Round 9: (8) Samuel Black vs. (3) Paul Rietzl

Posted in Event Coverage on August 28, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

"You don't have a lot of artifacts for your Thopter Spy Network," eighth-ranked Samuel Black said while perusing over third-ranked Paul Rietzl's Magic Origins draft pool.

"No," was Rietzl's reply while looking over Black's pool himself. Later, not to be outdone, Rietzl observed, "Thought about being black for a bit, huh?"

Once the decklists were put away, Rietzl started mouthing some sort of gibberish. But because he realized he was being observed doing it, he told Black. "Jav Fury Grasp BLAC." This did not clear up anything for anybody.

"Jav Fury Grasp BLAC—Bonds, Leap, Act, Call. It's the mnemonic to remember your tricks. You have two copies of the first three [Lightning Javelin, Chandra's Fury, and Grasp of the Hieromancer]—and Bonds, Leap, Act, Call [Suppression Bonds, Mighty Leap, Act of Treason, Call of the Full Moon]. Get it? BLAC. Sam Black."

This odd situation is unique to the World Championship. First, like always, you are allowed to take notes once the round clock starts. Second, at the World Championship, draft pools are exchanged at the beginning of the round. But third, the video coverage takes some precedence at such a prestigious event, so there can be lag time between when you stopping looking at the pool, and when you're allowed to take notes. Hence Rietzl's meditative mouthing, "Jav Fury Grasp BLAC." So he won't forget what to write down once he's allowed to.

Black nominally played along. He named some cards he had seen in Rietzl's pool, and continued, "…and you have some big monsters­: Skaab Goliath and Ringwarden Owl."

"Am I playing Ringwarden Owl?" Rietzl looked over at me and pointed to his head: "Mind games." He then went back to chanting mnemonic devices in his head.

On the deck matchup itself, Rietzl put it best. "There are two ways [Black's] going to beat me," he explained. "I'm going to get totally blown out, or I'm going to barely stabilize, and he'll burn me out. I have to prevent that at all costs."

Paul Rietzl is great at mind games, but so is his teammate Samuel Black.

Rietzl's Blue Artifact deck had some powerful synergy, but his opponent was full of tricks, and could win out of nowhere. Black had just come off a game where he cast Act of Treason on a renowned Outland Colossus, then cast a Call of the Full Moon on it to swing for the exact 15 damage to win out of nowhere. Sam's hoping to replicate that result here.

The Games

Paul Rietzl started with a duo of artifacts in Throwing Knives and Ramroller. Along with his next-turn Watercourser, he was setting up a defense network that could also be aggressive. As Black's deck is quite fast and relentless, Rietzl had to both stop the assault and hit back at the same time.

Black started with three creatures by turn three: Abbot of Keral Keep, Thopter Engineer, and a Thopter token. Both these starts were moving.

By the time Black used his fifth turn to cast a Totem-Guide Hartebeest to find Call of the Full Moon, the life totals were 14-12 in the Madisonian's favor. After a Suppression Bonds on the Ramroller, Black's lead was becoming clear.

Black's deck was full of power, along with plenty of ways to make a win appear out of nowhere.

Rietzl wanted to play the advantage machine, Thopter Spy Network, in his hand, but thanks to his new mnemonic device, he was aware of all the ways playing a four mana do-nothing could go wrong for him. He instead cast an Aspiring Aeronaut.

Black played the Call of the Full Moon on his Hartebeest and the Antelope lumbered into the red zone.

"That's a 5/7? Trample, right?" Rietzl asked. It was.

Rietzl blocked and took some damage, but importantly, he got his second creature into the graveyard. This turned his Skaab Goliath from a big, uncastable jerk into a big, castable one. The blue behemoth sat on the field for multiple turns and didn't attack, threatening to block and devour any red or white creature with the gumption to cross its path. This was the just the defender Rietzl had needed.

The 6/9 stop sign gave Rietzl time to breath. After he cast his Thopter Spy Network, his board was complete. Save for some serious Act of Treason shenanigans, Black was not going to get out of this alive. Rietzl bounced a would-be blocker with Separatist Voidmage; cast Anchor to the Æther on the other one, and ensured his victory.

"Your deck is scary; there were a lot of turns I was afraid to die," Paul Rietzl said while exchanging cards in his sideboard. "I mean, I try not to die; but sometimes you die." He switched out his red cards for some white ones instead—Swift Reckoning, Clash of Wills, Thunderclap Wyvern, and Kytheon's Irregulars were now in the forty.

While shuffling up, a familiar, unique laugh was heard resonating in the room. Rietzl said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Brian Kibler has entered the building." And he had.

Rietzl is almost as experienced at table talk and jokes as he is at playing Magic.

Both Black and Rietzl shared a chuckle then drew up for their next game.

In the second meeting, Black had an early Boggart Brute, and after some thought cast a Call of the Full Moon on it and attacked. He saw Rietzl had three lands, and knew of all Rietzl's bounce, he thought it was worth the risk, and the potential card. The 6/4 Brute took Rietzl to 14.

What he didn't know was that Rietzl had kept a hand with six blue spells and a Plains (four of which were bounce spells). Paul had said about the hand, "It was my six best cards and a Plains…it was a little speculative."

On his opponent's next turn, Black hovered his creature over the battlefield in his hand, expecting the bounce. And it came. Because Rietzl drew the land he needed again (with big props to Sigiled Starfish). Separatist Voidmage sent the Brute back to Black's grip, and the Call of the Full Moon to the graveyard.

After that, Black started falling desperately behind on the board. By around turn six Rietzl had Sigiled Starfish, Ramroller, Aspiring Aeronaut (with Thopter in tow), and Thopter Spy Network. His deck had curved out like charm. The scryfish had been working some magic.

But Black's deck didn't actually need that much board presence to get a victory. He had just Akroan Jailer and Boggart Brute, but with a Grasp of the Hieromancer on the Brute, an Act of Treason in hand and his opponent at 11, Black had the potential to eke out this game. This was just what Rietzl was talking about.

But then the rest of those "best cards" in Rietzl's opening hand came down. Thanks to another Voidmage and a Harbinger of the Tides, Rietzl assured that Boggart Brute would never do anything more than it already had. Then Rietzl cruised his 1/1 fliers and his various 2/2s to victory.

Black 0 – Rietzl 2

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