I’d like to give credit to David Palmer and Mark Hay before I get to the article. David provided me with the deck and convinced me to audible to it,
and Mark is the owner of the store Comic Asylum, a really nice/roomy place on Jupiter Rd. that friends and I go to every week for both FNM and Saturday
When my friends and I first heard about a Grand Prix that we didn’t have to drive thirteen hours to get toâ€”and by “we,” I mean everybody else but meâ€”of
course we were all going to compete. In typical Richard fashion, I didn’t put any thought to what I was running until a week before the big day. Then I
took an audible… and another audible, until the day before, David just said to me, “Just play Elves. You’re the Elf guy.”
Apparently I gained the ‘Elf guy’ moniker when I last-minute audibled to the Gilt-Leaf Archdruid pseudo-combo deck for GP Atlanta. Oh well, drawing
five creatures on turn 2 seems better than that casting that guy.
An unfortunate thing is that the list I ran wasn’t what I intended to run. I rattled off the wrong list to David the night before on Facebook (one with
Garruks and the like), and I ended up running four Joraga Warcallers and two Eldrazi Monuments over four Green Sun’s Zeniths and two Forests due to
lack of time to finish it. The Monuments were terrible all day with the exception of one game against Valakut, and I almost always cast the Warcallers
with no kicker.
Anyways here’s the list:
As a note: I personally like saving my life total over deck thinning with fetches in this meta. I won quite a few games at 1-2 life, and Valakut 18ed
me twice the turn before I swung for lethal.
Elves has a pretty solid matchup against most of the field right now, and for those decks that it has a rough time against, its power to just blow them
out of the water makes it a favorable choice of mine.
Good matchups include: Caw-Blade, U/B Control, Eldrazi Green, Boros, Tezzeret, and the midrange decks like Naya and Jumanji or whatever they call that
Bad matchups include: Mono Red, RUG, and B/R Vampires
The Mono Red matchup can go either way; if their burn for your creatures isn’t a Searing Blaze, you’re usually fine with it and can restock with Lead
the Stampede. Post-board, the Leylines and Baloths are a real kick in the teeth.
Elves is also about 50/50 with Valakut. Similar to the Eldrazi Ramp matchup, it’s just who can go off first, but Valakut has the red mana that Elves
hates so much, unlike Eldrazi. The aggro Valakut list is interesting, but I don’t think that one is a hard matchup.
Anyway, onto the games.
Round 1: Chris Mettler (U/B Control)
Mr. Mettler is actually the owner of a store my friends and I go to every now and then, so it was unfortunate that we had to battle Round 1, but battle
Game 1: I win the dice roll, and we both snap keep, but like a ton of opponents that day, he kept a hand that was good against the field, not against
Elves. My turn 1 Llanowar into turn 2 Archdruid blanks the set of Mana Leaks in his hand, and triple Joraga Treespeaker hits the tableâ€”a weird draw.
Several turns of awkwardly swinging with mana dorks and a single Vengevine off the top gets there.
When the game ends, Chris veritably dives for his sideboard, pulling in what looks like at least twelve cards. Oh boy…
Game 2: The U/B sideboard immediately shows itself with an EOT (end of turn) Disfigure on my turn 1 Arbor Elf and Smother on my turn 2 Fauna Shaman.
Chris untaps on his third turn and proceeds to Preordain, Inquisition, Inquisition, taking both my Ezuri and my Lead the Stampede from my hand, and
leaving me with a grip of Tectonic Edge and two Vengevines. Awkwardly enough, I draw a third off the top, and Chris delivers the coup de grace with a
turn 4 Memoricide for my entire hand. I draw a couple of Elves and an Ezuri, so am able to block and regenerate against his Grave Titan for a while,
but once he hits a Doom Blade for the Ezuri, it’s over.
Game 3: The game starts pretty grimly for me, with another Disfigure/Go for the Throat, but when I double Tec Edge his turn 3 and 4 Tar Pits and cut
him off of blue mana, my pair of Vengevines go unanswered for the win.
Round 2: Bryan Behr (Esper Caw-Blade)
This guy was pretty awesome. He had a cane or something to help him walk, and it had a pink unicorn sticker on it. He had the same thing tattooed on
his stomach. My new hero.
Game 1: I again win the dice roll and draw the stone-cold nuts. He sees the turn 1 Joraga Treespeaker and starts shuffling his hand nervously. No
countermagic or black mana source meets my turn 2 level up, play Treespeaker and Copperhorn Scout, turn 3 Level, Ezuri, Copperhorn Scout, into turn 4
Game 2: I keep a hand with no turn 1 mana dork but a turn 2 Fauna Shaman with a Vengevine and Eldrazi Monument in hand. Fauna Shaman gets one
activation. I run out a pair of runner-runner Arbor Elves on turn 3 and drop the Monument on turn 4 to resurrect a Vengevine the next turn with my
tutored Vengevine and an unkicked Warcaller. Next turn, I swing for the finish at eight life from his Sworded dude.
The reason I audibled to Elves was because of its incredible Caw-Blade matchup and its ability to just randomly steal a match. I wish I had hit
Caw-Blade more than I did, but it turned out all right anyway.
Round 3: Mitchell, Greenlee (Eldrazi Green)
This matchup is pretty much a bye. The deck just doesn’t interact at all, so not only do they need to be incredibly explosive game 1, but also they
need to maintain that speed through four Tectonic Edges and an Acidic Slime post-board.
Game 1: I continue my dice-rolling streak and open with a turn 1 Llanowar Elves. He goes turn 1 Khalni Garden. It’s pretty much over already. Turn 2
Treespeaker + level precedes his turn 2 Overgrown Battlement. His start is so slow I decide to Lead the Stampede and flip Warcaller, Archdruid,
Warcaller, Copperhorn Scout. I play the Archdruid and pass. Mitchell goes Eldrazi Temple, Harrow into Harrow into Battlement #2, and passes back. I
draw a third Warcaller and drop all three of them, making a massive army. All he has on the untap is a Green Sun’s Zenith for an Avenger of Zendikar,
and when I drop my Ezuri and overrun the next turn, I trample over for well over lethal.
Game 2: I’m on the draw, and he has a pretty fast start and by turn 4 drops an Avenger of Zendikar for six Plants, then drops another one the next turn
with Green Sun’s Zenith, and boosts them all. He makes a crucial misplay by attacking with the previous turn’s Plant tokensâ€”when I have an Ezuri,
Archdruid, and Copperhorn Scout on the table. I take all sixteen damage to the face, dropping to two, and crack back for four more trample damage than
he has the blockers to take.
I’m feeling pretty good at this point. Almost all my friends are undefeated, and my matches are over so ridiculously fast that I get to watch them
play. This early on in the Grand Prix, it’s still just a fun afternoon with college friends without too much pressure.
Round 4: Eric Gaudreault (U/W Caw-Blade)
Sweet. Not even a black splash. My opponent was a really nice guy with a cool French Canadian accent, and he ended up making Day 2. We talked through
both days, and I’m pretty sure he made Top 64.
Game 1 goes by blisteringly fastâ€”something like Llanowar, Archdruid, Archdruid, Archdruid, kick a Warcaller for one, and swing for lethal.
Game 2: I knew there was a card I forgot to put in my sideboard, Plummet. He sticks a turn 4 Linvala, Keeper of Silence on the play, and I just stare
dumbly at it until I eventually die to fliers. I get him to something like eight or nine life by swinging with bears, but I really had no chance. I
should’ve kept the Warcallers in, I guess.
I decide that I am not going to win the race against his Linvala with my current sideboarding, but I don’t want to bring the Copperhorn Scouts back in
for the Overrun plan. I figure my best route to victory is making my Elves big enough to win through combat and maybe sticking a Monument.
Game 3: I run out a couple of Elves and a Warcaller kicked twice by the time he drops his turn 4 Linvala, and I manage to grind him out with lords. He
gives up and wraths the board when I finish eating all his Squadron Hawks, but a Vengevine off the top finishes him.
Round 5: Shaun, Mack (U/B Infect)
Game 1: Necropede is a really awkward card to have to attack into. He blocks one mana dude and puts the -1/-1 counter on my Warcaller for one, killing
off the guy he blocked and weakening the lord. I manage to fight my way through Tumble Magnets and a Phyrexian Crusader, but it’s close.
Game 3: I mulligan to six but keep a decent opening hand. I lead with a Llanowar Elves, and he Inquisitions me, taking the Lead the Stampede I was
going to un-mulligan with. Two turns in a row I draw an Eldrazi Monument, and he chuckles to himself as he Inquisitions me again and misses. He drops a
Tumble Magnet and starts slowly grinding me out with a single Necropede. Awkward. I manage to flood the table with mana dorks I pull off the top, but
when I go for a Monument, he double Go for the Throats and leaves me with two creatures that are flying, indestructible, and irrelevant. I lose a
couple turns later with him at a comfy twelve life.
So I’m a little tilted after that. I really hate Infect by the way. No idea how that deck beats anything. Maybe just because the crusader is pro-R/W?
Round 6: Jason Clark (R/U/G)
Game 1: I mulligan to four, but it’s a pretty sick four. Two Forests, Arbor Elf, Lead the Stampede. Jeez. I am a little less happy when he goes
Mountain + Lightning Bolt on my little Elf, and I don’t draw a land or mana dork for two more turns, but hey, at least my deck tried to help me
Sideboard: +4 Tectonic Edge, +1 Acidic Slime, +4 Leyline of Vitality, -2 Forest, -4 Joraga Treespeaker, -1 Copperhorn Scout, -2 Eldrazi Monument
The list I intended to run actually barely sides for RUG. Here, I try my best to outrace them with Leylines and GSZ for Archdruids and Ezuri to fight
Game 2: I mulligan to six because I don’t think four Tectonic Edges and three Forests will get there. My six-card hand is great, and I snap keep. I
begin the game with two Leylines in play and lead with Forest, Llanowar Elves. My next turn, I Lead the Stampede for four creatures, three Archdruids,
and a Vengevine. He apparently brought in Obstinate Baloths for me, and those buy him a turn or two of chumping and life gain before my six-toughness
army brains him.
Game 3: I mulligan to five, and I’m forced to keep a hand of two Forest, one Arbor Elf, two Eldrazi Monument. I manage to magically draw infinite
runners into creatures, but his line of play is literally (in turn order): Bolt, Pyroclasm, Bolt, Pyroclasm, Bolt, Inferno Titan, Inferno Titan. I
enter the scoop phase.
Well, I had a damn good streak going, but just like that, I’m on the cusp. Only X-2-0 makes it to Day 2. I have to do some good battling to stay alive,
and even then, my tiebreakers will be terrible (which of course comes back to bite me).
Round 7: Bryson, Rasco (U/W Caw-Blade)
Phew. I really needed this. If I could hit Caw Blade three rounds in a row, I was as good as 7-2.
Game 1: I have the mana dork into Archdruid into Ezuri, and I am able to 4-6 him every turn with a couple of mana guys while leaving my Archdruid up
for wrath protection. He eventually finds an Into the Roil for my Ezuri, but by then, he’s so low that he has to main phase it and hope I forget to
regenerate in response, which I don’t.
Game 2: I Nature’s Claim in response to his equip on turn 4, and that swings the game pretty hard in my favor. I use my Archdruid to Slime his only
white source and double Tectonic Edge two blue sources in response. I’ve got an army on the table, and he’s got one land. He Preordains, passes the
turn, and scoops when I drop a Vengevine.
Round 8: Odos Matthews (U/B Control)
Game 1: The game is looking pretty bad for me around turn 5, when he drops his Jace after EOT killing my Ezuri. I drop another one the next turn with
an Arbor Elf to follow, and he raises with a Grave Titan. Uh oh. I go to block the next turn, regenerating my blocker for Grave Titan and block one
Zombie with a 3/3 Warcaller and a 3/3 Arbor Elf. For some reason, he Go for the Throats the Warcaller blocking the Zombie instead of the Archdruid
sitting back tapped. My next turn Eldrazi Monument lets me swing for ten, then another ten the next turn, which is lights out for him with exact
damage. Good thing he threw that one.
Game 2: My opponent mulligans to six and misses his third land drop after double Preordain. He hits it the next turn, but he’s so on tilt that he tries
to Doom Blade my Archdruid when I have an Ezuri and an untapped Forest.
Understandably when the game is over, he’s really angry and quite unpleasant, so I evacuate >.>
One more! Gotta get there! At this point, only my friends David Palmer and Alex Khanin have made it to Round 9 still in contention, so I have a sizable
crowd behind me. I win the dice roll, and my opponent mulligans after I snap keep. We have to sit there and wait to play for twenty minutes or so while
they fix some issue, but we eventually are underway. Please be Caw-Blade, please be Caw-Blade…
Round 9: Matthew Forner (U/W Caw Blade)
I smile and say “Show me the Seachrome Coast!!” and he leads with a Tectonic Edge to deny me my fun. I have him pretty dead on board by turn 3, and all
he has is Tec Edge, Plains, Plains, so he scoops them up.
Game 2: I keep a one-land hand with a bunch of mana dorks and the full Ezuri/Copperhorn/Archdruid combo. He sees me miss my second land drop and play a
second mana dork, so he drops a Mortarpod to ping off an Arbor Elf. I pull a land off the top and drop the Archdruid. The next turn, I rip another land
and drop the Ezuri, and he knows he can’t wrath the board profitably, so he commits another Hawk and equips the Mortarpod to his Stoneforge. By the
time I crash with the team, he is at eleven with a Sworded Hawk, another Hawk, and a Stoneforge with a Mortarpod equipped. He can block enough to die
to exact damage, while I’m dead next turn to the untapped land in his hand to animate his Colonnade.
Day 2 here I come!!
Of course, my ride back to UT Dallas forgot me and another friend, so I had to crash in Fort Worth. But at least that meant we could go out and
celebrate that night!
David Palmer and three other friends of mine all went out to Movie Tavern and saw Your Highness, which was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in
a long time. But I blew like thirty bucks on food and milkshakes there. Hell yes.
I woke up a couple of hours later feeling not-so-great, called my mommy for my Social Security # for the Day 2 paperwork, and got to battling.
Round 10: Bryan Aldrich (B/R Vampires)
Oh god. What a crappy way to start Day 2. Why couldn’t it just be six rounds of Caw-Bye?
Game 1: I keep a hand that’s really good against Caw, and when he leads with a Blackcleave Cliffs into Inquisition, I know I’m in trouble. He takes my
Lead the Stampede and ships it back. The next few turns involve him triple Gatekeepering me into Vampire Nighthawk and Vampire Hexmage, and I get
Sideboard: +4 Obstinate Baloth, +4 Leyline of Vitality, -4 Joraga Treespeaker, -4 Copperhorn Scout
I figure it is best to cut the mana dork that blows me out if I try to level it and the guy that requires me to have an Ezuri and a bunch of mana Elves
to be good.
Game 2: I start with a Leyline in play and lead with a mana Elf. I don’t quite remember the line of removal he had, but I remember looking over and
remarking that I have threshold to a friend behind me. The real beating comes when he drops an Abyssal Persecutor. I quickly go to negative life and
have no outs. For some reason though, my opponent drops a second Persecutor. I guess in order to have another 6/6 wall? I Lead the Stampede into a
bunch of guys and assemble a solid defense after hard-casting a second Leyline the turn before and bring myself back into positive life totals.
Apparently, he forgot the second Leyline because he blew an Arc Trail on a Llanowar Elf, which caused him to be unable to animate his manland when I
crack back, and he dies to exact damage.
Game 3: He mulligans to six, and I keep my seven, dropping another Leyline as the game begins. He has to lead with a Lavaclaw Reaches turn 1, and the
lack of Inquisition is a pleasant reprieve for me, allowing me to Lead the Stampede. Unfortunately I hit four lands and an Arbor Elf, but hey, that’s
four dead cards on the bottom of my library now. My opponent has kept a sketchy hand, and it has a ridiculous amount of removal. A surprise Black Sun’s
Zenith 4-for-1s me. Did not see that coming.
Eventually I get a Fauna Shaman online through all his removal and assemble the Vengevine brigade. He Zeniths again, making all four Vengevines measly
2/1s, but I pull the Monument off the top to be able to crash in, doming him for twelve and ending the game.
Round 11: Gerard Fabiano (Bant Blade)
So, this was the first Pro I have ever played in any tournament, and I was super nervous. I’ve been a big fan of Fabiano for a while, and I should have
played these games better. Not to mention that in my nervousness, I knocked a card off the top of my deck, drawing my hand, and got a warning. I needed
a damn chill pill.
Game 1: I win the die roll and make my favorite play of turn 1 Treespeaker. He goes land + Birds of Paradise, and I don’t know what the hell he’s
playing. I’m not much of a Standard player, and this Bant Blade deck is news to me. I continue with my line of play and go land, level, tap for
Treespeaker #2 and Copperhorn Scout. Next turn, he Stoneforges off the bird, leaving up an Island. I play around Spell Pierce by holding back the Lead
the Stampede and instead go land, level, Ezuri + Copperhorn, and use the floating mana to put a regeneration shield on the first Copperhorn to untap
for regen mana. (I don’t know if that deck plays DoJ). I don’t remember his next line of play, but I think he just packed it in.
Game 2: He sticks a turn 3 Linvala off a Bird, and I’m totally done for. He grabs some of his own Vengevines off a Fauna Shaman, and I can’t even try
grinding him out. Why do I always board out the Warcallers against Linvala players? -.-
Game 3: I do my best to hurriedly overcommit to the board and run out an Ezuri. He drops a Journey on an Archdruid and an Ezuri, and I EOT go for a
Nature’s Claim on my Archdruid’s Journey, which meets a Flashfreeze. I’m able to Lead the Stampede safely now, with him tapped down, and I get a very
strong board presence up with Ezuri backup. He end-of-turn Fauna Shamans for a Sunblast Angel. Scary. What’s scarier is the Gideon he drops when he
untaps. I attack all-in on Gideon the next turn and cross my fingers that he doesn’t have an untapped land to Sunblast me because all I’m sandbagging
is a couple of Warcallers. I’m so relieved by the lack of said land that when I get my turn back, I don’t even think about kicking a Warcaller (which
would have been lethal), and I attack him down to one life. Luckily, my punt still works out, and he doesn’t draw an out.
Round 12: Jorge Muniz (RUG)
This round is kind of boring and unfortunate because not only do we get deck-checked and have to sit there, but Jorge didn’t even have a slight chance.
Game 1: I turn 4 him with the Ezuri/Copperhorn/Archdruid combo with an Eldrazi Monument coming down that turn. Massive overkill.
Round 13: Todd Anderson (U/W Caw-Blade)
This guy was pretty funny.
By this point, I’m feeling even worse than I did when I woke up, and I feel pretty nauseous. Todd makes a joke by asking the judge behind me if
vomiting on an opponent is worth a game loss, and if he should try and make retching noises the whole time to tilt me. The guy sitting to his right
comments that it would probably be a DQ for unsportsmanlike puking noises. Thankfully, the match is over in eight minutes, so I can rest for an hour
after the match.
Game 1: He obviously keeps a hand good against the field but terrible against Elves because he just Tumble Magnets a few times, tapping my Archdruid on
my upkeep, to which I overrun in response four turns in a row, and he loses to a Copperhorn Scout.
Game 2: This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a big tournament and really showcases Elves’ ability to just randomly steal a game. I’m on the draw and
go turn 1 Arbor Elf, pass. He Stoneforges, tapping out. On my turn, shenanigans occur:
Round 14: Christian Flodstrom-Sconce (Valakut)
From what I understand, this guy is a local ringer that has qualified for the last 1000 Pro Tours. He seems nice enough.
Game 1: It’s basically an all-out race to get the combo off first, and I end up sticking a monument with a Copperhorn Scout out, representing super
lethal next turn. He has a Lotus Cobra and an Oracle of Mul Daya out. He plays his first land for the turn, a Valakut, and Primeval Titans. He’s able
to deal 18 to me, but I’m still at 20. While he’s flipping through his deck for Mountains, I comment that he’s going to 18 me, and I’ll be at 2, and I
say, “Yeah, so I’ll go to two and swing back for 30ish. Game 2?” He looks at his deck for a while, then scoops them up, not realizing he has yet to
play a second land, and he has an Oracle in play if he doesn’t have one in hand.
I personally don’t like Leyline against Valakut because they don’t just have Pyroclasms and a couple free Valakut triggersâ€”they also have Slagstorms.
So I just swap out some lands and try to race them. It turns out this guy also boarded in Flame Slashes, which kind of blew my mind.
Game 2: He keeps a really sketchy hand just because it has Pyroclasm and Flame Slash in it, and I Lead the Stampede finding an Acidic Slime, which I
cast on turn 3, hitting a Mountain. (He has an Overgrown Battlement and a Cobra out.) He doesn’t draw any more land and doesn’t find one with a Harrow
into Oracle of Mul Daya, and it’s just kind of a steamroll.
Round 15: Alex Bertoncini (RUG) Feature Match
As I was walking over to the pairings, I pretty much knew I was getting a feature match this round, and most people I passed told me that. Soooo I was
pretty damn nervous. Like, really nervous.
Game 1: He keeps a strange hand, and I roll over him on turn 4-5, and I wasn’t sure if he was on Bant Blade or RUG just because he showed no red mana
and a Mana Leak, and it’s possible a bunch of the top players with Forests and Islands are running Bant Blade like Fabiano. Whatever. Pseudo-sideboard
Game 2: I get off to a decent start, and he stalls on land. Apparently, he kept a hand with two lands because it had Pyroclasm, Bolt, a couple Golems,
and an Inferno Titan. I EOT activate Fauna Shaman and grab an Acidic Slime to hit his only red source because he has missed two land drops. In
hindsight, I guess grabbing a Vengevine is a better play, but I’m nervous about going aggressive into his grip of five cards. He lets the Slime
resolve, and I hit his land. He goes runner red source into Golem, runner red source into Titan. I draw lands for the rest of the game and finish with
seven in play and two in hand. None of them are Tec Edges. Sad panda.
Game 3: I open with a Leyline into Arbor Elf and next turn Arbor Elf again. He untaps and Pyroclasms, keeping me off the Vengevine for two more turns.
I manage to assemble runner Vengevines and get him pretty low, but then I start drawing a couple lands and multiple extra Leylines of Vitality, while
he again goes Golem Titan Golem Titan, and I lose pretty badly.
Unfortunately I went from battling for first place to sitting in seventeenth place, but Alex seems like a pretty nice guy, and I’m happy for him and
his first Top 8 GP. Hopefully, there are many more in the future! The rest of the guys I came with didn’t do so well Day 2, and only one made it into
money, but it was still a fun time. And hey! Two Pro Points! Hopefully that’s just the beginning! Hopefully I can qualify for Pro Tour Philadelphia off
the big rating boost from the GP, and I can have another shot at Top 8.
I’d like to thank Bill Stark for having me write this article, StarCityGames.com for hosting it, and my friends for being supportive after each round,
especially Alex and David for keeping me from stressing out too hard when we knew I was getting a feature match.
– Richard Wirth, “Richard” on MTGO