 5pm Sunday at the latest, while Limited ones can be as late as 9pm if you are fortunate enough to make the top8. Whether this is a factor you deem likely to matter is up to you, but having to spend GP winnings on rebooking your flight, or coming into an event planning not to win, are things I would advise against. Keep that positive mental attitude alive and plan accordingly.
  • Budget airlines – These necessary evils of the travel industry, such as Ryanair, while singularly unpleasant to deal with and fly on, tend to offer very cheap flights if booked in advance and you jump through the associated hoops that budget airlines require you to pass through to keep your flights cheap. Online check-in is a given and remember to print it out before you fly as some airlines will slap you with a fee for printing it out for you should you forget. You should try to ensure you only bring hand-luggage, so pack light, and be sure if you’re planning to bring a small wheeled bag as your hand luggage that you bring one that is under the maximum permitted size the airline allows. They often check bag sizes, and if you can’t force it into the metal bin when asked, you will have to pay an exorbitant fee to have it checked, so don’t risk it and check the size and weight requirements before you fly. And for some countries you’ll need to fill in your passport details online before you fly out, especially Spain and Portugal, so pay attention to emails in the week before departure.
  • Hotels – Hotel costs can vary wildly depending on location and time of year. I find it best to ignore the suggested hotel locations that Wizards occasionally list on the GP page on their site, and to make good use of Google maps. In most cases you will find the venue has a decent number of hotels and apartments within walking distance. In others, especially where the venue is off in a cheaper suburb for space/cost reasons, you might find fewer close by, and the ‘official’ hotels very expensive. You should look at the public transport the city has to offer and make a decision based on how much you value your time. I’ve been to many, many GPs over the years and I tend to favor a place that is within walking distance wherever possible, even if there are cheaper places to stay further from the venue (taking into account transport costs). Euro GPs are long, draining affairs, and when you finish day one late, you don’t want to have to add on an extra 30-40 minutes of travel time and waiting around onto both the end of your day and the start of the next one, cutting into your time available for finding food and getting some much-needed sleep. There are limits to this however, and I don’t advocate spending more than around 30 Euros per night on hotels if at all possible. Some places are just generally more expensive for accommodation, such as Amsterdam and London, and might not have much available cheap accommodation. I don’t really recommend staying in non-private accommodation, such as hostel dormitories. You save a little on costs, but you’ll lose out on both uninterrupted sleep due to the number of people you’re sharing with on different time schedules, and with shared space, you do risk the safety of your valuables and lose the ability to leave things like clothes behind if you’re on the hand-luggage only plan and don’t have a lockable suitcase to leave things in. A big factor in accommodation is the group you’re travelling with. The ideal sized group for hotels is 3-4 people. 3-person rooms are fairly commonly offered by hotels and tend to make for decent savings over a 2-person room per person. It is a fairly common practice amongst Magic players to try and save money on hotel rooms by squeezing in extra people on the floors. I can’t recommend this practice as either a floor-sleeper or a sub-letter. Floor sleeping is not at all what you want to be doing if you want a good night’s sleep and saving a little money isn’t worth ruining your chances at doing well in the GP when tiredness becomes a factor. The same goes for having other people squat in your room, the amount of money you save by having people crash on your floor really isn’t much, and you’ll have to share shower time in the morning with them, and you’ll likely be less comfortable sleeping, especially if any of them snore. Once you’ve found a suitable hotel, you’ll want to check Tripadvisor or another aggregator site to see which of the various online travel agents sell rooms for the cheapest. These sites tend to block reserve rooms, so you may find significant differences in both prices and availability across different sites. Generally you’ll not go too far wrong just checking Booking.com and Hotels.com. The latter has a decent loyalty system of 1 night free every 10 nights of hotels booked, so if you have a regular travel group you might want to consider having 1 person book all accommodation through them for the group to take advantage of such offers.
  • Apartments – for groups of 4-8, you might want to start looking more toward renting an apartment for the weekend. You may find in some of the less tourist-frequented locations that this isn’t as much of an option, as these places will often only rent for a minimum of a week, but most places will have plenty to choose from. Again you’re likely to find them listed on Google maps, and there are other sites specifically for apartment rentals – I use homeaway.co.uk myself, but I’m sure there are plenty more. For trips longer than just a weekend, especially Pro Tours, you’ll often find apartments cheaper than hotels, and they tend to be a lot more fun to spend time in, and much better for playing Magic in groups. For Pro Tours especially, apartments are much more fun and having facilities to cook your own meals saves a lot on eating out every night.
  • Pack smart – remember to bring adequate toiletries for the trip, but in small enough quantities that you’re not going to get dinged by the airport’s liquids restrictions, as you’re going to have to have them in your hand luggage. Some airports won’t provide those little plastic bags for free, so get a sandwich bag for your toothpastes and shower gels beforehand. If you’re staying somewhere cheaper or in an apartment, you won’t be able to rely as much on hotel toiletries, so things like towels, soaps and shower gels are more likely to be needed. If staying in a room with more than 2 people I’d recommend bringing a towel anyway, as someone will always end up using more than their share of towels and trying to dry off after a shower with damp, used towels is pretty much the worst.

Bonus GP Report!

The GP did not go as well for me as it could have. My pool wasn’t horribly weak, but it didn’t have very much that I’d call exciting. Many of my rares weren’t very impressive. Here’s what I opened:

GP Lisbon Sealed Deck Pool

Your rating: None
Average: 3.7 (15 votes)

I struggled a little coming up with a good build. The gold cards simply weren’t very powerful or splashable in a lot of guilds, and the relatively even distribution of power cards and fixing meant that there wasn’t an obvious build. I tried building around removal with Rakdos, but that deck has about nineteen cards, and no real use for a third color – Green offered a Corpsejack Menace (with very little scavenge or unleash to pair it with and Blue... nothing more exciting than a Voidwielder. The main issue was that of all the color combinations, there wasn’t a solid 2-color splash a third build out there. Either the main color was too weak, needing a fully 3-color deck to work with limited fixing, or there wasn’t anything worth splashing in adjoining colors. Populate as a deck didn’t really work out either, as I had only a Security Blockade and a pair of Eyes in the Skies to really do much of anything in terms of tokens. I ended up with 2 different builds after deck registration and sorting through the pool with friends during the byes.

First, the deck I registered, a rather conservative 2-color Azorius list, running the 1 true bomb of my pool, Archon of the Triumvirate.

GP Lisbon Sealed Deck - UW

Your rating: None
Average: 4 (6 votes)

This deck was underpowered, and had a real issue with its lack of removal and inability to attack profitably into powerful cards like... Concordia Pegasus and Towering Indrik. With only Archon as a true finisher it was really reliant on opponents not having good answers to the cheap fliers or landing the 7-drop. It did have a lot of instants available to it, and had the potential to out-play unwary opponents, and cards like Eyes in the Skies can always blow some people out, especially when you only show Inspiration and Hussar Patrol game one. Against decks that could handle the 2/X flyer army, however, I needed to go bigger, and so I would board into this 4-color monstrosity.

The manabase isn’t pretty, removal is light and the curve isn’t great, but it has some heavy hitters, which can be the difference in the Green-white dudes deck mirror, which is a matchup you will face often, if the land stations swimming in Islands, Swamps and Mountains, but stripped clean of Forests and Plains were anything to go by. My day ended early with a disappointing 1-3, including final game losses to everyone’s favorite format-warping rare, Pack Rat, which my deck had exactly one answer to. On the bright side, teammate, and hard-to-type-name owner, Sveinung Bjornerud picked up a casual top 4 placing, with his ability to draft Risen Sanctuary and Trostani, and made his flight to Montreal next year free, as well as giving me competition for being ‘that one who’s good at Limited’ in our little group.

Thanks for reading,


Your rating: None
Average: 4.5 (4 votes)
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