Round 6: Zac Elsik (Jeskai Control) vs. Yuuya Watanabe (Bant Aetherworks)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 14, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Zac Elsik is a deck brewer mostly known for popularizing the Modern Lantern Control deck last year. Today, he's playing a unique Jeskai Control deck with lots of reactive spells, Dynavolt Tower, and Torrential Gearhulk.

Yuuya Watanabe is a Japanese Magic player who has recently been inducted in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. His accomplishments include three Pro Tour Top 8s, a World Championship title, and 24 Grand Prix Top 8s. Today he's piloting the format's newest combo deck, Aetherworks Marvel. Unlike most Aetherworks Marvel decks being played this weekend, Watanabe opted to play white in the deck instead of the more typical red for cards like Spell Queller, Tamiyo, Field Researcher, and Descend upon the Sinful, giving him a Plan B in case he's unable to find his combo pieces.

Zac Elsik, known for his controlling brews, brought one to this Pro Tour as he faces off against newly inducted Pro Tour Hall of Famer Yuuya Watanabe.

The Games

Elsik won the die roll and opted to play. He kept his hand while Watanabe mulliganed. After eventually deciding to keep a fresh six, he used his scry to put the top card to the bottom.

Elsik led with a Needle Spires and passed, and Watanabe played Attune with Aether, finding a Plains. Watanabe's turn two was Woodweaver's Puzzleknot, and Zac followed up with Anticipate. Watanabe then added a Servant of the Conduit to the board but Zac had a removal spell ready in the form of Galvanic Bombardment.

Watanabe played a Glassblower's Puzzleknot on turn four and scryed his cards to the bottom, while Zac played an end-of-turn Glimmer of Genius. The players continued to cast draw and scry spells to set up their hands and libraries, but neither player was doing anything proactive.

Elsik settled in for the long game, which he was more than comfortable with given his deck choice.

Finally, Watanabe found and cast Aetherworks Marvel, but it was met with a Negate. A tapped-out Watanabe allowed Elsik to resolve a Nahiri, the Harbinger, which began ticking up to further improve Elsik's hand. Nahiri was doing some serious work, as redundant removal spells weren't doing much in a match-up devoid of creatures. After Elsik sculpted the perfect hand, he resolved a Dynavolt Tower with plenty of counterspells to back it up. Zak finally found a win condition and had begun taking over the game.

Elsik continued to play card draw spells in the form of Glimmer of Genius and Anticipate, and his hand was stacked. All Watanabe could do was add various Puzzleknots to the board.

Torrential Gearhulk hit the battlefield on Watanabe's end step and cast yet another Glimmer of Genius. Elsik had enough lands and cards in hand to cast multiple spells a turn, meaning Tower was able to activate and hit Watanabe for 3 each turn. After two attacks from Gearhulk and an Incendiary Flow to the face, Watanabe was out of time. A desperation Aetherworks Marvel was cast, but a Void Shatter from Elsik prompted a concession.

Players sideboarded in silence. Elsik appeared to have a fantastic match-up, but Watanabe boarded in most of his fifteen cards. Of course, Elsik was unsure what that meant, if anything. Aetherworks Marvel is a fragile deck and succumbs to a single counterspell, so Watanabe definitely needed another plan if he wanted a shot to win this match.

"I go first, good luck," said Watanabe. Elsik reciprocated and both players kept their hands with confidence.

The first play of the game was Servant of the Conduit from Watanabe, and all Elsik could follow up with was land, pass. Attune with Aether fetched a Plains from Watanabe and the Servant got in for two damage, Watanabe's first damage of the match.

Watanabe followed up the attack with a Longtusk Cub. Watanabe had a transformational sideboard of siding out most of the combo pieces in favor of big energy creatures. This was bad news for Elsik, as he had sided out most of his removal. His turn three only consisted of land, pass.

Watanabe sent the Servant and Cub into combat and Elsik had no responses, dropping to 14 and netting two more energy for Watanabe. Watanabe passed the turn with no play and Elsik cast an end-of-turn Spell Queller with nothing to counter.

Watanabe attacked with Cub and, with six energy in his pool, Elsik opted not to block with his Spell Queller. Watanabe pumped the Cub twice and Elsik fell to 10. Post combat, Watanabe attempted to add a Tireless Tracker to the board, but it was met with a Spell Queller from Elsik. While Elsik was doing what he could to climb back into this game, Longtusk Cub was still proving to be a serious problem for the Jeskai Control player.

Elsik attempted a Nahiri as an answer for the Cub, but it was met with a Negate from Watanabe. Elsik had no choice but to pass the turn. Watanabe attacked with a 4/4 Cub, and Elsik chumped with one of the Spell Quellers.

Watanabe, showcasing why he's in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame with a transformation sideboard strategy.

Watanabe began his next turn with a Servant of the Conduit and Elsik allowed it to resolve. Another Cub attack caused Elsik to fall to 5. Elsik cast an end-of-turn Glimmer, but all he could do on his turn was play a land and say go.

An alpha strike from Watanabe with two Servants and a 5/5 Cub threatened lethal, but Elsik responded with an escalated Blessed Alliance, gaining 4 life and forcing Watanabe to sacrifice one of the Servants. The Cub got chumped by the Queller, and Watanabe recast his Tireless Tracker that was trapped under it.

Elsik again did nothing on his turn but play a land. Watanabe attacked with Cub and Servant and Elsik dropped a Torrential Gearhulk onto the battlefield. Gearhulk cast Blessed Alliance from the graveyard gaining Elsik another four life and forcing Watanabe to sac a Servant. The Cub got through and Watanabe used some of his stored energy to make it an 8/8.

Elsik again passed his turn with only playing a land. Watanabe began the next turn with a land which made a clue, and after sacrificing all of his clues, Tracker was now up to a 6/5. An alpha strike prompted a Gearhulk chump block from Elsik.

Watanabe played another Longtusk Cub post combat, and in response Elsik Torrential Gearhulk'd his Glimmer, but did not find an answer for it. Elsik had no choice but to draw a card and pass his turn.

Watanabe again sent three lethal attackers into the Red Zone, and Elsik cast a third Gearhulk. The Gearhulk cast a desperation Anticipate, but Elsik conceded after finding no answers.

Players sideboarded for the final game and Watanabe again mashed his entire fifteen cards into his deck. This was a huge decision point for Elsik. Does he sideboard in his removal spells to deal with Watanabe's creatures? Or does he suspect that Watanabe boarded in the Aetherworks Marvel combo for Game 3?

Elsik mulliganed his opener, found a six he was happy with, and the game was underway.

The first play of the game was a Servant of the Conduit from Watanabe. Elsik killed it with Galvanic Bombardment at end of turn. After a land, pass from Elsik, Watanabe successfully resolved a Servant. Watanabe casted Tamiyo, Field Researcher on turn four that was met with a Spell Queller from Elsik.

Watanabe cast a second Tamiyo the following turn which resolved. He ticked it up giving curiosity to the Servant and Queller and then cast a Longtusk Cub with his remaining mana. All Elsik could do to follow up was cast Glimmer of Genius.

Elsik began his next turn with a Harnessed Lightning on the Cub, then played a land and passed. Tamiyo continued to tick up but neither player had profitable attacks.

Elsik played a Wandering Fumarole and passed the turn, and Watanabe followed up with an uptick from Tamiyo, which was threatening ultimate on the next turn, and Elsik had to find an answer quickly. Elsik cast Glimmer which was met with Spell Queller from Watanabe. Queller exiled the Glimmer but Galvanic Bombardment from Elsik allowed him to recast it. Elsik found a third Bombardment and targeted Servant, Watanabe's last creature, and Elsik had turned the corner. With Watanabe tapped out, Elsik activated his Needle Spires and attacked Tamiyo for four and she fell to three loyalty.

Watanabe did nothing on the following turn and a second Needle Spires attack from Elsik destroyed the Tamiyo. Neither player had nonland permanents on the board, but Elsik had multiple creature lands, giving him a massive advantage.

Watanabe cast Aetherworks Marvel with four energy in his pool and Elsik allowed it to resolve. A Torrential Gearhulk gave Elsik even more cards and increased his clock significantly.

Watanabe had a one-turn window to find a way to produce energy and activate his Marvel, as next turn Elsik could make a lethal attack. He drew his card, played a land and hard cast Emrakul, the Promised End. Elsik Void Shattered it, but his next turn would still be under Watanabe's control.

During Elsik's turn controlled by Watanabe, Watanabe saw a hand of Harnessed Lightning, Torrential Gearhulk, and Negate. Watanabe did not have many options, as Elsik was not holding enough removal to deal with multiple Gearhulks, Spell Quellers, and creature lands. He decided to cast Elsik's Gearhulk, targeting Harness Lightning, killing the same Gearhulk.

Time was called and Elsik took turn one. He activated two creature lands and sent in the team, and Watanabe couldn't produce enough blockers to survive.

Elsik 2 – Watanabe 1


Elsik, Zac - Jeskai Control

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Watanabe, Yuuya - Bant Aetherworks

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