For Grand Prix Austin, I had an interesting choice of what deck to play. At most Modern events I knew long in advance (usually Elves, and recently I was focused on Dredge for a couple of events), but this time I could choose between Elves and Dredge since I was now comfortable with both decks. I playtested both of them against the popular decks to see which I did better with, and Elves proved better with a 70% win rate in my matches.
This is the list I ended up playing:
4 Blooming Marsh 3 Cavern of Souls 4 Gilt-Leaf Palace 2 Nurturing Peatland 1 Pendelhaven 1 Westvale Abbey/Ormendahl, Profane Prince 3 Forest 4 Dwynen's Elite 2 Elves of Deep Shadow 4 Elvish Archdruid 1 Elvish Champion 4 Elvish Clancaller 4 Elvish Mystic 2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader 4 Heritage Druid 4 Llanowar Elves 3 Nettle Sentinel 4 Shaman of the Pack 4 Collected Company 1 Once Upon a Time 1 Winding Way Sideboard 1 Abrupt Decay 2 Assassin's Trophy 1 Choke 2 Collector Ouphe 2 Damping Sphere 1 Force of Vigor 1 Kitchen Finks 1 Lead the Stampede 1 Nissa, Vital Force 1 Reclamation Sage 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Veil of Summer
At this event there were some unique card choices, the most interesting being Elvish Champion. With Oko, Thief of Crowns in many decks, people were running Forests, so Elvish Champion made my creatures unblockable, plus it was an additional lord. I’m actually super glad I put it in the deck, because it ended up being the most valuable card of the tournament for me.
Other interesting card choices were Winding Way and Once Upon a Time. I put them there instead of Lead the Stampede in the main because Winding Way and Once Upon a Time are better when you don’t know what you are playing against, as they aren’t as slow as Lead the Stampede. Another way Once Upon a Time helps is if I had an opening hand with zero lands, Once Upon a Time would most likely find me a land.
I also had some interesting sideboard options, including Nissa, Vital Force. Nissa, Vital Force is in the deck because she helps a lot in grindy/control matchups where they don’t have creatures bigger than a 5/5. I’m also really glad Nissa, Vital Force got added because, well, it’s a Nissa (actually the same Nissa I played in Standard when Kaledesh was legal).
Another interesting sideboard card was Veil of Summer. A friend of mine, Richard, said that with all the Oko, Thief of Crowns running around that it would be a good sideboard option to help protect against Oko and counterspells. Veil of Summer is also good against Death’s Shadow which we expected would be the second most popular deck at Austin (which it was).
For sideboarding, like we’ve done before, my dad and I developed a sideboarding plan for all the major decks in the meta. In fact the plan is now up to 53 different matchups. Part of how I used this is that I would look at the sheet after game 1 of a match and say something like “Daddy, plan #1 please” so my dad could then bring the cards out and put them in, since it would have taken me a lot longer to do so with my small hands. The plan also shows the expected share of the metagame for each deck, notes as reminders for whether the matchup was good or bad (used to determine how risky I should be with my keeps and mulligans) as well as whether or not there were board sweepers (so I knew what to play around). In case I was matched against a deck not on the list (which happened in round 9 of GP Austin), we also made a sideboard tips sheet to help me decide what comes in and out against an unfamiliar deck.
In addition, as before we had a sheet with general tips on playing that I would look over before the tournament and between some rounds, and we kept it updated with new things to think about and removed things I no longer needed help remembering.
Before this event I did A LOT of practicing. The practice included going through a gauntlet of 16 of the most popular decks in the metagame, with me playing against the very most popular decks multiple times. We also went to a lot of local events and one day my friends Thomas and Daniel came over to practice playing Magic for the whole day and we gave each other tips on alternate plays we could do.
I think one reason I did so well was because I got a good night’s sleep and had a good breakfast. Good sleep for me is normally getting 10-11 hours, and before the event I got a full 12 hours of sleep, which I think is one of the biggest things that helped me do so well. We had a good breakfast in the hotel, where I had two pancakes with syrup. When I got to the event center, I went over my tips sheet to help me get ready.
Round 3 I was against Travis Burks on Infect and I was on the draw. The match was featured and you can watch it here. Unfortunately Infect is one of the worst matchups for Elves, because it’s mostly a race and Infect is normally faster. I won one of the games but lost the other two due to a Blighted Agent I couldn’t do anything about. After the feature match though I got to do a deck tech on Elves with Ashlen Rose interviewing me that you can see here.
Round 4 I was against Dustin Lockingen on Green Tron and I was on the draw. I lost game 1 because he played turn-3 Tron and then cast Walking Ballista to kill all of my Elves, and I had two land and all 3-mana Elves. I won game 2 because I got a lot of my hate cards including Collector Ouphe, Damping Sphere, Reclamation Sage, and Force of Vigor, and then got Elvish Champion to give my Elves forestwalk for the kill. I won game 3 and the match because Collector Ouphe prevented him from doing much so I could kill him.
Round 5 I was against Nicholas Schreck on G Tron (again) and I was on the draw again. Game 1 I think I could have won a turn earlier by doing an all-out attack, but instead I fetched another Elvish Clancaller and the next turn I cast Shaman of the Pack for the win. In game 2, he board-wiped me and then cast Mycosynth Lattice with Karn, the Great Creator out to try and lock me out of the game. However, he was at 4 life, and in response to him casting the Lattice, I played Collected Company into double Shaman of the Pack to deal exactly lethal damage to him and win the match.
Round 6 I was against Oscar Davila on Eldrazi Tron and I was on the draw (yet again). I lost game 1 because he had a bunch of Walking Ballistas and then he Karn locked me. I won game 2 when I killed him with Ezuri, Renegade Leader right before I almost died to Reality Smasher. I don’t remember much about game 3, but that might be because I won it to get my best starting GP record ever at 5-1. I was excited about that because if I won my next match I would make Day 2 a round early!
Round 7 I was against Bradley Yoo on Urza Oko (what a surprise seeing that deck around!) and this time I was on the play. I was pretty sure I recognized his name and it turned out it was because he made the semifinals of GP LA (which was the other event where I made Day 2) with Dredge. Game 1 I had to mulligan because I had a one-lander with Westvale Abbey (I was worried about that happening, but it was the first time that had happened to me and it had won me many games in practice). The hand I mulliganed into was slowish and I lost. I won game 2 due to having a massive board of creatures. Game 3 I was kind of mean to him and played turn 2 Choke and won the game and the match. I was really happy because I had just made my second Day 2, and I even did it a round earlier than my first Day 2!
Round 8 I was against Alex Poon on BW Control and I was on the draw. I lost game 1 when I attacked for lethal on my turn but he cast Opt to try and find Terminus to save himself and he found it! Then, I drew into nothing else after that. I won game 2 by eking things out. In game 3 I had a massive board presence and I made sure not to over play my creatures so I didn’t lose to a sweeper (but he never got one). When I did an alpha strike for lethal he tried again to Opt into a Terminus (but it wouldn’t have been as bad because I had held stuff in my hand in case he found one), but he didn’t find one, so I won the game and the match. Since I had won that match I was super excited to have ended Day 1 at 7-1!
Round 9 I was against Micheal Batista on his own brew of Temur Snow Zoo (with Oko of course) and I was on the play. I won game 1 by getting him down low and Shaman of the Pack finished him off. For game 2 it was harder to sideboard against the deck because it was the first deck I faced that wasn’t on my plan, but I did the best I could. I ended up winning game 2 even though I had to double mulligan, thanks to Elvish Champion giving my creatures forestwalk for the win. I was 8-1 afterwards, and it’s funny that my only loss was in a feature match.
After that first day, I was so happy, impressed, and proud of myself that I had gone 8-1 and I checked the standings and I saw I was in 13th place out of the 802 players after round 9! My next thought was to focus on getting to bed very soon because that was what helped me make Day 2 in the first place, and I remembered how tired I was during Day 2 at GP LA. Therefore, instead of going to dinner with a bunch of friends as we had planned, I got a quick bite at the convention center and just stopped by at dinner to say hi and good night.
Round 10 I played against Cole Kirkman on G Tron and I was on the draw. In game 1 I managed to kill Ugin, the Spirit Dragon thanks to Collected Company and Elvish Champion, but then he cast Karn, the Great Creator into Ensnaring Bridge and then Mycosynth Lattice locked me for the win. In game 2, I had a choice between playing Elvish Archdruid or playing Assassin’s Trophy on one of his Tron lands, but I chose Archdruid and unfortunately he had Oblivion Stone and wiped my board, so after knowing that I should have probably played Trophy on his Tron land and will keep that in mind in the future.
Round 11, I played against Jacob Nagro on Urza Oko and was on the play. In game 1, I played Elvish Archdruid and he immediately turned it into an Elk with Oko, Thief of Crowns. I tried to kill Oko via an all-out attack but he had removal, so Oko lived and from there he just kind of ran away with things to win the game. In game 2 I was very sad to have to mulligan a hand with Choke (which is my favorite sideboard card), but then I got a hand with Heritage Druid and Elvish Archdruid, which are very strong cards, and I won that game. In game 3, I got out a bunch of Elves to beat him down with, plus I had Collector Ouphe to stop him from doing things so I won the match. After the round I was 9-1 and had achieved my goal of winning as many matches as my age!
Round 12 I played against Ken Kauffman on Mono-Red Prowess and I was on the draw. It was funny that we got paired because we were just talking after round 11 about how Josh Greenstein, his friend, won a PTQ recently in Portland with Elves, and he offered to put him in contact with me and my dad. Anyway, I lost game 1 because he had four prowess guys out and had a lot of other spells to go with them to do a lot of damage to me. In game 2 he killed all of my mana Elves and I only had 3 mana and kept drawing Collected Company so I lost the match.
Round 13 I played against Juan Pawluszek on Amulet Titan and was on the draw. I actually knew Juan locally and he said in part because he played me locally and he knew I was going to be at Austin, he had some sideboard cards in his deck to go against me and he also put both Elves and Dredge on his sideboard guide. I lost game 1 because of turn-3 Primeval Titan. Then in game 2 he had double Amulet of Vigor followed up by a turn-three double Titan so I never really had a chance and lost the match. However, I was 9-4 and there were still two rounds and it was likely I could still cash with one more win, especially with a win and a draw.
Round 14 I played against Logan Marts on Urza Oko and I was on the play. In game 1 I had a one-lander, but I had Heritage Druid and I ended up having a massive board of Elves and killed him. I was lucky I won that turn, because he said that I would have been dead the turn after that. In game 2 he had Ensnaring Bridge and I topdecked a Shaman of the Pack to make him lose 13 life and he was at 11 life so that was lethal, and he shook my hand and said “good game” but then right after that he noticed that he had a Food from Oko, Thief of Crowns that he could sacrifice to stay alive. He then said he wanted to take back his concession and sacrifice his Food and I was confused about whether he could do that, so I called a judge. The judge said he couldn’t take it back, but Logan appealed to the head judge. The head judge listened to both of us (and our stories matched), and after consulting with the other judge and thinking about it, he also said no reversing the concession. However, then my opponent made a good counter argument and the head judge, after more discussion, said the concession could be taken back, and we would proceed to play the game from the current point, with Logan at 1 life. The judge call took about 10-15 minutes, but everyone, including my opponent Logan, handled it very well throughout. Funnily enough, I topdecked another Shaman the very next turn to win the game/match and everyone in the area watching, including Logan, burst out laughing! I was so happy I won that match because it meant I had even more wins than my age, and it meant I probably cashed, but I wasn’t sure yet.
I was really hoping to draw round 15 since my dad and I were at risk of missing our flight home otherwise. I played against Jared Robinson who I was just talking to right before round 15 because he was waiting for Logan whom he knew. We were chatting about how he knew Logan, and then we got paired the round after that all happened. I offered the draw to Jared, but he was only at 29 match points so he wasn’t sure he would cash if he drew, so he suggested we at least start playing the match (plus I had a little time before I needed to leave). Jared was on his own Sultai brew and I was on the play. In game 1 I had Elvish Champion to kill his Vraska, Golgari Queen, but then he killed all of my stuff so I lost. In game 2 he didn’t have much removal and I was able to get Nissa, Vital Force out (my only time playing her all tournament, but I was so happy I got to play her!) and get Elvish Champion back to win that game. Before game 3 he was trying to decide whether or not he wanted to draw because if he lost that game he would have a 0% chance to get cash, while if he drew he might still get cash. He thought about it and since he also knew I had a flight to catch he drew with me. It turned out we ran into delays going through security at the airport (they had to check through all the Magic cards!) and we only made our flight with less than 10 minutes to spare, so if we had played out the match, we probably wouldn’t have made our flight. I was a bit sad though because I didn’t have time to say goodbye to anyone.
All in all, I felt I had a very good run at the event and I finished 10-4-1 and in 46th place, or top 6%, which qualified me for a $300 cash prize (the Top 64 players won cash). My dad and I were super proud of me for doing the best at a GP that I have ever done. I think the things that helped me do so well in this event were that I got good sleep for both days, I ate well before and during the event, I had some good card choices such as Elvish Champion, and I had prepared really well and was able to make some good plays.
What the Tournament Result Means to Me
Doing so well at this event means so much to me in many different ways. First of all, by winning cash at a Grand Prix I set a record for being the youngest person to do so! Less than a year ago I set a goal for myself of doing just that in my article here in the Plans for the Future section, and now I’ve accomplished that goal. Another goal I set in that article was to win as many matches as my age and I completed that goal and even got one additional win beyond that.
I was also really glad to win cash because it is something that I can share with my sister Sadie, since she doesn’t play much Magic and doesn’t usually come on these trips. If Sadie sees something she thinks the both of us will want, I can buy it with the money I won, and that makes me feel like I am not just playing Magic for myself, but that I’m also helping my whole family by playing a game I love.
Another thing that meant a lot to me was that it showed that my first Day 2 wasn’t just a one-time occurrence which makes me feel like I can make many more Day 2s, and it isn’t just luck but that I’m improving my skills as a player.
In addition to all those things I accomplished, I won the Play it Forward playmat prize for being the top-finishing woman or non-binary player, which I had been wanting to do for a long time. I was even offered the choice between three different playmat designs and I’m really excited about the one I chose and can’t wait to get it!
Cashing also shows what young kids (especially girls) can accomplish. Hopefully my record will inspire other young kids to play the game as well, because I love to see other kids enjoy playing the game.
I gave a lot of Props in my article on GP LA so I won’t repeat all of those, but some there are some people I especially want to thank for this event:
- My family (my dad Adam, mom Rachelle, and sister Sadie), for being so supportive of me going to all of these events and cheering me on, and especially my dad Adam for helping me edit this article and helping me practice and prepare for this event.
- Kayla Bridges, for being a great hotel roommate in Austin and being someone who really knows the game and gives me great advice.
- Liam Tilenius, for being so fun to hang out with and for being such a good player I can learn from.
- Rick Miles, for finally breaking the curse of me not making Day 2 at events he judges at (he was at all of my recent events except LA, where I made Day 2).
- Richard Neal, for giving me some good advice on some card choices and coming by to check on me during the event.
- All the other great friends I saw at this event who were so supportive, such as Matt, Daniel, Andrea, Carter, James, John, Ashlen, Maria, Marshall, and others.
- Thomas Christian and Daniel Cardno, for helping me practice so much.
- The MTG Modern Elves Facebook group, for giving my dad and I great ideas for tuning my deck and sideboarding plans.
- Anyone else I forgot!
- There is someone special that I want to give a slop to even though he also got a prop. That person is my dad. He said that I could have soda if it was past noon, but he made me wait several minutes past noon before I could have some!
Please let me know in the comments what you think of the article, the sideboarding plan (suggestions welcome), or any other thoughts or questions, and feel free to give me a follow on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you for reading!