Quarterfinals: Jean-Emmanuel Depraz vs. Luis Salvatto

Posted in Event Coverage on February 4, 2018

By Chapman Sim

It might be shocking to learn that Hareruya Latin team member Luis Salvatto had only competed in seven Pro Tours before this weekend. Debuting at the 2011 World Championship, he had now made his second Pro Tour Top 8 in his eighth attempt. Quite frankly, that conversion rate is absurd. Salvatto also has five Grand Prix Top 8s, including a title from Grand Prix Rotterdam 2016, and he even won the 2015 Super Sunday Series Championship!

The Argentinian Gold pro's weapon of choice this weekend was Lantern Control, a prison strategy which served him well all weekend. After practicing with the deck for a few months, Salvatto's efforts paid off handsomely.

Salvatto aimed to empty his hand while finding Ensnaring Bridge to shut down opposing attackers. After that, Lantern of Insight would enable him to see the top card of his opponent's deck. He could use either Codex Shredder or Pyxis of Pandemonium to manipulate his opponent's draw step. By carefully selecting which cards his opponents would receive, he would eventually run his opponent out of cards by denying them anything relevant to draw for the rest of the game.

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz of France was playing in his third Pro Tour, and he was also a Grand Prix Champion himself. After winning Grand Prix Warsaw 2017, Depraz worked up a head of steam and charged into the Top 8.

Death's Shadow variants have been a dominant archetype in Modern in recent years, and Depraz's build included Green for Traverse the Ulvenwald and Tarmogoyf. It also allowed him to play Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse. Since Salvatto's deck was predominantly artifact-based, Traverse the Ulvenwald could also seek out Hostage Taker for additional artifact removal. These spells will play a crucial role should his offense get shut down by a backbreaking Ensnaring Bridge.

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz has made a good season even better with his first Top 8 at only his third Pro Tour. He is facing off against Hareruya Latin's Luis Salvatto, Argentinian Gold pro in his second Pro Tour Sunday appearance.

The Games

Salvatto kickstarted his quarterfinal match as though he was playing Affinity, dropping five permanents on the board on turn one. The sequence of Spire of Industry, Mox Opal, Mishra's Bauble, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Pithing Needle (naming Street Wraith) was an excellent start. Depraz's Thoughtseize took out Lantern of Insight, leaving Salvatto with just a single Glimmervoid in his hand.

On his second turn, Depraz summoned a 4/5 Tarmogoyf and Salvatto did not have the Ensnaring Bridge yet. The first attack reduced Salvatto to 16 life, and Depraz added a second copy of Tarmogoyf.

Suddenly, Salvatto was facing a two-turn clock, and he would need to find a solution fast. Taking 8 more damage (going to 8 life), he untapped and drew what could have been his final card of this game. Luckily, it was Ancient Stirrings, which netted Salvatto the Ensnaring Bridge he sorely needed.

Depraz brought a Traverse Shadow deck to this Pro Tour with some sweet targets for Traverse the Ulvenwald, including relative Modern newcomer Hostage Taker.

Things began to look up after that.

Within the next five turns, he peeled Academy Ruins, Lantern of Insight, and Codex Shredder. Sacrificing Codex Shredder repeatedly to reuse Ancient Stirrings, Salvatto had the foundations of his prison almost done. With a timely Whir of Invention, Salvatto completed the impenetrable lock of double Lantern of Insight, all four Codex Shredders, both Pyxis of Pandemoniums, a pair of Ensnaring Bridges, and Witchbane Orb!

In Game 2, Depraz was first to play, but he was stuck on one land. He spent his first three turns firing off triple Inquisition of Kozilek, binning Salvatto's Mox Opal, Thoughtseize, and Ensnaring Bridge. Salvatto returned the favor, stripping Depraz of Abrupt Decay and Tarmogoyf.

However, Depraz had a pair of fetch lands to knock his life total down to 11, allowing him to recruit a 2/2 Death's Shadow. A follow-up Thoughtseize reduced Depraz to 9 life while growing Death's Shadow into a 4/4.

Salvatto needed to draw something fast to get out of the fix, and he did. Evading death once more by locating Ensnaring Bridge via Ancient Stirrings, Depraz helplessly watched on as Salvatto built his wall around him. After milling both Abrupt Decays and Liliana of the Veils from Depraz's deck, Salvatto knew that he would make a safe getaway.

The first two main deck games were not easy for Depraz, for he had few solutions to Ensnaring Bridge. However, things were about to change after sideboarding, as he swapped out a bunch of useless creature kill spells for some artifact destruction instead. Maelstrom Pulse, Ancient Grudges, and Hostage Taker were much better than, say, Fatal Pushes and Dismember in this matchup.

In the third game, Depraz was on the play again, but Salvatto had the first move. Plopping Leyline of Sanctity on the board, this was horrible news for Depraz, who had kept a hand with two Thoughtseizes. Nonetheless, this did not discourage Depraz, who tried his best to stay in the game.

He countered Salvatto's Inquisition of Kozilek with Stubborn Denial, but lost Maelstrom Pulse to Thoughtseize. To make matters worse, Depraz's next two draw steps were sheer mockery, as he found his third Thoughtseize and then Inquisition of Kozilek right after that.

While Depraz was drawing those dead cards, Salvatto assembled Lantern of Insight, Codex Shredder, and Ensnaring Bridge. Not wanting to lose relevant cards from the top of his deck, Depraz fired off Ancient Grudge at Codex Shredder.

And then, he drew his fourth Thoughtseize.

Not to say that they were totally useless, though. Along with some aggressive fetching, the Thoughtseizes helped Depraz lessen his life total down to 4. That made for a 9/9 Death's Shadow, and a timely Temur Battle Rage killed Salvatto out of nowhere.

Salvatto seeks to assemble his impenetrable wall while managing exactly what his opponent can draw each turn.

"When I saw the Leyline, I was pretty worried, but I'm glad it worked out fine," Depraz smiled. Despite that "pseudo-quintuple-mulligan", Depraz managed to secure the win.

"I'll be on the play," Salvatto announced.

"So, are there matchups where you want to be on the draw?" Depraz asked.

"Usually, I like to be on the play, but sometimes I go on the draw against certain decks. For example, I choose to play second against Titan Shift, because I get one extra card and all they do is ramp, ramp, ramp," Salvatto explained.

In Game 4, Salvatto opened with Leyline of Sanctity, Welding Jar, and Mishra's Bauble, but that was much less exciting that Depraz's lines of play.

Thanks to two fetch lands and cycling Street Wraith, Depraz took himself down to 12 life and summoned two 1/1 Death's Shadows on his second turn! Salvatto's best play was Ensnaring Bridge, but he still had three cards in his hand.

Both of Depraz's Death's Shadows could attack, causing Salvatto to get a little worried. When the Death's Shadow player sinks into the think tank and starts doing some intense calculations, it is usually a sign of trouble. Eventually, Depraz got it all sorted out.

Fetching a basic land to go down to 11 life (making Death's Shadows 2/2), Depraz cast Liliana, the Last Hope and used her second ability to return Street Wraith to his hand. He attacked with both 2/2 Death's Shadows for 4 nonlethal damage, to the relief of Salvatto, who spent his next turn reducing his hand size down to one.

This would prevent the 2/2 Death's Shadows from attacking, but Depraz had a workaround. Activating Liliana, the Last Hope's first ability, he shrunk one of his 2/2 Death's Shadows into a 0/1 and charged into the red zone. Before damage, he sacrificed another fetch land for an untapped Blood Crypt to go down to 8 life, and then cycled two Street Wraiths to go down to 4!Death's Shadow ballooned into a 9/9 (7/8 due to Liliana), and brought Salvatto down to 8 life.

Then, Depraz summoned Liliana of the Veil and wiped out the final card in Salvatto's hand, before using Traverse the Ulvenwald to find Hostage Taker. Eating up Ensnaring Bridge (bypassing Welding Jar), he was able to attack with both 9/9 Death's Shadows to equalize the score!

"Hostage Taker is amazing in so many situations," Depraz said, declaring his love for the Human Pirate. "I especially love it when I use Hostage Taker to steal my opponents Death's Shadows in mirrors."

Just before the rubber game, both players shook hands and wished each other good luck. The four previous games had been great so far, and we expect no less in the final game.

Salvatto's turn one Inquisition of Kozilek revealed Depraz's land-light hand.

  • Inquisition of Kozilek
  • Street Wraith
  • Death's Shadow
  • Liliana of the Veil
  • Thoughtseize
  • Liliana, the Last Hope
  • Marsh Flats

That was quite a lot gas in Depraz's hand—even though he only had one land—and Salvatto had to mull over his options for a full minute.

"If I can take Marsh Flats, it would be much easier," Salvatto admitted. The decision was not straightforward, but as he was prompted by a judge to make a selection, Salvatto decided upon Death's Shadow. He then sculpted his hand the next turn with two Ancient Stirrings and also added Ensnaring Bridge to his board.

Meanwhile, Depraz was still stuck on one land, prompting Salvatto to switch gears. Instead of allowing him to draw lands, he began to restrict them. Through Lantern of Insight, Salvatto saw Verdant Catacombs on the top of Depraz's deck, so he used Pithing Needle to jam it down. A second Pithing Needle shut down Polluted Delta later on. Despite Depraz having five lands in play, three of them were fetch lands, so he only had two mana at his disposal.

With that breathing room, Salvatto repeated the loop of Whir of Invention, Codex Shredder, and Academy Ruins, eventually finding all four of his Codex Shredders and both his Pyxis of Pandemoniums.

Carefully denying Depraz of mana, Salvatto made sure that there was no way to break his fortress. Whirring for a second Welding Jar to reinforce his walls, he eventually made it to the finish line.

"Usually, you want your opponents to draw lands, and you deny them the key spells. But you can also do it the other way and give your opponent all the expensive spells and prevent them from getting the mana they need. Lantern Control is amazing!"

"Good luck for your upcoming matches," said Depraz as he extended his hand.

"Thanks! Congratulations to you too, your first Top 8!"

Depraz didn't look too unhappy as he stepped away, for this weekend's results had exceeded his expectations. Coming into this weekend at 15 Pro Points, he will pick up at least 16 Pro Points to add to that.

Meanwhile, Salvatto advanced to the semifinals, hitting Gold level for the 2017-18 season. With more fortune to come, he could be a Platinum or a Pro Tour Champion by the end of the day!

Luis Salvatto defeats Jean-Emmanuel Depraz 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!

Luis Salvatto - Lantern Control

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Pascal Vieren - U/R Pyromancer

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