Round 5: Blood in the Water

Posted in Event Coverage on February 21, 2014

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

Michael Hetrick vs. Stephen Mann

Kai Budde (Storm) vs. Alex Sittner (Faeries)

(3) Reid Duke vs. (13) Makihito Mihara

Perhaps the biggest story coming into this Pro Tour was what the recent changes to the Modern banned list were going to do to the format. This match featured two of the biggest beneficiaries of the changes, as well as gave us a firsthand glance at the return of one of the biggest enchantments of Magic'spast. With the unbanning of Bitterblossom, the viability of Faeries in Modern became a hot button topic. Faeries spent a long time dominating every format in which the pieces existed, so it was little surprise when one of the biggest pieces of the deck, Bitterblossom, was banned in Modern. With its reinstatement, most of the players in the tournament shied away from the fae, opting for more tested and true decks. Still, the deck had been doing fairly well on Magic Online in the days leading up to the tournament, giving Alex Sittner a bit more peace of mind about his choice for the weekend.

On the other side of the table, one of the most decorated players in Magic's storied history was playing another major beneficiary of the changes, notably the banning of Deathrite Shaman. Kai Budde's UR Storm deck was very difficult to play successfully in the era of Deathrite Shaman. The ability to eat sorcery cards and instants at instant speed made getting Pyromancer Ascension online a labor, and many players simply decided it wasn't worth the effort. Budde's teammate and eternal rival Jon Finkel has been a proponent of Storm for years now, and convinced Budde that the post-Shaman world was ripe for Storm to succeed.

Round 5 featured a match-up between two deck archetypes that were heavily impacted in a positive way from the recent Banned & Restricted list changes.


The Games

"Ah, Faeries," Budde sighed as Sittner played a Creeping Tar Pit for his initial land of the match. There are few decks that play the manland, making it almost a dead giveaway for Faeries.

Budde himself gave his deck away early, landing a pair of consecutive Pyromancer Ascensions on turns two and three. Knowing that he hand to end things quickly, Sittner flashed in a Snapcaster Mage to start attacking. He was able to disrupt Budde over the next couple of turns with a Vendilion Clique and a Mistbind Clique, representing imminent lethal damage, but Budde's deck functions mostly at instant speed. More importantly, he was able to sneak a Goblin Electromancer into play, a card that would be essential in his efforts to go off.

Kai Budde's deck was at a disadvantage, but he wasn't inducted in the Hall of Fame for no reason. If he can find a way to win, he will.

When Sittner played the Mistbind Clique on Budde's upkeep, the German Hall-of-Famer began going through the motions. He had managed to power up his Ascensions on the previous turn, allowing him to copy all of the spells he played on this final turn. Still in his upkeep, Budde managed to cast a pair of Desperate Ravings before flashing one back, each time tripling the effect with his Ascensions. After moving to his main phase, he was able to play a Shivan Reef and tap it to cast a cheaper Manamorphose thanks to his Electromancer. The Ascensions tripled it, and Sittner didn't want to waste any of their time, understanding that Budde would easily be able to draw into anything he needed to thanks to his two Ascensions and the all-important Electromancer.

Sittner believed that the match-up was definitely in his favor, and Budde certainly agreed. This became a little clearer in the second game, as Sittner absolutely steamrolled Budde. An Engineered Explosives for two ate a Goblin Electromancer and a Pyromancer Ascension, taking a Bitterblossom down in the process, but the recently unbanned enchantment had already done its damage. Between the three tokens he had generated, a Mutavault, a Mistbind Clique, and a Creeping Tar Pit, Sittner had more than enough pressure to take advantage of a land-light draw from Budde, putting him out of his misery.

The final game once again showcased the reason that Faeries was so feared in its day and seemed so good against Storm. Sittner opened with Thoughtseize, peeling a Defense Grid out of Budde's hand. He then blew up a Pyromancer Ascension with an Engineered Explosives before getting a Grafdigger's Cage and Bitterblossom into play.

It looked like the game was going to be all Sittner. He had answers to every threat that Budde offered him and had plenty more answers hiding in his stocked hand. Despite having a mountain of control, though, it only took one small slip for it to all come crumbling down. The turn Sittner dropped his Bitterblossom, he couldn't leave up enough mana to protect himself with Cryptic Command, relying on a Spellstutter Sprite for two to keep him safe. Then, Budde dropped the bombshell: Blood Moon. Sittner managed to sigh with his entire body. Every single one of his lands became a Mountain, and he could do nothing other than bit his lip and acknowledge it. He took one last chance to flash in the Spellstutter Sprite he had banked on protecting himself, needing to try and end the game quickly.

Alex Sittner's mistake proves the dangers of playing Faeries: a powerful deck that does not leave room for error.

From here, Budde set about trying to go off before the Bitterblossom slowly killed him. He managed to get a Pyromancer Ascension into play alongside a second Electromancer that easily slid into play against the defenseless Sittner. He quickly put it up to two counters and generated enough of a storm count to completely reset Sittner's board with Grapeshot. Now without an offense, Sittner could do nothing but hope that Budde would fizzle bad enough that he wouldn't be able to go off for a couple of turns, something that was very unlikely to happen. When Budde simply continued his turn and ended it with an Empty the Warrens for sixteen tokens, Sittner smiled and shook Budde's hand.

"That Blood Moon was so good," Budde said after the match. It had effectively dug him out of Sittner's vice-like grip.

"Yeah, I screwed up," Sittner said of the decision to drop the Bitterblossom when he did. "I don't know why I wasn't expecting that."

Budde 2 – Sittner 1

Kai Budde's Storm

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Alex Sittner's Faeries

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