2014-15 Precon Championships: Lauer Division (Part 1 of 2)
Three divisions have their champion anointed, to represent them in the Final Four. Only the Lauer remains, and today we cut the field of contenders in half! Let’s see who advances, and who is carted off the arena floor in a stretcher!
Game One: Landslide Charge (Dragons of Tarkir Event Deck) versus Abzan Siege (Khans of Tarkir Intro Pack)
Landslide Charge takes its time to develop, getting a good mix of land from a pair of Evolving Wilds in its opening grip and knowing its up against a slower opponent. It soon follows with a Golden Hind and Elvish Mystic, which are critical due to a shortage of land. A turn-3 Fanatic of Xenagos gets bestowed upon by a Mogis’s Warhound, and it looks like a beatdown is underway.
Except the slower Abzan counter with a Kill Shot, then mount a defense behind an Abzan Falconer and High Sentinels of Arashin. When the Event Deck drops Surrak, the Hunt Caller, the Falconer lets the High Sentinels threaten a trade if it can outlast, but gets Roasted first. Surrak is exiled with an Abzan Charm, but the Abzan deck feels one step behind the entire time. Low on life, they chump a 4/4 Mistcutter Hydra with a freshly-played Ainok Bond-Kin, but ultimately get burned out by Crater’s Claws the turn after they deploy an Ivorytusk Fortress.
The Abzan have a dream start for the next round, leading with a Child of Night into a pair of Disowned Ancestors. The Child gets in some work, chiseling away at the Event Deck’s life and padding its own. When it finds a Mer-Ek Nightblade, it looks like this is the Abzan’s game to lose.
Which it does. The Nightblade draws an immediate Lightning Strike as Charge sends in its own beaters, a Fanatic of Xenagos and Savage Knuckleblade. An Arc Lightning picks off the Child of Night and freshly-cast Ainok Bond-Kin. And while it loses some of its own creatures to removal, namely the Knuckleblade to Flesh to Dust and a 5/5 Mistcutter Hydra to Suspension Field, it powers past the Abzan’s defenses. A Roast solves the last threat the Abzan can produce- a Carnivorous Moss-Beast– and from there the Fanatic, an Elvish Mystic, and Heir of the Wilds gets the deck across the finish line.
WINNER: Landslide Charge
Game Two: Enlightened Mastery (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack) versus Relentless Rush (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack)
It’s a battle of the engines!
On the one hand, you have Relentless Rush, keeping a very dodgy hand with two bombs and loads of mana, and it pays off. Rush drops a Boltwing Marauder and Warbringer, then repeatedly dashes a Sprinting Warbrute hammering in for 7.
Mastery, meanwhile, has all its hopes on a Cunning Breezedancer (alongside an Updraft Elemental), which is large enough on its own to hold off some of the worst of Rush’s beaters. It picks off the Warbrute when it plays Artful Maneuver and Ojutai’s Breath, locking down the Marauder in the process, then counterattacks for 12 damage of its own after a Sight beyond Sight is added to the rebound pile.
The play turns on a single card, Foul Renewal. In a stroke, Rush gets back its powerhouse two-mana beater and Mastery loses its Breezedancer. It finds another, but not in time to prevent an alpha strike for the loss.
With its back against the wall, Mastery comes up big. Like Pristine Skywise big. Cunning Breezemancer big. It has a stuttering start behind Updraft Elemental and Zephyr Scribe, but catches a break in that Rush’s offensive pressure is limited to a Lightning Berserker.
Though with plenty of Red mana open, Rush manages to burn Mastery down to 6, but in the end the late-arriving air force takes the game and forces a third!
Both decks again have the opportunity to show off their engines. Rush begins early with Impact Tremors and a repeatedly dashed Lightning Berserker. Defeat kills off the first blocker, an Elusive Spellfist, and Duress picks off an Anticipate as Mastery seems to stumble on mana a little.
Indeed, Rush doubles down with Boltwing Marauder, so it’s in a dash loop where it pumps creatures and pings its opponent every turn.
As for Mastery, it’s loop involves turtling, as it’s a step behind Rush. An Updraft Elemental and Dragon’s Eye Sentry offer blocking options, but things get silly when it lands a Student of Ojutai and Skywise Teachings. A string of rebound spells lets it keep pumping out chump blockers and lifegain, but without any way to answer the threats forcing it to turtle, this strategy lasts only as long as it can find spells to play.
Which is not forever.
WINNER: Relentless Rush
Game Three: Grave Advantage (Fate Reforged Intro Pack) versus Furious Forces (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack)
Advantage to Grave Advantage! Furious Forces lacks Green mana, but has a very solid hand. No problem against a slower deck, right?
Unfazed, Forces fires off a Sarkhan’s Rage to kill it, but still sees its hand hit from a one-two punch of Rakshasa’s Secret and Dark Deal. Though it manages to find Green and deploy a Stampeding Elk Herd, its opponent is already well ahead.
That’s thanks to a stream of creatures pushing Advantage forward. A Gravedigger pulls back an Undergrowth Scavenger, which enters play as a 5/5 thanks to an earlier Sudden Reclamation and the Dark Deal. Forces doesn’t go down quietly- a Tail Slash and Epic Confrontation kill off the Scavenger and Parapet, but its life total has been steadily dwindling. Advantage pivots to playing smaller creatures like the Carrion Crow and Wall of Mulch, and simply outlasts its opponent once a Sultai Flayer drops.
An epic battle! Both decks play to their strengths, and turn in an amazing performance!
For a time, Forces pulls ahead on the creature count, adding a Glade Watcher and Dragonlord’s Servant. Advantage, however, bottles up the ground game with a Sultai Flayer and Shambling Attendants, and when Forces tries to take to the skies with a Savage Ventmaw, it uses Hunt the Weak to kill it. Undaunted, Forces replaces the loss with a Scion of Ugin, and the race is on!
The Beastbreaker trades with the Attendants after pumping, but Advantage wicks away the Watcher and Servant through a Merciless Executioner-Gravedigger tandem. Forces adds a Colossodon Yearling, each side hammering away at the other. Advantage looks to come out the loser by a hair- until at the last moment it topdecks Hornet Queen. Not only does that deny Forces the win, but it secures it for itself. Advantage advances!
WINNER: Grave Advantage
Game Four: Sworn to Darkness (Commander 2014) versus Massed Ranks (Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack)
The Commander deck starts a bit slowly, and by that it’s meant their first creature was the Gray Merchant of Asphodel, the second the Butcher of Malakir. The opening play is a Blood Moon. Sure there is a bit of acceleration with the Myriad Landscape, and some hand refill with Sign in Blood, but sometimes it really is slow and steady that wins the race.
It’s not that Massed Ranks doesn’t have time, but the problem perhaps is a lack of breadth. It gets a huge lifegain start off of a Champion of Arashin, particularly when Scale Blessing makes it even bigger. It is happy to trade that for the Butcher, particularly when the only collateral damage is a Servant of the Scale. But when Ranks replaces its losses with similar deep investments- a Scaleguard Sentinels and Enduring Scalelord backed by a Dromoka’s Gift– it is a sitting duck for Darkness.
Darkness, after all, finds its footing beneath a Crypt Ghast, whose mana doubling opens up all sorts of possibilities. Possibilities like Pontiff of Blight. Like Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. And possibilities like Dregs of Sorrow, to wipe Ranks’s board.
Ranks tries, adding an Arashin Sovereign (with a second Gift), but by now Darkness already had found an Evernight Shade and Pontiff of Blight. Ranks simply can’t keep up, and between the extorting and beatings, is quickly overwhelmed.
There are beatings, and then there are beatings. Sworn to Darkness, on the verge of clinching, turns in the kind of performance you rarely see outside of the world of “magical Christmasland,” and it is almost a cover-your-eyes match.
Ranks leads with a Forest.
Ranks? A Plains, letting it deploy a Lightwalker.
Darkness, a second Swamp. Oh, and a Raving Dead.
That’s right, a turn-2 five-drop that must attack a “random opponent” (HA!) each turn, causing extreme life loss.
At that point, Ranks was in pure damage control. Gang-block with the Lightwalker and Sandcrafter Mage to kill the Dead? Oops, Sudden Spoiling. Play a Lightwalker just to chump and avoid the life loss? Nope, Nekrataal.
Ranks never has a chance.
WINNER: Sworn to Darkness
We’ll be back next week with the conclusion of the Lauer Division, and the week after is the brawl for it all. See you then!