by Michelle Bush
Darwin Kastle has been taking a lot of heat this weekend about his deck choice. Although Kastle is considered to be one of the best players on the Tour, he has a reputation for using strategies that differ from those of his peers. He prefers not to play the most popular archetypes in any given format. Instead, he says, "I want a deck that beats those decks." Kastle believed he had found his goal in the blue/black rogue creation he calls Sand Kastle. The deck is part Fish (Lord of Atlantis, Voldalian Zombies, Voldalian Merchant), part Blue Skies (Rishadan Airship, Spiketail Hatchling), and partly designed to combat Rebels and other mono-color decks (Crypt Angel, Wash Out.) Kastle likens his design to the rogue red/blue tempo deck he used to take 3rd place at Pro Tour - Paris when other top pros were playing Prosperous Bloom. Unfortunately, his results here have not held up to his Paris success: after eleven rounds he is a dead even 5-5-1.
Kastle's opponent this round can reminisce to prior Pro Tours of his own. The last time the Tour met in Chicago, Brian Davis went all the way to the finals with his Free Spell Necro, earning him the title Rookie of the Year. Davis said that while he wanted to do well, he hadn't had much preparation time for this event and didn't expect to match last year's performance. He is playing a standard Rebel deck that splashes blue for Power Sink. He wasn't hopeful going into this match, already knowing that Kastle's deck was metagamed to beat him.
Davis had a slow start, laying two Rishadan Ports followed by a turn three Defiant Falcon. Choosing to keep mana available for Rebel searching, he was unable to Port lock Kastle's land, which Kastle then used to build up a small army of Chimeric Idols, fliers, and Merfolk. Davis built up an army of his own, and looked like he might crack the game open when he cast a turn six Parallax Wave. However, Kastle used his own turn six to play his trump card: Crypt Angel. The Angel caused a stir not only in this game, but also in the feature match next door between Billy Jensen and Justin Gary. When Kastle cast the Angel, he used its come into play ability to return a Lord of Atlantis from his graveyard to his hand. Davis had to read the card, thinking that the Angel returned a creature directly to play. "It's not that ridiculous," Kastle responded. "Well," said Davis, "I thought it had to be that good or you wouldn't be playing with it." Kastle, nonplussed by the barely veiled insult, explained, "I'm playing with it because it beats YOU." Despite mad giggling from Jensen, who thinks Kastle's deck is "the worst," Kastle's statement was right. The Angel, unable to be blocked or targeted with Parallax Wave, started serving a steady stream of damage. When Kastle Washed Out all of Davis' permanents, and cast another Angel a few turns later, Davis moaned "Aaahhhh! I'm losing to Crypt Angel!" There were more raised eyebrows from Jensen, but they didn't stop Davis from scooping.
Kastle sideboarded Marauding Knight and Recoil for game 2, while Davis brought in Wrath of God, a Power Sink, and a Rethink. The game was long a drawn out, and was characterized by the same permanents being bounced and used over and over again. Davis got an early lead with a first turn Sergeant and a small Rebel chain. Kastle had numerous creatures, but was unable to find any of his multiple Crypt Angels or Marauding Knights. Kastle was forced to buy time by casting Wash Out three times, but each time this meant that Davis got to reuse Parallax Wave. Davis, meanwhile, was forced to keep bringing Voldalian Merchants in and out of play with Parallax Wave, which meant that Kastle drew more and more cards with the Merchant's come into play effect. Davis ultimately won the reusable permanents game, and tied the match with only ten minutes remaining.
After game two, Kastle looked through his library and showed me the bottom two cards: two of his three Marauding Knights.
There was very little chance for either player to win this game in the time remaining. Time ran out when Kastle was at 16 life, Davis still at 20. Both methodically played out the five turns of overtime, knowing their efforts were futile. Kastle was accepting but frustrated by the time constraint, showing me his end of game hand consisting of Jolting Merfolk, Crypt Angel, and Marauding Knight. Both players have to win out from now on to even have a shot of placing in the money.
Final Result: Draw 1-1-1