Round 14: Ivan Floch (Eldrazi) vs. Oliver Polak-Rottmann (Infect)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 6, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

Oliver Polak-Rottmann is a rising European player on Team EUreka. With four Grand Prix Top 8s, including a win in Utrecht, this Austrian has been making a name for himself on that side of the Atlantic. He's finished 17th at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, but with a win here, he might break that record with ease.

He has done well with his more traditional Infect strategy, even as the tables around him gained a warped reality. Right now in the feature match area, Polak-Rottmann is the only non-Eldrazi player. That includes his opponent, Ivan Floch.

Pro Tour Magic 2015 champion Ivan Floch, recently joined the team of Face-to-Face Games and Channel Fireball. His new team has brought along this strictly colorless version of the Eldrazi build that is likely putting at least one member into the Top 8 right beside him in Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Luis Scott-Vargas. Floch is hoping to do the same here.

The two chatted about when the first and last times they played were. "Austria and Slovakia are neighbors, so sometimes we even shared the same PTQs," Floch told me.

The two have a casual demeanor with each other, which is good, because this match-up is fierce. The Eldrazi deck has explosive early-game creatures to race Infect, but also has a game-breaking artifact in its pocket, Chalice of the Void. If Floch can land this spell on his first, or even second turn, everything that makes Infect great becomes its greatest liability. Once one-drop spells are unavailable (and Infect's usual sideboard artifact removal, Nature's Claim, is also one mana), Floch can take his time and win the game with ease.

While Polak-Rottmann went with his tried and true Infect, Ivan Floch was one of the players piloting the utterly brutal and very colorless Eldrazi deck.

The Games

Floch was on the play, and on the first turn he laid a Mutavault then used Simian Spirit Guide to cast a Chalice of the Void for one counter. That could be game right there. Polak-Rottmann couldn't help but chuckle. This was going to be rough.

On Floch's second turn, he cast an Eldrazi Mimic. The 2/1-and-so-much-more is a part of some of the Eldrazi deck's best sequences. Here, Floch just emptied his hand with a Matter Reshaper and attacked with the now-3/2 Eldrazi Mimic. With Polak-Rottmann hampered, even this slower clock was likely enough.

But Polak-Rottmann had a plan. It was an odd plan, but a plan nonetheless. With his spare mana each turn he cast a one-mana spell that was immediately countered by the Chalice of the Void. He was slowly building his graveyard to delve away and cast the giant Become Immense waiting in his hand.

With a Blighted Agent out, he could hopefully do most of his poison damage in one fell swoop. Since those one-mana pump spells like Groundswell weren't doing anything anyway, they might as well help cast the game-ending Become Immense. All Polak-Rottmann needed was his Inkmoth Nexus to stave off some of the assault. His life total was dwindling quickly, and he had to survive one more Eldrazi attack step.

But there was a grave flaw in his plan. Part of the genius of the fully colorless Eldrazi deck was that all the lands are utility lands. This meant that in addition to Blinkmoth Nexus and the like on the field, Floch played four Ghost Quarter in the main deck. Floch had one already in plan and Polak-Rottman's land would die the instant it tried to help out.

Floch has gotten so close to his third Pro Tour Top 8. Another win virtually clinches it.

The Austrian tried to animate the land anyway, in case Floch would miss the Ghost Quarter play. He didn't, and Polak-Rottmann died.

In the second game, Oliver Polak-Rottmann was on the play and got out a Noble Hierarch, and then an Ichorclaw Myr before any Chalice of the Void shenanigans could happen. The Ichorclaw Myr might look odd, but it's an Infect creature that dodged Chalice for one.

Ivan Floch played a first-turn 2/2 Endless One without tapping a land (thanks, Eye of Ugin), then used a Simian Spirit Guide on the second turn to make a Thought-Knot Seer. Man, this deck is fast.

But without breaking a sweat, Polak-Rottmann killed the 4/4 and went about his turn. In fact, after his timely Dismember, it looked as if the Austrian had complete control over the board. Floch's hand had two Reality Smasher, but was a mana short of casting them. Additionally, he also had a Spellskite to re-target any deadly pump spells, but the Seer had revealed a Twisted Image in Polak-Rottman's hand, Spellskite's #1 enemy.

Polak-Rottmann is looking for his breakthrough Pro Tour performance.

Warily, Floch tapped out to cast a second Thought-Knot Seer, hoping to not see a pump spell in his opponent's hand. The Slovakian was on four poison counters, so the Noble Hierarch exalted trigger and a +4/+4 pump spell would do it. Floch breathed a sigh of relief when he saw no such card. He took the Twisted Image, so next turn he could finally profitably cast his Spellskite.

But that "next turn" would never be.

Off the top of his library Polak-Rottmann drew a Vines of Vastwood. He animated his Inkmoth Nexus, pumped it to a 2/2, thanks to Noble Hierarch, then used Vines to give an extra +4/+4, netting Floch exactly ten poison counters.

It was all tied up.

In the third and final game, Floch was on the all-important play, but didn't have Polak-Rottman's bad dream of a turn one, nor a turn two Chalice of the Void. However, Floch's second turn brought Infect's reoccurring nightmare, Spellskite.

Without a Twisted Image handy, Polak-Rottman's progress was slowed to a crawl.

The game progressed glacially compared to the previous two, but eventually a 5/5 Endless One on turn four kicked the game into high gear. Floch's follow-up Thought-Knot Seer only continued the colorless, smashy trend. Floch had thrown down the gauntlet and said, "Race this, Oliver."

This put Polak-Rottmann into overdrive. He made an Ichorclaw Myr and a Glistener Elf to join his Blighted Agent. He hoped to sneak in the damage he needed, despite the Spellskite ruining his pump-spell fun. Polak-Rottmann was playing to his Twisted Image, as Floch was trying to play around it. If the Austrian could find the card he needed to kill Spellskite, he could take it out and use the spells in his hand to make Blighted Agent a star, and vault himself to a likely Top 8.

He just needed to find it. As he waited, his life total dropped, and dropped, and dropped. On his last possible turn, he took the top card of his library face down and rubbed it on the table. Perhaps he could turn it into the Twisted Image.

But he couldn't. The card wasn't there. Polak-Rottmann tried to salvage the situation, but Floch finished flawlessly.

Ivan Floch has almost clinched the Top 8. Only two more rounds to go.

Oliver Polak-Rottmann - Infect

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Ivan Floch - Colorless Eldrazi

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