2011-12 Precon Championships: The Finals
Welcome to the final installment of the 2011-12 Preconstructed Championships! It’s been a wild ride thus far, and by the end of the day the events of the past nine weeks will have revealed our Champion. But who will it be?
The field from the outset seemed unpredictable, with many wondering how the bomb-filled Commander decks were going to fare. Previous seasons have shown that the multiplayer formats (Archenemy, Planechase) can be competitive, but none were quite as reliant upon the slower, multiplayer format as Commander. And it showed- only two of the five (Heavenly Inferno, Political Puppets) making it past the first round before finally being defeated.
Also turning in a fairly poor showing were the Duel Decks. Despite a wobble in the 2008-09 Season, they were serious contenders in each of the past two, with two different decks (Elspeth, Knights) making it to the semi-finals last season before Elspeth won it all. This time, three of the decks were turned over in the first round, with only Koth giving a fair accounting of itself before being shown the exit by Spiraling Doom.
As always, though, it’s the Event Decks that have packed the biggest punch. Built for FNM-level competitive play, they have an advantage in both power level and consistency that the other decks can only sit in envy of. Of course, given all that the biggest surprise might well be why we’re not seeing the Final Four consist entirely of Event Decks, but this has yet to happen. On any given weekend with a little luck and a lot of courage, Intro Packs and others can rise to the occasion and write their own Cinderella story. We’ve seen that happen this season as well, such as with Mystical Might overcoming Humanity’s Vengeance.
No, we’ve got a representative mix in the Final Four between Event Decks and Intro Packs, and who can say? On any given weekend…
Rosewater Conference Final: Hold the Line (INN) vs Spectral Legions (INN)
Legions knows the only way it can have a hope in the game is to weather the early rush, but like many things its easier said than done. The Event Deck leads with a Gideon’s Lawkeeper, Doomed Traveler, and Accorder Paladin, girding the latter with a Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Legions defends with a Midnight Haunting to flash in some surprise defenders, killing the Paladin. Another Paladin replaces it, but that one gets Rebuked. It tries to mount some sort of defense with a Spectral Rider and Mausoleum Guard, though Hold the Line simply Oblivion Rings the Guard to push more damage through.
Knowing time is of the essence, Legions then enchants the other Spirit with Lifelink, attacking in every round to mitigate some of the incoming heat. A Mirran Crusader gets countered with Lost in the Mist, while a Spirit token from one of Hold the Line’s Doomed Travelers gets Unsummoned after the Dagger gets attached to it. Hold the Line retaliates with Honor of the Pure.
At some point, Hold the Line simply runs out of steam, while Spectral Legions hits its stride. Landing an Angel of Flight Alabaster gives it endless chump-blocking ability, as any Spirit sent to graveyard can come right back next turn. A Moon Heron joins with the Lifelink-Spirit token, carving in for 4, while Legions lives up to its name with a swarm of creatures that Hold can’t deal with. In the end, the Intro Pack has scored a crucial first-game victory. Can it do it one more time?
Almost as if insulted, Hold the Line comes right off the starter blocks, looking to crush its adversary. It opens with a Champion of the Parish, after which a Gideon’s Lawkeeper provides the first +1/+1 counter. A second Lawkeeper follows, as does an Accorder Paladin. Legions manages to kill the Champion with a Spectral Rider, a Doomed Traveler, and a Moment of Heroism, but can do little else.
An Honor of the Pure is added next, and Spectral Legions is losing ground fast. It Defangs a Mirran Crusader, but the Defang gets Oblivion Ringed. So does the Geist-Honored Monk. From there, there’s nowhere to go but down.
If you could sum this game up in a single equation, it would be this: 3 Oblivion Rings + 2 Honor of the Pures = 1 possible outcome
Sure Spectral Legions puts up a decent showing of itself, but it’s too great an ask for it to withstand the fury Hold the Line sends at it. The Champion of the Parish reappears in the opening turn, along with a Gideon’s Lawkeeper and Accorder Paladin. Spectral Legions has no shortage of options- a pair of Chapel Geists, a Voiceless Spirit, even the Geist-Honored Monk, but three of them are O-Ringed out of the equation.
The one moment that Spectral Legions looks like it might stabilize- casting Spirit Mantle on the Voiceless Spirit- is the moment just before it goes into exile with the Oblivion Ring. Outmanned and outgunned, Spectral Legions collapses and Hold the Line stakes its claim to the finals in decisive fashion!
Forsythe Conference Final: Spiraling Doom (DKA) vs Mystical Might (M12)
What happens when Spiraling Doom never finds its Birthing Pod? We find out in the opener, when Might Negates an early Diabolic Tutor, and the artifact never turns up. What does instead is something almost as lethal to Mystical Might– a Mortarpod.
Filled with Illusions and 1-toughness creatures, Mystical Might is at the artifact’s mercy. Doom, meanwhile, cranks out the value creatures, starting with a Young Wolf, to a Strangleroot Geist, and a pair of Viridian Emissaries. Although it stabilises to go on the offensive for a short time behind a Benalish Veteran and Siege Mastodon, it just can’t keep pace. A Myr Battlesphere gets summoned by Doom, and although Might immediately Mind Controls it, the four Myr tokes it leaves behind are more fuel for the Mortarpod. An Arbalest Elite, Coral Merfolk, Æther Adept, and Aven Fleetwing all fall to Mortarpod pings. As for the Battlesphere, well, Doom is forced to Doom Blade it.
In the end, Might is able to reduce Doom’s creature pool to next to nothing, but has to play a Phantasmal Bear and Dragon tandem to stave off the attacks from a Morkrut Banshee. Doom finds a Perilous Myr, and is able to sweep both Illusions away, opening the way for a lethal alpha strike.
Might leads with a Phantasmal Bear, while Doom opens its account with a Young Wolf. Next turn Might adds a Stormfront Pegasus, then hits the jets with a Lord of the Unreal and an Aven Fleetwing. Might is hammering in every turn in the air and ground until Doom stabilizes with a pair of Viridian Emissaries after taking a moment to Diabolic Tutor up a Birthing Pod. It thinks it’s bought itself some breathing room when it summons a Stingerfling Spider, destroying the Pegasus, but it simply gets Oblivion Ring’ed away. Doom never plays its precious Pod, and Mystical Might runs away with this one.
Doom leads again with the Young Wolf, while Might begins with a Stormfront Pegasus into a Skywinder Drake. Doom looks for manabase help with a Solemn Simulacrum, but becomes slightly alarmed with next turn Might floods the board with a Phantasmal Bear and Benalish Veteran.
In an attempt to lessen the pace and stall the board, Doom summons a Morkrut Banshee despite not being able to take advantage of its morbid. It matters little- next turn Might drops a Levitation and slams in for 10. Down to 3 life, Doom has nothing it can do to save itself, and concedes in defeat. It was simply no match this round for the blazing speed and evasiveness that Mystical Might is capable of, and Might is headed to the Finals!
2011-12 Preconstructed Championship Finals: Hold the Line (INN) vs Mystical Might (M12)
Even amongst Intro Packs, the Core Set decks have often been considered perhaps a touch softer than their counterparts in the so-called Expert Level’ releases. Whatever credence this might have been given, it certainly hasn’t reflected in the performance of Mystical Might, which has found some inner reserve of strength and perseverance just to get this far. Along the way it dispatched two Event Deck and two Intro Pack decks (one from Dark Ascension, the other from Avacyn Restored), and now must prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Rightly or wrongly, all eyes will be on Hold the Line as the odds-on favourite.
This isn’t just because Hold the Line is an Event Deck- Mystical Might’s two victories over other such decks must surely give one pause. Instead, it has as much to do with Hold the Line’s conduct as it stormed a path through the ranks to get here. It absolutely demolished a pair of Commander decks in the early stages, before kicking a pair of Innistrad Intro packs right out of the competition. Until today against Spectral Legions, it has never known a defeat, dispatching everything put in front of it in two straight games. We head down to the arena for the last time of this season.
Hold the Line begins on the play, and drops it’s opening-turn stalwart, the Gideon’s Lawkeeper. Mystical Might plays a Plains and passes. Next turn, Hold swings for first blood, then follows with a Doomed Traveler and Silver-Inlaid Dagger. All Might can manage is a Stormfront Pegasus, but then resolving aerial threats has seen the deck at its best.
Now turn 3, Hold sticks Bonds of Faith on the Traveler, attacking in for 3. This compels Might to spend its Oblivion Ring on the Traveler, then it counterattacks for 2 in the air. Next turn, Hold simply replaces its lost Traveler with another, then equips the Dagger to it to make it a 4/1. It attacks for an opportunistic point of damage with the Lawkeeper and ends its turn. Back to Might, it again sends in the air force for 2, then fortifies its defense behind an Arbalest Elite.
The Elite draws an immediate Oblivion Ring on turn 5, then Hold swings in for 5 damage with both creatures to put its foe at 10 life. Might refuses to circle the wagons, instead continuing the attack in the air to leave Hold at 14 before adding a second Pegasus and a Coral Merfolk. These aren’t’ world-beaters, but Hold refuses to give Might even a moment’s rest as it hammers the Pegasus with a Fiend Hunter. Tapping the Merfolk with the Lawkeeper, it then swings for 4 with the Traveler, and Might is fading fast. It plays an Aven Fleetwing, and passes.
Now turn 7, the other Pegasus is picked off with a second Fiend Hunter, after which the Merfolk is tapped down. The Traveler swings in for 4, and Might offers the Aven in trade. Hold then concludes by sticking the Dagger on the Spirit token made from the fallen Traveler, and ends its turn. Might simply draws and passes. Back to Hold, it then casts Bonds of Faith on a Fiend Hunter, sending in everything for the victory.
This is it, Mystical Might must prevail or die. It leads with an Island, while Hold brings out an Elite Vanguard. Next turn it plays a Plains while Hold attacks for 2, then summons a pair of Doomed Travelers. It misses a land drop on turn 3,after which Hold casts a Bonds of Faith on a Traveler, forcing Might to Unsummon it in response. Hold still gets in sideways for 3 points of damage, leaving Might already down a quarter.
Now turn 4, Might hits a land and plays a Benalish Veteran. Hold then pumps up its Vanguard with another Bonds of Faith, making it a 4/3. It attacks in alongside the Doomed Traveler for 5, then plays a Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Back to Might, all it can do is summon a Rusted Sentinel and pass. Back in comes Hold for another 5, after which it plays a Champion of the Parish followed by an Accorder Paladin. Bad news for Might!
Now turn 6, Might plays an Island and passes. Hold plays a third Doomed Traveler, giving the Champion a second +1/+1 counter. It next tries to add a Mirran Crusader, but that gets Canceled. Going all in with everythng for 14 damage, Hold the Line takes destiny firmly in its hands and clinches a second straight victory!
It’s all over! Mystical Might collapses to the ground, broken and overwhelmed with a faraway look in its eyes. Hold the Line- the first Event Deck Champion in the history of the games- races to the edge of the arena. After sliding on its knees in sheer jubilation and triumph, it springs up into the crowd, mobbed all the while by its fans and supporters. Might’s much-vaunted air force never really showed up, and there’s no-one to console the deck outwith a couple of tearful Pegasi and an uncomfortable-looking Rusted Sentinel. It’s all over!!!
*ahem* Thanks for tuning in to the 2011-12 Preconstructed Championships. It has been an exciting and historic season, with an Event Deck taking its place beside two Intro Packs, a Theme Deck, and a Duel Deck as Champion. We’ll be back in the Spring with the next season of riveting precon action, but for now we’ll be left to enjoy Hold the Line’s victory.