When a bunch of people show up with anti-Eldrazi decks, they are bound to run into each other at some point. Both Simon Nielsen, known for being a member of the Danish team that won the 2014 World Magic Cup, and Piotr Glogowski, who made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Milan 2015, picked Lantern Control for this event. Now, at 6-1 records, they would have to face off against each other.
"You do know what you're getting into, right?" Simon Nielsen asked me as I sat down at their table.
Indeed, both players knew that they were heading into the Lantern mirror because they had talked on Facebook before the event. In case you're unfamiliar with the Lantern deck: It's a relatively new Modern deck that had its breakout win at Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2015 in the hands of Zac Elsik. Its game plan is to lock out opposing creature decks with Ensnaring Bridge, control their draws via Lantern of Insight and Codex Shredder, and eventually deplete the opponent's library.
As the players shuffled up their decks, Nielsen cheekily marked his life sheet with the number 60, indicating that both players would try to win by running each other out of cards, not by attacking.
"So I take 7 damage, down to 53," Nielsen said as he kept his opening 7.
Glogowski had to mulligan twice. As he was shuffling his deck, the players debated the merits of taking a mulligan down to zero. They still agreed that potentially starting with a key card like Codex Shredder, Academy Ruins, or Pithing Needle was more valuable than starting the game with a larger library, but the fact that the thought of going down to zero cards even crossed their minds indicated the bizarre nature of this matchup.
As the first game got underway, Nielsen got out Pyxis of Pandemonium and Ghoulcaller's Bell (to continually reduce both players' deck sizes) alongside an Academy Ruins (to increase his own deck size turn after turn). So if library counts are viewed as life totals, then this meant that Nielsen had two artifact that tapped to reduce each player's life total and a land that tapped to gain life.
Glogowski fought back by exiling all of Nielsen's Codex Shredders and Pithing Needles---two key cards in the matchup---with Surgical Extractions, but he lacked an answer for Nielsen's Academy Ruins and eventually got decked.
Simon Nielsen 1 - Piotr Glogowski 0
Simon Nielsen and Piotr Glogowski
So the players seemed to be in for a long game, but that changed when Glogowski drew Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. The planeswalker turned his artifacts into 5/5 attackers, which Nielsen was vulnerable to because he had boarded out most of his Ensnaring Bridges. A few combat steps later, Glogowski had won the game. The actual life totals did matter after all!
Simon Nielsen 1 - Piotr Glogowski 1
Early on, Nielsen was able to use Lantern of Insight and Ghoulcaller's Bell to control Glogowski's draws. In particular, he did his best to keep Glogowski stuck on a Blackcleave Cliffs and a Welding Jar as his only permanents. Nielsen even shut down that Welding Jar with a Pithing Needle.
But eventually, Nielsen had to sacrifice Lantern of Insight to prevent Glogowski from drawing Pithing Needle, and the game slipped out of his hands. Several turns later, Glogowski had found the mana to cast Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and Nielsen was once again defenseless. His board of Bells, Jars, and Leylines could not beat 5/5 artifact creatures, and the game was decided in the combat step once more.
Simon Nielsen 1 - Piotr Glogowski 2
"I was too short-sighted, naming Welding Jar with my Pithing Needle," Nielsen said after the match, realizing that he could have named Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas instead. Afterwards, the players discussed their decisions throughout the match, analyzed their sideboard approaches of boarding up to 62 cards, and wished each other good luck for the future rounds.
"This was my second Lantern mirror of the day, but it's the most fun I've had at a Grand Prix ever," Glogowski said as he was packing up. "I've actually played more Lantern mirrors than matches against Eldrazi today! The games against Eldrazi are simple: They play big creatures, you play Bridge, you win the game. But this matchup is really unique and interesting!"