2009-10 Precon Championships: The Finals
Hello and welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2009-10 Preconstructed Deck Championships! Today your patience will be rewarded, for after three exciting rounds of contests, we are closing in on final victory and the glory that comes from being the last deck standing!
Early action was furious and full of surprises. The Duel Decks- an early favourite- found themselves stymied at every turn. Of the four in contention, only Phyrexia was able to advance past the first round. The Coalition, Garruk, and Liliana all faced punishing upsets at the hands of decks who had never had so much as a sniff of a mythic rare between them.
A somewhat better fate was in store for the “Summer casual” offering, Planechase. Each of the four decks bearing that distinction were crammed with powerful rares, and were also odds-on favourites. While Elemental Thunder and Zombie Empire were shown an ill-dignified first-round exit, Strike Force managed to get to the second round before bowing out, and Metallic Dreams carried the banner into the third.
If there are Cinderella stories to be had here- and there most certainly are- the two that most stand out are Rise of the Eldrazi’s Eldrazi Arisen and Magic 2010’s Presence of Mind. Things looked grim for the Rosewater Conference’s Arisen, who drew Liliana’s Duel Deck as its first-round opponent. Liliana had Arisen on the ropes all the way to the end of Game Three, but the plucky Eldrazi Spawn managed to dig deep, find its pair of Flame Slashes, and get in for lethal.
It had little time to catch its breath, however, before even worse news arrived: it would be up against the devastating Strike Force for its next matchup. After dropping Game One to a lethal Arc Lightning, Arisen had to find new reserves of determination to claim the next two matchups to avoid being knocked out. In each game Strike Force pushed Arisen to its limits (successfully eliminating all three Eldrazi in Game Three), but it rose to the challenge.
Turning to the Forsythe Conference now, we have Presence of Mind, which as a Core Set deck has had to do more with less. It walked past the haplessly mana-hosed Flyover right into the waiting arms of Phyrexia, and faced its first real challenge. It rose to the occasion, however, with some very aggressive play in the air and rolled up Phyrexia in a two-game sweep. From there, it had to get past the scorching Metallic Dreams. Taking game one, it’s pushed to break point in Game Two when Bosh, Iron Golem came down, but vaulted to victory on the back of clever play (using Clone to legend-rule-kill Bosh).
Now, onward to glory!
Rosewater Conference Finals: Eyes of Shadow vs Eldrazi Arisen
Arisen is off to a rough start, mulling down to 6, but a Nest Invader into an Ondu Giant finally fetch a much-needed source of Red mana. Shodow meanwhile busies itself with Drudge Skeletons, Ravenous Rats, and a quick Mind Rot to blast Arisen’s bloated hand.
Entering the midgame, critters begin to appear on both sides- Goblin Piker, Rapacious One, Sengir Vampire, and an Abyssal Specter, but they get Flame Slashed and Terrored and Windstormed away. The play of the game comes when Shadow sets up a double-Megrim and Mind Shatters away a desperately-needed Akoum Boulderfoot and Ulamog’s Crusher, then grinds in with Severed Legion and Unholy Strengthed Skeletons. Kozilek’s Predator and Hand of Emrakul come down, but too late to save Arisen.
This time it is Shadow with the draw issues, mulling down a card to start the game. An early Dusk Imp and Runed Servitor trade blows, while a Mind Rot rips a Bountiful Harvest and Hand of Emrakul away. Ramping up with a Kozilek’s Predator after Liliana at last accepts the Servitor/Imp trade, the next-turn Conquering Manticore takes her freshly-cast 4/4 Mortivore for a ride. The Manticore is Terrored, but the Mortivore is stolen again by an Act of Treason for the win.
This time, both decks keep their opening grip, but Shadow stumbles out of the gate with a Ravenous Rats, a Megrim, and a pair of Demon’s Horns. An Abyssal Specter draws an immediate Flame Slash, while Arisen gets ahead with a Sporecap Spider, a Nest Invader, and a Runed Servitor. Soon the Conquering Manticore makes another appearance, and Arisen gets there with an alpha strike backed up with Might of the Masses.
Forsythe Conference Finals: Presence of Mind vs Invading Spawn
A far more simple game than the ones preceding it, Presence deploys a Horned Turtle, Air Elemental, Wall of Frost, Phantom Warrior, and Sage Owl, while drawing upon a Sleep, Divination, Doom Blade, and Rise from the Grave.
Spawn needs only four: Ogre Sentry, Lightning Bolt, Dragon Whelp… and Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. With plenty of mana available, Drana annihilates the opposition and allowes her forces to storm through.
Spawn wants it, and takes it in dramatic fashion. A turn 2 Bloodthrone Vampire is rapidly followed by a Lavafume Invoker, second Vampire, Emrakul’s Hatcher, second Hatcher, and Hand of Emrakul. What could withstand this? Presence tries desperately with a Wall of Frost (Corpsehatched), Sage Owl, Horned Turtle, and Snapping Drake, but all its Telepathy allows it is to foresee its own demise.
2009-10 Preconstructed Championship Finals: Eldrazi Arisen vs Invading Spawn
A colossal clash of titans awaits us in the pit for the thrilling final match of this championship season, and it’s an all-Eldrazi affair! There must be something to the “battlecruiser Magic” school of thought, because both of these decks have worked their way past four grueling rounds to meet here for the Championship!
It’s sure to be an exciting matchup as both decks have a very similar strategy: generate Eldrazi Spawn tokens and use them to smash in for victory! Eldrazi Arisen, despite the name, packs less of the titanic ancient forces of their namesake. Rather, it relies on solid finishers and utility outlets for its Spawn, like Magmaw and Fireball. Invading Spawn, on the other hand, pack in three Eldrazi. Although on paper it looks like a more distant goal, it’s use of Green for ramping means they’re fairly evenly paced. Now, let’s head to the pit and watch the battle unfold!
As expected, both decks use the opening round to build their mana base, which is parlayed into a turn 2 Nest Invader for the on-the-play Arisen and a Bloodthrone Vampire for Spawn. Swinging in for 2 on turn 3, Arisen follows it up with a live-the-dream Awakening Zone, then passes. Spawn returns fire for 1, then drops a Gloomhunter for some presence in the skies. Next turn, Arisen swings back in for 2, while Spawn presses advantage in the red zone for 3. Following it up with a Howling Banshee, both end the turn with 13 life.
Arisen Flame Slashes the Whelp out of the sky then waltzes in unopposed for 7 damage, with the unimpeded Rapacious One netting five Eldrazi Spawn tokens and cashing in for a Hand of Emrakul! Spawn needs an answer, and it gets one, finding a Lightning Bolt to send to the face for lethal after sending in its flyers.
Arisen runs into trouble early here, mulling to six to start the game. It drops Forests turns 1 and 2, only getting on the board with a turn-3 Daggerback Basilisk. Meanwhile, Spawn is off to a similarly slow start, with Mountains as its first two lands and an Ogre Sentry following behind. Aside from the land drop (a third Mountain), it’s turn 3 is a blank.
Arisen gets first blood when it confidently sends in the Basilisk on turn 4, striking for 2. It follows up with a beefy Kozilek’s Predator and passes. Having similar mana development issues (steady drops of all one colour), Spawn gets the monkey off its back with a turn 4 Swamp, enabling it to summon a Dragon Whelp.
Arisen sends in its Predator and Basilisk on turn 5, and Spawn trades the Sentry for the Predator. Arisen then Growth Spasms to fix its mana (it needs a Mountain), and ends its turn. For its part, Spawn goes aggressive and sends in the Whelp for 5.
Next turn, Arisen brings out a Rapacious One (after the Basilisk chews in for 2 more, taking Spawn to 14). Spawn applies the reins to the Whelp by pumping it only once on the attack, but the free mana allows it to play a Bloodthrone Vampire and a Lavafume Invoker. Still, it’s of little impediment as Arisen comes in next turn for 7 damage. Spawn trades the Invoker for the Basilisk, and ends up taking 5 from the One- another full measure of Spawn tokens gets deposited on Arisen’s side of the table. Not content to rest on success, Arisen plays a Dreamstone Hedron and burns two Spawn to pop it for three cards. What luck- it’s pulled a Hand of Emrakul and pops another four Spawn to summon it. The board tension just ratcheted up!
On the ropes, Spawn sends in the fully-pumped Whelp for 5, taking Arisen to 7. Sensing blood, Arisen fires back for 12, forcing Spawn to annihilate a Swamp and chump the Bloodthrone Vampire to prevent the damage. It still takes 5, and is now at 4. Arisen never lets up, following the attack with a Nest Invader and Ondu Giant. Spawn’s run out of options, and is forced to concede. On to game three!
Once again, Arisen mulls to 6 before getting a good hand, but is it a handicap or an omen? Turn 1 belongs to the land, then Spawn opens with a Bloodthrone Vampire, while Arisen follows suit with a Nest Invader. Familiar faces follow with a turn 3 Gloomhunter trailed by an opposing Daggerback Basilisk (after the Invader hits for 2).
Now on turn 4, Spawn bolsters its defenses with the trusty Ogre Sentry, and both sides keep trading blows for 2 damage at a time. Spawn leads the critter count now as a turn-5 Pawn of Ulamog joins the fray. Meanwhile, Arisen’s Basilisk keeps coming in, and by the end of the turn Arisen is only two points up on its foe, with 16.
Staying aggressive, Spawn sends in the team on turn 6 (the Pawn, the bat and the Vampire). Arisen siezes the chance to eliminate the Pawn, and trades it for the Nest Invader. At least there’s an Eldrazi Spawn consolation prize for Spawn. Back to Arisen, it lands a Conquering Manticore and takes Spawn’s Vampire for a ride. It goes in for 3, and this time Spawn trades the Sentry for the Basilisk. Arisen feeds the Vampire a Spawn token (giving it +2/+2) to take its opponent to 11 life, then at end of turn sacs the Vampire to itself to deny Spawn its return.
Now on turn 7, Spawn sends in the Gloomhunter, putting Arisen in a conundrum. Is it a feint? Does Spawn have the Bolt? With a burn packagine including a potentially massive Fireball, is this attack going to put it within burn range? Arisen weighs its options, then opts to block the bat with the Manticore. Sadly for it, Spawn shows the Bolt. Arisen can’t be too broken up over it- including the Vampire, the Manticore took three cards with it before it went. A quiet settles in across the board, as both realise they’re in the the long haul now- there’s only one critter left on the board, and it’s Spawn’s Spawn token. Spawn sets out a Lavafume Invoker, and passes.
The imbalance is remedied by Arisen’s turn 7 play, a topdecked Kozilek’s Predator. Back to Spawn for turn 8, Spawn tries to Bolt the Predator, forcing Arisen to burn a Might of the Masses to keep it alive. Spawn gets off an Essence Feed, and is now at 14 life (with Arisen at 10). Arisen swings in with the Predator once it’s turn is up, and Spawn chumps with a Spawn token. Next turn, it swings back with Invoker, and now it’s Arisen’s turn to chump block a Spawn token. They take a turn going back and forth, dwindling the other’s Spawn supply, neither wanting to take the damage that could quickly put them within lethal. That doesn’t last long, and by the time Spawn solves the Predator with a Vendetta, they’re both drawn even at 8 life apiece. The slippery Arisen then gets off a 10-point Bountiful Harvest, greatly increasing its life buffer.
Now turn 11, Spawn has the board’s only beater, the Lavafume Invoker, and whittles 2 points away from Arisen’s life. Arisen is playing from the top of its library, and sets down an Awakening Zone. Not all that useful for mana at this stage of the game, it’s still a welcome source of chump blockers when needed. And needed they are, as Spawn squeezes out a turn-12 Hand of Emrakul after attacking with the Invoker! Arisen draws a Forest and gets another Spawn chumpy.
Next turn, Spawn enthusiastically swings with the team. The on-the-ropes Arisen annihilates a Forest, chumps the Eldrazi with a Spawn token and takes 2 from the Invoker (down to 12). It untaps and draws… an Act of Treason! it casts the spell, borrowing Spawn’s Hand of Emrakul and firing back with it. With no defense (it used its last Spawn to help pay for the Hand), the massive Eldrazi rumbles across unimpeded. Getting a taste of its own medicine, Spawn sacs a Swamp, but at 8 life before the attack it is just 1 life short of dying to its own beast. A valiant effort, to be certain!
Spawn untaps, draws, and swings in again. And again, Arisen chumps with a Spawn token and takes 2 from the Invoker. Looking to accelerate Arisen’s imminent demise, it then follows up with Magmaw, putting Arisen on an even shorter clock as it can pick off the ever-returning Spawn token chump-blocker from Awakening Zone with ease. Back to Arisen, it untaps and looks to draw into a miracle.
AND IT DOES!
Thank you for joining us in this epic conclusion to the 2009-10 Preconstructed Championships! Congratulations to the winner, consolations to the vanquished, and gratitude to all whose support made it a success. Thank you, good night, and good luck!