Round 4: Paul Cheon (Black-Green Aristocrats) vs. Matej Zatlkaj (Red-Green Goggles Ramp)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 22, 2016

By Josh Bennett

Round 4 at a Pro Tour is always an electric time. Players are eager to unleash their creations on unsuspecting foes, and hoping that the field matches their expectations. With a 2-1 record in the first draft, these two are well on their way to a successful weekend.

Paul "Paul" Cheon is one of Magic's most beloved streamers. The hardworking father of two balances his home life parenting with meeting the insatiable demands of his adoring public. He admits to being somewhat underprepared for this event, but thanks to the strength of Team ChannelFireball and Ultra PRO behind him, he feels cautiously optimistic about the tournament. He is playing their innovative Black-Green Aristocrats deck, which mixes the power of Collected Company with the explosive power of Nantuko Husk and Zulaport Cutthroat.

Matej "Big Z" Zatlkaj is a man who has made a hard decision: To step away from the Pro Tour. Fear not, Z Fans, he will remain a fixture on the European Grand Prix Coverage team. For this, his swan song, he has followed the lead of his Team EUreka teammates and is playing their Red-Green Ramp deck that relies on the power of Pyromancer's Goggles.

Having escaped the draft rounds at 2-1, both Paul Cheon and Matej Zatlkaj are looking for a good start to the Standard portion of the day.

The Games

Cheon attempted to get an early board presence, but Zatlkaj had ample removal. Fiery Impulse took care of Loam Dryad, and then Kozilek's Return swept away a replacement Dryad and Elvish Visionary. This kept Cheon from accelerating off his Cryptolith Rite. Another Visionary and a Nantuko Husk fell to Zatlkaj's removal, but Cheon finally managed to stick a Duskwatch Recruiter.

Zatlkaj brought out the Pyromancer's Goggles. Cheon was happy to just activate his Recruiter twice and pass the turn to transform it. Nissa's Pilgrimage got Zatlkaj three lands, and he doubled up on Fall of the Titans, dropping Cheon to 14 and clearing off the Recruiter. Cheon summoned Elvish Visionary and Loam Dryad, then passed.

Zaltkaj tapped his Goggles, and played Magmatic Insight.

"Draw four?"

The follow-up was even more brutal: World Breaker, triggering Kozilek's Return to sweep the board and destroy Cheon's Westvale Abbey. Cheon's anemic end step Collected Company (getting only Blisterpod) added insult to injury.

Zatlkaj's deck knows how to ramp up the card advantage thanks to his Pyromancer's Goggles.

Cheon brought out Nantuko Husk and Catacomb Sifter. Zatlkaj dropped the hammer with a second World Breaker, triggering his second Kozilek's Return, and destroying another of Cheon's lands. In response, Cheon sacrificed his Sifter and its token to make his Husk a 6/6. He went to resolve the Kozilek's Return trigger and put his Blisterpod in his graveyard, but Zatlkaj backed him up, saying that he was choosing not to exile the Return. Cheon picked up the Return and read it.

"That's…really annoying," Cheon said.

"It is!" agreed Zatlkaj with a grin.

Cheon rebuilt his board while Zatlkaj drew four off another Magmatic Insight. He drew another handful off Tormenting Voice, then played Hedron Archive and Chandra, Flamecaller. He activated her immediately to deal 3 to all creatures, knocking Cheon down to just a Nantuko Husk and an Eldrazi Scion. Zulaport Cutthroat put a dent in Zatlkaj's life total, but Cheon was on the back foot.

Cheon untapped and summoned Liliana, Heretical Healer. He sacrificed a creature to his Husk, transforming her, then activated her to resurrect Zulaport Cutthroat. It was all for naught, however, as Zatlkaj had yet another Kozilek's Return to clear away Cheon's blockers. He activated his Chandra to get a pair of hasty elementals, and then a second Chandra brought two more, presenting a lethal attack.

In the second game, Cheon's early Zulaport Cutthroat fell to Fiery Impulse, but Liliana, Heretical Healer survived a turn while Zatlkaj ramped with Nissa's Pilgrimage. Cheon hit for 2 and added Nantuko Husk to his board. Zatlkaj played Magmatic Insight, then surged out Fall of the Titans, forcing Cheon to sacrifice his Husk and save Liliana by transforming her.

Cheon untapped and played Transgress the Mind. Zatlkaj turned over a hand of Kozilek's Return, Tormenting Voice, World Breaker and Chandra, Flamecaller. Cheon snatched away the removal spell, then summoned a replacement Nantuko Husk and brought back his Cutthroat with Liliana. It was a commanding position.

Cheon has leaned on his teammates for this Pro Tour, as he balances his life as a Magic player alongside his life as a father of two sons.

Zatlkaj went looking with Tormenting Voice, pitching World Breaker, but had no follow-up play. Cheon hit for 5, and passed without activating Liliana.

"I guess you drew a good one," said Zatlkaj.

Cheon's theatrical "Oh no! I forgot!" fooled nobody. It was, in fact, Collected Company, turning up enough goodies to force a third game.

Zatlkaj was quick to send back his opening hand. Cheon stayed on seven. After a Tormenting Voice on his second turn, Zatlkaj passed his third with three mana up. Cheon hit for 2 with Blisterpod and Elvish Visionary, then added Duskwatch Recruiter. Zatlkaj paid three to bring his discarded Drownyard Temple back to the battlefield.

He untapped and played another Tormenting Voice, discarding World Breaker. Fiery Impulse took care of the Recruiter. Cheon attacked and passed with four mana open. Zatlkaj played Pyromancer's Goggles and drew four off Magmatic Insight. Unfortunately for him, the expected Collected Company turned up Catacomb Sifter and Nantuko Husk. It was not hard for Cheon to convert that into a victory.

Cheon 2 – Zatlkaj 1

The two chatted briefly about the match-up. "I still feel pretty good about it," said Zatlkaj. Cheon agreed that it seemed uphill for him. "It's not like a typical ramp deck. You have so much more removal. Husk is such a key card for me."

I managed to snag a moment with Cheon before he rejoined his teammates to ask him about playing the deck with limited playtesting.

"I'm definitely not as prepared as I'd like to be," he replied. "I mean, you saw it there with that Kozilek's Return. Still, I feel like my sequencing is good and I'm staying on top of my triggers, which is the most important thing. Two Pro Tours ago, Matt Nass tried to convince me to play Rally the Ancestors, and I've been kicking myself that I didn't. I played Abzan and went 5-5. This time, I wasn't going to miss out. And of course I've got my team to give me match-up advice. We'll see.

Paul Cheon – Black-Green Aristocrats

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Matej Zatlkaj - Red-Green Goggles Ramp

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