August 1, 2010
With 1397 players, this is the second largest North American Grand Prix ever, and the largest Constructed Grand Prix on the continent. Sitting at the top is Pro Tour veteran Gerry Thompson with Reanimator, and multiple StarCityGames.com Open Series champ, and no stranger to professional Magic, Chris Woltereck with the nefarious Lands deck.
Getting here was no small feat. After clawing through 15 rounds of swiss, Chris crushed Zoo in the quarter-finals and dispatched Alex Bertoncini and his Merfolk in the semis. On the other side of the bracket, Gerry Thompson defeated LSV’s CounterTop in an epic quarter-finals match and then escaped Chapin’s innovative homebrew in the semis.
One final match stands between them and Grand Prix glory and a substantial cash purse.
Here are their weapons:
- 1 Nether Spirit
- 1 Blazing Archon
- 1 Inkwell Leviathan
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 2 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 1 Terastodon
Gerry has favored Reanimator for most of this year, an ancient archetype revitalized thanks to the DCI’s decision to unban Entomb. Gerry has piloted it to consistent Top 8 finishes, but victory had eluded him…until now?
- 1 Forest
- 1 Wooded Foothills
- 4 Wasteland
- 4 Mishra's Factory
- 3 Tropical Island
- 1 Savannah
- 2 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
- 1 Windswept Heath
- 4 Maze of Ith
- 3 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Glacial Chasm
- 4 Rishadan Port
- 1 Cephalid Coliseum
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 1 Academy Ruins
- 3 Tolaria West
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 1 Bojuka Bog
Gerry congratulated Chris on making it to the finals, but warned him that he liked his chances in this matchup. Chris gently acknowledged Gerry’s remark without indicating agreement.
Gerry won the critical match roll, and elected to play.
After a few minutes of meticulous shuffling, Gerry fans open this hand:
Gerry carefully considered his hand, weighing its strengths and weaknesses. It’s fast. It can produce a turn 2 creature of his choice, with the combo of Entomb + Reanimate. However, it’s mana light. With only a Misty Rainforest, he’ll have to commit to the Entomb/Reanimate plan, which could cut him off from mana for the rest of the game, if his dual land is Wastelanded, or to finding Island and playing Careful Study (hoping to draw a Black mana source in the top three cards). Let’s see if Chris can win when I have turn 2 Inkwell Leviathan or Iona, Gerry thinks to himself. Gerry informs his opponent that he will not be mulliganing.
Chris dives into the tank and contemplates his hand:
This hand is slow, lacking vital mana acceleration like Exploration or Manabond, or even a Mox Diamond. Nonetheless, it has a number of important tools. Maze if Ith ensures protection against any creature Gerry can produce except Inkwell Leviathan. Port and Wasteland can check Gerry’s limited manabase and buy precious time to draw or tutor up more answers. Intuition can dig up anything that missing or needed in a tight spot, including Ensnaring Bridge, but not least Loam. And Academy Ruins can put Ensnaring Bridge on the top of Chris’s library; right where he wants it. All together, these disparate elements combine to produce a hand with enough synergy to warrant keeping.
Maze of Ith will force Gerry to Reanimate/Exhume twice (unless he goes for Inkwell), and Port and Wasteland will buy time to draw more answers and fire off Intuition for Loam and Ensnaring Bridge, and play them. Chris softly announces his intent to keep.
With that, the game begins.
GerryT turns his analytical mind to a critical decision. He has two options: 1) Careful Study or 2) Entomb/Reanimate. More specifically, he can 1) play Misty Rainforest and sacrifice it for an Island, and play Careful Study, or 2) play Misty Rainforest and pass the turn. If he takes the second option, he can wait until Chris’s endstep to break his fetchland for an Underground Sea (since Misty Rainforest can’t find Swamp) and play Entomb, and then cast Reanimate either in his upkeep (if Chris has Port ready) or in his mainphase (or, possibly, Careful Study and then Reanimate, if he draws another land in his draw step).
The issue is simple. But the analysis is complex:
The first line of play provides mana stability. Careful Study will allow him to draw more cards and mold his hand. The second line of play gives him critical information, and is brutally fast. He’ll see how explosive Chris’s hand is. It will tell him what it is he’ll need to combat. If Chris plays Manabond, he’ll literally lay all of his cards on the table, giving Gerry perfect information to formulate the proper solution, to select the right creature for the job.
Gerry has powerful weapons at his disposal to Reanimate, from Sphinx of the Steel Wind to Terastodon. If Gerry decides to Entomb up Inkwell Leviathan, which can’t be Mazed, Chris will only have a few turns to find one of his few answers, either recurring Glacial Chasm with Life from the Loam (aided by an accelerant like Manabond or Exploration) or resolve Ensnaring Bridge.
At the same time, Gerry understands that Chris’s deck is a minefield. His lines of play can be neutralized if Chris drew the right (or wrong, depending on your perspective) cards. If Chris manages to get Ensnaring Bridge on the table, Gerry will need a Terastodon to blow up bits of board in his way.
If Gerry goes for Iona, to shut down the Life From the Loam engine that powers Chris’s deck, he knows that he’ll have to contend with a Maze of Ith that could shut him out indefinitely, giving Chris plenty of time to set up countermeasures, such as Wastelanding his dual land and playing Tabernacle to tie up his mana or force him to sacrifice his Iona. And it won’t stop Ensnaring Bridge, either.
In short, every line of play is fraught with risks, strong as the each are. For each option, there are measures that Chris can take to neutralize them. It occurs to Gerry that he may need to Reanimate two creatures to win this game.
At the same time, Gerry recognizes that he has a powerful hand on his grip, and he can’t afford to waste it. Which brings him back to the main issue: The Careful Study route has a decent chance of giving him stability to enable and set up more lines of play in the long run. But it’s slower. The Entomb + Reanimate plan puts Chris on a sharp clock and will disrupt him at the same time. Although every single Entomb + Reanimate option may lose to the right mix of cards, Gerry figures he can carefully manage that by Entombing for the creature that maximizes his chances of winning now, if he just waits to see what Chris has. Wait one turn, see how fast Chris is, and then Entomb either Inkwell or Iona, depending.
Gerry elects to just play Misty Rainforest and pass the turn.
Chris patiently draws a card on his first turn, revealing a Savannah to the crowd gathered behind him and to this reporter.
Now it’s Chris’s turn to consider his options.
Not even a full turn into the game, both players are calculating potential lines of play several turns deep based upon what their opponents might do or might have in hand.
Chris needs to evaluate each line of play from a tactical perspective, from the perspective of which land drop makes the most sense right now. But that isn’t the only consideration. Chris also needs to make sure that his plays are strategic, that they support and build on each other – that they work together, not simply as isolated tactics, but as part of a larger plan. A miscue — let alone a misstep — can spell death.
Playing Maze of Ith here doesn’t make sense. Not only is there no creature on board, but it slows down the rest of the hand. It delays the mana development towards Intuition, and it prevents Chris from activating Port on turn 2. Even worse, it gives Gerry information that would affect his play. If he plays Maze of Ith, it puts him on notice that he’ll need to overcome it, either by reanimating Terastodon to destroy it or Inkwell Leviathan or another creature to overcome it. By not playing Maze, it lays in wait as a potential trap. At this point, Chris needs every informational advantage he has over Gerry.
That’s also why playing Port here doesn’t make much sense either. Port here reveals that he has Port at a time when he is unable to use it, putting Gerry on notice that he’ll have to play around Port.
Cephalid Coliseum is almost strictly worse than playing Savannah at this point, since each point of damage suffered by it could mean the difference between winning and losing since it could amount to the 2-3 points of life that gives Chris one more turn in this game.
Wasteland reveals information, and notifies Gerry that he has to play around it or through it, but unlike Port, it serves a function: Chris is aware of the fact that Misty Rainforest prevents Gerry from executing the fastest game plan: Entomb + Reanimate without fetching a dual land or playing another land in hand. Wasteland is the only card in hand that stymies that play. Although it gives Gerry information, it also prevents him from executing his most potent line of play without a second land. Wasteland also supports turn 2 Port. Wasteland is a play that has merit here.
Academy Ruins is unusable in the near future, and seems, like Port, just worse than Savannah. Savannah is actually a useful option here. Playing Savannah will allow Chris to cycle Tranquil Thicket to see one more card.
That narrows it to two options: Savannah or Wasteland. Both plays enable turn two Port. So, which is more valuable here: being able to see one more card or potentially shut down one line of play? Chris goes for the most conservative play, drops Wasteland, and passes the turn.
Gerry’s plan, of waiting to gather more information, has run into one of the few tactics that prevents him from going off. If he fetches an Underground Sea here, to play Entomb, it will be in his graveyard before he can untap. Had he known that this would be Chris’s play, and not some insane play with Manabond or Exploration or Mox Diamond + Port, he would have played Careful Study on turn 1. Of course, what Gerry doesn’t know is that had Gerry done that, Chris would have played a different land.
Gerry decides not to break the fetchland, to maximize his chances of drawing another land in his draw step.
Gerry draws Brainstorm on his turn, presenting him with yet another turn of critical decisions. Assuming he breaks the Fetchland, which he’ll likely want to do here, should he play Brainstorm or Careful Study?
He wants another land. Brainstorm digs three cards deep, and Careful Study only digs two. Brainstorm gives him the best chance of finding a land now. Brainstorm is also card-neutral, while Careful Study is potentially card disadvantageous here. Gerry doesn’t want to have to discard a spell, like the second Reanimate, which may be crucial later on.
On the other hand, if Brainstorm whiffs, he’ll need Careful Study just to cycle through the cards that Brainstorm already saw. He’ll be behind two turns. And, what’s worse, if he whiffs and Chris has Port, he won’t be able to play Careful Study next turn, since Careful Study is a sorcery. While the benefits of Brainstorm are potentially greater, the potential downside is potentially devastating. Careful Study it is.
Careful Study draws:
Gerry discards the same (both duplicates), and passes the turn.
Chris untaps and draws Ghost Quarter on the turn. .
Chris isn’t entirely sure what Gerry’s manabase looks like, but he correctly suspects that Ghost Quarter could knock out the only basic Island in Gerry’s deck. Of course, he doesn’t want to give Gerry a Swamp in exchange for it. Again, there is no point in playing Maze here. Academy Ruins is worse than Port, and Ghost Quarter is probably worse than Port. Savannah still presents the option of cycling Thicket, but Port seems like the better play. Chris plays Port and passes the turn.
On Gerry’s upkeep, Chris announces that he’ll Port Gerry’s Island.
Gerry laments the M10 rules that prevent him from floating mana from his upkeep into his draw step. Still, he saw three cards last turn. No lands. There has to be some lands in there somewhere. Gerry decides to Brainstorm in his upkeep, seeing:
Gerry passes the turn.
Chris draws Verdant Catacombs for the turn. His board is Port and Wasteland. His hand is Catacombs, Savannah, Ghost Quarter, Tranquil Thicket, Maze of Ith, Academy Ruins, and Intuition. Now Chris has to think about more than a possible land drop this turn. Now Chris has the option of playing Intuition this turn. Should he? What would he get?
To answer those questions, Chris needs to step back and take a look at the big picture. He needs to assess where this game is going, where it may go, and what he can do about it.
Can he stop Gerry from ever playing or resolving Reanimate/Exhume? It is even possible? If it is, how? If it isn’t, is it possible, at least, to create a game state where Gerry isn’t able to keep his creatures alive? And if Gerry can both reanimate and keep his creatures alive, what’s Chris’s plan for winning?
The answers to these questions will depend on what Chris draws, on what he resolves, and on what Gerry does. If Chris can stop Gerry from reanimating, then that’s his primary objective. If he can’t, then he wants to so limit Gerry’s mana that Gerry can’t afford a Tabernacle upkeep. And if Chris can’t do that, he wants to neutralize the threats, either with Mazes, recurring Glacial Chasm, or Ensnaring Bridge. And if he can do that, he can still try to win with Mishra’s Factories or by decking.
Can Chris Stop Gerry From Reanimating?
How might he stop Gerry from Reanimating? It only takes a single Black mana for Gerry to be able to both Entomb and Reanimate. Rough, Chris thinks. In a best case scenario, he somehow gets Gerry to Entomb and Reanimate on separate turns, giving him a window of opportunity to Bojuka Bog the Entomb target.
In a worst case scenario, Gerry will both Entomb and Reanimate on his turn, using different mana sources. It’s an inevitability issue. At some point Gerry will find a Swamp. Even if Chris can Port it indefinitely, eventually Gerry will tap the Swamp in his upkeep to play Entomb, and then play another Black mana source on his main phase (an Underground Sea or a Swamp), and cast Reanimate. Bojuka Bog can’t stop it.
Then, there are all sorts of scenarios in between: scenarios in which he can’t find Bojuka Bog, or can’t afford to find it, or scenarios in which he can’t keep Gerry’s mana in check, and Gerry is able to Exhume.
But what if, once Gerry finds a Swamp, Chris can Ghost Quarter it? Will that make a difference? Chris thinks it through. If he Ghost Quarters the Swamp, Gerry will float a Black mana, and then find another Swamp. Then, he has the two mana on board to Entomb and Reanimate. Even if Chris plays Bojuka Bog, Gerry can respond to the comes-into-play trigger with Reanimate. That’s assuming, of course, that Gerry plays the Swamp when he has both Reanimate and Entomb in hand, and that Chris has and is able to play Bojuka Bog.
The problem with Ghost Quarter is that it generates another Black mana for Gerry. But there is one other possibility — one other way to keep Gerry from Reanimating. If Gerry has basic Swamp in play, and Chris has Bojuka Bog in hand, is able to play it, can Ghost Quarter twice, and Port, he can prevent Gerry from Reanimating. It’s complicated, but here’s how:
In his own draw step (or earlier) Chris activates Port, tapping Gerry’s Swamp. Gerry responds by floating a mana. Gerry either Entombs or doesn’t. Chris moves to his first main phase. If Gerry Entombs, then Chris plays Bojuka Bog, removing the Entomb target. If Gerry doesn’t Entomb, Chris activates Ghost Quarter, targeting the Swamp. Gerry finds a second Swamp. Chris plays Loam. It resolves, recurring Ghost Quarter. Chris replays Ghost Quarter, and activates it, targeting the second Swamp. Then, Chris moves to his second main phase. Gerry either Entombs or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, then he loses the last Swamp in his deck. If he does, then Chris plays Bojuka Bog in his second main phase, removing the Entomb target. The same effect can be accomplished with a second Port, in which case Chris doesn’t need to start the whole chain of events before his first mainphase.
However, as you can see, this scenario involves a tremendous number of assumptions. Chris needs a lot of mana, resolve Loam, and he needs at least one Exploration in play (and possibly two). It also assumes that Gerry simply plays a Swamp. More likely, Gerry plays a fetchland that can find Swamp. However, if Gerry plays a Fetchland instead of a Swamp, Chris can beat that by simply Wastelanding the Fetchland to get Gerry to put the Swamp into play.
Outside of this particular scenario, Chris can’t stop Gerry from Reanimating.
If Chris Can’t Stop Gerry From Reanimating, Can He Prevent Gerry from Keeping the Creature Alive?
Suppose that Gerry will be able to Reanimate. Can Chris kill the creature? The only way this can happen is if he can recur Ghost Quarter to wipe out all of Gerry’s basics, and then play Tabernacle. If he can wipe out Gerry’s basic lands, Tabernacle will destroy anything Gerry can Reanimate, when paired with Wastelands. Will that work?
The answer is no. At most, Chris can kill two of Gerry’s basic lands before Gerry can Reanimate, because the creature he’ll Reanimate is Iona. That’s because Iona is the only creature that can keep herself alive with Tabernacle in play by stopping Ghost Quarter recursion. At most, Chris can recur Life From the Loam once before Iona hits play. That prevents Ghost Quarter from being recurred a second time, to take out the third basic.
Think about it. If Chris Ghost Quarter’s Gerry’s Island, Gerry will find a Swamp. If he plays Loam to recur the Ghost Quarter, and then replays and uses the Ghost Quarter, targeting Gerry’s Swamp, Gerry will tap the Swamp for a Black mana, find the new Swamp, and can Entomb and Reanimate at instant speed, bringing Iona into play. Then, Loam will be shut off indefinitely, with a basic land remaining on Gerry’s board to pay the Iona upkeep. The same scenario happens if Chris Ghost Quarters the Swamp first, except that the last land left would be the Island, paying for Iona.
In short, it doesn’t seem likely that Chris can prevent Gerry from Reanimating something unless he either gets very lucky or Gerry gets very unlucky. And if Gerry can Reanimate once, he’ll be able to keep his creature alive. That leads to the next question: how can Chris then win?
And if Gerry can both reanimate and keep his creatures alive, what’s Chris’s plan for winning?
To answer this question, it’s helpful to flip it: how can Gerry win? Chris can use Maze of Ith to prevent Iona from winning the game. In that scenario, Gerry either needs Terastodon to destroy the Maze(s) or Inkwell Leviathan to evade them. That means that Gerry will need to Reanimate again or Exhume again to win the game. Or, Chris can Intuition for Ensnaring Bridge, and recur it with Academy Ruins to stop Iona. In that scenario, Gerry will need Terastodon to destroy the Bridge. Gerry’s path to victory seems perilous. If he has to Reanimate a second time, he can’t give Chris too many elephants, because his life will be too low.
Chris, on the other hand, has two paths to victory: 1) He can attack with more Mishra’s Factories than Gerry has creatures. Chris won’t be able to recur Mishra’s Factories, so he’ll need extra Mazes to be able to attack with Factories, using the Mazes on the blocked Factories, to save them. 2) Or he can just win by decking, using Academy Ruins to recur Mox Diamonds or Engineered Explosives indefinitely.
And there is nothing wrong with that. This match isn’t timed. If the Land pilot can win with decking, that’s as good as any other method of winning. A win is a win. If there is a swiss round, things would be different. But it’s the finals.
In order for Gerry to win the long game, he will very likely have to bring an Iona into play and destroy Academy Ruins. There are a number of ways in which Gerry can win the short game, though. If he is able to get an Inkwell Leviathan in play before Chris can get Ensnaring Bridge or Glacial Chasm going, Gerry can win. Or, Gerry can get Iona into play and Terastodon, destroying a few key cards before Chris can find further answers, Gerry can win.
Given this reality, if Chris can resolve Intuition, he’ll probably want to get Loam, Ensnaring Bridge, and either Tolaria West, Maze of Ith, Tabernacle or Glacial Chasm, depending on how the game plays out up until that point.
Gerry runs both Daze and Force of Will, and playing Intuition here walks directly into a Daze. Gerry’s missed land drops but played two Blue draw spells, so he probably has countermagic. Intuition is too important here to get countered to easily. Intuition allows him to find Loam now, and begin Loaming. The importance of Loam here is to build a defense: to find Mazes, to find Tabernacle, and to begin attacking with Factories, to deal damage and reduce his opponents life total, a precious resource with Reanimator.
And now, Chris turns to the final issue for this turn: which land should he play?
Playing Academy Ruins here would be potentially ruinous. Academy Ruins is Chris’s backup win condition, and it should not be played until the last possible moment, perhaps only when his library is empty. If Gerry is able to Reanimate both Iona and Terastodon, the Terastodon would destroy the Academy Ruins and any chance Chris has of decking Gerry. And, it’s possible that it could destroy Ensnaring Bridge/Maze as well, actually allowing Gerry to win the game.
Chris also doesn’t want to use Ghost Quarter here. If he plays Ghost Quarter and targets Gerry’s Island, Gerry could fetch out a Swamp, Entomb and then Reanimate on the following turn after untapping this new Swamp, even if Chris tries to Port the Swamp. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play Ghost Quarter here. There is still an outside chance that he could recur Ghost Quarter, if Gerry missteps.
As between Verdant Catacombs and Savannah, Catacomb seems like the better play, since it can put the blue mana source directly into play to cast Intuition or transmute Tolaria West, should it be drawn. The question is reduced to whether to play Ghost Quarter or Catacombs. The Catacombs will allow him to cycle Tranquil Thicket now, and thin his deck, slightly. For that reason, Chris plays Catacombs and passes the turn.
The main issue is whether Chris should play Exploration here. Exploration doesn’t even accomplish much until he starts Loaming. That’s because, as was explained above, Chris doesn’t want to play Academy Ruins or Maze of Ith. Consequently, there aren’t many lands he actually wants or needs to get onto the table now. In fact, playing Exploration here, while accomplishing little for Chris, is actually dangerous because of the possibility of getting Dazed, which, as just noted, would allow Gerry to Careful Study next turn.
If Gerry Dazes the Exploration, Chris can pay for it, play another land, and then Intuition. There is the slightly more interesting possibility of playing Exploration because he wants Gerry to Daze, or as bait to help Intuition resolve. The real motive for playing Exploration here would be to draw out a Force. Given the chance of being Dazed, Chris recognizes that it’s just not worth it.
If Chris plays Ghost Quarter, he could use it this turn, targeting Gerry’s Island, preventing Gerry from being able to Daze, should he have one. Then, there is no cost to playing Exploration here. However, there is a cost to using Ghost Quarter. Although Chris wants to cut off Gerry’s mana supply, particularly with Ghost Quarter, the problem, as outlined above, is that Ghost Quarter could actually help Gerry. That’s because Gerry could then Entomb and Reanimate off the Swamp(s) at instant speed.
At the same time, Chris could just play Ghost Quarter without using it this turn. Savannah doesn’t advance anything here, since there is no need for another Green mana source at this time. In fact, playing Savannah here is risky, since Terastodon could take out the Green mana needed to play Loam.
Chris plays Ghost Quarter, his land for the turn, simply because that gives him more options now.
Each of these cards may prove important. The Exhumes are reanimation effects he may want later in the game. The Dazes help evade Port. The Entomb is vital for preceding the Reanimation effect. Both Reanimates are important for their efficiency. He discards Exhume.
Chris untaps and draws Life From the Loam, a card that could bust open this match
Chris is confronted with virtually the same options he had last turn, except that Life From the Loam is added to the mix. Should he Exploration? Should he Intuition? Intuition seems much less important now that Life From the Loam is in hand. It can be saved for the late game to help dig up answers in a tight spot. However, Exploration suddenly seems much more potent. And Chris definitely wants to play Life From the Loam this turn, to begin dredging. The sooner he starts dredging, the sooner he can loam more cards.
The cost of Exploration is if it gets Dazed, which will allow Gerry to play a Careful Study next turn off of the Island. The benefit of the Exploration is that it will allow him to maximize the Loam engine next turn. However, if Gerry has Daze, he’ll Daze the Loam anyway. That settles it. If he has any intention on playing Loam this turn, there is no reason not to play Exploration. If Exploration is Forced, then he can begin using Cephalid Coliseum to find more or Intuition to find Manabonds.
Chris taps Tropical Island and plays Exploration. Gerry responds with Daze, returning his Island to hand. Chris taps the Ghost Quarter to pay for the Daze. The reason he doesn’t tap Port is that he may want to Port Gerry on Gerry’s endstep.
Exploration resolves, and Chris plays Savannah, his land drop for the turn. Then, Chris taps the Savannah and Wasteland and plays Life From the Loam, putting Catacombs and Tranquil Thicket back into his hand. He plays Catacombs and breaks it for Tropical Island, and passes the turn.
Gerry draws Polluted Delta on his turn. He has two options: play Island or play Polluted Delta. If he plays Island, he can finally play the Careful Study. Or, he can play the Delta and set up the play of Entomb + Reanimate. The purpose of playing Careful Study is to find a Swamp. Since Gerry already has access to a Swamp with Delta, the motivation for Careful Study has largely dissipated. On the other hand, if he plays Delta, and Chris Wastelands it, he can then Port it immediately, making it less useful as a tool to play Entomb on Chris’s endstep. Still, even as a less useful tool, it appears to be more useful than an Island here.
Gerry plays Delta and passes the turn.
What are Chris’s options? How can Chris stop Gerry?
Instead, he could follow the plan similar to the one outlined earlier. He can Wasteland, targeting the Delta, to which Gerry will respond by finding Swamp. From there, he can Port the Swamp. Gerry will have two options. He can Entomb or wait to Entomb.
If Gerry floats mana and plays Entomb, either immediately or at the end of the first mainphase, Chris can then tap the two Trops and, say Cephalid Coliseum (which he’ll have to play this turn) and transmute for Bojuka Bog and play it.
Gerry doesn’t know that Chris has Tolaria West in hand, nor does he necessarily know that Chris has access to Bojuka Bog. Gerry suspects that he may have a Tormod’s Crypt maindeck, as Chris has tended to rock one. But since he hasn’t found it yet, there is reason to think that either he doesn’t have one, or doesn’t have a tutor to find one. It’s also possible, although less likely, in Gerry’s estimation, that Chris is even running a maindeck Karakas.
On the other hand, if Chris is willing to execute a line of play that involves Wastelanding a Fetchland to Port Gerry on Chris’s mainphase, then it’s also evident to Gerry that Chris is up to something, and that there is a good chance he is trying to get Gerry to Entomb.
Chris Wastelands the Delta, and Gerry responds by breaking for a Swamp, going to 18 life. Chris taps Savannah and Port and Ports the Swamp. Gerry floats a mana. Chris moves to his second main phase, and Gerry does nothing. Chris has managed to delay Iona, for at least a turn, unless Gerry draws and plays another black mana source.
At this point, there are a number of complicated options.
Chris can play two lands and cast Intuition, with full knowledge that Daze is temporarily unavailable. Gerry’s only option is Force (should he have it). Chris can also play two lands and then transmute, but unless he wants Gerry to know that he has Bojuka Bog, that’s not a good plan. Chris plays Wasteland and Verdant Catacombs and passes the turn.
Chris has done everything he believes he can do. He has the situation under control, but Gerry has a few outs.
First, Gerry can play Careful Study, and if he is holding or draws the right creature, he can Reanimate on his turn. Second, if he draws an Underground Sea or a Swamp on his draw step, he can Entomb and Reanimate. Those are Gerry’s outs.
If Gerry doesn’t draw into one of those outs, next turn Chris can try to execute the complex line of play outlined much earlier: 1) Port the Swamp in the draw step, 2) Ghost Quarter it (if Gerry doesn’t Entomb), 3) Life From the Loam to recur the Ghost Quarter, 4) Ghost Quarter the next Swamp, 5) and then move to the second main phase, 6) transmute for Bojuka Bog to exile the Entombed card if Gerry plays Entomb at any point in that sequence.
Granted, probably only a tiny fraction of the ever growing and enrapt crowd fully understand what’s going on. But everyone knows that this is a critical draw. Gerry slides the card from the top of his library, and snaps it into his hand, revealing a basic Swamp. Gerry won the jackpot.
Gerry plays the Swamp, taps both Swamps, Entombs for Iona, and Reanimates it, bring his life to 9. Chris responded by breaking Verdant Catacombs for a Tropical Island and cycles the Tranquil Thicket, which draws Ensnaring Bridge. Gerry names green, and passes the turn.
Now Chris has to deal with resolved Iona. This won’t be easy, and he knows it. But he anticipated this situation. Now he has to fall back to his backup plan: win with Factories or by decking.
Chris draws Maze of Ith for the turn, rather than Loam, since Iona has now come into play.
What should Chris do now?
His board is:
His hand is:
What now? Iona has already hit. Gerry has two Swamps. If Chris Ports Gerry, what is it that Gerry could do next turn? He could Entomb in his upkeep and either Reanimate or Exhume in his first mainphase. If he Reanimates Terastodon, to destroy the Bridge and/or the Maze Chris is about to play, then Chris will have two elephant tokens to play with for the long game that could potentially kill Gerry. If Gerry Exhumes Terastodon, then the elephants are much less useful. Gerry can only Reanimate one more time, but he can Exhume with as many Exhumes as he has in his deck. If Terastodon kills Bridge and a Maze, Chris will be able to play another Maze, and Tolaria West for yet another, to protect himself. Or, he could play Coliseum and Academy Ruins, and put Ensnaring Bridge back on top of the deck, draw it with Coliseum, and play it again. That takes a good deal of mana, but he can do it. Or, he can play Glacial Chasm to buy a turn to use Academy Ruins. In short, Chris feels pretty safe.
His immediate tactical objective is to prevent Gerry from being able to Exhume. Reanimate doesn’t really matter, at this point, because it would bring Gerry’s life total so low. He will Port one of the swamps, but what else should he do? He can use Tolaria West to find Tabernacle, to further tie up Gerry’s mana. And/or he can use Ghost Quarter on one of his Swamps.
Which lands should he Ghost Quarter, a Swamp or an Island, knowing he’ll only get one activation out of it? Is it more important to bring Gerry down to one Swamp, slowing his ability to Entomb and Reanimate on the same turn, or is it more important to stop him from being able Brainstorm, Mystical Tutor and Careful Study? Chris isn’t sure. If he Ghost Quarter’s now, he has to target a Swamp. If he can swing it, he’s more interested in Ghost Quartering the Island, since that will take out ability to repeatedly manipulate his library.
There is also another issue: should he stop drawing cards? If he draws Green ones, like Manabond, he won’t be able to easily control his hand size for Ensnaring Bridge. Chris has to be extremely careful with everything he does from here on out. Cephalid Coliseum could prove to be critically important in cycling through green cards.
Although Chris would like to use Tolaria West to find Tabernacle here, he might cut himself off from being able to directly find Bojuka Bog in the near future. It’s possible that the Bojuka Bog could be used in future scenarios to exile Reanimation targets. At some point later in the game, with Gerry’s Swamps being tapped by Port/Tabernacle, Gerry might find a Sea, and when Chris goes to Wasteland it, he might Entomb on Chris’s turn, allowing him to Bog it from game.
If he’s not going to transmute Tolaria West now, he probably wants to play Ensnaring Bridge here. That will force Gerry to draw out any Force of Wills he has. He taps Savannah, Trop, and Trop and plays Ensnaring Bridge, which resolves, to Gerry’s dismay. Chris then plays one of his Mazes.
Chris decides to be ballsy. He’ll give Gerry one more opportunity to Reanimate, and hopefully walk into some of these traps, particularly with Terastodon. Chris believes he can survive another Reanimation effect, and might even be able to win the game if Gerry does, by attacking with multiple Factories at the end of the game.
Gerry untaps, and Chris Ports one of his Swamps. Gerry draws another Reanimate for the turn. He plays the Island and casts the long-awaited Careful Study, drawing: Sphinx of the Steel Wind and another Iona. Excellent. He discards both. He can’t attack with Iona on account of the Bridge and Chris having 6 cards in hand. He passes the turn, with a Swamp untapped.
Chris draws Exploration for the turn.
What should Chris do now?
1) He can Port the Swamp, to force Gerry to Reanimate the Sphinx now, or not.
2) He can Ghost Quarter the Swamp, to force Gerry to Reanimate the Sphinx now, or not.
3) Depending on what Gerry does, he can Tolaria West for either Tabernacle or Bojuka Bog.
Even if he Ghost Quarters one of the lands and Ports Gerry on his upkeep, if Gerry draws an Underground Sea (or a fetchland) he can Exhume. There are only two ways, besides Bog, to stop that: find a Port or find Tabernacle now. He has to do one of those to stop that out.
Chris settles on plan. He decides to Ghost Quarter the untapped Swamp now, forcing Gerry to decide to Reanimate the Sphinx or not. Chris Ghost Quarters the Swamp, and Gerry lets it go, lamenting the fact that he didn’t run more basics. Chris is swift in his follow up play. He transmutes Tolaria West into Tabernacle, and plays it. Then, he plays a second Maze of Ith, and passes the turn.
One again, Gerry pays Iona’s upkeep, and then finds his Swamp Ported. Gerry draws Underground Sea for the turn. Now it’s time to play Minamo. It’s time to force Chris to use his Wasteland, or to see if he can keep up in some other way. Gerry passes the turn.
Chris draws Intuition on the turn. Intuition in this deck is as complicated to use as Gifts Ungiven in the most perilous Vintage scenarios. Chris needs to play for the long game here. He has to Wasteland the Minamo, unless, again, he can get another Port. So, for example, he could Intuition for three Ports here.
There is another option. He could Intuition for Mishra’s Factories, just to attack Gerry low enough that Reanimate is no longer a viable option. He wants to do that, but he also recognizes that using his Intuition thusly may cut off his ability to find other answers when he needs them.
A third possibility: He could Intuition to thin his deck. For example, one possibility is to Intuition for green cards, twice, and then use the Coliseum to dump them. There are, by his count, eight green cards in his deck. He could get 6 of them out with both Intuitions, ensuring that he never gets stuck from not being able to get under 6 cards with Bridge. That actually seems like the very sensible, but highly counterintuitive, strategic line of play. He decides that that is likely what he’ll do.
On Gerry’s upkeep, Gerry pays Iona and finds his Swamp Ported. Gerry draws Verdant Catacombs! Gerry knows that he needs to be very judicious here. He can’t go to 8 life and Reanimate Terastodon. He plays the Underground Sea, and passes the turn.
Gerry pays the Iona upkeep, and is once again ported. But in continuing, and unbelievable luck, he draws another Underground Sea. Gerry realizes that his deck is now much thicker than his opponents, and he is seriously thinking about decking Chris. To do that, he knows he’ll have to destroy Academy Ruins. Gerry plays the Sea and passes the turn.
Chris draws Mox Diamond on his turn. Then, he activates the Coliseum, drawing:
He discards Manabond and two Explorations. He taps two Tropical Islands and a Savannah and transmutes the Tolaria West into a Wasteland, and plays it on Gerry’s Sea. He plays a Mox Diamond, letting it go to the graveyard, and passes the turn.
Gerry pays the Iona upkeep, and is Ported once again. Then, he draws Brainstorm in his mainphase. He thinks about it, but decides to play the Catacombs. There are two Seas left in his deck. He’ll need both of them. He doubts that Chris will have another Port next turn.
And, of course, Chris draws another Port. Chris plays the Port and passes the turn.
On Gerry’s upkeep, Chris waits for Gerry to pay for the Iona, which he does, but this time he does it with the Swamp. Then, Chris goes to Port both the Catacombs and the Island. Gerry floats a Blue mana, but let’s the Ports resolve. He’s not quite ready to Brainstorm. He draws Misty Rainforest for the turn, plays it and passes. Five turns of incredible luck with land drops. Just a few more turns of this!
Now Chris is in greater danger. He draws Misty Rainforest on the turn, not a good draw. He plays it, activating it, fetching out basic Forest, thinning one more card out. Chris is unable to answer Gerry’s last land drop.
Now Gerry has options. After paying for Iona, he can float mana after being tapped down by Ports, and then he can play Reanimate and Daze it, returning the Island to hand. Then, he can sacrifice a fetchland for Underground Sea and Exhume the Sphinx.
The problem is that to Exhume Sphinx, he has to break a fetchland and go to 8 life. While bringing Sphinx into play with Exhume is a good thing, it’s not worth it if it cuts him off from being able to Reanimate Terastodon. Gerry’s his goal is to Exhume or Reanimate Terastodon to destroy Academy Ruins. That’s his entire plan. He has 32 card in his library compared to Chris’s 19. Gerry is realistic about his chances. The board is far too gummed up for him to win with creatures. The Mazes are just part of the problem. He has to overcome Ensnaring Bridge.
One again, now that Gerry Brainstormed into Sea, he could Exhume here. But, again, if he does, he’ll be cut off, forever, from being able to Reanimate the Terastodon, because he’ll have to break Catacombs, going to 8 life. Second, he’ll have to pay two upkeeps with Tabernacle.
Now that he has Entomb in hand, he decides to wait. He wants to have maximum options. The more difficult question is whether he should play the Underground Sea. Remember that Gerry’s board is Swamp, Island, Misty Rainforest, and Verdant Catacombs.
If he plays Underground Sea here, he’ll be able to Entomb or Reanimate at any time. However, there is also a chance that his opponent will draw the final Wasteland. If that happens, he can always respond with Reanimate and Daze, to return the Sea to his hand. However, more concerning, his opponent will start Porting the Sea immediately, rather than one of the fetchlands. He’ll have to pay upkeep on Iona, then his other basic land and the Sea will be Ported.
Gerry passes the turn.
If he plays the Bojuka Bog, he’ll remove Sphinx from game. Does that matter? As soon as Chris draws more factories, he can begin attacking, and using the Mazes to untap the blocked ones. Getting rid of Sphinx merely means one less blocker.
If he can wait until he gets more Ports or the last Wasteland, he might be able to force a situation where Gerry can’t Entomb and Reanimate in the same turn. That might allow him to nuke the Terastodon with Bojuka Bog. Since Chris doesn’t have to play Academy Ruins until he’s drawn the last card in his deck (which is no more than 17 turns from now), Chris can attack with soon-to-be-drawn Factories before that point. And Gerry can’t Reanimate Terastodon until Academy Ruins is played. That would seem mean that Chris should just wait. He decides to wait.
Gerry taps Island to pay for the Iona, and then Chris Ports the Rainforest and the Swamp. In response, Gerry taps the Swamp and plays Entomb for Inkwell Leviathan, ensuring that he won’t draw it. Then, Gerry draws Mystical Tutor for his draw step, and passes the turn.
Gerry pays for Iona, then Chris Ports the other basic and one of the fetchlands. Gerry draws the last Underground Sea, which is ironic because he doesn’t really want it. He’s going to have to find a way to get it back into his library.
Chris untaps and draws another Tabernacle, and passes the turn
Gerry plays Mystical Tutor on Chris’s endstep, finding Brainstorm, which he’ll use to get Underground Sea back into his library. Gerry untaps, pays for Iona, and then Chris Ports the Sea and the other basic.
Gerry draws Brainstorm and passes the turn.
Chris draws Life From the Loam and passes the turn. 13 cards left in his library.
Gerry pays for Iona, has both his Sea and other basic land ported, and draws Blazing Archon, and passes the turn.
Chris draws Rishadan Port and passes the turn.
Chris draws Engineered Explosives and passes the turn.
Gerry pays for Iona, and is ported thrice. He draws Show and Tell and discards it.
Chris draws and plays Maze of Ith.
His board is Exploration, Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Savannah, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Maze of Ith, Maze of Ith, Maze of Ith, Forest, Mishra’s Factory, Tabernacle and Ensnaring Bridge.
Gerry draws Force of Will and discards it.
Chris draws a Mishra’s Factory, and plays it. Finally, Chris can begin to attack with Factories, and go for the win. His plans is simple: attack with two Factories next turn, and then Maze of Ith whichever factory is blocked, but before combat damage is assigned, and tap that Maze to pump the other. He’ll deal three damage to Gerry, and prevent him from being able to Reanimate.
Chris’s board is:
Mox Diamond, Exploration, Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Savannah, Forest, Rishadan Port, Rishadan Port, Rishadan Port, Mox Diamond, Mishra’s Factory, Mishra’s Factory, Maze of Ith, Maze of Ith, Maze of Ith and Ensnaring Bridge.
Now Gerry has no choice. The Factory beatdown will commence. He has to Exhume something. In his upkeep, he taps Swamp to pay for Iona. Then, Chris Ports his Island, which he taps for a Blue mana. And then Chris Ports his Sea, which he taps for a Black mana. Then Chris Ports his Rainforest.
UB floating. Still in his upkeep, Gerry plays Brainstorm, and Dazes it, returning Underground Sea to his hand, but using the last mana to pay for it. He draws: Entomb, Polluted Delta, and Thoughtseize, putting Underground Sea and Reanimate on top of his deck, drawing Reanimate.
Then, at the end of his upkeep, he breaks the Verdant Catacombs for Underground Sea (going to a critical 8 life). Then, Gerry draws Force of Will, plays his other Underground Sea and casts Exhume, putting Blazing Archon into play.
Chris draws Wooded Foothills.
Chris draws Maze of Ith, which he plays.
Chris draws Mishra’s Factory, which he plays.
Chris draws Intuition, and discards Life From the Loam.
Gerry reveals a smooth confidence for someone who seems like they are on the ropes. What does Gerry have in mind?
Gerry draws the Polluted Delta, plays it.
Chris draws another Mox Diamond. Two cards left in library.
Chris has two cards left in his library. He draws… Mishra’s Factory. He plays it.
To recap, Gerry’s board is this:
His hand is this:
Gerry pays for both of his creatures, and Chris ports down the remaining mana producing lands, and two of the four fetchlands on the table.
Gerry draws Mystical Tutor and discards one.
Gerry pays for his creatures, and finds Sea and three fetchlands Ported. He draws Careful Study, which he discards. Only 8 cards left in his deck.
Gerry pays for his creatures, and Chris Ports the Sea and three fetchlands. Gerry draws another Polluted Delta, which he plays, and passes the turn.
Once again, Chris recurs the Mox Diamond, plays it, and sends it back to the graveyard.
Gerry pays for his creatures, grimaces when he draws Terastodon, and then discards it.
Yet, Gerry is not fazed.
Gerry pays for his creatures, taps his lands, and draws and discards Deep Analysis.
Chris recurs Academy Ruins, once again.
Gerry pays for his two creatures, taps down many of his lands, and then Gerry draws the card he’s been looking for: Daze. He passes the turn. 6 cards left in his library.
Chris recurs Mox Diamond.
In Gerry’s upkeep, Chris is very surprised to learn that he will not pay for either Iona or Blazing Archon. Chris Ports the Swamp, and Gerry floats a mana. Chris Ports the Sea, and Gerry floats a Blue mana. Chris Ports the Island, and Gerry floats a mana. Then, Chris ports a fetchland, and Gerry floats a mana.
Gerry plays Mystical Tutor, and responds with double Daze, returning Island and Underground Sea to his hand. Then, Gerry plays Entomb, putting Nether Spirit in the graveyard. Then, with the last Blue mana floating, Gerry plays Brainstorm, drawing: Thoughtseize, Force of Will, Entomb, three of the final five cards in his library. He puts the Sea on top, and the Island on top of that. He draws the Island and smiles.
Chris could only respond by Academy Ruin’s something on top of his library once. Deep Analysis forced him to draw more cards than he had in his library, causing him to lose the game.
Chris was stunned. Gerry had pulled a coup. Chris had miscalculated. His plans revolved around Terastodon. Gerry had cleverly figured out that there was another way to win, and set Terastodon up as a trap. He had completely forgotten about Deep Analysis.
This was a Legacy to remember.
Until next time…