We have something pretty cool for you this round. Luis Navas, a local Chilean player, just picked up Magic a year ago after finishing university. Upon doing so, he almost immediately Top 8ed a World Magic Cup Qualifier with a Rakdos Aggro deck featuring last year’s hard hitters in Thundermaw Hellkite and Falkenrath Aristocrat. This weekend, he’s gone Black and Red again, but with a lower curve and some far less likely hits.
We’ll have a deck tech coming up, so I won’t get into details, but suffice to say Mogis’s Marauder is involved. Heavily. Read the card again if you must.
Across from him for Round 11 is exactly the kind of matchup Navas wants to see: Gonzalo Dominguez with Esper Control. Navas built his deck to prey on the slow control deck, meaning Dominguez will have to have a lot go right to take the match. And with both players at 9-1, every match is precious if they want to make a final run at the Top 8.
Navas would have a running start every game. The only question was if Dominguez could catch up.
Tormented Hero plus a Madcap Skills put Dominguez to 14 before he even played his third land, and it looked like the Esper player would be faced with a dizzying array of aggressive Black Red spells that, occasionally, he had to read.
Such as Mogis’s Marauder, the draft special that helped drop Dominguez to just 8 life on turn four.
Yup, turn four.
Dominguez looked to stem the bleeding with Blood Baron of Vizkopa, but a second Madcap Skills made Blood Baron unable to block and dropped the Esper player to a precarious three life before forcing him to Supreme Verdict away what looked like his trump card, but not before gaining four life.
Navas kept the pressure ratcheted up, playing Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch—Navas said it was one of, if not the, best cards in his deck—and attacking Dominguez down to three. A second Supreme Verdict had to clean up that particular mess, but Dominguez fell to one life and had to burn a Sphinx’s Revelation for two just to stay alive.
Navas could have actually won that turn with a Madcap Skills, but faced with playing around Sphinx’s Revelation and removal, Navas chose to play around removal. That gave Dominguez the turn he needed to draw two cards and stabilize, tenuously, at one life.
Caption: It took nearly every resource Gonzalo Dominguez had, but he somehow managed to stabilize at exactly one life in the first game.]
But that one life was enough to hold off Navas’ attack for a few turns. Jace, Architect of Thought found the third Detention Sphere right on time to take out Xathrid Necromancer, and then found a Dissolve to give him some measure of protection.
Navas had another difficult decision that backfired a few turns later when, aware of the one Dissolve, he baited it out with a Xathrid Necromancer before firing off a lethal Lightning Strike. That too, was met with Dissolve.
When Navas couldn’t find another Lightning Strike or a way to break through, he fell a few turns later to Elspeth tokens and an Aetherling.
All with Dominguez sill on exactly one life.
Navas’ hand wasn’t nearly as explosive as his first, but it did contain both Thoughtseize and Burning Earth, a potentially lethal combination against an opponent with a lot of nonbasics and few ways to remove an enchantment. With only Mogis’s Marauders to start attacking, he would be leaning heavily on the punishing four-mana spell.
The Thoughtseize, unfortunately, revealed a number of ways to deal with Burning Earth, including both Dissolve and two Detention Spheres. Instead of fighting over the spells, Navas elected to remove Blood Baron from the equation before it had a chance to do any damage—or gain any life.
Instead he started attacking with a few 2/2s he had drawn over his first few turns, even as Dominguez declined to use removal on the creatures. Eventually he had to pull the trigger on the first Detention Sphere and, unfortunately for him, the second. Navas had expertly drawn out all of Dominguez’s answers for Burning Earth.
[insert card image Burning Earth]
The Burning Earth that inevitably followed made Dominguez squirm as he fell to just two life to cast an Elspeth. With access to only two basic lands, Elspeth was likely all he would be doing for the foreseeable future.
Fully aware of this, Navas played Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch fully leashed in order for it not to die to Elspeth. The decision paid off when, on the last turn before Elspeth tokens would kill him, a Mogis’s Marauders showed up to give both Exava and the Marauders itself Intimidate, letting him swing past the token defense Dominguez to force a third game.
Thoughtseize revealed Dominguez’s mana-hungry deck was light on lands, with just two to go with a bevy of expensive cards and two cheap removal spells. Yet, despite the presence of Azorius Charm and Devour Flesh, Navas still took Blood Baron out of Dominguez’s hand. That’s how good the 4/4 lifelink, protection from Black creature was against him.
Fortunatly for Dominguez, Azorius Charm was able to find him his third land. Unfortunately, it did so at the cost of his turn while a 3/1 haste creature beat him down and a second Thoughtseize ripped Dissolve from his hand. He would certainly be facing an uphill battle at this point as Navas continued to add to his board.
Caption: Luis Navas might seem like he’s just attacking with Rakdos’ affiliated creatures, but there’s a method behind his madness, and a 10-1 record to show for it.]
Once again, Navas expertly got Dominguez to tap down on his turn by forcing him to use sorcery-speed removal, clearing the way for Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch to storm in unimpeded. And when Dominguez dealt with the first Exava, Navas had a second waiting for more than lethal damage.
Navas said much of his advantage came from the fact that, unlike Mono Red, his deck doesn’t just fold to a Supreme Verdict, especially with Xathrid Necromancer and a number of Humans in his deck. As he showed time and time again, his unique combination of haste and lethally fast creatures can dodge all the removal you can throw at it.
Navas 2 – Dominguez 1