Laura Mills stormed to the table and shouted,”Who’s responsible for this?“
The match had been perfect for StarCityGames coverage; Laura Mills, former writer for StarCity, was up against Elliot Fertik – a sporadic writer for StarCity. Two internet writers, from rival sites, going head to head in Round 2? How could you miss it?
Laura looked in mirthful dismay as she watched me dutifully typing down her words.”I gotta remember to keep my mouth shut at the Feature Match,” she said, smiling.
She motioned towards the fluffy brown monkey that was hugging her arm, clinging on with stuffed hands thanks to the miracle of Velcro.”This is my monkey,” she explained to Elliot, squeezing the toy primate; it screeched and danced.”I call it Marcel Marceau. I got this monkey from a guy at Minnesota at a PTQ, and his girlfriend was very happy to see it go.”
“So you got a monkey off a guy’s back?” Elliot quipped.
Elliot, wearing his trademark sweater to a tournament – he believes in dressing up to set an example for other players. Elliot remarked that Laura was the second female writer out of Denver, and they both lamented the loss of Lauren Passmore.
Both Elliot and Laura were playing The Rock, so the matchup should theoretically go to whoever has the best draw and the best plays. They wished each other good luck; Laura won the roll, and elected to go first. (Shocker.) The judge reminded them to mark the paper to see who went first – Wizards’ R&D is trying to see how much of an advantage going first is in this format, and they’re collecting data, which made everyone happy to hear that they were paying attention.
Elliot drew the a hand of solid obsidian; every spell a black, but not one swamp – or any land at all, for that matter. It sucked in light, and just sucked in general, so he mulliganed down to six. One Treetop Village, one swamp, a Birds of Paradise, a Cabal Therapy, and a Bone Shredder. Keep.
Laura laid a Bird, while Elliot whiffed with a Cabal Therapy for Vampiric Tutor, catching a Yavimaya Elder, a Haunting Echoes, a Cabal Therapy to match his, a Forest, and a Dust Bowl. Her hand was better than his at the moment, which could prove troublesome, but she chose not to Therapy him – instead laying an Elder to ensure more land and to keep up the beats.
Laura attacked, then Therapied for Pernicious Deed and whiffed back. She now knew that Elliot was slightly landscrewed, and she’d just laid that Dust Bowl; was it worth it to start popping her own lands to try to keep Elliot on the defensive, risking that Elliot could topdeck land and make a comeback?
Whether it was beats or LD she was hoping for, laying a second Elder wasn’t a bad play.
Elliot finally dropped the Village, realizing the necessity of defense, and used his remaining land to cast a Bone Shredder to destroy her Bird – then sacrificed his own Bird to Therapy the deadly Echoes away, making her hand look a lot less threatening.”That was just gonna happen,” she shrugged. Elliot agreed. Still, there were two 2/1 critters on the board that could continue the beats, even accounting for the Treetop Village about to wake up.
Laura Therapied again to knock a freshly-drawn Spiritmonger out of the running, knocking Elliot down to a Llanowar Wastes and a Bird of Paradise. He topdecked an Elder and played it, tilting the board slightly in his favor, and one of Laura’s Elders traded with Elliot’s singleton.
Laura faced a choice here: She could have kept the lands open and Dust Bowled Elliot – but considering he was about to get two lands of his own thanks to the Elder that was probably a suboptimal play. Both chose to pop and gain the card advantage off of their Landcestral Recalls. Laura used her remaining two mana to cast a Wall of Blossoms, netting another card and some needed Treetop Village protection.
Elliot was down to eleven and Laura stood untouched. He Living Wished for a Genesis with five land total so he could cast it on his next turn, taunting,”Well, you could knock it out of my hand if you want.”
Her hand forced, Laura desperately Dust Bowled one of Elliot’s lands to try to keep him from hard-casting it – but he had a swamp in hand, and down came the Genesis. To make things worse, Elliot then Vampiric Tutored for Buried Alive dropped a Ravenous Baloth and a Wall of Blossoms into play the graveyard along with a second Genesis to start the recursion engine. Laura had a Treetop for beats and Elliot was down to seven, but the game was starting to swing his way – with Laura’s Echoes in the graveyard and no way to get rid of the Genesis, she had to punch through very soon or risk being overwhelmed.
She animated the Treetop Village and attacked with it and Elder; Genesis had a leafy snack, while the Elder knocked Elliot down to five. (He could have blocked with one of two Birds, but he needed every mana he could get to fuel the mana-hungry recursion engine.) Next turn, Ravenous Baloth was reborn, and the living Genesis took first blood from Laura, knocking her down to sixteen. She sacced the Yavimaya Elder, hoping to find an answer somewhere in the next two cards.
“You cannot imagine how much I wish Echoes had not been in my opening hand,” Laura said, looking mournfully at her graveyard.”You cannot imagine!”
Elliot had nothing in his hand, but his board was a 10×10 oak monstrosity, wielded by Superman. Not surprisingly, Laura Pernicious Deeded to try to stall the mana engine. Regretfully, she had to blow it for four, one mana short of Deeding the Genesis away.
“I really wish you hadn’t done that,” she said, putting a tiny wreath of flowers next to her Haunting Echoes.
“Because it was the right move?” Elliot asked.
“You know what?” she said, raising her hands.”You’re just gonna beat me this game. We have twenty minutes remaining. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to concede.”
Elliot stood up on his chair, levelled at a finger at him, and shouted,”No! I shan’t accept this craven capitulation! Damn your eyes, woman, stand up and face me like a man!”
Seriously, Elliot said okay, and it was on to game 2.
“The Buried Alive was just bad,” Laura said. Elliot replied that was why he played it in the main deck.”I can see why. The biggest problem was the two Genesi; I could handle one, but the two…”
Laura whiffed the third Therapy of the game for Pernicious Deed at the beginning of game 2. Frustrated, she shouted,”Can you just play with Pernicious Deed?” Elliot apologized meekly. He whiffed back, finding that Laura had a second Cabal Therapy, a Pernicious Deed, a Treetop Village, a Naturalize, and a mountain. What was the mountain for?
Significantly, Elliot forgot to write down what was in her hand, and then frantically tried to reconstruct it. He reached for her hand, more out of instinct than anything else – and Laura yanked it away.”Hard rules,” she said.”No.”
Elliot could only nod sadly; he would have done the same thing, if he were in her position. Grand Prix rules, my friend.
Laura laid a second-turn Treetop Village, then a third-turn Village. Elliot could only muster one, but he drew a Filth – potentially horrid times for Laura, post-sideboarding. He played his Yavimaya Elder; Laura considered whether she should attack into it with a Village, then pounded down. Elliot declined to block.
He laid Masticore, which is really really funny in the mirror match when you have Filth in your hand. Laura smirked on her own, saying,”You want a reminder of what’s in my hand? Naturalize the Masticore.”
Elliot frowned as his Masticore hit the yard – knowing full well that he could have cast Filth and sacrificed it to Therapy the turn before, knocking the Naturalize out of her hand. Painful, painful error. She then put a Deed on the board.
Elliot responded with a Genesis on his turn, who laughed at the Deed. There was a lot of chuckling going on, but nobody really seemed to be truly amused. Realizing the need for some blocking, she left the Deed unpopped and instead summoned a Ravenous Baloth, who could toe-to-toe with the Genesis… Once.
She Cabal Therapied for Faceless Butcher, which was accurate, but it also revealed a Pernicious Deed and a Filth.”He has hands like I want,” she said, physically recoiling from the monster collection of cards. She ditched a Bird of Paradise to remove…
“The Filth, right?” Elliot laughed.
“I think not,” she said loftily, and a Pernicious Deed hit the graveyard.
Elliot attacked and she blocked the Elder first, lowering his creature count. The Genesis said hello four times with a fist. Elliot laid his other incarnation, the Filth, turning his side of the game into a graveyard-friendly gumbo, making Laura’s defensive choices rife with really awful options.
Laura was down to six; she activated both Villages and sent with everything, relying on the Baloth to buy her time and a Bird for chumping. The beatdown was desperate, but she had to do what she could. The next turn presented no better options, and she was left with a sole Baloth and two Treetop Villages against Elliot’s now-swampwalking Treetop and Genesis, hovering at a critically-low two life. Still, her Deed was ready to blow if she needed it to, and Elliot’s hand wasn’t high on octane; a Living Wish and a Buried Alive were his only business cards. (Although considering how Buried Alive had buried Laura in card disadvantage the last game, perhaps it wasn’t all bad.)
Elliot Living Wished for a Masticore, and the game then went into overtime.
“At the end of your turn,” Laura said, considering carefully,”I’ll Dust Bowl your Treetop Village.” Elliot was down to eight power in attackers on the board, one of which could regenerate – but he had only left two land open to regenerate it. And now, thanks to the Bowl – which he had forgotten about – he didn’t have the land he needed to do it. He had cast a Masticore twice, and had foolishly allowed her to destroy both of them when he could have saved them. She could clear his board…
Laura’s fan club, wearing Laura-Mills-style clothing – which is all the rage in France, believe you me – stood behind her and made silent”Go! Go!” motions.
She twisted her Baloth back and forth, into attack position and away again, debating whether it was worth trying to send it into his untapped Genesis and Masticore. Elliot was at ten. Elliot had made a mistake and left himself open to a board-sweeping Deed, but he could recover much quicker thanks to the power of Genesis. Laura sacrificed her Ravenous Baloth as a prelude to the Deed, fretfully deciding that the big Deed was the only sane course of action.
She blew it for four, keeping Genesis alive and on the board. She had wisely decided a 4/4 on the board was better than a slow recursion. A Duress stripped Elliot of his only business card – a Buried Alive.
Elliot drew a Cabal Therapy and named Vampiric Tutor in order to prevent any funny business of getting Haunting Echoes, which could wreck him. Laura revealed a hand of Pernicious Deed and a Therapy of her own. He opted not to sacrifice his own Genesis to flash the Therapy back, keeping the unblockable beats on the board, realizing that he had to go for the quick kill.
It was now turn 5 of overtime, and Laura would be out in two turns… But Elliot had one, and couldn’t bring her down in time. This wasn’t a problem, though, since he was already up a game and a tie ended the match in his favor.
The traitor goes down! StarCity beats Brainburst, 1-0-1. Now we’ll see what happens when Kastle vies with Dougherty again.