Posted in NEWS on April 6, 2014

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich put up an impressive finish with the touch of red that he added to the Black Devotion deck, finishing in the Top 16 and missing out thanks to some rough beats in the final rounds of Grand Prix Cincinnati. Today, he's playing the same general idea, but has some prepared with a few changes based on his expectations of what this week's metagame looks like.

"I made a few changes to the deck. I really liked it," Froehlich said. "This tournament, I actually have no red cards in the main deck, but I have three Rakdos's Returns in the sideboard.. Rakdos's Return is one of the best cards in Standard, but at the same time it needs complements."

On the other hand, a card that was missing from his 75 in Cincinnati – Pack Rat – has now made its appearance in his list. "I didn't play Pack Rat in my main deck [in Cincinnati], because I think it's a lot weaker in Standard and I still think that, but the decks that it is better against I thought were going to be more popular this week," Froehlich explained.

The expected popularity of Yuuya Watanabe's Grand Prix Beijing-winning list would favor Pack Rat in the main deck, with Watanabe's one main-deck Bile Blight making way for Pack Rat to be a much stronger play. With the Blue Devotion decks now moving back to Mono-Blue, and away from variants running Temple of Enlightenment and Detention Sphere, Pack Rat is much better positioned strategy.

The Rakdos's Returns work better out of the sideboard against decks like Esper and – surprisingly – the Jund Monsters decks since their deck can sometimes be too slow to deal with the card. "Against Esper, my plan morphs into stripping their hand of counterspells, letting them keep all their Detention Spheres and Supreme Verdicts. Just don't play things early, then hit them with Rakdos's Return," Froehlich said.

The game plan has been working out for him all day, and his metagame call also accurate. Froehlich sits at 7-0 going into the eighth round against Daniel Ward, who is bringing Bant Control to the table.

While Froehlich's ability to strip a control deck's hand would be powerful, it was not a guaranteed route to victory if the control player could draw Sphinx's Revelation at the right time.

The Games

While Froehlich simply played a Swamp and a Mutavault for his first two turns, Ward came out with immediate info on his deck archetype, casting Sylvan Caryatid off of a Breeding Pool and Hallowed Fountain. Froehlich was more than happy to put Underworld Connections onto the table with his opponent lacking any way to respond. When Froehlich drew a card, he revealed his red splash with a tapped Blood Crypt. An upkeep Devour Flesh forced a Syncopate from Ward, who chose to save his 0/3 creature.

Daniel Ward

With Ward now tapped out, Erebos, God of the Dead came down for Froehlich, who passed back with an Underworld Connections land on the table. Ward then fired back with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which made three tokens. Lifebane Zombie revealed what Froehlich was up against: two Jace, Architect of Thought, Ætherling, and Azorius Charm. An attack from Erebos prompted a chump-block with one of Elspeth's tokens, but Ætherling from Ward with blue mana open gave him a nigh impervious threat gave Ward a chance.

Froehlich fought back, casting Thoughtseize and stripping Ward of Azorius Charm. Lifebane Zombie cracked in for 3, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel post-combat dropped Ward to 8. Jace, Architect of Thought found Ward Kiora, the Crashing Wave. Ætherling cracked in for 4 unbloackable damage, and Ward passed back. Hero's Downfall dispatched Elspeth before it could go ultimate, and Lifebane Zombie finished off Jace, Architect of Thought. However, another Jace came down on the next turn, netting Ward Dissolve.

No. 23 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich

Froehlich dug two cards deep with Erebos. Hero's Downfall took out Ætherling, Ward unwilling to drop below three mana for a potential Dissolve on Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which would be lethal. The soldier tokens Elspeth had made attacked in, getting through for 4. Kiora, the Crashing Wave came down and went to one loyalty when Temple of Mystery left a card on top, as Ward drew and cast Supreme Verdict. Froehlich used Devour Flesh to sacrifice his Gray Merchant, gaining 4.

When Froehlich had Whip of Erebos and an activation to bring the Gray Merchant back on the next turn, an attack with the Merchant and Erebos, God of the Dead locked up the game for Froehlich, who went from an Erebos and an Underworld Connections to a sudden 14 damage out of nowhere, prompting the players to move to Game 2.

Ward had an optimal start in the second game with a second-turn Sylvan Caryatid, while Froehlich had no action at all to go with his lands as the game became draw-go. Thoughtseize on Froehlich's fifth turn prompted Negate, giving Froehlich the window to resolve Erebos, God of the Dead. It was prompted exiled with Detention Sphere, but this paved the way for Froehlich to cast Rakdos's Return for Ward's whole hand, putting Froehlich way ahead, and showcasing the power of Rakdos's Return against the Sphinx's Revelation decks.

However, Dissolve to stop Froehlich's Desecration Demon from getting onto the board, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion put Ward back into the game. While Froehlich had Hero's Downfall to shut down the planeswalker, the three tokens it provided would be be a contending force to race Froehlich's Lifebane Zombie. However, 1/1 tokens have problems attacking into untapped Mutavaults, and despite Froehlich's glut of lands, two of the lands were Mutavaults, so he still had the advantage in the race.

Detention Sphere from Froehlich swung that race back a bit, but Froehlich simply replaced his exiled zombie with another. Thoughtseize plucked Supreme Verdict out of Ward's hand, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel further sped up Froehlich's clock. Another Gray Merchant of Asphodel earned the handshake from Ward when Ward played his last card, Azorius Charm, to stave off lethal from Lifebane Zombie.

Froehlich 2 – Ward 0