Magic memories, like all memories, boil down to moments. A Grand Prix can be a whirl of matches, conversations, and interactions, but there are always key moments that stand out, that feel different and that will be remembered forever by the people in them. This was one of those moments.
Nadine Grendelmeier challenged famed “guy on the left” Mashi Scanlan to a match of Ixalan Sealed at the staff party on Sunday night. Though it seemed innocuous, it was, in fact, part of a larger vendetta between the two that spanned multiple events. None of us could have predicted what this game would turn into as the night wore on. In case the stakes weren’t high enough already, the loser pledged to wear an inflatable T-Rex costume for the remainder of the evening, and before we knew it, history was in the making. After some back and forth, plenty of goading, and a healthy sense of competition, the games got underway.
Nadine ran Mashi over in the first game with the help of Gishath, drawing more and more creatures from her deck and confirming that Dinosaurs do, in fact, move in herds. Mashi made short work of her with a crew of Pirates and matching Cutlasses in the second game, hijacking her creature to seal the deal and bring the match to one apiece, but game 3 is one that will always stay with me.
The hotel staff closed the event room, and we took to the lobby—there was no chance that anyone was going to let this score go unsettled. The party had run late, hence the closed room, and we were now into the early hours of the morning. The lights were off and the lobby was shrouded in darkness, but it was no match for a few determined Magic players with a game to finish. Under the dim glow of cell phone torches, the battle raged on.
They played with a tense, serious tone. There was pride at stake, and as a bystander I was totally drawn in. The outcome of this match meant more to me than any I’d played in, and it wasn’t in a feature match or to make Top 8 of an event—it was on a fold-out table, at four in the morning in the lobby of a hotel in France. Over a dozen people crowded around, many of them tired after a long day of running the event, but there was no way they’d miss a moment of this. As phone batteries drained and died, others popped up to replace them. The playmats were lit up like a football field under floodlights. Mashi and Nadine were titans, locked in battle in the spotlight.
Epic topdecks, clutch removal spells, and unanswered Orcs led to a hard-fought and narrowly won victory for Mashi—to be met with both raucous cheers and angry jeers from the crowd. Mashi, never breaking character, delivered a rousing victory speech. “You can bring your luck, you can bring your Dinosaurs,” he bellowed, “but when you come at the Guy on the Left…” he paused to wipe faux dirt from his shoulders, “It doesn’t even matter. None of it matters.”
Nadine accepted her loss graciously and wore the dinosaur outfit with pride. When I looked around afterward to see people talking about the game, discussing lines of play and either celebrating Mashi’s conquest or mourning Nadine’s defeat, something struck me. These moments were happening all over this city. They’d been happening all weekend at the venue, in hotel rooms in the evenings and at breakfast tables in the mornings, in the line for the bathroom between rounds, or in the back of a late-night Uber home from the venue. Magic was in the air in every sense of the word, and it’s the kind of magic that can only come from travelling to a foreign country, with a foreign language, foreign currency, and a room of over a thousand strangers. The kind of Magic that can only come from sitting across from someone you don’t know and know nothing about, but instantly having so much in common.
Grand Prix events bring a diverse group from vastly different backgrounds together because of their shared passion for the game, and that passion has never been clearer to me than it was in that hotel lobby. Team Scrub Club may have come out on top in this case, but the real winners were those who carry the memory of that match with them, and the hundreds of others at the event with stories of their own, each more magical than the last.