by Adrian Sullivan
Casey McCarrel's return to the professional tournament scene was marked by an exciting win in the Meatgrinders, followed by a 4-2 performance in the draft. McCarrel played Flores Black, a Vampiric Tutor based control deck with main deck "hate" cards for all of the dominant decks. Packing cards like Stromgald Cabal, Perish, Rapid Decay, and Massacre, the deck would try to quickly fetch the powerful answers, and eventually kill with Phyrexian Negator. Player of the Year leader Darwin Kastle came to the table with the YMG Control Black deck, a similar Vampiric Tutor deck, but with less "sideboard" cards, and a greater focus on discard cards like Ravenous Rats and Stupor. In a matchup that was very nearly the mirror, Darwin certainly had more experience with the deck, which was a last minute choice for McCarrell.
Both players keeep somewhat strong opening hands, with McCarrel holding several Vampiric Tutors, a Yawgmoth's Will, and a Dark Ritual, while Darwin's hand was full of discard.
McCarrel plays first, laying a swamp. On Darwin's turn, he Duresses McCarrel, taking the Ritual, which McCarrel prompty replaces by using a Vampiric Tutor. On Darwin's next turn, he lays a Rishadan Port, and McCarrel Tutors again for a Persecute. After the match, McCarrel felt that he should have went for a Phyrexian Negator here, a sentiment echoed by deck designers.
McCarrel rituals out the Persecute taking a Stupor, Ravenous Rat, and Thrashing Wumpus from Darwin. With neither player having anything in their hands, they spend a few turns play Port-games, and when McCarrel Duresses Kastle, Kastle responds by using Vampiric Tutor to fetch a Phyrexian Negator. With McCarrel finally free of Kastle's Rishadan Port, he lays a Negator of his own.
At slightly higher life, and holding a few more permanents, Kastle looks over the table. His own Negator is joined by 4 land and McCarrel is sitting with 3 Land and a Negator. Kastle casts an Engineered Plague on Horrors to make the Negators both 4/4, and attacks. Now, he'll come out of a combat with permanents in play, whil Casey would lose everything. For a few turns, they trade back and forth with McCarrel dropping to 4 and Kastle to 10.
Casey holds back his own Negator to block, and Darwin casts a Ravenous Rat. Coming in with the Negator, McCarrel is forced to block, and it hurts him dearly. Both players are left with a Swamp and a Rishadan Port, but Kastle has the Rat, and McCarrel is left at 4 life. The only thing McCarrel has going for him is that he has Port advantage.
It doesn't matter though. While he holds a Vicious Hunger to kill the Rat, he never draws a second black source of mana.
Kastle 0 - McCarrel 1
As they sideboard, Darwin brings in Masticores, Vicious Hungers, and Spineless Thugs, while McCarrel brings in more Negators and Phyrexian Processor. Their opening hands are both good. McCarrel has a pair of Skittering Horrors, land and a Stupor, while Kastle has a pair of Negators, a Ritual, and Ravenous Rat.
McCarrel lays a Spawning Pool, and cringes at Kastle's much stronger Ritual/Negator start. McCarrel lays a Rishadan Port, and Rituals out a Stromgald Cabal to hold of the Negator. Kastle then drops a Ravenous Rat (taking an Engineered Plague), briefly considers an attack, and ends his turn.
McCarrel attacks with the Cabal. With only 4 permanents, Kastle allows the damage, and McCarrel drops a Horror to keep the defenses up at home. Kastle's next turn is marked by yet another Negator. McCarrel Attacks again with the Cabal, and Kastle again takes the damage. A Stupor knocks two Swamps out of Kastle's hands, and Kastle starts his turn.
Kastle lays a fourth Swamp and casts a Skittering Horror of his own. Sending with everyone, Kastle hits McCarrel for 8, with McCarrel putting his Horror in the way of a Negator. Kastle contemplates for a long time, but eventually sacrifices all his land. McCarrel lays another Skittering Horror, and stays at home with his Cabal.
With only creatures on the table, Kastle could attack for 10 damage, but it wouldn't be enough to actually kill McCarrel, and his attack would cost him all of his permanents. Sending only the Horror, McCarrel throws his own Horror in the way. McCarrel draws his card and says go. Again Kastle has to think. His attack would do 8, but McCarrel's untapped Spawning Pool and Stromgald Cabal would leave Kastle with only a single permanent. Kastle waits a turn, and McCarrel lays a Thrashing Wumpus.
Kastle must act now. He attacks with everything, and McCarrel blocks a Negator with the Cabal, dropping to 3. After a few turns, the Wumpus makes short work of Darwin's remaining permanents, and they move to game 3.
Kastle 1 - McCarrel 1
Kastle's deck draws like it should, full of discard, with one of his sideboard Masticores. McCarrel's opening has disruption as well, with a Rishadan port and Duresses of his own, as well as a Dark Ritual and a Vicious Hunger. Darwin uses his turn 1 Duress to take McCarrel's Ritual, ending any chance of McCarrel laying a huge turn 1 creature. McCarrel Duresses back, taking a Stupor.
Darwin lays a Port and starts Porting, and spends the next several turns simply using it. McCarrel obviously is thinking of Kastle's Masticore when he uses Vampiric to grab an Unmask, which he uses to take the Masticore. McCarrel's own Port begins drawing fire from Darwin's Port.
Anticlimactic in the end, Darwin lays a Wumpus and locks up McCarrel with a pair of Ports. Wumpus ends the match.
Kastle 2 - McCarrel 1