Battle of the Sets VII - Round of 32 Division I and II
By Legend on November 3rd, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
*Feature Match* - - - - - (2) Darksteel d. (7) Alliances, 3-2
Don't have a clue what this is? Then read this. Already well-versed in the ways of the BOTS? Then read on and I'll get right to the action!
DIVISION 1 - Round of 32 Match Reports
As soon as the pairings were announced, it was clear that Darksteel had been handed a dangerous first-round assignment - an Alliances deck loaded with artifact hate and efficient creature removal. But not until the modular machine found itself needing to rally from a 1-2 deficit did the danger posed by Alliances become fully apparent…
Alliances’s strategy is simple: smash n’ burn everything that hits play for Darksteel as soon as possible, then drop a victory condition or two and win quickly before Darksteel can go berserk. A clear board for Darksteel means that Alliances can keep the outrageous potential of the modular machine from mushrooming into an uncontainable doom factory. Easier said than done, especially since Darksteel is far and away the more powerful and explosive of the two combatants, having the ability to come seemingly out of nowhere for random victories. Darksteel must be wary of Primitive Justice, though, and keeping an Arcbound Ravager on the board is the best way to combat the Justice threat.
Ultimately, the key to the matchup is Alliances’s ability to prevent Darksteel from getting its deadly machinery up and running - if Darksteel gets rolling, Alliances will not have enough firepower to recover. Almost any opponent will inevitably get the short end of a slugfest with Darksteel - the trick is avoiding the slugfest altogether.
Darksteel won the die roll and had the first play, an Arcbound Slith, which immediately fell to an EOT Death Spark. The efficient Darksteel machine stalled on two lands, and had to be content with another Arcbound Slith, which also got burned away, this time by Guerilla Tactics. The opening turns were going exactly the way Alliances wanted - a clear board.
Darksteel couldn’t find a third land, but added a Genesis Chamber. Alliances went on the offensive and unleashed the always unpleasant Yavimaya Ants while getting a Myr token thanks to Genesis Chamber. Mercifully, Darksteel found a third Island and summoned a Spire Golem (plus a Myr). Alliances kept the Yavimaya Ants around for one more turn and dropped an Elvish Ranger. The Ants traded with Darksteel’s Myr, and the modular machine slid to 11 thanks to the trampling horde of Ants. Alliances was left with two Myrs and the Elvish Ranger.
Darksteel had stabilized, and the situation did not improve for Alliances when an Arcbound Ravager and Arcbound Worker made their way into the battle, providing Darksteel with two more Myrs as well. Darksteel now controlled a force of Arcbound Ravager, Arcbound Worker, Spire Golem, and two Myrs. The Golem hit for two and the turn was back to Alliances, which sent the Elvish Ranger and Myr in for an attack. Darksteel blocked each with a Myr, then fed the dying Myrs to the Arcbound Ravager. Alliances ended its turn with Deadly Insect + Myr.
Darksteel appeared to have the upper hand, and added to its advantage with Arcbound Stinger + Myr. Darksteel then went for the kill, sacrificing Arcbound Ravager to make Spire Golem 5/7. Although the Golem knocked Alliances down to 13 and gave Darksteel a momentary boost, this plan would quickly backfire.
With the Arcbound Ravager no longer in play, Alliances was given a reprieve and could play its ace, Primitive Justice, without fear of Ravager tricks. Alliances took the opportunity to mete out a particularly harsh brand of Justice - with six mana, Spire Golem, Genesis Chamber, and Arcbound Stinger were all turned into scrap metal. The massacre was completed with a Pyrokinesis (discarding Balduvian Horde), which wiped away Darksteel’s remaining Myr and the Arcbound Worker. With the path cleared, Deadly Insect and Myr dropped Darksteel to a precarious 4.
Darksteel was not quite done, though, and tried to rally with a pair of Arcbound Stingers. Death Spark killed one, leaving a 2/2 Stinger to face the Deadly Insect and Myr, which moved in for an attack. Insect and Stinger traded, leaving Myr alone on the board and Darksteel at 3. Now, though, Alliances would have the Death Spark ready for retrieval next turn, thanks to the Deadly Insect sitting directly above it in the graveyard. Darksteel played an Arcbound Crusher, but it died to the Death Spark and Alliances’s Myr left Darksteel with just 2 life points. Could Darksteel actually succumb to a Myr token? What a bitter irony that would be!
Not so fast! Darksteel topdecked another Arcbound Ravager! Alliances could only draw and say "go," and suddenly Darksteel had a chance. Next, it drew a Skullclamp, and now the modular machine was back in business. Arcbound Ravager was sacrificed to the Skullclamp, allowing Darksteel to find an Arcbound Worker and a Blinkmoth Nexus. The Worker was next to be sacrificed to the Clamp, although Darksteel did not find anything else and ended its turn.
Meanwhile, Alliances was still in decent shape holding another Primitive Justice in hand. However, any further strategy considerations for either side were rendered moot when Alliances’s next draw produced a game-ending Guerilla Tactics.
Alliances 1, Darksteel 0
Although Darksteel was in a hole, at least a key point of strategy had emerged from the defeat: Arcbound Ravager had to be kept in play if at all possible as a means of neutralizing Alliances’s greatest weapon, Primitive Justice. If a Ravager died, let it be to Pillage, not Justice.
Facing a game it needed to win, Darksteel started off with an Arcbound Worker, which was promptly Death Sparked. Darksteel’s opening was solid, though, with turn two Genesis Chamber and turn three Spire Golem + Myr. Alliances replied with Elvish Ranger + Myr.
Darksteel fortified its position with a Blinkmoth Nexus and Myr Moonvessel + Myr. Golem hit Alliances for the first damage of the game, while a Darksteel Myr and the Alliances Myr traded.
Alliances got the turn back, and made the most of it, smashing the Spire Golem and the Genesis Chamber with a Primitive Justice (gaining 1 life to boot).
Darksteel, undaunted by the setback, merely applied more pressure, adding a second Blinkmoth Nexus and sending the Myr Moonvessel, Myr token, and the original Blinkmoth Nexus in for 4 damage, thanks to the freshly dropped Nexus pumping the first Nexus.
Alliances struck back with the Elvish Ranger hitting into an empty board, then added a Deadly Insect. But Darksteel was well positioned against Alliances’s one-toughness creatures, especially after adding a new Genesis Chamber the following turn. The Blinkmoth Nexi hit Alliances to 13.
Alliances managed to Pillage the new Genesis Chamber, but Darksteel continued with two more points of Nexus beatings, then added an Arcbound Slith. A freshly drawn Yavimaya Ants was sent on the attack, but Darksteel blocked with a leftover Myr token and sucked up 4 trample damage.
As Darksteel got the turn back, it led 12-11 in the damage race. Arcbound Slith traded with Elvish Ranger (with the modular counter going to a Blinkmoth Nexus), but a Nexus got through, and it was 12-9. Another Pillage took care of the augmented Nexus (the tapped one), but Alliances had no further plays and seemed to be fading.
That this game belonged to Darksteel was confirmed on the very next draw, when a Skullclamp hit the table. Myr Moonvessel turned into two cards at no cost, and suddenly, Alliances was facing an Arcbound Ravager arrival. Now desperate, Alliances sent its Deadly Insect on a suicide mission, which ended with a block by the remaining Nexus (sacrificed to feed Ravager). A defiant Elvish Ranger joined the battle, but the game was out of hand. Darksteel played an Arcbound Worker and an Arcbound Slith to feed the hungry Ravager, and added a Spire Golem for good measure. With no significant defenses left and facing the now 6/6 Ravager, Golem, and Skullclamp, Alliances conceded and the series was even.
Alliances 1, Darksteel 1
Alliances elected to draw in this potentially pivotal game three, and watched as Darksteel opened with a flurry: Myr Moonvessel, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Arcbound Ravager on the first two turns. Alliances tried to scrap the Ravager with a Guerilla Tactics, but the modular monster was having none of that, surviving at the expense of the Moonvessel and the Nexus (Moonvessel sacrificed in response to Tactics to make Ravager 2/2, then Moonvessel mana used to activate Nexus, sacrificed to make Ravager 3/3). Darksteel followed that up with a Ravager attack and an Arcbound Stinger. Alliances could only muster an Elvish Ranger, and watched as the Stinger became the latest Ravager fodder EOT.
The rapidly growing Ravager crashed in for five more damage, dropping Alliances to 12. Darksteel added an Arcbound Worker and passed the turn back. But just when Darksteel appeared to have left the underdog in the dust, Alliances ruined the Ravager strategy on the following turn. A Death Spark targeted the Arcbound Worker, which helped Ravager grow to 7/7. But now the Ravager was all alone with nowhere to put its counters should the need arise. It was a sitting duck for the ensuing Primitive Justice, which smashed the monstrous metallic menace and cleared the way for an Elvish Ranger attack. For Darksteel, the game, and possibly the series, had taken a dramatic turn for the worse, as it could manage only an Arcbound Crusher, which was not assigned to block the Ranger’s next attack. The life totals stood even at 12 as Alliances went for the throat with a Balduvian Horde. Darksteel tried to fight back with another Crusher, but conceded immediately when yet another Primitive Justice wiped out both Crushers on Alliances’s next turn.
Alliances 2, Darksteel 1
This is not how Darksteel’s tournament was supposed to end. Sure, it was understood that Darksteel could lose a tight match in the later rounds - it happens. Only the winner will ultimately experience a tournament free of disappointment. But a first round ouster? Unthinkable, even against the tough Alliances gauntlet of removal. Darksteel was expected to at least roll into the Top 8 and then, who knows? Now, though, those dreams were in serious jeopardy, and only a furious rally could revive them. Darksteel was facing a moment of truth.
The rally started off decently enough - turn one Myr Moonvessel, turn two Arcbound Slith, and a turn three Blinkmoth Nexus. The Moonvessel fell to a Guerilla Tactics after one measly attack, while the Slith also got one hit in before an Elvish Ranger was put on guard. Darksteel added an Arcbound Crusher and attacked with the Slith, which traded with the Ranger. The death of the 2/2 Slith grew the Crusher to a solid 3/3, but a Pillage immediately cut off that avenue of attack. Darksteel recovered easily, though, summoning an Arcbound Ravager and an Arcbound Stinger. The Ravager had plenty of potential food in play, including two Darksteel Citadels, the Nexus, and the Stinger. Alliances threw a Death Spark at the Ravager, but it calmly swelled into a 2/2 with the animation and sacrifice of Nexus. Alliances could only attempt a futile Primitive Justice, targeting Ravager and Stinger, but Darksteel grew the Ravager to 3/3 (sacrificing a Citadel) in response, then utilized the powerful modular mechanic by sacrificing Ravager onto Stinger, which ended up as a 4/4. The subsequent attack beat Alliances down to 14, and an Arcbound Worker joined the Stinger.
Alliances summoned a Deadly Insect and passed back. The Stinger struck again, and the turn went back to Alliances, which could only add an Elvish Ranger and pass. The Stinger’s third attack reduced Alliances to a tottering 6 life. Then, things took a most unfortunate turn: another Arcbound Ravager! Alliances was hopelessly outgunned and packed it in after a look at the next draw.
Alliances 2, Darksteel 2
It came down to this for Darksteel: a win-or-go-home game in round one. Although this match had been an ordeal for the modular machine, a win here and all would be forgotten.
This tournament is all about survival - the point is to survive and advance, even if it’s a struggle. If Darksteel could just smash its way past the stout test of Alliances, anything could happen.
The lesson of survival was demonstrated well by Antiquities in its first championship run in BOTS IV. Indeed, although Antiquities dominated the field last tournament en route to a 15-2 record and the BOTS VI championship (its second title), Antiquities’s first title run was not so smooth. In that tournament, BOTS IV, Antiquities had to sweat out a tight 3-2 decision in the first round against a Weatherlight deck that at the time was packing four Serenities. Then, in the Division Finals (Top 8), Antiquities trailed Scourge 0-2 before rallying for a miraculous 3-2 comeback victory that ultimately propelled the Workshop deck to the championship.
Could Darksteel take that first big step on the way to a possible championship run of its own?
The answer turned out to be an emphatic yes.
Alliances again drew, leaving Darksteel to make the first play, a turn two Arcbound Slith. The Slith died to yet another Death Spark, but Darksteel was just getting started. Turn three featured an Arcbound Ravager and a Skullclamp. As it turned out, the powerhouse was just getting started. Alliances aimed a Primitive Justice at the Skullclamp, which was predictably fed to the Ravager. Alliances then made another attempt to kill the metallic monstrosity, tossing a Pyrokinesis at the Ravager (losing Balduvian Horde to ‘Nesis). This tactic was successful in eliminating the Ravager, but Darksteel would not be denied and replaced the Ravager with a Blinkmoth Nexus and an Arcbound Crusher. Alliances could manage only an inadequate Elvish Ranger.
Darksteel finally put the match out of reach with a crushing sequence of events on the following turn: another Nexus, another Crusher, and worst of all, a fresh Ravager. A Genesis Chamber hit the board on Darksteel’s next turn. Alliances could manage nothing more than a Pillaging of the Chamber. Now the end was near for valiant Alliances, which had fought so hard only to come up just short against Darksteel’s lineup of industrial doom.
The end came when Darksteel added an Arcbound Worker and sent a 4/4 Crusher in for an attack. Alliances, with nothing in play besides the brave Ranger, blocked, determined to fight until the bitter end, even though the battle was clearly lost. In response, Darksteel used Ravager to sacrifice Worker, adding one counter to Crusher, and one to Ravager, in the process making them 5/5 and 3/3 respectively. The Elvish Ranger died, and Alliances took four trample damage, Darksteel’s first damage of the game. Pyrokinesis targeted the Crusher, but Darksteel would have none of that, sacrificing the Crusher to Ravager in response to ‘Nesis, growing Ravager to 4/4, and an activated Nexus to 6/6. From there, Alliances was quickly pummeled to death. A determined effort, but in the end, Darksteel’s raw power was just too much.
Darksteel survives and advances into the second round!
Darksteel 3, Alliances 2[
(1) Mirrodin d. (8) Stronghold, 3-1
As expected, former champ Mirrodin had little difficulty in dispatching a hopelessly overmatched opponent. Stronghold’s game three win ensured that it would not go home empty-handed, but Mirrodin put the hammer down in game four with an early kill that dashed any hopes of a historic upset.
(4) Urza’s Saga d. (5) Exodus, 3-1
Degenerate Saga took advantage of an ideal matchup, wiping the floor with Spike Weaver and company in a match that came down to one card: Smokestack. After a game one win for Exodus in which it barely managed to outrun a four-counter Smokestack thanks to Thopter Squadron, it was all Saga in three straight Stack-fueled blowouts
(6) Invasion d. (3) Urza’s Destiny, 3-1
These two have now clashed three times, and the festering hostilities have blossomed into a nascent rivalry. The first two times (BOTS III Round of 16 and BOTS VI Round of 32), Invasion was conquered by Destiny’s superior speed and muscle. Heading into this third meeting, Destiny was once more viewed as the prohibitive favorite. And why not? Although Invasion seems capable of beating Destiny, it had been blown out of the first two meetings by a combined games score of 6-1.
But this third meeting was different right from the start, as Invasion utilized its burn and solid creatures to keep Destiny off-balance. Unlike past meetings, Invasion was able to put Destiny under enough pressure to capitalize on some surprising stumbles by the normally dependable green powerhouse.
Game one set the tone for the match. Destiny had the ideal start: playing first with two Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary in hand. But the first Rofellos succumbed to Ghitu Fire, and the second to Urza’s Rage. Suddenly, Destiny’s promising opening had disappeared. Although it was able to follow with a Yavimaya Elder, Invasion had done just enough to seize the advantage, and quickly followed up with a pair of Blazing Specters. A Masticore arrived to limit the damage, but the pair of flying menaces had done irreparable harm by the time Destiny’s machine-gun Cat could shoot both down, and Destiny was left with just one card in hand. When an Addle knocked out Destiny’s last remaining card in hand and sent the ‘Core to the graveyard, the path was clear for a Skizzik to close out the victory.
Destiny regained its footing with a commanding game two win, but the turning point of the match came in game three. Invasion had already used one of its three Voids to knock two Ancient Silverbacks out of Destiny’s hand. The mono-Green powerhouse had recovered, though, and with Invasion at 16 life and facing down two Thorn Elementals, Destiny was poised to seize control of the match. Then, it happened: Invasion revealed another Void, this time for seven! With both Thorn Elementals chopped into firewood, Destiny was left with virtually nothing, save for a Rofellos, which soon fell to an Urza’s Rage in response to Pattern of Rebirth. These two gut punches left Destiny doubled over and gasping for air, and it wasn’t long before a gang of several small creatures came along to give Invasion a 2-1 series lead. After the shocking events of game three, Invasion was just one strong push from knocking Destiny over the edge.
Still stunned from game three, Destiny attempted to rally, throwing out an early Heart Warden in an attempt to draw fire away from Rofellos. However, when both the turn two Warden and a turn three Rofellos were burned away, Destiny was in trouble - and when it stalled on three Forests one turn later, Destiny was in serious trouble. Invasion, feeling only contempt for its disabled rival, coldly capitalized on the delay, uncorking a Skizzik. The match came to an abrupt end from there, as the Skizzik and a pair of bloodthirsty Shivan Zombies bludgeoned their fallen opponent to death in short order. Destiny’s demise was particularly gruesome, in that it was beaten about the head while watching a pair of opportunistic Zombies consume its tasty flesh.
DIVISION 2 - Round of 32 Match Reports
*Feature Match* - - - - - (5) Scourge d. (4) Betrayers of Kamigawa, 3-2
In possibly the longest match in BOTS history, Scourge finally tasted the sweet nectar of victory after an epic struggle that stretched well past the two-hour mark . . .
….but not before narrowly escaping elimination thanks to spectacular life-saving Decree of Justice topdecks in games two and four.
At first glance, Scourge might appear to be at a significant disadvantage against the heavy removal of Betrayers. Upon closer inspection, though, the contest is actually a toss-up.
Of particular concern for Scourge is Final Judgment, which, in addition to its obvious power as a Wrath of God effect, provides Betrayers with an answer to a large Decree of Justice, or to Eternal Dragon. Similarly, Eradicate can also prevent any Dragon nonsense, or simply liquidate all four copies of a key creature, such as Dawn Elemental. Horobi’s Whisper supplements the two aforementioned major removal cards as a nice third option with the potential to take out multiple creatures once Betrayers starts to fill its graveyard in the late game (thanks to the Splice ability). On top of this potent arsenal of removal, Betrayers can wreck Scourge with a well-timed Three Tragedies, the value of which increases in a slow match such as this. Three Tragedies is all the more potent in a deck featuring mass removal, as there is nowhere to hide - hold creatures back, and Tragedies rips them out. Put the creatures into play, and they fall victim to Final Judgment or Eradicate.
As for victory conditions, Betrayers has the extremely-annoying Genju of the Fields, which not only has excellent synergy with Final Judgment, but can also put Betrayers’s life total into the stratosphere thanks to the ruling that the Genju activation cost can be paid multiple times for a gain of an additional two life per activation whenever a Genju deals damage. So if Betrayers has ten mana in play in addition to the Plains enchanted with a Genju of the Fields, Betrayers can pay the Genju activation cost five times, which means a gain of ten life if Genju deals damage. Yukora, the Prisoner and Patron of the Kitsune, though vulnerable to Wing Shards (unlike Genju, which can just come right back), are certainly forces to be reckoned with. However, it should be noted that Betrayers will suffer from one problem that Scourge does not have - the four Terashi’s Grasps will be dead weight in this matchup, potentially a major handicap for Betrayers.
On the other side, Scourge has several important features that allow it to compete in this matchup. Chief among these features is Eternal Dragon - provided the Dragons are kept out of play unless absolutely necessary. Since these games figure to be long, drawn-out affairs, Scourge might be able to bide its time and use its Dragons to suck all the Plains out of the deck. In this way, Scourge can ensure “lucky” topdecks in the late game, while Betrayers is stuck drawing a much higher percentage of unwanted land. The deck-thinning provided by Eternal Dragon also tied in to one of Scourge’s other critical cards - Decree of Justice. If Scourge is to win, it will likely do so with huge late-game Decrees (either cycling for Soldiers or hard-cast for Angels, depending on what the situation calls for) because of the vulnerability of Scourge’s other creatures to Betrayers’s removal. Not only will the Eternal Dragons suck the land out of the deck, they will also allow Scourge to build up large quantities of mana to fuel massive late-game Decrees. The third key card for Scourge is Wipe Clean - without this invaluable enchantment removal, Scourge would be left almost helpless against the onslaught of Genjus. With the services of a full compliment of Wipes, however, Scourge will have a very good chance of avoiding Genju beatings (especially since Scourge has a better chance of drawing a Wipe Clean than Betrayers does of drawing a Genju of the Fields, due to the deck-thinning of Eternal Dragon and the cycling of Decree of Justice).
The matchup boils down to this: Betrayers has the hardcore removal, but no method of card-drawing or deck-thinning. On the other hand, Scourge is “smarter” thanks to the deck-thinning of Eternal Dragon, and wields a back-breaking late-game bomb in Decree of Justice.
Scourge went first, but Betrayers made the first significant play, a turn one Genju of the Fields. Scourge wasted little time in starting the Eternal Dragon deck-thinning campaign, then Wiped Clean the Genju. Scourge followed up with a Dawn Elemental. Betrayers eagerly took the opportunity to unveil one of its devastating weapons, Eradicate, which left the mono-white deck Elemental-less for the remainder of the game. Silver Knight was next on the board. Yukora, the Prisoner provided some company for the Knight, which was soon joined by a Daru Warchief. Betrayers launched its first offensive of the match on the following turn, assassinating the Warchief with Horobi’s Whisper and crashing in with Yukora.
Remarkably, Betrayers already had all four Terashi’s Grasp in hand - essentially leaving Betrayers four draw phases down. Nonetheless, Scourge was able to do nothing more than attack with the Silver Knight. A freshly drawn Genju of the Fields consolidated Betrayers’s position still further. Joined by the Genju, Yukora gored once more, leaving the life totals at 22-8 in favor of Betrayers, thanks to a double Genju activation.
Betrayers attempted the same attack once more, this time with a triple Genju activation. This time, Scourge was able to parry at least somewhat with a Wing Shards, but this was an inadequate remedy for the problem. All the Shards accomplished was the temporary dismissal of the Genju, which would return the following turn. Scourge fell to 3 from the Yukora beating, but Scourge found a sixth Plains and Noble Templar came to the rescue. Betrayers replayed the Genju of the Fields and had nothing more.
Scourge continued to rebuild its position with another Daru Warchief, but it was short for this game thanks to a Sickening Shoal. Another Genju of the Fields showed up, and Scourge was again in a bad way. The Eternal Dragon recursion plan started up during the next upkeep, but Betrayers was prepared to win this one before that would matter. The following turn saw a double-Genju/Yukora attack. The Silver Knight died blocking a Genju, while Noble Templar buffered Yukora. The unblocked Genju left Scourge tottering at 1, while Betrayers shot up to 26.
In a last-ditch attempt at survival, Scourge boosted its mana with a Temple of the False God and used a Decree of Justice for a pair of Angels. Mercifully, this plan worked, and Betrayers could only draw and pass. Now two Genju of the Fields and Yukora, the Prisoner simply stared across at two Angel tokens and a Noble Templar.
Then, Scourge increased the possibility of a successfully comeback bid with another Decree of Justice - this time for three Angels! The original Angel pair flew in for a righteous eight-point attack, and Betrayers was left to produce an answer. An EOT Horobi’s Whisper knocked out the Noble Templar, although Scourge had the three new Angels with which to block.
Scourge’s comeback dreams were still very realistic, even without the Templar - that is, until Betrayers topdecked Final Judgment! Suddenly, the only non-land permanents were the two Genjus. Mercifully, Betrayers’s only Plains were the Genju Plains (tapped to cast Final Judgment), so Scourge had one more turn to fight back.
Another Noble Templar rallied to the cause, and a topdecked Wipe Clean kept hope alive, eliminating a Genju of the Fields. The game then settled into a prolonged period of draw-go in which neither deck could improve its position. The remaining Genju of the Fields would attack with multiple activations, bouncing off Noble Templar, but providing life-gain. Templar would attack right back to keep the life-gain somewhat in check. Meanwhile, Scourge continued the Eternal Dragon deck-thinning process.
Scourge, though it could eventually reap a huge advantage from the repeated Dragon use, was facing a precarious situation. All Betrayers need to do was find a single removal spell to murder the Noble Templar and allow Genju of the Fields to end the game. Consequently, Scourge finally took the plunge and put an Eternal Dragon into play. The Dragon got one hit in before another Final Judgment wipe out both the Dragon and the Noble Templar. Scourge would not give in, though, and hung on thanks to a Wing Shards, delaying Genju of the Fields for one more turn.
However, the end at last came next turn, when Scourge found nothing of help. The first of five grueling late-game chess-matches had gone to Betrayers, but Scourge was more than prepared to meet the challenge.
Betrayers 1, Scourge 0
Drawing on the experience of game one, Scourge elected to draw this time. The mono-White deck’s first play was a Dawn Elemental, but it was immediately removed by an EOT Horobi’s Whisper. Three Tragedies knocked out a Daru Warchief, a Plains, and a Noble Templar, but Scourge hung tough with another Templar. Betrayers calmly replied with another Horobi’s Whisper.
Templars, in addition to their nobility, are apparently also quite persistent - a third Noble Templar appeared and started to chip away. The Templar was left unharmed, but a second Tragedies knocked out a Wing Shards, a Temple of the False God, and a Plains (Eternal Dragon’s Plainscycling cost paid in response to Tragedies).
During the next upkeep, Scourge recursed the Dragon. Then, the Templar hit once more, reducing Betrayers to 14. A Silver Knight joined the righteous cause, and Betrayers now had the inducement it needed to use a board-clearing Final Judgment.
Over the next several turns, Scourge went about the business of deck-thinning, while Betrayers launched a Genju of the Fields offensive against the Wipeless Scourge. Another Silver Knight entered the playing area, but the Genju continued to pour on the life-gain. Wing Shards stopped the Genju nuisance for a turn. Betrayers summoned its nightmarish enforcer, Yukora, the Prisoner. The life totals were 22-16 in favor of Betrayers.
Betrayers appeared to be in decent shape, but the reality was quite different. Scourge, though repeated use of Eternal Dragons, had the upper hand heading into the late game. A third Three Tragedies accomplished little in that it dumped two Plains and a Dragon, easily replaceable commodities at this stage of the game.
Yukora attacked and drew a chump block from the Silver Knight. The Sharded Genju of the Fields rejoined the monstrous Demon. Scourge called upon the defensive services of another Dawn Elemental, but once more, a Horobi’s Whisper dashed those plans. The Yukora/Genju assault left the life totals at 24-9.
Another Noble Templar limited the damage caused by the next attack, and the life totals became 30-7, then 27-7 after the Templar attacked. Scourge was preparing to prove that the huge disparity in life totals was nothing more than an illusion, but before that could happen, the mono-White deck needed a bit more defense, which it got in the form of another Dawn Elemental.
A frustrated Betrayers watched its Yukora/Genju campaign halted. After several turns of draw-go (and Eternal Dragon thinning), the Dawn Elemental attacked, signaling that Scourge had found a Decree of Justice. Yukora and Genju of the Fields attacked only to find that Scourge really did have the Decree. Nine Soldier tokens charged into play and two sacrificed for the greater good. The life totals once again stood at 30-7 in favor of Betrayers, although Scourge had the decided edge in board position as Betrayers’s turn ended.
Scourge dropped a ton of bricks on its opponent with a Daru Warchief and suddenly, those Soldier tokens were more than a nuisance. Betrayers's life total was sliced nearly in half to 16. Final Judgment reset the board and cleared the path for a Genju of the Fields attack, making the life score 18-5.
Scourge was unfazed by the board sweep, though, and sensing the time was right, aggressively went for the kill, summoning two Eternal Dragons. This strategy would only backfire if Betrayers had another Final Judgment, and had the benefit of ensuring that Eradicate could only neutralize one of the Dragons. Betrayers in fact had an Eradicate to kill one Dragon. Then, for the first time in the match, Patron of the Kitsune appeared. Scourge could respond only with a Daru Warchief, and once more the momentum had seemingly shifted in this back-and-forth match. The Patron and Genju of the Fields both attacked, inducing a Daru Warchief chump block on Patron and leaving the life totals at 25-5. When Betrayers summoned Yukora, the Prisoner and added another Genju of the Fields, it appeared that Scourge was about to be in an 0-2 hole.
Then, it happened: Decree of Justice on the draw! Moments earlier, Scourge had been all but assured of an all-but insurmountable 0-2 series deficit. Suddenly, though, an incredible topdeck had turned the game, and ultimately the match around. Six Angels entered the battle against a stunned Betrayers. The previously lonely Eternal Dragon attacked, and it was 20-5.
Eradicate removed the Dragon, and now-desperate Betrayers sent a Genju, Yukora, and Patron of the Kitsune in for an attack. Two Angels blocked Yukora, two blocked Genju, and one blocked Patron. Between Genju and Patron, Betrayers gained seven life, but it hardly mattered. The Genju left play, Yukora died, and so did Patron (due to Yukora leaving play). In the carnage, Scourge lost just two Angels. With four Angels left, Scourge could win with three more attack steps (due to the life-gain of Genju) provided Betrayers could not find another Final Judgment. All four Angels swooped in, and it was 11-5 Betrayers. Scourge added a Silver Knight for good measure.
Betrayers failed to find a Judgment and could only stall with a four-activation Genju attack, leaving the life totals at 19-3. It didn’t matter, but Betrayers couldn’t even re-cast the second Genju of the Fields due to having only one Plains left.
All four Angels and the Silver Knight attacked to leave Betrayers at a precarious 1 life. Betrayers had one more chance to find that Final Judgment it so badly needed. Final Judgment did not appear on the draw, but as it turned out, a Judgment would not have saved the game since Scourge had by this point drawn another Decree of Justice.
Betrayers 1, Scourge 1
Things started off promisingly for Scourge when it was able to Wipe Away an early Genju and Wing Shards Yukora, the Prisoner. However, the promise quickly evaporated when a wickedly timed Three Tragedies liquidated Scourge’s three-card hand of Decree of Justice, Decree of Justice, and Silver Knight, leaving the mono-White deck with nothing aside from a Noble Templar and Daru Warchief in play. Betrayers cruelly followed the gut-punch Three Tragedies up with a gut-punch Final Judgment, and for all intents and purposes the game was over. From there, Betrayers was able to feast on a floundering opponent that was left to topdecking. A pair of Genjus of the Fields backed by an avalanche of removal finished off the rout. Game three was a total liquidation - one more performance like that and Betrayers would be moving on for an almost certain date with Antiquities. But Scourge had other ideas.
Betrayers 2, Scourge 1
Despite the tragic outcome of the previous game, Scourge stuck with its plan, electing to draw once more. The end appeared near when Betrayers opened with two early Genjus of the Fields against a lonely Silver Knight. Fortunately for Scourge, Betrayers had land difficulties and could utilize neither the Three Tragedies nor the Final Judgments it maddeningly held in hand. Thus, Betrayers was compelled to use a Horobi’s Whisper on a Dawn Elemental and to do nothing about the Silver Knight and Daru Warchief. While Betrayers struggled, Scourge built up its mana and unleashed a four-point Decree of Justice.
Betrayers finally had five mana, but could only activate one Genju of the Fields to combat the four 2/3 Soldiers. The attack resulted in a net loss of only two life for Betrayers (three Soldiers unblocked, one blocked by double-activated Genju for a four-point life gain). Betrayers was still at a healthy 20 (a Genju had attacked earlier), but needed land in order to relieve the pressure with a Final Judgment. This did not happen, and Scourge poured it on with another four-point Decree of Justice.
Daru Warchief and eight Soldiers went for the kill, resulting in a net loss of twelve life (one blocked plus four-point life gain from double-activated Genju). However, Scourge conservatively held the Silver Knight out of the attack - a fact that would soon be significant. Now at 8 life, Betrayers needed to draw a land.
The draw? Swamp. Betrayers headed off the Soldier horde with a badly-needed Final Judgment.
The board clear, and Scourge came right back with a third Decree of Justice EOT! This time it was for six Soldiers. Although Scourge had fresh troops, the importance of the Knight not attacking was clear - had the Knight attacked, Betrayers would have been at 6 instead of 8, and the six new Soldiers would have been able to end the game on the next attack.
This turned out to be huge when Betrayers, still very much alive and kicking, unveiled a second Judgment on the next turn, clearing away the six Soldiers and a freshly played Noble Templar. Betrayers, flush with the feeling of having been given a second chance, seized the inititative with Yukora, the Prisoner. Scourge kept Yukora at bay with a Noble Templar, then added a Silver Knight. Needing to conserve Plains, Betrayers conservatively kept its Genjus back as well, and the game settled into a lull with the only activity being Eternal Dragon thinning for several turns.
Betrayers ended the lull with a third Genju of Fields. Eradicate ended the Noble Templar’s brief stay and liquidated the two remaining in Scourge’s library. Yukora was sent to hell by a Wing Shards, but another Demon replaced the fallen Yukora. Two of the three Genjus of the Fields disappeared EOT thanks to a pair of Wipe Cleans. It was now Yukora and a Genju of the Fields vs. a lone Silver Knight.
Scourge improved its chances with a Dawn Elemental, but it succumbed to a Sickening Shoal. Genju of the Fields then worked the life totals to 16-4 in favor of Scourge. Betrayers was beginning to work itself out of the danger zone, and Scourge was rapidly moving towards extinction. Despite the fact that Scourge had removed most of the Plains from its deck, three Decrees of Justice were already gone and Betrayers could handle the rest of Scourge’s threats much more easily.
The Eternal Dragon-thinning continued to suck Plains out of the deck and a Dawn Elemental appeared, only to fall to Eradicate. Scourge was now without the services of all of its Dawn Elementals, all of its Noble Templars, and three out of four Decrees of Justice. The only positive to the Eradication of the Dawn Elementals and Noble Templars had been that the chances of drawing the last Decree of Justice were increased in the process.
Meanwhile, the life totals got still closer at 9-8 after a Genju/Yukora attack. Scourge found another Wipe Clean to eliminate the Genju of the Fields, but Silver Knight died blocking Yukora.
Scourge had two Eternal Dragons in the graveyard at this point, and retrieved both during its upkeep. Scourge lacked the mana to cast an Eternal Dragon, though, so one of the Dragons went back to the graveyard in exchange for another Plains, boosting Scourge to sixteen mana (14 Plains and a Temple). Scourge then watched Yukora strike into an empty board to leave Scourge with just 4 life separating it from elimination.
The situation became really desperate when Betrayers summoned a topdecked Patron of the Kitsune - now the Eternal Dragons would not be sufficient to extend the game because Scourge did not have the nineteen mana required to retrieve one Dragon from the graveyard and then cast both. Tossing one of the Dragons in order to play a Plains right away had seemed like a decent play at the time, but that all changed with the Patron arrival. Had Scourge held the Plainscycled Eternal Dragon back, it would have been able to summon both Eternal Dragons on its next turn. But that was not a possibility now.
Suddenly, Scourge was staring at almost certain elimination. One card, and one card only could save Scourge’s tournament life: Decree of Justice.
Then, it happened.
Decree of Justice on the draw! Scourge was saved! Crestfallen, Betrayers could only watch in horror as six saving Angels arrived to the rescue. Scourge had gone from the depths of despair to the pinnacle of ecstasy in mere moments.
The pressure shifted back to Betrayers, which held nothing of use in hand. The draw? Final Judgment! One amazing topdeck deserves another - Betrayers was not dead yet!
The ensuing suicide attack boosted Betrayers’s life total to 10 (from Patron of the Kitsune). The effort resulted in the death of both creatures, each blocked by a pair of Angels. Final Judgment removed the four remaining Angels, and Betrayers played another Yukora, the Prisoner. Betrayers was assured of nothing, though, because Scourge had an Eternal Dragon in hand with which to block Yukora next turn, and another Dragon that Scourge could retrieve and play one turn after that. Betrayers would need another targeted removal spell to clear the path for a game-winning attack.
The suspense was now unbearable. None of the spectators had left their seats for nearly an hour for so much as a bathroom break, entranced by the pulsating back-and-forth action. What would happen next?
On Scourge’s upkeep, it made a solid decision and chose not to retrieve the Eternal Dragon in the graveyard. The reasoning was simple: Scourge did not have enough mana to retrieve the Dragon, then cast both that Dragon and the Dragon in hand. Better to see if the draw yielded anything of use - if the draw did provide something useful, then Scourge could cast both the Dragon in hand and the freshly drawn card. If nothing of use was drawn, Scourge could still summon one Eternal Dragon and then the other the on the following turn.
The draw, as it turned out, was extremely kind to Scourge: a third Eternal Dragon!
Scourge summoned two Eternal Dragons, and Betrayers was on the ropes. Betrayers drew a card and passed back. Scourge retrieved its third Eternal Dragon and attacked for the win with both Eternal Dragons in play. Betrayers earned a stay of execution with a Horobi’s Whisper to stop one of them. Scourge simply replaced the fallen Eternal Dragon with another one. Betrayers, down to 5, needed another removal spell. Instead, the draw mockingly produced Three Tragedies to compliment an equally useless Terashi’s Grasp in hand.
Despite a couple of questionable plays, Scourge had survived because of its “lucky” draws - thanks to the deck-thinning of Eternal Dragon. With the help of Eternal Dragon, luck is invariably on Scourge’s side in long games. Amazingly, this epic confrontation was headed for a deciding game five.
Betrayers 2, Scourge 2
Things fell apart right from the start for Betrayers. Two early Genjus of the Fields were Wiped Clean, and Betrayers could muster little after that. Scourge began to get the Eternal Dragon Plains factory going. Dawn Elemental died to a Sickening Shoal and Betrayers added Yukora, the Prisoner. However, Scourge had an answer for the Demon as well, slaying it with Wing Shards. Unsurprisingly, a Daru Warchief showed up, but surprisingly, it lived. The Warchief got one hit in before another Yukora, the Prisoner temporarily put a stop to that. Scourge was content to add a second Daru Warchief, which perished to another Sickening Shoal. Yukora got one hit in but declined a second attack when it became clear that Scourge was going to unload an EOT Decree of Justice. Nine Soldier entered play, and with that, Betrayers's hopes of winning the match went up in smoke. Betrayers managed to use a third Sickening Shoal on the remaining Warchief, but it mattered little.
Betrayers had nothing left, while Scourge had built up a massive amount of mana and had suffered no major setback (i.e. Eradicate or Three Tragedies). It was just a matter of finishing a battered and dazed opponent. Scourge summoned another Daru Warchief. Betrayers had a Horobi’s Whisper to deal with that threat, but even without their leader, the Soldiers streamed in for an attack. Yukora killed one, but the other eight reduced Betrayers to 10.
Betrayers could only draw and play a land, but was prepared to play on despite the overwhelming swarm of Soldiers. However, when Scourge revealed another Decree of Justice, Betrayers graciously conceded. A memorable confrontation between two worthy competitors had come to an end, but the memories of the legendary battle would echo through the halls of eternity.
Scourge 3, Betrayers 2
(1) Antiquities d. (8) Nemesis, 3-1
As expected, defending champion Antiquities advanced with only minimal difficulty against Nemesis, which had earned the eighth seed by winning the Play-In division. The only hiccup came in game two, when Nemesis capitalized on a slow start by the champ and bashed away with Blastoderm and Saproling Burst.
After Nemesis dared to challenge the champ’s authority, Antiquities responded with extreme prejudice and unloaded a game three thrashing on the rude upstart. Turn three Triskelion and turn four Triskelion followed turn one Onulet to crush Nemesis under an avalanche of cold steel. Meanwhile a pair of Strip Mines provided a couple of kicks to the teeth just for good measure. Antiquities then won the fourth game comfortably to advance.
(7) Urza’s Legacy d. (2) Visions, 3-1
After a dominating run to the Final Four last time, Visions is out considerably earlier this time around. What a difference one tournament makes.
If you aren't familiar with the Visions Sandsipoise combo, it works like this: Equipoise phases all of an opponent's excess creatures/artifacts/lands out during Visions’s upkeep, while Sands of Time requires each participant to skip his untap phase, making the opponent’s creatures, artifacts, and lands never come back again - this works because phasing in and out occurs during the untap step.
In other words, during its upkeep, Visions uses Equipoise to phase out all opposing creatures (Equipoise also phases out land and artifacts as long as the opponent has more than Visions - moreover, Equipoise allows its controller to choose the phase-out targets if that should become necessary). Meanwhile, Sands of Time causes both decks to skip their untap phase, which means phasing creatures (and any other phasing permanents) never get the chance to phase back in.
Thanks to the search power of Impulse and Vampiric Tutor, Visions has no difficulty setting up the lock within an adequate amount of time. Meanwhile, Peace Talks buys Visions any needed time against aggro, Coercion adds some protection against removal or any other threatening cards, and Wand of Denial slams the hammer down against any potential escape from the lock if the opponent does not already have what they need in hand. What it all amounts to is a cohesive mixture of lock components, search, and defense. Visions is certainly one of the most unusual and interesting decks in the format, and is one of only two creatureless decks - the other being Tempest.
However, Visions does have a few glaring weaknesses - and one of those weaknesses is susceptibility to man-lands. One factor that contributed to Antiquites’s sweep of Visions in the Final Four last time out was Mishra’s Factory. Antiquities could win with Mishra’s Factories even after the Sandsipoise lock was in place - the lock does not deny Visions’s opponents access to their lands so long as they do not go above four lands. Hence, Visions could still lose even with the lock in play unless it had a Vision Charm to stop Mishra’s Factory or a Forbidden Ritual to finish off the Factories for good.
Against Legacy, the manland problem was even worse. First, because there are more of them (four Faerie Conclaves and four Treetop Villages), and second because Vision Charm is useless against Conclave and Village (unlike Factory, which is also an artifact and can thus be permanently phased out by Vision Charm while the Sandsipoise lock is in place. The only way Visions could win would be to get the Sandsipoise lock in place, then use Forbidden Ritual to clear the board of lands. From there, Visions would be able to win by simply refusing to play any further lands and just decking Legacy.
But as the final match score indicates, this happened in only one game. In the other three games, Visions could not find Forbidden Ritual soon enough after the lock was down and died either to Treetop Villages or Faerie Conclaves, sometimes augmented by Rancor.
(3) Champions of Kamigawa d. (6) Legends, 3-0
Keep moving, folks, nothing to see here, nothing to see here….
Champions is a fascinating deck worthy of further discussion - but not after a ten minute warm-up match against a hopelessly overmatched opponent. Expect to see more of the powerful Champions deck in the later rounds of the tournament.
That's all I've got for you for now. Check in soon and the other half of the round of 32 will be ready for you!
By Legend on November 3rd, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now