By Sideboard Staff
The last time Mark Le Pine and Trevor Blackwell faced each other in a sanctioned Magic tournament was 1996, in the Bronze Age of Magic. The scene, Pro Tour Atlanta - the format, Mirage sealed deck. For those of you that don't remember that particular tournament, Mirage had not been released until the day of the Pro Tour, so all of the players were unfamiliar with the cards. Trevor beat Mark in a match for the top 8, due to Mark making a misplay revolving around Crash of Rhinos. Since then, Blackwell has won Pro Tour Los Angeles, and the Masters Draft Challenge; Le Pine has made 3 top 8s, including second at Worlds.
Mark is playing a mono-red deck, full of little creatures, Maniacal Rages, and things that do one point of damage, like Zap and Tribal Flames. Mark's deck is sub par, due in part to Matt Vienneau changing into red, and taking quality cards away from him. "I can't believe Vienneau," sighs Le Pine, as he shuffles his deck. Trevor's deck is blue/black, based around "the Rule" that has served so many of the Pro Tour regulars well. Mark, whose deck is built to go first, loses the coin flip and Blackwell chooses to draw. It's funny, but the match may have been decided at that moment, as Le Pine's deck probably couldn't survive a long game - quick creatures and creature modifiers lose to better quality, slower creatures in a long game.
Trevor opens with a Tidal Visionary and Vodalian Zombie - a lethal combination if not dealt with. This allows Trevor to make Le Pine's creatures green, and takes a "trade" to a "win" in creature combat. Le Pine played a turn two Rogue Kavu that he expected to go the distance. On turn 3, Blackwell decided to be aggressive, and put Scavenged Weaponry on his Vodalian Zombie, drawing a card in the process. He attacked with both his creatures, preparing to trade blow or blow. Le Pine attacked back on his turn, laid a land, and was done. He played Turf Wound on Blackwell on his turn 4, and Blackwell attacked again, choosing to trade 4 damage for 3. He didn't have any other spells to play, so he passed the turn. Le Pine wasn't content to trade 3 for 4, so he played a Maniacal Rage on his Rogue Kavu. Trevor Prohibited, and so Le Pine, anxious to get some beats in, played a second Maniacal Rage, and swung with the Rogue Kavu. The thought that sprang into my head, was "Who's the Beatdown?" - referring to the Mike Flores article of the same name. Trevor could have continued to attack back at this point, trading blow for blow; or he could hold back, use his Visionary and Zombie in tandem to slow down the offense of Le Pine. He decides to hold back, and passes the turn to Le Pine. Le Pine drew a Stun, and then made a horrible misplay, choosing to not Stun the Zombie. He swung with the Kavu, and there was a slight pause (about 15 seconds). Blackwell put the Zombie in front of the Kavu, gave the Kavu the color green, and Le Pine's blunder sent the Kavu and the Maniacal Rage to the graveyard. Le Pine laid a few more creatures, a Hooded Kavu and a Rogue Kavu. The Hooded Kavu traded with an Urborg Emissary, and Blackwell continued with the beatdown. The Visionary got Flamed, and the Rogue Kavu came into deliver some more beats.
Then the game got interesting.
Blackwell was in clear control, and had Le Pine to 2. He plays an Urborg Drake, and passes the turn. Le Pine Stuns at the end of the turn, just to draw the extra card. He attacks with his Rogue Kavu, and Blackwell lets it through, taking him to 3. Le Pine says "Zap YOU", and knocks the top of his deck like Stone Cold delivering a stunner. Off the top of his deck, he draws... Searing Rays. Blackwell is at 2, with two blue/black creatures in play. Mark wins the unwinnable game.
Game 1 to Le Pine.
Trevor opts to play again, and after no mulligans, the game is over quickly. Both creatures that Le Pine plays are dealt with. Blackwell runs over Mark in a game that was so quick, my notes are five phrases: "Urborg Drake", "Turf Wound", "Zombie", "Dart - Prohibit", "Pr" - yes, the last phrase is "Pr". The game was very quick.
Game 2 to Blackwell
Mark chooses to play in game 3, an action that can be very beneficial to him, assuming he can lay a turn 2 Rogue Kavu, and back it up with Turf Wounds and removal. It didn't quite turn out that way, though. Blackwell played a turn two Metathran Zombie - a small regenerator that can really slow down Le Pine's offense. Le Pine had a Zap and a Tribal Flames in hand, but chose to not kill the regenerator while Blackwell was tapped out. He plays a Kavu Aggressor and passes the turn. On Blackwell's turn 3, he lays a Tower Drake. Again, Le Pine chooses to not kill the Zombie, and Tribal Flames the Drake, and serves with the Aggressor. Blackwell plays the bomb Stalking Assassin, and passes the turn again. Le Pine Zaps the Assassin, serves with the Aggressor again, and is done. Over the next few turns, Blackwell hangs back and plays "D", blocking with the Zombie, and laying a kicked up Duskwalker, a Phyrexian Slayer, and a Vodalian Zombie. Le Pine plays a Slimy Kavu, and a Viashino Grappler over the next few turns, but Blackwell doesn't ever tap out of black mana, giving Mark no chances to get past the Metathran Zombie. Eventually, Mark Maniacal Rages the Zombie, but Blackwell has an Agonizing Demise in hand, and doesn't take much damage from the ensuing attack. Blackwell has been serving with the kicked Duskwalker, and an eventual Soul Burn finishes the job. That 1/1 regenerator went the distance for Blackwell, and kept him at the top of the standings.
Blackwell won, 2-1