It is a rare sight to see a female presence on the games floor at German Nationals. Typically, the judges staff includes more women than the players list. However, there have been women who hold their own during Nationals, most notably Claudia Loroff, who put the average record of female Nationals players at 29th with her two appearances – which is notably better than the average finish for male competitors (obviously).
While Thomas Steeger had qualified for Nationals via the Nationals Qualifier tournament in Hamburg, Merle had to wait until yesterday to punch her ticket to Nationals, drafting her way to victory with M12 in one of the Last Chance Qualifiers yesterday. Thomas played the popular U/B Control deck, Merle brought Vampires.
Merle won the die roll and led off with a Swamp, soon to be followed by three more and Gatekeeper of Malakir. While she had decided to go aggressive with Vampires, Thomas had little to offer in terms of resistance – until he used Mana Leak to counter Lashwrithe.
Despise from Merle saw Go for the Throat and Into the Roil plus four lands in Thomas' hand, and she knew that the way was clear for a second Lashwrithe. The accompanying token fell victim to Into the Roil, but with Thomas on 12, he wouldn't have long to live.
Merle equipped Lashwrithe to Gatekeeper of Malakir and drew out Thomas' Go for the Throat with it. She played Grave Titan in a move to seal game 1, but Thomas had Grave Titan of his own! Lashwrithe's +9/+9 bonus, equipped to one of the Zombie tokens, gave Merle the advantage in the war of the Titans. And for a moment, it looked as if that would be enough: Thomas had to block the attacking Titan and the huge Zombie with his own Zombies, leaving his own Grave Titan open to Gatekeeper of Malakir with kicker.
But on an empty board on his side, Thomas clawed back with Black Sun's Zenith and Karn Liberated. The planeswalker exiled Lashwrithe, and a second Black Sun's Zenith killed the Grave Titan for good. Thomas followed that up with a second planeswalker: Liliana Vess. Though at merely 5 life, Thomas had turned this game around on the back of two very powerful 'walkers. Liliana quickly gave Thomas a Grave Titan and Merle's life total dropped steeply to below zero.
Merle Barkowski 0 – 1 Thomas Steeger
Thomas had the early action with Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing Go for the Throat, Inquisition of Kozilek, two Vampire Nighthawk, Dismember and two Swamp. He chose the Inquisition for Merle to discard.
Merle's pair of Vampire Nighthawks whittled Thomas down to 12 before he dispatched them with Black Sun's Zenith. Lashwrithe came from Merle the turn after, Thomas answered with Jace Beleren, but Merle chose to attack Thomas with her 7/7 token. Thomas staved that off with Go for the Throat, but Merle had a second Lashwrithe!
But once again, the token from that fell victim to Karn Liberated and Merle was left with two Lashwrithes and nothing to attach them to. Duress from Thomas showed him Go for the Throat and Dismember – both nothing to fear for his two Planeswalkers.
Jace kept drawing cards to his death, giving Thomas Grave Titan and Merle yet again nothing to work with. Thomas also held Mana Leak to stop any imminent threat. Reloading with Sign in Blood gave Merle nothing. Thomas' attack took her to 2 life, and her next card held nothing to save her.
Merle Barkowski 0 – 2 Thomas Steeger