Round 12 Feature Match: (12) Samuel Black (Amulet Bloom) vs. Robin Dolar (Abzan)

Posted in PRO TOUR FATE REFORGED on February 7, 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.

Making the Top 8 of a Pro Tour is tough. Not only are you battling over two days against the best competitors in the world, you have to achieve a very good record along the way. Three, perhaps four, losses was the threshold to make it and both of the competitors facing down this round were there.

Robin Dolar was a player on the rise. With a string of three Grand Prix Top 8s across 2013 and 2014, including victory in Boston-Worcester last year, Dolar was one of the many players battling through the weekend on the cusp of a breakthrough performance.

Twelfth-ranked Samuel Black was a renown competitor for several years. With Pro Tour Top 8s at both Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011 (the first Modern format Pro Tour) and Pro Tour Theros in 2013, ten Grand Prix Top 8s (six between 2013 and 2014 alone), and a trip to Nice for the 2014 World Championship, Black has cross-crossed the globe as one of the game's top players.

While twelfth-ranked Samuel Black went for the unconventional choice of Amulet Bloom this weekend, Robin Dolar stuck with the color combination that won him Grand Prix Boston-Worcester last year: Abzan.

While winning a match is every player's plan, losing here would put making Top 8 out of reach. Neither could afford a mistake.

The Decks

Abzan, Dolar's choice for the weekend, was the most popular deck to find. Thanks to the push of Siege Rhino's power, players herded toward the apparent best deck for casting Thoughtseize, Path to Exile, Kitchen Finks, Lingering Souls, and Gavony Township. It's an efficient deck that can both apply early pressure and sustain it throughout the game. With plenty of hand disruption, thanks to Liliana of the Veil and Inquisiton of Kozilek, Abzan decks plan to demolish the opportunities combo decks try to create.

Amulet Bloom, what Black brought, was a deck on the rise. With its appearance at the finals of the recent Grand Prix in Omaha, players everywhere were finally introduced to what it deck could do:

It looks more complicated than it sounds as the combo is repetitive once it's moving. Once you establish the shortcuts it's brisk to advance the game, usually in a way that ends your opponents.

The Games

Black began his first turn with Ancient Stirrings for Gruul Turf, making it obvious what his plan was even if Dolar didn't already know. With his mulligan to five, Dolar sat on a lonely Marsh Flats for a pair of turns before finding Tectonic Edge to pair with Overgrown Tomb; Tarmogoyf soon followed, along with a third land to Maelstrom Pulse away Amulet of Vigor.

Black developed his mana as Dolar deployed more resistance, casting and using Liliana of the Veil to discard (Black: Hive Mind; Dolar: Lingering Souls). Thoughtseize revealed a hand filled with Primeval Titans, another Hive Mind, and more lands, and Dolar chose Pact of Negation, locking out a potential combo from Black on the next turn.

Dolar may have had to mulligan to five, but that doesn't change the quality of his cards.

Black cast Primeval Titan to pull Radiant Fountain and Khalni Garden from his library, going to 8 life and getting a 0/1 Plant token.

"You didn't think I came prepared?" Black laughed as a floor reporter scrambled to get a token to the table. While the two lands were the best Black's deck could offer him in the situation, it wasn't enough.

Path to Exile cleared away Primeval Titan, Liliana forced the token away, and Dolar attacked for victory in the first game.

The second game was a smoother affair for Dolar on the outset, using Thoughtseize to send away a copy of Anicent Stirrings to leave behind another copy alongside two Primeval Titans. Casting Ancient Stirrings then the Amulet of Vigor it found, Black passed back into a live Dark Confidant. It revealed Abrupt Decay on Dolar's upkeep.

"Alright," Black said with a smirk.

While Dolar attacked and destroyed the first Amulet with the revealed Decay, Black immediately drew and played a second to bring an untapped Simic Growth Chamber into play. With a hand full of cards, Dolar chose to play Siege Rhino and continue pressuring.

"I have to imagine this will work out well," Black said as he cast Summer Bloom on his turn.

"I guess," Dolar agreed.

Some of Black's draws can get out of control quickly.

"I can play more lands this turn, but I'm not smart enough to do this," Black joked. He began by making the mana to cast Primeval Titan by bouncing and replaying Simic Growth Chamber. It brought out Boros Garrison and Slayers' Stronghold that targeted his Titan to give it haste, attack for more bounce-lands, and give it double strike off Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to trample over the Blocking Siege Rhino.

After combat he cast a second Primeval Titan to fetch out more lands. With the battlefield filled in Black's favor, Dolar didn't survive another turn.

The third game started with Leyline of Sanctity in play for Black, shutting out Thoughtseize and other ways for Dolar to attack the hand. Instead, the Abzan player settled for Tarmogoyf with Treetop Village and attacking the old-fashioned way. With his grip protected, Black used Serum Visions and more to massage his plays.

On the third turn Black cast Summer Bloom to recycle his Khalni Garden and copy Selesnya Sanctuary. Two 0/1 Plant tokens were just fodder to buy Black more time.

"Sorry, Plant." Black said as he threw the first one in the way of Tarmogoyf. Dolar used his next turn to Tectonic Edge away one Selesnya Sanctuary, then the next attack to push the other token away. Black fell to 12 life before he added Sigarda, Host of Herons to the battlefield. That finally put a stop to Dolar's attacks altogether.

He wouldn't attack again.

The Angel attacked after Black bounced and replayed his Garden once more, and Summoner's Pact pulled Primeval Titan to play. Gruul Turf and other bounce-lands appeared and Black was swimming in mana. At 9 life, Dolar worked through his remaining options in the face of Black's fatties.

He decided to extend his hand.

"This card…" Dolar trailed off as he pointed to Leyline of Sanctity.

"It's a good one," Black admitted.

"Good luck in the rest." Dolar offered before he stepped away.

Black 2 – Dolar 1

Samuel Black - Pro Tour Fate Reforged

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Robin Dolar - Pro Tour Fate Reforged

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