Dominick Diodato qualified in a grinder tournament Thursday night.
"Have you ever been in a feature match before?" asked Shaheen Soorani as he sat down across from relative unknown Dominick Diodato.
"It’s fun stuff," quipped the chatty Soorhani, letting his opponent know he had been up here before.
Both players shared their various pregame pleasantries back and forth, and Dominick revealed he qualified by grinding in the previous night with his own black-green deck sporting Fulminator Mage. Now, 24 hours later, he was facing down one of the game’s masters in the feature match area. Any given, um, Friday, right?
Diodato won the first battle by winning the roll and elected to play first. Both kept their seven. Diodato kicked things off with a Plains, while Soorani quickly revealed himself to be the red mage.
"I’m not as thrilled about the Mountain in this format," said Diodato, on the perceived strength of red in Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide drafting.
Diodato managed to draw first blood, however, with his second-turn Medicine Runner (which, if you Constructed players haven’t realized it yet, can hit counters on Vivid Creek and its brethren).
Rendclaw Trow tried to muck up the ground for Soorani, but even the persistent can draw their last breath when targeted by, well, Last Breath. That left the path clear for Diodato to keep attacking, though the 4 life granted by Last Breath nullified a full two attacks from the little Medicine Runner that could.
Shaheen Soorani sees what his draw step has brought him.
, left-aligned, cap=""A Shell Skulkin
from Diodato was met by a Boggart Ram-Gang
from Soorani, who declined to swing into the Skulkin. Diodato, for his part, was more than willing to make the trade, and attacked with the Skulkin, who went through unscathed.
Soorani, after untapping and muttering to himself, bravely sent his Ram-Gang into four untapped blue and white mana, usually a risky proposition in a format full of Æthertow, Fire at Will, and Plumeveil. The Ram-Gang made it through unmolested, causing Soorani to note the four untapped mana out loud before he passed the turn back.
Diodato then showed why he left the mana untapped, and flashed in a less frightening Prismwake Merrow at the end of the turn. Soorani took out the Shell Skulkin with a well-aimed Puncture Blast in response. The Merrow and that Medicine Runner from way back on turn two then knocked Soorani to 13.
Soorani showed his true colors next turn when he played Kulrath Knight, making the theme of his deck clear. Every nonland card he had played so far had had wither.
An attack from the Kulrath Knight stole 3 more life, and a Scarscale Ritual found two more cards—one of which was the deadly Quillspike, making Scarscale Ritual less, um, scarring.
"Oh, that guy," said Diodato.
"Yeah, that guy," deadpanned Soorani.
Soorani built on his board position and added a Spiteflame Witch, which could ping through even a stalled board.
Diodato, though, tried to un-stall (de-stall? undestallify?) with a Clout of the Dominus on Parapet Watchers, but in the end passed back without an attack. Soorani’s Witch then dropped him to 10 and Diodato to 8.
Kulrath Knight put Diodato to 5 on the next turn, which was nearly in range of Soorani’s nine mana and a Witch. Things looked grim for the upstart.
Diodato found some hope the following turn when he attacked with the team and played Thoughtweft Gambit before blockers to drop Soorani all the way to a mere 1 life (or just one Witch activation... not that he would use it).
But Soorani’s a master for a reason. He attacked with Kulrath to drop Diodato to two and then cast a Gloomlance. Where he placed the Gloomlance wasn’t particularly relevant, as it mostly just served to "kick" the follow-up Soul Reap.
Soorani 1, Diodato 0
Both players were decidedly less talkative between games, signaling the increase in intensity.
The pair each stayed with their opening seven, and Soorani started the action with a turn-two Spiteflame Witch, which traded with Parapet Watchers on the next turn. Diodato continued to trade creatures one-for-one, throwing a flashy Prismwake Merrow in front of Wingrattle Scarecrow. Soorani, who had wondered out loud if he really should have attacked, proceeded to drop the Sootstoke Kindler that would have given his Scarecrow persist.
Diodato matched with his own two-drop in Medicine Runner. Only it wasn’t long for the world, as it died a fiery death when Rustrazor Butcher not only picked up the Power of Fire, but got its haste on thanks to the Kindler.
A hasty Kulrath Knight the following turn got Æthertowed as Soorani wondered out loud about playing right into Repel the Intruders (yet another four-mana white-blue spell you don’t want to swing into). A second Æthertow gave everyone in the feature match area that Groundhog’s Day feeling. Again.
Shaheen Soorani considers before being forced to concede that, yes, Dominick Diodato’s name is longer than his.
The seldom-seen Goldenglow Moth
ate a ping before the Kulrath Knight
finally got in for 3.
The next turn, Soorani went to swing again, but Diodato jumped the gun slightly and almost gave away his trick by flashing Fire at Will. But Soorani, contemplating his attack, wasn’t watching carefully enough to know what he was running into.
"I wish I knew what the new cards looked like," mused Soorani after placing his Kulrath Knight into the graveyard.
Quillspike joined the team, but held back for fear of more tricks on the attack. Soorani chose to send in only a lonely Sootstoke Kindler.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the board, another 1/1, this time Kithkin Shielddare, took yet another Power of Fire ping.
Looking to get in damage, and convinced his opponent was out of tricks, Soorani sent Quillspike on the attack. Before damage, he had the Rustrazor Butcher ping itself to create a -1/-1 counter for Quillspike to eat, and followed that up by playing Double Cleave on the now 4/4. One unhelpful draw later, and the challenger packed up his tricky, but not quite tricky enough, cards.
Shaheen Soorani defeats Dominick Diodato 2-0.