Pro Tour–Berlin Finals: "Am I Dead Now?"

Posted in Event Coverage on November 2, 2008

By Tim Willoughby

Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Matej Zatlkaj

Matej Zatlkaj and Luis Scott-Vargas are both hoping that Elves! will help them claim the top spot.

Each of the two players in this Final has had a pretty grueling Top 8 to make it this far, in quite different ways. For Luis Scott-Vargas, it was a pair of match-ups in which many pundits reckoned him to be the underdog. In each he dropped the first two games, only to rally back for victory in a best of five competition. Matej, meanwhile had found himself in a very drawn out Semifinals against Sebastian Thaler, with Game 1 taking as long as the first four games of the LSV match against Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito.

While both players in this matchup had sleeved up Elves! for Pro Tour–Berlin, their builds varied in a few significant ways. Zatlkaj had Essence Warden, Wirewood Hivemaster, and Chord of Calling, along with a Predator Dragon kill. Scott-Vargas had Weird Harvest and a Grapeshot kill, though he had more mana elves to help for a turn-two kill. Would this extra speed help Luis here, or would the power of life gain and a Chord of Calling answer package out of the board help Matej? It was a question we would not have to wait long to find out about.

Game 1

Crucially, Scott-Vargas won the roll, and had a turn-one Heritage Druid. His deck has the best potential of any of the Elves decks that made Top 8 to kill on turn two, and when Luis got there, Matej smirked and asked the question.

To be honest, he already knew that this was very unlikely, as he had played an Essence Warden for his turn. For Scott-Vargas to go off through the Warden would be tricky on the second turn. A Nettle Sentinel was all that came from Scott-Vargas, who passed back to Matej and watched as Heritage Druid and Llanowar Elves enabled Elvish Visionary and Wirewood Symbiote. Zatlkaj was already at 25, which would prove awkward.

"Am I dead now?" asked Zatlkaj.

"I certainly hope so."

Zatlkaj, in his first Pro Tour Top 8, keeps the atmosphere casual.

Scott-Vargas played Summoner's Pact for Nettle Sentinel, then started going crazy making creatures, and building up on mana. Another Summoner's Pact got him Regal Force, to draw seven cards. Summoner's Pact number three found Elvish Visionary. This Visionary and a second hit the table, before a Wirewood Symbiote. One way or another Scott-Vargas was rocking and rolling, especially with the help of a Glimpse of Nature.

Scott-Vargas' board got busier and busier. In order to win the game, he was going to have to play Grapeshot, then use Eternal Witness to return it and play it again—mitigating all that life gained from Essence Warden. This seemed very probable, as Scott-Vargas merrily stormed up to well over 20, then used Summoner's Pact to find the Witness. He explained how his "double Grapeshot" would do it, and Matej quickly scooped up his cards.

Scott-Vargas 1, Zatlkaj 0

Game 2

Matej had to start with a mulligan on the play.

"Do you have many supporters here?" asked Zatlkaj as he shuffled in his seven.

"No, just a few loud ones."

A turn-one Llanowar Elves was met by a turn-one Thoughtseize from LSV, who took Essence Warden over Forest, Elvish Visionary, and Heritage Druid. The kill for his deck was substantially easier without having to worry about the Warden, and he didn't worry too much about the plays that followed from Zatlkaj.

The crowd in the observation area was big and boisterous.

A second Thoughtseize the following turn stripped the Essence Warden from the Slovakian's hand, and while it meant that Scott-Vargas was the dog on life totals, he had a big game ahead of him. Birchlore Rangers followed.

All that Zatlkaj had were some attacks. The same could not be said of Scott-Vargas. Glimpse of Nature was followed by Summoner's Pact for Nettle Sentinel, who with Birchlore Rangers was a mana machine. Scott-Vargas carefully worked out what he needed to do, using a Wirewood Symbiont to build up on spells played and draw cards. Heritage Druid meant that he could start really generating mana to put something together.

Eternal Witness returned Summoner's Pact, which in turn found Scott-Vargas another Nettle Sentinel, which got played. The draw from playing that Nettle Sentinel found a third. This effectively meant that LSV could tap all three for mana, play any spell, and untap them again—getting up to big mana very quickly. Eventually he hit 20 storm, and finished it.

"Nothing I could do about that," said Zatlkaj. "Nice draw."

Double Thoughtseize for a turn-three kill is not even the fastest that LSV's version of Elves can kill. Scary stuff.

Scott-Vargas 2, Zatlkaj 0

This was a position in which Scott-Vargas had not found himself before. His first Pro Tour Top 8 had been littered with tense matches where he found his back against the wall, but now he had a little breathing room, and seemed to be enjoying himself as he approached ever closer to the title of Pro Tour Champion.

Game 3

LSV closes in.

Zatlkaj started with a Birchlore Rangers, but was held off anything too crazy by a turn-one Thoughtseize from Scott-Vargas, which took Glimpse of Nature over Essence Warden. Scott-Vargas seemed happy to trade with the Warden in combat given the opportunity, even though this did leave him a little mana-light.

He had a Nettle Sentinel and Birchlore Rangers of his own, and managed to use them to great effect to fill up his board. He had two Wirewood Symbiotes, Elves of Deep Shadow, Nettle Sentinel, Llanowar Elves, and Birchlore Rangers by the end of turn.

Matej played a Wirewood Symbiote and passed, a little wary of what was going on. Elvish Visionary from Scott-Vargas kept his Elves coming, especially when he drew yet another Wirewood Symbiote.

At this point, LSV had to have been scared of the Chord of Calling, as he couldn't stop it with discard. Matej again played just a single Elf and passed for the turn, looking on as his opponent's deck exploded with Elves.

Scott-Vargas tapped his team to play Weird Harvest for 5. Each player searched his deck for five creatures to put into his hand. This probably signaled that LSV intended to win that very turn, as he would be cold to whatever Matej picked out if he passed.

Luis's picks were 2 Nettle Sentinel, Regal Force, Eternal Witness, and Heritage Druid. Matej's were, as it proved, irrelevant. With those extra Nettle Sentinels and Heritage Druid, Scott-Vargas was able to build up both mana and storm. His Regal Force drew him a mountain of cards, and Matej didn't wait for it to be played out—he just extended his hand and his congratulations.


Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Matej Zatlkaj 3-0 to become the Pro Tour–Berlin Champion!

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