By Josh Bennett

The Players

It's no secret that Magic attracts its fair share of smart cookies. While shuffling up for their match, online maven Chris Mascioli and Hall of Famer Frank Karsten were discussing higher education. Mascioli was considering improving on his Masters in Engineering, and the newly-minted Ph.D. Karsten was in a position to advise. As far as Modern was concerned, these two had stuck to their guns. Mascioli was with Twin, and Karsten had once again sleeved up Robots, the artifact deck formerly known as affinity.

The Games

Mascioli was on the play and led out with island and Serum Visions, keeping both cards on top. Karsten untapped, and with a shrug, tossed a pile of four cards onto the table. He fanned them out revealing an Ornithopter and three Memnites, then played Glimmervoid, Thoughtcast, and Mox Opal. Unfortunately for him, Mascioli had everything he needed. Remand delayed what would have been a threatening Cranial Plating, and then Deceiver Exarch devoured a Memnite on the following turn, untapping a land to let Mascioli Peek and check that the way was clear. Karsten turned over a hand with M15's Ensoul Artifact but without any resistance. Mascioli showed a second red source and a Splinter Twin to take the first game.

Mascioli 1 - Karsten 0

"Do you like the Ensoul Artifact?" asked Mascioli

"I... don't know. I haven't played a single game with it. I just put it in because the picture with the scissors looked nice."

Karsten's opening seven seemed to visibly pain him. After a full minute of closed-eyes concentration, he decided to go down to six cards. Mascioli followed along. Karsten's six put his head in his hands, and he went to five. Mascioli stayed on six. Karsten frowned at five.

"I think my seven-card hand was better."

Karsten led off with Inkmoth Nexus and no play, then passed a blank turn. From there it was about as brutal as you might expect.

Mascioli made land drops and further frustrated Karsten with Ancient Grudge on Springleaf Drum the following turn. Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch acted as Time Walks on Karsten's lone land, while his draw steps continued to come up empty. Mascioli sat comfortably on his open mana while his creatures went to work. Karsten managed to resolve another Springleaf Drum, then a Vault Skirge, but the flashback on the Grudge and a Flame Slash took care of them.

Down to just seven life, Karsten played Thoughtseize. Mascioli confirmed the life total and then aimed Lightning Bolt at Karsten's head. Karsten chose to end the match with a noble suicide: A second Thoughtseize.

The Aftermath

They players did a quick post-mortem on Karsten's difficult mulligan decision. The seven cards in question were: Ensoul Artifact, Mox Opal, Glimmervoid, Memnite and various Nexuses.

Said Karsten: "I figured you would have too much removal post-sideboard for this to make it worthwhile. Plus it had no way to interact with your combo."

Mascioli agreed. "After you tanked so long, I was thinking I might keep a hand of five land, Vendilion Clique and Engineered Explosives if you kept, thinking I'd get to blow you out with the Explosives. Of course, when you mulled I had to as well. Do you think Batterskull is worth it versus you?"

"No, not really. It's slow and doesn't stop poison."

They wished each other good luck and went their separate ways.