Quarterfinals: Wyatt Darby vs. Thomas Hendriks

Posted in Event Coverage on June 3, 2018

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

To Swamp or not to Swamp, that is the question. At least as posed by Wyatt Darby and Thomas Hendriks.

Hendriks, the more seasoned of the two and now starring in his second Pro Tour Top 8, called Swamp. His Red-Black Aggro deck was part of the ocean of Scrapheap Scrounger/Heart of Kiran/Goblin Chainwhirler decks that swept over this Pro Tour.

Darby, part of the Iowa contingent that has produced plenty of Grand Prix victories (Josh McLaine, Steve Locke) but little Pro Tour success until now, called not to Swamp. He is straight up playing 24 Mountains and going as low to the ground as possible. Whether it's low enough to get under the slightly (very, very slightly) slower deck of Hendriks—well, that's what we're here for.

But, hey, at least we can all agree on Goblin Chainwhirler, right?

Game 1

"The turbo Hazoret strategy, right?" Hendriks mused as Darby took a mulligan. I mean, it wasn't the worst idea…

But, no, Darby had not unlocked some deeper mono-red strategy. He was just faced with some unkeepable hands.

Their opening hands were a study in differences. Darby had aggressive, hasty drops that were going to going to put Hendriks on the back foot immediately. Hendriks, however, was on the play and was the first to make his presence felt with both Scrapheap Scrounger and Goblin Chainwhirler. Scrounger caught a Lightning Strike, and Ahn-Crop Crasher actually put Darby in the lead. Hazoret the Fervent even made his board position look strong.

For like half a second.

Hendriks had a curve of Goblin Chainwhirler into Rekindling Phoenix into Glorybringer and swung for an impressive 11 damage, dropping Darby to 5. Darby flirted with the possibility of a massive counterattack, but doing so would almost surely kill him. Instead, he settled for a smaller attack for 3 while keeping a defensive posture with his Hazoret.

Yeah, that's not where red decks want to be.

But even that didn't matter as an attack and a Lightning Strike left the Iowan dead on board.

"That was like the worst thing you could have for a bunch of turns in a row and I was still pretty close," Darby said.

Thomas Hendriks (left) and Wyatt Darby (right) are looking for a place in the semifinals.

Game 2

Darby was must faster out of the gates this time, curving Kari Zev, Skyship Raider into Ahn-Crop Crasher to immediately put Hendriks under the gun.

"Going to cycle your land here?" Darby quipped hopefully as Hendriks chose to Lightning Strike the sky pirate. Hendriks beefed up his own board presence with a Bomat Courier and Scrapheap Scrounger.

Darby, flush with cards, cast a Hazoret that was frozen in place, though not for very long.

Darby used those cards to clean up the board a bit, removing a Goblin Chainwhirler that had just entered the fight and holding up more removal for the Ahn-Crop Crasher Hendriks deployed the following turn.

It was all prelude to yet more fire and lightning.

When his turn came around, Darby sent out more burn, unlocked Hazoret, and pieced together enough firepower for a game two victory. Just like that, he sent Hendriks from 11 to 0 with a single attack step.

"I'm that red guy," Darby said. "'Oh, how'd he get to the Top 8? Oh, I guess his list was just insane.' That's who I want to be."

Don't let the calm demeanor fool you. Darby is ready for action.

Game 3

Sideboard games are a different animal in this world. The decks can gain life, players pass turns without casting spells, Lightning Strikes are used on creatures. It's a weird red world.

The strangeness showed itself off right away, as Darby started gaining life using Aethersphere Harvester. He even went as high up his curve as Rekindling Phoenix, before losing it to Hour of Glory.

Yeah, there's a four-mana removal spell in this matchup. Things have changed.

Darby continued to push in damage and gain life while Hendriks went even bigger with The Eldest Reborn. Darby then one-upped him with Glorybringer. Hendriks then one-upped him with a Rekindling Phoenix while the powerful black Saga waiting to reanimate Glorybringer should it get the chance.

And get that chance it would. Chandra's Defeat eliminated the Dragon, The Eldest Reborn's story was finally told in full, and the traitorous Dragon joined Hendrik's side of the board.

But it wasn't enough. Thanks to Aethersphere Harvester (which was still around), the life totals were imbalanced in Darby's favor, which forced Hendriks to leave his Rekindling Phoenix back on defense.

The Glorybringer cut down Darby's only creature, but the Aethersphere Harvester wouldn't stay uncrewed for long. Darby found a willing crew and removed the Rekindling Phoenix long enough to attack for the final 3 damage.

Hendriks had his back against the wall and hoped his draws would improve.

Game 4

Once sideboards are in play, looks can be deceiving. A deck dedicated to zigging may zag. A lead may not be so insurmountable. And a blowout of apocalyptic proportions may not spell doom after all.

For example, it looked like Hendriks should have been ahead in the fourth game. He removed not one, but two Hazorets with an Hour of Glory—something I'm pretty sure I've never seen before. He landed a Goblin Chainwhirler, a Soul-Scar Mage, and eventually a Rekindling Phoenix. It sure sounds like a squad dreams are made of.

But this was a sideboard game, and none of those were sideboard cards. Hendrik's crew was powerful, but it wasn't special.

Darby, on the other hand, had the MVP of his post-sideboard games. Darby had Aethersphere Harvester.

Thanks to that Harvester, Darby also had a life-total advantage that didn't match what your eyes told you the game should be.

"Wait, he's winning 12-9?" you might have asked. "He's actually ahead?"

And he was. He had a Goblin Chainwhirler that was 1/1 thanks to Ifnir Deadlands, but it was still strong enough to pilot the Harvester. Darby was actually ahead in the race to 0 ever so slightly. 12-9 became 8-6 which then became 4-6 when Darby faced a tough scenario.

Here's the situation from Darby's perspective. He had a single Lightning Strike and an Earthshaker Khenra in hand. He controlled the 1/1 Goblin Chainwhirler and the Aethersphere Harvester. Hendriks, meanwhile, had a freshly cast Rekindling Phoenix, a full-size Chainwhirler, and a Soul-Scar Mage. The Mage and Chainwhirler were tapped from attacking. Hendriks had one mystery card in hand.

What do you do?

I'll give you a moment to think it over. Build out the board state in your mind. Or on your gaming table. You do you.



Darby did something you normally don't see with mono-red. He cast his haste creature—then passed the turn.

Hold on, rewind that.

He passed the turn. He cast a haste creature and passed the turn.

What's more. It worked.

Hendriks drew nothing on his turn. His mystery card was also nothing. He also passed the turn.

And Darby drew Glorybringer. And lo, it brought him to glory.

Exerted to clear out the Phoenix and joined on its assault by Aethersphere Harvester, Glorybringer brought Darby home. And he still had all these Lightning Strikes.

Sometimes, being "that red guy" isn't so bad.

Wyatt Darby defeats Thomas Hendriks, three games to one.

Hendriks extends the hand to end his impressive Pro Tour Dominaria run.

Wyatt Darby—Mono-Red Aggro

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Thomas Hendriks, Thomas—Red-Black Aggro

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