2011-2012 Precon Championships: Tinsman Division (Part 1 of 2)
Ignoring the calendar for a moment and speaking strictly in terms of publishing chronology, the first Preconstructed Deck Championships kicked off in November of 2010. It was a new format and a crowded field, and the Prediction League at the time was a distant innovation. And in one of the Championships’ great Cinderella stories, a little deck called Eldrazi Arisen managed to overcome the longest of odds and claim the championship on the back of a single card, the Akoum Boulderfoot.
To get there, it had one of the hardest paths of any deck in the tournament. It’s opening-round opponent was Liliana’s deck, from the Duel Decks: Garruk vs Liliana, no slouch herself. It went down to the wire in three games, but Eldrazi Arisen managed to grind out the win. Next round, it had another premium deck waiting for it, the Boros-coloured Strike Force from Planechase. Again it was pushed to three, but Eldrazi Arisen managed to pull off the upset.
Battered and bloodied, it advanced to the Conference finals against Rise of the Vampires, and it seized the opportunity with a two-game drubbing of its Zendikar-block brethren. This set it up against the Nagle Division winner for the right to represent the Rosewater Conference, and again Liliana was standing in the way. With her Duels of the Planeswalkers Eyes of Shadow deck, she took Eldrazi Arisen to the brink in three games…but once more it dug deep- this time behind the Conquering Manticore. Covered in Conference glory, it descended into the arena for the final time. Three games later, it was the Champion.
Nobody looks back at this season with greater reminiscence than the Tinsman Division itself, for it has not had a repeat of the success since. In the 2010-2011 season, Doom Inevitable tantalisingly made it to the finals, only to find crushing, bitter defeat at the hands of Elspeth in a two-game sweep. If any Division feels that this is its season, it might well be the Tinsman.
And with that, let’s move on to the opening round action as the battle gets underway. Eight decks enter the arena…but only four will leave.
Game 5: Bound by Strength (AVR) vs Graveborn (PDS)
Bound leads with a Wingcrafter off of an Island, while Graveborn does nothing. The extra card in hand forces it to discard, and it throws away an Inkwell Leviathan. Two turns later, the Leviathan’s on the board thanks to an Exhume, while Bound has been nibbling away with the Wingcrafter bonded to a Trusted Forcemage. A Druid’s Familiar gives it some extra punch, especially next turn when it’s bonded to a Llanowar Elves, but…Inkwell Leviathan. Islandwalk. Shroud. A pair of Duresses (one whiffing, one hitting a Joint Assault) are just icing on the cake. To its credit, Bound sees the game out with Graveborn at 2 life, though the outcome was never in doubt.
Nobody’s fool, Bound chooses to be on the draw this time, denying Graveborn an easy discard outlet. It still pulls the same trick by waiting out a turn to get to eight cards in hand, and discards- of course- the Inkwell Leviathan. A Duress rips an Ice Cage from hand, but with a Druid’s Familiar and Wolfir Silverheart in hand Bound has the prospect of actually outracing Graveborn!
Alas, it’s not to be. Just as in the first game where a Duress sniped what might have been a game-winning Joint Assault, a turn-4 Last Rites for two plucks the Silverheart and a Flowering Lumberknot from hand. It’s a gutwrenching, backbreaker of a play, and leaves Bound with nothing but lands. An Animate Dead on the Avatar of Woe discarded to the Rites isn’t needed, the game is won on that play alone.
WINNER: Graveborn (PDS)
Game 6: Venser (DD:VvK) vs Blood and Fire (M12)
Ever have that perfect hand open itself up to you, only to find that it was missing that second colour you needed? But it was still so good that you decided to risk it? That’s the prospect that faced Venser for the opener, with some strong multicolour options as well as a Path to Exile but with a trio of Islands. Venser decides to risk it, and pays a steep price- no source of White mana even after a Preordain and Augury Owl. Still, the prospect of a Mistmeadow Witch- strong against creatures with counters- gets the ball rolling, and soon its joined by the Owl and Slith Strider as it digs away.
Of course, Blood isn’t giving it the luxury of time. It leads with a Goblin Arsonist, then builds from there with a Duskhunter Bat, Blood Ogre, and Gorehorn Minotaurs. Venser eventually finds a Sejiri Refuge, almost too late to do any good. The Witch is able to neuter the Ogre, and a Vanish into Memory on the Gorehorns reaps a windfall of cards. Still, the Refuge is blasted by a Tectonic Rift, a useful Sky Spirit draws a Shock, and Venser simply never gets off the back foot long enough to stabilize.
Venser has much more success this time around. A turn-3 Scroll Thief gets to swing in on turn 4 with a Steel of the Godhead on it, allowing Venser tremendous card advantage over the course of the game. Meanwhile, Blood opens its account with a Goblin Fireslinger, followed by a pair of Blood Ogres.
Despite drawing two cards a turn, Venser can’t get himself established quickly enough to match Blood’s aggression. A Path to Exile solves a bloodthirsted Stormblood Berserker, an Oblivion Ring deals with one of the Ogres, and a last-gasp Wall of Denial buys Venser some breathing room, but Blood has all its reach on the table with a second Goblin and a Tormented Soul. A Flameblast Dragon appears, though it only serves to tie up Venser’s resources as Venser himself hits the table, flickers the Oblivion Ring, and trades an Ogre for a Dragon. Even with a Preordain and Augury Owl, it never finds answers enough and Venser’s deck falls to a game-ending Shock.
WINNER: Blood and Fire (M12)
Game 7: Counterpunch (COM) vs Spectral Legions (INN)
Counterpunch opens with a Skullclamp, then follows with an Aquastrand Spider and Sigil Captain. An Orzhov Signet is a happy pull, as the deck stalls on three lands for a time. Meanwhile, the Spirits are deployed relentlessly. A Chapel Geist and Doomed Traveler open Spectral’s account, then a Battleground Geist puts it into high gear. Spectral then finds the Geist-Honored Monk, loading her up with a Lifelink and Spirit Mantle for the kill- but Counterpunch snaps off a Nemesis Trap to exile her and live another turn. Alas, it finds nothing and dies in the skies.
Spectral opens with, appropriately enough, a Spectral Rider, which gets in one hit with a Curiosity befoe a Doom Blade sends it to the showers. Counterpunch looks to stall for time and has a rough go of it, unable to stop Spectral’s air assault after a Midnight Haunting and Voiceless Spirit lend their might. A Nantuko Husk and Necrogenesis stand by and watch the enemy fly above turn after turn. A Mortify solves the Voiceless Spirit, but comes too late. In desperation Counterpunch tries to dig for cards with an Alliance of Arms to generate Skullclamp fodder, but comes up empty. Spectral Legions rolls to an easy victory.
WINNER: Spectral Legions (INN)
Game 8: Vampire Onslaught (M12) vs Deathfed (INN)
The early game is crucial in this Event Deck head-to-head, as the Vampires need to get out in front quickly to win, while the stall-and-amass Deathfed must buy time to survive. The Vampires find a Viscera Seer and Bloodthrone Vampire, while Deathfed happily begins with a Merfolk Looter. A kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir puts the Merfolk to rest before it can even start looting, though, and Deathfed’s life total begins whittling away.
Deathfed battles back, though, with a Splinterfright and Boneyard Wurm, and a couple of Mulches later Deathfed’s assembled a fairly fat graveyard. Still, the Vampires swarm quickly, with a pair of Vampire Nighthawks, a Lacerator, a Bloodghast, and even a Pawn of Ulamog making an appearance. A flashbacked Spider Spawning gives Deathfed some room to breathe, even as it loses the Splinterfright in combat. It replaces the loss with a Bonehoard, and the game has settled into a détente- exactly the circumstances that favours the graveyard deck.
Although the Vampires chain the Seer, the Bloodghast, and land drops to scry regularly, they can’t find an answer as Deathfed summons hoard after hoard of Spiders, topping out at a staggering thirty-one of them. The swarmer becomes the swarmed, and Vampire Onslaught falls beneath wave after skittering wave.
With the win in sight, Deathfed pulls a page out of the Vampires’ playbook and goes for the jugular early. A Llanowar Elves leads into a second-turn Armored Skaab, which sets up a 3/3 Boneyard Wurm. The Vampires, on the other hand, gamble on a risky, land-light keep and it pays off with early Bloodghasts, a Gatekeeper of Malakir, and a Pawn of Ulamog.
Still, it’s not quite enough as Vampire Onslaught pays the blood price for its shaky mana after an Acidic Slime blows up a vital Swamp. Before long the size of the graveyard has doubled, and three Spider Spawnings later the Vampires again are under siege. With no effective answers, Deathfed pulls off a rout.
WINNER: Deathfed (INN)
Clearly, four of these decks here hungrier today than the other four, as not a one of the clashes was pushed to three games. With the chaff now threshed out of consideration, though, will we see more of the same next week when these four go up against one another? Only time will tell!
For the Prediction League, look for the summary and predictions thread to go up this Wednesday. Thanks for tuning in!