Semifinals: Your Move Games vs. Dynasty

Posted in Feature

By Randy Buehler

Your Move Games vs. Dynasty

Never underestimate Brian Hacker or Gab Tsang when it comes to team draft. Hacker may not have played a match of Magic in six months, but he knows how to game and Gab Tsang is one of the guys he's been gaming with the longest. They teamed up with Igor Frayman for last team PT and fell only one match short of the Top 8. This year they've teamed up with Ben Rubin. I hear he's got game too (along with over 100,000 Wizards of the Coast dollars). Since none of the four have done all that well at individual PTs this season, they actually didn't have the necessary 50 PT points to qualify before this weekend, so the pressure was on. Pressure? Pressure is when your misplay might cause your buddy to dip into his wallet to hand over fiddy. These guys came through in the clutch, and by making the Top 4 they know they'll get to play together again in New York in September.

But first there was a little matter of a To 4 to play. "We're not done yet," said Gab Tsang as he sat down to play the always imposing Your Move Games. Darwin Kastle, Dave Humpherys, and Rob Dougherty just don't lose much. They won the first team Pro Tour and have been near the top of every team event they've attended since then, with a money finish in New York and now this, their third team GP Top 4 appearance. I'm sure they'd really like a second team title for their resume.

The Draft

YMG forced Dynasty to open the first pack and it was obvious right away that we'd be witnessing a clash of styles. Both teams had a black-red deck, but Kastle went heavily into blue-in fact, he wound up constructing a blue-black deck that merely splashes red. Meanwhile Tsang has 2 white cards in his deck (one of which is Obsidian Acolyte). Dougherty and Hacker each drafted base-green decks, but Hacker's is only much more aggressive, with 3 Armadillo Cloaks and only two colors! Dougherty wound up solidly three color. Rubin and Humpherys each drafted blue decks, but Humpherys wound up with a significant number of cards of four different colors (and none of them was green). He wound up cutting black, but that left his card quality a bit low.

Perhaps the biggest difference between their draft styles was that Dynasty put their green deck in the middle seat, while YMG put their green deck on the left. This resulted in Hacker, taking his "more Cloaks than colors" deck into battle against Humpherys' blue-white-red with Rubin's blue-white-green going up against Dougherty's green-red-black.

The details of the draft were also quite interesting, with the teams having radically different opinions of some cards. While Kastle spent his picks accumulate a blue splash that could hose Tsang's kavu (Coastal Drake, Shoreline Raider, etc.), Tsang spent his own picks accumulating as many cantrips "raise deads" as he could. Tsang went so far as to first pick an Urborg Uprising from the last pack so that he could have two of them to Kastle's zero. He was also quite happy in the second pack of the entire draft when YMG took three different black cards (Vicious Kavu, Soul Burn, and Shivan Emissary) while still leaving Tsang a Recover. Kastle's anti-kavu plan worked well for him in the last round of the swiss, but with all the removal that normally flies around in black-red mirror matches, Tsang's plan makes a lot of sense.

Dynasty

The other difference in value surrounded Armadillo Cloak. YMG had opportunities to draft two of them, which they simply declined. Hacker gladly scooped up all three of them. Humpherys placed a high priority on bounce throughout the rest of the draft, but he only managed to come up with one Repulse, one Jilt, one Coastal Drake, and one Hunting Drake. Hacker decided to cut red from his deck in part because all his red cards were kavu and his green-white build still didn't have any chaff in it. The real action on this front came in Apocalypse. Flagbearers would be Hacker's worst nightmare and everyone at the table knew it. Hacker first picked a Standard Bearer from his own pack and then Rubin first picked a Coalition Honor Guard (over Raka Sanctuary, which would have been great in Rubin's blue-white control deck) because they knew how important Flagbearers would be to that one matchup. In the end, Humpherys wound up with a lone Coalition Flag, and he's actually running the creature enchantment version, hoping its good enough.

The Games

Rubin got off to a fast start in game 1, beating down with his two Gaea's Skyfolk. Tsabo's Decree "Merfolk" shut that down, though, and gave Dougherty some valuable information about Rubin's hand. Dougherty knew it was worth sacrificing two land to clear Aurora Griffin, Faerie Squadron, and Allied Strategies out of Rubin's hand with a Bog Down. A Tribal Flames to Rubin's dome denied even the chance to top-deck his way out and YMG had a quick one game lead.

Tsang busted out turn 2 Obsidian Acolyte and Kastle can't have been happy. He was able to remove it with Shivan Emissary, but that played right into Gab's "raise dead" strategy. Tsang played the next few turns very aggressively, using Zap and Terminate to clear a path through for his Mire Kavu. Kastle Recoiled his own Emissary so he could use it to blow up that Kavu, but Tsang had tempo on his side and a huge life lead. He used Nightscape Battlemage (a card Kastle really wanted for his own deck, but his teammates made him take Cavern Harpy) to blow up Kastle's only swamp and then Tsang quickly slammed down Phyrexian Slyer followed by Shivan Zombie and Caldera Kavu. When the dust settled, Tsang was up 1-0 and the overall team match looked pretty even.

It wasn't even for much longer. Rubin failed to draw any land other than Island and Dougherty put him down quickly and kindly, staking YMG to a one match lead.

Your Move Games

Tsang-Kastle game 2 got interesting on about turn 6. Tsang tried to Singe Kastle's Shivan Emissary and Kastle responded by playing Jilt, trying to bounce the "Nekrataal" and shock Tsang's Morgue Toad. Tsang responded by sacrificing the Toad to get the mana he needed to Zap the Emissary! Tsang removed Kastle's next two creatures with a Smoldering tar and a Terminate. He kept applying pressure with Bloodfire Kavu and Ravenous Rats. Kastle was forced to trade creatures rather than take damage since he was down in single digits, but Tsang just got his Mire Kavu back with Recover and kept attacking. Both players stared at each other from behind a hand full of lead while a Nightscape Battlemage beat Kastle all the way down to 2. Kastle then played Whirlpool Rider to shuffle back in 6 cards ("at least 5 of which were land") and draw 6 new ones! Kastle then Recoiled the Rider after it blocked and replayed it so he could draw 2 more new cards. He wound up with Vodalian Zombie and Vicious Kavu in play from all that cycling, which was good enough to shut down Tsang's offense. Still, Kastle seemed very nervous to be at 2. Phyrexian Slayer came off the top of Tsang's deck and Kastle had no flying blockers so that was the game and the match. Now it was all up to Hacker and Humpherys.

Hacker didn't have a particularly fast draw against Humpherys in game 1 and Humpherys had Jilt to deal with his first Cloaked creature. Repulse plus Prohibit got rid of Hacker's Standard Bearer and Humpherys timed Holy Day to save a Prison Barricade from Gerrard's Command and prevent some unblocked damage. All that gave him time to set up Raka Sanctuary. Lightning Angel followed soon thereafter and suddenly the Hump was on the attack. Hacker did drew Cloak #2 and killed Lightning Angel in the ensuing attack phase, but Humpherys still had plenty of offensive gas and soon won game 1.

Hacker decided to cash in an opening hand of 5 land (including both colors), Amphibious Kavu, and Mirrorwood Treefolk because he felt he needed a more aggressive start than that hand allowed. His new hand was indeed more aggressive: Nomadic Elf, Thornscape Familiar, Armadillo Cloak, and the land to play them. Unfortunately for Dynasty, Humpherys had the answers - he traded a Disciple of Kangee for the Elf and Aura Blasted away the Cloak. Lighting Angel came out to play on turn 5 and Hacker knew he was in trouble. The Angel knocked him down to 8 while playing great defense along the way, then Hacker's deck delivered up a Thornscape Apprentice. Hacker only got to tap the Angel once, though, and then Humpherys had his answer; Coalition Flag turned his Helionaut into a Flagbearer. Hacker had no choice but to try and race. Humpherys drew the blocker he needed so that Hacker could only knock him down to 1 (with Armadillo Cloak and Gerrard's Command sitting, useless, in hacker's hand). Hacker played a Glade Gnarr and left Aurora Griffin plus Glimmering Angel back to defend against Lightning Angel. Humpherys didn't have any tricks and so he just played a Sunscape Familiar and declined to attack. Hacker was suddenly a bit more upbeat and untapped quickly. However, Hacker missed the fact that Humpherys had no black mana in play and couldn't regenerate his Metathran Zombie so Hacker didn't force a chump block by attacking with Glade Gnarr. It didn't matter, though, as Humpherys played Hunting Drake. That both gave him a flying attacker, and gave Thornscape Apprentice "summoning sickness," and denied Hacker an opportunity to top-deck Sunscape Battlemage. Game, set, and match to Your Move Games.

I know he was disappointed to lose, but Hacker had to appreciate Humpherys' ability to find great uses for allegedly bad cards like Holy Day and Coalition Flag. He was particularly frustrated, though, by the one point of mana burn he had taken earlier in the game because he forgot he had a familiar in play. If he had had one more life he would have lived one more turn. It turns out Sunscape Battlemage was the top card in his library and that could have killed the Flagbearer, allowing him to Cloak up one of his guys, and force game 3.

Final Result: Your Move Games 2 - Dynasty 1

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