This past weekend saw Grand Prix Richmond held in Virginia to a pretty bustling crowd. People were breaking out their Legacy and Standard decks, vendors were selling their wares, and artists were signing cards for all their fans. With big Grand Prix come big side events as well, and this weekend was no different. Not only did we see much of the usual fare with PTQs, Double-Ups, and On-Demand events, but we saw some uniquely special ones like the History of Draft events and of course, the various Championships. These included formats such as Old School (aka 93/94), Brawl, Commander/EDH, and of course Pauper.

I wasn’t sure which tournament I was intending to play as I began my long drive out to Richmond, but was debating between the main Standard event or the Pauper Championship. When I arrived in town, I realized I had missed registration for the main event so it was as though the decision was made for me. Initially, I thought about playing Boros since people would recognize me as an Elves player, affecting gameplay decisions as early as the opening draws. After a bit of discussion with Adrian, one of the hosts of the Color Commontary podcast, and reflection of previous Pauper events held as large side events like this, there was some real concerns about Tron popping up. As such, I made a last minute decision to switch back over to Elves.

Because of how last-minute a lot of these plans were, I ended up playing the same list I played at SCG Con in June. Online I’ve made a few updates to my list, utilizing a higher count of maindeck Essence Wardens in the wake of Burn’s immense rise in popularity as well as switching out Massive Raid for Harsh Sustenance. While the cards will almost always be serving strictly as a win condition, Harsh Sustenance can also act as a way to stabilize in difficult situations where the extra damage coupled with the life can make all the difference in your game.

When Saturday came around and I had some time to visit and catch up with some good friends, I finally sat down to play some Pauper. My first round saw me against someone I knew through Twitter, Seth Black, rocking my old nemesis Burn. In recent paper events I hadn’t been expecting the matchup as much and, coupled with my lack of real preparation in updating my deck, I didn’t include the additional Essence Wardens I’d been trying out online. You may ask, why Warden and not Wellwisher? The answer is simple. While Wellwisher may give you a tremendous amount of life, putting you out of harm’s way, it first has to survive a full turn which is hard against a deck full of removal spells. Essence Warden allows you immediate life gain, even if it’s just a small amount. It also helps against decks like Inside Out Combo and Izzet Blitz. I’ve comboed out using Distant Melody and making over one hundred elves but still lost because Wellwisher couldn’t activate in time to save me. In the end, between a slew of burn spells and a well-timed early Martyr of Ashes he took me down handedly.

In round two I found myself against Cascade Aggro. This deck was a fairly simple matchup, but is one where they can get you out of absolutely nowhere. If you can somehow manage to stick even a little bit of lifegain, it can be backbreakingly difficult for your opponent to come back. Thankfully this was the case as a couple Wellwishers managed to keep me alive long enough to take out my opponent. With these games going by quickly, I got a chance to take a look around the tables; and out of 56 players saw a tremendous amount of Delver, Elves, and Boros, but at the same time saw a great assortment of different decks.

Rounds three and four saw me facing the Elves mirror match. Both times I managed to break any stalemates with Viridian Longbow and my opponents missing triggers regularly. If you play Pauper Elves and find yourself in a mirror match, I cannot stress enough that you remember that early Elves from the Onslaught block and backwards have symmetrical effects. This means when an opponent’s elf enters the battlefield, it will trigger your Elvish Vanguard as well. My opponents missed numerous triggers making their Vanguards much smaller than they could’ve been, which could’ve had a much larger impact on the game had they not. My round four opponent also had a Longbow with Priest of Titania online but wasn’t moving the Longbow around to kill a large amount of my board; and this allowed me to fire off my Distant Melodies, find my own Longbow, and machine gun down his board before I was able to win.

My fifth round was against Esper Familiars. I didn’t get to see it go off too much though. Game one my opponent was stuck on two lands which allowed me to overtake him easily. In game two, my opponent cast Snap on my Lys Alana Huntmaster and one of my Priest of Titanias, holding up four mana into my turn. I cast Huntmaster again to bait out the Prohibit I suspected and when that came to pass, I followed it up with a Distant Melody into another Melody. When I found Longbow and played it my opponent realized I had more than enough spells to make Nettle Sentinel deal enough damage to win and conceded the game.

Following the win I was right on the edge of the top 8, and my anxiety was flying. The discovery I squeaked into eighth place was met with a loud fist pump and a walk over for a top 8 picture. After that, I sat down against my quarterfinals opponent Steven Keys on an interesting brew: Mono Blue Faerie Control. At first, playing against it I thought it was just a Mono Blue Delver list and got excited as that’s historically a good matchup for me. Then I started seeing more unusual cards like Exclude, Condescend, Accumulated Knowledge, Think Twice, and Pestermite and suddenly felt I had no clue what was going on. Thankfully the match still played similarly with Elves just being too quick and hard hitting for his deck to compete with.

With a win secured, I waited for my next opponent and soon found myself against an older gentleman piloting Izzet Delver. While he was there largely for fun and to pick up the event’s playmat featuring the artwork of Ponder; he took his game seriously all the same, despite not knowing quite so much about what to expect of the format as a whole. I was able to overtake him game one but game two saw me losing ever so narrowly to a topdecked Lightning Bolt. In game three, however, he struggled to gain momentum and I was able to clinch my spot in the finals.

When the other semifinal match finished and the smoke cleared, I found myself against Jherjames Bisconde, better known as JherjamesB online. I mentioned him in my previous event report as he played in the SCG Con Classic as well, and while there he played Mono Blue Millver. For a number of reasons, he ultimately decided to switch over to Izzet Delver for this event and when we went at it, our games became very tight.

Game one went on for no less than forty minutes. I was able to land an early Spidersilk Armor and Viridian Longbow that allowed me to battle back his many creatures even with just two or three on my side at any given time. Slowly I was able to grind it out and take the game, but game two saw me getting blown out by a couple board wipes and simply being unable to come back. In game three, Jherjames was able to tempo me out a bit and eventually I made a decisive play to swing in with a Huntmaster that would be double blocked and killed along with a number of tokens. Unfortunately, he packed in an Echoing Truth and used this on my tokens, leaving me with barely any board. I was unable to rebuild and he beat me to death with fliers, ending the game in no time.

I may have ultimately lost, but the games were some of the best I had played in months and we had also split the prizes that weren’t the trophy, so it was hard to be upset. I’d lost to someone I knew well from online and other events. That’s the best part about major conventions like this: they bring out new friendships even in the harshest of circumstances. Jherjames posted his own report of the event on Reddit which you can find here to see how he played overall, including sideboarding.

In the end, I had a great weekend. A couple booster boxes were cracked, an old Onslaught block draft took me back to my childhood, and as the Convention Center cleared out on Sunday night I even found myself driving just a little bit further to see a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in roughly fifteen years. The whole trip may have been very spur of the moment, but I don’t regret it one bit. Magic is all about what brings us together: the game, the highs and lows, the friendships, and above all the memories we make in doing so. The next event will surely have so much more to offer and I can’t wait to see what it brings ahead.

Kendra has been playing Magic since Urza block and never looked back. Playing a variety of formats and being known for championing Pauper in particular, the Elf Queen can be found hanging out on Twitter as well as streaming on Twitch, always seeking to better the community at large.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.