Masters Finals: Dirk Baberowski vs. Itaru Ishida

Posted in Event Coverage on March 16, 2002

By Ben Seck

Baberowski 's draft is an aggressive U/G weenie deck that splashed black for a single Ghastly Demise. Though Dirk's creature bases consists primarily of 1/1s, he has the ability to make them fierce through one of 3 Nantuko Disciples or a single Overrun. Ishida's deck is much more bent towards control – he has Cephalid Looter, Hypochondria. But Ishida also has some impressive board clearing potential with Sickening Dreams, combined with the damage prevention capabilities of White.

Game 1

Baberowski was forced to mulligan a hand that lacked any land whatsoever, but decided to keep a slow hand with 3 Forests and no Islands. His fears were largely assuaged when he soon drew his island that he needed. But this wasn't before Ishida had come out with a mana curve of 1st turn Testament of Faith, second turn Mystic Familiar and a third turn Cephlaid Looter. The situation continued to deteriorate for Dirk with a 5th turn Hypochondria. Dirk wasn't putting much of an offense in this game with a 3rd turn Thought Nibbler backed up with a Krosan Archer. After casting a Acorn Harvest, Baberowski seemed to nearly able to pull out a miraculous comeback, but any thoughts of a comeback were fading fast as Ishida cycled frantically through his deck, vastly increasing his card quality over the Europeans. A Gravedigger was cast, that targeted a Gravedigger in the graveyard that was earlier discarded, and that signalled the beginning of the end. The next turn, the Japanese player cast Sickening Dreams for three completely wrecking the tapped out German, and stated finishing him off with a Mystic Familiar that soon was paired up with a twin. With no real answers in sight, Dirk conceded in the face of the birds.

Dirk made a slight change to his deck, siding the splash of Black for White, to allow an Embolden, which gave him some defence against the Sickening Dreams.

Game 2

Baberowski plays first and starts with a 1st turn Chatter of the Squirrel, to which Ishida responds with a Mystic Penitent. Baberowski decides that attacking is the best option and adds an Escape Artist and Diligent Farmhand to his board, but Ishida trumps with a Phantom Whelp and a Pianna, Nomad Captain! Baberowski cast Nantuko Disciple – which was caught in a Coral Net but Baberowski has plenty of spells to pitch to it. Deciding that he wants to keep the Disciple, Dirk casts a Druid Lyrist to deal with the Coral Net – after pitching an Embolden into the graveyard – and searched for a plains to run it with his Diligent Farmhand. Dirk began the slow process of stabilizing the board with a Krosan Archer, and the addition of a Nantuko Disciple seems to present a board in favor of the German. Ishida attempted to find a way to break the stalemate with a Looter, but this didn't stop Baberowski deciding to take up the offensive to an ever greater level by casting a Dreamwinder. Before the situation got too deep, Ishida decided to attack all out, hoping to push the final damage through. The math of the attack was somewhat complicated by the existence of an Embolden in Dirk's graveyard – but the board was soon clear the next turn with a Sickening Dreams that reduced both players life totals to dangerously low levels. Baberowski was not going to fall into the same trap as the first game, and had another Archer as well as another Nantuko Disciple in store for the hapless Japanese. This stabilized the board for long enough for the German to draw a flier and deal lethal damage to his opponent.

Game 3

By this time, it became apparent that this match would determine the Masters Champion, with Kai winning his match for the Phoenix Foundation and Reiji Ando winning his for the Panzer Hunters. Ishida opted to play first in this crucial game, but Dirk was first to act with a Chatter of the Squirrel. But a Mystic Familiar stopped any thoughts of some cheap damage. Baberowski attempted to keep the pressure up with Hydromorph Guardian and Krosan Avenger. The Avenger traded with a Soulcatcher – but the pressure from the other creatures kept Ishida's life low, especially with the addition of an Aven Fisher to the attack. In a final attempt to stabilize, Ishida cast a Sickening Dreams for 4, bringing himself to 1 life and Dirk to 11, with only a Mystic Familiar on the board. But Baberowski had kept some gas in the tank and had two more creatures to ensure that he would be able to deal the final point and make Phoenix Foundation is the first team to attain both titles of Masters and Pro Tour Team Champions in a single season.

Baberowski wins 2-1
Final Result: Phoenix Foundation wins 2-1

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