Pro Tour Valencia semifinals

The semifinals saw Fortier’s Trinket Mage build against another Gifts-Rock deck from Barra, and a match between Shuhei Nakamura running Tron versus Andre Mueller with Enduring Ideal. The Tron-Ideal match was particularly interesting. Fortier-Barra was less so.

The semifinals begin focused on the match between Shuhei Nakamura and Andre Mueller — UW Tron versus Enduring Ideal. Shuhei leads with turn two Meddling Mage naming Burning Ideal. Mueller can pretty much Burning Wish for things to deal with this Mage, or otherwise just start hardcasting his enchantments. Not a bad start for Nakamura. With nothing else going on, the Mage plinks away at Mueller and Shuhei just plays out card draw at the end of Mueller’s turn. Mueller has an Ideal in hand, but can’t play it until he deals with the Wish. Shuhei Chalices for zero, which will counter Mueller’s Lotus Blooms as they come in. Andre Mueller hardcasts Form of the Dragon, putting himself to 5, but out of reach of the groundbound Mage. Nakamura is suddenly in a problematic position, as he doesn’t have a lot of direct solutions for the Form of the Dragon. Shuhei transmutes Tolaria West for Chalice of the Void, and plays Chalice for 1 this time (so he’s locked out 0 and 1 — I’m unclear what that does exactly, that 1). Mueller hits Nakamura for another 5, putting him to 10. Mueller puts down a Solitary Confinement, and Nakamura scoops. Game one to Mueller.
Game two starts pretty quietly, with Mueller putting a top into play and Shuhei playing some card draw, playing a Thirst for Knowledge followed by a Fact or Fiction that presents Mueller with two lands, a Signet, a Disenchant, and a Meddling Mage.
Randy: “Shuhei always makes a very fast decision. He just always takes the bigger pile.”
BDM: “Well, if you have more cards, you win.”
Randy: “That is the rule.”
(And in the meanwhile, Fortier has won game one of his match against Barra.)
Very little happens on Mueller’s side as Shuhei plays even more card draw, following it up with a Chrome Mox and a Mage naming Enduring Ideal, then a Disenchant taking out a Pentad Prism to knock Mueller off his mana. Finally, Mueller makes some kind of move, playing Seething Song, followed by a Top activation and a Honden of Seeing Winds, giving Mueller some more card draw. Shuhei comes back with a Disenchant for the Honden, keeping Mueller off of his card draw. Shortly thereafter, Shuhei plays yet another Fact or Fiction — five lands. Once again, Shuhei immediately grabs the bigger pile. One more turn, and Shuhei kicks out another Fact or Fiction — Chalice, Angel, Signet, two lands. Yet again, Shuhei grabs the bigger pile, ditching the Angel but keeping a Chalice. Now he Mindslavers, grabbing Mueller’s next turn, and Mueller scoops. One all.
Randy: “He’s talking a little less, too.”
BDM: “He should be. He’s not winning any games when Mindslaver’s around.”
Randy: “Making all his lands implode? Yeah.”
Nakamura’s play this time highlighted the power of massive card draw, as Fact or Fictions dug him well past big, annoying clumps of land.
(At this point, the coverage wanders over to the Barra Fortier match. Fortier leads 1-0, has Counterbalance and Top in play, and has just Pithing Needled a Pernicious Deed.)
Barra’s Hierarch comes across to hit Fortier, and is in turn downed by a Putrefy. (Over on the other table, it sounds like Shuhei Disenchanted something important, and followed it up with an Exalted Angel, for the win.)
With his Deed held back by the Needle, Barra has no choice but to take the hits frrom a Dark Confidant and a Trinket Mage. A Hierarch is countered, and the camera shows off that Fortier’s hand is full of Counterspells and a Venser. Fortier puts a Jitte into play, and after cracking a fetchland, Barra is down to a two-turn clock. Barra Krosan Grips the Pithing Needle and wipes Fortier’s board with his Deed. BDM wonders why Fortier didn’t try to Counterbalance the Grip, but his top cards weren’t relevant. Fortier immediately follows up with Trinket Mage grabbing Top. Barr plays another Deed, which is countered, and then puts down a Treetop Village. A Trinket Mage hits Barra, who goes to six…and then Fortier puts down Tarmogoyf, Counterbalance, Top. Hierarch makes it down through Counterbalance, putting Barra back up to 10. (In the other match, Mueller takes game four with a turn three Enduring Ideal).
Tarmogoyf and Trinket Mage come across, and Hierarch eats Trinket Mage while Barra goes to 4. Barra then passes the turn, making it unclear why he didn’t double block last turn — this time he chumps with the Treetop Village, following it up with a Vindicate that it countered by a Trinket Mage revealed by Counterbalance. Barra concedes, putting Fortier up 2-0.
While we wait for the next game, BDM and Randy discuss randomizing decks. Is there a best physical shuffling method? Randy notes that the true randomization of Magic Online feels insufficiently random to people because it’s actually random.
Randy: “The thing about pile shuffling is that pile shuffling is not actually a randomization technique.”
BDM: “Then the idea is to riffle shuffle.”
Randy: “I did a mix of pile and riffle shuffling.”
Then Randy talks for a bit about the quirks of shuffling R&D’s stickered demo cards.
We now switch back to the front table for game five between Andre Mueller and Shuhei Nakamura.
Shuhei leads with a Tron piece, and Mueller comes back with a Fetchland, cracking it into a Divining Top. Mueller’s second-turn play is Boseiju, as Nakamura puts down another Tron piece and another land. Shuhei completes the Tron and puts down a face-down Exalted Angel. Mueller has a lot of the necessary cards in hand, but does not go for the Enduring Ideal. He has two Tops in play, which doesn’t do much. Exalted Angel hits, and he goes to 7. Shuhei puts down Meddling Mage, naming Lotus Bloom, apparently (although that’s a touch wacky). Mueller goes to 5 using Boseiju, and plays Enduring Ideal, initially grabbing Form of the Dragon. The Angel hits him, putting Shuhei to 31 before Mueller burns the Angel out with Dragon. Mueller follows with Dovescape. As Randy points out, all the life gain from the Angel puts Shuhei on several turns before Dragon kills him. Mueller grabs a Pernicious Deed, which will let him sweep away the bird tokens Shuhei can make off of Dovescape. Chalice for 4 yields 8 Dove Tokens for Shuhei. Mueller grabs Solitary Confinement and Shuhei concedes.
Back in the Barra-Fortier match, Barra took game three while we were away.
In game four, Fortier has Dark Confidant out very early against nothing yet from Barra…and now a Tarmogoyf. Fortier puts down a Hierarch, ad Barra Duresses him. Tarmogoyf hits for six (no chump blocking for the Hierarch or Confidant)…and then Barra concedes, apparently thinking he had nothing.
So the finals will be Fortier versus Mueller.
BDM: “Battle of the Magic Online decks.”