Quarterfinals: Going ‘Round the Long Way

Posted in Event Coverage on November 22, 2009

By Tim Willoughby

William Cavaglieri (Mono-White Tokens) vs. Bram Snepvangers (Boros Bushwhacker)

Sitting down for the Top 8 of the 2009 World Championships here in Rome, Bram Snepvangers sees a welcome return to the Pro Tour Top 8 area. With three Pro Tour Top 8 showings previously, most recently in Kobe in 2006, Bram has been the subject of many a Hall of Fame conversation. While he didn’t get inducted along with fellow Dutchies Frank Karsten and Kamiel Cornelissen this year, a win in Worlds would make a great highlight on an already very successful Pro Tour career, that includes a rare win against the legendary Kai Budde on the Sunday of an event.

Bram’s opponent, William Cavaglieri, has brought a deck which, when asked on Saturday, he described as good against red-white decks, which is exactly what Bram is playing. The Mono-White Tokens deck is one of Cavaglieri’s design, the latest in a series of high profile tokens decks that he has been successful with, having won Italian Nationals with his Torrent of Souls tokens deck, and placed high in Hannover with a Jund Tokens plan.

Game 1

William Cavaglieri is fighting on home turf, while Bram Snepvangers has missed fewer Pro Tours than many pros have been to.Cavaglieri was on the play, but did not have more than a Plains to open with, while Bram found a turn-one Steppe Lynx. A White Knight from Cavaglieri would not be good enough to block with, and the Lynx got in for 4 on the second turn thanks to a little help from Arid Mesa.

Soul Warden and Knight of the White Orchid came next for Cavaglieri, who was building both his life total and his wall of first striking creatures. The White Knight got stuck in to make the life totals 17 apiece.

A Kor Skyfisher bounced Steppe Lynx following attacks for 2 from Bram. Ultimately this did nothing to Cavagieri’s life total, as his Soul Warden won back that life thanks to two creatures entering the battlefield. Cavaglieri played a Steppe Lynx and passed. He looked on as Ranger of Eos fetched a pair of copies of Steppe Lynx for Snepvangers, whose best avenue of attack with a wall of first strikers around was in the air with his Skyfisher.

Cavaglieri’s Steppe Lynx hit in for a cheeky 2 points without reprisal. After a little thought on his turn, Bram played out each of the cards he had fetched just before, played a land to pump up all his Cats, and then cast a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker. Everyone but Ranger of Eos crashed into the red zone. Bram was threatening 14 points of damage, against a life total of 20, which had been heavily propped up by Soul Warden. Cavaglieri double blocked one Lynx with his knights and allowed his Soul Warden to trade with the Bushwhacker. He took 9 damage, dropping him to 11.

Cavaglieri was on the back foot, as most decks tend to be against the hyper-aggressive Boros Bushwhacker deck that had taken Bram to 6-0 in the Standard part of the Swiss pairings.

When Bram cast his second Ranger of Eos of the game, Cavaglieri remarked, “I would like one of those too!” with a small smile. Bram found his final Steppe Lynx and a Goblin Bushwhacker.

At the end of Bram’s turn, Cavaglieri unleashed the Gargoyle token from a Gargoyle Castle. For his turn he then cast a second Knight of the White Orchid. In spite of having sacrificed a land, he couldn’t use its ability, though.

“That’s pretty good,” Cavaglieri mused as he saw a Marsh Flats come down from Bram. The Dutch player was quick to thrust his team of three Steppe Lynx into the red zone.

Cavaglieri used three Knights to block one Steppe Lynx, and Gargoyle Castle plus his own Steppe Lynx to block another. Each player cracked a fetch land to pump their Lynxes. It was Bram who had the hammer blow in this combat, with a Lightning Bolt to make the triple block a losing proposition, with the remaining two Knights falling to a very angry kitty.

Cavaglieri was knocked to 5 with this set of attacks, and had little on his own turn. When Bram kicked another Goblin Bushwhacker the very next turn, Cavaglieri scooped up his cards.

Snepvangers 1, Cavaglieri 0

Game 2

On the play for Game 2, Cavaglieri had an exciting start against Snepvanger’s aggressive deck. He led with turn one Soul Warden, while Bram had Elite Vanguard. Turn two saw two more copies of Soul Warden join the team. Before Bram could get an attack in, Cavaglieri was sitting pretty at 24 life.

Bram attacked, trying to manage Cavaglieri’s life total a little, and cast a Burst Lightning to kill one of the Soul Warden trio. Some attacks and a White Knight were the next play from the Italian, who seemed happy to have life totals diverging from 20 very much in his favour.

Bram inflicted a point of pain on himself, using a Marsh Flats to fetch a Plains. An Oblivion Ring then reduced the Soul Warden count down to just one. Cavaglieri cracked in with White Knight to take Bram to 15 and passed with three mana up, having missed a land drop. Not having a good blocker cost him 4 life, as Teetering Peaks let Elite Vanguard attack for 4. A Kor Skyfisher returned the Peaks to Bram’s hand, threatening a swing in the air for the same amount the following turn.

Cavaglieri plays the Italian game.Just as Bram seemed out of his Soul Warden woes, Ranger of Eos came along to find the last one. Bram learned a little about Cavaglieri’s likely sideboard plan, as that was all it found. No Steppe Lynx joined it, and Cavaglieri had to make do with just the one extra creature.

“I wish I had six of them!” said Cavaglieri.

“Mine would be better with six of some cards too,” replied Snepvangers.

“Mine is just a tiny 1/1,” said Cavaglieri.

“Mine is a tiny 0/1,” said Snepvangers.

Bram chose not to pull the trigger on Teetering Peaks for a second time, instead using a Scalding Tarn to fetch a Mountain, which allowed a Ranger of Eos for him too. It seemed incredibly unlikely that Bram would be in the same position as William with regards to having trouble finding one-drops in his deck, and he briskly proved this to be true as he revealed a pair of copies of Steppe Lynx.

For Cavaglieri, his turn was the final Soul Warden, to make two total, and a Journey to Nowhere for Kor Skyfisher. He was up four creatures to two on the board, and led on life 21 to 14. Bram played both copies of Steppe Lynx, followed by a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker. Cavaglieri went to 27, and looked on as Teetering Peaks made the attack even bigger. The Italian took 10, and killed off Ranger of Eos an Elite Vanguard, at the cost of his own Ranger of Eos, with the first strike of White Knight proving crucial.

As Bram’s team was tapped out, Cavaglieri’s Soul Wardens got stuck in, taking Snepvangers to 12. Snepvangers had a nice attack back. Elspeth, Knight-Errant made one of his copies of Steppe Lynx a 3/4 flyer, and a Teetering Peaks turned that into 7/6. The life totals were suddenly in Bram’s favour.

Cavaglieri attacked with his team into Elspeth, taking her to one counter, before playing a second White Knight. He could only look on as Bram cast Ranger of Eos for a Steppe Lynx and Goblin Bushwhacker. A fetch land gave Bram the mana to cast both.

“Am I dead?” asked Cavaglieri, even though he had jumped up to 18 from all those creatures hitting the battlefield.

Bram made his Ranger of Eos fly with Elspeth, Knight-Errant and attacked. Even with a block from Cavaglieri, he was taking 19 damage. It was on to Game 3.

Snepvangers 2, Cavaglieri 0

“Oh well,” remarked Cavaglieri “I will have to win all three.”

Cavaglieri mused over whether his attack on Elspeth had been the right one in the previous game. Both players agreed that Elspeth definitely warranted attacking—the powerful planeswalker can get thoroughly out of hand if allowed to.

Game 3

Neither player had a one drop in Game 3, and Cavaglieri cast with Honor of the Pure on turn two without creatures to enhance. When Plated Geopede came from Bram, it prompted a reaction from Cavaglieri.

“So you still had those? I thought they were hiding.”

Cavaglieri played second Honor of the Pure, bracing for impact and taking 3 on Bram’s turn. Cavaglieri’s next play looked likely to set him up to win his money back. Ranger of Eos found a pair of Soul Wardens. As a 5/4 itself thanks to the Italian’s enchantments, it was enough to scare off Plated Geopede, which Bram couldn’t even enhance with a land.

Cavaglieri cast a Soul Warden, and when Bram tried to Lightning Bolt the first in response to the second, Cavaglieri played a Brave the Elements. A Path to Exile came from Bram, who got hit for 5 by Ranger of Eos after the Soul Warden made it in.

Bram was stuck on land, making his Plated Geopede pretty weak. Meanwhile, Cavaglieri had enough lands for Conquerer’s Pledge.

“If you can beat this, I will be very proud of you,” he said.

“It might indeed be very difficult,” responded Bram as he cast Path to Exile on Soul Warden. With a pair of Honor of the Pure around, those soldiers were plenty big enough to end the game in one swing.

“My deck might not be very good, but it is cool,” announced Cavaglieri as he swung with his team the very next turn.

Bram just nodded sagely as he scooped up his cards.

Snepvangers 2, Cavaglieri 1

Game 4

The next game began about as aggressively as it could have for Bram, with a turn-one Goblin Guide. It hit without giving Cavaglieri a land. William had a Soul Warden for his turn, but was reluctant to block with it, instead putting up shields with a second Soul Warden.

Snepvangers Steppes things up.Snepvangers knew that Cavaglieri had a Path to Exile thanks to his Goblin Guide, and soon saw it used on the Guide, but not before it had given William a Marsh Flats by attacking.

Snepvangers was slow to deploy further threats, and suffered a little bit of Soul Warden beatdown, while Cavalieri bolstered his team with a White Knight. The life totals were now 17 to 19 in Cavaglieri’s favour.

Bram got up to five lands in play thanks to a Marsh Flats for a Plains, which allowed Baneslayer Angel. Cavaglieri gained 2 from his Soul Wardens, then showed a second Path to Exile. For his turn he had a Ranger of Eos, to find the final pair of Soul Wardens.

The second Baneslayer Angel was sat on top of Bram’s deck, and he seemed pretty happy to be able to get it onto the battlefield. Cavaglieri had a faster life gain plan, it seemed, as he got up to four Soul Wardens on the battlefield and then cast a White Knight, to go to 33.

“I’m fine if you attack,” joked Cavaglieri, which caused Snepvangers to crack a smile. He was on 12 and attacks would at least mean a clear path for racing.

Bram did attack, to make the life totals 17-27 in the Italian’s favour. His follow-up was Ranger of Eos for a pair of copies of Steppe Lynx. Casting all those creatures got Cavaglieri up to 39 again. Eep!

On Cavaglieri’s turn, Rangers traded off before Cavaglieri played Conquerer’s Pledge. Those six tokens meant 24 more life, for a total of 63.

“That’s a long way for you to go, at least.”

Baneslayer Angel got to work, making the life totals 22-58. There was no follow-up from Bram, though.

When Cavaglieri cast a Ranger of Eos, Bram responded with a Lightning Bolt on one Soul Warden. Cavaglieri fetched a pair of copies of Steppe Lynx, which piqued Snepvangers’s interest—they had been sided out in a previous game. The Italian thought about attacking, but decided to wait.

Baneslayer continued to chip away at Cavaglieri’s life total in increments that seemed pretty small considering the amounts of life afforded by Soul Warden. A pair of Steppe Lynxes, with a Scalding Tarn to support, had held off Cavaglieri’s attacks once, but they would not do so a second time. Attacks from William took Bram to 17, at the cost of a pair of Kor Soldier tokens.

Bram cast Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and made a Soldier.

“That’s easier to kill than you,” declared a decidedly chipper Cavaglieri. He cast a Knight of the White Orchid to fetch a Plains, played a second one, and started thinking about attacks. He sent in a sizeable force of everything but his Knights and Soul Wardens, all at the planeswalker.

Now it was Bram’s time to pause. After a little thought, he elected to go to work on Cavaglieri’s tokens, letting Elspeth die. Cavaglieri made a Gargoyle from Gargoyle Castle and passed, but a kicked Burst Lightning killed it.

Cavaglieri’s next stab was an Honor of the Pure, which meant that in spite of Bram seemingly always having a fetch land to help his Steppe Lynx plan on blocks, Cavaglieri’s attackers were good. He lost a Knight of the White Orchid to Path to Exile, but still knocked Bram down a bit, to 16.

Ranger of Eos from Bram joined Baneslayer Angel and a pair of copies of Steppe Lynx on the table, and he brought friends in the form of two more copies of Steppe Lynx. The shields looked well up for Bram, whose life total jumped to 21 following a Baneslayer Angel attack.

Cavaglieri seemed unconcerned. He didn’t have a land, but still attacked with is whole team.

“You have one card, right?” asked William.

“Yes, but it’s good,” replied Bram.

William’s was a Brave the Elements, which meant that none of Bram’s blocks did much in terms of killing any of William’s creatures. Bram dropped to 12 from what made it through. William had been one point short of ending the game by playing Brave the Elements before blocks. He chose to play it safe, and get Bram nice and low, so that he would be easier to finish later.

Senpvangers made a forlorn attack, holding back his Baneslayer. It knocked William Cavaglieri to a paltry 59. Cavaglieri drew and let out a sigh of relief. There was the Journey to Nowhere to get rid of Baneslayer Angel. The journey to victory in the game was suddenly a lot easier for him. He’d got soul and a lot of soldiers. After all the things that he had done he had manoeuvred into a position where he could win the game, rather than just staying alive. Killer.

Bram scooped them up. It was on to Game 5.

Snepvangers 2, Cavaglieri 2

Game 5

Cavaglieri shows his cards.For the deciding game, Bram would be on the play with about the most aggressive deck in Standard. Cavaglieri had a mulligan, and was staring down a Steppe Lynx after Bram’s first turn. There was no turn one play from William, who took 4 from the Lynx thanks to Teetering Peaks.

An Honor of the Pure would mean that whatever creatures Cavaglieri drew into would be that much bigger, but in the early game, he was taking quite a beating from that Steppe Lynx. A fetch land again meant the attack would be big. This time though, a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker meant it would be for 7. Cavaglieri was on just 9 when he played his first creature, a Knight of the White Orchid that fetched a Plains.

Bram looked at the first-striking Knight carefully. He played a Scalding Tarn and sacrificed it to find a Mountain, making his Steppe Lynx a 4/5—big enough to be unafraid of the Knight. Kor Skyfisher then bounced Goblin Bushwhacker, which got recast kicked.

Cavaglieri was in a very rough spot. He blocked the Steppe Lynx, cast Celestial Purge on the Goblin Bushwhacker, and still dropped to 6. An Oblivion Ring took out the Kor Skyfisher, but another fetch land meant the Lynx could hit for 4 again.

Bram showed a hand full of burn spells. It was all over.

Bram Snepvangers defeats William Cavaglieri 3–2 and advances to the Semifinals!

William Cavaglieri - Mono-white Tokens

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Bram Snepvangers - Boros Bushwhacker

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