by Matthew Vienneau
In a battle of vertically challenged deck designers, Darwin Kastle played diminutive Olle Rade's Pro Tour Columbus Spider deck against Alex Shvartsman who played not-so-tall Casey McCarrel's Pro Tour New York 1999 red/blue Academy/Artifact deck that was so good it resulted in Voltaic Key being banned in that format. The pre-game odds favored Shvartsman as not only is it agreed that Kastle's deck is low on land but Kastle also lacks Rade's well-known ability to discern land from spells by looking at the back of the cards. Alex also had a "lucky duck" mascot given to him by fan Nick Wong that was only allowed if Darwin was allowed to stroke it. Due to light bidding, Alex began each game with 6 cards and 20 life. Darwin was in even better shape as he was unopposed for Rade's deck and got to begin with 7 cards and 20 life.
Darwin's plan before the Auction was to have a set card and life total for each deck that he would not be willing to go under, and he refused to play Loconto or Blumke's deck. As the last bidder, after agreeing to not counter-bid Bob Maher on Loconto's deck, Darwin got to choose between Rade and Eskeland's deck at 7/20. Darwin figured that Deadly Insects were difficult for any deck to handle and early rush with small creatures can often win matches just because of speed.
Darwin's opening hand contained the foil Giant Growth, Gorilla Shaman, Giant Trap-door Spider, Loadstone Bauble, Deadly Insect and two lands. Darwin played the Shaman, Bauble and Spider by the third turn and Incinerated Alex at the end of his fourth turn. Alex seemed to be having difficulties as he laid land and little else. He finally dropped a Grim Monolith on turn five but Darwin just attacked and cast two Giant Growth for the win.
Alex looked much better in game two as he played a first turn Voltaic Key and a second turn Academy. Darwin purposely did not cast Storm Shaman on his third turn so that he could Pyroblast any annoying blue spells on Alex's turn. His strategy was rewarded as Alex cast Tinker, sacrificing the Key, and it was countered. Alex commented that with only two Pyroblasts in Darwin's deck, he figured the gamble was worth it. As Darwin's deck had eighteen three casting cost spells in his deck yet he still didn't cast anything on turn three, it may have been a poor gamble on Alex's part.
Darwin played the Storm Shaman the next turn and dropped the bomb - Deadly Insect - on turn five. Alex again had no spells to cast as he took nine damage from the two creatures. A Weatherseed Faerie traded with the Deadly Insect but in the land of large poisonous creatures, there was no shortage of Deadly Insects and Darwin brought in another one that Alex was unable to deal with.
Alex and Darwin both commented that not only did Alex only draw two artifacts but also Darwin unexpectedly drew more than enough land to cast early Insects as well as pump his Shaman. Alex had a Wildfire in hand but Darwin's deck went off too quickly and three rounds after being undefeated, Alex was suddenly 7-3.
Darwin Kastle 2
Alex Shvartsman 0