by Randy Buehler
Steve O'Mahoney Schwartz and Olivier Ruel faced off in round one of Pro Tour New York. The two may be facing off again on Sunday in the finals of the Team Challenge. O'Mahoney Schwartz's Team Antarctica and Ruel's Team Black Ops play their Team Challenge semi-final matches on Saturday night in an effort to advance to Sunday's finals where the victorious team will walk away with $15,000. Today, though, both players were focused on Masques/Nemesis constructed.
Both players decided to run the defining deck of the tournament: Rebels. In fact, five of the 8 players competing in round 1 feature matches were playing Rebel decks. (The other three were all playing mono-blue Rising Waters decks.) Ruel banged his head on the table when he realized what Steve was playing and knew he had to play a painstaking mirror matchup.
Steve won the coin flip and led with a Ramosian Sergeant and a Rishadan Port. On turn 3 Steve dropped Lin Sivvi and Ruel had no immediate answer. Ruel did draw a Topple, but he only had 3 land so Steve's Port prevented him from casting it before Steve recruited a 2 power creature. Ruel also eventually drew a Last breath, but by then Steve had out a Defiant Falcon that could replace Lin Sivvi whenever that became necessary. Steve seemed very confident -- he knew how much mana to save and for what purpose, he knew exactly which rebels to bring into play, and once he started swarming Olivier, Olivier scooped quickly to save time for games 2 and 3.
Game 2 was much more interesting. Ruel played Lin Sivvi on turn 3, but Steve answered with Parallax Wave. After using it to remove Ruel's Lin Sivvi and Sergeant, Steve played a Lin Sivvi of his own. Ruel used Last Breath on it. Steve then played a Falcon so he could go get another Lin Sivvi, but Ruel played a Parallax Wave of his own and removed Steve's falcon from the game. Steve played his second Parallax Wave and then things got really complicated. Both players had a Falcon in play and Steve had the first opportunity to recruit with his. However, he decided to let Olivier untap in an effort to set him up. During Olivier's end step Steve activated his Falcon. Ruel, of course, activated his own falcon as a response. if he could get his own Lin Sivvi into play first then Steve's would die. Steve took the final fading counter off of his parallax Wave to remove Ruel's Lin Sivvi from the game, but Ruel had Reverent mantra ready to thwart Steve's attempt. Steve had foreseen this possibility, though, and had saved two mana so he could last breath Lin Sivvi as a response to Ruel's Mantra. last Breath resolved, killing Ruel's Lin Sivvi and thus allowing Steve's to come into play.
Thus after much effort, Steve won the great Lin Sivvi War (of round 1, anyway). He was helped by the fact that he had more land in play than Ruel. (Zvi Mowshowitz commented to me that the easiest way to screw up a rebel deck is not to play enough land in it.) Ruel did play out a Jhovall Queen and a Rappelling Scouts, but it seemed only a matter of time before Steve won. Both players had Distorting Lenses on the table so they could kill creatures with Lightbringer and Lawbringer. Steve decided to use his Disenchant to destroy Ruel's Lens. This allowed Steve to start picking off Ruel's creatures with his 'Bringers. Meanwhile Steve was attacking with fliers and whittling away Ruel's life total (all those Last Breaths actually hurt Steve here).
However, Steve got a little bit too aggressive. When Ruel topdecked a Parallax Wave, Ruel was able to remove all five of Steve's untapped creatures from the game and attack for exactly 10 points of damage. Steve looked at his life total sheet and saw that he was at 10. Whoops! If Steve had either saved his Disenchant or attacked with fewer creatures he would surely have won the game eventually. But Ruel won the game and evened the match at 1-1.
Game 2 lasted over 35 minutes so the players had only 3 minutes left for game 3. There was no way to finish a Rebel on Rebel match in 3 minutes so the match was a draw.
Ruel - 1
O'Mahoney-Schwartz - 1