Quarterfinals: Hopeless

Posted in Event Coverage on September 5, 2010

By Zac Hill

Zac is a former game designer/developer for Wizards of the Coast and was the lead developer for Dragon's Maze. His articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, The Believer, and on StarCityGames.com. Currently he serves as the chief operating officer of The Future Project, a nonprofit education initiative, and holds a position as a research affiliate in the MIT Game Lab.

Michael Jacob vs. Brian Kibler

Brian Kibler has been on a tear. Since "coming back" last season, he's made the Top 8 of three different Pro Tours, won one of them, and won a Grand Prix just for good measure. His opponent, Michael Jacob, is one of the most solid, consistent players on the Tour, and although he's enjoying his first individual Top 8, he's a two-time U.S. National Team competitor and the 2008 Team World Champion.

These two players were on the same playtesting team practicing for this tournament, so they were both intimately familiar with the matchup. Kibler was sporting the same black-white-green Doran, the Siege Tower deck that took Brad Nelson to the Top 8—now being called "Treehouse"—while Michael Jacob was running the Cruel Control deck also piloted by the likes of Ben Rubin.

Game 1

Both players kept their opening hands.

"White-bordered for me," Jacob said as he cracked a Scalding Tarn for an Island. He cast Preordain and kept one card on top.

Kibler lead with a Reflecting Pool and shipped it back. Jacob had another Preordain and dove deeply into the tank.

"Tough one?" Kibler asked.

"It's pretty tough," Jacob responded. He kept one card on top, drew it, and cracked another Scalding Tarn for an Island. Yet another Preordain shipped two cards to the bottom.

"Is this Preordain into Preordain into nothing?" Kibler asked. Or hoped.

Americans Michael Jacob and Brian Kibler: masters of different styles.

Kibler's second land, a Twilight Mire, filtered a green and a black mana. The black was used to cast Duress, and Kibler took Mana Leak. The green, on the other hand, allowed a Treefolk Harbinger, which fetched a Murmuring Bosk. Kibler's choices suggested strongly that Doran was coming down on the third turn, and Jacob merely rubbed his eyes as he tried to concoct a plan. Finally, he played a Mountain and passed it back.

Kibler elected not to reveal a Treefolk to Murmuring Bosk, and cast Thoughtseize—maybe he didn't have Doran. Jacob, however, top-decked another Mana Leak and chose to use it, allowing him to keep his Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which he would certainly play the following turn if he had a land. No land was forthcoming, however, even though Jacob used his final Preordain to dig for it. Kibler played a Swamp and announced yet another Thoughtseize, which revealed another Mana Leak off the Preordain. Kibler, however, took Jace. He played a Loam Lion and passed the turn.

"It's actually impossible for me to cast Loam Lion as a 1/1," Kibler mentioned. Kibler's only white sources are Murmuring Bosks, which are also Forests.

Jacob found a fourth land in Reflecting Pool but cast no spells. Kibler attacked with Lion and played a Treetop Village. Crumbling Necropolis came down for Jacob, but he still had no action. Kibler sent with Village and Lion and passed the turn—it appeared that both players just didn't draw that many threats.

Jacob drew a card and again simply passed. Kibler announced yet another Thoughtseize—but Jacob played Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir in response! Thoughtseize sent Grave Titan to the bin, and Chameleon Colossus came down while Jacob was tapped out.

Jacob untapped his lands and thought hard. Finally, he played a Punishing Fire on Chameleon Colossus, deployed his topdecked Grove of the Burnwillows, and recursed the Fire, killing the Colossus. Kibler, however, had an Elspeth, which sent Loam Lion into the air for 6. Jacob fell to 6. Treefolk Harbinger fetched Doran, and Jacob was on the ropes.

Jacob attacked with Teferi, eliciting a look of surprise from Kibler. Kibler drew his card and tried to figure out what was happening. Elspeth sent Loam Lion to the skies, Treetop Village became a Creature – Ape, and that was all she wrote.

Kibler 1, Jacob 0

"If I draw a fourth land there I probably win," said Jacob. "I also probably win if you don't draw Thoughtseize the turn I draw Teferi."

"You're probably right," said Kibler. "In general, though, I think the matchup is fine. I tested a little bit last night against Rubin, but we played it a bunch of times before that. People kept telling me, 'Why do you keep testing Doran against Grixis? It's a pet deck against a pet deck.' Now, though, I'm glad I did."

"Good luck, sir!" Kibler said as they drew their next opening hands.

"I'll need it," said Jacob, smiling.

Jacob kept his hand, and Kibler had to mulligan.

"It's so quiet in here!" Jacob said. "Is anyone having fun?"

"I'm playing against Jund," Paul Rietzl chimed in from his own table. "What do you think?"

Game 2

Kibler kept his six. Jacob started off with a Crumbling Necropolis, and Kibler once again lead with Reflecting Pool. Jacob's second-turn Preordain kept a single card, and Grove of the Burnwillows tapped for colorless to play a Relic of Progenitus.

"This is awkward," Kibler said as he deployed another Reflecting Pool. Jacob played River of Tears and passed. Kibler had nothing, and Jacob sacrificed Relic to draw a card. He played a Reflecting Pool and sent the turn back. Kibler continued to have absolutely nothing, and Cryptic Command bounced one of his Pools, forcing not one but two discards on the end step.

"If this was a playtest game I would just concede," Kibler said.

Jacob finally had a clock with a Creeping Tar Pit and cast another Prerordain to cement his advantage. Kibler finally found a color-producing mana source and cast Tarmogoyf, which promptly met a Flashfreeze. A sixth land came down on Jacob's turn, and Grave Titan hit the battlefield. All Kibler could muster was a Duress, which took Cryptic Command. Kibler announced a second Tarmogoyf and passed. Creeping Tar Pit came alive, and Jacob's team crashed in. Kibler ate a token with the Tarmogoyf and took 11, falling to 9.

"There's actually no combination of cards I can draw here," Kibler said, and scooped.

Kibler 1, Jacob 1

"Alright," Kibler said. "You had your awkward stall-on-mana game, I had my awkward stall-on-mana game, and maybe now we can actually play a match."

Jacob just shuffled his cards.

"Grave Titan is so savage," Kibler continued.

"There's a reason we all play one," Jacob responded. "They get much worse in multiples."

Kibler, in full-on story mode, told a tale about how he dealt a record amount of damage on Magic Online with Mirari's Wake plus Golden Wish plus Coat of Arms plus Crush of Wurms—"literally, I am not exaggerating, the computer was counting down the damage the next day"—and the two of them were off to game three.

"Good luck," Kibler said to start the game.

"Ummmmmmm—you too?" Jacob tentatively responded.

Game 3

Kibler started off with a mulligan. "I don't like these sleeves—I mulligan too much!"

Kibler's six weren't much better. "Really?" he said, and went to five. "Both of our decks just look terrible in these games. We're just passing the turn, not doing anything meaningful ...."

Jacob, for his part, kept his seven.

We're pretty sure smiling should just be renamed 'Kiblering.'

Treetop Village started things off for Kibler, and Jacob matched it with a Crumbling Necropolis. Another Treetop hit the table, and Jacob passed with two mana up. Kibler crashed in with Village on the third turn, and hit Jacob again on the fourth, while all Jacob did for the first three turns was play land.

On the fourth turn, however, Jacob had Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

"Plus two, targeting you," he said.

Kibler stared at a board of two Villages and a Forest. Finally, he decided to knock Jace down to two counters with a Village attack. Jacob again Fatesealed Kibler, putting a card to the bottom, and played a Creeping Tar Pit. Yet again Village came at Jace, but this time Jacob blocked with his other Pit.

After his untap, Jacob again chose to seal Kibler's fate. He elected to keep the card on top.

"That's even worse," Kibler said.

Jacob followed with a Relic of Progenitus, and Kibler discarded a Knight of the Reliquary on his end step without playing a land. Jacob had a pair of Preordains but passed the turn after they both resolved.

Kibler drew a card. "This is awkward," he said as he cast Treefolk Harbinger, knowing Jace would just send the Bosk he fetched to the bottom.

Another Preordain from Jacob kept a card, and Jace did in fact throw away the Harbinger's Murmuring Bosk.

"I've had enough," Kibler said, and conceded the game.

Jacob 2, Kibler 1

As they were waiting for the cameras to switch between matches, Kibler put in his headphones.

"Let me get a song in," he said. "It may ... take a moment."

("Take a Moment" was the name of the track—Kibler is a punny guy.)

"I've got Eye of the Tiger on mine," Jacob responded. "Or I could put on some J-pop. The Kingdom Hearts theme is awesome!"

Michael Jacob, ladies and gentlemen.

Game 4

"I actually get to keep a hand," Kibler said. Jacob also kept. Kibler cracked Misty Rainforest for a Murmuring Bosk and cast Treefolk Harbinger, fetching another Bosk.

"I may actually be able to cast spells!" Kibler said.

Jacob simply led with Crumbling Necropolis. Kibler had Treetop Village and a second Harbinger, fetching Doran. Jacob played Cascade Bluffs and passed, representing Mana Leak.

On Kibler's turn Doran actually resolved, and Kibler smashed in for 6. Doran, however, ate a pair of Lightning Bolts, and the Harbingers dealt zero. Jacob had a Preordain and a Mountain, but Kibler had another Doran. Jacob drew Mana Leak off the Preordain, though, and Kibler was once again left with no pressure.

Jace came down on Jacob's fourth turn and Brainstormed. What looked like a promising game for Kibler at the beginning was slowly slipping from his grasp. He needed to draw something relevant this turn.

"The party doesn't stop," Kibler said, as he topdecked another Doran. One Harbinger came at Jace and the other hit Jacob, taking him to 17. Jacob simply played Grove of the Burnwillows and passed.

"I'll declare my attack," Kibler said after he untapped. To his surprise, Jacob fell to 6 and seemed to have no answers. His plan, however, was to Mystical Teachings for Consume the Meek, and that is what he did at the end of Kibler's turn. But his board contained no second black mana source to cast the spell.

Jacob untapped and played Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

"My secret plan is revealed," Jacob said.

He passed the turn. Kibler drew a card and cast Thoughtseize, which Jacob responded to with Consume the Meek. Kibler took Cruel Ultimatum, and an attack from Treetop Village left Jacob at 3.

A Preordain from Jacob kept the top card—another Preordain. Jacob cast Coalition Relic and another Preordain, which sent two cards to the bottom. When Village got into the Red Zone, though, it was on to Game 5.

"Go Trees! Go Trees!" Kibler cheered. "I'm just happy to be able to cast spells!"

Jacob 2, Kibler 2

The competitors spent a long time shuffling before the fifth and final game.

"We're on camera," Jacob said. "They probably want us to start playing."

"Nah," Kibler said. "We'll just chat."

Game 5

The two players did eventually decide to play Magic: The Gathering, however, and both kept their opening hands. Jacob lead with Preordain and a Revised Island.

"Gotta look as scrubby as possible," he said.

Preordain kept a single card. Kibler had Bosk into Harbinger into another Bosk, and Jacob played a Relic of Progenitus after deploying a Crumbling Necropolis. Kibler kept the Trees coming with a Village and a Harbinger for Doran.

Jacob played another Necropolis and left two mana untapped. Doran from Kibler was Mana Leaked, and Jacob had a Grove of the Burnwillows as his fourth land. Kibler, for his part, didn't have a fourth, but a Knight of the Reliquary threatened to get him there. The Knight resolved and Kibler passed.

Jacob dove into the tank at the end of Kibler's turn.

"Deciding which way you want to kill all my creatures?" Kibler asked.

"Nah," Jacob said.

Jacob used Relic of Progenitus on himself, then cast Punishing Fire on Knight of the Reliquary. He got it back with Grove, untapped, and cast Preordain, taking one card. He passed the turn.

"Four cards?" Kibler asked on his turn. He took a point of damage from Bosk and cast Thoughtseize, revealing a hand of Mystical Teachings, Mana Leak, and Punishing Fire. He took Mystical Teachings and went to 14 from the Thoughtseize. At the end of Kibler's turn, Jacob used Relic to take a card out of his graveyard and netted a total of 1 damage off a Punishing Fire recursion to the dome.

Jacob untapped and cast Jace, taking it to five loyalty and letting Kibler keep his top card.

"It's a pretty good one," Kibler said once he drew the card.

"I have a plan," Jacob responded. "You're at a pretty low life total."

"You know, you really look like the kind of guy who has plans," Kibler said.

A Maelstrom Pulse from Kibler on Jace ate a Mana Leak, and Kibler fell to 12 off the Bosk.

Michael Jacob Kiblers like a guy who has plans.

On his turn, Jacob used Jace to Brainstorm and played a Creeping Tar Pit. Relic of Progenitus took the Pulse out of Kibler's graveyard, and Jacob sent the turn back.

"I don't think I'm going to win," Kibler said, and sighed. He drew a card and passed. Jacob flashed back Teachings to rebuy a fresh one at the end of Kibler's turn.

Jacob pulled the trigger with a Cruel Ultimatum, sending Kibler down to 8, and Jace allowed Kibler to keep his top card. Kibler untapped into a hopeless board state.

"At least I'm going to deal you some damage," Kibler said as he dramatically battled with Treetop Village. Jacob took his life total all the way down to 22, and Kibler extended the hand.

Michael Jacob defeats Brian Kibler 3-2 and advances to the Semifinals!

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