It's not everyday you win a Pro Tour.
Andrew Elenbogen, 25, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and on Sunday, November 11th, won the Guilds of Ravnica Pro Tour in a mirror-match against all-time great Luis Scott-Vargas
Hi Andrew! Can you introduce yourself?
I'm Andrew Elenbogen. 3 time Grand Prix top 8 competitor and Pro Tour GRN Champion. I self identify as a Grand Prix grinder.
When and how did you start playing Magic?
I started playing Magic in 4th or 5th grade using the CD that came with the 7th edition boxed set. I played my first matches against humans under the Gazebo at Chess Camp, during recess.
How have these last days been for you?
Since I won the Pro Tour, my life has been insane. I've been asked to do more Magic content than I ever thought possible. Podcasts, streams, even an article on Starcitygames.com. The community has honestly been awesome.
I read the twitch chat after my matches, and the chat was surprisingly civil to me, despite the fact that I was against fan favorite LSV.
How did you prepare for this Pro Tour specifically?
I prepared for this Pro Tour the same way I prepare for most events. I used a large amount of Magic Online to develop a feel for the format at large and to sift the better decks from the worst decks.
Then, I used focused sets against teammates to develop optimal sideboard cards for particular matchups and to answer specific, focused questions.
I worked with the Ann Arbor guys (Max Mcvety, Tyler Hill, Kyle Boggemes, ect) and the Team Tower guys (Matt Sikkink Johnson, Greg Michel, Sam Ihlenfeld, ect).
What can you tell us about your deck and sideboard choices?
I basically played white because even though it was the known best deck going in after the MOCS results, I thought it was inherently powerful enough to fight through the hate, and I thought people wouldn't respect it as much as they needed to. I believe I was correct.
In the sideboard, I played 7 cards dedicated exclusively to Golgari Midrange. I felt the deck would be very popular and it's a very close matchup. Honor Guard and Ajani are simply irreplaceable against their plan of Wildgrowth Walker plus sweepers. Baffling End is fine, but it does not answer Walker while dealing with the rest of their strategy as well like Honor Guard.
What were your most lucky and unlucky moments of the tournament?
It was quite lucky when, deep in day 2, I drew all 4 Venerated Loxodon to defeat Golgari Midrange with ease. It was even luckier when the pairings had to be re-done in the last round, putting me from dead to top 8 the tournament to playing a win and in. But the luckiest moment of all was when LSV mulled to 4 in game 5 of the finals.
The most unlucky moment was probably when I committed to Boros during pack 1 of the second draft only to have it be incredibly cut. I was lucky to escape with a 1-2.
During Top 8, you mentioned you didn't really feel the pressure once you started playing. Was this key to your success?
Yes, although I have always dealt with nervousness very well.
What do you consider to be your biggest weaknesses and strengths as a player?
I'm very self aware. I know what decks I can play and what decks I cannot and I know when to trust myself as opposed to trusting others.
I have very strong Magic theory, which means I know what game plans decks are trying to execute and how to counter those plans out of other decks. The strength of my theory makes me great at sideboarding and building sealed pools.
I can evaluate how good a deck is with relatively few games and be mostly right. I also have a particular talent for playing control mirrors in both constructed and limited.
Most importantly though, I'm willing to outwork the vast majority of people. I usually have 100 matches with a deck before I play it in a major tournament, I always do my homework.
Relative to the average player with my accomplishments, I have very weak technical play. I make far too many straightforward inaccuracies in normal games of Magic. Relatedly, I tend to be good at looking one turn ahead or 100 turns ahead, but not calculating exactly two turn cycles or similar.
When I'm playtesting or when I feel there is nothing on the line, I do not play my best. If the pressure is off, I just do not care and that effects my play. For similar reasons, I tend to play worse when I am very far ahead or very far behind. While I'm strong at sealed, my drafting is quite mediocre and I make major errors frequently during the draft portion.
I also have quite limited range. I can play focused decks that execute the same gameplay every game, regardless of if they're Mono-red or Draw-Go control, but I am totally incapable of playing Aggro-Control or Midrange decks. Delver, Jund, and Faeries are all decks that are simply beyond my piloting abilities.
Out of curiosity, what are your all-time favorite deck and card?
What's your expectation for the future?
I expect to be Platinum for the next year, then Gold for many years to come. I do not think I am good enough to maintain Platinum status, but I think I could manage Gold especially since I will be qualified for all of the Pro Tours. I expect that, going forward, Magic will play an even larger role in my life.
What advice would you give to players who are looking to get into higher level competitive play?
Range is overrated, figure out what types of deck you're good at and master them. Also, be willing to outwork everyone more talented than you. Finally, the best thing you can do for your development as a Magic player is to find a group of equally skilled players with similar goals. A team is invaluable, and it got me this far.