Battle of the Sets VIII, Group 3
By Alfred on February 16th, 2007 · Filed in Variant Formats · Comments not available just now
Hello and welcome to another edition of Battle of the Sets VIII! Today we have a lot of fantastic matches, thrilling plays and total blowouts, so there's a lot here to examine. If you're new to this whole thing, or simply want to brush up on the decklists for the matches (which I recommend you do even if you've seen this before).
Part 1 of decklists
Part 2 of decklists
Also, if you want to find Groups 1 & 2, you'll find them here, and the Play-in Tournament is here. Groups Three and Four feature a record-breaking 4 feature matches! This means that you're going to be able to read even more in-depth analysis on more matches than ever before. However, the article is so huge that it cannot it into one single article (not a joke, it's actually too big), so Group 4, as well as the Deck creation competition winner will be shown later this week. To start off the festivities for group 3, let's jump right into the thick of it with the star-crossed Ice Age battling the mighty Apocalypse!
Ice Age vs. Apocalypse
We start off the tournament featuring a match between two black-based control decks with different trajectories. One is an extremely successful Battle of the Sets Champion, which on average goes deep into the tournament, sweeping opponents aside with its powerful hand, while the other is a bottom-feeding never-has-been that has been on the receiving end of too many blowout losses and has never won a match in the entirety of Battle of the Sets history. However, this match proves to be interesting, because unlike Ice Age's arch-nemesis Onslaught (which knocked out Ice Age in two separate tournaments), Apocalypse is actually highly susceptible to Ice Age's main avenue to victory: Jokulhaupsing away the board with a Necropotence in play then dropping a threat. Apocalypse, unlike the other decks that Ice Age has faced has a much slower clock, letting it wait for the perfect scenario before unleashing the gigantic glacial flood. Apocalypse, however, is not without its own tricks, having the ability to stall the game with Vindicates and then sweeping the board itself with a Desolation Angel. It also has the ability to imitate Ice Age by playing its own Necropotence "lite" -- Phyrexian Arena. This match should be an entertaining one, so I'll just cut to the chase. Game on!
Ice Age won the roll and started first, playing a Swamp, and lacking a first-turn Dark Ritual, passed the turn. Apocalypse, whose deck lacks any first-turn play whatsoever played a plains and passed. Ice Age went draw-land-go, and Apocalypse drew first-blood by Gerrard's Verdicting Ice Age, which discarded Abyssal Specter and Dark Banishing. However, Ice Age recouped the card advantage the following turn by casting Necropotence, and choosing to draw 4 cards at the end of its turn at the cost of 4 life. Apocalypse, wanting to put an end to the card-drawing frenzy, Vindicated the Necropotence. Ice Age responded by paying three life to put 3 cards aside for next turn.
Ice Age played a Swamp on the following turn, and with nothing further to add, drew three cards and discarded a Dark Banishing. Apocalypse was starting to feel the burn; Ice Age was progressing steadily towards its goal of Jokulhaupsing the board, and Dark Ritual-ling out some sort of threat, while Apocalypse had so far not been able to put any stress on Ice Age's life total. Apocalypse addressed this concern on its subsequent turn by casting a Spectral Lynx, which, apart from being a little late to the party, was hardly a serious threat to Ice Age's life total. Ice Age, obviously still building up to a crippling 'Haups, played a land and passed the turn. Spectral Lynx swung in to drop Ice Age down to 10 life, and lacking another play for the turn, passed.
Ice Age, after building up its manabase and hand for six turns was now ready to unleash a titanic glacial wave on its foe, but Apocalypse was not prepared for the sheer amount of pain that Ice Age was about to lay on it. Ice Age tapped all of the 5 lands it controlled, and took 2 life from its two Sulfurous Springs for drawing red mana, surprising Apocalypse by revealing not one, but two Dark Rituals! Ice Age, now with 9 mana at its disposal, Jokulhaups'd the board, and with the mana floating, played a Swamp and cast a terrifying Abyssal Specter! Specter, though a slow clock, meant that for every land Apocalypse was inevitably going to have to play, its hand would shrink by one, limiting the amount of answers that it had available to the flying menace. Furthering the pain on the following turn, Apocalypse was unable to draw land, and was forced to pass the turn without making a land-drop. Ice Age was getting some serious love from its deck, because on the following turn, it Demonic Consultationed through 16 cards of its library to find another Necropotence and Dark Ritual'd it into play. Ice Age attacked, forcing Apoc to discard a Desolation Angel. Ice Age Necro'd for 4, putting it at 3, and passed the turn.
Apocalypse was able to find a Caves of Koilos on the following turn, hoping to get enough lands to Vindicate the flying menace. The game essentially ended on the following turn, when Ice Age summoned a Foul Familiar, and played a crucial Zuran Orb. A few attacks - and a couple of Incinerates - later, Ice Age was off to a 1-0 lead over its first seeded opponent!
Game two begins with Apocalypse starting first, and Ice Age choosing to mulligan. Apoc plays a Swamp from its hand, and passes the turn, while Ice Age basically negates its mulligan by going Sulfurous Springs -> Dark Ritual -> topdecked Necropotence, and then drawing four cards at its end step. Apocalypse attempts to fight Ice Age's ridiculous card advantage cascade with a Gerrard's Verdict, which yields a Swamp and a Jokulhaups. This turned out to be basically an overcosted life gain spell, when Ice Age dropped a Zuran Orb into play, and Necro'd for another 4 cards. On Apocalypse's turn, it attempts to stem the card flow with a Vindicate targeting the Necropotence, which of course was activated twice in response. Ice Age drew a card and cast Foul Familiar on its turn, leaving one mana up for Familiar's bounce effect, and at the end of its turn, was forced to discard a Sulfurous Springs due to having 8 cards in its hand. Apocalypse showed how it could keep pace with Ice Age's card advantage by casting Phyrexian Arena and passing the turn.
Ice Age continued to develop its land base, and lowered Apocalypse's life total to 19 with a swing from its Foul Familiar. Apocalypse, showing a flash of bravado, cast a second Phyrexian Arena, which would guarantee that Apoc would be able to keep pace with Ice Age's card drawing. Ice Age continued to lay on the beats by attacking Apocalypse down to 14 life, while adding its fifth land to the board. Apocalypse showed why it may have taken the dual-Arena gamble by revealing a Death Grasp for 4, which it used to drop Ice Age to 5, and bring itself back up to 16 life. At the end of Apocalypse's turn, Ice Age Incinerated Apocalypse, but in the process took 1 damage itself from a Sulfurous Springs. Ice Age, now knowing that its opponent was reaching the 7 mana threshold required to resolve a kickered Desolation Angel, paid the one black/one life cost for Foul Familiar at the end of Apocalypse's turn. On Ice Age's turn, it played its 6th land, and then unleashed a board-resetting Jokulhaups and sacrificing all of its lands to a Zuran Orb, rocketing it back up to a respectable 15 life. Apocalypse was in big trouble. With the board back at square-one, and with two Phyrexian Arenas on the board, it was going to have to work to maintain its life total, and regain board position. It did, however, have the first land drop, which it used to plop a Plains into play, but as a result of the Phyrexian Arenas Apoc fell to 8 life.
Ice Age, looking to press the advantage, Dark Ritual'd out the Foul Familiar, which was a very potent threat to Apocalypse's life total. On the following turn, Apocalypse dropped to 6 life, and could not come up with an immediate solution to Foul Familiar, which Ice Age ran directly into the floundering Apocalypse the following turn, bringing it to a precarious 3 life. Apocalypse, now struggling to stay alive, was forced to cast Gerrard's Verdict on itself, discarding a Plains and a Llano war Wastes to balloon its life total back up to 7. Familiar continued to chop into Apocalypse's life total, and after another triple draw finding no solution to both Foul Familiar and the life loss from Phyrexian Arenas, it graciously conceded the game, falling down 2-0 to the set that has never in the 7 time history of Battle of the Sets made it past the first round! It was during this match, however, that Apocalypse made an important discovery. Apocalypse in the past two games was concentrating on killing Necropotence with its Vindicates, but it realized that the match didn't boil down to card advantage, but rather who could play their board reset button first. It decided that the proper use for Vindicates would be to destroy Ice Age's lands to buy more time to get to 7 mana.
Ice Age, being the most snake-bitten set in the entire tournament managed to find a way to lose games and matches that it should have won, having been at the brink of winning twice, only to fall to Onslaught and other, less challenging opponents. Game three was a grim flashback to tournaments past, when it was forced to mulligan twice before finding a suitable hand. Apocalypse, knowing that it was now or never, quickly pounced on the weakened Ice Age by casting a Spectral Lynx. Ice Age managed to Incinerate the pesky cat, but Apocalypse continued to pile it on by casting a Phyrexian Arena. It was at this point that Ice Age ran out of land drops, and Apocalypse basically sealed Ice Age's fate by Vindicating one of its two lands. Apocalypse followed the disruption with another Spectral Lynx, and a few Death Grasps later, the match was sealed. Was history about to repeat itself, with Ice Age snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory? On to game 4!
Ice Age was sick. Sick and tired of constantly being forced out of the tournament in the first round. Some of the time it deserved to be booted out, but for the most part, it lost the matches it should have won. Ice Age was determined not to let this happen again, and decided to open the fourth game as aggressively as possible by casting a first-turn Foul Familiar. Apocalypse, because of not having a first-turn play could only sit back, play a land and take the 3 damage that was coming to it. Ice Age had no second-turn play other than attacking with the Foul Familiar, and on Apocalypse's turn, it answered the evil spirit with a Spectral Lynx. At the end of Apocalypse's turn, however, Ice Age decided to go for broke by Demonic Consulting for Necropotence, which removed a good 15 cards from the game. On its turn, Ice Age continued to press Apocalypse's life total by Dark Banishing the Spectral Lynx, and continuing the beatdown, dropping Apoc to 14 life. Apocalypse, though it was getting its head beaten in by the Familiar, was able to keep its mind sharp enough to remember the lesson it learned in the third game, and decided to Vindicate Ice Age's Swamp, leaving it with only a Sulfurous Springs and a Mountain as its mana sources. Thankfully for Ice Age, it was able to add another Swamp on the following turn, and Foul Familiar continued its seven-turn march of doom by dropping Apocalypse to 11.
Apocalypse was determined to stop the bleeding, and on its fourth turn, summoned dual Lynxes for protection, but lacked any regeneration mana for blocking purposes. Ice Age tempted Apocalypse on the next turn by attacking with the Foul Familiar, but knowing that it would just be recast, Apocalypse let itself be dropped down to a worrisome 8 life. Following combat, Ice Age added another Mountain, followed by an Abyssal Specter to continue the beatdown in the skies! This was not to be however, as Apocalypse Death Grasped the Specter on its turn, bringing it back up to 11 life, and dealing with the fearsome rider simultaneously. Apocalypse, quenched from devouring the fearsome flier, decided to go on the offensive, attacking with both of its Lynxes, clawing Ice Age down to 15 life. Ice Age was content to try again, when on the next turn it cast a second Abyssal Specter, and attacked with the Familiar, bringing Apoc back down to 8. Apocalypse, now fearing the second threat to its life total, drew and cast an important Pernicious Deed taking pain from a Llano war Wastes, but decided to stay at home with its Lynxes, fearing a counterattack plus Incinerate ending the game.
On Ice Age's turn, it finally drew the Sulfurous Springs necessary to cast the Necropotence that it had tutored for so many turns ago, but decided to attack with Foul Familiar, which garnered a block from one of the Lynxes, and the Familiar was allowed to die. After combat, the second Springs was put into play, followed by the Necropotence, which was activated five times, putting Ice Age at 7 life. Apocalypse, now with mana ready to pump into Deed, attacked with all three of its Lynxes, one of which was blocked by Abyssal Specter, putting Ice Age at a dangerous 3 life. Apocalypse, lacking the Death Grasp to seal the deal, shipped the turn back to Ice Age. Ice Age, now desperate, cast its third Abyssal Specter of the match, and sacrificed two Mountains to gain four life, and paid two to Necropotence. Apocalypse, now sensing that the time was right, activated Pernicious Deed for 4, and regenerated a Spectral Lynx with the remaining black mana, wiping away Ice Age's board. Ice Age, however, was ready for just such an occurrence, and used its remaining 2 untapped Mountains and Sulfurous Springs to cast Dark Banishing targeting the Lynx! Breathing a sigh of relief, Ice Age allowed Apocalypse its turn.
Apocalypse, annoyed that Ice Age was able to dodge the bullet, cast another Pernicious Deed off of a painland, putting it at 6 life. Ice Age responded by casting another Zuran Orb and a topdecked Foul Familiar. On the following turn, Apocalypse popped the Pernicious Deed for 3 mana, at which point, Ice Age sacrificed a Mountain to put it at 5 life, and returned the Familiar with a Sulfurous Springs, putting it back at 3. Apocalypse followed the activation by playing another land, and casting a third Pernicious Deed. Foul Familiar was replayed on Ice Age's turn, and with nothing left to do, passed. Apocalypse at this point, was a Death Grasp away from winning the game and forcing a game 5, and with only 5 life remaining, it was getting down to the wire for the exasperated control deck. It drew, played a Caves of Koilos, and passed. Ice Age used its following turn to attack, but Apocalypse, fearing an Incinerate closer, popped the Pernicious Deed to force the 3-power spirit to jump back to Ice Age's hand. It was replayed, but with only Sulfurous Springs to cast it, Ice Age fell to a perilous 1 life! Apocalypse feared the Incinerate, but unfortunately for Ice Age, it lacked the powerful 2 mana burn spell to close the game out the following turn. Apocalypse again tapped on the top of its deck, hoping to find the elusive Death Grasp that it needed to win the game. It drew...
Another land! Apocalypse's heart sunk, believing this to be the last turn that it had to live in Battle of the Sets VIII. Ice Age drew and attacked with Foul Familiar, putting Apocalypse at 2 life. Ice Age, unfortunately for Apocalypse had topdecked something potentially useful. Not an Incinerate, but a Demonic Consultation! Having had two of the four Incinerates that it had in the deck removed via the first Demonic Consultation, Consulting for an Incinerate was a potentially risky play should both of them be in the top 6 cards. Apocalypse could win even if it drew nothing of value on the next turn, because Ice Age would be decked before it could apply the game-winning attack from the Familiar! It was still a risk that Ice Age was willing to take, because it could not let Apocalypse draw so much as a Spectral Lynx if it had any chance of winning whatsoever. Ice Age drew a quick, deep breath and Consulted, naming Incinerate. In the top 6 cards:
ICE AGE WINS! ICE AGE WINS!!!! ICE AGE WINS!!!!!!! For the first time ever, Ice Age, the deck that could not move past the first round, manages to catch a break and defeat the #1 seeded favourite, Apocalypse! In what will invariably go down as a Battle of the Sets classic matchup, Ice Age manages to advance further than it ever has before on the back of a card that has hurt Ice Age so many times: Consultation. But what perils await the RB control deck in the second round? Read on to find out!
3-1 Ice Age
Invasion vs. Urza's Destiny
This is the matchup that will decide who Ice Age plays for the next match. Ice Age would much prefer Urza's Destiny to win, because Ice Age has played and been put out by Invasion in Battle of the Sets VI, where the disruption and burn proved to be too much for the slower rumbling RB deck. Destiny would suffer from the same problem as Apocalypse, where it requires a good deal of mana and board position in order to win the game, all of which can be nastily swept away by a gigantic Jokulhaups. However, the match at hand is actually a re-match, from last tournament, Battle of the Sets VII, where Invasion narrowly edged Urza's Destiny three games to two to move on to the second round. However, in this grudge match, Destiny flexed its powerful green muscles to show why it's a second tier deck, and Invasion is not. In the first game, Invasion applied the early-game beats, but unfortunately, the mana acceleration available to Destiny allowed it to pop a turn 4 Thorn Elemental into play through a Pattern of Rebirth'd Yavimaya Elder. The game was over soon after that. Game two, Addle forced the discard of Rofellos, Llano war Emissary, and a third turn Addle forced Destiny to discard a Pattern of Rebirth. Masticore hit play on the fourth turn, but a Void for four knocked out not only the Masticore in play, but also the Masticore that lay in wait in Destiny's hand. A few turns of draw-go, until Invasion played a Pyre Zombie, and Destiny answered with an Ancient Silverback.
Invasion was at 9 mana, which meant that it could recur, cast, chump and shock Destiny every turn with the Zombie, but unfortunately for Invasion, Destiny finally found a Masticore, which would allow it to negate the chump block. The game ended soon afterwards due to a savage thrashing from the angry gorilla and mechanical cat. Invasion got its discard on in game 3, with a double Ravenous Rat/Addle opening, but a turn 5 Thorn Elemental ended the game completely for Invasion, who was unable to draw Void in time. With Invasion dispatched, the aforementioned Ice Age/Urza's Destiny matchup is going to happen in round two. I'd tune in for that one if I were you!
3-0 Urza's Destiny
Mercadian Masques vs. Betrayers of Kamigawa
This match was a complete romp for Mercadian Masques, which won the match easily on the back of Nightwing Gliders and Rishadan Ports. The final outcome was 3-0, which isn't too much of a surprise, when you take into consideration that Betrayers' best anti-aggro cards, Final Judgement and Genju of the Fields, are almost completely nullified by Rishadan Ports, which Masques managed to draw in every single affair. Targeted removal was negligible due to the various protection spells that Masques has. This signals the end of the WB Betrayers of Kamigawa control deck, and through further testing another deck, probably featuring Umezawa's Jitte, will be introduced.
3-0 Mercadian Masques
Darksteel vs. Alliances
Alliances started first, but Darksteel came out of the gates more quickly by casting a Aether Vial followed by a Genesis Chamber, followed by a second Genesis Chamber. Alliances started more slowly than Darksteel, as it added lands for its first three turns, but decided to stop the ridiculousness of two active Genesis Chambers by Primitive Justiceing both of them. However, not wanting Alliances to so easily double up on it, Darksteel used its two counter Aether Vial to put an Arcbound Slith in play in response to the Primitive Justice, creating two Genesis Chamber tokens. Alliances shot back with a Pyrokinesis pitching another Primitive Justice, eliminating all of Darksteel's hard work. The good news for Darksteel was that a Primitive Justice was eliminated in the exchange.
Darksteel rebooted on turn four with a THIRD Genesis Chamber, which virtually guaranteed an instant-speed 2 CC artifact creature showing up at some point during Alliances turn. Alliances came out stronger on the fourth turn, casting a Yavimaya Ants (making a Myr), which prompted a tap from Darksteel's Aether Vial, plopping an Myr token and a Arcbound Stinger into play. The Myr token gave his life over for the team, and Darksteel fell to 16 life. Darksteel decided to go on the aggressive on the next turn, when it attacked with a Blinkmoth Nexus and the Arcbound Stinger, and followed the attack phase with a second Aether Vial. Perhaps another Aether Vial activation forthcoming on Alliances turn?
Alliances attacked with its own Myr token on the its turn, which put Darksteel at 15 life. Alliances was now faced with an interesting problem. In its hand it had a third Primitive Justice, a Forest and a Balduvian Horde. The choice for Alliances was difficult. On the one hand, it needed to jump on Alliances quickly in its weakened state before an Arcbound Ravager, Arcbound Crusher or, heaven forbid, a Skullclamp to kick-start its stalled aggro deck. On the other hand, Balduvian Horde could force Alliances to discard the potentially game-breaking Primitive Justice. Alliances, after considering its options, cast the Balduvian Horde, and thankfully randomly discarded the Forest instead of the Justice, and a second Myr token was added to its side.
Darksteel was unable to add anything relevant with the Aether Vial, but after rubbing the shiny chrome on a Myr's head for good luck, was able to draw into a Skullclamp! Like Tarzan calling to his jungle allies for help, Skullclamp started sacrificing things left and right, first a Myr, then a tapped Blinkmoth Nexus, drawing four cards immediately. The one counter Aether Vial added a Myr Moonvessel and a Myr to the board. Moonvessel was sacrificed to the card drawing-machine, and the mana was used to pay for a second Moonvessel! This turn encapsulated the brokenness of Skullclamp, because before everything was said and done, the aforementioned card allowed Darksteel to draw SIX cards! What a windfall! Slumping back in its chair, Alliances began its turn in far a worse position than last. It wasn't giving up easily however, as it still had the advantage on the board, however marginal. Alliances attacked into Darksteel, and a Myr token went to artifact heaven keeping Balduvian Horde from connecting, and Darksteel was reduced to 13 life. A Death Spark popped the Myr Moonvessel, but the extra mana was channelled into a Blinkmoth Nexus to avoid extra damage.
On the Darksteel's next turn, it decided to cast the big artifact poppa himself, Arcbound Crusher, which grew thanks to a Myr token, attacked with the remaining Myr and passed. However, unfortunately for Darksteel, Alliances still had its ace in the hole, Primitive Justice waiting in the weeds, and busted it out on its turn, killing the Arcbound Crusher and a Myr, which pumped Darksteel's remaining Myr token to 3/3 thanks to the Crusher's modular. Alliances attacked with both of its Myr tokens and the Balduvian Horde, dropping Darksteel to six life. An impressive start to the series for Alliances!
Darksteel however, was looking to turn the game around, and made a serious lunge for the steering wheel on the following turn, when it cast a second Arcbound Crusher, and used the Skullclamp to kill the 1/1 Myr token, and then tapped an Aether Vial to drop an Arcbound Stinger and Myr token into play, further pumping Arcbound Crusher up to 4/4. Darksteel then attacked with the pumped-up monster, putting Alliances at 15 life. Alliances drew, thought for a while and attacked with the Balduvian Horde, which was blocked by the Arcbound Stinger, which further pumped the Crusher. Without anything further to do, Alliances passed the turn.
Darksteel, now feeling the mojo drew a card and cast its third Arcbound Crusher of the match! The other Crusher swelled to 7/7, and Darksteel used Skullclamp to draw two more cards off of a Myr token. The proverbial droppings hit the proverbial fan when Darksteel Vialed out an Arcbound Ravager, which pumped the Arcbound Crushers to 9/9 and 4/4 respectively, and put potentially the most dangerous card in Darksteel's deck on the table. Faced with a scenario where there was no way of winning the game, Alliances conceded in disgust. Darksteel proved its brokenness by surviving a 3 Primitive Justice draw by just going broken on consecutive turns with the help of Skullclamp, Genesis Chamber and a pair of Arcbound Crushers. Disgusting.
Game two began with a bang, with Darksteel dropping a Skullclamp into play. Unfortunately for Alliances, it was unable to Primitive Justice the dangerous artifact on its turn, and merely added a forest and passed. Genesis Chamber added to Darksteel's board on the following turn, promising a broken start should Alliances not provide an answer the next turn. Alliances did however manage to provide an answer on the next turn in the form of Pillage, targeting the Skullclamp. Darksteel regained its turn, and added an Arcbound Stinger, and a Myr Moonvessel, which of course produced two Myr. Alliances grinned slyly, as it drew and cast a Pyrokinesis pitching a Primitive Justice killing all 4 creatures on Darksteel's side of the board! Alliances followed up the Pyro with a Yavimaya Ants which rumbled in for 5 damage.
Darksteel followed this with a second flurry of creatures: Arcbound Stinger followed by a topdecked Arcbound Ravager, which of course made two Myr Tokens. Content with that turn, Darksteel passed back to Alliances. Alliances, did not pay the upkeep on the Ants, and instead followed it up with a Primitive Justice targeting the Arcbound Ravager and the Genesis Chamber. Darksteel responded by sacrificing the Genesis Chamber, a Darksteel Citadel and the Arcbound Ravager itself to place the tokens onto the Stinger, pumping it up to a 4/4 and preventing Alliances from gaining any life. With that, Alliances passed. Darksteel, now facing a race scenario, decided to turn the 4/4 Stinger as well as an animated Blinkmoth Nexus sideways to smack Alliances down to 13 life. Just as soon as Darksteel completed its turn, Alliances was again on the offensive, attacking with a Yavimaya Ants, which was blocked by a Myr, but thanks to trample still subtracted 4 from Darksteel's life, putting at a dangerous 5 life. Like two prize fighters, Darksteel and Alliances were trading body blows, with Alliances coming out ahead at this juncture in the match.
Darksteel attacked right back at Alliances with the Stinger, putting Darksteel at 9 life, holding the Blinkmoth back to stop a potential Yavimaya Ants from running away with the game. Unfortunately for Darksteel it was unable to add anything else to the board to strengthen its position in this match. Alliances seized upon this opportunity by casting the powerful Balduvian Horde and randomly discarded a forest. Alliances now had a commanding board and life lead over Darksteel, should the dangerous artifact deck not topdeck anything. With Darksteel preferring to keep both the Stinger and the Nexus back to matchup better against the Horde, and passed it back to Alliances. Alliances, seized upon this opportunity by attacking with the Horde. Darksteel, fearing a trick, blocked solely with the Stinger, which donated all of its tokens to an animated Blinkmoth Nexus. Alliances was holding back a haymaker in reserve, however, and unleashed a Primitive Justice on the juiced-up Nexus after combat, and Darksteel was forced to deal with the rampaging Balduvian Horde on the following turn or lose the game! Darksteel drew a card; Skullclamp, which was, of course, useless to the now defeated artifact menace.
Darksteel, having been humbled by both its own poor draws and a resurgent Alliances, started the game with Aether Vial, which promised to jump quickly on the more controlling anti-artifact deck. Alliances played a Mountain, threatening a Death Spark and passed the turn. Darksteel proved that it was going to come out swinging with a hard cast Arcbound Ravager and passed it back to Alliances. Alliances, now fearing the mechanical machine muncher, added another land and attempted to Guerrilla Tactics the Ravager. Darksteel, not to be outdone, Vialed out an Arcbound Worker! The Worker was quickly sacrificed to the Ravager as a devastating counter punch to the would-be removal spell! The exchange was not over because Alliances returned its own uppercut when it unleashed another burn spell on the now-hapless Ravager in the form of a Pillage fuelled Pyrokinesis!
With both fighters winded from the exchange, it was Darksteel who recovered first. Adding another counter to Aether Vial, attacking with Blinkmoth Nexus and playing out a Myr Moonvessel for good measure. Alliances drew a card, searching for its third mana source, but unfortunately was denied by its own deck! Having nothing else to say that turn it passed, but guess what? Darksteel came over the top with ANOTHER Arcbound Ravager at the end of the turn! What a huge play! It followed up that play by attacking with Blinkmoth Nexus, Ravager and Myr Moonvessel, putting Alliances at 16. Alliances, again missing its third land drop attempted to Primitive Justice the Arcbound Ravager, but another in-response Arcbound (this time a Stinger) was brought out just in time to inherit the counters on the Ravager, putting it at 2/2. It then attacked on the next turn, putting Alliances at 12 life and added an Arcbound Worker to supplement its offence.
Alliances, which was getting pounded by both Darksteel's creatures, as well as the fact that it couldn't make a land drop to save its life, made an oddly fortuitous topdeck when it was able to draw into another Pyrokinesis, which wrathed all three creatures on Darksteel's side of the board! Unfortunately for Darksteel, the Myr Moonvessel's death trigger was not able to animate the Blinkmoth Nexus in time to collect any counters from the dying Arcbounds. Darksteel, trying to keep Alliances from taking control of the game, added its fourth land and played out its long-game star, Arcbound Crusher only to have Alliances make its third land drop and Pillage it on its turn! Frustrated, Darksteel came right back and cast a second Arcbound Crusher, hoping that this one would be able to stick around for a bit longer. Alliances attempted to Guerrilla Tactics the Crusher, but Darksteel was prepared, and tapped the Blinkmoth Nexus to nab the counters off of the dying beast. The following turn, Alliances was dropped to 10 life with a Nexus attack, and added a Moonvessel to cap off its turn. Alliances, now faced with a winnable position, could only watch as it was unable to make another land drop, and as a result had to pass the turn. Alliances and Darksteel went back and forth, with Alliances Death Sparking a Myr Moonvessel, and Darksteel adding another, with Darksteel continuing to attack.
Alliances, trying to jump back into this one, uncorked a Yavimaya Ants to rumble in for 5. The Ants were a threat at a time when Alliances was desperately searching for answers. Darksteel attacked again, this time pumping the Blinkmoth Nexus with a second, arriving in play before combat, and put Alliances at 3 life. Alliances was in a spot where it needed to draw either a Pillage or a Primitive Justice to stem the ever advancing tide, as even a creature to block the Moonvessel would likely be too little to stop Blinkmoth Nexi from beating for the win two turns in succession. Alliances drew, revealed a land, and conceded the game. Along with the land, Alliances revealed two near-useless Deadly Insects, which, due to the high concentration of 1/1s clogging the board, couldn't be used as effectively in this match as it normally would be able to.
Alliances began game four with a Mountain, to which Darksteel responded with a Skullclamp. Alliances went draw-go, and Darksteel continued to curve out with a Genesis Chamber. A Primitive Justice blew up the Genesis Chamber to avoid giving Darksteel tons of 1/1 creatures. Darksteel played out an Arcbound Slith on its turn to add some pressure to the board, and passed. Alliances added a fourth land, and the turn went right back to Darksteel, who attacked, pumped its Slith to a 2/2 and attempted to add an Arcbound Crusher, but the Slith was toasted in response with a Guerrilla Tactics, and the Crusher was Death Sparked on Alliances turn to prevent any extra shenanigans, and Alliances passed. Darksteel added an Arcbound Stinger, and made it official when Arcbound Ravager was also thrown into the mix! Alliances pointed all four of the damage from the Pyro onto the Ravager, which ate a Darksteel Citadel and then itself to add two counters to the Stinger, which expanded to a robust 3/3.
Yavimaya Ants blew by the non-blocking Stinger, and Darksteel was reduced to 15 life. On Darksteel's turn, the Stinger was Clamped up and Darksteel added a Vial for good measure, but the Stinger was kept back to block the marauding Yavimaya vermin and draw a few cards in the process. Indeed, Alliances paid the Insect's upkeep and attacked into the Stinger, which died, drawing two cards for Darksteel, and donating its tokens to a quickly animated Blinkmoth Nexus. Darksteel still took 3 damage from trample, putting it at 12 life. On Darksteel's turn, it added a counter to Vial, animated a counter-less Blinkmoth Nexus, which it then sacrificed it to Skullclamp. On the same turn, Darksteel cast a Genesis Chamber and passed the turn.
Alliances, now running short on useable hate cards, cast an Elvish Ranger and passed the turn. Darksteel added a second counter to Aether Vial, cast an Arcbound Crusher, which got pumped by Genesis Chamber adding a Myr token. The Myr token was clamped to draw two cards, and Darksteel passed with an untapped Aether Vial threatening to drop a deadly payload onto the board. Time was running out for Alliances, which needed to draw into an answer for the deadly Crusher that was now patrolling the opposite end of the battlefield, or risk losing a game that would almost certainly get ridiculous should Alliances allow Darksteel to untap. Pillage was waiting on the top of Alliances' deck, and it was quickly dispatched on the Arcbound Crusher. Darksteel, however, was not bluffing the open Aether Vial, which it tapped to add a devastating Arcbound Ravager, which further pumped the Crusher to 4/4, and was immediately sacrificed to feed the monstrous metal muncher, which swelled to an enormous 5/5.
On the next turn, Darksteel animated another Blinkmoth Nexus to feed the Skullclamp again. Things quickly got ridiculous, with Darksteel dropping a Moonvessel, Clamping it, adding another Moonvessel and Clamping that, dropping an Arcbound Worker, which was sacrificed to an attacking Ravager, which was now a humongous 8/8 after sacrificing the Myr token that was chumped by Alliances' Myr token. Alliances, faced with such an absurd turn, drew a Pillage and attempted to cast it on Arcbound Ravager, but Darksteel tapped the Vial, and almost in a complete carbon copy of the last turn, sacrificed the 8/8 Ravager to the new one, making it a 10/10. Alliances was now totally out of the game, but decided to stick around for the last turn, having a chump blocker in Elvish Ranger. However, things got even sillier, when Darksteel went clamp crazy, chaining Arcbound Workers and vialed out Stingers together, making a total overload in Genesis Chamber tokens, and pushing the number of counters on Ravager to an insane 24/24.
Alliances' eyes nearly bugged out of its skull. Now with literally no way of winning the game, it conceded out of frustration.
Darksteel, while facing a competitor that seemed to have the necessary pieces with which to defeat it eventually dominated Alliance with its robust threat base and the broken drawing power of Skullclamp. Darksteel, in Battle of the Sets VII, drew Alliances, but won due to a rules misunderstanding that was unable to be corrected in time. This time it left any remaining doubters looking foolish by running Alliances out of the building completely. Congrats to Darksteel for advancing to the next round.
Groups three and four would normally be put together, but as I said earlier in the article, the size is just too immense to fit into a single article, so it will be released later on this week. See you again soon!
By Alfred on February 16th, 2007 · Filed in Variant Formats · Comments not available just now