Posted in NEWS on May 16, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Brian Kibler is a media sensation. Between his popular articles and blog posts and larger-than-life presence on social media, the two-time Pro Tour champion is a one of the most renown faces of the Pro Tour. With legions of fans that even buy his likeness to play Magic on, you'd have to search through history to find someone that might qualify as his nemesis.

Fellow Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Darwin Kastle is that nemesis. Take, for example, this pregame conversation.

"I think the last time we played was Nationals.... 2010?" Kibler asked.

"Yeah... something like that. We used to play a lot more," and equally unsure Kastle answered.

"You used to beat me a lot," Kibler recalled.

"That's because I used to play a lot. Also I can't believe I played both Eric Froehlich," the 22nd-ranked players, "and Josh Utter-Leyton," the 13th-ranked player, "without a getting a feature match. I guess it took you to elevate me here."

"Well, neither of them are in the Hall of Fame," was the pithy finishing quip from Kibler, who was sporting his team's BUG Control deck that you saw in Round 6's Feature Match with Luis-Scott Vargas. Kastle, however, took a more direct approach.

Hall of Famers Darwin Kastle and Brian Kibler have been longtime rivals on the Pro Tour, with Kibler's lifetime record against Kastle being abysmal. Would he be able to change that around today?

Unlike Matt Sperling's two-color version of the heroic archetype, Kastle's heroic deck eschews Islands. How did he take the fork in the road? "I started preparing for the Pro Tour Saturday – so recently," Kastle admitted. "I built some test decks and didn't start testing Sunday. Aside from a couple games, I had a very small window to work so I couldn't develop anything super complex. We," meaning fellow Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and longtime friend Rob Dougherty, "looked online to see what was doing well and built those. We even tried to improve them. We focused on mono-colored decks since they're easier to master. I was worried about knowing what my opponents were playing, but if I could beat them fast enough it wouldn't matter."

"One of my favorite decks was White-Blue Heroic." Kastle continued. "Unfortunately, when I was losing it was to mana issues. I couldn't get one of my colors whenever I needed it. Rob pointed out to me we could build a mono-white version just as powerful that wouldn't get color screwed."

So what sets Kastle's deck apart from the more color version? "My big tech was Launch the Fleets," Kastle said. "The strive [cost] is colorless, and that card's been amazing for me. It did relatively well in our small testing pool. The idea of switching to a really complicated deck wasn't appealing."

Why was Kastle's aggro deck proceeding through players so quickly? "A lot of people are playing three-color decks, and their draws come out a little slow and awkward," Kastle said. "I just roll over them. The premise of my deck is if your draw doesn't come out very well it's not going to work out for you. One my key cards is Gods Willing. Everyone's got a removal spell, so having four of those works out really well. Ajani's Presence and Launch the Fleets let me play around removal as well."

The Games

Phalanx Leader, joined by Hero of Iroas, from Kastle faced off against Sylvan Caryatid from Kibler. A third turn Kiora, the Crashing Wave tried to put the brake from the Hero for a turn, but Kastle's Launch the Fleet let him clear the planeswalker anyway. Despite Dissolve from Kibler handling the first, Kastle cast a second Ordeal of Heliod on Phalanx Leader along with Gods Willing, letting him gain 10 life and attack for lethal thanks to the now 4/4 white Solder tokens.

Kastle's direct approach to the format has left him with a sleek and extremely fast mono-white Heroic strategy.

The game had hardly started before it was over.

"I'm pretty sure your deck's like Josh Utter-Leyton's, or at least very similar – not that that's the high bar," Kastle said.

Kibler just smiled back.

"Do you have any idea if you're be playing first?" Kastle asked.

"I'll decide when I'm done sideboarding," Kibler said, but it wasn't long before he shared his answer: "I will play first."

"Shocking, but aren't you worried about your mana costs..." Kastle asked.

Being the aggressive deck can be an uphill battle when you're starting second. However, the second game started like the first with Favored Hoplite into Hero of Iroas to begin an army for Kastle, but Kibler's Courser of Kruphix was a large 2/4 to bar the door. Hopeful Eidolon on Phalanx Leader began beefing up Kastle's troops, and Kibler tried for Hero's Downfall on Hero of Iroas. Saving it with Gods Willing meant Kastle dropped the other Hall of Fame player to 11 life.

Kibler's BUG Control deck struggles to fight against the hyper-aggressive deck that Kastle chose to play for this weekend.

Kibler untapped to play a Thoughtseize that revealed two Plains in Kastle's hand.

"That reminds me of the time you dropped Counterspell, then I took two out of your hand with Cabal Therapy," Kastle said.

"Yeah, you beat me there."

"I see that hasn't slowed you down despite that," Kaste said, regarding Kibler's rapid fire shuffling.

"And you found other ways to show the card," pointing to Courser that was diligently revealing everything Kibler was keeping or drawing from scry.

After the discard whiff, Bile Blight killed off Phalanx Leader but dropped Kibler to 8 life. Mana Confluence had been bleeding him the entire game. Drawing Ordeal of Heliod let Kastle gain 10 life thanks to previous +1/+1 counters and attack for almost lethal – Courser of Kruphix died delaying that for a turn – but it was enough after Kibler drew on his turn.

"I was choked on mana. Not hitting anything off Courser is rough," Kibler explained.

"I guess I shouldn't talk about my sideboard strategy since you didn't actually see any of the cards," Kastle said. "I'm still not sure if I'm sideboarding correctly, but I'll try to make your tiebreakers better. Good luck tomorrow."

"Thanks, you too."

History, it seems, forever repeats.

Kibler 0 – Kastle 2