January 11 2016 Monday at 02:23 PM

Reactions to Round Two Pairings for the XB1 invitational

Apparently I have to be faster.

I went to bed last night having just seen my pairing for round two, and I played a few games with DJ0045 and Infamous Gemini, and I planned to write a preview article this afternoon.  By the time I woke up, did some work, checked some email, and handled some housekeeping, there was already a round two match in progress on Twitch!  That was fast!  Now I feel like I have to hurry up and spew this into the cyber-world before any more matches happen, target blogger gains haste!

A quick update to Round One, Barney fell to Danny 0-2, once again proving that my predictions can be very wrong.  Barney's NGA post implied that the draws in both games just weren't there for him, and he makes it sound like a slaughter.  Danny, having played him online a few times, is certainly no slouch and not someone you can stumble against.  

That leads us into the following pairings for round two -

CovertGo blue (Gruul Ramp) vs. DANNYreTARTABUL (Jund Steal/Sac)
Dieverse1 (Azorius Aggro) vs. Hakeem928 (Thopters)
InFaMoUsGeMiNi (Naya Ramp) vs. Mackey79 (Jund Steal/Sac)
HA1LtoTHEking (Esper Control) vs. smokyalaterz (Jund midrange)
I Abuse Welfare (Esper Control) vs. Westaine (Esper control)
Megabeast37215 (5 Color Ramp) vs. Tsh1rt (Selesnya Ramp)
Ender1313 (Dimir) vs. PeepySqueeps (Jeskai Tokens)
Black Barney (Thopters) vs. Steely Danno (Sultai Control)

The matchup that just concluded before I put a letter on this digital page is Beast vs Tshirt.  Unfortunately there is no recording, while Shirt certainly was gracious to stream the match it was unfortunate that Twitch archives failed to capture it.  I'll review the match in another post.  For what it is worth, I would have picked Beast based on Acid-Moss.  I am not out to spoil anything, this was supposed to be a pre-round post after all, but if you are curious I am sure you can find the result on the NGA thread (HERE).

CovertGo blue (Gruul Ramp) vs. DANNYreTARTABUL (Jund Steal/Sac)

It is a matchup I said that I wanted, knowing I may eat those words.  Danny has more steal effects than I have creatures to steal.  The decklists say he has no good answer to Gaea's Revenge, and if I have a Rolling Thunder with lots of mana and I just don't cast my monsters I don't see a good way for Danny to win.  There is a lot that could go wrong, but I think as long as I draw Thunders and Revenge instead of Eldrazi and Outland Colossus I can take it.  If I draw the other half of my deck, it will become an interesting cat & mouse game.  

Dieverse1 (Azorius Aggro) vs. Hakeem928 (Thopters)

Who is the control?  Who is the beatdown?  Aside from mana screw, color screw and mana flood, I believe the preceding questions will decide this match.  I don't believe Dieverse1 has many ways to succeed at being control, especially matched up against Esperzoa which can just bounce away Tightening Coils.  Irregulars and Gideon will me his trumps.  Irregulars in particular will be hard for Hakeem to remove, as he can attack Gideon with fliers, but Irregulars can hardly tap down the whole Thopter swarm.  Felidar Cub keeps Thopter Spy Network in check, but nothing here checks Alchemist Vial/Esperzoa as long as Hakeem doesn't attack with Zoa alone (Celestial Flare).  Neither deck checks the go-wide strategies, so both players can freely dump their hands.  For the second match in a row, Twin Bolt will get a chance to shine for Hakeem.  If Dieverse1 leans into the board with, say, Elite Vanguard into Consul's Lt then Hakeem can blow him out with the bolt.  Esperzoa is still a liability early, because it can stunt his board development which will be crucial, but on turn six or seven when both players have a bunch of creatures staring at each other, a Zoa with a Vial or Pilgrim's Eye can take over the game.  I think Hakeem should at least test taking the control role, and winning a longer game, I think he is better positioned to do it.   Dieverse1 should probably try to tempo-out Hakeem and be aggressive with bounce spells, and just sneak through as much damage as possible whenever possible, hopefully taking the game with a Whirler Rogue activation or Irregulars tap down.  Hakeem, I curse you again, you handled it well last week.  My pick is Hakeem, 2-1.

InFaMoUsGeMiNi (Naya Ramp) vs. Mackey79 (Jund Steal/Sac)

For this matchup, Mackey has effectively registered a 34 card deck - his 24 lands, Nissa, Bellower, Liliana, both Reclamation Sages, Greenwarden, Gaea's Revenge, Omnath and Ob Nixilis.  Each land will be crucial in making sure he doesn't get Mossed out of the game.  Those nine named cards are the things that will actually make a difference and give him a path to win.  If Mackey draws and uses and reuses enough of these cards, he has a shot.  If his hand is Perilous Myr, Bone Splinters, Act of Treason, Vampiric Rites, ect, he just won't be able to do much against Gemini.  The Reclamation Sages are important because they keep Gemini from winning the game with enchantments.  If Mackey doesn't draw them, Gemini will sit back on Retreat to Emeria and make an army and run Mackey over.  Blisterpod and Visionary from Gemini make Mackey's Fleshbags nearly worthless.  Acid-Moss is still Acid-Moss, sometimes it is game over and at worst it is annoying.  Mackey has no real way to punish Gemini for taking a turn off to blow up his lands.  I picked against Mackey last round, and he proved me wrong.  I hate to do it again, but I have to.  I will say that I see the line for him this time, and it involves a run of the cards mentioned above.  I doubt Gemini will give him a chance to blow him out with Act/Splinters, so if I where Mackey I would focus on drawing into the cards above and using them wisely.  Gemini handled the Covert Curse last time, and I think he can do it again.  My pick is Gemini, 2-0.

HA1LtoTHEking (Esper Control) vs. smokyalaterz (Jund midrange)

Splinter (King) emerged from an Esper Control mirror in round one, and now he faces a Jund deck that took out a very different Esper deck to get here.  Control is a natural predator of midrange, and King has a lineup of removal that is suited to dealing with large threats with Angelic Edict, Suppression Bonds, Planar Outburst and Spell Shrivel.  What is lacking is a way to deal with Elemental Bond, a potential game-breaker here if Smoke can get it to stick on turn three.  The card advantage could run away with the game and make the removal spells in King's deck less effective.  If King has to Angelic Edict the Bond, that forces King to tap out on his turn and it is one less removal spell for Smoke to worry about.  Unfortunately for Smoke, his arsenal of sweepers and is two copies of Fiery Impulse are not well suited for this match.  Even Fleshbag could come up empty because of Gideon tokens and Perilous Myrs.  Smoke is clearly the aggressor and needs to resolve a great threat to keep the pressure on, King just needs to survive and do awesome things with Ulamog and Shepherd.  My pick is King, 2-1.

I Abuse Welfare (Esper Control) vs. Westaine (Esper control) 

Mobius took responsibility for his round one loss, but he was sure to drag me down with him, and by lunch time on Saturday people I had never met before where using "Covert Curse" as a catch phrase on Twitch.  Well Mobius, you can thank me if you win this round, because I am picking Westwane, 2-1.  In a matchup between two Esper decks, it is hard not to pick the one with counterspells.  The thing that gives me pause is this - what will Westwane choose to counter?  Mobius will present a lot of threats that apply pressure in a variety of ways.  If West doesn't use this counter magic wisely, and I mean WISELY, Mobius can/will resolve a major threat and ride it to victory.  Mobius also has a potential Super Trump in the match with Alhammarret.  If he can cross the ocean of counters, and resolve Alhammarret to cancel out the leftover removal, West may be left without a solution.  If West is wise enough to play a planeswalker with counterspell backup, it will be an uphill battle for Mobius.  My pick is West, 2-1, but this is going to be a chess match and I am confident Mobius will have his A game ready after round one.  West will need to have his A game ready as well, because it will only take a small misstep for this match to slip away.

Ender1313 (Dimir) vs. PeepySqueeps (Jeskai Tokens)

Ender drew a short straw in my opinion when he got me in round one, because his deck just didn't have the right mix of answers to handle my ramp deck.  Peepy, in similar fashion, drew his toughest matchup, going up against a very similar deck with better trumps and more consistent mana in Hakeem's Thopters.  Now they both get a chance to battle something completely different and show what these brews can do.  Ender has ways to punish an over-extension by Peepy, so Peepy will likely be in the position of playing around sweepers whether Ender draws them or not, which is an edge for Ender.  In particular, Displacement Wave is a card I am sure Peepy didn't expect to see in this event, and it is a card he certainly wants nothing to do with.  Two Possessed Skaabs also allow for sweeper recursion, which gives Ender a chance to play the control game.  If Ender draws the right chunk of his deck, he has a good shot of breaking up Peepy's strategy and winning a long game.  On the other hand, Peepy's deck does what it does.  It is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it does a very lethal trick.  The pressure will be on Ender to keep or draw the right cards and cast them on time, or Jeskai Tokens will go really wide, really fast, and Kytheon's Tactics or Retreat to Emeria for lethal.  Enders army of 1/2's and 1/4 Ingesters are not irrelevant, they will make it hard for Peepy to get in chip shots, so Jeskai will need one of the above mentioned Retreats or Tactics to punch through.  This is actually a very interesting matchup to me, and perhaps it is what Ender wanted to face.  I am having a hard time with this one, it really could go either way, Ender and Peepy both have the tools to win but who will draw them?  I am picking Peepy, 2-1, and I am hitting SAVE before I change my mind for the 10th time.

Black Barney (Thopters) vs. Steely Danno (Sultai Control)

Early in round one, Steely Danno said on his stream that he feels like his deck choice may have been "a big mistake".  I doubt that things will get better for him here.  The bright side is that Danno's three Reclamation Sages will be very live, and if he can snag a Chief of the Foundry or Spy Network with them it will be a big play.  Disperse won't be a great answer for either player in this match, and Fleshbag Marauder will have a hard time hitting something good.  Because of the nature of Thopters, Complete Disregard and Cruel Revival are almost certain to be tempo negative plays, and keeping a planeswalker alive will be hard vs a flying thopter squadron.  On the other side, Fiery Impulse, Fiery Conclusion and Reclusive Artificer will struggle to find roles, and if Barney draws too many of those cards he wont be able to keep the pressure up, which he needs to do if he plans to keep walkers from taking over.  Barney is my pick, 2-0, but it isn't as slam dunk as a 2-0 pick sounds.

I hope you all enjoy this preview and that you check out the tourney matches.  Remember, this is for your entertainment, I have less credibility and a worse prediction record than a weather man, so you are welcome to make fun of me or retort with your opinion in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @danno029 where I will be talking about the XB1 tournament, announcing when matches start (if I have notice myself), and I will be tweeting when I release new blog posts.  

<3 CGB