Pro Tour–Austin Quarterfinals: Entrapment

Posted in Event Coverage on October 18, 2009

By Bill Stark

Hunter Burton (Molten Zoo) vs. Yuuya Watanabe (Dredge)

Yuuya Watanabe is on a tear. In something like the past half dozen tournaments he's played, he has finished no worse than 10th. That includes four Grand Prix Top 8s—an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back-to-back run—and now a Pro Tour. It was all part of his effort to put a hammer lock on the Player of the Year race. To do that, he'd need to score higher than both Martin Juza and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa at this event, and both were fellow members of the Austin Top 8.

Hunter Burton was not about to let that happen. He was defending his home turf, the only native Texan to make the cut through the Swiss and one of just two Americans. Yuuya and his Japanese countrymen had the host nation outnumbered three to two.

Game 1

Yuuya Watanabe is on a tremendous run, but hometown hero Hunter Burton is out trip him up.

Hunter won the roll and started with a Wild Nacatl, but Yuuya Watanabe had a one-drop of his own: Hedron Crab. The 0/2 would allow him to mill three cards from the top of his own library each time he played a land. That, in turn, would reveal juicy cards that are actually more powerful in his 'yard than on the battlefield. Dredgers like Golgari Grave-Troll would allow him to mill even more cards, while Bridge from Below, Narcomoeba, and Dread Return would allow him to take his opponent down quickly. From across the table Hunter appeared to show zero interest in allowing that; he cast a Lightning Bolt targeting the Crab, then cast Steppe Lynx and attacked Yuuya for 3.

With his Crab eliminated, Yuuya cast Glimpse the Unthinkable targeting himself. He needed to get some Dredge outlets online or he was going to lose to Hunter Burton's aggressive Zoo start. The Glimpse revealed a Bridge, two Grave-Trolls, a Stinkweed Imp, and a Narcomoeba. Burton cast Tarmogoyf after attacking, and the players calculated the prominent green creature's power and toughness to be 5/6. Watanabe moved a die set to five to represent that number, but Burton cast it off the field. Used to playing with 'Goyf, Hunter trusted his ability to notice changes in power and toughness and wanted his opponent to stay on top of his own game in doing so. It was a clever move, but against high-caliber talent like Watanabe it would do little to rattle him.

Untapping, Yuuya dredged a Grave-Troll for his draw, then cast Ideas Unbound. That allowed him to dredge two more Grave-Trolls and a Stinkweed Imp. His graveyard was positively packed, but he had failed to flip any additional Narcomoebas. He also didn't have a third land drop, and ended his turn by discarding from his Ideas Unbound. If he could survive to untap, he might be in good shape, but Hunter wasn't going to make it easy.

The American also did not have a land, but turned his Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf sideways. Yuuya blocked the 'Goyf with his single Narcomoeba, but before damage, Burton used Lightning Helix to kill his own Steppe Lynx. That forced Watanabe to remove three Bridge from Belows from his graveyard, and he fell to 6. He needed a lot of help on his own turn to survive. He started by dredging Golgari Grave-Troll, revealing a Narcomoeba and his final Bridge from Below. He cast a second Narcomoeba but, still on two lands, had to pass back to Burton.

The Zoo team came crashing in, and Yuuya had little choice but to block with his two Narcomoebas. That netted him two Zombie tokens, and Hunter had no follow-up after the attack. Yuuya dredged a Grave-Troll picking up his last Narcomoeba, but Hunter responded to the 1/1 with a Lightning Helix targeting one of his opponent's Zombie tokens. Without access to a third creature, Yuuya couldn't flashback his Dread Return and would be all but dead. The instant resolved, the Zombie died, and the Narcomoeba entered the battlefield. Yuuya did some calculations before passing the turn.

Back on the war path, Hunter crashed in and had both of his creatures blocked by Yuuya's. That left Watanabe with a single Zombie, and Hunter had no follow-up. He passed the turn, and Yuuya moved to draw a card from the top of his deck. There was some confusion between the two, as Hunter was taken aback that his opponent was actually drawing a card instead of dredging. They cleared that up, but when Yuuya didn't find anything to keep him alive for one more turn, he conceded.

Burton 1, Watanabe 0

Game 2

Watanabe locks his steely gaze on the far horizon, or possibly looks away to make sure he doesn't see his cards while shuffling.

Staring the second game with a full set of seven, Yuuya Watanabe was happy to watch as his opponent took a mulligan to kick things off. The American was content with six, and the two got underway with Watanabe opening on Drowned Rusalka. Burton cracked a Scalding Tarn for Stomping Ground, then cast Kird Ape. Hedron Crab was up next for Watanabe, who then had a land to mill three cards from the top of his own deck. That netted him a Narcomoeba, but he had a problem: Burton's sideboard hate for the matchup was Ravenous Trap. The Zendikar uncommon meant the American could tap out each turn and still threaten the powerful ability of removing his opponent's graveyard at will.

Yuuya took 2 from a Kird Ape attack, then sacrificed Verdant Catacombs for a Watery Grave. That allowed him to mill three more cards with his Hedron Crab, and he picked up a second Narcomoeba. The big question was: Did his opponent have the Trap? Watanabe asked Burton how many cards he had in his hand, to which Burton replied, "Five .... Wait, four." The older Narcomoeba attacked the American for 1, and Watanabe sacrificed it post-combat to his Drowned Rusalka.

It looked like Yuuya was fashioning a mini-effort at going off; he dredged a second time with Drowned Rusalka, discarding Iona, Shield of Emeria. The 7/7 made a very attractive Dread Return target, but if Burton had drawn a copy of his sideboard hate the whole effort would be for nothing. Watanabe went for it, sacrificing a Zombie token, Narcomoeba, and Bloodghast to reanimate his white legend. Burton immediately pulled the trigger, revealing Ravenous Trap from his hand. The Dredge player mulled over his options, then nodded and passed the turn.

Lightning Bolt hit the battlefield to kill Drowned Rusalka, and Yuuya responded by activating it to dredge six cards with Golgari Grave-Troll. Burton rumbled in with a Tarmogoyf and Kird Ape, and Yuuya fell to 8. Watanabe untapped and simply drew a card for his turn. He cast Stinkweed Imp to buy himself some time. Hunter cast Gaddock Teeg to shut off Dread Return, but opted not to attack his team into the flying faux-deathtouch mini-monster; he'd need a removal spell before he was willing to risk it. He had also, though he likely realized it, shut off his own Ravenous Traps; while they had an alternate cost of zero mana, their converted mana cost was still four, and that was a no-no with Teeg on the battlefield.

A second Stinkweed Imp was cast by Yuuya, then a third while a fourth land allowed him to mill three cards to his graveyard. The Dredge player was rebuilding nicely from the Ravenous Trap, but Hunter wasn't resting on his laurels. He had built his board to the tune of a second Tarmogoyf and a Wild Nacatl. When Yuuya flipped up a Golgari Grave-Troll into his graveyard, Hunter decided it was time to attack; sitting back to prevent his opponent's Imps from dying was no longer going to keep dredgers out of the graveyard.

First Path to Exile was used to ace one of the Imps. Watanabe checked his library for a land but didn't find one. Burton sent the team in save for Gaddock Teeg, and Watanabe fell to 6. He lost his entire board in doing so, but managed to deal with both of the Tarmogoyfs. With the turn back, the Japanese star dredged a Stinkweed Imp which netted him Bridge from Below and two Narcomoebas. He cast the 1/2 wall and passed.

Burton used Molten Rain to blow up one of his opponent's Watery Graves and sent Yuuya to 4. The American wasn't willing to attack into Yuuya's full set of creatures, however, and simply passed the turn back after. Yuuya had to draw a card from his library; with only a scant half dozen left, he was in danger of decking himself if he wasn't careful. Breeding Pool entered the battlefield on the Dredge side, returning Bloodghast, and Yuuya sent a Glimpse the Unthinkable at his opponent. Burton had only a Verdant Catacombs for his turn, then shipped it back.

Watanabe attacked with Bloodghast, and Burton blocked with Kird Ape. The play allowed Yuuya to pick up a 2/2 Zombie, but he had just three cards left in his library. Burton drew a card and passed back. Yuuya peeled his top card, then began calculating. He could come up with nothing that would allow him to win from his board position, and decided to concede the game.

Burton 2, Watanabe 0

Game 3

Hunter Burton gives the game count, or possibly deals 3 damage.

Both players had a mulligan to kick off Game 3, and Yuuya cast Glimpse the Unthinkable on his second turn. A Narcomoeba trigger went on the stack, but Hunter responded with Ravenous Trap. That countered the play, even acing the 1/1 blue creature, and both players worked on starting the second "game." Yuuya built up his lands, but couldn't find a dredge outlet. Burton cast Molten Rain to blow up his opponent's Watery Grave, but had yet to find a creature. It was like a Magic version of musical chairs: the two players danced to an invisible song trying to see who would find their dredge outlet or attacker first.

It was Watanabe who managed to get there, but not spectacularly. He found Life from the Loam, which served the double duty of stocking his graveyard and his mana base. What he didn't find were any larger dredgers, as the Loam revealed only a Dread Return and Narcomoeba when he brought it back to his hand. He cast it for zero lands in an effort to find more dredgers.

Burton still had no creatures, simply building a mana base of five lands. That was a potentially bad sign for Watanabe; it was unlikely Burton would sandbag creatures meaning the four cards he was holding were removal spells and sideboard hate. The American finally found a Tarmogoyf, giving a small whoop of joy, and played a sixth land. It was possible Burton was simply horribly mana flooded, but that seemed improbable.

Watanabe returned a Golgari Grave-Troll and hardcast it. Burton had to read the 0/0 to recall what it did when it was actually on the battlefield. Not pleased with the possibility of facing a fatty from his opponent, Burton pulled the trigger. He had been holding a Ravenous Trap, and he used it to preemptively kill the Troll. Yuuya simply rewound the play the following turn, bringing a 2/2 regenerating Grave-Troll onto the battlefield.

It was a seventh land for Burton, but he had also managed to find a Steppe Lynx. He attacked with Tarmogoyf, but Yuuya blocked it with his Troll and regenerated the 2/2, which became a 1/1. The third game of the match was proving to be as interesting as the second: Yuuya Watanabe had been decked by Zoo, and it now looked like Hunter was going to be beaten down by Dredge. It was Extended put on its ear!

Yuuya cast a Stinkweed Imp and Life from the Loam to play a land. That allowed him to return Bloodghast from his graveyard while he beat in the air with a Narcomoeba. Hunter used Molten Rain to blow up a Breeding Pool, sneaking in a token amount of damage. He opted not to attack with his Tarmogoyf and Lynx. Yuuya untapped, and continued dredging. He attacked with Stinkweed Imp and Narcomoeba, then decided to flashback Dread Return. His target? Narcomoeba! Of course, in the process he netted himself a sextet of Zombies. That detail was too much for Burton who, still mostly creatureless, decided to pack it in for the fourth game. Despite double Ravenous Trap, Watanabe had managed to pull it out.

Burton 2, Watanabe 1

Game 3

Watanabe lays it out there.

Hunter continued his streak of being creatureless by spending his first turn playing a land and passing. A Drowned Rusalka allowed Yuuya to beat his opponent to the creature punch, but the 1/1 was killed by Lightning Bolt almost as soon as it entered the battlefield. Burton cast Gaddock Teeg and passed. The play was a strong sign the Texan wasn't holding Ravenous Trap, but the legendary bear would prevent Watanabe from casting Dread Return.

Off the dredge plan in the short term, Watanabe cast Narcomoeba and passed the turn. Burton attacked with Teeg, then cast Knight of the Reliquary. The gold creature was a hefty 5/5. Trying to get back on track with his deck's game plan, Yuuya cast Glimpse the Unthinkable. He revealed a pair of Stinkweed Imps, Dread Return, Life from the Loam, Bridge from Below, and Iona, Shield of Emeria. Giving his face a slight slap to refocus, Yuuya tried to figure out what his game plan was going to be. After tanking for several moments, he passed back to Burton.

Knight of the Reliquary and Gaddock Teeg rumbled into the red zone, with a Knight chump by Narcomoeba netting a 2/2 Zombie token for Watanabe. Hunter then used Molten Rain to reduce his opponent to a single Watery Grave. Still using his draw step for dredging, Yuuya Watanabe cracked Scalding Tarn to find a basic Island, bringing his land count right back up to two. He then cast Drowned Rusalka. It was a good thing for Burton that he had Gaddock Teeg, or Watanabe would have absolutely gone off with Dread Return.

Looking to clear a path for his creatures, Hunter cast Lightning Bolt targeting his opponent's 2/2 Zombie, but Yuuya responded by sacrificing the 2/2 to Drowned Rusalka, discarding a second Bridge from Below. Burton seemed a bit shaken by the play, chastising himself under his breath. It quickly became clear why: to cast the Bolt, he had tapped Sacred Foundry instead of Stomping Ground; the Foundry was his only source of white mana. That meant that in order to also cast a Path to Exile targeting Yuuya's Rusalka, Hunter needed to activate his Knight of the Reliquary to cash in a Forest for a Plains. The mistake cost him 5 points of damage as he was forced to attack with only Gaddock Teeg. By the end of combat, Yuuya was at 7 life with Bloodghast and three lands while Burton had Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, and Gaddock Teeg.

Bloodghast was sacrificed to Drowned Rusalka, yielding the Japanese Dredge player three Zombies. Burton ripped Molten Rain which allowed him to destroy his opponent's only source of black, a Watery Grave. It was a solid topdeck for the American, who had potentially shut off his opponent's ability to cast Stinkweed Imp. Still, Burton continued chastising himself over the play a previous turn. Watanabe had found himself a Narcomoeba, a solid turn of events for the Player of the Year hopeful whose game plan had shifted to maximizing the value of his Bridge from Belows.

Before long, there were six Zombies on the battlefield, while Burton was left hoping to topdeck. His Gaddock Teeg was doing an admirable job of keeping Dread Return off the board, but his Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary were besieged by black Zombies. Three more entered the battlefield, and Burton used his Knight to fetch up a Treetop Village at the end of his opponent's turn. That wasn't enough, however, as Burton drew, evaluated his board position, and conceded.

Burton 2, Watanabe 2

As the players shuffled up and resolved their mulligans for the final game of the match, Hunter Burton continued berating himself for the mistake that had robbed him of an outright Quarterfinals win. Yuuya Watanabe, meanwhile, remained stoic in the face of the grumbling from his opponent. It was unclear whether that was the result of a language barrier or because he didn't want to stop Burton from putting himself on tilt. From the peanut gallery, Brian Kibler cheered for his American counterpart. After already having won his Quarterfinals match, it was unclear whether Kibler was cheering out of national pride or because the winner between Burton and Watanabe would face the seasoned pro, with Burton's deck being an overwhelming underdog against Kibler.

Game 5

Burton did not have a creature for his first turn in the final game of the match, though he made up for it on the second with a 1/2 Tarmogoyf. Watanabe cracked a Scalding Tarn to find himself Watery Grave, then looked to the sky with a sharp inhalation of his breath. He was back to the guessing game of whether or not Hunter had opened with Ravenous Trap or not. Glimpse the Unthinkable revealed a Narcomoeba and Dread Return, but zero dredge outlets. Hunter checked to see if his opponent had flipped any instants, then used Lightning Helix to blow up the 1/1 Narcomoeba and attacked for 5. He followed up with Wild Nacatl.

Watanabe checked his graveyard during his upkeep, but without any Grave-Trolls or Stinkweed Imps, he was forced to simply draw a card (the horror!). He started doing a hefty amount of calculations on his turn before finally deciding to cast Ideas Unbound. Misty Rainforest found him an Island, which enabled him to cast Drowned Rusalka. He then discarded Golgari Grave-Troll and two Bloodghasts before passing the turn back to Burton.

A second Lighting Helix allowed Hunter to blow up the Drowned Rusalka, and the American attacked his opponent to 7. Yuuya dredged Grave-Troll on his upkeep, but Hunter flipped Ravenous Trap to ace his opponent's graveyard. In the background, the hometown crowd cheered wildly at this turn of events. Yuuya made Stinkweed Imp to buy him time to rebuild but gave the tiniest hint he wasn't pleased with how the game was going.

The viewing area is packed for the Quarters.

Tarmogoyf and Wild Nacatl headed back to the red zone, and the Imp hopped in front of the 'Goyf. Watanabe fell to 4, then dredged his Imp back on his turn. Doing so revealed a Bridge from Below and Darkblast, and Watanabe simply recast his 1/2. Burton couldn't find another creature, passing the turn without doing anything. A second Stinkweed Imp found its way to the battlefield for Yuuya, who was able to start sending one of the fliers into the red zone. Hunter, meanwhile, found himself a Kird Ape but still wasn't in a position to start attacking profitably.

Soon Yuuya's half of the battlefield expanded by a Narcomoeba, which started to get into the red zone while the Stinkweed Imps held Hunter off. The Texan found a Molten Rain on the top of his deck, which he used to blow up Watery Grave and send Watanabe to just 2 life. If the American could find another burn spell or a creature that would allow him to attack, it would be all over for Yuuya Watanabe.

It wasn't a burn spell, but a Tarmogoyf provided a third attacker for Burton. Watanabe didn't seem scared, sending in his Narcomoeba and casting a second. He still had three creatures for blocking, so he wasn't dead yet. Knight of the Reliquary was up next for Hunter, and Yuuya had to keep his entire team back to block. Hunter found a Wild Nacatl, giving himself one more attacker than Yuuya had blocker and threatening to end the game the following turn.

Watanabe forced Burton to go through the motions, but it was all for naught. Burton plucked Lightning Helix from the top and sent it straight at Yuuya's head, voiding the need to turn his team sideways. Yuuya nodded.

"Was Trap in your opener?" the Japanese star asked his opponent.

"Naw," Hunter said with a sly grin. "I drew it."

Hunter Burton defeats Yuuya Watanabe 3-2 and advances to the Semifinals!

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