Round 10 Feature Match (10) Ari Lax (Domain Zoo) vs. Matthias Hunt (Amulet Bloom)

Posted in GRAND PRIX OMAHA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

“I could literally not play a single card and be dead this match,”  No. 10 Ari Lax said to Matthias Hunt as he shuffled up in the feature match area.  He was exaggerating, but not by much.  But Lax’s deck shouldn’t seem so helpless.  He was playing Domain Zoo, a five-color aggressive deck that just aims to play the most powerful low-cost creatures in the format.  However, Hunt’s deck, Amulet Bloom, is one of those decks people refer to as “degenerate.”  And how.

Hunt tried to disavow Lax of the notion that his deck would just explode onto the battlefield every game.  “Look, I just want one of the games, where I get to do all the broken [stuff] and win turn two.  It hasn’t really happened yet.”  Hoping that might yet happen, he asked Lax, “Do you have a lot of hands that interact with what I’m going to do?”

“I do actually.” Lax said, matter-of-fact.  “But to be fair, you have a lot of hands that don’t interact with Magic.”

“That’s true.  I also have hands where I just draw lands and die.”  Amulet of Vigor + Summer Bloom + Simic Growth Chamber + Primeval Titan = good times.  Five bouncelands + Pact of Negation = not.

This matchup exemplifies the two opposite ends of predictability spectrum of Modern.  Zoo is one of the most consistent decks, while Amulet Bloom is probably the most inconsistent.  But Zoo’s power would never go above X, while Bloom’s power could be X3 or X-3.

The Games

On his first turn, Matthias Hunt scared Ari Lax but good.  He cast a first-turn Summer Bloom off a Simian Spirit Guide.  This would allow him to potentially cast a very early Primeval Titan which would quickly get out of hand.  Hunt dropped a Mana Confluence and a Simic Growth Chamber, then resolved a Serum Visions before playing a Golgari Rot Farm.  Though without the Amulet of Vigor in play Hunt couldn’t use the two bouncelands to produce mana this turn, he’d set himself up well for the next.

Lax’s turn was a mite less crazy.  “18.  Meow,” he said as he dropped a Wild Nacatl and lost two life with an untapped Stomping Ground.  “We can’t all be cool kids like you.”  Lax laughed.  He was bracing for the two-turn Primeval Titan.  Luckily for Lax, Hunt didn’t have a giant turn-two Primeval Titan.  He didn’t have a giant turn-three one either.

Lax was more than happy to apply a real clock to Hunt while waiting around for the Bloom zaniness he was sure was to come.  Another two more kitties came down in Qasali Pridemage and another Nacatl.  They were joined by a whatever-the-heck a Tarmogoyf is (this is a really weird Zoo—just a bunch of cats and a lhurgoyf, but that’s neither here nor there).

When Hunt untapped for the turn, he knew would be his last.  The cats and a lhurgoyf would take him down if he couldn’t win now.  But Hunt had finally found the last piece of the puzzle, and made use of all that mana he had made oh-so-long ago.  He cast Hive Mind, then with zero mana left over, cast a Summoner’s Pact.

Because the Hive Mind would make a copy of the Pact for Lax, who only had three mana to pay for the “Upkeep or Die” trigger.  Lax didn’t upkeep, so he died.

“I punted that game hard,” Ari said. “I should have left open the white for Path to Exile and paid for the Pact.”  If Lax had exiled his own creature at the end of Hunt’s turn, he could’ve gotten the fourth land he needed on his upkeep.

Hunt slyly flashed the last spell remaining in his hand—a Pact of Negation.

“Ok.  I’ll give you that one.”  He smiled.  It looked like Lax wouldn’t have won anyway.  “That was actually interesting and close!”

As they shuffled up for the second game, Lax was still a little surprised.  “You killed me turn four without an Amulet of Vigor or a Primeval Titan!”  Hunt let out a smirk.

Matthias Hunt was up a game.

“Uh, no,” Hunt said threw his first hand back for the second game.  “Simian Spirit Guides and bouncelands.”  Everyone in earshot chuckled.  After discussing awful opening hands, Hunt decided, “This deck has some of the worst starting hands in Modern.”

After no big turn-one play from Hunt, Lax was surprised.  But Hunt said, “I’m on five cards, I don’t always get to do the nutty things.”

Ari Lax did as Zoo does.  He went Noble Hierarch, Noble Hierarch, Wild Nacatl, Qasali Pridemage.  He followed with a third Noble Hierarch.  A now 6/6 Nacatl was rumbling in: “Attack.  Meow.”

“That’s so much damage,” Hunt said; he stared at his board populated with only land.  Even though Hunt had the Slaughter Pact for the cat, Lax wasn’t letting up.  And if you thought three exalted triggers made the cat big, imagine what happens when a Geist of Saint Traft gets that bonus—which is exactly what happened the next turn.

Hunt was so John McClane; because he Died Hard.

“I’ve gone to Game 3 every single match.”  Hunt mused.  More musing was to come.  While shuffling up, Matthias Hunt revealed had a problem with Wild Nacatl and Qasali Pridemage’s ‘Cat’ creature types.  This started a whole “thing.”  Because in case you don’t know, Ari Lax is not one to back down.

Here’s basically how it began:  “I mean, they wouldn’t be friends, or could, like, even communicate with each other . . . . That’s like saying humans and apes should be the same creature type.”  Which after a while begot, “I’m just saying Catfolk.”

But Lax’s retort: “You are opening a big can of worms with ‘Catfolk.’  Would Ainok Tracker be ‘Dogfolk’?”

“It would be ‘Houndfolk’,” Hunt corrected.  This continued for longer than any of us would like to admit.

Some highlights include:

  • “There’re just two cats with different jobs—one’s a warrior one’s a wizard.”
  • “Look, one has a house and a family, and a pet . . .”
  • “People make different life choices.”

They finally drew their hands.  Hunt studied his grip.  “I have to think about this one; it kinda sucks.”  On his six cards he said, “What if I kept and just said, ‘Go’?  How would you feel?”  Hunt had a hand of Vesuva and two Amulet of VigorVesuva had nothing to copy.  He was hoping Lax would play a land so he could copy it on turn two.

“That would actually scare me greatly.”  Lax was dead serious.

The two both mulliganed down to five and started the game after trying to figure which deck had a worse five-card hand.

Hunt’s first-turn Ancient Stirrings found a Tolaria West.  Hunt would have to think this game through.  Though he had an Amulet, once Lax had access to three mana it meant Hunt could never guarantee an Amulet of Vigor would last more than one turn, thanks to Qasali Pridemage.  He hoped that Lax’s five-card hand would at least slow down the game until he could comfortably explode—like a dude spontaneously combusting in a recliner chair.

It didn’t.  Lax went Noble Hierarch, Noble Hierarch, Geist of Saint Traft, Bant Charm on Hunt’s Amulet of Vigor, then a topdecked Tribal Flames to end it.  This was the five-card hand Hunt was worried about.  Zoo’s hallmark just consistency trumped the inconsistent power of Amulet Bloom. 

Hunt was still John McClane, because he had just Died Harder.  And there will never be Dogfolk in Magic.

Matthias Hunt – Amulet Bloom

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(10) Ari Lax – Domain Zoo

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