2005-07 Precon Championships: Lauer Division (Part 2 of 2)
We’ve covered no small ground to get where we are today, and by the end of the day all four divisional champions will have made themselves known. Thus far, we have three ready for their shot at the title. Endless March from Planar Chaos has emerged from the Nagle Division, while Future Sight’s Fate Blaster has come out of the Tinsman. Moving from the Rosewater Conference across to the Forsythe, Future Sight’s Suspended Sentence has laid claim to the Turian. Today, one deck of the remaining four will take its place amongst these three, and next weekend they will clash in tremendous battle for the right to call themselves Champion.
Of course, we get ahead of ourselves, for we still have three matches to go before then. Our first matchup finds Time Spiral’s Sliver Evolution squaring off against Rakdos Bloodsport. The Rakdos have yet to be battle-tested, being the lucky recipients of a bye in the first round. The Slivers, on the other hand, have been blooded already, having handily dispatched Ninth Edition’s Army of Justice.
Meanwhile, the last remaining Ninth Edition deck, Dead Again, managed an unlikely upset over Code of the Orzhov, but doesn’t catch a break. With its removal largely useless against fellow Black creatures, it can’t be happy to see the Black/Green Golgari Deathcreep emerge as its opponent in the second round. The Golgari crushed the Coldsnap deck Kjeldoran Cunning, and will be looking to do the same to their mono-Black opponent. Both the Golgari and the Rakdos fight for something more on the field of battle today, as all three divisional winners are from Time Spiral block. A triumph by Sliver Evolution will mean that the block has swept the field, something that Ravnica block can only note with chagrin. Indeed, for one reason or another the Ravnican decks seem to have been cursed in the competition, for none of them have progressed passed the second round in any of the four divisions. Glory is at stake- but also honour.
With the stage set for exciting preconstructed action, let’s head down to the arena and see how this drama plays itself out!
Sliver Evolution (TSP) vs Rakdos Bloodsport (DIS)
The Slivers keep a one-land hand thanks to the pair of Gemhide Slivers they find there, and luck into a turn-2 land to start playing them. Though they’re land-light much of the rest of the game, they never want for mana. The Rakdos have no such sehnanigans, but hit their drops steadily. They open with a Lyzolda, the Blood Witch and follow with a Ragamuffyn and Sadistic Augurmage. However, with each successive Sliver helping ramp into more, it’s the Slivers that have the easier time flushing their hand onto the battlefield. A pair of Bonesplitters, a Watcher, a Venser’s, and a Spined bash in with the strength and fury of Craw Wurms.
An opening Seal of Fire compels the Slivers to lay a trap, opening with a turn-4 Watcher Sliver and readying a Harmonic one to kill the Seal without losing a Sliver in the process. The Rakdos apply steady pressure with a Gobhobbler Rats and Sadistic Augermage, and amp it up with a Taste for Mayhem on the Rats. This falls with into the Slivers’ trap, as they also are holding a Sidewinder Sliver and can destroy both enchantments. They also are holding a Spirit Loop, so they know they can claw back some of the lost life.
Alas, a turn before springing the trap, the Rakdos simply burn away the Watcher Sliver with a Cackling Flames, hitting hellbent. The Rats and Augermage bash in for 9 to put the Slivers at 2, and death comes- fittingly- at the hands of the Seal of Fire. A crushing victory for the Rakdos!
With victory within its grasp, the Rakdos go all out to smash the hated Sliver swarm. An early Scorched Rusalka is joined by a Demon’s Jester, both of which get a Taste for Mayhem as the Rakdos eagerly look to dump their hand.
The Slivers, meanwhile, have to contend with Plains and Forests, with nary a Mountain in sight. Indeed, it has to milk a Gemstone Mine just to get its early creatures out, but out they come. A Sidewinder Sliver is followed by a Spined, a Quilled, and- critically- a Watcher, while the Harmonic makes sure that both Tastes are destroyed before they can do too much damage.
The Rakdos soon manage to empty their hand, first through Ignorant Bliss and then through more permanent means. A Wrecking Ball kills a Venser’s Sliver, while Cackling Flames nukes a Fungus Sliver. Still, thanks to their small creatures with low toughness, the Rakdos don’t have a lot of profitable blocks, and the Slivers continue to pound away. A Torpid Moloch and Sadistic Augermage buy some time alongside a last-minute Slaughterhouse Bouncer, but again the Rakdos just can’t find enough answers for the threats its facing.
WINNER: Sliver Evolution (TSP)
Golgari Deathcreep (RAV) vs Dead Again (9ED)
The Golgari begin with an Elves of Deep Shadow followed by a Golgari Guildmage, while Dead Again leads with its lifegainer suite- a Tanglebloom and Demon’s Horn. Thanks to the artifact pair, the Serpent Warriors it plays are hardly felt by its life total, and a Highway Robber adds its bit as well.
Meanwhile, a Golgari Rotwurm hits the table, but before it can do its grim work it’s struck with a Contaminated Bond. Dead sends in both Serpent Warriors and the Rotwurm eats one of them, but still goes down 6 life. The Golgari clear the table a bit with a Last Gasp and pair of Putrefies, but Dead keeps the momentum going with a Raise Dead for the Robber.
Although their life total is rapidly eroding, the Golgari manage to string together a combo engine with a Necromantic Thirst on the Guildmage. It sacrifices the enchanted Rotwurm to itself for a point of damage, then returns it to hand with an attack from the Guildmage. Replaying the Wurm, it then deploys an Infectious Host. It can then attack with the Wurm and Guildmage, sacrifice the Host to the Wurm for 3 damage in total, and get it back to recast thanks to the Necromantic Thirst. By the time Dead Again lands its Nightmare, it’s too late- the combination manages to deal exactly lethal regardless of blocking. Creaky and desperate, the Golgari nevertheless manage to pull off a win- without ever having dredged a single card.
If there’s a knock against the Golgari’s dredge mechanic, it’s that its non-interactive. While we’re not passing judgment here, we can say that a turn-3 Shambling Shell into a turn-4 Savra, Queen of the Golgari– with Dead Again fielding only one creature (Highway Robber), the game was all but over. Pop the Shell to put a +1/+1 counter on Savra, Queen of the Golgari and kill Dead’s creature (breaking even on life since the Shell is both Green and Black). Attack with Savra. Next turn, dredge back the Shell and do it all over again. What else did Dead Again play?
Does it matter?
WINNER: Golgari Deathcreep (RAV)
LAUER DIVISIONAL FINAL: Sliver Evolution (TSP) vs Golgari Deathcreep (RAV)
The Golgari get a slow start out of the gate, sticking on two land. It manages a Golgari Guildmage, but needs a couple turns for its third land. The Slivers is exactly the kind of deck that can make one pay for that, and they fire away immediately. A Sidewinder Sliver, a Gemhide, and a Bonesplitter lead off. The Golgari trade out their Guildmage for the Sidewinder the first chance they get, and then catch a break in the form of a topdecked Rolling Spoil. This crushes the Slivers’ only Mountain, and kills the Gemhide and freshly-played Quilled.
A Putrefy takes care of the Fury Sliver in the nick of time, and this lets a Stinkweed Imp trade out with the Bonesplitter. Dredging the Imp packs the graveyard with creatures, so when the Golgari Grave-Troll touches down it’s a 7/7. A Recollect pulls back the Putrefy, and after killing a Watcher Sliver the Grave-Troll takes the game.
With the game in their sight, the Golgari pull no punches. The Slivers lead with a Quilled Sliver, which draws an immediate Darkblast. That’s the dredge opening the Golgari need, as their opening hand had five lands in it (heavy land plus a dredge outlet is music to Golgari ears). The Darkblast has an immediate chilling effect on the Slivers, and buys the Golgari tons of time.
They use it to dredge back the Darkblast, then a Stinkweed Imp followed by a Greater Mossdog. A Woodwraith Strangler followed, and the Slivers are all but defenseless. While dredging up a second Darkblast, the Golgari Grave-Troll lands in the grayeyard, and is played next turn as a 7/7. The Slivers finally get out a toughness-boosting Sliver, the Might Sliver, but the Golgari simply alpha strike for the win right past it. The Slivers never had a chance.
At last, Ravnica block has shaken off its curse! Throughout the competition, they’ve seemed unusually susceptible to mana screw, but after powering through it in the first game the Golgari sailed to a win in their second! We now have all four divisional winners selected. Next week? The Grand Final. Until then, we proudly present: