Round 5: (21) Andrew Cuneo (Blue-Red Mill) vs. Ben Rubin (Jeskai)

Posted in Event Coverage on August 1, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

You could be forgiven if you thought this feature match happened a long time ago. Both these players, Ben Rubin and twenty-first-ranked Andrew Cuneo harken from a bygone era of Magic, but continue to be some of the best players in the land. Both have been practicing with super-team The Pantheon, and felt quite comfortable against each other in the feature match area. The jovially discussed their 3-0 draft decks and their previous round matches.

Though Andrew Cuneo's been on The Pantheon since its inception, Rubin was a more recent addition. For Rubin, the last year has felt like a bit of a flashback. He said, "Jelger Wiegersma was my roommate, and I stayed in Huey's [William Jensen's] house for months."

Both players are on blue and red decks. Rubin added the common third color—white for a Jeskai build, while Cuneo played a Blue-Red Mill special. It's a work of beauty, really. Playing full suites of all the card draw both colors had to offer, the deck aimed to delay just long enough to land a Sphinx's Tutelage or two and maybe an Alhammarret's Archive. From there each subsequent card-draw spell doubled as a burn spell to the face, as the Tutelage emptied cards from the library into the graveyard until there was nothing left to empty.

The Round 5 feature match could have been a match-up seen in the late 1990s as well as in 2015.

Both Cuneo and Rubin agreed that Rubin has a bit of an edge in the match-up. But he'd have to land some early creatures, like Mantis Rider, to get the repeatable damage going.

The Games

Ben Rubin cast an early Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and started looting, while Andrew Cuneo was doing basically the same with Magmatic Insight and two Tormenting Voice. Each player was sculpting hands for the first few turns. Thanks to all his looting, Cuneo was even able to cast a fourth-turn Treasure Cruise, paying way less mana than he should have to. Though Rubin was crafting a hand, he would rather be getting in damage, because there was no way he would out-draw Cuneo—ever.

Rubin had aggression in his hand, in the form of Seeker of the Way and Ashcloud Phoenix, but he was unsure whether it was worth it to even try casting the creatures at this point. He knew how much removal was in Cuneo's deck, and there was a handful of it across the table. So instead Rubin went Jeskai Charm, Jeskai Charm, Wild Slash—then used those cards to flip his 0/2 into Jace, Telepath Unbound. This play offered double-burn spell potential, while ticking down Cuneo's life total. But honestly, with three Swiftwater Cliffs and two Radiant Fountains, Cuneo was still at 17 life, even after that flurry of burn. It was going to be a long, long road for Rubin.

Rubin fires off a multitude of burn spells, beginning what looked to be a very, very long uphill hike.

Rubin was having a tough time getting significant damage in, but he had successfully cleared three Jace, Vryn's Prodigy off the board before Cuneo could untap with it even once. But after that, the big, weird one came down. Cuneo's one-of Alhammarret's Archive threatened to thrust Cuneo's drawing and life-gaining to ridiculous proportions, and soon after he followed with his win condition—Sphinx's Tutelage. It was scary. If Rubin wanted to get some damage in, he was going to have to do it quickly.

Rubin's empty-handed Dig Through Time did just that. He found two Mantis Rider, and cast them both when Cuneo was tapped out, sending them in post haste. Cuneo untapped at 11 life.

That might have looked dire, but after one Treasure Cruise milled twenty cards off Rubin's library, he only had twenty cards remaining. It was like Cuneo cast a one-mana Traumatize + double Ancestral Recall. And after playing a Radiant Fountain, gaining 4, Cuneo was looking quite comfortable. Rubin had missed his window.

Cuneo untapped and played a couple more draw spells and easily milled Rubin's twenty remaining cards.

Cuneo's deck was the most Cuneo deck ever. In the early game, he did nothing but draw cards and gain life, and later, he won the game by drawing cards and gaining life.

"Want to play or draw?" he asked.


"Smart, avoid having to draw a card the first turn." The two smiled at each other, and they drew up for the second game.

"I think we're heading into a remote corner of Dominaria here," Rubin said. "I don't think mill versus Jeskai Aggro is going to happen too many times."

The second game started similarly to the first, as Rubin burned away each Jace, and sent the remaining burn to Cuneo's face. "Four to the grill," he said, casting a Jeskai Charm. He still would've rather had creatures, but burn was better than nothing.

Cuneo, representing the most Cuneo deck ever.

But Rubin was careful to leave open Negate, which nabbed an early Sphinx's Tutelage, significantly slowing down Cuneo's library assault. Cuneo didn't have quite as many life-gain lands, so each damage inflicted was actually painful. Add to that an Exquisite Firecraft and Wild Slash into a Seeker of the Way attack and Cuneo passed his sixth turn at 7 life, the lowest he'd been thus far in the match.

Rubin went "hellbent" when he played Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and the fifth land to cast it. He took Cuneo to 3 life. Cuneo dug many cards deep making sure he had an answer for the mighty Planeswalker. He cast Tormenting Voice twice (after flipping his Jace, Vryn's Prodigy), and tried to get something to prevent lethal.

While Cuneo was searching, Rubin, checking his life pad, said, "I think I'm at 16, but I don't think it matters against you."

"It never does," Cuneo said. Rubin was handless, and Cuneo had just found his Sphinx's Tutelage. The mill stone was turned on.

But could Cuneo get the mill train going with an active Sarkhan on the board, at a very low life total? He delayed the Planeswalker's lethal swing a few turns with Send to Sleep, but it still presented enough for the kill. The race was on.

Cuneo played a couple more lifegain lands, going up to 8 life. It looked like Cuneo might finally be out of the woods. He cast a second Tutelage and milled Rubin for around twenty cards with a flurry of cheap card-drawing spells. Rubin got his turn final turn back with one card left in his library.

Cuneo had run out of ways to deal with the Sarkhan. At 8 life, Cuneo knew that if Rubin drew a 4-point burn spell, it would be over. Rubin revealed the last card…

It was a land. Rubin extended his hand and Cuneo unique mill deck claimed its first Pro Tour victim.

Andrew Cuneo 2—0 Ben Rubin

Andrew Cuneo's Blue-Red Mill

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Ben Rubin's Jeskai

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