Quarterfinals: Mike Alakayleh vs. Timothy Jansen
Quarterfinals: Mike Alakayleh vs. Timothy Jansen
Timothy Jansen’s Esper Midrange deck was a pretty classic build, but Mike came to play with Magic 2013 in tow! Packing Rancors and Thragtusks with the oft-maligned Predator Ooze, Mike’s deck lived in the red zone and had just Forests for lands.
The singleton Probe from Tim on turn 1 revealed four Forests, Birds of Paradise, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Rancor—a spell-light hand that Tim might be able to take advantage of. He Pondered, kept, and passed. Birds landed for Mike, and Tim Pondered again after playing Island on turn 2.
He kept those three as well, oddly enough, and passed with just one mana open. That was great for Mike, who had topdecked Dungrove Elder and promptly cast it. Thought Scour from Tim revealed his tricks, milling Cavern and Restoration Angel before drawing a card. Untapping, a third Ponder merited a lot more thought than the last two—but ultimately remained atop the library before Phantasmal Image copied Birds of Paradise.
Rancor on the Elder began the beatdown, and Mike swung for 5 damage, dropping Tim to 13. He had Blade Splicer on the following turn, passing with two open thanks to the Image. Fearless, Mike jammed his Zenith for three to grab another Elder before passing with no attacks—what did he fear from Tim? Possibly he just wanted to keep that Image or Splicer out of the graveyard.
Sun Titan merited the fear, and it returned Cavern of Souls to the battlefield, naming Human. Now Mike was actually stopped, his Elders too small to swing into the Titan. He Zenithed once again, this time for the five necessary to get Wolfir Silverheart and soulbond with his Rancor-ready Elder! That made it an 11/9, and Mike attacked.
Tim took the 11 and dropped to 2 life, declining to throw his Splicer or Image under the bus for a Titan trigger. His Sun Titan couldn’t attack due to the big Silverheart now anyway, but it did lock out a few draw steps... Vault of the Archangel might even be one of them! He ended his turn with just the Vault available, and Mike no doubt kicking himself over the lack of Bellowing Tanglewurm in his deck.
That forced Mike to pass back, and Tim took the opportunity to Snapcaster Mage Thought Scour, milling a handy Lingering Souls. He didn’t flashback it, casting Blade Splicer and leaving his Vault activation available instead. Mike was dying to find a Rancor or Revenge of the Hunted for his Birds this turn, but just couldn’t break through. He continued to wait, playing his seventh Forest.
Considering his options, Tim decided to attack with nothing and pass, leaving his Lingering Souls in the graveyard. That could cost him... when Mike drew Rancor, it got scary! He played another Forest and cast the Rancor on his Birds—Tim replied with Go for the Throat on the Birds to save his life. Another Snapcaster Mage let Tim Go for the Throat the Silverheart, leaving Mike on “just” the pair of Dungroves, a 10/8 and 8/8 respectively.
Against those first-striking Golems, they could do very little.
Considering some aggression, Tim looked to move into the red zone tentatively with just his Snapcaster Mages, generating a real clock. Oblivion Ring on Rancor reduced Mike’s options further. He topdecked Revenge of the Hunted, an irrelevant miracle with his nine lands, and then attacked with everyone. Awkwardly, Tim’s first strike was now his enemy—it would keep his Sun Titan’s lifelink from mattering if he activated it to preserve his board!
Tim had to let the first strike resolve first, then activate Vault to gain 8 life and go to 10, then fall to 1 and become reduced to just his Snapcasters and Vault of the Archangel. That’s not so bad though! He swung for 2 damage and passed, still leaving Lingering Souls in the graveyard. Mike passed back, waiting for another form of evasion or trample.
Forbidden Alchemy from Tim after attacking Mike to 12, followed by Snapcaster Mage on Alchemy—that would give Mike an attack, thanks to the tapped Vault, but Mike flashbacked Lingering Souls to flood the board with blockers that he wouldn’t mind using to chump.
Too bad for Tim that Revenge of the Hunted couldn’t care less about a bunch of one-toughness blockers!
Mike 1, Tim 0
Rancor has really pulled its weight in this match!
On the play, Tim kept his seven while Mike mulliganed a five-land hand. He had Birds after Tim’s Evolving Wilds for Island, but Seachrome Coast gave Tim the mana to Mana Leak Predator Ooze on the second turn. He followed with another Evolving Wilds and passed, Mike searching for three with Zenith, playing Predator Ooze instead of Dungrove Elder.
“Remind me to ask you later why you went for Ooze instead of Elder,” Tim asked Mike, wondering why the difference in decisions between the first and second games. Had Mike felt so stymied by the Vault that he wanted to be able to fight it more fearlessly? Awkwardly, Tim had Blade Splicer, and Mike forgot his first Ooze trigger when he attacked. Post-combat, Ulvenwald Tracker resolved.
Tim swung back for 4 damage with his Splicer and Token. Mike attacked for 2 with the Ooze, and passed with Tracker available. Mike used his Tracker to kill the Splicer, but that paved the way for Tim to resolve Sun Titan and create a second Golem. Sitting on two Crushing Vines, Mike was in trouble. He had a 3/3 Ooze he could keep growing with the Tracker, which wasn’t so bad, but that Sun Titan would keep him from attacking while generating card advantage with Evolving Wilds.
Pondering, Tim attacked with everyone except his Splicer, and Mike decided to chump the Titan with Birds while Ooze ate one Golem after blocking the other, thanks to the Tracker. On six lands Mike drew another one and then attacked with his Ooze, boosting it to 6/6. That made it big enough to kill Sun Titan before blockers, but Tim used Restoration Angel to save it in response and get back an Evolving Wilds.
Mike missed the Ooze trigger from Blade Splicer’s chump block, and used Crushing Vines to dispatch the Restoration Angel. Tim attacked for 6 to put Mike on 7 life, getting back Blade Splicer. He followed by casting Batterskull, and ending the turn. Mike had another Crushing Vines available, but would need to make Tim tap some mana first. He decided to Zenith for three and grab an Elder, which sat at 7/7.
Breaking his Evolving Wilds for lands, Tim moved to ten mana with a card in hand to go with a pretty impressive board state. The Tracker ate the Sun Titan with Predator Ooze’s help, and Mike passed. Tim attacked with everyone, confusing Mike—he blocked the Splicer and Batterskull, taking 3 and realizing the “trick” when Tim cast Day of Judgment. He’d been trapped by the Tracker! Unburial Rites on Sun Titan got back Blade Splicer, and Tim ended the turn with a nice presence and Mike on 1 life.
Drawing Green Sun’s Zenith, Mike cast it for Dungrove Elder and used Crushing Vines on the Batterskull. Tim attacked with everyone again, implying another Day of Judgment was on the way. Mike blocked to kill Sun Titan and the Golem token, falling to 3 life, and Tim flashbacked Unburial Rites for Sun Titan and Evolving Wilds. He had just one card in hand...
On 3 life, Mike had to play timid, but he had a pretty solid position thanks to—oh, never mind, Tim had Restoration Angel.
Mike 1, Tim 1
Tim sideboards for game 3 with Esper Midrange.
Finally on the play, Mike went Forest and Forest into Strangleroot Geist. Evolving Wilds from Tim fetched up Plains, leaving Mike to lead Seachrome Coast on the next turn before ending the turn. Mike swung him to 16 and passed with three Forests up. Drowned Catacomb was tapped for Tim, and he ended turn once more.
A fourth Forest from Mike, but his attack this time met Gut Shot from Tim. Declining to add a creature to the potential Day of Judgment board, Mike passed. Blade Splicer from Tim put him ahead on the battlefield, while Mike added only Birds of Paradise on turn 5.
Each player sat on four lands. He examined the board before deciding to burn Go for the Throat on Birds of Paradise, followed by Vault of the Archangel. Thragtusk from Mike met the fastest Mana Leak of the tournament, and now Tim had tons of breathing room. He Pondered, leaving his top three cards before attacking with the Golem and casting another Blade Splicer.
In need of help, Mike only found more Forests waiting on top. He tried his second Thragtusk, resolving it, but the “value buffalo” wasn’t going to cut it against a bunch of first striking Golems. Especially with that Vault around! Tim tapped out for Batterskull, which gave Mike an opportunity to Crushing Vines and attack in.
Chumping with his Blade Splicers but falling to 5 life, Tim sent the turn. Mike declined to attack, casting just Ulvenwald Tracker instead. Restoration Angel landed during the end step, but Tim was still on defense. On one card, Tim passed his turn with the Vault available. Mike drew Predator Ooze, threatening to disrupt the stalemate now that his Tracker was online.
A pass from Tim, and Mike drew Beast Within. That could eliminate the Vault during Tim’s upkeep, and Mike decided to attack with just his Ooze now. Tim blocked with Restoration Angel and used the Vault to gain 3 life, losing his Angel to a fight after combat. Tempted to blow the Beast Within, Mike decided to wait and see what developed. If his opponent lacked more creatures, that Vault would be irrelevant, after all.
Mike fell to 16 as the Golem attacked, and then Tim cast Phantasmal Image for Thragtusk, popping up to 16 life. Just the Ooze attacked again, and Tim declined to block. He fell to 12, likely planning to race with his Vault... but that wasn’t going to work. He swung with the Image of Thragtusk, and Mike declared no blockers. That knocked him to 11, and he removed the Golem from the battlefield with Ulvenwald Tracker during the end step. Still in that end step, Tim Snapcaster Maged for Gut Shot on the Tracker, ending its reign of terror.
Drawing Rancor, Mike popped it onto his Predator Ooze and attacked with all of his creatures. Tim was on 10, and blocked Snapcaster Mage Thragtusk. Before damage, he flashed in the Angel, blinking Snapcaster Mage to Go for the Throat the Geist. Tim then fell to 2 life, and post-combat Mike cast Beast Within to kill his own Thragtusk, generating a pair of 3/3s. If he had used that spell on Snapcaster Mage, this game was over! Instead, Tim survived to fight another day.
Revoke Existence removed Rancor from the game, and now Tim was suddenly in the driver’s seat if he could keep the Ooze off his back long enough. Tim attacked Mike to 8, and cast Blade Splicer. Viridian Corrupter plus a topdecked Rancor removed enough blockers from Tim’s path to seal the deal for Mike.
Mike 2, Tim 1