The weekend before last, my team (Ryan Lewis-Jonns, Lachlan Saunders, and I) won Grand Prix Sydney. As Alex Ball dubbed it, it was our turn to graduate from “The Scrub Club.”
One of the hardest decisions leading up to the GP was deciding what decks to play. Modern is such a wide format that it makes preparing for a Unified tournament incredibly difficult. At the end of it all, we submitted B/R Hollow One, Humans, and Mono-Green Tron as our lineup. These weren’t easy choices, but playing what we felt were the best decks in a format is never a bad idea.
We put up an overall performance of 11-3, taking third place going into Top 4. And, yes, waiting for that particular announcement was a sweat.
This was the list I played:
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Bloodghast
- 3 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Hollow One
For the sake of examining what kind of difficulty one faces when going through a Modern field over the course of a two-day event, here is the full rundown of the matches on my journey:
Round 1: B/W Tokens (Win)
Round 2: G/W Hexproof (Loss)
Round 3: Eldrazi Tron (Win)
Round 4: Elves (Win)
Round 5: U/R Storm (Win)
Round 6: Ironworks Combo (Loss)
Round 7: G/R Tron (Win)
Round 8: Eldrazi Tron (Win)
Walking out of Day 1, we were just relieved to have made the cut at all. Lots of close calls are going to happen when the margins are as small as they are. We started out 5-0 and fell to 5-2. We walked into Round 8 feeling pretty unimpressed with ourselves. My happy moment was leaving the hall and saying how lucky I was to have dodged the Humans matchup all day.
But we weren’t done yet! And I wasn’t so lucky on Day 2…
Round 9: Elves (Win)
Round 10: Humans (Win)
Round 11: Humans (Not an official match result, I was 1-0 when our teammates finished.)
Round 12: Humans (Win)
Round 13: Humans (Win)
Round 14: Humans (Win)
As you can probably tell, I didn’t get to avoid pairing into Humans. I attribute a solid sideboard plan and having had the matchup tested over 200 times to how I was able to pull off 4-0 against it, with a sort-of draw thrown in.
Then came the real test. The only advice I had for my team going into the Top 4: “It’s not over. This is just another beginning. We still have to try and win this.” The team we paired into in our last round were our Round 7 loss, so we were definitely a little nervous walking into that match.
Semifinals: Living End (Win)
Finals: G/R Tron (Win)
After I’d realized we’d won, I remember smiling and sinking back into my chair. We’d just won a GP, and it was a great feeling. I picked up my phone to complete the series of Tweets I had made over the two days:
Just won a GP. #gpsydney
— Jessica Estephan (@jesstephan) April 15, 2018
Everything from there was a blur of congratulations, it seemed, but then someone piped up and said, “Is she the first woman to win a GP?” As it turns out, yes. Yes, I was.
Over the next few days, a number of articles by all kinds of gaming sites were released, all repeating the same thing: “Girl Makes Magic History.” The reviews from this were mixed, but at the end of day, my team and I did something pretty big.
The biggest misplay I made all weekend was to read the associated comments on this front. To be told that I had “made history” off the backs of my teammates hurt. But if that’s what hurt the most out of the things said, I’m proud of myself for thinking as a Magic player first.
As a Magic player, I (not singlehandedly) won a GP and that’s a great thing. Hearing I was the first woman to ever win a GP was a nice cherry on top. If there’s anything 2018 has taught us, I certainly won’t be the last woman to win a GP. I look forward to reading the next tournament report when it happens.
Sideboarding with B/R Hollow One
Here’s how I sideboarded over the weekend.
B/R Hollow One (Mirror)
U/W Control and U/R Breach
Elves and Merfolk
Three Sideboard Surprises
I’ll touch quickly on the mentality behind some of the above choices. First, an unusual inclusion in Liliana of the Veil.
To say this card is versatile is an understatement. It is an anti-creature/control/combo card and dedicating two slots to so a large portion of the Modern field is a value play. Each ability is impactful. It is also (what I found to be) essential in the G/W Hexproof matchup.
Now, two of the snubs:
This was close to making it into the deck because it is one of the better cards in the mirror and serves as another Lightning Bolt. However, the card was surprisingly low-impact across our other aggressive match ups and worse than Fatal Push.
This card proved to be the nut high or the nut low in testing. It was great to have in the mirror, but we found wasn’t what we needed it to do against other decks. Against Humans decks, by the time it did what it needed to do, we were already pretty dead.
It fares well against a large Champion of the Parish or Thalia’s Lieutenant, but if they’re big enough, we’re too far behind. Personally, I’m looking for nails for their coffin rather than a life preserver filled with holes. Big Game Hunter is amazing in the mirror, but against all the other decks and targets, the card really falls short.
Thankfully, falling short is not something that was common for us this past weekend. Thank you to my team, and to you for reading.