Favorite Deck of all time: it was UR Twin in Modern
Color Combo: BUG/Sultai
Card: Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Format: Conceptually, I love Standard even though some Standard formats suck
Occupation: School Counselor
Team: Team Nova
Most Notable MTG Achievement: Top 4 at GP Indy
Tim: First of all, thank you for making time for an interview! Myself and many others at this point have been following your magic career for a while now, and it’s been a pleasure to watch you grow, improve, and now start crushing GPs. But it all had to start somewhere. How did you come to be entrenched in this wonderful game?
Ally: I actually played Yu-Gi-Oh for many years before Magic, so it was fairly easy to convince me into playing a different strategy game. One of my high school friends taught me how to play, but I didn’t get invested into it until he bought us commander decks. For a long time, commander is all I would play. When I went to college is when I got introduced to the competitive scene and started playing more formats like Standard and Modern.
Tim: Wow, Your performance on the SCG tour and at GP Indy are very impressive given the relatively short amount of time you have been involved in the scene! I’m interested too in your previous experience with Yu-Gi-Oh and commander. What skills did you gain while playing that game/format that translated into the competitive MTG scene?
Ally: I think it helped pick up the rules and mechanics quicker than people who have never played a card-based strategy game before. Commander helped with some really weird rules interactions.
Tim: Did you play Yu-Gi-Oh competitively as well?
Ally: I didn’t, I mostly played the video games with my brother. I was really young when I played.
Tim: Shifting back to the present: you just recently top 4’d GP Indy, walk us through that experience a little bit, starting with deck selection, picking team members and maybe even some memorable moments in the event!
Ally: Alright, this is a long one haha.
So the week before the GP was SCG Dallas. I was completely lost in what to play in the new Modern format after Hogaak and Faithless Looting were banned and Stoneforge Mystic was unbanned. I played a couple leagues with a deck Ryan Overturf has posted so I took it to the Open (GW Eldrazi). I 11-4d that event, losing my win and in on camera. I was heartbroken and almost skipped the GP because I didn’t care about GPs as much and wanted a break after my loss.
But I already committed to a team so I went.
Jonathan Hobbs reached out to me to see if I wanted to team with him. I knew he was a strong player so I was happy to take him up on that. By then, most of the people going already had teams, so I reached out to my teammate Chad Harney, and he was excited to team with us.
I was unmotivated to test much in the week following Dallas. I was supposed to learn Whirza, but tinkered with GW Eldrazi again and eventually ended up audibling back to it. I didn’t have my physical deck until round 1 because I was borrowing it from a friend. I was unsure if it was as powerful week 2 as it was week 1, but it was the deck I was most comfortable with in Modern, so I ran it back.
Tim: I actually saw you lose the win and in the week prior and my heart hurt for you. I could see the disappointment in your face. Which just makes me doubly happy that you bounced back and queued for the Mythic Championship! Before I ask you about that, let me touch on GW Eldrazi real quick: how do you like the deck right now, and do you think it will stay good going forward?
Ally: GW Eldrazi thrives in a format with fair midrange decks, tron, and etron. It struggles against Burn and fast combo (like Valakut and Storm). The deck is not as powerful anymore because of the amount of burn present, but can still be a good choice if you are prepared for Burn with Knight of Autumns, Weather the Storm, and Basilisk Collar
Tim: So going into the MC: what’s the format, how are you preparing and how do you feel about the event?
Ally: Format for the MC is Standard and Eldraine Limited. I’m nervous about the Limited portion because I have never drafted in competitive Magic before. I’m getting a few friends to help teach me as they become more familiar with the format. I’m excited for Standard because Eldraine looks like it has lots of power in the set and I’m excited to try out a bunch of new decks. Constructed is really what I thrive in. I’m hoping to have a position record in Standard and at least win a handful of matches in the Limited portion.
Tim: Let’s talk about standard in particular: What cards (and decks) do you think will be prevalent on day one of the new format? any sleeper picks?
Ally: I think mono red is always a viable choice for week one standard. I expect that to do well in some capacity. I’ve been having a lot of success with gruul with fires of invention. I’m sure an Oko deck will be very popular, like a Bant version however I would love to see a good sultai deck in standard again
Tim: Sultai Oko? Yes please!
Let’s shift gears a little bit though and talk a little bit more about you: you are a school counselor, which I assume is a full time job. How do you balance that and all of the time and he’d work you out into magic?
Ally: I am actually still in school right now, so I’m actually busier than someone who only has a day job. I have Internship, a part-time job, night classes, stream, write, create content for my Patreon, and practice Magic. It’s honestly really hard and stressful never having a break, but I hope when I graduate things will slow down a bit.
Tim: Wow, side note, mad respect. I did roughly the same thing when I was in college(minus the magic) so my hat goes off to you.
What have you the desire to be a school counselor?
Ally: I had a lot of struggles with my own mental health when I was in high school, so I always knew I wanted to do something in the mental health field. I got my undergraduate in psychology and realized I needed further education to actually work as a counselor. I picked school counseling because I wanted to work with kids and school counselors get more of a well rounded picture of their students than community counselors. You also get to see your students for 4+ years.
Tim: Mental health struggles are a topic that is close to home for me. What impact has that had on your life and on magic, and how do you manage it on a day to day basis ON TOP of all the amazing things you are already doing?
Ally: I’ve had to learn a lot of coping strategies to help me when I have too much going on. Being in a counseling program has helped me understand myself and the best things I can be doing to relax. Taking time for self-care is extremely important when you’re as busy as I am
Tim: Do you have any practical advice for people to A) manage their well being or B) seek help to begin to manage these things?
Ally: Find what works for you and remember that not everything works for everyone. So don’t give up on finding what works just because something doesn’t work for you that works for others. I like to start by recommending organizational systems to help manage stress and anxiety. Also mindfulness activities and yoga/meditation for relaxation.
If something that’s bothering you is ever negatively impacting your life to an excess amount, definitely go see a therapist/counselor/etc.
Tim: Well said. A couple more questions: what is your favorite thing about the community, and what is something that you think should change?
Ally: My favorite thing about the community is all the friends I’ve made through this game, and seeing how often everyone comes together to help each other, like replacing stolen decks or fueling gofundmes.
The way some people treat women and other minorities in the game should change. I’m just here to play magic, don’t make me feel like sub human because I’m a woman.
Tim: Is there any was you would like to elaborate on that point? I feel like the main advice there is to not be a sexist jerk.
Ally: I guess personally it’s mostly a bunch of microaggressions, but they add up after a while. I don’t like being made to feel I don’t care about the game at the level of men. I don’t like people assuming I got “carried” to my Top 4. I don’t like being hit on when I’m trying to play magic. I am literally just here to play the game and hang out with friends. I want to win. I want to succeed. Simple as that. My gender shouldn’t affect that.
Is there anything you would like to say in closing? Any thing people should know about you? Any shout outs or plugs you want to make?
Ally: I guess that everything about me boils down to magic, counseling, makeup, and taco bell haha. I really care about people and want to make a difference in mental health and magic and any overlap between the two.
Sponsors – Mage Market, Introspectv, Inklin Customs, The End Games, Hipsters of the Coast, and ManaTraders
Tim: Amazing. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! I have so much respect for you and look forward to the even greater things you will accomplish moving forward.
Ally: Thank you for inviting me to do this!