ROUND 10 FEATURE MATCH - JEFFREY PYKA VS. STU SOMERS

Posted in NEWS on March 23, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

Of the five 9-0 decks heading into this round, fully four of them have registered some number of Thoughtseizes. Stu Somers, who made the trek from Pittsburgh despite being sick and had proceeded to rattle off an undefeated Day 1 anyway, was one of them, expertly piloting Mono Black Devotion through a hostile field.

The one exception to the Thoughtseize rule, however, is Jeffrey Pyka, who braved the elements and mastered his Uw Devotion deck all the way to the feature match area this round. And, coincidently, Somers' path somewhat already crossed with Pyka.

"Stu, right? You beat my friend in the last round."

Pyka didn't seem too bothered by it, laughing heartily at the coincidence. In fact, Pyka didn't seem bothered by much. Even when he made his own misplays he'd smile, nod, offer a quick "ok" and move on with a joke or quip about how the match was going.

How did the match go? Well, that's why we're here. Read on to find out.

The Decks

It was a clash of Devotions in Round 10, as each player pledged their allegiance to a different slice of the color pie.

Somers opted for a no-frills Mono Black Devotion deck, eschewing even the fashionable main-deck Lifebane Zombies that others started picking up on. It wasn't flashy, but it was certainly effective.

Pyka, meanwhile, was playing the Blue Devotion with as many frills as the deck could afford. He was sporting the white splash for Detention Sphere and Ephara, God of the Polis. No. 5 Sam Black said yesterday [link to http://archive.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/event... that he didn't like the white splash but that its biggest advantage was its better matchup against Black Devotion. With Ephara, it could play a better attrition game, and with Detention Sphere, Pack Rat wasn't game over like it often was for blue devotion. Pyka more or less agreed, saying he chose the white splash for "power over consistency."

Pyka has already played multiple Black Devotion decks this weekend and has yet to drop a game, a fact he attributes to the white splash. He claimed that, when it was Mono Blue, he felt just slightly advantaged over Black Devotion. But now he says the matchup is "more like 80-20."

The Games

Removal, removal, removal, Desecration Demon, Gray Merchant.

Oh, you want more than that?

Well, Somers started out strong with a second turn Pack Rat and an Underworld Connections, but lost his Connections to a Detention Sphere and, eventually, the Pack Rats as well. Pyka tried to pull ahead with Ephara, but it was the only creature he had, oddly enough, and it fell to Devour Flesh while sitting next to an un-animated Thassa, God of the Sea. It was an odd situation that Pyka said has just never come up before and, thus, he wasn't really even aware Ephara was turned on until Somers asked.

So, at this point, by my count, removal, removal, removal, impotent God.

Somers was stuck on four lands for a few turns, but that just meant his hand was full of gas. Pyka kept trying to resolve creatures and increase his devotion, but every single time Somers had some kind of removal.

So, still, removal, removal, removal, still existing impotent god of the sea.

Then, Desecration Demon. It started crashing in every turn, laying waste to either Pyka's life total or his creature base.

That's how it went for about six turns. Pyka would play some kind of threat, Somers would have removal, and they'd do the dance again the following turn. Eventually, however, Somers got in a large enough hit to put Pyka in range of a Gray Merchant. With no maindeck counterspells and no way to interact at instant speed, Pyka could simply pick up his cards—many of which were already conveniently stacked in the graveyard.


Despite his grumpy demeanor here—blame the photographer—Jeffrey Pyka was in good spirits with good reason.

 

For the second game, Pyka got off to the kind of start he wanted, getting in some early damage with a Frostburn Weird, punctuating the point with a "Bam" before playing both Thassa, God of the Sea and Ephara, God of the Polis.

 

Once again, Somers had the early removal and, once again, started placing cards in his graveyard almost immediately. This time however, it was Nightveil Specter laying the beats instead of Desecration Demon.

The bigger difference, however, was that Pyka was able to actually activate both Ephara and Thassa, swinging in for a massive 11 damage and dropping Somers all the way to six with one massive attack.

But here Pyka made an almost costly mistake. After leaving a Detention Sphere on the top of his deck with a scry, he forgot to resolve his Ephara trigger and failed to draw it. That let Somers grab it with Nightveil Specter and, a few turns later, actually cast it off an Island.

It could have been disastrous, but Somers, after trying to fight through both Thassa and Ephara for several turns, was out of gas anyway, and simply fell to a single Mutavault attack for the final points of damage.

For the second game, things got a little weird. Lifebane Zombie revealed a speculative hand that couldn't cast much but had tons of gas if it could ever reach the more than two mana Pyka had at his disposal.

He missed the first turn, but started hitting after that. Detention Sphere kept him in the game, and Thassa pushed him into the lead.


Jeffrey Pika could only watch as his mana failed to cooperate in the final game.

 

If that sentence makes it seem like Somers was standing still while Pyka drew out of his mana screw, that's because, well, he pretty much was. Somers was now the one stuck on mana, unable to garner anything past a third land. As Pyka kept hitting his lands and getting Thassa active even in the face of removal, the Mono Black player fell further and further behind.

 

Eventually, Master of Waves added a second major threat to the board, and, constrained on mana as he was, Somers just wasn't able to keep up with Pyka's growing army.

Pyka said it was games like the second that led him to playing the white splash, able to throw haymakers and permanently answer just about anything with Detention Sphere. Even if he stumbled, he had a much easier time coming back where, in the past, the deck could have trouble doing just that.