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Quarterfinals: Running the Tables with Paul Rietzl

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Paul Rietzl (Boros) vs. Patrick Chapin (Grixis Tezzeret)

Paul Reitzl ran in to the feature match arena a little flustered. A consummate gamer, the Pro Tour Amsterdam winner had just finished drafting in Day 2 of Grand Prix Paris, before running across a large event hall to go and play in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Paris. All day on Saturday, he had bemoaned a difficult matchup for his Boros deck against Patrick Chapin’s Grixis Tezzeret control build. He had played in the GP to keep himself busy, stating that he would just see how far he got, knowing that Sunday would be busy. He finished Day 1 at 9-1. When asked how his draft deck was, he replied “It’s OK. I was a little distracted in the draft. I guess I lost round one ....”

Paul Rietzl, left, battles fellow American Patrick Chapin in the quarterfinals.

Patrick Chapin, dressed up a bit fancier, looked considerably more settled. Having spent much of Saturday testing matchups, he didn’t necessarily agree that the match was quite as one-sided as Rietzl, though he had the advantage of going first in Game 1, thanks to his higher finish in the Swiss portion of the event.

Game 1

Chapin kept his hand quickly, while Rietzl looked at his opener for a while, thinking things through. On the draw, Rietzl had to have a fairly explosive draw to steal a win, and while typically Paul is not one to do a lot of aggressive mulligans, this matchup is one that could warrant them.

Chapin led with a Preordain, and looked on as Rietzl began with a Teetering Peaks. A Sphere of the Suns came from Chapin on turn two, while Rietzl had a threat for turn two in Plated Geopede. A third-turn Goblin Guide was stopped by Stoic Rebuttal, but nothing was stopping Chapin from taking 5 from the Geopede (thanks to a fetch land activation). After combat, Stoneforge Mystic came from Rietzl, who used the powerful two-drop to find a copy of Adventuring Gear.

With two creatures on the battlefield, Chapin was now able to get value from Slagstorm, casting it to empty Rietzl’s battlefield of threats. A new threat came soon, though, in Koth of the Hammer, who enabled an attack for four with a Mountain, taking Koth to four loyalty and Chapin to 10 life. Planeswalkers are traditionally a little problematic for control decks, and for the first time in the match, Chapin looked a little rattled. He cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and immediately used the Brainstorm ability, looking for answers. He then cast Mox Opal and Prophetic Prism before passing things back, with just the Opal untapped for mana.

Rietzl cast a Squadron Hawk before combat, and chose not to search. He used Koth’s ability to send a Mountain at Jace, and then once the planeswalker was dead, cast a second Squadron Hawk, this time choosing to fetch more.

Rietzl joins the presumably very short list of people who have been scheduled to play two sanctioned rounds at the same time.

Chapin used a Pyroclasm to leave Rietzl with just Koth, and a Tectonic Edge to take him down to three lands. Rietzl seemed OK with the situation regardless.

At this point, with Grand Prix Paris deck construction over, Paul’s round in the GP was called. “Your round is up—you can go if you like,” joked Chapin. Rietzl didn’t seem to mind getting a match loss for tardiness over there, as he made a Mountain a 4/4, equipped it with Adventuring Gear, and swung in for 6 after playing a land. Post combat, he cast another Squadron Hawk, and after a draw, Patrick scooped up his cards.

Paul Rietzl 1, Patrick Chapin 0

Game 2

Both players kept in the second game, and when Rietzl didn’t cast a Steppe Lynx on turn one, Chapin smiled a little.

“I see you play a controlling game against me. I like that.”

“Maybe I just forgot to cast it,” remarked Rietzl, watching an Everflowing Chalice for 1 come out from his opponent.

Rietzl did have a turn-two Plated Geopede, but it looked less dangerous as a Tumble Magnet came from Chapin, to blunt its attacks if necessary. For the first swing, Chapin was willing to let Geopede come in uncontested, and took 5 thanks to a fetch land. After combat, he cast a Squadron Hawk, finding two more to push his hand size up to a full seven.

A Pyroclasm reset things, and when followed up with a Sphere of the Suns led to a tapped out Chapin. Rietzl simply played two new Squadron Hawks and passed. Chapin’s turn was a little more exciting. He cast a Preordain, before using Treasure Mage to find a Wurmcoil Engine. The six-mana Engine had the potential to be very problematic for Rietzl. He did have Mark of Mutiny in his sideboard, but it was not a complete given that he would have brought it in, and even if it was in his hand, the presence of Tumble Magnet on the battlefield negated the effectiveness of that line of play.

The Tumble Magnet did go down to two counters, tapping a Squadron Hawk after Rietzl had used a Teetering Peaks on one, and had equipped an Adventuring Gear to the other. Rietzl’s attacks took Chapin to 10, before that 6/6 lifelink, deathtouch monster could hit the battlefield.

With six cards in hand, Rietzl had plenty of options, and was not quick to jump into anything. He activated Stoneforge Mystic to put Sword of Body and Mind into play, and equipped it to a Squadron Hawk, such that each of his hawks had a weapon. Chapin tapped down the hawk with Adventuring Gear, wary of an unused fetch land that was available for Rietzl. He took 3 from the other hawk, and milled ten cards, including two copies of Slagstorm and a Pyroclasm (to Rietzl’s glee). A Brad Nelson Wolf token also joined Rietzl’s squad.

After combat, yet another Squadron Hawk came out for Rietzl.

Chapin revs his Engine.

Chapin’s turn started simply enough. He attacked for 6 with Wurmcoil Engine, making the life totals 13 to 11 in his favour. He then played another Tumble Magnet, which would prove important in keeping Rietzl from being able to race effectively.

Now facing down a substantial threat, Rietzl thought carefully for his turn. He played an Evolving Wilds, cast a Kor Firewalker and a Goblin Guide (gaining a life for playing a red spell). Landfall triggers having resolved, he moved his Adventuring Gear to a different Squadron Hawk, and swung with as much of his team as he could, using his fetch land to get in a little more damage. Chapin dropped to 8.

Chapin cast Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, immediately activating the planeswalker’s ability to look for more artifacts. He found a Mox Opal which he immediately cast. Wurmcoil Engine rumbled in, and Rietzl tried to work out what Chapin could have in his hand. He blocked with Stoneforge Mystic, letting Patrick get up to 14 life, before looking on as Tumble Magnet came down.

Paul cast Hero of Oxid Ridge, before playing an Arid Mesa. Again he moved his Adventuring Gear across after the landfall trigger had resolved, to better spread out the damage he was representing in the face of all those copies of Tumble Magnet.

Patrick tapped the Squadron Hawk holding Sword of Body and Mind, along with Hero of Oxid Ridge. He sat back smiling as Rietzl considered his attacks. He sent Goblin Guide and Kor Firewalker at Tezzeret, while coming in for 3 in the air at Chapin. There were no tricks from Chapin, who Rietzl now knew had a Stoic Rebuttal, having seen it revealed by Goblin Guide.

Rietzl was all out of cards in hand. He blocked Wurmcoil Engine with Squadron Hawk, keeping himself at reasonable life, but having nothing to stop Chapin building his life total also. Chapin tapped Hero of Oxid Ridge and Squadron Hawk with Tumble Magnet, before taking 3 on attacks, and trading his Creeping Tar Pit for Kor Firewalker. After combat, he gave Goblin Guide, his one untapped creature, all his Equipment.

With all the weapons in the world, and a waiting fetch land, Rietzl was able to trade his Goblin Guide for Wurmcoil Engine. The engine turned into a Brad token (lifelink) and a Guillaume token (deathtouch). Patrick went up to 20, while Rietzl was at 12.

“That’s some beatdown I’ve been able to apply,” joked Rietzl, with an uphill struggle to secure the kill.

The third Tumble Magnet finally lost all its charge counters to stop an equipped Hawk, meaning that Rietzl was finally in a position to be able to start attacking with his Sword of Body and Mind the following turn. Chapin had no plays, and could only look on as Rietzl attacked in. His life total was now going south, and more importantly, his deck was starting to look a little thin in the face of the milling ability of Sword of Body and Mind.

Face time with Paul Rietzl.

Rietzl looked at Chapin’s graveyard carefully, trying to work out what Chapin still had to draw. He carefully worked out that Chapin likely had four spells left in his deck—Tezzeret, Pyroclasm, Galvanic Blast, and one other. One of the strengths of the Sword of Body and Mind plan was that Rietzl got unprecedented amounts of information early in the five-game match on how Chapin had sideboarded.

An Inkmoth Nexus looked to be a fine blocker for something, but now that Hero of Oxid Ridge was able to swing, it would be unable to block. Chapin hadn’t spotted this, and Rietzl let him think about blocks for a good long while (and activate his Nexus) before pointing this out. Chapin took a whopping 12 from attacks, blocking Hero of Oxid Ridge. Now Chapin was on 12, and had just two cards left in his deck. Rietzl saw that Pyroclasms were now no longer a concern, and tried to work out what the last two cards were. Potentially a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas?

Chapin drew his card, thought a little, and scooped up his cards.

Paul Rietzl 2, Patrick Chapin 0

Rietzl was now on an eleven-game winning streak in Pro Tour Top 8 games, and one more would see him in the semi-finals. Technically his Sunday record was being weakened by the game and match losses he was getting in the GP for not showing up, but I doubt that was a big concern for Paul. He made sure that he wasn’t being dropped in the Grand Prix, hoping to pick up an extra pro point or two from that as well.

Game 3

The third game finally saw the play that Paul Rietzl likes making the most: turn-one Steppe Lynx. The cat got stuck in for 4 thanks to an Arid Mesa activation, when all Chapin had was a Prophetic Prism and two lands. A Plated Geopede from Rietzl threatened a very quick clock for the third game, enough to warrant a Pyroclasm—if Chapin had it. He did not.

Arid Mesa from Paul powered up his team. Goblin Guide came in for Paul, and Rietzl went for it cracking his fetch land to cause the attack to drop Chapin to 5. After combat he cast Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Adventuring Gear.

Chapin counted Rietzl’s deck, seeming only half serious.

“He’s hoping I have 61 cards in my deck to get a game win here,” smiled Paul. “This isn’t my first Pro Tour, you know.”

Chapin smiled, and drew his card.

Always worth a try.

“Do you have a mass removal spell here?”

Chapin cast a Prophetic Prism, and set his lands up such that if the card he drew was Pyroclasm, he’d be able to reset the board. Channelling Nassif, he flipped his card. It was a mountain, and Chapin extended his hand.

From outside the feature match arena, Matt Sperling called out that pairings for the GP were about to go up; Paul had lost only one match while winning this one. Like lightning, Rietzl sprinted to the Grand Prix area. He had another tournament to win.

Paul Rietzl wins 3-0 and advances to the semifinals!

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