Frank Karsten, one of a number of Dutch Hall of Fame members, came along to Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with high goals, along with a highlander deck. We looked at his mono-red burn aggro deck yesterday, which he took to a 3-2 finish. With 2-1 in the first draft, and a further win in the first round of the day, Karsten is still in a spot to be able to secure an unlikely first: to be the first player ever to make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour playing a deck where every card apart from basic lands is unique. Strictly speaking, his Limited deck is breaking a bit of a trend. Apparently, drafting highlander is just too difficult. Frank doesn't seem to mind.
Karsten's opponent Jun'ya Iyanaga of Japan, has had something of a roller coaster ride of Magic in the last year or so. He won the World Championships in San Francisco in 2011, and was in Seattle recently at the Magic Players Championship to defend his title.
Both Iyanaga and Karsten appeared to be on Golgari decks, and while Karsten fired off Daggerdrone Imp as his first play, Iyanaga, on the play, had a Grisly Salvage into Trestle Troll, a nice answer to the 1/1 flyer. A Mountain from Iyanaga signalled a more complicated guild affiliation than simple membership of the Golgari Swarm, though there was not an immediate surge of Rakdos cards forthcoming from the Japanese player.
Dead Reveler and Sluiceway Scorpion came from Frank, and the latter at least was mirrored by Iyanaga. It was Karsten who was first to get into the red zone though, with each of these new threats. Karsten had a second scorpion to follow up with, in what was a board clogged with scavenge monsters. While that Daggerdrone Imp looked unimpressive initially, it had the potential to get quite out of hand. Rites of Reaping pumped the Daggerdrone Imp first, while killing Iyanaga's scorpion. Now Iyanaga had some choices as Frank rushed in with his team. 11 damage was coming his way, and with only Trestle Troll to block with, he chose to block the flyer, and used Giant Growth to keep his wall around.
That Trestle Troll on the Japanese side of the board grew to 3/6 thanks to Scavenge on Sluiceway Scorpion. With regenerate thrown into the bargain, it was more or less the perfect blocker. Karsten was unafraid. He rumbled into the red zone with seven power of creatures, intent on getting in damage where he could. A block from Iyanaga meant he dropped to 6.
When Iyanaga played a Plains, it met a small laugh from Karsten, who noted his opponent's deck was now four colours. The Centaur's Accord that followed was a little more sobering though, giving Iyanaga a team of blockers for the Dutch assault, which was proving relentless. Scorpions traded off with Centaurs, and one of them was fed to Dead Reveler after combat. Karsten also had a Perilous Shadow with which to threaten big attacks.
Iyanaga leaned on his elbow, lost in thought. He played a Carnival Helsteed without unleash, in order to get another blocker. Karsten's life total had only gone up (thanks to Daggerdrone Imp), while Iyanaga was now on just 6 life. Shields were most definitely up.
Karsten used Sluiceway Scorpion's scavenge ability to put two +1/+1 counters on Iyanaga's Carnival Hellsteed. Even though it had not been unleashed, suddenly it was not in a position of being able to block. This interaction was one new to Iyanaga, but is sure to be one that is very important in the format going forward, pivotal to the Rakdos versus Golgari matchup.
Korozda Monitor came from Iyanaga, in answer to a Stonefare Crocodile from Karsten. The crocodile let him get in, knocking Iyanaga to 1 life. Iyanaga could not draw out of this position and scooped up his cards.
Frank Karsten 1, 0 Jun'ya Iyanaga
For the second game, Iyanaga chose to be on the draw, potentially a choice motivated by his four color mana base. Both players kept their openers, and Karsten kicked things off in the second with an unleashed Grim Roustabout. A Dead Reveler soon followed, in what was a swift start from Karsten. Sewer Shambler came from Iyanaga, which he was hesitant to want to block with, given the value of swampwalk in the matchup.
Next up came Karsten's rare: Wild Beastmaster. The innocuous 1/1 could make Karsten's team a little bigger on attacks in the early game, and with any kind of pumping, it would be colossal. A Chorus of Might gave the Wild Beastmaster +3/+3 and trample, meaning that Dead Reveler and Grim Roustabout would each get +4/+4. Now Iyanaga was in real trouble. Attacks killed off Iyanaga's team, and dropped him to 5. He did trade Sluiceway Scorpion for the Beastmaster, such that he wouldn't need to worry about such attacks again, but on just 5 life, and facing down five power worth of creatures, it didn't seem that Karsten needed much in the way of tricks going forward.
Iyanaga played a Korozda Mauler and passed. The 3/3 would potentially buy him some time, though a Grisly Salvage did give Karsten some more scavengers to work with. Attacks brought Iyanaga to 2, and Karsten cast a Sluiceway Scorpion. Would this be it for the Japanese player?
Axebane Guardian from Iyanaga gave him two blockers, but Karsten had three attackers. He tentatively sent them into the red zone, awaiting a trick of some kind. None was coming though, with just a handshake from Iyanaga.
Frank Karsten wins 2, Jun'ya Iyanaga 0