The Observor: Mischief in Minneapolis

Have I got a story for you! So as many of you know, you being the few dozen people that actually read my ramblings, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota a few weeks ago for the US National tournament. When the time came for me to leave, I was more than ready. Indianapolis had effectively become a giant oven over the previous days, with temperatures hitting just under the 100°F mark, and enough humidity to fill a freaking swimming pool. It was more than a little uncomfortable. Now, since I never do any research about local conditions in whatever location I am going to, I simply chose to prepare myself based on the amazing breadth of knowledge that resides inside my impressive skull. I knew that Minnesota often received many feet of snow in the winter time. I knew that snow was cold. Therefore, I decided that Minnesota had to be cooler than Indiana. Once again proving that I know virtually everything, upon landing in Minneapolis, I was pleased to find that it was a comfortable 70°, with next to no humidity. Yay science!

Upon arrival at the hotel, I checked in at the front desk only to discover that my roommate for the weekend, Serious Fun writer Adam Styborski, was already checked in and awaiting me in the room. Walking into the room, I found Adam busily bear-tanking an instance on his level 80 druid. A onetime druid player myself, I made the best first impression I think I’ve ever made on anyone when I simply walked behind him, paused for a second, and sprang forward with a loud RAWR, making little, vicious claws with my outstretched fingers. Adam turned towards me, shook my hand, and nodded. Clearly, this was a kindred spirit.

While he completed tanking the instance (I think it was a heroic Azjol-Nerub), the whole while mashing his rotation without even looking at the screen (I love bear tanks!), we started chatting about the weekend and getting to know each other a little better. This was an interesting experience for me for a couple of reasons. First, Adam is one of the first new writers I had met in a long time. For the most part, I am used to working with people I have known for a couple of years now. It was kind of nice getting to meet a fresh face, and one that enjoys the casual aspect of the game as much as I do. Adam is quite the badass! Secondly, I still think of myself as the new kid on the coverage team despite having worked with Wizards for the past three years. I don’t quite have the pedigree that people like Brian David-Marshall or the undeniably brilliant Josh Bennett have. To me, I’m just some guy. But talking with Adam really made me realize that I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’m actually not half bad at it! It was a great conversation.

With the instance now complete, safely back in Dalaran, Adam logged off and said to me the one word I was hoping would come out of his mouth.


Obv! I was starving, and it was a nice enough day out that I kind of wanted to wander for a bit and find someplace delicious for lunch, as well as plan out a bit more of the weekend. We started out of the hotel and headed down Nicollet Mall looking for places to eat. We had heard about most of the places of note from Steve Port of Legion Events, one of the best TOs you will ever meet in your entire life. He knows all about the Twin Cities and did a wonderful job of priming us all for a great time. After walking for a time and not finding a place we wanted to sully our virginity of for simply a lunch, we ended up snagging a burrito (or two in my case) at Chipotle. Lunch discussion was primarily aimed at Adam’s feeling of insecurity as to what he could contribute toward the coverage since he had never done anything like this before. Since the job he was brought into do was effectively the same thing I had done for the previous few major tournaments, I lent him some pointers and helped him start to devise a schedule for himself over the weekend. I told him that for more specifics we’d break everything down at the writers’ dinner I decided we were having later that night at a wonderful little joint named Brit’s Tavern. More on this to come.

After getting food and checking back at the hotel to see who else had arrived, we headed over to the event site. Luckily no more than a couple of blocks from where we were staying, the event site also happened to have everything we would need over the course of the weekend—a Kinkos and a coffee shop. Nestled snugly in the basement of the massive Minneapolis Convention Center, the event site was still closed to the general public, though a huge group of players had gathered outside, waiting for the grinders to start, desperately wanting an opportunity to play in Nationals over the weekend.

A quick aside on the grinders. As a veteran of many Nationals, I have to say that I really love the grinders. Most players absolutely abhor them, and it’s easy to understand why. There is variance in Magic, and single elimination tournaments don’t really address that. For over a decade, grinders have been relentlessly scheduled and hypercompetitive. If you win, you’re in. Lose, and there’s another entry fee, another deck, and another chance. That’s the part I love. There is so much riding on every single game you play that the atmosphere is supercharged. It’s like March Madness for Magic, and I thrive in that kind of atmosphere.

Back to our regularly scheduled story time. Thanks to my super celebrity status, and having nothing to do with my press badge, I was waved in alongside Adam, allowing us entry to a behind-the-scenes look at the setup of a Magic tournament. It was as impressive as you have always dreamed! There were dozens of people placing tables and table numbers, judges walking around with boxes of product, and I think I even saw a dealer or two setting up their wares for the incoming tide of requests. Yeah, it really wasn’t anything special, but we were there on a mission. We had to find out where we were setting up for the weekend, and I had to say hi to some people. Serious business.

After running into the illustrious Steve Port, who is one of my most favoritest people in the whole world, I get to introduce Adam to Laura Kilgore, who is the maven of Organized Play for North America. If you’ve been at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, there is a good chance you’ve seen Laura around and not even known it. For this weekend, she was the one who came equipped with all of the cool toys we were going to need to do our job, including cameras and the wireless password. Noticing that there wasn’t a good video camera, and considering the problems I’ve been experiencing with mine, I decide that I want to go buy a Flip Video camera. I got to use one a few weeks before in Columbus when I used Blake Rasmussen’s to make all of those cool Legacy deck techs I’m sure all of you watched and enjoyed so much. Thanks for checking them out! Anyhoo, I was really impressed by the ease of use and how perfectly designed they are for the type of work we have to do at these events that I decided I wanted one for myself. After getting info on where I could buy one from Steve Port (seriously, he knows everything), Adam and I head out to Target to pick one up.

Just a quick interjection about this Target. Apparently, Target has one of their corporate offices in Minneapolis, and it occupies the same building as their retail outlet. Unaware of this, I wandered into their corporate office looking to buy a camera. I found it quite odd that I would need a passcard and a trip through a metal detector in order to shop, but I figured there might just be a lot of crime in this otherwise idyllic town. Needless to say, I felt like somewhat of an idiot after talking to the security guard for a minute. Oh well, at least I got my camera, and you’ll get to see the first videos from it for this article series after Grand Prix-Nashville in November. It should be a hell of a lot of fun.

With the rest of the coverage team on the ground and starting to make their way to the hotel or event site, I figured it was time to start planning the weekend. I had big plans, you see, I came to this event with a ton of preparation and research done, and I wanted to make sure things went as smooth as silk. In addition, since the days are a little shorter than those of Grand Prix to the tune of a few hours, we can actually have a little fun with all of the friends that are in town for the event. I start seeding the various people I come across with my intentions to both see Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World that evening and my desire to sing karaoke with as many awesome people as I could on Saturday night. Both were only marginally received.

After not meeting much success in my endeavors to build up a group of people to hang out with later that night (people kept mentioning something called testing… I dunno, never heard of it), I just decided to wrangle up the other Wizards guys and head out for some food. We had decided earlier in the day to head to Brit’s Tavern for dinner not because of the food and good beer they served (both of which are important), but because they had for reals lawn bowling on the roof. How badass is that?! I mean, fish and chips, Fuller’s ESB, and lawn bowling. Somewhere in London, my British counterpart, good buddy, and all around excellent gentleman is shedding a little tear. Not because he couldn’t come, though I bet that was sad, but because he’s so damn proud of me. Soon, Tim. Soon.

This dinner was fantastic. The food was quite good, I got to introduce Zac Hill to the orgasmic experience that is Scotch Eggs (I described them as being basically what you would get if God were somehow turned into something you could eat), and a bunch of people I really like got to basically spend a few hours telling stories and having a good time. It was quite nice. And then the hammer fell. After dinner, during which it was decided that since we had such an amazingly good coverage team, we didn’t ultimately need to do quite as much advance planning as I had originally thought, we meandered out onto the roof for a little lawn bowling. The conversation went a little like this.

Me: “Herro! Can we get down on some lawn bowling?” (a note: these might not have been my exact words, as I drank a little bit throughout dinner)

Destroyer of Fun: “Do you have a reservation?”

Me: “On a Thursday night? For lawn bowling?”

Captain Killjoy: “Yes.”

Me: “Even though there are actually three full courts behind you?”

My New Archenemy: “Yes.”

Me: “Um. No.”

I Seriously Didn’t Like This Guy At This Point: “We only do free bowl on Sundays, and it gets packed.”

Me: “(Un)Fair enough.”


All I wanted was a little lawn bowling, and we got shot down. At least I had a good idea of how we could celebrate a job well done on Sunday. I filed that little tidbit of information away for later. With the kibosh put on our plans for lawn/roof bowling domination, I decided it was time to just head out to the movie. Our crew consisted of me, Adam, Dave Guskin (actually one of the best people ever made), and someone else I don’t remember because it was late and a while ago. BUT THEY WERE THERE!

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Holy balls was that movie awesome! I have never seen a movie that resided at the Venn diagram intersection of so many things I like as I experienced that evening. It tugged at my gamer heart strings. It wooed me with its clever references to what life is like as a musician that isn’t very good. It kept me on the edge of my seat with its great fighting scenes. It was AWESOME. Seriously, if you are reading this right now and haven’t seen the move, I am sad. If you are here, this movie was clearly made with you in mind. Go now. Seriously, stop reading this and go see it. I’ll be here when you get back.

Fanboyery aside, this was ultimately a successful excursion for a day before an event, and I was raring and ready to go for the weekend’s work. All I needed was a nice night of sleep, an early morning run in the health center, and a shower. After getting all three, Adam and I trudged over to begin a day of work. You can read about it in the event coverage archive at, in case you missed it. This story is less about the actual Magical goings on at Nationals, since those have been so well documented by an awesome team of talented and incredibly good looking individuals that you may have heard of before. Instead, I wanted to let you know about all of the cool things that you can do when you aren’t playing at one of these events. These things on the periphery are the reason to travel to events. They are what makes Magic fun. Honestly, most of you reading this are here at because you tend to gravitate towards Magic Online over paper. You probably have friends that you know solely through that platform. Maybe you just like the videos and personalities of the people who contribute to making this site as sweet as can be. In any case, these people travel for Magic. They go to Grand Prix. They are there, along with all of the other awesome people at the events, and fun will be had. I mean, we’re freaking gamers! Everything is just an excuse to have as much fun as we can cram into the daylight (and as much of the night as we are willing to spend awake). This is just one example of what you can get into should you travel for an event. This is my story. Go make your own.

Back to the lecture at hand. Perfection is perfected, so I let them understand. After a fun day of watching Magic and doing a little playing myself, we all collect after the fact for a little dinner. Somehow, three different groups within our metagroup had independently come to the conclusion that we needed to head to this Japanese Steakhouse across the street. Three reservations for four-ish people became a rousing table of over ten. We got our own table with our own grill and our very own ninja chef. It was sweet. I have worked in a joint like that before, but I hadn’t ever seen anyone who had the skills our chef did. After about five minutes of defying physics and tossing seafood at Patrick Chapin and Steve Sadin (both of them displayed extraordinary dexterity in dodging and/or catching whatever came their way), dinner was more or less served. I spent dinner sandwiched between David Ochoa, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite people to talk to on Tour, and Steve Sadin and BDM. We call that the sweet spot. The two New Yorkers and I were drinking beer, as we are wan to do, but Ochoa thought outside the box, and the bottle as well. Whatever he ordered was served in a miniature, ceramic Buddha, complete with a straw coming out of his midsection.

I’ll let that sink in for a second. Picture Buddha, smiling as always. Imagine a long tube coming out of his midsection. Now imagine placing your lips on that tube and slurping down a delicious, life-giving liquid.

Needless to say, much mockery was thrown around.

That’ll do it for this installation. For next time, I hope you’re ready for the ridiculous that ensues when you get a crowd of Magic players out for a night on the town. There may be a cameo by Zvi Mowshowitz and an attempt to bribe an authority figure. Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading!

Nate Price

  1. Seriously, Reservations on a thursday night for LAWN BOWLING? Pshaw, I would have flashed him some tarmogoyfs and said i was taking this to a real bowling alley.

  2. Minneapolis was a great great city. The area around the convention center was full of fun stuff to check out. The first day me and the guy I went up with stayed about 15 minutes from the venue. We checked out and moved into a Hilton next to the convention center just to be closer to the action and the price was pretty reasonable.

    Much love for being able to travel essentially where-ever you want in the comfort of an air conditioned sky walk. Super sick, though it wasn’t really hot outside anyways.

    Nicollet Mall was pretty cool and renting bikes at 2am after the Bars close was pretty fun/funny.

  3. I have been corralled into attending GP Nashville. So as long as Scars Limited doesn’t repeatedly put my pride and desire to play in a blender, see you there!

    I don’t know if I feel worse for Buddha or Ochoa- you definitely need to take pictures to add to these!

  4. You’re recollection of events is slightly different than mine. Since yours are in print, and by far much more entertaining, you have created the new history I’ll point to. I’m pretty sure I was locked in “Is this real life?” mode the whole time.

    And if I ever get a Wikipedia entry I’m using this as a citation to “…and is also quite the badass.”

    Thanks for being awesome Nate! I’m looking forward to your immortalization of Saturday night!