Last of the Undefeateds

Posted in Event Coverage on June 21, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

After 10 rounds of Standard, there were just two players left with spotless records at Grand Prix Providence: Josh McClain and Matt Tumavitch. While Josh McClain's Abzan Megamorph deck had proven a popular choice for this weekend—putting a full 19 players into Day 2, more than any other archetype—Tumavitch was the only player to battle his way to Sunday sporting Red-Green Aggro.

Tumavitch, a Pennsylvanian playing in his first Constructed Grand Prix, said he had been playing various flavors of red and green aggressive strategies ever since the release of Dragons of Tarkir. After playing the deck to some success on the StarCityGames Open Series, his confidence in the archetype spiked after winning a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier and he hasn't looked back since, he said.

Matt Tumavitch was undefeated with Red-Green Aggro through the first 10 rounds of his first-ever Constructed Grand Prix.

As the metagame has shifted he's tried to tweak individual card choices to adapt, and this weekend opted to cut the Deathmist Raptors he'd been experimenting with in favor of Boon Satyr. In the last week he'd been experiencing frequent defeat at the hands of Mardu-style strategies that were heavy on removal spells, and liked the Satyr's ability to mitigate those effects. It was a feature of the bestow creature that would prove relevant throughout his match with McClain.

For his part, McClain was not looking forward to his match-up against Red-Green Aggro, which he considered one of the soft spots of his Abzan Megamorph deck. The former Grand Prix Detroit Champion had worked with Mike Sigrist on his particular build of the archetype, and they had built a somewhat slower version in order to be able to contend with the grindier metagame they had anticipated.

Coming into this week, McClain said he hadn't been playing much Standard, but knew that he wanted a deck that would be able to beat Esper Dragons—a deck he expected many people to to pick up in reaction to the recent rise of Green Devotion strategies. With access to four total copies of Thoughtseize and Duress, as well as a strong card advantage engine in Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, he said he felt healthily favored in the Esper match-up.

While many think Abzan to be at a disadvantage against Devotion itself, McClain said, he had not found that to be quite the case. Part of the reason for that is that he has access to three copies of Ultimate Price, which is great at killing Whisperwood Elemental, one of the pivotal cards in the match-up, he explained. Abzan Megamorph plays a large number of come-into-play-tapped lands, so being able to play a Temple on turn three, while still holding up mana to kill an ahead-of-curve Whisperwood Elemental is crucial, he said.

While McClain felt confident when facing down many of these archetypes, he had yet to battle a Red-Green Aggro player in Providence and felt disheartened at the prospect. “Since I'm not playing things like Fleecemane Lion to block, this match-up might be a little tougher,” McClain said before the match. While Mono-Red and Atarka Red decks aren't terrible for Abzan Megamorph because they are so linear and weak to cards like Drown in Sorrow, the slightly slower Red-Green Aggro builds can prove difficult, he said.

“The problem is that there are two different game plans you have to contend with,” McClain explained. “They can play Goblin Rabblemaster and Deathmist Raptors on the ground—in which case my own Raptors are great—but they can also attack with big fliers like Thunderbreak Regent in the air,” he said.

McClain planned to lean on his sideboard to try to turn around what he viewed as an unfavorable match-up.

To try to compensate, McClain said he planned to bring in any card that could serve a dual function against both of the Red-Green strategies. He singled out cards like Ultimate Price, capable of killing either Rabblemaster or Stormbreath Dragon, for instance, as well as wraths like End Hostilities, which would wipe away everything without worry—even a Boon Satyr that had enchanted a creature.

In the match itself, Tumavitch was able to come roaring out of the gates in the first game, with a third-turn Surrak, the Hunt Caller dropping McClain to 15 before he'd even laid his own third land, just as the Abzan player had feared. A series of Abzan Charms and Hero's Downfalls from McClain were able to slowly pick away at Tumavitch's threats, whittling them down to a lone Elvish Mystic. But a Boon Satyr off the top made even the measly 1/1 into a potent threat.

Another Charm and another Downfall took out both the Satyr and the Elf it rode in on, and with Tumavitch drawing land after land McClain was able to finally mount a counter-attack with a pair of Deathmist Raptors. But, on the last possible turn, a Stormbreath Dragon appeared from the top of Tumavtich's library, and with an attack and a monstrosity activation was able to eke out Game 1 for the Pennsylvanian.

McClain fell quickly behind to a hasty Surrak, the Hunt Caller in Game 1.

McClain stuck to his plan of bringing in Ultimate Prices and End Hostilities to try to control the board, while Tumavitch, on the draw, swapped out his Rabblemasters and Surraks for copies of Ashcloud Phoenix and Xenagos, the Reveler—threats that were able to leave some value behind if they happened to be taken down by one of McClain's many one-for-one removal spells.

Game 2 went just as McClain has drew it up. After using Thoughtseize to take out Tumavitch's only real threat—a Thunderbreak Regent—McClain was able to cleanly deal with a Boon Satyr with the End Hostilities he'd brought in out of the sideboard. The board clear, a parade of Siege Rhinos ended the game as quickly they generally do.

In the decider, Tumavitch found himself hamstrung by mulligans and on the back foot—not a comfortable posture for an aggro player. After a turn-three Temple, McClain was able to use Ultimate Price to take down Tumavitch's Stormbreath Dragon, and began attacking with Siege Rhinos. A series of follow-up Dragons began playing defense, using their protection from white to hold off the Rhinos, but it was only a matter of time before McClain found a solution. Sure enough, after a few stymied attacks, he scried a Crux of Fate to the top of his library, named Dragons, and trampled over for lethal.

McClean was now sitting in an enviable position, with an 11-0 record and having vanquished the lone pilot of one of his most-feared match-ups. Meanwhile Tumavitch was still in great shape at 10-1, but would have to bounce back in the following rounds if he wanted to accomplish the impressive feat of Top 8'ing his very first Constructed Grand Prix.

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