Round 3: Feature Match - Jonathan Randle vs. Jack Kettle

Posted in Event Coverage on August 19, 2011

By David Sutcliffe

Jonathan 'Too Hot To Handle' Randle is well-named. Not just because often he IS too hot to handle (former GB National Champion, the alternate last year, and running PVDDR to the wire in the Top 8 at the World Championships in Nagoya) but also because nothing else really rhymes with Randle. Jonathan 'Bright Like A Candle' Randle would hardly strike fear into the hearts of opponents, would it? Jonathan 'Just Lost A Sandal' Randle? Not really. 

Either way, Randle is one of the leading favourites in this years' nationals, and with good reason. After a winning start he found himself paired against the quiet-but-dangerous Jack Kettle. Kettle's Red Deck would provide a classic matchup against Randle's Blue-White control deck.

Game 1

Dismember and Oblivion Ring from Randle answered the first two threats from Kettle's Red deck – a Goblin Guide and Ember Hauler – but a pair of Preordains did not offer the former champ an answer to Kettle's Kargan Dragonlord, and next turn Chandra's Phoenix joined the Dragonlord on the board, sweeping through the red zone to drop Jonathan Randle to 10 life. 

Reaching for the reset switch, a Day of Judgment cleared the board, but it was a brief reprieve – an Arc Trail burnt Randle for 2 and returned the Chandra's Phoenix to Jack Kettle's hand, although a Mana Leak kept the fiery bird from hitting the battlefield. Randle found a fifth land, summoning an Emeria Angel but she was just fodder for Kettle's burn spells, and the Phoenix soared out of the graveyard once again, putting Randle down to a precarious 4 life remaining.

Gideon Jura was Randle's best play, but all Gideon could do was soak up a turn of damage as Kettle summoned his own Planeswalker ally to the game in the shape of Koth of the Hammer, smashing Jura down in a single attack.

Randle was on the ropes, reeling from the red assault. He turned to Phantasmal Image, removing Koth with a second Oblivion Ring, but the Image was immediately burnt down and Kettle's red men took the lead in the match, with Chandra's Phoenix providing an undying threat that the former champ had never been able to fully answer.

Jonathan Randle 0 – 1 Jack Kettle

Game 2

Goblin Guide was the opening play in the second game, managing to get one attack through before Jonathan Randle decided he had seen enough – taking a Plains into hand that the Guide had shown him, Randle Dismembered the little guy, although his place was immediately taken by a Grim Lavamancer.

Kettle followed that with a Kargan Dragonlord, but it was clear that red deck has real problems – just a Mountain and a Teetering Peaks in play while Randle's control deck was happily putting down it's fourth and fifth lands. Paying the kicker for Into the Roil bought the former champ even more time and cards, before an Oblivion Ring finally ended the Dragonlord's threat.

Time was on Randle's side, and Gideon Jura arrived to extend that lead – and while Kettle's lone Grim Lavamancer was able to shoot Randle's Phantasmal Image, it would never be able to bring Jura down alone!

Kargan Dragonlord hit the Battlefield to help, but Jack Kettle had again failed to uncover a third land, and Randle's next play ensured that he never would – a Sun Titan. The big 6/6 arrived and immediately returned the Phantasmal Image to play as a copy. Kettle struggled on for a turn, but was soon crushed underfoot, having never lived to play a third land.

Jonathan Randle 1 – 1 Jack Kettle

Game 3

An Arid Mesa meant that Kettle played no threats on his first turn, but the second turn revealed the inevitable Kargan Dragonlord, then on the next turns some Teetering Peaks gave the Dragonlord +2/+0, and Kettle seemed to go all-in on his Dragonlord plan and sank two mana into levelling his creature up.

Against a deck of point removal like DismemberOblivion Ring and Into the Roil that was a brave plan, but it seemed to be well-timed – all Jonathan Randle could muster in defense was a Squadron Hawk but that was immediately burnt out of the way by an Arc Trail, clearing the way for a 4/4 Flying Kargan Dragonlord to attack and putting Randle down to 10.

Enough was enough, and with a heavy sigh Jonathan Randle accepted that he had to use a Day of Judgment to destroy the lone Dragonlord. The immediate threat was answered, but that left Randle tapped out and at the mercy of Kettle's many hasty red men and burn spells. What did the red deck have in hand?

Nothing, it seemed. Untap, play a mountain, pass the turn.

Surely that wasn't how it was supposed to go?

Randle dropped a Squadron Hawk, then shifted play back to Kettle....

Play a mountain, pass the turn.

Two more Squadron Hawks from Randle...

Play a mountain, make a Shrine of Burning Rage, pass the turn.

From a position of strength, the game had seemingly swung away from Kettle in those three turns. The former national champion's Squadron Hawks screeched overhead, dropping Kettle to 17 life... 14...11...8...5... All the while, Kettle found his few attempts at getting cards into play halted by Randle's countermagic – a Mental Misstep for Goblin GuideFlashfreeze for Koth of the Hammer.

It would come down to the Shrine of Burning Rage, which now had four counters. That was enough for Randle, who aimed an Into the Roil at it to reset the clock. Kettle responded with a Lightning Bolt, but that was met with Mental Misstep, then sacrificed his Shrine to deal 5 to Randle, dropping the former champ to 5, but an attempt to follow that with an Arc Trail was countered by a second Flashfreeze.

That would have been lethal damage had it all resolved, but the turns spent playing land had given Jonathan Randle all the time he needed to stock up on countermagic. Gideon Jura locked Kettle out, and the game was over as the Squadron hawks completed their messy work.

Jonathan Randle 2 – 1 Jack Kettle

As Jonathan shuffled up at the end of the match I asked him about his deck – Cawblade without the Blade, or just U/W Control?

"It's my deck, but of course it's become pretty standard now. I was throwing ideas around with Gerry T and then he played it at the SCG event and people started playing the list", and he shrugs.

"I was excited because I thought I had something special that nobody knew about, but then it got out last week. I was kind of hoping that everybody would be playing the ChannelFireball list and I'd have a big advantage, but it's known now. I considered changing deck, but there wasn't really anything else I wanted to play, and I know this deck well, so I've stuck with it".

On 3-0 it doesn't seem to have been a decision that's hurt the former champ!

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