Quarterfinal Feature Match: Zvi Mowshowitz (USA) vs. Brian Kibler (USA)

Posted in Event Coverage

By Wizards of the Coast

by Omeed Dariani

Sitting down for this match, both players had tested against each other's deck extensively. Though they were not very talkative, both players were in a good mood. Kibler joked about his deck, which has been the center of much discussion, since it contains Rith, the Awakener and, in the sideboard, four Armadillo Cloaks. The running joke comes from the Worlds 98 telecast, where Brian Selden beat Ben Rubin with a Verdant Force and Spirit of the Night. You can hear people in the background whispering "little kids love those fatties." Though Kibler isn't a little kid anymore, he still loves the fatties.

Game 1

Kibler chose to play first, keeping a very good hand with two Ports an Elf and a Chimeric Idol, while Zvi kept a hand with some nice mana options, hoping to draw into the threats. One of his early draws was a Two-Headed Dragon, a card that, with Rith, has been hotly debated. Players weren't sure what to make of an environment where people can realistically play two different dragons, with neither being a clearly better choice. Over the course of the tournament, many Riths and Two-Headed Dragons have traded, while very few of them have actually been killed in other ways, suggesting that they truly rule the skies. Kibler opened with early development, but Zvi quickly took care of the early mana acceleration, knocking out a Llanowar Elf with Assault. Kibler played successive Ports, and tried to slow Zvi down. He finally played his first threat, Chimeric Idol. Over the next couple of turns, Zvi broke out of the Ports with a huge Blastoderm. Kibler calmly played a second Idol and held back to block. Zvi, as he would throughout the match, took an aggressive position, attacking into the two Idols, bluffing an Assault, but he just ended up trading his Blastoderm for an Idol. He played a Fires of Yavimaya and an Elf, then was forced to end his turn. Zvi was sitting on his Dragon, without two red to cast it, despite the fact that he drew more land than spells. It was Kibler's turn to get aggressive, as he topdecked a Blastoderm, then an Armageddon. Armageddon is another interesting difference between Kibler's "Fires deck," which actually has no Fires, but is built on a similar foundation, and the more traditional decks being sported by Zvi and Rob Dougherty. Kibler also has black mana access, for sideboard cards like Tsabo's Decree (for the rebel match). The Armageddon left Zvi's side of the table empty of threats and options, so he conceded.

Kibler sideboarded face up, practically tossing the four Armadillo Cloaks at Zvi. Zvi commented that they were "pretty good" against him in testing. Kibler agreed, laughing "we tested it too." "But not just last night!" and they both laughed. Kibler put his finger in the air and declared "my dream is to make these kids' [motioning to the crowd] dreams come true - they want to see Rith with Armadillo Cloak smashing you from the red zone."

Game 2

Zvi's hand was solid against Brian, but it did not present any real threats. Kibler's hand included both Rith and a Cloak. Once again, Assault took care of the early mana creature, Birds of Paradise and Kibler used a Port to some effectiveness, keeping Zvi a little short on mana. Kibler played a River Boa and Zvi responded with a Chimeric Idol to block. Things got really interesting from there, as Brian, with four mana available, Cloaked his Boa and attacked. In what looked surprising, Zvi chump blocked with the Idol. It all became clear after Brian regenerated and was left tapped out, unable to answer Zvi's Earthquake for three. Zvi smiled, "one down, three to go." Kibler regrouped, playing an Elf, but Zvi dropped a huge Jade Leech, which looked like the winning threat. However, with the Elf, Brian had exactly six mana - and Rith debuted in this match, to much breath blowing. Zvi, suddenly staring down a very bad situation, considered his options. He'd been holding a Two-Headed Dragon for a few turns, but Kibler's pressure and Rishadan Ports had prevented him from playing it. He now had his window, but would have to wait a turn before being able to pump it. He decided to take a risk and make a bluff attack with the Leech, hoping to trick Brian into thinking that he had an Assault or some other way to do one damage to Rith, effectively swinging board control back over to him. Kibler pondered for a moment, and chose to block. Zvi was pretty loud and upset that his bluff was called, ending his chances to win the game. He played the Two-Headed Dragon and took a Rith hit, which made four tokens. Kibler remarked "you know you're in trouble when you have a Fires in play, cast a Two-Headed Dragon and say go." The next turn, he was able to trade dragons, but his life total was so low that he lost to the tokens.

"Your Dragon needs help - Rith'll smash his face in."

Game 3

Facing a very quick 2-0 deficit, Zvi needed the win here. He pulled a splendid hand with a nice curve and several threats. Brian's hand was the worst he'd seen - five lands, an Elf and an Armageddon. While Zvi played out an absolutely perfect Fires draw, Kibler played lands and said "go" a lot. A turn four hasted Leech dealt fifteen damage to Kibler, who, staring at his lands and Armageddon, had no choice but to take it lying down.

Kibler led, 2-1

Game 4

Brian took the loss in stride and shuffled up for game four. He and Zvi were having a very good time, joking about each other's decks, while he loudly proclaimed that he hoped Kai would beat his buddy Jay Elarar in another quarterfinal match, because it was a better matchup for him. This time, both players had great draws, with Zvi's perfect curve and Kibler having both early development and Rith plus Cloak. Zvi made the first play, an Elf, which helped him develop early, with turn two Fires and turn three Idol. His Idol ran into Kibler's turn three Idol, clearing the board of threat cards. Zvi used a Port to lock down a City of Brass, then made a Battery token. All the while, Brian slowly amassed his lands. He played a Blastoderm, which got in a hit. Zvi played out another Idol and chose to chump block the Blastoderm, rather than take the second hit. On his next turn, Kibler cast Rith and held back the Blastoderm. At first, this play looked very questionable - and it would be very likely that if Brian attacked with the Blastoderm, the game would end in one or two turns. However, this served two purposes. If he attacked with Blastoderm, Zvi would block with the Battery token, lowering the number of tokens Rith would generate. The only card in Zvi's deck that could turn this game around was Saproling Burst. The extra blocker would keep this card from killing him. Zvi looked for an opening, but couldn't really do anything. Kibler untapped, then very slowly, while announcing it, tapped "a white, a green and a colorless," to which Zvi said "oh, no!" The Cloak hit Rith and Rith went into the red zone for a crushing blow. It was a huge smashing. Just a hop, skip and jump later, this match was over.

Kibler was a little worried about his cards being in too bad shape to play them under the cameras, so Zvi loaned him some cards from his deck.

Final Result: Brian Kibler def. Zvi Mowshowitz, 3-1

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