“I'm on the play, I feel favored, I feel good,” was what final-table newcomer Robbie Schmidt said to me going into the last match. He was on the Affinity plan, while his opponent, former Canadian National champion, Dan Lanthier was piloting Splinter Twin. This was a big weekend for Schmidt; this is the furthest he's gone in a Grand Prix by a long way, and he was just looking to close it out.
But this had been a big tournament for Lanthier and Splinter Twin as well. Before the Pro Tour, many considered the deck a dog in the Modern metagame. But Lanthier and other combatants have reestablished its place in the metagame. Now it's one match away from taking home the trophy, and Lanthier has been piloting it effortlessly so far.
But as Schmidt said, Affinity can be favored in this match-up. If Lanthier wanted to win, he would have to break the robotic serve, as Schmidt was on the play in the first game.
Though Robbie Schmidt's first turn was subdued for Affinity, on his second turn he all-but emptied his hand. By the time Schmidt passed it back, he had Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Ornithopter, Arcbound Ravager, and two Signal Pest on the battlefield. Dan Lanthier was gonna have to earn it.
Though the Ravager hit the dust bin, Schmidt spent his third turn casting and equipping a Cranial Plating and hitting his opponent for ten damage. Lanthier got his third turn with the scores 9-20 against him.
He killed both the Pests with an Electrolyze, then another Electrolyze and a Lightning Bolt cleared the remaining Ornithopter and a fresh Steel Overseer. Lanthier had a Splinter Twin in his grip, but neither the fourth land, nor the combo creature to put it on. But that wasn't a big deal—he had just cleared to board. Right?
But Lanthier was down to 4, and there were two manlands and a Cranial Plating left. If Schmidt drew a fourth land, he could animate the Blinkmoth Nexus, equip the Cranial Plating, then animate the Inkmoth Nexus to take the game.
Lanthier had done a lot of damage, but Schmidt had the right draws that and took the first game with the Nexii, Blinky and Inky.
Robbie Schmidt 1 – 0 Dan Lanthier
This time Lanthier was on the play, which gave him some firm steps in the crag-filled Affinity match-up. Another foothold was his first turn Grim Lavamancer. When it came down, Schmidt shook his head. If Lanthier was able to repeatedly kill off his small creatures, it would be quite the stumbling block.
Additionally, Lanthier had a Flame Slash for the problematic Arcbound Ravager, so Schmidt was severely hampered. The totals were still 11-17 in Schmidt's favor, as some of his dudes were getting in there, but it wasn't going to be fast enough. Add on top of that a Shatterstorm, and Lanthier had all the power.
To add insult to injury, Lanthier wasn't content with lands left for his opponent. He used Ancient Grudge each time a land was animated. Lanthier's Lavamancers starting attacking, and with no cards and almost no permanents for Schmidt, he gave up the ghost and picked up his cards—or card, as the case was.
Robbie Schmidt 1 – 1 Dan Lanthier
Before the deciding game, Dan Lanthier extended his hand and wished his opponent good luck. Robbie Schmidt shook it vigorously and wished him the same. Either player was going to win respectfully. It was a hard-fought weekend, and both players had exceptional matches for two straight days. Now it was down to this. The two released their grips and readied for the end.
Schmidt was back on the play, and put four cards on the battlefield the first turn, then the rest, save one, on the second. However, this wasn't as impressive as it sounds. None of the big beaters were there, just the support players. And with Lanthier's first two plays being removal spells, even the plinkers weren't sticking around long.
But Lanthier didn't have any windmill slams either. His deck is very good at delaying, then eventually winning, but if the combo or the sideboard whammies don't appear, it's a slow grind indeed. When Schmidt found an Etched Champion, then a second, it put the Lanthier's feet to the fire. Lanthier had no way to remove the Champions in his hand, and he was down to 7.
However, he didn't need to remove them. All he needed was his trusty Deceiver Exarch, and his pal, himself—along with a thousand other copies.
All weekend Splinter Twin pilots had to find interesting ways to win without the combo present. Sometimes it was burn, sometimes it was small attacks. But in the last game of the last match of Grand Prix Vancouver—Splinter Twin re-carved its name in stone with the combo that made it famous in the first place: Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch.
And right above the those two cards, the words “Dan Lanthier” were etched. The former Canadian National champion is now the current Grand Prix Vancouver champion, winning 2-1 over Robbie Schmidt.