2005-07 Precon Championships: Nagle Division (Part 2 of 2)
In last week’s exciting opening-round coverage of the Nagle Division, we found eight decks taking the field to compete for their shot at glory. The battles were hard-fought and hard-won, and by the end of the day only a quartet of contenders were still standing to advance. Today, three of them will have their hopes and dreams destroyed, but one of them… one of them will wrap itself in the Nagle banner and ready itself for the semifinals of the Rosewater Conference.
Hope’s Crusaders defeated Charge of the Boros, while Simic Mutology fell before Unraveling Mind. Meanwhile Izzet Gizmometry took advantage of referee error to sail to a surprise victory over Rebels Unite, while World Aflame put up a heroic effort against Endless March only to fall short from mana screw.
The winners of these matches are assembled today, and we go pitside now to see them do battle.
Hope’s Crusaders (TSP) vs Unraveling Mind (PLC)
Unraveling Mind leads off with a Mindlash Sliver, and begins building from there. A second Sliver and an Undertaker soon follow. The Undertaker is sniped by an Icatian Javelineers, but one of the Slivers loses its life to let Unraveling Mind play the madness cost on a Nightshade Assassin, killing Hope’s freshly-played Zhalfirin Commander.
It’s Unraveling’s high point, and it goes downhill from there as Hope keeps putting the pressure on. A Thunder Totem, Brass Gnat, and Outrider en-Kor apply the beats, eroding Mind’s life total. Mind can’t land anything worse than a Gorgon Recluse, which draws a Gaze of Justice, and is overwhelmed.
Unraveling Mind is delighted to find a pair of Trespasser il-Vecs in its hand- until Hope’s Crusaders kicks the game off with an Icatian Javelineers. This sets back Mind’s game plan, but in fairness its not built for the quick game anyway. Crusaders then brings out a pair of Thunder Totems and a Cavalry Master.
Deprived of its aggressive start, Mind begins with a turn-4 Mirri the Cursed. She swings in with Crusaders tapped out, then stays in reserve the rest of the game. Mind then hardcasts Gorgon Recluse to keep the Cavalry Master at bay, and turns the tide with a Magus of the Arena. This lets it kill off the Javelineers, freeing the way for the first Trespasser.
Blunted in the red zone, Crusaders plays a D’Avenant Healer, steadily applying offensive pressure with a single attacking Thunder Totem Spirit. Mind lops 5 off of Crusaders’ life total with a Browbeat, grinds more damage with the Trespasser (until the arrival of the Healer) by throwing away a Phantasmagorian and Undertaker. A Treacherous Urge whiffs when it pulls a Celestial Crusader (fodder for the Thunder Totems), but Mind’s Disintegrate has the reach to finish the job.
An ultra-aggressive slugfest, this game is over almost as soon as it begins. Crusaders lands a trio of Benalish Cavalry and a Cavalry Master in successive turns, while Mind opens with a Dauthi Slayer, Trespasser il-Vec, and Mirri the Cursed. It evens the odds early with a Fiery Temper to pick off a Benalish Cavalry, and both decks’ life totals plummet downward. It all hinges on one turn, when Mind sees that it can alpha strike to set up a guaranteed kill next turn. The only card it needs to fear is the Celestial Crusader, which would give the Crusaders exactly enough for the win. It rolls the dice… and loses. The Crusaders are holding the Celestial, and Mind chokes to a loss.
WINNER: Hope’s Crusaders (TSP)
Izzet Gizmometry (GPT) vs Endless March (PLC)
When do you risk a dodgy keep? After flushing its opener and going down to six, the Izzet have a hand full of superb Blue removal, a Gelectrode, an Izzet Chronarch, and Mountains. It gambles on the hope of drawing an Island- and never does.
March, meanwhile, happily plays a Children of Korlis, Errant Doomsayers, and Aven Riftwatcher, using a Whitemane Lion to recall the Aven before its last vanishing counter disappears. March takes a leisurely game, never in a moment’s jeopardy.
No shortage of land for the Izzet this time, they come out of the gate hitting their drops reliably and steadily, but do little else. March begins with an Icatian Javelineers, then goes to knock out Izzet’s Boilerworks with an Avalanche Riders. Luckily, the Izzet are holding a Runeboggle, and the play is countered. They next Runeboggle an Errant Doomsayers, helping outdraw their opponent. All the moreso when they land Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind.
From here the Izzet are in the driver’s seat. They land a Wee Dragonauts, then triple-replicate a Train of Thought to refill their hand, get a free Pyromatics off of Nivix to kill the Javelineers (they ping the Izzet pilot on the way out). March resolves a Mogg War Marshal and Aven Riftwatcher, returning the Aven with a Whitemane Lion and replaying it for even more life.
The Lion takes an Electrolyze to the face, which is returned to hand by an Izzet Chronarch joining an Izzet Guildmage and Petrahydrox. March is far from done, however, as it plays Stormfront Riders returning the Mogg War Marshal and Aven Riftwatcher to hand and nabbing a pair of 1/1 Soldiers.
However, with all the card advantage they’ve been given, the Izzet are prepared. A triple-replicated Vacuumelt sends back the Riders, a Jhoira’s Timebug, and the 1/1 Goblins after Electrolyze kills the 1/1 Soldiers. While the Riders punish the Izzet for bounce effects by adding in 1/1 tokens, a Rain of Embers sweeps them into the dustbin.
The game’s duration works for Izzet and against March as the Izzet refills its hand back to seven with a Train of Thought. Tibor and Lumia signal the end and Izzet burns out a win with Pyromatics.
The Avalanche Riders are the star of the show for March, which comes down immediately and blows up a Mountain, soon to be recalled with a Whitemane Lion and blowing up another one. The pain for the Izzet isn’t in raw resource denial- indeed, it drew into a strait of just a little too much land- but rather that of timing. It couldn’t keep enough land on the field to get its opening creature, an Izzet Chronarch.
The Izzet are done few favours by Telling Time, which painfully revealed a trio of lands, while it watched its doom unfold with a Riftmarked Knight. Excited at the prospect of another blowout Rain of Embers, the Izzet watch in dismay as March play only 2/2’s, and it is that aggression that seals Izzet’s doom. A once-replicated Pyromatics only delays the inevitable for a turn.
WINNER: Endless March (PLC)
Nagle Division Final: Hope’s Crusaders (TSP) vs Endless March (PLC)
Hope’s Crusaders opens with a Brass Gnat and Benalish Cavalry, then follows with a Zhalfirin Commander. The flanking gives it some reach across the table through Endless March’s Aven Riftwatcher, but March then adds a Lavacore Elemental and Errant Doomsayers. Soon March is using and abusing its signature gating mechanic, leaving Hope with little recourse to break through the red zone. Gaze of Justice the Elemental with the aid of a newly-cast D’Avenant Healer? Whitemane Lion. Flash it back to try and break the Lion out of the cycle? Dust Elemental everything back, then use Dead to kill the tapped Healer. Hope finally has to gang-block to take out the Lavacore Elemental, but it’s the Dust one that does the most damage. All the flanking in the world isn’t going to touch a 6/6 in the air, and Endless March draws the first win.
With the finish line in sight, Endless March pulls out all the stops. It opens with Icatian Javelineers, then moves to a Whitemane Lion, Mogg War Marshal, Errant Doomsayers, and Aven Riftwatcher. Such a strong, assertive opening absolutely punishes Hope’s Crusaders, which hits a run of Plains and draws precious little. A Knight of the Holy Nimbus and Benalish Cavalry are little impediment as a Brute Force takes out one and attrition the other. A second Benalish Cavalry and Zhalfirin Crusader are on their own against a growing Lavacore Elemental, and the Calciderm in Endless March’s hand never even needs to hit the board.
And we have a winner! The White/Red Endless March, with its enters-the-battlefield and gating creatures, has withstood the onslaught to become the last deck standing. It now waits in the wings for the winner of the Tinsman Division to contest for overall domination of the Rosewater Conference. That’s all for now, we’ll have an updated leaderboard for your predictions up in a few days.