Escaping Jund

Being one of the most popular formats in Magic, Modern is frequently a hot topic in the community – no matter what the competitive level. One draw to this format is that you can essentially play anything you want. Yes, even Jund in 2020! 

If you know me or have read some of my articles, you know that Modern Jund is one of my favourite archetypes in Magic, even though it hasn’t been Tier 1 in years. And I’m not alone here. Jund players love to continue to jam their Lilianas and [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card]s no matter what is going on in the format. 

But what has caused the recent resurgence in Jund support among other players? Let me get into it: 

The Jund Strategy

If you are new to the Jund archetype, the first thing you need to know is that this strategy relies on a steady stream of “one-for-one” answers – meaning, you play one card to get rid of one of your opponent’s cards. This is most often done by using a discard spell ([Card]Thoughtseize[/Card] or [Card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/Card]) or by using a removal spell ([Card]Fatal Push[/Card], [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card], etc.). 

The idea here is that you do everything you can to make the text boxes on your opponents cards blank. With so many blanket answers, you want to trade cardboard for cardboard as much as possible.

Some of your more potent spells pull double-duty like [Card]Liliana of the Veil[/Card] of [Card]Kolaghan’s Command[/Card]. These cards can be increasingly powerful depending on the matchup. 

That leaves the creatures. [Card]Tarmogoyf[/Card] synergizes really well with the rest of the deck because you are constantly putting different card types in both graveyards with your discard , removal, Liliana and your suite of cheap interaction. [Card]Scavenging Ooze[/Card] works well to combat any graveyard shenanigans your opponent might try against you and can easily take over the game in creatures matchups in conjunction with a couple Bolts. [Card]Bloodbraid Elf[/Card] is a semi-recent re-addition to Jund after her unbanning. Getting to cast a random spell plus a 3/2 creature with haste is pretty broken when the quality of cards in your deck is this high. 

With all these moving parts, you can get the picture of what a true midrange deck looks like — the ability to switch up plans based on what you’re playing against. Moving from an aggressive deck one round when you’re paired against big mana and the shifting to a deck that values temp or control against creature strategies. Jund tailors the game plan based around what the opponent is playing. 

Another key aspect of the Jund is that it’s one of the best decks at tailoring it’s sideboard for the metagame. I wrote an article a couple of months ago depicting different strategies in sideboard building through the lens of a Jund deck, which might be another good article to read if you haven’t already.

Such malleable post-board plans make Jund good at attacking a known metagame, so when you’re confident about your matchups you can really hone in on your post-board plans.

The New Cards

[Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card], [Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] and most recently, [Card]Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger[/Card], have all contributed to Jund’s recent uprising in the Modern metagame. 

[Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card] gave Jund a way to combat decks, cards and strategies that the archetype has traditionally struggled against. Cards like [Card]Urza’s Tower[/Card], [Card]Primeval Titan[/Card] and [Card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/Card] are no longer considered “Game Over” for Jund like they were when you were packing a ton of [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card]s. While [Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card] may not have swung unfavorable matchups into the “favourable” category, we are well on our way to having a fighting chance.

[Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] was a card printed in Modern Horizons that originally propelled Jund into the forefront of people’s minds again. Modern Horizons brought forth many powerful strategies, and unfortunately Jund was overlooked while decks like Hogaak and Whirza overtook Modern for many months.

Now that we have escaped Hogaak and (kinda) Whirza, we can take a look at what [Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] really added to Jund, which is a lot. First, the deck fundamentally took a turn by completely removing [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card] from most lists, which was a Jund staple for years. [Card]Wrenn and Six[/Card] helped both grindy games and against small creature decks. This was a shift in the right direction for the Humans matchup, as well as just another way to shut out Infect (that is, until they got [Card]Veil of Summer[/Card]). Fundamentally, Wrenn also added a sticky threat to the deck that was less susceptible to spot-removal. While Confidant can snowball a game, Wrenn is much better at provided guaranteed incremental advantage, which is something Jund is always in the market for. 

Finally, our newest addition to the Jund family is [Card]Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger[/Card]. Kroxa puts additional pressure on Jund’s manabase to pay for the double red in her escape cost. However, I personally have not had an issue after adapting my manabase. Kroxa serves as an additional discard spell, as well as an aggressive threat after she is escaped. Everything you want out of a Jund card, a two-for-one that can get them dead. 

A lot of the time Jund matches come down to both you and your opponent top-decking, and Kroxa is especially good here. You opponent will often lose three life to Kroxa by being unable to discard. Additionally, after you have dealt with all of your opponent’s cards in hand and creatures on the battlefield, Kroxa is ready to be escaped uncontested by your opponent. A 6/6 body isn’t negligible either. 

What I Played at Regionals

[Deck Title= Jund – Ally Warfield]
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Wrenn and Six
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Thoughtseize
2 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Fatal Push
2 Kolaghan’s Command
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Barren Moor
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Nurturing Peatland
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Ashiok, Dream Render
2 Collective Brutality
2 Fulminator Mage
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Pillage
2 Plague Engineer
1 Damping Sphere

Changes I’d Make

At SCG Regionals I went 5-3 with Jund, losing to Infect twice and Golgari Titan. Based on this, I would likely find room in the sideboard for [Card]Anger of the Gods[/Card] to generally help the small creature matchups, as well as to deal with the zombies from [Card]Field of the Dead[/Card] out of Titan decks. 

Overall, I felt favored in a lot of the matchups I played. Titan decks felt close, and even favoured when they didn’t have [Card]Field of the Dead[/Card]. W

If you love the deck, now is an acceptable time to play it. Jund has strong play and sideboarding options against the best decks in Modern, which is exactly where Jund wants to be to thrive.

When in doubt, Jund em out.

Becoming a Rival

I walked out of 2019 with 24 Mythic Points, and I was honestly unsure about what that even really meant to me. 

Last year was a great year for me in Magic, and I achieved things in a short amount of time I thought would take years to accomplish. I walked into 2020 with a year’s worth of competitive Magic knowledge and various new Magic skills, optimistic about continuing to learn and grow as a player.

Flash forward to getting invited to join the Rivals League for the 2020 partial season. To be honest, it was something I was hoping for being the woman with the most Mythic Points outside of the MPL, but was never something I expected at all. It’s the kind of news that you want to hear, but don’t have a realization of it’s impact until it happens. 

I opened my email right before I left my internship for the day, dropped my phone and suppressed a scream when I saw the invitation.

So I’m a Rival, what now?

Last year, my priority was the SCG Tour. I had intended to attend every event again and potentially make a run at the Player’s Championship. But trying to put my all into SCG and the Rivals League would negatively affect my tournament results and other aspects of my life. I’m still in graduate school, have two internships that require 40+ hours a week, and a part-time job. All of this on top of playing Magic and now the Rivals League. 

You could say I’m busy, but I’m a busy person who got invited to Rivals and wants to chase her dreams of becoming a professional Magic player. So my goals have shifted from SCG to PTs and Arena tournaments. 

This is obviously a bittersweet feeling, but something I think is necessary for me to give everything I have to this new opportunity. 

While writing this article, the thought “what does Rivals mean to you?” kept circling around in my head. What does Rivals mean to me? All of last year no matter how hard I was working there was no way to predict this would happen, simply because I never thought I could achieve it. I’ve had only one or two women to ever look up to while competing — and to be honest, I thought I would get driven out of this game before I ever had any success. 

So to me, Rivals is everything. It’s my chance to show the world women can play at the highest levels of Magic. It’s my dream to spend my time and have the chance of doing something I love every day. It’s getting to travel the country with my friends, meet new people, grow in Magic and as a person. Rivals is my chance to try to prove to myself that I belong in this community.

Naturally, there was push back against discretionary invites — which was a grab-bag of legitimate structural critiques, “what-about-me-isms” and outright sexism. The goal for discretionary invites was to provide an opportunity to compete at a high level for groups of people who do not get that opportunity due to systemic issues or otherwise. Maybe I’m only here because I got an invite to MCVII off the back of a Grand Prix Top 4, but I took the opportunity planning to do my best. I’m not here to prove myself to anyone else. I know what I’ve accomplished in this past year and what I still need to work on. I’m here to compete, learn, and grow at every moment and my drive keeps pushing me forward. 

I can pretend none of the comments about the invites affected me — and in some aspects that’s true. I don’t care about the negativity from people I don’t know or obvious troll accounts. What did hurt was various reactions from people I considered friends, whether that be jealousy, implying or blatantly saying I didn’t deserve it, or even not giving up a simple “congrats” got to me a bit. It’s hard achieving things you’ve wanted for so long and having the people you care about most not bat an eye. We can follow platitudes and advice of “they aren’t good friends” or “their opinions don’t really matter,” which might be true, but it still hurt. 

However, no matter how much negativity there is in the world, there is double the amount of positivity. The amount of people supporting me, looking up to me, and caring about me is overwhelming. I’m always up for a challenge, and the immense amount of love and support in my life makes anything possible. 

There’s a lot of legitimacy to the claims of “criticizing the system not the players,” but the players still have feelings. So all I can do is make the absolute most of position I’ve been put in, and prove that I belong. 

Being a part of a new system in its early development has it’s own challenges as well. Everything is in its first iteration, and the systems might change and develop throughout time as the MPL and Rivals leagues progress. A fear I have is being kicked out of Rivals after the partial season without having the chance to truly compete for a whole season. On top of that, I can feel the pressure from myself and others to perform well in a handful of events. I’ve spiked a couple events last year, but I’m nervous about replicating those successes. 

Breaking down the two point structures, we see a tabletop and an Arena avenue to earn points. Tabletop and Players Points correlate with Regional Players Tours and Players Tour Finals, while Arena and Mythic Points correlate with Mythic Invitationals, Mythic Qualifiers and Mythic Point Challenges. With one Mythic Qualifier and one Mythic Point in the books, I am feeling more confident in the Arena side of things. PT Phoenix did not go as I had hoped, and I definitely need to focus more on the Limited aspect of the tournament more for the next one. 

In that first Mythic Qualifier of the year, I played a Jund Sacrifice list from Emma Handy and managed to dodge Jeskai Fires until the sixth and seventh matches. 5-2 and out, but good enough to score a spot on the Rivals scoreboard with one Mythic Point. 

I think the PT didn’t go as well as I’d hoped due to my split preparation. I was also preparing for SCG Richmond the week before, I spent a majority of my time testing Pioneer. Going into the PT, I felt fairly confident with Bant Spirits — I had been consistently beating Inverter, Lotus Breech and Sultai Delirium. These were the three decks I came to beat. Unfortunately my Pioneer portion was ended by Mono-Red Aggro — the only top deck I didn’t want to see across the table from me. 

Another rough aspect of the PT was the draft rounds. My deck was fine, but after thinking about the draft for a couple days I have identified the point in which I should have pivoted from Dimir to Rakdos, and I think I would’ve seen more success if I had identified this during the draft. I am happy that I have grown to the point I am even able to identify that at all. I only learned how to draft right before MCVI. Now that I feel like I can identify something like that, the next step is to make it happen when the pressure’s on. 

So what does the first half of my 2020 look like?

I’m still going to try to make it to every SCG event that I can and utilize my bye that I earned last year. On top of that, I am finding time to compete in every Mythic Qualifier and Point Challenge, as well as the first Mythic Invitational in May. The second Players Tour is also in May, and you will likely see me in Charlotte — unless I make bad decisions and attend PT Copenhagen. You might see me at a few GPs as well, so far planning on GP Seattle, GP Vegas and GP Minneapolis. 

If any of you know me, or have read some of my other articles, you know I liked to set a lot of goals in case I don’t hit my biggest goal. Results-oriented goals can be tricky, especially when you add an aspect of something high variance like Magic to it, therefore I like to add non-results-oriented goals as well. Here are some of my goals for the partial season:

  1. Earn any Number of Mythic Points and Players Points. Well, we are halfway there! I have to focus and work on my testing processes to enable success in the second PT later in the year. I’m feeling determined.
  2. Day Two a PT or Mythic Invitational. I accomplished this goal last year in a tabletop and Arena MC, but both are still difficult tasks, and I would like to be able to replicate last year’s results for the partial season. 
  3. Grow as a Player. This is a goal I always have in Magic. I don’t believe anyone can stop learning and growing if they have the passion and drive to continue doing so. Losing is never fun, but if I can learn one thing from a match of Magic, there was immense value in being a part of it. 
  4. Be Happy with my Game Play More Often than Not. You can’t play perfectly all the time, and even when you feel like you played perfectly, there are likely better lines or plays you could’ve taken. For this goal I’m not expecting perfection, but overall I would like to be happy or content with how I play a match more often than I am upset or frustrated with my game play. 
  5. Earn a Spot in Rivals for the 2020/2021 Season. This is my number one goal. I’ve made it here, and I intend to stay. Playing with the best people in Magic enables me to play at a higher level than I ever have before. I don’t want to give up this spot in Rivals for anything, and I hope I can do everything in my power to stay here.

The Top 10 Cards in Theros Beyond Death

Theros Beyond Death is here and it’s time to start digging into which cards are going to be playable in each Constructed format. Theros is very nostalgic for me, the original Theros was the first time I really started to look at Magic competitively. Naturally, I am very excited to return to this plane. 

Theros Beyond Death hits it out of the park with new cards that will likely be Standard all-stars, as well as a handful of cards likely to see play in Pioneer and Modern. There are numerous cards that already stand out, but I will be going over my Top 10 Constructed cards for Theros. 

[Card]Heliod-Sun Crowned[/Card]

[Card]Heliod-Sun Crowned[/Card] is the first card I’m going to touch on because there is a ton of hype around this card. Most of this hype comes from the allure of the two-card-combo between this card and [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] in Pioneer. Give [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] Lifelink with Heliod’s ability, remove a counter from [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card], gain a life and put a +1/+1 counter on [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card], then rinse and repeat. 

I’m a huge fan of two-card-combos like this that can exist in fair decks (unban [Card]Splinter Twin[/Card]), and I think this combo will likely see play in Pioneer. I don’t think something like this is too powerful for Pioneer, so I don’t see a ban incoming either. 

I could also see Heliod potentially slotting into Modern decks, like Devoted Devastation, however here I think it could be a little “win-more”. I’m skeptical that this combo will be very good in Modern outside of [Card]Devoted Druid[/Card] or [Card]Collected Company[/Card] decks. It’s difficult to make Heliod a powerful card in such a high-powered format. That said, there’s definitely some, “oops, I win” potential here.”

[Card]Erebos, Black-Hearted[/Card]

It wouldn’t be a Theros set if all of the most powerful cards were Gods, right? Moving to Standard, [Card]Erebos, Black-Hearted[/Card] takes a spot in my Top 10 for slotting well into the already established archetype of Jund Sacrifice. 

An additional sacrifice outlet, card advantage and the ability to kill creatures — Erebos has everything that a Jund Sacrifice players wants in a card. While Erebos would likely solely function as an enchantment the majority of the time, the synergies within the deck make it worth considering dedicating one or two spots for this card. 

[Card]Klothys, God of Destiny[/Card]

I don’t want to dedicate all of my Top slots to the Gods even though I can see all of them represented in Constructed formats. So I’m putting [Card]Klothys, God of Destiny[/Card] as my last God in the Top 10 because she is both a new character and doesn’t necessarily slot into any Tier 1 deck in Standard currently. Klothys definitely has the potential to push the Gruul Aggro archetype further than it has been during this Standard season because of her cheap mana cost, dealing two damage per turn and she’s relatively easy to turn into a creature because of her ability to ramp. I envision a Gruul Aggro deck utilizing powerful old cards like [Card]Embercleave[/Card] and [Card]Gruul Spellbreaker[/Card] alongside the new cards, including Klothys and Gallia of the Endless Dance.

Three mana gods are just good, Thassa taught us that, and this is now exception. 

[Card]Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath[/Card]

There are two Titans in Theros Beyond Death that highlight the new mechanic — Escape. Both Titans seem very powerful, however [Card]Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath[/Card] takes the cake for me. Simic colours have constantly gotten powerful cards printed in the last year, and Uro fits into many of those established archetypes flawlessly. A three mana [Card]Growth Spiral[/Card] that gains you three life and eventually turns into a 6/6 with the same ability can be back-breaking in multiple formats. 

In Standard, Uro slots into the Simic Ramp deck flawlessly — especially considering that [Card]Cavalier of Thorns[/Card] fuels the Escape mechanic for free . Additionally, I can see Uro enabling some new archetypes such as a Temur or Sultai Midrange. Mono-Green Ramp is currently a powerful strategy in Pioneer, and I definitely see that archetype expanding to Simic colors to make a spot for Uro. Even the five colour Niv-Mizzet decks have started to incorporate Uro into their early game. 

Modern is a little up in the air; if the Simic Titan decks are still strong after Theros release, Uro could definitely find a home there. It’s usually pretty easy to find room for a powerful threat  that just, never, dies. 

[Card]Polukranos, Unchained[/Card]

[Card]Polukranos, Unchained[/Card] is another powerful card that highlights the new Escape mechanic. This card appears to be extremely powerful, specifically in Standard. A 6/6 for four mana is already just good on-rate, and the rest of the text box makes me more confident that Polukranos will be played in Standard. You can effectively fight all of your opponent’s creatures until your Polukranos dies, then you can bring it back for its Escape cost — and then it’s a 12/12! 

[Card]Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis[/Card]

Theros Beyond Death showcases three planeswalkers, and two stood out to me as Constructed playable. The first one is [Card]Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis[/Card]. I’ve seen a lot of people underestimate the strength of Elspeth, and I think that largely has to do with not seeing the Escape mechanic in action yet. A planeswalker that is nearly impossible to get rid of permanently is extraordinarily strong. Additionally, she can create creatures to block attacks at her directly and planeswalkers that can defend themselves well are always strong in Standard. 

We are finally seeing strong white cards being printed into Standard, so maybe 2020 is the year of white? I can definitely see Elspeth being relevant in Standard. 

[Card]Ashiok, Nightmare Muse[/Card]

The second planeswalker that caught my eye in Theros Beyond Death is [Card]Ashiok, Nightmare Muse[/Card]. I might be a little biased on this one because I love Dimir colors, but I can see Ashiok having a significant impact in Standard. Dimir Control decks have been floating around every so often in Standard, but they all had the problem of not having very many effective win-cons, and Ashiok brings that to the archetype. There’s also Esper Hero, a proven midrange threat that very recently lost it’s top-end threat when [Card]Teferi, Hero of Dominaria[/Card] rotated. 

The +1 and -7 abilities on Ashiok obviously play very well together and create a very powerful win-con. Additionally a 2/3 every turn isn’t a negligible board presence. However, what really stood out to me as a game-changer was the -3 ability. Dimir colours historically have a difficult time dealing with problematic enchantments. With Theros being built around enchantment themes, being able to combat those is some way is likely to be relevant for the Dimir decks out there. I don’t see Ashiok seeing play outside of Standard, but I’m very inclined to try to make Ashiok work there. 

[Card]Dryad of the Ilysian Grove[/Card]

Finally turning away from Mythic Rares, [Card]Dryad of the Ilysian Grove[/Card] is likely to be a multi-format all-star. Playing additional lands has become a staple of green cards, but what makes Dryad so powerful is that it also doubles as a [Card]Prismatic Omen[/Card] AND has four toughness, meaning it is fairly difficult to remove. 

This card slots well into any green ramp deck in both Standard and Pioneer. In Modern, this card can be a consideration in Amulet Titan decks worried about [Card]Damping Sphere[/Card], but likely a true powerhouse in TitanShift decks because of the ability to ramp into a Titan and establish easier lethal Valakut triggers.

[Card]Thassa’s Intervention[/Card]

[Card]Thassa’s Intervention[/Card] is a nice pick up for blue decks in  Pioneer because of the versatility of the card. Plus, the current counter-suite in the format is just a little under-powered. Any upgrades to the current options are definitely something to take note of when it comes to control in Pioneer. 

This card can easily replace some of the weaker counterspells in the Azorius Control deck , as well as create a spot for other blue decks to take hold in the format. When it comes to Standard, this card could likely be added to Simic Flash as well as more currently undiscovered archetypes. 

[Card]Bronzehide Lion[/Card]

This final card choice may come as a surprise, as Selesyna has not been a serious contender in Standard since rotation, but [Card]Bronzehide Lion[/Card] does a nice [Card]Fleecemane Lion[/Card] impression at two mana. A 3/3 creature for two mana that can gain indestructible is no laughing matter as we know. Additionally, [Card]Bronzehide Lion[/Card]’s ability gives off “backwards Bestow” vibes from original Theros, so I appreciate the nod to the old mechanic there. 

This card is likely only going to see play in Standard, but I could also see a new archetype being developed in Pioneer in the future. Obviously a new deck would have to emerge for this card to be playable in Standard, but it is a very good start to Selesyna decks. Remember how dominant Selesnya Tokens was in Standard with Gideon? Well all of that still exists in Pioneer AND can support the Heliod combo. 

Theros has started putting the colour white on the right track to become a contender in Standard again. 


I am very excited to see where all these new Theros cards take us in the various Constructed formats. Many of the cards seem powerful enough to break into eternal formats, as well as the potential to shake up the current Standard meta significantly. I’m most excited to see the impacts of the new sets in Standard and Pioneer – especially with the first ever Pioneer PT coming up! Happy brewing!

Becoming Mythic: Top 16 at MCVII

My journey to Mythic Championship VII started out how a lot of my Magic tournaments start out: running across an airport to make a connecting flight.

After making my connection, I had a long flight to Los Angeles to mentally prepare for what was going to happen in the following days. I had never been to an Arena event, I’d never even been to California. I had no idea what to expect this tournament to be like. Other than that there’d probably be a lot more strobe lights than the previous tournaments I’d played. All that I could really do was rely on my testing and play my matches one at a time.

I spent five days in LA, and in retrospect these were some of the best days of my life. I immediately fell in love with California; not wearing a coat in the middle of December probably had something to do with that. The food, the company and the tournament made this the best Magic experience I’ve ever had.

We started out the weekend with Media Day, where we had our headshots taken and I met a lot of the other competitors. There were a lot of people I was meeting for the first time and reconnecting with others. I also got to see two of my best friends again – Jess and Eli.

We took a tour around the event site and walking into the game play area was surreal. That was the moment when I realized this entire experience was real, and I wanted to win it all. I’m typically someone who tries to set “realistic” goals for herself, but being in this environment made me never want to leave it. I wanted to win, I wanted to re-qualify, I wanted to stay on the professional Magic train. And this feeling would only increased throughout the weekend.

For those unfamiliar with the list I took to MCVII, I decided on Golgari Adventures with [Card]Lucky Clover[/Card] after working with Autumn Burchett and Mimi Arthur:

[Deck Title= Golgari Adventures – Ally Warfield]
4 Edgewall Innkeeper
4 Foulmire Knight
4 Lovestruck Beast
2 Midnight Reaper
4 Murderous Rider
4 Order of Midnight
2 Beanstalk Giant
4 Smitten Swordmaster
4 Lucky Clover
3 Casualties of War
2 Castle Locthwain
2 Fabled Passage
7 Forest
4 Overgrown Tomb
9 Swamp
1 Temple of Malady
1 Massacre Girl
1 Noxious Grasp
2 Duress
2 Shifting Ceratops
1 Disfigure
2 Epic Downfall
2 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Vraska, Golgari Queen
2 Reaper of Night

Day One is when the nerves kicked in.

Before this, I knew that the tournament was going to happen regardless of how nervous I was, so I could put myself in the best position by just trying my best and playing my game. But sitting down at that computer was a different story. The computer screen was bigger than any screen I’d played Arena on. This was accompanied by a professional gaming mouse and headphones. This was my first true experience at a real esports event, everything was just a little bigger and more polished. My heart rate was elevated, my hands were sweaty, and I started to get the thoughts that I had something to prove. This made me even more nervous because I typically perform worse when I have something to prove.

I never cared about the people discrediting discretionary invites. However, I often feel the pressure to perform well to prove women can be successful in this game. Like my individual result is a testament to what women can do at a big event like this. Which can be amazing and inspiring when I win, but soul crushing when I lose.

My nerves started to calm down when I saw my round one opponent was Alex Hayne, someone who I had already played at MC Richmond a month prior. I took comfort in that familiarity, but ultimately ended up losing the first round. Round one is always difficult for me. I don’t think I utilize the resources around me well enough before tournaments, like getting in some warm-up games. I didn’t play well game one. I assumed I had lethal when I did not. I got caught up in how I was going to win the game, I forgot about what could cause me to lose the game, and it cost me.

After skillfully getting the bye round two, I was paired into Ben Stark for round three. At first I thought I was paired against Brian Braun-Duin because for the first time in a tournament ever, someone shared the same first name as me, which was really cool for the obvious inclusivity reasons. I walked into the play area and was immediately informed that I had a feature match. At the Mythic Championship. The nerves were back.

Twitch chat is known for being particularly unkind to women on camera and the thought of my plays being analyzed by upwards of 75,000 people made me extremely anxious. But I managed to ground myself and focus on my gameplay. I was confident in my plan against Azorius Control and ultimately got the W with a mix of [Card]Reaper of Night[/Card] and [Card]Shifting Ceratops[/Card] post-board. I could steady my breathing, I was done with my camera match, and I won.

I spent the next couple rounds losing to some challengers and beating some heaters like Eric Froelich and Dmitriy Butakov and found myself playing a win-and-in to Day 2. I then found out I would be playing against one of my Magic idols on camera in the last round of the day. Chris Pikula was on Jeskai Fires, a matchup I was fairly confident in. However, he was still Chris Pikula, so my expectations were not great. I already had a camera match earlier in the day, but I was physically shaking trying to sit down and get ready for this one.

I’ve played against my fair share of people I’ve looked up to in the past, even in the same tournament. But this was different. The stakes were so much higher, and the entire Magic community would be watching this one match. Also, if I wasn’t playing this Mythic Championship, I would be cheering for Pikula to win it all myself. Needless to say, I was experiencing a slew of emotions.

Surprisingly this was my first match of the day against Jeskai Fires. I felt good about the matchup in the post-board games, and it’s close in the pre-board games. I tried to keep those thoughts in my head to calm down and focus on the actual gameplay. Typically, Golgari Adventures build enormous card advantage against Jeskai Fires until they can’t keep up. They typically need [Card]Fires of Invention[/Card] in play if they have any hope of winning that matchup. Because if they don’t have their namesake card, it’s just so easy for you to snowball an advantage.

I sneak out a win in game one versus Pikula. Game two, I get a perfectly timed [Card]Duress[/Card] to take out his [Card]Deafening Clarion[/Card] and close out the game. We tried to talk about the match a little after, but I was shaking so bad, and my mind was going 100 miles an hour. Making it to Day 2 was a stretch goal for myself — and I just earned it. I had exceeded my own expectations, I had beaten some of the best people I’d ever played against, and I earned my spot to compete again the following day.

My mom and sister texted me after the last round letting me know that they watched the whole time and that they were proud of me. My family doesn’t really understand Magic, so hearing that they watched me in my most important tournament to-date meant the world to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from them, as well as my partner, Dylan Hand. The continuous love and support in my life from them and all my friends help me push to achieve all my goals, while being kind to myself when I fall short.

Results-oriented self-worth is largely toxic and not the determining factor of one’s skill — and this kind of thinking is pretty prominent in competitive Magic. That said, it was extremely validating to be continuously accumulating good results in some of the most elite events the game had to offer. Especially after the rhetoric surrounding “getting carried” at team events because I’m a woman. I’ve now Day Two’d both of the only MC’s I’ve played in, and I know I am a strong player. I am confident in my testing process and continuously striving to be a better player. I have a long way to go to become the player I want to be, but I am proud of my growth as a player for the short two years I’ve been playing competitively.

I celebrated by getting dinner with my friends and going to bed early so I could play my best on Day Two.

I got to the venue on Saturday morning and immediately felt out of place. Most of my friends I’d played with yesterday were not there with me. I’m pretty shy, and it’s hard for me to walk up to people far better than me and introduce myself. Luckily, Chris Kvarteck and Jordan Cairns immediately made me feel welcome, talked to me and cheered for me the whole day.

I slammed a Red Bull and headed to my first match of the day against Christian Hauck, another Jeskai Fires player. After how the previous day went, I felt a bit more comfortable. I was ready to eat the MPL that day. I fired off two wins against Hauck and prepared to play against Shota Yasooka on another Fires deck. However, his deck was much different, he was playing a five colour build. We were put on camera, and I was extremely nervous because I had not tested against a list like this and was unsure about if I should approach the matchup differently than traditional Fires and about my sideboarding plans.

We had some close games. Kenrith was even more powerful in his deck than the Jeskai version because he had access to all of his abilities. Ultimately, I was able to squeeze out a win in game three to put me to 2-0 in Day 2.

After my second win of the day, a lot of the pros I have looked up to since playing started to ask me about my matches and tell me they were cheering for me. My Twitter notifications were blowing up, lots of general cheering, but also a lot of wholesome tweets about various peoples’ daughters, girlfriends, wives, etc. sitting around and watching my matches. I’ve touched on this sentiment in the past, but being the reason people are saying “representation matters” is a surreal experience. I’ve looked up to successful women players since I’ve been playing, and I’m incredibly humbled whenever I find out someone is looking up to me, or when someone is starting to learn to play because they saw me holding my own against the best players in the world.

I was overwhelmed with emotions.

Round three I was paired against Jordan Cairns. I had watched some of his feature matches the previous day and was in awe of how good his technical play was. I was already mentally preparing to play an intense match of Magic, and then they told us we were the main camera match.

My match against Cairns was the most intense match I played all weekend. It came down to game three, and I ended the match at one life. I think this specific game was a “level up” moment that I’m going to take with me the rest of my Magic days. This felt like one of the first times I was planning the entire game in my head. I thought about the different plays Jordan could likely have, analyzed all of my decisions, and what I thought the rest of the game would look like based on those decisions. From playing around [Card]Find // Finality[/Card], watching out for [Card]Questing Beast[/Card] and attacking a [Card]Massacre Girl[/Card] into a 1/1 and a [Card]Lovestruck Beast[/Card]. I want to be at that level of the game every time I play in a tournament from now on.

This is when things got crazy. I was 3-0 against three amazing players on Day 2 of an MC. I was asked to do a handful of interviews. My social media notifications still hadn’t stopped. So many pros I admire came up to congratulate me and say they wanted me to win the tournament. The immense amount of support I received (and am still receiving) is nothing I ever imagined. I was overwhelmed at how much of an impact I could make on so many peoples’ lives. For the first time, I considered the possibility of Top 8ing this thing.

That thought was quickly crushed when I played against Kanister. He beat me so quickly I wasn’t sure we had even played a match. I proceeded to lose the next two rounds to Huey and PVDDR, largely because they are better players than me, but also some real feel-bad draws, like game three against Paulo.

After starting 3-0 and dropping to 3-3, I was pretty unhappy with myself. I shouldn’t have been, because I lost to some of the best players in the whole world, but I had let myself think Top 8 was a possibility. And if you’ve ever played even the smallest competitive Magic tournament — you know that exact feeling.

My tournament was so difficult, I realized I was actually playing a Top 8 win-an-in at 3-3 in the last round. And getting paired against Marcio Calvalho on Jund Sacrifice (a matchup I’d been losing to all weekend) was not ideal. I tried to put everything I had into this last match, but after putting 110 per cent into every match that day, I was exhausted. My play was fine, but I wasn’t in the same headspace as when I started the day. I lost the last round in game three and started to get disappointed in myself all over again. I had put myself in a position to get something I’d only dreamed of, and I lost.

After about ten minutes, I realized what I had accomplished is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life. I never expected to Top 16 this event going into it. I far surpassed my own and many others’ expectations. I made the Top 4 of the Challengers for this event, and I am now the woman with the highest amount of Mythic Points. I have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, and I am nothing less than proud of myself.

This event has pushed me towards wanting to keep playing Magic at the professional level. It’s so much different playing matches against the best in the world than what I was previously used to.

Playing against the best of the best forces you to try to play better than your best at all times. That sounds stressful, but ultimately is a way to continuously improve. I’m proud of my performance at the Mythic Championship, but one of my constant goals in Magic is to keep learning and improving whenever possible. Playing against players miles better than myself is a way to accomplish this.

They pushed me to be my best and improve. I’m ready to keep improving in 2020. I don’t know all my plans yet for Magic in 2020, but I’m excited to share the experience with all of you.

Devoted to green

Forest, Elf, go. Nyxthos, Burning-Tree, Burning-Tree, make five mana with Nyxthos, Nissa.

This is how a handful of games went for me at the StarCityGames Invitational last weekend. Just a few weeks prior to the event, SCG added Pioneer to flank Modern in place of Standard at the Invi — just after it was first announced as a new format. But that left a few glaring questions on the minds of all the competitors: What was good in Pioneer? Was the format fast? How do I build a sideboard?

The week before the Invitational, I was competing in my first Mythic Championship. The weeks prior, I spent all of my time testing Standard and Limited. Now I had to test for Pioneer and Modern, and I had only played one MTGO league of Pioneer prior to this. It was time to find all these answers. And then:

Veil of Summer is banned.

Well, there went my plans to play Simic Nexus. Thankfully, I figured out fairly quickly that Mono-Green Devotion was one of the most powerful strategies Pioneer had to offer and devoted (lol) a week’s worth of testing to figure out the deck and what the hell everyone was trying to do in the new format.

As it turns out, most people had figured out that the combination of [Card]Elvish Mystic[/Card] and [Card]Once Upon a Time[/Card] was the best thing to be doing — and green mirrors were going to be everywhere.

Here’s the deck I landed on for the Invitational:

[Deck Title= Mono-Green Devotion – Ally Warfield]
4 Walking Ballista
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Voracious Hydra
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
4 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
4 Once Upon a Time
15 Forest
2 Castle Garenbrig
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Unravel the AEther
2 Whisperwood Elemental
2 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Reclamation Sage
3 Shapers’ Sanctuary
3 Hunt the Hunter
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Scavenging Ooze

I finished the Pioneer portion of the event at 6-2. In retrospect, there were clearly problems with my list — primarily not being prepared enough for the mirror ([Card]Hunt the Hunted[/Card] was a dud) and Mono-Black Aggro. But all in all I’m happy with my choice and think I played pretty well.

So how does the deck work?

Essentially, you are looking to keep a hand with a land and a mana dork or [Card]Once Upon a Time[/Card] to find a mana dork. This puts a huge emphasis on your mulligan decisions in order to be successful with the deck. A huge reason to play this deck is because of the consistency of it. The deck has eight mana dorks and four [Card]Once Upon a Times[/Card] —  that’s 12 chances to have one of these in your opening hand. And in the early going, turn one elf is the hallmark play of the format.

After that, your deck is filled with powerful spells and lots of green mana symbols to fuel Nyxthos. [Card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/Card] plays an integral role in fueling devotion, while also producing two mana to immediately activate Nyxthos. The goal is to build up devotion quickly so you are able to play your payoff cards: [Card]Nissa, Who Shakes the World[/Card], [Card]Vivien, Arkbow Ranger[/Card], [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] and [Card]Voracious Hydra[/Card].

In a lot of ways it’s your run-of-the-mill ramp deck — but it just goes WAY over the top.

[Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] and [Card]Voracious Hydra[/Card] are two cards that benefit the most from producing an egregious amount of mana because obviously they’re X spells. These are especially powerful because of what they do — kill your opponents’ creatures. The format is just so dominated by creatures right now and when you’ve got a ton of mana and one of these, you take over really quickly.

[Card]Vivien, Arkbow Ranger[/Card] plays really well with [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] by adding additional counters to it when you’ve got a small Ballista hanging around in the mid-game. On top of that, Vivien provides an additional way to interact with your opponents’ creatures and planeswalkers with her second ability. Finally, when you get up to ten mana, you can tutor your sideboard [Card]Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger[/Card] with Vivien’s third ability. Ulamog’s not the only thing you can tutor with Vivien either. I’ve grabbed [Card]Nylea’s Disciple[/Card] against Mono-Red Aggro to effectively reset my life total! For a ramp deck, having access to such a versatile mid-game card, is really powerful — it can both help you cement your advantageous board or allow you to get that Ulamog to end the game on the spot.

[Card]Nissa, Who Shakes the World[/Card] is the card that has taken over Standard and she’s trying her best to do the same in Pioneer. Naturally, her static ability slots well into the big mana deck. Using her first ability to untap a Nyxthos and activate it again yields an unbelievably large amount of mana to fuel your [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card] or [Card]Voracious Hydra[/Card].

During the tournament I played against a wide spread of decks including Simic Aggro, the mirror, Mono-Black Aggro, Izzet Phoenix, Izzet Prowess and Four-Color [Card]Siege Rhino[/Card]! Mono-Green Devotion is a powerful deck because it has play against all of these decks, especially if you build your sideboard correctly. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t build my sideboard correctly for the mirror and Mono-Black matchup. To remedy this, going forward I adapted my sideboard a bit. Here is the list I would playing moving forward (if there are no bans):

[Deck Title= Mono-Green Devotion – Ally Warfield]
4 Walking Ballista
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Voracious Hydra
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
4 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
4 Once Upon a Time
15 Forest
2 Castle Garenbrig
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Unravel the AEther
2 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Hornet Queen
2 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Reclamation Sage
3 Shapers’ Sanctuary
2 Questing Beast
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

The notable changes in the sideboard include adding [Card]Questing Beast[/Card]s, an additional [Card]Reclamation Sage[/Card] and a [Card]Hornet Queen[/Card]. All of these have potential to swing a game in your favour against the two matchups I mentioned earlier. [Card]Questing Beast[/Card] is phenomenal against all of the small creature decks in the format, and is especially good against Mono-Black Aggro and [Card]Field of the Dead[/Card] decks. It can also be quite powerful in the mirror because of beating or trading with most creatures, with the additional threat of being able to kill Nissa or Vivien.

[Card]Hornet Queen[/Card] is also a good option in the mirror. Flyers are important because every other creature cannot block them. This is especially good for dealing with the opponent’s planeswalkers. Queen can also effectively block almost everything in the deck when the board gets clogged up. One hazard of playing this card is the opponent’s [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card]s. Sometimes [Card]Hornet Queen[/Card] can be a liability against [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card]. The good news is, Ballistas are usually trimmed in the mirror. Along with the mirror, I love [Card]Hornet Queen[/Card] against Mono-Black Aggro. They don’t have any effective ways to deal with the 1/1 Deathtouch hornets, other than trading all of their creatures with them.

Finally, adding an additional [Card]Reclamation Sage[/Card] helps hedge against the Mono-Black aggro decks and Izzet [Card]Ensoul Artifact[/Card] decks, which is important as those decks continue to gain popularity. Notably, all of these additions can be fetched up with Vivien in game ones. So just a few simple additions actually have a massive impact on the way your deck plays out. As it turns out, tutors are good!

As long as Nxythos and [Card]Once Upon a Time[/Card] are legal in Pioneer, Mono-Green Devotion is going to remain one of the most powerful strategies in the format. Being able to craft the sideboard depending on the meta is an extremely important tool to utilize with this type of deck.

Taking the MC dive: preparing for my first Mythic Championship

The shock of qualifying for a Mythic Championship lasted for a few weeks. I was riding that high for a long time. Until it kind of hit me — I need to learn an entirely new format that I have never played competitively: Limited. 

Not even Sealed, where I could just hope to open some bombs. Drafting — one of the most skill intensive formats in all of Magic. MCVI is Eldraine Limited and Standard. I’ve definitely felt comfortable in Standard because it’s played on the SCG Tour and is one of my favourite formats. However, when it comes to drafting, I was wildly unprepared. 

The last time I had drafted in paper was Eternal Masters draft at my LGS with some friends. So, needless to say, I was  a little nervous for the Limited portion of the Mythic Championship. 

Where do I start? How do I know what’s good? How can I figure out what colours everyone is in? Do you leave the land in the pack? (lol) My biggest fear was walking into the tournament hall and 0-3ing the draft portion before Standard even started. I suppose that could still happen, however I have been able to find ways to improve over the past few weeks. 

I started my introduction to drafting with some Arena drafts. And yeah, I know, the bots are bad.

Starting my testing off on Arena helped me develop some initial drafting skills that you can only get from experience. Specifically, being able to see what is open and drafting a deck accordingly. Sure, [Card]Merfolk Secretkeeper[/Card] was always open, and every deck had four or more copies of the card if I wanted them. That said, it was still beneficial to me to be able to identify that a specific archetype was strong/open in a given draft. Arena drafting also gave me an idea of different draftable archetypes in the format. I’ve seen food decks, mono-coloured decks and lots of other synergies in various forms.

What Arena drafts offer is a like a visual exercise. It might not be the highest level of play or drafting, but it lets you see everything play out in front of you. And for someone trying to hone my skills, this had a lot of value. 

I needed to work on playing around that niche pump spell in Limited. It’s much different than a constructed where you always know what to expect. A lot of gameplay in draft happens because of your instincts, all the things you learned from draft after draft. This diversity of gameplay was a little easier to learn on arena, so I’m happy with that part of my testing.

After figuring out a few basics on my own, I turned to some friends, teammates and Limited masters to help inform me about the more nuanced aspects of drafting and the format in general.

I learned the proper functions of each card type within the context of the format: removal, threats and bombs. I also learned there is a point where removal costs too much mana and is not worth playing. Finally, I  learned how to identify which colours and archetypes are open and how to draft the best deck possible with what is available. 

Collaborating with others is huge in Magic and tournament preparation, especially something as high-level as a Mythic Championship. Moving my preparation towards watching others’ draft, hearing their ideas and rationales and seeing different analyses of cards was extremely helpful in my learning process. I don’t like to gather information from only one source, but rather a compilation of information from numerous sources. 

I started talking to more people, watching more drafting streams, reading more Limited theory articles, and drafting on Arena and MTGO a LOT. There are a ton of high-powered Limited cards in this set, especially taking into account that a lot of adventure cards are essentially two spells in one. This is my first competitive drafting event, and it’s hard to set clear expectations for myself, so I came up with a few small goals instead:

  • Draft a “good” deck
  • At least 1-2 my first pod
  • Try my best and keep learning

Obviously I would love to 3-0 my first pod, but while I am a lot more comfortable in my drafting abilities now, I am still new to the format. 

At least I have Standard solved. Or so I thought.

Field of the Dead is banned.

I spoke too soon. Having to switch gears and practice an entirely new Standard format in about two weeks is pretty stressful. My plan prior to the banning was to play whichever Golos/[Card]Field of the Dead[/Card] deck was the most powerful in testing. But the banning of Field left me pretty lost in a format I had been comfortable in for a while. 

Re-evaluating the Standard format, I think it’s fairly obvious that [Card]Oko, Thief of Crowns[/Card] is one of the most powerful things you can be doing (in almost every format!). The pinnacle of Standard is likely to diverge into play Oko or beat Oko. I’ve been trying Bant, Sultai and Simic versions of Food decks, focusing around Oko, and I am usually someone to “play the best deck” in any given constructed format.

However, I really don’t like the gameplay around Oko mirrors, so I might be tempted to find the best deck to beat Oko decks. I recently made Top 4 of a Standard Classic with Sultai Food, and overall the gameplay was rather dry. I believe I did well because I mulliganed more aggressively than my opponents. Having matches that revolves around being the first person to cast Oko or [Card]Nissa, who Shakes the world[/Card] are not where I want to be in a format.  

I have seen numerous ways attempting to beat Oko decks, starting with maindeck [Card]Noxious Grasp[/Card]s. Other than modifying other Oko Decks to include these [Card]Noxious Grasp[/Card]s, I have also seen Rakdos Aristocrats fair well against Oko decks, as well as some Mono-Black Aggro decks. These decks are often aggressive enough to deal with Oko.

Other options aside, let’s be honest — this event is all about food. Now, that might be a little boring for coverage, but for the purposes of preparation it is quite a challenge to figure out which small tweak is going to make the difference in these countless mirrors. In testing it’s clear to me that there are merits to Bant, Sultai and Simic, which makes it a challenge to choose your top food deck.

That in mind, there are pros and cons to each choice. Bant offers some control of the board in [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card] and [Card]Deputy of Detention[/Card] while Sultai adds a lot of raw power and straight Simic is lean and tempo focused. 

Testing Constructed formats has been easier for me than Limited, almost exclusively due to experience. I still have a lot of testing to get done in the new Standard format, but I wanted to set some goals related to the Standard portion of the MC also:

  • Register a “good” deck
  • Have a positive record in Standard matches

Even though it is my first MC,  ideally I’d like to make day two and ultimately re-queue for the next professional event. I want to maintain a realistic perspective, but also push myself to do the best that I can. Being on the “Pro Tour” was never a dream I thought I could reach, and now that I’m here I don’t want to throw it away. 

The MC is just hours away and I am a ball of excitement and anxiety. No matter what I am going to try my best and take in everything. This is a peak in my Magic career and hopefully one of the best weekends of my life. See you there.