Posted in NEWS on January 29, 2014

Four undefeated players remained going into Round 10 (if you count one 8-0-1). Two of those were ChannelFireball mainstay Matt Sperling, slinging Packs Rats and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and his opponent, Travis Boese, who playing's a version of Colossal Gruul with Ruric Thar, the Unbowed and Sylvan Primordial. If you know Boese's name, it could be because he finished in the Top 16 of Grand Prix Vegas, or because he wrote this awesome tournament report for which also touched on his path as a Magic player who is blind.

Boese knew Colossal Gruul would be a good pick for this metagame. He said, "most Mono-Black decks are playing just copying Owen [Turtenwald's] deck—playing Pharika's Cure and Hero's Downfall. I play nine planeswalkers and Ruric Thar; that's not enough removal."

He was right in general, although Sperling's deck was not a Owen clone, and played Ultimate Price as additional creature kill. Though the Gruul deck was still probably above 50% to win the match, it was not as high a percentage as against other builds. Sometimes Gruul could just march right over Mono-Black if the swamp-slingers had a slow start. But Sperling had made a Twitter post last night announcing that he was going to 9-0 again today. If he was to make good on his boast, he'd have to start here. And when Sperling started the first game with two Temple of Silence, he was afraid he would experience that exact "marching-over" thing.


Travis Boese 

Game 1

Boese started with a Burning-Tree Emissary into a Voyaging Satyr, a pretty perfect opening for him. However, he just followed up with a Domri Rade and an attack. Matt Sperling had the Hero's Downfall for the planeswalker, then had a 6/6 Desecration Demon the following turn and then a Pack Rat after that. And Boese's quick beginning quickly faded.

Though Boese had began well, and threatened to bowl over Sperling, he didn't follow it up with anything of substance. He had two Voyaging Satyr and two Burning-Tree Emissary, but noting else of note. All the mana stuff, and none of the beef. If this were the 70s, I'd likely make some cool fast-food commercial reference or something. But I will not.

It was 11-14 in Boese's favor, but with a mounting number of Rat tokens, and an ever-growing flying black demon, his lead was dwindling fast.

Boese mustered a Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, and often this was the turning point. With Sperling at 11, he would lose over half his life just to remove the 6/6 monster. But Sperling barely flinched. Such is the power of the Rat—well the Rat and some helpful removal. A Hero's Downfall took out the Legendary ogre, then Sperling announced "...and I'll attack with four Rats." Boese knew that was that. He only had some 1/1 dorks around, and those rats weren't going to stop anytime soon. Pack Rat had done its job, as it so often does – his opponent packed it in.

Matt Sperling 1 – 0 Travis Boese


Game 2


Matt Sperling 

Another couple of Voyaging Satyr on the back of Burning-Tree Emissary for Boese. And this time he had some gas to follow up—he cast a turn-four Garruk, Caller of Beasts then drew three cards.

Sperling started with a Lifebane Zombie, Mutavault, a Devour Flesh nabbing the Emissary, and a Hero's Downfall taking down the Garruk. Though the green planeswalker helped Boese draw some cards, it didn't stick around. In fact, it looked like Sperling's fresh Underworld Connections would probably draw more cards in the long run.

But Boese pressed on. From his extra cards he cast a Polukranos, World Eater and two Elvish Mystic. The monster used monstrosity to kill Sperling's only creature, the Lifebane Zombie, then attacked, making the life totals 10-19 in Boese's favor.

Defending against the march, on Boese's next attack, Sperling used a Pack Rat and a Mutavault to block the Mystics, and an Ultimate Price took out the eater of worlds. Boese simply replaced it, then re-bigged the 5/5 into a 6/6 to kill a Pack Rat. Did you catch that there? Boese did. Immediately after targeting the Pat Rack with the one-damage monstrosity effect he said, "Oh no. That was wrong." He realized that because both the Mutavault and the Pack Rat had one damage from the Elvish Mystics, if he had instead targeted the Mutavault, the rat's toughness would have shrunk to 1, and state-based effects would have escorted it to the graveyard. This small errorcould prove fatal for Boese.

However, the beats kept coming and coming. Boese followed his second Polukranos by drawing a Mistcutter off a fresh Domri Rade then playing it as a 4/4. Even though another kill spell took out the Polukranos, Sperling still sunk to 5 on the attack and then 4 on an Underworld Connections. Boese was still kicking himself, because at this point, if Sperling didn't have a Mutavault blocker he would already be dead. He shook it off and kept going.

Sperling took his time with his next turn. He had a Gray Merchant of Asphodel in his hand, but he needed to make sure the math was right. He cast it and gained four life—the totals becoming 8-15—but he didn't sound too happy when he cast it. When he passed the turn, another Underworld Connections, a Pack Rat, and a Devour Flesh were sitting in his hand.

Sperling sunk back down to 4 from the Mistcutter Hydra, and though Domri Rade whiffed, it still ticked up to five counters. Sperling drew a second Pack Rat and cast them both, leaving up enough mana to make a new Rat or draw off the Underworld Connections.

This next was when Sperling turned it around. The apprehension that marked his spell-casting last turn was replaced by resolve. Boese had no good attacks and so he had to just pass it back after bringing Domri Rade to six counters. Sperling confidently made another Rat before untapping, and with a Mutavault to make them all temporarily 4/4 he was all set to attack.

And just like last game, a bunch of Pack Rats packed Boese bags for him. Travis Boese exited the undefeated category, and after the round finished, Matt Sperling was the only player left at 10-0. So far, Sperling had made good on his promise.

Matt Sperling 2 – 0 Travis Boese