Quarterfinals: Thomas Hendriks (Green Devotion) vs. Adrian Sullivan (Blue-Black Control)

Posted in PRO TOUR DRAGONS OF TARKIR on April 12, 2015

By Craig Jones

We're down to the final eight competitors of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. The first quarterfinal of this Sunday features Adrian Sullivan's Blue-Black Control deck facing off against Thomas Hendriks's Green Devotion deck (with a red splash for the mighty Dragonlord Atarka).

Asking both the players and their teammates before the match, it sounded as though Sullivan's control deck had the edge in this matchup. In testing, Hendriks's fellow Dutchman and teammate Frank Karsten said the matchup had been 5-5, but he felt that he'd not had the best of draws.

Before sideboarding, the Blue-Black control deck has the much better endgame...if it survives that long. There are spots in the midgame where the Devotion deck can ramp up mana and outmuscle the control deck with powerful spells. Genesis Hydra is key here, as the effect of putting a card into play from the library will bypass Sullivan's countermagic.

After sideboarding, the Devotion deck fights back with Planeswalkers of its own. Nissa, Worldwaker is especially useful, as the lands she turns into 4/4 creatures dodge both Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Perilous Vault.

Karsten still felt the control deck had the edge, and Sullivan agreed when I went over to speak to him. Sullivan felt this was probably his best matchup in the Top 8.

Sullivan also has another edge in that he gets to go first by virtue of finishing higher in the standings. This is important, as it means he will most likely have the security of getting to Dissolve (or Dissipate) mana before Hendriks gets a chance to start summoning the bigger threats in his deck.

Both Thomas Hendriks and Adrian Sullivan were aware of who had the edge, but in a game with so many powerful spells and where open mana mattered so much, anything could happen.

Despite these edges, it's still a game of Magic—things don't always go as expected.

The Games

In the first game, it started as prepared for. Sullivan had countermagic shields up on turn three and was able to Dissipate Hendriks's Courser of Kruphix.

From there, it got a little scary for the control player as Hendriks played more mana creatures and muscled out a Genesis Hydra for six, bringing along a Whisperwood Elemental for company. Silence the Believers took care of the Elemental, but the 6/6 Hydra was still around and got in for a couple of hits while Sullivan waited for a fifth land to arrive.

Now Sullivan was under pressure. If he tapped out to deal with the Hydra, he'd leave an opening for something else to enter play. He used a Bile Blight to temporarily shrink the Hydra and save 3 damage. Hendriks went for the throat by adding an Arbor Colossus to the board...

...only to walk into Sullivan's Crux of Fate.

Ah, the old 'sandbag the mass removal' trick. Never trust a control player lying possum.

Sullivan earns his incremental edges through one-shot answers and plenty of card draw.

To be fair to Hendriks, as he'd correctly said later: "You can't play around Crux of Fate when there's only one in the deck."

He had a window to play something good in the turn Sullivan was tapped out after clearing the board. The top of his deck didn't oblige, and then it was a case of the control deck doing what the control deck does. On the turns Hendriks drew a threat, Sullivan countered or removed it. On the turns Hendriks didn't, Sullivan restocked his hand with Jace's Ingenuity or Dig Through Time.

At this point, the game was over, and it was just a case of waiting for a win condition to show up. In this case it was Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and Hendriks was put out of his misery by his own stolen Polukranos, World Eater.

Game 2 quickly got started, and Hendriks had the window to get a threat down before Sullivan could get countermagic shields up.

This was how it started, as Courser of Kruphix came into play before Sullivan had three mana. Hendriks then got a little lucky with a Genesis Hydra. He played it for two, and not only found a Sylvan Caryatid, the card on top of his library after shuffling was a Mountain he could put into play with the Courser's ability.

For Hendriks, the majority of his threats were potentially game-ending, and when going first, he had the opportunity to resolve one before Sullivan's shields were up.

Now he had enough mana to start to muscle through Sullivan's defenses. So far, Sullivan had only played a Hero's Downfall (on Shaman of Forgotten Ways).

Once Sullivan hit five mana, the game became very interesting. Hendriks had been given virtually a free hand in bringing critters to the table and had two Coursers of Kruphix, along with a Satyr-mustering Xenagos, the Reveler to chip away at Sullivan's life total. However, this was where knowing each other's decklists changed the dynamics of the game. Hendriks knew Sullivan had Aetherspouts. If he attacked aggressively and Sullivan had it, his whole board would be blown away.

That made the game cagey. Hendriks had enough power on the table to put Sullivan down in one all-out attack, but instead, he attacked cautiously. This gave Sullivan an extra turn when Silence the Believers took out two attackers instead of one. It was all for naught. He didn't have the Aetherspouts and the next attack took the match to a decider.

Game 3 played out similarly to the first game. Hendriks had mana acceleration in the form of Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid, but by the time he went for his first real threat, a Whisperwood Elemental, Sullivan had three mana open and Hero's Downfall sent the Elemental to the graveyard before the end step trigger.

A fourth land allowed Sullivan to Thoughtseize while having three lands open to Dissolve Hendriks's second Whisperwood Elemental.

This game revolved around Sullivan shaping a game state that would allow him get out and protect Perilous Vault. He'd already taken one of Hendriks's sideboarded Reclamation Sages. This left the way open for him to run out the Vault with the aim of activating it on the following turn.

Hendriks had a difficult decision in his turn. If Sullivan untapped with the Vault in play, he could put himself in a very dominant position by exiling the board at the end of Hendriks's next turn. Hendriks decided his best line was to run out a massive Genesis Hydra for eleven, and hope to hit the one remaining Reclamation Sage in the top eleven cards.

He found Nissa, Worldwaker instead, which turned one of his lands into a creature capable of surviving the Vault activation. This wasn't enough. He had a window where he really needed to draw a good threat after Sullivan had tapped out to exile the board with Perilous Vault. It didn't happen, as Xenagos showed up a turn too late and was answered with Disdainful Stroke.

Hendriks got in a bash with his Nissa-activated land before that too was flung off the battlefield with Aetherspouts.

And once again, the game was all but over as the control deck took over the late game. Sullivan refilled his hand with card draw while Hendriks hit blanks in the form of unneeded mana creatures. A tag team of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver showed up and took Sullivan through the match.

Adrian Sullivan defeats Thomas Hendriks 2-1 and advances to the Semifinals!

Thomas Hendriks's Green Devotion Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir

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Adrian Sullivan's Blue-Black Control - Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir

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