"Welcome to the 75-card mirror match." - Frank Karsten
These two are teammates on the Czech Republic / Slovakia think tank known as Team Lost in the Woods, which features other big names like Matej Zatlkaj, Stanislav Cifka, and Ivan Floch. Unlike their teammates, Juza and Karsten decided to go with Green-White Aggro this weekend. Now they're stuck battling each other.
Frank Karsten of the Netherlands is known for his keen analysis and a mathematical approach to the game, and his strong career saw him inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame in 2009. He hasn't slowed down since.
Opposite him is Martin Juza, three-time captain of the Czech National Team, two-time Pro Tour Top 8'er, and international man of mystery. Juza is a tireless world traveler known for attending Grand Prix all across the globe, often accompanied by his partner in crime, Hall of Famer Shuuhei Nakamura.
"We actually tested the mirror match last night," said Karsten as he shuffled for the first game.
I asked how it went.
"Well... it turns out it's 50-50."
What's at Stake?
Both are sitting at a comfortable 4-1 after five rounds, meaning they've guaranteed at least making Day 2. The next step is to finish strong in order to set up a deep run on Saturday.
Karsten currently leads the race for the captaincy of the Dutch National Team. With Hall of Famer Kamiel Cornelisson watching from home this weekend, Karsten's only competition is Jelger Wiegersma (3-2 after Round 5). Wiegersma would need at least a Top 4 finish to overtake Karsten, and then only if Karsten finishes outside of the Top 25. Staying ahead of Wiegersma is priority number one for Karsten.
Juza doesn't have much hope of overtaking countryman Stanislav Cifka to head the Czech team for a fourth time. He would need to win the whole shebang and have Cifka finish lower than 25th. Chief among his worries is making a stab at Top 16 to lock up Platinum Pro Club status for next season.
"Do you want to just shuffle the decks together and draw off one big Tower deck?" - Martin Juza
Karsten led off with turn one Sunblade Elf. Juza thought for over a minute for how to play his first turn, which caused Karsten to break into some seated dancing. Juza laughed and shook his head.
"There was this song that we heard probably a hundred times. Frank loves it. I love it too. I mean, it's a fifteen-year-old-girl song, but it's great."
Juza finally made up his mind and dropped Plains and Soldier of the Pantheon. Karsten hit for 2 and summoned a Fleecemane Lion, hardly gangbusters in the situation. Juza played a Temple Garden untapped and summoned Experiment One with a shrug, earning him some gentle ribbing from Karsten about his cards being out of order.
Karsten cleared out the Soldier of the Pantheon with Banishing Light and hit for 5. Juza hit back and made a 2/2 Knight with Selesnya Charm to evolve his Experiment One. Now it was Karsten's turn to think. Eventually he swung in with both his creatures, trading off his Sunblade Elf for the token. A second Banishing Light took care of the Experiment. Juza returned the favor with a Light of his own to get rid of Karsten's Lion.
Unfortunately for Karsten, Juza wasn't entirely out of haymakers. His first Advent of the Wurm was met by Selesnya Charm from Karsten, but Karsten had no answer for Fleecemane Lion and then a second Advent. A late Experiment One was hardly up to the task.
Karsten pulled out his sideboarding guide, and Juza jokingly asked if he could see before pulling out his own exact copy of the same guide.
"Maybe we should try something different just to throw the other guy off. Might be worth it..."
Karsten agreed. "Oh it's definitely worth it."
"The Archangels are coming in, I'll tell you that much."
Juza excused himself for a moment, and Karsten took the opportunity to confide in me.
"The downside of playing in the Feature Match Area is that they have the actual tokens. I was really looking forward to attacking Martin with my Martin Juza tokens."
Juza had the beatdown draw in game two, leading off with Experiment One.
"I thought I'd try it the other way around this match."
"That's why they call you Smartin."
Juza turned to me. "Make sure you put that in. 'Smartin'."
They matched Loxodon Smiters. Karsten played an extra one, but with Soldier of the Pantheon across the board he couldn't find a good attack. Juza sent in his Smiter. Karsten double-blocked just in case, and they traded off 4/4s. Juza passed with four mana open. Karsten played a fifth land and passed, seeing the expected Advent of the Wurm. He took the opportunity to monstrous his Fleecemane Lion while Juza was tapped out.
Juza played his fifth land and took another short think. This time it was three mana for Ajani, Caller of the Pride. He waffled on which ability to use, thinking at first to launch his Wurm token into the air for a ten-point attack, before deciding against and just buffing his Experiment One to a 5/5. He added Voice of Resurgence and passed.
It was looking dire for Karsten, and after untapping he sat with his head in his hands. He had played only three spells to Juza's six. Eventually he turned his Smiter and Lion sideways, sending both at Ajani. Juza ran over a few blocking combinations and settled on putting the Soldier of the Pantheon in front of the Lion and both of his 5/5s in front of the Smiter. Karsten had tricks, a Selesnya Charm on the Lion and Setessan Tactics to help the Smiter take down the Wurm token. Still it was a three-for-two, and he was behind on the board.
Juza just hit back for 9 and passed the turn. Karsten was down to 8 life. Karsten had no play on his turn. Juza added Sunblade Elf and sent all of his creatures. Karsten shrugged and pushed his Lion in front of the massive Experiment. Juza activated the Sunblade Elf and Karsten was down to 2. Karsten drew, then immediately extended his hand in defeat.
Juza 2 – Karsten 0
"Well, you need the points more than I do," said Karsten.
"Yeah, hopefully I put them to good use."
"I played the first game pretty aggressively."
"You mean with the second O-Ring?"
"Yeah, I thought it was best considering the hand you were likely to have."
"I think you need to get me so you can have me dead with Ajani. I liked your play."
Karsten nodded in agreement. "Your other big cards are Ajani, Caller of the Pride and the Archangel of Thune. They let you punch through. But it's also about being able come out strong with a good curve backed up by Banishing Light."
"You really have to be careful with your Banishing Lights," said Juza. "You can't afford to use one on like a 4/4 and then your opponent plays Archangel. You'll just lose."