Round 12: Martin Jůza (Esper Dragons) vs. (2) Paul Rietzl (Esper Control)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 17, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and second-ranked Paul Rietzl was on an incredible streak of success.

"I'm going for different formats for Top 8s—Modern, Battle for Zendikar Limited, Standard, Worlds, and now this," Rietzl said, rattling off the formats for Grand Prix Oklahoma City, Grand Prix Madison, and Grand Prix San Diego that surrounded his World Championship Top 4 run. At Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, he was deep in contention with a record of 8-3 going into Round 12.

His opponent, Martin Jůza, had a pithy reply. "That's as good as it gets." Jůza had built his career on the Grand Prix circuit, racking up an outstanding 23 Top 8s (and four wins) there through the years. Despite a dominant performance there, he had just two Pro Tour Top 8s to match up.

While it'd be "just another tournament" for Rietzl to make Top 8, Jůza would add an exclamation to his name in Hall of Fame discussions, with a win underscoring it even more.

The Decks

Esper Control was a deck that came into Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar under the Standard radar. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Painful Truths provided powerful tools, but it was Negate that Rietzl found effective in his deck. Countering "creatures" like Hordeling Outburst and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar had proven valuable throughout the tournament.

Esper Dragons was the forerunner of Rietzl's deck, and Jůza had it in his hands for battle. Instead of relying on the new Planeswalkers—like Ob Nixilis Reignited—it used the hexproof duo of Dragonlord Ojutai and Silumgar, the Drifting Death along with a similar set of removal and countermagic.

The other difference between their decks was Rietzl's plan in the main deck." I hope you're playing something like Esper Dragons," he taunted as the started resolving their opening hands. "As long as you don't play a Mountain I can win."

"Why's that?" Jůza asked.

"I've got the anti-Dragons tech." Rietzl meant the copies of Duress and Despise he had hanging around. He wouldn't waste time putting them to good use.

Martin Jůza brought a deck that was exactly what Paul Rietzl was hoping to see: Esper Dragons.

The Games

"What? You're keeping? I must be in trouble!" Rietzl said. "I will Duress you," was his opening play on turn three. Complete Disregard went away for Jůza as Rietzl played Jace, Vryn's Prodigy into relative safety.

"No blocks," Jůza said gamely when Rietzl activated Jace the following turn. Languish hit the graveyard after Rietzl had seen double Dragonlord Ojutai in Jůza's hand.

"You're not scared?"

"I can't play the whole game that way," Rietzl said and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar came down.

Dragonlord Ojutai hit the battlefield for Jůza but he didn't seem happy. "I'm not in a great position here."

Rietzl unloaded the other copy of Languish he had in hand before piling in with Gideon, though Utter End from Jůza answered it before Rietzl could untap again. With a reload off Dig Through Time, Rietzl was content to pass turns back and forth with Jůza. Negate stopped Jůza's end-of-turn Dig Through Time, but when Rietzl used Ojutai's Command to buy back his Jace, Jůza used the shield down moment to fire off his second Dig Through Time.

Complete Disregard answered Jace for Jůza. When Rietzl tried another Command to counter Dragonlord Ojutai, Jůza used Silumgar's Scorn revealing another Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Clash of Wills finally won that battle for Rietzl.

Jůza fights back regardless of what sort of tricks his opponent had for him.

Jůza looked through what Rietzl had exiled so far. "You really were serious about the anti-Dragons tech."

Rietzl's Jace transformed and bought back Dig Through Time, cast Ob Nixilis Reignited, then played Blighted Fen. "I wanted to give you something to think about."

Shambling Vent attacked and killed Rietzl's Jace as Dragonlord Ojutai took Ob Nixlis down to one loyalty. Ruinous Path resolved to kill Jůza's Ojutai but Silumgar, the Drifting Death appeared to replace it. Rietzl took the initiative of an apparent counter-free Jůza to resolve another Dig Through Time.

Rietzl had a full hand compared to Jůza's lonely one.

"You have seven cards?" Jůza asked.

Rietzl counted them out one at a time, a smile on his face.

Secure the Wastes for six Warriors at the end of turn led into Rietzl casting, and popping, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for his +1/+1 emblem. Jůza activated Shambling Vent to block, dropping to just 8 life instead, but Silkwrap took care of it after combat.

Haven of the Spirit Dragon returned Dragonlord Ojutai to Jůza's hand at the end of Rietzl's turn, but Languish was the first spell cast next. Rietzl met it with Negate.

"You are pre-sideboarded! Duresses and Negates!" Jůza said empathically as, again, his way to climb back into the game was countered. "It resolves."

With just two creatures in play for Jůza, the Blighted Fen was enough for Rietzl to press through lethal damage.

"Are you just trying to beat Esper?" Jůza asked as they shuffled up for the second game.

"I just think Negate's a good card," Rietzl said. "Even the red decks are playing just twelve creatures and things like Hordeling Outburst. Everyone is making tokens and digging. All I needed was some creature kill for Dragons and Jace."

Rietzl and Jůza had matching second turn Jace, Vryn's Prodigy's, but Jůza got to activate his first, leading to a third turn Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Rietzl used Duress to take away Jůza's copy in hand, seeing Silumgar's Scorn, Dig Through Time and Dragonlord Ojutai to go with it.

Despise came next from Rietzl, and Jůza responded with Complete Disregard for Rietzl's Jace. Clash of Wills for one—that Jůza paid for—hit the graveyard before Jace's activation resolved. It let Rietzl's Jace transform, but it still left Jůza with both a Jace of his own and Tasigur.

Rietzl, fanning the fuel for his Dig Through Time.

Jůza tapped out to Dig Through Time, but Dispel was waiting from Rietzl. Jace let Rietzl flash back his Dig Through Time before Jůza's Tasigur finished the Jace. Jůza made one of his own by looting after sacrificing Tasigur, the Golden Fang to Blighted Fen. Ruinous Path and Dig Through Time were taken from Rietzl's hand by back-to-back Duress from Jůza, but Shambling Vent took care of Jace right back.

It was all attrition until Jůza's Dragonlord Ojutai finally appeared.

Ojutai's Command returned Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to play for Rietzl, but even drawing a card didn't find a land to play. After using his Blighted Fen, Rietzl was now the behind on mana development.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was Rietzl's next try, but the counter war was won by Jůza with Silumgar's Scorn. From there, it was elementary for Jůza to push through to victory: Rietzl decided to try his hand in the third game.

Rietzl's second turn Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was met by a second turn Duress—and Rietzl's hand full of creatures and lands. Jůza just passed back as Rietzl began to loot his way into a whole new hand of hidden information. Content to sculpt his hand, Rietzl continued passing back to Jůza until he tried Dig Through Time at the end of Jůza's turn. Silumgar's Scorn stopped that, but it let Rietzl resolve Tasigur, the Golden Fang with Dispel to defend against Scatter to the Winds after he untapped.

Dig Through Time resolved on Jůza's side during his turn as time in the round was called. Rietzl attacked on his turn with Tasigur before playing a Dragonlord Ojutai of his own. Dragonlord Silumgar defended for Jůza as Rietzl untapped into the third extra turn. Jace transformed then Duressed again to leave just Haven of the Spirit Dragon in hand for Jůza.

The attack put Jůza to just 10 life.

"You have just one card?"

Jůza cast Duress to take away Gideon, Ally of Zendikar—the last card in Rietzl's hand—and ran the math on what his attacks looked like. Just Shambling Vent came in to kill Rietzl's Jace, and on the final turn Rietzl pushed all-in after using Blighted Fen. Jůza dropped to 3 life.

It was the final turn of extra turns; the game in a draw.

"I think we played as fast as we could," Jůza said after shaking hands.

"Game 1 was very complicated," Rietzl said. "I wouldn't concede in Top 8 contention. I certainly wouldn't expect you to either."

Jůza 1 – Rietzl 1


Martin Jůza – Esper Dragons

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Paul Rietzl – Esper Control

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