Editor’s Note: Lizzie Harms played under a previous name at Pro Tour Amonkhet. As she no longer uses it, we have omitted it from the article and ask that our readers be respectful and avoid using that name if you comment or visit her stream.
“Okay, Hall of Famer, hope I don’t play him,” was Lizzie Harms’ first thought upon sitting down to the draft table at Pro Tour Amonkhet. That Hall of Famer was Zvi Mowhsowitz, a veteran of the game and champion of Pro Tour Tokyo, 16 years earlier.
Zvi wouldn’t even be the only Hall of Famer Lizzie encountered at her first, and as of now, only Pro Tour. At just 13 years old, she would sit opposite some of the best players in the game.
Just a few months earlier she had been grinding Friday Night Magic and PPTQs at her LGS, Face to Face Games, in Toronto.
“It was a home away from home. I spent more time there than at my house.”
Lizzie started playing Magic aged 10, paying $16 for a mono-green budget Standard deck. It was better than what her friends had, and she crushed them. A competitive streak was evident.
By the time Amonkhet was on the horizon, Lizzie was doing well at FNM, but losing at Standard PPTQs. She decided to try Sealed instead. It worked out. An RPTQ was next, with the top four players booking a place at the Pro Tour.
“I was really nervous for it because I had never played anywhere other than Face to Face and it was a big tournament with supposedly the best people in the region.”
Despite the nerves, Lizzie kept winning and made it to top 8. Her first opponent was a prelude to what would come. Rich Hoaen, a Limited specialist with four Grand Prix wins and a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name, sat down across the table.
Lizzie kept winning.
Top 4 meant a spot at the Pro Tour and a trip to Nashville, Tennessee.
“I was pretty dumbfounded. It didn’t seem real.”
After the excitement faded, the work began. Without the funds to buy cards, Face to Face offered Lizzie a sponsorship. Whatever cards she needed and $100 if she dyed her hair orange for the PT. It was a no-brainer.
Without a traditional testing team, Lizzie took various decks to FNM to figure out what to play and had settled on a Green-Black deck, until Dan Fournier, a local pro player, intervened.
“Dan told me the tournament would come down to who had the best Vehicles deck. I made the late switch to Mardu Vehicles.”
With a deck chosen and practice done, Lizzie hit the road with her parents and sister for the 10 hour drive to Nashville. Lots of snacks and lots of music made the time pass quickly for the family, who arrived the day before the event.
“We saw the convention hall of the way to the hotel, and it was so much bigger than anything I had played at before.”
In a new city, hot and tired, the thing that stood out most to Lizzie was the lack of grocery stores.
“It felt more foreign than it was. Felt like I was a ways away from home.”
The morning of day one started with Maria Bartholdi interviewing Lizzie, the youngest player at the event. After that, the serious business began with the draft. It didn’t start well.
“Immediately there was a judge call. It was such a nightmare. Pulling the first pack out, I slipped half of pack two out with it.”
That wasn’t the only problem. At the same table were Ari Lax, champion of Pro Tour Khans, Dan Fournier and the Hall of Famer, Zvi Mowhsowitz. A tough start to anyone’s day, let alone the youngest player at the event. Lizzie still managed to stick to the game plan and draft a red-green deck. No bombs, but solid.
Before round one even began, the tension ratcheted higher. Another judge call. Lizzie had registered 39 cards.
“I was so nervous at this point.”
Of course, her round one opponent was Zvi. After three games though, Lizzie had beaten the Hall of Famer.
“After that I was like, ‘okay, I’m winning the whole thing.’”
Her next opponent would be a major barrier to that. Ari Lax was a recent Pro Tour Champion and a fierce competitor. He also had some serious bombs in his deck. Lizzie fell to 1-1. Afterwards though, there was some encouragement.
“I remember after the match, so clearly, him saying ‘your deck is much better than mine,’ which I was taken aback by. That was pretty special, even though I lost.”
After two veterans of the pro circuit, round three would be against yet another Pro Tour champion, Remi Fortier. Lizzie didn’t know her opponent; his Pro Tour victory came in 2007, when Lizzie was three years old. She went to 1-2, and would need three wins in Standard to reach her goal of day two.
Things didn’t get easier with the change of format. Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion Steve Rubin was her opponent in what seemed like a never-ending gauntlet of Magic all-stars. This time though, Lizzie had the chance to take down the Pro.
“He was at a low life total. All I had to do to win the game and match was untap and cast Glorybringer. So I went through the motions. End step, crack my Clue, untap, look at my lands and notice my only red sources were Spire of Industry and that Clue had been my only artifact. I had three Glorybringers in hand and no red because I cracked my clue. I awkwardly just passed the turn and lost the game two turns later, then lost game three.”
1-3 after four matches, Lizzie was in bad shape for day two and the lunch break was a welcome respite. Some “really good pizza” later and she was ready for round five.
So was Makihito Mihara.
Another round, another Pro Tour Champion and the second Hall-of-Famer of the day. Worse, he was playing a deck that Lizzie had never seen before, New Perspectives.
“Dan told me Vehicles isn’t supposed to win that matchup, but I did, second win of the day against another Hall of Famer.”
2-0 against the Hall of Fame is quite a record. 2-3, not so much. Lizzie would need to go 2-1 to make Day 2. Her next opponent at least, would be a relative unknown, but that was a challenge of a different kind.
“I knew all the pros would be cool losing to a kid because they have to keep their composure, or at least are more known to than random spikes who made their first Pro Tour, so it’s nerve-wracking going against people you’ve never seen before in a town you’ve never been to before.”
The next three rounds were a blur of people Lizzie had never met or seen on coverage. 2-3 turned into 2-4, into 2-5 and then it was all over. No Day 2, goal missed.
“There was this judge I saw every time I handed in my match slip. I came to the box and he asked ‘did you get there?’ and I said ‘no.’ He was sad, and that sort of ricocheted off me and I felt down about it.”
After a day of play and eight rounds, five of which were against Pro Tour Champions, Lizzie’s final record was 2-6. The pressure of playing against people she didn’t know seemed to have an impact, but Lizzie is positive about the experience.
“Other than the misplay, I felt I played quite well and some of my opponents reciprocated that. I don’t know I would have won the last three games if they were pros. I feel like I was capable of making day two, and that was good enough for me.”
After the event, drained, Lizzie went for barbeque with her parents, but didn’t want to talk about the event, just answering their questions before heading to bed early. Now though, she looks back with pride.
“It’s been over four years and to this day, the thing everyone says about me when I join a tournament is ‘that’s a Pro Tour competitor right there.’ They say they’ve been trying to get there for years, and I did it at 13.”
Not only did she make it to the Pro Tour at 13. She beat two Hall-of-Famers. Not many Magic players can say that, let alone a 13-year-old. The goal now is to make it back to the big stage.
“I’m older now, I’ve been working on my skills, and I want to prove I wasn’t just a lucky kid who got in. I want to prove I can do well at one of these events.”
You can follow Lizzie’s progress at twitch.tv/mizl1zzie