Round 12 Feature Match: Andrew Boswell v. Yuanji Li

Posted in Event Coverage on March 8, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

Both Andrew Boswell and Yuanji Li came into Round 12 with a single loss. With a win in this round either would climb right near the top of the standings with a uncloudy view of the Top 8. Li was playing a Sultai Midrange deck that used cards like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to fuel his delve spells and flood the board with creatures. Boswell, as he has been since the release of Fate Reforged, was playing Abzan Aggro, and would be looking to get aggressive with efficiently costed threats like Warden of the First Tree and Anafenza, the Foremost, the latter of which could offer the added benefit of disrupting Li's graveyard shenanigans.

Game 1

On the play, Li started with a mulligan to six and cast a Satyr Wayfinder on his second turn, followed by Courser of Kruphix numbers one and two, while Boswell was able to return fire with the quick and frightening curve of Fleecemane Lion into Anafenza the Foremost.

Li tries to make the best of an unfavorable board.

On his fourth turn, Boswell attacked both creatures into Li's board, putting a counter on the Lion and making two threats capable of beating through Li's board of enchantment creatures. “My blocks are so bad,” Li groaned. He put Wayfinder on chump-blocking duty in front of the Lion and both Coursers in front of the Abzan legend. Li winced as Boswell tapped two lands to cast Valorous Stance and destroy  both Coursers.

That was enough for Li to concede the game and move on in search of greener (and bluer and blacker) pastures.

Boswell 1 – Li 0

Boswell pulled out a notebook with detailed sideboarding notes between rounds. “Do find that helpful?” Li asked.

“Definitely. Any thinking you can get done outside of the match, conserves mental energy and lets you just focus on making the right plays,” Boswell said. He added that keeping detailed notes lets him track how his sideboarding plan changes from week to week, so if he finds that a given match-up starts to deteriorate over time he can look through his past approaches to see if there's anything he used to differently.

Li once again started with a mulligan in Game 2, while Boswell went deep in the tank as he reviewed a hand with four lands, Hero's Downfall, Anafenza, and a sideboard Back to Nature. “I have certain rules about what I'll keep and what I won't, and I'm trying to decide how those apply,” he said. In the end he kept and they were off.

Boswell's hand grew clogged with narrow sideboard cards early in Game 2.

An early Thoughtseize from Li took Boswell's lone threat in Anafenza and soon the Abzan Aggro player's hand became glutted with sideboard cards like Murderous Cut, Drown in Sorrow and Back to Nature. Fortunately for him, Li's Sultai deck was slow to apply pressure.

After drawing another sideboard card in Nissa, Worldwaker, Boswell returned the Thoughtseize favor to Li and mulled whether to select a Hero's Downfall or Sidisi. He chose the Sidisi. “That was a situation where if I take his Downfall my Nissa could be really potent,” he said after the match. “But ultimately I don't really care what he does with his Downfall, I just want to prevent him from doing what he wants to do since his deck is so dependent on synergy.”

On his turn Li drew and played a Rakshasa Deathdealer, which began munching 2- and 4-point chunks out of Boswell's life total. Boswell had potential answers in hand with his Cut and Drown, but with Li carefully leaving open both pump and regeneration mana, he couldn't find an opening to deploy them.

Boswell looked to swing the race with in his favor with his two copies of Warden of the First Tree.

A pair of Warden of the First Trees for Boswell allowed him to provide pressure of his own and Li, facing the prospect of the 1-drop Humans becoming race-swinging, lifelinking Spirit Warriors was forced to make a decision. With Boswell at 8, he tapped six mana, made his Deathdealer an 8/8 and swung for lethal damage.  But Boswell calmly pulled the Murderous Cut he had been sitting on to the front of his hand and sent the enormous Cat Demon to the graveyard.

When Boswell deployed his Nissa and attacked with a 3/3 Warden and a 4/4 Mana Confluence, Li shook his head and extended his hand.

“I just really needed to fade this match-up,” he said.

Boswell 2 – Li 0

After the match, Boswell discussed his deck decision for this weekend, which is much the same as it has been in weekends past. Immediately upon the entrance of Fate Reforged into Standard he sleeved up copies of Warden of the First Tree and Valorous Stance and hasn't looked back. While Abzan Aggro has waxed and waned in popularity in the weeks since, Boswell has stayed true to his army of multi-colored creatures. That trust has rewarded him with an undefeated Day 1 record and a seat right near the top of the standings following the conclusion of Round 12 here at Grand Prix Miami.

“As soon as Fate Reforged was released I decided I could just make a curve that other decks wouldn't be able to deal with,” Boswell said. With the addition of a 1-mana threat in Warden and a potent removal-spell-slash-combat-trick in Valorous Stance joining the other cheap, aggressive creatures already in the format, Abzan Aggro has been able to present the most efficient possible angle of attack, he said.

“My philosophy is that you should play the deck with the best possible cards and let the metagame do whatever it wants,” Boswell said. “Even if there are weeks you might be more poorly situated, you will still have individually strong cards at your disposal so things can never get that bad for you.”

Has tweaked various numbers in the deck from week to week, as his initial conception included cards like Soldier of the Pantheon, in anticipation of more players joining him in playing the multicolored-heavy Abzan Aggro deck. That card has since got the axe in favor of beefier cards like Brimaz, King of Oreskos, since the rise of Red-White Aggro weakened the Soldier, which is “embarrassing against 1/1 tokens,” and caused the legendary Cat Soldier's stock to rise.

Abzan Aggro is now poised to potentially get even stronger with the introduction of Dragons of Tarkir, Boswell said. “Everybody is talking about their reprinting Ultimate Price, and all I can think is: please, please let that card become a staple,” he said with a laugh, as he shuffled up his multicolored Deathdealers, Lions and Anafenzas and prepared for the next round.

Yuanji Li – Sultai Midrange

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Andrew Boswell – Abzan Aggro

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