2014-2015 Precon Championships: Nagle Division (Part 2 of 2)
And we’re back with more exciting preconstructed action, as the second round of the Nagle Division showdown is underway. Last week eight decks became four, and today, four decks will become one.
We’re not talking about some weird meld variant from Eldritch Moon, but rather the grueling and brutal attrition it takes to be able to anoint a Divisional Champion. And it’s a necessary crucible, as there will be three other Divisional Champions wiping the blood of the fallen off their lapels to contend with. To get all the way to the top, as only a handful of decks have ever managed, it’s going to take consistent performance, deft skill, and even a little luck.
Game One: Red Sample Deck (M15) versus Kiora (Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Kiora)
Red comes out swinging for the fences, dropping a Borderland Marauder followed by a Goblin Roughrider, followed by the Paragon of Fierce Defiance. It’s a solid opening from Red, which we’ve seen time and again.
Kiora, having gambled on a two-land hand filled with promising answers, simply never draws a third land, and crashes to a humiliating defeat.
But with just one creature on the board, Kiora is able to play Kiora, the Crashing Wave, and begins building it up while Red hunts for another beater to break the stall. It finds a second creature to press its advantage, but both get bounced by the Scourge of Fleets. Nuking the Scourge with a Seismic Strike may be gratifying, but Kiora continues to just keep her head above water.
Cautious of Kiora’s tricks, though, Red plays a tight game. It sends in just the Whelp, drawing out the Aetherize. The Dragon gets bounced, though, with the subsequent Whelming Wave. Instead of blowing loads of mana on a couple threats, Red rebuilds with equal caution, replaying the Whelp alongside a Foundry Street Denizen and Goblin Roughrider. Again, Kiora’s in a tight spot.
A Man-o’-War bounces the Roughrider, giving Kiora another body to block with. Kiora then forces a trade between the Man-o’-War and Furnace Whelp thanks to Time to Feed, clawing back a little bit of life in the bargain. The planeswalker, meanwhile, keeps the Denizen neutralized.
The Roughrider returns, and comes n on the attack before it’s bounced with a Surrakar Banisher. Finally, though, Red makes a play to return the Shivan Dragon to the battlefield- and Kiora’s ready with a Plasm Capture, in the play of the game.
Thanks to Dragon mana, Kiora then drops the Inkwell Leviathan, and the tide has turned. A Lorescale Coatl and Omenspeaker keep the numbers up, preventing Red from launching an overwhelming assault to win the game. Although the Coatl grows to an 8/8, another Seismic Strike puts it to bed. Kiora, the Crashing Wave is finished off with a Lightning Strike.
Back and forth it goes, with Kiora just managing to keep up the right number of bodies to stop Red from alpha striking, but now a new threat looms for Red: decking. With only 30 cards to play with, there are just a handful left in the library, and if Red can’t find a way to power through and take Kiora down, it’s in danger of losing to itself.
For Kiora’s part, she just doesn’t have enough creatures to be able to send in the Leviathan without risk. A Sealock Monster offers some respite, but when a Time to Feed sees off Red’s Paragon, Red runs out of options. A Thundering Giant isn’t enough, and Red loses when it can’t draw a card.
Although Red lead with a Foundry Street Denizen and Borderland Marauder, Kiora’s pair of Grazing Gladeharts offer some substantial clawback through landfall. Too much, it seems, as Red blasts one with a Lightning Strike.
Still, as Red attacks relentlessly, Kiora’s forced to start trading out creatures. The other Gladehart swaps for a Goblin Roughrider, then a Netcaster Spider evens out with the Marauder. Kiora finally seems to break even behind a Man-o’-War and Lorescale Coatl.
Then Red breaks out the Cone of Flame, sending 3 damage at the 3/3 Coatl, 2 at the Jellyfish, and 1 to Kiora’s face. Kiora manages to save the Coatl with a timely Accumulated Knowledge, but the damage it’s taken gives Red the confidence to send in the troops.
The Coatl appears to be a forced trade for a Roughrider- but then Kiora snaps off two more Accumulated Knowledges! The Roughrider is massacred, leaving just a Denizen. When Kiora follows up with an Urban Evolution, the Coatl swells to a monstrous 13/13. Red is unprepared for the first hit, but hastily deploys some chump blockers.
When the Scourge of Fleets sends them back to hand, the Coatl is free to finish off its opponent, and does do.
Game Two: Cruel Plots (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack) versus Fate and Fury (Magic 2015 Clash Pack)
Both decks get off to poor starts for the opener, but things seem a little worse for the Clash Pack deck given its reliance on ramping. It does find a Karametra’s Acolyte to power out an Arbor Colossus, but the Colossus gets bounced by Sidisi’s Faithful, exploiting a Palace Familiar. The enabling Voyaging Satyr is similarly managed, when a Shambling Goblin gets exploited by the Minister of Pain. Another Sidisi’s Faithful exploits the first, keeping the Arbor Colossus under control, and Cruel Plots capitalizes on the momentum with a Necromaster Dragon and (painful) Mind Rot.
In the end, Fate and Fury never gets itself established, and the Intro Pack deck steals a win.
Cruel Plots strings together the Shambling Goblin/Minister of Pain tandem again to good effect, killing off a Kiora’s Follower and Elvish Mystic. Undaunted, the Clash Pack lands Nemesis of Mortals, though Sidisi’s Faithful quickly sees it off. A pair of Youthful Scholars emerge, perfect grist for the exploit mill.
The resummoned Nemesis of Mortals falls to the Minister of Pain and Coat with Venom, while a Profaner of the Dead bounces back the Follower and Satyr. Last game, Fate and Fury stumbled a bit on land; this game, if anything, it finds too much of a good thing. Cruel Plots plays the tempo game well, and its opponent never manages to find a foothold. While the ground game congests, a Palace Familiar keeps pecking away for damage, and, at last, gets in the final peck.
WINNER: Cruel Plots
Divisional Final: Kiora (Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Kiora) versus Cruel Plots (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack)
Kiora gets out early with a Coiling Oracle and pair of Grazing Gladeharts, while Cruel Plots opens with a Hand of Silumgar. While Kiora finds a second Oracle, Plots kills them both with a Minister of Pain, exploiting a Youthful Scholar. It then looks to establish an aerial presence with the Silumgar Monument.
Kiora, however, manages one better in the Simic Sky Swallower. A Palace Familiar offers little resistance, and less so after being bounced with a Man-o’-War. Kiora rules the skies, and has little difficulty in claiming the opening win.
An Omenspeaker and Kiora’s Follower get things moving for Kiora, though Cruel Plots seems up to the task with a Palace Familiar, Ukud Cobra, and Youthful Scholar. Kiora ramps with Explore and Explosive Vegetation, while Cruel Plots looks to strengthen its hand by exploiting the Scholar to a Gurmag Drowner.
Doom comes for Cruel Plots when Kiora finds the Inkwell Leviathan, whose islandwalk is just what Kiora needs to push past her opponent. Cruel Plots’ only hope is to outrace, and while it’s gotten in some steady damage (particularly off the Cobra). When a Plasm Capture counters a Silumgar Butcher, who was going to help clear a path through the red zone, its back is broken. Kiora cruises to an easy islandwalking victory.
We have a winner! Kiora’s put down three other decks on her way here, and as the last deck standing has earned the right to represent the Nagle Division of the Rosewater Conference. Who will she need to beat to compete in the Grand Final? That question begins to be settled next week. For now, the planeswalker gets to bask in the victory.