Back in October, Patrick Dickmann won Grand Prix Antwerp, the most recent Modern GP, playing Splinter Twin, and this weekend he again picked up his Pestermites and Deceiver Exarchs. So far he managed a 4-0 start into the tournament, but so did his opponent, Frenchman Mikaël Rabie, playing a Birthing Pod deck of the Melira, Sylvok Outcast variety.
While nominally two combo strategies, both of these decks have an amazing ability to kill without their respective combination, especially when facing heavy disruption. The Birthing Pod deck is chock-full of creatures anyway, and Dickmann's Twin version in particular, with its Vendilion Cliques and Grim Lavamancers, can go the beatdown route as well.
Here, the two decks delivered on their promise, as there was no fast combo kill but instead a long and slow grind. On one side, Dickmann's Grim Lavamancer was working overtime, killing, alongside Lightning Bolts and Electrolyze, Birds of Paradise as well as Voice of Resurgence and its token. On the other side, however, Rabie's defense mechanisms proved quite a problem for Dickmann's creature control. When Grim Lavamancer tried to kill Melira, Sylvok Outcast, for example, Restoration Angel intervened, and when Dickmann tried to off the Angel, Chord of Calling intervened by getting Spellskite.
Slowly, Rabie was eking out an advantage on the board, and cemented it when Birthing Pod searched up Orzhov Pontiff to destroy Dickmann's Grim Lavamancer plus Pestermite. Meanwhile, Dickmann had lost a lot of life to his lands and to incidental attacks, and needed to make a move. In a last-ditch effort, he attempted Splinter Twin on his Deceiver Exarch with neither any preparation nor back-up. Rabie's Abrupt Decay then ended the game.
The second game began in similar fashion. Rabie's Shriekmaw killed a turn-three Pestermite, and various Lightning Bolts, Electrolyze, and Grim Lavamancer activations proceeded to kill, among others, Voice of Resurgence, Viscera Seer, and Melira, Sylvok Outcast.
But when Rabie drew a fourth land, Linvala, Keeper of Silence proved a problem for Dickmann's strategy. Unable to use his Lavamancer or his combo, Dickmann was soon digging for answers. Anger of the Gods plus Lightning Bolt finally dealt with Linvala, but at that point Dickmann was already down to 5 life.
Both players' resources were very much depleted at this point, and when Dickmann tried to pull ahead with Splinter Twin on Snapcaster Mage, Rabie had Abrupt Decay at the ready. In fact, as he later revealed, Dickmann had hoped to draw out Abrupt Decay this way: With Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker still in hand and eight lands on the battlefield, a topdecked Pestermite may have still gotten him the win then. Alas, no Pestermite showed up before Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap had reduced his life to zero.
"Usually, I'd say, the match-up is rather even," said Dickmann after the match. "But in both games, he simply stopped drawing lands after his fifth, even without any library manipulation, whereas I went to eight and nine. There was nothing to be done there."
Patrick Dickmann 0-2 Mikaël Rabie