Pro Tour–Berlin Quarterfinals: "You're Very Unlucky"

Posted in Event Coverage on November 2, 2008

By Bill Stark

Jan Doise vs. Tomoharu Saito

I feel like I have a 52% edge in the Elves mirror," Belgian Jan Doise said before the match began. "Unfortunately, the die roll swings things by 6%," he added, jokingly. If his analysis was true, it was good news for him, as he managed to win the roll in his quarterfinals matchup.

"Good luck!" offered reigning Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito as the two got under way.

Game 1

Tomoharu Saito and Jan Doise wrangle with the Elves! mirror.

Doise kicked things off with a Nettle Sentinel while Saito accelerated his mana on the back of a Llanowar Elves. The two played out their armies of 1/1s, with Doise spending his second turn on Heritage Druid and Birchlore Rangers and Saito on a Heritage Druid and a Nettle Sentinel. With access to three mana thanks to his three Elves in play, Saito then made an Elvish Visionary. The card draw allowed him to play a Llanowar Elves, and with access to three more mana thanks to his Nettle Sentinel's untap trigger, he made a Wirewood Hivemaster before passing the turn. Jan Doise may have won the right to play first, but he was staring down the wrong end of a Tomoharu Saito Elves! draw, and it was only his third turn!

Doise stared at his hand, quietly running calculations in his hand and looking to see if he could combo. Tapping all of his Elves he made three mana, then used one to play a Birchlore Rangers. That untapped his Nettle Sentinel, but also gave Tomoharu Saito a 1/1 Insect from Wirewood Hivemaster. Jan followed up with a Summoner's Pact, but clearly wasn't sure what creature he was going to get. With no cards left in his hand, he needed to find some action, so an Elvish Visionary hit the board for Doise, giving Saito a second Insect.

Though the two players were playing a combo mirror, their takes on the decks were very different. Saito, like many of the Japanese players, had gotten his list from current Rookie of the Year and Japanese National team member Yuuya Watanabe. His kill condition was Predator Dragon, though he had more options in his sideboard. Jan Doise, meanwhile, had gotten his list from Mark Dictus, a fellow Belgian player. His kill was an "infinite" combo revolving around a singleton Mirror Entity, technology created by current Belgian National champion Pascal Vieren. Because Jan had a combo that could go arbitrarily large, his was "better" than Saito's, who could only make a huge Dragon that he hoped was lethal.

Unfortunately for Doise, as Saito took his third turn of the match, a very large Dragon seemed like a very real possibility. Tomoharu tapped the majority of his mana sources to summon Regal Force. The Elemental netted him a full nine cards, and he had just enough untapped Elves afterwards to add three more mana from Heritage Druid and begin chaining Elves after a Glimpse of Nature. A horde of Elves hit the board, each cantripping and generating an army of Insects for the Japanese star. It didn't take long for Saito to find the Chord of Calling he needed, with plenty of creatures to help convoke it. A sufficiently large Predator Dragon hit the red zone to send the first game home in favor of Japan.

Saito 1, Doise 0

Game 2

Doise was quick to send his opening hand back for the second game. He had tech in the sideboard for the mirror in the form of Orzhov Pontiff. Arriving on site Thursday, Doise realized he wanted something to sideboard in for his own deck after seeing the plethora of Elves! players testing in the tournament area. He bought a copy of the card from the dealers on-site but was chagrined to see a number of pros closely watching him make the purchase. By Friday morning, when he returned to buy a second copy of the card after some late night testing, he was shocked to find that its value had nearly quadrupled over night.

Saito shows off his pro player card insect tokens.

Saito, on the other hand, had come with the Pontiff tech from home. The entire weekend has been a fascinating case study in how many communities separately came up with the exact same deck idea. After carefully running some calculations in his head, Saito decided to keep his opening hand and watched as his opponent opened on Overgrown Tomb and Llanowar Elves. Not looking to be outdone, Saito mimicked the play, albeit with a regular ol' Forest instead of a fancy Ravnica dual.

In a shocking indication that he might be very far behind, Jan Doise spend his entire second turn playing only a Windswept Heath. Considering how much calculating Saito had been doing in their match, the play seemed bad for Doise. If he didn't keep up, he would no doubt find himself in an 0-2 hole in the Quarterfinals. Saito wasted no time in capitalizing, playing Elvish Visionary and Heritage Druid before passing the turn. His opponent, meanwhile, played only a land yet again, this time a Pendelhaven. Glancing at the number of cards in Jan's hand, Saito seemed suspicious of what was happening, at best.

"How many cards?" he asked, before going back to his calculations. On three lands himself with a Heritage Druid, Llanowar Elves, and Elvish Visionary in play, Saito passed back to his opponent. With a virtual six mana for Chord of Calling thanks to convoke, Tomoharu was potentially in great shape should Jan try anything. He could use the instant to search up a surprise Orzhov Pontiff, to wipe away his opponent's board.

When Doise simply played a tapped Gilt-Leaf Palace for his turn, Saito decided to go for it. He played the Chord at the end of his opponent's turn, setting the number to three but searching up merely a Wirewood Symbiote. That allowed him to bounce his Visionary back to hand and work on drawing a ton of cards to get ahead of his opponent.

After some careful consideration to kick off his fourth turn, Saito decided to go for it. He played a Glimpse of Nature, then followed it up with the Elvish Visionary he had bounced to his hand. That netted him two cards, and he could add an additional two draws with Wirewood Symbiote bouncing the 1/1 cantrip Elf back to his hand. A second Glimpse meant Saito would draw three cards per creature played, and he bounced the Visionary to do exactly that. A second Visionary netted him another three cards, but without Nettle Sentinel in play Saito lacked the necessary element of his mana engine in conjunction with Heritage Druid. He had drawn a dozen cards in the turn, but down to one mana he was forced to stop playing spells, even burning for a point from a floating mana he had remaining. Jan Doise was being given a gift from above.

He wasted no time in using it. A Glimpse of Nature of his own with five mana up allowed him to start comboing. He played Heritage Druid, then Nettle Sentinel. Saito was helpless to interact with his team tapped down from his turn, unable to Chord for a Pontiff to disrupt things for Doise mid-cycle. He seemed to see the writing on the wall, sucking a breath in through his teeth in frustration. His opponent calmly went about his business, Summoner's Pacting for Elvish Visionary. He stopped for a moment to Thoughtseize, forcing Saito to bin a Regal Force. Unfortunately for the Belgian, despite still having access to four mana, he had run out of gas as well and was forced to send the turn back to his opponent. This game was starting to get silly!

Saito used a Chord of Calling to find Birchlore Rangers, which netted him the black and white mana he needed to hard-cast the Orzhov Pontiff he had drawn. That wiped Doise's board of everything but a Nettle Sentinel. Still, the Japanese all-star wasn't able to combo. Instead, Jan Doise got to spend a turn paying for a Summoner's Pact and playing a Wooded Foothills, down and out again in a game he seemed to have been given a miracle chance to win.

Saito went for it again with two Glimpse of Natures, then an Elvish Visionary. A flurry of Elves fueled the critical mass of cards he needed, and before long Chord of Calling for a lethal Predator Dragon hit for the second game in a row, putting Jan Doise nearly down and out and sending them to the third game.

Saito 2, Doise 0

Doise serves up an attack.

Despite being up two games, Tomoharu Saito sought to refocus himself for the next game of the match. In his patented fashion, he slapped himself across the face twice, looking to snap any clouded and unfocused thoughts out of his head so he'd be fully tuned to the matter at hand.

Game 3

For the second time in the match, Jan Doise kicked off the game with a mulligan. Things hadn't come together well for the Belgian at all in his first Pro Tour Top 8, but he didn't let on about any worries and opened with a Nettle Sentinel. Saito answered by playing Llanowar Elves, but it was Doise's second turn that was interesting: he missed a land drop and simply passed. As Tomoharu Saito went through the motions of his third turn, it looked like he was almost in the semifinals.

Doise wasn't going down with out a fight, however. Despite sitting on just a Forest and a Nettle Sentinel, he went all-in by playing a Summoner's Pact, searching up Birchlore Rangers. It was possible he could play the Rangers and a Heritage Druid, allowing him to pay for his Pact the following turn, but he quickly revealed that that wasn't his plan either. A second copy of the Future Sight rare found him another Nettle Sentinel and he looked intent on going of.

"Hope I win this turn," he muttered.

"You win?" Saito asked, pausing from examining his hand of cards.

"I'd better..." Doise said, looking ominously at the two Pacts sitting his graveyard for which he'd have to pay.

Heritage Druid joined the team on the table, followed by double copies of Glimpse of Nature. Jan had just enough mana to play Wirewood Hivemaster, drawing two cards. With no cards left, however, he had to rip Elves to keep going. Saito clapped his hands together and whispered something to the heavens but whatever it was, it didn't work. Jan hit the creatures he needed and continued working an advantage. Essence Warden hit, and Doise still had some six green mana floating. It looked like he was going to actually pull it off!

Using Birchlore Rangers he filtered his mana to play Orzhov Pontiff, wiping Saito's board. He had just enough left to make a Regal Force, drawing 13 cards in the process. That netted him more than enough gas to generate a massive amount of Elves and Insects, thanks to Wirewood Hivemaster. Doise finally found his Mirror Entity which could turn all of his creatures into Elves, including the army of Insect tokens, allowing him to generate a massive amount of mana. He used that to pump through his Mirror Entity, turning all of his creatures into 20+/20+ creatures until end of turn. That was a bit unfortunate for Saito, who was at just 18 life, as one of those creatures was the Nettle Sentinel that had started the turn in play for Jan. As a result of its untap clause, he was able to use it to swing for lethal, pulling off an incredible upset from out of nowhere!

Saito 2, Doise 1

Game 4

For the first time in the match it was Saito's turn to take a mulligan. In the background the peanut gallery erupted into applause for Luis Scott-Vargas, who had just managed to win his Quarterfinals match. Happy with six, the plucky Japanese pro got to watch as his opponent took a mulligan for the third time in the Top 8.

Saito stays focused.

The Wirewood Symbiote / Elvish Visionary combo was how Tomoharu Saito kicked off the fourth game of the match, with Doise not far behind at the hands of a Llanowar Elves and a Wirewood Hivemaster. When Saito spent his third turn playing just a second Wirewood Symbiote and not returning his Elvish Visionary to hand, despite having the mana necessary to replay the 1/1 and draw a free card, Doise gave a quizzical raised eyebrow.

Saito revealed his plan soon enough by convoking a Chord of Calling to search up Orzhov Pontiff, wiping his opponent's board of creatures. That left Tomoharu dangerously tapped out, and Doise played two Summoner's Pacts to take advantage. The first brought him Nettle Sentinel and the second a Heritage Druid. He revealed his final card in hand to be Glimpse of Nature and prepared to go off.

"You win?" asked Saito.

"Depends," Doise responded, all in on double Summoner's Pact for the second game in a row.

Doise played out his two creatures, drawing two cards, but apparently didn't have the critical mass he needed to keep going. He passed the turn to his opponent, but with access to only four mana, he was going to die on his upkeep to Summoner's Pact barring some type of miracle. When Saito used his turn to play a Blasting Station, then pass Jan Doise smiled and extended his hand in defeat.

"I'm sorry," Saito said to his opponent. "You're very unlucky."

Saito 3, Doise 1

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