Round 10: Ali Aintrazi (Solar Flare) vs. Michael Jacob (Esper Midrange)
Ali Aintrazi's Spirit tokens look ready to do some damage.
Two relatively different Esper builds faced off this round, with Ali Aintrazi on a more controlling Solar Flare list while Michael Jacob was playing Esper midrange, based on a list he’d seen Adam Prosak pilot in a Daily Event. Would Restoration Angel give him the edge?
With Ali on the play, Michael took a mulligan to start the match. Drowned Catacomb for Ali ended his turn, while Michael started with Seachrome Coast and Ponder. He chucked the three cards for a shuffle instantly. “That was disgusting,” he said. Drawing one more, he passed. Ali played Plains and Ratchet Bomb to begin building defenses, but Michael wasn’t ready for a creature just yet—he Pondered again.
Keeping those three, Michael dropped Glacial Fortress. Ticking up Ratchet Bomb, Ali played Isolated Chapel and then Lingering Souls, first to the board with a threat. Michael had an Island to enable Snapcaster Mage on Ponder, his third of the game, and this one merited the most thought—he eventually decided to keep it.
Putting the Bomb on two, Ali was clearly planning to use it on Sword or Angel—he’d probably go to three and sit there, to hedge his bets. He attacked for 2 damage, played another land, and cast a second Lingering Souls from his hand. Michael Jacob played a third Ponder from his hand, declining to draw the fourth as he took a second shuffle.
Attacking, Michael got through for 2 as Ali declined to trade a Spirit, and Michael followed with Darkslick Shores—revealing a black splash! Ali attacked for 4 and flashbacked one Lingering Souls—it met Mana Leak—but the second flashback put him to six Spirits as he missed his fifth land drop, passing with Ratchet Bomb on three.
He took 2 damage and then went straight to four when Michael passed the turn with four mana up, preempting the Restoration Angel that would threaten his clock. He swung for 6, and Michael was forced to Doom Blade a token to survive much longer. A third Lingering Souls from Ali forced Michael to Mana Leak, but he shook his head as the inevitability of those Spirits continued to grow.
He attacked Ali to 14 and played Blade Splicer, followed by Phantasmal Image. After much thought, Ali decided to move his Ratchet Bomb to five. Restoration Angel wouldn’t save Michael from a lethal attack anymore, but Gideon Jura might, and Ali decided to play around the possibility. Sever the Bloodline on Ali’s side took care of the Golem token threat.
Michael dropped Vault of the Archangel and the tables suddenly twisted, Ali falling to 8 as Michael jumped to 10. Flashbacked Lingering Souls gave Ali lethal damage exactly through another Vault activation as long as he didn’t block, but Vapor Snag and a land would likely give the game to Michael, allowing him to put Ali to 3 while going up to 7 against six Spirits.
He attacked, and when Ali declined to block, Michael conceded—no Snag here.
Ali 1, Michael 0
Michael kept his seven, and started Seachrome Coast. Ali had Isolated Chapel, and Michael Drowned Catacomb. Seachrome Coast for Ali gave him two up as he passed, but Michael’s Blade Splicer resolved. Playing Island, Ali dropped Phantasmal Image to match and sent the turn to Michael, who passed after playing his fourth land.
A quickly played early game had stalemated, but Ali seized the lead with Phantasmal Image number two, giving him two Golems to none. He played Cavern of Souls for Giant and attacked with no blue mana up, representing a Doom Blade effect, and Michael threw away a Golem in the trade. Ali could’ve taken a shot at Blade Splicer, but knew better than to open himself up to the Restoration Angel blowout. Michael had Forbidden Alchemy during the end step, binning a Gideon Jura.
Michael Pondered, landed Cavern of Souls on Angel, and passed. Attacking with everyone, Ali ran headlong into Restoration Angel, but had the Doom Blade for the Angel rather than the Splicer. Michael didn’t block after that, falling to 15, and Ali cast Lingering Souls to continue building a presence.
Ali fell to 16 when Michael attacked, and Michael added a sixth land to the board and began thinking. When Ali attacked, another Restoration Angel ate the Golem and produced one, prompting Ali to play Day of Judgment. His sixth land was Darkslick Shores, preventing him from flashbacking Lingering Souls, but with three Sun Titans potentially being threatened next turn...
Michael decided to Forbidden Alchemy during his upkeep, dissatisfied with what he saw and playing just another land. He did have the Doom Blade however, when Ali tried to Sun Titan up Phantasmal Image! The game was again within reach, with both players low on gas.
Ali jammed Karn Liberated—Mana Leak countered, keeping the board balanced still. Fetching for Evolving Wilds, Michael would be able to flashback his Alchemy next turn, or he could drop Blade Splicer and Phantasmal Image—he decided on the former. Ali had no spells, nodding as Michael flashbacked the draw.
On his turn, Michael Pondered into Mana Leak, Nihil Spellbomb, and Vault of the Archangel—a very strong three. He kept the Spellbomb to get Ali’s graveyard in case he peeled a Sun Titan, and then cast his Blade Splicer to build a clock. The game strongly favored Michael at this point, with Ali on slim outs to take control and looking for defense.
Ali flashbacked Lingering Souls, cast another, and flashbacked that one as well—he likely thought he could again initiate a race, but the Vault of the Archangel would certainly foil him this time, with Michael on too high a life total to outgun. Phantasmal Image copied Blade Splicer and Michael laid the land before attacking, declining to activate. An attack for 4 from Ali put Michael to 9 life, and he dropped a land.
Michael flashbacked Alchemy, prompting a clock-check from Ali—he no doubt was considering conceding to save time for a potentially lengthy game 3. Ali chumped the Golems with his Spirits, and Michael used Vault to gain 7 and go to 16. Ali played his own Nihil Spellbomb and blew it immediately, digging for help before passing with all his Spirits on defense.
As soon as Michael cast Restoration Angel, Ali conceded.
Ali 1, Michael 1
Michael Jacob is at the top of the tables at X-2.
Each player had kept a brisk pace and refused to draw out the games, respecting that the match could easily go to time between their different Esper builds and wanting to ensure a natural conclusion to the game. Ali had turn 1 Seachrome Coast to Michael’s Glacial Fortress, and he then played Swamp and passed o Michael, who had Plains.
Ali’s Nihil Spellbomb on turn 2 got Mana Leaked, and he missed his third land drop as Michael got ahead with Blade Splicer. Ali found Darkslick Shores and cast Phantasmal Image to make his own Golem, chumping with the Image when Michael attacked. Another Blade Splicer compounded Ali’s problems.
He spent turn 5 on Forbidden Alchemy, looking for land and playing Seachrome Coast. He put his Golem under the bus to take just 5 damage, going to 15, and then Ali attempted to cast Ratchet Bomb—Mana Leak countered that too, and now just a Snapcaster Mage would likely deliver the game to Michael.
Attempting Day of Judgment, Michael did indeed drop the Snapcaster and Ali immediately conceded.
“No Ponders in your deck?” Michael asked, no doubt referring to Ali’s trouble in the early game. “Nope,” Ali replied. “That’s a dagger,” he said. Discussing the second game, Michael cited the strength of Vault on the weekend. “I’m running three Caverns and a Vault—it should be two Caverns, two Vaults.”
Ali 1, Michael 2