Quarterfinals: Gerry Thompson vs. Marc Tobiasch

Posted in Event Coverage on May 14, 2017

By Frank Karsten

This quarterfinals match pitted together two Pro Tour regulars in one of the defining matchups of Amonkhet Standard: Thompson would try to generate a critical mass of Zombies, while Tobiasch was hoping to cast a turn-four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

The Players

Team Mutiny's Gerry Thompson, a long-time Magic player and content creator, had been playing Pro Tours since 2002. Despite having played in over 30 Pro Tours and finding a lot of success on the Grand Prix circuit, he had only managed to make a Pro Tour Top 8 before once. There, at Pro Tour Gatecrash, he was unable to advance further than the quarterfinals. Now, he was hoping to improve on that.

The other side of the table featured Team EUreka's Marc Tobiasch, who had played "only" 11 Pro Tours so far, his first being in 2011. This event marked his first Pro Tour Top 8. In this absolutely stacked Top 8, Tobiasch may have been the least-known player to the wider public, but he's a familiar face on the European Grand Prix circuit. There, he is well-respected as both a player and a deck builder, and his performance here in Nashville did not come as a surprise.

The Matchup

The matchup was one between Tobiasch's Temur Aetherworks Marvel and Thompson's Mono-Black Zombies. Tobiasch had beaten Thompson in the Swiss, but Thompson still felt that he held a small edge in the matchup. "Best three-out-of-five, it's pretty good for me," Thompson told me before the match. Tobiasch called the matchup "about even."

When asked what the matchup was about, both players pointed to the importance of drawing Aetherworks Marvel versus the ability to create a board of 2/2 Zombie tokens. As Tobiasch said, "Especially in Game 1, if I draw Aetherworks Marvel then he's in trouble, but if I don't and he can go wide pretty fast, then he has the advantage."

Thompson had a similar assessment: "For me, it's mostly just making sure that I have a pretty good curve and hoping they don't hit Ulamog. Or at least if they hit Ulamog, let it be on turn six when I have a big enough board." Swarming the 10/10 would be an option at that point, and Dark Salvation could even kill Ulamog if, say, Diregraf Colossus had created enough 2/2 Zombie tokens by then.

The Games

Tobiasch got to play first as a result of his higher standing in the Swiss, but he had to mulligan away his first hand.

"You're keeping?" Tobiasch asked his opponent as he was shuffling.

"Fail rate of Grizzly Bears—pretty much non-existent!" Thompson said, and that exchange set off a friendly conversation between the two players about their decks, their best friends from Magic, and various other topics as they were waiting for their match to start.

Once they got the go-ahead sign, Thompson's Zombie deck curved out perfectly: Cryptbreaker on turn one, Metallic Mimic on turn two, Dark Salvation for X=1 (killing Whirler Virtuoso) on turn three, and Diregraf Colossuses on turns four and five.

Tobiasch, in the meantime, had kept an average six-card hand and found himself stuck with two Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers in hand. On his final turn, facing an onslaught of Zombies, he drew his card, laughed when he saw it was another Ulamog, and packed up his cards.

"I wasted my good draw on your bad draw," Thompson said as he shuffled up for the next game.

"Well, Ulamogs always travel in groups," Tobiasch answered.

Thompson agreed that the fail case of drawing a bunch of ten-mana cards was a downside to the deck: "I worked on a lot of Marvel decks before the Pro Tour, and what I really wanted to figure out was a way to play the least amount of Ulamogs and still be functional. But that's tough."

The early turns of the Game 2 played out as you might expect. Thompson curved out with Zombies, while Tobiasch cast Attune with Aether, Servant of the Conduit, and Harnessed Lightning (targeting Cryptbreaker over Lord of the Accursed).

On turn five, Tobiasch cast the key card of his deck: Aetherworks Marvel. "Here we go!" Thompson replied excitedly.

The first spin merely provided Chandra, Torch of Defiance. She didn't do much and quickly succumbed to a swarm of attacking Zombies. The second spin, after Tobiasch had rebuilt his energy reserve with Whirler Virtuoso, hit Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

Gerry Thompson stared down the Eldrazi titan, but could do nothing to stop its assault.

The Eldrazi came down during Thompson's attack step, exiling Relentless Dead and Liliana's Mastery before blocking a Zombie token. It was enough to swing the advantage bar in the opposite direction, and several attacks later, Ulamog had devoured Thompson's library.

The players were allowed to sideboard before Game 3. Tobiasch did not have many cards in his sideboard that were specifically geared for the Zombies matchup—a choice that he regretted after he saw how popular the black tribal deck was at the Pro Tour. Nevertheless, he did gain access to Magma Spray and Chandra, Flamecaller, and he cut an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger because he expected Thompson to board in Lost Legacy. "If I get Marvel online anyway, then I can spiral out of control even without Ulamog."

Thompson, in the meantime, gained disruption in Transgress the Mind. He did not even board in Lost Legacy, feeling that the threat of it alone was more important than the effect itself. Indeed, the card does nothing against Tobiasch's backup game plan with midrange creatures and planeswalkers. "Lost Legacy is generally not very good, but it changes the way they have to do things—they can't be as reliant on Aetherworks Marvel, and they will probably shave an Ulamog and try to win a value game."

The early turns of the third game featured the usual exchanges of creatures and removal spells. Thompson's Dread Wanderer, Cryptbreaker, and Metallic Mimic fell to Magma Spray and Harnessed Lightnings, while Tobiasch's Shielded Aether Thief died to Grasp of Darkness.

Moving into the mid-game, Tobiasch had not found an Aetherworks Marvel yet, and it showed. The energy creatures and spells in his deck were simply less powerful than the tribal synergies in Thompson's deck, as became clear when Thompson cast Dark Salvation to kill Servant of the Conduit while getting two extra Zombies out of the deal. He then tapped the tokens along with Cryptbreaker to draw a card.

Marc Tobiasch looks on as Thompson's Zombie tribal synergy crawls away with the game.

Outmatched in the synergy department and without a way to deal with the horde of Zombies, Tobiasch kept falling more and more behind, and several turns later Thompson attacked for lethal.

Judging by the early turns of the Game 4, it looked like a matchup between Mono-Cryptbreaker Control and Energy-Starved Aetherworks Marvel.

Thompson continued to build up his board and his hand, as he created Zombie tokens (his favorite foil ones, even) with Cryptbreaker and tapped them to draw cards.

Eventually, Tobiasch got up to six energy for an Aetherworks Marvel activation, but he did not find Ulamog. Rogue Refiner was his consolation prize. His next activation, however, did reveal Ulamog. It exiled the Cryptbreakers, and the advantage bar jumped to the other side.

But as it turned out, was already too late! At 8 life and facing five Zombies, all boosted by Metallic Mimic and a freshly drawn Lord of the Accursed, Tobiasch was unable to block all of them at the same time.

"If they hit Ulamog, let it be on turn six when I have a big enough board," Thompson told me before the match, and looking back, that seems like a called shot because that was pretty much what happened. Ulamog wasn't good enough, and a critical mass of Zombies overwhelmed the Eldrazi titan.

Gerry Thompson defeated Marc Tobiasch 3-1 and advanced to the semifinals!

Gerry Thompson - Mono-Black Zombies

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Marc Tobiasch - Temur Aetherworks Marvel

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