Quarterfinals: Jan Tomcani vs. Alex Borteh

Posted in Event Coverage

By Sean McKeown

Jan Tomcani

In this best of five match, Jan Tomcani of the Slovak Republic is playing his 6-0, day-leading Fires deck from the Swiss portion versus Alex Borteh from the United States with Merfolk-Opposition. Both players put on a strong run in all three portions of the event, which is what it takes to get to the Top 8 at Worlds, but Jan probably feels pretty well about this matchup due to his peculiar main deck configuration, which is great against blue decks like this thanks to the Kavu Chameleons and Thornscape Battlemages he uses here. Alex is playing one of the more obscure Opposition decks, Merfolk-Opposition, which plays a quick and aggressive creature set than your average monoblue Opposition deck, though "Blue Lightning" (Coral Merfolk) has been left out in favor of more card-cycling Merfolk. This would likely be a better matchup for the Team Godzilla monoblue Opposition deck, but Alex made his call a long while ago and has to reap the results now.

Jan started with a forest and Llanowar Elf, while Alex played an island and Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Jan played a mountain and nothing else, neither playing a spell nor attacking, so Alex got first blood with his Merfolk after playing a second island. Jan attacked back, and played a Karplusan Forest, while Borteh played a third land and attacked. Jan's next play is a second Karplusan Forest and an uncounterable Kavu Chameleon, so Alex responded with a Static Orb, while Jan untapped an Elf and forest, then played a Rishadan Port and attacked with the Chameleon again. Alex untapped two lands and passed the turn, and Jan untapped a forest and the Chameleon, attacking again, and Alex played Waterfront Bouncer. Jan then attacked, dropping Alex to seven life. Jan then played a Bird of Paradise and cast Urza's Rage at the pesky Bouncer, to which Alex was forced to play Opposition on his next turn. Jan's Chameleon was tapped by the Pearl Trident, and Jan had no further play for the turn, so Alex got to go again, first Gushing back two of his remaining tapped islands, then re-playing one and playing Merfolk Looter.

Alex tapped the Rishadan Port during Jan's upkeep, then the Chameleon during the attack, and Jan passed the turn fruitlessly. Alex played another island, then again used Gush on two of his tapped islands, drawing a few more Merfolk, but rather than lose the counterspell backup he had in hand he merely discarded an island and let Jan go again. As the previous turn showed, if Jan untapped a Rishadan Port and Kavu Chameleon, Alex merely tapped them again. Jan again had nothing to add to the turn, so Alex got to untap his Merfolk, then play an island and add to their number with his Vodalian Merchant. Drawing and discarding an island, Alex passed the turn, and Jan untapped the same permanents, once again having Alex tap the Port, but this time it was used to tap one of his two untapped islands. Jan played Sulfurous Springs and declared his attack, tapping the Kavu Chameleon. Jan attempted a Thornscape Battlemage with white kicker, who was countered by Thwart, then tapped Static Orb at the end of his turn, getting a full untap.

Alex played an island and did nothing, then tapped the Bird of Paradise on Jan's upkeep, which floated a red mana for the attempted Fire/Ice from Jan, which was met by Counterspell. Alex untapped and played Darting Merfolk, and got an attack in with the Pearl Trident, which on the next turn was the Darting Merfolk and Pearl Trident, and three islands went to the cause of returning and recasting the Darting Merfolk. With the game locked down and a counterspell in Alex's hand the conclusion appeared inevitable, and Alex's Lord of Atlantis on the next turn put Jan on a very tight clock indeed. After two turns, Jan's concession in the face of lethal damage ended the first game of the series.

Alex Borteh 1 - Jan Tomcani 0

Winning the first game is doubtlessly pretty important to Alex, as with the decklists published as soon as everyone knew who their opponents were going to be, and Jan has no Yavimaya Barbarians in his sideboard, though he does have some very good options, with both Boil and Blood Oath available if he wants them, and Thunderscape Battlemage to destroy an Opposition as needed. Jan got to play first again, and that advantage is what he hopes will buy his sideboard cards the tempo needed to play a Boil/Blood Oath game without room for Alex to wriggle out of it. Jan kept his opening hand, and Alex ran with his as well, and Jan started with a forest and Llanowar Elf. Again, Alex had an island and Merfolk of the Pearl Trident; Jan played a mountain and passed the turn, again. Alex played his second island and attacked, and Jan got to counterattack on his next turn, then played Rishadan Port and used it on Alex's upkeep. Alex got another attack and played another island, though, and Jan used his next turn playing Flametongue Kavu, which was countered. Alex had Static Orb on his next turn, then a Gush and a second Merfolk of the Pearl, while Jan untapped his mountain and Rishadan Port, then cast Blastoderm.

Alex untapped his lands and played Vodalian Merchant, while Jan untapped his Elf and Port, then attacked with the Blastoderm for five points, bringing Alex to fourteen to Jan's sixteen life. Jan's Elf cast another Elf, and Jan elected not to use Rishadan Port during his next turn. Playing a fourth land, Alex passed the turn, and Jan untapped his Blastoderm and Elf, attacking with the Blastoderm, and Alex played a fifth land and cast Lord of Atlantis. Jan untapped a mountain and Blastoderm, and a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident spent its life to prevent five points of Blastoderm beating. Jan played another Blastoderm, however, and Alex was forced to play counterspell on it. Alex then untapped two lands and Gushed, playing his fourth island again, and casting Opposition. Merfolk of the Pearl tapped the City of Brass, and the Merchant tapped the Rishadan Port, and with the lock down Alex passed the turn to Jan once again.

Jan untapped his Elf and City of Brass, and played a second Port, but had nothing to do on his turn. Alex tapped the City of Brass, and a red mana was floated by Jan, and Urza's Rage destroyed the Lord of Atlantis. Alex Gushed, played a second Lord, and both the lock and beatdown persisted. Jan would not get to play any more Rages this game, so Alex merely brought the beatdown, and after a turn of Merfolk attacks again faced lethal damage and conceded. And that was without seeing the two Hibernations in Alex's hand.

Alex Borteh 2 - Jan Tomcani 0

Not liking the fact that he had to win out all three of the next game, Jan took to his shuffling intently, and all of his most expensive cards are now in his sideboard, even the uncounterable Chameleons, and most certainly the Spiritmongers, and even some Saproling Bursts. Obliterate, Blood Oath, and Tangle make up the rest of his sideboard, showing his decisions for this game now that he is down in the series by two, putting in the Boils and Battlemages, dropping his Chameleons, Spiritmongers, and two Saproling Bursts. Playing first again, Jan was forced to a land-shy Mulligan, or perhaps is trying to Mulligan into a quicker hand. Alex kept his first hand, and Jan started with a Llanowar Elf again, this time off a Karplusan Forest. Alex played an island, and Jan attacked with the Elf, and Jan played a Bird of Paradise off the Karplusan. Alex had a second land and Merfolk Looter, and Jan played a turn-three Boil, killing Alex's two islands. Alex had another island to play, and used his Looter to draw land aggressively, but Jan started the rest of his game well by attacking with the Elf and casting Blastoderm.

Alex drew and played a second island just in time, playing it and passing the turn. Jan's Blastoderm attacked, and at end of turn Alex Looted, then played a third island, Looting again, and discarding Thwart. Alex played Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, and Jan cast Fire/Ice at end of turn, which Alex Counterspelled. Jan had another Boil on his own turn, and Alex protected his islands with Thwart, but this game looked real bad real fast for Alex. Jan attacked with the Elf and Blastoderm, and Alex spent his Pearl Trident blocking the Blastoderm. Playing his first island for the third time this game, Alex passed the turn, and Jan attacked, with the Looter blocking Blastoderm, then using its ability to dig deeper. Alex played Vodalian Merchant, discarding an island, and Jan untapped only to play a Thornscape Battlemage with red kicker, clearing the Merfolk off the board. Jan played a Port and used it to tap an island, and Alex had another, but no choice but to play Merfolk Looter to block the Blastoderm this turn.

Jan attacked with the Blastoderm, Battlemage, and Elf, dropping Alex to three when the Looter blocked Blastoderm, and Alex played Merfolk of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis on his next turn, hoping to feed the Beast, Blastoderm. Jan attacked with the Blastoderm and Battlemage, and the creatures were blocked, but the game was over, Jan's Thunderscape Battlemage clearing his hand of the remaining cards or otherwise.

Alex Borteh 2 - Jan Tomcani 1

Alex Borteh

Jan still had to win the next two to take the series, and Alex was going to be the one to play first this game, for the first time in the match. He considered Teferi's Response, and put one in, considering how pesky the Ports have been, and how light Jan's mana draws have been so far. Jan asked for Alex to finally have to mulligan a one-land hand, since that is what he did last game, and unfortunately that is exactly what Alex had to do at the start of this game. Alex started with a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident then Lord of Atlantis and an attack, while for the fourth time in a row Jan had a first-turn Llanowar Elf, specifically. Jan played a Sulfurous Springs as his second land and cast Fires of Yavimaya, though we had not yet seen one of those out of him. Alex attacked Jan, then Jan played a Rishadan Port, Porting Alex and then using Fire/Ice to destroy the Lord of Atlantis.

Alex attacked, bringing Jan halfway there, but then Flametongue Kavu killed the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident and also attacked with Haste, and after a few turns of Porting with no creature to drop, Alex had little choice but to play a Merfolk Looter and hope it was good enough. Jan played Thornscape Battlemage with Red kicker, and Alex had to Thwart it, but the bad position wasn't getting any better for Alex this game, and Merfolk Looter blocked the Llanowar Elf. Ported again, Alex played his second island and Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, who chump blocked the Flametongue Kavu, but a Hasted Llanowar Elf still got a taste of blood, and did the next turn as well when a freshly conscripted Vodalian Merchant chumped the Kavu again. Merfolk Looter was played to feed the beast and did, and Alex was at three life soon enough. Alex admitted the series was tied, and went on to the last and deciding game of the series.

Alex Borteh 2 - Jan Tomcani 2

Alex put in another Teferi's Response this game, to deal with the Rishadan Port harassment, but really just wanted to get back to the first two games, which he won handily enough, rather than remember the last two. Realizing that he won the games he drew first, Alex considered that as a realistic option, but played first and again was forced to Mulligan a one-land hand. Jan joined him in that Mulligan, tension mounting on both sides, and Jan keeps the hand, even though he doesn't sound happy to. Alex played two islands and Merfolk Looter, while Jan had a forest, no Llanowar Elf finally, and a Rishadan Port. Jan tried the Port during upkeep, and Alex Looted in response, there being Responses in his deck now. Discarding an island, Alex then played a third island and Vodalian Merchant, discarding another Looter. Jan had another forest, and Ported again, with the Looter digging still. Alex attacked and played Darting Merfolk, then passed the turn to Jan, not minding the risk of Fire/Ice since Jan still had no red source. Jan played a City of Brass and Fire/Ice, though, and Alex cringed but let it through.

Alex attacked with the Looter, and played a fourth island, but due to the Port he still had not been able to play the Opposition in his hand. Jan played a second Port and passed the turn, double-Porting Alex, who then drew a Response on his turn. Alex attacked with the Merfolk, bringing Jan to sixteen, and Jan checked the graveyard, then played a forest and Ported an island, which met Teferi's Response. Alex drew the two and the Port died, and when Jan played Blastoderm, it resolved, and it was back to the first two games for Alex, who played Static Orb, then Gushed back two tapped islands, replayed one, and played Lord of Atlantis as well. Jan untapped his City and forest, then attacked with Blastoderm, bringing Alex to fifteen. Jan played a Bird of Paradise and Llanowar Elf as well, then Alex untapped two islands and passed the turn, confident that things were going his way again at last. Blastoderm attacked Alex to ten life, but with the lock in hand as well as a Counterspell, the fix felt like it was in for Alex, who passed the turn once more.

Jan untapped the Blastoderm and another forest again, and Blastoderm was blocked by Vodalian Merchant rather than put Alex in burn range. A sixth land and Opposition made it bad times for Jan, but Alex was going to need another creature in there, now that he had enough countermagic. Jan untapped his Rishadan Port and City of Brass, then the Blastoderm was dead, and Jan had another forest, Porting an island, then attempting a Battlemage with green kicker to destroy the Opposition. Thwart countered the creature, and Jan played yet another Bird of Paradise, which was tapped at end of turn. Alex played another land and a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, and when Jan untapped two Birds of Paradise, the Pearl Trident tapped the first one down, and just like in the first two games Jan floated a red mana, mana-burning for one, having not drawn Fire/Ice. Alex kept the soft lock going, with his Merfolk stopping the two permanents Jan untapped each turn, and Alex had the mana advantage, six untapped lands to two Birds of Paradise.

Alex drew Darting Merfolk and felt the fix coming down, as not only did he have his third creature to start up the lock, the Darting Merfolk would also drop Jan to zero untapped permanents on the next turn, after getting Alex his full untap phase. Jan untapped the Birds again and Alex tapped the Orb, then used the Darting Merfolk to attack for two, popping it back up, tapping a Bird, popping it back up, and tapping the other Bird, doing so a third time as well. Jan was in the hard lock, and he untapped a Bird and Elf, then floated a red mana again when the Bird was tapped. Jan burned for one, then played a mountain, and the lock kept Jan down while the Merfolk finished the job, Darting Merfolk putting Jan at six, with six power of creatures on Alex's side of the board. With no untapped permanents save two Birds of Paradise, Jan again floated a red mana, burning for one when he didn't draw Fire/Ice again, and Alex finished the job to win the fifth and final game after a real nail-biter.

Final Result: Alex Borteh proceeds to the semifinals, three games to two versus Jan Tomcani.

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