Round 3: (1) Eric Froehlich vs. (15) Joel Larsson

Posted in Event Coverage on August 27, 2015

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.

Starting off with a winning record from the first draft is a relief for players competing in the World Championship. Emerging with two or three wins—draft perfection—sets up the Constructed rounds to pay off for players that picked the right deck. With one win and one loss each, just one of the competitors that sat down would advance in the upper half of the tournament standings.

Eric Froehlich, the number one ranked player who reclaimed the title after watching now second-ranked Mike Sigrist steal away the Player of the Year and United States team captaincy for the World Magic Cup, wanted to make good on the claims of many of his friends: as a Pro Tour Hall of Fame elect, he was truly one of the best players in the world. Advancing into the first Constructed rounds in a winning position would start him down that path.

Joel Larsson, the fifteen-ranked player fresh off his victory at Pro Tour Magic Origins, had finally broken through the "Swedish Brian Kibler" name affectionately given to him by the community. With a Pro Tour win under his belt, a finalist finish behind it, and leading team Sweden in the World Magic Cup ahead, Larsson was ready to continue carving his name into Magic's history.

The Decks

"You're playing fifteen Raise the Alarms?" Froehlich asked incredulously, exaggerating the number of hatch marks next to where the card was listed on Larsson's deck registration form.

"Yeah," Larsson replied. He paused to finish looking over Froehlich's. "Your deck looks great. I guess you have a sweeper," Larsson said, noting the Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.

"Who's counting?" Froehlich asked.

"I've played sweepers every match. I'm like 'Really?'" Larsson shared his frustration with facing off again against a deck that could wipe away all of his tokens.

"I thought about taking some Shrivels to board into," Froehlich said.

Larsson's Green-White deck was focused on tokens, a powerful archetype in Modern Masters 2015 Edition that could quickly scale up damage through both wide pump effects—namely Sigil Blessing—as well as large monstrosities like a kicked Kavu Primarch and Scion of the Wild.

Froehlich too had a typical type of deck in the format: White-Blue that was built on the synergy of artifacts. "Creatures" like Glint Hawk Idol and Rusted Relic become powerful tools when there are enough artifacts to make them work. Capping off his curve with the game-changing Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Froehlich's best finisher was also one of the best answers he had for Larsson's plans.

The Games

For the first game Ethercaste Knight and Scion of the Wilds led the way for each side, though Froehlich was aggressive about using his removal to keep Larsson from developing.

"There's your combo!" Larsson said when Froehlich cast Rusted Relic on the fourth turn. Froehlich didn't return the smile.

Eric Froehlich, always able to maintain his game face.

A follow up Scion of the Wilds after Kozilek's Predator for Larsson was matched by a second Rusted Relic for Froehlich. Scatter the Seeds at the end of the turn shifted the scale back to Larsson: he now had a 9/9 on the battlefield that would be ready to attack.

A convoked Kavu Primarch before attacking with a 10/10 Scion—that Froehlich left unblocked—was met by Myr Enforcer the following turn. Larsson turned his entire team sideways and Froehlich blocked to stay alive, with four tokens left unblocked.

Sigil Blessing was enough to push the remaining 10 lethal damage through those four unblocked creatures.

The second game featured an early Mortarpod and Frogmite for Froehlich as Larsson didn't have a spell until his fourth turn with Kozilek's Predator. Two copies of Rusted Relic rumbled in for Froehlich as Larsson looked to stabilize against the flood of machines. A 4/4 Scion of the Wild led Froehlich to Mortarpod away an Eldrazi Spawn token, but Larsson just used it to cast Raise the Alarm in response.

Scion of the Wild would be a 5/5 instead.

Narcolepsy was Froehlich's more permanent answer to the Scion, but an end-of-turn Scatter the Seeds spread even more power across Larsson's battlefield. A second Scion into a kicked Kavu Primarch was the winning one-two in the first game, and Froehlich started doing some math.

Joel Larsson navigates the potential paths he can go down.

It wasn't calculating out well for him.

A third Rusted Relic and an attack in the air to put Larsson to 10 life—tapping himself out—was the best Froehlich could do. Battlegrace Angel was better for Larsson.

"That was a good one," Froehlich said about the apparent top-deck, but Larsson's Conclave Phalanx to go back up to 21 life before attacking with everyone looked even better. There were still two cards in Larsson's hand.

"Four lands, twelve creatures," Larsson said as Froehlich blocked to stop any damage from getting through. Larsson attacked with just the Scion of the Wild to follow up, triggering exalted from Battlegrace Angel. Froehlich chump blocked again and took out another token with Mortarpod.

Raise the Alarm replaced Larsson's missing tokens before he attacked with everyone again. Fortify was enough to deal 18 damage in one turn—the first damage from Larsson in the game but more than enough to mean even Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite wouldn't be enough to save Froehlich.

The hand of the top-ranked player was extended.

"Did you have Elesh Norn?" Larsson asked.

"I had it in my hand the last two to three turns," Froehlich admitted.

"The one card you couldn't play would have saved you."

"I just needed a land," Froehlich said, shaking his head.

Froehlich 0 – Larsson 2

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