Quarterfinals: The Lord of Atlantis

Posted in Event Coverage on September 5, 2010

By Bill Stark

Marijn Lybaert vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

For Belgium's Marijn Lybaert and France's Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, being up early on a Pro Tour Sunday morning was no new thing. After all, the two combined had seven Pro Tour Top 8s over the course of their careers. The match pitted Lybaert's Merfolk deck against Guillaume's Five-Color Control deck.

Game 1

Marijn Lybaert led the way with a Lord of Atlantis. His aggro-control Merfolk strategy was historically favored to win against the straight control strategy of his opponent, and he was given a big leg up when Guillaume had started the match off with a double mulligan. A Merrow Reejerey followed the Lord to the battlefield, but was killed almost immediately by Path to Exile.

"The one?" Marijn teased his opponent, who was playing a great number of singleton targets in his deck and using Mystical Teachings for finding them.

"You get a land!" Wafo-Tapa pointed out with a polite smile.

Marijn Lybaert and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa play what is almost certainly the quietest of the Quarterfinals.

Wall of Omens for the French control deck stymied attempted attacks out of the Belgian Lord of Atlantis, but a second Merrow Reejerey promised to put an end to that plan. With one mana left, Marijn was able to cast a Cursecatcher, use his Reejerey trigger to untap his own Island, then cast a second copy of the 1/1, tapping the Wall of Omens with the second Reejerey trigger. He attacked for 3, setting the scores 20-15 in his favor, and had two Force Spikes-on-legs up for Guillaume's turn.

That meant Wafo-Tapa didn't have a lot of options. He cast an Esper Charm to draw two cards, passing after playing a land. A pre-combat Coralhelm Commander from Marijn triggered his Merrow Reejerey which he used to tap his opponent's Wall of Omens. That allowed an attack for 12, plummeting Guillaume's life total to just 3, and after combat Marijn cast a Meddling Mage to rub the salt into his opponent's wounds even harder.

"Just a sec," the plucky Belgian said. "I'm trying to think if there's a way I can lose this game."

Guillaume smiled, and when the 2/2 Mage was set to "Volcanic Fallout" the French player knew it was unlikely his draw was going to save him. It didn't, and they moved to Game 2.

Lybaert 1, Wafo-Tapa 0

"We should play slower," Marijn said to his opponent as they shuffled for the second game. "Fourth time I'm here in the Top 8, and I've never been on camera. I always lose in 20 minutes!"

Guillaume just laughed and went about shuffling.

Game 2

It was the Belgian side of the table's turn to take a mulligan in the second, but Marijn was able to stop on six cards rather than go to five as Guillaume had done in their first game. Wafo-Tapa cast a Wall of Omens on his second turn, but the 0/4 was soon facing down both Cursecatcher and Lord of Atlantis across the battlefield. Thoughtseize hit for Guillaume, who saw a hand of Mana Leek, Silvergill Adept, Merrow Reejerey, and Reveillark. Because his opponent was short on land, stuck with only two on the battlefield and none in hand, he opted to force Marijn to discard the Silvergill Adept, leaving Lybaert with no spells he could cast. After the Thoughtseize, a second Wall of Omens hit for the French player.

Both players stalled, short on mana, but when Marijn drew a third he was able to cast Merrow Reejerey. The lord was answered at the end of his turn by Smother from Guillaume, and both began hitting their land drops again. At five mana, Lybaert attempted a Reveillark with Cursecatcher for backup. The 1/1 was key as Guillaume had only four lands untapped, meaning a Cryptic Command to counter couldn't resolve through the white Force Spike.

Knowing his goose was cooked in the counter department, Guillaume allowed the creature to resolve, then cast an Esper Charm to draw himself two cards. Vendilion Clique from the control player when he got the turn back allowed him to pick apart his opponent's hand. The 3/1 revealed Marijn to be holding the Mana Leak Guillaume had already seen as well as a Path to Exile he hadn't. The counterspell was forced to the bottom of Marijn's deck, and he drew a replacement card.

Path to Exile was cast at Vendilion Clique, and while it resolved without a fight, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa absolutely agonized over whether he would search up a basic land or not. On the plus side, the land would put him one mana closer to Cruel Ultimatum mana as well as give him a bigger resource advantage against his opponent. On the other hand, if all he had were basic Islands, putting one on the battlefield would turn on his opponent's islandwalk from Lord of Atlantis. Guillaume opted not to search and took 6, falling to 12, from an attack. After combat Marijn cast Meddling Mage naming Baneslayer Angel.

With his back against the wall, one expected Guillaume to cast something on his turn in order to dig himself out of the hole he was in. He passed, and even his opponent seemed a little surprised. Marijn cautiously moved through each phase of his turn, expecting some sort of instant to come from Guillaume at any moment. Instead, he was able to make an attack but opted only to send his 4/3 Reveillark sideways. Guillaume took the damage and fell to 8. After combat the French player finally cast a spell: Volcanic Fallout. The powerful instant dropped Wafo-Tapa to 6, but it did manage to take out most of his opponent's creatures, leaving only the Reveillark on the battlefield.

Guillaume untapped and cast Cruel Ultimatum, taking a full minute of time to figure out how to tap his mana correctly, his Vivid and filter lands flummoxing even the established control player with the correct configuration to make . The powerful sorcery cost Marijn his Reveillark and the card in his hand, but allowed him to get back Lord of Atlantis and Merrow Reejerey with the 'Lark trigger. That meant on his turn he was able to cast Coralhelm Commander, tapping a Wall of Omens for his opponent, and attack for 4 after leveling his Commander to the max.

Cruel Ultimatum

"Please have all lands ...." Marijn mumbled as Wafo-Tapa untapped, grip full of goodness.

Despite the excess of cards, however, the French player had no plays. Lybaert sent his team to the red zone and Guillaume finally pulled the trigger by casting a Consume the Meek that was able to wipe the table of creatures through a mini counter war, Cryptic Command for Lybaert and Pact of Negation for Wafo-Tapa. The French player remembered to pay for his Pact on his upkeep and was in powerful control of the game, the board clear of attackers barring a single Mutavault, and his hand stacked with extra cards from his Ultimatum.

A Mystical Teachings from Guillaume fetched him a Smother, which took out a Merfolk Sovereign from his opponent. Wafo-Tapa cast a Grave Titan, a hefty win condition with which to mop things up with, and a turn later he earned a concession from Marijn.

Lybaert 1, Wafo-Tapa 1

"Is this your worst matchup in the Top 8?" Marijn asked Guillaume as they shuffled for the third game. Wafo-Tapa mentioned Grixis and White Weenie as problems, but didn't discuss specifics.

Game 3

For the third game in a row the match between Marijn Lybaert and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa featured a mulligan and, as in the first, it was for the French half of the battlefield. The two got underway with Guillaume down one card, and Marijn cast a second-turn Silvergill Adept revealing Coralhelm Commander to do so. The 2/2 came down for the Merfolk player a turn later, but Marijn didn't have a land to go with it and stayed on just two mana.

Spreading Seas came down for Marijn, targeting his opponent's Dreadship Reef, and it successfully resolved. He then played a third land and used it to level his Commander up, looking to make the creature into a bigger threat. Guillaume worked on digging for some help, casting Esper Charm to draw two cards. On 9 life, he was dead to two attacks from the Coralhelm Commander and Silvergill Adept duo, but his answer was going to have to go through at least one counterspell from his opponent. Wafo-Tapa dutifully played lands and passed.

Marijn attacked to put the score 20-4 in his favor, then after combat used one third of his mana to cast a Cursecatcher. That merited a response of Mystical Teachings from Guillaume who fetched up Vendilion Clique. The French player simply played a land on his turn and passed, meaning Marijn could attack for the win barring a trick from his opponent; considering the fact Guillaume wasn't conceding, however, it seemed probable a trick was exactly what he had in store for his adversary.

Ladies and gentleman, Pro Tour history: that is a full-on grin from Mssr. Wafo-Tapa.

Lybaert moved to his combat step and successfully turned each of his creatures sideways. Before blockers Guillaume cast Vendilion Clique, which resolved successfully. Wafo-Tapa targeted himself, putting a card to the bottom of his library and drawing one to replace it. The 3/1 Clique blocked the 3/3 Coralhelm and Wafo-Tapa fell to 1.

"What are you holding?" Marijn pleaded to his opponent, hoping to hold on but shocked that his superior board position hadn't earned a concession. Guillaume gave a sly smile, but after drawing for the turn finally conceded.

Lybaert 2, Wafo-Tapa 1

"I've never won two games in the Quarterfinals," Marijn pointed out as he prepared for the fourth game of the match. "Let's make it three!"

"No, no, no," his opponent corrected with his trademark shy smile. "That's enough for today."

Game 4

The fourth game started off with neither side on a mulligan, the first time that had been true in the match. Cursecatcher led the way for Marijn who sacrificed it after attacking on his second turn to force through a Silvergill Adept when his opponent attempted to counter with a Mana Leak. A second Silvergill Adept was successfully countered by Mana Leak, but Marijn also had a second Cursecatcher afterwards with which to continue applying pressure.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa went into the tank as he had done frequently throughout the match. He wasn't a favorite to win, but things were close and he needed every bit of help he could come up with. He passed and fell to 12 on his opponent's attack, but a Thoughtseize revealed Marijn had no counters but instead Merrow Reejerey, Island, and two copies of Reveillark; the Reejerey was forced out of Lybaert's hand.

To the top of his deck went Marijn, who found a Glen Elendra Archmage there. The powerful 2/2 was a double counter of sorts and earned a Mana Leak from Wafo-Tapa. With no access to white mana, Marijn couldn't utilize his Reveillarks, and as Guillaume cast Baneslayer Angel the game slipped from Marijn's favor to his opponent's.

The 5/5 quickly went to work on Marijn's life, creating 10-point swings each turn. He attempted a Merfolk Sovereign but had it countered by the fourth copy of Mana Leak from his opponent. Down to just 5 life, the Merfolk player needed a miracle. He drew a Glacial Fortress, allowing him to cast Reveillark. Would the 4/3 resolve? It did! The Belgian attacked with Silvergill Adept and Cursecatcher putting Guillaume to 9, but did Wafo-Tapa have a removal spell for the 'Lark? If he did, he would even the game count and force a pivotal fifth battle.

No removal came, and Marijn rushed to move his Reveillark in the path of Baneslayer Angel on his opponent's attack. The leaves-play trigger from the 4/3 returned Glen Elendra Archmage and Merrow Reejerey to the battlefield, but the Reejerey was quickly done in by Smother. Lybaert's second Reveillark resolved successfully giving him two flying blockers for the Baneslayer, one of which, the Archmage, served as counter protection too.

'Ho hum, another Pro Tour Quarterfinal ....'

Guillaume was in a tight spot and he knew it, but the former Pro Tour champion wasn't out of things yet. He attacked with his Baneslayer, chumped again by Reveillark, and watched as his opponent returned both Merfolk Sovereign and Merrow Reejerey to the battlefield. After combat Guillaume attempted Damnation and managed to resolve it successfully, though his opponent still had a Glen Elendra Archmage with a persist counter and a Mutavault on the battlefield.

With the Baneslayer Angel gone for good to Guillaume's own wrath effect, Marijn cast a Lord of Atlantis and attacked with Mutavault and his Archmage. He was able to drop his opponent to 12, but lost his Archmage to a sacrifice in order to counter a second Damnation from his opponent. That left Guillaume with just one card in his hand, and Lybaert untapped, activated Mutavault, and sent both the creature-land and his Lord of Atlantis to the red zone. The final card in Guillaume's hand? Consume the Meek. Lybaert had Mana Leak to counter, but Wafo-Tapa could afford to pay. When the spell resolved Marijn had two cards in hand to his opponent's zero, though neither player had any creatures.

Lord of Atlantis hit for Lybaert, but the Belgian could only watch as his opponent resolved an Esper Charm to fuel back up. Silvergill Adept joined the Merfolk team and it was a race to answers and threats. Wall of Omens was a pseudo-answer, and Smother took out Lord of Atlantis. Lybaert reloaded with Merfolk Sovereign and used a Spreading Seas to shut down one of his opponent's Dreadship Reefs. That drew a comical pout from Guillaume, but the French player was facing a serious threat in the form of a 3/2 Silvergill Adept made unblockable each turn with Merfolk Sovereign.

Cryptic Command targeting the Sovereign to bounce it and draw a card merited a return-fire Cryptic Command from Marijn. The second Command countered the Cryptic from Wafo-Tapa and tapped Wall of Omens. Guillaume surveyed the battlefield and knew he was about to take lethal. Rather than play it out for another turn to see if his opponent would make a mistake, Guillaume conceded.

Marijn Lybaert defeats Guillaume Wafo Tapa 3-1 and advances to the Semifinals—the first Flemish Belgian to advance beyond the Quarterfinals of a Pro Tour Top 8!

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