2011-2012 Precon Championships: Nagle Division (Part 1 of 2)
Agrarian society has gifted the English language with a number of useful phrases, and in the run-up to elections in November one of these must surely be ‘bellwether.’ Etymologically derived from the practice of stringing a bell around a castrated ram’s neck, a shepherd could tell which direction the flock was moving just by listening for the bell. Nowadays we associate it with a notion or concept that is an early indicator of how the rest of the body will go. In all aspects, it finds its very opposite in the Nagle Division.
To its ensuring credit, the Nagle Division has fielded a Champion from amongst its ranks, Endless March, winner of the 2005-07 Championships. However, it was the very last Division to do so. Still, a win’s a win, and this season one Division will become the first to have the honour of being a two-time winner! For the back-of-the-pack Nagle, this means hoping that momentum stays with it and its able to persevere through a crowded field of competition. Starting with three Commander decks gives the Nagle no small bit of flavour and flair, but to win it all it’s going to have to hope that they can go the distance or, failing that, another of their number steps up. Today, we begin that winnowing process.
In short, welcome, ladies and gentlemen and sports fans of all ages, to another turn in the arena! This Autumn classic brings together all the preconstructed decks of the past season, from Magic 2012 through to Avacyn Restored. It is a brutal and grueling process as we look to distill that purest essence, that champion spirit, from a collection of contenders. By the time the last match has played out, all of thirty-one decks will have tasted bitter defeat, leaving only one deck standing.
Which deck will it be? Let’s start finding out!
Game 1: Devour for Power (COM) vs Hold the Line (INN)
After getting slaughtered in the friendly, Devour for Power takes advantage of a slower start from Event Deck Hold the Line to make a couple of plays. It opens with a Simic Signet, then uses it to bring out a Solemn Simulacrum for a bit of much-needed ramp. It then quite happily plays a Mulldrifter, drawing two more cards.
Of course, Hold hasn’t been idly watching. It began with a Champion of the Parish, then brought out Honor of the Pure. The Champion gets its first counter courtesy of an Accorder Paladin, which is followed by a Silver-Inlaid Dagger. When the equipped, 7-power Paladin swings in, though, it is traded for the Simulacrum, and this sets up a next-turn Mimeoplasm, copying the Simulacrum with a trio of +1/+1 counters from the Accorder Paladin.
The Mimeoplasm draws the immediate attention of an incoming Fiend Hunter, forcing Devour to chump the 7/4, Dagger-wielding Champion, but it steadies with a Slipstream Eel. Just when Devour looks like it’s able to weather the storm, Hold simply whisks away the Eel with a second Fiend Hunter. Defenseless, Devour falls in short order.
With its opponent on the ropes, Hold leaves nothing back in game two. An Elite Vanguard arrives first, then its bolstered by an Honor of the Pure. That leaves Hold open for a surprise Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, but an answering Mirran Crusader puts that notion to bed. A Fiend Hunter takes Skullbriar out of the equation altogether, and Devour is quickly overrun with only a Simic Signet, Sign in Blood, and Terramorphic Expanse to ever show it was even there…
WINNER: Hold the Line (INN)
Game 2: Political Puppets (COM) vs Entangling Webs (M12)
Although up against weaker competition, Puppets seems to have understood that the best offense for a Commander deck can be a good defense! It opens with a Prophetic Prism and Lightning Greaves, then sticks the Greaves on a Guard Gomazoa- voila! A near-immovable object.
Webs, meanwhile, finds joy in a Crimson Mage and Vastwood Gorger after a Rampant Growth, though it still can’t marshal much offensive might. It then happily draws four cards off of one of Puppet’s unfortunate “group hug” options- Skyscribing. Still, the gamble seems to pay off for Puppets, which then lands a Howling Mine off of a Sol Ring. Webs doesn’t come away empty-handed, however, as it plays a Stampeding Rhino and swings with it right away thanks to haste from the Mage. It also locks down a Court Hussar with an Arachnus Web, though turnabout is fair play when the Rhino draws a Prison Term.
The momentum shifts, however, when Puppets finds Numot, the Devastator. Although Webs deploys both the Arachnus Spinner as well as a Giant Spider, a Vow of Duty makes Numot lethally big. At risk of losing two of three Mountains in a stroke, Webs puts an Arachnus Web on Numot to stall for time. Webs next tries to smoke Numot with a massive Fireball, but it gets Scattering Stroked (with Puppets losing the clash).
An Izzet Chronarch pulls the Stoke back to hand, but Webs is able to tease it out by gang-blocking Numot with the Spiders and casting Slaughter Cry (again, with Puppets losing the clash). That lets Webs play Garruk’s Horde, though it now has a Martyr’s Bond to content with as well. Webs also brings out a Greatsword, and sticks it to the Horde. Thanks to the Horde, Webs takes heart in seeing it’s got an Acidic Slime coming its way.
To prevent that, Puppets buries the Horde in the library with Oblation, shuffling away the Slime as well. It then plays Brion Stoutarm, equipping the Lightning Greaves to it (safely, since Webs is tapped out), and uses Brion to chuck a useless Goblin Cadets at Webs. That triggers Martyr’s Bond, compelling Webs to sacrifice a long-redundant Llanowar Elves while gaining a little bit of life. A Numot attack claims Webs’ last Spider.
Webs then finds a pair of Acidic Slimes, killing off Martyr’s Bond (while losing the Arachnus Web it stuck on the Hussar) and then Numot’s Vow of Duty. This gives Webs the room to begin attacking to try and claw its way back into the game. A swing with the Gorger and Elemental sees the Elemental traded for a Chronarch and 4 damage getting in, with Puppets declining to block with Numot. It plays a Runeclaw Bear to replace its loss.
Next turn, Puppets decides to go fishing with a Perilous Research after drawing a very disappointing Reins of Power. It hits paydirt, however, when the Research lets it find an Insurrection. It has exactly enough mana left open to cast it, and swings for 28.
Puppets again opens with solid defense, chaining a Wall of Omens and Fog Bank after an opening Goblin Cadets. With Webs flounding- only managing Llanowar Elves and a Crimson Mage early- it tries to go over the top by sticking a Vow of Flight onto the Cadets. It works- once- then an Acidic Slime eats the Vow.
Next, Puppets adds a Ghostly Prison to make attacking less efficient, and this buys it some time. Webs plays a Vastwood Gorger after a Stampeding Rhino, then a Stingerfling Spider. The Spider looks to take out the Bank, but Puppets responds with a Perilous Research to put the Wall to better purpose. Webs then pays its 2 and attacks with the Gorger. It keeps the pressure on, even refilling its hand with a Hunter’s Insight, until Puppets steals the Gorger by unmorphing a Chromeshell Crab- enjoy your Goblin Cadets, Webs! Still, Webs keeps Puppets under pressure with an Arachnus Web on the Wall of Omens.
The Gorger falls quickly beneath a Rhino with a Greatsword, but it’s an even swap. Puppets then adds a Spurnmage Advocate, but a Lightning Elemental- with the Greatsword- forces a trade for the Chromeshell Crab, keeping Puppet’s useful creature count low. The Advocate kills off a Greatsword-wielding Acidic Slime, but that gives back the Lightning Elemental and a Forest. The Lightning Elemental returns and swings in, getting traded out for the Advocate as the Dragon token made by Death by Dragons gets tripped up by an Arachnus Web.
Things turn the corner for Webs when an Acidic Slime picks off the hated Ghostly Prison, but here the game enters a detente. Webs starts playing with aggression, bringing out creatures, giving them haste and the Greatsword, while Puppets plays anything it can to stall for time. Quickly, Puppets starts to play to its final out. It stalls even more, getting another 5/5 Dragon token and trading wherever it can to keep the creature count low. It uses an Izzet Chronarch to get back Vision Skeins, even though it has better in the graveyard, because it wants Webs to draw cards and keep drawing them. A Windborn Muse keeps a lid on any alpha striking, while a Court Hussar, Plumeveil, and Guard Gomazoa give Webs a bit of a defensive hurdle.
Finally, Webs draws its own out in the form of a Fireball, which it inflates to lethal proportions. Puppets smiles, taps four mana, and springs the trap it’s been baiting- Wild Ricochet. Webs dies to its own sorcery.
WINNER: Political Puppets (COM)
Game 3: Mirror Mastery (COM) vs Carnival of Blood (INN)
Carnival gets off to a dream start, with Bloodcrazed Neonates hitting the ground running on turns 2, 3, and 4. Though they hammer Mirror’s life total, the dream comes screeching to a stop when Mirror wipes the board with a Firespout. Still, Mirror holds a hand of expensive stuff, with only a Lightning Greaves to show for its troubles, so Carnival has the time and space to rebuild. It drops a Falkenrath Noble, sees a Mask of Avacyn Crumpled, then Diabolic Tutors up a Falkenrath Marauders. The Marauders get in once before they draw a Vow of Wildness, but by then Mirror is already on death’s door.
Mirror tries one last act of defiance, playing a Baloth Woodcrasher, equipping the Lightning Greaves to it, playing a Forest and swinging in with an 8/8 trampler, with an Invigorate in hand. Carnival thwarts even that, flashing a Tribute to Hunger. Mirror dies in ignominy.
Carnival comes out early with the expected beats- a Crossway Vampire and Falkenrath Noble- and soon finds Cobbled Wings and a Mask of Avacyn. Mirror, meanwhile, sets about building its necessary manabase with vigour, starting with an Evolving Wilds, then cycling a Valley Rannet and Krosan Tusker, and finally a Kodama’s Reach. It keeps Carnival’s board clear with another Firespout and Electrolyze, picking off a Markov Patrician along the way. Then it lands its own creature- a Nucklavee- and grabs the Firespout and Electrolyze right back to hand!
This gives it enough breathing room to venture out with Garruk Wildspeaker, but poor Garruk draws an immediate Fireball. With sweepers across the table, Carnival sets to teasing them out, since it can still turn any creature into a threat thanks to its equipment. It’s able to pull the Firespout and Electrolyze back out with a succession of coal-mine canaries, like a Markov Patrician and Child of Night. A Rakish Heir pulls a Vow of Lightning, but in doing so Mirror has shut down its own ability to attack since it can’t push the Nucklavee past.
The stalemate is broken when Mirror casts a 6-point Disaster Radius, revealing a Hydra Omnivore. Mirror brings out Edric, Spymaster of Trest for some free cards, but Edric falls to another Vampire with Vampiric Fury. Though the Nuckalvee falls to a Sengir Vampire with a surprise Vampiric Fury, a set of Lightning Greaves, a Faultgrinder, and finally the Hydra itself all see this Carnival’s tents crushed firmly underfoot.
With all to play for and all to lose, the Vampires of Carnival come out hungry for blood. They begin with a Bloodcrazed Neonate while Mirror gambles on a Magus of the Vineyard followed by a Veteran Explorer. Having lucked into a Firespout yet again, the hope is that the Vampires will flood the board and get blown out. A Rakish Heir is encouraging, and the Explorer and Neonate trade while offering ramp to both sides. Mirror deploys the Hydra Omnivore hoping to stall the board out for a bit as well.
Mirror’s applecart gets upended by a Falkenrath Marauders. They start out small, but get huge fast thanks first to the Heir and then- once the Firespout wipes out the lesser beings- a Curse of Stalked Prey. Mirror never finds an answer, and gets hammered into the ground.
WINNER: Carnival of Blood (INN)
Game 4: Repel the Dark (INN) vs Ajani (DD:AvNB)
The Humans of Repel do their utmost to keep the game moving in their favour from the outset. A Jade Mage, Benalish Veteran, and Avacynian Priest touch down in quick succession, while the tapper catches Ajani flat-footed with a Sylvan Ranger girded with a Griffin Guide. The Veteran draws a Lightning Helix, while Ajani’s Spitemare gets blunted by a Bonds of Faith.
A Silver-Inlaid Dagger and Elder of Laurels look to tip the balance of power, but Ajani is able to weather the storm with a flood of efficient beats. A Fleetfoot Panther pulls the Ranger back for another go, while a Wild Nacatl brings a bit more to the table as well. The Panther comes in as a response to an attack, ganging with a Jade Mage to try to take down the Elder of Laurels, but a Spare from Evil thwarts the plan. An Ajani’s Pridemate and Ageless Entity kick off Ajani’s lifegain shenanigans, and Repel is on the defensive. A Sharpened Pitchfork helps bolster the defenses, and a topdecked Smite the Monstrous blasts the Entity one turn before it was about to be the beneficiary of a Sylvan Bounty.
Still, aggressive attacking from Repel helps wear down Ajani’s deck, backed up by the uncertainty of an Elder of Laurels’ pump ability. Unable to find any more answers, Ajani stays afloat a little longer with another Sylvan Bounty, but eventually falls beneath a horde of Humanity.
The Humans get off to a delightful start, with an opening Avacyn’s Pilgrim enabling a second-turn Mentor of the Meek. A trailing Jade Mage enables a free card, and the beats begin. Meanwhile, Ajani’s managed a Sylvan Ranger, Spitemare, and Ajani’s Mantra. The aggression continues unabated, however, despite the Mentor getting plucked off with a Lightning Helix. An Avacynian Priest helps lock down the Spitemare, while a Spare from Evil lets Repel get in an unopposed swing. In the end, it’s a numbers game, and the outnumbered Ajani falls beneath a Titanic Growth.
WINNER: Repel the Dark (INN)
And there you have it! Eight decks entered, four decks advance. For the losers, there is nothing but sorrow and what-might-have-beens, but for the winners there is another week of combat ahead before one of them can be anointed the Nagle Division’s champion, ready to contend and contest for immortality and glory!
For the Prediction League, we’ll have the next thread up in a couple of days, with the first leaderboard of the new season and the next round of predictions!