I went down to Realms Games in Elkhart, IN this weekend to play in a sealed deck event. It's about a 90 minute drive. Not something I'd want to do regularly, but as an occasional thing it's OK. I used to drive the same route just about every week, when I was working as a consultant for various companies in northern Indiana many years ago.
Realms Games is located in a strip mall, with room for probably 40 or so players at gaming tables and an overflow area next door. They have some video game machines set up in the rear, too. It looks a bit unfinished, with some bare walls and flooring, but everything necessary is in place and the area looks well-kept.
The event was a sealed deck PPTQ, which stands for Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. People hoping to play Magic professionally can start with these events, where the winner gets an invite to a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier. I'm not likely to qualify for the Pro Tour, and not sure I'd go even if I did, but I do like playing the sealed deck format. Outside of pre-release events, there's not a lot of other sealed deck events around.
This being a Pro Tour feeder event, there was a good amount of bookkeeping involved. Everyone pairs up, and each player watches the other open their packs (to ensure no one cheats by adding or removing cards). Then you have to write down all the cards on a tally sheet. Once your deck is built, you use the same sheet to indicate which ones you're using. It's a bit tedious, but it's good to have these kind of rules in pro events. We had a total of 26 players, and played 5 rounds.
My card pool was decent, but not great. I didn't have any "bombs" that were so obviously good that I'd have to play them. My biggest creature was The Gitrog Monster, but the rest of the green cards in the pool were terrible. The rest of my rares were serviceable, but not great. I ended up with a black/white deck, and a couple of green mana sources so I could run the monster.
The first two rounds went very well for me, both 2-1 wins. Only one of those games was decided by terrible land draws. I should have known that meant I was due for some bad luck on that front, and indeed I lost the next round 2-0 with not enough land in either game. Although it might not have mattered, since my opponent drew and played Archangel Avacyn in both games. I managed to kill her once, but without enough land I couldn't keep up with everything else coming at me.
In the fourth round, I made a mistake that cost me a chance at a top eight finish. My opponent was playing green/black, and he had a ton of creatures that were about to kill me. I could kill him next turn if I survived, but I didn't have enough blockers. Only after I'd already lost did I realize that I had a Dauntless Cathar in the graveyard, which I could have used on my prior turn to make one more blocker and survive long enough. I also lost the second game, which again was very close, although I don't think I made mistakes that time. In any event, had I not made that mistake, I'd at least have had a chance at a third game to win the match, which would have put me in top eight contention.
So no top eight, but I still had a good time. I didn't get to play in the fifth round since my opponent never showed up. He probably decided to drop but forgot to write it on his score sheet. That counts as a win, so I finished 12th out of 26. A reasonable showing, taking in account a fairly mediocre card pool and one big play mistake. I'd consider doing another event like this, if the opportunity presents itself.