Feature Article – Winning The $5K With Eldrazi Elves

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Monday, November 16th – Last weekend, the Andersons – Magic’s latest Golden Couple – rocked the Standard world and the StarCityGames.com $5000 Open with a fine double Top 8 performance, playing Mono-Green. Today, we have articles from quarterfinalist Todd, and from the winner herself, Kali Anderson!

It’s been a pretty surreal ride these last few days. I’ve never done this well in a major tournament, and I’ve never made it out on the Magic “scene” like this, but it’s been refreshing to finally see my name on top. I’ve only had one PTQ Top 8 (which could have been a PTQ win had I not punted hard in the quarterfinals), a Top 4 finish at States last year, and too many near misses with X-2 records to count. I’ll tell you one thing, this game is heartbreaking! All it takes is one mistake and the next thing you know, the whole day comes crashing down. My mantra on Saturday was that if I played well and made the fewest amount of mistakes I could, I would take the tournament down.

When Todd showed me this Eldrazi deck, I instantly fell in love. Previously I had been waffling between Jund and Boros Bushwhacker, and while I really liked the Boros deck, I hated how it ran out of gas so easily. Plus I never seemed to draw Ranger of Eos in testing (but Todd always did; I don’t know how that happened!) so I easily became frustrated. I thought about Jund for its consistency, but I just hate going into tournaments with a deck that’s got a “Kick Me” sign on its back. I had tried to build a variety of decks, including a Vampire deck and Soldier deck, but neither stood up to Jund. I couldn’t find the deck. Nothing ever really sparked inside me when I played it. A few weeks ago, Todd and I were discussing deck ideas for this tournament, and I joked, “Well let’s just play Elf Combo and take them by surprise like they did at the Atlanta $5K!”

Tee hee!

I didn’t take great notes throughout this tournament, as I’ve never written a tournament report before and didn’t realize that I’d do so well, so I’m doing this from memory. I remember the most important (and ridiculous) moments, so I’ll share those with you and try to provide the best play-by-plays I can.

For reference:

Round 1: RDW

I was paired against a friendly guy playing Mono-Red. Game 1 was fairly close, as my hand was average with lots of potential, and he had an aggressive start with Goblin Guide and Ball Lightning. Luckily, his Goblin Guide drew me past my lands and I landed Ant Queen with a counter, courtesy of Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. He had two Siege-Gang Commanders, but couldn’t keep up the race when I rolled out more fatties with Master of the Wild Hunt. Game 2, he must have kept a bad hand because he didn’t play much outside of burn spells and Magma Rift (not Magma Spray), and it was over for him when I dropped my Eldrazi Monument.

Round 2: Jund

My opponent was playing Jund. Game 1 I played turn 1 Oran-Rief, turn 2 Llanowar Elves plus pump, and turn 3 Great Sable Stag plus pump. He had Putrid Leech on his side looking sad, and turn 4 I played Nissa Revane to go get her goons, but he had Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning to send Nissa packing. I ditched a Forest and an Elvish Visionary, then untapped to plop down the second Nissa Revane waiting in the wings. I kept on swinging with my 4/4 Stag and he couldn’t recover. Game 2, I had the nut draw with two Great Sable Stags and an active Oran-Rief, and the game was easily mine.

Round 3: 5C Cascade Control

He played a turn 1 Savage Lands, which led me to believe at first that my opponent was playing Jund again, but he had a turn 2 Rupture Spire, which made me “Eek!” because I hadn’t kept an aggressive hand. He cast Blightning on turns 3 and 4, which sent me to frown town. I had some Elvish Visionaries to reload, and I got Nissa Revane online, but he kept playing the answers. Nissa was gone, my hand was gone, and his cascade card advantage was wrecking me. I ran out of gas, drew 5 lands in a row and decided it was best to go on to game 2. I sided in my Acidic Slimes and ran the Aggro route to victory games 2 and 3. Acidic Slime was key in putting him behind on mana sources, and kept him from playing some of his more expensive spells.

Round 4: Grixis Pyromancer Ascension

I wish I could remember more about this matchup, but I was playing against a friend of mine and we were chatting most of the match. I dropped a turn 2 Great Sable Stag when he played Crumbling Necropolis and Drowned Catacombs. He didn’t have Lightning Bolt, and Stag went the distance. The second game was pretty similar, as I used my Green beatsticks to do what they do best. He killed plenty of creatures, but this deck rarely runs out of gas.

After we got up from the match, we were walking and talking when a Judge friend of mine stopped us. He asked who won, and I smiled and nodded my head. His response:

“Sorry Kali, unfortunately we’re having to disqualify you. You’re playing under the wrong name, and that’s grounds for a DQ.”

I think I went through the broadest spectrum of anger in 0.5 seconds. He saw my obvious rage and stopped me before I could get a word out, because I was about to throw a fit. He was playing a mean prank on me! I wasn’t DQ’ed! I then proceeded hit him with my score-keeping paper. Feeling relieved, I carried on about my day. I’ve been trying to change my name on the DCI from Pyrlik to Anderson since the day after the wedding, and have had no success. Luckily the staff at the $5K changed me to my proper name for rest of the tournament.

Round 5: Summoning Trap

I played my deck out like usual, and had a pretty good draw with turn 4 Master of the Wild Hunt and turn 5 Eldrazi Monument. He was playing Harrow and Rampant Growth, ramping into something that he hadn’t shown me yet. During my end step on turn 6, he let the cat out of the bag with a Summoning Trap and dropped Iona, Shield of Emeria into play, naming Green of course. He untapped but couldn’t quite swing into my board of flyers, and then I promptly untapped and shot his angel with three wolf tokens. He looked at me with a inquisitive look and said, “Don’t I get to assign damage?” I pointed to my Eldrazi Monument and said, “Sorry, they’re indestructible…” I proceeded to cast Ant Queen, and he scooped a turn later. Game 2, he at first tried to cast Rampant Growth off Island and Plains, and I quickly caught him. I don’t know if this affected the rest of the game, but I played Garruk, Wildspeaker and pumped out some 3/3s. I dropped a Monument a turn or two later after getting him down to ten, and he cast Trapmaker’s Snare for Summoning Trap and searched out for a Sphinx of the Steel Wind. He blocked my Ant Queen, and I said, “Okay, gain six life, you go to 16. Take 19 from the rest of my guys?” He then sighed and extended his hand.

Round 6: Boros Bushwhacker

(An aside: The guy I played against had the most awesome backpack ever. It was a punk rock unicorn with googly eyes! I had to squee (in girlspeak, this is equivalent to “AWWWWWW” ) over it. He also complimented the sweet tats I had on my hand from a week-old Halloween temporary tattoo box I had procured from our local store’s candy bin. Another note I must point out is that he made Top 16 with his deck, so he’s a good player to boot. Shelby, I don’t know if you will read this or not, but good games, and even better backpack!)

I had a decent opener, and I did what my deck was supposed to do versus Boros: just survive to turn 4 and run it from there. He played Ranger of Eos and got an Elite Vanguard and Goblin Bushwhacker, but I had too many guys out and topdecking Monument sealed the game. Game 2 I kept an iffy hand, and while the game was drawn out, his Kor Skyfisher literally went all the way, as I drew no Monument. Game 3, he must have kept an iffy hand too, as he didn’t have much gas and I easily overran him.

After this round, I was extremely nervous! During Time Spiral Block, I had played a nine round PTQ where G/U Aggro was popular, and Todd had built me a White Weenie Rebel deck to play. I started out 6-0, playing against the G/U Aggro deck nearly all day, searching out Bound in Silence for the infinite Tarmogoyfs I faced. I got to the 7th round, played against G/U again but he had Psionic Blast main and crushed me. I won the 8th round, and all I had to do was not get paired down against the X-0-2 playing Mystical Teachings, my worst match-up. I was pretty much guaranteed Top 8 if this didn’t occur, as I could draw in, but obviously I was unlucky enough to get paired down, and the guy smashed me hardcore. Things like this happen, so I wasn’t too upset, but I really felt like I should have made Top 8 in that tournament. Learning from my past mistakes, I didn’t want to get over confident again, so I kept replaying that day in my head over and over.

Round 7: G/W Mirror

It was pretty cool to be one of the “featured matches” and as I sat down I just kept telling myself not to get too excited just yet. I still had to win one more Round to get into Top 8, and I didn’t want to count my chickens before they’d hatched. I lost the die roll, and when he opened with Forest, Llanowar Elf, I knew I was in for a tough ride. We both drew our token producers and Monuments, and the board was getting extremely gummed up. I had Nissa Revane, and after getting all my elves I kept gaining life. He played Garruk and untapped some lands to put Garruk at 4 loyalty. I drew my own Garruk to kill his, and he played a second Garruk. I was at 48 life, the board wasn’t improving, and the time clock was ticking steadily, down to about 25 minutes at this point. I knew I had to bait him into swinging. He might have been planning to anyway, but I had more creatures out and it wouldn’t have been a profitable attack on his part. Nissa was at 8 counters, and I didn’t do all the math but I knew I could survive if I swung first. I bit my lip and turned my dudes sideways. He blocked and I got in about four damage or so. I then used Nissa’s ultimate and grabbed 12 elves from my deck, took a deep breath, and hoped he would bite. He untapped, popped his Garruk, and we began the tedious task of figuring out how big his guys and my guys were. We decided it was easier to add up the total power of his guys and my total toughness and subtract to see how much damage I’d take. I think it was something like 81 power to 61 toughness. What a close one!

Game 2 I mulliganed into a weak hand and I couldn’t draw a fourth land. He played out his fatties and my five-drops were looking pretty sad. Game 3 I got the aggressive start and kept sending in with my guys. I drew Eldrazi Monument first and had the match in the bag, promising my opponent a good rematch in the Top 8.

As an aside, I want you all to know I suffer from a rare genetic disease called “Poky Little Puppy Syndrome (PLPS).” Whenever I am in a situation of extreme excitement, I tend to get really really animated and squeal-y, much like a Poky Little Puppy. This was one of those moments for me. All the pressure and nerves from the earlier rounds was washed away… I had made Top 8! Holy crap!! OMGBBQ!!! Insert girl squeals!!!!Eleven!!

By the time our match finished, the round was nearly over. I got myself to calm down and my heart to stop racing so much. Todd was still playing for Top 8 too, and I was getting more nervous for him!

Round 8: Jund Lotus

My opponent and I intentionally drew and wished each other luck in the Top 8!

After signing the slip, I watched Todd’s match against Jund. After he was done, I begged him to take me to find some headache medicine, as I was beginning to come down and realize I still had to play Top 8! We walked to the hotel gift shop and sat down in the chairs. Here, Todd helped me cool my jets and calm my nerves. He assured me that I just needed to continue playing well and not to let my nervousness get the best of me. He reminded me to play slow and think about each thing I do. He said, “Baby, you got this. Just keep your head in the game and you’ll be fine. You can do this. I love you.”

What more does a girl need to hear?

Round 9: Jund

There were only three 7-0s after round 7, so I had to be paired down against a 7-1 player. There were a lot of players in contention for Top 8, my husband included. I was paired against a friend of mine, and offered a draw. Unfortunately his tiebreakers weren’t quite good enough, so he had to play. Game 1 was a bit of a back and forth, and he dropped a Broodmate Dragon on turn 6. I had dealt a solid bit of damage and he was slowly getting low, but Broodmate was killing me and I needed an answer quick. Luckily Monument showed up just in time, and the lucky topdeck gave me the game. Game 2, he had an average draw while I drew the goods, and had an aggressive start to boot.

You can watch the coverage from the Top 8 on Evan Erwin Magic show from November 13th. I was kinda sad to be paired against Todd round 1, as I wished we both could have Top 4’ed, but he made Top 8 by the skin of his teeth (or tiebreakers, if you will) so we were just thankful he made it! I was feeling pretty confident since I was victorious in the swiss, but I knew I’d have to keep up my A-Game if I wanted to win.

I think the best moment of the day was sitting there in game 3 of the semifinals, where I had kept a weak hand on the draw after we both mulliganed to 6, and I just knew that my day was over. Lucky for me, his only big threat was Ant Queen and I was able to stabilize the board with Nissa Revane and Garruk Wildspeaker. After he killed my Garruk, I stopped myself briefly. I tried not to get myself down. I mean, Monument is on top, right?! I just believed it. “Untap. Upkeep.” Bite my Lip. “Draw.”

The biggest Magic rush of my life was seeing that jolly ol’ artifact in my sweet little hand. I instantly laid it down with a huge sigh of relief! How… Lucky!

I would like to now say that Chase Lamm is the upmost gentleman and most awesome dude ever. Shortly after my semifinals match ended, he extended his hand and pushed the trophy my way. Not many Magic players would do something like that, and Chase is certainly just as much a champion as I am. I don’t really know what would have happened if we played it out, but he certainly deserves MAJOR kudos for his kind gesture. Good Karma will certainly be coming his way!

It was so cool getting the applause and the pictures. God knows I couldn’t keep the goofy grin off my face. But it made me realize that I’ve got to get better. I made several mistakes throughout the day, including the Top 8, and while I went undefeated, my playskill still has a lot of room for development. I think my weakest area is in mulliganing decisions. After re-watching that game 3 from the semi-finals, I realize that I got extremely lucky to have won that game. This win is very huge for me, but if I want to continue this streak I know I have to commit more time to honing my skills. Hopefully this won’t be the last you see of me!

Thanks for reading and sharing this exciting moment with me. I really hope that I will continue to improve and prove to the Magic community that I am capable of repeat performances! I am more than happy to give advice on playing this deck, and you can message me on the forums here. Thanks again!

Kali Anderson
thatgirlwhoplaysmagic on SCG forums