Round 9: Blink and You'll Miss It

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The letter I!f you are a long-time Pro Tour coverage reader, you will recall the name of France's Amiel Tenenbaum from Pro Tour - New York 2001 when he, Nicolas Oliveri, and a fresh-faced Gabriel Nassif finished second to the Germans. Amiel has posted some modest finishes in the intervening years but has never returned to the Sunday stage. Recently, he made the German National team (although French, he lives in Berlin) along with his sworn enemy, Max Bracht. It could easily be the most dysfunctional National team in history.

Amiel Tenenbaum blames Rogier Maaten for his draft deck.

Perhaps to offset this dysfunction, Amiel has been practicing and playing Magic with more intensity than he has brought to the game in years. Geoffrey Siron, who watched Amiel play in Athens, claimed, "I thought Amiel would win the tournament before we started. He plays faster than anyone I have seen other than Mori."

I watched Amiel's draft two rounds earlier. He had opened up on a Gemhide Sliver, feeling secure that green would be wide open with Rogier Maaten passing to him. In seven or eight drafts, Rogier had never drafted green cards. The green dried up, and Amiel was left with a red-white-black deck with some removal and a pair of last-pack Serra Avengers. Amiel put Rogier on opening either Call of the Herd or Stormbind, as those were the only cards he felt could put the Dutch player into that color. Rogier had indeed opened Call.

His opponent was David Felske, a self-described PTQ scrub who was making good this weekend. His only other PT experience was Pro Tour - Atlanta, where he finished one match off from Day Two. Felske was one of a handful of Canadian players lurking in the X-2 bracket going into the final round of draft 3. Those not still playing were hanging out along the Feature Match rail to lend their support to the MTGOntario denizen, including Grand Prix - St. Louis Top 8 competitor Jeremy Kunkel.

Game 1

As Amiel and Rogier Maaten headed for their feature matches, they were puzzled as to why they were selected. Rogier was 0-2 with his first-pick Call of the Herd, perhaps proving the Pro belief that green decks do not win in this format, while Amiel was 1-1 but very unhappy with the tools he had to work with for one more round.

"I hate you," Amiel teased Rogier. "You ruined my draft. My deck is the worst…the only reason it is any good is that you were nice to me in the last pack."

A light bulb went off over Felske's head, "You got all the white? Two Serra Avengers?"

Neither player did anything on the first two turns, and Felske played a card face down on turn three.

"I hate morphs," frowned Amiel. If he thought he hated morphs, he was really going to hate the next play of Plague Sliver. Amiel's deck planned to clog up the ground with Watcher Slivers, Bonesplitter Slivers, and Venser's Slivers while his Avengers poked away in the air. Plague Sliver put a pretty big hole in that plan.

A light bulb went off over David Felske's head…

"Pretty good," sighed Tenenbaum as he played a Watcher Sliver, which he assessed as: "Pretty bad."

Felske got in for 5 and played another morph. Amiel hoped to take down - or at least hold off - the Plague Sliver with Defiant Vanguard, but Felske had Premature Burial. Tenenbaum quickly fell to six on his own turn.

Felske attacked with everyone. Tenenbaum checked to see which morph was played first and blocked that one with Watcher Sliver. Felske unmorphed the unblocked guy and showed it to be Soul Collector. Amiel looked at his life total and cast Lightning Axe on the Plague Sliver. He then attempted to kill it by using Momentary Blink on his own Watcher Sliver. After a brief discussion of state based effects, Amiel scooped up his cards ruefully. The Watcher Sliver's bonus never goes away when it is flickered out of play because the game only checks for death as a state-based effect and there are no opportunities to check for state-based effects during the resolution of a spell.

Game 2

Amiel sided in an extra Plains and was pretty excited to get his Avenger into play on turn four. Felske had suspended Corpulent Corpse and played a turn three morph. He also had the Plague Sliver on turn four again.

One of the interesting side effects of the timeshifted cards is using them to carbon date players. You can usually tell when they started playing by their understanding of how the cards work. When Amiel played Serrated Arrows, Felske leaned over and asked, "How many counters does that get…three?"

Felske continued to attack, and Amiel decided to block the morph with his Avenger - if Felsek unmorphed Soul Collector he could still take it down with the Arrows. Felske instead pulled the trigger on a Feebleness. As Amiel put his Avenger in the bin, Felske turned over his Coral Trickster to do the same.

"Your morph is not dead," Amiel reminded him. He also gestured to his Serrated Arrows. "It is going to die…but it is not dead yet." Amiel untapped and also took down the Plague Sliver when it took a Lightning Axe to the chest. Bonesplitter Sliver was in the clear and joined the German National team.

Felske's Corpulent Corpse made an appearance and was promptly Arrowed down to 2/2. Gorgon Recluse came down and traded with the Bonesplitter. Amiel followed up with Venser's Sliver. Felske played Viscid Lemures, but Amiel's deck had not delivered any Swamps this game.

A crowd gathers as Felske and Tenenbaum battle it out.

Felske banged both creatures into red zone. Amiel killed the Corpse by blocking with a freshly cast Venser's Sliver. When David tried to finish it off with Funeral Charm, Amiel had a positive interaction with his Momentary Blink. Felske piled on with Pit Keeper, getting back Plague Sliver. Amiel was not happy about it but had to play Watcher Sliver to hold the board.

Felske did not need to do anything but sit back and let Amiel's life trickle away a sliver at a time.

David Felske 2 - Amiel Tenenbaum 0

There was a heated exchange after the match where Tenenbaum returned to question the sequence of play involving the Feebleness in Game 2. Amiel could not understand why Felske would have cast Feebleness before damage was on the stack. Both players were playing very fast, and there was no specific passing of priority on either side. From this side of the table it looked like Felske just pulled the trigger quickly. Amiel seemed to feel he had been wronged - whether it was by deliberate deception or just dumb luck he was trying to determine.

"I just want you to admit that was the worst play ever," demanded Amiel as a judge tried to keep him and Felske apart. "Either you are a cheater or you made the worst play ever… I just want to hear which one it is from you."

"Don't tell him anything, Felske!" shouted Kunkel from the rails. "Ask him about the Momentary Blink again. One bad play in each game and you won the match."

Felske said nothing while a judge pulled Amiel aside to update him on the kinder, gentler Pro Tour that has replaced the one he remembers from the late '90s.

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