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Live Coverage of 2004 Canada National Championship

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The letter F!elix Tse is a PTQ circuit player from Ottawa. He has win his way to compete in Kobe and Amsterdam He did poorly in Amsterdam and did not go to Kobe. He finds it very difficult to playtest due to a shallow player pool of competitive players in Ottawa and saved the $2,000 he would have had to spend for a ticket. He qualified for this tournament on the back of his DCI rating and worked with one of Ottowa's better players, Shawn Davies, to hone his unusual looking Tooth and Nail build.

Mike Thicke faces similar challenges in Vancouver although as the community editor for brainburst.com he is in touch with players all over the world and has a unique vantage from which to view the metagame. He worked with his friends and they came up with a blue-red Obliterate deck that they were not entirely happy with because it was having trouble beating Tooth and Nail.

The group of them decided to switch to Tooth and Nail by the time they reached the tournament site and scrambled for enough cards to build everyone a copy. The night before the tournament, Mike's roommate Brian Shwaikoski went to sleep after extracting a promise from Thicke that he would have a copy of the deck to play in the morning. Mike realized that they were going to come one deck short of equipping the entire team and built a modified version of the blue-red Obliterate deck at four in the morning.

When Brian awoke he was given a choice between the remaining Tooth deck or the blue-red. Brian chose what he perceived to be the better bet in Tooth and Mike Thicke was left with a completely untested build of blue-red Obliterate. "When I sat down for Game 1 it was the first game I had played with that build. I have still never cast Flame Jet once," laughed Thicke. "Brian says I owe him since his selfishness helped me."

Game 1

Mike mulliganed to open the match and kept the next six. Felix examined his openers and they were off. Felix accelerated with Rampant Growth into a plains. Mike also ramped up with a Darksteel Ingot. Felix's Explosive Vegetation put him way ahead with six mana on turn three.

Felix's Ravenous Baloth was the first non-mana spell of the game and Mike thought about Rewind but let it stick. He took four and cast March of the Machines on the next turn for an indestructible blocker. The two players went into draw-go mode for several turns. Felix's Solemn Simulacrum was Rewound and Mike tapped out on the next turn for Obliterate.

Felix had lands and Rampant Growth and proceeded to rebuild while Mike began whittling away with his Ingot. Tse's Vernal Bloom was Condescended and Mike saw that his next two cards were Concentrate and Mana Leak and he let them be.

He was able to Mana Leak another Vernal Bloom on the next turn. He Concentrated before attacking and after playing a Mountain left his Ingot back to bluff Mana Leak. Felix tentatively put forth an Eternal Witness and Mike thought for a while before "allowing" it to resolve. The Witness retrieved a Vernal Bloom and Felix also Rampant Growthed.

Mike Serum Visioned and summoned another Darksteel Ingot--with summoning sickness. Mike decided not to attack. He was continuing to bluff Mana Leak. Felix's Vernal Bloom resolved. Mike attacked for six and Felix fell to eight. Felix tried a Tooth and Nail with Entwine--he had more than enough mana left over for Mana Leak but Mike had the mana for his hard counter and it was Rewound.

Mike's next attack saw a Witness jump in the way of an Ingot and Felix fell to five. He passed the next turn without a play. Mike had lethal damage on the board but was concerned about Decree of Justice. He sent in the troops and Felix fell to four to sacrifice his Windswept Heath. He made twelve soldier tokens two of which were cannon fodder.

Mike frowned as Felix Eternal Witnessed for Tooth and Nail and cast it. He had one mana floating and one land untapped. Mike exhaled and looked at his hand for cards that were not there. He let it resolve and Felix found an Eternal Witness and Duplicant putting the Duplicant and a Darksteel Colossus into play. Mike Mana Leaked a Shaman and took ten from tokens.

"Vernal Bloom resolving is not good. I was one mana short of winning that game."

Felix - 1 Mike - 0

Game 2

Darksteel Ingot

"I think all fifteen of my sideboard cards are good against you," mused Tse as he shuffled his sideboard into his deck and began taking out cards to conceal as much information about his sideboard strategy as possible. Players have access to each other's deck lists the night before the Top 8 and part of play testing is trying to anticipate how your opponent will sideboard and how they will react to how they anticipate you to sideboard. It can become very tricky business--especially with Acquires in Mikes sideboard.

Thicke kept his hand and it was Felix's turn to pitch seven back.

Felix Rampant Growthed on turn two. He Eternal Witnessed it back on the next turn but was missing his third/fourth land drop. Mike's fourth land was a Temple of the False God so he needed another one to turn it on and he missed that drop after Felix cast his acceleration spell. Felix had another Rampant Growth and a Vine Trellis.

Mike found a land and tapped five mana for a spell.

"Acquire?" asked Felix with a grin.

"Did you leave them in?" grinned back Thicke.

"I'm pretty sure I left in some Solemns."

Sure enough, Felix had sided out all of his scary artifact creatures anticipating the Acquires. Mike found a Solemn Simulacrum and took an inventory of Felix's sideboarded deck. Felix tried a Vernal Bloom and was surprised by an Annul. "Wow. I thought you would side them out."

Mike attacked with the Jens and Acquired another. "My Solemns are going against me." Felix still had one that remained loyal to his cause and he played it on the next turn. Mike Concentrated and drew into some counter magic and another Concentrate.

Felix attempted an unentwined Tooth and Nail to search for two creatures and Mike Rewound it. He untapped and Concentrated. He had to discard and pitched an Echoing Truth. Felix tried another Tooth and Nail but Mike Mana Leaked it.

We were in Draw-go mode again. Mike drew an Ingot and played it which would allow him to try and set up an Obliterate over the next few turns. He Serum Visioned and discarded. Felix played a Trellis--it was all excitement all the time. Both players were trying to stockpile a hand for the Obliterate one them knew was coming and the other one suspected was coming.

Felix put a Viridian Shaman out there and smoked one of Mike's Jens. He attacked with Eternal Witness and his Jens. Mike took two and both players drew cards for their traded Simulacrums. Mike played a March of the Machines. He played a land rather than discard it and also had to pitch an Annul from his swollen hand.

Felix tapped six lands and announced the arrival of a legend, "Kamahl!"

Mike looked at the card and tried to figure out its impact on the game. Felix smiled sheepishly and admitted it was in his deck mostly because he had to side something in for all the big artifacts he was siding out. Mike countered it with Rewind.

He untapped and began counting out his mana. He turned to the judge, "We went over this yesterday. When I Obliterate…if he floats mana I can float mana back?" He cast the spell and that is exactly what happened. Flexi floated two and Mike floated three back. A Naturalize and Condescend followed.

Felix raced against the Ingot as he played lands and Rampant Growthed. Mike played a second Ingot and Felix negated it with a Vine Trellis. Mike tapped out to Concentrate and Felix took that opportunity to play a Baloth--he was at three at the time.

Felix conceded a couple of turns later when Mike had the second Obliterate.

Felix - 1 Mike - 1

Game 3

As they played the sideboard game for the third game Mike laughed about the Solemn Simulacrums. "My deck is like that deck from English Nationals--he had Jens…I had Jens."

Felix double mulliganed to start off the game. Mike kept a land light hand with Serum Visions on the draw and he used it on turn one. Felix too that opportunity to play and activate a Windswept Heath n the second turn, "No chance to Stifle."

Vernal Bloom

He hit a snag at three mana and he cycled a Decree to draw a card. His fifth turn Witness was met with Rewind as was his Baloth on the next turn. Mike stalled on four lands during that but had cast a Millstone in between the Rewind turns. Felix moved ahead on mana when his Explosive Vegetation resolved although his Vernal Bloom was Annulled on the next turn.

Mike Rewound a Baloth and untapped to play Acquire. He was skeptical as he reached for the deck, "Did you side them out too?"

Felix giggled happily as Mike's search was fruitless, "Yeah." Mike took deliberate stock of what cards were in Felix's deck and bin to extrapolate what the one card he was holding could be and was confident that it was a land.

Felix's Eternal Witness returned a decree of Justice a few turns later and was able to start attacking for two a turn while Mike continued to Millstone his opponent. He had to Rewind a Baloth on the next turn and the turn after that his Millstone was Naturalized. Mike Serum Visioned into an Ingot and Felix played a Vernal Bloom.

Mike Obliterated without having to tap his Ingot. Felix floated nine mana and cycled Decree of Justice but Mike had a land and Pyroclasm to clear the board. The game actually went on for fifteen more turns. Mike tried a couple of March of the Machines but they were Naturalized each time. Mike was able to keep any of Felix's threats from resolving and thanks to the early work done by the Millstone run him out of cards.

Felix - 1 Mike - 2

Game 4

Phil Samms wandered about the feature match area looking at the different decks--Vernal Nail, Obliterate, and Proteus Control--and shook his head. "This top 8 is strange."

Mike Thicke: "You mean we have the tech other countries haven't figured out yet?"

Samms nodded, "We're either geniuses or idiots. I haven't figured out which yet."

Both players were side boarding furiously. Felix was trying to figure out if Mike was leaving in Acquires while Mike was trying to figure out if he would have to face a Darksteel Colossus. Felix laid down his sideboard and shook his head. "Ugggh…this match-up was so bad."

Mike Thicke was being kept updated on the status of the other matches--he did not want to play against Proteus Control. When told that Murray had knocked the Proteus Staff deck from the tournament Mike could only roll his eyes. " I have to get past this nightmare match-up first. Perhaps we should have played more games after sideboard."

Both players kept their opening hands although Mike Thicke was light on land. He dug with a Serum Visions on the first turn and that was about all the action until a turn four Vernal Bloom was Condescended. Mike played an Ingot on turn six and had mana up to Leak a Baloth on the sixth turn. His sixth turn Millstone was Naturalized.

Nothing else, save a Vine Trellis occurred until Thicke Concentrated on turn nine. Felix attempted a Mindslaver on the next turn and it was Annulled by the surprised Thicke. He played another Ingot and Obliterated on the next turn after Felix played a Kamahl.

Felix recovered more quickly that Thicke with two Windswept Heaths and a Forest. Thicke was still bale to Leak a Witness and Island and a Mountian later Rewind another. His Millstone was Naturalized and Felix successfully played a Baloth. Thicke Concentrated and played another Ingot after Felix's Witness returned Naturalize. Thicke fell to ten and Obliterated. Felix cycled for some tokens but Thicke had Echoing Truth and he didn't even bother reaching for the tokens.

Mike did a quick card count and they were tied. He drew a March and attacked for nine. Felix had only a Windswept Heath in play. He never drew another land for the Naturalize in hand and Mike finished him off with his army of 3/3s.

Final result: Mike Thicke defeated Felix Tse three games to one and advanced to face Murray "The Mauler" Evans in the semifinals.

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