First, I would like to thank my playing partner Nazdakka for helping me play all of the matches in the tournament so far! Thanks dude! Also, I would like to thank the fine editing staff at MTGSalvation.com for editing like, a crap-load of stuff. I also apologize for the tardiness of this article, but it was a lot of stuff, and I was going through a few things in my personal life that required a little bit of time. Thanks for the patience!
If you don't know what Battle of the Sets is, or want to know a bit more about the decks that are competing in the Play-In Division, check out Battle of the Sets Introduction Part I and Part II. That will fill you in about what this fine tournament is all about. The Play-In Division, however, is an unusual part of the Tournament, which is not unlike countries in soccer that need to earn their way into the World Cup, because they aren't good enough to qualify based on their past performance. Basically, all of the worst decks and sets in Magic history are fighting for the opportunity to make it into the main tournament, and only the victor of the 8 man mini-tournament will be able to take that final remaining spot in Battle of the Sets. Who will it be this time? Read on to find out!
Planeshift vs. Fallen Empires
The first match of the tournament is an interesting one, with Planeshift fielding a new 3 color deck, and Fallen Empires using its traditional monoblack build. In this match up, Planeshift is the control deck, due to the large amount of creature removal that it has available to it, as well as huge monsters like Shivan Wurm and Phyrexian Scuta. Fallen Empires is thus forced into the aggro role, where it can use Hymn to Tourach and possibly Mindstab Thrull to buy time for the rest of its motley horde to go to work.
Game 1: Planeshift won the roll and started first, while Fallen Empires was forced to mulligan a sub par hand. The game began slowly, with both decks building up mana. The first play of the tournament was Fallen Empires', which plopped down a Derelor on turn four. Without even batting an eyelash, Planeshift terminated its life at the end of FE's turn. Planeshift drew and played a forest and passed the turn, apparently still waiting for a suitable creature to cast. Fallen Empires, knowing that the chance of a Terminate was significantly less than before attempted a tricky play - sacrificing an Ebon Stronghold to cast Derelor and enchanting it with Thrull Retainer. The risk was taken knowing full well that Terminate was the only removal spell capable of stopping the 4/4, and soon to be 5/5. Defying Fallen Empires' expectation, Planeshift had the Terminate! In one play, Planeshift managed to triple up on Fallen Empires, as well as gain a significant tempo boost.
Planeshift, like a stolid gunslinger, simply played another land and passed the turn, watching closely for Empires to make a move before reacting. Empires drew, and played Order of the Ebon Hand. Before passing the turn, Empires attempted to cast Thrull Retainer on the Order. Bad move. Planeshift roasted the Order with Retainer on the stack, again making Empires pay for attempting to enchant a creature. Empires served up a Necrite next, and it too was burnt to a crisp via a Darigaaz's Charm. Thrull Champion? Meet Magma Burst. Finally, Empires cast another Thrull Champion that was determined not to be removed. Planeshift drew and passed. Thrull Champion thumped Planeshift to 17, then to 14. Planeshift was having trouble doing much of anything due to the fact that its hand was packed with 7/7 Gating creatures, and no outlet for their usually useful bounce ability. But the next draw revealed a Phyrexian Scuta, and the Thrull Champion was suddenly outmatched, at the price of 3 life.
While the following draw revealed nothing of use for Empires, Planeshift drew its third Darigaaz's Charm, and scorched the Champ, allowing the giant zombie to rumble in for 5 damage. Attempting to stem the tide, Empires played an Order of the Ebon hand, which the following turn would be able to stop the Scuta. However, Planeshift's deck just kept on serving up removal, showing it Magma Burst, which it kicked to clear a path for Scuta, as well as drop Empires to 7. Empires, now in topdeck mode, needed miracle draws to stave off the Phyrexian death machine, but all Empires' deck managed to cough up was an Aeolipile and a measly Swamp. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, as Planeshift managed to draw ANOTHER Terminate, its third of the match.
Game 2: With Planeshift needing only a single match to move on, Fallen Empires needed to serve up its 'A' game to have any chance of prevailing in the best of 3 series. The game started off innocently enough, with Planeshift mulliganing into a more suitable hand, and Fallen Empires leading off with a Swamp. Planeshift played a Mountain, and passed it back. Fallen Empires then uncorked its best and most crippling card: Hymn to Tourach. Away went Thornscape Familiar and Magma Burst. Planeshift appeared nonplussed, as it calmly drew a card, played a Swamp and passed the turn. Looking to capitalize on its opponent's lack of activity, Fallen Empires drew, laid down a swamp and cast a second Hymn to Tourach! Planeshift unhappily parted with Darigaaz's Charm and Phyrexian Scuta. Planeshift was reeling from consecutive haymakers, which stripped it of 4 very relevant cards. Still content to remain in the fight, the beleaguered pugilist laid down another Mountain, and passed the turn. Fallen Empires drew a card, and stared directly at its opponent Planeshift with a menacing grin. What could it be planning? The suspense ended when Empires revealed a third Hymn to Tourach! Stunned that its opponent had drawn such a fortuitous hand, and compelled by the eerie chant, Planeshift parted ways with Flametongue Kavu and a Forest. Planeshift was down on its knees, and Empires needed only to find a suitable weapon with which to deliver the killing blow. That weapon appeared the following turn in the form of Derelor, and quickly ended the match with the help of a pair of Ebon Hands.
Game 3: Empires, for all intents and purposes, drew the absolute perfect hand in the previous game, with an unheard of triple Hymn draw. Could it recreate the magic one more time to move past the more powerful Planeshift? In the last game, Planeshift was like Chumbawumba's road manager, in that it was forced to listen to the same terrible song over and over again. Determined not to let this happen again, Planeshift opened aggressively by playing Thornscape Familiar and then passing the turn tentatively. Empires played its second Swamp, and revealed another Hymn to Tourach. Out went a Thornscape Familiar as well as a Thunderscape Battlemage. Frustrated, but still defiant, Planeshift swung in with Thornscape. Even though it didn't manage to hit a third land drop, Empires wasn't quite done singing, and out came yet another Hymn to Tourach, and this time, Planeshift discarded two Flametongue Kavus. Furious over its opponent's luck, Planeshift struck again with Thornscape, determined to shut the one-hit wonder up for good.
Empires attempted to throw a roadblock in the way of Thornscape Familiar by casting Order of the Ebon hand, but that was removed at the end of its turn due to a Magma Burst allowing the Familiar to hit for two again. Fallen Empires, now growing concerned due to its ever decreasing life total and its inability to find a third land, dropped another Order of the Ebon hand into play, hoping this time it would stick. Planeshift had different ideas however, and Terminated the second Order, and dropped Empires to 12. Empires crossed its fingers and hoped against hope to draw into that all important third land, but drew instead an Aeolipile; which could stop the Familiar on the following turn. Planeshift got nasty the next turn, using Darigaaz's Charm to return a discarded Flametongue Kavu to its hand, and beat Empires down to 10. Empires was desperate now, but managed to draw a game-saving Swamp on the following turn, and summoned Mindstab Thrull to stop the bleeding. The Thrull was torched the next turn by FTK, and the prickly insect stung Empires again. After untapping, Fallen Empires used Aeolipile to get rid of the Kavu, but had no other play other than dropping Ebon Stronghold into play and passing the turn. The familiar, which had already done 12 damage, was allowed to swing in again, dropping Empires to a precarious six life.
Though the match started out quite strongly for Fallen Empires, the match was quickly slipping out of reach, due in part to FE's mana problems, as well as FE failing to end the game quickly, allowing Planeshift to draw its way out of the disruption that Empires threw at it. The next few turns were particularly brutal, and when Fallen Empires summoned a Mindstab Thrull for defence, Planeshift again used a Charm to return FTK, and managed to cast it in the same turn. Facing down the spectre of Thornscape Familiar and Flametongue Kavu, Fallen Empires shrunk back into the shadows, defeated.
Homelands vs. Prophecy
On the same side of the play-in tournament bracket, Homelands went down two games to nil to a much more powerful Prophecy deck. The first game wasn't even close, with Prophecy taking the early life lead with two Citadel of Pain, followed by two Troublesome Spirits. Homelands tried to stay in it, but with no mana sink, the Citadels quickly ate up its life total, and an all-out suicide attack dropped Homelands to 1. A few turns later Rhystic Lightning appeared to make it 1-0 Prophecy. The second game was ridiculous, and was probably one of the longest games ever played in BotS history. This game, Homelands was able to sink mana into Ribbon Snake to avoid Citadel, and creatures started building up on both sides. The game lasted until there were only 9 cards in each player's library, each knowing full well that if they attacked full force, their army would be blocked and the resulting counterattack would be sufficient to end the game. However, Prophecy drew the necessary 3 Rhystic Lightnings to close out the game when Homelands was tapped out.
The Dark vs. Legions
This was another slow, yet inevitable match, where Legions was able to overwhelm The Dark's struggling defence. Though Tracker was able to force 2-for-1s and eliminate many of Legions' smaller guys, Legions just had way too many Goblins. Compounding this fact was that Preacher, which is one of the only ways The Dark could conceivably win, kept on being removed by Gempalm Incinerator. Through chump blocking and Barl's Cage, The Dark was able to make it competitive, but the reality was that Legions slowly steamrolled The Dark under a tide of smelly, ugly little mutants and insects.
Weatherlight vs. Stronghold
The Weatherlight/Stronghold match up is essentially the age-old Control versus Aggro match up, where Weatherlight will attempt to end the game as quickly as possible, before Stronghold gets Dream Halls online and starts to crank out big effects. What helps Weatherlight in this match up is the fact that it has essentially the best first turn play ever against the Tempest block deck - Straw Golem. Golem is unshockable (except multiple Shocks) and cannot be removed until turn 5 (turn 4 with Mox Diamond), and in the meantime can add up damage quickly. The best card for Stronghold in this match up is probably Flame Wave, which acts as a one-sided Wrath of God, plus a Lightning Blast to the head, yet cannot take down the menacing Gallowbraid. This match is shaping up to be quite a barnburner, so strap yourselves in, the match is underway!
Game 1: Game one began quickly, with Weatherlight winning the roll, and starting off perfectly by laying a Swamp and casting Straw Golem. Stronghold laid down a Mountain, threatening an end of turn Shock against any smaller Weatherlight critters and passed. Weatherlight, after drawing and attacking with the Golem, lays a Swamp and casts another Golem! Much like a Fallen Empires double Hymn draw, against Stronghold, a double Straw Golem draw when Weatherlight plays first means that unless Stronghold can pull off a double shock, it is going to be taking at least 10, but as much as 14 damage before it can blow away those pesky Straw menaces with a creature. The Golems started adding up damage against the scrambling Stronghold, dropping it to 14 life, then 10 before Stronghold casted a Sift, desperately searching for a game-saving Dream Halls. Luckily for Stronghold, Weatherlight was unable to add any other creatures to the board limiting its ability to capitalize on its absurd opening. Weatherlight drew, and though it was unable to find a suitable creature, contented itself with beating Stronghold down to a wobbly six life and casted a Buried Alive for 3 Serrated Biskelions, the most useless card in Weatherlight's deck against Stronghold. It was make-or break time for Stronghold - was the Sift or the following draw step able to find the all-important Dream Halls, or even Shard Phoenix? Stronghold untapped, drew a card, played a land and...
passed the turn. Overjoyed, Weatherlight untapped, drew and cast Barrow Ghoul, and then reduced Stronghold to a razor-thin two life. Unfortunately for Weatherlight, (cue the music) this was the time that Stronghold had chosen to mount a stunning comeback! Stronghold played another land and used Flowstone Mauler as its big bad wolf, blowing both Straw Golems into the Graveyard, and stopping Barrow Ghoul from ending the game on the next attack. Weatherlight, stunned by the reversal in fortune that the Mauler provided, yet still motivated by its opponent's tenuous grasp on life decided to keep the Ghoul around for another turn, which munched a Straw Golem for sustenance. WL drew into another Barrow Ghoul, which it wisely decided to keep back, so as not to fall prey to the probable Flame Wave lurking in Stronghold's hand. Stronghold also took the slowdown in hostilities as a slight breather, drawing another card and choosing to pass the turn.
Weatherlight, irritated that the slowdown was quickly reducing the number of creatures in its grave, opted to let the Ghoul die, and drew a pivotal fifth land, allowing it to cast the original flying badboy with the soulless eyes: Morinfen. Stronghold, frightened by the silhouette of the perched legend, needed to draw the important seventh land required to hard cast the Flame Wave that was residing in its hand, or draw a Shard Phoenix with which to block. Alas! Stronghold drew neither of these things, but still had a gambit that could save the game. The trick was simple, if Stronghold attacked, and could convince Weatherlight that it had drawn either a land or a Shard Phoenix to indefinitely block the Morinfen, it might trade the flyer to take down Flowstone Mauler, and prevent from taking a large amount of damage or life loss. Stronghold, knowing the importance of the situation, confidently moved to the attack phase and whipped its Flowstone Beast into action. Weatherlight paused and weighed the situation. It knew that if it did not block, and Stronghold had a land and a Flame Wave in hand, it would be taking a massive, game-swinging amount of damage, Morinfen would be dead and Flowstone Mauler would still be on the prowl. Faced with winning the following turn, or getting almost completely knocked out of the game, Weatherlight chose to block the Mauler! The gambit worked, and Weatherlight's stomach turned when Stronghold neglected to add another land during its second main phase, knowing that it had been duped into possibly giving the game away.
Weatherlight however recouped the loss of its first Morinfen by revealing that it had another waiting to swoop out of its hand! This really put Stronghold on the hot seat, knowing that if it did not find another land with which to use Flame Wave, or find Shard Phoenix to block, the game would be over, and there weren't any tricks that could save it this time. Stronghold grasped tightly to its lucky rabbit's foot, said a solemn prayer to the topdecking gods, and drew. A LAND! Stronghold gleefully uncorked the Flame Wave that it had been hanging on to for so long, eradicating Morinfen, and dropping Weatherlight down to 16 life. Weatherlight though had been stockpiling creatures in its hand, waiting until a Flame Wave had come and gone to let them loose, like a paranoid waiting in his bomb shelter for the atomic bomb to drop. As soon as Stronghold passed the turn, Weatherlight grinned devilishly, drew a card and plopped Barrow Ghoul and two Circling Vultures into play, knowing full well that Flame Wave was the only card that had the ability to save Stronghold from being overrun. Stronghold, hoping that its seemingly limitless luck would not run out, crossed its fingers yet again and drew off the top, to find...
Another land! Weatherlight's brutish black and tan army had successfully scaled the walls of the Stronghold in the first game, but could it repeat this feat a single time more to advance further into Battle of the Sets than it ever has before?
Game 2: Stronghold, disheartened by the poor showing that it managed in the previous game, opted to start first, hoping that Weatherlight would not be as lucky this game. Stronghold again led off with a Mountain, and passed the turn. With Stronghold looking on in nervous anticipation, Weatherlight drew, played a Swamp and passed. Breathing a sigh of relief, Stronghold played another land and passed. Weatherlight, knowing that it had to start applying pressure to its opponent, drew the second Circling Vultures that was needed to keep the one it had in its original hand alive, cast both and passed. Stronghold added another land, but held onto the shock that it had in its hand back, waiting for one of the Circling Vultures to die before eliminating the other. Weatherlight started its turn by stacking the upkeep effects of the Vultures so that one flock would die, and then fed their corpses to the other hungry birds. Unfortunately for Weatherlight, Stronghold fried the cannibalistic birds as soon as Weatherlight announced its attack step. Irritated, Weatherlight used its second main phase to add a Hidden Horror to the mix, discarding Razortooth Rats. Stronghold, facing down a gruesome 4/4 centipede, needed to start generating some sort of defence, but only managed to play a land and pass the turn.
Weatherlight couldn't manage much either, only able to play Buried Alive for Serrated Biskelion, and attack Stronghold down to 16. Stronghold, now in desperate need of something, anything of use to appear on its draw step, finally managed to find Sift, which it used to draw into a Dream Halls! Smiling coyly, Stronghold passed. Weatherlight, assuming that its opponent Stronghold was in a pickle reminiscent of Game 1, attacked it down to 12, and summoned the mercurial Fledgling Djinn and handed the turn over to Stronghold. Stronghold, barely holding in its giddiness, played the powerful enchantment, and a rumbling, static crackle signalled the coming of something huge. Stronghold's Mountains erupted, sending a huge Flame Wave barrelling down on Weatherlight, completely consuming both the Fledgling Djinn and the Hidden Horror, and scorching Weatherlight for 4. Despite its board being completely wiped away, Weatherlight tried again, this time resolving a Razortooth Rats. It's at this point that Stronghold's deck completely crapped out, providing no answer to Razortooth Rats for 4 turns! In the meantime, Weatherlight did not attempt to abuse Dream Halls, but tried to resolve some threats with mana to avoid potential card disadvantage, but Stronghold had a pair of Mana Leaks to prevent that from happening.
The straw that broke the camel's back came on the turn when Razortooth Rats attacked Stronghold down to 4, when Weatherlight managed to resolve a freshly drawn Gallowbraid, which for all intents and purposes is immune to even the fiery might of Flame Wave. Stronghold needed to find a Sliver Queen on its next draw phase, or it was going to get mercilessly stomped by the stonehearted Legend. Stronghold held its breath and drew... absolutely nothing! A desperation Flame Wave was attempted, however, it was just a stylish way of conceding the game. Weatherlight wins its first ever series, booting the overmatched Stronghold in the minimum two games, and goes on to face Legions in the play-in semi-finals!
Weatherlight vs. Legions
Unlike its first match up, Legions poses a much more difficult problem for Weatherlight, in that potential ace Straw Golem, and the overall tendency of giving up card advantage for speed could backfire horribly in a close creature to creature dogfight. And that is exactly what happened in this match up. In the first game, a second turn Barrow Ghoul fuelled by discarding a Circling Vultures gave Weatherlight the early advantage, which quickly evaporated as Legions piled on the creatures, absorbing Ghoul damage until it could play a Goblin Goon. Stalled on the attack, and with the Ghoul quickly eating up Weatherlight's graveyard, Weatherlight was forced to double block a Goon with Ghoul and Fledgling Djinn, and it was all downhill from there; just too many little green pests. The second game seemed more promising for Weatherlight, because it was able to start the game with a first turn Circling Vultures, which it was able to maintain by pitching another Vultures, and then playing a Barrow Ghoul and letting it die. Vultures was able to reduce Legions to 11 life, but it was also busy stockpiling goblins, and eventually was able to cook the Vultures with a Gempalm Incinerator. Serrated Biskelion slowed the goblin attack by doubling up on a morphed Unstable Hulk and a Drill Sergeant, but just like last game, Goblin Goon forced a double block from Hidden Horror and Fledgling Djinn, and the remaining hooligan horde cleaned up from there.
The only question after two absolute thrashings on the part of Legions, is who's next? After two straight two-nothing victories, either Planeshift or Prophecy is going to feel the brunt of an all-out goblin offensive (and yes, they truly are).
Prophecy vs. Planeshift
What a potent match up! Planeshift and Prophecy are arguably the best decks in the whole play-in tournament, and one could say that this is even the fight for the whole play-in division. Legions would have something to say about that, which would probably be some sort of grunt, or half-formed word like "glok" BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Ahem. In terms of the match up itself Flametongue Kavu should be golden, as it has the ability to kill any creature, sans a pumped up Scoria Cat or un-animated Chimeric Idol, and Shivan Wurm is just plain bigger than anything that Prophecy has to offer, and can trample over the smaller creatures. Prophecy on the other hand has Citadel of Pain, which should be great in this match up, and only removable by Thunderscape Battlemage, it also has evasive creatures to end the game before Prophecy can stabilize. Prophecy, because its creatures are smaller, and because it runs less removal, is decidedly the aggro deck in this match up, and will try to win the game as quickly as possible. Planeshift on the other hand will attempt to keep its life total high, so that when the late game rolls around, its fat creatures, removal and card advantageous creatures will carry the day. Without further ado, let's get this game underway!
Game 1: Prophecy won the die roll, and started off with a Mountain and Branded Brawlers, and Planeshift likewise played a Mountain, but did not have a first turn play. Prophecy decided to up the ante by playing a Spiketail Hatchling, useful both because it can attack and block, and also because it slows an opponent's tempo, either by countering a spell, or making an opponent play around it. Planeshift, still biding its time played a forest and passed the turn. Prophecy then played probably the most effective card in its arsenal against Planeshift: Citadel of Pain. Citadel made Planeshift make a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't decision on each one of its turns, which is the choice whether to take damage from the Citadel, or whether to tap out, and play into cards like Brawlers or Spiketail Hatchling. An understandably skittish Planeshift untapped, played another Mountain, and took 3 damage from Citadel of Pain! Yeouch!
Spiketail Hatchling continued to peck Planeshift's noggin, and very quickly, Planeshift was at 15 life. Planeshift, eager to slow the damage from Citadel, as well as kill that pesky Spiketail, blasted it with a Magma Burst. However, seeing as Planeshift had only 4 lands in play, this allowed Branded Brawler to clobber Planeshift down to 13 life, and Prophecy continued the barrage with a Scoria Cat! Now very much in trouble, Planeshift casted Flametongue Kavu, targeting the Brawlers, and passed. Scoria Cat attacked, and Planeshift didn't block because it was hoping to cast a Shivan Wurm on the following turn. This however, resulted in a huge loss of life, because Prophecy was holding a Rhystic Lightning, which knocked Planeshift from its seemingly safe life total of 13 to a teetering 3 life. And though a Shivan Wurm was summoned on the next turn, a second Scoria Cat sealed the deal, and put Prophecy up one game to nothing!
Game 2: Now, with its tournament life on the line for the second match in a row, Planeshift needed to win two games in a row to defeat the frustrating blue/red tempo deck. The first game was decided partly due to Prophecy's fast start, and also because Planeshift got mana flooded. Planeshift chose to play first in the second game, and led off with a Mana Cylix. Prophecy answered back with a first turn Branded Brawler. The arms race continued with Planeshift adding a Thornscape Familiar, the insect who knows how to save you money on your car insurance.... err.... mana costs. A Hatchling joined the Brawler, just like last game, and Brawlers made the life totals 18-20 in favour of Prophecy. Planeshift then started to enact its game plan, by Terminating the Hatchling, and evening the life totals. Planeshift then cleared the untapped Branded Brawlers out of the way with Darigaaz's Charm, and swung again. Prophecy added a Troublesome Spirit, but that too was eliminated thanks to another Terminate. Another turn came and went for Prophecy, signalling that things were going awry in Prophecy's mana department. It was stuck on 3 Islands and a single Mountain, meaning that perhaps a few Scoria Cats were lurking in Proph's hand, unable to be cast. The secret was unearthed on Planeshift's next turn, when it cast a cheap Thunderscape Battlemage, which knocked a Scoria Cat and a Citadel of Pain out of Prophecy's hand. Prophecy fried Planeshift's Familiar on its next turn, but the plucky little bug had done a considerable amount of damage: 8 over 4 turns. The Battlemage however, picked up where the Insect left off, and continued battering a seemingly helpless Prophecy. The sun was beginning to set on Prophecy's chances of winning the game, and after a few more draw phases revealing no Mountains, or anything particularly useful, Prophecy revealed its hand, which of course was packed with Scoria Cats and a Veteran Brawler, which was useless for blocking purposes at such a low life total and no mana sinks.
Game 3: If the previous game seemed a little unfair for Prophecy, the last game in this series was a complete blowout. Prophecy managed to play only three lands over the course of this very short game, and the game essentially ended on the fourth turn, when Planeshift resolved a cheap Shivan Wurm, which is probably the most broken thing the deck can manage, and something that Prophecy has virtually no answer to.
Planeshift, after losing the first game of the series, battled back to claim the second and third games from a struggling Prophecy. Prophecy showed what it was capable of in the first game, with a quick win, but this was a little misleading, because Planeshift was mana flooded. The exact opposite was true in the second game, where Prophecy suffered from mana screw. The most telling game in the match was probably the third, which showed how quickly and decisively Planeshift could defeat another deck. Though it was true that Prophecy was mana screwed again in this match, it most likely would not have mattered, as a fourth turn Shivan Wurm is game-over for most decks in the Play-In division. And now the Planeshift must face another worthy opponent on the other side of the bracket: the bloodthirsty Legions horde.
Planeshift vs. Legions
And here we have it folks! The final match of the Play-In division! These two competitors are battle-hardened, though both had different paths through to the Finals of the Play-In division. Planeshift was tested by its first two opponents, each one threatening to knock it off by pushing the series to the full 3 games of the best of 3 series. On the flip-side, Legions ploughed through its first two opponents, losing a total of zero games, and no single game was even close. However, these wins were against opponents that were arguably less potent than Planeshift's opponents. Who will manage to make it into the regular tournament, and truly be known as the best of the bad decks? Like in all of its previous match ups, Planeshift wants to extend the game as long as possible, so that its bigger creatures, and more degenerate plays will win the game. Legions on the other hand wants to inflict as much damage as possible early in the game, so that its modest reach elements like Skirk Marauder and Unstable Hulk are able to finish off a wounded Planeshift. Legions also has the potential to simply overwhelm Planeshift's defences with card advantageous creatures like Skirk Drill Sergeant, Warbreak Trumpeter and Gempalm Incinerator. It should be a very interesting match up, so enough with the talk, and on to the game!
Game 1: Legions managed to win the all-important coin flip, and obviously chose to start first. Legions had no first turn play, and passed the turn, which Planeshift used to play the mana fixing Mana Cylix. Skirk Drill Sergeant was the first creature to appear in this grudge match, and Planeshift followed suit with Thornscape Familiar. Legions started the aggression by playing a mountain and attacking. Planeshift, fearing the card advantage should Legions have a goblin on top of its deck, especially something like Goblin Goon, neglected to block. Legions then added a Morphed creature to the board and passed. Planeshift drew, and started playing chicken with life totals by frying the morph with a Darigaaz's Charm and swinging in with Thornscape. Legions attacked once more, and then cast a potentially game-breaking Goblin Goon, which could end the game in a hurry for Legions if left unanswered. Planeshift chose to improve its long game by casting Thunderscape Battlemage, forcing Legions to discard Goblin Lookout, and Legions' own insect threat, Clickslither. This, however allowed Legions to attack with Goblin Goon and Drill Sergeant after casting a morphed creature. Both were let through, however and Legions, puzzled by the lack of blockers, passed, leaving Planeshift at eight life. The mystery was solved when Planeshift drew, Terminated the Goblin Goon, and then unleashed a kickered Magma Burst to kill both the Drill Sergeant and the morphed Unstable Hulk, eliminating Legion's entire army in one fell swoop. The Battlemage and the Familiar were able to happily tromp across the red zone and smacked Legions down to 14 life.
Legions, reeling from having all of its creatures wiped out, attempted to stabilize its board position, and play some defence by hard casting a Gempalm Incinerator. This seemed to stop Planeshift from mounting any more offensives, and it calmly drew a card, played a Mountain and passed. Legions was determined to get back into the game, so it played another Drill Sergeant, killed a Thornscape Familiar with a Gempalm Incinerator and attacked with the Incinerator in play. Planeshift, now in a position where its life total was become more and more worrisome, blocked the Incinerator with a Battlemage, which triggered the Drill Sergeant, but unfortunately for Legions, revealed a potentially useful Clickslither. Planeshift now needed a solution to Skirk Drill Sergeant, which was now a real threat due to Planeshift's much reduced life total. Planeshift finally managed to find the Magma Burst required to off the Sergeant, witch lacked the mana to activate its ability. Legions' deck had been feeding it a steady supply of Mountains over the past few turns, meaning that it was running drastically short on threats with which to close the game out.
Up to this point, the game had been a see-saw battle, with both decks managing to resolve and remove threats. Planeshift was doing its best to hang on, even in the absence of Flametongue Kavu, which is probably the best card against the mono-red Goblins deck. Legions had the upper hand in life totals, while Planeshift had reached the point where it has enough mana to cast everything it wanted to. Illustrating both these points was a Phyrexian Scuta, which Planeshift cast unkickered, due to its low life total. Legions, relieved to have something to finally cast, played a morphed creature which on the following turn was flipped to reveal Skirk Marauder, and it combined with a cycled Gempalm Incinerator to whack the Scuta. The Marauder then came in to drop Planeshift to 4 life, and Goblin Grappler was added to hasten Planeshift's demise. It was now do or die for Planeshift. It needed to find something and quick to stop the Marauder and Grappler from dealing those final points of damage. Planeshift cast its second kicked Thunderscape Battlemage of the match and this one cost Legions the last two cards in its hand: a Gempalm Incinerator and Goblin Lookout, which would surely have come in handy clearing a path for its motley assortment of miscreants. In the next attack phase, Goblin Grappler gave its life to the cause, distracting the Battlemage to allow its higher power brother in for the hit, leaving Planeshift at two life, and a second, freshly drawn Goblin Grappler was cast, which could end the game on next turn unless Planeshift could draw itself out of the mess that it created. Planeshift, in a fit of hastiness and relief, made a grave error on the next turn by using a Darigaaz's Charm as soon as it was drawn, instead of waiting for the Grappler and Marauder to attack, which stopped the Grappler from attacking into the Thornscape Battlemage.
Legions added its third Grappler of the match, and passed. Then it happened: Planeshift drew its first Flametongue Kavu of the match, and used it to pop a Goblin Grappler! Planeshift, though wary of a Clickslither/Goblin Grappler combo ending the game, it was even more worried that at some point, a Skirk Marauder would be drawn, and unmorphed to deal the coup de grace. With that in mind, Planeshift attacked with the Battlemage, which lowered Legions down to 12. A facedown creature came into play for Legions, but more importantly a Shivan Wurm entered play for Planeshift, returning Flametongue Kavu! Things were getting way, way too interesting for Legions, and with only 2 life left to get rid of before it could win the game, things were starting to slip away. All of the card advantage and tempo gained by the arrival of Thunderscape Battlemage, Flametongue Kavu and Shivan Wurm was starting to add up, and Planeshift was coming very close to completing one of the most compelling come from behind victories in Battle of the Sets history.
Legions, now desperate, was intent on clawing in those last points of damage against Planeshift, and attacked with the Grappler and the morph, and the Grappler tangled up the Wurm so that Planeshift's Battlemage was forced to block the morph. After damage was on the stack, Legions flipped over a Warbreak Trumpeter, drawing enough mana to create two tokens. Planeshift replayed Flametongue Kavu, killing off a token, and sent Shivan Wurm into battle, which pummelled Legions down to 5 life, a deadly total should Shivan Wurm attack again. Legions was now suddenly on the defensive and needed to come up with a fortuitous topdeck, preferably Skirk Marauder, or perhaps a Clickslither (sacrificing a token), either of which would do enough damage to end the game and give Legions the all-important game one victory, pulling the rapidly deteriorating game out of the fire. Anything less than a Clickslither or a Skirk Marauder on this draw would give the game to Planeshift, and a draw of either of those two cards would guarantee victory for Legions. The entire game hinged on this pivotal moment, and the tension in the air was so thick you could almost hear what the guy next to you was thinking...
Legions tapped its ingrown nail on the top of its deck, like any experienced magic player would do in such a situation and flipped the card over for all spectators to see... a Goblin Goon! What a spectacular, insane comeback! Planeshift, hanging on to two life for what seemed like an eternity, managed to draw the exact cards needed to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat, finally putting down what seemed to be an unstoppable goblin horde. It won in a fashion that has proved to be Planeshift's method of choice so far this tournament, via a gigantic, furious creature named Shivan Wurm. Like a game of musical chairs, Legions was now sitting in the hot seat, a seat which Planeshift was occupying for most of the prior match. Man, what a game!
Game 2: Choosing to play for the second straight time, Legions led off a little more quickly, dropping a Goblin Grappler into play eager to rip into Planeshift's life total. Planeshift plays a land, and passes, allowing Legions to swing in for one, and play a Goblin Lookout. Planeshift, trying to even the odds, added a Thornscape Familiar. Grappler obviously engaged the Thornscape Familiar via provoke, allowing Goblin Lookout to get through, but was unable to add anything of use after that. Planeshift added a third land, and passed. Legions attempted to attack with Lookout, but that plan was scrapped when Planeshift revealed Darigaaz's Charm. Legions added a second Goblin Lookout and with nothing left to do, passed the turn. The next move was particularly devastating for Legions, as Planeshift cast Flametongue Kavu, blasting away the Goblin Lookout and putting Planeshift firmly into the driver's seat. Clickslither showed up to crash Planeshift's party, swinging in to drop Planeshift to 14. But little did Legions know, the party was just starting, and a second Kavu showed up with the kegs to prove it! Away went Clickslither, and in came Flametongue Kavu to drop Legions to 16 life. Things were looking quite grim for Legions, but the pumping music and raucous revelry was just beginning for Planeshift. Legions, desperately scrambling to get back into the game, summoned a Gempalm Incinerator, hoping to at least trade with one of the flame-spitting beasts. Planeshift had other ideas, and cleared the
Incinerator out of the way with Darigaaz's Charm, which allowed Planeshift to swing in to lower Legions to 8. Legions played a Drill Sergeant, hoping to slow things down, but all of the big boys in Planeshift's deck were starting to make an appearance, threatening to run Legions out of the building completely.
A kickered Scuta popped by to encourage his Flametongue buddies into the red zone, one of which traded with a Drill Sergeant, which milled a Mountain into the grave. Drill Sergeant had been extremely unlucky with Sergeant activations, pitching a shutout, even though Legions is made predominantly of goblins. Legions, now down to 4 life, needed to cast a Warbreak Trumpeter or a Skirk Marauder on its next turn, or it would be swept out the door by a Planeshift deck that seemed to be drawing all of its biggest bombs. A morph was cast on Legions' turn, which was a positive sign, but on Planeshift's next turn, a loud, nay, deafening sound seemed to be rumbling underfoot. The sound was the sound of Legions losing the game. The rumbling came to a crescendo as a furious Shivan Wurm burst forth from the ground, essentially sealing the deal for Planeshift. Legions, now understanding that it had been defeated, extended its boil marked hand and congratulated Planeshift for a match well fought. Planeshift had done it! After being pushed to the brink on a number of occasions, it was able to stand tall, knowing that it had rightly earned a place in the prestigious Battle of the Sets. But what fate shall await Planeshift after earning its way into the main tournament? Why don't we take a look!
Pairings for Battle of the Sets VIII
Most of you will probably need to see the decklists again, which are located here and here.
For the match ups in Battle of the Sets, things will be organized as a bracketed tournament. The tournament will be organized into 4 Groups, with each group having 4 match ups numbered 1 to 4. The winner of match up 1 will play the winner of match up 4, and the winner of match up 2 will play the winner of match up 3, and the winners of those will play each other to determine the winner of the group. Then the groups will be paired against one another 1 versus 4, and 2 versus 3. The final round will occur when those matches have been settled, where the two winners will vie to be the Champion of Battle of the Sets VIII. Here are the match ups:
1) Torment v. Nemesis
2) Champions v. Urza's Legacy
3) Mirrodin v. Legends
4) Fifth Dawn v. Ravnica
1) Urza's Saga v. Mirage
2) Odyssey v. Coldsnap
3) Tempest v. Planeshift
4) Onslaught v. Judgement
1) Apocalypse v. Ice Age
2) Masques v. Betrayers
3) Darksteel v. Alliances
4) Urza's Destiny v. Invasion
1) Visions v. Guildpact
2) Exodus v. Scourge
3) Antiquities v. Saviours
4) Dissension v. Arabian Nights
And there we have it! The match ups for the eighth instalment of Battle of the Sets! I find that one of the most entertaining aspects of BotS is to make predictions about the tournament i.e. who you think is favoured to win a match up or a group, who will win the whole thing, etc. Another fun thing to do is to predict upsets. Which fourth seeded deck will knock off a first seeded deck? Are there any unusual match ups? Speculate away in our forums for the discussion of Battle of the Sets. Nazdakka and I will be there to field any questions, comments or whatever about the Play-In matches or the upcoming tournament that you may have. Please be a part of the discussion!