Quarterfinals: Finland vs. Belarus

Posted in Event Coverage on November 20, 2016

By Tobi Henke

Belarus had almost broken through to the Top 8 at the World Magic Cup the previous year, finishing in ninth place. This year's captain Pavel Miadzvedski had been on the team then as well, as he had been for every World Magic Cup. Ihar Klionski had made the Belarussian team before too, whereas Finland's four were all new to the tournament.

For the matchups in this quarterfinal pairing, one thing was certain: sideboarding would play a crucial role. Finland's Lauri Pispa and his Lantern Control deck might be able to lock down the first game with the help of Ensnaring Bridge and the combination of Lantern of Insight plus Codex Shredder/Ghoulcaller's Bell/Pyxis of Pandemonium, but Jund player Dmitry Andronchik would bring in a lot of additional artifact removal for the second game.

Likewise, Matti Kuisma's Dredge was favored against Ihar Klionski's Bant Eldrazi, but not so much against the Rest in Peace and Grafdigger's Cage in Klionski's sideboard.

Finally, Leo Lahonen's Blue-Red Kiln Fiend was something of a wild card. Belarus, represented by Pavel Miadzvedski, brought Affinity to this fight, and it wasn't clear how the two decks matched up. With one Chalice of the Void in Affinity's sideboard and two Shattering Sprees for the blue-red deck, the dynamic at least wouldn't shift dramatically after the first game.

Seat C: Leo Lahonen (Blue-Red Kiln Fiend) vs. Pavel Miadzvedski (Affinity)

The most important card in this matchup turned out to be Thing in the Ice, summoned to the battlefield by Lahonen on turn two. The players fought over the 0/4; Galvanic Blast tried to kill it, but Mutagenic Growth saved it. Soon the creatures on the board amounted to just one Awoken Horror. Miadzvedski's draw didn't offer much to impede the giant 7/8, and Lahonen rode it to victory.

Pavel Miadzvedski (right) couldn't throw enough in the way of Leo Lahonen's (left) Awoken Horror.

Going first in Game 2, Miadzvedski led with the single Chalice of the Void in his sideboard. When that came down on turn two, Lahonen had only cast a single Monastery Swiftspear and was now stuck with a whopping five one-mana cards in his hand. Luckily, Thing in the Ice came to save the day and didn't care whether spells were countered—it just wanted to see them cast. So, on turn three Lahonen cast Vapor Snag, Serum Visions, and a pair of Gitaxian Probes, and awoke the Horror once again. Miadzvedski fell to 12, a convenient number, as next turn he chumped with Ornithopter and took 12 when Awoken Horror developed a serious case of Temur Battle Rage.

Leo Lahonen defeated Pavel Miadzvedski 2-0.

Seat A: Lauri Pispa (Lantern Control) vs. Dmitry Andronchik (Jund)

The game began with the players trading discard spells. Soon a situation developed where Pispa had Lantern of Insight and Pyxis of Pandemonium to exert some influence over everybody's draws. But he didn't have Ensnaring Bridge yet and was under attack by Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Even when Codex Shredder and Ghoulcaller's Bell increased his library manipulation abilities considerably, Ensnaring Bridge remained absent.

Lauri Pispa (left) needed to find an answer to Dmitry Andronchik's (right) Kalitas.

When Pispa finally saw an Ensnaring Bridge on top of his library, he also saw Maelstrom Pulse on Andronchik's. So he used Codex Shredder on Andronchik, but Andronchik had smartly saved two fetch lands and used one to shuffle the card away. After all had resolved, the top card of Andronchik's library was a useless land, so Andronchik cracked another fetch land...and then revealed Maelstrom Pulse on top of his library once again.

"That was great," Pispa admitted. He was in a pickle. Using Ghoulcaller's Bell and Pyxis of Pandemonium were out of the question as he needed Ensnaring Bridge to remain on top of his library. The fight over the top card of Andronchik's library ultimately concluded with Pispa sacrificing Lantern of Insight itself, leaving the new top card in the dark.

"Fingers crossed," he said. It was of no use. Kalitas brought Pispa to 5, Lightning Bolt and a topdecked Collective Brutality brought him down to 0.

"I missed 1 life off of Inventors' Fair," Pispa lamented. "With it I probably win this game. My teammate and I started talking, which we shouldn't have done. I got distracted and then I missed the trigger. This will haunt me forever."

For the second game Pispa kept a hand with two Abrupt Decays, two Lantern of Insights, Inventors' Fair, Ghost Quarter, and Botanical Sanctum. Andronchik had Leyline of the Void, Ancient Grudge, Dark Confidant, Scavenging Ooze, and two lands.

Finland National Champion Lauri Pispa seemed happy with his opening hand.

Early on, only Andronchik got an advantage from the Lanterns shining their light, as he was able to optimize his draws via fetch land use. When Pispa was about to draw a fourth black spell he couldn't cast, he sacrificed one Lantern of Insight. He still ended up having to use Ghost Quarter on his own Inventors' Fair to get a Swamp and kill Dark Confidant.

Over the next couple of turns, Pispa found Grafdigger's Cage and Ensnaring Bridge. Andronchik of course had Ancient Grudge to deal with both, necessarily in that order, but he was still missing a third land. This was the only thing that kept Andronchik at bay, so Pispa sacrificed his final Lantern of Insight when he saw Twilight Mire.

Andronchik found a land anyway. He then cast one of the few creatures to get around Ensnaring Bridge in Grim Lavamancer, flashed back Ancient Grudge, and reduced Pispa to zero artifacts. To add insult to injury, Pispa also lost Glimmervoid. He never recovered.

More things happened—none of them good for Pispa, like Liliana of the Veil almost going ultimate and Kolaghan's Command destroying another Ensnaring Bridge—but this match was over long before the final point of damage was dealt.

Dmitry Andronchik defeated Lauri Pispa 2-0.

Seat B: Matti Kuisma (Dredge) vs. Ihar Klionski (Bant Eldrazi)

The first game was Dredge doing was Dredge does best. Faithless Looting in combination with Golgari Grave-Troll, multiple Bloodghasts, and Prized Amalgam made for one very noninteractive affair. It didn't help that Klionski never found a third land.

The second game was all about Rest in Peace. Kuisma wasn't able to develop any kind of board presence before the enchantment struck, and didn't find an answer afterward.

Ihar Klionski's Rest in Peace effectively locked Matti Kuisma (center) out of the game.

Now all hinged on the outcome of the third game in this battle of Zombies versus aliens, basically a rematch of the Eldritch Moon storyline. Who would advance to the semifinals? The players gave their opening hands due consideration. Klionski's didn't include Rest in Peace or Grafdigger's Cage, but it did have two Eldrazi Temples, Eldrazi Skyspawner, and Drowner of Hope. In the absence of a sideboard card, this probably was as good as it could get, so Klionski kept.

Kuisma, meanwhile, had to mulligan his first hand and was given the following six in return: two lands, Prized Amalgam, Engineered Explosives, Lightning Axe, and Conflagrate. With no way to dredge, this was another mulligan. Life from the Loam, Prized Amalgam, Lightning Axe, Nature's Claim, and Copperline Gorge had to do.

Klionski managed to cast Life from the Loam on turn two and dredged into Arid Mesa, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Bloodghast on turn three. He cast Life from the Loam again, played the land, and chose not to return Bloodghast. Rather he waited until Klionski had summoned Drowner of Hope on his turn three. He sacrificed the fetch land, put Bloodghast's trigger on the stack, and discarded Prized Amalgam to Lightning Axe.

The board now held Eldrazi Skyspawner plus two Eldrazi Scions against Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam. Klionski was the first to add another creature in Thought-Knot Seer, while Kuisma dredged into further Prized Amalgams but missed the means to retrieve them. Klionski brought Kuisma down to 5 and summoned another Eldrazi Skyspawner.

Kuisma wasn't done for yet, however. He finally found a Narcomoeba, cast Stinkweed Imp from his hand and Conflagrate from his graveyard, and ended the turn with three Prized Amalgams and one Bloodghast tapped and Narcomoeba and Stinkweed Imp untapped to his opponent's Thought-Knot Seer, Noble Hierarch, and 1/1 token.

With everything hinging upon this final game, Ihar Klionski (right) and his teammates considered every play very carefully.

Now Kuisma was threatening lethal damage and had himself enough blockers to survive. The Finnish had overcome all misfortune, had turned this game around, and were poised to erupt into cheers to celebrate their semi—

Wait, what was that? Klionski cast the aptly named Drowner of Hope, tapped both blockers, and attacked for the win!

Now it was Belarus celebrating while Finland sat with hung heads. "Even Reality Smasher wouldn't have been enough," they complained. "Only Drowner of Hope or Eldrazi Displacer."

"Usually, if your opponent doesn't have a sideboard card you win this matchup," said Kuisma. "But I mulled to five and had a really slow draw. I mean, I spend my turn two playing Life from the Loam for nothing."

Ihar Klionski defeated Matti Kuisma 2-1.

Team Belarus defeated Team Finland 2-1 and advanced to the semifinals!

Belarus, Seat A - Dmitry Andronchik, Jund

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Belarus, Seat B - Ihar Klionski, Bant Eldrazi

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Belarus, Seat C - Pavel Miadzvedski, Affinity

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Finland, Seat A - Lauri Pispa, Lantern Control

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Finland, Seat B - Matti Kuisma, Dredge

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Finland, Seat C - Leo Lahonen, Blue-Red Kiln Fiend

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