Magic: The Gathering Invitational 2000
Round 13 Recap
by Randy Buehler
Mike Long swapped decks with Nicolai Herzog right before the Standard portion of the Invitational started. He knew Herzog was playing Chris Pikula in round 13 and in order for Long to have any shot at making the finals, he needed Pikula to lose. Pikula went into the final three rounds tied for third, one game behind Jon Finkel and Pat Chapin. Long was lurking one addition game back, right on the edge of contention.
Nicolai mulliganned his opening draw and then seemed quite happy with his new one. Chris wasn't quite so happy with his own initial 7. In fact he yelled "DAVE - next time you build me a deck you could make sure all the cards are in English?" Pikula wasn't really having trouble figuring out what Ramosian Sergeant does, but it was still pretty funny.
Chris wasn't laughing anymore when Nicolai cast first turn Dark Ritual - Phyrexian Negator. Then on his 2nd turn Nicolai used Vampiric Tutor during his upkeep to get a second Negator and Ritualled that one out too! Chris held them off by playing a Sergeant and a Longbow Archer. Nicolai only had two permanents other than the Negators so he couldn't really afford to involve them in creature combat. Chris then drew a Gaea's Cradle and started using all that mana to recruit more Rebels. Nicolai drew a second Vampiric Tutor and the same question was on everyone's mind: "Does Nicolai play main deck Massacre?" Yup - Long made sure of that once he knew Nicolai was going up against Chris. The alternative casting cost allowed Herzog to destroy Pikula's entire board without spending a single mana. Then the two Negators finished Chris off in a hurry.
Nicolai laughed when he looked at his sideboard. He brought in 10 cards against Chris and apologized for his "random" sideboard. Chris knew why all those cards were there and soon Nicolai started to realize exactly how he'd been manipulated. Mike Long did a similar thing last year when he passed a better deck to me in the Legacy pre-release draft (because I still had to play Sturla Bingen) than he drafted for himself. Of course, Long only managed a 2-1 at that table and so some questioned the soundness of his strategy. There was a similar flaw in his logic this year since he too had to play Pikula in the final round of the tournament.
Both players drew and cast early Masticores in game 2. Chris, however, had Gaea's Cradle and Lin Sivvi and thus was able to keep developing his board position despite Masticore's upkeep. Nicolai did manage to sweep the board with Massacre, but Chris had another Lin Sivvi and rebuilt. Nicolai had to let his Masticore go, but he still didn't draw anything else useful and he scooped before the power of the mighty Rebel swarm.
Chris and Nicolai traded creatures for removal and cards in hand for Duress over the course of the first few turns of game 1. Then Nicolai pulled ahead with a Yawgmoth's Will that allowed him to Duress Chris two more times and Vampiric for a Negator. Chris was forced to play random chump blockers in an attempt to make Nicolai sacrifice all his permanents. However, Nicolai's Dread of Night made that really slow going. Chris finally found a Glorious Anthem to counteract the Dread and let him play out 3 1/1's. The assembled crowd gasped in horror, though, when Nicolai drew his next card: Massacre. Ouch.
Pikula - 1
Herzog - 2