“You look like you know what you're doing.” San Diegan Max Mick said to his opponent, two-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher Travis Woo as they reviewed deck lists and shuffled up. “You definitely have more Top 8s than I do.”
Mick was saying that partially in jest, but the fourteen-year-old was playing the biggest match yet of his Magic career. Though his veneer had been strong, it's not impossible for it to have slipped here.
After the two bantered for a bit, Woo joked “This match is for $2,500,” underscoring well the match's stakes. “I've Top 8'ed a few of these, so, it's like ‘Time to win.” Woo shrugged.
The combatants discussed how Mick's build shaves a land to fit in an extra mythic rare. “[Archangel Avacyn] is just so good in the mirror,” Mick highlighted, adding, “I've played eight mirrors.”
Woo had also played a number of Bant Company matches, but that was quite fine with the Washington resident—White-Black Control preys on the Bant Company deck. The match-up is still difficult, as it's not easy to pull too far away from Bant Company, but White-Black aimed to grind the game to a halt and draw cards until it won. Woo's particular brew leaned on Planeswalkers and Oath of Liliana to find that advantage.
Ironically for the creature-heavy Bant Company deck, the key card in the match-up just might be a land—Lumbering Falls. Hexproof is a powerful ability against endless spot removal...
In the first game, Travis Woo had the play and started with a Liliana, the Last Hope and ticked it up against nothing. In a turn or two's time, he had added Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to the board to join it.
Max Mick's first spell had come later than expected for the deck. It was a fourth-turn Collected Company, netting two Sylvan Advocate—which quickly left play thanks to removal. But the second one the following turn starting accruing advantage. Reflector Mage and Tireless Tracker, kept the two Planeswalkers in check.
Mick attacked the Tracker into Liliana, taking it down to 4 counters, and the Mage at the Gideon, knocking it to 2. Though the creatures could have combined to take out the Liliana, Mick chose otherwise.
“Interesting.” Woo said. “A third CoCo?” Mick gave the shrug emoji. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. “C'mon man, you already got two,” Woo insisted.
Mick refused to listen, and at the end of turn he cast it. “What in the world?” All Woo could do was shrug.
“Why do you think I kept a hand with no two- or three-drop?” Mick said. Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Selfless Spirit were added to the bunch, and Mick was taking over the board. All the creatures did a number on Woo's walkers, but Languish made Mick start anew.
Though he had a Spell Queller for the sorcery, Mick was concerned about Grasp of Darkness. So he waited until the end of turn to rebuild. From here, Woo got some breathing room. He comfortably added more planeswalkers, specifically Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and just started pumping out zombies with an Oath of Nissa.
Just when it looked the safest for Woo, he predicted an end-of-turn Archangel Avacyn, which would make things all flippy-floppy. It was quite an accurate prediction.
The angel took some loyalty counters off Sorin, then, thanks to Selfless Spirit coming into play and being selfless, the Avacyn flipped and finished off the large White-Black planeswalker on Woo's upkeep.
“Oh that Oath of Lili's done so much work,” Mick lamented as he tried hard to grab a foothold. Mick continued to focus on killing the Planeswalkers, while Woo kept killing the creatures.
“We've both drawn so many cards, but we're still at parity,” Woo said.
It was back and forth for a while, but Woo, continuing to draw cards and lose Planeswalkers, finally found a sweet spot. He cast Transgress the Mind. Mick responded with a second Archangel Avacyn. Woo then Languished and wiped Mick's sandcastle again. The Transgress had revealed only land for Mick, so he had no follow up.
In the second game, after the usual opening gambits of small creatures versus one-for-one removal and some card draw, Woo cast Transgress the Mind and saw Collected Company, Tireless Tracker, and Reflector Mage as targets.
He slammed the company away, and soon stuck an Ob Nixilis Reignited to start grinding away. And grind the two did. Again, There were multiple Collected Company from Mick, keeping up with the powerful Planeswalkers.
After yet another one, Woo just couldn't contain it anymore. “All right, if we go to a Game Three you aren't gonna run this good, ok?” Both players chuckled.
But the chuckle was a bit insidious from Mick's side. With this latest Collected Company, he knew he had hit the creatures necessary to seal the deal out of nowhere from Woo.
The first Reflector Mage bounced a blocker, and the second Mage in his hand cleaned the second. The Lumbering Falls that had plinked away previously was joined in the red zone with buddies for exactly the right damage to force a third game.
“This is for, not an insignificant amount of marbles,” Woo said, shuffling up for the last game.
In the last game, Woo drew cards and killed creatures, as per usual. Mick cast creatures, and tried to eke ahead, as per usual.
Though Mick was able to chain Tireless Tracker into Evolving Wilds, he started falling behind to Woo's Oath of Liliana, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and a clutch double-block by Woo to take out the Tracker.
Woo went for the kill, casting an Ob Nixilis Reignited, but Mick auto-slammed a Negate with his last two mana. This not only stopped the Planeswalker itself, but also the extra zombie with Oath, which would have turn the field stronger in Woo's favor.
It was an important play, and Mick came back into the game with a Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. The third game had dreadfully little damage exchanged, but the toil was real. The graveyard become littered with bodies and spells alike. Nissa transformed into Nissa Sage Animist, but then both her and Ashaya, the Awoken World hit the bin with more black removal. For Woo, Gideon made many a Knight Ally that weren't long for this world either, then the Gideon itself was dead. It was mayhem.
Only Lumbering Falls had been making progress. Both jockeyed back and forth, until the sequence that changed the match.
Mick cast a mid-combat Dromoka's Command trying take out a multiple creatures and the Oath of Nissa. Lumbering Falls had been double-blocked, and Mick looked to take out one blocker, saving his Falls from certain death.
“I still have to sacrifice the enchantment,” Woo lamented. “I'm surprised that's still in your deck,” he said about the Dromoka's Command.
“I need to kill those Oaths,” Mick admitted sheepishly.
“You're the first one to figure that out,” Woo replied. They both smiled.
Understandably though, Woo's smile was bigger. Finally, he had broken through the match and he attacked for 11 damage. Mick tried desperately to rebuild, but Woo was now too far ahead.