Removed From Game – Extended Extended

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Tuesday, February 26th – With Kuala Lumpur now, as they say, in the books, Rich Hagon belatedly returns his attention to the Extended season. With Grand Prix: Vienna looming large, he casts his eye over a PTQ field in the mighty UK, and brings you detailed play-by-play on a full octet of matches.

Greetings one and all, and before we get to the business of the week, namely an Extended PTQ where I was fortunate enough to cover several key matches, I have a couple of thank you’s to offer. First, to everyone who offered such generous words regarding the coverage of Kuala Lumpur. It was an unforgettable experience, made much sweeter by the fact that so many of you responded positively, and took the time to say so. Second, last week’s offering, “This Isn’t Star Trek,” did the job very nicely in encouraging a veritable torrent of opinion to hit the forums. I want to particularly thank those of you who must have spent a considerable amount of your thought time and energy into formulating strenuous and passionate counterpoints to my arguments. I learned a huge amount from you all, especially about how you feel, which isn’t always about how things are. I value this privilege where I get to talk to and with you all each week extremely highly, and again, I cannot thank you enough for such a massive response that shows you, like me, care very much about where things go from here.

But for now, let’s look at some real card action. When I leave a format, it’s always a shock to the system to find that there are people out there who have been playing a completely different version of the game while my focus has been elsewhere. For example, the last month has been about nothing other than Bannerets, Planeswalkers, Mosquito Guards, and UB Rogue decks. When I started reading the coverage of Grand Prix: Vancouver, it was like a barely-remembered foreign language. TEPS? Next Level Blue? ‘Tron? No, sorry, that’s all from another world. Then I looked at the calendar and saw that Grand Prix: Vienna was a mere three weeks away, and consisted of likely hundreds of players doing unspeakable things in the early turns of games that had previously been nothing scarier than a third turn Drowner Of Secrets. It was clearly time to get my head back in the Extended game. Luckily for me, Phoenix Games in Leicester were due to run their very first PTQ in their state-of-the-art facility. Even better, their most excellent proprietor Mr. Steve Newberry was gracious enough to allow us full run of the pairings for our very own Star City Feature Match area. Therefore, I can bring you the tale of not one, not two, or even three, but a mighty eight matches from this blue envelope bunfight. The pairings are up for Round 1, so let’s get to the action.

Round 1 – Tom Harle (22 lifetime Pro Points) playing Beasts Rock versus Guy Bellerby (PT Kobe) playing Goblins.

Guy sent his opening seven back, but six was sufficient, although barely by the looks of things. Harle kept. Untapped Blood Crypt led to Skirk Prospector for Guy. No prizes for guessing what Guy was playing. Harle laid Wooded Foothills and passed. Guy attacked for 1, and Mogg Fanatic was added to Bellerby’s board. Harle then took two whilst sacrificing the Foothills for a Stomping Ground. Turn 2 Swamp brought out Sakura-Tribe Elder.

Having missed one land drop already, Guy was looking for mana on top, but it didn’t come. Both his goblins were sacrificed to the Prospector in order to get things moving with a Goblin Warchief. The Tribe Elder leapt to Tom’s defence, and he added a Forest to the board. Contested Cliffs then saw him bring out Flametongue Kavu, and the dearly-bought Warchief bit the dust. A second land for Bellerby brought out Goblin Piledriver, then Harle attacked for 4 and cast Garruk Wildspeaker, immediately making a 3/3 Beast. That mulligan seemed to be really costing Guy. He cast Frogtosser Banneret, then attacked Garruk. The Piledriver and Beast traded, while Garruk lost a counter.

Harle brought out a second Flametongue Kavu to kill Bellerby’s remaining monster, then Duressed to reveal 3 more monsters in hand. With Guy now at 10 and still with only two land, Harle was well in control. Contested Cliffs dealt with the Piledriver, and as Guy correctly said, he’d basically lost game 1 many turns before. Enter the scoop phase. 1-0 to Harle.

Once again Guy was on the play, as that’s what Goblins do. Both kept seven. Wooded Foothills was immediately sacrificed for a basic Mountain, which produced a Turn 1 Mogg Fanatic. Tapped Blood Crypt was Harle’s first offering. Guy’s Turn 2 Bloodstained Mire also went straight into mana mode, fetching an untapped Blood Crypt. He then used his two mana to introduce Frogtosser Banneret to the board, then attacked for 2. Sakura-Tribe Elder was Harle’s ideal turn 2 play. The Fanatic dispensed with the Tribe Elder before combat, and Bellerby’s Goblin Warchief came crashing across with the Frogtosser for 3. Harle was now at 15. He laid Contested Cliffs then made the thoroughly Goblin-unfriendly Ravenous Baloth. Goblin Ringleader allowed Bellerby to reload, but sadly for him only with a Goblin Piledriver. Still, he was making a better fist of things than in Game 1. He passed the turn without attempting a red zone incursion. Harle added Wall Of Roots to his defence, then activated Contested Cliffs using his Baloth to kill Bellerby’s Warchief. Attacking with the Baloth for 4 put Bellerby to 12.

A pretty inefficient attack from Bellerby netted him one damage, dropping Harle to 14, and then 13 when Harle sacrificed his Wooded Foothills for a Stomping Ground, tapped. Bellerby added a pair of Piledrivers, but when Harle laid a second Contested Cliffs he was able to shoot down both Piledrivers thanks to the board-dominating Baloth. Once again, Guy sensed that the writing was on the wall. Frogtosser Banneret number two and Goblin Matron came down, but things were looking bleak. Double Cabal Therapy action continued to make Guy’s life miserable, and then Garruk Wildspeaker appeared for Harle, complete with life-gaining 3/3 Beast in tow. In Guy’s upkeep, Contested Cliffs obliterated one of the Bannerets, Harle ensuring that things didn’t get out of hand. Now Bellerby’s Goblins were busy trying to defend, and that isn’t what Goblins do. In a comprehensive beating, Harle’s Beasts Rock defeated Guy Bellerby’s Goblins by 2-0.

Tom Harle’s 1-0 deck:

Round 2 – Gordon Barnes (County Champ runner-up 2 years running) playing Doran versus Nick Lovett (3rd at Worlds 2006, 35 lifetime Pro Points) playing Cephalid Breakfast.

As luck, or lack of it, would have it, Nick sustained his first ever Game Loss for a deck registration error. Either way, this match would be short, but would it be sweet for the former Pro? Lovett kept his opening seven, and Barnes sent his back., settling on six. Windswept Heath, pass from Lovett. Tapped Treetop Village for Barnes, then at end of turn Lovett’s Windswept Heath magically became a tapped Temple Garden. In Round 1, Lovett played a total of 5 turns for his 2-0 win. Turn 2 this time was Flooded Strand, instantly sacrificed for an untapped Breeding Pool. Cephalid Illusionist came down. Barnes sacrificed Bloodstained Mire, turning it into an untapped Overgrown Tomb. Could he deal with the Illusionist before Lovett went off? Cabal Therapy naming Shuko whiffed, with Lovett sporting Eladamri’s Call, Steelshaper’s Gift, Sutured Ghoul and a pair of lands. Treefolk Harbinger fetched out a Murmuring Bosk, the new Morningtide chase rare. Barnes then flashbacked the Cabal Therapy, stealing away the Steelshaper’s Gift.

Lovett drew for the turn, then sent the Illusionist into the red zone for a cheeky 1. Doran the Siege Tower was up next for Barnes, and at end of turn Lovett cast the Eladamri’s Call, searching up Outrider en-Kor. His Windswept Heath then became Godless Shrine. When he untapped, carnage ensued. The Outrider came down, and then Lovett simply said ‘target’ repeatedly as his deck miraculously appeared in his graveyard. Apart, that is, from a suite of Narcomoebas. Lovett then cast Cabal Therapy on himself in order to discard the Sutured Ghoul, removed a bucketload of monsters from the game, and then cast the Ghoul at a more than sufficient power and toughness for the hasty win. One game done, but it was already 1-1.

Barnes elected to play, to nobody’s surprise. Lovett pondered long and hard before binning his seven. He didn’t appear to like his six much either, but kept nonetheless. No such problems for Barnes, who opened up with Leyline of the Void, and a Turn 1 Thoughtseize. Three land, Tarmogoyf, Living Wish, and Narcomoeba faced him across the table. Living Wish was removed. Quite the start for Barnes. Windswept Heath was Lovett’s opener. Windswept Heath for Barnes became Godless Shrine, dropping him to 14, before casting Dark Confidant. Barnes was down to 3 cards, but that was going to start going up very soon with Bob in play. Lovett popped the Heath, fetching Breeding Pool tapped. Lovett to 19. City Of Brass led to Tarmogoyf. Barnes replied with Treefolk Harbinger searching out Doran The Siege Tower, Bob having revealed land, just as good Bobs should.

Windswept Heath for Lovett stayed uncracked as he added Narcomoeba to a board with a surprising number of monsters on it. Barnes dropped to 11 with Doran on top, then attacked with Bob and the now 3 ‘power’ Treefolk Harbinger. The Dark Confidant died to Lovett’s Tarmogoyf, who cracked the Windswept Heath for Sacred Foundry at end of turn. Tarmogoyf now faced Treefolk Harbinger and Doran. Eladamri’s Call fetched a second Tarmogoyf, which he promptly cast. A second Leyline of the Void was Barnes’ only play before shipping back to Lovett. Out came Narcomoeba, with the life totals at Barnes 11 Lovett 16.

Cabal Therapy from Barnes revealed City Of Brass and a Chrome Mox in Lovett’s hand. Not exactly major action then. In came the Narcomoeba, dropping Barnes to 10, who only had one card left in hand himself. Once again the Narcomoeba flew across, Barnes at 9. At this point Lovett’s Tarmogoyfs were both 3/4s, and Barnes sent in Doran, having clearly drawn another. That allowed him to deal with one of Lovett’s Tarmogoyfs, and potentially opened the way. Narcomoeba nibbled Barnes down to 8, then Lovett cast Living Wish for Tarmogoyf before reacquiring the status quo.

Cabal Therapy got rid of the Chrome Mox, then a second Therapy took away Lovett’s remaining card, a Living Wish. The Narcomoeba now had Barnes at 7. Surely it couldn’t fly all the way to an unlikely victory? Barnes made Gaddock Teeg, before Lovett drew a Shuko and dropped Barnes to 6. Doran piled in courtesy of Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, putting Lovett to 11, then Barnes added a Tarmogoyf of his own to the board. Narcomoeba in for 1, Barnes 5, you’re getting the feel of this now. Shizo, Death’s Storehouse was allowing Barnes to punch through with his Doran once more, and now Lovett was at 6 himself. Two mana saw Lovett cast Eladamri’s Call, but for what? Daru Spiritualist, which would immediately afterwards see play.

Barnes attempted the Doran trick for the third turn running, and successfully put Lovett to 1. Only three Starlit Sanctums and a last Living Wish could save Lovett. They weren’t forthcoming. Gordon Barnes 2, Nick Lovett 1.

Gordon Barnes 2-0 decklist:

Round 3 – Stephen Murray (Scottish National Champion 2006, 10 lifetime Pro Points) playing Hatearator versus Dan Holden (6 lifetime Pro Points) playing Red Deck Wins.

For the second round running, the curse of the Feature Match struck, as Dan arrived back from the real world three minutes into the round. Both players kept, and Dan began ‘Game 2’ with a tapped Stomping Ground. Murray cracked a Windswept Heath, fetched up a Plains and cast Benevolent Bodyguard, Stephen’s tech for the weekend. If you can’t remember – and I certainly couldn’t – it sacrifices to give one of your monsters protection from a color of your choice. Apparently it’s good at protecting Gaddock Teeg. Holden cast Grim Lavamancer, and then the players traded one damage apiece. Holden offered up a Countryside Crusher, and at end of turn Murray Smothered it. No Crushering for Holden, at least for now. The Bodyguard went on offence again, Murray took two for an untapped Overgrown Tomb, then Mortified Holden’s Lavamancer.

Barbarian Ring, Kird Ape and Molten Rain on the Overgrown Tomb was a three-part turn for Holden. Murray added Windswept Heath, took 1 when it sacrificed and added a Forest. Next up was Gaddock Teeg before the Scot passed the turn. Holden cast Mogg Fanatic, and immediately pointed it at the Benevolent Bodyguard. Murray brought out Troll Ascetic, and Holden replied with another Countryside Crusher, this time sticking around. Murray attacked with his Troll Ascetic, and Holden responded by shipping the Wooded Foothills into Stomping Ground tapped. Countryside Crusher was then able to happily block the Ascetic, and Murray regenerated it.

Mogg Fanatic was revealed on top of Holden’s library, so the Crusher and Kird Ape piled in, Gaddock Teeg getting in the way of the Crusher, but Murray still dropping to 7. Backup Gaddock Teeg appeared for Murray, Holden revealed Incinerate, then sent in the team of Crusher, Fanatic and Ape. The Ascetic regenerated, but Murray fell further to 4, then 1 with the Incinerate. With Barbarian Ring now live, we were done and heading for a decider.

Murray began – will anyone elect to draw today? – with a tapped Temple Garden. Holden came out firing with a painful Stomping Ground funding a Grim Lavamancer. Swamp turned into Dark Confidant. “That’s brave,” said Dan. “I have no fear,” replied the Scot. Crypt de Sang – that’s Blood Crypt to our non-French readers – came out, along with Seal Of Fire to dispense with the Confidant, and then a suspended Rift Bolt, ready for a rainy day. Murray made Tarmogoyf as a 2/3. The Rift Bolt unsuspended, and eventually aimed directly at Murray’s life total. Yet more pain had Holden at 14. He tapped all 3 land and cast Magus of the Moon, leaving Murray with a Swamp and a bunch of Red. Tarmogoyf came across, then Smother dealt with the Magus before damage, and Murray also got Polluted Delta into the bin, beating Holden for 5 with his now 5/6 Tarmogoyf. Holden’s temporary answer was Countryside Crusher. Holden blocked with the Crusher, then sacrificed his Wooded Foothills, getting the Crusher a +1+1 counter along the way. It didn’t matter as Smother sent the Crusher to the bin before it could get Murray’s Tarmogoyf in range of an active Grim Lavamancer. Gaddock Teeg completed the turn for Murray, who seemed well on top, despite his Tarmogoyf being somewhat reduced thanks to Holden’s tactical Grim Lavamancer. Incinerate the Tarmogoyf followed by activating the Lavamancer finally dealt with the undercosted 0/1.

Gaddock Teeg attacked for 2, dropping Holden to 6, then Murray cast Troll Ascetic. With just one card in hand, Holden would need answers soon, and at 14 life, burning Murray still seemed a long way off. Molten Rain did two damage en route to destroying a Temple Garden, with Murray now at 12. In came the Troll Ascetic and Gaddock Teeg, which led to the Lavamancer dealing with the Legendary Kithkin Advisor. The Ascetic still put Holden to within one swing of Game Over. Holden passed the turn, and Murray dropped to 11 when he cracked Polluted Delta for a Godless Shrine. End of turn Mortify on the Lavamancer sealed the deal, and once again the Game Loss proved crucial. Stephen Murray 2, Dan Holden 1.

Stephen Murray’s 3-0 deck.

Round 5 – Martin Bullivant (winner Ravnica Release Event) playing Crystal Shard Control versus Paul Wray (Top 8 Standard Champs) playing Burn Burn Burn.

As we entered Round 5, both players were at 3-1, looking to eliminate the other from Top 8 contention. Forest for Bullivant fed out a Birds Of Paradise. Wray replied with Bloodstained Mire. The Birds brought out Sakura-Tribe Elder, with no second land in sight for Bullivant. Stomping Ground at end of turn saw Wray drop to 19. Mountain got added to his mana, then the Birds saw a Wray Magma Jet. The Tribe Elder fetched an Island for Bullivant, again at end of turn. He added a second Island and cast Kodama’s Reach, fetching a Forest and an Island. Wray’s Blinkmoth Nexus fed Lava Spike, splicing on Glacial Ray for 5 damage. Wow, Kamigawa Block mechanics in the house! Birds Of Paradise was all Bullivant could muster before passing back. The Nexus became live for Wray. It flew over for one, then the previously seen Glacial Ray attempted to kill the Birds. However, Bullivant had Cryptic Command, countering the Ray and drawing him a card.

Sakura-Tribe Elder was next, with no sign of any threats for Bullivant. Wray made a second Nexus, then attacked, dropping Bullivant to 13. End of turn Venser, Shaper Savant came out, which Wray responded to with Flames Of The Blood Hand. Bullivant attacked for 3 with Venser and the Tribe Elder. With Wray on 15 he still had a long way to go. Mogg Fanatic for the Red mage was next, but Bullivant had Mystic Snake to deal with it. With a third Blinkmoth Nexus now onboard, and Bullivant at 9 he appeared to be checking whether he could race. He attacked with two, dropping his opponent to 7, with three cards still in Wray’s hand.

Bullivant came in for 5, and Wray was now down to 10. Barbarian Ring came down, only one card shy from being active. Incinerate to the face? Cryptic Command, bouncing Wray’s Stomping Ground. Incinerate to the face? Sure, Bullivant to 4. Glacial Ray put Bullivant to 2, and with Threshold more than available, Bullivant would have to try to win the following turn.

Bullivant attacked but Wray was more than happy to let everything through, knowing that his Barbarian Ring would take care of business. Bullivant knew it too, and it was on to the second game, Wray one to the good.

Bullivant chose to play – spotting a theme much? – and kept his seven, something Wray couldn’t with no land in his opening grip. Sadly six was no good either, so he would have to go with five. Bullivant kicked off with Forest then Sakura-Tribe Elder, while Wray had Turns 1 and 2 burn with Lava Spike and Magma Jet. The Tribe Elder fetched a Forest for Bullivant end of turn, then Kodama’s Reach got a pair of Islands. Wray untapped, looking at two Great Furnace and a Mountain. Incinerate for 3 dropped Bullivant to 12, and a suspended Rift Bolt threatened more next turn. However, when Bullivant passed Wray can’t have expected the Bolt to resolve, and Cryptic Command ensured that it didn’t. That still left the way clear to make Keldon Marauders, with Bullivant now at 11. Eternal Witness returned Cryptic Command, then Bullivant laid Crystal Shard. Intriguing. The Marauders dealt with the Eternal Witness, then Magma Jet put Bullivant to single figures on 9. He continued to fetch out tons of mana with Kodama’s Reach, taking him to 9 mana.

When the Marauders died, Bullivant fell to 8. Wray’s Lava Spike met Mystic Snake, then Shrapnel Blast pushed through the counters, and Bullivant was now at 3, with Wray now at 18 thanks to the first damage from the Mystic Snake. Sensei’s Divining Top was countered by a second Mystic Snake, and the power of the Crystal Shard was clear. Bullivant could now endlessly recur Mystic Snakes. Carnage. From there it was a dispiriting run for Wray, who could find no way to punch through the insurmountable counter-lock. Time for a decider.

Wray decided – can you guess? – to play first. Both kept their opening hands. Mountain Lava Spike got things going, Bullivant to 17. Breeding Pool untapped for a Birds Of Paradise was another 2 precious points of his life total. Magma Jet got rid of the Birds, attempting to stunt Bullivant’s mana before he got to Kodama’s Reach. Island Turn 2 was all Bullivant offered. Keldon Marauders was apparently acceptable, dealing 1 as they arrived. As anticipated Bullivant laid a third land and fetched 2 Forests off Kodama’s Reach. At end of turn, Wray cracked his Bloodstained Mire in search of Stomping Ground. In came the Marauders, dropping Bullivant to 11. With four mana open what could Wray do? Mogg Fanatic and Incinerate was the answer. Bullivant was now at 8. Five mana meant Plow Under for Bullivant. The Marauders died, then the Fanatic attacked, followed up by Glacial Ray. Bullivant was at 4, but at least knew Wray was drawing land next turn. But with Blinkmoth Nexus waiting in the wings he would have to be very careful.

Another Plow Under brought him some time, but the Fanatic was threatening to do the dirty deed with Bullivant down to 3, and the Nexus due back in action the following turn. Sakura-Tribe Elder came down and a tapped Boseiju, Who Shelters All. The Nexus activated, then Bullivant cast Cryptic Command, tapping all creatures and bouncing the Nexus. Having already laid a Stomping Ground, Wray had no choice but to keep the Nexus in hand. With almost no room for manoeuvre, Bullivant thought long and hard about his next play. He eventually cast Eternal Witness, returning Cryptic Command and casting Crystal Shard. It wasn’t enough. Wray sacrificed the Mogg Fanatic, gaining himself Threshold, and a freshly-drawn Barbarian Ring did the rest. Paul Wray 2, Martin Bullivant 1.

Paul Wray’s 4-1 deck

Round 6 – Jonny Chapman (5 PTs) playing Heartbeat Combo versus Adam Barnett (Top 32 PT Yokohama) playing Domain Zoo.

With both these players at 4-1, the winner would be pretty much guaranteed a slot in the Top 8. Adam kept, but the Combo player shipped it back, before keeping six. Adam led with untapped Blood Crypt and a 1/1 Kird Ape. Forest was Chapman’s reply. Windswept Heath sacrificed for Temple Garden. The Kird Ape swung for two, then a second one came down plus Isamaru, Hound Of Konda. Sakura-Tribe Elder represented a speedbump, and Chapman took 4 having chumped with the Tribe Elder . Barnett added a Tarmogoyf, currently a 2/3. A fourth land was Chapman’s sole action on turn 4. Barnett sacrificed Bloodstained Mire for a Steam Vents, untapped, and an army of beaters piled in. Kird Ape, Kird Ape, Isamaru, Tarmogoyf, no blocks from the Heartbeat player, plus Lightning Helix made the Tarmogoyf bigger, and Chapman was down to 2. Barnett sacrificed another Bloodstained Mire for Overgrown Tomb, then laid another Tarmogoyf. At end of turn, Chapman cast Cunning Wish and found Moment’s Peace. Fifth land, pass. In Barnett’s upkeep came Moment’s Peace from Chapman. Vindicate was aimed at Chapman’s untapped Island, which he Remanded.

Chapman now, needing to go for it, laid a sixth land, and cast Cunning Wish for Early Harvest. He cast the Harvest, then cast Revive on the Early Harvest. Mind’s Desire for 5.

1: Mind’s Desire
2: Forest
3: Early Harvest
4: Cunning Wish
5: Gifts Ungiven

As Chapman said, Good Game.

Barnett began the second with a tapped Blood Crypt. Island from Chapman. Wooded Foothills fetched Temple Garden, then Barnett cast Dark Confidant. Forest for Chapman. Turn 3, Confidant revealed Tarmogoyf. Wooded Foothills got an untapped Stomping Ground, Barnett now at 12. He cast the Tarmogoyf, and Gaea’s Might added 4 to the damage count, dropping Chapman to 14. A second Island was Chapman’s offering. Gaddock Teeg got revealed by Bob, and Barnett was at 10. He cast Mr. Teeg, yet more pain dropped him to 8, Tribal Flames for 5 saw Chapman down to 9, then the attack dropped Chapman to just 4.

Once again, it was time to go off or die for Chapman, as he cast Cunning Wish at end of turn for Echoing Truth. A second Forest came down, taking Chapman to 4 mana. 4 mana was not enough, and the Barnett Aggro deck was just a turn too fast.

As Chapman said, “I go first in Game 3.”

Both kept and Chapman got things under way with an Island. Windswept Heath fetched an untapped Sacred Foundry, leading to Isamaru. Forest, pass. Wooded Foothills sacrificed for Overgrown Tomb. Isamaru swung across, and Kami Of Ancient Law came down, potentially causing difficulty for Chapman’s Heartbeats. Third land, pass. Steam Vents came straight out untapped and Gaea’s Might meant Chapman took 9, then Tribal Flames for 5 put Chapman to 4.

Here we were again for the third time. Chapman needed to Combo out, starting with three Forests and an Island in play. Heartbeat Of Spring died as expected to the Kami Of Ancient Law, and Gaea’s Might on the Isamaru ended it all. Adam Barnett 2, Jonny Chapman 1.

Adam’s 5-1 decklist:

Quarter Final – Gavin Goh ( Day 2 at GP Stuttgart) playing Enduring Ideal versus Phil Griffiths (Pre-Release winner) playing Next Level Blue.

Gavin started the quarter final with a mulligan. Phil kept his seven. Windswept Heath for Goh, Polluted Delta for Griffiths. The Heath became Hallowed Fountain, then Goh added a tapped Sacred Foundry. The Delta became Breeding Pool, and despite Goh’s offer of a bonus 2 life loss, Griffiths declined and untapped on 19. Tarmogoyf was his Turn 2 play. Windswept Heath, pass from Goh. Back to Griffiths, who laid Academy Ruins and piled in for a mighty one damage with Tarmogoyf. Then he added Trinket Mage, and searched out Pithing Needle. Goh made Pentad Prism and a tapped Godless Shrine. In came Griffiths’ men, dropping Goh to 15. The Pithing Needle came down, naming Sensei’s Divining Top.

Goh added a painless Plains, with his Windswept Heath still uncracked, then passed. Griffiths attacked again, Goh down to 12. Goh simply passed, without even laying a land. Tormod’s Crypt was up next for Griffiths, and he immediately went to remove Windswept Heath from Goh’s graveyard. Goh responded by sacrificing his other Heath. 4 more damage came through, and Goh was down to 7. Orim’s Chant from Goh signalled his desire to Combo off undisturbed. That meant an old-fashioned counterspell, Counterspell. Then came Seething Song, followed up by Enduring Ideal. Goh searched for Solitary Confinement with three cards left in hand. Griffiths now enquired whether he could counter subsequent versions of the Epic spell. Oh yes he could, and he did, with another actual Counterspell. He sacrificed Flooded Strand, then cast Trinket Mage, searching out Engineered Explosives, and then casting it thanks to a fresh Chrome Mox for 3, conveniently the cost of Solitary Confinement.

Goh found Dovescape next turn in his upkeep, then discarded Burning Wish to the Solitary Confinement. Griffiths cast Counterbalance, which was countered by the Dovescape, netting him 2 1/1 flyers. His Tarmogoyf piled in for 6, leaving Goh at precisely 1 life. Goh went Epic once again, and fetched Pernicious Deed, blowing it for 2. Suddenly Dovescape was the only non-land permanent in play. Tarmogoyf threatened death once more, so Goh fetched out Form Of The Dragon. Griffiths used his Academy Ruins at end of turn, drew his Engineered Explosives, cast it for 5, which once again generated 1/1 flying men. Goh dealt 5 damage with the Form, then searched out another Solitary Confinement. Loxodon Hierarch put Griffiths back to 17, before Goh brought him back down to 12 with Form. Honden Of Seeing Winds was the next Epic spell for Goh, who would now not run out of cards to fuel the Solitary Confinement. And that took us to Game 2, with Goh one up.

Griffiths was happy enough, and this time Goh was ready for action with a full seven too. Polluted Delta got sacrificed by Griffiths, fetching Breeding Pool. Goh began with Ancient Spring. Turn 2, Griffiths made Umezawa’s Jitte. Sensei’s Divining Top was next for Goh, then Thoughtseize stole Thirst For Knowledge. Goh completed his turn with Godless Shrine. Pithing Needle rendered the Top useless. Goh cast Pentad Prism and added Sulfur Vent. Flooded Strand sacrificed for Breeding Pool, and Sower Of Temptations for Griffiths had nothing to steal. That didn’t feel like a lot of pressure, and Goh continued apace with another Pentad Prism and Boseiju, Who Shelters All, or at least all Ideal players. The Sower got equipped to the Jitte, and attacked for 2. Boseiju meant Burning Wish would resolve unmolested for Goh, and that meant Enduring Ideal.

Griffiths attacked with full force for 6, and Goh was now on just 6 life. He cast Enduring Ideal and fetched Solitary Confinement with 4 cards still in hand. Griffiths passed, and then countered the Ideal. Exactly the same thing happened the following turn. A third time? No, and Goh fetched Dovescape. Next up was Honden Of Seeing Winds, and that was pretty much that. In a repeat of their Swiss match, Gavin Goh’s Enduring Ideal defeated Phil Griffiths by 2-0.

Gavin Goh’s Enduring Ideal deck:

Semi-Final – Ian Davis (This semi-final!) playing Red Deck Wins versus Daniel Royde (PT San Diego) playing Goblins.

Davis won the die roll and began with Stomping Ground into Kird Ape. Royde replied with Snow-covered Mountain and Mogg Fanatic. Kird Ape attacked for 2. Wooded Foothills fetched Mountain, thus minimizing the damage to Davis in a match where every point could be critical. He added Tarmogoyf and passed. Auntie’s Hovel revealed a Goblin Piledriver which Royde then cast. Firebolt from Davis dealt with that threat, then he attacked with Ape and Tarmogoyf, dropping Royde to 13. An untapped Stomping Ground hinted at end of turn action as Davis passed. Royde revealed Frogtosser Banneret to make Auntie’s Hovel untapped, then added Goblin Piledriver before attacking for 2, evening the scores at 13 each. Incinerate dealt with the second Piledriver. Both players had three cards in hand, but the board position was clearly in Davis’ favor. 6 damage dropped Royde to 7, then Molten Rain killed an Auntie’s Hovel, which put Royde to 5. Goblin Matron allowed him to search out Warren Weirding. Davis continued to pile on the pressure, and Mogg Fanatic put Royde’s Frogtosser Banneret in the graveyard, further denting his mana prospects. Chrome Mox attempted to get him back in the game, as he made another Goblin Matron, this time fetching Goblin Ringleader. Blistering Firecat came roaring out for Davis, and with Royde tapped out it was on to Game 2, Davis now within a duel of his first PTQ final.

Royde – of course – went first in the second game with a Bloodstained Mire. Davis, having mulliganed to six, cracked his opening Bloodstained Mire for a Stomping Ground, charging out with a 2/3 Kird Ape. Royde also got his graveyard started with a Mire, making Blood Crypt tapped at end of turn. Goblin Piledriver was Royde’s Turn Two, while Davis once again followed his plan of not letting a Piledriver live, using Firebolt to kill it. Mutavault was his second land. Goblin Warchief came down on Royde’s side and attacked for two, dropping Davis to 15. Rift Bolt hard cast put the Warchief in the bin, and 15-15 were the life totals as Royde untapped. Wooded Foothills got a Snow-covered Mountain and Goblin Ringleader got Warchief, Piledriver and Matron. Carnage. The Ringleader came in to put Davis to 13.

The Kird Ape attacked, Molten Rain destroyed Royde’s Blood Crypt, and he was down to 10 opposite Davis’ 13. Goblin Warchief hit play for Royde, Chrome Mox with Ringleader imprinted, Piledriver plus mass attack put Davis down to 4. Facing down Piledriver, Warchief and Ringleader his lonely Kird Ape probably wouldn’t be attacking any time soon. He added Tarmogoyf, currently a 3/4. Then Davis Incinerated Royde’s Warchief, and Davis looked to be back in the game. Goblin Matron fetched Royde’s latest weapon of choice, Siege-Gang Commander. Skirk Prospector ensured that he would be able to cast the Siege-Gang the following turn.

Knowing what was coming, Davis again found himself on the back foot. Grim Lavamancer and Mogg Fanatic were his remaining cards, and the Fanatic quickly put paid to the Skirk Prospector. Tarmogoyf attacked as a 4/5 and found its mark, with Royde falling to 6. Royde’s fresh out of the box Mogg Fanatic shot Davis’ Lavamancer, and still Royde had 3 cards in hand to Davis’ zero. He drew, then laid another Grim Lavamancer. When Tarmogoyf attacked, this time Royde threw his Goblin Matron in the way to remain at 6. Finally, Royde found a 5th land, allowing him the critical mana to cast his Siege-Gang Commander. He dropped to 5 by sacrificing the Wooded Foothills, but that seemed a more-than-reasonable price to pay for what looked like a game-ender. Davis drew a Barbarian Ring which dealt with the Siege-Gang. That still left him 3 blockers plus a Mutavault for five potential attackers.

Make that 6 potential attackers as Royde cast Goblin Ringleader and then found only Skirk Prospector in his top 4. Royde passed. At end of turn, Davis’ Lavamancer finally got the chance to do what he does best, shoot things. 2 Damage to Royde put him to 3. Once again Davis drew a spell, and this time it was a Mogg Fanatic. With one final activation of the Grim Lavamancer plus the Fanatic, Royde was out of chances. Davis progressed to the final by 2 games to 0.

Ian Davis’ final deck:

So that put Davis into the final, where he would play Daniel Ruiz, a travelling companion of Nick Lovett, who was busy anti-cheerleading from the sidelines. Daniel Ruiz’ final deck:

Final – Ian Davis (this final!) playing Red Deck Wins versus Daniel Ruiz (Welsh National Team 2006) playing Red Burn.

Davis won the die roll and – can I find any more ways to say this is what you should expect? – elected to play. Both kept their opening seven. Wooded Foothills for Davis uncracked, Ruiz cracked Wooded Foothills for a Mountain, then cast Mogg Fanatic. Davis converted Foothills into Stomping Ground. A second Wooded Foothills came out, then Davis aimed Firebolt at Ruiz’ Mogg Fanatic. Ruiz, naturally, sacrificed it in response. Darksteel Citadel helped Ruiz power out a Keldon Marauders, which prompted Davis to fetch a second Stomping Ground. Mutavault was land 3, then a morph from Davis. Hmm, Blistering Firecat anyone? Ruiz added Great Furnace, cast Spark Elemental and turned his men into the red zone. The morph blocked the Marauders and Davis took 3, down to 13.

Blistering Firecat came out swinging, dealing Ruiz 7, dropping him to 12. At end of turn, Ruiz aimed Chain Of Plasma at Davis’ head. Davis discarded a card to deal 3 back, and Ruiz discarded Barbarian Ring. That flurry of activity left Ruiz at 9 and Davis at 7. 7 became 6 when the Keldon Marauders died. 6 became 1 when Shrapnel Blast hit town, and 1 became less than 1 when Ruiz achieved Threshold and set off his Barbarian Ring for the final points. Ruiz 1 Davis 0.

Guess what? Davis went first Game 2, but not without mulliganing to 6. He really didn’t like his 6, but kept. Ruiz kept 7, and that one card could be critical. Bloodstained Mire fetched Mountain for just one point. Davis 19. Grim Lavamancer, pass. Ruiz opened with Barbarian Ring, taking a point to cast Mogg Fanatic. 19-19. The Lavamancer came in, traded with the Fanatic, which then dealt Davis a point. 18-19. Mutavault, Ruiz took another point to 18-18, then cast Keldon Marauders, dropping Davis to 17.

Turn Three morph for Davis, Ruiz found a Mountain and attacked, the morphed Blistering Firecat chumping the Marauders. Ruiz made another Marauders, and Davis was at 16. Molten Rain sent Ruiz’ Barbarian Ring packing, and he took two in the process. The first Marauders died dealing Davis a point, then Ruiz activated Mutavault before swinging for 5 .Davis was down to 10 and Ruiz still had 4 cards in hand. Another morph came down for Davis and the second Marauders fell away, leaving Davis at 9. Ruiz dropped a sideboarded Sun Droplet, and passed the turn. Davis destroyed the Droplet with Krosan Grip, then attacked with his morph, flipping it up to be – gasp – a Blistering Firecat. Both players were now at 9. Ruiz activated Mutavault to attack for 2, leaving Davis at 7 and Ruiz at 8.

Davis, 1 down and running out of time laid Barbarian Ring with 6 cards in his graveyard, leaving him 1 card in hand. He passed the turn back to Ruiz, who activated Blinkmoth Nexus before sacrificing Shrapnel Blast which dropped Davis to 2. The Barbarian Ring with Threshold dealt the final points, and Daniel Ruiz had won PTQ Hollywood.

An excellent day was had by all, with a worthy winner. As is typical for the local metagame there was very little Combo in the field, and your mileage may vary, especially if your local group reads coverage. Me? I can’t wait to dust of my TEPS deck again. Or maybe Previous Level Blue. Or perhaps it’s time for some thoroughly Craig Jones face-burning…

As ever, thanks for reading…


PS – As our countdown to Worlds continues, I offer you this: The King was a young man when the Draft (not Booster, but something much less appealing) came along, threatening to send him to Vietnam as a 2/3 for 2 mana. Strangely, he didn’t fancy being an Elvis Warrior.