By Brian Hacker
Dirk Baberowski is no slouch when it comes to major touraments. He has a Pro Tour win. He was the finalist in last year's European Championship. With credentials like this, you might think that in watching Baberowski, you would see strokes of genius, plays original and unexpected. While I'm certain that he has his share of these, the play I witnessed in the first round of the 2000 European Championships was no less striking. Here's the situation.
Baberowski has drawn Martin Beck in the first round. Baberowski, not a big fan of hs deck, a green blue beauty with two dominates, thinks his win options are small. He told me before the match My deck has no ways to win. I have to hope my opponent plays good creatures because I don't have any myself. He pointed to the Dominates as he spoke, but I could see his creature spread and it looked just fine. Fast forward to game three with Beck. Here\s the board :
Beck has 4 creatures a Spore Frog, Thrasher Beast, Rhox, and a Fresh Volunteers.
Beck has 7 land in play, one untapped forest.
Baberowski has 3 creatures : Trickster Mage, Spitting Spider and a Thrasher Beast of his own.
Baberowski has 8 land in play, 3 untapped islands.
Baberowski has in hand Agent of Shauku, Withdraw, Natural Affinity, Forest.
It is the end of Beck's turn, all creatures are untapped. The life score is Beck 14, Baberowski 15.
So what happened? Baberowski ditched the Forest to tap Beck's Forest. Then he Withdrew the Rhox and the Spore Frog. Baberowski was probably setting up a big attack with the affinity, but the game would be far from over once he did this. His opponent would go to 1, but the Rhox and Spore Frog would hit the table the next turn. If Beck had bullets left in the holster, Baberowski might have trouble finishing him off. The plan looked good and was certainly the correct one. Seeing the Trickster Mage's ability to pin down Beck's remaining mana to optimize Withdraw is worthy of praise in and of itself. The next turn showed what seperates Baberowski from the pretenders.
Baberowski drew a Dominate. At this point, he could have just gone ahead and went his regular plan (using natural affinity to bring Beck to 1) but that play was no longer optimal because the Dominate would have rotted in his hand until he would drawn another mana to get Rhox. Baberowski instead elected to Dominate Beck's Thrasher Beast and save the Natural Affinity. While it turned out that Beck probably had no ways to win because of the strength of Baberowksi's draw, Baberowski played the situation well and gave himself the best chance to win given the improvement of his hand. Playing your best at all times is what makes the great players great. Not finding some brilliant play, not making eccentric moves. Baberowski's greatness is in applying his skills across every turn, reanalyzing the situation minute-by-minute, and not being lazy in his thinking. The lesson would be well learned by some of the younger players coming up.
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