Semifinals: Carl Winter vs. Richard Mattiuzzo|
Rich has done an excellent job with his Worldgorger Dragon/Animate Dead combo deck - a deck that was supposed to be dead after Entomb had been restricted - but what he was more notable for was his habit of playing with his cards all in toploaders, a detail that no reporter has thus far been able to resist mentioning.
But the effect is just weird. Each card hits the table with a soft plastic"clack," like a Lego brick, and he has a unique method of scooping all of these hard plastic shells up and then gently dropping them down into a big pile. His opponents don't even bother to cut; they just do what Carl Winter refers to as"The JSS shuffle," splitting the deck up into three piles and hoping like hell that Rich somehow didn't stack this big plastic Leaning Tower of Pisa.
"I'm used to playing Keeper," said Carl, who was playing Hulk Smash."Keeper is much harder than this."
They shook."All right, man, good luck."
Rich Strip Mined the land; this did not faze Carl, as he simply laid a Library of Alexandria. Rich laid a Bazaar of Baghdad, discarding Animate Dead and a Sol Ring. He activated it again, discarding three more with an audible click as his toploaders hit the graveyard, then played Time Walk. He discarded Squee, Goblin Nabob, Swamp, and Intuition, then passed the turn.
Carl Brainstormed, both of them playing at a furious pace; Carl's always been a quick player according to reports, and Rich was flinging his cards about with a graceful abandon. He sacced the Lotus to cast Cunning Wish for Coffin Purge, Purging Rich's Squee.
Carl laid a Psychatog after Rich had Bazaared some more, shouting."The beatdown!"
"You never know when I might bust out my Phyrexian Furnace," he said.
Finally, Rich found the Worldgorger Dragon and tossed it into the chucker. Carl sent with the Tog, then laid another. Rich returned three Squees to his hand, making his Bazaar just nutty, allowing him to draw two, then discard a triplet of overblown Goblins - all for no loss in card economy, as he could return the Squees to be pitched the next turn. This turned his Bazaar into a mini-Ancestral... And he had two of them, churning through the deck at a clip that was astonishing.
Carl sent with both Togs, but neither his graveyard or his hand were very big. He was definitely under the gun, and Rich was outdrawing him massively, four cards a turn.
Carl Mystical Tutored for Ancestral Recall, only to see it Forced. Disheartened, he sent with both Togs, sending Rich to twelve - well out of danger, especially considering that he had yet to actually stock his graveyard with much. Rich drew another four - and looked through Carl's graveyard, still wary of the Coffin Purge. He cast an Intuition, getting his final three Worldgorger Dragons, and giving Carl no choice at all.
Carl winced. He gamely sent in both Togs once again, but his deck had been performing much more like the underpowered Tog of Odyssey Block than the massively broken gameplay of Vintage. Rich's unfortunately, was so broken that the Fonz couldn't have fixed it. Fully two-thirds of his deck was in the graveyard, he had an absolute grip on his cards.
"Is the Dragon going to play?" Carl asked.
"Maybe," Rich grinned."Maaaaybe."
Rich Vampiric Tutored for a Force to protect himself, and Ancestral Recalled himself into it. He then Bazaared himself down to five cards in his library and cast Dance of the Dead - and Carl gamely attempted a Coffin Purge, but the Force of Will blocked it and suddenly infinite mana blossomed into a game loss for Carl.
Carl mulliganed - never a good sign for a Tog player - but kept his opening six. It was a nice solid opening, with Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, and Volcanic Island. Rich led with Polluted Delta into Underground Sea, then matched that opening with a nice Mox Emerald, Mox Pearl opening.
Rich laid Compulsion, and Carl thought about it for about half a minute before finally saying,"Yeah, that's fine." Rich then Compulsed a bit, and attempted pair of Intuitions. Carl Mana Drained one, then Forced the other, removing an Accumulated Knowledge from the game.
But who cared? Not Rich. If he couldn't Intuition, he'd just dig a path straight to 'em; he laid a Bazaar of Baghdad, starting up the card drawing all the way on the next turn.
Carl Brainstormed, and Rich filtered through about a quarter of his library in response; between Compulsion and bazaar, he wasn't going to have problems finding the cards he needed.
Carl laid a Tog. It envied Rich's rich, meaty graveyard. Rich Compulsioned away a Worldgorger, but Carl Coffin Purged it.
Once again, Rich Intuitioned. In between Rich's Bazaar barraage of Intuitions, Compulsions, and card drawing, he was hard-pressed to stop him - and one resolved card could finish the game. Still, Carl Cunning Wished for a Red Elemental Blast and zapped the Intuition right off the stack,
Rich Bazaared away a Force of Will, causing Carl to wonder what was going on. Rich attempted a Necromancy, Bazaaring through his deck in an attempt to find a win condition - but found none. In response, Carl Coffin Purged - a good thing, or the game would have ended right then and there. Rich attempted a Dance of the Dead, but Carl Forced that, too.
Rich then waited a turn, and Rich Vampiric Tutored. He went for a Dance of the Dead, and in response Carl Coffin Purged both Dragons away with flashback. All four were now floating in the limbo of the RFG pile, and things started to look a little brighter. He Ancestralled himself to achieve critical mass, then Cunning Wished for Berserk, and Rich scooped.
Rich nodded at his hand."I'll run it," said Carl. And they were off.
Rich led with a Vampiric Tutor for a Bazaar, then laid a Tormod's Crypt. Ouchie. He laid the Bazaar, then discarded two Squees and a Mana Crypt; not to be outdone on card advantage, Carl Ancestralled - and got an amazing 3x Force of Will on the draw.
Rich offered a Time Walk quizzically, and Carl considered, then let the extra turn through - hey, he could counter. Rich attempted a Dance of the Dead, which indeed got countered, and Carl second-Forced the Ancestral Recall that followed, burning up all three Forces in short order. He laid a Mox Jet and another land, catching up nicely to equalize mana bases with Rich, and then Demonic Tutored.
Carl Bazaared. Once again, it was turn 4, and he was about a quarter of the way through his big stacky plastic deck. He laid a Mox Emerald, and threw out a Demonic Tutor of his own, then laid Dance of the Dead. He Intuitioned for an Ambassador Laquatus and two Squees; Carl let him keep the Ambassador. Saying,"Go infinite?" Carl nodded.
Rich ditched the Ambassador courtesy of the Bazaar, went infinite, and got infinite mana... Then, after he poured infinite mana (or an arbitrarily large number of mana) into his pool, he went for the kill by switching targets on his Dance of the Dead, targeting the Ambassador instead of the Worldgorger to Millstone Carl out of existence.
In response, Carl Coffin Purged the Ambassador! Rich Forced - but so did Carl, and the Coffin Purge resolved, removing the Ambassador... And with his kill condition and main mana sink suddenly removed, Rich took infinite mana burn and died a fiery death.
Or did he? Rich protested to the judge, saying that in order for him to end the loop, the only way he could end the loop was if Carl removed the Ambassador in response to the Animate trigger. However, he had generated infinite mana, and the Dance trigger had not yet gone on the stack, meaning that he could have infinite mana - but an infinite loop as well that never ended, meaning no mana burn. In other words, Rich was arguing that Carl had Purged prematurely.
Rich was very clear in saying to me,"This is not a complaint. I just want to clear things up. I don't want to end this on a technical note. If they say I lose, I lose."
The judges debated, and Carl offered that the Force was evidence that even though Rich had not specifically targeted his Ambassador, he knew the intent and had tried to stop it... But, as he also noted,"I'm fried. We've been playing for so long; if it had been three hours ago, I would have walked through this step by step. It's hard to say."
"This is a really really complicated situation," said the judge when he returned."But we feel that his intent was clear. And at the beginning of the day, we decided that when really complicated situations arise like this, the intent would be what ruled it."
"You had that perfectly," Carl said as they shook hands and walked away."If I hadn't had that Force of Will, you would have won."
The spectators stood around, asking,"What happened? Who won?" They knew someone had gone infinite and someone had Purged a card... But the outcome was in doubt.
I told them to read our coverage. We'd explain it to them.
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on Jul 26, 2003: