Posted in Event Coverage on February 8, 2004

By Michael Thicke

Immediately after finishing his marathon-match against Ben Rubin in the quarters, Ken Ho sat down to play fellow California native Ian Spaulding in the semifinals. Ken's deck was a powerhouse that had everyone in the room rolling their eyes: mono-black with triple Chittering Rats, triple Consume Spirit, Skullclamp, Promise of Power, and tons of other goodies; it was solid back-to-front. Ian, a popular PTQ regular from the Bay area, brought a blue/white deck to the table.

The banter started immediately between these two associates. Ian, noting Ken's naked deck, asked him about his lack of sleeves. "I like the feel of the cards," Ken explained.

As they continued to shuffle, Ken asked, "So you've heard about my deck?"

"Warhammer, Murderous Spoils?" Ian offered.

Ken hesitated - he didn't have a Warhammer - "That's fair. What do you have?"

"Leonin Elder."

"What about instants?" Ken asked, hoping to pry some useful information out of his opponent.

"I don't have any."

Murderous Spoils

With that in mind, the players began. Ian won the die roll and chose to play first. He led with the Leonin Elder, proving that he was at least honest on that point. Ken replied with Skullclamp. On Ian's next turn he had to ask a judge for a ruling. He claimed to Ken that it mattered for the turn, so the players had to wait for the judge to get back to continue, but it was actually about the wording on Murderous Spoils.

Ken played the first real threat of the game on his second turn, Slith Bloodletter - the card that you never see on your second turn, but all of your opponents do. The Bloodletter was unopposed, at least initially, but Ken was stuck on two lands.

Two turns later he drew into Disciple of the Vault and immediately sacrificed it to the Skullclamp to find a third land.

Ian's side of the board improved with Mind's Eye and Emissary of Hope. The Emissary would allow Ian to keep up with the steadily growing Slith, and the Mind's Eye offered him a chance to find a more permanent solution. The Eye also would allow him to blunt the Skullclamp's ability, as he could draw cards whenever Ken did.

Despite being still short on land, Ken was able to Consume Spirit the Emissary to keep the beatdown coming. "That's pretty rude," Ian noted as his flier went to the graveyard - he really needed that guy to keep in the game. Two turns later, a Chittering Rats combined with Ken's second Consume Spirit to take the first game.

If Ian had a little more time this game, he probably would have been in a very good position. He had plenty of cards in hand, including a Pristine Angel, but he just didn't have the time to stabilize the board.

Ken 1 - 0 Ian

Game 2

For the entire first game, Ken was holding on to a useless Mindstorm Crown. For the second, he decided to side it out for an additional Swamp.

While shuffling Ian asked, "Do you really have Warhammer, or was my crack-team of investigators wrong?"

"I forget," Ken replied.

"I didn't lie to you about not having any instants," Ian lied in protest.

"I don't know that," Ken said, "and maybe I didn't lie to you. About forgetting."

Ian began the game with the ideal white start: Plains, Plains, Plains, Razor Golem. Meanwhile, Ken was curving out with Disciple of the Vault, Grimclaw Bats, and Chittering Rats. The bats were answered by Emissary of Hope.

The first significant play of the game occurred when Ken decided to block Ian's Razor Golem with Grimclaw Bats and Disciple of the Vault. Unfortunately for him, Ian had Stir the Pride to keep his Golem alive and kill both of the blockers. Ken's Pewter Golem, which he tapped out for, was then Shattered, putting Ian in full control of the game.


Ken was finally able to get rid of the Razor Golem by double blocking with Woebearer and Chittering Rats, but he was down to seven, and Ian again had Mind's Eye.

The board was clear though, so Ken's Promise of Power to draw five cards (with Ian tapped out) put him back in the game. Ken then asked Spaulding if he had played a land last turn. He hadn't, so Ken put him on two real cards, or at least one. He cast Chittering Rats, and followed it up with a Necrogen Spellbomb, nabbing Viridian Longbow.

With Ho's newly cast Skullclamp and Ian's Mind's Eye, both players began drawing a ton of cards. Ian was way ahead on life, but Ken's deck was getting thin and there were a bunch of Consume Spirits in his dwindling pile and he had a million land.

Ian, well aware of the threat, played a Pearl Shard to blunt the Consume Spirit's effect, but Ken still effectively used Mirror Universe, taking the life totals from 4-11 to 13-4. Ian gamely attack ed next turn, doing a little damage, but Ken used Skullclamp to draw into another Consume Spirit the next turn and he took the match.

The top card of Ian's deck? Hallow. With his boarded-in instant, he would have been able to probably deck Ho easily.

Ken Ho 2 - 0 Ian Spaulding

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