Posted in NEWS on December 9, 2013

At 9-2-1, Nicolas De Nicola and Luis Gutierrez had absolutely zero room for error. Win out and there was a good shot they could make the Top 8. Stumble just once and they could tumble all the way down the standings.

But neither player would have it easy this round. De Nicola was playing Esper Control while Gutierrez had opted for its cousin, UW Control. The matchup usually favored Esper decks with access to better disruption, but Gutierrez had adeptly piloted his deck through a field rife with Esper so far, so doing it again wasn’t out of the question.

De Nicola certainly has the edge in experience. The Argentinian was his country’s national champion in both 2011 and 2012, representing his country at both the World Championships and World Magic Cup in those years. He has played—and succeeded—at a high level for several years and would love nothing more than to take this weekend’s trophy back to Argentina.

Game 1

The early game consisted of a predictable smattering of cantrips and land drops as multiple Azorius Charms were cycled to keep the goods flowing.

However, they didn’t flow very freely for Gutierrez, who found himself, despite casting Quicken and three Azorius Charms, helplessly stuck at four lands while De Nicola rocketed up to seven.

That allowed the Esper player to resolve a Jace, Architect of Thought, which lasted only as long as it took Gutierrez to decide to fire off a Ratchet Bomb. De Nicola continued his parade of Planeswalkers with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, but it, too, fell to Ratchet Bomb in due time.

Eventually, Gutierrez started hitting his land drops again and began to keep pace with De Nicola, even able to leverage his Mutavaults—one of his few advantages in this matchup—to keep Jace, Architect of Thought off the board.

The mana base is supposed to be one of UW Control’s strengths, but Luis Gutierrez floundered on land early in the matchup.

You could tell it was a control matchup as the two asked the same question over and over again. How many cards in hand?

“Siete. Tu?”


(That’s seven, for the non-Spanish speaking crowd)

Eventually, the pair started throwing haymakers. Gutierrez, with no other real action, started with an Elspeth, but that just allowed De Nicola to fire right back with a Sphinx’s Revelation for five followed by an Aetherling. Resolving the first Aetherling is key to winning the control mirror, so De Nicola clearly got the better of that exchange.

Faced with a losing board position, Gutierrez got aggressive. Or, at least his deck’s version of aggressive. He animated two Mutavaults and attacked with both, as well as his three Soldier tokens, directly into Aetherling. It was, however, a futile gesture, as Aetherling killed Elspeth and, the very next turn, forced the concession.

Game 2

Once again, Gutierrez found himself stuck on lands. This time, however, De Nicola was right there with him. Neither player had more than three lands in play by about turn five, until De Nicola finally hit his fourth.

Still, De Nicola had done some work, playing two Thoughtseizes to draw out a Negate and Syncopate while Gutierrez mostly spent his time playing Ratchet Bombs and attacking with Mutavault.

Caption: Nicolas De Nicola. Not pictured, the Aetherling that’s doing all of the real work.]

Eventually, that Mutavault attacked into an Azorius Charm, setting Gutierrez back and costing him, when he scryed it away with Dissolve, that very same Mutavault. He then attempted an Elspeth, despite De Nicola’s open mana and no way to protect it, and was summarily punished by Aetherling.

At this point, De Nicola held a large lead in the number of lands, with nine to Gutierrez’s six—only two of which made blue mana. Trapped between an Aetherling and a hard place, there was little Gutierrez could do to chase away the virtually unkillable Shapeshifter. There were some more spells played and some land management over the next few turns, but De Nicola was careful to protect his Aetherling and play around any potential surprises.

With an Aetherling in tow and a song in his heart, De Nicola took the match—and an important 10th match win to stay alive for the Top 8.