by Josh Bennett
A strange contrast could be seen between the draft decks of Mike Long and Warren Marsh. During registration and construction, Long's G/W/r beatdown deck practically fell out whole. Boasting seven two-power two-drops, five instant creature pumpers, and two Armadillo Cloaks, one might have mistaken it for a Constructed deck. It had that kind of redundancy. Marsh, on the other hand, drafted a deck with the consistency of fruit salad. He had a solid core of red cards, topped by the golden Tsabo Tavoc and Crosis, the Purger, but struggled to find the appropriate blue and black cards to support them.
In game one, Long came out fast, riding his curve with turn-two Might Weaver, turn-three Pincer Spider, while Marsh accumulated three colors of land and a turn-three Kavu Aggressor. Long's next play was Benalish Trapper. Between that and the Aggressor's inability to block, he looked to be in a good position.
That illusion was shattered when Marsh tapped out for Barrin's Spite, targeting the Trapper and the Spider. Long opted to lose the Trapper, hoping to use his efficient creatures to swarm his opponent, but the tempo loss was enormous. Marsh swung for three and passed the turn. Long counterattacked with his remaining 2/1 and recast his spider. On his next turn, Marsh use Exotic Curse to remove the spider, then attacked with the Aggressor. Life totals: Long: 14, Marsh: 10.
Long played Nomadic Elf and brought the Weaver again. When Marsh retaliated with the Aggressor, Long blocked with his fresh elf and cast Wax to save it. Marsh was unfazed. He tapped out to cast his dragon. Long had the Explosive Growth to get rid of the problem, but was mana-shy and had to settle for a Kavu Climber and bide his time. That time ran short when Crosis purged his hand for green and left him with nothing. Marsh shored up the ground front with a Kavu Scout.
Long's position went from bad to worse, first drawing a land and then watching as Marsh cast Traveler's Cloak on his Scout, attacking for lethal damage.
Game two began with a mulligan on Long's side. Again he played his mana curve, dropping a Nomadic Elf turn-two and enchanting it with Armadillo Cloak turn-three. Marsh's early game consisted of once more finding his three colors of mana, this time helped along by Salt Marsh, no relation to the player himself. His third-turn Exotic Curse stemmed the bleeding somewhat, but Long attacked and cast a Might Weaver, keeping the pressure up. Marsh tried to use Scorching Lava to remove the Cloaked Elf once and for all, but Long had the Explosive Growth to save it. Marsh played a swamp to further reduced its efficiency. Long hit again, and cast a second Quirion Sentinel.
Marsh's next play of Ancient Kavu locked the ground, what with Long out of creature enhancers. Truth be told, he was out of creatures, too, and passed the turn. Marsh further muddied the trenches with two more Kavu, Hooded and Scout. Long found a Serpentine Kavu at the top of his deck and played it. Marsh was content to sit back for a turn, eventually trading his Ancient Kavu in a double-block on the Serpentine and casting Mourning on the Weaver. From there the ground was locked, filling in with two more Sentinels on Long's side and a Scarred Puma (sideboarded in against Long's quick beats) and another Ancient Kavu for Marsh.
Long tried to use his ailing Cloaked Elf to his advantage, Waning away the Exotic Curse after Marsh blocked, but Marsh was ready with Prohibit. Again the two stared at one another, cluttering up the field with a kicked Pincer Spider and Rainbow Crow, respectively.
From the very top of his deck, Long drew his second Armadillo Cloak, enchanting the Spider and sending it into battle. He took pains to clarify his opponent's options, pointing out the possible viability of not blocking. Marsh gave the matter due consideration, but chose instead to block with Puma, Crow and Scout. All combatants died, the dust settling on a score of 31-11, in favor of Long.
The board position was good for Long, too. His three Sentinels and Mourninged Might Weaver were opposed only by the Ancient Kavu. He tried to eliminate the lone blocker with Explosive Growth, but Marsh was ready with Scorching Lava, falling to seven from the unblocked elves. Long played Charging Troll, and Marsh used Barrin's Spite to postpone the problem, a kicked Kavu Aggressor refusing to help with the defense. Two turns later, Long had found a Benalish Trapper, and it removed Marsh's lone effective blocker for the game win.
In game three, however, Marsh's deck couldn't keep up with Long's threats. He had a Prohibit for Long's Armadillo Cloak, but only had a Scarred Puma and Hooded Kavu against Long's Kavu Climber, Quirion Sentinel and Sunscape Apprentice. Serpentine Kavu with Haste added to his troubles.
Not even Tsabo Tavoc could save him. Long erased it with a kicked Explosive Growth. Armadillo Cloak meant Marsh had to trade his Ancient Kavu and Scorching Lava for the Climber. When he chumped the Serpentine with his Hooded Kavu, the writing was on the wall. Long's Ghitu Fire was a mere formality.
Final Result: Long def. Marsh, 2-1