2007-2008 Precon Championships: Nagle Division (Part 1 of 2)
What a great time to be a member of the Nagle Division! Although it was the very last of the Divisions to produce a Champion, the 2005-07 winner Endless March, it was also the first Division to successfully defend its title. The following season saw Innistrad’s Hold the Line Event Deck take the field by storm, bringing the Nagle a fresh dose of Championship victory. Of course, one can’t live on past glories alone, so the question hanging in the air has become… can they do it again?
Certainly the Spring Championships are as up in the air as any. Although in modern seasons the disparity between deck types is more pronounced, with Event Decks jostling up against Intro Packs, in these earlier halcyon days the most you might have to face is a premium product release. Indeed, the Nagle is home to one of these, the Elves deck from the first-ever Duel Decks release. Of course, it may be an odds-on favourite, but there are other contenders here as well who aspire to a very different outcome.
Least amonsgt these perhaps are the decks of Tenth Edition. Core Set decks tend to focus on the simple and fundamental, and so often occupy the underdog’s position when stacked up against stockier competition. That doesn’t mean they simply roll over and die- indeed, Championship history has shown some glorious upsets- as when Ninth Edition’s Custom Creatures defied the odds to challenge for its division, beating decks from Coldsnap and Future Sight before falling to Fate Blaster. Similarly Presence of Mind from Magic 2010 got just as far before falling, even claiming the scalp of the Phyrexian Duel Deck on the way!
Meanwhile, expansion set Theme Decks are the bread-and-butter contenders, and a full nineteen of them await their shot at precon immortality. With nine from Lorwyn block and ten from Shadowmoor block, the full array of those sets’ contrasting themes and mechanics will be on display. The Nagle Division gets one of each, with the Morningtide deck (Warrior’s Code) being the lucky recipient of the divisional bye. Which deck will be the last one standing? Today the first round of matches gets settled. On to the pits!
Game 1: Elvish Predation (LRW) vs Elves (DD:EvG)
Elvish is on the play, but can’t seem to find a Swamp. With midrange cards in hand, the early game is all for Elves. It takes advantage with an Elvish Warrior and Harbinger, the latter finding an Imperious Perfect. Predation looks to stabilize behind a Lys Alana Huntmaster.
Though Elves find their own Huntmaster, it’s Predation that races out ahead thanks to an Immaculate Magistrate and Elvish Promenade, giving it a total of eight Elves in play. Still, when the Duel Deck trots out a Heedless One followed by a Voice of the Woods, things enter a standoff with one side inflating its creatures to massive proportions, and the other churning out 7/7 tokens.
The buildup continues for several long turns, with neither able to make a move to its advantage. Elvish Predation finally wins on the back of a Nath’s Elite, whose built-in Lure lets the rest smash in for lethal damage several times over.
Both sides get out early deployments. Predation begins with a Wanderer’s Twig, followed by a Leaf Gilder and Lys Alana Huntmaster. Elves, on the other hand, finds Llanowar Elves, Moonglove Extract, Heedless One, and Voice of the Woods.
Predation finds an answer to the Heedless One from an Eyeblight’s Ending off of an Elvish Harbinger. Though Elves then finds an Imperious Perfect, Predation races ahead with a Jagged-Scar Archers and Elvish Promenade. Thanks to a solid base of Elves, that yields eleven 1/1 Elf tokens, making the Archers 22/22 and ready for action. It gets stalled by a procession of chumps from the Imperious Perfect, keeping the game at the expected level of stalemate.
Things get even boggier when Elves plays a Wellwisher, tapping for over 30 life at a go. Generating multiple 7/7’s with trample each turn, it doesn’t take long for it to even the score.
Again both sides roar from the chute, with Predation having the early upper hand from an Elvish Eulogist, Leaf Gilder, Lys Alana Huntmaster, and Elvish Harbinger. Elves, meanwhile, opens with a Gempalm Strider, followed by Wood Elves, a Timberwatch Elf, and a Wellwisher.
This has all the makings of a long game but for one mistake made by Predation, fetching Nath of the Gilt-Leaf off of the Harbinger when it really should have grabbed an Eyeblight’s Ending. It’s punished when Elves then deploys Heedless One, which quickly swings in for lethal backed up by the Timberwtach Elf.
Game 2: Arcanis’s Guile (10E) vs Sidestep (EVE)
Always beware a Blue deck with deep reserves of mana. Although Sidestep manages to get some of its weapons into play, it is turns behind the smooth and consistent Guile. Guile thwarts Sidestep’s early plays, squashing a Shrewd Hatchling with Remove Soul, working early Sage Owls for favourable draws, then finding Arcanis the Omnipotent on turn 7. Though Sidestep has to take the bait, trying to kill him off with an Inside Out setting up a Burn Trail, Guile simply Unsummons Arcanis to safety and recasts him.
At this point, Guile is in more danger of decking than anything Sidestep is managing. Nucklavee brings the offending spells back to hand, but with a solid base of mana alongside a Krakren’s Eye for extra life, Guile freely floods the board with Cloud Elementals, an Air Elemental, and an Aven Fisher. It’s too much in the air for Sidestep to contain, and it soon falls to the assault.
This time, it’s a much closer clash. Sidestep opens with a Stream Hopper, while Guile begins with a Sage Owl. A Shrewd Hatchling again draws a Remove Soul, while a Merrow Levitator is no-sirr’ed with a Cancel.
Sidestep begins the race in earnest when it girds the Stream Hopper with a Clout of the Dominus, but that gets trumped by an Air Elemental. A Noggle Hedge-Mage helps keep Sidestep in the hunt, but an Aven Fisher keeps it at bay. One by one the tide turns and Sidestep loses its creatures, and finally falls again to an air force it can do little about.
WINNER: Arcanis’s Guile
Game 3: Aura Mastery (SHM) vs Evincar’s Tyrrany (10E)
Things look a little grim for Tyranny as Mastery gets off to a solid start. Sure they throw up an early defense in the form of Drudge Skeletons after a Demon’s Horn, but a Puresight Merrow is immediately followed by a Somnomancer, while Tyranny’s Severed Legion is neutralized with a Curse of Chains.
When a Thistledown Duo appears girded by a Steel of the Godhhead, it looks to be game over. But Tyranny hangs in there, using a Diabolic Tutor to grab a yet-uncastable Ascendant Evincar, some Vampire Bats, and even a Dross Crocodile.
Mastery attacks with the Duo over and over, after sending in the Merrow a few times early to bounce off the Skeletons and enable its untap ability. Soon the Skeletons draw a Curse of Chains as well, and it’s only due to the Horn that Tyranny is even drawing breath. But it topdecks an Assassinate to kill the Duo. Job done- or so it thinks, as Mastery plays another Duo, then retrieves the Steel of the Godhead with a Mine Excavation.
Tyranny is undaunted, playing the Ascendant Evincar, which weakens the Duo just enough for a next-turn Essence Drain to prove lethal. Unholy Strength adds some punching power to the Bats, and suddenly Tyranny is a real air-based threat, hammering in for up to 11 a turn. Against that, no deck can stand for long, and Tyranny comes from behind to claim the opener.
Tyranny gets off to a very solid start, smelling blood in the water. It opens with a Demon’s Horn, then follows with a Looming Shade and Thrull Surgeon. It hangs back on further deployments, happy to send in a massive pumped-up Shade for damage.
Mastery, meanwhile, is doing the best it can behind a Mistmeadow Witch and Thistledown Duo. Although the Duo gets girded with an Armored Ascension, it’s easy pickings for a Cruel Edict once the Witch gets snuffed out with the arrival of Ascendant Evincar. Mastery is back-footed, never to recover, as its hand gets savaged by the Thrull Surgeon and a Mind Rot, and a Mass of Ghouls clinches the game.
WINNER: Evincar’s Tyranny
That’s all for today, as the fourth match of the Division is a bye. As the losing decks are carried out on stretchers, we’ll tally the calls of the Prediction League, and be back on Tuesday with a leaderboard and call for the next round of predictions before we move to finish the Nagle Division. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you in a few days!