The Rising Tide

Posted in Event Coverage on November 22, 2009

By Tim Willoughby

China vs. Netherlands

Standard: Wu Tong (CHI) vs. Niels Noorlander (NET)

Game 1

Wu Tong and Niels Noorlander play out the Standard portion of the match. It was a classic Standard battle for the Netherlands and China as Europe’s Niels Noorlander squared off against Asia’s Wu Tong. On the play, Niels led out of the gates with Goblin Guide, representing Boros Bushwhacker, while his opponent used Lightning Bolt to kill it with his Jund deck. Maelstrom Pulse from Tong took out Plated Geopede, and the Chinese were doing a very good job of stabilizing against the hyper-aggressive strategy.

Noorlander tried to reload with a second Plated Geopede and a Steppe Lynx, but his landfall army was quickly overwhelmed by Bloodbraid Elf from Tong, who flipped Terminate for cascade and essentially answered both his opponent’s creatures in one card. When the Dutch player decided to attack, however, Tong opted not to block with his Elf, as Noorlander had played Arid Mesa and could use the fetch land to make his Lynx large enough to survive the chump. Instead Wu took 4.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant for Niels began creating Soldiers while his Steppe Lynx continued attacking, and Wu Tong had no choice but to send his Bloodbraid Elf charging into the planeswalker. A Soldier absorbed the attack instead, and Tong cast Blighting post-combat, redirecting the damage to Elspeth and wiping his opponent’s hand in the meanwhile.

Out of gas, Niels Noorlander began keeping his Lynx home while creating Soldiers, needing to rely on his planeswalker to bring him incremental advantage in hopes of making up some ground that way. Elspeth did her job for a few turns, forcing Tong to spend his energy and efforts on removing her, but ultimately a timely series of removal spells followed by a Putrid Leech in the red zone was enough to finish the job.

With a hand of a few cards to his opponent’s none, Wu Tong exploded onto the board. Bloodbraid Elf #2 netted a second Putrid Leech which was followed by a third, then a Sprouting Thrinax for good measure. Niels’s creatures, which were outmatched and better tuned for the early game and to be attacking, quickly succumbed.

Tong 1, Noorlander 0

Game 2

Tong gets it done. Noorlander kicked the second game off with a Steppe Lynx, but had only Teetering Peaks for his second turn. That allowed him to attack Wu Tong for 4, but meant he couldn’t cast his two-drop. He echod the play up on his third turn, but Tong was ready with Lightning Bolt. Noorlander cast a Kor Skyfisher returning one of his Teetering Peaks, but Tong had a second Lightning Bolt to deal with the 2/3 flyer immediately.

It was a rough start for Niels, but he got some help when Wu missed a land drop. To keep things fair, however, Noorlander missed a creature drop, and he looked to be in bad shape while down a game. Arid Mesa gave him four mana, which he used to cast Ranger of Eos. The 3/2 Invitational card allowed him to fetch up Steppe Lynx and an Elite Vanguard, setting up a big turn down the road. If he already had a Goblin Bushwhacker in hand, that turn could be hasty and a single untap step away. Tong’s Sprouting Thrinax, which he had cast a turn earlier, was going to have its work cut out for it!

Surprisingly, Wu Tong turned his 3/3 token generator sideways. He clearly had some tricks in his hand, but Niels Noorlander wasn’t biting. Rather than over-extend, he cast a second Ranger of Eos, stocking his hand with playable threats and forcing his opponent to use whatever he was sitting on to deal with the 6 power worth of creatures he already had on the battlefield. That would allow him to keep the tutored-for critters in his hand as backup.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant hit for Noorlander, who began accruing Soldiers while sitting on a mostly full hand. The trick Tong was sitting on was Jund Charm, but he was shy on mana and couldn’t cast a separate spell while also holding back for the mini-Wrath. He used a Terminate to wipe out one of the Rangers of Eos, but bided his time to begin casting two spells in one turn.

The Thrinax traded for the second 3/2, but still Tong had not found a sixth land. He dutifully held back on the Jund Charm, trying to figure out a solution to Elspeth before it managed to go ultimate and nullify all of his removal spells. With an army of Saprolings as multi-chump blockers from the Thrinax, Wu decided he was safe behind a wall of chumpers and pulled the trigger on a five-drop: Malakir Bloodwitch. Having protection from white was a powerful ability against Niel’s mostly white removal, and the 4/4 even bought him a life upon entering the battlefield. He had four blockers, so whatever army Noorlander could throw at him, Tong was ready.

Niels didn’t have an army, but instead jumped Plated Geopede with Elspeth and attacked. Tong opted not to block, and Noorlander cast Elite Vanguard post-combat. Tong went on the warpath with his Bloodwitch, sending the 4/4 at his opponent and dropping the Dutch player to 11 after some early attacks from Sprouting Thrinax. Postcombat he cast Earthquake for 1 damage, which would wipe out his opponent’s team. Noorlander was ready with Harm’s Way, protecting his Plated Geopede and Elite Vanguard. The instant saved his bacon, sending Tong to 6 and wiping the battlefield clear of Wu’s own Saprolings. Niels would be able to attack back for a considerable amount of damage, and when he activated Elspeth targeting his Vanguard, Tong finally cast his Jund Charm.

Noorlander goes in the tank. The Charm wasn’t enough, however, as it tapped Tong out and allowed Noorlander to cast Steppe Lynx, Elite Vanguard, and a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker to deal exactly lethal to his opponent. “Six?” Niels asked. Tong did the math and conceded.

Tong 1, Noorlander 1

Game 3

Steppe Lynx again led off for Niels Noorlander in the third, but didn’t last long as a Lightning Bolt from Wu Tong took the 0/1 out. Noorlander simply cast a second, but Tong used another Lightning Bolt to deal with that one as well. Sprouting Thrinax soon made an appearance for Tong, followed by a second and then a Putrid Leech. His opponent couldn’t mount an offense, drawing zero creatures, but began casting removal spells. Journey to Nowhere took care of one Thrinax, and a Lightning Bolt dealt with Putrid Leech.

No sooner could he answer those creatures than Tong cast more. Malakir Bloodwitch was a backbreaker, then a Bloodbraid Elf found Earthquake, which Tong opted to put on the bottom of his library. With no answer to the mini-Dragon for the Dutch, the Chinese managed to ride it to victory taking the first match.

Tong 2, Noorlander 1 — China 1, Netherlands 0

Extended: Zhang Zhiyang (CHI) vs. Kevin Grove (NET)

Zhang Zhiyang, eyes wide open. I like higher dice because it increases the variance,” Kevin Grove explained to his opponent as they sat down to their Extended duel.

“What?” China’s Zhang Zhiyang replied, not clear what his opponent was talking about.

“Uh, never mind,” Grove politely responded, recognizing a minor language barrier would impact his ability to clearly explain what he meant.

Game 1

Both players decided to ship their opening hands back, but not before discussing the plays with their teammates, who agreed. They got underway after that, in a Trinx/Gifts Control vs. Tezzerator matchup, with Kevin Grove of the Netherlands playing the aforementioned list and Zhiyang battling with Tezzerator. Zhang cast a Thopter Foundry early, but Kevin Grove indicated he didn’t think highly of that strategy, instead discarding his own copy of Foundry to Thirst for Knowledge.

Instead of Thopter Foundry, Grove was on a disruption plan using Vendilion Clique to simultaneously mess wit his opponent’s hand as well as getting himself a clock. Before long, Grove had a Chalice of the Void on zero and a second on two counters, stranding Zhiyang with cards in his hand. The Dutch player’s plan of disrupting his opponent’s strategy while attacking was working out well!

The match was soon a race between a Trinket Mage from Kevin Grove and two Thopter tokens from Zhang Zhiyang. The Chinese player had numerous cards still stranded in his hand from his opponent’s Chalice of the Voids, and he didn’t seem likely to be able to win the race between the Thopters and the Mage; presumably Grove would produce a different win condition!

It was Zhiyang who struck first, however, transmuting Muddle the Mixture for a two-drop he could “cast”: Sword of the Meek. While the artifact cost two-mana, having it countered by Chalice would simply put it in the graveyard, the perfect place for it to begin returning to the battlefield for equipment onto Thopter tokens. From there, Zhiyang would be able to gain 1 life for each mana he controlled each turn, putting him well ahead in the race against Grove. Kevin didn’t seem to mind, as he used Pithing Needle set to Thopter Foundry to prevent his opponent from activating the engine. Zhiyang decided to trade his two Thopter tokens for his opponent’s Trinket Mage.

Zhiyang managed to land a Tezzeret the Seeker, but was getting beaten down by another 2/2 Wizard from his opponent, this time Venser, Shaper Savant. Engineered Explosives for one from Zhang allowed him to dispose of his opponent’s Pithing Needle, putting his Thopter Foundry back online.

Kevin Grove keeps fighting. A Blood Moon from Grove helped significantly impact his opponent’s ability to cast spells with colored mana, and he used Engineered Explosives to take out Zhang’s two-drop artifacts, Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek. He then cast Vendilion Clique to disrupt Zhiyang further, building his board in the meanwhile. He let out a grunt of dismay, however, when Zhang drew Chrome Mox, a lucky additional source of colored mana that would allow him to get around Blood Moon in order to get his Foundry/Sword engine back online.

Zhiyang’s inevitability between Academy Ruins, Sword of the Meek, and Thopter Foundry was too much for Kevin. He tried to battle through with Trinket Mages and Vensers, but the lifegain from his opponent’s Foundry proved too much of a cushion and he fell in the first game.

Zhiyang 1, Grove 0

Game 2

The two players started the second game with Zhiyang casting Thirst for Knowledge. Kevin Grove went back on the opponent disruption plan, hitting Zhang’s mana. First was an Engineered Explosives to blow up a Chrome Mox, then he cast Blood Moon to lock out Zhang’s access to colored mana. Finally he cast Chalice of the Void for zero to shut down opposing Engineered Explosives, but Zhiyang used an opening to cast Tezzeret the Seeker searching up Thopter Foundry. With Sword of the Meek already on the table, Zhiyang had managed to stick his combo quite early against Grove.

The Chinese player went to town making Thopter tokens and gaining life. When he snuck a Time Sieve onto the battlefield while Kevin Grove was unable to do anything, Zhiyang set himself up to take the match. He was able to generate five artifacts each turn, allowing him to take all the remaining turns in the game with Time Sieve while he built up his mana base large enough to generate enough Thopters to attack for lethal. Kevin Grove shook his head in dismay and conceded.

Zhiyan 2, Grove 0

Legacy: Bo Li (CHI) vs. Tom Van Lamoen (NET)

Game 1

Cursecatcher led the way for Bo Li, but he opted not to cash it in when his opponent, Tom Van Lamoen of the Netherlands, cast a first-turn Brainstorm. Tom followed that up with a Sensei’s Divining Top the following turn, while Bo cast Lord of Atlantis to get his aggro-control beat on. When Van Lamoen tried to counter with Spell Snare, Li had no choice but to use his Cursecatcher to force the Lord onto the battlefield.

Bo Li cast a Merfolk fatty in the form of Wake Thrasher. The 1/1 became a 2/2 islandwalker thanks to his Lord of Atlantis, but would be considerably larger each turn as he untapped most of his permanents—that is, it would have if Tom Van Lamoen hadn’t had a timely Counterspell for the powerful three-drop, leaving Bo with just the Lord of Atlantis.

Bo Li and Tom Van Lamoen have a Legacy to maintain. A second Merfolk Lord joined the squad for Bo Li in the form of Merrow Reejerey. That created a powerful team of attackers for him, and he even managed to land a Mutavault to help with the beatdown followed by Standstill to punish his opponent for trying to break his stranglehold. Unfortunately for Bo, that left him tapped out and his opponent was able to successfully resolve a Moat. The Legends card shut out his opponent’s attack entirely, which merited a nod of approval from Kevin Grove.

“Nice one!” the Netherlands team captain encouraged, in his mixed Irish and English accent.

The enchantment kept Bo Li locked out of the game entirely, and he accrued counterspells in his hand while playing the occasional Merfolk. That meant he could kill his opponent the moment he was able to remove the Moat; assuming he actually could remove the Moat, the game would boil down to that entire series of plays. He would have to force a big turn and win the counter war.

Bo Li began shifting gears. He started meticulously checking library totals, which were getting dangerously thin. He cast Standstill, which set up an interesting possibility: could he deck Tom Van Lamoen instead by forcing a fight over the Standstill trigger? Tom tried to get his win condition onto the table, but his Elspeth, Knight-Errant was countered and all of a sudden, the onus was on him to win the game! With a significantly smaller library, he needed to find a solution or lose to an inability to draw.

Van Lamoen tried to resolve a win condition by casting Decree of Justice for two Angels. Bo countered with Cursecatchers, and Van Lamoen tried a second Elspeth. Li was ready for hard counters on the planeswalker, and Tom Van Lamoen was out of win conditions. He simply watched his library whittle to nothing, then conceded the game to put Bo Li up one.

Li 1, Van Lamoen 0

Game 2

Bo Li used two Wastelands to keep Tom Van Lamoen’s mana stunted, sneaking in a Merrow Reejerey in the meanwhile. Van Lamoen used two Swords to Plowshares to deal with the Reejerey, then Wake Thrasher a turn later but soon found himself locked under Standstill facing twin Mutavault and Lord of Atlantis. With Bo sitting on multiple counters and a Stifle for good measure, the Dutch player had his work cut out for him.

Before he could begin turning the tide, however, his teammates in the Standard and Extended tables informed him they had each lost their matches.

China defeats the Netherlands 2–0 and advances to the Finals!

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