Two is Better Than One

Posted in The Week That Was on April 12, 2013

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

The title applies to both halves of this week's column. The first half is your preview card for the day; a returning old favorite from the first time we toured the city of guilds. The card is equally capable of two different tasks at instant speed while occupying only one slot in your deck. Oddly, it's multicolored casting cost might be "cheaper" than monocolored spells performing half the work this card will be able to do in Standard.

We all know that creatures have—in the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum's character from The Fly—gotten better. They are cheap, big, and have a huge impact on the board the turn they come into play. Olivia Voldaren has been a terror, picking off gathered townsfolk and taking control of angels and beasts alike. Angel of Serenity is a back-breaking card whether it is being "cheated" into play with Unburial Rites or played "fair" for seven mana. And the parade of monsters shows no signs of slowing down with Dragon's Maze.

Fortunately, players will have access to this classic removal spell come the Prerelease:

And it has the added bonus of being able to kill artifacts as well. There are not a ton of artifacts you want to kill main deck right now, but the fact that this card does not need to be sided in to deal with cards your opponent might be bringing in against you is just one of the things that made Putrefy such a commonly played card the last time it had a go-around in Standard. As Obzedat, Ghost Council sees more and more play in Standard, I have seen more and more players bringing in Witchbane Orb to keep the bonus damage at bay—not to mention keeping Rakdos's Return from stripping bare their hand. How sweet is it to not have to even bring in a card to deal with the frustrating artifact? Plus, at instant speed, it provides a real answer to the elusive Ghost Council itself.

Reid Duke played a copy of Murder in his 4–0 Standard Jund deck at the Magic Online Championship as a failsafe against a late Angel of Serenity or other board-changing creature that might slip through the cracks.

Reid Duke's MOCS Deck

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Not only is it virtually painless to play Putrefy in the place of the Murder but it actually provides him with a free sideboard card that he does not need to account for or even side in should his opponent try to shut off Duress, Rakdos's Return, and Bonfire of the Damned with a sided-in Witchbane Orb.

Putrefy | Art by Igor Kieryluk

The second part of the column is about a pair of players who both decided to win a WMCQ and a PTQ on the same weekend, playing Standard. Sam Black already featured the deck of Finland's Sami Häggkvist in the Daily Decks column, but he was not the only player to accomplish that feat. Croatia's Toni Portolan will be returning to the World Magic Cup for the second time thanks to his WMCQ win, and he will also be playing in Dublin. All thanks to his red-white-blue control deck that was bereft of the usual suspects, Geist of Saint Traft and Boros Reckoner, but made up for it with board-sweeping control.

I caught up with the twenty-three-year-old pharmacy student to ask him about the amazing weekend and what it is like to be returning to the National Team for a second time.

BDM: Give us a little background about you as a Magic player.

Portolan: I've been playing Magic since Kamigawa, but my first bigger success was qualifying for Worlds in Rome. I've been to all Worlds since then, Chiba, San Francisco, and Indianapolis, only missing the National Team in San Francisco. I played at PT Paris and finished Top 32, after 17th place in Chiba. My biggest and favorite success was Top 8 of the first WMC in Indianapolis.

BDM: Having won one of these for two years in a row, was there any change from playing in the WMCQ last year to this year?

Portolan: I won the first WMC qualifier last year and I guess I was a bit more relaxed back then. I hadn't thought that the WMC was going to be so amazing and fun so I didn't take that tournament too seriously. But I really wanted to qualify this year after experiencing that level of teamwork in the WMC. I think that attendance rose this year, even though the point cap for qualifying is higher this year. Both additional awards at the qualifiers and the success of our team at WMC helped.

Portolan has been a fixture on the Croatian National Team over the last several years.

BDM: Tell us a little about the deck you played and if you made any changes from one tournament to the next?

Portolan: I played the same deck on both days, UWR control without Reckoners or Geists but with main-deck Supreme Verdicts. I only made one change in the sideboard, cutting the second Detention Sphere for the third Clone as I felt I got lucky against Reanimator the first tournament. My combined record was 15–1–2.

BDM: It is tough to win any one tournament—something the PTQ-playing readers of this column are well aware of—at what point did you think you could win two in the same weekend?

Portolan: Well , after I won the PTQ the first day I was pretty convinced I would fail miserably in the WMCQ as that happened last year—the tournaments were in different orders though. When I won the first round of the tournament, I thought I should stop being irrational since I'd proven the day before I'd been playing the best deck. When I managed to Top 8 again, I thought why not make an achievement of winning both events.

BDM: Any funny stories from playing and winning two tournaments in one weekend?

Portolan: I played against the same guy in the Swiss portion of the tournaments, and I played against my good friend, Dinko Sulicic, in both Top 8s. I felt guilty after eliminating him twice and I would really like to have him on the team. I guess I don't have a funny story, but whenever I was casting Aurelia, the Warleader I was announcing it as Bump in the Night both days, as Stjepan Sučić was trying to persuade me into not playing it with that argument.

BDM: Tell us about the deck and why you played it.

Portolan: I played UWR control deck, which I'd been testing since I saw the decklist in the first online PTQ, three weeks ago. Then a week later, two online PTQs were won by the same deck, and with a new tech of Clone in the sideboard for the bad Reanimator matchup, I was sold. I've been playing the midrange UWR shell since PT Gatecrash but didn't like the deck that much. Adding more counterspells and sweepers like Supreme Verdicts, while removing midrange cards like Boros Reckoner, made me like the deck more and more, while making it stronger in the process.

BDM: There are still a handful of events between now and season's end. Any chance of you overtaking the lead for National Champion and passing the slot down to the second-place finisher?

Portolan: I'm not planning in playing any GP in the nearest future as I'm planning to graduate in a month. Our National captain slot is occupied by Grgur Petric Maretic, who is threatening with his ninja skills anyone who tries to take his rightful spot.

Toni Portolan's RWU Control

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