Austrian Valentin Mackl has had to share the top tables all weekend with brother-in-arms, Brad Nelson. Both are playing the Mardu Midrange deck that has really made waves this weekend. In fact, they are sitting beside each other in the feature-match area right now.
Mackl's up against No. 11–ranked Eric Froehlich, playing the burn-ish, tempo-ish, aggro-ish Jeskai deck. Mackl's deck is tuned to beat up on this kind of deck, but it's still a hard match, for sure. One of the reason Froehlich is on the deck is because of it's positive games against just about everything. But this Mardu deck seems like something else entirely.
Froehlich pointed to the tokens lining the side of the match area. "Do they have these lined up and ready for you?" Mackl played coy, and Froehlich continued, "I hope you don't play anything that makes tokens. That's bad for me." Mackl made sure not to flash the Wingmate Roc and Hordeling Outburst in his 75.
Mackl's first Goblin Rabblemaster hit the tech-y Nullify from Froehlich, who then tried to stick his own red 2/2. But that was hit by a burn spell from Mackl. This game was all about removing all the threats the opponent could muster. Whoever could outlast the flurry of spells would be the victory.
And the great black-red-white hope for Mackl's deck is the Butcher of the Horde, which can trump that usual back and forth. This game, it was two copies of the 5/4 flyer. Froehlich dug for answers with a Dig Through Time, but each answer would eat up most of the American's turn. This is exactly where Mackl wanted to be.
Even if Froehlich could remove one, there would still be a giant beater right next to it. Froehlich thought he had things under wraps, but then Mackl dropped the bombshell: a Hordeling Outburst he'd smartly withheld. With two Butcher of the Hordes on the field, and plenty of 1/1 fodder, Froehlich was out for the count. He scooped up his cards for the next game.
Valentin Mackl 1 – 0 Eric Froehlich
Mackl's sideboard doesn't change as drastically against Jeskai as in some other match-ups, but it adds some more cards that hope to outlast the opponent (that strategy seems a little more like Abzan to me). However, Froehlich's plan, once the Mantis Riders hit play, is to nug the opponent little by little. Two Riders from Froehlich were removed with a Banishing Light and Chained to the Rocks, but not after hitting Mackl down to 10. This was well within burn range—if only he could live that long.
Because again Butcher of the Horde surged to Mackl's rescue, getting haste and gaining life at the same time. Man, that Hordeling Outburst looks good. And the moment Froehlich dealt with it, there was a fully-buddied Wingmate Roc to hit clean up. Mackl passed the turn back to Froehlich who again used Dig Through Time to find answers—but most of the cards were currently ineffective counterspells or two-point burn spells.
A Stoke the Flames took out a bird, but that left Mackl with one Bird token and one Goblin token. With Froehlich on 7, another Butcher of the Horde (plus Haste, thanks again Hordeling Outburst), was more than enough.
Valentin Mackl 2 – 0 Eric Froehlich
This deck has been going all day long, and it's looking to be just an improved version of Brad Nelson's White-Red MAC from the Pro Tour. Which was the intention, I suppose.