Semifinals Dan Lanthier (Splinter Twin) vs. Florian Koch (Abzan)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 23, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

This intercontinental match started jovially. The German Florian Koch sat down, and after saying hello, he asked where his opponent, Canadian Dan Lanthier was from.

“I’m from Ontario. Not as far as you, but it’s a big country out here.” The two laughed and discussed different geographic matters while shuffling up and looking at each others’ decklists. Koch is known for his generally pleasant demeanor. This match was no different, even it was the Top 8 of a Grand Prix.

Koch was on Abzan and Lanthier was slinging Splinter Twin. This was the “expected” match of the semi-finals, but is still a slippery one to pin down. You’ll talk to Abzan players who think it’s in their favor, and vice versa. The three-color deck can often stop the combo kill because of its myriad discard spells (especially Abrupt Decay), but it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park. Both Lanthier and Koch agree that Lanthier’s deck is slightly favored here, but it’s anyone’s games.

Often Splinter Twin has the right combination of counterspells and tempo to win in convincing fashion. It would be a barnburner indeed.

The Games

Florian Koch started the first game with some early Tarmogoyf pressure, but Dan Lanthier had the Flame Slash ready to get it out of there before it grew too big.

Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, and land was Lanthier’s hand when a fourth-turn Thoughtseize resolved. The Canadian responded with a Snapcaster Mage that gave a Remand flashback, but neglected to use the rest of his mana to counter the discard spell. He didn’t want to draw the Splinter Twin, only to see it hit the bin.

Just as Lanthier intended, on his next draw step, he drew the Twin, and it was indeed his top card. So it seemed to have been the right decision. Koch tapped down to one mana for a Lingering Souls, so Lanthier tried for the Pestermite at the end of turn to win it. But that last mana from Koch was used for a Dismember, and there would be no combo for the Canadian quite yet. Two Abrupt Decay and a Tasigur, the Golden Fang meant it was unlikely Lanthier would have another opportunity any time soon.

The 4/5 came down and started beating, and all Lanthier had was a lonely Snapcaster Mage. Lanthier was still winning the race though. It was 11-7 in his favor.

Though Koch tried to get him down, Lanthier was able to tempo him out, with the classic burn-spell-little-attacker combination.

Lanthier was up in the first game.

Dan Lanthier

In the second game, Koch took a Pestermite with his first-turn Thoughtseize. This move slightly puzzled Lanthier, as he thought either of his Remands would have been better to take. But Koch knew Splinter Twin could be knocked off kilter if attacked in just the right way. Koch took the most aggressive creature away from Lanthier, thinking he could play the longer game.

Lanthier then executed his three-step plan—Delay, delay, delay. He Remanded the next two turns’ worth of spells from Koch, then used Cryptic Command on a Siege Rhino, all while keeping his hand full.

After using Snapcaster Mage to make yet-another counter-draw spell, the 2/1 went on the aggressive—I mean, as much as a 2/1 can go on the aggressive. Which is actually more than you might think of first glance. Once another copy came in, joined by a Deceiver Exarch to tap down blockers, Lanthier had a formidable blue army.

Koch was under pressure, but still had some tricks up his sleeve. When the three creatures attacked him, he animated a Stirring Wildwood and blocker a Snapcaster, used Path to Exile on the other one, then cast a Slaughter Pact on the Deceiver Exarch. This last card was extremely important. Koch had 7 life, and Lanthier had two Lightning Bolts in his hand. If Koch took even one more damage, it would be game over.

Florian Koch

But that’s not how it happened. Though Koch might still be at a virtual 1 life, he was still at actual 7 and Lanthier’s army had just evaporated. A Tasigur, the Golden Fang came down next turn, and just like that, Koch was now the one presenting the pressure to Lanthier. The Canadian sunk to 10, and was on a two-turn clock.

Or was that a one-turn clock? An end-of-turn Gavony Township activation forced Lanthier to lose four life casting Dismember, so now the scores were 6-7 for Koch. Then 3-7 after a now-3/3 Spirit (thanks to Noble Hierarch) flew in.

Koch was teetering on the edge of death with each turn. Lanthier was trying to get just one damage in, but he needed to get it quick.

Finally, on the last possible turn, Lanthier drew a Snapcaster Mage. He triple-bolted the remaining life from Florian Koch and took himself to the finals.

Dan Lanthier wins over Florian Koch 2-0 and is going to the Grand Prix Vancouver finals!

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