Posted in GRAND PRIX MILAN 2015 on December 13, 2014

By Olle Rade

Two constructed specialists faced off when Slovenia was paired against Austria. This time in the form of Grand Prix Boston winner Robin Dolar against Pro Tour Avacyn Restored top 8 competitor Thomas Holzinger.

Before the round I was in a heated discussion with Dolar about the current state of Modern. As it turns out, he is in favor of banning a few of the new cards that have shaken up the format. Not because he thinks they are too strong, but because he really wants to play the Abzan deck that he won Grand Prix Boston with earlier this year. Since he thinks the archetype has fallen from grace, he is on Jeskai Delver for the weekend, whereas Holzinger, is on Temur Delver, the archetype that won the most recent Modern Grand Prix in Madrid.

”I really want to play Abzan, but the Delver decks are just so good and consistent,” was Dolar's final verdict before he entered the feature match area.

Dolar is also fresh off the World Magic Cup in Nice last week. Holzinger didn't qualify this year, but was the Austrian captain of 2013. He explained that he simply hadn't played enough Grand Prix to get enough Pro Points to race for the spot as the Austrian captain as the players shuffled up for the match.

It turned out to be a battle of Treasure Cruises, burn spells and hard, well thought through decisions, in spite of this, neither game lasted more than a few actual turns.

In the first game players traded resources back and forth. As well as racing to see who could resolve most copies of Treasure Cruise.

Tarmogoyf for Holzinger met Spell Snare from Dolar. Young Pyromancer from Dolar met Lightning Bolt from Holzinger. Young Pyromancer from Holzinger met Lightning Bolt from Dolar, and it was almost like watching a turn based strategy game, with both players having good answers for the other players turn.

Dolar was the first to Treasure Cruise, but Holzinger followed up with Young Pyromancer AND a Treasure Cruise of his own. Dolar cast a second Young Pyromancer, but this time Holzinger had Spell Snare before equalizing the Treasure Cruise race on his turn.

As exciting as the turns were it's hard to make play by plays sound more interesting than that. But when the dust cleared, Dolar had resolved three copies of Treasure Cruise and Holzinger only two. Despite that, it was the Austrian who took the first game. With Dolar tapped out for a Treasure Cruise on his turn, Holzinger found a window to summon Monastery Swiftspear and cast enough cantrips to deal lethal damage in two turns. Also finally sticking a Tarmogoyf on the table, proving, like his countryman Immanuel Gerschenso in Madrid that the Temur version of the deck is better in the mirror match.

Between games both players only did minor sideboard adjustments. Taking out weak cards like Remand and Mana Leak for better options, rather than having a ton of cards dedicated for the mirror. This is surely is a sign of their decks resilience. That there simply aren't  any specific cards that are super strong against what either deck is trying to do.

With his back against the wall in game two. Robin Dolar chose to play first, and drew his opening hand. As it had no lands, he was quick to mulligan. Just like in the fencing games of his youth, proving that he is a master of quick decisions.

Holzinger calmly smiled, and the silent drama continued with Dolar dealing himself a six card-hand. It had more lands, but not a lot. With a mere Scalding Tarn, Geist of Saint Traft, Treasure Cruise, Young Pyromancer, Forked Bolt and Monastery Swiftspear he opted for another mulligan and prayed for a good five.

Hallowed Fountain, Seachrome Coast, Scalding Tarn, Delver of Secrets, Gitaxian Probe it was. And the game was on.

Once again, just a few crucial turns decided the outcome. Robin Dolar's first plays were Delver of Secrets, Gitaxian Probe, a second Gitaxian Probe and nothing. Holzinger on his turns had Serum Visions, Tarmogoyf and Threads of Disloyalty for the Delver of Secrets, which had turned into an Insectile Aberration. Maybe not the most explosive start he could hope for. But as it turns out, perhaps the best plays in the match-up for turns two and three.

Dolar wasn't out of it though, and had a few options which might let him steal the game. The Delver of Secret had gotten in for some damage. And by sending Lightning Bolt to Holzinger's face rather than the Insectile Aberration he set up for a Treasure Cruise. If he could find either a Monastery Swiftspear and a few burn spells, or seven points of burn he would be able to take the game. But with nothing but more cantrips he was forced to tap out for Young Pyromancer, hoping that Holzinger somehow couldn't win on his turn.

Holzinger untapped fast, summoned Izzet Staticaster to clear the way for his Tarmogoyf and sent a Lightning Bolt Dolar's way to deal lethal damage with his attack.

In the end, the outcome of the match was like several times in Madrid a month ago, with the Temur deck coming out on top, this time with Threads of Loyalty as a candidate for a mirror breaker.

With the win, Tomas Holzinger moves to 4-0, and now needs three more wins to advance to Day 2. Dolar on his part hopefully learned something, and needs to win three out of five to join him.