When 2017 started, I set several personal goals for myself.  I wanted to make positive changes in several aspects of my life, one of which being Magic.  My Magic goal for 2017 was to make Day 2 of a GP.  I’d competed in a couple other GPs prior to this but my records were never even close to Day 2 qualifying.  I knew I’d be attending GP San Jose, Richmond, and Vegas this year, so I would have several chances.  As I flew out to San Jose last Friday, I thought to myself that it would be nice to knock off the Day 2 goal this weekend, but wasn’t counting on it.  I set my mind on just having fun playing Magic, whether in the main event or not, and spending time with my West Coast friends.

I ended up blowing my expectations out of the water with my finish: I squeaked into Day 2 with a 6-2-1 record.  I then proceeded to go 5-1 in draft to end up 11-3-1, good enough for 47th place out of 1908 competitors. So not only my first Day 2, but also my first top 64 and my first time winning a prize at a GP.  As the top finishing female competitor, I also earned a “bounty” from Play It Forward, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women and non-binary Magic players.

I was tweeting out my updates on the weekend fast and furious, but there were so many moments this weekend that 140 characters just couldn’t adequately capture:

Shiny Air Boats

I felt confident with my sealed pool and the deck I managed to build with it. The highlight and VIP of the day was Skysovereign, Consul Flagship (in foil!).  I also knew I would be in red with Freejam Regent, Skyship Stalker, and Pia Nalaar.  I ended up building RW which gave me additional removal in Thopter Arrest and Decommission.

Sealed Deck. (Apologies for the glare)

It Almost Ended Before It Started

I had a very rough start in Round 1.  A miscommunication led to me being five minutes late to my first match.  Fortunately, the judge did not give me a game loss after I explained the situation.  I then proceeded to flood out Game 1 and never drew my second color Game 2 to give me a quick loss to start the day.  The whole situation, from being late to losing soundly, definitely threw me off.  I did win Round 2, but then got a draw Round 3, putting me at 1-1-1.  I knew the draw would essentially count as a loss in terms of making Day 2, so I started to get nervous.

My Favorite Play

My opponent was at 4 life but the board had stalled.  No good attacks.  I had an Aether Chaser in play with two energy available, along with a Reckless Fireweaver and an Embraal Gear-Smasher.  I attacked with the Aether Chaser and paid the energy to make a Servo.  Opponent takes 1 from the Fireweaver, goes to 3.  Aether Chaser is blocked and dies.  I cast Sky Skiff from my hand.  Opponent takes 1 more.  I then activated Gear-Smasher’s ability, sacrificing my Servo to deal the last 2 points of damage.  It’s finding plays like this that help me recognize my skill as a player, to be able to find those winning lines even if they are less obvious than the basic turning cards sideways.  It may seem obvious to others, but it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time to help me  “level up.”

Round 9

After my draw in Round 3, I went on a 3 match winning streak, then lost Round 7 and won Round 8.  I was at 5-2-1, just hanging on to Day 2.  My opponent for Round 9 was also 5-2-1, so it was a win-and-in for us both.  I won Game 1, then lost Game 2.  Our Day 2 chances came down to Game 3.  My opponent mulliganed to 6.  Then 5.  Then 4.  He looked down at that 4-card hand for a bit, and then extended his hand.  I looked at him in disbelief and repeatedly asked him if he was sure.  He nodded.  “I would have to mulligan to 3.  There’s no way I could beat your deck from that.  Go smash Day 2.”  And just like that, I was a GP Day 2 competitor.

Day 2 Drafting

I’d never drafted at professional REL before.  I was nervous about being timed to make my choices.  Especially since I had never drafted AER/KLD at this point.  I had practiced building sealed pools prior to the GP, but hadn’t had the chance to practice draft.  I reassured myself by remembering that I had just played with these cards in Day 1.  Draft and Sealed are different, but I still had a good feel for what I would want.  I quickly read over LSV’s limited set reviews as some extra preparation.  And once the drafts started, I fell into it pretty quickly.  I tend to draft quickly anyway, for a couple reasons: 1) I don’t want to hold up the draft (in the untimed draft situations); and 2) I don’t want to second guess myself.  My quick selections ended up being quick enough and I only felt rushed to pick a couple selections.

For Draft 1 I ended up RW again, like my sealed pool, but with a blue splash.  My Pack 1 Pick 1 was Ridgescale Tusker, but green dried up quickly, and red/white was clear.  Getting the Spirebluff Canal in the middle of Pack 3 helped enable me to include the Spire Patrol and Aether Swooper I’d picked up earlier. I got a Territorial Gorger in my KLD pack and had a lot of energy generation from solid spells and creatures like Lightning Runner, Harnessed Lightning, Aether Chaser, and Aether Inspector.  Spire Patrol won me a match when it tapped my opponent’s only flier and I was able to attack with Eddytrail Hawk one turn and then the Hawk + Spire Patrol for lethal the next.

Draft 1 deck

Draft 2 was a little less clear for me.  I ended up in black fairly quickly, with a 2nd pick Fatal Push and subsequent pick-ups of Battle at the Bridge, Aether Poisoner x2, and Cruel Finality.  After Pack 1 I knew I was playing black.  I went back and forth on my second color for almost the entire draft.  Pack 2 I opened Freejam Regent, so I figured red was it.  But I saw almost no red after that.  A little bit of white started flowing my way, so I started going into white.  In my KLD pack I got an Aether Hub, so a splash of some kind felt more likely.  I got a couple more white cards in Pack 3, including Authority of the Consuls, Propeller Pioneer, and Skyswirl Harrier.  My best red card was the Regent, but as expected, I couldn’t make red work.  So BW was it.

Draft 2 Deck

Keep Calm and Keep Winning

My Day 2 matches honestly felt like a dream.  I was in the zone, I was playing well.  I could feel it.  And my results showed it:  I went 3-0 in my first draft, bringing my record to 9-2-1.  I started to realize that I could have a significant finish by the time the day was over.  The hype was building but I had to keep it in check.  This was hard.  I could feel the emotions bubbling up as I knew what a high finish would mean.  I wanted to continue to do well not just for me but for everyone cheering for me and supporting me.  My husband and friends with me at the GP were vital in helping me keep the hype in check as well as keeping me fed and hydrated.  My matches were frequently going to three games – I never went to time, but three-game matches didn’t leave me with a lot of time before the next round.  Thankfully, I had folks bringing me water and snacks to keep me going.  This was so important and helped me concentrate on my next match instead of on my hungry stomach.

The Anguish of Defeat

I went into Round 15 still undefeated for Day 2 with a record of 11-2-1.  I was in 19th place after round 14.  A top 16 finish was in reach – unreal!  My Round 15 opponent was very nice (all my opponents were!) and we had great games.  Of course, it went to three games.  I had pulled ahead but was running out of steam.  My opponent then landed a Herald of Anguish (which I hadn’t seen in either of the previous games) and I couldn’t come back from that.  I was relieved the day was over, thrilled with my final finish, but also very disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get that last win.  After reviewing it, I couldn’t identify any missed opportunities in the match.  The cards just didn’t go my way.

Tight Play

My final finish also included two days of competitive/professional REL play without any gameplay errors or any obvious punts.  I am very proud of this because I tend to get nervous at high level events and silly mistakes or errors will sneak in.  Knowing that I can compete at such a high level with correct gameplay is doing almost as much for my confidence as my final record has done.

Awkward Moment

There was just one small moment over the weekend that was a little less positive.  I want to mention it because I feel these are important points to make as women continue to make a place for themselves in the Magic community.

After a game 1 win, as we are shuffling and sideboarding, my opponent makes the remark “You just won a game, you should be happier.”  This is akin to the “smile more” comments that women so often hear, and the expectation of how someone should feel or act in a given situation.  I responded with a comment about being in the zone or something similar, but in my head, I thought “you just lost a game, you should be more disappointed.”  I would never say this to an opponent because it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Why, then, would the opposite “you should be happier” be acceptable?  I am sure my opponent meant well with his comment.  But too often, well-meaning comments come without thought to what is truly being said.  I admit that this did jab at me a little but fortunately I was able to get my thoughts back on track before Game 2 (and I went on to win that match).

One Last Silly Thing

rk post is my favorite Magic artist.  I love his tokens, we have his prints hanging in our house.  I’ve wanted him to alter my playset of Karn Liberated for quite some time.  GP San Jose gave me that opportunity.  I decided on a theme of the four seasons, and I gave the cards to him one at a time throughout the weekend, not seeing any of them until the full reveal on Sunday.  And what a reveal it was!

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A Karn for all seasons, by rk post.

rk post is on Patreon and his store is here.  He also frequently appears at GPs and SCG Opens.  I encourage you to check out his stuff!

It’s the People Who Really Matter

GP San Jose was truly unreal.  I flew out there excited to spend time with friends and play some sealed.  I flew back home with a top 64 in my pocket and an experience I’ll never forget.  And those friends, who I thought I’d just have dinner with and enjoy some Commander, came through for me in ways I hadn’t been able to predict.  From bringing me burritos, to giving me hugs, to keeping my feelings in check, I am so thankful to have such wonderful people by my side, not only in person at the event but also online.  The encouragement and support I got on Twitter as I was sending my updates over the weekend was so wonderful.  So thank you, all of you, for keeping me going this weekend.  I honestly wouldn’t have been able to have the finish I did without all of you.

Final Thoughts

My finish this weekend definitely put the competitive bug in my head.  I’m still planning on Richmond and Vegas later this year, but now I’m considering other events on the calendar.  Knowing that I can put in that performance has boosted my confidence big time.  I know that I can’t necessarily expect those kinds of results every time, but I know they are possible for me.  That’s enough.

I don’t know if I can officially call myself a “grinder”, but I do know this: keep an eye on future GP results.  Having accomplished my Magic goal for 2017, I’ve set my sights on another: get a GP top 32.

Courtney Rudiger

Courtney Rudiger

Mother of Baby Jace casting turn 3 Karns all over the place.
Courtney Rudiger

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