Denniz Rachid is pretty close to the top of the list of "Names You Don't Know But Should." The Swedish pro had a spectacular 2011-2012 season, finishing in the Top 8 at both Pro Tour Dark Ascension and Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, a feat that only flew under the radar because Johnny Magic himself, Jon Finkel, did the same exact thing.
Jurkovic had a pretty solid year himself, placing 11th at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. The former Slovak National Champion and 2010 Team World Champion is always a threat to break through. And at 2-0 with a very strong Simic deck, Jurkovic is primed for a run this weekend in Montreal.
Two platinum-level pro players from Europe go head-to-head to see who will emerge from the first Gatecrash Booster Draft unscathed.
Rachid, on the other hand, while 2-0, was not fond of his Naya-flavored deck. He had a few cards that could steal games, but had mostly chalked up his two wins so far to drawing those cards at the right time. He felt he'd need a little bit more luck to squeak through the first draft unscathed.
Both players started fast, with Jurkovic taking to the air early with Cloudfin Raptor into Metropolis Sprite while Rachid "curved" Wojek Halberdiers into Hold the Gates, a card Jurkovic had to read.
Pro Tip: this is not really what you want your third turn play to be.
Once he figured out that the enchantment wasn't too threatening on its own, Jurkovic continued curving additional beaters, laying a Crocanura (evolving Cloudfin Raptor) before shutting down Rachid's Assault Griffin with Hands of Binding. Rachid had fallen behind quickly, and the cipher sorcery was turning his team to molasses.
Rachid tried to play catch-up with a Warmind Infantry, but accidentally revealed Wrecking Ogre in the meantime, chuckling and shaking his head at his own mistake.
"So you have two cards, and one of them is the double strike guy," Jurkovic said with a smirk, continuing to attack for 4 damage a turn with his fliers.
Rachid played the "double strike guy" the following turn, but was already down to 8 life and appeared unable to stop Jurkovic's evasive Simic squad.
Jurkovic's evasive creatures keep the pressure on.
As a matter of course, Rachid attacked with his team, dropping Jurkovic to 4 life, but all Jurkovic had to do was attack again the next turn for the last four points of Rachid's life total.
Jurkovic 1, Rachid 0
On the play, Rachid threw back his first hand before settling on six and leading off with a Greenside Watcher. Jurkovic was more than happy to trade his follow-up Metropolis Sprite for the 2/1.
Despite Rachid's early aggression, it was Jurkovic who then started laying the beats, playing Deathcult Rogue into Metropolis Sprite and Zameck Guildmage.
Meanwhile, all Rachid could manage was a Warmind Infantry. It held back Jurkovic's ground crew well enough, but it was far from a fearsome attacker at this point. Assault Griffin helped, but by that time, Jurkovic's board was absolutely flooded with creatures, including an Adaptive Snapjaw.
But as the ground creatures stared across the battlefield at one another, unmoving, Jurkovic was able to get in for at least two roguish damage every turn.
Naturally, that sounds like a job for... Zarichi Tiger?
"Tiger," Jurkovic said, smiling, before pinning the Tiger down with Hands of Binding to stop the unholy cat stomping that surely would have occurred had the life-gaining 2/3 been allowed to roam free.
"Do you like my deck?" Rachid said, with a hint of sarcasm.
Rachid shows off the big hits of his draft deck, such as...Zarichi Tiger?
But Rachid wasn't done. He started flooding the board himself, as Wojek Halberdiers and a 3/3 Miming Slime token continued to complicate the board position.
However, there wasn't much he could do about the Deathcult Rogue, which continued, somewhat comically, to keep the Zarichi Tiger tapped.
When the Deathcult Rogue, with the occasional help of a Metropolis Sprite, had finally whittled Rachid down to just 5 life, Rachid's Assault Griffin became Totally Lost. That was enough for the Swede to extend the hand.
"My deck is bad. I'm happy to get two wins out of this," Rachid said.
"I have like four good cards. Frontline Medic and Wrecking Ogre can steal games. Ghor-Clan Rampager, Truefire Paladin and Gift of Orzhova round out my good cards."
Good cards, but not enough to push Denniz Rachid to 3-0.
Jurkovic, meanwhile, was pretty happy with his Simic deck, though he felt he could have used a few more Drakewing Krasis, despite what he said was an "easy" 3-0. He figured it was because he ended up as the only Simic drafter at the table.
He won many of his games on the back of his small, cheap fliers, including Cloudfin Raptor and Metropolis Sprite. His pair of Elusive Krasis were key in getting through defenses with ease, though he said his deck lacked the right curve to evolve reliably enough.
That said, he said he built a Cloudfin Raptor up to 4/5 at least once, and easily breezed through the draft.
Jurkovic 2, Rachid 0