Stage 1, Round 3: Colombia vs. Sweden

Posted in Event Coverage on November 19, 2016

By Tobi Henke

Today, because of the modified double-elimination mode in use, almost every round, except for the first round of the second stage, was an elimination match for someone. Colombia and Sweden had both won the single-elimination round to start off the day, then both had lost their second round. Another strike would mean they'd be out.

Leading the Swedes was none other than Pro Tour Magic Origins Champion and the world's current No. 15, Joel Larsson, for whom this marked a fourth time on the Swedish team. His list of accomplishments was obviously longer than most people's, but this was especially true here. None of his teammates and none of the Colombians had ever made it to the Top 8 of a premier event, or even qualified for the World Magic Cup before this year. Still, they made it to the Top 32, but that's as far as the journey would go—at least for one of the teams.

Larson himself would take on Camilo Pineda cañas. Not only was Larsson favored here simply by being Larsson, but his Infect deck could also be considered the favorite in the matchup against Bant Eldrazi.

Meanwhile, Sweden's Alex Wahlquist and his Dredge would face Fredy Castro and his Zoo deck. Thanks to Burning-Tree Emissary and Reckless Bushwhacker, Castro could potentially win on turn two. However, Wahlquist later told me, "This is a good matchup for Dredge. Creature decks generally are. Maybe not if they have a lot of hate. He could have had Rest in Peace, but we figured those might have ended up in the Bant deck."

Finally, two artifact decks met when Colombia's Diego Alejandro Celeita's Affinity clashed with Per Nyström's Lantern Control. Mainly relying on Ensnaring Bridge to fend off creatures, this matchup posed a challenge for Nyström, since Celeita could always just attack with a powerless Ornithopter and pump some strength into it via either Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager after the fact.

Seat B: Camilo Pineda cañas (Bant Eldrazi) vs. (15) Joel Larsson (Infect)

This was the first match to finish. Larsson won the die roll and kept a hand of two lands, two Blighted Agents, and three pump spells. Pineda cañas only cast his first creature on turn three and always kept at least one land untapped to represent a removal spell. But he didn't actually have a removal spell, and when Larsson learned this with the help of Gitaxian Probe, that was the end of Game 1.

Camilo Pineda cañas (left) and coach Jhonatan Restrepo (right) consider how to come back in Game 2.

The second game began with Larsson casting Twisted Image on Pineda cañas's Birds of Paradise. The Colombian didn't have a play on turn two, whereas Larsson summoned Glistener Elf and Noble Hierarch.

On his turn, Pineda cañas played his third land (a second Eldrazi Temple), tapped it, and put Engineered Explosives onto the table. The Colombian coach Jhonatan Restrepo was the first to realize the mistake and tried to reverse the play, but a mistake it was and a mistake it remained. After a lengthy appeal process, the head judge gave a final ruling which boiled down to "no backsies." Engineered Explosives entered the battlefield with zero counters.

Joel Larsson (right) looks on as Jhonatan Restrepo makes his case to two judges.

Said Larsson: "I don't think I would have lost this game anyway. I knew he had the Explosives and I wanted him to play it. Obviously, when he effectively didn't even do that, things went much faster."

Joel Larson defeated Camilo Pineda cañas 2-0.

Seat A: Diego Alejandro Celeita (Affinity) vs. Per Nyström (Lantern Control)

Nyström won the die roll and opened on Inventors' Fair, Codex Shredder, and Mox Opal. The Shredder luckily hit Cranial Plating, allowing Nyström to rid himself of all Platings via Surgical Extraction. Celeita, meanwhile, didn't have the most spectacular opening, with Ornithopter and Springleaf Drum on turn one, and Master of Etherium on turn two. He managed to get Nyström down to 10 life before the latter found Ensnaring Bridge, but that's as far as Nyström's life total fell.

Diego Alejandro Celeita (left) and Jhonatan Restrepo (right) discuss ways to bring their opponent's life total ever lower.

In fact, it went up quite a bit again due to Inventors' Fair. For a while Celeita still had a chance to win if he were to draw a lot of Galvanic Blasts. Then he still had a theoretical shot at winning via Arcbound Ravager. But Lantern of Insight gave away what he would be drawing, and multiple Codex Shredders and multiple Ghoulcaller's Bells made sure that nothing dangerous would slip through.

The second game was interesting because it began with an interesting mulligan decision for Nyström. Well, it began with two easy mulligan decisions, but after those Nyström was faced with the following five: Lantern of Insight, Inquisition of Kozilek, Mox Opal, Inquisition of Kozilek, Ancient Stirrings. Go to four or keep?

Nyström chose the latter and found Glimmervoid on top of his library. He played the land and sent an Inquisition to investigate the contents of Celeita's hand. Unfortunately, what he saw there included Ancient Grudge as well as the mana to cast it in the form of Celeita's own Glimmervoid. Nothing Inquisition of Kozilek could do about that. Ancient Grudge destroyed Mox Opal, Nyström's only other permanent had to be sacrificed, and that was it.

As the players were going to Game 3, the video team asked them not to start playing. First they would show the conclusion of the match at table C, then the cameras would possibly move to catch the end of the artifact decks' match. So let's follow their lead and look at...

Seat C: Fredy Castro (Bushwhacker Zoo) vs. Alex Wahlquist (Dredge)

In their first game, Wahlquist led with Insolent Neonate and began dredging cards right away. Castro cast Experiment One, another Experiment One, and a Kird Ape, only to lose the latter two to Conflagrate. He tried to rebuild his army, but Wahlquist's creatures joined the fray now and had the distinct advantage of not costing him any mana. Two copies each of Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam were scary enough. However, this was just raising the undead. Wahlquist shocked everyone when he moved on to raising literal hell and unearthed Scourge Devil. "Attack for 18?"

While the players shuffled for Game 2, my attention was drawn to and captured by the other two matches for a while. When I returned to Castro's and Wahlquist's table, I was surprised to learn that I hadn't missed anything yet. What happened? "This is what happened," said Wahlquist and nodded at the four cards he was now drawing for his fourth attempt at a reasonable opening hand. Stomping Ground, Golgari Grave-Troll, Faithless Looting, and Narcomoeba certainly qualified as a reasonable four.

Alas, even the Dredge deck, famous for its ability to operate on little to no hand, would have needed to at least hit the right cards when dredging to come back from such a disadvantage. Wahlquist didn't and the players, now joined by Larsson and Pineda cañas and the others, went to Game 3.

Fredy Castro shuffles his opponent's deck while planning his next move.

After another mulligan, Wahlquist led with Insolent Neonate, which he used on Castro's second main phase to discard and dredge Golgari Grave-Troll. The six cards included Gnaw to the Bone, Faithless Looting, and two Narcomoebas, but no second dredge card. Castro, meanwhile, began to beat down with a pair of Wild Nacatls and a Goblin Guide.

On his turn three, Wahlquist flashed back Faithless Looting; on Castro's turn three he fell to 3 life. But things weren't over yet. Finally, Wahlquist was able to dredge again, and dredged into further creatures and another Gnaw to the Bone. This brought him back to 19; the following attack made that 11.

Wahlquist got to see Faithless Looting on top of his library thanks to Goblin Guide, drew it, and dredged some more. With two Narcomoeba triggers on the stack, he sacrificed Bloodstained Mire, added another two Bloodghast triggers to the stack, and responded to all with flashing back a 22-point Gnaw to the Bone...

...which was effectively countered by Castro's Atarka's Command. Wahlquist fell to 7, but the dredge machine was at full speed now and couldn't be stopped. He returned Prized Amalgam to the battlefield at end of turn, survived the following attack with the help of his Narcomoebas, and cast Life from the Loam and Conflagrate on his turn. This time, Conflagrate killed Castro's only blocker and dealt 3 damage to the Colombian himself, which left him at 10. Another pair of Bloodghasts returned from the grave and Wahlquist attacked for the win.

Alex Wahlquist defeated Fredy Castro 2-1.

Afterward, Castro confirmed Wahlquist's earlier suspicion: their team's Rest in Peace had indeed been stuck in the Bant deck's sideboard.

Team Sweden defeated Team Colombia 2-0 to stay alive!

Team Sweden celebrates their victory!


Diego Celeita's Affinity

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Fredy Castro's Bushwhacker Zoo

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Jhonatan Restrepo's Bant Eldrazi

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Joel Larsson's Infect

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Per Nyström's Lantern Control

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Daniel Larsson's Dredge

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