I did it! At age 8, I achieved my goal of being one of the youngest players ever to make Day 2 at a Grand Prix! My name is Dana Fischer. This is the story of my experience.
For this tournament, I chose to play Elves because it is my favorite deck to play, I am familiar with it, and because I feel like it’s important to play a deck you know really well. In addition, it had enough good matchups in the Modern metagame, even if the Izzet Phoenix matchup is tough. I chose G/B Elves because I was fine playing any version of Elves and G/B Elves was doing best in the meta. I also played G/B Elves two years ago at GP Vegas, but in between then and now I played G/W Elves.
This is the list I ended up playing:
4 Blooming Marsh 3 Cavern of Souls 4 Gilt-Leaf Palace 1 Horizon Canopy 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Pendelhaven 4 Forest 4 Dwynen’s Elite 2 Elves of Deep Shadow 4 Elvish Archdruid 4 Elvish Clancaller 4 Elvish Mystic 2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader 4 Heritage Druid 4 Llanowar Elves 2 Nettle Sentinel 2 Scavenging Ooze 4 Shaman of the Pack 4 Collected Company 2 Lead the Stampede Sideboard 3 Assassin’s Trophy 1 Choke 2 Damping Sphere 1 Dismember 1 Fracturing Gust 1 Lead the Stampede 1 Reclamation Sage 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Surgical Extraction 2 Thoughtseize 1 Shapers' Sanctuary
Some of the card choices aren’t so obvious. For example, I chose to run two Scavenging Ooze main deck. This was because there were many Dredge and Izzet Phoenix decks running around.
Another interesting card choice was the two Nettle Sentinel and two Elves of Deep Shadow. I chose to do half and half because I wanted more mana dorks, but I also liked the extra size and explosiveness of Nettle Sentinel. I chose to play four Elvish Clancaller, a great new addition from M19, instead of Elvish Visionary, because I felt that extra lords had a bigger impact on the game.
I chose one Overgrown Tomb over the 4th Cavern of Souls because I wanted another black source for sideboard cards. One of my favorite sideboard cards is Choke, because when it works, it works really well, and I know that because it has won me games.
I did a lot of practice for GP LA. I practiced with my dad at home when I played one game as Elves and then switched and played one game as the other deck before finishing the match with Elves. I did it this way so I could get a better feel of how the other decks worked and what players do when they are playing those decks. We have 25 different decks proxied at home, and I played against all of them, most of them many times.
One week when I was on a school break I played over 100 games! In many games I played with my dad, I started with a tricky sideboard card in my opening hand so I could get practice with it. I usually played open-handed so we could talk about plays. I would practice guessing what deck he was playing in the first few turns. I also went to a lot of local FNMs and Sunday Modern events. I couldn’t really go to other events during the week since they would go past my bedtime.
I watched videos to help me learn how to best play the deck. My dad and I would sit together on the couch looking up streaming and coverage videos on Elves. When we watched the videos, we would pause and talk about what I thought the player we were watching should do, and then see what happened. In addition, I got really good advice from lots of people and I am very thankful for that. I will go into detail in the props section below.
For sideboarding, my dad would get some tips on sideboarding plans, then we would talk about them and I would make the final decision. After that, he would print out my sideboarding plan that listed what comes in and what comes out for all of the major decks in the meta (there were 46 different decks on the list). In case I was matched against a deck not on the list (which happened in round 7 of GP LA), we also made a sideboard tips sheet to help me decide what comes in and out against an unfamiliar deck.
In addition, we made a sheet with general tips on playing that I would look over before each tournament and between some rounds. It included things like what I should remember (for example, certain triggers or sequencing) and how and what to think about when playing, If other players taught me something important to remember, I added it to the sheet and when there was an interesting play that I could learn from, that went on the sheet as well.
On Friday, I played in the MCQ to practice for the GP the next day. I only went 2-4, which was not very good, but it was good practice for the main event. After the MCQ, I went with my local friends Shoshi and Nick to a Commanderin’ event hosted by Phil and Shivam. At the event I saw Josh Lee Kwai from Game Knights, Olivia “@goberthicks,” Sydney “@TappyToeClaws,” and Andrew (aka “Dino Guy’’/”@sigmacaldera”).
I only stayed there for a little bit so I could get back to my Aunt Hannah’s place pretty early, because I’ve found one of the most important things to do before a tournament is to get a good night’s sleep.
The day of the event, I made sure to leave time for everything. I woke up with plenty of time to eat breakfast (I had 3-4 waffles) and then got dressed at my aunt’s house. Shoshi and Nick were staying with us, so even though I had two byes, we had to get there at round 2 because Shoshi had 1 bye and they both needed a ride. That turned out to be good, because it gave me lots of time to look over notes and practice. After that, it was round 3, and I set up my booster seat at my fixed table of 159.
Round 3 I played against Marco Russell, a local person I know. He was on Izzet Phoenix, a matchup I was hoping to avoid. I lost 0-2, with Thing in the Ice beating me both games. My opponent Round 4 was Denny Chan playing Jeskai Control, another bad matchup for me! I somehow won game 1. Game 2 was very long and close but I lost, and game 3 I won because he just didn’t have anything. Round 5 my opponent was Quentin Wilebski playing Burn, which I think is a close or maybe slightly unfavorable matchup. I lost game 1, but it was very close. I was going to kill him the next turn, but then he drew a Searing Blood, which was exactly what he needed to kill me. Games 2 and 3 were also close, but I won, bringing me to a 4-1 record.
Round 6 I had a feature match (but it didn’t end up getting streamed) against a friend of mine, Damyan Brunson, from Tier 1 Games not too far from where I live. He was playing Jund and even though all of his cards were in Japanese, which I couldn’t read, I knew what all of the cards did. Unfortunately, I ended up losing the match 0-2, which brought me to a record of 4-2 and meant I needed to win the next 2 matches to make Day 2.
Round 7 my opponent was Calvin Pratt playing 8-Whack Goblins. This deck wasn’t on my sideboarding plan, but I brought in some removal and took out the two Lead the Stampede and a Scavenging Ooze, which seemed reasonable. He came out quickly, but then in both games I built up my Elves, which were even bigger, and I ended up winning 2-0 in 17 minutes. That brought me to a record of 5-2. The next round would be win-and-in. My last win-and-in was 3 months earlier at GP Portland, where I made it all the way to game 3 of round 8 but then lost, finishing 5-3. I was really bummed after that and wished I had won, but here I was going to have another chance!
Round 8, I got called to the feature match area again, and it was streamed here:
I was paired against Scott Ngo, a local player I knew, who was playing The Rock. Game 1 I won by doing the beatdown plan plus a Shaman of the Pack. I was so excited—one more game before I would make Day 2! Game 2 he kept killing my creatures, but I was looking okay until he drew Liliana, the Last Hope followed by Vraska, Golgari Queen. I was stuck on two lands, needing a third to cast three Shaman of the Pack. I ended up losing that game. Game 3 I counted the cards out for my opening hand, but two of them stuck together so I accidentally drew 8 cards. When I noticed this, I called the judge on myself. The result was a warning, plus Scott got to see my hand and take a card from it, after which I could decide to keep that 7-card hand, or mulligan to 6. I chose to keep the 7 cards. He killed my first two Elves, but then I cast Lead the Stampede and got four more creatures! After that, I was able to get an Elvish Archdruid to stick around and cast another Lead the Stampede. I ended up winning the match!
For Day 2 I was mentally drained and very tired. I played against a friend of my dad’s in round 10 and I ended up winning 2-1. I wanted to try to win as many matches as my age (8), but unfortunately I wasn’t able to win any more of my matches. I do remember one game though, where I cast Collected Company for double Shaman of the Pack to cause a loss of 22 life (a.k.a. lethal).
Overall I’m very happy and proud of myself for making Day 2! I felt I was well-prepared, had gotten lots of practice, some good advice, a good night’s sleep, and ate and drank well before and during the event. I played really well Day 1. After each match, my dad and I would “debrief” and each talk about how the games went and what we each saw that went really well or what I could have done better. Months ago, it was just him pointing out things to me, but now sometimes either I see myself what I could have done differently or I can explain how a play I made was the right one even if my dad questions it at first. On Day 1 at GP LA, when we did our debriefs, we discussed a lot of great plays and there wasn’t too much I could have done better. Day 2 didn’t go as well, but I was really proud of myself and my dad was very proud of me that I made Day 2.
What Making Day 2 Means to Me
Making Day 2, and especially being one of the youngest players and almost certainly the youngest girl to have done so, is very special to me for many reasons. One reason is because I worked on this for many, many years and I really put a lot of time, energy, and work (though it was fun work!) into it. It means so much to me that I finally did it. I also was able to do it where I was surrounded by so many good friends, most of whom I had met by playing Magic. Another reason is because this achievement is something to look back on for many years to come, and if I am a bit sad or worried about something it will help to cheer me up.
This accomplishment hopefully can help other kids, and especially girls, play Magic by showing them that someone like them can play Magic competitively. While there are some other kids that play Magic really well, they generally aren’t as young as I am and most of them are boys. Playing Magic also helps kids learn a lot of useful skills (such as reading, math, strategic thinking, and social skills) and can even help them get better grades in school because Magic is very educational. Plus it’s a lot of fun!
Plans for the Future
My plans for the future are to never stop playing Magic. I plan to go to many more MagicFests/GPs. Some of the future goals I have are to get as many wins in a GP as my age and to be the youngest player to earn a cash prize at a GP, Top 8 a GP, qualify for a Mythic Championship, and/or qualify for the World Championship. When I feel like I am done playing competitive Magic I would like to work at the awesome Wizards of the Coast.
There are many people I want to thank for all the support, encouragement, and help they have given me:
- My dad Adam, for always helping me, teaching me, and going with me to events. Also for helping me edit this article.
- My mom Rachelle, for being so supportive of me going to all of these events.
- My sister Sadie, for cheering me on and teaching me many things not Magic-related.
- My “Aunt” Hannah, for going with me to so many events, making sure I’m taking good care of myself, and cheering me on even though she doesn’t play Magic.
- Marshall Sutcliffe, for being one of the first well-known Magic community members I became friends with, for always checking on how I was doing, and for being a great commentator on my matches (and letting me co-commentate with him!).
- LSV, Gaby, Huey, Riley, and others for being such great commentators on my matches and being people I always enjoy seeing at events.
- Judges and other tournament staff, such as Carter, Liz Peloquin, Liz Richardson, and others for being there from the beginning to help someone as young and small as me with the mechanics of playing in a tournament.
- My LGSs of At Ease Games, TC’s Rockets, Ampdraw Hobbies, Brute Force Games, and Game Empire, for being welcoming, great places to play.
- Sam “@samotango” Tang from Kitchen Table Magic, for encouraging me to become involved on Twitter, which is how I’ve met so many great people.
- Eric Froehlich, for giving me some coaching sessions, which really helped in the event.
- Reid Duke, Ross Merriam, Bobby Graves, Eduardo Sajgalik, and others for helping me with my card selection, sideboarding tips, and advice on how to play.
- The MTG Modern Elves Facebook group, for being so supportive and providing lots of info on card selection and sideboarding plans.
- Spikes Academy, for their great videos that offered advice I was able to use.
- ChannelFireball, for being so supportive and sponsoring me.
- Wizards, for being so encouraging.
- Other talented kids who I want to be like when I’m older, such as Quinn “@MTGQuinn” Kiefer and Abram Goldstein.
- Kyle Lodes, for being such a good friend from the very beginning.
- Shoshi Hope, Nick Kinzel, and Thomas Christian, for always being there for me and helping me practice and being good friends.
- Carolyn “@MightyLinguine’’ Kavanagh, for hanging out with me all the time.
- MJ “@moxymtg” Scott, Arielle “@Airbubbles” Lien, and Erin “@erinsartstuff” Adams, for making my wonderful costume.
- Olivia “@goberthicks” Gobert-Hicks, Sydney “@TappyToeClaws” Stafl, and others in the cosplay community or otherwise, for cheering me on, and hanging out with me.
- Kid friends like the Maddock twins (“@TwinsEstate”) Ainsley and Annika, Manny “@mannybolas” Edelson, Quan Cade, Sean, Rhino “@mtg_youngmage,” and others I have fun hanging out with at many events.
- The Magic community, for being so supportive.
- Anyone else I forgot!
I want to give a slop to someone I know, and his name is Daddy. He is supposed to know all of the good plays, but now I am sometimes catching him. What is up with that, Daddy? You also make lots of bad jokes 24/7 . Why Daddy, why?
Here is the sideboarding plan I used at GP LA. Part of how I used this is that I would look at the sheet after game 1 of a match and say something like, “Daddy, plan #1 please” so my dad could then bring the cards out and put them in, since it would have taken me a lot longer to do so with my small hands. The actual plan also had some notes as reminders for whether the matchup was good or bad (used to determine how risky I should be with my keeps and mulligans), as well as whether or not there were board sweepers (so I knew what to play around).
In addition, it had the expected share of the metagame for each deck, which helped my dad and I determine the final deck and sideboard card selection. The percentage shares turned out to be pretty close based on this article that came out afterwards, though Dredge wasn’t quite as popular as we thought it would be. They added up to 93% of the expected decks.
Please let me know in the comments what you think of the article, the sideboarding plan (suggestions welcome), and any other thoughts or questions. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you for reading!