Quarterfinals: Christian Hauck vs. John Rolf

Posted in Event Coverage on November 5, 2017

By Frank Karsten

This quarterfinals match pitted together two Grand Prix veterans, both in their first Pro Tour Top 8, in one of the key matchups in the current Standard.

On one side of the table, we had Christian Hauck, a 32-year-old from Mannheim, Germany. Hauck is a well-known name on the European Grand Prix circuit, with three Grand Prix Top 8s to his name. Representing team Phoenix: 404, this weekend marked his breakthrough performance at the Pro Tour level. He had entered the tournament with Temur Energy, which he chose because it was in his comfort zone. In preparing for the tournament, he didn't play any other decks and just focused on just getting a deep understanding of the Temur Energy archetype.

On the other side of the table sat John Rolf, a 28-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska. With Top 4s at Grand Prix Cleveland and Grand Prix Denver earlier this year, he was quickly making a name for himself. This Pro Tour Top 8 was a further testament to his skill. As a member of team MetaGameGurus Moon, Rolf took Ramunap Red to battle because, like Hauck, it was the deck he was most comfortable with. His MVP of the weekend was Hazoret the Fervent, which was arguably his most important threat against Temur Energy.

Christian Hauck (left) and John Rolf (right) faced off in the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Ixalan.

Both players' decklists were standard versions of their archetypes, with no big surprises in their card choices. The consensus opinion was that Temur Energy was favored against Ramunap Red, as all the energy creatures could dominate the battlefield. Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra could tower over the tiny red creatures, and Whirler Virtuoso could yield an army of chump blockers to hold the ground. But a perfect curve from Hauck or an unanswered Hazoret the Fervent could easily steal a game, and apart from a single Confiscation Coup, Rolf had no way of dealing with Hazoret.

The players were feeling the pressure in their first Pro Tour Top 8, but both of them could rely on their Grand Prix experience. They felt very comfortable with their respective decks, and had surely played the matchup many times before.

The Games

Game 1 started with mulligans on both sides. Hauck tossed a somewhat slow seven-card hand with no early plays and too many five-drops, recognizing the importance of establishing a quick board presence. He reluctantly kept his six-card hand, which was not much better: no play on turn three at all and merely a Servant of the Conduit on turn four.

Rolf, in the meantime, never let go of the gas. He had a good curve of Bomat Courier into Earthshaker Khenra; Kari Zev, Skyship Raider; and two Ahn-Crop Crashers. When Hauck's powerful Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Glorybringer came down, it was basically already too late. Despite an attempt from the Temur player to enter a damage race, his life total had already dropped too low, and Rolf's Shock plus Lightning Strike sealed the game.

In Game 2, after the opening salvos, Rolf untapped with three lands, two Soul-[autocard]Scar Mage[/autocard]s, and Bomat Courier (holding three cards) on his side of the battlefield. Hauck, at 14 life and tapped out, merely had a Rogue Refiner. Shock would have been perfect for Rolf, but all he had in hand was Kari Zev, Earthshaker Khenra, and a land. Given his hand, he played Kari Zev and the land and swung with all creatures. Hauck had the option of "eating" Soul-[autocard]Scar Mage[/autocard] for free with Rogue Refiner, but he chose to block Bomat Courier to prevent another trigger on the next turn.

Four fresh cards entered Rolf's hand, amongst them another Earthshaker Khenra and a Hazoret the Fervent. But it wasn't good enough, as Hauck's five-drops trumped them. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship could easily block an eternalized Earthshaker Khenra, and Confiscation Coup simply stole Hazoret the Fervent. All Hauck now had to do was ensure that Rolf got as few turns as possible to cobble together lethal burn, but that didn't turn out to be hard. Those five-drops are excellent at turning the corner; two combat steps were all that he needed to soar in for lethal.

In Game 3, Rolf had Bomat Couriers on turn one and turn two. They represented a good way to come back from his mulligan to six, but only if he could deal with Hauck's blockers. Fortunately for Rolf, he was successful at that. Lightning Strike took care of the first Servant of the Conduit, and Earthshaker Khenra ensured that the second couldn't block. By the time Hauck could finally line up a blocker for Bomat Courier, it had already exiled five cards.

On the next turn, after Rolf played some of his new cards, the other Bomat Courier yielded five cards as well. For those of you keeping track, that's ten cards in total! Bomat Courier was the definite MVP of the game, and those ten free cards yielded more than enough burn spells and Deserts for Rolf to deal the final points of damage.

John Rolf won Game 3 off the back of his Bomat Courier.

Going into Game 4, with the score at 2-1 in Rolf's favor, Hauck had his back against the wall. He now had to win two games in a row to take the match. At least he was on the play now and he got the best possible opening (Attune with Aether into Longtusk Cub, Whirler Virtuoso, and Bristling Hydra) while Rolf had no play on turn one.

Harsh Mentor and Rampaging Ferocidon gave Rolf some tools to work with (discouraging Whirler Virtuoso activations in particular) but realistically, when Temur Energy is on the play and hits the dream curve, there is not much that Ramunap Red can do. When Rolf found himself in a position where his red creatures had to chump-block Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra, he saw no way out and conceded.

Game 5 was the decider. Rolf, after cautioned by the judges to play a bit faster, was on the play, and his opening hand was great: Bomat Courier, Earthshaker Khenra, Shock, Hazoret the Fervant, Scavenger Ruins, and two Mountains. Hauck, in the meantime, had to mulligan down to five cards in search of a keepable hand.

Christian Hauck had a hole to dig out of after mulling to five.

A double-mulligan must have been rough in such a crucial game, but Hauck still put up a good fight with Harnessed Lightning and Abrade for Rolf's creatures. Hazoret the Fervent, however, got to attack on turn five, and she was too difficult for Hauck to deal with. Temur Energy is simply ill-equipped to deal with the indestructible God. Chump-blocking is only a temporary measure, burn spells can't kill it, and racing was not an option with Hauck's draw. Stuck at three lands, the only thing he could try was to build a 6/6 Longtusk Cub and somehow win before Hazoret activations could win the game, but he did not succeed.

"Good games," Hauck said as he extended his hand in defeat.

John Rolf defeated Christian Hauck 3-2 and advanced to the semifinals!

Christian Hauck's Temur Energy

Download Arena Decklist

John Rolf's Ramunap Red

Download Arena Decklist

Latest Event Coverage Articles

December 4, 2021

Innistrad Championship Top 8 Decklists by, Adam Styborski

The Innistrad Championship has its Top 8 players! Congratulations to Christian Hauck, Toru Saito, Yuuki Ichikawa, Zachary Kiihne, Simon Görtzen, Yuta Takahashi, Riku Kumagai, and Yo Akaik...

Learn More

November 29, 2021

Historic at the Innistrad Championship by, Mani Davoudi

Throughout the last competitive season, we watched as Standard and Historic took the spotlight, being featured throughout the League Weekends and Championships. The formats evolved with e...

Learn More



Event Coverage Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All