by Anthony Alongi
Zvi Moshowitz is a well-known figure in the Magic community, particularly noted for his deck design techniques. He finished fourth at the 1999 U.S. Nationals, and can claim, to put it in Moshowitzese, "a bunch of Top 16s." He was playing red-green Fires of Yavimaya with a bit more red than most, including Two-Headed Dragon and Assault/Battery.
Rob Dougherty placed Top 8 in Pro Tour NY 1999 and was on the winning team for Pro Tour DC 1999. He is a mainstay of Your Move Games in Boston. He, too, was playing red-green Fires of Yavimaya; but his version used Jade Leech, Rhystic Lightning, and Ancient Hydra perhaps more confidently than other versions here in Chicago this weekend.
Rob went first and kept his opening hand; Zvi took a mulligan. Both players moved pretty quickly out of the gate. Rob was able to force a Chimeric Idol duel early on and replaced his first Fires (which he had sacked to save his own Idol) with another one on turn five. Meanwhile, Zvi had a Jade Leech and another Chimeric Idol ready to go by turn five. In fact, with a turn six Two-Headed Dragon and not a scratch of damage on him, Mr. Moshowitz looked ready to take over the game.
But Rob had a battery of answers ready. When Zvi activated his Idol that same turn and swung with both Idol and Leech, Rob smacked the Dragon upside both heads with a Rhystic Lightning that his opponent could not dilute. (Zvi's comment: "And the crowd boos!" . . . but the crowd, being a rather sedentary lot, actually could not bring itself to comment one way or the other. It would be nice, this reporter feels, to hear the occasional boo at a DCI-sanctioned event. Not directed at him, mind you, or any other individual, not even the judges. But boos could be directed at plays that seem to wreck all the fun. Like, say, torching one of the fanciest creatures in the game. Boo, Rob! Boo! Good play, but boooo!)
Rob was not even done with this combat phase. He blocked Zvi's Leech with his Idol, sacking Fires to set up a cross-kill.
Zvi's Idol made it through that time; but when it came sniffing around the following turn looking to make more trouble, Rob taught it the same Rhystic lesson he had taught the Dragon.
Rob consolidated his momentum with an Ancient Hydra, who brought Zvi down from 19 to 14, and then worked together with a Jade Leech the next turn to bring him down to 4, and then stared at Zvi while he drew... and conceded.
In a reverse of game one, Zvi went first while Rob mulliganed. This game was all about Zvi, as he brought out two Llanowar Elves and a Jade Leech and just started beating Rob down. Rob played exactly three cards: a Fires of Yavimaya that couldn't find a creature to boost, a Tangle that stopped the madness for two turns, and a Llanowar Elf that came out on turn six and justifiably refused to enter the battlefield.
On his seventh turn, Zvi swung the untangled Leech and Elves at Rob, saw them go through and bring his opponent down to 4 life, and then played two Assaults to finish the job.
Both Rob and Zvi kept their opening hands; Rob played first. In this game, there was a great deal of momentum shift, second-guessing as to who was playing control vs. beatdown, and a big spoonful of hard but good-for-you math. The first five turns were a series of small skirmishes: a Llanowar Elf here, an Assault on said Elf, an Elf and Bird of Paradise, and so on.
The game started in earnest around turn six, with both players sporting Fires of Yavimaya by now. Zvi used his Rishadan Ports to lock down Rob's green mana. Rob could still get out and attack with a Chimeric Idol; Zvi let loose with a Battery. A Rhystic Lightning on the Battery token forced Zvi to sack his Fires to save it; a move that certainly affected the path of the game later on.
When Zvi cast a seventh-turn Saproling Burst and attacked with his Battery and an Elf, he brought Rob down to 10 life, just one better than Zvi himself. (Had he enjoyed a Fires of Yavimaya, he could have swung for another 12 and forced some very unfavorable blocks...or at least gotten the Tangle out of Rob's hand a turn earlier.) While Rob could only find an Elf to play his following turn, he had two mana available to Tangle the mass of Saproling and Battery tokens that came out the next turn. Zvi was disappointed, but did play another Fires of Yavimaya to set himself up for the next big creature.
From turn nine until the end of the game, Zvi used his Rishadan Ports to harsh effect, locking down Rob's mana (red, now; but the quality was not as important as the quantity, as Rob admitted after the game). By turn 14, Zvi had four Ports making mischief during every upkeep of Rob's. During this time, the Battery token and Chimeric Idol smashed each other in battle; Rob sacked one of his Fires (he had two) and forced Zvi to sack his lone enchantment just to draw even.
With his Burst tokens fading away, Zvi found himself without enough firepower to land the killing blow on Rob, now at 4 life. Rob, meanwhile, could play no cards to take advantage of the situation and shift momentum the way he wanted. When Zvi played a late-game Saproling Burst, it appeared that his Ports and creatures would do the job after all.
But the following turn, Rob found just enough mana left over to play his own Saproling Burst, and the two sappy clusters of worms just stared at each other across the board while they melted. (We're talking about the enchantments, here, not the players. This reporter is happy to relate that neither Mr. Dougherty nor Mr. Mowshowitz has a sap or worm problem.) Zvi broke the stalemate with a Two-Headed Dragon, but the Masques block finisher couldn't finish as it got Tangled on its first foray.
One turn later, Rob played his second Saproling Burst. The older one was still good for generating a 2/2, and this newer one generated the optimal three 4/4's. With a Fires of Yavimaya still sticking to the board, the saprolings barged across the table. Zvi was forced to create less able tokens off his aging Burst and chump-block. He drew nothing to help him on his turn; and on the eighteenth turn (with the Dragon still Tangled), Rob sent a Jade Leech to join its wormy brethren and finish the job.
Final Result: Rob Dougherty wins, 2-1