Round 15: Lucas Esper Berthoud vs. Gerry Thompson

Posted in Event Coverage on February 3, 2018

By Chapman Sim

Two Pro Tour Champions clashed in the feature match area. There was a lot on the line for Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion Gerry Thompson (11-3) and Pro Tour Aether Revolt Champion Lucas Esper Berthoud (11-2-1), because the victor of this match would receive another once-in-a-lifetime attempt to win a second Pro Tour.

Thompson was one of the thirteen players out of 464 to be piloting Mardu Pyromancer. The Red-White-Black deck made use of cheap spells (be it discard or removal) to fuel Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler. If you managed to bin at least six instants or sorceries while emptying your hand, Bedlam Reveler becomes a two-mana 3/4 with an Ancestral Recall attached to it. Kolaghan's Command could be used to recur Bedlam Reveler if necessary, so the deck never entirely runs of gas with all that card filtering and card drawing.

Meanwhile, Berthoud had 5-Color Humans on his side, and it was the most popular deck choice for the weekend, as almost 10% of the field showed up with it. The five-color mana base was made possible with the printing of Unclaimed Territory, and between Cavern of Souls and Ancient Ziggurat, you could pretty much cast Experiment One (a Bertuuu-special) on turn one, Kitesail Freebooter on turn two, and Mantis Rider on turn three, spending exactly one mana of each color! It was also able to achieve critical mass with Thalia's Lieutenant and Phantasmal Image. However, Berthoud was not thrilled about his chances in this vital match.

Lucas Esper Berthoud and Gerry Thompson were already Pro Tour champions, but they weren't ready to settle for just one title, as both players competed for another shot on Sunday.

"This matchup is terrible for me," he said. "There's just too much spot removal and blockers in Mardu Pyromancer. I don't like this matchup at all."

The Games

In Game 1, Thompson led with Inquisition of Kozilek and Berthoud revealed a hand of Champion of the Parish, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Reflector Mage, Æther Vial, and three lands. Thalia was the most problematic since Mardu Pyromancer was around 50% spells, so Thompson forced Berthoud to lose it. After that, Thompson sculpted his hand with Faithless Looting and used a second Inquisition of Kozilek to pick away Thalia's Lieutenant. After placing a counter on Æther Vial, Berthoud "vialed" in Champion of the Parish before summoning a freshly-drawn Meddling Mage, naming Bedlam Reveler. Since it was one of the most important creatures which fueled the deck, Thompson immediately pointed Lightning Bolt at it, indicating that he had a copy in his hand. Not wanting to pass the turn with no pressure, Berthoud summoned Reflector Mage, growing Champion of the Parish to a 3/3.

As expected, Thompson's final card was the Bedlam Reveler, and Thompson helped himself to three free cards. Drawing Æther Vial, Berthoud could not make Champion of the Parish a 4/4 and was forced to pass his turn. Thompson made use of the time to flashback Faithless Looting, filtering away two unwanted lands. Playing from the top of his deck, Berthoud drew Horizon Canopy, sacrificed it, and found Mantis Rider. All of a sudden, Thompson was facing a 4/4 Champion of the Parish, a flying Mantis Rider, and went down to 4 life. A third copy of Faithless Looting found him no solutions, but at least a second Bedlam Reveler that could chump block. Another attack from Mantis Rider knocked Thompson down to 1 life!

Berthoud knew his chances were slim, but he wasn't going to give up one of his two shots at Top 8 without a fight.

After untapping, Thompson summoned Young Pyromancer, flashbacked Faithless Looting, pointed Lightning Bolt at Mantis Rider, and swung in with both his Bedlam Revelers. As the Elemental tokens began to populate, Berthoud found himself rendered helpless. Things got out of hand extremely fast, and Thompson managed to turn the tables.

"1 life," sighed Thompson. "I'm always at 1 life."

Indeed, the mana base was not the most "pain-free." As Berthoud scooped up his cards, he showed me the card from the top of his deck which would have been his next draw step: The singleton Kessig Malcontents. Heartbreaking!

The Pro Tour Amonkhet champion was just one win away from his third lifetime Top 8 finish.

Nonetheless, both players trudged on and made preparations for the second game. Thompson was quick to keep his hand, while Berthoud shuffled back his seven after much deliberation. Holding a very lackluster hand of six, Berthoud opened with Unclaimed Territories and could only produce Thalia's Lieutenant. Paying two mana for a 1/1 body was probably not what you want to be doing in Modern. Thompson dispatched it with Collective Brutality, and so Berthoud made a second copy, still a 1/1. Thompson calmly cracked his Bloodstained Mire for a Sacred Foundry, casting Lingering Souls. Berthoud passed with no play, prompting Thompson to ask, "What's going on there?"

The 5-Color Humans deck is usually high on pressure, but Berthoud could do nothing with just two mana and a trio of Mantis Riders in his hand. A second copy of Lingering Souls, followed by Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt, paved the way for the full value Bedlam Reveler. When Young Pyromancer and four more Spirit tokens joined the fray, everyone watching the match knew that Berthoud's lowly Champion of the Parish was a futile attempt to stay in the game.

"I was only able to cast three 1/1s the whole game; I had no chance."

Lucas Esper Berthoud 0 – Gerry Thompson 2

With that, Thompson moved up to 12-3, while Berthoud fell to 11-3-1. This meant that both players were still live for the Top 8.

"Congrats Gerry, I hope you'll be able to draw in during the last round," Berthoud sent his sincerest regards. "I hope you can get there." Looking at his old friend right in the eye, Thompson had only had the most important words. Slowly, silently, he whispered.

"Please win the next round. We can make the Top 8 together."

Magic may be a game, but it's also a game of brotherhood. There might be rivalry on the battlefield, but there's also respect for each other's dreams. For two veterans who have dedicated their lives to this craft, few others could comprehend the magnitude of this juncture. It would be awe-inspiring moment if both these genuinely passionate Magic players could step onto the Sunday stage together even after their epic clash this afternoon.

With just one more round, we will find out soon if their paths will cross again this coming Sunday.

Esper Berthoud, Lucas - 5-Color Humans

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Thompson, Gerry - Mardu Pyromancer

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